"Sweet mother of the universe..." Buster muttered under his breath as he surveyed the grizzly scene. "What the hell are we dealing with?" Buster had fought Ravage on several occasions, but had always thought of the big cat as somewhat cowardly and not very powerful. The smell and sight of it overwhelmed Daniel, and he vomited into the nearest corner. The heaves continued for a minute or two after his stomach was empty. "It's Ravage, Buster. As an expert in espionage I can tell you that he is unequalled in that art. We have it on disk if you'd care to see it." Buster swallowed hard, "I think I'd better" he said. Daniel stared at the scene for a few seconds longer as his father headed for the security booth, but soon turned to follow. "Here's the disk, Sir." an unidentified autobot handed Bumblebee a silver disk twelve inches across. Bumblebee slid it into a player and a nearby screen lit up. "Keep in mind that this is a computer record and there's no sound-- it saves memory-- but we can play back in a number of modes. First I'll play the visual spectrum." He flipped a switch and the scene was that of the cell--apparently empty-- being guarded by one Autobot that Buster didn't recognize and four other humans. Suddenly, the Autobot began clutching at his throat, and his head was immediately torn from his shoulders. Next arms and legs began to fly off. The humans began to panic and shoot, realizing what was happening. Their screams were lost on the silent record of their deaths. One was cut cleanly in half, and then apparently stepped on. Another one seemed to be bitten, and blood dripped out of and around an invisible mouth. Only the barest of catlike outlines showed as the other two were torn to pieces and their bodies used as sponges to draw the Decepticon insignia. Ravage continued to draw after he finished, and buster noticed a coherence to the splatter marks on the walls for the first time. It was Trinary, the native language of the Transformers. "What does it say?" Buster said. Humans lacked the vocal anatomy to speak Trinary, much less read it. "It says, `Be afraid'" Bumblebee said gravely. On the disk, the door opened and another human stepped in, responding to all the commotion inside. He was immediately cut down and lined up, and then a trail of bloody footprints left the room. "How'd he do it?" Buster said, numb to the horror of the scene. "Look." Bumblebee switched to an infrared scan. Ravage could now be clearly seen in the swirling heat patterns. He was in his cell, apparently lying on his stomach. Then he simply stood, and walked through the force field. "Near as we can tell, Ravage gains his visual invisibility by bending light around him. I think he found a way to bend the field's energy too." "Can he do that?" "We didn't think so. But with time on his hands, he figured out how." "Shock," Buster said, using a Transformer swear word, "Get everyone on this thing that you can. All the best scanners. Keep this out of the general public knowledge, though. He has to get out of Ciudad, right?" "He may have a ship or a drop point to get to." "Awright. CIUDAD?" Buster said into thin air. No response. He touched his comlink, "Buster Witwicky to Ciudad Del Fuego. You are needed on deck." The image of Ravage walking through the forcefield was replaced by CDF's face. He wasn't smiling. He was deadly serious. "You know what's going on?" Bumblebee asked. "I just read the logs, Lieutenant." CDF answered. "Good. I need you to put up every sensor you have to full alert and sound a general "return to quarters" signal. Make it look like it could be a drill." Buster said, Dialing for some other Autobots to meet him for a briefing. "You want me to transform, sir?" CDF looked seriously ready to do so. "No. The threat is internal. We don't want the humans to freak out when their apartments are retracted into the ground. If we want you to, we will send you a signal." Buster thought a moment. "Flip on the infrared scanners, though." "Belay that." Bumblebee said, "They won't work. Only reason we caught him on IR on the disk is that he had to shut down most of his cloaking systems to get through the barrier." "Good point." Buster conceded, "But triple security on the remaining Decepts--No, screw that. Have them deactivated and put in stasis." "Done, General." CDF said. "Ciudad out." He vanished. "Daniel, you'd better return to quarters." Buster said. Just as he did, Meggan ran into the room. She technically wasn't allowed access this deep, but the fact that three guards were chasing her attested to the fact that she didn't care. She wore only her CDF issue skinsuit which identified her as human number four. To this she added a belt and some sneakers. "Meggan! What the hell are you doing here?" Daniel said. "I got a message... I.. You might have been hurt." "Maybe. But you still are. Go home." Dan said. "And you should go with her." Buster said as Bumblebee waved off the guards. Arcee walked in as Meggan reached the group. "I tried to stop her." She said of Meggan Just then, the squeal of tires filled the large chamber, and from down the corridor came a convoy of growling sports cars which transformed into the forms of Wheeljack, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, Jazz, and Smokescreen. The white robot that had been a Porche spoke in a voice that, while familiar, commanded authority. "Witwicky." He said upon seeing Buster, "I just got the word. You're relived." Jazz said, turning to the others. "Smokescreen: You and Witwicky head out to the North gate and round up all the Autobots you can on the way. Sunstreaker: You and Sideswipe have the south gate. Jack, you and Bumblebee go west. I'll take Arcee and go east." They transformed and screeched out their assignments. Buster leaping into Smokescreen as the red and blue sports car's tires peeled on the steel floor. "Jazz!" Daniel said, "Uh, sir. I request that I be allowed to go with you." "Request denied. Civilian personnel are to return to quarters. This means you." Jazz said. His eyes were covered by a dark visor, but the lower half of his face formed a frown. "Then I'm not Civilian anymore." He said, taking off his jacket and flexing his cybernetic left arm. He looked at it moment, and then turned to Jazz. "It's time to start fighting back." The wail of tires and roar of engines faded off into the distance as Jazz looked at Daniel. He just glared at him for what seemed like hours, but the human was unflinching in his resolve, and Jazz finally spoke. "Then your first assignment is to take Miss McTavish back to her quarters. Take one of the Hurricanes." Jazz pointed to the row of black motorcycles that lined one wall of the cavernous room. "You know how to run one?" "Yessir. I rode one of the old, declassified Tsunamis." "Basically the same. Good luck. Meet me at the east gate." Blaster and Arcee transformed and screeched off. Daniel ran to one of the bikes and started it up. It's cybertronian power source whined to life and throbbed with power as he edged it forward to Meggan. "I'm not going." She said, looking as if she'd be unmovable by Omega Supreme himself. "You'll go." Daniel said, reaching out with his new left arm. he grabbed her by the belt buckle and picked her up, plunking her down on the back of the bike and taking off at top acceleration. * * * "Jesus!" Piotr said to his friend. "Eh?" Jesus turned from his contemplation, and shifted his rifle to his left shoulder. "Do you have a cigarette?" The big Russian made a motion to his lips as if smoking. "Si." Jesus reached into his left breast pocket and pulled out a pack of Marlboros. "Thank, you my friend." Piotr said, lighting the proffered cigarette. He took a long pull and suddenly threw the cigarette aside when he heard the sound of roaring engines. He had his MK-2 plasma rifle ready in half a second, and Jesus wasn't far behind. "Hey, bendejo!" Jesus said, looking over at Piotr. He'd told Piotr that `bendejo' means `good looking guy'. Piotr stole a glance. "What?" "They're coming this way, man." Jesus was sweating up a storm. "I can hear that. But I do not know WHAT is coming this way." He primed the rifle. Around the corner came five cars of various design. They screeched and squealed as they turned, and a blue Z-28 actually lost contact with the ground on it's two right tires. "Bozshe moi!!" Piotr screamed, leaping to the side of the road. The five Autobots flew by without a word and continued down the road, leaving only the smell of burnt rubber and exhaust fumes behind them. Jesus also found himself on the ground, and managed to pick himself up and brush the dust off of the front of his uniform. "don't they do ANYTHING at a slow pace??" he said. "I mean, they could have radioed us ahead to let us know they'd be passing this checkpoint!" "They are trying to prevent an escaped Decepticon from leaving the confines of the city. They won't succeed." "What make you say-- WHO SAID THAT?" Jesus began looking all around him. "You did, Jesus." Piotr said, inspecting a bruised elbow. "NO! I--Aiiiighhhhhhaaakkk*" >THUD< "Wha--?" Piotr looked and saw a huge black panther shimmer into existence. It was seven feet tall at the shoulder, and held Jesus's right forearm in it's mouth. It moved from Jesus's body, dropping the arm and stepping on the young Latin man's neck as it passed. There was a loud SNAP as Jesus was put out of his misery. "What the hell are you!" He said in Russian. "Give me your weapon." Ravage said. "I'll give it to you!" He opened fire with the rifle, but ravage vanished into thin air. The next thing he knew, there was a sharp pain at the small of his back, and he couldn't move his legs. He just lay there staring as Ravage picked up his and Jesus's rifles and grenades. And then shimmered into nonexistence again. It was all he could do to reach for the alert button on his belt... * * * "Stay here and don't leave this room!" Daniel said, pointing to the floor in Meggan's quarters. "I am NOT a child!" Meggan protested. "Good. Then control yourself and stay. I have to get to work." Daniel countered. "I can take care of myself. I want to go with you." She was nothing if not independent. "Look! You've fought Ravage before and he nearly crippled you. That AND you had an ExoSuit." "So you don't think I can handle seeing him again?" "NO! I-- I mean..." He finally broke down. "I love you, Meg, and I don't want you to get killed out there. You're a reporter-- leave the fighting to the soldiers." He held her face in his hands, but she flinched when she felt the cold ceramics of his artificial left hand. He felt a twinge of grief over the loss, but continued. "Don't end up like me." He showed her the hand, "I'm in much further than I ever wanted to be. It's too late for me, Meg, but you can still get out." He kissed her quietly, and then left. She fell to the nearest chair as he exited the door, not seeing the silver face on the monitor screens behind her. "Daniel, this is Blaster! I got a relay for you. You up?" The transmission came through Daniel's helmet. "Right here, What's the word?" "Head out to post 116. One of the guards there signalled for help." "Can do. Witwicky out." Daniel closed the channel and hung a sharp right towards 116. As he approached the scene, he flipped the lever on the right handlebar to transform the bike. With the familiar ratcheting sound, the bike encased him in a suit of powered armor that was five times better than his best Exosuit. He snapped a huge curved blade out of the left forearm and powered up the lasers on the right. "Dear Primus" Daniel said unconsciously, "What happened?" There was blood everywhere, and the two guards lay in pools of it. Daniel checked the one on the left. He was dead. Next he moved to the right side of the road. This one still lived. "Witwicky to CDF! Dispatch medical drones to home in on my signal! We have one human dead and another dying." He got little more than a green light from Central Computer, indicating that CDF was occupied elsewhere. "Please.." The big man whispered. "What?" Daniel knelt by the man. His name tag identified him as P.Fukshimov. Daniel hadn't expected him to be conscious. "Please. Take this..." He barely lifted his hand. It was empty. "I don't--" "The ring. For my daughter." He twitched his right ring finger. "No. Keep it. You aren't going to die, my friend." Daniel said, checking the man's pulse. "Not today." The whine of an electric turbofan filled the air as a small drone descended and four human medtechs climbed out. Daniel stepped back. "Did you move him?" One of the medtechs said. "Not an inch." Daniel told him. They went to work. One of them scanned the guard and the other injected him with ten CCs of bone knitting nanotechs. They began making preparations to move him, but Daniel had to leave. He turned to go. "Sir. I'm afraid you'll have to stay. I need to take a statement." One of the medtechs said. "I can't. I'm.." He swallowed. "I'm military. I have to get out of here. I'll send a report." He looked down at the blood and saw Ravage's footprints lead off to the east. He switched his helmet display to scan for organics. `You're getting sloppy in your old age, Ravage...' Daniel thought. He could see the trail of organic blood on the steel street. "Witwicky to Ciudad Del Fuego. I have a Last Known Position for escapee. I have him at gate 116 heading east. He'll probably make for the east gate." Daniel had spent all his life around various militaries, and was almost scared by how much of the jargon he knew. He looked again at the scene-- something was odd. Uh, oh, "He may be armed." He finished. >CDF here.< The transmission came back. >I'll double the guard on that sector, but be careful, he may try to fake us out.< He paused for a heartbeat, >And fer shockssake don't try to take him on alone.< "I'll do what I have to, Ciudad. Witwicky out." Daniel snapped off the communicator. The words echoed in his helmet for a few more heartbeats before he headed off to follow the trail. * * * The waiting was the worst part. "MAN, I hate this." Jazz said. "All I can do is stand here and point a gun into thin air!" His gaze on the area didn't falter, though. "We have reinforcements on the way, Jazz." Arcee smiled. "You think you can get Trailbreaker out here? His force fields sure would help to contain this beastie." "Rub it in. I sent him back to Oregon last night." Jazz frowned even more. The roar of jet engines attracted their attention, and they looked skyward to see a flying corvette stingray transform and land with them. "Jazz." Traxx said, "Jetfire dispatched me to this gate. Says I'm under your command." He brushed some dust off of his metallic blue finish, and snapped his wings closed. The Autobots, though loosely organized, could become a well oiled military unit on demand. Jazz and Jetfire shared the job of second in command of the installation, with Prowl in charge. Jazz was in control of the ground forces, with Jetfire in the air. Naturally, certain Autobots fell under both jurisdictions. "Great. Take a position up on the wall. If you see the slightest glimmer of movement that refuses to identify itself, shoot to kill." Jazz said. "I love this job." Arcee said sarcastically. * * * The smell of ozone and burning flesh filled Kochanski's lungs as she fell. She could feel the tissue in her left breast screeching in pain as it was cooked, cell by cell. The pain was unlike anything she'd been prepared for. "I will ask you again," The huge black panther in front of her spoke in a deep voice that seemed to whisper. She could feel a mild burning sensation in her left lung "Get me a magnetic linkage. Number ten." It's eyes burned red. She looked back into the armory she worked at. She just wanted the pain to end. Clutching her chest, and streaming tears, she managed to stand and take a few steps back. She took down a large case which held the part he requested. "He--aggh--here." she threw it to the floor. Ravage approached the box. He wore the two plasma rifles on his hips where his confiscated proton missiles were usually stowed-- how nice of the Autobots to include a standard hardpoint mount on the human's rifles, he thought. Two micro manipulator arms extended from his shoulders, their tiny hands opening the case and programming the linkage. He then jettisoned the left plasma rifle and installed the new linkage. "Grenade launcher. Five pounds." He said. He could do the job himself, but was enjoying watching the monkey suffer. Chris knew it was wrong, but she was hurting, and she couldn't get medical attention as long as this thing was watching her. At least the burning had stopped. She dialed a drone to retrieve the large weapon. Ravage approached her, watching her slink back from him. He smiled inwardly, and reached out with his right paw and swiped her leg out from under her. Blood poured from the slashes that his claws left. "Aiiggghh**" She cried out. Tears streamed down her face as she clutched her leg. Ravage delighted in the pained gurgling noises the human made. It squirmed and shrieked when he got close, but he resisted the urge to stay and play a while longer. The launcher arrived, and he left his toy to it's bleeding. He installed the launcher on the magnetic linkage, then loaded it up. When he was done, he found that the human had gone unconscious. He was annoyed. He always managed to break his toys... "This is becoming serious." Jetfire said, looking at the image of Jazz on the screen. Prowl sat across from him, looking at the reports. The command center was located at the tallest point in CDF as long as Ciudad was in `City Mode'. "With every minute Ravage is on the loose, we risk more lives. I say we convert this place to Battlestation Mode. "I disagree. The battlestation has stronger defenses, but it will not seal Ravage in. It'll just disrupt the lives of the humans in the city." Across the room, a previously silent monitor screen lit up with the face of Ciudad Del Fuego. He seemed to look around for a moment before speaking. "Hate to bust yer bubble, Prowl, but the humans are not as dumb as they look. They have seen your people screaming around town like madmen and come to the amazing conclusion that something is up." CDF managed a grin. "What makes you so sure?" Prowl said, making sure he had the facts. "Four hundred and thirteen log entries today have shown a noticeable worry about the increase in Autobot movement." He said. "That and that you have enough flying Autobots thundering through the sky to put on this planet's largest airshow." Prowl began, "I ordered active scans of the entire area. Standard procedure--" "On CYBERTRON." CDF said, "On Cybertron, this much air traffic is trivial. Here, it means something is up." Ciudad somehow understood the human mind, something that Prowl had a hard time with. They were so *irrational* but they still managed to be accurate. Blades roared by the building, and stopped so short that an earth helicopter would surely have ripped it's rotors off. He glided gently back to the window and hovered a moment, and then opened a channel. >Blades to Jetfire.< He said, pausing to see that the channel had indeed gone green on both ends, "I have completed my spiral and have the data ready for inspection, Commander." Jetfire hit a switch on the wall, and the window slid down, opening the tower to the outside air. The tremendous WHUPWHUPWHUP that Blades' rotors made instantly overwhelmed Prowl's audio system, and he had to turn down the sensitivity a bit. The red and white helicopter transformed and landed neatly at the edge of the room, walking in with a serious gait. "Put it on disk." Jetfire said, holding out his hand. Blades cocked his head, as if he looking inward, and then ejected a small disk from a slot on his chest. "Thank you. Dismissed." Jetfire said, headed back to his seat. "Sir?" Blades said. Jetfire knew he would. "Yes Blades?" "Permission to speak freely, Commander?" Blades wasn't usually so polite, but this was an emergency situation. He stole a glance at prowl. "Granted." Jetfire said. "With all due respect, sir, scanning duty sucks. I'm loaded to capacity with sensor equipment, and all my weapons systems have been temporarily uninstalled to lighten me up for more sensors." "You're doing an important job. Springer's out of action for now and Whirl is off planet. We need a helicopter." "BUT even if I spot Ravage, I can't do anything about it!" Blades said, annoyed, "What am I going to do, land next to him and say `STOP!... Or I'll tell!'??" "Get out blades. Go do the job you were assigned. I have other problems." Jetfire said, and Blades gave a sneer before leaping out the window and dropping thirty stories, then transforming and flying off. "And here's one now." He muttered, seeing that the elevator had arrived. Wit a pinging sound, the doors opened and a blue robot with swept forward wings on his back stepped off into the room. He seemed to `take a deep breath' as it were, and then come forward. "Thundercracker reporting for duty, sir." the blue robot spoke.