Burned. Toppled. Trampled. All of it, gone.
Once this space held the most impressive of this planet's achievements. The tropical rain forest boasted diverse species. Most could be found nowhere else in the world. Now, thanks to us, some could never be found again.
I heard the low roar of jet engines behind me, the impact of massive feet upon the ground. I didn't even need to look to see who stood behind me. I imagined him to have a tremendous smirk on his face, proud of the carnage around us. A chuckle confirmed my suspicions.
"Didja hear 'em scream, Thundercracker?" Skywarp asked. "The little prototype humans in the trees. I just kept seeing the organic's faces on 'em."
Expressing my doubts around a sparkless sadist like Skywarp would prove useless, and might even get me ridicule for my trouble. Maybe even a report to Megatron, warning I was going soft. The Commander rarely bothered with articulating his points or stressing the importance of the Decepticon cause. Now, he just beat the troops whose conviction wavered. An arm lost here, a vital circuit fried there... the Constructicons repaired it all, what did it matter?
What did any of it matter?
"What are you moping for?"
I grasped the first answer to present itself. "You got more Autobots than I did."
"This surprises ya?" He punched my shoulder, and I offered an obligatory smile. It felt eerie, the way we conversed, the ease with which we joked after we unleashed such carnage. I wondered if any other Decepticon felt like me. I wondered if any among us questioned our purpose.
"For Cybertron." Megatron used that line constantly in the early days. He confirmed our fears, directed them to his purpose.
That brought me into the fold. I remembered those first, hesitant days off the line, the thrill of the air ripping across my wings matched only by scorn for those who lacked my prowess. They idolized me, not for any strength of character or wisdom I possessed, but for my abilities. I often wondered, would they look past me, were my feet planted squarely on the ground, like theirs?
Maybe I hated them, but I never wanted to hurt them. Not until Megatron came along.
He spoke with passion, comparing the noble words of Autobots to the horrors he faced in the arenas. He spoke of being pitted against friends, forced to kill them for the amusement of Autobots. He crafted the Decepticon symbol in those early days, a sign of defiance. When he began the revolution, we wore it upon our chests, fighting Autobots and burned the insignia at every turn.
Megatron and Shockwave spoke of a new Golden Age, not symbolized by the power of the planet but by the equality of all Transformers. No more arena combat, no more dangerous labor shared by one caste, no more Autobot tyranny. With our power and unity, we defeated the corrupt Autobot leadership and took control of Cybertron.
We won, right?
I noticed the changes after the victory. Rather than treat the Autobots as equals, they took over the dangerous work in the mines. I always felt them inferior, unable to spread wings and take to the air. As I fought them, I learned to respect them. They fought with valor and courage, much like I always imagined the Decepticons to.
Those who defied Megatron died in ways more horrific than any arena battle. Any attempts to negotiate were met with Megatron's fusion cannon. Any Decepticon who dared show mercy met a similar fate.
"Remember the tyranny of the Autobots," he said.
I had no need to remember. We relived it now, with our roles reversed.
I rose to my feet, glancing back at Skywarp. "I'm going to scout the area. There may still be Autobots around."
"No," I said, and offered another insincere grin, "I need to even the count."
I pushed away another smoldering log, wandering through the once vibrant forest. I long ago shut off olfactory sensors, not needing another reminder of how many creatures lost their lives thanks to our war.
A human newscast a few weeks prior claimed our conflict caused the extinction of at least two dozen species, with ecosystem damage likely to cause many more. Several Decepticons cheered at the news, pumping their fists and vowing to increase the count. Bonecrusher even set up a tally board, promising to double the amount by week's end.
Thank Primus, he remained aboard the Nemesis, working on some new project or another.
I wanted to return to Cybertron, and turn my back on the atrocities here. At least there, Shockwave retained some sense of purpose. The conflict on Earth interested him little, only in terms of what resources it might bring to revive the planet.
Did Shockwave remember the truth of our cause?
A short distance ahead, I heard something rustle in the leaves of a downed tree. According to sensors, three fewer Autobots left than arrived, meaning injured ones might remain out here. I readied my cannons and moved closer.
Too small to be an Autobot, I thought. I should've walked away, but something made me lift the tree anyway, to see what lay underneath.
The body of an Earth feline(a quick databank check revealed it to be a jaguar) lay on the ground, its body crushed by the tree's fall. Its eyes remained open, staring at me. Accusing me.
I wanted to turn away, and almost did. A strange sound made me pause, and I kneeled down. Cowering a short distance away, two miniature versions of the same feline stared at me. The offspring of the dead one, no doubt. I extended one finger, larger than both offspring combined, and the hackles on both rose.
Another search of my databanks revealed what I already knew. Without their mother to nurture and provide for them, they would die. Given the condition of the forest, even members of their own species might turn on them, using them as food. Not that it mattered; none would likely eke out a living in this twisted landscape.
Why wouldn't I walk away, then?
I looked into the eyes of the dead jaguar again. Logic defied any meaning in that empty stare. I couldn't. This time, I saw a request. What Decepticon would even consider such a thing, let alone follow through. Yet, I lowered my hand once more. After a moment, the two babies(cubs, my Earth data tracks told me) sniffed my fingers, and climbed into my hands, tiny by comparison. I lifted into the air, and stared down at these tiny things. Megatron called organics inferior, yet what Transformer could exist in so small a space, live on so minute an energy source?
As I pondered that, and my next move, I felt the barrel of a blaster against my temple.
"Don't move, Decepticon," a calm voice ordered, "Unless it's to put them down."
Tactical systems sparked to life, offering combat data and potential options. I shut them down.
"I'm not going to hurt them," I said. "I want to... help them."
"Heck of a job you creeps've done today."
I turned to the diminutive blue and grey Autobot. Beachcomber. I knew, without my combat computer, the Autobot presented little challenge from a battle standpoint. Still, I couldn't face him. Not with the tiny creatures in my hand.
So, instead, I released the couplings that held the cannons on my arms. They bother clattered to the ground, and I took several steps back.
He regarded me suspiciously, putting himself between me and my weapons. "Not completely."
"Not surprising," I said, and pushed one of the little ones back from the edge of my hand. A fall might prove disastrous at this height.
"So, what? You want a pet?"
"I hadn't quite worked out the next step yet," I said. "My data tracks say they'll die without their mother."
"Since when has that bothered a Decepticon?"
"Since we resumed our war on this planet," I confessed. "I want to believe in the Decepticon cause, but... too many innocents die."
"You only just noticed this?"
I frowned. "The Autobots were corrupt. They had to be brought down."
"And you guys are doing better?"
The answer must've surprised him, because he said nothing. He looked to the ruined forest, then back again. "Look, I think maybe the humans can help them. They've got people trained to raise animals like this."
"And I doubt they would listen to a Decepticon," I said. "Besides, I can't imagine explaining such an irrational plan to Megatron."
"Don't worry, I'll take good care of them."
I nodded, and offered the cubs to Beachcomber. After a moment, they hopped into the Autobot's hands and he tucked them into a small compartment in his chest.
"The southeast perimeter isn't guarded," I said, realizing full well the words I spoke amounted to treason. "Contact your friends and tell them."
"Why are you helping us?"
"You have precious cargo to attend to," I said. "After what we've done here, I would like to hold onto some glimmer of hope."
Beachcomber nodded and froze. Sending an encrypted transmission, no doubt. He then turned back and offered a nod.
I suspect neither of us really understood what just happened.
A few days later, the raucous crowd on the Nemesis cackled over the latest Decepticon activity. The Stunticons boasted as a film crew showed miles of backed up traffic in California, thanks to their latest outing. Story after story rolled, every Decepticon either cackling in glee over what they had done, or what they might do.
"And finally, some good news from Tuesday's tragedy in the Amazon," the newscaster said, resulting in a few boos. "Autobot Beachcomber today appeared at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., to present staff there with two jaguar cubs he rescued from the battlefield."
It cut to Beachcomber, being interviewed by a reporter.
"I'm just glad we managed to help some of them," the Autobot said. "Sometimes, even in the worst situations, something happens to help you keep faith in the universe."
The newscaster came back on. "Beachcomber named both the new arrivals, as well. The little girl's name is Hope. The boy is Thor, named for the Norse god of thunder."
The other Decepticons, so involved with their catcalls and boos, never noticed me smile.