Title: The Traps
Disclaimer: Transformers and all related characters therein do not belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers: Some for Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Summary: A wild hunt for energon, a strange anomaly detected deep under the Siberian tundra, a storm of the century, a lightning strike on experimental technology, and being sucked into an parallel universe? Sam Witwicky figures that he can count this as one of his worser days. Too bad it's only the beginning.
Universe: Movieverse/Transformers: Prime crossover, with the majority of the story occuring in Prime!verse.
The entire camp was in chaos. A storm had come much faster than anyone had anticipated, and soldiers and Autobots alike were shouting to be heard over the thunder, orders barked out to protect the research equipment from the rain and hail. It was already late in the evening, the sky black from the loss of the setting sun and the blanketing clouds. Even with the floodlights, there was little to be done for visibility, and the downpour had rendered the ground into nothing more than a sticky mudpit. What was worse was that Sam could count this setback as only the latest in the series of mishaps that had plagued the expedition during its three-week search for energon deposits deep in the Siberian Traps of northern Russia.
A group of soldiers were loading the last of the energon sensors into one of the Jeeps, and Sam ducked around them to reach the one tent that had yet to be packed up. Soaked through to the skin despite his parka, Sam was only too happy for the momentary break from the freezing, torrential rain. Already inside were two men, sitting in a puddle of water that had flooded the tent but seemingly oblivious to it as they huddled in front of a laptop, which set on top of an equipment case to keep it off the ground. They were arguing quietly in Russian. One was Dr. Richard Allen, a scientist out of the United States Geological Survey and whose reputation for his expertise in paleosedimentology had earned him a recommendation from the U.S. government specifically to Optimus Prime to lead the research team. The other was Dr. Ivan Radanovich, Allen's Russian counterpart and who had joined the team a week and half into the investigation, once it was revealed that the American team was maybe onto something, after all.
In the dim green glow of the computer screen, both men were showing signs of the trip's strain: both faces were lined with dirt and grime from digging, and Allen had complained to everyone who would listen about each gray hair that had showed up during the past three weeks. It made Sam grateful that he had crossed 'field scientist' off of his list of 'things I want to be when I grow up' long ago.
"Hey," Sam greeted as he kneeled down next to them, looking over Allen's shoulder at the computer screen. "What's the story?"
"We're still having trouble calibrating some of the more sensitive sensors for the basalt deposits and magnetite," Radanovich answered in heavily accented English. "The volcanic rock is interfering with some of the scans, and the storm is turning things more difficult."
"Difficult?" Allen cut in. "I was going to say 'clusterfuck.' And then every time I think we're good to go, we get something weird. But I think I almost have it, now."
Sam shook his head. "Weather service is tracking a second line of storms right behind this one. Major Lennox has ordered us all for immediate evac."
"Okay, well, he realizes that without this data set, it's all going to be useless, right? We've already lost the Guli and Angara sites to contamination and equipment malfunction, and Kotuy turned up nothing. Without Aryzhangskaya too, this will have just been a month long tour of Nowhere, Siberia."
"There's nothing we can do about it." It was Will who interrupted, the front flap of the tent pulled open to admit him. "The lightning's getting worse. Ratchet just commed me and said that he's going to try and connect the groundbridge."
Sam blinked, and even Allen raised an eyebrow in skepticism while Radanovich paled considerably. The groundbridge technology was still new; it had been of Que's design, as he had been working on creating a modification of spacebridge technology for shorter, overland distances. It had never gotten further than the preliminary experimental stages before the battle in Chicago, and a lot of his data had been lost with him. All that he had left behind of his studies were datapads containing the groundbridge blueprints and some of his mathematical calculations, and Ratchet had been spent the past several months attempting to fill in the blanks. As the Chief Medical Officer, he was the closest thing the Autobots on Earth had to a scientist, but as of late, all Ratchet could offer was that he was 'pretty fairly sure' that he knew what Que was doing and that their current bridge would 'probably' work.
Will shrugged. "We're out in the middle of a field, during a thunderstorm, with no adequate shelter, tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, the nearest airport eight hours away, and three gigantic lightning rods known as the Wreckers. I say we give the groundbridge a shot. Besides, Ratchet says that on the trial runs, Wheelie went through the bridge and came back just fine."
That was true enough, but Sam also happened to remember that the test subject had been far less than willing, and his screeched predictions of atomization had convinced many of the soldiers on base to swear off the groundbridge entirely and to instantly disappear whenever Ratchet came searching for volunteer testers.
"Besides," Will added, turning his head to focus on Sam, any light-heartedness dissolving out of his expression, leaving behind a seriousness that had its shadows in Mission City and Chicago. "They think that Thundercracker and Skywarp have intercepted some of our communications with the base and know that we're out here."
Sam flinched, feeling all the colder from the sweat that suddenly broke out across the back of his neck, his throat constricting around the sensation of his heart pushing its way up out of his chest. With Megatron and most of the top-ranking Decepticons dead, what was left of the faction had no leader, no direction, and their continued migration to Earth had found them taking out their anarchy on humankind. Out of all of them, Optimus had named Skywarp and Thundercracker the worst of the threat. They had served under Starscream as part of a three-mech team—a trine, Optimus had called it—and they rightfully blamed Sam for the death of their group's leader, making no secret of their planned revenge.
"So, pack it up," Will said. "Let's get out of here." He left, and Sam could feel the heavy weight of both Allen's and Radanovich's concerned stares. They were silent with any further protest, and given Allen's rather vocal nature, the threat of the two Seekers must have spooked him deeply.
"Ivan, if you go help with the sediment cores and the augers, I'll pack up the GPR array and radiation detectors," Allen finally said, and Radanaovich nodded his agreement.
"Wait," Sam stopped them. He looked over at Allen. "You said that you almost have the computer calibrated?"
"Yeah. Well, the computer has been saying that the whole system's been ready to go for the past hour, but everytime we get a readout on the subsurface scans, we get a really weird anomaly that's not consistent with the rest of the data. There has to be a computer error somewhere; I just haven't been able to find it."
"And I say there's isn't an error," Radanovich said. "If the GPR is picking up a subsurface anomaly, we have to count it is part of the data on the strata."
"And I would agree with you if we were getting the same anomaly with every scan," Allen countered in a tone that spoke of an argument several hours old. "Here, Sam, look." With a few quick keystroke, Allen pulled up the readouts of the past several GPR scans. While Sam could never claim to understand anything about what he was supposed to be seeing about the varying shades of gray that the ground penetrating radar had produced, he did see a large dark mass that did seem to fit oddly into the images. "You can see that on this one, it's about 200 meters down, and it's large enough that I can't get an estimate of its square kilometer coverage. Then, one this one, it's only about 50 meters down and probably has an area less than 20 meters squared. And then in this one, it doesn't show up at all. On the last scan, it was back and still registering as fairly small, but about 50 meters to the south. Not only is it changing shape on us, it's moving. A few more scans and I may be able to work out a better subsurface profile."
"The anomalies are in too close a vicinity to each other to make it an error," Radanovich snapped in frustration. "It is the lightning. The groundstrikes are interfering with the return echoes and is confusing the radar. We are looking at a substantial foreign deposit."
"What we need is to dig," Allen stated. "And look for it ourselves rather than let the computers do it."
Sam opened his mouth to respond, but at that moment, Will reentered the tent.
"All right, the groundbridge—what the hell are you guys still doing?"
"Science," Sam answered.
"Well, stop it! The groundbridge is up, and we've already sent the Wreckers and the first of the Jeeps through, and they've cleared it. Prime wants the three of you to be through next."
Allen shook his head. "We still have to get this equipment packed up, and I don't want any of your men to be fumbling around with it. It's too delicate."
Will narrowed his eyes at the insult, but he had grown too used to Allen's inherent abrasiveness to make anything of it.
"Will, send the rest of your men through," Sam cut in. "Dr. Allen, Dr. Radanovich, you guys get the computers and inner GPR stakes. I'll go get the eastern perimeter stake. I promise not to drop it this time!" he added at Allen's expression.
"No. Prime ordered us to get you into the bridge," Will argued. Sam tightened the hood of his parka and, grabbing a dry-pack out of the corner and slinging it up onto his shoulder, he pushed his way around Will and stepped back outside to break into a run.
"Go get everyone else through, and tell Optimus I'll be there in a minute!" he called back over his shoulder.
"You tell him!" Will yelled before growling and turning back to Allen and Radanovich. "I'm going to kill that kid. All right, let's get all this ready to go. We'll leave the tent."
Sam ran across the remains of the research site, squinting against the pelting rain, with only the bright forks of lightning to illuminate the way. It was slow going, the ground chewed up from the heavier machinery and tire tracks, with muddy puddles filling in the divots. Tripping over the edges of the Wreckers' footprints, and with the thunder snapping across the plain and rattling the very ground beneath his feet, Sam was maybe willing to admit that this one of his worser ideas. The eastern unit of the GPR array was nearly a quarter-mile out from the heart of the camp, but no matter how much Will would have argued in favor of abandoning it, Sam knew of its importance in the Autobots' search for energon.
The technology that they had on the expedition was all that they had; the geology equipment was of primarily human design and purpose, and only a few weeks between the discovery of potential mines on Earth and this first scouting mission had left the Autobots little time to modify and upgrade it to search specifically for such an alien mineral. Time was always in short supply, and the never-ending game of 'catch-up,' played ever since the arrival of Optimus's team in 2007, was wearing thin on both the Autobots and the U.S. government; the loss of such a valuable—and very expensive! as Allen had routinely reminded them—piece of equipment would set everyone further back than Sam knew would be acceptable.
At the very least, five days' worth of maintenance trips and memory led him to the GPR unit easily enough, and Sam tore out its marker flag before bending over to pull it out of the ground. Slipping his fingers under the flat head of the unit, Sam dug his feet in and pulled, the muscles in his shoulders protesting against the weight and suction of the mud. The stake had been buried deep, and he had to drop to one knee to gain extra leverage. He himself was sinking slightly, the saturated soil up past his ankle and nearly covering the calf of his folded leg, and the smooth, wet surface of the unit head was making his grip difficult.
His wrist communicator, given to him by Bumblebee for the purpose of being able to call on the Autobots in case of an emergency, beeped loudly and hissed with static before Will's voice came through.
"Sam, Allen and Radanovich made it through the bridge. Where the hell are you?"
"I'm at the eastern unit," Sam replied through gritted teeth. "It's stuck."
"Leave it! Prime is after me to get your ass through the bridge, and if I have to come out there to get you, you're not going to like it!"
"No, no, I got it!" Sam exclaimed, as he twisted the unit and there was a noticeable break in the grip around the stake. "I'll be there in just a few moments."
"Move it, Sam! Ratchet just said that he's beginning to have trouble sustaining the bridge's connection on this end—he doesn't want to keep it open for much longer."
Sam pulled the unit entirely free, and, folding the stake, he stuffed it into his dry-pack. "Then you go on through. I have the unit and I'm literally on my way back right now."
"No way, kid. I'm not going to be the one to answer to Prime when you're either left here by yourself or vaporized in a collapsing bridge."
With the weight of the GPR jostling against his back, his muscles already sore and aching from almost a month of inhospitable field conditions, Sam panted with the exertion of running back to camp, and he was only too grateful when he could finally see the glowing, purple entrance to the groundbridge, Will forming a dark silhouette against it as he waited for Sam. Less inviting was the way the bridge was flickering at the edges and the static buzz underneath its otherwise deep, harmonic hum.
"Go!" Sam shouted, waving Will forward. "Go! I'm coming!"
Will raised his arm and acknowledgment before turning and disappearing into the vortex. Sam was close behind, only ten feet from the bridge when there was a flash, impossibly bright, and Sam did not even have time to think before he was thrown backwards, eardrums threatening to fold under the sudden pressure and sharp crack of thunder.
Dazed and disoriented, Sam struggled for purchase against the ground, instinctively to stand despite the dizziness and gasping for the breath that had been knocked from him. Only when the spots began to clear from his vision did he notice that the bridge was gone and that Ratchet was yelling for him across his communicator. It was having trouble with the distance though, and the satellites struggled to transmit the signals through the thick and ionized thunderheads, resulting in only a garbled mess of words that Sam could barely hear.
"Sam! Respond! –Happened?"
"Lightning," Sam hissed as he got to his knees, head swimming. "I don't think I got hit, but…but that was really close. Ratchet, where's the bridge?"
"—Having a hard—copying, Sam. The bridge—struck. There's something strange—the volcanic—polarity. Attempting—reset the—"
Whatever Ratchet was trying to say was lost in the static, and Sam tapped at the communicator. "Ratchet? Ratchet, you still there?"
But there was no answer, and Sam shrugged away the drypack as he crouched down, tucking his head into his knees. The field was wide open, with the nearest tree line almost a mile out, and with the storm unshy with its lightning, there was little he could do except try and follow the drills barely remembered from elementary school. Even being chased singlehandedly by Megatron was better than this, and he had to focus to slow his breathing and heart rate down.
"Ratchet," he murmured into his knees. "Please."
And there was a hum, a vibration, and as Sam felt the hairs on the back of his neck beginning to stand, he braced himself against the inevitable strike before he realized that it was coming from the air around him, and he looked up to see the bridge flare into existence in front of him. It was flickering, and pausing, and sunk halfway into the ground, but it was there, and Sam smiled in astonished relief. "Ratchet," he said into his communicator. "You're brilliant."
Though there was no reply, Sam climbed to his feet, pushing his body through the still rolling nausea and pounding headache as he grabbed his pack and made a desperate jump into the bridge.
"So, when are going to get to the real mission?" Miko asked as she ducked behind a rock, disappearing momentarily before peering up over the top to search for the imaginary Decepticons who had her surrounded.
"This is the real mission," Bulkhead corrected as he walked up behind her, stopping to check the scanner in his hand. "Arcee, you got anything yet?"
"Nada," Arcee answered, optics focused on her own scanner as Jack trailed at her feet. Miko sighed and leaned backwards to pout up at Bulkhead.
"But this is so boring!" she complained. "All we're doing is walking around in circles in the middle of nowhere. And all we've found is a bunch of nothing. Just some rocks and grass."
"That's pretty much what a scouting mission is, kid," Arcee said. "And believe me when I say that finding 'nothing' is often much better than finding 'something.'"
"Especially when that 'something' is often ready to blast you into a million pieces of scrap," Bulkhead agreed.
"Well, hopefully that 'something' will be energon, out here," Raf said from his perch on Bumblebee's shoulder, geology book in hand. "It says here that the Siberian Traps are about the size of western Europe, and are the remnants of a supervolcano that erupted 251 million years ago. The eruption coincided with the Permian mass extinction, which wiped out 95% of all life on Earth. The eruption is marked by a distinct layer of rock all across the world, marking the Permian-Triassic boundary, and the Traps themselves are characterized by the extensive flood basalts—"
"Fascinating," Arcee interrupted. Miko, who, despite having perked up at the mention of a 'supervolcano,' was draped over the rock and pretending to be asleep. Raf coughed and adjusted his glasses, book snapping shut.
"Yes, well, in any case, with all of the past volcanic activity, I wouldn't be surprised if you guys found some deposits out here. The extent and duration of the Siberian eruption would help be explained if it were at least in part fueled by a material with such a combustible material as large fields of raw energon."
"If there's so much energon, then why haven't the Decepticons already found it?" Jack questioned, taking advantage of their momentary break and sitting down on the ground.
Miko scoffed. "Probably because even they think it's a total waste, out here. I never thought I'd say this, but can we go home yet?"
Arcee rolled her optics, but Bumblebee interrupted any potential protest with his own agreement, humming and chirping as he gestured at the kids. All three were looking hopefully at Arcee, and despite their heavy coats and gloves, were beginning to shiver in the late Russian autumn.
"Yeah, Arcee, Bumblebee's right. We haven't found anything yet, and it's getting late. We should probably get them back indoors before night falls," Bulkhead said. Arcee sighed and subspaced her scanner.
"All right," she said. "I know when I'm outvoted." She reached up and tapped her audio, connecting her feed back to base. "Ratchet, we're coming up empty-handed. You sure that your scans were correct?"
"My scans are always correct," came the reply, haughty and offended but without any real heat. "You think I would send you all out on a wild scraplet chase just to finally get some peace and quiet around here?"
"Well, we're ready to call it a day. Can you give us a bridge?"
"I can if you just give me a few minutes. I'm still working through some of the stranger readings I got when I opened the bridge to let you all through earlier."
"Is there a problem with the bridge?" Arcee questioned.
"No, not exactly. Not as far as I can tell. But I want to make sure that it's properly calibrated before I open it again."
"Fine, but just don't leave us stranded out here."
"Never even entered my processor. I'll have it up in a clik."
Arcee turned to her companions, one shoulder rising in a half-shrug. "We have to wait."
"Maybe it's all the magnetite, disrupting the bridge," Raf offered. "Jack did say that his compass was off a few times."
"My internal GPS has been a little glitchy, too," Bulkhead added. "It's starting to give me a headache."
Arcee opened her mouth to respond, but she was cut off by the hum of the groundbridge as it opened, its vortex swirling slowly against the background of an empty plain and gray, overcast sky. "Doesn't matter, now," she said. "Let's go. We can—and it's gone," she sighed as the bridge flickered out of existence before any of them had taken more than two steps. "Ratchet, what's the deal?"
"Sorry," Ratchet answered. "I had to reset it. The diagnostic said that the connection on that one was too unstable. Here."
The bridge opened again, but Arcee paused, optics narrowing. "Ratchet, are you sure that the coordinates are correct?"
"Everything's fine on my end. What are you reading them as?"
Arcee ran the bridge's profile through her own scanners, once, twice, and then through a diagnostic just to be sure. She could hear Bumblebee buzzing in confusion behind her as he did the same.
"Well, the bridge's coordinates are saying that it…leads right back here."
"I'm telling you, I—" but Arcee stopped as the bridge flickered, as it rippled, and a subsonic vibration was creeping its way up her legs from the ground. "Ratchet—" she winced against the sudden screech of feedback in her audios, and she stepped backwards.
"What's happening?" Jack asked as he stood, and Miko was shrinking away from the way Bulkhead was twitching, his optics flickering with each attempted reset of his own audial feeds. Gritting her dental plates, Arcee motioned Jack away. The feedback had crossed the border into painful, sending a splinter of white hot light through her processor and down into her shoulder struts and chest. "Move," she said. "Kids, get back! The bridge is malfunctioning!"
Jack and Miko had enough sense to obey, and Raf slid down off of Bumblebee and ran to catch up with them.
"We need to get out of here!" Bulkhead shouted, and he, Bumblebee, and Arcee were quick behind the kids, with Arcee snapping her dental plates at the sound of a building explosion behind them.
"Everyone! Duck!" she yelled, and they all fell to the ground, each of the Autobots throwing themselves over Jack, Miko, and Raf as the bridge tore, ripping in half with the sound of a cannon blast. Though the resultant shockwave was less than Arcee had been anticipating, she still had to cycle her vents several times to keep her emergency battle systems from taking over her processor.
All was quiet for a moment, the sound of the explosion dissipating across the field like distant thunder as Jack unraveled himself from the protective ball he had tucked into.
"Jack, are you okay?" Arcee asked, automatically running scans over the boy beneath her.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he answered. "Miko?"
"All good here," she called out from under Bulkhead's hand. "How about you, Raf? Still in one piece?"
"Um, guys? Look," was what Raf said, and almost as one they all turned back to look at the site of the former groundbridge. The earth was scorched in a wide diameter, the grass blackened and flat, with broken twigs in place of what little shrubs had been there to begin with and the smell of burnt soil heavy in the chilled air. And in the middle of it all, a human, soaking wet and bleeding from a cut above his left eye, was climbing to his hands and knees. He was not so very far from them, and Arcee could hear him talking.
"Oh, man. Wheelie was right. That hurts. That's going to bruise."
Arcee's shock at such a strange sight was ended by the realization that whoever this human was, he had a weapon on him, and she spun to her feet, gun practically materializing in her hand as she pointed it at him. It was a large enough movement that it caught the human's attention, and Arcee could tell that it took him a moment to focus on her before his eyes went wide and he fell, scrambling backwards across the ground.
"Decepticons," he hissed, and while Arcee blinked at the accusation, she lifted her gun higher at the sight of him reaching for his hip.
"Freeze!" she exclaimed, and he did so, staring back at her with an expression mixed between defiance and terror. "Who are you?" she demanded, bristling when he didn't answer. "I said, who are you? Are you with MECH?"
The human frowned, brows furrowing in confusion as he looked around, gaze drifting behind her, and Arcee saw him blink twice at the sight of Bumblebee, expression loosening into something like recognition.
"Arcee," Bulkhead said quietly. "Look at his jacket."
She did, and despite the tears and dirt covering it, there was an Autobot symbol, red and unmistakeable, emblazoned on the pocket over his heart, with the word 'NEST' written below it.
"Where am I?" he demanded.
"How did you get here?" Arcee asked instead. The human narrowed his eyes.
"I asked you first."
There was a sound suspiciously like chuckling from Bumblebee's vocalizer, and Arcee silenced him with a glare before turning her attention back to the new human.
"And yet I'm the one with the bigger gun," she said. "What's your name?"
The human looked entirely unwilling, but answered all the same. "Sam. Sam Witwicky."
"Who are you with?"
"Sector Seven. NEST division, under Optimus Prime. Now how about you tell me who you are who you're with."
Stunned, Arcee took a step back, gun wavering as she lowered her arm.
"No way!" It was Miko this time, and Arcee shuttered her optics in frustration at the girl's inability to stay quiet and hidden. "Did he just say 'Optimus Prime'?"
"Miko!" Jack scolded, stepping out from around Arcee's heel, Sam staring at both him and Miko as Miko came forwards. "He could be with MECH!"
"He just said he knew Optimus!" Miko replied. "Besides, all of the MECH guys are old and ugly. So, I'm Miko, that's Jack, Rafael, Bumblebee, Arcee, and of course, my buddy Bulkhead."
Bumblebee waved, chirping in a cheerful, friendly greeting. Sam sat up straighter, gaze locking on him. "Bumblebee? But…You're…you're all Autobots?"
Miko nodded, cocking her hip and flashing a victory sign at him. "That's right!"
"Did you come through the groundbridge?" Raf asked, speaking up for the first time, pushing his glasses farther back up his nose from where they had slipped during his fall.
"The groundbridge," Sam repeated, finally looking away from Bumblebee to check over his shoulder. "Is this…Siberia?"
"Yep!" Miko answered, and Arcee hardly needed her scanners to pick up the sudden increase in Sam's breathing, eyes growing wider by the second.
"The groundbridge," Sam said again. "Yeah, I…I came through the groundbridge. I was in Siberia, and this is Siberia. And you're Autobots, but, but see…you aren't." Sam climbed to his feet, quickly, and Arcee raised her gun again slightly at the now panicking human. "That can't be Bumblebee. There was a storm, and Ratchet was telling me to get through the groundbridge, and everyone was yelling at me, and there was lightning—I got hit by lightning!—that's it! I was hit by lightning, and see, I must have died, because you're not the Autobots and I have no idea who you three people are!"
Bulkhead took a hesitant step forward, reaching out a hand to Sam. "It's all right. Just calm down."
"Calm down? Calm down! I was hit by freaking lightning, and it was indescribable!" Sam was pacing now, walking in circles and looking around frantically, as though he could find something that would explain the current situation. He finally stopped, pausing only for a moment before striding up to Arcee and looking up at her.
"I need to speak to Optimus. Or Ratchet. You guys know Ratchet, right? Where are they?"
Arcee only stared back at him, both caught in a face-off before she raised her hand to her audio.
"Ratchet, do you copy?"
"There you are! I've been trying to contact you for the past ten minutes! What the slag happened over there? The computers are showing that the bridge failed."
"Not technically, I don't think," Arcee admitted. "But you better get us another bridge, ASAP. We have a bit of a problem."