Warnings: Language and sci-fi violence
Disclaimer: Transformers belongs to Hasbro. No infringement is intended with the use of canon characters.
Summary: Not everyone chooses sides to fight in war. One such mech is forcibly drafted by the Decepticons, forced to carry out their bidding, collect pieces of a device, and...look after an organic?

Takes place after the '07 movie, but before RotF prequel novel (yes, beware my extreme dorkism).

A/N: Clarification for the sake of imagery; when I say optics in reference to mechs, I'm talking about just the eyeball/pupil; when I say eyes, I'm talking about the entire visage (shutters, "eyebrows", all that).

M'kay, enjoy.

The Drones of War

1. Abasement


The called tech turned. He, like everyone else in the dimly lit room decked out with a number of expensive, high tech working stations, was garbed in the standard, pressed and starched redundant white shirt, black tie, and formal pants. They'd all come to secretly gripe less and less about the seemingly pointless dress code, as they'd seen more than their fair share of government officials lately.

Which is why the mustachioed tech only reluctantly turned and walked over to his fellow.

The man pointed to the monitor screen in front of him, seeming somewhat more intrigued than the tech definitely didn't feel.

"Just downloaded these images from the satellite. There's more of 'em just now falling in."

Unenthusiastically, the mustachioed man leaned around the seated man as he shifted out of the way. Sure enough, there were displayed meteorites falling toward the Earth's surface. He was surprised to see at least four, five, possibly more of the flaming bulks.

"They almost look like they're chasing each other," the seated man observed as he too gazed at the monitor.

The tech on the other hand sighed at this assessment.

"More 'relatives'...?" he murmured.

The seated man swiveled his chair to regard him. "Sir?"

The mustachioed man shook his head and didn't answer.

This wasn't the first time these "meteorites" had fallen to Earth. And he was tired of being in the dark, left to make his own farfetched theories about what they were. Being in the position he was, he had a little more knowledge about these situations than his co-workers. But he only knew what the higher-ups had to tell him, apparently. Which was just too little enough for him to spend sleepless nights conjuring up theories.

Regardless of his feelings, he had a duty to do right now. He sighed discreetly.

"Where does it look like they're landing?"

The relatively young man re-swiveled and efficiently typed a few commands into his keyboard. The image changed to display a rolling field spotted with batches of trees. Trees in which the meteorites had no doubt landed.

"Looks like up in... southern Wyoming somewhere."

The tech nodded wearily as he turned and walked away.

"Calling watch command..."

The smoking craters the meteorites had caused did contain more than just space rocks.

Out of one of the pits on the perimeter of the gathering, a large, gleaming mechanical entity made its hasty ascension.

It did not stumble, each of its movements deliberate and precise as it freed itself from the deep crater. The loosely humanoid shape stayed on toes and hands for a moment as it glanced back towards the other smoldering craters behind it. A metal plating on its dark back seemed to click into place leisurely, settling in amongst the complicated puzzle that was the rest of its darkly colored metal exoskeleton.

The dark mechanoid lunged forward at that moment, folding and expanding into a clearly alien vehicle, wheels already turning before they hit the ground.

As if this was a secret cue of some kind, the remaining craters produced other, equally loosely humanoid and gleaming metal beings.

One of the largest mechanoids, the most imposing, made an electronic, grating screech as its huge pale blue gleaming form sprang from the crater easily with a hop, a talon pointing after the dark metal form. To a human, the sound would have been a grating, modulating screech. But for these extraterrestrial machines, the sound had been more than just that:

"Do not let him off the radar!"

The five smallest and mostly identical robots went after the first, fleeing mechanoid.

As they made to run past either of his flanks, the entity who had issued the order lifted his hands at his sides to stop the two others.

"Do not engage," he spoke in their modulating, native language again, his crimson optics gazing after the chase. "Yet. The drones will probably cause enough unwanted attention as it is. We don't want more."

The two hesitantly regarded him for a moment from their positions before nodding.

"Yes, commander."

The fleeing machine avoided every shot from the pursuing droids with adroit swerves and weaves, hurtling towards lights off in the distance. He revealed and primed part of his own arsenal, shooting back at the drones.

One took a direct hit, its screeching cut short as the hot, livid plasma seared through its armor and into vital circuitry beneath. One of its allies followed suit almost immediately, keening and reverting to the bipedal shape as its armor disintegrated.

The dark protoform growled as one of the drones managed to come up beside him. His alien wheels sharply turned their direction, grinding the organic matter beneath them.

The tree cracked in two as the drone smashed into it from the fleeing mech's ram. The collision resulted in an exploding robot, frayed circuits bunched and bridled for the right reaction.

Up ahead, the chased mechanoid came up on a steep drop like the side of a hill, ahead of which was the source of the lights. Not slowing in the least, his bulk went over so fast that it didn't go over so much as causing him to go airborne.

A lot happened in the sentient, alien machine's processors in that one instant.

First was the impact of the number of organic creatures he could detect in his immediate surroundings; on the streets, in the buildings, in vehicles. Further scans of them all showed them to be wholly innocuous; the organics were mostly weak and frail themselves, the mechanical entities insentient and unarmed.

Second was the observation of the sharply obvious difference between himself and the other, more primitive machines around him in the suburban area he had hurtled into.

Third, the protoform's natural instinct to chameleon the things it sees in new surroundings, to blend in.

Scanners darted through the options in the area, invisible, even if one had been able to keep up with the rate at which they were going. The mechanoid quickly settled on a transportation vessel, happening to be almost directly the first vehicle parked closest to him.

He made a few adjustments to the scan he'd taken, initiating the change.

The flash drew the attention of the nearest organics. The monstrous roar of the engine followed by the boom of the new form hitting the tar, stuttering the roar into revving and back to roar, caught the attention of a few more.

Fortunately, the mechanoid knew, there was a greater distraction following close behind.

"...strange things this year, haven't we, Mark?"

"That's right, Carla, strange things indeed. Speaking of which, let's go on to our next story.

"Strange sightings up in Wyoming a few hours ago. Happened right after sunset, says here- Let's go to clips from our national news feed."

"The residents of southern Wyoming are just days away from one of the biggest automotive exhibition-competitions of the entire region. Trucks towing car towing trailers can be seen everywhere. People from all over the country flock to be a part of the festivities."

The news reporting drawl shifted to civilian interviews, background noise of the everyday streets rampant in the audio.

"Yeah, I look forward to this show every year."

"Yeah, yeah. It's great. Great food, fast cars. Hot girls. What more could a guy want in an event?"

The last interviewed's raucous laughter was cut short as the reporter's voice took over again.

"The event has been known to start off with a show of bells-and-whistles in order to bring out more people. But this year, what's believed now to have been the opening flash has most everyone talking. The event enthusiasts, car buffs. Even conspiracy theorists."

"I don't know what they were. The strangest vehicles I've ever seen."

"I don't believe they were cars at all, no! They were too weird. They were alien. And you know that stuff that happened down in Mission City a few months ago?"

"They were weird, I'll give you that. But I don't believe they were alien or anything like that. Just really advance engineering. The next generation of the automotive industry."

"Dude, I swear the things didn't even have wheels! Hover-crafts, man!"

"This is believed to be actual footage of the, 'strange vehicles' everyone is talking about, shot by an teenager who claims to have come out of a shopping center after hearing 'booming explosions' from nearby."

As the reporter's voice continued, the strangely rounded sound of an engine provided her background.

"Witnesses say there were at least two of the 'strange crafts,' traveling at high velocities down the streets. They also say the crafts split up and took separate streets at one point and weren't seen again."

"It was awesome. One of the best openers yet."

"I don't know wh—"

"Sam?" called a voice not from the television.

The called boy didn't respond, still frozen staring at the screen showing the bizarre machines. His face was fading from red as he had just recovered from a terse coughing fit, the table in front of him speckled with milk and a few escaped cereal loops from the bowl his spoon had clattered noisily back into.

"Samuel James Witwicky, do you not hear me talking to you?"

The boy blinked as he turned to see the man's head peer around the corner.

"Sorry, Dad."

"'Sorry, Dad,'" the man growled back at him, "What's wrong with you?"

"What? Oh, uh. Nothing. I just, uh, just remembered that thing I was supposed to go to Miles's and do tonight."

Mr. Witwicky continued to regard his son, staring critically as a parent often does as if to decipher the true meaning behind the boy's facade and words.

"Well," he said finally, jerking his head at the table. "Clean this mess up. Your mom's coming."

"I'm already here, afraid."

They heard the door close, Judy Witwicky appearing in the kitchen a few seconds later. She walked through to the next room to drop her bags on the couch.

"Hi, boys. Did you manage well without me these past few days?" Her eyes found the drained bowl of cereal in front of her son as she walked over to him.

"Hm. That well, huh?" she commented. Her thin fingers gently took a handful of her son's hair, positioning his face for a peck on the cheek. "Oh, I missed you. I'll get dinner started."

Ron stared at his wife as she took out a pot and filled it with water. "What, your own husband doesn't get a hello kiss?"

Judy laughed. She turned and walked over to the man where he sat at the desk, her arms outstretched. "Hello, dear."

Sam walked beside the love fest, grabbing his coat from a chair and heading for the door, cereal, bowl, and milk properly cleaned up and forgotten.

"And where are you going?" asked the mother, straightening up into a stern akimbo stance.

"Miles's!" called Sam.

"Eleven o'clock!"

He closed the door on his father's warning, trotting over to the driveway. The new model Camaro sat there, its mustard-colored paintjob reflecting the street light's in the night.

Sam had managed to get away with the story that the government had given him the newer model Camaro—still hot out of the fire of premiering in autoshows—in consolation for a misunderstanding that had occurred involving his old one. A reminder of the pompous behavior of the Sector Seven agents' the night Sam had met the Autobots seemingly would have been enough to convince them. And with Captain Lennox and a few of his soldiers there to back it up, how could his parents not believe it?

The story stuck, but he knew that he'd eventually have to come out with the truth.

He made a show of sliding his fingers under the trick door handle in case anyone was watching. The door popped open, and he slid in.

"Hey Bee."

The car's speakers crackled to life as a pleasant chirrup of greeting sounded. Sam grinned despite himself at the sound.

He turned the key in the ignition. The Camaro's engine purred smoothly to life, just a soft hum as compared to the old one's roaring thunder of an engine. He thumped the steering wheel lightly.

"To the mall, James. Or somewhere. They'll get suspicious if I just sit in my car in the driveway again. I'll be in therapy before have a say with my mom."

Bumblebee beeped and began to back out of the driveway. Sam again made a show of turning and steering down the pavement, though the tinted windows made the action almost completely an over precautionary.

He waited until they had made their way down the road a few miles before speaking again.

"So, you caught that broadcast, right?"

"Optimus has everyone on alert," rasped Bumblebee's voice. Though the All-Spark had restored his vocals to a functioning state, they still weren't fully repaired. Though it was bliss to have vocals functioning again ("impossibly," to put it in Ratchet's words), Bumblebee had grown a fondness for using other Earth audio that was almost equally as sincere.

Sam sighed, leaning back in the seat. "That's what I thought," he said. "More of ours though?"

There was a pause.

"We're not sure, but we don't think so," the mechanoid responded carefully. "The report of more making planetfall came a few hours before that news broadcast. They were too close to a civilized area. Their movements were too aggressive as well."

"Oh," was all the boy said, holding the steering wheel but gazing out the window.

"And add to that the ones that went into the populated area without local camouflage," his guardian continued, voice informative and thoughtful. "It's unlikely that anything but a drone would pass a potential disguise to take on and not scan. Autobots have been known to use drones, but not very often. Not nearly as much as the Decepticons like to. There's too much controversy concerning them."

"Great," Sam sighed.

"There's nothing to worry about," stated Bumblebee. "There haven't been any reports of accidents or anything from the area. Still a chance there could be friendlies."

"I'm not really worried, Bee," spoke the boy, clasping and flipping his hands out in front of him in a stretch. "Just more...riled up is the only way I can think to put it. And not an excited riled up either."

They sat in silence for a few minutes. The lights of the town around them began to appear in more redundancy. The small town, built on the outskirts of the actual city, was not much to look at. Just a collection of buildings, most of which had been completed in the late twentieth century. The rest had seen better days.

Bumblebee pulled into one of the parking spaces on the side of the road, engine settling into a light idle.

Sam sighed again.

"I guess we'd better at least drop by Miles's. With his featherbrains he might not remember if I tell him 'If my parents ask, I was there and we were doing a thing tonight, okay?'" He laughed at some visualization before his face became pensive again. "But maybe, first, we could—"

He startled slightly at a light rap on the passenger's side window. Before he could react to it in a proper response, the door clicked open of its own accord. Sam stared at the lean figure as she slid into the seat, long dark hair falling from her face.

"Mikaela?" He stared, looking from her then to the dashboard, marveling at how well his car had seemed to read his thoughts of his girlfriend's wellbeing. "How—?"

Mikaela held up her cell phone in response to the question.

"I texted Bumblebee." she said, smiling lightly at the boy's almost dazed look. Her look turned serious again. "You saw that broadcast?"

Sam understood then. "Yeah," he responded. "We were just talking about it."

She nodded, turning to look at the radio in the dashboard.

"What do you think it is, then?"

"Commander Thundercracker."

His wings flexing vaguely where they were set in place on his shoulders, the addressed mechanoid turned, facing the androids as they approached from the entrance of the large abandoned seemingly military hangar.

Stockade, at the front of the group, stepped aside to be out of the blue mech's line of sight. Two drones, flanking a third, wine-red mechanoid, his hands restrained behind his back, led a small precession of two more drones—one sparking Energon—and one more sentinel.

Thundercracker gave a short, cold laugh, watching the drones force their prisoner to his knees.

"Caught at last," he said, his wide maw moving with the words as he approached the middle of the leading trio. His eyes narrowed to slits as his optics examined the red mechanoid. "You didn't really think you could get away from me?"

The restrained mech lifted his head, purple optics meeting crimson. He growled, a feral, baritone sound.

Thundercracker shook his head.

"Such disrespect. It shall be made up for in full, I assure you."

Without warning, the flyer's clawed hand shot out and gripped the captive's shoulder just beside his neck. There was a straining squeak as the talons sank into the armor.

The restrained mech's head dropped and his mouth opened in a snarl, a strained, modulated roar-like sound emitting from his vocals.

"Insubordination means punishment," hissed Thundercracker vehemently. The mech did not respond. "I don't want to eviscerate you," continued Thundercracker. "You're too potentially useful to waste."

He gripped tighter, faint snaps sounding. "You may never consciously decide to join the Decepticons, neutral. But you will obey me.

"Now then." Thundercracker opened his hand, claws callously dislodging from the wine colored mech's armor with the quick movement. The captive stayed silent.

"Lord Starscream feels that you may redeem yourself today," spoke the Decepticon pleasantly. "I have a job for you."

His head turned. "Stockade. You have made sure the humans cannot get near the wreckage site?"

Stockade stepped forward, giving a little bow.

"As best I can," he spoke. "But the pests are persistent. I cannot be sure how long the obstacles will hold."

Thundercracker nodded. He opened communication lines. "Barricade?"

"They are still holding fairly well. The humans are still clearing the rubble. They have no air units in this area anymore either. The nearest must come from over statelines."

"Good. Keep us updated here."

"Of course." The line broke off.

The Decepticon lieutenant's crimson optic's fell on the dark-red mech again. His eyes were hard, but countenance unreadable.

"You are to traverse to the primary wreckage site. As I'm sure you probably know," he growled, eyes narrowing to slits again, "the generator we were carrying broke apart on planetfall. The fault is your own. Making it all the more befitting that you do as I tell you and be the one to retrieve the pieces we didn't manage to hold onto. This planet does not have the resources to repair the container. We need every piece. Go and comb the area thoroughly. I need Stockade here, and you can get much closer than the drones could without notice."

He approached again, getting right into the captive's face.

"And not to worry. You cannot refuse me. If you try and escape, I will always send someone to find you. To hunt you down. In endless repetition."

Thundercracker turned his back, taking a few steps away. The dark-red mech kept his optics on him now, countenance still unreadable.

"Is trying to escape really worth it?" continued the Decepticon, his hands interlacing behind him. "Is it worth living out your useless life, doing nothing but hiding and running forever more? Is it worth the effort, just to be brought back again? Is it worth the punishment you will be sure to receive upon every attempt...?"

The restrained mechanoid said nothing, a slow, muted growl emitting from his vocalizer.