Decepticon ship, stasis room.|
Optimus Minor approached the prone form of Ironhide resting in the pod. He dispassionately viewed the rest of the medbay; the repair protocols were turned off. For whatever reason, Crackup had decided to keep the autobot in cold storage rather than to repair him.
Optimus Minor thought he knew why.
"You were one of them, weren't you?" he asked the unconscious form. "You were one of Prime's most trusted soldiers. He sent you on a mission to repair the timeline. But something...something went wrong. Either you failed, or were ambushed, and rendered helpless....either way, you ended up here, in Crackup's clutches. I have a responsibility to help you, and yet...if I do, will I be causing further damage to the timeline? How do I know for sure that what's happened to you isn't what was supposed to happen? Even *I* have trouble identifying my proper place in the scheme of things. Every move I make could result in disaster. Still...."
Optimus Minor sighed; there was no way he could tip his hand now, while everything was falling into place. He couldn't betray Crackup's confidence. But by the same token, he couldn't leave a fellow being...a fellow traveler, no less...in the condition he was in. He owed him some consideration.
After a moment's thought, he walked over to the console, and pressed a few keys on the pad.
The repair protocols were activated.
Satisfied that this would not be qucikly detected, Optimus Minor exited the room, unaware that a hidden camera was recording everything he did...
And broadcasting it directly to Crackup.
"I always keep tabs on my 'guests'...with good reason, it seems." Turning from his view of the stasis room, Crackup focused on the main viewscreen. There were...issues to be dealt with regarding this Optimus Minor fellow, and those things always went better in-person. Perhaps this small act of defiance was nothing, perhaps it was all part of the grand plan to put Crackup at his rightful place at the head of the Decepticon forces...or perhaps it was something else. Some kind of trick. Either way, it would have to be dealt with later, because a small shuttle had just entered orbit from the planet below...a shuttle bearing the enemies' logo.
Not wanting to take any chances, Crackup cloaked his ship, and prepared an interept course. It could easily be one of his own forces returning. However, should there be any trouble, it would be easiest to simply destroy the shuttle from behind. No fuss, no muss. And no evidence that he was even there.
"If a robot could sweat," thought Ticker, "Then I'd be leaking lubricants about now." Her repair work to Campaign car was nearly-finished; Having been stripped down to his frame, and practically rebuilt from scratch, Ticker marveled at her work. The nano-bots had done an excellent job of knitting the frame to the new outer-body; at this point, you couldn't even tell that anything had been done. The new body was identical to the old one; it seemed appropriate that she duplicate it as much as possible. Making some final adjustments, she closed the pod once more; the computer program would need to run its course, and then gradually restore Campaign Car's core consciousness. "He'll undoubtedly wake-up at the same time as the other two," she thought, glancing at the pods that contained the repaired bodies of Bunny Convoy and Electrum Beast. She was sure they would have much to discuss. The program that she loaded would probably have not been Electrum Beast's first choice; however, until he was on-line again, she was in-command...so it was her decision to make.
And speaking of decisions...
Here was one she wished she didn't have to make. Bad enough that Overdrive, their team leader, had to be placed in one of the new bodies; she didn't expect that they would have to do it a second time(and certainly not so soon after). The technology was still experimantal; just because they had succeeded once didn't mean they could pull it off a second time. However, they had to try....
Just then, Scoot wheeled into the medlab, bearing the other research protoform. Having left one of the repair techs in engineering (the command center was still not up to speed, and someone had to stay and watch)he hurried along as fast as his unbalanced load would let him.
Scoot: "I say, I know you were impressed with my earlier work, but does that really justify a repeat-performance? And now, of all times?"
Ticker: "Believe me, if I could have avoided it, I would have. But there's little choice in the matter. There's not enough time to get him back to Cybertron, and not enough time to prep one of the hardbodies. We have to load his spark into the protoform if we want him to survive as the same 'bot."
Scoot: "Sigh. Well, of-course you are correct. Still, even I must admit, I'm not entirely comfortable with the situation...I didn't exactly do a bang-up job the last time..."
Ticker: "Oh, you did fine. You only left out a few files. He's stable, the spark took...and I'm sure Bunny Convoy will make a welcome addition to the ranks."
Scoot: "You are too-kind, madam."
Ticker: "Yes....I am." Smiling, Ticker took the proto-pod from Scoot, and began the preperation procedure. She pulled various leads from the pod and connected htem to a specialized wall computer. Calling upon the uplink a second time, Ticker decided that *she* would pick the new organic techno-form this time. She figured...well, she couldn't do worse....
Meanwhile, Scoot had the harder of the two jobs. Cracking open the stasis-pod, he prepared his magnetic-grapplers for a spark extraction. Removing the charred outer-plating that was once Flatfoot's chest, Scoot reached in carefully....very carefully.
She wasn't alone in the shuttle.
The small robot peered around the corner, and beeped at Clutterbug. She nearly hit her head on the ceiling jumping out of her seat. When she had calmed down a bit, she turned and faced the small stowaway, an accusing tone in her voice:
Clutterbug: "Are you supposed to be here?!"
Small robot: "Beep."
Clutterbug: "*Beep*?! What does that mean?"
Small robot: "Beep." (waves arms around)
Clutterbug: "I don't suppose you can talk normally, can you?"
Small robot: "Beep." (shakes head no).
Clutterbug: "Sigh.... Look, I have to get to Cybertron, and warn...someone. It's very important that I do so. You being along might jeaporadize my mission. I can't turn around now, but we're technically close-enough that you could use an escape pod, and get back. How about it?"
Small robot: "Beeeeep!"(points finger at her, wags it)
Clutterbug: "Look, I don't need you accusing me of anything! This mission is vital to a lot of us. If you won't leave, can you at least not try to stop me?"
Small robot: "Beep." (nods, and sits in the co-pilot's seat, assesing the control panel)
Clutterbug: (smiles)"Oh, so now you want to *help* me complete my mission, is that it? I bet you think you're pretty hot stuff, huh?"
Small robot: "Beeep!" (waves arm enthusiastically)
Clutterbug: (giggles) "Ok, fine then....that's what I'm going to call you from now on. Hotstuff."
Hotstuff beeped his approval, and quickly set to work studying the controls. He noted the destination coordinates programmed into the navcomp, and beeped a question to here, pointing at the readout.
Clutterbug: "That? Yes, you read it right. We're heading to Cybertron. There's...someone we need to talk to when we get there."
Clutterbug: "No, no-one you know. But someone who might be able to stop what's happening on Earth."
The program concluded; the room around them went from a parting shot of Cybertron to the standard gridwork that started them out. The three minds that had participated(Electrum Beast, Campaign Car, and Bunny Convoy) Stood there, and waited.
And waited some more.
"Apparently, we've been forgotten about," Said Campaign Car. "The tape's run out, and we're all still stuck here."
"Perhaps," said Electrum Beast, "This is on-purpose. Perhaps we've been given an opportunity to discuss what we've just witnessed."
Bunny Convoy: "You mean, that piece of fiction? What's there to discuss?"
Electrum Beast: "I'm afraid....that wasn't fiction. Apparently, Ticker saw fit to upload the 'complete' history of our race into the program. What the two of you just witnessed was, in-fact, the true story of how we came to be here...and what faces us ahead."
Campaign Car: "You're joking. You mean to tell me..."
Electrum Beast: "That the transwarping, and the rewritten timelines are all true, yes."
Bunny Convoy: "Does Prime know?"
Electrum Beast: "If you mean this timeline's Prime, then yes. He was the one who commissioned Milwaukee-base in the first-place. It was his mandate that we work to preserve the current timeline, and to stop all future-orientated incursions into our era. That's part of the research here- capturing the transwarpers, to learn as much as we can about their technology...and to upgrade ourselves so that we may continue the work."
Bunny Convoy: "That's...a lot to accept."
Campaign Car: "Yes, it is....but it explains so much of what went on here. So many questions answered..."
Electrum Beast: "Yes, and for that, I am sorry. I really didn't think you were ready for the awful truth of the matter."
Bunny Convoy: "Which is?"
Electrum Beast: "Fighting against our own descendents."
At that, the computer pinged; the core-consciousness of each transformer would soon be returned to his newly-repaired body. As a parting thought, Electrum Beast told the other, "We have much to discuss. It's time we brought the others on-board."
Clutterbug was in the midst of explaining to Hotstuff how she came to be part of the team on Milwaukee-base when she is interrupted by the sudden jolting of the ship.
"What's going on here?"
She looks at the controls; a red indicator is flashing.
She cursed, not thinking of that possibility. "Of *course* they would have a ship in-orbit," she said. "No-wonder it was so easy to get off-planet. They probably intended to stop me...us... all-along."
Another indicator beeped, this one on the other panel. Hotstuff beeped a question at her.
"Hailing frequencies? Fine, let's answer them. Maybe that will allow me to stall for time while I think of a way out of this mess." Hotstuff activated the viewscreen. The image that resolved itself was not anyone from Milwaukee-base. In-fact, the face on the viewscreen was of a 'bot they last expected...and least wanted to see. Clutterbug clenched her teeh, and spat out the name:
Crackup: "How nice of you to remember my name...although I don't believe we were formally introduced the last time we met. And what brings you here today?"
Clutterbug: "Nothing that concerns you. Now how about you turn off your tractor beam and surrender? I'll let you off with a warning."
Crackup: "My dear, what a delightful sense of humor you have! Do you really think you are in a position to give me orders? Rather the opposite, I would wager."
Clutterbug: "Perhaps you would like my weapons to do the talking?" (She nods to Hotstuff, who activates the weapons-console. A series of bright red lights lance outward toward the Decepticon ship. While not doing any actual damage, they did momentarily dirsupt the tractorbeam. Thus freed, Clutterbug immadiately punched the lightspeed controls on the ship.
Clutterbug: "See ya later, Crackhead!"
Crackup: "I think not, my dear." Crackup returned fire; bright disruptor bursts seared the empty space between them, making contact with the small shuttle....and destroying the engine pods. Acrid smoke filled the bridge as various systems began to short out around the two defenders. Another shot; this one targeting communications systems. No-longer able to call for help...or to signal their surrender to the small Decepticon. A third shot; this one effectively hulling the ship, splitting it in two, and ejecting the occupants. Clutterbug and Hotstuff were battered into stasis-lock by the debris exploding around them. Several more shots; the remains of their small shuttle disintegrated in a fiery hail of sparks and molten metal.
They were not conscious to see the final display of fireworks.
To be Continued.