Hard Facts, Simple Truths

Ch 3: What's in a Name? Part 3

Heading back to his work sorting through files the next morning, Hank decided to follow Optimus’ vague advice. When he reached the inevitable point that searching for mention of the purple and black copter became unbearable, the youth left the Aircraft room behind and went wandering until he found the door labelled Autobots. Inside, there were just as many boxes of files as the other rooms, but at least these had some semblance of being organized. Four shelves towards the back were prominently designated as Dead or Missing, but all the others were Active Personnel. Smaller labels further organized Autobots by division, and Hank looked around until he found Officers. All the way at the end of the row, in between Ultra Magnus and Chromia, he found the substantial box with Ironhide’s name on it.

Pulling it out, Hank started to flip through multiple pages about the old man’s past battles and exploits, a copy of his medical file, even mentions of some specialized weapons he’d personally designed. Finally, the youth found what he was looking for - a short few paragraphs on ‘Hide’s background from nearly twenty vorns before:

Vorn 2567 in the Third Age

Name: Hepley, Travis

Occupation: Bodyguard to Alphius Tran, Senator of Iacon

Possible Position within Autobots: Weapons Specialist, Basic Training Instructor

Known Relations: Wife (Hepley, Cynthia (see Chromia)), Son (Hepley, Trevor) (Deceased), Daughter (Palomine nee Hepley, Tia), Son-in-Law (Palomine, Mason), Daughter-in-Law (Hepley nee Kursen, Kristin), Grandsons (Palomine, Warren; Hepley, Trenton).

Hank nearly dropped the file in shock.

Numbly, he put everything back on the shelf, and in a daze shuffled back to the other room to continue his search. For the rest of the orn, Hank did things with a mechanical efficiency, still rolling his startling discovery around in his head, slowly but surely coming up with more than enough similarities between Ironhide and the cousins - his grandsons, for Primus’ sake! - to confirm the relation.

By the time the afternoon rolled around and Hank was bringing another box to Arcee to sort through, his mind was still in a fog, and a concerned First Aid had the youth sit down before he walked into a wall.

“Alright, what the frag’s the matter with you?” Arcee asked as soon as both of the medics were out of earshot.

“Still can’t believe it.” Hank mumbled in reply.

“Can’t believe what?” Haltingly, he explained to her about the odd event the orn before at dinner, and how Prime had suggested Hank could find the reason why if he went and poked through the Autobot files. He stalled then, and it took Arcee’s careful coaxing to get the other trainee to state the fact that had held him in shock ever since.

“GRANDSONS?” Unfortunately, the girl’s yelp when he finally did instantly attracted Ratchet’s attention, and the pair were hard-pressed down to divulge the details of what they’d just been discussing. “You mean those bone-brains are actually related to the King of Cranky?” Arcee hissed once the old medic had finally moved off again.

“Apparently.”

Shaking her head, the girl sank back into the cushioned headboard of her medical berth. “Huh.” She sent a look Hank’s way. “Do you think Kup knew?”

Opening his mouth to answer, Hank had to pause and think on it first. “...Yeah, yeah I think he must have. He said that he and Ironhide were old friends, and considering how much Kup fussed at the cousins when they were being idiots...”

“He probably wanted to try and get them into shape a bit before their grandfather had a chance to meet them.” Arcee’s eyes widened. “Oh Primus. Trenton and Warren - they don’t know, do they?”

“Nope. Or else I doubt the first orn would have gone by without some show of a family relationship. I’m not sure they realize their grandmother’s an Autobot, either.”

Arcee’s jaw dropped, and Hank hurried to go on. “Y’know how much they’ve said that their Gran was a scary lady when torqued off, but that she’d bring them souvenirs from whenever she went travelling? In ‘Hide’s file, the different relations section where I found Cliff and Warpath’s names was headed by a Cynthia Hepley, with a note to see Chromia, which was the name on the next box down the shelf.”

“Fraggin’s Primus on a pogo stick.” Arcee said. “...We’re not allowed to tell anyone, are we?”

“Well... Prime might have given me roundabout permission, but I don’t think it’s technically allowed to go snooping through people’s personnel files, so probably not. I’m not dropping this just yet, though.”

“What? Why?”

“I want to find out if Ironhide’s really aware that those two are his grandsons, and why he hasn’t said anything to them if he does know.”

“Okay, I’ve heard from Springer that you sometimes confuse bravery with stupidity, but that is beyond idiotic!” Arcee glowered at him. “Ironhide’s gonna know you went through his file, and Primus help you when he decides how best to punish you for it.”

Hank sighed. “I know it’s stupid, but I’ve got to know. I am, however, planning on taking a living shield with me.”

-HF-ST-

When Hank came to Bumblebee with his request, the kid looked at him like he was crazy. Then the trainee started explaining everything from the beginning, and the tiny blonde rolled his eyes.

Of course Ironhide knows the cousins are the sons of his kids. Bee wrote out on his datapad. But he never mentions it so that they never ask him for favors, or so that others accuse him of nepit- nepots-

“Nepotism?” Hank said allowed, saving the kid from his struggle to remember the word.

Yeah, that one.

“Okay, all that’s fine and dandy - but I don’t believe there isn’t more to it.” Huffing, Bee shook his head and took Hank by the hand, dragging the startled trainee off down the hallway. He just went along with it, though he did falter a tad upon realizing that the kid was leading him straight to Ironhide’s little-used office. “Uh...”

When they reached the door, Bumblebee didn’t even bother knocking - he just punched in the access code and marched right inside, still hauling Hank after him.

Ironhide glanced up from some paperwork he was organizing, narrowing his eyes at the pair over the spectacles he was wearing. “What?” The old man barked.

Bee finally released Hank’s hand, marched over ‘Hide’s side of the desk and slapped down the datapad, with his earlier statement still displayed. Ironhide stared at it. Hank stared at him. Bumblebee crossed his arms and alternated glaring at the both of them. Finally, the old Autobot stirred slightly, glancing down at the fluffy haired child.

“Nepotism, pipsqueak? Aren't ya supposed t' be some sorta walkin' dictionary?” He asked with a hint of a smile. Bee threw his hands up in the air, snatched the pad back and stalked out of the office, leaving Hank to face Ironhide by himself. Which, the youth thought in the back of his mind, had definitely not been the plan.

Ironhide raised an eyebrow at him, before gesturing the the chair set in front of his desk. “So. Did you come straight from the archives, or have you been stewing over this most of the day?”

“Uh... I, um, went looking this morning. Kinda was in shock until about half a joor ago, when I talked to Arcee about it. You aren’t, uh, mad?”

“Well, I’m a tad irritated that Optimus wins our bet, but other than that, not really.”

Hank blinked at him. “I’m sorry - bet?!” The old soldier chuckled at him.

“Eh, don’t look so surprised, kid. Officers gotta stay entertained somehow too, y’know. And Prime was willing t’ wager a box of my favorite beer that ya’d go pokin’ ‘round before mid-orn, while I figured ya wouldn’t ‘til t’night, maybe even t’morrow.” He laughed louder at Hank’s shocked expression.

“That’s nice to know, I guess.” The youth said faintly.

“Gives ya a better idea of we are, at any rate.” Ironhide smirked. “Yer startin’ the route to joinin’ our ranks, Hot Rod. It’s pretty standard fer prospective officers t’ undergo somethin’ like this.”

“Oh.”

“Th’ fact tha’ my grandkids are among yer group was just a handy opportunity. We come up with different things dependin’ on who’s bein’ tested. That’s not t’ say, though, that yer allowed t’ go spreadin’ any o’ this around, got it?”

“Yes sir! But, um...” Ironhide waited for the youth to get his words together. “Why don’t they know?”

“Who know?”

“Cliff and Warpath. You clearly know who they are, but they don’t seem to know who you are!”

Sighing, the old soldier stood and went over to a shelf at the back of the office. He pulled a photograph out from under a stack of files, and brought it over for Hank to see. In the picture was an Ironhide of vorns past, with more brown than grey hair, alongside an extremely petite woman about the same age and a pair of younger adults who could only have been their children. And held within ‘Hide’s muscular arms were a pair of chubby babies, happily attempting to fight one another as their grandfather beamed.

“Tha’ was the last time I got t’ see those boys with my own eyes,” Ironhide said softly as Hank handed the photo back. “Th’ next orn all five of ‘em started off fer home. Those were th’ days b’fore the Autobots were official, before we started usin’ codenames t’ protect our loved ones.”

Hank closed his eyes involuntarily, realizing where the story was going. “You son - he died because someone knew how you two were related, wasn’t he?”

“Yeah. Cynthia had nightmares for groons after th’ attack, convinced she could’ve done more than just fought ‘long side Trevor. Was later that vorn that I suggested th’ idea o’ usin’ other names t’ protect our families.”

“You were the one who started that?”

“Mm. Wasn’t ‘spectin’ it t’ be such a big thing, I’ll be honest.” They continued to sit in silence for a while.

“Ironhide?” Hank finally spoke up. “Thanks. For telling me all this, I mean. And for not being mad about my sticking my nose where it doesn’t go.”

“Yer welcome, kid. Just do me a favor an’ don’ go spreadin’ it around, yeah?”

“Sure - can I tell Arcee, though? Since she already knows some of it.”

“That’s fine. Now, git outta here, I got work to do.” Hank grinned and gave him a quick salute, before hurrying out of the office and back towards the medical bay. He made sure to slow down before entering, not wanting to attract Ratchet’s irritated attention, but found it hard not to bounce over to Arcee’s berth.

“Rhea! You’re never gonna guess how well things went and what else Ironhide told me- Rhea?”

Sitting upright on the bed, documents and files spread out around her, Arcee was pale and shaking as she stared down at the paper clutched in her hands. Worried, Hank moved to where he could see it too.

There were a few notes detailing a description that matched the Con copter from the battle, alongside a blurry photo of said copter with a young woman climbing into it. Even before he saw the caption below the picture, Hank had a sinking feeling in his stomach from the similarities he saw between the lady in the photo and Rhea herself.

Below it were the words: Pilot believed to be assassin known as Airachnid, supposedly Raquel Curtis of Hivus City.

-HF-ST-

“Her sister?!” Cliffjumper sat back in his chair, shocked by the news. “Arcee’s big sister is a Con?!

“Yeah. She didn’t know either.” Hank said sadly. After the revelation earlier that orn, he’d spent most of the evening comforting the grieving girl. Raquel had apparently been a great sister, the ultimate protector when the pair grew up surviving on the streets of Hivus. Then one orn, after more than two orns of the elder sister acting strange, she’d vanished from their safe haven in an unused factory. All that had been left behind was a note, promising Rhea that she’d find a box of supplies waiting for her once a deco-orn in one of their many hidey-holes across the city. She’d gone on surviving as best she could, until the vorn came when she found out the supplies were being delivered by Decepticons. After that Rhea stopped taking them, and eventually left the city for safer climes.

“So, what - the big sister made a deal to become a Con, as long as they provided Arcee with food and basic necessities?” Warpath asked, incredulous.

“It makes sense,” Blurr said softly, fiddling with the hem of his shirt. “If it was just me taking care of my little brother, I’d have taken up an offer like that in a heartbeat, no matter who was making it.”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - Decepticons are monsters for using people’s families against them.” Springer growled in as dark a tone as any of the others had ever heard him use.

It was right then that Arcee entered the mess hall, slowly getting her evening meal and then haltingly approaching her fellow trainees. The girl paused when she reached their table, trepidation clear on her face. “Hey, guys.”

“Hey, ‘Cee. Pull up a seat.” Hank offered her a smile, which she returned uneasily. Silence reigned over the table for a while, until Cliffjumper finally broke it by banging his fist down.

“How quiet do you want to keep this, Rhea?” He asked in a no-nonsense voice. All of the others stared at him.

“...What do you mean, Cliff?”

“I mean, do you want to let anyone else know or not? Because you can bet your rifle we’ll go along with whatever you say.” Arcee lost some of her tension as the other trainees all voiced their agreement.

“Well... Maybe we can let Prime and a few of the officers know, add it to the proper files, but other than that...”

“We’ll keep it quiet.” Hank promised. “But, just to warn you, I think Bee might go reading the Autobot files when he’s bored. How else would the kid have already known what I was talking about this morning?”

“What were you talking about?” Blurr asked. Arcee and Hank exchanged a glance, which ended when the former smirked.

“You’ll have to take that up with Ironhide.” She informed the teen, finally back to her usual self.
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