Standard disclaimers: Transformers and its canon characters is the property of Hasbro, Takara, Michael Baysplosion, and whoever else; the Tomahawk belongs to Dodge (bless their insane speed-freak hearts) and any original characters herein are my own brainchildren.

The Long Road Home
1: Refugee

"...I am Optimus Prime."

The signal was a jolt out of the black void, a bright and welcome shock to the harried, weary entity trundling doggedly through space. Exactly where he had been trundling to was unknown, and he had long since stopped worrying about a destination, being far more concerned with survival. And even that concern was hanging on by precious few shreds.

"-- and I send this message to any survivors of my kind who may be taking refuge among other systems, other stars."

Sensors and receivers now wide open and all systems fully alert, the solitary being came about to bear on the signal, drinking in coordinates and telemetry to feed the hope that had nearly been extinguished. He cautioned himself that Optimus Prime might next relate news of defeat and a warning to stay away, lest victorious Decepticons reduce the survivors to their most basic components, but--

"You are not alone. You have a home here, among others of your kind."

Disbelief and joy rippled through his processor. It had been so long, interminably long, since he had had contact with friendlies, but all too recent were the encounters with hostiles. He focused his sensors into a narrow beam, getting a fix on the new homeworld and committing the coordinates to high-priority memory.

"We are waiting."

He opened a return channel. It would reach Optimus before the Autobot himself did, but there was vital information that couldn't wait for personal delivery. If he had received the broadcast, so would his relentless pursuers.

"Optimus Prime-- I am--"

Another signal interrupted with a searing and most unwelcome shock, piercing and burning through his systems, immediately silencing the communication. The Autobot reeled, disoriented and wracked with pain, trying frantically to re-extend its sensors to scan for the source of the attack. He cursed himself for making such a basic mistake; while his sensors had been narrowed, he had effectively blinded himself to all else around him, and the enemy had seized the moment.

And now he was effectively blind to everything-- a quick internal diagnostic told him that the electronic blast had fried his communications and sensors, the most vulnerable systems at the moment, to a crisp. Motor control and propulsion were a tad fazed and twitchy but largely undamaged and recovering quickly. Weapons, which he now bristled indiscriminately, were also operational, thank the Matrix. But as far as seeing his opponent, he had been reduced to some woefully short-range scanning, transcanning (fat lot of good that did him out here, though) and bare basic optics.

He used those, and almost wished he hadn't.

The Decepticon vessel bore down on his position with a self-satisfied slowness, as if assured that the much smaller Autobot was now rendered helpless and easy prey. He was almost insulted. A lucky shot during an unguarded moment was one thing. To swagger in and pick him apart gear by gear?

After all this time, he was not about to let his rekindled hope die so swiftly.

He fired his pulse cannon once, twice, attempting to target the Decepticons' sensors, returning injury for injury. He knew it wouldn't be nearly enough to inflict the same magnitude of damage, but it bought enough time for the Autobot to use its best, most prided asset: Speed.

He turned again, oriented on the new homeworld's coordinates, and was off in a streak of light and energy.

"Autobots, report! Did anyone else get that transmission?"

"Affirmative, Prime, but I got cut off."

"Me too."

"It wasn't us-- it was cut off from the other end. It wasn't long enough to get a position, unless someone else's scanners are working better than mine at the moment."

"No, you're right, Ironhide. Not enough data. Who was that?"

"The way we scattered looking for the Allspark? There's no telling."

"Bumblebee, start scouting for incoming. Ratchet, prepare for possible damage. He sounded distressed."

"Or he's coming in hot."

"For all our sakes, Ironhide, I hope not. Everyone stay alert and be ready for anything. Notify me if he makes contact again. Optimus out."

"Isn't it just awesome?"

Nicole Darling had a word for the obscene piece of machinery currently sitting in the showroom, but she didn't dare say it in front of her aunt. Awesome was so far the only descriptor her cousin Jacob could muster, when he could muscle the word past his drool. Her two other cousins, testosterone factories all, were in a similar state of vehicular lust.

The newly-renovated Darling Motorcycles showroom had a temporary crown jewel: a Dodge Tomahawk concept motorcycle.

And wasn't all of Topeka just all a-flutter?

The rare machine was on loan for two weeks as a gimmick to draw in customers. Uncle Terry knew a guy who knew a guy who owed somebody a favor, and it somehow added up to getting a non-functioning 'rolling sculpture' parked in the shiny new showroom. Supposedly it could reach four hundred miles plus per hour, and had all sorts of other outrageous stats guaranteed to make even the most casual biker salivate like Pavlov's dogs.

All Nic wanted to know about it was when it was leaving. It was quite possibly the most ridiculous thing she had ever seen. It was all brushed nickel finish and chrome, shaped vaguely like a bloated torpedo with doubled wheels at either end, and a seat you didn't sit in so much as cling to as you lay over the length of the chassis. She hated motorcycles wholesale to begin with-- the Tomahawk seemed to earn her contempt merely by showing up.

To her, the machine stank of showing off for the sake of showing off.

"I'm taking bets," Marie Darling said as her niece approached the front desk, "on how many people will be mad that they can't actually buy it."

"We need to put up a sign," Nic said. "Not street legal, display only, blah blah..."

"Yes, sweetie, but you know customers can't read."

"C'mon, Aunt Marie, I'll get my Sharpies out and everything. Get Jake to scrape some cardboard from the shop floor." Somehow the idea of a shabby home-made oil-stained sign scrawled with poorly-spaced letters (possibly misspelled) propped up against that shiny tribute to excess really, really amused her.

Marie rolled her eyes and got up out of the desk chair. "Wouldn't your uncle have kittens. Mind the phone, Nic, I've got to get to the bank before it closes."

Obligingly Nic took the seat. Minding the phone was about all today had been good for. It had been raining steadily all day and such weather didn't exactly put people in mind to buy motorcycles. Most Kansans stayed indoors on days like this anyway; flash flooding was a real danger on the prairie.

"Toby, please do not molest the five-hundred fifty thousand dollar paperweight," Nic barked at her youngest cousin. The fifteen-year-old jerked his hands away from the Tomahawk and did his utmost to look innocent, only to fail completely. "Remember your dad said no touchie the shiny or he breaky your head."

"YOU ALL HAVE WORK TO DO ANYWAY," boomed a voice from the workshop entrance, where Terry Darling, all six and a half feet and three hundred pounds of him, stood with arms crossed and glaring at his three sons. The two eldest, Jacob and Martin, made a beeline into the shop where several bikes lay in various states of repair, and Toby scurried for the back office where his summer school homework awaited, doubled in retaliation for a grand fib that there was no homework in summer school. Nic merely sat at the desk and twiddled with the phone cord like a good little bored receptionist.

"Gotta put a cage around that," Terry mused as he strode over to the desk, wiping his grease-stained hands on a grease-stained rag. (Nic always wondered-- did that cancel the grease out on both hand and rag, or just achieve an equilibrium?)

"Which one?" she chirped. "Jacob?"

"The Tomahawk, wiseacre." Terry leaned on the counter and grinned ingenuously. "So what does my favorite niece want for her birthday?"

Nic returned the winsome smile. "Broadband in here."

"Once business picks up, babes. Hit me again."

Nic threw up her hands. "Oh, come on, Uncle Terry, you go to all the trouble to put in all this shiny, the lights, the fancy floor, the accessories shop, the vintage Harley crap--"

"Watch what you say about the Harley crap."

"And we're still keeping paper records and phoning in credit card payments whenever the modem craps out-- it's so slow!"

"I thought you liked slow."

"Not when I have to deal with those twenty-something wannabe bikers who try to pick me up. Please, anything faster than dial-up. At least a new computer that doesn't run on DOS. Do you have some fear of leaving the early nineties?"

"We're going to get a nice big influx of cash-money-paying people soon, so roll your britches up and wade through, sweet pea." He raised a brow. "I hear they got wi-fi in the McDonalds."

"Hey, better the devil you know, right?" Nic caught the not-so-subtle you-could-be-flipping-burgers hint and let the matter drop. "Laptop?" Almost.

"Seriously, Nic, you need to feed me some suggestions or your aunt will get you some more of those gawdawful macramé sweaters. Remember last year? My retinas haven't healed yet."

Nic pretended to be very interested in the coiled phone cord. "I don't really want anything."

"How about--"

"Uncle Terry... really. Don't make a thing of it."

Terry let out a long breath, his jovial manner dashed. For several moments the only sounds were the steady hiss of rain and a distant rumble of thunder.

"Dead today. Almost closing time," Terry mused aloud. "Why don't you go on out and rent us a bunch of movies? I'll close up tonight."

Nic shook her head and pointed to a stack of printouts. "Paper records require tedious and time-consuming filing. Oh, if only I could do it electronically."

Terry gave her a comical glower and backed toward the door. "You have won the battle, but not the war."

"Yeah, yeah, curses foiled again, next time Gadget next time. See you at home."

And then she was alone. So she dove into the task of filing the week's paperwork and tried to forget about her impending birthday and all that day had come to signify. She was so absorbed in the work that she didn't notice that a particular rumble of thunder wasn't fading out, but growing louder.

There was a muffled boom from outside. The ground shook. One of the showroom Kawasakis fell over; its kickstand hadn't been extended properly. A ceramic mug sporting the Harley logo jittered and toppled from the edge of the front desk and shattered, thankfully empty. Someone's car alarm down the street went off. The Tomahawk merely wobbled imperceptibly.

That got her attention.

Nic ran to the front windows and peered out into the half-dark rainy gloom. Where had it come from? She dashed through the back office and into the now-empty shop floor-- one of the boys had left a bay door open, they'd catch hell from Terry about that for sure-- and squinted across the expanse of flat pasture land across the swollen creek behind the shop.

The featureless plain had sprouted a feature.

The knee-high hay growing in the field had been plowed down, flattened by chunks of steaming earth along a deep trench that led to...

"Oh my god."

Ignoring the rain, she crossed the footbridge and picked through the weeds toward the smoking crater. The rain petered out and stopped as she cautiously approached the area of disturbed earth, leaving only a steady wind that drove unimpeded across the field.

As she inched up to the rim of the crater, what looked like a hand shot out, planted itself firmly on the ground, and pushed up behind it a dark and immense silhouette. The angular, vaguely humanoid shape stood up and towered over her as she looked on in brain-numbed shock.

When it turned two glowing blue orbs to bear on her, that was when she ran.

As first interspecies meetings went, it was something of a minor disaster. The little organic biped stumbled backward and fell to the sodden ground among the vegetation, and just as quickly was back on its feet and pelting away at what was probably a pretty fast clip for its kind.

"Wait! I mean you no harm!" the Autobot started to entreat, before realizing that the complex burst of electronic noise would be incomprehensible to the native creature, even if it were sentient at all. He started to follow, at a slower pace, not to catch up with the frightened organic, but only for the simple fact that there were some primitive constructs in that direction. He needed to get out of the open and find some manner of camouflage before the Decepticons arrived.

He had barely processed that thought when the panicked biped reached a distressingly ill-constructed bridge that spanned a rude canal roaring with rushing mud and water. Its footing on the wet wooden planks faltered, and it took a spectacular, wild fall. The Autobot sped up even before the organic's head smacked down onto the bridge, but he was too late to prevent it from slipping into the swiftly flowing water.

The Autobot leapt ahead, plunged into the water, grabbed the native biped with both hands and carefully lifted it free. The creature flailed, grabbing fitfully at his fingers, and then emitted a strange noise and spasmed repeatedly, expelling water from an orifice in its head, not unlike a clogged valve... the Autobot had a brief flash of guilt and worry. Even if this wasn't a sentient life-form, to have caused its end even inadvertently would be a truly bad way to start on this new homeworld.

Cradling the little being close, he quickly closed the distance to the constructs, entering the nearest one through a sizable portal. Within, the building was sheltered from the driving wind and-- what was this now? Full of curious two-wheeled machines. He ran a cursory scan with his diminished sensors. Mere devices, of the non-sentient variety. Vehicles of some sort, wheeled for terrestrial locomotion, some in such states of disassembly as to be wholly inoperable.

Surely there was something here I can use, he thought, readying his transcanner. But first, he found an empty space of floor and gently lowered the still-twitching organic down. He had had some experience dealing with organic life-forms, but none of them had been so... fragile-looking. Instead of armor, it apparently protected its soft exterior with a bizarre assemblage of woven fibers. Other than the external dampness caused by the the fall into the canal, there didn't seem to be any leaks. Beyond that, the Autobot had no idea how to ascertain if the being would be all right, and given the delicate appearance, he was beginning to doubt it.

With a frustrated internal rattle, he turned to scan the vehicles.

Too small...too awkward... too clunky... too ugly... and what by Primus was that one-wheeled lopsided pod-like thing supposed to be? The Autobot moved further into the building's interior, scanning as he went. He was beginning to grow disgusted with the primitive machines when his scans swept through into an adjacent chamber.

That's better, he thought. The two-wheeled vehicles there were noticeably more advanced, sleeker, more powerful, and he almost settled on one before he saw the one.

Now this... this was more like it!

He activated his transcanner with gusto, noting the few minor flaws in the chosen vehicle's otherwise superb design and correcting them. He added a few modifications to account for the slight difference in size, a few personal touches, and then he executed the transformation.

Nic sputtered, bracing herself on the cold concrete floor, coughing up what she hoped was the last of the muddy water she'd inhaled. The inside of her nose and the back of her throat burned, and she'd have the taste of prairie dust in her mouth for days, but she was alive.

Thanks to that thing.

The throbbing knot forming on her scalp made her suspect she'd imagined the whole thing. Giant metallic man-thing crashing down in the Kingston's field, plucking her out of the creek in two steel-cold hands? How else had she gotten all the way back into the shop, lungs still furious with her for mistaking rain runoff for air? She stood, still shaky from near-drowning, and pulled her dripping hair out of her face to look around.

No sign of the giant alien metal man, and the sounds of heavy stomping had stopped, but there were strange, inhuman tracks of wetness on the concrete floor, leading to the front.

Nic picked her way around the repair jobs toward the front showroom, thinking that this was how every good formula horror movie started and she should be running, but she had to be sure. She brought herself up short as a light flashed from within the showroom, followed by a strange grinding, whirring, thumping noise.

Then nothing. No noise, no funny shapes, no facehuggers leaping out at her...

Slowly, she peered around the doorframe into the showroom.

No giant alien metal men. Only shiny new motorcycles. And the shiny ridiculous Tomahawk, and another Tomahawk--


Nic took a step into the showroom, absently rubbing the knot on her scalp. She'd been reasonably certain that there had been only one of those things sitting on display only an hour ago. One silver Tomahawk on its platform in the front corner.

This new arrival stood right in the middle of the room, blocking the aisle between the desk and a row of Hondas. It had the same general configuration as the first, but where the silver Tomahawk was outlandish, this blue and turquoise Tomahawk was sublime.

It was bigger, for one, not by so much as to make it awkward, and its body sleeker and more fluid. Its lines put her in mind of a bowstring pulled back, humming with potential energy just waiting to be released. Nic found herself approaching the shimmering machine, despite her dislike of motorcycles admiring the mysterious Tomahawk. She leaned in, noting that the familiar Dodge logo was missing. In its place was some sort of symbol she had never seen before.

Just as she was trying to puzzle the unfamiliar mark out, the bike moved.

Panels separated and slid back, the doubled wheels lifted and rotated flat. The bike's chassis shifted and split, and from somewhere within the body a head appeared, armored plates sliding into place to form a swept-back helmet above two glowing blue eyes. The Tomahawk unfolded itself... and stood up.

Nic was certain she could hear her brain trying desperately to escape. She didn't even know she was backing away until she backed right into one of the Hondas, knocking it over and falling backward over it.

The ungraceful spill of course attracted the transfigured Tomahawk's attention. It looked down at her. She froze, still draped over the motorcycle.

Robot and woman stared at each other for several long, tense moments.

Somehow, it wasn't as tall as her first fear-stricken glances had told her. Nine, maybe ten feet tall; not the hulking monster she'd had in mind, but still large enough, now that she was looking clearly at it. It was covered in blue armor-like panels that seemed to be a jigsaw-jumble of the shape of the bike it had been. The four wheels were even arrayed on its back like some vehicular turtle-shell.

It shifted stance slightly, on two long, sleek legs, and regarded her from what she could only assume were eyes, a pair of deep-set lenses that glowed pale blue and clicked as some inner mechanism moved them about. The featureless area where a nose would have been suddenly lengthened, momentarily showing slits of some sort. It even had a mouth, Nic marveled, and a knob of a chin.

Slowly, it lowered itself to one knee, and all Nic could do was watch, enthralled, how it moved. Fluid and natural, like a living thing, even as the soft wheeze of some mechanical part (hydraulics, perhaps?) and the metallic tap of an armored knee hitting the tile floor broke the silence.

It reached out to her, and Nic jerked back, ready to leap to her feet and make a break for it. But the robot pulled back as well, leaning back and holding its hands up.

Carefully, Nic stood, trying not to make any sudden moves. Just as carefully, the robot leaned forward again, and slowly reached for the fallen Honda. Delicately, it set the bike upright again, and sat back, propping one arm across its upraised knee and regarding her expectantly. When the mechanoid didn't make another grab at her, she supposed the next move was hers.

With what? The Vulcan salute? "Klaatu Barada Nikto" and hope it didn't start leveling cities?

She tentatively raised a hand and gave it a small wave. "...uh, hi?"

It cocked its head, eye-lenses flicking busily. It then mimicked the gesture, two long chrome fingers and a well-articulated chrome thumb spread.

"Uhh hiee?" Its mouth even moved as it parroted her cautious greeting, in a voice that warbled and buzzed in strange chords.

"Wow," she breathed, and it seemed to grow a little bolder, leaning toward her even more. Its face, a complex assembly of blue panels and a streamlined helm that framed shiny chrome features, shifted, taking on an entirely new expression. Fascinated? Curious? Weirded out? Because that was certainly Nic's frame of mind at the moment.

"What are you?" Nic dared to step closer. Was there some kind of life-form inside the mechanical jumble somewhere, running the robot like a suit of armor? Or was it like a rover, remote-controlled from afar? "Is there someone in there?"

"Whatarr yoo. Isstherrsumwaan inntherr?" it repeated, mimicking the sounds but clearly not understanding. It blinked, shutters or something moving across its eye-lenses. Then it said something else, a series of buzz-hum-hiss and static and beeping noises.

She spread her hands. "Um... I'm sorry. I can't understand you." And apparently the feeling is mutual. It apparently came to the same conclusion, settling back and staring at her for a moment.

"No English, huh," Nic said, more to fill the otherworldly silence than anything else. "Why are you here?" She pointed at the Earth-born Tomahawk. "And... why do you look like that thing?"

It turned and looked in the direction she was pointing and seemed to perk up a bit. It tapped its chestplates, then stood up, making little 'wait wait' gestures that reminded her rather of her cousins prefacing some stunt with 'hey, watch this' just before everything went to tears and broken bones. She took a step back without thinking, but it only folded in on itself, panels flipping and wheels sliding, and there again stood the sleek blue and turquiose Tomahawk.

"Holy crap," was all she could say. And no sooner had the oath left her lips than the mechanical entity changed yet again, transforming back into its bipedal shape. It planted its fists on its hips and stood there before her, as if to say 'ta-daaaah!'

"Holy crap," she repeated, laughing despite herself. "What are you?"

Apparently taking her laughter as encouragement, it knelt and titled a shoulder down towards her. The section of armor bore the symbol she'd seen before, the one that had supplanted the Dodge logo. The robot indicated the symbol with a finger, then tapped its chestplate again.

Nic had to repeat her I-don't-know gesture. "Is that your name or something? I've never seen that mark before."

It tried again. Tap the symbol, tap the chest, hopeful nod.

Nic shrugged, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, I don't know what you're asking."

It slumped again. Nic felt bad for it even without knowing why, and she put a cautious hand on its upper arm, wishing she could do something more. This strange robotic visitor had, after all, saved her from drowning.

The phone rang, startling them both. Nic only jumped a bit, but the robot snapped up an arm, its hand receding around a cylinder in its forearm, which emitted an ominous hum as it leveled the tube at the ringing phone.

"Whoa! Whoa whoa, easy!" Alien or not, Nic knew a weapon when she saw one and she put up her hands and stepped back, in front of the humming cannon. "Take it easy, it's just a phone. Phone, okay? Phones are nice. Nice phone."

The mechanoid glanced warily back and forth from her to the still-ringing phone, and almost reluctantly retracted the cannon, its hand re-forming at the end of its arm.

"Yes, that's right. We like phones." Nic picked up the receiver. "Darling Motorcycles," she recited out of long-practiced habit. Motorcycles and giant metal robot men from outer space, how may I direct your call?

"Nicole, what's taking so long?" Aunt Marie's voice asked. "Dinner's about to come out of the oven."

"Uh-- uh--" The robot was watching her intently. It was really distracting. "Yeah, I'm almost done here. I just-- I just gotta lock up."

"Well, hurry. There's another rain front coming in and it looks nasty. Don't want you driving in that."

"I'm leaving now. Keep it warm for me!" Nic hung up on her aunt. Hanging up on someone was a long-standing no-no in the Darling clan but she felt she could withstand a bit of finger-shaking in light of what was happening.

"Okay. Okay, um." She turned to the robot, which was still watching her. "You... need to hide. Hiiiiide, yes?" She tried to pantomime. So far body language was working, somewhat. "Oh, how the hell are you supposed to hide? Uh, I think maybe you can fit in the tool room... or the paint booth...?" She tried to beckon it to follow her back into the workshop.

In response, it changed once again into its Tomahawk shape, right next to the silver original. And sat there.

"No no no no. You're about as inconspicuous as a neon sign!" Nic walked over to it, wondering if it would object if she just grabbed it by the handlebars and wheeled it off. "You can't be a Tomahawk, there's only like nine of them-- Come on, get back up. Or roll, something." She dithered for a second and finally simply took the handlebars and tried to move the bike. It refused to budge.

"Ooohh." Nic threw up her hands. "I can't explain you sitting here, Mr. Roboto! I don't-- I've got to leave..."

She dashed into the accessory alcove and grabbed a ten-dollar tarp off the shelf. She unfurled it and draped it over the robot-bike to shield it from prying eyes at least from outside. This would have to do; she would have to get up an hour earlier and make it to the shop before anyone else the next morning. Of course, the robot could simply decide to get up and walk off during the night...

"I'll be back as soon as I can," she told the covered bike. "Just... hold on, okay?"

The native life-form had tried to comfort him, he mused wonderingly. And just now had helped him conceal himself. He knew he had found an ally in the chatty little organic. This fact alone did much to allay his anxiety.

Still, he would feel much better if he could find some way to get a message to Optimus Prime. He made an attempt at patching his wrecked communications system, but the damage was beyond his ability to repair. He could neither broadcast nor receive, and was down to contact and direct line interface methods only. And with his sensors largely crippled as well, he couldn't even tell if he was anywhere near the Prime's exact location. This wasn't a big planet, but being so cut off, it was all too large, and he was all too alone.

No, not alone... precisely, he thought as he transformed to bipedal mode and set the covering aside.

By the way the organic had reacted to him, the Autobot had to assume that knowledge of his kind here wasn't widespread, if at all. Optimus and the others, how many ever there were, were keeping to standard stealth operating protocols, evidently. Protocols he had probably bent if not broken by revealing itself to the organic, but what other options did he have? Wander aimlessly sensor-blind and hope to stumble across a fellow Autobot, with a tangle of Decepticons doubtlessly making planetfall soon?

He realized, too, that he had no idea what Optimus and the others even looked like here. They could be anything. So could the Decepticons. Right now, the fragile little organic life-form was the only being he could trust.

He performed quick examination of the noisy handheld communication device the organic had used. It proved useless; it required some sort of tone-based code to do anything at all, and beeping randomly into the ridiculous thing promised to be a colossal and fruitless waste of time. He turned determined optics on the slightly less primitive computing device nearby. Scans showed one of the connectors was a hardline that was not used to power, but transmit data.

He was sure he looked rather foolish, huddled over the tiny platform and picking at the boxy little thing. At length he found the component he needed and established a proximity interface, giving only a cursory look at the device's own stored data. Binary code? Binary? Really? Glitch-mice communicated in binary!

It all still meant nothing to him. So he made an attempt to send out a simple Cybertronian message along the transmission hardline. The already torpid flow of data promptly ground to a halt, and for a good half-joor the line buzzed fitfully, completely clogged.


Binary. There was no way he would get a message through this way; his normal modes of communication were too much for this system to he was back to his uncertain alliance with the organic. And still had no more idea how to communicate with it than its devices.

It used sound in a manner that could only be language, he reasoned. It didn't use binary to speak, so there had to be some sort of translation method in order for it to make use of the device. The cipher, then, had to be either in the device, or somewhere in the sluggish datastream of the hardline. Patience, diligent observance, his long-dead mentor had often advised. Speed would not avail him here. So carefully, he interfaced with the device again, and listened intently to the pittering code. Being able to at least speak with the native would be a substantial advantage.

He would make this work.

Author's note: No, our motorcycle 'bot isn't anyone canon-- I saw a picture of a Dodge Tomahawk and couldn't help but wonder what sort of Transformer it would make. He gets a name next chapter. Google/Wikipedia the Tomahawk if you want to see a truly wild piece of engineering.

But our incoming Decepticon buddies are canon, and some really nasty ones at that. Like three gigabytes of pissed-off in a two-gig hard drive, to paraphrase Rhinox.

Nuts and bolts should start flying in the next installment, kiddies, so brace yourselves.

Son of Author's Note, Revenge of the Edit: 12.23.08, I've expanded and revised the meeting scenes and shoved about 600 more tasty tasty words into this chapter from the old version. I felt some parts of this chapter were rushed and clumsy (at first writing, my inner eight-year-old was at the helm screaming GIANT ROBOTS SHINY MUST WRITE AND GET TO FUN PARTS). Also got rid of the genderless pronoun for the Autobot referring to himself because it was just confusing people. This is the only chapter that will get such a thorough edit, but I will be doing some minor edits to the other chapters for consistency and clarity.

So if you're rereading, I hope you like the new cream filling. If this is your first readthrough, uh, enjoy the cream filling anyway.