"Be careful, Prowl."
Mike's concern resonated in my audio receptors, yet I didn't allow myself to glance back nor to answer him. Though the feeling was mutual, there was only one primary concern running through my processor, and it involved that Decepticon who had just dodged my acid discharge by rolling aside.
Usually, most Decepticons relied on their brute strength than their speed. But he was faster, slightly more agile than most Decepticons I had encountered before. Judging from his buffed, heavy armor, even he wouldn't be able to keep up with such speed for a longer period of time. This detail was something I knew, because I recalled seeing him beforehand. All he had to do was lift up his head for me to confirm his identity.
"Barricade, the Decepticon infiltrator."
He appeared to be amazed when he heard his name. His astonishment, coupled with amusement, brought him to chortle. "Well, if it ain't Prowl. Nice to see you again."
I raised an optic ridge, unable to mask my mild perplexity. I never knew him personally; I have only read reports and scoured Teletraan 1's database to get more information about him. This was our first encounter, or so I believed up until now.
This little minor confusion didn't go unnoticed, bringing a blood-lust smile to the Decepticon's face. "Oh, we've met once, a long time ago, way before the war began. Back then, you were nothing more than a regular officer deployed in Iacon, but no, that is not how I know you personally..."
As I began to ponder over what he was implying, more Decepticon soldiers poured in from every corner, aiming at me with their loaded weapons. A whirring sound alerted me that a soldier was going to fire. However, the sound dimmed down as that Decepticon soldier was suddenly knocked down by Barricade."You aft! This Autobot's mine! Get the Fleshlings and bring them to Lord Starscream unharmed. GO!"
All soldiers transformed and zoomed past me in their vehicle forms. I stood my ground instead of blocking their path, focusing on my opponent who was surprised by my decision.
"You're not going to stop them?"
"I won't need to when my backup intercepts your personal brigade."
In a matter of nanoclicks, loud detonations resounded from behind me. I heard the Decepticons cry out as they were assaulted by the remainder of the Autobots.
"You notified your team while you assaulted me..." Barricade growled, his delight intact,
"Well played. Worthy of your title as Autobot strategist. Tell me, since you've no doubt made a solid background check about me, why don't you fill me in with what you know?"
He was without a doubt fond of discussions, either to taunt me, to disorientate me or to show off. Ironic, considering the fact that, from what he said to the human girl before, he 'loathes chatterboxes'.
"I've read and analyzed all files available on Teleltraan 1's database based on reports and intel. According to what I've seen, you originated from Kaon City and were in charge of Megatron's gladiatorial fights. There were even insinuations of you being implicated in the bombings of several Autobot armory. The only inaccurate, ambiguous intel I've received was you being permanently offlined when Omega Supreme awoke."
"You know your stuff... Accurate for the most part, but incomplete. You don't even know HALF of me and I do have to say that I'm disappointed."
"I only take interest if it pertains to the success of the mission. Everything else is trivial, including your tiring babble."
He snarled, offended. "If that's the way you think, then let's see how trivial I am to you in combat!"
I wasted no cycle drawing out my weapons and instantly fired my first rounds at him, who dodged aside as he charged at me. His servos transformed into his guns and returned fire, the discharge grazing the left side of my faceplate. I dashed aside, leaping here and there as the ground of my previous position simmered with acid discharge. His aim wasn't perfect, but he knew how to handle a gun, especially while charging at me with such speed. If I weren't that agile, he would have hit me by now.
Opting for another tactical approach, I ran towards him and leaped in the air, transforming into a vehicle, accelerating in speed as an attempt to ram him. At the same time, I brought forth my guns and fired at him. The chance of avoiding being hit by fire and or by the vehicle were close to possible, but if he managed so far, the counter-strike that followed could terminate him.
All the while he dodged the missiles, jumping aside, he anticipated my move and jumped up high. I saw that as an opportunity and transformed, skidding underneath him and pulling out one of my guns. He was quick; he brought down his Energon scimitar to which I produced with the other servo my Blight Baton, the friction of our blade and rod causing faint sparks to spurt.
I transformed my weapon back into a servo to support my rod-holding servo. His brute strength surpassed mine, something he had probably gained from cycles of gladiatorial training in Kaon. He was powerful enough to remove one servo from the handle and keep the same stance as he went for his gun.
I immediately leaped backwards just in time to avoid being shot to smithereens at point blank, bits of scattered, searing debris springing out at me. My sensors alerted me of a sudden rise in radioactivity. I grimly recollected the data of my memory banks. There was only one gun capable of discharging radioactive rounds: a Super Blaster, a deadly, destructive Decepticon weapon built eons ago before its Decepticon creator was scrapped. Only three of its kind had ever been fabricated, but were confiscated and brought to a weapons' storage facility in Iacon until it was destroyed by a Decepticon aerial assault. Nothing of the place was left to salvage.
How did he get a hold of that powerful weapon?
As the analysis went through my processor, I countered his offense by throwing multiple Energon stars at him. He wafted them away with his crooked blade, his speed never relenting. Strength couldn't be used here. However, he was slower than me, a talker displaying arrogance and impetuosity, faults that I could use to my advantage.
"So why did Megatron send you here? To do his dirty work?"
"Megatron?" he laughed, "Get your facts straight, Autobot. Megatron didn't know what kind of warrior he had until he lost it. Now, I am second in command to Starscream, who recognizes my potential as an asset to this new league of Decepticons!"
"Unless you're the leader, Barricade, you'll always be considered a two-time, pathetic lackey, no matter how many times you change in factions or Decepticon ranks."
His vocoder emitted a furious growl. "I'll make you eat those words, you piece of slag!"
With a raging fury he charged at me, blade scraping against the floor, as I had predicted. As he drew closer, I charged at him and, nanoclicks before collision, loaded a particular round into my gun before shooting at him. The discharge hit the Decepticon, forcing him to the ground as he roared in pain.
The purpose of Photon Displacer rounds was to temporarily not only to blind an enemy, but to incapacitate him for a couple of megacycles before the effects wore off, courtesy of Fireflight. The Decepticon wasn't immobile just yet as he tried fight off the effects as they took over him, swinging his blade around and yelling and screaming in a mix of anguish and anger. Once behind him, I leaped at him and had his face pinned to the ground. The success of incapacitating him was short-lived as Vehicons came forth to aid their comrade.
"U-Using my anger to disorienta-ate me... C-Clever." he grumbled in amusement, his speech pattern impeded as a known repercussion, "T-T-Too bad yo-your luck's just r-ru-un o-out."
We were both encircled by new Decepticon soldiers, who might have come at their lieutenant's request.
"Step away, slagger." one of the soldiers commanded, his gun pointing at me.
Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, I ignored his directive and kept the Decepticon lieutenant immobile on the ground. Barricade and his soldiers had already lost this battle.
Barely a cycle had passed when the Vehicon who gave out the command was shot down. The back-up I had requested earlier had arrived.
Part of the Prime team had converged to my location, with Bulkhead leading the assault as he fired his weapons before whacking the soldiers away with his wrecking-ball fist. Following him was Arcee, who attacked another soldier while Bumblebee was occupied dealing with a three-on-one combat. Given the circumstance, victory was assured in this battle, and thus I was allowed myself to concentrate on Barricade.
"Luck has nothing to do with tactical advantage, Barricade. You lost the moment you let your guard down. Now, you and I can have our own personal chat."
I dragged the chassis of the Decepticon by his shoulder to a quiet corner down the street. His body waggled meagerly as he attempted to fight for his freedom, a futile effort considering his condition. I hauled him up before slamming him with full force against the wall. "I'll get straight to the point: what are you Decepticons up to?"
I produced my Blight Baton from a compartment on my leg and activated it, releasing electrical charges as I had it placed by his neck. Upon touch, his body convulsed violently as the charge coursed throughout his body. Judging it enough, I removed the batons, hearing him grunt, awaiting a reply. He only laughed."T-This is really fun... To think you have no idea... Wha-what's really going on."
Silent and discordant with his poor answer, I repeated my interrogation procedure. "Why are you attacking the city?"
His grunts turned into groans as he shook violently. But once again, his response consisted only of laughter, strained this time with twinge. "Hgn... What's the matter? Afraid we might mess up this place like Crystal City and the Helix Gardens?"
I stared at him, watching him burst into masochistic laughter. "I know a lot about you, Prowl. Just couldn't handle losing those battles, could ya?"
He was smart and cunning, I'll give him that. The fact that he knew how attached I was to both Cybertronian locations meant he knew of my other weakness.
I used my Blight Baton once again, watching his body fall into a series of uncontrollable jolts as the volume of his roar increased. It was a nice try on his account, but I've learned long ago to never let my emotions get the better of me on the battlefield.
"Last chance. Why are you attacking the city?"
As he tried to utter words, his speech patterns still impeded by electrical shock, my audio sensors all of a sudden picked up a shrill cry. I recognized it, but tried to pry the information from my captive before concerning myself with it. "What are you 'Cons up to?!"
"C-Come on, Prowl... You're wasting your time... And the more ya waste it, the more Starscream gets to enjoy playing with the girl's corpse."
As I feared, the scream came from Rachel Hawkins, Mike's closest friend.
"Prowl, you heard that?! Rach's in trouble!"
After hearing Bulkhead's concerned yelled, I withdrew myself from the Decepticon, leading him to believe that I would give him a momentary rest. If he knew me well enough, he should have known that I wasn't that forgiving if I wasn't satisfied. I produced my other Baton and, crossing it with the other, thrust them both to his neck. With one last shock and a final bellow, Barricade crumpled to his knees and fell into stasis. He won't be up for at least another three Earth cycles, "hours" as humans would call it.
Offlining him would be a waste if he could provide valuable information. Anything coming from him could serve as a deterrent to the war, especially with what he knows about the Super Blaster he's using. Additionally, I am curious of what other things he knows about me.
"Prowl, we gotta do something about Rachel!"
I glanced over to Bulkhead, who looked at me with bewildered, concerned optics. Averting his optics from the battlefield was a terrible mistake he committed. I dropped my batons into the compartments built on each side of my legs and transformed my hand into a gun, just in time to shoot in Bulkhead's direction. The bullet hit the Decepticon that nearly assaulted Bulkhead with a blade. Understanding what I had done, the former Wrecker permitted himself a cheeky grin. "Hey, thanks."
I didn't return the mutual feeling. "If you want to live long enough to see us win this war, then I suggest you keep your emotions under check, especially on the battlefield. Now cover me and keep those 'Cons at bay!"
With that yell I dashed towards the building, dodging fire while the approaching enemies were shot down by Bulkhead. Even with his lucky aim, he still managed to miss a few up ahead. His lack of targeting precision would never have him qualified as a Targetmaster.
My servo weapons shot up from the compartments and I retracted my plasma-gun back to grab hold of my Blight batons. Activating the rods, they gleamed in crimson color, and I swung them at the approaching 'Cons, tearing through them, smiting them in half whenever it was required to get through.
I located the former second in command Starscream on a rooftop, and as I increased my visual perception on him approaching the human girl, I ascertained that the attack on her was imminent. I calculated my chance of reaching her in time, and went through it twice. Disheartened, I deducted the outcome.
I won't make it in time.
My arms could barely support the whole weight of my body as they wobbled, but I still managed to get back on my feet. The fearful, one-eyed robot came closer with treading steps, and all I could do was stare in terror at his towering height. Maybe if I tried talking to him, I could convince him to let me go or, in the worst case scenario, stall for time. I couldn't gather any reasonable thoughts to help me out of this mess, as they all were fed by fear and terror. I pulled my hand up, taking a few, slow steps backwards.
"Don't hurt me, please! I didn't mean to-"
"What, carve out my left optic?!" His screech was so shrill, so vengeful that they forced me into petrified silence. "Not a cycle goes by when I'm reminded of that fateful day you destroyed my left optic. Do you know why that is? Because everyone who looks at my face will know that I've been had by an inferior lifeform! Do you know how humiliating that is?! My stature has been violated and degraded by you, a bug that only got lucky! Now everybody looks down on me, including my own soldiers who doubt my potential, and bit by bit I lose more of my pride and dignity as a ruthless and feared Decepticon leader!"
"SILENCE, YOU DISGUSTING VERMIN!" he screamed, earning a shriek from me. He hissed vehemently, panting from his outburst. "No matter how much you plead for mercy, you will die today, Fleshling. I'll make your final moments as stretching and as agonizing as possible, and I will make you scream until you choke on your very own blood! Oh, I swear to you, I will enjoy every passing cycle as I watch you hurt, for no one, not even someone as puny as you, will soil my very name, the Great Air Commander Starscream, and get away with it!"
Once he concluded his firm statement, he brought down one feet before me, cracks and fissures tracing across the surface of the rooftop. I crumpled to the ground, my legs unable to support the weight of my body. This is it. He's going to kill me.
His snicker only confirmed my fears. "Yes, cower before me! That is all you can do before I start ripping off both of your arms for what you've done to my optic!"
As his hand reached out for me, my jaw trembled as tears streamed out of my eyes. It can't end like this...
"No..." I muttered in shock. Turbulent thoughts invaded my mind. I don't want to die, I don't want to be in pain. My mind screamed at me to move, but it was too late before he grabbed me.
I desperately tried to fight out of his grip, clinging at the same time onto hope that somebody was around to save me.
I took a deep breath and screamed at the top of my lungs. "NOO! SOMEBODY HELP ME!"
He gruelingly smiled at my desperate cry for help, followed by a sinister, cruel chuckle. He eyed me viciously, but suddenly spun his head to the side as a rev grew stronger in sound. I followed his stare. A police car leaped over a roof and rammed directly into my captor. He let out a shrill cry, tossing me out of his clutches before being pinned to the ground, not anymore by a car but by another robot.
Flung aside, I used my hands to soften the impact. Little did it help as I heard a loud crack when I hit the ground hard, pain instantly shooting through my wrist. I cried in pain, still rolling aside uncontrollably until I stopped. My head spun as the world turned around me, but the pain in my wrist forced me back to reality. Just as I became aware once more of my surroundings, I spotted Prowl on top of an enraged Starscream. "Get off of me, Autobot scum!"
Prowl struggled hard to keep the squirming Decepticon down. "There's something you should really consider, Starscream: if you plan on hurting or killing someone, do it before you waste your time monologuing about it."
"Ngh, this isn't over!" he seethed, "I will have my revenge!"
His optic had turned into a flamboyant red color, and fueled by his vengeful fury, he fought back harder and thrust Prowl off of him with a growling shout. The Autobot coiled back, skidding to a halt and rushing at my side just to pick me up. As he made a grab for me, the screech of the Decepticon tore through the air. "No! That female is MINE!"
Starscream's order went over deaf ears as Prowl transformed into a vehicle. I found myself in the back seat, dazed by how fast he had changed. I was barely buckled in my seat when he gunned the pedal, zooming towards the ledge of the roof. "Hold on tight!"
I could not believe how calm he sounded as we leaped off the roof. I didn't have the strength in me to scream, as I already felt my throat becoming sore, but I was overwhelmed by dreariness, caused by the vertigo as gravity pulled us down. In mid-air, my surroundings swirled once more when I found myself again in the grip of the robot. I watched him collide against the wall of the opposing house, and he immediately kicked himself back and landed on the ground. My stomach lurched here and there during his performance. I was lucky that I had a strong stomach, but not the same could be same for the nauseous feeling that had invaded me. As I struggled with my dizziness, Prowl had already begun running and transformed back into that police car, speeding with incredible velocity down the broken streets.
"Prowl to Autobots, requesting immediate assistance! Rachel Hawkins has become a target, I repeat, the human girl has become a target!"
I trembled in my seat, covering my face as tears suddenly streamed out of my eyes. The chaos and terror of this event took my previous encounter to a whole new level, tripling the amount of conflict within my heart and head. I wanted it all to come to an end, begging for everything that was happening to stop.
But a car rammed unexpectedly into the right side of the vehicle, forcing Prowl to veer and take a turn to the left. Another police car had clung onto the door frame of this car, a claw-like hand punching the window open and sending shards of glass scattering across the interior.
"Come here, Fleshling!" he growled.
I instantly recognized Barricade's voice, and I crawled with shaky limbs to the other side of the car, far away from him and his sharp fingers as possible. "S-Stay away! Don't hurt me, please!"
Prowl took a sudden, sharp turn to the right, drifting as the car attached to him was thrown aside and into a building, unable to cling onto Prowl. At the same time, I was flung to the right side as well, hitting my arm and head against the door. The impact forced me to scream in tears; the sudden move caused more pain to my most-likely broken wrist, and the shards had embedded themselves in my already bloody hand from the window I had broken earlier on.
I held my hand, crying as I endured the agony. Prowl didn't seem to be paying any attention to my dilemma as he drove on, kicking dirt when a shadow loomed over the car. Explosions detonated around us. I didn't want to look out of the window to see who it was, but my heart raced as I predicted the attacker. A jet flew over us and transformed, landing with a resounding tremor before us.
Starscream had caught up with us.
"Your mainframe must be fried if you think you can outrun a jet, Autobot!" Starscream sneered, welcoming us with sharp claws.
I waited for Prowl to screech to a halt and back up, but instead of slowing down, he accelerated. "I don't need to outrun you if I can outsmart you." he shot back.
Starscream seemed to be taken aback, who was most likely as confused as I was of Prowl's reaction. "Prowl, are you nuts?!" I screamed at the driver's seat in front of me, imagining him sitting there, "What the hell are you doing?!"
He remained silent and sped only faster, heading for the Decepticon that awaited us with a cold, grueling smile and a barrage of missiles pointed at us. As I wondered in panic what was going through Prowl's mind, I heard him suddenly make a calm remark to himself that would never reach Starscream's ears:
"He's all yours, Prime."
As if on cue, gunfire rained down on Starscream. Surprised, he looked up, and I watched him back away as another robot landed on the ground, barely giving him a second of break before the assault continued.
The leader of the Autobots was attacking Starscream.
"Prowl, secure the humans and meet up with Ratchet!" he commanded, grabbing the Decepticon, "I will handle Starscream."
Obeying his direct orders, Prowl dashed past both combating robots, the leader tossing Starscream aside so that we could pass through. I turned around to see that Starscream had picked himself up and that both of these robots were in some sort of showdown.
"Rachel, where's Michelangelo?"
In response to Prowl's words, emptiness overcame me, depriving me of the pain in my hand and preventing me to understand what the Autobot was talking about. Yet barely a second later, those words struck at me like a blade straight into the gut. I gasped in utter shock, covering my mouth with my unharmed hand as it slowly, painfully dawned upon me.
"Rachel, where is he?" he repeated. My mind raced too much, I couldn't find the words to express myself.
Mikey had been shot. When Starscream came after me, I was so scared that I had forgotten all about it and ran off like a gutless coward.
I've abandoned the only friend close enough to be family when he needed me most.
"Oh God... What have I done?"