The Gathering Storm

Dedicated to the memories of George Carlin (voice of Fillmore, 1937-2008) and Paul Newman (voice of Doc Hudson, 1925-2008). 'Til all are one.

Transformers belong to Hasbro, Cars characters belong to Disney/Pixar.

This takes place about a year after the events of The Unexpected Rookie and two years after the events of Cars. In the G1 universe, this falls sometime before the 1986 movie, though characters from the movie do show up here.

One of the hardest things about writing Cars fanfic? None of the characters have hands. So one has to get creative when figuring out how they'd manipulate the world around them. Mater has his tow cable, Guido has his forklift tines, Red has his firehose, etc. Ramone seems to have something hooked up to his axle that allows him to hold a paint-gun. Also, at a couple points in the movie we see characters using their radio antennaes to manipulate objects. It's a challenge, so forgive me if parts of this fic come out a little awkward because of it...

Chapter 1

Optimus Prime glanced up from his filework as a resounding BOOM echoed through the corridors of the Ark, making the very walls vibrate with the impact. Loud noises of this nature were fairly common within the base, though whether they were cause for concern depended entirely upon their source. A Decepticon attack or infiltration wasn't likely, as the alarms hadn't been set off. Wheeljack's lab was located on the far side of the Ark, too far for any lab accidents to be audible here. The Dinobots were in the middle of a training exercise in the forest, so they couldn't be blamed for this...

Voices drifted through the office door, finally identifying the source of the noise.

"Fraggit, that's the fifth time!"

"Sides, check my rear fender, do I have orange streaks in my paint?"

"Who cares? Primus, how does Mater do this backwards driving thing? He makes it look so easy..."

"Because he's a fraggin' lunatic, that's why."

"C'mon, let's get out of here before Prime comes out and sees us."

Prime chuckled softly as the Lamborghinis drove off, probably leaving behind skid marks and dents in the walls. Grapple would have a fit when he next visited this section of the Ark for maintenance.

He continued browsing through the stacks of datapads on his desk, sorting them according to priority. Filework was tedious, but it was a welcome respite from the battlefield. Or from playing ringmaster to the circus that was the Autobot army on Earth, a motley collection of mechs from every walk of life on Cybertron, united by one cause only -- defending Earth and its citizens from Megatron's cruelty. Such a cause was usually enough to encourage the Autobots to work together in the midst of a battle... but once off the battlefield and inside the base, all bets were off.

A rap on the door broke into his thoughts. "Come in."

The door hissed open to admit Ironhide, a scowl on his face. "Sideswipe an' Sunstreaker just ran Gears over."

Prime groaned. "Again?"

Ironhide nodded. "They're still tryin' t' copy that backwards-drivin' stunt that tow truck was teachin' 'em back in Radiator Springs," he explained. "Claim they didn't even see Gears. Or Tracks, for that matter..."

"They ran Tracks over?"

"Naw, but swiped his legs good. Fraggin' city boy's throwin' a hissy fit now, complainin' about ruined paint an' all. Why'd we recruit 'im anyway, one vain snob's enough fer this crew..."

"Tracks may be a little self-centered, Ironhide, but his spark is in the right place," Prime reminded him. "And he is one of our few aerial combatants. That's worth putting up with some of his eccentricities."

Ironhide blew a gusty sigh through his vents. "A'right, but what about th' twins? How d'ya want me t' deal with them?"

"It sounds like those two have too much pent-up energy," Prime noted. "Tell them to report outside for a special mission, one I think they'll be ideally suited to. Then tell the Dinobots they have a few new sparring partners."

Ironhide's optics brightened in disbelief, then a wickedly approving smile appeared on his faceplate. "That's evil, Prime. Yer a genius." He gave an OK sign with his thumb and forefinger, then strolled out of the office, humming to himself. Prime recognized the tune as one that he'd picked up from Lizzie back at Radiator Springs and had to chuckle.

Speaking of Radiator Springs... the last datapad he picked up to sort bore a message from the town. Or more appropriately, from the town's gruff judge, Doc Hudson. Rather than sort this into one of his piles, Prime activated it and scanned the contents:

Dear Prime,

It's been awhile since I've written last. I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and with your sanity still intact. Though if I know some of your soldiers by now, that sanity's being sorely tested...

I'm writing to inform you that Lightning McQueen and Sally Carrera have set a date for their wedding -- July 17th of this year, at 1800 hours, with a reception following immediately after. And they've asked that you and as many of your soldiers as you can spare attend the ceremony. Lightning wants to extend a special invitation to Hot Rod, and to request that Rod serve as his best man in the ceremony.

Let us know if you and any of your troops are able to attend. And do try to get us an exact guest list as soon as possible. If Wheeljack, the Lamborghinis, or the Dinobots plan on coming, we want to take extra precautions.

Best of luck to you in all you do.


Dr. Hudson Hornet

Prime smiled a little behind his mask as he set the datapad aside in the "urgent" pile. Once he completed a bit more of his filework he would go ahead and make the announcement regarding Lightning's wedding. He had a feeling that almost everyone in the base would be clamoring to go, and the difficult part would be choosing who had to stay behind and guard the base against a possible Decepticon invasion.

It had been only a year since the Autobots revealed their identities to the citizens of Radiator Springs -- while Prime and his company worked closely with the government on a regular basis, their identities as "robots in disguise" were kept as hidden as possible from the general public. And yet it seemed as if Doc Hudson, Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, and the rest of the town's eccentric inhabitants had been close friends for a long time. The Autobots visited the town as frequently as they could on their way to and from important meetings or skirmishes with the Decepticons, and kept in regular contact between visits as well. Lightning and Mater even paid the Ark a visit at one point on the way to the Lightyear 300 in Seattle, a visit that eventually culminated in a wild race through the corridors and landed several mechs in the repair bay or the brig.

Such a close relationship with the town was not without its dangers, however. Just a few weeks after last year's Dinoco race, Sheriff called Prime to inform him that Laserbeak had been spotted hanging around the town hall, no doubt snooping for information. Ever since then, Prime assigned Teletraan-1 and Sky Spy to keep a close watch on Radiator Springs, and whenever he could spare them he stationed a few troops there to keep a close optic on matters. He knew Megatron was not one to drop a grudge, and after his humiliation at the hands of McQueen's crew at the last Dinoco race, it wasn't a question of iif/i the Decepticons would launch an attack of some kind against the town, but iwhen./i So far there hadn't been so much as a wingtip of a Decepticon attacker spotted... but Prime was not about to let his guard down.

And with Lightning and Sally's wedding drawing close, and the inevitable publicity the event would draw... Prime would be a fool not to ensure a large Autobot presence.

Once he had cleared off his desk and assigned everything to the appropriate piles, he retrieved Doc Hudson's letter and began drafting a reply:


I am functioning well, and so are my crew -- with the possible exception of Sideswipe and Sunstreaker in the near future, but they will recover. It's good to hear from you again.

Pass my personal congratulations on to Lightning and Sally, and let them know that we would be happy to attend the wedding and reception. We have yet to form a complete list of attendees, but I will inform you as soon as I have one. I will inform Hot Rod of Lightning's request, and although I'm fairly certain the answer will be a resounding YES, I will leave the decision and response up to him.

Take care, Dr. Hudson, and please continue to keep us informed. We can't be too careful, after all.

'Til all are one,

Optimus Prime

He punched the "Send" button on the datapad to transmit the message to Doc's e-mail address, then set it aside. Once he got a bit of the more important filework out of the way, he would make the announcement to his crew. Then they would see about drafting what would surely be a formidable guest list.

Chick Hicks grunted in surprise as his left fender thumped against the doorway. Funny, he hadn't remembered the door to his house being so dang narrow before... But then again, the high-octane he'd developed a taste for tended to mess with his depth perception something awful. Not to mention his steering, which was currently sloppier than a rookie's on a grease-covered track.

He pulled back, corrected himself, and attempted the doorway again... then cursed loudly as his right fender hit the other side of the doorway. Well, there were already a lot of green paint streaks in the doorway, so he supposed a few more wouldn't be noticed. Not that Maggie-May had much of an eye for detail...

"Maggie!" he bellowed, finally easing his chassis through the doorway and puttering into the house, his engine rumbling drunkenly. "Dang it, woman, help me out here..."

No answer. Chick swore again and pulled forward, finally clearing the doorway. What a night. His engine throbbed painfully with the beginnings of what would surely be a nasty hangover, and his side panels were riddled with dents and scratches from that barfight he'd picked with a couple of imports an hour ago. Dang young punks hadn't even recognized him for who he was -- Chick Hicks, former Piston Cup champion, star of the racing circuit, the idol of millions of dreamy fangirls and the envy of every turbo-revving rookie who dreamed of competing on the racetrack...

Okay, so maybe that was exaggerating things a bit. Or a lot. Despite earning the prized Piston Cup, he'd been passed over for the Dinoco sponsorship -- Tex crisply informed him that "there's a lot more to racin' than winnin', and we want the face of a PROPER champion on our products, thank you." His fanbase had splintered apart after he'd won the Piston Cup two years ago, and after last year's upset, they'd been driven away almost entirely. Oh, he still occasionally received a letter from a devoted fan, a spot of hope in a sea of hate mail and mocking riffs, but those were few and far between anymore. He could count on the lugnuts of one tire the number of fan letters he'd received in the past month and he had no reason to expect that even another Piston Cup could win back his fanbase.

And to top things off, just that afternoon his crew chief had called with a brief but brutal message:

"You didn't show up for practice today, Chick. Don't bother making up another excuse for it -- you're fired."

"You can't fire me! I've got a contract!"

"Consider your contract run out, then. Hostile Takeover Banks just found itself a new racer to sponsor today -- Dirk Weathers. Maybe HE can improve this crew's image on the track... and maybe he'll actually think to show up when he's expected, huh?"

Replaced... replaced by McQueen's own student... and as if to add insult to injury, by Strip "The King" Weathers' son to boot!

So here he was, a washed-up racetrack star, out getting himself drunk on a Saturday night and putting off the return home, and the expected earful from Maggie-May, for as long as possible.

He pulled into the kitchen to see the yellow Camaro busying herself with something on the table. He grinned a little as he eyed her sleek, shining frame. Well, he still enjoyed ONE perk from his former glory -- Maggie-May Girder, former president of his fanclub, now his girlfriend. She'd stood by his side through the highs and lows of his career (especially the lows) and publically defended him from the jeers and criticism of the press and public. Even when videos of his spectacular crash at last year's Dinoco had become a YouTube sensation ("Karma PWNs Chick Hix!" would dog his rear tires as long as he lived, he was sure of it...), her loyalty hadn't swayed.

"Hey baby, how about helping Daddy to bed?" he said, struggling not to slur the words.

Maggie-May turned to glare at him... and revealed the suitcase that lay open on the table.

"Yer packing?" he observed, scowling as his addled brain tried to connect the dots. "Where you goin'? Somebody in the family die?"

"I'm leaving you, Chick," she snapped, turning back to the suitcase.

It took a moment for him to process that remark. "You're what?"

"I'm through with you, Chick!" she shouted, and she pulled away from the table to glower at him. "I'm through with trying to stick up for a selfish Yugo like you! I thought maybe there was something good in you, something that made salvaging what's left of your career worth it, but now I see I was just deluding myself. All you care about is yourself and your stupid overblown ego, and that's never going to change!"

"You can't leave, Maggie!" Chick roared.

"Try to stop me!" she retorted, backing into the table so that the suitcase fell into her open trunk. "You can clean up after your own drunken sobfests from now on! You can attend your own press conferences and write your own letters back to your fans -- all five of them that are left, anyhow. You can wallow in your own self-pity and polish your own stupid Piston Cup! I'm done!" And she drove for the door.

"Maggie-May, baby, please," he cajoled, pulling forward to block her way. "We can work this out..."

Her engine growled threateningly. "There's nothing TO work out, Chick. It's over. Finished. Now move it!" She pulled around him and drove out, muttering "And to think I was telling all my friends how cool it was dating a Piston Cup champ..."

"Maggie!" he shouted at her rear bumper, but she drove out without slowing.

For a moment Chick just stared at the empty doorway, not quite comprehending what had just happened. Then with a roar of rage he slammed into the nearby shelf, causing books and various racing memorabilia to rain down on his hood and roof. He winced and cursed as his Piston Cup and a battered tape player struck his windshield, then bellowed again and surged forward to run both items over. Maggie-May too... the entire world seemed to be against him now. Was this all he was -- the joke of the racing circuit, something to be kicked around, laughed at, and scorned?

The Piston Cup lay ruined on the floor, its cup portion flattened, but the tape deck had survived Chick's blow. Angrily he pulled forward to crush it beneath his tires, for no reason other than it was a handy target for his rage. This wasn't his fault. Wasn't his fault at all. It was Lightning McQueen's fault. That punk rookie had not only stolen the spotlight from him at his winning race, garnering all the media attention despite the fact that he'd come in last at the tie-breaker race, but he had ruined Chick's chances at ever scoring a second Piston Cup. If he ever came across that smug, cocky red racer again, he swore he would ram his face in!

By all rights the tape deck should have been in pieces on the floor by now, but except for a few grimy tire tracks it looked no worse than it had the day Maggie-May had brought it home from the garage sale. Snarling, he swatted it with a tire so that it skidded across the floor and bounced off the TV stand. Maggie-May could go to the smelting pits for all he cared. He'd show her someday. He'd show everybody. One of these days the entire racing world would be sorry they ever made a mockery of Chick Hicks.

The phone buzzed annoyingly, and with a growl he punched the "answer" button with a tire. "Damn it, whaddaya want?!"

An amused chuckle was the reply. "Temper, temper, Mr. Hicks. I suggest you calm yourself before I continue -- this is for your own benefit, after all."

Chick frowned. He'd heard that voice before somewhere... "Who in the smelt are you?"

"Someone who wishes to help you, Mr. Hicks."

"I don't need your help," he snapped.

Another chuckle. "Don't need my help, Mr. Hicks? Your racing career has virtually ended, your fans have abandoned you, and you're the laughingstock of the racing circuit. You DO need my help. Or, to be more specific... we can help each other."

Chick puzzled that over as best he could through his high-octane haze. "You some kind of image consultant?"

"I am your key to vengeance, Hicks. I am Megatron, leader of the Decepticons."

Chick squeaked and backed away from the phone. Megatron! That huge silver robot from the Dinoco battle! But he'd thought those Auto-cars or whatever they were had kicked his rear bumper back to whatever hole he'd crawled out of. What was he doing here on Earth... and why had he contacted Chick now?

"And I wouldn't recommend hanging up the phone and calling the police," Megatron went on with a sinister chuckle. "My troops are watching your house even as we speak. In fact, one of my soldiers has been hiding in your house for some time now, relaying me information concerning your plight."

"What?" He glanced around in a panic. "Where? Who? Oh wait... Maggie-May was one of yours?"

"She is not affiliated with us. She was instrumental in securing a place for Soundwave, however..."

Soundwave... wait a minute. His gaze moved toward the tape player that still lay on the floor. The player flashed its power light a few times, as if acknowledging his attention, then went still again. Aw, frag... hopefully this Soundwave guy wasn't too upset about being run over and thrown around.

"I know all about your troubles, Hicks," Megatron continued. "The desertion of your fanbase, the mockery of the racing world, the damage to your career..."

"Damage?" retorted Chick with a bitter laugh. "More like destruction -- they fired me this afternoon!"

"All the more reason for you to throw your lot in with me, Hicks," Megatron replied. "You've nothing left to lose, and only vengeance to gain. Vengeance against the one who has made a ruin of your life."

"Lightning McQueen," Chick snarled.

"Exactly. With my aid, we can exact revenge for your losses... and destroy McQueen as he destroyed you!"

It sounded good... almost too good to be true. "What's in this for you, Megatron? You ain't doin' this for charity."

"Suffice it to say that we have a common cause, Hicks," Megatron replied. "Are you with us, or against us?"

Chick set his bumper in a grim smile. "I'm in, Megatron."

"Excellent. Most excellent. My Stunticons will pick you up in the morning, and we will begin the plan."

"Plan? What plan? You never said you already had a plan..."

"Patience, Hicks. I think you will find this plan most agreeable. Remember, be ready to leave by morning!"

And with that, the line went dead.