|That's why you always ask about the job
Author: LediShae PM
It's what Christmas wants to tell Barney this is all over. Providing working with their new partners doesn't kill him first. Meanwhile - Galloway uses NEST to send the wrong mercenaries to to deal with Cybertronians. Unfortunately for Ratchet he's the mech sent to keep the mercenaries alive. Takes place before TF:RotF and after the first ExpendablesRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Ratchet & Barney Ross - Words: 4,463 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 5 - Published: 08-09-12 - id: 8409705
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Unfortunately I don't own any of the characters, such is life. Crossover between movie-verse Transformers just before Return of the Fallen and just after Expendables I. I know the timeline don't jive, but bear with me.
"So what's the job?" Ross asked from where he stood, arms crossed over chest in a manner that spoke of military training and too many fights. Barney Ross, the ageless battle leader of their motley crew had not changed aside from his ever evolving tattoos since Tool first met him lifetimes and battlefields ago when they were both young and still stupid enough to believe they could win happiness through war.
Tool, whether that was his real name or not nobody knew and with his swift hand with his big switchblade, nobody asked. The older man with his silvery streaked shoulder length hair and silver grill on his teeth set down the phone, long stemmed pipe resting gently at his workstation as he looked up to his old friend. "Only one piece of work this week, and it's ugly." He looked from Ross to Christmas, the slightly shorter, slimmer, younger knife thrower with a cockney accent, shaved pate, and charming grin, and back then nodded towards Ross's black Harley, "Ready for a road trip?"
"Dude, he's ugly – even compared to you." Staff Sergeant Epps looked his partner over pointedly from head to toe then glanced meaningfully at the massive, dark Italian dude waltzing into their location.
"He's our man." Sun tanned and as all-American as any army boy got, Major Lennox sighed not impressed with the aged man who was supposed to be their mercenary contact. "Ready Lander?"
"Sure thing, Metalhawk. Seriously, the next time you let the kid pick out code names I'm gonna tell Sara you purposefully got called in for service because you forgot your last anniversary." Epps threatened, great cocky grin widening as his commander flinched.
"Gentlemen," The man's dark eyes filled with bad memories and worse nightmares raked over them, crooked mouth and droopy eyes aside the man looked like fighter, his voice reminding Lennox of his partner back on base. "You've got something for me?"
"Yes, a high risk operation. A terrorist cell calling themselves the Daitya Hand has become a problem. They need to be removed." 'Metalhawk' spoke evenly not wanting to get involved with this man, and hating involving non-military with the 'bots.
"How much?" Ross asked looking from the obviously military men. Despite their suits and expensive wing-tip shoes they breathed Army.
"Six mil," Epps filled in, his usual smile gone in an instant as he took up his role as negotiator. He was used to dealing with multimillion dollar equipment and negotiating for purchases when regular channels didn't produce on time.
"We'll do it." Ross nodded, holding out his hand for the jump drive his contacts willingly handed over. Without a second glance he turned and strode out returning to his black Harley and the long road home.
"Don't you want to know what the job is?" Metalhawk asked worriedly.
"Is it on the drive?" Ross asked in return matching the younger man's steady gaze.
"Yes, but –" Lander broke off when Ross walked out without a second glance. The man seemed to get larger as he walked away tattoos on his arms rippling over corded muscles.
"Is it just me or did he kinda remind you of Ironhide, except squishy?" Epps asked with a smirk once the door clanged shut blocking off further images of the man.
"Yeah, he did." The men smiled and left the empty synagogue returning to the massive topkick waiting just outside.
"You compared that human to me?" Ironhide demanded brusquely when they got in.
"It was only skin deep." Lennox replied sending Epps into a fit of giggles.
"I don't like-a this." Yang glared at the screen as images of mixed ethnic rebels passed by.
"Yang's right," Gunnar, the six foot-six tall man heavily scarred from his exploits towered over the rest of the crew, back from his most recent stay in rehab he was a clean junky but even he could smell the bull laced through the job specs.
"These photos have been altered," Christmas approached the screen, "Here," He pointed to a drum barrel behind a man, "This is an overlay."
Ross nodded, with a pensive frown. Beside the man in the image the barrel had been cut to fit his image. The manipulation had been flawless at first until these last few images. "Why give us a file of eighty opps photos then alter the last six?"
"My therapist believes we all present the world with the face we want to. If this is the face our contacts are presenting then what have they got to hide?" Road asked, his cauliflower shaped ear pointed away from the group, silently speaking that his last therapy session had not gone well and talking was the last thing on his mind.
"Can we get into this?" Ross asked pointing at the picture, "Can we see what they've done?"
"Big Barney Ross, still afraid of the computer." Christmas smiled his best shit-eating grin as he opened up the file. He pulled up several windows altering the appearance of the image for a few minutes before looking to the waiting group "I don't think you're going to like this." He looked over his shoulder to the others then put the file on screen.
Instantly the projection showed strange glyphs and sigils in strange random rows. A garbled, metallic grumbling emitted from the speakers then slowly changed, morphing as the glyphs shifted and fluidly melted into neat lines of English text.
"This not good." Yang breathed.
"No shit this ain't good. What the hell is this?" Cesar demanded, the only black man on their team looking worriedly from screen to Ross and back. "Were the guys you got this from even human?"
Ross shrugged, "They looked human, or at least more human than Trench." Ross's best enemy, Trench Mouser the six-plus West German was a walking muscle man and a jerk. Ross calling the two contacts more human than Trench gave the others some breathing room to their planet of origin, but not much.
"Cesar, Yang, you're with me. We're scouting the site. Christmas, keep the tracers on, if this gets ugly you'll be pulling our asses out of the fire." Ross spoke evenly, never making his words orders but knowing the commands were understood.
"Sure, just like always." Christmas replied with a weak grin hoping he would not become the next battle leader too soon.
"Optimus!" Lennox bellowed once they got back on base, running with a copy of the jump drive that had felt like a death trap. "Optimus, I think you need to see this."
Prime stood from his alt mode swiftly rolling to his full height before kneeling to reach the human's level better. "What is this?"
"It's a copy of a jump drive Galloway ordered us to distribute to a mercenary crew." Lennox replied. "There's something wrong with the data."
"The United States Military has not used any mercenary forces since the Civil War, over two hundred years ago. Galloway is up to something but we can't identify what." Epps filled in.
As the humans relayed their news Ironhide, Sideswipe and Ratchet approached all looking at the innocuous device cradled in Optimus' massive hand. Ratchet extended a specialized flat screen to his commander allowing the jump drive to be plugged into it the device acting as their data pads once had when they still had their own technology.
"These are all opps photos from southern India." Ironhide drawled, watching the photos pass by until one caught his optic. "Wait, this one's – pathetic."
Ratchet nodded silently, looking the poor attempt to alter the image. "How could their Opps division allow such trash?"
"It's not how they allowed it, but why it was done in the first place that worries me." Optimus rumbled softly. "Look into it, and get back to me."
Ratchet clicked his confirmation and turned from his companions passing the jump drive to an unseen mech cloaked in invisibility, "Get this to intel." The jump drive seemed to vanish in midair. "We need answers fast."
"Mirage?" Prowl asked as the silent spy cast off his camoflague entering the underground base the auxiliary crew had built beneath the humans' compound. Here, isolated deep within the earth and surrounded by noise cancelling insulation Prowl led the remaining Autobots Prime refused to reveal to the humans.
"Data chit." Mirage passed the tiny device to his commander, using the old term for thir lost technology forgotten during the long war. "Prime needs answers."
Prowl nodded and turned to his unit. Jazz, repaired from his near death at Megatron's hands stood nearby, Sunstreaker, Bluestreak, Tracks, Cliffjumper and Trailbreaker stayed close as well. Only Hound and Windcharger remained unaccounted for, the pair having gone on ground reconissance to determine the growing humber of Decepticions entering human territories.
"Jazz, Sunstreaker, analyze this and get back to me." Prowl passed the small drive to his best crewmembers, frowning when Sunstreaker only shook his head.
"Last six photos, we placed a message to the humans. Galloway is using mercenaries to face an unknown Cybertronian threat. Sides overheard Galloway planning this but couldn't get to Prime. This was the best we could do." The silver mech shrugged unapologetically. Identical now to his twin Sunstreaker and Sideswipe had developed the new Sideswipe personae they shared rotating assault duties when one or the other needed to recover.
Prowl stared at Sunstreaker doorwings twitching as he processed this new development. "Show me." As Sunstreaker pulled up the data file containing their message to the humans Prowl remote linked to Optimus paralleling his processors to his commander's allowing Prime to see and hear anything Prowl did.
Optimus rubbed his helm once Prowl's transmission ended, -:- Prowl, send up Sunstreaker. -:- A brief flicker of static across the secure comm line between Prowl and Prime signaled the tactician's confirmation. With his orders given Optimus took the returned jump drive back to Lennox.
"Did you find anything?" Lennox asked worriedly, blue eyes holding a far too familiar burden only leadership could bestow.
"Yes, your government has made a grave mistake." Optimus replied handing back the data chit. "They have hired mercenaries to remove a terrorist threat from India, but these terrorists are not of human origin."
"Then what are we gonna do?" Epps demanded, brown eyes wide with a sickening mixture of worry and the bitter knowledge that the mercenaries were going to come back in bodybags.
"We," Optimus included those around him, the humans overlooking Sideswipe standing aside with a double shadowing him, "Will not do anything."
"Bu tOptimus!" Lennox cried not wanting any man, military or not, to be put in harms way because of him.
"We have our orders, Major" Optimus replied, knowing that soon they would head out to China and the strange signal they had been receiving there. "Lennox, Epps, come with me." Optimus led them through their hangar home, past the end of the firing range and through a rarely used blast door no human had clearance tu ouse.
"The following conversation never happened," Optimus began waiting as he knelt for the two humans to give their understanding. "The mechs of my command are not the only Autobots on the Earth. I have two other teams working in anonymity in remote locations. They will protect the mercenaries from whatever threat awaits them." Optimus looked at the pair who gapped at him in shock.
"But – how did they land without us knowing?" Lennox looked at Epps in trepidation. He trusted all the Autobots with his life, but this – not knowing who was stationed on their planet – scared him.
"Despite our grand entrances to Sam, we are capable of controlling our speed of descent onto a planet." Optimus smiled, "The crew working with me have all made themselves known to you all others have remained in hiding. The battles we have fought thus far are not the only battles that have been waged upon your Earth."
Epps swallowed loudly, "Alright, do you trust them?"
"Yes," Optimus replied evenly holding Epps' gaze with his own weary optics.
"Good 'nough," Epps nodded to Lennox, "If you trust them, so do we."
"Why we go a-here if we know this is a trap?" Yang asked Ross from where he stood in the low access to the cockpit from the sea plane's hold.
"Because, it's the best job we've had. That threat of mechanical war drones looked fake, and I couldn't reach Metalhawk and Lander to cancel the job." Ross replied easily, as if ordering a brew at the local dive.
"Yes, but if we cannot reach the client who is to say they will know we didn't do the job?" Caesar asked from the copilot's chair, his hands safely lying on the arm rests well away from the controls he knew nothing about.
"We would," Ross replied eyeing his colleagues tiredly, "If we don't do the jobs we take then we won't get anymore. I don't know about you guys, but I won't take the nine-to-five." The other two silently nodded. They were mercenaries, men who had known war too long to handle peace, or those who only had skills in killing and nothing else.
"Alright, so we go. If this end badly I am getting raise." Yang proclaimed with a roll of his eyes before sitting back in the emergency chair behind Ross's facing the tail of the plane.
The rest of the flight went swiftly, Ross making leaps across the ocean as they headed to India taking the greater part of the day to reach their first destination. The black sea plane bearing a large decal for Global Wildlife Conservancy pulled into a small harbor near the southern edge of India. Ross jumped out first, greeting a Muslim man with a nod.
"Can you take care of her for a few days?" Ross asked the man, refusing like always to make introductions.
"Of course, she will be very safe." The man replied, hurriedly gesturing to several younger men of his village who brought ropes to drag the plane out of sight. As they worked Ross led Ceasar and Yang from the rickety pier, across the town and into the edges of the jungle. Here, away from prying eyes they would find their gear.
"Who set this up? When did anyone have time to set this up?" Ceasar asked looking for signs of vehicle and weapons Christmas had promised to have waiting for them here. Up ahead a section of forest opened before them revealing a twin Polaris Rangers one with a red hood, the other in yellow. Behind them sat a large ASAP Medstat vehicle repurposed into a mobile armory.
The vehicles sat silently in the clearing with bulging battle packs sitting in the front passenger seat of the Rangers while the back of the Medstat had been cleared of the medical equipment it should have carried and now was lined with racks of weapons and bins of ammo and explosives. Ross whistled as he took in their inventory. It was impressive, better gear than they were used to carrying yet each of their favorite weapons rested at the ready.
"How do Christmas get a-this so soon?" Yang looked to Ross, not moving towards the vehicles sitting so innocently in the clearing yet bristling with the weapons they dared not bring.
"I don't know." Ross replied wondering how his second managed to get new vehicles to them in the span of a day, "But we move now." The three each took a vehicle and moved through the dense jungles driving as fast as they dared in the bright morning sun toward the terrorists' location.
-:- Humph, these humans. -:- Ratchet snorted taking control of his steering from Ross who slowly slumped into a doze behind the wheel. He scanned the silent pair behind him noting the tenseness in Sunstreaker's uncomfortable frame.
-:- This human is sweating on my seat. -:- Sunstreaker snarled in disgust while he silently remained a prisoner within his own alt mode.
-:- Deal with it Sunshine, the shrimp isn't much better. Would this guy even pass standards? -:- Sideswipe asked absently of Yang's small stature.
-:- He's five-six and more than tall enough for military duty. He's just surrounded by organic behemouths. -:- Ratchet murmured absently driving the sleeping Ross to their designated camp site. Once there Ratchet shook his frame hard enough to wake the man as he crossed a rougher patch of ground.
Ross blinked slowly, eyes becoming huge as he found himself miles from where he last remembered being as the Medstat slowed to a halt. Looking around worriedly Ross found both feet on the floor, his hands lying lax at his sides. "What the Hell?"
"I'm a-tired." Yang yawned hugely as he pulled the waiting pack from the back of his red Ranger and moved to set up a sleeping roll on the muggy ground. Ross just sat in the Medstat cab waiting for reality to sink in. He had somehow driven over ninety miles across ridiculously rough terrain and reached their designated site while asleep. It was impossible.
Caesar knew something was wrong. Barney Ross was a silent man of action, not someone prone to sitting on the job. He pulled his body from the sticky seat sharing a shudder at the feeling with the silent yellow Ranger he had driven all day and into the last verges of twilight. He moved to the white and red Medstat sitting silently in the rocky clearing until he reached Ross and felt his spine tingle at the shorter man's bewildered expression.
"Nope," Ross finally levered himself from the cab pulling the pack from the seat beside him, "I slept from midmorning to now. I have no damn memory of driving this thing!" He hissed in a whisper trying to keep his problems from Yang. The shortest man on their team seemed to always make others problems a pissing match with his own.
"Then how'd we get here without you dying?" Ceasar asked levelly, shaking his head. "Man, you went autopilot. We get tired, know where we need to go and get there without registering it. We're human, this shit happens."
Ross could only shrug as he set up his bed roll knowing that a real sleep on the horizontal would make this all go away.
"Thank Primus!" Sunstreaker sighed when the humans finally curled up to sleep as he slowly transformed from the unfamiliar alt mode. His subspace compartments disgorged the majority of his mass turning from the less than six foot long Ranger Crew ATV into his original root mode towering over the sleeping humans stinking of stale sweat.
"Get down you slagging idiot!" Ratchet hissed unwilling togive up his alt mode in case the humans awoke. "We go by Prime's orders and we do not reveal ourselves unless they get in over their heads!"
"So being thousand of miles from their home, in the middle of a jungle teeming with poisonous, disease carrying plants and animals and heading towards an unknown number of pretenders insinuated within a human terrorist cell means they're just fine and dandy?" Sideswipe asked with a smirk as he stood beside his brother.
"No! It – slaggit!" Ratchet swore at the pair's slag-eating grins as they bumped fists.
"What the Hell?" Ross jumped to his feet looking up in terror at the mostly black red and yellow highlighted robots that stood where the twin Rangers had once been parked.
"Damnit," Ratchet roared twisting unfolding his frame from his alt mode to stand slightly taller than the twins scowling at them from across the encampment. "What slagging part of not revealing ourselves do you not comprehend?"
"But, Ratchet," Sideswipe piped up with bright innocence shinning in his optics as he spread his hands wide, "As our commanding officer we have to follow your example."
"You sorry, glitch-faced, blown-mother processor, pit-spawned unrepentant hellion! I'm using you for target practice and then giving you to Hide."
"Uh, Barney?" Caesar looked to the dark Italian staring mutely at the bickering robots, "I think we found out why you're not dead."
"Why him be dead?" Yang asked absently trying to wrap his mind around vehicles becoming robots that bickered.
"I fell asleep behind the wheel," They scrambled from their standing positions as the tallest robot strode over their camp neatly stepping across the arranged sleeping bags before slamming the two smaller mechs' helms together with a resounding clang.
"I told you two to keep down, and you transformed first!"
"Very mature Ratch," Sunstreaker grinned slyly making Ratchet gape like a landed fish as he processed what he just said.
"I – I – why couldn't I have gone to China?" Ratchet sighed pinching the bridge of his nasal processors in despair.
"Okay, uh, hello?" Barney stepped towards the robots waving his hands to call of the bickering. "What the hell is going on?"
Ratchet sighed and rolled his shoulder while the smaller mechs snickered. With a glare he slammed the flats of his hands against the black helms shutting the pair up before turning to the humans. "We are Autobots from the planet Cybertron many millions of miles from Earth. We have been embroiled in a planet-wide civil war for longer than your race has existed ..."
::Wake me up when he's finished. :: Sunstreaker faked a yawn behind his hand, ignoring the humans who stared fixedly at Ratchet while the medic explained in the 'approved manner' the reason organics were faced with advanced Mechanoids.
:: Be nice, at least we didn't have to listen to Sam babbling when Prime did the introductions. :: Sideswipe snickered replaying captured footage from Jazz of the kid's 'spaz attack', especially after Ratchet mentioned pheromones and mating.
Sunstreaker snickered, silently wishing he had been there. These men were no fun. They kept asking the same questions the military asked and slung the same bull-shit accusations each new politician slung around when learning that they were not the most advanced race in the universe.
"So you guys planted the false images and dialogue onto the thumb drive to warn us off from taking this job. Why?" Ross asked suspiciously not trusting these giant aliens any more than he trusted Metalhawk and Lander.
"Because!" Ratchet cried in distress, "Your team does not have the training to face these creatures and if they are the bots we believe then you are in extreme danger."
Sideswipe sighed rolling forward to place a hand on Ratchet's shoulder, "You're talking to them like you'd talk to Prime. Won't work." He squeezed the medic's shoulder firmly allowing Ratchet to relax despite his agitation. "Have you guys ever faced anything that can move faster than a bullet, was stronger than your toughest vehicle, immune to explosions and most munitions?"
"Yeah," Yang stepped up defiantly, hating that once more he was the absolute shortest of the strange group, "It's called a tank. Anti-tank missiles and armor piercing rounds can take the tank down." He looked over the robots forcing his speech to be flawless despite his usual habit of sounding like a half-educated foreigner.
"Well," Sunstreaker rolled forward, "Then you're going after tanks the size of humans with BBs and twenty-twos. Your munitions will not take out a Cybertronian."
"Technically," Ratchet sighed, "They can." He pulled several weapons from compartments in his legs than had once been the rear armory of his alt mode. "Each of these have been augmented to fire sabot-tipped rounds. The explosive tipped auto-shotgun and double barrel were augmented similarly." Ratchet passed around the weapons and looked away knowing that this time he was the transport for the means of destruction. Having so many weapons inside him made him sick.
"So why stop us? Why act like our vehicles? Why any of this?" Ross spread his arms wide encompassing their camp and the jungle.
"Because we hold that life is the right of all sentient beings, and it was your government that requested this mission for you from incorrectly interpreting data from our kind." Ratchet spoke tiredly, optics dim as the reality that he would not be able to talk these men down sank in.
"Then I'll need the rest of my team." Ross replied, eyes heavy from jet lag and flying for too long.
"Already handled," Sideswipe chirruped, playing a segment of a falsified phone conversation he had made with Christmas through his speakers.
"We found guys on the inside, its legit. Get Tool to secure a flight meet us at these coordinates?" A perfect imitation of Barney's voice sounded from the red robot.
"You sure, mate?" Christmas' voice replied sounding concerned.
Ross hung his head, pinching the bridge of his nose, "You told him this was a trap, and to come in guns blazing."
"No we didn't!" Sideswipe exclaimed, "I copied your voice perfectly!"
"Yes, you did," Yang broke in shaking his head exasperatedly, "Christmas never says 'mate'."
Ratchet smacked Sideswipe up the back of the helm making the warrior yelp, "That's why Jazz keeps you off spec opps! It's not just the voice you slagging moron they have codes just like we do."
"But, Ratchet, they're organics! They –" Sunstreaker shut up at Ratchet's intimidating glower.
"Use your miniscule processors! Lennox uses codes every slagging operation."
"Operation? Do you guys work for the government?" Caesar asked bewildered.
"No," Ratchet sighed folding down into his alt mode tiredly, "We work with a top secret branch of your military to fight off our enemies. For now, we are political refugees. Now go back to sleep – all of you." He directed his words at Sunstreaker and Sideswipe before settling on his shocks as if taking his own advice.
"Huh," Caesar looked to the three innocuous looking vehicles, "'Do androids dream of electric sheep?'"
A/N: The vehicles Ratchet and the terror twins take on as alt modes are real models from Polaris India. Just take out the spaces in the links below.
ASAP MedStat - www. polarisind. in/ product /asap - medstat
Ranger Crew - www. polarisind. in/ product /ranger - crew- 800 -eps- 0