It is 2007. The first live action Transformers movie has been released and find myself thinking about my favorite transforming robots for the first time in years. As a "career" fanfic writer, I am bitten with the writing bug. I must write about Transformers, I need to. However, I do have other writing projects in the works in which I feel a certain obligation. I don't want to start something new, but the urge won't leave me alone.
I attempt to abate my muse by writing what I intend to be a short fic based on the movie universe. "Autobot Call" is well received in its early chapters, but it isn't what I want. This story remains unfinished to this day because it was not the story that would satisfy my craving. The live-action universe is not my universe.
When I thought about Transformers, when I went back to what made me love them, it had nothing to do with the movie. It was that old 80's cartoon show that engendered the love in me. I watched in rapt attention as a child and thrilled to its return when it aired early weekday mornings in grade school. Those of newer generations who did not grow up with this series sometimes see it as poorly done and corny by today's standards. But I believe it is still truly the soul of the franchise and everything else evolves from it.
This is the universe I wanted to write about. I wanted to soak in the nostalgia and relive my childhood delight. Only... I had not a single idea for a plot. I wracked my brain over again and still came up with nothing. The only thing that rattled around in my mind was an extremely bad Mary Sue story I fiddled with my freshman year of high school. It was about a girl who was killed and put into a robot body by the Autobots.
I wrote this story in the late 90's. It was inspired by the episode Autobot Spike, where Spike was placed in a haphazard metal body after his human body was wounded in an accident. Soon, his mental stability began to fester, so much so he even turned against the Autobots in his rage at being turned into a "monster". When he was returned to his normal body, however, the mental damage did not seem permanent. My thought process was, 'What would happen if someone was put in a robot body and they could not go back?'
Perhaps a deep and interesting concept to my teenage mind, but not so deep when I attempted to put it on paper. It was flat and aimless, poorly written and poorly planned; as most stories are for young, beginning writers. I was, however, commended on the originality of the idea at the time. Many told me they had never read the human-turned-Transformer plot before. But the story didn't last. It fell apart from my lack of ideas and was dropped.
Years later, in 2007, I looked at it again. It was still as simply written as I remembered, but now the concept wasn't so fresh. In the time between, there had been several human-turned-robot fanfics posted online. They were as trite and cliche as mine had ever been. Were they inspired directly by my old, original fic? I don't know. But I did know the concept wasn't novel anymore.
I wished I could write about something, anything else, but this was still the only idea I had. It was this or nothing, and my muse would absolutely not accept nothing.
So I decided to take up the challenge. I would use my idea (which, let's be honest, is a stupid one) and I would polish up that turd until it hardly looked like itself. I rounded out characters, fabricated multi-faceted plots, dug into Cybertronian origins, culture, history and backgrounds.
The first two books: Small Problems and Ghost in the Machine were not part of the old idea. I felt they were needed to set the mood of the story and introduce and solidify the characters. My hopeful plan was that I would finish Small Problems and all robot-writing urges would be purged from my system and I could leave it as a one-shot. Not so. When I jumped into Ghost in the Machine (galvanized by the large amount of positive feedback I received for the first story) I knew there was no backing out. If I worked on this one, I'd have to commit to the whole thing.
Now five books in, I never would have imagined I would get this far, or it would be this popular. Not that I claim this to be the best fan fiction out there. I still feel embarrassed over the basis of the main plot. I still wish I could have thought of something better.
But the readers have spoken and the readers are who matter. I have been praised for the characterization of the cast and also of my own characters. I've had people tell me they have read the story multiple times; they try to download it onto their digital devices or print it out so they can have it with them.
It was for these people that there is now an updated and extended version of Small Problems. Originally, in 2013, the plan was to turn it and Ghost in the Machine into a physical book. That, unfortunately, never happened. I am not good at figuring out how to put a real book together. But I have been sitting on this edited and extended version of Small Problems for a few years now. I figured it was time to let the fans have it in one way or another. Enjoy.
(Edited and updated as of Dec 2017)
By: Ty-Chou aka Ghost of the Dawn
Day One: Ambush Awry
"Prime, I think this is what we've been waiting for," Prowl announced from his computer station. "I've got a large group of Decepticons mobilizing. They're on the move, headed east."
Optimus Prime moved instantly to the side of his second-in-command, looking intently at the screen. It was indeed what they were waiting for. For the past several months, Deceptions had been raiding and stealing high tech parts from top developmental labs all over the globe. What they were attempting to make, none of the Autobots could guess. Even Wheeljack was stumped. Without an idea as to their enemy's intentions, it was difficult to predict where they would hit next.
Prowl kept the base on high alert for weeks, sending out teams where he could in attempt to catch the thieves in the act. Most missions proved unfruitful, the Decepticons always one step ahead. But now they were overtly moving en masse, something was up.
"What's their destination, Prowl?"
"Its hard to say at the moment, but unless they're crossing the ocean, my guess would be somewhere near the east coast of the United States. They're either going somewhere big, like New York, or they want some place secluded; maybe in Canada."
Optimus took a moment to consider. "Either way, Megatron's on the other side of the country. We need to follow now if we want to catch him before he can finish whatever it is he's up to."
"Roger that, Prime."
Optimus opened his com-link to his other second. "Jazz."
"Right here, Prime," Jazz said as he walked into the room. Perfect timing as always. "What do ya need?"
"We need a squad assembled now. Prowl, radio Skyfire and tell him to be ready at the base ASAP. Jazz, organize a team."
Jazz rubbed his chin in thought. "That's a tall order, Prime. We've sent a lot of teams out to respond to Decepticon activity already. They're scattered across the globe. I could probably grab Wheeljack, Ironhide and Blaster."
Optimus looked at him. "That's all?"
Jazz shrugged. "Ratchet's here, too. But that's about it."
"Ratchet stays," Optimus decided. "Tell him he's in charge while we're gone. Jazz, Prowl, you're coming with me."
"Sir," Prowl acknowledged as he stood.
The doors hissed as another, much larger body came into the control room. His massive form loomed over the Prime.
"There going to be a fight?" Grimlock demanded as he stomped in. "Me Grimlock want to fight Decepticons, too!"
Normally Optimus didn't want a bot like Grimlock to come on such a mission where they had no idea what was in store for them. But being as how he was terribly short-handed for this battle, he could use any able body that showed up.
"That's fine. Grimlock, where are the other Dinobots?"
Grimlock thought about it for a while and then shrugged. "Dunno. Me Grimlock not their creator."
"Fine," Optimus surrendered. Now wasn't the time to argue. They needed to get in the air. "Jazz, Prowl, please inform Ratchet of our departure and assemble whomever you can find. Grimlock and I will meet you in the hanger."
Both seconds saluted and hurried off to fulfill the task given them. Neither one envied their leader and his job of baby-sitting Grimlock while he waited.
Minutes later, Jazz had everyone assembled: Ironhide, Wheeljack and Blaster. Optimus never failed to be impressed with how well Jazz knew who was where inside the Ark. It probably came with the fact that he constantly visited with everyone.
Ratchet was present as well, arms folded over his chest and not looking too happy. "Something isn't right, Prime. This feels too deliberate. I think the Decepticons know how short handed we are right now. That's why they're openly making their move."
"Probably," Optimus nodded. "But we still have to go. Who knows what the Decepticons will do if we don't."
"I can send a second group after you as soon as they start showing up."
"Wait until you hear from me. I'm already wary of the fact there's no one left to guard the base. As soon as we figure out what Megatron's after, we may send Skyfire back to pick up reinforcements. For now, just wait for further instruction."
Ratchet nodded, still not looking to happy with it all. "Okay Prime, just be sure to keep me-"
"Hurry Optimus or me Grimlock go without you!"
The Dinobot leader was already aboard the landed Skyfire and shaking his fist impatiently at them. Optimus threw a long suffering look at his medic-turned-base commander. Ratchet was not sympathetic.
A flight from Oregon to the East Coast usually took about eight to nine hours using normal commercial planes. Skyfire made it in four. It was still too long for Optimus. He could easily tell Prowl didn't like the delay either.
The second was sitting more ridged than usual, watching his scanning equipment like a hawk. Three hours previous, it had been confirmed that New York City was the Decepticons' destination. That meant Megatron had at least three hours to prepare for his plan. That didn't sit well with Optimus at all.
The rest of his crew weren't too happy either. Wheeljack and Ironhide were trying to get Grimlock to stop pacing around and asking "When me Grimlock get there?" every five minutes. They weren't doing a good job of it.
Jazz was plugged into a transformed Blaster and both were drowning out the bickering with music.
Prowl, no doubt, had been able to tune out everything, keeping full attention on his equipment. Optimus envied his talent to do that.
"We're coming up on the city," Skyfire's voice announced.
"Roger that," Prowl replied. "We're getting Decepticon signatures strong now." He paused. "Megatron knows we're coming. We've got seekers heading straight for us."
"Skyfire, start descending!" Optimus ordered. "We're sitting ducks up here! We need to get on the ground!"
"Let me go a little further Optimus," Skyfire insisted. "I don't even have any Decepticons on radar yet. I can-"
He was cut off, outer hull peppered with laser fire. The jet shuttered from the attack.
"What in the name of Primus is attacking us?" Ironhide demanded as he stumbled around.
"There's a seeker signature above us," Prowl reported.
"Must be Skywarp," Jazz jumped in, now fully paying attention. "No one else could sneak up on us that fast."
"Skyfire, take us down! Now!" Optimus ran over to the jet's hanger and opened it. Hanging by the rim, he leaned out and fired his blaster at the black and purple jet. Skywarp fell back from the volley and then disappeared.
Skyfire jerked again as he was hit. This felt a lot worse than the first one.
"He got one of my engines!"
The Autobots felt the jet losing power as they descended faster.
"Brace for impact everyone!" Optimus commanded.
All aboard quickly moved to grab something solid. Grimlock's idea of bracing himself was turning into his dinosaur form.
Despite Skyfire's best efforts, the jet went down fast with a fusillade of laser fire following him all the way. He fought to keep his nose up, but the belly scraped roughly as it hit the earth, tearing up the ground like a trowel. Autobot bodies were thrown every which way at the circuit-jarring landing. Skyfire slid for several yards before coming to a stop, one engine smoking heavily.
Inside, the scattered bodies began to come to life.
"Ugh... everyone in one piece?" Optimus called as he pulled himself to his feet.
Jazz relaxed from where he was curled around the orange Autobot tape player. "We're good over here," he called, holding Blaster above his head.
In response, Blaster transformed into robot mode and pulled Jazz to his feet.
"All systems seem to be functional over here, Prime," Prowl called from where he was sitting. "Wheeljack?" He turned to the scientist sitting next to him.
"I'll survive," Wheeljack confirmed.
A piece of paneling suddenly sparked as it fell loose, landing between them. The two flinched.
"All functional over here, too, Prime," Ironhide called from the back. "Grimlock, however..." He gazed with derision at the large, robotic dinosaur whose head had gone right through the side of the plane. His back end flailed around as he fought to get free.
"Okay, get him out of there," Optimus said tiredly. "Skyfire, what's your status?"
"Not good," beeped the jet's control panel. "One engine is out of commission completely, another at 35%. And I don't think I can transform. I'm stuck here."
"That's not what I wanted to hear," Optimus mumbled.
"Skywarp's coming back," Prowl called as he watched the radar.
"Everyone out!" Optimus ordered. "Take down that seeker!"
Jazz, Blaster and Prowl exited with their leader, weapons ready.
"Me Grimlock get flying Decepticon," Grimlock said, his head still sticking out of Skyfire's hull. He stretched his neck skyward and spat fire as Skywarp came into view.
"Ya big metal idjit!" Ironhide barked from inside, trying to pull Grimlock by the tail. "Ya can't do it that way. Get yer head outta there!"
Wheeljack jumped in to help grab the Dinobot's squirming back end. Grimlock's tail kept thrashing this way and that in his excitement and both Autobots found themselves flung against the wall.
"Ya just had to make dinosaurs, didn't ya?" Ironhide grouched at the inventor.
"I still stand by my decision that it was a good idea!" Wheeljack insisted.
Outside, Skywarp circled to get another shot at the downed Autobots. He was met with a barrage of return fire from his enemies. One shot damaged the back rudder, causing him to wobble.
"Skywarp to Megatron," he radioed, "I've been hit. Request permission to return."
The voice of the Decepticon leader crackled back at him. "Are the Autobots down?"
"Yes sir! Mission complete."
"Yes, that Autobot Skyfire is a smoking scrap heap. They'll not be flying any time soon."
"Good. Then return, Skywarp. We have to prepare. Megatron out."
The black and violet seeker acknowledged the order and then teleported out of the immediate sky space. Stillness followed.
"Is it over?" Jazz asked, using Blaster as a shield.
"Dude, that ain't cool!' Baster complained, pushing him away.
"Hey," Jazz insisted with a grin, "Who hit Skyfire? You were covering me so I could shoot 'im down. It was a team effort."
Optimus ignored the bickering as he looked toward the sky. "It's odd that Megatron only sent one Decepticon after us and then retreated so quickly."
"His objective was probably to ground Skyfire," Prowl said pragmatically. "Which he did. For some reason, Megatron wants us to come by land."
"Well he's going to get it," Optimus confirmed. "We may not have any other choice." He turned his attention to the massive jet. "Skyfire, are you sure you can't transform?"
The jet shuttered with effort, but all his pieces stayed in place. "I'm afraid I'm stuck. Sorry, Prime."
"You did fine," Optimus assured him with a pat on the jet's nose. "The rest of us will take it from here. Autobots, lets find a safe place for Skyfire."
It was nearly an hour later by the time the Autobots managed to tow the massive jet to some place with cover. They found a hollow in a small hill which fit about half of Skyfire's size; then they grabbed foliage from near by trees to try and cover the rest of him.
"I don't know how well this will work." Prowl frowned at their sloppy job.
"It will have to do," Optimus insisted. "I don't like how much time we're giving Megatron to prepare." He opened his communicator to Teletraan-1. "Optimus to base."
"This is Ratchet. What's the situation, Prime?"
"We were attacked by a Decepticon. Skyfire is down and badly needs repairs. I'm sending you his coordinates. We're going to have to continue on without him. Please send a rescue party for him."
There was a pause on the other end.
"I still don't have anything to work with Prime. As soon as someone shows up, I'll send them out to retrieve him. That's the best I can offer right now."
"Understood. Just do what you can. I'll keep you updated on the situation. Optimus out." He terminated the link and then looked at the remainder of his team.
"Alright Autobots," he announced, pointing at the horizon, "to the city."
Megatron stood as Skywarp teleported into the air space above. The black and purple jet transformed as he slowly descended. The terrain was far too uneven for him to land in his alternate mode.
Their temporary base was an abandoned construction site. Only very recently abandoned, thanks to the work of the Constructicons chasing off the crew. Normally, Megatron wouldn't have bothered ridding any future battle site of humans. The deaths of such lowly creatures never concerned him before. However, he knew the Autobots. If they saw any of those pathetic organics around, they would use caution. And Megatron's plan counted on the Autobots rushing them with a full force attack.
"Report, Skywarp. What's the Autobot's status?"
"Skyfire is down, Megatron. The Autobots are proceeding by road. I counted seven total. Five vehicles, also Blaster and the Dinobot leader."
Megatron rubbed his broad chin in thought. That was about the number he expected with how thin he had purposefully spread the Autobot forces. But of all the scenarios he came up with, none involved any of the Dinobots; one of the Autobot's last lines of defense. Perhaps Optimus was already getting desperate.
"No matter," Megatron said out loud, "the result will be the same. As soon as those Autobots show themselves, their fates will be sealed."
Skywarp grinned at the thought and Megatron braced himself for the usual counter point that would follow.
So you say MIGHTY Megatron. But you have made this promise several times before.
Sarcasm in a high-pitched voice was what Megatron expected to hear. Then possibly a jab as to the dubious position of his leadership after so many failures. But instead, Megatron received only silence. Curious, the Decepticon leader turned his head to the red and white seeker, standing against a building with arms folded.
"Nothing to add, Starscream? Usually this is the part where you give us your input-after all the real work has been done."
"Continue as you see fit, Leader," was Starscream's cryptic reply. "We shall see how it goes."
Megatron eyed the seeker suspiciously. It wasn't often the he passed up a chance to call the Megatron on any past failures and further promote his own ideals as leader. But this time, not only was Starscream silent, he seemed very much disinterested in the plan at hand. Which also was odd for him. Next to criticizing his leader, Starscream's second favorite pastime was increasing Autobot casualties. The opportunity to do either did not tantalize him this time.
Something to wonder about another day. The Autobots were coming.
"Very well. Just make sure you do your part, Starscream."
"Yes, Leader," Starscream responded again, not moving.
Megatron wasn't the only one who had noticed Starscream's odd behavior. As Thundercracker approached his fellow seeker, Starscream paid him just as little mind as he had Megatron.
"What are you plotting, Starscream?" Thundercracker accused. "You seem very distracted today."
Starscream frowned. Thundercracker had an annoying habit of asking him what he was doing out of the blue. This time was no less irritating. Starscream chose his words carefully.
"It feels like something is going to happen."
"Of course something is going to happen, we're setting a trap, Starscream," Thundercracker retorted.
When the red seeker didn't reply, Thundercracker tried again.
"Okay, what is going to happen then?"
"Change," Starscream said simply.
"Change?" Thundercracker repeated.
Starscream growled as he shoved his null ray into his comrade's face. "You're getting on my nerves, Thundercracker," he warned.
The blue seeker instantly raised his hands in defense. "Point taken."
Starscream continued to frown, but slowly lowered his weapon.
Thundercracker was about to move to a safer spot, but decided to try his luck one more time.
"This change, Starscream, is it good or bad?"
Starscream gazed toward the horizon and frowned at the strange wind his sensors were picking up around him.
"I'm still deciding."
"Hey Megatron," Rumble called to his leader. "Don't you think we should do a test run before the Autobots get here? You know, just to make sure it's working?"
Megatron eyed the tiny Decepticon that barely went up to his knee. Apparently Starscream wasn't the only one acting odd that day.
"Another test? We ran one at the base. What is the point of another one?"
Before Rumble could respond, Frenzy came to back him up.
"Yeah, cuz, you know, we transported it a long way. It would be good to make sure nothing... got damaged or anything."
Megatron looked at the two oddly fidgety tapes as he considered the suggestion. Perhaps they had a point. This close to possibly the last fight the Autobots would ever see, it may be best to err on the side of caution.
"Very well. Soundwave, bring forth one of the attack drones."
"As you command, Megatron," Soundwave warbled. He pressed a button on his chest. Beside him, a pile of scrap metal transformed into a robot. It stood there mindlessly, waiting for further instructions.
"Observe," Megatron announced, always eager for a flare of drama.
He had been standing guardedly over a large, silver cannon for some time now. Megaton hefted it onto his shoulder and aimed at the drone, pulling the trigger. A blue light shot from the weapon, enveloping the mindless machine. The robot's optic visor flickered, almost as if it were aware of the danger, and then went out. For a moment, the robot stood still and then crumbled apart. All the individual pieces fell to the ground, lifeless; dead.
Megatron threw his head back and laughed. "This will be your fate, too, Optimus Prime! I will suck the energy from your very spark and you will fall into scrap at my feet! Then I'll go for the rest of your Autobots and they will be no more before the mighty Megatron!"
He raised his fists to the air and the rest of his Decepticons cheered.
Rumble and Frenzy exchanged relieved expressions and joined in.
"Megatron!" Skywarp announced. "The Autobots are approaching!"
"This is it, Decepticons!" Megatron bellowed. "Get into formation and wait for my signal!"
The Decepticons all moved into their assigned positions, strategically placed to box in the Autobots when they arrived. Then, as best as they could, the large robots hid themselves amidst the partial construction. Skywarp, the one who had shot down the Autobots, was the bait. He clearly stood amongst the rubble, fully armed and ready to fight.
As Megatron predicted, the Autobots saw the seeker and picked up speed, throwing caution to the wind and attacking without restraint. The convoy barreled into the site and the rest of the Decepticons made themselves known. The Autobots were suddenly surrounded, their enemies attacking on all sides with full force.
It was then Prime's group realized their mistake. They were too eager to find out what the Decepticons were up to. They should have been more cautious. They should have realized Megatron was waiting for them.
The sound of firing weapons pierced the air from all sides. The rest was a blur.
Crystal Carlisle left the gym out the back door; it was closer to the bus stop. She hiked her bag higher on her shoulder and stepped out into the night air. It was after dark. She shouldn't have waited so long to head home. Her mother wouldn't have approved of her being out this late, alone in this part of the city.
But Crystal didn't live with her mother any more. Not for a couple years now. And maybe she was a strong enough woman not to worry about what sort of dangers could skulk in the shadows. Or maybe she didn't care if any danger did find her.
Walking through the back alley, she heard voices up ahead. She paused momentarily before realizing the voices, though male, didn't sound all that old. Just teenagers hanging around.
Near the mouth of the alley, she saw two boys, looking no older than fourteen, talking excitedly while they fidgeted around a large dumpster. Every once in while, one would kneel down and shove a stick at whatever was beneath it.
Crystal sighed. Boys will always be boys.
"What are you doing?" she asked the two teens.
"There's something freaky under there!" one of the boys said to her. "I think we should call animal control."
"I think you should just leave the poor thing alone," she said. "It's just a regular animal and you're scaring it. Let it go."
"Nu uh!" The other boy insisted. "It's not a cat or a dog. I dunno what it is, but it burned me!"
"You mean it bit you," Crystal clarified.
"No, I mean it burned me."
She paused and, in the silence, Crystal heard a low growl coming from beneath the dumpster. There was definitely something under there.
"Listen boys, just go home and leave it alone. There's got to be something better to do with your time than this."
The teenagers frowned at being talked down to.
"Screw you, lady! I'm calling to cops!" one of them retorted. "Since you're too stupid to believe us!"
Crystal frowned as she pulled out her cell phone. "I believe the police is a great idea. Then they can help you call your parents and you can explain what you've been doing in the back alleys after dark."
The boys had a few more colorful phrases for her, but then retreated into the night at the mention of parents and their late-night escapades.
Crystal watched them go and then sighed as she put her phone back in her pocket. "Teenagers, they're such a pain in the ass."
Setting down her gym bag, she crouched to her knees. She wanted to follow her own advice and leave the poor creature alone, but first she had to make sure whatever was hiding there hadn't been injured. As she pressed her face to the ground, she squinted in the dim light. Something shifted in the darkness, but it was difficult to tell what it was. Crystal decided to take a guess.
"Hey, you okay under there?" she asked in a friendly voice. "Come out where I can see you. Come on, kitty, kitty."
The creature growled out a noise Crystal had never heard from an animal before. Then she gasped as the darkness lit up by two glowing eyes.
Run. That was all he could process at the moment. It was such an odd concept to him. Run for your life.
Not that fleeing from a stronger adversary was new to Prowl. The way of battle, advance and retreat, was the natural ebb and flow of warfare. But this never happened before. The tide never turned this quickly and he had never been so at a loss at what to do next. He had never fled for his life on two feet, unable to transform into his faster vehicle mode.
He couldn't transform while carrying Blaster with him-at least, the unresponsive form of Blaster in his radio mode. Something that would not have normally hindered Prowl in any way. But Prowl and Blaster's radio mode were not normally about the same size.
The radio's big and bulky form made it quite difficult to run. But Prowl couldn't leave his comrade behind. Blaster's death would be assured if their pursuers ever found him. It was up to Prowl to keep him safe, or die trying.
Rounding a corner, he crouched in the shadows, hoping to buy himself some time to think. The whole ordeal occurred hours ago and he had been running ever since. It was still hard to believe how it all fell apart so fast.
The Autobots all knew it was some sort of trap when they went into it. It always was. Megatron had been planning this for months. What kind of trap was the question. There was no other way to find out but to jump into the fray, guns blazing. Prowl transformed to root mode the second he felt something was off, blaster in hand. All around them, the lifeless rubble transformed into Megatron's drones. They were the first wave to attack. Though hardly as deadly as the Decepticons themselves, effective enough to distract from the real danger.
The first wave of drones barely launched their assault when Megatron showed himself, waving around a large silver cannon, much more impressive than his usual arm cannon, and screaming for Optimus Prime like a banshee. Before anyone could react, Megatron fired. Optimus quickly grabbed the nearest drone, using it as a shield. It took the hit and lost all power, falling apart in Optimus's hands.
Every Autobot stopped and stared as their sparks flickered with fear. Megatron didn't have a mere weapon, he had a death machine.
The moment Prowl saw it, he knew what he had to. His analytical mind took only a microsecond to process Megatron's plan. He was going to take that killing machine and systematically wipe out the Autobots until they all ceased to exist. That plan completely depended on the success of this attack. Prowl had to stop it.
That day, it was mid afternoon and Megatron purposefully placed himself in front of the sun. Another brilliant move on his part, Prowl had to admit. He did his best to filter the glare from the sun as he aimed. Then, Prowl did something he hadn't done in quite some time. He prayed as he pulled the trigger.
He aimed for the weapon itself, hoping to damage it. From the sound Megatron made when he was shot, however, Prowl surmised he hit Megatron's hand instead. The weapon flew away from the Decepticon leader and clanked heavily against the wall. Megatron looked at Prowl. Prowl looked at Megatron. Both of them raced for the weapon.
Prowl heard Jazz screaming at him not to do it. Megatron was far closer. He would get the weapon first. But Prowl was still going to try. At the very least, he would be able to buy some time for his friends, even if it cost him his own life.
Just as predicted, Megatron reached the weapon first. He snatched it up, sliding on his back and aiming for Prowl. The police car lunged for him as Megatron fired. The shot rang true and Prowl was covered in a blue light. His body fell as Megatron rose to his feet and began firing on the other Autobots without mercy.
Strangely, after Prowl was hit, he was still aware of what was going on. The laser had hit him straight on; so why wasn't he dead? Why could he still hear the battle? Why could he still see Megatron firing at his team? Why wasn't he a lifeless pile of parts yet? And why... was everything suddenly so much bigger?
Prowl rolled behind a pile of dirt and bricks, tall enough to block most everything from view. Amazed that he was still alive, he crawled to the top. Wondering how a pile that big to be so tall, he peeked over it. Most of the firing had stopped. The Decpeticons were just standing around; a few looked bewildered. There wasn't a single Autobot in sight, or were there any lifeless Autobot pieces to be found.
Then Prowl noticed one Autobot still on the field.
Blaster was wrestling with Soundwave. The Decepticon was on top, then Blaster got the upper hand and grabbed Soundwave's head. Then, for the oddest reason, Blaster suddenly bolted away. Soundwave sat up, appearing quite angry for an expressionless bot. He leveled his weapon at the fleeing Blaster and shot him square in the back. Blaster gave a soundless cry as his body instantly folded up on itself and a normal sized radio hit the ground.
Prowl wasted no time. The shot must have hit Blaster's transformation cog. The black and white Autobot transformed as Soundwave stalked toward his inert friend. Prowl's speed hardly seemed as impressive as it used to be. What was going on?
Just as Soundwave was about to crush the Autobot radio with his massive foot, Prowl lunged and snatched Blaster out of harm's way. That was when Prowl felt the full reality of his situation. Blaster's small radio mode was only about half his size and Soundwave looked as tall as a mountain. Megatron's cannon hadn't killed the Autobots, it had reduced their size.
Prowl had no choice. He could not fight back in his current state. Even one Decepticon was too big for him to take on, and there were many coming after them. He couldn't fit Blaster in his car mode any more. He had no choice but to grab the radio's handle and run for his life.
He had been running ever since.
The tall spires of the cityscape now felt more like Cybertron than Earth ever had before as Prowl ducked into back allies and dark pathways. Only he didn't know this city, he didn't know where he was going. He fought the panic setting in as he ran.
It was after dark now; hours since he had first given flight, but Prowl didn't dare stop. He knew he was still being hunted. Even though his heated joints complained and his power reserves were getting low, resting was not an option. To stop meant death– both his and Blaster's. No matter how much his body protested, Prowl couldn't give up yet.
He dashed down another alleyway, trying to keep to the shadows. The silent radio clanged against his side. Prowl had to do something. He couldn't run all night. He had to take a stand somewhere; he had to think. But before he could come up with a course of action, he found himself face to face with a dead end.
In front of him was sheer building wall that seemed to reach up to the sky. There was no where to go. He turned to run back out, but a dark shadow with glowing red eyes blocked his escape.
The metal panther was now taller than Prowl and easily twice as large. He growled and Prowl could see the sharp teeth of those powerful jaws shining in the dim light. If those fangs got a hold of him, it would be all over.
As Ravage stalked toward him, Prowl pulled out his weapon and readied himself. He fired and Ravage leapt out of the way, right toward him. Prowl pulled the trigger again and missed. He was so tired, his aim was failing. Ravage was going to get his prey.
A second barrage of fire hit the metal cat on the side of the head and he stumbled back. Between Prowl and the Decepticon landed a pint-sized Jazz, smiling in triumph.
"Ha! Didn't like that at all, did ya?" Jazz scoffed. "Now try some of this, Ravage!" His hip compartments opened, revealing two large speakers. Though also smaller than his usual size, Jazz still managed to emit a powerfully high sonic scream.
Ravage shrieked as the sound bombarded his super-sensitive hearing. The robotic cat yowled and writhed in pain and then took off like a shot from the alley.
Jazz smirked, brushing off his hands. "That takes care of that," he announced.
He turned around to see an exhausted Prowl. The two eyed each other. Both where the same size; roughly two and a half feet tall.
"What happened to us?"
"Slag if I know," Jazz responded.
"And that," said Frenzy as he stepped into the alley, "is the least of your problems." The mini cassette was now three times as tall as the Autobots and he pointed his blaster at them. "So you got the best of Ravage, but you won't get the best of me, puny Autobots!" He laughed at himself for finally being able to use the term. "Prepare to meet the creator."
He slowly squeezed the trigger.
There was a deep thunk as something heavy hit Frenzy in the back of the head, knocking him over. Before Prowl or Jazz knew what was going on, Blaster was snatched up by the taller form and a voice screamed "RUN!" The Autobots didn't need to be told twice. They both transformed and sped blindly after their savior.
The three fled through the twists and turns of the back alleyways. Every once in a while, they passed under a street lamp and the Autobots would get a glimpse of the person they were following. It was a human: tall, thin. Most likely female. A long shock of hair glittered in the light, the color of apricots.
Their leader zipped down another alley and slid under a pile of boxes and garbage bags.
"This way," the human urged and the two Autobots did as they were told before they transformed into robot mode, ready for action. The human reached out and pulled on a stick that was holding up the crate above them. Everything on top dropped, completely burying them all in filth. The crate itself did little to protect them from what fell from above. They must have been behind a restaurant. It was rank and slimy, but no one dared move from their hiding place. If they were found, they were dead.
"Jazz," Prowl hissed, "put your weapon away. Power it down. Power everything down. If Frenzy can't track our energy signatures then he can't find us."
Understandably, Jazz was reluctant to lose his only means of defense, but he eventually returned his weapon to subspace and Prowl felt him power down all unnecessary systems. Even his visor grew dim and Prowl did the same. Behind them, their human friend was laying flat on her side, Blaster's radio form in her arms and panting as soundlessly as she could. The Autobots grew quiet as well and waited.
Minutes later, an extremely angry Frenzy stomped their way. Through a few cracks in the crate, Prowl saw the cassette pacing in agitation. He looked fit to pop a gear over what happened to him. Prowl backed away further into the darkness, powering down his optics. His back pressed against the softer mass of the human behind him. He could feel the body trembling. Prowl prayed the human wouldn't make any noise.
Frenzy barked out a few choice words and ran off. A few minutes later, he came back and combed the area again before leaving once more. At least Prowl's plan had worked. While Frenzy had a feeling they were somewhere near by, he couldn't track them at all. Being small actually had its advantages this time.
They remained there for over an hour, silent and afraid. The human body grew completely still, never shifting or uttering a word. It became apparent to Prowl that the human was not going to move unless told to do so. When he thought it was finally safe to leave their hiding space, Prowl took command.
"I believe now would be a good time to go," he said softly. "We can't stay here."
"Good idea," Jazz whispered back. "You lead."
Prowl slowly pulled himself out of the garbage bags and boxes, followed by Jazz. Together they lifted the flat crate so their new human ally could inch worm out, pulling Blaster along. The human stood in the light and Prowl and Jazz could see her clearly. Her face was pale, green eyes wide. Her clothes were as filthy as they were, some sort of red sauce oozing down her hair.
"We need to get out of this area, fast," Prowl informed her.
The human nodded. "Come with me."
She took off at a run. Prowl and Jazz once again followed her lead, this time on foot. Each corner was a mystery as they made their way building by building; hoping the next opening wouldn't contain their death. All remained clear.
They ran down a few more streets before the human stopped and gestured to a pile of stacked boxes.
"I've got them, come on."
At first, Prowl and Jazz had no idea who she was talking to. Then something lizard-shaped came out of the shadows and peered down at them.
"Take you long enough. Me Grimlock wait forever. Not know if you in trouble; need me Grimlock to save you."
"Yes, yes, you're so brave," the woman said. "Come on."
She grabbed his short dinosaur arms and yanked him off the box. Then she started running again with Grimlock in one arm and Blaster in the other. "Hurry you guys, we can still make the- there it is!"
A bus was pulling up and she charged forward with a "Get on!" shoving the hesitant Prowl and Jazz through the door. The driver looked quizzically at the odd group as they climbed aboard.
"The kids had a play at their school tonight," the woman explained without skipping a beat. She tried to balance the boom box and metal dinosaur around as she fished out money for three passengers. "It was about robots."
The driver still didn't look too persuaded.
"They smell funny."
She kept her face sober. "I know. There was an accident. Sorry, we'll sit in the back."
There were only a few other passengers riding that night and the group managed to get odd looks from every one of them as they shuffled down the isle.
Prowl and Jazz climbed onto the back seat. It was quite a different experience for the two Autobots to sit on something where their feet didn't touch the floor. The woman plopped down between them with heavy breath. Her hands were shaking.
"I can't believe we made it," she whispered as the bus started up again. She glanced cautiously out the back window as if half expecting Frenzy to come charging out after them.
"Who... are you?" Prowl asked.
"Her name Crystal," Grimlock answered for her as he perched on her lap. "Me Grimlock send her to find other Autobots. But me Grimlock surprised her do it. Her dumb. Her think me Grimlock is kitty cat."
"I said I was sorry! Sheesh!" Crystal cried, grabbing Grimlock's head. "How about some gratitude for saving your friends here, lizard!"
"Me Grimlock not lizard! Me Grimlock not kitty either! Me Grimlock leader of Dinobots! Me Grimlock greatest Dinobot ever!"
Crystal slumped and sighed, realizing she wasn't going to get anywhere with this conversation.
"So where are we going exactly?" Jazz spoke up.
"Back to my place." Crystal smiled at him. "Don't worry, it's far away from here. I live in a completely different part of the city. You should be safe there."
"You think we should, Jazz?" Prowl leaned forward to see past Grimlock. "What about the others? We can't just leave them out there alone."
"Yo! Look at us!" Jazz shot back. "It's not exactly like we could do anything to help them. You're the one who's always telling us when we should back up and regroup. Well now is the time! We're no help to our guys if the cassettes slag us first."
"You are right, of course," Prowl admitted. He paused as his processor plotted a new plan. "It will be best to get out of the immediate danger zone and then wait for morning before going to search for them. In the mean time, we can try to figure out what happened. However, I'm not sure if..." He trailed off as he looked at the young woman between them. This wasn't her problem. By going with her, they could be putting her in danger. The Decepticons certainly weren't going to show her any mercy if they found her helping them.
He must have had a worried look on his face; Crystal smiled down at him and patted his helmet as if he were a child.
"Don't worry about it. Everything will turn out okay. You'll see," she insisted.
Prowl continued to frown. What did one human woman know about... everything?
"Well, here we are," Crystal announced as she unlocked the door to her second floor apartment. "Safe at home base. You're welcome to use it as long as you need."
The three robots tromped inside and looked around. Lines of multicolored clothing hung about the room.
"Nice place," Jazz commented as he appraised his surroundings. "I especially like the polychromatic decor."
Crystal gasped as she saw all her panties and bras hanging in plain sight.
"Gah! Sorry! You weren't supposed to see that!" she cried as she hurriedly went to collect her personal items. "My dryer's broken and I didn't think anyone would be coming by."
As she bustled about, the three Autobots regarded her with hardly any interest. Her panic didn't make any sense to them. Why did she worry so much about them seeing that material?
Prowl had already surveyed the area, taking note of all windows and exits. Grimlock was nosing around behind the TV. Jazz was about to make himself comfortable on the couch when Crystal came back into the room.
"You two," she said, pointing to Prowl and Jazz. "You're robots, right? Are you water proof?"
Jazz and Prowl looked at each other at the odd question.
"Of course we are," Prowl responded.
"Good, come with me."
The two followed her into a smaller room with vinyl flooring, white walls and bright lights. A white ceramic tub sat to one side and she turned on the water. As the basin began to fill she looked expectantly at her guests.
The Autobots stared at her like she was crazy.
"Are you serious?" Jazz blurted.
"In," Crystal insisted again, pointing to the bath tub. "You're both filthy and you reek." She made a face as she pulled a bit of garbage from Prowl's door and dumped it in the trash. "Get in or I'll toss you in. You're not touching a single thing in my apartment until you're clean."
Reluctantly, they obeyed. Crystal provided orange dish soap and unceremoniously grabbed Prowl by the doors. She began scrubbing the parts the second in command couldn't reach. Prowl didn't look happy about it at all, but silently took the treatment.
"So you guys are Autobots, right?" Crystal asked as she cleaned is back. "I've never seen one in person before. Just on the news and stuff. I didn't know any of you were this small. You all look so big on TV."
"Well, this isn't exactly our normal size," Jazz responded. "The Decepticons did this to us."
Crystal paused. "Oh? Do they have a shrink ray or something?"
Jazz and Prowl looked at each other.
"That just might be it," Prowl said.
"Yeah, except the first time Megatron used it, it didn't shrink that drone. But then... you shot it, didn't you Prowl?"
"Hm... a malfunction? Or it was damaged?" Prowl ventured.
"Heh, what are the odds that a death ray turns into a shrink ray when it gets blasted?" Jazz smirked.
"Death ray?!" Crystal interrupted, pulling on Prowl's doors more than she needed to. "So they were trying to kill you?"
"Yeah," Jazz replied, "or didn't you notice that in your tangle with Frenzy? He had a gun. If he would have found us hiding there, he would have killed us all."
The human blinked several times as if her processor was fritzing. "I just have never had someone try to kill me before. This whole thing seems so... surreal." She let out a heavy breath. "I still can't believe this is happening."
"What you do in here?" Grimlock asked as he came in, still in dinosaur mode. He peered over the tub full of water. "What this?"
"Bath time," Jazz replied lightly. He made a fist and squirted water in Grimlock's face.
The Dinobot backed away flicking the water off with a shake of his head.
"He'll still kill us if he finds us, won't he?" Crystal asked.
"Yes," Prowl told her simply.
She sat back on on her heels, thinking about her predicament. In the back of her mind, she understood the situation from the beginning. Her emotions were still trying to come up with the proper response for all this craziness.
"I'm sorry you were involved," Prowl said.
Crystal shook her head with a smile. "No, I'm the one who pulled the robot dinosaur from the dumpster, and I'm the one who decided to start a fight with a Decepticon. I did it because I wanted to. That isn't your fault... um, I didn't catch your name."
"I know who you are," Crystal intoned. "You never let me forget."
"What did you hit ol' Frenzy with anyway?" Jazz asked. "He fell like a sack of bricks."
"A sack of bricks," she grinned. "More specifically, my gym bag full of bricks. Threw out my arm doing it, too." She rubbed her shoulder, rotating the joint.
"Well you risked your life for us," Jazz said. "And we'll do everything we can to make sure nothing happens to you."
"Me Grimlock want in, too."
Crystal jumped back a bit in surprise as Grimlock transformed into his robot mode and climbed in the tub between Prowl and Jazz. The three sat in the soapy water and looked at each other.
Jazz sized up the Dinobot leader for the first time since they had been reunited. "Since when are you shorter than me?"
"Me Grimlock get hit twice, me think."
Prowl got a certain look of disgust on his face. "I'm getting out," he grumbled as he climbed over the side.
Crystal handed him a towel.
"I don't need any help with this, thank you," the police car said curtly as he marched out of the room.
Crystal watched him go. "Is he mad?" she whispered.
"Nah, he's just Prowl," Jazz said, still lounging comfortably in the warm water. "It's just in his process to be that serious. It's nothing personal."
"Right then, let's get you guys out so I can have a turn. I'm not smelling much better."
Later that night, the Autobots gathered in the small living room while Crystal locked herself in the bathroom to shower. They could hear the shower running down the hall.
"Me Grimlock all shiny now." Grimlock, now back in dinosaur mode, preened in front of his reflection in the TV.
As usual, he was ignored.
"So what's the game plan now, chief?" Jazz asked from where he sat on the couch.
Prowl walked over to the glass door that led out to the balcony. He stared at the lights of the city as he thought it over.
"We need to contact the Ark somehow. Jazz?"
Jazz shook his head. "No can do. I'm willing to bet my new hubcaps those Decepticons are still out there hunting for us. If I tried to contact the base or anybody, they'd be here in a nanoclick. Megs probably has Soundwave probing for any kind of signal to try and find us." He glanced toward the counter. "Maybe Blaster would have other ideas on how to get a signal out, if we can get him back online."
"I just hope the others realized this and that is the only reason we haven't heard from them," Prowl said in a somber tone.
"Ah, much better," Crystal announced as she emerged in pajamas, damp hair wrapped in a towel. "Now to get to your friend." She took Blaster off the counter and set about wiping all the muck off with a cloth. After a good scrubbing, she held the boom box at arm's length to inspect it.
"This is a robot, too, right? Of...some kind? I didn't risk my life for a simple radio, did I?"
"Yeah, Blaster's one of us," Jazz confirmed as he squatted next to her. "Though he has been a bit quietly lately..." He tapped the radio with the back of his hand. "Yo, dude! You in there?"
Nothing but silence came from the Autobot. It was as if he were any other normal household device.
"Is he broken?" Crystal wondered.
"Soundwave shot him," Prowl said as he came up and inspected Blaster himself. "He transformed when he was hit. I haven't heard a sound from him since. Something in there is malfunctioning."
Crystal went back to cleaning him. "Well you can certainly keep him here for as long as you need to. Same goes for the rest of you. I'll help you any way I can, just let me know what I can do for you."
"I'm afraid there isn't much you can do," Prowl informed her. "We would prefer to keep you out of this as much as possible. We'll only be using your quarters for a short time."
"And what exactly is your plan?" she asked with a dubious tone.
Prowl sat himself on the floor next to her, looking tired. "We need to find the three missing members of our team before the Decepticons do. And we need to find a way to contact our base."
"Where's home for your guys? Where will you be safe?"
"The Ark. Back in Oregon."
Crystal gave a low whistle. "Wow, you are far from home." She paused to think. "My car is in the shop until the weekend. Maybe then I could take a few days off work to drive you guys down there. Or at least half way. How long does it take to drive across the country?"
"That's very kind, but we're not leaving without our teammates," Prowl insisted.
"Ditto," Jazz agreed, "we don't leave Autobots behind."
"You think they're still out there?" Crystal wondered.
"It's possible," Prowl said. "Our comrades are intelligent and experienced. Either way, we need to make the attempt to search for them. Or at least find out what the Decepticons are doing."
"Getting us back to normal would be nice, too," Jazz quipped.
"Is a lot to do," Grimlock grumbled, his tail swishing in agitation.
"Well, as I said before," Crystal put in. "You're welcome to stay here as long as you need. And I'll do everything I can to help. We'll just take it all one step at a time."
"You," Prowl informed her, "will stay out of the way as much as possible. If the Decepticons found–"
"Hey! Movies!" Jazz found himself a cabinet full of DVDs and VHS tapes. Now he was staring at the full shelves with a glint in his optic band. "Primus must be smiling on me today." He turned his grinning face towards Crystal. "Can I? Pretty please?"
She chuckled. "Have at it. Just don't scratch my disks."
Prowl's optics drifted skyward as he mustered his patience.
Crystal placed the now clean Blaster back on the counter. "Well, unfortunately, it's after midnight and I do have to go to sleep. I have work tomorrow morning so balancing all this may be a bit tricky. But I'll figure it out tomorrow. Is there anything I can get you guys before I go to bed? Are you hungry or...?"
"We don't eat food," Prowl informed her.
"What about a place to sleep?"
"We can recharge anywhere, but our energy reserves should hold us until we can get back to our base."
"Oh." Crystal stood there, feeling stupid and not very useful at all. "So... what are you guys going to do tonight? I have to sleep. I can't stay up with you."
Jazz was already making a stack of movie titles he wanted to watch. "I'll be fine until morning!" he chirped happily.
Grimlock crouched, glaring suspiciously at the white plush bunny on the couch. He didn't trust those beady, black eyes.
"We are fine. We can occupy ourselves until morning," Prowl assured her pragmatically.
A bit deflated at her lack of ability to be helpful, Crystal drooped her shoulders. "Alright, um... yeah, I'll see you in the morning.. I guess..."
She padded softly to her room and Prowl heard the door close. Jazz flipped on the TV and eagerly inserted his first selection into the DVD player. Prowl advised him to keep the volume down.
A few minutes in, a muffled cry came from the bedroom.
"KILLER ROBOTS?! WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?!"
Surprised, Prowl turned to Jazz.
"There we go," Jazz grinned. "I was starting to wonder about her. But I think it will be fine."
Prowl just sighed. The city outside was so big and they were so very small. It was going to be a long night.