The fight for Cybertron had ground into yet another stalemate as each side pondered strategies that they hoped would give their side the advantage. The front lines had settled into an odd quiet, broken only occasionally by shots from snipers, quick skirmishes, or futile charges on heavily defended posts. Mostly the combatants stuck to their trenches and fortifications, dealing with the daily doldrums as best they could, staring across no-mans-land, waiting for the order to attack or for an attack to come at them.
It has been said that war is hell, but for a Decepticon it was a way of life. The heat and smell of combat gave them a sense of purpose, usefulness, and most of all power, the one thing all Decepticons crave above all. It didn't really matter how one got it; from the lowest ranked recruit driving his blade deep into an Autobot's spark chamber or a commander directing troops, just about any means justified the ends. And nothing gave a Decepticon a sense of power like victory in battle.
The last major offensive had been a victory and had given his troops a taste of what they craved. With morale high and the enemy weakened, Megatron knew he had the advantage and wasn't about to give it up anytime soon. If he were going to claim what was rightfully his, he would have to throw everything he had at the weakling Autobots. It was time to call Soundwave, the Lord of Destruction, Super Megatron, and perhaps even Dynamax together to plan the campaign to overrun what was left of the Autobot's lines.
The only light in the conference room came from the holographic generator in the center of the meeting table. Holo-maps, charts, and reconnaissance images of enemy territory floated above the table, angled vertically so that all in the room could see. Occasionally, a surge would pass through the generator, causing the images and the light levels to flicker. The room was eerily silent, the only sound coming from the tall, dark-colored Decepticon at the head of the table.
"Resources are kept here." Soundwave pressed a small button in front of him. One image zoomed in on a pair of warehouses within the Decepticon lines, highlighted by a luminescent glow. "Coordinates confirmed and secured."
"Excellent work, Soundwave," Megatron said, a smirk on his face. "Starscream, take Dark Perceptor and Cannonblast to Sector Alpha. Pickup a load of energon and rendezvous at these coordinates." He pointed to a to a large building located at the edge of the redrawn battle lines. "Dynamax will come down from the north and meet us there with his team. I want to block the Autobots from reaching Sector Echo." He indicated a large open area, highlighted in red on the map. "I will send Squawktalk with orders to the rest of the Tools of Destruction to move up from the south. I want that sector taken at all costs." Megatron turned his back to the table and waited for the inevitable questions.
"What is so slagging special about Sector Tallories?" Trebuchet inquired. "I saw those little twerps Rumble and Frenzy snooping around and was getting ready to chase them off when Laserbeak and Buzzsaw attacked me, lasers blasting. I fought back and nearly had them running when Air Convoy and Yourconvoy joined them. I've also received word of Stratosphera orbiting over the area, scanners reportedly on full."
Optimus Prime looked down at the tactical grid, indicating the movement of Decepticon regiments in the last seventy-two mega-cycles. "You were right to come to me. The Decepticon's latest maneuvers have been extremely suspicious. However, if I know Megatron, he'll want to fuel his troops before he makes his intentions known, but he'll want to strike as soon as possible. For now, take your team, Conveyus Prime, and the 81st Regional Support to our supply center. We'll need re-supply our front line units and prepare them for the worst.
The smaller Autobot stood at attention a moment before he took off out the door. As he exited, he failed to notice Gemini standing outside next to the door, quietly listening to the conversation within. He had a working relationship with Soundwave and was certain any information he could glean would be useful.
Optimus gazed over his senior commanders a moment before continuing. "I don't know what is in Sector Tallories that's gained Megatron's interest, but if the Decepticons want it you can be assured that it means bad news for us. We need to send our own units into that area and find out what's in there. Overloaded, take Op and Phasewing and survey that sector. Take your teams and use extreme caution; this could be an elaborate trap. Blaster, send word to Alpha Strike, Evolution Prime and Hoistimus to have their teams ready to move at a moment's notice; we may need them before this is all over. Tell Greeny to expect the worst as well. The Autobot leader looked over his roster again; many of his units were still recovering from the damage they had incurred in the last Decepticon offensive. Some had not even had time to visit the CR chambers and they still needed to repair parts of their defense system.
"Listen carefully my fellow Autobots." He touched a section of the map, illuminating a line across the grid. "We cannot allow the Decepticons to push us any further than this point. If they do, they will cut us off from one of our most important resources and use it for their own purposes. If that happens, I can't imagine what Megatron will be able to accomplish…"
"Come in Blaster."
The Autobot communications officer tuned to the channel and gave it his undivided attention. "Yo man, what do you need to know?"
Out in the field, Iron Chef Energon fiddled with the communicator while the rest of his Lasting Love Jumping Kittens team scanned the area. "We are getting major energy readings out here. Looks like whatever natural resource our planet has left has managed to reach the surface. Or at least close enough to obtain a reading."
Optimus heard the report from his position across the command center. "I was afraid of that," he said grimly. "Order more units to that region and tell them to prepare for…"
Iron Chef's voice interrupted suddenly, his tone one of surprise and urgency. "Mayday, mayday, our unit's under attack! They came from everywhere! Send immediate reinforcements…" The connection hissed, crackled once, then died all together.
Blaster allowed a few nano-clicks to pass before he tried to re-establish contact. "Blaster to Iron Chef, come in. Blaster to anyone, please respond."
Optimus' optics narrowed. "They need assistance now," he said, turning to the door. "I'm heading out. Have anyone who's not in the CR chambers sent to the Kittens' last known coordinates. We have to push the Decepticons back immediately." He exited the command center in a near run with several other Autobots following close behind.
The battle had been joined some mega-cycles ago and the first reports were finally coming in. Defending the newfound resource was a major concern and it weighed heavily on the Autobot leader.
"Payne!!" Gemini shouted over the constant weapons fire. "Send word to Optimus that the plan is underway we are holding our positions!" He had met with the commander after the meeting had ended and the other had left. He'd been called in as his own commander; Viper was still in the repair bay. The current offensive was merely a stopgap measure, sending in just enough units to stem the Decepticon tide.
"Sir, yes sir!" The ex-cassetticon took to the air, dodging plasma charges in the process. He quickly found Mosh Mobile and landed next to him. "Transform immediately!" Payne shouted. "I need to send an urgent message to base!"
Mosh Mobile gazed smaller 'bot blankly, his processors taking a moment to register what had just been said. "Okay," he said and slowly transformed into his large vehicle mode. Payne climbed into the cab before transforming and slipping into the stereo cassette deck. A high-pitched shriek of electronic feedback flooded the area, and anyone in the immediate vicinity covered their audio receptors, cringing in pain. Payne quickly switched frequency and silence filled the air.
"Did you hear that?" Datamatrix turned, though he didn't ease the grip he had on an Autobot's neck. Psychout glanced up, his expression a silent question. "I detected a burst of static, like audio feedback, but it's gone now. Well my brother, it appears that they are attempting to send their own communiqué!" The violet and scarlet hacker tossed aside the lifeless chassis of A-10 and advanced forward in an attempt to make his way to the origin of the transmission. Psychout considered stopping him, but thought it more prudent to report back to the field headquarters and flew off.
Soundwave had detected the transmission, but could do nothing until he received a report from Datamatrix and Psychout's positions on the front. It didn't take long for Psychout to arrive and the cassetticon immediately transformed. Soundwave received him and instantly downloaded the information. His optics narrowed, the closest he could come to an actual frown, and turned to Megatron.
"Progression stalled," Soundwave reported flatly. "More firepower required."
Megatron's grimace didn't change. "I see. So let's send our the heaviest artillery." He opened his comlink. "Frostbite, Meltdown, move into Sector Echo immediately. Whatever resources are there, I want them!"
If he had a mouth, Datamatrix would have been wearing a wide grin on his face. He could see that the Autobots were badly outnumbered and had taken to hiding amongst the ruins of the city. He glanced over to the shattered form of A-10, lying in a pool of his own mech fluid and watched as the lights in the optics of the Autobot flickered and went out. Then he noticed the Autobot Gemini standing just across the way. Soundwave had told him to watch for this one; apparently, this Autobot would have some valuable information. With his cassetticons clearing the path with machine gun fire, Datamatrix walked up to Gemini and faced the Autobot, dodging plasma bursts and shell fragments in the process. Gemini looked up, a slight look of surprise on his expression.
Ducking at the sound of another shell explosion, Datamatrix growled, "We need to talk. Somewhere a little more private, at least." Gemini nodded slight and followed the Decepticon around the corner of a bombed out building.
"I don't have much," Gemini stated. "Optimus only knows that there's an energy store under the surface; he doesn't even know what kind or even if it's viable."
"That doesn't really concern me. How did you get here so fast?"
Gemini shrugged. "Rumble and Frenzy were spotted sniffing around. I was sent in."
Datamatrix scowled at the Autobot a moment, didn't like the thought of allowing him to return to his post. He powered up the cannon on his shoulder.
Gemini heard the whine of the weapon, but kept calm despite his concern. "I have given you what I know, what I've been told. Is there something more you wish of me?"
"I wish to remove your spark from your functioning chassis," Datamatrix growled. "But my dear brother still has a use for you." He fired his cannon, letting loose a powerful laser blast that grazed by Gemini's head and leveled the wall behind him. "Consider yourself lucky this all you get, filthy Autobot. Now leave, before I change my mind."
Gemini knew better than to push his luck and took off before Datamatrix carried out his threat. The Decepticon turned to his legion of Cassetticons. "Rom, locate Soundwave and rely him this information. Include a report that says the Autobots are pulling back and that we should be able to take it from here." Rom nodded and went on his way, Ram following close behind. Datamatrix watched them go, shaking his head. He would have to speak with Soundwave about those little punks being foolish enough to get spotted… again.
"At least the others are a little more discrete," he grumbled.
Blackmoon kept to the shadows, listening intently, the thoughts of his old Decepticon ways made his core temperature rise. His first instinct told him to find and dispatch the traitor immediately, but the circumstances wouldn't permit that. It wouldn't help his cause to improve his standing in the Autobots' optics, either. The thought left a bitter taste in his mouth, but he waited until the Decepticons left before revealing himself. He scanned the battlefield; despite the smoke and fires that permeated the area, he could see it wasn't looking good. He saw Riccochet pinned down behind a pile of slag and moved towards him, shooting down a small Decepticon through its optics.
"Riccochet!" Blackmoon shouted, ducking a proton charge. "Take a look around at what's going on! We need to send for reinforcements or it's going to be a lost cause!"
Though irritated, Riccochet was well aware of what Blackmoon was talking about. "Alright, let's go. Cover me until we get out of range."
Blackmoon nodded in agreement, and then both transformed and rolled off at top speed.
Optimus Prime listened to the reports silently, his expression grim. He then stood and proclaimed, "He must not allow them to control that sector. Contact every Autobot within communications range. We'll need every unit, whether they're fully repaired or not. It's now or never; Autobots roll out!"
Finally reaching the front lines, Prime could see that the Decepticons had pulled back. The Autobots were slowly advancing on them without much resistance. But nothing was ever what it seemed, so he decided to take a small walk up the lines. He saw Viper a short distance away, taking careful aim at a Decepticon shock trooper.
He called out, "Viper! I need a full report!"
Distracted by the call, Viper lost his concentration and fired too early, missing his target. He turned towards Prime, livid. "Now? Can't you see that I'm right in the middle of something?!"
Optimus ignored the outburst. "Where's Gemini?"
Viper fell suddenly silent, his anger evaporating. He had lost track of his team in the confusion; it was possible they had scattered far and wide across the battlefield. "I have no idea," he admitted, shame slipping into his voice. He knew he should know better than that.
Optimus' optics narrowed. "Find him."
Viper moved quickly, heading for where he'd last seen Gemini, but there was no sign of his subordinate. Optimus moved on, shaking his head slightly.
Elsewhere, Phasewing dove into a nearby foxhole, dodging a blast of hot plasma, then stood up carefully as Optimus Prime approached. "There aren't many of them left, sir," she reported. "We should have this thing wrapped up before the end of the solar-cycle." Optimus nodded silently and continued walking. Phasewing silently ordered Silver Shadow to follow before turning to take a couple pot shots at a passing Decepticon squad.
As he continued his cautious stroll, Prime saw Waylander in the distance. The smaller Autobot had scored a direct hit on a Decepticon named Your Convoy, the blow cracking the chassis of the mech, followed shortly thereafter by an explosion. Another Decepticon was on a one-way trip to the Pit.
"Waylander!" Optimus called out.
Waylander turned, stood up slowly, a smile etched on his features. "Yes sir?"
Optimus patted him on the back. "Keep up the good work. Just keep an optic open for…" His voice trailed off. He had spotted something out of the corner of his optic. He stopped suddenly and turned. Silver Shadow had gone about a meter before noticing and turned, his face a silent question. The wolf cautiously made his way back to Prime.
As Silver Shadow padded forward, a low growl emanated from the shadow of a nearby, bombed out structure. Battle Cat suddenly pounced from the darkness, knocking Silver Shadow to the ground. The wolf's surprise was short lived and he fought back. Prime took a step back from the furball, contemplating stepping in to help, but knew that where there was one Decepticon, there was at least one more. He watched the shadows a moment longer. It wasn't long before the Lord of Destruction stepped out into the light, his pulsing dark red optics glowing brightly.
Optimus calmly lifted his laser cannon, taking careful aim at the approximate location of the Decepticon's laser core. "If you value your circuits, you'll leave, now," he warned.
Lord of Destruction said nothing; he simply grinned deviously and shook his head in a negative response. He chuckled slightly as he raised his weapons at point-blank range. But Silver Shadow hadn't been Prime's only escort; it didn't take long before Sharpwing, Inferno, and War Crime came up from behind their commander. Lord of Destruction didn't care; if he were going down, then he'd at least take some of these Autobots with him, if not all of them. He let the charge build in his weapon before emptying its stores of energy in a single, massive blast.
All four Autobots were knocked off their feet by the blast. Inferno was the first to recover and instinctively charged, intent on engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Lord of Destruction tossed him aside as if the Autobot were a rag-doll, but now Optimus had recovered and he wasn't about to go down that easy. He grabbed the Decepticon, holding steadfast long enough for War Crime to come in from the other side. Sharpwing joined the fray soon after, throwing punches left and right, but even restrained, Lord of Destruction was able to dodge the blows. Irritated, Sharpwing curled his fingers into a fist and thrust it into the 'cons midsection. It was a blow Lord of Destruction couldn't dodge and Sharpwing continued to pound away, metal and armor whining with the strain.
Not far away, Silver Shadow howled and lunged at Battle Cat, biting the large cat's back. Battle Cat rolled and turned, managing to throw his opponent off. A quick swipe of the paw threw the wolf into a nearby wall, knocking him out. Battle Cat quickly turned to Destruction's battle; he was still on his feet, still giving the Autobots trouble, but even he couldn't hold out for long under that stress. Battle Cat advanced slowly only to draw fire from Inferno. He backed off a bit, snarling slightly, and then disappeared into the darkness. But if anyone thought he was abandoning the field, they were wrong. Battle Cat leapt from another direction, forcing the Autobots to back away while Lord of Destruction fell to his knees. The large cat circled his fallen comrade, growling and snarling.
Inferno advanced slightly, but Prime waved him off. "This battle is over. Let's secure the sector."
Sharpwing pointed to the Decepticons, saying, "We shouldn't allow them to get back to their lines and repair themselves!"
"If we terminated them now, things would be much worse. Let them go… for now." Prime turned and walked away, with Sharpwing watching, shaking his head.
The Autobot's departure allowed Battle Cat to focus his attention to Lord of Destruction, who hadn't gotten up. He sat down and sent a coded message, requesting a pick up.
Meanwhile, Viper walked by the Autobot field headquarters; still unable to find out where Gemini had gone.
On the Decepticon side of the battlefield, Megatron aimed his fusion cannon and blasted an unseen target. "Soundwave, I need your latest report! This is ridiculous; there is no reason for this poor showing of strength on our part."
Soundwave said nothing as he handed the datapad in his hand to Megatron. The warlord took it, gazed at it a moment, his expression molding itself into a hard scowl.
"More effort than what it's worth." He tossed the pad aside. "Let's leave this sector for now." He took to the air, saying, "Make certain that the best of my warriors receive repairs first."
Soundwave sent the communiqué, but by the time it reached Battle Cat, the damage had already been done. His only concern now was to keep the drop zone clear until their ride picked them up.
"The energy source is ours!" A shout of victory went up through the Decepticon ranks as they marched relentlessly towards the retreating Autobots. Angelica and Thundersky swaggered side by side, taking careful aim so that every shot counted. Waster Ammo and Strike Force 13 flanked the pair, making sure there was nothing in the way of the advancing units. A few were distracted by their own personal agendas; Mr. Muffykins and the Tools of Destruction sifted through the various terminated and stasis-locked Autobots, looking to claim a bounty on the Autobot Sparkplug from the Scalp Collectors.
Across the lines, the Lord of Destruction and Battle Cat found themselves in bit of a predicament. They had been doing some reconnaissance behind Autobot lines and were sending a coded transmission when Silver Shadow sniffed them out. That wouldn't have been much of a concern by itself, but the wolf had also brought Optimus Prime with him. The large Decepticon wasn't about to go out without a fight, so he powered his weaponry and unleashed a blast the Autobot commander wasn't expecting. The resulting sound and shockwave caught the attention of Sharpwing and War Crime, who raced in to investigate, only to find Optimus caught in the murderous grasp of Lord of Destruction. Sharpwing darted in quickly and launched a flurry of punches at the thick arms, only to watch in horror as the Decepticon's grip tightened. Not sure what action to take, War Crime could only stand in awe at the scene; it wasn't everyday Prime was at the mercy of a seemingly ordinary Decepticon. Seeing the reinforcements, L.O.D. tossed Prime aside, seeing the approaching Autobots as an opportunity to take out more than their leader. Sharpwing backed off quickly, just barely dodging a violent punch, before taking a running leap at the Decepticon, slashing away with his battle blades. L.O.D. only smirked at the futile attempt and easily batted the Autobot away with a swipe of his arm. A low, deliberate, and daunting sound came from the Lord's speakers; he was laughing.
Prime staggered to his feet, still fairly shaken by his ordeal. Under better circumstances, they could have probably been able to deal with this Decepticon, but too much energy had been spent trying to halt the main Decepticon thrust. To expend any more resources on a single tough and relentless opponent would be suicide. Backing away slowly, laser rifle carefully trained on the Lord of Destruction and his companion, and with gears grinding, Optimus shouted the order. "Autobots, fall back!"
Elsewhere, Mr. Muffykins had managed to track down and corner his prey, advancing cautiously but intent on claiming that bounty before someone stole it from him. It wasn't easy; Sparkplug fought hard, even scoring a few strafing hits, but the effort was ultimately useless. The Decepticon punched through the Autobot's chassis and crushed the laser core within. Hydraulic fluid seeped over Muffykins' hand and energon coursed over his arm as he ripped out spark chamber, still as warm as if the Autobot was functioning. He sub-spaced it before taking to the air to rejoin the others. Mission link
Megatron laughed quietly to himself, please with the progress that had been made. With each passing cycle, the Autobots were being forced back in defeat. He found the scanning equipment the Autobots had abandoned, left almost precisely where the first reports of a new source of energy had been made. He immediately started barking orders. "Get Scrapper and Scavenger down here immediately; I want this equipment and entire sector analyzed last solar cycle. In fact, bring the all the Constructicons and see if you can't find Scavendrill as well; we're going to need mining equipment and fortifications built. In the meantime, continue advancing; now is our time to finish the Autobots off!"
For all but the most suicidal Autobot, it was clear that this fight would not go their way and watching Optimus stumble was a particularly difficult to swallow. The command to fall back was carried over the communications lines and though no one wanted to give in, most knew that any additional effort would be futile. Slowly, they pulled back into a new line of trench works and outposts, carrying any wounded they could find along the way.
For the Decepticons, victory was sweet, but there was no time to rest on their laurels. For the moment, they would make any necessary repairs, round up the stragglers, and recharge their weapons and their own power cores. The maintenance crews went straight to work repairing and reinforcing the captured fortifications, some of which had been sabotaged by the retreating Autobots. But Megatron knew his forces would not be content on settling into yet another protracted siege; the fangs were at the throat and it was time to make the kill.