This is where I explain my year and a half long absence...
Enjoy the chapter!
Chapter Two Hundred: Caged and Confused
"Oh if that isn't a bad sign, I don't know what is," Epps groaned as he stared at the rather large scorch pattern at the end of the Lennox's driveway as Hound crept slowly towards the isolated farmhouse.
Fig agreed from where he sat in the passenger seat, having joined them as they had first started out from the base. "Should we circle around then? See if we can't flank and surprise them?"
"No need," Hound told them coming to a stop and sending a quick message to Rollerforce and the others who were hanging back. "Whatever happened here is long over. I'm not getting any signatures on my radar."
"So there's no one here?" Epps demanded as he climbed out of the jeep.
"Not even human," Hound confirmed. "Ironhide isn't here."
"What do you mean he isn't here?" Bluestreak called out surprised as he and others approached.
The four mechs and two human were soon gathered around the charred circle looking down at it in dismay. It looked to be about the right size of Ironhide's truck mode.
"Any takers on whether or not Ironhide took a whole slew of them down with him?" Rollerforce asked aloud.
"I doubt that he's dead," Hound frowned at the Decepticon. "Ironhide is not only one of the best fighters we have, but the best strategist after Prowl and Optimus. More so in actual combat situations."
"That means nothing when it comes to Thirteen," Epps responded.
"True," Hound relented before turning to the youngest pair among them. "See if you can get any responding pings on your frequencies. For all we know, they're not that far away and we may have better luck here then from the base."
Bluestreak and Motorhead nodded as they split up to look for any sign of the missing Mech and Man, sending out short bursts on their comms.
"So what happened? Do you think Thirteen was watching this place waiting for Will to come back?" Fig asked, hobbling over to the fence so he could rest himself against it without the crutches.
Epps nodded. "It's possible. It's why the Witwicky's had to transfer to the base along with Mikaela, Miles and his family."
"But we knew Thirteen was around," Hound insisted. "Ironhide would have been extra cautious. It's likely he took off as soon as he saw them and is hiding out somewhere. He wouldn't risk a fight with Will or his family in the crossfire."
"Looks like he never even got a chance to see them coming," Bluestreak called out from where he had wandered to search the perimeter opposite Motorhead. "There are tire tracks coming out of the barn. Deep ones. Carrying something heavy."
"A Blitz attack," Fig guessed. "They used the barn as cover and stayed out of Ironhide's sight."
"Damn Sarah!" Epps suddenly shouted angrily and he punched the fence post in his frustration. "There's no way she wasn't a part of this."
"Do you really think she would betray Will?" Hound asked and was surprised when both Epps and Fig nodded.
"Lady's crazy as a loon but Will adored her and from what we saw, she adored him right back," Fig admitted.
"Do you really think Thirteen has them?" Motorhead asked quietly.
"Oh they have them all right," Rollerforce nodded. "Question is, are they alive and being experimented on or are they experimenting on their graying corpses?"
"It's more likely they're alive," Hound insisted. "They had to have been taken to the same place as the other Decepticons. With such an influx of … 'subjects', it's doubtful he'll kill all of them. And I doubt Burgen has any real interest in Will at all."
Epps shook his head. "You weren't with us in up North. Trust us, they're going to be interested in Will just as much as Ironhide."
"So where do you think they're holding them, the Decepticons too?" Bluestreak asked anxiously.
"I think that there's a much more important question that needs answering first," Fig spoke gravely as he picked up his crutches and hobbled next to them "What is Thirteen doing to them now that they have them?"
Everyone stood around the chard and blackened grass without the faintest idea.
"Cruel and unusual punishment, that's what it is," Mixmaster growled.
The other Decepticons, all squished beside him in the far corner of what could best be described as an over-sized cage, made assorted sounds of agreement. The cage, with its electrified bars, was roomy enough for all of the Decepticons there and then some, but no one was leaving the safety of the far corner anytime soon.
There was another roar followed by the high pitched whine of electricity surging through living machinery and the group managed to somehow squeeze themselves further into the corner.
When they had all awoken it hadn't been a surprise that Skywarp was missing from their number. What had shocked and then promptly horrified the Decepticons however was the realization that Starscream was missing too.
And apparently, when a seeker is forcibly separated from the rest of their trine they tend to go a little crazy –
There was another snarl and bright flashes of light before smoke started drifting their way.
– kind of like Thundercracker at the moment.
Though Mixmaster would classify it as stark raving madness instead of the completely misleading term that Hook had used. The crazy medic was braving the metaphorical storm as it were, standing in complete view of the Seekers' fury and trying to keep the mech from the left side of the cage where it was butting up against another, smaller cage. Misfire, meanwhile, was trying his best to calm the other enraged seeker down. A fruitless task since he wasn't even in Thundercracker's trine.
"Do you think he'll calm down soon?" Scavenger asked in Cybertronian with a note of hope in his voice.
"Doubtful," Scrapper replied flatly, also in Cybertronian. They had stuck to their native language as they had learned from their neighboring prisoner learned that their Earth captor was prone to recording them at all hours. "He's been like this since he came back online."
Thundercracker grabbed the bars again, whether to yank them from the flooring or somehow pull them apart far enough for him to get between them was unclear but everyone knew he wouldn't get anywhere. Those bars had to go down deep into the ground if even the Constructicon's couldn't budge them and that had been the first thing they had tried. It was a strange metal too. None of them could figure out what it was and the only one who could have determined it was, unfortunately, Starscream.
"Where the slag did they even take Starscream?" Runamuck asked no one in particular.
"Why would they even take Starscream?" Runabout returned just as perplexed. "He's not exactly… well… he's Starscream," he finally declared with frustration.
"He was here with Megatron, so the Humans most likely recognize him more than anything else," Mixmaster reasoned.
"When I get my hands on that Swindle…" Scrapper snarled, anger practically making his plating vibrate.
"You'll have to get in line behind Thundercracker," Long Haul told his small mate.
The blue seeker had stopped going for the bars every two minutes but he was still pacing back and forth at the bars facing the main room snarling and growling in different increments.
"Is it safe to come out now?" Runabout called out to the other two.
"It was always safe," Hook replied sternly. "You're all just a group of weaklings."
"With functioning self-preservation circuits," Runamuck snapped back as the group slowly separated from each other and left the security of the corner, ready to rush back at the slightest sign Thundercracker was about to go back into his rage.
"What was all that about?" Scrapper demanded as he hurried to Hook's side, figuring it would be safest near the medic.
"He's likely getting feedback resonance from whatever they're doing to Starscream," Misfire sounded rather dismal as he spoke, watching Thundercracker sadly. "It's probably why the tantrums are spaced out."
"Any idea where Skywarp went?" Mixmaster asked after a small silence.
"Wherever he is, he better be figuring out a way to get us the slag out of here," Runamuck growled.
"A lone seeker against that weapon that caught us out in the quarry are not good odds," Hook stated as he turned away from his conversation with the occupant of the smaller cage again.
"Yeah but with his warp drive, the odds do get a little better don't they?" Misfire asked.
"And maybe he went to find Soundwave," Scavenger sounded enthusiastic about the notion. "Or even Rollerforce and the others."
"You have to admit, Soundwave would do a better job of figuring out how to get us out of here," Scrapper admitted. "If he managed to meet up with Barricade–"
"If Barricade is even alive," Long Haul reminded him.
"—then that's six Decepticons right there. In addition to Soundwave's team that's four more, so ten."
"If Soundwave even bothers to look for us," Runabout lamented. "He left us, remember? They all left."
"They left Starscream. There is a difference," Hook replied. "They're still Decepticons."
Thundercracker suddenly came to a halt in his pacing and whirled around to stare the far left bay doors intently. Everyone, even Hook and Misfire, froze.
It took a very long time for the huge doors to open before humans started streaming through them. The first group of humans continued on through the large bay to the smaller human doors that led deeper into the building but a second, smaller group started heading towards the small cage next to the Decepticon's, a struggling human in the center of the mass. Behind them…
"Well we're all screwed," Runamuck pragmatically announced.
There was no possible way any of them wouldn't recognize Ironhide, the infamous Autobot Gunner and personal friend to Optimus Prime, even prone and sprawled over the massive truck bed.
The struggling human was shouting at the workers but clearly they weren't listening as they hurled him into the small cage, the other human already a prisoner there trying to grab him before he made a lunge at the door. He missed but was able to haul the enraged man away from the electricity that suddenly coursed through him when he touched the bars. A much smaller voltage then the one on the cage the Con's were in but just as hurtful to fragile human bodies.
The large truck with the Autobot had meanwhile proceeded through the bay and through another pair of doors. The Decepticons managed to watch the procession head down a long corridor and around a corner before the door finally sealed shut.
"You bastards!" the new human bellowed, but most of the humans that had arrived with him were already disappearing through smaller doors and away from the holding bay. He shouted a long string of words that the Internet declared as offensive but seemed to use a grate deal nonetheless.
"I think I like this human," Long Haul decided as the rather long linty of words slowed.
"What are they going to do with Ironhide?" The new human instantly demanded of his cell mate as he finally turned away from the door the Autobot had disappeared through.
"Will you stop moving?" The other human snapped as he yanked on the new one's arm. "Your hands are injured. I wish they gave us some damn burn cream if they're going to electrify the damn bars."
"Do I know you? And what is this place?" the other human continued agitated as he finally took in his surroundings. It didn't take him long to look to his right and spot the large group of Decepticons, minus Thundercracker who was back to pacing and snarling, staring at him.
"Who are you?" he inquired surprised, looking them all over one by one. "I've never seen any of you before."
"Prisoners, just as you and the Autobot Gunner are," Misfire explained even as Runamuck continued to lament behind him.
"Prisoners?" he looked at the group more closely. Specifically at the emblem they all wore as he backed far away to the opposite side of his cage from the large Cybertronions, pulling his hand free from the other human and pulling him along. "They're Decepticons. You're Decepticons."
"We're dead!" Runamuck suddenly bellowed as he rejoined the group from his privet ranting. "There's no way we're getting out of here. Not if the humans are going after the Autobots who are supposedly their allies and friends."
"Hey, different group of humans pal," the human shouted back as the first one reclaimed a waving hand. "The one's here, they're following some whack-job with an agenda. Fuck if we know what that agenda is. Trust me, these guys aren't the Autobot's friends."
"Great, so even the humans are split into factions," Runabout groaned. "We're going to die on some backwards planet and we're not even going to go in battle!"
"Will you shut it!" Mixmaster snarled. "You're not helping the situation any!"
The human eyed them cautiously. "Are you new arrivals? Did Burgen get you when you first landed on Earth?"
"No, we've been on Earth for some time now," Misfire told him, bringing the humans focus to himself.
"Aren't you that jet who was going crazy at LAX?
The new human turned away from Misfire to look over the Decepticons curiously. "So you've been prisoners all this time? Is this why Optimus and the others haven't heard anything from you lot since Starscream and that other one…" he trailed off as he watched Thundercracker try once more to pry the bars apart only for arcs of electric volts to jump over him.
"… and that third purple one attacked us up in the Arctic."
"We haven't been prisoners that long," Mixmaster growled. "We're not that easy to take down."
Scrapper made an aborted noise but said nothing to argue the statement. It had probably been the fastest defeat in the history of the Decepticons. The fact that it wasn't handed to them by Autobots but rather by tiny, easily squished alien beings on a rather bizarre planet, was a rather low blow to their egos. Though the fact that the humans had inside help from Swindle negated that feeling slightly, but only just as the betrayal was also demoralizing.
"They only brought this group in a few days ago," the first human confirmed. "The agents here have been busy ever since and we haven't seen Burgen at all."
"So you've been fighting Thirteen all this time then?" the new human asked the Decepticons.
"Thirteen what?" Misfire asked curiously.
"Um… never mind," the human came back to the center of his enclosure and turned to the first human who had been watching quietly even as he wrapped the new human's hands with a long strip of cloth. "Do you know what they're doing here? What they want with Ironhide?"
"None of us have been able to ascertain the exact nature of this facility," the other human replied.
"Meaning they haven't told us anything," Scavenger simplified.
"We awoke here in this cell," Misfire explained. "We don't know what they could possibly be doing to the Autobot or Starscream."
"They have Starscream too?" the human yelped.
Runabout glared at him. "Is that not what we just said human?"
" 'Will' what?" Runabout replied hotly.
"My name. Captain Will Lennox." He held his hand out to the other human who gave it a firm shake and a small greeting.
"Like we care, human," Runamuck huffed.
"At least we can be sure of a rescue now," Hook declared.
"How do you figure?" Scrapper demanded.
"The humans took Ironhide," he pointed out as if they didn't all watch the black mech hauled past them not moments ago. "The Autobots won't stand for this at least. Especially such a good friend of Optimus Prime."
"Oh great. Ironhide will be rescued. Good for him," Mixmaster growled. "What the slag are the rest of us suppose to do when they leave us here?"
"Hopefully our companions out there will realize something is going on with the Autobots and follow them," Scavenger shrugged. "Perhaps they'll use the Autobot's rescue as a cover for their own and get us out."
"Won't the 'Autobots' free you as well?" the other human asked curiously. "You are all from the same planet, aren't you?"
"Of course not. They're Autobots, we're Decepticons," Mixmaster clarified. "They won't lift a finger to help us. Especially since we follow Starscream."
Will now rolling his eyes in typical human fashion. "Optimus and the others won't leave you behind when they come to rescue us."
The Decepticons all focused their attention on him again. "And you're such good friends you know for a fact that he won't leave us?"
Will shook his head. "No, but I know for a fact that Barricade and Soundwave won't let them leave you behind. They helped Barricade rescue Frenzy after all."
Stunned silence. Even Thundercracker stopped growling for a moment as they all processed that sentence and came up with negative eleven.
"They're with the AUTOBOTS?" more than one person shouted then it was a cacophony of noise and the Decepticons started talking over each other.
"I should have known! The slagger could never do anything without Megatron!"
"There has to be some explanation. They would never just join the Autobots."
"There's got to be a trick. Something he's using the Autobots for."
"To look for Megatron maybe?"
"Knew that slagger couldn't do anything on his own, no matter what rank he is."
"If the Autobot's had Frenzy, it could be why Soundwave left."
"So what's Barricade's excuse for leaving?"
"He would if Starscream left him for dead. Which I can see Starscream doing."
"Barricade would never betray us! HE was always loyal to the cause."
"Rollerforce never would either. Or Groundhog."
"Is an idiot."
"Will all of you just SHUT THE SLAG UP!"
Mouths clanged shut at the sudden bellow.
Sitting on the ground, his wings dropping almost flat against his back, Thundercracker glared balefully at everyone. His optics were brighter and clearer then they had been for what seemed like days.
"They'll come. With or without the Autobots," he rasped with fried vocolizers and Hook started to make his way to the blue seeker's side only to be waved away. "Starscream specifically told Skywarp to go to them and the Autobots. They know we've been captured. They'll come."
"Wait a moment," Long Haul gasped, optics bright with surprise as he stared at the other mech. "You knew they were with the Autobots? Barricade and the others?"
Thundercracker nodded. "Saw them when we attacked up in the frozen land. Barricade and Soundwave at least, not sure if Barricade's team found them."
"What can the two of them and Soundwave's team do alone?" Runabout asked.
"They won't be alone," Will insisted. "Optimus and the others will help. If only to figure out what Burgen and Thirteen are up too. And even if for some reason Optimus decides not to rescue you, which he won't, they'll still come for Ironhide and me which means they'll have no choice if Bumblebee has any say in it."
"Who?" Scavenger demanded.
"The little yellow scout," Thundercracker rasped as Hook tried to tend to him for the over-surges with what little equipment he had.
"Why would he have any say in anything?" Misfire asked.
Will shook his head. "It's a long story. Just know that when Barricade and Soundwave come, Bumblebee, and most likely a few others, are going to insist on helping them get you lot out of here. They won't give Optimus a choice unless he wants to leave his own people behind."
"Also this sector is a rouge agent of the government," the other human prisoner joined in the conversation. "They won't stand for this. Especially Secretary Keller."
"Keller already knows about Thirteen. They've attacked human friends of the Autobots and you're right, Keller's pissed."
"If they already know about Dr. Burgen, then they most likely already have aerial and satellite surveillance searching for this place," the other man figured. "It's also likely that this is one of old Sector Seven's facilities. If they can contact anyone from the disbanded Sector, they may be able to pinpoint our location."
"You're not from Seven?" Will asked surprised at this revelation. "I assumed that's why you were a prisoner here."
"I'm actually a homeland security agent," the other man told him. "I've never met anyone in Sector Seven, only heard about it with everyone else after the president disbanded them."
"We actually know someone. Agent Simmons is already helping Maggie and Glen out at the Autobot Consulate," Will explained. "Do you know anything else about all this?"
"About as much as you do I'm afraid. Or more likely less, I only know what was in the report briefs I was given in preparation to meeting you and the other Autobots."
"Meet us?" Will frowned before realization dawned on him. "I do know you! You're the agent we met at the Canadian border! Huntsman or Tracker or something."
The man sighed. "'Hunter', and no, it wasn't me that you met there. That was my younger brother and no, we're not twins though we do look an awful lot alike."
"Oh," Will seemed rather puzzled. "Then who are you?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I neglected to introduce myself. I was the agent who was supposed to meet you at the Alaska border. You may call me Knight."
Author's Note: Ok, so there you are! The surprise that practically EVERYONE already guessed. I know that for chapter 200 and after a very long time waiting, this isn't the exciting chapter all of you were hoping for. I am sorry about that. I'm also sorry to say that it will be a while before the next chapter comes out because I have to go back and figure out where everyone else is at the moment. It WON'T be another year though. Month or two at most.