dracoqueen22: (doctorisin)
[personal profile] dracoqueen22
a/n: Another update for this completely self-indulgent universe of mine. Please keep in mind that it is self-edited. And enjoy!

Title: Critical Mass
Universe: Transformers: Prime Season Two AU, Event Horizon 'verse
Characters: Autobot and Decepticon Ensemble
Description: New allies have come to assist, but Optimus is still missing, and other matters have complicated the fight against the Decepticons. Time draws ever short as the war races toward an inevitable conclusion.

----------------------
Chapter Nine

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


It is a familiar signal, this time popping up in the west. Desert. Wind. Heat. Actually, it isn't too far from their current location. Still, they would complain about the sand if nothing else.

Prowl frowns, skimming the roster. Jazz is logged on-mission though they've heard nothing from him save that he's alive because Ricochet's been sighted. Ratchet and Sunstreaker are on medical leave. Arcee, First Aid, and Bluestreak are in recharge.

Prowl's sensory panels twitch and his tactical net hesitates, but needs must. He summons Sideswipe, Bumblebee, and Bulkhead. Thank Primus Wheeljack is on patrol, though Mirage had been less than pleased with that assignment.

The rather chilly response Prowl receives across the bond is proof his partner has yet to forgive him.

Again, needs must.

Prowl redirects his tac net to the latest Decepticon appearance, once again perilously close to that mysterious signal. The one that had led them to the phase shifter. This had to be something of similar use or great importance.

Megatron could not be allowed to possess it.

Sideswipe is eager to go, tires leaving treadmarks as he screeches to a halt and flips into root mode. No doubt Sunstreaker and Ratchet's most recent altercation has caused Sideswipe an endless helmache.

“It's about time,” he says, flexing his battle blades. “These're starting to rust.”

Prowl gives him a flat look. “We don't rust,” he says as Bumblebee and Bulkhead come striding in, the former carrying two of the human children. The third has her hands in the air, the delight on her face a match to Sideswipe's own.

Prowl resolves to never allow them time to conspire. Miko and Sideswipe together would break him.

“I get to go this time, right?” Miko asks, clutching her cell phone. “You can't leave me behind again.”

Prowl ignores her. “We have detected another signal along with the Decepticons. Retrieve whatever they've unearthed but do not engage.”

“Uh... what?” Bulkhead cycles his optics. “You want stealthy, you picked the wrong crew.”

Sideswipe huffs a laugh. “He means we're not allowed to stick around and play, not with Ratchet out of commission. We need to play it safe. As boring as that is.”

“What's wrong with Ratchet?” Rafael asks, adjusting his glasses. “Is he hurt? Can I help?”

“No! Doc-bot's hurt?” Miko's gasp replaces her earlier enthusiasm with immediate concern. “Wait a minute. Was he tampering with synthetic energon again?”

How does she know about that? None of the humans were present during that incident according to the reports on the network.

“He was not and he is not,” Prowl says in his firmest tone. “Ratchet will recover soon enough and if he wishes to share the details with you, he will.”

Miko frowns, unmollified.

“Okay,” Rafael says, glancing up at Bumblebee. “Could you tell him I asked about him?”

“I will pass the message along. I am sure he will be touched,” Prowl replies.

“In the meantime, aren't there some 'Cons in need of smashing?” Sideswipe demands, once again rocking on his tires.

Bumblebee chirps an affirmative.

Prowl's panels twitch again. He turns to the command console, bringing up the map.

“Bumblebee, you will be squad leader.”

Prowl deftly ignores Sideswipe's squawk of outrage as Bulkhead slaps Bumblebee on the back, congratulating him.

“Remember, do not engage,” Prowl reminds them as he activates the ground bridge. “Discretion is a requirement. Dismissed.”

Three sketchy salutes acknowledge Prowl before the three Autobots fold into alt-mode and vanish into the bridge. But not before Bulkhead grumbles about missing Optimus' signature phrase. As if Prowl needs the reminder that they all desire Optimus' return.

The bridge closes and Prowl gets back to work, monitoring Bumblebee's team in case they need backup. He keys a scan for similar signals to the one detected and continues the fruitless sector by sector search for the Decepticon space bridge.

“So. Is there an ETA on getting Optimus back or are we just going to wait for a miracle?”

Prowl stiffens, optics cycling down. He doesn't look up at the catwalk where Miko lounges against the rails, staring down at him. Luckily, the other two children have managed to entertain themselves. He should have known Miko would not be so easily assuaged.

“We have a plan,” Prowl answers, careful to keep the majority of his focus on the data streaming in from the console. “We are doing what we can.”

“What's the plan?”

“I am unable to discuss that with you.”

“Why not?”

“It would not be appropriate.”

“Pah. Bulk tells me stuff all the time. And Optimus wasn't secretive either.”

“Be that as it may, I will not be sharing the details with you.”

Miko stares at him. The weight of her gaze is unsettling, though Prowl isn't sure why. Perhaps because she is so unpredictable.

“I don't think you have a plan,” Miko declares, leaning against the rail. “I think you are as confused as the rest of us.”

“Miko!” Jack sounds horrified. The catwalk rattles as he comes stomping up the stairs.

“What?” That feigned innocence is all too similar to sideswipe's. “I was asking a question.” Her gaze feels like acid pellets, too incisive for a human child. “It's been weeks, Jack. Aren't you worried about Optimus?”

“We all are. But harassing Prowl isn't going to make it easier.” Jack pats her on the shoulder. “Come on. Leave him alone.”

“Fine.” She sulks but acquiesces.

Peace is gained at last.

Perhaps it would be better for everyone if the humans spent less time here. After all, Ratchet is due to split any orn now and that's something Prowl doesn't wish to explain.

His tacnet pings him an urgent message. Prowl diverts his awareness, only for his vents to stall.

Megatron.

Megatron is there with his Decepticons.

At once, Prowl wakes Bluestreak and First Aid. He recalls Mirage and Wheeljack with his next sparkbeat. He contemplates summoning Sunstreaker.

Bluestreak is groggy but quick to respond. Aid's in a deep medical defrag. They'll have to rely on Perceptor or Ratchet if injuries are spark-threatening.

--We can handle it,-- Sideswipe hisses into the comm.

Megatron has a dozen drones at his disposal, easily handled. But only Optimus can stand against Megatron. Without him, who can last long enough to survive?

Prowl shunts the percentages aside, the low success rates and the high probabilities of fatality. The ground bridge swirls to life, Mirage and Wheeljack returning. On the screen, blasterfire lights up the desert. Megatron scowls his displeasure.

Sideswipe throws himself into battle, gleeful and reckless and against orders. Bulkhead follows his wake and Bumblebee races for Megatron and the capsule he carries.

“Bumblebee, stand down!” Prowl shouts the order and it's heeded with as much obedience as their attempts to be subtle. 'Do Not Engage' is tossed aside.

Prowl's engine growls. “Prepare to bridge,” he tells the new arrivals, fingers flying over the console.

“It's about time,” Wheeljack says, his battlemask snapping shut.

On screen, Bumblebee dances with the devil, a deadly game of turbofox and glitchmouse. Sideswipe leaps into the fray, a seconds distraction all Bumblebee needs. He snatches the capsule from Megatron, folds into alt-mode, and presses pedal to metal. Clouds of sandy dust rise in his wake.

“We could use a groundbridge now,” Bulkhead says as Megatron's snarl of outrage is as audible as it is visible.

“Trust Bulkhead to hog all the fun,” Wheeljack mutters.

Prowl ignores him, selecting the best coordinates for retrieval. No Autobots will extinguish on his watch. He cannot fail Optimus, not like this.

The bridge swirls to life, Bumblebee the first one through with a screech of tires. Bulkhead follows and Sideswipe brings up the rear, bringing with him the stench of discharged plasma.

Prowl shuts down the bridge and performs a systems check. He can feel the fury, like a rising tide within his tacnet. He cannot, however, lose control. Optimus must have a home to which he can return.

Finally, Prowl turns, his sensory panels a stiff arch behind him. “What part of 'do not engage' was not clear to you?”

Bulkhead, chastened, clamps his mouth shut. Bumblebee starts to speak but it's Sideswipe who is louder, who is looking for a fight.

“The part where keeping that from Megatron was more important,” he says, bristling and combative, a snarl on his lipplates that resembles Sunstreaker.

And suddenly it all makes sense.

Prowl forces himself to cycle down and directs his attention to Bumblebee. “Report.”

The scout nods and screws open the capsule, pulling out a disk-shaped object. It takes a moment of scanning for Prowl to recognize the weapon. It is of Decepticon design, the spark extractor. The mystery is how it has gotten to Earth.

But Sideswipe is, reluctantly, right. This is an important item to keep from Megatron's possession.

“How fortunate that keeping this from Megatron is a priority,” Prowl says. “Though that does not excuse your behavior.”

Bumblebee's doors droop, at least acknowledging the weight of Prowl's disappointment.

“Bulkhead, could you take this to the vault? Bumblebee, I believe the children need rides home.” Prowl dismisses them with a look, one that he gave to Wheeljack as well. “You wished for an opportunity to repair your ship. Take it now.”

“Sure. A mech knows when he's not wanted.” Wheeljack sheathes his swords and chases after his fellow Wrecker. “Yo, Bulk! Wait up!”

Now Prowl can focus on the real problem. The bristling twin with his increasingly mutinous expression. Prowl has proven his worth to them before and will do so again if necessary. But the solution right now is probably simpler.

“Good luck sending me to the brig. We don't have one.” Sideswipe grins, rocking on his wheeled pedes.

“That will not be necessary.” Prowl rubs the bridge of his olfactory sensor. “When was the last time you merged with your brother?”

Sideswipe startles, rocking backward. “None of your business.”

“It becomes my business when his agitation bleeds into your behavior,” Prowl corrects. “Recharge with him.”

Sideswipe shifts, his mouth opens.

“No.” Prowl holds up a hand. “I know that you are platonically capable of sharing a berth with he and Ratchet. And you both know it need not be a full cycle.”

Sideswipe vents heat in a loud huff. “Have you heard them lately? All they do is argue and 'face.”

“And what all of you failed to realize was the effect of adding another to your bond. The asynchronous cycling is feeding the flames.”

Sideswipe goes still before slumping. “That... makes sense actually.” Gradually, Sideswipe's reason peeks through Sunstreaker's aggression. “Fine. But I'm telling Ratchet you made it an order.”

“I don't care what you tell him so long as you fix the issue.”

Sideswipe grins, crooked and offers a sketchy salute. He whirls on a pede and then he's gone.

Prowl waits a few more kliks before he allows himself to sag. His helm aches and Prowl rubs at his chevron. This is not what he expected when he tracked down his Prime.

Prowl returns to the console, but his fingers only rest on the keys.

“When was the last time you recharged?” There's a whisper of presence and then a hand lingers on Prowl's backstrut, right over a kinked cable.

“I am operating at sixty percent efficiency,” he answers.

Mirage snorts, an elegant sound. “I suppose you are underfueled as well.”

His panels twitch. “Our resources are limited.”

A cube presses against his right hand, a small, condensed cube of medical grade energon. No is not an acceptable answer. Prowl consumes it, his quickness in doing so all too telling.

“I thought so.” Mirage sounds smug but his field is soothing as it mingles with Prowl's. “Now to convince you to recharge.”

“I can remain online for another thirty-six hours, Mirage.”

“And still remain optimal?”

Prowl presses his lipplates together. “There are more important matters.”

“Prowl.” Mirage sighs and folds one hand over Prowl's, drawing it to his lips. “No one expects you to be Optimus.”

“Of course not.” He offlines his optics, cycling a ventilation. “I was not his second-in-command so I could take his place but because I am the tactical mind he needed.” His field extends, embraced by Mirage's. “All of us are meant as supports, temporary stand ins. I am not the leader.”

Mirage hums assent. “We'll get him back, but we cannot succeed if you are not operating at your best.” He pauses, humor rippling through his field. “And if Ratchet had a clue you were pushing yourself like this, he would blow a gasket.”

Prowl stifles a laugh. “Then fortunately for both of us, he's indisposed right now.”

His panels twitch, sensing the arrival of another mech. Prowl turns to find Perceptor entering the command center, three datapads tucked under one arm. Prowl frowns, confused.

“Were you not in recharge?”

Perceptor cycles his optics. “No. I was reviewing Ratchet's work on synthetic energon. I have come to take a shift at the monitors.”

“But I did not--”

“Thank you, Perceptor,” Mirage interrupts smoothly.

Ah. Prowl should have guessed. Mirage had learned all underhanded maneuvers from the best.

He concedes to his partner's machinations. “Let me know the moment anything critical occurs.”

“Yes, sir.”

Prowl has the feeling, however, Perceptor won't contact him for anything short of an emergency. Mirage would have made sure of that.

“Are you feeling neglected?” he asks as he follows Mirage back to their shared quarters.

“If that were the case, I wouldn't have been polite about it.”

Prowl manages a smile. Their bond hums with warmth and affection. It has always been the strength Prowl needs.

“Thank you,” he murmurs.

Mirage draws him toward the berth and Prowl offers up no resistance. Where Mirage goes, Prowl follows.

That is how it has always been.

0o0o0


The first step in any good campaign is Intel. And while the Harbinger's mangled consoles are still linked to the Nemesis, they are of little use and provide no access.

What Starscream needs is the kind of information a direct link provides. What he needs is to be on the Nemesis. Fortunately, the Harbinger can help him track and locate the cloaked ship.

Onslaught fits him with a field disruptor, something to mask his signal and energy field. While Starscream could have sent any one of his new allies – with the exception of Blast Off – he knows the Nemesis best. He can easily slide in amongst a returning squad of Eradicons. Once inside, he'll only have to worry about evading Soundwave. After all, Starscream's not planning on lingering.

He needs Intel. Destroying Megatron will have to wait. Though leaving a present for his former master is not out of the question.

“Track but do not engage,” Starscream orders before he leaves. “I don't want Megatron to know the extent of our resources.”

“By which you mean how few we are.” Thundercracker sneers.

“The element of surprise is our ally,” Onslaught agrees. “The Autobots must also be taken into consideration.”

Starscream's wings flick. “Precisely. The more we can pit them against each other, the greater our chances.”

And Starscream hopes to do what Megatron has not. He intends to find the Autobot base and destroy it. After all, Starscream's not the one with a lingering attachment for Optimus Prime.

He leaves the dubious security of the Harbinger and takes to the sky, luxuriating in the wind against his wings. He slices through the clouds, rolls across a current, and hones in on the nearest Eradicon patrol. He watches from above, waits for an opportunity, and seizes it.

No one notices him. Starscream sneers. It's a sign of Megatron's arrogance, thinking himself untouchable on his cloaked ship. Why would he encourage enhanced security? What Autobot could reach him?

Fool.

Though it does work in Starscream's favor. His ident code is silenced thanks to the inhibitor, but he pings Decepticon. The Nemesis' passive scanners will read him as an Eradicon, a drone. His biggest risk is Soundwave. Best make this quick.

Starscream heads for the nearest access console, only to duck down an adjacent hall at the sound of laughter. The voice is unfamiliar to him, the humor proving sentience. The mech gets closer, half-distracted by his conversation

Scrap.

Starscream alters course, slips down an adjoining corridor, and heads for the storage deck. There's another console and he might even raid Megatron's stores if only out of spite. They are in need of supplies after all.

The storage deck is lightly patrolled. At the spark of the Nemesis, what reason is there for heavy security. And yet, one door near the lift has two Vehicon guards, visibly unarmed. Their weapons are either in storage or subspace, likely the latter.

Curious. What does Megatron consider so valuable that it warrants extra precautions, yet not enough that he guards it personally.

Starscream can not let this mystery go unsolved. Thank Primus he'd seen fit to arm himself with some upgrades before returning. His new null rays are about to be quite useful.

Starscream whips around the corner and fires two shots before either mech can raise an alarm. The Vehicons go still before dropping in an ungainly heap. They still function but in deep stasis.

Starscream grins. Quite useful indeed.

He approaches the storage door, the keypad a baleful orange. Locked. Hacking Soundwave's security system will be time-consuming and irritating, but it can be done. Unless...

Starscream input his overrides, second only to Megatron's. Surely they've locked him out of the system now...

The light turns green and the keypad beeps. The door slides open.

Starscream chortles subvocally. Megatron is as foolish as he is arrogant. No wonder the Autobots keep winning.

Now to see what Megatron is hiding.

Starscream grabs each downed Vehicon by a pede and drags them with him as he goes through the door. The moment they clear the sensor, he drops them and the door shuts. No. Nothing unusual going on here.

Except this is not a storage room. It's a monitor room with a main access console the likes of which Soundwave favors. It's not empty either. It's occupied by one mech who is starting to turn, though he is cabled to the main computer.

And there's something familiar about him, about his frame. The silver and blue and red. Those shoulders and antennae. Those blue, blue optics.

Starscream recoils. “Optimus Prime!” His blasters engage, vocals a near-shriek.

Blue optics cycle wide as an unshielded energy field spikes with confusion and surprise. He holds up his hands, a gesture of weakness.

“Starscream,” Optimus Prime acknowledges. “I had been told you were offline.”

He rolls his optics. “And you're still a fool, Prime! When are going to stop believing everything Megatron tells you?”

Optimus Prime tilts his helm, genuine confusion. “Why do you call me that?”

Starscream's vents stall. Surely he's not serious. “What else would I call you?”

“You must be confused with someone else. I am Orion Pax.” He lowers one hand, pressing it to his chestplate. Only then does Starscream see the bright, shiny Deceptibrand. It's so new the weld lines gleam.

He barks a laugh. “Sure you are.” Starscream lowers his blasters.

Megatron must be beside himself with glee. How Optimus Prime has reverted to Orion Pax, Starscream doesn't know. But it's an opportunity he can't resist.

“Why would Lord Megatron believe you to be offline?” Orion sounds genuinely confused. “Are you not allies?”

Starscream scoffs. “Of a sort. In that neither of us wish to ever bow to the Autobots.” He pauses and moves closer, studying Orion Pax. “I suspect your dear Megatron has been lying to you about many things.”

Poor, poor Megatron. Had he been lonely in his berth? Is that the reason for the scuffs to Orion Pax's plating? Is that why he's keeping the mech locked away in a storage room?

Is he afraid someone is going to come and steal Orion away again? Oh, but Starscream is so very tempted to do just that.

“I imagine he will say anything to keep you close,” Starscream adds, one talon tapping against a streak of silver against blue.

“Megatron would not lie,” Orion says, but there is little conviction in his tone.

Starscream smirks, performing an elaborate bow. “And yet, here I am.” His vocals drop to a purr. “Tell me, Pax, why are you sequestered here? What does he have you doing other than warming his berth?”

Orion lapses into silence, gaze sliding past Starscream to the Vehicons he'd dispatched. “Did you betray him?”

“Compared to you?”

Orion flinches and retreats a step. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“How convenient.” Starscream brushes past him to eye the console, recognizing hackscript and some kind of coded list. “What is this?”

Orion is silent.

Starscream wants to laugh, the urge bubbling up in his vocalizer. The great Optimus Prime, now Megatron's berth toy and lackey. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

He returns his attention to the console. He'll have to figure it out himself.

The door to the room slides open. Starscream whirls as Orion retreats, pressing back against the wall like an unarmed civilian.

And Megatron steps in, his optics at first for Orion alone until he sees the Vehicons and reads Orion's field.

Time to go.

Starscream fires without a second thought, giving himself enough time to transform and jet past Megatron. His former commander roars, making a blind swipe, but Starscream is too fast. He tilts to get through the door, wincing as a wingtip clips the frame.

Security lights flash. Megatron has issued a call to arms.

Double-scrap.

Eradicons flood the hall. But Starscream designed their programming. They are no match for him. He blasts his way through, causing no small amount of damage, and makes for the nearest loading bay.

One Eradicon gets off a lucky shot. Starscream snarls as a thruster ignites, sending a flurry of pain through his sensor net. It won't kill him, but frag does it hurt. And here they are, without an on-staff medic.

And then, a thought. He wonders if the Autobots are desperate for news of their leader.

Starscream smirks and banks to the left, heading not for the Harbinger, but for a more isolated location. Somewhere he can make contact with the Autobots without threatening his home base.

Time to place his first piece on the board.
0o0o0

Sunstreaker watches Ratchet work, the silence of the private room more comfortable than uneasy for once.

Their sparkling's frame is a work of art, despite having been constructed of bits and pieces. He'll be full-size unfortunately, perhaps a bit larger than Bumblebee. He'll never know the true joy of being a sparkling. He'll have to learn and mature quickly if he has any hope of survival.

Sunstreaker's optics dim. The past cycles itself. The mistakes repeat. No wonder their first hates them. What right have they to foster another?

Do they even deserve the second chance?

“I can't answer that,” Ratchet says quietly, making a few final adjustments. “But it is too late to change our minds. The charge must split or I'll burn out my core.”

Sunstreaker winces. “I'm committed. I want this. You and him.” He rises from his chair, circling the berth holding his future sparkling's frame.

He touches the unpainted face, tracing the decorative lines. Sunstreaker still feels as though love is a foreign concept, save for the pressing on his spark. He loves this sparkling already.

“He's armed, though his weapons are disabled. He has battle-grade armor. He is as safe as we can make him.”

Their bond hums and Ratchet lays a hand over Sunstreaker's.

“We'll do better,” he says.

Sunstreaker cycles a ventilation and nods. “How much longer?”

Ratchet squeezes his hand before drawing back. “Officially? In a few days. But honestly, my impatience might win out. I've passed the point of discomfort.”

This Sunstreaker knows. Ratchet's been in steady pain for the past week, though Sunstreaker's only received a peripheral sense of it.

“At least wait until I paint him,” Sunstreaker says, already contemplating a suitable design.

“Not yellow.”

“Of course not.” Sunstreaker tosses Ratchet a dry look. “His base coat will be blue but there will be heavy red and yellow accents.”

Ratchet tilts his helm, contemplative. “I trust your judgment. What about alt-mode?”

“Won't he be able to choose for himself?”

Ratchet manages a small smile, their bond blossoming with affection. “Yes. Though I'll give him a Cybertronian base until he does.”

“Good.” Sunstreaker takes the limp hand in his, the design so different from Knock Out's. This is both intentional and a consequence of their lack of resources.

They are not replacing Knock Out. He will always be their first. Sunstreaker even dares hope they might be a family again. Though that is a small kernel of hope he keeps nestled to his spark.

“We can't fail him, too,” Sunstreaker says, spark swelling in his chamber.

“We won't.”

Ratchet's voice, so full of conviction, makes Sunstreaker want to believe him.

***


a/n: Things are Happening. :) we've officially reached the halfway point of the fic now. Hopefully, some answers are born, to keep up with the questions. As always, feedback and constructive criticism are more than welcome and appreciated.

Next chapter--> Starscream makes a deal, Knock Out and Bulkhead chat, and Bumblebee suffers a loss.

Profile

dracoqueen22: (Default)
dracoqueen22

October 2017

S M T W T F S
12 34567
8910111213 14
151617181920 21
22232425262728
293031    

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 23rd, 2017 05:16 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios