Small Problems

Day One: Ambush Awry

By: Ghost of the Dawn

"Prime, I think this is what we've been waiting for," Prowl called from his place in front of Teletran One's satellite system. "I've got a large group of Decepticons mobilizing."

Optimus Prime was instantly at the side of his second in command, looking intently on the screen. It was indeed what they had been waiting for. For the past several months, Deceptions had been raiding and stealing technical parts from research labs all over the globe. All of it cutting edge and high tech. What they were attempting to make, none of the Autobots could guess. Even Wheeljack was stumped. Without an idea of what they were trying to do, it was hard to predict where they would hit next. Since the Autobots couldn't monitor the entire globe and all its technical facilities at once, there was only one thing to do. And that was to wait until the Decepticons had finished their project and attempted to use it.

Prowl had kept the base on high alert for weeks, waiting for the Decepticons to finally make a move. Now, that time seemed to be upon them and Optimus Prime was not going to let it pass by.

"Where's their destination, Prowl?"

"Its hard to say until they actually stop, 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 might want some place secluded and head up to Canada. It's hard to tell."

Optimus took a moment to consider. "Either way, Megatron's on the other side of the county. We need to start heading out there now if we want to catch him before he can finish whatever it is he's trying to do."

"Roger that," Prowl agreed. "We need to dispatch a unit as soon as possible."

Optimus Prime opened his com link to his other second in command. "Jazz."

"Right here, Prime," Jazz said as he walked into the room.

"Oh there you are," Optimus nodded. "We need a squad assembled to go right now. Prowl, radio Skyfire and tell him to be ready at the base ASAP. Jazz, who do we have available to go at this moment?"

Jazz rubbed his chin in thought. "Hmm... we've got a lot of patrols out right now. Mostly the new guys that came from Cybertron. I could probably grab Wheeljack, Ironhide and Blaster."

Optimus looked at him. "That's all?"

Jazz shrugged. "Hey, it's been crazy around here lately. The last Decepticon scheme sent half our guys across the planet, remember? And we're the ones with Skyfire so it's taking them a while to get back. I could probably get Ratchet, too. But that's about it."

"No, Ratchet stays," Optimus decided. "Tell him he's in charge while we're gone. Jazz, Prowl, you're coming, too."

"Sir," Prowl acknowledged as he stood.

The doors hissed as another, much larger body came into the control room.

"There going to be a fight?" Grimlock demanded as he stomped in. "Me Grimlock want to fight Decepticons, too!"

Normally Optimus Prime wouldn't have wanted 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...

"That's fine. Grimlock, you can come, too. Where are the other Dinobots?"

Grimlock thought about it for a while and then shrugged. "Dunno. Me Grimlock not their mom."

"Fine," Optimus surrendered. Now certainly wasn't the time to argue. "Jazz and Prowl, please inform Ratchet of our departure and assemble whomever you can find. Grimlock and I will meet you in the hanger as we wait for Skyfire."

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 they 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 Arc. It probably came with the fact that he was constantly visiting with everyone. Ratchet was there with them as well, arms folded over his chest and not looking too happy.

"Something isn't right, Prime," he informed his leader. "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."

"And what would you like me to do in the meantime?" Ratchet then asked. "I could 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 whomever's able. Right now we're going to wait and see."

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 in the landed Skyfire and shaking his fist impatiently at them. Optimus threw a long suffering look at his medic turned base commander. Then he boarded Skyfire as well as the rest of the small group.

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 comfort for Optimus Prime. 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, he had confirmed that New York City, New York was indeed the destination of the Decepticons. 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 going to be 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 to them.

"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 as his outer hull was peppered with laser fire. The jet shuttered at the impact.

"What on Cybertron 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 had a hard time hiding the urgency in his voice. He 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 attack and then disappeared.

Skyfire shuttered again as he was hit. This felt a lot worse than the first one.

"He got one of my engines!" Skyfire reported.

The Autobots could feel the jet losing power as they descended faster.

"Brace for impact everyone!" Optimus commanded.

The Autobots 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 gun fire following him all the way. He fought to keep his nose up, but the belly of the large Autobot scraped roughly along the ground and Autobot bodies were thrown every which way at the circuit jarring landing. The jet slid for several kilometers 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 red 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 between them suddenly sparked as it fell loose and the two jumped.

"All functional over here, too, Prime," Ironhide called from the back of the plane. "Grimlock, however..." He looked over at the large, robotic dinosaur who's head had gone right through the side of the plane in the crash. His back end was now flailing around as he fought to get free.

"Okay, get him out of there," Optimus said tiredly. "Skyfire, what's your status?"

"Not good," beeped Skyfire's control panel. "One engine is out of commission completely. Another is at 25 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 Skyfire with their leader, weapons at ready.

"Me Grimlock get flying Decepticon," Grimlock announced. He was still half way sticking out of Skyfire's hull, but stretched his head skyward and spat fire as Skywarp came into view.

"Ya big metal idjit!" Ironhide grumbled, still trying to pull Grimlock out. "Ya can't do it that way. Get yer head outta there!"

Wheeljack jumped in to try and help grab the squirming back end of the Dinobot. But 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. As he fired, he was met with a barrage of return fire from his enemies; one shot of which hit his back rudder, making him wobble.

"Skywarp to Megatron," he radioed. "I've been hit. Request permission to return from the mission."

Over his radio, the voice of the Decepticon leader crackled back at him. "Are the Autobots down?"

"Yes sir! Mission complete."

"You're sure?"

"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 and no other attack came.

"Is it over?" Jazz asked from where he was using Blaster as a shield.

"Dude, that ain't cool!' Baster complained, pushing him away.

"Hey," Jazz insisted. "You were covering me so I could shoot 'im down! It was a team effort!"

Optimus ignored the bickering as he looked towards the sky. "It's odd that Megatron only sent one Decepticon after us and then he retreated so quickly."

"His objective was probably only to take down Skyfire," Prowl offered. "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, can you transform?"

"I don't think so," came Skyfire's low, disappointed voice. "And my engines are shot. I'm not going anywhere, I'm afraid. I'm sorry Optimus."

"You did fine," Optimus assured him. "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 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 work," Optimus insisted. "I don't like how much time we're giving Megatron to prepare for whatever it is he's trying to do." He opened his communicator to Teletran One. "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 as soon as you are able."

There was a pause on the other end.

"I still don't have much to work with Prime. As soon as anyone shows up, I'll send them out to retrieve him. That's the best I can offer right now."

"Understood. Just do the best you can. I'll keep you updated on the situation. Optimus out." He terminated the link and then looked at the remaining functional Autobots who were watching him expectantly.

"Alright Autobots," he announced, pointing at the horizon. "To the city."

Megatron stood as Skywarp teleported into the air space where the Decepticons had been stationed. The black and purple jet transformed as he slowly descended to the ground. 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 all 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," was Megatron's greeting. "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 spread the Autobot forces with fake raids across the planet. But of all the scenarios he came up with, none involved any of the Dinobots; one of the Autobot's last lines of defense. Either Optimus was getting desperate or...

"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 was expecting 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 who was off in the corner, standing against a building with arms folded.

"Nothing to add, Starscream?" Megatron challenged. "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 Starscream suspiciously. It wasn't often at all the seeker passed up a chance to call the Decepticon leader 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, it seemed Starscream's second favorite pastime was increasing Autobot casualties. The opportunity to do either hardly made Starscream move from where he was standing. But Megatron would have to wonder about that another time. 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 understood," he acknowledged nervously.

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 looked towards 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 mini Con. Apparently Starscream wasn't the only one acting odd that day.

"Another test?" Megatron asked. "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, which glowed red, and beside him, a pile of scrap metal transformed into a robot. It then 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. At the request, Megaton hefted it unto 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 it crumbled completely 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! And 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 the cheering.

"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 the Autobots in when they came. 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 bate. He 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 of Autobots ran into the site and, as they reached a certain mark, the rest Decepticons made themselves known and attacked on all sides with full force.

It was then the group realized their mistake. They had been too eager to find out what the Decepticons were up to. The sound of firing weapons pierced the air from all sides.

The rest was a blur.

Crystal Carlyle left out the back door; it was closer to the bus stop. She hiked her gym 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. She usually didn't. But for some reason, she had a feeling she should stay for a while longer. So now she was making her journey back to her apartment, hoping she didn't run into some weirdo in a back alley after dark.

Speaking of which, Crystal was hearing excited voices down the alley already. At first, she was a bit spooked as any normal, single woman walking alone in a dark alley would be. Then she realized the voices, though male, didn't sound all that old and hardly seemed to be talking about anything involving her.

There was only one way out of the alley so Crystal followed it towards the voices. Near the mouth, she saw two boys whom, she guessed were in their junior high years, talking excitedly while they fidgeted around a large dumpster. Every once in while, one would kneel down and shove a stick or toss a rock 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 boys should just leave the poor thing alone," Crystal insisted. "It's just a regular animal and you're scaring it by poking at it. Just 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."

Crystal paused and in the silence, she could hear some kind of 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 to them 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. 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," she muttered.

Next, she set down her gym bag and got on her knees. She wanted to follow her own advice and leave alone whatever poor animal had been cornered. But first she wanted to make sure whatever was hiding there hadn't been injured by the two boys. As she pressed her face to the ground, she squinted in the dim light. There was certainly something under there, but what it was, it was hard to tell if it was a cat or a small dog. 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 shifted and then growled in a way Crystal had never heard an animal growl before. And then, the darkness was lit up by two glowing eyes and Crystal gasped.

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. It was the way of the battle: advance and retreat was the natural tide of warfare. But this had never happened before. The tide had never turned this quickly and he had never been so at a loss at what to do next. And he had never fled for his life on two feet, unable to transform into his faster vehicle mode before.

This was because he was 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 was big and bulky and made it quite difficult to run. But Prowl just 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 his comrade safe, or die trying.

Rounding a corner, Prowl crouched in the shadows, hoping to buy himself some time to think. The whole ordeal had occurred hours ago and he had been running ever since. It was still hard to believe it had all happened to him in the first place.

The Autobots all knew it was a trap when they went into it. It always was. Megatron had been planning this for months. What kind of trap was the question. And there was no other way to find out, but to jump into the fray, guns blazing. Prowl had transformed the second he felt something was off, blaster in hand. All around them, the lifeless rubble had transformed into Megatron's drones. They were the first wave to attack, though hardly as deadly as the Decepticons themselves, but effective enough to be distracting from the real danger.

The first wave of drones barely launched its assault when Megatron had shown 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 reacted quickly and grabbed the nearest drone, using it as a shield. The drone took the hit and as the ray hit it, it lost all power and fell apart in Optimus's hands.

Every Autobot stopped and stared as their sparks flickered with fear. Megatron didn't just have a 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 what Megatron had planned. He was going to take that killing machine and systematically wipe out the Autobots in small groups like this until they all ceased to exist. And his plan would completely depend on the success of this attack. Prowl had to stop it.

That day, it was mid afternoon and Megatron had 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.

Prowl aimed for the weapon itself, hoping to damage it, but from the sound Megatron made when he was shot, Prowl surmised he hit Megatron's hand instead of the gun. However, the weapon still 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 towards Prowl. The police car jumped and Megatron fired. The shot rang true and Prowl was covered in a blue light. After he hit Prowl, Megatron got to his feet and began firing on the other Autobots without mercy.

The only strange thing was, 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 as he flew through the air? Why wasn't he a lifeless pile of parts yet? And why... was everything suddenly so much bigger?

Prowl fell behind a pile of dirt and bricks, tall enough to block almost everything from view. Amazed that he was still alive, he crawled to the top, wondering how a pile that big got there, and peeked over it. Most of the firing had stopped. The Decpeticons were just standing there. A few looked bewildered. There wasn't a single Autobot in sight. Nor were there any lifeless Autobot pieces to be found.

But then, Prowl saw there was still one Autobot on the field.

Blaster was wresting with Soundwave. The Decepticon was on top, then Blaster got the upper hand and grabbed Soundwave's head. Then, for the oddest reason, even though he had the upper hand, Blaster suddenly bolted away. Soundwave sat up and, for an expressionless robot, he looked quite angry. 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 in on itself and a normal sized radio hit the ground and remained there.

Prowl wasted no time. He transformed as the Decepticon was stalking towards his inert friend. His speed was hardly as impressive as it used to be, but it still managed to get him there. Just as Soundwave was going to crush the Autobot radio with his massive foot, Prowl lunged and snatched Blaster out of harm's way at the last minute.

That was when Prowl got 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 to him. Prowl had no choice. He could not fight that in his current state and he could not transform if he was to take Blaster with him. So Prowl held the radio tight and he ran.

He had been running ever since.

It was after dark now. It had been hours since he had first given flight. But Prowl couldn't rest yet. He had been a tracker long enough himself to know when he was being hunted. Even though his joints ached 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 wasn't ready to give up yet.

Prowl dashed down another alley way, trying to keep to the shadows. The radio clanged against his side, making it harder for him to move. It felt heavier by the moment. Prowl had to do something. He couldn't run all night. He had to take a stand somewhere; he had to think. But before Prowl could come up with a course of action, he found himself down a dead end alley. In front of him was sheer building wall that seemed to him, at his current height, to reach up to the sky. There was no where to go.

He turned to run back out, but there was already a dark shadow with glowing red eyes blocking his escape.


The metal panther, though hard to fathom, was 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 jaws got a hold of him, it would be all over. However, he had no other choice but to turn and fight. As Ravage stalked towards him, Prowl pulled out his weapon and readied himself.

He pulled the trigger and Ravage lept out of the line of fire, right towards him. Prowl fired again and missed. He was so tired, his aim was failing. Ravage was going to hit his mark.

A second barrage of fire hit Ravage on the side of the head and the metal cat stumbled back. Between Prowl and the Decepticon landed 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 Jazz as well was smaller than his usual size, he 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.


Jazz turned around to see an exhausted, wide opticed 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 walked 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.

"You may have bested 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.

Another shadow dashed into the alley and there was a deep thunk as something heavy hit into Frenzy, 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!" in their audios. The Autobots didn't need to be told twice. They both transformed and sped after their savior, blindly following their lead.

They fled through the twists and turns of the back alleyways. Every once in a while, they would pass under a street lamp and the Autobots would get a glimpse of the person they were following. It was a human and they were tall--which didn't really mean any specific to a two foot robot. Prowl just hoped it was someone they could trust. Though they seemed to be doing alright by him so far.

Their leader zipped down another alley and suddenly 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. Once pulled out, everything on top dropped on them, 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 they didn't dare 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 loose his only means of defense, but he eventually returned his weapon to subspace and then Prowl could feel Jazz power down all unnecessary systems. Even his visor grew dim and Prowl did the same. Behind them, their human friend was laying flat on their side, Blaster's radio form still in their arms. Aside from panting from the run, the person hadn't made a noise. 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 could see the cassette pacing in agitation. He looked fit to pop a gear over what had just 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 and fighting to breathe as quietly as possible. 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, then ran off again. 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 stayed in there for over an hour, never emitting a sound. The human body had grown completely silent and still; never shifting nor uttering a noise in all that time. It became apparent to Prowl that the human was not going to move unless told to. So when he thought it was finally safe to leave their hiding space, he took command.

"I believe now would be a good time to go," he said softly. "But we can't stay here. We need to leave the area quickly and quietly, without a trace."

"Good idea," Jazz whispered back. "You lead."

Prowl slowly found a way to pull himself out of the garbage bags and boxes, followed by Jazz. Then together they lifted the flat crate so their new human ally could slowly inch worm out, and then lastly, pulling out the still silent Blaster. The human stood in the light and Prowl and Jazz could see they were dealing with a human female. She had long light redish hair tied back in two braids and looked just about as dirty as they felt they were.

"We need to get out of this area, fast," Prowl informed her.

The human nodded. "Come with me."

She took off at a run, taking Blaster with her. Prowl and Jazz, once again were following 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. But all remained clear

They ran down a few more streets before the human woman 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 on top of the boxes.

"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 assured him. "Come on."

Grimlock came forward and the human grabbed on 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 to a stop and she charged forward with a "Get on!" shoving the hesitant Prowl and Jazz onto the large vehicle. The driver looked quizzically at the odd group as they climbed on.

"The kids had a play at their school tonight," the woman explained without skipping a beat. She tried to balance the boom box and the 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, but 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. She glanced cautiously out the back window as if half expecting Frenzy to come charging out after the bus as it pulled away.

"Who... are you?" Prowl asked, eyeing the human quizzically.

She turned her head back towards Prowl. He noticed she had unusually large, round eyes for a human. They were deep green; haunted.

"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 to the other second. "What about the others? We can't just leave them there."

"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 Prime if those cassettes slag us first."

"True," Prowl agreed. "It would 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 all be putting her in danger. The Decepticons certainly weren't going to show her any mercy if they found her helping the Autobots. The last thing Prowl wanted was to put anyone in danger because of them.

He must have had a worried look on his face, for 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 just continued to frown. What did one human woman know about... everything?

"Well, here we are," Crystal announced as they climbed up to the second story and unlocked her apartment door. "Safe at home base. You're welcome to use it as long as you need."

The three robots tromped inside and looked around. There were a few lines strung about the room with multicolored clothing articles hanging from them.

"Nice place," Jazz commented as he appraised his surroundings. "I especially like the multicolored 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 jumped in front of them, embarrassed. 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. The didn't even know what it was.

Prowl was already looking around, checking where all the windows and doors were. Grimlock was nosing around as well, but for entirely different reasons. Jazz was just going 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 without carpet, white walls and bright lights. She went to a white ceramic fixture and turned a lever. Water gushed out of it into the basin below and then she looked expectantly at her guests.

"Get in."

The Autobots stared at her like she was crazy.

"Are you serious?" Jazz blurted.

"In," Crystal insisted again, pointing to the rising water in the bath tub. "You're both filthy and you reek." She made a face as she pulled a bit of garbage off one of Prowl's doors and tossed it in the trash. "Get in and clean up or I will do it for you."

Reluctantly, they obeyed. Crystal provided orange dish soap to help get rid of the smell and then unceremoniously grabbed Prowl by the doors and 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 scrubbed. "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 as he washed himself. "The Decepticons did this to us."

Crystal stopped scrubbing. "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?"

"Death ray?!" Crystal interrupted, pulling on Prowl's doors more than she needed to. "So they were trying to kill you?"

"Of course," Jazz replied. "Or didn't you notice that with your tangle with Frenzy. If he would have found us hiding there, he would have killed us all."

"What you do in here?" Grimlock asked as he came in, still in dinosaur mode. He peeked over the tub full of water. "What this?"

"Bath time," Jazz replied lightly as he made a fist and squirted water in Grimlock's face. The Dinobot backed away a little to shake it off.

"He'll still kill us if he finds us, won't he?" Crystal asked.

"Yes," Prowl told her simply.

Crystal sat back on the toilet lid, thinking about her predicament. In the back of her mind, she understood the situation from the beginning. But to hear it out loud made the reality of it fully sit on her shoulders.

"I'm sorry you were involved," Prowl said.

Crystal shook her head with a smile. "Don't worry about it um... your name is?"


"I'm Jazz."

"Me Grimlock!"

"I know who YOU are," Crystal responded to the Dinobot. "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," Crystal replied, a bit of humor in her voice. "More specifically, my duffel bag full of bricks. Threw out my arm, doing it, too." She rubbed her shoulder and moved the muscles around.

"Well you saved us at any rate," 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 there 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?" Jazz demanded.

"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 was there to hand him a towel which he took and then insisted he could dry himself off without any help and then left the room.

"Is he mad?" Crystal wondered.

"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."

Crystal nodded. "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 were gathered in the small living room while Crystal locked herself in the bathroom to shower. They could hear the water running as they bided their time.

"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 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 figure out what happened. And we need to find Optimus, Wheeljack, and Ironhide. And we need to contact the base some how. Jazz?" He looked to the communications expert.

Jazz shook his head. "No can do, Prowl. 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 any body, they'd be here in a nano click. Megs probably has Soundwave probing for any kind of signal to try and find us. I just hope the others realize this and maintain radio silence until we find them."

"If we find them," Prowl corrected. "That's one big city out there. Three tiny Autobots... the possibilities are not in our favor."

Jazz looked at him with a degree of irritation. "You're such a joy to work with. I want you to know that."

"Ah, much better," Crystal announced as she emerged in pajamas with 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. She scrubbed a few times and then held the boom box at arm's length.

"This IS a robot, too, right? Of...some kind?" she wondered at the silent machine.

"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 house hold 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 certainly like to keep you out of this as much as possible. We'll only be using your quarters for a short time."

"What exactly do you need to do?" Crystal asked.

Prowl sat himself on the floor next to her, looking a bit tired as he thought over exactly what they needed to accomplish in order to life and, hopefully, go back to their normal lives.

"We need to find the three missing members of our team before the Decepticons do."

"You think they're still out there?" Crystal wondered.

Jazz threw Prowl a certain look, waiting for his usual grim diagnosis.

"There is a possibility," Prowl admitted. "At least for a time. The only cassettes I saw in the area were Ravage and Frenzy. That leaves Rumble, Lazerbeak and Buzzsaw unaccounted for. Which may confirm that they were trying to find the other Autobots which had fled in a different direction."

"And the fact that we never saw them chasing us means they were still looking for the others as well," Jazz finished.

"At that moment anyway, yes. It's a possibility," Prowl nodded. "Either way, we need to make the attempt to search for them. Or at least find out what the Decepticons are doing. And, if possible, contact the base in some way. We need to warn them of what Megatron has and send reinforcements."

"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 had wandered off and 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."

If Prowl had normal eyes, he would have rolled them about now.

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 sleep?"

"No. Our energy reserves should hold us until we can get back to our base."

"Oh." Crystal just 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 see. "I'll be fine until morning!" he chirped happily.

Grimlock was crouched, glaring suspiciously at a white plush bunny that was on the couch.

"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 could hear her close her door. In the living room, Jazz had flipped on the tv and was eagerly setting 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.


Surprised, Prowl turned to Jazz who only smiled at him.

"There we go," Jazz grinned. "I was starting to wonder about her. But I think it will be fine."

Prowl just sighed. It was going to be a long night.