So.... *nervous laugh* Um, small delay? Minor real-life issues? Abducted by another fandom? Any takers?
I am so sorry, guys. I really tried to get back to this before now but... see above. I promise, no more horrendously long waits. As a gift, I give you long-ish chapter.
Also, it appears we're ignoring the whole second movie, mostly because I didn't really like it. Parts I did- Jetfire as a whole was awesome beyond words, and Simmons working in his mother's sub-shop-on-the-corner was absolute gold- but for most of the movie I found myself going, really?
Disclaimer: me no own.
Work for the government, from something as simple as delivering mail all the way up to running your own highly secret agency, and you tended to notice certain patterns. Like the fact that all the weird shit happened all at once, thus guaranteeing your day is as big a headache as possible.
Simmons' day had already featured a Cessna Skyhawk, a mechanical triceratops, and a barrel cactus. After having spent three hours babysitting the Cessna's two passengers, he was quite happy to hand them over to the folks SecDef had sent over so he could crawl home and collapse. Which was why he didn't even pretend to be surprised when his cell phone started to ring the second he let himself into his apartment.
"Yeah?" he asked tiredly, because sardonic cynicism was too much effort to dredge up right then.
"Agent Simmons? Reginald Simmons?" a man asked, voice crackly and high, and Simmons winced at the sound of his name. God, his parents must have hated him to saddle him with that name.
"Again, yeah? Look, if this is some phone service offer or something..."
"Uh, no," the other man squeaked. Then, silence. Simmons sighed and leaned his forehead against the freezer door.
"Okay, time's up. Good night."
"Had a hard day playing with the aliens, Agent?" the man suddenly shot off rapid-fire.
Uh-oh. "I don't know what you-"
"Don't deny it, I know all about them," the man continued, still picking up speed. "I know about the giant robots and the Mission City disaster and the lizard people and your secret agency-"
"The lizard people?"
"And I'm going to tell the world and there's nothing you can do to stop me!" came the harsh yell, voice breaking halfway through, before a heavy clunk and the familiar sound of a dial tone.
Simmons sighed and snapped his phone shut. He pulled open the refrigerator, took out a beer, popped off the top and drank it in four huge gulps, and threw the bottle into the sink. Then he allowed himself to think about the call and summed up his entire day in two words:
"The lizard people?" Jazz laughed. He, at least, was finding this amusing.
"What lizard people?" Red Alert added. Simmons grunted.
"There are no lizard people," he said distractedly. Speaking of lizards, his toothy shadow had yet to make an appearance. The only thing Simmons could think of that was more alarming than Grimlock was missing Grimlock.
"Maybe there are," Sam countered. He folded his arms behind his head and grinned at Simmons. "Maybe they just haven't told you."
Red Alert drew himself up to his full height, reminiscent of someone taking a deep breath in preparation of a long rant. Simmons cut him off.
"There are no lizard people," he repeated firmly and gave Sam a gimlet glare. Ever since Mikaela had left for a road trip with her father, the boy had been aimlessly hanging around. Prowl tended to kick him out every evening but otherwise the kid appeared content to do nothing except wile away his hours on base and annoy people all day.
"Well, you can't know for sure," Jazz reasoned, and Simmons felt his eye start to twitch. "I mean, think of how many people knew about Sector 7. How can you be sure they're not keeping some other, even more secret agency from you?"
"Who are 'they', anyways?" Red Alert demanded. Before the other three could even begin to answer that- thank god for small favors- another 'bot poked his head in through the open doorway.
"Is him Slag still in trouble?" Swoop asked resignedly.
"Yes!" Simmons, Jazz, and Sam all yelled at once. Swoop nodded, not remotely surprised by this answer- it hadn't changed from the last seventeen times he'd asked- and disappeared again.
"Don't take hints well, do they?" Sam wondered aloud.
"They've never exactly been th' brightest crayons in th' box," Jazz said apologetically. Then, "Now, 'bout those lizard people-"
"There are no lizard people!"
"I know," the saboteur said soothingly. Be gentle with the crazy man. "So why's this guy think there are?"
"'Cause he's a loon," Sam offered with all the wisdom of a teenager. Simmons pulled another long swig from his jumbo-sized cup of coffee.
He'd done a turn-around and came straight back to base after the mystery call, but all the 'bots could tell him was that the call was made from a downtown LA pay phone, and by the time police made it there the caller himself was long gone. Prime had long ago lost all patience with the cranky, sleep-deprived Simmons and had assigned Jazz to keeping tabs on Simmons' cell phone, in case the guy called back. Red Alert, after his initial freak-out over this quite obvious lapse in security, had also stuck around. Sam had shown up some two hours later and now, sixteen hours after Slag played Duck Hunt with a Cessna and eleven hours after the call itself, the only exciting thing happening was the running bets on how many minutes until Swoop- annoyed and impatient and yet still loyal to his thick-skulled idiot of a teammate- came back to yet again ask the exact same question.
"He's an aquatic bird," Red Alert stated tonelessly, and Simmons almost inhaled coffee.
"No, I mean he's a nutcase. A lunatic. Off his meds. Conspiracy theorist." Sam shrugged. "Look it up."
"Lunatic or not, he's close enough to the truth to be very dangerous," Simmons muttered.
"Isn't it your job t' keep that from happening?" Jazz asked sweetly.
"Well, yes, Jazz, it is, but since you and your trigger-happy friends completely flattened three city blocks within hours of arriving on this planet, I started off at something of a disadvantage," the human snapped back, and the saboteur ducked his head to hide his grin.
"What about the plane Slag brought down with a cactus?" Sam wondered, and Simmons couldn't help but think of that sentence as a sad commentary on his life. Giant mechanical triceratops bringing down a small airplane by means of projectile barrel cactus? Yawn.
"First people I looked at. Slag cut off their radio soon as he spotted them, and they're still signing NDA's and being threatened with life in Guantanamo if they're ever caught even thinking about alien robots, so they haven't had the chance to tell anyone."
"Someone in Mission City, maybe," Jazz offered.
"Or someone who was on the road outside Mission City, or someone who knows someone in Mission City," Simmons added, turning his cup upside-down and watching the last few drops of coffee meander their way down the side. "There were literally thousands of people there, far too many for even the most thorough sweep to have picked up all of them. The only thing keeping those people quiet is fear."
"We won't hurt them," Red Alert muttered stiffly. Simmons thought of Sunstreaker, and Grimlock, and mentally added unless we have to to the end of Red's statement.
"It's not fear of what you'll do," Sam explained, choosing his words carefully- clearly he'd followed the same line of thought as Simmons. "It's fear of the idea of you. Humans are so used to being on top around here that..." He trailed off, gesturing helplessly, and glanced at Simmons. The older human picked up where he left off with ease.
"That they'll gladly accept any story, even if they know it's utter bullshit, just so they don't have to acknowledge how weak and powerless they really are."
Jazz made a sound very similar to 'huh' and settled himself more comfortably onto the 'bot-sized couch Wheeljack had created. Red Alert, however, was scowling. Obviously the idea of living in denial bothered him. Simmons could imagine how he would respond to the saying what you don't know can't hurt you. Then again, preparing for every possible worst-case scenario was his job.
Conversation died at that point and for several long minutes, the foursome merely sat around waiting for something to happen. Simmons rolled the empty cup between his hands and yawned widely. He still hadn't gotten any sleep yet. He was debating if it was worth the wasted energy to get up and get a refill when his phone rang.
Simmons and Sam both jumped and Jazz gave a small jerk. Red Alert, who constantly lived in a state of high alert and couldn't really get more jumpy than he normally was, didn't even twitch.
"Banachek," Simmons said after a glance at the screen. Sam said something in reply that would most likely cause his old-fashioned parents to literally wash his mouth out. In some small token attempt at privacy, Simmons forced himself to his feet and wandered into the hallway before answering.
"I heard about the call," Tom said without preamble. Simmons snorted.
"Aquatic bird gone off his meds. I'm not worried."
Tom Banachek, far too used to his former partner's weirdness to be thrown by one odd statement, didn't miss a beat. "Well, I have news regarding your bird's information source. You tell me if and when he calls back..."
"Yeah, deal," Simmons answered without hesitation. Tom was one of the few people whose trustworthiness had never been called into question. He listened to what his friend had to say and nodded in resignation. Honestly, he should have expected this.
It was always the Autobots' fault. Always.
"How did you get here?" Simmons asked conversationally as he reentered the room. The looks he got from the two 'bots told him immediately that, miracle of miracles, neither had eavesdropped on the call.
"Walked in right behind you," Jazz said slowly, curious.
"Walked here. Tell me, how long does it take to walk here from Cybertron?"
"Ah, well, from Cybertron we took a ship," the saboteur replied. "Left it out past th' moon."
"All right. Repeat after me: The moon is not an interplanetary parking lot."
"Wow," Sam muttered, eyes wide. "This guy saw their ship?"
"Ships, as in plural," Simmons growled. "And probably; NORAD certainly did."
"That's impossible," Red Alert began, looking as though he were working himself up to a nice long lecture.
"Nutcases like this guy tend to have big telescopes with long lenses," Sam cut in before either the 'bot or Simmons could speak their minds. There was a long, awkward pause.
"Oops," Jazz said finally. "Our bad. We'll move 'em. 'S that all?"
"Is him Slag still in trouble?"
Simmons turned on the intruding Dinobot with a snarl, fully intending to tell at least one of these idiot machines exactly what he thought about them, but stopped when he abruptly realized that the words were the same as always but the voice had undergone a drastic change.
"Um," Sam said stupidly, blinking at the hulking giant in front of them.
"Naw," Jazz stepped in smoothly. "'s all cool, Sludge, go ahead an' tell him he's free. No more cactus throwin', though."
Sludge- someone really had to get them new names- nodded and lumbered out. The two humans gaped after him.
"Damn he's big," Sam muttered. "Never seen him that close before."
Simmons, however, was going down a different mental track. "Where does he hide all day? And the other two? The only ones I see on a semi-regular basis are Fangs and Wings."
"Fangs and...?" Jazz began, starting to laugh. Red Alert spoke over him.
"They stay within base limits, Agent. They might not be the smartest of 'bots but they don't go wandering around where humans could easily see them." There was a challenge in those words.
"You're using the moon as a parking lot!" Simmons yelled.
"I have the boundary lines very clearly marked and monitored, not to mention I received clearance and agreement on the base area limits from the United States military-"
"You think someone trespassed and saw one of Grimlock's crew?" Sam interrupted. Red Alert kept right on going, but by now he was talking more to himself anyways.
"It's a no-fly zone and yet Slag still brought down a Cessna today," Simmons answered grimly. "It'd also explain why this nut waited to call until a year after Mission City. He saw one of the dinos and put the pieces together."
"An' why you got th' call, since it's your name on all th' paperwork," Jazz added. All three considered the implications for a moment.
"We've been careless," Simmons decided, glancing at Jazz. "Go get Prime."
"Already on his way."
"Can we move your ships without causing more problems?" Sam asked, and the saboteur shrugged.
"Prob'ly. Th' hard part'll be gettin' to 'em."
The teen started to ask something else but was cut off by Simmons' cell. All movement in the room immediately ceased as he flipped the phone opened and gave a wary 'hello'.
"...I didn't tell no one yet," the other man muttered, sounding like a scolded child.
"I noticed," Simmons replied, gesturing to Jazz. The 'bot nodded confidently- he'd already traced the call and probably had even sent the cops out to fetch the caller. "What makes you think anyone will believe you if you did?"
"'Cause I'm right."
"Being right has never been a point of interest in the journalism world. Being believable, though, that's a big one." Simmons glanced up as Optimus Prime entered the room, moving with surprisingly stealth for such a big guy.
"They'll believe me," came the pout of a reply. Simmons didn't bother to address this- he could hear the whisper of sirens over the line and knew he was probably about to lose the guy.
"What do you want?" he asked, silently cursing the idiot cops and their damn sirens.
"To meet one of them," the man replied, sounding almost dreamy. Then he swore as the sirens increased and slammed the phone down with a vengeance. Simmons sighed and hung up.
"Well, that ain't gonna happen," Jazz snorted.
"What's not happening?" Sam, the only one in the room who hadn't heard both halves of the phone conversation, was already impatient.
"It's our best chance to catch this guy, especially if he's only seen the Dinobots and doesn't realize you lot can transform into cars and whatever," Simmons pointed out.
"Allow an unauthorized, unknown human to enter the base?" Red Alert demanded furiously. He turned to his CO and continued his rant. "Absolutely not. I forbid it, Prime."
"Chill, Red," Jazz tried.
"Their size is deceptive," the security chief rolled right over him. "There are so many potentially dangerous items they can hide on themselves. Have you ever heard of C-4?"
"Yes, I have," Prime answered evenly. "Yet if Simmons is correct, this man has already had plenty of opportunities to do something but has not."
Red Alert fell silent. He looked a little ill, if such could be said of a mech. After a moment, he turned and headed out the door, weaving a little.
"I think we just turned his world on its ear," Sam muttered, surprisingly sympathetic.
"Worst. We told him his security measures aren't good enough." Simmons shook his head and smirked. "My vote is, we go with it. Off-base; we don't wanna give Red a 'bot-coronary."
"Go with what?" Sam demanded irritably, once more out of the loop. Prime hesitated, clearly about to say no, and Simmons hurried on with explaining his plan.
"I'll take Sunstreaker- he's big and pissy, he'll scare the crap out of just about anyone. Or Grimlock if the guy's expecting a Dinobot. I dealt with these sort of things all the time before, Prime, and I can guarantee you that this guy is basically harmless. Scare him good enough and he'll leave us alone."
"He wants to meet one of the 'bots?" Sam reasoned. He was ignored.
"We're not doing anything unless he calls back," Prime pointed out. "If he does, we'll discuss it then."
"Can I go?" the teen asked, addressing Simmons. Obviously Prime no longer got a say in the matter.
"He calls again, we'll be ready," Jazz, at least, made the effort to be a good little soldier for his boss. "No sirens next time."
"We'll see," Simmons agreed calmly. Ultimately Prime would have to side with him to avoid the potential for a public spectacle. He turned on his heel and strode out, aiming in the same general direction Sludge had wandered off in, knowing the others would follow. He was right.
"Where are you going?" Sam asked, jogging a little to catch up.
"Have a chat with Fangs," Simmons replied breezily. "He'll enjoy this."
"Not Grimlock," Prime said, tone mellow with an undercurrent of steel. He didn't offer an explanation, but then, he didn't really need to.
Simmons slowed considerably as he debated his Grimlock-free options- Prime's tone had brooked absolutely no arguments. After a moment he smiled.
"Not Grimlock, right," he said agreeably. "So for plan B- anyone have any idea where Mirage hides out?"
"I do. What's th' plan?" Jazz countered, and Simmons told him. It didn't take long; it was a relatively straightforward plan, dependent upon Mirage's antisocial nature. After a moment's deliberation, Jazz turned to face Prime.
"I'll do it," he offered, which in no way surprised anyone. Prime simply nodded, already resigned to the fact that this was happening with or without him. Better for him to stick around to keep the train from jumping the tracks entirely.
"Fair enough. But the two of you get to convince Mirage."
And there was a snag. Prime clearly had no intention of ordering the spy to help. Simmons promptly turned to the saboteur.
"You handle him, he hates me."
Jazz shrugged and wandered off. Simmons watched him go. There was another option if Mirage didn't feel like cooperating, but the spy was much more efficient and less likely to slip up.
"You're enjoying this," Sam said accusingly, staring at Simmons. The older man grinned shamelessly.
"I used to do stuff like this for a living, kid."
"Well, good for you, 'cause Mirage still does," the boy shot back sourly. He was upset at being calmly and politely told hell no when he repeated his request to join Simmons and Jazz.
Simmons mulled that one over for a moment. Honestly, he had no idea what the spy did for the Autobots, save the obvious. He did, however, know for a fact that Mirage had to be damned good at it to get away with it for so long. Autobot and Decepticon alike were all scattered survivors; heroes and spies- Prime and Mirage- should have been among the first casualties.
"He's cool with it," Jazz announced, nearly giving Simmons a heart attack as he magically popped up beside the human. Simmons half-turned away, biting back the instinctive urge to yell at and/or shoot the 'bot. Obviously it was time for a recap of Ratchet's 'fragile humans, do not break' speech, which had been humiliating and alarming to the humans in question, but made all the mechs on-base tread very carefully around the organics lest they invoke the Wrath Of Ratchet.
Plus the last time Ratchet had given that speech Grimlock had followed Simmons around for weeks, and although he'd rather have an anesthesia-free root canal before admitting it, he'd gotten kind of used to the lizard.
"So are we good to go then?" he asked after a moment to recover, shifting to look at Prime.
Prime looked rather remarkably as though he were regretting ever including himself in this mess. This was shaping up to be one of those 'the less I know the happier I'll be' scenarios. He tilted his head in a way that could be interpreted as a nod and walked away. Simmons couldn't help but smirk- plausible deniability was such a powerful tool.
"All right, Jazz, if we're gonna be waiting for this bird to call back, I'm gonna need more coffee." He held up his empty cup and turned it so Jazz could see the gas station logo on the side. "How fast can you get there or back without breaking any laws?"
"Traffic laws or physics?" came the grinning reply.
"You're going on a coffee run?" Sam asked in disbelief, and Simmons shrugged.
"Oh yeah." He watched as Jazz transformed and circled around to the driver's door, leaning briefly against the Porsche as he regarded the teen. "I'm gonna need it. I can already tell, this is going to be a very long day."
to be continued....
a/n: and quickly, I promise!