Red Alert was in a good mood. A very good mood.
He took great pride in his job as the Ark's security director. While his false alarm to actual alerts ratio wasn't all that great, he still kept the Autobot base safe from (most) attacks. Rather safe than sorry right? His security measures were (nearly) flawless, state of the art and more importantly (almost) impenetrable to all outside sources. The ship's computers were also armed with the most securely crafted firewalls known to Cybertronians. Nothing could get in the Base.
Except for one thing.
The nasty little vulture always, without fail, was able to get past every defensive measure and precaution he set up. The Casseticon avoided traps, flew under sensors, avoided net scans and bypassed virtually everything that Red Alert was able to set or think up.
It frustrated him to no end. Red Alert absolutely hated Soundwave with a passion and that absolute loathing extended over to his stupid little spies.
However Red Alert had saved a particularly special dose of abhorrence for Laserbeak.
The little, blasted buzzard was the one creature that seemed to find all the flaws in his defense systems, and that irked him to no end.
So it was understandable the immense pleasure he was feeling since he had shot down the obnoxious little Con during their battle the previous night.
So what if Soundwave blasted him in the knee roughly 4.6762 seconds later in retaliation? Even being unable to move his joint while it self-repaired around Ratchet's handiwork didn't damper his mood.
He was feeling so pleased with himself he could just dance.
Ya, know, if his leg wasn't all sorts of screwed up still.
Still, nothing could bring him down from the high of utter satisfaction he was on. Not even the little beeping alarm that informed him that one of the sensory nodes on the side of the mountain was down.
Instead of flipping out or panicking, he decided to calmly hail a bot over the comm.
"Air Raid?" He hailed, still sounding like the cat who caught the canary.
"What do you want, Sir?"was the gruff and annoyed response.
"The sensor in sector 437 is down. Fly up and find out why," he ordered.
"That's on the side of the mountain, and I'm busy."
"You can fly, and Tetris doesn't constitute being busy."
"It's hailing outside."
"Just do it."
"Fine, fine." A pause. "You alright, Red?"
"I am perfectly alright. Why do you ask?"
"You're sounding, ya know, not neurotic."
"Go fix the fragging sensor. That's an order," Red Alert said with an acerbic sweetness in his voice.
The aerialbot grumbled and signed off the airways.
Yup. Nothing could damper his mood. He was happy as a clam.
The painkillers and neural buffers Ratchet had had him on probably helped.
Red Alert had asked Air Raid to do it.
Then for some reason Air Raid had been able to pawn the task off to Skydive. This was achieved through a combination of relentless whining, and by repeatedly punching Skydive in the arm.
Skydive gave in and agreed to check the sensor simply to get his gestalt mate out of his metaphorical hair.
However a bit later Skydive remembered that Prowl had offered to include him in that week's strategy meeting. Usually only officers attended such things. However Skydive, a budding tactician in his own right, had been lobbying to be a part of something like it for months and finally was allowed. He could not blow it off.
But by then Air Raid had made himself scarce. So Skydive hunted down the first mech he could find. It happened to be Trailbreaker who, much to the Aerialbot's relief happily offered to see what was wrong with the sensor in his stead.
Trailbreaker had been on his way down to the Ark's exit when he was intercepted by Wheeljack. The scientist promptly reminded him that he had asked for Trailbreaker's help weeks ago. He was testing a new explosive and needed the defense specialist to contain the blast with one of his force fields (though with Wheeljack's luck the one thing he designed to explode would probably fizzle)
Torn, Trailbreaker came to the conclusion that he was obligated to assist Wheeljack since he had asked for help first. That put him in a bit of a predicament. He hailed Hound over the comm-line to see if his friend could cover the job.
Hound was busy gearing up for a short trip to Vancouver with Beachcomber. It was their day off and they wanted to visit the M.Y. Williams Geological Museum. So Hound asked the only other mech in the room if they would do it.
And somehow that left Mirage with the responsibility of scaling the side of Mt. St. Hilary.
In hail no less.
This royally sucked in more than one way. First off he was not built for this kind of work. His design was for speed, maneuverability and stealth. Not vertical climbs.
Secondly, he did not have a good history with scaling mountains (once again, thanks to Hound). The act of rock climbing seemed absurd in itself and was not an act, Mirage felt, that erudite beings should conduct themselves in. That's why they had invented shuttles and lifts. Also, the last time he was in this situation he was left dangling off the side of cliff, only a thin metal wire keeping him from plummeting to a messy death.
Come on. Hail.
But he didn't complain (out loud at the time anyway). He hadn't been forced to take the job from Hound but he had agreed. He had made his bed and now he was being forced to sleep in it.
Because it was Hound who had asked, and Hound was probably one of his best friends. He could not say no to the mech, and that frustrated Mirage to no end. So, like the trooper he was, he continued with the arduous climb all the while cursing Air Raid's laziness to the heavens.
"That feather brained, spur-galled, waste of slagging space," he seethed through clenched dental plates.
It would've taken that Primus blasted flyer three seconds to do what took Mirage a good twenty minutes to accomplish.
It was a big mountain, and he was a comparatively small mech.
He almost felt relief when he neared the cliff where the little defensive node was situated. It didn't last long. He remembered the fact that he had to go back down after all.
At least the hail was kind of letting up. Sort of.
Finally he was able to pull himself up onto the ledge where the sensor was supposed to be.
It was covered in twigs.
"Oh for the love of Altihex." This? This is what had him mountaineering at seven in the god damn morning with golf ball sized wads of ice pelting him? The sensor had been disrupted by branches? Honestly, if something as trivial as Earth foliage could upset their defensive net then maybe Red Alert needed to give these things a second look.
He made to brush them away, but before he could touch the cluster of organic material something screeched from above. A massive shadow cast over him.
Mirage nearly lost his footing and would have gone tumbling down the rocky precipice had he not caught himself. He had been caught off guard. The shadow had looked terrifyingly familiar, and for a spark stopping moment he thought he was going to be firebombed off the side of the mountain by seekers.
But then he noticed the relative quiet.
Well, quiet before the ungodly high-pitched sound descending from the heavens. "SKREEEEE!"
The shadow shrank. A flash of silver swooped into the twiggy bowl that was nestled into the mountain crag.
Golden optics stared at golden eyes.
There was no sound other than the hail as it pelted rock and metal.
Mirage hailed his comm.
It was a falcon.
The bird was a light-silver morph. Speckles of brown dusted the otherwise nearly white of its plumage and rimmed the edges of its wings. Its curved beak was almost a blue gray. Its sharp round eyes were the color of dark ale, glassy and deep.
It was a beautiful specimen of a bird.
And it was pissed.
The falcon hissed demonically at the three intruders gathered around its nest.
"Well," Mirage asked his backup: Perceptor and Brawn, "what do we do about this?"
"What is it?" Brawn asked curiously. Mirage had specifically asked for Perceptor since he was pretty much the authority on everything you could find in an encyclopedia, but Brawn used the opportunity as an excuse to get away from monitor duty with Gears.
Perceptor leaned in a little closer to observe the specimen."Kingdom animalia. Phylum, chordata. Class, aves. Order, falconiformes. Family, falconidae. Genus, falco. Subgenus, hierofalco. Species, falco rusticolus."
Brawn stared at the scientist dumbly. "What is it?"
"It's actually a brilliant system the humans have created in order to classify and order every existing species on the planet. You'd be amazed by the number of life forms this planet has."
"I was talking about the animal."
"Oh!" understanding lit Perceptor's optics. "In simpler terms the humans refer to this particular species of avian as the Gyrfalcon."
"Gyrfalcon?" Mirage parroted.
Perceptor hooked a finger under his chin and leaned in for a closer look. "It's a very rare species of raptor usually native to the arctic. With a wingspan of nearly five feet they are the largest of the falcon species and very fast creatures. How exciting it is to observe one this closely! And yet how unusual. They are not indigenous to this particular area. I suppose it's not all that uncommon that you would find a single one as far south as the Northern United States, but they are usually found in the Tundra and Taiga biomes. How extraordinary!"
The bird skrawwed.
"Sooo, what, do we move it or something?" Brawn asked after a moment of bemusement.
Perceptor looked appalled. "Heavens, no! She's nesting!"
The three Autobots observed the nest more closely.
Behind the fluffed up white bird there was a clutch of three short, elliptical eggs.
"How do you know it's a she?" Brawn asked out of total understandable curiosity.
"We should leave her be until her young hatch," Perceptor stated, not hearing Brawn. "Her mate is probably hunting for grouse at the moment-"
"Nesting?" Mirage blinked an excruciatingly slow blink.
Red Alert was not going to be happy at all.
The spy asked concerned, "Well how long will that take?"
"Usually the incubation period is about 35 days," Perceptor answered offhandedly. He was still distracted by the bird and therefore missed the look of horror on Mirage's face. "After hatching, the young stay in the nest for another 46 to 53 days. "
"Are you freaking kidding me? Red Alert's going to blow a gasket. " Brawn glanced at the bird.
"WRAACK," It screeched before going back to cleaning its wings.
"Well it is only right that we leave her." Perceptor stated brightly.
"You get to tell Red Alert that," Mirage declared flatly. He had endured more than enough hardships for the day and it wasn't even nine A.M yet. He didn't want to deal with his superior's spazzyness as well.
"It's only right," Perceptor elaborated. "We are infringing on her territory after all."
"We're infringing on its territory?" Red Alert's good mood withered away. Their timing could not have been worse. His happy meds were wearing off, and the ache in his knee components was returning with a fiery vengeance. "I'd hate to burst its feathery bubble but we've technically been here for four million years."
Mirage rubbed his temples as if the soothing act would make the ache in his cranium go away. He was tired, he was sore from rock climbing and being pelted by ice and he still somehow got dragged into Red Alert's office while Brawn, the lucky bastard, somehow managed to escape.
Mirage was supposed to be the one good at stealth and disappearing, not the obnoxiously orange minibot!
Luckily Red Alert was ignoring him in favor of Perceptor.
"Yes, well Optimus advised us to do as little harm to the Earth's ecosystem as possible. I do believe this falls into that realm," Perceptor stated logically.
"It built its nest on one of my security sensors! There's a hole in our defense system!" The Security Officer howled.
"Your sensor was taken out by twigs," Mirage pointed out insipidly. "Why doesn't that bother you more than the bird?"
"Actually Gyrfalcons do not build nests per se," Perceptor rambled excitedly. "They scavenge for ones that were already constructed by other birds. The one she is in most likely belonged to a golden eagle before-"
"I don't care! I want it gone!" Red Alert demanded with more vehemence.
"Oh, but Red Alert," Perceptor reasoned timidly, "It certainly can't be that much of a threat. Besides, think of the things we can learn from this fine specimen. It'll be a chance to observe the creation process of the Aves class first hand. We may even get to witness her eggs hatching!"
"No," he spat with stone cold venom in his voice. "I want it gone. I want that nest gone, and I want my sensor back online."
"A wayward leaf could cripple our defenses. Is no one else somewhat worried about that little fact?"
Mirage's griping fell on deaf audios.
"Red Alert, there must be another way!" Perceptor cried.
"Fine." Red Alert leaned forward and laced his fingers on his desk. He sounded strangely rational. "Move the nest."
The scientist was dismayed. "Oh, but we can't do that! Disrupting her nest or touching her eggs may cause her to abandon them outright."
Preceptor looked at Red Alert with abject horror. He sputtered, "They'll die!"
Red Alert grumbled. Why were organics so complex? Why couldn't you just build and turn them on like normal sentient beings?
"Reordering our security net could take days," the security Director explained with a cold rationale that few remembered he had on occasion. "There has to be a way to get rid of them."
"I'm sorry, Red Alert." Perceptor held his stance with a timid defiance. "But the most reasonable course of action would be to simply wait for the birds to leave on their own accord. There will be fewer casualties that way."
"No. I don't care how you do it but I want my defense grid a hundred percent back on line before tomorrow!" Red Alert was all but yelling now, and was doing his best to be intimidating. It was a little hard since he was still trapped in a chair as his stupid knee repaired itself. Let it be known that if he could be standing while he screamed down at the little scientist by Primus he would.
"Oh, come now!" Perceptor was getting more irate in a miffed college professor sort of way. "I do not see how one tiny, insignificant three square foot spot can truly have any effect on our safety."
If it were possible Red Alert's face would be going red with anger. "You're supposed to be smart Perceptor so tell me this. Do you have any comprehension on the things I do and endure to keep you all safe? Do you know how many cyber attacks, espionage missions, sabotage schemes and general acts of jackassery the Decepticons launch against us every day? Dozens! That's just on their off days. Hundreds when they're feeling downright perky! And you wonder why I'm so worried about one insignificant censor as you called it? THAT'S ALL THEY NEED! One chink in the armor and it could be the end of us all!"
Mirage all but rolled his optics.
"Red Alert, I'm not trying to downplay your importance or be ungrateful. I truly appreciate your tireless efforts to keep us safe. I just do not fully understand why you can't simply let these peaceful creatures be for a few weeks. Do you truly believe they are that much of a threat?" Perceptor asked earnestly.
Neither was backing down. It was a stalemate between the passive aggressive and the irate irrational.
"Now why don't we be civilized about this? Why don't we take this to Prime," Perceptor suggested voice steely and calm.
"Fine." Red Alert stood, and nearly crumpled as pain lanced through his leg. He did his best not to let it show and stiffly limped around his desk so he was standing in front of the little scientist.
"After you." Perceptor respectfully offered the lead.
Red Alert, with his rather imposing height, simply glared down at the microscope transformer. "All right. Mirage, watch the security net until I'm back."
With that Red Alert angrily limped out with Perceptor close on his heels.
A moment of silence followed as Mirage wondered how he kept getting stuck with other mechs jobs. "For the love of Primus. This is why I'm a spy. So I don't have to deal with stupid people."
He sagged in Red Alert's chair and glared holes into the monitors.
So they took the argument to Prime.
Optimus Prime, the great leader of the Autobots, was not really a morning person. He had been zoning out, still somewhat groggy from the previous night's recharge, as he finished filling out some data files that Prowl had left for him. Most of the work had already been done (Just Sign them, Prowl had ordered).
He had been completely unsuspecting of the madness that would befall him. There had been no warning, no time to get the hell out of dodge before the doors to his office flew open, and his Chief Director of Security and one of his head Scientists marched (and hobbled) in.
He didn't even have time to ask what they wanted before the two started going off at a million miles per hour. They began arguing their points at the same time, Perceptor's analytical narration competing against Red Alert's caustic retaliation. The two, instead of one letting the other talk, simply just tried to get their points across by talking louder and louder until the bizarre mesh of passive logic and sputtering concern reached a crescendo.
Prime could only take so much of the grating argument before a splitting headache began forming in the back of his processor.
"QUIET!" he bellowed, slamming his hands on his desk for emphasis. The datapads rattled.
That effectively shut the two up.
Prime allowed himself a moment of peace and a bit of time to intake a deep breath of cool air before he took the plunge. He started voice calm, "Let us try this again. One at a time, please."
The two shared an uncertain look, and after a couple of false starts Red Alert presented his side of the argument.
Patiently Prime endured the bizarre repartee between the two.
There was much gesticulating and some very frantic words as Red Alert explained his not completely unfounded concern. However by the time he had started with his argument he was so worked up into a tizzy. Red Alert did have the capability to be quite eloquent but, since he was already emotionally distressed, his words tumbled out frantic and all over the place.
When he finished Perceptor took his turn and Prime managed to suffer through the scientist's overly logical, drawn out rebuttal. It was long; unbearably rational and involved spontaneous diagrams and charts Perceptor came up with on the fly. Armed with a marker he plotted out complex equations, which he alleged help further his point, on an erasable white board he apparently always carried around in subspace.
Several minutes later, after Perceptor wrapped up his closing remarks the room got very quiet.
Prime snapped himself out of the school lecture induced lethargy.
'Oh,' Prime registered. 'He stopped talking.'
The two were staring at him expectantly.
Right, he actually had to do something now.
It was too early for this.
"Well," Optimus began as he weighed his options.
In all honestly most of what Red Alert said had been too sporadic to follow and he hadn't understood most of what came out of Perceptor's mouth. All he was able to glean from the two were the consistent factors involving a bird, and a security sensor.
'Apparently a bird was nesting on one of the sensory nodes effectively disrupting its signal. Red Alert wants it gone, Perceptor thinks it should be allowed to stay,' Prime's mind abridged the last twenty minutes of arguing.
Was it really that hard to be straight and to the point?
Man, it was way to early for this slag.
"I'm sorry, Red Alert," he finally decided. "The bird stays."
Red Alert clawed at the air and made a noise of strangled frustration.