Author's note: In my version of the TF universe, the 1986 movie never happened… unless the fic involves an OC called Mayday. Because sometimes she and that movie deserve each other.

Chapter 1: The Past

Mayday was beginning to wish she hadn't tied a huge red bow around the box she carried. The box was large enough, but with a bow fluttering into her optics she really couldn't see where she was going, and she had to rely on habit to find her way to the Aerialbots' quarters. Ridiculous custom, she thought, tying organic fabric around presents.

I'm on Earth now. I have to adapt to the way things are done here.

She turned a corner and bumped into someone taller than she was, staggering back from the impact. Hands caught her arms at once, steadying her.

"Are you all right?" Silverbolt said.

"Mortally wounded." Mayday's alt-mode was a plane that hadn't been designed for combat, since her function was airborne medical assistance, so that made her physically weaker than most if not all of the Autobots. She had grown used to being teased about that, and sometimes tried to preemptively head it off, although Silverbolt had never made fun of her. "Here," she said and handed him the box.

He looked at it as if he had never before seen a box tied with a big red bow, and Mayday wondered if it looked too silly or ostentatious. "What's this?"

"Just a present for you and the other Aerialbots."

"Thanks." Silverbolt still seemed surprised. "Is it a special occasion?"

Mayday shook her head. "I just wanted to thank all of you for making me welcome. Quite a few of the other Autobots have been kind as well, but you let me fly with you."

"That wasn't being kind," Silverbolt said. "That was enjoying your company. Come on. The others are in our quarters."

Mayday kept pace with him – her wingspan was narrower so the corridor was wide enough for the two of them to walk abreast – and Silverbolt waited for her to enter the Aerialbots' rooms first. Air Raid and Slingshot were playing a computer game punctuated by yells and whoops, and didn't bother to look up, but Fireflight waved at her with a welder he was holding.

"What are you two up to?" Mayday said. Her usual reserve never lasted long around the Aerialbots.

"Making a kaleidoscope," Skydive said, though he was looking past her. "Hey, what's that, Bolt?"

"A present for us," Silverbolt said, and cleared away part of the table before setting the box down. That was enough for the other two; Air Raid paused the game and scrambled over the back of his chair while Slingshot made a desperate grab for his ankle. He failed and put on a nonchalant, I'm-too-cool-to-run expression as he sauntered casually to the table.

"Is it our birthday?" Fireflight said.

Our day of creation, Mayday thought, automatically converting the expression into something more appropriate.

Slingshot sighed. "Don't you know how to use a calendar? Of course it's not our birthday. Who's it from, Bolt? You sure it's not one of Sideswipe's pranks?"

Silverbolt looked as though he wanted to sigh as well, but was not going to give anyone the satisfaction of hearing him. "It's from Mayday." He untied the bow and handed the ribbon to Fireflight, then held out his hand without looking; Skydive slipped a blade into it hilt-first.

"You got us a present?" Air Raid bumped the edge of her wing with his in a light, friendly tap. Mayday smiled; she didn't enjoy being touched by groundpounders, but it was different with jets.

"Don't open it yet, Bolt – lemme guess!" Slingshot said as Silverbolt began to pull up the flaps of the box. "New weapons!"

"New weapons?" Skydive repeated. "Uh, Sling, she's giving us a present, not outfitting us for a battle."

Slingshot glared at him. "Well, there's a stamp on the side of the box. III – Iacon something Industries, right? What else d'you think it's going to be, books?"

"It's neither," Silverbolt said, looking down into the box.

Air Raid had already stepped up on one of the struts between the table's legs to get a better view, and now he braced himself with one arm and plunged the other into the box. His hand came up clutching a miniature F-15 Eagle with a pale cockpit and red Autobot symbols on the wings.

"Awesome!" he said, but before he could say anything else Slingshot dived forward and all but knocked him off his perch. He pulled out a white Harrier with a bright orange cockpit, while Skydive got a black-winged F-16. Fireflight was so busy looking at and admiring the other planes that Silverbolt had to hand him his own, a gleaming red F-4 Phantom with white wings. By then the other three had discovered that the planes had retractable landing gear, though for some reason the only cockpit which came open was the one on Skydive's plane.

"Do they transform?" Air Raid said, though he was already feeling for transformation seams.

"I'm afraid not." Mayday couldn't help thinking that if they did, the next question would have been if the planes combined to form a miniature Superion. "Hope you like them anyway."

"Yeah, they're okay." Slingshot made his Harrier take off vertically, then flew straight and did a barrel roll. "Wsssh!"

"Very okay," Skydive said. "Perfectly in proportion."

Air Raid snickered. "Yeah, Sling's is the smallest." He ducked – or rather, his plane did – as the Harrier swept in and Slingshot growled an imitation of rockets firing. The F-15 managed some impressive evasive manuevers, complete with sound effects.

"And you got these from Iacon?" Skydive said.

Mayday shrugged. "Called in a favor from someone I know." It had been easy enough to transmit pictures and specify size, and she was pleased that the present had met with so much approval. Fireflight sat on the ground beside a lower table where the Aerialbots usually kept their computer game consoles, set his F-4 on it with the landing gear extended and then tilted the table so that the plane rolled smoothly down and was actually airborne for all of a second before he caught it. Air Raid paused in the dogfight to watch.

"Hey, wouldn't it be neat if we could install engines?" he said excitedly. "And remote controllers?"

"Dream on," Slingshot said. "For now I'm just gonna show this off in the mess hall."

"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Silverbolt said with a quick glance at Mayday. It was a fleeting look that none of the others seemed to have noticed, but she understood. Some Autobots still saw her as being cool and standoffish, and now it would look as though she gave gifts to just a few of them and excluded the rest.

On the other hand, what could Silverbolt do? The Aerialbots wouldn't subspace those planes and never refer to them again in public. And if Slingshot isn't figuratively rubbing his new gift in Powerglide's face, he'll find something else to brag about, she thought. Anyway, I don't care what the rest of them think.

"I can take whatever anyone says about it," she radioed to Silverbolt.

"Aw, c'mon, Bolt!" Air Raid said, and Skydive said he wanted to show his plane to Perceptor, so Silverbolt gave in. Fireflight got up and wandered over to where they were, the red plane weaving through the air.

Silverbolt finally extracted the white Concorde from a solid-foam slab with the shapes of five planes cut into it, then bent the nose-cone gently with a fingertip. "I think I'll hang this over my desk," he said to Mayday. "Thank you on behalf of my team, by the way. I'm sorry they forgot to say that."

Mayday shrugged again, but she couldn't help smiling. Maybe things are going to work out here after all.

The Aerialbots looked chastised for a moment before Fireflight frowned. "Hey, Mayday, you don't have a plane."

Mayday had never even considered commissioning a plane in her image. She flew into battlefields and disaster areas to help injured mechs, which she did willingly, and the Autobots had her performing the same function for the planet's small organic inhabitants, which she did less willingly while trying to hide how she felt. That was hardly the kind of thing she could re-enact with a die-cast toy even if she wanted to do so.

"Don't worry," Air Raid said. "We'll get you something cool too."

"She flies with us off duty. That ain't cool enough?" Slingshot tugged on his brother's arm. "C'mon, Raid! I think I hear the Protectobots up ahead – can you imagine what Blades is gonna say when he sees these?"

They were gone in a flash of black and white, while Skydive headed for Perceptor's laboratory almost as fast. "We'd better go with them," Silverbolt said, subspacing his Concorde. "Coming, Mayday?"

"I'll catch you two up." After being in a noisy, sociable crowd – which was what she supposed any gestalt team was like – Mayday always needed a breem to herself, a calm quiet pause where it was just her and her own thoughts. Even being with Silverbolt and Fireflight wouldn't have been the same, although neither was the overly chattery kind.

Now she leaned against the wall and watched as the two Aerialbots headed down the corridor towards the mess hall. Unlike her own blue and shadow-grey colors, they were red and white, and the Autobot symbols on Fireflight's wings would have been recognizable no matter how far away he was. There were no such symbols on her wings. Not yet, anyway.

Mayday had been built on Cybertron less than half a vorn ago, making her about the same age as the Aerialbots. She had been created Neutral, though, and later sent to Earth to aid the Autobot cause. To her surprise, Optimus Prime had told her that she could choose whether she wanted to join the Autobots or not; they didn't press-gang anyone into their ranks.

Mayday had puzzled over that for some time – the Aerialbots hadn't had a choice about which side they'd joined, so why did she get one? On the other hand, she'd heard that the Aerialbots hadn't exactly been solidly behind the Autobot cause at the start, so perhaps that was why Prime was trying a different tack with her.

And perhaps it's because he's a good leader, she thought, though as usual that made no difference. Mayday liked some of the Autobots, but she respected only two of them – Ratchet and Prowl. She had thought, once or twice, that the war on Earth would have ended some time ago if Prowl rather than Prime had been in charge, but she felt guilty for such speculations, and Prowl certainly wouldn't thank her for them. She wished she could feel the same instinctive loyalty to the Autobot leader as he and Silverbolt and Ratchet did, but somehow it had never happened.

Maybe I should just fake it until it does happen, she thought. Though she knew she wanted a leader in whose vision she could believe, at whose command she would fly into a furnace; she wanted someone whom she would never doubt or question as she doubted and questioned everything. Dream on, said a voice that sounded a little like Slingshot's. This is the best you'll have.

I could tell everyone I've decided, she thought. Make it formal, get the symbols on my wings – the Decepticons shoot at me anyway, so it's not like those'll make a difference. Ratchet will be pleased, too. Isn't that reason enough to do it?

And is there any other choice?