I AM RUNNING ON FUMES RIGHT NOW OMG.

So much Red Bull and so little sleep to get this out.

Sentinel is such a bitch to write, but this was a necessary filler unfortunately. I AM NOT ENTIRELY HAPPY WITH IT, portraying Sentinel how I have him in my head seems so hard to try and explain, but hopefully it's understandable ;_;

Hope you guys are well; had so much going on here which is only one of an absolute MULTITUDE of reasons that I haven't been getting chapters out. Slowly but surely we are getting there, and I cannot wait to reach the destination with you guys :)

It will be quite a story arc once the action kicks off.

MUCH LOVE MY MINIONS xxx

It was unpleasant dreams that woke Tess in the early hours of the morning.

She couldn't recall any specifics of it, nothing significant had happened; it was just the sort of sleep where one woke up feeling ill-at-ease and restless. Glancing to her bedside table, the alarm clock read '3:45am' and she sighed heavily at the knowledge that she would probably not be able to get back to sleep.

Swinging her feet over the edge, Tess cast a glance at Optimus over on the large berth, completely still and silent apart from the occasional hitch of a breath-cycle or the twitch of one of his fingers; Tess knew those things were the result of stasis 'fluxes' similar to nightmares. He had them every now and again, nothing too frequent but even now after so long being in the same living space as him Tess never got used to it.

She didn't like that he was reliving bad things when he rested.

He had been working into the night, which was why Tess had chosen to sleep in her 'apartment' rather than beside him, her loft was a little further away from his work bench than the joint berth. Tip-toeing across the room, she grabbed herself a towel and made her way to the little bathroom off to the side of the loft to have a shower.

Optimus was not necessarily a light sleeper, but being a soldier he was akin to being prepared for battle at a moment's notice, therefore Tess tried to remain as quiet as possible a she closed the door and used the shower. Thankfully the walls in each room at N.E.S.T were all designed to keep most sounds to the room they were confined in, so when she had cleaned up, washed her hair and wrapped herself in her towel and exited the bathroom, she was relieved to see that Optimus was still not awake.

After the events of the day before, he no doubt needed the extra sleep anyway.

Rummaging around in her drawers, she found herself some underwear and a clean, navy jumpsuit, although like the rest of her work gear it still had stained patches that would never come out. Pulling on a black tank top and slipping the arms of the jumpsuit over her to zip it up against the morning air, she pulled her hair up into its usual sloppy bun and tip-toed down to the kitchen.

Tess grabbed a small bag of her sweets and sidled over to the door, picking up her work boots on the way out. As usual, the base was well lit and there were already people working away; N.E.S.T was one of those places that never slept…they couldn't afford to.

Her first thought was to see if anyone she knew was awake, and out of habit she headed for the medical bay to look for Ratchet. She'd spent the last few years under his guidance, and because of it she was used to the morning ritual of meeting him in the med-bay for practice and aid.

As she entered the bay, she looked around to see that it was in fact empty. She couldn't say that she was surprised, even the cranky medic needed to sleep sometime. Rubbing the back of her neck Tessa gave a low sigh, listening to the distant sound of voices and work going on around the base; admittedly she felt a little useless this early in the morning; there was not exactly much that needed repairing at this time of the day.

Instead, she decided to go to the training range, where the recruits and soldiers could practice shooting when off-duty or during their down time.

Tess wasn't seen there very often seeing as she wasn't really a fan of handling a gun, however she had been thoroughly trained in at least the basics of firearm combat, just as Aaron had when it had been decided that he and Magnus would be joining the N.E.S.T family. She was certainly no bullseye champion, many of her trainers had told her that at least once; but at least she knew how to load a weapon, or to hold the gun without shooting anyone by accident. Her temperature based hand-cannon was still safely in Ratchet's medical bay, and the medic often suggested she wear it on her person when around the base.

Tess didn't really like the idea of doing so, because as a person she hated the prospect of having such a powerful weapon at her fingertips. It was a stupid and ignorant ideal, because Tess knew better than anybody that they lived in a dangerous world, taking part in a dangerous war; but that didn't mean she had to enjoy carrying a weapon. She had compromised with the med-bot by agreeing to keep the cannon on hand during her working hours.

Begrudgingly, and with much irritated mumbling from the medic, he had allowed the condition; still berating her in saying it was safer to keep it close at all times. Tess, being naïve and still just a little bit ignorant to the requirements of war, would simply chide him with an 'okay, I get it.'

Once the mechanic reached the firing range, she headed to the locker cages where the training weapons were kept for practice, choosing a small handgun and opening a drawer to find a box of rounds. She remembered a few times that Aaron had tried showing her how to use his shotgun… It hadn't gone well.
Tess smiled to herself as she remembered the momentn she'd fired, not expecting the kick-back of the weapon and had ended up tripping over, elbowing her brother in the ribs and landing flat on her ass. It still made Aaron laugh whenever she mentioned it.

Since then she had decided to exclusively restrict herself to the use of smaller guns, with the exception of her charge cannon.

The young woman found a target off to the far corner of the range, placed a set of earmuffs on her head and set about slowly loading up the magazine, being sure to take her time as she was really in no hurry.

Despite the early hour, N.E.S.T was busy enough and loud enough that the sounds of someone in the firing range would not really cause much of a stir; the sleeping quarters of the base were far enough away from the bustle of the building to be any problem to those still sleeping.

The shooting range had a large entryway for the bots to access, mostly at Ironhide's request so that he could oversee the soldiers capabilities; he liked to be able to give them information and advice about taking down Decepticons while they were training. She still recalled the many times that Ironhide had made newer soldiers near jump their skins with a sudden cry of 'WAIT' or 'NO, NO, NO!' at them; he never was what one would call…easy on the letdown.

A smile crossed her features as she lost herself in the rhythm of firing at the target, reloading and doing so again. She loved her little dysfunctional Cybertronian clan so much that it hurt; she didn't know what she'd do if she lost any of them in this war, but maybe the discovery of the Space Bridge would aid them in victory.

She could only hope so, they deserved a rest so much.

The little mechanic lost track of the time as she practiced, her thoughts all but blocking out the world around her; this was one of the things she did enjoy about having done firearms training, it was very easy to get into a zone when all one needed to focus on was the target ahead. In a way it reminded her of the first few times that Ironhide had given her training on using her temperature cannon.

As she started to reload another lot of bullets into the handgun, she felt the ground rumble beneath her feet, and she turned to see Sideswipe entering through the side of the range. Tess pulled the earmuffs down around her neck so that she could hear properly and shot him a grin.

"Hey Sides," she greeted warmly, "what's up?"

The wheel-footed bot crouched down on his haunches with a cheeky expression, and Tess found herself realising that she'd missed it more than she'd realised. "Not much, kid. Just thought I'd come see who was making all the racket, and lo-and-behold I find the biggest pest of them all."

The mechanic scoffed and stuck out her tongue at the Corvette cheekily, "Yeah, says you mister 'let's-get-every-little-scratch-buffed' you are the king of being a pest."

Sideswipe waved a hand nonchalantly as though to dismiss her insult as he laughed at her. "That's cute."

He crouched down beside her and looked at the target she was firing at, placing a finger at his chin, a human mannerism that he seemed to have picked up over his years on Earth. "You need a partner?" he asked, gesturing to the targets at the back of the range.

With a grin Tess looked up at him and set down the handgun, pointing at the target with a teasing finger. "Sure! I feel like kicking someone's ass."

As she expected, the silver bot began to laugh at her and gestured at the firearm in her hand with a mocking tone, "I hate to break it to you, babe, but you're no sharp shooter."

"Yeah, yeah," she muttered with a smile and a shake of her head, "well let's see how well you do without your targeting systems, hm?"

With a scoff, the Corvette disengaged the systems and withdrew a firearm, "You're on."

-0-0-0-0-0-

Tessa lost the challenge 1 to 5, and the only reason she had beaten Sideswipe at even one of the rounds was because she had told him he had a scratch on his arm just as he was about to fire.

The vain Autobot had whirled his head to view the alleged marking, and missed the target ahead of him. Tess had been forced to grip the barrier to stop from falling to the floor with laughter. Sideswipe had been in a resentfully foul mood after her 'cheat' and told her that she was the biggest human pest he'd ever met, the little mechanic had just looked up at him, laughed and told him that she loved him too.

He had proceeded to win the next two rounds and she finally admitted defeat; she was most definitely no sharp shooter but her basic skills would certainly be enough to keep her from dying in the event of an emergency. By the time the two had decided to call it quits in the shooting range it was getting closer to 6 am, and the activity on base was starting to grow as more of the soldiers and techs began to arrive or wake from the barracks.

As the misfit duo exited the shooting range, they were greeted with the sight of Sentinel Prime standing outside the shooting range, having been observing the occupants. Tessa was perched up on Sideswipe's shoulder with a relaxed pose and a broad smile on her face, which instantly sank a fraction upon seeing the elder Prime standing before them.

"Sentinel!" Sideswipe exclaimed respectfully, offering a short tip of his head as a form of salute for the leader. "Good to see you, sir."
"Fine morning, soldier." Sentinel replied, his regal tone carrying a calm air about it, "Training?"

The Corvette nodded and gestured to his shoulder, "Yes sir, firearms practice with Tess here."

She felt her shoulders stiffen and her back straighten as the bot turned his gaze to her. Tess knew that he was a well-respected member of Cybertronian but she could not help but feel like he was scrutinising her whenever they spoke. She offered him a bright smile, nervously tightening her grip on Sideswipe's soldiers.

"Lady Prime," he said with a slight lilt to his tone, "good to see you are training for the war."

She did not miss the patronising tone in his voice, though it was so minor that if she hadn't expected it she might have missed it. Sentinel had generally been perfectly cordial to her, but there was no way to dismiss the nagging feeling that he did not entirely approve of her still remained.

In a way she supposed she understood, having been out of the loop for so long Sentinel had not personally experienced the things that made the humans and Autobots at N.E.S.T work as such a well-oiled team; he could not possibly understand the similarities between them, and the relationships they had formed like the one that she had with Sideswipe.

"Yes sir," she replied with a slightly forced casual tone, "I mean I'm no sniper, that's for sure; but I like to know I can be of some help to everyone."
"I am glad to hear that," he said levelly, turning to Sideswipe with a calm expression and motioning slightly to the human on his shoulder, "could I have a word with her Lady, soldier?"

The silver bot seemed a little surprised by the request; Sentinel was certainly civil but he hadn't yet tried to speak to her on a seemingly personal level. "Uh, yes sir. Tess?"

"No, no that's fine," she said quickly, gripping the side of his helm to pull herself to her feet.

Surprisingly, Sentinel reached a hand forward for her to step onto, something that she'd never had him do; and it made her wonder what exactly he was requesting her time for. Her friend let her switch transportation, and then offered a brief goodbye before he decided it would be best for him to leave them be.

The Prime made his way slowly away from the firing range, seeming to have no particular destination in mind. She did not want to be the first to say anything, rather confused by his choice to speak with her. Eventually he stopped in one of the briefing hangars, putting her down carefully on the raised walkway where the terminals and screens were located. The mechanic leaned heavily on the railing as she looked up at her husband's mentor with a genuinely curious expression.

"So I guess you had a reason for wanting to talk to me?" she said conversationally, one of her hands gesturing to the space between them, "Is everything…good?"
Sentinel seemed to pace slowly, back and forth across the hangar in front of her with languid, unhurried steps. His hands were calmly at his sides and his shoulders were set in a rigid brace as he turned to face her, expression thoughtful. It felt strange to be in proximity to the elder Prime without Optimus or any of the other officials present, and Tess would be lying if she said it wasn't a little…strange.

"How long have you been Prime, Tessa Jackson?"

He watched the way she seemed to scrunch up her shoulders in an almost defensive manner, however her eyes seemed to portray much more confidence than her physical mannerisms.

"I'm not, sir. I'm not a Prime."

"And yet you are his Sparkmate. Are you not aware of the duty that entails?" he remarked, standing with his form opposite her, "You command all of his forces, you are Prime by association."

Tessa swung back slightly on her heels before curling her hands tightly around the railing, "Well I don't want it. I know what it entails, but I've already promised myself; Optimus' soldiers are his to command, not mine."

"I find it honourable that you believe that possible, but in war the order of command is unpredictable. Should the situation arise, can his soldiers count on you to lead them?"

He watched as she visibly cringed a little at the words, noticing the way her knuckles whitened on the railing. The mechanic was silent for a short while before she licked her lips and gave a heavy breath, looking up to view him squarely in the optics.

"Honestly, Sentinel sir, I don't know. I would hope that it never comes to that, but I don't know. How could anyone know if they were ready for something like that?"

Sentinel gave a noise of affirmation, "Spoken with the potential of a leader, Lady Prime." He paused and took a few more back-and-forth pacing steps as he began to speak again, "I will confess that a human would not be my first choice for Optimus to have chosen as a Sparkmate. But I have been in stasis for a very long time…You are not without honour, he would not have chosen you otherwise. Even if I do not see the…appeal of your people, I know not of the trials the two of you have faced."

"I love him." Tess said suddenly, her voice full of every possible conviction she could muster.

She was surprised to see him nod at her response, it seemed like he was mulling over her answer, and Tess couldn't help but feel a little relieved that it was more of a conversation than a chew-out. She knew that he was not exactly approving of the fact that Optimus had taken a human Sparkmate, but she supposed that it was something of an impasse.

"You were his teacher, Sentinel," the woman said quietly, she was so tired of explaining her relationship with Optimus to people who did not necessarily approve of their cross-species romantic endeavour, "and I respect you for everything that he is because of you. I owe you a lot, but I'm not going to apologise for being human."

"And I imagine that would be why he chose you. Potential."

A humph came from him and he nodded, heading towards the exit; it seemed he was almost done with this conversation, and Tess found herself once again not sure how to feel about Sentinel Prime.

He seemed so much like Optimus' teacher one minute, and a critic the next; he had only been in the safety of N.E.S.T's care for barely a day and she already knew that she might not be able to wrap her head around how he worked. Even so, it seemed there was a reluctant respect on their common ground. She respected him for the teachings he had given to Optimus, and he respected that she was whom his student had chosen.

She supposed it would have to be enough.