Thank you for all the reviews! I hope to keep this fic updated as often as possible. Now, on to Chapter 2 . . .
The Autobots watched their leader carefully climb down from the cavern ledge. He was cradling . . . something in his left hand. They gathered around as Optimus paused near the center of the cavern.
"A sparkling, sir? Are you sure? There haven't been any sparklings or younglings on Cybertron for . . ." Ratchet trailed off as he glimpsed what Optimus had brought down from the ledge.
All of the mechs stared in stunned awe at the tiny being curled in Optimus' palm. With his little yellow head resting on Optimus' fingers and his tiny feet barely reaching Optimus' wrist, he was undoubtedly the smallest bot any of them had seen for thousands of vorns. The minibot blinked his bright blue owlish optics rapidly, staring back at them just as curiously. He clicked softly before his wide optics watered and he began to whimper.
"Holy Primus," Ironhide breathed. "A sparkling! I wouldn't have believed it if I wasn't seeing it with my own optics."
"It's been many vorns since I've seen a sparkling, sir, but it seems this one looks to be only orns old." Ratchet paused as the sparkling began to cry in earnest. "And who knows how long he's been in this cave. He must be starved for energon."
Optimus nodded. "First priority is getting this sparkling back to base where he can be properly nourished and scanned for viruses. Ratchet, you'll come with me while Jazz and Ironhide double back to retrieve the remains of the femmebot."
Jazz shook his head sadly. "The femmebot must have been this little guy's -–"
"Most likely, yes," Optimus agreed. "But we can't dwell on that now." Optimus looked at each of his soldiers then stared down at the tiny wailing sparkling. "Until I say otherwise, this mission is to be classified above top secret. The less bots that know about this, the better." He glanced back at his mechs. "Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir!" they said in unison.
The tiny bot hiccupped between sobs, looking up at Optimus with an energon streaked faceplate. Optimus felt his spark swell. He literally held hope for his species in the palm of his hand.
"That's the way," Ratchet soothed. He had long since finished running scan tests on the little sparkling and now had the bot tucked in his elbow, holding an energon cube to the little one's eager mouth. The petite robot suckled at the cube, trying to clutch it with his tiny fingers, all the while staring up into Ratchet's smiling face. "Slow down there, little one," Ratchet laughed as the sparkling coughed. "That's what happens when you drink too fast. You're a hungry little bugger, aren't ya?"
Optimus Prime stepped into the medical bay. It was a bit of a shock to see his elder medical officer, who he'd battled alongside for vorns, comforting and cooing the tiny yellow sparkling that they'd discovered only joors ago. But he was glad that a least one Autobot in his convoy had some knowledge of how to care for a sparkling.
"Anything to report, Ratchet?" Optimus asked as his optics scanned their new charge.
"All the tests came back negative, sir." Ratchet turned, facing his superior. The little bot in his arms continued to suckle while his inquisitive optics tracked to the commander. "This little guy's condition is exceptional, especially considering what he's been through these last few orns. He's a perfectly healthy sparkling."
"He seems very alert . . . and content now that he's gotten some energon in his belly."
"No one has been in the medical bay while you've been tending to him?"
"No, sir. I made it clear that I was not to be disturbed unless it was a dire emergency."
Optimus sighed. "I'll have to brief the other mechs about this. We cannot have a sparkling here at the base without other Autobots finding out about him. But discretion is key. The femmebot hid her sparkling for a reason. She gave up her life spark trying to protect him." He looked at Ratchet. "And we shall do the same."
Ratchet nodded and looked down at the young bot whose optics had begun to droop. His tiny hand gripped the tip of the mech's finger. Ratchet set the nearly empty energon cube aside and gently swayed with the sparkling in his arms. "I haven't done this in a long time," he whispered. "Cared for a sparkling, I mean. I'd forgotten how good it feels." He felt the sparkling go limp, finally settling in recharge mode. "Only Primus knows why he's come to us now," Ratchet spoke softly. "With the war strengthening . . . this is no time or place for a youngling."
"Perhaps that is the very reason he has come to us." Optimus watched Ratchet tenderly lay the recharging sparkling in a make-shift cradle, merely a tin box lined with thick solar blankets. Both mechs looked down into the box, watching over the little yellow bot that had curled himself into tiny ball. And for the moment, all was calm. "How better to win a war . . . than with peace?"
(A joor later…)
"So where is the little tyke?" Jazz asked as he marched into the medical bay with Ironhide in tow.
"Shh!" Ratchet scolded. Then, holding a finger to his metal lips, pointed to the tin box setting in a chair by his workstation.
Jazz and Ironhide quietly sidled over to check on the newest addition to the Autobot community. "Primus, the bugger is tiny," Jazz whispered. "Is he healthy? I mean, he looks really small and frail."
"He's a sparkling, Jazz. He's supposed to be small," Ironhide chided. "He's okay, though, right Ratchet?" he asked, his voice processor tinged with worry as he looked at Ratchet expectantly.
"He's fine." Ratchet assured with a smile.
"Good . . . good. Can't have a sickly sparkling on our hands. Not that we don't have enough to deal with already without having to worry about a clingy, helpless minibot," Ironhide grumbled, but couldn't hide a ghost of a smile as he peered into the box again.
Did the two of you successfully extract the femmebot?" Optimus asked as he entered the room.
"Yes, sir," they assured.
Optimus nodded. "She shall receive a proper soldier's burial."
They all nodded in solemn agreement.
"So . . . now what?" Jazz asked.
"I've called for a meeting at oh eight hundred joors tomorrow. I've thought about the 'above top secret' classification, and although the existence of the sparkling must be kept under wraps, the other Autobots have to be apprised of our new young charge," Optimus explained.
"I agree." Ratchet nodded. "Some others are going to need to learn how to care for him. I cannot do it alone."
And as if on cue, the sparkling began to stir as whimpers could be heard emanating from beneath the solar blankets.
"Shh! Everybody be quiet . . . maybe he'll go back to recharge mode," Jazz said.
Ratchet just shook his head and sighed as the whimpers turned into full blown cries. "Pick him up," he ordered.
"Wha? Me?" Jazz took a few steps back. "Oh no, no, no. I'm not ready for that yet. What . . . what if I drop him?"
"Sparklings constantly need to feel the reassurance and warmth of a fellow robot and their spark. It soothes them and helps them to feel safe," Ratchet explained.
Still, Jazz made no move towards the weeping minibot.
"Oh, for Primus sake!" Ironhide yelled, reaching inside the tin box while giving Jazz the evil optic. He gently retrieved the wriggling, sobbing sparkling, still wrapped in a thick silver blanket. Tucking the bot under his chin, he tenderly rubbed the sparkling's back until his cries subsided, replaced by quiet hiccups and chirping. "There now, no need for tears," he rumbled softly.
The other three mechs stared, mouths dropped wide as the big, bad, grumpy weapons specialist easily soothed the tiny bot.
Ironhide spotted them gawking. "What? I wanted the bugger to shut up, so I shut him up," he grumbled as he continued to carefully run his massive hand up and down the little bot's back. "And that pile of scrap metal was no help," he added, nodding towards Jazz.
The little yellow sparkling continued to chirp and buzz as he squirmed underneath Ironhide's palm.
"I think he likes you," Jazz said, smiling.
"Hmrph! Shows how much sense the little guy's got. Annoying too, if you ask me," Ironhide said, trying to resort back to his irritable self. "Sounds like a slagging cyberbee with all that clicking and buzzing he's doing next to my auditory receptor," he said as he patted the skidplate of the now happily chirping and buzzing minibot. But Ironhide couldn't continue to frown. One fleeting look from those big blue sparkling optics and his spark fluttered. "Well, maybe more like a cute, fuzzy bumblebee."
"Bumblebee," Optimus repeated. He smiled slowly. "I believe you've just given the sparkling his name, Ironhide."
"Huh . . . well, it suits him anyway." Ironhide shifted the tiny bot to the crook of his elbow, running his finger down the side of the sparkling's faceplate causing him to coo and smile. Ironhide smiled back.
Optimus took a deep breath, feeling his own spark flutter. From that moment on, his life on the base would be different, as would many others. But he wouldn't have it any other way. "Tomorrow we introduce the base to the newest and youngest Autobot . . . Bumblebee."