--------------------------------------------------BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Soccent Attack
Death had come to the streets, the skyscrapers, and the skies themselves above the Shinto district of Fuyuki-shi.
The nearest squadrons of JASDF F-15s had been scrambled and launched into action... only to be obliterated by the Decepticon flyers patrolling the besieged city - against which they were hopelessly outclassed.
The police and SDF units on the ground fared no better. Soldiers were remorselessly gunned down, APCs and other military vehicles annihilated - either through firepower or through raw, brute force.
Panic and terror gripped the civilian populace, who sought any means of shelter or escape they could find - be it through cramming the underground pedestrian network, cowering behind office walls and furniture in various buildings (including, ironically, the one atop which stood the most feared invader of all) or flocking down along the increasingly few streets, lanes and back alleys which had yet to become killing zones.
Yet, the flyers above were merciless in targeting any moving object which made the error of revealing itself to their targeting sensors - and the feral quintuplet of bio-mechanical assailants had cordoned off an entire quarter of the district into their own de facto
hunting grounds... as if preparing for what they knew would be the inevitable response from those they deemed more worthy prey.
However, while many of the Decepticons present relished the opportunity to release the pent-up frustration and anger which the loss of the Great War, and the subsequent years of hiding from the watchful optics of their victorious enemies, there were a few who saw past the immediacy of the event, and realised what change it would represent."This is nothing but trouble, boss,"
'said' Swindle over a secret channel that only he and the one he sent the message to could access - a result of a long history of avoiding the ever-watchful eye of the Cobalt Sentries and their merciless commander. "Revealing our presence like this is not going to do any wonders for my business..."
Onslaught, who knew his 'subordinate' all too well, thought little of the 'business' the notorious smuggler was referring toâ€¦ usually.
However, in one respect, he agreed - this was a fool's errand.
Making their presence on Earth public before securing it from the prospect of Autobot interference or readying the logistical preparations needed to subjugate a world such as this had always been considered to be a grave error. Doing so in the aftermath of a lost and ruinous war, with no off-world support for a sustained campaign, and in the context of a world where there were already far too many covert links between the EDC and the Autobots for one's liking, spelled disaster for the barely-tenuous efforts needed to restore the Empire to anything like its former glory.Megatron would never have approved this
, Onslaught thought to himself, as he and Swindle looked up to see the ghastly expression on Galvatron's face as the latter looked on at the carnage all around him. Inferno, even Starscream wasnâ€™t this stupid."And I'll tell you something else for free, boss,"
added Swindle, "there's something really
wrong about those things up there. They aren't natural."
Though Onslaught knew that such talk would be tantamount to treason if anyone other than him had heard it, in the core of his spark he knew Swindle was right.
Every one of those Unicron-fashioned beings seemed to exude an aura of... wrongness
about them - which for a ruthless bio-mech like Onslaught was quite telling.
Even the least warped of them, the purple fighter craft, was known even among the Earth-bound Decepticons for being un-reasonably attached to Galvatron's service. It was almost as if he had been made that way - that Unicron must have embedded such blind loyalty into whatever it was he had in that spark chamber of his.
And then there was Galvatron himself..."Kind of makes you wonder who it is we should be shooting at..."
Swindle added, and this time Onslaught was goaded into a response. "Focus on the operation, Swindle! There's only so much of that line of reasoning that even I will tolerate from you."
Swindle showed no outward reaction, but would have sighed and shrugged his shoulders had he done so. "Fair enough, boss - but I'm sticking to shooting the fleshies with uniforms on... and I'm already working on a means of getting us the slag outta here when the time comes."
Onslaught remained silent, but it was enough to tell Swindle that he would call on him to deliver said means when the moment was ripe.
In the meantime, Onslaught focussed on the three others who were supposed to be following his orders - cursing that they weren't his other Combaticon regulars.
"Ruckus, Crankcase, Fracture, stay in formation!" he called over, with as much authority as he could muster through his vocal processor.
"What's that, boss?" Ruckus roared, as he jumped forward to bring his fists crashing down onto the side of an SDF APC. "I can't hear you over all this racket!"
The second Decepticon being called shook his head, while rolling out a fresh dose of verbal bile. "Maybe if you stopped being such a slaggin' loudmouth, you wouldn't keep making a fool of yourself! How did I ever get myself into this damned mess... stuck here on this mudball... watching that idiot make a fool of himself again..."
"Enough of your tongue!" snapped the third, who spared just enough energy to say as much before rushing to the corner of a nearby street, then proceeding to stomp her foot upon the ground. The powerful seismic dischargers in her legs activated, and forced open gaping cracks in the ground below, streaking down the street and underneath the various corpses and wrecks littering it.
All of which, of course, was beyond the plan that Onslaught had laid down for them.
"I said get back in formation, NOW!" he commanded, but short of putting a few rounds in their backs, the trio would not listen.
Swindle, staying close to Onslaught, commented more openly. "Makes you wish the gang was still together, huh?"Quite.
Regardless of what he could say - at length - about Brawl, Vortex and Blast Off, at least they were somewhat more likely to fall in... not least because they knew enough to rely on each other more than to take their chances on their own.
As far as Onslaught was concerned, this operation couldnâ€™t end soon enough.
While this was taking place, the headphone-wearing holomatter simulacrum walked calmly, as it picked up the trace of communication between two more-than-ordinary local beings.
The less scientifically-explicable side of this planet's indigenous life forms had become something of a field of study for the being controlling the holo-man, and the communications sent from the various sources uncovered concerning this city had made uncovering a more direct source of data a high priority.
"Targets located," the holo-man spoke, in a monotone voice, which had more than a hint of a non-Terran origin.
He lifted the blue player and faced it before him, pressing the eject button. "Squalktalk, Beastbox, eject and combine - mission: interference."
Two cassette-type modules - which were shaped thus despite the player being (apparently) designed for digital media - leaped from the device, before transforming and combining in mid-air.
"Mind if I play something interesting?" the gestalt being, Squalkbox, requested.
The holo-man simply nodded. BGM: Julien-K - Technical Difficulties
"I still can't get through to Garret-dono-tachi, Rider!" said Sakura quietly, yet with a heavy dose of serious concern in her voice.
Rider took a moment to scout the immediate vicinity, before replying in a low voice. "They must be interfering with the signal. We should concentrate on getting out of this district without them following us."
Sakura nodded. The thought of these creatures destroying the Emiya-tei was something she couldn't bear thinking about. "Hai!"
Pocketing the device, she Reinforced her limbs and followed Rider's lead, as the two moved from room to room, then from alley to alley, heading for the river dividing the city.
Using the shadows to try and mask their passage, the two made it to the side entrance of a fifteen-story office block, before they started to hear the approaching musicâ€¦
â€œSakura!â€ Rider smashed through the glass entrance, and led Sakura through the building and away from the street, but the noise kept approaching.
Suddenly, the PA system in the office started blaring, playing the same piece at an almost deafening rate.
As Squalkbox made the buildingâ€™s speaker system his impromptu sound system, the holo-man walked in train, before activating the player once more.
â€œLaserbeak, Ravage, eject â€“ operation: interception.â€ At his command, two more modules released themselves, before transforming and racing into action. The first, taking the vague outline of a Terran condor, screeched through the skies as it headed towards its target. The second, assuming the form of a midnight-black jaguar, sprinted along the ground, eschewing its traditional method of blending un-noticed into the shadows at the behest of its watchful commander.
There were yet more cards to be played, if necessary â€“ but Soundwave was content to see what his two most trusted lieutenants could achieve.
â€œIâ€™ve been so waiting to take my oeuvre
into a more public realm - donâ€™t you agree that itâ€™s been worth the wait?â€ Squalkbox asked, almost as if he actually expected a serious critique of the piece, as he revealed himself before Rider and Sakura in the main lobby.
Unamused, Rider raced forward and readied herself for the attack â€“ but Squalkbox used his twin concussion cannon to compress the air beneath her, disrupting her leap and sending her to the ground, winded.
â€œRider!â€ Sakura called out, as she raised her hand and prepared to fire a sorcerous projectile at the assailant â€“ while cursing how little time she had been given since her last battle to prepare herself this time around.
However, as Laserbeak screeched into the lobby, Rider made an instinctive throw of her nail-tipped chain at the bio-mechanical condor. Faster than the Decepticon could react, the nail embedded itself in Laserbeakâ€™s neck â€“ and upon impact, Rider clamped on to the near end of the chain, before using herself as a fulcrum in order to spin Laserbeak through the airâ€¦ and smashing into the side of Squalkbox.
â€œGr-aaak!â€ the â€˜musicianâ€™ cried out, as he felt the force of the impact, sending both he and Laserbeak sprawling.
Sakura had no time to be relieved, however â€“ as she saw a jet-black metal jaguar sprint use the distraction to sprint towards her.
Yet, she was in no mood to go down quietly. â€œStay back!â€ she called out defiantly, as the building energy in her arm was unleashed. The bolt of energy enveloped Ravageâ€™s overly-sensitive optics, causing him to leap blindly forward â€“ allowing her just enough room to use her Reinforced limbs to scatter to one side.
â€œletâ€™s go, Master!â€ Rider insisted, as she scooped Sakura up into her arms, then jumped into the air, aiming to reach a high enough vantage point so as to escape the scene.
This was not going quite as well as he had hoped â€“ but there were other options.
This time, he held the player to himself, when giving the latest commands. â€œRumble, Frenzy, transform â€“ objective: demolition.â€
At this, the two white earphones which the holo-man had been â€˜listeningâ€™ to removed themselves and ventured forth â€“ then assuming their bio-mechanoid forms.
â€œJust leave it to us, boss!â€ Frenzy said gleefully, as he and Rumble modified their arms into piledrivers, and made ready to demolish the office block altogether.
Rider had made it to a high enough level for her to feel comfortable leaping onwards, when she and Sakura could feel the boom-boom-boom from belowâ€¦ and sense the foundations of the building giving way.
â€œHold on!â€ she cried, as she leaped across the street, hoping to reach the other side in timeâ€¦
â€¦but the side of the building was falling down towards them.
In Riderâ€™s arms, Sakura closed her eyes, and hoped for a miracleâ€¦
--------------------------------------------------BGM: Steve Jablonsky - Youâ€™re a Soldier Now
Recklessly separating themselves from Onslaughtâ€™s vicinity, Fracture jumped along the abandoned roofs of cars and trucks littering the street, her leg generators crushing each beneath her as she moved forth in a fit of murderous glee, while Ruckus followed not too far behind, revelling in his own fit of destruction.
The moment was interrupted, however, as a sleek white-and-green jet raced mere metres above the ground, and banked sharply to expose its right wing just before Fracture could stop to realise what was happening. The craftâ€™s wing sliced through her exposed and under-armoured lower torso, causing her to scream in shock as her upper chassis collapsed to the ground, her systems going into emergency stasis lock.
Ruckus roared in response at this, instantly recognising the red emblems atop each of the fighterâ€™s wings. â€œWretched Autobot! Come and face me if youâ€™re looking for a fight!â€
His shoulder-mounted cannon opened up, trying to catch the fast-moving jet as it banked and rolled one way, then the next â€“ its own twin assault rifles strafing the ground beneath him, before scoring damage marks upon his reinforced chassis. â€œItâ€™ll take worse than that to stop me ticking, Autobot!â€
â€œIâ€™ll see what I can do, then!â€ he heard coming from one side â€“ before a land vehicle he hadnâ€™t even realised was approaching transformed, and a materialised energo-sword sliced forward, shattering his optic visor.
Before Ruckus could react, the opponent jumped up and turned in mid-air, pressing what was supposed to be the sole of his foot against his faceâ€¦ before leg-mounted engines were ignited, and a rush of superheated flame coursed through the shattered visor and burst out from the sides and back of Ruckusâ€™ head.
Using his slowly-toppling chassis as leverage, the attacker then launched himself forth, where the jet disassembled itself into three pieces, each attaching back to the bio-mechâ€™s form.
â€œTwo downâ€¦â€ Ã‰tienne said to no-one in particular, as he flew down the next street over, looking for other Decepticons to introduce himself to.
Yet, he could hear a strange rumbling from around the next corner â€“ and as he banked and changed course, he saw two figures leaping from the side of a collapsing building.
â€œHang on!â€ he called out, as he accelerated forth while rolling himself onto his â€˜backâ€™, reaching out his hands in a desperate effort to catch the pairâ€¦
Moments later, he had managed to roll himself back to an â€˜uprightâ€™ flying position, and was racing away from the scene as fast as he dared while carrying the two.
He looked down to see more clearly who it was â€“ and when he saw the face, the eyes, of the plum-haired lady who looked up at him, he gasped.
â€œYouâ€™re the most beautiful woman in the universe!â€
Immediately, he blushed â€“ or about as much as a bio-mechanoid can do so â€“ as he realised how profoundly ill-timed such a comment was.
Nevertheless, the lady looked up at him, still holding on to her purple-haired friend, and almost blushed in return. â€œThatâ€™s a very kind thing for you to say, Autobot-san.â€
While under different circumstances, he would have wished to stop and ask just why it was she knew about his allegiance â€“ or, perhaps, to clarify if the two were somehow related to the group at the Emiya residence he had been at earlier â€“ he had more immediate concerns. â€œIâ€™m going to try and cover for you as best I can â€“ try and get out of Shinto, before they
finish their work hereâ€¦â€
â€œI can get her to safety,â€ Rider insisted, and Ã‰tienne nodded.
â€œGood,â€ he said, as he came to land in a spot close to the edge of the district â€“ hoping he was giving them enough of a head start so as to evade pursuit altogether. â€œStay safe, both of you â€“ and wish me luck!â€
Sakura held on tightly as Rider carried her to the ground, before carrying her to what they hoped will be safety. â€œGanbatte kudasai
, Autobot-san,â€ Sakura said, grateful for the rescueâ€¦ albeit not quite sure what to make of the â€˜otherâ€™ outburst.
â€œThanks,â€ he replied, as he turned and headed down the street. Iâ€™ll need it.
While he had bought the two time, Ã‰tienne had unwittingly launched himself into the lair of the beasts.
He jolted to one side as he tried to dodge the rampaging rhino, as he passed a narrow intersection.
He banked upwards and to the right, as a charging bull tried to skewer him on its horns.
He was almost clawed in half by the leaping tiger, which roared with a deep and terrible fury as it tried to reach for him.
He was battered and shaken in mid-air by the assault of the hawk, which strangely seemed to hold off from attempting to make a close-range kill.
He thought he had escaped the worst of itâ€¦
â€¦until he glimpsed the golden lion which had been clamping into the side of a nearby building, just long enough to see it pounce and land a telling blow.
Ã‰tienne crashed to the ground, his chassis battered and torn, deep gashed left by the claws of the leaping lion, as the Predacons gathered slowly about him.
Their leader, Razorclaw, transformed from lion mode into his intimidating bio-mech form, and summoned his energo-sword as he walked calmly to the fallen one.
â€œDo you have any last words, Autobot?â€ Razorclaw asked, almost dismissively, as if following some warped code of honour in allowing the victim a last gasp before the end.
Ã‰tienne struggled to move, but managed to lift himself up just slightly enough to allow him to look back into the pitiless eyes of his would-be executioner. â€œAnd there I wasâ€¦ hoping Iâ€™d be the oneâ€¦ whoâ€™d get to ask one more of you Decepticons the same thingâ€¦â€
â€œDefiant, I like that,â€ Razorclaw nodded, almost in respect. â€œWorthy prey should not cower when the end approaches. But if you wish, I can pass on one piece of information for your spark to take with it on its journeyâ€¦â€
He stopped in front of him, thumbed the activator on the sword, and raised it skywards.
â€œAll good things succumbâ€¦ to those who wait.â€
And at the last, Ã‰tienne closed his eyes, and found himself thinking of that plum-haired angel he had been granted a glimpse at.If this is the end, let it not be in vainâ€¦
His meeting with Eternity would have to wait, however â€“ as his optics opened to the sound of a heavy booom
just before him, and the sight of a massive explosion hitting Razorclaw in the chest and knocking him backwards.
He looked around, and could see a massive craft swoop down from the sky, the white-hot barrel of the immense rifle upon its back smoking in the after-effect of the shot. The craft then separated into two â€“ the foremost piece racing forth and transforming into an awe-inspiring knightly warrior, the aft piece taking the form of a massive winged, roaring lion.
In the sky he could see a formation of flyers burst into action, a torrent of fire rippling through the sky towards the Decepticons flying above the city.
Upon the ground, he could feel the rumble as the immense bulk of a blue and white truck-trailer drove down one of the streets, a sports car racing beside it, as it headed forth into the fray.
And beside him, an oddly-hovering vehicle transformed and approached him, revealing a somewhat familiar face.
â€œWave.. rider?â€ Ã‰tienne asked, still badly wounded from Razorclawâ€™s earlier strike.
The other Autobot nodded, before preparing a field triage kit to try and stem the worst of the damage. â€œYouâ€™re the one Phoenix mentioned. Nice to meet you properly â€“ now please hold still while I try and fix you up.â€
â€œOh yeahâ€¦â€ he wondered if his vision was blurring â€“ he should have recognised that Cloudburst was up there, part of the arriving formation.
Strengely, he found himself remembering something from earlier in the day. â€œOh, by the wayâ€¦ whoâ€™s Garret?â€
Waverider simply pointed to one of the taller skyscrapers left standing. â€œThatâ€™s him up there.â€
Ã‰tienne was stunned as he saw a shining red and gold vehicle emerge from the buildingâ€™s lower parking levels onto the roof, and noticed the canopy lift up, and a figure use what must have been an ejector seat to spring out of the driving compartment.
He was even more taken aback to see the vehicle accelerate and launch itself off of the side of the building, transforming in mid-air before angling itself down towards Galvatron and smashing sideways into the Decepticon tyrant.So that must be Rodimus Prime himself,
Ã‰tienne thought, as he found himself drifting into unconsciousness â€“ but with just enough lucidity to make one final comment:
--------------------------------------------------End of Part 14.