A/N: As some of you may know, in the past I have involved myself in a Writing Game, sponsored on a forum by Trapped in Reality. But up until now, I have not contributed my own story, adding instead to the stories of the others. This one is the first I have ever started in that game and is set in the movieverse. The Writing Game is actually rather fun, and does help you think a bit outside the box with writing stories and at times gives much needed moral support. I credit it with giving me the needed courage for either posting or trying something different with a few of my latest stories. If you want to at least check out the forum to see what we're all about, check out this link: http : / / forum . fanfiction . net / forum / Writing_Game / 66995 /
For most of us, this is our first time writing movieverse. So please bear that in mind when giving concrit. This story takes place shortly after the events in ROTF.
Co-authors: DitzyMusicLover, Taipan Kiryu, iratepirate, eeyop1428, Trapped in Reality
Disclaimer: Much as I liked TF2007, I do not own Transformers.
Sometimes I think it should be a rule of war that you have to see somebody up close and get to know him before you can shoot him. ~M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter
Change in Perspective
That was Sergeant Robert Epps' first thought as he scanned the aftermath of the battle.
N.E.S.T. had just finished dealing with the Decepticon attack in the warehouse district of Hong Kong, and the collateral damage was far beyond what had been expected. Not only had a good eighty percent of the district's buildings been wiped out, but forty percent of the cargo ships were destroyed, and another twenty-five percent been heavily damaged, some of it probably irreparably. And to top that off, most of the Decepticons had escaped. Galloway was going to have fits.
And then he'll just start in with another tirade about how it would be better if the Autobots left, because then that means the Decepticons will go too. He snorted. As if. Damned blind pencil-pusher. Wish Cap' had done more than just simply shove him out of the plane over Egypt. Would've saved us all a lot of headaches.
A buzz sounded from his communicator, and he picked it up.
"Epps, this is Lennox."
"Ironhide says he thinks one of the Seekers didn't manage to make it out of there. Thought he saw it go down. Says that from the looks of it, it's near your current location."
"Need me to check it out?"
"Yeah, but don't do anything else. We'll be over as quick as we can. If they detect you before we get there, then do what you can to hold them off."
"Gotcha, Cap', over and out."
Epps moved cautiously through the ruins of the buildings. As he reached an area where the damage was worse than the area he had just passed through, he was almost knocked off his feet by the sound of a loud thud. Almost like…
Like something had landed.
A chill moved down his spine.
Epps stayed close to the ruined walls, and slowly made his way to the source of the noise. Upon reaching the area, he looked around the corner…
And became witness to a sight he couldn't believe.
For sure a Seeker hadn't made it out of there, but Epps wasn't sure if it was still alive or not. The silver jet was lying in an awkward position.
However, the bronze Seeker sitting above him was very much alive.
The jet transformer (Starscream was his name?) was hunched over another jet transformer. If he turned his head to the right, he would easily see Epps. But he seemed preoccupied by the jet on the ground. It didn't look too good. One wing was bent out of shape, and the nose was crushed in. There were also skid marks on the underbelly of the jet. There were also barely noticeable Decepticon symbols on the wings. Epps only saw them because he knew what to look for.
Starscream was talking to the jet in his native language. Then the plane shook and started to come apart, but came back together. It also talked back to Starscream. Epps watched the exchange for a few minutes.
Epps had heard the screechy language of the Cybertronians before. The Autobots communicated among themselves that way sometimes, although they didn't when they were in the company of their human allies. It was a matter of trust, as Lennox used to say.
Thus, to say that Epps was used to the Cybertronian language would have been an exaggeration, but still it sounded somewhat familiar. He couldn't recognize words, but somehow he could distinguish, perhaps inspired by his own imagination, a trace of reassurance in Starscream's voice. Could it be that the enemy sub-commander was actually comforting his fallen comrade?
Epps' education concerning Decepticons came from two sources: the close experiences he had had with the invaders himself, and all the information that the Autobots gave them about their infamous enemies. Ratchet and Ironhide had said more than once that the Decepticons had no honour, that they served only themselves and that conquest was the only thing they cared for. But as Epps watched Starscream kneeling before his fallen comrade and running a comforting hand over his damaged fuselage, his prejudices began to weaken.
He shook his head, realising the stupidity of his train of thought. Those metallic monsters before him were the enemy. They were responsible for the partial destruction of Mission City, they were responsible for bringing terror to the innocent, killing mercilessly...
Epps raised his weapon, drawing on the instincts instilled over many years of active duty. Yet as he adjusted his aim, he found that he couldn't fire. His finger abandoned the trigger as the fallen jet began to shudder, eliciting a concerned screech from Starscream.
Starscream knelt down and placed one claw over the back of the jet and the other underneath the nose cone for support. Starscream's tone became more urgent, almost desperate. The jet's reply was weak, sounded like it was dying. Epps had never witnessed such a moment between Decepticons, between these killing machines. It went against all that he knew about them; their ruthlessness, violence and lack of mercy. Yet before his eyes was a scene demonstrating the exact opposite of those qualities.
No, more like defying them, thought Epps, still watching in disbelief. It was an unnatural sight.
Starscream opened a panel on the jet. His claw fingers changed into what resembled a medical tool, and with it he started repairs inside the panel. His other claw still held the nose cone gently. The sub-commander said a few words and that was it. Epps guessed that he said, "Hang in there". They had comradeship, that was obvious. Another thing Epps couldn't easily associate with them, not when he knew stories about their kind who were willing to recycle or sell each other's parts for their own gain without a second thought. Or even kill each other.
It was funny, but watching Starscream make repairs on the damaged jet brought up a familiar image of his own comrades injured or fatally wounded, and receiving a quick patch-up in the middle of a warzone. How could he compare such human bonds and loyalty with the enemy in front of him, this supposedly cold and treacherous being? It just didn't feel right, but Epps' eyes weren't lying to him.
He could see concern, care, and anxiousness in the Seeker as he made minor repairs on other areas on the jet. It was precisely what Epps would have felt for a brother in arms who was in critical condition. He looked away. Maybe not all Decepticons were totally merciless toward their own kind. Maybe some did have honour.
Epps silently slid his handgun back in its holster. Not today...
It was at that moment that Starscream decided to turn his head to the right. It was a mere glance as if to tell Epps he knew of his presence. Starscream asked, "What are you doing, human?" He gave no room for response before locking visual devices with Epps. "It would be best if you left now." The threat felt hollow as Starscream continued his field repairs. The jet had no intention of leaving his comrade to kill a human. As Epps nodded and took a step back, Starscream no longer focused on him.
A loud pop resounded above the wreckage, like the sound barrier had been broken. A shadow overcastted his spot from behind, and Epps stilled. An excited chatter resounded overhead. He turned his head slowly to see a third Decepticon Seeker. With a weapon aimed directly at him. Before the mech could fire, Starscream screamed something in an irritated tone.
The third jet, a black one, chattered back, and Epps could swear it sounded irritated as well, like he couldn't understand why Starscream was forbidding him to fire. Starscream looked at Epps, then back at the black jet.
"He was not responsible for what happened to Thundercracker. And he had the chance to destroy us both and did not. Stand down, Skywarp." Starscream spoke in a firm tone. Epps had the feeling that Starscream was speaking in Epps' own language for his benefit.
The black jet looked like he wanted to protest, but Starscream cut him off before he could say another word. "Thundercracker needs us now. Let the human go."
Those words had the desired effect. The jet Starscream had referred to as Skywarp lowered his weapon. Epps very slowly released the breath he had been holding.
"Epps, come in," Lennox's voice broke the silence that had fallen. Skywarp briefly glanced his way with a distasteful look.
He raised his communicator and answered, "Epps here."
"Ironhide and I are on our way, what's the status?"
Both Seekers looked at Epps. Then Skywarp spoke in his native language again, something frantic. Starscream responded in a stern tone. They exchanged a few words which Epps didn't understand, but by their gestures, he could tell they were talking about him and the injured one. Epps said into the communicator, "One did fall, I think his name is Thundercracker, and Starscream and another named Skywarp are also here. Just hurry up."
"Are you in danger?" Ironhide asked. The sound of his voice caused a ripple of tension through the three Seekers' frames.
"All right," Lennox chimed in, "ETA in 5 minutes."
"Roger that," Epps said, lowering his communicator as if he were lowering a weapon.
Skywarp was fixing on him a glance in which Epps could read distrust… and a latent desire to reduce him to ashes. But Starscream seemed to think otherwise. In those alien metallic features, Epps could realize that Starscream was assessing the situation. If what the Autobots said about the Decepticons were true, both Decepticons would leave their injured comrade to die, but Epps was already beyond those empty stereotypes.
"We can help you," he said, as reassuring as he could. "We can help your friend."
Something inside Skywarp started to hum, not as a threat but as the physical manifestation of the Seeker's annoyance. "If your definition of we includes the Autobots, you're more naïve than I thought, flesh creature," he said in English before addressing Starscream again and hissing something in their native language.
Epps couldn't help but to feel sorry for both Decepticons, incredibly hesitant in front of a decision that should have been easy for their supposedly evil demeanours. Epps knew what he would do in their situation. He would never abandon a fellow soldier, no matter how close the enemy were lurking. Starscream seemed to have that in common with him, as he remained at his comrade's side. Despite his uneasiness, Skywarp didn't move either.
Then the injured one spoke. And even though Epps couldn't understand a word he said, he knew it, as clear as if he were actually listening to him.
Thundercracker was asking them to abandon him.
The shriek that escaped Skywarp's mouth made the jet's position clear on the matter, as did the apparent look of horror that appeared on his face. Starscream, too, seemed to reject the request, a defiant shake of his head accompanying the movement of his hands as he increased the pace of his repair work.
Skywarp began looking at the openings in the ruined buildings and the roads around them, and then paced the perimeter to sight the incoming enemy. It seemed that he hadn't spotted them yet, for he returned to his wingmates in quick strides. He then said something hurried to Starscream. Starscream didn't look up when he replied and continued repairs with controlled and efficient movements. Skywarp spoke again, this time harsher. He glanced around with alertness. And Starscream replied with equal harshness that could have been matched with desperation.
Epps looked at the ground and clenched his fists. There he was, watching the scene before him, unable to assist, unable to attack, and his comrades were less than five minutes away from discovering the three. What would happen then? There would be a confrontation, that much was for certain. But their wingmate – Thundercracker – might die. Epps realised that he felt bad about the prospect – and guilty. Thundercracker would die because Epps had led their enemy straight to them, just by standing there. It would all be his fault that they didn't have time to heal their brother and get away. It would have been justified for Epps to have been killed the second he was detected or at the very moment he had stumbled upon the Seekers. But he wasn't, and now they may pay the price for sparing him.
Epps furrowed his brows. These were Decepticons – the beings who had devastated many lives, even before those on Earth. They deserved no sympathy. But today... today was different. Today, he would give them an exception. A life for a life.
He touched his earpiece. "Cap', this is Epps. I have some news." Starscream and Skywarp looked at him.
"Epps, what's up?"
"The Seekers, they've left." Epps looked back at the jets. "There's no need to rendezvous at this location anymore. You and Ironhide slow up, I'll meet you halfway. Epps out." He cut the comms before Lennox could reply.
Epps looked up at the Seekers. "I'll go hold them up. You just get your friend outta here – now." With that he turned and ran the way he came. This must be the craziest thing he had ever done in his career, apart from battling giant alien robots from space. He was helping to save one which on any other occasion would gladly incinerate him on the spot. But there was no time to change his mind now, or think about it. Epps just hoped that Starscream and Skywarp would use the time he bought them to get their buddy to safety. Somehow...
Epps weaved through the wreckage and buildings onto the roads and jogged. The streets were empty of the Hong Kong residents and were instead littered by broken glass, cement and metal. Pretty soon he could hear the hum of an engine and the large chassis of Ironhide came around the corner. Ironhide slowed to a stop in front of Epps. The driver's door swung open and Lennox climbed out to meet him.
"Epps, are you sure they're gone? They could still be in the area. You should've followed them to make sure," Lennox said.
"You're right, Cap', but they flew. I assumed they left for good. Anyway, they're not there anymore."
"I say we should still go, as reconnaissance. You can never be too careful with 'Cons around," Ironhide said.
"Ironhide has a point," Lennox said. "We should at least look around for survivors, too. Might've missed somebody. Come on, Epps." He climbed back in the driver's seat.
Epps took the front passenger seat. "Right."
He could only buy mere minutes for them – three at the most. He was sorry.
It was no time at all when Ironhide passed the familiar landmark of destroyed buildings leading to the area where the Seekers were. But when he turned the corner, they weren't there. They had vanished.
Midwestern U.S. - 2 weeks later
N.E.S.T.'s work is never done.
This was the thought of Epps as he walked through a cornfield somewhere in Iowa. SONAR had picked up Decepticon signals, and N.E.S.T. had deployed to check it out. However, it seemed that it was a wild goose chase so far. Still, Prime had decided they should split up to see if the Decepticons had left the area, or deal with them if they hadn't.
Don't see what the 'Cons would want here, anyway. There's nothing out here. A snort. Of course, since when has that ever stopped them? All they do is leave a path of destruction in their wake.
That thought brought Epps up short as an image of the three Seekers from the battle two weeks prior came into his head. Okay, maybe they have their moments. After leaving the battlefield in Hong Kong, he'd found himself wondering occasionally if the silver one, Thundercracker, had made it. Ironhide had been furious that the Seekers had managed to escape, swearing all the way back to the rendezvous point where the other Autobots and N.E.S.T. soldiers were waiting. Lennox also hadn't been thrilled with the idea that they'd lost their chance to eliminate three of their worst enemies. After giving his report, Epps had a suspicion that Prime knew he was lying, or at least holding back some of the truth, judging by the way he'd looked at him for a moment before saying anything. But Epps stood by his story, knowing the confusion of the battlefield often made it difficult for details to be remembered clearly, and in the end, for whatever reason, Prime didn't push the matter. Only Epps and three others would ever know what had actually happened. Perhaps two, if their comrade hadn't made it.
He was also aware that his objectivity was likely compromised, as he wasn't sure he could fire on any of them again, even knowing that the Seekers wouldn't hesitate to kill him at the first opportunity.
But did he regret it? No. It was the right thing to do, even if no one else will ever know.
His train of thought was broken as he came through the last row of the cornfield, and the sight that appeared as he did caused him to stop cold.
In the space in front of him sat three jets, one bronze, one black, and one silver.
And the silver one was in perfect condition.
None of them spoke, simply faced off. After a few minutes, Epps' communicator buzzed.
"Epps, this is Lennox. Can't find a trace of the 'Cons on our end. You?"
Epps reached for his communicator, noticing the three jets tense up as he did so. He responded.
"Nothing here, either, Cap'. Guess they either left or it was just a glitch in the system." The jets seemed to relax slightly as he spoke.
"Yeah, that's what Prime thinks, too. We'll be pulling out. Need us to pick you up?"
"Nah, I'll meet you halfway. Wife thinks I could use the exercise, anyway."
A laugh sounded over the comm. "Okay, see you in twenty. Lennox out."
For a moment after the communication was ended there was silence. Then Skywarp broke it, as though he couldn't handle the stand-off any longer. "We felt you were owed knowing what happened." The voice became hard. "But don't expect this to change anything."
Epps nodded. "Didn't expect it to." Skywarp grunted, but said no more.
Starscream then spoke. "Our Seeker code demands we respect your actions. We will not be responsible for your death should you fall in any future engagements between ourselves and the Autobots."
A low rumble came from Thundercracker, as if in confirmation.
Epps nodded again. It was more than he expected and proved even further that some Decepticons did indeed have a code of honour, in spite of what the Autobots believed. Well, he had his own, too.
"I understand, and I won't be responsible for yours should you fall."
A grunt from Starscream, and then, with a pop of air, the Seekers were gone.
Epps chuckled, shaking his head. After the battle in Hong Kong, he'd learned about Skywarp's strange ability thanks to Ironhide's cursing over the Seekers' escape, and while he could admit it was a bit disconcerting, it certainly explained how Skywarp had appeared behind him as suddenly as he had and how the three had gotten out of there so quickly. Kind of glad that he had that ability. Saved us all a lot of problems.
He glanced at his watch.
Damn, I'd better book it if I want to get to the meeting point in time without questions being asked.
Epps turned and headed back the way he'd come, a grin on his face.
Nope, no regrets.
None at all.