Wheeljack turned off his long-distance communicator and entered the channel he shared with his creations…
"I don't care what you think!"
… Just in time to hear another argument break out between his two oldest.
"I'm the leader, Slag! You better do as you're told or I'll really hand your aft to you!" Grimlock intoned angrily in response to his brother.
"You're stupid and I don't want to listen to you! I'm better than you anyway; at least I don't have my head under my skidplate like some 'bots," the other taunted, not phased by his sibling's growling in the least.
Wheeljack decided it was best to intervene before they tried 'proto-bumping' again. Sludge had taken orns to find last time.
"Hey, hey, guys! I got news! I got the –," the inventor started, but was cut off by Grimlock's furious roar.
Grimlock growled something unintelligible before swerving toward his brother.
As his eldest creation attempted to make good on his threat to send Slag into the orbit of a distant planet, Wheeljack sighed. Swoop, his second youngest, gently nudged him, and if they had been in bi-pedal mode at the time, he was sure his only flyer would have been giving him a part-sympathetic, part-exasperated smile. With an affectionate nudge of his own, he attempted to call the attention of the others again.
Grimlock halted mid-movement to acknowledge the inventor's annoyed call. Beating Slag into submission could wait until Wheeljack was pacified.
"What do you want?" he demanded. Just because he could wait didn't mean he would be nice about it, after all.
Wheeljack's exasperated huff floated over the comm.-line. "Like I was trying to say, I got some good news. I finally managed to contact Optimus," he said, ignoring Grimlock's snort of contempt at the name of the Autobot commander, "and I managed to get the coordinates of our approximate landing zone."
Swoop and Sludge immediately cheered. The idea of finally landing and reuniting with their commanding officers (and especially Ratchet, in Swoop's case) was a very pleasant thought indeed. Snarl, as usual, kept quiet, although the others knew he was eager to get out of the cold of space and back in the safety of an actual base as his siblings.
Slag edged over to Wheeljack. "We gonna go to the new planet now?"
"Yeah. Before the connection cut off again, Optimus said something about Ratch' needing an extra set of hands. Something about Jazz provoking Megatron, I think," Wheeljack replied as he pulled out of the cover of the blue planet they had been orbiting previously and setting a course for the blue and green planet off in the distance. The trip would take about two mega-cycles, but on the bright side, Grimlock's thoughts had been effectively derailed from bashing Slag.
A little over one mega-cycle later and they were approaching the ringed planet's estimated orbit zone. That was the good news. The bad news was that no amount of happiness could prevent his creations from becoming bored after a certain length of time, and in this circumstance there was little he could do to alleviate their boredom. So they were playing.
'More blindly crashing into one another and shouting acquired slang terms over the comm.-line than anything,' he thought to himself in amusement as he listened to Swoop adamantly insist that Slag was a reformatted trash compactor, because where else could he have gotten that mug (added by Sludge), to which the warrior bumped them both into Snarl, who had thus-far refrained from joining his siblings' immature game, all the while growling that they were the reformatted trash compactors. Grimlock was laughing uproariously at Slag's expense, but cut himself off abruptly when Slag told him just what he thought of his 'low-power laser scalpel'. Wheeljack sighed.
"All right, guys, enough of that now. We're all bored, I know. We'll be there in a little under one mega, so let's all just chill and conserve our energy, okay?" he asked in his most soothing tones.
Swoop immediately swept over to him and settled into semi-formation off his right side. Snarl and Sludge followed, albeit reluctantly, with Grimlock and Slag taking up the rear. Relieved, Wheeljack spoke again, a smile in his voice. "So who wants to hear about the day I met Elita-1?" Wheeljack would have grinned if he were capable in that moment at the way the others huddled in close to him like they used to when they were sparklings. 'Fully grown mechs, and they still act like they're not even half a vorn,' he thought affectionately as he recounted the tale for them in great detail.
He would later curse solar winds and the yellow star's flares with all his processor power as they were forced to land on one of the numerous moons of the ringed planet to sit out the storm. He only had so many stories.
Grimlock, as first to stir from recharge, took it upon himself to peer out of the little cavern they had found on the moon that was their current refuge. Apparently, the yellow star at the center of this galaxy had a bad temper. It kept sending solar flares all over the place, which had been the reason for their landing about four cycles before.
Turning his back to the entrance, he surveyed the other proto-forms present. His gaze fell over his younger siblings, affection in his expression despite the optic band and battle mask that he rarely removed. 'Mine,' he couldn't help but think possessively as he looked at his family. He left the mouth of the cave, careful not to bump the devices they used to make sure the cold of space didn't freeze them, to go sit by his comparatively small creator.
He placed a hand on the inventor's shoulder as gently as he could. He knew the older mech was growing rather weary from all the travel and lack of anything to do. In the rare occurrences that they had run into Decepticons over the vorns, Wheeljack had almost always had to stay back to defend whatever natives of whatever planet they had landed on; and with them always searching, creating, which was Wheeljack's primary function, had been a very hard thing to do. 'There's not much subspace for proto-forms,' the mech thought, sad for his creator.
Less than a breem later, Wheeljack's optics on-lined and his head-fins flashed a cheery blue in greeting while his systems booted up.
Grimlock patted the other's shoulder lightly before standing up and going back to the entrance of the cave. All business, he said, "I think the solar flares are done now. They took up quite a bit of time so we're going to arrive late."
Wheeljack's vocal indicators faded into a soft yellow. "How much time, Grimlock?"
"Four and point three-five cycles. The moon moved us pretty far off course. It'll take us a whole mega-cycle to reach the little organic planet now, at least," the other informed.
Wheeljack sighed and stood. As he stretched out the kinks in his spinal structure and shoulder struts, Grimlock roused the others from their recharge cycles. Just for the heck of it, he activated his long-range comm. to see if they could get any clear signals. To his surprise, he was, indeed picking up a signal; his eagerness to query the signal was short-lived, however, because although he was no communications specialist, he could recognize drone out-put when he saw it. The relatively primitive technology was proof enough that this was one of the satellites from the planet they were headed to, and it was friendly, so that was a plus.
While the others booted up, Wheeljack used the satellite to plot a new course to the planet Earth. Indeed, the new course would take a full mega-cycle, and that was if they didn't run into any more impediments and traveled at optimal speeds.
While Wheeljack did that, he watched Grimlock, who had taken it upon himself to get his brothers ready to leave the moon, acting for all the world like the leader Wheeljack had made him to be. Pride swelled in him at the thought, but he pushed it back. He could gush later, they had places to be.
Sludge bounced eagerly, following his brother out of their hidey-hole. Sure, they had lost time, but with Grimlock and Wheeljack both on the job, they would be okay, Sludge knew.
He obediently folded down into his compact traveling form when he was ordered to do so and launched himself into the sphere's orbit, closely followed by the others. On Wheeljack's command, they took off, skirting a couple more moons and various asteroids on their way out of the planet's rings. He wished he had something to draw with; unlike his brothers, he rather liked deep space and all the colorful décor it contained. Certainly, he would greatly enjoy seeing Autobots outside his family again, but there was something special about the vastness of space that made him wish he could come here more often. 'Maybe Cosmos will have already arrived on Earth,' he thought with no small amount of glee. 'He could stream the planets for me to draw if I asked him.'
Just thinking about his little friend made him eager to reach Earth. The little saucer was what he considered his best friend, and with good reason. While most others ridiculed him for his seemingly slow processors and constantly insulted Wheeljack's engineering prowess because of him, Cosmos had never been anything but kind. Before they had been forced to leave Cybertron, he had spent nearly all of his off-time with the other mech. In fact, a lot of that time was used to contribute to his exceedingly vast knowledge of constellations, the thing he probably knew most about. 'Cosmos would already have this solar system mapped out if he's here,' he speculated, 'He'd have pictures too. I'd love to have a closer look at some of these…'
His internal dialogue was interrupted by an indignant growl over the comm.-line. "Watch where you're going, Sludge, or were you trying to ram me into the next vorn?"
Sludge was surprised by this, and realized that in his musing, he had been slowly drifting left and had nearly crashed into the volatile Slag. "Sorry, Slag," he said sheepishly, drifting back over to his spot by Snarl. The other just grumbled at him before going back to heckling Grimlock about whatever they were fighting about this time. And he let his mind wander…
"Pit, Sludge! Stop drifting!"
Slag wished he could glare at his brother. The dumb scrap heap's mind was obviously all over the place right now, but Slag didn't much care for the idea of picking himself out of some distant planet's grill because Sludge was inattentive. That in mind, he fell back, allowing the other more room to drift around as he pleased while Slag considered the pros and cons of the world that their leader had claimed to be their 'new home'.
A primarily organic world? It didn't seem logical. Why had they even landed there, and what had become of the search for the All Spark? Wheeljack hadn't said anything, so perhaps Prime hadn't told him? Maybe they had it but didn't want to risk Decepticon communications hearing about it.
That was a nice thought, but it didn't explain why they weren't just going back to Cybertron. Curious, he hailed Wheeljack over a private channel.
.: What's up, Slag? :.
.: You talked to Prime. Why are we staying on that little organic planet? :. He asked bluntly, as was his way.
Slag wasn't sure, but it almost seemed like his creator hesitated before answering. .: Well, Slag, you have to understand by now that it would have taken something seriously drastic to end the war… :. He started, and then switched to the main channel.
"Guys, there's something I'd like to talk with you about," Wheeljack informed them in his most serious voice. All chatter stopped instantly, and Wheeljack made a sound akin to a sigh, something that made Slag nervous, and he knew he wasn't the only one.
"Guys… Regarding the All-Spark…" the engineer trailed off.
Swoop called worriedly to him after a few kliks of silence. "Wheeljack?"
"Huh? Oh, right. Well, you see, while I was talking to Optimus a few orns ago, he told me what happened to end the war." Here he trailed off again for a moment before continuing. "I don't know how to break it to you guys lightly, so I'm just gonna come out with it. The All-Spark is gone."
Slag nearly rammed into Sludge in his shock. Gone?! When he had decided to ask, that certainly hadn't been a possibility he had considered. He righted his course before voicing his thoughts. "What the pit do you mean, gone? It can't just… Just disappear!"
Wheeljack made another sighing sound, cutting off whatever other protests his creations had. "It's gone. Destroyed. They used it to kill Megatron once and for all. That's all I got before the connection cut again."
Silence reigned for a long time after that as they digested this shocking fact. After a while, Swoop made a dismayed sound. "What are we going to do without the All-Spark?"
Their creator spoke, voice laced with the sadness he had been hiding from his younglings since he had found out of the All-Spark's demise. "Live on the planet we're heading to now. I don't know our leader's full plans, but that's what I've gathered. Earth is to be our new home, probably permanently."
Understandably depressed, everyone was quiet for the remainder of the journey. What did one say to that?
Finally, they were making planet-fall. All things considered, it had been a good trip, but after all the time they'd spent searching for the All-Spark only for it to have been destroyed, Swoop was more than ready to get planet-side and stay planet-side. Wheeljack would get in contact with Optimus and verify the coordinates, and then they'd be able to see their new home. He occupied himself with waiting for Snarl to coax a nearby satellite into giving them the information they would need once they landed. Languages and such. If Swoop remembered correctly, they were supposed to learn 'English' as their primary language. English. Eengleeeeshh. What a weird word. A far cry from the sounds he was used to, but he'd adapt.
Meanwhile, Sludge was begging information from Wheeljack about who had already shown up, but their creator seemed rather reluctant to part with the information, as though he wanted to keep every bit of joy all for himself. It wasn't hard to figure out who his sibling wanted to see the most. They all had someone they wanted to see the most. On that thought, an old image floated to the surface of his memories. 'Ironhide…' he thought wistfully, picturing the old warrior as clearly as if he were right there with them. He had been one of their teachers before everyone separated, and Swoop couldn't recall a time that he hadn't wanted to be involved with the mech. The young flyer couldn't wait to see his crush again. Maybe he'd even tell the mech how he felt…
Swoop was pulled from his musings by the amused laughter of his creator, who finally gave in and listed off all the Autobots that Optimus had told him had arrived. The twins, Sunstreaker and Sideswipe had apparently arrived recently, and had given news of Prowl and all those under his command were not to be too long after. Just the news that Sludge had been looking for, as Cosmos had been put under Prowl shortly after the war began.
Tracks had arrived not long after Optimus' signal was sent out, bearing news that Ultra Magnus, Kup, and the Wreckers would be on their way as soon as possible, but things kept popping up that couldn't be ignored. It went unspoken that Decepticons were everywhere and the others had to keep fighting them off.
The list was quite extensive for the apparent short time since it had first been sent out, but that was all the better for them. Swoop doubted the Decepticons had had any such luck.
Snarl sent them all a data-burst shortly after Wheeljack finished rattling off the Autobot count. Swoop downloaded all the information quickly, eager to get out of orbit and stretch his wings. Within a quarter breem, Wheeljack had made one last contact with Optimus Prime to inform him that they were descending before he gave his younglings the go-ahead. With Grimlock and Slag at the lead, they angled themselves for impact with Earth's atmosphere.
Wheeljack unfolded himself and looked around excitedly. This planet was so amazing! Just brimming with life and things to study. He couldn't wait to get started.
But first, camouflage. Eying the lot he'd landed in, he saw Swoop and Snarl coming toward him, but the others were no where in sight. His head-fins flashed anxiously. "Where are the others?" he asked, testing the new language Optimus had instructed him to use on this continent.
Snarl shrugged, listening. "Think they on other side of building. They clumsy," he replied, also using the new language. It came out a bit slow and extremely simple and Wheeljack knew that was the fault of their admittedly primitive translating programs. He'd have to upgrade those when he got the chance.
Sure enough, the others came stomping around the side of the abandoned warehouses they had used as their landing point, drawing his attention. Sludge greeted them jovially and Slag huffed, picking some greenery out of his elbow. Grimlock strode over to Wheeljack and vocalized his concerns.
"Us need disguise. Nothing around here, him Slag check. All things too small."
Slag muttered the affirmative while glaring at the offending foliage that he couldn't quite reach. Swoop squawked and walked over to the larger 'bot, pulling his meager medical kit out of subspace. "You, Slag, give me elbow. Me, Swoop, get green stuff out," he demanded, reaching for the appendage. Slag gave it over willingly; the green stuff was irritating his gears. While Swoop used a small set of forceps to pry the flora out, Wheeljack consulted the 'World Wide Web' for possible alt-modes. His search didn't take long, but if his study of the creatures it turned up where correct, there really were no good choices. Curse him for not fitting his creations with a set of wheels.
Spotting a road nearby, he moved toward it. He could always… no. Prime wouldn't approve of such things as stealing tires, even if he could find a vehicle mode large enough for each of them. But he still neededcamouflage for himself, so he kept walking, keeping behind the tree line. It didn't take long for the others to join him as he waited in the deepening darkness for a decent car to drive by. This road was relatively unused, it seemed. Quite a few large transportation vehicles, some motorcycles, and a car or two, but nothing that caught his eye. And then he saw it. Nice and sleek, it came rolling down the road like it was built from the ground up just for Wheeljack. He scanned it as it passed, and a quick search while he transformed informed him that he was now posing as a 2009 Fenomenon Stratos. The engineer grinned mentally as he adjusted the paint to a more familiar white, green, and red job. 'Nice and snug, this one.'
He reverted to his bi-pedal form and turned to the others. "Now, let's just get you guys set up…" he started, but stopped in surprise. Apparently they had taken it upon themselves to find alternate forms. This was pleasing and distressing all at once. Pleasing because they had chosen the forms he had considered mentioning to them earlier, and distressing for the same reason.
Dinosaurs were extinct, after all.
.: Wheeljack to Prime. :.
Optimus hummed curiously before replying. .: Prime here, what's your status, Wheeljack? :.
Some static and Wheeljack spoke again. .: We've made planet-fall without any difficulties. We're going to need some help getting to base though. :.
.: I thought there were no problems? :.
.: Not problems, exactly. The others just aren't equipped with wheels. We'll probably need more than one trailer to transport 'em all. :. He sounded sheepish.
.: They do have alternate forms though, correct? I'm sure Ratchet can modify them when you get to base… How far are you? :. Optimus asked as he transformed, pulling his trailer from subspace; he then told Ironhide to get his own trailer hooked up. '"Always good to be prepared" indeed,' he thought wryly as Ratchet hooked the trailer up to the black mech's alt-mode.
.: Currently? About twenty-three point five miles from the base, due north east. And I was hoping Ratchet could find it in his oh-so-kind spark to help me put some wheels on them, alth – :. The connection shorted and turned to static.
The leader frowned. .: Wheeljack? :. he sent worriedly.
The static cut out after a moment and Optimus tried again. Thankfully, Wheeljack answered.
.: Sorry about that, sir. Slag was bad mouthing Grimlock again. Immediate intervention was necessary. Like I was sayin', I don't think they'll like that idea too much. They kinda like their new forms. Even callin' themselves the 'Dinobots'. :.
Optimus frowned. Why would they call themselves that? Curious, he asked.
.: It's better if you see it yourself, sir. :. Wheeljack replied before sending him their coordinates.
Curiosity and the desire to have his comrades in the safety of the base winning out over his want for a report of their statuses (after all, Wheeljack would have informed him immediately about any injuries), he muttered a quick affirmative before closing the line. Within moments, he and Ironhide were off.
Snarl settled on the dirt, grateful for Swoop's wings over his back panels even if he didn't say it. 'Of course my spinal plating would be temperature sensitive,' he thought sardonically; it wasn't exactly warm with their side of the planet facing away from the sun either. Wheeljack said their leader would be here to take them home, and he was grateful for that too. He couldn't wait to get away from his brothers for a while, especially Slag and Grimlock. They really needed to be quiet once in a while. Maybe he could coerce Swoop into talking the CMO into muting their vocalizers for a while… And heating. He could use some heat right about now. Solitude and heating. Yes, that would be very nice.
At least they were planet-side, and Prime and Ironhide were coming to get them. As if on cue, the distant rumble of engines met his audio censors and if the way Swoop perked up was any indication, he wasn't the only one that heard it. It didn't take long from that time for two large vehicles to come up the road leading to the warehouses, and Swoop made a happy noise in his vocalizer that sounded a lot like 'Ironhide!' that made Snarl want to bang his head against the floor, but he didn't have the motivation to do it. Instead, he watched the Earth vehicles slow to a stop in front of them and Optimus Prime transformed. Wheeljack greeted their leader enthusiastically and then gestured at his creations, who were all sitting in their new forms.
Optimus tilted his head to the side for a moment in contemplation before stating quite calmly, "Ah. Dinobots. Aren't dinosaurs extinct?"
Wheeljack nodded, vocal indicators flashing orange. Sounding far more amused than he should have, he said, "Yep. Which is why we couldn't just make our way to the base on our own."
The Prime looked like he wanted to say something, but just shook his head before folding back down to his vehicle form. "All right, load up. We'll work it out later. Ratchet's really looking forward to seeing you guys, don't want to put him into stasis from all the suspense," Optimus said with amusement. Wheeljack chuckled in response before separating his younglings and shooing them off toward the trailers.
Snarl watched Swoop settle into the cab of Ironhide's alt-mode and resisted the urge to smile. It figured that his older brother still had a crush on that trigger-happy mech. Maybe he'd say something about it now, but Snarl doubted it. He was pretty sure he was the only one who knew, but he could recruit Sludge to work on it. Sludge was very eager to please… Aaah, such were the joys of manipulating siblings. He climbed into 'Hide's trailer behind Slag and settled in for the ride back to base as Wheeljack shut the doors behind him.
He heard Grimlock complain about having to ride back with Optimus, and after a short argument which customarily ended in Wheeljack mentioning something about rewiring Grimlock's central processor, Grimlock presumably stomped into the trailer behind Sludge. Once everyone was secured, the whirring noises associated with transformation rang out; with a roar of engines, they were off.
Home, sweet home, here we come.
This is a lot longer than I had thought it'd be when I first started it, but I rather like the way it came out. Dinobots FTW, and no, I don't know what they were previously. I couldn't think of anything to make them be, so for now (or until someone thinks of something alien and large enough for them) they were just a random form of animal from a distant galaxy. Also, yes, I DO know that the Fenomenon Stratos model isn't available. Believe it is; the car is GORGEOUS. And look it up on Wiki, it's totally nearly got 'Jack's paint job.
As a last note for anyone who was confused, I generally use IDW comic time frames because they best suit my needs.