Meltdown: Part Two: Crash

        "The Autobots were a military organization only in the loosest
sense of the word. Perhaps "resistance" is a better term. Although they
stuck to their ranks and procedures far better than the Decepticons,
there was much more of a feeling of brotherhood among them, and the
ranks were much more to perpetuate a sense of order. While some of them
were pretty rowdy, and others could be called downright treasonous, when
it came down to walking the wire, they never doubted each other. That
gave them an advantage that more than countered the Decepticon's
superior firepower."
                                Memoirs of a Fleshling
                                 by Buster Witwicky

        "DAMN!!" Grimlock yelled as ratbat and Frenzy leapt from the
shuttle.  The very sound of it seemed to shake the shuttle more than
Rumble had.  "I'll kill the little sludge puddle!  I'll rip his fuel
pumps out with my bare hands and chew 'em up!!" Grimlock walked to the
rear of the shuttle's dorsal surface.  It was a standard
Cybertroninan/autobot design, a sort of double arrowhead shape. He
crouched down and activated the meager jump jets in his legs.
        "Grimlock, NO!" Springer called. "We have to get this shuttle
back to Autobot City and send a message to Prime that there are
Decepticons on earth!"
        "Good. You do that, I'm gonna go kick some ass!"  Grimlock was
about to return to leaping when the entire rear half of the ship blew up
in his face, sending him careening back toward the front of the ship.
Sparks flew in all directions as Grimlock skidded backwards toward
Springer, who grabbed him and held him from falling over the side. The
shuttle listed even further to port, and Grimlock had to dig his fingers
into the metal of the ship's hull just to keep from dragging Springer
over the side with him.
        Bluestreak saw this and grabbed hold of the edge of the hole
with one hand, and Springer with the other.
        "Hang on, my man, I gotcha. Come on!"  Bluestreak said, hauling
them both up and inside.  They fell to the shuttle floor with a dull
thud.
        "Thanks, 'Streak. I wasn't sure how much longer I could hold
him." Springer said, throwing an arm around his friend.
        "Oh, cram it. I was fine." Grimlock said.
        "You're welcome." Bluestreak told him.
        "What's the situation, up front?"  Springer said into an
intercom that lead into the forwardmost sections of the ship.
        "Notgooddefinitelynotgoodmyfreinditlookslikenumbersone
throughthreeenginesareoutandtheantigravunitsaredowntothirtype
rcentpower!" Blurr's unmistakable voice came following the sound of a
door opening in the forward bulkhead.
        "Whud'de say?" Springer said.
        "We're going down hard." Bluestreak said, "I guess I should man
the turret during the landing-- no telling weather they'll come back
after us." he was clearly unenthusiastic about the idea.
        "No. That turret is on the belly. If we can't put this bird down
softly, you'll be crushed to a pulp." Kup's gravelly voice said, pushing
his way past Blurr and continuing on toward the rear.  "We've got about
two minutes to impact, and I need to get at least fifteen percent more
power out of these anitgravs if we want to survive. Springer, take the
humans with you and get the hell off this boat right now." It was
obvious that he chose springer because he was the only one aboard
equipped for long range flight. Kup opened a bin full of replacement
parts and began to replace fuses and burnt wires.  For every one he
replaced, another three blew up in a shower of sparks.
        "I don't think so, Kup. We want to stay." Daniel's face came up
on screen. Kup remembered he was piloting the shuttle, from up front.
"You're gonna need somebody to pilot this crate, right?"
        "Listen, kid! You ain't made of steel--"
        "And you ain't made of arms! I'm piloting this thing down. You
just keep it running. Witwicky out." His face disappeared.
        "Kid's got a lot of his father in him." Springer said.
        "Yeah. It'll get him killed." Kup smiled.
        "So what can I do?" Grimlock said, breaking his silence.
        "Why don't you put that strength of yours to use and pull that
huge blister back down to a slightly more aerodynamic position. Oh, and
bend the shreds of hull back down on the floor." Kup said. He was used
to Grimlock's moodiness, and didn't bring it up. "DAMMIT! these
connections are going to fast. Get Wheeljack back here and give him a
hand, Blurr."
        "Whatisit'JackIcanhelpIwannahelp!"
        "I need your speed. If anything blows, replace it with the same
part from the bins" Wheeljack told him, coming through the bulkhead.
        Blurr went to work like lightning. His hands were literally a
sky blue blur as he replaced each new failure.  Wheeljack was then able
to start fixing existing burnouts.
        Springer went to the tool cabinet and took out a hook and cable,
then climbed back up on the top of the shuttle.  He hooked one end of
the cable to a hardpoint on top of the shuttle, and the other to one on
his chest, and was airborne.
        He pulled.
        Primus how he pulled.
        From the outside, he could see just how fast they were going
down, and it was bad. They would hit the treetops in a few seconds, and
then it would be up to luck.  He redlined his rotors and pulled with all
the strength he had.
        Daniel didn't remember much of what happened after they hit the
treetops. His first though after waking up was Meggan. But she was okay.
Funny that. There was a time when bleeding from the head with a sprained
wrist wouldn't have seemed okay to him, but things had changed.
        For now, she was alive, and he was happy.
        He took off his exosuit helmet and breathed the clean earth air.
He felt odd, but then he realized that that was because his suit was
still set to counter Cybertron's heavy gravity, and shut it off. Under
any circumstances, it was good to be home.
        He reached over to Meggan and helped her take off her helmet.
She was bleeding, but it looked worse than it was.  She managed a weak
smile.
        "Welcome home from the war." She said.
        "No shit." He said. "So much for my vacation." She winced when
he dabbed at her cuts, but made no sound about it.
        Underneath the blood and sweat matted hair was actually a pretty
good looking girl. She was a couple of years older than he, but he was a
lot more mature than most guys his age.
        "You're so exciting! Dangerous."  she'd said when she met him.
It was after the destruction of Unicron. She said she wanted a man who
could show her the universe-- well he had.
        They'd been shot at countless times, and been under threat of
death every moment they spent in the presence of Autobots, but she
seemed to thrive on the adrenaline.  Daniel's dad had told him he was
lucky-- he hadn't had such luck with women at Daniel's age.
        She batted his hand away and stood, inhaling the earth air. The
stuff on cybertron was thick with carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide,
methane, with a constant batle between the CFC emissions and the Ozone
produced my the huge electrical generators.
        It was thick, nasty stuff, and no human could breath it for more
than a breath or two.  It stung the eyes and left a greasy residue on
everything.
        "Animal dung, rotting plants, stagnant water. Smells good."
        "Hehheh.." Daniel started to giggle, "Yeah, heheh, it does!
Haahahah! aauugh*" He clutched a rib through his exosuit. It was at
least cracked.
        "Everyone all right back there?" Daniel said into the intercom.
He was assuming it still worked.
        The door behind him (funny how he thought of those huge steel
portals as doors, as if they were no different from the ones in his
bedroom) was slashed in half by a thrumming sword, and then ripped out
by what could only be Grimlock.
        "You guys cool? We tried the intercom, but the power is
completely out. Doors don't even slide."
        "Yeah, we're okay. What about you?"
        "I'm fine. Ratchet was strapped down-- no use in a crash,
y'know-- so he's a little dented up, but he ain't vain about it. Kup
lost a finger, Blurr's okay, but Springer and Bluestreak's unaccounted
for. Wheeljack's tryin' ta see if we got communications."
        "Crap. Let's go get them." He climbed into Grimlock's waiting
palm, and took Meggan with him. Ratchet met them on the other side.
        "Are you okay?" Ratchet said. He may have been a robot, but the
hypocratic oath was the same across the galaxy.
        "Yeah. We're fine." He said.
        "You're a lousy liar, Dan. She's leaking bad, and my infrared
scans show a heat buildup in your thoraxial module."  He seemed to
finish a scan. "Will either of you require replacement parts?"
        "No. I've told you a thousand times, Ratchet. No."  Ratchet was
always insisting that he could build Daniel a new transformer body
`which would be far superior in strength speed, and durability than your
current design'. "Let's just try to find Springer and 'Streak."
        They moved aft into the smoking ruin of the shuttle. Kup was
waiting, trying to graft his finger back on.  Grimlock cut a hole in the
side of the ship so they could walk out without climbing through the
hole above.
        "The whole damn thing is shot." Wheeljack said. "Maybe if I had
all the replacement parts we could have her flying again in a year."
        The jungle is a strange place to a robot. It's about as
inhospitable as an environment can be. Bluestreak came to in a heap. One
of his doors was snapped off halfway across, the other mangled beyond
recognition. He could transform, but his car mode was useless here,
anyway.
        He could see the wreckage of the shuttle strewn across half a
mile of jungle. Little flaming pieces were scattered about everywhere,
and his olfactory sensors registered burnt plant matter and even some
dead flesh.  At the end of the long corridor of wasteland was the husk
of the shuttle, from which emerged Kup, Grimlock, Ratchet, Blurr,'Jack
and the humans.
        Bluestreak stood and brushed some of the plant matter from his
joints. He had climbed back out on top of the shuttle to try to lock
down a broken coolant line. He was thrown free of the shuttle and his
fall cushioned by local plant life.
        A quick self-diagnostic revealed a lubricant leak in his right
arm. He took a patch kit from a pack on his hip and covered it with
putty, and then sprayed a hardener on it.  That seemed to do it. He
started toward the others.
        "LooktheresBluestreak!" Blurr said, running over to him.
"YouokaybuddycuzifyourenotI'msurewe'llhaveyoupatchedupinnotim e!" Blurr
rattled out.
        "Yeah, guys. I was trying to lock down the coolant line and I
lost track of time. I was holding the thing all the way down to the
jungle floor until we finally crashed and I was thrown clear. I'm really
sorry I made you guys worry about me, and if I'd have known how much
good it would do I'd have stayed in and strapped down. I just kind of
thought that--"
        "Bluestreak!" Grimlock interjected.
        "Yeah?"
        "Shut up."
        "Right."
        "Did you see Springer?" Kup looked around.
        "Not after the crash. He was helping to pull the shuttle's nose
up until we hit. If he is anywhere, he's probably out in front. Bravest
thing I ever saw, man."
        "Okay, let's go." Kup ordered. He was the highest ranking
Autobot present, and took command flawlessly. They started out in a fan
pattern infront of the shuttle. It was Rat chet who found him.
        >Over here. Follow my signal.  I've found him< he said on the
radio link.
        Springer was pretty beat up. His rotor was lying on the ground
next to him, and he was unconscious and stuck in mid- transformation.
Ratchet diagnosed him and got him back on line quickly.
        "Springer, can you hear me?" Ratchet asked.
        "Nnnggg. Yeah." He said. "My gear box is killing me.
ggghhaaaann."
        "Yeah. My scan shows that you stripped your entire rotor drive
train bare. Damn rotor of yours was too tough to break when it hit the
trees, so something had to give."
        "Whuthappend?"
        "You tried to keep the shuttle's nose up during the crash. You
got hurt."
        "Nnng. Don't remember."
        "That's normal. Heavy impact will often wipe several minutes of
memory. Can you transform?"
        "Yeah, I- I think so."  He did. He activated his robot mode,
which took a lot longer than usual. He found himself lying face down on
the jungle floor, groaning in pain. He shut down the signals from that
section, and then, with Ratchet's help de-activated his helicopter mode
and systems associated with that mode alone. It didn't fix the problem,
and he was now limited to robot and car mode, but it would at least stop
the pain.
        "How's that?" Ratchet said when the adjustments were made.
        "Ugh. Much better, aside of the flashing "system lock"  sign on
my optic HUD. But I'll trade that for the pain any day." He opened his
mouth an pulled out a tree branch that had caught in there.
        "Okay, quit yer yammerin." Kup took over again, "I don't think
the decepts are gonna give us much time to rest.  Daniel, this is your
terrain, what would your recommendation be?"
        Daniel stammered for a second. He was from earth, but calling
the rainforest `his terrain' was a stretch. He called up a map on his
own Heads-Up-Display.
        "It looks like we went down right about here." He said, pointing
to an area in Brazil, "This area is deep jungle again.  The nearest city
is Ciudad del Fuego, and he's nearly three hundred klicks in this
direction. Way I see it, we have two choices-- one, to try to make it to
Fuego, or to try to make it to Broadside. Last I heard he was in the
Atlantic."  He pointed to the general location. Wheeljack, can you fly
there?"
        "Naw. My range is extremely limited."
        "Icandoit!bethereandbackinnotime!" came Blurr.
        "Not in this terrain you can't, lad. No way you can negotiate
this jungle." Kup said.
        "Yeah.. but he's a GEV, right? it's forty klicks to the river,
and from there it's a straight shot to the Atlantic.  Blurr can travel
over water, right, Blurr?"
        "YoubetIcan!" Blurr said. Nothing seemed to slow him down.
        "How's your fuel though?"
        "Internaldiagnosticsshowtanksatfortypercent."
        "How long will that last?
        "Abouteighteenhundredmiles."
        "That means it's a one way trip." Kup put in. "If he gets out
into the middle of the ocean and then it turns out that Broadside is
somewhere else-- at different co-ordinates or hell for all we know he
could be in orbit-- Blurr sinks like a rock!  We've all been off of
earth for at least six months.  Fourteen for me."
        "Do you think we can make it 300 klicks on foot with the 'Cons
looking for us?"
        "I say we head back to where we encountered the Decepts and kick
some ass!" Grimlock said, breaking his silence.
        "We'd probably get pasted." Bluestreak warned, "We have no idea
how many there are, and we are low on fuel, with humans to protect. Our
best plan is to call for backup somehow. Since Blaster is offworld, he
won't be around to pick up our long range signals, so it's up to us to
get a messenger out. That IS Blurr's job description."
        "Screw that! I say a stand up fight is better than pansying
around hoping the decepts don't find us." Grimlock crossedhis arms.
        "Enough!" Kup silenced him. Grimlock was twice the size of the
venerable old transformer, and three times tougher, but he had a certain
weird respect for the old vet that he lacked for everyone else. "We had
to face the same choices back on Dromedon a hundred sixty vorns ago, and
Daniel's plan is sound. Daniel, what are the hazards of the jungles?"
        "Well you guys are in no danger from animals, but you face
problems from the heat and soft ground-- you could sink.  Other than
that, your primary concern is corrosion. If one of you can carry me and
Meggan-- Meggan?"
        "Fine. A little woozy is all. Be fine"
        "I am not so sure. My scans show elevated activity levels and an
unusually high temperature for human parameters." Ratchet offered.
        "I think you'd better carry her." Daniel said. Ratchet picked
her up and put her in one of the seats in his chest, strapping her in.
Then he picked up Daniel and put him on his shoulder.
        "Grimlock. Transform and take the point." Kup ordered, "You're
best suited to this environment. Bluestreak, I want you in back where
you can shoot over each of our heads."
        "I hope I don't have to."
        "Me too, lad. Me too." He touched Bluestreak on the shoulder.
Bluestreak never liked fighting, and Kup had seen more of it that
anyone. He understood. "Keep Ratchet and Springer in the middle. Blurr,
Jack, and I will fall in."
        They began their march. Meggan watched through the windshield in
Ratchet's chest, looking down at the jungle.  They waded through it like
it was just tall weeds. Grimlock was the biggest of the lot, stomping
down trees and uprooting them in his jaws. The rest were of a fairly
even size, average for autobots. About thirty feet tall, to Grim's
forty. The physics of how something that big could stand on two legs was
beyond her. In fact, many Earth physicists had gone completely loony
upon seeing the transformers.
        The animals ahead of them were scattering by the hundreds,
giving grim a wide berth. Something primal in them told them that this
machine was not inanimate, and that it was no less dangerous than the
beast it was patterned after.
        She looked around at some of the astounding technology that
encased her, and wondered about the Nebulans. She wondered about those
who had had their bodies replaced by cybertronian technology in order to
become Headmasters.
        Ratchet had said that it would be possible to place her central
nervous system inside a transformer body, and she began to think of the
possibilities.
        Spike had done it. He became Fort Max, and died for the honor.
Many of the nebulans had survived him, but they were something less than
human now. They rarely even disengaged from their host transformers
anymore. No she didn't want to be a transformer at the cost of being
human.
        She eased her seat back and curled up. It had been a hell of a
day, but now she was getting sleepy...
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