Tinman: the Untold Chapters
"A Bad Day Made Better"
When Annabelle is six years old…
"When Mommy?" Annabelle whined for the fifth time that hour.
"Honey, I told you, Daddy and Ironhide will be home very soon." Sara reminded her patiently whilst she was cleaning dishes.
The little girl plunked her head down on the kitchen table, "I want them home now!"
"Me too honey." Sara admitted, "But remember, they've had a very long week and will probably be tired, so let's not make it too wild for them when they get back."
Annabelle sighed dramatically, "Where did Daddy and Ironhide go anyway?"
Sara tried to word the explanation carefully since she didn't want Annabelle to worry about them, not to mention she herself didn't know the particulars of the missions. She didn't want to tell her Will and Ironhide were busy hunting down Decepticons hiding out across the world. Annabelle would be just as sick as she was with worry.
"Well they're soldiers. They're off doing their job and protecting us and everyone else." the woman explained simply.
"I don't want them to be soldiers." Annabelle said firmly.
Sara turned to her daughter who had a sad and yet angry look on his face. The woman dried her hands and sat down next to her daughter.
"Why don't you want them to be soldiers? It's their job." Sara inquired quietly.
Annabelle looked madder, "It's a stupid job! They always go away! I don't want them to be soldiers!"
For a moment Sara wanted to chastise her daughter but she herself couldn't deny similar thoughts. How she hated it when Will was deployed. The long sleepless nights of wondering if he was ok, or dreading to hear the fateful phone call from General Moreshower telling her Will had been—she didn't even want to think it. Thus far she had been extremely lucky. Her husband had always come home. But she feared for him every time he donned that uniform and drove to the base. And now Sara had two soldiers to worry about. She never thought she'd ever get used to the idea of having a twenty-six foot tall battle mech as their family body guard. Early on she was so afraid of what destruction Ironhide might cause, by will or by accident. But now she couldn't imagine life without him just as she couldn't imagine life without Will.
"I know sweetheart. I don't like it when they leave either. I get worried just like you do. I want them to stay home and be with us." Sara admitted, "BUT, their job isn't stupid. Never say that Annabelle. What your father and Ironhide do is VERY important and we should thank them for doing it for us."
The blonde girl seemed to soak in her mother's words, her eyes wet but less angry looking.
Sara stroked her daughter's hair and smiled when she heard the deep rumble of an engine in the distance, "I think I hear them."
Immediately Annabelle flew from the table and ran out the front door onto the porch. She looked down the road and could see the dust cloud kicked up by Ironhide's tires.
"THERE!" Annabelle pointed with excitement, "They're home! They're home!"
Sara came out as well, a smile of relief on her face. The broad black truck rumbled up the road and just before it got a few yards from the driveway it stopped. Sara and Annabelle both seemed puzzled by the far away stop. Never the less, Will hopped down from the cab, his duffle over his shoulder and wearing his uniform. The door shut brusquely and the Topkick turned away toward his shed. Both girls were watching Ironhide as he activated the door, drove in, and it shut behind him. No hello, no greeting of any kind.
Will marched up the drive and Annabelle ran to him, "DADDY!"
The soldier dropped his bag with a smile and swept up his little girl with both arms, spinning her, "Hey! How's my sweetheart?"
He pulled her close and she clung to his neck. Sara ran up and embraced him too. They kissed and Annabelle wrinkled her nose.
"I'm so glad you're back." Sara whispered, hugging her husband.
Annabelle tugged her father's lapel, "Daddy, why didn't Ironhide come say hi?"
The soldier looked at her and then the shed before explaining gently, "Well, honey, he kinda had a bad mission."
"Bad? Did he get hurt?" she asked with concern.
"A little bit. But he's ok." He worded it very simply, "You see Annie, Ironhide is a very proud Autobot. He doesn't like to mess up when we go on missions."
"Did he mess up?" the girl guessed.
Will stiffened his lips and nodded, "Yeah. He didn't catch the Decepticon we were after. So…he's pretty mad at himself right now. I think he just needs some time to cool down."
There was a loud bang of metal from inside the shed accompanied by a booming string of curses in Cybertronian. The family noticed an outward protruding dent in one of the walls.
"Make that a lot of time." Will corrected himself.
Annabelle looked down sadly. She wanted to say hi to Ironhide, if only to make him feel better. After all, he would do the same for her.
Will sniffed the air, "Is that cheesy steak burgers I smell?"
Sara smiled, "One of your favorites."
"Mashed taters too?" he asked hopefully.
Will smiled and kissed her, "I love you."
Sara gave him a look, "You love me or my cooking?"
"The WHOLE package." he assured.
Will bounced Annabelle, snapping her out of her quiet moment and making her giggle, "Come on Annie, dinner's waiting!"
He held his daughter up with both hands and "flew" her to the porch and into the kitchen.
Ironhide slammed his fist into the wall of his shed for the second time, denting it considerably. Luckily he only swung it sideways and not full on or he would've punched clean through the metal. Not feeling any better than a moment ago the weapons specialist disconnected his right cannon and put it on his work table.
How could he have missed?
He had Barricade directly in his sights but…his cannon misfired. AND he wasn't fast enough to catch the stealthy Decepticon when he came careening by at the ambush site. Because of him, Barricade had gotten away. How the Saleen had managed to survive their last encounter almost three years ago was still a mystery, but Ironhide wasn't concerned about that event, he was concerned about his latest performance.
He could've spit on that Decepticon he was so close! And his cannon misfired.
Ironhide opened the back panel on his cannon that housed the targeting system, searching for the cause of the rare malfunction. He hadn't told anyone about the misfire; not even Prime and ESPECIALLY not Ratchet. Ratchet would've taken him in for Primus knew how many tests to figure out the problem. For all his comrades knew he just hadn't been fast enough to catch the slick Decepticon. It was no secret Ironhide wasn't the fastest Autobot. His cannon speed was unmatched, but ground speed had always been lacking; price of his heavier build. He just couldn't admit his main use to the team had been compromised.
As Ironhide checked all the wiring and scanned the diagnostic readouts for any discrepancies he secretly knew the basic problem; a problem he never wanted to divulge. The problem wasn't his cannon but the signal relays that connected his mainframe to the weapon. They hadn't sent the signal to fire.
In simple terms he was just…old.
The taste of that word was as bitter as burnt oil. Ratchet would tell him JUST that if he knew about the misfire.
He could hear him now, "Well there's no way around it Hide. Your cannon is fine, you're just OLD."
Ironhide knew he was old. He knew he wasn't as fast as he used to be. He knew…he knew he was getting more outdated as the years ticked by. But he was also too proud to admit it outright.
He sat back on the metal box that served as his work stool, grumbling. Ironhide closed the panel to his cannon. He could find no flaw in it; he didn't expect to. Huffily he reconnected the weapon and made it fold back down into its holster.
Annabelle took a tiny bite of her mashed potatoes but then proceeded to just pile them around on her plate.
"Don't play with your food Annie." Sara chided gently.
The blonde stopped but didn't eat anymore as she glanced out the window at Ironhide's shed. Will noticed her preoccupation.
"Ironhide will be all right, Annie. He's just not in a good mood right now." he explained.
Annabelle lowered her eyes briefly. When she was in a grumpy mood Ironhide was always there to listen to her or at the very least let her sit in his cab until she calmed down. Sometimes he'd even take her for fast rides (without Mommy knowing) and that made her feel better.
What made Ironhide feel better?
"Daddy?" she asked.
The girl looked at him, "Can't we make Ironhide feel better?"
Will stopped chewing momentarily, "Well…honey…he might not want to be bothered right now. He probably just needs some time to himself."
"But…he's mad at himself." Annabelle pointed out.
The parents looked at one another, "That's a good point Annabelle."
Sara leaned forward, "So Annie, what do you think we should do to make him feel better?"
At first the little girl wasn't sure. But then it came to her. Ironhide wasn't big on playing games BUT Annabelle knew one game he actually liked to play. Games were a great way to cheer someone up.
Several minutes later…
As Ironhide sat with his arms crossed across his wide chest, he heard a creaking noise off to his left. The Autobot cocked a brow ridge and leaned back to peer around the corner at the door. It was open just a crack.
"Will? Is that you?" he inquired.
Ironhide snorted and got up from his seat.
"Annabelle? Sara?" he called, moving toward the smaller door.
His acute audios picked up the sound of someone moving in his shed. But before he could scan properly he felt the barest sensation of something striking his calf plate. The mech glanced down and there, protruding obscenely from his black metal, was a bright orange rubber dart. Ironhide looked from the tiny projectile in the direction it had come from. He caught a glimpse of Annabelle ducking behind his seat. The mech sighed.
"Not now Annabelle. I'm in no mood."
A second dart stuck to the front of his ankle.
"Annabelle, I mean it." the weapons specialist tried to protest.
A third dart bounced off his knee joint.
Ironhide ground his jaw with impatience, "Annabelle…"
The fourth dart bounced off his nose plate. With a sigh in his hydraulics he gave the impudent girl a hard stare.
"ONE…" he began in a loud voice.
Annabelle squealed and made a mad dash for the door.
The girl shot a wild dart before she ran out of Ironhide's shed. The black Autobot reached up into the rafters and retrieved the correct tool to deal with such a situation. He mounted the large, cannon-like device on his arm, hooked it into his targeting system, and made sure he was fully loaded.
"TWO and a HALF…"
Loaded, Ironhide opened the door to his shed and thundered, "THREE!"
Ironhide opened the shed door and stomped outside, targeting system on high alert, searching for his target.
A dart bounced off of his back and he turned quickly to see Annabelle duck behind the wall of his shed. His weapon cocked forward and gave a "mighty"
A small, yellow, sponge ball bounced off the shed wall where she had once been standing. She certainly was a quick little thing. He stomped forward and peeked around the shed.
A dart ricocheted off of the grill on his chest. Ironhide looked down to see Annabelle leveling her brightly colored dart gun at him with a triumphant smile.
"Got you!" Annabelle giggled.
"It has to stick to count young one," he reminded her with a predatory smirk, "Prepare to be defeated!"
The weapons specialist moved around the shed, lifted his weapon, and unleashed a flurry of soft yellow balls at his miniscule attacker. Annabelle screamed and ran for cover, the soft projectiles bouncing like hail off her back and against the ground behind her. Ironhide chuckled when she disappeared behind the other side of his shed.
"You cannot escape!"
He marched around the building, ball gun pointing in calculated sweeps, but Annabelle wasn't there. It didn't take him long to see the small form running for the house. However, Ironhide knew she wasn't going inside; that was against the rules. Annabelle dashed through the gate and ran to the backside of the house where there were more trees beyond their backyard. The old Autobot took his time tromping after her. Another rule: he wasn't allowed to run. When he finally made it to the trees bordering the back yard Annabelle had disappeared.
The black Autobot moved slowly and carefully, sensors sweeping the area. Another rule: he couldn't use infrared to find her—tempting though it was. He took in air through his olfactory sensors.
"I can smell you Annabelle." he warned in a deep voice.
That statement always scared her out of hiding. But this time there was no squeal of terror, nor a run for cover. Ironhide dipped his head, impressed the little girl hadn't been bluffed into revealing herself.
"I'm going to find you youngling." he continued, "You cannot hide from me for—."
Ironhide felt something strike the plating of his belly and stick there. He glanced to his right to see Annabelle poking out from behind a tree.
"It stuck! It stuck! I got you!" she crowed.
The huge mech made a deep powering down noise and slowly toppled on his back like a great black tree. Annabelle literally jumped off the ground when Ironhide fell. When the ground and trees stopped shaking she surveyed the mountain of black and silver metal sprawled before her. She giggled and climbed up onto his hand, skittered up his arm, and carefully sat on the grill of his chest. Her giant guardian remained motionless, playing dead. She placed the butt of her dart gun triumphantly on the Autobot's chest.
The blue lights glowed, "Hello, youngling." his optics dimmed slightly, "I…apologize for not greeting you earlier."
"It's ok. Do you feel better now?" she inquired with hope.
He gave her a half-sparked nod, "Yes Annabelle. You have made me feel… better."
His voice lacked conviction and the child picked up on it, "What's the matter Ironhide?"
The big mech ground his jaw a second but sighed through his vents, "Well Annabelle, there comes a time in every Autobot's life when he realizes he's not the latest model anymore. That he's outdated."
Annabelle cocked her head at the robotic explanation.
He noticed her confusion and tried to get out the words, "I'm just…getting..."
"Old?" she guessed.
Ironhide snorted and frowned, "Yes."
"I know." she said matter-of-factly.
The mech grumbled to himself. Of course it would be obvious.
"But I don't care. I like you anyway." Annabelle smiled.
Annabelle tipped her head, "How old are you Ironhide?"
She giggled at his response and then her face got serious.
"I'm sorry you didn't catch the Decepticon." she empathized.
Ironhide sighed deeply, "So am I."
Annabelle looked at him, "I missed the goal at my soccer game last week."
The weapon's specialist nodded, recalling that particular incident, "I remember."
"I was really mad but Daddy said sometimes we mess up so we can do better the next time," she explained.
The Autobot blinked at her statement. How often had he said similar quotes to the young Autobots he had trained? How often had HE pushed and coached the new recruits after a particular screw up? And there he sat like a raw cadet who had missed his target during a simulation and he was being coached by a human child.
How did she do that?
He chuckled ironically, "You're right, Annabelle."
Annabelle grinned, noticing his demeanor lighten. With a small jump from his chest she landed on his abdomen and retrieved the fatal dart stuck to Ironhide's plating.
"Wanna play again?" she asked, loading the dart into the toy.
"If we do you'd better go retrieve your ammo." With a gentle hand he picked her up and set her down on the ground. He slowly sat up, "You'd better hurry or I'm gonna getcha!"
Annabelle squealed with glee and took off. Ironhide watched her and a smile graced his normally serious face. Age be slagged, at that moment he never felt younger.