THOSE LEFT BEHIND
"This is a bad idea." Sheppard said into his radio, "I mean, like really bad. And I should know, I've had a few." The reply from his friend, Rodney McKay, came back over the device's little speaker with a sarcastic overtone, which was practically standard fare for the Canadian scientist, at least when Dr. Keller wasn't around to moderate him.
"Look at it this way: If you screw up, there'll be no one left to point the finger at you." Sheppard rolled his eyes.
"Thank you, Mr. Helpful." he shot back, before hunkering down further as the ground shook with the movements of two heavy metal bodies. Through the wall to his left, he could hear the explosions and gunfire on the street outside, mixed with the screams of Langaran citizens.
"Isn't there a better way to take this guy down?" Sheppard whined, "I mean, besides me running up to him and sticking a bomb to his ankles?"
"Come on, Sheppard, it's really not that hard." Lennox wheedled from his spot next to the Colonel. He held up his arm to keep the dust from falling into his eyes as the building shook again. There was a metallic screech from the outside, followed by an awful shrieking like a fax machine in a meat grinder.
"I have an allergy to being stepped on." Sheppard complained.
"We all do!" Lennox retorted, He had to raise his voice because the screams were getting louder as the fight outside moved closer. At that moment Sheppard's radio crackled.
"Sheppard, you need to get out there now! Ironhide can't hold him down any longer. If he gets out and hits the fuel facility, you can kiss the city goodbye!" McKay shouted over the line. Sheppard sighed.
"I'm asking for a vacation after this." he growled, as he picked up the explosive satchel he had been lugging around for the past ten minutes after Kellot, the team demolitions expert, had been brought down by falling masonry. He ran to the building's rear entrance, kicked it open, which was easier than it sounded, given how it was partially detached from its frame, and ran straight out into hell.
The streets of the Kelownan capital were very much like those of New York, circa 1960, at least from John's point of view. The cars, the buildings, even the people, looked like they had been ripped from a early Cold War photograph in a history book. The two giant robots busy duking it out at the far end of the street, however, did not.
"This is Lennox! Colonel Sheppard has the package! If anyone has a shot, take it now! Keep him distracted!" shouted Sheppard's radio. It was almost lost in the calamitous roar of the fight. The shorter of the two robots whose name was Ironhide, was clad in black armor and armed with two guns bigger than the average engine block. He fired twice at his enemy, who sidestepped, then roared and fired a missile from a port on his shoulder. The projectile spiraled upwards and took a chunk out of a building on the Autobot's left, showering him with debris, causing him to drop into a defensive crouch to shield his optics. The Decepticon warrior, appropriately named Ruckus, took the opening to go on the offensive, and lunged forward, his long forearm extending a sharp, sickle-like blade, intending to grab at Ironhide's wrist with his other hand, which was holding a large alien dagger.
Ironhide was quicker though, which allowed him to duck down, and throw himself forward, catching his enemy in a bear-hug and tackling him to the ground. The two struggled as Sheppard ran as fast as he could, hands so sweaty that if it weren't for the rough fabric of the satchel's grip, he would've long ago dropped it. He'd never gotten entirely used to being a part of fights like this. For five years, his enemies had been, if not necessarily as strong as him, then at least the same size as he was. And they'd been trying to eat him, not squash him. One might say that given the end result in either scenario, it shouldn't matter, but it did. To him there was a world of difference in feeling the fear of the hunted prey and feeling the fear of the ant beneath the boot.
As he reached the struggling titans, the green robot slapped a hand to his eye with a roar of pain as the crack of an anti-material rifle resounded through the acoustic canyon of buildings. Ironhide tried to use the distraction to grapple with Ruckus, but he countered with a twist and a roll that got him out from underneath the Autobot weapon specialist. Sheppard skidded to a halt, swearing at the missed opportunity to strap the bomb to his target's head rather than his legs. The massive Decepticon rose up, swiping at Ironhide with his sickle even as he rolled clear, managing to get a hook around his left arm-cannon. He yanked on it hard, cackling madly as he slammed the dagger into Ironhide's adjoining shoulder, then pulled it out and did it again. He shrieked a string of alien gibberish, the private language of the Decepticons.
Before he could make a third attempt, there was a loud clank of bolts disengaging and, much to his attacker's surprise, Ironhide's trapped cannon detached from his arm, freeing it for the Autobot to drive an elbow into his enemy's cruel-looking, angular face. Ruckus stumbled back, smashing into the building behind him as Ironhide pivoted and leaped on him, pounding him with a combination of punches and cannon-fire.
"That's MY cannon, you piece of scrap!" he bellowed. Sheppard was already running. He'd sigh with relief after it was done; right now, he needed to save his breath for not getting killed. As Ruckus recovered, pushing Ironhide back, flinging his own cannon at him to stun him in preparation for another jab with his dagger, Sheppard skidded to a halt between the Decepticon's feet. The pea-green and brown mass of the Cybertronian warrior towered above him, surging with movement that awed and terrified with its fluidity. Sheppard ignored it, focusing on the green sack full of a mix of shaped C-4 charges and thermite canisters he was thankfully still holding. All that was left to do was for Sheppard to hook one of its straps around the sharp protrusions that made up the hydraulics of the Decepticon's legs. Breathing heavily, trying to control his panic, he threw a strap over a likely-looking spur, just as the same spur shifted position, along with the massive leg it was attached to, Ruckus adjusting his stance to a defensive one as Ironhide rolled sideways, firing again and again with his remaining cannon. John felt his bones rattle with every impact, but managed to get the other free strap of the pack full of explosives around another spur. Then he turned and ran, this time back the way he'd come. As he did, he grabbed hold of his radio and hit the call button.
"Ironhide! Back up!" he shouted, then switched the channels and added, "Lennox! Now! NOW!" He dove behind a nearby vehicle, one of the few that had yet to be shredded by the intense droid death-match. As he ducked down, opening his mouth and covering his ears, John saw Ironhide skid down the street towards him, grabbing his lost cannon as he did, before tucking into a protective crouch like John himself.
Then there was a 'THUMP'. The car Sheppard had been using as cover rocked heavily, not enough to overturn, but enough to throw him forward onto the sidewalk. Glass exploded from its windows, and a mist of liquid sunlight sprayed over one side, sizzling like a greasy frying pan as it burned holes in the chassis. A howl of mechanical agony split the air as the shockwave passed, and through eyes partially clouded by dust, Sheppard saw Ruckus, now missing a leg and a half, flop backwards, crashing down in a heap of twisted metal, spasms of pain wracking him. Faintly, he thought he heard Lennox calling him, and he looked down to see his radio, still happily attached to his vest, crackling as the Lieutenant Colonel tried to reach him. Fumbling, fingers shaking and ears ringing slightly, he grabbed the radio and brought it up to his mouth.
"This is Colonel Sheppard to all teams, Tango-One is…mostly neutralized." He said, looking back over at Ruckus. Ironhide was standing again, small melt-marks from flying thermite covering the side of his body that had been facing the explosion. He was approaching the writhing body of his enemy as he reattached his arm-cannon, growling curses in Cybertronian.
"What?!" Lennox demanded, "What's that supposed to mean?!" The ground shook as Ironhide fired two more times and the frantic sounds of metal scraping and banging against pavement ceased.
"Never mind." John said, "What about Tangos Two and Three?" The radio crackled as Lennox contacted the other groups engaged elsewhere in the city.
"Tango Two has also been neutralized. Tango Three…is still pinned, but not for much longer." He finally replied, voice sounding both worried and relieved.
"Well, let's get in there and back them up." Sheppard said, before coughing as the wind blew a cloud of dust into his face. As he hacked and waved to clear the fog of war, the whirring rotors, colliding metal and hissing hydraulics of a Cybertronian engaging in transformation caught his attention. He turned to see Ironhide rolling slowly towards him, now back in his vehicular form of a GMC 2007 Topkick, with thermite scarring on the left side. As the Autobot reached him, he threw open his rear passenger door on the right.
"Get in." the truck's radio growled. Sheppard sighed, clambering up into the truck's cabin. The frightened citizenry who had all run indoors or as far away as they could minutes before were slowly creeping back out. Sheppard pointed at one, a short man in a uniform that mildly resembled the uniform of a British Limey.
"You!" he said, gesturing to him, causing the man to flinch.
"Y-yes?" he said, and Sheppard decided he was probably new to law enforcement, if that was indeed what he was. At least he wasn't pointing his sidearm at Sheppard. That was probably thanks to Ambassador Quinn, he told himself. He'd have to remember to thank him for seeing to it that they had faced a minimum of interference.
"Keep people away from the body. It's radioactive. A disposal team will show up in a bit. For now, get everyone to stay clear!"
The people of Kelowna were advanced enough to know what 'radioactive' meant, thankfully, and the danger that the term entailed. The man gave a hasty salute, then turned back to the civilians and began shouting at them, calling to two other men in uniform's similar to his.
"Jarek, Ilan! Get everyone back! We need to establish a perimeter! Everyone please stay clear! Go back inside!" he hollered, making Sheppard grin. The man knew his stuff. It didn't matter if he was or wasn't law enforcement; he was trooper material. John slammed Ironhide's door closed, just as the one opposite him opened and Lennox hopped in, removing the sling of his rifle from around his neck before slamming the door and patting the dashboard.
"Let's go 'hide." he said, "Fight's not over yet."
"Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are moving to assist Ratchet." Rodney suddenly declared over Sheppard's radio.
"What?" Lennox growled, "They're supposed to be holding their positions!"
"When I get hold of them, that's all they'll be doing" Ironhide growled.
"Hoo-boy…" Sheppard sighed. This was turning into another long day…
On the far side of the Kelownan capital, Ratchet, chief medic of the Autobots, was facing a situation similar to the one Ironhide had just ended. He was in a bad mood. He'd been torn away from his research in his lab on Earth, where he'd been having a rather enjoyable conversation with that Doctor Robert Ulian, who was just about the only human Ratchet felt he could stand talking to for more than ten minutes. For coming from such a primitive species, the man had a way of looking at problems and information that made Ratchet feel like he was back in Iacon's Great Academy, competing with his peers to prove his theses. Now he was here, in the place he least enjoyed being, which was the middle of a fight.
As he dived clear of a fresh hail of micro-missiles from the appropriately-named Barrage, he let out a mental sigh of annoyance. He'd started this war as a pacifist, with nothing but disdain for Ironhide and his ilk, whom he saw as brutes who simply blew up whatever they didn't understand. However, after watching the Decepticons burn so many places he'd once called home, Metroplex, Polyhex, even Iacon, he'd come to appreciate the necessity of combat. That didn't mean he enjoyed it though.
"FIGHT ME, AUTOBOT SCUM!" roared Barrage, "SHOW ME THAT LEGENDARY COURAGE! OR HAVE THE AGES ROBBED YOUR SPARK OF FIRE?!" Ratchet huffed and sprayed the rust-red monster with suppressing fire, prompting the Decepticon to cross his arms for protection and wade through the hail, laughing maniacally. He crashed into Ratchet, knocking him to the ground, seizing his wrists in an effort to pin him.
[Lieutenant Mills, now would be a good time…] he growled over his internal comms. The human didn't bother responding, which Ratchet respected. Instead, there was a series of cracks as the man and his team, who had been waiting behind Ratchet for this moment, opened up with their own fusillade of anti-materiel fire. Barrage roared again, this time in pain as the heavy rounds tore through his shoulders and head as he crouched over the Autobot medic. He stumbled backwards and scrabbled at his body as the rounds burned holes in him, like a man clawing at mosquitos.
"Filthy, shrieking vermin!" he growled, as Ratchet somersaulted upright, extending his medical saw, which whined to life with the scream of a perfectly-balanced cutting tool. The Decepticon opened his missile ports, and with his sensitive optics, Ratchet saw that the targeting lasers associated with the Con's integrated micro-rocket launchers were not aimed at him, but behind him.
Ratchet wanted to sneer. Typical Decepticon behavior, ignoring the more immediate threat for the sake of petty revenge. Ratchet fired his autogun at the 'Con's weapon batteries, scattering their' targeting lock. Barrage tried to recover, but before he could, Ratchet's saw dug into his chest. Frantically he pushed it down and away, leaving a gash in his pectoral armor that made him look like a half-opened can. He swung at the medic's head, only to have it blocked by his enemy's left hand, which had retracted its autogun, before Ratchet spun around, his back to the Decepticon, bringing his right elbow up into the monster's face. The clang of metal on metal resonated through the canyon of buildings, once, then twice as Ratchet repeated the maneuver, before spinning the other way and twisting Barrage's right arm behind him, putting the 'Con back in the line of fire for Ratchet's backup. Fresh fire from the Lieutenant peppered Barrage as he reached back with his free arm, trying to grab Ratchet, then shoving backwards when that failed in an effort to hammer him into the buildings to either side. Ratchet was prepared though, and planted his pedes firmly to resist the weight, before burying his saw in the Decepticon's left shoulder.
"RAAGGHH!" cried the overconfident, rocket-happy berserker, apparently forgetting that he had his own weapons. Ratchet couldn't help but wonder where Megatron kept finding these buffoons. He must've been scraping the bottom of the barrel to dredge up this incompetent. Or perhaps it was Starscream. The Seeker Commander had a habit of attracting the lowest members of any skill set who were easily corruptible. Either way, this was proving too easy. It was a curious thing he had realized about himself recently. He still detested violence, but when fighting, he found himself hoping his opponents at least knew what they were doing. Somehow, it was insulting to be reduced to fighting clods like Barrage.
"Courage is unnecessary when a plan will do." he said calmly, "Now, surrender."
"Never!" growled the trapped Decepticon, and opened the missile tubes on his launchers, only to find that they were no longer responding.
"I have disabled your weapon systems," Ratchet explained as the Decepticon redoubled his attempts to break free, causing Ratchet to swing him around and run him face-first into the building on his left. "Your allies are dead. Mine are on their way. Surrender." he repeated.
"I will not!" bellowed the Decepticon, before pushing off from the building and overcoming Ratchet's resistance. Too late, Ratchet realized that he had underestimated his opponent in his haste to beat him. As he crashed up against the opposite building, he lost his hold on Barrage's arm, which pulled free and reached around to his back to disengage a heavy, canister-shot weapon from his back. As he brought it to bear on Ratchet, the sound of roaring engines filled the street as a pair of Corvette Stingrays, one gold, one silver, noticeably out of place with the prodigiously more primitive setting provided by Kelowna, skidded out of an intersection and thundered towards Barrage.
[What's the matter, old man? Can't handle one Decepticon punk?] said Sideswipe over Ratchet's comms, his tone smug, yet welcome as far as the medic was concerned. He took the opportunity to slug the distracted Barrage across the jaw, The 'Con was shocked, and fired his weapon prematurely, embedding a heap of glowing shrapnel in the wall to Ratchet's left, the gun's report so loud it was like a clap of thunder. At that moment, the Corvette-shaped brothers transformed, speeding onwards on their high-mobility pede-replacements. Sideswipe ducked and slid behind Barrage to get on his left, while Sunstreaker didn't stop, preferring to plow into the 'Con, swords extended, knocking him sideways and pinning the hand holding the grip of his weapon to his own chest.
"Autobot sc-" Barrage tried to get out before the duo set on him, slicing and cutting, vaulting over him while circling around him, always out of reach. Ratchet almost felt sorry for the Decepticon. The brothers precise, dare he say surgical, as they totally dismantled the screaming Decepticon, reducing him to collection of severed limbs and parts around a split torso with a guttering, flickering Spark. Ratchet decided to finish it and extended his Autogun, before putting a round through the core of the twitching husk.
"Hey!" growled Sunstreaker, "What was that scrap?"
"The fight was over." Ratchet said, "Anything further would be a waste of effort and a show excessive brutality." He glowered at the two young warriors, who glared back.
"He was still moving. That makes him a threat." Sideswipe said.
"Enough." Ratchet snapped, "Our work is done here. We must regroup with Colonel Sheppard and Lieutenant Colonel Lennox." He retracted his weapons, adding emphasis to his command. The duo looked at each other, then retracted their swords grudgingly. Ratchet sighed internally with relief, thankful that the nightmarish scenario which had started to form in his mind from that look had not come to pass.
When Ironhide finally reached the rendezvous site, Sheppard was the first out of the Autobot's cab. However, Lennox beat him to the punch for berating the brothers.
"You two," shouted Lennox, "have a lot to learn about following orders!" Behind him, Ironhide split and returned to his bipedal state, crossing his arms with a dangerous look in his optics.
"We-" started Sideswipe, his expression offended and indignant as Lennox cut him off.
"You disobeyed a direct order! I told everyone to stay put unless told otherwise after their target was terminated."
"You went to help Ratchet." growled Sunstreaker, "Don't see why we should just sit on our afts while the Doc has to wait for you to cross half the city to help."
"Are you even hearing what I'm saying?!" Lennox bellowed, "I don't care if you were less than a street away! If someone gives you an order, you follow it!"
"We were just-" Sideswipe started.
"Can it! As of this moment you two are benched the second we get back!" Lennox shouted.
"You can't-" the silver warrior growled.
"If you don't want to listen to him, listen to me." said Ironhide, extending his left cannon, "You two are grounded. That final enough for you?" The brothers shared another look, which made the hairs on the back of John's neck stand up, before backing down and reverting to their vehicle forms, like a pair of wolves kneeling before an alpha. He allowed himself an internal sigh of relief, before his radio clicked twice in an attempt to get his attention. He turned away from the spectacle and walked a short distance from the soldiers, who were packing up their equipment, tending to wounds, or else simply chatting while waiting for orders.
"This is Sheppard. I presume that's you, Rodney?" he said into the receiver. Immediately his friend's harsh, somewhat persistently-accusatory tone responded.
"Who else could it possibly be?" he said. Sheppard opened his mouth to deliver a smart-aleck response in the best tradition of General O'Neill, but Rodney beat him to it.
"Never mind, don't answer that." he growled, "The cleanup crew just left the main bunker. They should be reaching your location in about ten minutes. Look for the black choppers." Sheppard rolled his eyes.
"Are they bringing Neuralyzers?" he replied as wittily as he could.
"No, why? Afraid they're coming to erase your razor-sharp wit?" Rodney retorted.
"Whatever." John sighed, deciding he was too tired to antagonize his friend further, "I'm assuming we've made Ambassador Quinn a happy man?"
"He's bursting with joy. Look, can you just get back here so we can leave?" John grinned, hearing the subtle unease in his friend's tone. Ambassador Jonas Quinn, former member of SG-1 and chief liaison of Langara to her offworld allies, was one of the few people that had the power to make Rodney feel insecure. Sheppard suspected this was because McKay was still nursing a grudge over how, years before, Jonas had helped save Earth from total destruction at the hands of Anubis, after a prior attempt by McKay himself to do the same thing had ended with a dozen servicemen nearly being electrocuted. What probably made it worse was that it had all happened in front of Samantha Carter, who was still to this day an object of Rodney's unrequited lust, and probably the only person alive who he would come close to admitting was smarter than him.
Between the shame and jealousy, the event had left the good Doctor McKay with a habit of acting snappish and irritable whenever he was in the same room as Quinn...or at least, more snappish and irritable than usual.
"We'll be on our way as soon as the cleanup team gets here. How are things back at the bunker?" Sheppard asked. There was a pause before his friend responded.
"Everyone's still a bit jumpy." he admitted, "I still don't think they're fully grasping what we just helped them with."
"Hey, if I were them, I'd be pretty shaken up too." Sheppard said, "It's not every day a robot alien warlord sends some of his goons to trash your planet so he can get back at your allies."
"This is the eighth planet Megatron's attacked since the I.O.A. announced its plans about the Galactic Defense Pact." Rodney said, "I seriously doubt it's just about getting back at Earth."
"Probably." Sheppard admitted, "Still, we've given him more to chew on than just about any other planet he's come across, according to Optimus. If I were him, I'd been looking to get even any way I could." There was a long pause.
"Everyone alright?" McKay asked nonchalantly, or probably what he hoped was nonchalantly. Ever since he'd started dating Jennifer Keller, he'd made attempts to be more personable, which when juxtaposed with the baseline crabby, arrogant bastard McKay usually came across as, often left Sheppard reeling. The resulting hiccup in his train of thought was enough to rouse him from his brief reverie.
"Just a few casualties. Lots of sprains, cuts and bruises." he admitted, then added somberly, "Two confirmed casualties." There was another pause in which he was certain he could hear Rodney wincing at the news over the radio.
"Well, medevac teams are coming with the cleanup, so hang in there." the scientist finally said. There was another pause.
"You know it's not your fault." Rodney said.
"It never is." John replied, "Or at least that's what they tell me." He'd been in the armed forces for nearly two and a half decades now, and fighting off-world for almost half that time. He'd seen soldiers die plenty of times, some of them his friends, others whose names he'd never even learned. Ever since he'd been placed in a command position though, that first fateful day in Atlantis, every death had stung even more than it ought to, because the people dying weren't just fellow soldiers, but his soldiers, people who looked to him for guidance.
Of course, the melancholy of his mood wasn't random. Over time he'd learned to get past the cost, even though it hurt. Today though, the knowledge that another two men had died under his watch had a special meaning.
"I'll be on the lookout for the choppers. I'll see you back at the bunker. Sheppard out." he said, before clicking the radio off and taking a seat on the nearest bench he could find, his mind full of guilt and memories of a man named Aiden Ford.
Invisible, the signal howled across the cosmos, moving at superluminal speeds through subspace, bypassing the radioactive interference of stellar nurseries and pulsars. It was broadband, but tightly encrypted, designed to sound like nothing more than an eddie in the echoes of the Big Bang for those who didn't know what to look for. And so it sang across the yawning void, unnoticed and incomprehensible, passing from the silent shores of Andromeda, where the mighty Asgard had once ruled, to the mysterious glow of Triangulum, where not even the Ancients had walked. It brushed against the edges of the Magellanic Clouds, held in the grip of their great devourer, the Milky Way, where the signal's target awaited, though the sender did not know it. The transmission pierced the dark matter halo of the great belt of stars, rushing from world to world until it at last reached its destination...
In the twisted wreckage of Barrage's body, a small, complex receiver, encased in the dense wiring of his helm, began to pulse…
A/N: Here it is! Chapter 1 of my reboot! For those that are new, this is a reboot of my story Stargate: Those Left Behind. I've ditched the first-person perspective, but I hope that's for the best. This is a sequel to Era Yachi's story Same Side, which introduced the SGA team to the world of the Transformers. This is set about three or so years later, and as a result of among other things, their fight against the remnants of Michael's Hybrids and the Decepticons, big wheels are turning for the Atlantis crew! Everything will be revealed in time, but for now, enjoy the story, and support me with words of encouragement, because seriously, there's nothing more compelling than knowing I'm not alone in enjoying my work!