Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers or any of it's associated media.
Location: New Kaon
Time: 4 months since the successful destruction of Optimus Prime
System user: Lord Megatron
Designation: Decepticon Supreme Commander
"Shockwave!" Megatron greeted his old and trusted ally, "I trust your research has made great advancements since we last met?"
"Indeed my liege." The large purple scientist kneeled in a practiced motion, keeping his eye on the floor. "After the destruction of my second Space Bridge, I recovered what remained of my previous laboratories and started anew. Not only have I rediscovered and created modifications to current Space- and Groundbridge technology, I have also gathered quite an unexpected result from salvaging my former research lab."
"The lab that was destroyed when you opened the first Space Bridge?" Megatron signaled for the scientist to rise.
"Yes." Shockwave confirmed. "The portal that brought you and the Autobot ship, known as the Ark, here was created from that base. Unfortunately, my recent experiments to create new shock troops escaped custody and ended up destroying both my base and the Space Bridge. I barely escaped the wreckage, despite my injuries."
With this, he lifted the arm-cannon at his side. Megatron had noticed that the purple robot's arm was gone, but he didn't question it. Shockwave always had reasons for everything. At his side, Starscream suddenly looked very uneasy, but Megatron didn't press his second-in-command.
"Yet when I searched the remains of my base, I found the source of the destruction. The remains of the Autobot team known as Lightning Strike Coalition, who I had outfitted with new forms based on this planet's life forms. The enhancements I made allowed them to survive even the destruction of the base, though they were all in Stasis. Their combat prowess was more impressive then I had first estimated, so I set to recovering them. In doing so, I located the remains of a fifth member near the original tower. This subject, too, was recovered and upgraded."
"So, you restored the creatures that singlehandedly wiped out your army of assistants and destroyed your base?" Starscream's voice was heavy on the sarcasm; no doubt the coward was wondering why Shockwave would restore so powerful a foe. "And to add to that, you added to their ranks!?"
"Indeed." Shockwave confirmed, "To prevent a similar incident from occurring, I have created controlling devices for each of them. With these devices interrupting their neural functions, they will follow all orders with absolute obedience. My liege, I present to you… the Dinobots!"
With that Shockwave stepped aside and five of the massive creatures stepped forward. Despite the alterations made by Shockwave, Megatron had little difficulty recognizing them. They had foiled his plans back on Cybertron more then once when they were in the war. But more then any other, he recognized the massive creature standing in front of them, their leader. And he remembered well the pains he had suffered at his hands.
"Kneel to your lord and master." Starscream commanded from next to Megatron. If Shockwave was right, then something he had never thought possible. But it was so. Grimlock, the strongest and proudest warrior to ever walk Cybertron, went down on one knee.
"Me Grimlock," The massive and overall powerful warrior said as he kneeled, "Bow to Master, Lord Megatron."
"Impressive." Megatron exhaled. Regardless of Shockwave's assurance, he couldn't help but feel on edge by being so close to Grimlock. Megatron feared nothing, but caution was always warranted around Grimlock. "Very impressive Shockwave. But what is your other creature?"
"A creature I have created based on some resents discoveries. Several Gigacycles ago, while I was excavating an old dig site, I found trace amounts of cyber-nuclear acid. With time, I proved able to recreate this, my liege. A Predacon. Come forth, Predaking."
The sheer size of the primal creature was enough to dwarf even Grimlock, its jaw opening to reveal rows of quickly rotating blades, designed to tear through Cybertronian skin. Heat was gathering inside the creature, but nothing came of it. Large claws carved deep into the floors of New Kaon, but all eyes were on the once extinct creature of Ancient Cybertron.
"This creature," Starscream weakly began, standing at the side of Megatron's throne, "the histories clearly state that Predacons are primal, vicious creatures that devour any other Cybertronian life form they encounter. Including us."
There, Megatron had to admit Starscream had a point: the histories were conclusive on that subject. But Shockwave already had an answer for that.
"I integrated a loyalty program into the breeding progress. The creature is completely loyal to me and will only attack those that I deem it's target. Such as all those who wear Autobot shields."
"Once again, Shockwave, you impress me." Megatron announced, standing from his throne, "And I will soon find a purpose for your discoveries. But… I still remember the last time you claimed to have Grimlock and his companions under control. And how they were on the battlefields of Cybertron. Their prowess in combat was matched only by their stubborn nature and unyielding spirit. Unless I have more proof that they will not return to our enemy's side upon seeing their old companions, keep them off the field."
"Of course, my liege." Shockwave bowed again. The decision, after all, held logic. The Dinobots had proven… problematic in the past. "Should you wish to acquire proof of their loyalty and effectiveness, I recommend you deploy them in several controlled field tests."
"An excellent idea." Starscream quickly agreed, though the fear was still obvious in his voice.
Location: Aerosol, Germany.
Time: 16 hours after first battle between Sentinel Prime and the Decepticon forces.
System user: Jackson Darby
Designation: Autobot Commander.
"Alright, can everyone hear me?" Jack asked, looking around the room. Fowler was standing a little to his left; Raf to his right, with Miko, Vince, mom and Sgt. Ermey completed the table. Behind them, filling up the rest of the cargo bay they were using for their strategic briefing, stood the Autobots, all gazing down at the gathering of humans. A string of confirmations followed.
"Here's the situation: the Cons have a stronghold in central Asia that we're going to attack. This particular site is in a mountain range, which means we'll have trouble maneuvering, but should easily get the drop on them. This is one of the largest known Energon mines. We're going to hit it hard and fast, but keep as much of the Energon intact as we can. We need it to take care of ourselves. The stockpiles you've gathered in the past few months will last us a while, but with our increase in numbers, the Groundbridge and the fact that we'll be engaging in more combat from this point on, we will burn through it quickly."
"Estimates show that the Energon supplies we have now will last us for another two months at peak capacity." Ratchet supplied. "The more we regain with every strike, the better."
"Why aren't we striking directly at Con-Central?" Wheeljack immediately added, "We've got the numbers now, we launch an attack, take out the cons and steal their supply simple."
"Are you crazy?" Vince asked the large white Bot, raising an eyebrow, "We have some more numbers, but we're still far outmatched. Attacking their stronghold is suicide."
"We keep using these bug bites, Megs will just keep creating new drones for us to fight. With his numbers and fortress, we need the element of surprise to turn the tide. We still have it, I say we use it."
"No, Vince is right. A direct assault on New Kaon will end in a massacre." Fowler leaned forward, both hands on the table. "We need to work as a fluid team, no doubts or questions, for such an attack. I don't think we're that far yet."
"Action breeds the connection." Arcee said, though it was hard to tell who she agreed with.
"Which is exactly why you should all focus on getting experience as a team." June supplied. "Small, low-risk strikes until you operate fluidly."
"Low-risk? We're the Bots, and I'm a Wrecker." Miko sounded highly insulted by the suggestion. "We don't do low-risk. We'll hit them hard and fast and right where it hurts!"
"Miko, we do try to be careful." Bulkhead cautioned, though this got him a strange look from Wheeljack.
"EVERYONE SHUT UP!" The shout echoed through the room, until everyone looked at Ermey. His voice was almost echoing through the room. With a look of pure iron, he spoke up. "Your commanding officer is trying to brief you on a mission and give you your orders. There was no question for the debate you are having. So be silent and listen to the orders you are given, questions can be asked after." He turned to look at Jack, gave a nod, and then seemed to relax his posture.
"Yes, thanks Sergeant." Jack nodded back. "Now, as I was about to say, I am going to divide you into teams for this strike. Team one will consist of Bulkhead, Jetfire and I. Team two is Arcee, Hotrod and Heavyarms while team three is Wheeljack, Bumblebee and Smokescreen. Team one will find a suitable combat position, and then prepare it into a killing ground. Team two will lay low near the entrance of the mine, while Team three lures the cons out. Once they're out, Team three moves towards the killing zone Team one has prepared, with Team two behind them to box them in. The moment they enter the killzone, Team three turns around and we have our target boxed in.
Once that happens, we blast the cons till they all join the Allspark. Once we've taken care of most of their guards, Team two will begin a perimeter check to keep an eye on our surroundings, Team three will scout deep into the mines while Team one engages any leftover forces. Stick with your team at all costs and remember your objectives. Should Team three encounter any forces larger then two cons, they are to lure them back towards team one for an ambush."
"Hell of a plan." Wheeljack supplied. "It has most of us running around doing nothing, or running from the cons."
"It does sound a bit strange." Smokescreen carefully said, though he didn't sound too critical, "but I suppose that's the point. If it's strange to us, it's strange to the Cons. And strange might be just what we need."
"Good." Jack finally said, "Everyone prepare for battle, be ready for departure in ten minutes."
Sure enough, eight minutes later, the entire team of Autobots stood at the ready, waiting for the Groundbridge portal to open. Before Jack went into his vehicle, he spared a last look at the control panel. Making eye contact with Sergeant Ermey, he gave another nod of gratitude. The Sergeant nodded back once, then turned around and started a conversation with June. With a sigh, Jack sat down and activated Sentinel.
The engines around the room roared to live, headlights flashing to indicate readiness and the green portal appeared mere moments later. With Bullhead and Wheeljack taking point, the group quickly moved through, entering the clearing half a mile away from their target. The small clearing filled up in moments.
"All right, you have your orders. Teams, spread out." for a moment there was a multitude of noises as several engines started, Jetfire transformed into robot mode – his flying would immediately be noticed and ruin the element of surprise – and the various teams set off.
"Keep your eyes open for a good location." Sentinel told his squad. Both of the larger bots gave nods as they kept up their slow move. Finally, they found a good location. It allowed Jetfire and Bulkhead to take high positions, while it also gave Sentinel some cover on a ground level. Once the Cons lined up, he'd be able to smash right through them.
"Found a couple lone Cons." Wheeljack radioed. Before Sentinel could respond to tell him the location of the kill zone, there was a loud noise. From somewhere further up in the mountains, closer to the mine, smoke rose to accompany the explosions.
"Wheeljack, what are you doing?" Sentinel yelled into the com. That wasn't the plan! "You're supposed to lure them back here!"
"Relax, it's only two Cons. They're already scrap metal."
From somewhere else on the mountain, further in, another explosion was heard. After another few moments, the explosions stopped.
"Arcee here, encountered a lone patrol. They're out. Proceeding to the mine."
"You're supposed to lure them back here!" Sentinel repeated.
"Didn't have the time." The fembot replied, "Was a small patrol, luring them back would've taken too much time."
"What's done is done, keep to the plan from now on."
"Will do, I – oh scrap!" Arcee's curse was followed by another multitude of explosions.
"What's happening?" Worry grabbed Sentinel's heart, but Arcee responded a moment later.
"Cons. They found us. We've taken cover, we'll need a few moments."
From somewhere else, more explosions followed.
"Same here!" Smokescreen said, "We've got about eight Vehicons firing at us. Should only be a few moments before we're done."
"Damn it!" Sentinel cursed. Why was nothing going according to plan?
"They need help!" Bulkhead was already transformed and underway before Sentinel really knew he'd said anything. Confused, he looked at Jetfire. The large flyer hadn't moved, instead focusing on Sentinel.
"Two-tons is right." The flyer started, "They might need some help. What's the plan, sir?"
But Sentinel had no response. They had a plan, but it wasn't followed. Now what'd they do? He didn't have a backup plan. Optimus had never made a backup plan; his plans always seemed to work. What would Optimus do?
Well, that was obvious. He'd save them.
"Jetfire, take to the skies, try to pull some of the Skycons away. I'll go help Team Two."
"Roger." With a road the thrusters in Jetfire's feet came to life and he was lifted up. Once he had some velocity, he transformed into jet mode and shot off. Sentinel also set off as quick as he could. He found Team Two some moments later, with just one Con left standing. As he arrived, Hotrod finished off the last Con in a wave of fire. The blast was far too hot for the robot, parts of his body – including his face – melting off as he screamed.
"Jack? What're you doing here?" Arcee sounded surprised when she saw the blue Prime. "You're supposed to stay at the kill zone."
"I thought you'd need help." He said. Now that he was there, he realized how weak it sounded. They'd been pinned by about eight Vehicons, true, but Arcee could often handle that many on her own, give time. With backup, especially as powerful as Heavyarms, it really wasn't a question that they'd be victorious.
"Dude, you're completely ruining the plan!" Heavyarms supplied, one hand on her hip, while she facepalmed with the other. "Get back to where you're supposed to be! We'll lure them out in a moment."
"Jetfire here, I got their attention. Got several bogies on my tail. Could use some help."
How was he supposed to help Jetfire? Sentinel couldn't fly! But how had they handled flyers in the past?
'Of course.' Sentinel felt like slapping himself when he looked at Heavyarms' shoulder-mounted Gatling gun. They could still blast them down.
"I hear you Jetfire." He radioed back, "Can you pull them over to us? We'll shoot some of them down, should ease things up for you."
Just as Jetfire was approaching though, sounds of other battles could be heard nearby.
"Sentinel, sir."Smokescreen's voice came over the radio, "Bulkhead arrived to provide backup, but there're more Cons pouring out of the mines."
Jetfire was closing in. The Cons were hot on his tail. But Team three was also pinned down. They'd need a response from him. What was he supposed to do? Nothing was going as planned.
"Lock targets and open fire." Sentinel finally said. Arcee and Heavyarms didn't need to be told twice. Hotrod had moved forward, hidden from view from the Cons and waited until they were closer. Sentinel joined his blasters to the two females'. Jetfire quickly pulled up, evading the shots, but the Skycons didn't have the time. Four of them went down almost immediately. The remaining two tried to pull up, but they were too late. Hotrod's flamethrower captured both of them, quickly returning them to nothing.
And just as the last Skycons were taken down, a series of massive explosions erupted from inside the mountain.
"What was that!" Hotrod screamed, stepping away from the still burning Cons. More explosions were following, all of them coming from inside the mine.
"Had to improvise." Wheeljack explained over the radio. "We were getting swarmed by the Cons, so I threw a grenade. Wiped out most of them, but the Energon deposit was closer then I'd thought."
More explosions rocked through the mountain. Sentinel could see cracks start to appear all over.
"Can you go in to grab some of the Energon?"
"Only if we'd move straight through the inferno."
"Then… we'll return to entry point and Groundbridge back to base."
As Sentinel and the other Autobots returned to the clearing, a thought crept up on him.
'Can I really lead them, if this is how it'll end?'
Location: Aerosol, Germany.
Time: 32 hours since the failed attack on an Energon mine in central Asia.
System user: Sentinel Prime
Designation: Autobot Commander.
For the second time in as many days, Sentinel had gathered his forces. This briefing, however, he did in full robot form. The rest of his team was all in the same state. June, Ermey and Rafael stood on an elevated platform, on a similar height as Sentinel's face. Raf had control over the holographic projection. The holographic projection – a new creation that Ratchet had finished mere hours before, based on a suggestion from Raf – showed a city.
"We've just received word from command." Ermey started, "Enemy forces have attacked Port Harcourt, a major port city in Nigeria, Africa. We do not know the motive behind the attack, or the method involved, but the attack was more brutal then any previous Decepticon attack. At around 13:00 local time the city was attacked and in less then two hours much of the city is destroyed. We have no estimates on survivors, captures or anything of the sort. We are still working on getting satellite imagery, but for the moment, we're blind."
"How did a major city get under attack without anyone finding out for hours on end, sir?" Hotrod asked. He stood with his back straight, looking directly at the sergeant for his answer. Only Jetfire showed a similar level of discipline, standing still while all the others kept moving around to look at the map.
"We're not sure yet." Ermey admitted, "But the M.O. is different from usual Decepticon attacks. Previous attacks have had the enemy arrive in their target city via traditional transport and strike from the outside in. This attack originated from the center of the city and spread out from there, as best we can tell. The military presence in the city is weak at best and response units had their hands full trying to keep order. What little we do know is that the attackers were large and vicious, attacking buildings and causing massive amounts of collateral damage."
"Satellite images online." Raf stated, still typing away on his laptop. "Integrating them into the map now. Red dots are known Decepticon signatures."
The hologram shook for a second and then numerous red dots appeared. Most were isolated, or in small groups, but there was a large ring of dots around the center of the city. The Cons were there in force.
"What're they doing?" June gasped as she saw parts of the ring slowly expand.
"Elimination." Bulkhead sounded very grim as he spoke. "They're setting up a ring as a point of defense, but since they're moving out, they're using to systematically destroy the city."
"We still have civilians in there!" Jetfire's shouted in anger. His face was contoured in pure rage, but he still stood still. "We need to get in there, now!" the last part was directed straight at Sentinel.
"You're right." The Prime stepped forward. "There are still numerous civilians in the city; reports indicate that barely a tenth of the people were evacuated. We'll be going in and strike the Cons fast and hard. Our objective is to get them out of the city so that evacuation can proceed. We want to save as much human lives as possible, so aim your shots and try to keep collateral to a minimum."
A series of nods, an affirmative from Wheeljack and a 'Yes Sir' from Hotrod followed before he continued.
"As for our plan. We can't afford to take their entire army head on; we have to divide them into smaller groups that we can take out. Arcee, Wheeljack and Smokescreen, you're the fastest drivers, you're lure them away. Meanwhile Bulkhead, Heavyarms, Hotrod and Bumblebee will set up areas to kill the Cons. Keep on the move, change the area often, but radio us where you're going. Jetfire is going to patrol the skies, taking out any flyers who might take us by surprise. I'll be assisting the speed team. Memorize the map, we'll need it. Keep in mind, we are fighting in a city. That means we have the advantage over any Skycons, who'll have difficulty flying in between the buildings."
"What do we do if we find survivors?" Heavyarms leaned forward. Most likely she didn't like the plan – after all, it meant she wouldn't get to charge at the cons – but she did know the importance of protecting lives.
"Help them get out and ensure they'll reach a safe location." Sentinel replied. "We don't have the means to bring large numbers of people away from the city, but if you help them reach a shelter of sorts, that should work."
"Huh?" Heavyarms looked up from the map, "Get them to safety, but don't move too far?"
"Exactly. Now, everyone prepare for battle. The more time we waste here, the more people die."
At Sentinel's cue, the entire team transformed into vehicle mode, engines roaring to live. Ratchet opened the Groundbridge and the instant it was formed they all raced through. Straight into Armageddon.
As Sentinel appeared out of the green portal, he was already being shot at. The Cons in the area had seen the Groundbridge portal open and had immediately opened fire. Well over a dozen Vehicons and some eight Skycons were shooting at them. Sentinel quickly drove through, evading most of the blasts as he went. Wheeljack was already ahead, his swords swirling and swinging, destroying Cons all around him, while Hotrod was in another area, his flames devouring three Vehicons at once.
Taking aim, Sentinel opened fire on a Vehicon that was about to blindside the flame-user, but his blasts weren't strong enough to penetrate his Energon-barrier. Instead, the Vehicon turned towards the Prime and opened fire of his own. Dodging to the side, Sentinel was quickly engaged in a firefight with the Vehicon, until it was suddenly blasted to bits when Heavyarms opened fire on it with her Gatling gun.
Before Sentinel could thank her, however, he was knocked to the side by an explosion, courtesy of a Skycon's missile. As he rolled over, getting his feet under him, he saw Arcee jumping up and grabbing on to the Skycon. At that close range, her blasts tore right through the Skycon's weak plating, causing it to crash. Wheeljack jumped aside just in time to avoid getting hit by the crash. Bulkhead charged through a moment after, flames still erupting from the wreckage and smashed three Vehicons to bits in seconds.
Bumblebee came charging by, but he was blindsided by a Vehicon, sending him flying. Transforming in mid-air, the scout quickly blasted his attacker, and then turned around to face two others. He didn't see the Skycons taking aim at his position. Sentinel did and quickly opened fire, but the flying opponents split up and easily evaded the blasts. Jetfire shot past a moment later, three more Skycons hot on his tail and shooting.
"We need to dig in!" Wheeljack shouted as he grabbed his most recent kill and used it as a shield to the attacks aimed at him.
"Negative!" Jetfire replied, deploying flares to negate a missile that a Skycon had fired, "We need to get out of here. More are coming and fast."
In the relative silence that followed – there were still a good number of blasts being exchanged, but to Sentinel it suddenly felt silent – Sentinel realized something. They were waiting for him to give an order. But their battle order had been blasted apart; Jetfire was leaving the other Autobots behind in his attempts to shake the Skycons, Hotrod and Bumblebee were on opposite ends of the battlefield, Arcee was nowhere to be seen, Bulkhead and Heavyarms stood together in a circle of dead Cons. Smokescreen stood at Sentinel's side, guarding his flank.
There was no way they could manage an orderly retreat into the teams he had established before the mission. But staying here meant practically infinite reinforcements for the Decepticons.
"Scatter." He finally said, "Use the roads to your advantage, get as far from the Cons as you can and look for survivors."
Wheeljack looked like he was about to argue, but instead he had to throw away his Decepticon shield as he was engaged in melee combat. The others quickly transformed and raced through whatever opening they could find. Wheeljack was only a moment behind.
As he drove away from the battlefield, Sentinel saw Arcee take down the last of the Vehicons just a bit away; she'd been behind a building fighting, so he'd been unable to see her. She had heard the order though: she transformed and sped off.
The next few hours were all a blur; Sentinel found some survivors, though never as much as he liked. When they saw him, more often then not they panicked. After a couple attempts, he realized contacting them was useless, so instead he focused on distracting Cons to buy time. He ran into the other Autobots at times, but they were rare. At one point, he'd found Arcee in battle, surrounded by four Vehicons. He blindsided two of them and in their momentary surprise, Arcee killed the other two.
He'd been rescued in a similar way by Hotrod, not ten minutes ago. But their team-ups were short-lived, taking out some Cons then scattering again. It appeared to be working: Ratchet had reported in some time ago that the main army, which had been working on destroying the city, was being dispatched to find the Autobots.
"Hey guys." Heavyarms' voice suddenly came over the radio, "I found something strange."
"If it's a Con dissected into eight slices, that's my work." Wheeljack boasted, "Wanted to do a bit of artwork today."
"It's not that." Heavyarms' voice sounded even more excited then usual. She must've found something good. "I'm the same size as Optimus had been, right? Same foot size and everything?"
"I… guess?" Bulkhead replied. Heavyarms was taller then the green giant, but they'd never been able to compare her to Optimus.
"And Megs is only slightly bigger then Optimus, so he'd only be slightly bigger then me. Right? And he is the biggest Con that they have, right?"
"Far as we know." Wheeljack replied. Sentinel was beginning to think all their chatting – they'd done a lot of it over the past few hours, along with keeping a kill-count – was something that all Wreckers did.
"Then I found something interesting. A couple of footprints, obviously Cybertronian. Only, they're about twice as big as my feet."
"Hmm…" this time it was Arcee that replied. She rarely talked over the com, only to relay her position, or give status updates, "That's odd. Unless Megatron used his Space Bridge to call for more reinforcements."
"Beep beep- bieep-boep, biieb. Bibbity-beep-bop?" Bumblebee replied. It took the built-in translator a second for Sentinel to understand. "But who'd be that big? A Combiner maybe?"
"Let's hope not, Bee." Bulkhead answered, "We don't have the firepower or the numbers to take down one of those."
"Jetfire reporting." Another transmission followed up quickly, "The skies are clearing out, it's like the Cons are pulling back for something. And best I can tell, the Vehicons are also pulling back. They're amassing in the city center again."
"They're planning an all-out assault." Smokescreen added, his voice barely above a whisper. "I'm in an elevated position overlooking them now and they're going to organize their attacks more. Looks like Knockout's joined them."
"Knockout?" Hotrod asked, "Why send him? Any sign of another commander?" He sounded eager; Hotrod was enjoying the chance to fight the Decepticons more then anyone, but he kept a cool head in battle.
"No, only Knockout." Smokescreen confirmed. "But with him here, they'll be a lot more organized then before. No more blind searches."
"It also means that they're all together." Arcee suddenly said, "If we strike now, we can do a lot of damage."
"No, they outnumber us far too much." Sentinel spoke quickly. He didn't doubt that Arcee would keep a cool head, but someone like Wheeljack might take the opportunity to rush in and deal as much damage as he could.
"Agreed. But here's something interesting. Knockout's gathering most of his troops near a tall building. They're all standing in it's shadow." Smokescreen sounded like he had an idea. Knowing him, he probably did. "If we strike the building from my side with enough firepower, I think we can bring it down on them."
"I think I can take the building out with a well-placed missile strike." Jetfire reported, confident but reluctant. "What do we do?"
Again, Sentinel felt that dread rising. There were still people in the city, they'd only evacuated a couple dozen people, though human military forces were arriving to aid. Still, the center of the city had born the brunt of the attack and likely had no survivors left.
What would Optimus have done?
That was simple; he'd somehow save all the people in the city, making them trust him with just a look and a word, then guide them all out. After that, he'd charge the Decepticon forces and, through some miracle, take them all down. Probably on his own.
Ok, maybe that was a little exaggerated. But the point still stood. Optimus would get everyone out alive.
"Do it." Sentinel heard himself say it, but he didn't feel the emotion. "Everyone else head in that direction and take out any stray Cons you encounter."
Transforming back into Vehicle mode, Sentinel quickly accelerated towards the city's center. A moment later Jetfire flew over and launched two missiles, then another two. he had shot his last missiles and they each hit their target. The skyscraper he'd aimed at suffered four large explosions before it began to collapse. At that point, Sentinel realized something.
Skyscrapers were tall and heavy. Very tall and very heavy, in fact. That mass of concrete and steel would come crashing down. And he was driving in that direction.
The realization hit him a second before the building actually came crashing down and it was his only savior. Quickly transforming into robot form, he took cover behind a nearby five-story building as the skyscraper crashed into the ground.
The impact was bigger then he could've anticipated; the ground shook violently, causing entire buildings to collapse and the road to crack everywhere, before a massive cloud of dust – though it was actually debris, stones, glass, steel and a lot of other things – were expelled at high speeds. The cloud of destruction reached well past the city's center before it finally died down. Finally, when all was silent, Sentinel looked around.
Most of the buildings in this block were undamaged. There were broken windows and some torn roofs and walls, but everything was clearly recognizable as buildings. Further towards the center it wasn't so clear.
The immediate area was ruined. No buildings stood in a wide radius from the point of impact. There were no streets left, no streetlamps, nothing. Only debris. Only destruction. And he had ordered it.
He had ordered the destruction of an area larger then Jasper had ever been. For a moment Sentinel wanted to shiver, but then he remembered. The others had been on their way.
"Smokescreen?" He radioed, looking around Ground Zero. "Arcee, Heavyarms, Bulkhead, Bumblebee? Wheeljack, Hotrod? You all alright? Jetfire?"
"We're alright." Arcee immediately replied. "Bee, Hotrod and I took shelter when Jetfire attacked. We're well away from the point of impact."
"Same here." Wheeljack followed up. "Any Wrecker worth his salt would've seen the damage that building was going to do when it came down. So, we took cover. Bulk, Arms and me are moving in now to search the wreckage for survivors."
"And I'm fine. Flew away as fast as I could when I launched my missiles." Jetfire concluded. But Smokescreen hadn't reported in.
"Smokescreen?" He'd been closest to the skyscraper. If anyone could've been buried it was him.
"H-here." Smokescreen's response sounded pained, and Sentinel immediately started to scan for him. He was a mile or two ahead, but there was nothing but large collections of rubble there. "B-buried."
Sentinel didn't waste any more time, running forward. The debris, pieces of buildings and ruined roads would've only obstructed his vehicle mode, so he stayed in robot form, jumping as often as he was running. Arcee raced by him mere moments later – as a motorcycle she could maneuver through on the debris much faster – while Hotrod and Bumblebee joined Sentinel's run. From the other direction the Wreckers closed in as well. In the air, Jetfire started a slow circle, looking for their buried teammate.
After some fifteen minutes, they had finally dug Smokescreen out. He'd been moving away from the collapsing building, but had been caught up in the shockwave that followed. He had stayed too close to Ground Zero. Arcee had called him an idiot for it, but he could tell them that, at the moment of impact, Knockout had quickly withdrawn through a Groundbridge along with a large group of Decepticons. The building had 'only' crushed three dozen Cons.
As Sentinel walked back through the Groundbridge into their base, he felt thoroughly exhausted. Constant battle, seeing people flee before him, always staying on guard… it was more tiring then he'd have though. How did Optimus do all that and never show the strain?
When they were all through, Ratchet immediately tended to Smokescreen. His injuries weren't that severe, but he did require medical attention.
"Well," Wheeljack turned to the group, but he specifically faced Sentinel, "that was a nice victory. We took out a whole lotta Cons, scared off a commander and only had to level a city to do so." The sarcasm in his voice was unmistakable.
"Jackie!" Bulkhead stepped forward.
"I'm right Bulk." The smaller Wrecker returned. "Look at what we did out there. We did almost nothing for hours on end. Then we decide to end things by crashing a building on top of them? I thought our mission was to save the civilians, not crush them even further."
"He has a point Jack." Arcee crossed her arms. The fact that she sided with Wheeljack seemed to completely stun both Bulkhead and Bumblebee, who looked like their jaw was about to drop to the floor. "The plan you had was a good one, but once we were actually in the field, you hardly gave any orders."
Sentinel didn't rise to the question. He was stunned. This was Arcee, his partner! She was going against him, after everything they'd been through? She'd never argued with Optimus like this.
Sentinel looked at her. Then at Wheeljack. He couldn't bring himself to argue with them. They were right. He had caused destruction to defeat the Decepticon army, when that wasn't their objective. It made him think right back to the trainings under Sergeant Ermey. 'Always focus on your objective.'
A lesson he still hadn't learned, apparently.
After waiting for a moment for a response, Wheeljack turned around with a look of disgust on his face, transformed and drove off. Bulkhead stepped forward.
"I'll go talk to him." He said as he transformed.
"Get your act together man." Heavyarms added as she raced after the other two Wreckers. Arcee also turned, but her face was more controlled. Sentinel could almost think he saw disappointment as she sat down on some boxes on the other end of the cargo bay. Bumblebee looked lost for a few moments before going over to join her.
Hotrod didn't say anything. He just stood there, eyes on the holographic map. Sentinel gave him permission to leave and, with a quick salute, he transformed and Vince stepped out. He didn't say anything, but walked off in the direction of the cafeteria. Only Jetfire remained with Sentinel.
"Look…" the larger mech started, "Being in command is hard, I know. I've been there. But Jack? What you're doing, isn't being in command. We need you to keep control in the field. To be a step higher then we are, to keep control over the fight. If you can't do that… then you're just another soldier, not a leader."
Sentinel just stood there, looking on as Jetfire transformed and Fowler climbed out of the cockpit. He gave another nod to Sentinel before walking off.
Location: New Kaon
Time: Ten hours after the Battle of Port Harcourt.
System user: Knockout
Knockout was feeling rather… disgusted. He couldn't help it. Shockwave's mere presence send jolts down his central processors. And not the good kind either! On a purely scientific level, Shockwave deeply impressed the medic, but on an ethical level… sure he was a Decepticon and he preferred dissection and other fun medical activities… put part of the challenge was doing everything you could and still have a living, functioning patient by the end of the day.
Shockwave never bothered with things like that. He took all the fun out of science and medicine. And now, he had to share his lab with the large purple, unnerving Cyclops. Oh well, he wasn't one to go against Lord Megatron's orders. As far as he knew, he was still on thin ice. Megatron had, after all, found out about his near-betrayal back when Megatron had still been incapacitated.
"An interesting formula." Shockwave spoke the first words he had said in nearly a cycle. The sudden break in silence caused Knockout to jump.
"What was that, Shockwave?"
"This formula you have for the synthetic Energon. It is quite interesting." He didn't turn around, instead kept typing away with his single hand. Honestly, how could he ever get any work down if he only had one hand? Most of the research Knockout had done required delicate movements and he needed two hands for them. But those were questions for a later time.
Preferable a time when he wasn't locked in a room with Shockwave.
"Yes, It's quite impressive isn't it? I reverse-engineered that, you know. From a single drop. That was all that remained of my sample." Touching his shining chestplate – curse those Autobots for nearly dropping a building on him! It'd taken nearly almost a cycle of polishing to get back his shine, damnit! – Knockout felt like giving himself a pat on the back.
"It is lacking." Shockwave still didn't look around and missed the quick deflation of Knockout's chest. "I have found remarks to a similar formula during my research on Cybertron, but I have been unable to unlock the complete formula. Yet these readings clearly indicate a negative effect on the subject's higher brain functions."
"Ah, yes." Knockout didn't particularly mind that – and neither did Lord Megatron for that matter – since it made their forces much more vicious during battle, but Shockwave always wanted perfect results. "Well, that seems to come hand-in-hand with the improved combat abilities, so we didn't try to alter that."
"An imperfection, no matter how small, must be corrected." Shockwave quoted. Knockout recognized it instantly. It had been part of just about every bit of research Shockwave had ever written. It was his personal motto, if he would have such a thing. "With minor alterations, I believe it is possible to retain the improvement to physical prowess, while reducing or eliminating the brain impairments."
"Really? You can tell that from just a look at the formula?"
"I have been comparing these readings to notes from my laboratory back on Cybertron – it's database has already synchronized with that of New Kaon – and I am compiling a list of alteration possibilities for the formula. They will all need to be tested to gain reliable data, but the alteration seems to be possible."
Ah yes, of course. Shockwave's preferred method of science: try out new things as often as possible. No flair, no drama, no excitement to see a theory come to fruition after cycles upon cycles of small work. Just rough numbers science. Effective, but so boring.
Before either could say anything though, they received a message. Megatron had summoned both of them to his throne room. Not a word was exchanged between the two as the walked there.
Starscream and Soundwave were both already present. Curious. Megatron rarely called them all together, unless he had some big announcements to make.
"Knockout, Shockwave, glad to see you could join us." Megatron greeted as he stood from his throne. Starscream immediately bent double in a bow, Knockout following his example and dropping to one knee. Shockwave and Soundwave, however, remained standing.
"Rise." Megatron said, stepping forward. "Allow me to immediately explain the purpose of this meeting. With their new leader, the Autobots are once again proving an annoyance. While this Sentinel seems to be of little threat, he displays a sense of ruthlessness that Optimus never did."
If Knockout hadn't known any better, he'd have thought that Megatron was amused. Well, he definitely wasn't. That was twice now he'd been made to flee after a disaster because of the Autobots. As if is pride wasn't enough, both times had left him with some dents. And Breakdown wasn't around to help him clean those out anymore.
"So, in order to deal with the Autobots, now that the have unified, Starscream will take the Nemesis and his Armada and begin a hunt. Find them, destroy them and bring me their sparkchambers."
There was no malice. Megatron didn't consider them a real threat. Of course, why would he? None of the Autobots stood a chance against him in single combat, unless maybe Bulkhead on a good day, and they were still vastly outnumbered. Still, they were obviously annoying him.
"Soundwave will remain to coordinate things between the Nemesis and New Kaon. Knockout, you will oversee military deployments in Starscreams' absence."
"My thanks, Lord Megatron." So, a promotion then. Knockout could live with that.
"But you will continue to aid Shockwave in his work." That wasn't as much fun. "Our first field-test was a success. Now, let us continue our good work. Shockwave, have you checked over the formula? Can it be improved upon? Or combined with our stockpile of Dark Energon?"
Location: Aerosol, Germany.
Time: 5 days after the battle of Port Harcourt
System user: Sentinel Prime
Designation: Autobot Commander.
As the Groundbridge closed behind Heavyarms, Sentinel felt like he could just drop down from exhaustion. They'd just returned from a battle at Dubai earlier that morning – a large group of advanced Skycons had struck there without warning – when another strike had been reported. This time, it was La Paz in Bolivia, South America. It had been the advanced silver Skycons again.
Sentinel had barely had time to form their plans before departing. In Dubai, they were to use hit-and-run tactics, split into teams of two, before finally setting up a trap. Unfortunately, the plan had fallen apart after mere moments; Hotrod and Bumblebee had been forced to separate, just as Arcee and Bulkhead split off. They couldn't set up the trap either.
The plan in La Paz had been a hasty construction, a repeat of an earlier plan; send out some scouts to lure Cons into a killground, then strike at a center when they were scattered. Unfortunately, the Skycons had unrivaled mobility. The battle had worn on for hours and by the end, it had ended not with all the Skycons dead, but with them retreating because they were out of ammo. Only a third of them was dead, with maybe a quarter more injured.
And half the city was destroyed by the fighting.
Sentinel didn't even want to think of the casualties of these battles. Dubai had been well protected by a strong military force, but they had been taken by surprise. Still, the damage was only on the outer parts of the city. In La Paz, they had had no such luck.
"Again with the failures!" Wheeljack snapped. He had been getting more and more annoyed with their recent actions. Sentinel was beginning to understand why he didn't function so well in a complete team.
This time, Bulkhead didn't try to calm his old friend. When Wheeljack stormed off, he nodded once then simply left.
"Dude, you really need to shape up a bit." Heavyarms sounded almost as annoyed as Wheeljack. She transformed into Vehicle mode and Miko stepped out. "How many times are you going to try plans with killzones, when your enemies are flying? And when the plan FAILED last time!"
Bumblebee and Arcee nodded once, seemingly agreeing with Miko's statement, before both walked off as well. They all needed some medical attention, but none of their injuries were serious. Smokescreen and Hotrod both remained silent, but Smokescreen's usual confidence wasn't there and Hotrod appeared to be almost slouching.
With a sigh, Sentinel dismissed them, then transformed back. A few moments later Jack was on his way to the cafeteria when Fowler caught up with him.
"Jack." The large man said. His former belly was almost gone. He'd been working hard these past few months and it showed. "Remember what I said before? About you needing to be command in the field, to lead?"
"Yeah, I remember it Agent Fowler." Jack replied, his shoulders slouched. He was just so tired. He wanted to eat and sleep.
"Well, it extends to more then just the field. You have to lead in everything, son. When you brief us, we have to belief in you. When we go into battle, we have to be relieved that you're with us. When we're in a tough spot, you have to make the decisions that matter, that help us all out."
"You're expecting a lot from me." Was all Jack said. Every word felt like a hammer blow. Optimus had done all those things. And he'd made it seem easy.
"That's because you're a leader. There're always a lot of expectations from leaders." Fowler continued, "I just wanted to remind you of that. Leaders are never exhausted. Leaders are never defeated. But there's something else I wanted to talk to you about."
"What's that?" What else am I doing wrong by your standards? That was the question Jack actually wanted to ask, but he decided against it. He was tired, yes, but he shouldn't get all snippy because of it.
"Your battle plans." Fowler said. That hit Jack harder then any of the previous blows. While he was far from the perfect commander, he thought his plans at least were good. Now those were bad as well?
"Don't get me wrong, the plans are good. Solid." Fowler continued, probably seeing the look on Jack's face. "But they're only good in theory. The plans are relatively complicated. They would work if you have a large army of soldiers, each following your commands perfectly. Aside from that, you expect the enemy to allow you to fulfil your strategy. But they don't. You have a small, but powerful squad of warriors. Your plans should be altered accordingly."
"Like what?" It didn't bite as much as it might've. But how would his plans work otherwise? Everything he'd read in those books on tactics said that, if you had a smaller force, you had to make the enemy come to your preferred battleground. In the strategy games he'd played, he'd always used an army of similar size to the enemies'.
"Adopting your strategy to your soldiers, not the other way around." Fowler said. "Your first outing? When we came in behind the Cons and saved Arcee and the others? That was a great tactic. It was simple, but played to everyone's strengths. All you did was strike the enemy from behind, get them to focus on a new threat. The best strategies… are the simple ones. Simply because, if it's simple, there's not a lot that can go wrong."
Fowler waited until Jack nodded, indicating that he'd gotten the message, before increasing his pace. He probably had a report or something to file before he could go get some food. Jack continued on, along with his thoughts.
A/N: Sorry that hits chapter took so long to complete, but I've been rather busy with work lately. Aside from that, writing these action scenes was more difficult then I'd have imagined.
"It's time." Sentinel said, turning to face his team. "Today, we take the fight to the enemy."
"Well." Knockout could barely contain a grimace, "Back to work then."