While June might not have warmed up to the whole Dinobot team yet, she did seem very fond of Swoop and Sludge. Course it was them after all. Swoop remembered Jack saying his mom could help him find a way to get Arcee's affections, so he opted on him and Sludge spending some alone time with the humans. Grimlock thought it was a waste of time but allowed them to regardless. Ratchet had been more vocal of his disapproval, warning of what would happen if someone spotted them and posted images on the web. "We should be grateful no humans were around when Dreadwing attacked!" He had shouted. Of course Optimus gave Grimlock a receptor full when he was filled in on recent events. Now Optimus was a usually calm bot but Grimlock was probably the one Autobot that could make him raise his voice high enough to echo through the base. But after he calmed down Optimus also expressed gratitude that Grimlock had aided Arcee and saved the humans. But Arcee was not so lenient with him. Grimlock was as insubordinate as the stories about him said. But Arcee would not back down.
"I've been Optimus's second ever since I got to this planet." Arcee argued as she and Grimlock were walking through the base's hallway. Now Arcee was not one to flaunt her position in Team Prime but Grimlock's behavior was getting to her.
Grimlock snorted, unimpressed. "So you think that entitles you to out rank me? I got where I am straight from the bottom and climbed up. I've been commanding my squad and even entire units while you were still a bottom rank infiltrator!"
Arcee narrowed her optics, her fists tightening."Well at least I can be subtle! From what I've heard all you do is destroy things!"
"HA! I have done..." Grimlock fired back but then his mind started to slow down again. It took a while before his brain could find the right word to use. "I've done several su-su-subterf-fuge mission or placed orders to do so. I'm a commander Arcee and at least those that served under me re-respected me even if they weren't dinobots!"
Arcee was baffled. "Grimlock? Are you alright?"
"I'm fine!" Grimlock rudely retorted.
Snarl had been silently following the two, leaning against the wall, keeping out of the two's sight. And he heard Grimlock's little glitch-up. He knew this was likely going to not end well in some cases but he didn't want to interfere. But from the sound of things, Grimlock's mind was still badly affected from Shockwave's experiments. He might need to talk to the other Dinobots about this. But the only one at base was Slag. Swoop and Sludge wanted to spend time with the humans for some reason. Why they were so interested in hanging around those tiny organics was beyond him.
When Swoop suggested going somewhere private to just socialize with the humans, Optimus had surprisingly approved of the idea. It was probably because he didn't want the humans to be around Arcee and Grimlock while they were arguing. So Swoop and Sludge found themselves with all the humans. Optimus had sent them to some distant forest in the mountains. At least by Raf's calculations.
"This. Is. So. Awesome!" Miko screamed. Right now, Sludge was in dino mode, transporting all the humans through the forest on his back. Needless to say, June had been speechless when she saw him transform. But given his bulk, an apatosaurus actually suited him.
"I don't think this is safe," She said nervously, holding onto her son like she would whenever they rode Arcee.
"Hey, Sludge!" Swoop called from above, soaring through the air. "You be careful with those humans! They're pretty fragile, even by our standards."
"Relax, Swoop!" Sludge called, making sure he stomped through the trees a little more slowly. "I've got this!"
"This is so cool!" Raf beamed. "I've always wondered what it would be like to ride a dinosaur!"
Swoop hovered next to them. "You humans sure like dinosaurs. Slag was looking into you humans' internet and found countless dinosaur related stuff."
"Yeah, cause they rock!" Miko cheered.
Sludge and Swoop both laughed at this. They really enjoyed the positive feedback on their dinosaur alt-mode. Except when it was Decepticons, they enjoyed hearing those guys scream in terror.
"Hey, Swoop!" Miko called. "Can we go flying again?" Jack and Raf winced as they knew what was coming next.
"What?!" June exclaimed before turning her head towards Swoop. "You took her flying?!"
Swoop found himself withering under June's scrutinizing glare. He had learned that moms had this…special power that could fill even the toughest bot with fear. He really though she should try that on Megatron and Shockwave some time.
"It's cool!" Miko defended Swoop. "Nothing bad happened. I'm right here aren't I?"
"That doesn't matter," June argued. "What if something did happen to you? Swoop should have known better than to do something so dangerous."
"Dangerous?" Sludge repeated. "That's what we're all about. Can't crush Cons playing it safe, can we?"
"Not helping, Sludge." Swoop muttered as June narrowed her gaze at him.
Jack knew he needed to intervene quick. "So, uh, guys? What did you do before becoming…Dinobots?"
"Hey, that's a great idea!" Miko chimed in. "More story time!"
Swoop and Sludge looked at each other, uncertain whether they would actually tell these lifeforms their stories. Swoop spoke up first.
"Not much to tell. I was actually the last to join the Dinobots. I was originally under a different unit, serving as air support. Grimlock heard about my skills and decided to recruit me."
Miko's face fell. "That's it? Come on, there's got to be more to the story."
Swoop was silent. There was several things he didn't want to bring up.
"How about you, Sludge?" Miko turned towards the apatosaurus when she saw that she wasn't gonna get anything out of Swoop. "What did you do before you joined the Dinobots?"
"I was a demolition worker," Sludge replied. "With how big and strong I am, it was the perfect job for me. And I uh…couldn't really find any other job."
"What do you mean?" Raf asked.
"I, uh,…I sometimes I break stuff when I don't mean to. But even when it was an accident, I'd always get yelled at. I tried making friends but everyone thought I was too dangerous and too stupid to be around.
The kids and June were pretty bummed when they heard this.
"When the war came along, I saw the Decepticons for what they really were. They were monsters and they had to be stopped. So I joined the Autobots."
The kids were rather surprised. It seemed that while Sludge favored Grimlock over Optimus, he was dedicated to the actual Autobot cause.
"But…it wasn't easy. I tried making friends with my fellow soldiers but they just saw me as dumb muscle. And just like every other bot, they'd get onto me whenever I accidentally broke something. I can't help it that I'm so big and everything is so fragile. Not that they cared. I could hear them talking about me behind me back. I bet they knew it too but so what? To them, I was just a stupid glitch who was only good at smashing stuff."
Swoop was shocked. He never knew that his fellow Dinobot had suffered like that. The kids were also shocked but June was outraged. Being a nurse and a mother, she was well aware of bullying and the effects it had on victims. And to her, Sludge seemed like a child, just wanting acceptance and nobody trying to get to know him. She felt sad for the surprisingly gentle giant.
"Then Grimlock came along. He was just starting to form the Dinobots and wanted to recruit me. I had heard of Grimlock before, he was a legend in the Autobot ranks. So when he offered me the chance to join his team, I was more than happy to. At first it was just me, Grimlock, and Slag but Snarl and Swoop joined us later. And I got to see Grimlock as an amazing leader. He never let any bot tell him what to do and he didn't care what others thought about him. If some mech tried to give him scrap, they wound up in the infirmary. And unlike everyone else, the Dinobots actually appreciated me, cared about me. I'm proud to be a Dinobot and serve under Grimlock."
The others were speechless at Sludge's story. Apparently there was a lot more to the giant Dinobot than they guessed. Not even Swoop knew there was something deeper to his comrade.
So that's why Sludge is so loyal to Grimlock. June realized. He was the first person, er bot, to show Sludge any form of acceptance. And not just that. The Dinobots must have been the first people to actually be nice to him.
"Ah, Sludge," Swoop said sadly. "I'm sorry, I...I didn't know."
"No problem, Swoop. As long as I've got you guys, I'm happy."
The kids all felt a little sad for Sludge. Jack knew what it was like to be bullied, so he felt a bit of kinship with Sludge right then and there. Miko was baffled that such a big, tough bot like Sludge was actually a big softie inside. It kinda reminded her a lot of Bulkhead. Even Raf knew how being bullied felt, as he was often teased for being so smart but so small. June gently patted Sludge's plating, her mother/nurse instincts kicking in.
"I'm sorry all that happened to you, Sludge. They had no right to treat you like that. But I'm glad you were able to find friends."
Sludge felt a jolt run through him at June's touch. He had trouble making friends with femmes for the same reasons he did with mechs. In fact, Arcee was the first femme to ever be...sort of nice to him. He turned his head and, with some effort, was able to look at June. She gave him a soft, caring smile that caused his spark to warm up just looking at it. He quickly snapped his head back, focusing on what was ahead. The humans riding on him all exchanged confused glances. What was that all about?
At the Nemesis, a Vehicon reported to Megatron, who was in the control room of the Nemesis.
"Lord Megatron, we have gained readings of a Cybertronian escapde pod!"
Megatron turned to said drone. His interest instantly caught. "Autobot or Decepticon?"
"It appears to be Decepticon, my lord."
Megatron turned to Shockwave. "More of your men?"
"I have not ordered for anymore reinforcements," Shockwave admitted. "This soldier seems to have come to Earth of their own choosing..."
"My Lord?" Megatron and Shockwave turned to see Dreadwing approach them. "Allow me to gather a search party to find this pod and its occupant."
Megatron frowned. "Your performance has been...disappointing as of late, Dreadwing. Considering this, I find myself questioning your capabilities for even a task as simple as this."
"Forgive me, my lord, but Grimlock proved to be a much tougher adversary than I anticipated. No doubt due to the modifications that Shockwave so graciously bestowed upon him." Dreadwing seethed at Shockwave when he said this. By now, it was no secret that he despised the scientist for making the Dinobots so powerful.
"It seems the Dinobots are beyond what Dreadwing is capable of handling," Shockwave retorted casually, causing Dreadwing to glare daggers at him.
"Then allow me to find this pod."
Everyone turned to see Razorclaw entering the room.
"Razorclaw, you have proven to be one of my best trackers. Perhaps you would be better suited to this task. Gather your team as soon as possible."
"My entire team will be unnecessary, Lord Megatron. "A few Vehicons, perhaps some of the Insecticons but the rest of the Predacon team will be unnecessariy. Besides, I wouldn't want them making a bad impression on our new recruit."
"My lord, Razorclaw would be wasting valuable time by doing so," Dreadwing interjected. "The Autobots may have also learned of the pod's existence. In that event, he should take caution, especially if the Dinobots become involved."
Megatron looked at Dreadwing. "While normally I would consider your opinion, Dreadwing, your recent failures indicate that a severe lack in judgment. And considering that Razorclaw was able to fight Grimlock to a standstill while you could not, I am placing him in charge of retrieving our new addition. Prepare as you see fit, Razorclaw."
Razorclaw bowed. "Thank you, Lord Megatron." With that he turned to prepare himself. But he did not miss the ugly look Dreadwing was shooting as he passed by.
"Swoop. Sludge, this is Optimus." Optimus' voice called through their comlinks. "Do you read me?"
"We read you, Optimus," Swoop responded. "What's up?"
"You need to return to base. There are many things we need to discuss."
Swoop inwardly groaned. He had hoped to ask June about some advice but it looked like that would have to wait. "Alright. Get the ground bridge up and running. We'll be on our way."
"Aw," Miko whined. "I wanted to go flying again."
June was about to go off on another lecture but she was cut short by the ground bridge appearing.
"Come on, Sludge. Let's go see what Optimus wants." Swoop flew off into the ground bridge with Sludge close behind. Soon, they went through the ground bridge and back inside the base. Optimus went to help the humans off Sludge but Miko went on her own, sliding down Sludge's tail.
"Yabba-dabba-doo!" She screamed as she slid.
Snarl raised an optic. "What was that all about?"
"It's from the Flintstones," Miko replied once she got her balance. "This old cartoon about cave people who lived alongside dinosaurs and..."
"Miko," Optimus politely interrupted her. "I'm afraid that will have to wait. Right now we must discuss things with Agent Fowler."
The two Dinobots and the humans all turned towards the screen, where in fact, Agent Fowler was on.
"You got that right!" Fowler said. "Am I to understand not the Decepticons were not only near the base, but you actually engaged them...in plain sight!"
Grimlock had enough. "The Decepticons attacked Arcee, putting her, and the humans, in danger while having the chance to find our base! I stopped them so how about you show a little gratitude!"
"It's not that I'm ungrateful for you saving them Grimlock but you could have handeled the situation better." He looked at Optimus. "Should we consider the possibility of the base being compromised, Prime?"
"While they might not know the exact location of the base," Ratchet spoke up. "They could suspect it to be within the area. But with Shockwave...it's possible he'll figure out our location."
"If the Decepticons do have a notion where our base is," Optimus said. "Then we must take precautionary action."
Miko let out a cought that sounded vaguely like "Dinobot Island". Jake deadpanned at her, crossing his arms but she just smiled innocently at him.
Fowler pinched his nose. "If the base has been compromised, we'll need to set up some sort of evacuation area."
"No!" Grimlock bellowed. "No running away! If the Decepticons come, we fight!"
"Grimlock, fighting them head on would be suicidal." Optimus argued. "We don't have the numbers to fight the Decepticons in a full scale assault. Even with the power that your team brings to us."
Grimlock looked at Optimus. "How many other Autobots are on Earth?"
"Aside from Wheeljack...you're looking at them," Arcee told him.
Grimlock looked at Arcee, then at Optimus. He looked back and forth between the two of them, making some kind of noise that vaguely resembled sputtering. "Are you fragging me?! You went to a backwards mudball away from all your troops and you only have this?! You expect these many Autobots to protect an entire planet?!"
Optimus frowned. "We have been outnumbered for some time, Grimlock, and yet here we still stand."
"Besides," Bulkhead added. "Your team likes to take on the whole Decepticon army by yourselves."
Grimlock shook his head, genuinely shocked at the sheer ridiculousness of this situation. "My team has done some risky things but we were never this stupid." This earned him glares from the rest of Team Prime, who had been in plenty of scraps before. But Grimlock focused on Optimus only. "You're not just a weak coward, Optimus. You're glitched in the head!"
Bulkhead, Ratchet, Arcee, and Bumblebee all tensed up at Grimlock insulting their leader. Slag, Snarl and Sludge noticed the tension and took sides by their leader. Swoop looked back and forth nervously, trying to think of a way to settle this peacefully.
"Fighting among us will not change things," Optimus graciously intervened. "While we are outnumbered, we are not helpless."
Grimlock shook his head in disgust, about ready to take his team and go elsewhere. Sure it was just the five of them against the whole Decepticon army but they were the Dinobots, they could take just as much as they could throw. And Grimlock would not stop until every Decepticon was dead.
All this news did not boad well for June. While the kids were used to all this danger by now, she was not. Her worry for not just for herself but for everyone. Sludge noticed and for some reason, seeing her upset made him upset. Transforming into his robot mode, he stood next to her.
"Don't worry, June. We'll make sure nothing bad happens to you."
The other Dinobots were taken aback by how chummy Sludge was with June. The Autobots on the other hand were pleased, hoping this would help June accept the Dinobots overall. June gave Sludge a small smile. There was that jolt again. For some reason, seeing her happy made him happy.
"We will consider our options before we take any actions, Agent Fowler," Optimus said. "We will contact you when we have made a final decision."
"Understood," Fowler replied. "But get back as soon as possible. If things are as bad as you're making them out to be...we might not have a whole lot of time."
And Fowler cut communications. Optimus looked over at Grimlock, who was weighing his options.
"Grimlock, you must understand..."
"Understand what, Optimus? That you're just running away again? You're always running away! Not this time! We will crush those Decepticons, even if I have to go straight to Megatron's ship and rip his spark out with my own hands!"
Arcee stomped forward. "We're not going to let you put others in danger just to fuel your stupid ego!"
Grimlock glared at her. What's wrong? Afraid to admit the truth? Optimus never had what it took to get the job done! He always backed out when he was needed most. And thanks to him, we lost Cybertron!" Focusing his glare on Optimus one last time, he stormed off. The others were all silent as Grimlock's words sank in. Optimus hung his head.
"Don't listen to him," Ratchet offered. "You did what you had to do. Cybertron could not have been saved any other way. Once Grimlock realizes that..."
"Sometimes...I wonder if there was anything else I could have done for things to have ended differently." Optimus said quietly.
Arcee glared daggers where Grimlock had walked off. His words had cut Prime far deeper than his sword ever could. The humans were all worried now, afraid of what might happen next. Trying to think of something to do instead, Raf went over to his laptop.
"Grimlock's plan is good enough for me," Slag said. "How about you get some bearings, Prime and learn to actually fight for what you want." He went after Grimlock next.
Snarl got up. "I agree with Grimlock. You cost us Cybertron, Optimus. Our home." Snarl left the room next.
These hurtful words cut Optimus greatly. It wasn't as if he didn't feel bad for what happened to their home but he had no other choice.
Sludge was torn. He wanted to follow after Grimlock but he liked being with June. Grimlock wouldn't mind him staying with his new friend so he stayed. Swoop noticed the angry looks on Team Prime. He wanted to say something but figured that nothing could help this situation so instead kept his mouth shut.
"Hey, everyone!" Raf called. "I was looking on the web for any pictures on Autobt sightings, and I found something else instead. A Cybertronian escape pod."
"Here?" Ratchet was amazed. "In Earth's atmosphere?"
Raf uploaded the image from his computer onto the Autobots'. To a normal human it would have looked like an oddly shaped meteor but the Autobots and their human partners could vaguely make out that it was a Cybertronian escape pod.
"Autobot or Decepticon?" Arcee asked.
"Impossible to tell, given the resolution." Ratchet stated.
"In any event, this requires investigation." Optimus said as he studied the image.
"Could be a trap," Arcee commented.
"Or even more reinforcements for Shockwave," Swoop added. "That's the last thing we need right now."
"Maybe it's an Autobot," Sludge pointed. "We could use all the help we can get."
Optimus nodded. "Sludge is right, we should consider if this is an Autobot in distress. Ratchet, bring your medical kit. Bulkhead, I need you to stay behind with the other Dinobots. Swoop on the other hand will be coming with us."
Bulkhead was bummed that he wasn't going on a mission. And his charge shared his feelings.
"Aw!" Miko whined. "So I don't get to see Grimlock or Bulkhead in action?"
"If the Decepticons do discover our base, then their strength will be needed here. As for Swoop; with the numerous foes we now have, we could use some air support in the field."
Swoop nodded. "I'm in."
"Bumblebee, Arcee, you're with us."
Swoop fought down a smile. Arcee was coming along? Now he was eager to join.
Jack was thinking the same thing, noticing Swoop's efforts to contain his excitement. Ratchet activated the ground bridge. Once it was opened, the Autobots and Swoop transformed, going through.
Passing through the ground bridge, the group found themselves in the forest area where the pod had landed. Bumblebee and Arcee had their guns out while Swoop drew his celsius sword out. Before them was the escape pod. A giant gaping hole and the stream of energon leaking from the pod sgessted that whatever had been in there had blasted its way out. Arcee went over to the pod and started rubbing ash way from the symbol on the pod. Unfortuantely the symbol glaring at her was the one of the Decepticons.
"It is of Decepticons origin." Optimus said grimly.
"And the Con inside blew his way out," Arcee concluded.
"So where is he?" Swoop asked.
As if in response, the group found themselves under a barrage of enemy fire. They turned to see a platoon of Vehicons shooting at them. And if that wasn't enough, a few Insecticons were with them. Arcee and Bumblebee quickly went for cover behnd some boulders.
"All those Cons come out of one pod?" Arcee asked skeptically.
"Humans refer to the phenomenon as a clown car," Ratchet explained as he activated his blade.
Just then the boulders Arcee and Bumblebee took cover behind exploded. The two were knocked back and not too damaged. Swoop narrowed his optics. That had been done by concussion blasts. Which meant...
Razorclaw's vicious lion form pounced out of nowhere, tackling Optimus to the ground.
"Optimus Prime," Razorclaw sneered. "At long last, I get to see if you are truly worthy prey!"
Ratchet went to help Optimus but one of the Insecticons pinned him down, it's arms raised to kill. But before it could Ratchet managed to raise his blade up just in time so the Insecticon's momentum rammed the sword into its spark chamber. Unfortunately the Insecticon fell forward, pinning the medic to the ground. Another Insecticon charged tat the group but Arcee and Bumblebee pelted it with weapon fire. It took numerous blasts before the beast finally went down...only for another to pick up where its fallen comrade left off.
Optimus threw Razorclaw off of him, swinging his sword. Razorclaw transformed into his robot mode and pulled out his own sword. The two titans clashed blades. But Razorclaw fired his shoulder cannons, blasting Optimus back. Razorclaw went for the kill but Optimus managed to side-step him and fired his own blaster. Razorclaw hit the boulder behind him. Optimus lunged forward but Razorclaw used his leg strength to flip over Optimus before a spinning slash. Optimus was lucky enough to block the attack.
"Impressive, Optimus. No wonder Lord Megatron holds you in such high regards."
Optimus did not reply back verbally, instead kicking Razorclaw away from him and firing rapidly. Razorclaw transformed into lion mode again, running to dodge the incoming blasts.
Swoop saw Optimus in trouble and was about to aid him when another Insecticon slammed into him. Angrily, Swoop grabbed it by the horn and twisted, moving the head at a bad angle preventing it from actually hitting with its claws. Swoop quickly stabbed it in the back to finish it off. Hey, just because he was the weakest Dinobot didn't he wasn't stronger than most bots. But his attention was drawn by the firing Vehicons.
Optimus struggled to shoot Razorclaw but the Predacon was quite fast in his beast mode. The Predacon leader pounced at Optimus. While Prime was able to bat Razorclaw to the side, it wasn't before said Con was able to slash him, leaving nasty claw marks. Optimus winced in pain before turning towards Razorclaw again. The two were about to go at it again when energy blasts shot overhead. And they were coming...from behind! A mech with a white body and hints of blue started charging toward the group. Arcee and Bumblebee aimed their guns at him. Razorclaw, certain that the mech was Decepticon, prepared to intervene when...
"Down in front!" The new mech called to them, leaping over Arcee and Bumblebee to engage the Decepticons. And he was doing a pretty good job.
"Friendly?" Arcee asked.
"I ain't complaining!" Swoop told her as he continued firing.
"An Autobot?!" Razorclaw was furious. He was about to blast this new bot with his concussion blasters but Optimus charged him. The two were sent tumbling through the ground.
The battle was going in their favor when one of the remaining Insecticons decided to attack the newcomer. The new mech started pelting the Insecticon with energy blasts until a stray shot hit the trail of the energon. Fire erupted, making it's way to the pod! Optimus noticed this and quickly took advantage of Razorclaw being distracted to knock him back towards the pod.
"Fall back!" He ordered. Knowing full well what was going to happen, the Autobots quickly moved, diving behind the boulders for cover.
"Retreat!" Razorclaw ordered as he transformed into his lion mode and prepared to dash. But it was then that the flames hit the pod, unleashing a massive explosion of blue fire. Razorclaw howled in agony as the flames struck his armor but the force of the explosion added to his momentum, carrying him further than he would have on foot. Feeling themselves rocked by the shockwave, the Autobots looked out to see the aftereffects. Their little area was destroyed, smoke and fire everywhere. But then the new mech leaped onto a boulder, whooting in joy. "Too hot for you, Cons?!" He taunted.
"Friend of yours?" Ratchet asked Swoop.
Swoop shrugged. "I don't know him but I like his style." He chuckled sheepishly when he noticed Arcee deadpanning at him in irritation. The new bot leaped off his boulder and to face them.
"Torching that energon leak...pretty good plan, right?"
"Well, I'm impressed," Swoop congratulated. "But it's best to give a little warning before you do stuff like that. Don't want your teammates getting caught in the blast."
"Why are you encouraging him?" Arcee demanded. "That wasn't a plan. It was a random shot and it nearly got us fried."
"It worked didn't it?" The mech pointed out.
"Can't deny the results," Swoop added.
"Whose side are you on?"
Optimus approached the new bot. "Thank you, fellow Autobot. Your...valor is to be commended."
The bot stared at Optimus, completely speechless. After a brief moment, he gained his voice back. "I...don't believe it! You-you're Optimus Prime!" He looked at the others as he pointed at Optimus eagerly. "He's Optimus Prime!"
Swoop held back a grin as the other bots confirmed what the new guy said.
"What is your name, soldier?" Optimus asked. The mech snapped to attention with a salute.
Optimus held his hand out warmly. "Welcome to Earth, Smokescreen."
Smokescreen, amazed that Optimus would be willing to shake hands with him, gladyl clapsed them both. "It's an honor to be here, sir. Especially with you."
Uh-oh. Swoop had seen that look one too many times. Optimus had been an inspiration to the new recruits and they practically worshipped him. Swoop had a funny feeling that Smokescreen was just like them.
"Now what?" Ratchet spoked what was on everyone's mind. "It's not like we can just take him back to base."
"Wouldn't be the first time an ally turned out to be a plant," Arcee added.
Swoop looked at her. "Huh?"
"Long story," Arcee replied, though Swoop had a feeling it was because she didn't want to say much in front of Smokescreen.
"What if he's legit? We could use all the help we can get. Besides, even if he is a plant, he'd have to deal with Grimlock."
Smokescreen's jaw dropped. "Grimlock? As in THE Grimlock? He's on Earth too?" His face lit up at Swoop's nod. "Wow. Optimus Prime and Grimlock! This is an honor!"
Meanwhile, from a distance, Razorclaw watched everything. His armor was blackened and smoking, himself badly injured though still functioning despite. Narrowing his optics, he let out a low growl. He was about outnumbered and knew better than to engage all of them in his current condition. He would have to return to base and report to Megatron that the Autobots gained a new member. It was of little consquence though. He was only one Autobot after all. What difference could one bot make?
But as he waited for them to leave rather than risk exposing himself, he heard some interesting exchanges between the Autobots and their new companion. This Smokescreen had been a graduate from the academy and assigned to the Iacon Hall of Records. And not only that...but he had been personally assigned to guard Alpha Trion, one of the oldest and wisest Autobots in existence! While it was a long shot, it could be possible that Alpha Trion confided special information to Smokescreen. His suspicions were elevated when Smokescreen revealed something that apparently only Optimus and Alpha Trion shared. But how much Smokescreen actually knew and whether or not it would be useful to the Decepticons remained to be seen. He would wait until they left before reporting to Megatron about his findings.
While all this was happening; back at Autobot base, Sludge was spending his time with the kids and June.
"So, Sludge," Miko addressed him. "Can you do a tail-whip? Just how strong are you? Can you make the Earth tremble with your very footsteps? Do you have any weapons or do you just use your bare hands?!"
"Oh, scrap there she goes again," Slag growled in irritation. By now he had all he could take from Miko's never-ending energy. Once she was done trying to get info out of him, she had moved onto the other Dinobots. Unlike him, Slag had a feeling Sludge would actually enjoy the attention. How in the world his colossal teammate could be such a softie when not fighting Cons was beyond him. But Slag did pity poor Snarl if Miko decided to go to him next. And he pitied her when she'd finally go after Grimlock.
"I can do a tail-whip," Sludge grinned. "I'll show you."
"NO!" Everyone else other than Miko shouted. Sludge was taken aback.
"Sorry," Raf apologized. "But I don't think doing a tail-whip here would be a good idea. You'll probably break something."
"Or someone," Jack quietly added.
"As for making the Earth tremble with his very footsteps," Slag spoke up. "I once saw him shatter an entire bridge with one stomp."
Miko whistled appreciatively. "Nice!"
"While my fists pack plenty of damage, I also use a hammer, a sword, and laser rifle." Sludge added.
"A hammer and a sword?" Raf asked.
"Swords are standard issue," Slag explained absently. "We've all got them. But Grimlock also let us have any extra weapons if we wanted them." He pulled out both his sword and the club he had wielded when facing the Predacons. "I think Sludge got the hammer when we raided one of Ultra Magnus' old armory."
Bulkhead sputtered. "You raided Ultra Magnus' armory?!"
Slag shrugged. "He wasn't there and we needed some weapons."
"Who's Ultra Magnus?" Jack asked.
"One of the highest ranking commanders in the Autobot army and my commanding officer."
"You mean this guy leads the Wreckers?!" Miko asked excitedly. "What's he like?"
"Brave, dedicated, caring. Kinda like Optimus. Practically brothers." Bulkhead realized he was rambling and shook his head. "So you got one of Magnus' hammers? I'm not really fond of someone touching the boss' stuff but... well I guess if you guys needed it I'm sure he wouldn't mind."
Sludge was about to comment when:
"Rafael! Activate the ground bridge."
It was Optimus, contacting base. Raf quickly went to the controls and activated the ground bridge. Everyone waited anxiously to see what would happen. Soon, Optimus, Ratchet, Bumblebee, Arcee, and Swoop all stepped in. But then...an new bot they had never seen before followed them.
"Everyone, this is Smokescreen," Optimus introduced the new bot.
"What's up?" Smokescreen asked cheerfully.
"A new Autobot?" Slag asked. "Looks like Sludge was right after all."
"Sweet! A new addition to the team!" Miko cheered. "What's your story, Smoke? Where'd you come from? How'd you get here? How many blasters you packing?"
"So...these are the life forms we're supposed to protect," Smokescreen said as he looked at the gathered humans before looking at Team Prime. "Are they all like this?"
"Primus, I hope not," Slag muttered. But June had managed to hear him and shot him a glare. Even he felt a little unnerved by the fierceness he could see in her eyes. Just then a familiar stomping noise echoed around. The humans, the Dinobots, and Team Prime all turned their heads to see Grimlock enter. His gaze locked onto Smokescreen, who was looking back at him with complete awe.
"Who's the new bot?" Grimlock asked.
"Smokescreen," Swoop answered.
"Grimlock..." Smokescreen nearly whispered. He instantly saluted. "It is an honor to meet you in person, sir!" Then comprehension dawned on him as he looked back and forth between Swoop, Sludge, Slag, and Snarl. "That means...you're the Lightning Strike Coalition Force!"
Slag, Sludge, Snarl, and Swoop all groaned. Unlike Grimlock, they had never really been fond of the name. "We don't go by that name anymore," Swoop told Smokescreen. "Now we're the Dinobots."
"We know," Arcee groaned. For her, the whole Dinobot wonder had worn out a while back. She looked over at Grimlock. "We found images of an escape pod and went to investigate. Turns out it was a Decepticon pod but Smokescreen was inside."
Grimlock looked back at Smokescreen. "Sounds suspicious to me."
"Claims he served at the Hall of Records in Iacon," Swoop informed his leader. "Under Alpha Trion."
"That old rustbucket was still functioning?" Grimlock asked. Optimus glared at him.
"Hey, Alpha Trion was a great mentor and friend!" Smokescreen exclaimed. Then he chuckled. "The Big A had some things to say about you too."
"So...what you doing in Decepticon escape pod?" Slag asked. "Got captured?"
"Yeah," Smokescreen said, a look of nostalgia on his face. "The Decepticons had launched a massive strike on Iacon, destroying its' main guard. I was the only one left to hold them back. And let me tell ya, I was pumped. I mean, this was my chance to see real action for the very first time. To prove myself...until everything went black. Cons took me prisoner and dumped me on a transport ship. But I managed to give a guard the slip and hopped into an escape pod. Apparently it was a long distance pod cause it knocked me into stasis. Next thing I knew, I was hitting solid ground. Hard."
"The Decepticon warship must have picked up the pod's beacon and guided it to Earth." Ratchet theorized.
"Which would explain Smokescreen's welcoming committee," Arcee put together. She gave a light laugh. "Bet those Cons were disappointed not to find one of their own inside."
"Smokescreen," Optimus spoke up. "Do you know of Alpha Trion's fate? After the fall of Iacon?"
Smokescreen saddened. "I wish I did. But that was the last I saw of him." Managing to cheer himself up. "That's it. My life's story. Not exactly the glory I envisioned for myself...until now! Being here with Optimus Prime and Grimlock? I knew I was destined for great things. I mean, with all of us together? How hard can it be to end this war?"
The Dinobots shared a look with each other. They had a bad feeling about this Smokescreen guy and it wasn't because they thought he was a Con spy.
"A lot harder than you think, rookie," Grimlock said. He had seen that look before one too many times. A newbie who thought that he alone could turn the tide. Might have seen some action but nowhere close to the horros of war that he had seen. This mech was full of himself and it was time to bring him down a notch before he got himself killed.
"Perhaps it would be best if Smokescreen became acclimated to his new surroundings," Optimus suggested. "A tour of the base would be an excellent start."
"Sure thing!" Miko volunteered. "Bulkhead and I can do it! Right, Bulk?"
"Err...sure," Bulkhead shrugged. He didn't know what to think of the new guy but he didn't seem too bad.
Optimus nodded. "Very well."
Miko let out a whoop as she headed towards the hallway. Bulkhead chuckled as he lead Smokescreen after her.
Snarl shook his head as the three disappeared further into the base. "Newbie's too green. Has no idea what he's getting himself into."
"I will admit that Smokescreen is rather...eager," Optimus conceded. "But I am certain that he will prove to be a great warrior."
"So we got one new bot," Grimlock grumbled. "Scrap lot of good one bot's gonna do."
"Anyone can make the difference, Grimlock," Optimus replied. "We must learn to work with Smokescreen, not against him."
"For once, I actually agree with Grimlock on this," Arcee spoke up. "That hot-shot's not taking this seriously enough. Judging from that stunt he pulled back there, he's just as much a danger to himself as he is to others."
"Hey, guys!" Raf called from his lap-top. "You might want to take a look at this." He started sending another image from his computer onto the base's one.
"If it's another Bumblebee sighting..." Ratchet's words died when he saw what was on the screen. It looked like a collection of crystals. "Oh my..."
Grimlock moved in for a closer look. "Is that what I think it is?"
"I believe it is, Grimlock. Red energon."
Ratchet stared. "Here? On Earth?"
"How in the world could this be on Earth?" Snarl asked. "Do you have any idea what you have to go through to get your hands on something like that?"
"What's red energon?" Raf asked them.
"An extremely rare and volatile form of energon," Ratchet explained. "Refined into fuel, it provides the power of hyperspeed."
Grimlock tapped his chin. "Getting our hands on something like that could really give us an edge. We need to get that energon before the Cons do!"
"Agreed. We must have Agent Fowler clear the dig site of all human presence as a precaution."
Grimlock faced his team. "Slag! Snarl! You come with me as back-up."
"Finally, some action," Slag chuckled gleefully, punching his open palm.
"Been looking forward to this," Snarl grinned.
Arcee raised an optic at the Dinobots. "Just the three of you?"
"In case the Decepticons are there, we're gonna test their numbers before calling back-up." Grimlock explained. "Test the waters."
"Besides, we're the heavy hitters of the team," Slag added. "We're probably more than enough."
Arcee frowned. "I'm coming with you."
"Why?" Grimlock asked. "To make sure we're "subtle"?"
"Someone will need to have a level head out there," Arcee shot back.
"I think it would be best if Arcee did come along," Optimus stated. "We must learn to work together if we are to stand against the Decepticons."
"Can I come along?" Swoop asked, since Arcee was.
"Not unless we need you," Grimlock said. He spotted the disappointed look on Swoop's face. At another time, he might've allowed it but they were on an important mission right now and he didn't want Swoop jeopardizing it because he was too busy making goo-goo optics at a femme.
"Now you're talking!"
Everyone turned to see Smokescreen, Miko, and Bulkhead return.
"Let's scramble up some Con circuits," Smokescreen said eagerly.
Grimlock was about to speak but Optimus spoke instead. "Given your limited field experience, I believe further field training is required before you are battle ready."
Smokescreen was caught off guard. This had not been what he was hoping for. "Optimus...with all due respect..."
"Furthermore," Optimus added. "We Autobots live on this planet as robots in disguise. You will need to obtain an Earth vehicle mode."
"In order to maintain a low profile," Arcee explained. "If that's possible for you.'
"If you're talking wheels, bring 'em on!"
June spoke up now. "Um...Optimus? I think I might need to get back home soon."
Optimus pondered this. "Very well. Miko, Rafael, Jack. You three will help Smokescreen chose a vehicle mode. I will take Mrs. Darby home."
"You're not coming with us?" Arcee asked.
"I am confident in Grimlock's abilities to lead this mission."
Arcee rolled her optics. Unless the mission involved destroying everything in sight, she really doubted it.
Miko pouted. As much as she enjoyed hanging out with Smokescreen, she wanted to see the Dinobots in action so badly.
"Did we miss something?" Bulkhead asked.
"Raf found Red Energon," Sludge explained. "Arcee, Grimlock, Slag, and Snarl are going to go get it."
Bulkhead whistled somehow. "Red Energon? Here? Talk about a lucky break."
"Red Energon?" Miko asked her guardian.
"Powerful stuff. Makes you move super fast."
"If I hear that one more time..." Slag hissed dangerously.
Optimus transformed into his truck mode for June. His door opened wide. It was time for June to take her leave.
"Alright, Jack. I'm guessing Arcee will take you home and dinner will be in the fridge. After all that's happened, something tells me you'll be in the mood for something other than organic tofu."
Jack tried to play it casual but part of him was relieved to get out of eating it. Arcee smiled a little at his face.
"Grimlock...good luck." Optimus wished him.
"Don't need it." Grimlock replied.
"Good-bye, everyone. It was nice meeting all of you."
Everyone, or mostly everyone in Grimlock, Slag, and Snarl's case, said good-bye as June hopped inside Optimus' vehicle mode and they drove off. Sludge watched them go sadly. For some reason, her leaving made him feel funny. Like he really didn't want her to go.
"Hey, Sludge!" Slag called. "What's wrong with you?"
Sludge shook his head. "Nothing. Just thinking."
"Careful, you'll hurt yourself," Slag called jokingly.
End of Chapter