Up From Underground by Ivy_Bohnlein
featured storySummary: Separated from the other Autobot femmes after an explosive trap goes wrong, Whiz finds herself trapped in the underground tunnels of Cybertron with a group of irate Decepticons and some very hungry turbo rats.
Categories: Generation One Characters: None
Genre: Drama
Location: Library
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 6664 Read: 2066 Published: 02/01/00 Updated: 02/01/00

1. Up From Underground by Ivy_Bohnlein

Up From Underground by Ivy_Bohnlein

Based on characters created by Hasbro and the Admin/Players of the Transformers 2k5 MUSH.

* * *

"He's right behind us! Whiz, hurry up!"

I looked up at my tall, red companion with a glare. "Do you want these charges placed right, Firestar, or do you want them to bring this tunnel down on our heads instead of Shockwave's?"

Chromia looked over at both of us with irritation flickering in her ordinarily warm blue optics. "Cut the chatter, both of you. Let Whiz do her work, Firestar."

I gave Firestar my best 'so there' look and turned back to the project. This time, I pushed all the extra thoughts from my mind firmly. They were right, Shockwave and his goons were right behind us, and I was supposed to stop him. I placed the final charge precisely, near the base of one of the main support pillars. "Done," I announced, "Let's get out of here."

"I knew you'd get it, Whiz," Moonracer said with her usual high spirits. She leaped forward, her pale blue body turning and folding into her more compact vehicular form.

"Save the congratulations for when we get back to the base," Elita-I, our leader, said firmly. Just when I was starting to feel good about myself, too. She held up a slender pink arm and waved toward the exit corridor. "We need to get this energon out of here safely before we start patting ourselves on the back."

I felt a slight tremor under my feet. "Shockwave's drones," I announced. I hardly needed to; the others were already preparing to leave. I took a position near the exit from the booby-trapped chamber as the others transformed, ready to roll out at my signal. On my wrist console, I punched up the identification codes for each of the explosive packets.

Oh no. Where is it?

I checked again, this time feeling a familiar constricting feeling in my chest as anxiety took over.

"Whiz?" Elita asked, as gently as possible. "What is it?"

I scrambled to my feet. "The last explosive! I didn't arm the countdown mechanism!"

Firestar revved her engine unconsciously as Chromia called, "Whiz! How could you forget?"

"It's not important now," Elita said, trying to be heard over my anxious sisters. "It's too late to go back in there."

"Sorry, Elita," I said, "But it's the key to the whole chain-reaction. I'll make it." I ran into the chamber, heading straight for the explosive and trying to ignore the shouts from behind me. I could feel the ground vibrating even more strongly as the Decepticon drones approached. Not much time...

"Whiz, come back here!" Sunrunner urged, "You're fast, but not that fast!"

I shut them out of my mind as I knelt in front of the explosive, punching in a special code to arm the timer. As it bleeped in acknowledgment, my time ran out.

Shockwave's evenly modulated voice simply said, "Get her."

I rose to my feet and sprinted for the exit, starting the countdown for the explosives as I ran.

"Go!" I shouted to my waiting companions, "They're armed!"

Elita started her engine. "You heard her! Move!"

As they sped away, Firestar called back to me, her voice shaking with panic. "Hurry, Whiz!"

Laser fire bounced off of the walls and floor as the drones crowded into the chamber behind me. Perfect, just keep following - get as many in here as you can... I transformed, folding myself into a sleek green airskimmer and slicing through the air on my way toward the door.

It was actually a good plan, but I hadn't counted on Shockwave dirtying his hands-well, hand -- by firing on me directly. The poor aim of Decepticon drones had saved my life more than once before, so I knew that the blast that sliced straight into my right hoverjet had to have come from Big Purple himself. Not that it was much consolation as I careened out of control and broadsided the wall hard.

I was rattled, but not too badly damaged. I fired up the jets once more, heading for safety even though I already knew it was too late. A series of popping and crumbling sounds filled the room as the explosives hidden around the chamber exploded. As expected, the drones stopped as Shockwave tried to process what had just happened. I had a split second to take pride in my work-after all, when the explosives are placed correctly, the Cons never know what just happened until they're buried under the ceiling-before I realized that I was going to be a victim of my own cleverness.

I tried desperately for one last push through the exit, but to my horror, I saw the tunnel's entrance collapse just as I neared it. I slammed on my brakes, spinning around in a skid and catching a quick glimpse of Shockwave diving through the opposite door as the chamber between us literally fell apart. A large chunk of reinforced ferroconcrete plummeted from the ceiling to crush in the head of one drone, whose body I pulled over me as meagre protection from the falling rubble. At some point, something must have struck me, because I blacked out.

I came to in darkness, staring at a pair of red eyes. I stifled my startled gasp as the facts percolated in my brain. First off, it was a good sign that there was a pair of eyes-at least it's not Shockwave. Second, once I regained my sense of perspective, I realized that the optics were very small. Just a turbo-rat. I shifted my hand impatiently and it scampered off in a hurry. If that was all I had to deal with down here, I'd be very lucky. I raised my head carefully, lowering an infra-visor over my optics to get a better look at my surroundings. The room was filled with debris, some areas still glowing with the residual heat of the explosions. Several of the hulks next to me were the rapidly cooling shells of deactivated drones, but there was no sign of anything living, aside from myself and the turbo-rats. Lucky me.

I dragged myself to a sitting position, glad that I had used the drone's body as protection. I was okay, but it was halfway crushed, and definitely twisted beyond recognition. I took a minute to do an internal system check and popped open an access panel on my calf to correct some damage to its circuitry, then checked another damaged panel at my waist. Satisfied that I was in good working order, I clambered to my feet.

By now, the others were probably back at the base and wondering what happened to me. It was dangerous, but I had to try to contact them. I tried our most secure frequencies, then dropped in desperation to broadband Autobot channels. It was hopeless - I was either too far underground, or the collapse had damaged my equipment. Great. You're on your own now, Whiz-kid.

I armed my railgun and dropped to a low crouch, moving with a dragging step that the others had taught me. Deaden your footfalls in the tunnels, you never know who'll be listening. Listen for what's ahead. Careful, careful, careful.

Double-check, Whiz. Hurry, Whiz. Stop daydreaming, Whiz. As annoying as the chorus had always been, I wished I could hear it right then. Better than the silence, darkness, emptiness of these tunnels. I thought of them in the base, waiting for me to come home. Worried. And who would repair their injuries if I didn't make it back?

The original exit was blocked, but the collapse of the walls had exposed another passageway to the right. I didn't recognize it, but maybe it would join up with something familiar. I shrugged. Not that there was much choice, I thought as I watched the turbo-rats make the corridor into their new Main Street. I wasn't going to find an exit that they couldn't find.

I crept down the tunnel carefully, trying to imagine what Elita or Moonracer would do. They were the ones who were good at this, after all. The other Femmes only pulled me out of the base for the occasional bomb-placing, not for everyday raids. I was needed at home, they told me. We can't risk losing our best medic and technician, they said. Yeah, right. I knew what they really meant. Whiz, you're too young.

Too inexperienced. You don't think things through.

Well, I'd show them. I'd make it back to base all on my own, and just when they'd given up hope, I'd walk in through the doors. They'd all yell, "Whiz!" and they'd run up and hug me and make me a hero. Yeah. And they'd tell me that they'd realized how important I was to them, and how much they missed me, and that I wasn't a screw-up after all. "Oh Whiz!" they'd say, "We didn't know if you'd make it! You saved us all!" I'd show them...

A muffled crash startled me out of my daydream. Behind me-it must be the Decepticons breaking into the collapsed chamber again. Belatedly I realized that I could feel the tell-tale vibration under my feet. Idiot, I cursed myself through my clenched jaw. Not paying attention really is going to get me killed. I'd taken the only route out of the chamber, too, so they were going to find me pretty quickly if I didn't think of something else fast. My optics darted around the tunnel for a place to hide and fell upon a narrow side passage-probably for maintenance drones. I wriggled my way in just as light flashed into the tunnel from the chamber behind me. In the shadows, I could make out a steady stream of turbo-rats fleeing into my little tunnel to escape the light. Oh well, you know what they say, all Primus' creatures, and all that. Besides, they might make natural camouflage. I lay on the ground, sending my small and squeaky companions scurrying, and curled up into a protective ball. I had to make myself as unnoticeable as possible. The rats lost no time in swarming back over me, peppering my metal skin with their tiny footsteps. The feeling gave me the creeps, and I could barely stifle a shudder. They're just rats, I reminded myself, trying to keep calm. Shockwave's the real danger.

I distracted myself by listening to the approaching footsteps. I must have been out for a while if Shockwave has already been able to get to Decepticon headquarters and bring some new troops down here. Hmmm... instead of just the usual dull hum of the drones' rolling treads, there were two sets of actual footsteps aside from Shockwave's own. Not only did he have drones with him-at least two, maybe more-he'd brought down some of the Decepticons with brains. Well, what passed for them among Decepticons, anyway. I suppose I should have been flattered by their obvious regard for my abilities, but I wasn't in much of a mood for that at the time. I was too busy feeling doomed.

I was also busy trying to force myself to keep drawing in air. By now, I was blanketed by a layer of turbo-rats, just like a part of the floor. I had formed a little air-pocket in front of my face by folding my arms over my head, but it was starting to feel a bit too little. The walls were too close, the rats were taking all of my air, the Decepticons were going to find me... it took all of my self control to keep from leaping to my feet and bolting out of my hiding place.

And I had never really thought about what turbo-rats actually lived on down here. Not until I felt the sting of a tiny set of teeth sinking into my arm. I winced, but was unable to wave the rat away this time. The Decepticons would be here any moment, and I had to remain still.

Besides, a little bite or two wouldn't kill me.

That was before the news got circulated through their tiny little collective rat-pack mind that this morsel was dead, or at least unable to fight back. A feast had just dropped into their midst. And as a wave of pain swept over me from a thousand different rat bites, I found out exactly what turbo-rats lived on down here.

I wanted to cry out, but I had to clamp my jaws shut and endure it. I fantasized about standing up and spraying them all with hot laser death, about stomping them to pieces, and about sending them all fleeing straight into an incinerator. But for every dream of revenge, there were ten dreams of escape. By now, raw panic had set in, constricting my chest and leaving me desperate to break out and run. Nothing could possibly be worse than this turbo-rat nightmare-by the time the Decepticons left, I would be too weak to get up again, I thought desperately as every circuit and servo in my body screamed at me to run as fast as I could.

Then all the turbo-rats stopped biting and froze in place. Luckily for me, they were unwilling to abandon their free banquet, even though they had just been spotlighted by the searching Decepticons.

"Ugh." An noise of disgust came from beyond my hiding niche, back in the main corridor.

"What is it, Guillotine?" Shockwave's level voice asked coldly.

The 'Con he'd called Guillotine responded, "Turbo-rats. Must be thousands of them, probably running from that explosion in the chamber back there."

"Any sign of the female Autobot?" another voice chimed in.

"Nah, nothing Windfinder. No little Femme is going to run straight into that. Those rats would eat her alive," Guillotine responded.

I choked and repressed a shudder. I knew it, oh Primus, I don't want to die this way!

"Are you certain? We will have to fan out ahead and cannot risk leaving the Femme behind us. I will not fail Megatron again by allowing any of them to escape," Shockwave said.

I just hoped they wouldn't call Windfinder over to take a look, or I might be discovered despite my rat-fur coat. He was one of the Seekers, if I remembered right, and was known for his ability to track down Autobots, rogue Decepticons, or anything else Shockwave might set him looking for. Guillotine, on the other hand, was a well-known interrogator. He was a self-styled expert in Autobot psychology, and prided himself on being able to find anyone's 'breaking point'. He could do exactly the right thing to make someone crack, quickly and without excessive torture. Not too bright, though, by all accounts. He was supposed to be pretty easy to fool if you just fed his ego. As long as he was convinced that I'd be too afraid of the rats to enter here, he wouldn't see me even if I waved at him.

"All clear, Shockwave. We're wasting time here-she's up ahead." Well, I was right about one thing today. I hated to admit it, though, but he was right. If I hadn't been so stupid, I would have kept running.

"Move out then, Decepticons. We must find her before she is able to meet up with her allies," Shockwave ordered. I heard their footsteps retreating and almost sighed aloud with relief.

Of course, I had to wait to allow them to get out of hearing range, and as soon as the light disappeared, the rats resumed snacking. The pain of each bite flowed into the pain of the others, leaving the whole of my exposed skin prickling with hurt and fear. Finally, one of them managed to maneuver in under my arms and bite my face, just above my jaw. That was the limit of what my nerves could endure. I leaped to my feet, sending them scurrying in all directions, as I grabbed the thing still attached to my cheek and flung it, unthinkingly, against the wall with all my strength. It made a broken squeak as it collided and then fell lifeless to the ground. By that time, though, I was slapping off the few that still remained clinging to me, not even feeling the punches that landed on my skin in the midst of my rage. I just had to get them off of me, it didn't matter how.

Finally they had all retreated, leaving me panting, alone, in the small passage. I kicked away the bodies of the dead rats, consigning them to their fate as food for the others of their pack. A dim sense of horror crept over me as I realized that I had just killed other living, feeling beings in the midst of my fury, but it was hard to feel remorse when I remembered lying helpless on the ground as they'd tried to eat me alive. I shivered. I'd remember that for the rest of my life.

I crept to the mouth of the passageway and peered out. This time, no more running blindly. I strained all my senses, and was able to detect the hum and vibration of the drones back in the main chamber. So much for going that way. I could probably take them out, but it would tell Shockwave right where I was. Not to mention that I'd be running right back into the heart of Decepticon territory. I looked uncertainly in the other direction. No choice. I was going to have to follow the Decepticons who thought that they were following me.

I moved out cautiously, keeping as close to the tunnel walls as possible. As I moved along, I began to hear snatches of conversation from up ahead.

"She can't.... ahead. Not... speed. And gotta... injured... cave-in." Guillotine said.

When Windfinder spoke, his voice was pitched with anger, and raised loud enough to be clearly heard. "I'm telling you, I can't detect any signs of her passing through here. That means we're either way behind her, or she's still back there."

Guillotine laughed. "Bet... back in... rubble. That or... not the tracker you think you are." I was getting close enough to hear everything, which meant that I was close enough to get myself into trouble. I hugged my railgun to my chest and pressed up against the wall, trying not to be heard or noticed.

"I'll show you what kind of tracker I am..." Windfinder growled menacingly, and there was the sound of a quick scuffle.

"Desist, both of you. The Autobot may be under the rubble, but if she is still on the run, she may yet be of use to us. There are three tunnels, which is why I brought you two with me. We will separate. Keep in radio contact." Shockwave admonished.

There was a low grumbling and then their footsteps moved off. Great, Whiz, take your chances. And just hope that you don't pick the tunnel with Shockwave in it.

When their movements had faded from hearing, I cautiously moved forward. A blinking red light at the junction ahead froze me in my tracks. A sensor. I wasn't in range yet, but I couldn't take any chances. I puled a frequency-scanner from subspace and ran down the list of usual Decepticon frequencies, stopping when I hit a match. Perfect. I managed to convince the sensor to accept my energy signature as authentic Decepticon goodness, then tentatively stepped into its range. The slender metal tube remained silent, its red light flashing with the same content rhythm. I allowed myself a sigh of relief, then continued across the room, checking the shadows for any more surprises. None appeared, so I studied the tunnels in vain for some kind of clues. Three of them, like Shockwave had said, and no sign of who had chosen which tunnel.

All I had to do was get in front of them, and I'd be home free. Windfinder wouldn't be able to use his pyramid-jet form in these close confines, Shockwave was slow in either mode, and if I remembered correctly, Guillotine transformed into a heavily armored, but very sluggish assault vehicle. If I could just get past one of them-and find my way out of here-I'd be as good as home.

I examined the tunnels again, this time trying to match their positions with areas that I knew. If this first one made a turn to the left, it might take me into more familiar territory. If not, well, all tunnels have to lead somewhere. I checked my weapons for readiness, then took the plunge down the tunnel and back into darkness.

My spirits lifted as the tunnel began to curve gently to the left. This was it! I was going to get out of here after all! A breeze on my face, fresh air, light...

A laser blast sizzling past my head shook that image from me quickly enough. I dove to the floor, shooting a fragmentation sphere forward to the area I thought the shot had come from. A roar of pain answered the sound of its explosion, and I couldn't help but smile. Score one for the kid.

Still, I couldn't just stand here and wait for the other Decepticons to arrive. Hoping to catch my opponent off-guard, I transformed and barreled down the corridor on a collision course with him. As an extra precaution, I dampened my sensors and turned on my floodlights at full power to blind him, spraying laser bolts around the tunnel randomly from the small turret mounted atop my airskimmer form.

Windfinder shouted angrily as he threw one arm up to protect his optics and lowered the other to fire upon me. Blasts scorched my sides, making my course waver, but I was determined to force my way down the tunnel, one way or another. I collided with him hard, the force of the impact shuddering through my frame, then gunned my hoverjets to leap beyond him. His arms reached up to grab me, but his fingers just scrabbled along my surface as I sped ahead. I'm free! I thought gleefully.

The feeling didn't last nearly long enough. Fires suddenly ripped through my side as a blast seared me, blowing out one of my hoverjets. I careened to the side and slammed into the wall, transforming to robot mode as I crumpled to the ground. I looked back in disbelief to see Guillotine standing in the hallway holding Shockwave, in gun form, in his hands. I groaned, wondering through the haze of pain how they'd gotten there so fast. Windfinder got to his feet as Shockwave flipped up into the air and came down in robot form.

The tracker came over to me, clutching his side, and snarled, "Did you think you could sneak up behind a tracker?" He kicked me in the side when I didn't respond. "Idiot Autobot!"

Shockwave's single glowing optic gleamed malevolently in his blank face. You did well to radio us when you did, Windfinder."

"Yeah, had a feeling she'd get away from you," Guillotine chimed in tauntingly.

Windfinder shoved Guillotine. "I would have had her if I didn't have to worry about hitting you behind her, you slagging idiot!"

Shockwave lowered his arm to train his plasma cannon on my face as he told his quarreling lackeys, "Silence. We have captured her and will extract the location of the others in time. Windfinder, hold her. Guillotine, get to work."

I was frozen, desperately trying to think of a way out of this. I directed all of my self-repair systems toward the damage to my hoverjets, on the slim chance that I might be able to break away somehow. When Windfinder dragged me off of the ground by my shoulders, I offered no resistance. What was the point? If I was going to get away now, it was going to be because of my brains, not my muscle. Good thing too, given the amount of muscle I was packing.

Windfinder held me up roughly, snickering malevolently in my audio when I whimpered as his grip twisted against a burned spot on my upper arm. Guillotine stuck his face in mine, tilting my chin up with a fingertip and examining the rat-bite on my face.

"So, you were hiding in that passage after all, little mouse. You were able to displace your fears of the rats because of your even greater terror of your natural enemies, isn't that right? Decepticon males, your polar opposites and natural superiors," he observed in a lofty tone.

I almost laughed in his face, but bit back my response. After all, he was supposed to be easy to fool if he thought he had you scared. My only response was to widen my optics in mock-terror as I thought, Please let me fool this idiot long enough to get away, so that someday I can discuss this superiority issue with him one on one....

Shockwave's optic glimmered watchfully over Guillotine's shoulder as he said, "Your psychological analysis is unnecessary. Just get the information. Megatron wants the females captured and destroyed."

My intent questioner nodded. "Did you hear that, little Autobot? I've got permission to do whatever I have to, unless you tell me what I want to know. Now, I don't want to hurt you, but I will if you don't cooperate. Where is your base?"

"What base?" I asked innocently.

My vision was momentarily blurred as he struck me across the face.

"The base for you and your female Autobot friends."

"What friends?" I echoed, smirking despite the ringing in my audio.

I was backhanded again, harder this time. For a minute, Shockwave even looked like he had two eyes. "I'm warning you," Guillotine said harshly, "You don't want to make me angry. Where is Elita-I?"

"Right now? Probably looking for me," I answered. It was more of a punch this time, and I probably would have fallen if I hadn't been held up. Windfinder took the opportunity to tighten his grip, and my arms throbbed under the pressure.

"Tell me, where do Elita-I and her female Autobots base their operations?" Guillotine hissed, pulling a metal rod from subspace.

"Iacon, like everyone else," I lied. Most of the Autobots in Iacon had no idea we still existed.

Guillotine swung the rod into my waist, doubling me over with the impact. I groaned, then screamed as he held it against my skin and flicked a switch that heated it into a white-hot brand. He pulled the horrible thing away, smirking in satisfaction at the blackened welt that was left across the pale grey metal. "Don't make me do that again, you lying Autobot scrap-spawn," he said in a very level, almost soothing voice. "I would hate to see you ruined by scorch-marks."

The pain had seared open whole new pathways in my mind as it swept aside all distractions. A plan formed itself in my mind, and I began preparing to put it into action as soon as my jets were fully functioning again.

"Tell me, little one," Guillotine tried again. "Where is the base?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," I coughed.

This time the burning wand was pressed across the knuckles of my left hand. I shrieked again, feeling currents of pain run up my arm each time my fingers moved even a small amount. Windfinder snickered again from behind me, obviously impressed by Guillotine's methods.
But Shockwave's optic glowed steadily in front of me. It didn't even affect him, this torture. I was like some insect to him, beneath his notice. He was just going to see how much I could endure before I cracked, as if this was all some cheap science-fair experiment. I channeled my anger at him; him and that impassive light that passed for a face. Just give me one good shot at him...

Guillotine put the wand away and pulled out a laser scalpel. "Don't make this more difficult for either of us," he told me calmly. "You don't really want to lose a finger or two, do you?"

Things were going from bad to worse. Where did these twisted monsters learn this stuff? "Actually," I gasped, "I always thought five was excessive."

His optics narrowed. "Take refuge in sarcasm if you wish, but it won't save you from the pain," he assured me. "Now, where is the base?"

"Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning," I said. Let them try to figure that one out.

"Is she delirious?" Shockwave asked, as if he saw it all the time.

Guillotine shook his head and motioned for Windfinder to hold my right hand up and steady.

"She merely finds herself clever. She needs to be taught otherwise." He then lopped off my smallest finger with a quick pass of the scalpel. At first, I only felt a stinging trace, since the cut was so clean. Then, as the finger tumbled to the ground, as searing wave of pain shot down my hand and into my arm. I howled in agony, desperately checking the status of the repairs. Just a little while longer, just a little...

For the first time, I was afraid I might not make it.

"Why continue this needless suffering? You need only tell us where the base is located, and we will allow you to go."

"Yeah," I gasped, "Right."

Guillotine grasped me by the jaw, tilting my head roughly from side to side. "Such a sweet, pretty little face," he observed, as Windfinder chuckled darkly. "Wouldn't it be a shame to see it destroyed?" There was an odd, eager sound to his voice.

I didn't get it. Why should I be more concerned about my face than anything else? As long as he didn't try for my optics, what was there to be afraid of? Then I realized-this was his big play. The breaking point that he was so fond of finding, the one thing that tossed his victims over the edge.

And he thought it was vanity.

"Not my face," I begged, playing along. This was my big chance. My engines were ready to make the big break, and he'd just left them all open for it. I wriggled, trying to look as if I was terrified.

Guillotine smiled, triumph sparking in his red optics, and Windfinder tightened his grip. My torturer leaned closer, putting the scalpel's blade against my cheek. "Tell me, where is the base?"

"I'd rather die!" I shouted, switching on an internal processor.

Guillotine stared at me as readings began to come into his sensor banks. "She's activated some kind of self-destruct mechanism."

"What?" Windfinder shouted, loosening his grip on my shoulders.

"Do not release her!" Shockwave ordered.

The scalpel pressed deeper into my face, and a bead of energon formed to drip down my cheek. "You don't wish to die. I know you won't allow the self-destruct to run its course. Just turn it off."

Windfinder was unconvinced. "If she goes off, she'll take me with her!" he yelled.

Meanwhile, the internal countdown continued. 15... 14...

"Female Autobots don't possess the courage to sacrifice themselves for a cause, as we do!" Guillotine yelled at Windfinder. "It's a bluff!"

"Hold on to her!" Shockwave echoed.

At the ten second mark, steam and smoke began to pour out of the joints and crevices of my body as I allowed lubricant to evaporate. My skin heated up uncomfortably, but this had to look good.

"She's gonna blow!" Windfinder yelled in a panic, releasing me and stumbling backward out of the growing cloud of smoke. I jerked away from the scalpel, ignoring the wound it ripped open in my cheek, and transformed. The rush of my airjets only served to stir up the smoke more as I gunned them to run.

"You idiot!" Guillotine roared, waving his arms through the smoke.

I opened a rear panel and dropped off an explosive charge, conveniently setting it on a ten-second timer. I sped out of the smoke and down the corridor, leaving the three Decepticons anxiously searching through the smoke for me and shouting orders and curses at each other.

As I rounded the bend, light flashed behind me, followed by a groundshaking roar. A blast of superheated air followed me down the passage, actually giving me a brief boost of speed as I tried to regain equilibrium.

I heard Decepticon shouts from behind me all too soon, however. "This isn't her wreckage! She's escaping!" Guillotine shouted. A loud crash and surprised yell from Windfinder soon followed.

"Stop squabbling among yourselves and follow her!" Shockwave shouted.

I was in recognizable territory by now, though. Not much further, and I'd be home...

I stopped myself, mentally. With a tracker right behind me, I was going to head straight back to the base?

After all I'd just gone through to keep its location a secret? Not likely, Decepticreeps.

However, I couldn't wander around down here forever. I could try to lose them in the tunnels, but I was
more likely to get lost myself. I had to go some place safe for repairs, though, and soon. I has lost a lot of energon and was already starting to feel it.

Where could I go where the Decepticons couldn't follow?

I suddenly grinned to myself and steered into an adjoining tunnel. I could hear the Decepticons behind me, but they had no hope of catching up now. Stick that in your eye-socket and see how you like it, Shockwave. I'm not some little bug for you to crush.

The tunnel sloped upward, joining other corridors. I chose my route carefully, going upward steadily until I finally emerged onto the surface of Cybertron. I bounced up over a pile of rubble and onto the twisting streets of the Warrens, then steered onto the Cybertronian Highway toward the broken spires of our once-great city Iacon.

The crowded mass of Cybertronians behind me shouted and fled as Shockwave climbed up, followed by Guillotine and Windfinder, who immediately took flight after me. Sorry, Seeker, but you're too far behind. I floored it, sending my whining hoverjets to maximum output, and made a beeline for Iacon's gates as laser fire exploded against the highway behind me.

"You're dead, Autobot!" Windfinder howled, launching two missiles after me.

I swerved, barely avoiding the clouds of shrapnel that flew up from each impact site. A blast from the defenses installed on the city walls flew up to sear one of the Seeker's wings, sending him spinning to the ground with an angry shout.

I whooped in victory as I glanced up at the 'Bot manning the cannons. He looked frustrated, so I patched into the Autobot radio network to tell him who I was.

... Autocannons aren't working! There's an intruder speeding right up to the gates and they won't lock on!- I heard.

Ack! He's trying to shoot at me!

A lower voice, gruff with authority, cut in. -Then switch to manual and aim them at the target yourself, Hot Rod.-

Gotcha!- The first voice replied.

Wait!- I broadcast frantically, -I'm not...-

I was rudely interrupted by a loud >BOOM< behind me as one of the autocannons ripped into the highway. The force of the impact flipped me over, shearing off my laser turret and sending me skidding along the ground on my hood. As soon as I stopped, I transformed and rolled over onto my back. "Are you crazy? That could have killed me!" I shouted.

Who was that?- the second voice demanded. -This is supposed to be a secure frequency!-

I shook my fist at the person in the guard tower as another blast roared into the ground to my left. "Stop shooting at me! I'm an Autobot, that's why the cannons won't lock on me!"

Uhhhhh....- the first voice crackled over the radio.

Do I have to tell you twice?- I demanded over the airwaves. -Let me in already, the Decepticons are following me!-

Hot Rod, what's going on out there?-

I glanced back over my shoulder at Shockwave and Guillotine rumbling down the road after me.

Ultra Magnus, she's yelling at me to let her in!- Hot Rod broadcast.

Of course I am! Shockwave is right behind me!- I replied.

What? She? Who are you?- Ultra Magnus demanded.

"I'll explain everything," I shouted up at the guard tower, "But I won't live long enough to do it if you don't open the gates!"

A face finally peered over the cannon at me. I was surprised to see how young he looked-could he actually be my age? I took a step backward as I looked him over further. Bright blue optics, crinkled in a quizzical expression, and set in a grey face. A red helmet and red shoulder, and I could just make out some kind of yellow detailing on his chest and a yellow spoiler flaring up behind his shoulders.

She looks pretty harmless, I suppose.- Hot Rod radioed doubtfully.

Harmless?!- I demanded.

Let... er, her... in. Detain her at the gates, and I'll be right there to straighten this out.- Ultra Magnus replied, sounding flustered.

The gates slid open slowly, allowing me inside a small, bare courtyard. I dropped my gun to the ground and kicked it away from me as a sign of good intentions, then looked around as the gates boomed shut behind me.

"Hello?" I called.

The Autobot I'd seen earlier clambered down from the guard tower and stood before me, pointing at me uncertainly with the barrel of a long silver gun. I stared at him, getting my first real look at a malebot from my generation. Or from any generation. Scrap, of anyone other than the other Femmes.

Then again, I was probably the first Femme he'd ever seen.

It was a day of surprises all 'round.

I looked at myself in the reflection of his optics and couldn't help but smile. Burned, blasted, bruised, and covered with tiny bitemarks, who could blame him for thinking I might be dangerous? I grinned and he looked in confusion at my face, seeing the long cut across one cheek and a rat-bite, like an obscene kiss, decorating the other. Still, my smile was infectious, and he tentatively grinned back.

"Where on Cybertron did you come from?" he asked in confusion.

"Underground," I replied cheerily, "But it's a long story."

"Undergr...?" he started to repeat, questioningly, but I interrupted him by extending my right hand in greeting. Well, minus a finger, anyway.

"Forget that," I told him. "Relax, I'm a friend."

He lowered the gun, regarding me curiously. "If you say so."

I grinned. "My name's Whiz. And I have a feeling your life just got more interesting."

The End

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