Red Alert wrung his hands in concern, watching as a troop of Autobot warriors vanished down the road from the Ark, a dust cloud kicking up their wake and the Aerialbots flying off overhead. Normally, such a small rescue team wouldn't be of concern to the Security Director...except that they were the fourth one to leave in the last three days.
A few days prior, a call for help from Cybertron's Autobot femme resistance force regarding some troublesome activity from Shockwave and his drone army reached the Ark, causing Ironhide, Mirage, Smokescreen and Powerglide to climb aboard Omega Supreme for a flight home to kick a little aft. Then, late last night, word reached the Autobots from Kuwait that the country's oil fields were under heavy assault from not only the Insecticons, but the Constucticons as led by Megatron, as well. Optimus Prime gathered a force consisting of Bluestreak, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, Trailbreaker, Warpath, Gears and Bumblebee and boarded Skyfire, traveling overseas to put a stop to the trouble. The army was stretched thinner still when, just before sunrise, a major mining company in South America called for help; Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp and the Combaticons were in the neighborhood with energon on the mind. Prowl, as Prime's second in command, left immediately to deal with the problem, taking Hound, Brawn, Windcharger, Seaspray and the Protectobots with him. The final blow came when, not a half an hour earlier, a distress call had come through from a major scientific research facility England; Soundwave, his cassettes and the Stunticons had invaded in search of plans for a new type of rocket fuel being developed there. Jazz, who had been left in charge of the Ark by Prowl and knowing they couldn't afford to let the Decepticons get away with this, had formed a strike team consisting of himself, Blaster and his cassettes, Cliffjumper and the Aerialbots to see to the threat.
The Ark had been reduced to a bare bones skeleton crew. Not even the Dinobots were around, as Prime had sent them back to Dinobot Island for more training just before everything went to the Pit in a hand basket. Red Alert shook his head, feeling his relays quivering slightly just out of pure nerves. This was not good...not good at all.
"You know, as the last officer remaining, you COULD show a little more concern over this dire situation we've been forced into," the Security Director grumbled to the mech standing beside him, who, as far as Red could see, didn't look upset in the least.
Ratchet shrugged before taking a pull off the mug of mid-grade energon in one hand, gaze still fixed to the horizon where the last of the Aerialbots finally vanished from view just a moment before. "Ah, you worry too much. If our group is stretched this thin, so are the 'Cons. I'm lookin' forward to a day or two of peace an' quiet, anyway, so long as we don't get any calls for backup. Got a few tools I need to help Wheeljack repair."
"You do realize there's the possibility the medbay could end up completely full, depending on how badly things go for the others?"
One optic narrowed, the boxy red and white finally glanced at the shorter bot. "Are you out to ruin my day or what? I'm tryin' not to think about stuff like that for the time bein'."
Red Alert met Ratchet's gaze, frowning deeply. "We need to be prepared! There's only a handful of us left and of our lot, only ONE warrior - Tracks! Add to the fact that he's incapacitated and-"
"I'll finish fixin' him once Ironhide and the rest get back from Cybertron. Told 'em to bring a few supplies from Wheeljack's old lab we'd need to get Tracks back on his feet. Now come on, boy scout. My mug's almost empty."
With that, the Chief Medical Officer turned and headed back inside. Red Alert sighed heavily and followed, knowing he would have to spend the rest of the day in the control and communications room, monitoring every frequency and channel for yet more trouble. His job was just never done.
The hours passed into evening and Ratchet saw to it that each member of the crew under him completed their daily duties as assigned before allowing them time off. Sitting in the common room at a table with Wheeljack, the medic and engineer worked on repairing a few of the tools that had recently seen a bit of the CMO's righteous rage. The arc welder 'Jack was currently fixing had nearly met its end a week ago when Ratchet had hurled it at Sideswipe for nearly getting an arm taken off during a bad bout of "Jet Judo."
Across the way, seated before Teletran-1, Perceptor sorted through a number of files, reorganizing and cataloguing the Autobot store of scientific data. Rewind, the only one of Blaster's tapes to remain behind, was on hand to help the somewhat absent-minded scientist. Cosmos was also in one corner of the large room, sleeping in light recharge as he sat half slipped down in a chair. The minibot had recently returned from a long excursion in space, searching for new power sources. He'd spent the last two days being what could only be called "lazy" to compensate for it, although perhaps it was for the better, as the minibot's mood lately had been nothing but sour. The only other mech present was Skids, the theoretician sitting at a table with a pile of oversized books on human culture.
Red Alert had long since vanished into the control and communications room, taking over Blaster's duties as well as his own. Hoist and Grapple were in the labs, working on a joint design project they had yet to reveal to anyone else. Meanwhile, Inferno, Beachcomber and Huffer were currently assigned to patrolling the halls from front to back, to later be relieved by some of the others. That left Tracks in the medbay, laid up with a bad leg while he sat half asleep and all bored in front of a portable monitor playing old Earth movies.
The sun was just beginning to set when suddenly the alarms began to blare from front to back. As the bots in the common room got to their feet to hurry to Teletran-1, Perceptor already working to get the mainframe switched over to the Ark's external cameras, the screen split, Red Alert's image appearing on one side. On the other, a shot of the evening sky appeared, several incoming, airborne objects visible. As the image became clearer, the rest of the crew minus Tracks rushed in, optics widening when they got a good look at the main screen.
"Ratchet, we've got incoming Decepticons!" Red warned, the sensor horns on his head blazing blue. "Eight of them, and it looks like they're being headed up by the triple changers!"
The medic eyed the screen with narrowed optics, the sounds of panicked muttering echoing in his audios as the rest of the Autobots around him began to discuss the threat. Indeed, the Decepticon invasion party appeared to be led by Astrotrain and Blitzwing, the pair flanked by Dirge, Ramjet, Thrust and the three parts of Reflector.
"Red, can ya figure on which entrance they plan on coming through?" Ratchet questioned.
"They're coming up from behind the volcano, so it looks like they're aiming for the rim of the crater," came the anxious response. "I've already shut the door leading into the elevator shaft, but...."
"That door won't hold forever!" Grapple cut in, voice becoming higher pitched out of pure alarm. "I designed it to withstand quite a bit of punishment, but with the combined strength of those Decepticons, they'll eventually be able to tear it loose!"
"That's not the only barrier, though," Wheeljack reminded the architect. "The shaft leads into the section of the shuttle that originally had several blast doors built in, just in case the hull ruptured when we went out to deal with that asteroid after leaving Cybertron."
"Ratchet, what are your orders?" Red asked, interrupting the discussion. "The Decepticons are well within range and will reach the crater rim in less than a minute!"
The Chief Medical Officer turned his attention from the screen to glance over those gathered around him. He blinked his optic shutters once, knowing why the Decepticons had chosen this point in time to attack, but if they thought they could take the Ark so easily, they were horribly mistaken. A small smile crept across Ratchet's faceplate.
"Apparently," he began with a shrug, "they think they can just waltz in an' take the place while we're running on so little'a crew. For all we know, all those raids Megatron and the rest set up may have been done JUST to empty this place out. But hey, while they got rid of a good portion of the brawn, we still got the brains. Astrotrain and his goons think they're coming in to attack a bunch of medics, scientists, engineers and search and rescue bots. Well, they're right, there. Too bad that'll be the only thing they're right about. 'Bots... It's time we showed those 'heavy hitters' that a squad of brainiacs is a force to be reckoned with."
Looking back up at the Security Director, the medic put on a full on grin. "I'll be joinin' ya shortly, Red, so stay put. Meantime, make sure you can connect to those blast doors. As Jazz might say, it's time to rock 'n' roll!"
"This is gonna be like taking energon goodies from a sparkling!" Thrust sneered as he watched Ramjet and Blitzwing working to detach the security door from its hinges.
"Megatron figures that miserable medic and that paranoid security director are the ones in charge right now," Astrotrain responded with a smirk. "The rest of the Autobots in this place are nothing more than a collection of wimps and maintenance lackeys. As soon as we're inside, hunt them all down and destroy them. Then I'll see to getting rid of Teletran-1."
Nearby, Dirge popped the joints of his fingers, a small, wicked smile on his faceplate. Like the rest, he'd been disappointed about being left out of the other raids, but this more than made up for it. The Ark would be nothing more than a smoking wreck by the time they finished with it. The three component parts of Reflector stood beside the dark blue Seeker, silent and ever watchful. Still, even their three mouths were slightly quirked with the pleasurable thought of ransacking the Autobot base.
With a metallic groan, the door finally ripped free, Blitzwing and Ramjet hauling it out before tossing it aside almost casually. Boarding the elevator on the other side, the group rode it down and into the Ark. And, once out, Astrotrain led the way in, turning on his scanners to help navigate the old, rarely used corridors. Truthfully, the triple changer was shocked they had not met with much more resistance than a simple blast door. Just what kind of security set up where these slaggers running? Perhaps they HAD seen trouble coming and just decided to abandon the place. While that made the job easier, it really diminished the fun in it all.
Suddenly, the overhead lights simply died, plunging the halls into complete darkness. Every Decepticon on the team froze for a moment before starting to move again, searching down the walls to try and find their way. The P.A. speakers around them were giving off a disorienting amount of white noise and static, making it difficult for them to use their audios properly and disrupting their other sensors. For almost a minute, the eight tried to find their way about, bumping into one another and cursing into the pitch black surrounding them. Then several loud, metallic crashes sounded and a second later, the lights flickered back on.
Astrotrain found himself alone in his section of hallway. Narrowing his red optics, he snarled. So, it seemed the Autobots DID know they had company, but a few tricks with the lights wouldn't save them. That was when he noticed a blast door had shut behind him. Someone was pounding on the other side.
"Blitzwing?" he questioned.
"Yeah! They shut the doors in the dark to separate us!" came the hollow, muffled response. "What now?"
"Stop whining and get on with it! The mission's still the same! Besides, what good will separating us do? None of those fools is strong enough to take us all out!"
Cursing, Astrotrain turned on one heel and continued down the way, eager to find an Autobot to rend limb from limb, if just to quell his anger.
Ratchet folded his arms over his broad chest, smirking as he watched the monitors in the locked communications room from behind where Red Alert sat, both of their optics following the cameras as they tracked the various Decepticon invaders. In some cases, it was difficult to pin point where exactly they had gotten to without the help of the Ark's signature sensors, as while some halls were lit, others remained dark. Swiveling a little in the chair, the security director brought up the locations of the other Autobots. All of them had moved, taking up positions as per the medic's orders.
"We've got them well separated, thanks to the blast doors," Red Alert reported, still feeling nervous about all of this. "What now?"
Ratchet leaned forward, one hand coming to rest on the other bot's shoulder. "Thrust is down hall 24B isn't he?"
"Yes. I have yet to reactivate the overhead lights, there."
"Flicker 'em on and off a bit then. Scare the slagger. Then tell Beachcomber he can move."
Red blinked. "You're sure about this?"
"Trust me," the other responded with a knowing look. "In about a minute here, we'll be down one 'Con."
Thrust shivered a bit, disliking the fact that lights were still out. He'd lost track of the others and while his courage usually held up in a group situation, he could feel cold fear starting to creep over him in his solo position. Optics slightly aglow in the dark, he blinked as the lights flickered a bit, causing his cameras to focus and refocus, trying to adjust against the unstable conditions. It was then he noticed the Autobot in the hall a short ways ahead, hands on hips.
"Nothin' to fear by fear itself, man."
Beachcomber. The Seeker managed a shaky half grin. This would be easy. The blue and light gray minibot was a peace loving pacifist scientist.
Then the hall was thrust into complete darkness again, pitch black invading every corner.
Red Alert arched an optic ridge. The sounds of Thrust howling in fear and pain were echoing clearly from the console speakers under monitor for hall 24B. Ratchet merely chuckled knowingly. Every so often, they could just barely make out a word or phrase from Beachcomber, audible over the sounds of metal on metal, bodies ricocheting off the walls. This continued for just over a minute before silence invaded the camera's speakers.
"Turn the lights back on." Ratchet straightened up expectantly.
"Ungh...I...I thought...you were supposed to be...a peace loving...hippie!"
Beachcomber glanced down at the Seeker underneath him. Thrust lay face down on the floor, his body twitching after being introduced to the floors and walls multiple times. The geologist was seated cross legged on the invader's back, hands resting on his knees.
"I am," Beachcomber replied in his usual easy drawl, something of a wry smile on his faceplate. "An' now that your aft is grass, we got peace, again."
Thrust groaned once before dropping into stasis lock, too battered and worn to get up.
The minibot, meanwhile, offered a thumbs up to the nearest camera. "Mission accomplished, fellahs. One Decepticon ninja'ed, as requested."
"I'll instruct you on how to properly disable his transforming cog and keep him in forced stasis," Ratchet responded over their secure communications link. "Once you've done that, sit tight and wait on the others. This'll all be over soon enough."
Red's voice cut in next, tone one of surprise. "Honestly, I didn't think you were capable of such a stunning display of martial arts, Beachcomber."
The geologist merely shrugged, still grinning. "It's all about the zen, man. Bein' the most agile Autobot here doesn't hurt too much, either."
"Instructions incoming, Beachcomber," the CMO's voice cut in, again. "Red, switch to hall 20B..."
Ramjet really didn't have much of an idea of where he managed to end up, but just so long as he got to trash something, it didn't really matter. Making his way down the dimly lit hall, growling to himself all the while, he paused when he thought he saw someone peering at him from around the corner of the next corridor intersection. Smirking, the white and dark grey Seeker continued forward, hoping he'd just managed to find a lone Autobot wandering about the halls. Sure enough, a moment later, a blue, orange and light gray minibot darted out and started hauling aft down the way, running as though his tailgate were on fire. Ramjet broke into a run, grinning gleefully as he pursued his prey, bringing up one arm mounted weapon to open fire.
Yelping as one shot nearly took off his right arm, Huffer ducked around a corner and kept right on going, the sounds of pursuit hot on his heels and gaining, the invader's stride easily twice that of the smaller mech. As Ramjet came barreling around the bend, Huffer transformed and peeled out, forcing the Seeker to increase his own speed. Fast approaching another hall junction, the minibot had a choice of turning either right or left. Tires squealing, he tore around to the right and quickly transformed, diving for the floor. Ramjet, however, barely had time to realize what was happening before it was too late.
The white and green arm swung out from around the corner like an out of control sailboat boom, catching the Decepticon in the chest and clothes lining him hard enough to take him right off his feet. Slamming back first into the floor, Ramjet cursed, only to have each arm seized a moment later before he was hurled into the wall hard enough to embed a small part of his front half in the metallic surface.
"I don't think you'll be needing this, anymore," a voice said cheerfully from behind him, a hand popping open a back panel. Ramjet braced his hands against the wall to free himself, but before he could manage, his motor functions ceased, a few sparks flying as a laser tool was applied to one of his exposed circuit boards.
Hoist stood back with one hand on his hip as he looked the stunned Seeker over. "Well, that's that. Good job leading him down this way, Huffer."
"Someone owes me one for all this!" the minibot grumbled, arms folded across his chest. "He nearly took off one of my arms!"
"But he didn't, did he?" Hoist replied in his usual jovial tones as Grapple joined them, the architect extending a large welding tool from one wrist to start sealing the wall around Ramjet. "I'm only disappointed we didn't get to try more of those wrestling moves from that weekly show Sparkplug likes to watch. That was quite a good clothespin, though, wasn't it?"
Huffer snorted. "That's 'clothes line', Hoist."
"Ah, yes. That's it. Doing alright there, Grapple?"
"You know," the architect sighed as he stepped back to examine his handiwork, "I've created a number of masterpieces in my time, but I think this is, without a doubt, my most hideous work to date."
Hoist chuckled. "Well, you can't win them all. Besides, look at the mess you had to work with."
Counting themselves lucky that their three component parts had not been split up in all the earlier confusion, Reflector wandered down the hall they'd gotten stuck in, only to find themselves in what appeared to be part of the dormitory sector. Granted, they might not have been split off the main group at all if Spectro hadn't panicked and slammed into Viewfinder in the dark, throwing off the other mech's sensor array and sending them in a completely different direction from the rest, but so far, they'd not run into any more trouble and the lights had reactivated after only a cycle or so of darkness. Glancing down the way, they could see a doors lined the corridor on either side, all of them shut with their own key pads. Yes, definitely the residence wing of the Ark.
Suddenly, one of the doors about fifty or so feet down opened and an Autobot stepped out to face them. At first, it was hard to tell whether or not the action was intentional, as the 'bot in question had no visible mouth to betray a look of surprise, his optics shaded by his overhanging helm.
"Gentlemen," Wheeljack greeted in good natured tones, one hand upheld in a casual manner. "We appreciate your interest in our home, but I'm afraid all our guest rooms are currently taken. We'll have to ask you to leave."
"You and what army?" Spyglass demanded, already arming his laser rifle. His two "brothers" smirked, confident in their strength in numbers.
The engineer tripped a switch on his shoulder launcher and pointed behind them with his other hand. At first, the three found themselves confused by this set of actions; as far as they could tell, initially, the weapon on Wheeljack's shoulder had malfunctioned, as nothing happened. His secondary gesture, however, held more meaning as another door behind them slid open, the big red form of Inferno stepping out, a small cloth sack in one hand.
"You boys can't crash the party without tryin' out some of the games, first!" Inferno informed them, grinning from audio to audio as he knelt and scattered the contents of the bag onto the floor with a deft flick of one wrist.
Rolling rapidly over the smooth flooring and down the hall towards them, two dozen or so softball sized orbs skidded towards Reflector. Viewfinder quickly attempted to access his sensor array again, gasping in shock when he realized the Cybertronian sized marbles contained something extraordinarily nasty. Unable to go back the way they came with both Inferno and the orbs in their path, the three turned to rush Wheeljack, only to find they couldn't get farther than five feet from their current position. As the marbles rolled about around their feet, Viewfinder realized what the Autobot had done, earlier - he'd turned on his magnetic inducer field and reversed the polarity, not only keeping Reflector from coming towards him, but halting the orbs in their path.
"Don't move!" Viewfinder hissed, glancing to his brothers. "Step on one of those marbles, and they'll all go off!"
"You'll pay for this, Autobot!" Spyglass threatened, raising his laser rifle to draw a bead on Wheeljack.
Inferno tsk'ed, shaking his head, the grin never leaving his faceplate. "Looks like the crowd's gettin' ugly. Time to hose 'em down!"
Opening up the nozzle on one wrist, the search and rescue 'bot fired a blast of icy cold water into the midst of the three Decepticons, the pressure setting them all off balance and slicking down the floor all in the same move. Cursing and flailing, Reflector struggled to stay on their feet...and failed spectacularly. Both Wheeljack and Inferno dove back into the rooms they'd emerged from as the trio crashed to the floor and onto the small army of marbles still scattered about.
Both Autobots winced as multiple explosions followed, the corridor filling with pinkish smoke. When they peered back out, Viewfinder, Spyglass and Spectro lay in a half mangled heap upon one another, the floor, walls and ceiling around them well scorched. The engineer chuckled as he approached the 'Con pile-up, Reflector groaning in unison.
"All that, an' in stereo, too!"
"Say, Wheeljack," Inferno said as he joined the inventor in the hall to admire their handy work, "ya never did tell me how you found out about me an' Ironhide's stash to make these moonshine Molotov bombs."
Headfins flickering in a chuckle, Wheeljack winked one optic shutter in a knowing manner. "Let's just say a little bird told me. Now let's get the transforming cogs outta these three and report in to Sparky and the Cranky Medical Officer before anything else happens."
"That's five down, if you count all Reflector's component parts, and three to go," Red sighed as he sat monitoring all the activity. "I just hope we can finish what we started with all this."
Ratchet nodded, a mug of mid-grade in one hand again. "Have we heard from Perceptor's group, yet?"
"No. Last I checked, they were gathered in one of the conference rooms."
"Any 'Cons in that area, yet?"
The security director scanned the monitors quickly, his long time experience with the equipment allowing him to pick out what they were looking for in mere astroseconds. "Affirmative. Dirge is headed their way."
"Perceptor mentioned something in his last transmission about setting a trap Skids devised," the medical officer responded with a smirk. "This should be good."
Rewind skipped down the hallway as though on a merry, drunken little jaunt after ingesting far too much high-grade. While he didn't much care for the fact that, as the smallest member of the group he'd been chosen as the bait, the theoretician and scientist couldn't pull off the same stunts the Cassette's tiny body was capable off. Besides, as Rewind would be in on things from start to finish, that meant he could easily record every moment of what promised to be a prank of outstanding proportions. Turning the corner, the tiny 'bot caught sight of a dark blue Seeker down the way.
"Hey, Dirge!" Rewind chirped, waving obnoxiously to keep up the act. "Is that your faceplate, or did Scrapper accidentally switch your mug with a waffle iron?"
Without a word of warning, the Decepticon raised one arm and let fly with a round of machine gun fire, the shots barely missing the Cassette as he danced clear and retreated back the way he'd come. Growling in frustration, Dirge gave chase, following his target around the bend, closing the distance between them with ease.
Not really one to follow the widely accepted method of "spray and pray", Dirge withheld his attacks as he ran, trying to draw a bead on the annoying, moving target. "When I get my hands on you, I'll tear your legs off and shove them up your flanks!"
"You'll have to catch me first, you walking refuse receptacle!" came the teasing response, Rewind putting on one last good burst of speed.
Ah, there it was just up ahead. Perceptor's marker, a small red splotch of paint on the right wall, prompted Rewind to leap towards the ceiling, catching a bit of steel cable dangling from a vent. Setting off his light-matrix beacon at the same time, the Autobot blasted the area around him with blinding white light, causing his pursuit to go off balance as his optic lenses took in far more brilliance than they knew what to do with. Stumbling forward, the momentum from his sprint carrying him, Dirge passed beneath his foe and unwittingly stepped right into a virtually invisible trap on the floor. To make matters worse for the struggling Seeker, Rewind also took the opportunity to kick him in the back of the head, sending him crashing to the floor before sprawling and skidding along the slicked down surface towards the dead end at the other end of the hall. As he struck the wall, he suddenly found most of his movements arrested; the last twenty or so feet of ground was covered in Rewind's metal-bonding glue.
"You rotten, gear-stripped little retrorat!" Dirge spat in the Cassette's direction, his limbs twisting and writhing against the adhesive as he sought to regain his feet and raise his weapons. "Just wait until the other Decepticons find you! They'll use your own glue to clog your intakes until your systems overheat and explode!"
As Rewind dropped back down the floor, he was joined by Skids and Perceptor, the pair emerging from a side door, the former packing his favorite weapon.
"Oh, chill out, Dirge!" the theoretician retorted before raising his rifle, a blast of liquid nitrogen freezing the Seeker in place.
"You know, I don't know cool as Blaster knows cool, Skids," Rewind admitted, "but that fell short of cool and was borderline corny."
Skids frowned. "Hey, it got the job done, didn't it? By the way, what did you end up using to slick down the floor, Perceptor?"
"Ah, just a thick layer of Sunstreaker's favorite wax," the scientist replied, sounding quite pleased with himself. "More or less colorless and odorless. The perfect trap material, I thought."
Rewind chuckled at that. "Sunstreaker will probably blow a gasket when he finds out about that. Did you replace it with anything?"
"No, not yet."
"Could always use some of Rewind's special glue," Skids suggested, an unusually mischievous grin on his face.
"As the human saying goes, 'let us not and say we did'," the tiny mech said in return. "Because it is not so much Sunstreaker's wrath I fear, but more our dear CMO's when he ends up having to deal with the prank results. ...not that I would blame him, mind you."
Both Perceptor and Skids chuckled, the former resting his hand on Rewind's shoulder. "You make a valid point, my friend. Now let's take care of Dirge and report back in with our two current commanding officers."
Astrotrain was in a foul mood, more so than when the lights had first gone out, separating his search and destroy party. He was having trouble raising the others over their closed communications link, which did not sit well with the triple changer. Moreover, he had yet to catch sight of a single Autobot. By the Pit, where the slag had they all gone? His mood improved slightly when he found himself just outside the med bay, however. If Megatron had been right in that Ratchet was one of those Autobots remaining, he would more than likely be inside. Opening the door, Astrotrain stepped over the threshold...and stopped in surprise.
Oh, there was an Autobot there, alright, but not the one he figured on seeing. Instead of the medical officer, Tracks stood defiantly in the middle of the room, leaning on a pair of crutches, one of his legs completely missing from the knee joint down. The triple changer chuckled darkly. This was going to be very easy and due to the identity of the victim, quite satisfying.
"What's the matter? Your friends abandon you here because you couldn't keep up with the escape party?" Astrotrain taunted, a grin plastered across his faceplate.
The Corvette sniffed haughtily in reply. "Hardly."
Without warning, something landed on Astrotrain from above, causing him to stumble back a few steps with an angry outcry. Before he could do much more, however, a large metal bucket was overturned on his head, dumping a thick mess of black paint over his faceplate and down his front. Cosmos twisted the bucket around once, then slammed one hand into the side of it, causing Astrotrain's audios to ring painfully.
"Who's the glitch now, huh? HUH?"
Tracks arched an optic ridge as the minibot continued to taunt the much larger Decepticon. "I think you've been spending too much time in space and alone, Cosmos."
"Rotten fragger thinks he's so much better because he's bigger!" Cosmos shot back, hitting the bucket more for good measure, ducking Astrotrain's hands as the unfortunate triple changer attempted to rid himself of his attacker, still teetering precariously back and forth, half his senses completely useless. "Well, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that life isn't fair! Consider yourself totally owned, Astrotrain! Owned, OWNED!"
"Too much time browsing Earth internet, as well, apparently. Payback for that incident on Titan, eh? Ah well." Hobbling up alongside the staggering Decepticon, Tracks braced one crutch against the floor and raised the other in one hand. "Ruffian! This will teach you to pick on the small and the handicapped!"
Astrotrain managed one garbled curse through the globs of paint as Tracks swung his crutch around like a makeshift baseball bat, the metal brace crashing into the other's back with a loud clang. Landing chest first into the floor, his minibot passenger abandoning ship at once, the Decepticon groaned, finally managing to pull the bucket from his head, one hand seeking to wipe the paint from his optic lenses. Just as his vision was beginning to clear, however, he caught sight of a very irate green and yellow minibot standing over him.
Tracks winced as Cosmos swung one foot right into Astrotrain's exposed and dirtied faceplate. "Don't you think that's a bit much?"
The smaller mech turned to fix the larger with a frustrated glare.
Tracks cleared his vocalizer. "On second thought, carry on. And kick him once for me, would you? I would, but I only have one leg."
Cosmos huffed...and slammed one foot into the dazed triple changer's face, knocking him offline.
Blitzwing ran one hand over the heavy door before him. He was almost certain it led to something important, perhaps one of the main communications room or perhaps a storage area for top secret Autobot projects. However, it refused to open. The nearby access code pad was completely useless, already having been introduced to the Decepticon's fist. Drawing his scimitar, Blitzwing drew back before striking hard, the blade slicing through part of the door as he began to carve it open. The sound of tearing metal exciting him, prepping him for destroying whatever it was that lay on the other side, he worked long enough to pry the barrier outwards, using his brute strength to tear it free after. Weapon still drawn, Blitzwing then headed inside.
"You're not supposed to be in here!" Red Alert stood up from his chair in a hurry before the communications console, gaze locked on the invader.
Blitzwing smirked. "Maybe not, but you won't be here much longer, yourself, so who's counting?"
"I'm NOT afraid of you!" the security director shot back, shoulder launcher maneuvering into position. "One false move, and I WILL be forced to take you down!"
Looking down at the smaller mech, the triple changer suddenly found himself overcome with laughter. "You? Take ME? You're nothing but a paranoid little freak show with too many crossed wires!"
"That's one'a my regular patients you're insultin' there, Blitzy."
Whirling around, Blitzwing caught sight of Ratchet one nanoklick too late, the medic standing up from behind the console he'd hidden behind, a nasty looking little device in one hand.
The surge of electricity lit the 'Con up like a Christmas tree, the tazer in Ratchet's grip sending wave after wave of power surging through him. Shuddering and stuttering, Blitzwing tried to pull free of the wires that had attached themselves to his chest, only succeeding after two failed attempts, which sent him to his knees with a strangled groan. Smoke rising off his body, the result of several fried circuit boards, he barely had time to glance up before something else struck him fast and hard.
"A 'freak show', am I?" Red Alert growled before taking a solid swing at the barely conscious 'Con, his fist connecting squarely with Blitzwing's jaw and sending him backwards onto the floor in a heap.
Ratchet blinked, then grinned. "Nice right cross."
The other failed to hide a very tiny smirk of satisfaction. "Yes, well.... He had it coming. By the way, where did you get the tazer?"
"Oh, this?" the CMO replied, holding up the device with a knowing smile. "Wheeljack. Too many action movies and reruns of C.O.P.S. Figured it might come in handy, so I got it off him before we came up this way to monitor the screens."
"So, that's the last of the Decepticon invasion party. Now what? The last time we had a number of 'Cons in the brig, it was a total disaster."
"Hrm, the Stunticons. Yeah, I recall." Ratchet rubbed his chin with his free hand in thought before grinning. "I say we complete this little farce with some comedy gold icing on the cake."
Red quirked an optic ridge. "How so?"
"Get the others on the horn an' tell 'em to bring the prisoners to the common room along with as much metal cable as they can find."
Having met up with the other teams of Autobots on their way home, Optimus Prime's arrived at the Ark just after sunrise, only to find the skeleton group as a whole outside...thoroughly tanked. As Prowl and Jazz joined him, the rest of the army hanging back in utter confusion, Prime made his way up to the entrance where Ratchet was leading a number of the others in a slurred sing-along of one of the most vulgar songs any of the sober 'bots had heard in a very long time. Nearby, Huffer and Cosmos lay completely passed out, Hoist and Grapple at their sides, the former continually making odd hand gestures at the pair of minibots. Wheeljack sat nearby, leaned up against a grouping of rocks, his head fins flickering occasionally with drunken hiccups.
Grapple swayed slightly as he watched his companion's unsteady hand motions. "Knock it off, lunchbox. You can't do Jedi Mind tricks."
"So then I punched him square in th' face, 'cause it's not paranoia if they really are after ya," Red was telling Inferno and Tracks to one side. "'An' 'm not LITTLE..."
Tracks appeared unimpressed, a mug of high grade in one hand, half of it sloshing over the container's edge as he tried to stay focused on the other two. "Yeah, well I was th' one legged 'bot in an aft kickin' contest an' I STILL won!"
"What in the name of Matrix is going on here?" Prowl demanded, eying the tanked group in distaste. Before he could say more, however, he was interrupted by another profane song verse, Perceptor and Skids practically howling out the lines with total abandon.
Jazz glanced at the theoretician and scientist in surprise. "Perceptor, are you alright, man?"
Perceptor stared at the saboteur a long moment. "I am intoxicated RIGHT NOW."
"Ratchet, just what is the meaning of all this?" Prime asked of his medical officer, the white and red glancing at him with a grin. No doubt the CMO was the most stable of the lot, able to hold his energon better than any of them, except for perhaps Inferno.
"Oh, we've just been pretty busy is all, and figured we could use a well deserved break, consisting of some indulgence in energon and a midnight movie marathon," Ratchet replied, holding up his cup of high grade. "We all agreed before hand that if ya didn't approve, we'd take the punishment. But still, have I got a set of security feeds to show you guys later!"
Starscream stood alongside Thundercracker and Skywarp, the trio arriving on the outskirts of Portland only moments earlier, their gazes locked on the unsettling sight before them.
"What is the meaning of this, Astrotrain?" Starscream demanded. "We received your distress call and--"
"I can't see, you idiot!" the triple changer interrupted, faceplate still stained black. "None of us can transform, either, so hurry up and untie us!"
"Looks like they failed, same as the rest of us," Skywarp noted dryly. "Megatron'll be pissed. But at least our failure wasn't quite as...colorful."
"...or as embarrassing." Retrieving a hand written note attached to the top of Astrotrain's head where he sat tied up with the rest of the raid party, the entire group painted neon pink with bright green hearts decorating their stunning new color schemes, Thundercracker held it up for Starscream to see.
With love, the "Geek Squad."