Author's notes: Thanks for the reviews. And thank you to all you tried to guess what happens next, though no one got it quite right. Then again if there were no twists or surprises where would the fun be? And yes, there is a real pot pie with those stats.


** Lennox Family Farm, Watson County, 10:22 pm **

::Yes Ratchet I scanned her arm down to the cellular level, no sign of infection or post injury scarring:: Hound reassured their medic, glad the other couldn't see the sleeping child. The green armored scout's adventures rarely landed him in med bay but it was enough for him to know who not to slag off. And the diminishing sugar levels in her bloodstream would not be good to mention. He glanced down at the house's front porch, a smile forming on his faceplates.

Annabelle lay in her favorite quilt curled up in the swinging porch chair. The quilt a custom made gift from Bumblebee with an image of Optimus and the other transformers pictured on its front. The smallest bots in the first row with Bumblebee, Arcee, Skids and Mudflap to the last row with Optimus, Ultra Magnus and Silverbolt towering over all the others. A designated secret, she kept it hid in her bedroom under the pink princess quilt. Or until the Transformers visited, each signing their name by their image. The glyph for Hound's name dried enough to draw in the porch light and glow in the dark later.

::What did you feed her? Human children have strict nutritional requirements. And that does not include sugar!:: Ratchet grumpily reminded over the frequency.

::No sir, no sugar. She ate the dinner items her parental unit listed in her instructions:: Hound covered, shying away from where on the list they were. His memory core flashed the image of Sarah's note, the specific line across his optics.

Dinner: TV dinner in freezer. She will ask for canned spaghetti and garlic toast with salad. Remember who is in charge.

The green armored scout had nearly stalled reading the first choice Annabelle handed him. "Creamy Parmesan Chicken Pot Pie. 1,060 calories, 1,440 mg salt, and 64 g fat. Why that's enough salt for eight small bags of potato chips and the fat of 23 strips of bacon! You can't eat this!" He had exclaimed, cross referencing Ratchet's food program uploads as she giggled.

"Daddy loves those pot pies. Only he kinda forgets how to program the microwave and they blow up," she admitted, wrapping one ponytail around her fingers.

"I'll blow it up," Hound grinned before tossing the cardboard box into the sky. "Want to see if I can hit it?" Annabelle's squeal confirmation enough. Swiveling, his shoulder rocket launched, blowing it apart in a fireworks display worthy of any county fair.

"Metal encased long cylindrical pasta with red fruit sauce, no dead animals included," he announced, a mini blade sliding out of his fingertip to open the can.

"Canned spaghetti, no meatballs," Annabelle corrected, her long blonde hair swinging as she laughed. Now she slept, snuggled against the cool of the night. Shortly, he would transfer her inside to her bedroom before pulling a light recharge mode himself.

::Has Ironhide reported in?:: Optimus asked, joining the conversation.

:: I received an update two breems ago. Says he has the situation contained:: Hound reported crisply, his attention split between the comm call and the sleeping girl.

::Meaning he blew up two things instead of three. News at eleven:: Ratchet grumbled.

::Ironhide is a specialist capable of keeping our secret and his oaths. Notify us if there are any changes:: Optimus ordered.

Hound considered a request to be the backup guardian for the Lennox family then passed. Anything capable of getting through Ironhide then Chromia would take him out in a spark pulse. ::Will do sir:: Hound closed the frequency, optics scanning the perimeter alarms. A single motion detector activated, indicating a small organic shape. Long range vision activated, thermal readings indicating its size.

'Class: mammalia, order: carnivora, family: procyonidae, named "procyon lotor" aka raccoon," Hound identified. Targeting locks honed in, a single laser beam firing with absolute precision. In the field, the raccoon froze, eyes blinking in its black masked face as the rustling settled. Creeping forward, two furry paws reached out, pulling the downed large acorn branch closer. Deft hands stripped the acorns before dunking them in the nearby water ditch to share with the three baby racoons following it.

At the farm house, a faint smile formed on metal lip plates as the motion sensors reported no other intrusions.

** Somerville, Watson County, County Highway B45 **

::Is he still yelling?:: Chromia asked, her blue alt mode steadily following behind her spark mates black GMC top kick form.

::More whimpering. And he leaked lubricant on my seat! :: Ironhide groused, his mental tone disgusted.

::He's scared with no idea where he's going or what will happen to him:: Chromia reminded.

::Same as his victims:: Ironhide growled back, swerving side to side across the dual lanes of the road to throw the man around inside his alt mode cab.

::There are easier ways to offline him, less messy too:: Chromia slowed, her sensor array confirming the crossroads empty of traffic as they passed through the traffic light without stopping.

::Not trying to. Much as he deserves to have his aft rearranged:: Ironhide

::Then what? You are not considering taking him all the way back to NEST are you? Turn him over to Prowl or Ratchet for treatment? Wait, you said there was no cure:: Chromia

::Scanning for a gathering of humans:: Ironhide answered, sending her a data burst of the plan. His memory core flashed back to the exact moment of capture, looming over the human predator. 'He doesn't deserve this,' Ironhide thought, initiating a rare and specialized transform. Chromia watched wide optic as the large black armored warrior fell forward, armored hands slapping the pavement alongside the cowering human. Parts rotated, sliding into his top kick alt mode around the human without endangering his fragile body.

::You altered your transform?:: Chromia

::For Annabelle. Took Ratchet a week to work out the mobility rotators. In battle, I don't have time to stop and set her out. My transform would crush her before sliding under the armor. Slagging waste to use it on this trash:: Ironhide sent, his tailgate raising into place. His simulated headlights rotated up, shining down the road like an ordinary truck. ::Let's roll::

Chromia felt excited as thermal readings indicated several human driven vehicles turning onto their road up ahead and congregating at the local high school parking lot.

::Perfect. Ready for more play acting as a human?:: Ironhide sent, the energon flowing in his lines as their love of excitement narrowed to impending action.

::Only if I don't have to walk in their shoes. Femmes balance on poorly designed spikes. Too fragile to shatter a spark even:: Chromia's tone light, readying her holographic emitter.

::You can do that in your protoform. Have all the mechs begging at your feet pads:: Ironhide

::Don't want all, just you light of my spark. And ready. On your mark:: Chromia

They pulled up slowly, confirming the group of young men. Their vehicles were arrayed a variety of colors, all mud covered on the wheels and several sporting rifles or shotguns on the back window. Two of the youths mock wrestled, the others cheering them on.

:: That's my cue:: Chromia grinned, her hologram shimmering into existence before compacting down and changing.

"Help! Help me!" a small boy ran into the light of their pickups. The neck of his red and yellow striped shirt torn, his jeans dirty and barefoot as he stumbled towards them. They were too far away to notice the piercing blue eyes he had or the way they slid to the shape appearing behind him. It was that instant that the predator reached out, grabbing the boy up into the air. The humans reacted instantly, swearing and moving.

"Y'all drop tha boy!" the leader screamed out, his red hair vivid in the lights as he grabbed a tire iron passing by his truck. The other youths yelled, grabbing or unsnapping shotguns or grabbing whatever improvised weapons from their pickups, including tow chains or crow bars.

The child screamed, dropping to the ground to stumble away. ::Your turn 'Hide:: Chromia sent as her hologram disappeared.

The predator smirked, seeing the angry group running at him. "Come and get me," he turned and ran the opposite direction, passing beyond the streetlight before shattering into a thousand lights. Further ahead, alien sounds faded as Ironhide completed his enhanced transform, dumping the quivering organic onto the cement. The ancient warrior mech grimaced at the odor wafting across his armor. Taking two steps back, his black armor merging with the shadows and pine trees as the man shakily climbed to his feet. Then the youths rounded the corner, yelling. Their volume increased as the tones deepened as he tried to stumble away. His half scream and their yells hid the transform sounds and squealing tires as a black top kick and a blue sports car raced out the main school entrance.

Two county sheriff patrol cars passed them, lights and siren blaring intent on the dispatched call. The human officers never alerted to the fact the voice dispatching them emotionless and unfamiliar. "Wanted suspect in kidnapping identified at Grant High School south parking lot. Proceed with caution, considered dangerous."

Ironhide and Chromia disappeared into the night, their driver less alt modes using thermal imagery instead of headlights as they drove.

::I kept my promise to Prime. His order specified I would not cripple or offline. He never mentioned humans taking care of their own:: Ironhide chuckled.

::Process there will be enough left online for them to arrest?:: Chromia asked.

::Not sure but he will never threaten a youngling again:: Ironhide

To be continued..