Chapter 19: The I in Team

All in the golden afternoon,
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretense
Our wanderings to guide.

- Lewis Carroll, "All in the Golden Afternoon"

Knock Out heaved a sigh that was both theatrically exasperated and highly satisfied. He'd known the Autobot would get lost. The distress chimes were flat and tinny, carrying neither words nor emotions, but the sheer bombardment of them (ping-ping-pingpingping) suggested despair.

"All right, all right, I'm coming. Should've followed me back, scout," he smirked. Knock Out sent a single ping back in acknowledgement, then blocked the line. He didn't need that din in his audial the whole way back.

Unfortunately the pings didn't provide any information on Bumblebee's whereabouts, so Knock Out simply started at the Library, the last place he'd seen the scout. He guessed that Bumblebee had become disoriented in a side corridor. Not surprising, really. Knock Out would never admit it to the Autobot, but he'd taken his share of wrong turns when he was first stationed on the Nemesis. Soundwave had transferred the ship's schematics to him when he boarded, but still he often found himself checking and rechecking the map stored in his processor, mentally rotating it this way and that as he tried to make his way to the training arena or the energon storage vault.

Once, just once, he and his partner had become seriously lost, "what deck are we on and will anyone ever find our energon-starved husks" lost. Comming another officer would have been a suicidal sign of weakness and, anyway, Knock Out had his pride. So he had stalked the corridors with Breakdown at his heels, turning corners and doubling back and sometimes just pausing at an intersection to glower in all directions.

Every time they passed a group of Vehicons, Knock Out hissed to Breakdown that he didn't care how chummy he was with them, he was not going to embarrass Knock Out by begging for help from a bunch of drones. And every time, to his increasing annoyance, Breakdown had silently nodded and passed by the Vehicons without a word. As time passed and his internals began aching for energon, Knock Out's demands that Breakdown not-ask (ASK!) for help had become more needling and incessant and Breakdown's obedience had become more blatantly and purposefully passive-aggressive. The fight that ensued once they were at last safely behind the closed doors of the med bay had been spectacular in one way, and its aftermath spectacular in quite another . . .

Knock Out shook his head and pushed the memory away. His pitying amusement at Bumblebee's plight had evaporated and now he was simply irritated. Here he was, wandering halls which were—Bumblebee was right about one thing—positively monotonous, his head aching, looking for an Autobot, and for what? He should've just left him. Pit, it would've made their cover story even better. Getting lost on a perfectly simple route, it sounded just like something a stupid new-build clone would do.

"I suppose I might as well find him now that I'm here," the 'Con muttered. "After all, I—"

He stopped dead as he heard a familiar yet out of place noise behind him. He turned around and found himself looking at a ground bridge. Make that half a ground bridge; the wall of the corridor bisected the portal. And that was fortunate, Knock Out thought as he stood frozen, because it meant the sky blue Vehicon troopers had to squeeze through the opening one at a time instead of charging en masse.

He came to his senses. He ran.

Now he could hear the sounds of battle up ahead—far distant at the moment, just echoes of gunfire and blasters—and he pelted towards them, yes, towards, because he knew the sound of Starscream's weaponry, universe nonewithstanding, and he was going to need some help.

Fortunately the Vehicons behind him had waited for their entire squadron to squeeze through the truncated ground bridge before pursuing him, but he could already hear the rev of their engines as they steadily gained ground.

Four-wheels trumps two-legs, Knock Out thought, his pedes throwing up sparks as he skidded around a corner.

To make matters worse, the roar of Starscream's thrusters—already distant—was fading from his audials as she either hunted down or fled from her enemies. Knock Out would have given seventy-thirty odds if it had been his Starscream, but he guessed this femme version would most likely be the feline in any game of cat-and-mouse. Whatever the case, it meant his hope of assistance was quite literally flying away. Meanwhile the Vehicons were accelerating, almost dogging his heels. Either they didn't have weapons in automobile mode or they just enjoyed toying with him . . .

I'll just have to transform and outrun them, consequences be damned. There would be more tedious bedrest in his future, but better that than an eulogy.

Just as he was about to drop into vehicular mode, however, a barrage of laserfire exploded across the intersection in front of him. Knock Out's eyes widened, no time to stop. He dove low, his chassis tossing up golden sparks as he scudded across the metal floor, causing yet more damage to his abused finish. The Vehicons, less quick on the uptake, skidded right into the firefight and were hammered by red sizzles of friendly fire from the right and blue bolts of unfriendly fire from the left.

Knock Out risked a glance down the lefthand corridor and discovered Bumblebee. Taking advantage of the Vehicons' five-car pile-up, the scout charged forward from the dead end where he'd been trapped.

Barely breaking stride, the Autobot jerked the medic to his feet in passing and pulled him along, stumbling, in his wake. For once Knock Out wasn't complaining. He got his feet under him, and they ran.

Soundwave had put aside the drawings, pictures, and x-rays that he'd been studying, saving them in the depths of his processor. He loved Earth felines, so sleek-sneakily graceful, but now was not the time. Starscream had commed him. He had a job to do.

"Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality . . ."

His mind unfurled, washing along the electromagnetic tides of the universe (silent yet singing) as he sought the tiny, familiar prickles of distorted space in accordance with her instructions. He hummed to the Human music flowing in from a radio station in London as he catalogued.

"Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see . . . I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy . . ."

Hydrus IV, 2.52 minutes ago, coordinates recorded.

Nebulous, 2.39 minutes ago, coordinates recorded.

Ghennix, 1.22 minutes ago, coordinates recorded.

"Because I'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low . . ."

Beside him Buzzsaw pecked gently at his wrist and Laserbeak boosted the signal of a local broadcast signal. Unnecessary, as he could already hear Starscream clearly.

"— all ground bridge activity and locations to me, REPEAT, report all ground bridge activity and locations to me! Soundwave, can you HEAR me? Please respond! This is urgent! I need all ground bridge activity and locations—"

Another little irregularity blossomed in the thrumming electromagnetic field and he carefully took note of the location of the ground bridge. Ceti Alpha VII, just this instant, coordinates recorded.

Starscream was repeating herself with increasing volume. But that didn't worry him. She often did.

"Anywhere the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me."

"Airachnid, I can't get through to Soundwave. We'll just have to manage as best we can."

"We always do, Screamy." Airachnid's reply was soft. Her lithe form was crouched on the upper support beams, watching a lone Vehicon make its way down the hall.

"We're corralling our lot, pushing them back towards their point of origin. Skyquake is running ambulance duty, call him with any casualties. Rendezvous when you can."

"Will do." Airachnid's long, sharp spider legs flexed as the Vehicon drew closer. It was almost underneath her perch now, but some instinct seemed to warn it of danger; it turned around, peering back down the hall in concern, as though worried it was being followed.

Wrong move. Airachnid's lips curved as she swung down from the beam, her legs shooting out to kick the Autobot drone squarely in the back. It tumbled forward, barely having enough time to right itself before Airachnid's sticky webbing bound its legs and arms.

She gave it a mocking smirk as she grabbed its immobile legs and began dragging it down the hall. "Watch yourself; that first step is a doozy." She tossed the struggling drone onto the pile with five others, also encased in her webs.

Usually she liked a little variety in her fights,but today webbing was definitely her weapon of choice. Not that she had compunctions about killing Vehicons; they had once been Citizens, but "had" was the operative word as far as she was concerned. But by now, four raids in, the Decepticons knew that the drones invading the ship (their units splitting up and splitting up and splitting up again as they infiltrated the corridors), had been sent to die. No ground bridges would reopen to transport them home; none of the main Autobot rabble had come with them.

If only to spite the Autobots, Airachnid would take them alive.

Vehicons always had scrap for weapons; Skyquake didn't know why. Maybe the Autobots worried they would turn against them or something. And that was sort of comforting. It meant that maybe the Vehicons did have something of their original selves left, deep down. That maybe they could be saved someday.

Also comforting because it resulted in fewer Citizens getting killed.

Despite Skyquake's fighting skills, he often ended up running the casualties to the med bay when the ship was breached, simply because he was large enough and strong enough to run through the ship with a bunch of Citizens flopped over his shoulders and tucked under his arms. Once upon a time the idea would have been laughable; they simply would've had Soundwave bridge the injured in. But these days, well . . . Soundwave.

"First batch!" Skyquake announced, bursting into the med bay and shoveling a load of five of the orange-painted bots onto an empty berth. Knockdown bustled over to examine them.

"Right. Jumpstart, you take their vitals. Amp, patch up the leg on that one. Trauma, head wound. Knock Out, if you want to watch, there's a chair over there, just sit quietly and—Knock Out?" Knockdown looked around. "Where's Knock Out?" And, after a brief, searching pause, "Where's Bumblebee?"

Bumblebee was, at that moment, pulling Knock Out down a random hallway, and Knock Out, tired of being dragged, was slapping irritably at his hand.

Bumblebee finally let go of the Decepticon's arm. They had, thankfully, lost their pursuers somewhere down the hall. A hall. They all looked as identical as the Vehicons to Bumblebee. "Do you know the way back to the medical bay?"

"Of course. I know this ship like the back of my servo," Knock Out said with unadulterated confidence, then qualified his statement: "When I say I can get us there, that there depends on what we run into along the way, of course."

"I've only seen Vehicons so far."

"Same. I think—" Knock Out stopped in apprehension as he heard the telltale sound of an opening ground bridge. About twenty Vehicons poured out, their mass pressing outward in the confined space. Soon twenty visored faceplates were staring flatly at the two bots.

The Decepticon pursed his lips and transformed both servos into sawblades. "As I was saying, I think we should run."

"Frag my life," Bumblebee mumbled as he sprinted down the hall.

There was no real reason for Soundwave to keep the battered radio on his desk. He could (and often did) pick up radio stations through his own sensitive receptors, with a much wider range of choices and flawless clarity. But he kept the radio even so. He liked it. That was reason enough.

"My kitten, my kitty cat, when she's content she purrs," the radio informed him through a slight static. "She thinks the house is hers, but you won't like her when she's angry . . . No, you won't like her when she's angry . . ."

Soundwave bobbed his head to the music as he sketched. Having completed his report for Starscream and set it aside for safe keeping, he felt he was free to pursue his more personal hobbies. In this case, drawing.

"She's cuddly, she's lovely, when she's in a happy mood. She loves her kitten food . . . But she's got such an attitude, completely rotten attitude. Rotten! Attitude!"

His comm link buzzed to life, broadcasting on a specialized frequency.

"CMO Knockdown to all officers, please report if you see Bumblebee or Knock Out. We think they were in the lower decks when the Vehicons breached the ship."

"What?" several voices demanded at once over the comm line.

"Are you saying you lost them?" That was Starscream.

Bumblebee and Knock Out . . . Oh yes, the new car-bots! They seemed nice . . . Soundwave nudged the volume up a little on the radio. "Kitten is angry, kitten is offended, fur standing out and little claws extended . . ."

"They wandered off. Just keep an eye out for them, please; I can't spare anyone to search for them." (Skyquake, in the background: "I'll be on the lookout, doc-bot.")

"Well, if they were caught down here when the wave of troopers hit, they're probably—waaaait, belay that, I have a visual. Good news, they just ran by," Airachnid reported.

"Oh, thank spark."

"Haven't you learned to wait for the bad news, Doctor? They were being chased by a platoon of Vehicons."

" . . . wonderful."

"I can't engage, but they're on Deck 15A, Section 32."

"Airachnid, this is important, can't you just—"

"Listen, I'm fighting my way out of a corner, but if you'd like to ask the five Vehicons in front of me to stand down so I can look for your little lost electro-lambs, then be my guest!"

"Don't look at her, don't touch her, my kitten knows Tae Kwon Do. She can take you out, I know," the radio hummed.

Megatron's gravelly voice spoke up. "Knockdown, Starscream and I are headed for Airachnid's coordinates. We'll be there in ten minutes."

"In ten minutes they could be dead!" The rare vibe of emotion in Knockdown's voice made Soundwave pause. But when his voice crackled over the comm link again, it was back to normal, calm and under control. "Scratch that last. Trauma has an idea and I think it might work. Standby."

Almost simultaneously, Soundwave received a comm from Trauma.

"Hello, Soundwave. How are you doing today?"

Trauma was always very considerate, a good listener. Soundwave sent him a smiley face icon.

"Good, good. Say, do you remember those two 'bots you met? Bumblebee and Knock Out?"

Soundwave did, of course. They'd just been talking about them. He sent an affirmative.

"We think they're in trouble. We were wondering if you could find them for us."

Soundwave paused—partly to ponder this request and partly because he could faintly hear Knockdown in the background of the audio, hissing, "Hurry up, hurry up!"

For a few seconds the only other sound was the radio. "I've seen it before and it's not pretty, she's really one ferocious kitty."

"Soundwave? Are you still there?"

He sent an affirmative and pulled a piece of paper over. He wanted to draw a cat. One with mechanical ears and wire whiskers.

"We would really appreciate your help. Please. Soundwave? Are you listening to me?" There was a kind of desperate edge in Trauma's voice now. It made Soundwave uneasy. He didn't respond.

Into the silence, Trauma said, "Um, the fact is there are Autobots on the ship." Soundwave paused, then returned to his drawing. Trauma continued, "We're worried that they'll hurt Bumblebee and Knock Out. We're worried that they want to interrogate them."

The stylus snapped beneath Soundwave's fingers.

"She's deadly. She'll hurt you. She'll show you endless pain."

"Soundwave? Are you there? We'd like you to find them and bridge them back to the med bay . . . Soundwave?"

He unfolded himself and stood, metal scraping against metal as the chair pushed back.

"Her little whiskers are stained with the blood of those that she has slain."

"Soundwave. Don't overreact, all right? We just need a ground bridge. Soundwave, listen to m—"

Trauma's voice cut off abruptly as Soundwave disabled his comm. A steady hissing filled the emptiness, like pressurized gas escaping from a tiny wound, and the sound was his own vocalizer.

"Believe me, she will go insane."

"This is CMO Knockdown to all units, Knockdown to all units. All personnel are asked to evacuate Deck 15A. Repeat, all personnel are asked to evacuate Deck 15A to avoid potential injury."

"She. Will. Go. Insane."

Maybe it was the number of times he'd seen the medic howl, "My finish!", before fleeing from Team Prime, but whatever the reason, Bumblebee had always subconsciously thought of Knock Out as a mediocre fighter at best. He didn't think he was the only Autobot who thought this way; Knock Out was the Decepticon you went after if all the other 'Cons were way far away, or already down, or if the medic was just spoiling for trouble (as he sometimes was). Knock Out could be an annoyance but—except when he got hold of a relic—Bumblebee had never thought of him as much of a threat.

Now, watching Knock Out back down the hall with energon dripping from his sawblade, using the deactivated Vehicon skewered on his drill as a shield, Bumblebee was forced to revise his opinion. He'd heard the phrase "fighting like a cornered rat," and although Bumblebee had never actually seen such a thing, he imagined the Earth creature would fight something like Knock Out did—with quick, desperate, merciless strikes. So maybe he just needed the right motivation for combat. Like being forced into melee with an overwhelming number of opponents, or being slowly backed down a dead end hall with no avenue of escape.

"Well, this is splendid," the medic said sarcastically as he hunched behind the husk of the Vehicon, which juddered as it took the blaster shots intended for him. The remaining drones might not have been the brainiest, but even they had figured out to keep out of close combat with the Decepticon.

Bumblebee ducked around Knock Out to fire at the Vehicons once again. Somehow he would've felt better if his shots had missed, because then it would've been easier to accept the scrapped up situation he was in; instead his stingers hit home and a Vehicon staggered and fell . . . and the rest of the Vehicons continued to press forward in an ominous mass all the same.

And now Bumblebee's heel was hitting metal and, yep, they had officially run out of hall. He and Knock Out exchanged glances and dove for the meager shelter provided by the support beams at the side of the corridor.

"Don't suppose there are any secret passages leading out of here or ventilation ducts or anything?" Bumblebee asked in a would-be-casual tone.

"I am not even going to dignify that with a response."

"You just did," Bumblebee pointed out. He risked leaning out for a quick reconnoiter, then winced back as the Vehicons let loose another barrage. "We've got to break past them. You don't have ANY other weapons?" he asked, spreading his hands pleadingly.

The ruby red mech shook his head. "Two buzzsaws, one drill, and a pocketful of dreams, that's it. Like I told you, I don't have—"

"—any long range weapons, right," Bumblebee finished irritably. "Some asset YOU turned out to be."

"I'm a fantastic asset," Knock Out started to cross his arms, then stopped when the dead Vehicon got in the way. "I took down six of them, for spark's sake!"

"If by six you mean four," Bumblebee said. He paused to fire down the corridor and suddenly he had a glimmer of a plan. Knock Out had carved a path for them the first time they'd been trapped . . . "You're pretty handy with those saws."

The Decepticon medic snorted. "Dissecting Vehicons is nothing new to me. I know where to hit 'em. Fat lot of good it does when they're out of reach."

"If we got out of here, do you know somewhere we could hide?"

"Ye-eees, but—"

"Okay. I'll provide cover fire and you charge them."

He laughed incredulously. "Seriously? Is this what passes for strategy in the feeble Autobot brainpan?"

"Do you have any BETTER ideas?"

Knock Out just scowled at him.

Bumblebee tugged the deactivated Vehicon off the Decepticon's drill. "What are you doing?" Knock Out demanded. "That drone saved our chassis. At least his corpse did. Pit, I might posthumously award the slagger a name."

"Your buzzsaws will be better for this. Now, when I give the word, you rush out—"

He started to put his hands on his hips, then stopped since his hands were currently indisposed. "I haven't agreed to anything yet!"

"It won't be as bad as you think, Vehicons aren't hard to spook. Watch this." He picked up the deactivated Autobot trooper with both hands, hauled around, and sent it tumbling into the massed Vehicons. Several of them crashed to the floor as it broadsided them.

Snickers from the Decepticon. "Nice one, but—"

Knock Out's remark was left unfinished as Bumblebee grabbed his red and silver arm firmly in both hands, took a few powerful steps forward for momentum, and flung the Decepticon into the crowd with all his bodily strength.

Knock Out was only slightly shorter than Bumblebee and grounders tended to be dense for their size, but the medic still caught some pretty good air as he sailed faceplate first, shrieking and flailing, into the mob of sky blue armor. He disappeared into the middle of them with a crash and must've immediately started going for their legs posthaste, because Vehicons suddenly started collapsing and struggling back from the familiar, deadly whine of twin buzzsaws.

Bumblebee took advantage of the distraction to press forward, his stingers blazing as he charged. A flash of red and Knock Out was up again, both buzzsaws sunk deep into a Vehicon's spark chamber, swinging around to slam its body into two encroaching drones before raising a foot to lever the deactivated husk away. The blades spun and slashed, throwing speckles of cyan over Knock Out's arms as he pressed forward.

Bumblebee couldn't help him clear the path ahead, the red mech was in the way, but he forced his way to Knock Out's position to guard his back. He slammed a broad, black fist into the face of a Vehicon clawing at him, then jerked his elbow sharply backwards, causing a drone behind him to double over. Underfoot was the worst part, injured mechs grabbing at his legs and others, unmoving, simply waiting to trip him.

But Knock Out was stumbling forward and Bumblebee was fighting his way through the drag of the crowd, and quite suddenly they were running free. Key word "running", since the remaining Vehicons were surging after them.

"What the frag was THAT?" Knock Out snarled as they careened around a corner so fast that not one, but both of them, misjudged their steps and bounced off the corner wall before resuming their speed. "You could've killed me, you glitch!"

"Turnabout is fair play," Bumblebee countered. "I'm sure I heard someone say that recently. So do you know where you're going or was that just talk?"

Knock Out huffed in annoyance. "Shut up and follow me." He hoped the Heretic was as close to the Nemesis as he thought, because he didn't have any time for hemming and hawing now. Fragging Vehicons, way too fast and didn't they ever get tired?

Well, he'd give them a run, all right. Right, left, left, left, right, through the maze. He thought he caught a glimpse of Airachnid at one point but he didn't have time to think about that either.

"Almost there!" He wasn't sure if his encouragement was for himself or the scout. The Autobot was beginning to limp. "Aaaaalmost theeeere . . . and, yes!" He eagerly sprinted down a narrow, ill-lit hall, a service hallway.

"This is just another dead end! Knock Out!"

"It's NOT a dead end, idiot!" Knock Out slapped the door at the end of the hallway. It was unprepossessing—the same color as the walls, with wheel-style rotating door lever and dark stains around the base of the portal. The door itself was a relatively small, meaning it looked like it had actually been built for bots their size rather than behemoths like Megatron or Dreadwing.

"What is this? Where's it go?"

"Outer service hatch . . ." Knock Out struggled with the lever. Of all the times for it to stick! Bumblebee added his weight to it, but it still wouldn't budge. The Autobot stepped back, grabbing his shoulder.

"We've got to get out of here! We've—" He covered his head with his arms as laserfire sizzled around them. Unfortunately there was nothing they could shelter behind in this narrow hallway. They just shrank back against the side walls as much as they could.

"Scrap, scrap, scrap!" Knock Out darted out to haul at the wheel lever again, to no avail.

The Vehicons clustered around the entrance to the hallway, taking pot shots at the quarry which had eluded them for so long with a somewhat leisurely air. They were even taking turns. The red mech glared at the mob of silhouetted figures . . . then stared with widening optics as something smashed through the bots in the back row.

"What was that?" Bumblebee's optics were even wider as he watched the Vehicons swiveling to deal with this new threat, even as he caught a glimpse of another Vehicon being dragged from the ranks and tossed aside like a toy.

"That," Knock Out said, sagging against the wall in relief, "is Soundwave." Without another thought he began walking towards the fight.

"Never thought I'd see that day you'd voluntarily join a fight." Bumblebee went too, because he wasn't about to let himself be outdone by a Decepticon.

"I like fighting as much as the next 'Con—as long as I'm winning." The medic smirked. "But in this case, yes, I'm spectating."

"So you're just going to leave him to the Vehicons, outnumbered, after he saved us."

"It's Soundwave." Knock Out chuckled. "They're the ones who are outnumbered."

Mathematically inaccurate as that might have been, it was hard to argue with the meaning. Soundwave's movements blurred together, punch, tear, reeeend, and he might have been silent, but he was accompanied by the screams of sheered metal, the pathetic creak-crumple of armored plating buckling under deceptively spindly fingers. Some of the troopers fell back to fire on him—Knock Out and Bumblebee actually backed down the hallway a little bit to make way—but the midnight blue bot twisted out of the way with impossible speed and the few bolts that did hit only seemed to enrage him. His faceplate snapped towards the author of each landing shot with unerring accuracy, each time leaving a sky blue 'Bot quaking with fear for a very short time.

Bumblebee wanted to turn away in horror, wanted to drink in the sight, wanted to cheer. Beside him, Knock Out, less conflicted, bounced up and down on his pedes whenever the blue and white Communications Officer landed a particularly brutal blow.

"Nice one!" Knock Out occasionally voiced, or "Oooo, that's got to hurt."

"Is this what he's like?" Bumblebee couldn't help but ask. Slag, he'd always heard Soundwave was dangerous, but he figured it was because he was such a great spy, not because he capable of (as he was doing now), slowly crushing a bot's chestplate under his pede while simultaneously slamming a second bot against the wall, over and over again. "This is Soundwave?"

"Yes," Knock Out said positively. Then amended his answer: "Sort of."

He eyed the growing pile of deactivated Vehicons with spilled energon lacing between their corpses (though not much, efficiency was expected of drones), then looked up at Soundwave, who was currently holding a hapless mech pinned to the wall with one hand. Ye-eees, the Soundwave he knew was brutally efficient, but the way this blue and white bot was ripping his claws through the Autobot insignia on the drone's shoulder, digging through it again and again and again, suggested that this was personal. And for the Soundwave that Knock Out knew, nothing was personal. Then again, he was tearing through the Vehicon ranks with a grim and measured determination that certainly seemed familiar. Rend one Autobot drone down to its base components before moving on to the next, very methodical.

The remaining Vehicons were cowering away from the Communications Officer, and Knock Out had to believe that they had undergone massive reprogramming with strictly enforced loyalty subroutines, because anyone with an ounce of free will would've seen sense and run the other way as fast as their little pedes would carry them. The way Soundwave's faceless helm kept snapping around to each remaining Vehicon . . . brrr!

Snap! His helm swinging around, staring down the Vehicon who had been about to shoot him. Snap! That one aimed at the drone crippled on the floor. Snap!

Bumblebee and Knock Out drew back in tandem as the gleaming visor flashed in their direction. Faceless. Still. Scary as scrap.

"Um." Bumblebee imagined how they must look to Soundwave, two shadowy figures in a dimly lit hall. One of whom looked like the guy who had murdered Soundwave's fellow 'Con. "I don't think this is such a great time to be an Autobot clone."

"Leeet's just try that door again, shall we?" Knock Out laughed nervously. They started to walk down the hall. The sound of metal shredding echoed behind them, and then they were running down the hall.

"We'll just wait outside while Soundwave finishes up his handiwork and calms down," Knock Out said, speaking a little faster than usual as he hauled on the wheel meant to turn the door. It still wouldn't budge. "I'm sure that—oh scrap."

Two of the Vehicons were pursuing them down the hall—one missing an arm—perhaps because they thought Soundwave wouldn't follow. Even if their main objective was escape, that didn't stop them from firing at the scout and the medic.

"Keep working on that door, I'll—oh Primus. Oh no."

Soundwave peered into the narrow space.

Soundwave was a narrow bot.

As the two Vehicons swirled to face him, he plunged forward, grabbing the already injured drone by the head and dragged him out to the main corridor.

Bumblebee turned away from the sound of something being methodically slammed against the floor and grabbed the other side of the wheel. The last remaining Vehicon began running towards them; maybe he intended to attack them, maybe he too wanted to help. He never got a chance to do either. Soundwave stalked after him, fingers flexing. They sunk into the drone's arm (like a hot knife through butter, Bumblebee thought numbly) and spun him back towards him with a jet-narrow arm.

"Oh frag, oh frag, oh frag," babbled Bumblebee. The wheel beneath his hands gave a shudder and turned minutely, rust cascading off the machinery.

"Come on, come on, come on," Knock Out hissed, either to the Autobot or to the door mechanism. He could hear Soundwave dealing with the last Vehicon. Messily, unless he missed his guess. Knock Out threw his weight into his task, his armor groaning as the wheel, creaking, began to turn beneath his servos.

Glancing up, he saw Soundwave standing over a strew of cables and cogs. He gazed down at the scattered remains in front of him; his hands gleamed a sticky cyan. His helm rose, spikes atop it scraping the ceiling, faceplate casting an eerie blue glow down the hall. His head jutted forward slightly as he stared at them.

For a moment he was poised in a silence and stillness so weighty that Bumblebee and Knock Out just stared back, frozen in place.

The silence didn't break, but the stillness did. Soundwave's feet clacked against the floor as he rushed them.

"Leaving. NOW!" Knock Out announced in a higher pitch than usual, spinning the wheel so hard that its spokes blurred.

The door gave a little lurch, then stuck. Bumblebee started to tug on it before realizing, no, it opened outward. Instead he shoved his shoulder against it, bracing and heaving, and Knock Out's pedes scrambled for purchase as he did the same. Primus, why wouldn't it open, just let it open, please please please—

All at once, it gave. With an almighty rasp, the door shot forward.

Bumblebee and Knock Out just had time to exchange triumphant looks before a solid wall of water slammed them down the hall.

A/N: Soundwave's musical selections were "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen and "Kitten Is Angry" by Lemon Demon. :)

Hey! This fic is now being translated into French by the talented Darwin20! The French title is "Les Maisons de Verre", you can find it under her profile. Thank you, Darwin20! :)