Disaster Transport.

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Disaster Transport.

Postby Rodimus Prime » Thu Dec 21, 2017 3:19 am

Motto: "Laissez le bon temps rouler!"
(Author’s note: this story takes place in pre-war G1 continuity)

Somewhere in the Vastness of Space


The steel container slid across the floor of the cargo hold and slammed into the wall with a loud thud.

“Whoa! Watch it!” Sideswipe shouted. “What the hell?!”

“Sorry, sorry!” Warpath said. “It got away from me. One of the cables detached.”

The container, hoisted up by 4 cables (now 3 cables) tied to each corner on the top, was taller than Sideswipe, the biggest bot in the hold. It was 30 meters on the short side and 50 meters on the long side. Up in the control booth of the lifter, Cliffjumper was manning the controls. The lifter itself, mounted on the right side of the cargo doors, which were in the front of the ship, could swing out from the cargo hold to bring in most freight, eliminating the need for unwanted people (beings of any type) coming on board, either as loaders or pretending to be loaders. That’s just how Ironhide likes it, no one but his own hand-picked crew knowing the insides of the freighter.

“Let me just hook it back up.” Warpath said, and jumped up on the side of the container.

He grabbed the corner that got loose, and pulled himself up. Standing on top of the container, he was still only halfway to the ceiling of the cargo hold, which was cavernous when empty. Ironhide had claimed he could fit an entire finger of a Titan in it once, but the others were skeptical, considering how big a Titan actually is. Warpath thought maybe a thumb could be stored. Maybe. He reached for the loose cable and grabbed it. He then put the hook at the end back into the loop attached to the corner of the container and gave Cliffjumper the thumbs up. Warpath then climbed down and Cliffjumper lifted the container up.

“Alright, CJ!” Sideswipe shouted, directing the lifter. “Over here! On the marks!”

On the ground were 4 L-shaped yellow marks, measured out exactly to the measurements of the container. On one side, Warpath was guiding Cliffjumper, on the adjacent side it was Sideswipe. After a few tight moves, the container was set down right on the spot.

“Alright! It’s down.” Sideswipe said and turned to Warpath. “Secure it.”

“On it.”

As Cliffjumper was climbing out of the lifter, Sideswipe walked to the steel stairs leading up to the upper deck at the end of the cargo hold. Coming down the stairs, Ironhide made his presence known by stomping his feet, the loud thuds reverberating through the cargo hold. He met Sideswipe at the bottom of the steps.

“What was that just now?” he asked in his gruff voice.

“Sorry, boss.” Sideswipe said. “The container got loose. We got it secured now.”

He turned toward the container and Warpath walking away from it, as if to look for confirmation. Warpath gave another thumbs up as he neared them.

“Okay.” Sideswipe said. “All good. Just waiting for Inferno.”

“All the other containers secure?” Ironhide asked. “We have 3 stops to make on the way back to Cybertron. I don’t feel like dealin’ with the hassle of damaged cargo.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.” Cliffjumper said with a smile, as he came to the stairs as well.

“Not funny.” Ironhide replied humorlessly. “We been away too long. I don’t want this run to be dragged out any longer than it’s gotta be. Let’s get locked up and outta here.”

On cue, Inferno walked up the ramp leading to the loading doors.

“All good?!” he asked.

Once again, Warpath flashed the trusty thumb.

Inferno then turned to the wall next to the cargo doors, on which were the controls to the doors, as well as an intercom. He pressed the big red button, and the ramp began folding up, followed by the doors sliding in from the sides. The doors and the ramp formed the 3-piece entrance, each piece able to be operated independently of the other 2 in case of damage or an emergency. For a ship as old as the Paladin Express it was brand new technology when the ship was launched. The door and the lifter were on the front of the ship, under the bridge. The nose of the ship was high up and didn’t protrude far, just enough to signify the front end of the vessel. The ship was essentially 2 levels, and each level was split into 2 areas: the lower level was the cargo hold in the front, occupying about 2/3 of the available hull space, and separated from it by a very thick steel wall was the ship’s engine room, which led right to the engine itself. The upper level was the bridge in the very front, the crew’s quarters behind it, and also separated by the same thick steel wall (continued from the lower level) was the shuttle bay. Of course, the shuttle was only for emergencies and could fit only 2 occupants (basically, it was a smaller version of the Rod Pod from MTMTE), but it was back there, secured above the engine, and able to exit the ship through another set of sliding doors, but these didn’t have a 3rd part acting as a ramp. The doors could be opened and closed from either the shuttle bay, the shuttle itself, or the bridge. The ship was not the flashiest around, but inside it was fairly modern. Inferno maintains the ship on a strict schedule, and Ironhide has always approved any recommendations for an upgrade made by his 1st Lieutenant.

But that was a long time ago. Now it’s a well-worn veteran of many space trips, having seen the farthest corners of the galaxy under the leadership of its previous captains as well as Ironhide. The old bot bought the ship from a friend, who had acquired it as payment for a loan its previous owner couldn’t repay. This friend, knowing the value of the ship, but having no interest in a shipping business, sold Ironhide the ship, because Ironhide was tired of being on Cybertron. He had already lived a long life and had never left the planet. Of course, Cybertronians didn’t travel too much off-planet, there was enough to do on the surface. But Ironhide wanted to see the galaxy, meet other races, and maybe make some profit doing it. So he came up with the idea of interstellar shipping. All he needed was a ship and a crew. With the purchase of the Paladin Express, he had the ship. But he was not a good pilot, so he decided to get a few good bots around him he could trust.

“Alright, let’s get going.” Ironhide said into the intercom by the stairs, pressing the button to the bridge.

On it.” came Air Raid’s response, and the ship shuddered lightly as he started the engines.

Air Raid was his first hire. Ironhide knew a pilot was the most important, so he set out to find someone who would have no problem following orders, but who could take risks if the situation called for it. Ironhide had gone to Silverbolt first, but the squad leader wasn’t interested. He was preoccupied with his own dealings. He did recommend Air Raid, with whom Ironhide was familiar with. He knew the flyer to be reliable, and Silverbolt’s recommendation only reassured him. So he pitched his offer over drinks at Maccadam’s, and Air Raid agreed by the end of a long night of drinking and talking. Ironhide didn’t have to work hard to convince him to take the job, but the Aerialbot wanted to get all the details straight: he would have complete control of the ship when in flight, and would be allowed to pick his co-pilot, pending Ironhide’s approval. The only order he would be required to obey during flight is if Ironhide wanted the ship stopped or if they had to change course. Air Raid would have no say over their destinations or their cargo. His sole responsibility was flying the ship. Ironhide figured he would pick one of his fellow Aerialbots to be his co-pilot, but Air Raid had suggested Powerglide. Ironhide didn’t know the Autobot well, so at first he turned him down. He was skeptical because Powerglide was not really an experienced flyer. He knew how to pilot shuttles, but he’d never been off-planet either, nor did he pilot a full-sized ship before. He was good at maintenance, however, and he had had a job at the Tagan Heights air traffic control tower. That was his only experience with dealing with freighters. But Air Raid’s argument that Powerglide would be only assisting him, along with the point that flying with them would give him the experience to pilot a ship, was persuasive, and Ironhide couldn’t find any other flaws in Powerglide’s profile. So the 3 of them met again at Maccadam’s, but this time the drinking and talking didn’t last nearly as long. Powerglide was excited to be on board, and he was made fully aware of his responsibilities. He accepted all of Ironhide’s conditions, and he has been the co-pilot of the Paladin Express from the start. He has yet to take control of the ship in Air Raid’s place, but that’s fine with Powerglide. He’s happy to be along for the ride, as the pay is good and as long as Ironhide’s few rules are followed, the job is a breeze.

“This thing was a pain to get in place.” Sideswipe said as he and Inferno joined Ironhide at the stairs, and all 3 of them started going up. Warpath and Cliffjumper stayed in the cargo bay, double checking everything.

“What’s in it?” Ironhide asked. “I’m sure I’ve seen the invoice, but I had forgotten which stop was for which freight.”

“Supposed to be machine parts.” Inferno said. “We’re taking it back to Cybertron. They were specially made for a team of miners going deep into the planet. Supposedly the planet gets much more dense down there, as if it was protecting the core.”

“What is the core of the planet, anyway?” Sideswipe asked, as they reached the bridge.

“I don’t know.” Inferno answered. “According to the Elders, it’s our creator’s essence in its vessel, supposedly connected to the rest of the planet and powering it through those connections. But I’ve never been one to believe in something I couldn’t physically see or touch. So I don’t know.”

“Ironhide? You know some bots on the council, have they told you anything more than what the general public knows?” Sideswipe asked with a smirk.

“Please.” Ironhide answered. “If they did, it was in confidence, and I’m not one to gossip what I’m told in good faith. Havin’ said that, I haven’t been told anythin’ about the planet’s core as far as myths and creations go. All I know is what a lot o’ miners and surveyors have said at Maccadam’s and other places. The planet gets denser as they go deeper, which is why no one has been to the center yet, and we don’t know what’s actually down there, not even the Elders, regardless of what they claim to know.”

“That’s why they ordered these special parts off-planet, as anything they have to build mining equipment on Cybertron is ineffective against the deeper layers of the planet.” Inferno said. “It’s like the planet is protecting its own core. So we got this big container of special drill bits and other things. It’s the last thing we have to drop off in Tarn before we get back to our dock on Moon 2. The Express is due for some cleaning and maintenance anyway.”

“Our transportation from Moon 2 to Cybertron is arranged?” Ironhide asked.

“Of course.” Inferno answered.

Ironhide knew that handling the cargo would require a few bots besides himself, and he had designated Air Raid and Powerglide to fly, so he had to get a crew to be responsible for loading, securing and unloading the freight they would haul. For this task, he was looking for bots who didn’t mind long stretches of down time, broken up by operations of highly focused attention to certain maneuvers, especially with the lifting equipment. Ironhide knew Warpath as a freight hauler from the mining town of Tarn, and he agreed with the smaller bot’s attitude and way of doing things. He knew Warpath would get the job done no matter what, even with all his bluster and bragging. Ironhide caught up with the smaller bot after a hard day of moving equipment from Tarn to another mining town, and Warpath didn’t take much convincing either, much like Powerglide. And to balance out Warpath’s care-free attitude, he approached Sideswipe to be in charge of the cargo loading. After talking out the details, Sideswipe convinced Ironhide that they would need one more bot on the cargo crew, and Sideswipe knew just the bot: Cliffjumper. Ironhide wasn’t very familiar with this smaller bot either, but he trusted Sideswipe’s judgment and agreed to have a talk with Cliffjumper. After meeting him, Ironhide was relieved to learn that Cliffjumper was a bit of an opposite to Warpath. Under Sideswipe’s charge, they would work together as a fine-tuned crew, taking care of the handling of the cargo, completely separate from the flying crew, Sideswipe answering to Ironhide just like Air Raid.

The team was almost complete, but Ironhide needed one more bot: someone to take charge in case something happened to him. Air Raid was responsible for flying, having Powerglide under him. Sideswipe was responsible for the cargo, in charge of Cliffjumper and Warpath. But they both answered Ironhide, and if something happened to the old bot, they would be without a captain. So Ironhide had to pick someone he knew really well. Someone he had been through a few scrapes and other deals with. Someone he wouldn’t mind spending a lot of time with during long flights. They were open for business to the entire galaxy, after all. So Ironhide went to the only bot he knew who could do the job: Inferno. The bigger bot had the same outlook on life, as well as the same no-nonsense attitude about taking care of business. So now Ironhide had his crew, his ship, and it was time to get the business started. They all understood that they would be paid by the shipment, and payment would come at the end of a job well done. And there seemed to be the trouble.

“Alright, bots.” Air Raid said as they approached the front of the bridge. “We’re ready to go. Get secured.”

Ironhide sat down in the captain’s chair, directly behind the 2 pilots’ seats. Inferno took the chair to the right, in front of the communications equipment, and Sideswipe sat down behind the panel for the cargo bay controls, so he can keep an eye on the freight, as well as contact Cliffjumper and Warpath if needed.

“Let’s go.” Ironhide gave the order.

Air Raid pressed the power-up buttons for the boosters, and as soon as the ship was pointed toward outer space, he activated them. The ship took off from the space dock where they just picked up the last cargo, and they were on their way back to Cybertron, with 2 stops to make on the way.

For some reason, beginning with their very first haul, they ran into trouble. Pirates. And they weren’t even far from Cybertron. But that experience was a lesson for all of them, and from then on they conducted themselves differently. Even though the pirates didn’t get their cargo, the job ended in a shootout and damaged cargo, and being mixed up in that stuff and not being able to ensure the safety of the freight they picked up was not good for business, and Ironhide didn’t want a bad reputation. So for the next few jobs, he kept the distance short, only to the nearby solar systems, but trouble still found them. First, the ship broke down. The engine just straight up quit. In mid-flight. So they were stranded until someone helped them out by giving Inferno a ride to Cybertron and he was able to get the parts to fix the engine, which was one of Inferno’s responsibilities. Ironhide made it his first priority to pick up a small 2-bot shuttle to have on deck to be used for any kind of emergency like that in the future. On their very next run, they were involved in a 2-ship wreck, damaging their cargo hull, and the other ship tried to get away. Ironhide and Inferno had their first altercation over this, as Ironhide was focused on making sure the cargo was safe and they would return to Cybertron in one piece, while Inferno wanted to go after the scrap heaps who ran into them. Though Air Raid agreed with Inferno, and was on the verge of setting the Paladin Express on course to follow the other ship after Sideswipe confirmed that the cargo wasn’t damaged and was still secure, Ironhide ordered them to return to Cybertron. The only thing Powerglide could do was get part of the other ship’s ID number and maybe they could track it down once they were back home, or if they got lucky they would run into them (figuratively or literally) down the line. Inferno was hot over the situation, as his temper is notoriously short, but he got over it. And the situation served to allow Ironhide to assert his authority over all of them, as if there was any doubt who was in charge. Since then, all kinds of other things happened, from false manifests to stowaways, and each time the crew dealt with it and got the freight to its destination, even if it was a bit late. Among the interstellar traffic, they earned a reputation, and even a moniker, whether to mock them or to show respect, they had no idea. But as the freight business boomed, around Cybertron’s vicinity they came to be called the “Disaster Transport.”

At first, Ironhide didn’t care for the name, he thought it was bad publicity. Inferno, Air Raid, and Sideswipe took it in stride and just laughed it off. Powerglide, Cliffjumper and Warpath were also a little wary of the name, but they didn’t make a fuss about it like Ironhide did. But it was perhaps reasonable, as Ironhide had a bigger stake in the success of the operation than the others did. He owned the ship and it was through his acquaintances that he got the business started. Now they were constantly on the go, from one job to the next. Inferno’s responsibilities also include drumming up business as well as scheduling the jobs to make sure there are no conflicts. All the tasks are distributed according to the bot’s importance level, and Ironhide and Inferno are pretty much equal, the only difference is that Ironhide owns the ship. There are no limits on where they go for cargo and to where they deliver, as long as it’s a known part of space and a mapped and surveyed planet. The ship itself, of course, has its weight limit, and even though it’s a large ship, the cargo hold is also considered only a medium-sized hold. Ironhide has few exceptions regarding the type of freight they haul, and they are prepared for almost anything. They have to be, as something usually goes wrong.

From the outside, the Paladin Express doesn’t look out of the ordinary. It looks like an old freighter, with its light gray exterior with all the scratches, dents and pockmarks in it, that was put together in the Golden Age of Cybertron. Obviously, it wasn’t that old, but Ironhide had decided that any upgrades are to be made to the interior, the security and operating systems, and as long as hull integrity was protected, no other physical improvements were needed. Even a mere paint job suggested by Powerglide was shot down. Rectangular in shape, it had a wide aft with the dual interstellar drives and their boosters in the back underneath the shuttle bay. Up front, the lower level stayed mostly rectangular, but it narrowed some toward the front where the cargo doors were. The front wall was at a 60 degree angle, and it met the bottom of the bridge as it protruded out over the front of the ship on the upper level. The bridge itself wasn’t very large, just enough space for all the instruments, the panels wrapping around the front half of the bridge, with the pilots’ control panels and manual controls in the center. There were 2 other chairs in front of the panels, one on each side of the pilots’ seats, the right side for communications, the left side for operating the equipment in the cargo bay if there was no one down there. Inferno was in the process of modifying the right side a bit, as he was preparing to install a retractable ion cannon underneath the bridge. Whoever sat on the right side of the pilots would be in primary control of the weapons system, which also includes dual electromagnetic disruptors installed on the sides of the shuttle bay in the back. They were also retractable, emerging from the sides of the shuttle bay when activated. Some room in the shuttle bay had to be sacrificed to accommodate the energy source for the cannons, as well as the cannons and their support structures. But it made little difference, as the shuttle was a small 2-seater anyway. It was barely bigger than a 2-bot surface transporter, the extra bulk coming from the thicker construction to make it able to fly in space. It had a small cargohold to transport necessary parts or whatever was needed in the event of an emergency. It was just big enough to accommodate a full-size bot lying down if there had to be someone critically injured taken to the nearest place to be attended to. The shuttle could fly much faster than the ship, but it had to be refueled after every use, as its fuel got depleted by the hyperdrive. Ironhide was also making plans to arm the shuttle as well, but due to its small size, his options were limited. And he didn’t want to put any weapons in that would be ineffective against another space vehicle chasing the shuttle, if things ever came to that (so far they had not), but if he wanted to put some serious ordnance on board, it would make the shuttle overweight and hard to control. Speed was still the main ability of the shuttle, it was acquired to allow its occupants to get away in an emergency and get help.

In the middle of the upper level, the crew’s quarters was one large space, with each crewmember getting equal amount of space, in proportion to his size. That meant Ironhide, Inferno, Sideswipe and Air Raid got double the room that Powerglide, Cliffjumper and Warpath got. The smaller bots didn’t mind, they understood. Bigger bots needed more room. They each had their own recharge slab, it was a new addition by Ironhide, as the room had been a storage unit under the previous operator. Any other personal property they had was stored around their recharge slabs, but it wasn’t much. Powerglide liked to collect small souvenirs from every planet they visited, and Sideswipe had his “cleaning products.” Other than those, there were a few odds and ends, but not much. Due to some close calls and hairy situations recently, Inferno and Sideswipe had persuaded Ironhide to get some guns and light artillery on board, along with each bot’s personal weaponry. Inferno recommended a Flintlock 250 shotgun for each member, making it a total of 7 shotguns on board. Sure, the guns were good for close-quarters combat, but the objective was to not even let any potentially hostile boarders on the ship, much less get in a firefight with them. Ironhide made it clear the ship wouldn’t be loaded up with weapons, as that would bring its own problems when it came to inspections and insurance, but the shotguns would be acceptable, along with some light grenades and some non-lethal weapons. There was one entrance from the bridge to the crew quarters, and one more door leading from there to the shuttle bay. Right by the door that goes to the bridge is the stairwell going to the lower level, on the bridge side of the door. The stairs lead down into the cargo bay, landing to the side of the cargo doors on the front of the ship. The ship is also equipped with an intercom system, an intercom placed in every area, usually by the entrance. The cargo bay has 3 intercoms, one by the door and the stairs, one in the lifter’s control space, and one on the other side of the cargo hold, in case loaders need to speak to each other with a lot of freight between them.

In the future, the designs of the shuttles of the giant Autobot ship The Ark would be based on the design of the Paladin Express, the contribution coming from Ironhide at the request of the future Prime, Optimus, who had befriended Ironhide when he was still just a police officer known as Orion Pax. The design wasn’t the most up-to-date, there were certainly a lot of better-looking vessels out there, but Ironhide wasn’t interested in looking good, his priority was safety and security. His argument was that a flashy, sleek ship would be a more attractive target for pirates, and the maintenance would also be a constant hassle. If anything happened to the outer hull, it would have to be repaired and repainted as soon as possible, otherwise what’s the point of having an immaculate appearance? The others understood this, but Air Raid and Sideswipe still voiced that they should take pride in the appearance of their equipment, as it would project the perception that every part of the ship was top-notch. Ironhide’s response was that all the crucial parts were in impeccable condition, and that’s all that mattered. The hull, the cargo crane, the navigation system and, most importantly, the engines. So here they are, a rag-tag bunch flying all over the galaxy, transporting anything and everything, as long as it’s not a hazard to the ship and the crew, no questions asked. As long as the customer pays the bill up front, the Paladin Express would deliver the cargo, regardless of its purpose, origin, or destination. Like their tag-line above the cargo door and under the bridge says : “Have freight? We’ll transport.”

They spent the 1st part of the trip in silence. No one spoke, not even Ironhide giving out instructions. Their 1st stop was Hydrus 2, dropping off 3 loads of specialized construction material. The containers were the smallest in the hold, but they were the heaviest. Cliffjumper had to unload each container very slowly and carefully, as any misstep would have had bad consequences, considering the weight of the cargo. It was hard to control as it was, and if the lifting equipment was damaged, they would have trouble unloading the rest of their freight. But everything went smoothly, despite Ironhide and Inferno fearing the worst. After all, this was the “Disaster Transport,” and something was bound to go wrong. But they would have to wait until later. After the cargo was unloaded, Air Raid set the Paladin Express on course for Vulcan. The humanoid inhabitants of the planet were highly evolved intellectually, but that couldn’t overcome the fact that the planet simply lacked in certain minerals and resources, and those had to be transported in from other parts of the galaxy. Ironhide had no problem dealing with them, they were peaceful and trustworthy, and always kept their spaceports in impeccable condition. But as Air Raid prepared to dock, the Express suddenly began to shake.

“Whoa!” Ironhide said. “What’s that?”

“I…” Air Raid answered, gripping the controls manually. “I...it seems like the left engine it out of sync. It keeps revving up and then stalling out. It’s making the ship unstable!”

“Inferno!” Ironhide said. “Get down into the engine room! Take Sideswipe with ya, an’ see what the hell is goin’ on!”

“On it!” Inferno said as he sprang from his seat, bounding down the stairwell, taking the steps 3 at a time.

“The air traffic control tower is hailing us!” Powerglide said.

“On speaker.” Ironhide said.

Without a word, Powerglide flipped a switch.

...too close! I repeat, your port side is too close to the docking bay! Pull up!” the controller’s instruction came over the radio.

“We have it under control.” Ironhide answered, lying. If the controller denied their landing pattern, they would have to pull back up and go around and try again. That would take a lot of extra fuel, and Ironhide wasn’t even sure they could do it, with the engine acting up.

I repeat, your landing request is denied! Your vessel is unstable! Lift up now, or prepare for emergency intervention!

“No!” Ironhide answered back. “We got it! We just had a minor electrical disturbance. Everything is alright now!”

But the ship was still listing to the left, and the shaking hadn’t stopped.

“Damn it.” Ironhide grumbled, and stepped over to the intercom by the door.

“Hey! What is goin’ on down there?!” he said, as he pressed the button for the engine room.

It’s a pipe to the hydraulic valve.” Sideswipe’s response came. “It came uncoupled from the engine and the lack of fluid is throwing the engine’s timing out of whack!

“Well, then whack it back into place!” Ironhide answered irritably. “And do it fast, otherwise, we can’t land, and that means lost time and fuel!”

Inferno is working on it now, we got the pipe back on, he just has to secure it. It might take a few seconds for the engine to regulate.

“Alright. Get it done.”

Ironhide then returned to his captain’s chair and spoke into the communicator.

“Tower, this is the captain of the Paladin Express. We had a minor electrical issue, it has been corrected. We’re in a landing pattern, we would like permission to continue.”

He was hoping the ship would settle down and the controller would let them keep descending. Just as the tower’s response came, the ship stopped shaking and Ironhide could feel it level out.

“Paladin Express, you’re cleared for landing, provided the ship stays stable. Emergency crews are on alert.

“No need for them. We’re fine.” Ironhide answered. He knew that if the emergency crews were activated, he would have to foot the bill, even if nothing happens. It was interstellar law that any ship prompting emergency assistance at any spaceport either by its perceivable actions or through the official request of its captain or pilot was to reimburse said spaceport for the use of its emergency services rendered, which included use of materials, equipment, and labor of its responders.

“We’re good.” Air Raid reassured Ironhide, as the ship glided into a dock and came to a stop.

“Whew. That was close.” Powerglide said.

“Paladin Express, you’re cleared of the pattern. Your docking has been acknowledged. Emergency units standing down.” the tower said over the speaker.

“Thank you, tower. My apologies over the fuss.” Ironhide said, even if the words made him ill. He hated to humble himself, but he had to play nice with the tower, considering what just happened. And he was curious as to what did just happen. As far as he knew, the Paladin Express was in top shape, from top to bottom and front to back. How could a pipe just come undone from the engine? Those connections are reinforced.

We await your manifest transmission, and prepare the necessary requirements.

“Tower, the manifest is being transmitted as we speak, but we don’t require unloaders, only a transport vehicle. We will unload the cargo.” Ironhide answered.

Acknowledged.” the tower responded.

Ironhide turned off the communicator, and got out of the chair.

“Make sure the manifest is sent, an’ stay here.” he said to Powerglide. “I want to be on the way to Cybertron as soon as the freight is offloaded.”

“Understood.” Powerglide said. Air Raid didn’t say anything, just kept looking at the control panel in front of him.

Ironhide went down the steps to the lower level, and crossed the cargo hold as Cliffjumper operated the lifting crane, opening the cargo doors by remote. He went to the entrance to the engine room, and stepped through. Immediately, his sensors noted a high concentration of burned hydraulic fuel in the air.

“So what happened?” he asked Sideswipe, as Inferno was still working on the connection of the pipe to the engine.

“Uh, as far as we can tell, the coupling came undone.” Sideswipe said.

“By itself?” Ironhide asked back, a bit in disbelief.

“No, some stowaway scraplets chewed it off.” Inferno’s sarcastic reply came. “Of course by itself! There was no one or nothing else down here.”

“Inferno, this is no time for jokes. This could have been a lot worse!” Ironhide said sternly. “Now I need to know what caused this so we can prevent it in the future!”

“Don’t worry, it’s properly reconnected.” Inferno answered, his tone now straightforward. “I even reinforced it. But the parts and the connection were fairly new. I don’t know what caused the pipe to come off the housing. I mean, it was ripped right off, like...like something pulled on it.”

“The other parts of the engine show no damage.” Sideswipe chimed in. “It was just this part here.”

“Alright.” Ironhide said. “Figure out what makes this part different than the others. As far as I know, we used the same materials to build and repair all parts of the engine. I want to know it’s safe to take off from here. I’d hate to get out of control and damage the spaceport, not to mention the ship.”

“We’ll figure it out.” Inferno said.

“Alright. Let me know as soon as you can.”

Ironhide then turned around and left the engine room. On his way back to the bridge, he stopped to watch the cargo from the middle of the hold be transferred onto the transport vehicles waiting outside the bay doors. Cliffjumper was good with the crane, and Warpath was guiding the process. As Ironhide looked around at the other freight going back to Cybertron, his optics widened when he noticed that something was out of place. The last container, the one that almost came unhooked during loading, was out of its designated place. The securing cables were still intact, but they had crumpled the seams and side panels of the container that face the engine room. Something inside the container had pressed up against the side panel and it bulged outward. Ironhide stepped to the nearest intercom.

“Sideswipe, get out here.” he said gruffly after pressing the button for the engine room.

Moments later, Sideswipe was standing next to him.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Look at that.” Ironhide said, pointing to the side of the container.

“What the…?” Sideswipe replied, his optics also widening. “That container...it’s deformed. And out of place…!”

“Yes. Somethin’ inside it.” Ironhide said. “Get a scanner. Let’s see what’s in there.”

Another few moments later, and Sideswipe was walking around the container, a hand-held device in front of him. It looked like a small TV on a single handle protruding from its bottom. Sideswipe was holding it out at arm’s length, while punching a few buttons under the screen with his other hand.

“Nothing suspicious.” he said after a few moments. “Just the parts that were declared in the shipping documents.”

“Damn it, somethin’ in there made the container move! Somethin’ that must have been magnetic, because apparently it pulled on the hydraulic pipe!”

“Well, we won’t know until we open it, now will we?” Sideswipe responded.

“We can’t do that.” Ironhide responded. “The client sealed the container, and we’re expected to deliver it as we picked it up.”

“Well, that ain’t gonna happen.” Inferno said from behind them, as he came out of the engine room. “Look at the side of that thing!”

“So...what do we do?” Sideswipe asked, looking to his superiors.

“Make sure it’s still secure. There are no readings on the scanner, right?”

“None.”

“Then we take off. The 2 of you stay down here an’ keep yer optics on it. The moment somethin’ happens, anythin’, ya holler at me, got it?”

“Yeah.” they both answered in unison.

Ironhide then turned around, just in time to see Cliffjumper exit the crane cab, the unloading having been done. The smaller bot simply gave a thumbs up, and Ironhide returned the gesture in acknowledgement. He then went back up to the bridge.

“Tower says we can leave when we want, provided we’re able to.” Powerglide said. “They wanted to send an inspector onboard to make sure our systems are functioning correctly before we operate in their airspace again.”

“Inferno fixed it.” Ironhide said, irritation in his voice. He didn’t like any type of intruders on his ship, even if it was a well-meaning safety inspector from a docile place like Vulcan.

“I told the tower we had it.” Powerglide said. “They told us to take off but that they would be watching. Anything out of the ordinary and we’re to set back down and shut off all equipment.”

Ironhide just shook his head. This is the kind of hassle he didn’t need. He already had enough to deal with regarding the damage container, even though that seemed to be due to unstable cargo, not any operational error on their part. Which made it the cargo owner’s responsibility.

“We ready?” Air Raid asked.

“Yeah.” Ironhide said, as he sat back into his chair. “Let’s go.”

Air Raid fired up the engines, and to their relief, everything went smoothly. The Paladin Express lifted off from the dock, and began ascending into space. The left engine ran flawlessly, and there was nothing from the bots downstairs regarding the container. So Air Raid set course for Cybertron, to be more specific the city of Tarn. They would be there soon, provided nothing else happened on the way.
Rodimus Prime
Site Moderator
Posts: 10729
News Credits: 19
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2002 8:31 pm

Re: Disaster Transport.

Postby Rodimus Prime » Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:28 pm

Motto: "Laissez le bon temps rouler!"
“What are you thinking about?” Cliffjumper asked Sideswipe.

They were sitting down in the cargo hold, in the designated area for the crew during travel. It was just one of the rear corners of the cargo hold, with a small table and 4 chairs, all secured to the floor so they wouldn’t move during flight. If the occupants wanted to, they could also secure themselves to the chairs in case the flying wasn’t smooth. None of the crew bothered with this feature, they simply held onto the table if things got shaky. But now, even though the previous events made them a bit uneasy, everything was calm. Sideswipe, Cliffjumper and Warpath sat around the table, while Ironhide, Inferno, Air Raid and Powerglide were up on the bridge. Sideswipe had a stern look on his face, and he was deep in thought. He didn’t even react to Cliffjumper’s question.

“Hey!” CJ tried again. “‘Swipe! Wake up!”

“What…?” Sideswipe looked up at Cliffjumper. “Sorry…”

“What’s with ya, buddy?” Warpath chimed in. “Looked you were on the other side of the galaxy!”

“Oh...I was just thinking about that container.” Sideswipe said.

“I know what you mean.” Cliffjumper said. “It’s got me curious as well. What kind of mining equipment is in there? Something that would have that kind of effect on our engine?”

“I...I don’t know. I mean, it has to be electromagnetic, or at the very least, nuclear-powered. It’s not simple drill bits and engine parts.”

“Yeah, but even so, why would it be operational?” Warpath asked. “The manifest says ‘parts.’ As in, taken apart. It shouldn’t be able to be turned on if it’s in pieces.”

“Yeah.” CJ said. “Besides, Ironhide doesn’t approve of live power sources being shipped. Too dangerous. No batteries, power cells, not even basic electronic stuff with dampeners on. But whatever did that,” he pointed at the bulge on the side of the container, “was definitely under power.”

“Right.” Sideswipe said. “And what about the container? If it was made of straight steel or some other basic metal, it wouldn’t bend like that under pressure, it would simply crack open. Warpath, do you have a copy of the manifest?”

Behind Warpath, who sat with his back to the wall, was a wall console with a few gadgets on it. One of the aforementioned intercoms, as well as a basic computer to file away manifests and download certain information regarding their travel routes and planets they might encounter, given they were within the vicinity of said planets, as well as emergency short-distance communications, where they could talk to another ship passing by, or be hailed by any aerial law enforcement upon their approaching a planet. But that is usually handled up on the bridge by a pilot or Ironhide. Warpath turned around and stood up, pressing a code into the computer. Had it been Sideswipe, he could have done it sitting down, but the Minibot was half the size, so he had to stand up, and even so he had to raise his arms to type as well as look up at the screen. After a few moments, the file for the manifest came up. Inferno had uploaded it when they picked up the cargo.

“Says here it’s tempered titanium.” Warpath said. “Definitely not the regular type of container.”

“And Ironhide signed off on it?” Cliffjumper asked.

“Uh...no. It’s Inferno’s signature on the manifest.”

“Really.” Sideswipe said. “But Ironhide surely knows about it. I mean, Inferno wouldn’t authorize a pickup with special circumstances without asking Ironhide, right?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t tell us anything, that’s for sure.” Warpath said.

The three of them just looked at each other.

“I’m gonna go up on the bridge, have a word with Ironhide.” Sideswipe said.

“Want us to come?” Cliffjumper asked.

“No, thanks, CJ. I can handle it.”

“Alright. Let us know if you need backup.”

“It’ll be fine. I’m sure it was just an oversight.”

“Yeah...an oversight that could have turned out really bad.” CJ said. “Either Inferno didn’t tell anyone, or ol’ Ironhide’s cerebral casing is finally rusting over.”

“I’ll find out in a minute.”

Sideswipe then got up, picked up his pile of shanix that he had won in their table game, and put it away.

“What? You don’t trust us?” Warpath asked. If he had a mouth, he would have been smirking.

“Not around money or Engex.” Sideswipe did have a mouth, and he did smirk.

He then walked to the other end of the cargo hold where the steps were and went up to the bridge.

Entering the bridge, only Powerglide turned around in his seat and acknowledged ‘Swipe. ‘Swipe walked up to Ironhide, sitting in his captain’s chair behind the pilots, and tapped him on the shoulder. Ironhide was looking at something on his personal device, and looked up at the intrusion.

“What?” he asked. The others still hadn’t turned around.

“I need to talk to you for a second.” Sideswipe said in a low voice. “Out there.” He jerked a thumb toward the stairs and crew quarters, which were on the other side of the bridge entrance.

Ironhide got a questioning look on his face, then turned towards the others, who still hadn’t turned towards them. He then looked back at Sideswipe and put his handheld device down.

“Alright. Make it quick. I have work to do before we dock at Tarn.”

Ironhide got out of his chair and followed Sideswipe into the crew quarters.

“What is it?”

“Did Inferno tell you about the shipment to Tarn before we picked it up?”

“Tell me what? What’s wrong with it? Well, other than what happened earlier. Is there somethin’ else goin’ on?”

“Well, I had Warpath double check the manifest, and it said on there that the container is not regular construction. I know when a load is out of the ordinary, you want to be notified just in case it’s something you don’t want to ship.”

“So what’s wrong with it? What is it made out of?”

“Tempered titanium. Makes it much stronger than the standard shipping container. I just thought that might raise questions as to what exactly is inside. Y’know, as if the earlier incident didn’t do it enough.”

“Sideswipe.” Ironhide said impatiently. “Get to the point.”
“Okay, well Warpath noticed that it was Inferno who signed off in the load, not you. And none of us loaders knew about the specially constructed container. So I just wanted to make sure you were up on everything.”

“Yeah, I knew about it. I followed up on the manifest, and didn’t think it was a problem. We’re haulin’ some new kind of minin’ equipment, so I thought it needed to be packed and protected.”

“Okay. I was just…”

“Sideswipe, if you don’t think Inferno did his job as he was supposed to, ya need to tell me. I ain’t havin’ a conflict among the crew over trust issues.”

“No, I wasn’t sure what happened. All I know is, I wasn’t informed of the special container. As the bot in charge of the loading, I think I should have been told. Even if it was, as you said, not a problem. Inferno is responsible for checking out the load before it ever sees the inside of the cargo hold. So if something is off, it’s his job to tell you, or at least me. After all, I’m responsible for actually handling the freight, as well as the safety of the loading crew.”

“No, it was my fault.” Ironhide said, a bit of irritation on his face. “I knew, I should have followed up. I was certain Inferno got with ya. He should have got with ya.”

“Well, nobody told me. I didn’t think nothing of it, until we were looking at the container just now, and got curious why it just bulged out instead of simply breaking.”

“Nothin’ else happened, right?”

“No. Not yet. But we’re keeping an optic on it.”

“Good. I don’t think…”

“Ironhide, I still think we should look inside. Just in case something did happen with the cargo that is just waiting to go wrong.”

“No!” Ironhide said firmly. “We do NOT tamper with the cargo unless it’s a threat to our safety. You know that. Now…”

“But it IS a threat to our safety!” Sideswipe cut him off again. “Whatever is in there shut down one of our engines, and it seemed that it was magnetically trying to get attached to the engine. I don’t know if that was because of the engine or the part in the container, but it’s definitely not an inert part, like the manifest says! I think that gives us…”

“Yer not paid to think!” Ironhide snapped at him. “Yer job is to load an’ secure the cargo! I knew about the container, and I decided it was safe for transport! I’ll get with Inferno about not tellin’ ya about it, but ya don’t get to question my decisions! Now I suggest…”

“Everything alright out here?” Inferno asked from behind Ironhide. He was standing in the doorway.

“It’s fine.” Ironhide answered over his shoulder. “Just a misunderstandin’.”

“No. No it’s not!” Sideswipe said. “Inferno, come here for a second.”

“What is it?” Inferno asked as he walked up to them.

“Sideswipe here is a bit upset over not bein’ told about the container.” Ironhide said. “That it wasn’t a regularly made box.”

“Oh. I thought you told him.”

“It’s yer job!” Ironhide said forcefully. “The compliance of the cargo is yer responsibility. Ya told me, and I approved it. Ya shoulda told him about it as well.”

“Uh...okay. My mistake. It…”

“Yeah, it was!” Sideswipe cut him off. “What if the earlier incident had been more serious? What…”

“And if it was, do you think you knowing that the container was specially made would have prevented it?” Inferno shot back. His infamous short temper was coming to the surface. “Okay, I should have made sure I told you, but don’t put the damage to the ship on me! Whatever is in that container is…”

“Enough!” Ironhide said sternly. “Sideswipe, your concern is duly noted, and Inferno has been verbally corrected. He acknowledged his oversight, and that should satisfy you! And in the end, the cargo bein’ on the ship is my call, not anyone else’s. Ya gonna be upset, be upset at me. But when I tell ya to cool it, ya cool it! If that’s not good enough, then maybe ya should rethink yer position on this crew. This ain’t a committee. I make the final decision! Right or wrong, everyone on the ship must accept and respect that! If ya can’t, whatever the reason, then maybe ya need to make a change.”

“So what are we going to do about it?” Inferno asked, not waiting for Sideswipe’s response.

“I still think we need to look in the container.” Sideswipe said. “Just in case. It could be something that takes time to reach a dangerous point.”

“No.” Ironhide said. “Not happenin’. We take it to Tarn an’ let them deal with it if it’s unstable. If we unseal it, that sets a dangerous precedent for future transports. We’ll start findin’ reasons to look into containers, an’ that’s a slippery slope to other problems. Leave it alone.”

“I think Sideswipe is right.” Inferno said. “We should take a look.”

“Didn’t my previous statement register with either of ya?! My decision is final! I…”

At that moment, the ship shook again. The 3 bots lost their balance and had to grab onto the wall to steady themselves.

“What...the hell?” Inferno asked.

Before anyone else could respond, Powerglide came through the doorway to the bridge.

“It’s happening again!” he shouted. “The left engine is totally out of rhythm!”

“Damn it!” Ironhide shouted. “Both of ya, get down there! Now!”

Inferno and Sideswipe didn’t need to be told twice, they ran for the stairs.

“Get back on the bridge an’ help Air Raid keep the ship under control!” he said to Powerglide. “How far are we from Cybertron?”

“About 18 breems.” Powerglide said and turned around. He ran back onto the bridge.

“Damn it!” Ironhide cursed to himself, and started down the stairs after the others.

By the time he got to the bottom, the other 2 were across the cargo hold, Sideswipe opening the emergency equipment container, while Inferno ran into the engine room. Cliffjumper was getting into the lifter cab, and Ironhide saw why: the container was shrieking under the securing cables and couplings which held it to the floor. It was also sliding, slowly, towards the back wall of the cargo hold which separated it from the engine room.

“What in the…?” Ironhide couldn’t finish the question, as a loud noise came from the container’s other side, and Ironhide heard a lot of clanging and banging.

The container stopped moving, just as Cliffjumper swung the lifting crane around, hooking the corner of the container and pulling it back from the wall. But it was no use, as the contents had already spilled out on the other side, slamming up against the wall. It seemed that a smaller box, dark gray and no bigger than a regular bot, was pushing some other smaller containers in front of it, as it was being pulled towards the wall. The ship stopped shaking as Inferno manually shut off the left engine. Ironhide figured he had already communicated with Air Raid on the bridge and together they powered down the engine safely without causing more damage. The right engine was also brought down to its minimal operating level, and as the shaking subsided, Ironhide could feel the ship coming out of hyperspace. The suspicious gray container seemed to stop trying to crush the other smaller boxes between it and the wall, and Ironhide immediately recognized it was because the engine had been shut off. There was something in that box that reacted to the engine’s electromagnetic propulsion mechanism, but now it had nothing to pull itself to. It must be too far from the right engine, as the big container itself was on the left side of the cargo hold. Sideswipe brought around a device that was about half the size of a bot, it was a flat steel shield with 2 handles on each edge of one side, and 2 pipes pointing out on the other side, with a small box with a panel on it in the middle of the side with the handles. Sideswipe was holding it by one handle, while he was pushing buttons on the panel. The device began emitting a low pitch whine.

“No, Sideswipe.” Ironhide said. “It’s stopped. Just take a readin’! I don’t want to damage the cargo!”

Sideswipe gave Ironhide a puzzled look, but then he pressed a red button on the corner of the panel. The device he had in his hand seemed to go quiet, and Sideswipe pressed a few more buttons as he stepped closer to the now seemingly benign gray container. Ironhide went around him and the spilled out contents of the big container and entered the engine room.

“What’s the damage?” he asked Inferno.

“Well, the engine seems to be alright structurally.” Inferno answered. “I shut it down completely, but the pipe that was damaged earlier was loose again, though this time it didn’t detach from the engine. So I’m not sure if before the engine acted up because of that or because whatever is in that container was messing with it.”

“Well, we don’t have to worry about openin’ the container anymore.” Ironhide said. “It’s burst open now, an’ one of the boxes seems to be pullin’ toward the engine. It stopped when ya shut it off, but the big container is torn open, and a bunch of other stuff spilled out.”

“Hey, boss!” Warpath stuck his head into the room. “Powerglide wants to know what’s goin’ on! Are we safe?”

“Uh, yeah.” Ironhide answered. “Tell ‘em we’re good for now. Just keep an optic on the readin’s up there. An’ tell ‘em not to move until I say so! Shut off the right engine as well, completely!”

“Alright, I’m on it!” Warpath said and disappeared from the door.

Moments later, the right engine also completely ceased operation.

“Okay, so now what?” Inferno asked Ironhide.

“Well, I guess it’s inevitable now. We have to look in the smaller box.”

They walked out of the engine room, and joined Sideswipe and Cliffjumper, who had climbed down from the lifter cab after pulling the big container back to its original position, even though 2 of the securing cables had snapped. To make up for that, he left the lifting chain hooked onto the corner of the container, and left the lifting crane in the elevated position to keep the chain taut. This was the container wouldn’t move as easily should something else happen.

“Anythin’?” Ironhide asked Sideswipe, who was now standing by the gray box with the device he had before, pointing it at the box.

“Yeah. Whatever’s in there, it’s definitely under power.” Sideswipe said. “I don’t know if it’s a portable battery, or something else, but it’s definitely something that’s putting out serious heat.”

“Is it safe to open?” Inferno asked.

“I don’t see any damage to the box.” Ironhide said. “I don’t think it’s dangerous now. Only when the engine was goin’. It was feedin’ off the electromagnetic waves the engine was radiatin’.”

“You sure about that?” Inferno asked.

“Well…” Ironhide said. “Only one way to find out. Sideswipe, turn that thing back up, and be ready just in case. I’m goin’ to open it.”

Sideswipe stepped back and pressed a few buttons, the low pitch whine returning to the device he was holding. Warpath handed Ironhide a long metal bar with a flat end and a small panel with 4 buttons on it by the handle. Ironhide stuck the end into the corner seam of the gray box, and pressed 2 of the buttons. The end of the bar seemed to burrow itself into the box, and a moment later it forced the seam apart. Ironhide pulled out the bar, and they waited. Nothing happened.

“Okay.” he finally said. “Warpath, CJ. Grab each side, an’ see if you can open the top panel.”

The 2 smaller bots did as they were told, as Sideswipe stayed at the ready with his handheld shield-like device. The panel was pulled up, and after a moment’s hesitation, they all looked inside.

“Huh.” was all Inferno said. “That’s...what is that?”

“It looks like...the barrel of a gun, maybe?” Warpath asked. “But...then what’s that in the middle of it?”

“What’s the power source?” Inferno asked Sideswipe. “Is it still emitting something?”

“Yeah. But it’s very faint now. It seemed to be feeding off the engine’s power, and now that it’s shut off, this…thing, whatever it is, has nothing to fuel it. But it’s definitely operational.”

“What part of it?” Ironhide asked. “I mean...it just looks like a barrel with a box on it in the middle, and a few wires attached to another box next to it.”

“That seems to be its power source.” Sideswipe said. “The separate box. It’s like a portable battery, or an energy siphon. The larger piece, the barrel with the box on it, is inert. It’s the smaller box that’s active.”

“Do you recognize this?” Warpath asked. “I mean...it looks like some kind of weapon, but it’s supposed to be mining equipment, right? And in the manifest it says it’s something newly designed, so maybe it’s just something we haven’t seen before.”

“It seems...familiar.” Ironhide said. “But I can’t recall where I’ve seen the design before.”

“I think i know what it is.” Cliffjumper said. He had been quiet until now, studying what was in the box.

They all looked at him questioningly.

“It’s a fusion cannon.” Cliffjumper said.

“A…that can’t be!” Inferno said. “It’s too small to be a fusion cannon! Those things are mounted on tanks and big mining vehicles! This...this seems was too small to be on a pulverizer unit!”

“Maybe…” Warpath said. “Maybe it’s been miniaturized, so a miner can carry it.”

“That makes no sense.” Inferno said. “It would be a waste of space and energy for the bot carrying it. Mounted fusion cannons are used to pulverize large pieces of underground that regular tools or even mining vehicles can’t get through. They require immense power to operate, and a long time to recharge. If a miner carried it around with him, he could never get enough to properly use it. It would only be able to do a job that most other personal mining equipment can do. And besides, where would a miner put it? On his shoulder? His arm? His back? He would have to constantly carry it around. It would be in the way. It just doesn’t seem to be worth the trouble. It simply doesn’t have the power capacity.”

“How do ya know?” Ironhide asked.

“Well, it’s just common sense, isn’t it?” Inferno asked back. “The vehicle-mounted fusion cannons have enough juice to go through some huge chunks of matter. This is maybe 1/10th the size of a regular cannon? So you would think 1/q0th the size means 1/10th the power, right? With 1/10th the power, a fusion cannon can’t really do much damage, not more than most other mining tools that are already in use. So what’s the point?”

“I...don’t know.” Ironhide said. “Like we said, it’s new.”

“What about the other boxes?” Warpath asked. “Do they have the same things in them?”

They opened a few more smaller containers, but none of them had what they found in the gray box. All the other containers had regular mining stuff in them, just like the manifest said. They counted up everything, and the manifest was right in the amount of smaller containers, but according to it, every smaller box had regular equipment in it. Drill bits, parts for drilling engines, other things they all have seen and knew about, even if the designs were newer. But that gray box, that was not on the manifest. Double checked the big container, and figured out that the gray box had replaced one of the regular containers that was listed on the manifest. Someone was trying to hide it among the other containers. It seemed that whoever loaded it up was trying to smuggle it into Tarn without anyone else knowing. Unfortunately for them, it was either not properly powered down, or somehow it malfunctioned in transit and powered up on its own. Or perhaps being so close to the engine gave it a jolt it needed to activate. No matter what, it was considered illegal contraband, and Ironhide knew he was required to report it to port authorities once they got to Cybertron.

“Everything closed up?” he asked Sideswipe after they looked at all the other boxes.

“Yeah. We put everything back into the big container. Except the gray box. The detector says it’s still active, but it’s not doing anything. So I think it definitely draws its power from the engines. Maybe if we take it to the other end of the cargo hold it’ll be too far to detect the power source.”

“Alright. It’s worth a shot.” Ironhide said. He then stepped to the nearest intercom, and pressed the button to the bridge. “Air Raid, prepare to fire up the engines. Minimal power at first. We’re not ready to go yet.”

Affirmative.” the answer came.

As the ship shuddered slightly under the ignition of the engines, Warpath and Ciffjumper carried the gray box to the other end of the cargo bay, right by the doors.

“Anythin’?” Ironhide asked them.

“Nope!” Warpath answered. “It’s not reacting.”

Ironhide turned back to the intercom.

“Air Raid, give the engines a little juice.”

Moments later they heard the engines’ whine get higher. The ship slowly started moving forward. Inferno stood in the engine room’s door, keeping his optics on the engines themselves.

“Nothing.” he said. “Everything seems to be in order.”

“Okay, Air Raid.” Ironhide said into the intercom. “Full power.”

The engines became louder, and the ship was flying faster now. They didn’t go into hyperdrive, as they were fairly close to Cybertron, there was no need.

“What about now?!” Ironhide shouted to the other end. Sideswipe was standing there with his monitoring device.

“It’s definitely reacting to the engines being fired up.” Sideswipe answered. “But not enough to start pulling towards it.”

“What kind of signals is it giving off?” Ironhide asked.

“I...I’m not sure.” Sideswipe said. “It’s not something I’ve ever seen before. Not on mining equipment anyway!”

Ironhide walked up to them.

“So then where did you see it before?”

“Well…” Sideswipe said, hesitating.” ...I have seen it on interstellar detection equipment.”

“What? I don’t understand.”

“I saw it on a deep-space probe before. The kind they use to look for black holes.”

“Wait...how do you know what that looks like?” Warpath asked.

“In my free time I go to the observatory. Deep space fascinates me. Some of the stuff those astronomers are doing is mind-blowing. Anyway, last time I was up there Wheeljack and Perceptor were testing new equipment that could detect black holes by finding the radiowaves they supposedly emit. I don’t know what the device was called, but they could identify and attract energy waves from black holes, using them to pinpoint their locations.”

“Yes, because black holes are soooo hard to find in space.” Cliffjumper said sarcastically. “They’re massive stellar event horizons, kinda hard to miss. They do destroy everything in their vicinities.”

“Wait, wait.” Inferno said. “I think you are concentrating on the wrong part of this.”

“What?” Sideswipe asked.

“I mean, I think you’re wrong. The reading is wrong.”

“Inferno, I’m looking right at the readout on the screen here. I know what this is. What is wrong is the source. A piece of mining equipment, no matter how unusual, shouldn’t be trying to link up with a black hole by finding its energy emissions.”

“Exactly!” Inferno said. “That’s why I think you got it wrong. It has to be something else!”

“But what if it’s not?” Warpath asked.

“Then…” Ironhide said, with a grim look. “Then this isn’t really for mining. It’s a weapons. A weapon with unimaginable destructive capabilities.”

“Yeah, right.” Cliffjumper said after a moment of silence. “Who the hell in Tarn could wield a personally mounted fusion cannon that can link up to a black hole’s energy? And why? They’re a bunch of miners!”

“Some of those miners are pretty big and strong.” Warpath said. “They could probably handle it.”

“Yeah...but...what kind of mining are they doing down there to need this kind of power?” Inferno asked. “And why conceal it from us?”

“Maybe they were trying to conceal it from everyone.” Ironhide said. “Port authority has to check every cargo coming in. And this...this would have definitely raised some questions.”

“So...what do we do about it?” Sideswipe asked.

“When we get to Cybertron, I’ll report it.” Ironhide said. “I don’t care about the consequences, this is not somethin’ we can just overlook. Even if it is intended as a piece of minin’ equipment, it’s too out of the ordinary to just let it go. That combined with its secretive storage, it seems like there’s something else goin’ on. For now, close it up an’ keep an optic on it.”

“You got it, boss.” Sideswipe said, deactivating his detector. “You heard the bot.”

Warpath and Cliffjumper replaced the panel they removed, as the others walked away.

“This is so weird, don’t ya think?” Cliffjumper asked. “I mean, how the hell could this even be built? I think Sideswipe got it wrong.”

“I don’t know.” Warpath said. “Let them sort it out. I do think it’s highly unlikely that this is a personal weapon, especially with its supposed black hole capabilities. Some of those miners are big and strong bots, but no one could personally control the power of a black hole, it’s preposterous. Scientists can’t even do it with starships in space. This is something else, we’re just jumping to conclusions.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

They closed up the gray box, and sat down not far, resuming their table game that was interrupted by the engine’s malfunction. Soon they would be on Cybertron, and this thing, whatever it was, would be off their ship, either confiscated by the authorities or delivered to Tarn for someone who thinks he has the brass bearings to wield a personalized fusion cannon powered by the energy of a black hole. But of course that has to be a mistake. There has to be another explanation. There is no bot on Cybertron who could do that. Not even a Prime.
Rodimus Prime
Site Moderator
Posts: 10729
News Credits: 19
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2002 8:31 pm

Re: Disaster Transport.

Postby Rodimus Prime » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:39 am

Motto: "Laissez le bon temps rouler!"
The trip was nearly over. They were close to Cybertron, so there was no need to go into hyperdrive. Everyone was in his assigned spot, preparing for the docking on Moon 2. This was before the Decepticons started the war (even before the Decepticons officially existed) so it was not yet called Moon Base 2. The moon served as a giant space station, welcoming interstellar travelers whose starships were massive. Cybertron’s surface had a few ports that could handle starships of great size, but the moon offered more access, especially to those who didn’t actually have any cargo to pick up or drop off, but were simply stopping for rest or perhaps refueling. The moon was a giant refueling station, almost half of its underground space occupied by fuel storage tanks. There were many different types of fuel available, as the galaxy was home to lots of different civilizations whose technological advances were all at different levels. The Council instructed Maximus, who was in charge of the entire moon, to report on any technology he and his crew encountered that was more advanced that the Transformers’ level. If that happened, the Council would send its own representative to the travelers with the advanced technology to persuade them to share this technology, in exchange for various goods or services the Transformers might provide. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. The Council intimated to Maximus that in the event someone doesn’t want to share, that he should take steps to acquire their knowledge anyway, as it would help the Transformers advance. But Max was an honest bot, and he always found a way around doing something unethical, even if some under his command were willing to commit outright espionage. Luckily, all of Maximus’s immediate subordinates were loyal and honest as he was, so with their help he was able to keep everyone in line. But some of the lower-level bots always tried to find a way to get ahead and rise in the ranks, and if doing something questionable to appease and impress the Council would help them do that, they had no qualms about going behind Maximus’s back. One entire half of Moon 2 was dedicated to servicing spaceships, whereas the other half was all about servicing the crews of those spaceships. Instead of spreading out the docking stations all over the moon, they were all on one side of the moon, and it made for tight space traffic. Fortunately for Maximus, the bots in charge of the air traffic towers were the best, and there had never been a serious collision between ships in the docking stations. A few scrapes and dents, and a lot of close calls, but no injuries to crews or major damage to ships or cargo. Max had Silverbolt and his squad of air traffic controllers to thank for that. The moon wasn’t so large that countless towers had to be constructed, and the fact that docking was permitted only on 1 half of the surface meant that only 5 towers were needed. Each ran by a tower chief who was in charge of numerous control droids or low level bots. Silverbolt, who reported directly to Maximus, was in charge of these 5 tower chiefs, and they were Slingshot, Fireflight, Skydive, Swoop and Dogfight. Air Raid had been one of the chiefs, but he chose to go with Ironhide, and Silverbolt replaced him with Dogfight, who had been a direct subordinate to Silverbolt. There were no hard feelings from the others, they all understood. Just because they were all friends didn’t mean they had to work together. Little did they know how much that would change in the next 4 million-and-some years. But for right now, Moon 2 was a bustling space station, a favorite of interstellar travelers due to its impeccable service of both crew and ship.

On the other side of the moon, services catering to all kinds of beings from all parts of the galaxy could be found. From afar, the moon looked like different engineers built the 2 halves and then put them together. On the docking side, a lot of tall towers and service bays protruded from the surface, allowing the ships to simply attach themselves to the buildings and have the crews depart through elevators that brought them down to the surface, where travel services awaited to take them anywhere they wanted on the other side of the moon. Because the moon revolved around Cybertron, the docked ships had to be secured to the docking towers so that they could stay in the same spot and not float away from the surface. The moon had a gravity, but it was very weak and larger ships were too massive to stay in its pull as it moved around Cybertron, especially being far up above the surface. Once on the ground, vehicles could travel and individuals could walk without floating away, but the further up they went the less pull the moon had. On the side with no docking, the surface was much more even and without tall buildings. But the diversity in services was vast, there was almost nothing one couldn’t find, legal or illegal, if they knew where to look and looked hard enough. Maximus also had total authority in policing the moon, with a large number of police drone squads answering to him. With travelers stopping from all points of the galaxy, the variety of visitors was endless. Some even used the moon and its amenities to deal in cargo that wasn’t allowed on Cybertron, but the detached state of the moon was a double-edged sword. The same way it provided a certain insulation between the planet surface and those visiting and docking on the moon, it also provided some sanctuary for those who were less inclined to follow the planet’s laws regarding trafficking and transportation. Maximus did the best he could to prevent shady transactions, but he and his police force couldn’t be everywhere all the time. The moon was under a sophisticated net of surveillance, however, so criminal activity was kept to a minimum, but it still happened. Shuttles went to and from the planet surface constantly, but those who wanted to go had to undergo strict security checks both before boarding a shuttle on the moon and when they exited on the planet. There were few incidents with unruly passengers and even some who intentionally wanted to cause problems, but they were dealt with swiftly and thoroughly.

Ironhide looked forward to docking on the moon, as Tarn didn’t have a port large enough to allow the Paladin Express to dock directly there. Ironhide couldn’t understand this, as Tarn was one of the biggest mining cities on the planet, and shipments were going in and out of there on a daily basis. As it was, anything bigger than a shuttle’s cargo couldn’t be shipped in or out of the city, it had to be taken to the nearest larger port in shuttles and loaded onto a spaceship there, and vice versa. Inferno had told him the main reason for this was that the mine operators could keep the transportation of what was mined strictly under control. Nothing too much could come in or go out. This way costly mistakes were avoided. But it made deliveries and pickups complicated and Ironhide thought unnecessarily so. But it was what it was. As of right now, Ironhide wanted to be rid of the cargo that had caused the problems, and he wanted to dock on the moon anyway, so that he could alert Maximus and his crew to what they were carrying and have him deal with it. Once Maximus’s bots take charge of the cargo, Ironhide is absolved of any responsibility for it, and they can be on their way to their next pickup. But they had to get there first.

“Ironhide!” Powerglide suddenly said. “We’re being hailed!”

“What? By who?”

“I...well, just listen.” Powerglide said, and activated the speaker on the bridge.

...to the Transformer cargo ship!” the raspy voice said. “I repeat, this is the captain of the deep space vessel Dark Journey! I wish to speak to the Transformer cargo ship!

“So?” Powerglide asked. “Should I answer?”

“How close are we to Moon 2?”

“6 parsecs.” Air Raid answered. “If we keep up our top speed, we’ll be there in 14 breems.”

“Inferno, what does this ship look like? Where is it from?”

“It’s a destroyer-class deep space cruiser, like its captain said.” Inferno answered. “The file I have is not much, it just says the ship does carry arms and has a crew complement of 6,000. It’s from Tah’Dar-6, where we picked up the cargo we’re taking to Tarn. That planet’s police force uses these ships for their air patrol.”

“Tah’Dar-6?” Air Raid asked. “We’re waaaay too far from there! Did they follow us all the way here?”

“Why hadn’t we noticed before?” Powerglide asked.

“Probably because they used transwarp.” Inferno answered. “According to this file I’m lookin’ at, the cruiser hailing us has transwarp capability. As long as they knew where we were going to be at a given time, they could warp to that part of space and just track us down.”

“So what, they bugged the cargo to track us?” Air Raid asked.

“It wouldn’t surprise me.” Ironhide answered. “Considerin’ what that cargo has put us through.”

All this time, the continuous hailing from the other ship was on the speakers in the background.

“Well, boss, what do you want us to do?” Powerglide asked. “Do we answer? Or do we just keep going? I mean, they have no authority here, this is open space. But if we don’t at least see what they want, they could get a little more...assertive.”

“Well, I guess we can answer ‘em.” Ironhide said. “But keep the ship goin’ at full speed.”

“Got it.” Air Raid said.

“Inferno, ask them what they want.”

Inferno took control of the comm, and with it staying on loudspeaker, he answered the other ship.

“This is the Cybertronian transport vessel Paladin Express. State your reason for contact, please.”

“Paladin Express, you have a cargo that belongs to the government of Tah’Dar-6, and was mistakenly loaded onto your ship. We require its return as soon as possible. Please stop your vessel so that we may come aboard and take possession.

Dark Journey, this is sub-commander Inferno of the Paladin Express. Who am I speaking with? Please identify yourself.”

This is captain Ka-Thok of the Tah’Dar-6 planetary police. I am here as a representative of Tah’Dar-6’s government, authorized to make contact to retrieve the previously mentioned cargo and deal accordingly with you and your crew.

“Well, that sounded like a threat.” Powerglide said.

Deal with us?” Inferno asked back. “Please clarify.”

That cargo belongs to us, and we want it returned immediately.” the voice replied, becoming agitated. “It should never have been loaded onto your ship, and we will reacquire it by any means. We can do this smoothly, or we can do this...roughly. You decide.[/i]”

“Did you just make an open threat?” Inferno asked.

“They’re locked on!” Powerglide said. “Their tractor beam has us hooked. We probably couldn’t get away if we tried.”

“Damn it.” Ironhide said. “Inferno, ask them what’s so special about this cargo. Stall them for a breem if you can!”

Ironhide then got out of his chair and went to the stairs.

“Sideswipe!” he shouted down. “Be prepared for possibly hostile boarders!”

He then walked back to the pilot’s console and stood over Inferno.

“They said we shouldn’t worry about the cargo, only that they want it back.” Inferno said.

“This is captain Ironhide of the Paladin Express.” Ironhide spoke into the comm. “The cargo was legally acquired on Tah’Dar-6, signed off on by your chief port authority officer. We’re shipping it as part of a legal transaction between Cybertron and Tah’Dar-6. If you wish to dispute its possession you must come to Cybertron and deal with the receiving party, the mining authority in the city of Tarn.”

Tarn?” the voice replied, more surprised than agitated. “The container is going to Tarn?! You MUST return the cargo AT ONCE!!! I will NOT ask again!

“Whoa.” Powerglide said. “They definitely have a problem with Tarn. Do they know something we don’t?”

“You do not have the authority to stop us, much less board us.” Ironhide answered with a firm tone. “Accompany us to Cybertron, where this can be sorted out. We will NOT stop. I repeat, we will NOT stop and allow you to board us!”

I’m afraid that’s not an option.” the voice came back. “We must have that container. We will have that container.

The comm went to static. Then almost immediately, the ship began to shake slightly.

“What…” Powerglide said, snapping his head in different directions. “What’s going on?”

“They’re closing in on us.” Air Raid said. “They can’t stop us, so they’re using their tractor beam to draw their ship closer. They’re going to board us.”

“But I can feel us slowing down.” Inferno said. “Not much, but I can feel it. And I can see it!” he pointed to the control panel in front of him. The ship’s readout showed their speed falling, even though the engines were at full power.

“They must have a hell of a strong tractor beam.” Inferno said. “It’s like we’re pulling their entire ship. And that’s a big ship.”

“How big?” Ironhide asked.

“Well, they have a crew of 6,000. They gotta have accommodations for all of them, plus the space they work in, I suppose. And then there is the rest of the ship itself. I mean, it’s a police ship, so it’s gotta be armored to the fullest, which means who-knows-what kind of weapons.”

“How big are they?” Air Raid asked. “The inhabitants of Tah’Dar-6? And what are they?”

“Let me see what else is here.” Inferno said, looking at the file he had pulled up. “Okay, they’re organics. They do have a high level of technology, which is evident in their space vessel, as well as their apparent ability to build super weapons. If what is in that gray box qualifies. They’re smaller than us individually, but like I said, there are 6,000 of them. All armed to the teeth, no doubt. If they have teeth.”

“How much smaller?” Ironhide asked.

“Uh, 4 meters tall.”

“So roughly ⅔ of our size.” Ironhide said. “We should be able to repel their boardin’ party.”

“Boss, you sure that’s what you wanna do?” Powerglide asked. “We’re still going, even if we’re slowing down. I don’t think they can get in here before we get into Cybertron’s vicinity, and then we can call Maximus for help.”

“No, they’ll stop us before we get to the moon.” Air Raid said. “And besides, I think they’re also jamming us. I don’t think we can get a distress call out.”

“So what do we do?” Inferno asked Ironhide.

“They can’t come onto this ship. Go get the guns.”

Inferno stood up without a word, and headed into the crew’s quarters. In a small storage unit off to the side, the 7 Flintlock 250 shotguns were stored. That was the only personal weaponry they had. The ship was equipped with larger weapons, but the other ship was so close, deploying them would most certainly cause damage to the Express as well, so it was a last resort. As Inferno retrieved the shotguns, Ironhide activated the ship’s intercom on his chair.

“Sideswipe, are you prepared down there?”

Everything’s locked down. the answer came. “We just need our guns. What’s going on? We felt the ship shudder and slow down.

“We’re bein’ pulled in by a tractor beam of a much larger ship. Apparently, they’re after what’s in that gray box. They’re preparin’ to board us. We have to repel them.”

We’ll do our best. Any idea how many and where they’re coming from?

“They will most likely try to force the cargo doors open, or maybe the shuttle bay doors. As for their number, I’m not sure. Inferno said the file he has on them lists the cruiser’s crew at 6,000. But they’re smaller than us. So we’ll see.”

Did you say 6 thousand?” Sideswipe’s stunned reply came back.

“Yes. Inferno is on the way down with your guns. We’ll join you shortly. Set up according to protocol.”

Understood.

“And Sideswipe? They can NOT get on board this ship. No matter what.”

I got it, boss.

Ironhide turned off the intercom and stood up again.

“Okay, you all know what to do. Get to it.”

As per their emergency procedures, Air Raid stayed by the ship’s controls, as Powerglide, Warpath and Cliffjumper made their way into the shuttle bay. Powerglide powered up the shuttle, and had it ready for take off. CJ and Warpath were set up by the shuttle bay door, in case the boarders tried to come through there. But they were also prepared to join the others down in the cargo bay once it became clear that that’s where the incursion was going to happen. Ironhide and Inferno joined Sideswipe in the cargo bay, setting up positions for covering the cargo bay door. Next to the door on both sides were ports that could be opened from the inside, the shotguns’ dual barrels fitting through them. Then the opening could closed up around the barrels, so only the end of the barrel was outside the ship, and its user could freely move about in the space, moving the gun to aim it in whichever direction was needed. Small surveillance equipment built into the outer hull of the ship showed the feed on small screens on both sides of the doors, so they could see exactly who or what was approaching the door. The same setup was up in the shuttle bay. They didn’t worry about standing too close to the wall, because if the boarders had weapons that could punch through, the shotguns wouldn’t do much damage anyway. Inferno and Ironhide set up on each side of the door, while Sideswipe took up his position behind a makeshift bunker directly in front of the door. If the boarders make it through the door, they would take fire from both sides as well as head on. With their limited weaponry and small numbers, that was the best plan Inferno could come up with. If the boarders made it through, they would also take fire from Warpath and Cliffjumper, who would be waiting by the stairs.

Ironhide!” the intercom by the cargo door crackled with Air Raid’s voice.

The intercom was within reach of the spot Ironhide was covering, so he reached over and hit the button.

“What?!”

We’re almost to a stop. Should I power down the engines? We’re not getting away from them, and just wasting fuel this way.

“Yes, bring the engines down to minimal operatin’ level. But stay at the ready. If their tractor cuts out, punch it! We’re close enough to Cybertron that even if we get into a firefight they should see us!”

Got it.

“And tell Powerglide to forget about the shuttle. Get out and help CJ and Warpath.”

On it.

Ironhide then turned to Inferno, standing on the other side of the cargo door.

“Anythin’ yet?” he asked.

“No. But we’re at a dead stop now, so any minute they could be coming. But are you sure they’ll come through here? Why not just blast a hole in the hull and get it over with? They gotta have a cannon big enough on that ship.”

“Well, for one, they’re not certain we will fight them. We haven’t given them any sign that we’ll resist. And two, they want the cargo. They won’t risk damaging it.And three, the door is the easiest access. Let’s just hope they come around to the front, and not try the shuttle bay first.”

“They gotta have some equipment on that cruiser to scan us! They know the inside of this ship by now! Hell, they can probably tell we’re getting ready to fight back!”

“Well, I’m sure it’ll be obvious soon enough. Sideswipe, ya ready?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be, boss bot!” Sideswipe said from behind them.

Ironhide! They’re hailing us again! I’ll put it through on the intercom.” Air Raid said.

“Paladin Express, this is the captain of the Dark Journey! We will begin boarding you now. We simply want the cargo and you can be on your way! Do NOT resist us, we are prepared to use force!” the intercom screamed.

Inferno looked over at Ironhide. It was the moment of truth. The choice Ironhide made right then was going to decide their fate. He reached over and pressed the button on the intercom.

“And our response is the same: this cargo was ordered by and paid for the mining town of Tarn on Cybertron. It was loaded up on your planet, and it will be delivered as the contract says. If you attempt to take it by force, we will be forced to defend it and ourselves. Come aboard at your own risk!”

He turned off the intercom so that whatever response the Tah’Darian ship sent wouldn’t be heard. Ironhide was done talking. Let them come.

“Here they come!” Inferno said. Ironhide looked out through his window above the gunport, and saw them. They did decide to try the door first, and they were coming from both sides.

“Wait until they’re at the door.” Ironhide said. “I want to see exactly what they have and if we start shootin’ I want as many of them in the line of fire as possible.”

“They have a vehicle.” Inferno said.

Ironhide looked out through his screen, and saw that the boarders were on board a flat shuttle-looking vehicle. It looked like there were 8 of them. They were organic, just like the file said, and they wore spacesuits that were no doubt armored. They also had what Ironhide guessed to be a life support system. They were organics after all, and couldn’t survive in space without it. That was their weakness. In a split second, Ironhide began devising a plan. Each boarder carried what looked to be some type of weapon, similar to their own shotguns. But they were smaller, and Ironhide noted the hoses connected to them at the stock that ran to the backpacks on the boarders’ spacesuits. Suddenly, the 8 Tah’Darians split into 2 lines of 4 on each side of their vehicle, and a mounted cannon moved forward. A 9th Tah’Darian was behind it, and he was preparing to fire it.

“Now!” Ironhide said. “Start shootin’!”

Without a word, Inferno began blasting away at the boarders from the left side of the door, and Ironhide followed suit from the right side. Even though the Tah’Darians seemed to be prepared for a fight, they took the initial blasts. 2 of them immediately tumbled off the vehicle, while the others kneeled down to make themselves smaller targets. The mounted cannon began firing, and immediately the Express shuddered as huge dents were put into the cargo door.

“Whoa!” Inferno said. “That thing is powerful!”

“Keep shootin’ back!” Ironhide replied as he reloaded the shotgun. The energon shells were destructive, and he couldn’t fire them off fast enough.

Ironhide!” Air Raid’s voice came through the intercom. “They’re threatening to blow us up!

“They won’t!” Ironhide shouted into the cargo space. He needed both hands to use the shotgun and couldn’t use the intercom. “They won’t risk destroying the container!”

They said they will do just that if it means keeping it from reaching Tarn!

What the hell is with that gray box? Ironhide thought to himself. But he couldn’t think any further, as more blasts from the cannon smashed into the door. It started to visibly disintegrate and it would take only a few more shots to punch a hole through it. Unless they disabled that cannon. Ironhide and Inferno took turns shooting and reloading, constantly keeping the Tah’Darians under fire. The boarders had stopped their vehicle right in front of the door and were shooting straight on. The 6 remaining boarders had taken defensive positions on the vehicle, 3 on each side of the cannon, shielding the 7th Tah’Darian who was using it. Their spacesuits were armored, and they seemed to be withstanding the explosive energon shells, even though they were taking visible damage, as was the vehicle. Finally, a shot broke through, and the door split. The next shot came in and went over the head of Sideswipe, who prepared to fire back.

“Not yet!” Ironhide said. “Wait until they’re to the door!”

“If we wait, they’ll totally destroy the door, and the cargo bay will be exposed!” Inferno said.

Ironhide wanted to argue, but the next 2 shots from the boarders’ cannon hit each side of the crack in the door, making it wider.

“They’re prepared to come in.” Ironhide said. “I knew they wouldn’t risk damagin’ the cargo, even if it meant their lives. Stop shootin’!”

Inferno looked at Ironhide with curiosity, but did as he was told. Then he turned back to his screen, showing right outside the door. A 2nd vehicle, identical to the 1st was floating from the Tah’Darian cruiser, which was directly behind them. On it was a mounted cannon as well, but only 2 figures: 1 was another soldier, who looked just like the others on the 1st vehicle. White space suit with a yellow stripe on each side of the chest and a hose going from the backpack to his weapon and a helmet that made his face visible. The other was what Inferno assumed to be the captain, or at least a higher-ranking officer, in a white space suit with blue stripes down each side, but no weapon or hose leading from the back. The 1st vehicle floated to the side, allowing the 2nd to come to the doors and stop beside it.

This is your last chance!” the Tah’Darian who seemed to be in charge shouted, his voice coming through the intercom, which was picking up the transmission from a transmitter in his suit. In space there is no sound, so Ironhide went to the intercom and pressed a button, didn’t matter which one. He figured the Tah’Darian could pick up the transmission from so close.

“You won’t get the cargo without a fight!” he said with determination. “I won’t break a contract when there’s another way of solvin’ this problem! Just let use deliver the cargo to Cybertron. You can follow us there and take it up with the customs authorities! I’m sure they will allow you to retrieve it. But I repeat, I cannot let you take it! If I did, I might as well shut down my business, because no one will trust me with cargo again!”

You have no idea what you are carrying.” the voice on the intercom said, more calmly. “That container is the harbinger of death, perhaps for your entire planet. If it gets in the wrong hands, it will be not only a catastrophe for your race, but for the galaxy itself. I cannot in good conscience allow it to reach its destination. I say again, let us take it or we will have no choice but to destroy it, and along with it your ship. It cannot reach Tarn!

“What is in Tarn that yer so afraid of?!” Ironhide asked back with near-hysterical anger.

Nothing yet.” the Tah’Darian said. “But if that weapon reaches its intended recipient, the storm surging under the surface will become a raging force of destruction.

“That makes no sense!” Ironhide answered. “Tarn is simply a minin’ town! And even though I’ve never seen equipment like this, this is just a part of some new minin’ tools we’re deliverin’! You must be mistaken!”

Hahahahahahahaha!” the laugh came through the intercom, infuriating Ironhide. “You fool! You have no idea of the threat being formed under your very feet! That box contains a new form of mass destruction the likes of which this galaxy has never seen! Its schematics were provided by someone from Tarn, and Tah’Dar-6 had the technology to build it! It seems your government is unaware, and ours caught it late. But better late than never! It must be destroyed before it is activated. Because once it is, it can never be turned off!

“But it is activated.” Ironhide responded calmly. “It has been for most of the trip back.”

WHAT?!” the surprised and now-alarmed voice answered. “No! That can’t be! It doesn’t have a power source![/i]”

“Oh, but it does. It seems our engines activated it, and it began sappin’ the energy from it. It almost caused us to crash twice. And it wreaked havoc on the inside of the cargo bay. That’s why we had to open it and see what it was.”

And what did you see?” the voice asked, now totally alarmed yet calm.

“It seemed like a miniaturized version of a fusion cannon. But that’s not possible. Power like that cannot be harnessed into a personal weapon.”

Not by your technology. But on Tah’Dar-6 we’re advanced beyond Cybertron. We just never had the information to safely link up with a black hole. Not until the plans for that damned thing was given to our engineers. Even then, they didn’t know what they were building until it was too late. They were tricked into thinking it was a piece of mining equipment, just like you were. But once our agents from Cybertron reported in regarding the developments in Tarn, we managed to put it all together.

“What?!” Ironhide was angry yet again. “You have spies on Cybertron?!”

We have spies in most corners of the galaxy. Especially on planets whose civilization is advanced close to our own. The point is, you are an unwitting part of an interplanetary struggle between forces in the shadows. As I said, you have no idea of the revolution being sewn under your very feet. And what you carry onboard your ship will enable its user to bring annihilation to your planet and your people.

“I don’t believe you. This is some kind o’ trick. I don’t know what you’re plannin’, but let me assure you, we’re prepared to defend this cargo with our lives.”

Don’t worry.” the Tah’Darian replied with strange calmness. “We won’t pursue it any further. You said it was activated by your engines, and that is precisely what we were told to watch out for. That’s why we wanted to stop you as soon as we could. But it seems like it’s too late now.

“So you won’t fire on us with your cruiser’s heavy guns?” Ironhide asked suspiciously.

No. To do so would bring death to us as well.” the Tah’Darian now seemed to be resigned to defeat. “If the weapon you’re carrying is damaged in its structure, or if it is allowed to reach its full potential, it will create a singularity that will consume the space in its vicinity. It will have to be dealt with some other way. But I implore you, do NOT let it get to Tarn! Do as you say you will and hand it over to the port authorities once you get to Cybertron! They will be notified by our people through diplomatic channels and hopefully disaster can still be averted.

Ironhide took a moment to process everything the Tah’Darian just said. He still wasn’t sure if this was a ruse or if they were free to go. Just then, the ship shuddered for a moment.

Ironhide, they released the tractor beam.” Air Raid came through the intercom.

Ironhide looked at Inferno, who shrugged. Before Ironhide could say anything, the intercom crackled again.

Yes, we did.” the Tah’Darian said. “Like I said, an armed conflict will only end in the damaging of the weapon, and that is the end for us all, and sooner than later, the end for your planet once the resulting singularity reaches you. It could have been destroyed before it was activated, but now that it is linked up, it must be kept under control.

“And how do you know I’m not lyin’ about that?” Ironhide asked, risking their chance to get away.

Our scanners picked up the power source coming from the cargo bay.” the answer came. “We couldn’t tell before when your engines were at full power, but now the difference in power level is astounding. Your engines seem like but a small battery compared to what that thing is capable of. Do NOT disturb it for the rest of your trip. Once you get to Cybertron, alert your authorities immediately! Otherwise, it will not end well for you. Or anyone else in this galaxy. Heed my words, Cybertronian! You carry the foulest means of death and destruction aboard your ship. Whoever is awaiting it in Tarn means to use it for his own nefarious ends, at the cost of your very own planet, and after that the entire galaxy! Our interaction has come to an end. Take your leave, and for the sake of everyone you hold dear, do as I ask you.

With that, the Tah’Darians retreated, the officer’s vehicle going back to their starship, while the 1st vehicle collected the 2 who were knocked off and floated in space between the 2 ships. Then they returned to their cruiser, and were swallowed up by its shuttle bay, the doors closing behind them.

Everything seems in order.” Air Raid came through the intercom. “Aside from the small damage to the hull, we’re good to go.

Ironhide stepped away from the door, retracting his gun and closing the gunport.

“You stay here and keep watch.” he said to Inferno. Then he turned to Sideswipe. “You get Cliffjumper and Warpath and patch this up.”

“On it.” Sideswipe said and left his position.

“So...we’re just going to ignore what the Tah’Darian said?” Inferno asked.

“No. Of course not.” Ironhide said. “But this is way above our heads. If there’s even a sliver of truth to what he said, Maximus needs to know about it, as soon as possible.”

“So we’re handing over the container when we get to Moon 2?”

“Of course we are. Along with the entire conversation that just took place. The authorities need to know there are alien spies on our planet!”

Ironhide then stepped back to the intercom.

“Air Raid, let’s go. The sooner we get to Moon 2, the sooner we can clear ourselves of this mess. Did you get the exchange on record?”

The whole thing, boss bot.

“Good.”

The ship then shuddered for a moment and began moving as Air Raid powered up the engines. Ironhide kept his optics on the container, but the supposed weapon inside did not react to the engines’ power surge. Was it really true what the Tah’Darian said? Ironhide wondered. The “weapon’s” previous behavior seemed to support this. But what the Tah’Darian claimed it to be was at the very least improbable if not impossible. But Ironhide did not spend much more time on it. Once they get to the moon, it will be Maximus’s problem, along with the information they will give him regarding the secret agents working on the planet, as well as what might or might not be taking place in Tarn in regards to a revolution. Like Ironhide told Inferno: this was over their heads. They’re just a transport vessel, trying to make it to their next destination.
Rodimus Prime
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Re: Disaster Transport.

Postby Rodimus Prime » Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:52 pm

Motto: "Laissez le bon temps rouler!"
Soon the Paladin Express reached the moon. Air Raid got clearance to dock, and Ironhide requested a security team to take custody of the gray box. He didn’t tell them what was inside. Not surprisingly, the team showed up under Red Alert’s command. As the ship was secured to the holding clamps (so that it would stay with the moon as it revolved around Cybertron) extended out from the dock tower, Inferno opened the cargo doors and a security shuttle pulled up. It wasn’t big, and to Inferno it seemed to be an outdated model. It still had wheels. Or maybe its hover mechanism was malfunctioning. The paint on it was a faded gray, and there were scuffs and scratches all over the sides. The open vehicle had 4 occupants, a driver, 2 security drones, and Red Alert. He stepped off even before the driver brought it to a complete stop, and he greeted Inferno with a smile.

“I heard you had an interesting trip.” he said as they shook hands.

“Ehh, not really out of the ordinary.” Inferno answered with a smirk.

“But you do have something for me?” Red Alert asked back, his smile fading.

“Yes, we do. And I think it’s something Maximus himself will want to look at.”

“Yes, he will be coming down soon. I heard Ironhide requested a meeting with him. The big bot is pretty busy, but if Ironhide wants to talk, it must be important, so he’ll make the time.”

“Good, because this thing is definitely a security concern.” Inferno said and jerked a thumb over his shoulder, pointing towards the gray box being brought out to them by Sideswipe, Warpath and Cliffjumper.

“What is it?”

“Well, Cliffjumper says it’s a fusion cannon. Like the kind they put on mining vehicles to pulverize the layers of metal regular mining tools can’t get through, except smaller. Like it’s fitted for a single bot to carry.”

“No way. That’s impossible. If that technology was feasible, every miner would have his own cannon. It would change the mining industry.”

“Apparently the Tah’Darians figured out how to do it. The police unit from Tah’Dar-6 that chased us down claimed that it was built to specifications sent by someone in Tarn.”

“I don’t think it’s a properly working cannon. The physics are not possible. I know a few bots in the mining business, they have tried. It’s never worked out for them.”

“I’m tellin’ ya, Red, this thing’s fully functional. Our engines activated it somehow, just by being in its vicinity, and it’s been givin’ us problems ever since.”

Red Alert looked at the box as it was loaded onto the security shuttle. He then looked back at Inferno with genuine alarm on his face.

“Is it dangerous? I mean, is it active right now?”

“It seems to be quiet, but the Tah’Darian said once it is activated, it cannot be deactivated, due to its link to the nearest event horizon.”

“An eve- you mean a black hole?!” Red Alert’s optics widened. “That thing is linked to a black hole?!”

As he raised his voice, the other security drones all looked at him at the same time.

“Yes, but it seems to be fine now.” Inferno said, trying to calm everyone. “It didn’t do any damage, other than to the container it was in, and that happened only because it was being pulled toward the engine room. It didn’t go off or anything like that.”

“Okay, we’ll be very careful with it.” Red Alert said, the obvious concern all over his face and in his voice. “But I wish I knew that before, so I could have had Trailbreaker set up a force bubble around it. As far as I know that’s the only thing that could contain any energy discharge from a fusion cannon. I’ll contact him as soon as we leave.”

“I thought Ironhide told you.”

“I didn’t speak to Ironhide, Skydive in the tower spoke to Air Raid, and then sent out the notification to the security station. I just happened to be there, and when I saw that it came from Ironhide’s ship, I decided to check it out for myself. And I’m glad I did. You need to have a word with Air Raid. he should have specified the nature of the cargo.”

“I will handle it. You just make sure that thing is secured.”

“Absolutely. You take care. See you later.”

Red Alert then got on the shuttle and ordered the driver to go to the nearest security station. As they pulled away, Inferno could see Red Alert turned around in his seat, his optics focused on the gray box like a laser.

“Did you tell him what the Tah’Darian said?” Sideswipe asked.

“About the fusion cannon? Yeah, I told him it was active.”

“No, the other thing. About them having secret agents on Cybertron.”

“Uhh...no. I figured that was for Ironhide and Maximus to handle.”

“But what if they already know it’s in their custody? And they try to take it before it could be properly secured? Red Alert won’t be prepared for spies trying to steal it. He’ll be too worried about making sure it doesn’t go off and waste his whole station.”

“Damn. You’re right. Let’s see if we can get in touch with them.”

Inferno stepped over to the intercom, and pressed the button to the bridge.

“Air Raid, can you hail the security shuttle that just left?”

No, I can only talk to the tower. Something wrong?

“Uhh, no, not yet. Tell the tower to get in touch with either the shuttle or the security station they’re going to. Tell them to watch out for suspicious individuals. The cargo they’re carrying might be a target for some bots or even aliens trying to take it. This moon is crawling with all kinds of beings from all over the galaxy. It could be anyone.”

Uhh...okay.

Inferno then began closing the cargo doors, with the other 3 standing outside on the ramp. Quickly, he jumped out through the sliding panels of the doors, and joined them.

“So now what?” Warpath asked.

“Now, we get some rest and relaxation.” Inferno said. “Go get a good oilbath or some down time on a recharge slab. Ironhide has to meet with Maximus, and I have to line up our next freight. Besides, the ship needs to be refueled and the inside of the cargo bay has to be fixed up from what happened.”

“What about the rest of the cargo?” Cliffjumper asked.

“Well, that’s for Maximus to decide. I mean, it is intended to go to Tarn, so once it is cleared, it will probably be offloaded. But not until Ironhide and Maximus get to the bottom of this mess.”

“Sounds good to me. Let’s go get wasted.” Sideswipe said with a grin.

“Well, don’t get too wild, we’ll only be here for one cycle, 2 at the most.” Inferno said. “I want all of you at full operating capacity when you get back.”

“Of course, boss.” Sideswipe answered, the grin still on his face.

Inferno shook his head as the others went their own way once they reached the bottom of the ramp and entered the dock station. Inferno needed some down time as well, but he had to make sure the next cargo was ready to be picked up. He headed toward the office to see if what they were taking had arrived yet.

*** *** ***

Ironhide sat in Maximus’s office. It was a pretty plain room, Max was never much for flashiness, he liked to get to business. Ironhide liked that about him. He hadn’t been waiting long, but he was getting impatient already. He looked around the office, the walls were bare, except for the computer console off to his right. He assumed Maximus used this to keep up with reports and other events going on, as he was in charge of the entire moon’s security. In front of him was a desk, with a smaller console on it, and Ironhide guessed this was Maximus’s communication tool, perhaps another way to keep on top of things. The desk was pretty big, but there was nothing else on it. Then again, Max was a pretty big bot, Ironhide thought. Behind the desk was a chair, also bigger than the one Ironhide sat in. Despite the emptiness of the room, Ironhide started to feel claustrophobic. He wanted to leave, but this meeting had to take place. What happened on the way in was a big problem, and Max needed to know. Ironhide was just about to start muttering curses, when the door behind him opened. He turned around, and saw Maximus standing there, taking up the entire doorway from side to side. His head almost bumped into the top of the opening as he came through.

“Hello, Ironhide.” Max said calmly, but not jovially.

“Hey Max.” Ironhide said as he stood up.

The 2 shook hands and Max gestured for him to sit back down as he walked around the desk.

“So I hear you had quite the ride in.” Max said as he sat down.

“Oh yeah. And that’s just the beginnin’.”

“Yeah, Red Alert gave me the gist of it. A fusion cannon? Really? A miniaturized fusion cannon linked to an event horizon? That kind of technology shouldn’t exist! I mean, not only is it advanced, but it’s very unstable and dangerous!”

“Yeah, it is. But that’s not even yer biggest concern. The main thing is yer possible security breaches to steal it.”

“Right. That was another thing Red told me. Your pilot said there might be spies from Tah’Dar-6 present here on the moon?”

“Well, that’s possible. I had a very interesting encounter with a Tah’Darian police captain who chased us down all the way from their system after we picked up the cargo going to Tarn and held us up not too far from here.”

Ironhide then proceeded to recount the events that occurred regarding the fusion cannon, and when he was done, the first thing Maximus did was activate the panel on his desk. He pressed a few buttons.

“I need to speak to Red Alert, right now.”

Right away, commander.” the operator’s voice came back. After a few seconds of silence, it was replaced by Red Alert’s voice. “Yes, Maximus.

“Red, what’s the status on the compromised cargo that came in on the Paladin Express earlier?”

It’s secured. I got Trailbreaker to lock it down with a force bubble. It’s still inside the gray box, and it’s also heavily guarded. I haven’t left the station either, I intend to oversee it personally, until you decide what to do.

“Alright. Any suspicious individuals attempt to get close to it?”

Uhh...I got a report of someone trying to get inside the station. It wasn’t a Cybertronian, he claimed to be a member of a transport crew who said he was accosted and robbed last cycle, and he was looking to see if we retrieved his belongings. I checked the reports and there was no such incident. While I was doing that, he attempted to gain entry into the safe-secure area. When confronted, he tried to run. He was detained and is now in a holding tank. I haven’t had the chance to speak to him yet. Otherwise, nothing.

“Okay, hold off on talking to him. I want to be there. In the meantime, make sure you double security inside and outside the station. Clearly there is truth to what ironhide and his crew warned us about. There may be others coming to cause trouble.”

Yes, commander. We will be prepared.

“Good. I’ll be in touch soon.”

Max then turned off the communicator on his desk, and looked back at Ironhide.

“Okay, so that’s where that’s at. I have to get in touch with Ultra Magnus in Iacon, if only to apprise him of the situation, but I want to contain this here. Obviously, the fusion cannon will not be allowed to proceed to Tarn. Whoever wanted it will either have to let it go or try to claim it, and maybe we can get to the bottom of this once that person is revealed. I don’t care what anyone tries to tell me, that thing is not simply a mining tool. It has the potential from great destruction.”

“Yes, it does. At least you got it under control. But what about the rest of the cargo?”

“Well, as soon as this mess is cleared up, I don’t see why the rest of it can’t go to Tarn. I mean, all that stuff is regular mining equipment, I had it thoroughly checked.”

“Okay, so how long do you think it will take?”

“That depends on what Magnus says, and what the response from Tarn will be. Shouldn’t take more than 2 or 3 cycles.”

“And until then we have to stay docked? Can’t the freight be unloaded in a holding area or something?”

“Yeah, I suppose it could. But honestly, I preferred if it stayed onboard your ship.”

“Max, I have another cargo ready to go tomorrow. I need to keep goin’. I have a business to run.”

“Like I said, it could be unloaded. I wanted it to stay on the ship because it’s easier to guard that way. It’s still secured in your cargo hold, and your crew being present gives us an extra layer of security. Not that I don’t trust my squads, but it’s a lot harder for a spy to get the access codes to your ship than to the holding area on the surface. And if it does happen, we’ll know that it could have only come from one of your bots.”

“Hey, my crew wouldn’t compromise your security!” Ironhide snapped.

“I know that. That’s why I want the cargo to stay on the ship. Eventually, someone from Tarn has to show up to claim it, especially if they want it bad enough. And then maybe we can get to the bottom of this. If I let the cargo off, it could be taken from the holding area easier, and if we don’t find out who took it, we may never know who wanted that fusion cannon. Whoever was waiting for it might decide it’s not worth the risk and abandon it. But the cargo it came with is pretty substantial, and that would be harder to let go. So please be patient. 2 or 3 cycles at the most, and if nothing happens, I’ll have it offloaded and you can be on your way.”

Ironhide frowned and shook his head as he leaned back in the chair. He looked at Maximus for a moment, and then leaned forward again.

“Alright. 3 cycles. At the most. After that, I don’t give a damn if I gotta dump the stuff right on yer dock tower.”

“That’s all I’m asking for. I’ll figure this out by then, I promise.”

“Fine. We’ve been runnin’ pretty hard anyway. I’ll let my crew have an extra cycle of rest.”

Ironhide then stood up.

“Now I gotta go make arrangements for the other cargo to be delayed. Hopefully the sender will be understandin’.”

“Who is it?”

“I’m shippin’ a ship-full load to VsQs. It’s underwritten by Senator Shockwave.”

“The Senate? You better be careful with that load. You must have a hell of a reputation if they hired you instead of arranging armored government transport. Do you know what you’re hauling?”

“No idea. All I know is the manifest lists several large containers, big enough to take up my entire cargo space. The order did have an ‘Urgent’ specification, that’s why I’m kinda worried about pushing it back. But we’ll see.”

“Let me know what happens. I know this kind of stuff is very touchy, so if they put pressure on you, maybe I can figure out something else with the cargo going to Tarn.”

“Alright, I will. I did find it unusual that the order didn’t have the Iacon seal on it. It’s a personal shipment from Senator Shockwave. So technically, it’s not official government business.”

“Really? Hmm, I wonder what he’s sending to VsQs. It’s not a technologically developed planet, as far as I know. I mean, they have a basic society, but we’re far more advanced than they are. Oh well, none of our business, I guess.”

“Yeah. As long as I’m paid, I’ll take it anywhere they want it, if the destination is registered. Anyway, I’m gonna get going. Let me know what happens with Magnus.”

“Alright. Relax for a cycle, will you? I’m sure everything will be fine.”

“Yeah, probably. I just want this whole thing to be over with. I don’t even want to hear about that damn fusion cannon ever again.”

“You won’t. We’ll take care of it.”

Ironhide then walked out of Maximus’s office, leaving both of them to contemplate the recent events and what to do next. Neither of them had any idea just how wrong they were about the cargo in question.

*** *** ***

“Your turn.” Powerglide said as he sat down in his copilot’s seat.

“Alright. I won’t be long.” Air Raid answered. “Have you heard from the others?”

“No, they’re still out doing whatever. The last message I got from the boss bot said we will be here for an extra cycle due to the security concerns. So everyone should have plenty of time to rest and relax.”

“Well, then I guess I’ll get myself ready.” Air Raid said as he stood up. “It’s been a while since I took some time for myself. And I know this moon has a lot of fun stuff to do.”

“Between the security squads and our own security system, everything should be fine. We’ve been sittin’ here for a whole cycle now, and nothing happened.”

“Let’s hope it stays that way. Sideswipe and Cliffjumper should be back later this cycle, and then we can get out of here. I know Warpath damaged one of his tracks when that container went loose, so he’s off gettin’ that fixed. He won’t be back until tomorrow either.”

“Air Raid, don’t worry. We’re locked down tight here, nobody’s going to try anything.”

“Alright. Let’s get one last sweep of the cameras and then I’ll get going.”

They both looked at the screens in the consoles in front of them, Powerglide clicking the button which switched from one camera to the next. Ironhide had them built in around the cargo doors, the shuttle bay door, as well as facing the rear on the sides of the engines. There were also 2 cameras on both the top and bottom of the ship that could be remotely operated. They had a pretty big field of view, and as they were going through it, everything seemed to be in order. Air Raid was about to turn and leave when the last camera shot came up. It was the camera on the left side of the shuttle bay door. It registered movement in the bottom right corner. There was someone there. Someone going to the door.

*** *** ***

Maximus sat in his office, going over regular security reports. The moon was a busy place, with all kinds of visitors from every corner of the galaxy stopping for all kinds of reasons. Offloading and picking up cargo, maintenance on their ships, and of course the various personal satisfactions that could be had on the other half of the moon. He definitely had his hands full, but Red Alert, Siren and Nightbeat were good lieutenants and things usually went smooth, even when there were troublemakers having to be dealt with. This time, however, Maximus was more preoccupied with this problem Ironhide brought to his station. Max knew it wasn’t the old bot’s fault, but it was still a security threat that had to be dealt with. But first, he would meet with the representative of the mining operation in Tarn, and see what the bot had to say. As Max closed the window on his console screen, the intercom on his desk flashed orange. That meant someone from inside the office was trying to reach him.

“Yes.” he said after pressing the button.

Sir, the representative from Tarn has arrived.” the monotone voice of the guard drone outside said.

“Let him pass.” Maximus said, and hit the button again, turning off the intercom. He then pressed another button on his desk, and the door to his office slid open. As the visitor stepped in, Maximus stood up and took measure of the bot. He had the movements of an official bot, someone who was very much a control freak and focused on nothing but what was in front of him. He was shorter than Maximus, but not by much. He didn’t have a bulky build, so Max figured he wasn’t actually a miner. His purplish paint job glimmered, and his yellow optic visor above a chrome faceplate gave away no expressions. This bot’s face was completely covered up. Maximus immediately became suspicious, but he held his reaction in check, and simply extended a hand.

“I’m commander Maximus, i’m in charge of security for the moon.” he said.

“I’m aware who you are.” the the visitor said. His voice seemed like he was speaking out of an intercom himself, and that was just unsettling. “I wouldn’t be here otherwise.” his optical visor flashed as he spoke.

“And you are…?” Max asked, the smile quickly disappearing from his face. If this bot wanted to be difficult, Max had no problem doing that. After all, this was his station. He was in charge. He called the shots.

“My name is Soundwave.” the bot answered. “I am here on orders from Charr Mining of Tarn. You are in possession of the company’s property, and I am here to claim it.”

“Soundwave.” Maximus repeated. “Can’t say I have heard of you. What exactly do you do for the mining operation?”

“I am its communications officer, as well as shipping coordinator. Can we dispense with the pleasantries and get to the matter at hand?”

This took Max a bit off guard. The bot was definitely pushy. But Max could play that game just the same.

“First, we will sit down and discuss what exactly your company ordered from Tah’Dar-6. I assume you have your copies of the manifest? I would like to see them.”

“The manifest I have is the same as yours. It is a detailed list of items being shipped, and when I arrived here it was confirmed to me that the items on the list are what you confiscated, no more, no less. So what’s the hold up?”

Forget pushy, this bot was just rude. And after the events of the last cycle, Maximus was nearing his limit. He didn’t like things out of order in his charge, and this bot was making it difficult to straighten everything out.

“Sit down.” Maximus said with a firm tone. “This will take a while.”

Soundwave said nothing, and though his face was covered with both a faceplate and an optical visor, his frustration was obvious. But he did as Max said, and took a seat, the same seat Ironhide had used the day before. Max sat back down in his chair.

“So then. Let’s talk about what is not on the manifest.” he said with a stern stare.

“I do not understand.” Soundwave said.

“Don’t.” Max replied calmly. “Don’t pretend like you don’t know. Even if you didn’t know what came in at the time, you have been given a report when you arrived here. You know.”

“I have no knowledge of anything other than what is on the manifest. Is there something else I’m supposed to know about?”

Max squinted his optics for a second. He couldn’t tell if this bot was provoking him by playing dumb, or if he really didn’t know about the fusion cannon.

“There was another piece of cargo on board, which is not on the manifest. A certain type of mining equipment that has been heavily modified, to the point it’s dangerous. It was placed in the center of the shipping container, no doubt to be hidden by shipping scanners as well as the shipping crew themselves. It was constructed on Tah’Dar-6, on specifications sent there by someone in Tarn.”

“The shipping crew opened the container? That’s against the contract’s terms.”

“The con- did you not hear what I just said?!” Max was getting aggravated. “Your order included a dangerous and potentially devastating piece of equipment, one that can be classified as a weapon! I want an explanation for this!”

“The contents of the container are strictly the responsibility of the company. I am here to claim the property which has been held up in your station for 2 cycles now. This property is needed in Tarn for the next step of deep core mining. I need you to tell me what procedure I need to follow to take possession of the cargo in question. The sooner I have it on my ship, the sooner it will be out of your way and you can go about your daily duties.”

Max was now beyond frustration. This company bot didn’t seem to understand the problem. Max wanted answers for the fusion cannon and the manner in which it was transported, but this bot seemed to be intent on keeping the conversation away from it. His droll, monotone voice didn’t help things.

“Listen. The shipping container will stay in under my authority until this business with the undocumented cargo is settled.” he said, leaning over his desk. “You will not get your hands on it for your bosses until I get answers. Understood?”

“Again, I am not here for a piece of undocumented cargo. I am here for-”

“I HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME!” Maximus shouted, slamming his hands on his desk. “You don’t seem to understand the situation here! I’m not giving you anything, until you tell me who is the recipient of the fusion cannon!”

In a move Max did not expect, Soundwave also leaned forward over the desk, until their faces were less than a meter apart. But unlike Maximus, Soundwave kept his composure and spoke in his even, monotone voice.

“I know nothing of this fusion cannon you speak of. If there is a discrepancy between the manifest and the actual cargo, I am unaware of it. I am simply here to collect the equipment that was on the manifest and shipped by the Paladin Express. Any other matters concerning any other cargo is not my concern.”

Soundwave then leaned back in his chair.

“Alright.” Maximus said calmly, tapping his hands on the desk, then leaning back as well. “You want to play this the hard way. Fine. If you don’t know anything, then I will have to get in touch with someone higher in the mining operation, who might know. Until then, the cargo stays here. If no one will cooperate with me in Tarn, I will take it upon myself to get approval to contact Tah’Dar-6’s government with approval from our own government. That way I’m covered in case this develops into an interplanetary incident. Now, that’s a lot of official procedure, something I have a feeling you’re familiar with. And all that time, your cargo will be detained here. The point is, today you’re leaving here empty handed. So unless you’re willing to give me what I need, we have nothing else to discuss.”

Soundwave remained quiet. His visor flashed for a moment. Maximus looked him, awaiting his response. Nothing. Soundwave stayed silent. His visor flashed again. Finally, as Max was about to snap again, Soundwave stood up.

“Then I guess we have nothing else to discuss.” he then turned around without waiting for a response and walked out of the office.

Maximus, caught off guard by the response, didn’t say anything and didn’t move.

*** *** ***

“Who is that?” Powerglide asked, pointing at the screen.

On it was a small bot, mostly black with some red on his arms. He seemed very curious about the shuttle bay door.

“Where are the security drones?” Air Raid asked.

“I don’t see any. Maybe we should-”

But Powerglide never got to finish the sentence, as the ship began vibrating.

“What...the hell...?” Air Raid asked.

“It’s that bot!” Powerglide said loudly, almost with a shout. “He’s...he’s shaking the ship somehow! I can see him, he’s trying to get in through the shuttle bay door! He has what looks like piledrivers of some kind.”

The shaking was getting more intense. Air Raid was still standing freely, but Powerglide had to hold onto his chair.

“Can he break the door with those?” Powerglide asked.

“I don’t know! Where the hell is security? Call them!”

Powerglide leaned forward and activated the comm link on the console in front of him.

“Tower, this is the Paladin Express! Come in! I repeat, come in!”

This is air control tower five, go ahead.

At that point, Air Raid leaned down to the speaker, pushing Powerglide aside.

“Skydive, there’s someone trying to get on our ship! He’s trying to break down the shuttle bay door! Where the hell is security?!”

On the way.” was the short response.

A few moments later, 3 squads of security drones swarmed the ramp to the ship and a 4th squad approached with a flying shuttle, just like the one Red Alert had shown up in the day before. Except this one could actually fly. But before they could do anything about the intruder, 2 others arrived, both smaller flying bots with wings, and began strafing the security guards in the shuttle. The drones were forced to cover and take a defensive stance, returning fire at the flying bots. One of them broke formation while the other kept up the strafing, back and forth, and snatched the smaller red and black bot in midair as he jumped from the Express. Then the other bird also broke off the attack and they all flew away. The squad in the shuttle gave chase.

“What was that?” Powerglide asked as he stood up. The ship had stopped vibrating. “Did he really think he could get in here with just those, all by himself?”

“I don’t know. I’m not sure what that was. What I would like to know is where the hell was the security detail we were supposed to have at all times?”
“Beats me. I mean, they were here within a matter of seconds, so they couldn’t have been far away.”

“Well, they were far away enough for that little creep to sneak up and start denting in the shuttle bay door!”

“Okay, well it’s over now. Let’s get in touch with Ironhide and see what’s next.”

“He’s due back any time. So is Inferno. But I’m sure Maximus has been alerted by now as well, so it’s not our problem. We just need to stay here and wait.”

*** *** ***

Maximus was still at his desk, contemplating the meeting that just took place. He couldn’t come to terms with Soundwave’s reactions and statements. At first, he was very adamant about taking the detained cargo with him. But then, suddenly, he seemed to just give up. That was very unusual. Suddenly, the red light flashed on his desk. That meant an emergency.

“Yes.” he said after pressing the button.

Max, this is Red Alert. We have a serious problem! The fusion cannon is gone!

For a moment, Maximus was stunned and couldn’t answer. Then he regained his thought and pressed the button again.

“How did that happen?! How was it taken?!”

I...I’m not sure. There was a disturbance at the ship, and all but one squad went there to contain it. While that happened, the force bubble was somehow deactivated and the cannon was taken without the squad noticing.

“Weren’t they in there? Watching it, like they were supposed to?!”

Uhh...I...I guess not. They...they went outside when the call came in about the ship, even though they didn’t leave the secure area. Someone must have been lying in wait. Someone who couldn’t be detected.

“It had to be more than one bot! That box wasn’t light!”

The box is still here. They took just the cannon and its connected portable power source.

“Damn it! How could you let this happen?! I’m on the way!”

I...I’m sor-

Maximus turned off the comm link and hurried out of his office. There was something definitely wrong here. As he headed toward the docks, the recent events ran through his mind, over and over. This was not a coincidence. Soundwave’s arrival, the incident at the Paladin Express. It was all connected. It was a ruse! the thought snapped into Maximus’s mind. The meeting was simply to distract me, and the attack on the ship was to distract Red Alert and the guard units! But still, one unit stayed behind, and there was a force bubble around the cannon, with Trailbreaker supposedly overseeing it. How could the cannon be taken despite those measures? Max had a lot of questions, and he would find the answers one way or another. But the very first thing he had to do was contact Ultra Magnus on the surface of Cybertron, and have him send a police unit to Tarn. No doubt whoever took the cannon was headed there. He also needed to alert Silverbolt to begin an aerial lockdown of Tarn. This situation could still be salvaged. Somehow.
Rodimus Prime
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Posts: 10729
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Re: Disaster Transport.

Postby Rodimus Prime » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:13 am

Motto: "Laissez le bon temps rouler!"
“So what did Maximus say?” Inferno asked.

He and Ironhide were standing on the ramp leading to the cargo bay door, preparing to board the Express. It was their 3rd day on Moon 2, and it was time for the next job.

“Well, we’re good to go.” Ironhide answered. “It’s his problem now. The cargo’s off the ship, and Max and Red Alert are after whoever took the fusion cannon. Like I said, it’s no longer our concern. Is everyone on board?’

“Yeah, the whole crew is here and in place. The senator’s containers have been loaded up. But I gotta tell ya, it was a bit weird when they brought them.”

“Really. How so?”

“Well, at first they wouldn’t even let me near the containers. I had to tell them 3 times that if I’m not allowed to inspect the cargo, it’s not getting on the ship. They seemed to think that just because Shockwave and you had made the deal, everything was set. They were very secretive. And even when I was walking around the containers, looking for damage or any other signs of tampering, 2 of them were right by me. It was a bit unsettling.”

“Haha, you got unsettled by a couple of flunkies?” Ironhide asked, a bit of incredulity in his voice.

“Hey, you know those government types don’t mess around. I mean, even the manifest was code protected. They said you had gone over it and approved it, and that I didn’t have clearance to know what was inside the containers. I did see your energon signature, so I let it go. But I’m still a bit uneasy about it.”

“Well, all I can tell ya is that Shockwave an’ I had a long chat about the shipment, and I was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement, if we were to get the job. So don’t ask me about it, ‘cause I can’t tell ya what’s inside.”

“Maybe we should have passed on this one, then.” Inferno said, an exasperated look on his face.

“We could have. But the money is too good. Did you happen to look at the contract on file?”

“No, after the fuss over the manifest, I just let it go. Why, what’s in the contract?”

“A whole hell of a lotta shanix, is what. Shockwave wants this shipment on VsQs as soon as possible, there are bots over there waitin’ for it.”

“What? But VsQs is a barely inhabited planet, and its inhabitants aren’t mechs, they’re organics. Why does he have bots over there waitin’ for this stuff?”

“I don’t know.” Ironhide said, his face turning serious. “I didn’t ask.”

“Well, maybe you should have-”

“Inferno, the cargo is approved. I inspected it when it was still in the government’s secure area. It’s good to go. Ya will just have to take my word for it. Now let’s get on board and get goin’. We get a bonus for speed. I want to get as much as we can. Is the Express fueled up?”

“Of course. The cargo bay has been fixed, and we’re all on board. Let’s get this over with.”

They walked inside and Inferno pressed the button for the doors to close. As Ironhide walked up the staircase by the door, Inferno walked towards the rear of the cargo hold. Sideswipe, CJ and Warpath were back at their usual spot, sitting around their little table, playing some kind of game as usual. Inferno walked in between the large steel boxes secured to the floor of the cargo bay. There were 4 of them, all equal in size and color. As Inferno looked them up and down, he noticed something he hadn’t seen when he was checking them in: the corners were reinforced with double-thick corner covers. The welding was plainly visible, someone went through a lot of trouble to make sure the corners were reinforced thoroughly. But why? Inferno had a bad feeling, and it wasn’t going away, even with Ironhide’s reassurances. After all, this was the ‘Disaster Transport,’ and something was bound to go wrong. But could they get 2 bad shipments in a row? Inferno shook his head and walked through the 2nd set of containers, arriving at the other end of the cargo bay. The 4 huge containers took up the entire cargo space, and that was saying something. The Express wasn’t the largest class of freighter, but it was pretty big.

“Hey, boss bot, what’s happenin’?” Warpath asked. “Are we ready to go?”

“Yeah.” Inferno said. “Ironhide just went upstairs, so get strapped in. Did you guys have any problems securing the containers?”

“Nah, not really.” Sideswipe answered. “Just those government thugs were looking over us the whole time. Annoyed me somewhat. At least they didn’t start telling us how to do our jobs.”

“Yeah.” CJ added. “When we were through, they went around all the containers, double checkin’ all the fasteners. Like we were incompetent or something.”

“Well, what’s done is done. We just need to take it to where it needs to go.” Inferno said. “Hopefully we don’t run into any problems. Ironhide said we get a bonus for getting it there fast. So I’m guessing we’ll be going all-out the whole way.”

“That’s fine with me.” Sideswipe said. “The faster we get rid of this, the better I’ll feel. It just seems like there’s too much secrecy going on around this cargo. Did you get a look at the manifest?”

“No, I wasn’t allowed.”

“Neither were we.” CJ said. “Does Ironhide know what we’re haulin’?”

“Yeah, the manifest has his energon signature on it. I wouldn’t have accepted the cargo otherwise. But he said he was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten the job. And apparently, it pays a lot. So Ironhide told me to just keep quiet and deal with it.”

At that moment the ship shuddered, as Air Raid fired up the engines from the bridge.

“Okay, here we go.” Warpath said. “Everyone, secure yourselves.”

They all looked at him with a somewhat amused expression. Like they needed to be told what to do. But regardless, Sideswipe and Cliffjumper did secure themselves at the station, while Inferno made his way back to the stairs up front, and went up to the bridge as the ship slowly ascended from the dock. As they reached take-off altitude, Inferno took his seat next to Air Raid, as Ironhide sat in the captain’s chair behind them.

“Let’s go.” he gave the order, and Air Raid hit the accelerator. The ship began moving forward, as the engines wound up to maximum revolution. Moments later, they were in outer space, the moon shrinking behind them, and they were on their way to their destination. In another breem, Air Raid activated the hyperdrive, and they entered hyperspace. VsQs was still quite a distance, so they had time to relax for a while. After yet another breem, Ironhide got out of his chair, and tapped both Air Raid and Inferno on the shoulder. They turned around, and Ironhide motioned for them to follow him into the crew’s quarters. He told Powerglide to stay and keep an optic on the ship’s operating panels. As they were leaving the bridge, Ironhide stepped to the intercom by the door and pressed the button to the cargo hold.

“Sideswipe.” he said.

Yeah, boss bot, what is it?” the answer came a moment later.

“Come up to the crew’s quarters for a minute, we have something to discuss.”

On my way.

Ironhide then took his finger off the button and walked into the crew’s quarters, then others following him. They all sat down, and Sideswipe walked in a well, taking a seat.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Alright.” Ironhide started, with a calm but serious tone. “You all know the score. This is some super-secret cargo, and nobody is supposed to know what it is. Even I wasn’t given specifics, but I wasn’t goin’ to accept the shipment unless I was given at least some general descriptions, no matter how much money we’re gettin.’ So Shockwave and I had a long talk about what exactly is goin’ on here. He made me sign a confidentiality agreement, and if I break it, not only do I forfeit the fee for the freight, he said he would see to it that we get our permits pulled and we couldn’t haul freight anymore.”

The others all had a wide-optic stare on their faces. Sideswipe even had his mouth open.

“But he doesn’t look at this like I do. He doesn’t trust anyone, and he said it was imperative that we prevent any information leaks. This cargo is strictly on the down-low. It couldn’t be off the books, because that would raise too many questions, and besides, I wouldn’t have accepted it if it didn’t have some sort of legal proof that we did transport it. If we shipped it without official knowledge, if anythin’ happened on the way, it would be our skid plates on the line. This way we’re covered.”

“The down-low?” Sideswipe asked. “Isn’t this official government shipment?”

“Yes and no.” Ironhide answered. “Yes, senator Shockwave did sign off on it, but the manifest doesn’t have a government seal on it.”

“So what does that mean?” Air Raid asked.

“It means it’s Shockwave’s personal cargo.” Ironhide said. “But it’s still highly confidential.”

“But what the hell is it?” Sideswipe asked. “I mean, I know you said you are not allowed to tell, but you also said he did tell you some things about it.”

“Exactly. And I also said he doesn’t look at this the way I do. He doesn’t trust us not to let somethin’ slip in the future if we knew about the cargo. But I know you’re all trustworthy, I wouldn’t have ya on this ship if I didn’t. So I’ll tell ya about it. And then ya can go tell the others if ya want. I didn’t want to call everybody in here because I didn’t want this turning into a huge debate.”

The others looked at each other and then looked back at Ironhide, all signaling that they wanted to know.

“Shockwave told me some things that are goin’ on without most of us Cybertronians’ knowledge. Some things behind the scenes. He said sooner or later there will be a big conflict over the way things are. Functionism is not well-liked by a lot of the lower classes, and Shockwave doesn’t see a peaceful end to the comin’ confrontation between the senate and the workers. So he’s makin’ plans to prepare in advance.”

Ironhide stopped, letting this sink in with the others. They didn’t say anything, so he continued.

“He didn’t go into detail about that, just told me enough to justify the secrecy around the cargo. What we’re actually transporting is disassembled sentinel bodies. 4 of them, to be exact.”

He stopped again, in case anyone had something to say.

“Uhh...why?” Air Raid asked.

“Because. Shockwave thinks that when things become unstable, if they do, whoever will be organizin’ the uprisin’ will seek to destabilize the entire structure of Cybertronian society, and the way to do that is to eliminate the government. And you can’t do that without either destroyin’ or controllin’ the sentinels. And Shockwave wants to make sure there will be at least these 4 sentinels that are still under his control when things get messy.”

“Is this for real?” Sideswipe asked in disbelief. “I mean, I know some of the lower classes are not happy about their roles, but, I mean, is it worth getting into open conflict about? And a conflict that would be so serious it would end up with violence so strong that not even the sentinels could put a stop to it?”

“I can’t answer that.” Ironhide said. “I’m simply tellin’ ya what Shockwave told me. And he doesn’t want anyone knowin’ about these sentinels we’re takin’, because he said there’s rampant corruption in the senate as it is, and he’s suspectin’ that when the time comes, the government will be betrayed from the inside. But like I said, this is far in the future, if it happens at all. Who knows, maybe they’ll find a way to work things out peacefully. But Shockwave said he’s not takin’ chances. So these 4 sentinels are to be transported to VsQs and stored there. He did say if this trip is successful, maybe down the line we can do it one more time. But he can’t do it so soon after this one, because as he is an opponent of functionism himself, he thinks he’s constantly bein’ watched. He managed to put this cargo together slowly and piece by piece. That’s why there’s no government seal on the manifest, and that’s why he wanted all 4 of them transported at once. If he sent them one at a time, it would have become suspicious. 4 trips to VsQs, transporting identical cargo, would be noticed. I don’t know what he told the government forces we were transportin’, but they seemed to think it was highly classified stuff, which is why they acted the way they did. And it is highly classified cargo, but not for the reason they think it is.”

“Wow.” Sideswipe exclaimed. “This is...you really think this is as serious as he’s making it out to be? I mean, it sounds a little paranoid to me.”

“Whatever his reasons are, to us it’s just another shipment. Okay? We take it, we unload it on VsQs, and we leave. That’s it. I just wanted to tell ya about it because I don’t keep secrets from my crew. Ya can tell the others when ya return to yer stations.”

“Well….whatever he thinks is going to happen, I guess it’s good that he’s prepared.” Air Raid said. “I mean, Shockwave sounds like he’s one of the few level-headed politicians who actually cares about the people who put him in charge. Personally, I don’t care for functionism either, so the sooner something is done about it the better. But an armed conflict? Especially one that would wipe out the sentinels? I don’t think that’s the way to go.”

“Okay, it’s good to have all this covert stuff out of the way.” Inferno said. “At least now we know what we’re dealin’ with. We all have our personal opinions, but as long as the cargo gets delivered, it shouldn’t matter either way. We have a job to do.”

“Exactly.” Ironhide said. “So let’s get back to it.”

None of the others had anything else to say, so Ironhide got up and walked out of the crew’s quarters, followed by the others one at a time. No doubt they were all still thinking about what they just heard.

The first half of the trip went uneventfully, and everyone just kinda kept to themselves. Normally, the crew would be lively and socializing with each other, but after Sideswipe told CJ and Warpath what was going on, they didn’t feel like playing any games. Air Raid also informed Powerglide, who seemed to just slip into deep thought and stayed quiet behind his control panel. Air Raid asked him once if he was alright, and Powerglide just nodded, but Air Raid could tell the small bot was taking his time processing what he had been told, and what it could mean for their future. Air Raid tried to cheer him up by saying that Shockwave was just being paranoid and this was a worst-case scenario, but Powerglide remained morose. After a while it started to bother Air Raid and he got up and left the bridge. Powerglide could handle looking after the autopilot. The bigger flyer went down into the cargo hold to hang out with Sideswipe, who was also getting annoyed that the smaller bots under his charge were being killjoys. The 2 of them sat down at the table the cargo crew used and started a game, betting shanix on each turn. At least it chased away boredom and got their minds off what they were transporting and what the consequences could be. But their quiet time didn’t last long.

Air Raid!” the intercom by the table came alive. It was Powerglide. “We’re being hailed!

Air Raid dropped the game pieces in his hand, and pressed the button the bridge on the intercom.

“Who is it? What do they want?”

They identified themselves as a Cybertronian security detail under orders from the Senate, and they’re ordering us to stop immediately!

“They caught up to us in hyperspace?” Sideswipe said, half incredulous, half disbelieving. “That takes serious power.”

Air Raid gave him an alarmed look, and without a word turned to run back up to the bridge. When he got to the top of the steps, he saw Inferno coming out of the crew’s quarters. He and Ironhide had been in there, getting some time in on their recharge slabs. Ironhide was still laying down, his systems powered down.

“We got a problem!” Air Raid said as he went past Inferno and through the doorway onto the bridge.

Inferno didn’t even say anything, he just stopped for a second, and followed Air Raid. They both reached Powerglide’s seat at the same time.

“What’s goin’ on?” Inferno asked.

Powerglide repeated what he said to Air Raid over the intercom. The other flyer took his place in his seat, taking the ship off autopilot.

“Okay, what do we do now?” he asked.

“You have them on comm?” Inferno asked Powerglide.

“Yeah.” Powerglide flipped a switch, and the continuous message from the ship following them came through. It was on a loop. Inferno reached over and activated the comm’s speaker.

“This is sub-commander Inferno of the Paladin Express. We will need proof of your status as Senate security, as well as a senate-signed digital copy of your orders. You may transmit them at your convenience. Until then, we keep going.”

This is Captain Skywarp of the vessel Lightning under Cybertronian Senate authority. You have Senate property on board your ship that has been taken without proper authorization. Stop your ship immediately and return to Cybertron.” the answer came.

“Ah, not this again!” Inferno snapped. He then pressed the button again on the comm. “Lightning, we are under the orders of a member of the Senate. We are transporting personal cargo, not the Senate’s property! I suggest you straighten this out with the member of the Senate who sent us. I repeat, this is personal property, not government property! You have no authority over it!” he said with as much force as he could muster without being directly threatening. Technically, he’s supposed to obey Cybertronian security. But this was getting ridiculous.

“Okay, first the Tah’Darians, now this.” Powerglide said. “Can’t we get a break for once?”

“Remember who we are.” Air Raid said with a slight smirk. “‘Disaster Transport.’ Something always happens.”

Powerglide just shook his head as the comm link crackled.

“Paladin Express, I will repeat the order one more time, and a digital copy has been sent. If you do not comply, we will be required to use force! Your cargo is a threat to government security! It must be returned to Cybertron immediately!

“Yeah, here it is.” Powerglide said, as he pulled the digital copy of the order up on a screen. Inferno studied it for a moment. It was a written version of what Skywarp had barked through the comm link, with the signature of Nova Prime at the end. Nova Prime was the head of the Cybertronian government, his word was basically law. The on board analyzer did not detect any tampering or forgery, so the signature was genuine. That meant they had no choice but to stop, unless they wanted to be thrown into a jail when they returned to Cybertron. That is, of course if they survived the confrontation with the Lightning, managed to get away, and decided not to become fugitives. Inferno sneered for a moment and turned around.

“I’m gonna wake up the boss. Don’t do anythin’!” he said as he walked away.

A few moments later, he came back in with Ironhide behind him. Ironhide had a look on his face that said all his systems hadn’t booted up yet, he seemed to be walking without a purpose. But by the time he got to the pilots, he was wide awake. Without a word, he read the digital copy of the order.

“So?” Air Raid asked. “What do we do?”

“How far are we from VsQs?” Ironhide asked.

“We’re ¾ of the way there. But if you think we can outrun them, we can’t. That’s an XS-class government ship, the newest and fastest of the fleet. That’s why they caught up to us even in hyperspace. If they figure out we’re trying to run, they will get ahead of us and simply keep pace until we get out of hyperspace. Unless they decide to just shoot us now.”

“No, they won’t do that. They want this cargo too bad.”

“Okay, so what do we do?” Inferno asked. “Even if we stop and try to fight them off, we can’t. The Tah’Darians were just one squad, but I’m sure this security force came equipped for a fight.”

“We can’t give up the cargo. If we do, Senator Shockwave will pay the price.”

“Ironhide, they said they knew what the cargo was and where it came from!” Powerglide said. “They have to know about Shockwave by now!”

“Perhaps. Let me try somethin’ first.” Ironhide said, and pressed the button on the comm link. “Lightnin’, this is captain Ironhide of the Paladin Express. What is it you think we are transportin’?”

You have received a digital copy of the order, and no doubt verified it by now. You must obey it at once. The nature of the cargo itself is irrelevant. What is relevant is that you return to Cybertron without incident. If you refuse to comply, we will use authorized force. This is your final warning!” Skywarp’s stern voice came through the comm link.

“Damn it.” Ironhide muttered to himself.

“Ironhide.” Inferno said. “Maybe this is one we have to give up. We’re outmatched in every aspect. They have more guns, more speed and the law on their side. I understand you signed a contract, but-”

“The law!” Ironhide said, his head snapping up. He then activated the comm link again.

Lightnin’, we’re carryin’ a cargo undersigned by a member of the Senate! That requires a member of the Senate to be present at every point of the transport when the cargo changes hands! Do you have a representative of the Senate on board?” he asked.

“That’s not gonna work!” Inferno said.

“I know. I’m just stallin’ until we get to VsQs. Shockwave said there will be someone waitin’ for the cargo there. Maybe they can help. At the least, they can take over our place in this confrontation, and we’ll be out of it. That way, we will still fulfill the contract and not get in trouble.”

Ironhide, stop the damn ship right now!” Skywarp’s irritated voice came back. “Or I swear on the pledge I took when I joined the Elite Guard I will blow your rusty old tub out of space right now!

“Whoa! That’s not very professional of you, soldier!” Ironhide answered. The others looked at him with widened optics.

“How much longer until we’re there?” he asked Air Raid.

“Half a breem.”

I gave you several chances.” the comm link responded with a calm, even tone. “Prepare to be fired upon, by authority of the Cybertronian Senate!

“Everyone, in yer seats!” Ironhide shouted as he turned to his captain’s chair behind the pilots. “We might have some trouble on our hands!”

Inferno jumped into his seat next to Air Raid. Sideswipe, who had been standing behind them all this time without saying a word, took a seat in the empty chair next to Powerglide and secured himself.

“Air Raid, I want you to get out of hyperspace, now!” Ironhide ordered. Air Raid did as he was told, and the Paladin Express shuddered as they slowed down to regular speed. The pursuing ship shot past them, but a moment later appeared on their front view cameras as they also exited hyperspace.

“This just made our trip longer!” Inferno said. “What do you plan to do?”

“We can’t outrun them, nor can we withstand a barrage from them. So we do the only thing left: try to dodge their shots until we get to VsQs.” Ironhide said. “Even if we take a hit or 2, we should make it to the planet. Once we land, it’s a whole new fight. Air Raid, Powerglide, I hope yer combat maneuverin’ skills ain’t rusty!”

Air Raid didn’t say anything, just looked at Powerglide with a small smirk on his face. Powerglide replied with an intense look, and gripped the controls to the ship. The Lighting approached from the front, and they could see its forward batteries opening up by the flashes of the barrels. Powerglide kept the forward controls to their stops, making the ship move forward as fast as it would go out of hyperspace, and Air Raid started moving it from side to side and up and down, dodging and weaving from the incoming shots. The Cybertronian security ship locked onto them and lined up on their stern. Skywarp wasn’t going to be fooled twice.

“Go into hyperspace again!” Ironhide shouted. “Now!”

As the Lightning fired another barrage, the Paladin Express blasted into hyperspace, leaving the other ship behind, even if only momentarily. The shots missed, and the Lightning entered hyperspace after them.

“We can’t keep this up!” Air Raid said. “They won’t be caught off guard next time!”

“I know.” Ironhide said. “I’m countin’ on there not bein’ a next time! How far to the planet?”

“We’re almost there!” Powerglide answered. “We should get out of hyperspace if we want a smooth landing!”

“Do it! And be ready to dodge another round.”

The ship slowed down again, this time their pursuers staying behind them. Skywarp anticipated the move, as he saw they were approaching the planet. When they arrived, he ordered the Lightning’s gunners to open up with everything they had, but as soon as they were out of hyperspace, the situation changed drastically in the Paladin’s favor. Above the destination planet hovered a gigantic spaceship, dark and ominous, with few lights on it indicating that it was in operation. It looked like a ghost ship, but the on board sensors of both the Paladin Express and the Lightning indicated that indeed it was under power.

“What the…” Air Raid said on the Paladin. “...hell?” Skywarp finished it on the Lightning.

As the Lightning’s guns came alive, the Express dove under the giant spaceship, flying under its hull. The crew could feel a slight shudder as they passed under.

“Did we get hit?” Sideswipe asked.

“No.” Powerglide answered. “We’re inside the giant ship’s defensive shield. They let us in.”

Behind them, the shots from the Lightning impacted the big ship’s force field, which closed behind the Express. Skywarp was forced to bring his ship to a halt, as he knew they couldn’t penetrate the defensive force field. Ironhide imagined the Lightining’s captain was having a heated conversation with whoever commandeered the giant ship, but he knew they were safe for now, as Cybertronian security had no authority here. He gave a small smile as Inferno looked back at him.

“So now what?” his lieutenant asked.

“Now we land and deliver the cargo.”

“And then? If we go back to Cybertron, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

“We’ll worry about that when the time comes. For now, just find a place to land so we can get rid of these containers.”

Inferno turned back to the control panel, as Air Raid began their descent on to VsQs’s surface. The planet was dark, and as far as they could tell it wasn’t advanced very much. There were a few small buildings, but no big cities or a lot of inhabitants. Maybe all that was on the other side, out of their view. Nonetheless, Ironhide was certain the operators of the giant ship knew who they were, and was sure they would be met by whoever Shockwave sent the cargo to. They landed on a flat section of the surface, and could feel the ground crunch under the Paladin Express’s landing gear. The sensors indicated soi on the surface, not metal like on Cybertron or even Tah’Dar-6. It’s been a while since they visited a planet with soil on its surface. That usually meant a technologically primitive race of inhabitants. But Ironhide didn’t assume anything. As they came to rest on the spot, he ordered Air Raid to wind down the engines, but not turn them off. Moments later, a shuttle of some sort departed the giant ship above them, and landed not far from their spot. The crew waited with tension what was going to happen next. Ironhide ordered them to be alert and ready for anything.
Rodimus Prime
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Re: Disaster Transport.

Postby Rodimus Prime » Sat Feb 17, 2018 2:51 am

Motto: "Laissez le bon temps rouler!"
“Well, they don’t look like mechs.” Powerglide said.

“What?” Ironhide asked, as he leaned in behind Powerglide.

The smaller bot was watching one of the screens built into the upright control panel in front of them, which was connected to the forward cameras looking outside by the cargo bay door. On the screen, 3 shapes were walking towards them, coming from the shuttle that landed. They seemed to be wearing some kind of protective suit or armor, Ironhide couldn’t tell. As Powerglide zoomed in on their heads, they could make out their faces. Definitely organic, pinkish in color. They had 2 eyes, under them some sort of stubby protrusion with 2 holes, and a mouth. Their hands were empty, hanging by their sides. No weapons of any kind that Ironhide could see. They did not seem threatening.

“So what do we do?” Air Raid asked.

“Nothing yet.” Ironhide said. “Wait until they get to the ship.”

Moments later, when the 3 arrived at their cargo door, they could get an accurate measure of them. They seemed to be about half the Cybertronians’ size, and they were similar in build. 2 arms, 2 legs, a head on top of an upright body. One of them raised its hand and waved.

“Okay.” Ironhide said. “Showtime.”

Powerglide and Air Raid stayed on the bridge, as usual, while the others went downstairs to take care of business. Ironhide, and Inferno walked to the cargo door, while Sideswipe and Warpath stayed back to cover them, just in case. They didn’t have their shotguns out, but they were within reach. After the incident with the Tah’Darians, Ironhide allowed the guns to be left in the open instead of locked up in storage. Sideswipe stood off to the right side, out of sight to the 3 visitors, and pressed the button for the door to open. Warpath was by the wall on the left side, also out of sight. As the 2 sides of the door slowly split open, with the middle folding outwards to make the ramp, Ironhide and Inferno stood in the middle, trying to be as relaxed as they could. They didn’t carry any weapons, and if the visitors decided to become hostile, the only thing they could do was scramble back up the ramp to safety, and count on Warpath and Sideswipe being good shots, which they were. The 3 visitors stepped back as the ramp lowered, and Ironhide took the first step outside, followed by Inferno. The 3 didn’t do anything, just stood there. As they got closer, Ironhide began relaxing somewhat, because he saw the others came to perhaps chest level to him. And Inferno was even taller, so they didn’t even reach that high to him.

“Hello.” he said in Cybertronian.

The humanoid spoke something into his helmet, and after a moment, a mechanical voice, which Ironhide figured was an translator, crackled.

Hello.” it said. “You have something for us?

“Depends.” Ironhide answered. “I need identification first, before I can release the cargo.”

Of course.” the mechanical voice said after a moment of translation. “We’re from the planet Cameron, on a mission to retrieve a cargo sent by Cybertronian senator Shockwave, on orders from our own government. We do not have exact details, only an estimated time and place, that which is accurate. Do you have the cargo?

“Cameron?” Ironhide asked. “If that’s where you’re from, why didn’t we just take the cargo there?”

Well, for one, it’s almost as far from here as Cybertron is. Shockwave did not want to risk the cargo being seized, which, considering the developments, was an accurate forethought.” the humanoid said, and pointed up into the sky.

Above them, the huge ship was still keeping the smaller Cybertronian vessel away from the surface. Ironhide had momentarily forgotten about their pursuers. They seemed to be trying to circle the larger ship, but it blocked their every maneuver. There was no firefight, but they did seem to be in a conflict. This gave Ironhide a sense of urgency.

Second, VsQs is fairly uninhabited, being one of Cameron’s moons. It made for-

“Wait.” Ironhide cut him off. “This is a moon?”

Yes. Cameron’s outermost moon. It has a very large orbit. We will keep the cargo here, until the moon goes to the other side of the planet. Then we will transport it, treat it, and store it on the planet according to Shockwave’s specifications.

“‘Treat’ it?’ Ironhide asked, his optics narrowing in suspicion. “What does that mean.”

The Cameronian paused for a moment.

I’m sorry. I am unable to give you that information. My job is to simply pick up the cargo on this moon at this time. May we proceed?

“Hold on.” Ironhide said. “You will need more help if you are goin’ to take the containers. They’re large and very heavy.”

We will take them one at a time, and transport them up to our ship.

“Alright. Do you have something to take them to your shuttle with? We don’t have any transporting platforms.”

Yes.” the Cameronian said, and pressed a button on his suit. He then spoke into it. A few moments later, Ironhide could see their shuttle’s doors open, and a vehicle on 6 wheels came toward them, with 2 more Cameronians on it, one driving. It came to a stop next to them, and the 2 on board said nothing.

“Alright.” Ironhide said, and turned around. He motioned to Inferno to keep an optic on them while he walked back up into the cargo bay. In the cargo crane, Cliffjumper was waiting at the controls, with one of the containers already secured and ready to be swung outside. Ironhide looked up and gave a thumb up. Cliffjumper nodded, and began operating the control levers. The crane lifted the container, and slowly swung it outside, and it hung over the ramp as the Cameronians backed their transport vehicle onto it. When they were underneath the steel box, Cliffjumper lowered it, and Inferno unhooked the lifting cables. The Cameronians then drove back to their shuttle, disappearing inside their own cargo bay.

“So you really don’t know what’s going to happen to these once they’re on your planet?” Ironhide asked, trying to be casual.

I am simply responsible for transportation. I do not know the specifics of the military operations.” the Cameronian said.

This gave Ironhide a pause. Shockwave had said each container had a sentinel unit in it, but they were already built for armed guard, they didn’t need to be militarized further. Shockwave also said the reason they were being sent away, but Ironhide for that to be a stretch. It was so that they could be saved in the event there is some kind of military uprising that either destroys or controls the sentinels. Shockwave wanted 4 units that would protect the Senate. But then why was Skywarp chasing them? He’s a captain in the government’s guard, if the Senate knows about the sentinels, why did they send…it’s not the Senate’s cargo! Skywarp himself said as much! Shockwave is doing this in secret! But why…? Ironhide’s thoughts were interrupted by the Cameronian vehicle returning. As they waited, Cliffjumper swung the crane back inside, and Warpath had secured the 2nd container, while Inferno and Sideswipe kept watch. Now the 2nd box was being swung out. The process was repeated, and the vehicle went away again.

“Do you know what’s in the containers?” ironhide asked the lead Cameronian.

I do not.

“Then how do you know the contents are for the military?”

The Cameronian paused as well, and Ironhide could see on his face that he knew he had been caught in a lie.

I simply deduced it by knowing the final destination of the cargo, which is a military base on Cameron.” he said, but Ironhide didn’t believe him. His voice had changed, he could tell even through the mechanical translator.

“Uh huh. Well, just make sure you take care of it. We went through a lot of trouble bringin’ it here.”

Yes, we noticed.” the Cameronian said, once again looking up. Ironhide followed his gaze, and noticed that the Cybertronian ship that chased them here was gone. The Cameronian ship was directly overhead, apparently awaiting the shuttle to return. Ironhide thought they were much more advanced that they appeared to be at 1st. He had never encountered organics that could match Cybertron in technological advancements before. Obviously this wasn’t the first time Cameron and Cybertron had dealt with each other. But if they were getting technology from Cybertron, what was Cybertron getting from them? Once again, his thoughts were interrupted by the transport vehicle returning, and the loading process was repeated again. After it left, Ironhide chose not to say anything, he just wanted to finish this and get to his next freight. The silence made the time pass by slower, but the Cameronians also remained quiet, just looking at the Paladin Express and their own surroundings. Ironhide hadn’t noticed before, but the other 2 who didn’t say anything seemed nervous. Or rather, on alert. Like they were expecting something. Like an ambush or a surprise.

“Hey.” Ironhide asked the leader. “What’s with them?” he then pointed to the other 2.

They’re simply keeping watch.

“Fer what?”

VsQs is not a tamed moon. It is host to a number of hostile native species.

“What?” Inferno cut in before Ironhide could say anything. “You mean we have been in danger the whole time, and you neglected to say anything?”

It was a matter of need to know. We did not expect anything to happen. Any intruders will be detected by our shuttle’s sensors, and we will have warning well in advance.

They sure as hell don’t look like they know that!” Ironhide said, pointing at the other 2 Cameronians again.

They’re simply overly cautious, that’s all. But it’s better to be that than to be careless, wouldn’t you say?” the Cameronian said with a smile, attempting to calm the situation.

Ironhide said nothing, but the stern look on his face was enough to say everything that was on his mind. Then his attention went to the transport vehicle, which had just exited the shuttle and was on his way for the last container. Finally we can get the hell out of here. But then, the vehicle suddenly made a hard left turn, and headed back toward the shuttle.

“Hey, what the-” Inferno started to say.

Get inside!” the lead Cameronian cut him off. “Now!

Ironhide looked at him, then looked over his head. He saw nothing but darkness, and the faint light of the shuttle, which now had its cargo doors closed. The transport vehicle was nowhere, and Ironhide assumed it went back inside the shuttle. But why?

Tell your crew to shut the doors!” the Cameronian’s panicked mechanical voice snapped him out of thought. Before he could react, the 3 Cameronians were going past him and Inferno, trying to get on their ship.

“Hey! Wait!” Ironhide said. “Stop them!”

Inferno grabbed the 2 Cameronians who haven’t said anything until then, and Ironhide lunged after the leader, grabbing him by the shoulders.

“What’s goin’ on?!” Ironhide shouted. “Yer not gettin’ on until ya tell me what-”

The high-pitched shriek cut him off and almost overloaded his audio sensors. It was coming from the direction of the shuttle, but he still couldn’t see anything. The 2 Cameronians held by Inferno began freaking out and pulling toward the Paladin Express. But Inferno had a solid grip on them and he was much stronger. Ironhide kept looking in the direction of the shuttle, his optic sensors set to the highest setting, trying to make out whatever was in the dark. He then opened a comm link to the bridge.

“Do ya see anythin’ over by their shuttle?” he asked, as the Cameronian leader struggled in his grip.

No visuals, but there’s definitely something over there.” Powerglide’s answer came. “Something big. You should probably get back on board.

Ironhide looked at Inferno and nodded. His lieutenant let go of the Cameronians and they bolted for the cargo hold. He let go of the leader, and he ran after his crew. As they ran up the ramp, they were met by Sideswipe and Warpath, both pointing shotguns at them. The Cameronians put their arms up and slowed down, but didn’t stop.

“Let them on!” Ironhide said, as he and Inferno also walked up the ramp. “Sideswipe, close the door!”

Cliffjumper swung the last container back inside with the crane, and Sideswipe hit the button for the door. The 3 Cameronians were huddling by the wall, Warpath still keeping his shotgun trained on them. They looked scared, but not of the gun. Ironhide told Inferno to keep an optic on them as well, while he walked over to Sideswipe who was looking outside.

“Boss bot, check that out!” Sideswipe pointed, and Ironhide looked. The Cameronian shuttle was rocking back and forth, not much but noticeably. Something was shaking it. Then the high-pitched shriek came again. This time, the doors closed and muffled it before it stopped. Ironhide turned back to the Cameronians.

“What the hell is that?” he asked loudly.

Uhh…” the leader started to say. “Th-that’s one of the n-native lifeforms I-I told you a-about.[/i]”

“Well how big is it? It looks like it could do some serious damage to your shuttle. Which means it could do some damage to this ship!”

Before anyone else could say anything, Sideswipe hit the intercom button by the doors.


“Air Raid, take off! Now!” he said.

Though Sideswipe had no actual authority to give the order, Ironhide didn’t say anything, because he was thinking the same thing. After a couple of moments, the ship’s engines revved up and the Express shuddered as it lifted off.

P-please…” the Cameronian leader said. “Th-they will g-go a-away soon. Then we c-can go back to our shuttle.

“If there’s anythin’ left of it.” Ironhide said.

Oh, they won’t do much damage.” one of the other Cameronians said, seemingly much more sure of himself than the leader. “They usually give up after a short while.

“This happens regularly?” Inferno asked.

Uhh...y-yes.” the leader said. “We’ve been dealing with them ever since we began exploring the moon many years ago. Everything will be fine in a few minutes.

“That better be the case.” Ironhide said. He then spoke into his communicator, which was still active. “Just hover over the area.”

Sure thing, boss bot.” Powerglide’s reply came.

“Well, I guess we can add this to the list.” Sideswipe said.

“Huh?” Inferno replied with a confused look.

“Of all the things we’ve been through, we haven’t had to deal with giant alien monsters until now.” Sideswipe answered with a smirk. “So it goes on the list.”

“Yer actually keepin’ a list of all the unbelievably dangerous and ridiculously stupid things we’ve been through?” Ironhide asked, his optics wide.

“Yeah. I figured once we’re all said and done, it would be fun to look back on some of it. Well, I mean, it’s my list, so you don’t have to look back. Or maybe once you get up to your 10th or 12th million year and your gears start slippin’ an’ your wires start shortin’ out, you might want a reminder of the good times.”

Inferno and Warpath looked at each other in silence, as Sideswipe’s smirk went to a full smile at the dig he just got in on Ironhide. They were expecting a sharp retort or at the least a stern warning, but Ironhide just matched Sideswipe’s grin with his own, followed by a loud and long laugh. It broke the tension of the unexpected danger they had been in and the others cracked up as well.

Looks like that thing is gone.” Powerglide’s voice came through Ironhide’s comm link, bringing everyone back to the matter at hand.

“What’s goin’ on out there?” Ironhide asked back.

Well, they opened up the shuttle’s cargo bay again, and the transport vehicle is coming.

“Copy that. If ya think it’s safe to land, do it.” Ironhide said into the receiver, then looked up at Inferno and Sideswipe. “Alright, let’s get this last container out, and get outta here. We do have other freight to pick up. We’ve wasted enough time.”

The others just nodded and Inferno headed to the cargo door while Sideswipe signaled to Cliffjumper in the lifter to get ready. Ironhide then turned to Cameronians, still huddled by the wall, still under Warpath’s shotgun.

“Warpath, I think ya can put that down now.” he said, then turned to the humanoids. “So they lose interest quickly, and go away?”

Yes, that’s been our experience so far.” the leader responded, a bit more sure of himself. “There should be no more problems.

“Good. Let’s get this over with.”

The ship touched down softly in almost the same spot it had been in before. The Cameronian transport vehicle was already there and waiting. Inferno opened the door and Cliffjumper began swinging the container back out. The Cameronians walked outside as well, right under the swinging steel box, followed by Ironhide and Sideswipe. This time, Inferno stayed by the door with Warpath. Just because the Cameronians proved to be non-threatening, there was no reason to break protocol. The box was set on the vehicle’s cargo platform, and the lead Cameronian turned to Ironhide with a small cube-shaped box. On the top side was a small screen with a depression under it.

“What’s this fer?” Ironhide asked.

It is to prove that the cargo was delivered. I have already signed it, and you must do as well. All you need to do is press a finger into the depression, and the screen will either light up red or green, depending on whether your spark signature matches what we have on file.

“What you have on file? How the hell would you have my spark signature?”

Shockwave provided it to us. He gave us this analyzer to make sure it was you who delivered the cargo, because apparently he trusted you with it. He said if the signature didn’t match, we were to leave the cargo on VsQs and contact him immediately, because something had gone wrong.

For a moment, Ironhide just looked at the Cameronian. This deal had more and more surprises.

“Well, I have had to sign shipping manifests before, but not like this. I guess-”

He was interrupted by another high-pitched shriek from the unseen beast that had attacked the Cameronian shuttle before. But this time, the shriek came from behind the Express. Ironhide snapped his head around, just in time to see a large and dark organic come around the ship’s side, with shockingly fast speed. It was dark brown, with a round body that resembled a worm, a wide, gaping mouth at the front of it, with a lot of long and sharp teeth pointing out of it. It had 2 small arms under the mouth and 2 large and muscular legs further down its body with which it propelled itself forward. It was a little taller than Ironhide, its body seemed to be one big muscle that contracted and expanded with every step it took. It now let out a low growl, and spit was dripping from its maw. It came straight at Ironhide, even though it didn’t have any eyes.

“Oh-” was all Ironhide could say, before the beast launched itself with its powerful legs and jumped into the air, seemingly intent on landing right on Ironhide. The Cameronian once again took off up the ramp to get into the cargo bay. The other Autobots were just as caught off guard as Ironhide was, and it took a moment for Inferno and Warpath to react. Inferno didn’t even have his shotgun. Warpath, however, recovered quickly and stepped out onto the ramp, the shotgun aimed at the monster as it landed between the ramp and Ironhide, who had taken a few steps back. He was also unarmed and had to evade the attack. Sideswipe did have his shotgun, but his first instinct also was to get out of the way. But as he jumped and rolled to the side of the ramp, he readied himself to shoot as he came up on one knee. But the monster jumped again as soon as it landed, this time toward the cargo door. Sideswipe didn’t have time to get off a shot. The Cameronian ran past Warpath and Inferno, who was now scrambling to pick up any kind of weapon he could find. His shotgun was up on the bridge. The beast was up in the air again, aiming for the entrance.

“What the hell-?” Sideswipe asked, as he tried to track the monster with the shotgun, but couldn’t catch up.

“It seems to be goin’ fer the Cameronian!” Ironhide said as he regained his footing.

At the top of the ramp, Warpath aimed and fired the shotgun at the monster, hitting it square between the small arms under its mouth. It let out a roar, but still landed right in front of Warpath, who blasted it with both barrels point blank. The beast was a little taller than Inferno, so it was twice the size of Warpath. The shotgun blast, which it took directly in the mouth, pushed it back, but that was it. It shook its body for a moment and moved forward on those powerful legs. By the time Warpath reloaded the shotgun, the beast was on him, knocking him down. It stepped on him, walking right over him. Warpath dropped the shotgun, and instinctively covered his face, but the beast just kept walking, not paying any attention to him. It seemingly zeroed in on the Cameronian, who was almost to the far wall of the empty cargo bay by now. Out of nowhere, Inferno swung a chain with a hook on the end of it, catching the monster’s left leg with the hook. It was a spare chain they used to move large containers. As the beast growled, pulling its leg against the chain, Warpath rolled to the side as Inferno pulled the chain. The beast turned its front toward Inferno, but it started grabbing at the chain and the hook with its small arm instead coming at Inferno himself. Warpath got up, grabbed his shotgun and finished loading it. He was about to shoot the beast again when Ironhide appeared at the top of the ramp.

“It’s tryin’ to get the Cameronian!” he shouted. “It’s goin’ after him because he’s an organic!”

The realization hit Inferno and Warpath simultaneously: that’s why it didn’t attack Warpath when it knocked him down, and that’s why it’s not attacking Inferno right now. It doesn’t recognize them as alive because they’re mechanical. It only senses the Cameronian, because it’s an organic! And they also realized something else: the beast seems to be impervious to the damage the shotgun did to it. There was barely a mark on its underside where Warpath hit it the first time. It also didn’t recognize Warpath as the source of the damage, which is why it kept moving forward.

“We gotta get the Cameronian off the ship!” Ironhide shouted again. Behind him Sideswipe was also coming up the ramp, shotgun at the ready. But something caught his attention and he snapped his head to the side.

“There’s another one!” he shouted, aiming the shotgun off to the side. He fired a round from both barrels, and the high-pitched shriek came from the other side of the ship. Sideswipe’s optics grew wide as he reloaded the shotgun, while simultaneously backing up into the cargo bay. Ironhide was already inside. Sideswipe slammed his hand on the big red button on the wall, and
The cargo doors started to close. The ramp started to tilt up while the side doors began to slide closed. The 2nd monster came into view as it jumped onto the end of the ramp, shaking the ship a little. The 1st beast won the tug of war with Inferno and managed to unhook its leg from the chain. Inferno fell backward, as he was pulling with all his might on the chain at the time. But the monster seemed to be incredibly powerful. Sideswipe shot at the 2nd beast again, as it came up the ramp. It slowed down for a moment but didn’t stop. Warpath threw his shotgun to Ironhide, who also fired at the 2nd beats, slowing it down further. Still, it was almost at the doors, which were about to close. If the ramp tilted up fully, the beast would be thrown right inside the cargo bay. They had to knock it off the ramp before that happened. With his next shot, Sideswipe hit one of its legs and it lost its balance, falling on its side. Ironhide took aim at the inside of the beast’s mouth as it howled in pain and fired both barrels into the side of its mouth. The impact ripped its mouth open further while pushing it off the side of the ramp. It went tumbling off onto the ground. But now they had another problem: the cargo bay was sealed, with the 1st monster loose inside. It was going straight for the Cameronian, who had nowhere to hide, because the cargo bay was now empty. He was scrambling for the door to the engine room.

“No!” Inferno shouted. “You can’t go in there!” He then started running after the beast with the hook and chain.

“If it gets in there, it could cause serious damage!” Sideswipe said to Ironhide. They all started to run after Inferno. The Cameronian managed to get the door open as the beast closed in on him. It launched itself into the air, aiming right for its prey.

But it never made it. 4 chains with hooks on the ends of them snagged it in midair, 2 hooks in its mouth while 2 other hooks grabbing each of its legs. The chains were connected to the cargo crane, which in turn was controlled by Cliffjumper from the crane’s cab. The sudden force of the chains pulling snapped the monster’s front end back, tearing at its mouth. It howled loudly, as its momentum was stopped cold, the crane groaning under the unexpected force violently pulling at it. But the chains held, and the beast was now dangling by its mouth and 2 legs in the air, flailing its small arms and powerful legs, while thrashing its entire body from side to side. The Cameronian had disappeared into the engine room.

“Whoa!” Sideswipe exclaimed as they all came to a stop almost under the beast. “Watch out!”

“What now?” Warpath asked.

“Can we kill it?” Inferno asked.

“I don’t know.” Ironhide answered. “The shotgun shells didn’t seem to faze it much, and it didn’t do a lot of damage. We’d have to pump a lot of shots into it, I think.”

“How about we just swing it back outside?” Sideswipe asked.

“I guess we could-” Inferno started to say.

“Bad idea.” Ironhide cut him off. “For one, the other one is still out there. If we open the door again, it might try to come in. For another, how do we unhook it from the chains once it’s outside?”

“Okay, so we kill it while it’s strung up there.” Warpath said.

“That still leaves the 2nd one.” Inferno said. “And I’d rather not transport a dead alien carcass back to Cybertron with us. Not to mention the stowaway Cameronian.”

“Okay, so anyone have better ideas?” Sideswipe asked.

They were all looking at each other, trying to come up with something, as the monster above then kept howling and flailing all over the place. In the crane cab, Cliffjumper was watching them intently, waiting for instructions. Before anyone could say anything, the door to the engine room opened and the Cameronian stuck his head out. His eyes widened at the sight of the monster being strung up, and after a moment he realized that it was helpless. He stepped out of the room, but as soon as he did, the monster seemed to notice him and renewed its efforts to get free. It also began roaring louder. The Cameronian quickly hurried to the Cybertronians, who were now all looking at him.

We have to kill it.” he said with a shaky voice. “It won’t stop unless I’m gone or it’s dead. And I’m not leaving this ship with the other one outside.

“Okay.” Ironhide said. “How do we kill it? The shotguns didn’t seem to be doing much damage.”

No. Its body is very strong, its skin very thick. Blunt force rarely works against them. We have to use something sharp and pointed, and stab it underneath, behind its 2 legs. We’ve found that that’s their weakest point. Not even the insides of their mouths are very vulnerable.

“Alright. That takes care of this one.” Inferno said. “But what about the one outside?”

Well, once we deal with this one, maybe you can take off and go to another part of the surface. There you can land long enough for me to leave and get on the shuttle.

“Sounds as good a plan as any.” Inferno said.

“Yeah, but first we have to get this one.” Warpath said. “I don’t remember us having anything sharp like that onboard.”

This brought silence to them again.

“We gotta find something.” Sideswipe said. But before anyone could respond, the monster managed to get its moth free from the 2 hooks and was now hanging upside down by its legs, still roaring and kicking with its legs. Then suddenly, as Cliffjumper was trying to swing it away, its legs came free. It crashed down near them, mouth first, with a crunch and whimper. It then stopped moving.

“Whoa.” Sideswipe said it again.

“Is it dead?” Warpath asked.

No. Just stunned.” the Cameronian said. “It will come to in moments.[/i]”

“Hey, what is going on down here?” the voice came from behind them. They turned around to see Powerglide standing on the steps to the bridge. “None of you are answering your comm links or the intercom! Whoa! What the hell is that?!”

In the chaos, even though it didn’t last long, no one realized that Powerglide had been calling them.

“The comm link-” Ironhide said, then his optics widened as he thought of something. “Powerglide, open the bay doors!” he then spoke into his comm link receiver. “Air Raid, come in!”

The alien beast began stirring. The others looked back at it, Sideswipe and Warpath raising the shotguns, the Cameronian scurrying behind Inferno for cover. Powerglide pressed the big red button again, this time opening the bay doors.

Yeah, boss.” Ironhide’s comm link answered. “We were won-

“Not now!” Ironhide cut him off. “Lift off, right now!” he then turned to Powerglide. “Grab a hold of something, we’re takin’ off!”

The beast was now moving its legs, trying to gain its footing. It was growling lowly.

“Air Raid, when you get 20 meters off the ground, I want you to tilt the front of the ship down towards the surface!” he said into the receiver on his arm, then turned to the others. “Better grab a hold o’ somethin’ as well. Unless ya feel like learnin’ to fly.”

The beast was now fully awake and on its feet. Sideswipe looked up at Cliffjumper in the cab.

“Hold on!” he shouted up. “And lower the chains a little!”

Cliffjumper nodded and the crane lowered some. The monster shook its front end, as it didn’t have a head, and turned toward them. It spotted the Cameronian and roared again.

“Oh, hell!” Ironhide exclaimed. As the ship lifted off, Sideswipe pointed up above their heads. They all looked up, and everyone reacted at the same time. The beast charged them, focusing on the Cameronian, and they jumped up, each of them grabbing a hook at the end of a chain. Inferno had grabbed the Cameronian at the last moment, and he was dangling from Inferno’s grip by his spacesuit.

After opening the doors, Powerglide had scrambled up the stairs, presumably to secure himself. The ship began tilting, and as the beast stopped to prepare to jump up, it lost its balance and fell on its side. But this time it began sliding on the smooth floor, towards the opening doors. It couldn’t grab anything with its small arms, and its legs weren’t able to slow it down as it was sliding on its side. The doors weren’t fully open yet, and as the monster slid out of the cargo bay, it first slammed into the right side door, then bounced off into the middle door which was becoming the ramp, and finally tumbled out of sight. The 4 Cybertronians and Cameronian were now hanging by a hand each, their feet pointing toward the open doors, which were now directly underneath them. Ironhide lifted his free arm to his face. He had the presence of mind to grab the hook with the arm that didn’t have the receiver on it.

“Air Raid! Level out the ship!”

Moments later, the ship began righting itself. At the same time, Cliffjumper began slowly lowering them to the floor. The ship was horizontal again just as their feet touched the floor. They let go of the hooks, and Inferno released his grip on the Cameronian’s suit.

“Well, that was fun.” Warpath said, shouldering his shotgun.

“Please.” Inferno said with a sneer.

Ironhide spoke into the receiver again.

“Air Raid, take us a little further away. If you can, contact the Cameronian shuttle and tell them to follow us. As for Primus’s sake, keep an optic on the sensors for more of these things!”

Inferno then turned to the Cameronian.

“What is with those things, anyway? I mean, it didn’t even acknowledge us, it just went straight for you. But how? It didn’t have eyes!”

VsQs has a lot of underground caverns. They live down there. It’s complete darkness, they have no use for eyes. They come up once in a while at night to hunt.” the Cameronian responded. “They use sound to hunt their prey. We aren’t sure how, but they can tell how far something is from them and how big it is just by listening to it. We think they have very advanced audio receptors. And they can also distinguish between organics and non-organics. That’s why they paid no attention to you. They didn’t realize you were alive.

“We figured that out.” Inferno said. “So what now?”

“Well, we fly a little bit away, then wait for his shuttle.” Ironhide answered. “Then we finish this whole messy deal, and get the hell out of here!”

Speaking of which.” the Cameronian said, and once again presented the small cube-shaped box.

Ironhide didn’t even say anything, just grimaced. He then pressed his thumb in the depression, and after a moment the small screen above it glowed green.

Very well. You’re indeed who you say you are. Our deal is concluded.

“Yeah.” Ironhide said. “As soon as yer back on yer own ship.”

Is this far enough?” Air Raid’s voice came through the comm link.

“Yeah, this is fine.” Ironhide answered. “Touch down. But check for those damn things first!”

The area is clear.

A few moments later, the ship touched ground again, and by the time they reached the already open doors the Cameronian shuttle was landing almost next to them. The Cameronian turned to them one last time and smiled.

Thank you.” he said. “Tell your senator Shockwave we will take good care of the cargo.

“Uh huh.” Ironhide said. “I will be doing just that, right after I have a word of my own with him.”

The Cameronian then walked down the ramp and went to his shuttle, its side door already open. He quickly disappeared inside and the door closed. The shuttle then promptly lifted off, flying back up to the giant ship that had been hovering over them this whole time.

“Okay.” Ironhide said. “Next stop.”

“The Sol system.” Inferno said. “Its largest planet. Well, one of its moons, anyway.”

Another moon?” Warpath asked, with exaggerated exasperation.

“A job is a job.” Sideswipe said. “Let’s get ready.”

They walked away, meeting Cliffjumper at their little table in the back corner. Ironhide and Inferno went back up to the bridge, Inferno hitting the big red button again as they got to the stairs. As the doors began to close again, the Express lifted off slowly.

“What about Skywarp and the Lightning?” Inferno asked as they walked up to the bridge.

“We’ll deal with that if we have to.” Ironhide said. “I don’t even know if they’re still here. I think the Cameronians ran them off.”

“Well, I’m sure we’ll be dealin’ with them when we get back to Cybertron.”

“One problem at a time, my friend. One problem at a time.” Ironhide said with a smile, patting Inferno on the shoulder. They walked onto the bridge, and Ironhide gave instructions to their next destination. The Paladin Express reached outer space and Air Raid hit the switch for hyperspeed. They took off toward the Sol system.
Rodimus Prime
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Posts: 10729
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Re: Disaster Transport.

Postby Rodimus Prime » Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:12 pm

Motto: "Laissez le bon temps rouler!"
The huge planet loomed over them as the Express descended toward the surface of Io. Jupiter had 16 moons, and they had all been surveyed on the surface and at least thoroughly scanned, and the Cybertronian delegation to the interstellar community had verified the reports. So Ironhide was comfortable enough to land on the moon, even though neither he or any of his crew had been there before. It seemed peaceful enough, but looks can be deceiving. He told the pilots as well as the loading crew to be on alert. The surface was not barren, but at first they did not register any signs of life.

“No welcoming committee, I see.” Powerglide said.

“Is this where we’re supposed to land?” Inferno asked, more to Ironhide than to Air Raid.

“Yes, these were the given coordinates.” Ironhide answered from his chair.

“And what are we picking up?” Powerglide asked.

“Well, it’s…” Inferno started to say.

“Just worry about landin’ us safely.” Ironhide cut him off gruffly.

Inferno gave Ironhide a stern look over his shoulder, but said nothing. Air Raid touched the ship down, and they scanned around through the front screens.

“No one.” Air Raid said.

“This is weird.” Powerglide said.

“Look at that.” Air Raid said again, as he tilted his head up towards Jupiter.

The huge spot on the surface, which has been deemed a massive continuous dust and ice storm, was right over them. It was like the planet was watching them. It blocked out most of their view of space, and the star at the center of the system was too far away to properly illuminate the surface, so everything seemed dark gray. Inferno looked up just as Air Raid did.

“I wonder if there’s anyone up there.” he said. “When we get back to Cybertron I’m going to do some research on the planet. I think…”

“We have contact.” Powerglide said, interrupting. “Oh, sorry. But we have contact.”

“Who is it?” Ironhide asked.

“They’re saying they’re the authority overseeing this side of the colony and we need to identify ourselves.”

“Tell them who we are and why we’re here.” Ironhide said as he got up. “Inferno, come with me.”

Inferno also got out of his seat and followed Ironhide toward the stairs.

“Air Raid, don’t shut down the engines. Stay at the controls, and be prepared to move at a moment’s notice.” Ironhide said. “Even if we don’t take off, I don’t want us to be a sittin’ duck if somethin’ goes wrong.”

“Understood.” the pilot answered.

Ironhide and Inferno went downstairs, where they were met by Sideswipe.

“We ready?” he asked.

“Yeah, just havin’ a little problem with our contact.” Ironhide said. “Wait to open the doors until Powerglide confirms that we’re at the right spot. Warpath!”

“Ready!” the smaller bot said from the opposite corner of the hold. He was just getting up from the table.

“Grab your shotgun an’ stand by the doors. Cliffjumper can handle the cargo, it won’t be a lot.”

“Oh...alright.” Warpath said. “Might get to see some more action!”

He took off up the stairs to the storage space where they kept the guns. Inferno and Sideswipe just looked at Ironhide without a word, as Cliffjumper sat up above them in the control cab of the crane. He had no idea what was going on.

Captain, come in.” the intercom by the stairs came on. Ironhide stepped to it and pressed a button.

“Go ahead.”

Everything seems to be in order, except that they were expecting us in another 7 breems, so they weren’t ready.

“Where’s the cargo?”

On its way. Apparently they have to bring it up to the surface from an underground facility. It will be just a bit.

“Fine. Stay on the lookout and let me know when they’re close to the ship. I don’t want to open the doors until I have to.”

Roger.

At that moment Warpath was back down the stairs, carrying his shotgun as well as Sideswipe’s. He tossed the bigger bot his weapon.

“So we just stand guard when the doors open?” he asked. “What are we takin’ on?”

“It should be fairly easy.” Inferno said. “The cargo is a single container, 7 meters long, 4 meters wide and 3 meters tall. But it says here it’s going to be heavy, it’s something very dense.”

He was holding his handheld unit as he read the information on the manifest they were given.

“What’s the nature of the cargo?” Sideswipe asked.

“They didn’t provide clear specifics. Only that it’s something they mined deep inside their planet, and that we’re to deliver it to Moon 2, where Maximus is waitin’ for it.”

“This is for Max?” Sideswipe asked, a bit surprised. “Shouldn’t it be delivered to Cybertron first, then Max would pick it up from the security storage building? That’s the procedure.”

“Yeah…” Ironhide said.

“So what are we going to do?”

“I’ll have a chat with Maximus when we get back, before we actually dock.” Inferno said. “But we’ll most likely follow procedure and go to Cybertron. If Max has a problem with that, he can take it up with Grimlock.”

They’re coming.” the intercom crackled with Powerglide’s voice.

“Alright, look alive.” Ironhide said and nodded toward the doors.

Inferno and Warpath walked to the door control panel, where Inferno pressed the button to open the doors. Sideswipe also walked up there, but to the other side. As he walked, he looked up at Cliffjumper in the crane, and the smaller bot looked back at him questioningly, no doubt wondering what they were doing with the shotguns. Sideswipe gave him a half smile and held up his free hand, fingers out and palm down, indicating to Cliffjumper to stay calm. As he got to the other side of the doors, Cliffjumper fired up the crane and moved into position to bring in the cargo once it was secured on the ground. He knew well that Ironhide didn’t like strangers in the ship, so he was all the way to the door with the crane, the chains with the hooks on the ends just dangling in the entrance. The ramp touched down, and they were met by an unexpected sight: a single 3-wheeled vehicle, with 2 wheels in the back under a flat cargo area and 1 wheel up front in the middle. There was no one around, and no one seemed to be inside the vehicle, which didn’t even seem like big enough to hold a driver, unless that drives was less than a meter tall.

“Weird.” Sideswipe said.

“Yeah.” Inferno answered, and started walking down the ramp.

He looked from side to side, but there was no sign of anyone else. Where did the transmission come from? Did the inhabitants stay underground? Inferno was on alert, but he walked up to the vehicle nonetheless, and stretched out his arm with the handheld scanner in his hand. He pressed a button, and the small device went to work. In a few moments, the indicator in the upper right corner glowed green, which meant the cargo met the specifications listed in the manifest. They were indeed picking up what they were supposed to. Inferno just didn’t know what it was. The manifest had been uploaded by Maximus, and he didn’t tell them anything other than it was a rare metal which can’t be found on most known planets. Whatever it was, they were picking up what Maximus was expecting, according to the device. Inferno lowered his arm and just looked at the vehicle.

“Hello?” he said.

Nothing.

Inside, Sideswipe looked back to the rear of the cargo hold, where Ironhide was waiting by the steps. He just shook his head. Ironhide pressed the button on the intercom again.

“Hey, ask them what the hell is goin’ on!” he said gruffly. He was running out of patience. “We’re ready to pick this cargo up, but we need some kinda contact and confirmation from them.”

Just a moment.

About 30 seconds later, Powerglide came back on.

They said they are staying underground, it’s not safe. We have what we came for, we should get out of here.

“They said that?”

Yes. I asked for clarification, but they just repeated it.

“Not this again.” Ironhide muttered to himself, then pressed the button. “Tell them we need confirmation from them that the cargo has been picked up.”

Another 10 seconds of silence.

They said we can take the entire package with us, the vehicle and the cargo. That will give confirmation that they authorized the transfer.

“How is that goin’ to…”

“Hey!” Sideswipe cut him off. “Something is happening out here!”

At the same time, Ironhide saw Inferno running up the ramp, with the transport vehicle following close behind. It rolled up the ramp as Inferno got inside and had to dive out of the way.

They’re tellin’ us to leave right now!” Powerglide came through on the intercom.

Ironhide was processing what he had just heard, as well as looking at the strange transport vehicle and Sideswipe at the same time. He was still standing by the door, his head outside and tilted up. He was staring at something in the sky.

Ironhide!” Air Raid’s voice came through the intercom this time. “Something is happening in the sky! It’s like the planet is opening up!

“What…” Ironhide muttered as he started running towards the door. Inferno scrambled to his feet as Cliffjumper stuck his head out of the crane cab.

“Hey, what’s goin’ on?!” he asked.

“Get back in there and pick this thing up off the ground!” Ironhide shouted back, pointing at the vehicle. “Inferno, hook the chains to the vehicle and have him lift it up! I don’t want this thing to be able to roll around freely inside the hold!”

Inferno nodded as Cliffjumper got back in his seat. He swung the crane back over the vehicle as Ironhide made it to the door and stopped next to Sideswipe. He did the same thing, sticking his head outside and looking up. In the sky, it seemed that the “spot” on Jupiter’s surface was disappearing, or better yet, opening, like a giant eye.

“What the hell is goin’ on here?” he said.

Ironhide, they’re telling us to leave right now!” Air Raid said through the intercom. “I’m taking off, this is not looking good!

Instead of answering, Ironhide and Sideswipe both just stood there, looking up. In the sky, it seemed like a thousand flying objects came out of the hole that used to be the giant spot on Jupiter’s surface.

“That doesn’t look good.” Warpath said from the other side of the door.

That seemed to snap Ironhide out of it.

“No…” he said, and turned around.

Inferno had hooked the chains to the vehicle, and Cliffjumper had just lifted it off the ground.

“Warpath, close the door!” Ironhide shouted. “And tell them to take off, now!” He then turned back to Sideswipe and grabbed him by the arm. “Come on!”

He had to drag the other bot inside, he seemed to be mesmerized. The door began to close, and they could already feel the ship shaking, as it prepared to take off.

“Secure that thing!” Inferno said to Warpath as he looked up at Cliffjumper and gave him hand signals.

As Cliffjumper swung the vehicle with the cargo on it towards the wall, Warpath got 3 more lengths of chain, each with hooks on both ends. He handed one each to both Inferno and Sideswipe, and all 3 of them tied the vehicle to the wall by fastening the chains to 3 eyelets attached to the wall. The vehicle and the cargo were now both suspended and secured.

Hold on!” Powerglide’s voice came through the intercom. “They’re shootin’ at us!

Not a moment later they heard explosions outside the ship, and it began to rattle violently. Ironhide was running up the stairs, followed by Inferno.

“You get secured!” Inferno shouted back down to Sideswipe and Warpath. “And keep an optic on that thing!”

They acknowledged the order and did accordingly. Ironhide made it up to the bridge, just in time to see all hell break loose outside. On the big screen in front of them, fireballs were exploding all around, and smoke and flames were right in their faces. Despite that, Air Raid was lifting the ship up into space.

“What the hell is goin’ on?!” Ironhide shouted, as he had to hold onto his chair after losing his footing from the latest explosion.

“They’re shootin’ at us!” Powerglide said. “Whoever they are, they came out of Jupiter, and started engagin’ us! They must still be far away, because it seems like they’re just takin’ potshots at us. The ship hasn’t been hit!”

“Are we gonna make it?” he asked Air Raid.

“If I can get up to speed, yeah.” his pilot answered. “Like ‘Glide said, they’re still far away. I just need to get a little more distance to activate the hyperdrive. What did we pick up that they want so damn bad, anyway?”

“I don’t know. But this whole thing is wrong!” Ironhide said, as he managed to get into his captain’s chair. A moment later, Inferno appeared next to him, getting into his seat.

“Cargo and crew are secure.” he said. “How’s the ship?”

Before he could get a verbal answer, a thunderous explosion rocked the ship, and they all got thrown around the bridge.

“Damn!” Inferno shouted. “We got hit!”

“They’re a lot closer now!” Powerglide said, as he scrambled back to his chair.

Air Raid didn’t get thrown far, just up onto the console in front of him, which was now full of blinking yellow and red lights. He settled back down into his seat and took control of the ship again. Ironhide also got back up, but instead of his chair, he grabbed the back of Air Raid’s, and looked over his shoulder.

“How much longer?” he asked.

“I’m about to hit it, I just hope there was no damage to the engines from that last shot.” Air Raid said, and pushed a toggle on the panel to his right all the way up.

The ship shuddered and they could hear creaking and rattling coming from behind them. Ironhide and Inferno both looked back, and saw smoke coming from the crew quarters.

“Oh, hell!” Ironhide said. “Let’s go!”

He and Inferno ran through the bridge entrance and into the crew quarters. The smoke was so thick, not even their inner sensors could help them.

“I don’t see any flames!” Inferno said. “The shuttle bay door is sealed!”

“That’s where the damage must be!” Ironhide answered. “Let’s make sure the door will hold and the walls aren’t damaged!”

They moved through the smoke to the back end of the crew quarters, checking on the door that separated them from the shuttle bay. It was a thick door, set in an even thicker steel wall, and everything seemed to be holding. The ship was still shaking, but they could feel the speed now. Air Raid managed to get them into hyperdrive. The only questions now were if the engines took any damage and if they were being followed. Inferno took a minute scanning the door and the entire back wall, and when he finished he looked at Ironhide and shook his head.

“No damage.” he said. “The integrity of the door and the wall is holding.”

“Alright.” Ironhide said, relief in his voice. “Good. Let’s get back to the bridge.”

A moment later, they were back up front.

“Tell me somethin’.” Ironhide said.

“The engines seem to be fine, and most of the warnings have gone off.” Air Raid said. On the panel in front of him only 6 lights were still on, 4 of them orange, 2 of them red.

“What are the red lights?”

“Those would be the shuttle and the shuttle bay.”

“What about them?”

“We no longer have a shuttle.” Air Raid said. “Or a shuttle bay.”

Ironhide just grunted in response. Inferno also stayed quiet, waiting for his boss to give orders.

“Alright, you stay up here and make sure we’re on the way and nothin’ else goes wrong.” Ironhide said. “We’re not bein’ followed, are we?”

“Not through hyperspace, no.” Powerglide answered him. “But before we got there it seemed that they were zeroin’ in on us. They definitely didn’t want us to leave.”

“Yeah, and I’ll be it has to do with the cargo.” Ironhide said.

“As usual.” Inferno said, unable to help a slight smirk.

Ironhide looked at him and just shook his head. He then turned around and started walking towards the stairs. Inferno followed without a work. A moment later they were downstairs in the cargo hold. In the rear, Sideswipe and Cliffjumper were checking the rear wall, as there was smoke coming in from the ceiling, though it was nowhere near as bad as upstairs. Warpath was standing close to the wall, keeping watch on the cargo. He still had his shotgun in his hands.

“We must have taken a direct hit.” Sideswipe said. “I can see some distortion in the walls. I can’t believe the engines are operating without a problem.”

“Yeah, we got lucky.” Inferno said. “The shuttle bay took the hit.”

“How bad?”

“We no longer have a shuttle. Or a bay.” Inferno repeated Air Raid’s assessment.

“Has this thing done anythin’ since we left?” Ironhide asked, nodding towards the vehicle.

“No. Nothing.” Sideswipe answered.

“Well, whatever it is, I’m damn sure gonna take it up with Maximus when we get back.” Ironhide said. “As far as I’m concerned, he owes us a shuttle bay. And a shuttle.”

“What the hell happened back there?” Sideswipe asked. “I mean, you saw what I saw, right? The planet itself seemed to open up!”

“Yeah, I saw it.” Ironhide answered. “I think that planet is hidin’ a lot more than we know about it. And it seems the occupants of the moon we landed on are not welcome on the surface. Whatever is in there,” he said, pointing to the cargo, “has somethin’ to do with it.”

“But it was cleared by Cybertron’s survey team.” Inferno said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have gone there.”

“That was a while ago.” Sideswipe said. “Things change with time, for better and worse.”

“They called the moon a colony, I remember Powerglide say that.” Ironhide said. “A colony for who? The planet? Someone else? Maybe those on the moon are the hostile invaders, and the ones who attacked us were just tryin’ to keep what they feel is theirs.”

“Well, whatever it is, Maximus wouldn’t have had us deliver this if he thought it was dangerous.” Sideswipe said.

“Don’t be so sure of that.” Ironhide said. “Maybe he sent us precisely for that reason. Because he knew we could deliver.”

“Yeah, but don’t you think he would have warned us?”

“Well maybe, but then we could have refused. Like you said, whatever this cargo is, it’s very important.”

“Yeah, well, I’m gonna go with you to Max’s office when we get back, and get some answers for myself!” Inferno said sternly. “This was not acceptable, if he knew it was a dangerous situation!”

Inferno then walked away, back up the stairs and onto the bridge. Ironhide stayed in the cargo hold, along with the loading crew. For the rest of the trip, the cargo didn’t move, didn’t make a sound, didn’t do anything. But they stood watch over it anyway. Ironhide had Sideswipe inspect the vehicle it was on, and to their astonishment, they found an explosive charge wired to the underside, with the detonator deactivated. It was another bizarre part of this whole thing, and by the time they made it to Cybertron, Ironhide just wanted it off his ship.

They came out of hyperspace close to Cybertron, and Ironhide immediately hailed Moon 2 on their communications systems. Luckily, their main transmitter was located above the bridge and it wasn’t damaged in the attack. They orbited Moon 2, and were met by an air security patrol, after it was noticed that they were damaged. Ironhide demanded to speak with Maximus, but was instead directed to the surface of the planet, to land in a secure zone, in case the ship was unstable due to the damage. It was protocol, and there was nothing Ironhide could do about it. The commander of the patrol unit did tell him he would make sure Maximus was notified.

Once they landed, safety crews surrounded the ship, and evaluated the damaged areas. The crew disembarked, and they were all checked out by both medical and security squads, to make sure they were alright and that they weren’t trying to do something underhanded. Once they were cleared, they were all herded into a large room with chairs but no table. There were about 20 chairs in the room, set in a large circle, closer to the walls than to the center of the room. They all sat down, and a few moments later Grimlock walked in, followed by Swoop, Snarl, and finally Maximus.

“Just the bot I needed to see!” Ironhide exclaimed.

“What happened to your ship?” Swoop asked. “The report you gave said you were attacked.”

“No, we were playing a game of dare with some asteroids.” Inferno said sarcastically.

“Shut up.” Grimlock snapped, before Swoop could answer. “Speak when you’re spoken to.”

Inferno was stunned for a moment, but then tried to stand up in response, but Snarl stepped in front of him and Inferno had to stop from standing upright, otherwise he would have bumped into the bigger bot. He stood there awkwardly for a moment, his knees slightly bent. This was enough for both Sideswipe and Air Raid to stand up. But Maximus held out a hand, palm up.

“No need for things to get rough.” he said. “We need to figure out what happened.”

“You’re damn right!” Ironhide snapped back. He then turned toward the others. “Sit down, gettin’ violent won’t help anythin’.”

The others did as told. Snarl stepped back next to Grimlock and Maximus lowered his arm.

“So what happened?” Swoop asked again.

Ironhide recounted the events on Io, and when he was finished looked directly at Maximus.

“Since you authorized the contract for the cargo, you’re responsible for any damage incurred because of it.” he said. “You owe me a new shuttle bay.”

“And a shuttle.” Inferno added.”

Maximus had an exasperated look on his face, but after a moment he nodded.

“It seems I do.” he said. “It will be taken care of.”

“So what about this cargo that was so damn important we nearly got killed over it?” Air Raid spoke up.

“I’ll tell you all about it.” Max answered. “It’s a long story. I didn’t think things would get to where they did, but it was important that that cargo get delivered. I had all the confidence in you, and I was right.”

“Maximus gave me a satisfactory explanation and your ship has been checked out.” Grimlock said. “You’re free to go, you can even fly the ship out of here. Just get it up to code before you go into space again.”

“I’m aware of the regulations.” Ironhide said.

Without answering, Grimlock looked at Maximus.

“They’re your responsibility now, until they and their scrap pile get off my station. Anythin’ happens, I’m comin’ to you.”

Then without waiting for an answer, he turned around and walked out, followed by Snarl and Swoop. Maximus just shook his head and smiled when he looked at Ironhide.

“Alright, let’s get out of here, I’ll have you and your ship brought to Moon 2, you can use a little rest. It will take a while to fix your ship, and the story I’m gonna tell you about the cargo and why it’s important will cause you to take a few cycles of rest.”

Without a word, Ironhide stood up, followed by the others. With Maximus leading the way, they all filed out of the room, and walked outside. There they split up, Air Raid and Powerglide going to the Paladin Express, while the others followed Maximus to his personal shuttle. Soon they were airborne, the ship following the shuttle up to Moon 2, docking near Maximus’s control center. Everything was arranged for them, and while the crew went to relax and recharge, Ironhide and Inferno went to Maximus’s office, and listened as the story of their mystery cargo was revealed.
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