A Scuxxoid ship, headed for Earth, was being pursued by the Aerialbots. "Come on! I know you're smuggling SOMETHING!" Silverbolt radioed to the Scuxxoid ship. "Prepare to be boarded!" "NO WAY!" the Scuxxoid radioed back. He tried using evasive maneuvers to shake his pursuers. "That's it, I'm going to MAKE him stop," Slingshot fumed. He blasted at the ship. "Oh, no!" the Scuxxoid shouted. The ship was entering the atmosphere! "Looks like it's going down!" Silverbolt said, "Let's follow it!" The ship crashed heavily in a rural area of North America. The Scuxxoid survived, and exited the craft, coughing. He did not realize that a large hole had been torn in the side of the ship on impact. And something scurried away from the wreckage. The Aerialbots landed and apprehended the smuggler. "Alright, you're coming with us," Silverbolt told him. "Awww, gimme a break! My kids need the money!" the Scuxxoid complained. "I'm going to see what he's smuggling," Skydive stated. "Wait, no, you can't go in there!" the Scuxxoid objected. He was unable to stop the Aerialbot and sighed as he sat and waited. Skydive returned moments later. "There's nothing in there," he said, "It's all empty." "EMPTY?" the Scuxxoid shouted, "THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!" *** Something small crept towards a large, old barn. It was dark outside, but the creature was well-adapted for low light conditions. It wanted someplace warm to rest, someplace sheltered. It squeezed under the lowest rail of a wooden fence to gain entry. A few cows mooed as they bedded down. The creature sniffed the air, then padded past the stalls. The smell in the pens didn't appeal to it at all. But it was drawn to the smell of food. The hayloft attracted it, and it climbed the ladder and pawed at the light, fluffy straw. Its sharp hearing detected the squeaks of a rat. It pounced, grabbing the rodent in its jaws and wolfing it down whole, headfirst. Satisfied with its snack, the creature pawed at the hay until it made a nice deep indentation. It turned around like a dog or cat settling for the night, then curled up and went to sleep. The creature slept for a long time. It was nearly dark again by the time it awakened. It yawned, stretched, then decided to get up and investigate its surroundings more closely. It easily leaped down to the floor from the edge of the loft. It heard the cows being moved back into the barn for the night. Curious, the creature stayed hidden but watched. A middle aged woman took one of the cows into a larger stall that had a stool and a bucket in it. The cow stuck its head in a pail of grain and munched away as the human sat and began milking the cow. The sound of the liquid hitting the bottom of the pail that sat below the udder startled the creature. Then the smell of milk filled the air. Though the creature had not tasted that particular substance, its senses told it that it would be delicious. Fearing discovery, it hung back still, in the shadows. A young girl, who couldn't have been much older than 7, walked into the stall. "Can I help?" she asked the woman. "Sure," the woman replied, "Here, you take a turn." The little girl grasped the udder awkwardly, but was able to send a few jets of milk into the pail. The creature uttered a sound that was suspiciously like a mew. "Grandma, is there a cat in here?" the girl asked. "We don't have one anymore, remember? The last one died of old age two weeks ago," the woman replied. "We were going to get a new one tomorrow, cuz the Hendersons' cat had kittens." "Yeah, you're going to let me pick," the girl replied. The creature was very curious now. The sight and sound of the child made it less nervous. It started to wander to the very edge of the shadows. "Grandma, there's something there!" the girl exclaimed. She had seen something in the shadows. "Is it a cat?" the grandmother wondered. "I don't think so. It's too big to be a cat. Maybe a dog? But it doesn't sound like a dog, either..." the girl said, "I'm going to see what it is." "Be careful. It might be a raccoon, and those can have rabies," the grandmother cautioned. "I won't get too close if it's a raccoon," the girl said. She stepped away from the cow, who didn't seemed concerned in the least at the creature that was mere feet away. "Whatever it is, it's not scaring the cow." The creature edged towards the child, still in the shadows, but sniffing to try to familiarize itself with the odors it was taking in. "Come on. I won't hurt you," the girl said. She squatted down, holding out her hand. The nervous creature hesitated, then slowly made its way to the girl. The harsh light of the incandescent bulb hanging from the ceiling finally cast itself on the creature and the girl could see it. Bright ruby optics, glittering with curiosity. A prominent brow on a greyish-white face that seemed touched with a hint of blue. Two sharp-looking batlike wings, colored very light blue. Dark cobalt-blue body, powerfully set and yet small. Greyish-white hands tipped with bright pink claws. The creature was no bigger than a small-to-medium-sized dog. "Grandma, what IS that?" the girl wondered. "It...it looks like some kind of robot," the grandma stated. The tiny robot mewed again, a chirping sound. It slowly moved closer and nuzzled the girl's hand. Its rough tongue lapped at her fingers, causing her to giggle. "That tickles!" she said. "Well, it seems friendly," the grandma stated, "I wonder where it came from." By now the creature had rolled onto its back and was letting the girl scratch under its chin. It was uttering very loud contented purrs. A rodent stirred in the corner. The creature was up in a flash and pounced quickly, snapping its jaws and dispatching the rodent in one bite. It then came up to the girl and dropped the rat at her feet, uttering a chirp. "Well, whatever it is, it's a good mouser," the grandma remarked. The creature began nosing at the bucket full of milk, sniffing at it. "I think it wants some milk," the girl said. "Well, I didn't know robots liked milk, but get the old dish and I'll pour some for it," the grandma said. The girl went into the next room and came back with a water dish meant for cats. The grandma poured some milk into it and the creature began lapping eagerly. The strange white liquid was tasty, full of fat, and rich in energy. The creature lapped up every drop and then licked its chops. "Can I keep him?" the girl asked. "We'll see," the grandma replied. *** "That Scuxxoid was smuggling WHAT?" Rodimus Prime exclaimed. "A Sweep cub," Silverbolt reiterated. "That's ridiculous," Rodimus Prime said, "Where would he have gotten one? I don't think Scourge is in the habit of letting his minions' offspring be sold to the highest bidder." "No, but Swindle might," Air Raid pointed out. "Point taken," Rodimus said, "And now you say this thing is loose?" "Yep," Silverbolt said. "Well, we'd better go find it, before it causes any trouble," Rodimus Prime stated, "Autobots, transform and roll out!" * "I wonder where he came from," the girl said, as the strange little robot let her pet him. Her grandma led the cow back to its own stall. What neither the girl nor her grandma realized, was that this little creature was a Sweep cub. Had they known what it was, they might have been afraid of it. They did find it rather odd that a creature that was clearly meant to be bipedal was moving around exclusively on all fours. The cub got up and rushed over to the ladder leading to the hayloft. The girl followed. She found a pull-chain and a dim incandescent bulb shone weakly into the hayloft area itself. Then she climbed the ladder. She found the cub digging into the hay. Suddenly its claws hooked into something in the pile and dragged it out. It was another rat. The Sweep cub crushed the rat's skull in its jaws, then swallowed it whole. The girl found where the Sweep cub had bedded down earlier. She looked over at the cub and watched as it groomed itself. Bits of hay had gotten stuck in gaps in its armor, and it found that slightly irritating. The girl went over and helped it get all the little bits of loose hay out. Then she thought of something. She slid down the ladder, walking into the tack room. She returned with an old quilt that had been used in years past to keep horses warm. She spread the quilt over the hollow in the hay, then patted it down to form-fit the depression. The cub came over to investigate. It nosed at the quilt, smelling the scent of horse on it. Satisfied that the scent wasn't unpleasant, the cub climbed into its new bed and curled up. It purred softly as the girl began stroking it. "You know, we might not need a kitten after all," she said. The cub fell asleep quickly. The girl went down the ladder and into the house, with her grandma. The cub awakened in the middle of the night. It wasn't used to the day/night cycle of this planet, hence it keeping such odd hours. He got out of his nice warm bed and jumped down from the loft to explore. The sleeping cows held little interest for the cub. Same with the pair of horses. It came across the feed bins and heard a gnawing sound near the bottom of one. There was a mouse there. Lashing out quickly with its claws, it dispatched the mouse and quickly devoured it. It caught five more mice in quick succession before deciding to wander outside. Instinctively the cub patrolled the perimeter of the fenced-in area around the barn. At regular intervals it would rub its chin against a fencepost, tree trunk, or even an old tractor. Marking its territory. In the grass it heard more rodents, and stalked and caught a few. It sniffed the air, taking in the myriad scents from the surrounding area. In a manner of speaking, this cub had already decided it was staying here. *** Rodimus Prime and the others searched the crash site thoroughly, but found no trace of the tiny young Sweep. "Do you think we should tell the Decepticons about this?" Bumblebee wondered. "Eh, probably not," Kup replied, "It would just put the humans in danger if Galvatron knew there was a young Decepticon on the loose around here." "I don't know, it seems strange that there haven't been any reports that anyone has spotted this thing yet," Rodimus said, rubbing his face and bridge of his nose. "You'd think it'd be causing havoc like you wouldn't believe." "Maybe we should ask the Scuxxoid a little bit more about the cargo," Kup suggested. "That's a good idea," Rodimus said. *** After wandering around the farm for several hours, and eating at least a dozen rodents, the Sweep cub returned to the loft and its nice soft bed. It liked the quilt; it kept the straw bits out of its armor. It snuggled into it and purred contentedly. When it was time to let the cows out for the morning, the little girl climbed up the loft and found the sleeping cub. She found him to be so cute while he was asleep. She watched him for a little while before reaching out and stroking his back softly. The cub woke almost immediately and mewed at her. "Oh, you're awake. Want some breakfast?" the girl asked. The cub got up, stretched, and stared up at her. When she went down the ladder, he followed. He scampered quickly, getting ahead of her as she went to the milking stall. Her grandma had just finished milking the cow. The Sweep cub went up to her and uttered a chirping sound. The smell of milk wafted into his olfactory sensors and he pawed lightly at the bucket. The dish was still there from the night before, so the grandma obligingly filled it and the Sweepcub eagerly drank. Once he had finished, he detected the rustlings of another mouse in the stall. One was scurrying around the feed trough. The Sweep cub pounced, grabbing the mouse in its jaws. He pranced over to the grandma and the girl, dropping the mouse at their feet. "Good boy!" the girl said. She reached down and petted him. Throughout the day, the Sweep cub shadowed the girl as she played, or went about her chores on the farm. She saw him catch a good number of rodents and told her grandma. "Why, he's an even better mouser than old Tiger," the Grandma commented. They both discovered that the cub was very playful. The girl broke off a tall length of grass and dragged it along the ground. The cub pounced and chased it, nipping at it and trying to catch it in his claws. He had to investigate every hole, every clump of tall grass, and had to climb every tree. The grandma decided that the cub's ability to hunt rats and mice was definitely sufficient to justify a bowl of milk twice a day. After all, he was earning his keep. He kept the rats out of the feed bins, which resulted in having to buy feed less often. And he really seemed to take to the little girl. The two of them played all day. They'd even found him a red rubber ball to play with. He'd bat it with his claws and chase it, then bring it to the girl or her grandma, then drop it at their feet, expecting them to throw it. Then he'd tear after it and catch it, then bring it back. *** "Come on," Rodimus insisted, "I want you to tell me EVERYTHING about the Sweepcub you were transporting." The Scuxxoid sighed. "Well, I suppose if you need to find it I can tell ya," he said, "It's for a very important client, ya know? Paid big bucks for it." "Who?" Rodimus asked. "Shhh! I can't tell ya that! Confidentiality, ya know?" the Scuxxoid said, "He had a lot of money to throw around, though." "What about records about the Sweep cub? Where's it from? What is it likely to do while on the loose?" Rodimus wanted to know. "Oh, I can tell ya that," the Scuxxoid said. He handed Rodimus a datapadd. The Autobot leader scrolled through the information. The Scuxxoid had thoughtfully included the Sweepcub's pedigree. Rodimus' jaw dropped when he saw the listed parentage. The dam was a Paradronian female Autobot, and the sire was one of Scourge's more prominent minions. "Does Scourge know about this?" Rodimus asked. "Nope," the Scuxxoid said, "Heck, the guy that's listed as the sire? He doesn't even know about this." Rodimus shook his head and read on. Cyber-DNA decoding information came next, along with the traits the cub was specifically bred for. "I don't believe this," he remarked, "You were selling a Sweepcub as if it were a purebred puppy!" He glared at the Scuxxoid. "Didn't you ever get the notion that selling Sweeps as pets was a collossally bad idea?" "But they're great pets!" the Scuxxoid protested, "This one is gentle and programmed to respond well to humans!" "If this is a joke, I fail to see the humor in it," Rodimus said dryly. -TO BE CONTINUED!