(First foray into the world of TF fanfiction. This is set in the 2007 movie-universe, and was spawned by watching a few episodes of the classics. Co-written with Deviantart's IAmLazarus. This is simply an introductory chapter. The real meat of the story will come later. Also, please note that this plays off the idea that certain members of the "bad guys" survived—purely because no cannon describes them as being dead through the course of the movie. Good reading!)
Unknown Date, Unknown Time
Among law enforcement, there is a belief, that when the moon is full, the number of crimes increase. And while statistics occasionally prove this rumor one way or another, on this night, such was indeed the case, even for a sleepy corner of the California desert.
Normally, the area was uninhabited, save for the smattering of rodents and reptiles that called such a climate home. Years ago, it had been another story altogether, as one of the country's many winding highways had passed through the region, cutting like an asphalt scar over the ruddy landscape. However, with the addition of the LA freeway, such little highways as this had been completely abandoned, leaving the exoskeletons of once prosperous businesses to rust and decay along their dried-up lifeline. One of these, a gutted excuse for a gas station, slumped near an equally desiccated lakebed, its pumps and garage long since empty. Over time, a graveyard's peace had taken it over, especially on the occasion when the moon shone full above—casting bone-white light over the scene. The only thing clashing with the scene of utter desolation was the putrid green glow of a new soda machine, its light spilling like a beacon over the sand.
Unfortunately, tonight seemed to be the exception, as dust rose on the horizon, heralding the return of traffic to the otherwise dead station.
Gradually, a vehicle emerged from the dust. In the sun, the version two Hummer would have been a bright, blinding red, but the night dimmed the color to nearly black. Its passengers hung out of windows, shouting at nothing, waving half-full, dark bottles in the air. The car wove on the road, occasionally overcorrecting to wind up grille-first in the sagebrush. It would always right itself, heading on a more or less straight path—directly for the abandoned gas station and the dry lakebed beyond.
Upon reaching the swath of green light from the soda machine, the vehicle jerked to a halt, nearly slamming into one of the abandoned pumps. Two teens stumbled out, staring in bewilderment at the bottles in their hands. The driver remained behind, fiddling with a static-laden radio.
"Man," one of the teens slurred. His once crisp blue shirt was now stained with the booze, and sand stuck to the damp patches on his back. "Man, I… I'm so thirsty."
"Finish your beer," said his companion. "S'liquid. S'like… thirst… quencher. Yeah."
The first pointed in the general direction of the soda machine. "Dude, it's all gone and shit. Let's getta soda. Soda's what like… good?"
"Yeah that'll work."
"Dude, shut the hell up…"
They started for the machine, still weaving on their feet. Occasionally, they would pause, as if forgetting their purpose. Upon reaching their destination, the teen in the blue shirt fished around in his pocket, frowning in concentration. The other paused, then announced, "I gotta bleed the lizard."
"Sick, man." There was a bleary smile on the first teen's face. "Dude. Yeah, sick."
Without further ado, the second teen began the careful process, which, due to many courses of alcohol, had become much more difficult, of urinating on the gas station's wall. His inebriation, however, caused him to miss the building by a large margin, putting the poor soda machine on the receiving end. Oblivious to his struggle, the first boy had problems of his own, mostly involving the insertion of a twenty-dollar bill into the soda machine. When this failed, he gave it a few swift kicks, managing to slightly dent the fluorescent frontal casing. Sudden realization appeared to come over him, and in a moment of genius, he shoved both twenty and a newly acquired quarter into the machine.
The quarter shot out of its slot, hitting him square in the forehead before rolling off into the darkness. He swore colorfully while his friend snickered.
Leaving his friend, the teen staggered away in the direction of the wayward coin. The shadows of moonlight stretched over the station, and even those in full possession of their faculties would have had difficulties in locating their quarter. The teen stood no chance, but he tried his best, the search eventually leading him well away from the light of the soda machine, and into the darkness lurking around the corner.
So intent was he on the ground, on finding his lost money, that he failed to notice the parked car until he careened into it, plastering himself across the front bumper. The cool smack of metal against his exposed skin briefly shocked him into the realization that he'd hit something tangible, something that, by all rights, should not be where he found it. The metal was too smooth, too new. Any cars out here should be rusted through, as neglected as the building they leaned against.
Blearily, he looked up, coming face-to-face with a uniformed officer, sitting still as stone in the cab of his cruiser.
The teen scrambled backwards. Bad enough to cause a head-on collision with a cop, worse still to do so while intoxicated, what was left of his brain reasoned. Quick as he could, he slid off the car, trying to keep low to the ground as he backtracked to his friends. There was still a chance they could get away without an arrest. Maybe.
Something shifted, tripping him up. He fell, sprawling into a pile of what were once pristine tires. The crash brought the other teen running, laughing with adolescent glee at the mess. "You are so wasted, dude," he sniggered.
"There's a cop, man!"
Laughter died. "You're shitting me."
"No man! Right over there!" He gestured in the vague direction of the darkness. "Quiet! We gotta get back before he sees me." The teen neglected to mention his earlier meeting with the officer. "He sees us and then he's gonna find out we're all wasted and that's not our car!"
"Shut up! Let's go!"
The wave of particles temporarily blinded both boys, but they still managed to back up against the wall of the gas station, shouting obscenities at one another. Abruptly, one of the shouts dissolved into screams of agony. One of the boys turned to silence his friend, only to discover he had vanished. His friend screamed again, but the sound cut off in the middle, finishing in a strangled gurgle. The boy turned.
Blood, glistening and black against the sand, pooled in front of a monstrosity. The only word his alcohol-addled brain could attach to what he saw was "scorpion"—but somehow, the image of inch-long arachnids did not sync up to what was currently turning his drinking buddy into finely-chopped chunks of flesh. Blades as long as his arms ripped and tore, sending blood and bits of unidentifiable body parts flying. Pale moonlight gleamed sickly off of scarred metal, illuminating a wicked, weaving tail—broken tip still sharp and deadly.
The teen screamed. As if hearing him, it froze, dropping the mangled corpse of the other boy. Something vaguely head-shaped rolled towards him. Eight eyes—round and big as softballs—snapped up in the direction of the survivor. The claws darted forward.
Some primal instinct fought its way through the haze of the alcohol. The teen ducked, rolling sideways. He heard a loud crack behind him, as blades met aged concrete wall. Screaming, tears of panic streaming down his face, the teen staggered to his feet, and ran, ducking around the corner. Their car was too far away. The cop was closer. The cop would have a gun.
As before, he plowed into the hood of the car. Perhaps it was just the drink talking, but the officer still appeared to ignore the surroundings. The boy pounded on the hood, begging, pleading for a reaction—for help.
The car shifted.
Watching it, the teen could do nothing but scream. His voice only cut out when a massive, metal fist came down, turning him into nothing more than a blotch on the desert sand.
Straightening, the monstrosity stared down at the mess on its fist, then, almost delicately, knelt to wipe the remains on the sand. On the road, tires squealed, accompanied by the high-pitched whine of a human scream. Its expression altered only slightly, glowing red eyes following the progression of the human's vehicle, calculating a probable route of travel, destination and time of arrival. The horrible eyes turned towards the scorpion.
Shuddering, the scorpion looked upwards, uttering a chattering sound. It waved its bloodstained weapons menacingly, blades gleaming.
In an instant, the larger form had it by the tail, clenching powerful hands. "That was an order, Scorponok," it said. The words took on an alien form, beeps and pulses combining with guttural growls. "And you will follow it, or you will be destroyed."
The larger form dropped the other to the ground, never taking its eyes away from the scorpion.
With a whine, Scorponok shuddered down into the sand—a small mound of moving earth the only sign of its passing.
"Sir! Barricade! Sir!"
The glowing light from the soda machine shifted, dimming briefly, then moving closer.
"What is it?" Barricade growled down.
The small machine was next to worthless, having little more sentience to it than one of the computers on the planet. It would be a decent weapon in battle, but was of little consequence otherwise. Fortunately, it had learned to speak—something not even the late Frenzy had appeared to master. A pity about its passing, Barricade thought briefly. It had been, at least, of great skill in information gathering. The Spark-created machine had to be ordered to do everything—from transform, to shoot. It grated on Barricade's waning nerves.
And he had little to spare, lately. Without Starscream, Barricade had few options left open after the Decepticon defeat. In any form, Barricade lacked ability to fly, a point of great irritation to him now. Having been cut off from the main force after Prime's attack on Bonecrusher, he hadn't been entirely certain of the situation.
Until he'd tried contacting the others. Only the briefest of answers came through, accompanied by sneers of contempt—he was lost, he was missing their glorious defeat of the Autobots—until, one by one, the voices cut off. When he'd lost Starscream's signal to distance, Barricade realized he was on his own.
No matter. He'd had worse situations before. Training and experience taught him to make the best of it until reinforcements could arrive. There was the chance that Starscream would return, bringing more of their forces, but, again, experience said otherwise. It was up to Barricade to bring in reinforcements. And he was woefully unprepared.
He'd done his best to comb the remains of the battlefield for supplies—but, again, he was ill-equipped, as stealth had been Frenzy's job, not his. Humans swarmed everywhere, but, thankfully, the Autobots were absent from the rebuilding, leaving Barricade to pick over the spoils at his leisure.
Most of the machines created by the sudden flash of energy from the All-Spark had been destroyed, with the dratted soda machine only spared due to its inability to concentrate on where it was going at the same time it was shooting. Barricade had located it, much to his disgust, half-buried in a construction site. It was a pitiful way to rebuild their forces, relying on this creature, but losers could not afford to be picky.
Finding Scorponok still active had been a mixed blessing. With both Megatron and Blackout dead, there was no longer a Decepticon it would immediately obey. The only reason it had come to Barricade in the first place, he speculated, was that it was seeking an answer to its partner's sudden demise. Having crossed half a planet for its answers, he had assumed it would settle in to listening to his orders, but found time and time again that the smaller Decepticon had to be bullied into doing anything.
Not that Barricade had a problem with taking such measures. However, it did grate on his already thin patience.
"Get back in your disguise…"
He paused. Did the misbegotten thing even have a designation? No matter. It would serve its purpose soon enough. Grumbling, he shook his head. "… Never mind. We're on the move again. If that meatbag makes it back to town this place will be infested in a matter of hours."
It glanced in the direction of the desert, chattering in an imitation of Scorponok.
"Scorponok will join us when it finishes its assignment," the Decepticon growled. "Ready the supplies and follow once it arrives."
With a clank and grind of metal, Barricade shifted into the form of the police vehicle. The soda machine moved to follow his orders, hefting a myriad of objects into the trunk and interior of the transformed Barricade. Slamming its doors, Barricade peeled out into the barren night, stunted cacti the only witness to his departure.