"Recovery in-process. ETA 2 minutes." The computer disgorged the statement to Crackup as he maneuvered the ship thru the debris field, searching. The blasts he fired upon the shuttle should have been low-powered enough to crack the shell...but hopefully not the nuts inside.
"Attention: two transformer life-signatures detected." Moving in for a closer look, Crackup saw that the computer was correct; there, amongst the wreckage of the shuttle's cockpit, were the two Cybertonains in-question. "Excellent," thought Crackup, "This will add to my research nicely." Activating the tractor beam, he towed the two bodies aboard. Activating the ships communications system, he places a call to his latest acquisition:
Crackup: "Optimus Minor, do respond please."
Optimus Minor: "Yes?"
Crackup: "I am in the process of recovering two more Transformers. They will be in cargo bay 2. Would you see to it that they are placed in medbay, and repaired?"
Optimus Minor: "Certainly....anything I should know about them?"
Crackup: "Funny, I was going to ask you the same thing."
Optimus Minor: "Pardon?"
Crackup: "Oh, nothing, just talking to myself. Please do not reactivate them until I arrive. I would prefer they remain restrained for questioning. I trust that meets with your satisfaction?"
Optimus Minor: "Who am I to argue with you?"
Crackup: "Good. Please remember that in the future. Crackup out."
Cutting the link, Crackup went back to his ship's maneuvers. As soon as he cleared the debris field, it would be time to leave for Cybertron. From that point on, his victory would be assured.
After all, it wouldn't do to change the future, now would it?
Snickering to himself, Crackup programmed Cybertron's coordinates into the computer. He was about to give the final command, when something else showed up on his long-range sensors. He squinted.
It couldn't be.
Was he that stupid?
Apparently so. Crackup decided to take no chances. He activated the ship's cloaking device, and plotted his second intercept course for the day. Space was becoming absolutely crowded in this area. Someone should take care of that.
Crackup decided he would.
Repairs to the base itself were complete. With the Commander gone, along with a number of their warriors, there wasn't much they could do except sit...and wait. Even the research projects were put on-hold; of course, considering that much of their research material was up in orbit at the moment, there was little they could do even if they *had* felt the need to continue. Scoot rolled around the base inspecting things, Washout had disappeared, and Campaign Car impatiently drummed his fingers on the desk in the Command Center.
Sitting there seemed a waste. Campaign car decided to make use of the time by studying the now-declassified files of the milwaukee-base mission. Although everyone had gotten ther overview, the details were still somewhat glossed-over. Of particular interest to him were the specifics of the research; after all, if he was to be in-charge of here for any length of time, he might as well know exactly what he was in-charge of.
Accessing the database, he scrolled thru the table of contents until he reached 'research'. Opening the file, he looked at the projects that were listed. There were two catagories; projects completed, and projects in-process. On a whim, he decided to access the projects completed folder. There were a series of files, with nothing more than a name attached to them. Project names, of course. The details would be in the files themselves. No sense cluttering the directory face with the info. What a marvel of effeciency!
Selecting a likely file, he accessed project clutterbug. Hmm, what an odd name. Like that one transformer that they went looking for. Perhaps this was her research project, and she named it after herself. Campaign car began to read.
After the first paragraph, he wished he hadn't.
By the second one, he wished he'd never accessed the files in the first place.
By paragraph three, he removed himself from the system, and closed the entire database. Apparently, Electrum Beast was right: there were some things he really *didn't* need to know. Getting up, he left the command center, in-search of someone to talk to about what he'd just found out. Perhaps if he got it off his chest, he could stand to read the file again...
"Um, guys? we have trouble."
That was the understatement of the year. Upon achiving orbit, they encountered a debris field. Analysis indicated that it was the wreckage of a ship...probably a shuttle. Probably *their* shuttle. With that possibility fresh in their minds, they began a systematic scan of the debris, hoping to locate survivors...or possibly bodies. It was in the middle of this search that Ticker interrupted with her statement. And trouble it was: a Decepticon ship had just uncloaked in-front of them, and powered-up its weapons.
Electrum Beast: "Well, I suppose that would explain the shuttle wreckage."
Ticker: "Do we have a plan? I'm not exactly bristling with weapons here."
Electrum Beast: "Hail them."
Bunny Convoy: "What good will that do?"
Electrum Beast: "I haven't the foggiest- yet. But if they answer, it may buy us some time."
Ticker: "Channel open."
Electrum Beast: "Er, ahem. Attention, Decepticon warship. This is Electrum Beast, on the Medical Shuttle 'Ticker'. We are on a peaceful mission to recover our wounded, and have no hostile intentions. Please respond, over." (a pause, then Bunny Convoy spoke)
Bunny Convoy: "That's a pretty lousy plan."
Electrum Beast: "So sue me. Do you have a better idea?"
Bunny Convoy: "...."
Electrum Beast: "I didn't think so."
Ticker: "They're answering our hail."
The shuttle walls crackled with the static of an audio transmission from the Decepticon ship.
Crackup: "Ah, my dear Electrum Beast. I see your spark is still on this side of the Matrix."
There were no guards posted around the engine room. In-fact, there was no crew of any kind, as far as Ironhide could tell. The ship was completely automated; an interesting concept, but one that doesn't lend itself much to security. And security was Ironhide's specialty.
The door didn't open upon his prompt. Not surprising; this wasn't exactly a generic pathway, as the rest of the ship. Only authorized personnel here. Ironhide smiled. He slid a wire out of his forearm socket, and plugged it into the jack next to the keypanel. Numbers began to scroll across the small screen; in a few moments, the door slid open without incident. "Guess Crackup didn't think anyone would be around to hack into things," he thought to himself.
Upon entering the engine room, one feature immediately stood out: the antimatter drive.
The heart of the ship.
And he was here to rip it out.
Without fanfare, Ironhide took out his blater, aimed, and fired several shots into the device.
The shielding buckled. Alarm klaxxons began to sound as the magnetic containment began to fail. Coolant leaks sprung out from various places as the ships systems attempted to compensate. And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over.
The explosions began.
The core was ejected.
"Hmmm....that wasn't what I expected." The ship, as part of its damage-control routine, was programmed to eject the drive core if it became unstable. The explosions Ironhide heard were the bolts on the outer panel blowing off, allowing egress of the damaged core. Once clear of the ship, force-panels slid shut, sealing the breach.
"Well...so much for that." Ironhide's goal was a simple one; prevent Crackup from returning to Cybertron with his data. It was the mission that Prime had entrusted to him, demanded of him. "The very survival of our race depends on it," he had said. So with Prime's blessing, Ironhide joined the ranks of the Transwarpers, a group of Transformers given the technology to time-travel, and preserve the timeline.
Apparently, he had just succeeded in his mission. Although his original goal was simply to destroy Crackup(and his research materials), he instead just managed to cripple the ship. As things stood, without a working core, the ship would drift aimlessly in-space, for approximately(Ironhide calculated)...two vorn. Maybe longer, depending. Its arrival to Cybertron thus delayed, the research material would be discovered, not by the Decepticons, but by their descendants the Predacons, thus sparking off time travel, and eventually the BeastWars.
"How interesting...what has passed, will come to pass. Maybe time *is* inviolate." Not wanting to ponder the twists and loops of transwarp theory, Ironhide satisfied himself with the knowledge that his mission was complete, and that it was nearly time to go home. "Just one detail left," he thought. "Get rid of the Decepticon who caused this whole mess." Thus empowered, Ironhide turned and left the engine room, in-search of Crackup.
Electrum Beast: "Yes, I am alive and well. Sorry if that disappoints you."
Crackup: "Not at all; in-fact, I am delighted. You will provide even more research material for me."
Electrum Beast: "Excuse me?"
Crackup: "I've been studying one of those little robots you've been busy creating. Quite an excellent specimen. It makes me think that I might have been a bit hasty in simply trying to destroy you and your base. Perhaps instead I should be ****"(Crackup's image is replaced by static).
Bunny Convoy: "What happened?"
Ticker: "I believe we've just been given a reprieve. Look at the monitor."
There before them, an explosion appeared on the side of Crackup's ship, and a panel flew off. Soon after, a glowing, crackling mass was ejected, and immediately went critical. Ticker recognised the object immediately.
Ticker: "Brace for impact!"
The explosion was silent...but deadly. Space all around them lit up as the power-core to the Decepticon ship exploded, sending shockwaves throughout space. the energy buffeted Ticker and her occupants, even from this distance. The Decepticon ship, though more massive, was quite a bit closer, and as such, took the brunt of the blow. Lights went out all over the ship; the shielding buckled, as did a portion of the hull. Normal comm chatter fell silent. Emergency lights struggled then flared on, but rather dimly. Finally, all orbit-stabilizing motion ceased.
The ship was adrift.
Ticker wasted no time. Going for full-burn, she accelerated toward the ailing Decepticon ship, and circled around until she found what she was looking for: a cargo-bay hatch, popped open from the explosion. With no shields or weapons from the enemy to stop her, Ticker entered the ship, with her comrades in tow.
Perhaps they could still save the day.
She sure hoped so. The timeline was becoming very critical...
To Be Continued.