Hard Facts, Simple Truths

Ch 3: What's in a Name? Part 2

“Rhea!” Instantly, Hank was leaning over the threshold of the doorway, desperately hoping she’d managed to grab onto one of the landing skids. But there was no such luck - the girl was tumbling down away from them, getting closer and closer to the rocky ground below.

Suddenly, a pale grey grappling line appeared, shooting down to where Arcee could grab ahold of it. The black and purple Con copter, already straining from the damage Hank’s bolt had done, carefully lowered itself at a sedate pace, before releasing the cable and dropping the shocked Autobot trainee the last couple yards onto her feet, alive and intact.

Then the copter flew away as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

Hank watched all of this, baffled, but beyond relieved that Arcee was okay. He yelled for Springer to take them down to get her, which the confused pilot did. As soon as they were close enough to the ground, Hank leapt from the copter and sprinted to where his friend was sitting, still stunned.

“Arcee? ...Rhea?” The dark haired girl turned her shocked gaze towards him. “Are you okay?”

“...I just fell two hundred feet before a Con saved my life, and that’s the question you blurt out?” She asked, incredulous.

“Alright, fair enough, but are you hurt?”

“My- my arm got wrenched, grabbing onto the cable, but aside from that I think I’m okay.” Blurr ran up to join them, and together he and Hank got Arcee on her feet and back into the copter. Above them, Blades had finally noticed something was wrong and was circling protectively over their position.

“We’re gonna have fun explaining this one when we get back home, aren’t we?” Cliffjumper said dryly as he and his shame-faced cousin stood by the door, weapons ready for any approaching hostiles.

“I’ll handle it,” Hank said, thinking of his explosive crossbow bolt. Cliff started to nod, but then his eyes locked onto something back amid the jumbled boulders. Instantly, the youth’s blaster was up and firing, prompting his cousin and Blurr to do the same. After making sure Arcee was secured back in her seat, Hank grabbed up his weapon and turned to join the others.

A group of Decepticons had been moving on foot along the cliffs to try and flank the defending Autobot forces, and instead came upon the group of trainees. They were almost entirely equipped with cannons and large blasters, eagerly firing upon the youths by the copter, who were giving as good as they got. Blurr and Hank fired a pair of flares, temporarily blinding the opposition as Springer yelled for the lot of them to get back into the copter.

They started to do so, just as a monster of an armored truck roared up to and through the group of Cons. Two of them screamed as they were crushed underneath its wheels and weight, while the others scrambled away in a panic. When the truck halted, its driver’s side door was thrown open, and Ironhide came out with a war cry.

Intimidating as the man may have been during training sessions, his usual attitude didn’t come anywhere close to how terrifying this visage was.

Made larger by the red battle armor he wore, the man tore through the Decepticons with nothing more than a single handed blaster and a medium sized energon axe. The trainees watched with open-mouthed awe as Ironhide obliterated almost a dozen enemy troops in as many seconds. When he’d shot down the last of those trying to flee, the old soldier turned his murderous gaze onto the frozen trainees.

“What in the fraggin’ Pit are y’all just standin there for?!” He bellowed, getting them to jump and start moving again. “Git back in th’ air already!” Growling as he stomped forward to yell at them some more, Ironhide didn’t notice a presumed-dead Con suddenly lift himself from the ground and take aim at the oblivious Autobot’s back.

Hank noticed, though.

“‘Hide! Behind-” The old soldier whirled, the shot singing his hip instead of hitting him square on. Ironhide then retaliated by throwing his axe, smiling with grim satisfaction when it decapitated the unfortunate Con.

Wanting to make sure that the Weapons Specialist was okay, Hank started to move forward, only for Warpath to grab him by the back of his shirt and bodily haul the smaller youth into the copter. Cliffjumper yelled to Springer that they were aboard, and the pilot pulled them up off the ground.

Below, Ironhide raised an eyebrow at the departing copter, taking note of Hot Rod’s concerned expression before the door sealed shut.

“Hmph. Rookies.” He muttered, marching back to his still rumbling truck.

The rest of the battle finished up pretty quickly after that. The Autobots had become thoroughly entrenched by the time the Decepticon ground forces arrived, and were able to drive them off without too much trouble. Left without back-up, the Seekers quickly broke off their strafing runs in favor of retreating as well. The dam and power station were mostly intact, and aside from a few injuries here and there, the Autobots didn’t suffer any casualties. Possibly the most note-worthy thing about the whole fight was Arcee falling out of Springer’s helicopter (which more than a few people berated the trainees for on the way back to Ark Valley) and her subsequent saving at the hands of a Con (which no one felt comfortable mentioning). As soon as everyone arrived home safely, Ratchet and First Aid had taken those who needed treatment or looking over to the med bay, leaving the rest of the troops to their debriefs and cool-downs from the battle.

As he’d promised, Hank was the one to fully explain to Prime and the other officers about the Con chopper. Unfortunately for him, Prowl was of a mind to make use of the situation.

“We of course keep detailed files on as many of the Decepticon command element as we can, but also make an effort to record as much as we can about the lesser members of their forces, in case anyone ever makes an attempt at defecting,” the man explained to Hank as he led him to the archives building. If you or Arcee could sort through anything we have on enemy copter pilots and find a match, we’ll add it to the file and possibly send a spy in to make contact and see how much the Decepticon is truly loyal to Megatron and his Imperials.”

When they entered the building, Hank’s first impression was that the archives didn’t look like too big a mess to go through. Then he realized that the boxes stacked up in the entrance hall were just the stuff that hadn’t been sorted yet. Prowl continued to lead him on several yards, past one door after another, until they reached one simply labelled Aircraft. Inside that room were easily a dozen shelving units reaching from floor to ceiling, completely filled with boxes of papers and files - some neat, most not.

Prowl at least had the decency to look slightly remorseful. “It’s been too long since we’ve been able to properly organize these, so look for anything you can find on helicopter pilots and go from there. If this room doesn’t turn up anything, you can try digging through the unsorted files we passed.”

“...Right.” Hank said weakly. “Do you want me to just look through them in here, or take it to Arcee too?”

“Is she still in the medical bay?”

“Yeah. I don’t think Ratchet’s planning on letting her back out for an orn or two, as well.”

The Autobot officer hummed. “Well, I’d like you to begin on this as soon as possible, and I doubt Ratchet would object too strongly should you bring a box or two to the med bay for Arcee to sort through.”

Sighing, Hank just nodded his acceptance. “Guess I’d better get started, then.”

When he finally made it to dinner that evening, all of Hank’s friends not being held prisoner in the med bay were waiting for him. In between shovelling spoonfuls of food into his mouth, the exhausted trainee gradually explained about what he’d been doing since the battle that morning.

“Why can’t we help with this?” Springer asked, a tad concerned. “I mean, all of us saw that copter, so why are just you and Arcee-?”

Swallowing his last mouthful, Hank laid out Prowl’s reasoning. “It counts for my officer training, in a way, and ‘Cee’s the only one of you guys who isn’t going to be immediately busy with training again, since Ratchet’s got her on bed rest for a while, followed by a period of limited exertion.”

“Oh. That bites.” They all had a quick laugh at Blurr’s blunt assessment of the situation.

“Yeah, yeah it does... Still, if I need a break from it, Prowl said I’m welcome to take a look at some of the other records rooms and read anything that seems interesting.”

“...Seriously? The only thing you get to do when not going through old paperwork is look at other paperwork?” Cliffjumper grimaced. “That sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me.”

“Only because you don’t reading in the first place.” Warpath retorted in a dry tone, causing his cousin to redden as the other boys chuckled.

“Hey, that reminds me Cliff - why’d Ironhide give you the codename that he did? It’s been bugging me a bit lately.”

Immediately, Hank found himself the recipient of a warning glare so dire he was surprised the flesh didn’t melt off of his bones. Clearly the other youth wasn’t about to talk about whatever story there was behind his Autobot designation.

Warpath, though, was completely eager to share.

“We were kids, about to become teenagers-”

“War-”

“-and Cliff got it in his head to have a right of passage-”

“Warpath, I’m warning you-!”

“-so he got all the local eleven and twelve vorn olds together at the top of Iron Cliff-”

“Warren!”

“-in order for the lot of us to jump off and into the river!”

“Primus fraggit, Warren Palomine, if you keep going with this stupid story-” By this point, the shorter of the two cousins had gotten out of his chair and was either trying to silence or strangulate Warpath, who kept pushing his hands away and laughing as the others watched with silent amusement.

“So, because no one else was willing, Trenton here decided to go first to show the others how it was done-” Cliffjumper cursed, finally getting a hand slapped over his cousin’s mouth.

“I think I can see where this is going.” Springer said dryly.

“Enjoyed diving into river water, did you Trent?” Hank snickered.

Warpath finally got his gag out of the way and finished up his tale to Cliff’s dismay. “He never made it to the river! Poor kid sank into mud up to his neck, and had to wait almost three joors before our Gran came with a pair of mud boots and a long enough cable to haul him out!”

“WARREN!” Deciding that he needed to get away from the now murderous Cliff, Warpath leapt to his feet and fled the mess hall, laughing all the way. Cliffjumper chased after him, spewing one dire curse after another. The pair ended up running right past Ironhide and Optimus, who looked after them with confusion before heading towards the remaining trainees.

“Dare I ask?” ‘Hide raised an eyebrow as he came up to them, jerking a thumb over his shoulder in the direction that the cousins had gone.

“Warpath was just telling us the story about Cliffjumper actually jumping off a cliff when they were kids,” Hank explained. “Which makes me wonder, sir, how you knew that story?”

Ironhide stiffened as Optimus looked at him with amusement dancing in his eyes. “None a yer business, kid.” The Weapons Specialist finally said, stalking off to get his food.

“I believe it’s a personal matter,” Prime found himself saying as three sets of eyes swung to look at him questioningly. “You might actually find something to explain it during your time in the archive building, Hot Rod.”

The Autobot leader then strolled off, leaving three baffled trainees behind him.

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