Meltdown: Part One: Strike

        "Everyone assumes that the Decepticons were this horrid race of
mechanoid terror machines, highly organized and militaristic. This is
not entirely true. The Decepts were, by and large, a bunch of sickos who
got their kicks off of hurting people. Megatron (later Galvatron) and a
few others, such as the defunct Starscream, were among slim company when
it came to having actual designs for world and/or galactic conquest.
Left to their own devices, Decepticons were just a mob of psycho robots
who blew stuff up for kicks."
                                          --Memoirs of a Fleshling
                                                By Buster Witwicky

        "Primus on a jet-ski! What the hell happened to you??"  Chopshop
looked at his old friend, Rumble. The poor guy was a wreck.
        "Damn Autobots!" Rumble's vocorder blorted out. His mouth wasn't
moving properly to annunciate, not that he ever spoke real clearly. His
head was in fact, dangling behind him like a backpack. A few fiber optic
cables and twisted struts held it precariously in place. "Got me in the
head with a concussion grenade." He turned so that his face "Faced"
Chopshop, and managed a weak smile before his facial control circuitry
gave out. Only one eye was actually still lit.
        "Crud." Chopshop said, opening the hatch. "You look like a
friggin' PEZ dispenser!" He laughed a twisted sort of laugh. Rumble
didn't get it, but knew when to be offended.
        "Blow a gashket, Bug eyesh." He lisped the insecticon.  The
sneer wasn't nearly as effective without facial control, but the point
was made. Chopshop made a move to swat rumble, (rumble wasn't half
Chopshop's size) but held back when the other cassettes stepped forward
to back him up.  They were a tightly woven bunch. Frenzy held out a hand
threateningly, and the shimmering outline beside him had to have been
Ravage. Thrust was behind, crossing his arms to watch the outcome, with
Ratbat, who was in overall command of the group, on his left shoulder
intake.
        The all climbed into the hatch, which was the only outward
appearance of any kind of structure for a hundred kilometers in all
directions.
        The Decepticons had managed, with skillful use of resources and
natural talents like Ravage's, to build an installation on earth again.
From which they could keep an eye on the autobots and their human
allies.
        Well, that is, until now.
        "Rumble," Ratbat said in a disgusted/exhausted sort of way,
"Report to Hook for repairs."
        "Yesh Shir." He flipped the images from his optics so that they
were processed upside down, and then walked backwards into the repair
bay.
        "The rest of you, go to recharge." They all shuffled off. Or so
he assumed-- he couldn't see Ravage.  The little exhaust plug could shut
off his stealth circuitry whenever he wanted, but preferred to walk
around wraithlike. Made the other Decepts nuts. "I'll face the music for
this..." he muttered.
        "Ratbat. Report." Soundwave's singsong vocorder hummed.  It
always amazed Ratbat that Soundwave could make any single word sound
like a complete sentence. As Galvatron's highest ranking commander, he
had been put in charge of the earthbase. That and that Galvatron was
beginning to suspect ulterior motives in him, and wanted him far away
with lots to fill his mind and no time for treason.
        "Sir we downed one Autobot shuttle." Ratbat said, putting it in
as good a light as possible, "We think there were heavy casualties,
though we could not confirm this due to lack of optic resoloution.  The
shuttle went down about forty klicks east of here, across the river. IT
was definitely destroyed on impact, though we cannot confirm or disprove
any survivors." He waited. And hoped.
        Soundwave stood contemplating for a moment. His face unreadable
beneath the mask he perpetually wore.
        "As always, Ratbat, your report has all it's numbers in order."
Ratbat waited for the hammer to drop. "But what are the details?" Ratbat
looked up nervously at the ceiling. The cold steel of it was somewhat
comforting, but he really wished he were back on cybertron, in a
comfortable accounting job.
        "Well sir. Now that you mention it, there were some
complications."
        "Elaborate." Soundwave said.
        Ratbat screwed up his courage. He wasn't afraid of Soundwave per
se. He knew that the "Unchrasimatic" bore would simply take the news
with no emotion and do his best to rectify the situation. But Galvatron
would have a psychotic episode.
        "Well, I can produce no evidence to prove that they actualy knew
our whereabouts before we shot at them." He said as officially as
possible.
        "Our location is compromised. Galvatron will not be pleased." He
said, and then immediately switched to internal radio. "All Decepticons
report to main breifing chamber.  Chopshop, remain at your station. You
will be briefed later."  He said, since Chopshop was on guard duty.
        It was only a few minutes before they entered the room.  Frenzy,
Thrust, Rumble, Laserbeak, Divebomb, Hook, Blitzwing and Vortex all
walked in in robot mode. Rumble had his head on straight, but had a
bizarre facial tic. Hook seemed to think it was funny.
        "Is Ravage here?" Ratbat asked.
        "Yes. Right here." Ravage said from over Ratbat's shoulder.
Ratbat whirled to see a pair of glowing yellow eyes dissapear into the
shadows. "I hate it when he does that." He muttered.
        "Ravage, Frenzy, Ratbat. Playback." Soundwave said. Each of them
transformed and shrunk down small enough to fit inside Soundwave, and
then interfaced with him. The screens behind them lit up as soundwave
transformed and jacked in.
        The three screen all synchronized according to time index, and
then played.
        "Look. A shuttle" Thrust said. They stood at the edge of a
river, where they could clearly see the sky. Soundwave had made them
walk everywhere, to avoid detection, and they hated it. Who was going to
detect them in this steel forsaken earth jungle? Rumble climbed up onto
the other transformer's back and enhanced his optics as much as
possible. "Yeah.  Can't tell though. Could be a earther." He drew one of
his guns.
        "Put that down you fool!" We don't want to shoot down any
earther ships! Galvatron would have our head units on a platter!" Ratbat
hissed. The shuttle flew about three kilometers up, but bore no
insignia. Whatever it was, it was in no hurry.
        "Aww, c'mon man, just a few potshots!" He grinned.
        "Shut up, you buffoon!" Ratbat yelled. He enhanced his own optic
sensor images as best he could. It was better than what rumble could do,
but he would have liked to have had Laserbeak along. "It's Autobot, all
right."
        And with that, a green lance fired from he riverbank at Ratbat's
left, burning the tops of the trees as it passed, and then struck the
side of the shuttle. Something broke loose, and the shuttle began to
list to port and open fire on their general direction.
        "What the hell did you do that for?!?!" He said, lying flat on
the jungle floor with his wings covering his head.
        "You said don't shoot any EARTHER shuttles! You didn't say
nothing about AUTOBOT shuttles!" He smiled. "I got him good, eh?" He
smiled that stupid smile of his.
        "IDIOT!" Ratbat said, pounding him with a wing. "THEY <whump>

DIDN'T <whump> KNOW <whump> WE <whump> WERE <whump> HERE! <WHUMP>"
        "Your orders, sir?" Thrust said. He and Frenzy stood ready.
        "Fly up there and try to take out their communications array."
Was the best plan he could think of. No telling how many autobots were
on that shuttle, but they would stand a better chance if they could keep
the 'Bots from getting a message off to Autobot City, or worse--
Metroplex.
        Thrust transformed and Frenzy leapt into his cockpit as he
hovered, and then shot vertically on the twin fans in his wings. Ratbat
walked back to the riverbank, screwed up his determination and then
blasted off himself. Before he knew what was happening, Rumble shot past
with his thruster guns on full throttle.
        They caught up fast. Rumble did his best impression of an
artillery shot and smashed right into the ventral hull of the shuttle,
and inside. The dorsal hull blistered where he hit it from the inside.
Thrust's engines roared as he matched the shuttle's speed and released
Frenzy "Keep an eye on your brother, will you?!" Ratbat called as they
both landed on the top of the shuttle.
        "I have enough responsibilities!" he called, touching the palm
of his hand to the surface of the shuttle.  "I wash my hands of him."
The sound of blaster fire was clearly audible, and shots began to
penetrate the hull, causing Frenzy and Ratbat to have to dance to avoid
being hit by the random fire.  Frenzy began to tune into the autobot's
comm frequencies, as efficiently as possible.
        Rumble groaned watching the screens. He was being made to look
like a fool. If he could transform, he would at least be able to doctor
the records of what happened inside to his favor.
        Finally, a massive hole was blown in the top of the shuttle, and
Rumble exited, ducking behind a large outcropping on the dorsal surface.
Springer and Bluestreak climbed out of the hole and began shooting.
        "Oh, great! You couldn't shoot at a cargo transport full of
wingnuts and an automated slave pilot, could you, asshole?" Frenzy
bitched at his brother, "You had to shoot at a shuttle full of autobot
commandoes!" he cuffed Rumble one good and returned fire.
        "Frenzy, are you jamming them?" ratbat said, poking his head up
to shoot at the two Autos.
        "As best I can. After four million years they are just now
starting to pick up on my tricks." He fired, deliberately missing
Springer in favor of destroying an antenna.
        "Thrust-- get their main communications array!" Ratbat said, and
Thrust shot forward to try for the antenna on the nose.
        "I shot stuff up pretty bad in there, boss. With any luck, I got
some of the comm gear." Rumble said, showing that his little stunt
hadn't been entirely useless.
        "Good. You CAN do something right." Ratbat sneered
sarcastically. "Now shut up and see if you can vibrate this shuttle." He
used the hooks on his wings to dig into the metal of the shuttle's
exterior.  Frenzy held on as well.
        "It'll take a sec to get the harmonics right..." he said. The
autobots began firing with much more zeal when they saw the decepts
cease fire.
        Suddenly, the whole shuttle began to shake violently, and
pieces began to fly off. Rumble was doing what he did best. the autobots
weren't having a whole lot of trouble maintaining balance, but it made
aiming nearly impossible.
        There was a blast that rocked the shuttle even more, "I got the
array, sir.  Coming around to back you up!" Thrust came back up, rising
vertically over the stern of the ship and firing two missiles over the
heads of the decepticons and smashing into the shuttle's hull just in
front of the autobots.
        "Ha HA! Eat that you sons of garbage trucks!" Rumble said,
standing and cheering. A whining sound screeched through the air, and he
barely had time to say "Wha--?"  before he was hit.
        The grenade was set to explode on impact, and hit him square in
the forehead. He fell backwards, gibbering and twitching and finally
rolled over the side of the ship and plummeted into the jungle canopy.
        "Shit." Frenzy said. He looked at Ratbat, who looked over the
side. "Retreat?"
        "Retreat."
        "Now?"
        "Now."
        "Waitasec? Where's Ravage?" Thrust said, dodging laser fire.
        "Ravage!" I totally forgot about him!
        >Right here< Ravage said over the radio. >On the ground.  I've
been chasing the shuttle on foot.<

        "Great!" Ratbat said. "As soon as you see us pull away, give
them a parting gift!"
        Just then, a massive set of jaws emerged from the previously
made hole in the hull, and the Dinobot Grimlock hauled himself up onto
the surface of the ship. He immediately began to wae his way toward the
decepts.
        Ratbat elected not to wait for Thrust to pick them up.  Grim had
them outmassed by well over thirty times, and the sheer amount of
firepower he added to a fight was incalculable. Ratbat grabbed Frenzy by
the shoulders and fired his boosters, peeling backward from the shuttle.
 Luckily, the big dinobot cannot fly.
        Two proton missiles screeched up, homing in on the heat
signature of the engines, and rammed their explosive payloads up same.
The entire shuttle rocked left and burst into flames, and began losing
altitude.
        "Soundwave will not be happy." Ratbat said when they landed.
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