Birds and Bumblebees

Authors Note: This has been a long time coming. My brain has been welded shut with the worst kind of writers block imaginable. It must be close to a year since I posted a chapter on any of my fanfics and for that I sincerely apologise. Big thanks to everyone who has been following my work and leaving reviews. You guys helped pick me up and get my aft rolling again. Even bigger thanks must go to my friends who consistently dropped by my inbox just to check that I was ok and actually still alive, LOLZ! I received many hugs and encouraging pats on the head from lots of people (I'm not at home at the moment so I can't list all the names, darn it! I don't want to leave anyone's name out) and I'm grateful and stunned that so many friends wanted to know what I was up to and if I needed anything. I think that says more than anything what great people fanfic readers and writers are, especially Transformers ones. We have a great community here on FFN and I'm thankful to be a member of it.

Just a quick recap since it has been so long since I posted the last chapter of this – many years have passed since the events of TF:ROTF, with the Autobots making a thriving community of their own on Earth. The only Decepticon still on Earth (or so the Autobots thought!) is Barricade and he rarely makes a spectacle of himself, much preferring to stay out of everyone's way. A bomb which took out the Autobot Command Centre and the living quarters of Optimus Prime (leaving he and Elita One buried under the debris and almost taking their lives) shattered the peace in one foul blow. Starscream has now made an opportunistic appearance by gate-crashing the base and taking off with Bumblebees girlfriend, Marin, and Major Lennox. Now it's time for Prime to make his move and rescue them – but can he? And what does 'Screamer want with Marin and Lennox?

Chapter 19

Autobot weapons inventory...

The two powerful Autobot femmes in the weapons locker were all business. They had to be. With one human man and one very-much-loved Autobot femme in the vicious hands of the enemy, they didn't want to be anything else. Their sparks hurt like blazes for their friends, but their mouths covered up for that fact with some very smooth verbal sparring.

"You take the two launchers; your subspace pocket has better stabilisers so they don't get shaken up." Elita One slid the launchers across the table using the ends of long and slender fingers. "The perks of you having a weapons mech for a sparkmate, yes?"

Chromia gave the Femme Commander a smirk at her reference to Ironhide, pulling the missile launchers over to her side of the big table in the armory. "Yes indeedy. His other perk is how fast and hard his crotch-"

Elita One grimaced and turned her head away while holding up her hand to say 'stop'. "I don't want to know about Ironhide's crotch. That's your territory, not mine."

"As it should be," the deep blue colored femme shot back, picking up a very large pulse rifle and slamming an energy cartridge into it, ratcheting it, locking the safety latch down, then lining it up perfectly with her other weapons on the tabletop without looking at it. "You put your hands on my 'Hide, and I'll rip them off and introduce them to your aft port."

Chromia knew every weapon the Autobots used (and a lot they didn't) back to front and upside down. Foreplay between her and Ironhide often involved each of them choosing a weapon for the other without them seeing it, and then stripping it, cleaning it and re-assembling it with their optics turned off so they couldn't see what they were doing. It was a test of expertise or a way of showing off, whichever sounded best. Of course, Chromia sometimes put her hands on the wrong 'weapon' when she was sitting cross-legged across from her sparkmate, but Ironhide never complained when her hand wandered over and ending up feeling around his conveniently naked groin. It helped that Chromia purred and tried to make the 'weapon' go off as she diligently cleaned it and armed it.

"Mmm. At least I have the manners to keep my hands off Optimus when we're in public. You seem to think you're doing a community service by sliding your hands under 'Hide's armor daily to give him a check-up," Elita said with a roll of her optical spheres while steadily filling her side of the table with endless weaponry.

"So what? We only do it in front of bots that we know," Chromia complained. "If you have trouble touching Prime's body in public then that's a problem you need to work on." The blue femme winked, "Emphasis on working." She held her hand up and wiggled her fingers rudely.

Elita's optics flared indignantly, "I have never needed to check my mate's parts to make sure they work. Ironhide's may need constant servicing because of wear and tear, but my mech is always in pristine condition."

"Pristine?" Chromia echoed. "If that mech of yours isn't getting dirty enough then you need to try some new positions so it isn't just his knees that get scuffed."

From the outside, to anyone watching the two femmes, it may appear that they were not concerned with the safety of Marin and Lennox, or weren't worried about how Bumblebee was coping. That wasn't true. Both femmes were amassing an optic-widening pile of deadly weapons on the table in front of them. Rifles, grenades, missiles, strafe guns, blades, anything and everything that could be considered deadly and offensive, they were stockpiling it. And they were doing it at a speed that surpassed that of any other femme. Or the majority of mechs. Both of them were using their banter as they always did – as stress relief and to stop themselves from crouching on the floor with their arms around each other for comfort as their sparks began to break for their friends.

Coming down the corridor solo, Optimus Prime halted just outside the doorway of the armory. Watching the two females. His immense physique was a tower of restrained strength and worry. He could feel the tight and tormented emotions coming from Elita over their sparkbond, she was hurting just as much as he was.

Prime took a step into the room. Elita and Chromia stopped bantering. Walking up to the end of the table that was in-between the two femmes, Optimus quietly removed his big rifle from his back, drawing it out in one smooth single movement, and then laid it on the table in the only space that was left. His legendary weapon over-shadowed everything that was there. Elita stared at it. To her, it was an echo of everything that her mate was and stood for – formidable, dangerous, handsome, shiny, and totally passive until provoked. Chromia saw it as the only weapon ever made that could possibly make her apologetically push her beloved mech mate aside for a short moment while she purred and cooed over the famous silver rifle.

Looking over the cache of weapons on the table that the femmes had amassed, the Autobot Leader spoke softly, "Ready?"

Elita lifted her gaze up so her optics moved from Prime's narrow waist, up his chest, past his impossibly wide shoulders, slid along his sharply masculine jawline, and to his intense blue optics. Her own mouthplates were grimly set. "I'd say we were ready the moment Starscream landed on the tarmac."

"Yeah." Chromia flash transported her weapons cache into her subspace pocket, then took her two deadliest rifles in one hand each and laid the business end of them over her shoulders like she was heading out to go fishing with explosives. She grinned up at the massive mech, "I'm ready to rock."

The small smile that appeared on Optimus Prime's faceplates was as close to cold as he would ever get. "Let's roll." He retrieved his rifle, tucked it away over his shoulder onto his back, then swung around and strode off with the two femmes following along behind him.

Starscream was a dead petrorabbit.

On the base airstrip...

Bumblebee sat on the lowered cargo ramp of the massive C17 plane, his restless optics moving from object-to-object on the busy airfield as he waited for his Commander. His body was relaxed but his CPU wasn't. The intimidating black bulk of Ironhide stood to the side of him. The bigger mech was acting as both caring guardian and stern enforcer to the Camaro. Ironhide stood on wide splayed legs with his arms crossed high over his thick chest, and his shadowed optics rarely strayed from the mech that he had been a loving mentor to for thousands of years.

Bee thought back to what had happened earlier. When the sedative used on him by Ratchet had worn off, the yellow mech had surprised his elders by being calm and motionless. No screaming, no attempt to race out from the medbay, no bristling weapons, no crazy carry-on. Instead, the youngling had a quiet intensity that made the others stand back and re-appraise him.

As Optimus Prime, Ironhide, and Ratchet had looked on, Bumblebee had folded away his weapons into his body so he was unarmed, taken a moment with his head bowed down to gather himself mentally, then looked up at the mechs standing around him and simply said, "I'm ready."

Ironhide had taken one look at him and then turned away, muttering a few curses. He'd seen mechs act like this before, and it had never ended well. Ratchet had deepened the disapproving frown on his faceplates and looked unconvinced. The CMO didn't have the height and mass of the other two mechs but he was damn near enough intimidating without it. Optimus Prime didn't move or speak. Their leader was as silent and emotionless as stone.

"Bumblebee, we believe we know where Starscream is, and naturally, where Marin and Lennox may be as well. I have a team preparing to leave for their location as I speak." Prime was silent for a few sparkbeats. He was making Bumblebee wait to find out if he would be given permission to join them. "I will give my approval for you to join us if you can promise me that you will listen to any orders that I give you, and not allow your instincts to put yourself, or others, in needless danger."

Ironhide grunted, glancing sideways at Prime. That was the nicest and most lenient, 'do as I say or I'll kick your aft' order that he'd heard from Optimus in quite a while. He could read between the lines. 'Listen' to orders? What happened to 'do exactly what I say or you'll be in the brig'? Prime was effectively saying that he knew Bumblebee wouldn't be able to keep control of his protective instincts, but that he expected him to strive to do so, and to keep the safety of himself and everyone else around him at the front of his CPU if he started to irrepressibly glitch. Hmmm. Prime was getting soft in his armor and achingly old...

Optimus took a step closer to his foster youngling, and slid the palm of his hand onto Bumblebee's shoulder. His expression softened. "We will get Marin back, and Lennox as well. Please trust me as you always have before." He squeezed his hand, angling his head down so he could look directly into Bee's optics. "Agreed?"

Bumblebee was nodding before Optimus had finished speaking. "Yes sir. Thank you." He lifted his head even higher, his chin in the air. "I trust you with more than my own spark, I trust you with Marin's as well."

Prime smiled. "Good. Thank you." With a final pat to Bumblebee's shoulder, he stood tall again and looked at his Weapons Specialist. "Ironhide?"

"Yeah, yeah," Ironhide had snorted as he waved one of his mammoth hands in Bee's direction, "I'm youngling-sitting to keep his aft in check. I got it. My foot is armed and ready to boot yellow aft into the next galaxy if he ever needs it."

As Ratchet had gathered up his tools and watched the three mechs leave for their mission, he'd winced when he noticed that Bumblebee didn't react at all to Ironhide's blustering comment. That wasn't good. Not at all. Bumblebee never let Ironhide take a poke at him without some sort of response, no matter how small. A flash of his optics, a finger in the air, a rude sound, an object in his hand to throw – something. Bee was a friendly and jovial mech to everyone except Ironhide. The CMO sighed deeply. His wide and capable shoulders drooped. He wanted everyone back safely so he could continue to lovingly harass and threaten them in his medbay. How else could he tell his friends how much he cared for them if he wasn't able to throw his tools at their stubborn heads?

Back on the tarmac, shaking his head to clear his memories, Bumblebee swiftly got to his feet when he caught sight of Optimus Prime striding across the airfield. Filling up the space behind him were his sparkmate; Elita One; and Ironhide's wicked sparkmate; Chromia. Elita had her rifle on her back, a pulse gun swinging from one thigh, and an assortment of grenades lined up along the outside of her other thigh. Chromia had a big rifle in each of her hands, with the pointy ends of them resting on her shoulders. Sticking out above her back were an assortment of rocket launchers, lasers, and anything else explosive that she could fit compactly in the remaining space upon her overloaded back struts. Bumblebee felt some measure of relief flood his spark when he realised that both of the femmes were packing more weapons on their chassis than he had ever seen on them before.

Optimus slowed his long strides as he got closer, allowing the two females to move past him. The big mech seemed to briefly consider the amount of weaponry covering the two femme warriors, then a bright flash on his back signalled the arrival from subspace of a new weapon attached to his broad frame between his shoulders – a massive broadsword made of deep blue metal with a thick chrome hilt. A sword bigger than the arm blades that Optimus usually used in combat. Bumblebee's optics widened. He hadn't seen that one before. Maybe Prime had felt a little small and under-armed compared to the femmes. Whatever the reason, Bee had no need to worry that they were going to be unprepared for this mission.

With a grunt of satisfaction, Ironhide propped his fists on his hips and held his head up proudly, "That's my femme." He glanced at Bumblebee standing beside him, and then jerked his thumb in the direction of the planes interior as its engines began to power up. "Load up, youngling. We've got some friends to save and a Decepticon to turn inside out."

Bumblebee waited respectfully for Optimus to move past him first. The Autobot Commander gave Bumblebee a supportive nod, and briefly held his hand to his chest above his spark without saying anything. Bee touched his own hand to his chest in response and then saluted.

No words needed.

Marin and Lennox...

Major Will Lennox stared at the rock wall containing them with an expressionless blank stare that was beginning to worry Marin. Ever since several hours ago when Starscream had dragged and carried them to this mediocre cavity in the cliff wall, the pair of them had made inconsequential small talk.

'You okay?'

'Yeah. Well, maybe not. Heh. What about you?'

'Pretty stuffed, some of it hurts, the rest is numb.'

'Better than all of it hurting', 'Uh huh, keep telling me that'.

After dumping both of them in the cavity, Starscream had gleefully shown them what would happen if they tried to get past the electrical field blocking the exit by picking up a metal bar from the ground and tossing it at the cascading waves of electricity. If the sight of burnt and twisted metal on the ground hadn't been warning enough, the Decepticon Air Commander chucking a poor seagull into it was even worse. Lennox had winced and brushed away the particles of fried black soot that landed on his face. Marin had turned her head away from the grotesque sight, lowering her gaze and staring at the ground in front of her with a shaken and disturbed expression on her faceplates.

Will sat with his back to the wall and tried not to remember that in too much detail. He wondered if Marin thought about the charred and twisted metal in the same way as he remembered the bird.

"I'm sorry that I don't know how to help you with your injuries," Marin bowed her head and stared at her hands linked in her lap, "all of my uplinks are currently blocked. I can't access any medical information that may help you."

Lennox coughed and wiped away some bloody froth from his lips. The off-coloured spittle worried him, but at least he wasn't feeling nauseous anymore. It was getting progressively harder for him to breathe though. His lungs felt full and heavy. "No matter. Don't blame yourself. We have no medical supplies in any case." He sighed and looked sideways at her, "There's nothing to be done." It felt strange to be next to such a small Transformer. Having spent so much of his time being a groupie of Optimus Prime, Ironhide, and the other big mechs, it felt disorientating to be with the small femme. It also made him feel that he should be trying to protect her. He was the man. She was the woman – of sorts. It was frustrating to him that due to his injuries he was currently not capable enough to help her.

He closed his eyes and rested the back of his head on the wall. Where were the others?

The Autobot rescue party...

Optimus Prime sat in the cargo bay of the C-17. Silent and contemplative. Elita One sat by his side. Due to his bulk, he was positioned at the end of the bay closest to the pilots, midway to the nose of the aircraft. This meant the other Autobots and heavy equipment could be spread out comfortably towards the rear of the plane to make an even weight distribution. His back was resting on the dividing wall, with his long legs drawn up in front of him. His hands rested in his lap. He was careful not to move from his designated position as doing so would de-stabilise the plane. He was allocated one spot to sit in and he wasn't allowed to move. Being big, powerful and awesome sometimes had its drawbacks...

::Sir, all reports indicate a lack of activity at the landing site. Starscream does not yet appear to know what is heading his way.::

Optimus cocked his head at the comlink transmission from his SIC who was on the other C17 flying in tandem with them, ::Thank you Prowl. The less he knows or suspects, the better.:: Prime's optics locked onto Bumblebee's bowed head. ::For all of us.::

Ironhide butted himself into the comlink channel, ::Hey, I want him to fear what's going to happen to him. He should be fluffing burnt energon from his exhaust pipe from terror.::

Leaning against the tall side of her bonded mate, Elita threw in her thoughts. ::If we wanted him to do that we'd air-drop a very slagged off Ratchet in there, hand him his best laser scalpels to play with and then run like the pit::

Optimus smiled wryly and patted his femme indulgently on her head. He then felt relieved when his actions got a small smile from the watching Bumblebee. The Autobot Commander's thoughts were interrupted by a solemn announcement from the pilot.

"Prepare for air drop in fifteen minutes."

All of the Transformers and their human allies began checking their equipment and weapons and just about every one of them had a mental image of Starscream's smoking and deactivated chassis in their heads as their mission objective.

Marin and Lennox...

Starscream had been entering and exiting the clearing in front of Marin and Lennox's imprisonment cave for the last hour or two. The big winged mech would walk in, stare at the two of them, frown, then leave. It was making his captives nervous. Mostly he stared at Marin, sized her up, cocked his head to one side, then swung around and left. Lennox was wondering if he was building a barbeque to roast them on, or something similar. Or even turn Marin into a kid's bicycle, if that was the kind of concept that scared Transformers.

"He seems to like you," Lennox murmured to the Autobot femme as 'Screamer left them for the umpteenth time.

"Is that worse than hating me?" Marin queried back softly.

"When it comes to Decepticons, I have no idea," Will sighed, staring up at the stone ceiling of their prison. He was still sore and injured, but at least he wasn't hungry. Marin had given him some dried fruit bars to eat from a compartment in her midsection – part of Elita One's preliminary military training to consider all aspects of the needs of their military companions, of which first aid and energy rations was high on the list. Marin had also drained out some water from within her own systems, assuring him that she had filtered it sufficiently so it would have no adverse effects on him, either toxic or bacterial.

Marin's gentle voice interrupted his thoughts. "I miss him."

"Bumblebee?" Will asked.

"Yes." She hesitated for a moment before adding, "Very much."

"Well, let me say I'm very confident that you and he will be back together very shortly, and when you do, can you do me a favour?"

Marin blinked her optic sweepers at him, "Of course. Anything."

Will grinned lopsidedly and reached up to pat her arm fondly, "Drag him over right in front of Ironhide and give him the biggest kiss ever. Bumblebee I mean, not 'Hide. It'll piss him off. I've been waiting for-" Lennox paused mid-sentence. "Hear that?"

The sky blue femme by his side lifted her optics up to stare at the roof of their prison. "An aircraft?"

"Yeah. An aircraft," Will struggled to sit more upright while glancing out the metal columns of their confined cage as the roar of the plane grew louder, "That's a C17!" He thumped a fist on the dirt floor of their prison in eagerness. "Man, Prime and good old NEST are pulling one outta the bag for us!"

Marin hugged her arms around herself and bowed her head, "Thank Primus..." Her communications systems frantically tried to make contact with the plane or whoever was riding inside of it, but she was still being blocked. All of her pings and open relays were meet with a heavy black fuzz.

"But..." Will's voice softened, "it's leaving." He frowned. "A drop-in, maybe?"

"Drop? Drop what?" Marin asked.

Will gestured at her to be silent with one raised hand. Marin kept her mouthplates shut. The human and Cybertronian stayed quiet, listening and anticipating for something to happen.

The ferocious impact of a huge and solid mass landing and crashing through the portion of forest just beyond their prison made Marin pray to Primus and Lennox to weakly pump a fist with a silly grin on his face. The tell-tale gleam and glint of red, blue, and chrome armor only offered glimpses of themselves through the forest undergrowth but they both knew who that particular mech was, one of the most comforting and welcoming sights Will Lennox and Marin could ever hope for – Autobot Commander, Optimus Prime. He came striding out on long legs past the tall trees and through the clearing with his battle mask covering his face, his massive rifle gripped in one hand, and his blue optics blazing to the point of looking like unholy fire. The odd bit of plant greenery sticking to his armor in no way diminished his triumphant arrival.

Prime had arrived.

"Optimus!" Marin scrambled inelegantly to try and get to her feet, but her painful injuries robbed her of her ability to stand fully upright. She was crouching with one leg held out to the side and her torso bent like a banana over her upper legs.

"Don't forget Ironhide..." Will panted, using her awkwardly extended leg to haul himself upright while squinting to look past the metallic bulk of the Autobot Commander to see who else was with him.

The human was right. Following on Prime's aft was the intimidating black mass of his Weapons Specialist, Ironhide. Where those two were concerned, one was never far from the other when it came to battlefield situations.

"Marin, Major," Optimus said with relief as he halted in front of their cave. He ducked his head below the level of the stone roof to assess their situation. His optic sweepers clicked at them. "If you would be so kind as to stand back at an appropriate distance, I believe I will be able to release you from your confinement."

"Hurry it up Prime, he's coming," Ironhide said gruffly, keeping his optics trained on a point above and to the right of them.

Optimus waited while Marin turned herself around on her knees to face away from the cave front and provide Lennox with protection at the same time. Then the big Commander flexed his right arm so that his rifle was pointing at a spot on the ground to the left of him. His optics narrowed, and he pulled the trigger. A small explosion signalled the demise of a buried generator that powered the electrical bars. An even bigger one that was the backlash of power from the powerplant, exploded the wiring that ran all around the caves entrance. Bits of rock, powder and black particles showered the immediate area.

"Time to leave." Prime got down on his knees and reached out to his friends with his free hand. He saw Lennox's ash-smeared face appear from under Marin's arm, and he smiled with relief, his optics dimming. It took Marin herself a moment more to gather herself together and begin to turn around. It was then that Prime's optics widened involuntarily at the damage she was bearing from Starscream's initial attack back at the base. She was so ripped, bent, and twisted that he honestly didn't understand how she was able to kneel upright at all. The hand that she reached out towards him with was shaking. "Primus..." Optimus whispered, taking her slender hand into his own wide grasp and closing his fingers around her softly.

Outside the cave, Ironhide growled and stiffened. "Prime, get back on your feet."

"Deal with it, 'Hide." Optimus ordered as he gripped Marin's small hand and began to help her shuffle and slide her way over to the safety of his presence. When a femme was injured, she became his highest priority.

Ironhide lifted his chin proudly, turned his big body to face the oncoming threat and rolled the massive chambers on his arm-mounted cannons, "Yeah." His optics narrowed. "I'll shake him and bake him."

Starscream was walking towards them with no apparent concern for his own safety. He was armed, but he wasn't pointing his weapons towards the Autobots.

"On your hands and knees again, Prime?" Starscream mocked, ignoring the angry flare of orange plasma directed at his faceplates by Ironhide's cannons. "I expected no less from such a weak leader."

"Stay calm, Ironhide, don't take his head off just yet," Prime responded. He was holding Marin close to his body with one arm, while carrying a grimacing-in-pain Major Lennox in his other hand. Epps trotted over to Prime and gestured for the big robot to put his best friend down.

"Just you? Only you? No other backup?" Starscream sneered at Ironhide. "Is this the best the Autobots can muster now?"

A slow smile appeared on Ironhide's roughly handsome faceplates. He shrugged one hulking shoulder without concern. His voice was hard and utterly male. "We've never needed to do much to deal with the likes of you, Starslag." A serious of thumps and grunts from the other side of the clearing made Ironhide's crooked smile grow wider. "But just to make your day brighter, we've brought a few friends along."

Starscream glanced behind him – to see a handful of human NEST soldiers, accompanied by Optimus Prime's second-in-command; Prowl; and spear-headed by a medium-sized yellow mech who had an expression of utter fury spread over his facial features.


Ah, the irritated and angry male partner of Marin.

'Screamer flexed the wings on his back. This was going just as he had hoped it would. The injured female, her angry lover, the incompetent leader and his psycho weapons specialist – and a group of observatory humans. Knowing what was to come next, this was the best he could have asked for. Brilliant. Even Megatron would've been patting him on the head if he'd been still functioning.

Bee strode across the clearing like he owned it. He didn't rush, or run, or cry out. He was solidly composed. His focus was purely on the small injured femme being held up by his Commander. As Prime turned towards him to transfer his femme cargo, Bee folded his arm cannon away into his forearm in a swift serious of clicks and whirrs. His composure lowered just enough for him to crack a whimper when Optimus eased the disorientated Marin into his open yellow arms. Carrying his beloved cargo, Bumblebee then started walking backwards, keeping one optic on Starscream while glancing down at his beloved femme. The loving scene of Bee cradling his small blue female in his arms was contrasted by the welcome being handed out to Major Lennox by Sergeant Epps.

"Hey! YOU! Watchu doin' getting taken hostage by this loser and hav'n the shit beaten outta ya, eh? Saving girls again?" Epps carefully eased Lennox's weak arm around his own shoulder as he continued his non-stop stream of rough loving. "Mah man, ya just like the extra pay and accolades. Admit it!" Epps rambled as he began half-carrying Will to a safe distance back from the others. Now was not the time to get caught in an alien robot shitfight.

Will was smiling weakly and feebly nodding his head. His feet dragged but he could walk somewhat. "Yeah... the extra pay, ugh," he shook his head to clear it, "does it for me every time. Oww." The exertion from being on his feet and upright was taxing him close to his limits.

Lennox felt the eyes of the other soldiers upon him. Despite his relief at being rescued, he was self-conscious about his physical state. His uniform was ripped and practically made of dirt, and he had several days' worth of stinky sweat on his skin. Due to the thick grime on his face his features were abnormally shadowed. Blood stains wouldn't shock anybody, that was normal soldier stuff, but the uncharacteristic expression of 'I've had it' on his wearied face would shake them though. Will couldn't remember a time when his body had been so mucked up. That was saying something considering the type of soldier he was.


At the sound of Bumblebee's vocaliser, the blue femme tried to focus more clearly on the handsome faceplates of her mech partner. "Sorry Bee. I c-can't... I'm all stuffed up. Couldn't..." she shuttered her optics tiredly, "...couldn't help it. He hit me too fast." The hold of her one good hand on Bee's chest armor started to weaken. "Too quick."

A purring sound came from Bee's chest. He bent his head down momentarily to brush her petite noseplates with his broader ones. "You're safe with us now."

"Dear Primus... 'You're safe with us now'!" Starscream parroted Bee sarcastically. "Please tell me I'm not the only one who feels like purging all over my own feet."

Optimus and Ironhide shared a glance. This was weird. Screamer had a multitude of rifles and weaponry pointed at his head and chest, he had the best Autobots (his natural enemy) surrounding him – including the best of the best in Optimus Prime - he'd just had his precious captives taken away from him so his previous advantageous bargaining chips were now null, and still he was puffing out his chest and acting normal? This was usually the point when Starscream sneered at everyone and took off into the sky while leaving a stinky cloud of jet vapour behind him. But he wasn't. So what was the 'Con really up to?

Acting on reflex, Optimus Prime scanned the immediate area (above AND below ground) with his sensors, searching for heavy ordnance and disguised bombs. His time squashed under a building with his beloved sparkmate had made him wary of surprise explosions. His scans came up clean. Obviously, 'Screamer wasn't going to blow them all up. Nor could he try and take at least one; or a few of them; out – what would be the point? Being surrounded by Autobots meant that he'd get his head taken off or his spark blown out of his chest by the remaining mechs. Starscream was a giant pain in the aft, but he wasn't that stupid.

Prime cocked his head to the side thoughtfully. There was something wrong with all of this, but what? He met the optics of his arriving sparkmate Elita One with trepidation and confusion. Elita stood on the other side of the clearing with a small squadron of human soldiers. The human men clustered around her feet looked like her adoring pets. The shadows of the encompassing forest shadowed her body and leant her dark red armor a menacing air. Just because she was female and of small physical build didn't make her any less formidable than her giant mech mate.

"Looking good, Prime. Got waxed? New paintjob? All new parts?" Starscream announced into the loaded silence. He waved one clawed grey hand around expansively in Prime's direction. "Getting a good deal from the humans are you? Being well looked after?"

"What are you on about?" Ironhide demanded, grunting dismissively.

"What are you attempting to ask, Starscream?" Prime rumbled quietly. "Get to the point."

"Ask? Why I should I be able to ask for anything? That is your domain. The Autobot domain. I'm a Decepticon, remember?" Starscream spat. "You get everything you want." He jabbed his own finger into his own chest. "We don't!"

"...Isn't 'we' a term that commonly describes two or more items? How can he describe only himself as 'we'?" Prowl murmured lightly with a querying arch of one optic ridge. He was a stickler for correct terms. Correct anything, actually.

Optimus held a hand of 'shush' out towards Prowl and the others while he kept Starscream engaged. "I would dispute that statement. I do not get 'everything' I or the others 'want'. We have worked hard towards our goals purely for the good of others who cannot adequately defend themselves against those who seek to destroy or control them. The actions of myself or those with me have never been about being rewarded or gaining wealth."

Starscream stalked forwards a few paces so he stood a mere one stride away from Optimus. Ironhide's cannons whirred as he increased their power intake and prepared to fire. "YOU -", Screamer stood up on the points of his feet to gain height against Prime's vertical supremacy, "have everything you WANT."

Prime's optics darkened and his optic ridges slanted down dangerously, "What are you-" He was cut off mid-sentence.

"SHUT IT! The humans supply what you want, when you want it, and in abundance. Fuel, shelter, autonomy, citizenship rights, credits, ANYTHING!" The Decepticon stood up even further so his head was almost level with Prime's jutting metallic chin. "Why can't the Decepticons get that too?" His words were turning into a shriek. "Are we bad because we want things for ourselves?"

Elita was watching Prime's reaction to Starscream's outburst. She could feel his emotions over the sparklink she shared with him. However, it was the little physical clues that Prime was doing that gave her additional insight since Optimus kept his emotions locked down and contained. The hand that wasn't holding his rifle was slowly clenching into a tight fist. The rest of his body gave little away, as always.

Prime's expression was stoic as he considered 'Screamers words. "I don't murder innocents. You, on the other hand..."

"No, you just murder those who oppose your peaceful ways!" Starscream raged on. "That's not 'peaceful'! How many Decepticons have been terminated because they got in your way? HOW MANY? You wanted Cybertron as your own just as badly as Megatron did!"

In Bumblebee's arms, Marin peered at Starscream ranting away. She let her body sink deeper into his embrace to make her feel more protected. Couldn't they just leave him? Why were they all staying to hear what he wanted to carry on about? If he didn't have an audience he couldn't rant at anybody.

Prowl cocked his head at Optimus. When the big Commander gave his quiet approval via a nod to Prowl's internal comlink query, the SIC spoke up. "Starscream, if you do not like it here why do you not leave?"

"On what ship? Using which power sources?" Starscream's body bent over into a crouch. His optics flared a deep crimson. "I have no ship, and I can no more break into your Autobot ship and steal yours to leave here than I could gloriously interface your precious Prime in his aft port!"

A few muffled snickers echoed around the clearing at the idea of Starscream vigorously fucking Optimus Prime in the aft. Elita looked disgusted and lifted the point of her rifle to point it at 'Screamers face. Prime appeared unmoved, his large body standing straight and tall; sparkling-like insults always failed to penetrate his psychological armor.

::This isn't getting us anywhere. Rip his spark out and let us leave, Lennox and Marin require medical attention.:: Ironhide communicated internally to Optimus.

Optimus considered that momentarily (the leaving part, not the spark ripping part) while he let his optics watch what was happening with Marin. Bumblebee had carefully set his femme down on the ground and let her rest with her back against a large tree. He was kneeling next to her and assessing her injuries and making minor repairs. 'Hide was right. It was past time to leave. Truth be told, he was also unsettled by Starscreams twisted statements of fury. But what were they going to do about him? Kill him? That would be another nail in the crypt labelled 'the Autobots caused as much destruction in their own way as the Decepticons did'. Starscream's argument was one that had haunted Prime's CPU for many a cycle since the war turned into the slaughter of innocents to achieve a goal; be it good (Prime ruled) or bad (Megatron won).

Before any other byte of data concerning the conumdrum was processed in Optimus Prime's legendary CPU, the squealing of multiple alerts from monitoring systems rocked everyone in the clearing.

"INCOMING!" Ironhide roared, spinning himself around on the spot with his arms raised so his cannons pointed up into the sky. Plasma from his formidable weapons started strafe firing the airspace above them in powerful booms of bright blue plasma. "Take cover!"

Prime cursed himself to Primus when he realised what was happpening. They'd considered every eventuality except one, and now they were being punished for it. Missiles from beyond the Earths atmosphere were raining down on them and because their trajectory was from above the atmosphere and came straight down at them from space, their normal warning systems were too slow to give them any advance warnings like they would have had if the missiles had been fired from somewhere on Earth. The satelittes picked them up, sure, but everything was too quick for any of them to do anything about it except for hearing the warning at the same time as the missiles were in their faceplates.

Then something else sent Optimus into a another 'what the?' moment.

The missiles were very poor missiles. The smallish projectiles slammed into the ground or Cybertronian armor – and disintergrated like fireworks. They were bursts of bright particles that disappeared as fast as they had arrived. They were loud, they were bright, and while they could kill the humans, they did nothing to hurt the Autobots. Prime and his Cybertronian soldiers stood around providing cover for those smaller and more vulnerable than themselves.


Starscream's piercing scream of fury made Optimus swing around to face him in the chaos. The Decepticon Air Commander was firing upon Marin. Another wave of missiles disorientated the Autobot Commander, and he held one arm over his head while his other arm hefted his rifle. Bumblebee had been partially covering Marin and inadvertantly protecting her. The scouts attention was focused on what was coming down from the sky instead of the threat that Starscream now posed, and that was his undoing. Bee was thrown aside in a scorched yellow heap by the electro-charged null bolts from Starscream's weapons. Leaving Marin vulnerable and in danger.

It was all too quick. Too sudden. Too loud. Too chaotic. Too much. Everyone else was too far away or too occupied. Starscream's arm was raised. His weapon was in Marin's terrified faceplates.

Prime moved. Driven by a surge of power down his physique that slammed his feet into the ground and propelled his body towards the mech now threatening an Autobot femme, Optimus slammed sideways into Starscream. The big Autobot wasn't one to leave things to chance. At the same time as he physically rammed Starscream, he activated his rifle and fired it, reasoning that if one tactic didn't work, another would. By slamming Starscream aside or shooting his spark out, either way, Marin would be protected. Prime's own protocols for the protection of others – especially females - demanded nothing less.

The shocking thud of many tons of alien mech colliding with the ground combined with the explosive concussion of Optimus Prime's signature rifle discharging got everyone's attention. As did the sudden absence of missiles from above. Through the haze of smoke and blackened particles that filled the battle site, every soldier turned their attention to what had happened between Starscream and Optimus.

Marin sat frozen, her optics locked on the corpse of Starscream who was stretched out underneath the bulk of a hovering-on-all-fours Optimus Prime. What had been a living threat to her only a second ago was now a cooling wreck of metal underneath the Autobot Commander. Her optics travelled over Starscream's blown out chest, locking onto the hole where his spark chamber had once been. His chest was achingly empty of a lifespark. Hesitantly, she raised her optics to look at Optimus. She then looked at Bumblebee knocked out on her other side with his armor littered by the black marks of concussive blasts.

Then she started to manically scream.

Over and over again.

NEXT: The citizens of Earth pass judgement on the Autobots and the Decepticons after the incident (and words) between Optimus Prime and Starscream goes global. One shall rise... and the other shall be banished to the other end of the universe. For good.