Bumblebee stopped to let Rafael out just inside the base, then transformed to his full size to tower over his young companion.
"Hi guys," Raf called to the people in the room, humans and Autobots alike.
"Hey, Raf. Who's your friend?" Jack asked. Raf was confused.
"Who?" He asked, turning to see a teenage girl step out from behind Bumblebee.
"Hi," she said, waving. Everyone stared at her for a moment.
"Do any of us know you?" Jack finally asked.
"No. Sorry, my name's Sonia," she said, half smiling. She turned to Raf. "I came with you because, no offense, but I don't like motorcycles." She addressed the last part to Arcee and Jack. She winced and looked over her shoulder down the hall as Miko strummed a chord in some large, empty room so the sound echoed and reechoed off the walls toward them.
"And I don't like heavy metal either," Sonia added.
"You multiply too fast," Ratchet muttered under his breath as he returned to the computer console.
"Ratchet's right," Raf said. "We can't keep taking in more people."
"Well, here I am," Sonia said.
"Optimus?" Arcee looked to their leader for guidance.
"We will do what we can to protect the children, but we must be more careful to remain hidden in the future."
The console beeped.
"Optimus, there appears to be a Decepticon ship, a big one, headed toward Earth," Ratchet said as Optimus turned to look.
"The Nemesis?" Asked Jack.
"No, too small," Ratchet replied, then, "they're coming in too fast." Sonia's gray eyes were riveted to the screen as the crosshairs marking the position of the ship sped toward Earth, disappearing as it crashed.
"The ship crashed, Lord Megatron. I doubt there are any survivors," Airachnid reported. Megatron scowled.
"I could go to see if anything is salvageable," she suggested. Megatron didn't trust Airachnid in the slightest, but he believed she might be useful for this mission.
"Yes," he began. "Bring along a group of lower class warriors. Knockout will accompany you." Knockout looked at Airachnid uncomfortably. Breakdown seemed to admire and hate her at the same time, and that worried him.
"Wait for the Autobots to find it first," Megatron continued. Airachnid was puzzled by this.
"They may be in for a little surprise, and we don't want some of our own to fall prey to someone's science experiment," Megatron concluded. The corner of Airachnid's mouth twitched upward. Lord Megatron always had a plan, and Airachnid was smart enough to follow those plans. To an extent, of course.
Indeed, Megatron knew exactly what was on that ship.
"So let me get this straight. You guys are aliens who can transform into human technology?" Sonia asked.
"That is correct," Optimus confirmed.
"My mind is blown." Ratchet looked at the girl with a slightly disapproving expression.
"Optimus, we should get a move on if we're going to get there before the Cons do," Arcee said. Optimus nodded.
"Ratchet, remain here with the children." Ratchet muttered something under his breath again.
"The rest of you, come with me. Decepticons are not easily defeated, and we do not know what they may have brought with them." With that, they disappeared through the groundbridge.
"Wow. I don't see how anyone could've survived that," said Arcee, emerging from the bridge. Before them was a huge smoking wreck of a ship, it's nose buried in the dirt, an enormous trench twice the length of the ship gouged into the earth.
"Still, we must approach with extreme caution," Optimus said, arming himself. The others followed suit.
"Can't argue with that," said Arcee. They approached the crash slowly, finding the back open as they came nearer. The ship was very large, though nowhere near the size of the Nemesis, with a white interior, so scorch marks showed up easily, everywhere.
"The place was torched," Bulkhead commented.
A long hallway ran the length of the ship, with doors leading off on either side. About a quarter of the way down, they heard the entrance slowly close behind them. They stopped and turned around, but it was too far away to do anything about in time. As soon as the door closed, they noticed the corridor was illuminated by emergency lights underneath the walkway, so they didn't shine directly in their eyes. The red lights did, however, give an eerie feeling of impending doom for anyone inside the ship.
A soft scuttling sound suddenly came from above them.
"Uh, was it just me, or did that sound like scraplets?" Bulkhead shuddered at the memory of their encounter with scraplets at the base. The small, metal-eating creatures from their home planet were cute at first glance, but could cause serious damage in swarms. Even by themselves, in fact.
"Those scorch marks are coming from the ventilation shafts," Arcee observed.
"Could something be in the ventilation shafts?" Bulkhead asked, still worrying about scraplets. The scuttling came again.
"Yes. There could be," Arcee replied, backing away from the nearest vent in the ceiling. Bumblebee made a very small sound. They stood for a while in silence.
"I don't really wanna go through any of these doors anymore," Bulkhead confessed.
They finally came to the bridge. It was completely charred. The windows were blackened and partially buried so the only light strained to filter through the top of the "custom tinted" windows. Still seated in their chairs were the dead crew members, their captain lying on the floor.
"What hap-," Arcee was about to voice the question on all of their minds when she was cut off by Sonia's scream. They turned to see her standing in the doorway with a scraplet locked onto her forearm. They watched in horror as she gripped the creature behind the head with her other hand and pried the top off. She then selected something inside and tore it out, causing the scraplet to let go and fall to the floor with a clang, dead. Sonia plucked something out of her arm and dropped it on the floor. She slid down against the wall, clutching her injured arm. There was a pool of energon on the floor beside her. Arcee ran over to her.
"What were you thinking, following us? Are you alright?" She offered Sonia a hand.
"I'm okay," Sonia said, getting up without help. "Follow me." She led them several doors down, on the left side of the ship. A scanner appeared above the door and surveyed the space before it.
"Wait! That could be-," began Bulkhead. The door opened. "A trap," he finished. They entered a room with no ventilation. Several dead lay on the floor, victims to impact, not flame; the scorching in this room was minimal.
"I'm guessing this is the infirmary," said Arcee. Sonia nodded.
"I think this ship is a giant laboratory. I explored a bit. Is that medical tape?" She pointed to a roll of white material on a shelf high above her.
"Well, yeah, but it's for Cybertronians," Bulkhead said, in answer to her question.
"It'll have to do," she said.
Cybertronian medical tape, especially the type developed in labs by Decepticon scientists, was very strong. But so was Bulkhead. He tore off a section, which caused the roll to fly across the room and force Bumblebee to duck to avoid being hit in the head, finally bouncing off of Optimus, who had been studying something on the wall. He glanced sideways when the tape collided with him.
"Oh. Sorry about that, Optimus," Bulkhead apologized. Bumblebee complained.
"And you Bumblebee." He handed the torn tape to Sonia. It was about the size of a towel. She raised an eyebrow. Arcee found a pair of scissors and cut a small strip for Sonia to use effectively. Sonia took it, grimacing as she wrapped the bandage tightly around her arm. Bumblebee buzzed something to the group.
"You have a point, Bumblebee," said Optimus. "Why would a Cybertronian vessel, regardless of alliance, require ventilation?"
"Sonia says it's a laboratory, maybe they had aliens running around," Arcee suggested. They all looked at her.
"That is a possibility. They seem to have an infestation of scraplets," said Optimus. Bulkhead shuddered.
"Do you think that's what brought them down?" Asked Arcee.
"I believe it is very likely that scraplets caused this ship to crash," Optimus replied.
"I think we should get out of here," said Bulkhead. "I don't wanna run into scraplets again." Bumblebee agreed. Arcee turned to Sonia.
"How did you know how to kill that scraplet?" She asked. Sonia shrugged.
"Breaking things usually works," she replied simply.
"That's true, but let's go now," Bulkhead said anxiously, through gritted teeth.
"That might be a problem," Sonia said. "You need a key code to get out."
"We have the groundbridge to get out. Ratchet, we're ready for groundbridge." Arcee called base and received no answer. "Arcee to base, do you copy? Scrap. The com-link's down."
"Oh, great. We're stuck here," Bulkhead lamented.
"No, we're not. We'll find a way out," Arcee said. "We could break out."
"And risk introducing scraplets to the rest of the world. In any case, we should attempt to find an alternative before resorting to brute strength," Optimus said. "Sonia, I assume you have not yet uncovered a means of escape."
"No, sir," she said.
"Then we'd best begin our search now," Optimus said, moving to the door.
"Not me! I'm stayin' right here." Bulkhead stated. "Safe and sound."
"Huh. The Bot who can take five Cons at once can't take a bug," Arcee scorned, though she knew how dangerous scraplets were.
"Hey, I'm worried about the swarms," Bulkhead said defensively.
"Then come on. There can't be that many," Arcee continued.
"Infested or not many. It's one or the other," Bulkhead countered. But, reluctantly, he stood and followed them out into the corridor, leaving the safety of the infirmary.
Somewhat closer to the front than middle, two more hallways led off the main one like wings, angled backward slightly.
"Arcee, Bumblebee, search the wings. Bulkhead, the front. I'll take the back," Optimus ordered. They heard more scuttling from above. Bulkhead rushed to the nearest room and entered. Arcee took the left wing and Bumblebee took the right.
"Can I help search?" Sonia asked.
"I would prefer you stayed with me," Optimus said.
"I'll be alright," she said. Optimus looked at her bandaged arm and thought for a moment.
"While you are in the care of the Autobots it is my responsibility to make sure you are kept from harm. How would your parents feel if they knew you were here?"
"I don't have any parents," Sonia said. "I live by myself."
"It does not matter," Optimus continued. "I will not allow anyone to come to harm if I can prevent it."
"But I'll be in this one right here." She pointed the door on the corner of the right wing and the back segment of the ship. "And I'll scream as loud as I can if I'm in trouble." Sonia didn't think she would win this argument.
"Very well," Optimus said, much to her surprise. "But exercise extreme caution."
"Yes, sir," she said, stepping up to a door and allowing herself to be scanned. She entered. Optimus waited a moment, thinking, then entered the adjacent door.
Sonia waited a while before peering out of her room. No one in sight. She ran to the front segment of the ship, to the second door up from the right wing. The scanner appeared as usual, but instead of then opening the door, a small Cybertronian number pad extended from the wall. Small by Cybertronian standards anyway. Sonia looked up at the writing on the door, and something clicked in her mind. She typed in the code on the number pad and entered the room it had locked.
"Whoa," she said to the sight that lay before her. A giant machine stood from floor to ceiling in a cavernous room.