dracoqueen22: (doctorisin)
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a/n: A bit of a shorter chapter but one that sets the stage for future events. SFW.

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 Eleven


Bluestreak can't remember the last time they were on a planet with such short cycles. He feels as though the humans live an accelerated existence and he's struggling to keep up the pace. Shorter recharge shifts barely mitigate that feeling.

Original Team Prime has managed to adapt. They talk of day and night, going to sleep and having lunch. Night is quiet. Even the Decepticons have adopted an Earth schedule though nothing keeps them from being active overnight.

It's weird and unsettling. It makes Bluestreak twitchy, especially when he draws the 'nightshift.' It's so fragging quiet.

Mirage is on patrol with Arcee. Everyone else is in recharge. Except Perceptor but he doesn't count because he's tinkering away on some project. Sideswipe and Bulkhead are on call, but that doesn't mean they are available for chatter.

Prowl is brooding instead of recharging. His conversation with Agent Fowler yesterday had proven fruitless. They are no closer to tracking down MECH or Bumblebee's missing T-cog. It is as if the humans have vanished into the ether, though Fowler promised to continue trying.

Bumblebee is inconsolable. He has locked himself in his quarters and refuses to speak to anyone, save his human. Meanwhile, First Aid has an array of T-cogs at his disposal, tirelessly seeking a means to assist Bumblebee.

Ratchet stopped trying to convince him otherwise hours ago.

The weirdness intensifies.

The main console hums and clicks and whirrs. Something creaks in the distance. Boredom creeps in and Bluestreak struggles to fight it off.

Worse is the silence in his spark. Jazz is still there, aware and functioning. But Blue hasn't heard or felt a blip from him since he became Ricochet. Bluestreak's used to this by now, but he still hates it. He still misses Jazz.

The computer chimes an incoming transmission. Not a call from Agent Fowler, but a packet over a secure, encrypted line. Bluestreak would know that call-sign anywhere.

His panels flutter. The first contact in weeks!

He accepts the transmission, struggling to conceal his excitement. “This is Autobot Outpost Omega One. Transmit your clearance codes before you proceed.”

He waits, on bolts and brackets, before the computer beeps and the codes spill onto the screen. It's definitely Jazz. Bluestreak pings Prowl but doesn't wait for the commander's go ahead.

He quickly engages the encryption software to protect the conversation on their end.

“Hey Dancer, you're coming in with a quiet purr,” Bluestreak says, a part of him wishing he had more than the flashing icon on screen. “How's the weather?”

“Cloudy with a chance of acid, sweetspark,” Jazz replies in his achingly familiar accent. “Primus, I miss you.”

Bluestreak's smile softens. “Likewise. What's it like on the other side of the fence?”

“More fun than I thought. Less fun than I'd like. And time is short. I've got some info to share. SIC around?”

“I am here, Agent.”

Bluestreak startles when Prowl speaks. His mentor comes by his designation honestly. Bluestreak secretly thinks he delights in sneaking up on mechs.

“Knew you would be. Got some tasty tidbits for you.”

Prowl moves in beside Bluestreak, acknowledging him with a flicker of his door panels. “I am ready to receive.”

“Thought so. The package is here, in relative health, but I've not made contact.” There's a pause, an undercurrent to Jazz's voice. “The rusty bucket has him working on a massive decryption project. It's how we're getting all this tasty new firepower.”

Prowl inclines his helm. “I see. Why is it on Earth?”

“Dunno. But you're picking up on Bot City if that gives you a vowel.”

Bluestreak winces. He hates it when they talk in code, especially since Jazz has already incorporated English slang into his language algorithms. How Prowl decodes it without locking up is a miracle and a mystery.

“Curious. What about extraction?”

“No can do right now. Rusty Bucket's clinging tighter than a scraplet to the last chunk of duryllium.”

Prowl grimaces, field rippling with darkness. “I can do without the mental image. There has been a change in circumstances here, Agent. Be aware that extraction may become a necessity soon.”

“A change?”

“I can't let you know more without compromise. Just know that we are closer to our goal.” Prowl dips his helm, fingers rapping on the edge of the console. “Is there anything you need?”

“Save a cube of high grade and a hot date with a sexy winger?”

Bluestreak grins, swallowing down a chuckle. Especially at the ripple of agitation in Prowl's field. He never quite got over Bluestreak chasing Jazz. Or Jazz letting himself get caught.

Prowl's panels snap against his back strut. “I take it that means you have everything you need.”

Jazz laughs. “If only you knew. Agent, out.”

The line buzzes with static seconds before the encryption takes over. Even if he wants to, there's no way for Bluestreak to trace back the comm or Jazz. It takes great effort not to sigh.

Weeks of silence and only a minute of conversation. It's a small consolation that Jazz is at least, for lack of a better word, safe.

“What does this mean?” Bluestreak ventures as Prowl immediately connects to the console and returns to work.

He pauses, offering Bluestreak a glance. “Very little, I am afraid. We are no closer to retrieving Prime than we were before.”

How disappointing. “I see.”

“Get some recharge, Bluestreak. I will take over here.”

He debates arguing for all of a klik before abandoning the urge. Prowl won't be dissuaded from working and there's no point in Bluestreak standing around in silence.

“Yes sir.”

At least he heard Jazz's voice. Hope remains in reach.



He startles, helm striking the console. Muttering a curse, Starscream scoots out from under the bridge control. He's been wrist deep in wiring, thank you very much.


His glare might as well be a grin for all that Onslaught doesn't react.

“We've picked up another unique energy signature.”

“You mean a beacon.” He pushes to his pedes, wings flicking to dislodge flakes of grime.

“I said what I meant.”

Starscream scowls. “Where? And has any one else noticed?”

“No Autobot or Decepticon presence indicated yet.”

Starscream aims for their “command center,” Onslaught on his heels. The last time they picked up an encoded signal, they were too late to the party. And Starscream doesn't like missing out. Though curiously he hadn't seemed to find any evidence of Decepticon presence. There was barely any sign of a scuffle and no clue as to the victor.

“Any idea what it is?”

“Trouble.” Thundercracker steps out of the shadows, lurking as he's so fond of doing. “We shouldn't bother wasting what little resources we have.”

“I'll decide what's a waste and what's not,” Starscream growls. “Are we close?”

He looks up at the monitor and the data streaming across it. The signal is an exact match and yes, it is close. Enough that they won't even need the ground bridge that isn't working.

“We are not prepared to face the Autobots,” Onslaught warns. “Or the Decepticons.”

“Then we won't engage,” Starscream's wings flick dismissively. “But we need to know what this is. Megatron isn't keeping Optimus just to have a berthwarmer.”

Thundercracker smirks. “Jealous?”

Starscream snorts. “Hardly. Megatron might think himself a flier but he's no Seeker.” He peers closer at the screen, something about the readings coming across as familiar. “And he hasn't a clue what he's missing.”

“Arrogant then,” Thundercracker corrects.

Starscream's field flashes with irritation. “Are you coming or not?”

“Is that an order?” Thundercracker's tone is mild but there's an edge to it that makes Starscream's backstrut crawl.

Starscream straightens. “Do I need to make it one?” Thundercracker is the last one he expects to make a powerplay. But then, it's been centuries since he fought alongside his wingmate.

They are but strangers now.

Thundercracker arches an orbital ridge. “It was a question. Shall we go? Time is limited.”

“We go.” Starscream can't quite hide his suspicion. “Onslaught, comm me the moment you see signs of Bots or Cons.”

Onslaught inclines his helm. “As you command.” The words are respectful but his tone borders on insubordinate.

Starscream growls subvocally. Blast but there isn't time to deal with this!

“Let's go,” he snaps and turns on a heel. Thundercracker falls into step behind him.

First, he will solve the mystery of the signal. Then he will deal with his crew.

“Reconnaissance only,” Stascream reminded Thundercracker as they transformed and took to the skies. “Take opportunities but don't be reckless.”

“You must have me confused with Skywarp.”

“I know who I'm talking to. But you don't know what we face.”

Thundercracker banks to the left, cutting through a cloud bank. “I do not fear Autobots.”

Starscream does not fail to notice that he makes no mention of Megatron and the other Decepticons. Clever. But then, Thundercracker always has been.

“Do not underestimate the organics either. They often tipped the scales.”

“Pah.” Thundercracker transmits a dismissive gesture. “You've lost your edge, Screamer. You'll never overthrow Megatron at this rate.”

Starscream puts on a burst of speed, cutting in front of Thundercracker and forcing him to veer sharply away. “Then why come?” he hisses, spark a fierce throb of anger. “Why leave Cybertron?”

Thundercracker is silent as he corrects his course, losing speed in the face of the near-collision.


“I have my reasons.” His field flares, indecipherable, before he draws it back. “Is that what we're looking for?”

Starscream follows his directions. There's a mountain up ahead with a sheer cliff. It looks as though part of the mountain has crumbled away. Something glints in the sunlight, like metal or glass. No Cybertronian presence in sight.

“Yes.” Starscream banks closer. “Watch my back. Cover me. I'll take a look.”

Thundercracker flaps a wing panel. “As you command, my lord.” The edge of tension rankles.

Starscream chooses to ignore it. He puts his focus into the matter at hand, scanning first for other sentient energy signatures. Negative results. Nothing and no one but himself and Thundercracker.

So far, so good.

Cloaking initiated, Starscream lands on the rocky outcrop. The winds here are strong, tugging at his frame. It would have been perilous for a grounder.

Starscream smirks and approaches the shiny, metallic object. The signal increases in volume, nagging at his cortex. Much of the item is buried in the rock. Best Starscream can tell, it is a storage pod. But for what?

More pieces of the synthetic energon puzzle perhaps? If so, it would be quite valuable. To all factions.

Cybertron could be restored.

Starscream kneels by the buried pod, scraping away dust and crumbled rock. The Autobot brand comes into view. He shudders. What an unpleasant surprise.

Luck is with him. Most of the pod is buried but the visible end holds the lid, four locked clasps keeping it secured. It takes only a surge of energy to overload the locks. The lid clicks loose with a soft hiss.

Starscream peers into the pod, scanning the contents and coming up clean. No toxins. Nothing volatile.

He takes a risk and reaches in, withdrawing a thin metal rod. There is a Decepticon glyph etched on the end of it.

Wait. He knows this item. He'd helped invent it.

“Starscream, we've got incoming!” The warning lights up his comm.

It can only be Eradicons. He would have detected a ground bridge otherwise.


The loud boom of Thundercracker's signature weapon is all the answer Starscream needs. He shoves the pod and it's contents into his subspace. He turns around just as his sensors go haywire, Eradicons gleaming in the distance.

He transforms and blasts into the air, easily spiraling around the Eradicons. Cries of outrage chase him, but their blaster fire has more bite. Starscream evades all but one, which clips a wing, leaving behind a streak of pain.


Two Eradicons cross his line of sight. Starscream takes them out and pings Thundercracker for a location. It is time to return to base.

Things are about to get a lot more interesting.


The main room has never seen so many crammed into the narrow space. There are humans up on the catwalk, there are Autobots crowded around the console. Even Ratchet and Sunstreaker have made an appearance. And Wheeljack has been convinced away from his solitary sojourns to come to their aid.

For something this important, they can't spare anyone.

“The space bridge is here,” Prowl says, gesturing to the screen behind him where the map marks the location. “We can be assured that Megatron is guarding it. We know that we are outnumbered. Fortunately, we also know that Starscream and his ilk is not among them.”

Arcee all but bounces in place. “What's the plan?”

“We take the space bridge and we hold it, however long is necessary for a small team to find Vector Sigma.” Prowl looks upward, gesturing to the humans above them. “Jack will accompany this team and they are charged with keeping him safe. Everyone is needed for this mission.”

That had been an interesting conversation. Mrs. Darby had not been pleased to learn that her only child would be traveling to another planet. Miko had been angry she couldn't go with him. Rafael had been relieved.

Agent Fowler had done his best to fill Mrs. Darby with reassurances. And he'd also been the one to supply them with an exosuit for Jack. The teenager would not have survived on Cybertron without it. Cyberton hadn't had an atmosphere in millennia. Not since the core went dark.

“Everyone,” Sunstreaker repeats, his optics cycling down. His engine growls. “Ratchet's in the last stage of fostering and Bumblebee doesn't have a T-cog.”

“Which is why they will remain behind here, monitoring communications and operating the space bridge.” Prowl shoots Sunstreaker a warning look. He doesn't want another incident such as what happened before. And they've already had this argument. Ratchet will be fine and Sunstreaker a ground bridge away.

“I don't need to tell you how important this is. Optimus is relying on us. All of us.”

Sunstreaker's engine growls but Ratchet puts a hand on his chestplate, shoving him back. “What's the plan, Prowl?”

“Arcee, Bluestreak, and Perceptor will take Jack to Cybertron,” Prowl says, nodding to each in turn. “The Decepticons left sentries behind and last we knew, Megatron had awakened an army of zombiecons. You may need the backup.”

“Whatever it takes to protect Jack,” Arcee says.

“The rest of us will keep the space bridge however long it takes and whoever we must face.” Including but not limited to Megatron. Luckily, though they are outnumbered, the bulk of Megatron's forces are unsparked drones, easier to destroy and outmaneuver.

Prowl only wishes Jazz were here. He has far more experience in stealthy operations. He'll have to rely on Mirage to fill in the blanks.

“Won't that tip our hand?” Sideswipe asks, rocking back and forth on his wheeled pedes. “We've been trying to keep Megatron from knowing who all is on Earth.”

“That's the risk we are going to have to take. This is too important to keep a bare minimum,” Prowl says. “Optimus is counting on each and every one of us.” He looks up at the humans above them, all displaying various levels of excitement, dismay, and worry. “Autobot and human alike.”

Jack steps closer to the railing, his hands curling on the top bar. “We won't let him down,” he says, an edge of tension in his voice. “Optimus has always protected us. We want to help get him back.” If he notices the stricken look on his mother's face, Jack doesn't show it.

Prowl inclines his helm. “We appreciate your dedication, Jack.” He turns back toward the gathered Autobots, the main bulk that would take and keep the space bridge, and those that will be staying behind.

“I do not think I need to say how very important this is, but also remember, Optimus values your life as much as we value his. Take no unnecessary risks. Protect each other.” The war may not be won without Optimus, but if he would be devastated to know Autobots were lost just to retrieve his memories.

“And above all, come back alive,” Prowl finishes.

It is not a rousing speech, not like what Prime could give, but it conveys what is important. There is no use in further delay.

Optimus is counting on them.


a/n: Should things stay the same, we have six more chapters to go before I need to get started on Zero Sum, the third and final piece of the series. :)

Coming up in chapter twelve: Orion looks for answers, Starscream didn't lie, Megatron gets really angry, Perceptor dares to hope, the fight begins, Jack succeeds, the Autobots retreat, Ratchet's out of curse words, and Orion lives. BUSY chapter. ^_^

As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated.


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