Chapter 9: Space battle

Megatron paced his ship. The crew of his ship wisely avoided him.

When he arrived back at his base, and discovered that his prize medic, his pet, and his traitorous archivist bolted, he was furious, but not afraid. Losing them hurt his pride more than his position. When he negotiated for Sam's return, he would learn how far and how hard he could push and how well he could manipulate his enemies.

Hearing Soundwave's news changed his attitude. The idea that the All-Spark resided in the pet he kept so close was a shock, but Soundwave's reasoning was sound. In a way, it was a relief, knowing that there was a reason he allowed himself to care what happened to a mere human.

He had no reason to believe that Rodimus knew more than he did about that possibility, but he decided to push harder for Sam's return. From the report of the guards and Soundwave, Ratchet did not know Sam was anything but a human pet that looked like the Sam Witwicky he once knew. To that end he set out. Soundwave rode on a different ship with his cassettes, sent to get into position for monitoring transmissions and for a strike if needed. He chose speed over power, enough for a strike and run if he needed it but no more than that. Megatron expected to intimidate, not fight.

After that meeting- everything changed, and the stakes escalated. Rodimus changed; he acted like Optimus now, a true Prime. Megatron wondered if proximity to Sam made the difference. Sam's defiance and the reaction of the organic Alliance members fueled his rage. They all needed to be taught a lesson in who their superiors were.

Megatron cursed himself, Soundwave, and any of his other minions for missing that Sam could read and write. He saw Sam looking at the books, but most had pictures, and he thought nothing of it. Worse, Sam used datapads with ease and remembered what he heard. He posed the danger with the Autobots as Soundwave once predicted.

He contacted Soundwave, his mind working. They must retake Sam now. Otherwise, he must fall back on his spy at the Alliance space colony, and that was risky.

"Get him," he ordered his most reliable minion. "Bring him back alive and in as good condition as you can, but bring him back."

He wanted to go himself, but this mission needed infiltration and stealth attacks. Soundwave and his cassettes excelled with these. If Soundwave succeeded, he needed to have their return planned. If he did not, he needed to ensure his defenses were ready and change his strategy.

He would get his pet back, sooner or later. If it was later, so much the worst for Sam. His pet knew better than to defy his superiors; the longer it took to get him back, the longer Megatron would have to plan how to teach him to never defy his master again.

If Sam held part of the All-Spark, Megatron knew he would have to expose Sam to the shard and risk losing his pet. Still, that could wait until Sam leaned his lesson- and learned it well.

Sam started shaking as soon as Megatron's video was gone. The datapad fell, and only Rondimus' quick grab kept Sam from doing the same. He lowered the shaken human to a sitting position on the table. Sam could tell he was contacting someone at the same time.

"Are we ready if he starts hostilities?" the human representative asked tightly.

"I have Ironhide and Willie preparing the fleet for possible attacks," Rodimus stated calmly. "Sparkplug, what information do you have on what forces Megatron brought?" Sparkplug gave the information he had from the probes. In the meantime Sam got himself together and picked up the datapad. "Sam, can you add anything?" Sam considered and started writing.

Several minutes later, he added, That's as much as I know, and I did not see any of the space stuff or most of the ships. I got most of it from listening to Megatron plan.

The human and Psych representative looked at the information on the screen before looking back at Sam. "Rodimus, get Sam here as soon as you can," the human representative declared. "And watch your rear, big guy. That pile of glitched metal is going to break his circuits coming after you and Sam before you can rely on backup."

Rodimus said, "There are other matters I need to discuss with Sam. I will bring him back with me. Agreed?"

"Certainly," the human representative said. "For one thing, that bastard lied about your condition, since it doesn't look like he fed you worth a damn, and for another you need a voice! Sparkplug, instruct your medic to get the measurements and we'll arrange for the prosthesis as soon as possible."

"I believe the human would benefit from some attention from one of our human specialists," the Psych stated thoughtfully. "If you consent, Samuel James Witwicky."

Rodimus said, amusement in his voice, "I believe that Ratchet has already started arrangements, on all suggestions. Good day." The transmission winked out. "With your permission, Sam?" He put his hand out, and Sam stepped onto it, leaving the datapad behind. They left the bridge.

"Even if you had nothing to offer, we would not have sent you back to Megatron unless you asked to go," Rodimus told him as they moved through the hallway. "I am sorry that we could not tell you beforehand, but we needed you to react naturally. Please believe me." Sam nodded. "I have spoken with Ratchet, and there is more you need to know."

That woke Sam up somewhat; that, and what he needed to tell the Prime. He considered what he needed to say when he got to someone who could translate, or his computer.

When they reached the med bay, Ratchet was waiting, and he had plenty to say. Fortunately, someone had brought the computer, and Sam waved at Rodimus and pointed to it. Obligingly, Rodimus put him down near it.

"You need to sleep," Ratchet said.

Sam typed, :Ratchet, I have missed many nights of sleep and I will be fine. I'd be even better if I could get another cup of coffee.:

Rodimus laughed. "The human crew on my ship will be glad to share with you. As you heard, you will be coming with me, as will Ratchet and Willie. Neither are normal crew on this ship, they were here for the trip to Earth. Willie is gathering your belonging with his. However, here we can have a small amount of privacy. Ratchet, if you would seal the door." Ratchet did so. Then they explained.

For a moment Sam just absorbed the information. :Why did both of you wait to tell me?: Sam signed.

"At first I did not know how loyal you might be to Megatron," Ratchet admitted. "Once on this ship, I was under orders from Rodimus to wait."

"I waited until I could confirm your claims," Rodimus explained. "Once you gave the Matrix, I knew you were trustworthy, but I felt you had the right to time with your friends. I have never met a human with a brother bond to an Autobot. You are quite unique, Sam."

Sam closed his eyes. How I wish I was the totally normal geek I thought I was at sixteen, he thought bleakly. :Megatron is going to try and come after me, which I think you know,: he said. :What you might not know is that he has some kind of spy near your government. Not part of it, from what I understand, but in the space colony that has the government.The spy connects to Soundwave, not to Megatron. I gathered that he did something-not disloyal, as something that disgusted both of them, and this is his chance to both redeem himself, and to indulge himself in whatever it was he was doing.:

"I was not aware of a Decepticon spy in our space," Rodimus said thoughtfully. "I will have to look into that." Sam rolled his eyes. If Rodimus knew about him, the spy would be pretty useless.

"I don't think the spy would be in your bots, Prime. That would be too easy to check. He'll be a neutral, if you allow those. I also know that it might be a Pretender."

"What's a Pretender?" Ratchet asked, shoving something at Sam while he asked. Sam took the container, discovered it held fruit, and set it down to sign his answer. Then he started eating, slowly, taking his time.

:A pretender is a Cybertronian whose alt form is a human.: Both Ratchet and Rodimus looked at that and frowned. Sam swallowed his mouthful and started signing, :I wouldn't believe it either, but I met one, under unpleasant circumstances, when I was a slave. I believe it could be him, because he did do some things that would disgust Decepticons.:

"I really don't want to know what could disgust a Decepticon. " Ratchet said. Sam nodded, as he had one of his hands full. "At the same time, it's hard to imagine a Cybertronian pretending to be a human for any length of time without being seen for what he is."

Sam put the last of the food into his mouth and signed, :I'm telling you, Ratchet, he practiced on slaves. Granted, most slaves are worked too hard to notice much, but considering how far he took the interaction and got away with it, I believe he could manage. I figured it out before the supervisor did, and he was a 'con, too.:

"What did he do?" Rodimus asked. Sam busied himself taking the container back to Ratchet, and was saved having to answer when Rodimus looked alert, and added, "We must leave soon. I believe Willie should be ready by now, but if you wish you can be sure he got all of your possessions."

Sam was climbing down and heading for the door quickly enough to make Ratchet wonder, and the medic made a mental note to push the matter later.

As Sam walked down the corridor, he considered what he learned from Willie and a little from Bumblebee and Ironhide.

"I'm a space brat," Willie told him as they worked on one of the probes. "I was born in the A-12 space colony to the Witwicky family," he added proudly. All children born in space tested early, and those who met certain criteria trained for working as engineers on spacecraft. Humans, being smaller, were able to get into the machinery to find problems and fix them, and this enabled the original Human/Cybertron partners to keep the size of ships down. Sam was startled to find out that Willie started his space training at twelve, though not in the deep space ships. He started working his own ship at sixteen, and started deep space ships at eighteen. He was in his late twenties now.

Sam asked about families. "In space, everyone belongs to a family line. We keep careful records so there won't be too much inbreeding," the engineer explained seriously. "The Witwicky family is unique, in that our founder, Mikaela Witwicky, didn't come to space. She stayed with the sire, Sam Witwicky. Ratchet couldn't get them to come to space but she left him genetic material. There were four original parents that used the material, and they founded the family line."

So that was why Mikaela was willing to stay with him. Sam tried hard to get her to go with the Autobots, but she insisted on staying. Come to think of it, Willie did look like Mikaela. Sam had a hard time keeping his face straight when he found out that the other founding families were Epps, Lennox and Simmons.

Even better, Sam could tell from the way Willie talked that the women ran the space families, and in the most part, ran the colonies. The surname of the child came from the mother, and family lines were matriarchal. A man helped raise his sister's children, though Willie admitted most fathers were interested in their own children. "But you know for sure that your nieces and nephews are yours," he added seriously. "Only the computers know for sure who the father of a child is, though most of the time the woman knows." Sam gathered that in most cases, the grandmothers supervised child rearing.

About a third of the Alliance's human population was in the space colonies, and the rest were on the planet colony. The planet colony's rules were a little different, as they had to cooperate more with the dolphins species on the planet they settled, and the allies on other planets, while the space colonies dealt more with the Autobots and the Psyches. The Central Alliance Administration was in space with the colonies, as that was a central location. Sam wondered how he was going to fit into this brave new world.

Willie was packing, his mind working as his hands moved in. Packing was a routine he knew well, and the movement helped him think.

One of the requirements of a space 'brat' or engineer was intelligence. Sam looked no older than Willie, but Willie picked up quickly that Sam was much older than he looked. To the plumb Willie, Sam looked painfully thin, and Willie knew Sam was deprived of human company. For that reason, Willie seldom left Sam alone except when the thin human with the haunted eyes was with Ratchet. He understood being starved for human company.

Worse, no matter how well Sam managed to cover it, there was no mistaking his wariness around 'bots he did not know. While Sam was comfortable with Ratchet, and knew in his mind that the other 'bots were safe, his gut told him otherwise. The 'bot saw it, and they did their absolute best to reassure the human. They saw the abuse of humans on Earth; Willie heard them discussing it. They understood Sam's fear, and it saddened them.

That made Sam's reaction to the family guardians even more remarkable. There was no way Sam could know Bumblebee and Ironhide; Willie knew they were in space with the colonies from the time the Autobots on Earth appeared to join Rodimus Prime with the first human colonists. All the families had guardians; Willie knew Bumblebee and Ironhide due to family ties, for Bumblebee, and due to his space work for Ironhide.

But Sam knew Bumblebee was behind him before he turned around, and ran to him, as if greeting family he thought was lost. He greeted Ironhide like a friend as well. How could he know them?

There was no way Sam could know who Rodimus Prime was. But Sam walked up to Rodimus as if he knew the Prime personally, with no hesitation at all. When Sam gave Rodimus that artifact, Willie felt the power like sunlight on his skin; he could see that the other bots felt it as well. Why did Sam have to give Rodimus the artifact? How did giving it to Rodimus release the power?

Willie wanted to know what was going on. Whatever it was, it was going to affect the Alliance, and it was going to affect his family. He knew better than most what the war with the Fallen cost the races that were part of the Alliance; he knew what a new war would cost. The main debate in the Council was partially fueled by the desire to have the resources available on humanity's home as opposed to the cost of the war itself.

The idea that kept entering the space engineer's head seemed too wild to be believed, but it was also the only reason that worked. Had he just been in space too long? He was so deep in thought that he did not notice the other being in the room until too late.

Sam got to the corridor when the ship rocked and alarms wailed. He fell into a door, which opened. He remembered the room; it was part of the engineering staff's area, and one of the things it held was weapons in case of close ship attack. The weapons for humans were designed for self-defense and could be used on a wide or tight fire. It was also designed for ease of use and to do as little damage to the ship's innards as possible. Willie showed them to him with great reluctance. "I'm an engineer because I can't stand to shoot at anything and I hate fighting," he admitted to Sam. "This way I help but I don't have to fight. I keep the ship going and leave the fighting to the ones who are good at it."

The Decepticons would scan for humans. There were only two on the ship, and both of them needed to get to a safe area asap. Sam grabbed two of the weapons and raced for Willie's room as he slung one on his back and carried the other. He hoped he did not need it but he had no intention of being any more helpless than he had to.

He threw open the door and came to a dead stop just inside the doorway. Willie cowered against the wall. In front of him was Frenzy. From where he stood Sam could see that Willie was already bleeding in two places, his leg and his arm. Frenzy was hissing something Sam missed. The little infiltrator had a disc in his hand, holding it over Willie's face, not quite touching him, but when he heard the door open Frenzy jumped back to face the new threat.

Willie saw the weapons and dropped, his battle training asserting itself.

He may have been a slave for decades, but Sam could call up memories from his other lives at need. He knew aimming took muscle skills this body did not have. Sam fired high on wide angle, knocking Frenzy back. The disc grazed his shoulder and he ignored the scratch.That gave Willie time to crawl toward the door. Frenzy got up and Sam fired again. He stepped over Willie, giving the engineer access to the door.

"Sam," Frenzy said, moving forward slowly. "Come now, I won't hurt you. Fight, I hurt you, bring you anyway, punishment worse. You know your place. Drop weapon and come."

Sam let him talk while looking for how the infiltrator got in. Willie slid out of the door and talked wildly on his com. Sam edged back. He shook and let the gun on his back fall to his arm and moved quickly to let it fall to the floor, squatting just a bit to do so. Then he fired again. The disc missed him, though Sam felt the wind of it pass his ear. Frenzy fell against the wall and slid down. Sam moved until he felt Willie's head touch his back and adjusted a little so Willie would not knock him down if he fell. Willie seemed to be on his knees.

Where were the rest of Soundwave's cassettes? Frenzy would not be alone. Unarmed, Sam could not hurt Frenzy, but the small cassette could not take a struggling Sam anywhere either, not alone. The small con said something again about surrendering, which Sam gave half an ear as he listened for a threat behind him and watched for another disc.

"What the Pit is that?" he heard Willie shriek, before he heard firing. It sounded like Willie got the other weapon. Well, now he knew where the other cassettes were. Where was help? These weapons forced the cassettes back, but they were not going to do damage; they were designed to allow an engineer to defend himself while not doing damage to the ship itself.

"Sam! Willie! Hold on, I'm coming, more help's on the way!" Sam recognized Sparkplug's voice. Unfortunately, it distracted Sam into glancing back.

Frenzy threw, and while the blast Sam fired threw Frenzy back again, the disc flew true and lodged in Sam's upper leg. It hurt like hell. He could feel the blood begin to trickle. Frenzy was trying to disable him. He braced against the door frame, not daring to try to pull it out, not daring to trust his weight on that leg now.

"Drop the weapon." With that, the ceiling ripped open. Soundwave reached for him. Sam fired, and jumped back. His leg gave and he went down. Willie scrambled out of his way. Soundwave missed him. There was a blast over Sam's head at Soundwave, even as he saw Frenzy grab for his leg. Sam fired again, knocking Frenzy off of him. Another blast went over his head, this time from Soundwave and Willie shrieked Sparkplug's name as Frenzy grabbed Sam and pulled him before Sam kicked him off and fired directly into Frenzy this time.

The blast threw Frenzy back, but Sam saw that the weapon's power cell was low. Soundwave could not reach him without the risk of taking a shot from whoever was in the door. Sam was afraid to look away from the telepath. For a moment there was quiet in the room, as everyone took in the impasse.

"Sam, you know you must come back," Soundwave said. "You belong to Megatron. He is your master and your protector. He treats you well. Come." Soundwave put every ounce of power he could into his voice. Sam was a slave, had been a slave for some time. With all the memories of dominance Sam had, with all the knowledge of how helpless he was against the Decepticons and how he needed Megatron's protection to be safe, Sam should hesitate enough for Soundwave to seize him.

He saw Frenzy's work in the two wounds that seeped blood. The master would not be pleased at the damage, but Soundwave knew Frenzy had no choice; the small cassette was an expert in infiltration, not in capture, and the pet would not die from the wounds.

Instead of hesitating, Sam snarled soundlessly at the telepath and pushed back with his good leg, into the reach of the bot behind him. Soundwave lunged.

A powerful shot blew the telepath back. Frenzy shrieked as Ironhide's fist crushed him. Soundwave bellowed his rage as he fell back, before two more shots tore into him.

In the end the Decepticons fell back with heavy casualties. They took Soundwave's body with them, along with any other they could reach. They had to leave the cassettes' boddies behind.

In the med bay, Sam looked at the ceiling and let his mind drift. Willie lay beside him. Sometimes the young engineer twitched in his sleep. Sam touched him somehow-a pat on the arm, a stroke over his hair, a gentle rub on his back. Willie settled back into sleep. Poor baby, Sam thought, he never saw direct combat before. On their way to the med bay on Rodimus' much larger and better defended ship, Willie admitted that he never had to fire the weapon before outside of practice, and that he had not been wounded or confronted a Decepticon before today.

When Frenzy appeared, Willie refused to speak to him and tried to call for help. Frenzy cut him with the disc twice trying to get him to say where Sam was. The Scout took a lot of damage, to the point it would not hold air. It was being towed. The rest of the patrol s managed to fly, though there was plenty of damage.

Frenzy got into the ship, opened it up for Soundwave and his other cassettes while Megatron attacked from another area, and went to find Sam. Ravage attacked Willie in an attempt to get to Frenzy and Sam. Willie managed to keep off the cat cassette long enough for Sparkplug to there, only to have Lazorbeak and Ratbat join the attack.

It was all Sparkplug and Willie could do to hold them off until Ironhide and Bumblebee appeared. Bumblebee drove off the flyers while Ironhide forced Ravage away from Willie, tossed Willie to Sparkplug, and then yanked Sam away to deal with Frenzy and Soundwave. Bumblebee snatched up Sam and Willie as soon as the cassettes fell and headed for the med bay, only to hear via the com that Ratchet was busy defending his territory.

Willie managed to direct Bumblebee to a supply cabinet where they could at least clean the wounds and get something to slow the bleeding, in addition to air for both of them. Sam taped Willie's arm when Sparkplug reappeared. The two bots got the wounded humans to the Primal's med bay, before taking off to rejoin the battle. There was no human medic on board, but a kindly medic bot named First Aid knew how to treat humans. Sam flatly refused any pain medicine or sedation except something to numb his leg and get the lodged disc out. He wanted to know how the battle came out first.

Willie stayed on the edge of hysteria until First aid treated and bandaged their wounds. Then he calmed a little, helped by the medicines First Aid offered. When he saw that Sam's presence helped the engineer settle down, First Aid set the bedding so that Sam and Willie were close enough to reach each other.

Casualites poured in and First Aid left to deal with them. Sam watched as he tended the wounded. Ratchet came in about an hour after the humans were settled. He leaked from a few scratches and sported scortch marks. He did allow First Aid to deal with the leaks and convince him that looking worn would not help his patients. Once he had cleaned up and gulped down some fuel, he went back to work. He had looked over Sam and Willie while allowing First Aid to tend him.

Sam signed, :I seem to bring trouble wherever I go.: Megatron did not let any other con touch his pet without permission. For Frenzy to dare harm him even to bring him in was a sign of how desperate they were to get him back.

Ratchet snorted and signed, Blame the All-Spark in you for this one. We know that Soundwave did figure out that possibility. "I brought the laptop and the stuff Willie packed over and it's dumped somewhere. There's some human crew members here, and they'll come with something for you to eat after a while. Ironhide, Bumblebee and Rodimus will be in after everything calms down a little more. Try to sleep, will you?"

Sam knew he needed sleep. He watched the med bay slowly empty, listened to the talk in English and Cybertronian, and ate the meal the harried crew brought him. They stayed a while to make sure he was all right and to look Willie over, as he normally served on this ship and they knew him well.

He heard voices coming nearer and closed his eyes. Sam did not want the painkiller Ratchet wanted to give him, and the medic would insist if Sam could not sleep. He did not like pain, but the numbing salve First Aid used took care of the worst of the pain in his wounds anyway. He lay in a warm soft bed with a full stomach; he could manage.

"Nice try, Sam, but I know when you're faking," Sam turned his head and made a face at Ratchet. "Rodimus wants to talk to you, and Bee's not going to rest until he sees how you are."

Sam started to push himself up. Ratchet placed a hand over him. "Don't open those wounds." Sam rolled his eyes.

:I am not fragile and I am not going to break, Ratchet, promise. Frenzy had no intention of doing serious damage. I've survived a lot worse than this, you know, without the tender loving care I got from First Aid.:

"That's no reason not to take care now that you can. Here he is." Rodimus appeared, moving over a berth at a time, checking on his other soldiers. Something in Sam relaxed at the sight of the Prime.

"Sam," he said when he arrived. Ratchet stayed to translate."I must tell you that Megatron knows what you hold now," Rodimus told Sam. "We intercepted a communication from them. "

:He's going to dig himself in on Earth hard, and come after me from the shadows. And when he does get his hands on me-: Sam stopped. When Megatron got hold of Sam again, Sam was going to be in pain for a long, long time.

"We will protect you, Sam. I regret that Willie and you are hurt, but I intend to use that to our advantage. Will you help? "

"Decepticons have that name for a reason. I want everyone in the Alliance to know who they are dealing with. I don't want any more of this," he pointed to Willie, who chose that time to whimper. Sam stroked an arm, and Willie settled again. "The threat will not end until Megatron is defeated. He is never going to stop reaching for power. That's what he is. Whatever you need me to do, I'll do."

Rodimus nodded. "Thank you. We will work out the details later." He left. Ratchet watched him go. Ratchet supported Rodimus, but none of the original Earth team could help thinking that the new Prime fell short of Optimus. Rodimus was a Prime, certainly, but it took the combination of the Autobots, the humans under Abigail Lennox's command, and the Psyches to bring the Fallen down. Rodimus was a leader, and he was tried, but he was not Optimus.

Today that changed. Today Rodimus kept his troops together, got Willie and Sam rescued, and drove the Decepticons off with only his own leadership skills. There was no one else to lead, and without Rodimus, the Decepticons would have gotten Sam and done vicious damage to the fleet. Ratchet did not know if it was the Matrix making Rodimus stronger or more confident, but he did know that no one would question the Prime's abilities again.

Then he told Sam that Bumblebee would not be allowed in until Sam took a painkiller. Sam swallowed the medicine reluctantly. Ratchet made the call and Bumblebee came into the room. He was somewhat the worst for wear, but nothing that would not be mended during the trip back.

He stretched out on the berth by Sam and Willie, curling his hand around Sam. Sam began to talk to his old friend, but his signs began to move more slowly and before too much longer his hands dropped. When Ratchet checked again, Sam was curled against Bumblebee's hand, and Willie was curled against Sam. All of them were dead to the world.

Ratchet went to his own recharge. All of them better take what respite they could. Like it or not, the war had begun again.

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