Location: classified racing track Aerolesae, eastern-Germany.
Time: 2 months since the destruction of the Autobot base, 3 weeks since the birth of Sentinel Prime
System user: Sentinel Prime
Designation: Autobot Commander
Sentinel, leading the formation they were driving in, was exhilarated. He always was when he was going this fast. It was only possible on this part of the track, because it was just pure, straight road, but every time they drove by, they drove just a little faster.
On his right, Hotrod was racing comfortably, keeping up with the speed easily. It was Heavyarms, on his left, who was currently deciding their maximum speed. The large black Bot was no doubt the toughest in a fight, with her strong armor and numerous weapons – both Energon blasters and bullet-using guns – but she had the slowest speed by far. Even so, at her maximum speed, they were easily going a hundred miles an hour. And that was without the Turbocharge.
"Attention, you're about to enter the next segment of targets." The drill sergeant's voice came over the radio. "Prepare to engage. Try to clear this part of the course in less then two minutes."
"Affirmative." All three Autobots replied. In synch, let by Sentinel, they decelerated till they were only going eighty. Two minutes. A hundred-and-twenty seconds. To clear the next two miles with an unknown number of targets. It'd be tight, but certainly possible.
"Mark." The sergeant initiated their exercise. In his head, Sentinel immediately kept a timer up. Ten seconds past without any targets. Then fifteen. Twenty. Finally, at twenty-four seconds, the first target popped up.
A car, with a large piece of cardboard in front of it suddenly drove at them from the right side. Sentinel gave a burst of speed, making sure to stay ahead of the 'enemy', while Heavyarms deployed her Gatling gun. The weapon – loaded with paintballs – spattered the cardboard in seconds, marking the first target down. All of a sudden, from the left, a second cardboard-bearing vehicle rushed forward. Heavyarms would be unable to turn her weapon quickly enough, so Hotrod took care of it instead.
The flamed car suddenly jumped, transformed in mid-air, covered the cardboard in oil from his flamethrower and had already transformed back before he hit the road. That was a risky maneuver worthy of Wheeljack, or Smokescreen. Hotrod had been a very quick study, proving to be the most effective in utilizing quick-transformations.
The third target wasn't a moving cardboard, but suddenly jumped up from the track, creating a – rather soft, of course – barrier. This time it was Sentinel who transformed, blasted it till it fell apart and then transformed back. He was running behind his teammates now, but he'd catch up in a second. He was, after all, far faster then either of his partners.
Fifty seconds, and they'd completed half the target course.
"Keep it up." He told the others as he raced back into position. At that point, more targets appeared, from all sides at once, boxing them in. As if on queue, all three Autobots transformed into robot mode and started shooting. Back-to-back, they quickly painted every charging cardboard in a variety of colors, until the road was clear again. But it took time. Too much time.
Ninety seconds, and they still had to cross three-quarters of a mile. This would be tight. But they could do it.
Another barrier popped up, Heavyarms quickly blasting it back with her blaster, but that only revealed the second barrier just behind it. It too fell, but the three bots had to significantly slow down before they'd crash into it.
Hundred-and-ten seconds, quarter of a mile to go.
"Turbocharge!" Sentinel ordered. At his side, the three Autobots all sped up.
Only to crash into a third barrier that popped up a second later.
They drove through the soft paper-like tissue, but it obstructed their sights. A failure for the course.
"Ah Scrap." Inside Heavyarms, Sentinel could just imagine Miko slamming her fists into the steering wheel. They'd been so close.
"That was pretty close." The sergeant's voice returned over the radio, "Report to the garage for debriefing, analysis and fix-up. After that, it's lunch-time. Ermey out."
"I agree." Hotrod sounded heated, again. "'Scrap' is the word to use. We screwed it up."
"Let's just report to base." Sentinel said, already turning around, "Might as well get it over with."
Ten minutes later, the three Autobots in training pulled into their respective garages. As soon as Sentinel was parked and the engine shut down, Jack stepped out and, still wearing his tight black bodysuit, moved over to the debriefing room. Vince was already there and Miko entered just a few seconds later. Fowler and Gunnery Sergeant Ermey were already there, apparently waiting for the teens. When had Fowler arrived?
"Have a seat." Sergeant Ermey ordered. Fowler didn't say anything, instead simply sitting there. "You have failed the objective in today's exercise."
Jack lowered his eyes, his cheeks coloring slightly. This was, no doubt, his fault since he was in charge.
"While your display out there was very impressive, you should always keep an eye on the objective. The objective, this time, was to clear the course. I never said you had to take out all the targets. Because you three stopped moving to take out a large number of enemies, you lost precious time and failed." Ermey never once raised his voice, but he kept circling the table as he spoke.
"That's not to say this is a total failure." He continued, surprising Jack. And, based on how their heads suddenly shot up, the other two teens as well. "The swift increase in how you control your bodies – especially you, Hotrod – is nothing short of incredible. Your transformations are getting more fluid and you can incorporate them into battle swiftly. Starting tomorrow, we'll decrease the time spent on transformations and focus more on battle formations and coordination. Now, it's time for dinner. Clean up and report back for sparring at twenty-one-hundred. Dismissed!"
All three teens stood up, saluted the sergeant – he had been very quick to teach them proper respect to senior officers, failure to do so let to extreme punishments – but only Vince turned around to leave. Miko and Jack turned to Fowler, who finally stood up. After a glare from Ermey, they gave a quick salute to the special agent as well.
"At ease you two. I saw the training exercise. Nice progress." Fowler started, "but I have to agree with the sergeant, you always have to keep an eye on the objective, not just try to beat every enemy. Other then that, I'm very impressed with how quick you've mastered your bodies."
"Thanks." Miko grinned, "We've been working pretty hard, if I do say so myself."
"I saw." Fowler pointed at some of the papers in front of him. "I've been going over the training schedule the sergeant has set up for you. It's very impressive, but I do have to wonder why there is so much physical exercise on it this week. There wasn't any for the first week, but suddenly there's two or three physical training sessions a day."
"It's based on a recent discovery we made sir." Ermey started, "we reviewed performances and improvements after the first week and noticed that Hotrod had made significant improvements over the other two. Since he didn't spend any more time training in the armor then the other two, the source must have been something else.
Hotrod had been doing physical training on the side in his own time and, after a talk with Ratchet, we theorized that may have been a contributing factor. The increase in neural activity that follows apparently has a positive influence on the level of control on the robot body. Since the armor is controlled through neural impulses as well, any neural stimulation increase the learning rate. And it works. All three made significant increases in skill this last week."
"So… training the human body allows better control over the robot body." Fowler summarized. "Interesting, when I'm back in the states I'll try to return to some daily workouts, should improve my control over Jetfire as well."
"You're not staying?" Jack was surprised. Jetfire had been missed in their training sessions and with Fowler finally there, he had assumed that all four of them would be training together.
"No, I've made arrangements so I can be here for about three days to join in some training sessions and oversee the development of the new Autobot base, but I'm needed back Stateside on Saturday. My department is being increased in size, though, so with a little luck I'll be able to join you on a more constant basis before long."
"Looking forward to it!" Miko said, before her stomach let out a growl. "But now, it's time for me to get some food!"
"Jack. A minute of your time please." Jack had already half-turned to follow the Japanese girl to dinner when Fowler stopped him.
"I've been going over several of the recordings we have of old Bot versus Con battles." Fowler started as he handed a USB-stick over, "most of them are on there, though they may be hard to see. All we have are security-camera images, satellite-feeds and amateur footage. I want you to take a look at this whenever you can, learn a couple things about how the Cons move. And I'll share a little discovery I also told Prime. I mean, Optimus."
"Thanks." Jack said as he accepted the stick. "And what discovery is that?"
"I made it rather quickly, a couple years ago, back when the Bots and Cons first started rumbling on Earth. Cybertronians have very little actual experience in tactics. Not like we humans have."
"What'd you mean?" The statement kinda surprised Jack. He'd never considered it, never played any games that involved tactics. He much preferred racing games.
"Well, after seeing several of the battles, I noticed they tend to just pick a cover, and then keep taking potshots at each other." Fowler explained, "They usually charge in a straight line, dive for cover and keep firing at each other. There's no considering of switching positions, flanking an enemy or anything other then a basic 'keep the high-ground' and 'set an ambush' kind of thinking. I pointed it out to Prime – Optimus, sorry – and he agreed. Apparently, most of their war had been fought by both sides simply… charging at each other and laying out destruction. The same way we fought back in the dark ages."
"Really? I never even thought about it like that."
"Of course, it doesn't really become obvious until you see it from a large distance. Up close, it's not all that apparent, especially when you guys met them. By then, they'd adopted some of the basics, like moving around some more. It was pretty much the only reason they could keep up with the Cons, despite being vastly outnumbered."
"Well, that does make sense." Jack thought it over. From what he understood – which was very little – tactics could be far more effective then having a larger army. But… "What exactly does that have to do with me?"
"Well, if you're going to be leading the Bots – including me – into battle, I want you to be well aware of the advantage you hold over old Megs." Fowler stood up this time, taking a book from his bag in the process. "Optimus tried to learn some human tactics, but it was very difficult for him, because he simply wasn't used to them. You, on the other hand, are still fresh and can learn a lot. So, while you're training here, look up those videos, play some strategy games, read up on some famous battles and tactics… and try to read this book."
"The Art of War." Jack read the title aloud. He knew that book.
"One of the founding books for most military tactics, even now." Fowler said, "Try to read it, I'll see if I can send some more books your way. But in the meantime… when you've got R&R, try playing a video game or two that has you use tactics. RTS-games, shooters, that kind of thing. Should help you out a bit."
Location: Unknown location in Texas, United states
Time: 3 months since the destruction of the Autobot base.
System user: Arcee
Designation: Autobot Field Commander
Arcee looked down into the cave, scanning it for enemies. This would be the tenth raid this week, on ten different locations and often with changing members of the teams. This time, though, she felt very comfortable. She had both Bumblebee and Bulkhead at her back. The old team, reunited.
Cliff and Optimus were still gone and nothing would change that.
But the security she could see meant there wouldn't be any problems. A little ways back, waiting near the opening into the caves large enough to ride through, Bulk and Bee were waiting.
"Low security." Arcee quickly said, "Standard drill. Charge in, use the confusion to our advantage, blow up the Energon stockpiles and take what we can carry with us."
"Beep-beep-boop-beep." Bee answered. Bulkhead chuckled. "You're right Bee."
"Cut the jokes, stay focused." Arcee snapped at them, "We're still outnumbered four to one in there."
Transforming into her motorcycle form, the two-wheeler took point as she led her field team in the assault. Five minutes, ten dead Decepticons, four blown up Energon stockpiles, forty stolen Energon cubes and over a dozen Energon-blaster burns and five dents later, they all rode out, loaded down with the important blue cubes.
"Hey Arcee." Bulkhead said, thirty or so miles after the left the cave. They'd need to drive through the rest of the night to reach the drop-off point, but the roads were empty anyway. "How much longer do you think we're going to be doing this?"
"What'd you mean Bulk?" Arcee asked. She hoped he wasn't going to ask the hard question…
"You know, stockpile Energon and strike at these desolated locations, instead of taking the fight to the Cons."
'He just had to ask the hard one…' Arcee wanted to sigh, but didn't. Instead, she gave the best answer she could. "I don't know Bulk. Fowler said there's a plan in motion and Ratchet is in on it. But they need some time. And until they say otherwise, we have to keep building up this stockpile."
"Well, too bad. I'd like nothing more then to take Starscream down a notch. But I haven't seen him in weeks."
"Don't tell me you're starting to miss him…"
"I might miss bashing his head in every so often…"
Location: New Kaon
Time: 3 months, 3 weeks since the destruction of the Autobot base
System user: Lord Megatron
Designation: Decepticon Supreme Commander.
"AARGH!" the recording died down on that scream of pain as the drone was, no doubt, engulfed in an Energon-explosion. It was the same report Megatron had been hearing for megacycles now. A mining operation was doing well, having no problems, building up enough of an Energon stock to make it worth a run with the Nemesis to pick it up, when suddenly they were attacked by the Autobots.
And before any reinforcements could be sent there via the Groundbridge, those cowards had already run. It hadn't been a problem at first, when they could only strike at small locations and Energon had been sent to New Kaon almost continuously. But recently, with most of the storage areas in New Kaon being filled up, the mines had to stockpile more and more Energon.
And the Autobots kept blowing it up!
"KNOCKOUT!" Megatron summoned his medic and last – somewhat – trusted field commander. The red medic came rushing into the throne room mere microcycles later.
"You called, my liege?" The medic kneeled.
"Soundwave has just updated me on the most recent reports, concerning the Autobot activities." Megatron pointed at his only fully trusted officer, regretting as he had so often that Soundwave was not a field leader. "I take it you are aware of the annoyance they pose?"
"Of course, my liege." The medic quickly said.
"Excellent. You will put an end to it." this seemed to get a surprised reaction from the red car, who nearly shot up. He seemed to remember where he was in time though.
"How would you have me do that, my liege?"
"By exploiting the one weakness all Autobots share." Megatron grinned, "Go after those they care about."
Location: Classified racing track Aerolesae, Eastern-Germany.
Time: 4 months since the destruction of the Autobot base
System user: Sentinel Prime
Designation: Autobot Commander
"That should be it, I think" Sentinel said as he stepped back from the large spirals. "Lets see if it works."
"Stand back everyone." Ratchet gripped the handle, slowly lowering it. "Increasing power. Activating the Groundbridge."
Sentinel, Ratchet and Fowler all watched eagerly for any reaction. Then, when the handle was almost all the way down, the machine whirled to life. Energon came flooding forward, swirling around before finally stabilizing into the familiar green tunnel.
"It works!" the joy was obvious in the old medic's voice. Not surprisingly, the previous Groundbridge had taken him nearly a year to build. In comparison, this hardly took any time. "Now, to test it. Agent Fowler, is the test subject ready?"
"And raring to go." The special agent pushed the button and the small radio-controlled car he was sending through the Groundbridge activated. "GPS is activated, let's go."
Sentinel, however, didn't pay much attention to the test, because at that moment the phone in Jack's pocket started to ring. Without looking at the screen, Sentinel picked up.
"Jack?" the familiar voice on the other side of the line said, "It's Sierra. Hey, remember that cool red car that picked you up from school? I think it's kinda following me."
"What!?" the sudden shout drew the attention of both Fowler and Ratchet, who were both looking rather pleased. That probably meant that the Groundbridge worked. Good. "Are you sure?"
"Well, that car did stand out pretty well, it's customized and everything. But I don't get why it's following me."
"Where are you?"
"Just outside LA, my parents finally returned from Vegas a couple weeks ago and we're going out of town for a bit to look for a new place. Why?"
"Send me your exact location over the phone, now! You have to do it quickly, trust me!"
"Ok, I'll send it over…" There was doubt in Sierra's voice, he could hear it, but at least she did as he said.
"What's wrong?" Fowler said the moment Sentinel looked back at the other two. "That sounded pretty dangerous."
"It's Sierra, a girl from my high-school. She's being chased by Knockout." Sentinel answered. "I think I told you about her, she was also there when the con appeared in LA."
"So, you think they're after her?"
"I know it. It's not the first time she's been spotted on site with me or the Autobots. Is the Groundbridge operational?"
"It is." Ratchet confirmed, though there was doubt in his voice, "but I'd like to run some more tests first, I can't ensure safety after just one test."
"Then I'm test-subject number two." Sentinel said as he transformed. "Sierra sent me her coordinates, Bridge me there."
"You want to go up against Knockout on your own?" Fowler's look of surprise was almost comical, "Remember, this guy is no ordinary drone! He's good, he's smart and he can improvise. Not the best choice for a first encounter. Not for a one-on-one anyway."
"I don't plan on fighting him." Sentinel's headlights lid up with every syllable. "I plan on surprising him, then getting Sierra and her family out as quick as I can."
"Be careful. I'll tell the others, we'll be ready to provide backup in a couple of minutes."
"I'll be back by then."
As the Groundbridge whirled to life again, Sentinel set off. There was the familiar green flash of light, followed by brief disorientation, but then he was in a familiar sight. Endless roads and desert. And there, just ahead, the familiar red sports car was closing in on an unfamiliar family car.
As Sentinel stepped on it, Knockout drove past the family car, suddenly transformed and used his arms to stop the car. Although he couldn't see what the red machine was saying, he did see Sierra and her family step out of the car. He increased his speed.
"After all, I'm a redhead too." Sentinel could barely hear the last sentence Knockout uttered, aiming his shockrod at the family, before he slammed into the doctor. The impact, which the Decepticon had apparently not expected at all – thank Primus he had remembered to make the entire machine sound-proof – sent the red robot flying and stumbling in the sand.
At a mental command, all the doors on the car flew open while Sentinel quickly span to a stop.
"GET IN!" Jack commanded. Sierra looked highly surprised, but fortunately did as he said. Her parents were only a second behind. The doors slammed shut the moment they were inside.
"Buckle up and hold on."
"Wow…" Sierra let out a breath of relief as she buckled herself in. "This is one hell of a cool car. What is it with you and cool cars? Or giant robots, for that matter?"
"I'll explain as best I can later, now we have to get out of here."
Behind them, Knockout was already getting back on his feet and he looked pissed. Sentinel increased his speed to the max.
"Is this a Vey-" Sierra's dad started.
"Yes." Jack simply answered as he accelerated more and more. "Ratchet, it's me." He suddenly spoke aloud, much to the surprise of the others. Their surprise increased tenfold when a voice, seemingly from nowhere, answered.
"I've got them, but Knockout is hot on my tail. Going to try and shake him, but I'll need a Groundbridge ready to Bridge us back to base."
"You want to bring them to the base?" Jack wasn't sure if Ratchet's horror was at the idea of more people knowing the location of their base, of the simple idea of having more humans at the base. Either could work, he supposed.
"They've been singled out by Knockout, that means they're in danger until this whole thing is over. Prepare to bridge us."
"Fine." The medic's sigh was audible even over the radio. "Preparing the bridge."
"Hey Jack." Sierra's mom started, turned around to look out the rear-view mirror as she was, "we're losing him!"
Just then, a very large green portal opened up in front of them, earning three screams, while Sentinel hit the brakes hard. Green enveloped them, and then Sentinel burst out of the Groundbridge portal back in Germany, screeching to a halt just before he hit the wall.
"WHAT WAS THAT!?" Sierra yelled, while at the same time her mom let out a scream. Her dad, on the other hand, looked around the sudden change of location, saw Ratchet standing there and let out a scream before fainting.
"How'd it go?" Fowler asked, running over as soon as Sentinel came to a stop. Turning around, Jack looked at Sierra's mother – who was finally stopping her screaming but had also noticed Ratchet – and tried to calm her down. Fowler's appearance also seemed to help. Vince and Miko came running in a few moments later as well.
"I outraced Knockout, bridged out before we could take the chase anywhere else."
"Vince!?" Sierra suddenly recognized the boy who was now helping her dad out of the car. Apparently she was still very surprised. "Wow, I hardly recognized you, you look really different. Then again… so do Jack and Miko. What're you all doing here? And what's that thing? Is that little kid with the glasses – Raf? – here as well?"
"I didn't get a chance to get her up-to-speed." Jack defended himself as Fowler and Miko looked at him. "On anything!"
"Well, let's get them out of here first." Fowler decided. "With the Groundbridge operational again, we're going to call in the other Bots. Once they learn of the new team's existence we can finally get started on our counter-attack."
Location: Fifty-nine miles outside of Los Angeles, California, United States of America.
Time: 4 months since the destruction of the Autobot base.
System user: Knockout
Designation: Decepticon, Chief Medical Officer.
"Megatron is not going to be happy about this…" Knockout felt like hitting something, but that'd hardly be effective. It'd only put more scratches on his paint. And that was the last thing he wanted right now. That surprise attack had put some scratches on him. SCRATCHES! Those were the absolute worst to get out of his paintjob.
"Knockout to base." he finally radioed in. "My target escaped through a Groundbridge. She didn't get assistance from an Autobot, but this still proves she is closely connected to them."
"I don't care if the girl is connected to all of them, unless she's controlling them!" Megatron growled back through the connection. "It's time for a change of plans. Soundwave has located the shelter those insects used when they fled the settlement near New Kaon. Take a squad there and EXTERMINATE THEM!"
"As you command, my liege."
Location: Classified racing track Aerolesae, eastern-Germany.
Time: 4 months since the destruction of the Autobot base. Twenty minutes after the rescue of Sierra.
System user: Vincent 'Vince' Dicolleta
Designation: Autobot 'Hotrod'
Vince was at a loss. He was sitting in a lounging area – dubbed 'the living room' now that they were all living there – with Sierra and her parents, trying to calm them down. So far, it wasn't going well.
"Why is there another of those giant robots here?" Sierra's mom asked for what must've been the third time by now. Her question was, as before, drowned out by the torrent of questions that Sierra was asking. Her father was mostly just sitting there, staring. Vince didn't even want to think what was going through his head.
"Again, the large white-and-orange robot is on our side. The robots have multiple factions that are at war. One of them is launching the full-scale war; the other is on our side. Unfortunately, the team on our side is vastly outnumbered, so they're doing more support work."
Honestly, he was getting annoyed that he was put on duty for taking care of these people. Especially since Jack, Miko, Fowler and Ratchet were bridging the other Autobots in for a debriefing. He wanted to be there, to finally see them. He'd have to wait until the news of Team Sentinel had been broken to them.
"What's that?" Sierra's dad suddenly asked, pointing to the large TV on the other wall. Turning around to look at it, Vince felt his heart skip several beats when he saw the title on the screen.
Shelter under attack by the robot aliens
Running over to the TV, he quickly upped the volume.
"-lter in Nevada, where some people have been hiding as long as four months, is now under attack. The military is launching an emergency response. We will report more as the story develops."
"No…" this time it was Sierra's mom who passed out. Vince, for his part, was locked staring at the screen for several seconds, images flashing in front of his eyes.
A dark-grey jet flying in.
Dad teaching him how to drive
The car in front of him exploding.
Mom helping him with homework he didn't understand.
Jen walking into his room, telling him his outfit to the dance is utterly ridiculous, before
helping him pick out something new.
"No." Vince's words came out a sharp whisper. "Not again. not this time." an instant later he was turning around and ran towards where Jack and the others – no. Sentinel and his team – were still talking.
He arrived moments later, Sierra chasing after him and barely keeping up.
"Jasper is under attack!" were the first words out of his mouth.
"Vince?" the large blue female robot –Arcee, he'd wager – sounded very surprised. So they hadn't told them anything yet.
"Jasper is an empty shell right now." the big green Bulkhead added. "What's it matter if it's under attack?"
"Not the town, the shelter!" Sierra – who was surprisingly unfazed by the multitude or giant alien robots in front of her – added. This finally got a response from the others. Ratchet and Rafael both started working on their computers, screens lighting up moments later to highlight the attack force. Vince counted over forty dots before he stopped.
"Scrap." Arcee cursed. "What're we going to do? Knockout is leading that team, it won't be as easy as the raids we've been doing."
"That's easy." The mainly white car said – either Wheeljack or Smokescreen, it was hard for Vince to tell – "we're going in there, save the humans and show the cons just what the Wreckers can do."
"It won't be that easy Wheeljack." The other white robot said, "They seriously outnumber us and this time, we'll be fighting them on open ground."
"Go." Jack suddenly said. Vince recognized that tone of voice. Jack had started to grow more and more into his role as leader and whenever he had a moment of confidence – or when the Matrix was in control – he'd sound somewhat different from normal.
"You guys go and delay the Cons." He explained. "In the meantime, we'll extract the people in the shelter with the Groundbridge. Once they're all gone, you can just return here with the Groundbridge. All you need to do is delay them, not defeat them."
"You want to bring more humans into the base!?" Ratchet sounded somewhat horrified at the very idea. Jack turned to look at him. His face was oddly enough completely neutral. That probably meant the Matrix was active.
"Ratchet, the time for secrecy is over. We have all the tools we need to bring the fight to an even point. It's time the people of earth learn that they're not alone in this fight. So yes, we will be bringing in more humans here, until the shelter is empty and then we'll get to work on sending them elsewhere. Fowler, how many people are there in the shelter?"
"Last count suggests that it's around two thousand people still in there. We've been doing small scale extractions for months; most of the town is already safe."
"Good. Call in the soldiers around this base, we'll need them to ensure that everyone stays as calm as can be. Let's go."
Vince didn't even consider it odd when the larger-then-life robots all transformed back and raced through the Groundbridge at Jack's order.
Location: Classified racing track Aerolesae, eastern-Germany.
Time: 4 months since the destruction of the Autobot base. Three minutes after the departure of the Autobot team
System user: Jackson Darby
Designation: Autobot Commander
Jack stood with tension in his body as he looked at the screen. The blue dots that indicated the Autobots were moving around a lot and the black Decepticon dots were being diminished, but not nearly as fast as he'd liked.
"Jack, we should be out there!" Miko yelled, turning from the screen towards him. "This is what we trained for! Why are we not helping them?"
"Because we're not ready." Jack replied, taking his eyes of the screen to look at the Japanese girl. "We trained and are finally a coherent unit, but we do not have the experience needed to take out a superior group like that! We'll just be in their way."
"Then what exactly was your plan for us? Huh? Wait until we have an encounter where we outnumber the Cons?"
"No. Work on small-scale missions until we've built up some experience and we can work with the others in the field. Otherwise, we'll just be a limitation for them. They've faced worse odds then this before."
"Yeah, they might have. But have you forgotten? That was when Optimus was still around. Not to mention that the Cons didn't have their new upgrades back then!"
"They fought those battles without Optimus. They can do this. They have to."
"Son." Fowler spoke up, placing a hand on Jack's shoulder. "They may have fought those battles without Optimus in their midst, but they had him in their mind. That's what a good leader can do. Inspire his men, even when he's not at their side. But I agree with your point. Until we've learned how we act in real battle, not just simulations, we shouldn't engage an army that size."
"Wheeljack just took a hit!" Raf shouted as the Wrecker's energy-signature lowered. "He's still operational and can continue the fight, but he's hurt."
Jack looked around the room, feeling a lot of eyes on him all of a sudden. Miko was looking at him, eyes on the brim of tears. Raf wasn't looking, busy working on his laptop. Ratchet, likewise, was working on his computer, but kept glancing at the teen every once in a while. Vince stood a ways back, face tense but eyes focused. Sierra just looked confused, still not knowing what was going on. Mom looked scared.
Fowler locked eyes with him, then stepped back.
"It's not my call." He said, standing at attention. "You've got command in all matters related to the Autobots." Jack took a deep breath.
"Ratchet, give me a status update. How long till the Groundbridge is ready to bring the civilians out?"
"The Groundbridge is ready and waiting." The medic replied, "The soldiers will need another five minutes to prepare for escorting the civilians."
"And the battle?"
"Wheeljack is injured, but it appears to be a minor wound. The others are rapidly going through their supplies of Energon, but are fairing well. Of the fifty-eight Decepticons, forty-nine are still functional."
"Only nine Cons down, but one of ours is injured. And we're running out…They can do it. I know they can."
The soldiers marched into the base, ready to escort the people out of the shelter through the Groundbridge, when the radio burst to life again.
"Arcee to base, come in!"
"Arcee, Raf here. What's up?"
"We need a Groundbridge on our coordinates, now!" the female robot's voice was loaded with tension. The fight had only been going on for a few minutes, how bad could it have become? A look at the screen told Jack just how bad.
Smokescreen was down to a quarter of his Energon and with injuries. Wheeljack was in statis-lock. The original Team Prime was functioning, but they were now facing a three-versus-forty battle.
"Hold on." Jack heard himself say. He had made his decision before he had thought about it. "I have a better idea. Hold your ground for just a few more seconds."
He looked around the room on more time. This time he saw more then he had ever seen before. Fear. Anger. Confusion. Love. Pride. But most of all, Jack saw one thing in the eyes of all his friends.
"Fowler, Miko, Vince." He said, having made his decision. "Suit up. We're going to join the battle. Ratchet, the moment we're through, Bridge the civilians out. Mom, Sierra, you two help out the soldiers. The people in Jasper know you two; they'll be more at ease."
"Suh-wheet! What's the plan?" Miko asked as she joined the others in their flat sprint to their vehicles. Fortunately, the machines were in the very same room. They had been planning to tell the other Autobots about them, after all.
"What idea Jack?" Arcee's voice sounded over the radio, though she sounded both surprised and terrified at the same time. "We're pinned down, Wheeljack and Smokescreen are down. We can not continue this fight!"
"Just hold on a few seconds." He repeated, "We're going to open the Groundbridge on the other side of the Decepticons."
"A flanking maneuver!" Fowler sounded pleasantly surprised at the idea. "Excellent!"
"More than that." Jack started, but Arcee broke up his explanation.
"WHAT!? We can't make it across this battlefield!"
"We're not pulling you out. We're sending in reinforcements." He turned back to Fowler, who was already pulling himself into Jetfire's cockpit. "You go through the Bridge first, but on a location some distance away. You fly in once we've cut down their flyers, surprise them."
"What kind of reinforcements?"
This time Jack didn't reply. He didn't have time. Instead, he explained the rest of his plan.
"Hotrod, Heavyarms and I Bridge in behind the Cons, take out their flyers. We strike fast and hard. Once that's over, Jetfire comes in from the side and blasts them to pieces. We'll have them trapped in a killing ground."
"What about the others?" Heavyarms asked, revving up her engine. Jack opened the radio, replying to Arcee's question at the same time as Heavyarms'.
"Just open fire on the Cons with everything you have when I give the order!" closing the radio signal, he contacted the others. "Status report."
"Jetfire, all systems primed and ready."
"Hotrod, all systems go."
"Heavyarms, ready and waiting."
"Sentinel Prime, online." Sentinel's engine roared to life along with the others. "Let's go. It's time to fight for Freedom!"
With that, the Groundbridge opened as Jetfire's thruster roared to life. An instant later the large jet was through the green portal, which closed and opened again almost immediately. The trio of Autobot warriors raced through, ready for combat.
Location: Classified racing track Aerolesae, eastern-Germany.
Time: 4 months since the destruction of the Autobot base. After the Battle for the Jasper Shelter.
System user: Sentinel Prime
Designation: Autobot Commander
"By Primus, I can't believe it!" Ratchet exclaimed as the group of Autobots – larger then any he'd seen in years! – returned through the Groundbridge. "You did it! You defeated the Decepticons."
"Only in this one battle." Sentinel replied. "I trust all the human civilians are safely evacuated?"
"Naturally! That's why it took me so long to Bridge you back. They're outside, under escort of the soldiers. It seems most of them are beyond relieved to just see the sky."
"Not surprising." Jetfire said, ducking through the Groundbridge into the base. "They did spend four months in an underground facility."
"How's Wheeljack doing?" Sentinel asked. The injured Wrecker had been extracted immediately after the fighting was done so Ratchet could get to work, but afterwards the Groundbridge had been occupied for hours with the extraction of the people in the shelter. It also made sure the people wouldn't stop to gawk at Ratchet.
"He's still in stasis for the time being, but he'll manage. I've managed to repair most damage, but he'll need some time to recover. I've also put Smokescreen into Stasis for the time, so I can better assess his damage before I start his recovery. It doesn't seem to be anything permanent though."
"Glad to hear it." Bulkhead sighed, while Bumblebee beeped in agreement.
"So, what's the story?" Arcee asked, crossing her arms as she turned towards Sentinel. "Where'd the new Prime come from?"
"I'll explain." Sentinel said as he transformed into vehicle mode. "This should make a lot of things clear, right?" Jack said as he stepped out of the vehicle. Bulkhead, Arcee and Bumblebee are bore identical looks of supreme surprise.
"I'm the new Prime."
Location: New Kaon
Time: 4 months since the successful destruction of Optimus Prime
System user: Lord Megatron
Designation: Decepticon Supreme Commander
"Knockout, this does not look like a triumphant return." Megatron said as the red car stumbled out of the Groundbridge portal. "You only had to face down a handful of leaderless Autobots! What! Happened!"
"Apologies my liege, but… it didn't go as planned."
"That much I can see. What happened?" Stepping closer to the medic, Megatron glared at his subordinate. Starscream, a little ways back, stepped back. He'd been the victim of this look often.
"Ehm, I… I had the Autobots pinned down. Wheeljack was out of commission and Smokescreen was down as well."
"More Autobots arrived. They ambushed us."
"What?!" this time Megatron stepped back. "More Autobots?" but there were no other Autobots left alive on this planet. How could they…
"Of course!" Megatron relaxed his posture as he stepped back. "Optimus has brought back more Autobots before he perished. He did, after all, possess a Space Bridge for a time, however short."
But if they had been on Earth all this time? Why hadn't they shown themselves before now?
"Ehm, my liege…" Knockout groveled. The fact he hadn't run away to clean himself up immediately meant he still had something important to tell.
"One of the Autobots… he said he's…. I overheard him saying…"
"Spit it out already."
"One of the new Autobots, the leader of this band, said that he was a Prime."
This didn't seem to get the reaction Knockout had expected. The moment the last word left his mouth, the doctor flinched back, obviously expecting an explosion of anger. Instead, Megatron simply sat down in his throne.
"Is that so?" He questioned aloud, "a new Prime? I would say it is impossible, but Optimus has never disappointed me in the past. At least we know Optimus is gone. Hmm…. Yesssss."
For a few moments, the Decepticon supreme commander simply sat there thinking. The others were just about to step forward, when he finally made up his mind.
"Contact Cybertron." He commanded, "It is time Shockwave returned to our ranks. With his creations, finding the Autobots will be of little problem."
Soundwave, ever the silent but loyal subordinate, raised an arm and the Space Bridge opened in the middle of the large throne room. Shockwave, never surprised even after all this time, walked through moments later. Large shadows followed behind him.
"Greetings, Lord Megatron. I have returned." Shockwave gave a deep bow to his lord and master.
"Fine then!" Sentinel shouted. "Grimlock, I'll take you on by myself!"
"It appears I have been underestimating Sentinel after all." Megatron announced, though only Starscream, Shockwave and Soundwave would ever hear it. reaching behind his throne, the Supreme Commander retrieved his Dark Star Sabre. "It is time I took care of this… personally."
A/N: as always thanks to my beta, Kushin-eX. also, an author's note. the Season 3 eps have just started and Megatron has apparently decided not to call his fortress New Kaon... but since i've already used the name before in this fic, I'll keep it in use. i hope eveyone enjoys the new season.