Chapter 3: Welcome to Wonderland

Autobase Earth (Temporary Command Base)
Oregon, USA
November 24, 2013

A part of her, Marissa admitted a little guiltily, delighted in hitting her parents and her uncle Clay with shock after shock. First her miraculous return from the dead, then meeting Jazz, then being told the whole story, her cybernetic limps, the sudden appearance of a hovering F-22 above their home, followed by a supersonic journey to Oregon. And that was not even half of what the day had in store.

The Autobots had decided to set up a temporary base in the Americas, seeing as most of Marissa's contacts where to be found here. Depending on where they'd find the Decepticons they might have to either move or set up additional bases, but for the moment the volcano Mt. St. Hillary served as their home away from home. Apart from being a good distance away from any settlement, just in case, it also provided a cheap source of energy, as the volcano was still mildly active and could easily be tapped by Cybertronian technology.

Her parents clearly didn't know what to stare at first. Marissa had slipped into her Headmaster suit – a necessity for piloting Thrymir even in jet mode – though she had yet to show them the whole becoming-the-head-of-a-robot part. Still, seeing their daughter in a three meter tall suit of alien armour was by far the least fascinating thing about their current environment.

"Excuse the mess, but we're still setting up shop."

Jazz, who had journeyed back here by shuttle, welcomed them at the entrance of what was a base-in-progress. So far it was little more than a tunnel, leading to a big staging area in what had once been a natural cave. Deeper inside her suit's sensors already picked up the steady hum of a geothermal power plant and numerous Autobots were bustling about, unloading and installing equipment.

"I see," her dad simply said, quite obviously close to being overwhelmed.

"This is only a temporary arrangement, of course," Jazz continued as if giving a tour to some neighbours. "Once we have established formal contacts with your various governments, we're hoping to set up a more official base of operations without the necessity of hiding it. For now, though, we don't want to spook people too badly."

Shaking his head, Clay apparently decided that the time had come to get down to business.

"So you... you want us to unveil your existence to the public at large?"

"Not immediately," Marissa answered for Jazz, " but sooner or later it will become unavoidable. For now the Decepticons are in hiding..."

"Prowl has got something on that, by the way," Jazz told them. "He's prepared a full briefing."

"Good. As I was saying, when we begin moving against the Decepticons, I doubt we can keep everything under wraps. So our thought..."

"Yours, mostly," Jazz interrupted her again, smiling. "Not like the rest of us are experts regarding Earth and humans yet."

"Okay, my thought was that it would be better to release the shock of the century on our terms rather than have it happen in a worst case scenario, like a fire fight in the middle of a city or something."

"Good thinking," Clay admitted after thinking on it for a second. "It will be a huge shock either way, but if humanity's first exposure to alien life forms is in the middle of a battle, it might be hard to make them see the difference between one alien robot and the other."

"There'll be suspicion enough no matter what," her mother interjected. "Marissa, considering your... state... and your closeness with our visitors here, you might be facing quite a bit yourself, I'm afraid."

"I'm aware of that, mom," Marissa said. "Still, I've had little to do these past eight months than think of how to approach this... just in case Earth was still standing when I got here... so I've got a few ideas. First, though, we should hear the latest news."

They had arrived in what was – for now – the command hub of the base, basically just a big table with chairs and some communication equipment standing around it. Above the table Marissa could already see a holographic image of Prowl. He was not among the Autobots who had accompanied them to Earth, but instant interstellar communication was something the Cybertronians had mastered quite some time ago.

"Prowl, these are my parents Dashiell and Allison Fairborn, and this gentleman is General Clayton Abernathy, one of the highest-ranking officers in the military of my homeworld's most powerful military force. Mom, dad, uncle Clay, this is Prowl, chief strategist of the Autobots."

"Uh… pleased to meet you," Marissa said.

Never one for pleasantries, Prowl got straight to the point.

"We've continued work on restoring the data from the recovered hard drives we found in Darkmount. Our latest find is – we believe – directly related to the curious lack of open Decepticon activity on Earth. It's called an Infiltration Protocol."

"I don't like the sound of that," Clay muttered.

"From what we've gathered it's the result of an efficiency analysis Shockwave did while preparing for the journey to Earth. He did know that Earth had to be a developed planet with a civilization that – while technologically inferior to Cybertronians – might well be able to put up quite a bit of resistance when facing an open assault from an alien race. While he calculated only a miniscule chance that Earth would be able to withstand a full-scale attack by his forces, he deemed the necessary expenditure of energy and resources too great, especially considering that the war on Cybertron was pretty much lost and he would no doubt be pursued sooner rather than later."

Marissa groaned. While she was relieved beyond belief that her home world was not in flames, hearing that it was only because of an "efficiency analysis" only managed to increase her hatred for Shockwave all the more.

"So instead of coming in guns blazing these Decepticons decided to be sneaky about it, is that it?" her dad asked.

"Simply put, yes," Prowl continued. "As you have already seen, Cybertronians are fully capable of assuming alternate shapes that serve as near-perfect camouflage in just about any environment. Shockwave's Infiltration Protocol assumes that it will be much simpler and effective to secretly infiltrate Earth's society. One part of the operation would be the secret harvesting of resources, either in remote regions or by basically having the humans do the work for them. The other part would be the destabilization of society to pave the way for an eventual open attack at a later date."

Marissa could see the wheels turning in her Uncle Clay's head.

"Ringing any bells, Uncle Clay?"

"Maybe, kid," he replied. "We do have a somewhat unusual number of crisis popping up at the moment. Tensions between Russia and China, North Korea beating the war drums, half a dozen civil wars in Africa, the Falklands up for contention again... none of which alone is in any way unusual, sadly, but it has been piling up as of late and with what your friend over there just said..."

"Once connections are established between your governments and us, we will need to pool our data for a more extensive analyses. We've only just begun harvesting data from your planetary data sphere and we're still lacking context for much of it. Still, it would seem probable that Shockwave would seek to maximize his efforts by escalating existing conflicts."

Marissa looked at Prowl. "Any progress yet on how he managed to find Earth in the first place?"

It was something that had been driving her crazy for months now. In her eight years on Cybertron she had met Shockwave exactly twice and at neither time he'd had any opportunity to do as he had threatened, namely cut her head open and extract the location of Earth directly from her brain's memory centre. Still, somehow he had found Earth, a feat the Autobots had only been able to duplicate by following along in Shockwave's wake. But how had he known?

"I'm sorry, Captain Fairborn, but we're still in the dark on that, I'm afraid," Prowl said.

"Figured. Well, tell Mainframe and the others to keep it up, Prowl. Hope to hear more from you soon."

"Tell Prime to hurry up and finish the mopping up back home," Jazz told his comrade. "I'm sure he'd love a chance to sample some Earth forms and go for a ride here."

"I'm certain that is a top priority on Prime's agenda, right after restoring peace and order throughout the galaxy," Prowl answered deadpan before signing off.

Marissa turned towards her parents and Clay.

"So, how do you like our little operation so far?"

Looking at the amazing techno-wonderland that was taking shape around them at astounding speed, they were clearly still somewhat in shock.

"You really just got here last night?" her mom finally asked.

"Yeah, the 'bots can be quite fast when they want to be."

Clay, quite clearly still digesting things, looked at her.

"While all this is very impressive, kid, you do realize it's not enough, right?"

She nodded, well aware of that fact. So far all her parents had seen, all that she could show to whatever international panel Clay might be able to assemble, was a group of alien robots who said they were the good guys. What they lacked, though, was any sort of concrete evidence that a second group of alien robots, the bad guys, were also here.

"I know that. Still, I wanted to get things underway as soon as possible, especially since I doubt even you can get together a body with the kind of authority we need overnight. First off I needed to convince you that something very serious is going on."

Hesitating, she felt a brief flash of insecurity as she looked at her parents and Uncle Clay. "You do believe me, right?"

None of them hesitated, though. "Of course we do, baby," her mom said.

"Yeah, you never were much of a liar, even when you tried to convince me that your first boyfriend was just your study buddy," her dad added.

"I'll still probably go numb later on," Clay put his two cents in, "but I know you, kiddo."

"Thanks," she just said, choking back tears of relief. "That really means a lot to me."

Sobering up, she started leading them back outside. "Uncle Clay, you might want to get in touch with General Sven Eisenhardt and let him know discreetly that 'Thrymir is back'. I don't know if Project Udgard has continued these last eight years, but we can certainly use the know-how they already have as a starting point. Plus, they can provide a lot of human-made evidence that, yes, alien life exists."

"Good thinking, kid," he said. "I'll start putting together some names of people I think we can bring in on this, both here and from abroad."

While Marissa still didn't really know what her parents had been doing under Uncle Clay's command back in the 80s when they'd all been part of some super-secret unit, she did know that they'd often travelled outside the US, so she hoped that he had quite a few international contacts they could use.

"What will you be doing in the meantime, kid?" he asked.

They had reached the outside of the base and found themselves facing a row of cars. All of them transformed into heavily armed Autobots as they approached. Marissa grinned at her parents and Clay.

"I'll be getting you that proof you need for the politicians."

Without further ado she shouted "HEAD ON!" and shifted into head mode. The F-22 that served as Thrymir's camouflage on Earth transformed into robot mode and merged with her head unit. Stepping up beside the assembled strike force of Bumblebee, Hound, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, Smokescreen, and Bluestreak, she smiled down at her – once again – shocked parents.

"We're gonna find us some Decepticons!"

End Chapter 3