Bulkhead was complaining again, but rather than tell him to shut up like she had before, Arcee chose instead to ignore him and allow Bumblebee to tell him to shut up. It was bad enough that Smokescreen was dancing around chattering about his destiny to be the greatest warrior ever, bad enough that they were walking through a dark forest at night with no moon on the trace of a vague Energon trail, but now Bulkhead had taken it upon himself to complain about said Smokescreen and dark forest. Primus, Arcee had not signed up for this scrap. She'd much rather be adhering to that bet Smoke had made about scrubbing the Energon tanks than out here with two annoying mechs; Bumblebee was being tolerable, for now, but chances are, he'd do something to annoy her as well. Nevertheless, the quartet persisted, walking through the trees with torches in hand, shining beams of sight-inducing light around the area in search of their target. Arcee kept an eye on her scanner; according to the little device, the readings weren't far off now. Satisfied that the mission may soon be finished, the bike increased her pace, the other three falling in line behind her. Past a cluster of trees there was a massive boulder, bigger than even Bulkhead, and that was where the scanner had designated the Energon signal to be coming from, most likely a stray crystal from when Earth had been seeded megacycles ago; if there had been a larger deposit here, the Decepticons would have set up a mine. The three behind Arcee focused their torches onto the rock on her word, and lo and behold, upon illuminating the darkness, the sight that greeted their optics caused all four Autobots to freeze, optics widening in shock and fear. Starscream was dead, that much was certain. But it was how he had died that disturbed them; dismembered and beheaded, seeing the frozen expression of terror on his face as his bloodied head stared upwards, his limbs scattered around the scarred body, wings snapped to bits, spilt Energon staining the forest floor around the corpse. No wonder there had been a Energon signal; it was the spilt blood of an unlucky victim of murder. "Scrap," Bulkhead muttered, gazing at the decapitated head of the jet with the expression of one who simply cannot look away. "What did this to him?" "Ripped to pieces, slashed up, bloodied and wrecked?" Arcee grunted, averting her eyes from the sight. "Probably an Insecticon, or maybe Megatron got his hands on him." "I don't envy him." Smokescreen said, cautiously kneeling by the corpse and poking a leg. "Poor guy must have scared out his processor when whatever it was caught him." "Wasn't scared for long." The Wrecker said darkly. "We may as well leave. Nothing here but bits and pieces." Arcee and Bumblebee nodded, the former about to call Ratchet, when Smokescreen exclaimed: "Wait, I found a clue!" They turned to him, as he closely examined some scars on the side of the jet's torso, and he explained: "These marks. They form words." "What does it say?" "Don't look." Smokescreen read, bemused. "That's all it says. Don't look. Don't look at what, I'm asking! Don't look at angry Insecticon eating me alive, maybe?" The other Autobots shook their heads, Bumblebee giving a nervous beep as he glanced around the dark forest, before Arcee made to call Ratchet, Smokescreen persisting in poking the corpse to see if any other messages had been carved on it. "Ratchet, this is Arcee. Trail was..... Ratchet? Ratchet, come in!" Bumblebee and Bulkhead exchanged a nervous glance as the bike continued to try and speak to their medic, but it was a futile effort, and she gave up with a frustrated snarl, complaining: "Nothing. The calls not coming through-" The scanner in her hand started beeping, and she glanced at it in surprise. The device was registering two more Energon signals, in opposite directions, west and east of the boulder they stood by. Already unnerved by Starscream's death and the lack of answers from the base, she stared at it in disbelief, before declaring: "We got two new Energon signals. Might as well check them out while Ratchet's playing the silent game." "But, what if they turn out to be more dead people?" Smokescreen asked, currently poking a severed arm. "I don't know about you guys, but I think one ominous corpse with a message carved into it is enough for one night." "Ratchet ain't answering." Bulkhead said simply. "We may as well check it out while we're still here." Bumblebee beeped his agreement. "Alright then." Arcee said. "Split up; Bulk, you're with me. Bee, Smoke, you go the other way-AH!" She leapt back in horror, having turned in time to recieve an up-close-and-personal view of Starscream's severed head, held in front of her by a sniggering Smokescreen, whom hollered: "Man, you should have seen the look on your face! HA!" Her surprise died down, leaving her to fume in anger at the cruel trick, indignant when Bulkhead sniggered slightly, though Bumblebee continued to stare around the forest, ignoring Smokescreen's prank. "If you're done screwing around-" Arcee snapped, swatting Starscream's head out of the car's hand. "-Let's return to the business at hand. You go with Bee and look-" "WHOA!" Bulkhead's exclamation had been the result of Bumblebee suddenly unsheathing his blaster and firing into the trees, blue beams briefly lighting up the dark, the car beeping in panic as he halted his shooting to see if he had hit what he had aimed at. "What the scrap!" The Wrecker hollered, staring at the yellow car in shock. "What are you doing?!" Bumblebee beeped his answer, gesturing frantically at the darkness, doors flicking up and down in wild motion. "Saw something?" Smokescreen asked, darting over to have a look at where Bumblebee had been shooting. "What was it?" Answer recieved, the sports car raised a brow and asked: "A tall skinny thing? Right, it probably wasn't, I don't know, one of the tall skinny trees that are so common around here." Bumblebee glared at him, ready to retort, but Arcee interjected, snapping: "All of you shut up. Let's just go look for the signals, and get out of here. Bee, take Smoke and the spare scanner, go that way. We'll meet back here in an hour. Bulkhead, let's go." The group split into two, walking opposite directions, away from the boulder and Starscream's body, and as they continued, Bumblebee glancing around nervously, Smokescreen heard Bulkhead and Arcee exchange words before they faded out of hearing range: "What's wrong, Bulk?" "Nothing. Just felt a bit of static, that's all." ----- Help me. These were the two words carved onto a tree, and Arcee and Bulkhead were staring at it intently, as if hoping more words and explanation would appear on the rough surface of the giant plant, but no more happened. "This night gets better and better." The bike said sarcastically, sighing as she left the tree and moved on, the Wrecker following her. "Tell me about it; dead Scream, odd trails, ominous messages, Bee saying he saw something. If you ask me, there's something creepy going on here. I hate it when something creepy goes on." "Me too." They fell silent, following the scanner's coordinates, both musing on the happenings of this night, swinging their torches through the darkness to light their way. Obviously, the death of Starscream was something of importance; there was no longer a rogue factor in the war. Question was, whether the Decepticons had found him, or worse, some other force had gotten to him. The latter unnerved them, so they focussed instead on the hope that it was merely Megatron's retribution. Bulkhead huffed and rubbed his head again, and Arcee asked: "Static?" "Yeah. It's been bugging me since we left Scream. There could be a jamming device in the area." "Guess Screamer was checking it out as well. Maybe Megatron's set up a station nearby and wants to keep us from finding out." "Yeah. Not gonna lie; leaving the guy there was a pretty good message to keep out." Arcee didn't respond, and he couldn't blame her for it; he was just as unnerved by the jet's fate as she was, if only for the utter brutality invoked- Something in the dark, something in the trees, briefly spotted out of the corner of his eye, and in surprise, he unsheathed his blaster and swung his torch at the area. Nothing. "Bulkhead?" Arcee asked, bring her torch around in surprise. "What is it?" The bigger Autobot stared intensely at where he had spotted the phenomenom, but upon seeing nothing but black and trees and ground, shook his head, grumbling: "Nothing. Trick of the optics, I guess." "First Bee, now you." She mused, staring at him cautiously. "Is that static acting up?" "No, it's gone now. Seeing things must have scared it out of me." It was meant as a joke, the humourous way he phrased it, but she shook her head and continued onwards, returning her attention to the scanner. Apparantly, the signal was not that far away now, which was somewhat of a relief. It had only taken ten minutes to get this far, so the walk back to the boulder would easily meet the time condition for returning. "We're nearly there, Bulkhead. Be glad to get this done with." When he didn't reply, she simply assumed him to be still thinking about whatever his imagination had produced, but when he didn't answer her request to try and contact Ratchet, she got annoyed by his ignorance and turned to face him. Her optics widened. He was gone. --------- "Me personally, I'm not scared of what happened to Starscream. Sure, it's a mess, but whatever did it is long gone, just one of Meg's bugs catching a high-heeled snack." Smokescreen sniggered, aiming his torch around as if it were a gun, pretending to be shooting invisible bad guys. Bumblebee rolled his optics at the immaturity of his comrade and wished he had gotten Arcee or Bulkhead as a partner instead. While he could at least admire Smoke's enthusiasm despite their situation, the fact that the other car refused to be quiet somewhat curbed that admiration. "I mean, I think you might have been seeing things, when you shot at the trees. You must have thought the branches looked like arms and panicked; no need to be ashamed, happens to everybody! Well, except me, of course." Ignoring that, glancing at his scanner, Bumblebee was relieved to note that the next signal wasn't that far away, and beeped to his comrade to inform him. "Good to know." Smokescreen replied. He paused, then added: "Could it possibly be in that strange building?" He pointed, and Bumblebee was surprised that he hadn't noticed it himself; a large brick structure, some kind of complex, big enough that the open entrance could easily admit them. They stared at it for a moment, before the yellow scout checked the scanner. Smokescreen's hunch was correct; the signal was inside. They exchanged a glance, nodded, before entering the building. The white tiles were oddly luminous, making it much brighter than inside; it was a simple corridor that split in two directions up ahead. Bumblebee voiced the idea of splitting up, but oddly enough, the other Autobot declined, preferring to stick together. They went down the right route in search of the source of the signal, since the scanner was not specifying where in the building. The right corridor led to another split, one that showed an exit, the other to a room. Chosing the room, they turned round the corner- The corpse was in the same state as Starscream had been, but this time, it was a mere Vehicon rather than a rogue. Written in the poor thing's own Energon upon the wall, were the words: Behind You. Instantly, they both looked behind them. Nothing. Realising that they had located the signal in the dead Vehicon, they decided that there was no more to be found in this place, and thus they left the complex, leaving with only further dread and a weird tingling of static in their audio. ------- "Bumblebee! Smokescreen! Someone, answer! Bulkhead is missing!" She sounded desperate and scared even to herself, but the bike didn't care right now; her communications weren't working, her comrade had vanished, and terror was gripping her spark. Even worse, there was a static hissing in her audio, a disconcerting sensation that only amplified her fear; hadn't Bulkhead been complaining of static? Was it some sign, some trademark of the thing that had vanished her friend, killed Starscream?! Her torch shone around the area, but there was nothing except trees and bushes. The scanner stated she was near the Energon signal, and, fighting to restrain herself, she shakily made her way to the coordinates, knowing she still had around forty-five minutes before she needed to meet back with the others. How would she explain Bulkhead to them, though? How could she even explain it to herself? One second, he'd been behind her, the next, gone. She hadn't even heard- Behind her. She spun round, and she saw it; a silhouette amongst the trees, tall, thin, staring. She gasped, dropped the scanner, brought her gun up, fired. The flash of blue energy illuminated the trees, and the thing was gone. It was real. What Bumblebee and Bulkhead had seen, it was real. It could only have been what took her friend, what killed Starscream. And now it was after her. She turned and ran, away from the signal, away from the scanner, back in the direction she had came, following her own footprints, her torch shining the way forward, her gun raised and ready for any other sighting. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the outline, and fired, but once again, there was nothing. She kept running, desperate to find the other two Autobots, but the static hissed at her very processor, and she staggered slightly, disorientated. Terrified, hounded, desperate, she screamed: "WHAT ARE YOU?!" Her torchlight fell on a tree, and she saw words carved upon it: Behind You. She turned around, and the last thing she ever saw was her own screaming reflection in a blank visor. -------- Bumblebee heard the echoes of a scream, and unsheathed his blaster, narrowing his eyes slightly. Smokescreen heard it as well and asked: "What the scrap was that?" The scout beeped a reply, before moving forward, his comrade flanking him as they headed back to the boulder. A corpse was hardly worth spending forty minutes over, so they may as well return to the original scene and wait for the other two. Bumblebee had to admit, he was feeling rather scared right now. That odd scream he had just heard, the bodies lying around, a random complex in the middle of nowhere. There was something unnatural at work here. It wasn't helped by the fact that he had seen something, some kind of tall thin figure in the trees. The fact that the trees themselves were tall and thin did not help as he glanced around for any sign of whatever force was at work here. "Not going to lie to you, Bee." Smokescreen murmured softly. "I'm not liking this anymore. See what they wrote in the Vehicon's Energon? Making me paranoid." Bumblebee was about to nod his agreement, when suddenly, the Elite Guard's rookie gave out a scream of horror, and the scout turned, blasters up and ready. But Smokescreen had calmed down, and Bee could see why; it was merely Arcee's hand on his shoulder. "Alright, alright." The sports car chuckled. "You paid me back for my trick, Arcee. Just don't do it again, okay?" He turned to face her, but saw nothing. Bumblebee, however, did see it, and his eyes constricted in horror. Still gripping onto the rookie's shoulder, Arcee's arm was without a body, the broken joint leaking Energon. Whatever got Starscream and the Vehicon had gotten her too. When Smokescreen realised this as well, seeing the arm without a fellow Autobot attatched to it, all coherence was lost, and he started screaming: "ARGH! HELP! GET IT OFF, GET IT OFF!" He was completely deranged by panic, and started to run off; Bumblebee chased after him, but suddenly, a sickening hiss of static disorientated him, and he tripped onto the floor. When he pushed back to his feet, Smokescreen was gone, his screams fading into the distrance, leaving only blue droplets from the severed arm in his wake. Bumblebee beeped in fear, realising that if Arcee was dead, then Bulkhead might be as well, and now he was alone. The static still lingered, and he rubbed his head to try and shake it off, shining his torch around to assess the surroundings, before he decided to follow the trail of blood and catch up to Smoke- There, between the nearby trees. There it was. He raised his arm and fired, but the blast exploded not against a monster, but another tree, his projectile shattering the wood with ease. Even with the terror and sadness gripping him, he felt embarassed at having shot a tree in his panic. Just as Smokescreen had said, he'd mistaken a simple plant for some kind of monster. The static suddenly hissed at his processor, and it drew a memory; the dead Vehicon, and the words written with its blood. Behind you. He didn't even have time to turn around when his own spark, vibrantly white and pulsing violently, still within its chamber, was in front of his optics, wrenched through his body by a snake-like limb. Bumblebee stared at his disembodied core for a moment, held before him as if to mock him, still connected by some wires, whimpering softly as a dull pain throbbed in his chest, before he turned his head around, to see his own face staring back at him, reflected in some kind of monitor. The claw holding his spark began to squeeze. -------- Bulkhead had to admit, he felt bad for leaving Arcee on her own, but she had told him to return the boulder and scout for any more clues, and now,having done that, it was safe to say that he had found nothing. Just Starscream's corpse, trees, grass, bushes and a night sky. He huffed and checked his clock; he still had thirty minutes before the reunion was due. Guess he had nothing to but stand around and wait, with only a mutilated jet for company. What a delightful prospect. At least that weird static was gone, so that was good. Maybe he could play some music or something while he waited. He wondered how Miko was, probably asleep in her bed by now, and hoped that this weird creepy mission would be done with. He'd tried calling Ratchet and Wheeljack a few times, but whatever was jamming their communications was still in play. Bored, he sat down next to Starscream, and began going through his music list- A twig snapped, and he was on his feet, torch and blaster aimed at where the sound had come from. Smokescreen, standing by some trees, sheepishly rubbing his head for the mistake in scaring his comrade. He sighed in relief, sheathing his gun, thankful that it had only been the rookie: "Smokescreen, let me know before you make a dramatic entrance like that. Everyone's a bit jumpy tonight. Did Bee send you back here as well?" Smokescreen didn't answer, continuing to rub his head. Only now that he was paying closer attention, did Bulkhead see the expression on the cars face. Pleading. Bulkhead had seen that kind of pleading before; when a mech doused with Tox-En was begging him to kill him, to end his misery right now. Bulkhead slowly unsheathed his blaster and raised it: "Smokescreen?" A hiss, coming straight from the rookie himself, before his arm went limp and he fell forwards, flopping onto the ground like a ragdoll. On the back of his head were small holes, as if something had drilled into his very brain. Bulkhead stared in horror at the kid's corpse, before he looked up, and saw it. Tall, slender, a tentacle withdrawing into his chest, Soundwave stood just behind his victim, staring at Bulkhead with the blank monitor. He slowly raised a long arm, and pointed at the Wrecker, whom snarled: "Soundwave. You coward. You were the one jamming our communications. You... you killed Starscream, you killed my friend!" Soundwave simply nodded, and Bulkhead winced as a static again frazzled his mind, impairing his optics but he struggled to fight it, levelling his gun at the Decepticon, roaring: "For Smokescreen!" He fired, but Soundwave was gone. The static cleared, and Bulkhead could see again; enraged, he snarled: "Con-scum! Come and face me! Come and pay for what you did to my friend!" Arcee's voice answered him, the Wrecker freezing in horror at the very sound of it, the words she said before: "Ripped to pieces. Ripped to pieces. Ripped to pieces." And then, a scream: "WHAT ARE YOU?!" Bulkhead could only murmur: "Arcee..... you killed her as well." A beep answered him, and he growled: "Bumblebee too. You killed them. You faked her voice, sent me back here so you could kill them all." The bike's voice answered him: "Nearly there, Bulk. Be glad to get this done with." He reared to his full height, dropped his torch, and deployed his mace: "And now, you're gonna kill me too. Or rather, you're gonna try." With a roar, he lunged at where the voice was coming from, but his mace impacted only ground and grass. He spun round, aimed his blasted, fired wildly, but there was nothing. He roared again, lunging wildly at any and everything nearby, shooting again and again, static building up in his audio, building up in his processor, until he was screaming and screaming. He should have known better. Soundwave never merely 'tries'. -------- "That was pretty good." Dreadwing said, as the Decepticons clapped at Knock-Out's amazing story, the medic bowing and grinning widely, several Vehicons claiming to leaked lubricant at the part where Soundwave had got Arcee. "Where did you get the inspiration for this story?" "Soundwave himself." The car replied cheerfully, gesturing at the silent communications officer. "I mean, c'mon; he's a faceless mute with tentacles and creepiness. He's the perfect choice for the role!" "It was very scary." Megatron stated cheerfully. "I liked the part where he showed Bumblebee his own spark before finishing him." "Well, I was playing Mortal Kombat earlier, and I thought that would be cool-" "Oh! The part where Smokescreen had Arcee's arm on his shoulder!" A Vehicon hollered "That is creepy!" Similar praises burst forth and Knock-Out gleefully accepted them, before bowing to his Leader and stepping off the bridge, allowing a Vehicon to take his place in this years Halloween Story Night. As the Vehicon began his story (The Day Skyla realise Elesa was actually a Werewolf), Megatron nudged Knock-Out and whispered: "Tell me, when you say 'perfect role', what did you mean?" The medic glanced at Soundwave and simply grinned: "You mean what role Soundwave was perfect for? Well..... Soundwave!" Author's Notes: A day late for Halloween, I know, but damn if this wasn't fun to write! No Autobots were harmed in the making of this fic. Some Vehicons leaked themselves, though.