7/2/09- Revenge of the Edit: At the behest of my muses and my beta reader, I have decided to return to this story. This is a series of related oneshots that follow the defection of the Seekers and their attempts to be civil to the Autobots and vice versa. In the timeline of TAAO, this story takes place during the second arc, detailing the events taking place on Earth among the Autobots there and their human allies. Old readers should note that this chapter contains brand-new material and a re-read is recommended.

Additionally, if you're a new reader and haven't the faintest clue what I mean when I refer to TAAO, then back-track now or go to my profile page and find the story in question, if you're truly curious.

Part One follows shortly after the events of chapter fourteen.

Previously: Ironhide had stalked them (the Seekers) from the medbay to the rec room five corridors down in a fit of paranoia until Optimus sternly ordered the Weapons Specialist back to the Lennoxes for the night and had told Sunstreaker to go with him...


Aftermath

Seekers and Sunshine


William Lennox was a recently promoted Major in the United States Air Force, a member of an Army Rangers unit, and one of the soldiers who had risked life and limb back in Mission City to fight off several giant alien robots with some seriously nasty cannons and the ability to squish you with their feet. He was currently on indefinite leave while everything got shuffled back into order and the upper echelons of the government acclimated itself to the idea that they were not the only intelligent life in the universe after all.

After all the madness of giant, laser-shooting scorpions and a big, metal psychopath out to destroy the world, Will had never been happier to return to the comforting normalcy and relative predictability of civilian life. He had come to enjoy spending time with his wife (naturally) and becoming acquainted with his baby daughter whom he had not seen since a week after her birth. The indefinite leave had been well-deserved indeed, but Will couldn't help but wonder when he was going to return to duty.

He was starting to get bored.

Frankly, Will had expected this. After the wild adrenaline rush that had been his tour of duty both home and abroad with crazy things coming at him one right after the other, the slow pace of civilian life was mind-numbing in comparison. He tried to keep himself occupied; catching up on the going-ons of his siblings and their families and his extended family; running three miles at the crack of dawn; cleaning out the barn and doing house work; and bonding with his daughter.

The bonding part, as it transpired, was not all fun and games.

Now that he was going to be home for some time, Sarah was finally able to return to work full-time. This meant that Will was left alone with Annabelle for at least eight hours a day. This meant that he had to change the poopy diapers, try and wean his daughter off the bottle (she was stubbornly hanging onto it and several times, Will had been showered by bits of strained peas and mashed carrots) and also fish the teething rings out from underneath the couch. Since she was starting to teeth, this was making the five-month infant irritable and prone to crying at the drop of a hat if there wasn't something readily available to chew on.

In the first few days after Sarah had started working full-time again, she had left him complicated instructions on just what he was supposed to do if there was any sort of baby-related accident, particularly because Annabelle was starting to figure out what her limbs were for. And she was a wiggler. She also wasn't going to trust him much because her infantile mind hadn't connected his face as one of her caregivers, so she would probably be crying a lot. Sarah had instructed her husband just to ride it out; this would change the more he took care of the child.

Will had been severely misinformed about this fatherhood-business.

But it was worth it. Annabelle was now always happy to see him, finally categorizing him as a primary caregiver. The house was filled with more silence on a regular basis and Will could actually get her to bed without much fuss.

Just like tonight.

Tonight, Sarah was taking an evening out with some of her friends. Having been reduced to a single mother for a good five months had cut into her social life considerably and now that she had her husband back home, it was easier to keep up with her friends. So she was gone tonight and not for the first time, Will had been left alone with his daughter. But he had gotten her into bed only an hour ago and was back to perusing message boards that ranted about the existence of extra-terrestrials, specifically of the giant robot variety.

He figured he might as well as try and make himself useful by scouring the Internet for any mention of the Autobots or Decepticons and forwarding the links to the appropriate people, who would take it from there.

However, both the FBI and the CIA -- in the interest of national security -- had done a very good job at stripping the Web of such things and it was getting harder and harder to find anything. Will was getting tired of digging through the paranoid blogs and forums that insisted that there were mind-controlling additives in the water system or weird shit like that. It was turning his brain to mush.

Upon his return, he had performed a whole host of housework; things he was pretty sure that Sarah had been deliberately leaving unfinished, just for him. The yard wouldn't need any sort of mowing for at least another week. There was nothing that needed to be painted or repainted and there almost no clutter in the garage to straighten up. Sarah's flowers were watered, the garden didn't need to be weeded and the carpets didn't need to be vacuumed and the floors didn't need to be mopped. He had already cleaned out the barn -- not that there had been a lot to clean out; there had been next to nothing in there. He was finding it harder to keep himself occupied in between taking care of Annabelle.

Lately, Will had found himself plunked down in front of either the TV (those daytime soap operas were terribly addictive) or the computer (it was getting harder to resist the urge to throw a few monkey wrenches at the paranoid bloggers and watch them scramble about for explanations).

In short, he was dreadfully bored.

The only fantastically interesting thing in his life had gone AWOL a few days ago for reasons that had been under-elaborated on.

Will was lost somewhere in his email that contained an update on the situation regarding Fig (he was still in therapy for the injury he had suffered in Qatar, but he was finally expected to be finally out of the hospital as early as next week) when a loud noise finally pulled him out of his cycling thoughts. He was in a room that didn't have a view of the driveway, so he listened instead.

There was the familiar rumbling of the Topkick engine that he had become quite accustomed to hearing. It seemed to have an extra growl to it this time. Following it, however, was the healthy roar of a high-performance engine. The second engine was not what he expected to hear. Will shot from the chair and hurried to the kitchen, which had a very good view of the driveway from the patio doors.

The black Topkick was parked in its usual spot in the driveway, as expected, but the unexpected was the sporty car that was a bright, sunshine yellow, seen even through the dusky gloom. It had parked a good five or six feet away from the Topkick, as though afraid to get near it. Will thought he recognized the design and he wanted to say it was of Italian make, but he wasn't sure. No one stepped out of the car, leading the Major to one conclusion.

It was another Autobot.

About midway through June, Will had been informed by Ironhide that they had gotten themselves a new arrival and just three days prior before the Topkick had taken off again after a hurried explanation that two of their had splashed down on the east coast a week earlier and had just made it across the nation to the state of Nevada. This one had to be one of those arrivals. He went outside the play the good diplomat and he hadn't even set a foot off the patio when the sporty yellow car suddenly surged backwards almost ten feet with squealing tires.

There was a brief moment of silence, then:

"What," Ironhide's voice was a deep growl. "Is your problem, Sunny?"

"Don't call me that, you cannon-toting slagger!" the yellow car -- 'Sunny' snapped back. "And don't let it touch me! I know what that thing is! Its touch can strip a paint finish! They leak lubricants from every orifice! And their tank purges! I have never seen anything more disgusting!"

"And just why where you watching video of humans purging the contents of their stomachs?" Ironhide asked, though his tone implied that he didn't want to know the answer.

"I had to do something while Ratchet had me on enforced bed rest!" the Lamborghini protested mightily. "Their own information network describes them as being messy, meat-creatures!"

A frown fell across Will's face and he crossed his arms, rather offended for various reasons.

"And this 'messy meat-creature' is also not deaf." he said pointedly to the yellow car. "I would appreciate it if you kept your volume down. I got my daughter to bed only an hour ago." He turned to the truck. "Ironhide, who the hell is this?"

Ironhide would probably be wearing an exasperated look, if his tone was anything to go by.

"Major Lennox, this is Sunshine." the Weapons Specialist replied. "A royal pain in my aft."

"Sun-streaker." Sunny corrected crankily. "Get it right, Iron-aft."

"Show some respect for your elders, Sunflower." Ironhide retorted, seeming to take great delight in referring to his comrade by everything but his actual name. "And for your information, this is Major William Lennox of the United States Air Force, Army Rangers unit. He fought against Brawl and terminated Blackout in the battle for the AllSpark. Pucker up and kiss some aft, you insubordinate grease-stain."

"You kiss my aft, you out-dated rust bucket." Sunstreaker snarked back, obviously in a highly sour mood.

His engine revved and he turned sharply, spraying the black Topkick with dust and gravel and the tore from the driveway, disappearing around the side of the house. The fading roar of the engine suggested that the yellow Autobot was heading off for parts unknown and quite rapidly at that. Up in her room, Annabelle cried suddenly as the noise woke her and Will darted inside to comfort his daughter back to sleep.

When he emerged about forty-five minutes later with a mug of coffee, Ironhide had transformed to his bipedal mode and was watching the stars flicker to life above them in the night sky. In his childhood, Will had stared at those same stars for hours, sometimes wondering if they were alone in the universe as they appeared to be. It was still amazing to know that Earth wasn't the only planet to harbor life. It just wasn't something that Will had expected to encounter in his lifetime, much less be on the inside of it. He had been quick to obtain permission to tell his wife; this just wasn't something he could keep from her for any length of time. She would have found out sooner or later and it had cut down on a great deal of sneaking around, telling her outright.

"Tell me again who that was?" Will requested, sitting down on the front steps. It put him a far cry from eye level to the Autobot, but Sarah had nearly suffered a heart attack the one and only time she had caught him on the roof when he had been trying to have an eye-to-optic conversation with the mech. He had been made to promise that he wouldn't go climbing the roof again.

"Sunstreaker. He's one of our front-line fighters. Particularly melee combat. Mission City would have been over a lot sooner if he had been there." the Weapons Specialist grumbled. "Ignore him when you can. He would date his own aft if he thought he could get away with it."

"What, is he a narcissist?" Will inquired and received a curt nod in return.

"And exceedingly vain." the black mech added.

"That explains the 'leaking lubricants from every orifice' comment." Will muttered, taking a sip of his coffee. "So what's your beef, big guy? You're normally more talkative than this."

"I was not aware I had any processed bovine meat with me." Ironhide replied, canting a brow ridge questioningly.

"No, no, I mean, what's going on with you." Will corrected, coughing to cover up his amused snicker. The Autobots often took the less easily-explained human sayings literally, resulting in confusion and the conversation being halted for upwards to five minutes to explain. "I can tell that something's happened."

Ironhide snorted so sharply that it sounded for a moment that he had burst a hose or something.

"Slag right something's happened." he grumbled. "Stupid-aft slaggers got asylum, no questions asked... Can't even trust them that they won't stab us in the back when we're not looking. That's something they would do..."

Then he trailed off into a litany of what sounded like insults. Will had never learned Cybertronian and suspected that he never would, but the cursing tone was the same. He waited until Ironhide was done before asking what that was about.

"The Seekers!" the Weapons Specialist burst out angrily and then froze, head tilted to the side, listening. Will listened too, but Annabelle hadn't stirred; she had proven to be a deep sleeper. Then Ironhide went on in a slightly softer, but no less angry voice. "Mission City, the F-22 Raptor. That was Starscream."

"The one we lost track of in the atmosphere right after the battle." Will remembered. He had been involved in the initial debriefing, having been right there at ground zero.

"Yeah well, he ran away and then came back with his trine-mates." Ironhide scowled, putting his chin in one hand. "Slagger couldn't have just stayed away like he should have... "

"Why did he come back?" Will asked.

"The usual." Ironhide shrugged. "Starscream was the second-in-command of the Decepticon army and with Megatron down, it was his job to finish us off."

"Let me guess; he tried, but it didn't work." Will said. Obviously it didn't or else Ironhide wouldn't have been here right now.

"Actually, he didn't even get that far." the old black mech corrected. "Slagger was suffering from recharge-deprivation -- sleep-deprivation." he added after searching for the appropriate term to clear up the Major's confusion. "Couldn't fly a straight line much less hit the broadside of a battle-cruiser."

Will's eyebrows went up.

"Starscream's always got his own agenda. He's a cowardly, back-stabbing, manipulative, aft-kisser who's always looking for an excuse to take down Megatron and assume leadership of the army." Ironhide explained, frowning deeper with each word. "The only reason he never succeeded is because he's no good with contingency plans. Megatron was always six steps ahead of him. The reason he didn't succeed this time -- recharge-deprivation notwithstanding -- was because Megatron couldn't stay dead. He's still alive."

"What?!"

Ironhide looked down at the shocked human by his knee and had the grace to look a little sheepish. Probably shouldn't have dropped that bombshell from such a distance.

Will, on the other hand, thought his heart had stopped. He remembered Megatron. The memories were a little hazy -- what with all the missiles and the bullets and the running and the screaming and the falling masonry and the earth-rattling footsteps and the attempts to avoid being squished by mechs who were not necessarily watching where they were putting their feet -- but it was not easy to forget the sense of fear that the great silver mech had exuded like noxious fumes.

"...How?" he asked through a dry throat.

Ironhide waved a hand dismissively, looked disinterested in relating the events.

"It's a long story. Let's just say he wasn't really dead, but in a -- what's that word -- coma?" Ironhide nodded to himself. "He woke up and came back earlier today. We had to beat him off." He rubbed a hand over his right shoulder, which was noticeably duller than the rest of his armor. "Starscream and his slagging wing-mates just up and defected from the Decepticons."

"They defected? Just like that?" Will asked incredulously. "Do you know why?"

Judging from what he had learned, Decepticons didn't have a large capacity for compassion or mercy. Megatron had seemed ready to kill indiscriminately; throwing aside anything in his way just to reach Optimus Prime; be it a car or a person. It hadn't mattered to him. Hearing that a Decepticon had defected was probably just as surprising to him as it was to the Autobots.

Ironhide shook his head. "I don't know the reasons why, but it's got something to do with Skyfire -- just picked him up today." the black mech added. "After the fight, Megs took the others and ran off planet. Left the Seekers behind and they came to us asking for help."

And Optimus, being the sort of person that he was, had granted them asylum, Will guessed. He let the words settle in his mind and be processed. Some Decepticons had defected. And just how many had defected? It couldn't have been more than two or three and they obviously weren't causing any trouble, otherwise Ironhide wouldn't be here.

In Will's opinion (though not terribly informed as it was, because he had never encountered a defector before), having the enemy lose even one of its members was something of a good thing. It was one less fighter that the enemies had and one less enemy that they had to worry about.

Although, there was some worry to be had. Defectors could reveal themselves to be spies in reality; playing a pity card to get on the good side of the commanding officers and then extract some top-secret information; found out just a moment too late. Maybe those Decepticons were faking the side-switch in order to get inside information; which was probably what Ironhide was worried about.

Or maybe they had really, truly, honestly switched sides.

Not that Will could make any off-the-cuff accusations; he obviously missing a very big chunk of the story. And this had just happened too, by the sound of things. Only time would show what happened next.

Oh, and N.B.E-1, a.k.a. Megatron, was still alive.

Couldn't forget that.

"You do realize that this is something that I'm going to have to report, right?" Will asked.

"That's why I told you." Ironhide admitted.