It was, Optimus thought wryly, one of the best-attended morale speeches he had ever seen.
Of course, this came with drawbacks. Chief among them was that it seemed to be having the opposite intended effect, with the Autobots in attendance shifting nervously and shooting dark, ugly glances at their… guests.
In contrast, the seekers seemed to be at rapt attention, hanging on every word.
The winged Decepticons had come suddenly and inexplicably. It started with one; Starscream had invaded their airspace, and before the aerialbots could assemble to shoot him down, the seeker had landed, gentle as any earth bird, on the half-buried roof of the Ark. After that, he couldn't be rousted from there, and demanded to speak to Optimus Prime. Optimus had of course acquiesced, curious despite the danger. But the more he asked the seeker to leave, the more stubborn it seemed Starscream became. The next day, Thundercracker and Skywarp joined Starscream's vigil. Prowl and Red Alert were in fits (more precisely, Red Alert was having fits, and Prowl was beginning to see the appeal in them), and the rest of the Autobots had taken up patrols to watch the Decepticons. A few brave souls shot at them, and when they took off into the sky, screaming insults and curses, it was deemed a success.
In the middle of the celebratory "the pigeons are gone" party, Skywarp could be heard calling from the roof of the Ark for someone to pass him up some high grade, if they were going to just party all night and not invite him.
The next time Optimus went out to address them, he was ready to lay down the law, as it were. They simply couldn't stay, whatever their reasons were. They were still Decepticons.
He was startled to see Thrust and Dirge had joined the seeker party, and disturbed when all five of the seekers present listened to his orders with perfect, intent attention. When he told the Air Commander to take his "troops" and leave, the response confused him even further.
Starscream tilted his head, considered, and said "No. We're staying here now."
Not long after that defeat, the other lingering seeker forces on earth migrated to the Ark as well. And thus began the worst part of the problem.
Empty cans of polish and paint (where did they get them from? As far as anyone could tell, the squatters never left) littered the ground around the Ark.
What was worse, the minibots now refused to leave the safety of the ship, because every time they did, they would be pelted with the various debris the seekers seemed to hoard in little piles for that explicit purpose.
And worst of all, every single one of them was obsessed with Optimus.
Every time he left the Ark, he was shadowed by them. Eventually they acquired the codename "Flock" over communications and in incident reports (of which there were many). It got to the point that Optimus could hardly attend human ceremonies anymore. The sight of the seekers scared off many of the humans, and after the Secret Service tried shooting at the Flock to disastrous results, Optimus decided he would simply have to modify his habits for awhile, until the seekers got bored and left.
No matter how many times the Autobots chased them off and cleaned up the Ark, the insufferable mechs came swooping back in, disturbing everything all over again. Red Alert was beginning to need almost constant sedation, much to Inferno and Ratchet's own distress.
"Why are you here?" he asked Starscream once. The other seekers wouldn't talk to him without glancing nervously at their leader, so Optimus had finally caught on that he would get further without trying to work through their chain of command. His choice was only reinforced when Ramjet was beaten viciously by Starscream for trying to call the Prime over to him. He didn't seem to need repairs, and the next day he was fine except for a few dents, but Optimus settled that he would only address Starscream from then on, if only to avoid such events in the future.
Starscream considered his question carefully, draped over the side of the Ark in a languid lounging pose, chin cupped in his hand and wings splayed out at a slight angle. The seeker was so polished that the sun was nearly painful when it glinted off his plating.
"Why…? Well, that's a secret, Prime." He grinned smugly, flicking his wings.
"Confide in me."
That caught Starscream's attention. He sat up and looked at Optimus intently, expression suddenly serious. "Are you serious?" The sneer would have made Orion Pax fidget uncomfortably. Optimus just stood his ground impassively. It seemed to do the trick, because with little more than a skeptical look, Starscream continued.
"It would take too long to explain… conventionally. You've seen we're no threat to you, Optimus Prime-" the oily smile on Starscream's face was making Optimus begin to doubt that, "-and we've been remarkably well-behaved given the circumstances, wouldn't you agree? I'd like to talk to you, leader to leader, in private."
In hindsight, it was a stupid thing to agree to. When Optimus came stumbling out of the private nook between rocks, it was all he could think.
Well. Not quite. He could also think about how terribly smug he felt that Starscream wouldn't make a reappearance for hours later.
In time, he thought, the Autobots may get used to their presence. Maybe, with time, the seekers would calm down and manage to be tamed, at least to some extent. Until then, he had to try and keep the two groups from killing each other, and Megatron from killing them both. It wasn't until Starscream shot at Megatron from the air, and mocked his voice of all things (rather than his aim), that Optimus began to suspect. It was confirmed later, after the battle, when Starscream writhed on top of him and demanded the Autobot keep a running commentary. It didn't matter about what. The Air Commander just wanted to hear his voice. All the seekers liked his voice.
It seemed a shallow reason to abandon the Decepticon cause, but Optimus wasn't about to question it too closely. Especially not when it meant he had the entirety of the aerial corps hanging on his every word.
He caught Starscream's gaze from across the crowd, where the seekers were bunched into the back. The seeker smirked at him.
If any of his Autobots noticed the slight hitch in his voice as he continued speaking, they didn't show it.