The Chase

By Tom Zavier

    Prowl paced a steady circle around the shuttle's bridge. He could feel the deckplates tremble--barely holding together under the stress of Hyperspace. It was a miracle they were even in Hyperspace to begin with--the automation systems had been untouched by the Decepticons, and they had virtually destroyed all the other controls in their rush to return to Cybertron. Add that to the damage of the attack...
    Prowl didn't even want to think about that. Decepticons wouldn't attack one of their own--besides, neither faction, Autobot or Decepticon, had a fleet like that--something else was out there, something hostile.
    They'd been in Hyperspace for, what-? Twenty minutes? Things had almost calmed down. Things were almost under control. They were on-route to Oberon, approximate ETA: three hours, forty five minutes, with course corrections. If the Hyperdrive held.
    Hoist, Skids, and Snarl had engineering under control. Jazz had been moved from the brig to the infirmary by Beachcomber. Up here, Sunfire had taken the helm, with Arcee and Inferno manning other bridge stations as needed. Seaspray and Perceptor had begun assorted repairs. Swoop, Slag, and Smokescreen were nowhere to be found.
    That disturbed Prowl, deeply. Where had they gone? The only three Decepticons that were still functional had been found on-board: Blitzwing (on the bridge), Breakdown (hiding in a corridor), and Windsweeper (who gave himself up, in engineering). All were heavily damaged, and in no condition to fight. Blitzwing and Breakdown, only semi-conscious, were placed in the reactivated brig under observation by Jetfire. Windsweeper, strangely cheerful (glad to be alive?) had insisted he be allowed to help clean up the shuttle's ravaged corridors, littered with the jetsam of sudden battle. The findings were--gruesome.
    He told Sludge and Sideswipe--who helped, supervised, and subtly interrogated him--of the shuttle's Decepticon compliment, and identified the remains of fallen warriors as they were found. Out of a compliment of twelve, minus three captives, only four bodies--if that term could be applied--were discovered. Five Decepticons were completely unaccounted for.
    Eight Transformers in all were missing! Had they been abducted? Captured by those unknown attackers?--who, incidentally, had left no remains of their appearance?
    Too many questions! And Prowl had no idea where to look for the answers. Also, he wondered why they hadn't been followed into Hyperspace by their pursuers. Their trajectory and tetra-vector of jump would have been easy enough to caculate by their followers--had they wanted to. Perhaps they had just been let go.
    "Prowl," Sunfire said suddenly, her smooth, calm voice strangely cold. "We're losing our integrity field. It won't hold much longer."
    Prowl activated the shuttle comm-unit; "Hoist," he said. "We need to keep that field up, or--"
    Hoist's voice replied, scratchy and faint: "Can't do it, Prowl. We'll have to drop back into Realspace, until I can stabilize the field..."
    "Alright," Prowl growled. "You heard him, Sunfire. Take us out."
    She nodded.
    They materialized on the outskirts of the Cindras star system--at least, so said Autobot star charts. An obscure little emptiness, uninhabited, uninteresting. They wouldn't be here long.
    Or so Prowl hoped.
    But the moment after they had entered Realspace, so did another ship--they had been followed after all. However, it was not one of the ships that had attacked them earlier. It was much smaller, and of a totally unfamiliar configuration.
    "Hail them," Prowl ordered.
    "Not responding," Arcee replied crisply. "It looks like they're moving in for a--"
    The deckplates shuddered.
    "Evasive action!" Prowl cried. "Inferno--have we any operable weapons?"
    Inferno shook his head. "Not a one."
    He turned to Sunfire. "Sunfire--I'll take the helm. Get Jetfire and get out there--try to cover us. Understand?"
    She nodded--she understood too well. Sacrifice two, for the higher good. Without a word, she left the bridge.
                                                *                                                     *                                                                   *
    Upon the bridge of the attacking shuttlecraft, Midnight smiled broadly. "It seems your aim has improved, Nightracer."
    Nightracer frowned--but said nothing, still staring at her computer console.
    "Increase weapons power," Midnight ordered sharply. "Ignore those two Autobots--our shields will handle it. Concentrate fire upon the shuttle. I want it blasted to dust!"
                                                *                                                     *                                                                     *
    Sunfire's radio crackled: "Keep your distance, Sunny! We don't want to be vaporized..."
    Strafing their target with unparrelled skill, they could only watch their shots splatter off the shuttlecraft's powerful shielding. Adjusting their flight-paths accordingly, they swept around to make another pass...
    "You worry too much, Jetfire," was Sunfire's harsh reply. "If they wanted to blast us, they could have already with ease. They don't think we're worth the attention. Not yet, anyway."
    Jetfire armed his missiles, and targeted the shuttlecraft's weapon ports. "Well, let's change that, now! That's why we're out here, right?"
    Sunfire didn't reply. She knew she had her own Hyperdrive--something Prowl hadn't thought of. So why did she even stay? What held her here--to almost certain death?
                                                *                                                     *                                                                     *
    "Engines hit," announced Ransak. "On their current course, they'll be caught in the second planet's gravity well."
    Midnight scowled. "Not good enough! I want them destroyed, not marooned. Arm fusion torpedoes--and fire when ready." Those Autobots had embarrassed him and he meant for them to pay for that. Besides, Megatron would only accept their deaths for his failure to stop them earlier--stranding them here wouldn't be good enough.
                                                *                                                      *                                                                     *
    "I'll try to bring us down on Cindras 2..." Prowl's voice wavered. "If we make it!"
    "Hoist reports total lose of sub-light drive," Inferno cried, above the noise of rending metal and screaming alarms. "We're finished!"
    "What about Sunny? And Jetfire?" Arcee cried.
    "They're on their own!" was Prowl's reply.
                                                *                                                       *                                                                     *
    Their attacks were useless.
    "What shall we do now?" said Jetfire, "stay out here, and get shot? We're doing no good."
    Sunfire didn't respond immediately. She watched as some sort of projectiles tore into the already-crippled Autobot shuttle, and exploded with tremendous force. She feared the worse...
    Jetfire kept talking over the radio: "You have Hyperdrive, don't you? Go to Oberon! Report for us! It's our only chance."
    "What?" she replied, absently.
    "You'd better go now--quick--before they can track your trajectory. Go!"
    But--she couldn't.
    "No," she replied, "what about you, then? I can't just leave you all--"
    "Don't be a fool! What good can either of us do now? Jump for Oberon!"
    "I said no!" she screamed. Firing her retro-rockets with sudden passion, she raced after their fallen comrades, towards Cindras 2. She called over the radio: "I'm not running away. Are you?"
    Jetfire didn't reply--but he did follow after her.
                                               *                                                         *                                                                     *
    Nightracer felt dissatisfied. "They're moving out of optimum range, Commander. Do we follow?"
    Midnight's optics glowed a fierce red, as he asked: "Powerdive...?"
    Powerdive shook his head. "We won't catch them before they crash, Commander."
    "The two Autobots have broken off their, er, `attack'. They are following the shuttle."
    Midnight shifted in his seat. "They're too small to hit at this range, I suppose. Am I right, Nightracer...?"
    She nodded slowly.
    "Well!" he said with sudden resolve. "I will follow them down also. You are ordered to report back to the Dark Glory immediately after my departure." He leapt out of his seat and started off the bridge.
    "But--what're you gonna do?" Nightracer asked.
    "Simply--make sure--that there are no survivors." And, baring his fangs with a low chuckle, he slipped off the bridge, a shadow in the dim light.