by Calger459

TF 2007 movie minor characters generator prompt. I got Tom Banachek / Ironhide / forgiveness. It looked like fun!

Disclaimer: I definitely don't own giant sentient robots from outer space. That honor goes to Dreamworks.

Tom Banachek had never been one to back down from a challenge in his long career. Working for Sector 7 made one remarkably resilient to nasty shocks and surprises, whether it was the incident ten years ago when NBE-1 had nearly revived after a cryo-pump failure and five workmen had died, or learning that same terrifying machine had died at the hands of a teenage boy from Nevada. The ludicrous phrase "tripped and fell over his own Cube" popped into his head at that moment and he had to exert all his will to keep from laughing. After all, this was no laughing matter.

Cautiously, Banachek drove his black government-issued SUV off the gravel road and into a deserted field, riding the rumbles and bumps as the car made its way across the rough ground.

Just another challenge, he told himself. Nothing to worry about. This was under control. He grimaced. It was most certainly not under control, and his sense of dread increased as he spied the huge black GMC Topkick pickup truck parked at the far end of the field.

Bringing the car to a jerky stop several dozen yards from the silent Topkick, Banachek turned off of the engine and waited. Now it was a matter of finding out exactly why he'd been called here.

NBE-10, refers to itself as Ironhide, he thought clinically as he eyed the innocent-looking truck. Autobot weapons specialist and tactician. His mind drew a blank after that; aside from second-hand accounts of the mech's fighting in the Mission City incident, he had no other knowledge of the mysterious NBE. Lack of knowledge made him nervous; he hated being unprepared.

The minutes stretched on, and Banachek tugged uncomfortably at his stiff collar, which was becoming flexible with sweat. Finally, after ten more sweltering minutes, he slid out of the car and walked slowly across the field in the blazing sun until he stood within easy shouting distance of the truck.

"Look," he said finally, "I was called here, and I've been waiting. What is this about?"

A twisting, clanging, screeching swirl of shifting metal met his words, and he couldn't stop a slight gape of awe as the truck smoothly unfolded itself and stood up, glaring down at him with brilliant blue eyes from a towering twenty feet up.

Amazing, he thought. NBE-2 had been much smaller than this one, and he hadn't actually gotten to see it transform. Nor NBE-1 for that matter. It was really remarkable what these creatures could do, and he had to suppress his own childlike excitement. He was not at Sector 7's research laboratories in a controlled environment, and he needed to tread very carefully. Drawing himself up, he stared straight into the other's eyes. "It's Ironhide, isn't it? I'm Tom Banachek."

"I know who you are, human," the robot rumbled back at him. With a swiftness and relative silence that alarmed him, the NBE crouched down and leaned forward so that his massive armored head was now only a few feet above Banachek's. "You worked with that man Simmons for Sector 7, correct?"

Oh dear Lord. Simmons. Banachek had really hoped the insufferable man would not be a part of this conversation, but he couldn't say he was surprised, either. "I did, yes. He mostly oversaw field operations. I was the government liaison and research head."

"Research?" the giant rumbled. "Yes, we've learned much about your sort of 'research' in recent days, especially regarding the abuse of the Allspark's gifts."

Banachek felt the blood drain from his face. He schooled his face to hide his shock. He should have guessed Sector 7's activities would have reached the NBEs eventually. He frowned at the Autobot. "Hold on. You called me here, remember that. I'd like to know why I've been summoned to the middle of nowhere to meet with you. Did Optimus Prime order this?"

"No," Ironhide rumbled, "I did." He paused and tilted his head slightly. Banachek could hear hidden gears and rotors clicking and whirring. Now that he listened in fact, he could hear a fascinating collection of sounds coming from the machine; faint whooshing and clacking sounds from deep within the dense layering of metal that made up his body. "I wanted to know," he continued finally, "Where the lifeforms you created with the Allspark are now."

"They…" he hesitated. For now that they understood, truly understood for the first time what the Cube had been, he was loathe to admit the truth, especially in front of this heavily armed alien. The massive cannons mounted under each arm were clearly visible from this angle. "Look, Mr. Ironhide…" he paused, wondering if that was really a correct form of address for one of these creatures. He'd never actually spoken to one before. "We didn't understand what the Allspark was. We didn't know it could create sentient life."

"But you knew it could give life and form to what had before been mere devices," Ironhide said severely. "I have trouble believing you would not have considered the possibility. I would suggest that you not try lying to me, Tom Banachek. Your heart rate and blood pressure spike every time you even think about it."

It can see that? Oh, the things they had never learned about NBE-1! How could they have, when they'd had to keep it frozen? He forced himself to stare directly back at the giant. "Unfortunately, the machines we brought to life proved to be wild and uncontrollable. We were forced to deactivate them."

"Deactivate?" Ironhide said with what was unmistakably a derisive snort, which sounded exactly like an engine revving. "Don't mince words, human. You killed them because you could not bow them to your will."

"They were armed and violent!" Banachek countered. "They caused considerable damage to our facilities, and in fact there were several fatalities before we developed proper security measures."

"And yet, the experiments continued, did they not?" Ironhide rumbled in a dangerous tone. Banachek found himself taking an unconscious step back from the glare the giant was leveling at him. "What else would you have expected from devices given no guidance of any kind? Would not one of your offspring, left alone to fend for itself, not grow up with that same wildness? Would you kill that child when it became too much of burden for you?"

Banachek swallowed uncomfortably. The comparison was eerily apt. "I told you…we didn't know."

"I believe you humans have an expression, 'a child who played with its father's gun.'" Ironhide suddenly flexed the cannon on his left arm. Banachek watched in fascinated dread as it flipped up and spun around to face forward, settling with a loud, decisive clack on top of the robot's arm. Ironhide let it spin idly, the harsh sunlight glinting across the intricate surface. "You were meddling with things you couldn't understand. The Allspark was a sacred object, and your actions were nothing short of murder. Such primitive brutality seems to be a hallmark of your species."

"Says the machine bristling with deadly weaponry," Banachek countered before he could stop himself.

To his surprise the alien laughed, although it was a sinister sound, quite devoid of humor. "Yes, though I do not murder innocents with them, as our enemies do." The cannon stopped spinning abruptly. "Are you an enemy to me, Tom Banachek?"

The question, though not unexpected, gave Banachek a thrill of fear. It was becoming clearer by the minute that this Ironhide was not the same as the others: Optimus Prime, the diplomat, Bumblebee the guardian of the Witwicky boy, and Ratchet the medic. All quite firm on their respect for human life. "I thought you Autobots wanted peace," he said quietly.

"That wasn't an answer to my question," the giant growled. He paused again, as if listening to a voice only he could hear. He gave a low, choking grunt, his blue eyes flickering briefly in the direction of the road before settling once again on Banachek. "I am waiting, human."

"I'm sorry," Banachek said softly, and to his surprise he realized he meant it. "For what it's worth, I regret now what we what did to the creatures we created. I'm sorry that those lives are lost."

"As you should be. We do not reproduce as you do; with the Allspark destroyed my kind now faces extinction." Those last words were delivered in a low, grieving tone that surprised Banachek. He stared up at the old warrior in front of him with new understanding.

"I am sorry, Ironhide. This situation has been a tragedy for all of us."

The robot regarded him somberly for a long moment. Then, with a sighing of vents, the cannon was flipped down and away. "Indeed. Relax. You have nothing to fear from me."

"I don't wish to be your enemy," Banachek said, more to reassure himself than Ironhide.

"Then I have your word that my kind will be safe from any further 'experimentation' by your people?" The giant said pointedly.

"As far as I can give it, yes. My position is rather precarious. Sector 7 has been dismantled, though I'm sure some of us will be reassigned to act as liaisons for your people. However, nothing's settled yet."

"Bureaucracy," Ironhide rumbled in obvious disgust, and Banachek couldn't help but laugh in agreement.

"Yes, it is a pain. But it's the way of things."

Though it was hard to tell, the robot seemed to smile. "I find pointing and shooting much simpler." He turned his head to look out at the field again. "Ah, it would seem your rescue party is here."

Banachek blinked as the low rumble of a truck engine approached. He peered out past his SUV and saw the distinctive shape of a massive flame-painted Peterbilt come to a stop out on the road, a cloud of dust billowing around it. He looked back at Ironhide, who actually looked slightly sheepish. "Rescuing me from you?"

"Apparently," Ironhide rumbled. Suddenly he pitched forward, transforming swiftly back into a Topkick. His engine turned over and he glided past Banachek. "I'm glad we had this chat. See ya."

"Ah…" Banachek gaped after the truck, which pulled out past the Peterbilt and continued on up the road, vanishing in a cloud of dust.

That was abrupt. Slightly shaken, the former Sector 7 agent climbed back into his SUV and drove back to the road. He came to a stop next to the idling Peterbilt and gazed uncertainly at it. "Optimus Prime," he greeted warily.

"Tom Banachek," the Autobot leader returned, voice deep and even over the growl of his engine. "I hope my weapons specialist was civil."

Banachek raised an eyebrow, and wondered briefly if the Autobot could see that while in truck form. "So he really was out here without permission." Silence greeted this. Unsure how to interpret it, he continued. "He just had a few questions for me, and I think we came to a resolution. I hope."

There was another long pause, and Banachek wondered what the alien was thinking. "Your possession of the Allspark was accidental and understandable under the circumstances," the Autobot rumbled finally. "Officially we bear no ill will towards you or your organization's past actions in regards to our kind, or its artifacts."

Banachek sat back. "And unofficially?"

"Unofficially, forgiveness is extended as long as lessons are learned and adhered to," the robot said in a commanding tone. "There are to be no further attempts at capture of, or experimentation on, any Cybertronian by any group of humans on this planet. That includes the Decepticons. We are autonomous lifeforms, and although we recognize your dominance of this planet we nevertheless hold rights as fellow sentient beings that I will not allow to be compromised. Especially if such actions will incur the future wrath of Decepticon forces. Our mutual survival depends on it."

"Right," Banachek said faintly, sinking back into his seat. "But why are you telling me this? I may not even have a job tomorrow."

"Oh you will," the Autobot replied with what Banachek swore was amusement. "I've specifically requested your involvement in our liaison arrangements."

That took him by surprise and he gaped openly at the truck. "What? Why?"

"Why not?" Prime replied simply, and with an audible shifting of gears he began to roll forward. "Among your other qualifications, Ironhide seems to have decided you have potential, and that is acceptable to me. Good evening, Tom Banachek, we will speak again soon." And with that, the truck sped up and drove out of sight.

Banachek sat there in silence for a good fifteen minutes after the Autbot had gone. There was a great deal to be learned about these aliens still, that much was certain, and he was both relieved and confused that he was still to be a part of the research his family had helped start nearly a century before. He frowned as he started the long drive back to the base he'd borrowed the SUV from. It really had been so much easier when he could think of NBE-1 as nothing more than a highly advanced machine, a construct by some unknown civilization. It had really never occurred to anyone working in Sector 7 that the civilization was the robots, and that the Cube was, for all intents and purposes, their creator. Learning that had turned everything he'd ever believed upside down overnight, and he knew it was going to take a long time to come to terms with that. Time which had now been granted to him by Ironhide, which he found amazing and a bit ironic. But as gruff and distasteful of humans as the Topkick seemed to be, he had nevertheless found it in himself to extend something of an olive branch, which Banachek knew he would be a fool not to accept.

Back at the base, he sat at his desk composing his report to Keller, writing and rewriting it, scowling at the computer screen. His fingers kept writing out the NBE designations, which has always been cold, clinical numbers in the order they had been observed and catalogued. But now his mind warred with that. NBE-1…Megatron. NBE-14…Jazz, now deceased. Killed defending the Allspark, and the innocent citizens of Mission City, from Megatron and his forces.

How much of Ironhide's anger had been grief at the loss of his comrade who defended the lives of a species that had done nothing but regard them as mindless machines to be destroyed or studied?

"Sir?" One of the soldiers had wandered over, a stack of reports in his hands. "Secretary Keller just sent these for you, I think it's about the NBEs."

"Cybertronians," he corrected absently, not looking away from his report.


"Just put them on the desk for me, thanks."

"Ah…okay." The man, boy really, Banachek realized as he glanced up at the young soldier, continued to stand there. Clearly he wanted to ask something.

"At ease, soldier. Did you need something else?"

The boy visibly relaxed. "I heard you spoke to one of them," he said eagerly, wonder in his voice. Much like Simmons, Banachek realized. "They said NBE-10 called you for a meeting."

"Ironhide did, yes."

The soldier blinked. "Ironhide?"

"His name, soldier. And what we discussed is classified."

"Of course, sir," the boy said quickly. Then he frowned slightly, seeming confused. "I didn't realize they had names."

"They're sentient beings, of course they have names," Banachek said dismissively. "And I suggest if you ever meet one of them in person that you use it."

The boy looked at him with surprise for a minute, then suddenly smiled. "I will sir. Should I spread that around to the others?"

"That might not be a bad idea, actually. Go ahead."

Grinning widely, the young man saluted and left the room. Banachek looked after him a moment, then turned back to his report, smiling slightly. "Good luck handling Ironhide, kid. He has a strong personality. "