Hunting Houses

By Snare-chan

Pairings: Besides Lennox and his wife? No.
Ratings: T
Category(ies): Adventure/Slight AU
Warning(s): Cussing
Status: One-shot, complete
Summary: (2007 Movie verse) Lennox, Epps and Optimus Prime look for a place for the Autobots to reside; the entire mission goes beyond awry as one bad happenstance follows the other.

Notes: This is a request that I guess you could say got out of hand. I just wanted to write a fanfic that solely centered around Lennox and Epps, but at some point Optimus wanted in on the fun and then I suddenly found myself with an eighteen page long behemoth. I'm not sure how I get myself into these situations anymore.

Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers; wish I did like everybody else. They should put TF in stock, then I'd buy it all!

After returning home to the States, William Lennox didn't get to see much of his military life, or, at least, none of the wild action he was used to. With the now-triple top-secret knowledge he possessed, Qatar and the rest of the war taking place overseas was the last thing the government wanted him to take any part in. They'd already nearly lost him twice, so in their infinite wisdom, they had seen no reason to jeopardize him and what remained of his men when they could do their parts right here on American soil.

That, and he understood that there were already too many people who knew about the Autobots' existence, so the fewer people they had to introduce to and train on the subject, the better. And it was in their best interests that what he already knew wasn't lost in death or, worse, didn't fall into enemy hands, be it evil extraterrestrials or human foreigners. He'd belonged to the United States government long enough to become familiar enough with those concepts, whether they admitted them aloud or not.

He didn't mind, however. Already, he had done his part, well beyond what most would consider the call of duty, and to be able to continue to do so while at home and with a considerable pay raise? With a new mouth to feed, those were some terms he could live with.

"Red, white, and boo! Red, white, and boo!" Annabelle chanted in his arms, startling him. She was gazing over his shoulder and out the window, waving at a flame-painted semi truck that had pulled up onto their property.

Looked like his escort had arrived.

"You be a good little girl while I'm away, alright? Don't give your mother a hard time."

"Lady, lady, lady!" his daughter chanted again, squirming around in his arms as he set her down in her crib for her nap. "Not tired."

Automatically, he retaliated with, "Are tired."


"Are tired," he corrected one last time, tucking her in amongst her stuffed animals and various blankets. As soon as he was finished, she had wandered off into a deep slumber, just like clockwork.

Grabbing the suitcase and jacket he had gathered for the upcoming trip, he shut off the light and carefully closed the door behind him, his wife catching him on the way out. Sarah's hands were full of clean laundry, still warm and fresh but finely pressed and folded, with his hat sitting atop it.

Softly, so as not to disturb their child, she murmured, "You almost forgot this."

Will thanked her just as quietly, the both of them always so cautious in these times. As darling as they liked to think their baby girl was, she could be a handful when prematurely woken up. Sarah claimed it was just her way of expressing her desire for more beauty sleep; he called it 'being cranky.'

"Be safe while you're away."

He chuckled, snatching his hat and adjusting it before leaning over and giving her a quick kiss goodbye, then another just in case she didn't get the first one.

"I'm always careful, and this is only some conference for us big-wigs. Nothing can go wrong."

"It's not just you I'm necessarily concerned about," she smiled knowingly. "It's when you're with your buds that I worry."

There wasn't much he could say to refute her worries, so he merely offered her a grin and tipped his hat at her in that charming way that tended to show off his boyish appeal. She openly laughed at his antics before catching herself, her head ducking into the clothes she was clutching to stifle her amusement.

"Go on, now. Don't leave them waiting."

"I'll be back before you know it," he whispered lastly, heading to the front door and minding to gently close the screen. If he wasn't careful, it had a tendency to snap shut, and it'd be disastrous if he made too much noise and left Sarah with a wailing baby.

As he briskly, but softly, made his way over to his scheduled ride, Robert Epps was already hanging out the window, one arm resting along its edge. The expression he wore clearly asked, without saying, 'what kept you and what are you doing?' Not answering right away, he circled around to the passenger side and hopped up, tossing his suitcase in and nearly taking off Epps' head in the process.

"Boy, what-"

Will deftly covered the other's mouth and, for good measure, covered one of the speakers of the semi truck. Perhaps he was being overly wary, maybe even presumptuous, but he wouldn't take any risks.

"Don't ask questions, just drive," he whispered.

Rolling his eyes, his friend brushed his hand aside and made a show of putting the vehicle into first and pulling out to the street. Until they were off his property and down the road a ways, Lennox didn't dare loosen up, his shoulders only slumping when he saw the sign announcing they were leaving the state.

"Permission to speak now, Lieutenant Colonel Lennox?" a disembodied voice requested, though Will didn't look at all surprised to hear it. The title, perhaps, since he was still growing used to his jump in promotion, but nothing to do with hearing voices.

After his cooperation with the transforming robots from outer space, the President had seen fit to open more doors for him and some of his soldiers, seeing as he might need the information now that Sector 7 was no longer openly running the show. He wasn't really in charge, either, but he had enough contact with the aliens these days that sometimes it sure felt like it.

"Yeah, Optimus. We're out of his munchkin's hearing range – have been for a couple miles," Robert spoke up first in response. "Man, she's barely a year old and she's already got you whipped and wrapped around her little finger."

"You can never be too careful," Will stated in his defense, removing his hat and loosening the collar of his uniform. That was as far as he went, used to wearing such attire for extended periods of time. "If you think 105-millimeter cannons can bring the rain then you should see her bring down the house with her crying!"

Quickly changing the subject, he added, "Good to see you, Optimus Prime."

"And a pleasure to meet you again, Lieutenant. How is the little misses?"

The first time he was introduced to the Autobots – really introduced to them, while not in the heat of battle and after getting used to the idea of talking cars which were really more giant robots – he was a bit taken aback by their mannerisms.

Well, not so much how they acted as how they spoke. He understood that the English language was a difficult thing to master even when you were born and raised on it, and that it was an entirely different and difficult task to learn it in another country, but when you were a race not even of this world, translations could get a bit…mixed. The fact that they could communicate at all was a miracle in itself.

That didn't stop him from being amused by what phrases stuck out to them and were so commonly used. Some were more lenient and open than the others – that quirky yellow one, Bumblebee, for example, had quite a quick wit to him. Even the more reserved ones such as Optimus Prime fell victim to Ebonics, catchphrases, and analogies from time to time due to the blessing and curse of relying on the World Wide Web.

Sayings from the 1950's were apparently another downfall, though he understood what the other was getting at easily enough. Not like that time that ambulance equipped Autobot – Ratchet – got adapt and adopt mixed up.

"Sarah is doing alright. She's thinking about returning to work soon, or at least once our kid is ready for daycare, which should be any day now."

Epps snorted, "She ain't ready now? By her age, I was walking to my own daycare by myself."

"No doubt uphill both ways in two feet of snow."

"Damn right I was, and it was over fifteen miles!" he laughed, nudging Will in the arm good-naturedly. Lennox couldn't resist a laugh at that, relaxing even further into his seat.

"So what's on the agenda, gentlemen? No more paperwork to fill out, I hope."

"I'm afraid I am unable to neither confirm nor deny such a task at this time, but I calculate that the outcome is inevitable," Optimus Prime spoke up again, more than likely further debriefed on the situation than both of them combined. While they had received mail on this meeting, no details were ever included, lest they be intercepted or misplaced.

"Always seems to be," Will sighed, though not too disappointedly. He'd gradually begun to accept his fate. "So then, what will I be breaking my wrist over this time?"

"We are in need of secure facilities in this region. If we are to continue these visits, then it would be wise to have a secure location in which to reside."

"The boys back at the White House have already dug up a list of suitable spots, though it's our job to inspect them," Epps spoke up, all business now that the subject had been breached. "They would have sent someone else, but in the meeting I brought up that, at least this way, one of the Autobots can personally see to the condition of their possible home away from home."

"Thank you again, Robert Epps. It's fortunate that I can see firsthand what is being offered."

As a fellow…leader of sorts, Will understood why. Their initial accommodations were less than favorable, though thankfully temporary. The second, more 'permanent' site, was still being upgraded and brought to their standards, yet its location had proven to be problematic in its own right. It had been difficult trying to compromise on both sides, and Lennox hated feeling stuck in the middle.

"And we apologize for the long wait, though we've been over this enough times that I suppose it's not really necessary to say even that much."

"My people and I have withstood the passage of time – we understand the benefits of patience all too well, Lieutenant Colonel Lennox."

"It's just Will," he corrected absently, having fought this issue but had yet to win. "As a representative for the United States Government, I would like to personally thank you for your understanding on the speed at which our transactions are made. But as a man of this country, I feel the need to point out that we Earth-dwellers can't afford to be that tolerant and would prefer to get matters handled before we grow old and die."

The nearest site was about four hours south of the Lennox residence, in a little town that wasn't really a town at all. A more accurate description would be a "pit stop;" there was maybe a single strip of life about the place: a gas station, a thrift store, a place to buy farmed goods, and a few run-down homes and boarded-up buildings. Those who resided here were most likely the only souls that ran what was left of the settlement. At no time had the place thrived – or if, by some miracle, it had, time had warped the place beyond recognition.

Optimus Prime braked across from the pumping station, all of them taking in the less than stellar real-estate.

"Reminds you of a setting for a horror movie, doesn't it?" Epps muttered.

"The place is pretty empty; no one would have to worry about risking too many people in case of an incident," Will pointed out warily, the argument sounding weak to his own ears. "It's secluded and expansion isn't out of the question."

"We could probably pave over everything if we paid off the remaining locals. Not like there's much left, anyhow," his friend added, almost as an afterthought.

Their resident Autobot rumbled in a manner that belied thoughtfulness and asked, "Would such an occurrence be considered suspicious? Your people, they do not handle government growth favorably, is that correct?"

"Depends on the circumstances, really. Location and its purpose play a big part in the final decision. But we can deal with that problem when it arises. We don't even know if you like the place or not."

At Will's cue, Optimus pulled forward and onward, getting off at an unattended dirt road, one that was worn down, rocky, and strewn with potholes. The path led directly into a sparsely forested area that was more boulders than trees, with no real end in sight.

"That's weird," Robert announced after twenty minutes of bumpy terrain. "The map indicates we should be on top of it by now."

"On top of what? There's nothing here."

Epps folded up the document depicting a lake base and handed it over, clarifying with, "On top of that. Some storage facility that doubled as a training site for divers and boating exercises. They had to close it down because it got too small for their practices."

"Perhaps we should have asked for directions," Optimus supplied, earning an odd glance from both human soldiers.

"I'm sure we're getting closer," Will assured them, craning his neck to spy through the surrounding foliage and other terrain better. No sooner than forty minutes and two wrong turns later, they found the place. Optimus stopped just short of the gate, or what remained of it.

Lennox had to steel himself against wincing; the place was that painful to look at. While not the worst example of dumps everywhere, it was still just that: a dump. From outside the compound, the barbed-wire fence was torn down in most places and rusted in others. The building didn't look to be in much better shape from this distance; all things considered, at least it hadn't toppled over like it seemed to want to.

With a resigned sigh, Epps grabbed a clipboard and stepped out, his commander following suit. No one was around but a couple of deer to witness Optimus Prime transforming into his bipedal form and rising to his full height to survey the landscape.

"Not much to look at, that's for sure," Lennox noted. "But we're considering location more than anything. How's the view from up there, Optimus?"

The Autobot rubbed his chin thoughtfully and seemed to choose his words carefully. "It is secluded. The body of water and surrounding landscape could prove to be a suitable, secondary defense if utilized properly."

Epps snorted.

"No one in their right mind would wander out here, that's for sure." He was scribbling down note after note, making a list of needed equipment and what would require upgrades, repairs, or total replacements. They had yet to step onto the base and already he was halfway to flipping over to the back of the first page.

"When did they say this was closed down?"


On closer inspection, the building wasn't quite the disaster they assumed it was. It was mostly made up of metal siding, now a bit rusted and dented, but thankfully not bent. It would need reinforcing, but it wasn't a total loss. No windows were broken nor did it appear that any of the bolted doors were tampered with, and there were still a couple of wooden docks leading from land to a few feet into the pit that was the lake. It had declined over the years, down to about two-thirds its original size, if the dried-up and cracked earth lining the water's edge was sign enough. It wouldn't be too much trouble to refill it and, Lennox mused absently, perhaps stock it. The last time he'd fished was back before he joined the army.

"Hey, Epps, do you have the key to this place?"

"Sure d-"

There came a loud crash behind them and then an electronic sort of squeal of surprise, their heads whipping around and bodies going immediately into a crouch, hands itching to reach into their pockets. Qatar had taught them survival, and robots had taught them to rely on everything they had at their disposal – being short and as small as possible was one of them. Their cause of alarm turned out to be Optimus Prime, one of his feet having put too much weight on a part of one of the docks and gone straight on through. Still a bit buzzed on adrenalin, Lennox shot back up and ran over, asking if he was alright.

"Do not be alarmed. I am not damaged."

He did, however, appear to be temporarily stuck. The leader of the Autobots gave a couple of sharp tugs, old sun-bleached wood splintering and tearing, but not quite breaking further. The two soldiers volunteered to help him and even went so far as to begin doing so without waiting for a response, but one last break for freedom from Optimus had him teetering backwards and them scrambling to get out from underfoot to prevent being squished.

When the dust settled, Robert added another suggestion to their endless list of repairs, muttering, "Maybe it would be faster to put down what we don't need to fix."

The seventh location on their list was a base that had previously served as an assembly line for military machinery, mostly air force standard jets. A detailed report informed them that about four and a half years ago it was closed down because production costs became too high and the demand wasn't around anymore to justify running the business. Since then it'd been abandoned.

As they rode towards it, Lennox and the others could see why. It was barely out of a city's limits and accessible strictly by a back road that was just-about paved, making the location easy to miss and forget. A dusty, faded sign mentioned the name of the facility in passing; the pole bent at a rickety angle that suggested it had been hit more than once, and risked collapse.

"Our government sure knows how to pick'em."

Will snorted and pointed out, "At least this one isn't hiding behind a landfill, like the last one."

"Seriously. We should have called the U.S. EPA on those guys. Nothing should smell that bad."

Somehow, they both got the impression that even Optimus Prime was inclined to agree. The lieutenant colonel didn't understand the mechanics behind Autobots and their "senses," but from what he had learned, they could at least tell the difference between what smelled good and what smelled bad. Back at their last stop, it was undeniably bad.

The building started to come into view; it was a rather impressive sight, especially after the previous sorry examples they'd been subjected to. The fence still appeared brand new, covered in a firm layer of barbed wire and shining silver, with the gate closed, but not locked. Although nothing looked tampered with, Lennox still found himself strangely put on edge. When they arrived, Optimus simply brushed up against the entrance, causing it to swing open and permit them in.

Discarded parts littered the exterior of the building, some more rusted and in separate bits than others, but they were all organized in very precise locations, leaving enough room to maneuver around the place and access doors without any trouble.

"Well I'll be; this place might just be a keeper," Epps announced, jotting down a handful of observations and not much else. If his wrist could have sighed in relief, it would have done so twice by now.

In agreement, Optimus added, "It's a distinct possibility. The factory looks to have remained sturdy, so less time and effort could be put to resettling the foundation."

Lennox nodded, motioning towards Epps for him to get out the key. There wasn't much else except the scrap yard to inspect outside, so they might as well get straight to the point. Instead of just pulling out a key ring, however, Epps did them one better and produced a remote. The place had been built recently enough that some modern commodities had been installed upon its construction, one of them being a garage door opener. The device looked clunky – a large box that fit in the other's entire palm – and consisted of two buttons: red for closing and blue for opening. Roberts pressed the top blue one as Optimus pulled up to the entrance.

That feeling from earlier, the one Lennox felt was out of place considering the situation, came back to him in a form he easily recognized as dread. It sunk in his gut like a load of stones, pulling his mouth down with it in a clear indication of surprise. Epps was wearing a similar expression of mixed shock and horror, their eyes fixated on what resided inside.

Apparently, the building wasn't as abandoned as they'd been informed.

People, hundreds of people, were milling around inside, most of them dressed in appropriate grease-monkey attire – denim overalls, torn t-shirts, sullied jeans, and there was one guy distinctly without a shirt, a full-body tiger tattoo marring his chest. Cars of all shapes and sizes of the high-priced variety rested on car beds in assorted states of disassembly.

Lennox could admit that there were some things even an army boy like himself didn't know a lick about. He was raised on a farm and remained on a farm, and the country wasn't known for urban complications and threats, so with little regret and no shame he turned to his friend, asking the question he feared receiving a positive answer to but needing to know for sure.

"Before you ask," Epps beat him to the punch, "yeah, that right there is what you think it is. Had a neighbor who ran an operation like this and my sister threatened to rip my ears off if I volunteered to assist the guy even with his groceries."

"Well then."

Lennox didn't finish the statement, the situation beyond words at that point. He might have been a bit new at this delegation stuff, but he knew with full certainty that handing over a self-aware alien robot to a chop shop could not be good for interstellar relations, especially when said self-aware alien robot happened to be the leader of other self-aware alien robots. Self-aware alien robots with far superior technology and weaponry than everyone on the entire planet combined.

Discretely, Epps reached up to remove his hat, and together they removed the top portions of their uniforms. Throughout the process, Optimus Prime was respectfully silent, only inquiring if they were at the correct location when they were finished. It was a reasonable question, seeing as the place was supposed to be empty, except here they were, discovering an illegal operation.

"Technically, yes," Lennox supplied slowly, eyes keen on the men inside and hoping no one took notice of them. "I mean, yes, this is the right spot, but it's the wrong time. I think we should back up and head to a more populated area. Like, right now."

Sensing something wrong, Optimus did as requested, but not without questioning further. "If these men are trespassing, shouldn't we apprehend them?"

Neither Epps nor Lennox got a chance to respond; a guy wearing a ball cap and carrying around some kind of checklist spotted them. As luck would have it, he was closest to the door, so it took him only a couple of strides to catch up to and reach them, hopping up to the window and giving it a couple of harsh taps. Trying to play it cool, Lennox rolled down the window and leaned out.


"You're late."

"Sorry, man."

He kept his responses short, not wanting to give anything away or be caught in some kind of fib. He was a terrible liar; his wife had caught him in one more than once and reacted appropriately. After finding himself on the couch twice, he'd learned his lesson and done it as little as possible since then.

"Eh, whatever. Just get this thing inside so we can get to taking it apart."

Epps recovered first, leaning over from the wheel slightly and saying, "Whoa! We were told we were doing pickups, not drop-offs. This here is our good ride."

"I don't know what Vincent told you, but we don't do anything but drop-offs, ya get me? Whatever he's paying you is probably a third of the sale price of this piece of shit, so just get it inside."

Mentally, Will prayed that Optimus Prime wouldn't take too much offense to being referred to like that and that it wouldn't influence the Autobot's stance on Earth to Cybertron relations. He wouldn't have known where to begin explaining to the President why he suddenly had a war on his hands if the Autobot did.

"No can do, man. This weren't a part of the deal."

In the side view mirror, Lennox was able to spot someone else arriving after them. Were he in any other situation but this one, he might have whistled in appreciation – the newcomer had a Jaguar, sleek and black. Also, probably stolen, if the dealer license plates still affixed on the front were any indication. First, these guys insulted an extraterrestrial friend of his and now they threatened to dismember a god among sports cars – it made Will disgusted.

"Is there a problem here, Hank?" asked a man leaning out of the driver's side of the vehicle behind them, the guy rather obscure behind his large, dark shades and greasy hair.

"Yeah, these guys here," the dealer from before sniped, motioning to Epps and Lennox with a thumb, "say they weren't informed about our side of the business."

"So rack'em up and get'em out of my way, already! I didn't drive my ass off to sit out here and bake. Jesus."

Will didn't know what the other man meant by "rack'em." except that he didn't want to find out.

"Yeah, yeah," the man droned, dismissing him with a wave and turning back to them. "You guys just pull up and we'll see about clearing this all up, capeesh?"

The man didn't stick around, hopping down and heading back inside. Tentatively, Optimus Prime pulled up after him, entering the dimly lit building. The sounds of power tools were audible now, and sparks from metal scraping against metal were flying all over the place. Neither soldier let the background activity distract them, however, and they both calmly turned to look at one another.

"We're vastly outnumbered," Lennox pointed out, helpfully of course.

Epps added sincerely, "And no flashing of medals or titles is going to get us out of here alive."

"I may or may not have a firearm on my person and backup cases of ammo in my bag."

"Do you have a license for that thing or to carry concealed?"

"Depends on whether or not you do for the extra pistol I figure you're packing."


"In my defense, I was going to, but time got away from me. I mean, hypothetically speaking, since we're assuming I just happen to be carrying around a weapon."

"Of course," Epps agreed, sounding perfectly understanding.

"Gentlemen," Optimus Prime politely interjected. "What is our situation?"

Rubbing the back of his head once in agitation at their situation, he glanced around. He spotted Hank saying some last things to Mr. Jaguar before coming back over to them; this didn't leave much opportunity for planning. Leaning over to start rummaging through his luggage, he instructed Optimus to look up the phrases "chop shop" and "black market." Beside him, Epps already had one gun in his lap, locked and loaded.

After a long, drawn out moment, the Autobot asked, "Am I to assume that we have stumbled across one of these illegal activities?"

"That's about the gist of it, yeah. This could get ugly – you're bulletproof, right?"

"I am," Optimus answered carefully, considering. "But it is my understanding that you are not. You don't need to do this."

"I sure hope we don't," Epps mumbled in agreement, all of them falling silent as Hank sauntered back over to them. His gut-extended self lumbered back up to address them, waving around his clipboard.

"See this? It says you guys signed this baby away, and now it's time to keep your end of the bargain. You've already been paid in cold, hard cash, and I'm assuming you both already gambled it off, so let's be civil about this."

When he mentioned the word "civil" he pulled his vest back slightly, flashing a hand gun to drive the point home. In this soldier's mind, this presented two problems to choose to address – they could peacefully hand over Optimus Prime to become the car version of an organ donor, or they could defend him at the risk of their own lives. Considering the fact that both Epps and Lennox were bred with the conviction that no one was ever left behind, added to the fact that Will just didn't like pompous businessmen who stuck their hands in dirty business, it pretty much dictated that the second option was the only option. Without having to even signal, both of them raised their own pieces and leveled them between the guy's eyes.

"If by civil you mean you'll let us out of here all peaceful-like, then sure. My partner and I like that plan."

The man's eyes bugged out at their gesture, probably never having been questioned before after presenting a lethal weapon. His face started to bloat and turn a blaring red, then an ugly purple as panic set in, and while he was too shocked to react, Lennox kicked open the door and sent the man flying.

"Reverse! Reverse, reverse, reverse!"

Rubber burned and smoked as Optimus shifted gears and tried to rocket backwards, his bumper colliding with the door as it slid shut behind them. He screeched to a halt as their exit was blocked, Lennox turning around and glaring at it as if it were to blame for their predicament. Cussing, he turned to Robert and commanded him to get it back up. In the meantime, Hank was screaming his head off about intruders and assault and who knew what else, just enough to get every member in there pausing and whipping out their sawed-off shotguns and other firearms.

A bullet ricocheted off of the metal bar between door and windshield, startling Lennox into returning fire with a couple of pot shots. Men started shouting and taking cover as Optimus rolled up his windows, blocking the incoming shots from some of the more collected men still retaliating.

"This piece of shit is broken."

"What piece of shit is broken?"

"The piece of shit garage door opener is broken!"

"Piece of shit," Lennox snapped in agreed sentiment, popping open the door slightly and using it as a shield as he gave tiger-tattoo-man a taste of his own medicine.

Optimus Prime surveyed the scene while both humans' hands were full keeping the gangsters at bay, concluding out loud that there wasn't enough room for him to build up enough power to just ram their way out of there. In between shootings, Lennox asked if there was another control to operate the sliding door, which turned out to be by the office. If one of them could make a mad dash for it, then they could escape. All they had to do was get past twenty-plus fully loaded handymen.

"Rock-paper-scissors to see who gets track duty," Epps suggested, earning him an incredulous look from Lennox.

"We don't have time-"

"Fine, then I automatically get to cover your white ass."

Firing off one more shot, Will raised a fist and so did Epps, and they managed to get a best out of three game that resulted in the lieutenant colonel still having to be the one to try and reach the controls. He scowled, exchanging his spent clip for a new round before switching places with Epps since his side was the one that ran along to the stairs leading to the open button. If he stuck close enough to the wall and used some of the machines as cover, along with Epps watching his back, it should be possible.

"Okay, on the count of three, we run out," Lennox instructed, "One."


"Just hang tight, Optimus. We'll have you out of here in a second. Two."

"Thank you, but-"


In unison, they rolled out their respective ends, Epps taking up residence behind some sort of press machine and removing a couple more daring and talented shooters from the fray while Will did his best imitation of a cockroach. It wasn't the most flattering position to be in – scuttling along the ground, ducking and hiding behind whatever was big enough, rolling around in metal shavings and grease – but he was making great progress.

A shot rang out overhead, going wide and striking a light overhead, causing glass to rain down on him. Lennox covered his head and waited for the moment to pass before trying to continue onward, his head rising to find a pair of well-worn boots stepping in his field of vision. Raising his eyes, it became apparent that Hank hadn't appreciated Will's earlier gesture. He had his pistol in both hands; Lennox didn't give him the chance to use it, bracing his body on his hands he swung a leg around, causing the man to lose his footing as well as the hold on his weapon. He managed to let off a shot that went nowhere before he fell back on his butt, the sound of a gun sliding across concrete accompanying the sound of Hank's collapse.

The man wasn't finished. He reached into his pants pocket and removed a knife. It wasn't very big; barely the length of his hand from the tip of his longest finger to his wrist, but any idiot could still cause damage with a sharp, pointy object if they were desperate enough. Lennox tackled the man, pulling a disarming move that had Hank crying out for his mommy faster than he could drop his weapon.

Somewhere in the distance, Will picked up over the gunfire and shouting the sounds of metal collapsing and rearranging itself, the tell-tale signs of gears changing shape causing him to pause in choke-holding Hank to look back at Optimus Prime. He, as well as those present, watched as the semi-truck went from a regular, flame-painted Peterbilt to a 28 foot robot in a matter of seconds. In an abstract way, Lennox did take note that the place had a lot of head room for the Autobot, Optimus easily capable of standing to his full, not-taking-any-more-of-this-nonsense height. He reached behind him and armed himself with some canon-looking device, the tip quickly starting to glow and put off sounds akin to a laser being charged.

"Everyone, please surrender peacefully and put down your weapons."

Dead silence; everyone was staring in dumbstruck fascination, hands going lax on their guns and one guy to Epps' far right did the sign of the cross over his chest. There was no possible way all of this chaos was going to end so smoothly, and Will's prediction came true as every man there started yelling again, this time with fear-filled cries of dismay.

"It's one of those aliens! It's going to suck out our brains and anal probe us!"

"Every man for himself – run for your lives!"

"It's going to turn us into its slaves!"

"I ain't getting paid enough for this shit!"

Like ants, men dived out side doors or jumped out windows, some even running into one another in their panic or scrambling for the roof. Most, though, ended up getting rounded up by Optimus, who had found a chain large enough to lasso them together and keep them from running off or hurting one another in the process. That left him standing there, holding the bundle of men and looking at a loss of what to do with them. Aside from them begging for mercy, the shop was quiet, no more equipment running or people crawling over one another to get out flooding the space.

Lennox spotted Epps slowly rising from his position, scratching his head.

"Not what we had in mind, but it worked. I guess."

He sauntered over to him, Will keeping a firm hold on Hank. In the mad scramble, Lennox had had to secure him in a stranglehold, placing him on top of the other's back and an arm forcefully under his neck. The guy was still wriggling around, gasping for air and trying to crawl away like the conniving insect he was.

"The boys back in Washington sure aren't going to like this."

"Yeah, well, I can't say I'm too pleased with it, either," Will grunted.

The sound of hydraulics gathered their attention, Optimus Prime kneeling down to the best of his ability. Behind him, the chained up gangsters hung from a beam in the ceiling.

"My apologies, William Lennox. I'm afraid my attempts at aiding you have undoubtedly guaranteed you more paperwork."

He couldn't help but chuckle. Here they had scouted countless bases, stumbled across a smuggling ring and revealed the existence of extraterrestrials, and all the other was worried about was paperwork. Epps seemed to have caught onto a similar train of thought because he was laughing, too. Lennox was sure Optimus had intended it; he could swear the other was smiling along with them. Though, with him, it was difficult to tell sometimes.

"I didn't know you enjoyed westerns," Lennox admitted.

"Ironhide has acquired a fondness for John Wayne movies; it was inevitable."

That explained the rope trick.

"Please, don't anal probe me like you were those other guys. I was only kidding around about disassembling ya, honest, Mr. Giant Robot, sir," the man still in Lennox's unwavering hold squeaked hysterically. "Do you enjoy car washes? I know a guy in town who owns a joint that can give you a great discount."

None of them looked very thrilled with the attempt at bribery. At the very least he could have offered something for free instead of a measly discount. Optimus Prime leaned his 4.3 metric ton self in as close as he was able, and said in no uncertain terms, "I do not require cleaning, Mr. Hank, but the names of every individual who works for you, your contacts, and any other helpful documentation you can provide would be greatly appreciated."

"But…but, but, but that will ruin me!" he squealed. "I have investors who want to remain anonymous! I have a reputation to maintain!"

Epps snorted. "Buddy, did you seriously just tell our mechanical friend here, 'no'?"

Hank paused to consider.

"Because you see, he doesn't like the word 'no;' it's not in his programming, if you catch my drift," Will added.

While it might not have come as a great surprise, the implications of his statement had Hank turning funny shades again, fluctuating between white and green this time before settling somewhere between the two, then his eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he promptly fainted. Lennox tested to see if he was playing possum, but no patting on the cheek or calling his name produced so much as a twitch, meaning he was out cold.

"Was that truly necessary, Lieutenant Colonel?" Optimus inquired, though not unkindly, and after a thoughtful pause, also added, "And I do understand the meaning of the word 'no'."

"Yeah, we know that, but this guy didn't," Lennox confirmed, pointedly not saying anything about the former subject in question.

Two hours and ten minutes later, the place was busy again, this time with federal officials running around. Optimus had taken the opportunity to phone for backup when they had been in the middle of the shootout – though it's unclear which side got his signal first. Lennox suspected one of the Autobots received it and tipped off the proper authorities, probably since the rest of their leader's team were too far away to provide adequate aid in a timely manner. He was sure Ironhide and even Bumblebee would be sore later about missing out on the action that had taken place.

Men in suits had come barreling into the lot in black, unmarked SUVs, guns already drawn and shouting, only to spot Robert and Will sitting outside the front entrance, drinking still-steaming coffee, compliments of Hank's personal brew. They were dirty and tired – just like old times.

The man in charge was less than impressed.

"Irresponsible!" reprimanded Kane, as he introduced himself in the twenty minutes Epps and Lennox took to explain the situation, then started in on lecturing the soldiers. He was waving his arms around, gun still armed in one hand.

"Do either of you have any idea what you've done?"

"Hey, watch where you point that thing," Lennox snapped in return, his eyes nervously following the weapon. He'd already reached his 'getting this close to being killed' quota by his wife's standards, and he didn't want to risk exceeding it.

"Listen here-"

The man was interrupted by Optimus Prime himself, the Autobot returning after helping the new arrivals get the criminals down. It would have been too suspicious to call in the fire department, not to mention insulting to the robotic leader to not ask if they could meddle with his redecorating attempts. The local cops would of course be called in later, but not until any evidence that might indicate individuals other than people were there were promptly removed.

"Please forgive me for interrupting, but I do not comprehend why you are so adamant about being upset with these men. It seems to me you should be thanking them for their brave services."

"Thanking them? Thanking them for what? They lost destructive witnesses, nearly aided in your own abduction, and destroyed federal property. We'll all be filling out paperwork for the rest of our lives!"

"Truly? And here I was under the impression that they were heroes for their willingness to sacrifice their lives to protect mine. You'll also have to forgive my ignorance, but I thought you would have been proud of them for retaking said federal property before your civilians could suffer the repercussions of their immoral acts."

Wordlessly, Robert Epps and William Lennox turned from looking up at their 28 foot friend to the 5 foot, suddenly very sweaty man nervously readjusting his tie as he considered his next words wisely. He flustered a bit, looking to want to argue the point, but not having the balls to spare risking his position by telling the leader of an alien race that he was wrong.

Eventually, he managed to produce, "We'll just have to fill out the proper reports and be advised by what the department thinks. We'll let you know what the results are."

Turning sharply on his heel, he stormed off, ordering his men to start decontaminating the area and to get the chop-shoppers individually cuffed, then head out on a manhunt to track the last of those who had escaped, along with anything else these people were paid to do when a discovery of this magnitude was made.

"I liked Simmons better; it was easier to get him riled up, and at least his sarcasm was sub-par," Robert noted absently over his coffee, "even if he was an annoying spaz."

"Mm," Lennox said noncommittally, sipping his own drink and looking over at the sounds of Optimus transforming back into a semi-truck, engine idling pleasantly.

"Shall we proceed, gentlemen?"

"Proceed with what?" the lieutenant colonel asked suspiciously, Epps tensing beside him as well and holding his cup tightly in both hands.

"To finish our inspection of government-owned facilities, of course. I believe we have some left that we can fit in for today."

The two men could only groan and collapse back onto the cement steps, unable to understand how the other could even consider continuing after what they just experienced.