She ran as fast as her legs would carry her, but it still wasn't enough.
Disco gritted her teeth, panting furiously as she sprinted across Cybertron's surface. Only vaguely aware of where she was now, she looked down at her feet, willing them to move despite the incredible ache that surged through her body. She thought she could run even faster if she focused on her feet clutching the ground, but she didn't know how much of that was self-delusion.
She felt a blast of hot air as the pursuing Decepticons veered upward to prevent colliding with the bridge she had just passed under. Did she dare turn back to see if they had stopped chasing her? No, she decided--better to put as much distance between herself and them as possible. She stumbled over herself, crashing to the ground with a dull metallic clank, but quickly scrambled to her feet and pushed onward. She took a cursory note of her surroundings--some run-down buildings, a bit of clutter in the alleys. She knew enough to recognize that she was only a sector or two away from home, but that hardly mattered now. She was definitely outside Autobot territory.
Physically unable to continue, Disco slowed to a limping trot and finally crouched behind a generator unit. She called up her diagnostic report--still unable to transform. She glanced down at the laser burns on her lower leg, which had sealed a transformation mechanism shut. She pried at it again with her fingers, but it was futile.
Then she heard the voices echoing through the alley.
"Yoo-hoo," sang Terradive, "I know you're in there, Autobot!" He waved his rifle around as though it were a baton. "You can't hide forever, ya know! We're gonna find you sooner or later! Do you hear me--"
Eagle Eye made a disgusted noise. "Are you finished yet, you idiot?"
Terradive stopped and looked Eagle Eye right in the optics. "No, not yet."
He continued his approach down the corridor: "There's nowhere to run, Autobot! Cower all you like, but it won't do you any good! We're gonna--"
Eagle Eye backhanded the other Decepticon, who responded with a grunt. "Now you're finished, moron." Eagle Eye tapped a button on his helmet and pointed. "Yeah. There she is. Seven-point-three-three mechano-meters ahead of us. Behind the generator."
"I don't see anything," Terradive grunted.
"No, wouldn't expect you to," said Eagle Eye.
Just then, their quarry sprang from her resting spot and scurried down the alley, on three limbs.
"Heh," said Terradive, "I love it when they're feisty." He cocked his rifle and fired three shots in her direction; one of them grazed her shoulder, but her course was not deterred significantly.
"Let me show you how it's done, stupid," Eagle Eye said, producing his weapon. He launched an energy burst that struck the female Autobot's left leg, blasting it off cleanly at the knee. She let out a squeal of anguish and collapsed.
"See? Easy." Eagle Eye approached her, cackling contentedly to himself, but suddenly the Autobot collapsed in on herself, transforming to a ground vehicle mode. There was a section of the vehicle missing where the rest of her leg would have been, but in this mode she had four wheels and was fully mobile. She wasted no time in turning around and zipping past the two Decepticons, who were too stunned to react immediately.
"Don't lose her!" Eagle Eye ordered, returning to his aerial configuration and switching on his more sophisticated sensor array. Terradive transformed as well, staying low to the ground.
Disco drove as fast as her tires could carry her, desperately trying to ignore the mind-wrenching pain from the remains of her leg, and failing. Her attention oscillated between where she was going and trying to get her diagnostics on-line (and hoping that her repair systems would stop her energon from leaking all over Cybertron), and as a result she was swerving along the landscape almost drunkenly. This worked to her benefit as the Decepticons in pursuit were having a difficult time locking onto her with their targeting systems.
Disco's top priority was to get to the planet's second level, where she would have the advantage of being able to drive, but where there wasn't enough room for the Decepticons to chase her in their faster aerial modes. She spotted an access portal not too far away, and headed straight for it.
"Heading for level two," Eagle Eye noted.
"She'll lead us right to her base!" Terradive panted, excitedly.
"No, she's not that stupid," Eagle Eye realized. "But she'll try to lose us in the corridors."
Eagle Eye nearly caressed the planet's surface, transforming back to robot mode and landing gracefully in front of the portal that led to the deeper level. Terradive simply transformed in mid-air and came down to the ground with a metallic bonk.
"Come on, halfwit!" urged Eagle Eye. He climbed into the access portal, retracting his wings a bit to enable his form to fit inside. A moment later, the Decepticons were on the second level, but the Autobot was nowhere to be seen.
"What should we do? Split up?" Terradive asked.
"Shut up," Eagle Eye ordered, tapping the button on his helmet again. "Energon traces. She went this way," he pointed.
It didn't take long before the Decepticons caught up with her. Disco found herself at the end of a long corridor, but the only door in sight had a Decepticon lock in place. Hobbling on her remaining leg, wincing, she turned around and gaped at them, trembling and clutching the wall with one hand to support her weight.
"Gave her quite a workout, didn't we?" Eagle Eye mused.
Terradive approached the green female Autobot, grasping her by the arm. "Okay, here's the deal, so listen up, and listen good. You tell us where the Autobot base is, and I mean exactly where it is, or we'll start finger-painting with your energon, all over this place."
She swallowed hard. "Find... it ...yourself."
Eagle Eye let out a low chuckle. "No, my dear, that's not how this game plays out. We are the hunters, and you are the pathetic animal clinging to her last few moments of life. Now that we've caught you, your only chance of redemption is to appease us. Tell us where the Autobot base is, and I promise that you'll be free to go."
Squirming, Disco pursed her lips and shook her head.
Eagle Eye gazed into her eyes as Terradive restrained her other arm. He chuckled again, clutching the tip of her chin with his thumb and forefinger. "Of course, I'm not promising we won't have some fun with you first."
Then, Disco spat in his face.
Eagle Eye was remarkably unperturbed. "My friend, here, could probably play this game all night, but I'm only going to ask you one more time," Eagle Eye said. "Where is Autobot Headquarters?"
"It's up your reactor linkage."
Eagle Eye moved so swiftly that Disco hadn't even realized that he'd punched her. Hard. He twisted his fist, then came back holding her energon pump, still pulsating steadily in his black, gleaming fist. It was the last thing she ever saw.
Windrazor stood at the highest floor of the Fortress, the reflections of sparse lighting across Cybertron's landscape twinkling in his optic visor. While the planet was rightfully his, he despised the ground and its deeper levels--a Decepticon belonged in the skies at all times. He had chosen the tallest structure on the planet as his headquarters for a reason; the higher he felt over the few dozen or so scurrying creatures left on the planet, the better.
A signal from the Fortress computer alerted him to the return of Eagle Eye and Terradive, who appeared in the lift chamber moments later.
Windrazor didn't bother to turn to face them. "Where is she?" he asked.
"Well, boss," Terradive stuttered, "we hunted her down and everything, but, uh, she makes this run for it, see, so we tracked, er, that is, Eagle here, he tracked her, and, well, y'know, boss, it's the funniest thing--heh, you'll laugh when you hear this--"
"Terradive killed her," Eagle Eye explained.
Windrazor spun around and marched up to Terradive. Windrazor was smaller, but that didn't stop him from hitting Terradive with enough force to shatter the cockpit on his chest and knock him back into the lift chamber.
Terradive held out his palms in protest. "Boss, no! That's not true, not at all! It's not like that! It was Eagle who did it, he's the one that--"
Windrazor responded with a kick to Terradive's head that sent flecks of gold metal flying.
"Are you done?" Windrazor asked.
"Incompetent Decepticons have no place in my army," Windrazor continued. "If you are unable to follow my orders to the letter, Terradive, I will recycle you alive. I hope I am making myself perfectly clear."
Terradive nodded again.
Windrazor glared at Eagle Eye. "I expected much more from you as well," he said. The implied threat was clear.
"Surprised me completely. I thought he was just roughing her up a bit," Eagle Eye said, shrugging, his hands clasped behind his back.
Windrazor returned to the window and his vigil over the night sky. "We must find another Autobot," he said, more to himself than his troops, "if we are to discover the location of their base. And there seem to be very few survivors remaining."
Eagle Eye cleared his throat. "Intensive ground scans?"
If Windrazor weren't wearing a face mask, he would have expectorated. "No Decepticon will ever venture beneath the first level of the planet as long as I am in command. We are warriors of the sky, not vermin who scurry through tunnels."
Eagle Eye turned back toward the lift. "I'll go back out for recon, then. Maybe I'll spot another one."
Windrazor's lack of an acknowledgement meant that he didn't object, so Eagle Eye returned to the lift, kicking Terradive's arm back inside before shutting the doors and beginning their descent.
Terradive was shaking violently, fists clenched. "You son of a smelter, he coulda killed me! I mean he really coulda killed me!"
Eagle Eye glanced down at his comrade. "Possibly."
"Why'd you tell him I did it, you stinkin' liar? I've got a good mind to rip your pump out, you backstabbin' flarg!"
"And what," Eagle Eye responded calmly, "would you tell Windrazor when he asks what happened to his best scout trooper?"
Terradive took a moment to digest that. "Well... I'd just... I sure wouldn't... well... you'd just better watch it, Eagle. You think you're king of the skies or something, but you're no better than me, ya know. We're not worth a thing, you and me. Not to Windrazor. He'll kill us both one of these days."
"Possibly," Eagle Eye responded.
Skram and Turbofire entered the interrogation room unarmed. Their prisoner had his back turned.
Skram took a long, strained sigh. "All right, Decepticon. You know exactly why we're here, so let's just cut to the chase. I don't want to be here all day."
"Why not? That's how long I've been here," he replied.
A noise emanated from Skram that sounded like a laugh, but Turbofire wasn't sure. "Interrogate," Turbofire suggested.
Out of habit, Skram reached for his pistol, forgetting momentarily that he had been instructed not to bring it in. He made a noise of disgust and approached his prisoner.
"Fine, we'll do this the long way. Name."
The Decepticon remained motionless and said nothing.
Skram jumped out and tackled the Decepticon, pinning him to the ground. He attempted to roll the prisoner over onto his back, but the Decepticon's rather large wings precluded that. Skram finally settled on lifting the slightly larger robot by the shoulders.
"Name," he growled behind clenched teeth.
The Decepticon's optic visor glowed brightly. "You scrawny little punk. How terrible it must be to live knowing that you are inferior to every being you will ever meet. I want you to know you have my deepest sympathies."
Skram growled and punched the Decepticon in the face.
Taking a step back to regain his balance, the prisoner didn't have time to react when Skram grabbed him by the foot, causing him to fall onto his back. His equalizers were still recovering from the fall when Skram swung him by the leg, causing him to crash into the cell wall. His internal diagnostic system had barely had time to register the damages when he became aware of Skram pummeling his face repeatedly with his fists.
After a moment or two, Skram relented. Breathing heavily, he slowly picked up the limp Decepticon, propping him up on his feet. When the Decepticon had sufficiently regained his footing, Skram let go, allowing the prisoner to stand on his own. Then Skram punched him squarely in the face again.
"NAME!" he shouted.
Skram felt a hand touch his shoulder from behind. It was Turbofire.
"Ineffective," the larger robot commented.
Skram nursed his fist. "You're tellin' me. Got any better ideas, kid?"
Turbofire shook his head. "Nope."
Skram turned to the prisoner, who to his credit was still standing upright, if wobbling a bit. "Look, you piece of Decepticon slime, I will beat the information out of you if I have to. You want that? 'Cause I'm only too happy to oblige."
"What I want..." said the prisoner, "is for you to dunk your head in a plasma vat."
Skram responded with a swift uppercut and then stormed out of the cell. Turbofire followed his lead.
"Please," added the Decepticon before the cell door was closed and sealed.
In the control center for the Autobot Headquarters on Cybertron, Rapido sat at a console, studying the screen. Without turning from his work, he asked, "Skram and Turbofire, did you obtain any information from Snipe?"
Skram made an inquisitive noise.
"Decepticon Technicians Master Snipe, the prisoner you just interrogated."
Skram shrugged. "Not as such, no. I gotta tell you, that guy is..."
"Uncooperative," Turbofire suggested.
"...stubborn like a rusty hex nut," Skram finished.
Rapido flipped a switch on the console, replacing the data with an image of Snipe, glowering in his cell. "I find it highly unlikely that he will relent upon further interrogation. I will order Windbreaker to begin the extraction procedure." He typed a message into the console.
"Whoa, whoa!" Skram said. "And turn his brain into scrambled tofu? Then we'll never get anything outta him! And, eh, besides, you know the Decepticons ain't gonna be too thrilled about us messing with his noodle."
"The extraction procedure has a 43% success rate," Rapido pointed out. "Those are certainly better odds than the 0% success rate yielded by your rather aggressive interrogation technique."
"Heh, you, uh, saw that, eh?" Skram said.
"Look," Skram said, "even if we do manage to get the data, there ain't no guarantee that the Decepticons' discovery is even gonna work. We'll be right back where we started, and for what?"
"Given the great lengths the Decepticons went to protect this information," Rapido countered, "they must believe it will work. While the odds that their discovery will be a successful one are yet undetermined, the odds that we will benefit from it are 0% if we do not attempt to extract it."
"Eh, you and your stupid percentages," Skram muttered. "You shoulda let me bring my gun in."
Windbreaker entered the room carrying a small apparatus. "Anybody take a port measurement on the Decepticon? I need to know what kind of modulator to use on him."
"Go ahead, Windbreaker. Turbofire, go with him," Rapido ordered.
Skram made another disgusted noise. "Eh, this whole thing is a waste o' time. That Decepticon's never gonna spill the info, extractor plugged into his noggin or otherwise. I'd rather be out plugging Decepticons with ammo!"
Rapido frowned. "If the Decepticons really have discovered a new power source of this magnitude, Skram... we're going to need considerably more than that."
END OF PROLOGUE
This Page Created August 2000