evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: Bonus Feature
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Fandom: Transformers: G1
Rating: G
Word Count: ~1750
Summary: Attitude problems aside, the Aerialbots have lived up to expectations - but the Decepticons still have a big advantage.

Notes: Another bit of Aerialbot headcanon, of a more AU variety this time since this story doesn’t work within the somewhat nebulous timeline of The Key to Vector Sigma, Pt 2.  The events of that episode still occur, minus Optimus’ little surprise for Megatron at the end.  This story takes place in the (expanded) span of time between The Key to Vector Sigma and War Dawn.  (But I did steal some of Optimus and Megatron’s lines.)

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] seryan for looking over an earlier version of this, which I have since gutted & overhauled.  Remaining (& new-and-improved mistakes) are all mine.

Bonus Feature

Menasor lurched forward with a growl, aiming a heavy-handed swipe at a group of Autobots near his feet.  They scattered, neatly dodging the clumsy blow and Menasor roared in frustration before giving chase after the nearest.  The video froze.  A neighbouring screen on the bank of the war room’s monitors blinked to life, displaying another image of the Decepticon giant.  This time, when Menasor took a swing at his Autobot attackers, the move was much smoother and far more difficult to avoid.

“As you can see, Menasor is becoming a greater threat,” Prowl reported.  “In the few times he’s seen action, his coordination and steadiness have increased dramatically.  Whatever problems were interfering with his function before, the Stunticons are learning to compensate for them.”

That was a grim prospect, Optimus thought.  Menasor had been dangerous even when he was an uncoordinated mass of violence.  If he'd learned to focus his aggression, that would be very bad news for the Autobots.  

“Any chance that we can reintroduce whatever elements were destabilizing him?” Optimus asked.

Prowl shook his head irritably.  “We’re not sure what the problem was so there’s no way to tell if we can sabotage their solution.”      

“I’m not sure you could sabotage this solution,” Silverbolt volunteered, staring thoughtfully at the screen.  “It wasn’t a systemic issue.”

The comment earned him startled looks from everyone at the table.

“Explain,” Prowl ordered shortly.

Silverbolt looked away from the viewscreen, optics flickering slightly in surprise to find himself the centre of attention.  

“The Stunticons aren’t exactly masters of teamwork,” he said, “to put it mildly.”

Jazz snorted.  “They’re glitchier than a box of broken circuits, you mean.”

“Pretty much,” Silverbolt agreed.  “And you can’t create a stable gestalt from a pack of raving lunatics.”

“That may be why Menasor was a mess before,” Prowl said impatiently, “but it doesn’t explain his improved function now.”

“That’s down to Motormaster,” Silverbolt declared flatly.  “It just took him this long to terrorize his team into cooperating.”

Optimus hummed thoughtfully as he considered what Silverbolt had said.  The Aerialbots were usually tasked with opposing the Stunticons.  He was inclined to trust Silverbolt’s take on the Decepticon team.

“So the problem was how their conflicting personalities didn’t mesh when they fused?” he asked.

“As far as we can tell,” Silverbolt confirmed.  “They’re no saner than they used to be but from the way they act now, Motormaster’s managed to scare them into basic obedience.”

“Well, that’s just great,” Ironhide complained.  “How are we supposed to do anything about that?”

“Actually, we think there might be something we can do to help,” Silverbolt offered.

“I thought that’s what you were supposed to be doing,” Ironhide retorted, almost accusingly.   

“We have been,” Silverbolt replied coolly, clearly displeased by the slight to his team’s efforts.  

“And you’ve done well,” Optimus broke in, warning Ironhide to silence with a pointed look.  “Did you have another tactic in mind?”

“We think - maybe...”  Silverbolt paused, apparently choosing his words with some care.  “When you brought us online on Cyberton, Vector Sigma was responsible for all our programming, right?  You and the other Autobots constructed us but you didn’t install any of our coding?”

“That’s right,” Optimus confirmed, wondering at the unconnected inquiries.  “Why?”

Instead of answering, Silverbolt asked another question.  “And before we left, Alpha Trion warned you about the Key?  Said that he’d learned about it when he’d merged with Vector Sigma?  Are you sure that’s all he learned about what Megatron had done?”

“What do you mean?” Prowl cut in.

“I mean that Fireflight can spot when one of the Stunticons is damaged because he’s not fitting into the gestalt the way he’s supposed to.  Air Raid and Slingshot know exactly where to hit Menasor to make it hurt most.  Skydive has no trouble suggesting tactics for how to deal with a combiner team.  And I don’t like it but I understand exactly how Motormaster could bully his team into functionality,” Silverbolt replied.  “None of us can even explain how we know all of that.  And then there’s the matter of our secondary programming.”

“Secondary programming?  What kind of secondary programming?” Ironhide’s question was sharp and suspicious.

“The kind that suggests another set of transformations - only we’re lacking the mechanics to actually try it.  We think,” Silverbolt answered uncertainly.

There was a moment of shocked silence.

Optimus was the first to break it.  “Are you saying that the Aerialbots are...?”

Silverbolt shook his head.  “Not right now, we’re not...but I think maybe we’re supposed to be.”

“Well, let’s find out.  Go get your team and get down to the medical bay,” Optimus ordered.

Silverbolt nodded, already sending out a call as he strode out of the room, excited chatter beginning to buzz in the wake of his revelation.

“Ratchet, Wheeljack,” Optimus called over the comm.  “I’m sending the Aerialbots down to you.  I need you to give them all full system scans.  Keep an eye out for any unusual programming.  It looks like Alpha Trion may have left us with more of an advantage than we thought.”

Within a few hours, Ratchet sent Optimus a report that confirmed Silverbolt’s theory.

“They’ve got a complete layer of programming governing a gestalt mode,” Ratchet told him when Optimus stopped by the infirmary to check on his progress.

“How did we miss that?” Optimus asked, scanning the information displayed on Ratchet’s screen.

“We weren’t checking for any kind of extra features.  We just ran the usual checks to make sure their primary coding was functioning normally,” Ratchet replied tiredly.  “We always meant to bring them back in for a more thorough examination but what with the way things have been going lately...”

Optimus sighed in rueful acknowledgement.  “That’ll teach us to take shortcuts, I suppose.  So we have an operational combiner team?”

“Not exactly,” Ratchet hedged.  “They’ve got the programming but they’re missing all of the mechanics needed for the secondary transformation.  They’ll all need some reconstruction - practically a total rebuild, in a couple of cases.”

“But you can make it work?” Optimus persisted.

“Yes, we can make it work.  But it’s going to take some time,” Ratchet cautioned.  “And a lot of reverse engineering.”

“Make it a priority,” Optimus ordered.  He looked out the open door of Ratchet’s office to where the Aerialbots were perched on tables in the repair bay.  Skydive appeared to be explaining something to Fireflight and Silverbolt was keeping an eye on all of them, paying particular attention to Air Raid and Slingshot, who seemed to be considering making a break for the door.  Optimus hadn’t foreseen this development when he’d ordered the creation of the Aerialbots.  It seemed an unfair burden to put on such a young team but an Autobot gestalt was too significant an advantage to give up.  “We need them.”

Ratchet nodded silently, following Optimus’ gaze.

It took weeks of work.  They’d copied the gestalt programming onto Ratchet’s computers and he spent days poring over the steps of the sequence, matching parts to processes.  Eventually, he and Wheeljack determined what was required for the combiner linkage and moved on to meshing that with the Aerialbots’ designs.  Reconstruction work required another couple of weeks, keeping the Aerialbots out of the air longer than was comfortable for anyone.  Fortunately, it was a quiet few weeks with regards to Decepticon activity.  Eventually, the physical side of the task was complete and the Aerialbots were properly equipped to take on their new form.

“That just leaves the actual process of combining into the gestalt form,” Wheeljack explained to Optimus as they watched Ratchet give the Aerialbots a final once-over.  “And they’re on their own with that.  None of us could make any sense of the programs guiding the personality fusion.”

“Don’t worry about that part,” Silverbolt assured them as he herded his team into the centre of the Ark’s largest storage bay.  “You took care of the mechanics, leave the rest to us.”

They trooped out into the open space, enthusiasm undimmed by the magnitude of what was being asked of them.

“All right, ready to give this a try?” Silverbolt asked, surveying the members of his team one by one.

“Sure!” chirped Fireflight.

“Eh, why not?” Air Raid said, casual tone at odds with his manic grin.

“‘Bout slagging time,” muttered Slingshot.  “Let’s get on with it already!”

“Of course,” Skydive agreed calmly.

“Good,” Silverbolt said, giving them a pleased smile.  “So then Aerialbots - transform and unite!”

It started with Silverbolt, folding into a blocky shape very unlike the sleek lines of his usual alt-mode.  The others followed his lead almost immediately, thrusters maneuvering them into position even as their bodies reshaped themselves into new configurations.  Initial hesitation faded as one step of the process flowed smoothly into the next.  Within seconds, the Aerialbots had completed their transformation and a new gestalt was standing in the bay, taking stock of his surroundings.

Optimus looked over at Ratchet and Wheeljack, hunched over their diagnostic equipment.

“It worked!” Wheeljack reported happily.  “All linkages are solid and the combined form is stable.”

“You’re okay to go talk to him but be careful,” Ratchet warned.  “We can’t be sure about the outcome of the personality fusion.”

“I’ll keep an eye out,” Optimus acknowledged as he cautiously walked into the bay.

The much taller robot seemed calm enough as Optimus drew near, a golden visor obscuring his expression at he tracked Optimus’ approach.

“Welcome to the Autobot team,” Optimus said, repeating the words he’d used when the Aerialbots had first come online.

“I am Optimus Prime,” he introduced himself, waiting patiently for a response.

“Superion,” the gestalt eventually replied, evidently accepting his new existence and allegiance.

“Well, Superion, I'm very pleased to meet you,” Optimus told him warmly.  

From the increasing clamour as Wheeljack gleefully announced their success to the growing crowd of onlookers filtering into the storage bay, Optimus wasn’t the only one happy to make Superion’s acquaintance.

Tactical advantage aside, Optimus decided that the struggle to activate Superion had been more than worth it the next time the Autobots found themselves battling the Deceptions.  At the first sign that the Autobots were gaining the advantage, Megatron smugly ordered the Stunticons to form Menasor.  The Aerialbots had swooped in close as soon as they heard Megatron's command, their eagerness almost humming over the comm line.  Optimus didn’t hesitate to oblige them.

“Aerialbots!” Optimus called.  “Show ‘em what you’ve got!”

“No!  It can’t be!”  The dismay in Megatron’s voice when he saw the Aerialbots begin their transformation was priceless.

“Surprise, Megatron!  Meet Superion!”


(Because I know I am not the only one who - as much as I love the episode - wonders, “Okay, when did that happen?” over the reveal at the end.)


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