Grim was the best word to describe the atmosphere in the Autobot base. The kids thought they were prepared for the worst but they really hadn't counted on a wounded Grimlock helping Optimus, Ratchet, Bulkhead, and Smokescreen bringing in the others, who were all pretty banged up. Grimlock explained the whole battle with Starscream. Needless to say the kids were near speechless.
"I can't believe Starscream was able to do all this," Miko said as the functioning bots placed their wounded allies to be healed. "And to the Dinobots."
"Well, Optimus did say that the Apex Armor was really strong," Raf pointed out. "And supposedly invulnerable."
"Eh," Grimlock gave out a dry chuckle. "Looks like that last part was an exaggeration." Then he grunted in pain as he adjusted himself.
Arcee and Bumblebee came too after a short while. Although they hadn't come out of the fight unscathed, their damage was minor, all things considered. Ratchet thought about quickly fixing them first so then he could focus all his attention on the Dinobots. The two, however, wanted him to focus on the Dinobots first given the extent of their damage. Grimlock in turn insisted that Ratchet repair the rest of his team first, starting with Snarl. One reason was because both he and Slag suffered the worst damage and another was because Snarl was surprisingly the team medic. Repairing him first would give Ratchet some assistance in fixing everyone else faster. The argument was a sound one, so Ratchet agreed to start on Snarl.
"It's fortunate you unloaded all that energon from that ship you stole, Grimlock," Ratchet said as he removed several remains of the Apex Armor from Snarl's body. "Without it, I couldn't guarantee even a relatively successful operation. Even on just one of you."
Grimlock simply nodded in response. Since he had been leaking energon, he allowed Ratchet to give him a light patch to cover the wound up until it was his turn. Slag was still in stasis lock. The kids found it hard to look at him without looking at the shrapnels stuck into his body. Swoop was unconscious, laying right beside his torn off wing. Sludge was also unconscious but in quite good condition. Err, well as good as he could be, given the circumstances. Grimlock explained that Sludge's body was extremely dense, especially thanks to his dino mode. Even though Grimlock wanted all of his team to be patched up before him, Ratchet considered Sludge's damage to be the lest extensive out of the team and was willing to work on Grimlock before him. Arcee and Bumblebee stood off to the side. They had plenty of dents and their bodies hurt but they chose to ignore the pain since they believed the Dinobots needed medical attention more right now. Arcee gave a slight glance over at Swoop, remembering how he had intervened when she first got cornered by Starscream. If there was any way to make sure he could fly again, she'd gladly help. It was the least she could do.
Just then, the base's computer started beeping, indicated that someone was trying to contact them.
"It's Agent Fowler," Raf told the Autobots.
"Put him on," Optimus told the kids. "He has the right to be informed of this."
Raf went over to the screen and activated the communications link. Fowler's face appeared on the screen and he did not look happy.
"Prime! Would you care to explain..." But the rest of his rant was cut short when he saw the wounded group. "What in Sam Hill...Prime, what happened? First I got a call about the cargo bay being completely destroyed and here I find your team looking like they just went through a chop shop."
"The mission to recover the red energon has ended in failure, Agent Fowler," Optimus said grimly. "It appears that Starscream had learned of the Red Energon and encountered Arcee, Grimlock, Slag, and Snarl when they arrived at the bay to retrieve it."
Fowler cursed under his breath. The shock torture Starscream had administered to him when under interrogation still fresh in his mind. "Are you telling me that he did all this?"
"Starscream was using the Apex Armor. Bumblebee, Sludge, and Swoop arrived later as reinforcements. Starscream was eventually defeated, at the cost of the Apex Armor, the red energon...and this." He indicated his wounded teammates.
"And Starscream?" Fowler asked.
"While it would appear that Starscream perished with the red energon, he has proven to be quite resilient. Whether or not he is truly gone for good...I cannot say."
"But that's still just one Con down at the cost of most of your team. And most of them were your strongest players. With so many other Cons on Earth, things aren't looking good. Especially if they're as bad as you say they are."
Optimus nodded before looking at Grimlock. "Until your team has fully recuperated, it would be best if they were to remain within the base."
"Agreed," Grimlock admitted. "They're in no condition to fight right now."
"And that includes you," Optimus said sternly, given Grimlock's stubborn streak.
"My wounds are small compared to the others. I can still fight." Grimlock predictably replied.
"Small?!" Ratchet sputtered. "You have a hole in your chest and you were leaking energon like there was no tomorrow! And from what I've examined, you also seemed to have suffered damage when Starscream apparently shot you in the mouth of your alternate mode!"
"Bumblebee and I can still fight," Arcee offered. "Starscream only slapped us around compared to what he did to them. The Dinobots need to recover more than we do. And who knows if we'll have time to just sit here and wait for Ratchet to patch us all up."
Bumblebee whole heartedly agreed with her.
"Nonetheless," Optimus interrupted. "Ignoring your injuries will only put further strain on you. Right now, all of you should simply focus on recovering." He turned to look at Smokescreen. "Smokescreen." Said Autobot snapped to attention when Optimus addressed him. "It seems that your time in the field will come sooner than expected."
Excitement was all over Smokescreen's face. "I won't let you down, Optimus."
Grimlock groaned. Even now, the rookie didn't understand how serious the situation was.
"We could also call Wheeljack," Bulkhead offered. "I'm sure he'd be willing to help."
"Normally I would be reluctant given Wheeljack's rather reckless habits," Ratchet said as he worked on Snarl. "But since we still have to deal with Megatron and Shockwave, plus taking our limited options into consideration, I'd gladly welcome any help we can get."
Onboard the Nemesis, Megatron was taking in the information that Razorclaw had just supplied him with. While frustrated that the escape pod did not contain a Decepticon and that Razorclaw had failed to actually destroy any of the Autobots, Megatron had taken an interest in what Razorclaw discovered.
"An Autobot who served under Alpha Trion? You're certain?"
"While my body was damaged, my hearing was not," Razorclaw assured his leader. "Optimus Prime's confirmation to Smokescreen's statements is all the proof I required."
"Lord Megatron?" Shockwave spoke up, drawing the Decepticon leader's attention. "There is a possbility that Alpha Trion shared important information with this Smokescreen. And judging from what Razorclaw has told us, he is inexperienced, reckless, and practically worships Prime. We could use this to our advantage."
"Yes," Megatron said wickedly. "No doubt this Smokescreen would do anything in order to prove his worth to his hero. And by doing so he will fall right into our hands. Even if that old archivist didn't share anything useful with him, we can at least learn the location of the Autobot base."
Shockwave nodded. "I was going to task Kickback with finding the Autobot base. However, this opportunity should prove to simplify things. I shall inform him of the change in duty."
"Very well, Shockwave. But assign Blitzwing and Astrotrain with him. Kickback is excellent at espionage but his combat skills still leave much to be desired."
Shockwave nodded. "Yes, Lord Megatron." With that, he left the room. As he walked, Ratbat landed beside him.
"Well?" Ratbat asked.
"Razorclaw has reported of a new addition to the Autobots. A rookie who may prove to be the weak link in Optimus' forces."
"Oh? Hope to get information out of this one? Gonna let Sharpshot play with him?"
"Sharpshot takes far too much enjoyment in his work. He would leave Smokescreen completely brain fried before we'd get any useful information out of him. No. I have less painful and far more efficient ways of acquiring information."
Back on Cybertron, Scrapper was pleased to see progress going along so nicely. Though there was a few little roadblocks in the way.
"Pick up the pace, Hook!" He called to his perfectionist second in command, who was in the form of a Cybertronian crane and lowering a part to the facility in place.
"I'm making sure I put the part in correctly, Scrapper!" Hook snapped.
"Putting parts in correctly is one thing, but you take megacycles!" Scrapper looked over the blueprints. "One you set up the wall, get Mixmaster over here to make sure it stays in place. Long Haul! The builders at the east section need some more support beams. Get to it!"
"On it, Scrapper!"
"Scrapper!" A builder called. "We got some more debris!"
"Alright, get Scavenger and Bonecrusher to start moving it out of the way. I'll be joining them soon."
Scrapper heard footsteps behind him. He knew that it could only be Onslaught.
"Things are coming along rather well, Scrapper."
"A few setbacks but thankfully nothing we can't handle." Scrapper replied. "Shockwave will be pleased."
"Agreed. I was skeptical at first of Shockwave's plan to revive Cybertron but it looked legit." He gave out a bitter chuckle. "Pity we didn't have him in charge instead of that idiot Starscream."
"Eh, we don't need to worry about him. He could never think of something this big." Scrapper told Onslaught.
"That's true," Onslaught admitted. "Hope wherever that sniveling coward is, he's rotting in a pit."
Unfortunately for Onslaught, Starscream was not rotting in a pit. In fact, Starscream was back at the wrecked Harbinger feeling quite good about himself. Sure he lost the Apex Armor, but he had acquired the red energon; and quite the load judging from the size of it. When Grimlock had sent him plunging into the ocean, Starscream was aching all over and his circuits were thorougly scrambled. But then he realized something incredibly lucky. That idiot had caused him to fall along with the entire hoarde of red energon! Starscream wasted no time in quickly opening the crate and removing the red energon from within. Oh how beautiful it glowed when he had gazed upon it. Feeling the water getting hotter, he noticed something was causing everything to start boiling. He soon realized it was Grimlock, foolishly using his flamethrower upon the water. Apparently the Dinobot had realized his blunder and was trying to destroy the energon, and possibly taking Starscream with it. Seeing a perfect opportunity in this, Starscream had quickly removed most of the energon but left a small fragment within. He then fired at the crate. The remaining fragment combined with his firepowe was more than enough to set off quite the explosion. Hopefully this would fool the Autobots into thinking he, and the red energon, had perished. So while he had lost the Apex Armor, he believed his gains greatly outweighed his loss.
"With all this red energon at my disposal," Starscream said as he eyed the red energon with glee. "Nothing shall stand in my way."
As he entered the computer room of the Harbinger, he noticed the computer beeping. "Hmm? What's this?" He went over and started typing in the keys. "It seems that another Cybertronian ship is on Earth...and it appears to be Decepticon. I wonder why the computer didn't pick it before. Hmm. Considering that this ship is far from perfect working order, I shouldn't be surprised. I wonder if I could possibly ID the ship." He began typing into the computer. What he unconvered left him stunned. "I know that ship. Shockwave? On Earth?" Realization dawned on him. "Ah...he must be here for Grimlock. Shockwave never did like his experiments running around unsupervised." Starscream tapped his chin. "No doubt Megatron knows he's on Earth by now if he hasn't already combined forces. But...maybe I can make this work in my favor. After all Shockwave's true loyalty is to logic, not Megatron. I wonder..."
At the Autobot base, the other Autobots helped Ratchet in whatever way they could. Given the seriousness of the situation, Bulkhead stayed back. He didn't want to accidentally break some important tool. Especially one that Ratchet might really need. Miko was surprisingly quiet. No doubt seeing the Dinobots like this reminded her a little too much of Bulkhead's run in with Hardshell. The kids wanted to help in any they could but they had a feeling there was nothing they could without getting in the way. They were used to situations when they couldn't help their Autobot friends, but they really felt useless right now.
After managing to remove the shards from Snarl's body, Ratchet now had to worry about patching him up. Once he was functional, repairing everyone else would hopefully be easier. He didn't how good Snarl actually was as a medic but considering that all five Dinobots were still around, he must at least be good. And at the moment, that would have to good enough.
Everyone was so focused on tending to the wounded that they failed to notice the computer behind them. Ratchet wanted full concentration so he had deliberately reduced the volume of the computer. He was quite certain, or rather hoping, that nothing would require their attention until their teammates were fully repaired. But because of that, no one spotted the Autobot distress signal the computer was silently displaying.
On Shockwave's own ship, said Decepticon had brought Hardshell into his lab. At the moment, said Insecticon was powered down and strapped to an operating table. Several tubes connected to his body. Some supplying with energon and other necssary requirements to guarantee that Hardshell would survive should Shockwave's examinations need to go...deeper. He went over to an audio log and began recording:
"Shockwave's log: Due to several unforeseen events, I have been forced to put Hardshell's inspection on hold until now. This diagnostic will enable me to see exactly how Arachnid was able to forcefully take control over an entire Insecticon hive. Such a finding is of utmost importance to guarantee that no similar incidents may occur in the future." He quickly studied Hardshell's body. "First stages: I see no signs of any external tampering with Hardshell. Not even evidence of any attempted access to his primary subroutine command system or mind." He went over to his computer and started typing in commands. "I have now started to establish a direct connection to Hardshell's Communication Log files among fellow Insecticons. This log file enables the Insecticons to be thought of as having a hive mind among other Decepticons. Despite this understandable belief, that is not truly the case...it is merely an advanced form of a network communication on ultra high frequencies."
Shockwave finished typing in the commands and waited. Soon Cybertronian scripts started appearing on the screen in groups.
"Logs have been accessed. Recent logs indicate current Insecticons gossiping; some discussions combined with idle chatting. The main topic found in most of these logs is none other than the Dinobots. It appears the Insecticons have made Grimlock and how to approach him top priority in their discussions. It is unfortunate the Insecticon type Megatron has with him are ones that are mostly geared with aggressive tactics and frontal fighting. And most of these are currently 1 or 2 generations removed from Hardshell. As such their minds aren't as advanced as his."
Shockwave started scrolling along the scripts, "Setting the Insection date back two months...still no sign of any problems. Some odd discrepancies with a few command logs indicate the Insecticons are feeling embarrassment and shame for turning their weapons against Megatron. Strangely there is no form of discussion as to why. Certainly there would be at least some idle gossip regarding Arachnid but so far, according to the logs, only Hardshell seems to have raised any. Yet there is nothing in the logs as to indicate why."
Shockwave keyed in a command. "Scrolling back to date of Arachnid's suspected take over of Insecticons. So far nothing. I won..." Then Shockwave stopped talking as he looked at one script in the log. Then he leans forward almost like he was surprised at seeing the script before him. His wanted to make sure his visual systems were not misinterpreting this. Shockwave is logical to a fault and one who will even put aside his emotions for logic. But this one script was so surprising and unexpected Shockwave couldn't help but say out loud, "This is impossible..."
To be continued in Transformers Prime: Shockwave Rises