Transformer Prime: The Ties That Bind II -Part One
Location: Military R&D Facility-Top Secret
Somewhere in the Nevada Desert, USA.
For the second time in as many weeks, Airmen Douglas Norton marveled at the enigma that was his current life and occupation. Growing up in California's San Fernando Valley, his childhood had consisted of a rather ho-hum existence, living in a mobile home with his parents and three sisters.
Living in such close quarters, he had never felt as if he had any space to himself, this had left him with a fierce desire to be away from people in general as soon as possible. When he had turned eighteen, he had immediately applied for service in the Air Force, and though he had only just qualified for Airmen he had gleefully requested the most isolated of duty stations.
Having shown a great degree of aptitude with firearms and a keen enough understanding of security and procedures, he had been given a posting, after passing a veritable sea of background and clearance checks, to one of the Military's Black Sites, a research and development operation in the middle of no-where Nevada. It had, at the time, been the highlight of his life.
Now, nearly five months later, he was beginning to wonder if he should have shown a degree of restraint in requesting so isolated a duty station.
The first few weeks has been, in his eyes, a cake walk. He would sign in, pass various check points and security desks until he was cleared to man his post, relieving whatever poor soul had been manning that watch before him. More often then not, Douglas had found himself top side, on gate or sentry duty. As very few, if any, ground vehicles ever came onto the base the day was mostly spent listening to chatter over the wire about tourists and UFO nuts trying to get within the security perimeter with the hopes of seeing something they had no right to see.
The most exciting thing Douglas has done in the time since he has first arrived was to join a group of MPs in chasing off some hikers who has managed to get close to the facility by using old back-trails. The pair had set off motion sensors without realizing it and had been quickly routed. Since then, it had been one, incredibly silent, sentry watch after another.
Standing at one of the bases few Entry Gates, sharing his watch with a second Airmen, Douglas was mulling over whether or not it might have been too late to request a transfer when the most unusual of sites appeared out of the afternoon haze on the long stretch of dirt road leading up to the fence.
Moving towards the sentry post at a easy speed was a Semi-Truck, massive, and clearly civilian. Almost instantly Douglas's training over-rode his boredom addled mind, and the Airmen quickly looked to the other servicemen.
"There wasn't a call about an arrival, was there?" He asked, referring to the various security patrols that roamed the terrain around the facility's perimeter. Clearly now on as much edge as Douglas himself was, the other Airmen shook her head sharply from side to side.
"Negative." She replied.
"Right. Call it in." Douglas answered, stepping outside the Watch-House and onto the road, awaiting the arrival, palm out in a halting gesture, his other hand now gripping the strap of the M-16 Assault Rifle slung over his shoulder. If the Semi's driver saw the check-point or it's two occupants, he, or she, gave no indication as they continued forward. At his back, the other Airmen was speaking into the radio secured to the shoulder of her fatigues.
"…say again, we have a unidentified vehicle approaching the east gate. No word from outlying patrols. Please advise, over."
All that could be heard coming from the small two way speaker was the cackle of static. Instinctively, Douglas checked his own with the same end result. If anyone was trying to reach them on the line, they were not getting through. Trying to maintain a modicum of discipline, the second Airmen, a young woman named Winters, frowned at Douglas.
"Shit." Was all she managed.
"Let's see what this truck's about, then you can hoof it to ops and see what's going on."
Nodding her head, Winters came around to join him, her own weapon un-slung, the rifle butt to her shoulder. The Semi, it's red and blue paint-job clearly visible, was now only meters away.
Suddenly, it slowed, coasting to a stop within just a few hundred feet. From his position, even with no sun glare, Douglas could not see the vehicles occupant. Clearly brandishing his M-16, Douglas let his voice carry clear and loud towards the truck.
"You are on Government Property and in a Restricted Area! Turn off your vehicle and exit slowly, hands raised!" There was no response nor any indication of movement. "Now!" He added.
Seeing no sign of compliance, Douglas continued. "If you do not exit your vehicle, you will be considered hostile and you will be fired upon! Comply. Now!" Met with only silence a second time, Douglas exhaled sharply. Raising the Rifle, the Airmen aimed down the site. "This is your final warning!" When no reply came, Douglas depressed the trigger once, cleanly, the weapon's retort an echo even over the din of the Semi's diesel heavy block. The rounds left the rifle, impacting along the truck's forward windshield. Feeling his grip tighten on the rifle stock, Douglas's mouth went try. None of the bullets had even left a scratch on the glass.
"Open up! Watch the tanks!" Douglas shouted, letting loose a steady stream of bursts, Winters following suit. Together, the pair emptied a single clip each into the front of the massive vehicle. Eventually hearing the distinctive click of empty chambers, both Airmen lowered their weapons to survey the damage. At his back, Winters gasped audibly. Much as before, there was no damage to be seen.
"What the f…?" Douglas cursed before the air around him was suddenly filled with the sound of metal accompanied by a second noise, high pitched and clearly mechanical.
Before his eyes, the massive semi appeared to break apart, yet remain together, the vehicle shifting by sections, becoming something he had never, even while being assigned to a secret government installation, had thought he would ever see. Panic overriding his senses, Airmen Douglas ejected and slapped home a second clip, bringing the rifle up and opening up full auto on the gigantic entity now before him, his finger still squeezing even after the weapon had run dry a second time just as the Watch-House, and it's two servicemen, were incinerated.
"Oh come on? What was I supposed to say?" Jack Darby asked, eyes focused on the display screen imbedded just behind the motorcycle's windshield.
"I don't know," replied a female voice over the radio built into Jack's helmet. "How about, I'm sorry? That might have worked better then your less then delicate choice of words."
"Hey, there's plenty worse I could have told that ass." Jack answered defensively.
With a sigh, Arcee mentally shook her head. "I think Get Bent was enough, don't you?"
"He had it coming. Nothing special about him."
"Yeah, except, you know, that whole thing about being your Boss and sole employer. Pesky little detail, that."
Jack tried to think of a clever retort, but simply slumped in his seat. Though her attention was focused not only on the road upon which she was driving, but her sensors as well, ever mindful for Decepticon patrols, Arcee adjusted her mirrors, the better to see her passenger.
Not for the first time that day, she longed to place a comforting hand across his shoulders. Though her metallic fingers could not relay the same warmth as a flesh and blood appendage, she new the contact would say more in it's intent then any words she could think to impart.
"Damn it, Arcee. That's, like, the third job in the last few months. What am I going to tell my mom? I know she needs the help…"
"Look, you'll find something else. It might be a small town, but you're smart, and, when you're not letting your pride get in the way, you can do just about anything you want. Don't worry. Your mother will understand."
Frustrated, Jack looked out at the sun-set now turning the horizon of the desert beyond the highway various shades of red and orange. "I wish I could just quit all of this. Work with you all the time, not just on weekends. Or, you know, when we're not being chased by 'cons or something."
"I know, Jack. I'd like that too. But, you've got just another year of School and then, maybe, you could talk to Fowler about joining the Task Force. He trusts you, and there's no question about you being able to keep up with us." Had she not been in vehicle form, Arcee would have graced her human charge with a smile. "You could probably relocate to the silo. It'd be nice not having to rush to get you back to town before midnight. And not be locked in a garage most of the night."
Somewhat uplifted by the change in topic, Jack looked back to his Autobot companion. "If I didn't know any better, I'd swear you just suggested we move in together." Though his tone was teasing, Arcee could see the depth of affection in his eyes. Were she able, she would have given the teen a gentle shove, but instead she only gave his seat a shake.
"You know what I meant, lover boy. It would give Optimus peace of mind to have you, Miko, and Raf in close proximity at all times." Jack had been present on more then one occasion when the Autobot leader had voiced just such an opinion.
"Yeah, I know. Heck, Miko would like nothing better then to live at the installation. She could torture Bulkhead all day, every day. And Raf's always happiest when he's got BB around."
"And vice versa. It's nice seeing BB enjoying himself so often. With everything we've been through over the last century or so, it's easy to forget how young his spark is." Arcee mused.
"You make it sound like you're as old as Optimus. Though, truthfully, not sure exactly how old he is…"
"Well," Arcee added. "Let's put it this way. I think your people were still in trees when he was in his, well, prime."
"And you? I know women have this thing about being asked their age."
"Only a few hundred years. By human standards I guess I'm not much older then you. Though all the fighting does leave one feeling weary in the servos." Arcee answered wearily.
"Well, to me, you don't look a day over a hundred."
"Jack," Arcee sighed wistfully. "Sometimes I think maybe it's a good thing I'm not Human. Otherwise, we might not get any work done."
Before Jack could ask what the Cybertronian meant, the pair were interrupted. "Arcee? What's your location?"
"Ratchet?" Arcee responded. "We're eight miles west of sector twelve, en route. Trouble?"
"I'm…not sure. Something's happened. You and Jack need to be here. Now. Alter course to the mesa at point Alpha. I'm sending the Land Bridge."
"Copy that. On our way."
Having been tuned in, Jack frowned at the now silent com channel. "That sounded…urgent. What do think is going on?"
"I don't know. Figured I'd be used to hearing Ratchet sounding worried, but this seemed, I don't know. Different. Hold tight."
Without another word, Arcee diverted extra energon to her drive unit, adding a burst of acceleration that left Jack griping tightly to her, the duo seemingly a blur on the open highway.
Making good time, both Arcee and Jack arrived at the silo, exiting the conduit just in time to find all the Autobots and their human charges assembled around the central control hub. The atmosphere in the room was tense. At the head of the group, Optimus Prime was conversing with an unseen face, though a familiar voice.
"…I'm doing what I can on my end, Prime. But it's not looking good." Agent Fowler's usually irritable tones were clearly strained. More so then was the norm.
"I still do not understand," responded the Autobot Prime. "There is no possibility of this aggression being taken by us. All of the Autobots have been present and accounted for, Agent Fowler."
"Which is exactly what I've been trying to tell my Superiors. But this goes even higher then them. The people we're dealing with now, well, it's a whole different ball-game."
Exchanging a look of concern with Jack, Arcee moved up to stand beside Ratchet, seeking answers quietly. For his part, Jack sought the same from both Miko and Raphael.
"What's going on?"
"Bad news." Raf replied somberly. The boy's fear was palpable.
"Bad news?" Miko responded. "It's total scrap! Fowler says the military is all bent out of shape, saying the Autos attacked them and stole something."
"What? How could they even think that?" Jack asked incredulously. "They have to know it's the Decepticons. It's always them. Or maybe those mercenary nut jobs that robbed the convoy last month."
"That's what Optimus has been trying to tell Fowler, and he's our camp. But, the Military says they have proof it was, well, Optimus." Raf said, almost hesitating.
"What? Are they mental?" was the only response Jack could muster.
"They have to be," Miko added. "This whole thing blows."
"Shhh." From above the three humans, Bulkhead's whisper carried down. "Keep it down, guys."
Chastised, though still livid, the trio listened in relative silence.
Though ever composed, it was clear Optimus's patience was beginning to thin. "With respect to your leaders, Agent Fowler, we Autobots agreed to provide aid in light of the Deception threat. However, we do not fall under their jurisdiction. Nor their control. If this act was perpetrated by Starscream or any under his rule, we will resolve the matter. But, I will not permit this team, this family, to come to harm."
"Now hold on, Prime. No one said you were going to be harmed. There are just questions that need answering…"
"And so they will be. On our terms." Optimus finished. "Please inform them of this, Agent Fowler."
With that, the Autobot leader cut the line. The chamber was silent.
"Optimus?" Arcee asked after a moment. "What did Fowler say? What do they want us to do?"
Turning to face them all, Optimus's response was heavy, the semblance of a deep frown crossing his polymorphic features. "As they believe that we have engaged in unlawful action against them, stealing classified technology, they have demanded that we accept temporary incarceration until the truth can be ascertained."
"Demand?" Ratchet replied furiously. "Who are they to demand anything of us? They would be under Megatron's rule if it wasn't for us."
"Indeed, old friend. Though I would not have informed them as such. However, I have made our stance clear. Though we respect the laws of this Nation, we are not under it's auspices. We are here by choice, and not by force. I will not sacrifice the Freedom of anyone here over what is clearly a Decepticon agenda."
"So? What's the plan?" Asked Arcee.
"First, we must ensure the protection of our Human allies. Fowler's reports have indicated their involvement in our past missions, and they will likely be held, just as they intend for us."
"Let 'em try!" Miko yelled, brandishing two fists.
"Your courage is admirable, little Miko. But, the risk is too great. Bulkhead? Take Miko and keep her from harm. Bumblebee and Arcee, take Raphael and Jack to safety as well. Ratchet and I will remain here to engage in negotiation. Perhaps I will be able to convince them to give us time to find the truth in all of this."
"Optimus, no. You can't trust them not to try to take you by force. If they're not willing to take you at your word, even with everything we've done…" Arcee's further argument was silenced by the Prime's placating hands.
"It is a risk that must be taken, Arcee. Were we all to disappear, we would look the guilty party. No. I will remain to negotiate, and Ratchet will remain behind to ensure our technology does not fall into their possession."
At this, the Autobot medic nodded. "You can count on that. I've rigged this entire installation to blow should those humans even think to take the silo from us."
"Hopefully, such a drastic course of action will not be called for, Ratchet."
"Uh, Optimus? I wouldn't bet on that." Bulkhead, having taken the liberty of monitoring the hub's long range sensors during the discussion, alerted them.
"What is it?" Arcee asked.
"We've got incoming. A whole mess of incoming. Looks like…aircraft. Attack helicopters and gun-ships. They are moving in like they got a purpose."
"Then there is little time left. Ratchet, activate the Land-Bridge."
Moving away, Ratchet began initiating the portal device. Hesitating, Bulkhead looked to the Autobot leader.
"You sure you don't want me to stay behind? Miko can go with BB and I can keep them busy up top easy, then meet up with everyone else later."
"No, my friend. Your place is with your charge. Miko will more protecting then I."
"Bulkhead's right. We should stay and help put a hurt on those clowns!" Miko added.
"No, Miko." Bulkhead answered somberly. "You three are too important."
At the edge of the group, Bumblebee's mournful buzzes echoed.
"Don't worry, buddy." Raf said, trying to effect a cheerful countenance. "Optimus is going to be fine. We all will."
Bumblebee's responding bleat was likewise hopeful, though hollow of enthusiasm.
"Boss, I don't like this." Arcee said irritably. "I need to keep Jack safe, but I don't like leaving you at their mercy."
"It is necessary, Arcee. Until this matter is concluded, you are in command. I trust you to do what is best."
Though she desired to carry the argument further, Arcee merely nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Alright," Ratchet announced. "Coordinates are punched in. Activating."
From within the conduit tunnel, the Land-Bridge sprung to life, a twisting vortex of energy.
"I'm willing to bet they've got a satellite over this position, and we're lit up like a light bulb. They'll know we've got something planned." Ratchet cautioned.
As if to confirm this, several monitors around the hub began to light up with warning screens. "They're launching ordnance. Can't tell from this range. Could be bunker busters."
"Nothing further need be said. We will see each other again. Autobots, roll out." Prime told them all, his resolve unshakable.
Shifting into their vehicle modes, the three Autobots waited for their human charges to board, each wasting no further time in entering the tunnel. Waiting only a few more moments to ensure the teams would arrive at their destination, Ratchet disengaged the Land-Bridge. His poise stoic, Optimus watched the conduit tunnel grow dark just as the first of the missiles impacted the outer stone walls of the silo.
To be Continued…