NEST Files: Alien Encounters
Disc Three: "Paradigm Shift"
Approximate Terran Date: 28 months after the destruction of the Fallen
NEST Personnel Log, entry 879-- Autobot: Ironhide
Update code: 251771
Auditer(s): Autobot Rachet, NBE--6
Reason for change to entry: That slagger finally worked out the dent he had in his personality core, that's why.
I believe this is MY entry, Mudflap. Kindly desist from your intrusion.
Additonal notes: When our team-- consisting of myself, Optimus Prime, Jazz and Ironhide-- first arrived on earth, our weapons specialist demonstrated an alarming proclivity to view the homo sapien species as mentally, technologically, and physically inferior to our own race, believing in the disposal of humans as a secondary course of action rather than as a scenario to be avoided except in the most desperate of situations. However, upon first encountering the human youngling Annabelle Lennox, I observed a shift in his action/inaction priority commands that placed the destruction of human life under a selective self-deterring firewall that would prevent him from accessing it as a conceivable battle tactic unless he himself had sustained injuries to 75% of his body and at least two of his comrades were in immediate peril.
Or, in other words, Ironhide experienced a dramatic change in his world view-- a paradigm shift, if you will....
Warriors of all stripes were trained (or, in Ironhide's case) programmed not to ask questions. Being too curious on the battle field-- needing to know everything that was happening and why your commander was ordering you to march for the left flank, why you should hit the dirt and shut up when you were told to hit the dirt and shut up-- was an excellent way to end up dead. Or worse, an excellent way to get your teammates killed when you were just a second too slow, hesitating just an instant too long while your mind asked 'why' and the hidden sniper you didn't see put a neat little hole through their heads and yours.
So after having spent almost six thousand years on one kind of battle field or another, whether it be in an asteroid belt or under a sea of liquid ammonia, Ironhide had almost forgotten what it was like to hear someone ask him a question that did not pertain to enemy numbers or weapons upgrades. The war-hardened veteran was even more at a loss when the question itself came not from a member of his own kind, but rather from a tiny organic arthropod youngling of the designation 'Annabelle Rose Lennox'.
Perhaps his emotional cores would not have begun to fluctuate so oddly if it had only been one question, or even one interrogation session. But no, the sparkling-stage creature, with its pale, hairless little limbs and watchful jelly eyes, emerged at a very young age as an adept interrogator and fledgling torturer, hounding him from the moment she could speak with a never-ending flow of questions for which his logic relays could not provide an immediate and satisfactory answer. And when he could not adequately provide the information requested during the first round of questioning, the devious little being broke out the big guns, turning her innocent, soft little eyes to meet his glacier optics and squeaking 'why?'.
If it were up to Ironhide, the single glyph question would be erased from every mainframe on Cybertron and from the memories of each and every Cybertronian. It served no purpose other than to annoy and delay, regardless of what Wheeljack and Ratchet and any of the other armor-less, weak-sparked scientists may have said. And a 'why' could also, as Ironhide discovered during his first core-wrenching rendezvous with the human youngling, be compounded upon with another 'why'. Repeatedly.
Looking back years later on that first meeting, Ironhide realized that it marked the beginning of the instability within his moralities programs, an instability which would later cause a system-wide rift in his primary processor and the unwilling reordering of the code which walled his very spark. If only he had known what was to come scarcely four terran years after his arrival on the third planet in the Sol system, if only his battle scenarios could have anticipated the intangible struggle that the defenseless organic would soon ignite within him, a struggle that he would, ultimately, lose, perhaps he would not have let the four year old human come toddling into the barn.
The barn-turned-garage, the spacious wooden dwelling usually relegated to Ironhide's use whenever he was in residence at the Lennox ranch, had long been off-limits to the youngling Annabelle. Ironhide had scoffed to himself when he had first heard the Lennox pair instructing their offspring not to go near the talking truck (which the child did not find unusual in the least despite the marked lack of sentient talking cars on Earth). They clearly did not comprehend the precision control the weapon specialist could exercise over every part of his body. Unlike humans, whose limbs and extremities were operated by a crude network of neural receivers with the propensity to send inaccurate data to the central nervous system, every metalloid cell composing his frame was entirely under his control-- no errant programs would cause him to misjudge the force of a blow and thereby crush every bone in her body; no sensor blip would cause him to lose track of her beneath his feet and put her in danger of being stepped on. Captain Lennox had obviously forgotten Ironhide's performance at Mission City.
But regardless of the blow to his pride, Ironhide was thankful that the messy, thoroughly organic youngling would not try to clamber all over him, thus reducing his potential efficiency if a battle were to suddenly break out. Humans could be useful and rather clever at times, but overall Ironhide did not understand what Prime saw in them or why he insisted on keeping so many of them around. Save for the thin layer of warriors in their society, most of humanity was useless. Cowardly, weak, disgusting, and hopeless stupid. In simple terms, they were inferior.
Prime often scolded him, telling him to make nice with the humans; Bumblebee occasionally hissed dark threats over his internal receiver whenever he made a comment about the youngling called 'Sam' the scout persisted in shadowing. Ironhide did not understand why they both seemed to have lines of code missing from their logic relays. If their (and by 'their' he meant Autobot) purposes were better served by eliminating troublesome humans, they should do so. There were six billion of them, after all-- the loss of one, or even one thousand, would hardly matter. Yet still the other Autobots insisted on acting as if each human were equal to one of their own species, guarding them and sheltering them as if each of their organic lives were as precious and rare as a Cybertronian spark. Well, all right, he could compute the rationale behind overseeing the safety of the useful human warrior known as Lennox and possibly even the Sam creature who had brought the last Prime out of deep stasis lock, but surely the boy's two annoying progenitors could be done away with. They were nothing but an incessantly chattering pair of liabilities, after all.
The afternoon Annabelle Lennox crept through the open barn door, Ironhide wondered to himself if she were not a liability also. He remained silent, the optics of his robot form locked onto her consideringly, as she slid through the crack in the door and flattened herself up against the wall, blinking up at him. Although she had seen his robotic form several times before, she had never viewed it from up close. Yet despite her apparent awe, she showed no signs of fear-- her heart rate remained steady, as did her respiration. That wasn't a good sign. Ironhide knew that it would not go over well with Lennox and his mate (or with Optimus) if he deactivated their offspring, but neither did he want to be compromised by the presence of an organic hanging from his armor, especially when there had been a Decepticon citing earlier that week not one hundred miles away. It would be difficult to bring his cannons online quickly enough to incapacitate a clever sniper if he had a bothersome human clinging to his arm. No, he couldn't have that happen. The only recourse available to him was to dial the captain's private number and instruct him to come collect his offspring.
But just before he could access his communications array, the tiny organic opened her mouth.
"You're big," she stated matter-of-factly. Ironhide merely shuttered his optics in surprise, not certain if human social customs dictated a response in this circumstance. For a moment he debated informing her that all size was relative and that there were transformers much larger than he, but realizing that the youngling would probably not be able to grasp his reasoning he settled for a much simpler answer.
The creature blinked at him again, then smiled. By Primus, whatever insidious virus had infected Prime and the others had obviously gotten to him too, if the reflexive pulse in his emotional cores in response to that bright smile was anything to go by. His primary processor opened file after file of reference data citing the expression of contentment in various organic species, trying to convince him that a primitive gesture involving partially involuntary facial muscles should not be attributed such significance, but a secondary processor humming away at the back of his system's mainframe continued to whisper that such a tiny detail was significant, that he should try to do everything in his power to keep it there.
She pushed herself away from the wall and began to approach him, still smiling. He frantically snatched at his communications array once more, eyeing her fleshy hands and the thin film of organic oils covering them. Though he was not fastidious by any means, he did not relish the thought of being touched by those hands.
"Really really big!" She cried exuberantly.
And then she giggled. His communications array closed itself again of its own accord. Blast it all to the Pit with a grease gun, the organic creature had managed to catch him unawares and now had him by the throat with a new and utterly devastating weapon he had not anticipated. He had to find a way to keep her from giggling again-- the tinkling, bell-like sound had seized his shriveled emotional cores in a steel vice, and if he heard it again....well, he didn't know what he would do.
"Do you have a point?" He muttered gruffly, shifting his legs in unease like a sparkling as she skipped across the dusty floor towards him. Blast it! Where had this restless energy come from? She was only a short-lived, inferior creature-- how could she affect him so?
Ironhide sent a prayer of thanks to Primus as she stopped short of his right foot, merely clasping her hands in front of her and craning her neck to stare up at him.
"Why are you so big?"
That infernal squeaking voice again, so high and alien and...what?
"I do not understand your inquiry. Rephrase."
She stared rocking from side to side, twisting her bare feet, digging her toes into the dirt, smiling and smiling. An involuntary shudder ran through his frame.
"Why are you so big?"
Hmm. Apparently organic younglings mistook emphasis for rephrasing.
"It allows me to have more space to store weapons."
There. That answered her question, and it was mostly true. Now if only she would turn around and leave--
"What's a 'weapons'?"
If ever there was a time Ironhide longed for a Decepticon to show up it was surely now, if only to have some excuse to flee from the youngling and her insistent questions and terrible smile that stripped him of his armor more effectively than acid.
Again Ironhide began to give a lengthy and detailed answer, and again he reminded himself that he was talking to a being scarcely outside the sparkling stage who would not understand an in-depth briefing of battle tactics like her male progenitor.
"Weapons are devices used to kill your enemy."
The rounded little face scrunched up in confusion as the innocent mind tried and failed to grasp the concept of killing, of death. His emotional cores gave another terrible pulse at the thought of something so rare as a creature who had never known death becoming extinct-- one day she would know death, would experience it herself, and the innocent before him would be no more. For someone hardwired for destruction, Ironhide found himself strangely frantic at the thought of this one thing being destroyed.
Okay, now the weapon specialist was truly lost. He tilted his head to the side quizzically.
"Why do you have weapons?"
Was the child deaf?
"So that I can kill my enemies, as I have said."
The twisting started up again, and this time the creature fisted her hands around the hem of her dress and started absently flapping the garment, bouncing a little on the balls of her feet.
"Why do you want to kill your en-em-en-ies?"
"Because they would attempt to kill me first, if I did not."
For a long moment Ironhide simply couldn't find the words to answer. Despite her butchery of the word 'enemies', the girl obviously understood the concept enough not to request having it explained. Why, then, did she fail to grasp such a simple cause-and-effect scenario? Yet even the thought that Lennox's offspring might be mentally deficient did not disturb him as much as the sudden contrast between the two of them-- he learned, worldly, hardened, and she...disconnected. Ignorant. Young. Innocent.
His voice emerged markedly quieter as he replied, "Because we are enemies."
Sensing the change that had come over him, the girl abruptly ceased her nervous fidgeting and stepped forward, softly laying her hands against the armor covering his lower leg and gazing up at his bright, alien, deadly optics with such terrible, wrenching purity that he felt programs inside of him that had survived millennia begin to splinter and break apart.
"Why are you enemies?"
"Enough with the 'why's'!" He suddenly roared, abruptly losing his hold on his patience. His logic relays could offer no explanation as to why her inquires affected him so, or why the sight of her recoiling away from him in fear sent phantom pain signals flickering through his processor. But he could not seem to stop himself-- in her ignorance she had stepped on a landmine, blundering stupidly into the darker regions of his processor that he dared not examine himself.
"For the love of Primus, stop asking why! This is simply the way it is!"
If only she knew how many of his soldiers had wailed the same question as they lay dying in a pool of their own fluids, or how often he had asked it of himself after coldly blowing the head from one of his beloved students simply because they had ended up on opposite sides of the line. But she was backing away from him, whimpering, tears welling in her eyes, hands fisted under her chin in bewilderment and terror, and she didn't understand. She had to understand it; if such purity, such innocence could accept it, then perhaps it was justified, perhaps it hadn't all been just a useless, senseless waste of carnage-- but she wouldn't stop looking at him with those horrified eyes!
"Existence is meaningless," he ground out, no longer shouting, "There is no fate, no divine plan-- the evil rein victorious and the good die horribly. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends sometimes for no reason at all, and that's just the way it is."
He looked towards the corner of the barn, unable to watch the organic condemn him with her eyes, hating her for tossing away the struggle of so many good mechs like something foul simply because it frightened and confused her. So focused was he on his internal thoughts-- a phenomenon that almost never occurred for the ever alert weapons specialist-- he didn't register the gentle pinging of his sensors as she slowly began to approach him again, tears drying, eyes shifting from fear to sadness.
"Your questions cannot change it," he murmured, "Cannot stop it, cannot alter the terrible truth or erase the past; you are nothing but a small, insignificant little speck whose existence means absolutely nothing and---
Softly, gently, a human cheek rested against his armor, small arms reaching as far around his leg as they could and hugging tightly. Ironhide froze, every thought program and servo abruptly stalling at the contact, and for a long moment there was nothing but the feel of a warm, soft, pliable little thing cuddling down against him, nothing but the sound her tiny heart made thumping steadily within her chest, nothing but the inexplicably mesmerizing sight of sunlight creeping through the crack in the door and teasing strands of her blonde hair with flashing gold, nothing but the organic, human smell of her filling his oral factory senses-- nothing but the absolute certainty that he had just lost a battle whose purpose he could not name and that the universe had suddenly reoriented itself with the primitive sparkling at its center.
Primary processor no longer entirely in control of his actions, Ironhide found himself leaning forward and capturing the tiny creature between his hands, plucking it from the ground and lifting it high into the air.
Annabelle squealed with delight, wriggling in his grasp, fear utterly forgotten at the novel sensation of being hoisted high into the air. Ironhide tried to ignore how much a part of him enjoyed that.
"What was that about, youngling?" He growled.
The youngling apparently mistook the sternness in his voice for playfulness, because a moment later she was overcome by another fit of giggles. That wasn't right; that wasn't how it was supposed to be. A moment ago she had been trembling. Why now was she so buoyant?
But the rebuke forming in his vocalizer died just as suddenly as it appeared when she leaned over as far as she could with his hands beneath his arms and hugged his wrist, making small contented noises and once more burrowing against his armor, silky strands of hair brushing the armed missile rounds loaded into his arm cannon.
"Mommy says that when people are sad they need a hug," she informed him primly, never noticing how she placed her head in the path of instant death, never noticing that the metal strut her blunted fingers gripped concealed a sharpened blade longer than her entire body.
She was so tiny, Ironhide suddenly realized. Watching something so innocent, so infinitely precious touching him with gentlest intent, trying to comfort the killer, the slayer, the destroyer, broke something inside his primary processor, inverting his perceptions. No longer was her size a mere number, it had become a physical thing that made him larger rather than her smaller, his hands becoming unwieldy clamps of cold metal and sharp edges far too large and clumsy for something so delicate. Though 1,342,990,781 cycles of his situational analyzers concluded that his central processor remained in full control of every circuit, servo and relay-- regardless of the fact that 1,342,990,781 possible outcomes of that moment did not have his muscle cables suddenly malfunction and drop her fifteen feet to her death, or a glitch in his weapons control systems suddenly launch a missile that would punch a hole through her torso, or the circuits in his hands spasm and contract, crushing her in his grip-- the fact that 1 such cycle did terrified him beyond all reason.
Helpless to do otherwise, paralyzed with fear, Ironhide froze in place, doubting that even the sudden appearance of a rogue Decepticon could convince him to move. What in the galaxy had moved him to pick her up? Why had he not simply called the Lennoxes and informed them of their absent offspring's whereabouts? But the soft weight of her in his hands and the knowledge that he could snap the thread of her life in an instant made it very hard for his thought programs to produce anything but disjointed fragments of code. She was organic, a feeble, messy, fickle creature, undisputedly inferior in strength and intelligence, and......
.....and he had never known that he could love something so much as he did when she hugged his black metal hand.
Perhaps it was a good thing that William Lennox and several other armed soldiers, all hefting weapons loaded with thermite rounds, chose that moment to smash through the door and center his head between their crosshairs. Without the distraction, he didn't know what he would have done.
"FREEZE! DON'T MOVE!"
"STOP WHERE YOU ARE, DECEPTICON!"
The weapon specialist tilted his head in acknowledgement of Major Lennox, who was the first one to recognize the familiar black shape within the barn.
"Good afternoon, Will."
Lennox swore vehemently, lowering his weapon and ordering for the soldiers following him to do the same.
"Ironhide, what the hell is-- ANNIE!"
The sight of the human warrior carelessly dropping his weapon (which he would never do without being under a great deal of stress for fear of it accidentally discharging) and sprinting towards him finally jarred the weapon specialist from his stupor. As the human came within reach he gingerly lowered his youngling (his?) to the ground and set her back on her feet. She didn't remain that way for long, however-- just as her toes made contact with the dirt she was swept up again into her creator's embrace and crushed to his chest.
Epps, having also followed the Major into the barn, stepped forward and retrieved the dropped weapon, raising a questioning eyebrow at Ironhide.
"What's goin' on, big guy? We heard a lot of shoutin'-- that D-con show his butt ugly face around here?"
Ironhide tried to focus his optics on the dark skinned warrior, he really did, but he couldn't seem to tear his attention away from the tiny body being cradled in Lennox's arms.
"Unfortunately," he grunted in response, "If he had, I would have made sure he didn't have a face to show."
In all actuality, he would have done quite a bit worse if any Decepticon had dared to come near his Annabelle, but it didn't seem appropriate to describe in vivid detail all the excruciating torture techniques he would have used in front of a sparkling.
After the initial shock had worn off and the human soldiers had determined that there was not, in fact, a decepticon hiding in the barn, they began to trickle in ones and twos back to the main house where Lennox and his mate appeared to be holding some sort of party.
Lennox and Annabelle were the last to leave after Lennox had finished thanking him for protecting his daughter. Privately Ironhide wondered just what he had been protecting her from besides himself, but he decided to let those thoughts go unvoiced. When at long last Lennox turned to walk back to the family dwelling, the youngling leaned her head over his shoulder and waved at him with one tiny little hand.
He watched them go until they have vanished from view over the top of the hill, and even then he continued to monitor their progress with his sensors. Little did either of them know that the weapons specialist kept several thousand of his six billion sensors trained on her constantly from then on, never letting her move beyond his range. Little did Annie herself know that the place where she had touched him that fateful afternoon would continue to burn even several thousand years later with the memory of innocence.
Author's Note: Yay! I finally did something transformer related! Hope you guys like this small-ish oneshot—I saw all the annie/ironhide fics and decided that I had to get my version out there.