A/N: Just to reiterate, the Transformers in this story are a combination of how they appear in the many many continuities, with some of my own additions, which is why they communicate with Fold technology and have pinpoint barriers. While they bear a certain degree of resemblance to G1 and Bayformers, it would probably be most accurate to call them "QuanFormers" or something. Anyways, I think things have been peaceful enough for the past two chapters…let us have some good old metal-on-metal action.


Chapter 5: Fire and Steel

"Urayan Circuit-Su is a martial art, the function of which is grappling and fighting on the ground. It is almost an antithesis of orthodox Circuit-Su – it does not ask questions such as 'what is the self,' for such questions fall under the purview of logostrators, but rather 'how may I defeat my opponents'? The answer: take them to the ground, then destroy them limb by limb. Should that proves insufficient, strike at their vital regions until only scrap remains."

~ Grandmaster Yoketron, in hand-to-hand seminar to the Iacon Defense Force

"That was tiring," Ranka Lee sighed as she entered her apartment and collapsed on to her couch. The concert had ended hours earlier, but the necessary publicity stunts afterwards had taken much time, and so it was 4:00 in the morning that she was finally able to leave. "Brother, how did I do?"

"You were amazing," Brera Sterne said. He moved into the kitchen and looked through the fridge, finding something to relax his sister. Meanwhile, back in the living room, Ai-kun scampered up to Ranka and nuzzled her hand.

"Thanks, brother, Ai-kun," Ranka said tiredly, reaching out to scratch Ai-kun's head. Back during the Vajra War, Ai-kun had been brought onboard Frontier as a Vajra egg and hatched into a larva, where it became Ranka's pet. Later, it metamorphosed into a stage-2 Vajra, and stayed with Ranka when all the other Vajra left following the Vajra War's conclusion.

"Here," Brera said, handing Ranka a mug of hot tea. "This should make you feel better."

"Thanks, brother," Ranka replied as she drank the concoction. "Hmm. I really do feel better." She yawned. "Carry me to my room? Please?"

"Of course."

***

Outside Ranka's apartment, a police car slowly pulled up.

"Barricade is in position. Frenzy, deploy."

The police car's door opened, revealing a thin and wiry android. The machine clicked its mandibles, then rapidly sped towards the apartment doors. It was a high-end apartment complex, guarded by keypads and physical locks, but it did little to stop Frenzy. Soon, the little Decepticon was inside.

"According to the floor plan that Soundwave sent, it should be to your right," Barricade called out.

Frenzy clicked an affirmative response as he turned and stepped towards a corridor. There was a quiet "snikt" as claws snapped out of his limbs. He was about to slash the door open, using his speed to quickly abduct his target, when his sensors picked up a source of movement behind him. He turned to meet this new threat and was surprised by the nature of the foe.

Insecticon?

Sure enough, a creature with a flat disc-like body, two legs, glowing red optics, and a long leaped at him, small bio-laser beams firing from its antennae. Some were blocked by Frenzy's pinpoint barrier system, but his small stature meant that he really could not take punishment for long. And so Frenzy took the first couple of shots due more to surprise than anything, and quickly rolled out of the way while firing several razor-sharp disks from his chest at the Insecticon. As he got back up, he ran a sensor scan of his opponent. Yup, Insecticon alright, and a young one too.

Meanwhile, the creature ducked under Frenzy's disks, then lashed out at Frenzy with its tail. As it did so, it began emitting a series of chirps and squeaks, attempting to alert the others in the apartment. Frenzy growled and fired more razor discs, but the creature ducked under them, leaped forward and closed into melee with him.

***

"Ai-kun? What is it?" Ranka called out groggily as the sound of scuffles reached her ears, only be woken up by a loud crash two angry slashing forms crashed through her bedroom door. She gave a start, saw the two combatants rolling about, and screamed.

Ai-kun paused for a fraction of a second upon sensing distress from its master, and that was all the time Frenzy needed to cut a deep gash into its main body. The small Vajra squealed in pain as it backed up, taking several disks from Frenzy in the process. Frenzy leaped at Ai-kun again, intent on finishing it off, when suddenly a gunshot rang out, knocking him off course. He ran a quick diagnostic check and noted that another shot near the same location would overwhelm his pinpoint barrier system and would start damaging his metallic structure. Hissing in anger, Frenzy prepared to fire more razor discs at this new threat, but a warning and a second shot stopped him in his tracks.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Brera Sterne said in his calm and steely voice, his custom service pistol still smoking in his hand. It was a large and heavy affair, capable of causing significant wrist straing for anyone firing it – that is, anyone who lacked Brera's cybernetic enhancements.

"Brother!" Ranka cried, running towards him. Ai-kun chirped threateningly as it staggered over, bleeding but not down.

"Not one move," Brera ordered, gun trained on the android's center of mass as he remotely dialed to nearest military police station. His foe seemed to understand the threat and stayed put, but Brera could not help but feel some unease. It was almost as if he could feel something off about the way the wiry android swayed from side to side and clicked its mandibles. And then, as if to confirm his suspicions, a large metallic hand shot through the apartment complex, grabbing uncomfortably close at where he and Ranka were. At this instant, the small wiry android renewed its attack, firing several disks at Brera's position.

This was bad, Brera thought. "Ranka, come with me. I need to get you to safety," he said. Ranka nodded and complied. As she moved to follow, she saw that Brera's eyes began to glow.

***

"Do ya feel lucky, punk?" Barricade growled as he punched through the apartment complex, probing with his arm for anything that felt fleshy. Small bits of metal impacted against his fingers, and he withdrew his arm and punched into the building again for another go. Still nothing. He was about to do this a third time when his warning systems indicated to him the presence of a strange energy signature.

"What–" Barricade could not dodge the brilliant purple beam of energy that slammed into him. The best he could do was engage the pair of arm-mounted energy shields for which he got his name and take the shot on that, but the shot still knocked him back for several steps. "Heavy Quantum Reaction weaponry?" he growled in surprise as he took stock of his new foe and ran a sensor sweep.

At first glance, it seemed to be some kind of purplish Cybertronian, with design features similar to that of a Thunderwing drone. Comparing it to the data that Soundwave transmitted to him told Barricade that this was what the meatbags called a VF-27 Lucifer, as well as its capabilities and weaponry. However, even though it was designed more elegantly than those that Blitzwing and Lazerbeak had faced, it was still distinctly alien in design and shared the crude transformation process of the other meatbag mecha. And while the new mecha was definitely more technologically advanced than anything else the humans had, Barricade was still certain he could take this bot with no problem.

"Come on, you filthy kitbash, show me the color of you circuitry," Barricade taunted as two rapid-fire rotary cannons slid out from compartments mounted on his arms and blasted away at the interloper. As Barricade fired, he ran towards his opponent, intent on closing in to melee.

***

Back in Ranka's apartment, the battle raged on in a standstill between Brera and Ai-kun on one side, and Frenzy on the other. Ranka, meanwhile, had called the authorities and taken cover behind a rather heavy table. Currently, Ai-kun was doing most of the work, as Brera was occupied with remotely operating his VF-27. Sweat caked his brow; despite the advanced technology of his craft, Brera was having a hard time with the foe outside, especially when he had to multitask between piloting, shooting, and protecting his little sister.

However, there were still two things in Brera's favor. One was his cybernetic nature, which is why he was not dead yet despite having several of Frenzy's discs stuck to him. The other was the fact that Brera was the first to beta test a personalized version of the shipboard fold translator, which allowed him to communicate somewhat with Ai-kun and coordinate strategy.

Ai-kun emitted a series of chirps, causing a surprised expression from Ranka and a nod from Brera, who turned to his sister and extended a hand. "Come on, Ranka. We need to get you to the bunker."

"But what about Ai-kun?" Ranka asked, taking Brera's hand.

"The most important thing right now is to get you safe. That way, Ai-kun and I can fight with no worries, understand?" Brera replied, wincing as his VF-27 took another hit. "Now come on. The sooner you're safe, the sooner I can concentrate on piloting."

***

Barricade engaged his arm shields and braced himself as another Heavy Quantum Reaction shot slammed into him. Pockmarks and dents dotted his body, evidence that the other mecha was giving him a stiff fight. As much Barricade despised meatbags, he had to hand it to them – these humans were worthwhile foes if they had advanced their tech to the point of actually being able to cause damage to a Cybertronian. However, the enemy craft was not fighting at a level anywhere close to what a mecha of that design should be capable of.

Ah well. Just my lucky day, Barricade thought he pumped several bursts into the enemy mecha's wings, shearing one of them off and causing it to drop like a rock. There we go. He leaped at the downed mecha and tackled it, pinning it to the ground, then pointed one of his arm cannons at the thing's face, preparing to fire. He did not notice the yellow Camaro driving towards him until it transformed in a giant humanoid shape and buried the electromagnetic stingers mounted on its wrists into his back.

The stab hurt, but to Barricade's credit, almost immediately he reacted by twisting his torso servos 180 degrees and using the momentum to swing a shield-powered fist right into his new opponent's face, The yellow robot raised an arm to block, but Barricade's strike plowed right through it and knocked it for a loop. As it fell backwards, however, Barricade felt the human mecha buck its hips while firing its engines, throwing him off while it rolled back and landed in a fighting stance. Meanwhile, the yellow robot changed into its Camaro form, landed on its wheels, turned in a tight circle, and transformed back into a fighting stance.

"Bumblebee," Barricade growled upon getting back up and running a sensor scan of this newcomer while hailing Soundwave for further instructions. While Barricade was pretty sure he could handle both bots on a good day, that surprise attack had hurt him. That was the problem with the transformation technology that was his and Bumblebee's birthright. It came prepackaged with the ability to be unaffected by attempts at electronically establishing IFF while in disguise, making it very easy to infiltrate places and set ambushes. This was fine when fighting other races, but it made civil wars a nightmare for both sides.

Bumblebee made the next move, launching himself at Barricade while firing several shots from laser cannons mounted under his wrists. Barricade, in response, engaged his arm shields, tanked the shots, and then sprawled to prevent himself from being taken down. The two Cybertronians grappled with each other, jockeying for position, until another shot from Brera's Heavy Quantum Reaction Rifle tore through the air. It was pure luck that this was when Barricade stepped forward, slipped his right arm under Bumblebee's left, grabbed Bumblebee's right arm with his own left, then twisted and leaned forward, throwing the Autobot scout down to the ground. Barricade followed him down, landing on top of and perpendicular to Bumblebee's body. Due to the shift in positions, Brera's shot hit both Bumblebee in his back and Barricade in his center torso.

"You'll pay for that!" Barricade yelled as the three pieces of police siren mounted on his back and shoulders shifted and clicked together until they resembled a brightly colored cannon of some sort. The weapon fired its own purplish beam at Brera's craft, forcing it to take cover. At the same time, Barricade slammed a knee into Bumblebee's side, a spark of glee entering his subjective centers as the short-barreled fusion carronade in his knee discharged its load upon hitting, punching through Bumblebee's pinpoint barrier system and causing chips of armor to flake off the Autobot's side. Barricade then repeated the maneuver several more times, using his pinpoint barrier system to power up his knee strikes while the fusion carronade recharged. Bumblebee turned to his side and tried to shrimp away, but Barricade lifted his legs and strode over the enemy Autobot so that he was now sitting on Bumblebee's torso. "A spirited effort, I'm sure, but ultimately futile," Barricade added, raining blows down on Bumblebee's head. "Send me some image files when you meet your manufacturer!"

For an unaugmented Cybertronian, all one could do in Bumblebee's situation was to keep his hands up and protect his head. Fortunately, Bumblebee was far from unaugmented. As soon as an opportunity presented itself, he jammed the electromagnetic stingers mounted on his wrist and into a weak spot on Barricade's lower torso, grinning inwardly as the Decepticon roared in pain. However, things went worse for Bumblebee from there, as Barricade fought through the pain, grabbed Bumblebee's stinger arm, wrapped his leg around it, then fell back, trapping it in between the Decepticon's thighs.

Slag- the curse was barely out of Bumblebee's mind when Barricade then bucked his hips up, causing the gears and servos of Bumblebee's elbow joint to snap and break.

"That hurt, Autobot," Barricade snarled as he turned his attentions to the stinger on Bumblebee's wrist. "Perhaps someone should teach you some manners!" A series of saws appeared on one of Barricade's hands, and he was about to apply some amateur Cybertronian maintenance when yet another Heavy Quantum Reaction shot slammed into his center of mass and knocked him off Bumblebee. That'll teach me not to leave things for dead, Barricade thought as he fired back with his back-mounted heavy laser cannon, growling when the human mecha dodged out of the way, when he suddenly picked up a transmission from Soundwave.

"Barricade, Frenzy, I pick up two rebels headed for your position. Retreat."

Barricade growled again in anger. The warrior in him hated retreating from a scrap, but from a big-picture perspective, this is what he liked about being on Soundwave's team. The Director, while harsh and exacting, was never one to kill his subordinates or leave them to die simply for failing. This was not sentiment of mercy, merely realism – the All Spark had been lost for hundreds of thousands of years, and Soundwave knew that each of his warriors was irreplaceable until it could be found. This was also why Soundwave had a low regard for those Decepticon officers who did, considering them barbaric amateurs playing at war who wasted their resources so they could indulge in petty displays of power.

That Barricade would face disciplinary action was certain; that there was nothing Barricade could say or use to rationalize that he did not deserve whatever punishment was given him for failure was also certain. Yet what was more certain was that whatever punishment doled out would leave Barricade humbled, but not without a chance to redeem himself or die trying.

***

Ai-kun breathed heavily as it stared at Frenzy. Both combatants' eyes were filled with savage battle-light as they circled each other, looking for an opening. Ai-kun's antennae had been sheared off, and it was bleeding ichor from many places, but Frenzy was not in much better shape either.

Suddenly, Ai-kun noticed that Frenzy had faltered, had let down his guard for some bizarre reason, and used this opening to tackle Frenzy. No matter how much the Decepticon clawed or slashed at it, Ai-kun would not let up as it gave as good as it got. However, a lucky blow from Frenzy struck home, sending a river of ichor gushing from Ai-kun's chest.

Ai-kun reached out to Ranka's mind and noted that both she and Brera had reached one of the many bunkers, and that Brera seemed to be in some kind of trance, like he was flying a plane but not. Ai-kun's eyes then closed in contentment in the knowledge that its master was safe as it used its last iota of consciousness to seize Frenzy's midsection with its tail and reel the Decepticon in. A second later, there was an explosion that disintegrated both Cybertronian and Vajra.

***

"You got lucky that time, scum," Barricade spat as he got up from taking a hit from both Bumblebee's fusion cannon and Brera's heavy quantum reaction rifle. His arm shields were currently fried and would need charging and maintenance. He fired several last shots at the pair of mecha, then transformed and sped off as Bumblebee and Brera's VF-27 dove for cover. "Rest assured – I will not forget this."