Transformers: Human in Disguise - Book II: Battlefield Earth

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Philister, Mar 5, 2013.

  1. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Transformers: Human in Disguise – Book II: Battlefield Earth
    By Philip S.

    Disclaimer: Transformers, GI Joe, and associated characters are the property of Hasbro, no infringement is intended.
    Please Note: This story is a sequel to my previous story “Transformers: Human in Disguise” and will only make sense if you’ve read that one first.
    Continuity Notes: No specific Transformers continuity, though strong influences from Generation 1 and the War for Cybertron video game. And while numerous characters from GI Joe will be appearing in this story, this is not a GI Joe crossover in any way, shape or form. Given that Marissa Fairborn is established in canon to be the daughter of Flint and Lady Jaye, it just made sense to use these existing characters, along with some others.
    Rating: PG-13


    NOTE: This is just the prologue for now, a teaser if you will. I'm still busy outlining this story (I know the beginning, the end, and several key scenes, but I still have put in the rest), so it'll take some time before chapter 1 comes along. Please be patient with me.

    *****

    Prologue: Home

    *****

    Home of Dashiell Fairborn (US Army, ret.) & Alison Fairborn (US Army, ret.)
    San Francisco, USA
    November 24, 2013


    Just like every morning Dash Fairborn rose at the crack of dawn and did his morning workout in the living room of his home. Alison always gave him an amused smile when she rose much later in the day, considering that they were both retired now and didn’t need to get up this early. Still, the habits of a long military career were hard to break and so Dash always got up at the same time and worked out.

    Twenty minutes later a faint sheen of sweat covered him as he headed towards the kitchen to turn on the coffee machine. He wasn’t really into the stuff that much, but he knew his wife was fully capable of killing people if she didn’t get her cup of java first thing after rising. Passing the hallway mirror he briefly considered his receding hairline and the large amount of grey now present in what was left of his hair. He had aged considerably these last few years. Small wonder.

    A picture hung next to the mirror and he paused, as he did most mornings. It showed him and his wife, framing a young woman wearing the uniform of the US Air Force. She had been twenty-three then, he remembered, and his own hair had still been dark. They’d teased her relentlessly for joining the ‘chair force’ instead of the Army, but that hadn’t lessened their pride one bit. Swallowing, he continued on into the kitchen. So many years now...

    He had just turned on the coffee maker when there was a knock on the door. Frowning, he headed out into the living room and grabbed a towel to dab the remaining droplets of sweat from his face. Who could be visiting them so early in the morning and on a Sunday no less? If it was some kind of salesman he would get pretty cranky, that was for sure.

    He opened the door, a rebuke at the ready, but it died on his lips. Because right there on his front porch stood someone who couldn’t possibly be there. Eight years, he remembered. Eight years since he had received a letter containing the worst news any parent could possibly receive. Eight years since they had buried an empty coffin with full military honours. Eight years since they had received a folded flag and been told that their daughter had died in the service of her country on a top secret mission they could not be told about. Eight years.

    Marissa, his daughter who had died eight years ago, stood right before him. Her hair was longer than he remembered and a streak of grey stood out prominently. Her face had acquired quite a few lines and she was extremely pale, even more apparent for the complete lack of make-up.

    It was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. But it had to be a dream. He was still in bed and dreaming, that had to be it. He’d had this particular dream quite a few times after that dreadful letter, though not for at least a year now, he figured. Still, any moment now he’d wake up. Any moment now...

    “Hi daddy,” the apparition in front of him said, smiling slightly. “I’m home!”

    A moment later she was in his arms and he didn’t know if he had moved first or she had, but it didn’t matter. She was here. She was real. This was not a dream. His little girl had not died on some top secret mission eight years ago, never to come home again. She lived and she was safely in his arms. Nothing else mattered.

    “Oh my god,” he muttered, tears running freely down his cheeks. “We thought we’d lost you.”

    “I’m sorry I took so long,” she said, crying as well. “But I made it, daddy! I’m home again!”

    Finally convincing himself that this was indeed real, Dash reluctantly relaxed his hold on his daughter just enough so he could turn his head and look back into the house.

    “Alison!” he bellowed. “Get down here now!”

    It took a minute or so until his wife came down the stairs, still looking rumpled from sleep and less than happy at being summoned this way.

    “Dash, this better be good, or I swear you’ll...”

    Her voice trailed off as Dash stepped aside to unveil what had appeared on their doorstep. Alison stood frozen for an endless moment, unable to believe what she was seeing, but then she jumped down the remaining steps and Dash found himself unceremoniously shoved aside as his wife hugged her long-lost daughter. He was still crying and he didn’t care.

    “Oh baby,” Allison sobbed. “You’re home. Thank God, you’re home.”

    “I’m so sorry, mom,” Marissa said. “I wish there’d been some way to let you know. I promise I came here as soon as I could.”

    With no clear idea how it had happened they were inside in the living room and sitting down on the couch. Marissa was sandwiched between her parents, both of them afraid to let go for fear this might all turn out to be a dream after all.

    “They told us you died,” Dash finally managed. “What happened, Marissa?”

    “I’m so very sorry you had to go through this,” she replied, her eyes still shiny with tears. “I feared... I’m just so happy to see you both alive and well.”

    Dash frowned. “You feared for us?” he asked, incredulously. “You were the one who was... I mean, they told us... what in blazes happened, girl?”

    Marissa sighed, settling deeper into the couch.

    “It’s a long story, dad. And you’ll believe I’ve gone bonkers at first. I have proof with me, though. We don’t have much time, I fear, so I need you to listen and then I need you to contact Uncle Clay for me.”

    Dash frowned again. “Uncle Clay”, better known to the world at large as General Clayton “Hawk” Abernathy was his old commander, now one of the joint chiefs. He was an old family friend and certainly near the top of the list of people he’d tell about Marissa’s miraculous return from the dead, but why him specifically?

    “I assume they told you that I died on some top secret mission or other, right?” she asked, receiving nods from her parents. “Well, don’t be angry with them. To the best of their knowledge, that was exactly what happened. I didn’t die, though. I simply ended up stranded somewhere else.”

    It was only now that Dash noticed that Marissa was wearing gloves despite it being nowhere near cold enough. She took off her right one and... what in blazes? Her hand... it looked like it was made from... metal? Dash looked on in amazement as Marissa opened the palm of her right hand and suddenly a three-dimensional image appeared in the air above it, displaying... what the hell was that? Some kind of techno-globe?

    “I ended up on an alien world called Cybertron.”

    Allison and Dash stared at her with wide eyes.

    “You were certainly right about the bonkers thing,” Allison just muttered.


    End Prologue
     
  2. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    So, I'm finally done with the outline, so here's part 1:

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


    Chapter 1: Stranger in a Strange Land

    *****

    Journal of Captain Marissa Fairborn, United States Air Force
    November 24, 2013


    Looking back through the many, many journal pages I’ve written, I’ve finally come to the point where I can leave out the ‘(approx.)’ behind the dates I’ve put on the entries. For a long time I could only guess at the exact date, being so far away from Earth. Now, though, that has changed.

    I’m home. Finally, after eight years and 26 days, I’m home. Come to think of it, though, it feels like it’s been much, much longer. Especially these last eight months, give or take. Eight months in which I could only imagine the horrors that Shockwave might already have inflicted on my home world while I was still stuck on Cybertron. Eight months in which Wheeljack, Perceptor, Brainstorm, Mainframe, and a host of other Autobots worked ceaselessly to replicate Shockwave’s receiver-less Space Bridge technology. Eight months in which I woke up screaming every night, seeing my home world in flames.

    Yesterday we finally managed to get it working. At least the time between was well-spent, as it gave the Autobots the chance to build a ship of their own and put together a strike force to pursue Shockwave. We don’t know exactly how many troops he has with him and hostilities on Cybertron and the Grid Planets are still ongoing despite the Autobots now being at a clear advantage, so Optimus Prime can only spare so many troops, but at least we’ve finally gotten moving.

    Coming out of the Space Bridge in high orbit above Earth, I felt a huge weight fall right off me when the Earth appeared whole and unblemished on the view screen. Jazz, who is in command of this mission, ordered an immediate scan of the globe, looking for signs of mass destruction or full-scale combat. I think I held my breath for a long time until we finally got the good news back: while there were numerous signs of armed conflict (something that is unfortunately normal for Earth), there were no traces of anyone having used Cybertronian weapons technology on a large scale.

    For a moment I allowed myself to hope that Shockwave might never have gotten here. That he’d gotten something wrong and been killed by his own Space Bridge or something. No such luck, of course. Further scans quickly revealed that a Space Bridge portal had indeed opened here roughly seven to eight months ago, the transwarp radiation still measurable. Plus, there was a certain amount of signal noise coming from Earth that carried signs of Cybertronian technology as well, though it was too faint to get a location on it.

    So good news and bad news both, I guess. Shockwave and his troops are here, somewhere. For whatever reason they haven’t pressed the Armageddon button yet. But it does mean that there is still a job to be done.

    First, though, I’m going to do something I’ve waited eight years and 26 days for. I’m going home.


    *****

    Jazz watched as Marissa entered the home of her parents. It had taken quite a few hours of explanation until most of the Autobots more or less understood the concept of parenthood. For a race that reproduced asexually, there were no such things as blood family or the kind of emotional bonds Marissa had to her own progenitors. Jazz had seen Marissa’s reaction upon meeting the two humans designated ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy’, though, so he understood how important they were to her and vice versa.

    He kept a scanner trained on the house, just to be on the safe side, but ever since touching down on this new planet two other things had preoccupied him. One, keeping an ear out for anything that might clue them in on the location of the Decepticons. And two, …

    The music!

    The data sphere of this world, primitive as it was, was just bursting with music, so many different styles even his highly developed processor had trouble trying to grasp them all. Radio stations broadcast music around the clock, online sites offered tons and tons of it up for sale and trade, and still more was available in a variety of data formats.

    Just about the only thing more numerous than music in Earth’s data sphere were pictures and videos of naked or semi-naked humans (Marissa had told them to just ignore those) and, strangely enough, pictures and videos of a small, furry species called cats. The latter made as little sense to Jazz as the former.

    Anyway, Jazz was already planning to arrange for a full-scale data dump to send back home, if only because Blaster would never let him hear the end of it if he didn’t. The Autobot chief of communications was as enamoured with the small sample of Earth music they’d had so far as Jazz and had pleaded with Optimus Prime to let him join the Earth expeditionary force. Prime had denied him, though, as he needed his chief com officer to help coordinate the multi-planetary campaign to mop up the remains of the Decepticon forces back home. So Blaster had remained behind, grudgingly, but made Jazz swear to send him some Earth music as soon as possible.

    Jazz’ further musings were interrupted as the door of the house opened once again and Marissa led her parents outside. It seemed it was time for the big show.

    *****

    Eyes still puffy from happy tears, Marissa walked ahead of her parents as they crossed their front yard and walked up the car parked at the curb. It would have been somewhat overkill, she mused, if she had arrived here in her own preferred vehicle, the giant transforming robot Thrymir. Even adapted to an Earth-form, the sight of a big F-22 landing in the midst of suburbia would have drawn quite a bit of attention, of course. So they’d opted for something a big stealthier.

    Jazz had been somewhat overwhelmed by the large variety of car forms available in Earth’s database, but had eventually settled on something sleek and fast. A white Porsche with racing stripes now served as his alternate form and while it wasn’t quite as exciting as flying an F-22 (or rather an alien jet disguised as an F-22), she could easily admit that she’d enjoyed driving the Porsche. Well, driving in the sense that she held the steering wheel and gave directions. Jazz did his own driving.

    Coming to a halt right next to the car, she turned to face her parents.

    “Ready for the big reveal?” she asked, very much enjoying herself.

    “Nice car,” her father said. “But what does that have to do with...?”

    “Just a second, dad,” she interrupted him. “Jazz, is the coast clear?”

    Her parents flinched as the empty car began to speak. “Everything looks fine, Marissa. Hound is putting up a holo-shield, so everyone looking in will just see you three chatting next to a white Porsche.”

    “Then by all means, start the show!”

    She’d seen the show numerous times before, of course, so instead she watched her parents as the unmistakable sounds of a Cybertronian transformation rang out from behind her. Both her parents, hardened military veterans who’d seen it all and not been impressed the first time, took several steps back and paled as a giant alien robot suddenly emerged from a harmless looking car. Jazz, far from the biggest of Autobots, still stood more than 6 meters tall and cast a long shadow across her parents’ yard.

    “Allow me to introduce Jazz, commander of the Autobot Earth Expeditionary Force. Jazz, these are my parents, Alison and Dashiell Fairborn.”

    Jazz knelt down, now being merely twice the size of the two shocked humans, and carefully held out his giant hand.

    “Very pleased to meet you,” Jazz said smoothly. “Marissa has told me a lot about the two of you and I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

    For a long minute her parents just stared, to the point where Marissa feared she might have broken them, then Alison shook her head and took a step forward.

    “Eh... well, I... it’s... it’s nice to meet you, too, Jazz,” she finally managed, gingerly shaking one of Jazz’ huge fingers.

    Her dad seemed somewhat less eager, instead turning to Marissa.

    “Marissa, are you sure...?” he began.

    “Trust me, dad,” she simply said. “Jazz is one of the good guys. And also one of the reasons I made it back here at all.”

    “Your daughter exaggerates,” Jazz interjected. “She did most of the hard work herself. The rest of us were mostly just along for the ride.”

    “Yeah, right,” Marissa looked at him. “Which of us regularly snuck into Polyhex amidst hordes of angry Decepticons to cause trouble?”

    “I might have done the sneaking, girl, but much of the trouble was based on your ideas, not to mention all the fancy flying you did in the meantime. So don’t sell yourself short here!”

    *****

    Dash Fairborn watched in awe as his daughter bantered with the giant alien robot – for what else could it possibly be – in much the same way he used to banter with his unit comrades. The way they acted around each other spoke volumes about shared experience in the trenches. What in blazes had his baby girl endured these past eight years?

    Shaking his head, he decided to concentrate on the important stuff for now. His girl was here and apparently this big robot was part of the reason she’d made it back home. For now, that was more than good enough for this old soldier.

    “Nice to meet you then, Jazz,” he said, stepping forward to shake his hand – or finger, rather – as well. “And thanks for helping my daughter get back home.”

    The giant robot nodded. “Believe me, Mr. Fairborn, it was my pleasure.”

    Marissa gave him a beaming smile.

    “Convinced then?” she asked.

    “Kinda hard not to,” he replied. “I guess I better make that call to your uncle Clay then.”

    “That would be a good idea, dad.”

    Shaking his head at the strange turn their lives had taken these past 30 minutes or so, Dash headed back to the house and the phone. Well, at least he’d not be the only one in for the surprise of his life today, he guessed.


    End Chapter 1
     
  3. Mazerunner

    Mazerunner Cyber Ninja.

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    hey, the Mazerunner here! Philister sir, i majorly like all of what you wrote. just read it all today and was dissapointed when i got to the end and there was no more. please keep writing and when you run out of ideas for this one start on another. thank you. Ba Weep Gronna. Ba Weep Ninny Bong.
     
  4. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    So, next chapter is done. Quite a bit of exposition here, sorry, I tried to keep it to a minimum.



    Chapter 2: Old Friends and Alien Visitors

    *****

    Home of Dashiell Fairborn (US Army, ret.) & Alison Fairborn (US Army, ret.)
    San Francisco, USA
    November 24, 2013


    General Clayton “Hawk” Abernathy did not have many Sundays off. Once one climbed the ranks to the point where one was a member of the Joint Chiefs, it was pretty much a given that regular office hours were a thing of the past. So Hawk had come to greatly treasure those few times when his duties actually did allow him to relax for the weekend.

    Which was why he’d been less then enthused when his old war buddy Dash Fairborn called him early in the morning and told him to come over as quickly as possible. Coming over in this case meant boarding a jet and flying for nearly three hours to bridge the distance from his home in Colorado Springs to San Francisco. There were only a handful of people in the world for whom Hawk would do this, no questions asked, and Dash and Allison were two of them.

    Didn’t mean he wasn’t grumpy, of course. Those two better had a good reason.

    He briefly noted the white Porsche standing in front of the house. When had Dash retired his old clunker of a Dodge and gotten a midlife crisis mobile? Wasn’t he a bit old for that? Anyway, he walked past and knocked on the door. Moments later Dash let him in.

    “Thank you for coming, Hawk,” Dash greeted him.

    “You made it sound urgent, Flint,” Hawk replied, using Dash’s old call sign.

    They moved into the living room, where Alison rose from the couch to greet him. He’d known both of them long enough to know that something was up. They both looked like they’d been given the shock of their lives today, but at the same time... something had changed. Something... a moment later he realized what it was. Alison was smiling. A sight he hadn’t seen since... since that fateful day eight years ago.

    “We need to introduce you to someone, Hawk,” Dash began, “but first I need you to tell me something.”

    “And that would be?” he asked.

    “Eight years ago you were the one to tell us about Marissa’s death. You told us it was a top secret mission that was classified six ways from Sunday and that we couldn’t be told about it. But I need to know... do you know what the mission was about?”

    Hawk sighed, looking down. “Look, Dash! I get that you’d like to know exactly what happened to your daughter, but I still can’t tell you...”

    “I’m not asking you to, Hawk. I just need to know: do you know? Do you know what Marissa was working on when she... died?”

    Deliberating but a moment, Hawk finally nodded. “Yes, I do. The selection process that picked Marissa as a candidate for it went through my office and... and I recommended her. I knew she was the best for the job.”

    He waited for some kind of condemnation coming from his old friends for his part in sending their daughter to her death, a weight he had carried quietly for eight years now. When nothing came he looked up and was highly confused to see them both smile.

    “Good,” Alison said. “That will probably make this a little easier then.”

    “Easier?” he asked, highly confused.

    “A lot easier,” a new voice said from behind him. “Because hopefully it means you’ll be inclined to listen and help without much ado.”

    That voice... no, it couldn’t be. It just...

    Turning around, his eyes widened as he saw a dead woman walk towards him. Marissa Fairborn was dead. He’d read the report and seen the video tape of the explosion that had vaporized her. He’d signed the paperwork listing her as Killed in Action. He’d personally flown to Norway to bring back her personal belongings and give them to Dash and Alison.

    And now, eight years later, she was standing in front of him.

    “No hug, Uncle Clay?” she asked with a cheeky smile.

    *****

    Marissa knew that she was probably enjoying this a little too much, but given her very unique situation, she might as well milk it for all it was worth. The last few months (not to mention years) had been harrowing to the extreme, so she was feeling positively giddy.

    Uncle Clay actually needed a bit longer than her parents to get over his shock, probably because he knew a lot more details about her supposed death than they did. Finally, though, she could see him accept what his eyes were telling them and a moment later he was engulfing her in a hug. Military decorum be damned, she returned it. Besides, as she was officially dead, he was no longer officially a superior officer, right?

    When he finally let go of her, he held her at arm’s length and his face easily conveyed his complete and utter confusion.

    “How...?” he finally managed.

    “Marissa only gave us the cliff notes so far,” her father interjected. “She wanted to wait until you were here to go into detail.”

    Uncle Clay blinked, then sat down heavily on the couch.

    “So... yeah, go ahead!”

    “Just so you know,” Marissa began, “I kind of broke a few regulations several hours ago, because I told my parents here that I was test-flying a piece of alien technology found in the Northern Ice. But I figure that, being legally dead, you’ll find it hard to court martial me right now.”

    Clay blinked again, then just shook his head. “Give me a few hours to process that, then I might care. I... I saw the video recording of your... well, what we thought was your death. The damn thing blew up in a huge fireball! How did you survive?”

    Marissa shook her head. “It didn’t blow up, Uncle Clay, though I can see why you might have thought so. The actual science of it all still goes way over my head, but the long and short of it is that I was transported across space by something called a Space Bridge. And I ended up on an alien world, the home world of NBE-1 aka Thrymir. His real name was Skywarp, by the way.”

    Over the next 30 minutes Marissa gave a very abridged account of the eight years and 26 days she had spent on Cybertron (and several other worlds connected to it). She told them about the Autobots and the Decepticons, their civil war, and how she’d decided to aid the Autobots, because she saw it as the only way to ever return home. She skipped most of the battles she had been involved in and instead told them about how the war was winding down now in the wake of Megatron’s defeat and arrest. Then, of course, came the important part.

    “Eight months ago we were all set to capture Shockwave, one of the highest-ranking Decepticons remaining and the brain behind the Space Bridge that first brought Thrymir to Earth. Only he eluded us. He opened a Space Bridge to Earth.”

    Uncle Clay clearly needed a moment to digest that. “You’re telling me that he’s here? Has been for eight months? But...”

    “Believe me, Uncle Clay, I had nightmares every single night imagining what he might have been up to in this time. The fact that the Earth is still standing... I can’t even begin to tell you how relieved I was when we arrived here last night. Still, the fact remains that he’s here somewhere. Why he hasn’t done anything yet – or at least nothing that’s been noticed by anyone – we don’t know yet. But we do know he’s here. And he needs to be stopped. Which is why I need your help.”

    While clearly not fully convinced yet, Clay could probably imagine the consequences of an entire army of beings like Thrymir rampaging across Earth.

    “So you want me to... what? Take this to the president? I’m gonna need...”

    “Proof, yes, and I can give you that. But – and please don’t take offence here – the president won’t be enough, Uncle Clay. This isn’t a Hollywood movie where aliens invade the US and the rest of the Earth is just watching it on TV. Shockwave and the Decepticons might be anywhere. We need to take this directly to NATO command and the UN Security Council. Anything less won’t do.”

    Clay’s eyes widened and he seemed set to protest, but then apparently started thinking. Marissa knew only the barest outline of what he had been up to back in the day when he’d been the commander of the same anti-terrorist unit her parents had been part of, but she knew he’d often operated abroad and with international cooperation. If the enemy didn’t respect borders, you couldn’t allow yourself to be boxed in by them, either.

    “You’re not asking for the easy stuff, are you, kid?” he finally said.

    “If it was easy, I wouldn’t be asking you,” she replied.

    He nodded, smiling slightly. “Okay, kid. I’ll see what I can do.”

    “You left something out of your story, though, didn’t you?” her mother said.

    Turning to look at her, Marissa nearly flinched when she saw the steel in her mother’s gaze.

    “Show me your hand, Marissa!”

    Sighing, hoping that her parents might have missed that part, she walked over to them and took off her glove. Her mom hesitantly took her cybernetic hand and inspected it. Her father was clenching his teeth so hard she feared he might chip a filling, while Uncle Clay uttered a sound of surprise, seeing her replacement hand for the first time.

    “How?” her mom simply asked.

    “It happened shortly after I arrived on Cybertron. My arrival got the attention of both sides, there was a fire fight, the Decepticons fled. While I was still trying to somehow get past the language barrier, one of the Decepticons snuck back and tried to shoot Optimus Prime - I told you about him – in the back. I reacted on instinct, shoved him aside... well, I was lucky I survived.”

    Her mother’s eyes were shining with tears while her dad seemed ready to murder someone.

    “Is that all?” her mom asked, indicating her hand.

    Marissa briefly considered lying, but they were going to find out sooner or later anyway. So she shook her head and bent down to roll up her pants legs. Both her parents and Uncle Clay gasped.

    “Oh, Marissa,” her mom cried.

    “I survived, mom,” she simply said. “That’s all that matters.”

    She looked at her dad, whom she had never seen this angry before.

    “This... Decepticon who did this to you... that’s this Shockwave guy who’s here on Earth?”

    She just nodded. Her dad turned to look at Clay, who was still quite obviously gobsmacked by everything.

    “Hawk, I don’t care what strings you have to pull, what markers you have to call in, or who’s ass you have to kiss. That thing that hurt my kid is here and he’s going down, you get me?”

    Clay didn’t hesitate to nod. “I’m assuming you want in on it, too, then?”

    “Both of us,” her mom said, stepping up next to her dad. “No one hurts my baby and gets away with it!”

    Marissa rolled her eyes, though a small part of her wanted to burst into happy tears seeing her parents like this. “You do realize that ‘your baby’ is standing right here and has taken out more alien super robots these last eight years than you’ve ever seen in cheap TV movies, right?”

    “Don’t matter one bit,” her dad just replied. “Now what’s our next move?”

    She smiled. “Well, first thing we do... we get Uncle Clay some proof!”

    Touching a spot on her metal wrist, she activated her communicator. “Okay, Jazz! We’re ready to roll out! Tell Hound to make sure his holo shield is holding.”

    A moment later the rumble of an approaching F-22 (or something giving a darn good impression of it) could be heard.


    End Chapter 2
     
  5. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Chapter 3: Welcome to Wonderland

    *****

    Autobase Earth (Temporary Command Base)
    Oregon, USA
    November 24, 2013


    A part of her, Marissa admitted a little guiltily, delighted in hitting her parents and her uncle Clay with shock after shock. First her miraculous return from the dead, then meeting Jazz, then being told the whole story, her cybernetic limps, the sudden appearance of a hovering F-22 above their home, followed by a supersonic journey to Oregon. And that was not even half of what the day had in store.

    The Autobots had decided to set up a temporary base in the Americas, seeing as most of Marissa’s contacts where to be found here. Depending on where they’d find the Decepticons they might have to either move or set up additional bases, but for the moment the volcano Mt. St. Hillary served as their home away from home. Apart from being a good distance away from any settlement, just in case, it also provided a cheap source of energy, as the volcano was still mildly active and could easily be tapped by Cybertronian technology.

    Her parents clearly didn’t know what to stare at first. Marissa had slipped into her Headmaster suit – a necessity for piloting Thrymir even in jet mode – though she had yet to show them the whole becoming-the-head-of-a-robot part. Still, seeing their daughter in a three meter tall suit of alien armour was by far the least fascinating thing about their current environment.

    “Excuse the mess, but we’re still setting up shop.”

    Jazz, who had journeyed back here by shuttle, welcomed them at the entrance of what was a base-in-progress. So far it was little more than a tunnel, leading to a big staging area in what had once been a natural cave. Deeper inside her suit’s sensors already picked up the steady hum of a geothermal power plant and numerous Autobots were bustling about, unloading and installing equipment.

    “I see,” her dad simply said, quite obviously close to being overwhelmed.

    “This is only a temporary arrangement, of course,” Jazz continued as if giving a tour to some neighbours. “Once we have established formal contacts with your various governments, we’re hoping to set up a more official base of operations without the necessity of hiding it. For now, though, we don’t want to spook people too badly.”

    Shaking his head, Clay apparently decided that the time had come to get down to business.

    “So you... you want us to unveil your existence to the public at large?”

    “Not immediately,” Marissa answered for Jazz, “ but sooner or later it will become unavoidable. For now the Decepticons are in hiding...”

    “Prowl has got something on that, by the way,” Jazz told them. “He’s prepared a full briefing.”

    “Good. As I was saying, when we begin moving against the Decepticons, I doubt we can keep everything under wraps. So our thought...”

    “Yours, mostly,” Jazz interrupted her again, smiling. “Not like the rest of us are experts regarding Earth and humans yet.”

    “Okay, my thought was that it would be better to release the shock of the century on our terms rather than have it happen in a worst case scenario, like a fire fight in the middle of a city or something.”

    “Good thinking,” Clay admitted after thinking on it for a second. “It will be a huge shock either way, but if humanity’s first exposure to alien life forms is in the middle of a battle, it might be hard to make them see the difference between one alien robot and the other.”

    “There’ll be suspicion enough no matter what,” her mother interjected. “Marissa, considering your... state... and your closeness with our visitors here, you might be facing quite a bit yourself, I’m afraid.”

    “I’m aware of that, mom,” Marissa said. “Still, I’ve had little to do these past eight months than think of how to approach this... just in case Earth was still standing when I got here... so I’ve got a few ideas. First, though, we should hear the latest news.”

    They had arrived in what was – for now – the command hub of the base, basically just a big table with chairs and some communication equipment standing around it. Above the table Marissa could already see a holographic image of Prowl. He was not among the Autobots who had accompanied them to Earth, but instant interstellar communication was something the Cybertronians had mastered quite some time ago.

    “Prowl, these are my parents Dashiell and Allison Fairborn, and this gentleman is General Clayton Abernathy, one of the highest-ranking officers in the military of my homeworld’s most powerful military force. Mom, dad, uncle Clay, this is Prowl, chief strategist of the Autobots.”

    “Uh… pleased to meet you,” Marissa said.

    Never one for pleasantries, Prowl got straight to the point.

    “We’ve continued work on restoring the data from the recovered hard drives we found in Darkmount. Our latest find is – we believe – directly related to the curious lack of open Decepticon activity on Earth. It’s called an Infiltration Protocol.”

    “I don’t like the sound of that,” Clay muttered.

    “From what we’ve gathered it’s the result of an efficiency analysis Shockwave did while preparing for the journey to Earth. He did know that Earth had to be a developed planet with a civilization that – while technologically inferior to Cybertronians – might well be able to put up quite a bit of resistance when facing an open assault from an alien race. While he calculated only a miniscule chance that Earth would be able to withstand a full-scale attack by his forces, he deemed the necessary expenditure of energy and resources too great, especially considering that the war on Cybertron was pretty much lost and he would no doubt be pursued sooner rather than later.”

    Marissa groaned. While she was relieved beyond belief that her home world was not in flames, hearing that it was only because of an “efficiency analysis” only managed to increase her hatred for Shockwave all the more.

    “So instead of coming in guns blazing these Decepticons decided to be sneaky about it, is that it?” her dad asked.

    “Simply put, yes,” Prowl continued. “As you have already seen, Cybertronians are fully capable of assuming alternate shapes that serve as near-perfect camouflage in just about any environment. Shockwave’s Infiltration Protocol assumes that it will be much simpler and effective to secretly infiltrate Earth’s society. One part of the operation would be the secret harvesting of resources, either in remote regions or by basically having the humans do the work for them. The other part would be the destabilization of society to pave the way for an eventual open attack at a later date.”

    Marissa could see the wheels turning in her Uncle Clay’s head.

    “Ringing any bells, Uncle Clay?”

    “Maybe, kid,” he replied. “We do have a somewhat unusual number of crisis popping up at the moment. Tensions between Russia and China, North Korea beating the war drums, half a dozen civil wars in Africa, the Falklands up for contention again... none of which alone is in any way unusual, sadly, but it has been piling up as of late and with what your friend over there just said...”

    “Once connections are established between your governments and us, we will need to pool our data for a more extensive analyses. We’ve only just begun harvesting data from your planetary data sphere and we’re still lacking context for much of it. Still, it would seem probable that Shockwave would seek to maximize his efforts by escalating existing conflicts.”

    Marissa looked at Prowl. “Any progress yet on how he managed to find Earth in the first place?”

    It was something that had been driving her crazy for months now. In her eight years on Cybertron she had met Shockwave exactly twice and at neither time he’d had any opportunity to do as he had threatened, namely cut her head open and extract the location of Earth directly from her brain’s memory centre. Still, somehow he had found Earth, a feat the Autobots had only been able to duplicate by following along in Shockwave’s wake. But how had he known?

    “I’m sorry, Captain Fairborn, but we’re still in the dark on that, I’m afraid,” Prowl said.

    “Figured. Well, tell Mainframe and the others to keep it up, Prowl. Hope to hear more from you soon.”

    “Tell Prime to hurry up and finish the mopping up back home,” Jazz told his comrade. “I’m sure he’d love a chance to sample some Earth forms and go for a ride here.”

    “I’m certain that is a top priority on Prime’s agenda, right after restoring peace and order throughout the galaxy,” Prowl answered deadpan before signing off.

    Marissa turned towards her parents and Clay.

    “So, how do you like our little operation so far?”

    Looking at the amazing techno-wonderland that was taking shape around them at astounding speed, they were clearly still somewhat in shock.

    “You really just got here last night?” her mom finally asked.

    “Yeah, the ‘bots can be quite fast when they want to be.”

    Clay, quite clearly still digesting things, looked at her.

    “While all this is very impressive, kid, you do realize it’s not enough, right?”

    She nodded, well aware of that fact. So far all her parents had seen, all that she could show to whatever international panel Clay might be able to assemble, was a group of alien robots who said they were the good guys. What they lacked, though, was any sort of concrete evidence that a second group of alien robots, the bad guys, were also here.

    “I know that. Still, I wanted to get things underway as soon as possible, especially since I doubt even you can get together a body with the kind of authority we need overnight. First off I needed to convince you that something very serious is going on.”

    Hesitating, she felt a brief flash of insecurity as she looked at her parents and Uncle Clay. “You do believe me, right?”

    None of them hesitated, though. “Of course we do, baby,” her mom said.

    “Yeah, you never were much of a liar, even when you tried to convince me that your first boyfriend was just your study buddy,” her dad added.

    “I’ll still probably go numb later on,” Clay put his two cents in, “but I know you, kiddo.”

    “Thanks,” she just said, choking back tears of relief. “That really means a lot to me.”

    Sobering up, she started leading them back outside. “Uncle Clay, you might want to get in touch with General Sven Eisenhardt and let him know discreetly that ‘Thrymir is back’. I don’t know if Project Udgard has continued these last eight years, but we can certainly use the know-how they already have as a starting point. Plus, they can provide a lot of human-made evidence that, yes, alien life exists.”

    “Good thinking, kid,” he said. “I’ll start putting together some names of people I think we can bring in on this, both here and from abroad.”

    While Marissa still didn’t really know what her parents had been doing under Uncle Clay’s command back in the 80s when they’d all been part of some super-secret unit, she did know that they’d often travelled outside the US, so she hoped that he had quite a few international contacts they could use.

    “What will you be doing in the meantime, kid?” he asked.

    They had reached the outside of the base and found themselves facing a row of cars. All of them transformed into heavily armed Autobots as they approached. Marissa grinned at her parents and Clay.

    “I’ll be getting you that proof you need for the politicians.”

    Without further ado she shouted “HEAD ON!” and shifted into head mode. The F-22 that served as Thrymir’s camouflage on Earth transformed into robot mode and merged with her head unit. Stepping up beside the assembled strike force of Bumblebee, Hound, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, Smokescreen, and Bluestreak, she smiled down at her – once again – shocked parents.

    “We’re gonna find us some Decepticons!”


    End Chapter 3
     
  6. Mazerunner

    Mazerunner Cyber Ninja.

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    Inflatration Protocol, nice!:thumbs2: 

    haven't seen that one in a whil, probably at phase two right now.
    :popcorn :popcorn :popcorn :popcorn 

    Popcorn is Me, SkyBomb, Wingman and Wardance enjoying this, Datastream hates it. but he is an idiot, so is Iceslinger, but he can't read)
     
  7. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Note: Sorry that this took so long, but this was a hard chapter to write. I hope it came out okay.


    Chapter 4: Proof

    *****

    Autobase Earth (Temporary Command Base)
    Oregon, USA
    November 28, 2013


    “I think we might have got something here!”

    Marissa quickly walked up the two men – well, actually it was one man and one bot – manning Autobase’s main data terminal. Rewind had quickly formed a pretty good working relationship with Alvin Kibbey (call me “Breaker”), a former unit member of Uncle Clay’s ultra-secret never-even-existed I-have-no-idea-what-you-are-talking-about anti-terrorist unit. Breaker was a specialist in signal analysis and he and Rewind had quickly gotten to work on finding any clues regarding the Decepticon whereabouts.

    That is, after Breaker had gotten over his extreme geek-out at finding out that aliens existed and he got to play with their extremely advanced electronic toys. The two complemented each other well, Rewind providing technical know-how far in advance of anything anyone on Earth had ever heard of, while Breaker supplied the necessary context Rewind lacked, helping him figure what was and what was not normal for Earth. Marissa suspected the two would be friends long after this assignment had finished.

    She and her dad, present as semi-official liaison until something more formal could be worked out, were quickly gathered around the terminal.

    “Talk to me, Rewind,” she said.

    “Breaker and I started out looking at places on your world where mining or power generation activities have either started fresh or been vastly expanded in the last eight months. There are quite a few of these, actually, and most of them appear to be legitimate...”

    “Legitimate in the sense of not-alien,” Breaker interrupted him, busily chewing his bubble gum. “I’m pretty sure we saw some illegal diamond mining in Africa.”

    “Anyway,” Rewind continued, “yesterday we got our first images of a big oil drilling site in the area called Siberia. While there was nothing immediately suspicious about it, Breaker told me that its presence there was unusual.”

    The human analyst nodded. “Thing is, people have long suspected that there are vast untapped natural resources to be found in Siberia – one of the reasons the Russians and Chinese are currently butting heads – but the permafrost conditions and lack of infrastructure have so far made any attempt to actually get to them very difficult and expensive. I had some of my people at the NSA do some background checking and from what they’ve learned that oil drilling site was set up less than six months ago. And with no prior test drilling or anything.”

    “Test drilling?” Marissa asked.

    “Before you put this number of expensive equipment in a region as remote as Siberia,” Breaker explained, “you make sure that there’s actually something worthwhile there to find. Usually you start with just one or two drills, take a few samples across a large area, that sort of thing. Apparently they,” he pointed at the screen showing the extensive drilling site, “just started drilling wholesale.”

    “Interesting,” her dad said, “but hardly proof of alien presence. Someone might have just had a hunch and gotten lucky.”

    “That’s why we just put it on the list as a possible at first,” Breaker acquiesced, “but ten minutes ago one of our spy satellites picked up this.”

    He started the recording. Images taken from a human-built spy satellite, enhanced using Cybertronian tech, showed the oil drilling site from what appeared to be a distance of less than 300 meters. People were walking to and fro, drills and pumps were working busily, delivery trucks and heavy machinery was driving back and forth.

    “Watch that truck on the right,” Rewind said, pointing a metallic finger at the vehicle in question.

    Moments later they watched as the vehicle appeared to hit a rough patch of ground and briefly swerved. One of the crates on its loading area slipped and the covering fell away. Barely ten seconds later a couple of workers were present and quickly brought everything back in order, but for those few brief seconds all four of the people watching had clearly seen something very, very interesting:

    A brief pink glow.

    Marissa looked at Rewind. “Energon?” she asked.

    Rewind nodded. “While the human radiation detection equipment is very basic, it did manage to pick up a brief spike in the appropriate bands. It was Energon and those very mundane-looking coverings are actually heavy EM shielding.”

    “What’s Energon?” her das asked.

    Rewind turned to face him and took a small container from a table nearby. He opened it up for display and her dad’s face was briefly illuminated by the same pink glow they’d just seen on the screen.

    “Energon is our basic fuel. It used to occur naturally on Cybertron, but as the war dragged on we were forced to create synthetic substitutes. It oscillates on a very narrow band in the electromagnetic spectrum and can – under normal circumstances – easily be detected.”

    “The ‘bots can take just about every source of power,” Marissa continued, “and turn the output into Energon, making it compatible with their systems and easy to transport and store, too.”

    Grinning, she added, “and unless you’re a believer in coincidences of truly epic proportions, I doubt anyone on Earth has the know-how to create it. Not to mention how to shield its very specific EM signature.”

    Her dad nodded, understanding.

    “So we finally got something.”

    “We do! You tell Uncle Clay! I’m gonna take a closer look.”

    “Marissa,” he began, hesitating. She clearly saw in his eyes that he either wanted to go with here or, better yet, have her stay here and let someone else head into danger. He repressed the impulse, though, instead putting his hand on her shoulder and smiling.

    “Just be careful, kid!”

    “Always, dad!”

    Heading out into the hangar, she quickly gathered a group of anxious and beginning to get bored Autobots around her.

    “Okay, people! We finally got a lead on Shockwave. Gear up for freezing cold and be ready to move out in ten minutes!”

    *****

    Oil Drilling Facility
    Siberia, Russian Federation
    November 28, 2013


    They had travelled to Siberia using an Autobot shuttle craft and landed a good ten miles away from the facility to avoid detection. By the time they had closed the distance it was already getting dark in this part of the world. Not that there was an abundance of daylight in the winter months this far north anyway. Cover of darkness was quite welcome, of course.

    “Okay, people, remember the plan,” Marissa reminded her team one more time. “Priority 1 is acquiring tangible proof of a Decepticon presence.”

    Apart from her team - Bumblebee, Hound, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, Smokescreen, and Bluestreak – there were two human-built snow vehicles manned by yet more old comrades of Uncle Clay. They would not participate in the actual operation, instead their role was simply to observe and record. The proof had to be recorded by humans on human-built equipment, otherwise there would always be a cloud of suspicion. Well, there would probably be suspicion either way, but Marissa wanted to keep it as low as possible.

    “Priority 2:” Sunstreaker added, readying his rifle with a broad smile on his metallic face, “Kill Cons!”

    The team split up. Bumblebee and Hound, both of them experienced scouts, would sneak into the facility from one direction. Meanwhile Smokescreen and Bluestreak would head in from the other direction in order to create a distraction. Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, and Marissa herself would stand by for extraction and – in case things turned hot – quick combat support. As the only flyer in the team it was Marissa’s job to provide air cover should it become necessary.

    “And now we wait,” she murmured.

    Thankfully she had options other unit commanders lacked, as it was easy to tap into the sensors of Hound and Bumblebee, allowing her to see what they saw. Well, at least as long as they had direct line-of-sight for tight-beam communication. They wouldn’t risk other forms of communication for fear of making their presence known too soon.

    With agonizing slowness the minutes dragged by. Both Autobot scouts had outfitted themselves with camouflage patterns (she had no idea how the usually bright-yellow Bumblebee would otherwise have managed to stay hidden in this white, grey, and brown wasteland) and moved surprisingly quickly for huge robots, but it was still really straining her nerves.

    It took nearly an hour until they managed to locate a warehouse with the same sort of cases they’d seen in the satellite imagery and even more endless minutes until they had snuck in and confirmed that – yes – they were filled with Energon cubes.

    “We’re taking one of the cases with us,” Hound reported. “No other sign of Decepticon activity so far, though.”

    “There has to be more,” Bumblebee added. “The Decepticons wouldn’t leave an Energon haul like this unguarded, even if the human workers might think they’re doing perfectly legitimate work here.”

    Stepping outside the warehouse, Bumblebee conferred with Marissa, who agreed.

    “I think we need to draw them out. Smokescreen! Bluestreak! Give us a little disturbance!”

    “On it!”

    Smokescreen quickly transformed into vehicle mode and began belching a thick cloud of dark smoke from his exhaust ports. Bluestreak, one of the fastest ground-based Autobots of them all, quickly dashed forward, dragging the cloud along in his slipstream, making it billow right toward the drilling site.

    “Sunstreaker, Sideswipe! Light’em up!”

    The two Autobot warriors – whom Marissa thought were almost psychotic and trigger-happy enough to qualify for the Wreckers – smirked and fired some flashy but harmless missiles into the smoke cloud, making the whole thing light up like a humongous thunderstorm.

    “And now for some thunder,” Marissa remarked, transforming Thrymir into jet mode and quickly accelerating into the air. By the time she shot over the drilling site, she’d achieved supersonic speed and the sonic boom shattered windows all over the site.

    They’d certainly stirred people up, she saw a moment later. Workers came pouring out of the barracks surrounding the site, looking around in confusion. Several of them, apparently security guards judging by the rifles in their hands, seemed to be looking for something to shoot.

    “Scanning for weapon signatures,” Marrisa said, looking for the tell-tale signs of Energon-powered weapons being locked and loaded. Coming around for another pass, her sensors finally pinged.

    “There we go,” she said. “Picking up Cybertronian weapon emissions from... what the hell?”

    There were none of the towering robots she expected to see. Instead her sensors were telling her that the security guards she’d seen earlier were carrying Energon-powered weapons.

    “Didn’t think the ‘Cons would hand over their weapons to the fleshies,” Sunstreaker commented. “Permission to blow them away?”

    “Absolutely not,” Marissa countermanded. “We’re here to find Decepticons, not to start a war with Russia.”

    “Hate to tell you this, boss, but they’re about to start a war with us,” Sideswipe said, just as the guard started firing into the approaching cloud. The tell-tale flashes of blaster bolts lit up the darkness.

    “You getting this?” Marissa asked, contacting the human observers.

    “Certainly am,” Harlan Moore, codename “Snow Job”, replied. “Those certainly are some funky weapons. Still not seeing any big bad evil robots, though.”

    “Working on it!”

    “Something funny is going on here, Captain,” Hound called in, observing the firing security guards from behind the warehouse with the Energon cubes. “I’ve scanned the weapons these guards are firing and unless the Decepticons have a design vastly superior to ours, there is no way they should be able to fire them. The recoil should knock them right over.”

    “That is strange,” she said. “Unless...”

    Her mind flashed back to the Beast Wars on Animatros, the jungle planet. She remembered both Autobots and Decepticons taking on beast modes to better operate in the jungle terrain. Except for the fact that these beasts had clearly been metallic, they had been amazingly life-like. Was it possible...?

    “I’m gonna try something,” she said, deciding to trust her instincts, hoping that she wasn’t about to make a terrible mistake. “Everyone stand by!”

    Coming around for another pass, she zeroed in on one of the shooting guards. So far all they were hitting was smoke, but they were certainly pouring out quite the amount of firepower. Marissa steered Thrymir into a steep dive, took aim, and fired a single, short laser burst.

    The brilliant red lance of energy bridged the distance at the speed of light and sliced right through the left arm and shoulder of one of the guards. The man screamed as his appendage was sheared clean off.

    “Fairborn, what the f*** are you doing?” Moore yelled. “You just mutilated a... what in tarnation?”

    Hound and Bumblebee had kept their scanners peeled and broadcast images of the man Marissa had just shot. He was still on his feet, just missing his left arm. The ruined remains of his shoulder sparked and belched smoke, severed wiring and metallic muscles clearly visible.

    “What do you know?” Sunstreaker said, smirk clearly audible over the com. “Looks like they didn’t trust the fleshies with their guns after all.”

    “Cover has been compromised,” one of the other guards yelled, looking at his comrade. “Decepticons, transform and attack!”

    But moments later all hell broke loose.


    End Chapter 4
     
  8. Mazerunner

    Mazerunner Cyber Ninja.

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    excellent chapter can't wiat for more.

    question. the human consm, are they Pretenders
     
  9. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    NOTE: I'm not a hundred percent satisfied with this chapter, as I'm not good at writing fight scenes. So please use imagination to fill in some additional explosions, grunts of pain, and wide-scale destruction of property.




    Chapter 5: Earth War, Day One

    *****

    Oil Drilling Facility
    Siberia, Russian Federation
    November 28, 2013


    Marissa had suspected it. Or no, suspected was too strong a word. She’d had an inkling, a hunch. Seeing humans with Decepticon weapons had been strange, as the Decepticons as she’d come to know them would never have supplied advanced military tech to a species they were in the process of infiltrating and conquering. With the added info from Hound that they shouldn’t have been physically capable of wielding the weapons as they had, the hunch had become pretty strong, but she’d still been desperately hoping that she wasn’t making a huge mistake.

    There was no mistake, though. The human whose arm she had just shot off was no more a human being than Bumblebee or Hound. Or was he? For the briefest of moments she considered the notion that it might be someone like her. After all, her own right arm wasn’t exactly flesh and blood, either, not to mention her legs.

    All doubt was laid to rest a second later, though.

    “Cover has been compromised,” one of the supposed humans yelled, looking at his comrade. “Decepticons, transform and attack!”

    Even as she was thundering away from the drilling site at just slightly below the speed of sound, she had a live view of the action thanks to the sensory feeds from Bumblebee and Hound. So she could watch as what had originally appeared to be a human being seemed to split right down the middle as if some invisible guillotine had cut him in half. Instead of blood and gore, though, she saw pistons and mechanical components as what was now clearly revealed as a mere shell split into numerous smaller plates and folded to the sides, away from the main body, which was clearly cybernetic in nature.

    Well, she mused. There was the proof they needed. And if nothing else, the fact that these Decepticons had to fit inside human-sized shells made them pretty small. Nothing they couldn’t handle.

    Considering all that had happened to her these last eight years, Captain Marissa Fairborn really should have known better than to tempt fate with thoughts like these. Because she had barely finished the thought when the human-sized Decepticons, all eight of them now with their human shells folded away, started to glow and... grow? They were actually growing?

    “Are you getting this?” Marissa asked even as she steered Thrymir into a tight curve and shot back towards the facility.

    “I’m seeing, but still working on the believing,” Moore’s voice came over the channel.

    “Slag, they’re using mass-shifting,” Bumblebee said. “Didn’t think there was anyone still doing that.”

    “What the f*** is mass-shifting?” Marissa asked, bringing all her on-board weapons online for what she was fairly sure would be a pretty fire fight. They were facing eight Decepticons and none of them were all that small anymore.

    “Pretty much just what it says,” Hound explained calmly. “Ask Perceptor or Wheeljack if you want the specifics, but basically it means that these Cons can shunt a large portion of their mass away into subspace storage in order to fit their bodies into the required dimensions for their human disguise.”

    “Tech’s been around for ages,” Sideswipe added. “Guzzles energy, though, so it’s been out of use for a good long while. Not much use in combat, but great for infiltration, I guess. Shockwave either found a way to make it more efficient or he figures he can get enough energy here to make it worth his while.”

    Marissa shook her head. Just when she thought she’d seen all the technological wonders her Cybertronian friends had come up with... then again, what was shrinking down a robot when you could send star ships across thousands of light years in less than a second?

    “Okay, but that’s all they can do, right? Shrink down to assume smaller alternate modes. No other surprises in store?”

    Sunstreaker laughed. “Decepticons pretending to be humans not enough surprise for one day, meat puppet?”

    Marissa groaned, rueing the day Grimlock’s nickname for her had become common knowledge among the ranks of the Autobots. Well, that one and “Squishy”, as Swoop usually called her.

    “Quite enough. Moore, you get all that on film?”

    “Live and in colour, Captain!”

    “Okay, people! Primary mission objective is achieved. Let’s lay down some covering fire and get out of here!”

    Sunstreaker’s snort was all the warning she got that her orders would not quite be carried out to the letter. A moment later the two Autobot warriors charged down the hill and into the Decepticon facility, hollering and guns blazing. One of the Decepticons, still facing the cloud of smoke they’d thrown up for a distraction, was blown apart before he could even react. The others, though, were quick to take cover and return fire.

    “What part of ‘get out of here’ didn’t you understand?” Marissa yelled, more than a bit angry.

    “Just laying down some covering fire for our disengagement,” Sideswipe replied smugly.

    “Yeah, can’t disengage without engaging first, right?” Sunstreaker added.

    The two Autobot warriors skidded down the hill, firing all the way, a manic grin on their faces. The fact that they were outnumbered didn’t seem to bother them at all. Marissa groaned. To think that she was missing Grimlock right now.

    “Slag it! Smokescreen, Bluestreak, Bumblebee, Hound! Looks like we’re going to extend the mission parameters a bit. Flank the Decepticons and keep an eye out for reinforcements! Moore! Fall back to the shuttle; we want those recordings safe and sound.”

    “Roger,” Moore replied. “No intention of getting involved in giant robot brawls, at least not until I get me some much bigger guns. See you later, Captain!”

    Taking but a moment to make sure that Moore was safely turning away from the facility without interference, Marissa then brought her targeting systems online. A furious fire fight going on right in the middle of warehouses filled with Energon cubes was not the place for imprecise shooting. She’d seen a bunch of Energon cubes blow sky high during a battle back on Cybertron; the explosive yield easily outstripped any non-nuclear bomb humanity had ever constructed.

    A mere thought triggered her lasers (she was not about to risk explosive missiles in this situation) and she caught one of the Decepticons in the shoulder. Return fire exploded around her, but she was too fast and already past the facility. A backwards glance showed her, though, that one of the Cons was transforming into jet mode and picking up speed right behind her.

    “Of course they’ve got flyers, too,” she muttered, turning Thrymir around. Now they really had to take care of these Decepticons first, otherwise the comparatively slow and ponderous shuttle they’d taken here would be easy pickings for the enemy.

    Marissa had spent most of the last eight years flying dogfights on the planet Cybertron, which had a much thinner atmosphere and no wind patterns to speak of when compared to natural worlds like Earth. There had been brief excursions to other planets like Animatros, but most of her time had been spent in the skies above the metal world, which is why it took her a bit to get used to flying on Earth again. Gravity, wind patterns, air density, all of which were important parameters in airborne fighting.

    Thankfully her opponent had spent millions of years flying exclusively over a metal world and apparently had much greater trouble getting used to the skies on Earth. It didn’t hinder him much, but he was just a tad slower in the turns, a tiny bit wobbly during his climbs, and prone to slightly miscalculating his afterburner bursts. All of which gave Marissa just enough of an edge to finally get him in her crosshairs and shoot him out of the sky.

    Marissa spent but a moment watching her first kill during this new war fall back to Earth in flames before she changed course and headed back to the facility.

    “Report,” she demanded over the com, even as she could still make out the flashes of an ongoing firefight.

    “We got them down to four,” Hound replied, “but Bluestreak is wounded.”

    “Long range radar shows incoming bogeys,” Moore added, having apparently reached the shuttle by now. “Could be Russian Air Force. Or bad guy reinforcements.”

    “Okay, enough is enough. We’re getting out of here. And that includes you, Sunstreaker! You hear me?”

    “Sure thing, boss! Just give me a moment here...”

    “I said now, Autobot! Smokescreen, throw up another of your clouds! Bumblebee, did you leave the parting presents we brought?”

    “Sure thing, Marissa. Falling back to the hustle right now.”

    Getting away from a fire fight that was still ongoing was not the easiest thing in the world, as it was generally a bad idea to turn your back on someone who was still shooting at you. Thankfully the Autobots were experienced soldiers and with a combination of Smokescreen’s cloud work and some covering fire from above, the Autobots were eventually able to disengage. Which was when Marissa noticed Sunstreaker carrying something over his shoulder.

    “What is that?” she asked, swooping low and transforming into robot mode.

    Sunstreaker had the obviously deactivated carcass of one of the Decepticons slung over his shoulder. It was a gruesome sight, not only because of the horrendous damages to the Decepticon in question, but also because of the left-over pieces of the ‘shell’ that had folded away and onto the robot’s back. Marissa had the disturbing suspicion that they were actually made of real flesh and skin.

    “Just thought some of the brainiacs would like to take a closer look at this ‘Pretender’-Tech they were sporting,” Sunstreaker replied nonchalantly. “Besides, I figure having a real Decepticon in hand is better than merely having them on film, don’t you think?”

    Marissa shook her head. “You’re a piece of work, Sunstreaker, you know that?” She figured if he were human, Sunstreaker would be the kind of soldier who’d wear the cut-off ears of his enemies on a necklace. She shuddered to think what he’d get up to once the war was over.

    “Thanks, Captain,” he merely replied, either missing or not caring about the real meaning of her words.

    Behind them the oil drilling facility exploded in a brilliant flash of light as the C4 explosives Bumblebee had left behind in the Energon storage warehouse went off and caused a massive chain reaction. By the time either the Russians or additional Decepticons arrived, there’d by nothing left but a big hole in the ground.

    Gettting onboard the shuttle, Marissa sighed. The mission was a success, no doubt. Still she was feeling far from elated. The war for her home planet had clearly begun and no matter how often she told herself differently, she still blamed herself for bringing it here in the first place.

    “This is only the beginning,” she muttered, watching as the big Energon explosion slowly dissipated.

    A minute later the Autobot shuttle was gone, carrying with it the proof of Decepticon presence on Earth.


    End Chapter 5
     
  10. Mazerunner

    Mazerunner Cyber Ninja.

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    Ah so it is pretender tech. nice update
     
  11. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Author’s Note: I do not own Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations. I hope Mr. Ban forgives me for using his likeness here.

    *****

    Chapter 6: War & Politics

    *****

    Journal of Captain Marissa Fairborn, United States Air Force
    December 9, 2013


    The first battle of this new war here on my home planet was brief, intense, and contained quite a few shocking discoveries. The next battle, though, was far, far worse. It was long, drawn-out, agonizing, and incredibly frustrating.

    In other words: politics.

    We had found the proof we needed. Video and audio recordings of a Decepticon presence on Earth, along with the body of a Decepticon that still sported the remains of a human shell to hide in. Uncle Clay was... well, satisfied would definitely be the wrong word, as I think he still held out some hope that all this would turn out to be some sort of false alarm. Given what we brought him, though, he agreed to take our case to the next level.

    Said level being a multi-national panel composed of several high-ranking generals from NATO command, representatives of all current member nations of the UN Security Council, as well as the G8 countries. Thankfully Uncle Clay had managed to contact General Sven Eisenhardt beforehand and they’d managed to get pretty much everyone involved briefed on Project: Utgard before the first meeting even started. So we at least managed to mostly skip the part where they all refused to believe that aliens existed and tried to have us committed to the psych ward.

    It also somewhat shortened the next step, that one being the resolution that something needed to be done about what was clearly a danger to the entire world and human race. It’s been said quite often that there are few things better suited to unite people than a common enemy or external threat and that old proverb definitely proved to be true yet again.

    The step after that, though, was not quite so easy.


    *****

    NATO command
    Brussels, Belgium
    December 11, 2013


    “You are wasting your energy,” Rewind told her chidingly.

    Marissa looked up from where she’d been pacing up and down the waiting room they were currently stuck in. Just beyond the double doors to her right a group of the world’s most powerful and influential people had been discussing things for the last three days straight. And while she hadn’t really expected to be invited for all of it, she had kind of assumed that the only human being who had personal knowledge of the alien threat they were facing would be interviewed sooner rather than later. Three days had passed, though, and she was still told to “be ready for a debriefing”. Her nerves were starting to wear thin.

    “It’s my energy to waste,” she just told Rewind, continuing her pacing.

    “This actually reminds me of the Council of Elders from before the war,” Rewind chatted on. “From the data I’ve stored their record for deliberating a single topic was, in human time, 8 years, 3 months, and six days. Well, that’s the official record. They didn’t manage to reach a decision on what to do about the Decepticon threat before Megatron blew up the Iacon Spire with most of them in it. No telling how long they’d have taken otherwise.”

    “That is not a confidence-inspiring story, Rewind,” Marissa remarked. “I’m kind of hoping my people will decide on what to do before anyone or anything gets blown to kingdom come.”

    Rewind was present as an envoy of the Autobots, mostly because he was the only one of the Autobot Earth Force who could easily fit into a human-scaled building. If necessary he could bring in Jazz via holographic transmission. Marissa had actually been kind of surprised that the people on Clay’s panel would allow one of the alien robots into their presence, but then again, they still didn’t really know a lot about the Cybertronians as a species. Yes, Rewind had been scanned for weapons upon entering the building and yes, he was unarmed. But given their abilities, Marissa knew that even a Cybertronian of Rewind’s comparatively miniscule size could easily transform into a number of dangerous alternate modes. Not that Rewind in particular could or would, but the potential was there.

    The human race still had much to learn about the war that had already begun on their world, she mused unhappily.

    Marissa stopped her pacing as the double doors opened. Uncle Clay, decked out in full military dress uniform with a huge fruit salad of medals on his chest, came out and nodded to her and Rewind.

    “It’s time,” he just said.

    Marissa took but a moment to make sure her own dress uniform was spotless, then walked into the lion’s den.

    *****

    Several hours later Marissa had a hard time not falling asleep on her feet. She’d given a detailed report of her time on Cybertron, skipping most of the personal stuff, but emphasizing her experiences with the Decepticons in general and Shockwave in particular. She also reported on the events in Siberia and their discovery of how Decepticons could pretend to be humans.

    As expected, there were numerous questions, though surprisingly only a few of them could be considered hostile. How could she drag the human race into a war that was not their concern? Why did she ally with the Autobots and help them fight? How could Shockwave have learned of Earth’s location if not from her? Thankfully she had expected most of these questions and had elaborate answers ready for each of them.

    “Humanity became involved in the war the moment the Decepticons first teleported their Seeker to Earth during the last Ice Age. And the moment I stepped foot on Cybertron, they knew about us. There was no way back.”

    “The Autobots were the only logical choice. The Decepticons made their hostile intentions towards me in particular and our race in general more than clear. While I could not be one hundred percent certain of the Autobots’ good intentions initially, I’ve since come to know them very well and am fully convinced that they are the kind of allies we need to surive this war.”

    “I do not know how Shockwave learned of Earth’s location. Realistically I can only assume that somehow, someway, he did extract the information either from me or from Thrymir, but neither I nor the Autobots have yet figured out how. It does not really matter at this point, though. He’s here and we have to deal with it.”

    The debriefing dragged on well into the evening and Marissa was thankful that someone had provided a big pitcher of water and some snacks, otherwise she would probably have fallen over by now.

    “Captain Fairborn,” US Secretary General Ban Ki-moon leaned forward to address her. “You are without a doubt the foremost expert on these alien beings. And you have, as you have stated, spent a lot of time thinking about what should be done if the war ever came to Earth. Now that it is here, what is your recommendation?”

    She was a bit surprised at this direct question, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have an answer ready.

    “My recommendation is as follows, Mr. Secretary General. We - and by ‘we’ I mean the human race, across all nations and other divides - need to form an alliance with the Autobots to stop the Decepticons from destroying our world. No country alone can do this, and neither can we as a race without outside aid. The Decepticons are already here, they are entrenched, and their technology is light years ahead of ours. Our only hope is to fight them united and with the aid of the Autobots. Every other course of action is suicide.”

    “You do not believe a diplomatic solution might be viable?”

    “Mr. Secretary General, a diplomatic solution would require the Decepticons to regard us as equals, or at least near-equals. I assure you, they do not. Shockwave once explained to me, in detail, that – according to him – the inherent superiority of the Cybertronian race makes them the logical choice to rule the universe and put all other beings, sentient or otherwise, in their place. To the Decepticons this planet is nothing but a source of much-needed resources and the human race is, at best, a hindrance. They avoided direct confrontation so far only because they figured there were more efficient means of plundering our world then open war.”

    She turned to Rewind.

    “If I may, ladies and gentlemen, I would like Rewind to show you a recording of my second encounter with Shockwave.”

    Receiving the go-ahead, she gestured for Rewind to start. A hologram appeared in the room, showing a small piece of the Tagan Heights battle ground. An electron storm was raging overhead and Marissa was pinned down by debris, her systems shorted out. Directly in front of her was Shockwave, in a similar predicament.

    “And a destination has presented itself as well,” the recorded image of Shockwave spoke, the words translated into English by Wheeljack’s universal translator, “as your limited yet effective repair of Skywarp’s functions proves that your species has evolved to a point that can only be reached by access to sufficient resources. Your home world is the logical choice. I only lack the coordinates.”

    “It was highly improbable that your species was sufficiently advanced as to have charted space to the degree I would require. Still, that is but a minor obstacle. Once you are in my grasp, I only need to access your memories. It is highly probable that you have looked at your planet’s night sky at least several times during your limited life span, meaning images of star constellations can be recovered. It will no doubt require the vivisection of your brain and quite a bit of processing power, but I am confident I can calculate the coordinates

    The recording ended, while the room was filled with the murmur of people talking. The completely cold and clinical delivery of Shockwave’s intention to cut open her head and extract the location of her home world had haunted her nightmares for years after the event.

    “That is what we are to Shockwave,” she continued. “A means to an end, nothing more. He would incinerate our world wholesale if he saw a logical reason to do so and wouldn’t hesitate even one second. He also knows that the Decepticons are on the cusp of losing their war. He has nowhere else to go, this planet is his only chance to turn the tides of war back towards a Decepticon victory. Surrender is not an option, either, as he is fully aware that the Autobots would never grant one such as him any form of amnesty. His list of war crimes is almost as long as Megatron’s.

    “Fighting him is our only option. And we have no hope of winning unless we ally ourselves with the Autobots.”

    She finished, waiting for the murmurs to die down. She had said all she could say. Now it was out of her hands. All she could do now was hope and pray that the politicians and generals would come to the right decision.

    “Thank you for your report, Captain Fairborn,” Clay finally said. “Would you and Rewind please wait outside?”

    *****

    “Wake up, sleepy head!”

    Marissa jerked awake, not having noticed that she’d fallen asleep. She was sitting in one of the chairs of the waiting room and there was sunlight filtering in through the windows.

    “How long...?” she asked, stifling a yawn and stretching her stiff neck.

    Clay, looking very tired as well, gave her a slight smile.

    “Ten in the morning. Deliberations went on through the night and I think we reached a decision mostly because everyone wanted to head off to bed.”

    Getting to her feet, Marissa studied his face for any hint. “So what did they decide?”

    Clay let her hang for a few endless seconds – probably his way of paying her back for all the surprises she’d sprung on him – then smiled.

    “You got through to them, girl. Or maybe everything we got – live robots, dead robots, recordings, and your testimony – managed to convince them that something extraordinary is happening and that the usual measures won’t cut it. So starting today we’re setting up a new supranational organization under the direct command of the UN Security Council. Names are still being pushed around, but my personal favourite would be EDC. The Earth Defence Command.”

    Marissa sighed, relief flooding her system.

    “So we’re going to fight back? And ally with the Autobots?”

    “That last part is still being ironed out, but we do have a general consensus that we’re probably screwed without their help, so yes. And you owe me big, girl, just so you know, because guess who they drafted to command this new organization that isn’t even a piece of paper yet?”

    Marissa smiled and patted his shoulder. “I couldn’t think of a better man for the job, Uncle Clay.”

    He gave her a sardonic smile. “Let’s see if you still think so a few months from now, girl. Because I do have some personal news for you as well. Atten-hut!”

    Marissa needed a moment, but then old instincts kicked in and she came to attention before a superior officer.

    “Captain Marissa Fairborn,” Clay began, “it is my duty to inform you that, as of 0800 hours this morning, you are now on permanent detachment to the newly created Earth Defence Command. You will serve as field commander, as well as primary liaison to our soon-to-be-official alien allies. As part of your new duties it has also come to the attention of the United States Air Force Command that, considering the time of service you have accrued and given the extraordinary circumstances you have encountered, you are long, long overdue for a promotion. Several, in fact.”

    He reached forward to remove the Captain insignia from her collar, then took a pair of silver oak leafs from his pocket and fastened them in their stead.

    “Congratulations, Lt. Colonel Fairborn.”

    Marissa could only swallow and nod. She’d expected many things to come out of this meeting, but somehow the thought that she might end up with a promotion and what basically amounted to second-in-command status of an entire planet’s defence... somehow that had never even remotely entered her mind.

    “Thank you, sir,” she finally managed. “You can count on me.”

    “I know I can,” Clay said, smiling. “Now your first order is this: go and get some sleep! We’ve got a busy time ahead of us and I need my XO at full strength!”

    She saluted. “Yes, sir.”


    End Chapter 6
     
  12. Mazerunner

    Mazerunner Cyber Ninja.

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    :popcorn 
     
  13. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Chapter 7: Escalation

    *****

    Autobase Earth
    Mt. St. Hillary, Oregon, United States
    January 18, 2014


    “... what is possibly the most astonishing news in human history: aliens exist! And they’re already here.”

    -Switch-

    “... official press release from all major governments in the world about the existence of an alien race called the Cybertronians, who are apparently involved in a lengthy civil war...”

    -Switch-

    “... has not given an official statement yet, but church insiders have told us that Pope Francis has been in closed session with high church officials ever since the news broke, considering the spiritual ramifications...”

    -Switch-

    “... still waiting on the name of the United States Air Force officer who has made first contact with the aliens during a classified experiment with alien technology that has been unearthed at some point during the 1970s...”

    -Switch-

    “... don’t know how anyone can actually call these... these things living beings. They’re machines, for God’s sake! Lifeless, soulless machines! This is exactly what happens when a society elevates cold science over faith and...”

    -Switch-

    “... will sign an official treaty of allegiance with the legitimate government of the planet Cybertron in order to pool resources against what has been termed ‘renegade insurrectionists’...”

    -Switch-

    “... stock prices of all major automobile manufacturers have taken a deep plunge as customers seem to be scared that their new car might turn out to be...”

    -Switch-

    “... just wondering here, people, as apparently the leader of these... what do you call them... Autobots? Yeah, that the leader of their team has taken on the form of a Porsche. So what do you think Volkswagen will do? Try and sue an extraterrestrial party for copyright infringement or make some kind of advertising deal?”

    -Switch-

    “The newly created Earth Defence Command will work closely with our new alien allies to neutralize the threat posed by the Decepticon renegades as quickly as possible and...”

    -Switch-

    “... this premise, that these robots are divided into two warring camps, is completely unacceptable! Surely this is only some ploy to make us willing participants in...”

    -Switch-

    “... always knew that there were aliens among us, I’ve been saying it for years. In fact, this VW Beetle my dad got me when I first got my licence...”

    -Switch-

    “... country of Carbombya has issued a statement that none of these imperialist alien visitors will be allowed to cross their borders...”

    -Switch-

    “... no less than three studios have announced that their next summer blockbusters will feature alien robots from...”

    -Switch-

    “... certain these alien robots are Beliebers...”

    “Rewind, can you please turn that off? It’s giving me a headache!”

    The Autobot complied, much to Marissa’s relief. He’d been switching back and forth between hundreds of TV channels, newsfeeds, and numerous Internet pages so fast that she was never able to catch more than a few fragments. Apparently he was accessing even more of them directly, but even what little he simply put on the big screen in front of them was more than enough to make her eyes hurt.

    “Sorry. I keep forgetting you humans can’t handle data input as efficiently as we can.”

    “Yeah, yeah! You’re the king of data, Rewind. Just give me the gist, okay? How are things going?”

    The little Autobot took a few seconds to process her request, which probably meant he was going over endless terabytes of data.

    “All things considered, we’re looking pretty good, I think. The fact that just about every major country of your planet has released the news congruently and with similar wording has managed to staunch most of the disbelief, I think. The reactions vary, of course, but so far there has been very little in the way of violent outbreaks or similar reactions. Lots of confusion, naturally, and some of the most outlandish paranoid conspiracy theories I’ve ever heard, but all in all... not bad.”

    Marissa nodded. She had hoped things would go this way. She’d never been much of a believer in the old science fiction cliché that the people of the world weren’t ready to learn about the bigger universe surrounding them and would tear themselves apart in frenzy if they learned they weren’t alone. Sure, there was confusion, panic, a big run on toilet paper, and somewhere some poor bastards were probably going to kill each other over the last batch of canned beans, but what were people going to do? Leave? Commit mass suicide to spite the alien invaders? No, she believed people, most of them at least, were better than that.

    With the EDC still being set up, her current official posting was here in Autobase Earth. Most of her current force consisted of Autobots, while a number of human special forces groups were being trained up by members of Uncle Clay’s old unit and a number of Autobot representatives. A large number of support troops would be available from various national armed forces, depending on where in the world the EDC would be deployed.

    “Any sign of the Decepticons reacting to the news yet?” she asked.

    “Nothing yet. Prowl’s assessment that Shockwave will remain undercover as long as possible, despite knowing that we have proof of his presence, seems to have been correct.”

    She nodded, agreeing. Prowl was probably the Autobot whose mindset was closest to that of Shockwave, being methodical to a fault. If Shockwave had decided that secret infiltration was the most efficient means, Prowl’s argument went, then he would try and keep that up as long as possible before he switched to the far more wasteful method of operating in the open. Every second he remained in hiding meant he could gather more energy to power his troops before he had to face anyone – human, Autobot, or a combination of both – in combat.

    Until there was actual violent action, the Autobots would do their best to present a positive face to the human race at large. Much depended on this initial impression, especially since Marissa was already thinking of the future. No matter how things went with the Decepticons, there would not be a return to normal for humanity. For better or worse planet Earth and the human race was now part of a larger universe. The Autobots had already installed a Space Bridge terminus here in Autobase and a bigger one would follow once a larger, permanent Autobot presence was officially established here on Earth. Alien planets were now but a stroll away. There would be no tourist flights to Cybertron or Animatros anytime soon, but if there was one thing Marissa had learned during her time with the ageless Cybertronians, it was how to think long-term.

    Case in point, she mused, as she looked up to see a man walking into the room. The EDC was not the only new organization set up under the umbrella of the United Nations. While the current focus was clearly military in nature, due to the threat of the Decepticons, there was also the political and diplomatic side of affairs. Thus the UN now had a new sub-organization called ARA, short for Alien Relations Agency. Its long-term goal was to handle humanity’s relations with alien species. Currently it consisted of a few offices, a number of diplomats with support staff, and a provisional human ambassador slash chief negotiator slash liaison person. The official title was pending.

    Ian Chesterton was a British national, in his mid-thirties, and someone had apparently decided that he was both experienced enough to handle these duties and still young enough to adapt to a world that had been turned on its ear. From his file Marissa knew that he had served in a number of embassies across the globe, served as assistant delegate to the UN General Assembly, and had been on the short list for an ambassadorial posting in the near future. Instead he now got to deal with aliens on behalf of all mankind.

    He was also, Marissa mused, devastatingly handsome and charming and could easily have pulled off playing James Bond.

    “Colonel Fairborn, Rewind,” he greeted them.

    “Mr. Chesterton,” Marissa replied, smiling. “How are you handling the media frenzy?”

    “At least three showers a day, what with wading through the sheer amount of ignorance and stupidity, but that’s just business as usual. We might have a problem, though, and I’m not yet sure whether it falls under your specialty or mine.”

    She raised an eyebrow in question.

    “As you know all United Nations member states agreed to issue the announcement regarding the Cybertronians simultaneously, or as close as is possible without holding press conferences in the dead of night. 190 member states complied. Three are now overdue.”

    “Which three?” she asked.

    “Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela.”

    Rewind, by now deeply immersed in Earth’s data sphere and having gained enough knowledge to put it in context, quickly drew a conclusion.

    “Together these three states make up nearly one fifth of this planet’s crude oil production.”

    Ian nodded. “They’re all in the top 10.”

    “Coincidence?” Marissa asked, not believing it for a moment.

    “I don’t think so. We’ve tried contacting the governments of all three countries these last few hours and there has been no response apart from ‘please stay on the line’, basically. Their UN representatives have also not had any luck getting an answer from home.”

    Marissa nodded, walking over to the communications console. A moment later she had Clay on the screen.

    “I assume you heard?” she asked.

    He nodded. “Yes. No official word yet, but people are starting to get worried. The president has put all US Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan on alert. We’ve also had word from the Russians and the Chinese that they’re having communication problems with some of their outer provinces.”

    Marissa sighed. “Let me guess! Regions that are heavily into crude oil production or have some abundance of other natural resources?”

    He nodded again. “I’m worried about Alaska as well.”

    The screen split and Jazz appeared. “Just got the info from Rewind. I think we can assume that Shockwave is making some kind of move.”

    “He might hope that we won’t notice him quietly taking over some regions and countries in the midst of the current media blitz. Prowl is probably right that he’s trying to stay on the down-low for as long as possible while still securing strategic positions.”

    “We need some solid intel here. Wouldn’t do to invade sovereign countries just because they don’t answer their phones.”

    Jazz looked over some data. “I can have Autobot scouts on the ground in the Persian Gulf region in two hours, three for Venezuela. Marissa, want to do a flight over sunny Alaska?”

    “Sounds nice.”

    “Do that,” Clay ordered. “The Chinese and Russians will probably want to check things out themselves first, but I’ll let them know that EDC and Autobot help is available when they need it.”

    “Has Perceptor or Wheeljack come up with a way of identifying these Decepticon Pretenders yet?” Jazz asked Rewind. “If the Cons have exchanged some heads of state or such, we need to be able to tell.”

    “No news yet, but I’ll contact them right now.”

    “Okay, people, it looks like this could be it. Get to it!”

    Marissa signed off and quickly headed in the direction of the hangar, where Thrymir and her Headmaster suit were waiting.

    “Colonel Fairborn?”

    She paused to look back.

    “Yes, Mr. Chesterton?”

    “Be careful out there!”

    She smiled. “I always am.”

    “Not from what I’ve heard.”

    “I’ll try and stay in one piece this time.”

    “I’d appreciate that.”

    With a final wave she was off to the hangar and while the excitement of possible combat on the horizon was a very familiar feeling, she couldn’t quite attribute the slight flush of her cheeks to that.

    “You’re such a girl, Fairborn,” she muttered to herself, but couldn’t quite stop herself from smiling.


    End Chapter 7
     
  14. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Chapter 8: The Human Factor

    *****

    Journal of Lt. Colonel Marissa Fairborn, Earth Defence Command
    January 31, 2013

    I knew that the battle for Earth would be different than the war for Cybertron, simply because of the added element of human beings. I don’t think I fully anticipated how different, though. Despite being a human being myself, I didn’t have the slightest idea in how many different ways the human factor would come into play in the conflict between Autobots and Decepticons.


    *****

    Gulf of Alaska
    United States
    January 20, 2014


    “Damn it all to hell,” Marissa whispered as she made a second pass over the huge Energon processing facility that seemed to have sprung up from nowhere right in the middle of one of Alaska’s biggest oil fields. All her weapons were armed, but she might as well have left them at home, because there was no way she could take a shot.

    “Any way we can get an accurate count?”

    She had her Uncle Clay – and she probably should get used to calling him General Abernathy again, she figured, given that he was her commanding officer these days – and Jazz on the line and they were watching the same sensor readouts she had in front of her eyes.

    “I estimate at least several hundred. Have Rewind and Breaker get on trying to match-up faces, we need to know where they came from. Right now, though, it doesn’t really make a difference.”

    The Decepticons had done as expected. They had identified the biggest sources of easily-processed resources on Earth – the ones humanity had already thoughtfully begun to harvest – and seized them. What had once been a mere oil drilling site was now enhanced with Cybertronian-built defence installations and what looked to be a very busy facility to process crude oil into Energon cubes.

    There were no more attempts at disguise, however, no effort to hide the fact that Decepticons were in residence here. Not that it was needed, as the Decepticons had installed a devastatingly effective shield to ward off attacks: a human shield.

    The facility was surrounded by crudely built housing units, surrounded by razor-wire fences. People in cold weather gear were visible even from up here, milling about in small groups. She could spot what appeared to be entire families with kids. Not only was there no obvious way out for them, Marissa could also see that at least several of the numerous gun batteries were not pointed at the sky, but rather at the largest concentrations of housing units.

    And just in case the deal wasn’t obvious enough, an automated message was broadcast on short range radio and several Cybertronian frequencies: “Attention Autobots and humans. Attack this facility and we will destroy all the prisoners.”

    “Any chance of taking out all those batteries in a single air strike?” Clay asked.

    “Maybe, but that wouldn’t avail as much. There are Decepticons on guard all over the place; they could shoot the prisoners just as well. Besides, if they’re smart they’ve got at least one or two of their Pretenders among the prisoners.”

    Jazz agreed. “I really hope our smart bots can come up with a way to identify those turkeys soon. Otherwise that’s going to be a major malfunction in all our plans.”

    She could hear Clay sigh deeply. “Make sure to get a good look at this entire installation, but then return to base, Colonel! I don’t think we have any immediate venue of attack here.”

    “Roger,” she replied, clenching her fist as Thrymir thundered across the clear Alaskan sky. Shockwave had successfully outmanoeuvred them, at least for now. They really needed to think of something brilliant and soon.

    *****

    Autobase Earth
    Mt. St. Hillary, Oregon, United States
    January 22, 2014


    “Okay, people, listen up!”

    The small squad of elite pilots assembled from the air forces of eight different countries came to attention as Marissa walked into the room. Thirteen men and seven women, all of them wore the brand-new blue and white uniform of the Earth Defence Command.

    “You’ve all seen the news and gotten the briefings,” Marissa began. “The Decepticons have made their opening move and taken over several countries wholesale, as well as securing more than a dozen resource-rich locations in Russia, China, and the United States. All of these holdings are protected by the latest in Deception high-tech weaponry, as well as large groups of human hostages. Altogether the Decepticons now control well over half the world’s crude oil production and I have little doubt that the only reason Shockwave stopped there was a shortage of troops and materials. So to sum it up: it doesn’t look good right now.”

    She walked along the line of soldiers, looking at their faces. All of them were veterans who had seen action before. She didn’t need fresh-faced recruits straight out basic training. She herself had been a veteran before facing her first Decepticon and still been scared stiff. She didn’t want to imagine what it might have been like had she still been a wet-behind-the-ears youngster at the time.

    “We originally intended to do this at a much more sedate pace, but that plan’s gone out the window. So starting today, you people are going to be the first squadron of the brand-new EDC Air Force. You’re representing all of humanity out there, people, so from this moment forward I expect all of you to consider yourselves humans first and foremost, no matter what country you come from.”

    She stopped and motioned towards the two Autobots who were in the hangar with her. She had seen some of the pilots regard them with mild suspicion before announcing her presence. It was hard to blame them, considering the pictures they’d seen of similar-looking robots using their fellow humans as shields, but she intended to squash any misplaced hostilities right at the get-go.

    “These are Powerglide and Swoop and they are probably the greatest combat flyers you’re going to meet in your entire lives. They’ve fought against the Decepticons longer than our race has even existed, so they know what they’re talking about. When we go out there for our first training flight, they’re going to be in charge. When you first head into actual combat, odds are one of them is going to be in charge, too. If you have a problem with that, you better get over it soon, because we’ve got a war to win.”

    She walked over to the hangar doors.

    “Now you’ve all been given a brief description of the level of military technology our enemies will bring to the fight. As you are all intelligent people, I have no doubt that you realize that even the finest of human-made military machines are hopelessly, hilariously outclassed. We’d have to outnumber them a dozen or more fighter jets to one Decepticon Seeker to even hope to achieve victory and in the face of the measures Shockwave has taken, that is not going to happen. So we even the playing field a bit with a gift from our Autobot allies.”

    The hangar doors slid open and even these trained and experienced military men and women couldn’t quite supress their awe in the face of twenty towering winged robots standing before them. All of them were missing their heads, instead there were suits of battle armour standing in front of them.

    “Your briefing documents included pictures and video files of Thrymir and how I interface with it using the Headmaster process created by Wheeljack. Now it’s your turn. These are the first generation of mass-produced Headmaster Transectors intended for use by human pilots. They will put you on an almost even footing with any given Decepticon flyer. I say ‘almost’ because the Decepticons will still be more durable, far more resistant to things like G-forces, and have slightly faster reflexes as they don’t need a binary interface to interact with their own bodies.

    “Now that isn’t to say we don’t have any advantages of our own. We’re far more familiar with the aerial conditions of Earth, as most Decepticons have little to no experience with things like thermals or strong wind patterns. Also, the fact that they’ve fought against the same opponents for four million years has got them stuck in their ways a bit. During my first dog fight on Cybertron I performed an Immelmann roll, an aerial manoeuvre that is known to just about every fighter pilot in this world. It took them completely by surprise.

    “So the basic message here is: these are not human pilots you will be facing. It carries certain advantages and disadvantages. Keep that in mind at all times!”

    Smiling she gestured at the suits. “Enough with the pep talk now, though. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to suit up!”

    *****

    North Sea
    Off the coast of Germany
    January 29, 2014


    The first mission for the newly created squadron came sooner than Marissa would have liked, but there was no helping it. While she did have quite a few Autobots at her (or rather Jazz’) disposal, humanity needed to get into this fight and fast. So when Decepticon raiders were picked up leaving their main base in Siberia and heading toward the North Sea, her squadron was scrambled immediately.

    The clash happened at sea, several miles out from a collection of oil drilling platforms that were the Decepticons’ probably target. Six Decepticon Seekers accompanied a large shuttle craft. The Decepticons obviously picked up the approaching aircraft, but considering that they detailed but two of their number to intercept the twenty-three strong opposing forces, probably expected them to be ‘mere’ human jets.

    Ten seconds into the fight they knew better. Five minutes into the fight the sole surviving Seeker beat a hasty retreat as the burning wreckage of his compatriots fell into the ocean below. Captain Brad J. Armbruster was officially the first human who was not called Marissa Fairborn to shoot down a Decepticon flyer.

    Captain Jacques DeMoin was officially the first casualty of the EDC. He would not be the last.

    *****

    Iacon, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date January 30, 2014


    “So I hear the human-driven Transectors worked just fine on their first outing?”

    Wheeljack resisted the urge to groan as he turned around to face Brainstorm. The other Autobot walked into his workshop and Wheeljack had little doubt that he sported a huge, self-satisfied grin behind his mouthplate.

    “They did, yes,” Wheeljack just replied. “They lost one, but from the mission logs it appears to have been a simple case of bad luck. Zigged when he should have zagged, the human expression is, I believe. The Transectors and Headmaster units worked just fine.”

    While Wheeljack had created the Headmaster process and concept, it was Brainstorm who had adapted his work to create the Transectors, life-less Cybertronian bodies built for combat and intended to be ‘driven’ by either downscaled Cybertronians or humans in Headmaster suits. Grudgingly Wheeljack had cooperated with his fellow scientist to fine-tune the equipment for Marissa’s first EDC squadron. There was no denying that Brainstorm was brilliant, Wheeljack admitted. But while he himself had often been called slightly mad, Wheeljack considered Brainstorm to be completely and utterly nuts.

    “Then shouldn’t we start working on the next step?” Brainstorm asked.

    “Next step?”

    “Adapting your Headmaster process to work with the Gestalt protocols.”

    Wheeljack vigorously shook his head. “No! There is no way anything good is going to come from that, Brainstorm. You know how unstable the Gestalt protocols are even when you try and apply it to members of the same species. To try it with a human and a Cybertronian...”

    The Gestalt protocol was the basis of the combiner process, where a group of warriors combined their bodies and minds into a greater whole. The resultant combiner robots were staggeringly powerful – Devastator and Defensor coming to mind – but most of them were, at best, barely intelligent brutes. Also, there was a reason why there were only so few combiner teams in existence despite their proven combat effectiveness. Even with careful psychological screening the process of successfully combining multiple minds into one only worked in very few cases. And the results were never pretty when it didn’t.

    “That is just why it should work much better in those cases, Wheeljack,” Brainstorm interceded. “Usually the gestalt mind is comprised of whatever the individual minds can agree on with everything else shunted to the side. But human and Cybertronians are so different, I believe the sides can complement each other instead of being reduced to the lowest common denominator. And I’m not talking about throwing groups of five or six together, just one Cybertronian and one human. The result should be a gestalt mind perfectly suited for combat on Earth.”

    Wheeljack considered this a moment, then shook his head again. “Even if you were right, the risk is far too great. Besides, the humans are only just starting to trust us to be their allies in this war. Using them in highly dangerous experiments... no way Prime would ever agree to that. Plus, we got more important things to figure out, like how to reliably identify those Pretenders.”

    Brainstorm huffed. “Fine, have it your way!”

    He stomped out. Wheeljack made a mental note to keep an eye on him. It wouldn’t be the first time Brainstorm started tinkering with things even when everyone else told him to lay off.

    *****

    Autobase Earth
    Mt. St. Hillary, Oregon, United States
    January 31, 2014


    “Busy couple of days, weren’t they?”

    Marissa looked up from the reports of the various battles that had taken place during this last week. Apart from the action her new squadron had seen over the North Sea, Jazz’ Autobot forces had faced Decepticons in skirmishes in the Persian Gulf, Siberia, Alaska, China and Venezuela. Most of these had resulted in stalemates, the Decepticons being denied their objectives, but safely retreating to their fortified locations with their human shields.

    So she was tired, somewhat frustrated, and more than appreciative of the cup of coffee Ian Chesterton was handing her.

    “Sure were. Any news on the political front?”

    Sipping from his own coffee, Ian sat down beside her. “Nothing much. Still some people all over the place who think we should try for a diplomatic solution to this conflict. Plus the usual assortment of hardliners who think we should throw nukes at the problem. Same old, same old.”

    Marissa shook her head, thankful that she was mostly spared dealing with the political side of things. Apart from her appearance before the UN Security Council she had managed to stay out of the limelight so far. Which was just the way she liked it.

    Which, of course, meant she should have seen this next thing coming.

    “We’d like you to do a TV interview,” Ian said.

    “What?” she yelled, almost choking on her coffee.

    “Well, you are the one who made first contact with the Cybertronians, the liaison between Autobots and humans, and the field commander of the EDC. People want to get to know you and we think it’s a good idea. People need to see more of the human participants in this conflict. So far it’s been mostly giant robots fighting each other on our turf. Being told that some of those giant robots are being driven by humans... well, it’s not the same as seeing it.”

    Marissa closed her eyes. Was she a bad person for desperately wishing for a major Decepticon offensive right now?


    End Chapter 8
     
  15. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Chapter 9: Falling

    *****

    Autobase Earth
    Mt. St. Hillary, Oregon, United States
    February 7, 2014


    The interview had gone down without a hitch. The ratings had been phenomenal. Most of the world now knew who Marissa Fairborn was, how she had met the Cybertronians, and the chain of events (in broad terms, at least) that had brought the Cybertronian Civil War to Earth.

    Which led to the second-worst of all possible outcomes Marissa had predicted. The worst would have been that everybody hated and blamed her for bringing this war to Earth. Well, there were inevitably some who did, quite vocally so, but they were a distinct minority. No, the largest part of humanity had the second-worst reaction to hearing about Marissa Fairborn and what she had been doing these last eight years and change.

    They... well, it appeared that they... loved her.

    Ever since the interview aired the name Marissa Fairborn had become the number one search term on Google. Hundreds of Facebook pages had sprung up, created by self-proclaimed adoring fans. Fan clubs had been formed. Feminist movements across the globe pointed to her as a shining symbol of female empowerment. People she couldn’t remember ever having met gave interviews about her time in school or basic training and what a great friend and/or fellow soldier she had been. Even veteran military personnel newly appointed to the EDC now didn’t simply look at her as their superior officer, they looked at her as if she was... a hero.

    Marissa shook her head. She was no hero, far from it. A hero would have stopped Shockwave from ever finding Earth. They still didn’t know how he had done it, but considering that she had been the only human being in that sector of space, where else but from her could he have gotten the information? Somehow, someway she had led this monster to Earth. It was her fault. And humanity... adored her for it? This was wrong on so many levels.

    Besides, she didn’t know how to handle... this. The stares. The awe. The mere idea that people who saw her stopped, pointed and whispered excitedly. Her parents weren’t exactly helpful here. Her father had simply laughed and told her something along the lines of “now you know why we always operated covertly”, while her mother was somewhat more sympathetic, but didn’t really have any advice to offer, either. Neither of them had ever been in a situation such as this before.

    Marissa had never been a particularly outgoing person. She wasn’t a reclusive wall-flower, mind you, but neither had she ever been the prom queen type of girl. She had no problems with the respect she received as a superior officer or the easy friendship she had developed with many of the Autobot warriors, but Special Forces veterans looking at her as if she’d single-handedly toppled the Decepticon fortress of Darkmount? She didn’t know how to deal with that.

    “Still being stared at?”

    She turned around to see Ian, Rewind and Bumblebee walking up to them. Rewind had already made lots of friends amongst the humans (Marissa suspected it was partially due to the fact that he was the only Autobot who didn’t tower over them) and Ian had quickly become one of them. And Bumblebee was just a naturally friendly guy (unless he was fighting Cons), so they, too, had bonded somewhat.

    “This is all your fault, you know?” Marissa accused him. “You talked me into that damn interview.”

    “I did nothing of the sort. I only thought it would be a good idea politically and from a PR perspective. I believe it was General Abernathy who ordered you to show up.”

    “Believe me, Uncle Clay will get his,” she whispered under her breath.

    “I’m not sure why you are so glum about it, Marissa,” Rewind remarked. “I’ve been monitoring Internet traffic and TV signals and it seems you are currently the most popular human being alive. The EDC PR department is being swamped with requests from all sorts of companies who’d like to put your name on their products, requests for follow-up interviews, several book deals, and...”

    “That’s exactly why I’m glum, Rewind,” she interrupted him, knowing he could easily go on for hours. “I’m a soldier. I’m here to fight a war to save my world from the Decepticons. I’m not some... some poster girl for female empowerment or... or some new perfume. That’s not me!”

    Bumblebee shrugged. “No one’s forcing you to do anything, Marissa. Besides, I remember when Optimus first became Prime. People were ecstatic then, too, and he feared that he’d never get anything done because he was being waylaid by admirers at all corners. It tapered off after a few thousand years.”

    She glared at him. “Do we need to go into that whole ‘humans don’t have that kind of time’ thing again, Bee?”

    “If it helps, you’re not alone,” Rewind said. “Breaker advised me to set up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for all members of the Autobot Earthforce, just so no one else would do it and create a false image of us. Jazz is loving it, though, because people keep sending him new musical tracks to sample.”

    Bumblebee grumbled. “Sunstreaker’s got the most followers, though. He keeps posting pics and videos of this greatest battles and people are just eating that up.”

    Marissa shook her head. Had humans been this insane before she left Earth for Cybertron? She really needed a break from all this.

    “I need some fresh air,” she merely said and walked out. To her annoyance, though, Ian followed her out.

    “There is something I wanted to ask you,” he said, coming up beside her.

    “I’m not doing a follow-up interview or anything. Not even if you get every leader of every country that has undersigned the EDC in on it.”

    Ian laughed, shaking his head. “Nothing of the sort. No, I wanted to ask you something different.”

    “So ask!”

    “Would you go out on a date with me?”

    *****

    Apartment of Ian Chesterton
    London, Great Britain
    February 9, 2014


    Marissa had agreed to the date without really thinking about it and fretted for hours afterwards. She hadn’t been on a date in nearly a decade, after all. Her mother had taken her shopping for a dress then, while Ian had picked out a restaurant in his home city of London (one of the perks of being a member of an international organization with its own aircraft, you had a lot of options where to go out).

    On the actual night of the date she’d been a nervous wreck at the start, but quickly warmed up due to the combination of excellent food (far from a given in a British restaurant) and the charming company. The fact that they had a bodyguard along (though few people would be able to tell that the yellow Camaro outside was anything but a normal car) had bothered her at first, but considering her fame and the possibility of a Decepticon sneak attack, she had acquiesced.

    The nervousness returned, though, when the dinner was winding down and they found themselves heading to Ian’s apartment. Given that they had but the one car and Ian was the only one with a place in town, they naturally drove there. Marissa fully intended to just say her goodbyes and leave, but somehow he coaxed her into coming in for a nightcap.

    Lightly buzzed, Marissa finally gathered what remained of her resolve and rose to leave.

    “Thank you for this wonderful evening,“ she said, „but I must go now.“

    “Must you?” Ian asked.

    Marissa hesitated, conflicting feelings surging up inside her. God, how long had it been since a situation like this one had come up? She was attracted to Ian, there was no denying that. Who wouldn’t be, considering that he looked like a young James Bond? The fact that he was nearly a decade her junior wasn’t really an issue as far as she was concerned, but all things considered...

    His hand came to rest on her shoulder and she could feel the heat of his body against her back.

    “You can go if you want to, of course,” he said, “but I’d much rather you stay.”

    She closed her eyes, swallowing. “Why?”

    “Do I really need to answer that question?” he asked and she could hear his smile in the words.

    Turning around, she looked into his eyes, looking for... she didn’t know. She’d been so long without simple human intimacy. The innumerable hugs she’d gotten from her parents upon her return had soothed that need somewhat, but only somewhat. Still, considering everything that happened...

    “What do you want from me, Ian?” she asked, hating the way her voice trembled. “Look at me! I’m a cripple! A freak with robotic limbs. Is this some kind of sick turn-on for you?”

    The moment she said the words, she wanted to take them back, shocked at the pent-up venom in them. Ian didn’t step back, though. Instead his hand came up to brush her cheek.

    “What you are, Marissa Fairborn, is an incredible woman. And a very beautiful one, too. “

    She wanted to believe him. Oh, how she wanted to, but everything inside her recoiled. Taking a step back, she used her cybernetic arm’s enhanced strength to violently tear the expensive dress off her own body, leaving her standing in front of him with nothing on except her underwear. Her three replacement limbs gleamed in the light of the fireplace.

    “IS THIS BEAUTIFUL?” she yelled at him, gesturing with her metal arm. “I know guys are turned on by sleek chrome, but this is ridiculous. I’m almost half-way a machine, Ian!”

    He shook his head and came closer, his hands lightly grasping her shoulders.

    “You are a survivor, Marissa! What you went through would have broken most other people. Not you, though. You endured. You stayed strong.”

    Looking down, she felt treacherous tears come to her eyes. “Yes! Strong! Always strong! Captain... no, sorry, … Colonel Fairborn, yes, sir! Keeping her chin up, going back in the saddle, always!”

    She looked up at him, her eyes shining with eight years of pent-up frustration and loneliness.

    “You can’t imagine how it was, Ian! I was so... alone. The only one of my kind on an alien world. The Autobots did everything they could to help me, but there was only so much they could do. I... I didn’t get to touch another human being for eight years. No hugs, no kisses, not even a handshake, nothing! It was bad enough when I was just stranded there, but after Shockwave gave us the slip, when I knew he got to Earth ahead of us and we couldn’t immediately follow him... God, I spent every single day for eight months imagining my home in flames, never to see another human being again, being the only human left in the entire galaxy.

    “And now... now I’m back here and I still have to be strong and can’t let my guard down because I brought the threat here as well and... and everyone looks at me as if I’m some... some hero, some outer space science fiction superhero that can leap tall buildings in a single bound, while I would like nothing better than to just crawl into a corner and... and… but I can’t! I have to stay strong, because I’ll fall apart if I don’t, and…”

    Suddenly his lips were upon hers, silencing the torrent of words. For a long moment she was completely lost in the sensation. How long ago was her last kiss? She couldn’t remember, truth be told. Some guy she’d briefly dated before her assignment to Norway, she couldn’t even recall the name. When Ian finally drew back she almost whimpered at the lack of contact.

    “How about this, Marissa? Worry about being strong and everything else tomorrow. Tonight, you’re not the big heap science fiction hero. Tonight, you’re just Marissa. Here with me.”

    She opened her mouth, some words on her lips about duty, about the need to never let your guard down, but nothing came out. She just looked at him, completely at a loss what to do next.

    “And if you do fall apart,” he whispered. “I’m here to catch you!”

    She hesitated another moment, but then something inside her just broke. Tears ran down her face as she collapsed in Ian’s arms, walls built up over eight years crumbling down as she simply let herself fall into the sensation of being in the warm arms of another human being. Basic human needs suppressed for so long came pouring out as she tried to climb into him and wrap him around herself, never to let go again.

    “I’ve got you,” he whispered between kisses. “Everything will be okay.”

    With his hands on her body, their collective clothing lost somewhere in the shuffle, Marissa Fairborn finally managed to stop thinking about alien robots, interstellar wars, and all the many responsibilities heaped upon her shoulders. At least for a little while.

    And outside Ian’s home a yellow Camaro silently stood vigil, but turned his sensors away from the interior of the house to give the two humans some much-deserved privacy.


    End Chapter 9
     
  16. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Chapter 10: All Battles Great and Small

    *****

    Journal of Lt. Colonel Marissa Fairborn, Earth Defence Command
    March 17, 2014

    It wasn’t difficult to see what Shockwave was trying to do here on Earth. Years ago on Cybertron he had explained to me in detail why he figured the Decepticon would lose the war against the Autobots. Now he was trying to beat us with our own strategy. He has secured key locations and resources and is now basically waiting for us to come to him while he is hoarding energy and building up his troops.

    Scanners are picking up Space Bridge activity from the various Decepticon strongholds, so it’s safe to say that Shockwave has built up a connection with other remaining Decepticon outposts in the Cybertronian Planetary Grid. We’re not sure if he’s shipping out energy or shipping in troops (possibly both), but the long and short of it is that we need to derail his plans and soon.

    Right now Shockwave is sitting on nearly half this planet’s supply of fossil and radioactive fuels. We’ve also seen signs of him setting up geothermal, water, and solar powered facilities. He’s definitely trying to energy-starve us into defeat, as we’re very busy deflecting Decepticon raids on various power generating facilities throughout the world. The bad thing: he’s succeeding. Already energy shortages are felt around the world.

    We need to do something. And soon.


    *****

    Autobase Earth
    Mt. St. Hillary, Oregon, United States
    March 18, 2014


    “Colonel Fairborn?”

    Marissa turned around and saw an unfamiliar man approaching. He was wearing a black suit and tie with a white shirt and kinda reminded her of Will Smith from the Men in Black movie.

    “Yes? And you are?”

    The man smiled brilliant pearly whites.

    “Three guesses, the first two don’t count, and if you guess wrong you have to sing for me again, girl!”

    For a moment she was completely confused that someone she had never met would talk to her in such a familiar way. Then her eyes narrowed, a thought occurred to her, and she took a wild guess.

    “Jazz?”

    The man’s smile grew even broader before the illusion of a human appearance suddenly fell away. The human shell, clothes and all, split into several components that quickly folded away and with a glow of energy the six feet tall form suddenly grew to nearly 20 feet, revealing the familiar shape of Jazz.

    “Like the new ‘do?” he asked, laughter in his voice.

    “That is amazing,” Marissa said. A moment later she added “Wheeljack or Brainstorm?”

    “Ratchet, actually,” Jazz told her, squatting down before her. “With some input from the other two. Apparently they’re still having problems figuring out a way to pinpoint these Pretenders among regular folk, so Ratchet got the idea of first reverse-engineering the Pretender process to make our own and, in the process, figure out how to spot them.”

    Marissa brightened up. “Does that mean we can spot them now?”

    If that was true then they might finally get the chance to actually attack the Decepticon strongholds without incurring massive collateral damage amongst the hostage populations.

    Jazz wiggled his hand. “To a degree. The smart bots came up with a way to identify the cloned tissue used in a Pretender’s shell, but the accurate range is pretty limited. Too limited for any kind of air strike or long-range bombardment.”

    Marissa deflated. “So we’re back to square one?”

    Jazz shook his head. “Far from it, girl. Just means we have to be a little sneaky about it. And if you remember: sneaky is my specialty.”

    Seeing Marissa’s confused frown, Jazz motioned towards the far side of the base hangar, where a small group of people stood. Unfamiliar people.

    “More Pretenders?” Marissa asked.

    Jazz and she walked over to the group, which consisted of three men and one woman. Marissa looked at them, but found herself completely clueless.

    “Do I have to guess here, too?” Marissa asked.

    Jazz smiled. “I’ll spare you this time. You do know Bumblebee, I believe.” The woman with the long blonde hair waved at her. “The others are Landmine,” a blonde man resembling Richard Dean Anderson with the glasses, “Waverider,” a big, broad guy in a hoodie, “and finally Metalhawk,” a Japanese man in a business suit.

    Marissa shook her head in amazement. There was absolutely no outward sign that the people in front of her were anything but run-of-the-mill human beings. The Cybertronians’ capacity for disguise never ceased to amaze her.

    “So what’s the plan?” she asked.

    “Simple,” Jazz told her. “The Decepticons are going to get another few hostages. And then they’re going to get a rather nasty surprise.”

    Marissa’s grin would have sent chills down any Decepticon’s spine had he seen it.

    *****

    Gulf of Alaska
    United States
    March 31, 2014


    “Okay, people! You know the drill,” Marissa called out to her squadron mates. “We go in the moment we receive Jazz’ signal. We only have one shot at this, every target needs to be taken out in our first pass.”

    Squadron 1 of the EDC Air Force, nicknamed ‘Skull Squadron’ by its second in command Captain Roy Fokker, was approaching the Alaskan Decepticon site at high altitude. They were out in full force, their entire human-piloted contingent (currently counting 17 due to combat losses) bolstered by Powerglide, Swoop, Highbrow, and Steelwing.

    It had taken nearly two weeks for Jazz’ Pretender squadron to infiltrate the hostage population of the Alaskan base. Five hours ago they had received a short transmission burst that was the prearranged signal to begin the assault. Marissa just hoped that Jazz and the others had been thorough, otherwise this could easily turn into a bloodbath.

    The minutes ground by until she finally received a second coded transmission burst.

    “Skull Squadron! Begin assault!”

    In perfect formation the 21 jets began a steep dive straight towards the Decepticon stronghold. All pilots – human and Cybertronian both – brought their targeting systems online.

    “Picking up targeting information,” Captain Armbruster reported. “I’m seeing 41 targets being painted. Confirm?”

    “Confirmed,” numerous other pilots replied.

    “37 are the fixed defence installations we’ve already scouted from the air,” Marissa said. “The other four are mobile in the hostage area. Swoop, Steelwing, Fokker, and I will take these. The rest of you take out the fixed defences.”

    Ever since her first bout of combat on Cybertron Marissa had come to greatly appreciate the value of laser weapons. They were instantaneous, line-of-sight, and eliminated the need to compensate for drag, wind patterns or anything else. You saw it, you could shoot it. Of course the same applied to lasers used against you. Still, when it came to taking out small targets on the ground from an airplane going hundreds of kilometres per hour, lasers were much better suited than any guided missile or bullet.

    “Targeting range in ten seconds, people! Make it count!”

    The seconds ticked down, and then Marissa fired her weapons and pulled up. Her part was done.

    *****

    Two hours later Marissa, all suited up in Thrymir, stood in the ruins of what had been the Decepticons’ Alaskan base and regarded her surroundings. This was a victory, no doubt about it. The first major victory against the Decepticons here on Earth. They had lost their Alaskan base and they had taken out at least 71 Decepticons, probably more. They had also captured quite a number of Energon cubes and, more importantly, got the Alaskan oil pipelines pumping again to supply much-needed power to most of the North American continent.

    Marissa didn’t feel very jubilant, though.

    “How are the numbers?” General Abernathy asked over the com channel. It was easier to call him General rather than Uncle Clay in a situation such as this.

    “All things considered probably as good as we could expect,” she said flatly. “Jazz and his team managed to paint all the targets for us and spotted the four Decepticon Pretenders in the hostage crowd. We managed to take them all out in the first air strike. Jazz and the others then concentrated on getting the hostages to safety while the ground troops came in.”

    She swallowed hard before continuing. “They managed to get most of them out before the Decepticon warriors in the base managed to react. They... they managed to get some shots off, though, and... we lost 18 of the hostages. Over 50 are injured.”

    The General was quiet for a moment. “There were over 600 hostages there, Colonel.”

    She knew that. Given the situation, the fact that they had managed to save over 97 percent of the hostages was nothing short of miraculous. But it was hard to think of all the people they had managed to save today when she could still see the blood-stained snow.

    “Non-civilian casualties?” the General inquired.

    “Skull Squadron came out unscathed. The ground troops were less fortunate. We have 22 Autobots in critical condition. We lost five. I don’t have any numbers for the human support troops yet.”

    The actual ground fighting in the base had been done almost exclusively by Jazz’ Autobot troops, given that they still had very little in the way of human-piloted armour that could actually take on a Decepticon. A number of tanks equipped with Cybertronian weaponry had provided covering fire and helicopters had flown into evacuate the hostages. All of these had come under fire as well.

    Jazz, back in his normal Cybertronian form, was walking up to her.

    “Good work, Marissa,” he said. “We put a big dent in old one-eye’s plan today.”

    “Yay us!” she muttered unenthusiastically.

    “I know it wasn’t a perfect win, girl,” he said, putting a giant robot hand on Thrymir’s shoulder. “But let me tell you something you already know: in war, there are no perfect wins. Never. What we had today was as close as you’re ever going to get in real life.”

    “I know that, Jazz. I just... it’s stupid and it shouldn’t matter. A life is a life. But soldiers, be they Autobot or human, they know what they’re getting into. But these people...”

    Jazz nodded, understanding. “There haven’t been civilians on Cybertron in a long time. There were in the beginning, when many still believed it was possible to stay out of the fighting. Over time, though, they either left the planet, joined up, or died. It’s a new situation for all of us. Still, the Decepticons would have sacrificed them all without a moment’s hesitation. We got almost all of them out. We did good.”

    Marissa nodded. In her brain she knew he was right. With her eyes still fixed on the blood-stained snow, though, her heart was telling her a different story.

    *****

    Journal of Lt. Colonel Marissa Fairborn, Earth Defence Command
    April 8, 2014

    It didn’t take long for Shockwave to retaliate for the loss of his Alaskan base. Apparently he’s been studying the way this world works quite thoroughly and decided to aim where it hurts the most. The economy.

    *****

    Banking District
    London, England
    April 9, 2014


    “We need to cut them off,” Marissa yelled. “Where are those reinforcements you promised, Jazz?”

    Skull Squadron had been called in to stop a Decepticon assault on London’s banking district, coming only one day after another assault had done widespread damage to Wall Street in New York and had sent stock markets worldwide into a tail spin. Only this time the opposition was an even tougher nut to crack.

    The towering monstrosity rampaging through the streets of London was a massive figure composed of five separate Decepticons who had merged together into one of the dreaded Gestalt warriors. This one was called Menasor, Marissa had been told, and while most of the Gestalt minds weren’t exactly smart or well-adjusted, this one was apparently crazier than most.

    “Our weapons aren’t even scratching that thing,” Fokker called in, having just completed another ineffectual strafing run.

    “Prepare to disengage and concentrate on getting civilians to safety,” Jazz called over the com. “Your back-up has just arrived.”

    Marissa looked sideways and saw a group of rescue vehicles come down the street towards the lumbering giant. Moments later the five vehicles transformed and combined, forming yet another towering robot.

    “Defensor is here,” the new giant called out. “We will protect!”

    The two giants clashed with enough force to shatter every window for two blocks in every direction.

    *****

    Carbombya City
    Carbombya
    May 2, 2014


    “This is a complete outrage,” the tall man in the military uniform sputtered. “I have explicitly forbidden all outsiders from invading my country.”

    Marissa just raised an eyebrow, not quite believing this man. They had just fought off a brutal Decepticon assault set on capturing the small emirate’s oil fields and this was the response they got?

    “You’re welcome, your Highness,” she simply said and turned around. The sooner they were out of this sandbox, the better. Humans, she figured. There were times she understood her own species less than her Cybertronian friends.

    *****

    European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS)
    Schrobenhausen, Germany
    June 19, 2014


    “So what do you think, Colonel?”

    Marissa smiled at Harald Walde. The former chief engineer of Project Utgard was looking very proud and rightly so.

    Before them stood the prototype of the Valkyrie-1, the first human-built Transector that fully incorporated Cybertronian technology. Walde, who had been working with Cybertronian tech for the better part of 20 years, had been a natural to head up the project to finally build Transectors on Earth.

    The prototype was a good deal slimmer than Thrymir and his Cybertron-built colleagues. While they didn’t carry the same punch as the existing Transectors, it was quite a bit more aerodynamic and well-adapted to air combat on Earth.

    “She’s a beauty, Harald,” she replied. “How soon can we start mass producing them?”


    *****

    Autobot City Earth
    Belgium
    August 21, 2014


    “Welcome to Earth,” Ian Chesterton greeted the towering Autobot stepping out of the newly built Space Bridge Portal. The entire site of what would soon be the Autobots’ main presence here on Earth was still in the building stages, but one could already see it taking shape. And the first permanent resident had just arrived.

    “I am glad to be here,” the Autobot said, leaning down and offering a single finger for Ian to shake. “I just wish our two species had met under better circumstances.”

    Ian nodded. He had received an extensive file on the Autobot with whom he would spend a lot of time in the near future. Emirate Xaaron was one of the few surviving members of Cybertron’s pre-war government. He had also been the first to recognize the true scope of the Decepticon threat and it had been his initiative to create a unified Autobot military. He had also been smart enough to realize that a politician had no place leading a military campaign, which was why he had stepped aside and into an advisory role for Optimus Prime.

    Now, though, with the war on Cybertron winding down, there was once again room to consider non-military matters. Such as the future state of affairs between the inhabitants of Cybertron and planet Earth.

    “This way, Emirate,” Ian motioned toward the only set of buildings completed so far. “We have an office prepared for you.”

    “Very good. There is a lot of work to be done.”


    End Chapter 10
     
  17. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Chapter 11: Meanwhile, on Cybertron

    *****

    Iacon, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date December 3, 2014


    “You do not seem happy, Prowl.”

    The Autobots’ chief strategist looked up from the data he’d been studying to see his commander-in-chief approaching. Optimus Prime looked as powerful and serene as ever, but lately Prowl had noticed tiny changes. Prime had a bit more spring in his steps, he walked with greater purpose, he seemed... lighter. Prowl figured it was that indefinable yet ever so powerful thing called ‘hope’. The end of the war seemed near and that was invigorating to every Autobot far and wide.

    Not Prowl, though. He was deeply worried.

    “The numbers do not add up, Optimus,” Prowl simply said.

    “What numbers?” Prime asked, sitting down next to him.

    Prowl indicated the data sheets in front of them.

    “We’re still making headway on all the remaining fronts against the Decepticons. Cybertron itself is on the verge of being free of Decepticons entirely, in fact. By all indications the Decepticons are in full retreat and it’s simply a matter of mopping up now.

    “At the same time, though, there are the reports from Earth. While Jazz and Colonel Fairborn are beginning to make headway against Shockwave’s forces, the Decepticons still hold control of a large portion of Earth’s natural resources. I have put together an estimate as to their Energon production and it’s quite extensive. Yet we are seeing little evidence of that Energon going anywhere. By all accounts Shockwave should have enough resources at his disposal to significantly reinforce Decepticon troops all over the Space Bridge grid, yet all reports from Ultra Magnus, Grimlock, and our other field commanders indicate that the Decepticons they are facing are no better equipped or energized than before.”

    Optimus considered Prowl’s words.

    “So if Shockwave is not using the Energon gathered on Earth to power the Decepticon troops not on Earth... what is he using it for?”

    Prowl sighed. “That is the big question, Prime. Shockwave is logical to a fault. With access to the same numbers as I he must know that the longer he waits, the more headway we’re going to make. If he does plan to try and reignite the current Decepticon movement, he should have done it already. The window where even the amount of Energon he can create on Earth might turn the tide of the larger war is closing rapidly. He must know this. So I can only assume he has an alternative plan in place. Sadly I currently have no information what this plan might be.”

    Optimus nodded, understanding what Prowl was saying. Things were not going well for the Decepticons at all. Just a few Breems ago he had received word from Ultra Magnus that the largest Decepticon holdout here on Cybertron had been successfully liberated. The Decepticon presence on Cybertron was now reduced to a few scattered pockets of disorganized remnants. There were still sizeable opposing forces on Animatros, Velocitron, Gigantion, and several other grid worlds, but the writing on the wall was clear. The Decepticons were losing. It was just a matter of time now.

    And yet Shockwave was sitting on a vast amount of energy and doing... nothing? No, certainly not nothing. He was up to something, there was little doubt about that. But what?

    “Continue your analysis, Prowl,” Optimus said, rising. “Share your concerns with all field commanders – including Jazz on Earth - and tell them to keep an optic open to anything that might clue us in to Shockwave’s plans.”

    “And you, Prime?” Prowl asked.

    “I’m going to visit someone who might be able to tell us something.”

    *****

    Trypticon Prison, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date December 3, 2014


    The Autobots had taken no chances. Not only was the prisoner locked in the deepest, most secure part of the Trypticon prison complex, but his body had also been thoroughly analyzed and stripped of anything and everything that might be used as a weapon or communication device. There were still signs of the damages he had taken during the battle of Nova Cronum, patched up only to the point of viability, nothing more. The slot where his mighty fusion cannon had once connected to his forearm was still a gaping wound.

    Still, Megatron remained an ominous presence. And he smiled as he saw his visitor approaching.

    “Optimus Prime,” he chuckled. “What brings one such as you into these dark prison walls?”

    Optimus stood before the reinforced bars of Megatron’s prison, looking at his defeated nemesis.

    “I come with an opportunity for you, Megatron. As you know the war is coming to an end, which means your trial is approaching. If you cooperate, it might grant you some leniency when it comes to announcing your sentence.”

    Megatron rose, striking a dramatic pose with a hand on his chest.

    “Merciful Primus, you are not saying that my guilt is already decided, do you? I thought I was to have a fair, unbiased trial.”

    Optimus shook his head pitifully. “I think it will be very hard, Megatron, to find any Cybertronian whom you have not hurt, be it directly or indirectly. But that will be deliberated at your trial. I am here for information.”

    “And what information could I, having been stuck in this prison for quite some time now, possibly provide you, Optimus Prime?”

    “Shockwave!” Optimus simply said.

    Megatron laughed, slowly pacing the length of his cell with his hands crossed behind his back.

    “Ah, yes. Shockwave. I am not surprised that he has taken over Decepticon leadership in my absence. He probably would have done it ages ago if he had seen any chance of rallying popular support against me. Too bad that he is about as charismatic and loyalty-inspiring as a data terminal.”

    “He seems to be doing all right,” Optimus said, “because so far the remaining Decepticons seem more than content to follow him and leave you here to rot, Megatron.”

    There was a brief flash of anger on Megatron’s face, but it vanished as quickly as it had come.

    “So Shockwave is giving you problems, Prime? Is that it? And now you want to enlist my aid to take him down? Why should I?”

    Optimus took a step closer to the bars, looking into Megatron’s eyes.

    “I am thinking that maybe, somewhere deep down, you do care about the movement you started and the troops you once inspired. Shockwave is running the Decepticons into the ground, Megatron. He’s letting your troops fight losing battles on scattered battle fields, disorganized, underpowered, while he hides on Earth and stockpiles Energon for some purpose. I want to know what his plan is, Megatron.”

    Again there was a brief flash of anger when Optimus described the state of the once great Decepticon Empire, but once again Megatron’s face returned to neutrality.

    “I was under the impression that Shockwave told your little flesh creature all about his plans when last they met. Shockwave’s plan is my plan. Cybertronian supremacy over the universe. Peace through tyranny. The creation of a perfect, clockwork cosmos where things like war, poverty, and starvation are meaningless concepts.”

    “You missed freedom on that list,” Optimus said dryly.

    “Ah yes, freedom,” Megatron nodded. “Your most cherished concept. Tell me, Optimus! What has this clinging to the notion of freedom availed you these last 50,000 Vorns? Back when we first met, I offered you my hand and asked you to join me. Together we could have brought peace and order to this world in no time at all. But you refused and the result was a war that tore this world apart.”

    Optimus shook his head. “I have heard these words before, Megatron, and they mean as little now as they did then. Maybe at the beginning you really did believe yourself to be a great liberator and champion of the masses, but your lust for power has overridden everything else. Back to the topic at hand! I know Shockwave’s goals. But how does he plan to reach them if not by repowering the Decepticon forces?”

    Megatron merely shrugged.

    “However much I would just love to help you, Prime,” he said sarcastically, “I honestly do not know. I will tell you this much, however: it will be something you won’t see coming. Something you won’t ever expect. As much as Shockwave is lacking in certain areas of personality, he has a definite penchant for coming up with revolutionary ideas. No one ever considered that you build a space bridge without a receiver, after all, but he did. I am sure whatever he is stockpiling that Energon for, it will be at least as brilliant.”

    He turned to look at Optimus and shook his head.

    “You really should have faced me in battle in Nova Cronum, Prime. Whatever the outcome, it would have been a fitting end for one of us. Now, I will rot here in prison, while you will either win this war through sheer attrition or lose to Shockwave due to his superior scientific mind. This is not how wars are supposed to end.”

    Optimus just looked at him with pity. “Wars are never supposed to even start, Megatron. But you still haven’t managed to understand that yet, have you? Sometimes I believe you have lost any attachment to reality long ago.”

    Clenching his teeth, Megatron snarled at him through the bars. “Believe what you like, Optimus. But the fact remains that you would have been nothing but a statistic in the history books of Cybertron if not for me. No one would know the name Orion Pax if not for me. I made you. And what will you do when this war is over and I am gone?”

    Optimus just looked back at him calmly. “I will put down my arms, hopefully for good, and enjoy a life without war and strife.”

    With that he turned away and walked out of Trypticon prison. Sadly he had learned nothing new. But then again, he hadn’t really expected to.

    *****

    Decepticon Earth HQ
    Location: Secret
    December 3, 2014


    “We have decrypted an Autobot signal on Animatros,” Soundwave reported. “All Autobot field commanders have been advised to try and recover any and all information regarding your plans and why Decepticon troops outside Earth have not been supplied with fresh Energon.”

    Shockwave nodded, his featureless face showing no hint as to what he was thinking.

    “I fully expected Prowl to correctly assess the situation sooner or later. It does tighten our schedule further, though. We need to bring Phase III to full operational status as soon as possible.”


    End Chapter 11
     
  18. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Chapter 12: Victories and More Politics

    *****

    Decepticon-held territory
    Siberia, Russia
    February 22, 2015



    “Squadron 2, support the left flank! They’re taking heavy fire.” Marissa shouted, at the same time working hard to keep the Decepticon Seeker in front of her in her crosshairs. Finally she managed to achieve a target lock and a searing laser blast tore the enemy robot to pieces. Of course the moment she did that two more were present to take his place and she escaped fiery death by a hair’s width.

    Weaving through a hail of enemy fire Marissa checked up on the rest of her assault group. The heavy snow fall was playing havoc with visibility, so they were relying mainly on their IFF transmitters and a number of Cybertronian-built sensors that didn’t really have a human-built equivalent. Thankfully the Decepticons were not really that accustomed to freezing cold and snowfall, either, so both sides were equally hampered.

    Well, not quite, she mused.

    “Forward, comrades!” Capt. Anatoly Fodorovich Krimov, commander of EDC’s squadron 5, bellowed enthusiastically in his heavy Russian accent. “Mother Russia is on our side!”

    Unsurprisingly the Russian-native members of the EDC had far less problems operating in these conditions, so Marissa had put as many of them in the field as she could get her hands on. Not that she could have stopped them had she tried. Despite the fact that the EDC was first and foremost a global operation representing all mankind, the fact that the Decepticons’ biggest base was sitting in Siberia meant that the Russians naturally had the greatest interest in removing it as soon as possible.

    And they had to remove it, Marissa reminded herself. The alternative wasn’t very nice to think about.

    As explosions bloomed all around her Marissa couldn’t help but once again bring the urgency of their situation to the forefront of their mind. The Decepticons were losing the war, yes, both here on Earth and in the galaxy beyond, but at the same time Earth was going to pieces over it. The resource shortages resulting from the Decepticons’ operations had already caused worldwide economic damage. The global financial system had all but collapsed after the attacks on London and New York. Hungry national industries and infrastructures that had heavily depended on a steady influx of oil were in shambles.

    Ian kept her up to date on what was happening on the political front during their oh too few times off together. More than one country had already descended into anarchy due to the stress of the war. Some countries, such as Russia and China, were doing comparatively well at the moment - totalitarian regimes had their upsides, she mused, especially in times of crisis - but many other countries were feeling the strain. Few more so than the United States with its heavy dependence on foreign oil and the destruction of large parts of the financial industry. Many other countries were in equally bad shape.

    Thus the need to win this battle. Siberia was the largest of the Decepticon bases, the backbone of their military presence on Earth. If they could win here, they would make big strides toward bringing this war to a conclusion. Not to mention the enormous and desperately needed natural resources the Decepticons were hoarding here.

    “We’ve got more Cons moving in from the west,” Jazz announced over the com, his Autobots providing the biggest part of the assault’s ground troops.

    “On it,” Marissa replied. “Squadrons 1 and 5, form up on me!”

    More explosions filled the sky. They just had to win this, Marissa repeated over and over. They had to.

    *****

    Autobot City Earth
    Belgium
    February 22, 2015


    Emirate Xaaron leaned back and regarded the document in front of him with something of a wistful smile on his metal lips.

    “I keep being surprised at how fast things develop with you humans,” he said. “Similar developments on Cybertron took place over the span of thousands of your years.”

    United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who sat opposite him, nodded in understanding.

    “It seems to be one of the major differences between our races,” he agreed. “From Colonel Fairborn’s reports I know that she figures that the main reason is the vast difference in our lifespans. We humans simply don’t have the time to spend thousands of years deliberating the wisdom of our actions. Even if that would probably have helped avoid some of our problems.”

    Xaaron shook his head. “Do not be too sure about that, Mr. Secretary. Believe me, there can be too much debate on a subject, as well. I believe the truth, as always, lies somewhere between the two extremes.”

    “No doubt. Anyway, if these last 15 months has proven anything, it’s that Colonel Fairborn was quite correct when she stepped in front of the United Nations Security Council and said that our only hope was to stand united as one race across all nations and divides. The military threat of the Decepticons, the economic devastation, our future position in a much larger universe... all these are challenges no nation of Earth can face on its own.”

    Xaaron nodded. “I fully agree, of course. Do you think you have the necessary public support?”

    Ban smiled and nodded. “I believe we do. And I think we can once again thank Colonel Fairborn for that, at least to a degree. The way she has forged the EDC into an internationally recognized and admired fighting force... I’m told half the teenagers in the world today are chomping at the bit to turn 18 so they can join up and fight the bad robots from space for all humankind.”

    Turning somber, he clenched his fists. “It’s often been said that it would take something as cataclysmic as an alien threat to finally get humankind to put aside their differences and unite. Turns out they were right. We have paid a terrible price, but if we can make this work... then maybe it was all at least good for something.”

    Xaaron agreed and once again picked up the document in front of him. The first draft of the legal groundwork for a united Earth government.

    “Then let’s take a look at the details, shall we, my friend?”

    *****

    Iacon, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date February 22, 2015


    Dashiell “Flint” Fairborn, no longer retired and back in active service, blinked to clear the spots from his eyes. Space Bridge travel was definitely something of an acquired taste, as he felt like he’d left his stomach behind somewhere along the orbit of Pluto or so.

    He had seen the pictures and recordings. He had listened to the many stories and anecdotes Marissa had about this place. But none of that had quite prepared him for the reality of the situation. Here he was, standing on the surface of an alien world. Something that was no longer the stuff of Science Fiction movies.

    He managed a chuckle. Travelling to other worlds by walking through a giant doohikey shaped like a tuning fork would possibly soon become something as normal as taking a Sunday drive in your car... but he certainly wasn’t quite there yet.

    “Hello, Master Sergeant Fairborn,” a deep, metallic voice greeted him. “We are glad to welcome you to Iacon.”

    He looked up – way up – and met the face of an Autobot called Ironhide. Ironhide was a veteran in the Autobot forces and served as chief of security for Iacon in general and Autobot headquarters in particular.

    “Glad to be here, Ironhide,” he replied, giving the much larger robot a wave. They had never met in person before, only talked a few times over the com, but that had been quite enough for the beginnings of a friendship. While the Autobots didn’t have military ranks as human military organizations understood the concept, Ironhide was basically a grunt like him. Little time for uppity officers and bureaucracy, he liked to get things done.

    “The rest of the initial staff will arrive tomorrow,” he told the Autobot as they walked away from the Space Bridge terminus and towards the Stellar Galleries, which served as the Autobots’ main headquarters. “But I wanted to take a look at the facilities as soon as possible, so we can figure out what we need to bring with us and what’s already here.”

    “No problem,” Ironhide said, walking very slowly to match the human’s much shorter stride. “We want only the best for our new allies, especially the progenitor of Captain Fairborn.”

    Cybertronians didn’t quite get family relations, seeing as they produced asexually, but apparently Marissa had managed to impart on her Autobot friends what Flint was to her, at least in broad terms.

    “It’s Colonel Fairborn now, actually,” he said, adjusting the breather unit on his face. Cybertron’s atmosphere wasn’t lethal to humans in the short term, but it lacked certain trace gases and had a lower oxygen content. “She got promoted.”

    Ironhide chuckled. “Yeah, the squishy might make Prime yet. Anyway, how about we speed this up a little?”

    Without waiting for a reply from Flint, Ironhide transformed. A moment later a bulky red transport vehicle stood next to him, looking like a highly futuristic version of a Hummer. A door opened by itself, revealing a human-scaled driver’s cabin.

    “Wheeljack offered the ‘human driver option’ to all Autobots in the latest rounds of updates,” Ironhide explained. “He even offered it to Grimlock, of all bots.”

    Flint laughed, having heard quite the tales about Grimlock, the eternally grouchy Autobot warrior who had become one of his daughter’s closest friends during the war on Cybertron. Throwing his duffel bag in first, he climbed into Ironhide’s interior.

    “Then let’s roll out, my friend,” he said, leaning back. “I’m looking forward to seeing the building that will house Earth’s first embassy on an alien world.”

    *****

    Decepticon Base
    Siberia, Russia
    February 23, 2015


    Marissa looked around and took in the devastation. This had once been one of the largest oil processing facilities in the world. Now it was little more than a burnt-out wasteland. Burning oil wells lit the night like huge torches, smaller fires burned where warehouses and factory buildings had once stood, and the casualties of war littered the ground all around her.

    On a plume of fire a human-built Transector landed next to her and gave a salute. “We checked the remaining warehouses. Nothing.”

    She nodded, having expected as much. This area had seen more than its shares of missile and laser impacts. Had the warehouses actually been filled with Energon cubes, the resulting explosions would have been ten times what they had been at least.

    “Any sign of when and where they were transported?”

    “One of the Autobots – Pipes, I think – said that the residual Energon traces are a few days old at best. They must have cleared out shortly before we launched our first assault.”

    Marissa sighed, wondering whether or not this counted as victory. Yes, they had routed the Decepticon forces. Yes, the largest known Decepticon base on Earth was now nothing but a burning husk. But Siberia’s oil industry was in shambles and would take a good long while to recover. Russian work crews were already moving in and trying to assess the damage, but she doubted any black gold would be flowing from here to the energy-starved cities further west anytime soon.

    And all the Energon cubes the Decepticons had created and stored here were gone.

    Marissa had read Prowl’s analysis by now. She knew that Shockwave was hoarding energy somewhere. Where? And for what?

    Shaking her head, she resolved to leave the deeper analysis to the intelligence experts. Right now she had a conquered base to secure, a victorious yet heavily battered assault force to regroup, and... and condolence letters to write.

    Quite a few of them.

    They had to end this, she mused. Because she didn’t know how much longer she could do this.


    End Chapter 12
     
  19. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Chapter 13: Interludes, Distractions, and Mad Science

    *****

    Iacon, Planet Cybertron
    Earth Date April 7, 2015


    Wheeljack walked into the laboratory, data pad in hand, and was feeling rather annoyed. Which was basically his default state of emotion when it came to any and all interactions with his fellow scientist and engineer Brainstorm. Oh, he didn’t doubt that Brainstorm was one of the finest minds on Cybertron. In terms of purely scientific theory he was probably outmatched only by Perceptor and on the engineering side he was as close to an equal as Wheeljack had. Still, his sanity was questionable and his ethics were ... very flexible. Plus, he was supposed to meet Wheeljack several Breems ago to go over the specs of the next generation of Transectors, only he hadn’t.

    “Brainstorm, where are you?” Wheeljack shouted, looking around the lab. He didn’t like to come here. Brainstorm’s lab was a dangerous place. Wheeljack knew he himself had a reputation (quite deservedly so) for blowing things up (including himself). Brainstorm, though, usually didn’t bother with the blowing up part and went right to disintegration and utter annihilation.

    “I’m in the back, Wheeljack,” Brainstorm’s voice rang out.

    Wheeljack carefully made his way between Brainstorm’s various projects until he finally spotted the other Autobot. Brainstorm was standing against the wall. Standing very still. In fact, he looked almost lifeless.

    “Brainstorm?” he asked.

    “Down here!”

    Looking down, Wheeljack started. Right in front of him stood a small Autobot who looked up at him with a miniature version of Brainstorm’s face.

    “You... you downsized yourself?” he asked.

    “Not so much downsized as reinstalled. As you can see, my old body is still in its original configuration, head and all.”

    Wheeljack nodded, seeing that Brainstorm’s larger shell was fully intact. So Brainstorm had not put himself through the Headmaster process, it seemed, but rather...

    “What did you do to yourself?” he asked, unable to figure it out.

    “Simple, my dear Wheeljack. I’ve gone one step further. Observe!”

    The small form jumped into the air and transformed into... was that an engine? The engine – if that was what it was – then flew towards Brainstorm’s original shell, which was not quite as unchanged as Wheeljack had originally thought. There was a socket built into its torso and the engine integrated itself there. A moment later Brainstorm’s shell came to life and it was as if he had never abandoned his bigger body for a smaller one.

    “Ta-daa!” Brainstorm said, spreading his arms. “What do you think?”

    Wheeljack shook his head. “I... I don’t get it. So you turn into an engine instead of a head. So? Where’s the difference?”

    “You mean apart from the fact that it makes for a far less obvious target than a head? Quite simple, my dear Wheeljack. This new process not only allows me to link up to my own, almost unmodified original shell, it also allows me to link up with others.”

    Wheeljack groaned, seeing where Brainstorm was going with this. “You’re still trying to create a new type of gestalt warrior? We talked about this...”

    “It’s nowhere near as invasive as the gestalt protocol,” Brainstorm interrupted him. “In fact, it’s fully scalable. It can simply be two completely separate minds occupying one body, it can be a full gestalt integration, it can be anything in-between. That’s the genius of it.”

    Wheeljack clutched his own head in frustration.

    “Please tell me you haven’t tested this insanity yet! Please tell me you haven’t tested it with a human-driven Transector!”

    Brainstorm snorted. “Of course not, what do you take me for? All computer simulations look golden so far, though.”

    “I can’t believe you experimented on yourself.”

    “Oh, you’re one to talk. How many times have you injured yourself in testing your own weapons and designs?”

    “That’s different!”

    “Why is that? Because the stuff was meant to blow up others, not yourself?”

    Wheeljack huffed. “You were supposed to work with me on the designs of the next generation of Transectors, not pursue your own mad urges!”

    Brainstorm crossed his arms and sniffed. “Oh, please! I finished work on those designs five cycles ago. You’re just jealous because you can’t keep up!”

    “The designs are not finished, the interlink still isn’t universally adaptable with all binary interface units.”

    “Details!”

    “You’re impossible!”

    “You’re a buffon!”

    “You’re a hack!”

    Several Breems later Iaconian Security had to break up the two engineers when their argument was about to be settled using weapons of mass destruction stored in Brainstorm’s laboratory.

    *****

    Apartment of Ian Chesterton
    London, Great Britain
    April 9, 2014


    “That does not make me feel safe,” Ian admitted, to which Marissa laughed.

    “Come on, you big baby! Are you really scared of one old soldier?”

    “If said old soldier is a Special Forces veteran and the father of the woman I’m having sex with, then yes!”

    “I’d say you’ll have far more reason to fear my mother, actually.”

    Marissa and Ian were enjoying one of their very, very few days off. It was a rare thing for the two of them to be in the same time zone (or even space sector), much less have free time at the same time. Marissa was busy fighting Decepticons all over the world, while Ian was deeply involved in not only setting up the first human embassy on Cybertron (where he had to work together with one Dashiell Fairborn, father of Marissa Fairborn and fully aware of their relationship), but also in the ongoing process of creating what would one day become the United Earth Government, if all went well.

    “How are you holding up,” Ian asked, switching to a more serious topic.

    Leaning back against his chest, Marissa sighed deeply. “A bit better, actually. I mean, we still don’t know where Shockwave is or what he plans to do with all that Energon, but Decepticon attacks all over the globe have declined sharply since we took out their Siberian Base. Prowl estimates that they must be running low on personnel by now, so they seem to concentrate on surgical strikes rather than full scale assaults.”

    Ian nodded. “I guess all the energy in the world doesn’t help if you don’t have enough soldiers to wield all those fully charged ray guns, right?”

    “Pretty much. And with Optimus and his troops having all but routed them from Cybertron, they don’t have the means to create new soldiers, at least not on the scale they’d require.”

    “I always meant to ask...” Ian began.

    Marissa laughed. “Yeah, it took me a while to get around to that, too. Basically it’s a three-step process. First they create something called a laser core, which holds their spark. Apparently some sort of energy pattern which is the basis for their personality. Sparks are usually generated by a big super computer called Vector Sigma. There are a few other ways as well, apparently, but the gros of their population comes from there.

    “Once the laser core is online it gets put into a protoform, which is basically a big mass of nanomachines, metals, and other stuff the new Cybertronian needs to generate his body. Some bodies are built to specs, too, but that’s not the norm. And finally the new Cybertronian is brought online with a big infusion of Energon. That’s pretty much it.”

    Ian shrugged. “So I assume they keep this Vector Sigma thing under constant guard to keep it from creating new bad guys?”

    Marissa nodded. “Yeah, though that’s harder than it sounds. Apparently Vector Sigma sends out pulse waves in irregular intervals, creating spark patterns in random hot spots across Cybertron. So simply putting guards in front of the actual computer, which is almost at the core of the planet, isn’t cutting it. But with the Decepticons all but driven off Cybertron...”

    They lapsed into silence again, simply enjoying each other’s company. Ian could feel the tension in Marissa’s body, though.

    “Don’t drive yourself mad worrying,” he said, softly massaging her shoulders. “We are winning the war and yes, the damage done to Earth is great, I think we’re on the verge of seeing a better world rising from the wreckage.”

    “I hope you’re right, Ian. On both accounts. I just... none of you understand just what kind of monster Shockwave is. He is planning something. And I’m terribly scared it will destroy everything we fought for. Everything so many people have already died for.”

    “We will stop him,” Ian assured her. “You will stop him.”

    Marissa nodded, but wasn’t sure she shared Ian’s confidence. It was strange, she mused, how deeply she both feared and loathed someone she had met exactly twice in her entire life. Considering how both meetings had gone, though, maybe it wasn’t that strange after all. Shockwave had told her what he planned to do quite plainly and his complete, brutal honesty might have been the worst thing about it. That, and his utter detachment as he talked about plundering worlds and dissecting her brain.

    And then there was that open question of how he had found Earth. Of how she had messed up and let him have the information he needed. She doubted she’d ever find peace of mind again until she had the answer to that question.

    “It’s been almost ten years now,” she mused. “Ten years since I got my marching orders for Norway and the Utgard Project. Some days I barely remember anything that happened before that.”

    “I can believe that,” Ian said. “It’s been, what, sixteen months since I learned that aliens are real? Things have changed so much, everything before that seems… unreal. It’s hard to imagine that not too long ago our biggest worries were terrorists and housing bubbles.”

    Marissa managed not to flinch. She knew that neither Ian nor most other people in the world blamed her for the way everything had changed, but she herself certainly did. She hoped and prayed that Ian was right and they’d end up with a better world in the end, but right now she had a hard time seeing it.

    “Just hold me, Ian,” she whispered, burrowing deeper into his chest.

    Ian had no trouble doing just that. They’d worry about the changed world tomorrow.

    *****

    Decepticon Earth HQ
    Location: Secret
    April 10, 2015


    Shockwave studied the simulation on the screen in front of him, his featureless face betraying not a single emotion. Not that he had much in the way of emotions to betray. The days when he had actually felt much of anything were far behind him. These days, logic and sience were his only passion. And they would give him the victory Megatron had failed to achieve.

    Finally the simulation ended and Shockwave felt the closest thing to satisfaction he was capable of feeling.

    “It’s working,” he announced, his voice as even as if he was talking about the weather.

    “We shall begin Phase III then?” Soundwave inquired, having watched his commander the whole time.

    “Yes, Soundwave. Send the signal to all our forces to ship the stored Energon to the prearranged coordinates.”

    “Will the Energon suffice?”

    “Yes, though by a far smaller margin than I would have preferred. But we cannot afford to put it off much longer. Every day the risk of the Autobot-Human alliance finding out about our plans or location increases. If we want to succeed, we must begin now.”

    “I will send the signal.”

    Soundwave left, leaving Shockwave to give his creation one final look-over. Everything worked perfectly in the simulations. The principles behind it were solid. The energy requirements were massive, but Earth had provided enough to satisfy them.

    Shockwave was well aware of the risk. It somewhat offended his logic curcuits to – as the human saying went – put all his eggs in one basket and without so much as a proper trial run, too. But there was no helping that. If he failed, the Decepticon cause was lost. But if he succeeded...

    “Hail to the Decepticon Empire!” Shockwave said.


    End Chapter 13
     
  20. Philister

    Philister Teutonicons Rising!

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    Chapter 14: Phase III

    *****

    Autobot City Earth
    Belgium
    April 13, 2015


    This day was not going to be a good day, Marissa Fairborn mused. It had started off innocently enough with intelligence having put together some new probable locations for Decepticon bases they could attack, hopefully bringing them that much closer to wrapping up this war. Then, though, new information had come in about a Decepticon attack on Moscow, to which several squadrons of EDC forces had already been diverted.

    Marissa had barely reached the command center, though, where she had intended to figure out where more forces could best be applied, when she received a communiqué from Jazz, telling her meet him in the conference room ASAP. Barely ten in the morning, she thought, and she was already being run ragged. This could not be a good day.

    That notion was confirmed when she met Jazz in front of the conference room. Cybertronians didn’t have facial expressions in the way humans had them, but after nearly ten years she had gotten quite good at reading the moods of her Autobot comrades. Jazz was worried. Massively so.

    „We just received some very disturbing new intel, Marissa,“ Jazz told her.

    “That doesn’t sound good. What is it?”

    Following him, he led her into a room where three other Cybertronians were already present. Marissa immediately knew that something big was going on, as it was not usually the case that Wheeljack and Brainstorm were in the same room together without arguing… loudly. With the occasional fist thrown in for good measure.

    The third Cybertronian was not known to her; yet looking at him came with an incredible feeling of familiarity. Except for the coloring and some details here and there, he was pretty much an exact match for Thrymir, or rather how Thrymir had looked when he’d still been called Skywarp. The prominent Decepticon symbols on his back wings had her reaching for her weapons.

    “Colonel Fairborn,” Jazz said formally, “Allow me to introduce: Thundercracker of the Decepticon Seeker Force.”

    Marissa was a bit confused, to be honest. What was a Decepticon doing in the heart of Autobot City?

    “I wasn’t aware there’d been a recent battle. When did we capture him?”

    Thundercracker snorted, metal arms folded across his chest. “Capture me? Hardly!”

    Jazz shook his head. “We didn’t. As a matter of fact Thundercracker here came to us on his own under the terms of the Tyrest Accord.”

    The Tyrest Accord, Marissa mentally translated, being the Cybertronian equivalent of the Geneva Convention that set the basic rules of war. Not that the Decepticons had not broken those quite a number of times in the past.

    “Here to surrender?” Marissa asked him, which caused yet another snort.

    “How about you listen, flesh bag, and stop sprouting false assumptions,” he spat in his deep, rumbling voice. “We don’t have a lot of time.”

    Ignoring the insult, she merely gestured for him to proceed. Thundercracker looked around the room at the Autobots present.

    “Let me put one thing straight,” Thundercracker said. “I’m a Decepticon. Always have been, always will be. I’m not here to surrender, to defect, or to beg for mercy. I’m here for one reason and one reason only and that’s Shockwave. He needs to be stopped.”

    Pausing, he looked down and balled his huge fists. “Before that one-eyed freak kills us all.”

    “What do you mean?” Wheeljack asked. “What is Shockwave planning with all that Energon he’s got stockpiled?”

    “It’s easier to show you,” Thundercracker replied. Gesturing towards the table and its holographic imaging equipment, he received a short nod from Jazz before pulling out an interlink cable from the side of his head.

    “This happened just a few Earth hours ago.”

    The hologram flared to life above the table and showed memories directly off Thundercracker’s data tracks. Marissa suppressed a gasp when a life-sized image of Shockwave appeared. Damn, that bastard still managed to make her flinch, despite their last face to face meeting having been years ago.

    “We are moving on to Phase III,” the memory of Shockwave said. His cold monotone sent chills down her spine. Behind him she could see Decepticons unloading several transports. Energon cubes were stacked everywhere.

    “What the slag is Phase III?” another Decepticon asked, this one, too, looking a lot like Thrymir, but with grey, white, and red coloring. Unlike Thundercracker he had a rather high, almost nasal voice.

    “That is not your concern, Starscream,” Shockwave replied, sounding mildly annoyed. “Your task is to make sure that the combined human and Autobot forces are sufficiently distracted and do not manage to find this base before my work is completed. Do you understand?”

    Starscream, whose name Marissa recognized as belonging to one of the most notorious Decepticon officers, was obviously not satisfied with this answer and got right in Shockwave’s face... what there was of it.

    “Understand this, Shockwave! I’m not some foot soldier who blindly follows your every command. I am Starscream, Decepticon Air Commander. You want me and my people to put our sparks on the line in a decoy battle against an enemy force that vastly outnumbers us, well, then I expect you to tell me what for!”

    For a moment Shockwave seemed to consider simply blowing Starscream away – or maybe it just seemed that way to Marissa, as she was somewhat biased in her opinion of Shockwave – before the one-eyed Decepticon simply nodded.

    “A logical request. Very well, Starscream. As you yourself said, our position on this world is precarious at the moment. Phase II, our infiltration of Earth to plunder its resources, had a promising start, but the surprisingly effective human-Autobot alliance has reduced the odds of us being able to hold our position on this world to less than 10 percent. Or to use simpler wording, this battle is lost. Of course even if it had succeeded according to the original plan, Phase II was never more than a stepping stone to Phase III.”

    “So spill already! What is Phase III?”

    “The assurance of our ultimate goal, Starscream. Even if the Decepticons were to win this war today without so much as a single further casualty on our side, what would it avail us? What remains of the once great Decepticon Empire? 50,000 Vorns of war have left our race decimated, our planets energy-starved wastelands, our numbers a fraction of what they once were. We would need eons to recover to a point where pan-galactic colonization and conquest would once again be an option and if this campaign here on Earth has shown us one thing, it’s that other races are not quite as helpless and inferior as we always assumed and they develop at a rate we will be hard-pressed to match. As things stand today, as they have stood for many Vorns now, the great Decepticon plan of a clockwork cosmos has almost no chance of ever coming to pass.”

    Starscream seemed puzzled by this revelation. “Are you planning to surrender?”

    “Far from it, Starscream. I still fully intend to fulfill the Decepticon purpose and I have found a way. Another development from my innovations in Space Bridge technology. I will try and simplify it for you, Seeker. As you know we’re using the Space Bridge to traverse immense distances in a single step. We do this by way of warping space, folding the spatial fabric of the cosmos to reduce thousands of light years to a walking distance. The next logical step is, of course, to extend the folding effect from the spatial into the chronal dimensions.”

    “Chronal...? You mean... no, that’s not possible... is it?”

    “I assure you, it is quite possible. Quite dangerous as well, I admit, but given the situation we find ourselves in, a certain amount of risk is now unavoidable. As things stand, we will lose the war. The opportunity to reverse this trend passed us by long ago. So the logical step is to change our circumstances. We have little chance of doing so in the present. So I will do it in the past and bring victory to the Decepticons when we were at our peak.”

    The hologram winked out, leaving a group of speechless Autobots and one human behind.

    “Can he do it?” Marissa finally asked.

    “Shockwave is certain,” Thundercracker simply said. “And whatever else he is, he’s a genius.”

    “I fear he’s correct,” Wheeljack admitted. “Shockwave may be many things, but he’s not prone to hyperbole. If he thinks he can do it, odds are he can.”

    Marissa looked at Thundercracker, shaking her head. “I don’t get it. Why are you here? If it’s true... if Shockwave has really managed to create a time machine and manages to change the past... then you win. Why tell us?”

    Thundercracker met her gaze. “I am a Decepticon! But unlike most of my comrades, I’d rather lose this war than see us all perish. Shockwave might be brilliant, but he’s also a psychotic who wouldn’t even hesitate a second to wipe out billions of lives if it furthered his goals one bit. He plays with forces no one should tamper with. Trying to change the past... one wrong step and he could wipe us all out, bring about the Coming of Chaos or something even worse. I wanted to conquer the universe, human! But I never wanted to see it burn!”

    “If it really can be done,” Brainstorm said, “the potential consequences go far beyond simply changing the course of the war. Thundercracker is right, changing the temporal order might cause devastation on a scale we can’t even imagine. Violating entropic principles, not to mention causality, the universe itself might simply wink out of existence.”

    “Which would be bad,” Marissa summed it up. “So we need to stop it. How much time do we have before Shockwave is ready?”

    Thundercracker shrugged. “I do not know. He told Starscream to buy him as much time as he can, so hopefully he still has quite some work left to do.”

    “We can’t count on that,” Jazz said. “We need to get moving right now, or it might well be too late.”

    Marissa nodded and walked over the com terminal.

    “This is Colonel Marissa Fairborn to all EDC and Autobot Forces. Scramble! Full mobilization against the Decepticon main base! We are moving out in 30 minutes! Rewind, contact Cybertron and tell Prowl and Optimus Prime that we need whatever forces they have available and we need them now!”

    She looked at Thundercracker. “We need the coordinates and everything you can tell us about the base’s layout and defenses.”

    For a moment the Seeker seemed to hesitate. Marissa could imagine why.

    “You will come with us. Any Decepticons you can convince to stand down will be left alone, you have my word.”

    Finally the Decepticon nodded.

    *****

    Less than an hour later hundreds of fighter jets and transport shuttled thundered across the clear blue skies of Saudi Arabia, streaking towards the location of Shockwave’s hidden base near the Gulf of Aden. The supersonic fighter craft were pulling ahead of the slower, more ponderous shuttles, but there was no helping that. They couldn’t waste so much as a minute, not knowing how much time they might have left.

    Quite a few members of the EDC and the Autobot flyers accompanying them were uneasy with a Decepticon Seeker flying in formation with them. Marissa herself couldn’t quite silence her own suspicions, either.

    “I admire your courage, Thundercracker,” she began, hoping to gain more confidence in their course of action through conversation. “Betraying a cause you’ve followed for so long can’t have been easy.”

    “I am not betraying anything,” the blue Seeker countered roughly. “Shockwave is the one who has led us astray. Just like Megatron before him. The Decepticon movement was about fulfilling our purpose, about bringing peace and order to the cosmos. When I was forged our planet was stagnant, our existence regulated from start to finish, and we never looked past our own horizon. Megatron changed that, gave us freedom and purpose. At least until it all went wrong.”

    Marissa had never heard the Decepticon side of the argument, so despite the urgency of the situation, she was rather interested.

    “So what did go wrong?” she asked, all the while keeping her eyes on the scanner that showed their target coming ever closer.

    “The same thing that always goes wrong, fleshling. Corruption. Greed. Sadists and psychos for whom the war was merely an excuse to cause carnage and pain. Not just on our side, mind you. Ask Prowl and Ultra Magnus how many of their own they had to put away … or put down... for getting too carried away. The war changed us all. Higher purposes were forgotten in the carnage. In the end it was only about beating the other guy, nothing more.”

    “Why wait until now then?” she replied. “Why didn’t you do something to end this war sooner if you felt this way?”

    “And what exactly should I have done, human? Defect to the Autobots? That would have changed nothing, the war would have continued just as before. Make a bid for Decepticon leadership? Even if I had ever been interested in being the big boss and even assuming for a nanoclick that I could ever have beaten Megatron, most of the Cons would never have followed me. One bot can’t do anything if an entire species goes mad.”

    “You’re doing something now,” she reminded him. “And if we’re lucky, we might just save two species, or maybe even an entire universe, from extinction.”

    Thundercracker did not have an immediate reply to that. Just when Marissa thought the conversation was done for, though, he did speak up again.

    “Just so we’re clear, fleshling. That shell you’ve been prancing around in for the last Vorn belonged to a good friend of mine. Right now there are more important things to take care of. Once we’re done, though, I intend to do something about that.”

    Marissa didn’t reply. She just kept her eyes on the scanner. Their target was coming up rapidly.


    End Chapter 14
     

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