In hindsight, Optimus Prime would muse at a later date, perhaps it hadn't been smart to stop at Wheeljack's work space and check up on his latest project on his way to have Trailbreaker look over and fine-tune his rifle. But it had seemed a good idea at the time - the Autobot scientist was bright, no question about it, but keeping a close optic on him and his tinkering was important. Left to his own devices, his inventions and projects could raise no small amount of chaos.
Normally he trusted the other scientists and technicians to keep tabs on Wheeljack's projects, but as he scanned the labs he realized that everyone here was too preoccupied with their own work to do so. Perceptor and Skyfire were deeply engrossed in a study of a starmap in one corner of the room, while Trailbreaker tinkered with the internal components of Tracks' black-light ray in another. There was no sign of Hoist or Beachcomber - the former was in the repair bay helping Ratchet finish up the final repairs on those wounded in the last skirmish, while the latter was out on a beach patrol with Hound and Seaspray. It seemed that, if he wanted this done, he'd have to do it himself. Suppressing an urge to sigh, Prime stepped up to Wheeljack's workbench to check things out.
Wheeljack didn't even look up as Prime moved to stand beside him. "Heya, Optimus. Give me a second to solder these wires and I'll be right with ya."
"I wasn't informed you had a new project in the works, Wheeljack," he replied, setting his gun on the workbench and leaning forward to investigate. "What are you up to?"
"Nothing fancy," the engineer replied, finishing up with the wiring and shutting a panel on the device. "Just preparing an upgrade on the immobilizer."
Prime suppressed the urge to groan in dismay. The memory of Wheeljack's first attempt at an immobilization device was still fresh in his memory banks - that gadget had fallen into the Decepticons' hands and caused no small amount of chaos before Ironhide had finally destroyed it. He wasn't one to call for the suppression of developing new technology, but still, this was a war, and even the most innocent of inventions or discoveries could cause untold harm if the enemy got ahold of it.
"Are you sure that's a good idea, Wheeljack?" Prime asked. "Remember the last time..."
"Oh, I remember the last time," Wheeljack assured him with a dismissive wave of a hand. "That's why I'm taking extra precautions this time." He held it up for Prime's inspection. "Whatcha think?"
Prime cocked his head to one side as he regarded the new immobilizer. Where the first version of this device had resembled an orange half-sphere with a reflector dish on top, this one was gun-shaped, shiny white with a black grip and tiny green lights running down the barrel. It looked more like a weapon than a technological device... though maybe that was the point.
"There's an extra feature in this one," Wheeljack explained, pointing to the grip. "I've installed sensors in there that'll scan the spark energies of whoever's holding it, and the weapon'll only activate if someone authorized to use it is holding it."
A knot of tension that had been forming in Prime's chassis eased at that. "Who has authorization to use this?" he asked, handing the device back.
"Well, seeing as that's a prototype, just you, me, Ratchet, and Perceptor at the moment," Wheeljack replied, setting it back on the workbench. "Once I've gotten approval from the entire command to make the final product, I can add the rest of the officers to that list, or anyone else you think can use it responsibly."
Prime nodded. "Well done, Wheeljack. I'm glad you've taken proper precautions this time."
Wheeljack's headfins flared pink, as if he were blushing a bit at the praise. "Aw, shucks, Prime, even a stubborn old model like me knows to learn from his mistakes..."
The alarms went off at that moment, cutting off whatever else Wheeljack had to say. In the back of the workshop, Perceptor and Skyfire looked up sharply from their work area, and Trailbreaker swore as he dropped something out of surprise.
Red Alert, situation update, Prime barked, opening a communications line to the security officer.
Decepticon attack, what else? Red Alert replied, his tone bright with near-panic. Megatron, Soundwave, and Seekers approaching from the sky, Constructicons and triple-changers from the ground! They're closing in on the base entrance, ETA three minutes and counting!
Seal off all entrances save the main, Prime ordered, then opened the channel to include all his troops. Autobots, roll out! Prepare to engage! Medics, report to the repair bay. Aerialbots, prepare to give us cover.
Roger, Prime, Silverbolt replied.
Primus fraggit, I just finished the last batch of repairs, Ratchet grumbled.
Wheeljack reached for his missile launcher, only for Prime to put a hand out to stay him.
"I want you to help Ratchet prepare the medbay," Prime ordered the engineer. "We have plenty of soldiers, but only so many medics."
"Yessir." Wheeljack turned and bolted out of the lab. Prime paused only long enough to snatch up his rifle before hurrying out as well, followed closely by Skyfire and Perceptor.
Trailbreaker was the last one out, and as he passed by Wheeljack's work station he caught sight of something odd - Prime's gun. Hadn't he grabbed it before leaving? Reminding himself to ask about it later, he ran to catch up with the others.
Prime felt hands slam into his back, shoving him to the ground. One of Skywarp's missiles shrieked overhead, missing him and his rescuer by a hand's breadth.
"Thanks," Prime sighed, turning to face his benefactor.
"Me Grimlock not always be here to save you Prime's aft," the Dinobot leader snorted, then thundered away, sword drawn and a titanic roar ripping from his vocalizer.
"Nice fella," Jazz quipped, smirking a little in Grimlock's direction before bending down to pull Prime to his feet.
"Give him credit," Prime advised, accepting Jazz's hand and pulling himself upright. "He's learning to be somewhat civil."
While Jazz busied himself with firing at an oncoming Seeker, Prime took a quick moment to survey the fighting. As far as he could tell, there seemed to be no real purpose for this attack, or if there was one it wasn't evident at first glance. Megatron periodically led his troops out on raids and skirmishes for what seemed to be no reason, and this looked to be one of those. Perhaps it was the Decepticons' version of a training exercise... or maybe it was just to let Megatron's troops burn off some energy at the Autobots' expense.
He shifted his gun to both hands, scanning the battlefield for any sign of the Decepticon leader. It was one thing to fight Megatron to keep him from harming the humans or gaining some kind of advantage in this war, but he refused to let his troops be punching bags for the Decepticons simply because they were bored. He would put an end to this right now, before Megatron could inflict more damage.
The trees fifty feet to his right lurched and shuddered, as if they were trying to uproot themselves and join the fight... then exploded into a shower of burning shrapnel as Megatron gave up pushing his way through and simply blasted a path through them. His silver armor gleamed with savage gold highlights from the flames, and his mouth stretched in a grin of feral glee as he raised his cannon-arm to take aim at the Prime.
"Optimus!" he snarled. "Prepare to face your doom!"
Prime couldn't suppress a snort of amusement. That was the best line he could come up with?
"Not today, Megatron," he retorted, and he swung his gun in Megatron's direction, squeezing the trigger.
The gun didn't fire, only clicked in response. With a jolt of horror Prime wondered if he'd forgotten to recharge the power cells... Then the weapon hummed and vibrated in his hands, as if powering up for something.
Then he realized that his gun had never been white before, or possessed lights running down the barrel...
"Hey, ain't that 'Jack's new prototype?" Jazz asked, just as the immobilizer went off. Prime jerked back from the force of the recoil as a sphere of glowing blue plasma the size of his fist burst from the gun's muzzle, streaking toward Megatron with a horrific screech like a bottle rocket.
Megatron's optics widened in shock, and he made as if to take to the air... but the blast reached him first. It impacted against his chest, throwing him back into the flaming trees and out of sight. There was a thud as he hit the ground, a sputtering flash of blue light... then silence.
Prime stared at the area where the Decepticon leader had fallen, shock driving all thought from his CPU. Jazz, too, stared, mouth open and weapon-arm hanging loosely at his side. It would have been the perfect moment for the Decepticons to take down the Autobot leader and saboteur, except that most of them were also gawking at the spot where Megatron had vanished, optics wide, mouths gaping.
Starscream broke the silence with a shrill, triumphant cry. "Megatron has fallen! I, Starscream, am the leader of the Decepticons now!"
"Oh, stuff it, Screamer!" Blitzwing snapped. "Let's get outta here before Prime decides to use that thing on the rest of us!"
"What?" Starscream snarled, rounding on the triple-changer. "You dare usurp my authority?"
"I'm on his side for once," Thundercracker put in, taking to the air. "I don't know WHAT that thing did to Megatron, but I ain't sticking around to see what it can do to me." And with that, he transformed and took off. Skywarp was close behind, and soon all the Decepticons were fleeing the battlefield, opting to save their own plating over coming to their fallen commander's aid. Even Soundwave, notorious for being loyal only to Megatron, abandoned the battlefield, though not without a last look at the trees as if hoping the warlord would emerge from hiding.
"I work with a bunch of cowards!" Starscream spat, and offered Prime a withering glower before taking off to pursue his troops.
Jazz finally snapped his mouth shut, his gaze moving from the trees to the departing Decepticons. "Well, that worked out. Shortest battle ever, an' I ain't complainin' about that."
"What precisely happened just now?" Prowl demanded, hurrying up at that moment. "Is Megatron... deactivated?"
Prime finally managed to kick his vocalizer into gear again. "Not deactivated," he replied, raising the prototype for Prowl and Jazz to see. "If this worked according to Wheeljack's expectations, he should be alive but immobilized."
Prowl raised an optic ridge. "That's a considerable 'if,' sir. With all due respect to Wheeljack, his prototypes rarely work according to plan."
"Still, Megatron's down and obviously ain't gotten back up yet," Jazz pointed out. "That's gotta count for somethin'."
"All the same, I would feel a lot more comfortable if we were sure," Prowl replied.
Prime nodded in agreement. "Prowl, Jazz, cover me. I'm going in."
The tactician and saboteur both nodded, and they flanked Prime as he made his way toward the still-burning remains of the trees. Inferno was there, standing a safe distance back as he doused the flames, but left off at a gesture from Prowl. Cautiously, every servo tensed to spring should Megatron come out fighting, the Autobot leader pushed through the charred trunks and strained to see through the smoke and steam, looking for any sign of the fallen Decepticon warlord...
He heard him before he saw him - and the sound made him freeze in his tracks. It wasn't a moan of pain, not exactly. More like a whimper... a whimper that sounded far too young - and far too frightened - to belong to Megatron. Puzzled now, Prime reached out and pulled aside the blackened, crumbling remains of a fallen tree, revealing the source of the noise.
"Oh, Primus almighty," Jazz murmured.
"What in the..." began Prowl before his voice trailed off.
Prime just stared, rendered speechless for the second time in less than five minutes. A tiny silver mech stared back at him with wide red optics, shaking in terror. His once-bright armor was smeared in ash and soot, his optics were seemingly too large for his rounded face, and his arm cannon was gone entirely, but there was no mistaking who this mech was. But... it couldn't be. It just wasn't possible...
Ironhide burst onto the scene at that moment. "What th' frag's goin' on here..." he began.
Jazz stepped to the side, offering the van an unobstructed view of the little mech. Ironhide blinked, gaping in shock for a fraction of a second. Then he sputtered incoherently for a moment before managing to speak.
"Primus on a stick! What th' frag turned Megatron into a sparklin'?"
Megatron - for Prime finally acknowledged that Ironhide was right, this could be no one else - gave a high whine of fright and curled up in a ball, hiding his face in his arms.
"Aw, ya scared 'im, 'Hide!" Jazz chided, thumping him on the arm.
"So?" Ironhide snapped. "Ol' Slagmaker's done enough scarin' in his life, he could use some in return..."
"He ain't a slagmaker anymore," Jazz retorted. "I mean, look at 'im... he's kinda cute actually..."
"Enough," Prime ordered, cutting the two mechs off. "Fighting is pointless right now. The important thing now is to get him back to base..."
"You're not serious, are you Prime?" Prowl cut in, giving his commander an incredulous look.
"Perfectly serious," Prime replied. "I want him looked over for injuries... and I want a word with Wheeljack. He's got a LOT of explaining to do."