Flameout: Part 3: Thunder

	The deep blue finish of the robot who stood before them glowed
as if well kept, yet was unable to hide the tiny cracks and dents that
told of his thousands of battles. There was a natural power to the way
he moved, and a confidence to his tone. His inverted wings were
knifelike in their design, with a scarlet Autobot insignia emblazoned
across them.
	"I was wondering when you'd call me." Thundercracker said. He
crossed his arms across his chest and looked at the other two Autobots
as if disappointed.
	>I don't like this.< Prowl said over the inter-autobot radio.
	>He's one of my best warriors. He's under my jurisdiction and
I use him as I see fit.< Jetfire countered.
	>NOT when it jeopardizes this installation. I will--<
	"I can hear you."
	"Wha?" Prowl turned, surprised.
	"I can hear you." Thundercracker explained, "Ratchet finally
patched me into the autobot comm channel and gave me the decrypt
sequence. It was about a week ago." He paused, "So you may as well
speak out loud."
	"Fine. I don't like this. And I don't like you." Prowl said,
trying to count the number of strafing runs he'd dodged from
Thundercracker in the old days.
	"With all due respect, sir, I think I have shown my loyalty
more than adequately in the past few years."
	"I agree." Jetfire stated firmly.
	"I don't care. The last few years do not make up for the
previous millions. How many Autobots did you kill?"
	"I don't think that--"
	"HOW MANY?" Prowl seethed. "Now your buddy is out there ready
to take this place apart!" He calmed a little, realizing the natural
flow of logic, "And I have no choice but to trust you."
	"That's right sir."
	"But I don't have to like it." Prowl sat back down.  His eyes
didn't waver from Thundercracker's.
	"What is your assessment, Thunder?" Jetfire said, breaking the
silence.
	"CDF-- Give me a map." Thundercracker said to the face on the
monitor. A holographic map appeared in thin air between Thundercracker
and Prowl. "My first assessment is that you people are fools." He
said. Prowl gritted his teeth and began to stand again, but Jetfire
waved him down.
	"You've done everything he's expected you to. Ravage is one of
Megatron's finest warriors. He's a sick puppy, but he's not nearly as
unstable as Starscream or hell, even Meggy himself."
	"What's your point?" Jetfire said.
	"My point is that you've been operating under the assumption
that he'll try to get out of CDF as soon and as fast as possible, and
that you'll catch him at a gate or on a wall."
	"Right. That's what I'd do." Prowl said.
	"Wrong. You're thinking like an Autobot. You're worried about
alarming the humans and disrupting their lives. Ravage doesn't CARE if
he leaves a trail of bodies.  He is going to get what he wants and
he's going to do it the easiest way possible."
	"But what does he want?"
	"Knowing Ravage? Weapons. Weapons and information. As far as
Ravage is concerned, he's got all night to get them."  Thundercracker
contemplated the map.  "You did have the common sense to confiscate
his weapons, right?"
	"Yes."
	"Well then where was he last seen?" A small dot lit up
courtesy of Ciudad. There was an arrow pointing away from it to the
east.
	"Then he'll go here." He pointed to the armory
substation. "When was he seen?"
	"About an hour ago."
	"Oh, shock. That means--" Thundercracker's thought was
interrupted by a beeping on Prowl's desk.
	"Prowl here." He identified himself into the microphone.

				*  *  *

	"Witwicky here;" Daniel said into the helmet mike, "I've found
another victim." He kneeled over Kochanski, and rolled her onto her
back. She was clutching her chest and bleeding from her legs
profusely.
	"Nnng." She said. "R-ravager." She said, trying to remember
the name.
	"Ravage." Daniel said, "It was Ravage." He unzipped her work
jumpsuit, "Nothing personal." He said, and pulled the suit off of
her. Pieces of it were fused to her skin at her left breast, which was
pretty much ash.
	He took off what was left of her bra, and then produced a
spray bottle from one of the medkits at in his hip packs.
	"GGkk. Hurts. Gods, it hurts." She bit her lip until it bled.
	"Shhhhhh." He said. "Hold still. This will hurt, but you'll
have to bear it."
	He sprayed her chest with the bottle, and went to work on her
leg while it acted. He cut her jumpsuit up into strips and bandaged
her leg with it.
	Moving back to her chest, he found that the chemical had done
it's job. He brushed off the now loose ash and burnt flesh, leaving a
grizzly gaping wound. This he sprayed with an antibiotic nanotech
solution, and then with an "Instant skin" covering.  She would need
reconstructive surgery, but she would live.
	Again, he dialed up the medtechs.
	`Nothing more I can do' he thought as he stood. Then he
thought again and gave her a dermal patch that would knock her out. At
least she wouldn't be in pain.
	He surveyed the scene. Kochanski-- Jeez, he suddenly
remembered the name from the Auto Shop earlier-- had the presence of
mind to type into her terminal what Ravage had taken.
	One grenade launcher, and something called a "Magnetic
Linkage" he summed up the power of the weapon, and also picked up the
plasma rifle on the floor. It was standard issue to all the human
guards. Just like the ones that the two guards at the checkpoint
should have been carrying.
	The wail of sirens and screeching tires interrupted Daniel's
thoughts. Apparently Ratchet himself had showed up.
	"Dan, are you in there? He said, walking in behind the two
human medtechs. They picked Kochanski up on a stretcher and carried
her out to the waiting drone.
	"Right here, Ratchet." He said.
	"You all right?" Ratchet came around the corner.
	"Fine. Can't say as much for her, though." He looked at his
time display, 8:42pm.

				*  *  *

	"Transform." Prowl said to the face on the monitor. He knew
he'd catch hell for it, especially on the advice of Thundercracker,
but he couldn't escape the logic of it.
	"Yes sir." The face of Ciudad del Fuego disappeared.
	With a tremendous bass, the entire city began to rumble.  The
sirens blared, clearing the streets of humans and Transformers alike.
	>Warning. All personnel to battlestations. Non- combatants
please move to designated shelter areas.< the unemotional female voice
urged all in the city, >Code Blue.  Priority Alpha. All stations move
to confinement mode. You have sixty seconds until start of battle
transformation.<

	"This will make a little bit of a mess." Jetfire said, looking
out upon the city.

				*  *  *

	As the klaxons silenced and the people cleared, the huge
towers of apartments began to retract, being replaced by armor plates
and weaponry. The control tower itself was retracted deep into the
city's heart.
	"Whut the--!?" Ratchet grabbed a beam to steady himself as the
room turned one hundred and eighty degrees and then began to slide
down the street. "They're transforming the city just to contain
Ravage??"
	"Looks like." Dan flipped on the electromagnets in his boots,
and took off his helmet. "How long until it's done?"
	"Superficially? an hour. Completely: three." This is the
prelim. The prime requisite in city transformation is defense. The
armor plating and weapons will be on line first, but it'll be a while
before the new linkages for backup power, internal life support and
sensors kick in." Ratchet recounted. He'd been a primary designer of
CDF.
	"Glad you guys thought of life support."
	"Well after what happened at New Fort Max..."
	"Yea, well, I have to jump. Make sure they take good care of
her." He put his helmet back on and moved to the door.
	"How are you going to find him?" Ratchet called. He knew there
would be no stopping the kid.  Daniel didn't answer.

				*  *  *

	Blades swerved to avoid a swiveling gun turret, then righted
himself and continued the scan. Picking up an irregularity, he zoomed
in with his enhancement circuits.
	It was a door to one of the buildings. It was having a hard
time closing, and seemed to be jammed. He dropped some altitude to get
a closer look.
	He immediately had to jettison his cargo hold to allow him to
dodge the blaster fire that erupted from the door.  There was a
tearing of metal as the doors were torn apart by Ravage's claws, and
he de-cloaked to divert power to his weapons.
	>>FUMP<< went the tube on Ravage's left hip. A tiny object
flew out, striking Blades in the tail rotor.
	It detonated on impact, exploding like a bomb ten times it's
size. He began to spin, and transformed to break his fall. He fell
nearly a hundred feet before slamming into the still shifting steel
floor.

				*  *  *

	The whine of an engine caused Ravage to turn, bringing his
plasma weapon to bear. A motorcycle boosted off the ground and
transformed into a gloss black robot ten feet tall.
	"Here kitty, kitty, kitty..." Daniel said.

				*  *  *

	The flash illuminated the Brazilian night like a two-ton
Will-O-The-Wisp. The fighting could be seen clearly from the now
ground-level command center.
	"Holy Spires--?!" Jetfire said, but before he could react,
Thundercracker had retracted the window and jumped out. The blast of
his engines was deafening as he roared off into the sky.
	"Stay with him!" Prowl said, jumping to his feet.  A loud
>SNAP< punctuated the unfolding of Jetfire's wings as he took off
without transforming. His red and white winged robot from stood out
starkly in the indigo sky.

				*  *  *

	Daniel took two more hits to his chest armor before he
fell. The crack of his armor hitting the steel ground rattled through
his head, and sent tiny cracks through the visor in his helmet.
	The black feline form loomed over him, seeming to smile in
arrogance. Daniel wasted a few heartbeats looking at his HUD. Power
linkages were hurting. Self repair would take at least a minute. He
was beginning to feel the weight of the suit.
	"You're not an autobot." Ravage's eyes glowed red, as if the
fires of hell lay barely in check behind them. His voice was like
ice. Crushed ice. Low and gravely with a sinister tone. Like
Megatron's, but less crazed.  "You're a human." He said, putting a paw
on Daniel's chest. "And I know you. I'm gonna enjoy this, boy." Ravage
raked his claws down Daniel's chest, ripping gashes in the armor that
protected him. More systems went down.
	"Gonna enjoy this."
	"...or nOT!!" Came a garbled voice. A smashing clang set
Daniel's ears to ringing as Ravage flew off of him.  Blades stood,
badly beaten, holding what looked like a pipe in his hand. Ravage
landed on his feet and turned to face his opponent.
	Blades swung again, smashing the ground next to Ravage, who
easily leapt aside.
	"You're just too dumb to stay down, Autobot." Ravage fired
another grenade, which hit Blades in the shoulder, blowing his right
arm to fragments. Daniel covered his face, but when he finally looked,
he had shrapnel rammed into every armor plate on his body. The gloss
black metal was dented and filthy.
	"That hurt." Blades said, shaking his head to clear it.  He
lunged for Ravage, who was dumbfounded that the autobot was still
standing. Ravage bit down on Blades' hand, crushing it, and liquids
began to spray out of the cracks in his body.  Blades fell.
	A deafening roar filled the air, followed by the unmistakable
sound of transformation. Ravage spun in time to see Thundercracker
land.
	"I knew you'd come." Ravage said. The smoking form of blades
lay immobile next to him, and Daniel was unable to stand with the
half-ton suit's motor assist systems out.  "question is: why?"
	"I'm here to stop you, Rav."
	"Then I'm here to kill you."
	"I don't want to fight you. We go back too far."
	"I know. But if that's the way it's gotta be..." Ravage held
up a paw, and four steel claws snapped out. "Then that's the way it
ends. You know I can take you in a fight."
	Thundercracker knew. His aerial skills were unmatched, but his
robot form was ill suited to hand to hand combat.  Even with weapons
he knew he would lose.
	"But I don't have to fight you alone." He said, pointing to
the much more quiet form of Jetfire as the big robot landed behind
him.
	Jetfire levelled his autocannon at Ravage immediately, and
Thunder threw himself toward Jetfire, knocking the cannon aside and
taking a couple of rounds to his wing.
	"What the HELL?? Jetfire said as he fell. Thundercracker
landed atop of him.
	"We don't need to kill him." Thunder said.
	"Prowl was right, wasn't he?" Jetfire said, standing, "...Once
a traitor, always a traitor."
	"Sir. I just don't think we need to--"
	"Screw it! I've had it with defending you! This kills it. I'm
going to tell Prowl to do whatever the hell he wants with you! You can
rot in stasis with your buddies for all I care!." Jetfire's visor
showed two glowing green pinpoints of rage beneath.

				*  *  *

	To slow. Everything in the universe was too bloody slow.
Blurr stood waiting for what seemed like an eternity, but his internal
chronometer told him it was thirty seconds.
	He swept his gaze over the area. It was the same as it was ten
seconds ago.
	"Blurr." Jazz said carefully.
	"What do you need? Do you need anything?" Blurr said.
	"Yes." Jazz continued. "Calm" he said as carefully as usual,
"Down".
	"Okay fine. Whatever you say, Jazz." Blurr continued scanning
the area.  He spotted something.
	He spotted something.
	He looked harder, and he could see a distinct blur off to the
left. He signalled Jazz."
	"Jazz! Look over there! Something is moving! can you see it?"
	"Yes." Jazz squinted, "I" he studied the area, "can."
	Blurr fired. He placed shots all around the catlike shape, but
couldn't seem to draw a bead on it. It was too hard to hit. But then
it dodged into a rising pillar in the street and it's cloak fizzled to
a halt. It was Ravage.

				*  *  *

	Blurr stopped shooting when he saw Mirage step into range.
Ravage immediately leapt at mirage and crashed into another pillar as
the image vanished.
	"Over here, Kitty!." Mirage called.
	Ravage sprayed the area with blaster fire, punching holes in
the fake image of Mirage.
	Ravage took a laser hit to the side from Jazz's handweapon,
and leapt to the left.
	It was less than a hundred meters to the wall, and beyond that
was miles of thick jungle.
	He dodged left again, and then right as the Autobots rained
death down on him with their weapons. The entire sector they were
standing on began to rise as the city continued it's transformation.

				*  *  *

	"JAZZ TO PROWL! Hit me with full deployment at the east
wall. We have Ravage in a crossfire! Get me some backup and tracking
crews! An' I need `em ten minutes ago!"
	The roar of engines filled Jazz's receptors as Tracks screamed
by, strafing the area. Ravage blew a coolant line when one of the
shots hit him in the neck.  He stumbled, with fifty meters to go.
	>CHA-BOOOM< went Thundercracker's engines as he soared by
overhead. Jetfire was right on his wing. A torrent of laser fire
erupted from Jetfire's underslung turret, clipping Ravage again.
	<Primary coolant system is down. Switching to backups> said a
tiny voice in the back of Ravage's mind.
	He leapt, finally reaching the top of the wall. He fired a
grenade into the sky, blowing Jetfire's starboard engine to pieces, he
then turned and lobbed another grenade into the mass of shooting
Autobots.
	The explosion was horrendous. It shook the city like an
earthquake and left a gaping crater in the floor section.  Autobots
lay strewn about the area in varying states of repair.
	A missile fired from that bunch of Autobots, smashing into
Ravage's side and sending him plummeting four stories to the forest
floor.

				*  *  *

	"You what??" Prowl stood, feeling the grip on his blaster.
	"He threw me aside when I tried to take a shot at Ravage. I
had him dead to rights, and Thunder let him go.  Cost us a lot of
Autobots."
	"Do we have Ravage?"
	"Nosir. We have a scanning crew searching that area of the
Jungle. If Ravage is alive, he's hurt real bad.  Bluestreak nailed him
one good."
	"What have you got to say, Thundercracker?"
	There was a pause as Thundercracker typed something into a
computer terminal.  A map of Brazil appeared with Ravage's location on
it.
	"What the--?!" Prowl stammered, "Is this what I think it is?"
	"Ravage's location? Yes." Thunder said, crossing his arms
across his chest, "I tagged him with a tracer during my flyby at the
wall."
	"All the good it'll do. It won't be long before he finds it."
	"Wrong. I used a Decepticon tracer disk. He'll think it's one
of his. Only difference is that mine is active, but he won't be able
to tell."
	"Then you--" Jetfire began.
	"Had bigger fish to fry? Yes. I don't care about Ravage.  I
want to bring Megatron down."
	"AND WHY didn't you see fit to bring this plan to my
attention, Thundercracker?" Prowl said, angry again.
	"Old habits die hard, Prowl. You might have said no."
	"Do you have any Idea how much trouble you are in?"  Jetfire
asked incredulously.
	"What's the worst you'll do-- lock me up? I've stared down
Megatron's fusion cannon. I'm not afraid of you people."
	There was a pause when Daniel walked into the room, still in
his armor. It was pretty beat up.
	"We lost him." Daniel said, tossing his helmet aside.
"Scanning crew says he vanished into the jungle. I hope he corrodes in
a ditch somewhere." Daniel kneeled and deactivated the armor. It
released his body and let him step out before reconverting into a
motorcycle.
	"No we haven't lost him. Thunder put a trace on him."
	"Whu..HA! Great! I just--urrk*" Daniel clutched a rib.
	"Dammit Daniel! I told you to get to medlab." Prowl said,
unable to belive the stubbornness of humans.
	"Yeah. I'm fine. I'll go down in a while."
	"you'll go now, and when you're recovered, report to Arcee and
get PROPERLY certified to work with us. And tell Jazz I want a word
with him."
	Daniel complied, pushing his bike out the door.

			END OF FLAMEOUT
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