Transformers Classics 2.0

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Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Transypoo » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:21 pm

Prologue:

25 years after the start of the Autobot/Decepticon Civil war...

Space: overlooking a reddish-gray planet pockmarked with impact craters. Desolate does not begin to describe this world.

From the cold silence of space, comes something hot and exciting. Bolts of purple Energon blaze through the vacuum, missing their intended target: A golden ship.

"Sir!" screams a red robot at the helm. "Shields are at 21.4%! If we're hit again-" The ship shakes and lurches. The Captain, a silver and blue Autobot, falls out of his chair. His optic band is wide with fear! He pushes himself off the deck and sits back in his chair, his hands shaking uncontrollably.

"Shields at 10%, Captain?"

"Ahh-ahh! What, what do we do?" The captain glances back and forth among his bridge crew.

"Sir?" a large green and orange robot leans over his console. "I suggest firing back!"

"Yuh-yes, Mr. Fwor, d-do that!"

Two panels on the back of the Autobot ship slide open and twin cannons slip out and begin firing at a massive purple cruiser.

"Captain, the Autobots are returning fire! Their guns are no match for our shields," an angular silhouette speaks. The bridge of the Decepticon cruiser is dark and ominous, lit only by six pinkish lights sporadically placed about the room.

A slight of frame Decepticon stands next to the captain's throne; he leans in towards the hulking form of his captain. "Sir, the Autobots are firing back, their weapons are useless."

"TANKOR CRUSH AUTOBOTS!" the Captain barks.

"Continue the barrage, Cons!" yells the second in command!

A bolt of purple energy rips through the side of the Autobot ship, gouging out a hunk of the port side.

"Sir! We've been hit! We're going down!"

"We've lost the engine one, sir! Engine two is on fire!"

The Autobot captain clutches his head in his hands and stares at his feet, mumbling incoherently. The Bridge crew stare at their captain for a few moments hoping that he's actually thinking out loud about what to do next, and not panicking, like they all know he actually is. The large green and orange robot stands up straight and begins yelling:

"Jettison the Transwarp Drive! On my orders, blast it!"

The entire rear section of the ship opens and a massive industrial network slides out of the back.

"Wait for it..."

The Transwarp Drive drifts slowly towards the Decepticon cruiser as the Autobot ship rather rapidly falls towards the planet below.

"Wait for iiit.... NOW!"

A single orange bolt of Energon blasts the Transwarp Drive, causing it to detonate. For a few moments the Decepticon soldiers down in the excursion bay have no idea what just happened to them. One moment they're lined up waiting for the doors to open so they can swarm into the Autobot ship and slaughter the filthy Bots within, the next they're being tossed towards the back of the ship, and now they float aimlessly around the large room. One, named Brimstone, wonders whether the artificial gravity was knocked out again.

Two days later:

Finding himself lying amidst the flaming wreckage of his once proud ship, the Autobot named Hubcap cycles though his diagnostic programs. He finds his limbs still attached and working; but he's been slowly leaking fluids from a scratch in his abdomen and is now down to 70% non-vital fluids, and 80% vital fluids. His Energon reserves are at 60% and his left optic is cracked, leaving him with 56% visibility. He attempts to patch himself and manages to slow the leak in his side 20%. Looking around, he scans the atmosphere and finds it to be mostly like Cybertron's but with 1.65% more argon, .084% more Actium, .0000000072% more helium, and .006% less oxygen. Figuring that he's going to need Energon to survive, he calibrates his scanners and sets out to find the stockpile the ship was carrying.

......

Brimstone's optics flash to life. Howling in pain, he lunges to his feet. His processors are sluggish and slow to boot properly. He has a blinding pain in his left side and he discovers he's lost his lower jaw. Spitting a long series of curses, he examines his fellow soldiers only to find that they're all offline. Permanently. Finding one in a similar body as himself, he rips out the parts he'll need to patch himself up and drinks the Energon that spills from the carcass of his former comrade out onto the floor. Once he's patched up and fueled, he claws his way up to the door and climbs up the hallways to find the bridge. Maybe the captain is still alive, and if so, maybe I could kill him and take his command, thinks Brimstone. To his horror, he discovers the entire front section of the cruiser is gone, blasted away by some unknown force. And what's worse, he's trapped on an equally unknown planet with a smelly atmosphere.

Hubcap finds mere scraps of the refined Energon the ship had been carrying, but after inspecting the damage to what was left of the ship, he thanks Primus that he survived at all. Energon reserves still only at 70%--he figures he'd better find some kind of fuel if he's going to survive on this new world. He's found part of the communications array and slung it across his back to examine later. Extending his scanners to their maximum range, he sweeps the surrounding area for Energon or Energon-transferable materials. To the southeast he gets a ping and focuses his scanners in that direction. Indeed, a 47% chance of Energon. Good odds under these conditions. Gathering the useful scraps he's collected, he sets off across the barren wastes of this strange world.

Brimstone sits on the very peak of his former space vessel. He looks out upon his new world. He feels good. His tank is full, and he's fixed, the Actium in the atmosphere energizing his skin. He sits and watches the sun descend over the horizon and notices the local creatures swarming about below. How pathetic they are. Mostly Energy Leeches drawn to the ship by his former crew's Energon reserves and large arachnids of some type, drawn out by the leeches. After a few moments' hesitation, he converts into vehicular mode and tears his way down the side of his ship; laughing like a giddy schoolgirl, he slices down all the creatures, crushing many beneath his wheels.

As the sun finally sets and the cold barren world grows dark, Hubcap notices a rather alarming number of sliced-up organic creatures. First of all, organic creatures? He'd heard about them, mostly rumors. The Quintessons, deposed rulers of Cybertron from long before Hubcap came online, were said to have been once organic before they began to incorporate metallic life into their systems. Over 85% of Cybertonians believed this. Hubcap pauses and checks his reserves again: 65%. If only the gash in his side wasn't stopping his transformation, he would have been at this mysterious Energon source already. Hubcap wonders if his ship has already been reported lost. Would the news manage to get all the way up to Magnum Prime? He likes to think so. The whole walk, he calculates the probabilities of their rescue. In the best-case scenario it's only a .00002% chance.

After his long, glorious day of killing organics, Brimstone builds a nest for himself out of rocks and eclectic bits of the ship. He nestles down and deactivates his optics; he's about to activate his sleep-mode when a familiar smell...no, *stench,* catches his attention. "AuToBotssSss!"

Hubcap snakes his way through the curious masses of rancid flesh and arrives at the Deception ship. "My word... I wonder if anyone survived?" Realizing the implication of his words, and pondering what could have rent all of the creatures around him asunder (80% chance local predator. 100% probability LARGE one) Hubcap activates his weapon systems, checking their energy reserves. There's only a 3% chance anyone survived the crash, but much as with himself, it is possible. Considering he's seen on a previous occasion firsthand what havoc just ONE Con can wreak, 3% should be weighted more heavily than usual. There could be a whole battalion lurking in there.

Stalking around to the back of the ship, Brimstone spies the light emitting from the Bot. "Wounded," he thinks, "weak, four- wheeled alt, roughly... my age. Post Quint body type... mini-bot. He dares enter into my territory... well... welcome to my parlor..."

Hubcap enters the shadow of the great derelict; the Energon ping is close--on, or more likely, in the ship. Just have to find a way in. A hatch, a door... a huge gaping hole in the side of the ship. Like the one he's standing in front of. Perfect. Stepping in, he finds he's in what is 70% likely to be a recreation area. Activating his magno-treads, adjusting himself to the slanted floors, and wishing the artificial gravity were still functional, he marches up the slope towards the door. He check the controls, but the power's out. He wrenches the door open and half a Con falls past and slides headfirst to the far wall, a slippery purple streak of mech fluid marking his descent . "Yugh."

Hidden among the pipes and tubes and vents in the ceiling, Brimstone watches as his former roommate, Switcher, scrapes along the floor, caught in gravity's cruel grip. He snickers to himself--he always was half a Con, he thinks--and crawls into a ventilation duct, following the red Autobot, who's futilely searching for something, into the hall.

Hubcap's readouts become confusing in the Decepticon ship. The floor plan is, admirably, basic enough--nobody outside a torture chamber ever accused the Decepticons of an excess of imagination--one of their few redeeming traits--but, Hubcap supposes, the tilted ship must be confusing his sensors. 20% likelihood of this being true. The Energon readings seem to move about, and every time he finds a stable one, it's a scrapped Con. Perhaps there is a survivor! Perhaps...he's still...out there...? "Hello?" he calls out, sounding 53% more meek than intended. "Is anyone functioning in here? Hello?!" An object of some nature falls to the floor down the hall; the metallic ring echos through the dark, purple, corridors. "H-hello?"

"I wAs GoINg To PlaY oUR LitTLe gAmE foR a WHiLe LonGeRrrrr, buT you fOrCEd mY hAnD, PA-tHeTiC AuTObOt." Down the hall, the object that had fallen stirs. Rising to its feet, its red eyes burning like the inferno, the Decepticon causes Hubcap's fear processors to link up to his neural net. A program boots up telling him to run, and another starts that tells him to charge. The two programs contradict each other and his processors become stuck in an infinite loop. The Decepticon charges forward, its hands converting into circular saws. Upon seeing this, the "fight" program deletes its function and the "flight" program takes control of his processor.

The Autobot turns and runs. Oh what fun, it turned from stalking to a fight to out-and-out hunting in a matter of seconds. This could turn out to be a wonderful day. Brimstone converts to transportation mode, his single rear wheel squealing on the metal floor, then takes off down the hall. As he approaches the pathetic Autobot, he converts his two front wheels into blade mode. Strafing the red robot, Brimstone knocks him down a hall.

Hubcap slides down the long hall towards the darkness below. Energon reserves 47%. That horrifying Decepticon just took a lot of energy out of him. He searches in vain for something to grab hold of. Damned Decepticons ship designs! Even after crashing, the halls are overly polished, narrow and devoid of access panels. Below, the rest of the hall is torn away, leaving a huge hole, at the bottom of which waits a pile of sharp debris.

"StUpiD, AuToBOt," Brimstone laughs to himself. Then a line of code crosses through his mind. This IS the only other Cybertronian on this desolate rock. Once the red Autobot is dead then he'll be utterly alone. It was nice that morning, but forever more? Brimstone revs his engine and charges down the hall, full speed. He activates an Energon burn and manages to catch up with the red Autobot. Transforming, he reaches out a clawed hand. Hubcap takes hold and Brimstone transforms his other hand into a saw blade, cutting the floor and slowing their decent to a stop.

Hubcap hangs over the edge of the ship, holding onto Brimstone's claw for dear life. The horrific Decepticon pulls him up onto the decking. "You, you saved me!" Hubcap says, hardly believing the words coming out of his vocal processor. "YeAh, well, I onLY did it So i wOuLdn'T be aloNe."

"But, based off normal Decepticon behavior and your behavior up to this point, the likelihood of you saving me was .0000000000000-"

"I gEt the PoInt."

"-0000000002761%, the math just doesn't check out!"

"YoU waNt mE to DrOp yOu? 'CaUse I StiLL cAN!"

"No, no. ....no."

A few minutes later Brimstone uses his blades to climb up the hall as Hubcap clings to him.

Suddenly Brimstone curses "SLaG!"

Hubcap jumps a little, replies, "What is it?"

"uGh, I uSEd mOsT oF my ENErGon saVing yOU."

"What percentage do you have remaining?"

"WhAt? I doN'T knoW, not A lot."

Hubcap can't fathom how one couldn't know the exact percentage one had in his reserves. "Well, I suppose we'll just have to find some more; did your ship have a stockpile?

"YeAh, but YouR shIp BLew IT aLL to SLaG."

"Oh my. Alright, maybe this planet has some-"

"WHy DoN't wE go BaCk to thE tRaiNing rOom anD tAke iT oUt of SwitcHer?"

"No! NO! We can't do that!"

"WhY Not?"

"Well for one, you cannot siphon fuel from the dead!"

"WhY nOt thEY aiN'T uSiNG it!bEsIDeS, yOu dON't hAvE To tOuCh hIM. jUSt dRiNk ThE sPiLLaGE!"

"Well, for one Primus forbids it."

"PrIMuS aLSo fORbiDs wAR, sO whAT'Er yOu GUNna do?"

"... And two," Hubcap says as they climb onto the safety of the hall they slid down from, "once in its refined, liquid, state it begins to lose potency almost immediately, unless contained in an Energon Cube or a functioning body."

"HrN. ThAT eXPlaiNs wHy I raN dry SO fAsT."

......

Hubcap and Brimstone climb out on top of the ship. Brimstone sits, in the same spot he did last time, as the sun sets. The Con closes his optics and feels the wind pass over his skin. "What are you doing?" Hubcap asks.

"I'm EnjoYiNg th' MoMent."

"Whatever." Hubcap extends his sensor range as far at it will go. He waits and listens. He calculates a 20% chance that this world will have Energon and a 54% chance of finding something that could easily be transferred into Energon. Then suddenly as the wind changes he gets a ping, a big old sloppy ping. A massive source of Energon lies just over the hills. But can they make it? Maybe... it's worth a shot. He starts to do the calculations for their chances, but when the odds look bad, he gives up. Still, it's worth broaching the subject. "I found a huge deposit just over those hills!"

"But," he continues, "I don't think our, and by that I mean MY, Energon reserves will hold out."

"WeLL I haVe an IdEa..."

-----------------

Hubcap watches in distaste as Brimstone drags two off-line Decepticons out of the ship. "HeRe, DrInK uP WE cAn DrIvE aS LonG As iT HOldS oUT anD waLk thE rEsT of THe WAy."

"I can't."

"I KnOw YOu're AgeNnIT, bUt WHat CHoiCe do You hAvE?"

"No, I can't transform. My internals have been compromised."

"I'M SuRe I coUld Find replacEment partS, I bEt Some-GUy tuRneD iNna WHaTever iT is YOU tuRn iNna.?"

"No, I'm afraid it can only be repaired by time or a medic."

"Huh. GuesS yOu'll juST haVe to RiDE me."

"Yes, how quaint," Hubcap says with a shiver. Brimstone cracks open his former comrades and drinks the spilt Energon.

......

With the sun now high in the sky, Brimstone finally runs out of fuel to keep his vehicle form going. "Get OfF," Brimstone says as he coasts to a halt. Hubcap dismounts the three-wheeled motorcycle.

Shading his optics from the glare of the sun, Hubcap looks back across the distance they traveled to the ship. "Fairly impressive." He turns around as Brimstone transforms back into a robot. "Now, let's see." He finds the Energon ping again in the distance. He checks his personal Energon levels: 45%; then he calculates the distance and when the results continue to not look good he abandons that line of thought and says to his unlikely ally, against his better instincts..."I think we'll make it."

"GoOd, 'cAuSe I frAgGiN' HuNgrY."

The pair continue to trek up the hill; Hubcap checks his reserves every few cycles. 44%. 39%. 36%. Going uphill takes a lot out of an injured bot.

"I suggest when we go down the other side of this hill, you transform and we can let gravity do the work."

"YeAh, LIkE I hADn'T THouGht Of ThAT" Brimstone snaps.

"Alright, alright."

"YoU aRe NOt BEttEr thAn mE!"

"No, no, I wouldn't think such a thing...different, yes, but not better."

"WeLL, GooD, S'lOng as Y'dOn't tHinK yEr beTTeR."

"I'm sorry, I have to ask, what's wrong with your voice?"

"JaW brOke oFf In ThE cRAsh, DamAGed mY ProcESSoR. It'LL fiX iTselF."

"Ah." Energon levels: 35%

......

After the long trek up (28%) the two Transformers rest on top of the hill.

"So, wHerE is It?"

"Well, let's see." Spreading out his scanners again, Hubcap locates the ping. "See that dark-ish hill right there?"

"YeAh."

"Right at the base of that...more or less."

"WhY THere?"

"I don't know, I'm just getting a huge reading... don't you have sensors?"

"Nah, Don'T nEed 'eM, jUst a sHoCk TroOper. All I wAs giViN waS theSe blaDes," Brimstone says as he converts his hands into circular saw blades. "JuSt My bLadEs."

The pair fall quiet as the wind of their desolate chunk of galactic rock moans through the rock formations. In the distance an electric storm sweeps in from over the horizon. Hubcap stares at the upcoming journey, does some calculations and as the results don't look good yet again, he once more abandons the line of thinking. Frustrating. Very much so.

"We should probably be off."

"SuRe." Brimstone doesn't bother standing up, just converting into his three-wheeled form. "Let'S go."

......

After a fast and terrifying ride, Hubcap stumbles to his feet and falls to his knees. "I've never- I'll never- I wasn't expecting such a steep slope."

"WOOO! NoW tHAt WaS a Ride! HeY, -CaP, HoW fAr diD we gO?"

"On momentum alone..." Hubcap stands up, shakily, and looks back over this distance. "...we went slightly under a Microquad."

"ThOUght so. WhEn wE gET thAt ENerGon... I'M dOin' thAT again!"

"Of course you are," Hubcap says drily.

He checks his fuel readout.

27%.

It's not just his voice that's dry anymore.

......

Behind the two exhausted Cybertronians, their shadows stretch all the way to the base of the hill they descended hours before. Hubcap feels on some level they have gotten nowhere, while Brimstone focuses on the journey ahead.

"WhAt wOUld YoU Call tHaT? SiX KiX aWay? ThAt's LikE noTHinG! That's tHe dIsTanCe to mY parTs supPlier!"

"Yeah, six... kix... maybe a little m-more(19%). Hey, Brimstone... Brimstone... if I collapse... promise me you'll drag me the rest of the way... or-or at least, come back for me, okay?"

"UhH..."

"Brimstone, seriously... if I go into stasis... come back for me... you have to promise..."

"WeLL..."

"On... on the-the honor of the Decepticon cause, on y-your... your... devotion to Megatron... whatever it is that makes you d-do what it is you do... all... alright?"

"YeAh."

"Promise!"

"All RiGht! I PrOmIsE!"

"ON?"

Brimstone contemplates what he could swear to that he actually believes in, then he decided to lie. "I PrOmiSe On mY 'LoyaliTy' to MegAtrOn; On tHe hOnoR oF mY cRashEd shiP, KaHlesS' VengEnce;" Then something he actually deeply cares about comes to him... the one thing he loves more than anything else, something he has not allowed himself to think about since he fell to this planet... "On mY SoN... Chopsaw..."

"Th-thank you."

"YeAh, HeY... n-No PrObLem..."

The two Transformers trudge on in silence. The sun falls behind the mountains in the distance and the stars fill the sky. With each step, Hubcap slows ever more. Brimstone for his part begins to worry about the creatures from the night before...the Energy Leeches and eight-legged things. It had been all in good fun last night, but now he's tired and hungry. They're probably hungry too. Hubcap takes one more lurching step forward and collapses, face first, on the hard ground. The last thing to blip out of his optic display is: Energon Reserves: 15%.

"Ugh." Brimstone stops and turns around. He looks down at the Autobot. Shutdown for fuel preservation and repairs. Pathetic. Then again, he didn't have the chance to repair his damaged bits so perhaps he's to be commended for that. Not bad for a Bot. He considers leaving the Autobot where he lies. Those creatures will be more attracted to a target that can't run or fight back. It could buy him time. And besides, the stupid Bot didn't figure that the Decepticon was plotting to off him when they got to the Energon anyway; this just saves him the bother. Brimstone heads off towards the cave, a sneer across his upper lip.

But then...

Brimstone pauses. He did promise to take Hubcap to the Energon. On Chopsaw, no less. "DaMn it!" Brimstone turns back and grabs the Autobot's legs. "YoU bEtter Be fraGgin' gRatEful YoU PiLe of sCrap!"

By nearly midnight, Brimstone finally reaches the mouth of the cave. As he takes refuge from the pouring rain, he curses the rust rash he'll probably have in the morning. The dark earth around the mouth of the cave that they had noticed from the top of the hill is, Brimstone notes, actually a scorch mark. Perhaps it was the Energon reserves from his ship? Hubcap's ship? Brimstone shrugs this off as he drags the Autobot inside. He props Hubcap up against the wall.

"So, WhErE's aLL thE ENeRgoN yOu proMiseD me, huh?" Brimstone kicks Hubcap's leg. "WhAtEvEr." Crouching down next to his, let's face it, comrade, Brimstone watches the strange liquid fall from the sky. Water, they call it. Too bad it's so rare on Cybertron. Could have used some that time that slag licker Oil Slick tested a Maneater Grenade on him--none to be found then--now it's pouring from the sky. At least, he figures, he probably shouldn't have to worry about Scraplets tonight. He thinks about his ship full of mangled squadmates. Or Oil Slick, ever again. Primus, he knew better than to try to drink HIS fuel. Probably spiked it with Tox-En, just for a last laugh. That slagger.

Reminded himself Oil Slick must be dead by now, he concentrates on the here and now. Glancing around and finding the foreboding darkness of the cave somewhat overwhelming even for him, Brimstone decides to make a fire. He stacks some rocks into a pyramid and using his small forehead laser, heats the rocks until they glow. By the dim light cast by the rocks he notices the cave is a lot bigger and deeper than previously thought. "YoU, Stay ThEre, I'LL loOk iN tO this," he says to Hubcap as he grabs one of the rocks and ventures forth.

Further into the cave, Brimstone notices a vague glow emanating from an arch. He cautiously creeps up to the entrance, and peers inside, finding a large cavern. He drops the rock as he enters into a huge chamber filled with Energon Cubes. Not raw, natural, Energon crystals, but refined cubes, Cybertron made. Enough Energon to fuel the Decepticon army for generations! He grabs the nearest one and drinks from it. Every circuit in his body comes alive, his internal repairs reactivating at full speed. "AAAAARRRHHH! Now thAt's the Stuff!" He remembers Hubcap and decides the Autobot deserves a second chance; after all he did find the place. Taking the cube he's been drinking from, Brimstone heads back towards the entrance to the chamber.

"Uuuuuuhhhhhhhh... suuuuuhhhh... fuuuuuhhhh.... shhhhhuuuhhh....nn..."

Brimstone halts. His red optics widen. He looks back over his shoulder. Looming above, leaning against the wall; no in the wall, part of it, is a huge, angular robot, its body made up of thousands of shards of black metal. In one of its hands is clutched a cube of Energon. Brimstone stands very, very still. He waits, watches...it's going to come after him, he knows it! ...or is it? It IS stuck in the wall. Thinking it over, Brimstone decides to do the one thing he knows he can handle: he bolts. Running back to the entrance of the cave, he places the Energon cube next to Hubcap and sticks his hand in it.

Slightly over a Breem later, Hubcap wakes with a start. Energon Levels: 98% "What? What? How did this happen?"

Brimstone crawls over from the mouth of the cave. "Hey, weLcome back!"

"So, it was true? There was Energon?"

"More than yOu can possiBly imagine!"

"...And your voice!"

"Yeah, repaiRs are goinG nicely."

......

By the following morning, when the sun has risen behind the clouds and diffused light flushes the entryway to the cave, Hubcap is up and walking around. He walks out into the rain to analyze the scorched earth. "Something definitely crashed here..."

"Is it part of ouR ships?"

"No, it's much, much older... possibly older than the Quintesson occupation."

"WhaT? HoW is thAt possible?"

"I... don't know."

"You waNna see the guy? The thing? The moNster?" Brimstone says excitedly. He has always had a love of things that would make a lesser bot's coolant freeze.

"I suppose it could be possible..." Hubcap continues. "I mean given the scorched earth outside...and the walls inside show signs of having been superheated to a molten state long ago... I think I remember reading about some sort of ancient civilization... but they wouldn't have had a space program, would they?"

"You suppose an ancient Caveicon somehow flew all the way from CybertRon, carrying huge amounts of Energon, to this planet and fell from the sky, burying himself a half a Hic into the grOund?"

"It's not impossible..."

"Just insane."

"Alright, let's see your 'monster.'"

......

Moments later, in the energon cavern...

"Dear Primus... it's huge."

Hubcap looks up at the dark figure weaving in and out of the walls, analyzing its details. "This thing is amazing, far more advanced than anything we have on Cybertron..."

"Oh? How can you tEll?"

"Well, look at it! All the machinery is exposed."

"Yuk."

"Look at the mouthplate, see how it's made up of dozens of parts? That's definitely unique, unless it has some non- traditional mouth we don't know about. Some of the Quintessons' permutations had interesting mouth types. Then look at how long the head is... I wonder how far into the rock it goes?"

"Yeah, an' it's got those barbs on the cheeks," Brimstone says, trying to add something to the conversation; he is starting to get the distinct impression that the Autobot not only thinks he's smarter than himself, but actually is smarter. Dammit.

"Yes, those are interesting too, decorative, but interesting. Oh, look at the optics, the covering is missing, I'd think it had broken..." Hubcap touches his own broken optic sensor. "...but I don't even see a place for them to fit. Do you suppose it never had the coverings at all? Did this poor creature walk around with its optics exposed to the world? Perhaps it came from a more peaceful time without the metallic dust clouds from all the explosions. Wouldn't that be interesting? Oh! Look at this arm! It has some sort of elbow-strut attaching it to the torso!"

Trying to feel useful, Brimstone starts to arrange the Energon cubes into towers as he has been trained. He listens to Hubcap prattle on about the thing. Had it spoken to him or was it the wind? Probably the wind. This much Energon would make the Decepticons an unstoppable force. "Hum," he thinks, "I wonder if this is why we have a shortage on Cybertron... this frakkin' pile of razor-blades stole all the energon and booked it into uncharted space to hide it!" Brimstone looked up at the beast. "Are you why we had to start off-world mines? Damn, you stole it all didn't you? The greatest thief on Cybertron, and you end up here, stuck in a wall. Serves you right."

Brimstone suddenly realizes he was asked a question. "Huh...what?"

"I say, what are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing, Autobot, I'm stacking the Energon!"

"Why?"

"Why? WHY? Energon's gotta be stacked! It's tradition!"

"Is it? I've never heard of that."

"You keep overanalyzing ugly over there, and let me do my thing, al'right?"

"Fine, fine." Hubcap shrugs off the Decepticon's words and decides to scan the thing. Cybertronian metals, energon, energy signature? "Holy smokes! It's alive!"

Brimstone jumps back. "What?"

"That thing is alive! My scans! It's alive, in deep stasis lock, but alive!"

"By the Inferno!"

"Indeed, humm, its internal reparation systems are still functional. It appears this thing is constantly building new parts for itself."

"So, like if I..." Brimstone walks up to the arm of the creature and rips a panel right off. The two Transformers watch as the parts below the missing piece shift and a new part rises up and fills the gap. "Wow, hey, I got an idea!"

"Oh no."

"You're missing a chunk in your side right?"

"Yeah...?"

"Well, take a replacement part outta this guy, then we can both drive back to my ship and salvage what we can."

Hubcap thinks about it. He looks the creature in its blank, dark, eyes. It would be able to replace the parts before he could, probably by the end of the afternoon. Why not, they were going to need some things from the ship... necessity being the motherboard of invention and all that...

Prologue 2:

In a pitch-black room, a set of red optics burns. Numerous smaller eyes, set at the sides of the skull, and dominated by a solitary central eye, smolder silently, ember-like, in the darkness.

Abruptly, the black room is interrupted by a harsh rectangular slash of white light, as a thick and heavy door slides suddenly open, throwing detail onto the spartan maximum security prison cell and its occupant. Centered in that white bar is a single figure; tense, apprehensive, but determined, he stands at the threshold of the room. The massive figure of the prisoner looms above him, facing the door. Lugnut. Hulking, monstrous, and strapped tightly to the wall with heavy-duty electronically locked restraints clamped tightly over his massive spread limbs. Numerous autoguns swivel into place, poised to terminate him if he makes one suspicious move. Cameras observe him from every angle. Nonetheless, he stares unflinchingly down at his visitor, one Springer.

It's a showdown, but their roles are reversed by the sheer, silent strength of Lugnut's charisma, the captive the captor--as Springer, who by all rights and means should--does, in any sense of the word--stand triumphant, finds he cannot even meet the other's unblinking, multi-eyed gaze. Feeling decidedly on the back foot, he clenches and unclenches his fists in impotent rage, ice-blue optics hovering carefully over Lugnut's toes, which dangle suspended several feet from the electrified grating beneath.

All they do is stand (or hang, in Lugnut's case) there, Lugnut owning the room, a palpable, thick, oppressive silence draped curtain-like over the scene. Finally, Lugnut, wearying of this quaint little drama, speaks. His voice is surprisingly rich, even cultured, for such a bestial thing. None of the usual bold rhetoric that you'd expect from him, given his reputation as the voice for a fallen generation, and a far greater degree of control and command than someone who earned his reputation squashing his enemies' (and sometimes friends') heads into jellied steel deserves to have.

"I can see you out there. Don't think I can't."

More silence. Lugnut finally loses what shred is left of his patience. He almost seems to be gesturing in exasperation, despite the fact that he's completely immobile, with even his head clamped to the wall by an uncomfortable-looking harness.

"Well, are you going to stand there all day, or are you going to come in here and do what you came here to do?"

Springer actually flinches. Springer! Do or die, Wreck'n'Rule--SPRINGER!

"Oh. Did I startle you? Yes, Autobot, I do have a brain in this thick head after all. It can't be all fire and brimstone, bellowing rhetoric all the time. The beast you saw not so long ago is merely something I...uncage when I deem it necessary. Never mistake passion for foolhardiness. But at the same time, underestimate my passion at the risk of your own mortal Spark. I WILL do what needs to be done, regardless of how dirty, how obscene, you, and I, might find it."

Springer's fingers flex and un-flex uneasily near the holsters at his hips.

Lugnut, clearly in command of the situation (and relishing it), continues, "Look. Autobot. You know, and I know that you're obviously not supposed to be down here, so it's only a matter of time until someone wakes up to the fact and drags you out by your ankles. Kicking. And screaming, perhaps. I can always do with a bit of screaming."

Grim silence.

"....Or perhaps not. The strong, silent type, today, are we? All that boasting, posturing I remember? So it's a thing of the past now. Died that dreary day on Praxus, I suppose, as I squeezed the life from your beloved comrades. So all that bloodletting...it drained all the fun out of your life, did it? And you're the grim avenger now. Gone Too Far. Crossed the Line. Come down here to do The Unthinkable. Well, just one more reason for you to get in here and do your dirty little deed, I suppose, and then live or die with the consequences. I suppose they'll say it was all my fault in the end. Pushed him too far, he did. Well, just one more black mark against me on a LONG list of misdeeds. One more broken Autobot. And I win in the end. But considering how (up)tight the security is in this place...why, they're probably already hustling and bustling their way down here now, so if you're here to put a bullet in my brain, why not stop wasting your time, and my time, get in here, get out your gun, and get it OVER with. NOW."

Springer seems to swallow the lump in his throat, grits his teeth, and forces his feet to cross the threshold. Lugnut: "Bravo! Bravo. So there is a strut left in you after all. One I didn't crush. Yet."

Springer stands dead-center before Lugnut, staring up into his optic. The size of the other overwhelms even Springer's powerful figure.

Lugnut continues, "So. Here we are. The last of the mongrel horde stands before me. Took you long enough to work up the will, Assembly Line Scum."

Springer whips his pistols from their holsters and aims them at Lugnut's head. His fingers tense on the triggers, but no shots are fired.

Lugnut seems crestfallen. He lets out a short, sharp sigh. "...and yet, teetering SO close to the brink, and still you do nothing. You disappoint me, you know, I really thought you were going to do it just then. That vaunted Autobot determination, that firm resolve to triumph no matter the cost... SUCH a disappointment you are... no, continue to be. Much the same as your men, the men who refused to accept the inevitable, who fought futilely, valiantly, as I tore them limb from limb. And ENJOYED it. Tell me, what WILL it take to..." Lugnut thinks for a moment "... AH! Yes. YES! I DO think I've hit on it." It almost seems like he's slapped a fist into a palm. Springer flinches at the nonexistent sound.

"...curse me for a fool for underestimating your preciously convenient morality...it always did trump, hinder, your admittedly remarkable, spectacularly violent ability to do what needed to be done. Well, just a little bit. And so...this is how it ends, not with a bang but a whimper, you with your puny guns clutched firmly in tiny hands, me hanging here, alive and well, with the blood of your precious Wreckers still greasing my joints, inviting you, GOADING you to kill me, and still you. DO. NOT. SHOOT! There's something you want to ask me, isn't there? Still some doubt left in your mind that must be put to rest, before you can pull that trigger on me. Me. ME, of all beings. The dread Lugnut. Your Prime taught you well. Taught you to be COWARDS."

Alarms klaxon in the distance along with the vague, confused, shouts of guards.

"And I do know what it is you want to ask me, too. Don't think that I don't."

Springer hears the sound of footsteps echoing down the hall, the shouting voices becoming more distinct.

Lugnut's voice gains speed, like a train leaving the station, becomes just a bit faster, more intense, with every second. Angrier. More frenzied!

"You want to know before you finish me if I feel SORRY for what I did. If I've had a change of Spark, if there's some chance that if you DO kill me, right here, right now, you'll be robbing Cybertron of a solid citizen, Primus bless you, stealing away from me any hope of reprisal, reform. How typically arrogant. How presumptuous. How AUTOBOT, to assume, as you so obviously do, that I want or even NEED redemption, that I am the villain, and you are the hero, when, obviously to anyone who has had his eyes opened to The Truth, that it is the other way around, that YOU are, and have always been the OPPRESSOR and I am he who serves for all time the LIBERATOR. Well, I will tell you here and now, Autobot DOG, to set your mind at ease--that I enjoyed EVERY agonizingly delicious SECOND OF WHAT I DID, for it was all in the service of the ONE TRUTH and ONLY JUSTICE!"

Effect achieved. Springer's face contorts in rage. He screams at Lugnut,

"You want justice? I'll give you justice, you self-righteous murdering--"

Lugnut is full-on SCREAMING at this point!

"So! He CAN SPEAK! DO IT THEN! DO IT!!!! PULL THAT TRIGGER AND CONFIRM EVERYTHING I KNOW TO BE TRUE OF YOU AND YOUR HYPOCRITICAL MASS-PRODUCED AUTOBOT RACE, offshoots of the cursed CONVOYS, may they BURN IN THE UNHOLY FIRES OF THE FALLEN! NOTHING WOULD GIVE ME GREATER PLEASURE THAN TO DIE CONFIRMING THE TRUTH THAT IS--MEGATROOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNN!!!"

Guards burst into the room and leap onto Springer, bringing him to his knees before Lugnut, who continues bellowing at him, as the guards drag Springer, consumed with fury, from the room.

"BECAUSE IF YOU DON'T DO IT NOW, SPRINGER, MARK MY WORDS, I WILL ESCAPE FROM THIS PLACE, HUNT YOU DOWN, AND DO THE SAME TO YOU AS I DID TO YOUR COMRADES, AND YOU TO ME WHEN YOU SLAUGHTERED MY HAPLESS BRETHREN! SO KILL ME NOW, IF YOU WISH TO SAVE YOURSELF! JUSTICE IS COMING, AND ITS NAME IS MEGATRON!!!"

The heavy door slams shut, bathing the room in shadows once more.

Lugnut utters but one more phrase, to himself, in the darkness of his prison.

"All Hail Megatron."

......

Prologue 3:

In a clean, orderly, softly lit room, the Gobot-turned-Decepticon Crasher hunches in a chair, hugging her legs against her chest a little too tightly. Clearly wracked with despair--barely holding herself together. This is obviously the last place she wants to be, but it's unclear if there's anywhere else she feels she can go.

Perceptor sits, calm, precise, composed, relaxed in an armchair, legs crossed. For a moment, he studies some casenotes in his hand, then looks up.

He clears his throat, breaking the uneasy silence. "Very well. Let us begin, er, Fracture."

"Crasher," she responds, glaring across her brows.

"Ah, yes, quite. I suppose that particular novel appellation would have been discarded, as Megatron, has, well... how shall we say...to coin a phrase...departed."

She twitches. Starscream first said that on Cycle 1896. Who does this guy think he is? Coin a phrase? Give me a br--

Perceptor, attempting to cool her simmering hostility, coughs loudly. "Ah. Yes, sorry, sore spot. Well, in any case, when all is said and done, that's hardly here or there. Let us, shall we, save any digression toward our Irate Tarnian for another day, and instead continue from where we left off, the termination of our previous session, the...exploration of your innermost psyche. We're here, after all, not to talk about Megatron, or the things he has done, but to discuss YOU."

As he speaks, his scope moves up and down, scanning her brainwaves, and various scans and readouts play across his chest.

She asks, "Do we have to? And do you have to..."

"Eh...?"

She gestures at his roving scope.

"...you know...that...?"

"Oh...OH!" he flushes.

"Er...my apologies. An involuntary response to, er..."

"Certain abnormal stimuli?" she asks drily.

"*Cough* Quite."

He continues, determined to blaze a trail back into safer territory, "And, returning...with all due haste...to your previous question: Must we proceed, you ask. I posit to you, and I quote: yes. But only if you wish to help yourself. Clearly, nurturing your current stage of anti-disestablishmentarian adversity, brewed in the alleys and gutters of Polyhex's infamous 'Dead End,' is hardly conducive to achieving an optimum mode of functionality suitable for a productive citizen inhabiting this bold, new forward looking society..."

She greets him with silence. He mistakes her disbelief that he actually managed to say all that in about a minute for a deeper disbelief, one that would acknowledge that she was actually able to follow what he said.

"Ahem..."

"Deep breaths, doc," she mutters. "Deep breaths."

"...and...and you...you do wish to be rehabilitated, to be welcomed, once more, into the, er, *cough,* bosom of Cybertronian brother... er, sister... hood? Er, never-mind. ...Do you not?"

She responds, sarcastically, "Right. That's why I joined up with the Decepticons--burned, stomped, and shredded everything Megatron decreed unworthy, everything you Guardi- ... Autobots stood for, isn't it? All just because I wanted to be loved."

Perceptor becomes mildly irate, which somehow manages to make him less threatening. "Crasher. Crasher... Crasher I brought you here, pulled you up by the wiring from the cesspool of this prison's population, set aside time in my busy schedule for special observation and treatment, because I sincerely believed that you wished, unlike so many others of your craven ilk, to be helped. To be HEALED. With my keen eye, I saw the light inside, discerned that you had potential for something better than a life of debased thuggery. But I cannot help you achieve this true potential of which I speak if you are unwilling to take the first tentative steps toward helping yourself. And that process begins with assuming, shall we say, the proper attitude. Meaning: If you insist upon instead persisting in this irrational display of aggression, I shall be forced to remand you to the custody of the Prison Sector once more, and we will BOTH lose a remarkable opportunity for growt--"

Crasher leans forward angrily, cutting him off. "Wait, wait, back up. Let's get this straight. Let's just get one thing straight here. Your little 'hypothesis, if you will.' You drag me away from the warmth and brotherhood of my friends, my comrades, the only ones who've bothered to ever show me any kind of support, any real kind of (don't know how you Bots can say it with a straight face) love, and throw me kicking and screaming into this sterile little HELL you've devised... and--and then you expect me to be grateful? To come crawling to you on my hands and knees, begging to be "saved" from my misspent Decepticon youth?"

Perceptor's collected veneer cracks for a moment, wartime memories, not so deeply buried, rushing to the surface. "These ruffians you call your friends are a band of mercenaries, killers and miscreants. Why, they--if you had seen what they-! If you only...but... but yes. Yes."

He's silent for a moment or two.

"Yes. Perhaps you've inadvertently hit on something here. Perhaps I was too swift to dismiss your sense of identification with the Decepticon ethos as an obstacle, rather than a pathway, to the solution we both seek. PERHAPS, that essential dichotomy, between the way you see the Decepticons to be, and they way they so clearly, truly, are, lies at the heart of our inability to cross the vast gulf of time and tide and reach an understanding. And is therefore worthy of examining at further length, so that through a mutual understanding of the events, the culture, that shaped your worldview, we can build a bridge to..."

Perceptor trails off as he glances at the notes in his lap. A large word hand-written and circled in red catches his eye.

Crasher drums her fingers on the arm of the chair, nervously, as he mulls over her records.

"SO!"

His abrupt declaration makes her jump in her seat. She shifts nervously, glancing around to make sure nobody in the empty room saw it.

"...on that exploratory note," he continues, "LET us revisit that day, that terrible day, the day that thrust you from the purported warmth and safety of your Decepticon brothers, the tender ministrations of Megatron, and into the cold, unfeeling arms of your terrible Autobot captors. You are, I believe,a credible individual with whom to explore the events in question, as you are, so they say, the only one among the prisoners here who claims, at least credibly, to have been present at the scene of the incident, and not merely fleeing the epicenter of disaster. To have been a survivor of what is already being referred to popularly in certain Decepticon circles as..."

"The Slaughter. That's what we call it. The Slaughter." She flinches at the word as if it were a blade driven into her side.

"Ah, yes. An appropriate moniker given the gruesome details of the purported transgression. I believe that when the rescue teams first pulled you from the warren in which you had burrowed, that you mentioned....fire. And blood."

"And fire. The fire...the blood..."

She shivers.
'
"But of course. Typical apocalyptic imagery masking a truth too painful to confront. Your inability to define the experience beyond a merely visceral level suggests the presence of deep-seated emotional trauma..."

"Hold up, hold up...there really was fire and blood. I mean, I was on fire, and covered in blood. Actually, it was the blood that was...on fire..."

Perceptor, deeply unsettled, attempts to continue with his earlier statement as if he didn't catch that. "...Er, a deep suppression of truths too awful to face in anything but an abstract form. Or, your difficulties in communicating events in a factual manner may be equally attributable to a lack of imagination. Which would be quite typical, actually, of an adherent to the Tarnian manifesto, in which Megatron writes, 'Unveil the deception. Cast off what is false (Hmmm...quite ironic, that, given the moniker he assigned to his faction...) and embrace'..."

She interrupts, feeling almost sympathetic for the Autobot's distress. "Well, doc, sounds like you have it all figured out."

"Er, indeed."

The uncomfortable silence reigns again as Perceptor tap-taps at a datapad.

Then, more nervously, she asks, breaking the pregnant silence...

"So...Can I go now?"

He continues tapping at his pad, seeming to have forgotten that she's there.

He mutters, "I say, this Megatron fellow did have a way with words, I'll give him--"

"HELLO?!"

Perceptor looks up, flustered, then vexed. It's almost as if he's more irritated at having his train of thought derailed than at the tenor of her words.

"Crasher. You cannot begin to...to simply 'go.' From this chair, this office, beyond the walls without, the barriers that surround you, from the terrors that would drag you down into the nightmare WITHIN. You can never run away from what you have seen. 'What does he know of it?' you think. 'Safe and sheltered here in this safe little nest he's built for himself. Hiding from the harsh realities that reign 'out there' in the Big Bad World' Well...trust me--reach across that aforementioned gulf of comprehension, HEAR ME when I say, with all sincerity...I know all too well of what you speak. All too well. Quite. For I...I have seen it too. Oh, not the specific 'Slaughter," the details of which you seen unwilling, perhaps unable to discuss--of which you, I suspect, cannot bring yourself to think about--but a thousand variations on a thousand more battlefields. Atrocities, living, breathing nightmares beyond your...your wildest imagining. Because Megatron, or Jhiaxus, or Straxus, or another of their bloodthirsty band decreed it. But I digress. This isn't about me. It's about you. But if there's one thing my experience can TEACH you, it's that you have to dig down the core of the horror...let it consume you, DROWN in it--before you can break the surface."

"Hmm." Crasher, reluctantly, has to agree with the creepy red Autobot. He does have a way with words. Most of them are pretty large, though, and she's pretty sure 50% are unnecessary.

After a great silence, she draws herself together. She speaks in a low, terse voice. The sarcasm of before is gone. She almost seems a woman possessed.

"Fire... and blood. Yes. My world was...IS fire and blood. Blood and fire. The thundering of my footsteps, echoing in my audio receptors. Spark hammering frantically in my chest. The roar of gunfire, the thunder of explosions. Heat, blinding white heat, as my comrades, bots I've spent my whole life, or at least the half worth living, fighting the good fight with, burst into flames around me. The rank taste of their spilt fuel choking the air. Choking ME. And beneath it all, that ominous undertone, that laughter, the dull rumble of that low, ominous laughter. Getting closer. And closer. And CLOSER. Until I can feel his hot exhaust down the back of my neck, his cold hard hands wrapping around my neck, his eyes, burning into mine, so terrible, so full of HATE, of--"

Perceptor interjects, "And where was Megatron during all this? Surely he would have taken action. He never was one to counsel caution, not unless he was planning something terrible, that is."

"That's the worst part. He just...he just stood there. Watching him come. Like he couldn't believe it. I called to him, and--"

"Watching WHO come? The leader of this assault? The warrior at the head of this invading horde? Surely a force of considerable numbers was required to overwhelm the elite of--"

Crasher seems to catch herself, fires back, "Leader? What leader? WHAT horde? He IS the ASSAULT! One bot. One crazed bot did this. Out on his own. No rules, no regulations, no holds barred. Over the line--honor, discipline, everything that makes us who we are, everything we aspire to be--cast to the wind. Like it didn't matter. A good soldier, Autobot...any soldier worth his fuel would have given us a chance to fight back. There are sneak attacks and then there's the knife in the back in a dark alley. This was somewhere in between...something worse. Calculated terror."

An expression of skepticism crosses Perceptor's face. "Begging your pardon, Crasher, but it is MY turn to say 'back up.' I find it difficult to suspend my disbelieve sufficiently to believe that the creme de la creme of the Decepticon military was laid low by a single gunman, crazed or otherwise. Surely there must have been more to it than--and you mention running. Running from ONE individual with a gun? Flight hardly seems characteristic of you under the WORST of circumstances given what I have studied of your psychological profile-"

"This WAS the worst," she rejoins. "You weren't there, remember. And this is supposed to be my story."

Crasher raises a finger, anticipating his next question. "Oh, and I'm not saying he doesn't have a plan, that this isn't a strategic assault. That he's a raving loon, some postbot with an ax to grind who happened to get his hands on a blaster rifle. No. This is the masterpiece of someone with too much time on his hands and too many screws loose. It's a massacre, all right, but a CALCULATED massacre. He knows war alright. Knows it like a science. He's just taken it from an honorable, noble, meaningful tradition and twisted it into a toy for his own sick amusement. He-he-he's planned it out, alright. All too well. I can tell almost from the start. The way he got the drop on us, the way things just...just HAPPEN. Figured it down to the last detail. Left nothing to chance. For maximum bite, maximum fear. Maximum overdrive. Like I said, you weren't there. You say we were the best? We were. ARE. He was just better."

She thinks for a second--pounds a fist loudly into an open palm with a clang that makes Perceptor twitch, bites out, "SLAG! He really does get the drop on us, didn't he?! Hits us with... something...out of the wild blue yonder that fries our t-cogs, leaves us helpless to transform...Transformers, who can't transform. Think of it. And then he waits, just a little while, letting us run around like mechadrones with their heads cut off. Then he brings the hammer down. Slowly and sweetly. Oh it's brutal, alright, but it's hardly swift. He's enjoying himself...toying with us, letting us think we have a fighting chance. It's all a game to him, remember? It's sport."

Perceptor leans forward. "We're losing ourselves here, Crasher. WHO did this? WHO? A crazed Stunticon? A Degenerate Imperial (but I repeat myself)? A rabid Recordicon? Yet another in the endless line of would-be usurpers to Megatron's throne? Is Overlord back? Devil Z? Violenjiger? Dark Nova? ENEMY?!"

She shakes her head, wincing in shame.

"I..."

"Yes...?"

".............I... I have no idea. All I know is even Enemy would never sink this low."

"But you...you say he caught you, that you stared him in the eye. That you felt his hot breath blasting you. I find that difficult to believe that in the midst of staring your ultimate assailant, your NEMESIS in the eye that you failed to take note of his--"

Crasher snaps back, "Just...just lay off, okay? You think I'm blowing exhaust in your face?! I thought you said you trusted me. BELIEVE ME, Perceptor, if I knew...if I could...REMEMBER...who did this, if I even SUSPECTED I might have a line on it, do you think I'd be hanging around here, listening to your pseudo-intellectual garbage? NO. I'd be out there, in the wind, where I BELONG, hunting down the mad son of a glitch who scrapped my best buddies...heck, scrapped everyone, guys I didn't even LIKE--down to the last pitiful Micromaster just because...who knows, they were there?! No. Just no. So listen good because I'm only going to say this once. Just once more. Like I told all the other cranium-shrinkers I had to talk to before they dragged me in here: who did it? I DON'T KNOW. I have. no. slagging. I-dea. I may be rough, I may be tough, and think of that what you may with your high-handed Autobot moralism, and think on it good, because bots like you made me what I am--but one thing's for certain--no matter how badly your system may have twisted me, I take Megatron's words to heart. I CANNOT tell a lie. I'm sure you could look that up in your precious files. Deception was the one part of being a Decept-icon I always flunked. I'm a born Renegade, plain and simple. Fighting for the truth. For what Megatron believed in, at the start. And getting my hands around that truth...around the neck of whoever did this to me...is the ONLY reason I'm sitting across from you right now. Because if you can help me in your adorably misguided little Autobot way to remember who did this to me... to US... you can help me remember who it is I need to KILL."

Perceptor leans back in his chair, the burning glare of the Decepticon before him making him feel small, and weak. He clears his throat. "Quite."
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Transypoo » Mon Sep 05, 2011 12:57 am

Head Warden Red Alert hunches over his desk in his triple-locked, heavily guarded TV and camera-studded office, in the pulsating nerve center of the cavernous Autobot Burthov Facility, feeling very small and vulnerable indeed despite the myriad accoutrements of surveillance that surround him. The weight of the world seems, as the cliche goes, to be on his shoulders. Recently expanded and refurbished, this megacomplex has proven to be more trouble than it's worth--a critical research and development center, rolling out the latest cutting edge weapons and medical treatments, but, paradoxically, simultaneously home to Garrus-9--the Pen, the Pit, the Last Resort, the toughest, meanest Autobot detention facility since Penal Maximus first opened Garrus-1 all those stellar cycles ago, a pit in which Decepticons (and sometimes Autobots) are thrown so society can forget them.

The maddest, baddest convicts the world has to offer up, right next door to weapons that could wreak cosmic havoc were they to fall into those villains' hands, Red thinks. And Primus, half our own scientists, he adds silently, shivering, ought to be tossed headfirst in with the crazies and the killers, the filth their twisted minds extrude.

In other words, a Crisis Situation waiting to happen. A real...what was the Earth expression(?)...a powder keg!

Nervously, he ponders the images that flick across the monitor of a curiously large black and red computer sitting on his desk, his eyes pursuing them. Mass volumes of security footage cover the readout in a multicolored morass. Perpetrations, violations, incarcerations...and Springer.

"It's quiet... too quiet," he mumbles, seemingly alone in the dark office; his fingers dart for a moment to the grip of the gun strapped to the underside of his desk. It hasn't been there long, but he can't imagine what he did without her...er, it.

He listens as he often does to the low "thrum" of the massive generators buried beneath his feet, fueling everything from the supercomputers on Level 23 to the electronically locked cell doors that hold back the ever-present tide of villainy. His audio sensors prick for any irregularity.

Suddenly, an irreverent voice punctures the near-silence. "Hold on, hold on, lemme get this straight," the voice remarks from Red's computer. "Here we sit, smack dab on top of the baddest collection of convict Cons to ever cross the cosmos...and you say it's quiet that like it's a bad thing? And besides, what about tall, green, and cocky this afternoon? You call that everyday?"

Red Alert pauses a moment, lost in thought, then responds to his computer. Yes, The Springer Incident (Case File #62197-Z-765F) was distressing, but when compared to the scale and scope of a civil war that raged full-fury for tens of millions of years across countless worlds...? The cataclysms piled on atrocities stacked on apocalypses? Armageddon every other Sunday? Red weighs his words carefully, then responds, "...you weren't at the Battle of Thunderhead Pass, were you."

"Can't say I was," replies the computer.

"The Crucible? Simanzi? Babu Yar?"

"Tuned straight outta that one. Those other ones, too. I was presumed DEAD for awhile, there, remember? Blame the Sound-man for that. Feel like I missed out on some stuff sometimes. Had to buy myself a Duo-Mega-Ultra-Micro Pretender Shell with a Triple-Changing Brain/Target/Powermaster Engine just to catch up."

"The...Uh... the Powerlinx Battles...never mind. what was I thinking...? I'd be fooling myself if I thought you of all bots--'The Voice'--could understand. ....It's the silence...the quiet, the watching, the waiting, the endless waiting of war... the calm before the storm. I can feel it in my bolts, just like every time before: something bad is about to happen."

Just then, as if on cue, the doors slide open with a pneumatic hiss, like a snake waiting to strike. The computer leaps from the desk, transforming into Blaster in a fluid motion. Once again Red Alert's fingers flick towards the gun. A handcuffed Springer bursts into the room, flanked by Roulette and Warpath, who jostle him through the doorway.

"Get in there, BAM!," Warpath yells, as the energy cuffs fade. "Time to face the music, Big Boy," Roulette whispers. As the two guards guide the Wrecker into the room, Warpath gives him a forceful shove, bringing Springer to his knees. The moment he looks up, a hologram of Ultra Magnus flashes into existence, towering above him. Magnus whips around, slamming the barrel of his massive cannon, "The Gavel," onto the ground inches from Springer's face.

"SPRINGER!!!!" Ultra Magnus bellows, his already stern face, if it were possible (and it shouldn't be), becoming even more authoritarian. Stern enough to give even a Wrecker pause.

"ULTRA Magnus, SIR..." Springer mutters, patently insincerely, delivering a half-hearted salute as he climbs slowly to his feet.

"Spare me the formalities, soldier, I haven't the time," Magnus snaps with a wave of his palm, "and just answer me one. simple. question: WHY?!"

Springer, with a pale attempt at a smirk, replies "Why not?"

Magnus totally ignores this, continuing his tirade, back turned, gesticulating to nobody in particular.

"WHY...in the name of the Sacred Spires...with a tens of millions-year-old war with the Decepticons still only half-won despite the propaganda, a rogue Convoy hell-bent on plunging us back into the Dark Ages, and most pressing of all, BILLIONS of credits and hundreds of frenzied man-hours poured into the reconstruction of THIS...monument to the worst of good intentions, Burthov City, a facility dragged from obscurity, an expense nobody but I wanted to incur in the first place, campaigned for with blood, sweat and oil against the most heated of opposition from Leo Prime...Convoy...to establish (they've calling it "Magnus's folly" already, I promise you)--a storehouse for not only Cybertron's deadliest criminals, condemned to remain under lock and behind bar forever, but our deepest-held scientific secrets as well...WHY... with all that riding on the line...would YOU decide to waltz in here, bypass the best security-- Supposedly..." He shoots a glare at Red Alert, who stiffens. "... money can buy --and make a MOCKERY of it all? WHY? To settle a petty GRUDGE?! And worse, you put a GUN to a helpless prisoner's HEAD in so doing? Despite what you may think, it gives me no pleasure to say this, Springer, but I'm EXTREMELY disappointed in you. Not only as a soldier, but as an Autobot."

Springer musters his bravado. "Aw--you're breakin' my heart, Chief. But seriously...listen to yourself."

Springer gestures around him.

"Putting super weapons practically in the hands of psy-cons with itchy trigger fingers? Even I could have told you that's a bad idea." Turns his back on Magnus and flashes an irreverent grin to the others: "And heck, I'm the king of 'em."

Springer turns back to find Magnus looming down into his face. Springer's cocky grin wilts.
"So you think this is a laughing matter, soldier?! You think this is a joke?! Lives are on the line! Not only those of the millions of Transformers just beyond those walls we're charged to protect, but the Spark of the very PRIME! He's coming here today, you know, despite my efforts to convince him otherwise, and I expect...*cough*...EXPECTED...everything to be spic and span."

Magnus glances at Red Alert again from of the corner of his eye. If looks could kill...

Springer replies, "The Prime, huh? Give my regards to Optimus, won't you?"

Magnus deliberately ignores the jibe, and instead addresses the others in the room. "Springer, I can understand, but the rest of you? RODIMUS Prime deserves the very best from his men, and you've let him down by letting this come to pass. Take that to Spark."

Springer interjects, "And what of my men, sir? A little band of brothers you might have heard of called The Wreckers--either dead and recycled, or clinging to life by a thread? What did they deserve, sir?"

Magnus turns on him like a mad bull.

"Springer--don't you DARE get high and mighty with me. Not ever, and especially not today!!!"

Magnus jabs a finger in Springer's face and continues, "...because I think it's high time we get one thing straight: I don't like you. I've never liked you. Not your attitude, not your methods, not your blatant disregard for the rules, and most of all, NEVER, EVER that SMIRK plastered across your smug little face, like you're Primus's gift to creation! Who do you think you are?! Have you forgotten what it means to be an Autobot?! A soldier?! Primus, I'd dearly love to know if you ever knew. Delivering vengeance from the barrel of a gun, like some law-giving Convoy of old...it chills my oil just thinking about it."

Springer bites back, "I say we give them just what they deserve."

Magnus responds, "What they DESERVE, soldier, is a CHANCE! Freedom, but most of all, JUSTICE, is the right of ALL sentient beings, even the most vile and reprehensible. If you break the law, fine--mark my words, you WILL be punished, I'll see to it personally if need be. Nobody ever accused me of being soft on the lawbreakers. But you WILL be TRIED, and SENTENCED, first, not shot down in cold oil! We owe a debt to society...to the mistakes that CREATED our enemies, our own mistakes...to hold the Decepticons... any lawbreakers, red badge or purple, accountable, make them understand that their conduct is unacceptable in a civil society...SHOW them the ERROR of their ways. Through FORCE, if necessary... but always in fairness. And NEVER in unthinking anger."

Springer mutters, "Anger is the only language they understand! A certain would-be poet from Tarn taught them that lesson a long time ago!"

Magnus, sighing, crosses his arms. "And if we sink to the Decepticons'...to Megatron's level, it is the only language they ever WILL understand, and this war will never end. For the sake of our future, the hammer of justice must strike true, and revenge must be left in its holster. I only wish you could understand. I hoped you already did."

At Magnus's condescending tone, Springer leaps to his feet, anger dripping from his mouth like spittle, "YOU'RE the one who doesn't understand! Take the blinders off! You think a monster like--like him will ever listen? He heard your arguments, and ignored them, long ago! For Primus's sake, he scrapped half my team, and crippled the rest, like it was nothing--snapped them in two, laughing all the while! It was "GLORIOUS," he said! He wasn't some poor misled lamb...he knew exactly what he was doing! And he enjoyed it! You want justice for the Decepticons?! What justice for the Wreckers, SIR... fellow Autobots, bots you used to LEAD...to the slaughter, as it turns out?! That half-crazed Con ripped them to shreds with his bare hands... and made me WATCH... all to prove a POINT of his own. You want to know what I think, let's let our ACTIONS speak for once, because I sure as molten slag am sick of your, his, and everybody's WORDS."

Magnus, diplomatically, softens his tone, saying, "Springer... I grieve deeply for your men... and make no mistake, I hold oh-point-zero--absolutely NO--sympathy for a crazed zealot such as Lugnut. But I understand just as keenly that he isn't worth throwing away everything that it means to be an Autobot... and that's exactly what a maniac like him would so dearly love you... us... to do. Don't you see, Springer? Put a bullet in his head, and you'll be giving him exactly what he wants: confirmation that he was RIGHT about us. That he's ALWAYS been right. When we know so well that he's wrong. And I NEVER want to see that happen to you, or to any other Autobot... any other sentient being."

"Aw, I didn't know you cared."

Magnus spreads his hands, still conciliatory. "SPRINGER... Springer. I know I said it before that I don't like you... never have. But I don't have to like you. And I DO need you. Despite what Leo Convoy may wish to believe, or make the peace-starved public think--just because some convenient catastrophe threw the Decepticons into disorder, letting us sweep them into our cells--it only means we've won a battle, not the war: we've been around this block before--you and I both know this pretend peace is just a moment of calm before we reap the whirlwind. This war is FAR from won. ...and...and though your hands may be dirtier than I'd prefer, than MOST... on the flip side, when it comes to taking down the Cons, you're the best we've got... and the last thing I want is to lose you. Believe me. Especially not like this. I GET it, Springer. I was *Matrix-Flamed* for battle, remember? Programmed and constructed to be the Ultimate Warrior. Kicking the Decepticons to the curb, no matter the means required, drives my every action, defines my identity. But I had to learn that a fist to the face is sometimes only a short-term solution, what we need--what we require--is a lasting peace. But I didn't have my eyes opened overnight. I had to learn the lessons of statecraft the hard way. I know it's tough..."

Magnus almost whispers, "Primus Below, is it tough."

He turns his back on Springer again.

Springer seems oddly subdued at the hard man's sudden softness.

Magnus puts a hand to his forehead, pained expression on his face.

"...But as many necessary evils as we've learned...as Megatron and his crew have FORCED us to accept...there are some lines we just can't let ourselves cross. As Prime might say, 'No matter the cost.'"

He pauses...

"...OPTIMUS Prime. I don't know what Rodimus would say if he could see you here now."

Magnus turns his attention to Warpath. "Take him away. Toss him in a cell and give him a time to reflect on the Autobot Code, and what it means, or SHOULD mean, to all of us. Especially the sub-subsections. I'll decide what to do with him later."

Warpath tugs on Springers arm as if he were pulling on a leash. Springer deflates and turns, allowing himself to be guided out the door.

"Oh and Springer?" Magnus calls through the door.

"Sir?" Springer turns back to his former commander, cautiously optimistic about the next few words he's going to hear.

"I've tried my level best to let you know I see your side of story. But don't EVER think this means you're off the hook. I'm watching you. Run a red light and I'll toss you into the darkest recesses of the Graviton penitentiary so fast your rotor will spin. Maybe you can even share a cell with Lugnut. Let you settle your differences the old-fashioned way."

The door slams shut, leaving Blaster, Red Alert and Roulette, in her capacity as Guard Captain, in the room.

Magnus speaks slowly and deliberately, shoulders slumping more and more with each word. He looks defeated. "From Springer, I only wanted to know why, but as for you, I need you to tell me HOW. What happened here? With hundreds of cameras, dozens of armed guards... HOW in the name of Warrior's Gate did a lone gunman stroll in there without anyone noticing?! This place is supposed to be sealed up tighter than an oil drum! Seriously, did nobody notice the GUNS at his sides? Those are big guns! Primus, this place is opened wider than the Benzulli Expanse. It's like...like..."

Blaster supplies,

"Macaddams on Lady's Night?"

"EXACTLY! They''ll let anyone just walk on in!"

Roulette suppresses a scowl.

Magnus places a palm to his face, grimacing with the worry that he didn't dare let Springer see. "And in the name of the Matrix Flame itself, don't ANYONE let Leo Pr--Convoy find out what happened here today. He'd shut this place down faster than you can say 'Transform and roll out.' Primus knows I had to grapple with him to get him to approve the funding in the first place. He'd have rather gunned this latest batch of Cons down on the street corners we found them on than even bothered bringing them in. It was only when I appealed to his blasted ego... told him how bold, how leaderly it would make him look to bring the worst of the Decepticons back to Cybertron in chains... that he gave in. And even then, he still would have rather had them executed in Iacon Square while he was crowned Prime to the tune of a thousand laser blasts than seen them stand trial. And don't get me started on that "back to the mines" initiative...Megatron's insurrection was BORN in those blasted shafts!"

Red Alert wait a second for Magnus, pausing for breath, to calm down and continue speaking; Red's mind has trailed off already thinking about the amount of paperwork he's going to have to do to clear up this mess. Realizing that Magnus and the others are staring at him, now expecting him to talk, he jumps into action: "SIR! Yes sir! Mark my words, we will pore over every hour, every minute, every microsecond of footage since...since BEFORE this place was FOUNDED until we get to the bottom of what went down here."

Blaster moans, "Aw man, I got a date tonight." He turns to Roulette flashing a smile. "Hey, Baby."

"In your dreams, buster," Roulette bites.

"Blaster," he corrects.

Magnus shoots them a laser-guided look and continues speaking to Red Alert. "See that you do. I want everything shipshape by the time Rodimus arrives. His visit is of the utmost importance. You know as well as I what's at sta--"

"Hey--Boss." A cool voice interrupts Magnus' diatribe. Magnus turns over his shoulder, looking at someone just outside the Burthov crew's field of view. Glancing at the now-open door of his office, Magnus beholds his aide, Searchlight, standing in the doorway. Over Searchlight's shoulder, Magnus can see his bodyguard, Hotspot, glowering into the room, his red optics in their deep black sockets boring into Magnus's soul.

The stocky, blue-and-white Searchlight, face enigmatic, yellow optic-band unreadable, jerks a thumb over his shoulder, says curtly, "Council wants you," then turns and saunters out, the door slamming at his heels.

"I keep such charming company," Magnus sighs to himself. "Oh well. They get the job done." Suddenly realizing he's still on camera, he coughs, straightens to an even more impressive than normal height, and says shortly to Red Alert and the rest, "You're good men all, and you know what to do. Magnus out."

As he fades, and Roulette bristles ("men?!"), Magnus sends Red Alert a parting, personal look, a weary one that speaks volumes; once more into the breach, old friend, it seems to say.

Red Alert shakes his head and sighs, "It never ends."

Abruptly, Red Alert, sweating bullets, turns to the others in the room, speaking quickly and crisply, with an undercurrent of barely contained hysteria. "Blaster, contact the comm center and pull all the feeds for the maximum security wing for the past seventeen cycles. Roulette, make sure everything is in tiptop shape for the Prime's arrival. You heard the Magnus, NO slipups, or we're ALL for the smelting pool! Well?! What are you standing around collecting dust for? HOP TO!"

As they exit and go their separate ways, the air in front of Red Alert's desk is filled with a cascade of holoscreens, all depicting prison footage.

As Roulette strides out, Warpath shoves Springer along the hall. Roulette calls him to him. "Warpath! Once you toss that tin-plated trash in a holding cell, get back over to the Yard and give Hound and Inferno a hand. That's a lively crowd we've got out there today, and I don't want any funny business!" Warpath salutes and continues on his way. Roulette stomps off, grumbling to herself. "Who schedules these yard rosters, anyway? ALL the Seekers out at once? And I thought we were supposed to keep the combiners apart. Management's giving me a headache here..."

As Roulette continues down the well lit hall, she touches the concealed comm unit on the side of her head.

"Hardhead. Wake up."

Hardhead, who has been guarding the space bridge for some hours, snaps to attention. "Yes, SIR, ma'am, ready for action!"

Roulette snaps, "Don't shoot off all your ammo just yet. As you well know, we've got a VIP, "P" as in "Prime," on the way, so look lively. The first HINT of space bridge activity, ping me, I want to be down there to greet him."

Hardhead glances back over his shoulder at the large ring towering above him. "Aw...for you, little lady... anythin'."

Roulette closes the comm, spits "... pig."

Hardhead sighs a deep sigh, as if contemplating how dull his duty is. "And here I was hopin' she'd got word of a riot or somethin'. Just another borin' day on the county farm, I guess." Why did war ever have to end?

Just then, the space bridge charges up. Hardhead readies his weapon. "Sir! Ma'am! SIR!" he barks. "Better get down here right quick! Somethin' comin' through!" Out of the swirling green vortex slips Leo Convoy's tail-whip. Leo Convoy's voice barks, "Atten-SHUN, trooper!"

Hardhead stiffens and snaps into a salute. "Leo Convoy, SIR!"

"That's more like it, boy. Now drop and give me 20!"

Hardhead springs into action, only to find there' s apparently nobody standing in front of him. Nobody at all. He looks left, right. Behind him. Up. Only one place left to go. He slowly peers down past the bulk of his own feet to find the tiger-striped figure of Hooligan standing at his feet, waving the tail-whip around in whimsical arcs. He seems to suddenly just notice Hardhead glowering down at him. "Oh, hey, Hardy, what's the haps? How're the Wife, the kids, your dog? Oh, right, your dog diiiiied. Sorry, my bad. Hey, nice chattin' we should do it again some time!" And with that the Decepticon leaves the room, leaving a bewildered Hardhead in his wake. Moments later Scorch charges in through the space bridge and crashes into Hardhead, knocking them both to the ground. Then Nightbeat comes flying out the portal, transforming in midair and landing in the same big pile.

Roulette briskly strides up, just in time to witness this three car-robot pile-up. "Well, well, look what the cat dragged in."

Nightbeat rising to his feet, whines in a nasal voice, "I'm tellin' you, we had him cornered in the chamber of the Convoys!"

Scorch stands up, then lends a hand to the much larger Hardhead. "Laid HANDS on him!"

"And just like that..." Nightbeat continues," POOF! Vanished into thin air!"

Roulette points sharply away from the Spacebridge. "Well, what are you standing around here for, enjoying the scenery? Burn rubber and FIND him! VIP on deck today, remember? My reputation..and YOUR jobs...are on the line."

The pair transform and tear off: "Man, she's in a bad mood today!" whines Scorch.

"Nah, I'd say that was one of her GOOD moods..."

......

Back in Red Alert's office, his optics dart nervously as ever from one holographic screen to another. Blaster, working on one corner of the large desk, idly scrolls through a series of feeds.

"Yo, I'm not seeing anything out of the ordinary here. Just another day in max security."

"Look closer, Blaster. There's always more to things than, uh, than meets the eye. A gunman managed to stroll past sixteen levels of automated defense, nonchalant as can be. Something happened down there that gave Springer his 'in,' and I definitely don't like that I didn't see it coming."

Blaster toggles between two views of the same empty hallway, timestamped only a few minutes ago. Thinking about the chewing out Magnus gave them, he mutters, "Now he's worried. Just another quiet day indeed."

"What was that?!" Red demands.

"Uh, nothin'." Blaster decides to change the subject. "Hey, Big Red, you jivin' on what U.M. was talkin' about just now?"

"About this place being a powder keg? Yes. He stole the metaphor right out of my mind. But nor do I agree with Springer."

"Man, what happened to Springer was some stone-cold slag, for sure," Blaster says. He adds, thoughtfully, "...buttttt...well...an' I'm just sayin', maybe Springer has a point?"

"...what?"

"I mean, c'mon, bro, we been fighting this war longer than I can remember! We've BOTH seen some bad dudes come our way. And maybe, just maybe, some Cons, you know, the real repeat offenders, get to be too big a menace, they oughtta be taken down. HARD. I mean, c'mon, man, say you had the big Meg in your sights...or Overlord? T-Wing? ...all hypothetically speaking, of course."

"Oh, I agree, totally." Hooligan interjects. "Those Cons down there, they're a danger to society! A public nuance! I mean, nuisance! Un danger publiqué! I say they should all be lined up and shot. Every last one of them."

"No, NO." Red Alert turns to the orange jet, speaking in an impassioned voice. "I believe they can be rehabilitated--that's why Magnus put them here, and not in the Graviton Penitentiary, or the Asteroid Prison Colony. Here we can use the greatest and latest scientific techniques to transform them into useful members of society."

"Even a...whatever he is, like Lugnut? Dude's pure animal, man." Blaster shudders slightly. "Tales o'what he's done...dude takes COMBINERS apart."

Red Alert thinks a moment. "... Yes, perhaps, given enough time...even he will see the light."

Hooligan interjects, "I don't know if I can buy that, Red. I've seen the Cons in action, fought them, lived amongst them, married their women, had kids, divorced, moved to a new city, and just when I felt like myself again, lost my visitation rights, well, that just drove me off the deep end, anyways, long story short, I brought you a souvenir!" Hooligan slams Leo Convoy's tail-whip onto the table. He salutes the two Autobots saying: "Well, it's been real, I'll be in my cell if you need me," and saunters out of the room humming to himself.

Red Alert and Blaster stare at the whip on his desk for a moment in disbelief.

"I-is that what I think it is?" Blaster asks, bobbing his head towards the weapon.

Red Alert whispers, "It had better not be or we're in some deep slag!" He adds "...do you have any idea what he'd do to us if he ever found out we had this?"

"I'd rather not think about it, bro! Man docked my pay for a month just because I forgot to salute him fast enough!"

"HE pays our salaries...?"

Blaster shrugs; "All I know is I didn't get no check!"

......

Warpath unlocks the door to a closet-sized space scarcely large enough for a medium-sized bot. "In you go, POW" he says, giving Springer a little push. At the same time, he jerks Springer's guns from their holsters and tosses them into a pneumatic shaft, bound for the armory. Springer steps in and sits down on the small ledge-like bench. Warpath pushes the button to close--and lock--the door. Springer glares up at Warpath with the intensity of a hungry lion the entire, normally short, time it takes the door to slide shut. Springer hears Warpath's muffled voice say "Zowee" through the door. He chuckles once to himself and looks down at his hands, illuminated by his own blue optic lights. He can almost still feel the guns still pressed into his palms. What had he been thinking? What would Kup have thought of him? What if he could see him now? Alone in the dark, friendless. "So, what you in for?" Hooligan asks, sitting next to Springer in a relaxed pose.
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Postby Skids » Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:47 pm

"I warned you not to cross my path, Die-cast!" rings a cold, harsh voice.

Out in the prison yard, Octane finds himself on the receiving end of a strut-jarring kick from Mindset. Tensions are running high all over the gray-walled, soul-crushing rectangle of duracrete, girders, and pitted, blackened steel. Cons are bickering and fighting even more than you'd usually expect from a gang of antisocial, often homicidal misfits crammed into an enclosed space. As Octane leaks the fuel he's been hoarding, Crankcase surges in and attempts furiously to clean it up (and scrub away any droplets that have sullied his Lord Thunderwing, who surveys the yard like a king lording over his domain).

As Autobot yard officers Inferno, Hound, and Big Daddy attempt to break up a brawl started by Brawl, another breaks out on the other side of the yard...

"HIT ME! C'mon, HIT ME!" Ramjet demands of Thrust.

"MADNESS!" shrieks Thrust in his harsh voice. "You tamper with forces you know not what you tamper with! The almighty fist of Thrust has felled the likes of Fortress Maximus and Metroplex...Titans, I say TITAAAAAANS TREMBLE before me!!!"

"DO ITTTTT!" Ramjet growls in his throaty roar.

"If you insist!" Thrust barks. "History will remember this day!"

Thrust throws back his fist and growls to himself, "vrummm, vrummmm, vrrrrrummmm" as if revving up his (currently VERY deactivated) engines.

"Get it over with before we all rust to death," Dirge, third of the Seeker trio, intones from the sidelines.

"Fine! But don't say I didn't warn you!" Thrust lunges through the air, trying his best (without jet engines at his disposal) for a flying punch. He makes a clumsy, ineffectual, and utterly fist-denting attempt against Ramjet's concrete-crushing cranium. While Thrust stands there dazed at his lack of success, Ramjet headbutts him in return, sending him flying across the yard, nearly landing on Dragstrip, who leaps out of the way in the nick of time, only to slip and land on his skidplate at the feet of Shadow Striker, who coos seductively, "Well, hello there, big boy. Come here often?"

Dragstrip scrambles to his feet, yelling "Get away from me!" as if she were made of fire.

He mutters "Slaggin' fembots..." as he stalks away. He's been a little uncomfortable in his own skin since that Crasher woman got the exact same bodyshell as him...it's the Spark that counts, the Spark, he reminds himself...

Nearby, Weirdwolf and Overkill, locked into robot mode, snarl at each other. Overkill wishes he didn't have a faceplate in this blasted bot mode he's trapped in so he could bare his fangs as wide as Weirdwolf's doing.

They come a little too close to the hulking Double Punch, who stands in the corner, exuding an air of toughness and menace, with his crony Slicer hanging out around him. Double Punch tips his visor slightly to look at them, sending them whimpering away.

Amongst all this chaos, anger, and violence, one bot stands, a pillar of angled, polished steel, in the direct center of the yard. Staring, unyieldingly, at the door.

Soundwave.

Ravage leaps about him, keeping the other Cons at a safe distance. The Constructicons, navigating a broad circle around the snarling, snapping Cougaraider, gather round in a corner and mumble to themselves, and amidst all this the traitorous Red-Decepticon, Glitch, hops around alerting the guards to the various fights and attempts on his own life.

"I saw that! Fighting! Fighting! Hey! They're fighting!" he yells, racing around the ankles of the numerous irate Cons who wish to stomp this Autobot sympathizer to dust. "You were fighting!" he yells at Ramjet. "Don't try to deny it, I have it on video. I'm totally blogging this back at my cell! Srsly!"

Glitch runs up to Ravage, "Oh, hi! We're both cats! You saw that, right? They were TOTALLY fighting. He HIT him! NOT cool. ...will you be my friend? I'm trying to make 1000,000 friends here in prison before--"

Ravage bares his fangs at him, and Glitch races off, to hide behind Ramjet's legs. "Friend request denied!"

Ramjet kicks him, sending him flying into Vortex, knocking him forward into Brawl. Brawl lays one on Vortex, sending him careening back into Ramjet, who staggers toward the far corner. Ramjet lands inches from Slicer, who screams, "Get away from here! Zis eez my spot, do you understand? Nobody veel be standing in zis spot but me! For it eez mine!"

"What's th' bosslady thinkin'?" Inferno asks philosophically, popping an Energon snack into his mouth. "Puttin' THIS crew of Cons out here together! I mean, look at it! LOOK at it! All the Seekers but ol' King Starscream hisself are here! And I thought we had the combiners' schedules staggered!"

Big Daddy, without blinking, responds, "Yeah, man, i's like she wuz askin' fer trouble, tryin' t' get 'em all riled up like a one legged bot at a skidplate kickin' contest!"

Cyclonus stands tall with the diminutive Nightstick, his Targetmaster partner, cowering and cringing in his shadow on a ledge above the yard, watching all. The Unicron-born Decepticon observes the conflict with a mixture of scorn and bemusement.

"Once," he growls to Nighstick, "ONCE, my small ally, we rained terror down upon the Autobots like kings of fear. Now, we squabble among ourselves like mere Empties for the few pitiful scraps of Energon they see fit to cast in our direction, and dream of glorious days gone by."

"Hey! You get down from there! Right now!" Inferno yells up at him.

Cyclonus shakes his head and mutters, regarding Inferno with a sidelong scowl, "These flimsy walls only contain me because I permit them to. Do NOT press your tenuous advantage. For I will END you."

"Well, I...I...aw shoot, at least yer not fightin'..." Inferno shakes his head in exasperation as Blast Off and Skullgrin engage in a heated argument over just HOW big the audience was when Skullgrin performed his magnum opus atop the Tower of Pion before a crowd of thousands...no, millions, no--

Blast Off spins in exasperation, the pomposity contest lost, and parades off. As he heads for Thundercracker and Skywarp, who've been leaning against the wall near Cyclonus observing the numerous petty spats with jaded boredom, Skywarp whispers to Thundercracker, "Hey. Watch this." He sticks one foot out and trips the preoccupied Blast Off, causing him to land flat on his face. "Heh. Sucker. ...Just like the old days, eh Thundercracker?"

Meanwhile, Warpath, making his way down the halls, pauses as he approaches the long straight stretch ending at the door to the yard. He looks up and down the corridors, half expecting Magnus to leap from nowhere like people seem to think he does. He's run this track before, nearly every time he's gone to the yard, and this time it'll be no different. Straight shot. Cannonball run. Unlocking the treads on the bottoms of his feet, Warpath rolls his way down the hall at full speed. Right as he is about to hit the door at the end, it snaps open, as if on cue, Skidding in his frantic, arm-waving attempt to stop, sending up a spray of sparks, Warpath careers out into the yard and crashes smack dab into Inferno.

"POW!"

"Aw man, ah dropped mah snacks!" the big red bot grumbles, dusting himself off. Then adds, "Hey, Glitter, Glit, Glitch, whatever yer name is--get back here with those!"

"I can haz Energon goodie?!"

Hound, startled by the sudden events, drops the Con he was attempting to Nonviolently Restrain (as Red would put it) and rushes over to help his fellow Autobots. "Wow! Are you alright?"

"Zowee, I didn' expect there t' be anybot infront of the door like that, sorry, partner!"

"Dangit, Warpath! You gotta watch where you're goin'! I told ya wunce, I told ya..." Inferno pushes Warpath back a little, giving enough space for a random Con to go flying between them and slam into the door, then turns his attention to what is quickly becoming a certifiable riot. "This ain't no time for foolin', boy!" he barks to Warpath, gesturing broadly at the turmoil. "Things are gettin' WELL outta hand! Hey! 'Daddy! Get Dragstrip away from those Seekers! Hound, pry Shadow Striker off of whoever that is! I'll try an' get Thunderwing t' shut up!"

"Yessir!"

"Ugh, it's gunna be a long night."

Big Daddy murmurs something incoherent in reply.

......

In the Space Bridge chamber, an alert sounds and the Bridge charges up. Hardhead, following orders, radios Roulette: "Sir-Ma'am-Sir? The Bridge just activated! Again."

"Alright, I'm on my way. Wonder what it is THIS time..."

Hardhead activates his arm cannon, anticipating the worst, exactly as Red Alert ordered. Nearly the exact same moment as the vortex bursts to life, a tiny orange jet screams through the room, making a bee-line straight through the Space Bridge. Hardhead has only a second for his processors to sort out the information he's just witnessed when Scorch and Nightbeat skid into the room, tires squealing, and charge through the bridge themselves. Scorch, in the lead, collides headlong with Tracks, who's emerging from the bridge at that inopportune moment, and, of course, Nightbeat makes it yet ANOTHER three-car pile-up. "Get OFF me! I just WAXED that!" yells Tracks.

At about that time Roulette drives in and transforms, skidding to a stop.

She assesses the scene, bots sheepishly disentangling themselves from one another. "Really, boys--again?!"

Then, she adds, the bridge of her metal nose wrinkled, "What's going on, anyway? Is the Prime here yet?"

"No, Ma'am, but he just got out again."

"Who....? Oh.Slag." She grimaces and shakes her head.

"Somebody needs to housebreak that Con," a scowling Hardhead adds. "Or just BREAK him." He pounds fist into metal palm.

Roulette turns, a reprimand on the tip of her tongue when, just then, the wiry figure of Kup jumps out of the green vortex, screaming incoherently, rolls onto one knee and sweeps his musket around the room, stopping briefly on Hardhead and Roulette.

"Area Secured!" Kup shouts back into the Space Bridge.

Rodimus Prime strides through, as Tracks, his secretary, or as he insists on his business card, "Executive Assistant to the Matrixed," extricates himself from the bedraggled detectives, who pass through to the other side, grumbling about how they're not paid enough for this slag. Rodimus has a bemused half-smile on his face. "They say the prison system is a revolving door," he jokes, glancing over his shoulder, "but this is ridiculous!"

Tracks leans in to the Prime and whispers, "Sir, I thought I told you not to joke around."

"Easy, Tracks. It's called humor. One of these days I'll teach it to you, and then you can teach Magnus--Hey, Blaster, my main man!" Rodimus Prime calls out as Blaster and Red Alert enter the room.

"Yo, Rodster, wht's th' rap?"

"Oh, y'know, ruling the free world, bein' all wise and Prime-y." Rodimus and Blaster execute a perfect Cool-guy hand shake/fist bump maneuver.

Blaster gives Tracks a perfunctory nod.

Red clears his throat loudly, then announces, "Hot R--Rodimus."

"Prime," adds the Prime helpfully.

"Er, yes, Rodimus PRIME, may I be the FIRST to say just what a HIGH honor it is to have you here! Welcome to Garrus-9 Maximum Security Rehabilitation Facility, just ONE part of the Berthov Science City!" Red Alert ladles the usual steaming plateful of psuedo-political tripe with a none-too-convincing smile.

"Too slow." Rodimus smirks.

"Eh?!" Red looks puzzled.

Rodimus sighs deeply. "...'May I be the first?' Blaster greeted me first. Better luck next time."

Red Alert looks confused. Very. "Sir, I still don't..."

Rodimus shrugs philosophically and says to nobody in particular, "Some hit, some miss. You take the shot anyway. But enough about the Zeta Prime assassination!" He pats Red Alert on the shoulder and says the four worst words you can say to him: "Don't worry about it."

"ANYwho..."

Rodimus looks around.

"...so THIS is where you send our dollars to die. Maximum security, maximum investment, huh? I mean, look around you..."

Rodimus peers up at the high ceilings, grins at his reflection in the perfectly polished chrome steel walls, winks at himself in the spotless floors. The very air REEKS of high technology. He directs his gaze at Roulette with a "How YOU doin'" kind of look.

"...these ARE pretty posh digs for a death camp, am I right?"

An awkward silence drops like a blanket over the room. Somewhere in the distance, a generator hums, hiccups, hums. Red Alert makes a mental note to check it out. The silence marches onward. Relentlessly.

"And...and we simply can't WAIT to show them to you, sir! All of us." Red Alert stammers, jabbing Roulette, who's thinking to herself, "So, this is the head pig? I thought he'd be taller." She'd expected more when she came here to the bright lights of Cybertron, all the way from the rough and tumble of home. But ever since she got here, it's been nothing but one fiasco after another. Just one long disappointment. But the PRIME, she had thought, at least HE must live up to the legends whispered about him. This is the one who handed Galvatron his skidplate and then singlehandedly killed Unicron, right? Now, looking at this flame-covered fop, and the even more foppish but slightly less flamey guy who passes for his secretary, sorry, 'Executive Assistant,' she wonders what the big deal was. Maybe she's got the wrong guy. Wasn't there someone called Optimus Prime who was supposed to be the best thing since Stackable Energon? Who was this guy again? Rodimus? What a poser, she decides.

"Oh yeah?" Rodimus rejoins to Red Alert, snapping her out of her bitter reverie. "You won't be so eager when you find out why I'm REALLY here," he continues as he steps forward, his bemused smile spreading.

"S...sir...?" Red sounds like he's on the verge of a conniption. A SERIOUS one this time, not the constant low-level conniption he's usually in.

"Yeahhhhh, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, EVERYONE, but the REAL reason I was sent down here is..."

"...SIR! I must protes--"

"...we're shutting this place down."

"...huh?"

"Yep. Lettin' EVERYONE go. And I mean EVERYONE. I want your desks cleaned out by noon and all these bad boys back on the streets by lunchtime."

Red moans, "...I feel faint."

Tracks once again leans in to Rodimus. "Sir, I told you not to make jokes like that. Remember the Gobotron incident?"

"That wasn't my fault! How was I to know the planet was gonna blow up 2 hours later?"

Blaster whispers to Red Alert, his face going from shock to confusion, to the most awkward smile since he entered the room. "O...OH! Haha. Joke...it was all a joke..."

Rodimus says loudly, clapping Red a little too hard on the back, "''Course it was! I think all this maximum securitying's done a number on you, pal. But don't worry. I've got just the thing to ease your tension."

He throws an arm around Red's shoulder and leans in, conspiratorially. "Now here's the lowdown...the, uh...the"

"The straight dope?"

"Thanks, Blaster. Now what we're REALLY gonna do..."

"...is line 'em all up and shoot 'em."

They all look at Kup. And this time, EVERYONE shares the uncomfortable silence. Including Rodimus.

Kup barks, impatient, "Well, c'mon, get everyone in here! We haven't got all d--"

"He-hem, Sir," Red Alert interrupts, "I think we've lingered here too long. Pressing matters await. VERY pressing. May I offer you the tour? Or shall we retire directly to my office for a private debriefing?"

Rodimus takes a step or two back. "Hey, hey, whoa, whoa, guy, at least buy me a drink, first!"

"Er...what I mean to say is, there ARE a few matters of complete unimportance to discuss in my office, first. Privately. VERY privately. TOTALLY unclassified! Not suspicious in the least!"

"Yep, business as usual, slick," Rodimus mutters under his breath. Then, louder, "Eh, walking and talking isn't really my scene. Hey, take Tracks here on the tour. Bot practically LIVES behind a reception desk. He could get a few miles on his engine. He'll write me up a full report later. Which I will then conveniently never get around to reading. Chiao!" Rodimus waves the two bots off and turns his attention to catching up with his old buddy, Blaster.

Tracks and Red Alert watch with disappointment as Rodimus walks off, laughing, with Blaster. Rodimus, "Say, Blaster, you seen Countdown lately? I heard he was stationed here...been meaning to pick his brain module about something." Before they can enter the next room, Kup leaps through the door, then his voice shouts "CLEAR!" from the next room.

......

Out in the yard things are turning for the worse(er). The Decepticons are having a full-out free for all! Inferno transforms into fire truck mode, and blasts into the crowd with his water cannons in a vain attempt to cool their tempers.

Skullgrin, dripping wet, lunges at Skywarp and Thundercracker, screaming "Let the curtain fall!" only to be punched by both at once with a resounding "SHUT UP!" He crashes into the wall, and his head pops off. "Now THAT's what I'm talkin' about!" Skywarp exclaims.

As Skullgrin's headless body slumps into the wall next to Crankcase, twitching as the former Pretender's head module attempts to regain control of its body, the little blue Triggercon runs sniveling to Thunderwing. "Ya gotta protect me, Mr. T! Things are goin' nuts here! Guys flyin' through the air, heads poppin' off all over the place, it's, it's--" It's worse than that time OPTIMUS PRIME himself crushed his head and he had to run away with all of the Autobots laughing at him!

Thunderwing, who continues to glory in it all, as if he caused it, spits, "Silence, welp! Glory in the dawning of a new age of conquest! Let battle be joined!"

"Geddown man, back mule, c'mon!" Big Daddy yells, trying his hardest to subdue Weirdwolf, who's slipped into an animalistic rage, characteristic of the Primitives.

Snarling at Big Daddy, Weirdwolf suddenly converts into wolf mode and lunges at the unsuspecting Autobot. Tearing the weapons out of Big Daddy's hands with his bare Durabilium fangs, Weirdwolf bites and claws the Autobot to the ground, then, converting into bot mode, stands atop his conquered foe and throws his head back, letting loose a long, baritone, howl of victory. Both Bots and Cons turn in horror and wonderment.

The Constructicons, caught up in their inner world of structural dynamics, slowly rotate to see what everyone else is looking at. They turn back to their group and argue amongst themselves--then, Scrapper declares, thrusting a fist defiantly into the tension-ridden air, declares, "It is decided! The time has come! Constructicons, unite!"

To the Constructicons' surprise, they begin to transform and combine! Scrapper yells, "Wait, it's really happening?"

Skywarp, as he shoves Swindle's face into the ground, remarks, "Aw yeah. This is gettin' good!"

Mindset spins from dealing with yet another 'frozen-faced freak' to behold the formation of Devastator.

"This is absolutely intolerable!" he barks. "COMBATICONS! COMBINE!" The Combaticons, seemingly unwillingly, yet unable to resist their leader's menacing tone, transform and attach into the ferocious Bruticus.

As the twin towers of terror merge into being, brands of fire-hued energy swirl about their arms and legs, crystalizing into razor-sharp fingers and toes!

Inferno roars back to the door, veering to avoid a frantic Glitch. Stumbling back into robot mode, he joins his fellow guards, backs to the door as ominous twin shadows spread across the yard. "Slag! How'd they do that!?" He spins to bark at his men, "The Transfixatron field musta gone down! Hound, get on the horn an' call for reinforcements! Hound? Where'd you go?"

But Hound has since rushed off in a futile attempt to stop the Combiners. Holo-generator humming, he hurls a giant image of Optimus Prime at them, hoping to distract them long enough to gain the upper hand. Devastator, not amused, belches out a roar, and shuts his battle mask, then slams a foot straight through the illusion, down directly onto Hound, who doesn't even have time to utter "Oh no." As Devastator rises to his full height, Bruticus takes full advantage of the distraction Hound presented and thrusts out an arm, from which surge twin energon-missile-fingers, hitting Devastator square in the chest. The two titans clash, sending the Decepticons at their feet running in all directions--all except for Soundwave, who remains stock still in the center of the yard.

Inferno grunts, " Ahh, leakin' lubricants! Warpath! Blast a message out to the chief, PRONTO! Tell him things just got bad in a BIG way!"

"FAZZAP! I'm tryin' but I'm hitting solid static!" Warpath yells back.

"Comms are down? Well ain't that just the kicker."

"Zam! Whatta we do?" Warpath yells, trying to be heard over the sounds of the Combiners clashing, Skywarp cheering, and Thunderwing cackling like the madman he is.

"Well tarnation, Warpath, whadda you think? Get your treads in gear and tell Big Red things are boilin' over down here! This's gone from tussle to riot to--to now we got us a full-blown war on our hands! GUN it, boy!"

"Blang! On it!" Warpath races for the door, beaming his infrared signal ahead of him. To his surprise, before he knows it, he's picking himself up from the dirt, wondering how he managed to bounce so far. Grunting in frustration, he roars up to the door, raising a cloud of bust behind him. Jerking open the emergency control panel, he punches his code in the manual override keypad. "Pow! No good boss! The door's blangin' locked!"

"WHAT?!? What in the sweet name of Aunt Elita is goin' on around here?"

Soundwave's visor squints a fraction of a millimeter.

......

Back in Red Alert's empty office, the communication hologram of Ultra Magnus blinks on.

"Red Alert, what's going on? Is the Prime there yet? Hello? I'm being told there's some kind of disturbance down there? Big Bang, is this thing on? Alright- Hello? Red Alert?"

Hooligan pops up from behind the desk. He folds his hands and tilts his head to the side. "Yes, can I help you?"

"... Uhh..." Magnus stares at Hooligan, who continues to "smile" pleasantly behind the desk. "What's going on here?"

Hooligan casually reaches over and cuts the channel.

......

"Trouble?" Hot Spot asks, standing just outside Magnus's projection field. His glaring red eyes narrow.

Magnus stands up with a heavy sigh and straightens some datapads.

"Could be nothing. Could be everything. I want to see for myself. Get the team together."

Hot Spot snaps a salute and follows Magnus out the door, Magnus pausing on his way out to remove The Gavel from its wall-mounted rack.

......

"BAM! BAM! BAM!" Warpath yells, as he desperately pounds on the heavy door. Inferno is about to apply his considerable might, when...

"YOU THERE! The large, bricklike one! Face me!" Thunderwing yells across the yard and above the din.

"You talkin' to me, son?" Inferno demands, turning, only to be sucker-punched in the jaw. All he can manage to think is "How'd he MOVE so dang--" before another fist drives hard into his grill, almost cracking him in twain.

"I say, FACE me!"

"That tears it!" Inferno yells, transforming into truck mode and, tires squealing, ramming Thunderwing hard into a wall.

"Interesting," rejoins Thunderwing, massaging his jaw. "I almost felt that." With that, he delivers a punch so powerful that it sends Inferno, in truck mode, hurtling through the air, smashing nearly through the door, flattening Warpath, still attempting to break through, against its unforgiving steel surface.

"The power...THE POWERRRRR!" screams Thunderwing, his eyes slowly lighting up.

......

"...and over here we have Sector 7-A-33," drones Red Alert, delivering the most boring tour in the history of tours. He and Tracks are just then standing in a darkened control room (Video Room 3), cycling through feeds of security footage.

"...absolutely.........fascinating," Tracks responds, stifling a yawn. Such a vulgar habit, he thinks--picked up on Earth, no doubt. "You really DO run a tight ship here," he mumbles, "or base, or whatever this is," as screens blink from non-event to non-event.

Red replies, "You'd think so, wouldn't you." Without warning, he grabs Tracks by the shoulders and peers at him searchingly, the shadows casting eerie patterns across his face.

"...Uh...b...b...but...?" Tracks stutters.

Red Alert yells, spinning around, his arms wide, "...But you'd be WRONG!"

Tracks produces a shammy from his belt compartment and proceeds to remove Red's fingerprints from his recently polished chassis. "You could have fooled me. Things seem pretty quiet to me. Almost..."

"TOO QUIET?!"

"Uh...yes. Downright boring, really. Doesn't anything exciting ever happen around here? Can't you pull some footage of, oh, I don't know, a riot or something? Maybe someone was knifed in the basement!" Tracks secretly enjoys watching shows about famous prison breaks on the Mainframe.

"Of course not! THIS IS A PRISON! They're SUPPOSED to be quiet! Who ever heard of someone almost shooting a prisoner in the head in the basement!? Preposterous!"

"I said knifed, not shot. ...wow, that was an awfully specific example, wasn't it? I don't suppose you're trying to tell me that--"

" NO! That never happened! I mean, uh...uh, nothing like THAT...that purely hypothetical example, ever happens here. And if it did, nobody...would...ever...see....it..."

At that moment, the gears that have been ticking away in Red Alert's head all day finally click, dreadfully, into place.

"...oh no."

Red Alert races from the room into the hall and slips, transforming into a car before hitting the floor. His tires scream as he charges off.

Tracks pokes head out the door. "Excuse me...?"

......

"...the heck did Blaster get to? I think we lost him at that juncture back there. One of them. One of the many, many, MANY junctions. Say...you sure Countdown's lab is really down here? I think maybe someone was pulling my piston."

It seems like forever now that Kup and Rodimus have been wandering through increasingly dark, winding mazes of corridors.

Kup, talking to nobody in particular, says "And one by one, they disappeared. Until there were none. None but me...me and my trusty gun...."

"Uh, yeah, greeeeeat story, Kup. Real sparkwarmer. But don't you think we oughtta dial it back to the present for a sec and, oh, I dunno, turn ourselves around here before we REALLY get lost? This place is like a labyrinth...heck, I keep expecting to turn the corner and run into a Minotron--WHOAH!"

Rodimus stumbles back, as the form of Scorponok looms over them, heights lost in the shadows! It takes him a moment (and their not being crushed) to realize that it's just a dusty, headless body.

Kup growls "Don't look like much, do he? Well don't laugh. I fought this guy once. Funghurus 6. Tore my unit to shreds with his bare claws for a warmup act. And that was before he brought out the stinger. I was the only one left standing when he zeroed in on me....but he didn't have the sweet mercy to just off me, did he? Had to run his mouth some first. ...never did understand that thing he used to say, 'This story has a sting in the tail' ...tale? Tail? Was that supposed to be a pun? Who was supposed to be around to appreciate it? We were all dead."

Rodimus replies, indignant, "Hey, I was there too! And I pulled your irons out of the fire that time, as I recall."

"Heh...think I do remember you bein' there after all. Pullin' some fool-brained stunt, no doubt."

"...heh. No doubt. Ahhhh, those were the days..."

They walk around the silent frame of Scorponok and continue down the hall for a bit longer, neither saying anything. Rodimus finally breaks the silence, chuckling nervously, "...heh...you know, to think me and Grimlock used to chase that little brat Daniel into places like this all the time back in the day...?"

There's a longer, more awkward silence, as they continue to walk...but not talk.

Finally, Rodimus asks, "Whatever happened to Daniel, anyway...?"

Kup whispers, "Yep...me and my trusty gun..."

......

"Red Alert? Oh warden? Hello? Where are you?" Tracks asks turning yet another corner in the long metallic hall of the Burthov facility. "Where did you run off to? Hello? Is the refresher this way?" He looks down one hall then another with no sign of Red Alert anywhere. "I'm getting real nervous carrying this thing around all by myself... hello!?"

......

"Rodimus is here!" Thunderwing decks the con he was fighting with and slams his palms against the wall. "He's herrrrre!" he growls from the base of his vocal processor, his sharpened fingertips digging trails into the solid metal.

"H-how do you- YAH! -know that, Mistah T?" Crankcase asks.

"The Matrix!, fool! I can feel its presence! It's here! Once united in beautiful, unholy matrimony, we can NEVER be rent asunder! We are ONE!"

"I. TELL. YOU!"

Across the yard Soundwave turns his head to look at Thunderwing.

"IT! IS! HEEEERRREEEE!"

......

"Uhh, Hello?" Tracks turns down another corridor. "Did someone say something?"

......

"GRRRROOOOOOHHHHRRROOOAAAARRR!!!" Devastator grabs Bruticus's chest armor and slams the gestalt into the wall, face first. Then he rips Vortex off Bruticus and tosses him aside like so much scrap metal.

Bruticus lunges toward Devastator, seizing him by the arm. With all the force of a Car Crusher, he tears Devastator's arm off in a cascade of blue electricity, only to receive a resounding kick in the chest. Bruticus, momentarily stunned, falls backwards.

Skywarp, who up to this point has mostly been chuckling at the sheer, glorious, violence of it all, suddenly finds himself in the middle of a large, long dark shadow. "Huh?" He looks up, dropping his bag of Energon snacks; the gargantuan form of Bruticus is descending upon him! "GAHH!" Skywarp, realizing he hasn't been crushed to pieces, opens his eyes and looks around. He's in a long dark hallway, with smooth metallic walls, and staring him right in the face, back against a dead end, is the Autobot known as Tracks. Things just got interesting.

"Well, hello there, Autobot."

Outside, Bruticus crashes to the ground, his limbs splitting off into their component robots. Devastator lumbers off to one side, his arm socket sparking and leaking. He needs something to fill the gap so his internals will have a chance to effect repairs. Looking around he spots Vortex clawing on the ground, disorientated. Devastator lowers a massive claw, clamps onto his fellow Decepticon and lifts him into place. Being confronted with a Scramble-plug, Vortex, screaming "NO! NOOOO! NOOOOOOO!!!!" is forced to convert to limb mode and attach to the combiner before him. He has a second to wonder if this is how his victims feel before a cacophony of strange voices drown out all reason, all comprehension. Devastator tests out his new arm by flexing it and then turning and blasting the grounded Bruticus.

The eruption sends rubble (and Cons) flying in all directions. One tiny piece of debris happens to strike Double Punch in the visor.

The hulking Con finally lifts his ice-blue shades, staring balefully at Devastator, who has not as of yet noticed him.

With a hum of energy, Double Punch's weapon systems activate, his fearsome stinger and massive claws deploy. He utters a single word, dripping with menace: "OI."

Devastator hurls himself bodily in the direction of the irritating sound, but cannot protect himself in time, as the Action Master Elite, with a speed belying his bulk, lays a single mighty blow dead-center in Devastator's chest, coupled with dual missiles strikes and a tail attack, cumulatively so powerful as to shatter the first and supposedly best Combiner, instantly, into his component Constructicons!

Bruticus, realizing his one gun hand is not going to suffice against the scorpion, instantly takes advantage of the reversal in fortunes and seizes Long Haul, still writhing in limb mode, and fuses him to his body! He then spins to give his new opponent a face full of crane.

......

Red Alert bursts into his office, vaults over the desk, and begins skimming through holoscreens rapid-fire. "Come on, COME ON...please, Primus, let me be wrong...just this once!"

"Computer! Fast forward to the footage from the isolation ward this morning! Lugnut's cell! Uh...feed 654-LG-7! Pronto!"

The images blink onto the screen, and Red Alert's jaw drops: the corridor is deserted, the cell is empty!

"Whu...wha...computer, this is obviously the wrong foot--"

Just then, the footage shows Lugnut bursting into the corridor, a hallway that can barely hold his gargantuan form. Sparks fly as he scrapes the walls and struggles against a multitude of guards who are barely able to hold him down. Wrestling him into his cell, they clamp the binders mounted on the wall around his arms and legs, while he screams and curses all the while. Footage, Red alert takes a moment to realize, from weeks ago!

Red Alert can only utter a single phrase: "Oh no."

Just then, as if on cue, the prison walls rock with the sound of the colossal clash. Distant explosions can be heard as the gestalts' firepower thunders in the yard.

"OH NO!"

Grabbing the massive gun he'd so carefully secreted for such a day as this from under his desk, Red Alert races out the door. As he dashes down the corridor, he mutters to himself "...I hate being right." At the same time, he can't help but feel a little thrill. He knew it! He was RIGHT! They WERE out to get him all along!

......

Double Punch stands unflappable, his back against the wall but his lip curled in a sneer as Bruticus, chuckling menacingly, lumbers toward him, hefting his newly acquired crane arm.

Suddenly, the sound of grinding treads can be heard as Scavenger, in vehicle mode, rushes up on him from behind, Scrapper, wielding one of Devastator's Energon claws, now reshaped into a club, riding atop his comrade. With a single swipe, Scrapper severs Bruticus' arm at the shoulder. Long Haul hits the ground, transforms instantly, and scrambles away, grumbling all the while, as Bruticus swings and unleashes an energon blast from his remaining arm that sends the Constructicons reeling.

However, that momentary distraction is just the opening Double Punch needs. Lashing out a claw, he grabs Bruticus by the Swindle arm and spins him around, slamming HIM against the wall in a single deft motion.

"You're fightin' ME!" he rumbles, then drives his other fist, wicked knuckle-claw first, into Bruticus's rib cage, with enough upward force to pin the super warrior to the wall. Then, Double Punch's stinger comes into play, unleashing a storm of firepower that takes Bruticus's head clean off.

As Bruticus's decapitated form slides slowly to the ground, orange flames belching from his neck hole, Double Punch adds, "At least you was."

His eye then flicks to Thunderwing, who's busy playing with the big red Autobot. Well, Double Punch thinks, moving slowly and deliberately in his direction, playtime's over.

Across the room, Inferno's teeth rattle in his skull as he's slammed against the door again and again, a steely, vice-like fist clutching his collar. Inches off the ground, he finds himself unable to fight back. His assailant spits out a series of hate-filled words. "WHERE! IS! RODIMUS?!?!" Thunderwing hammers the Bot twice his size against the door once again, then pummels him rapid-fire, spreading a crazy web of cracks across his windscreen, as Warpath and Big Daddy fire upon him ineffectually again and again, the bolts of Energon bouncing off Thunderwing's almost...aura...like marshmallows.

"Pitiful insects!" Thunderwing scoffs, grabbing Inferno's arm, raising him above his head effortlessly, and powering him down on top of Warpath like a cudgel, ripping Inferno's arm from his body in the process in a mess of wires and gears. Big Daddy unleashes his twin shoulder missiles at Thunderwing, who bats one orange projectile away as if swatting a fly, and then seizes the other in his fist, before hurling it BACK at Big Daddy, hitting him dead center in the grill, taking him out of commission.

Thunderwing spins, suddenly, and gazes at the door, as if hearing some unheard sound. "RODIMUS! HE'S HE--" Suddenly, a single word cuts him off: "OI!"

Just outside, Tracks finds he has no room left to run, his body nearly pressed to the door as Skywarp takes his sweet time approaching the terrified Autobot.

"S-stay back! I-I'm armed!" Tracks pulls out his handgun.

"Heh. Heh. HEH."

Tracks squeezes off a few frantic shots, but they fly wide of the mark.

In the yard, Thunderwing finds himself staring down a very large, very much "woke up on the wrong side of the recharge slab" Double Punch. Cons scatter in all directions, as Thunderwing barks, "YOU! I DEMAND OBEISANCE! SERVE ME OR DIE!"

"Fat chance."

Back in the hall, with no resort left, Tracks panics and triggers his shoulder missiles, but Skywarp phases out for a moment and they pass through him harmlessly, wreathing the Seeker's silhouette in flame as they slam into the wall at the far end of the hall, where the corridor takes a turn. Skywarp manages to wrap his fingers around the car roof on Tracks' chest and pushes the cornered Autobot firmly against the closed door. Tracks claws and grasps desperately at Skywarp, trying to shake him off, but his efforts are in vain. Just then, skidding to a halt at the head of the corridor, slightly on fire from the impact of Tracks' missiles but wielding his huge cannon, Red Alert yells "HIT THE DECK!" Skywarp turns around just as Red Alert fires a single shot. At the sight of the oncoming shockblast, Skywarp's eyes turn to saucers, and in the nick of time, Skywarp and Tracks both vanish into thin air.

Just as Thunderwing yells at Double Punch, "I PITY the fool who defies--" the massive blast explodes through the heavy door and slams right into Thunderwing, launching him across the courtyard and through the opposite wall and through several more walls. Finally skidding to a stop in a sparsely decorated lobby, the former Decepticon leader, lying on his back, coughs throatily.

"Slag."

From far away, he hears Crankcase whine, "Mistah TEE!"

As the smoke clears, the Decepticons out in the courtyard dust themselves off. Double Punch looms forward to investigate what caused the explosion. Tail scratching the ceiling, bringing down a shower of sparks, the big bruiser makes his way through the ruins of the door and into the corridor--which suddenly seems awfully small now he's in it, and now is occupied only by a now VERY tiny-looking Red Alert. He growls over his shoulder "OI! Follow me!" and scrapes his way, fully, into the hall. Warpath, speeding around fleeing Cons and fallen wreckage in the yard, slips through the doorway, nimbly swerves past Double Punch's legs, converts to vehicle mode in mid-motion, and halts suddenly before Red Alert, whipping his turret around and firing off a single shell. WHUMPH! Double Punch blocks the blast effortlessly with one of his gargantuan claws.

"Nothin's gonna stand in my way," he growls. "Not tonight."

With a groan of heavy machinery, he converts into his Mechanical Scorpion mode and charges full speed at the pair of Autobots, crushing Warpath under his treads and knocking Red Alert to the ground. Slicer, after a moment's apparent concern for the Autobots, quickly follows in his friend's tracks.

Weirdwolf, snarling and drooling, stalks up to the fallen Bots. Red Alert reaches frantically for his dropped gun, but finds the power meter is depleted. Warpath moans, "Pow...you did bring backup, right?" Click click. His shells are gone. Red Alert responds, "...should have sounded the alarm...didn't."

"Zam."

Just as Weirdwolf's almost upon them, a big red foot flattens the Con, with a yelp, to the ground, as Inferno, bleeding profusely from the stump of his missing arm, fuel-spurting cords and tubes dangling from the injury, emerges from the smoke.

Weirdwolf reacts with a gutteral snarl, tearing Inferno's other arm off and making off with it, as the bot winces in pain. Inferno scowls through his pain, muttering "Cavalry's...ugh!...here."

......

As the Constructicons gather their green and purple brood and race out the door, and the Combaticons come to attention, Drag Strip shakes his head derisively at the scene.

"Man, whatta buncha STOOGES! Lookit 'em go. Like they just can't WAIT to get outta here."

Overkill remarks, "Well...we ARE in prison."

Dragstrip ignores this. Turning to Overkill and Octane, as well as Dirge and Thrust. (Ramjet is still lying, gooed to the floor where Inferno left him), he calls,
"Hey boys! What say you and you and me and me and you, we take us a little side trip to the armory, grab some guns and blow this frackin' joint...straight down Unicron's gullet!"

Across the room, Swindle's audio sensors perk up at the word "armory."

"Are you malfunctioning?!" Thrust yells, waving a hand frantically towards the Stunticon, "We gotta get our thrusters back to Polyhex pronto! If that old JUNKHEAP gets wind of where we've been, it's head first into the smelting poo--(Catches himself, assumes a more confident tone)--that is to say, into the smelting poor for the REST of you. I among us will be spared, for I am the most lethal warrior in all the realm. We must race, I say, RACE to our master's side. After all, the Lord High must miss us terribly, I'm sure. Especially yours truly. FOLLOW ME!"

"But alas," Dirge responds, "the goddess of mercy has turned a blind eye upon us, and the god of vengeance shall have his cruel way. We shall remain entombed here forever, friends, buried eternally miles beneath the surface. ...To die."

Thrust responds, "Are you kidding?! Open your optics, man, the door's right in front of us, so stop yakking and get---"

KRACKOOM!!!

"Who needs dooorrrrrrrrs!?!" Ramjet's voice filters down from far above, far through the jet-enabled hole he just blasted in the ceiling.

"...cracking..." Thrust finishes. He glances at Dirge, then as one, the two cone-head brothers shrug and follow Ramjet's lead, adding the din of their engines to the rumble of falling rubble.

Dragstrip, being plinked with pebbles, yells frantically, "GO AHEAD! RUN AWAY! LIKE THE YELLOW-BELLIED COWARDS YOU ARE!" Turning to Thundercracker, Octane, and Overkill, he says, "Me, I got PAYBACK on my mind." Jerking a thumb at himself, he adds, "...WHO'S WITH ME?!"

Thundercracker, still looking at the hole in the ceiling, sneers and says "Feh. I'm gonna go find me some Skywarp. Then we'll have us a REAL party." He turns and joins the other Decepticons pouring out the door.

Octane, steepling his fingers, stammers, "Uh.....to be honest, I'm tempted to stay right where I am. After all, I'm in HERE...Galvatron's (he gestures toward the door) out there....right?"

Dragstrip chuckles derisively. "Galvatron? Ha! Galvatron's dead! Just like these Autobots are gonna be! Or was that Megatron? Eh, same difference!" Throwing an arm around Overkill's shoulder, he says loudly, "YOU! You're with me?! RIGHT???"
Overkill grumbles, "I'm with you, I'm with you..." if only to get Dragstrip to shut up.

Octane, not wanting to be left alone when those Autobots get back on their feet, scurries along behind, taking a moment to hose up some spilt fuel from the brawl.

"Hmmm," Mindset says to his troops, coldly watching the trio flee, "loathe as I am to admit it, the garish loudmouth has a point... these Autobot dogs have comported themselves as if they were our masters, and I demand instant satisfaction for this grievous insult. You ARE with us, aren't you, Cyclonus?"

"What a preposterous assumption." Cyclonus responds. "I have far grander affairs to which I must attend than the petty destruction of an insignificant dust mote such as this. Spill the blood of these pathetic fools to your Spark's content...the cosmos beckons, and I serve a greater master..." And with that he transforms and silently slips out of the ceiling.

"Pity. Expected better of you. Of most of you, given what I'd heard of your--"

Mindset sweeps his rapier-like glance across his troops and does a double take. "...where's Swindle?" The Combaticons look around for their missing brother in arms. Not again, they think...

"Well, I do have a reasonably good idea where to find him," Mindset admits. "And it intersects with our own designs. Let's just get over there before we have to BUY our weapons back from him." With that, they depart.

Only when most of his fellow Decepticons have made their exit, and duly cleared the hall of guards, does Soundwave march out of the courtyard, Ravage on his heels.

......
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Transypoo » Sun Oct 16, 2011 11:58 pm

The armory. The room is dominated by a desk behind which sits a burly tan and brown Autobot poring over paperwork. A small insignia in the shape of a cube is emblazoned on his left breast, under it the words "S7." A taller, but equally burly green bot with rusty shovels hanging from his wrists stocks shelves lined with various types of ordnance. A few crates are scattered around the room, some of the larger, heavier-duty ones stenciled with Decepticon symbols.

Grindcore mutters to himself while arranging ammo on the shelves. Meanwhile the smaller, stocky Crosshairs simply stares past his stacks of invoices and requisition forms at a spot on the far wall. It's been a very long day and he's STILL convinced that someone "requisitioned" an Energon Shock Rifle without filing the proper paperwork. An exhaustive search has yielded no results thus far but he has a few dozen crates to go and about twenty binders. Shaking his head in not-at-all suppressed fury, he returns his attention to the SP-1999s spread out before him, fantasizing about USING the rifle to bludgeon whoever made off with it. If he can only find it first.

"Look," Grindcore starts, turning around "...about what I said earlier. About yer head bein' permanently lodged up yer tailpi--" A knock comes on the door. A second later, another, heavier knock resounds.

When Crosshairs fails to look up from his paperwork, Grindcore barks, "Ach, clean that slag outta yer ears, ye malfunction, and get the bloody door!"

"Oy, git it ye-self, yah bludger!" yells Crosshairs, gesticulating furiously, sending TFW-2005's sailing through the air.

"Fine, fine!" Grindcore slams the ammo packs he's been handling onto the shelf and stomps to the door. He punches in his code and mutters: "If it's Red Alert again, I'm goin' to deck 'im."

"Fine, but ask him first if he made off with my shock rif--"

The door slides open to reveal a group of Decepticons led by Mindset. Mindset says "Good Day" then smashes the Autobot in the face with his mammoth foot, sending him flying across the room and through a couple crates. Crosshairs ducks behind his desk, hastily shoving his paperwork into a locked drawer.

Grindcore, springing to his feet, quickly converts his fists to shovels and meets Mindset's next volley of savage kicks, sending sparks flying around the room and reverberations straight up Grindcore's arms to his shoulder joints. However, though he's parrying effectively enough, he isn't seizing the initiative, the Con's unrelenting efforts having Grindcore on the defensive from the start!

Dragstrip, meanwhile, races toward the central crate where the Cons' weapons are locked up. "IF you don't mind...!"

Suddenly, Crosshairs leaps out from behind the desk, generating an Energon ax and cleaving Dragstrip clean in half at the waist. The Con shrieks in surprise and pain.

At the same time, Grindcore takes a mighty swing at Mindset's face, only for the Con to suddenly drop onto his back, bringing a mighty foot straight up into Grindcore's gullet with sufficient force to pound the Autobot against the ceiling. Grindcore adds emphasis to his kick with a few bursts from his foot-missiles, fracturing Grindcore's armor in midair. As his enemy's limp, smoking form drops to the floor, Mindset spins and with ruthless efficiency, seizes Crosshairs' wrist (and most of his arm), stopping him from swinging the ax at him. The Con notices the smokey-gray star on the Bot's chest.

"Give me that."

His smoothly polished actions mirroring those of Bruticus in the earlier battle, he rips the star off Crosshairs' chest and dashes him to the floor, then attaches the star to the port on his back. He activates the ax and waves it around. Suddenly, as if tiring of that exercise, he converts the ax into a gun and blasts Crosshairs at point-blank range, frying his circuits. The tan and brown robot writhes and twitches on the floor, blue lightning racing over his form in sympatico with Mindset's laughter. Mindset, calming down, says, mostly to himself, "Interesting. Never handled one of these before. Surprisingly lightweight. Impressive HEFT."

Just then, Swindle steps out from behind the central crate where in the Cons' weapons are housed and whines, "So what took you guys so long?"

Mindset, eying the fallen bots, mutters, "Oh...nothing really..." Just as easily converting the gun back to an ax, Mindset drives the blade down into the crate, which dominates the back wall of the room--the impact splitting it wide-open. Out pour the guns. Mindset stows the ax as a pattern of energy, then grabs his huge double blaster, the Dolrailer, as well as his anti-tank rifle. The other Combaticons also arm up with various blasters, pleased to find that they'll be reliant on the crude yet effective Energon weapons no more.

Mindset gives a whistle and his mobile missile units roll obediently out as well.

By now Dragstrip and his posse have entered the room, having let the Combaticons run the real risks.

Overkill growls with satisfaction, "MINE!" as he pulls his bladegun and tail whip from the weapon bin, elbowing Octane aside as the other Con seizes his twin blasters and scissors weapon. Converting to beast mode, Overkill half laughs/half growls with satisfaction and stalks out the door. "Oh yes..."

Weirdwolf grabs his tail gun in his beast mode jaws, converts into robot mode, plugs it in, and switches back to beast mode.

"For ME, you must wait!" he calls to Overkill, racing after him. "Caught their SCENT, I have! MINE, the red one is!"

"Red--? Oh, THAT narrows it down a LOT..." mutters Overkill. "Everything's red around here. Or orange..."

Swindle rummages through the crates of arms looking for extra weapons, aka business opportunities. "It's sellback time," he smirks.

Suddenly a small jet-drone pops up out of the box. "What the?" Swindle stares at it, wondering how much it cost and how much he can sell it for. With that, it zips out of the room. He shakes his head, then proceeds to arm up with all the missile launchers he can carry. Vortex does the same. Meanwhile, Brawl and Blast Off stuff the bodies of the fallen Autobots into the crate, which is now quite empty, while Swindle looks around for anything else he can lay hands on.

Mindset taps his foot impatiently in the doorway. "Are you quite through, Swindle?"

"Hey, I'm just takin' inventory!"

"COME. ON."

Mindset motions for the Cons to leave the room; they grudgingly obey. Dragstrip feebly crawls out the doorway, his legs rolling behind him.

Mindset stares at the bots stuffed into the crate. He smirks and says: "Gentlemen..." then squeezes off two high-speed shots from his Dolrailer cannon, sending gouts of flame pouring from the door of the armory.

"... It's been a blast."

......

Blaster, riding a moving sidewalk, transits from an extremely long hallway with security cameras every few feet through a heavily shielded door into a bustling technotropolis. Here everything is soft light, gaudy color and unnecessary ornamentation, a stark contrast to the harsh lighting and austere architecture of the prison sector. All around him, scientists and technicians rush to and fro, on various errands, and intellectuals stand about philosophizing. Spying a familiar face, Blaster calls, "Yo, Graps, what's the haps? You seen Rod-"

Grapple, obviously in far too much of a hurry to deal with Blaster today, rejoins, "Do learn to speak properly, my boy" and disappears through a door.

Blaster says to himself, "What's cranked HIS shaft?" as he hops from the sidewalk and strolls into a brightly-lit, painstakingly neat and serialized room, the walls of which are covered in computer consoles. In the center of the room is a metal slab upon which lies a strangely familiar form; leaning over it, he finds Perceptor, who works on the form with surgeon's hands.

"Yo, Percy, what's shakin', bacon?"

"Oh, hello, Blaster, good of you to join us."

Blaster replies, "Actually, I was hopin' you tell me where to find Rod--YO! What's that?" Blaster jumps back upon seeing the form on the slab.

"Ah, well, it's actually a favor I need to ask of you. You see, given your data storage and collation capabilities, your ability to dominate and cogitate multiple linked consciences at one time as well as you already being habilitated to the advanced processors in your current form. In short I must solicit you to bear this casing"

"...the slag you talkin' 'bout, Scope Dawg?"

"He wants you to test the body for him!" Crasher snarls from her stool in the corner of the room.

"YOW!" Blaster jumps yet again. He composes himself, hoping nobody noticed (everyone did).

"Uhh...what's happenin'...?"

Perceptor, clapping Blaster on the shoulder, says, "My...easily startled, aren't you?"

Blaster turns to Crasher and remarks, "Sorry, Percy. It's all down to this stunner here, ain't that right, baby?"

Crasher responds acidly, "Go jump out your own tail pipe, Cybertron."

Blaster stares at the Gobot for a moment, then notices Strafe, the lab assistant, standing next to her. The Technobot is supposedly there to guard her, but he has more the look of a lion tamer on his first day. Blaster takes a step back and leans in to whisper to Perceptor. "Yo, man, I know you're into the whole head-shrinking thing now, but should she even be in here?"

Perceptor replies, "No need to worry about the specimen, she's in good hands."

"Feh," Crasher scoffs.

Strafe jumps almost to the ceiling, cries, "SHE MOVED!" He whispers to his gun: "She moved."

"Don't worry, Cybertron," Crasher scowls. "I'm not gonna bite. ...Unless you want me to, that is."

Strafe's gun responds in a plummy voice, "Oh, MYYY."

Blaster shakes his head at these antics, then turns back to Perceptor. "Dude just don't know how to talk to the ladies."

Perceptor, oblivious to the world, replies, "Mm-hmm."

Blaster, who realizes he's preaching to the deaf and possibly blind, flounders, "...um...Hum. Still haven't answered my question, P-Man: just what the frack am I lookin' at, here?"

"It's your birthday present!"

Suddenly, the being on the table abruptly sits up, turns, and aims a scanning device at Blaster. Perceptor: "Now what was all this about Rodimus?"

"Rodi-WHAT?"
......

Kup flips through yet another door. "CLEAR!" Rodimus saunters into the room....which looks just like the last room!

Rodimus: "Right. Fine. Primus Below! I officially GIVE UP. WHERE THE SCRAP IS COUNTDOWN?!"

"At your service!" a scratchy, accented voice says from inches behind Rodimus's neck.

"Yah! Countdown! Don't scare me like--well, don't scare me any way!" Rodimus turns, leaning down to greet the Micromaster, only to be confronted with a pair of enormous red feet. Craning his neck slowly back in puzzlement, he finally finds Countdown's face somewhere near the ceiling. His jaw drops. "Holy-Jeez!"

"Thank you, Sir. Your reaction is, indeed, most flattering. Now, if we're through with idle chitchat, at once to business: I have completed the item you requested. Your crude instructions were admittedly rather difficult to decipher, but after arduous effort, I was finally able to--"

"Excellent--to my exact specifications, you said?"

"But of course, sir," Countdown responds, just a little too proud of himself. "Precision IS my profession."

"You're a garbageman."

"Ahem. I prefer 'Sanitation Professional.' 'Intergalactic Adventurer' would also be acceptable. I answer to either."

"Right, whatever you say, Captain Trash Heap...I just hope Tracks hasn't been giving you too much trouble."

"Tracks? What in the name of Primus has he got to do with this? I did all the wor--"

No sooner have the words left Countdown's lovingly tuned vocal processors when a blinding flash of light fills the hall and suddenly Skywarp, straddling Tracks, finds himself sitting on the floor with three guns pointed directly at his face. And a huge missile. A REALLY huge missile. Seriously, who needs a missile that big? Seems like more trouble than it's worth!

Kup barks, "Blink and you're history!" He's always wanted to say that. In fact, he might have said it before. He can't seem to remember...oh, right, it was that time on Briareos 9 when--

Skywarp freezes for a long moment, his mind racing at what, for him, passes for light speed, in a desperate effort to figure out how to get out of the mess he's currently in. Talk about out of the Crucible and into the Smelting Pool! He could...uh...grab the geezer's gun and swing him into... whoa! Is that Rodimus Prime? Lessee, this guy's got a fraggin' nuke on his shoulder... uhh...the usual should work. Skywarp disappears into thin air. The Bots wonder what took him so long.

Finding the Decepticon finally off him, Tracks sits up, only to find three guns trained at his head. "EXCUSE me?"

Then he adds, "Is that a missile?!"

"Speak of the Devil Z!" Rodimus lends a hand to Tracks and helps the Bot to his feet. Patting Countdown's rocket affectionately, he adds, "And yes. Yes it is. Maybe I should call him 'Commander Overcompensation' instead. Annnnyway...your timing couldn't be better. Nice of you to drop in like this."

"I told you, sir..."

....

Soundwave and Ravage pass the big heavily reinforced blast door marked "Space Bridge Chamber."

"Our comrades come," Ravage murmurs, pricking his ears as angry shrieks bounce down the hall toward them. "Let us open the gates, gather the pack and be away. Starscream avaits, and you KNOW how he hates to be kept vaiting."

Soundwave glances in the direction of the voices and spies Red Alert rounding a corner, an armed and furious mob, a snarling, drooling Weirdwolf and mad-eyed Overkill in hot pursuit.

Red Alert spots Soundwave and Ravage and hits the deck, shifting painfully into car mode and back into bot mode as Ravage looses a missile, dropping a metric ton of debris from above, pinning him. From the other side of the mound of shattered concrete and twisted metal, Red can hear growling, cursing...and digging. He looks up only to see Ravage's tail round a corner.

......

Hardhead isn't sure what's going on. Sure, those sounded like explosions, but he was ordered to man his post, and orders are ORDERS. At least when they from Roulette. And it's not like anyone sounded an alarm. And now he hears a big old blast, screaming, yelling. That funny voice a minute ago outside the door. He thinks he smells smoke.

He contemplates chucking his post and getting stuck in. That's what he'd normally do.

But ORDERS! From ROULETTE!!! Don't tick the lady off!

Too bad the action ain't here!

As if on cue, a wall ABOVE him and to the right explodes, shattering a second-story balcony. Through the rupture screams Double Punch's jet mode, Slicer's car mode flying through the air just behind. Lasers sizzle the air, mangling Hardhead's legs and sending him crashing to the floor before he can even think. His back-mounted machine guns chatter as he fumbles for his riot shield. As the bullets spatter across Double Punch's thickly armored claws, the crippled Hardhead, leg wounds already cauterizing from the heat of Double Punch's dual lasers, thrusts his shield forcefully over his head. In mid-air, Double Punch switches to scorpion form and Slicer to robot mode, Slicer riding his compatriot like a war horse, crashing down with incredible force onto Hardhead's hastily erected shield. The treads grind against the armor plating of the riot shield, igniting the air. Swinging a fist up from behind the shield, Hardhead punches the scorpion in the "nose," but to little effect.

....

"Less...drooling, more *uhn!* digging!" Overkill grunts at Weirdwolf, hefting boulders in his jaws and tossing them aside.

"A medical condition, I have!" Weirdwolf barks.

"Ugh! Ro-bies?! Keep away from ME!"

Behind them, Warpath, catching up to Red Alert, sputters and putters around a corner, treads barely attached.

"SPOOM!" he yells, blasting rubble (and Cons) skyward.

Red climbs shakily to his feet to find the Decepticons already up and hungry.

.....

R-Blade and Delta Seeker lounge against the main computer terminal playing a game of Action Cards on the computer core.

R-Blade moans, "I'm bored."

Delta Seeker sighs back, "I know, I know, I'm bored too, it's a boring job, shut up about it already!"

R-Blade throws down his cards. "Y'know that I could use?"

Then both at once yell "Some action!"

"Exactly, like...like a prison break or something!"

They both pause for a moment, staring at each other, then realize how unlikely an event THAT would be and resume their game.

"Yeah," Delta says tiredly, "Same old, same old. You go on and on about it alll the time, but you know, and I know, that this is a maximum--an ULTRA maximum security facility! Do you have any idea what the odds are that... anyone.. would..." Standing in the doorway, his optics blazing, is Soundwave. R-blade and Delta too eagerly grab their weapons and aim them at the Decepticon. "FREEZE!"

"Don't worry R, I don't know how he got out, but all the prisoners are unarmed."

"Aw, that's no fun!"

In one smooth motion, Soundwave opens his chest compartment, pulls out two guns and takes out the two Cyberjets with a shot each.

Delta goes down immediately...R-Blade, wounded, crawls for the alarm button, but Ravage pounces before he can reach it. He tears the Autobot's throat out and drags them both off to one side as Soundwave retracts his hand and replaces it with a computer-jack and slams his arm into the waiting terminal.

Hidden from all but Ravage's keen optics, the tension in Soundwave's shoulders eases--no longer forced to act as a secondary, walking--rogue--computer core for the prison but able, rather, to control the facility directly, he relaxes into his task. Tens, hundreds, thousands of screens, scrolling with Cybertronix, leap into life before him, then blink out just as quickly. The Space Bridge groans and dies.

Ravage cleans the blood off his paws as Soundwave plays.

......

In the Burthov com center, an entire far wall of the crowded, computer-packed room is dominated by a flatscreen monitor displaying a glowing green situation map of Cybertron, depicting the vital lines of communication tying the facility to every Autobot Security Hub on Cybertron. The room buzzes with a constant hum of activity and chatter, comtechs hunched over their computer stations.

Circuit, slouched in his (or rather, Blaster's) command chair, peers around the raucous room through the fingers of a hand pressed against his face, his free hand idly tapping keys on a keypad at the end of a mechanical arm attached to his chair, while diagnostic drones whiz by and harried techies bustle around the room. Circuit's only been on his shift for about ten minutes, and already he can feel the usual tension headache coming on. He grumbles to himself and thumps fingers against his forehead, wondering how he got landed with this gig. The sight of Slamdance standing up and navigating the hectic room toward him isn't helping with his little cranial dysfunction.

"Urgent, breaking news, sir!!!" announces Slamdance, jolting Circuit momentarily to attention despite the fact that he watched, half-interested, as the smaller bot bobbed and weaved through the crowd for a good five minutes to ultimately stand before him. Slamdance had that effect on people.

"Turn it down about...fifty decibels, Slamdance...I'm sitting right here. Two...two? One and a half feet away from you," Circuit replies to the cassette-combiner as he gradually slides back down in his seat.

Slamdance continues, urgently, "Sources close to this reporter confirm that--"

"You mean Jackpot," Circuit grumbles. "He sits next to you. I saw him talk to you, then you jumped up and ran over here. What is it?"

"SOURCES who shall go unnamed report that the duty staff on Exercise Yard 06-B have not made their regularly scheduled check-in! In fact, word on the street has it that it is now 23 kliks PAST the time when they normally--"

"Have you tried calling them...?"

Slamdance opens his mouth to reply, when suddenly, the florescent lights bathing the room flicker.

For a moment, the room is eerily quiet. Someone sneezes.

Then all the computers turn off.

"HUH?" someone in the far corner of the vast room asks.

With that, the illuminated planet-map dominating the far wall fades to black.

"Uh...did anyone just see that...?" asks Circuit.

"We're all gonna die!" that same guy yells from the vastness.

Circuit shakes his head. "So we're dead. Great. And here's me, can't even remember what I did last night," he says to himself. Peering at Slamdance, who's looking up at him like an expectant puppy, he shakes his head in exasperation.

"Primus...given the situation, I guess I better do something leaderly."

Circuit thinks, for a very long moment, coughs loudly, and then looks around the room. Fifty...eighty (?) pairs of eyes are riveted on him.

"Uh...EVERYONE!" Circuit calls out to the denizens of the comm room. "Does...uh...does ANYONE know what to do in this situation?"

Uncomprehending stares.

"Come on...we're a species with a shelf life of ten million years--surely, in the hallowed history of Cybertron, something like this has happened before!"

Slamdance replies, gravely, ""This reporter has never seen the likes of it, ladies and gentlemen. We could be staring into the face of history. My...my GOD."

Circuit mutters, "Did I say you could speak? Did I--"

Slamdance pipes up, but before he can reply, Circuit slices the air in a clearly understood gesture. "Cut." Massaging his temples, he mutters, "Well, I guess I could just call Iacon. Maybe someone just forgot to pay the electric bill for this place." He removes a microphone from next to his keypad and clears his throat loudly. "Uh, hello. HELLO?"

Nothing. Static. Cold, hard, unyielding static.

The techs glance at each other, and a buzz of panic begins to fill the room.

"Everybody just--calm down." Circuit mumbles. "And whatever you do, nobody--"

"DEVASTATE!!!"

A giant purple claw bursts through the map of Cybertron, seizes Circuit, and crushes bot, chair, and all, into so much scrap.

As the green giant looms over Slamdance, the cassette-former whispers, "Good night...and good luck."

......

Nearby, in another part of the facility, Roulette races down the hall in sportscar mode. Something is wrong. Very wrong. She reviews the events of the last few minutes. She shows up at Red Alert's office to deliver the mid-afternoon briefing, when he bursts out the door, elbows her aside, and races down the corridor with the biggest rifle she's ever seen, muttering something about being wrong, terribly wrong...or was it right? In any case, she knows she'd better burn rubber back to the central chamber before things really get out of hand! And then she hears something. Feels it too. Rumbling, like distant thunder, shaking the very walls. Getting louder the closer she gets to the main hall. And was that gunfire just then? What if The Unthinkable has happened?! She can kiss that promotion goodbye! And even worse, what if one of them is, well--?

She turns a corner and as she charges down the hall at full speed she sees a reflection of herself in a mirrored wall where there should be nothing! She hits the brakes, squealing to a halt mere inches from the reflection. But, it's a dark reflection, smokey. She transforms, yet her reflection does not. "Shadow Striker!" The other car transforms and lunges at her, slamming her into the wall. Roulette's twin sister grabs her sister's arms and hold them against the wall--she then leans in real close.

"Hiya, sis. Miss me? No, of course you don't. How's Mother?"

"Dead, right where you left her."

"We'll have to visit Porcupine again one of these days, but for now..." Shadow Striker converts into vehicle mode and tears off down the hall, laughing maniacally.

Roulette jumps to her feet and makes ready to pursue, only to stop short just as she passes a certain cell. She's going to regret this, she knows it. But dammit, they NEED him.

......

In the computer room, the three claw-like appendages below Soundwave's chest rotate out, unleashing a seething mass of tentacles, wriggling and writhing their way into the computer systems. The computer lights up, sputters, chirps, as antiviral programs are hunted, captured and dissected with cold efficiency...then falls silent. A moment later, it begins to hum and whirr...forebodingly. Soundwave's optics glow with seeming satisfaction.

Ravage glances at the door impatiently, tail twitching, slicing the air.
......

Roulette punches the access code for the cell door again, then grunts with frustration. It doesn't make sense--she's tried every code she can think of, and the system just isn't responding! The cell door was working a moment ago--it started open and then slammed shut.

And now it's frozen in place, and she can't even get the intercom to go off to let the occupant know she's out there, and the viewslot is locked up tight.

She makes a mental note to knock a few heads in the computer control room, really whip those slackers into shape. Someone must be asleep on the job.

She had argued up and down for running all vital functions--particularly cell door access and space/ground bridge control--through the encrypted core, requiring all personnel have authorized keycode access--and won--despite Magnus having been in such a damned all-fired hurry to refurbish this place, get the facility up and running. Now she regrets putting the prison in those lazy glitches' hands.

Time to confiscate those Action Cards. Again!

She pounds a few times on the door, but she knows that whatever she says isn't getting through that slab of Cybertanium. And most disturbing of all, the call she placed in to the armory to have the prisoner's guns sent up to the local pneumatic receptacle was greeted with stony silence. Could they be too busy arguing, too loudly bickering to hear her signal...? AGAIN?

Finally, she swears, steps back, takes out her missile launcher and yells, "If you can hear me in there...STAND BACK!" and blasts the door down, sending alarms blaring throughout the facility.

Peering into the smokey room, she spies the characteristic broadness of Springer, emerging from beneath what remains of the door. "Well?!" she demands, "Are you just gonna sit in there polishing yourself all day, or are we getting the frack out of her?!" Springer, mock-saluting, replies, "Lead the way, sir...ma'am!"

As he steps over the pile of rubble, he gestures with open palms to his empty holsters with a "...well? I'm waiting." expression on his face.

"Slag..." mutters Roulette, looking around as if hoping to find a Pathblaster conveniently lying around.

"Take care of yourself, kid..." she hears a grave voice say. Whipping her head back, she finds a certain tiger-stripped jet solemnly placing Springer's twin pistols into his ready hands.

"...it's rough out there."

......

"Spark removal? That's wack, yo!" Blaster declares loudly, backing off from the form sitting up on the table. Checking his chronometer, Blaster, backing away slowly, adds, "Man, will you jus' look at the TIME, guess maybe I better find Rodimus after all--or heck, maybe Magnus...maybe CJ TYREST..."

Perceptor, slowly circling around Blaster, attempting to block his path to the door, replies, "TRUST me, Blaster, it is a routine, untested procedure, that I'm told will be utterly painless--"

"UNTESTED? You're TOLD? I--"

Just then, the room turns red, alarms blaring.

Perceptor's optics widen in fear, and he calls, "Quickly! The PENS!"

......

Ravage, glancing at an insistently flashing strip of red light above the door, whispers, "The alarms." He shoots an annoyed look at Soundwave. "How unfortunate."

Ravage shaked his head solemnly at the sight of the dead Autobots splayed in a corner. A terrible waste of life, he thinks.

Soundwave, if he's listening, doesn't reply, or even deign to acknowledge Ravage's presence.

"...vy do we delay here?" Ravage asks, trying again. "The Space Bridge belongs to us now, the outside vorld now deaf to the Autobots' cries."

He grimaces at the sound of sirens, the flashing lights, admitting grudgingly the glare and blare do sow further chaos and confusion, only serve to mask their escape. As Soundwave wishes.

Soundwave inserts yet more tentacles into the computer. Says nothing.

"...ve came, vev saw, ve conquered," Ravage sighs, " and it vasn't enough. For you. Ve have no need of madmen, riffraff! From amongst our brethen, ve already have the people ve need--vetted carefully, maneuvered effortlessly. And now, no doubt vaiting vith all the patience of the gun-toting thug to be free, atop a smoldering pile of Autobot bodies."

Soundwave stares, unwaveringly, at the computer terminal, enigmatically silent.

"Having braved the lion's jaws," Ravage continues, feeling like he's talking to himself, hating Soundwave for making him a chatty catty, "prised victory--and more--from defeat, I had hoped to make my exit in the manner to vich I have become accustomed. Stealthily.."

Just then, Soundwave twists his wrist, unleashing fresh mayhem.

"...but then again, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised..." Ravage sighs as the computer shudders and shakes, then shrieks like a banshee. Outside, he hears blast doors slamming open and shut without rhyme or reason, sirens wail, obstacles, distractions, parlor tricks.

"...after all..."

Soundwave's optics glow.

"...you always have enjoyed this sort of thing."

......

Roulette and Springer roar down the corridor, Springer forced into his ground mode due to the narrow walls. Roulette calls, "Just around this bend!"

"Ngh," she grates, "damned alarms--I can barely think!"

"Remind me to take whoever designed 'em," Springer rejoins, "...and insert his head into his waste chute."

"HER head," Roulette admits ruefully to herself.

Abruptly, blast doors slam down, blocking their path. Roulette has to transform so quickly that she ends up running halfway up the wall before doing a backflip, pulling out her launcher and firing a few shots at the door. Unsurprisingly, this door doesn't budge. Good, solid, ironically enough...Tarnian...design.

Roulette yells, "Slag. Door's down!"

Springer yells back, "Then we'll make our own door!"

Whipping out his pistols in mid-transform, he slams armor-piercing rounds into an adjoining wall. Roulette joins in, caving it in. As they rush through, she mutters, "And just how long did it take you to come up with that line...?"

Springer, not letting on that he actually stole the line from Rack, says: "Cool, huh?"

......

Weirdwolf and Overkill are already long gone, but Octane lags behind looking at the flaming mouth of the armory door, clutching his double-barreled guns and scissor-shield possessively, weighing his options. Does he even WANT to get out of here? Maybe he can rat out other Cons, cut a deal. Nice minimum-security facility in exchange for his service to the state. It worked that one time. Too bad that Bot Sandstorm isn't around to hole up with.

Just then, he feels something grab at his legs, and hears a feeble cry. "...help me...Primus, please..."

He looks down to behold Drag Strip, clutching his gun, but otherwise still a dismembered torso, trailing vital fluids, his legs slowly rolling along in his wake through a feeble mental connection.

Octane thinks for a minute. "...alright. But it's gonna COST you."

"...anything...just give me some Energon...FRACK! Just HELP me!"

"How about maybe I siphon YOU, just after you kick off, that is," Octane thinks, practiced eye assessing how many liters Dragstrip is worth. Tank IS a little dry...

Just then, grudgingly, he recalls Sandstorm's lesson in compassion, sheltering him when Galvatron put a price on his head, replies, against his better judgement, "Fine. FINE!"

He opens his chest compartment and removes a hose. He pauses in mid-action as a thought occurs to him.

"But there's a catch." he says.

"ANYTHING!" Dragstrip cries, his vital fluids spilling onto the floor.

"My life for yours," Octane responds at length. "Protection."

"Alright, alright! Your life is in my hands!" Dragstrip gasps.

"I don't think he grasps the irony," Octane chuckles to himself, as he opens his fuel reserves, and begins to pump regenerative, restorative Energon into the Stunticon's fuel tanks.

""Eh, isn't worth the trouble to siphon, anyway," Octane tells himself, picking up Dragstrip's lower body and, using his lasers as welding guns, beginning repair.

......

Hall of Convoys, Iacon, Space Bridge chamber.

The spacious room is dominated by a gargantuan portal constructed of a latticework of interlacing Tritanium struts, through which power siphoned from the Tomaandi Memorial Power Plant feeds the Autobots' trans-spatial transport capabilities. By contrast to Garrus 9's Space Bridge chamber, it's painted in gaudy red and gold and filled with extraneous adornments from gold filigree to statues of hallowed Convoys in softly lit recessed alcoves.

Scattered around the poshly appointed room are, incongruously, a collection of the roughest, toughest-looking Autobots to grace the face of Cybertron since the Dinobots returned home: Galaxy (former) Convoy, and his mercenaries, formerly Team Vanguard, late of "Planet X," redubbed the "Cybertron Defense Team" (CDT), readily identified by the "V" sigil emblazoned on their armor, have been called in for another tough assignment. Wing Saber, Galaxy's right-hand man and occasional jetpack, stands rigidly at attention, to one side of the Space Bridge, his armor polished to a golden yellow sheen. The one called Red (Alert), standing directly in front of the Space Bridge, obsessively opens and closes his gun in a rhythmic metronome. The bot known as (Hot)Shot flips his combat knife over the back of his hand then catches it and slashes at the air. The one who calls himself Scattor(Shot) quickly checks the power output of his rifle yet again, then turns to the other Shot, the one who won the Shanix toss over who got to call himself "Shot" and says, conversationally, "Y'know, I've been thinkin' about the sheer number of bots I've killed over the years, and I find myself realizing: It's nowhere near as many as our boss, and, you know, I should really, you know, remedy that."

Wing Saber suddenly salutes and snaps, "Convoy on deck!" He jerks his head in the direction of the doorway and waits.

The doors part as if on cue and Leo Convoy strolls into the room. He waves one wrist up and down just slightly, not sure what to do without his usual tail-whip swagger stick. He'd considered pouncing into the room in beast mode for a change, but since the whip doubles as his tail, he figured that would look pretty gauche. Magnus would hear about it, for sure. Damn him.

As the highly polished (literally and figuratively) Wing Saber snaps a salute, Leo gives a vague nod of acknowledgement, then wrinkles a brow at the lack of respect paid him by the hardbitten collection of soldiers-of-fortune this fine specimen of a soldier keeps company with. But he can't blame them, he thinks. Most of them are probably just annoyed at those more famous people who got the same names. Good thing there's just one Leo Convoy. Bam.

"At ease!" he calls, and Wing Saber relaxes back to his usual state of utter rigidity. Even though, thanks to upgrades brought to Cybertron from Planet X by his comrades in arms, Wing Saber had finally sorted out the Corrodia Gravis problem that made him a virtual statue of an Autobot back during the Energon Wars, the only native Cybertronian on Team Vanguard still can't get used to the idea that his knees could bend. I could dance a Polyhexian jig right now, he thinks to himself, not for the first time, then files the thought under "utter foolishness."

He turns his attention outward as Leo saunters up to Wing Saber's commander. "GC, my MAN!" Leo declares broadly, arms spread wide as if for a hug. As he strolls over to the massive winged, red and black warrior, studying the Planetary Symbols emblazoned in gold on his shoulder (and making a mental note to get himself some fancy symbols of some sort), Galaxy Convoy grunts something incoherent by way of greeting and clamps a plus-sized hand on Leo's shoulder. "Nice to see you too!" Leo laughs. Under his breath, Leo mutters, "Don't touch me."

Galaxy Convoy growls in reply.

Scattor chimes in, "He, uh, says, he says he's sorry."

Leo Convoy, shaking his head, studies the mercs, who cluster closer, but not too close, around their taciturn leader like a pack of wolves around the alpha male...showing allegiance and fear simultaneously.

Clearing his throat loudly, he begins, "Now that the formalities are over--we're all friends here, gentlebots, so I'll make this short and sweet. Business as usual. Extreme prejudice. Take no prisoners. And most importantly, this conversation never happened."

Scattor responds, "Hey, that's why they, uh, you know, pay us the big bucks."

Leo replies, "Don't cash that check just yet, soldier boy. I want ACTION, not words, RESULTS, not--"

"WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?!"

The double doors slam open and Ultra Magnus storms in.

"Magnus! You got here fast!" Leo exclaims.

"You were expecting me?" Magnus asks suspiciously, eyes as cold and unforgiving as space searing Leo and his "pack."

"...Yeah, I felt a headache comin' on..."

"It's about to get worse!" Magnus thunders as he slams The Gavel down at Leo Convoy's feet. Behind him stand his raggle-taggle team, at the head of which is Cliffjumper. Behind him follow Sideswipe, Smokescreen, and Hot Spot.

"What are you up to...?!" Magnus hisses, the scornful whisper scarier than a shout.

"Me? I'm just doing My JOB, 'Peacekeeper,'" Leo retorts, swallowing his apprehension, "which is more than I can say for you. While YOU were propped up in bed lulling yourself to sleep reading the Tyrest Accord, I was here, taking action. Taking NAMES. Besides, who are you to ask questions? What are YOU doing here? Remember, you answer to me, Magnus, and don't you forget that. NEVER. EVER."

The air crackles with tension. It's almost as if Leo Convoy is daring the Magnus to respond. Cliffjumper fingers the triggers of his blasters, itchy for action. Sideswipe pounds fist into open palm with a clang, a grimace crossing his face. Smokescreen flips out his shoulder launchers. Hot Spot narrows his eyes. Somehow, the eye-narrowing is scariest of all.

Magnus, barely able to contain his anger, growls, "This....is a routine...inspection," finger tightening on his rifle trigger.

Pausing, inhaling deeply, he continues, "And as for your other accusations, if this is how you keep your so-called PEACE, I'd hate to see you make WAR. You mean to tell me you're sending..." He pauses and gestures broadly to the disreputable crew gathered behind Leo Convoy "...THEM into Burthov?" As if realizing just how offensive he finds the idea, Magnus raises his voice, continuing, "Primus, Convoy, this is a state-run civilian facility on Cybertron, in the heart of Autobot space we're talking about, not one of your outlandish colonial killing fields where anything goes--and hang the moral and legal consequences from the nearest streetlamp until dead--it's purely a police action, NOT a military matter...a question of law and order. You'll send soldiers in over my cold, dead body." He thinks to himself for a minute, and adds "...Primus below, what am I saying?! These specimens--soldiers?! They don't deserve the honor of the word!"

Leo raises his palms in defense. "Hey now, don't go speechifyin' on ME. You made this mess, Magnus, I'm just here to clean it u--"

At the same time, Scattor, as if Magnus's insult just dawned on him, suddenly steps forward, interrupting Leo, "Hey pal, those are, uh, you know, those are fighting words!"

Magnus says, "What mess?" but Leo waves a paw in his face, saying, "Excuse me." He whirls to yell in Scattor's face, "Talking. TALKING...HOW many times do I have to tell you--WHOAH--"

Leo takes a step back, as Scattor finds himself staring down the muzzle of Cliffjumper's gun. "One move and you'll be staring out a hole in the back of your head" mutters Cliffjumper.

Cliffjumper, gun still poised, turns to Sideswipe, with an "Eh? EH?" grin on his face.

Leo, trying to control the situation, says, "Gentlemen, GENTLEMEN--what did that even mean...?"

Just then, Shot slips behind Cliffjumper and slides his combat knife inches from Cliff's throat. "Kill him and you're dead."

Hot Spot looms behind Shot and intones, menacingly, "No."

Shot jumps back as if, well, shot, releasing Cliffjumper.

"Now that's what I"m talkin' about!" Cliffjumper taunts, until Hot Spot towers over him and adds "You too."

Cliffjumper whimpers something and looks like he's just oiled himself.

Leo, more and more panicky as the situation spins out of control, interrupts, "GENTLEMEN...uh, ladies (?)...can't we all just get along...?!"

Magnus slams the Gavel down. Cliffjumper, like a well trained attack dog, instantly backs off. Hot Spot sidles back to stand behind Magnus. Cliff can't resist yelling at Scattor, "You got off lucky this time. But we WILL meet again."

Scattor, flustered, replies "Yeah, I'll see you in my nightmares." He thinks for a minute about what he just said, adds "...uh, ...wait..." as Hot Spot cuffs Cliffjumper on the head.

Leo tries the peacemaker approach, hoping to needle Magnus in the process. "But hey. Why the Space Bridge song and dance, anyway, Magnus?" Leo asks. "So the com lines are down. Big. Fat. Deal. Just jet on over and have a look-see for yourself. I--no, WE'LL come with. Been DYING to see what you been spending my money on!"

"If I could just walk up to the front door and knock, would I be spending my precious time...and your money...chitchatting with you?" Magnus demands. He pauses for a moment, catches his breath, then goes on, saying "...I hesitate to tell you this, Convoy, but since you seem intent on forcing the issue, here's the unpolished truth: despite being on Cybertron--the same planet we're on now--the facility is for all intents and purposes unreachable except by Space Bridge. I had to do it, just in case you got curious."

"So where is it?"

Magnus touches a button on his wrist and a holographic map springs to life between them. He jabs his finger at a big red spot. "Quite literally underground. We put it BENEATH the Sea of Rust, 20 kliks across the border from Torque Flats!"

"You built a prison under WATER?! " Leo Convoy exclaims.

Magnus shakes his head. "No, no--the Sea of Rust, not the Rust Sea. Before you try to lead, learn how to read a map. ...Primus..." Magnus attempts to calm himself. "But mark my words, the SEA of RUST is NO less hospitable than its maritime cousin."

He continues, "Ultra-Magnitude-12 (cough) rust storms blow in from the heart of the sea on a daily basis, thwarting air travel, scrambling Ground Bridges, and scouring the armor plate from all but the hardy denizens. We fly an occasional supply ship for items too big to bridge, but the pilot is down for repairs, barroom brawl, I hear. And by the way, packs of hungry cougaraiders roam the wastes--and the Rust People, they don't take kindly to outsiders. So unless you have a death wish, a land approach is well and truly off. But you're welcome to try," Magnus can't resist tossing in.

"Damn, Magnus," Leo exclaims, "almost sounds to me like you had something to hide!"

"Do tell..." Magnus replies flatly. "Or maybe it's just a MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON."

"I dunno, you tell me! You're the incarceration expert!" Leo shoots back.

"Yes, I am," Magnus smiles thinly, Leo bristling as he adds, "And some day, I hope to show you why...from the inside out."

Magnus pauses, letting that sink in, then continues, "...which brings me back to a little question I had before: Just what ARE you doing here...? And no, I asked first. And by the way..." he adds pointedly, "I didn't mention that communications were down."

Leo jumps back, stammering "E...everybody knows! You're in big trouble, Magnus!"

"Really." Magnus taps his wrist comm. "Searchlight," he says, hailing his aide. "Get Burthov on the line."

"I'm busy." comes the abrupt voice.

"So am I," Magnus responds in a "Don't test me" tone.

"......understood," comes the curt reply.

After a lengthy pause, in which Magnus tells everyone, "He's one of the best," shrugging his shoulders in a half-apologetic way, and adds, "his eccentricities are the price I pay for his performance, which is by the way superb," the hiss and crackle of static fills the com line, followed by: "Nobody's home."

"Can you be a little clearer?" Magnus asks.

There's a long pause, followed by:

"Someone pulled the cord. Or tripped over it. The place is dead."

"Analysis!" Magnus demands of his intelligence operative.

"How does the word "Armageddon" strike you?" comes the response. Magnus cringes.

"S...see? Everybody..." Leo bleats. "I TOLD you something wasn't right!"

"B--but hey..." the Convoy stammers, taking a step back and looking around as if for a place to hide from Ultra Magnus' eyes as Magnus scalps Leo's soul. "...really! ...What AM I doing here...?" He looks around innocently at the others, palms held in a position of supplication. "My bad." Under his breath, he mutters, "Awful big guns for a so-called spot inspection." He looks down at and whispers to Cliff, "Haven't I seen you on a wanted poster?"

Magnus, who hears all, raises his voice, saying "IN case you'd forgotten, the PRIME is in there. YOUR Prime. And when it comes to his safety, I don't care if it's a leaky faucet in the third level waste recyclery, I leave nothing to chance. So if you'll excuse me, I'll be getting on with it. If there's a full on riot or an invasion of Sweeps, I'll call you."

Leo stammers, "Right. Right. The Prime. I was just...uh, I was just concerned for the Prime. Just standing by. In case anything went wrong. You know. With the Cons. And the Prime. Yeah. Yeah! Wouldn't want a...uh...a MESS!"

Magnus cocks an eyebrow. "Indeed. ...what ABOUT the Decepticons?"

"Nothing! Nothing. I know nothing. In fact...there's nothing to know!" Leo says shrilly.

"Good. Then we have a deal?"

"Fine. Fine. You've got two hours. I don't hear word from you, they go in. Guns blazing. Uh...if need be. Not that I'm expecting that sort of trouble. Or...or any trouble, really. None at all."

Magnus bites, "Have it your way." He turns to the Space Bridge. The mercenary called Red blocks his path. His mouth twitches into a sardonic grin and he shakes his head back and forth, slowly. sidesteps out of the way. "Nuh-uh," he spits.

"...I've heard of you," Magnus begins. "You call yourself "Red." Short for Red Alert. Well, my friend, I KNOW Red Alert," Magnus continues, staring the big bot in the optic band. "THE Red Alert. I've fought alongside him. Bled with him. Held him in my arms until I could convince him that the room wasn't REALLY trying to eat him. And Primus help me, you're no Red Alert. Now get out of my Space Bridge."

Wing Saber salutes, and Red steps aside just a little too casually.

"OPEN THE BRIDGE!" Magnus commands, and Longrack types on the console, then furrows his brow. He lifts his fingers off the keypad, and slowly turns his head up to look at Ultra Magnus. "I can't! The control console, which transmits commands and coordinates to the Space Bridge activation circuitry via infrared beam, is unresponsive. As a result, the Space Bridge, which we Autobots use to transport from one location to another, is nonfunctional. As you can see."

"Yes," Magnus replies drily, "As I can see."

Magnus turns to gauge Leo's reaction, but he's in conference with Galaxy Convoy, his back turned.

As Magnus' eyes bore into the back of his head, Leo Prime whispers to Galaxy Convoy, "Alright, here's the real deal: I got a cruiser stashed in Slip C-16, PRIMED and ready to go. Extra shielding, get the drift, rust-proof shielding. Get there first. Magnus can cool his thrusters here until the job is done. And I get to be the hero. Boom!"

Galaxy grunts unintelligibly and leads his men quietly out the door.
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Transypoo
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Transypoo » Thu Nov 10, 2011 1:37 am

......

Things are not going well for Hardhead. Scrunched up beneath his riot shield, he winces as Double Punch, now in robot mode, squeezes his wounded legs with evil satisfaction with one claw while delivering blow after bone-rattling blow with the other.

So many long, cruel years as a miner...and always, Double Punch has dreamed of this day, of following in...HIS...footsteps...hammering down on the overseers who drove them half to extinction working long and brutal shifts. Finding someone of the same puffed up, authoritarian stripe here, and ripe for the picking--well, it's just a dream come true. No guns. Not just yet. Just the vise-like claws. He's gonna take his sweet, sweet time.

Just then, out of the corner of his eye, he spots a yellow blur. Racing along the upper story balcony in cycle mode, Road Rocket, answering the alarm, bounces up onto the railing, riding it amid a hail of gunfire from Slicer. Transforming to robot mode, he pushes himself into open air, landing square on the back of the hulking Double Punch, then delivers a laserized buzzsaw blow straight to the back of his neck. The Con hollers in fury and confusion!

Just then, Shadow Striker roars into the room, transforms and whips out her pistol, blasting the small Autobot ninja to the floor. "Am I fashionably late?"

"More like just in time," grunts Double Punch. Transforming back into beast mode, he grabs Hardhead, powering up his tail lasers and preparing to deliver the hapless guard the finishing blow. PIty, he'd hoped their special time'd last longer.

At that moment, the door through which Kup leapt not long ago splits wide, and a grimly determined Springer and Roulette surge through, Springer prying the rent halves aside with his bare hands.

Roulette dashes up, laying down a spray of fire that keeps Slicer's head down,and, as Springer clocks Shadow Striker, seizes Double Punch's tail, which was poised to test the vaunted durability of Hardhead's head. Grunting with effort, she jerks the tail skyward seconds before it fires, sending rubble crashing onto them....only for Double Punch to simply stand up again into robot mode, leaving Roulette suddenly flat on her back with a massive Con towering over her. Turning to face her, he flicks Hardhead aside with a single motion of his tail, bashing the guard against the far wall, next to the Space Bridge.

Roulette pulls her gun and aims it smack in Double Punch's face, as his shadow engulfs her. Double Punch mutters, tiredly, "Don't start somethin' you can't finish, babe." Roulette spits in his face. The spit drips down his visor...and the claw comes down, seeming to engulf the sky. Reflexively, Roulette, knowing that her arm-mounted roof shield won't stand a chance against the hydraulic force, sets the wheel on her other arm to spinning. Damaged from when Shadow Striker slammed her into the wall, the force shield that leaps forth deflects...just barely...Double Punch's hammer blow. The blue, transparent shield fizzes and crackles as Double Punch squeezes the energy field. His hydraulics creaking, he shakes his head, then simply throws back a fist and cracks it down onto the shield with near-nuclear force. Everything goes white as the feedback floods her optics, teeth-grittingly painful electricity racing up her arm.

"End of the line, Valentine..." Double Punch rumbles, lifting a wicked, shoveled foot to finish her.

Before he can act, a rough, labored voice breaths, "That's no way...." as Inferno, doing rather badly what with his lack of arms, slams full-on into Double Punch, knocking him from his feet, "to talk to a LADY!"

As Red Alert and Warpath rush in, firing blasts over their shoulders, Weirdwolf finally catches up with and pounces on Red Alert, sending him skidding face-first along the floor toward where Hardhead lies bleeding and groaning. Dragstrip, newly renewed and ornery, enters, along with Overkill and Octane, as Warpath kicks Weirdwolf off with a tread-reinforced smack, and he and Red, along with Road Rocket and Roulette, rally around Hardhead. Hardhead bravely calls, "The slag you doin'? Get behind me!"

Meanwhile, Springer has his hands full with Slicer, who has come to Shadow Striker's aid, knocking him aside just as he's about to deliver a two-handed hammer blow.

"You should listen to your big red friend, mon ami! A true gentleman never lays hands upon the fairer sex!"

"Aw," Springer grins, "And here I thought chivalry was dead!"

"It eez you who vil be dead...Animal! Now prepare to join your ancestors!" rejoins Slicer, taking a swipe with his bladed right forearm, which Springer blocks with his left, the blade biting into his thick armor. He jerks the arm aside with incredible force, throwing Slicer off balance.

"So what *huff* if I hit a girl," Springer retorts, getting his bearings, then ducking as a whistling pair of blades converge where his head just had been, and leaping into a flying headbutt that cracks Slicer's head nearly off.

"...I'm a WRECKER!"

Red Alert, squeezing off a quick burst of cover fire from his handgun, barks to Hardhead "You've made your daily sacrifice, trooper! So rest easy! Now it's our tur--" Suddenly, a howl of pain splits his audio receptors.

Double Punch has lifted Inferno bodily off the ground, and is squeezing him slowly in both claws, almost tenderly. The scream of rending, cracking steel, lovingly distended, is however drowned out by the still shriller siren of Inferno's screams as he is slowly, deliberately compressed like a steel cube in a car crusher. "Should 'uv treated us better, eh, luv?" whispers Double Punch, unheard by the rest. "We was all locked up in here together, us and you...face it, you ain't no less of a prisoner 'en me. Only difference is, you made the wrong call--me and my little buddy, we're walkin' outta here...TODAY...an' it's for the scrap heap wit' you."

With tremendous force, Double Punch hurls the silent, broken body aside, and turns to the small group rallying around Hardhead, chuckling, "'Well, well, well. Warden. Nice day, innit?"

Just then, Glitch sneaks into the room. Darting through Slicer's legs, tripping up the swordsman, he spots the wounded Hardhead discarded to one side as Inferno's mangled form hits the ground and his friends rush to his aid. He slinks up as best he can and pulls the tools out of his multifunctional medical tool boxes and begins to patch Hardhead's legs.

Red Alert and the others open up on the grimly satisfied Double Punch with everything that they have left, but once again his hulking claws, scored and pitted with pounding the raw Energon of a thousand mines on a hundred worlds for a million years, soak up the firepower like so much sunshine. But just as he's glorying in his invincibility, he hears a shriek of agony that makes everything else seem irrelevant...as Springer, taking advantage of Slicer's fumbling feet, lazily slices his opponent across the chest, nearly cutting him in half.

"...no."

"NO!"

Double Punch, frantic with concern, races over to his fallen friend, clutching his wounded form as the lifespark fades from his body. For a few long moments, he huddles over him, hiding him from the others, shaking with grief. When Double Punch had first met Slicer in the mines he was an Autobot, from Tarn, he was always proud of his home city, said it should have been the capitol of Autobot territory instead of Iacon. They worked together to get out of the mines, moved to Vos, joined the Decepticons... but Slicer kept one little Autobot symbol on him to remember his roots. They had both been ordered to take Nucleon, both became Action Masters. Both managed to rid themselves of the addiction. Finally, they had both been captured together, and were going to be free together. But now... now it was all over. Slicer had been taken from him. Stolen... murdered. And for what? FOR WHAT? The only other bot that ever understood Double Punch--gone in the blink of an eye. His love. His everything. Gone.

Double Punch carefully places Slicer's body on the ground...then he slowly turns to Weirdwolf and co, and jerks his tail toward Red Alert and his team, growling, "You can do with 'em what you like... Springer's..." The last word is a hoarse whisper: "MINE."

Springer never even knows what hit him. Before he can react, he's halfway through half a dozen walls, riding a freight train with claws straight into the Pit.

Meanwhile, the other Cons gather around the small group of Bots left behind. Approaching slowly, they giggle with glee at their hapless jailors, now on the receiving end of long months of pent-up bitterness and rage. The fear in their near-future victims' optics is oh-so-delicious. Then Weirdwolf JUST HAS to open his big stupid yap.

"AROUND THE SURVIVORS, A PERIMETER CREATE!"

"SHUT UP," whispers Overkill. "What do you--look, what do you think we're doing?"

"WHAT?!"

"Just... just stop. You're ruining the moment."

Roulette, glancing at the Space Bridge, remarks, "Sure could use an 11th Hour rescue right about now."

No sooner have those words exited Roulette's mouth when...that moment...that very instant....Soundwave penetrates the inner reaches of the computer core. His optic-band narrows with seeming joy. Starting in the far distance, and growing ever louder and closer, come the sounds of great metal things moving, hydraulics hissing and whining, loud and deep clacks and bangs as...

Warpath breaks the tension, calling, "Zow! What's that?"
"That..." Red Alert says, voice heavy with shock and ore... "That is the sound of every door, every cell, every holding pen, every cage, in this facility, yawning wide open."
Roulette replies, "...Uh, guys? That last-minute save...? Somehow this wasn't what I had in mind."
"Oh noes!" Glitch yells, still trying to patch up Hardhead's legs.

....

Elsewhere...

The small drone Swindle had been so fascinated with zips around a corner and into a large, sparse, room, stopping directly above Thunderwing. It activates a beam of light and "downloads" two large purple Cyclone Cannons into the Decepticon's clawed hands. The drone then flips around and attaches itself to Thunderwing's back. The Stormbringer awakens with a start, slamming the two guns into one awesome weapon. "Uhg!" He sits up. "Whoever blasted me is going to get the worst case of indigest-huh?"

From the shadows slips a blue saurian creature. Its green eyes glow menacingly as it watches Thunderwing with a steely gaze that penetrates him to the core. The creature slides liquidly back into the shadows on the other side of the room. Despite its bright coloration it manages to disappear in the shadows quite effectively. This terrifies Thunderwing more than anything else within the encounter! "That's right! Run in terror from Thunderwing! COWER BEFORE MY MIGHT!" he barks hoarsely, hoping he sounds as brave as he isn't.

Just then he hears a scraping sound and whirls around, throwing himself to his feet in a single motion. Above and behind him a group of misshapen, Frankensteinian, Transformers loom. They look down with cold, unfeeling optics. Thunderwing straightens to his full height to face them. "You can either follow my lead..." he says, "...or die in screaming torment." The creatures exchange glances.

......

Thundercracker wanders down a hall, calling out to Skywarp. "Hn. Where could he have gotten to this time? Sky-...warp?" He glances into a room and stops dead in his tracks. "Soundwave? The slag you doin' here?"

Ravage slinks out of the corner. "He is working, hush."

"Oh. Uh, hey. I was looking for Skywarp. You seen him?"

"No. Ve have not." Ravage sits down between Soundwave and Thundercracker, essentially creating a barrier.

"So, he's the one who unlocked all the-"

"Yes. As I say: either, quiet... or leave."

Thundercracker considers just what type of characters may be wandering the halls right about now and breaths, "...slag, I'm stickin' with you."

The Seeker leans against the door, folding his arms and watching down the hall, half hoping Skywarp will walk by.

............

Directly in front of Rodimus and co. stands a battered silver cylinder emblazoned with "Waste Disposal." Rodimus turns to Countdown.

"That's it? I know you made it to spec and all but somehow I would have thought it would've had a little more, you know..."

Tracks: "Pizzazz?"

Rodimus: "Ahhh, Pzz'azz, you know there's this little place there where the fembots are so---anyway, I went on a bender there one weekend you would not BELIE--"

Kup whispers, "Hardly the time, lad..."

"Annnnd hardly the place, right, nevermind. (You know you want the address)."

"I GAVE you the address."

Rodimus clears throat loudly, since the others are giving them odd looks.

"ANYway, let's get this over with. Tracks, can I have the...uh...you know, the whatever, the thing?"

Tracks hears his name and awakens from admiring his slender reflection in the rocket's surface. "Oh! Uhh, right!" He opens a compartment in his backpack, releasing a blue glow. Countdown can barely believe his eyes as Tracks carefully draws out the Matrix of Leadership. He hands it over to Rodimus with a slight bow.

"I'm not worthy," Rodimus says. "I'm...just a soldier."

Confusion passes across Tracks' face.

Rodimus replies, "Sorry. You had to be there."

Rodimus passes the Matrix to Countdown, who takes a step back with awe.

"Sir, I...I don't know what to say," he responds, "This honor...I...I DID recently have my chest compartment resized, but I never imagined..."

"What honor?" replies Rodimus. "Chuck the damn thing in there, fire up the booster rockets and we'll all be home in time for dinn--"

Tracks, alarmed, interjects, "Sir, I don't understand..."

"What's to understand? I'm shooting the Matrix into the sun!"

"Wh-what?" Countdown stammers, completely flabbergasted, but for all the wrong reasons.

"Sir," Tracks loudly says to Rodimus, "I thought I TOLD you not to make those kinds of jokes."

"Heh, couldn't resist, sorry. Believe me--it was 50/50 between jerking your chain and pretending to name Colonel Trashcan over here Prime. I flipped a coin."

"Still," Rodimus says, stretching and yawning in exaggerated nonchalance, "...you cannot BELIEVE how relieved I'll be to be rid of this thing. Uh, this sacred thing."

Tracks' mouth opens and closes, but words don't come out. Countdown tries hard not to drop the Matrix.

Rodimus adds, "Bit of a trouble magnet, huh?"

The wall suddenly explodes inward. Standing in the opening silhouetted by fire is the all too familiar shape of Thunderwing. "RODIMUS! THE MATRIX IS MINE!"

Tracks: "You could say that."

The Autobots open fire on the Decepticon, but the bolts of energon bend around Thunderwing as he enters the room. The air crackles as he approaches. Rodimus fires his cannon directly into Thunderwing's face, causing him to turn his head as if he were slapped by a small girl.

"Destroy them." Thunderwing mutters as if it's an afterthought. Suddenly the room is filled with monstrous cybernetic creatures, leaping from the shadows. The gray, hairy one jumps over Thunderwing, baring canines as he brings his spiked mace down onto Kup, who raises his musket laser barely in time to counter the blow, gun bending under the impact. The slimy, green, grinning one, reeking of the sea, thrusts out his large cannon-arm and unleashes a sonic pulse, knocking Rodimus and Tracks over, then the blue, winged, chitinous one takes to the air and blasts Countdown in the head with its pistol. Finally the tan, scaly one charges in and slashes at Kup's leg with the circular-saw blade placed, confusingly, in the center of his gun; Kup screams in agony as Thunderwing reaches down to pluck the Matrix out of Rodimus' hands. Rodimus gathers power from the Matrix and slams a fist into Thunderwing's gut, sending him skidding across the room, still on his feet.

"That... tickled..."

"Oh slag." Rodimus clutches the Matrix tightly to his body, firing bolt after bolt at Thunderwing.

The wolf monster fires purple anchor-missiles, pinning Kup to the ground. The reptilian beast pulls out his knife and plunges it into Kup's abdomen. The insect creature converts its head into a cannon, blasting Countdown in the gut, then dives down and grabs onto his face. The shark warrior slashes a blade across Tracks' well-polished chest, sending sparks flying everywhere.

Countdown manages to rip the blue flyer off his face and yells "Duck!" as he fires his huge shoulder-mounted missile at Thunderwing. The missile roars across the room, only to be suddenly stopped by Thunderwing's one hand. Vibrating in midair, it shakes and rattles, frustrated forces reaching a fever pitch until it explodes with a SPOOM!!!

Rodimus sighs, and mutters, "I have to do everything myself."

Heroically, he charges toward the outline of the Decepticon, throwing his entire body into a powerful shoulder tackle.

Thunderwing leaps out of the smoke like a predatory bird swooping upon its prey. Interlacing his fingers, Thunderwing brings his fists down upon Rodimus, before he can react. As Rodimus is struck with force so resounding as to cause him to shatter, the Matrix is sent flying into the air. Thunderwing snatches it and, red and orange fragments of his fallen enemy raining down around him, thrusts it above him, screaming above his head. "THE MATRIX IS MINE! ONCE AGAIN I HAVE POWER BEYOND MEASURE!!" A compartment in his chest slides open and he places it within, laughing maniacally.

Kup, seeing Rodimus fall, screams in blind fury, ripping himself from the bonds pining him and hurling himself at Thunderwing... who seizes him in both hands, raises him above his head, and slams him down with sufficient force to bend his back crazily. Kicking the twisted old thing aside, he leaps back through the hole in the wall. "Come to me: Air Force..." The blue creature swoops past and lands behind him. "Water Force..." The green monster leaps behind him. "Earth Force..." The grey one runs behind Thunderwing. "Dino Force..." The tan monster joins the others. "Now," Thunderwing declares as they all pose dramatically for a moment... "... RUN AWAY!" Thunderwing and his crew charge off into the darkness.

Crankcase chases after them...stops for a second to observe the trail of mayhem left in Thunderwing's wake...suppresses the urge to clean it up...then sallies forth, shouting "MISTA TEE WAAAAIIIT!!!"

Countdown hauls off after them, leaving Kup on the ground screaming in pain, and Rodimus so much scrap metal.

.........

Back at the space bridge, not a shot has been fired--as the Cons continue to advance, savoring the moment, the Bots using Hardhead as a rallying point. Glitch, giving up on Hardhead, beats frantically at Inferno's chest, attempting to revive him. "Live! Darn you! LIIIIIIIVE!" He wishes he'd paid closer attention during his medical training.

The tension mounts to fever pitch with every measured step as their enemies surround them.

"Bam!" yells Warpath, still in tank mode. "Bam! Bam! Bam!" as if willing his depleted main weapon to fire. Red Alert glances at his cannon; far, far too long to recharge; that massive blast that took the yard door down used up every last erg of Energon. He curses himself for not grabbing some from his secret fuel in Maintenance Closet 113.

Mindset lifts his massive rail gun, exhaling wearily, "Do be silent..."

"He's MINE!" grunts Overkill, tiring of this game. The beastformer lunges forward, only for Road Rocket, unsubtle as always, to leap out from behind Hardhead! "KYIIIIIIII!" Road Rocket jumps high into the air, saw blade poised, with every intend of severing the Recordicon's foul head off, but before he can deliver the killing blow, he finds himself struck dead center with a shot from Mindset's Dolrailer, sending him several inches into the wall.

"Enough!" says Mindset. "Kill them al--"

Just then, on the far side of the room, a grate clangs open, and a strange implike creature, cackling, jumps out and starts running around the room. Mindset whirls and fires a shot from his smaller gun over its head. Panicking, it transforms into a toaster.

As the Cons look on in puzzlement, wondering what the frack just happened, Red Alert capitalizes on their befuddlement. Screaming like a madman, he lunges forward in a desperate charge, swinging his gun like a club and smashing Mindset across the face. Brawl and Blast Off instantly retaliate, spraying the Bot with a hail of bullets, bringing him to his knees.

This short, sharp moment of resistance, however, acts like a lit fuse to a powder keg! Seeing their erstwhile chief's bullet-ridden body hit the floor face-first, the Autobots open up with everything they have left, taking their fallen leader's example (for better or worse) and charging the enemy. Energon blasts and missiles cascade around the room chaotically. Roulette yells over her shoulder as a shot glances off her door shield. "The exits are blocked off! I think we're going to have to-"*SPOOM!*" Cackling manically, Drag Strip fires wildly at her. Shadow Striker advances from another side, launching her crossbow missile. Abruptly, Hardhead, groaning in pain, hauls himself to his feet, (ignoring Glitch, who, giving up on Inferno, is once again attempting to repair him and clinging on for dear life,) then hurls himself onto Drag Strip, crushing the Con but passing out in the process and losing one of his lower legs below the knee.

Meanwhile, Warpath, evading Octane's intense jets of flame, rolls out, aiming to take down Mindset with his smaller arms. If that doesn't work, he thinks, POW, I'll just give 'im a turret upside the head. Maybe anyway, for good measure.

"You and me! Boto a Cono! Pow!" he declares, firing off his remaining machine gun ammo at the professional killer.

"If you insist," replies the soldier of fortune, converting his machine gun into an anti-tank rifle, and firing off a single shot (THOOM!) that leaves Warpath a mangled, smoking mess.

Suddenly, Skywarp appears in the middle of the fray! "The party has ARRIVED!" he yells, seizing the fallen form of Hardhead. Grunting with the effort, he teleports ten feet into the air, then drops Hardhead soundly on top of Roulette, who twitches once, then lies still. Returning to the floor, he snatches back a set of purple missile launchers from Swindle and makes his exit as quickly as he arrived. Glitch, meanwhile, has ended up on top of the space bridge, where, wounded but functional, he decides to play dead in the hopes of not being picked off by the fray below.

With savage abruptness, the fight is over as suddenly as it began, the remaining Autobot resistance (in some cases literally) flattened.

In the sudden silence, all the Decepticons blankly look from one to the other, expecting someone to step forward. When no one does, they turn simultaneously towards Mindset.

"...What? None of you lot can work a Space Bridge?"

"Qualified technicians, we are not!" Weirdwolf barks, voicing what everyone is thinking. (More or less.)

Then, suddenly, the lights go out.

Mindset mutters "Perfect."

.....

Perceptor, driving into the restricted section of his lab set aside for wildlife specimens, transforms abruptly, stumbling over a wheeled cart as the lights drop. The tinkle of broken glass sounds in the otherwise silent room.

He calls, "What's happened?!"

"The lights went out, dawg."

"Indeed, Blaster, a most astute observation," Perceptor responds drily.

"Yo, Autobots, shut it..." Crasher interjects. "...you hear that?"

"Uh, no," Blaster comments.

"Shh, listen..." she insists.

They strain their audio receptors. Gradually, all around them they hear the chittering and hissing of unseen creatures. The group of Transformers gather almost instinctively in the center of the room.

Perceptor says, trying to sound calm, "The specimens seem to be disturbed. ...Natural, of course, given the adverse situation in which we find ourselv--"

Blaster interrupts, wanting to shake Perceptor but unable to find him in the dark, "Yo, Percy, quit yakking and get cracking--shed some light on this situation!"

"Y-yes, quite." The three floodlights on Perceptor's shoulder burst on, revealing a single insectlike creature on the floor in front of them.

Blaster mutters, "Aw, poor 'lil guy."

The yellow and purple creature, stares up at them with big red compound eyes.

Blaster reaches for the beast, which is halfway between a reptile and an insect. "Don't worry now, little fella, we'll--"

Perceptor raises an arm, halting Blaster's progress. "Blaster! Proceed with extreme caution! Restrain your sentimental urges! I recognize it! This specimen was recovered from the ruins of Deathsaurus's laboratory on Ceti Alpha Seven! Who KNOWS what unknown properties it may poss--"

"Aw, Percy, you're just bein' too hard on the guy. I kinda LIKE 'im! Reminds me a little of Scrounge. Y'know, that sad, pathetic look."

Meanwhile, Strafe, sweeping his gaze around the room, notices something. BAD. He raises his gun, fingers jittery on the trigger.

"Uhhhh...g-g-g-g-guys....."

"Absolutely NOT!" Perceptor is calling, his voice strained.

Blaster rejoins, "Aw, have a heart, P, I mean there's just--"

A single shot, courtesy of Strafe's gun, lights up the room. Blaster and Perceptor turn, following its arc. As Perceptor looks up, he sweeps his light across the walls.

"Just...uh...uh...." Blaster's jaw falls open.

"Y...yes, Blaster...?" Perceptor quavers.

"Just...one...of...them..."

The bright, almost blinding glow reveals hundreds of creatures clinging to the walls. There are two types. Some, like the one that Perceptor found, are organic, with wings, large compound eyes, long sickle-like claws, and hungry fangs; they sport two colorations: some are predominantly purple, others yellow. Both types have in common blood-red, black-veined wings and wicked, spiked long, armored crimson tails. They're bio-mechanical, a perfect fusion of flesh and metal.

The second species eying them is purely mechanical, industrial-looking, black with red or yellow accents, four legs, featureless, blankly staring cockpits for heads, and long cannons on their backs. Everything in the room is quiet. The creatures still. The silence becomes eerie.

Blaster breaks the silence. "Brothers and sisters, we're in some deep deep slag." As if awaiting their cue, the creatures leap off the walls and dog-pile on our heros, attempting to tear them apart. Blaster unleashes Steeljaw and Ramhorn from his chest compartment. The rhino and lion Recordibots pounce onto the beasts, ripping, tearing and goring.

Suddenly, one of the bugs drops from the ceiling into Ramhorn, unleashing thousands of volts of electricity into the beast, who grunts, then falls silent.

Steeljaw roars in fury, but before he can take action, he's dashed against the wall by a blow from one of the four-legs' cranes and falls silent.

"GET!" Crasher lifts up her leg as the horde encroaches. "OFF!" She slams it down on the ground, sending everyone and every...thing but her flying in all directions.

Perceptor sits up, agog at her action! "H-how did you... the Transfixatron field... What? Wha-AAHHHHH!" The mechanical and organic creatures wash over him, drowning him in a cacophony of chittering and hissing. One of the Mechanical creatures transforms its cannon into a blade, a long, serrated affair, like a combat knife. Just as it is about to stab Perceptor in the forehead, a small, snarling yellow and red, winged individual, half beast and half bot, bursts out of a ventilation shaft. His body casts a golden bio-luminescent glow that follows him wherever he goes.

Perceptor gasps, as the mecha-creature turns, and he finds he recognizes it!

"R-Repgunus? We thought you were--"

"Dead?! You wish, bud!"

He thrusts a fist towards the creatures; the organic monsters suddenly turn on the mechanical, who skitter away. The organic creatures then gather, turning and huddling around the red and yellow Transformer, who strokes their hideous, chittenous heads. "Awwww, I've missed you too, guys," he growls. Repugnus eyes the ongoing brawl between Blaster and Crasher and the four-legged creatures, then jerks a finger in its general direction. "...Now sic 'em!"

Blaster looks up in panic, as a solid wall of Repugnus's bugs leap at him, only for them to bypass him, tackling instead the four-legs!

"Awright! That's what I'm TALKIN' ABOUT!" Blaster calls, leaping into action, battering aside one crawler while not noticing another skitter up behind him and deploy its wicked-looking stinger, dripping with venom. "Keep the faith, folks!" He yells to the others. "We're turnin' the ti--AIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEE!"

"B...Blaster?"

With a groan, the emergency lights sputter on, casting a weak glow. But Perceptor sees enough.

.....

In a dark corridor miles beneath the surface of Cybertron, deep under the city of Burthov, below even Garrus-9, lies the Ultra-Maximum Security Wing, for those classified a Level Nine Threat. Nicknamed "Hell's Basement" by the guards--the only thing separating them from the worst of the worst, the most powerful Decepticons, Autobots, Gobots, and other assorted factions is twelve feet of solid, diamond-reinforced, Tetrinite.

Wing Dagger and Padlock, two of the biggest and baddest guards in Garrus-9, stand stock still, steely expressions frozen on their faces. If a pin were dropped it would sound like a cannon shot.

Suddenly a jarring loud clunk, loud even for this sterilized environment, is heard, followed by the churning of gears. The door between them opens slowly. Its levels of metals slide, one by one, out of the way, finally revealing a black abyss. Wing Dagger and Padlock look up the hall to see if Red Alert is coming, or if, maybe, it's Springer again. But the hall is curiously empty. They turn their heads and peer into the cell itself. Darkness. Just darkness.

"Guards. Oh, Guards. Please help." Patently insincere calls for help emanate from inside the cell. "Help. Please?"

"Fine, I'll go..." Padlock grumbles after a short staring match with Wing Dagger. Leaning into the cell, Padlock grunts. "What you want?"

"Oh, please, I need help. Come closer." Padlock, against his better judgment, enters the cell. "Closer... please, just a little closer."

Then silence.

Wing Dagger cautiously approaches the darkened doorway. "Padlock?"

"Guard? I need help... please... help me. Please." wheedles Lugnut's voice.

"What happened to Padlock, Scum-bag?"

"I-I don't know... please help me? It's so dark in here..."

Wing Dagger, for a moment, considers running away. Running all the way to the elevator and heading up to get Red Alert...or someone really scary. Roulette. Omega Supreme. Fortress Maximus. Primus. But all he can think of is all of his friends laughing, "A big ol' bot like you ran to get a little fem-bot because you're so scared of the dark!" He couldn't let them say that... no. Wing Dagger feels his way into the dark room, steel palm clammy on the grip of his blaster. "Alright, what's the probl--*"

A single red optic glows red from within the cell.

......

Above, Grapple enters one of the ubiquitous laboratories, stumbling in the semidarkness. "Hoist, old bean," he calls. "We. must. make. haste! Don't you hear the sirens? This place is falling down around us!"

Hoist, arms deep in a mass of machinery, responds, "What? No! This is the crucial juncture! I must--"

"Did you not hear me--the prison, my boy, is falling! For all we know, hordes of furious Decepticons are headed here right now, looking for our heads. They brought that killer Lugnut in not long ago, did you know that? I told you you should never have muddled with--"

"Lugnut?! Nobody told me! Love to get a crack at him! Quite the curious one. Kills with his hand--"

"HOIST!"

"...Oh-oh yes. So sorry, old chap." Hoist turns back towards the gray, winged body attached to a very large machine, masses of tubes and wiring running into its mono-eyed head, and mutters to himself, "Still, such interesting technology... unlike anything I've worked with...the regenerative properties are simply..."

"Please, we must be gone at once! There's a riot on our hands! Red Alert's ordered all personnel to evacuate! I will not repeat myself again!"

"Hn. Well, alright, but let me gather my things. You would not BELIEVE the accumulated--"

"There's no time, Hoist. We must get on." Grapple pleads as Hoist shuffles off the the next room.

"Strange thing, that body!" Hoist calls from the next room. "Science team found it on an expedition to--well, I can't tell you that, old boy. Strictly hush-hush." Grapple follows his friend into the next room, shutting the door behind him and punching in a complicated sequence of keywords. In nearly that same moment, Hooligan drops from the top of the large machine to which the body is affixed. He watches Grapple's shadow move across the frosted glass windows of Hoist's office, listening to the muffled conversation, then turns his head, peering over his shoulder at the cone-headed, claw-handed body.

......

Blaster cries out, wracked with pain beyond agony as more and more of the four-legs pile onto him, jabbing him with their stingers en mass.

Repugnus grunts, "Get. THEM. OFF! OF! HIM!"

With a chittering like thunder, his minions, as-one, slam into the four-legs and drive them out the door, then down the hall. Blaster slumps to the floor.

Repugnus rubs the head of one of the organic creatures affectionately and coos, "Good boy..."

Perceptor, about to rush to Blaster's aid, turns, his curiosity inappropriately overwhelming the urgency of the situation, remarks, "I thought so! You can control them? How?"

"I dunno, pro'lly whatever that slaggin' Con did to me. Deathsaurus promised me more power. I never bothered to ask the price. ...turned me inna this." He gestures to his new body. Indeed, Perceptor thinks, studying the insectlike armor covering Repugnus's body, it is indeed very similar to that of the creatures he claims to control.

In particular: the beast-mode head on his chest has big compound eyes and fangs; on his back, the same kind of wings and claws, he even has the same kind of tail. Can...they all transform, he wonders...? Ironhide never mentioned it in his mission logs. And now he's off with Prime, who knows where. Well...Ratchet was on the team as well. Perceptor makes a mental note to quiz him the next time they run into each other at a symposium.

"Ah, so Desz...Deathzar...Deathsaurus? You were one of his experiments? We've always been curious how he managed to bond organic polymers to living metal, producing such a well- integrated and regulated biomechanical physiology. The Pretender process kept hitting a roadblock when it came to advancing the science to that stage, you see. Tell me...who was responsible for your...augmentation?"

"Oh, the doc? Never did catch his name, kept laughing y'see."

"Hn." Perceptor strokes his chin. Curiouser and curiouser.

From the other side of the room, Blaster groans. Crasher calls, "Hey boys, the science fair's canceled! We've got a man down! So MAN UP already!"

Perceptor responds, shamefaced, "Of course, how dreadful of me! Blaster, are you all-"

Repugnus takes a cautionary step in front of Blaster and pulls out a Cy-Gar, lights it on some flaming wreckage, jams it between his teeth, bites "...that ain't Blaster."

What....was until a few moments ago Blaster slowly rears up, his twisted body contorted into a bestial mockery of its usual self, with a segmented maw pointing straight up--trails of lubricant dripping between its jagged fangs and down its body. The Blaster-monster slowly turns around, an anguished and broken version of Blaster's face squeezed between several of the creature's neck muscles. It places its forelimbs on the table in front of it and crawls over, watching the occupants of the room with its many eyes. Perceptor hold up his hands to show that he's unarmed and the Blaster-beast lunges at him, only for Strafe to leap to Perceptor's protection, ending up halfway down its gullet for his trouble. "Gedditoff, gedditoff, GEDDIT--!"

"TAKE 'IM!" Repugnus yells to his minions. They leap into the air, slowing their decent with their wings, and claw at Blaster with sickle-like appendages. Blaster knocks a few away and crushes one beneath his foot, ejecting Stafe, covered with bite marks and saliva, in the process. Strafe hits the wall and slumps down.

The Blaster-monster charges across the room on all fours, beginning to look a lot like the creatures that stung him. It pounces at Crasher.

Crasher spits a string of curses at it and stomps the ground, sending an energized shock wave at and into the creature, projecting it through the wall into the neighboring lab.

Just then, the main lights switch back on. Everyone shields their optics for a second as the room goes from dim and red to what seems, only by contrast, blindingly bright and white.

"Hurry!" calls Perceptor, "We've nary a moment to waste! Blaster, if we can still call him that, is in grave danger, not to mention anyone who--Strafe!"

"Huh?" replies Strafe, rising to his feet, seemingly fine despite the drool and bite marks covering him.

In the dimly lit room, Repugnus notices Strafe for the first time, With a snarl, he launches his hordes toward the panicked, bloodied Autobot, yelling "CON!"

Strafe waves his gun around wildly, as the beasts encircle him: "Nonononono! I'll shoot! I'll do it! I'm warning you, I will!"

"Well, I won't!" yells his gun. "I ABHOR violence!"

Repugnus cocks a brow, then calls his swarm off. He turns to Perceptor:

"Frack whatever happened to me! Is that Strafe?! I'd recognize that whine anywhere, even coming out of something what looks like--"

"They'll be time to explain later!" calls Perceptor, jumping through the hole Blaster made, "Once I figure out what happened to my friend..."

......

The lights come back on in the computer room as well, albeit weakly, the backup generators laboring.

"So, what exactly is he doing?" Thundercracker asks Ravage, jerking his head at Soundwave and suppressing a yawn.

Ravage lifts his head from the relaxed posture he's taken on. "He is doing very important work. Aftervards we are returning to Chaar."

"Chaar? You're gunna meet up with..."

"Starscream. Yes." Ravage calmly answers.

"Damn, now I really wish Skywarp was-" *F-ZASHHHH* Skywarp appears in the room, stumbling to a stop.

"Gah! This place is a madhouse! Oh, Thundercracker! Soundwave! ...Ravage."

"Hello."

"Skywarp! Am I glad to see you!" Thundercracker steps forward and pats Skywarp on the back.

"Oh yeah? Why?"

"Why? Soundwave's goin' to take us with him to Chaar to see Starscream! The Seekers reunited!"

"Starscream? I haven't see that slaggin' scrap-faced spawn of Unicron since The Stargate Battles."

"I saw him a little before...well, you know. I heard, later on, he was there when it happened."

"No slag."

"Yeah, then I heard from Swindle he was on Chaar. That's where they was headed when they got caught."

"Huh. So what we waitin' for? Let's jet outta here!"

"Nah, I think we better wait for Soundwave to finish doin', uh, whatever it is he's doin'."

"What is he doing?"

"Dat is not for you to know..." Ravage says in a hushed voice.

......

Back down in the Ultra-Maximum Security Wing the lights flicker back to life as well. A set of heavy doors, looking into a circular room with a hall at one end, open. From within one cell emerges the powerful figure of Heavy Load. The Decepticon scientist looks around the hall. "Ah, the sweet breath of...freedom!" he chuckles. He doesn't notice a panel in the ceiling slide slowly out of the way and an orange eye-band, glowing in the darkness of the maintenance tube, scrutinize him. Watching...waiting...

Suddenly--from above drops a small Cyberjet wielding a curious transparent green spear. "KIIIIIIYAAAHHHH!" the green and brown, camo-painted Decepticon cries, weapon poised for the kill--only to miss by inches and splat flat on his face at the hulking Decepticon doctor's feet. Heavy Load stares at the little jet for a moment then reaches down and plucks the Solitarium weapon out of its hand. "Innnnteresting...their properties appear...unchanged. Oh, and nice to see you too, Wing Stun," he adds, nudging the Cyberjet over with a toe so he's staring up at the ceiling.

As Wing Stun lies there, twitching as if in response, the winged figure of Air Hunter, his comrade in arms, dapper in black and bright orange, strolls from his cell, nonchalant as can be, absentmindedly assembling his concealed pistol from components secreted in his leg compartments. He's just screwing on the silencer when he nearly trips over his spastic little camo-painted buddy. "Aw, geez, not again! Look, 'Stun...I tol' you once, I tol' you a thousand times...you gotta stop doin' this to y'self. Here, lemme give you a hand..." Wing Stun moans in response.

"Speak up, pal," Air Hunter replies, "You KNOW I can't hear--"

The small orange-and-translucent-gray jetbot whirls as Heavy Load tweaks the Solitarium weapon, causing the air to crackle and spark. "Hey, give that back!" Air Hunter yells.

"Merely running some routine...tests." He tosses the weapon back into the ground. "Have...fun."

Just then, Wrecker Hook leaps from the darkness of his cell, glowing green flail already in hand. His optics dart around the room...you can smell the reek of berserker rage coming off of him.

"WHERE AM I?!" He spins, regarding Air Hunter: "WHO ARE YOU!"

Air Hunter turns, raising his palms in a placating way (or as placating as you can be when holding a loaded gun), speaking slowly, "Eh, buddy, 'ol pal...it's jus' me, y'know, Air Hun--"

Before Wrecker can do anything, the entire wall behind him, including cell door, collapses, pinning him to the ground. Out leaps the hulking, vibrant blue and yellow form of Gigant Bomb.

"CUT THE JIBBA JABBA, FOOLS!"

"Take it easy, GB. Save your bad attitude for the enemy," mutters a rough, commanding voice from an nearby cell, out of whose shadowy recessed strides a boxy blue-armored figure, toting a heavy missile launcher on his shoulder. Looking more than a little like Megatron, circa 1993, he carries a calm, confident air of authority; a Cy-Gar is clenched between his teeth.

With one sidelong glance from his commanding officer, Gigant Bomb snaps to attention. "Yessir, Reverse Convoy, SIR!" Behind him, Wrecker Hook shrugs off the twisted metal and runs down the hall, screaming.

Reverse Convoy regards Heavy Load, his red optics twinkling with a mixture of amusement and disdain. "Well, if it isn't the not-so-good doctor. Nothing better to do than poke at my pals, huh?"

Heavy Load replies, "Well, if it isn't the second-greatest...mind in Cybertronian history. This is all your...doing...isn't it?" He gestures around expansively.

Reverse Convoy throws his arms in the air and yells, "But of course!"

"In that case, I owe you my sincerest...gratitude. Now if you'll excuse me, oh-so-many delicious opportunities await, and I simply must be on my merry...way..."

"Suits me, foo! Don't let the door hit you in the afterburners on the way out," barks GB.

Heavy Load tosses over his shoulder, "How...droll."

"Man, I don' like that guy, RC," whispers GB, turning to his commanding officer. "Give me the willies. Say..."

As Heavy Load saunters down the hall, whistling, Reverse Convoy responds to GB, "I know what you're about to ask, GB, and the answer is no."

GB replies, "You mean to tell me you were...I mean, this ISN'T your--"

Convoy grins knowingly.

"Man...I shoulda known."

Reverse Convoy responds, "Trust me, GB. I know a plan when I see one. If I got us out of here, you'd never know we were gone. This mess...?"

He glances around disdainfully, as a green Seeker, clad in jungle camo, melts his way out of the wall next to his cell door and shambles away from them down the hall, leaving a snail trail of scored metal in his wake.

"...it doesn't even deserve the honor of 'fiasco'"

GB leans in. "But you DO got a plan to bust us outta here, right, chief? I mean, a REAL plan!"

"But of course! All we have to do is walk out the door."

"Huh?"

"Just as soon, that is, as Smoke hauls himself out of his bunk!" He calls into a nearby room, "Snap to, Sniper!"

From the hole through which GB emerged darts a wiry winged robot, decked out in the same hues as his brawnier cellmate. "Sorry, sir, I was just lookin' for my Mini-Con. You seen Sparkplug anywhere 'round here...?"

"Ain't no Mini-Con here, foo!"

Smokesniper's voice abruptly acquires a feminine overtone as he regards GB, "...Well ain't YOU just the finest specimen of a mechanoid ah evah laid optics on (wolf whistle)."

GB grabs Smokesniper by the wing and shakes him. "Shut up, crazy man, 'fore I turn you into spare parts!"

"Unhand me, you ruffian! If you intend to do me bodily harm, I warn you I shall give as good as I get!"

"GET off, SUCKA!"

Reverse Convoy cuts the hijinks short, barking "Alright, boys, show's over! In case you forgot, this here is enemy territory we're in." He glances at Air Hunter and Wing Stun, rounding a corner. He calls, "You guys with us? There's safety in numbers!"

"Nah," replies Air Hunter. "We'll catch ya on the flipside. The way you guys live your lives, we're keepin' a maximum safe distance from ya. But hey--you ever need anythin', RC...an' I mean ANYTHIN'..."

"We've got it. Same to you, soldier." Reverse Convoy replies. He turns back to his men, stern-faced.

GB snaps into a salute, hurling Smokesniper (who had wrapped himself around his arm) into a wall. A dizzy Smokesniper picks himself up and salutes, "Yessir, at your service, sir" then falls over backwards.

Reverse Convoy turns back to the confusing network of passages laid out ahead of them, growling, as he stalks forward, the rest of his team falling in line, "Time to find our way out of this metal pretzel"

Suddenly, he glances back over his shoulder at GB, as if he had a sudden thought. "GB! Remember that time we were on the outskirts of Grand Central Space Station, stranded just south of the Mechanibals' lair?"

"Oh yeah...man, that was one mad, bad mess of a place. I hate space."

Sniper cuts in, applauding. "Oh, marvelously eloquent as usual."

GB turns to Sniper, fists balled. "Yeah, it was crazy, all right. Almost as crazy as the inside of you head, foo!"

"You're missing the point, GB," replies Convoy. "Space is scary, I know..."

"Yeah, man. It's just...down, y'know. Forever."

"Yes, I know, but focus! Try to remember. We learned a very important lesson that day. Didn't we?"

GB starts to speak, then Convoy cuts him off, "...besides never letting Smokesniper fly the ship again."

GB deflates.

Smokesniper adds, "And what pearl of wisdom might that be, oh wise and noble sir...?"

Reverse Convoy grins. "The quickest distance between two points..."

GB pounds a fist into an open palm, finishing the sentence, "...IS A DIRECT LINE!"

He proceeds to hurl himself through a wall.
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Skids » Thu Nov 15, 2012 11:08 pm

......

Up the hall from this scene... past Heavy Load hacking his way through an electronically locked door, up an ascending walkway, through two locked doors and a security field, beyond a large vertical ventilation shaft with a bridge across it, through series of heavy doors, then an elevator ride and six consecutive security checkpoints and then up another ascending walkway, we find Lugnut, working his way up through a series of doors, his single red optic lighting his path through the dark halls. He punches through yet another Tetrinite door as if he were knocking a couch-cushion-fort over. He enters into another ascending walkway. He grunts and begins his trek. Up that walkway, then through another Tetrinite door, up a series of stairwells, then another gamut of security checkpoints, and another elevator ride, then down a hall equipped with an EMP emitter and microwave generators through yet another security checkpoint, then another huge Tetrinite door, he finds a broad room with softly lighted walls.

Hearing the rumble of a poorly maintained engine, Lugnut rises toward the ceiling...

Into this room roars the dilapidated black and green form of Downshift, belching ozone-unfriendly fumes from his exhaust pipes as he changes into his bulky robot mode. Currently sporting a Wheeljack Model 2005-2, the same as Big Daddy, his grimy body shell, bits and pieces held on by duct tape, is a far cry from the lovingly maintained polished and painted form of his fellow guardsman, currently lying in a semi-comatose state upstairs.

Grabbing his oversized missile launchers, the stocky robot darts his gaze around the great chamber. It seems like only moments ago that it was packed to bursting with hustling, bustling activity, a low but constant drone of conversation permeating the air. Now, it's so quite you could hear a pin drop.

Perfection, he thinks, nodding to himself in self-satisfaction. Sheer freakin' perfection. Too bad that pin he just mentioned came from a proton grenade. But hey, 'bout time these brain-bots got their comeuppance. Jus' goes t'show ya...this place is one big old fat freakin' powder keg just like Boss Magnus sez, anyway, all this research an' innovation stuff, ya ask him. Messin' with forces beyond mortal ken--heck, it was only a matter'a time before it went an' blew up in someone's face, an' sure enuff, they go runnin' to ol' Downshift, Sectional Security Chief, t'solve 'deir problems. Well, that's what' 'ee's here for, alright. Not that 'dey pay 'im enuff fer it; kinda budget they're blowin' on this place y'd think they could spare a few more Shanix for a veteran of the...

The gun-toting officer's hateful, bitter reverie is interrupted by the distinctively horrible screech of Jetfire's engines as the green and silver cargo plane emerges from a large circular opening in the wall up near the ceiling. Transforming in mid-air, the larger robot lands with an obnoxiously heavy thud in front of him. And then he speaks. Why does 'ee 'ave t' freakin' speak?!

"Eyyyyyyyyyy monnnn, dis place be quiet as a tomb! I ain't seen NOBODY around! Be givin' me da chills..." Jetfire booms in a loud, deep voice, Downshift hating every fiber of his being.

Downshift, curbing the urge to just plug 'im (who would ever know? Escaped prisoner went wild, never saw 'im comin', took it in the Spark Chamber, too bad, such a shame, I'll send flowers) curtly responds, "Got th' memo from up top, dincha? System-wide evacuation order. Everything must go."

" 'Das heavvvvvy, mon..." replies Jetfire with great meaning (only to him).

Downshift responds, eyes shifting back and forth, then up, thinking about the millions of tons of cement and metal hanging over their heads, "Heavy, huh? That's the understatement o'the century...some of those joy boys upstairs party a little TOO hearty, all that's crashin' down on our HEADS."

"Well if the action be up 'dere, what we doin' down HERE?"

"Welllll, compadre," Downshift responds, "the long and short and the thick of it is we're doin' our JOB. Some o' those bad boys we got stashed hereabouts try to stir somethin' up with the constabulary, namely me and you, well, if it's trouble they're lookin' fer...lemme tell ya..." *cocks missile launchers* "...I'm more'n happy to oblige."

"Ey, be cool--how we know 'dis ain't a drill?"

"...a drill?! A freakin' DRILL? Ha! You protoformed yesterdee or somethin'? You see anybody, anythin' 'round, kid? Nada, zip, nobody. The braintrusts skipped town an' took their science fair projects with 'em and left us holdin' the ball, one that's probably gonna go "BOOM" any second now. Primus..." (he shakes his head derisively), "kinda dough it costs t'run this place, you think they'd turn it upside down 'an empty it out like this fer a giggle? Nah, somethin' reeeeal nasty's goin' down. I kin feel it in my sub-sub-processors...now, mind you, me, I ain't surprised, I coulda told ya this day would co--"

"If you ready to roll, I ready to fly, 'mon," interrupts Jetfire. "Like I say before, maybe you don' lissten--what we doin' coolin' our engines down here for?! Dey's a time to chill an' a time to kill...bad vibes be comin' down, we should be lendin' our bruddas in arms a blasta!" The jetbot produces two large missile launchers.

"What we are DOING," retorts Downshift, wearily, "as I explained to YOU, is stayin' put. Which is our JOB. 'Least me, anyhow. (Still got no idea where you run off to earlier...) But hey, you wanna play the hero, kid, be my guest! But me, this here's MY beat, my patch o'sidewalk, an' 'brudda,' I'm stickin' to it. I ain't givin' up my street corner to NOBOT, 'specially not some stinkin' CON."

As Downshift speaks, his fingers tighten around the triggers, in sheer anticipation. Fraggin' Cons, he thinks, who the frag do they think they're messin' with, anyway? FRAG!

"Ey...mon...."

Tryin' to start somethin' on his turf? HIM?

"Ey."

Well--Let 'em! Bring 'em on! He'll blow 'em halfway to--

"EY! MON!"

"WHAAAAT?! WADDAYA WANT?!" Downshift explodes. "He just HAS to speak," he thinks. "Doesn't he! WHY does he have to freakin' speak?!"

"I thought I saw somethin'."

Downshift whirls around, his optics wild, fuel pumping. They're HERE! "WHO?! WHO'S who...I mean, here!?" he yells.

"'Der, mon. Over 'der."

Jetfire points vaguely at the far distance. "'Dat blur over there."

Downshift squints across the dimly lit room, its sheer vastness straining his optics. "I don' see nothin'. 'Least I don't think so."

Jetfire shrugs. "Eh...maybe nothin', mon...your engine fumes, they be makin' me see things sometimes. STRANGE things. CRAZY things."

As Downshift buries his face in his palm, fingers sweaty, a sudden thought brightens his disposition. Say, he thinks, place fallin' apart as it is, the slag's really hit the fan NOW, ain't it? Blasterbolts flyin' everywhere, bombs bursting in air--Heck, who knows, situation like this, well, hey--big lunk like we got here, head in the clouds, doesn't watch where he's goin', Who KNOWS, he might just trip and FALL--right into a hail 'o laser fire. Times like this, ANYTHING can happen. Man, we better get upstairs. In a hurry.

He reaches up and grabs Jetfire by the arm, hustling him toward the distant door, gleeful in his anticipation.

"Ey, what's da hurry, mon? I SAID I don' see nothin'!"

"No, pal," Downshift replies, "...no, you DEFINITELY saw somethin', and WE are gonna check it out. C'mon!"

As they get closer, the blur gradually resolves into a dot. Then as they move even closer, it takes shape, form, becoming a blob.

"Well, I'll be a son of a Scraplet," Downshift says under his breath.

"See, I TELL you I see somethin'!" Jetfire retorts.

"Yeah, yeah, yer prize is in the mail," Downshift grates, narrowing his eyes, hating the big guy for his stereoscopic vision and even more for having been RIGHT. "Huh. Maybe. It ain't shootin' at us, at least, so I'm guessin' not a Con (Good eyes, by the way. I guess it's true that you really can read the writing off a Shanix at 50,000 feet like your Autopedia entry sez...figgered you wrote that part yourself.)"

As they approach, the blob (or blur!) gradually resolves itself into a vague figure, standing stock-still a few meters from the far doorway, his back to them.

"Now who the slag is THAT?" Downshift thinks aloud, then cups his hands to his faceplate and yells, "Hey! Hey buddy! Didn't you get the memo?! Restricted area! Everyone must go!" The figure, oddly, eerily, doesn't respond, doesn't turn around, doesn't even twitch.

"Why he be standin' so still...?" Jetfire wonders, his optics whirring, attempting to focus on the figure off in the hazy distance--with little success.

At the other's words, Downshift feels his oil chill--just a little--deep down in his fuel lines at his companion's words. Just that old feeling in the back of your processor, he thinks, when somethin' BAD is goin' down. REAL bad. Jitters, he thinks, dismissing his apprehension, forcing himself to focus. War jitters. War's over. Safe now. Safe. Focus. FOCUS. Safe.

"What do I look like, pal, the Magnificence?" he replies, trying to lighten the mood, trying desperately to take his mind off memories of waiting, waiting with Bots and Cons alike listening to Xaaron telling them Unicron was on the way, waiting for news of Prime's condition after the Battle of Autobot City, waiting deep down in the trenches back at the battle of Thunderhead Pass as the storm gathered, waiting for...dammit! He jerks himself back to the present.

Now WHO in the world could that be?! It's not shootin', so chances are it's not a Con. But then who?!

He blinks, squints, trying to make out a feature, a detail, color even.

Giving in to his frustration, Downshift bellows, "HEY!!!"

The figure starts to turn around. Downshift blinks, blinks again--and the figure is gone! GONE!

"What th--where'd he go?" he demands, as if accusing Jetfire for the disappearing act.

"I don' know!" Jetfire responds, waving his palms in front of him. "Maybe you scare him away!"

"Don't be ridiculous," Downshift responds, breaking into a run. "I got a bad feelin', and sometimes it's a good idea to listen to 'em. C'mon!"

They double-time, racing to the area where the figure had been, Downshift switching to car mode to cover the distance, then grindingly back to bot form.

"One minute he be there, the next poof!" Jetfire yells as he touches down where the mysterious figure had been, the screech of Downshift's tires still in the air, along with the stench of his exhaust.

"Just like a ghost..." Downshift mutters. Downshift represses an inner shudder as he peers at a strange pink stain on the floor. "Well, didja get a chance t'see who it was...?" he asks, waving away his own engine fumes.

"No, mon."

Just then, something wet and slimy drops from above, caressing the back of Downshift's neck.

Downshift whirls around, then just about falls onto his skidplate in surprise.

Mere feet away, as if appearing from thin air, the figure stands, close as live and crystal-clear in clarity. Red and black armor, a hint of yellow. Broad shoulders. Even with his back still turned to them, Downshift makes him instantly.

Blaster.

Downshift feels a flood of relief at the sight of his old comrade.

"CHEEZUS, Blaster," Downshift yells, mopping his brow, more happy than angry. "You about scared the life out of me!"

Blaster doesn't turn to face them, doesn't even move. Something's wrong, Downshift thinks. Very wrong.

Downshift takes a tentative step forward, feeling that old chill again in spite of himself.

"Blaster!"

Nothing. No response.

Two steps.

"It's me! Your old pal Downshift! 'Turn the music down or I'm givin' you a citation' Downshift...?"

Still nothing.

Three steps.

"...Blaster...?"

Slowly, Blaster turns around.

Jetfire screams.

..........

Back in the science wing, Perceptor and Strafe, in vehicle mode, tear through the corridors of the science wing, Strafe barely making the corners.

Suddenly, one of the Scrapmetal creatures descends from the ceiling, grabbing Perceptor with its four legs. Losing control, Perceptor spins out, bashing into a wall. Perceptor transforms, trying to shake the creature off his back, catching sight of its venomous stinger out of the corner of his eye.

"N...NO!"

As if on cue, a ventilation grate clangs to the floor, and a small ball of orange fury hurls itself straight at the Scrapmetal, biting, tearing and chewing its way into the beast's circuits with savage glee, until the Scrapmetal is left a spasmodically twitching pile of parts on the floor.

Perceptor, sitting on the floor, shakes his head, befuddled, and mutters to himself, "What in the name of--"

As Perceptor gathers his faculties, the hunched form of the newcomer, with oil-caked claws and dripping fangs, crouching atop its kill, jerks around toward him, hissing angrily. The scent of spilled fuel reeks from its jaws. Its optics narrow, its fangs bare, face twisted into a hostile little mask.

It sees, Perceptor thinks to himself. It RECOGNIZES! And it's--

Strafe, having roared ahead, just then jerks around, wings scraping the wall, and rips back overhead, switching to robot mode in midair to land on the other side of the creature from Perceptor. Seeing Perceptor in danger, he remembers his combat training under Afterburner, whips out Rocketbot, and takes aim.

Perceptor cries, palms raised, jumping to his feet, "O--oh--Strafe! Don't shoo--"

But his words come too late! IT has begun.

Strafe desperately squeezes the trigger again and again...to no effect. For the drooling creature remains unharmed! Eyes glowing yellow, it hops to the floor and, hissing under its breath, slowly advances, the hallway resounding with the sound of the hollow click of Strafe's finger on the trigger, and, below that, a background sound builds, some sort of distant, discordant jangling. Strafe's eyes widen in greater and greater panic. He tries to move but finds himself frozen in the hypnotic glow of those optics, rooted to the floor. Gradually, his trigger clicks, once staccato bursts, begin to feel like slow motion, hours seemingly passing between each squeeze.

With every passing second, the creature seems to grow bigger and bigger, from a diminutive shape to an all-consuming horror utterly filling his field of vision.

"No...no...NOOOOOOOOOOO..." Strafe cries, his mouth slowly gaping wider, inch by inch, in horror--the rough sound of his own terror echoing in his audio sensors, strangely, distorted, as if heard through a wall of water.

CLICK He squeezes the trigger!

Nothing happens!

Oblivion...grows closer!

"...OOOOOOOOO--"

He CLICKS the trigger again!

Nothing!

It's reaching out for him, the sound and the fury, through time and space, gradually, inexorably, agonizingly, with horribly, impossibly, INFINITELY long-fingered hands---! Its jaws yawning, cavernously, like the ravenous gullet of Unicron himself!

"....OOOOOOOOOOOO...."

It's--! It's ALMOST HERE! IT'S--!

Strafe squeezes his eyes shut. The lids feel ten tons heavy, like he's carrying Metroplex on his back, the strain of this simple action almost blacking him out. The roar of his own screams battles with the thunderous metallic background discordance, storm-tossed waves crashing on the surface of his mind. As each optic grinds closed, far too slowly to block out the looming sight of his oncoming doom, he wills himself to turn away, mentally if not physically, from the sight of the bottomless pit that is coming, coming to swallow him whole! But...but it's no good! He's falling, tumbling head over heels into the void, into--

Nothingness!

"...OH."

Wow. Strafe cautiously, very cautiously, opens his eyes. The optic shields snap right up, light as feathers. He'd expected death, at least the agonizing, teeth-ghashing kind to be a lot more painful. Louder, too. Less well-lit.

He'd expected to face Mortiulus himself, or perhaps the Final Judgement of Primus. But this...well, this is the LAST thing he was expecting!

Strafe leans downs, agog in astonishment as a tiny little orange beastie, strangely tiny and waif-like, stares up at him with bottomless liquid black eyes. Its jaw quivers as it emits a low, pitiful whine. It reaches a tiny, tentative, harmless-looking finger up toward Strafe's face.

He realizes around this point that he's still alive. He promptly falls over backwards, faints, comes back online.

He doesn't know how long he's been out. A few seconds, an hour. No, the thing is still there. Lying flat on his back, he tries to piece it all together, overcome with surprise at the sudden sight of the the odd little creature gazing soulfully down at him. Overcome with relief at being alive. As his mind returns to normal, quickly, the usual instinct takes control. Panic.

Scuttling backwards, still holding Rocketbot in one hand, he tries hard to get away! It's as if all of the pent-up terror he couldn't adequately express before has suddenly exploded into pure physical motion.

"Ohmanmanmanohman...!!!"

Perceptor, capitalizing on the momentary distraction, calmly and cooly, near silently, drops to one knee, deploying the laser rifle mounted on his shoulder as he dusts off his sniper training. A targeting reticle flips down and a winking red box appears on the inner surface of his optic sensor, locking into a firm green glow as it settles on the back of the creature's head as it crouches over the form of Strafe.

"Strafe," Perceptor breathes, more to himself, powering up the weapon with a low hum, "Make no sudden moves."

Of course, Strafe would hear that. "Huh?!"

Strafe jerks upward into a sitting position.

"Damn and Blast!" Perceptor mutters as Strafe rises to enter, and ruin, his perfect shot.

Strafe looks past the beast, now practically sitting in his lap, and notices Perceptor aiming a gun at him.

"HUH?!"

Strafe's utterance, a short, sharp, knifelike intrusion erupts from his mouth and bounces down the corridor. The orange one yanks its head around, baring its teeth at Perceptor, staring him in the face, while simultaneously throwing its arms around Strafe's neck as Strafe, startled, instinctively hugs it to him and leaps to his feet, all in one motion.

As Strafe seizes the raging little beast, Rocketbot clangs to the floor, too stunned to transform back to robot mode. Stumbling around, Strafe struggles in a panicky way to get the creature off of him, his...hugging of it only making IT thrash around more. The blur of motion throws off Perceptor's target lock. With great effort, Perceptor breaks his momentary eye contact with the creature, looking away just as the jangling begins at the edge of his consciousness.

"Loathe as I am to utter an obscenity...SCRAP," mutters Perceptor to himself, rising to his feet, shaking off a momentary sluggishness.

Strafe's new...friend squeezes ever tighter, staring over its shoulder at Perceptor, an inner light once again flaring brightly in its deep dark eyes. The science chief, for his part, continues to advance, step by step, cautiously and carefully, deliberately averting his gaze, the pipeline to his brain, his very Spark, from meeting the creature's, letting the gun's targeting sensors do the aiming. "Now don't panic," he mutters. The fact that Perceptor is aiming a gun at him without even looking does nothing to help Strafe NOT panic.

With each step Perceptor takes, the creature seems only more confused, more agitated, as if expecting him to instead freeze in his tracks as Strafe had done. Sensor-splitting flashes of light burst from its eyes, but Perceptor continues his steady progress, still trying to reestablish a positive lock with all its thrashing about.

Strafe cries in panic as Perceptor simultaneously bears down on him and his new cargo chokes and scratches him. "Ah...ah...AHHHHHHH!!!!! ...OUCH!"

The scream chokes in Strafe's throat as the orange one's finally claws bite into his ultralight yet heavy armor, dragging trails down its surface that quickly, too quickly, mend themselves, circuits and steel knitting back together almost as soon as they're rent asunder. The momentary pain jerking him back to reality, Strafe notices the beast's body body rattling in his arms, its head jerking back and forth, almost as if with denial...as if with...oh. Oh, so that's it, Strafe thinks. He's just really, really--

"Uh, Perceptor..." Strafe asks tentatively.

"Strafe. As I say, don't panic. Everything is under control."

"Perceptor....? I, uh, I think you should...stop. I'm serious. You should really, really stop. We aren't in any danger. I think..."

"Uh...what...?" Perceptor, momentarily startled by Strafe's words, halts in his tracks, still looking exclusively down at his feet.

"Uh. I think he's...well, I think he's just scared. I may not get much, but I DO get that. I get scared."

For a few seconds, the chief scientist seems ready to dismiss Strafe out of hand, ready himself to take yet another step closer. But then something seems to click in his mind, and he holds his ground...stands stock-still...the only sound in the narrow hallway the steady but gradually subsiding (in pitch and tone) "Grrrrrr" of the creature, until finally, its soft breathing is the only noise to be heard.

As Perceptor folds his gun away, the creature's viselike grip on Strafe slackens, loosens, falls away and it drops to all fours. Strafe seems to deflate. Perceptor lifts his eyes to meet its.

Cautiously, suspiciously, the orange thing backs away, the glow fading once again from its eyes...hiding for a moment behind Strafe's legs, body tensing, not to fight, but flee, synthetic muscles in its legs tensing as it readies to leap back into the safe, dark warren of ducts from whence it came.

Just then, Rocketbot awakens, twitching back into robot mode! The creature jumps back, sweeps out a clawed hand and grabs the still-disoriented Targetmaster, jamming the protesting gun robot into its mouth! Snarling in a way that seems to declare "MINE!" it blasts back into the ventilation system, the sound of "OH MYYYYYYYY" trailing in its wake.

Strafe and Perceptor stand there stock still for a few more seconds, not sure what just happened to them.

Finally, Strafe breaks the pregnant silence.

"Perceptor?"

"Mmm...?"

"What just happened? And wh--"

Perceptor, dusting himself off, interrupts, feigning composure. "A mild hypnotic effect. Psychotropic. No doubt some manner of self-defense mechanism developed to account for a diminutive stature...but as to why it absconded with your firearm/compatriot, I cannot say. Now come, we must away. Blaster needs--"

"Oh, that, yeah." Strafe answers, waving his hands. "I figured that first part out. He messed with my head. Easy enough to do, I guess. ...And I bet it just took Rocky cuz it was...*ulp*...hungry."

"Good. Now let us--"

"No. No." Strafe says, becoming more sure, more serious. There's still something, he feels, unvoiced, something that must be aired. "...let...just let me finish."

He takes a deep breath and then continues...

"What I'm trying to ask you is..."

Strafe jerks a finger at the open duct overhead.

"...just who the frack WAS that?"

Perceptor decides to try a little psychological evasion, not sure how sharp Strafe is but figuring he's in the high '90s of naivete, low '20s of cynicism. Ah, the Downshift Scale, what would they do without it?

"Who do you think it was?" he asks.

Before Strafe can muster a reply, the swarm rush by, nearly barreling over them, followed by Repugnus and Crasher.

Repugnus calls out, "Stop standin' around like a coupla statues an' get yer rears in gear! The boys just got Blaster's scent!"

Perceptor almost seems relieved to have dodged Strafe's question

"OH...oh yes...Blaster. ....Blaster!"

Just then, a piercing howl of agony cuts through the corridor.

.....

Moments later, Perceptor, Crasher, Repugnus, his swarm, and Strafe enter the immense, almost spherical room from whence the cry emerged. The swarm spreads out and sniffs about as Repugnus leans against the door frame. Strafe reaches instinctively for his Targetmaster and finds nothing. Shivering, he switches his hand to a blaster cannon and sweeps it around randomly. Crasher walks straight into the room with purpose. She stops in front of a puddle of Energon.

"Hey! Get over here!"

Strafe joins her, nervously looking at the swarm surrounding them. One of the yellow ones hops forward and sniffs the energon, then looks straight up. The rest of the swarm follow its gaze. Crasher and Strafe share a glance, then look up too.

Directly above, dangling in the round opening in the ceiling, hang Downshift and Jetfire. Their bodies stripped of their outer casing. Downshift's eyes still wide with fear.

Strafe screams and runs to the door as Crasher continues to stare at what little is left of the two guards. Even Leader 1 would never have sunk so low.

She feels oily bile rising in her throat as she stares up into their bottomlessly lifeless eyes. She feels herself slipping back, back to that day...fire and laughter and friends, brothers exploding all around her. It is as crystal clear to her now, as it was then. The smoke pouring into the sky as she ran, ran as fast as she could, unable to convert to her much faster vehicle mode. She trips, there, next to her, half a Decepticon. He looks to her for help, mouths 'help me!' to her, his one optic hanging by a wire. A flash and he's gone, she looks back, towards the fire. Obscured by flames the... the thing is coming towards her. Laughing... the-the horrible laughing... it-it was ENJOYING THIS!

"Scrap! I hate this slagging planet and your stupid fragging war!" Crasher turns to storm off, muttering to herself that if Cy-kill were still alive...

"Keep your head on straight, girlie," growls Repugnus to Crasher, as he and Perceptor step forward, circle the oil-spattered floor beneath the bodies, which dangle from some sort of gooey techno-organic webbing. They cast ghastly, distorted shadows across the orange metal floor as Perceptor scans all the while. "He's close," Perceptor mutters.

Repugnus scoffs "Your fancy scanners tell you all that, bud?"

He sniffs the air loudly.

"Oh, he's close, all right. And one more thing. He's hungry."

"Wh--whaaaat...?!" Strafe says loudly, gesturing broadly to the large, empty room, "I don't see anything, do y--AAHHHHHHHH!"

Skittering down the edge of the spherical wall at high speed, the Blaster-creature spits forth a string of goo that snares Strafe by the neck, yanking him off his feet with near neck-breaking force. Panicked, he converts to jet mode, the beast's sticky web becoming mired in his inner workings. As hard and loud as he roars his engines, the Blaster beast, increasingly mutated with every passing minute as the venom courses through its circuits, claw-tipped limbs dug into the wall, refuses to give ground, yield its perch. Impossibly...despite the thunder of twin interstellar engines...perhaps by sheer force of will, of hunger, it's drawing Strafe in, toward the ravening, toothy gullet that has grown out of Blaster's chest! With his rockets the only thing slowing its progress, and then ineffectively, Strafe realizes, transforming back to bot mode will surely seal his doom. His only shot is to keep on blasting until his fuel runs out, hoping that it'll wear the creature down. But he knows in his Spark that somehow, it won't be enough. And he's oddly calm with it. Maybe, he thinks in a philosophic moment between bouts of blinding panic, almost getting eaten twice within 15 minutes DOES this to a bot.

While Strafe grows ever more resigned to his fate, Perceptor has a different opinion. The creature should be making short work of Strafe, given the latter's disoriented, battle-damaged state, the scientist evaluates from his less intimate position, chipping away at the steel-hard technofiber with precise shots from his shoulder cannon. And yet...and yet it can't seem to get the thing done. ...could it be toying with him? NO, no, obviously it IS straining, struggling HARD to devour him, oceans of saliva gushing from between its fangs. But if it isn't Strafe that's holding it back, Perceptor thinks, practiced exobiologist's eye assessing the tension gripping the creature's body, then it must be an internal struggle, must be--

"Blaster's still in there," Perceptor cries! "Fighting it!"

Meanwhile, while still trying to draw Strafe in (or resist the impulse), it spits out weblines rapid-fire, aiming at the others. Only Crasher's electrified kicks keep the creepers at bay.

"Well tell him--NGH--to fight HARDER!" cries Crasher.

As Perceptor fires a few more futile shots that fail to sever the thick, strong-as-steel cord holding Strafe (which is gaining as more webs are vomited forth and form onto it), he's almost nailed himself by a glob of web. He calls "Stay out of the path of his webbing, everyone, or we'll all go the way of Strafe!" (Seeming to condemn Strafe before his time)

Crasher barks, "'His'?! HIS way? Open your optics, Autobot. 'HE' is nothing but an 'it!' now!"

Strafe adds, "I'm not dead yeeeeeeeeeet..."

Repugnus signs, observing the situation from the sidelines, arms crossed.

"Can't run, can't stand our ground...damned if we do, damned if he don't."

He shakes his head sadly, then says: "Guess it's up to me. AGAIN. Times like this I hate myself for bein' so damned indispensable."

He yells, striding boldly into the line of (sticky) fire, "Hey, ugly! I'll give ya somethin' to chew on!" and attacks the creature head-on, firing energy discs from the prongs on his wrists.

"Repugnus, no," yells Perceptor, "It's certain suicide!"

Taking a full-force web-blast, Repugnus calls, as he's sucked into Blaster's gullet, "That's the frackin' POINT, son!"

As Repugnus disappears down the hole, Perceptor looks away in sudden despair, as the slavering jaws clamp down, HARD. Yet he feels a guilty spike of relief as the creature, choosing to relinquish Strafe for a more willing supper, cuts the former Technobot loose. Strafe, for his part, goes careening across the room, like a bullet from a gun!

"Cybertron, LOOK!" yells Crasher, grabbing Perceptor, as the beast gulps and slurps and burps, forcing him to stare at Repugnus' demise "See the fate that awaits ALL of us!"

With one more heavy GULP and then a retching groan, the creature falls silent...curiously silent, in its perch upon the curved wall. And then, slowly at first but in a mounting crescendo of spasms, it twitches, and trembles, then breaks into full-on writhing, ending with a storm of electricity, leaping outwards from within, that wreaths its entire body, frying every circuit it touches, sizzling exposed syntho-flesh and nearly overloading the optic sensors of all those present.

When the light show is over, the smoking heap drops from the wall to the floor with a crackly thud, flat on his back, blackened and scored. After a few moments of hushed silence (punctuated by the return of Strafe, with a bang, nose cone first into the ground), Perceptor takes a tentative step toward the ruined pile of legs..only to leap back, startled, as the creature's "mouth" bursts open, and a sparking, sneering Repugnus emerges.

"Gave that thing the worst case of indigestion it ever had."

He slumps against the wall, deeply shaken, as Perceptor rushes over to Blaster, activating his scanners and grunting with effort as he, with the help of a few Swarmlings, turns the heavy body over.

Strafe, switching back to robot mode, notices the webbing covering his body is dissolving now that the creature is out of commission. "Interesting," Perceptor says, picking a few strands from his assistant, "Some sort of psionic properties binding the material to the willpower of the creatu...er, Blaster, no doubt."

"Yeah," calls Repugnus, searching his person for a Cy-gar, cursing as he realizes his stash must have gotten burned up in the creature's belly, "...just PRETEND you know what yer talkin' about!"

"Please be alive...please be alive..." Perceptor whispers. He can't repress a hint of a smile as his scanner pings. Still life!

Perceptor casts a glance up at the two bodies dangling above. He turns to Repugnus, gesturing to Jetlock and Downshift's bodies. "You there! Stop laying about and cut them down! If Blaster's still functional, then...!" He turns his scanners back on Blaster.

Just then, the bodies of Jetfire and Downshift plummet to the floor, the webs holding them disintegrating; as the broken forms drop, the swarm becomes a chittering purple and gold cushion, catching them gently before evaporating from under them.

Repugnus staggers over, spits, and then peers at the contorted mess that used to be Blaster "Frack...you call that functional?"

Perceptor, "Barely! But where there is still the Spark of life...even an ember...there is a way!"

Repugnus scoffs. "Maybe Blaster, these things are built tough, but those two? Wishful thinking, you ask me" He gestures at the bodies as his swarm mills around them, Strafe passing his scanners back and forth over what remains. "I mean, just look at 'em! Taken apart, top to bottom. Stripped like Swindle got his hands on 'em. Face it, folks, tape boy came unspooled and these sorry wrecks paid the price."

Strafe leans over what's left of the Autobots and shakes his head sadly. Downshift is barely clinging on--flickering--but from Jetfire, no Spark of life remains, merely an empty husk. Maybe they're the lucky ones, he thinks. An odd thought then pops into his head: well, at least now Skyfire can change his name back.

Repugnus misunderstands this, and then turns back to Perceptor. "One's done and the other's half-gone. I ain't no Ratchet but I wouldn't rate his chances. Sorry doc." He jerks a thumb at Blaster. "An' the jury's still out on B-Boy here. After what he did to those two good bots, maybe we're better off puttin' him out of our misery!" He unslings a wicked-looking heavy blaster with protruding wings and claws from his back.

Perceptor cries, "No! Blaster is still alive in there! Think about it! He could have finished them...consumed them! But he resisted!"

Repugnus scoffs, "Yeah, he fought like hell. To digest us! Hell, he almost made a meal o'ME! And this is ME we're talkin' about! ...the Mechanibals spat me out!"

"No...I saw it! He was fighting the urge. Blaster...the Blaster we knew...know (!)...can be saved. I'm absolutely convinced of it. Here's here with us now. Fighting to subdue...the beast within!"

"Ask me, the only one yer tryin' to convince is yourse--what the flamin'--!!!"

Suddenly, Springer bursts through the ceiling, crashing what feels like a half mile down to the Durabyllium floor, cracks spiderwebbing around his beaten body. Sparking, fountaining Energon from vicious wounds, Springer lets out a weak moan. The other Transformers in the room look down upon the wrecked Wrecker. Springer looks up, his right optic only receiving static; the left refuses to focus on the forms gathering around him. Then fleeing. He thinks the blackness of death is descending upon him as he looks up and sees a great shadow blots out his vision. He realizes he's probably wrong as an incredible weight, an unbelievable pain explodes in his belly. He knows he's wrong when he looks up, vision clearing for a crucial instant, and sees a massive pink claw heading right for him!

Landing hard on Springer, Double Punch once again begins to pummel the Wrecker, again and again, the floor cracking and buckling with each cacophonous blow. Springer cries in agony between each hit. Double Punch barely feels the strain in his servos of having fallen 15 stories straight. He's still too damned MAD to hurt, and he ain't got TIME to bleed.

"D-dear Primus! Stop him!" Perceptor calls, regaining his wits, his overwhelming urge to RUN. The swarm looks to Repugnus for approval first, who jerks his head to one side, spits. The word is given! They leap as one onto Double Punch, but howling like the monster he is, rage has made him, he swings his mighty body in a curving crescent of force, like a tidal wave, throwing the swarm off, slamming them to the ground. He punches Springer once more, and the swarm redoubles its effort. Furious at being thwarted in his vengeance, he finally turns on the swarm and transforms into scorpion mode and blasts them his his tail stinger, squashes them under his treads, smacks several with his claws then grabs one, crushing it, and hurling its pieces at the others.

Strafe steps forward, squeezing off a couple of rounds from his arm cannon, wishing Rocketbot were here, as Double Punch reverts back to robot mode and charges the Autobot like a mad bull. Strafe activates his foot-rockets and careens out of the way just as a fist hammers hard into the polished floor. The huge Decepticon swings with his other shovel hand and hits the floor again. Misses. Double Punch follows Strafe, shooting at him with his tail-guns, missing each shot, as Strafe nimbly darts around him.

"Surprisingly agile," mutters Perceptor, before coming to his senses and leaping from the path of a blaster bolt.

"You!" he calls to Repugnus, "Restrain and subdue him...!"

"What the frack you think..." Repugnus growls, narrowly avoiding being stomped, "...I'm TRYING to do!? Want my advice, I say we leave "restraining" to Magnus and "subduing" to people like Prowl and just plain OFF this sucker. Let me FINISH this. It'd be a mercy *YIKES* for HIM and for me. Unless I suppose...*UNF*...you think THIS one's worth savin', too?!"

Perceptor sighs. "Very well then."

His face hardens, turning from that of a coseted researcher to the visage of a former resistance leader.

After a moment of contemplative silence, punctuated by Repugnus's grunts, Perceptor speaks, low and hard "BRING HIM TO HIS KNEES."

"'Bout frackin TIME!" snarls Repugnus. He turns to his horde and calls, "Alright, boys, let's REALLY give 'em somethin' to write home about!"

Taking to the air, the swarm encircle the hulking Con in concentric, tightening circles, descending, enclosing, until, finally, his monumental form appears for all the world to resemble one seething mass of scales and chitin.

Then, Repugnus calls, "LIGHT 'IM UP!" With that, the room briefly resembles the core of a star, as the swarm unleash several million volts of electricity!

"POUR IT ON!" yells Repugnus. "Give 'im--what the--?!"

Roaring with enraged agony, body crackling and steaming, Double Punch flexes, sending the swarm covering his upper body flying in all directions. As a mound of them still cling fiercely to him, he advances slowly but surely toward a blanching Repugnus, as if running through quicksand. But it's too little, too late, for Perceptor exploits the distraction, scales the backs of the beasts, leaps onto Double Punch's head, and unfolds his rifle before the Con knows what's happening. "This may sting a little," he mutters, before firing a laser blast point-blank in Double Punch's face!

Howling in pain, Double Punch clutches at his face, which has become a seething mass of molten metal and glass, the bubbling remnants of his visor fused to his flesh.

Blinded, mad with frustration, the Con swings wildly to no effect, then, retracting his tail blasters, raises his deadly tail high above his head, then drives it down directly into the floor, sending forth a spiral of cracks in all directions, and hurling all around him airborne, or clinging to the tumultuous earth for dear life.

All save Crasher.

Her nose wrinkled in disdain and her mouth twisted in rage, she storms towards the massive black Con. Sweeping the living ocean of Repugnus's swarm to both sides, she stomps. HARD. The energy-laced shockwave shatters the already broken floor into splinters and dust! Like lightning it crackles across the floor before striking the colossus dead-center, piledriving him into a far wall. Where he remains.

Turning her back on her handiwork, she growls, "That's MY trick."

From the circular portal far above, a single red optic gazes down, coldly evaluating the situation. Rising to his full height, Lugnut makes a mental note, then turns slowly and proceeds on his way.

......

Down in the belly of the beast, Heavy Load watches as all the other Decepticons follow the path made by Lugnut through the endless security to the surface. He notices a few smaller cracks and gouges, attributes them to Wrecker Hook. He slowly waves goodbye to Air Hunter, who's too distracted helping the dizzy Wing Stun navigate the corridors to notice, then turns to a blank wall. He gently pushes on a wall panel and it clicks and slides back, revealing a keypad. He sticks the end of the Mini-Con grafted to his arm into the socket next to the keypad. Suddenly half the wall slides out of the way, revealing an elevator. Humming to himself, Heavy Load steps into the elevator and presses the button. The doors slide closed.

......

The Emergency Surgery Ward, originally a place to save lives, recently has become a place to poke and prod at those who have been corrupted and mutilated by others. But now it is going to get to relive its past glory. Its computer gladly pulls up the proper files, scans the patients and displays relevant information on its many screens.

First patient... Springer: Triple Changer [Prone to Multiple Personality Syndrome and T-Cog wear], Wrecker [High-risk subgroup prone to serious injury], Flight Risk [Especially as he is literally capable of flight. Do not leave unattended even if seriously wounded], Volatile [Sedate if needed, do not place in room with Decepticons or other Wreckers], etc.

Second patient... Blaster: ERR SCANNING: Blaster: Mini-Cassette Capable [Links with several consciousnesses, prone to-ERR... SCANNING... DATA CORRUPTED ERR ERR ERR ERR ERR....

Perceptor and Crasher help Springer, who curses that he can take care of himself even as sparking wires and conduits dangle from a gash in his stomach, onto a table.

Crasher goes back into the corridor and drags Downshift into the room, practically tossing what little is left of him into an R-Tank.

A few of the insect drones carry Blaster into the room and place him on a circuit slab neighboring Springer's. In the process, they falter, causing him to land splayed on the needled surface with a thud!

"Be careful!" Perceptor yells at the Swarm. "This operation calls for extreme precision! Besides, if the creature should be jarred ever so slightly..." Perceptor eyes the bestial form nervously, as if expecting it to leap up from the table and caper out the door. He can swear that he sees a clawtip twitching...

"Go easy on 'em," Repugnus mutters, leaning against the doorway, "They've had a long day. And you owe them...an' me... big time."

"I understand..." Perceptor mutters examining the monitors.

"Don't reckon you do. Way these boys turned up the juice turnin' that Con's lights out during that last battle, it's a miracle they're still standin'. Speakin' o'which... suppertime, kids."

Their job done, the drones raise their claws, and abruptly, the lights dim, the computer's activity slows...but at the same time, their carapaces are illuminated with a dull glow.

"Fascinating," Perceptor declares. "Electricity is absorbed directly through the carapace and metabolized into Energon. Suddenly the inexplicable blackout earlier makes sense. I'd simply assumed Leo Pr--Convoy had arrived to pull the plug on us all. Budget cuts and whatnot."

Repugnus replies, "Yep. I reckon the boys were froze solid as a rock when you found 'em?"

"Indeed, they had been placed in a form of suspended animation, stasis, if you will. And rest assured, as an unknown property, they were kept that way."

Repugnus replies, "I'm also guessin' when the big sleep wore off, they woke up with one Unicron of an appetite. Sucked all the juice in the immediate vicinity, or so I figure from "lights out," and the resultin' flareup in their biomech battery packs. Jolt o'power out of the blue like that was lucky...only way I managed to even find 'em."

"You've been searching for them?" Perceptor asks while sifting through a wheeled cabinet full of various pointed implements. Absently, he adds, "Strafe, do retrieve the Experimental unit. And begin charging the Spark Extractor, would you please."

"Spark extractor," growls Repugnus, "That's some pretty Vehicon slag you're spoutin, doc."

"Quite," Perceptor replies. "So, to return to our earlier discourse, you're saying you have been searching for these entities?"

In the background, Strafe is attaching all sorts of tubes and conduits to Blaster. Turning, he presses a button on a control panel, and the table holding Blaster's 'birthday present,' slides from the corner of the room where it is kept. Strafe begins linking tubes from Blaster to the menacing winged form.

"Bingo. Ever since I got away from...well, that's a story for 'nother time. I was gettin' close already, mind. I mean, I'd broken into THIS place, no sweat (security's a joke, lemme tell ya--whole defense system's based on the silly idea of breakin' OUT o' prison. Who'd expect somebot 'ta break in) an' I just KNEW you had 'em stashed somewhere 'round here, but..."

"Yes, pinpointing them was the issue. I'll have to relay your complaints to Red Alert vis a vis the security system. I fear our dear warden may be unduly reliant upon--THE COMPUTER! You! Stop that!"

A purple insect drone looks at Perceptor in surprise and drops a medical tool onto the floor.

Repugnus says, "Aw, my boys ain't doin' no harm. Just a little peckish still!"

He grins as he bends down and picks up the technometric scanner.

"This...this is just desert."

"Not them, HIM!" Perceptor yells, pointing beyond the Swarmling.

He jabs a finger, not at the hungry bug, but at a small orange figure in the corner of the room, a telltale air conditioning duct swinging from the ceiling above him.

"Aw, not HIM again!" Strafe yells. The beast, who's pried loose a panel on an expensive-looking piece of machinery and is gnawing at some wires, looks up in fright as Perceptor stomps across the room toward it. Turning inside out, it reconfigures into a small orange sports car, then blasts Perceptor full on in the glare of its blinding yellow headlights.

Perceptor finds himself knocked onto the back foot--before he can catch himself, the jangling begins to ring in his ears...

"Crasssssherrrrrrr...Suh...suhhhhhtoppppp...*" he hears himself moan in slow motion before everything goes blank.

Crasher, who's been sulking in the corner, taps her foot ever so lightly lightly on the floor, once. A shock wave slams Perceptor from floor to ceiling and back again, stunning him out of his trance.

Startled, its spell broken, the creature turns on a dime and speeds out the door. "Repugnus," croaks Perceptor, picking himself up off the floor, "Get after that...thing! Primus knows what mischief he, uh, it could get up to left unattended."

"Love to be of assistance, doc, buuuuuut I think we've done our share for today. And just between you, me, the spazz, the chick and the dead guy..." (gestures to Springer, who mutters feebly "I'm not dead! Lemme at 'em") "...I got bigger Seacons to fry. C'mon, kids."

The insect drones, which have been keeping Blaster's limbs down in case he wakes up, turn and follow their master out the door.

"Crasher," says Perceptor. "I suppose this falls to you."

"All the dirty jobs," she mutters.

"Crasher! This attitude is...*cough*...unacceptable...I gave you a job and I expect you to finish--"

"Hey, I cured you, didn't it? I DID my job! So leave me alone!"

"Who needs 'im, or HER," groans Springer. "Let me have a crack at--AHHHHH! "

He tries to rise, then lets off a howl of pain and falls off the table onto the floor, face-first, fluid gushing from his belly wound.

Perceptor runs over, scanner in hand, still coughing and reeling from Crasher's 'cure.' "Goodness! He's more injured than I originally believed! Unsurprising, though, considering it's..."

He pauses for a moment, glancing around the well-polished room. Once, years ago it had been a place to save lives... but now... there's a Spark Extractor in the corner, that technology had been illegal since Megabolt's reign of terror was ended, sadly by GPS and not Autobot or Decepticon hands, he laments. This chamber is a surgery ward in name only, anymore. Now it is more akin to a torture chamber.

"Strafe!" Perceptor yells over his shoulder. "This laboratory is unsuitable for the facilitation of Springer's recovery. Transfer him to a proper medical facility, would you? I can iron out the details here."

Strafe extricates himself from a tangle of wires and tubes; the wiry bot hefts Springer with surprising (unsettling, for those who know him) ease. He turns to glance at Perceptor uncertainly. "Alright, but I REALLY think we need to talk about---"

"...enough!"

"Okay, okay," he mumbles. "C'mon, big guy..."

Perceptor turns to Crasher, brow furrowed in anger. "You're...*kaff*...still here?"

"No, I'm already gone." Crasher turns and walks out the door.
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Skids
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Skids » Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:23 pm

......

Crasher peers into every hidey-hole she can find. The tire tracks went dead while ago, and now she's working on intuition alone. "Here little what-ever-you-are! C'mon to Mama. Slagit, where are you?" she calls.

Coming to a T-junction, Crasher looks up and down the hall, then glances back over her shoulder, realizing she doesn't even know if the thing she's supposedly chasing went this way at all. Why'd she hop-to when that docbot snapped his fingers, anyhow? She tried to give him a hard time of it, but her heart wasn't really in it. And now here she is, doing his bidding. Again. Eh. Maybe she's been in this place too long...force of habit.

Contemplating what to do next, she realizes that for the first time since... it happened she is free of Autobot eyes. No jumpy, neurotic, guard nervously watching her, obviously finding her attractive, yet terrifying. No perverted, pseudo-intellectual, scientists thinking they know more about her than she does and trying to invent more new and more invasive ways to poke and prod her.

Freedom... sweet freedom. She chuckles softly to herself and takes a right, deciding to make her own way out. To slag with...whatever that orange thing was that Perceptor and Strafe were having their little drama over.

Striding boldly down the deserted halls, smiling to herself, Crasher revels in her newfound freedom. She can do anything now. ANYTHING. She could join up with the Decepticons in the prison, fight the good fight, and either get out or be recaptured knowing she tried. Or she could break out on her own, seek out Starscream, buddy up with him (most likely already crowned himself 'Emperor of Destruction') and wait for Megatron's inevitable return (and the equally inevitable thruster-kicking). Maybe find her old Renegade comrades and start her own subfaction. Or, perhaps she could just strike out on her own, find Megatron, bring him back to Kaon and become his new lieutenant; then when the time is right, make her move... and marry him. Or, she could always find that hunky Leader-1, wherever he went off to after Rodimus blew up Gobotron. Maybe she could find both of them, lock them in a room together and use them for-"Oof!"

"Well, well, well. Aren't you an interesting little...THING..." chuckles a gravely voice from above and behind.

Heavy Load slid out of the hidden elevator moments earlier and found the little Go-Bot deep in thought. Taking advantage of the moment, he swung his huge cement-mixer-drum arm around her so she wouldn't be able to escape. "...I was just on my way to the Space Bridge, and to my surprise, what should I find but a sweet innocent little fem-bot skipping merrily...into my loving arms. Lucky... Me." His mixer arm splits open, revealing the mother of all probes, crackling with energy.

Crasher, off guard and ill-prepared to deal with the much larger Transformer, finds herself in a rare moment of weakness. And her mind snaps to the event:

The fire seemed to lick the sky as buildings collapsed and Decepticons melted. The entity stood amongst the flames, part of them, one with them. Rolling back its head it let out a deep, earth rumbling, roar.

Heavy Load raises the sinister device, capped with a pulsating orange tip encasing sinister, sharp-looking implements, uncomfortably near Crasher's face. She flinches away from the hot exhaust venting from his body. Pressing herself up against the wall, she wishes she had gone running back to the Autobots after all. He rotates his body, pulling his arm back, preparing to strike the little Go-Bot. Heavily, he breathes, "Trust me, sweetheart...I'm a...doctor."

At that moment Crasher sees a hulking shadow, something that can dwarf even her assailant, rise from behind Heavy Load. It taps him on the shoulder. "Excuse me."

Heavy Load rotates his head. "Eh-?"

"MOVE!" Heavy Load's body snaps back, feeling as if it's just had a headlong collision with the Cosmic Carnival. By the time he realizes what's happened, he's at the opposite end of the hall, jerking himself out of a wall into which he's become significantly embedded. The massive form spits one scorn-laced word at him over its shoulder as it continues on its way 'round a bend. "Die-cast." Heavy Load twitches, and something stirs in his cogs. It's been a long time since anyone called him...that. Not since...

Crasher stares down the hall at her would-be attacker staggering, leaking Energon from cuts and gashes on his arms and legs onto the floor. What had--so FAST!

Suddenly she snaps out of it. She whips her head around to look at Lugnut ponderously tromping down the hall. "W-wait!" she cries, as she chases after him, leaving Heavy Load to pain and the past.

......

Perceptor stares at the two linked robots with his hand on a large switch. He ponders the strangeness of the action he is about to take to save his friend's life. Transferring a spark from a cutting-edge body, corrupted by an unknown virus injected by a creature found on a dying planet on the edge of Transformer-explored space, into a cutting-edge body made from unknown technology from the very same dying planet on the edge of Transformer-explored space. Perceptor ponders the odds and irony of this but then the voice of Ultra Magnus come into his head. "Stop thinking about it, and just do it, Perceptor!" He clears his throat, gives a slight chuckle, and throws the switch, thinking of a far more famous Autobot, and the fateful switch he threw. Perceptor hopes dearly that the consequences of his actions are far less weighty.

The robotic claw descends; the digits open, revealing a black abyss beyond. The Spark Extractor attaches itself to the Blaster-monster. Perceptor checks Blaster's life signs on the computer monitor. "Humm." he murmurs.

The reading fluctuate in an unsettling manner; meanwhile the computer finds it easier to get readings now that it has isolated the spark via the Extractor. Perceptor assesses the data thus far--feels he has no choice but to continue.

He flashes back to all of the times Blaster saved his life, back when it was just him and Perceptor and Scrounge and Warpath and a handful of other rebels scurrying amid the ruins of Polyhex, making desperate assays against the assembled might of Darkmount, Optimus Prime and the others thought long-head, lost on that fateful expedition. Command had always rested heavily on Perceptor's shoulders. He knew it was the same for engineers such as Maximus or functionaries like Xaaron. But at least a maker of things could build his way into newer and better means of waging war (or making his escape, as it so happened with Fortress Maximus), a politician talk his way into continued existence. That wily old buzzard. But what could a scientist do? Observe his surroundings. Evaluate the data. And conclude, grimly, that Cybertron was doomed to a slow slide into an oblivion that remained, mercilessly, always just out of reach.

Truly the times that test bots' sparks...and though the fires of conflict had forged them all by necessity into fighters, on their best days, leaders, a Prime, none of them had been, or at least felt he or she had been. It had taken the return of Prime, the one true Prime to stem the tide. And when it was revealed that Optimus, not a hopeless fantasy or a legend but a living LEADER fought on, that the war now raged on on another world, called Earth, the burden of command had been all too quickly and gladly relinquished.

But, he realizes, finger hovering over the button, Blaster had never shared his unease for action. When he gave an order, Blaster did his job, quickly, efficiently, and with gusto. If anything (Perceptor chuckles despite himself), his old friend had been perhaps a bit TOO action-packed, following orders Perceptor was fairly sure he'd actually issued. The point was, when Perceptor needed him most, Blaster never hesitated, never faltered. And he'd never balked, backed down when it came to doing what he felt was right, even when it seemed like a risky move, and the data didn't support the proposed solution, even when Perceptor himself, was...as was sometimes proven in the end...wrong.

And now the tables were turned. Blaster's life in his hands, a question of risk and reward on the table. So if Blaster...if Optimus...would've cast caution to the wind, gone all out in the pursuit of doing the right thing, well, perhaps so should HE.

He presses the button, thinking, uncharacteristically, "Primus, please let me be wrong...or right" and the Extractor (surprisingly silent) engages: an armature whirs into place, laser beam cutting aside a mass of blistered biomatter, revealing a panel on what has now become Blaster's back. As the laser scalpel retracts, the claw pries the panel open and activates the tractor beam, yanking on the Spark. But this new, mutated, body refuses to relinquish its ownership of Blaster's essence, digging its claws deeply into the slab. Perceptor turns the dial up to full power, just short of the red zone. The spark begins to flicker, to give. The monitor warns that too much strain is being applied. Perceptor, grunting in frustration, turns the dial all the way to the end of the red zone. The machine sparks and the lights snap out.

......

In the Space Bridge chamber the overhead lights EXPLODE, raining sparks down on the startled Decepticons. A few scattered blaster shots illuminate the darkness, until Mindset barks, above the gunfire, "SILENCE!"

A hush descends on the shadowy room as the 'Cons wait for the emergency lights to activate.

"OUT, the lights are!" Weirdwolf yells, piercing the dark.

Swindle yells back, "Yeah, no duh, Professor!" as the generators labor to activate the backup lights.

......

Down in the Computer Core, Skywarp, Thundercracker, and Ravage's heads jerk up as the rows of overhead lights explode one after another.

"Hnn, the slag's goin' on NOW?" Thundercracker says, turning to Skywarp. Skywarp just shrugs. From across the room, still glowing from a teleport.

Even Ravage looks puzzled.

With that, the computer begins to glow red, crackling and seething with power.

"That can't be good." Thundercracker remarks.

As if on cue, the central monitor explodes, hurling Soundwave away from the access port.

"You just HAD to open your big mouth, didn't you?" Skywarp demands as the two Seekers rush for the door, flying debris hot on their tailfins.

His tentacles retracting, Soundwave glares at the computer, all the while hunched over in pain as molten metal rains down around him. The three other Transformers, meanwhile, duck out the doorway, avoiding the massive electric sparks, pieces of burning scrap metal, and strange bolts of radiation flying everywhere. From the base of the computer, a river of flames rushes forth to claim the room.

"Vait! vere is Soundwave?" Ravage looks around, turning his head aside to avoid the incredible heat pouring from the doorway, his Geiger counter hollering.

"Heh, he's still in there!" Skywarp chuckles, jerking a thumb toward the inferno.

Soundwave calmly emerges from the flames, looking none the worse for wear. He holds up his arm and a holographic map pops up. He turns and walks down the hall. The other Decepticons follow him, Ravage out of loyalty, the others because they can't think of anything better to do.

"Heck," Thundercracker grins to Skywarp, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." He realizes that he'd much rather be WITH Soundwave than risk running into him in the dark.

Just then, a band of crimson emergency lights running along the ceiling hum on, casting everything in a hellish glow.

"'Least we can see where we're goin'," Skywarp says. "I wanna KNOW what kills me before it kills me...!"

"We got an extraction plan?" Skywarp grumbles to Ravage.

"Talk to him," Ravage responds, indicating Soundwave. Skywarp shrugs.

........

Back at Iacon in the Space Bridge chamber, boredom reigns supreme.

Longrack continues to ineffectually poke and prod at the Space Bridge Controls. Nearby, Smokescreen has set up an impromptu card table from a pile of crates...which an angry Sideswipe is currently threatening to knock over.

"You cheated, you lousy cheater!" he yells.

"Cheat? Deceive? Bamboozle? Extort? Moi? You wound me, my friend!"

"Hey, don't give me any ideas!" Sideswipe says, brandishing his gun, which Smokescreen promptly plucks from his hand.

"I'll take that," he comments.

It takes Sideswipe a second to realize what just happened. "What th--hey!"

"Winner take all, my friend. Spoils of outrageous fortune. Etc. Anyway, honestly, I don't know what you're so sore at me about," Smokescreen continues from behind his cards. "You chose your hand, and you chose badly. Simple as that. Now live with it."

Sideswipe looks ready to lunge over the table. "So you're sayin' this is all my fault, huh? You're sayin' I'm SIMPLE!?"

"Hey," Smokescreen says airily, shrugging. "You take your life in your hands when you take a chance. Blame Lady Luck if it makes you feel better but don't come crying to ME."

Smokescreen turns to Cliffjumper, who is cleaning his many and numerous guns at the end of the table. "Speaking of hands, care to try yours, Cliff?"

Cliff responds, "Waddaya think I am, stupid?!"

Sideswipe adds "Hey! You callin' me stupid?"

As Cliffjumper and Sideswipe threaten to come to blows, Smokescreen slips his winnings into a subspace pocket...and takes a peek at their cards.

"You worried?" a gruff voice behind him mutters. Smokescreen turns to see the red optics of Hot Spot glaring down at him like twin suns from the cavernous shadows of his helmet. An expression of "what" crosses Smokescreen's face. Hot Spot, by way of explanation, adds, "Inferno. Don't be. Fire-bots can take the heat."

The conversation over, he strolls over to stand by Magnus, who's standing by Longrack. He whispers something in Magnus's ear and Magnus turns in the direction of his unmerry men and clears his throat, loudly. Very loudly. Like a bomb went off.

He turns back to Longrack, who's punching buttons on the console, and asks "How goes the battle, soldier?"

"Sir! The control console of the Space Bridge, the device we Autobots use to transport personnel, supplies, and materials across great geographical and spatial distances, is currently unresponsive to my attempts to, with my special arm (no other like it exists), manipulate, uh--"

Magnus, with more than a hint of exasperation: "...so the controls are dead."

"Sir, that is a gross oversimplification of--"

Just then, the doors burst open and Leo Convoy strides in. "Tick-tock, Magnus. TICK-TOCK."

Longrack salutes, almost hitting Magnus in the face. "CONVOY ON DECK!"

Wing Saber wrinkles his brow in annoyance. HE wanted to say that.

Leo says to himself but loud enough for everyone to hear, "Ah, the sweet sound of subservience."

He shoots a glance at Magnus's Maulers, who growl and mutter at him.

Leo pretends to ignore the insult, and walks over to Magnus, getting more than a little too close. "Sand's filling up that hourglass, Magnus...water's circling the drain...(gets even closer, whispers)...time's almost up."

Magnus replies, "Cool your engines, Convoy. I've sent for a specialist."

"Who?" Leo looks around. "Mirage?" Leo laughs a little too hard at his own joke.

"He's in...transit."

"Well, you better just hope he 'transits' himself over here PRONTO, 'cause every second we delay is comin' out of your salary."

Near the Space Bridge, Nightbeat loudly declares, "Aw man! I'm not even supposed to be be here today!" Scorch adds, "Yeah, this is my day off!" Nightbeat yells back, "I just said that!"

Cliffjumper mutters to Sideswipe, "Hey, this guy even cut our paychecks?" and Leo Convoy responds, "I do NOW! Executive order issued in a state of crisis." He adds, in a hushed tone, "Boom."

Magnus is about to turn to break up this disagreement when at that moment, a white and green sportscar comes racing through the door, screeches to a halt so abruptly it flips over, and transforms in mid-air into robot mode, landing on the card table. Cliff, brandishing his gun from behind a smaller crate, barks, "Geez, Jackie, scare the Sparks outta us why don'tcha! You're lucky I didn't turn ya into swiss cheese!"

Magnus mutters to Wheeljack under his breath "...You're late."

An irate Wheeljack replies at the top of his lungs, "Late?! Slag, Mags, count your blessings I made it here at all. Hadda run over 10 old ladies just to--"

Leo, laughter in his voice, cuts him off. "THIS is your ace in the hole, Magnus? THIS old duffer? The Autobot that time forgot! I don't even--"

Wheeljack cuts him off in mid-pontification. "Whaaaat...?! You bust your transmission, you break down and call a technician, ammitrite? You drop a Null Space Cube on your foot again, you call a doctor, eh? And when somethin's really broke, I mean, like, past the point of no return, and home sick to boot, well, you don't call no ordinary grease monkey or pill roller...you call the doctor and the technician, the medic and the mechanic--all rolled into one--you call the Miracle Worker! And...voila...just like magic...here I--"

Leo (again interrupts) "Mechanical you may be, my good friend, but mechanic you are most certainly are not. And as for the doctor, let's call him now, because brother, you need a check up from the neck up. And as for miracles, the only one that comes to mind right now is that you've managed to stick around long as you have without blowing yourself to the Pit and back, and the planet to--"

Wheeljack interrupts HIM again. "Ahhh, shaddap and lemme get t'work." He turns to Magnus, and adds "Magnus, can you shut this guy up for me?"

Magnus shrugs in a "would if I could" way.

Leo's eyes get big with fury.

Wheeljack continues, "Heaven forbid I should finish a SENTENCE. EH, whatever, let's get this done and dusted. Only reason I'm here's for old time's sake. I got a business empire to run..."

"Right this way, Wheeljack," Magnus replies, walking past Leo Convoy without acknowledging him. As Leo trembles with rage, Magnus adds, "And thanks. I know you're got your hands full these days."

"That's the understatement of the century!" Wheeljack exclaims as he hops down from the crates and follows Magnus. "You hear what happened last week? Here I am, tryin' like mad to get the new product line safety-tested out the door and what should happen but Somecon breaks into my lab and steals the prototype body shells! LITERALLY blew a hole in one wall, bodygloved into the thing, blew a hole in the opposite wall and off he goes! We're talkin' public menace, Magnus! Those things ain't street legal yet! Not to mention the moment the general public claps eyes on the new model, every bootlegger this side of the Sonic Canyons is gonna be sellin' knockoff Wheeljacks like there's no tomorrow. Crazytown!"

Wheeljack continues to kvetch as Magnus escorts the stocky 'bot over to the console, gently but firmly brushing Longrack aside.

"A good soldier died the day you went into business, Wheeljack," Magnus replies to Wheeljack, shaking his head solemnly as he lays a hand on the control console.

"Eh, it's a livin'!" Wheeljack replies, walking up to the control panel and past the twitching Leo. "One with a guaranteed lifespan. And heck, it beats dodgin' laser fire. I used to roll out, now I'm rollin' IN IT. ...though I do miss the old days sometimes."

Leo, practically speechless at being ignored, can only sputter in indignation. The rest of Magnus's crew tramps past him.

Peering at the console, Wheeljack says, "Now lessee what we have here. Wish Bulky was here, he's the real brains behind Space Bridge control."

"I'll give him a call," Magnus responds.

As the others slowly congregate around Wheeljack in fascination, leaving Leo Convoy alone and sans adoration, even attention, the Convoy who would be Prime finally finds his voice. "I. HAVE HAD. ENOUGH!"

Nobody answers, the muttering huddle more interested in Wheeljack's exclamations and prevarications as he studies the control console.

Slapping a fist into an open palm, Leo marches forward, shoving Magnus's troops aside, Leo yells, "I...I don't have to stand for this kind of disrespect!"

He gets in Wheeljack's face. "YOU, my friend, are in serious--"

Wheeljack looks up at him briefly, then shakes his head and turns back to studying the controls.

"HMMMMMMMMMM..." Wheeljack grunts.

Leo glares. "Do you even know who I--"

Wheeljack continues to peer at the console. Presses a few buttons experimentally. "HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM"

Leo throws up his arms over his head and yells, "Oh, that's just the LAST str--"

"HRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM--AHEM. *Cough*"

Leo, livid, reaches instinctively, vainly for his tailwhip, only to come up with thin air. Just then, Hot Spot clamps a hand on his shoulder, pulling him away from Wheeljack, and intones, "I think you need a time out."

Magnus, taking that opportunity to lean in between Leo and Wheeljack, asks "Conclusions, Wheeljack?"

Wheeljack looks up at Magnus, slowly and meaningfully, and answers, solemnly nodding his head: ".............It's broken."

Leo, instantly switching from malice to mirth, grabs his stomach, laughing so hard it hurts.

Winding down--"...ha...ha...aha..."--he turns on his heel and prepares to leave, but not before dropping a final "....good thing MY men are already on the way."

And with that bombshell, he walks out the door.

As he exits, Magnus hears vaguely, through a haze of red rage, Leo's voice, saying, "Oh SNAP."

As Leo leaves, Searchlight sidles in, glancing vaguely back at Leo. "Comms are still down." he announces. He looks around and asks, "You doing anything about this?"

"We're trying." Magnus responds. "And what are you doing down here?" Magnus adds. "You should be in the I-Hub, trying to think a dig us a way out of this mess!"

Searchlight shrugs. "I got bored crunching numbers. That's Chromedome's game. Figured this was where the real action was." He glances around the room. "Guess I was wrong."

Searchlight notices the heated card game.

"...on the other hand..."

........

Back in the the Emergency Surgery Ward, the lights flicker and the emergencies kick in. Perceptor, who has ducked behind a table, peeks out over the top to see the Spark Extractor's arm pulling away, with some difficulty, and rotating over to Blaster's new body.

"Ah, excellent..." he says to himself.

The surge has taken a heavy toll on the Ward's computer. It HAS managed to stay online, but some of the programs are corrupted. All information on the Micromaster Slow Poke and Chief Justice Tyrest has been erased, every Cybertronian's creation date had been moved up three days (yet not any of the colonists or Gobotronians), and, lastly, the computer now believes itself to be a twelve year old girl from Phoenix Arizona.

Perceptor resumes his place at the controls, gingerly, tentatively, almost afraid of what horrors the readout may display. He peers at the screen for a second, then allows himself a deep sigh of relief (funny how he'd inherited that trait from the humans despite the lack of correlation to his bodily operations--and he'd been ready to lecture Tracks about his yawning...!), slumping over the controls in exhaustion.

And relief. For the computer displays that Blaster's spark is intact and the damage done in removal will heal on its own. It also mentions that his Cutie Mark is a series of musical notes.

Perceptor is just about to get back to business when he glimpses the flicker of motion from the corner of his eye. Through instinct honed from years of fleeing for his life, some of that time in Wheeljack's lab, he hurls himself to one side as the Blaster-creature's wicked claw cleaves the control panel in two! He KNEW he'd seen that arm twitch earlier! He feels strangely justified in his rightness, even as he scrambles for his life. Staring into the toothy maw of what is now in all sense of the word a mindless beast, Perceptor chuckles inwardly at the thought that, in freeing Blaster's Spark from its clutches, he's successfully freed IT from the last thing keeping it from eating him alive. Well, it was worth it, he thinks, as a ball of webbing pounds him cheek-first into the wall...

Will it eat HIS Spark, now, he wonders? Will Blaster, should he manage to rouse himself in time, know how to operate the controls to save him? Probably not. Perceptor wishes he'd taken a little more time to teach his friend the ways of science.

Just as the beast's rotating inner rows of teeth begin to fill Perceptor's vision, and all goes black, the creature abruptly convulses in agony, hollering as round after round of high explosive ammunition is pumped into its scabrous hide. Perceptor opens his tightly squeezed eyes, feeling almost as scared as Strafe, as the smoldering, fleshy curtain falls away to reveal Blaster, wicked and angular, hovering in mid-air, shoulder cannon smoking.

Blaster regards the twitching, trembling mess on the floor, then squeezes off a single round from his sniper rifle. It stops moving. The Autobot shakes his head at the ruined pile of slag that was once his body and sighs deeply. "It's a DAMN shame."

He feels himself jerked forcibly to the ground as arms are thrown around him in a tight embrace.

"Whoa, hey, Perceptor! Uh, nice to see you too...!"

......

"H-hey you! Stop!" Crasher continues to follow Lugnut down the halls of Garrus-9. "Stop, I wanna talk to you!"

Lugnut ignores the fem-bot and continues with steely resolve.

"Hey, Cybertron! I jus' wanna thank you for saving me from that Gear Grinder back there!"

"I was not saving you. It was merely an object in my path."

"Yeah, well... thanks anyways." Crasher stops walking. "S'not like I owe you or anything."

"My actions are not my own, I serve only Megatron. If you wish to repay your debt, then do so for Megatron."

Crasher perks up and rushes after Lugnut. "You're loyal to Megatron? When my world was destroyed by Rodimus, I was angry and unfocused. Megatron found me and taught me to focus my rage, use it to my advantage. Megatron is my whole world."

Lugnut stops in his tracks. He turns slowly, hunching over to examine the little Go-Bot, then lifts his arms into the air, scraping his knuckles in the ceiling. "MEGATRON IS EVERYONE'S WORLD!" he bellows. "ALL MUST BE MADE AWARE!"

.......

"The bold but silent figure of Countdown," Countdown whispers, rushing down darkened corridors, leaping around corners, "...rugged yet sculpted, chiseled body rippling with a refined elegance matched only by its barely contained brutish might, his movements brash and forceful, yet as silent and graceful as a Leopardtron's, slides down the dank, dilapidated corridor, optics darting to and fro, seeing all, his elaborate yet tastefully restrained sensor suite knowing all, his long, strong, armor-piercing cannon, capable of delivering 500 rounds of hot, electromagnetized metal DEATH per second primed for battle, killing all, his--"

Just as he's rounded a corridor, a sudden skittering sound behind Countdown disrupts the oversized Micromaster's hushed monologue. Hugging the wall for dear life, willing himself to be ONE with the wall, he desperately wishes he were small again or these pitifully puny shadows were deep enough to conceal his bulky, garish form. Steeling himself (as best he can, feeling as if he's made of rubber), he peers, mouselike, around the corner...then squeaks as he finds himself staring down the barrel of a gun. His jaw articulates, but no words emerge. The world goes fuzzy, then gray, then black.

Interminable minutes spent floating in the sea of nothingness pass before a familiar voice draws him back, buoy-like, to the shores of the functional.

A garish red and yellow blob, pulsating and vibrating, is yelling at a blue blob. Another, shinier blue blob is nearby.

The sarcastic red and yellow blob says, exasperated, "Great, just great. You killed him. See? I always knew something like this would happen someday."

"I'm tellin' ya, lad, he just--" says the old blue blob.

"Sir, if you would just for a moment listen to--" says the conceited shiny blue blob, interrupting the other two blobs.

Or at least he had thought he was alive. Until now.

As the blurry eyesore resolve into the form of Rodimus Prime (but what was wrong with him? The others are Kup and Tracks, of course. Old and conceited), he realizes, with chilling certainty, that, in fact...

"I'm DEAD!"

"SEE?!" Rodimus says irately, gesturing to Countdown, "He AGREES with me!" Rodimus takes a second look at Countdown, who's peering at him, and squints back ".....oh. By the way, what are you staring at? Oh, right. Hurray, I'm alive. All Hail Rodimus. Congratulations on staying by my deathbed, by the way, real moving eulogy you gave at the state funeral, too..." (pauses) "...wait a click... did I leave my manifold open again?" (checks himself) "Oh, I DID. At least this time it wasn't in front of a crowd of thousands..."

It takes Countdown another couple seconds to resolve exactly what's been troubling him about Rodimus. He's...

"Sir...begging your pardon, but aren't you...far more puny and insignificant than you used to be? About an hour ago?"

"Well, yeah. I'm surprised you noticed, considering all of us must look like tiny, meaningless dots to you 99% of the time these days." Rodimus gestures to himself. He's smaller, younger. Hot Rod. "Dropping the Matrix tends to do this to you. Brother, lemme tell ya. There was this one time when I--wait, no, better not tell that one...save it for the memoirs I'll never write."

"But...Tracks...and...and you, and the thing...was..." Countdown gestures as vaguely as he babbles.

"Oh yeah. Pretty cool, huh? A shell game of the truest sort. Made for a really awesome death scene, too, you have to admit. Went all to pieces on you. Old T-Wing didn't give me a second look. Kup damn near went off his rocker, though. Well...more off it than usual."

"You mean...you mean you were wearing a--uh..."

"You sound surprised! I thought that was your trick, too. Y'know, a little Countdown somewhere in there piloting you...I do have to admit, the whole thing seems to have backfired on me, though, huh? And here I thought I was being all Prowl and stuff. Say...you wouldn't happen to have the Matrix on you, would you?"

"I'm afraid not," Countdown replies, looking downcast. "The Matrix is gone..."

Rodimus finishes, "...and with it, all hope."

Everyone falls silent.

"Sir," Tracks interjects, "I could have told you something like this would happen!"

"And, in fact, you DID tell me. And it did. Good job, Tracks." Rodimus smiles broadly and pats his assistant, just a little too forcefully, on the back. "No joke."

Kup, looking like his spirit, not just his back, is broken, mutters, sounding more lucid than usual, "Can't laugh this one off, boy. You really blew it this time. Sure, you're all about the grandstand play, the last-minute save, the thrill of livin' on the edge...puttin' your Spark on the line for fame and fortune. But all that's ancient history. Has been for years now. Face it, lad...carrying the Matrix makes you OLD. Takes about 25 million years off your life in five seconds flat. Just lookit Optimus. One minute he's leapin' off rooftops, doin' Jet Judo while wrestlin' Allicons with his bare hands, the next minute he's callin' everyone "Old Friend" even if he just met 'em and speakin' quote and verse from the Covenant of Primus. All thanks to a little old thing we call the Essence of Primus."

"Your point being--?"

"Point is: there's no goin' back. You're a grownup, now, kid. Time to start actin' like it."

Rodimus turns to the others, grinning.

"Man, when KUP calls you old, you know you've really--"

"Dammit, lad," Kups snaps. "...listen to me! You're a Prime, lad...now and forever. You're everyone. And your actions have consequences. BIG ones. Just ask Optimus."

Rodimus looks down, gritting his teeth and clenching his fists,

"Optimus, Optimus, Optimus...spare me the guilt trip, Kup! What do you think I keep Magnus around for? And believe me, I HAD my reasons for..." He then perks up "And besides, who do you think you're kidding. Think things through? The last time I sat down to make a serious decision, a whole damn planet got blown up!"

"Sir," Tracks responds, "You RODE the BOMB into the ATMOSPHERE!"

"True," Rodimus answers, "But I thought long and hard before I did it."

Seeming to want to escape the awkward situation, he hops backwards on his feet, saying, "So I lost the Matrix? Big fat deal, it's happened before. All I gotta do is get it back, right? ...And look good doing it."

Transforming to vehicle mode, he speeds around the corner, calling, "Besides, for all you guys know, this is all part of the plan..."

The others shake their heads disparagingly. Kup seems ready to say something to the others, when Rodimus calls, breaking the pregnant silence.

"Hey! Guys! Get in here! Now!"

"What izzit, lad?"

"I found it!"

Practically falling over themselves, the three rush around the corner, only to stop abruptly as they see Rodimus standing next to a vaguely Thunderwing-shaped hole in the wall.

"Just kidding."

......

"I SAID: SIT! DOWN!" Strafe slams Springer's shoulders down onto the table.

"Gah!" Springer groans, not revealing the sheer blinding pain he actually experiences. "Fine... fine. Uncle. I give up." Springer would never admit to it, not even to himself, but he's happy he isn't being allowed to stand up again. Then it dawns on him. "Strafe, when did you get so strong?"

"Huh?" Strafe looks up from the Medical Ward's readout. "Uhh... I-I'm not too sure..."

Strafe looks out the glass wall of the Medical Ward into the hall, deep in thought.

"All I know is... One breem we're called in to analyze some unusual scans sent back to Cybertron from a deep space probe. As Computron we get through the readings pretty quick (woulda been quicker if Afterburner hadn't started up a fuss in the 33rd sub-tetrahedal cortex node about how slaggin' boring it all was)...anyway, there... there was something unusual about the scans... a strange energy... I........don't remember the rest."

"This little...ow...trip down memory lane is...rugh...absolutely fascinating, but-urg-but could you-y'know...? Bleeding to death here?" Springer says, gesturing to the apparatus hovering over the table he is lying on. Scientists, he thinks; they could be standing knee-deep in a puddle of your spilled mech fluid and all they would be able to talk about was what an interesting (or abnormal) color of purple your blood was.

"Huh? Oh. Right." Strafe pushes a button. An Energon Repair Ray activates and Repair Crabs crawl out of the apparatus and drop onto Springer. "Well, anyways, it was late, we stayed to finish analyzing the data...We had made some kind of breakthrough... but... I don't remember.... then there was... Lugnut!"

"WHAT?!" Springer sits straight up.

Something seems to be coming back to Strafe. He sits down on the table himself, passing a hand over his brow, squinting with frustration, as if something were just beyond his reach. "...yeah...yeah, I knew I'd seen him before when they brought him in here! Came out of nowhere, everything went all black, and then--" (gestures to self) "They won't let me see...y'know, see the others...it's totally weird. And now there's that thing with the little orange bot back there. Perceptor gets all weird too every time he shows up. And...if I didn't know better, I'd say the little guy was, well, scared of him. Of Perceptor. ...you ever get the sense people around here are hiding something from you?"

Springer seems ready to say something, then bites it back, as something else clicks in his mind. Something more. Something worse.

"Even weirder that we'd end up under the same roof. Wonder what the deal is. Strange, huh?"

"I know," Springer whispers.

Strafe responds, "FINALLY, someone agrees with me! Perceptor says it's just my imagination. HAS to be. That there's no way in Space I could have ever seen a guy like Lugnut before, seeing as how me, I'm just some low-level number-cruncher (nowhere near as good as Chromedome, for starters--man, that guy is crazy good) and I'm just fooling myself into thinking I could've crossed paths with a Level 10 Offender like him."

"I KNOW..." comments Springer, louder, this time, as it finally dawns on him like the breaking of the sun over Torque Flats.

Strafe continues, oblivious to Springer's dawning revelation. "Yes! YES. You get it too. Finally, someone. Perceptor doesn't. No way. No how. Need to concentrate more on my job, he tells me. Says my work's slipping, tells me I have to stop worrying about whatever bogeycon's lurking in this shadow or that. (Man, I wish they'd let me talk to the others...) Says Crasher's harmless, perfectly harmless, that I'm 'hindering her treatment with my juvenile behavior.' Well, I tell YOU--"

Springer sits bolt upright and a shiver passes through his entire body. "I KNOW WHY HE'S HERE!"

"Waagh! W-why who's here?"

"LUGNUT!"

"Lugnut?"

"LUGNUT!" Springer points out the window.

Lugnut stands out in the hall staring in at them--his one glowing optic coldly watches the two Bots in the room as if he was watching shrimp in an aquarium. The corners of his mouth curl up in to a sinister smile. He turns and walks down the hall, watching them all the while.

Springer attempts to stand but the Repair Crabs hold him down. "ARG! LET. ME. GO!"

Crasher dogs Lugnut's steps, ignoring the window entirely. The two convicts pass the window and continue down the hall.

"AG! THAT'S HIM! THAT'S THE FREAK WHO KILLED THE WRECKERS!" screams Springer.

"Lugnut killed the Wreckers? But he kil-ARG!" Just then, Strafe grabs his head in intense pain and falls to his knees.

"Oh, that is IT... THAT'S SLAGGIN' IT! LET ME UP! LET ME UP!!!" Springer rips one of the Crabs off his body.
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Transypoo » Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:11 pm

Grapple taps his foot by the door in tempo to the alarm klaxons, his patience light years past its limit. He clenches his jaw, his anger boiling over.

"Please, old boy, how much more are you going to take?" he implores Hoist. "One of those ruffians could be just around the next bend!"

"Huh? Oh, right, well, yes. Of course," Hoist responds, rummaging through his desk. "But you see I've been working here for a Gigacycle... and I suppose one acquires a lot of notes in such time. Mountainous, positively mountainous..."

"Granted. But, and I cannot stress this enough, we're.not.supposed.to. BE HERE!"

"Right! On it! I do believe I'm ready now--oh wait, this drawer is where I keep my-"

Just then, there's a heavy knock upon the door. The sound reverberates ominously through the small room. Both Autobots freeze mid-action, looking at the source of the sound.

Is it Downshift, they wonder? No, the stench would carry.

Too big, too heavy a sound, they decide, even for the big oaf who followed Downshift around. Jetfire. Disgrace to the name.

But...would a Decepticon...knock?

Grapple cautiously steps over, flipping out his crane/club as a precaution as he sidles up to the door. "I say, who goes there?" he calls, sounding even less brave than he feels.

Silence.

Grapple repeats, "Again, I SAY, my good chap! Whoever you are out there, surely you must have heard by now. There is a full-scale evacuation of the premises underway! Why, I was just saying to my dear friend Hoist, here..."

A voice mutters, "...Hoist?"

Grapple replies, mystified, "Why, none other--"

Lugnut's giant hand smashes THROUGH the door, shattering it into sparking fragments, and grabbing Grapple by the face, slamming him into the floor with sufficient impact to send his feet flying over his head. Lugnut lunges into the room with startling speed, still wearing what's left of the door on his arm, crashing a foot down on Grapple's crane arm, severing it from his body with a shriek of rending metal.

He points dramatically at Hoist. "YOU!"

"M-me? Good heavens, what have I done!?!" Hoist drops all the various things in his arms.

"YOU. KNOW. WHAT YOU HAVE DONE!"

"Watch out, Hoist," mumbles Grapple, "It's HIM, the one I warned you about. That criminal--" He gasps as Lugnut stomps on his chest, shattering his windshield and bending his grille.

Crasher watches both horrified and fascinated as Lugnut lunges across the room with startling speed and grace. His arm extends and opens, flips and reforms into a point-singularity generator. He rushes towards the scientist, his Generator poised to strike like as Servo-Cobra.

Hoist smacks a hand against a panel on the wall, causing it to slide aside, revealing a narrow, hidden, door behind him, through which he tumbles backward into a dimly lit room, barely missing Lugnut's deathly touch. Lugnut, to his surprise, finds his arm jammed in the heavy, previously concealed door, which slams shut as soon as Hoist enters, leaving only a narrow crack of darkness.

As Lugnut struggles to pull his arm loose, Grapple, gasping and choking, grabs his crane (still attached, gruesomely, to his severed arm) and brings it down on Lugnut's head with resounding force. Lugnut, with casual ease, spins, swinging his free fist at Grapple. Right as his fingers clamp around the Autobot, an energy blast from the inner room slaps into the side of his head, striking him with sufficient force to pull his captured arm free. As he staggers back, Hoist emerges, carrying a multiphase particle accelerator pulse cannon of his own design.

"I do warn you..." Hoist growls, "I am armed."

Lugnut, lifts Grapple off the ground, holding him in one paw, effortlessly rips Grapple's other arm from his body, then throws him like a baseball into the far wall, knocking over a filing cabinet and a large, and neglected, trophy case.. He turns slowly, and ominously states, gesturing to the armless body, "...so was he."

Hoist's eyes narrow in fury. "Whatever imagined misdeed I may have committed, I assure you my friend has no part in it."

"YOU!" Lugnut says suddenly to Crasher over his shoulder. "If you truly wish to be of use to me, dispose of the orange one. I will conclude my business here personally. THEN we shall discuss your new role in the reborn Empire of MEGATRON!"

"You will do nothing..." Hoist squeezes off another shot "...of the kind!"

"Urgh!" Lugnut grunts, as the second shot connects, plowing full-force into his stomach. He doubles over, trembling. Crasher stands by, too fascinated and horrified by the tableaux to interfere. Lugnut almost seems to REVEL in the pain.

Hoist repeats, more softly, "I say, once more, he has done nothing. Do not force my hand."

As Lugnut straightens up, the Autobot watches as the seared and scorched steel flesh of Lugnut's face and gut regenerates at an amazing rate, dangling wires snaking back into his body, tortured metal knitting back together.

Lugnut growls, "You are ALL guilty."

Hoist's optics widen: "You...you're one of them, aren't you?" Then, darkening, Hoist adds, "Do... do you know how many...?"

Lugnut advances slowly, his voice deepening, growing graver, as Hoist's pitch becomes higher, angrier.

"How many what, Autobot? How many of my brethren you butchers have dissected to devise new ways us killing us?! Or simply in your own sadistic little quests for academic advancement...or merely because you were curious?"

"No," Hoist continues, "Do YOU, heartless killer, have any knowledge...any shred of comprehension of what YOU have done? You...YOU dare speak of sadism?"

He fires another blast, which Lugnut casts aside as if he were swatting a fly.

"Cease your prattling, fool," Lugnut snarls, clenching his fists. "Face your fate with dignity."

"Dignity?!" Hoist barks incredulously, voice raw with emotion, "You speak of dignity after what YOU did?!"

"After what I--" It's too much. Suddenly, Lugnut's crossed half the room, a mighty swing nearly demolishing Hoist's head. At the last minute, he stops short, seems to catch himself, death-deaing device inches from his enemy's face, Hoist's gun clasped tightly in his free hand. Hoist's eyes are squeezed tightly shut--he's unready for the end.

"Open your eyes, Autobot. Death is here." Lugnut whispers as he jerks Hoist intimately close.

"MY eyes?!" Hoist responds, eyes snapping open with outrage, boldly staring death in the face--nothing left to lose. "Take the blinkers off yours! Have you looked with unblinking eyes upon the horrors YOU and your misshapen brethren visited upon us all? And for what? Some imagined racial superiority, a 'first of the line and therefore best' mentality revealed for a patent falsehood by the depths of your barbarism?! Do know have any INKLING, do you even KNOW, butcher?! Do you know how many good friends of mine will never function again, tortured souls whose Laser Cores I poured my heart and soul into saving, only for them to die cold, silent and limp in my hands, snuffed from existence? How many shattered bodies I barely held together as they screamed in torment until their Sparks extinguished in a blaze of fire? And of the unlucky few who remain alive, condemned to an eternity of agony as broken playthings of Imperial brutality?!"

Hoist continues, as if possessed, oblivious to the shriek of rent metal as Lugnut slowly lifts him off the floor by the gun affixed to his arm, calmly torques the gun barrel into twisted wreckage, dangles Hoist by a thread. "...and how many nameless, faceless, countless innocents I had never even laid optics on before whose savaged remains I was forced to lay to rest? Do you have any comprehension..." Hoist pauses as if to catch his breath, then continues, more softly "...of the scope, the depth, of the devastation you wrought?! Whatever punishment I could inflict...PRIMUS HIMSELF COULD SERVE...would NEVER be enough! Monster--you RAPED our world!"

"Foolish Autobot," Lugnut replies, his generator humming to awful life. "Your world belongs to MEGATRON."

"WHY?!"

"Because WE were here FIRST." Staring Hoist in the eyes, Lugnut launches his converted fist towards the engineer's face at a speed that only Blurr could have comprehended.

The resulting blast swallows Lugnut in a ball of fire, vaporizes the top half of Hoist, liquifies the Tetrinite walls and floors of the countless levels of Garrus-9 all the way down to the bedrock, and shakes the entire city of Burthov. The scientist, J'Muk, who's working in a building on the other side of Burthov, shrugs this event off as an earthquake, and is slightly annoyed with it as his sixth favorite test tube is knocked off the shelf, shattering on the floor. This means his seventh favorite is going to get an upgrade to sixth place. J'Muk can't abide by this and shatters the seventh as well as it was a fragging bolt-head and kept him up at night with long rants about his failures. (Did we mention that J'Muk is insane?)

Lugnut, himself a tower of smoke and flames, solemnly holds the mortal remains of Hoist...the tortured end of a gun barrel, connected by a few frayed cords and tubes to the molten remains of a pair of legs for a moment in his hand, then drops it to the floor.

Grapple gets to his feet and launches himself at Lugnut, his world a haze of red rage. Lugnut pivots, latches one of his claws around Grapple's chest, and crushes the pilot compartment in the process. Lifting Grapple off the ground, Lugnut shakes one finger back and forth. "Ah-ah-ah." And then he launches him headfirst into a wall.

"I SAID," utters Lugnut, looming over Crasher, flames licking his body "...Take care of him." Crasher looks down at the Autobot's legs, twitching pitifully from the wall. Striding over, she grabs him by both legs, jerks him out, and casts him out onto the floor. He looks up at her in horror, recognizing her as Perceptor's pet project. She stomps on his face, knocking him out, but not using her powers.

"There, he's out."

Lugnut, without saying another word, leaves the room. Crasher watches him leave, feeling like she has betrayed her father. She glances at the destruction Lugnut wrought, smells the acrid stench of his burning body, and wonders for a brief moment of terror if Lugnut is the thing from the Slaughter. No...no, if it had been Lugnut it would have been over in an instant. She turns and follows him out the door.

The room is quiet for a moment--then, the door leading to Hoist's lab gingerly opens. The gray one-eyed, claw-fingered bot enters the room. Its one milky-white optic scans the area. It walks over to what little is left of Hoist. Bending over, it studies the level of destruction brought about by the big Transformer with an appreciative whistle. As it turns to look at Grapple lying on the floor, it glances into the room from which it had come, and at Hooligan's body lying, cold, gray, and still, on the floor.

It flits to the narrow secret doorway in the back of the room, jerked off its runners by the force of Lugnut's punch, peeks inside the dimly lit laboratory at the large green glass tubes within, surrounded by masses of hodgepodge, chirping machinery. It considers for a moment letting loose a shot, ending this mockery of life spread before him, but then turns decisively as if to declare "There's been enough devastation today" and leaves the murky, half-formed figures suspended in the tubes behind. Its gaze sweeps the lab, trying to see if there's anything else interesting to play with.

......

Moments before...

Springer and Strafe tear down the hall (well, as fast as one can with a partly-fixed belly wound), the medical wards turning into CR Suites, the CR Suites into Labs. Rounding a corner, Springer asks the obvious question:

"Where'd he go?"

"Don't look at me!" Strafe responds, eyes shooting this way and that.

It hasn't been that long since they saw Lugnut in the window. How could he have simply vanished? Suddenly, the walls turn to rubber, the lights explode, the world flips over and time seems to bend and crack. Strafe hears Springer roaring in agony. Then as quickly as it began, it's done.

Strafe's eyes flick to Springer and his face falls in dismay. What little they managed to fix is now completely undone. Energon and other fluids spill out of Springer's belly like a leaky faucet as the Autobot shakily struggles to lift himself from his knees.

Strafe looks around; the halls seem to have returned to normal. He does a quick count of all his limbs; all there, unscathed. Bizarrely unscathed. No time to think about that. Springer is dying. Strafe flips his hand back to reveal a mini-torch; he does a spot weld and helps Springer to his feet.

"Y'all right?"

"Nuh, I've been through worse. Remember Unicron? I was there."

"Yeah, I remember Unicron...sorta." Strafe lugs the green Wrecker back towards the CR Suites.

"...sorta?"

Strafe decides not to mention that he was born inside Unicron, made of his very flesh, and changes the subject.

"Say, what do you think all that was? The-the earthquake?"

"Dunno, Strafe, I hope it was only a-"

Directly ahead, the flaming form of Lugnut enters the hall from one of the labs, a cloud of smoke trailing him. Springer spies the fire wreathing the hulking being, the mech fluid splattered all over Lugnut's body. Realizing he has killed again, Springer lunges almost mindlessly at Lugnut. But Lugnut, despite his injuries, is too spry for Springer's weakened state and simply shrugs out of the way. Springer grabs his belly wound, reopened yet again, and doubles over as Lugnut's fist drives his head into his chest. He falls to his knees, drifting into stasis. Lugnut stares unblinkingly at Strafe.

Is this a challenge? A threat? No, he wants to see what the Autobot might do.

Strafe holds up his empty hands and steps backwards, idly wishing for the days when he would shoot at anything that moved. Alas, he isn't that young bot any longer. Besides, he still has no idea where his gun has gone. The creature didn't have it with him last time. He hopes fervently that it's just stashed away in some lair somewhere and he wasn't...*gulp* eaten. He suddenly feels very small and weak.

Seeing no need to deal with a creature quite as powerful as Strafe, Lugnut turns his back on the Technobot. He tilts his head, indicating to Crasher to follow. Crasher looks at Strafe, dazed and confused. He looks back at her with the same feeling. For the first time since they met, they understand each other.

Strafe watches and waits until the heavy footsteps diminish, then he picks up Springer's legs and drags him to the CR Suites. It will take three times longer for him to heal, but at least Lugnut did him a favor of sorts knocking him out. This time it will get done. Dropping to the floor next to Springer's CR Chamber, Strafe, exhausted and wound up, laughs to himself.
......

"The epicenter originated from these spacial coordinates!"

"Y'mean it came from over hear?"

"Precisely!"

Perceptor and Blaster round a bend, Perceptor monitoring a handheld device.

"No! Stop, this room here!"

"Yo, innat Hoist's lab?"

They brush aside what is left of the door, entering what is left of the lab. Still smoldering. Perceptor's radiation readings go through the roof. "Dear Primus, what happened in here? HOIST?!"

"There!" Blaster points his guns at the gray robot, who throws up his arms. The winged robot steps to the side, in an attempt to get out of the path of the guns, and reveals what was left of Hoist on the floor next to the gaping, and still dripping, molten hole in the wall. Blaster spots the body and, in a tone very unlike his usual easy-going persona, growls, "Get away from him you slaggin'... whatever you are!"

The gray robot sidesteps again, its one emotionless eye staring. Perceptor, meanwhile, finds Grapple and quickly staunches the bleeding. Grapple groans, Blaster glances in their direction and the gray robot takes off towards the door. "HEY!" Blaster yells and opens fire. The grey robot swoops out the door. Blaster looks to Perceptor.

"Go! I have Grapple well in hand."

Blaster nods and takes off out the door. In the distance Blaster sees the gray robot dart around a corner. Realizing, for the first time in his life, he has a flight mode, Blaster converts and punches it. Blaster reverses thrusters and transforms back just in time to avoid kissing the wall. Looking back at where he came from, he realizes he's traveled 100 Mechanometers in one Nanoklik. The only thing Blaster has ever seen travel that fast is a Sweep. Pushing this out of his mind, he turns the corner and finds he is catching up on the gray robot. Obviously, it has a flight mode, so it's strange that it hasn't tried to convert. Oh well, what was it humans said about 'gift horses'?

......

"Help me! He's going to kill me!"

Lugnut stops in his tracks at the wheedling cry and turns to see what all the commotion is about, brushing fire-retardant foam from his body. Spying a familiar shape approaching, Lugnut throws out his arms. "Brother! Welcome!"

The gray robot races around Lugnut and Crasher, effectively building a wall between him and Blaster. "Th-that guy's trying to kill me! Get him!"

Lugnut whips around, throwing a fist towards Blaster.

......

Grapple winces as Perceptor helps him down the hall towards the CR Suites. "You can take a beating, my friend."

"Yes-agh-I always try and get the-urr-same basic body type as Inferno. Much as Hoist... use-agh! Hoist use to keep the same type as Trailbreaker; we figured it w-would-gnh-would keep us well-armed and armored. Of-of course that changed when-ugh-when Hoist got his job here and began experimenting with, whatever it was he was-AGH!"

"Easy now, almost there."

The doors to the CR Suites slide open. The two scientists find Strafe still lying in front of Springer's CR chamber.

"Strafe! What are you doing--oh, excuse me, Grapple get in this one here... yes that's it. Strafe, what are you doing here?" Perceptor watches as the door shuts around Grapple.

"Heh. Ugh. Springer an' I had a little run-in with Lug...ugh...nut. His wounds weren't fixed, so, I stuck him in here." He points over his head to the CR Chamber standing above him. "That way he won't run off again."

"Hn. Yes... I suppose the best thing to do is wait here for Blaster to return."

Perceptor pauses a moment, in thought, and then turns.

"Oh, and Strafe..."

"Yeah?"

"About Lugnut?"

"What about him?"

"About meeting him. You certainly look sufficiently scared. I believe you."

"Huzza."

"This time."

......

Back in the Garrus-9 Space Bridge chamber, the stir-crazy Cons are at each other's throats.

"You're holding out on us, Swindle!" growls Mindset, gesturing toward the Space Bridge control panel.

"Nuh-uh. I'm tellin' ya, boss, the thing is. Locked. Down. And I'm locked out!" He pounds a fist on the console, which fails to respond. "See for yourself! Dang thing's deader than disco."

"A likely story! You're just waiting for reinforcements from Iacon to storm in here and round us up, so you can turn state's evidence for a pardon or a reduced sentence. For all we know, you've cut a dirty little deal with them, ALREADY, and you're the one who sabotaged the device!"

"I say we SHOOT it!" yells Dragstrip, firing a blast that merely passes through the empty portal generator, hitting the far wall.

The others pretend that never happened.

Swindle continues, "Hey! I wouldn't put it past me! But still--"

As the argument continues, nobody pays much attention as Heavy Load passes through the heavy blast door--effortlessly hacked--whistling to himself despite his injuries. And why would he be down, he chuckles. He's been hacking all evening, he got to play with a fem-bot, and got a pretty good sample of Imperial might. Not bad, all around. And now he's getting out of here. And back to...work. At long last. Hehhehheh. Striding past the heap of Autobot scrap and the much smaller robots bickering in his shadow, he glances at the larger of the two control panels, shakes his head derisively, and proceeds to lay down a complicated series of keystrokes. Nodding his head in appreciation at his own handiwork, he taps one final button.

Swindle, yelling, "I'm TELLING Y--" turns with a "--huh?" as the distinctive "thrum" and glow of the Space Bridge intrude on the disagreement.

Framed in the greenish light, Heavy Load drawls, "So, you all... Where...to?"

......

At that very moment, in Iacon, the Space Bridge bursts to life.

"Job well done, Wheeljack!" Magnus calls, gesturing to his men to gather round him. Grinning, they seize their weapons, Smokescreen trying to hide his anxiety behind battle bravado.

Wheeljack, dumbfounded, still lying under the console and playing with the dangling wires, scuttles to his feet and babbles, "But I didn't--I mean, I don't THINK I--aw, what the heck? HAPPY TO BE OF SERVICE!"

"Glad to hear it," Magnus replies, "because you're coming with us."

"I'm WHA--uh, that is, I, uh--eh, why not?! Never wanted to live forever. Just long enough to roll out the new product line..."

As Hot Spot, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and Smokescreen cluster around Magnus, their leader, one foot through the bridge, raises a palm, halting the gun-toting Cliffjumper in his path.

"Not you, Cliffjumper. I need you here--in case something happens."

"Aw MAN! Uh, sir."

"Longrack, keep the bridge HOT," Magnus says to the operator. "SEARCHLIGHT! Magnus booms, turning to his diminutive aide, who's busy pocketing his gambling earnings from a crestfallen Smokescreen. "Call Ratchet and Flashpoint, and tell them to get down here and stand by on medical alert. And find Eject, and, I suppose, Rewind, too. Depending on what's happened, the Recordabots' insights may prove useful. Any of your fellow Throttlebots you can round up wouldn't hurt, either, and tell Blades to be on high alert."

"On it," replies Searchlight, shifting into auto mode and peeling out the door.

"Expecting trouble?" Hot Spot growls to Magnus as they race into the interdimensional corridor, the troops in tow.

"Does a Quintesson have five faces?" Magnus asks.

"Is this a bad time to mention Alpha-Q...?" Hot Spot asks, keeping pace.

"There's never a GOOD time to mention Alpha-Q!" Magnus responds with a grimace. "Now MOVE!"

......

"Yo ass is shattered glass!" yells Blaster.

"I think NOT, CUR!" declares Lugnut, throwing himself at the smaller Transformer.

Disconcertingly, before Blaster's mind can react to Lugnut's blow, his body does, right arm with its angular shield automatically coming to the fore. The punch never connects as a pulsing crimson energy field leaps from the crystal embedded in the shield and wraps instantly around Blaster's entire body like a shimmering curtain of fire. Even when pillowed by the comparative safety of the force shield, the impact of Lugnut's fist is staggering, pummeling; Blaster quickly finds himself tossed the length of the hall, like a toy caught in an tornado, the shield faltering, then fizzling out. His wings unexpectedly flex outward--again, why did all this remind him of a Sweep, he wonders---catching the walls on either side of the hall and arresting his uncontrolled progress with a rain of sparks. He doesn't have a second to blink, much less wonder why his body's doing the driving, before he sees Lugnut hurtling toward him, the jeers of the gray jet-con cowering somewhere behind Crasher ringing in his audio sensors. Blaster bites back a spike of irritation and concentrates on getting control the situation. Still, there is something hauntingly familiar about that Con's tone, if not the voice...but Lugnut's burning red eye glaring him in the face from a few inches away brushes aside all other considerations.

Then everything goes mad.

In an explosion of fluttering wings and piercing screeches, Blaster's gone from reeling to back on his feet and Lugnut is on the floor, rolling around, clawing at his face and howling in confusion as a red robotic condor with turbines in its wings pecks and pummels him. Blaster looks down at his open chest compartment in amazement. What was...? When did...? Just then, as the crumpled remains of the bird whiz by his head, Blaster's shoulder cannon, tripartite armatures spread wide, unleashes a sizzling blue ball of electromagnetic force, slamming Lugnut just as he's rising to his feet. As the EMP sends blue lightning racing over Lugnut's body, striking and stiffening his every joint, the warrior, his face clawed to shreds, optic cracked and half-blinded, amazingly continues his grinding, groaning progress toward Blaster,as if running on pure willpower.

"Cut me some slack, Jack..." Blaster mutters softly. As Lugnut strains to raise his fists over his head, mech fluid dripping from them onto the floor, it occurs to Blaster that the little jet dude probably had nothing to do with any of this....

"Ggggggg-gggggg---" Lugnut growls, his body slowing down even further, straining to even make noise from this vocal processors. "---gggg-ggg" Lugnut continues. Blaster take a step back out of Lugnut's way. The green behemoth cycles through a series of curses as his body freezes into a statue-like state. With all his considerable might he manages to jerk his head, puppet-like, in Crasher's general direction. Out of his mouth slips the one word he started almost a minute ago. "gg-gg-Go-bot."

Blaster finds himself raising his sniper rifle and drawing a bead on the Con's forehead, when--

"DIE, CYBERTRON!!!!!"

WHAMMMMMM

Blaster picks himself from the ceiling of the room one level up, trying to see straight and fighting off the mother of all headaches. Zipping down through the blast hole in the floor back into the hallway, he finds himself--as soon as the wall of static that passes for his vision clears--staring straight into Crasher's defiant eyes.

Damn, she looks good.

"Hey...uh, baby...? Whas...happenin'...?"

Blaster admits to himself it would have been a feeble attempt...even on his best days.

Throwing her arms out in front of her, Crasher retracts her fists into her forearms; the red bars on her wrists light up, and she unleashes a punishing wall of force that hits Blaster like a freight train, knocking him flat onto his back.

Before he can rise, he finds himself embedded in the floor, her mammoth foot pounding irresistibly upon him again and again, thrashing him into the ground despite the futile attempts of his wings to shield him. Oddly, despite the peril, he's still turned on. Finally satisfied that he isn't getting up again, Crasher turns, then growls back over her shoulder, "We're getting OUT of here is what's happening."

She pauses for a moment, as if in thought, then adds "And DON'T call me baby!" before kicking him in the head.

The world goes black.

......

Lugnut forces his jaw back into place with a satisfying *click*, the damage done to his face mostly healed already, the burns inflicted when Hoist exploded inches from him just a memory. Whatever kind of paralyzing beam Blaster shot him with worked itself through his system quickly. He gives Crasher a heavy-handed pat on the shoulder. This sends a zing of energy through Crasher's chassis, as this was Cy-kill's silent way of congratulating his warriors. She turns to watch the large green flier lurch towards the cyclops bot.

"Brother, no need to worry now. You are safe."

"Hey-uhh-Thanks."

"What name has Megatron bestowed upon you, Brother?"

"Hhh-er-D-Duh-Dreadwing!"

Lugnut pounds fist into palm with a sound like a thunderclap. Dreadwing, and even Crasher, despite herself, jump.

"Brother Dreadwing! Long ago we once fought together! ...you were much larger then! What happened?"

"Well, uhh, after Unicron showed up and the whole Second Imperium fell apart, we fled into deep space, me and...uh...Smokescreen...had a sort of falling out... I was-uhh-captured by Autobots and-ehr-waass, brought here where the horrible Trail...uh...Hoist experimented on me endlessly. He even took all my missiles! ALLLLL of them. But then you freed me with your Punch-of-Kill-Everything! Yeah!"

"Tragic. But you must admit, you didn't need that extra eye anyway..."

He looks the cyclopean, claw-handed jet up and down admiringly.

"...and are those flame-throwers built INTO your claws? Ergonomic and sensible. Perhaps Hoist had his strong points, after all..."

"Yeah! Too bad his HEAD wasn't one of 'em, AMIRITE, AHAHAHAHAHA--"

Dreadwing notices that Lugnut's expression has become deadly serious, and Crasher is looking away in disgust.

"Death is no laughing matter, brother."

"...aha---hah---hahhhhh..." Dreadwing looks down at his claws and flexes them, Lugnut continues to stare at him or through him, making Dreadwing feel like he's spit in the face of a wrathful god and is awaiting his judgment. Crasher looks back at Blaster; she never liked that guy. Ever since she was brought to Garrus-9 there was always some damn Cybertronian looking down upon her. On Gobotron females were treated as equals, hell, half the time you couldn't tell who even was female until you asked. But here on Backwards Sexist Hick Planet, the females were designed to be frail and weak, with their feet built to put them off balance. Took her some doing to get herself a proper body. Something with some power behind it, and of course blistering speed. Thinking about all this, Crasher has a sudden urge to transform and tear off at full speed, run from all her problems, charge off into the night and get the fraggin' Pit off Frag-Planet.

Lugnut breaks the uncomfortable silence by clearing his throat very loudly, a sound that makes Crasher, and Dreadwing jump.

"In ANY event, it does my Spark well to see you freed, Brother Dreadwing. Now, you, Sister Crasher, and I must find...or MAKE...an exit so we can return to our brothers in Tyger Pax and await Megatron's GLORIOUS return!"

"Tyger Pax, eh? Yes. Excellent, Brother, let us do just that!" Dreadwing saysm trying to move the parts of his body Lugnut had admired to appease his new friendly monster friend.

Lugnut smiles broadly and begins to tromp down the hall again. Dreadwing breaths a sigh of relief. Just then, he has a thought.

"Wait. Uhh-Brother! I do believe I have a faster way to get us to the surface."

"Oh?"

"Huddle near." Crasher and Lugnut approach Dreadwing. "Shazam." A flicker of green energy and the three bots are gone, the empty hall still ringing "Thrummmmmmmm".
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Skids » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:16 pm

Soundwave stops at a blast door and it magically opens for him.

"Hey, I thought he got shut out!" Thundercracker exclaims. Ravage doesn't respond.

Entering the Space Bridge Chamber, Soundwave finds it empty. His eye-band narrows. This is wrong; it should be filled to bursting with trapped Decepticons. He orchestrated the lock-down to herd them from the courtyard into this very room. Of course, some of them would have killed each other by now, being forced into such close proximity for an extended duration of time, but that would only have served to weed out the weak from the strong. There would have been SOMEONE left standing to greet them.

He gives a cursory glance at the pile of smoldering Autobots stacked up near the Bridge, then dismisses them.

"Hooboy, somebody's ticked," Skywarp mumbles to himself.

"Man, I haven't seen him this mad since Ratbat took over for awhile," Thundercracker adds.

""Shush." Ravage mutters over his shoulder.

Ravage shakes his head in puzzlement as he watches Soundwave stride up to the space bridge control panel.

Soundwave attaches to the Space Bridge console. Unlocked.

Ravage senses Soundwave's surprise and becomes momentarily unsettled.

How is this possible? Ravage thinks. Soundwave had sextuple-encoded the controls with a triple-password-locked feedback loop. Even WITH his direct interface to the central computer now severed, the command and control subroutines he'd laced through the Autobots' computer systems should remain firmly in place, the damage--HIS damage, signed with a flourish for those with the eyes to see--done, the everyday functions of the facility at his beck and call. Security cameras his eyes, microphones and pressure sensors his ears, the blast doors his jaws and the Transfixation fields--capable of stunning anyone into alternate mode instantly--his fangs.

Why, Soundwave did it all in his sleep--quite literally, once he realized the oh-so-vulnerable circuits of the recharge slab in each cell provided the doorway to more or less every other everyday system.

Soundwave had played it safe at first, testing cautiously the boundaries of their newfound freedom. Minor mischief here and there...doors mysteriously opening, shutting, locking, lights switching on and off. Locking Red Alert in a maintenance closet--come to think of it, what had he been DOING in there to begin with...?

True, access a precious few "maximum-security" functions--unlocking the celldoors and specimen pens, opening--or suppressing--the space bridge as well as outside lines of communication, say, to the Central Security Hub (CSH) in Iacon and a few sundry lesser high-level functions--had remained beyond their grasp, required direct access to the computer room. Which accessing was, of course, effortless. The most sophisticated security systems the Autobots could muster, millions of Shanix and hours, days of time invested in devising the perfect trap...and it all fell apart so easily--squandered because of a fundamental distinction in philosophy.

In a Decepticon facility, such subversion was unthinkable. EVERYTHING of value would be channeled into a singular system, closely guarded, control clutched tightly in the iron fist of one with the cunning, the skill, the ruthlessness to wield it. Ravage chuckles to allay his tension, thinking of the embarrassment the Autobots must feel. Still, it was to be expected by now. Hand an Autobot the ultimate weapon and he'd chop his own head off, shoot himself in the face.

Ultra Magnus is a fool, Ravage scoffs. His vaunted attention to detail, exacting precision in everything he did obviously overrated. More Autobot propaganda.

Or is it...? he thinks, feeling a momentary chill as he watches the tension rise and fall in Soundwave's shoulders.

He can't help thinking, "Who was it who once said, 'This was almost too easy?' "

Ravage shakes his head, dispelling his disquiet. Too many years of cloak and dagger, he thinks with a grimace, punch and counterpunch. Don't look a Mach Horse in the mouth, he tells himself. We are free.

No...the infernal Autobots' fundamental weakness, their damnable need to be able to go anywhere, do anything, at any time, was their undoing this day. Swarming up from the South to pollute the noble City States of the North with their high-handed morality, gladhanding politcos spreading their foolish notions of individualism and self-determination, gun-toting Convoys at their backs, enforcing the unteachable, the untenable. Freedom of travel, of function, of status, of mode--Ravage grimaces at the uniquely Autobot notions. In a proper society, a solid citizen was tied to his city state and he was happy there. Happy with what he transformed into, the job he did. Even when he had been tossed into an unforgiving Autobot gulgag, miles beneath the surface of Cybertron, Ravage had been glad to be so near his native land of Torque Flats, home of his fathers...the cruel, unforgiving wasteland beckoning seemingly just beyond the walls of his cell. They hadn't told them where they were, no, of course not, but he could smell the harsh, Spark-stripping winds blowing in off the Sea of Rust.

Ravage is dearly aware, however, that not all Decepticons share his particular, some would say...rigid...point of view. No matter. Their individual differences would be molded into a unified whole, and Cybertron be the better for it. The Autobots' strength, they say, is in their diversity. True, diversity is no fault, Ravage admits, as long as it serves the state. Without guidance, however, a guiding hand, it degenerates into disorder, debauchery. Iacon.

Still, if someone can get out, Ravage reasons, his disquiet growing like a cancer as he thinks of the Autobots' lavish, disgusting capital, gold everywhere, everything else orange, always orange--and he assumes the motley crew Soundwave had culled from the ranks of the prison's population--so many possibilities, so little time to choose--HAD--then it stands to reason that others...can get in.

As if on cue, the control panel is illuminated with colored lights and readouts as the Bridge receives a signal. Soundwave disengages and backs a couple of paces. The green vortex pops open and a large blue foot steps through.

"Cheez it, it's the fuzz!" Skywarp yells.

"Vat?" asks Ravage, still absorbed more in watching Soundwave...fall apart. Dolt 1 and Dolt 2 aren't kidding. He is VERY, very upset.

"Magnus!" Skywarp reiterates!

"Slag, not HIM! Run for it!" Thundercracker adds, and the four Decepticons charge out the door, Thundercracker grabbing Ravage under his arm. Soundwave slips through just as the heavy door slams behind them. Even over the hiss of pneumatic bolts and the click of multiple locks, they can swear they hear the word "Halt!" being spoken VERY loudly.

Safely in the darkened hall, Soundwave sends a quick tone over an encoded comm frequency. He receives a similar tone. He activates the map once again and marches off.

"What th' SCRAP, man! MAGNUS?!?! ULTRA FRAGGIN' MAGNUS! An' here I though this day couldn't get any worse!" Skywarp moans as they trail Soundwave down the hall, shooting looks back over their shoulders.

"Hey, look on the bright side; we got away, didn't we? At least for the moment. I mean, yeah, he's here, but we knew it was only a matter of time before the Bots dropped a heavy on us. Now we have a fighting chance. Especially with 'Wave here on our side. In fact, I'm bettin' this is all part of the plan."

Soundwave stops at a T-junction and analyzes the various routes that could be taken.

Skywarp continues, "So in other words..."

"Could be worse...?" Thundercracker chimes in.

"I dunno, I guess-..."

"What?"

"Well, I was wonderin' when you were gonna put that cat down."

*thump* Thundercracker drops Ravage like a hot potato.

"Hmph," Ravage mutters. "This indignity shall not soon be forgotten."

Skywarp continues to stare, seemingly at Thundercracker..."And...."

"What NOW? I dropped the blasted kitty-cat, didn't I? Is my cockpit open?!"

"Well...." Skywarp points at a wall against which Thundercracker started leaning in an attempt to look nonchalant.

"...You ever seen a wall glow orange like that?"

"Huh? What wall--Whoa!"

Thundercracker leaps forwards and whips around, as an orange pinprick rapidly expands to something the size of a dinner plate.

"Dat is indeed very strange." Ravage steps closer and sniffs the wall as the roughly circular hot spot gets ever bigger. "It is almost like someone is attempting to melt through Tetrinite itself."

Skywarp replies, "That stuff?! It'd take a stellar cycle! You'd have to be nuts! Eh, let's keep goin'. Probably just some poor sap tryin' to burn his way outta his cell with a Cy-Gar lighter. It'll never wor--"

Soundwave peers over his shoulder at the wall in question. The orange spot is growing ever more bright, and larger, as well, not only burning hotter, but heating up at an exponential rate!

Soundwave gestures, and Ravage backs away just in time to avoid being pancaked as a huge chunk of burning metal, ragged edges smoldering, falls to the floor with an ominous CLANG that resounds from one end of the long, shadowy passageway to the other. As hot steel meets the cold air of the corridor, steam hisses forth, obscuring what lies in the piercing darkness beyond the freshly hewn portal. Skywarp quietly winds up his transportation system.

Soundwave glares unflinchingly into the abyss and the abyss stares back. A pair of glowing green eyes appear--dart across the four Decepticons, but rest back on Soundwave. The eyes, remarkably, chill Soundwave to his Laser Core. Emerging through the hole, the blue mechtillian creature with which Thunderwing had an encounter growls, licks of flame darting between its razor-sharp teeth.

"Whazzat? Some kinda Dinobot?!" Thundercracker sneers at the creature disapprovingly.

"Ehh, ain't like no Dinobot I ever seen..." Skywarp says, taking a step back.

The blue creature continues to ignore the other Decepticons, moving around to one side of Soundwave, eying him with a cold, inscrutable, optic. Soundwave glares back. To the others, he appears to enter into a staring contest without emotion. But Ravage knows better. Soundwave is scared. Oilless. Soundwave knows this is not a Dinobot, no; from the sparks dancing around in its jaws it is, or at least once was, definitely a Firecon. But Sparkstalker was killed on Klo and Flamefeather vanished many Solar Cycles ago. So this has to be... Cindersaur

Soundwave lifts his cannon and opens fire on the Firecon. The other Decepticons jump a little, then follow suit. Cindersaur roars in agony, but his Energon-soaked flesh absorbs the shots. He retaliates with a column of flame. The quartet hit the floor to avoid the blasts, which sizzle the atmosphere. Getting to their feet, after the fire subsides, they notice the heat-resistant walls are glowing hot. Cindersaur roars again and charges towards them, his breath searing their metal skin.

Thundercracker cocks his head as he feels the reverberations of the beast's footfalls passing through his unique sonic-sensitive circuits. THOOM. THOOM. THOOMMMMM. Something's strange. Sure, this guy is heavy, but not THAT heavy. He can feel a rumbling in his struts that has little to do with the whirling, snarling creature they're ineffectually pelting with Energon spitballs.

As he throws himself from the path of the beast's ravenous jaws, it hits him:

Something ELSE is coming. From an entirely different direction! Something big. REALLY big!

"Brace yourselves," Thundercracker barks, "And MOVE!"

They barely duck in time as Devastator explodes through a neighboring wall and rams a fisted claw into the Firecon's muzzle.

"RRRRRRRHHHH--RUN!" The Titan bellows to his fellow 'Cons. Somehow, Devastator telling them to run away is more disconcerting than anything they've seen so far. They take his advice.

Soundwave transforms into vehicle mode, Ravage jumps onto his roof, and they tear off down the hall, the Seekers following suit. Behind them they can hear the sounds of the battle raging on.

"Slag, could this day get any worse?" Skywarp grumbles.

"See? I told you!" Thundercracker growls. "It can ALWAYS get worse."

"Frack; you sound like frackin' Dreadwind."

Soundwave, suddenly, screeches to a halt. The two Seekers transform and nearly smash into the Communications Officer. Directly in front of Soundwave, a camo-painted green Seeker slowly, ponderously rounds a corner, grinning at them.

"Hey, it's a Seeker!" Skywarp says, examining the Decepticon. "Hey, bud, join the party! I'm Skywarp and this here is..."

"Be cautious...something is...unusual about this one." Ravage says.

"Yeah," growls Thundercracker, recognizing its color scheme. "It's one of them...Rainmakers. Those guys never were quite right."

Skywarp rejoins, reaching for Acid Storm, "Aw, give the dude a chance! Why I bet--"

The words die in his throat.

Slowly, as the Rainmaker, Acid Storm, advances on them, his winged form becoming visible in the dim green glow of the emergency lanterns dotting the hallway, Skywarp squints hard, and notices the floor sizzling and bubbling with each step the Con takes, leaving a trail of footprints seared into the steel as luminescent green acid leaks from his pores and drips from his wingtips. Skywarp rethinks his attempt to greet his compatriot with open arms. Might burn a little.

"No, uh, on second thought, you're probably right...can never be too careful. And besides..." POP SIZZLE HISSSSSS "...a condition like that CAN'T be healthy."

Abruptly, Acid Storm throws his arms wide in an awkward gesture of embrace.

"Greetinnnnnnngggggsssssss, brothersssssss...."

The hiss of his voice mingles with the sizzling sound as the acid he secretes sears the deck.

"Whoa! Back WAY up!" Skywarp calls, teleporting just before Acid Storm can close his arms around him. Reappearing rather far down the hall, he gestures to the leaking, popping mess, then calls to his companions, "Hey! Someone get this man a can of Corrostop!"

Soundwave and Thundercracker edge around the hot mess of a Decepticon, shaking their heads at Skywarp, and also taking advantage of the fact that Acid Storm takes such an unbelievably slow time to react to...well, anything, apparently.

The group proceeds, by unspoken consensus not talking about what they just witnessed, and deliberately ignoring the fact that incrementally, Acid Storm is gaining on them every time they stop to choose the best path. They turn a sharp corner, then make their way down a long hall, the distant thunder of dinosaur vs. construction vehicle battle fading with each step.

......

Devastator's big, purple crystal claw pushes back against Cindersaur's flames. The small part of Devastator's mind that Hightower commands takes note of the flames. He'd worked the forges of Polyhex for 400 Stellar Cycles before being recruited into the collective mind known as Devastator, when Hook went AWOL; as a metallurgist, he'd had a personal hand in forging some of the deadliest weapons in the Decepticon arsenal, many from the molten slag of defeated Autobots he'd cast into the Pools himself; he had personally acted as Bludgeon's technical advisor on the forging of Megatron's battle sword...more the pity that Megatron seldom used it, preferring the inelegant brute force of the fusion cannon. He knows his fire, his flames. And believe him, these are not normal flames, too hot too have a conventional fuel source. Burning Energon? No. Devastator flips down his battle mask just in time to avoid a face full of fire, the heat nevertheless popping and sizzling the orange transparisteel of his visor. His armor glowing, Devastator smashes his fists into the ground, causing the floor to buckle. Cindersaur loses his footing, stumbling backwards. Hightower's part of the mind searches for answers. What, what could be creating these flames?!

Cindersaur nimbly dodges between Devastator's legs and toasts his behind. The massive Decepticon stumbles forward, cries out in pain, one of his great legs falling through the buckled floor. Rotating his shoulders around, he seizes the Firecon and hurls it into the wall with all his might. Cindersaur yelps, mostly in surprise, then lets loose a concentrated blast of white-hot heat. Devastator detaches his trapped leg, causing Hightower to fall through to the floor below. His mind cleared from the other Constructicon's thoughts, he finds analyzing the flames much easier.

A floor above, Devastator switches one of his arms for a leg and stands up. Cindersaur blasts the combiner again, only for Devastator to, still a force to be reckoned with even with one arm, deflect the fire with his single remaining claw.

Hightower uses his crane-arm as a grappling hook and crawls back up through the hole in the floor. He watches in awe as Devastator, arm glowing orange, grabs the Firecon out of the air, still receiving a plume of flame to his face, and hammers it like a bug against a half-opened blast door, again and again, each blow adding to an increasingly complex network of cracks spreading throughout the supposedly impenetrable barrier. "So, this..." Hightower thinks out loud, "is what everyone else sees." He snaps himself to attention and readies his scanners. Recovering from his encounter with the door, Cindersaur steadies himself on his feet and launches another barrage of super-heated energy at Devastator, staggering the giant. The Constructicons are built tough, but Hightower supervised the construction of their current bodies personally, and knows at a glance that their heat tolerances are dangerously close to the limit. Impressive, considering he tested their metal against an approximation of Unicron's flame-breath! Given Devastator's apparent lack of tactical ability in the face of the darting, snapping, Cindersaur, Hightower wonders if it was a good idea for Megatron to name Scavenger for the central component. Perhaps it was to keep Devastator from being too smart for his own good. Unlike Predaking...

Checking his vast array of holographic readouts, Hightower analyzes the data with the experience and savvy of the expert, and finds...

"You're kidding me!" he exclaims! "That thing is burning Forestonite!?" Converting into vehicle mode, Hightower races towards his combined teammates. Devastator spots his missing piece, smashes Cindersaur with a giant boot, and snatches the Constructicon off the ground and attaches him in one motion. New information floods into Devastator's memories. Forestonite?! The five aspects of his mind yell at one another as to the next move. Turning his attention back at the creature he is fighting, Devastator only sees a maw of rage.

......

"Hey..." Skywarp says.

"What now?" Thundercracker asks.

"Is he still...y'know....following us...?"

"Be more specific. We're popular today."

"You know...the walking hot zone. Snap, Crackle and Pop."

Thundercracker shoots a glance over his shoulder. At the very end of the dimly lit hall, Acid Storm leans slowly around the corner, and waves at them, the ooze...for lack of a better word, oozing from his skin, causing his body to glisten in the feeble light.

"....yep."

"Uhhhh...good...?"

Shaking their heads, they decide to give up the ghost, keep moving and just hope the thing doesn't get in front of them somehow.

Meanwhile, Soundwave rolls along at point, checking his map now and again. He tries again to dismiss the dangerous rad levels being given off by that walking sludge dump, which, even at this distance, conspire with the many walls, turns and dead ends to play havoc with even his sensor suite.

Up ahead, he notes, there should be a small vestibule. An ideal place to stop and recuperate. Soundwave suddenly hits the brakes as a blast door slams shut near inches in front of him. Ravage clings to the roof and manages to stay on. A small green Cyberjet jumped out yelling "Yaaahh!" with a Solitarium spear in hand; in reaction, Soundwave swiftly slammed the blast door they were about to pass through, hammering it to the floor. Ravage peers at the jet in bemusement, as he squirms, then falls silent and still.

The door rolls back up to reveal the Cyberjet in full (one of the quick-change models from the early days of the war, Ravage verifies, drawing on the encyclopedic library of data stored on his spools...not to be confused with the later low-visibility, supposed stealth-tech innovation of the same name derived from stolen Imperial technology and wasted on fools such as Hooligan and opportunists like Skyjack, who sold the tech to the Autobots for a song...), prone on the deck. He's got an ugly rectangular dent in his midsection, where the door slammed down on him in mid-leap like a fly swatter. Yes, this is definitely the shell Dolt A and Dolt B used to have, before Megatron came on the scene and lifted them up from obscurity. Come to think of it, didn't Megatron also used to turn into something like this? His woodland camo pattern, Ravage notes, is curiously similar to that of the one pursuing them, identifying him as an offworld unit, sent to any number of forested worlds. Ravage doesn't remember having seen him on Earth.

His complicated thought train is derailed as Soundwave turns his wheels and drives around the obstacle. Skywarp and Thundercracker walk OVER the Cyberjet, unfazed, continuing their conversation. Ten minutes later, Acid Storm adds a sizzling footprint to the jet's already bruised and battered back.

Turning in a broad room, Soundwave transforms, forcing Ravage to jump off and skid to a halt.

Soundwave activates his holographic map once again, checking out the route ahead. Skywarp and Thundercracker uncomfortably enter, still glancing back at Acid Storm. Ravage scouts ahead; yet another dark room. Chairs, tables, fake plants, very...Human, Earth. He glances back over his shoulder. Soundwave continues to consult his map, providing most of the light in the room. The idiots talk about some asinine thing or other, possibly that creature they came across, who cares. Ravage turns back to the darkness; he's always been comfortable in the shadows. As he switches his optics over to night vision, the room reveals itself in higher resolution. The plants are not fake, but some technorganic abomination. Wait. Movement. Ravage hops up onto one of the chairs for a better view.

A small group of strange creatures huddle together over some object. Ravage stalks closer. From what he can tell, they look somewhat like that thing Scorponok use to turn into. Some are red, some are yellow, one is blue. Ravage silently moves around to the far side to find out what they are surrounding. A loud metal-on-metal sound rings throughout the room. Ravage jumps slightly and whips his head around. The idiots are horsing around again. Ravage shakes his head in exasperation. He turns his attention back on the creatures, only to find that they are all staring at him. The vague, blank, expressionless windshields glint in the small amount of light afforded by Soundwave's projection. "Scrap." Ravage breathes to himself, recognizing what they are.

The creatures move very slowly towards Ravage as if trying not to startle him. No longer blocked from view, the objects the creatures were huddled around begin to stir and shift. Perhaps once they were once Transformers. No longer. Covered in scorch and drag marks, the soft, pliable, half-molten metal of their bodies deformed from extreme heat, they resemble animated piles of slag more than anything with a claim on life. Whoever they once were, it looks like something beat the scrap out of them, crumpled them into balls, blew them up, and then dragged them out again.

Ravage takes a step back from the menagerie of creatures, preparing to bolt, when suddenly one of the Ex-Transformers, the greenish of the pair (the other smaller, stockier, and brownish) gesticulates wildly with mandibles tipped with, what appears to be, shovels, only these shovels are lined with serrated fangs. It lunges past the Scrapmetals and slashes at Ravage with one of these mouths, nearly taking Ravage's head off. Sliding under the savage, demented attack, Ravage winces as the heavy object smashes into one of the potted plates, shattering it to bits, then hungrily devouring the rubble.

"Wahg! What was that?" Skywarp jumps into the air and stays there, as the brown thing, lacking any discernible limbs, rolls after Ravage like a boulder. It moans horribly, spewing fluids and parts, a battalion of the four-legs skittering in its wake.

"Ve are not alone!" Ravage yells as he dodges the ball-creature, which slams into a wall with a loud "clang"!

"Huh?" Thundercracker grunts, and peers into the darkness. He notices the glint of metal of the various things following Ravage. "Oh. SLAG." Both he and Skywarp open fire at the things. Soundwave glances towards them, turns, and advances towards another large blast door. It opens before him and the bipedal Cons back out of the room.

Ravage is just about to leave when he hears something moan, spies something still vaguely less than monstrous stirring in the corner. Curiosity overtakes him and he bounds over the whistling arc of one of the four-leggers' razor blades, unwilling to leave behind someone who might be a fallen comrade. At the least, he can put whoever it is out of his misery if he's too far gone. Ravage narrows his eyes as he sees several of the four-legs clustering over the humanoid shape, which in the dim light appears to be a Transformer, green and black, crushed, dented, but still attempting to lift himself onto hands and knees, get away! With a cold click, one of the beast's stingers flips into place. Ravage, realizing he has little time, fires a crimson laser blast from his mouth, reducing the beast's head to a molten mess. As it falls backward, smoke rising from its ruined face, and the injured Bot crawls toward him, Ravage sees in the brief illumination cast by his blast the hated red badge of the Autobots emblazoned on his chest. And as he finds blue eyes staring imploringly into his own yellow optics, Ravage finds that he knows this hapless soul, all too well.

A hundred memories made during a million years of conflict flash through Ravage's mind as the rest of the beasts pounce onto the Autobot, readying for the kill, and what comes after. As if in slow motion, their blades swing out. Ravage, at the speed of light, weighs the risks, the rewards, and comes to a decision. Wondering if he'll hate himself later, he lets loose two rockets, trailing smoke and flame.

As the blasts connect, pummeling the crawlers into the wall, the Autobot's eyes and Ravage's meet again and he sees...gratitude. Ravage doesn't know whether to feel warm at Spark or ill. Well...Hound...never was the worst of them, Ravage thinks. Even in this place, where close, no, claustrophobic confinement brought out the worst in all of them. Before he can consider what, if anything to do next, blinding light pours into the room from an adjoining hallway as some force, through sheer, terrible physical might, rips a gaping hole in the wall.

Silhouetted in the intromptu doorway is some fresh horror, a black and orange creature that amounts to little more than a huge head on legs. It mumbles something incoherently, spits out a snapping mouth on a long, flexible, fleshy cord, grabs Hound, screaming, and drags him out of the room.

Ravage shoots a look over his shoulder toward the far doorway through which Soundwave and the others fled. He can barely see it amid the masses of swarming four-legs, which seem to be dragging even more bodies into the room, injecting them.

Hoping that he can manage to reconnect with his party--swearing to himself that he's not coming to the Autobot's rescue--Ravage leaps through the gash in the wall.

......

"Sir, we've just passed the Uraya border into Torque Flats. ETA, six cycles," Scattor calls over his shoulder, at the helm of Leo Prime's shuttle. Galaxy Convoy, squeezed into the command chair, nods in approval. Shot finishes carving his name into the Comm Panel, and is hit by a fit of maniacal giggles.

Out the armored front windshield, a Rust Storm towers ominously on the horizon.

Red, over at the Tactical Panel, gives everyone a half-smile and cocks his gun.

......

The blast doors shut in front of them and lock in place. Thundercracker checks his ammo levels as Skywarp has a miniature conniption.

"Great! Just great! Now let's add MUTANT ZOMBIES to the list of reasons to get out of here! An' what were those? Monstercons? Insecticons? Did they change Monstructor without telling me again? I generally like to know what he looks like and where he is so I can AVOID THE SLAG OUTTA HIM!"

......

Slowly but surely, Reverse Convoy and Smoke Sniper wend their way down yet another snaking corridor, Smoke Sniper growingly increasingly agitated with each step.

"Sniper! You're all over the place!" barks Convoy. Then, more gently, he adds, "What's eatin' you, son? You're supposed to be rear guard on this op."

"It's...it's...just my Mini-Con sir. Ah just can't help thinkin' of him, stranded somewhere out there in the DARK, alone an' scared...callin' out for me."

"Don't worry, I'm sure Sparkplug's just fine. What I can't figure is where the heck Double Face got to. I'd have thought we'd have met up with him by now. The Minimum-Security Wing can't be THAT hard to--"

A reverberation passes through the decks.

"Uh, Sniper?"

"Yessir?"

"You might want to take three steps...that way."

Sniper feels the thundering beneath his feet now, too. He takes three cautious steps to the left.

"Perfect."

"Is somethin' comin', sir? Is it SPARK--"

"AIN'T NO MINI-CON, SUCKA!" roars GB, smashing down the wall precisely where Sniper had been standing. Sniper goes flying as the choking cloud of dust and debris cascades in every conceivable direction. GB barks at the prone form of Smoke Sniper, "On your feet, foo! Ain't no TIME for DILLYDALLIN'!"

"Now now, try and exercise a little noise discipline, my good fellow," Smokesniper remarks, waving away a billowing dust cloud with his rifles, and swatting away falling chunks of wall, to boot, as his optics all the while dart to and fro. "We are, in case you haven't noticed, BEHIND enemy lines!"
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Skids
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Skids » Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:43 pm

A few hours later...

In the aftermath of pitched battle, the G-9 Space Bridge chamber is curiously quiet. Diminutive and hardworking Rescue Drones work diligently to patch the damage inflicted by blaster fire and flying fists and to buff and wax spatters of dried mech fluid from the floor and walls--spilled by the Autobots defenders since remanded to emergency care under the frantic ministrations of Ratchet and CatSCAN. Though the bruised and broken bodies are gone, trails of spilled fluid snake toward the heavy doors leading to the nearest med ward, a grisly reminder of the conflict that gripped the prison just the previous night.

A small cadre of camoflage-clad guards--Omnicons all, hailing from the Skyblast, Signal Flare, and Strongarm Series--with the exception of the gray Skyblast, adherents to the Sigma Septimus religious organization--some would call it "cult"--cluster around the Space Bridge entry, fingers poised on triggers. Assistant Captain of the guard Backstop, getting on in years but still trying to get an infernal itch out of his hide, presides over the largely outsider crew, chastising himself for letting a particularly ingenious Decepticon escapee lock him in the refresher booth. The one time he decided to take a bath in the last month, he thinks ruefully...well, never again.

Signal Flare is in alt mode, Maser poised to repel any intruders who pass through the portal. Everyone except Backstop is on razor's edge...and the sound of his crooked old finger scrape-scraping against his rough hide isn't helping.

Across the cavernous room lies a pile of mangled, winged corpses from Repugnus's brood. How they got here is the mystery Wheeljack, learning down over one of the beasts with a grimace behind his faceplate, is struggling to decipher, to jibe with the accounts of the breakout he's picked up. Not for the first time, Wheeljack wishes Nightbeat were still interested in whodunnits as opposed to gunfights...and complaining.

And Repugnus himself in all his infuriating glory wasn't around to answer questions when the Autobots' emergency incursion team finally broke through the triple-sealed blast doors Soundwave left behind. Blaster and Perceptor didn't have much to say either, small surprise with Blaster--at least, Wheeljack THINKS that was Blaster, looked more like a cross between Soundwave and a Sweep--considering he'd just gone ten rounds with Lugnut.

Wheeljack decides that in Blaster's defense, he wouldn't want to talk about it either, but makes a mental note to take his old pal Blaster aside later and lay a few questions on him...preferably alone and in the dark with an endoscopic probe. DID he bring his endoscopic probe? Dang, left it on the workbench.

Wheeljack's jumbled reverie is broken as the 'ol sixth sense kicks in and he gets the distinct and very familiar feeling that he's on camera.

Glancing down, he spies the diminutive Rewind aiming what his eyes tell him is a gun but his brain knows must be a handcam up at him. He unconsciously straightens up and tries to look heroic. Got a reputation to maintain, what with being Ark-worthy and all. Good for business, too. Noticed sales of the old Enerjack-2004 have been slippin' lately. A little exposure on the newsvids won't hurt any.

He thinks real hard for something smart to say.

"HMMMMMMMM..."

Rewind draws an excited breath at the humming sound. "What exciting revelations will tonight's esteemed guest, that Hero of Science, that Captain of Industry, Wheeljack, Professor Emeritus of QIT, lay upon us tonight?!" he speaks in a hushed voice. "Stay tuned, viewers!"

He realizes, venting excess heat from his faceplate, that he just said that aloud.

"...MMMMMMMMMMM..." Wheeljack continues unabated, leaning ever-closer to the yellow and purple pile of scales and chitin, Rewind's camera following his every movement lovingly--Wheeljack appearing unusually large and powerful from the smaller bot's decidedly limited POV. Wheeljack inches closer, closer still, his eyes narrowing as jolts of electricity pop and sizzle from one of the drone's joints and its mandibles quiver. Rewind twitches in anticipation. Wheeljack squints and he almost drops the camera in excitement.

"...MMMMMMM...hm."

"YES?!" Rewind asks, practically short-circuiting with anticipation.

Wheeljack replies, scratching the back of his head, "...Oh, did I say somethin'...?"

Rewind answers, "Well, things seemed to be leading that way."

Wheeljack slaps a palm across his face "...dang, DANG, I was doin' IT again, wasn't I? Probably got yer hopes up, kid, didn't I? *cough* You know, I really oughtta have that hum or thrum or whatever it is looked at," Wheeljack remarks as Rewind looks confused.

"Or not. What can I say? Guess I just THINK loud."

Straightening up, he reaches absentmindedly for the tool grip on his leg, selects and grabs an Electrostatic Frametizer, calibrates it in an unnecessary but cool-looking motion, and then leans in on the bug body once again, the device whizzing and whirring.

"Closerrrrrr...clooooooossssser...." Rewind whispers to his viewers as Wheeljack reaches toward the creature's face, Rewind zooming in just a little too fast in his excitement, then deftly resolving on the gruesome bug-eyed visage.

There's a pregnant silence as Wheeljack, knees bent, stares intensely down into the red, dead compound eyes. Rewind, running around to stand next to Wheeljack's legs, focuses in close and sharp to capture genius when it sparks.

He gets more than he bargained for!

Without warning, Wheeljack, summarily and unscientifically, jabs his Frametizer into the creature's open jaws, the equivalent of sticking a finger into an electric socket.

"Whoa MAMA!" Wheeljack yells, jumping clear as the beastie bounces about three feet off the ground, zaps bolts in every direction, then hits the floor, spitting a ball of lighting that pastes Rewind smack in the face, knocking him for a loop.

Circuits sizzling, Rewind crawls around on the floor, desperately searching for his camera, even as his optics fizz in and out. Finally, his finger sensors recognize its familiar contours and slips happily into stasis lock. The last thing he hears is Wheeljack yelling, "That's hot!"

Memnocircuits cycling through a repair check, Rewind flashes through the highlight reel of the last couple cycles, culminating in the recent 52-hour B-movie marathon with Wreck-Gar. The test pattern flashes on the screen of his mind, and the image winks out.

As vital circuits knit and mend, hours, days, minutes, who can say, pass by in the timeless dark.

From very far away and through a blissfully thick black curtain, Rewind hears strange, discordant sounds that his audio processors, rebooting, eventually assembles into words.

"KIIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDD....KIIIIID...KID! Kid! You okay?!" a slightly singed Wheeljack demands, his face, inches from Rewind's, terribly huge.

Remind sits bolt upright. As Wheeljack jumps back, Rewind's arm jerks up and slams the camera's eyepiece against his face. "WHAT'D I MISS!?" he demands.

"Nothin," Wheeljack grunts, rubbing his head with one hand and gesturing to the bug with the other (still clutching the frametizer). "Darn thing's dead." Wheeljack slips his half-melted tool back into place. Scratch one Fram-damnetizer.

Over Wheeljack's shoulder, Rewind films Sideswipe, acting more like a petulant little boy than a hardened Autobot warrior, kicking a bug like a Ballobot.

He's just zooming on Smokescreen watching the ceiling buckle, contemplating whether to grab him for an interview but something about the way the gaudily painted Bot's shoulders are hunched just a little too tight holding him back, when Ratchet bellows from the medbay, "WHEELJACK?! That you I hear pontificating out there?”

“None other! What’s up?” Wheeljack says, turning towards parting double doors and spying a blood-smeared Ratchet, looking more like a butcher than a doctor. Rewind gets to his feet, ready to capture the magic, the action! The...cries of agony and terror echoing from the medbay...?

He catches Backstop scratching himself in an interesting place and makes a note to edit that out in post.

Ratchet begins, mock happy, “OH, well, I just wanted to invite you to a nice little tea party--"

"Oh, that's nice. Will there be cak--"

Ratchet slams a fluid-smeared hand against the doorframe.

"THERE WILL BE NO CAKE! We need help in here!"

His eyes dart back in the direction of the medbay as cries of pain echo down the hall. He turns back to Wheeljack, brow furrowed in concern.

"The miracle worker needs help?" Wheeljack asks, crouching over another drone, his back turned to Ratchet. "Well, the other Miracle Worker, that is. Miracle Worker Junior..."

Ratchet starts ticking off points with his fingers. "We've got two bots with arms off, one with a gaping hole in its chest, one’s been crushed, one’s been cut in two, and those are just the ones we had room for!

“Hey, don't look at me, pal!” Wheeljack replies, standing up and crossing his arms. "This is Hoist's toolbag. Where is he anyway? Thought he was stationed here."

Ratchet throws his arms wide. "He's decorating the walls of his lab!"

"At a time like this...?" Wheeljack asks. "Hardly seems like the...oh." His eyes widen in horror. "...OH. Oh PRIMUS."

"Right," Ratchet snaps, eager to get back to his patients. "Next question!"

Wheeljack tilts his head to the side. "...I dunno, then...Grapple? I mean, havin' been on the receiving end, it ain't exactly his forte, but--well, probably better than gettin' Hubcap, he don't come around until they're already stone-cold dead anyway..."

"Didn't I just tell you?!" Ratchet barks, at wit's end "He's got no arms! You ever tried to patch a gaping wound with no arms?! Believe me, it's no picnic!"

"First of all, no, you didn't. And second, I thought this was supposed to be a tea party, not a pic--"

Ratchet, leaning one twitching hand on the doorframe, claps his other palm to his forehead in exasperation. "Look, are you gonna lend me a servo or not...?"

"No way, pal, I need these," Wheeljack replies, flexing his hands. "For inventing. That's what I do, Ratchet. I'm an inventor."

Ratchet switches to ambulance mode, turns on his wheel, and storms out, yelling after him, "Well then, INVENT yourself in here and do some good for a change! The PAY's not too good but you just might save a life!"

"Fine, fine," Wheeljack grumbles. "Be that way" and trudges through the blast doors.

Rewind, still filming, follows Wheeljack through the double doors and down a long corridor toward the medbay. The overhead lights flicker, casting crazy shadows on the walls. As he walks, he pans around, taking note of the scorch and gouge marks covering floor to ceiling. Burned into one wall with a laser sword is a message reading, "HERE, Weirdwolf waz!"

As they pass through the grinding doors into the medbay, Wheeljack's optics widen in horror at the grisly tableu.

"Wow," he mutters. "Oh wow." His eyes become round as dinner plates as he glimpses a big purple monster--a towering heap of junk masquerading as a life support machine along the far right wall. "Oh WOW! Yikes!" he yells in alarm at the sight of it, huffing and puffing away, steam shooting from its tangled mass of pipes, and suddenly breaks into a dead sprint toward the jumbo collection of pipes and tubes huffing and puffing in the corner.

Rewind meanwhile switches to his telescopic camera from his handheld. He executes a slow pan across the room from right to left to establish the new environment; in the right corner, Fixit forces a Spark Stabilizer into Hound’s open chest, Energon and mechfluids pouring out on to the table. “Live! Live!" he cries. "...well, y’know, unless you don't want to...”

He then zooms in on the adjacent table just in time to catch Ratchet, standing over a convulsing Inferno, backhand Red Alert to the floor and yell "HANDS OFF!" as Flashpoint tries to hold the bucking body down. In the background, a long, flexible tube uncoils, snakelike, from within the complicated-looking life support machine, and slithers up to the table.

"But we're comrades in arms," stammers Red Alert as Ratchet grabs the tube in one hand. "Isn't it obvious, Ratchet?" he continues, climbing to his feet, hands held out in supplication. Well, hand. The other one is still fused to a rather large Shock Rifle. "This--" He gestures broadly to his fallen comrade, then indicates the other injured filling the room "...this happened under my watch. I'm responsible."

"For the last time, the answer is NO!" Ratchet yells, his eyes shooting back to his jerking, flailing patient. "I don't care who did what to whom and where just as long as this bot survives the night."

"But I--"

"But, but, BUT! But nothing!" Ratchet yells, arms buried in Inferno's innards. "You wanna salve your conscience, go talk to Rung. Matrix knows you have him on speed dial."

"This isn't about me! Or Rung!" Red Alert cries, "It's about--"

"Fine, it's about your old pal Inferno. Allll about him." Ratchet continues, rummaging through his toolbox with oil-stained hands. "Fine. Good. Great. You wanna help your old buddy? Wonderful. Then in that case," he says, pointing a greasy finger at Red Alert, "I advise you to A. Sit down; B. Shut up; and C. Stay out of our way. Or better yet, take your roof and go home. We've got lives to save." Rewind makes sure to zoom in close on Ratchet's face, catching him in profile as he says this last bit and makes a mental note to position it just before a commercial break. So cool.

Red Alert kicks the wall and a stool pops out. He sullenly plops himself down to wait.

Grabbing a tool from the wheeled cart beside him, Ratchet can't resist one last jibe, muttering "...'I just want to give you a hand.' With WHAT? Good intentions? Primus, you wouldn't know a case of Cy-bies if it bit you in the central processor..."

Just to his left in the packed Medbay, the holographic Catscan repairs the legless Hardhead with ineffectual help from Perceptor. “Observe the cleanliness of this fracture!" Perceptor calls, sounding more like he's in a lecture hall than an emergency room. "Why, it’s almost as if it were cut with a monomolecular blade!" Rewind hops up on the table for a closer shot and Perceptor, pointing to the stump, continues "Notice the distinct absence of fracturing or torque stress, the neat cauterization of the incision point. Here, here and here. No, here. Here! Do you see? No stress marks at all! Why, it's absolutely--”

CatSCAN slams his tool into Hardhead’s open chest cavity with a resounding clang. “FASCINATING! JUST REATTACH THE DAMN LEG ALREADY!” Rewind falls on his back, startled.

“But of course." Perceptor replies good-naturedly as Rewind picks himself up and scurries away, "That IS what we're here to do, is it not? Save lives?"

Not far away, Strafe ineffectually mans a examination table on which kneels Roadrocket, seiza style, seemingly calm, composed, and oblivious to the gaping gunshot wound in his chest from Mindset's railgun. Strafe waves his hand in front of Roadrocket’s masklike face. “Hello? Sir? I asked you a question? Can you tell me what’s wrong with you? I-I mean, where it hurts? Are you injured? Sir? Hello?”

Roadrocket stares straight ahead, seemingly oblivious to Strafe. But deeply, deeply self-satisfied. He wonders how long he can keep this up before passing out.

Rewind makes a mental note to add some Zen music and waterfall sounds to the track in editing. Make Kurosawa proud.

Rewind swings his camera over after hearing Grapple curse.

"My, that was a particularly colorful stream of invective!" he hears Perceptor exclaim behind him as Rewind captures in his lens a young female medic attempting to reattach Grapple’s arms and having a bit of a hard time holding her welding torch steady. It's been a long, rough road since the explosion of Paradron--making her way in a strange and unforgiving new world, surrounded by hostile glares and icy stares, most of them from Autobots, just fighting to make ends meet, to survive. And this is her first day at her brand-new job, so she's already been nervous--she didn't exactly graduate at the top of her class, but she had some practical experience from back home--and yet somehow here she is, working alongside Ratchet and Fixit and CatSCAN, legends. She's taken an entire semester on Ratchet’s techniques. She even sat through a guest lecture with Flashpoint. But here she is, not doing triage, but a basic reattachment. She’s done it a hundred and forty two times, but this is different. Bleeding and screaming patients all around her, some kind of fluid splattered all over her just a few minutes ago, she couldn’t even identify what kind of fluid. It was all too much for her and her poor little hands are shaking. The worst part is that Grapple keeps yelling at her. “Damn it woman! Watch where you’re pointing that thing! Oh, how I wish Hoist were here! Oh, poor Hoist, poor lost Hoist...in his artist's hands...OUCH!...a welder was a brush, a chassis the canvass. But you, woman, you have turned welding not into an art form, but an obscenity!”

"Lightbright, get over here!" Ratchet yells. The diminutive green and white medic drops the tool, leaping down from the platform on which she's been standing to reach Grapple, clearly relieved to be rid of Grapple...at least for a moment. And besides, Ratchet yelled at her. Her! That's one to write down in the old diary tonight for sure.

Finally in the far corner, next to one of the technorganic potted plants, on a low bench, sits Side Burn. Petulantly. His hands folded in his lap, he watches the commotion with a sour look on his face. He notices the camera pointed at him. “I had an appointment… an appointment!” he yells.

A commotion back near the door prompts Rewind to jerk his camera around the way he came.

Amid gouts of spurting purple fuel, Ratchet and Flashpoint battle to keep a convulsing, flatlining Inferno alive. Ratchet yells at Lightbright, who's busy climbing a ladder into the complicated piece of machinery Wheeljack has been inspecting, “Get the Jolter online! His Laser Core is fading! Prepare for emergency Sparkjumping!” He then yells as Flashpoint, "Hey! Hold him down!" as Inferno jolts, almost falling off the table.

Flashpoint, holding the bucking Inferno down to the table by his shoulders, yells, “I’m a psychiatrist! I heal the mind!"

Ratchet snaps back, "Well, in that case, we don't want him falling on the floor and hitting his head, now do we?! So look lively!"

"He's pretty--uhn--lively--himself!" she grunts as Inferno mouths inarticulate cries beyond agony--actually beyond the audible range--mech fluid spurting from a dozen or more long, jagged rents in his armor. Flashpoint tries to tamp down the feeling of oil-bile rising in her digestive processor as she sees the clawprints embedded in his armor, imagines the big red bot being slowly squeezed to death in Double Punch's vise-like grip. Imagines Double Punch chuckling as he does it. She quickly shakes her head to clear it.

"You're a big girl!" Ratchet growls by way of encouragement, noticing her hesitation. "So put your back into it!"

"If I wanted to pin--ugh--awkward, heavy objects down to hard surfaces," Flashpoint replies, "I would have joined the Metalligator-wrass--wrestling circuit! When I went to the Academy this was hardly what I had in mind!”

“Back in my day, it wasn’t an Academy yet! It was just a guy in a shed with a couple of dead Turbo Foxes!” Ratchet replies, grabbing the syringe, looking more like the nozzle of a fire hose, from his nurse. "Hope this works," he mutters, half to himself. "...all the burning buildings this bot's charged into..."

From the syringe runs a thick, foggy plasticite tube into the complicated mass of machinery protruding from the wall, which the blue and teal nurse-bot operates from a small glass-enclosed platform. It's life support on an industrial scale, large and ugly and functionalist. The nurse shifts out of the way, an expression of annoyance crossing her face, as Wheeljack clambers up the stairs and inserts himself into the control booth and peers at the readouts.

On the medbay floor, Ratchet yells to Flashpoint, "Clear a path to his Spark Chamber! We're hooking him up to the Jumper!"

......

Flashpoint selects a hand-mounted laser emitter from the tools stored in her leg compartment and plugs it into the waiting port at the end of her arm (where on other bots a hand would be) and proceeds to slice away shattered glass from Inferno's chestplate.

"Ooh, swappable appendages!" Rewind exclaims, zooming in. "Haven't seen those in action since Cycle '84!"

"Nothing else like them!" Flashpoint responds. She pauses for a moment to think, then continues, "Actually, you'd think everyone would be able to do it in a race of machines like ours. Swapping, that is-popping off or 'hands-forming.' Heck, I figure half of the "Ark-worthy" got on board because they could turn their hands into some kinda gizmo. Comes in pretty, uh..."

"...handy?" Rewind suggests.

"Ya know, I REALLY was trying to avoid that pun," she winces. "There. All done." she adds, finishing the laser job and standing back to look over her work, satisfied, hand on hip.

"Oh, we're all just SO impressed!" Ratchet says with sacharine sweetness. "Why, Inferno here's so excited he's BLEEDING from every PORE!"

Scowling, the medic jabs his hand into the opening cut by Flashpoint and rips out what's left of Inferno's seats to reveal his Tritanium-reinforced inner chestplate, diamond-plate cruelly crumpled with hammer blows from Thunderwing's titanium fists. Ratchet reaches into a circular depression in the center of the chestplate (this one not created by Decepticon punches) and jerks up on a buried handle, then twists it. With a hiss, the components of Inferno's sturdy inner breastplate, a redundancy measure suggested by Ironhide, split into three segments, grinding aside to reveal the sealed access portal to Inferno's Spark Chamber. Popping its lid, Ratchet jams the syringe in, hard, the rubberite gasket rimming the access point hugging the hose. Not for the first time, he thinks to himself, as he connects Inferno to the life support machinery, he owes Prowl a debt of gratitude for mandating these uniform body types. Makes operating...well, not a breeze, but not a hellish nightmare of mucking through someone's internals with no clue as to where anything is. Much as he hates to admit it. That Prowl was right, that is. Ever.

"Flashpoint, back me up!" Ratchet yells, struggling with the thick hose.

Flashpoint freezes, horrified at the sight of an Autobot laid bare. She feels herself slipping backward, downward, into the past, only for Ratchet to snap his fingers in front of her face, jerking her forcefully back to reality. "Get a grip," she thinks. What would Rung think of you now? Would HE lose his cool at a time like this...? No wonder they don't respect you. No wonder you didn't want to stay a Protectobot. "But dammit," she thinks bitterly, "this is why I left that life behind!"

She notices him still struggling to lock the theoretically life-giving nozzle into place and grabs it with both hands, twists it in hard. The "teeth" of the syringe catch the rifling lining the portal to the Spark and it rotates in, then locks into place with a heavy "click." "Good girl," Ratchet breaths.

Satisfied with the connection, Ratchet then calls over his shoulder to his nurse, "Syringe in place! Do it NOW!" Flustered but determined, the junior nurse punches in a sequence of commands, damning whoever designed this thing for making such an urgent action require so complicated a set of keystrokes, and the machine groans to life. The hose twitches and pulses as surges of blue-white energy shoot straight through it into Inferno's Spark Chamber.

"It's working!" the nurse calls. "...I...I think, I hope! Never used one of these before...?"

"That's 'cause they were outlawed by the Tyrest Accord! Years ago!" yells Wheeljack. "This is some Decepticon scrap, Ratchet! Does Magnus even know this thing's in here?! Last time I saw one of these was back when Terror Claws had me captive. Man, lemme tell ya, that was some scary--"

HRRRRRRRRMMMMMMMMMM goes the machine as it fires up, drowning out Wheeljack.

"Wheeljack! Stop that infernal grumbling!" Ratchet yells.

"That ain't me, pal, it's this other pile of spare par--"

"DON'T want to hear it!" Ratchet mops his brow, then slams his hands back down onto Inferno's shoulders, yelling to anyone and everyone, "Hold him! This is going to be rough!"

Nearby, Red Alert is stewing on his stool, trying hard to tell himself there's nothing he can do to help his faithful lieutenant in his fight with the Necrobot. He rubs a sore spot on his skidplate from when Ratchet knocked him onto the floor...for the fourth time. Wouldn't know a case of Ro-Bies if it bit him (?!), he thinks indignantly. Why, back in the good old days, back in the thick of it, he and Inferno accounted for more saved lives, more 'Con heads, than--than--he eyes, idly, his car roof, propped against the wall. Ro-Bies, he thinks again. Chuckles nervously. Notices the teeth marks sunken into it. Rimming the bite marks is some sort of oily brown crust, no doubt dried foam formed from Weirdwolf's mecha-saliva. At the root of his brain, an idea springs to life. Saliva. Foaming at the mouth. Rabid. Rabid dog. Bitten. He was bitten by a rabid dog![/i] He could have CY-BIES! His eyes dart around the room (which he could swear is starting to spin) at the various doctors all desperately trying to save the lives of the critically injured bots on their tables.

Ro-Bies....

He starts to speak, mouth-pistons straining, convinced all the while that his jaws are seizing up. "Excuse me...I could use a doct--..."

Before he can grind the words out, Sideburn yells from his corner, "YOO HOO! HELLO! Haven't got all day here!"

"Will you SHUT UP!" yell Ratchet and CatSCAN at the upstart then spin back to their patients.

Rewind, impressed at their odd but perfect synchronicity, adds to the rebuke, "Never stand in the way of great TV." Glancing at Flashpoint, Ratchet mutters, as Inferno jerks hard at the midsection, nearly snapping in two, "Damn. Damn! It's not GOOD enough! We're losing him!"

In the background, Red Alert mouths something incoherent and waves his rifle, still fused to his fingers, impotently above his head. Nobody notices.

"Lightbright," Ratchet yells, dismayed at Inferno's plunging readouts, "Give him another jolt! And for Primus's sake, crank it up this time! We're trying to give this Spark a swift kick in the pants, not a gentle massage!"

"No joy!" she yells, manipulating the controls. "I can't coax any more out of it--" She scans the readouts, and, frowning, adds, "...something's disrupting the power flow!"

"WHEEEEEELJACK!" Ratchet barks, spinning to glare at Wheeljack, or rather his friend's Size 15 feet, as the Autobot inventor has by now crawled halfway into the heaving machine. "What in the name of creation are you doing?! Get out of there! This is a highly delicate piece of equipment!"

Rewind sprints over. "Ooh, what is it, I wanna see, I wanna--yikes !" He stumbles back, nearly doused by a jet of superheated water that bursts from a fractured pipe.

"..slag! SLAG!" Wheeljack erupts, lying on his back, buried by a mound of tentacle-like tubes and conduits. As Rewind wipes down his lens, Wheeljack yells, " Kid, you there? Give an old mechanism a hand!" Rewind shoulders his cam, grabs Wheeljack's feet, and jerks him out from the guts of the device, electric bolts arcing over both. As Rewind zooms in, Wheeljack pulls himself to his feet and calls, urgently, "Call this off, Ratchet! You gotta! DO it now! Before this thing blows us all to kingdom co--"

Ratchet sweeps the air with one arm and yells, "Forget it! Lightbright, he's out of the way, so go! REDLINE it!"

The nurse opens a hazard-marked access hatch in the control panel, and a thickly padded pistol grip slowly rises into place. Scrunching up her face, wondering why they had to make this thing look like a gun, she squeezes the trigger hard, and the machine, large and purple and terrible, emits a ponderous groan, forcing more and more raw energy through the conduit and into Inferno's tortured frame.

"More!" Ratchet yells. "More!" Lighting dances across Inferno's body, his convulsions become ever-more-terrible. "I said HOLD him!" he yells again at Flashpoint as electricity races up their arms.

"Stop it, Ratchet!" Flashpoint yells. "This Rusthound won't hunt!"

Ratchet cocks his head quizzically.

"Erm, what I mean is," Flashpoint explains, "Take a step back! I don't think you're helping!!!" Flashpoint yells over the growl of the life support machine.

Confusion on Ratchet's face turns to annoyance. He says nothing and goes back to work.

Flashpoint repeats, "I said--"

"I heard what you said! And as the humans used to say--hogwash! I've done this--well, more times than I care to say! And with inferior equipment!" Ratchet yells back. "Just a little more and he'll be--"

"No, NO! Take a better--a critical look. Heck, I'd settle for a passing glance!" Flashpoint demands. "Open your eyes! I can see it, why can't you?! It's just-too-messy! The Energon feed is keeping his Spark alive, sure, but he's got two dozen fractures in his...I don't know, his CAB--"

"His 'cab'?!" Ratchet scoffs. Don't you shrinks have to be doctors first anymore?! Or is an couch and an ego all you need these days to get in?!"

Flashpoint buries her face in her palm, keeping the other, thick fingers spread, planted firmly on Inferno and trying to stay patient.

"... whatever it's called--it's been awhile since Cynatomy 101, sue me! And besides---ow!" She flinches in pain as blue bolts play havoc with her circuits. "...you're the living legend. If I can see it with my damned little...uh, pathetically miniscule knowledge of medicine--look. Just look..better yet, think! That raw power you're shooting into him isn't helping, it's harming. Sure, you're keeping him from Embering, barely--he's got at least 15 circuit fractures blocking what Spark energy was traveling through his body at the time of the accident from migrating back to the source--but it's just TOO much--overflowing the Laser Core, the...whatever, the Spark Chamber, seeping out, agitating the rest of his vital systems, cooking his circuits, and that pain's just feeding right back into the Spark and dimming it again. It's a vicious cycle! And it's putting him through a whole world of hurt!"

"Ooooh, drama!" Rewind whispers, capturing their grimaces for posterity. They glare daggers at him. "Go on," he adds helpfully.

"No way, kid!" Wheeljack intrrjects, jerking a thumb at the shuddering machine towering over them. "We don't got the time! ANY time! 'Cause Ratchet...buddy...the way you keep pushin' it to the limit, this poor old thing's half-past gone--next thing we know, it's gonna go--"

PLINK

"Plink...?" Ratchet asks, staring at the machine.

Wheeljack's eyes widen in horror. He knows the sound all too well, he's heard it a thousand times from within a thousand world-shattering inventions that blew up in his face. Yes, somewhere, deep within that morass of machinery, something just went--

PLONK

"Oh...no...p--power, gotta cut the power now! Damn it, kid, shut it down or we're all in for it!" Wheeljack yells.

"I, I'm trying," the nurse stammers, "but the system's overloading, frying the CPU, the control interface, I'm locked out, I can't--"

CRUNK

"PULL. THE. PLUG!" Ratchet yells, grabbing his Medtronic Cannon, converting to blade mode, and hacking the tube connecting the machine to Inferno, blasting them with orange sparks in the process.

"Too late, old buddy! Get outta there, kid, n--"

Wheeljack's cries are drowned out as the device shivers one last time, freezes for a painfully long moment...then abruptly transforms into a rolling wall of flame, hot on the nurse's tail as she makes her escape straight through the window of the control booth.

Red Alert, alarmed in the extreme, leaps into action, only to freeze up in midair and drop to the floor in a heap as he remembers the Cy-bies.

"Hey!" Ratchet yells at him, " Pull yourself together, it's unlikely hero time!"

Red Alert, sounding more like Big Daddy on an average day, mutters something incoherent under his breath. Ratchet throws himself onto Inferno protectively as chunks of burning purple metal spew from the conflagration, peppering his white armor.

Dead center in the path of the flames stands Rewind, still rolling his camera, seemingly entranced by the onrushing blaze.

"Hit the deck!" Flashpoint calls, leaping into the firewall's path and batting aside chunks of airborne scrap, heat-resistant armor--tempered to survive (temporarily) temperatures of around 50,000 degrees--wilting under the superheated onslaught. Lightbright, flames licking her legs, crawls feebly across the floor and huddles behind Flashpoint, a panel on Flashpoint's leg flipping up to protect her. Rewind produces a can of fire retardant foam from his emergency kit and douses her burns.

"Longarm! Naptime's over!" Flashpoint calls. From under a table, grumbling can be heard. "Now!" Flashpoint reiterates. From beneath the table speeds a miniature crane truck, which launches skyward on a jet of compressed air and connects to an access point on Flashpoint's torso, just to the right of her neck. From her backpack unfolds a long rectangular cannon formed from her roof, the Mini-Con rebuilding her exostructure itself into the weapon.

SPOOM! SPOOM! SPOOM!

With rapid-fire bursts, she pummels the ceiling, dropping tons of rubble onto and into the hungry blaze, choking but not silencing it. As his next act, Longarm reconstructs the guts of the blaster, turning it into a missile launcher.

"Powerlinking! Honest to Gosh Powerlinking!" remarks Rewind, drawn like an Insecticon to a plasma jet to film this disastrous spectacle.

Flashpoint takes aim at the rubble and WHUMP, WHUMP, WHUMP, launches a trio of jaw-tipped missiles. As each hits the debris, its "teeth" bite into the sizzling metal. The tail end of each missile unfolds, revealing a delicate robotic arm and satellite dish, and slits, six long, appear along its length--and from these vents, beams of light melding into a glowing orange, netlike forcefield emerge. As the forcefields from each individual missile meet, they meld, forming a net that embraces the rubble, holding it at bay.

"Perceptor," she yells over her shoulder as the scientist rolls up, transforming from halftrack to robot mode. "We need to get this stuff out of here!"

"I apprehend your intention!" Perceptor yells, flipping out his shoulder scope and lasering the floor around the net from one end to the other.

KAROOMPH!

The whole flaming mess (as Repugnus might say) drops through the floor into the room below. Hopping onto the rim of the crater, Wheeljack grabs his handgun, recalibrates, and sprays heavy amounts of Fire Retardant Foam into the burning pit, remarking "...gee, hope nobody was down there."

"Oh no!" Rewind moans, poking his camera into the pit. "That was the press lounge!"

"Fire in the hole" Wheeljack quips.

Wheeljack turns back to Flashpoint as Ratchet tends to Lightbright's burns.

He regards the ruins of the life support machine smoldering below while spritzing Fire Retardant Foam into the pit. "Guess Perceptor's little experiment in blowin' stuff up earlier was the culprit. Poor old girl was probably baked from the inside out--no wonder she went haywire. Piece of junk to begin with anyhow."

He turns to Flashpoint.

"And as for you, Hero Girl, why you ever went into head-shrinkin' is beyond me. Way you took charge back there...old Op Prime couldn'ta done it better!"

"Aw shucks," she answers. "I'm a Pyro at best. ...Maybe a Sureshot."

She thinks for a minute, then continues, "But really, should we be glorifying such reckless, brazen conduct? I ask you. Sure, I leapt with the best of them--headlong and smiling--into my share of hot situations. Saved some lives. Little victories. Cheating the Necrobot, one more damn time. Did some good. Too little." She plops down on a chunk of fallen ceiling. "And after awhile, I started to thinking--was I getting too caught up in the day to day struggle? Missing the bigger picture, maybe? I asked myself--*Was I making a difference in the lives of others*--a REAL difference--you know, in the long term? The kind of hero I aspired to be, or used to think I did...well, let's face facts, Wheeljack, they're a dime a dozen around here. Primus, you can't swing a dead Turbofox around the room without hitting an Autobot who's willing to sacrifice himself at the drop of a hat, to go out in a blaze of glory. So I figured, hey, the whole 'heroic sacrifice' end of things was pretty well covered...90% by Prime himself. ...so instead of running around putting out yet another oil fire, how about we take a step toward something more meaningful, like facing the cold hard fact that we are absolutely barking--or is that, 'Arking'--mad as a race! Instead of dousing yet another Firecon in heat, making a real difference in people's lives, like, say, cooling the passions setting this whole blame world ablaze in the first place. ...I figured the best place to start was--"

She places a finger against her temple, indicating her brain.

"--in here. Primes can speechify all they want. But there's a little Megatron in all of us."

"Now where have I heard this before," Wheeljack chuckles to himself. Didn't he just have this conversation with Prowl last month? Ah, Prowl. When you're right, you're right. When you're Prowl, you make sure everyone knows it.

She narrows her optic band at Wheeljack suspiciously, imagining him to be laughing at her. "Something funny? I'm pouring out my Spark here and...and...what, are you some kind of Functionist?!"

Wheeljack looks abashed. "Nah, nah, you just reminded me of some--"

"Interesting saying about the Turbofox," Rewind interrupts. "Liked the one about the Metalligator, too. And what was that about Rust Hounds?" He thinks for a minute, then adds, "Sayyyy...are you by chance from up North?" He thrusts a finger at her and yells, "You are, aren't you! You don't seem to have much of an accent but--"

"'Scuse me," Ratchet cuts in, hard at work again on Inferno, "Can we take a commercial break? 'Because, you know...while you've been doing daytime TV--DYING AUTOBOT over here!"

They rush over to Inferno, now severed from the life support line and doing worse than ever despite Ratchet's efforts--during Flashpoint's soliloquy--to keep him functional.

"While you two were chatting," Ratchet growls, "our friend here was just about flatlining. Flashpoint was..........oh, my Primus, Flashpoint was right. He's just too badly injured and in too many places to patch. For every injury we fix, another goes unattended, or worse, he hurt him more." Ratchet raises a finger. "His Spark is failing, we give it a jolt." He raises another finger. "Meantime, he bleeds out and the Energon infusion fries his motherboard." Another finger. "We try to patch up his wounds, his Spark starts to dim." Exhaustion creeps into Ratchet's voice, the beginnings of despair. He plants a palm against his face. "It's all just too much."

Wheeljack clambers onto Ratchet’s table. “Eh, take a load off, pal. I got an idea how to calm this sucker down."

"Well it's about scrapping TIME!"

Wheeljack glowers. "Hey, didn't I JUST try to save you from bar-b-quing half to death?! Yeesh. Primus Below, if you'd just given me five astroseconds to think in the first place 'stead of yellin' in my ear...” As Wheeljack talks, he rummages around in his backpack, mumbling "Now where did I--"

"Ah. HA!" he yells triumphantly, bringing out a device that looks for all the world like--

"A SPARK extractor?!" Ratchet says in disbelief. "Did you miss the part where we're NOT trying to kill him?!"

Perceptor coughs.

"Yes, yes, I've heard about your already legendary exploits--you've already set a new record for broken bulbs and burned-out fuses!" Ratchet yells. "And so will the Ethics Council for what you tried to pull..."

"A disadvantageous--to put it lightly--situation demanded extreme innovation! Blaster's very life was--"

"Forget it," Ratchet replies, cutting short Perceptor's protest. "It's neither here nor there; this is a whole different ball of wax. Inferno's Spark isn't even all here. You can't jerk it out! Half of it's in his Spark Chamber and the rest scattered, its energy trapped in pockets around his body. He'll never be a whole bot if--"

"Would somebody mind," Wheeljack cuts in, "letting me finish a SENTENCE for once? First of all, this ain't no Spark Extractor, son, not anymore, at least. I call it the...the...heck, it's so new I haven't thought of a name yet! So for now, let's just call it 'Your Lucky Day'!"

“Just get to the point?” Ratchet growls, pushing Inferno again. He glances at the medical computer readout, in which Inferno's three key components: Brain, Spark/Laser Core, and Bodyshell are clearly designated; at a glance, he can tell Inferno’s struggling, bodyshell and brain module fading along with his Spark, and his thrashing is still tearing his already broken linkages even more. He also notices that the computer is giving him a general yuckiness rating, and a boy-cooties percentage. (97.8%)

Wheeljack clamps the tube-shaped device, looking like a Spark Extractor and a Fusion Cannon had a baby, down to Inferno's chest. “Yeesh! Don'tcha know you can't rush genius? So anyway, I got this thing here, I made it last week- no, it was last month… dang, last year? No, I remember now, it was two weeks ago. What it does, see, is bathe him in a pulsating Electromagnetic Field and--”

"And this is supposed to make me feel better HOW?!"

“It won’t kill him! (I hope. I pray.) Just listen one minute. ONE little minute. Like you say, he's injured everywhere, right? You patch one problem area, he springs a leak somewhere else. You're too busy keepin' his Spark from failing to fix his body and you're too busy fixing his body to keep his Spark from failing. You can't get any work done! Well see, on a low enough setting, this baby'll shortcut that little problem, just knock his body safely out of commission and...well, see for yourself!"

"Bolts, you must be nuts! More than usual, I mean!"

"Maybe, maybe not." Wheeljack opens a panel on the side of the object, flicks a switch, and the device hums to life, bathing Inferno in cool blue light. Inferno's body shudders once more, then lies stock still; his eyes flare nova-bright for just a moment, then settle into a healthy, steady blue.

"See," Wheeljack says, gesturing to the inert mass, "Quiet as the gra--uh, wrong expression. But look at his eyes! Have you ever seen baby blues that bright? An' the eyes are the window to the Spark, as they say."

Ratchet stares at the readouts in disbelief. He checks the Spark readout. Checks it again. Stable. Stable! As if he were in his recharge cycle, although his Yuckiness rating was far higher somehow. His brain activity is even and steady. "How...how did...his body's offline--totally (!) but his Spark is...it's...his brain is..."

Wheeljack nods. "Yep...Smooth and calm as a sailing day on the Rust Sea. The Spark itself was always fine. At least it wasn't the root of his problem. Primus or Adaptus or whoever made these things to last. Old T-Wing didn't even manage to get his grubby mitts on it, neither, not through all'a this armor plate."

Ratchet winces as Wheeljack raps his knuckles on Inferno's chestplate.

"What, he can't feel nothin'!"

Wheeljack continues, "See, the way I figure it, it was the body to blame for his Spark failing--all those bad vibes from his wounds that were destablizin' the Spark, the usual link among Spark, Brain Module, and Body Shell we're all so familiar with doing its thing. You know what I'm talkin' about: mess a body up, so bad it can't even go into Stasis Lock, and/or blow a bot's brains out, and the body or what's left of it rejects the Spark, and as we all know, the Spark can't survive outside a good strong body. It's practically holy writ."

"Welllll," Wheeljack says, pointing to the device, "this patent-pending little piece of equipment keeps his Spark stable while you fix his body, lets you patch up all those ugly wounds, those nasty blockages keeping Spark Energy from circulating throughout his systems and lets his wandering bits of life force migrate safely back to source, without all that lousy zippity zappity back an' forth we had when you were usin' the Juicer. Orrrr if you turn this little switch here, it'll knock his Spark offline and--uh, nevermind.”

"How is this possible?!" Ratchet demands as Flashpoint and Lightbright (dutifully, despite her burns) begin repair on Inferno's many cracks and gashes. "I'm seeing it and I still don't believe it. You know well as I about--"

"The Trinity? 'Course, I just described it for ya. HOWever, this sucker apparently short-circuits it--Don’t give me that look, it's workin', ain't it? Don't ask me how, though! That offworld tyrant...what's his name...the dragon guy with all the Vehicons...Megabolt (!) must've figured it out when he developed his Spark Extractors. Remember how they say he took the Sparks outta the bodies without doing them any harm? Besides the long-term psychological damage, of course," he adds, nodding to Flashpoint. "But that keeps you folks in business."

"I'm still waiting for my explanation! And one I'll LIKE!" Ratchet yells. "You pull a big mysterious tube-shaped object with claws out of your trunk, clamp it onto Inferno, he goes limp, and then you start namedropping Megabolt. So far you've done little to convince me this isn't Spark extraction!"

Wheeljack shoots back, "YOU see any stray Sparks flyin' around the room? And besides, cool down a little--you're on edge lately. Whaddaya think this is, some kind of emergency?! I was just gettin' to that. See, my theory is this thing takes whatever old Megabolt did and tweaks it. Whereas he safely separated the components of R's Trinity--namely, took Sparks out of bodies, offlining the bodyshells and their brains for later use--or so I've heard from the few poor souls who escaped his Vehicon "paradise" and got their Sparks back into their bodies--this baby here closes the body and the brain down (safely) but leaves the Spark right where it belongs. Shutdown without extraction. And a darn good thing, too, seein' as how A. We didn't have any fresh bodies lyin' around to slam this Spark into; and B. with the old Trinity in effect, jerkin' a Spark out of a dying body probably wouldn't have done it, the bod, OR the brain pan any favors. I did keep his brain runnin' on a low level just to be safe--theoretically, we could shut everything down except the Spark--'cept this beauty hasn't been fully tested yet. I'm all for pushin' the boundaries of science, but not at the expense of my pals' well-being."

He can't resist adding, "Not that it wouldn't have still worked perfectly anyway."

Ratchet twitches.

Wheeljack stretches languidly, then adds "Anyway, stop askin' questions, stop even thinkin' 'em, and just trust me. And do NOT, I repeat, NOT poke at it. Just call me over to unplug it when yer done."

"Hmph. Still sounds like Spark Extraction to me." Ratchet grumbles, turning his attention to assisting the others with Inferno's wounds.

"Nonsense, Ratchet!" Perceptor exclaims. "'Truly, this is a miracle of modern science!"

"Eh, keep it, pal," Wheeljack laughs. "I got two more in my trunk! Just be sure to give me credit when you copy my design!"

"Why, I NEVER...!" Perceptor sputters.

Wheeljack hops down from the table, turns and points a stubby finger at Rewind. "Oh, and one more thing. Never, EVER never ever tell Chromedome about this! In fact...gimme that film!" He reaches for the camera, and Rewind reacts like a feral animal. If he had teeth, they'd be gleaming in the moonlight. "Whoah! Uh, or you can maybe...just...keep the camera. Just do me a favor an' sit on that last bit of footage for awhile. This is one time I DON'T wanna see myself on the evening news! Not until I got that patent locked in at least.”

Rewind, feeling that life-saving scene full of snapper patter is a good vignette, and satisfied that nothing sensational is about to happen vis a vis Inferno, turns his camera's roving eye back to CatSCAN’s table. He climbs up onto a nearby stool and pokes around with his macro lens camera at Hardhead’s leg wounds, trying to capture those amazing striations Perceptor was talking about. Or was it lack of striations? He can't remember; too much Good TV ensued in the interim. As he rolls film, he makes a note on the little yellow pad in his brain to review the earlier footage just to make sure. In any case, the wound disappears from view as Perceptor attaches the leg via a newly replaced endoskeletal hardpoint and proceeds to weld the surrounding armor to insure a secure attachment.

"Observe," Perceptor speaks into the camera as he completes the restoration of Hardhead's leg, "As we efficaciously apply only the minimally required degree...ah, what was the Terran term (?)..."

Rewind accesses his databanks on Sol System, Terra, language, English.

"Celsius?" he asks helpfully.

"Ah, yes, Celsius, of course!" Perceptor exclaims. "Yes, as we enkindle the arm-mounted welding torch and adjust the torch flame to the correct degree Celsius in order to satisfactorily coagulate the surrounding Soft Technomatter without fusing the endoskeletal attachment point or incinerating the exterior ceramic-alloy composite armor!"

As Perceptor speaks, Catscan twitches in irritation and mutters "Just weld the damn thing on already." As if on cue, Perceptor suddenly lifts the torch and smiles. “There, one leg attached!”

“Good,” CATScan says, “now stop pattin’ yerself on the back, and attach the other one!”

Nearby, Red Alert, having climbed back onto his stool, continues to fume, now even more burned up since his attempt to control the literally explosive events earlier was disrupted by an Unqualified Individual (albeit Search and Rescue-Trained). As he shifts his weight from one skidplate to the other, Red Alert struggles with his deeply held Functionism, mulling over the After Action Review he plans to write as soon as he can get back to his desk (if his office hasn't been reduced to a flaming pit of fire). Yes, Flashpoint was designed to handle these types of Scenarios and trained in the Proper Procedures. This is good. She also successfully Contained the Situation. However, having Changed Functions 15 stellar cycles ago, he suspected, she had not been recently Re-qualified as Fire Safety Personnel and therefore her Decision to Take Action represented a Violation of Protocol. And besides, what right did she have to just waltz in and save the day? Why, she had taken her Primus-given programming, Body Shell and very expensive-to-the-Average Taxpayer EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and SAR (Search and Rescue) training and HURLED it back in their faces all those solar revolutions ago to begin with. Forgotten some of it, even, judging from her earlier display of incompetence saving HIS second in command! And on top of that, taking up psychoanalysis? The nerve of her! She should have KNOWN that Rung was the preeminent mind in the field. Certainly Red Alert had never considered changing therapists during his sessions beyond measure with Rung. MORE presumption. Why, she was nothing but a rotten, no-good...

He licks a fleck of spittle from his lip and attempts to remember where he was in his inner rant. But try as he might, he can't recover his train of thought. Something...something is WRONG! But what...wait. WAIT. WAIT!!! ...was he foaming at the mouth just then? Earlier? Was he so mad he was foaming at the mouth?! Was that foam?! Red Alert forces his jaws open with tremendous effort and croaks,

"--dying..."

Nobody reacts. Wasn't he loud enough? Or are they all just ignoring him, hoping he'll keel over dead? Was this all a plot by Clampdown to take his job? Wait, maybe it already happened and he IS Clampdown! But wait, that would mean--

Enough, he decides. If they won't listen willingly, then by Primus, he'll give them something they CAN'T ignore!

Feeling his life force fading, he musters his innermost Energon and prepares...

At that moment, Perceptor is still toying with Hardhead's other leg. As the big bot stirs unexpectedly, the Cyberthesia wearing off, CatSCAN growls, "Hey! Mr. Wizard?! You done yet?! The big lug's waking up, and if he wakes up 50% legless, there's gonna be Pit to Pay!"

"Eh...?"

"I said, are you done yet? Quit fooling around, boy! We've got other patients in need of aid? You want this guy trying to reattach his OWN leg?! He'll do it!"

"RED ALERT! RED ALERT! WOO WOO WOO! RED ALERT! RED ALERT! WOO WOO WO--"

Everyone grabs their audio sensors as their optics overload from the sheer incandescence of Red Alert's head, which flashes red and blue like a fireworks show as siren wails bounce off the walls.

Over the din, CatSCAN and Ratchet turn and yell in unison and with the exact same body language, "ALRIGHT ALREADY!" Two wrenches go whizzing by Red's head.

The light and sound show instantly stops.

Red responds in a hoarse voice, "I'm dying, you know. Ro-bies. It's terminal."

CatSCAN scowls in Red's general direction, “So yer dying! Congratulations! Just have the decency and common sense to do it QUIETLY!”

As CatSCAn and Ratchet proceed to rummage through identical toolboxes, shaking their heads in sequence, identical grimaces on their faces, Rewind realizes what was bugging him about the docs earlier, when they shouted at Side Burn (who, he notes, is still waiting for his appointment. He's a jerk, but points for persistence) in sympatico. Calling up the data just to confirm, he nods to himself as he realizes just which famous Autobot medic's personality engrams were used to program the holographic doctor. Well, to program his bedside manner, at least. Or lack thereof.

"Y'know," Flashpoint turns and remarks to Red Alert, overhearing the spasmodic clicking of his trigger finger, which he clicks to remind himself that he's still alive, “Cain't help but notice yer...er, I I find your fixation with that gun fascinating. Perhaps you’re attempting to compensate for your feelings of impotence...your deep-seated frustration at your inability to stem the rising tide of failure that threatens to engulf your career and at your patent ineffectiveness at carrying out your duties and controlling your offices or protecting your friends--coupled with your utter lack of self-confidence, the persistent emptiness within, which mirrors the abandoned halls and cells of this prison."

Ratchet whistles in awe. Perhaps there's hope for her after all, he thinks. Ignoring Ratchet, Flashpoint keeps her gaze fixed on Red Alert. Waiting.

Nothing. Not a peep, not a twitch.

Time for the heavy artillery.

"Fine. Be that way if it pleases you. But I must caution you that when I compile the results of your next routine psych evaluation for review by the Penal Council, I may recommend to ULTRA MAGNUS that you be reassigned to--”

Red Alert jolts as if shot, struck by lighting, or both.

The Warden instantly springs to his feet, snatches up his roof, tucks it under his arm, marches past the others (sparing a passing glance for Inferno to confirm his recovery is proceeding apace) and goes tromping out the door.

The older medics watch the blast doors grind shut behind him, then turn to Flashpoint and announce as one, "THANK YOU!"

CatSCAN adds, "Though that last twist of the knife WAS a bit uncalled for." Ratchet nods in agreement.
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Skids
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Skids » Fri May 03, 2013 10:10 pm

The medics return to work. A mollified Lightbright, all patched up, quickly and efficiently finishes reattaching Grapple's arm.

"Satisfactory," Grapple remarks. "Now *I* can lend my skills as well!"

"No thank you, Grapple," Ratchet says on behalf of his patients, both alive and half-dead.

Meanwhile, Flashpoint still has Rewind's ear.

"Tell me, how did you do it?" Rewind asks of Red Alert's sudden exit. "Minutes ago, he was contorted into a frozen lump of metal. Now he's his old self again! Jittery, skittish...the picture of health! You're a healer!"

Ratchet coughs derisively.

They pretend to ignore it.

"Pshaw," scoffs Flashpoint. "Please! There was never anything wrong with Red's physical health--nothing a few ounces of maintenance wouldn't have cured. No, this, this was...Ah...perfect analogy, it was Inferno in reverse. Reverse Inferno Syndrome, I'll call it."

"Tell me more!" Rewind insists.

Flashpoint plops down on Red's vacated stool and extrapolates. "You see, whereas Inferno, due to his severe injuries, suffered from ailments of the body, which adversely impacted the function of his otherwise sound and healthy Spark and Brain Module, Red Alert's problems are all in the mind..." she pats her chestplate "...and in his SPARK." She scoffs, "Cy-bies? Please! Classic Cyber-somatic symptoms. He just needed something to take his mind off of 'em. Something he feared worse than Cy-bies, worse than a slow, agonizing death."

"And that would be...?"

"Oh, simple. ULTRA MAGNUS. Ultra...Fraggin'...Magnus."

"Excuse me!" Rewind, his Drama Sensor activating, hastily bids the others farewell and, camera in hand, sprints after Red and out the door, smelling a story.

Flashpoint watches him go, then hears the voice of Warpath yell from the adjoining CR Ward, "BLAM! Mah TURRRRRRET!"

"It begins again," she tells the others, rising wearily to her feet. "One little nick, dent, or scratch, and he's inconsolable for weeks. And this time? He took a straight-on shot from, what, a rail gun? I'd better get a lid on this now or I'm gonna have to schedule extra sessions..."

As she strides past Fixit and Hound into the next room, just then, Hardhead groans into consciousness. His first question: "Wherrrrrre....Roulette....?"

"Who?" Ratchet asks as Perceptor analyzes the hardpoint to which he'll (eventually) be reattaching Hardhead's leg. CatSCAN responds, "I think she's an inmate here. Decepticon. I don't know." He looks around the room. "Primus, I don't even know who the Chief Medic assigned to this base is. IS there one?! Primus, maybe they just let the patients bleed to death in their cells, Energon shivs buried in their circuits!"

"Yeah, I suggested that," Fixit chimes in, "But, y'know, we figured, hey, all that blood everywhere, someone might slip and fall, and, uh, you know, get hurt..."

CatSCAN grumbles, ignoring Fixit, "OF COURSE, I might know the answers to such deep and meaningful questions already if anybody ever TURNED ME ON around here!" He casts an irate glance around the room.

"Don't you have access to the medical database?" Ratchet asks, inspecting the crabs' progress at sealing Inferno's gashes. Satisfied enough with the results, he preps him for transfer to a circuit slab. "You ARE some kind of newfangled EMH pipelined to the medical database in Central Records after all. Not that we NEED you around here, but you could probably even tap into the Records Asteroid if you wanted to. Theoretically, you know everything. And in practice, that drives me mad."

CatSCAN rubs his unshaven-looking chin thoughtfully. "Huh. Well, I suppose I should look into--HEY! Don't tell me how to do my job!" he snaps at Ratchet.

"Roulette, huh?" Ratchet mutters as CatSCAN attempts to look up the data. "That rings a bell, actually. Heard from Ironhide she was a tough customer. Comes from Porcupine, right? Cruel. Merciless. Takes no prisoners. One hard sister, as Blaster might say."

"No, no, no!" Strafe yells, turning from Road Rocket, who has collapsed into a stupor, either from ignoring his injuries, Strafe's inability to find them, or both. "That's Shadow Striker! Roulette is the SCARY one!"

.......

Rewind catches up with Red just before he reaches the door to the Space Bridge chamber. Red pauses a moment, seemingly sucks in a breath; squares his shoulders; then proceeds through the door.

As the doors from the medbay corridor to the Space Bridge chamber part, Red Alert ducks instinctively, a trait honed from many years of entering rooms occupied by his younger brothers. Sure enough, a crushed Insecticon whizzes over his head.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” Red Alert yells as he comes stomping into the room, Rewind nipping at his heels. Before Sideswipe can respond, Red Alert crosses the length between them, decks Sideswipe in one swing, laying him to the floor, and moves on past as if nothing has happened. Sideswipe climbs to his feet, rubbing his jaw as the Omnicons snicker. "Fraggin' Cubeheads," he grumbles to himself and falls obediently into step behind his big brother, escorting him out of the room. Brotherly love, thinks Rewind, and makes a note of the time stamp to add to his clips of uptight Autobots wrecking stuff.

Noticing Backstop is still scratching himself, Rewind follows them through the door. Desiring an overhead shot, he activates his backpack rockets and wafts over them, filming them in bird’s eye view with a stereographic lens, allowing the nearly stationary camera to watch them pass beneath, as they walk down the hall. Sideswipe grabs Red Alert’s roof from under his arm, gently places it in the proper position, and punches it back onto Red's back. Red Alert sneers at his brother, who smirks back.

Rewind lands in front of them, switching to a normal lens and executing a perfect "Cool guys walking toward the camera" shot. He wonders whether it would be unethical to edit some Cy-gars into their hands and an explosion behind them in post.

As the two brothers approach the door, closer, closer, closerrrr, Rewind tilts the camera up and up and up until he falls backwards through the door. Hot Spot, waiting just inside the door and startled by the sudden intruder, snaps his arm-mounted cannon at him.

Rewind finds himself filming up the barrel of a fireball cannon, every detail of the lethal armament crystal clear but Hot Spot himself a vast blurry blue expanse in the background. He shifts the focus and Hot Spot come into glowering focus, the gun barrel blurring out as Hot Spots' red eyes, seething with poorly suppressed rage from within the shadowy depths of his helmet, resolve into crystal clarity.

“What a great shot!”

Realizing that there IS currently a gun pointed at his head, he adds, “Uh, don't shoot!”

At that moment, Sideswipe, stepping over Rewind, stomps into the room, smacks the gun arm against the wall with his left hand, then jabs the muzzle of his pistol into Hot Spot’s cheek with his right. Red Alert, without even looking, bats both their weapons aside as he marches in.

Surveillance Room 3 is ordinarily small and cramped but today it is made even more so by Magnus’ large frame sitting in the central chair with Blaster on his left and Eject on his right. All three Autobots squint at the giant bank of monitors and holographic displays, their power levels low. A pitcher of Energon sits on a small table in front of them, and they hold glowing drinks in their hands. Also lying on the table, forgotten, is Tracks' hand shammy, left behind when Red Alert abandoned him in the dark room hours ago and we went looking for signs of life.

“How goes it?” Red Alert asks.

All three grunt in response.

Rewind looks disappointed.

"This was the big story...?" he asks. "Where's the hue, the cry? I was promised drama!"

"...I was better off in the ER," he sulks.

Everyone ignores him.

He spies Tracks' hankie on the table. "Ooh, is that...?" He darts over and inspects the monogram.

Above him, the bank of monitors tell a confusing tale. On one set of screens is footage that claims to be "real time" from the wall, ceiling, and floor-mounted security cams (Red Alert really had to campaign for those floor cameras), showing locked cell doors, guards standing at attention, and inmates sitting quietly in their cells. On one screen Skywarp carves his name into his wall; in another Weirdwolf cleans his joints with his tongue. Floating next to these screens are holographic displays of the same chambers as they really are, piped to the room by Blaster's avian drone, Flashback; doors thrown open, empty rooms, hastily abandoned cells. Skywarp’s name carved on to the wall, Weirdwolf’s cell empty with his bed turned over. Doors ajar, walls broken, floors missing, and in a very strange case a Mini-Con just standing in an access hatch staring at the security camera. Magnus presumes that it’s dead and was left strung up to distract them.

Sideswipe, teeth clenched, sweeps his gaze across the tableaux, and, overcome with the absolute failure of the situation, winds up to punch a wall. Just then, Magnus whips his head around (almost) 360 degrees and shoots him a look. Sideswipe freezes in his tracks, then very carefully drops his fist and gently places his hand against the wall. Rewind, popping Tracks' hankie into a subspace pocket, strides past their feet and clambers up The Gavel, finally reaching a spot on Magnus's back, just behind the much, much larger Autobot's head. Primo angle, he thinks, sweeping his hand-cam around the dimly lit room.

“We’ve been looking at this Devil Z-damned footage for six hours,” Magnus mumbles, rubbing an optic, “I’m not even fragging sure what in the Inferno I’m looking at anymore, let alone what happened or how.”

“Whoa,” Rewind whispers in awe, “Magnus. just. swore! This is an historic occasion!"

“Shut the fra--please be quiet.” Magnus silences him, weary but managing to catch himself this time.

“Man, Mags” Blaster replies, his optics never wavering from the screens, “...who the Pit you even talkin’ to?”

“The little man on my head.” mutters Magnus.

Blaster mutters. “You gone stone crazy, big U.M.”

At that moment, on one of the monitors an inmate runs down a hallway and out the door. Eject perks up and begins commentating loudly. “He’s at the forty, the thirty, the twenty, he’s in the home stretch, it looks like it’s good! TOUCHDOWN!” The inmate dives down an open shaft. Everyone in the room stares at Rewind coldly. Magnus scowls. His eye twitches spasmodically.

Eject laughs to himself nervously and sips loudly from his drink, averting his optics. Slurp. Slurp. Sluuuurrrrrrrpp!

Wham! Blaster's seat crashes to the floor as he leaps to his feet, yelling at Magnus, Eject, and everyone in the general vicinity, "That is the LAST, and I mean, FINAL straw!" As he storms for the door, his wings flex aggressively, bopping Rewind from his perch on Magnus's back.

Magnus turns in his seat and demands, in a haggardly authoritative way “...and just where are you going?”

Blaster stops in the doorway. “Where do you think--sir? It's time we woke up and smelled the Energon. This footage--" he gestures to the disparate side-by-side images "--was obviously doctored--and by a master video surgeon no less. Our eyes, ears, noses, and throats--every surveillance system, from cams to circuit sniffers, in this joint's been comprised, top to bottom, inside and out. An’ by sittin' here on our collectives duffs watchin' exactly what our mastermind wants us to see...which is nothing (!)...all we're doing is playing right into his cold, clammy hands."

"Heck--" he adds, "He's probably sittin' snug as a bug, RIGHT NOW, watchin' ALL of us--and laughing!"

Blaster darts a glance at Eject. "He's probably sippin' a soda, too!"

Red Alert's eyes are already sweeping the room for signs of the culprit.

As Red Alert searches for hidden cameras and listening devices--other than the ones he already had installed in here, that is--Blaster thinks for a minute. "On second thought, the man I'm thinkin' of ain't got no mouth! Well, most of the time..."

"So you have your suspicions..." Magnus replies, stroking his chin. "Good. Just don't let old grudges cloud your judgement." They glance at the screen, on which happens to flash, at that very moment, an image of Soundwave standing in the courtyard, doing nothing suspicious whatsoever and therefore instantly appearing incredibly suspicious to Blaster, whose optics narrow.

"I'll do my best, sir." Blaster replies acidly. "Now if I may be excused..."

"If you're thinking you're headed over to the central computer room and inspecting the core," Magnus responds, rising to his feet, "Think again. nobody goes in until the Rescue Force say otherwise. What's-his-name told me. We're short handed as it is, so I need my troops alive and kicking, ready to hunt down these, er, hooligans--and preferably NOT glowing in the dark, giving away our position."

"The man doesn't kid." Hot Spot intones. "The little power surge accompanying your celebrated 'rebirth' downstairs? Blaster--buddy--you blew out junction boxes and circuit breakers on 15 floors. Hope you're proud."

Just then, the lights suddenly brighten, then dim, as if on cue.

"But the Central Computer," Hot Spot continues, gesturing with his hands. "WOW. I mean, WOW. Power surge cooked the place. Room's HOT. 'Hooligan just left a proton grenade in your oven' hot."

"Man, tell me somethin' I don't know," Blaster responds, tapping his head with a finger. "I can HEAR it sizzlin' all down the EM spectrum. Place is throwin' off radio waves, delta waves, gamma waves, waves even Waverider ain't never heard of."

"Nah," he continues, "I ain't goin' in there, bro." Blaster thumps a palm against his chest. "Havin' oh so recently bought a second lease on life, I find livin' to be an irresistible proposition right about now. Anyway, what's the point? Hot or not, the computer core was ALWAYS gonna be a dead end. Master hacker, remember? He ain't gonna be makin' life easy for me."

"So then what--" Magnus asks tentatively.

"I don't know," Blaster shouts, "But you me--I'll think of something!"

The door slams behind him, nearly shutting on his angry wings.

Magnus inclines his head to Sideswipe and says, "Keep an eye on him."

Sideswipe, pouting in the corner, comes alive. “At last! Some action!”

"Sir," Red Alert asks, indicating his brother as Sideswipe runs for the door "...is this wise?"

"...good point," Magnus admits. Turning to Hot Spot, he jerks a thumb at Sideswipe, just passing through the door. "While he keeps an eye on Blaster--keep an eye on HIM."

Hot Spot salutes and strides out the door. Magnus turns his attention back to the monitors. “Eject?”

“What's the play, coach?"

“Feel free to fast forward a little. There's still a lot more to see and know. For instance, I'm wondering what finally happened to bring the bridge up in Iacon after so many hours of pure nothing."

"Bridge control was tied to the computer room, right? Some joker got his mitts on the C-C and locked the whole place down." Eject suggests. "It's a long bomb, but maybe Percy's power surge did us all a big favor burning the whole thing out."

"Perhaps." Magnus says thoughtfully. "But convenient explanations aren't my style. Damn! I'd give a month's Shanix to get into that room. In any case, I think we all agree that a whole slagging lot 'went down'--as Blaster might say--before we got here. And we're going to find out why, no matter how many Kremzeek Colas we have to drink."

Eject tosses a half-hearted salute, refills his cup, and continues combing the footage.

......

Meanwhile, just past the door and down a few klicks, Sideswipe storms down the hall muttering to himself. Suddenly an iron clamp slams down on his shoulder and jerks him around. Sideswipe turns, expecting Lugnut, only to find himself facing something really scary.

Hot Spot. Big, baby blue, and glowering down at him.

"You wanna start somethin'?" Sideswipe asks half-heartedly. He's got a rep to uphold, after all.

"Nothing you're willing to finish," responds Hot Spot.

Sideswipe instantly deflates. He slaps a palm against the wall as Blaster disappears around a distant bend, cursing as his wings scrape the passageway.

“What's eating' you today, anyway?” Hot Spot growls. “Magnus told you to *FOLLOW* Blaster. Observe and report. NOT seek and destroy. Speaking of destruction...saw your little temper tantrum in the Space Bridge Chamber earlier. It was all over the vid feeds. Magnus about popped a gasket when he clocked that scene. Then Reddy clocked YOU."

Spot Spot chuckles and adds, "As usual."

Sideswipe says nothing, merely grinds his teeth and looks away.

"You always been wound pretty tight, but nothing like this," Hot Spot continues. "...you got Scraplets in the brain?”

Rewind, who had followed, hoping to salvage his Drama Quest, zooms in as Sideswipe finally responds, “Tch, where do I start?"

"Dunno. The beginning?" Hot Spot asks.

"Yes, yes, set the scene!" Rewind encourages. "Once upon a time, there was an Autobot with deep-seated rage issues and a flashy paint job, but not as flashy as Sunstreaker's."

"Fine...okay--OKAY!" Sideswipe explodes. "But remember, you asked for this. Now lesse...well, our little tale begins bout a month ago...two, I dunno. Anyway...I was kicked off good old Team Prime for insubordination" He gestures to Rewind "You probably did a segment on it. Yet somehow--don't ask me how--REALLY, don't ask me--Sunstreaker’s still there. Go figure. So Ironhide boots me through a space bridge while Grimlock and Bumblebee laugh, and where do I land but Magnus's lap. Yes, THAT Magnus. The Ultra One. Yep, that's right, kiddies, until I get my act together, I get to drive a desk for Ultra Fragging Magnus. 'Professional Enhancement' Prowl calls it. Me, I call it being hung out to dry."

"There are worse fates." Hot Spot says helpfully. "Devoured by Sharkticons. Uhm...lots of stuff."

"Are there...?" Sideswipe explains, "Are there really? I'm thinkinnnnn...NO!"

Sideswipe pauses and adds,

"You don't know what he's really like, do you? I mean, he was our greatest warrior, yeah. We all know THAT Ultra Magnus. Endlessly brave, eternally selfless, bottomlessly resourceful. He's the rock, the immovable object. 'Flamed for one purpose only, to defeat the Decepticons, and damned good at it. We've all read the Autopedia entry and we've all fought under him and prospered from it, and by prospered, I mean, emerged with our steel hides intact when we should have been knocking on Mortilus' door. But behind closed doors? Magnus unplugged? Just you and Magnus and an empty room?"

Hot Spot decides not to mention that he tucks Magnus in every night. He turns his attention back to Sideswipe, having missed a bit of his rant.

"How do I even--the bot is...he's---did you know the Autobot Code is sixteen volumes long?! I do! I had to memorize the whole thing! Backwards! Literally backwards! He started me with the index and said go from there! He locked me in a room with nothing but the book and a single Energon cube until I could recite the appendices--in the original Binary! 01010111101111001! And once I'd burned out a set of optics or three trying and failing--hard--to grasp the intricacies of that sixty-five-thousand-page thriller, I get tossed back in with the Mudflaps in basic! Bunch of oily protoforms down there! You should've HEARD what Sentinel Major called me! Me! I was on the ARK! ...nevermind, I don't wanna talk about it."

"Ooh, what, what?!" Rewind demands.

"Nevermind, I don't wanna talk about it."

"Uh-HUH." says Hot Spot drily.

"And then, to make this a variable hat trick of insults," Sideswipe finishes, "I’ve been on desk duty for the last week! While Magnus stands over my shoulder and corrects my punctuation!"

"You mentioned a desk." Hot Spot says solemnly.

"What color was the desk?" Rewind asks.

"Seriously, foot to Primus," Sideswipe continues, on a roll, "Seriously, is it the end of the world--are Unicron, Dark Nova, the D-Void, and the Grand Black Hole all gonna appear over Cybertron and swallow us all if one apostrophe goes misplaced?! Anyway, all things considered, you can figure after what I been through that when the call came down that Berthov was in big trouble...Primus Below, I was rarin' to go! Flyin' into the mouth of oblivion by the seat of your pants, a prison chock full of crazed Cons, a countdown to doomsday--I eat this kinda stuff for breakfast!"

Sideswipe paces around, "So, of COURSE, in classic Magnus fashion, what do we do? While our buddies are battling for their very lives, we stand around in Iacon like statues collecting rust watching him and Leo Pr--Convoy prance and posture and spout paragraphs about boring stuff like safety and ethics just long enough, JUST long enough to MISS THE ENTIRE THING!"

His voice echoes down the empty corridor.

"Primus, I could cry. You know what? I am. I'm crying. Look at me. Crying. Tears. Real tears."

Hot Spot claps him hard on the shoulder.

"Lighten up! ...he talks about you ALL the time, you know."

Sideswipe turns to Hot Spot. "And THEN Cliffjumper had the nerve to say--uh. What...who? Magnus? Cataloging my failures, no doubt. Figures..."

"No, no! He said you have promise. Great promise."

"A likely story!" Sideswipe retorts.

"No, no, he was talking about it just the other night. You know. In his sleep."

If confusion and discomfort had a baby, that emotional progeny would be crossing Sideswipe's face at this moment. He looks up at Hot Spot, who still has a hand on Sideswipe's shoulder. Looks up very slowly.

Hot Spot adds, helpfully, "Heard it myself."

Sideswipe, finding his voice, babbles, "...What does that even--? How would you--? While he...? W...why would you even choose to share something like that with me--"

"You're upset." Hot Spot responds. It's unclear whether he says this by way of observation or explanation.

Sideswipe thinks for a moment, blinking rapidly, then replies, "...wait, wait wait WAIT...sorry, sorry, I'm still processing this."

"It's okay. Take your time."

"Okay... are you saying you--I mean...you mean that--!? Every night...? And--is it--is this like 'stand over his recharge slab' watching? ...or is this like that...one...time Red vid-camned my room because he thought I was looking at--wait, why am I even curious?! What do I--I--*" Finally, he just freezes up.

Magnus's bodyguard scratches the back of his head, ruby eyes cast toward the ceiling. "Dunno. Guess I usually just stand in the corner."

"Anyway..." Hot Spot says, when Sideswipe says nothing in response "...I...DO seem to have upset you. I HAVE. My apologies." The towering wall of barely restrained force seems almost bashful. "Just...uhhhhhhh..."

As he turns around, taking his leave, Hot Spot tosses over his shoulder, "...just forget I said anything." The big bot traipses down the hall.

Sideswipe doesn't answer. Just stares slack-jawed and blank-eyed into space. Rewind holds his hand, says "There there. I liked your story." And slips a business card into it, whispering, "...my agent. Call me."

Meanwhile, in the other room, Magnus picks his drink up off the table and takes a long, deliberate sip. “I’m done here.” he announces. He stands and pushes his chair in.

"Red Alert?" he says questioningly. "Warden? You still have a prison--albeit an empty one--to run. How about getting back to work?"

When Red doesn't reply, just keeps looking at the footage with a glazed expression, Magnus leans in deliberately and snaps his fingers in front of Red Alert's face.

As the mighty sound ricochets off the walls, Red, suddenly sitting on the floor, yells "WHA--?! Was that The Gavel?!" He looks up at Magnus and barks, "SIR!" Red hurriedly picks himself up from the floor, where he was lying insensate, and rights his chair.

"At ease." Magnus replies. "It's been too damned long a day for decorum."

"SIR! Sir."

"I can't believe I just said that. Anyway," Magnus continues, gesturing toward the door, "...the prison? I seem to recall a rage-fueled, all-too-temporarily stunned scorpion with buckets for claws in the basement. And other assorted ner'do'wells no doubt skulking around in need of maximum re-incarceration."

Red exclaims, “The ruffians can wait! Sir. Bad as even Double Punch is, he's only the symptom of a farrrr larger disease. And the cure is hidden somewhere in this footage," he insists. "The answer is always in the footage. Always. And I’m going to find it if it kills me.”

Magnus, temporarily too tired to care, replies, “Alright. You do that. Just make sure you don't lose yourself while you're searching for the answers."

"Another bite-sized capsule of wisdom, sir? Now?" Red responds.

Magnus shrugs wearily. "It's...it's what I do. Apparently."

Magnus turns and walks out the door. He pauses and looks back into the room. Red Alert stares at the screens, inching closer and closer to the monitors by the second. His nose taps the screen and he leaps back, startled, eyes darting around the room. The doors shut. Magnus just sighs and shakes his head. It HAS been a long day, he thinks, as he spies Hot Spot, who meets his gaze and says, shamefaced, "...uh, ABOUT Sideswipe..."

Hot Spot jerks a thumb at the hall and Magnus notes Rewind and Sideswipe huddled together in the corridor. Rewind is talking excitedly, gladhanding and chattering. Magnus catches a fragment of a sentence, "...seriously...no, seriously, audiences love a sympathy case...you can transform your banishment into big bucks!"

"What's HE still doing here?" Magnus snaps. "You KNOW how Blaster gets when he's mad--who knows what he'll do--not to mention Leo Convoy, and--" Magnus glares daggers at Sideswipe. "My fault," Hot Spot replies, gruffly but a little guiltily, inclining his head toward Sideswipe. "He seemed down in the dumps. Took him aside. Had a word with him to get him back on track, on his way. Backfired."

Magnus responds, "You didn't tell him about the...you did!" He slaps a palm across his face. "Not again!"

"Just doing my job, sir." Hot Spot replies. "As best I can."

"...forget it." Magnus mutters, and starts walking toward Sideswipe and Rewind.

"That's what I told him" Hot Spot shrugs, falling into lockstep with Magnus.

Just then, Sideswipe exclaims, loudly, at Rewind, “Y’know what? No! NO, I won't sit down for an exclusive interview! I’m sick to death of sitting...standing around--whatever--I'm tired of talking! If I wanted to talk I’d go to my court mandated appointments with Rung!” He glances over his shoulder at the oncoming Magnus. He grabs Rewind by the camera. “Hey, you want a story? Come with me.” He turns and drags Rewind like a child with a teddy bear.

As Magnus powers down the hallway, he finishes sipping his drink, and without saying a word, hands it to Hot Spot. Hot Spot marches double pace and pulls open a hazard-striped square panel in the wall, drops the empty drink container into the waste bin. As the panel closes there’s a metallic click and a pneumatic hiss.

Out in the deserted wastelands of the Sea of Rust, a small tube pokes out from the dust and metallic rocks. With a puff of air, the empty drink container shoots out into the harsh, wind-whipped sky.

A turbofox sniffs at a little crevasse in the terrain; he’s been stalking a Zap-mouse for the better part of the day. Food is scarce in his home of Torque Flats, and you get what you can get. That was why he has tracked this Zap Mouse all the way from Torque Flats into the unforgiving Sea of Rust. Timid and prone to running, the Zap-mouse is normally more effort to catch than it is worth, especially since their skin can conduct electricity and as a last ditch effort they would divert all their backup Energon reserves to it. But if you can snap its cortical relays before it has the chance, they make a pretty good meal. He could go for one right about now. Especially since it has been nearly a week since he’s last eaten. The fox hears a strange whistling sound coming from above. He looks up and is hit in the head with an empty Energon drink container. He falls over unconscious…

…and explodes.

Hot Spot matches pace with Magnus again. Trooping down the hall, Magnus gets the distinct feeling, honed from many years in assassins' crosshairs, that they’re being watched. He stops for a moment. He looks down the hall, then back the way they came. Nothing. Strange. He then looks up and meets a grate falling on his face. The monstrous form of Big Daddy falls with it, glancing off Magnus and landing on the floor. Scrabbling to a stop, the Big Daddy monster, a giant, bumbling, mumbling acid-spewing head on a tiny-looking pair of legs, turns and growls at the two Autobots. Its mandibles open wide and some kind of thick fluid oozes out onto the floor. Magnus deliberately and slowly lifts The Gavel, pointing the muzzle directly into Big Daddy’s gruesome, toothsome maw. The massive cannon charges with a high-pitched whine. Magnus moves his trigger finger into firing position. He touches the trigger, gently at first, then he begins to apply pressure; The Big Daddy creature twitches slightly, sniffing the increasingly ionized air with a barbed tongue. It feels...fear. Magnus can feel the trigger pushing back as he hits the internal mechanisms, that little part that holds the gun back from firing. .00012% more pounds per square inch and Big Daddy would be a bad smell in the air.

Just then, Nightbeat and Scorch come flying into the room through a door, transforming to robot form in midair, and land on Big Daddy with a resounding thud. Bearing down on him with their collective weight, they force him to the ground and pin him there, the creature screaming and thrashing. Magnus deactivates The Gavel and casually flips it over his shoulder. He nods to Hot Spot to give them a hand.

Hot Spot takes two steps forward, and on the third, as if that was the cue he was expecting, Big Daddy surges, knocking the two brightly colored detectives aside like toys. Scorch bounces a few times off the floor and Nightbeat hits the wall. Snarling, it leaps over the stunned Autobots at the fresh meat--Hot Spot--baring its collection of long,curved fangs. Without hesitating, Hot Spot fires a blast of the same gel that Inferno used on Ramjet out in the courtyard the day before, pasting Big Daddy to the floor.

Scorch and Nightbeat emerge from their stupor and jump to their feet, then notice the thrashing, struggling form of Big Daddy at their feet.

“Man, good thing I turned up, you guys were in over your heads back there!” Nightbeat says. "I'm talkin' DEEP slag!"

“Reality check, Barnacle Breath, I was the one who pulled your irons out of the fire!" Scorch gives Nightbeat a shove!

"Yeah, well, I softened him up for ya!" Nightbeat shoves back.

“Wake up and smell the Energon, landlubber," Scorch retorts, I--"

"Uh, guys?" Hot Spot asks them, generators humming to life within him as Big Daddy, dripping with strings of goop, looms behind them, free from his bonds.

"Huh?!" Nightbeat and Scorch cry in unison, spinning to find the slavering beast glowering at them, exhaust-breath hot.

"DUCK."

WHOOSH! They hit the deck as the creature spits a healthy glob of saliva at Hot Spot. The goop hurtles straight toward him, poised to strike dead center in the Spark. Only it never makes it, because it slams into a scarlet wall of force, which suddenly shimmers into life around the Protectobot leader. The personal force shield shimmers as it disperses the creature's attack. Hot Spot narrows his eyes. Starts walking.

SPLAT! POP! HISS! Before the creature knows what's happening, Hot Spot, acid dripping from the shimmering energy field that enfolds him head to toe like a tight-fitting second skin, is staring into its single, malevolently glowing engine block of an eye. The next thing it knows, it's staring at the ceiling, struck senseless by a force-field-aided punch. That's one thing he's got over Trailbreaker and his force field, Hot Spot thinks as Big Daddy hits the floor hard and Hot Spot drives his other arm, cannon and all, like a piledriver into the creature's chitinous skin, and it falls silent.

Speed. Mobility. Raw power. Maybe a touch TOO much, at times.

He turns and gives a thumbs-up to Magnus.

As Scorch and Nightbeat drag the insensate creature away, Magnus, finding himself unable to tolerate their harsh, nasal, voices, decides to make his exit. Magnus had first noticed Hot Spot during that whole Scramble City debacle. Hot Spot had been part of Defensor at the time, but he was a good soldier, demanding 110% from his troops, and Magnus had been impressed with his enthusiasm and dedication. As soon as he found out Hot Spot was free from the Combiner program, and was up for reassignment, Magnus snapped the bot up and added him to his staff. They worked well as a team and understood each other even better. And Magnus liked to think that over the years, he'd done a bit to temper Hot Spot's zeal, help the younger bot take his boundless energy and turn it toward doing his duty. Focus it inward.

True, Hot Spot showed some slight Primus Apotheosis tendencies, but it didn’t affect his work. And that force field came in handy in a pinch, and didn't make him into the sort of ongoing saga of embarrassment that Trailbreaker had become of late. His forcefield was part of him, true, but it didn't define him.

Magnus feels a flash of irritation. If only Trailbreaker hadn't gotten himself smashed...and then proceeded to GET smashed in that barroom brawl, we could have just taken a shuttle over here, nipped this in the bud. He's not even a particularly good pilot, it's the forcefield that--never mind. Time for Trailbreaker later.

Magnus tilts his head slightly towards the door, indicating to Hot Spot to follow, and casually strolls away. Hot Spot shakes his head at the two arguing bots and the motionless monster on the floor and follows.

In the Med bay, CatSCAN, having finally talked Hardhead into letting Perceptor attach the other leg instead of "lettin' him do it hisself" has now moved on to his next assignment, helping Fixit repair the thoroughly stepped-on Hound. Hound has been stabilized, but is still in need of a lot of work. Inferno is out cold--but stable--and Ratchet still diligently labors over him, sealing his many long cuts with Lightbright's help. Meanwhile, in the adjoining recovery room, Flashpoint and Warpath sit together on a long couch.

“Y’see, Doc? It don’t work like it’s supposd’ta.” Warpath extends and retracts the cannon in his chest. “Blang, what d’you think?”

“I don’t know.” Flashpoint says in a calm soothing tone. “What do you think?”

“Blam, Doc. I dunno. What do you think?”

“What do you think?” Flashpoint cocks her head slightly to the left.

“Well, I think-I mean, pow, I dunno… What do YOU think?”

“I’m not sure, but our time is up. If you’d like to discuss this further, why don’t we make an appointment?”

As Warpath motors away, Flashpoint takes some notes on her datapad and mutters, "Classic case of Turret Syndrome."

Back in the ER, Strafe, spread out on the table, weeps bitter tears of frustration as Road Rocket sits motionless, now having slumped forward into stasis lock, his gaze transfixed on the middle distance...of the floor. Strafe slams his head on the table twice hoping to drive himself into stasis lock too. Maybe then they can communicate through the dreamscape.

Both of Hardhead’s legs have been successfully reattached. Perceptor has one open and is trying to get the nerve connections linked up properly. He links up one last section, carefully closes a panel, and steps back.

“Alright, my good man, attempt ambulation of your lower extremity.”

“My leg, son? My LEG?"

“Yes...uhm...try to, uh, move your leg.”

“Well, OK. Shoulda just said so."

Hardhead kicks Perceptor, knocking him off his feet and sliding him halfway across the room. Perceptor stands and dusts himself off. “Excellent, simply marvelous. 'Alive and kickin!!!' one prone to such machismo-laden expectorations might say."

At that very instant Ultra Magnus enters the room. Instantly, his gaze locks upon the smoking pit where the oversized collection of scrap metal that passed for life support machinery used to be. His eyes instantly become slits.

As they walk in, Side Burn bustles out, yelling, "Fine! I can take a hint! I know when I'm not wanted!"

He turns to Hot Spot and sighs, "SOME people."

Hot Spot just shrugs.
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Skids
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Re: Transformers Classics 2.0

Postby Skids » Sat Nov 30, 2013 12:22 pm

The grate of scraping metal intersperses with grunts of exertion as Nightbeat and Scorch drag the inert mass formerly known as Big Daddy down the hallways. Big Daddy's claw-tipped tentacle, dangling loosely from his bottomless maw, makes a sickening sound as it scrapes along the floor behind them.

Huffing and puffing, Scorch, supporting Big Daddy under one arm, Nightbeat bearing the load on the opposite side, gasps, "Ahoy...where we beachin' this whale, anyway?!"

"Hotspot...uhnf...growled in THIS direction..." Nightbeat responds. He jerks his free thumb toward the bend ahead. He seems distracted, his optics flicking back and forth. Scorch notices but he's known Nightbeat long enough not to ask questions. He decides to keep the banter going.

"Was that a growl? More of a grunt...I've HEARD him GROWL--damn near--agh!--oiled myself!" Scorch replies.

Nightbeat turns to look at him. "If it matters so much to ya," Nightbeat says sarcastic-sweetly, "--why don't we--uhngh, geez, this guy is heavy--mosey on back and ask him?"

"And end up in Octopunch's Locker? No--whufh--thanks, matey!" Scorch replies, his shoulder joints squealing in sympathetic protest.

"Yeah," Nightbeat answers. "You don't have to be a J'muk to know where this is going. Even street sweepers like us can do the math. And it doesn't paint a pretty picture. Best case scenario, Daddy ends up in a kennel for the rest of his life. Worst case, Brainstorm's operating table. Poor devil."

Both pause a moment just before the corner, needing to rest their weary servos. Nightbeat glances down the hall, then up ahead. Scorch looks down at the motionless mass held between them. "What's he been eatin', anyway? Cybertonium bricks?!"

Nightbeat, in his rough voice, breaths a single, solemn word. "Autobots."

"Oh."

As if on cue, a gurgling grumble emerges from the gaping gullet of their cargo.

"WELP, no rest of the wicked!" Scorch declares, suddenly all-too-eager to be on their way. "The sooner we get old Daddy here stowed away, the sooner we can figure out where in the seven seas of Pequod that tiger-striped you-know-what, Hooligan, ran off t--"

"HOLD IT," Nightbeat says, his whisper loud as a gunshot. In one smooth motion, he drops his burden, whips out his sidearm, and flattens himself against the wall.

"AHGH, my FOOT!" Scorch yells, the full weight of Big Daddy landing on his toe.

"SHHHHHHH..." Nightbeat presses a finger against Scorch's lips. Nodding mutely, Scorch pulls out his own piece. "On five," Nightbeat whispers, indicating the corner, servos tensed for action, "One, two, three--"

"Hi, guys!"

The cheerful, slightly high-pitched voice comes from behind them!

They whirl as one to face the danger--of...of Side Burn, a gleaming grin plastered across his face...his hands reaching for the sky.

"AVAST!" Scorch yells in surprise.

"Burnsides," Nightbeat mutters. The way he pronounces the name sounds more an epithet than a name. "What Rocklord did HE crawl out from under?" he breathes to Scorch.

"Side Burn," Side Burn corrects, mildly petulantly, then, recovering his charm, casually brushes gun barrels out of his face. As the two beat cops seem to deflate, the tension gone, Side Burn nonchaltantly strolls between them, then turns on one heel to say, "And before you say anything--I KNOW what you're thinking--"

" "How'd he get the drop on us?' " Nightbeat scoffs. "PLEASE. I smelled you at the other end of the hall."

Side Burn looks momentarily disappointed.

What I can't peg, Nightbeat thinks to himself, is how he got BEHIND us. Must be gettin' too old for this game. He decides to change the subject.

"Anyway, you're here. Which leads us to the next logical question: what do you WANT?" Nightbeat grunts as he and Scorch lift Big Daddy between them, Side Burn making no effort to assist. "No, wait, stop me there--that's Classified, right? No good Fedbots pokin' their noses into our business for no good reason..."

"Yeah. Shoulda stayed in your ivory tower guzzlin' high-grade octane with your M-I buddies," Scorch adds. "Stead'a skulkin' round here like K-9 after a bone, scarin' poor working' stiffs like US just tryin' to do our jobs." He smirks, feigning a sudden thought, "Oh, I remember now. The boys upstairs booted you out. Guess even NEST has standards."

"CRADLE," Side Burn responds, "And," he adds, "I resigned."

"Way I heard it," Scorch mocks, "You were two kliks away from a court martial!"

Nightbeat cuts in: "NAH, give the bot a break. I can buy it. A bot can only swallow so many acronyms. Do so many Dirty Jobs."

Scorch chimes in, "Wazzat stand for, anyway? CRADLE?"

"That's...sorry, that is classified," Side Burn says. He sounds slightly embarrased.

"Meanin'," Nightbeat laughs to Scorch over Big Daddy, a not-so-nice grin curling his lips, "--he don't know."

"What can I say," Side Burn shrugs, "Bossbot never told me. 'No need to know.'"

"Okay, so you're disgraced, jobless, and came crawlin' to US for gas money, am I right? Yeah, I'm beginning to get the picture..."
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Skids
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