Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by SuzyPrime, Jul 20, 2008.
Thanks for the positive comments everyone. Still working on upcoming chapters.
Optimus and Hoist followed on Override’s heels as the trio rushed toward the rear entrance to the hospital tent. Just before he followed Hoist inside, Prime saw Ironhide standing out front, arms folded, listening to a security officer who was tapping his finger dramatically on a data pad. They arrived at Kup’s bedside just as Ironhide entered from the front, alone.
“He wants to take the chief,” Ironhide answered, his face puckered in anger. “He says that until he learns the whole story about the demo of this hanger, we’re all suspects and our commander will be hauled to security HQ for a chat.”
“He don’t look very good. Can he survive that?” Dogfight asked weakly from three cots away; he was recovering from his own wounds.
“He’s in stasis lock for his own protection. If we have to risk moving him, the only place he should go to from here is an emergency bay,” said Hoist. “The pipe that pierced him was a waste channel filled with radiation byproduct from the refineries. It irradiated his cydraulic fluid to toxic levels. He needs a fluid transfusion and soon. And getting shot three times since then didn’t help either. Who let him keep fighting in his condition?”
“Who was going to be the one to tell him to stop?” Optimus asked, and everyone around the room shared a sorrowful smile.
Ironhide looked down at Kup’s rigid form, his optics dimmed. “So the answer is?”
“He needs to be in an emergency bay within a cycle, or he won’t make it,” Hoist warned.
“Then option one is no-go,” said Ironhide firmly. “They ain’t gettin’ him.”
“That’s a Cybertron Security officer out there,” said the black-plated Autobot named Trailbreaker. “He isn't going to accept our excuse, shake hands and walk away.”
Override left his place as lookout at the front of the tent and walked back to the group. “Whatever you decide, you might want to do it fast. Our guys aren’t being friendly.”
“Resisting arrest means drawing a weapon on a fellow Autobot, security officer or no. That is not why I came here,” said Dogfight and lay back down.
“No wants that, but how can we give him up? Even if he was healthy, I don’t want Kup to be blamed for the blasted Decepticons’ dirty work!” Ironhide said, pointing tp the war-torn buildings outside.
“I say we let the commander go,” Optimus said. All assembled looked in his direction.
“No jokes, kid,” Ironhide muttered.
“We can’t fight. We can’t let Kup die, and we can’t give him up to arrest,” Prime said.
“Then we tell the cop whatever will get him to go away,” said Overrun.
“Lies and tricks won’t help this situation,” Hoist protested.
“I have a plan. I believe it will work,” Prime said, hoping the others didn’t hear the catch in his voice. “I just need everyone else to follow along.”
The main thoroughfare that connected Tagan Heights to its neighbor was a thick iridium vein that bisected both city-states and ran from Nova Cronum’s edge to the river. Connecting Tagan’s industrial and refining districts to Nova’s marketplaces, this highway was one of the most heavily trafficked stretches of highway on the planet.
Elita reached the entrance of the iconic road at the border, transformed and fell to her knees. The early morning light glinted off a mosaic of darkened faces and twisted bodies moving toward her. Elita heaved from the exertion of her journey. The parkway in front of her was filled with bots, shoulder to shoulder, slowly shuffling away from the Heights in long rows that stretched back to the horizon. Many who were carrying the wounded looked like they were about to fall apart themselves. They formed an impenetrable wall of moving bodies.
Elita walked to the partition that separated the lanes. “Hello? I’m looking for a bot named Orion Pax. Does anyone know Orion Pax?” She said to the line of bots walking by. “Orion Pax is from Tagan. Has anyone seen him in the last solar cycle? Or know where he is?”
“Fembot, I’m missing my rear fender. I can’t even keep track of my own parts,” said a passing blue minibot.
“Don’t be such a grump,” said the green female holding his shoulder and nursing a limp.
“Where are you going?” Elita asked.
“Iacon. Seems like the only place with security bots,” said the fembot.
“So many,” Elita muttered, looking out at the crowd. “How am I going to find him in all this?”
“Stand there long enough, dear, and I think the entire population of the Heights will pass you by. Keep asking. Someone will know your friend,” said the fembot with a comforting smile.
Elita returned it with a half-hearted smile of her own and then took a few running steps along the barrier, dodging the limping bots that were in her path.
“I’m looking for Orion Pax!” she shouted as she moved, her hands cupped to her mouth. “Does anyone know Orion Pax? Is anyone here from the river hangers, or the refining district? Anyone?”
The strangers on both sides shook their heads, or stared straight ahead. Exhaustion, injury or indifference made them deaf to her questions. She continued walking along the barrier in the opposite direction of the mob, cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted, “Has anyone here heard of–”
Elita paused when she noticed the faint sound of revving engines. She turned in time to see a group of five or six vehicles coming up the road from Nova Cronum at breakneck speed. As they neared the wall of meandering refugees they slowed and came to a stop. The bot in the lead transformed.
“Make way. Make a path!” he shouted as the rest in his convoy revved their engines. “We’re on a mission here! Move out of the way!”
Listless bots in the center of the road made token movements to the side, while the bots on the sides moved toward the center. The result was even more confusion.
“No, wait. That’s not helping. Please, move that way!” The bot shouted, pointing. “You, and you, move toward the center barrier. Come on, get going!”
When the tired masses showed little interested in his directing, the next bot in the convoy transformed and grabbed his shoulder. “Blades, forget it. We need to find an alternate route.”
“That will take cycles, Hot Spot.” Blades turned back to the crowd. “We’re an emergency crew on our way to help victims of the attack. You have to clear out so we can get to the disaster site. You hear me?”
“What disaster site?” Elita asked, walking up to the two of them.
Hot Spot nodded to her. “Comms are down again everywhere, but a messenger brought in a report on wheel that the Trading Guild square collapsed with a crowd of bots inside. We’re going there to do what we can.”
“I’ve been to the square. If that’s true and if the complex was full at time, you could have hundreds of casualties,” Elita said.
“I don’t know if six bots can be of any help but we couldn’t stay in Nova when we heard about it,” said Hot Spot.
“But we won’t make it in time to be of any good. This is like navigating a herd of maintenance drones,” Blades complained. “If I still had my flight mode, I’d be there already. Blinking speedbumps! This is an emergency!” Blades shouted at the crowd.
“Blades, back off. The rest of you, let’s go back to the assembly area and find an alternate route,” Hot Spot ordered.
“I know a detour,” Elita said. “It won’t be as fast as the highway but it will get you to the square.”
“What are the directions?”
Elita cast a longing glance toward the river. “It’s too complex to describe. I’ll take you there.”
“Many thanks, fembot,” Hot Spot said and turned to his convoy. “We’re going forward.”
“My name is Elita One,” she said sharply. “We have to get to the exit ramp about a click down the highway.”
“Then it’s time to start shoving,” Blades said. He rubbed his hands together and took a step toward the crowd.
“No. Let’s take the high road,” Elita said and stepped next to the metal barrier that separated the two traffic lanes. After a graceful leap she landed on top of the barrier and waved to the others. “Think you can follow?” Without waiting for their answer she took off running along the narrow strip of metal, unhindered by the refugees on either side.
Blades gaped in surprise as Elita rushed off. “Where’d she come from?”
“Just keep your optics on where she’s going. A late rescue could be no rescue at all.” Hot Spot said, climbing on to the barrier. “Groove, Streetwise, First Aid. Get your tailpipes up here!”
A red bot less than two meters tall, and a piston short of a four-stroke, poked his finger at Prowl’s chest. “What do you mean evacuate? You and your security pals abandoned Tagan Heights to those crooks. They’re the ones that did all this!” Cliffjumper swept his hand toward the charred remains of the energon hanger behind him. An angry round of grumbling rose from the crowd.
Prowl’s data pad beeped and he stole a glance at it. Comm traffic was down everywhere, but his device was tracking one primitive signal transmitting less than four gigahertz that was broadcasting from somewhere in Tagan. He first picked it up only a cycle ago and programmed his pad to track it. It could be nothing, but he had a hunch that there was something more to this signal. He pressed the command to run the standard security decoding programs, and a few of his own making, to decipher whatever they could from the signal. Decryption would take time.
Prowl cringed as the volume of the catcalls around him intensified. He kept his voice low, but firm. “My duty is to investigate the destruction of this installation, question all of your non-evacuees and arrest suspects. Law-abiding citizens shouldn’t have any objection to a security officer performing his duty.”
“You want to know what we’ve been doing the last cycles? We’ve been out there kicking tailpipes while you and your buddies were standing behind the security barriers out of harm’s way.” Someone shouted from behind him.
“I’m not here to debate security policies with you. I need to see your leader, or commander, or whatever. The rest of you are to form up into two lines and prepare for questioning.”
“Form up on this!” said someone to his right. Prowl didn’t bother to look at what he expected to be an unsavory gesture. He needed a new tactic. These Autobots were dirty and tired; many were nursing wounds. All were armed.
“I do what the chief tells me to do, and that’s the only bot who orders me around,” said the red bot named Cliffjumper.
“Then bring out this supposed commander. Where is he?” Prowl asked.
“Why don’t you go ‘evacuate’ again!” someone behind him shouted above the noise. The volume of angry voices rose sharply, but then one voice rang out above them.
“I’ll speak for these bots.”
Everyone turned toward the direction of the hospital tent. A bot stepped out of the entrance. With a weary, slow movement he exited the tent door, stood up straight and, at his full height, towered above all assembled. Everyone there, from the bots in the front of the crowd to those in the back, could see his shielded face.
“Let’s hear it for the commander,” Ironhide called out behind him. “Optimus.”
“Optimus!” someone else shouted, and it rose up as a chant. “Op-ti-mus! Op-ti-mus!”
The chant turned into a deafening cheer as Prime walked through the crowd toward the officers, clasping the hands offered to him and patting other bots on their chest plates. The weariness he displayed a moment ago dissipated, as if the energy from the bots around him recharged him. When he stopped before the security officer with folded arms across his chest the crowd fell silent.
Prowl tried, poorly, not to appear cowed by this Autobot’s physical presence. It’s an intimidation tactic, Prowl processed to himself. Of course they’re going to bring their biggest bruiser up here to rile me. “You are in charge here?”
“Any authority I have was given to me by the bots standing around you,” this Optimus replied. Although he spoke quietly, the deep tones of his voice echoed throughout the crowd and off the ruined walls behind all of them.
“Then I need you to order them to comply with my interrogation.”
“No. No!” shouted the crowd.
“Ask your questions and you’ll get answers now,” Prime said.
"That isn't following protocol."
"Well, this isn't security HQ, is it?"
Prowl looked over the notes on his datapad. “Why didn’t you comply with the evacuation order?”
Optimus waited for the noise to subside, then he turned to the crowd. “Why are you still here?” he asked a bot standing closest to him. Caught off guard, the orange-colored minibot shrugged and struggled for words.
He moved on to another bot. “Why are you here?”
“I saw the smoke on the horizon and I came,” the bot answered.
Optimus nodded and stepped into the crowd. “Hound, why are you here?”
A green bot near the back stood up straight. “I want the streets of Tagan Heights to be safe again,” he said loudly.
“Why did you fight in this battle?”
“I fight for the freedom of all Autobots. Doesn’t matter who or where.”
“You, why did you fight in this battle?” He picked an unfamiliar face.
“I don’t want the enemy to get any closer to Iacon,” said another bot.
He picked another Autobot from the crowd. “How about you?”
“No more hijacked energon shipments.”
“Ironhide, why did you fight today?”
“Because he doesn’t know how to do anything else!” Cliffjumper shouted and everyone assembled shared a laugh.
“I outta-” Ironhide grumbled from the edge of the crowd.
“Ironhide?” Optimus pressed him.
“I don’t want more wars messing up this planet, and taking the sparks of all you young bots,” Ironhide said.
Optimus stepped back into the middle of the crowd and faced Prowl. “Did you get all that?”
His data pad beeped again. Another primitive signal reception, but he ignored this iteration. Prowl nodded. “I heard it.”
“Good,” Prime said, and folded his arms across his chest. “Interrogation over.”
YEA!!! And that's why Optmus is Prime!
And Elita taking command of a search and rescue...as only the future femme Commander can. Now, I hope they find each other...soon!
Hah, nice chapter. Ole stuffy pants Prowl sure got told lol. This update came at a great time, I needed something good to read, keep 'em coming Suzy Prime.
Lovin' the mood of your writing as always, Suzy. The emotions of all the characters seem very believable in the settings of the early war on Cybertron. I always admire your skill in capturing the feel of war-time Cybertron and its inhabitants.
The way Optimus simultaneously got the crowd to declare their reasons for fighting and settled Prowl's demands peacefully was another wonderful and inspiring demonstration of his great leadership. He could have forced Prowl to back-off like everyone, including Prowl himself, was expecting, but instead, he addressed Prowl's questions without bending to his rigid instructions, and in a way that strengthened the Autobots in spirit.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
Black Oracle, I appreciate your synopses of my chapters because it helps me confirm that what I'm writing is coming across, at least most of the time!
More coming, but I'm not sure when.
Prowl waited for the cheering to die down. “Fine. I’ll forego the questioning and tell you this: Cybertron Security has declared this region of the Heights a disaster area, for obvious reasons.” He turned his pad toward the damaged dome of the hanger and took some quick hologram scans for the record. “Six squads of officers are headed this way right now.”
“How do you know that?” demanded someone in the middle of the crowd.
“Security comm channel. The evacuation order still stands in this area. You bots are to evacuate immediately, by order of the local security officer, which would be me. Section 36.57a, paragraph 12 of the Disaster Protocol chapter of the Autobot Code states-”
Ironhide leaned over to Optimus and Hound as Prowl read off a litany of rules. “Does this numbnode really think we're working by the rules here?” Ironhide muttered.
“Moving on isn’t a bad idea,” Prime muttered back.
“Just what I was thinkin’. But first, we need to find out where the Cons went off to. If this walking rulebook really has a working comm, we can pinch it and talk to someone in the know.” Ironhide scratched his chin and turned to Cliffjumper. “Spread the word. Everyone form up in squads.”
“No way. I’m not retreating,” Cliffjumper growled.
“This ain’t a retreat. We’re gonna get this joker to tell us where the Cons are, and then we’re gonna find ‘em and beat ‘em back down the hole they crawled out of. Got it?”
The red bot nodded and moved off.
“Maybe he can be talked into helping us,” Optimus said, watching Prowl read from his data pad.
“Not flippin’ likely. He’s got a rod shoved so far up his tailpipe he’s coughin’ up exhaust.”
“Then what do we do with him?” Hound asked
“Liquid nitrogen and lots of it, but he can’t get much stiffer than he already is,” Ironhide said and Hound chuckled.
“How long do we need to roll out?” Prime asked. He glanced at Hoist’s medical tent and around at the piles of rubble cluttering the street.
“If they’re formed up and ready, I’m guessing about ten cycles and we’re on the road.”
Optimus tapped Hound’s shoulder. “Can you find some bots who are good at fabricating? Can they use some of this rubble to slap together a sled or something that can be towed or pulled?”
“Probably. How big?” Hound asked.
“Big enough to carry the wounded in Hoist’s hospital.”
“Gotcha. Who here is good with a laser torch?” Hound called to the closest squad and several bots raised their hands.
“What’re you thinkin’?” Ironhide asked.
“Keep this leader ruse going a little longer.”
“I’ll follow. But I’m warning you now, if he pulls out a comm I’ll be on that thing like ugly on a sharkticon,” Ironhide said, paused and looked over to Prowl. The officer had finished his polemic on the Autobot Code and noticed the lack of attention from his audience.
“I am speaking to you,” Prowl huffed.
“Yes. Can we talk in private?” Prime asked, pointing at the tent.
Prowl looked over the latticed fabric tent held in place by ribs of flimsy piping. “That’s not my idea of privacy.”
“Please,” Optimus gestured again. Prowl relented and Prime followed him. “Ironhide, join us.”
Ironhide stopped in front of the door as the others crowded him and pushed them away with a glare. “Form up in squads!” He barked, then muttered to those closest, “When I come out we’re headed back into the Pit.”
With some separation between him and the angry crowd outside, the security officer relaxed slightly. Prowl looked across the rows of injured bots and pressed a button on his data pad. The unsettling odors of internal fluids and exhaust wafted over him. “Explosion survivors?” he asked, swallowing a cough.
“Wounded in combat,” Prime replied. “Don’t security officers work in pairs?”
“I haven’t been assigned a partner yet.”
“Oh, so all of this is new to you, too?”
Prowl stiffened. “I’ve been a security officer for 7,600 solar cycles.”
“Sorry,” Optimus shrugged and Ironhide shook his head. “I think the best course of action is to call for help and get all these wounded bots to a repair bay as fast as possible. No offense to Hoist over there...”
“None taken,” he said, waving a wrench at them.
“…these bots need care that he can’t provide. Getting them help might make the bots outside more willing to comply with your orders.”
“I don’t need to bargain with anyone for compliance. I have authority here.”
“I’m not debating that. I’m saying we need to evacuate the wounded. You’re the only bot here with a working comm.”
“Hoist, is that your name?” Prowl asked and evaded Prime’s face by keeping his gaze fixed on the occupant of the nearest cot.
“In your medical opinion, the patients are serious enough to warrant immediate evacuation?”
“Five or six of them here should have been in a repair bay cycles ago,” Hoist said. “They all need transfusions, replacement parts, grafts. I don’t have the equipment or parts to accomplish those procedures here.”
Prowl nodded and tapped a few buttons on his data pad while Prime, confused by the security officer’s silence, tapped his fingers on his thigh. “Convinced?” Prime asked. “What more proof do you need?”
“I can’t call in an evac.”
Optimus folded his arms across his chest and lowered his voice. “You can’t?”
“Long-range channels are still jammed. Other than bot-to-bot transmissions, Tagan Heights is dead to external communication.”
“When was the last time you heard from Iacon?”
Prowl looked blankly to Optimus and then to Ironhide. “My authority in this situation-”
“When?” Prime pressed him.
“Three solar cycles ago.”
“Three? Before the attack?!” Ironhide threw his hands up in disgust. “You got no orders from Security. There ain’t no squads or disaster areas. You don’t know nothin’!”
“I extrapolated my orders and followed established procedure, as any officer would do in a communications blackout,” Prowl said.
“Of course you did, you scrap-for-brains, numb-noded-”
“Ironhide,” Optimus motioned to the wall.
The silhouettes of several Autobots were outlined on the semi-opaque material. They were muttering in hushed voices and obviously trying to overhear what was being said inside. If they did hear, Prime wasn’t sure if Prowl would leave the scene in one piece, or several.
“I ain’t seen such a tin-plated, drawer puller in my life. If you’re some veteran security officer then I’m a fembot dressed in iron knickers,” Ironhide muttered, poking his finger into Prowl’s face. “I’m ordering my bots out of here. We’re goin’ where we darn well please. You try to arrest anyone and I ain’t gonna say boo if they decide to strip you for spare parts.”
Prowl blinked and looked to Prime. “I thought…I thought you were in charge.”
“The bot in charge is the bot holding this gun,” Ironhide pulled out his weapon. “And I’m leavin’.” The elder bot stomped out of the tent and Hoist followed him.
Prowl looked over to Prime, speechless.
“What are you going to do?”
“I-” Prowl stammered. “I can’t leave without an investigation. I have to bring someone in. I have to have answers.” He took out his weapon. “Look at this place. My home precinct is a smoking crater! Do you think I don't care? I’m going to find out who’s responsible, even if I have to do it by force.”
“Force isn’t necessary,” Prime said. “I’ll be your prisoner. Blame it on me. Fine. I’ll do it on two conditions.”
Prowl cocked his head. Was this bot really sincere? “I have authority here. I’m not going to bargain for-”
“Make this easy on yourself," Prime urged him.
Prowl frowned. “What conditions?”
“We get these wounded loaded up and moved to the closest repair bay with you as a security escort, as soon as possible. Second, you let the rest leave.”
Prowl processed the options. He looked up into the tall Autobot's optics, and then back down to his feet. A prisoner this size would most likely take any attention away from Prowl's own transgressions. “Agreed, but I have a condition of my own.”
Prowl held up a pair of energy bonds. “You come with me wearing these.”
Prime glared at the cuffs. “I can’t transform with those on. I have to be in vehicle mode to haul the wounded.”
“Find someone else to do it,” Prowl said. “That’s my condition.”
Prime waited for Prowl to blink at this impasse, but the officer stood stock-still; the only moving part on his frame were the energy bonds as they dangled from his fingers like a pendulum.
“Optimus?” Hound interrupted the tense moment by poking his head inside. “Want to see what we’ve come up with?”
Prime followed the green bot outside. The once-crowded street corner was nearly empty now as the other bots had already organized into squads and were on the move away from the ruins of the energon hangers.
“It’s not much more than a big sheet of metal, but we scrounged some anti-grav pads and welded them on to get the thing off the ground.” Hound said, pointing to the large, make-shift box hovering near the rear of the hospital tent. “One of the pads has a bad friction nullifier. Might make for a bumpy ride.”
“It’s great, much better than I hoped for. Nice work. Hoist, is that enough room for your patients?”
The medic nodded. “Hound’s squad is loading the urgent cases now.”
“And when they’re done we have to form up and move on. Ironhide’s orders,” Hound started in the direction of where the other soldiers had gone. “Coming, Optimus?”
“After I see to the wounded,” Prime pointed out the trailer to Prowl. “It has to be towed."
“You aren’t the only bot with a hitch,” Prowl said, and put his hand on the butt of his weapon.
“But I am the best bot here for the job.”
Prowl's data pad sounded an audible alert and he pulled it out. Another signal reception, but this time the signal was more powerful. He did a quick comparison to his earlier data. The source of the signal had moved. He was within five kilometers of that source. He felt a twinge of regret. He had a hunch that the signal was tied to the rebels. Why else would such a low-power signal be coming from Tagan, even when all other transmitters weren't working? Why would it be encoded? He checked his translation programs, but they were still cycling through decryption.
“Fellows, I believe we’re almost loaded,” Hoist said, walking back to them.
“You were planning on going with the wounded?” Prowl asked.
“Think you could pull this trailer?”
“As long as the anti-grav pads hold, I imagine the trip will be uneventful.”
“Good, and you have a repair bay in mind?”
“It’s safe to assume that power to the Heights will remain out for some time. I think the best course of action is to head toward Nova Cronum. There are several repair bays I know of along the border that will suffice. Assuming again that they survived any kind of attack.”
“Fine. Hitch yourself up.” He waited for Hoist to step away and then pulled out the energy bonds. “What is your decision?”
Prime looked at the bonds for a long moment. “You won’t arrest anyone else?”
“That’s the deal.”
Prime held out his arms. “Agreed.”
It's good to have you back with an update Suzy. I like Prowl and his stick-to-the-books mentality and Ironhide who is quite the opposite. It will be great reading watching their friendshhip grow...some time in the future!
What a numb-node Prowl is lol. Very pleased to come across this update today.
this is a really great story, I'm eager to see more
In the skies over Polyhex...
Starscream could barely concentrate. The flight back to Kaon in his vehicle mode had been uninterrupted by Autobot retaliation, so far. To him, the trip was an exercise in anxious restraint as images from recent solar cycles flashed through his mind: the smoke-hazed skies above Tagan Heights, the rows upon rows of Decepticon drones marching into battle, the blazing fireball that rose above the energon hanger. And perhaps the image most deeply burned into his processor from recent events: the fearful symmetry of the rifling inside the barrel of Megatron’s fusion cannon just centimeters from his face.
After three cycles of successes, a single demoralizing battle had spooked Megatron into ordering a retreat. And now, the Decepticons were leaving the battlefield for no other reason except their master’s command. Starscream experienced the wrath of this Megatron today, and had come away conflicted. His naked self-interest made Starscream doubt his cause for the first time in his existence. Instead of his flight path, his mind drifted to daydreams of winning the hanger battle, all of which ended with him firing the shot that brought total victory.
“Hey, watch it,” Thundercracker shouted, rolling to avoid tapping wings with him. “What’s your malfunction?”
“I…you…you’re in my way,” Starscream stuttered and broke formation.
“Kaon is this way,” shouted Skywarp from the rear.
“We’ll make it there long before the ground forces do.”
“What about Ramjet’s meeting?”
“Ramjet and his conspiracies can wait,” Starscream muttered to himself, pitching downward.
He made a wide arc over the neighborhood below and caught the attention of a small band of Autobots who were clearing rubble. Panicked at his approach, the group scattered in an unorganized fashion, nearly tripping over each other to find cover. A tremor of satisfaction rushed through Starscream as he climbed back into the sky and rejoined his comrades. He hadn’t fired a single shot, but those Autobots were reacting to his flyby as if they were faced with imminent death. That was victory! Why didn’t Megatron understand that? What better time than now to exploit the fear they’d sewn across the planet?
“That looked like fun,” Skywarp commented.
“Complacent Autobot fools,” Starscream said, joining them in formation. “As if anything they do matters.”
“Lookie over there, four o’clock by that coolant chimney. We’re being watched,” Skywarp said. Starscream turned his sensors to that direction and detected Megatron’s communications officer tracking their flight from a rooftop. “This is not good. You think he suspects something?”
“Shut up! His job is surveillance. He could hear everything you’re saying,” Thundercracker snapped.
“He’s also known for being the most loyal soldier to our leader. You two grab some air. I need to talk with him,” Starscream said and banked out of formation.
“You WANT to draw his attention to us?” Thundercracker asked.
“He already knows me,” Starscream said. He transformed and landed on the rooftop while the warriors above gained altitude and pitched into a holding pattern. Megatron’s lieutenant waited for him to approach before turning to face him.
“It’s an honor to meet you again,” Starscream said, bowing deeply. His pretentious introduction was met with silence. “Uh, how goes the retreat?”
“According to Megatron’s will,” Soundwave said.
“Good to hear. I wanted to let you know that my flight-capable comrades and I are at Megatron’s disposal. Whatever he desires, we will do.”
“He ordered retreat…”
“Of course, but it only takes us astroseconds to reach the Kaon border. In the meantime, we can accomplish some other whim from our leader. It would only take a moment for you to call him and ask.”
“…back to Kaon.”
Starscream stifled his anger at this Decepticon’s single-mindedness and tried again. “An airstrike, a kidnapping or some other mayhem perhaps? Certainly some act of terror would be worth our while instead of just making contrails–”
“You wish to serve Megatron?” Soundwave interrupted.
“Serve him? I am no servant. I am his disciple. I am the foremost champion of the Decepticon cause. I am-”
“Silence,” Soundwave said and pressed a button on his shoulder. Starscream paused and listened to the sound from Soundwave’s external transmitter. It was a collection of beeps, scratches and electronic noise. Starscream shook his head in confusion; Soundwave had a reputation for being aloof and obtuse and he was proving it right now.
“What’s that gibberish supposed to mean to me?”
“Listen,” Soundwave pressed a different button. The message started again, hummed with static, and cleared. Starscream’s optics narrowed as a gruff voice spoke through the distortion.
“Blast Off reporting to combat unit. Converge 134.4485696 by 98.015122. A3 found. Big pay. No witnesses.….Blast Off reporting to combat unit. Converge 134.4485696 by 98.015122. A3 found. Big pay. No witnesses….Blast Off report-” Soundwave pressed a button on his torso and the signal stopped.
“‘A3 found’? What is that? And who is this Blast Off?” Starscream played dumb. He knew full well the identity of Skywarp’s commander from earlier in the invasion.
“Missing incursion team leader.”
“Oh yes, Skywarp’s group. I heard him mention something about that. You haven’t heard from this Blast Off for a while?”
“This signal alone.”
“How do you know he wasn’t captured, or killed?”
“Which means he’s been repeatedly broadcasting a covert signal for the last solar cycle and a half with coordinates in…” Starscream made some quick mental calculations, “…Nova Cronum, and he makes of a promise of ‘big pay.’”
A map of Nova Cronum appeared on Soundwave’s chest indicating the location mentioned in the message.
“Autobot records say location is a private repair shop not open to the public. No owner listed. No other records of it exist.”
“That’s certainly interesting. Near the Tagan border, so we’d be headed back into Autobot territory,” Starscream rubbed his chin. “Who’s supposed to receive Blast Off’s signal?”
“Unknown. Signal is unauthorized. Mission is unauthorized.”
“Obviously, or you wouldn’t be complaining about it. Why didn’t you report this to Megatron?” Soundwave said nothing. Starscream couldn’t help himself; he rubbed his hands together and grinned. “You don’t want to get a beating like the one I got earlier. Has Megatron ever disciplined you like that?”
His question was met with more silence.
“Who else is involved in Blast Off’s traitorous ‘combat unit’?”
“You want me to investigate this message and then you get to report to our leader. Success or failure, your paint job won’t get scratched because the blame gets passed on to me.”
“Blast Off promises big pay. That is your incentive.”
“Not at all. If this payoff exists, I’ll have to turn it over to Megatron. If I keep any spoils for myself, you’ll tell him about it and I’ll get the barrel of a fusion cannon shoved into my face again. I can trust you to one thing in this arrangement, can’t I? Whatever is in your best interest?”
Starscream rubbed at a scuffmark on his arm-mounted null ray cannon. “I don’t care about pay. We both want the same thing. We want to please Megatron. So I say yes to this arrangement, but I need clarity. The coordinates of the source of the signal are different than the coordinates in the message. Why isn’t the source of the signal at the location in the message?”
“Blast Off is broadcasting from somewhere else.”
“So the best course of action would be to find Blast Off’s location first and then go after this supposed treasure trove in Nova Cronum. How do I get word back to you when I find it?”
“You don’t. I will know.”
“It’s settled. I’m off,” Starscream jumped up, transformed and flew back to his comrades who were still above in their holding pattern.
“Care to share?” Thundercracker asked.
“When we get to the rendezvous,” Starscream said, joining the rear of the formation.
“Being late will make Ramjet run. He doesn’t trust anyone,” Thundercracker warned.
“That is his only redeeming virtue,” Starscream said.
Ahhhh...sneaky ol' Starscream. Herein lay the seeds of a discontented mech and his rise to possible Decepticon Leader.
Their flight lasted a few cycles more until they came close to the border and Skywarp led them down. Just beyond this last tract of Polyhex’s recycling plants and grease pits stood a wall of mismatched metal sheeting that stretched from one horizon to the other. Beyond that was the Decepticon stronghold of Kaon, a city-state dotted by rusted spires of buildings crumbling under from neglect.
Standing on the roof of the Polyhex’s main recycling plant, Ramjet stood with his hands on his hips and watched Starscream and the others approach. Near him, Thrust was poking at the large gash in Dirge’s wing.
“Stop it! You said you were going to look at it, not pick it open,” Dirge said, punching at him. Thrust grinned and reached for the wound again before the landing and transformation of the three Decepticons interrupted him.
“You’re going to make us late, and it will be noticed,” Ramjet said to the new arrivals, crossing his arms.
“Relax. The ground forces are still a few cycles away from crossing the Kaon border,” Skywarp reported. “We can make the trip in 100 astroseconds.”
“I thought Vortex was coming with you. Where is he?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care.” Starscream muttered.
“We have to be above reproach if we’re to be accepted into the inner circle of Decepticon leadership. And from there we can strike and take that leadership for ourselves,” Ramjet declared loudly.
“You’re an idiot, Ramjet,” Starscream snapped, casually lifting his arm to again rub at the scuff mark on his null ray cannon. Less casually, he pointed the weapon straight at Ramjet’s chest. “And your leadership of this little conspiracy is over.”
“What’d he say?” Dirge winced as he tried to move his wing. The others gaped at Starscream. Ramjet’s de facto control of their group had gone uncontested for the last seven stellar cycles. In fact, he was the one who brought them all together under the theme of seeker superiority and with promises of eventual leadership and wealth from the Decepticon empire.
Ramjet waved his hand dismissively at Starscream’s weapon. “If you don’t like my lead then get out. The rest of us will move on to glory without you.”
“No. The rest, including you, are going to follow me.”
“And why is that?” Ramjet asked, clenching his fists.
“Because you have no plan for this supposed ‘glory’ you keep promising. ‘Accepted into the inner circle’, huh? How? What’s your strategy to accomplish that besides a bunch of pompous speeches?”
“I was the one who requested our assignment in today’s fight, and we were granted it, weren’t we? Megatron personally gave us orders during the battle.”
“A battle that ended in abject failure.”
“Our warrior prowess distinguished us. It’s only a matter of time before we’re brought to the fore of the Decepticon ranks.”
“No more vague aspirations and time tables. Give us specifics!” Starscream demanded, jabbing his weapon in Ramjet’s chest plate. The other jets turned to him, waiting in anticipation for his response. Ramjet hoped to see loyalty in their optics, but their demanding looks melted his spinal shaft.
“We’re going to…I’ll show…” Ramjet muttered and trailed off as the last white-knuckle grip he had on leadership of this squad weakened and released.
“That’s what I thought. I have a plan, but it isn’t the dreck that he’s been giving you,” Starscream said to the others, but keeping his weapon trained on his rival. “It’s too soon for conspiracies and assassinations. Megatron rules, and that’s good enough for me. But his plans for the future are a direct threat to seeker superiority unless we take action now.”
“What are you talking about?” Skywarp demanded.
“You’ve seen Megatron and his lieutenants fly.”
“Those guys fly like bricks, but you didn’t hear that from me,” said Thrust.
Ramjet scoffed. “Negative gravity modules. Energy consumptive and hard to control.”
“Shut up. You’re done speaking at this meeting. The rest of you, listen. The last raid was meant to capture enough energon to produce and outfit the rest of his troops with the modules. That is Megatron’s plan. He wants every Decepticon to have flight.”
The small cadre around Starscream reacted with anger and surprise, just as he’d hoped.
“I nearly lost my wings in that battle, and for what?” Dirge complained and winced. He fell down on his rear and stayed there, moaning.
“No ground-hugging scrap-hauler is going to out-fly me,” Thundercracker shouted.
“Megatron, what a tailpipe,” Thrust said. He half-heartedly kicked an exhaust fan on the roof next to him. “Don’t tell anybody I said that.”
Ramjet scoffed. “As if any of them will be able to out-fly a cargo shuttle. That strategy will–”
Starscream let loose a blast of null ray energy into Ramjet’s chest. The white-plated Decepticon seized up and fell to the floor. The other four looked at Ramjet’s prone form and them back at Starscream.
“So, you’re shooting us now?” Thundercracker muttered.
“I told him he was done speaking and I meant it,” Starscream said, lowering his arm. “Megatron’s strategy is brilliant. Air superiority will bring the Decepticons swift victory. But the technology is costly and the loss today set us back. Megatron was counting on that energon from the river hangers to finish his plan. We’re bringing back much less than our leader planned on.”
He gripped the safety railing on the edge of the roof and stared down at the wall that separated Kaon from Polyhex and the rest of Cybertronian society. “Here’s how we take advantage of this loss. We’re going to complete a mission that will expose Decepticon traitors and prove our usefulness. Megatron already asked me to help him accomplish his air superiority plan. When I return to him again with the rest of you – a group of loyal, battle-tested troops – our inclusion in the leadership of Decepticons will be assured. And the only shots we need to fire will be at Autobots and traitors to our cause.”
Skywarp’s ailerons twitched with glee. “Let’s go. Let’s get this done!”
“Where did this supposed mission come from?” Thrust demanded. Ramjet stirred and his optics turned back on. He held his head and looked around, confused.
“Thundercracker, who did I meet with on the way here?”
“Megatron’s lieutenant, Soundwave,” Thundercracker said, nodding. “Skywarp and I saw the whole thing.”
“We don’t need Ramjet to get into Megatron’s inner circle, because I’m already inside,” Starscream said, putting his hands on his hips.
Thrust and Dirge exchanged glances. “It’s legit,” said the former.
“I have the mission location and I’ll tell you more on the way. You can come with me and rise, or you can stay here and doubt with him.” Starscream pointed to Ramjet as he struggled to stand. “Charge your weapons and follow. Be ready to attack on my word.”
Starscream transformed and took off. His sensors clicked as four of his comrades fell into formation with him, albeit Dirge could barely keep up due to his injury. Starscream was only mildly surprised when Ramjet joined them at the rear. He was power hungry and unimaginative, but he wouldn’t be left behind. Starscream made a mental note to keep an optic on him.
As their exhaust fumes dissipated from the rooftop there was movement on the street below. A non-descript lamppost trembled and, very unlike the rest of the identical lamps along the gutter, stepped from its place. Soundwave transformed and looked up into sky after the departing jets.
“Laserbeak, prepare for flight,” Soundwave said, pressing a button on his shoulder.
darn that Soundwave...just when you have a neat little plan all your own, there's this telepathic 'Con always spoiling it ...Hooray...I love your stories!
I went back and read this... it's very good I really like how you've written the Autobot side of things. They're not usually interesting to me, unless they're written well, in which case I really like them.
They're written well here.
In Tagan Heights…
It wasn’t in an Autobot’s nature to consider his own mortality, not a bot like Retread. Sure, everyone’s laser core was going to get extinguished at some point in time, but Retread had never thought about how he would want to leave this life. His personality was such he didn’t bother going down those morbid paths.
Now, under the crumbled remains of the Tagan Heights Trading Guild building, he decided that being buried alive was not the way he wanted to go.
“Maybe an explosion, like in space or something like that. Something quick,” Retread muttered to himself.
He had spent the first two cycles struggling unsuccessfully to free his arms of the beams piled on top of him. He recognized them as the polished metal that had once held up the domed foyer of the building. A mysterious loss of power sapped his strength. To conserve energy he shut off his optics. There wasn’t anything to see anyway, just the cavern of rubble around him. Shouting for help only produced a maddening, mocking echo.
He guessed it was five cycles since the building collapse when he realized that the constant dripping sound he heard was of his own vital fluid draining away. That explained the rapid power loss that had weakened him. He turned his optics back on and tried to feel where the leak was coming from, but he didn’t have the strength to pull his arms free.
“Definitely an explosion. Go out in a blaze of glory. Quick,” Retread muttered, resigned to his fate. He turned his optics off and hummed some old tune. The title of it was missing from his data tracks, but the melody was easy to recall.
A distant, unfamiliar voice interrupted his song. “I’m almost to you. Keep singing.”
Retread started at the sound, and tried unsuccessfully to turn on his optics. Did he imagine it? He hummed a little more, straining to hear for the voice again.
Scraping sounds, grunts. Were those his imagination too? He optics winked on and saw a blurred white face framed with pink antennae before his vision dissolved into static.
"You have to do something to prove that you're real." He laughed weakly. "Energon deprivation causes hallucinations."
"If I save you, will that prove I'm not some starvation-induced dream?" Asked the owner of the voice.
"I better get started then," she said and squeezed his exposed hand. "My name is Elita One."
"I have a name, but most of my friends call me Retread."
"Retread?" Elita asked, lifting the first rock she could manage off the pile. "That's not a very nice nickname."
"Funny thing about nicknames. You don't get to pick them."
"Retread it is. I'm going to crawl back here to get something to use as a lever. There are some beams here that I can't lift by myself. But keep talking to me," she asked, her voice growing fainter as she stepped away.
"Maybe you should move on. Go help other survivors. I'm too much of a mess," he called after her.
"Don't be ridiculous. I have a security line tied around my waist. There are five Protectobots on the other end waiting to pull us out of here. Hold on a click," she said, picking up sheered off bar of metal. "Did you work here for the Trading Guild?"
"Building maintenance. I'm hoping the building came down because of an attack and not because I did a bad job."
“It was an attack. Rebels from Kaon cause all this. They say it's the dawn of a new war." She jammed the bar under a beam and pulled down on it. The pile started to budge, but only a little.
"What bad decision put you down here with me?"
Elita smiled as she pulled on the lever. She appreciated his light-heartedness despite the situation. "I was searching for someone."
"Someone important to me."
"Maybe you should get back to that and leave me here.”
"That's the second time you said that. Stop it." She pulled at some rocks and tossed them away. "I can almost see your right foot. We're making progress."
"And now instead of searching for someone you care about you're stuck digging out a depleted maintenance bot with a funny name. Fate is cruel."
"Nothing cruel about it. I wanted to help him and now I get to help you."
"Him? And what would you do if I were him?"
Elita One paused and then yanked on the lever again. The beams lifted and slid from the pile with a clatter. "I don't know. I haven't thought that far ahead."
"That’s a cloud of exhaust," he chuckled.
"You're right. I lied. If you were him, the Matrix flame would burn out before I'd let you go." Elita braced herself and kicked at the debris. A large portion tumbled down and kicked up a cloud of dust. Retread coughed.
"I’ve pulled the heavy stuff off. Now, I can get a better look at you. Any damage?" Elita leaned over him, looking for wounds.
"I've got a nick here in my side." He pointed to a large gash in his torso that was stained with fluid.
"You have a serious..." Elita trailed off. The puddle of vital fluids pooled under left side was shockingly large. "You've lost a lot...a lot of energon."
"I told you. You should move on and help someone else.”
"Enough of that. I want to pull you out the rest of the way. We can get back to the entrance and get out of here." She grabbed Retread under his arms. "Brace yourself. Ready?"
One rough tug released him from the rest of the debris. She pulled again and watched in horror as the wound in his torso pulled apart. Retread yelled as a dark geyser of fluid spurted out from his body.
"Retread! Oh spark," she climbed over and pushed down on the wound to stop the flow.
"Nothing...to do now," he muttered, shaking his head.
"It's coming too fast." Elita pushed her weight against the rush of fluid. "I need something to stop it up, something pliable. But I don't see-" She didn't dare let go or he'd bleed out in astroseconds. She felt a frantic energy rise in her core as she looked around, but there was nothing near them except dirt and rocks.
Retread grasped her arm. She looked at his face and saw a pleasant calmness despite his dark optics. His open mouth formed words, but no sound came out. Was this a gesture of thanks, or absolution? He placed his hands on top of hers. The dark fluid stained them both.
After a few moments, the flow started to wane. His brown plating turned ash gray.
Elita lifted her hands out from under his and placed them back on his chest. How could something so terrible happen so fast? He was joking, and then he was gone. She sank to her knees next to his body and shuddered. We were just stacking energon cubes, and then we were attacked, and then we were gone.
A shocking thought ran through her head: You've lost Orion. You've lost everything.
"Elita, we need you to come out! Can you hear me?"
Hot Spot's shouting brought her around. How long had she been sitting there? She grasped the cable tied about her waist, cast a final glance at Retread’s body and started crawling her way back.
Hot Spot held tight to cable wrapped around his clenched fists; perhaps a little too tight. He relaxed his grip, but kept his eyes trained on the black hole that had swallowed both the cable and Elita One. Scratch that. It hadn’t exactly swallowed her so much as she had jumped inside. It was the only entrance they could find to this particular pile of debris he was standing on. As near as Hot Spot could tell, this spot had once been the main entrance of the Trading Guild building. The other Protectobots were tending to the three wounded bots that Elita managed to uncover and bring to the surface. Elita proved to be the one of his team agile enough to crawl through the debris. The effort was much slower going that he anticipated; he swallowed down his anxiety and twisted the cable around his hand.
Streetwise stepped next to his side, cast a long glance to the horizon and then put his hand over his mouth before he spoke. "As soon as Elita comes up, we need to leave."
Hot Spot recognized that move and felt his anxiety rise back up. "What?"
"Keep calm and don't react to the next thing I say. I've tracked a silhouette keeping tabs on us about half a click away. Every time we shift position, it follows at about the same distance. Right now it's behind me, at the base of the forge building on the next block."
Hot Spot fought his instinct and looked back to the hole instead of over Streetwise’s shoulder for their shadow. "What makes you think it's hostile?"
"We've been here for more than three cycles and that shadow has followed us to every position we've taken. Not to mention we're out in the open, unarmed, in a war zone."
"I know we're unarmed. I weighed that consequence before I accepted this mission," Hot Spot snapped. "And this isn't a war zone. It's a trading center, a neighborhood for spark’s sake."
"I'm not criticizing you. I'm saying, without a way to defend ourselves and the victims, we should assume the worst." Streetwise fell silent and watched Hot Spot process the information.
"All right. Get Blades over here in a position where he can keep tabs on our shadow. Then help First Aid and Groove to load up the survivors we've found and we'll head back to Nova Cronum as soon as Elita One gets out of there. Move it." Hot Spot wrapped another loop of cable around his arm. He peered down into the hole and tugged. "Elita, it's Hot Spot. I need you to come out. Can you hear me?"
“Streetwise told me about our problem and I’ve got it covered. Can you talk to her on bot-to-bot comms?” Blades asked, walking up to his commander.
“Still too jumbled,” Hot Spot said and caught sight of the pistol in Blade’s right hand. “Where’d that come from?”
“I think what’s important now is that I have it and it is fully charged. I’m not going into a war zone without a weapon.”
“This isn’t a war zone.”
“Are you and me on the same planet right now?”
The sounds of scraping and falling rocks grabbed their attention. Elita One grasped the edges of the hole to pull herself out. Hot Spot reached down, grabbed her wrists and helped her up.
"Are you injured? First Aid, over here!" Hot Spot asked. Elita pulled her stained hands from his and shook her head.
"You're a mess. What’d you do down there? Was it a rescue or an autopsy?" Blades quipped.
"Get melted," Elita said as she untied the cable from her waist.
“Whoa, fembot. I call ‘em like I see ‘em.”
“Me too, you sparkless glitch.” She threw the cable at Blades' face. He batted it away and took an angry step toward her.
“Hold on,” Hot Spot stepped between them. “You’re both out of line.”
“She’s the one with the short circuit.”
“Maybe you should think before you open your exhaust port. Oh wait, that’s your mouth!” Elita shouted. Joining them, First Aid took her hands to examine them and she violently pulled away. “Don’t touch me.”
“Power down, both of you. You’re obviously stressed and need a break. We’re all rolling out to Nova Cronum.”
“I’m staying here,” Elita said.
“What’s wrong? What happened down there?” First Aid asked her.
“Blades, get back to your watch. First Aid, help Groove load up,” Hot Spot said and waited for them to step away before he spoke to Elita One again. “From now on, just ignore Blades, all right? The rest of us do. He's inappropriate at all the wrong times. We’re bringing the survivors back to Nova. We’ll escort you wherever you want to go, but you’re not staying here alone.”
“You do this kind of thing all the time?”
“It's my function.” Hot Spot answered, confused by her changing the subject.
“What do you do when you want to save someone, and you keep failing over and over again?”
“What are you talking about? You single-handedly saved three bots from being buried alive.” Hot Spot pointed to his team and the survivors she had helped.
“None of them are the bot I wanted to save,” Elita said. “And I can’t believe I just said that out loud.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Please just leave me alone,” she said and waved her hand dismissively.
“We’re leaving and you’re coming with. I want you to get some care, and I want you to take a break,” Hot Spot said.
“You can’t force me to go with you.”
“Yes I can. My authority comes from Cybertron Security,” Hot Spot paused and shrugged. “I’m not going to arrest you. I’m inviting you. Come with us, defrag at the Nova Cronum security office and get a recharge. You earned it. You need it.” He reached out to touch her shoulder and she pushed his hand away.
“Don’t…just don’t,” Ashamed of her behavior and physically spent, Elita couldn’t look him in the eye. She walked to where the others were waiting in vehicle mode and transformed.
“Keep watch for our shadow, Blades. ’Wise, you’re in the lead,” Hot Spot shouted and followed his team out of the area.
There was no movement at the site for a tactically appropriate amount of time before Onslaught stepped from his concealment. He looked in the direction of the departed Autobots, then raised his hand. Vortex jumped down from his perch behind an exhaust chimney and joined him.
“My scan is correct. The signal is coming from the female Autobot,” Vortex said.
“I conclude that she is unimportant to our mission,” Onslaught replied as he surveyed the ruins. “Note this wasteful destruction for strategically unsound purposes, Vortex. Military tactics exercised with precision are the ones that accomplish the most with the least resources.”
Vortex nodded and then grinned. “I just received the fourth call from Soundwave requesting we report our location.”
“Ignore. Megatron has his war, we have ours. Are Brawl and Swindle in position?”
“Brawl reported in 2,400 astroseconds ago at the coordinates Blast Off sent. On the exterior, it appears to be just another Autobot repair bay. However, Swindle’s scans show irregular energy readings from multiple locations inside. He also reported that a Security detail recently arrived.”
“It will be a firefight, then. Tell Brawl he may start the bombardment when he sees fit and we shall arrive soon,” Onslaught said and transformed to vehicle mode. “This is a day of glory, Vortex. By the end, our unfinished mission from the Second Great War will be achieved. We will finally scratch Alpha Trion from the revenge roster.”
To be continued...
Suzyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Missed you! What a blow to Elita, especially when Retreads rescue was so close to hand. I had hoped that the shadow was Optimus, but Onslaught is far more mysterious and he seems to have other plans for this war; plans that aren't known to Megatron.
It looks like you're writing other fics again. Any chance you'll get back to this?
Thanks for your interest. I have quite a bit of this story finished, just not polished enough to publish. I want to finish my Mirage spotlight story before I tackle this again.
So, long answer short is...yes.
Separate names with a comma.