Author's Note: This was like pulling teeth. I'm rewatching the Chicago Battle and I can't add anything to it, or find out where any of the plot holes are. TF2 was riddled with enough holes and jumps for me to fill, but this? The film editors did a good job. Most of what I need to add has to do with Starscream, Sentinel and Megatron. And then anything after the battle is over.

This is only lightly edited, so there will be errors. Let me know what you'd like to see in the reviews, and what parts of the Chicago Battle you'd like to see me really dig through!

.o.

"You can fly this thing, right?"

Bumblebee waggled his hand with a warble, teasing Sam.

"What is that? No, really, what is that? So-so? So you can 'so-so' fly this. That feels terrible." Sam drew in a breath, crossing his arms over his chest. ~Still mad at you for making me think that you were dead.~ Despite his words, the rush of relieved and powerful love was flowing through the entire Prime Cloud.

~I know. And Barricade's sent me all the files I need to fly these.~

~Good. Where is he?~

~He circled south of us as we were coming in, and should be rendezvousing with General Flamewar within the hour.~

Sam touched fingers to the cold metal of the weapon tucked into the small of his back. He'd done several weeks' worth of hours of firearm training with the other NEST members in Oklahoma over the last few years. He looked down to Epps, evaluating the older man. Epps stared back. Then slowly grinned. "So that 'nap' last night . . . wasn't really a nap, was it."

Brown eyes smiled and crystallized. "No sir, it was not. I have intel that your men need."

"Listen up!" Epps roared, turning to the men who had followed him. "All of you served with NEST with me, and all of you know Prime." He had their attention. "I know only one of you got out to Oklahoma, but there's shit that was classified way above our pay grade. Witwicky! All you, Prime."

The young man had transformed before their gaze from the scared boy in a front seat into a commander standing tall beside one familiar flame-detailed leg. The fact that Epps had addressed the human man as Prime was enough to make them confused enough to really listen to what was going on. Everything childish about Sam had dropped away or burnt up in the fires that he had stalked through over the last several years. At least two of the men had served with Lennox through his early days glanced at each other before sinking into listening. They knew. They could see the leader rising within the kid they'd protected over the years.

"We came to a consensus. Every one of you know that there has exactly has been going on in the Cybertronian Civil War, about what lay behind each curtain of secrecy. We have had moles in the Decepticon Movement since the very beginning."

"'We,' Witwicky?" the large man with the rocket launcher asked, trying to clarify. "And which beginning?"

"The beginning is Cybertron, with the opening battles. 'We' is the Cybertronian Embassy and leadership, of which I've been a part of since shortly after Egypt." He didn't have to look to his large metal family for this next part. Optimus was stepping closer. "And for your proof, which I know that you're going to ask for . . ."

Ratchet and Bumblebee joined Sam and Optimus. The three drew forth their Matrixes. The former agents straightened. Some of them had been in Egypt. One of them looked to Sam, and his attention drew the others' into watching "the boy." In response, Sam pulled one side of his shirt up to his ribs, showing the "tattoos" that half-hid the burn scars from the explosions. He held his free hand out, and within seconds the abstract double-ended artifact rested above his palm. It settled with a satisfied flash, the weight comfortable as he curled fingertips into the zero space. The feeling of the Other, the Primes, tickled at his fingernails.

"Holy. Shit."

"Wait, so he a Pretender, Bobby?"

"I'm not sure how I feel about this."

"That's not right."

"Naw, that's all kinds of right," Epps laughed at his men, checking his safety one last time before holstering his sidearm. "Kid's been actively interacting with Cybertronian tech since Mission City. Theory is that he's got the genes for it. He's been part of the leadership for years."

"Remind me to ask Megatron about meeting my grandfather when this is done." Sam let his Matrix settle upon his skin again, folding arms over his chest. "Which brings us to the next point: Update your foe list to one name: Shockwave." A hologram of the mech in miniature came to life before the retired forces. "Chances are high for him to be on the battlefield, specifically with the Digger? Driller? Whatever it is. He's number one. Number two is Sentinel Prime."

The men stiffened. They had always associated "Prime" with "force of good." Epps stepped up to the plate. "I'll ask what we're all asking: What has this mech done to be on that list?"

"I will handle Sentinel," Optimus growled. "But be aware that he is not on our friendly list."

"All Decepticons are now listed as disable only," Sam barked quickly, sensing that he was losing their attention. "There are four Decepticons who have been active moles, and who are working with the Autobots in order to bring this conflict to a close with as little loss of life possible. Lennox will be aiming at optics and at joints." He looked to Optimus and Bumblebee, each of whom projected two of the four Decepticons.

Hushed, expletive-laced protests rose up, but were quickly quelled by the growls of several engines. Optimus took the reins. "Megatron has been an active mole for two Terran years after we became aware of a situation. Barricade has been an active mole since the start of the war, and he is the son of two ranking officers. Soundwave has is assisting us in counter-hacking processor-code that is currently affecting the majority of Decepticon troops. General Flamewar has been a mole since the start of the war, and has a following more loyal to her than the Decepticon Cause. Questions?"

"What's that hacked thing mean?" the large man with the rocket launcher asked.

"Brainwashing to the point that to attempt to think outside of its parameters can cause active processor-failure if too many attempts are made."

"It kills their mind?"

"Yes. It essentially deletes or buries certain subroutines that govern inhibitions, and strengthens subroutines that wire them to follow orders and not question the ethicality of orders."

"Shit. Wait. We've been fighting brainwashed mechs all this damn time? And none'a'y'all told us?"

"We thought that only Megatron was hacked at first," Sam murmured in the stunned silence. "Nobody knew how many of the troops were brainwashed. Megatron was a special case; his was reversed carefully and completely. Soundwave continues to carefully fight or re-route his coding, but I don't have the intel yet for how he is able to do so. We don't know how much of the original personalities of the Decepticon troops remain, or even if there is the ability to reverse them all the way."

"So what about Starscream?" Epps took a step forward. "I got beef with his flittery ass."

"He's hacked. And unstable because his original coding is fighting the hack. Disable with extreme prejudice," "Sideswipe" growled. He glanced at Sam, who grinned and shrugged. With a shake and a fluffing of his armor, the mech shifted his nanites to their normal golden haze. His face subtly transformed closer to its usual settings, narrowing his optics, darkening their color towards an indigo, and sharpening a few of his edges. "Update, meatbags-"

"Sunstreaker!" Epps snapped. "You fucking . . . You and your twin be pulling that same shit every damn time! Dammit, so I don't owe him a polish, I still owe you one, huh?"

"You keep the little Prime alive and we'll see that I might not hold you to Cybertronian standards." Drawing a sword to check the edge, he grinned to Ratchet, whose own weaponry and medical equipment were slowly humming and spinning through readiness cycles.

The medic and Prime fluffed and resettled his own armor, revealing all of his own redundant systems that he would cannibalize for field repairs. "No use stalling. I want this over quickly. Sam. You have the updated FOF?" ~I hate repairing Symbionts, especially neural systems.~

"Yes." Sam tapped his forehead. "Do I need the nanite programming updated?" ~We will "trap" and "disable" him. I'm getting pings from Carly's nanites that are updating his status as part of our "tribe."~

~Oh, that'll be fun to have that glitchmouse in my cargo hold.~ Faustus grouched from somewhere East, the feeling of water pressing on his sealed armor rushing along to Sam. The human sent a pulse of reassurance and love to his Protectorate.

Optimus looked among the humans. "We are losing time. Do you have any other questions?"

"Just one," Epps asked. "What happens when we win?"

The mechs all stilled. Optimus' voice was low, "I do not know. But I . . . am apprehensive of our security within this country and even upon this planet at this time. I am a Prime; I am not the sole Prime anymore. I am disposable; I am a target." He crouched, air hissing from his vents. "I am in a very insecure position, as not only am I the leader of my people, but your world may not understand how myself and my people can forgive and work with the leader of the Decepticons as if the war had simply not happened. We have very long memories, and there are many of us who still dearly love the person that Megatron had been when he and I first came to govern and rule Cybertron."

"Appearances and images," Epps murmured. "You have to show a unified front because of your instincts in order to heal behind closed doors."

"Yes."

"So when we win . . ."

"The war will be over, but the conflict is only beginning."

"What will happen to those of us who are your friends?"

Sam's motion drew Epps' attention, and he saw the solemn, pained gaze leveled at Bumblebee.

Even if the war was won.

They would still lose.

It was only a matter of time.

.o.

That could have gone better. But at least the humans had incoming backup to help break the Decepticon lines. Soundwave was upset with him for getting injured when they really didn't have the parts to fix him. Laserbeak groaned. What was left of his wing was tied up against his belly, his other wing only good for partial balance. He was staring up at a very angry frontliner, whose weapon was firmly targeted upon him. But Carly was safe. So was the human Prime. "I believe you heard me properly, Sunstreaker. I pledge myself to Samuel Prime."

"I don't give two slags who you say you pledge yourself to. You're not going anywhere."

"If you got your slagging helm out of your tailpipe for half a second, you would have heard me say that he was with me."

Sunstreaker looked at the human woman advancing upon him. She wasn't enough to scare him, but he knew The Walk when he saw it. It was a version of Samuel Prime's Walk, which was a human of Optimus Prime's Walk. That walk. The walk that indicated that you were about two words away from getting your aft handed to you. And the tone was all Mirage. Sunstreaker blinked, then nudged the bird closer to the human female. "All yours."

She eyed him warily, not trusting that he was truly handing Laserbeak over. "You like conditions, Sunstreaker."

"Yeah. I'd like to cripple his other wing, bind his talons, and muzzle him before I give him over to you, but I have the feeling that you won't allow for that."

"Sam already shot him in the wing."

"Yeah. One wing. He can still use antigrav to get 'round. I've got the programmin' to keep you safe. That means no bird."

"That actually doesn't mean no bird," Ratchet interrupted after his scans completed. "Soundwave is going to be keeping an eye on our progress through Laserbeak just like Blaster uses his horde of miscreants. Laserbeak has been effective in protecting Carly, and now Carly has to protect him." He crouched at the little bird's side. "What is your coding telling you?"

"Stick with the Tribe. Tribe and Kin. Humans . . . the human females are like our Carriers." He winced at how that would sound to human ears, lowering his head and hissing a Cybertronian apology in case any offence was taken. "Sometimes, though, if they choose to follow that path. It . . . my coding sees them as one-of-us." Laserbeak opened his medical port. "Firewalls are down. Soundwave suggests that you double-check to ensure my assessment and my loyalty."

Ratchet shut the port, patting the little back with gentle fingers. "I trust you."

"Ratchet!" Sunstreaker growled, leaning closer to his Prime.

"If we don't start with the trust now, then how the slag are we going to actively keep the peace! You're my Protectorate, not my Caretaker, Sunstreaker!"

Silence.

Optimus huffed an amused sound. "Keep the customary Protectorate-Prime brawl until after we're finished here. Let's roll!"

Carly scooped Laserbeak up as she passed Sunstreaker, glaring up at him before continuing on to Bumblebee. The frontliner drew in a breath, trying not to get mad at her for protecting one of her own. He felt a sting through the Cloud, grunted at Sam in understanding of the unspoken rebuke, and mentally shook himself. Laserbeak wasn't his issue. The pat against his shin from the human Prime was a comfort. He didn't understand how Sam could command and take charge, then be compassionate within moments.

Optimus' hand rested on his shoulder in thanks of keeping his temper in check.

Ah. That was why. The human saying of "like father, like son." Even though they were Primes in brotherhood, Sam had imprinted upon Optimus as if he were the human's Creator-Caretaker.

He straightened, nodding to his commander and getting his head back on straight before taking up position beside Ratchet again. They had a battle to win.

.o.

Author's Note: There are going to be some extras posted on my AO3 account, and there will be a freshly edited and revised version of TWDTH once I finish the entire thing. As of now, there are only the first 40 chapters on there now, but I still have a lot to retcon and edit.

Song is: Charged by Really Slow Motion