Disclaimer: Transformers © Hasbro; Meanstreak © yours truly.

Reminder: Please be aware that some - if not all - of these characters are not acting as their G1/movie counterparts for reasons that will be explained... eventually.

"We've got to stop meeting like this," Sideswipe remarked casually to his twin; Sunstreaker gave him a look that clearly stated that he couldn't believe his brother had just made such a lousy pun before turning to face the front of the room again. The red twin snickered to himself and did the same.

Unlike the last full-base meeting, this time everyone – human, Autobot, and Decepticon – was present. Most of the Bots, save for Wheeljack and Ratchet, were on one side of the room while the Cons minus Starscream and Soundwave were on the other. Barricade, who had been with the Lamborghinis in a training session earlier, had joined his fellow defectors the moment he'd spotted Prowl and was currently engaged in a conversation with Thundercracker.

Midway between the two main clusters of Cybertronians, their human allies had made themselves comfortable on the sofas that had been provided for the base staff. The three teenagers were settled at one end, Sam and Mikaela next to one another with Miles seated on the floor leaning against the arm and talking amongst themselves; Bumblebee and Arcee had shifted closer to them yet didn't join in the conversation. At the other end were Simmons, laptop out and working on a report for his superiors, and Will Lennox. Ironhide had been off-base acting as the Lennox family truck when the meeting was called, and Will had come along out of curiosity.

Wheeljack, Ratchet, Starscream, and Soundwave were standing together, apparently having a private conversation of their own via internal comm link, as not a one of them made a sound but their faces expressed the seriousness of their discussion. The engineer had been the one to contact Optimus and tell him that they needed to have an urgent, all personnel meeting as soon as possible. Whatever the reason, it was glaringly obvious that the four mechs at the front of the room knew exactly what was going on and were trying to decide how to go about sharing their information.

"The natives are getting restless, guys," Skywarp remarked loudly from his post by the wall, arms wrapped around Meanstreak as he leaned against her. The fembot didn't seem to care about the fact that her taller friend was using her as a prop although she did elbow him in the midsection for his lack of tact.

"One minute, Warp," Starscream replied distractedly, optics unfocused as most of his attention remained on his internal communications array. After another few minutes, the quartet drifted apart from one another but remained an obvious collective. "Sorry about the hold-up."

"It isn't a problem," Optimus said, nodding slightly. "I'm going to guess that you've decided to share some of the information you brought with you?"

It wasn't unnoticed that every single one of the Decepticons, from the Seekers to the Cassetticons, tensed slightly at his words and shot a searching look towards their two leaders. Soundwave gave a short nod, and the defectors relaxed slightly although they remained alert. It seemed as if they were preparing to add their own input if the need arose.

Starscream gave a nod of his own. "Granted, it isn't information that most Decepticons are even aware of. It was discovered by a small team of scientists, sent out on a fact-finding mission for information on the All Spark."

"We've all heard the rumour regarding that team," Wheeljack added. "Back before the destruction of Vos, there was a story going around that a Decepticon exploration team went missing. They were last noted as being in Polyhex."

"They weren't lost, though," Starscream picked up the narrative again. "They returned with data that had been lost since the earliest days of Cybertron's existence. Historical accounts regarding the All Spark, the First Prime, and the First Lord High Protector.

"It... wasn't what Megatron expected." The Seeker paused for a moment, his bondmate resting a hand on his wing in silent comfort. His intakes hitched before he continued. "My oldest friend was a member of that team. I was originally supposed to be part of it as well, but I'd just been promoted to air commander. Even so, Skyfire—" a few of the older Autobots recognized the name yet had been unaware that the noted physicist was one of the lost explorers "—came to our home upon returning to show us what he'd found. Typical Sky; he could never resist sharing his findings with like-minded individuals."

"Laserbeak: sent to observe," Soundwave added; Ratchet had done his best to repair the damage he'd found, but Shockwave had been thorough in his destruction of the delicate wiring and circuitry. The low-quality, mechanical monotone of Soundwave's voice was jarring to those amongst the Cybertronians who could remember when the faint melodic undertones were the main thing one noticed when the communications expert spoke. "Remained unnoticed. Returned distraught."

The van gave a frustrated huff of his vents, showing his emotions in a way his vocalizer was no longer capable of doing. "Skyfire, Spanner, Heavy Load, Flamewar: murdered."

Jazz gave a low whistle. "You mean to tell me that Megatron took out four of his own soldiers, all top scientists, because he didn't like what they had to tell him 'bout the All Spark?" the Solstice asked, shooting a look towards his sister; the Mustang nodded slightly and rested her clawed hands on Skywarp's arm. "Somehow I get the feeling that Skyfall and Beta's story was mixed in with the data y'all are saying was brought back."

"Affirmative," Soundwave replied, one hand moving to tap against his throat. He'd been instructed not to speak too much at first, but he couldn't allow his bonded to be the one doing all the talking. ::I don't know how much more I can say before Ratchet orders me to be silent,:: he whispered along the bond.

::Don't worry about it, Wave,:: Starscream replied, stroking his mate's arm lightly. He continued aloud, "I've shown a copy of the data files that Skyfire left with me to Wheeljack; he shared it with Ratchet. They can vouch for everything I'm about to tell you.

"We all know the story: In the beginning, there was the Cube. Except in the beginning, the Cube, the All Spark, didn't yet exist. In the beginning, there was Order, and there was Chaos. Order and Chaos were brothers, traveling together through space.

"The brothers soon decided that they wanted to have a people to watch over," Starscream continued. "They created a world, both adding their own touches to it, and called it Cybertron. And on this world they'd created, they made a race similar to themselves; however, rather than two separate races based on each brother's aspects, they made them beings of both Order and Chaos."

"This sounds a lot like a creation myth," Mikaela piped up. "We were studying them in English last term, remember?" she added with a glance at Sam and Miles, who both nodded. "They all talk about gods or some other all-powerful beings creating the world and its people. I didn't know it was a universal concept...."

"They say that all myths have a basis in fact," Simmons remarked, having long abandoned his report in order to pay attention to the mechs speaking. "There are some people who think that the human race was developed by aliens for some obscure reason."

"Why would aliens wanna build people?" Sideswipe asked with a frown.

Ratchet heaved a sigh through his vents and shot the Lamborghini a harsh look. "If we could back to the subject at hand, people," he said pointedly, almost seeming to dare someone to interrupt one more time.

Wheeljack took up the story at this point, giving Starscream a moment to assure himself that his mate's vocalizer was holding up: "Order and Chaos weren't sure how to tell the first Cybertronians how to give life to their own creations, though. Order felt that an internal means of spark generation left too much up to chance, while Chaos felt that an external method was too artificial. So, they chose to walk amongst their people to see how the average Cybertronian acted and make their decision based on that."

"After walking the world for a time," Ratchet said as he took over the narrative, "they decided to use both methods. Chaos examined the sparks of the Cybertronians, choosing the ones that were strongest and made them capable of supporting a young spark until it could be transplanted into a new creation. For those not able to support a young spark, he allowed for them to be able to merge with those that were to help create the new sparks. Order, however, created an object that could generate new sparks without Cybertronians needing to merge. Either of the two methods could be used, and the brothers left it up to their people to decide which they preferred."

"And so it was," Starscream concluded quietly, "that Primus and Unicron gave our world the All Spark."

Prowl was the first to snap out of his stunned silence. "That makes no sense," he said, almost feeling his logic circuits beginning to lock up as he tried to process what he'd just heard. "Granted, it doesn't make much more sense than the All Spark as the source for all life, but we've seen that at work."

"Saying that the First Prime and Lord High Protector were the creators of our race is a little far-fetched, you have to admit," Red Alert remarked quietly, although he seemed to be having an easier time accepting the possibility than the second-in-command.

"As crazy as it sounds, the data files are legitimate," Ratchet said. "The originals were likely destroyed shortly after Megatron killed the exploration team, but the copies Skyfire made were unaltered in any way. The files that Wheeljack and I have match in every way to Starscream and Soundwave's copies."

"The primary data file, the one that references all the others and ties the recharge stories we all heard as sparklings together, is designated 'the Covenant of Primus,'" Thundercracker added from his post beside his youngest wing mate. "You Autobots likely don't understand it, but Seeker trines form a variation of the familial bond; it ensures that we can act immediately when a situation changes without having to open up a comm channel. I stumbled across the files myself shortly after being promoted to Screamer's trine and asked him about them."

"The only reason that so many of us knew of the files was due to various bonds," Starscream said. "TC through the trine bond, Warp and Mean through the surrogate-caretaker bond they share with me."

"Barricade: inquired of Meanstreak," Soundwave interjected. "He was only told after confirmation that he could be trusted."

"Decepticons have a concept of trust?" Arcee asked, optics flickering as she 'blinked' in confusion. "Forgive me if that sounds rude, but—"

"Most Cons don't even trust themselves," Barricade snorted. "Those are the ones who can't even remember what the cause was at the beginning of this slagging war. The six of us, though...." He shook his head slightly, adding with a low growl, "The rest would rather conquer worlds now than just be treated like everyone else."

"What caused the war?" Sam suddenly asked. He looked a bit nervous when all optics turned his way. "I mean, you told me that Megatron wanted the All Spark, and it sounds a lot like he lost sight of his goals from what these guys—" he gestured towards the assembled Decepticons in their midst "—say, but none of us from this planet have a clue what started it all."

Ironhide heaved a sigh, remembering clearly the events leading to the beginning of the conflict. "It started off a lot like wars on your world tend to. A social problem that no one could agree on how to deal with."

Soundwave nodded. "Short answer: political differences."

Several hours and a few minor arguments later, and Prowl was no closer to wrapping his processor around the new information that the defectors had shared. He liked to believe that he was able to find the logic in every situation, but this was the second time in his long life that he found himself at a loss for an explanation.

The first time was when Barricade had announced that he was joining the anti-senate resistance movement in Kaon.

His initial thought at that time had been, where did I go wrong? The tactician hadn't found it easy to raise a sparkling on his own, and it had gotten more difficult when said sparkling reached the youngling stage and wanted to argue with every one of his caregiver's rules, but Prowl had always felt that he'd been successful in teaching his youngling right from wrong. When Barricade had said that the senate was wrong and that the military-builds should be treated like any other Cybertronian, he felt that he had failed.

Only now, however, with four military-build ex-Decepticons in their midst, two of whom were a bonded pair and graduates of the prestigious Science Academy, Prowl found himself wondering if he may have been wrong. He still felt that the military-built Cybertronians were different, but that was mostly because he had never met a Kaonite that strived to be anything more than a sentry or a grunt. A few that had broken that mold really didn't change his opinion, but....

Until the war began, he had never fired a weapon. Now he probably had as much energon on his hands as any military-build during the Golden Age. And even if it bothered him that his former youngling – and when he'd left, Barricade had still been just that, a youngling – had spent a huge portion of his life as little more than an assassin and spy, from the way he'd spoken during the meeting it was clear that Prowl's lessons hadn't been ignored or forgotten.

Barricade had made his own decision based on what he felt was right, not what his caregiver felt was right.

And in some odd way, the tactician was proud of that.

"You're brooding."

Prowl glanced up at the larger mech, quirking a brow ridge. "I am not," he said evenly. "I'm just thinking."

Ironhide snorted. "Like I said. Brooding." The Topkick nodded his head towards the other end of the hall, and Prowl curiously followed his gaze. From where they were, the rec room was easily seen, and the Lamborghini twins appeared to be engaged in some sort of drinking contest with the Decepticon Mustangs. From the looks of things, Barricade and Meanstreak were winning, unless Sideswipe had intentionally slipped off his chair and onto the floor.

"Looks like all the kids are getting along," Ironhide remarked casually, grinning a bit at Prowl's disapproving look. "It's not like we can tell 'em to stop, really. They're all adults."

"Adults who should know better," the second-in-command muttered. "If there was an attack on the base—"

"There would still be a dozen of us ready for action," the weapons expert finished. "Not to mention that two of that number have six younglings and two surrogates to protect as well. Look," he added, "I know that it ain't easy to watch someone you raised from a sparkling acting like a soldier. Don't forget that Chromia and I practically raised Bee."

"Bumblebee was already an adult when all this started," Prowl said, rubbing at his optics. "Barricade should've been shuttled to Vos instead of upgrading. He was still ten vorns out."

"And if he'd have been in Vos, you would've lost him anyway," Ironhide remarked. He didn't mean for it to sound cruel, merely stating the facts that all of them knew. "In the end, it's better that he made a choice that allowed him to survive, even if it wasn't the choice you'd have wanted him to make."

Prowl turned away, letting his optics drift over to the rec room's door again. By this point Sunstreaker was trying to haul his offline and overcharged twin from the floor while Meanstreak had wandered over to curl up with Skywarp once again. Barricade was leaning back in his own chair, hands locked behind his head and wearing an expression of amusement at the Lamborghini's plight.

For a moment, the tactician could understand Starscream and Soundwave's reasoning in reformatting their own younglings as they had. If he was right in his calculations, Ravage was now about the same age Barricade had been when the hostilities began, and Ratbat probably had only been a quarter vorn at most out of the sparkling stage. None of them had been mature enough to upgrade to an adult protoform.

But Barricade had been advanced for his age thanks to his caregiver's lessons, and obviously the upgrade hadn't done him any harm.

The tactician gave his friend a nod and pushed off the wall, heading away from the rec room and moving towards the security center. Red Alert could probably use a break right about now, and Prowl needed to be somewhere away from the other residents in order to gather his thoughts.

He didn't see Barricade look out of the rec room to watch him go, but Ironhide did. The Topkick grinned slightly to himself; it seemed that the second-in-command wasn't the only police cruiser thinking about making amends.

"Scrapper to Nemesis. Come in."

The triple-changer on comm duty nearly jumped at the sudden message. "Nemesis to Scrapper. This is Blitzwing. What's your ETA?"

"Approximately two joors, give or take a breem," the Constructicon leader reported. "Long Haul's with me. We the last to the party?"

"No, the Combaticons are still en route."

"How're my brothers?"

Blitzwing winced. Absently wondering how he always wound up being the bearer of bad news, he reported on the remaining Constructicons first. "Hook and Scavenger have been knocking themselves out fixing the slagging sensor array. A bunch of mechs defected and knocked 'em offline in the process."

Scrapper laughed. "Bet Starscream was fragged off."

"Starscream was one of the defectors."

"Ouch. What about the others?"

"Mixmaster is still a few joors out himself." The triple-changer paused for a moment, trying to come up with some way to soften the blow and deciding to just say it. "Bonecrusher was lost planet side."

There was a long pause as the information was apparently processed. "Then it looks like my brothers and I are going to have to take that outta the enemies' hides," the Constructicon finally said, voice even and cold.

Blitzwing smirked slowly. The Constructicons might be one mech down and unable to access the strongest weapon in their arsenal, but they were still a deadly force to be reckoned with. "We'll be awaiting your arrival. Blitzwing out." He cut off the comm link and opened one to Shockwave. "Scrapper, Long Haul, and Mixmaster will be arriving within the next three stellar cycles, sir."

Even if the traitors warned Prime's forces of their presence, there was no way they'd have enough firepower to take down the Constructicons. This war was as good as over, and the little mudball of a world would soon be the first conquest of the Decepticon empire.

Note: Yes, the reason the defectors act in the manner they do is because they follow the Covenant's writings; that, and they still feel that all Cybertronians deserve fair treatment. As for the remaining Decepticons, let's just say that they ain't happy at the moment.

And, Prowl and Barricade will discuss their issues, but that won't happen until... later.