!Disclaimer in part 1!

Please Note: I suck at writing fight scenes, so I had a pretty hard time with this chapter. I hope it still came out okay and you're welcome to use your imagination to fill in additional explosions, grunts of pain, and wide-scale property damage.

Chapter 5: Earth War, Day One

Oil Drilling Facility
Siberia, Russian Federation
November 28, 2013

Marissa had suspected it. Or no, suspected was too strong a word. She'd had an inkling, a hunch. Seeing humans with Decepticon weapons had been strange, as the Decepticons as she'd come to know them would never have supplied advanced military tech to a species they were in the process of infiltrating and conquering. With the added info from Hound that they shouldn't have been physically capable of wielding the weapons as they had, the hunch had become pretty strong, but she'd still been desperately hoping that she wasn't making a huge mistake.

There was no mistake, though. The human whose arm she had just shot off was no more a human being than Bumblebee or Hound. Or was he? For the briefest of moments she considered the notion that it might be someone like her. After all, her own right arm wasn't exactly flesh and blood, either, not to mention her legs.

All doubt was laid to rest a second later, though.

"Cover has been compromised," one of the supposed humans yelled, looking at his comrade. "Decepticons, transform and attack!"

Even as she was thundering away from the drilling site at just slightly below the speed of sound, she had a live view of the action thanks to the sensory feeds from Bumblebee and Hound. So she could watch as what had originally appeared to be a human being seemed to split right down the middle as if some invisible guillotine had cut him in half. Instead of blood and gore, though, she saw pistons and mechanical components as what was now clearly revealed as a mere shell split into numerous smaller plates and folded to the sides, away from the main body, which was clearly cybernetic in nature.

Well, she mused. There was the proof they needed. And if nothing else, the fact that these Decepticons had to fit inside human-sized shells made them pretty small. Nothing they couldn't handle.

Considering all that had happened to her these last eight years, Captain Marissa Fairborn really should have known better than to tempt fate with thoughts like these. Because she had barely finished the thought when the human-sized Decepticons, all eight of them now with their human shells folded away, started to glow and... grow? They were actually growing?

"Are you getting this?" Marissa asked even as she steered Thrymir into a tight curve and shot back towards the facility.

"I'm seeing, but still working on the believing," Moore's voice came over the channel.

"Slag, they're using mass-shifting," Bumblebee said. "Didn't think there was anyone still doing that."

"What the f*** is mass-shifting?" Marissa asked, bringing all her on-board weapons online for what she was fairly sure would be a pretty fire fight. They were facing eight Decepticons and none of them were all that small anymore.

"Pretty much just what it says," Hound explained calmly. "Ask Perceptor or Wheeljack if you want the specifics, but basically it means that these Cons can shunt a large portion of their mass away into subspace storage in order to fit their bodies into the required dimensions for their human disguise."

"Tech's been around for ages," Sideswipe added. "Guzzles energy, though, so it's been out of use for a good long while. Not much use in combat, but great for infiltration, I guess. Shockwave either found a way to make it more efficient or he figures he can get enough energy here to make it worth his while."

Marissa shook her head. Just when she thought she'd seen all the technological wonders her Cybertronian friends had come up with... then again, what was shrinking down a robot when you could send star ships across thousands of light years in less than a second?

"Okay, but that's all they can do, right? Shrink down to assume smaller alternate modes. No other surprises in store?"

Sunstreaker laughed. "Decepticons pretending to be humans not enough surprise for one day, meat puppet?"

Marissa groaned, rueing the day Grimlock's nickname for her had become common knowledge among the ranks of the Autobots. Well, that one and "Squishy", as Swoop usually called her.

"Quite enough. Moore, you get all that on film?"

"Live and in colour, Captain!"

"Okay, people! Primary mission objective is achieved. Let's lay down some covering fire and get out of here!"

Sunstreaker's snort was all the warning she got that her orders would not quite be carried out to the letter. A moment later the two Autobot warriors charged down the hill and into the Decepticon facility, hollering and guns blazing. One of the Decepticons, still facing the cloud of smoke they'd thrown up for a distraction, was blown apart before he could even react. The others, though, were quick to take cover and return fire.

"What part of 'get out of here' didn't you understand?" Marissa yelled, more than a bit angry.

"Just laying down some covering fire for our disengagement," Sideswipe replied smugly.

"Yeah, can't disengage without engaging first, right?" Sunstreaker added.

The two Autobot warriors skidded down the hill, firing all the way, a manic grin on their faces. The fact that they were outnumbered didn't seem to bother them at all. Marissa groaned. To think that she was missing Grimlock right now.

"Slag it! Smokescreen, Bluestreak, Bumblebee, Hound! Looks like we're going to extend the mission parameters a bit. Flank the Decepticons and keep an eye out for reinforcements! Moore! Fall back to the shuttle; we want those recordings safe and sound."

"Roger," Moore replied. "No intention of getting involved in giant robot brawls, at least not until I get me some much bigger guns. See you later, Captain!"

Taking but a moment to make sure that Moore was safely turning away from the facility without interference, Marissa then brought her targeting systems online. A furious fire fight going on right in the middle of warehouses filled with Energon cubes was not the place for imprecise shooting. She'd seen a bunch of Energon cubes blow sky high during a battle back on Cybertron; the explosive yield easily outstripped any non-nuclear bomb humanity had ever constructed.

A mere thought triggered her lasers (she was not about to risk explosive missiles in this situation) and she caught one of the Decepticons in the shoulder. Return fire exploded around her, but she was too fast and already past the facility. A backwards glance showed her, though, that one of the Cons was transforming into jet mode and picking up speed right behind her.

"Of course they've got flyers, too," she muttered, turning Thrymir around. Now they really had to take care of these Decepticons first, otherwise the comparatively slow and ponderous shuttle they'd taken here would be easy pickings for the enemy.

Marissa had spent most of the last eight years flying dogfights on the planet Cybertron, which had a much thinner atmosphere and no wind patterns to speak of when compared to natural worlds like Earth. There had been brief excursions to other planets like Animatros, but most of her time had been spent in the skies above the metal world, which is why it took her a bit to get used to flying on Earth again. Gravity, wind patterns, air density, all of which were important parameters in airborne fighting.

Thankfully her opponent had spent millions of years flying exclusively over a metal world and apparently had much greater trouble getting used to the skies on Earth. It didn't hinder him much, but he was just a tad slower in the turns, a tiny bit wobbly during his climbs, and prone to slightly miscalculating his afterburner bursts. All of which gave Marissa just enough of an edge to finally get him in her crosshairs and shoot him out of the sky.

Marissa spent but a moment watching her first kill during this new war fall back to Earth in flames before she changed course and headed back to the facility.

"Report," she demanded over the com, even as she could still make out the flashes of an ongoing firefight.

"We got them down to four," Hound replied, "but Bluestreak is wounded."

"Long range radar shows incoming bogeys," Moore added, having apparently reached the shuttle by now. "Could be Russian Air Force. Or bad guy reinforcements."

"Okay, enough is enough. We're getting out of here. And that includes you, Sunstreaker! You hear me?"

"Sure thing, boss! Just give me a moment here..."

"I said now, Autobot! Smokescreen, throw up another of your clouds! Bumblebee, did you leave the parting presents we brought?"

"Sure thing, Marissa. Falling back to the hustle right now."

Getting away from a fire fight that was still ongoing was not the easiest thing in the world, as it was generally a bad idea to turn your back on someone who was still shooting at you. Thankfully the Autobots were experienced soldiers and with a combination of Smokescreen's cloud work and some covering fire from above, the Autobots were eventually able to disengage. Which was when Marissa noticed Sunstreaker carrying something over his shoulder.

"What is that?" she asked, swooping low and transforming into robot mode.

Sunstreaker had the obviously deactivated carcass of one of the Decepticons slung over his shoulder. It was a gruesome sight, not only because of the horrendous damages to the Decepticon in question, but also because of the left-over pieces of the 'shell' that had folded away and onto the robot's back. Marissa had the disturbing suspicion that they were actually made of real flesh and skin.

"Just thought some of the brainiacs would like to take a closer look at this 'Pretender'-Tech they were sporting," Sunstreaker replied nonchalantly. "Besides, I figure having a real Decepticon in hand is better than merely having them on film, don't you think?"

Marissa shook her head. "You're a piece of work, Sunstreaker, you know that?" She figured if he were human, Sunstreaker would be the kind of soldier who'd wear the cut-off ears of his enemies on a necklace. She shuddered to think what he'd get up to once the war was over.

"Thanks, Captain," he merely replied, either missing or not caring about the real meaning of her words.

Behind them the oil drilling facility exploded in a brilliant flash of light as the C4 explosives Bumblebee had left behind in the Energon storage warehouse went off and caused a massive chain reaction. By the time either the Russians or additional Decepticons arrived, there'd by nothing left but a big hole in the ground.

Gettting onboard the shuttle, Marissa sighed. The mission was a success, no doubt. Still she was feeling far from elated. The war for her home planet had clearly begun and no matter how often she told herself differently, she still blamed herself for bringing it here in the first place.

"This is only the beginning," she muttered, watching as the big Energon explosion slowly dissipated.

A minute later the Autobot shuttle was gone, carrying with it the proof of Decepticon presence on Earth.

End Chapter 5