The station was quiet, apart from the odd blip of equipment that interrupted the quiet central hub of the International Space Station (ISS). Frederick, worked absently on one of the experiments contained in a glass case, in his palm a small white mouse, whose whiskers twitched nervously as he gently pierced the small rodents skin. Blood pooled into the tiny vial until it was full. Just as gently the gloved hand placed the mouse in amongst his brethren and was withdrawn from the case. Pushing lightly from the surface Frederick floated across the hub to the other side; taking hold of the fridge handle he placed the vial of deep red liquid inside closing it tightly behind him. He floated gently over to the work station and picked up his tattered Sudoku book, intently finishing his last puzzle he closed the book and placed it neatly on top of a small pile of other conquered Sudoku puzzles, he sighed in satisfaction.
"How's danger mouse doing?" Frederick all but jumped in the micro gravity; his baritone voice emitted a grunt of surprise as he spun to face the speaker. Grinning in front of him Stokes had anchored himself to his work station.
"Why do you have to sneak up on me like that?" The heavily accented German demanded, slightly disgruntled. Stokes held up his hands contritely,
"Sorry Fred, my bad." The younger American scientist was still grinning, as he turned to continue with his work. "I didn't know you Germans were so jumpy." He winked in amusement, Frederick sighed impatiently before pushing off to the living module of the station.
"Can't ever get a moments peace up here." He mumbled to himself as he swiftly left the hub.
Stokes chuckled as he watched the larger German astronaut leave the hub. His eyes lowered to his stellar readouts. His job was simple; analyse and collate any and all information he could find regarding the solar system and deep space, while also monitoring for potential threats such as asteroids and other spatial debris that may fall to Earth. He typed in his authorisation to access the Hubble's telemetry. He didn't always need the giant telescope but it helped clarify some of the more obscure images he received from the station's powerful yet limited telescopes. Something in the data caught his eye, frowning slightly he focused his concentration. The station's telescopes had detected what seemed like a shadow in the solar system closer to one of the larger planets. Accessing Hubble he pulled up data from the corresponding dates and times and cross checked them to see if the shadow had come up on any of the telescopes imagery. A voice called him from the living module, pulling him from his concentration.
"Hey Phil! It's your turn on point, time for me to get some shut eye." His crew mate peered in from the entrance. Phil Stokes, sighed, "Yeah I am just working on something, few minutes." Curiosity peaked; his fellow American entered the room. A recent addition to the ISS, astronaut Stephen Porter glided silently over to his colleague and friend.
"What you working on?"
"Nothing too interesting, well I don't think so anyway looks like one of the imaging sensors in the aft quarter of the station has had a glitch. Probably some dirt, will call Houston to advice whether it's necessary for a brief space walk to fix it up."
Stephen glanced over his friend's shoulder, being first and foremost a pilot; he could not make heads nor tails of the Astronomical data and images that Phil was working on and besides that he'd had yet another routinely boring day. One of the images on Phil's small screen displayed a faint yet obvious shadow obstructing the field of view. Patting Phil on the back, he turned to leave.
"Looking like it needs a clean to me Stokes. It'll wait, come on I'm shattered and base wants a status update."
Phil nodded absently before putting the images down.
"Alright, alright, I'm coming. You look like you could use some beauty sleep anyway." He shot his friend a wry grin; always a joker Stokes rarely took any situation too seriously for long. He had always been good at lightening the mood. Steve just shrugged at him;
"Hey I think you need to look in a mirror, you're not so hot yourself."
Phil chuckled as he followed his team mate into the living module; "Yeah but I'm more charming."
Their voices faded into the distant intersection linking the different hubs of the ISS together. Stokes's console was left unlocked and open; the live feed to Hubble was still active. Every couple of minutes or so, the image refreshed. If anyone had been watching the screen, they would probably have been concerned that the shadow on the lens changed shape and position then, in the following images simply disappeared revealing a star field in its wake. If anyone had been present, they may have been able to look closer at the shadowy image smudging the view of one of Earth's neighbouring gas giants. They may have, if they had looked close enough, observed tiny pin pricks of glowing red light that were beheld in the shadowy form.
Lennox rubbed his face absently, he hated meetings like this. Grouped into a closed room, in his dress uniform, with a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats who; had probably never seen a battle in their lives. He sighed heavily, to think he was called off leave for this. Admiral Morshower sat quietly next to him sombre faced as yet more sharply dressed officials entered the room. After a moment the official near the door touched his ear piece, the door re-opened and the conference room fell silent. Flanked by secret service, in walked the President of the United States. Along with a couple of other military personnel Lennox shot to his feet, he maybe disgruntled but he still had respect. Standing to attention his salute raised, the President nodded politely before positioning himself at the head of the table.
"At ease people."
Everyone sat. No one spoke for a moment as the President readied himself for the conference. Directing a question toward the Admiral sat beside Lennox, he enquired quietly;
"Is he ready Admiral?" The Presidents' tone was quiet yet firm, the Admiral met his gaze.
"He's been fully briefed and is waiting for the live feed uplink."
"Excellent, I've been looking forward to meeting him."
Lennox shot his superior a questioning look; Chairman, Admiral Morshower merely shook his head. Lennox frowned, thoughts racing through his head. Why was he here at this very obviously Presidential briefing and who in the hell was 'he'?
Seconds later his questions were answered, well at least one of them. The large screen located to the side of the room flickered to life bringing into view an image he knew all too well. Diego Garcia, the location of NEST. Even more confused Lennox's frown deepened as the President began.
The meeting was in full swing; events of a few months ago were gone over and reviewed, the President listening intently to the reports on the Egypt that Lennox was all too aware of. After what seemed like an age the reports ceased and much to his discomfort, Lennox found the President's focus on him.
"Major, I believe you have been in control of most of the missions undertaken by NEST?"
"Um… Yes… Yes Mr President Sir." Lennox, slightly flummoxed, righted himself before continuing to the President's expectant gaze. "My team and I have worked closely with our um allies."
"The Autobots?" The President enquired, Lennox blinked in surprise; "Yes Sir, the Autobots. We have been working closely with them up until the incident in question for just over 2 years. Since Egypt, however we were ordered on extended leave."
The President nodded in acknowledgement, "Thank you Major."
"Sir? Not to be disrespectful Sir, may I speak frankly?"
Unphased the President nodded, while Admiral Morshower shot him a glare.
"Sir, Thank you sir. I was under the impression that NEST was to be disbanded and that the Autobots had been asked to leave Earth, I myself thought that my team had been discontinued and were going to be forced to retire from duty Sir, if this is the case, then why are we going over events that happened then?"
The President nodded sternly to the Chairman of the Joint chiefs, Admiral Morshower spoke up, his voice gruff but quiet.
"Major Lennox, you think too much."
"Yes Sir...?" Lennox replied, unsurely.
"The purpose of this meeting is to ascertain the potential threat of the Decepticons and the continued relations with the Autobots. In the hope, that events that took place in Egypt can be avoided in the future."
"Sir?" Lennox questioned again. The President interrupted the conversation his voice smooth and quietly confident.
"Major, your service is commendable as have been you and your team's actions in recent events. The events that took place in Egypt and across the world, in my opinion, were unacceptable. The loss of life and damage that took place is simply not to be tolerated; I will not have this country and this planet threatened by forces beyond our control. It is my hope that in this briefing we can ultimately regain that control, otherwise it is my understanding that the human race would be better served if our new... allies left our planet and took their war with them." The President's face betrayed no emotion, his eyes bored into Major William Lennox daring him to contradict. The Major took in a deep breath;
"Sir if I may be so bold…"
"No Major you may not. That is my current, well informed opinion on the matter, I will not accept losses on the scale we experienced a few months ago, we have been able, with the help of other military and world leaders to divert suspicions towards terrorist attacks, relations across the world are strained as it is without incidents such as these causing us to go to a full scale war, in which I might add, we don't belong. Do I make myself clear Major?"
Lennox nodded curtly, "Yes Sir, crystal."
The President sighed quietly; "However, taking all evidence into account, it is my decision, upon much advice from my advisors and respected military and civilian personnel, the human race can only benefit from a continued relationship with the Autobots, as you call them. I am also unwilling to leave the Earth open to attack from other possible hostiles by asking them to leave, without further considering the ramifications. This meeting is to reinstate NEST and discuss terms of our agreement with the leader of the Autobots. Which; I am greatly looking forward to. It is long overdue."
Murmurs in agreement sounded around the room.
"I hope that answers your questions major."
"Mostly Sir. Why am I here?"
His Superior spoke up. "You have been recommended to take charge of NEST and to continue operations as before as a condition of the new agreement."
"A condition? Recommended by whom?"
"Well on that note, I think it's time." The President interceded.
The image changed on the screen, a familiar face to Lennox came into view. A smile broke across the Major's face.
The giant Autobot, whose face was the only visible part on the comparatively small screen, inclined his head in response; if the Autobot could have smiled he would have done so. His deep, soothing voice resounded in the conference room.
"Major Lennox, I am much pleased to see you once again. I do hope you don't mind my recommendation of our preferred and continued cooperation?"
"Mind!? Hell no!" Lennox exclaimed excitedly, briefly forgetting himself, he coughed slightly.
"I'm flattered, really."
The Leader of the Autobots nodded slightly and then diverted his attention to the rest of the room. "I believe that I am addressing the leader of this country, am I not?"
The President spoke up, "Yes, I'm here, it is I must say a pleasure to finally meet you Optimus Prime."
The Autobot was nothing if not gracious. "The sentiment is indeed mutual Mr President."
"We have a lot to discuss you and me." The President continued.
"Indeed we do, shall we begin?"
The meeting was long, conditions were discussed, requests made, in the end the relationship between the Autobots and at least these humans, could not have been stronger. Lennox was tired. The meeting wound to a close. The President left the room first after giving his goodbye's to Optimus. Morshower gave a brief pat on Lennox's shoulder before he exited close behind.
"See you back at headquarters at 19h00 hours Major."
Lennox looked at the screen. "I guess I'll be seeing you real soon then?"
Optimus chuckled at the smaller man's seeming reluctance to come back to work.
"I am much looking forward to it Major."
Lennox hesitated before leaving the conference room, which was now empty apart from him and the live feed.
"Optimus how are you? You know after Egypt?"
"I am touched by your concern Major, but I have fully recovered from my injuries sustained from Megatron, Ratchett is nothing if not conscientious to his work. Jetfire's sacrifice has been greatly received and I am operating within higher parameters than before the incident."
"Well that's great then, if Megatron tries anything else, I'll let you do all the fighting next time." Lennox grinned as he exited the room. The live feed went dead. Back at Diego Garcia, Optimus was amused by the Major's slight dig at his unavoidable absence during the majority of the fight against Megatron in Egypt. Heading back toward the hanger, he had relayed the meeting to his fellow Autobots as it happened. Ironhide acknowledged him as he approached. "Major Lennox has an exuberantly over confident nature when it comes to his combat prowess, for someone so small, I can't say I am not impressed."
Optimus looked at his friend; "I agree, their humour can be as dry as our own at times, it can only be taken that we are almost fully accepted as fellow soldiers in our combined ongoing conflicts."
Ironhide nodded, "I like him. He reminds me of me, a much smaller, fleshier, far less advanced version of me; I might add."
Joining in the banter the other listening Autobots laughed lightly, Optimus among them; after a moment he replied;
"My friend when it comes to humans, their confidence can exceed even our own at times, however;" His tone became more sombre, as he remembered fallen soldiers with sadness, "it gets them into trouble with foes they can not yet defeat themselves, more times than I am comfortable with."
Ratchett added to the conversation. "Having been here for the time we have, I can think of no better allies against the Decepticons, they're unpredictable and quick thinking, it's very useful when coming up against someone as single minded as Megatron or Starscream."
Optimus nodded, grateful for the positive spin on the conversation, "You have a point my friend. I agree they have saved our lives on more than one occasion, something even I did not foresee, when I decided to come to this planet. It seems that our…aagghh…"
A flash of images crossed Optimus's mind, causing him to pause mid sentence. The images continued coming, rapidly, unforgiving, an overload of information. Then a white light flashed before his optic sensors, as the information filled his mind. Unable to stop it, some of his minor circuitry failed under the pressure of increased information. Placing a giant metallic hand on his head, Optimus was clearly dazed; Ironhide glanced anxiously at Ratchett;
"Optimus? Are you alright?" Optimus responded, by letting out a cry of surprise and pain as some of his inner circuitry finally burned out. He stumbled and fell to one knee. The concerned Autobots, waited as Ratchett approached their leader. Placing a hand on Optimus's shoulder, he observed his condition, simultaneously Optimus started to recover. Quietly he spoke, clearly perturbed by the episode. Standing he faced Ratchett.
"I am alright."
"You mind telling me what just happened?"
"I am… not sure… it felt like a signal, or a message, but I couldn't pin point its location. There were many confusing images. I could not make sense of them." Clearly frustrated, Optimus shook his head.
"I need to run a diagnostic; I can't have that happening in the field." Ratchett insisted.
Optimus nodded; "I agree." He added with amusement, "I can not have Major Lennox doing all the fighting now can I?"
Ironhide grunted in response, Ratchett smiled inwardly, as both he and his leader left the hanger. The other Autobots departed in their respectively terrestrial forms. Bumblebee motioned toward Ironhide, electronically communicating with him.
"What do you think just happened?"
"I don't know Bumblebee, but it aint right and I don't like it."
"Maybe it's because of the Matrix or from Jetfire's memories?" He pressed the slightly irritated weapons master.
"Hmmm maybe… If anyone can help him it's Ratchett. He's an expert in fixing. Besides he'll stop Prime from over doing anything while he investigates, which as you know is like trying to shoot a Decepticon with a human weapon."
Bumblebee chuckled at Ironhide's clear contempt for any inferior weaponry, but looked in the direction of the other two Autobots, filled with concern; he transformed and headed after them, leaving Ironhide to his weapons stock at the back of the hanger.