TFE

C28 Storms Brewing

Copyright 2008, masterfwiffo. All rights reserved.

"The end of the War..."

Megatron had laughed. He still didn't know what Magmatron was building - the First General had refused to say anymore - but the notion that whatever weapon he was building could single-handedly win the war was absurd.

Now, leaving the First General behind to revel in his own imagined glory, Megatron could do nothing but shake his head. "He's insane." He muttered, too focused on his thoughts to realize he was speaking aloud. "That's the only explanation. He's lost it entirely." Not that Magmatron had ever been particularly level headed anyway - in Megatron's opinion, that was. But as far as he was concerned, the end of Magmatron's career was in sight. Good riddance. He just hoped the First General wouldn't take down the Decepticon Empire with him.

So engrossed in his own thoughts, Megatron failed to notice the form slipping past him, well aware of his mutterings. Wreckage, Magmatron's faithful lieutenant, proceeded directly to where Magmatron was standing. He took his place at Magmatron's side, and remained silent, waiting for his cue.

Magmatron's optics were on the sky. "A storm is coming." He said quietly.

Wreckage followed his gaze and confirmed that indeed, dark clouds were forming on the horizon. "Yes, sir."

Magmatron continued. "And I am surrounded by fools who cannot see it coming."

"You are aware then, that Megatron thinks you've lost it?"

"And what do I care if he does?" Magmatron laughed. "He's near the end of his career anyway."

"Yes, I suppose." Wreckage answered, his voice subdued. "I would not underestimate him, my lord."

"Believe me," Magmatron sneered, "I don't." His gaze returned to the oncoming weather. "Now then, what is it you've come to tell me?"

"I have news." Wreckage said readily, "News that Megatron tried to hide from you."

"Oh? And that would be?"

"I overheard two of his soldiers talking, one trying to keep the other one quiet. Without fail, I employed my own sources in an effort to learn-"

"Skip to the point."

"Sir, a second Matrix exists. It is here, on Gigantia."

Magmatron froze. "What did you say?"

--

"Earth's sky is blue?" Glitch asked, obviously fascinated.

Michelle laughed. The minicon's company had lifted her spirits, and her cheerful bright-eyed inquisitiveness helped her forget the helplessness of her situation.

"I can't imagine a blue sky." Glitch said softly. "Are the clouds still orange?"

Michelle laughed. "No, they're white." Her eyes drifted toward the sky. "But those ones are not..." She said softly, noting the black clouds on the horizon.

Glitch's optics followed her eyes. "Those look nasty." She confirmed, a hint of fear crossing her voice. She turned suddenly, and took hold of Michelle's arm. "We should go." She said, worry crossing her face.

"What's wrong?" Michelle asked.

"When storms hit these mountains, things get dangerous." Glitch continued. "It's not a good place to hang around. We should go."

"Go where?" Michelle asked.

Glitch started, as though she hadn't anticipated the question. "Umm... home, of course. Yes, home."

MIchelle glanced at her, suddenly uneasy about her new friend.

--

"I cannot believe you." Red Alert grumbled, again.

Everyone ignored him. Ironhide grabbed the stocks and reshuffled them, dealing them out to the game's three other participants - Excellion, Aidia and Aris. The only one who had any semblance of interest in the game was Ironhide - the others were using it as a distraction, to keep their minds from dwelling on their predicament.

Red Alert, who did not take kindly to being ignored, turned away with a huff, and returned to staring out at the dark, shadowy waters. Mumbling softly enough that he was convinced only he could hear it, he said, "We're all going to die and it's your fault and all you can think about is a slagging game, what the slagging heck is wrong with you-"

"If you can think of a way out of this, be my guest." Ironhide said cheerfully. "Or, if you prefer, you can sit down and shut up. We're dealing again, you in?"

Red Alert glared at him, glared back out at the stifling waters, and then back at Ironhide one more time. Then he relented, and joined the game.

"That's better." Ironhide said amiably. "Now we're all one big happy family."

"Someday, I'm going to kill you." Red Alert swore.

--

Starscream caught Shockwave staring at the sky, alone. Unusual, as the other two enforcers, Sixshot and Payload, were nowhere in sight. Unusual, yes, but for Starscream, most fortunate.

"My dear Shockwave," He began sliding up behind him. "I was hoping to speak to you."

"Take your processor and shove it." Shockwave answered.

Starscream smiled. No order to leave - Shockwave was in an approving mood today. "Big things are afoot, Shockwave."

"I know it." Shockwave answered sharply. "You know it, and everybody on this slagging planet knows it. And your point is?"

"Things bigger than you realize." Starscream continued. "Great things, epic things-"

"Do you have a point to your blathering, or can I get on with my life?"

Starscream soured for a brief moment, and then allowed his smile to return. "Why Shockwave, I'm talking of regime change."

Shockwave's eye scanned him. "What, you think you can overthrow Gigatron? That's lofty, even for you."

"I do not presume any such thing." Starscream answered. "But I know many, many things. I know there are factions within the Decepticons dissatisfied with his rule. I know of many who care not for his generals - including yourself, I would imagine."

Shockwave grunted, but said nothing. Starscream's smile grew. "And I know that many of them are waiting, just waiting for a new leader."

"Like yourself I suppose." Shockwave sneered, turning to leave.

"Me?" Starscream said, faking surprise. "The thought had not crossed my mind. I have no such leadership qualities. I was thinking of someone else, someone more like... yourself."

Shockwave paused. "I find it difficult to believe that."

"I knew you would," Starscream said coyly. "But it is true. While I have charisma, charm, and good looks," - he paused briefly to admire himself - "Ahem, I however, am lacking in the intelligence, in the drive to lead such an army. I would know nothing about how to actually run an empire. You, however, have no such lack."

Shockwave gaped at him, trying to decipher the Seeker's statement. "Are you serious?"

"Of course." Starscream said innocently. "I believe in the Decepticon cause, but I do not believe in its current leaders. I've had my optic's on you for some time, Shockwave, and I have met few with your, shall we say, qualifications for leadership. You have the needed personality, charisma matching my own, and intelligence and cunning to back it up. You've been gunning for Megatron's position for some time, and everyone knows you could hold it. But I could see you as even better... It is after all, only logical..." Starscream slipped out the last word slyly, knowing full well Shockwave could not resist that last phrase.

Shockwave nodded. "You are, of course, right. It is logical. But even if I could take out Gigatron, who would follow me?"

"Allies are throughout the Decepticon empire, if you would just look." Starscream smiled, turning out to face the coming storm. "I have my own cult among the Decepticons - where I go, they will follow. Indeed, many Seekers will also follow my lead. And what Enforcer would not want one of their own at the head? Yes, there are many."

"But not all." Shockwave objected.

"More than you would believe. Once our coup d'etat is complete, many would fall in line behind us immediately - a great number would fear our power, and comply. Only a few fanatics loyal to Gigatron would need to be weeded out. And what's more, I have recently learned of a second rebellion looming. The Minicons are planning to revolt - and I have them on my side already."

"Is that so?" Shockwave said thoughtfully.

"We could begin here." Starscream said grandly. "Taking this world, and then moving in-force on the Decepticon flagship-"

"No." Shockwave contradicted. "That would be no good. We must be more subtle about our goals. Instead, we will trick the Minicons into their rebellion, prematurely, of course. Megatron and the giants will crush them, but in the confusion, some, shall we say, grave accident will occur, leaving Megatron deceased - and with a little luck, perhaps that fool Magmatron as well. I will be appointed in his place, and when the time is right, I will kill Gigatron from his command ship."

"And what shall we use to set this is motion?" Starscream asked innocently, though he knew full well what the answer would be - Shockwave's plan was in fact, his own, he just wanted Shockwave to arrive at it himself.

Shockwave turned, staring out at a distant warehouse, dwarfing all the others, yes still barely visible under the heave thunderheads. "That."

--

Evac kept one optic on Skyfire at all times. She stood atop the rocky outcropping, optics on the sky warily watching the storm clouds. She had claimed she was keeping an eye out for Seeker patrols, but it was obvious that she wanted to avoid speaking to him. She had not told him everything - like how the two of them had ended up out here, alone, in the middle of nowhere, with no sign of their friends. Or rather, his friends, as the case may be.

She remained distant and aloof as Evac walked out to join her. He stared at her for a moment, then decided to test her. "I will not wait here any longer." He announced. "I'm leaving."

Skyfire glanced at him, remaining calm. "Where are you trying to go."

"To find the people I care about."

Skyfire leapt from her perch, and faced him, steady and unshakable. "No. A storm is coming, and the area is crawling with Decepticons, you can't-"

"Then I will fight my way through them." Evac snapped.

"No." Skyfire said firmly. "I won't let you."

"What right have you to stop me?" Evac demanded.

All traces of Skyfire's professionalism fell away, as she whirled on him. "How dare you!" She hissed, "Don't you have any idea what you're carrying?"

Evac was taken aback. "What does that have to do with-"

"If the Decepticons get their hands on a Matrix, it could tip the scales in their favor. I won't risk that!"

Evac paused for a moment, sympathy and understanding entering his spark.

Skyfire's optics bore into his, fury and sadness brimming over. "I already had to abandon my friends for you once." She choked out, her voice cracking. "Don't make me do worse."

All of Evac's sympathy fled. "YOU ABANDONED THEM?" He roared, bracing himself as if to attack.

Skyfire flinched back, realizing what she had just said. "I was under orders!" She protested desperately, "Sentinel Prime himself told me to-"

"He would let a thousand die for one?" Evac raged, fury filling every word. "I've had enough of you, and your Prime!" He howled, and transformed, rocketing into the sky.

"Wait!" Skyfire protested, grabbing onto his tail section. Evac pivoted, sending her sprawling, and rose into the air, shooting away toward the swelling thunderheads.

Skyfire watched him go, trembling, unable to bring herself to move, only beginning to realize how badly she had erred.

--

Optimus, Jetfire, Jazz and Crosswise wandered the caves somewhat aimlessly. The expanse seemed to go on forever, and as they traveled they went ever deeper into the mountains, though they were only mildly aware of that fact.

"I wonder how far back these go?" Crosswise mused, peering into the darkness, as though her gaze might force it to unveil its secrets.

"I wonder if there's an exit." Optimus muttered in return.

They had been walking for some time now, for the most part in silence. Above them, stalactites hung down, several still dripping with water, and stalagmites rose up from the ground below them. It looked almost like a forest of rock, an empty barren forest, dead but for the drippings of the water, and the lost explorers traversing it.

"Sooner or later we'll have to go back." Jetfire muttered. "Slag. I wonder if anyone else is still alive out there."

Optimus glanced mournfully at his friend, knowing full well who he was thinking of.

Crosswise ventured a little further up ahead, and then paused.

"Something wrong?" Jazz asked.

"I think I hear something." Crosswise frowned.

Jazz paused, his own audials now receiving the faint rumbling that had alerted Crosswise. "Yeah," He said suddenly. "Me too."

"We should keep moving." Optimus growled. "Come on, move!"

The four hurried deeper still into the caves, the rumbling following them.

--

"Storm's getting closer." Michelle shivered, now keenly aware of the biting wind that was increasing in intensity as it funneled through the mountains.

"That's why we should hurry." Glitch answered matter-of-factly. Michelle glanced at her, and to her surprise, saw uncertainty and a bit of guilt cross her face. "Come on. Can't you transform, or something?"

Michelle sighed, answering in the negative, as she had the forty times that Glitch had asked before.

Glitch groaned, and hurried her again.

The two had been weaving through the rocky crags - Michelle back in her exo-suit now, and more clumsy because of it. Glitch had suggested leaving it behind, despite Michelle's explanations of the concepts of 'food' and 'water'. They weren't going fast, a fact that seemed constantly more and more worrying to Michelle's minicon companion.

"Are the storms really that bad?" Michelle asked.

"I'm not so worried about the storms, as what comes with them."

"And what's that?"

"Bandits."

Michelle paled. "Bandits?"

--

The Wind Riders, they were called. A trio of jet minicons that stalked the mountain range, looking for opportune attacks. They had first made their name in the Great Storm of 21'94, when taking advantage of the terrible weather conditions that they had modified themselves to withstand, and hitting small Minicon outposts hard and fast, when no help could come to rescue them. Terradive, their cocky and vain leader, had dreamt up the plan during one of the violent storms, and prepared himself and his buddies - Razorwind and Gunbarrel to withstand the rigors of a Gigantian mountain storm. It was a coincidence that their first attack happened on one of the harshest storms in recent Gigantian history - but it was oddly fitting. By the time the storm cleared, three entire villages had been all but obliterated, their valuables whisked away, and the survivors carrying stories of the dark attackers in the storm.

Now, in the initial moments of every oncoming storm, the three of them were in the sky. If nothing valuable could be found, Terradive and his psychos were perfectly willing to kill just for the sport of it.

It was Glitch's and Michelle's misfortune then, that Terradive himself happened to catch sight of them as he soared above. An easy chance at chaos to further enhance his terrifying reputation, he thought to himself, as he signaled Razorwind and Gunbarrel to join him. It was going to be a fun storm, he could feel it.

--

Optimus stared in horror as the ground erupted in front of him, and a monster pulled itself out of the ground. One arm ended in a massive drill, the other in prongs cackling with electricity. It was gigantic, dwarfing all of them, its head nearly scraping the cavern's ceiling. But most frightening were it's optics - sparkless, unseeing, as if the beast wasn't even alive.

The machine howled once, and attacked, its drill arm slamming into the ground, shaking loose several stalactites from the ceiling, sending them crashing to the ground. The Autobots scattered, Crosswise and Jazz flipping into vehicle mode and racing away.

"Jetfire, cover fire!" Optimus shouted, drawing his gun and opening fire on the colossus. Jetfire's weapon's joined his, raining energy on the machine. But the beast was entirely unaffected by the weapons fire, and again slammed its drill into the ground.

"It's not working." Jetfire yelled.

"Brilliant observation." Optimus growled, transforming. "Get moving!" Jetfire followed suite, razing through the rocky crags.

Behind them, the monster yelled, then it too transformed, folding down into a huge armored tank, drill and energy conduit on both sides, and a heavy crest in the front. WIthout hesitation, it charged forward, heavy treads propelling its armored front through the rocks, snapping them easily.

"Is that thing a Cybertronian?" Jetfire gasped.

"I don't want to stick around to find out." Optimus answered. "Keep moving!"

The four rode deeper into the cavern, the rumbling of the beast behind them slowly growing fainter as they drove.

"It's falling behind." Jazz noted.

"We're not out of danger yet." Optimus answered. "If we can't find a way out, we're in trouble."

"Is it just me, or is the cave getting narrower?" Crosswise asked, panic seeping into her voice.

"Please let it just be her." Jetfire muttered, but his observations matched her words. The cave was shrinking. And behind them, their pursuer seemed to be getting louder.

Jetfire suddenly shot ahead of the group, away into the cave. A moment later, his voice came back. "We're in trouble!" He yelled.

Optimus, Jazz and Crosswise skidded to a stop and transformed, staring at where Jetfire had landed.

"Water?" Crosswise cried.

The cave ended in a pool of water, a pool that seemed to continue down forever, leading somewhere else. The water was dark, but clear, and its level seemed to rise and fall. The pool was barely larger than Jetfire.

"Two choices, choose fast." Optimus said quickly. "Stay here and try to fight that thing, or go for a swim."

Behind them, the creature roared again. The following vote was unanimous. They all dove in.

--

Glitch dragged Michelle along anxiously, casting furtive glances at the sky.

"We're so far from home, I shoulda known better..." Glitch said nervously. "If anything happens, it's my fault..."

"It wasn't your fault." Michelle answered. "If anything, you saved me. I wouldn't have known about them-"

Glitch didn't answer. She was frozen. "What's that?" The minicon whispered fearfully.

"What's what?"

She was answered as a minicon landed on top of her, throwing her to the ground, and perching on her chest.

"Well, what do we have here?" The Minicon cackled. "A couple of strays I think."

Glitch yelped, and leapt at the attacker - but two more Minicons came from behind and grabbed her violently.

"Got her, Terradive." One of the Minicons said gleefully. "Let's slaughter 'em!"

"Cool your thrusters, Razorwind." Terradive said calmly. "While I am all for wanton death and destruction, we should make sure these two don't have anything of value first."

"Unimportant details." The third Minicon snorted.

"I agree with Gunbarrel." Razorwind laughed. "Let's kill them. I got dibs on this pretty little one." He said, grabbing Glitch's face. She could do nothing but stare in mute horror.

"And what's this ugly-looking one?" Terradive said casually, grabbing Michelle and hoisting her up. "That's funny, never seen one like you before-"

Michelle kicked him.

"And feisty." Terradive snarled. "You're going first." He grabbed her helmet, and, punched it with all his strength. The helmet shattered, surprising Terradive enough to drop her. "What the slagging-?"

Michelle panicked. She struggled to her feet and attempted to flee, but Gunbarrel was faster, tackling her from behind. Michelle hit the ground hard, and knowing nothing else to do, began hitting buttons randomly on her exo-suits arm, hoping desperately for a weapon. The best she got was a flashlight. She turned and flashed it in Gunbarrel's face. He yelped with surprise and stumbled back, but Terradive grabbed Michelle before she could attempt anything else.

"I don't know what the slagging pit you are," Terradive snarled, "But I've gotten sick of you real fast."

"Think it's a Decepticon?" Gunbarrel growled.

"Doesn't matter, cause it's not going to be around for another click." Terradrive hissed. "I hope it screams when it dies."

"And that is quite enough of that."

Terradive froze. "Gunbarrel, Razorwind... that wasn't you, was it?"

The same strange voice answered. "Nope."

The three Wind Riders whirled, searching for the voice. They were answered by a laser blast, striking the ground at the bandit's feet. Terradive yelped, and whirled, just in time to see a smoking barrel pointed straight at him. Four, in fact.

"I suggest you three get out of here." The leader of the three Minicons facing him growled, the twin laser cannons mounted on his arms surveying the area. Behind him, his two friends - one with a cannon on his shoulder, the other's right arm consisting entirely of a launcher, nodded in agreement.

"You think you can mess with the riders?" Terradive snarled. Michelle answered for them, kicking Terradive in the rear and sending him pitching forward.

Gunbarrel and Razorwind glanced at each other, and shot off into the air.

Terradive watched them go. "Get back here, you cowards!" He yelled. "When I get my hands on-"

Another laser blast shut him up, and sent him too fleeing skywards.

"You ok, Glitch?" Michelle asked gently, helping her friend to her feet.

"I'm fine." She answered shakily, then turned to the three new Minicons. "Who are you guys?"

"Name's Wreckage." The leader of the three - the one with the twin barrels on his arms - answered gruffly. "These are my buddies, Knockout and Scattershot."

Knockout waved with a cheerful "Hello," while Scattershot simply glanced at his oversized arm, rubbing it slowly. Wreckage looked over the two of them, noting Michelle with an eyeridge raised. "You two shouldn't be out before a storm." He said. "And I don't even want to know what you are." He said, addressing Michelle briefly.

"I'm sorry," Glitch apologized. "We were heading home-"

"Where you at?"

"Err," Glitch paused, looking at her feet, before squeaking out an answer. "Casadia."

"Casadia? You're a long way from home, kid. What're you doing all the way out here?"

Glitch didn't answer, but shifted guiltily.

Wreckage looked at her, and then at Michelle again. "You got anything to say?"

"Don't ask me, I'm new here." Michelle said, as light heartedly as she could manage.

Wreckage sighed. "Forget about it. Come on you two, we'll head back to our place, 'till the storm blows over."

--

The watery tunnel was dark, and felt oppressively tight to the four occupants making their way through it. The tunnel quickly turned pitch black, and their lights could not pierce the darkness.

"I hope this wasn't a mistake." Jetfire growled, switching to his short-wave radio.

"Don't panic yet." Optimus answered. "We've pulled out of worse."

"I don't think it's following us." Crosswise said cautiously.

"Don't get your hopes up." Optimus warned.

"Guys, this way!" Jazz called suddenly, darting ahead of them. "I see something."

The other three followed, and swam out of the tunnel, and into open water. The water was still dark, but no longer stifling in its bleakness. Above, the dimmest traces of light could still be seen, staining the water a dark blue. Their lights scanned the area. The sea floor was barren, and dead.

"I liked the cave better." Crosswise shuddered.

"Heads up." Optimus ordered. "Let's get out of here before-"

He was cut off by a quake they all felt, as one again the ground erupted in front of them. Bubbles shot upward as the beast crawled out, back in robot mode, it's audible roar muffled by the water. It didn't wait, it simply charged at Jazz and Crosswise.

The two attempted to swim out of the way, their movement slowed by the sea, and then were sent tumbling through the water as the giant batted at them.

"Make a run for it!" Optimus yelled. The giant picked up his transmission and turned on him, slamming its electrical prongs - now inactive - down on him, pinning him to the seabed.

Jetfire propelled himself toward the creature, reaching for its head, but a strike by the spinning drill tore a gash in his chest. Bubbles erupted from Jetfire's chest as he cried out in pain, and began sinking back down towards the sea floor.

'The beast turned its attention back to Optimus when Jazz and Crosswise attacked from behind, grabbing onto its back and arms. The creature thrashed about wildly, trying to shake them off, and releasing Optimus in the process. Its prongs came up and grabbed Jazz, casting him away. A sudden jerk forward dislodged Crosswise and she hit the ground. The creature's muffled roar sounded again, and it brought his drill down, shearing Crosswise's arm from her body. Her scream was lost to the depths.

The beast whirled again, looking for Optimus. Optimus came from behind, grabbing onto the prongs on its arms. The monster flailed about - and then made its critical mistake.

The electrical currents attached to its arm flared - sending Optimus backwards with a debilitating shock, but the feedback striking the creature as well. Conducted by the water, electrical currents tore up the beast's mechanical body, causing ruptures and explosions of bubbles along its entirety until the giant managed to turn its own current off.

Jetfire was ready. He shot up through the water and latched onto the monster's chest, pulling on it violently and dislodging the covering. A burst of bubbles escaped outwards as water flooded its interior, swamping the occupant inside. Jetfire grabbed the beasts core, and pulled away as the lumbering creature ceased to move, and sank slowly to the sea floor.

Jazz swam to Crosswise. She was offline, optics squeezed tight in pain.

Optimus slowly rose to his feet, trying to stabilize his interior systems, gone haywire by the shock. He glanced over at Jetfire, holding his prize proudly. Optimus stared weakly. "A Minicon? That thing was piloted by a minicon?" He called, shakily.

"Looks like it." Jetfire muttered. "It's still alive. For all the good it'll do us."

"We've got to get out of here." Jazz rasped. "Crosswise is hurt."

"Easier said than done." Optimus growled. "We've got to get to the surface, before another of those things comes back."

Jetfire paused, squinting off into the distance. "We may not have to. This way."

He started off. Optimus glanced at Jazz, holding Crosswise tight, then nodded. "Come on."

They followed Jetfire blindly for a distance, when suddenly, a bright light flooded the area. Optimus gaped. "Now what?"

His short wave-suddenly crackled to life. "Good morning! Nice of you guys to drop by!"

"Ironhide?" Optimus demanded.

"Keep it down, we're trying to play cards in here." Ironhide's voice answered good-naturedly. "If ya'll will hurry up and get your tailgates inside, we might be able to squeeze you into the next hand."

Optimus stared wearily up at the ship's wreckage, and all he could do was laugh. His laugh carried a mixture of joy and bitterness, but for the moment, he and his men were safe.

He could only wonder if anyone else was still alive.

--

"I want all optics scanning the skies for this... Evac." Magmatron snarled, glaring over his three hand-picked favorites. Blackout, Barricade and Wreckage all watched him intently. "Monitor all comm channels," Magmatron continued, beginning to pace, "Monitor any reports, and if you find any other Autobots, don't kill them. This Evac is our new highest priority. I want him, and I want him now."

"You've got it, boss." Barricade chuckled.

"And if we find him?" Wreckage asked.

"Notify me immediately." Magmatron ordered. "Then keep him in one piece. I want to take this one out myself."

Blackout cast a wary glance at the sky, noting the piercing wind and the distant thunder. "We'll have to wait for the storm to pass." He muttered. "Weather will be too rough to search."

"SLAG THE WEATHER!" Magmatron roared. "You three get out there and find him, and I don't care how much damage you sustain! Get moving, NOW!"

The three transformed and fled off, knowing full well their commander meant it.

Magmatron watched them go, and then smiled faintly. "Nice try, Megatron. Trying to keep the grandest prize of all to yourself. Well, no more. The Matrix is mine." He turned back toward the major construction warehouse, where despite the weather, the Minicons, Giants and Decepticons were still slaving away at the epic construction project. "Ah, Gigatron is going to be most pleased. Elita One, and the Matrix... And this, the grandest gift of all." He admired the towering structure, and his grin widened. "He's going to be most pleased indeed."

It began to rain.

--