Apparently, earlier that morning right around the time Mirage had managed to get himself stuck on monitor duty, and roughly when the Red Alert vs. Perceptor train wreck befell an unsuspecting Prime, Brawn had managed to escape relatively unscathed and reported what had been found on the mountain side; that and Red Alert's somewhat hilarious reaction to it.

First he managed to find Jazz. That meant from there word of the Ark's new resident spread like wild fire. And suddenly (much to the irritation of Prowl when he found out later) several posts were abandoned in favor of clamoring up the side of the mountain to see the little avian that was vexing their security officer so.

Some of it was out of genuine interest. Most of it was curiosity, and a few cases was simply to get out of having to do work

Most of the mechs were content with trying to see the bird from the base of the mountain. Others of the more nature enthused variety like Hound (who had foregone leaving to go to that geologic museum in favor of examining the little arctic raptor), and Perceptor (who had returned victorious in making sure the bird would remain where it was) made the climb to get a better look though they tried to keep a respectful distance from the nest. For Hound the activity was old hat. It was a bit more difficult for Perceptor as the bot was not made for such physical activity. Yet it was the second time in less than a few hours that he had done so. It was all worth it in the name of science.

Fireflight and Sideswipe also made the ascent mostly because they had energy to burn and felt that mountaineering would be a fun way to do it. It definitely beat monitor duty with Gears which was where they had been trapped several minutes prior.

And there she was, the little silver bird was still fluffed up and perched in her nest. She was looking mighty pissed which she expressed by hissing at the intruders.

"What a beautiful formel!" Hound gushed as he scanned the fine specimen of an avian for future holograms.

"I thought it was a Gear falcon," Fireflight commented airily. He had stopped his climb to look at the organic flyer in curiosity.

Sideswipe had long since passed the nest and didn't look like he would be stopping.

The Aerielbot paused for a moment of reflection on his own statement. "Anyone else picturing Gears with feathers right now?"

"Gyrfalcon," Perceptor corrected gently, "and it is. Formel is the term for female falcons while males are known as tercels."

At this point the poor Fireflight looked more mystified than usual.

The bird opened its beaked maw and flapped angrily at Fireflight for being too close.

"Exactly," Hound continued excitedly. "And this particular kind is known also as a gamehawk or grouse hawk since its size is close to that of a grouse."

"It's true." Perceptor continued. "Raptors are also classified by their size relative to non birds of prey. There are goshawks, duck hawks-"

"Pigeonhawks and so on!"

Hound and Perceptor beamed at each other.

"Why Hound! I never knew you had such an appreciation for the more scientific side of the biological discipline!"

"I know! I thought the only other mech other than me that was interested in the biological creatures on this world was beach comber. But he's more into the appreciation of it than the study."

"Study? Have you been doing any research on your own? Oh we surely must compare notes."

"Aw, it's nothing as official as what you and Skyfire do," Hound said rather bashfully. "However I have been lobbying Prime for a chance to go to Yellowstone to get a better look at-"

"Extremophiles in the geothermal hot springs?" Perceptor asked excitedly.

"Yeah! Thermophiles are amazing! I've always wondered how they can survive in such heat when other biological life forms couldn't survive. I mean I've read papers but I've never seen them up close."

"Jeez, Hound." Sideswipe called down sounding somewhat surprised. "Your inner nerd is showing."

He was ignored.

"Did you read research paper about the Superoxide dismutase biosynthesis by two thermophilic bacteria?"

"No. I missed that one!"

"Now that will not do! Come with me. It's still on my personal data pad. It's fascinating. Basically some high-molecular weight antioxidant defense system components of two thermophilic bacteria isolated from some spa waters in Yugoslavia were studied and…oh well, look at me getting ahead of myself. I wouldn't want to spoil the joy you'll get from reading it yourself!"

The two began their descent back down the mountain side leaving several dumbfounded mechs in their wake.

Sideswipe somewhat recklessly slid down toward where the others were standing. He dropped the last ten feet, landed gracefully, put his hands on his hips and stared after the two mechs.

Silence reigned.

"What in the hell was that right there? I mean just…what?" Even Sideswipe couldn't fully articulate what he had witnessed and he usually had a creative way with words.

It's simple though, really.

A new science based bromance was born in the Ark.

The bird screeched.

000000000

Red Alert's day was already spiraling out of control and it was only noon.

The bird was staying. That in itself was bad enough. Because it meant that sensory node 437 was down for the foreseeable future. Which meant their system was weakened and therefore exploitable. Delightful. And he remembered that Teletraan's firewalls were out of date which meant there was another weakness in the security that needed dealing with. That was at least still in his control but it was still stressing him out.

And after he limped to his office after that stunning, mind boggling defeat in Prime's office Mirage immediately stood and got the hell out of dodge before Red Alert could speak a word to him.

Probably in part because he wanted to escape before he got wrangled into some other bout of idiocy and also partly because of the wretched look of utter loathing on Red Alert's face.

Those of clan Lamborghini, as those of the Italian high performance sports car model were so recently dubbed (of which Red Alert was lumped in with Sunstreaker and Sideswipe despite sharing no relation other than the alt mode), seemed to share one very defining trait; A trait that managed to shine through their heaps of weird personality quirks. These quirks ranged from paranoia, to narcissism, to something akin to reckless, suicidal abandon (I mean how else would one describe a mech who routinely seemed to make it their daily mission to not only antagonize Prowl but Ratchet as well). But despite the varying flavors of odd the Lamborghinis came in they all seemed to share the ability to be abso-fricken-lutely terrifying if agitated enough or backed into a corner.

So that being said, after a quick look over the monitors, Red Alert realized that nearly half of the on duty mechs were missing. And since Mirage had made a hasty retreat before reporting what had been going in the Ark in Red's absence of course he assumed the worse. For a moment his frame surged with the fear that in his absence the Autobots had all probably managed to do something ridiculous and horrible to themselves without his watchful optic protecting them. For all he knew Mirage had gone bolting to go aid his comrades in some awful battle that broke out somewhere beyond the reach of the surveillance system. In this panic his first response was oddly enough to com Inferno.

However still frazzled by his showdown with Perceptor, and paranoid by the growing list of insufficiencies with his security system, he was only able to relay his distress in a series of half formed, sputtering vowel sounds.

So a moment later Inferno burst into Red Alert's office. He looked a little wary probably because he was used to Red Alert's over reactions to things. However his gun was raised and he looked ready to go just in case there was something really wrong. After taking stock of the situation, and realizing that his friend was not under attack or in any immediate danger, he sighed and put his gun away. Voice mellow, he calmly, and patiently, asked Red Alert what was wrong.

"Everything!" Red Alert exploded. "To start my sensor is down; I just was humiliated in front of Prime because of Perceptor of all mechs!"

"Uh huh," Inferno answered accommodatingly.

"- Optimus apparently has fallen victim to some kind of utter insanity and won't let me repair that Primus-

"Yes," was the understanding interjection.

"- forsaken sensory node where that wretched harpy of an organic has decided to make its home, I just realized that the firewalls are thirty three minutes behind their upgrades, when I finally got here I noticed that everyone IS NOT AT THEIR POSTS, and my knee fragging hurts!"

And so quietly Inferno mulled over the information supplied to him as Red Alert looked to be on the edge of having a conniption.

It took a moment but finally, "Oh. Oh!" Understanding lit Inferno's face. "Oh. Red, they're all outside."

Anger left. Panic returned. "Are we under attack?" Red Alert grabbed Inferno by the upper arms and reeled the much larger mech in so close their helms clacked together.

Having their base come under sudden attack was one of the few if not the only acceptable reason for a mech to abandon their post. However his sensory net should have detected anything coming at the Ark with ill intent! Had Soundwave caught on to the chink in their armor so soon and crippled the external net somehow? He should've expected retaliation for shooting Laserbeak…

"Actually," Inferno began tentatively while detangling himself from Red Alert's frantic grip (there would be dents left in his armor. Red was actually scarily strong), "They, uh, went ta see that bird you were fussin' about."

The panic and concern on Red Alert's face was replaced by barely restrained rage and Inferno watched the change in wonder. He was a very low key, go-with-the-flow kind of mech. He idly wondered what if would be like to be able to swing from one mood to the next as violently as Red Alert did on a daily basis. It was probably a whirlwind of an existence.

"You are telling me," the security mech's voice was low, quavering slightly from pent up irritation, "That half of the Ark deserted their posts to see that monstrosity?"

Inferno gave a helpless shrug. "If it make's ya feel better Prime ain't gonna be too happy when he finds out. And once Prowl catches wind he gonna ream 'em all a new one. In fact I'm thinkin' he'll catch on right quick. Heck, if ya ask, he'll probably let ya take a crack at 'em."

But Red Alert was fed up with everything. He made an annoyed noise, sent a quick note to Prowl regarding their errant soldiers, and then dropped under the console with his personal data pad.

They were military. There were protocols and rules to follow (and Primus he sounded like Prowl) but there was a reason they were in place. It was to keep everything running smoothly and to keep everyone safe. But those complete imbeciles of Autobots completely abandoned their posts, without notice, to go swarm the little menace.

That meant nobody else was monitoring Skyspy for Decepticon activity. Nobody was listening in on the airwaves for vital intel. No one was coordinating the mechs who were risking their lives out in the field.

And no one else was watching the Primus damned monitors for Laserbeak.

And Red Alert couldn't do any of that because he already had his own massive pile of work he had to get through that was vital. He needed to completely overhaul the Ark's firewalls and protection keys after Soundwave almost breached them the previous day. It was time consuming but necessary. The digital front was just as, if not more, important sometimes as the physical front. They needed to be fortified both inside and out.

He was in charge of keeping everyone safe. How the smelting hell did they expect him to do that if they thwarted his every effort?

So for the next couple of minutes Red Alert tried deep breathing as Inferno hovered somewhat concernedly behind him. Red Alert tried throwing himself into his work to distract himself from the impending doom the Autobots were currently welcoming their way by triple encrypting their already impressive firewalls with a new complex algorithm.

All the while Inferno crooned reassuring words at him as if that would help his frame of mind any. Mildly he appreciated the gesture but he was also somewhat annoyed that the fire truck at seemed to be missing the potential gravitas of the situation. To him Red Alert was just having one of his "usual, out of proportion fits". He just did not understand how burdening being responsible for the safety of over thirty mechs could be. Especially when those said mechs seemed to take no greater delight then flinging themselves into potentially harmful situations.

"It's only for a few minutes ya know. They're all hard workin' mechs and didn't mean no harm. A break don't hurt every once in a while."

"It does when everyone decides to take it en mass!" Red Alert snarled from under the console. He proceeded to take some of his anger out on the holographic keypad of his personal data pad before hooking it to the main system.

"Alright, so I get that we're a little short handed at the moment, but they'll be in soon. Starin' up at the mountain can only be entertaining for so long. I mean really what's the worst that coul-"

Red Alert completely severed that statement by kicking Inferno in the shin from his spot on the ground. It didn't do much damage to the fire truck's armored plating but did the job of silencing the mech. The rest of Red Alert appeared up from under the console, kibble fluffed and teal optics glittering with rage. "Don't you dare finish that statement," he hissed.

Inferno raised his hands in defense and gave a somewhat amused smile. "Sorry."

Red Alert let out a long sigh and slumped against the panel he had been working on. He had been putting the finishing touches on his block-cipher encryption and the new data from his pad was overwriting the old sets in Teletraan. It would take a few minutes for the new codes to take.

He paused seeming to mull over his thoughts.

"Do you think," he finally started, sounding a bit deflated given the whirlwind of emotions he had been throwing around earlier, "Do you think maybe I am blowing this out of proportion?"

Inferno looked down at his friend in surprise. Rare were the moments Red Alert would admit that he may be in the wrong (he usually had an "I know what's best for everyone" mentally not unlike Ratchet's actually).

In response he gave a reassuring smile and was about to speak.

And that's when Wheeljack decided to happen.

Which of course no one had caught until it was much too late because, once again, everyone had abandoned their posts.

00000000000

Just around the time everyone began to file back into the Ark to resume whatever it was they had been doing before their impromptu break they were met by a rather ominous, thick cloud of smoke and a frantic Wheeljack sliding into the room.

"Ok, first off, nobody panic," was his opening statement.

That being said everyone felt a creeping desire to panic.

"Secondly, all personnel involved still have all of their limbs." Wheeljack splayed both of his hands in emphasis in what was supposed to be a calming gesture. But given the frantic looks he kept throwing in the direction of his lab and the growing cloud of smoke it sort of missed the mark. "I know this looks bad but nothing exploded! Just, uh, I sort of need Inferno. Now-ish. Actually scrap that ish. Where's Inferno?"

There was an alarming popping noise from down the hall causing several mechs to violently flinch and duck.

It was kind of a Pavlovian response.

"Helping nurse Red Alert's bruised pride?" Tracks suggested.

"Oh! So security! Excellent. Thank you, Tracks."

Tracks responded with a thumbs up, despite the unsure look on his face, as Wheeljack tore down the hall. He only left behind an unease that wafted over the Autobots.

The smoke got thicker. Everyone was trying to figure out the best escape route from any potential blast radii.

"Should we go back outside? Just until we're like, one hundred percent sure Wheeljack has whatever it is under control?" Someone commented.

"Well aren't we just up to our optics in excitement today?"

"Hey," Fireflight began somewhat owlishly. "Earlier this morning when Air Raid had that meeting with Prowl, but Red Alert needed help, he asked Trailbreaker to cover for him."

"So?"

"Well," Fireflight continued calmly, "He ended up not being able to do it. Because he had to help Wheeljack with what he was working on."

"Yeah. And?"

"Well, where's Trailbreaker?" was the innocent nuclear warhead of a question.

Dead. Friggen. Silence.

And at that note Wheeljack was suddenly frantically scurrying in their direction with a rather angry looking Inferno close behind him.

The others watched them pass and disappear into the smoke clogged hall with morbid fascination.

"So," Fireflight once again began to speak. "On a scale of one to that time Wheeljack set Sideswipe on fire with thermate how bad do you guys think it is?"

The expressions were dour indeed. Sideswipe visibly winced, dropped his head and let out a long sigh. Head still down, he began to grimly march toward one of the less smoked out corridors.

"Sides, where are ya going?" Blaster hazarded.

"I'm going to go see if Sunny will help me make Trailbreaker an induction badge," was the oddly flat answer. "Weirdly he's the craftier of the two of us."

"Oh… Induction for what?" Blaster prodded.

"One for his initiation into the 'Dumb Idiots Managing to Weather Wheeljack's Incendiary Traumatic Slag'. I think we should be called DIMWITS for short because that's what you must be to end up in a situation where you're Wheeljack's lab-jockey. It's a rather exclusive club ya know. One that deserves pomp and circumstance."

"Now, hey. We don't know it's that bad," Groove had tried in a rather unconvincing tone of voice.

"It's good to be prepared." So Sideswipe braved the wall of smoke in search of his brother.

Everyone else decided to wait outside of the Ark.

There they stayed. Until a quietly livid Prowl stalked from the smoking entrance of their base. His door wings were hiked up with strained agitation and the smoke whirled and danced about his frame as he strode toward them like some nightmare from the smelting pits. He stopped in front of the cowering group, stood even straighter if that were even possible, and then proceeded to verbally castigate the lot of them. For the next fifteen minutes he browbeat the sorry group with proper Ark protocol. Protocol which did not include leaving one's post to satisfy some ridiculous curiosity for the Earth's native fauna.

Said fauna remained oddly undisturbed by the chaos below and nestled more closely on her eggs.

000000000000000

When Inferno returned to Red Alert's office he didn't barge in as heroically as he had last time.

In fact he tried to make his arrival somewhat of a non entrance. He sort of meekly peered around the corner to see if he could gauge Red Alert's mood before committing to any kind of prolonged interaction. He wasn't going to just up and leave his friend alone when the mech was distressed, he wasn't that kind of bot, but he did want to size up the situation a little better just to have an idea of what he was in for.

Red Alert seemed to be under a lot of stress, And Wheeljack almost blowing them all up with experimental weapons probably wasn't helping his frazzled buddy any.

Red Alert's form was silhouetted against a barrage of flickering lights. He was standing with his back to inferno. There was a wire leading from the main monitor that was jacked into a port at the base of his helm on the back of his neck.

Ah. He was in The Zone.

Red Alert had been staring rather intently at the several flickering screens of the Ark's monitor system. It almost hurt to look at because to Inferno it just looked like hundreds of clips of footage and data that were spastically switching between each other. He could catch glimpses of areas around the Ark, flashes of a few familiar faces and a lot of smoke but the scenes were changing too fast. Red Alert didn't have to just watch the screens like most mechs did. He could literally become immersed in them. He could literally upload everything the internal security net and cameras picked up directly into his processor.

He didn't do it often (Partly because of the wicked migraines it caused). It was mostly something he could do if for some reason the Ark ever was breached and came under attack. He would literally be able to upload, and process everything that was happening inside the Ark at once with accuracy while creating the necessary emergency responses in a matter of seconds. Said responses and recommendations would then be sent directly to Prime and Prowl allowing for their two top commanders to respond and allocate resources as needed in defense of their home base.

But Red Alert was not processing an attack on their base; instead he seemed to be checking over the Ark for damage.

"In all honestly Wheeljack was right, ya know," Inferno drawled, not really sure if Red Alert was paying attention. "Nothin' exploded, an' Trailbreaker was jus' peachy. Jus' a bit rattled. 'Parently Jack's workin' on some kinda magna pulse bomb or whatnot. Trailbreaker was 'sposed t' contain the blast. Thing is the prototype never went off. It sorta jus, melted inta the floor an' Breaker got stuck."

Red Alert continued to be zoned in on the screen.

"Halls F, and G have severe smoke damage, and the security cams also need to be replaced," Red Alert finally said, voice oddly steely. It was weird seeing the usually spastic mech so calm but it was a side effect of being bombarded by an overwhelming amount of data at once. "The integrity of the flooring in Wheeljack's lab has been severely compromised. We'll have to remove everything reactive or otherwise explosive from the lab and have Grapple and Hoist do repairs to floor. Otherwise it'll end up collapsing into the bottom levels and that might set off something worse."

"Oh, well, that'd be bad," Inferno answered lamely.

At that Red Alert seemed to snap out of his zen like stupor and stood up straight. With a quick tug he yanked the wire from his neck and almost instantaneously the interchanging clips and spastically changing data feeds simply stopped. The main screen flickered and the chaos was replaced by several neat rows of security feeds. All stationary and focused on fixed points. The kind of screen that normal mechs would stare at when they were unlucky enough to draw monitor duty.

Inferno sighed in relief that the assault on his optics was finally over.

Red Alert rubbed his temples, crossed his arms and glared at Inferno expectantly.

"Right," he frowned. "So the problem was that it started t' melt into other slag that would've exploded. It kinda got inta some slow burnin' sulfur and some other chemical what's-it and that's where all the smoke came from. I was able t' put it out before it spread too badly." He wasn't sure while he was explaining this. Red Alert had seen the damage and probably put together what happened. Their Security officer was high strung and occasionally paranoid, not an idiot.

He offered a small smile.

To which Red Alert responded with what probably would've been a word had it not got snarled in his throat from the shear frustration of the situation, "hrrngh!"

"Aw, Red," Inferno tried. He didn't like seeing the other mech so strung out. Red Alert really did have the best intentions and tried so fragging hard to do his job to the best of his ability. But with everything that had occurred it probably seemed like the universe was conspiring against the security officer.

At this point Inferno was starting to believe there was something to that notion after all.

"This all leads back," Red Alert growled, finally finding the words, "To that wretched bird."

"Aw, don't ya worry, Red," Inferno reassured somewhat worried with how Red Alert was fixating on the bird. The Lamborghini could be obsessive and that would probably lead him down some kind of road of woe in the near future. "Just ya wait. Yeah, the bird has everyone's attention now but give it a day. You know these mechs don't have the attention span ta fill an energon cube. They'll forget all about it and those chicks will hatch, and yer net will be back a hundred percent."

"I really hope you're right," Red Alert sighed then looked forlornly at the video feeds of scorched halls.

0000000000000000000

Day zero

So elated by the new found avian resident perched above the Ark, and the exchange of knowledge he had with Perceptor, Hound had not been prepared.

He was blindsided and cornered by a very furious Mirage.

The little high classed mech was looking mad and frazzled, and his usually gleaming blue and white armor was covered in light scratches and tiny dents.

Hound steeled himself.

"So did you enjoy your trip to that geological museum?" Mirage's arms were crossed, and his hip was canted, all his weight on one leg. His voice sounded pleasant enough but Hound knew the mech well enough to know he was in for it. "That museum In Vancouver. Gee, I must be downright awful at Earthen Geography. To see you back already? I had no idea it was so close." the sweetness had devolved into something caustic and poisonous by the last word.

"What? Oh."

So that's what it was about.

Hound scrambled for something to say. "Uh, well Beachcomber and I were going to go, we were about ready to leave actually, but then we heard about that bird and we just had to see it," he tried explaining lamely. "And then you know, that Wheeljack thing and then Prowl."

But Mirage was having none of it. He glowered at the taller mech. "You left me," he started voice tinged with bitterness, "To the mercies of Red Alert because you were too busy. I had to climb the mountain."

"Mirage. Mountain climbing isn't that bad," Hound offered as a pitiably defense.

"To you!" Mirage cried accusatorily. "Do I look like was built to scale the crumbly rock sides of this Primus forsaken planet? You damned well know what happened last time I had to do that, which by the way was also your fault."

"It wasn't that bad." Hound winced.

"The Bot, smelting inferno it wasn't! And this time, hail," the last word was spat.

"Mirage-"

"Hail," the word was hissed again as it was all the explanation needed. "And not only did you not leave to go to that dread-bolted museum of yours, which was the only reason I agreed to something as inane as being assigned to Red Alert, you, you crusty botch of nature, climbed that fragging mountain anyway."

Hound was trying to shrink in place. He did not do confrontation very well, and was not as practiced at it as was Mirage. He was soft spoken, well liked and amiable so that meant he was rarely the focus of anyone's ire. That meant his verbal defenses and witty confrontational skills were pretty much leveled at zero while Mirage, who once upon a time had to outmaneuver and navigate around those in the upper echelons of fine society, had his rapier wit sharpened to a fine point.

"I'm sorry, Mirage. I really didn't have any intention of being back so soon. But to be honest, if that bird hadn't been there we wouldn't have returned so early," he tried explaining.

Mirage just stared at him, optics wide glittering with some kind of fury. "The bird," Mirage parroted flatly.

"I'm really sorry. I'll make it up to you?" Hound really did feel bad. He really had not meant to put Mirage in a situation like that. It had been an honest mistake. He had just been so excited by the arctic bird nestled above the Ark he hadn't really considered Mirage's feelings on the matter.

Mirage narrowed his optics, pursed his lip components into an annoyed line, turned heel and marched in search of the med bay for cosmetic repair.

"I'm really sorry!" Hound called after him in a last ditch attempt. Just in case the other several apologies didn't land home. Which they hadn't.

He sighed pitiably. Getting in Mirage's good graces was going to take a while.

000000000

Day one

For a while it seemed that everyone did forget about the bird. Wheeljack's mishap with his latest project and the very stern lecture from Prowl regarding the consequences of leaving one's post unattended seemed to be distractions enough from the falcon nesting above their temporary home.

In punishment everyone who had left the Ark to see the bird had been ordered to completely re-read the Autobot code (all gloriously dull 634 pages of it and that was abridged version. Most skimmed) and then were forced to write essays on the importance o following standard procedure and clearing things through the chain of command before acting on silly whims.

It was a creative punishment, and horrible, and dull and the Autobots all suffered and bemoaned and kind of slyly cheated off each other (Or rather helped each other through the tough times in solidarity). In the wee hours of the morn, the last of the papers were turned in, everyone still had to wake up for their allotted shifts despite the lack of recharge, and by the following day things seemed to return to whatever you would call the estranged bastard child of normalcy the Ark usually was content to be in.

But then Spike showed up.

So used to the young human, there wasn't much fanfare when he arrived. In fact nobody even bat a metaphorical eyelash (partly because everyone was too tired) until suddenly Bumblebee's horrified, "Vector Sigma, Spike! What happened to you?" rang through the halls.

Alarmed most of the mechs present suddenly fixated on the smaller sentient being.

The boy was sporting various puncture marks, his clothing was ripped in places, and the skin around his left eye was an angry, swollen, purpling red. But he frowned, "Don't worry, Bee. It's not a big deal."

"Not a big deal? Look at you!" Bee knelt down, "Who did this?"

"Yeah. Jeez, Son, who worked ya over?" Jazz asked with a frown. "Are we gonna have to make some house calls?"

"Ah, man, you guys," Spike whined, his face heating up in embarrassment, "It's not a big deal. It wasn't even a person. Right now I just really want an icepack."

"Was it Con?" Blaster asked curiously.

"No," was the exasperated response from the human.

"Well then what attacked you, a tree?" Sideswipe jested.

Silence.

The smile fell from Sideswipe's face. "Wait, what. Seriously?"

"No! Well not exactly. I just," he frowned looking embarrassed. In an almost inaudible voice he finally admitted, "I was just attacked by a bird."

"I'm sorry. I've been wearin' headphones too loud again. Prowl's always gettin' on my case 'bout it sayin' I'm gonna damage my audios. But I'm startin' to think he was on ta' something. Mind repeatin'?"

"I just got attacked by bird, OK?!" Spike all but yelled.

Bee and Jazz shared a look, faces betraying no emotion.

Jazz also knelt down.

"Question." Jazz raised a hand. "This bird, wazzit about yay big" He held his hands apart as measurement, "Kinda silver, and had a look in its eye that could strip the paint off a bot?"

"I don't know. I was too busy trying to keep my eyes in my head. I couldn't see very well and ended tripping and ran headlong into that tree Beachcomber planted near the entrance. Hence this," he gestured to his face.

Beachcomber's head snapped up in mild alarm. "Hey, was my bristlecone Pine alright?"

"The tree's fine," Spike spat with exasperated irritation.

Relief. "Oh, awesome. Thanks, Dude."

"Ok, so you ran into the tree and that's why you have a black eye." Jazz attempted getting back on track.

"Yes. Right after it started dive-bombing me."

A grin split Jazz's face. It spanned from audio to audio.

"You're like six times that things size."

"So? You're like eight times as big as Ravage and he still manages to maul you guys."

Blaster gave Jazz a sidelong glance. "He's got a point."

"And it had claws."

"The correct term is talons," came Perceptor's voice.

"They were sharp," Spike spat back.

"He's right." Hound shrugged. "Talons are made of a hard keratin, and I'm pretty sure that wins out against skin."

"What's keratin?" someone whispered.

"Isn't that what hair's made from?" Was the response.

"You got attacked by sharp hair?" was Fireflight's puzzled inquiry.

"No, I think it's just the same substance but a different structure."

"Man, organics make no sense."

0000000000000000

Day two

The bird's next human victim was Spark plug.

Lucky for him he didn't also get attacked by a tree like Spike had during his hasty retreat from the Ark's resident Arctic avian.

He was, however, sporting a rather large gash on his cheek that was uncomfortably close to his left eye.

The next time the Autobots saw either of the humans after the second "attack" both were wearing football helmets and welding goggles.

Rather safe than sorry.

000000000000000

Day three

The bird was oddly entertaining, especially to the resident flyers and nature oriented bots.

So a few of the Aerialbots, a couple of the other flight capable bots, and some curious mechs were sitting on the cliff side simply watching the little creature fly.

They watched the bird soar, the wind ruffling through its sleek feathers. It flapped twice to gain altitude and began to glide on the wind gracefully. It fluidly drove upward, cutting through the air like a knife through water, and began twisting and flying through the sky in an elegant display of aerial acrobatics.

Its organic wings and flexible, shape changing feathers allowed for aerial feats that not even the greatest Cybertronian technology could mimic.

"Amazing." Slingshot was downright enthralled but fearlessness and skill of the display.

"Wow, man! Just check that out. Isn't nature beautiful! Look how graceful it -" Beachcomber stopped short as the Falcon changed direction sharply.

In the blink of an eye, the bird rammed itself into a pigeon that had been obliviously flopping around in the sky. The breakneck speed it had streaked through the air with made even the Autobots have to double take.

Before anyone knew what was going on, the bird of prey had snatched the smaller bird with its talons out or the air and drove it into the hard ground. In the disoriented confusion the pigeon realized it was in danger. The poor grey bird began to flap its wings desperately in order to get away from the predator that had it pinned.

Beachcomber was drinking it all in like a parched man would water. How often was it that one such as a Cybertronian could see such a magnificent display of nature? How often was it that one could witness such an outstanding natural phenomena?

Skydive almost squealed like a schoolgirl (he would adamantly deny this later) as the falcon began to move again, "Look at what it's doing! Now it's…. it's…..wait." the words died in his vocalizer. "Oh."

The Autobots watched in morbid fascination as the hawk began to tear apart, and pick at the still living pigeon with its razor sharp hooked beak in a most ungainly manner. It waddled further up its prey's back, digging its hooked talons into the poor dove with each step, and started digging at the smaller bird's neck. The Autobots began to fidget uncomfortably at the brutal display of Mother Nature at work.

"Ya know. That kind of makes Decepticon interrogation look tame."

The hawk yanked a particularly tough, stringy piece of flesh out of the pigeon's neck causing the five Autobots' energy tanks to churn. The falcon turned its sharp, black stare toward them, openly displaying the blood and feathers that were caught on the tip of its curved beak.

It ruffled its feathers slightly. "Chup chup chup," it chattered sharply, perturbed by the intruders but then went quickly back to decapitating its meal.

It was like watching a car wreck. You knew it was a terrible tragic event and yet you couldn't help but rubberneck to see what was happening anyway.

"Is that what a squishy looks like inside? It's so messy," Blades made a face like he couldn't decide whether to be fascinated or disgusted.

"I think I'm going to be sick," Bluestreak stumbled away after the hawk finally popped off the pigeon's head.

"You know," Skids started, "Is this not but a metaphor for our own kind? Don't we Cybertronians prey after each other in the exact same horrid way, treating our own kind with the same merciless disdain? Isn't this exactly what the terrible war is causing us to do to each other? Are we not like that hawk, attacking and picking off the weaker, the enemy, in order to fuel our own power and drive?"

Skids received several blank stares.

The hawk hissed from afar.

"No. No it's not Skids."

Skids sighed.

The Hawk tore through one of the pigeons wings and flung it to the side in order to get to the tender shoulder muscles easier.

"Oh yeah, 'Comber. Mother nature and all of her beauty," Air Raid scowled sarcastically.

000000000

Day four

Ratchet was staring incredulously at Skydive. "They're gone," he vocalized in disbelief as if somehow saying the words out loud would make them make more sense.

Skydive visibly deflated.

"Actually, they're right here," Air Raid grumbled and held of his gestalt mate's wings.

Usually he'd be laughing at his fellow Aerialbot's misfortune, but he was in a pretty sad and sorry state himself. At least his wings were still attached to his chassis. They were just bent at an unnatural angle and there was a nerve receptor being pinched uncomfortably somewhere in his shoulder struts.

Wisely, for once in his life, he decided to keep it to himself. Ratchet was looking a little at a loss but the medic had a quick fuse. Air Raid had just taken a beating from the ground, and really did not want to get wailed on by their medic too.

Skydive whimpered.

"What did you do?" Ratchet asked in disbelief still focused primarily on the wingless Autobot jet.

Silverbolt sighed. He was kind of mad at his soldiers for the absolute stupidity they had been a part of that had gotten them in such a wrecked state. But the two were already looking rather depressing so he couldn't be too angry at them. They were definitely suffering the consequences of their actions. Being flightless was a punishment in itself.

Skydive looked sort of traumatized and Air Raid had decided to clam up for once (probably because he was terrified of the CMO). So Silverbolt took pity and explained the situation.

"So you know how we have that falcon on the cliff now?" he started.

Slowly Ratchet slid his gaze from the quivering mess that was Skydive and aimed it at Silverbolt. No words were said.

Silverbolt sighed. "So these two and some of the other flyers were watching it fly the other day. Apparently the thing is pretty good and did some interesting aerials. Including this one move which Perceptor tells me is called stooping. This apparently consists of diving at the ground at a high velocity. It's a hunting tactic."

Ratchet continued to stare.

"So these two idiots-"

Said idiots flinched

"-decided it would be fun to try. Turns out wings made of metal are not quite as easily maneuverable as organic wings are and they couldn't pull up in time."

Air Raid's mangled wings dipped slightly in shame. Skydive's would've had they still been attached to his person.

00000000

Day five

Red Alert had enough.

That was fragging it.

00000000

Still day five

Honestly, Jazz was surprised it took so long for Red Alert to make a move.

Jazz was pretty much always on top of everything that happened in the Ark and that included the oddly high amount of mishaps that had occurred over the last several days. He was sort of impressed that Red Alert waited nearly a week to act. Poor mech had probably been a high strung mess.

Jazz had been in the command center taking part in the daily goings when Red Alert all but stormed through the door. The bot's face was intensely focused and there were no less than three data pads in his clutches as he stalked past.

"Whoa. Where's the fire, Red Alert?" Jazz had been headed to the comms but changed his trajectory and spun around to follow his fellow officer.

Red Alert paused his march through the command center and crushed the data pads he was carrying to his chest as if expecting someone to mug him for them.

"I am going to see Prime," he said in a clipped tone.

"Oh." Jazz scratched the side of his helm. "What for?" he asked innocently.

Everyone in the command center was still trying to look busy (for no one wished to suffer the wrath of Prowl again so soon) however most of their focus was directed at the two officers.

The scene before them could only end in hilarity or tears.

Maybe both.

"Last time I confronted him about that… avian residing on one of our security nodes I was unprepared," Red Alert explained terrifyingly rationally. "However over the last few days I have managed to amass more data on the matter and have compiled a thorough risk assessment of this situation."

"Really?" Jazz frowned.

"Oh yes." Red Alert brandished one of his data pads at Jazz. As if waving it at the special operations mech would allow him to absorb the information loaded onto it by proxy. "Since that thing has made itself a resident not only has our external network suffered a reduced capacity to respond to outside threats cooperation in the Ark has gone down, fighting and rule breaking has gone up several percentage points, and our valuable human allies have been assaulted. Their physical wellbeing is at risk, Jazz."

"Aw, Red." Jazz smiled sadly. "You're blowing this way out of-"

Red Alert smacked Jazz in the arm with the data pad he had been holding and then jabbed its corner into the black and white mech's chest. "Don't you dare finish that sentence."

"I mean nothin' by it," Jazz explained sounding remarkably upbeat. "I mean no harm. I just don't think ol' Shiner is as much of a threat as ya think."

There was a baffled pause. Red Alert let his hand with the data pad drop several inches.

Bluestreak weirdly processed Jazz's train of thought faster than everyone else present. "You named it Shiner? Why?"

Red Alert nearly sputtered. It had a name now?

Oh, Primus, it was being assimilated!

Ignoring Red Alert's miniature breakdown Sunstreaker prompted, "After its glossy feathers or the actual shiner it gave Spike?"

"Neither. I named it after the book the Shining," Jazz elaborated.

Bluestreak gave him a quizzical look. "And here I restate aforementioned question. Why?"

"Dunno. I liked that book."

"Well, that organic is a thing of horror so I guess it's fitting," Sunstreaker frowned.

"That's a stupid name," Gears declared.

"Oh, well it's kind of too late now. I entered it in the system." Jazz gave a noncommittal shrug

All optics were then focused solely on Jazz. Red Alert and his tiny conniption were somewhat waylaid to the side.

"You…you what?" Bluestreak was the first to find his words (he usually was).

Jazz merely shrugged again, the ghost of a smile on his lip components.

All at once every mech present save for Jazz and Red Alert (who was still staring gob-smacked at Jazz, face displaying something akin to horror) accessed the public records. Lo and Behold, Autobot Shiner was fresh in the system complete with stats and function.

"You made it an Autobot," Sideswipe said almost light-headedly. "My God, Man. You are my hero."

"Jazz!" Red Alert yelled frantically destroying the wonder of the moment. "Did you at least upload this directly to Teletraan?"

"Uh, no. I did it remotely from my personal data pad," Jazz replied.

Red alert gargled in frustration, hands clawed. He dropped his data pads in the process and they clatter dramatically on the floor.

"You alright?" Jazz asked with mild concern.

"NO! I am not alright!" he all but frothed.

"Red, cool your jets." Jazz tried placating him.

He only succeeded in infuriating Red Alert more.

Red Alert stalked forward and simply loomed over Jazz. "Do you know what you've done? To make that upload from your system to the master system without some kind of hard line you would have had to of downed the master system's firewall for approximately 43.8 seconds! Our records were unprotected! Soundwave is always scouring our databases. The Decepticons probably have our files now!" He looked just short of hauling off and punching Jazz in the face.

But the black and white Bot looked scarily at ease given how absolutely terrifying Red Alert could be when he wanted to.

It must've been something about Lamborghinis…

"I know," Jazz grinned. "Don't worry man, they're just public records. Things those cats already know. Besides, it'll be fun to mess with their processers a bit. I mean, that's why they do half of what they do to you," he added with a mischievous tinge in his voice.

Red Alert's face went scarily blank.

And you know things are reaching a boiling point when it's Sunstreaker of all people who's holding you back from mutilating a fellow officer.

00000000

Not many new things had been added to the files since the last time he stole them, and there never really was anything of use in this type of record. However Soundwave liked stealing them all the same simply to spite the Autobot's Security Officer.

Soundwave, at a glance was not a mech of many emotions. He was seemingly an expressionless rock solid force of a mech. Nothing seemed to get to him. Nothing seemed to phase or bother him.

He, however, had a special sort of loathing for Red Alert.

Paranoid, incompetent, spastic: these were words he heard both Autobots and Decepticons alike describe the head Autobot Security officer.

Inaccurate. Misleading.

Focused. Competent. Thorough. Those were the words Soundwave begrudgingly assigned the Autobot in his head.

Many assumed that his most frequent metaphorical sparring partners in the war were Jazz and Blaster. It was true that he had a bit of an ongoing battle with Jazz over information and one with Blaster over the comlines.

But neither of those ongoing skirmishes reached the magnitude of what he had to deal with in regards to Red Alert.

Dealing with that Autobot was a headache. There had been literally massive spans of time, hours actually, where Soundwave would be hooked up to the main computers of the Nemesis leading a full frontal assault on the Autobot systems only to be completely halted by Red Alert's defense.

Theirs was mostly a cyber battle, one fought on a sea of data. It was one of encryptions, and firewalls, and viruses that would cripple war machines and entire ships if left uncheck or dealt with accordingly. It was one where the two would find weaknesses and gaps in the other's defenses so they could exploit the hell out of them.

Anything to give their own side the upper edge.

On the surface to mechs observing the frantic coding, and hacking it probably didn't look like much but the tiniest of errors could have devastating consequences to the losing side.

He'd never admit it but it was fragging stressful.

And that was just the digital front.

Red Alert's physical security systems were oddly air tight too. Whatever flaws were present were usually buttoned up rather quickly which made espionage and subterfuge increasingly difficult. They still managed to gather intel but it was not nearly as easy as it should have been.

The Autobots believed that Red Alert was overly paranoid. He was but that made him strangely good at his job. And some of Red Alert's false alarms, some of those times the Autobot's had assumed Red was flipping out over nothing, had not been false alarms. His cassettes were just getting better at covering up their tracks if for some reason they accidentally tripped the Autobot's elaborate defense net.

And then said Autobot had shot Laserbeak out of the sky.

He took personal offense to that.

The damage was minimal and his cassette was already repaired but he would not forget this affront. Soundwave was attached to very few things in the world and was personally insulted whenever some tried to cause damage to something he claimed as his.

He was patient though. And thorough. When he finally made a move against the Autobot forces, He'd make sure it was downright crippling.

Stealing the general data from Teletraan was something he did simply because he was feeling spiteful and he wanted to compound the Security Autobot's stress.

Honestly he wasn't expecting anything from the files. He just wanted Red Alert to squirm, to know that Soundwave was perched on the fringe just waiting for the right moment. And when he found that moment, he was going to lay the framework for such a devastating assault it would ripple through the Autobot forces. He would find something to break them. It was just a matter of time.

But much to his surprise as he perused the newly acquired data there was an added entry, the first one since the addition of the Protectobots.

So he opened it.

Autobot: Shiner

Function: deterrent

Rank and Class: Aves first class

Specialty: Psychological warfare/Aerial warfare

Department: Security

Division: Strategic Aerospace Defense

And there were stats too. But aerial warfare? It appeared that the Autobots had a new flyer. Anytime they got a new flying class mech the Decepticon's aerial advantage over them went down. This new Autobot could be a potentially devastating threat. More information would be required.

Ok. Completely obliterating Red Alert's psyche would have to wait. He was a professional after all. This required his attention foremost. Anything that could tip the tenuous balance between the Autobots or Decepticons would need further study so appropriate measure could be taken.

"Lazerbeak: collect data. Target: Autobot recruit Shiner."

His cassette needed to stretch his newly repaired wings anyway.

000000000

There were four levels of awareness

The first level was unaware. In this state you were completely ignorant of your surroundings and had the highest chance of being in danger. Ignorance is not always bliss.

The second level was being aware. This is the state of mind that most of his comrades would usually be in. In this state you were more in tune with your surroundings, more conscious or what was going on around you. This was the stage where you would observe things with a critical eye but you usual wouldn't be concerned.

The third level was alertness. This was the level that Red Alert most frequently found himself. In this stage you were aware, cautious but also slightly concerned with what went on around you. This is the stage where you noticed things that were off or not all right.

The last and final level was alarm. This was the stage where you would notice things were most certainly not all right and would have to think up of a way to handle it. This is the stage where things can fall apart if you don't say on top of things. This was the stage you did not want to be in.

The bird's effect on the Ark planted him straight in the middle of alarmsville.

It was just absurd. Spike and Sparkplug wouldn't come anywhere near the Ark without least a football helmet for protection, and the vast majority of his fellow soldiers were acting dumber than a sack of hammers over it. The things had incited several avoidable arguments and trips to the infirmary

This had to end.

"You know what? That's it." Red Alert was oddly calm all of the sudden, which was strange since he had just spent the last five minutes aggressively trying to eviscerate Jazz. All the while cursing his fellow officer with such a colorful string of half understood, hateful profanity that even Sideswipe looked oddly uncomfortable.

For all the grief the others would give Red Alert for his erratic behavior and seemingly over blown paranoia, he was not a force to be taken lightly. He was significantly stronger than he looked (which was pretty strong still actually) and it eventually took Air Raid and Bluestreak stepping in to successful thwart his warpath.

Once again, fragging Lamborghinis.

And Jazz, the intended target of Red's frothing rage, simply stayed fixed where he was, hands on his hips, a look of amusement on his face. But the second Red Alert's rage fizzled so did the joy from Jazz's face. It was replaced with the worry that maybe he had gone a little too far in screwing with the Security Bot's head.

A little hesitantly, the three that had been holding him off backed off. Suddenly released Red Alert stomped away. However he was no longer heading in Prime's direction.

"Uh, Red? You alright, Buddy? Red?" Jazz worriedly tailed the taller mech.

The other Autobots shared a few glances and decided to follow out of curiosity (You'd think they'd learn from last time). Whether it be bad or good it appeared that something entertaining at least was about to happen.

And so a train of Autobots clambered after the two officers.

"Hey, Red Alert? Your Redliness? Friend 'O mine? Seriously it was a joke, no harm done. Where are ya goin'?"

Red Alert said nothing and so the Autobots ended up following the Security officer right outside the Ark. Several paces from the entrance of the Ark Red Alert finally halted. The others stopped too making sure to give him a wide breadth of space.

Up several feet above them nestled in the red craggy, rock Shiner was perched in her nest preening her glossy silver feathers.

Red Alert glared at the bird. Then he grabbed the rocky mountain side and looked poised to climb.

"Red! What're you doin'?" Jazz sounded alarmed.

"Since none of you have the ball bearings to deal with that menace I'm taking care of the problem myself," he grit. Then he began his ascent intent on evicting the feathery fiend.

"NO!" With all the sound of a freakin' ninja, Hound seemed to fabricate out of absolutely nowhere and launched himself at Red Alert.

"WAGH!" Red Alert saw stars, sky then red. All in that order.

They collided and with all the grace of a rock slide tumbled a short way down the mountain side. They became a tangled mess of flailing limbs.

"Hound, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

"Stay away from that Gyr!"

"You traitor! I'll have you thrown in the brig for assaulting an officer and compromising base security!"

The bird cocked its head to the side with mild interest and then took flight away from the two flailing bots.

Red Alert brought both his legs up and kicked Hound off him.

Momentarily forgetting the "Traitor" he watched as the bird disappeared farther away into the clear blue sky.

Hound sat up as well and watched the bird fly away. He was a little sad but quite happy it escaped Red Alert's wrath.

The bird was now a tiny dot in the sky. Red Alert let out an uncharacteristic sigh of relief, "Finally. That pest is gone."

The bird made a U turn.

Out of nowhere, the feathery honing missile dove straight for the two mechs on the ground.

"SKREEEE!" Cried the bird.

"SWEET ANGRY PRIMUS!" cried Red Alert.

000000000

And later as the two sat in Ratchet's medical bay for superficial damage, their musings on what had befallen them were vastly different.

"It shredded my paint," Red Alert said in disbelief. "How? It weighs three pounds. We nearly weigh three tons."

"I know! Wasn't that amazing? Did you see how sharp its talons were? And it was moving so fast I could barely tell where it was half the time." Hound rattled giddily to his less then enthused partner. "Mother nature is simply perfection."

Red Alert glowered. This was the final straw. There was now a greater threat outside the Decepticons and it was based right in their backyard. Battling two separate wars on two separate fronts, all the while keeping his comrades safe, would not be easy. However if it meant that order and security would be restored to the base he would do what it took.

This meant war.