They had been going over things for breems now and tempers were beginning to fray. Prowl liked to think himself a pretty calm and even-tempered mech but even he was beginning to get annoyed with Red Alert's constant ranting about how having an enemy gestalt like the Combaticons down in their brig was a Very Bad Idea and that it would be the Death of Them All.
"Red Alert, I understand your concerns but you must realize that it would be far more risky to try and transport them to a more secured location. Now that Megatron realizes we have the Combaticons in our custody, he's going to redouble his efforts to take them back." The tactician tried to explain logically and calmly to the security officer.
Red Alert huffed angrily and leaned against the table. "And that is exactly why we need to get rid of them! If you won't agree to move them then they need to be disabled or executed outright!"
At the other side of the table Smokescreen tensed slightly but said nothing.
"We might be able to get some valuable information out of them. Before they defected, Onslaught was one of Megatron's highest ranking tacticians; he's probably got their battleplans for the last ten vorns in his processor not to mention any ops they might be running right now. They're too valuable to just execute out of hand. Besides, that's not up to us. We'll wait until word comes down from high command about what to do with them."
"And in the meantime they are putting this base and all of our staff at risk! It is an unacceptable danger no matter what kind of information Onslaught can provide. And if he is the one with the intel, then there is absolutely no reason to keep the others here!" Red Alert argued, slamming one hand down on the desk. "With all due respect to your station, you do not know how dangerous this position is!"
Prowl's doors hitched up fractionally, the only indication or reaction he gave to Red Alert's tantrum when he slammed his fist down on the desk. "Then instead of tying all of us up here in a meeting that is going nowhere, perhaps we should be trying to find a way to most quickly and efficiently process the Combaticons and get them out of the base like you wish. Find me a safe route through the Decepticon territory and a way of getting them to Iacon without risk of them falling back into Megatron's hands."
He gestured to the map laid out between them. "Because as things stand right now, Red Alert, I do not see one. We're all but surrounded here and cannot afford to take all our forces off trying to hold back Shockwave's forces coming in from Polyhex to escort them personally off our base." Prowl broke off when someone knocked sharply on the door.
Red Alert glared at Prowl then at the map before leaning over and examining it carefully. "We could go ... Fine, so we can't get them out of here, but why do we need all of them? I will concede that Onslaught has valuable intel, but Vortex and Brawl are psychopaths, Blast Off is a useless glitch, and trying to deal with Swindle would be beyond useless! The piece of smelter scum will try to sell us our own creators before telling us anything useful!" he railed, completely ignoring the dark look Smokescreen was shooting him and the knock at the door.
"If we execute his subordinates, how helpful do you think Onslaught will be?" A hint of ice entered Prowl's voice now. But then the knock came again, louder and more insistent. "Enter," he ordered with a frown.
"Prowl. We got a major problem." Jazz didn't even wait for the door to fully open before he barreled his way in.
"What is it, Jazz?"
"Just got word in, the 'cons snagged all our agents in some kinda sting operation."
"Any idea where they're being held? I can see about organizing a rescue effort," Smokescreen asked, speaking for the first time.
Jazz's lip components thinned. "They're being taken to Shockwave's stronghold for 'questioning' last I heard." The Spec Ops officer's optic band was dim.
"You said all of them were taken?" A hint of incredulous suspicion filled Prowl's voice.
"Yes, sir. Gots ta be some kinda inside job. We were sold out by someone."
Smokescreen nodded. "There's no way they could have gotten the jump on all your cells without some kind of inside intel. And if they're in Darkmount it might be impossible to get them out without a major offensive."
Red Alert shook his head angrily. "We don't have the personnel for that. It would leave our bases dangerously understaffed, and I'm sorry Jazz, but it's not a risk we can take. Your teams knew the risk when they got involved with this. I hate to say it, but we should cut our losses now."
An angry look crossed Jazz's face briefly before he could school his features into a more passive mask. "What about the 'batties?"
"....what about them?" Prowl asked slowly.
"Megs would give a lot to get 'em back. Maybe he'd even be willing to trade my men for the Combaticons."
"No!" both Smokescreen and Red Alert exclaimed at the same time.
"That's completely inadvisable! You cannot let Megatron get his hands back on that gestalt! Your spies are not worth it!"
"Not worth it!?" The saboteur demanded hotly, starting forward menacingly.
"Shut up, Red!" Smokescreen snapped. "Jazz, I hate to say it but Red's halfway right. I know that we need to get your mechs back, but the Combaticons are too dangerous in Megatron's hands. But maybe we can pump them for information?"
"Jazz!" Prowl snapped. "Everyone needs to calm down." Looking at the gathered mechs soberly, "Smokescreen is right, we need to try and pump them for information. The threat of trading them back to the Decepticons is leverage we can use."
Red Alert stood his ground but said nothing to the saboteur. Instead he turned toward Prowl. "That would be a mistake, Prowl, and you know it. The Combaticons will not provide up with any-"
"Shut up, Red! I'm serious!" Smokescreen interrupted. "Look, Prowl, we can question them, but we're more likely to get something from them by promising to ship them off world. They won't react well to threats."
Prowl looked at the other tactician searchingly for a moment. "You know them more than us, Smokescreen."
"Prowl...these are my men we're talkin' 'bout," Jazz argued.
"I understand that, Jazz but Red Alert is right, they knew the risks-"
"But, Prowl-" Jazz tried to interrupt.
"-but we can't risk letting them fall into Decepticon hands either. Special Ops agents are privy to intel we don't want Megatron or Shockwave attaining either. So we find ourselves in a bit of a difficult situation."
"Okay, so I suggest that you present an offer to Onslaught. Tell him that you'll let his team go if they provide you with information," Smokescreen said. "You might be able to get some of the others to turn on their own but you'll need to word the proposition right."
"Very well, I'll present an offer to Onslaught. As for the others...." Prowl trailed off then, battle computer coming up with a breakdown of the situation and who would be best suited for dealing with the Combaticons. "Here's what we're going to do...."