[Author's Note: This ties in with a brief scene at the end of the movie. Ehm...I make no excuses for who gets mentioned here. I couldn't help myself. D Also note that there was originally a song quote at the end...the exclusion sort of ruins the moment, but rules is rules. The original version can be found on my website.
William Lennox flopped back in the passenger seat of the black GMC Topkick, ready for a long drive and not interested in pretending to drive. That's what the holographic driver was for. From what he understood from Sam's outburst of laughter, Ironhide had chosen to model his driver after Sam's father, although more burlier and with a striking moustache.
Lennox still wasn't sure why Ironhide had offered to drive him home. All he cared about was that he would be going home. He had already given the Autobot his address and Ironhide's own directional computer had done the rest. Their route for the next six hours was planned and his bag was packed. He was just waiting for Ironhide to finish a talk with Optimus Prime in their own language.
He was also more than happy to sleep during the whole trip. As much as the Autobots fascinated him, he was tired and wasn't inclined to grill the pick up truck for the entire ride. He leaned the seat back and closed his eyes, sighing in contentment. The truck began to move, jarring slightly as it went from the grassy shoulder onto the road proper.
About five seconds passed before Ironhide spoke. "I wanted to commend you on your bravery. That was a foolish but effective way to assist in taking down Blackout."
Lennox had to smile. The boys must have been sharing the story. "That was one wild ride. But worth it."
"Your success and survival were not guaranteed," Ironhide proclaimed in a severe tone.
"We all took a chance, didn't we? Aside from my duty, I kept telling myself I didn't want those monsters getting anywhere near my baby, so I had to do whatever I could until the big guns arrived."
Ironhide grunted upon hearing the baby comment. "Human parents are strange things. Sam's parents never knew when to take a hint."
Lennox chuckled. "We have a protective instinct even though we don't all go about it the same way. Sam's parents have their own rules they go by. Can I assume you know about family structure from your Internet studies?"
"The production of families would be of Ratchet's interest. I only care about the concept of brothers -- because all of the Autobots who came here to Earth are my brothers."
"Brothers-in-arms," Lennox murmured. "Yeah. My team is like that to me."
"Battle brings all of those with a warrior spirit together," Ironhide rumbled in approval. His tone then changed to one of inquiry. "I know of Mikaela's bravery, but do your females participate in the military regularly? I noticed the male roster is far greater."
"We tend to think of it as the men's job to be out in the field being the protectors. But our women can be just as dedicated."
"Our females fought alongside us on the front lines.. None came with my group but they are among the others that went searching for the Allspark."
Lennox tried to picture how a feminine form would look covered in the mish-mash layering of armor the Autobots transformed into. It didn't come to him as looking female at all. But being alien, maybe they had a different way of defining gender.
Meanwhile, Ironhide was working on a picture of his own. "I admit I don't understand this concept of 'baby' and 'children'. They are small humanoids that are fragile because of their size and must be slowly taught everything."
"From what I understand," Lennox ventured, "You're one of the oldest among your group, so you must have seen younger Autobots that needed to be taught how to shoot straight."
"We can program such things into our processors. Some of us merely choose to use the processing power for other skills. Ratchet has the capacity to be a warrior but he prefers to repair rather than destroy things."
"He's pretty impressive for a guy who doesn't spend all of his time fighting."
"He hasn't had a choice but to become more proficient at battle. We are too far, too few," Ironhide said grimly.
Lennox scratched the stubble on his chin. "You sound like you regret that."
"I do. His spark is dedicated to healing the wounded. He has taken well to the change and he fully believes in the Autobot cause, but I know he would rather change the minds of Decepticons through acts of kindness. He has been my closest friend for several millenia so I know him well."
Lennox nodded, assuming that a camera inside the cab would pick up the motion. "How do you judge the term 'youth' in your species if you don't have children?"
"Our equivalent would be the newly sparked. A shell was built and the Allspark gave it life. But the shell did have a computer in it already programmed for certain things."
Lennox held back his next question -- he was letting that fascination get the better of him after all. He knew it was in part to understand the weapon that had decimated SOCCENT. But he knew now that he was not talking about mere weapons -- he was talking to an intelligent sentient being. Sentient beings i with /i weapons, yes, but they were still so much like humans.
He decided to indulge his curiosity. He was enjoying talking to the veteran. "Before the war for the Cube, why did you produce new mechanoids?"
"Are you implying a question about a need to procreate?"
The human grinned. "You're the one who brought up the subject of offspring."
"I bet you are wondering about our females, too, since the natural conclusion given our appearance would be they won't seem as soft and companionable as yours are to you."
Lennox laughed, abashed. "You guys all have a way with words."
"What do you mean? I am stating the truth."
"Here we call that being tactless." Lennox then waved a hand as Ironhide began to protest. "Cultural differences. Not something you can learn over the Internet. You'll understand in time."
Ironhide grumbled through his engine, distracting himself by internally bringing up the list of driving rules for the particular intersection they were about to reach. Once they had gotten past the traffic and turned onto the interstate, he decided to answer the human's questions. "I'm old, but not the oldest of our kind. The Allspark created the originals, and once they discerned the Cube's purpose, they in turn encouraged other life and functions throughout our planet. Eventually thought turned toward conquest of other worlds and that's when my model type began to be produced. However, some of us didn't agree with that course." Ironhide's voice grew quieter. "We were forced to turn our weapons on our brothers as the battle over the Cube's ultimate purpose began. But that is only what I remember as the beginning. Suddenly there was Megatron and Decepticons lurking in every shadow waiting to convert the weak and murder the unwilling." Lennox heard the hiss of steam from somewhere. "Makes my coolant boil just thinking about it."
The captain began to worry about what would happen if Ironhide went too far back into his memories. He knew of the effects on aging human soldiers -- and they had only decades of experiences built up. He couldn't imagine millenia of it. He shifted in his seat, feeling uncomfortable in the face of something so immense.
Ironhide made an indistinguishable sound. "Do you fear time, Captain Lennox?"
Stunned, he didn't reply at first. Then he cleared his throat, and with the last staticky image from the laptop of his daughter coming to his mind, said, "I fear losing it.
"Because of your females."
A chuckle escaped Lennox in spite of himself. "They do have more specific designations, you know. And yes, you guessed it. I fear missing the little moments of my daughter's growth. And I don't want to miss the look on my wife's face when she sees those same moments."
There was a tangible hesitation in the air, then Ironhide spoke in a quiet voice again. "I wish my femme had been here to see Megatron's defeat. She would have enjoyed the battle and the victory. We do not mate like you humans do, but on occasion one spark calls to another, and the individuals are made stronger by each other's presence. Chromia and I complement each other in battle. The urgency of our mission to find the Allspark made it necessary for us to separate. With Megatron defeated and the Allspark gone, we will try to contact the surviving Autobots...My team faced trials as we journeyed through space, I'm sure the others did as well."
Lennox sat up to place a firm hand on the dashboard as he would to a fellow soldier's shoulder. "I hope Chromia is among them."
"Thank you, Captain Lennox."
"Call me Will."
"Captain Lennox is your designation of respect," Ironhide said defensively. "I wish to convey my own respect."
"In uniform." The human smiled. "My friends call me Will."
"Your vocal unit cannot pronounce the casual title my friends gave me. Ironhide will have to suffice."
"It's a good name."
They fell into a discussion about nicknames, with Lennox sharing stories of his troops. The situations were similar enough to Cybertronian teams that Ironhide got a laugh out of them. Then they discussed weapons tech, although Lennox was careful to stick with ones that could be easily searched on the Internet. Of course, Ironhide had already discovered the more obscure ones on his own and asked about those, too.
Lennox was describing things about World War II when they pulled onto the road leading up to his house. The human fell silent and stared along the concrete to the row of homes at the top.
Ironhide grunted in acknowledgement, filing his next question away for later. He scanned the area. "They are waiting at the door. Your wife may have timed your arrival."
"I'm sure she did," Lennox agreed. "I know the speed limit is thirty, but could you floor it a little?"
"Negative. There is another car approaching from the adjacent street. I cannot guarantee we will make it to the intersection first."
"We're going straight. I know this intersection, they'll have the stop sign."
"Again, no guarantee they will stop. On our way here I saw three hundred and sixty-eight drivers not adhering to proper driving laws. Besides, as a military man you should know better."
Lennox sighed in exasperation. "There are times even men like me want to pretend they're just an ordinary civilian!"
"Ironhide! Shut up and drive!"
"Harumph. No need to get so touchy."
Two minutes later they pulled into the driveway. Lennox took a deep breath and composed himself. His wife was already coming down the front walkway. He fixed his cap and opened the door to get out. "Thank you, Ironhide. I hope we can talk again sometime."
"So do I. Thank you also, Will."
Lennox climbed out then reached back in for his bag, uttering a quick, "See you around," before shutting the door. As he headed toward the walkway a sound came from the truck's engine that could have been taken as, "Uh-huh." Captain William Lennox drank in the sight of his wife's face, her smile -- her tears of joy -- and the tiny, smiling, beautiful child in her arms.
Ironhide waited instead of leaving right away as planned. He scanned both of the humans, noting again the small size of the baby's internal mechanisms. So fragile. So helpless. He had already taken a gauge of Lennox's strength. Yet as the man took the baby into his arms he was incredibly gentle about it.
Is that how we are to handle the human race? With the care necessary to buffer their frailty? He heard a sound unlike any he had heard before and increased the range of his audio receptors. It was coming from the baby. Not exactly laughter, but a decidedly pleasant noise. Ironhide recorded it and saved it in his private set of files, placing it in the data block containing his last recording of Chromia.
The big truck shifted gears and drove far enough to turn around. He passed by the house again in time to see Lennox still holding the baby as he and his wife walked into the house. Stoically prepared for the long, lonely trip back to Sam's home town, Ironhide decided to test out more of the humans' radio stations to have a distraction from his own internal processing; six hours would inevitably lead to thinking about Jazz and that was not an encouraging thing. He dismissed the light pop channels; they were too slow or just boring. He went past the rock and rap stations; they were too jarring. He was ready to switch to the AM setting when another pass yielded something that caught his attention.
A melancholy fiddle and slow drum beat accompanied a man singing soulfully -- if not with a decided twang -- about how he was prepared to dedicate his very heart to the future with his loved one.
Making a quick decision, he pulled over and accessed his Internet link, searching for the artist. He downloaded the full song, translated it, and packaged it into a secure signal. He sent the signal out on a frequency unattainable by Earth equipment, yet he had no way of knowing if it was even valid anymore.
He pulled back onto the highway and adjusted his reception to pick up the station better. He left his link to the frequency open for the entire drive.
(c) 2007 Autumn L. (aka Shiri) This work may not be copied, distributed, or reprinted without the author's permission. All characters belong to Hasbro/Takara/Paramont/Dreamworks.