Beast Hunters - In Medias Res

written by Hound99

The light of the emerging sun shines down on the ancient forest. Comprised mostly of pines, hemlock and spruce, it is a vast green carpet across the landscape. Beams of light sporadically shine through the thick branches, chasing the shadows away. One of these shadows stands up and moves into the light.

Whisper slowly walks into the morning light. Her visual sensors compensating for the light, she scans the skies with her binocular vision. Eventually, she stops, finding what she seeks.

Miles above, a sleek winged form glides from cloud to cloud.

"Well, at least I have my air support," she muttered.

Glancing behind her, she quickly noted where her companions were. Snarl, the Tasmanian Devil, was concealed amidst the branches of a rather dense pine. She muffled a laugh as she thought how mad he'd be, knowing she'd spotted him. Farther back, a massive form crouched next to a thick tree trunk. She made a mental note, if combat did ensue, let Tusks lead the charge. A wild boar/bighorn fusor, he was a master of hand to hand combat. And although big and slow, had gained her trust with his child-like nature. Lastly, standing next to Tusks was Basin, the sloth/dolphin hybrid. Whisper liked Basin, grateful for her quiet nature. More at home in the water, she had nevertheless volunteered for this mission and not even Alpha Hound could deny her.

With a hand motion, she summoned her three compatriots to her side. Drawing a rough map in the dirt, she laid out their positions again.

"Swoop and Prowl say the sensors detected Predacon activity here. That puts them just over that ridge, in the vicinity of the lake there. First, we'll-"

"Agh, can't we just mount a frontal assault?," barked the impatient Snarl.

"No, we have no recon information on the Predacon position, they've already chased Eclipse off twice. Whatever's going on down there, we've go to find out. Alpha Hound said not to engage them if possible."

"C'mon, girlie, why don't you give command to me, Houndy won't mind." He gave a sly grin.

Turning a dark look upon him, she responded, "My name is not "girlie" and what I order, you do!"

"Ah...ahem?" All eyes turn toward Basin. "I w-was just thinking you two are making a lot of noise."

Whisper sighed. "You're right, Basin. I'm sorry, team." Clenching her teeth, she looked at Snarl, "My command, understand?"

"I-ah, slag it!" Defeated, the Taz devil stumped away.

"He'll get over it, he always does," whispered Basin.

"Tusks follow cat-lady."

Looking up at the towering warrior, she replied, "Thank you, Tusks, you're a noble bot," and gifted him with one of her rare smiles. His little squeal of happiness almost sent the lady-bots into convulsions of laughter.

Eventually, the group re-formed and spent another hour traversing the thick forest. The trees gradually receded and the group found themselves walking across large glades. Changing to beast-mode, they stalked through the tall grass. Upon reaching the rim of the lake valley, Whisper chose an outcropping of rock that jutted out, giving a good view down below. They received a spectacular view with the pristine lake shimmering in the early morning sun. It's rough shores were strewn with craggy boulders and gnarled trees. While Snarl and Tusks kept watch, Basin and Whisper set about scanning for Predacon activity.

Minutes pass until, "I see Razorquill, Whisper!"

"Where?"

"He's on the island, in the shadows of that embankment."

"Ah, but what's he doing?"

"...Standing guard, maybe...?"

Abruptly both lady-bots turn towards a commotion on the opposite shoreline. Several trees are shaking and disturbed birds fly up from the forest.

"Primus, Whisper, what is that?"

Emerging from the trees, two hulking forms break through the foliage. One, a chimera, a combination of lion, goat and snake, the other, a hybrid beetle/tortoise.

"Ah, slag! With Siege and Savage there, this will prove troublesome."

"They're carrying some sort of equipment."

"Scan it with the sensor-pad, we'll let Swoop and Prowl check it out. Hmmm...they're using hover-platforms to get to the island. What's there?"

The two continued to record information for a few minutes. Finally, Whisper stood up and motioned for the squad to fall back. This got a growl of frustration from Snarl. The group withdrew back to the forests where Snarl couldn't hold it anymore.

"What in the Pit were we doing there!? Pfah! Scanning for activity."

"Snarl, will you sh-"

"Yahhhhhhhh!"

Out from a patch of foliage in front of them ran a pack of Predacons. In the lead were two abominations, Daggerfangs, a sabertooth/crocodile and Militant, an ant/millipede.

Snarl barely avoided getting impaled by Daggerfang's sword. He countered with his slashing claws, beating the mad fusor back. Whisper saw Tusks get hit with a heavy weapon of Militant's and then she was fighting for her life. Manterror, a praying mantis, was doing his best to slice her into smaller pieces.

Leaping over his head, she screamed into her comlink, "Eclipse! Sector delta seven, NOW!"

Out came her paralysis cord, whipping around Manterror's torso and head. Instantly, volts of electricity shot through him as he collapsed into stasis lock.

Tusks, shaking off the hit from Militant, saw the "bad bug" pulling some sort of chain gun from his belt. Anger overtook him, as he grabbed Militant by the throat and proceeded to bash his head into a nearby tree.

Basin, in the back saw Whisper felled by a shot from above. Looking up, she saw the beetle Scarem clinging from a tree limb high above. Aiming her own weapon, she saw her shots bounce off the armored thug.

"Tusks! Snarl! We have to get out of here!"

Tusks, looking up from the many pieces of Militant, grabbed the prone form of Whisper and began to withdraw from the fight.

Basin and Snarl, who was still battling Daggerfangs, tried to hold the rear. All of them would most likely have been overwhelmed if not for Eclipse. Hurtling from the sky, her precise aim took down Predacon and tree alike, creating mass confusion. Using the precious time, the three Maximals fled the scene.

A few miles later, Eclipse met the trio as they rested under a tree. Looking at the battered forms, she thanked Primus she'd came in time.

"Once Whisper comes to, tell her to change into beast mode. No worries about the preds either, they're licking their wounds from what we did to them."

Whisper came to on the walk back to the Astroplex, the Maximal base, and changed to beast mode. As they neared the ship, the saw the slightly glowing aura of the ship's outer shields.

Eclipse stepped up. "K-9, stand down."

She thought sadly of the fallen Maximal. The only one to be guarding the Astroplex when the Preds betrayed the Maximals and stole the ship's shuttles. He had been left for dead after a terrible beating. The only way to save him, even for the brilliant Swoop and Prowl, was to take the spark from his dying body and place it in the ship's main computer. Even in this form, he continued to watch them since he was now connected to the shield and defense systems.

As she thought about this, a small laser beam shot out and scanned the group outside. "Affirmative, patrol. You guys look terrible."

"Thanks for noticing, ya dumb mutt!" growled the disgruntled Tasmanian devil.

The squad filed through the main doors of the ship/base. Eclipse turned, "Basin, why don't you and Tusks report with me to the Council Hall to talk with Prowl and Alpha Hound. Snarl, you look like you're going to fall over..."

"That stinkin' saber-lizard must have a cyber venom on his weapons. Wait till I see him again, I'll-"

"Think about it as you and Whisper go to the CR chambers."

Still ranting, the Taz devil helped his comrade down the hallway.

The remaining three went through the ship's many corridors until they came to the Council Hall. It was a huge room, in the center was a long, rectangular table with chairs set on all sides. At one end, was an immense chair with a gavel resting on the seat. No one sat there except for a Prime. The group was greeted by Prowl, a silver owl and the second officer of the forces on the ship. He was watching a holo-emitter running on the table. "What's that, Prowl?"

"It's a hologram of our combat room, dear Basin. I wished to see the extent of Skysaber's abilities, how much he can handle."

The hologram showed the large combat room in the ship, Skysaber, a wolf/owl fusor and Eclipse's mate, was surrounded by golems. Sparkless protoforms, these soul-less robots were formed to help drill the crew for combat readiness. At the end of the combat scenario, they would be reverted to "liquid" form and repaired to fight another day. "He doesn't have a chance, Prowl, four of them at the same time!"

"Have no fear, Eclipse, your mate is quite good."

As he spoke, Skysaber brought his wings forward, extending them over his shoulders. Sweeping them down in a vicious arc, he sliced through two of the robots effortlessly. Ramming his spear into another, using it as leverage, he catapulted himself over the fallen form and ripped his claws into the last one.

Off clicked the holo-emitter, as Prowl leaned back.

"Wow..."

"Correct, Basin, as I said, very good."

Their thoughts were interrupted by the side door sliding open. In strode their leader, one of the last warriors of the Great War, Alpha Hound. His body bore the scars of countless battles, forgotten by many over the years except him. Rising as a champion of the Autobots, he acquired the alpha title and the respect of many. With the Maximals gaining power on Cybertron, Alpha Hound changed his form to fit his namesake and ascended to the ranks of the Maximals Elders. Easily the size of the largest Predacon or Maximal, he joined the group at the table.

"I heard there was some trouble, report, Eclipse."

With Basin and Tusks' help, the fox/falcon related the day's events. Basin handed the sensor-pads she and Whisper had used to Prowl.

"Hmmm...some of this is for defensive purposes but as for the rest, I'll have to review this with Swoop."

"Very well, when you two are done, we'll have to make a decision. I want that information gone over quickly and options for our next move."

Saluting his leader, Prowl left to find his colleague.

"As for the rest of you, good work. I regret this had to happen, though. Why don't all of you get some down-time, because if you thought today was bad, wait till tomorrow. I'll need rested and ready warriors. Eclipse, let Skysaber know he'll be going tomorrow." The group dispersed, with Eclipse heading to the combat room. There she found SS dismantling the golems.

Upon seeing her, he almost broke into a smile, almost.

"I was worried about you today. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine 'Sabe. Whisper and Snarl were hurt though. I'm going to check on them before I go into sleep-mode."

"Hmmm..."

"You'll be on the mission tomorrow, whatever that is. I guess Hound will let us work together again."

"Excellent. I'm tired of these golems, I need a real Pred to take on."

"Well, I'm glad one of us is happy. Or the closest thing to it. I'll see you later" They embraced momentarily before she moved on.

He continued to stand there, looking out a large window overlooking the surrounding countryside.

A beautiful land indeed, he thought to himself, one worthy o-

"Wha-!?"

He caught a flash in the forested hills on the edge of the shields. He had momentarily caught a familiar face, and large black wings.

"...So, black-spark, you did indeed follow me. I look forward to meeting you again." His thoughts preoccupied him as he walked from the deck.

High up on the bridge, in the command chair, Alpha Hound was thinking to himself as well.

What he had come to help Primal with, he was now mired in as well. Slowly, he looked to the direction of the lake.

"It begins."

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