Disclaimer: do not own these characters. If I did, there would be no ripping of Jazzs or disintegrating of Ironhides.

Once again, set between first two movies.

Just for fun, please read and review.

This wasn't a good start to the day.

"Major? Major Lennox, sir?" The voice on the intercom next to his bed was tentative, but not quite quiet enough to avoid piercing his peaceful slumber. As he blinked in the pre-dawn light and his brain began to clear the haze of sleep, his first thought was that probably would have preferred to be rocketed from his rack by the sound of screeching, blaring alarms. The voice on the comm. was hesitant, underscored with a thread of confusion. It simply did not bode well.

Rolling over, he raised himself up on an elbow, feeling a slight twinge at his shoulder, glaring at the alarm clock on his nightstand as he did so. It glowed back unrepentantly in its green-lit glory, displaying an unholy hour that Will never saw if he could help it. Only when missions dictated or (on the rare occasions he was home) when Annabelle awakened in the middle of the night was he ever up this early.

Wincing, he turned on the light and swung himself to a seated position on the edge of the mattress, reaching over to slap the comm., "This is Lennox, go ahead."

"Private Norris, sir." The voice identified itself and Will tried to put a face with the name. Norris had just transferred to the base the week prior, a baby faced-kid, just like the others that the brass had seen fit to send him recently. Though they handled more mundane assignments, such as transport and guard duty,he had hoped that as a top-security level base that housed large, metal extra-terrestrials, Command would send Diego Garcia more experienced personnel, but no such luck. Experienced soldiers were still needed elsewhere in the world, too, and Lennox would have to make do.

But Will couldn't help but note that men and women with more time under their belt would recover faster after being informed that they would be working with big, robot aliens, and less prone to the shocked stares and needless stuttering.

"Go ahead, Norris." He rubbed absently at his shoulder again, trying to loosen the stiff and bruised muscles there.

"Sir," Norris faltered for a moment. "One of the Osprey is gone."

Will started slightly and regarded the comm. curiously for a moment. For the most part, any missions involving the Autobots required heavy transport. The modified C-17's provided that transport. But on the rare occasions that anyone got leave, or civilian personnel needed to leave the island, the smaller Ospreys were adequate. They weren't what Will considered essential equipment, but that one of them had apparently taken a walk was a little unsettling.

Already, Will had a sneaking suspicion. Shaking his head, he spoke again. "When did it go missing?"

The even tone of his voice was throwing the kid for a loop. He seemed to be under the impression that his CO should be a bit more concerned that a couple million dollar aircraft had vanished from the tarmac. He answered slowly. "Between the three and four AM perimeter check, sir."

That confirmed it. Pushing himself up, Will went to the chest of drawers and began pulling out clothing. "I'm on my way."

There was a pause on the comm. "Sir? Should we sound an intruder alert?"

Will could go two ways with this. Either he could get totally pissed with the kid and snap back that if he really thought an intruder alert should have been sounded, why not do it five minutes ago, or he could take it in his stride, find his sense of humor from wherever he had it stowed at quarter after four in the morning, and remind himself that it was simply another day at Diego Garcia.

He opted for the later. Diego Garcia relied heavily on seclusion as part of security. That did not mean, however that they were without sensitive perimeter security measures. Besides, Will was certain that the perpetrator had not come from outside the security fence. "Norris, did the perimeter alarms sound?"

"No sir."

"Did the cameras pick up anything?"

"No sir."

"Were you guys asleep down there and failed to notice an intruder sneaking in, firing up and Osprey, and flying it out of here?"

"No sir!" He laughed quietly to himself as the young man sputtered indignantly. "We-we would . . . we wouldn't . . ."

"Then I doubt," Will cut over the young man, "we need an intruder alert. Just keep looking for it and I'll be down in a few minutes."

"Keep looking for it? Sir, we've looked-"

"Just," Will cut him off again, "keep looking."

There was a dubious pause. "Yes, sir."

"Good." Picking up his running shoes, he sat on his bed again. "Lennox out."

After switching off his comm. Will gave a long, deep sigh. After web conferences had run well into the evening, he had managed to drag his sorry butt back to his quarters well after midnight. It was the first time in over a week that his shoulder hadn't bothered him and he felt like a night devoid of tossing and turning might actually be possible. No such luck.

Now wearing sweats and running shoes, he grabbed his MP3 player from the nightstand and headed out. Will gave his rack one last longing glance before turning off the light and departing his quarters. As he walked down the hall toward the exit to the barracks, he mused that he really probably could have explained to the men that they had been the victims of a practical joke, something the more seasoned NEST personnel would have deduced on their own. But explaining to the newbies would have required higher brain function anyway, and once his brain got going, there was no reason to fight it. He was awake, and once he found the base's wayward bird, he'd take himself for an early run and beat the tropical heat.

The air held a slight chill as he left the barracks and headed down towards the landing field. The sky was just turning gray in the east, causing the stars to fade as the sun slowly began to rise. Already, Will could feel the humidity and knew from experience that they could expect a dog's breath summer day on their little island home.

As he approached the airstrip, Will could see the dance of flashlight beams as three of the men on guard duty followed his orders and tried to locate the missing Osprey. It was typical of new personnel and the ability to think outside the box was something that Lennox hoped they would acquire over time. It was a necessary ability when working with the Autobots. It was clear that the only thing the soldiers could think to do was search the places they had already looked and recount the Osprey to make sure that one really was missing. Since there were only two of the craft on base, Will prayed that they had come to the conclusion that they were initially correct.

Wherever he was Lennox could only hope Sideswipe was monitoring the comm. and gleaning full enjoyment out of this. With any luck, the 'bot would have fulfilled his Chicanery Quota for the month and things would be a little quieter.

The salutes were snappy and sharp as he approached. Will returned them with equal sharpness. "Any luck, Private?"

"No sir." The skinny-ish blonde kid replied. "We've looked along the strip and in the hangar. Jones even went back through the log to make sure it wasn't being used for a mission."

Will looked to a taller, African American to Norris's right. He was actually impressed by that thought. "Good work, soldier."

"Thank you sir," Jones replied, "I knew it would still be a screw-up on our part, but it was the only thing I could think of."

"Take it easy," Will told them in a soothing tone, "You didn't screw up. You just have to understand that Diego Garcia isn't like other bases."

Though he was the CO, he was still getting three looks from his subordinates that clearly stated, "Duh." There was no other base in the world with giant talking robots walking around.

Chuckling a bit, he held out his hand to the third kid, Marks, and took his flashlight. "Allow me to show you."

He flicked it on and aimed it at the only building on Diego Garcia with a flat roof- the Mess Hall. The light glinted off of the front wind screens of the small craft. There, perched on structure completely unharmed, was the Osprey.

The honest –to- goodness squawk from Marks almost made being rolled out of bed that early worthwhile. "How'd it get up there?"

"It flew." Will shrugged and then out-right laughed when all three kids gawked at him. Recovering quickly, he explained, deciding to use the opportunity of a teachable moment. "Remember back to your briefing. The Autobots are not just machines. They feel, they can get hurt, and they get bored, just like people."

The three looked back to the Osprey, almost in unison and then back to their commander. Jones spoke up. "They played a joke on us?"

"Well, one of 'em."Will guided them to the answer. "Which of the Autobots took perimeter duty this morning?"

Marks was the quickest. "The Corvette."

"Sideswipe." Will encouraged the use of the designation, wanting his men to see the Autobots as sentient creatures as opposed to the machines they used for disguises. "And he's a character. Believe me, boys, this is tame."

Jones cocked an eyebrow, looking from where the Osprey had been sitting previously to where it now rested. Even for an Autobot, it was a fair distance across the compound. "No way he could have moved that all the way over there without us seeing him, sir."

"Give me a better explanation, soldier."

Jones's mouth opened and worked for an instant before clamping it shut. He turned to look at the Osprey again before looking back to Will, a smile beginning to work at the corners of his mouth. "Permission to review the security footage again, sir?"

"Knock yourself out." Will replied, handing back the flashlight and turning to head down towards the beach.

Norris called after him, "What about the Osprey, sir?"

"Rock, paper, scissors to see who gets to climb up there and fly her down."

There was a brief silence while the trio seemed to contemplate the order. Finally, he heard Marks yell "We're not pilots, sir!"

"Sideswipe will be back in an hour." Will turned to call back to them. "And if he won't take it down, sic Optimus or Ratchet on him."

Marks, Jones, and Norris all looked at each other with apprehension, obviously concerned about addressing the alien creatures directly, no matter how often their CO did and how comfortable he seemed doing it.

"They don't bite." Will assured them, resisting the urge to roll his eyes as he started on his way again. "I promise."

It was just light enough to really see where he was going when he reached the beach, taking a moment to listen to the waves crash on the sand. He had made it a point to take this time for himself. Command was hectic and stressful. Command of a base like Diego Garcia was on a whole different level entirely. Not only was he CO, he was also an ambassador, translator, peacemaker, and on more occasions than he really cared to consider, a damn den-mother.

Shaking himself loose, Will leaned over, letting his upper body stretch his lower back. He righted himself easily, pleased that there were no lingering effects of the mild concussion he had acquired after NEST's last outing. The Decepticon they had been tracking in the deserts outside of Houston, Texas had panicked as NEST and the Autobots had closed in, firing wildly at anything that had moved. The transport that he had been riding in with Epps had caught it in the undercarriage, rolling the vehicle twice. Epps and their driver had walked away with minimal injuries. Will, still counting himself lucky, had taken the brunt.

Pulling his MP3 player from his pocket, he put the buds in his ears and sank into the rhythm as he began his two-mile trek down the shore. His body found the rhythm easily, hungry for the exercise after a week of recuperation. Muscles protested at first, but he worked past it and finally his body obediently followed his command to keep moving.

0600 found Will leaving his quarters once more, showered after his run, and dressed in his BDUs. Deciding that breakfast in the Mess was more than he could bear this particular morning, he had treated himself to the last of the cinnamon cake that Sarah had sent him. Care packages from home were few and far between, even on a standard base. But the level of security that Diego Garcia required made it even harder to get treats in. He had savored the taste, wrapping himself in the memories of his home and his family, relishing the love his wife had sent along with the gift.

Coffee, and he'd be a happy camper. He was due in the command center to evaluate the findings of the previous night's surveillance. Since it was highly unlikely the base couldn't function without a steady supply of coffee, he was fairly certain the small beverage station just off the central hangar would have a pot brewing. Of course, with his luck someone probably already drained the first carafe and failed to make more.

As he stepped out of the barracks again, a flash of silver caught his eye and Will turned to see Sideswipe in his alt mode rolling across the tarmac. The sleek Corvette had been heading towards the hangar, but he changed course and headed towards him, undoubtedly when his finely tuned sensors picked up on Lennox's biological signatures. He stood still, waiting for the Autobot to approach. Sideswipe eased up gently and fluidly transformed, a sight that Lennox had become accustomed to, but was no less impressed by.

The large silver mech knelt down immediately, fighting to hold his face plates in an appropriately chagrin position. "I apologize, Major. I did not think you're subordinates would bother you. I did not mean to alarm them . . . much."

The look on the Autobot's face said otherwise, and Will crossed his arms over his chest. "You walked off with a whole plane, what did you think they would do?"

Sideswipe huffed through his vents a bit. "Both you and Sgt. Epps caught on rather quickly when I pulled pranks on you."

"Yeah, well, we're pretty well broken in." Will squinted hard at him in the rising sun, "Epps and I have been exposed to you all a bit more and at least have a clue what to expect."

"That's what Ironhide said."

Lennox suppressed a grin. After an initial battle-of-wills, alpha-male display, the Major and the big angry Weapons Specialist had struck up a friendship. While he could be looming and overprotective, the mech always had all of their backs and Lennox appreciated that. "Gave you an earful already, did he?"

"He started to." Sideswipe leaned in closer, whispering conspiratorially. "But Ratchet stormed in and tore me a new one. He said that you still needed rest while your systems repaired themselves."

Groaning inwardly, Lennox knocked on Sideswipe's shin plating. "Thanks for the warning."

"No problem." Sideswipe stepped back, sliding gracefully down into his altmode. "And I am sorry about this morning, Major."

Will grinned. "Don't worry about it. It might be a good lesson for them. And just to give you a heads-up; that kid Jones has pretty much taken your prank as challenge. You pull anything else and he might just catch you at it."

Sideswipe rocked back and forth on his wheels, something Will noted that he did when he was contemplating. "Are you giving me permission to prank the night guards again?"

"Go ahead." Will replied, "It keeps them on their toes and fosters a deeper understanding of the Autobots."

"Huh." The young frontliner replied, "An interesting command strategy."

"That's why I get the big money. Just don't let 'em wake me up at the crack of dawn again."

Sideswipe stopped his mindless rocking and was quiet a second before speaking again. "Ironhide is coming."

Knowing the mech was thinking Ironhide would pick up his earlier rant, Lennox nodded towards the hangars. "Make yourself scarce."

With no further encouragement, Sideswipe peeled out, fishtailing a little in his haste to be elsewhere when Ironhide made his appearance. A couple of the NEST staff stopped to watch as the pseudo-Corvette swung gracefully into the hangar and out of sight.

He wasn't quite quick enough though, and Ironhide caught sight of his taillights as he rounded the watchtower. Growling something that sounded like "fragger", he moved towards Will, black armor shimmering with his movements and his steps making the ground shake lightly under Will's feet.

Ironhide didn't kneel, choosing to loom over Will instead. "If you wanted to tour the island, I would have driven you."

Apparently, his morning outing on the beach had been noted. Refusing to be intimidated, Will glared back. "Are you spying one me? Reporting back to Ratchet?"

Keeping the Autobots healthy occupied most of the Cybertronian medic's time, but that still didn't stop him from poking his large metal olfactory plates into the handling of the human team's medical care, especially where the ranger team that had made initial contact was concerned. After one particularly nasty incident which had left the formidable constitution of their resident medic in tatters (and led to a subsequent transfer), Will had been forced to intercede, asking Ratchet to limit his input, or at the very least, be a bit more tactful when forcing it on others. Though Optimus had backed the Major's play, it hadn't stopped the large CMO from keeping tabs and running random medical scans, leaving the patient tingling and antsy afterwards. Will had been the victim of such scans twice, and both times he had spun on Ratchet, infuriated when he only got a "you can't prove a thing" glare back in return.

Ironhide snorted, as if the suggestion that he would be in league with the Witch Doctor was an insult. "Has your medic cleared you for strenuous exercise?"

"It was a jog, 'Hide." Will moved off, calling back. "Quit mothering me, or I swear I will requisition a sack of potatoes for your tailpipe."

There was another snort. "Try it, Major."

Will kept going, chuckling a bit to himself. These mock-spats between himself and Ironhide had become commonplace at this point, a keystone in their weird friendship. When the roles were reversed, it would be Will jumping 'Hide's case for overtaxing himself when he should be recovering. There was something perversely pleasurable about marching his 6'3" self to the giant mech and chewing him out. The looks he got from the newer members of the staff were always priceless.

Carefully avoiding as many people as he could, lest he get bogged down by some urgent matter before he had a mug in his hand, Will crept into the main hangar and bee-lined for the small break room. He was completely unprepared for what he saw when he entered.

Epps, one of the bravest soldiers he had ever met, a man he trusted to cover his ass in a fire fight, and an individual that Will had seen throw himself into the line of fire for the sake of his comrades, was standing on a chair, clutching a hefty binder that Will recognized as the training manual Epps had been compiling to instruct new recruits in the engagement of Decepticon threats. Beside him on the floor was Jon Davies, a member of the British Royal Marines who had been transferred to NEST after the UK had been brought into the know about the Autobots and approached about stationing at Diego Garcia. He was armed with a broom.

Both men looked up when he entered, but neither held his gaze long, flicking their eyes back to the corner of the break room as if Megatron himself were about to spring from beneath the fridge.

Will stood staring for a moment before finally asking point-blank. "What in the hell are you two doing?"

"Big . . . friggin' . . . spider." Was Epps's reply, not even looking up.

Trained soldier or not, Epps had a thing about spiders. Usually fairly calm under pressure, Epps could hit notes Will didn't think were possible from an adult human male when faced with an eight-legged menace. The fear had been exacerbated by their time in Qatar and the surprise attack by Scorponok. No arachnid was to be trusted now.

"Quit being a drama queen, Epps." At the very least, the antics of the pair had guarded the coffee pot. No one seemed willing to enter the room where two warriors appeared to be hunting . . . or losing their minds. Will stepped forward and pulled a mug from the cabinet, filling it from the barely-empty pot.

The red-headed brit smiled. "Afraid not, Major. He's at least the size of me hand."

He held up his hand and wiggled his fingers. Will just shook his head as Epps started to bitch him out about paying attention. It was another unlikely friendship that had sprung up as a result of the extraordinary circumstances that had brought them all here. Epps and Davies worked well together, finding common ground in their roles for their respective militaries, and, oddly enough, on the basketball court. Davies was one of the few that could keep up with Epps, giving the Master Sergeant a challenge when few others in the unit could. Not really what anyone expected from a pale British guy.

"Sweep it out." Epps was instructing Davies from his perch. "I'll take him out with the binder."

"Pride of the American Military. Heart of a lion." Davies was laughing good-naturedly as he moved to obey the order. "A few good men. Bullshit!"

"Dude, that's the Marines." Epps replied, concentrating as Davies moved forward to follow his instruction. "And it ain't even their motto."

"What's the Ranger motto, then?"

Epps muttered something unintelligible, so Will supplied the answer, smirking, "Rangers lead the way."

Davies burst out laughing. "I'll believe that when I see it."

"Get your limey ass up here." Epps was getting more agitated now, in no mood to be taunted. "Run that broom under there and flush that sucker out."

"Or you guys could just leave it alone." Will took a sip of coffee. He really should be on his way to his meetings, but he talked himself into staying by reasoning that adult supervision was required in this particular situation.

"No way, man." Epps was focused now, testing the weight of the binder in his hands. "I ain't leaving that ugly mother to come suck my blood in my sleep."

"Epps, what-"

"Shit!" Davies's squeal was high-pitched as he withdrew the broom, finding the spider, which Will had to admit was unquestionably huge, climbing up the bristles and scrabbling for the handle. The Brit flung the broom in Epps general direction, causing the other man to jump off the chair and fall on his butt, pushing himself along the floor to put as much distance between him and the perceived threat.

The spider abandoned the broom and headed for the safety of a couple of low, heavily-used armchairs on the other side of the room. After a few deep breaths, Epps began to swear violently.

Sighing, Will pushed himself from where he had been standing near the coffee pot and headed for the door. "We have a training session in an hour and a half, guys. Just keep that in mind."

He got murmured replies from both men as he left the room, closing the door to contain the insanity. He heard the scraping of furniture being moved and something that sounded like a cross between a war-cry and a shriek. All of that government training, and Will's money was on the damn spider.

Lengthening his stride, he headed for the meeting room.

The night had been quiet. Bumblebee had reported in, letting them know that Sam Witwicky was still fine, except for the normal pains of high school. Arcee, along with Mudflap and Skids, had reported their reconnaissance in eastern Europe had turned up no evidence of Decepticon activity. They would continue surveillance for two more days before heading back to the base.

Will had excused himself from the control center and made for the makeshift training ground. On the way, he had managed to find time with Captain Paul Thomas, the human's Chief Medical Officer. After a brief exam, the middle-aged man had regarded Lennox carefully before answering his query about returning to full duty, "How'd you sleep?"

"Fine." Will answered carefully, "until the night guard got pranked and I had to deal with that at 4AM."

The doctor smiled at that. "Are you still feeling discomfort in the shoulder?"


Capt. Thomas had been at it too long to buy that crap. "Extend your arm up and swing it around. . .slowly."

Will did as he was instructed, and Thomas watched him carefully. He put on his best poker face, but as he moved the arm through ninety-degrees, he felt pain shoot through his back. He couldn't keep the slight grimace from his features.

"Nice try, Major." Thomas shook his head. "Give it a couple more days and keep stretching it out. That ought to keep your big alien bodyguards happy."

Will grumbled. "They put the fear of God in you, too?"

"Not hardly." Capt. Thomas replied, grinning. "I base my diagnosis on years of training and experience; not the threat of giant aliens 'accidentally' stepping on me."

It did seem that Thomas was able to take Ratchet in his stride where the previous medic had not. The Autobot CMO had apparently deemed the man competent (though no one had actually asked him) and while that did not give the human medic immunity from Ratchet's legendary temper (a legacy he garnered quickly among the humans) it did provide the pair with a basis for a professional relationship and understanding. Ratchet hadn't chucked anything at Thomas yet, anyway.

Will thanked Thomas and departed the medical bay, heading for the tarmac. He had known that Thomas would be unlikely to declare him fit for active duty, but he had hoped. What it came down to was that he didn't have time to be down for restricted duty. The rate of Decepticon incursions was on the rise and he needed to be ready. For the past week, he had been filling his sleepless nights going through the training manual over and over. He had proofed Epps's compilation of possible Decepticon threats and committed them to memory as he had done so. Will was mentally ready; he just needed to sharpen up physically before he lost his mind.

But for now, he would supervise training of the newbies. Epps and Davies had departed with the squad of transfers, heading for the training field that was located about a mile from base-proper. Will was just about to whistle up a Humvee when the pavement shuddered under his feet. He looked up when a familiar shadow fell over him "Hey Optimus."

The enormous red and blue mech smiled down at him. The two had seen each other already in the meetings both had attended in the young day, but this was the first relaxed encounter they had had in a while. And the Autobot leader had been busy. With Lennox off his game, Optimus had quietly stepped up his supervision of the humans a bit, helping Epps hold down the fort.

"Good morning, Major." Optimus replied, his deep voice thrumming. "May I offer you a lift?"

Will never expected the Autobots to cart them around. As far as he was concerned, they weren't pack mules. For the most part, NEST utilized its own transport vehicles. It was a matter of respect. But if the invitation was extended, he never turned them down, enjoying the conversations that ensued. "Thanks."

Optimus transformed quickly beside him and Will swung up into the cab through the already open door. Settling himself into the seat, he smirked as the door shut and the gear shift slid easily over to first gear of its own accord. The large Peterbilt rolled out down the tarmac and started across the sand. Predictably, the conversation began with Will's health.

"How are you feeling?" Optimus's voice asked him through the radio console.

"Sore." Will answered. "But fit. I might start playing with my own toes, if the doc doesn't return me to full duty soon."

There were a couple moments of silence, undoubtedly while Optimus contemplated the meaning of the phrase 'play with my own toes'. He either gleaned the reference or just chose to move forward. "I would have thought that the rash of emergency budget meetings and tactical sessions would be enough to keep you distracted."

There was a tone of amusement there and Will grinned. "I don't know if I'm going to get used to this rank, Big Guy. Paperwork has never been my thing."

More than the others, Optimus understood. From what little he knew of the Autobot's past, it was clear that leadership had been thrust upon the Prime in much the same way that Will had inherited it-through necessity. Will had always been just a soldier. A Ranger, yes, but always just a member of a team, working together to fight the enemy and live to tell about it. It was essentially the same, but Will was now in a position to call more of the shots . . . and now there was a helluva lot more at stake.

"I feel your pain. Sometimes I feel as though the details will be the death of me." There was a slight pause as Optimus approached the training grounds. "At least I never need to concern myself with paper cuts."

The training grounds were crude to say the least. The little atoll did not lend itself to reconnaissance or strike drills. There was no cover and very little room to move. If Will planned anything more than minimum training exercises, he had to move the whole freakin' operation to one of the more densely forested uninhabited islands nearby, or to one of the stateside bases. Each came with its own security and transport nightmares and on more than one occasion Will could only muse that Ringling Brothers had nothing on him. Not that he could see him ordering it too often, but Will did have the protocols in place that he could have wheels-up in under an hour.

What Diego Garcia did provide was the seclusion necessary to allow the Autobots some freedom of movement without being seen and the ability to break in new recruits on the relatively soft surface of the sand.

Optimus pulled to a stop not far from where Epps was giving the newbies the rundown. They had already been briefed, but most of the information bore repetition. It held more weight surrounded by the giant metal aliens than when it had sitting in a small, safe room being talked at by superior officers.

Lennox hopped out of the cab and Optimus began to transform, drawing the attention of the men that Epps was talking to. Even though most of them had been at Diego Garcia a week, most had not seen the Autobot leader. Not only was he a tall awe-inspiring testament to Cybertronian design, his presence was heavy, but not in a looming sort of way. It was protective and magnetic, something Lennox had become accustomed to with the Boss Bot, but that the newbies still seemed to be trying to get a handle on.

The Sergeant growled. "I'm over here, rookies!"

Gazes snapped back to Epps and Lennox suppressed a smile. Epps had little patience for newbes, preferring his duties as a combat controller. He was a man of action, preferring to do it himself before handing a task over to someone else. 'Babysitting' new recruits had never been his strong suit and Lennox would always have to go to great pains to get Epps to accept new members of the unit when their comrades were rotated out. But, like the rest of the team, Bobby Epps had had to adapt and he had done so admirably. He just did not intend on being happy about it.

Epps was standing in front of Sideswipe, lecturing the squad. "It's about respect and trust. Yeah, they're bigger and they look different-"

"Yeah, we're not short and squishy." Sideswipe muttered cheekily. Ironhide and Ratchet each gave him a warning look but Epps continued.

"I suggest you get over quick. 'Cause the targets we're going after ain't like nothing you've gone up against before. This unit WILL function as one, just like every other unit you have ever belonged to. These 'bots will do everything in their power to keep your asses safe. Anyone who doesn't return the favor, answers to me when they get dropped back in this dump. Am I clear?"

The response was immediate. "Yes sir!"

"AM I CLEAR?" Epps bellowed again.


"I'll believe it when I see it." Epps turned to Ironhide, Ratchet, Jolt, and Sideswipe. "Show 'em what you got."

"I'll go first." Ironhide grinned as he moved up to the firing line, eager for the target practice. The familiar whirling of his cannons filled the air.

Optimus had backed up a few paces, putting distance between himself and the troops so as to be less of a distraction. The training protocols dictated that the men train with the smaller 'bots for a time before being exposed to Optimus's height and frankly, his intensity in battle. Ironhide could be bad enough.

Will walked towards the Autobot leader, looking over his shoulder as Ironhide blew an old Jeep apart, much to the delight of the squad. Blowback from the explosion tussled his hair and pushed on his back. He half-smirked as the entire unit stood, mouths agape as they respectfully examined the crater that Ironhide left in the sand.

Well, since neither he nor Optimus could play today, at least the two of them could observe and exchange ideas while they watched those in their command get to know each other and go through their paces. By the time Will had reached Optimus, Sideswipe was up, sending up huge waves of sand as he skated down the beach, arching tightly around the body of an old cargo plane, slicing it in half with his blade. Optimus was shaking his head. "He's showing off."

"Hey, my guys are eating it up." The men had progressed to cheering now. "Let them get it out of their systems now so we can get to work on running possible scenarios."

Optimus nodded before looking down. "Would you like a better view? It does make talking easier when you and I are on the same physical level."

Will grinned. "Sure."

Before Optimus could kneel, Will glanced across the beach. Ratchet was suitably distracted, taking his turn at the firing line. Catching a handhold, Will began to climb Optimus's leg. There was a deep rumble, a chuckle, as he did so and Optimus relaxed, letting Will make his own way up, as he had done countless times before. His shoulder protested a bit, but it was nothing he couldn't handle. In under a minute, he was climbing onto Optimus's shoulder, feeling proud and emboldened by his 'medical mutiny'.

"You aren't going to rat me out, right?" Will joked as he settled down to watch his team.

"Hm." Optimus's optics were on the training. "A little rebellion is good for the Spark."

They were silent for a time, watching as the Autobots continued to illustrate their abilities in graphic detail. The mid-morning air was full of explosions and the smell of burning jalopies. By the time Epps called everyone back to order, the humans were pumped and ready to begin training, seeming to forget any earlier inhibitions. They eagerly fell back in line as Epps organized them for their first training exercise.

The squad would be climbing the 'bots' frames in much the same way Lennox had just done moments prior. Several of the scenarios Lennox, Epps, and the Autobots had concocted involved the skill. It provided higher vantage points for human snipers and a means for humans to find cover and protection in case things got too intense. Eventually, it would lead to access for humans to provide assistance in case one of the Autobots was injured, but Lennox and Optimus were still working on Ratchet with that one. The exercise also offered a beginning for the trust that was going to be necessary for the unit to function effectively. It allowed the humans close contact with the aliens, breaking down obvious physical barriers (height differences, organic vs. metal). Except for a few quips from Sideswipe and some clipped remarks from Ratchet, Lennox expected that the Autobots would be there typical, likeable, alien, selves, offering input and explaining where exactly the soldiers needed to climb.

Ironhide, Ratchet, Sideswipe, and Epps had moved away from the group, leaving Davies to explain the point of the exercise. Epps, weapon slung over his shoulder, was about 150 feet behind Ironhide, who stood facing Sideswipe and Ratchet. The latter pair represented the Decepticons for the sake of demonstration. At a word from Davies, Epps sprinted towards Ironhide, grabbing the metal plating at the mech's ankles, swinging himself up strongly as Ironhide ran backwards, his cannons out, but powered down, Davies explaining that he would be laying down cover fire while Epps got into position. Even as Ironhide moved quickly down the beach, his comrades closing the distance, Epps moved with assured swiftness. In seconds, he was crouched on Ironhide's shoulder, weapon in his hands, drawing a bead on Ratchet while Ironhide shifted his attention solely to Sideswipe.

Will hadn't realized he'd hefted a sigh until Optimus tilted his head slightly. "Would your ego approve if I told you that you do perform that exercise better?"

"No," Will chuckled. Epps and Ironhide had performed seamlessly. It wouldn't be fair to detract from that. "But let's see him pull that little 'tuck and roll' maneuver Ironhide and I perfected a few weeks ago."

"Was that intentional?" Optimus asked, curiosity evident, "I thought Ironhide was merely unaccustomed to the sand and fell."

"That's just what we wanted you all to think."

Optimus laughed softly, his gravelly voice rolling over Will as he smirked. The Prime sighed. "Your kind amazes me, Major."

"You should be on our end looking at you guys."

Sideswipe and Ratchet were up first. It was like watching kids cue up for the Jungle Gym on the tot lot. Ratchet's voice snapped sharply, letting one of the soldiers know that sliding his fingers too far between the plates was going to result in a loss of digits. Immediately, the soldier compensated and began his ascent again. Sideswipe was already harassing the unlucky souls hanging from his frame, asking how much they wanted to bet they could hang on if he did a set of ten jumping jacks. A couple of the men eyed him warily, but most laughed, and one or two dared him to bring it. The Autobot smirked back.

"Your adaptability is amazing," Optimus continued, "you have already accepted these new sets of circumstances and are willing to work with us towards a common goal."

Will gave a quiet snort. "Do we have another choice?"

Optimus was quiet a second before answering. "You could give up."

"Not an option." Will shook his head, answering evenly and with no rancor at the suggestion. It was a point brought up for the sake of discussion. "I brought a child into this world. I won't leave her future with Decepticons in it."

Optimus was silent for a beat, tilting his head thoughtfully at him. "This war has raged for centuries. Do you think you will see its end in your lifetime?"

"Hell yes." Will smiled as he answered, his tone over the top as he responded. "Humans are the chip that's going to tip the scale right in your direction, Big Guy."

The Autobot made a soft noise like a quiet '"Hmmm" before turning his attention back to the drills taking place in front of them. They were silent for a few moments, watching as the drills progressed to the 'bots beginning to walk, moving steadily and evenly as the men began the exercise again. "I hope you are right, Major."

"I have to believe that I am." Will sighed, squinting in the sun. "It's what gets me out of bed in the morning."

A loud cry of "Ack!" halted further conversation and both Optimus and Will turned to see Jolt skittering sideways across the beach, leaving half of the squad sitting on their butts in the sand. Ironhide and Sideswipe had pulled up short, bringing the training exercise to halt as the smaller blue Autobot squealed in an undignified manner. "Not there! Not there!"

Optimus covered ground with his long strides, and Will crouched down to lower his center of gravity, willing to catch a ride on the Prime's shoulder like a fleshy parrot. They reached the group of confused mechs and men at the same time as Ratchet, who grabbed a hold of a squirming Jolt and began to scan him.

Will looked down from his perch at the flabbergasted men still sitting on the sand. "You guys all right?"

"Yes sir." The squad captain, Cook, called back in his Texas drawl, accepting the hand that Davies extended to pull him back up on his feet. The rest of the men were climbing up and dusting themselves off and giving Jolt sideways glances. The Autobot gazed back apologetically.

Lennox called down again. "What happened?"

Cook sighed. "I was scaling the back of the robo-Jolt's- leg and I hit the knee joint. Next thing I know, he's bucking around like a rank bronc and my ass is in the dirt."

"Should've anticipated this." Ratchet was saying as he stepped back from Jolt, giving the younger, usually quiet Autobot a stern glare. "With his increased energy fields, he has a heightened sensitivity in his neural network. Any vibration in his plating can cause such a reaction."

It took a second for Will to process that information and translate it. "He's ticklish?"

Ratchet turned to him, cocking his head. "That's a near enough comparison."

Will sighed heavily, rubbing his hand across his face as he heard a couple of his men laugh. The lack of sleep was already catching up with him and it wasn't even noon. He needed this like he needed a hole in the head. A ticklish Autobot? Really?

Sideswipe was laughing at his friend. "You were always so sensitive."

"Shut up, Sides." Jolt ground out.

"Aww," Sideswipe reached out a goosed his comrade between his thoracic and abdominal plating, making his friend dart away with a swear word, "I thought you were made of tougher stuff."

Jolt ducked his head, embarrassed, as Ratchet cuffed the back Sideswipe's helm. "I don't hear you complaining when those electric whips save your aft in battle."

Ratchet had a point. Jolt's . . . affliction . . . was inconvenient, but his abilities in a tight spot more than compensated. They were just going to have to rethink his role where the humans were concerned. "All right, guys. Jolt is on infantry, not cavalry. Run it again with Ironhide and Sideswipe."

Optimus moved towards Jolt. The blue bot was hanging his head a bit as his leader approached. "I'm sorry, Optimus."

The larger mech smiled. "Don't apologize for something beyond your control. Ratchet is correct. Your talents will be better applied in other aspects of battle."

Jolt huffed through his vents. "Sure."

The bot still looked disappointed. It was a simple thing that none of his comrades seemed to be having a problem with. Will was reminded of a kid with asthma being told that it was okay if he couldn't run fast, he was good at other stuff. It tended to not make the kid feel better. And after a week of being told to sit on the bench himself, Will could sympathize with feeling less than adequate. "Don't worry about it, Jolt. Humans are disgusting. Who knows what kind of crap they'll leave all over your plates. You don't want them crawling all over you anyway."

Optimus looked at him again, a knowing smile quirking his optics. "And what . . . material, pray tell, did you leave on my plates?"

It took Ratchet a second, but the medic turned his head sharply, optics boring into Lennox. "You climbed up there, didn't you?"

"Traitor." Lennox growled. He felt the hum of Optimus's suppressed chuckle through the thick armor plating.

With a sigh, Epps sat down heavily beside Will at the conference table, an unhappy expression on his face. "Another damn meeting. When was the last time we really blew something up?"

"This morning." Will answered distractedly, thumbing through the proposal in front of him. With the power needs of the growing Autobot force increasing, plans for a solar power generator more complex than anything known to man, had been drawn up by their alien allies. The cost would be staggering, but Diego Garcia would be efficiently self-sufficient if their projections were correct. The implications for mankind were remarkable to consider as well. Expensive, sure, but will couldn't help but think that the investment would be worth it in the long haul. The Autobots were willing to share just a bit of their technology and Will was willing to jump at the opportunity.

"That doesn't count. That's training." Epps was still going on.

Will indulged him for a moment and looked up, squinting as he thought. "Saturday."

"We're due, man. Long overdue."

"Hmm." Will went back to the documents in front of him, skimming the pages he had already read twice. This was going to be a tough sell, but if he could pull it off. . .

Nearby, Optimus stood with Ironhide and Ratchet. Only the Autobot leader and the medic were wired for sound, intending to participate in the meeting that Will had arranged with top officials from the U.S. Government. Ratchet had done most of the engineering for the solar power generator using materials from Earth and Ironhide, being one of the Prime's officers, had requested the opportunity to be present as well.

One of the techies whistled sharply, getting Lennox's attention. "We're a go, sir."

Will turned his attention to the monitor in front of him. On the left was General Morshower at NEST headquarters, already looking distinctly unhappy. On the right, Congressman Galloway, the President's liaison to NEST operations, hailing them from his office in Washington D.C.. He sat back in his leather chair, fingers templed, glaring at Lennox through the link.

Great. It seemed as though Morshower and Galloway had already been at each other's throats before Lennox had even patched in. Knowing the Congressman's tendency to bitch about anything and everything Diego Garcia related, Will could already foresee how this was going to go: Morshower would take Lennox's side if for no other reason than to piss Galloway off. Galloway would squeal about budget and then pull the "Presidential" trump card.

Pushing aside the "hamster in the wheel" metaphor, Will ordered himself to keep his cool. Showing any sort of disrespect towards Galloway would only lead to an annoying diatribe that much faster.

"Good evening, Congressman Galloway. General." Lennox greeted both politely.

"Major." Morshower addressed him in his gravelly voice.

"This had better be important." Galloway said in a clipped tone, "It is the middle of the night here."

Beside him, Epps made a disgusted sound. Will kicked him hard in the ankle. The sergeant glared at him briefly. He ignored his friend, though Epps's attitude mirrored his own. God forbid Galloway be inconvenienced by the men that were keeping his skinny ass safe from evil alien robots.

"We believe it is, sir." Will replied, checking his irritation and reminding himself of the objective. "The Autobots have agreed to share a bit of their technology with us and we thought you might be interested to hear about it."

Galloway perked up immediately, practically drooling like a dog with a steak dangled in front of his nose. "They've agreed to share weapons technology with us?"

"No." Optimus had cut across Will before he could speak. It wasn't surprising, given how emphatically the Autobot leader had explained his reasons for not allowing Cybertronian arms to end up in human possession. "The technology we offer is not for destruction. And while we share this knowledge out of necessity, I hope that both humans and Autobots might benefit."

For the next twenty minutes, Optimus, Ratchet, Will and the team of engineers that had worked on the project outlined the specifics of it. When they approached the subject of budget, Will watched the Congressman's face grow darker.

"Enough." He finally cut Ratchet off. The CMO looked mutinous and Will reflected that Galloway should thank his lucky stars that he was thousands of miles away. "And I suppose that you want the American government to foot the bill for this science experiment."

Will caught sight of Ratchet as the CMO's armor flared out. Praying that everything was nailed down, he took it upon himself to answer. "With the cooperation of some of our allies, sir, I believe we could reduce the overhead costs to acceptable-"

"No." Galloway responded shortly. "It is the U.S. government that has been inconvenienced the most by this arrangement. It will again be the U.S government that will have to go out of its way for this alliance. What guarantee do we have that this apparatus will even work?"

The combination of the request and the late hour was taking its toll on the congressman. Will hadn't seen Galloway this irritated since the joke-requisition for an Autobot-sized, steel reinforced trampoline had somehow made it to his inbox.

Morshower spoke up. "I think we should give the idea some consideration. The implications-"

"The implications are that this is project would be a waste of time and money." Galloway shot back, gesturing sharply with his hand. "I will not waste taxpayer money on a project . . ."

As he continued on, Will became aware that Epps was snickering beside him. He glanced quizzically at his comrade before another sound registgered. It was a song, a melody he had heard once or twice before. A couple of the techs closer to the 'bots were doubled over, tears streaming down their faces as they tried to contain their mirth, their faces red with the effort.

Galloway was still prattling on. Will hoped he looked like he was paying attention as he tried to pick up on the song and what the hell was so damned funny.

"I drive really slow in the ultra-fast lane, while people behind me are going insane

I'm an asshole!"

Will cringed inwardly, feeling the mystery meat he had horked down for lunch trying to come up for air. The quiet laughter was getting louder as was the volume of the song. Will risked a glance to his right. Optimus was giving Ironhide a chiding (and possibly amused) glare while Ratchet grinned evilly. Ironhide gave the pair an innocent, helpless look and seemed to indicate he was having an issue with his radio. As both were still technically in a conference with the congressman and the general, there was little they could do about it.

When the volume cranked a little louder, Morshower quirked an eyebrow at Lennox through the monitor. Luckily, Galloway had looked away to pick up some file or another to illustrate whatever point he was making. The major was able to shrug helplessly as Denis Leary continued to enthusiastically list the ways in which to thoroughly illustrate his ability to be an asshole.

"What is that?" Galloway asked. The song had reached its climax, involving a hot pink Cadillac convertible with big brown baby seal eyes for head lights and non-biodegradable McDonald's cheeseburger containers.

"Uhhh . . . ." Lennox fumbled. "Communications glitch, sir. We may lose you."

Thank god for Epps. The man, still laughing, rose from his chair and signaled communications officer to cut the line. Immediately, Galloway's visage winked out and a smattering of raucous laughter filled the cavernous room.

Will flopped back in his chair, letting out a breath before narrowing his eyes at Ironhide. "Really, Hide?"

"Must be a crossed wire." The mech growled back. Mysteriously, the song cut short just as John Wayne thawed out.

"That was most inappropriate, Ironhide." Optimus spoke, giving his second in command a reproachful look. Ironhide remained unrepentant as his leader turned to Will. "My apologies, Major."

"The conversation was a lost cause, anyway." Will waved him off. "I'm sorry we didn't do a better job trying to sell it to Galloway in the first place. You guys are the ones that will suffer the most for it."

"Don't worry about it." Morshower spoke up over his own vidlink. "Galloway isn't the only one with the President's ear. Including him in this discussion was just a formality, anyway."

"He'll be ticked off, General." Will turned back to his superior officer. "He likes to think he's the only one that can influence the President."

"I like ticking him off." Morshower smiled slyly. "Why do you think I had you schedule this rendezvous for the middle of the night, Eastern Standard Time?"

Growling frustration, Will let fly a filthy word and pushed his laptop away from him. The damned thing was frozen up again and putting distance between it and himself was the only way to insure that he didn't hurl it out the window.

It was late in the afternoon and the base was beginning to relax as the sun sank lower. Will had retreated to his office in the hopes of getting at least some of his paperwork done before settling in for a hopefully quiet evening. But, as usual, his computer was being willfully uncooperative.

"Hey, man." Will looked up to find Epps leaning on the doorframe. "What's up?"

"I hate technology." Will responded, glaring at the laptop again.

Epps laughed a little. "Wouldn't say that too close to the 'bots. How about tossing the pigskin around?"

He really should work on reports and he knew it. But the lack of physical exercise combined with the ceaseless parade of annoying problems he had dealt with that day had seriously battered his formidable constitution. Granting himself permission, Will stood up. "Yeah. Why not?"

A few minutes later, Will was tromping across the sand with Epps and about ten other men from various parts of the base who were off duty at the moment. It wasn't enough warm bodies for a proper game, but definitely enough to run some plays and pretend to be regular guys, if only for a little while.

A whoop from the direction of the hangar caused the men to look up as they walked. Jolt and Sideswipe careened from their quarters in vehicle mode, screaming down the airstrip. The ground shook beneath them as Ironhide barreled out behind them, throwing himself into his own alt mode before tearing off after the other two. Whatever the pair had done, they had managed to unleash the big mech's wrath.

As they watched, Ironhide's tires ground up the tarmac, gaining him purchase as his engine screamed to a higher pitch. With a burst of acceleration, he caught Jolt's bumper, and shoved, sending the blue car spinning out of control. Jolt transformed as he rolled, sputtering in the sand.

Sideswipe had reached the end of the runway and while his power allowed him to boldly go where no Corvette had gone before, he knew better than to try and outrun the Weapon's Specialist in the uneven terrain. He fishtailed into the sand and transformed to his bipedal mode just long enough to catapult himself over his pursuer. As he rolled across the ground, he found his vehicle mode again and raced down the airstrip, heading for base proper. Ironhide's tires squealed as he skidded around in hot pursuit. Sideswipe had lost precious seconds and he knew it.

As they roared back past the hangars, Will caught sight of Ratchet and Optimus standing outside of the hangar, watching the three others scream around them in the red glow of the afternoon sun. They both watched as Jolt picked himself up out of the sand and Sideswipe pulled evasive maneuvers to try and lose Ironhide. It was to no avail. The Topkick's big angry grill was glued to his bumper

Jolt transformed and tore off after them in some weird game of Autobot Tag, the trio disappearing in the small maze of buildings that comprised their base. Whatever they were doing, Will trusted Ironhide to keep the two underlings in line.

Within minutes, the group of men hand squared off, and Will found himself quarterbacking an offensive play. As soon as the ball was snapped, he danced back, evading Epps long enough to rocket a long bomb to Johnson. The football landed safely in the kid's grip, even as Murphy tried to intercept.

They went back and forth for a while, alternating between offense and defense, laughing and ribbing each other about lack of skill and dumb luck. It wasn't long before Will felt the tension ease, slipping into relaxed mindset and reveling in the fact that, at least for the moment, he didn't have anything to worry about.

It wasn't long before their activity caught the attention of their alien comrades. Will was picking himself up out of the sand after one of the guys had blocked him a little roughly when he noticed the five Autobots standing nearby, watching the humans with quiet interest. He gave a wave, but not really a second thought as he moved in with the others to set up the next play.

"Major Lennox." Norris fell in step beside him, and nodded towards the Cybertronians. "What are they looking at?"

"They're just watching us." Lennox clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "We are just as strange to them as they are to us."

Norris seemed to consider this. "Never thought about it like that."

"See if you get a long pass to me." Will went on, wanting to get back to the game. "Epps is getting too damned cocky. I need to take him down a peg or two."

"You got it, sir." The kid smirked.

They moved to set the line and when the ball was snapped Will was off like a shot. Epps moved to cover him, but he rolled away easily. Norris pump-faked and bought some time for Lennox to get some distance between himself and the sergeant. The throw was perfect, leading him just a bit, spiraling beautifully and dropping right into his outstretched-

Lennox registered a burst of warm wind on his face. Startled, his eye lost the ball which seemed to have drifted just out of his grasp. Epps tackled him around the waist and Lennox grunted in surprise as he hit the sand.

Rolling over, Will sighed with dismay. The football lay just beyond his reach. He should have had that. "What the hell happened?"

"You," Epps grinned from where he stood and offered a hand up, "dropped the ball, man."

"Didn't you feel that?"Will asked as he allowed himself to be pulled back to his feet.


"There was a burst of air or something."

Epps chuckled. "You blaming your fumble on the wind?"

It did sound fairly stupid. The men standing around them were beginning to chuckle at their commander's lame excuse. It was nothing but sheer pride talking when next he spoke. "I suppose you think you can do better?"

"In my sleep, dude."

"Fine." Will snatched up the ball and tossed it to McKenzie, a corporal that had been snapping the ball for Epps's team. "Let's do it."

As they set, Epps growled at him over the line of scrimmage. "Ain't catching me today, Major. I'm 'bout to show you how to play this game."

The ball snapped and Will zeroed in on Epps. He had taken off as soon as the ball left McKenzie's hands. Dodging one of the lineman, Will tore after him, matching his pace as, once again the ball sailed down in a perfect arc, only this time towards Epps. Shit, he wasn't going to make it.

In front of him, Epps swore and Will lunged forward, registering that the football had left its natural arc of descent at almost a 90-degree angle. It was almost an instant replay of what had just occurred as Lennox took Epps to the ground.

Immediately, Epps jumped back to his feet. "What the hell?"

There was a burst of static, almost like a laugh. During the course of running the play, Epps and Lennox had ended up fairly close the Autobots. It had taken some time, but Will had become accustomed to their body language. It was fairly evident that Sideswipe was trying hard not to laugh as he stood with his arms across his chassis, looking anywhere but at Epps and Will. "What are you doing?"

Sideswipe started, sounding offended and entertained at the same time. "It's not me!"

Four sets of optics turned to Optimus who stood by calmly, serenely looking down on the two men and the others that were slowly closing in. "The first incident was purely unintentional, I assure you."

Will chuckled. "What happened?"

"I released air from my cooling systems through my exvents. My timing was unfortunate. It blew your projectile from your grasp."

"And the second time?" Epps called back, sounding a little agitated.

It was Ratchet who answered as Ironhide rasped a chuckle. "Well, that was just amusing."

The remainder of their session was spent running their plays and trying to anticipate when and how their alien friends would alter the course the football with puffs of warm air from their vents. It degenerated to the ridiculous rather quickly, resulting in a game of Monkey in the Middle with the soldiers trying to claim their ball back as Ironhide and Sideswipe kept it suspended between them for a good five minutes.

By the time they were done, the men were drenched with sweat and laughing as they dragged themselves back from the beach to clean up before chowtime. Each of them called back to the Autobots, waving and inviting them to "come out and play" anytime.

As Will waved and followed Epps, the 'bots began their own trek back towards the hangar, probably to refuel as well. It was long in coming, but there was a level of comfort that was building between the humans and the aliens. He was glad of it, because he simply did not see the human race surviving if they didn't trust the Autobots. They were going to need each other in order to keep the Decepticons at bay. Deep down, in his heart of hearts, he just knew that it had not ended at Mission City.

It felt strange to be able to divide his life into eras (before alien robots and after alien robots) and it was a bit unnerving at just how normal all of this was becoming. Even with all of the headaches that came with being CO of Diego Garcia, Will wouldn't have traded his command for any other in the world. No matter how routine it became, how many problems he had to sort out, he knew he was lucky to have comrades such as these, human and alien alike.

After supper, Will returned to his quarters. One of the techs must have seen to his computer, probably at Epps's request. It was rebooted and waiting for him when he got back to his office. He spent some time on his reports before shooting an email off to Sarah to tell her all was well and that he was thinking of her and Annabelle. It wasn't long before he made his way back to his quarters and settled down into his bunk for the night.

Sending a small prayer heavenward for a quiet night, he cut the light and lay back. It wasn't long before he fell into a deep slumber.

"Ummmm, Major? Sir? I really hate to do this to you again, but-"

Will rolled over and groaned into his pillow.

Damn it.

The End

More Disclaimer: Nor do I own the "Asshole" song by Denis Leary . . . which is just a damned funny song.