Hound's hologram equipment is OP and Trailbreaker's a cutie. Also, Soundwave. Decepticon!Hound is ridiculously fun to write.

Chapter 3

Ratchet was a miracle worker.

Mirage thanked Primus a hundred times over for the strength of spark he gave that red idiot. The blue and white mech sat by his side in the ICU room First Aid had set up, exhausted. Until the culprit who committed this horrible act was found, admission was only permitted medical staff and, by recommendation from both Trailbreaker and Skids, Mirage. They believed having someone Cliffjumper cared about close by might help his spark recover.

Cliffjumper was alive, but not awake. His spark was far too weak, and his body was being maintained by a third energy source fed directly into his systems. But with the crack in his spark casing closed and sealed again, his spark was growing steadily as it gathered itself again and drank from the new line. It might take a few months, but he'd wake. Mirage held the tiny mech's hand and rubbed the top. "Come on now, you can do it."

Mirage watched the monitor with the steady energy reading attached to the minibot's spark casing. Ratchet may have saved his spark, but it was Bumblebee who was the real hero.

If he hadn't walked into that storage room when he had, Cliffjumper's spark would have been beyond saving.

Mirage clenched his fist. Some monster had stabbed Cliffjumper straight thru, spilling his energon everywhere and causing the near fatal crack near his spark. Nearly all of his life-force had escaped the tiny fracture by the time Bumblebee arrived, looking for an extra pillow for Spike to sit on.

There had been no sign of the guilty party, but it was enough to know it had happened. Either a Decepticon had snuck inside, or the Autobots had a traitor. That it was Cliffjumper who was targeted was a fact not lost on Mirage.

Red Alert checked the surveillance cameras, of course, but found nothing. The room had been searched, but evidence was slim. There had been such a rush to provide care to Cliffjumper, any useable evidence had been lost. Prowl and the others vowed to find the mech who did this, they assured Mirage. And they would be severely punished.

However, Mirage doubted there'd be anything left to punish once he got to the fragger who did this first.

Ratchet was a damned miracle worker.

The fragger, Hound thought to himself, pacing back and forth. He punched his fist into a rock on his patrol route in the center of the desert. Bumblebee, too.

All he had to do was wait for the spark to extinguish completely-rule number one: never leave a live body-when that little bubbly brat opened the door. Hound had managed to throw up a cloaking hologram and back up enough that the minibot didn't notice him, but it had been close. Too close. He barely made it out of the room as it was when Bumblebee had called for reinforcements.

So now his chosen victim was not only still alive, but Hound hadn't a chance to plant the rest of the evidence indicating Gears for the kill! Worst of all, though, Mirage had camped out in Cliffjumper's ICU and was refusing to leave for more than the few hours needed for work or recharge.

It was maddening.

Hound needed Cliffjumper dead, and he needed the brat dead now. The tracker punched the wall again, hard enough to break off a decent chunk. But how? The mech stopped his assault on the rock, and bit his thumb. Hound couldn't afford to let this drag out. His teeth clenched down around the digit, nearly denting the metal.

"Someone looks angry," Ratbat said. He flew down and hopped on a perch next to the angry Autobot. Hound threw up a hologram around the two of them as the bratty little cassette made himself comfortable. Ratbat smirked, "But, I would be too if I'd botched a mission that badly."

"I'm handling it," Hound said. He brushed crumbs of rocks off his knuckles, and crossed his arms. Of course Soundwave knew. He knew everything. Hound poked Ratbat in the chest. "It's not like I had a time limit, so why are you here?"

Ratbat flapped his wings and shock out his tiny body to loosen his joints. He tapped the edge of his wing in the center of Hound's chest. "To find out if you need assistance. It's true no time limit was given, but Megatron's getting impatient. He wants a dead Autobot, and he wants it now."

"He'll be dead soon enough," Hound said. He rubbed dirt between his fingers. "I just need to lay low for a day or two before I sneak in and snuff his spark. The place is under constant watch, and I'd rather not loose my second chance to stupid planning."

"Shame," Ratbat said. He shrugged, the mockery filling his optics. "But help is there if you still need it."

"I won't," Hound said. He stared down the cassette and snorted. "Tell Soundwave it'll get done by the end of the week. He'll have nothing to worry about."

"Roger," Ratbat giggled. He flew off without another word.

Hound rubbed at his face. An angry Megatron meant an antsy Soundwave. And it was never good to deal with an antsy boss, different base of operations or not. Hound huffed. Okay. He needed to get Mirage out of that room. Disable all the cameras. And kill Cliffjumper.

He could do that.

"How you holding up?" Trailbreaker asked, settling next to his friend on the hill. Hound was setting up a new satellite location for Red Alert. Good as time as any to catch him. "Haven't seen you in a bit."

"Fine, fine," Hound answered, looking up. He smiled in that friendly way of his and pat Trailbreaker on the arm. "Not on purpose, 'Breaker. Just been busy, that's all."

"You sure that's it?" Trailbreaker asked. "I don't mean to pry, but I know how you feel 'bout Mirage and all."

Hound hummed, "Do you?"

"Maybe not entirely, but I know he's your friend," Trailbreaker said. He rubbed the back of his head and bumped his shoulder into Hound's. "It must be eating you up inside having Mirage locked in their with Cliffjumper all day."

"I do miss him a bit," Hound said. He looked weary around his eyes. "But it can't be helped, can it?"

"I suppose not," Trailbreaker said, shaking his head. "I still can't believe that happened to Cliffjumper. He was a pest, but that was too close. And a stake through your chest is not a good way to go."

"No, it's not," Hound said, softly. "Painful way to go, I'd imagine."

Trailbreaker nodded. They sat side by side on the hill for a while. The soft grass beneath them, and the wind blowing. The beeping of the satellite system sending back its information was a steady beat. Trailbreaker looked at his worn friend, and his spark ached. He hated seeing things eat at Hound like this.

"Are you going to be okay, Hound?" Trailbreaker asked. "I mean it, if you want to talk about anything, I'm here for you."

"I know you are, Trailbreaker," Hound said. He pulled himself up off the ground and brushed off the dirt he loved so much. "I appreciate you looking out for me, but I'm not quite ready to talk about it yet."

"That's fine," Trailbreaker said. "I can wait."

Hound nodded once and set off down the hill back toward the Ark. It wasn't quite where Trailbreaker was hoping that conversation would go, but it was a step in the right direction.

Mirage was still in the ICU, Cliffjumper was still alive, Trailbreaker was worried, and Hound needed to get out of the Ark.

He wasn't even going to attempt an ICU break in until at least another day, and the rest of the base wasn't much better. Prowl, Jazz and Red Alert had formed one heck of a power team on their search for the traitor, to use Cliffjumper's favorite word.

Which wasn't accurate.

A traitor meant you betrayed your own side.

As a Decepticon, Hound was a spy and undercover operative-he hadn't betrayed the Autobots.

But that was all semantics and unimportant. This screw up with Cliffjumper left Hound's mind a jumble. He needed to get out, clear his head of everything from Mirage to Soundwave. He'd get things back on track, and finish the mission.

What better way to get back on track than to do something you loved?

"Great shot!" Runamuck shouted, as Hound landed a shot to Sideswipe's shoulder. "Yeah!"

Hound smirked, hidden by a disguise hologram of his private makings. It laid directly on the surface of his metal, changing the color and ornaments. As long as he stayed close to the middle and back the Decepticon lines, no one would ever be able to tell it was a disguise.

And if someone was looking for dear Hound on the battlefield? His comm line was wide open and listening. It'd take two seconds to suddenly appear from behind a new hologram and claim he was using the terrain to his advantage.

Hound loved his equipment, it made for the best work on both sides.

The Tracker took another shot, and felt the rush from knocking yet another minibot off his feet. He loved a few of his Autobot buddies, but Hound enjoyed taking a few of them down a few pegs by sending them to the medbay a little more.

He managed to get a pot-shot in on Gears for good measure when a chill fell over his spark casing. He didn't have to look over his shoulder to see who had walked up behind him. Hound nodded, "Boss."

"Time for games?" Soundwave asked, his monotone deceptively bored.

"Killing time until the right moment," Hound said, pulling back the bolt on his weapon. He emptied the cartridge and loaded a new set. "Nothing good ever comes from rushing."

"Affirmative," Soundwave said. "Deadline: Unchanged."

"You got it," Hound smirked. He lined Bumblebee up in his scope. "Trust me, Cliffjumper'll be dead by the end of the week."

Soundwave nodded in agreement, and proceeded to stand his ground watching the field from Hound's side.

The tracker pulled the trigger, and laughed when it burst through Bumblebee's kneecap.