Author's Note – For "tf_speedwriting" on LiveJournal. The prompt was "You and whose army?" This is part of my "Designation 24601" series, my version of Wheeljack's background. Please see my profile page for reading order.
Disclaimer – "Transformers" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Hasbro, Takara, and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.
Things had been quiet for a few cycles, and probably would continue to be. The massive battle fought recently had left both sides patching wounds that would likely keep any counterattacks from being possible for at least another decacycle, maybe two or three.
And for some among the Autobot ranks, it was the first real "downtime" they had ever really known.
Wheeljack was a creator, one of the few left to either faction, and today he was out with a number of his creations. Due to the war, he'd had to cut back on resources – and therefore, among other things, the new mechs' sizes – which had earned the group the nickname "Minibots." The young mechs, for the most part, had taken the tease and turned it into a triumph of sorts, seeing it as a name for a subfaction of their own. They already tended to pull in among themselves when faced with the larger mechs while they tried to find their places among the troops. Besides, they argued, they didn't need to be as big as the others to be just as capable.
This outing stemmed from a rumor the Minibots had heard about their creator and his less-than-humble origins. Angry, they'd tried to defend him, but the others merely shrugged. Can't deny the truth, they'd said. Even Ratchet didn't argue the slander, telling them to go ask the inventor themselves if they really wanted to know. He'd tell them. So they did, and he had.
None wanted to believe it.
Brawn had ground one fist into the other palm, swearing it was a good thing none of those mechs were around today, or he'd give them what-for. Cliffjumper was right there with him, which surprised no one. So was Huffer, which surprised everyone. Even soft-spoken Beachcomber had scowled behind his visor for his creator's sake.
A mining slave – ridiculous! How could someone like that have worked his way up to be the Autobots' chief mechanical engineer? With a lot of determination, Wheeljack had replied, the same never-give-up that he had instilled in his creations.
It had been Bumblebee who suggested actually visiting the city of their creator's build. The place was an abandoned ruin, had been for a long, long time – or so the official reports said – and it was in Neutral territory since neither side actually wanted anything in the harsh Badlands, so not as if they were likely to stumble on any trouble. Powerglide had teased their youngest that he was just itching to get out for some action. Bumblebee was still a sparkling – would be considered so for another thirty-five vorns while his spark continued to settle and mature – so what he'd been allowed out for had been limited so far. But the little future scout was inquisitive and eager . . . and Wheeljack tended to indulge him when he could. He tended to indulge all of them, really.
The small transport touched down, and its occupants disembarked: Wheeljack, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Huffer, Gears, Brawn, Windcharger, Seaspray, Powerglide, Beachcomber, Cosmos, and Warpath. Twelve mechs in all.
"Well . . . welcome ta Blaster City, guys." Wheeljack looked around, barely recognizing the place himself. It had been so very long, for one, and for two, it'd fallen to such disrepair that anyone would have a hard time recognizing it. The fact that half the city had collapsed into a massive crater didn't help anything either.
"Whoa." Powerglide had transformed to fly up to the top of one of the nearby buildings – nothing here was taller than two stories – and shifted back to root-mode to gaze out from his new vantage point. "S'that where the mines used to be?" He indicated the crater.
Wheeljack knew his grimace was audible in his tone and visible in the tint of his vocal flanges as he nodded. "Sure is, Powerglide." And the reason he'd come back here now so readily. When the mines had collapsed under a Decepticon attack about five-thousand vorns ago, purportedly there had been no survivors, and one of the confirmed deaths had been his old master. Not that he'd really had reason to fear the mech anymore by that time, but knowing that that chapter of his life was closed in such a way that it could never be reopened had been surprisingly comforting, even as he'd honestly grieved the loss of that many lives.
The group explored around the city for a while, Wheeljack telling his creations stories of the people and places that used to be here as well as some of his own experiences. It was Seaspray and Cosmos who first discovered that maybe they weren't as alone as they thought when the pair tripped a trap, eliciting twin yelps as they found themselves in a cage that suddenly sprang up and folded in around them. From the design and rustless state of the thing, it was not a leftover relic from times bygone.
Warpath, Brawn, Cliffjumper, and Gears had just gotten the contraption pried back open when Bumblebee trilled a soft, wordless alarm from his point position. Someone was coming!
Wheeljack darted a look around at his creations. "Guys, hide!" he ordered in an undertone. None of them were about to abandon their creator, but there was no time to argue, so they scattered, stuffing into nooks or burying under the copious debris that littered the street. There was no place big enough for Wheeljack to hide in time, so he threw himself into the middle of the destroyed cage. There had to be a "catch" after all, right? That's what the incoming mech was probably looking for, and if he found an obvious target, he'd not go looking for inobvious ones – his Minibots would be safe.
His optics flashed in shock – and old terror – when the other mech came around the street corner. "G-glitchgrinder!"
The former overseer's optics similarly dilated in surprise, but then he grinned a nasty grin. "Well, well, well, look what the retrorats dragged in. If it isn't ol' Slipgear. Get homesick, didja?"
Wheeljack scowled at the use of his former designation, pulling slowly back to his feet and bracing to defend himself . . . or run. "Hardly. Had somethin' ta take care of. Pity ya just caught me leavin'."
"Oh, I don't think so." That nasty grin only got worse, spiking terror through the former slave just like it used to back then. "That stops at 'just caught you'. 'Cons'll pay good money for the Autobots' head engineer. Though I can't begin to imagine how you wormed your way into that title. Bribery? Or they really just that stupid?" Glitchgrinder started closing in on Wheeljack.
And froze when an unseen force stopped him, like walking into an invisible wall.
Impulsive Windcharger had decided that his creator needed backup, and when Windcharger decided something, he acted on it without further thought. He stood from his hiding place with arms out straight in front of him, magnetic field focused on his creator's enemy. "You better back off, before I make you." Windcharger could easily pick up and throw the mech back with his repelling ability, not that Glitchgrinder knew this.
Despite the fact that he was being effectively held at bay, at least for the moment, he merely cocked his head in amusement at the much smaller mech. "That so? You and what army, ya little glitch?"
"ZAMPOW! This one!" Warpath jumped up next to Windcharger.
"Come on, guys!" Cliffjumper unburied from the refuse pile across the way. "Let's get this glitch!"
"You leave our Wheeljack alone!" Cosmos demanded as he popped up.
Suddenly, the Neutral was surrounded, and even their stunted sizes didn't diminish the protectiveness and threat he could surely see in their optics.
At first, Wheeljack worried for his creations and he started to yell at them to back off. But then he saw the shift in Glitchgrinder's stance. He relaxed and straightened, regaining confidence as he gestured at the crowd. "This is why I'm chief engineer. Glitchgrinder, meet my Minibots. Guys . . . meet one'a my former overseers." He glanced at Brawn as he said it.
Brawn nodded, getting the hint, and cracked his knuckle servos. "Don't normally make a habit of pounding on a mech who's not a Decepticon, but I think I'm gonna enjoy this."
A few breems and one caged-and-dented mech later, Wheeljack gathered his creations around him again, checking them over for damage. Glitchgrinder had certainly put up an impressive fight before Warpath got a metal bar wrapped around his wrists. If he was here, others might be too. Let them find and free the mech, if he didn't manage it himself.
Satisfied that his Minibots were all right, the engineer nodded. "C'mon, guys. Let's go home."