Enemy In The Mirror                                 


            Frostwing jogged down the corridor, her mind alert to the newest problem to arise on her watch. It had been a busy few days with the Decepticons having finally assaulted their enemies, the legions of clone Transformers known as the Disciples of Primus.

            After a long hard fought battle, the Disciples had met defeat and Cybertron was once again under Imperial control. However, the Decepticons were still uncertain of what the Disciples ultimate goal had been. Their investigation of the Disciples vessels and remains of their surface structures had turned up no obvious leadership structure nor had it revealed much in the way of clues. Add to that, the Disciples had all gone inactive simultaneously so there was no way to interrogate any of the drones–not that she expected they would’ve had much to say in any event.

            The Disciples de-activation and the Decepticons ultimate victory had occurred when they’d targeted a large power source on the surface and taken it out. It had obviously been some sort of system that controlled their enemy remotely. Unfortunately, when the complex had been destroyed, it had taken with it any answers that it may have contained.

            She wondered if they’d ever figure the mystery of the Disciples out–or, if Megatron already knew the answer, he hadn’t been forthcoming with an answer and she found that lack of knowledge frustrating. Knowledge was power, after all.

            She rounded a turn in the corridor, arriving at the airlock and her ultimate destination. She had bigger concerns then the Disciples right now. It was the return of a smaller, more sinister problem then she’d had to worry about recently.

            Beyond her, three guards surrounded and grasped a struggling figure.

            “Frostwing!” the figure exclaimed. “There you are! Tell them to release me immediately!”

            She stopped in front of the other.

            “Silence,” she snapped. “You’re lucky I didn’t have you shot on sight, Starscream. Those are my standing orders, by the way. But I thought Megatron would prefer the honor himself. After all, you have been so much trouble to him in the past.”

            “Why the hostility?” Starscream asked, smiling. “I just went out for a bit, that’s all. Surely, you can’t fault me for that. Its this human inside my head–she likes to put strange ideas in my mind sometimes.”

            “Save it.” Frostwing met her gaze. “This latest offense is tantamount to desertion. The proverbial icing on the cake as it were. Megatron will not tolerate your treachery any longer–you will die before you can put your latest scheme into play.”

            Starscream smiled slightly at that, her face taking on a sinister tone. “What makes you think it isn’t already in motion?“ she asked.

            “You won’t be able to do much in the brig.” Frostwing glanced to her warriors. “Savor your last moments, Starscream. Once Megatron comes to see you I doubt you’ll have much time left...”

            “I look forward to my last minutes, then...” Starscream smiled that smile again.

            Frostwing gestured at her warriors and they began dragging the rogue Seeker/Headmaster away. She turned and marched off, not bothering to watch the procession or give the rogue Decepticon further thought.

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            We had returned from Cybertron two days ago and much jubilation followed in our wake. We had gone into the proverbial smelting pool and emerged mostly unscathed. The Disciples had fallen while we were there–a coincidence, to be sure, but a good omen regardless. That left the Decepticons in control of our home world but we had been the ones to obtain that item the Disciples had sought before their defeat. Some sort of energy core that they had attempted to take from the Last Autobot.

            Whatever it’s ultimate purpose, it was better that we had obtained the object then allow the Disciples to seize it for their own designs.

            There were still questions as to what exactly the Disciples had been and why we had found several humanoids among them on Cybertron. It seemed obvious to me that the humanoids were in control of the drones but we still have no idea what their ultimate goal was or why they had sought the Last Autobot out.                        

            Questions, always questions... I‘d hoped our mission to Cybertron would’ve helped us learn some answers about what we were up against, not raise more questions.

            Still, for the moment, we were victorious and as I had hoped, it had given the Autobots something to rally behind. A direction they’d needed so desperately to keep their spirits up and their minds focused.

We would need that fire for the coming days, months and years ahead if we had any hope of combating the Decepticons with any success.

            But we would win. I had faith and now so did the others...

            I just wish I could’ve convinced everyone of the merits of my leadership. If only Hot Rod and his rogues could’ve had the same faith in my leadership that the others did. But their hearts had grown dark long before I’d assumed command, I suspect, and they had been compelled to act as they did.

            Hot Rod had been so young and jubilant for so long in all the times since I’d first gone online in those short years between Karn and the Autobot City massacre. As Sunfire, I’d admired his passion for life in a very real way. I see now that he had allowed himself to believe in the prospect of peace again only to have that trust stamped out by Galvatron’s return.

            My heart goes out to him and all those others that left with him. They’re angry and more then that, they’re hurt. Hurt by the agony of war and the prospect of unending conflict. If only there was some way to make them see that I understand their pain and regain their trust.

            After all, we are family–and I’ve always believed family takes care of its own.


            I look up. “Hmm?”

            “You look as if you drifted off there for a moment,” Grid Iron smiled. It was something I was unaccustomed to seeing him do. The elder Autobot always seemed to have a grave expression on his face–I suspect that was from all the pressure he’d been under the past several months. This new change was a welcome one.

            “Sorry,” I replied. “Just thinking about recent events.”

            He nodded. “There’s a lot to consider,” he agreed. “We’ve gone a long way to rebuilding Oberon and assembling your forces these past weeks. Now, with your successful mission to Cybertron behind you, we might just have a new tool in our arsenal against the Decepticons.”

            “You’re certain the menace of the Disciples has been eliminated?” I quizzed him.

            “The main fleet was stationed at Cybertron–as far as we knew, anyway– and all have been taken offline by the Decepticon assault,” he responded. “The Earth contingent was largely impacted by the weapon the humans used on the Decepticons. What few remained had come back to Cybertron, so...”

            “I concur,” I replied. “I just wish we knew exactly what their ultimate purpose had been and whom these humans we’d found with them were.” I paused, disconcerted. “There’s some piece of the puzzle we’re not privy to here and that concerns me.”

            “Do you think that the Decepticons have any better idea of what’s going on then we do?” he asked.

            I shrugged. “It’s hard to say without more concrete information. My instinct is that they’re in the dark as much as we are on the Disciples–but I have nothing to back that up with.”

            He nodded, seating himself across the desk from me.

            “So, now what?”       

            “Our next move?” I considered my words before speaking. There were several options open to me, of course. It seemed logical to begin engaging the Decepticons again, at least in some limited capacity. Certainly we couldn’t take on any big targets, but smaller bases, supply depots–things of that nature were easily within our capabilities.

            Additionally, we could glean more intelligence on Megatron’s Empire and it’s potential weaknesses. Our earlier raids had helped some but with our ranks having been infiltrated by traitors such as Auto Forse we couldn’t be completely certain on the accuracy of our information. Had he gone all out in his cover and allowed us access to vital information or had he fed us just what he wanted us to know? Enough to let us feel we were making in-roads but not enough to actually do any real damage.

            Another priority was to examine the energy core we’d retrieved on Cybertron and determine exactly what it was. Was it a new Matrix? The Spark of the Last Autobot? Something else completely? I had my best scientists examining it even now, trying to help us learn just what it was we’d taken but so far we knew nothing for certain.

            And then... there was Hot Rod and his rogues. Sooner or later, something had to be done about them. I knew they weren’t out there idly sitting the war out... they were fighting their war and inevitably that could cause the Decepticons to take notice of us again.

            “There’s several things I can think of,” I told him finally. “But tell me, what’s the latest word on the rogues?”

            “Hot Rod’s crew?” He sighed. “We’ve been monitoring sporadic reports of their activities. They’ve been hitting supply depots and space stations up to this point. It seems they’ve been causing some real damage, leaving no survivors in their wake.”

            “Nothing big?” I asked.

            “Not so far,” Grid Iron replied. “But I suspect it’s just a matter of time before they do.” He tapped some commands into the console before him and called up some data. Satisfied, he turned the screen toward me.

            “See this?”

            I studied the data. “They’re progressing as they go,” I noted. “Taking on bigger and bigger targets. More fortifications and defenses at each one and they still manage to get in there somehow and eliminate them.”

            I met Grid Iron’s gaze. “Is it possible to figure out where they’ll strike next?” I asked.

            He nodded. “Shouldn’t be a problem, based off the data we have. Why do you ask?”

            “I want to find them and convince them they’re needed here with us,” I explained. “Not running around destroying stuff and helping the Decepticons take notice of us again.”

            “Are you sure that’s wise? They didn’t seem too excited when you were nominated leader.”

            “Hot Rod’s hurting. They all are...” I explained. “If we can get to them, show them that we are making a difference then maybe–just maybe–we can convince them to join up again. We need to come together in this time of need not pull apart.”

            “It’s worth an attempt,” Grid Iron offered. “That is, if Hot Rod’s willing to listen.”

            “I have to try sooner or later,” I countered. “Might as well be sooner.” I looked at the screen. “Now, lets get working on figuring out their next target,”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            I’ve spent a lot of my life looking to the horizon and the things just beyond my immediate reach. I was on Cybertron for years before Fortress Maximus lead our contingent to Nebulos and what we thought at the time was to be a new life free of the Decepticons tyranny.

            There were so many times when we had beaten them into submission, I had my doubts when we drove them off Karn. But as time went on and we heard nothing further, I confess even I started to believe that maybe things were different this time. Maybe they were gone for good... maybe that elusive peace I had sought all my life had finally manifest itself. That my desires that always seemed just beyond my reach had finally come to me, offering themselves up in unconditional surrender.

            I should’ve known better.

            The realization that my dreams were ruined first hit me when I destroyed Tentakil in the dam-way in Autobot City. As I slaughtered that piece of Decepticon garbage, as his fluids mixed with the crystal clear water around us, I knew I had lost the peace I had always sought. My hands were irreparably bloodied with the stains of war and there was no true escape from the eternal struggle.

            If I were human, I would have wept. As it was, I was left with an overwhelming sense of darkness. A feeling that I had lost my innocence forever and it could never be reclaimed, never taken back from the Decepticons.

            Somewhere in my mind I knew that we could never know peace ever again–not until the Decepticons were obliterated utterly. Something that they had been trying to do to our kind for millennia but our kind had always held back on when we had the upper hand in the situation. Optimus Prime had kept us from basest instincts, shone light into our souls when there was none left, shown us that we needed to be beyond the horde of our enemies. That we were a better people and we did not debase ourselves by sinking to their level.

            At the time, I had wholeheartedly believed him. I really did. There was something irregular about him–something that made him more then just another Autobot or Decepticon. A spark of inner power that made him not just a good Transformer but a great one. A leader among leaders, a warrior among mere soldiers.

            But he perished on Earth during Galvatron’s siege and even when the Gobot had emerged from our storage facility and rallied the troops with his claim to be Optimus Prime, I knew better. The words were there, so were the actions. But the presence of power, of wisdom beyond ages, was gone. I followed along with the others but I knew he wasn’t truly our leader reborn. He was a copy, at best.

            When he too perished I allowed myself to admit to the feelings in my core–there was only one way we could ever win the war. It was a simple solution but one that had taken me far too long to see and admit to.

            We had to obliterate the Decepticons. Wipe them out of existence completely. There was no other way.

            To that end, I had rejected Sunfire–or rather, Sonimus Prime, when she had sought control of the Autobots and struck out on my own, taking several important backers with me. The Dinobots had been happy to accompany me, as had Cliffjumper, Mainframe, Roadbuster and many others.

            Thus far we had taken out several Decepticon bases as we went along, each bigger and better fortified as we grew in resources. None had stood against us long and we had been sure to leave no survivors in our wake.

            We’d learned from hacking their databases that this new Empire Megatron had established was enormous–encompassing some fifteen planets as well as several tertiary bases and outposts–as well as one sizeable battle fleet to protect it all. It would be a daunting task to take it on, even with the warriors at my command, but I was determined to make it happen. To that end, we’d become more crafty and sought out Deplutonide-40–a compound essential to creating quantum warheads. The most powerful destructive weapon known to our kind...

            After some additional work, we’d come to Tarius. A thriving Decepticon colony, heavily fortified and highly populated. But there were no helpless slave races here–everyone down there was a Decepticon through and through.

            An excellent test site for our first functional warheads.

            “We’re absolutely certain this place is clean, right?” Sludge asked me. “Decepticon life signs only. If there’s even a trace of organic life then–“

            ”Don’t worry about it,” I assured him. “Cliffjumper scanned the place thoroughly. There’s no native life left down there and no trace of any prisoners or slaves. We’re clear to proceed.”

            I regarded the Dinobot commander. He was a strong warrior and had been one of Grimlock’s loyal strike force at one time. Despite their reputation, who would’ve realized that some of them were as concerned as regular Autobots were about innocent life forms. Grimlock had never given anyone the impression he cared for the charges Optimus had put in our care time and again. Sludge apparently wasn’t so cold–or he wasn’t as good at hiding his feelings, at any rate. Still, I couldn’t very well fault him for having a conscience–it was every Autobot’s curse, not just mine alone.

            “How long to optimal dispersal range?” I asked.

            “Two breems to target coordinates,” Roadbuster replied from the helm.

            I nodded. “Very good. Keep me up to date.” I started to turn to Sludge again.

            “I’m picking something up on scanners,” Cliffjumper announced nearby. He tapped some buttons on the keypads before him. “Hot Rod, come over here. You have to see this for yourself...”

            I rose and moved to his station. “What is it?”

            He pointed to the screen before him. I observed its readout for a moment before collecting my thoughts.

            “Damn it!” I hissed. “This changes everything!”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            We’d arrived at a world called Tarius, believing it to be the next target on Hot Rod’s list. There were two potential targets–this world and a smaller base four light years away. But the base didn’t fit the profile of the rogues previous targets and even though Tarius was a fully functional colony it seemed likely they’d take it on in some reckless attempt to prove that they could indeed do it.

            It seemed foolhardy to take on an entire colony but the rogues were among some of the strongest warriors once under Optimus Prime’s command. Additionally, their brutality and tactics had proven their advantage in their excursions thus far. With a good plan of attack, it seemed quite likely they would hit Tarius.

            The only hitch in their plans would be me. I had decided we would get there first...

            We had landed our ship on Tarius’ largest moon and teleported down, infiltrating their central facility before they even knew what hit them. The element of surprise combined with our numbers had been our one advantage. Getting in there had been the easy part, I knew. Getting control and retaining it, however, was another.

            If Hot Rod and his rogues didn’t show up for whatever reason, we could be in trouble quickly. We had a sizeable force but even we couldn’t hope to hold off an entire colony world forever. It was a gamble, but gaining the rogues trust made it a risk worth taking.

            “How close are we to the control center?” I asked.

            “It’s just around that bend,” Bumblebee replied nearby. He peeked out and fired a salvo off at our opponents.

            “Rock and roll, amigos.” Jazz tossed a grenade down the corridor and ducked back behind our cover.

            The explosion hit our enemies’ position squarely. Before the smoke had cleared we moved into the corridor and took out the remaining four Decepticons blocking our path.

            “Lets move it!” I ordered.

            The others followed my lead as we approached the control center’s entrance. The two Dutrillide doors were sealed shut as we approached them.

            “Let’s see what we can do,” Tornado mumbled nearby as he popped the panel off the door controls and began fiddling with the wiring beneath. I watched him work silently and in a moment, he had the door’s controls overrode.

            The doors slid aside and we charged inside. Airlift flung her spear and impaled one of the hapless Decepticon staff while I blasted another and Tornado and Bumblebee took out the remaining three with their usual precision.

            Bumblebee examined the chamber quickly. “Everything’s secured,” he said. “The place is ours.”

            “Now we just have ta hold it,” Jazz added. “Easier said then done.” The others nodded agreement.

            “Lets hope our information about Hot Rod’s rogues coming here was correct,” I said. “At any rate, configure the base defenses to help assist us in repelling any Decepticon reinforcements that come this way.”

            “We’re on it,” Tornado replied as he and the other ADF members dropped into the chairs at the consoles about the chamber.

            “Jam the comm systems so they can’t call the Empire for reinforcements,” I added. “We’ll have enough to deal with as it is–we don’t need added complications.”

            “Uh-oh,” Airlift said.

            I walked over to her. “What is it?”

            “We’d better get this done fast. The sensors are picking up more Decepticons headed toward our position.”

            “How many more?” Tornado asked.

            She shrugged helplessly. “More then I can count!”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            That damned female, was my first thought upon discovering that the Autobots had come to Tarius in advance of our attack and started their own skirmish. They’d been fortunate we’d been monitoring broad spectrum communications and Cliffjumper had picked up the encoded Autobot-specific comm chatter when he did. Otherwise, we might have just as easily nuked the colony without even realizing our former comrades were even there. Still, taking on an entire planet with a small attack force was suicide–what the hell was Sonimus thinking ordering such an attack?

            “Suggestions?” I asked.

            “We’ve got to do something to help them!” Sludge jumped in first. “We can’t just leave them down there!”

            “He’s right, Hot Rod,” Cliffjumper chimed in. “We may not agree with Sonimus’ methodology anymore but that’s a far cry from condemning them to death for following it.”

            “I’m not saying I disagree–but there’s a lot of Decepticons down there and we don’t exactly have a plan for dealing with them,” Roadbuster interjected. “Remember, we were coming here to nuke them off the map not engage them.”

            I listened to all of their arguments silently, processing each word as it entered my audio receptors.

            I wanted to berate Sonimus’ stupidity openly–it was the sort of foolishness that would result in all of us dying at our enemy’s hands. I wanted to divorce myself from her actions and order the strike as planned, thus succeeding and washing my hands of any future Autobot involvement. After all, this was her mistake not mine. Why should I have to be the one to bail her out?

            But even as those thoughts ran through my head, I knew they were folly. I knew there was really only one choice left to me. I knew I would act on it–because at my core it was who I was.

            I glanced up at the others, seeing the expectant expressions on their faces.

            “New plan,” I said. “Prepare for a direct assault.”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            Our good fortune in gaining control of the Decepticon’s central command complex didn’t last long. We’d barely gained control of the complex when we were besieged by dozens of Decepticon reinforcements.

            My Autobots were swift and efficient in getting the complex’s security systems running. Within minutes, the artillery and shielding systems were doing an excellent job at resisting the invaders. However, with as many warriors at their command as they had, it would only be a matter of time before they broke in somewhere and came for us.

            The complex shook violently.

            “What was that?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

            “Someone’s dropped some bombs on us,” Tornado answered. “The shields took most of it, though. But I don’t know how long they’ll last...”

            I nodded dourly. “How’s Bumblebee’s team coming on those outer defenses?”

            “Almost ready,” Jazz replied. “But they won’t buy us more then a few minutes–at the most–before

we’re overrun by the other team.”

            “We’ll need every minute we can squeeze out of here,” I replied. I tapped my com-link. “Hubcap, come in.”

            “Hubcap here,” came the disembodied voice. “Go ahead.”

            “Do you still have that lock on us?”

            “Affirmative, although there’s a little bit of minor interference on my screen. Nothing I can’t compensate for, though.”

            “Glad to hear it,” I replied. “Stand by for our signal. Sonimus out.” I clicked the comm off.

            “Tornado, I want you to–“ I never finished my sentence as the lights abruptly switched off.

            “What–?!” someone exclaimed.

            The emergency lighting abruptly kicked in, providing the minimum illumination that would normally be needed for the Decepticon staff to see where they were going and continue to do their jobs.

            “Someone cut the power!” Tornado exclaimed.

            “How?” I demanded. “I thought the generators for this facility were well shielded!”

            “They are,” he replied. “But if they had a digger among their ranks, maybe he tunneled down there. Either that, or we missed something somehow.”

            “Damn it!” Without the generators, the shields protecting the complex were useless and so were any perimeter defenses defending us against our enemies.

            Where the hell was Hot Rod, I wondered. This would’ve been the ideal time for his rogues to show up and lend us a hand.

            An explosion rocked the room and I knew somewhere that the Decepticon infiltration into the complex had begun. It would only be a matter of time until they reached us.

            “Tell the outer perimeter team to do what they can but if they feel they can’t hold out to fall back here,” I ordered Airlift. “I don’t want to lose anyone if I can help it.”

            She nodded and rushed out of the room.                     

            “How long are we going to stay?” Tornado asked. “If we guessed wrong, Hot Rod’s not coming–and we’re in a heap of trouble, either way...”

            “Give it a few more minutes,” I replied calmly. “If things get critical, I’ll have Hubcap switch the portal on and get us out of here.”

            “I just hope–“ Tornado was cut off in mid-sentence as another explosion shook the room. This time, far closer to our location then before.

            I turned and rushed out into the corridor. If our perimeter defenses had been compromised then we would only have moments before the Decepticons would be upon us!

            Still another explosion shook the complex and I found my footing giving way beneath me. I heard a noise and glanced up in-time to see a section of the ceiling break loose and drop on me.

            Then, darkness...


            The Decepticon command citadel was already overrun by the time we touched down on the surface. It was only a matter of time before they took out Sonimus’ Autobots–that is, unless we could get to them first.

            “Roadbuster, drop the package,” I ordered into my comm.

            “Acknowledged,” came the reply. “Bomb’s away!”

            “I hope this works,” Cliffjumper said beside me. “If we’re not far enough away with that thing, it’ll get us as well.”

            “I have faith in his aim,” I replied. “And if we don’t use something as powerful as a quantum bomb, we won’t get the intended effect.”

            From our cloaked vessel, I watched as half of the Decepticon assault force abruptly turned and rushed off from their prey, their new destination on the horizon some distance away.

            “See? That got their attention!”

            He nodded. “And with the devastation those things cause, we can be certain they’ll be gone for a while before they realize what happened.”

            “Giving us enough time to finish what we started here,” Sludge chimed in, taking the words right out of my mouth.

            “Load up and move out!” I said instead, leading the charge out of the ship and toward the complex. In nano-clicks, the others fell into formation behind me and we moved as one unit.

            The rear guard was small and unsuspecting of a rear assault as we struck them. They fell in one quick, fatal barrage from our weapons.

            “It only gets harder from here on in,” I muttered as Cliffjumper and Sludge took point. The others fell in behind us, watching for any sign of attack.

            We’d traveled several more feet before a squad of Decepticons emerged down an adjacent corridor. They saw us at the same instance we saw them and managed to squeeze off the first shots before we could drop back behind cover. Fortunately, none of their shots hit any of us and we were able to recover swiftly. I jumped out and loosed my photon blasts, striking one of the warriors squarely in his chest and taking him down. At the same instant, Cliffjumper’s gatling gun tore apart two more hapless Decepticons that got in its way. Skreem and Skeer finished the remaining three with ease.

            We assembled at the spot the unit had been and continued forward a few more feet when three more Decepticons appeared. Wasting no time, Sludge, Cliffjumper and I blasted them, killing them before they could even fire a shot.

            We went on that way for several more minutes, each time eliminating a small group of Decepticons here or there. Most were caught by surprise, not expecting our attack from behind their own lines. Finally, we rounded a bend in the corridor and took out one more force of our enemy. Even as we engaged them, I thought I noticed fire coming from their side flank as well, forcing them into what little cover they could find before we struck them down.

            Satisfied they were taken out, Cliffjumper began moving forward but I stopped him.

            “Hang on,” I said, inching forward toward the former Decepticon berth myself.

            I reached the bend they’d been using, noting the small wall of crates they’d apparently been using for cover from the adjacent end of the corridor. I peeked around the corner and pulled back just in time to avoid being hit by strafing fire from the opposite end.

            “Autobots?” I called out. “Its Hot Rod. Don’t shoot!”

            “Hot Rod?” I heard someone say. It sounded like Bumblebee’s voice. “Is that you?”

            I slowly peeked out again, revealing myself. On the other end of the corridor, I could see Bumblebee, Jazz, Tornado, Rad, Jackpot, Firestorm, Hosehead and two others I didn’t recognize immediately.

            “Bumblebee!” I exclaimed. “Is everyone okay?”

            He shook his head. “We lost Scorchstrike and Hauler took some minor damage,” he replied. “Sonimus got hit by debris but she seems to be okay. Airlift is checking her out right now.” He motioned at the closed hatch behind them.

            I nodded. The rest of my away team had emerged behind me at that point and we began making our way over to our former comrades.

            “Come on,” I said. “We’ll give you guys a hand gathering up your stuff. Most of the Decepticons are distracted for now. But that won’t last forever and we don’t want to be here when they return.”


            It didn’t take long for us to haul Sonimus and her team out of the Decepticon complex. While she was distracted, I had Mainframe use his unique skills to access the Decepticon databases and do a data dump–in the hope we might find something worthwhile for all our effort on this extraneous mission.

            Bumblebee explained they’d been sent down by portal via cloaked ship on Tarius’ largest moon. I decided to bring Sonimus’ team aboard our vessel and transport them off-world. From there, they could transport aboard their ship and leave. I neglected to mention our plan to destroy Tarius completely–I knew Sonimus wouldn’t approve of our actions and I didn’t intend to give her the option of trying to stop us until it was too late.

            I hadn’t directly approached the subject before we left–I’d had bigger concerns on my mind–but once we were safely in orbit, I approached Sonimus Prime and asked her directly why she’d lead her Autobots into such a dangerous situation on Tarius. The answer wasn’t what I was expecting.

            “We came looking for your group,” she explained.

            “W–why?” I managed to stutter out in response.

            “Because things have changed and we need your help,” she continued. “I’m guessing you don’t know that the Disciples of Primus are no more–we were on Cybertron when the Decepticons finished them off. I’m still a bit hazy on the details but they’re no longer a threat and that means the Decepticons are in control of our homeworld once more–and more dangerous then ever.”

            I absorbed this new information. We’d known little about the Disciples and their ultimate purpose. But my angry mandate had been more about taking on the Decepticons directly rather then this new curiosity that had emerged in the wake of our war for control of Earth and Cybertron. As far as I was concerned, now that the Disciples were no longer a threat they were one less problem to worry about in the grand scheme of things.

            “I don’t see how that changes anything,” I retorted. “It’s still ultimately us against them. Frankly, I don’t see you doing much to stop them.”

            A look of discouragement and sorrow crossed her face. I wasn’t seeing the brilliance of her peace offering. It must have seemed so obvious to combine forces to her. To me, it seemed like inviting futility.

            “We are doing something,” she said after a moment. “We were there on Cybertron when the Disciples went down and we’ve discovered there’s more to them then we thought. There were some sort of humans there as well–beings with immense power that wanted the Last Autobot’s power for their own ends. They failed but I’m certain there’s more to this then we realize.”

            “Yeah, yeah. Humans...” I dismissed her comments. After all, what difference did humans make in the grand scheme of things, anyway? Against a determined Transformer, my credits were on the robot any day of the week.

            I turned and told Cliffjumper to give the signal. Sonimus wondered what I meant but didn’t question my cryptic command, likely figuring it was something unimportant. She was about to realize how wrong she was...

            “We’re doing just fine, Sonimus,” I told her. “We don’t want to do things your way any more. Your way is futile–our way is getting results.”

            I gazed at the viewscreen and Tarius beyond. “Watch!”

            In moments, several large explosions littered the surface from my other units as they bombarded specified target points, each one unleashing one lethal quantum warhead after the other. Wiping the Decepticon infestation from existence on this lone celestial body.

            “You–you’ve wiped them out!” she exclaimed beside me. “It’s murder! Genocide!”

            “It’s war!” I snapped. “Something that for all your vaunted wisdom, you don’t seem to understand. The Decepticons won’t be happy until we are exterminated completely–and if we don’t get with the bigger picture, we’ll meet our end sooner then later.”

            “This is madness, Hot Rod,” Sonimus told me. “You’re no better then them if you start this.”

            “I’m not interested in semantics anymore,” I hissed. “Once the Decepticons are eliminated we can have true peace. As long as even one survives, all we’ll have is eternal war and strife. I’m ending this once and for all!”

            She shook her head module slowly, sadly.

            “Don’t do that,” I growled. “Our way is getting results–our way is what saved your hides on Tarius! We’re taking this fight right to them and we’re doing everything we can to end it. Not hiding out in Oberon’s ruins and praying good will and enlightenment will make any difference.”

            “So be it,” Sonimus turned and went to join her group in the hold below. She stopped a few feet later and turned. “Is it worth everything?” she asked. “Even your soul?”

            I bit back some primal curse I was going to utter and calmed my temper. “We’re nearly to Tarius’ moon,” I said instead. “Go, and don’t get in my way again...”

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            The trip back was uneventful and we arrived at Oberon with no further delay. Bumblebee and I met with Grid Iron after we disembarked and informed him of our progress–or lack thereof–in pursuing Hot Rod and his rogues.

            “So, after all of that, you failed to convince him to come back?” Grid Iron was saying. “It’s disappointing but I can’t say that I’m really surprised either. We knew this was a long shot going in.”

            “I know,” I replied. “But I had my hopes–however realistic they were–that we might be able to convince him otherwise.”

            “Maybe some things weren’t meant to be,” Bumblebee offered.

            “Our whole situation didn’t help either. In that scenario, we came across as weak and helpless with his rogues riding to our rescue. We failed to show them that in the right circumstances we can be strong too.”  I sighed.

            “Perhaps in the future,” Grid Iron said. “I know what he said but there might come a time when things change and they see they need us as much as we need them.”

            “One can hope,” I replied. “Because the way things are going, sooner or later, they’re going to cross the line. They can’t possibly do what they’re doing and remain Autobots.”

            “They already nuked a world full of Decepticons–you don’t call that crossing the line?” Grid Iron demanded.

            “I don’t approve but they still think they’re doing the right thing,” I replied. “As far as anyone knew, Tarius had no native life forms on it. It was purely Decepticon–but how long until they end up finding somewhere with both Decepticons and organics? Will they still show restraint?”

            Or would Hot Rod’s holy mission preclude such things as compassion for lesser beings and innocents in this war, I wondered. After all, he couldn’t hope to wipe out every last Decepticon without also assaulting worlds where they had taken slaves.

            “What are you saying, Sonimus?” Bumblebee met my gaze. “That its inevitable that we’ll become enemies?”

            “If they cross the line, become like the Decepticons... I’m sorry, but I don’t see any other choice–we’ll have to fight them.”

            “Cliffjumper’s with them...” he said aloud, his gaze one of grave concern for family.

            “Hopefully it won’t come to that.” Grid Iron looked to me for support.

            “We’ll try everything we can to ensure it doesn’t,” I responded, taking my cue.

            But even as I said it, I knew it was only a matter of time before our divergent paths would collide. And when that happened, it wasn’t going to be pretty. There were going to be some difficult choices to be made that day–and the responsibility would fall squarely on my shoulders.

                                    *                                    *                                    *

            We were safely secluded in an asteroid field, our ships hidden near a moon-sized rock. Any passing vessels would take us as a sensory echo and nothing more.

            “I can’t believe she just thought we’d roll over and offer to join up with her again,” I snapped. “Doesn’t she get it? This is a fight for our very lives not some game!”

            “She respected Optimus deeply,” Cliffjumper offered. “Looked up to him as a hero. As far as she’s concerned, he was everything an Autobot should be. She just wants to try and live up to the ideal he set.”     

            “He was a great warrior,” I agreed. “The best of us, even. But–blast it–he’s dead and gone now. And she’s no Optimus–none of us are. We can only carry this war on the best way we know how.”

            “She’s right about one thing–this war will cost us everything we hold dear if we let it,” Sludge said. “How long can we keep this up before we cross the line and become everything we despise about the Empire?”

            “It’s a concern,” I admitted. I slumped back in my chair and breathed a sigh. “It is. But we really are getting results going how we are. I don’t know about you, but I have to see try and see this thing through to the end.”

            “I’m with you,” Cliffjumper replied. “But we wouldn’t be the people we are if we didn’t stop to make sure we have our bearings every so often.”

            I nodded and smiled. I leaned back in my chair and was quiet a moment when I realized Sludge hadn’t spoken.

            “What about you?” I asked. “Are you still with us or do you want to go back?”

            “I’m with you–but I won’t harm any innocents or allow myself to be put in any situations where they’ll be hurt,” Sludge said. “I’m willing to die for my cause, if I must. But I won’t ask that of anyone else–not even peripherally.”

            “I promise you, with my spark’s last flame, I will not allow an innocent to come to harm,” I told him. “We will do what’s necessary but we will not become like the Decepticons.”

            He nodded once, his resolve satisfied. I just hoped I wouldn’t fail in my promise... I didn’t want to become like the Decepticons–but I also didn’t want to let them survive to fight on. If it came down to it, would I have to chose between taking innocent lives in order to stop them permanently?

            The door slid open and Mainframe entered, interrupting my thoughts.

            “Autobot: Hot Rod, I have examined the data recovered from Tarius as commanded,” he said. “I have the results of my research.” He handed me a data pad.

            I took it and nodded my appreciation. Mainframe had seemed like an odd choice to join our crusade against the Decepticons–yet when we’d asked, he’d explained that our mission seemed the most logical one to succeed due to our agenda.

            I examined the contents of the data pad before me. After a moment of scrolling through it, I smiled.

            “What is it?” Cliffjumper asked.

            “This has the location of the main Decepticon shipyards, a place called Sky’arx,” I explained. “Better yet, look at this...” I handed him the pad.

            He examined the data and smiled, handing it over to Sludge.

            “This changes everything,” I exclaimed.

            Our battle was about to begin in earnest...

                                    *                                    *                                    *

          Megatron entered the detention area of the Dark Glory and gazed at the lone Transformer in the cell at the end of the corridor. The prisoner was seated, looking uneasily at the deck as she awaited her fate.

            “Greetings, Starscream.” He moved a bit closer. “So the prodigal son–or should I say, daughter, in your case–returns to the nest.”

            “Megatron!” Starscream exclaimed, in her shrill high-pitched voice. “Come to gloat over my easy capture?”

            Megatron regarded the Seeker.

            “No,” he replied. “There is no need for such frivolities, Starscream. You are condemned, old friend, sentenced to join your former comrades, Galvatron and Shockwave, in the Allspark. I have come to see you one last time, to consider your life...”

            He paused. “Where did it all go wrong? You started out with such potential... the best of my aerial warriors, loyal and cunning. An excellent warrior and Decepticon–you could’ve gone so far, almost did. Why did you get greedy? In time, you may have rose to Commander on your own merits–there was no need for your treachery time and again.”

            You delude yourself, Commander,” she sneered. “You would have never surrendered command of the Decepticons to me–and you’re too stubborn to go to the abyss when its beckoned you!” She shook her heard. “If I had waited for my reward loyally, I would still be waiting to this day!”

            “Perhaps you are correct,” Megatron replied. “At any rate, all you have earned now is death. Will you tell me where you’ve been these past days? Scheming my demise, no doubt. Were you efforts in vain?”

            “Why bother telling you?” she asked. “It won’t make any difference...”

            He nodded. “True. You merely forestall the inevitable, Starscream. You cannot stand against my might–you never could.”

            “I do want to do one thing before I die, though.” She smiled wickedly.

            “And what is that, old friend?”

            “Thank you. For designing a ship where the brig is close enough to the rear drive section to cause serious damage.”                                                                                              

            An alarm rose in Megatron’s mind. “What–?” he began.

            “Goodbye, old friend.” She grinned.

            The next thing he knew, the world had gone white in one instant and then there was nothing...


            “Status!” Skyquake snapped.

            Leadfoot glanced at his console. “We’ve sustained major damage near the starboard side of the ship! The hyperdrive and main drive is non-responsive!”

            “Main power at thirty two percent,” another officer chimed in nearby.

            “Weapons?” he demanded.

            “Off-line,” Nightracer replied. “It will take several minutes to re-route.”

            “High radiation levels,“ Leadfoot said. He glanced at Skyquake. “Damage is consistent with a strike by a quantum warhead. Source unknown.”

            Skyquake considered his options. “Contact Terrorwing!” he ordered Soundwave. “See if he can–”

            “A vessel has just jumped in,” Stalker exclaimed. “It’s big!”

            “Incoming transmission,” Soundwave announced.

            He bit out a breath. “Let us hear it,” Skyquake replied.

            “This is Commander Starscream of the battleship Conquest,” a large Transformer said onscreen. “You are hereby ordered to stand down and prepare to be boarded.”

            “What if we refuse?” Skyquake thundered.

            “Then you will die!” Starscream hissed. “You have one minute to make your decision!”