Chapter 23 – Choosing Sides

Inside the Nemesis gunroom, Starscream pounds on the controls and tries to swerve his cannon around.

"They've jammed the controls! I can't get a target!"

Rumble chuckles at the jet commander's troubles and taps his console in a sarcastic manner.

"Gee, tough break there Starscream. I guess I'm going to have to bail you out with my cannon."

As Rumble laughs, the jet commander turns his own shoulder cannon against Rumble and blasts him in the back. The mini-Decepticon shouts in agony and drops to the floor with a smoldering hole in his back. Stepping over to the controls now, Starscream kicks the mini-bot while he's down and chuckles as he turns his attention back to the fight.

"No thanks Rumble, I'll just take yours instead."

The decepticon stares into the sight scope that soon adjusts to his eye line and searches the outer shell of the ship for the disruption. As he zooms over the hull and locks onto the damaged cannon, he notices Cliffjumper standing on the edge of it while firing his gun at the other cannon ports.

"Ok Auto-brat!" He growls. "Time for you to get a taste of your own medicine!"

Starscream touches the controls, a various array of buttons, dials and holographic alignment spinners.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

The cannon further down the outer hull begins to pivot and extend, the weapon shows a swing arm at the base giving it an almost elbow reaction as it now targets at Cliffjumper. The little red Autobot doesn't notice it right away, but as he stops firing his weapon and hears the sound of the metal clicking, the robot quickly turns his head to see the barrel end facing him.

"Uh oh." Cliffjumper utters as his joyful grin goes sour.

The cannon fires just as the small robot leaps out of the way, but his back is struck from the edge of the powerful laser shot that screams past him. The quick strike sends him hurling down to the ground below. The smoke billows from his scorched hide like a rocket diving down to the ground of melting ice. His body crashes into the massive pool of cold water surrounded by chunks of glacier debris.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Watching the monitor inside, Starscream lets out a joyous laugh in victory.

"I got him! I got him!!"

Thundercracker scowls at the air commander and keeps firing his weapon at the other Autobots.

"Lucky shot Starscream…that's all it was."

"HA!" Starscream quipped back at the blue robotic jet. "Luck had nothing to do with it. My aim was sheer perfection! You're just jealous of my keen eye and superior skill."

"Give me a break Starscream." A voice now sounds from below the Deception.

The commander notices Rumble starting to stir back into consciousness and begins to stand up.

"He was standing right in front of you and you shot him in the back!"

"How would you know that Rumble? You weren't near the controls…" Starscream scoffs as he allows the small mini-robot to rise in front of him.

"I was about to take care of him till you got greedy and stole my cannon!"

"Yes Starscream…." A voice interrupts.

As the air commander looks up, he notices Skyfire standing there with his arms folded with a serious glare.

"You are greedy when it comes to taking glory of others works."

Starscream steps over rumble and brings his finger up to the towering white robot, Skyfire doesn't react as the Decepticon confronts him.

"Stay out of this Skyfire! I do what I want, when I want, however I want…"

"So it seems." Skyfire states. "I remember a certain project of mine that you once stole and declared it your own to the Cybertronian Science Council."

"That was a long time ago my friend." Starscream says as he lowers his hand. "I'm surprised you actually remember that."

"I'm beginning to remember a lot of things. I remember when you were more scientist then soldier. You use to have such compassion back then…so much more understanding towards lower life forms."

Starscream turns his attention back to the cannon controls and allows Rumble to resume his position.

"Every creature is lower compared to us…we are the ones destined to rule the galaxy. They're nothing more then lab rats to experiment on or keep as slaves for our purposes."

He turns his head back at Skyfire who looks appalled at his statement.

"I woke up Skyfire." Starscream continues. "Why don't you do the same? Or is your brain still frozen in time?"

Skyfire lowers his eyes at the obvious insult his friend made. He could see Starscream was dead serious in his convictions and gave one last comment as he walked out of the room.

"Perhaps you're right Starscream. Its time I woke up."

••••••••••••••••••••••••

Down on the bridge of the Nemesis, Megatron watches the battle on the monitors and smirks with pride. The visual shows Optimus Prime and the others scrambling about to avoid the cannon fire as it blasts massive craters in the surface. It showers the Autobots in ice chunks and water.

"Nothing can stop us…not even you Optimus Prime." Megatron chortles.

Spike becomes infuriated by the images and runs over to Megatron as he begins punching away at his leg.

"Bastard! You Bastard! Make it stop do you hear?! Stop this!!"

"Spike!" His father shouts as he tires to pull him away.

Megatron looks down and continues to smirk, a human trying to harm him with his weak flesh fists is enough to amuse this metallic giant and cause him to push the humans aside with a slight tap of his foot. While it might have not been much effort to kick them, the impact of his actions cause Spike and Sparkplug to be thrown to the far side of the room. The two smack against the wall and groan from pain.

"Stupid creatures." Megatron snickers as he turns to face them. "Nothing you can do can harm me either. Look at you…soft, weak, and totally inferior to any other life form in the universe. It amazes me you insects have lasted as long as you have."

Chip Chase looks over at the computer terminal again, the download was still in progress on the human computer linkup. A thought now creeps into his brain and keeps his eyes focused back on Megatron and Ravage. The black robotic cat walks over to retrieve Spike and Sparkplug as Megatron motions to him to do so, that gives Chip the opening he needs and starts to run towards the computer.

"Megatron!" Archeville warns to him. "Stop him!"

The Decepticon leader notices Chip reaching the terminal and typing away on the console frantically.

"Ravage!" The leader summons.

The black cat quickly turns about and charges towards the computer hacker. Chip continues to type quickly and then finally pushes one last button. Ravage smacks the young man down with its massive paw and holds him down with is claw. Chip lets out a blood curling yell as the feels them digging into his back. A sudden snap of bone is heard as he continues to scream in pain.

"OH GOD! STOP! GET OFF OF ME! PEASE!"

Suddenly the power begins to surge throughout the ship, lights flicker, the monitor begins to scroll and the guns soon silence. Megatron hurries to the controls and tires to correct the problem. The scowl on his face deepens, as he cannot resume control of the ship's power.

"What have you done human?!" Megatron howls at Chip.

Too over come with pain, Chip Chase loses consciousness as Ravage continues keep his claw wedged in his back. Megatron pounds on the console and points at Archeville.

"Get over to that human device and find out what that fool has done!"

"Right away Megatron!" Archeville nods frantically.

He too has a stake in what his happening, whatever Chase has done, it has also harmed his plans as well. He quickly grabs hold of the computer and taps away on the keyboard. The information scrolls up and his eyes grow wide with panic.

"He's using an encrypted virus…it's destroying all information in this computer and the mainframe of the Nemesis!"

"NO!" Megatron gasps.

•••••••••••••••••••••••

As the Autobots battle away outside, the outer ship guns suddenly stop and power down. It puzzled them all for a second, their weapons still firing away for a few more moments and then easing back on the triggers once they realized nothing was firing back at them.

"Ok?" Prime says with a curious gaze. "Now what? Don't tell me they've given up this easily."

Ratchet takes the moment of calm as the chance to go and rescue Cliffjumper. The Autobot sprints over to the base of the ship and dives in to the hardening glacial wet snow to pull his friend out. It must have been deep down and hard to reach him, Ratchet wasn't coming up and it gave the Autobot leader a moment of pause as he waited. Ironhide began to panic as he too noticed the medical robot not returning to the surface. He started to run to the slushy area Ratchet dove into and began shouting.

"Ratchet! Cliffjumper! I'm comin' guys! Hang on…don't die!"

Optimus managed to grab him before he had the chance to reach it and tried to keep him back.

"Wait Ironhide! I can't let you go down there too!"

"But..but Prime! They're not coming back up! They've sunk to the bottom of this icy mess! We gotta go get them before they deactivate for good!"

Suddenly Ratchet re-emerges though the already hardening slush and pulls the unconscious mini-bot out with him. As he manages to rise up on solid ground, Ironhide gives him a knock on the shoulder and smiles.

"Way to go Doc! I knew you had heated oil in that system of yours!"

Ratchet just rubbed his arm from the painful punch he received and gave a coy laugh.

"Yeah…uh…right. Let's get him to some cover so I can scan him for damage."

Optimus Prime looks at Cliffjumper just as the tiny robot's eyes switch on again.

"You know…you're pretty stupid. Pulling a stunt like that."

Cliffjumper starts to laugh quietly.

"Hey…somebody has to be the stupid one."

Ironhide takes hold of the small red Autobot and carries him away with Ratchet. Prime just shakes his head and chuckles lightly. Just as he turns about, a green laser goes streaking past his head. Turning to look upward, the leader sees the Decepticons on top of the ship firing down at him.

"Autobots! Covering fire!"

As Prime dashes for the nearest snow bank for cover, the Autobots all stand up and shoot at the various targets to give their leader a chance to regroup with them.

"Keep at them! Don't give them a chance to return a shot!" Jazz screamed over the noise.

Standing on top of the ship, and ducking from the Autobot's lasers, Starscream tries to command the few that are with him.

"Thundercracker, Rumble, Skywarp, Bonecrusher! Return fire and protect me!"

"Shut your face you coward!" Thundercracker snarled.

"I order you! As your leader…"

"Stowe it Girlscream!" Bonecrusher grumbled as he dived down to miss a shot coming at him. "Just point those null rays at the Autobots and protect this ship you idiot!"

The Decepticon jet commander gives a twitch of his right eye in anger and summons up the courage to fire back himself. Screaming to the top of his voice, the commander unleashes a barrage of shots like a crazed maniac.

"This is nuts we need support!" Rumble yelled in a worried tone.

A shadow casts over him as it blots out the sun from behind, standing behind him was Skyfire, gun in hand and looking out at the battling Autobots below.

"Skyfire! Bout time you showed up…" Rumble sighed in relief as he looked to see him. "Show them what Decepticon might is all about!"

The giant white robot stared at his weapon in doubt. He looked to Starscream who was still going wild with his shooting and gave a slight sigh of discontent. This is not the sort of thing he'd wish to be in, he was never a soldier; he never liked this type of conflict. To fire his gun at another seemed almost disgusting to him. Still, he was drafted no matter what. The time had come for him to choose a side. The only question running through his mind at this point and time was…which one?

••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Ravage kept his foot on Chip, despite his groaning of pain, the black robotic cat never eased up as it pressed down on his shattered spine. Megatron and Archeville hovered over the controls in panic. The ship was not responding to any command codes or giving any information to the various buttons they pressed. With alarms blaring all over and sparks shooting out all over the room, Ravage became distracted and glanced over at the computers going haywire.

Bursting through the door at that very second, the mini-autobot group came pouring in with guns blazing. Windcharger took out Ravage; the blast sent the cat sailing to the other side of the command center and knocked him out cold. Bumblebee and Huffer came over to Spike and Sparkplug as they shot at the Decepticon Leader.

"Ok guys, enough of your picnic with the 'cons, we're out of here!" Bumblebee mused as he greeted them.

Megatron had been caught off guard by their forced entry; his body was deflecting most of the shots, but shielded his face with his arms as they kept at him.

"Eat laser ya hot head!" Brawn laughed at the silver leader.

"AUTOBOTS!! Daaaaah!!" Megatron howled. "You'll suffer for this…"

"More like you will…Megadolt!" Windcharger snickered as he stood side by side with Brawn shooting at the Decepticon.

Huffer scooted over to Chip Chase lying in a pool of blood and scooped him up.

"I hope you're a good guy kid, cause I'll hate myself in the morning if you turn out to be someone I should have left behind."

Bumblebee flipped into his VW Beetle form and opened the doors for Spike and his dad. The two jumped in quickly and strapped in. The yellow bug spun his tires and drove out of the room in a flash. Huffer carried Chip as he ran out of the room as well, giving a slight pause by the door as he looked back at the other two.

"Come on you guys! Let's high tail it out of here!"

Windcharger and Brawn nodded to each other and bolted after him.

"Autobots, lets move!!" Brawn shouted.

As they just cleared the doors, a blast of Megatron's fusion cannon streaked over them. Brawn returned fire in retaliation and quickly transformed with the rest as they drove out of the ship for their lives. The leader let out a bitter scream of anger as he sent two more blasts for the metal walls. He had hoped to break through it and strike the escaping bots, but to no avail. As the smoke cleared and the moment of tension ended, Doctor Archeville crawled out from cowering under the computer console and blinked in confusion.

"They…left me? They left without me?"

Megatron heard his voice and scowled down at him. Pointing his fusion cannon directly that the man's head, the leader's eyes turned bright red in fury.

"I should wipe you off here and now…and do so to all that did this to my ship! Humans! The entire race should be erased from the cosmos for good. I've had more then my fill of you lot. You…yes…you were the leader of this project and you are the one to suffer the consequences!!"

"NO! No Megatron! I beg of you!" The man quickly whimpered as the glow of the weapon pulsated deep within the dark cylinder. "Spare me! I am yours to command! I…I will do whatever you ask! Anything at all!"

The Decepticon eyes continued to glow bright, but soon dimmed down as his mood changed. Now with a smirk on his face, Megatron delighted in hearing the human man beg for his life.

"Anything at all, huh?"

Archeville wept in fear and kept his eyes tight as he continued to plead to the massive leader. He even dropped to his knees clutching his hands together as a last resort.

"I will give you all my secrets….all my knowledge…I won't hide anything from you anymore…my….my leader. Please, let me live and I will help you to destroy your enemies forever."

Megaton laughed, despite the ship still seemingly falling to pieces around him. He retracted his arm cannon and pointed at the sniveling coward beneath him.

"And so you shall, Doctor. And so you shall."

Suddenly the computers snap back online and the ship began to power up again. Megatron gives a surprised look and taps his chest communicator.

"Soundwave…report."

"The virus has been purged from the computer core, systems are now operational…" The monotone voice answered back. "And the ship is now ready for full power."

"You are a most gifted and trusted Decepticon Soundwave." The leader proudly stated. "Return to the bridge and assume your station."

"Affirmative!"

Archeville gasps in awe and looks at the computer, the virus was indeed gone, the symbol of the Decepticons now graced the monitor once more.

"Impossible! You couldn't have restored the core so quickly!"

"We are not of this planet, Doctor." Megatron stated coldly. "Do you think a mere alien virus could stop us? I suppose this was one of your secrets to battle against us. A failsafe incase you needed to control us…right, Doctor?"

"I didn't think Chip was ready with it…he too kept secrets from me." The man reluctantly nodded.

"A bold attempt…but foolish in the end." The silver leader replied.

Megatron tapped his chest again and opened another communication link.

"Starscream, we have Autobot intruders trying to flee the ship with our human hostages. Destroy them the minute they come into view."

"Yes, mighty Megatron." The sarcastic voice of the jet commander replied.

Archeville wiped his face from the tears he shed and stood up again. He looked at his robotic hand and felt his metallic skullcap, he wasn't human anymore it seemed; perhaps that is why the others left him. The madness within him was convinced this was so. No longer a member of the human race, but a member of the Decepticons, it became clear to him now that he was now a Decepticon.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

"Look sharp you losers!" Starscream shouted. "We've got Autobot infestations about to pop out at any given second! They must not escape…kill them all!"

The group of Decepticons laughed as the order pleased them, continuing to fire on the other Autobots below, they now await to see more appear and make an escape.

"Skyfire!" Starscream said as he turned to see the giant robot gazing off into the distance. "Prepare yourself for battle! That is an order!"

The massive white transformer gave a long sigh and pointed his weapon sheepishly. Giving a brief look to the jet commander, he gave reluctant nod and did as he was instructed.

"As you command…Starscream." His voice said with displeasure.

As they others tried to keep the Autobots occupied with cross firings below, the mini-bot team finally tore out of the ship's hull and dropped to the thawing ice ground below. The Decepticons noticed them instantly and began targeting them immediately. One by one the small team of Autobots got struck while in their vehicle modes as they came crashing to the ground. Brawl quickly transformed as he spun around and fired back at their attackers. The others hit the ice hard and started to sink, the heat from all the lasers was making it difficult for any of them to find solid ice to drive on. The ship was now becoming surrounded in a lake sized ice flow that began to expand each time they tried to spin their tires on a chunk of the land. Bumblebee began to panic.

"I…I can't seem to get a hold of anything! Help! GUYS! I'm in trouble!"

Inside the small yellow car, Spike and Sparkplug noticed the water starting to seep in. They were trapped and helpless to do anything. Bumblebee couldn't transform with them still in side, even if he did…the two of them would still be caught in the icy cold waters with very little protection. Spike, sitting in the passenger side, pounded on the closed window and shouted in fear.

"OPTIMUS! HELP!!"

The Autobot Leader could do nothing. Each time he stood up, Starscream was pinning him back down and giving him no chance to aid their escape.

"Damn it all!" He cursed. "Spike and Sparkplug are in there…we've got to get to them now!"

"Not to mention Bumblebee…" Ironhide grumbles as he takes a shot at the Decepticons. "And the rest of our buddies! Their sitting ducks!!"

Huffer begins to sink down, unable to transform as he too has a human passenger inside of him.

"Uh oh! This isn't good…no good at all!"

Brawl tries to swim over to the others and keep them up, as does Windcharger who quickly transforms and helps in repelling the laser fire coming down at them.

"I can't use my force field with them all over us!" Windcharger shouted. "I'm using all my energy to stay afloat in this slushy pond here!"

Starscream laughs at them all as he enjoys watching their struggle down below. As do the other Decepticons as they now intensify the shots and manage to watch Huffer go down.

"We've got them! Keep firing!!" Starscream's shrilling voice commanded.

Skyfire remained watching the scene below. He hadn't fired a single shot. He was too busy looking at these struggling cybertronians below trying to save a group of humans. It was amazing. They could have just transformed and left the beings to drown while they made it to safety. This was not the 'evil' group of Autobots he was lead to believe they were. They cared. They actually cared to help a species unlike themselves to survive.

He looked at his weapon in disgust and lowered it immediately. He was not a killer, he had no craving to murder for the sheer sake of doing so, and it was not in his nature. He was a scientist; he cared for life…all life. It made no difference to him good or bad, human or alien, his belief in the old teachings of Primus gave him instinct that this was all wrong.

"All life is precious." He muttered softly as he remembered the wise words of Cybertron's historic liberator.

"What?!" Rumble questioned as he heard him. "What are you on about?"

"This is wrong." He said raising his head up. "I will not destroy innocent lives."

Starscream now heard him and turned his gaze to the massive white robot remaining still.

"You will do as I command! You are a Decepticon soldier and you must obey!"

"No. I will not." Skyfire stated.

The jet commander stopped shooting and turned around to fully face the defiant friend of his.

"Yes you will!" He barked. "We are at war and that is our enemy below! Do it! Or be branded a traitor!"

"You were not like this before Starscream." Skyfire pointed to him. "Once you were the greatest scientific mind on Cybertron. You and I believed in preserving life. That the galaxy was to be protected from harm and our mission to observe new life forms. Don't you remember? You went to the science council to give me permission to explore and chart the galaxy. To create a catalogue of all life forms and expand our knowledge…"

"You fool!" Starscream laughed. "I did no such thing!"

"What?" The large transformer said in a confused glare.

"You seriously bought into all that nonsense I filled your head with?" The commander smirked. "I was so tired of hearing your boring theories on primitive life forms and what we needed to do to protect them that I let you believe you had permission."

Skyfire's mouth gaped at Starscream's admittance.

"And you fell for it." The jet commander continued. "Your transmission back to Cybertron of all the planets and alien civilizations was recorded…and kept on file in my personal archives. I took credit for all your discoveries, all your accomplishments, and all your work in the scientific community. Thanks to you, I became the lead scientific advisor on the council and took my place among the greatest scholars that ever lived!"

"Why? Why would you do this to me?!" The massive white robot questioned. "I trusted you! You were my friend!"

"Friend?" Starscream chuckled as he tilted his head slightly. "You were a threat. A threat to my rise to power, if I hadn't gotten rid of you…the science board would have made you the lead advisor. I couldn't have that now could it? So I let you believe you had their blessing. I told them you where a criminal, that you fled our planet after I had discovered your treachery and showed them all the secrets you managed to steal from the other scientists."

"I stole nothing!"

"Oh but you did. Or should I say...I did." Starscream laughed. "I was stealing their stuff right under their noses and pinning it all back on you. After all…you did give me your access codes and access to your lab as well. But what does it matter now? I killed them all when the war began. They dared question my authority on helping the Decepticon cause…so I showed them the meaning of betrayal and became the new scientific head of Cybertron. They got in my way and had to be punished for denying me my rightful ascension to power. Someday I'll even manage to be the ruler of Cybertron itself once Megatron is gone! And on that day my friend…I will be a GOD!"

Skyfire backed away slowly as he looks at the commander laughing wildly. His utter shock and growing hate for this creature was too much to handle. The one and only friend in the entire universe he could trust was his ultimate enemy. Stabbed in the back and given a false friendship he took for granted all these many years.

"You're insane!" Skyfire shouted in anger. "A twisted, warped-minded lunatic that should be put away forever!"

"Tsk, tsk…" Starscream suddenly stopped laughing and shook his head in a sarcastic manner. "That's no way to talk to your future ruler like that. Your problem is that you're too soft Skyfire. Weak and pathetic…just like the Autobots. It was a mistake to revive you…I should have let you remain deactivated forever!"

Skyfire's fist balled up. He absolutely loathed this Decepticon, but not just him, all of the Decepticons. He growled slowly at the continuing laughter of the jet commander, but his voice grew louder and louder until his growl turned into a bitter scream of hatred. The anger in him exploded as he took fist and struck the evil jet commander in the face with all his might. As the commander fell, the massive white transformer took his gun and fired it at the other Decepticons as they turned to look at Starscream fall flat on his back. His strikes managed to take out the weapons in all of their hands. They were awe struck from the sudden treachery from this new Decepticon recruit and crippled by plasma burns from his weapon. Skyfire quickly transformed into his alien Cybertron jet form and flew down to the struggling Autobots below.

"Optimus!" Ironhide shouted as he took notice of Skyfire heading to the drowning team.

"I see it." The leader responded as his eyes squinted. "Let's see what he does."

"But Prime!!" The southern accented Autobot snarled back at him. "We've got to stop him! He's going to kill them!"

"No Ironhide." Prime stated as he stood up to watch. "I have a feeling he's trying to help."

"What?!" Ironhide gasped. "You've got to be kidding me?!"

Prime didn't say anything more. He had witnessed Skyfire's actions on top of the ship and of the chaos the Decepticons where now facing after his quick attack on them. For whatever reason Optimus couldn't fathom, he just had feeling this fellow Cybertronian had a change of heart.