TFE

The Road to Hell

Copyright 2006, masterfwiffo. All rights reserved.

"They've been gone too long." Red Alert announced. "We need to contact them, right now."

Ironhide shook his head. "Relax Red."

He, Red Alert and Jetfire were clustered around a table, playing a game of Sharkticons. The old Quintesson game had a simple play-style and was an excellent time killer for soldiers holed up in a war zone. The deck of 36 stocks passed around again for another hand.

"I still don't like it." Red Alert growled, flipping through his useless hand of two Slaves and one Allicon.

Jetfire tossed the Judge face up onto the table. "Don't worry about it." He said casually. "Prowl and Aidia are good bots. Let them have their fun."

Red Alert sighed, but offered no counter argument, tossing the red slave on top of the Judge.

Ironhide laughed, as he threw the winning stock of the hand on the table, a yellow Sharkticon. "They'll be fine." He said, collecting the stocks, selecting one to keep, and dealing out one more to each of his friends. "I mean, what could happen?"

-----

Prowl was alone. He meandered through the city, rather aimlessly now. His vehicle mode seemed to be the only beacon of light in an otherwise dark neighborhood. He had given up on finding Aidia, and was instead looking for the quickest route out of the maze, hoping that she would do the same. But it wasn't going well. Every turn he took made him more and more lost.

The city streets were darker here, and the walls seemed to close in around him. Many alleyways here, dark. He could make out vague shapes peering at him through the darkness. Humans?

Again, his thoughts meandered. Here, in a the torn down, seemingly abandoned districts of the city, it was becoming easier and easier to believe that the humans were far more alike to Decepticons then Autobots. He didn't dare risk the radio again, for fear of what horror stories the human information networks would tell him. The brief few that he had already heard were terrible enough.

Then nearby, a sound like thunder reached his ears. His data-tracks filed quickly through his memories, looking for a match. Some sort of match. He found what he feared. A primitive human weapon. Gunshots.

Part of him felt the desire to investigate, to look into what could cause the humans to turn their weapons on each other, but the winning thought was the one that told him to mind his own business. He had no part in the human affairs. Besides, he feared the answer. For a brief moment, he wondered what Aidia would say. But that thought passed as another gunshot roared out. His windows rolled up quickly, as if they could protect him from whatever was out there. He rolled onwards, his thoughts farther away from his comrade then he was.

-----

"Don't play silent Autobot." The Decepticons voice hissed. "I know you are there."

Aidia remained quiet, unsure of what else to do. She could not risk a fight near the humans medical center- In fact, she could not risk a fight at all. She was no warrior, nor did she want to be. The mere thought of life-or-death combat terrified her. And now, alone and abandoned, all contact with her friends cut off... She could feel her own spark dimming in terror.

There was no response for what seemed like an eternity, as Aidia sat. The only noises that reached her optics were the distant and ever present sounds of human vehicles.

But her radio... Aidia sat. Tortured by the silence. The only thing even more frightening then the silence, was what came from the com next.

"I'm going to give you thirty seconds Autobot. If you do not come out, I shall obliterate the entire building."

Aidias optics went wide. "No..."

-----

In truth, Skywarp had no intention of harming the humans. He had no issues with them- it was the Autobots he was after. But he knew the Autobot did not know that, and he knew that she would most likely not be willing to risk it. He chanced a brief smile behind his armored faceplate- Megatron would be proud of his tactics. Then he frowned. There was no response from the Autobot. Perhaps he didn't believe that Skywarp was capable of doing what he claimed. Well, just to make sure...

-----

A lone laser shot caused enough damage to start a small fire, right outside the garage entrance. Aidia gasped. As alarms sounded and water began to spew from the ceiling, she paled inside. The Decepticon was serious. Aidia began to quake as visions of death and destruction filled her memory; the burning towers of Iacon those many years ago... the mighty spire of Iacon Halls burning from an attack... the dead bodies of Windcharger and Bumblebee burning into the night...

"15 seconds."

Humans were already running towards the flames, trying to put them out and figure out what happened. Red containers spewed foam at the flames. The water from above drenched her exterior. Terror and pain filled every joint of Aidia's being. She didn't want to see it happen again, not to the humans. She saw the humans helping each other together, trying to extinguish just that small fire. And the visions continued. The cold loneliness of an abandoned ruin... The dead face of her former instructor staring at her, frozen forever in a look of fear and pain... The fields of dead Autobots... The last beats of a spark she worked so desperately to save, before it faded into nothing. The wrecked interior of Optimus Major, his systems sparking and damaged... "Five..."

"All right." Aidia broke, responding to the call. "I'm coming. Don't... hurt them." Her voice cracked. "Please..."

"Wise decision. Roll out, and turn left. I shall follow you from the air. Follow my instructions exactly, or all human lives are forfeit."

Her spirit broken, Aidia resigned herself to her fate, and started her engine.

-----

Prowl again switched off his radio. The human signals were still interfering his efforts to communicate with anyone. He had switched it off quickly again, but not before hearing the gruesome tale of a young child murdered half a continent a way. The thought made him ill inside.

How could they do this to one another? What was the point? Why?

He continued on, the images of the fights and the stories of the murdered taking precedence in his mind. There were far fewer humans now, at this time of night. But to Prowls paranoid mind, every single one of them was a villain now. His optics darted from one lone passerby to the next, making up false thoughts and storied about every one.

He passed by a lone light, with three young men in black clustered under it. All three glared at him as he rolled past. Perhaps, another time, Prowl would have merely thought 'What are they doing?' Now, the only thought, the one that clustered his mind, was 'What are they hiding?'

Again, he wished he had never let Aidia talk him into doing this. As he rolled along, the words from the TV's and the radio continuing to haunt him. And as he continued, his loneliness, his doubt about his reasons for being her, and the confusion the wracked his thoughts destroyed the few vestiges of rational thought that remained. Prowl continued on, terrified, frightened and paranoid.

-----

Skywarp was a Decepticon of his word. He followed the ambulance from the sky, directing her slowly toward the outer edge of the city. His directions lead them to a large plot of cement, bound on both sides by quiet building whose owners had long since left for the night. Skywarp ordered her into it, and she obeyed. He transformed, and landed on the plot with a loud thump, staring at his target grimly.

"Go on Autobot." He said, arms crossed over his chest. "Transform. Let me get a good look at you."

Aidia refused to answer, keeping herself boxed into her vehicle form. Her robot mode was vulnerable- as long as she kept herself in her shell, she could protect herself.

Skywarp grimaced. "Very well." And without a second thought, his foot came up under her hood. Aidias vehicle mode flipped over, rolling onto its back, the material buckling under its own weight. Skywarp kicked it again, denting the side. Aidia could not suppress a cry of pain.

"Get up." Skywarp ordered.

Unwillingly, Aidia complied. The boxy shape that was her alt mode folded up upon itself, the front end sliding behind her back, and the leg panels compressing inwards to fit her small frame. And as her transformation completed, she fell backwards, against a small buildings wall, and curled herself up in a protective ball.

"This... is it?" Skywarp asked in disbelief, staring at her. He could not believe the information his optics was feeding him. With such a boxy alt mode, he had expected a strong, stout and powerful Autobot. Not this- a small, feminine frame, frightened, even pitiful. She was a mere child, unarmed, delicate and timid. "This is all?" He repeated, staring.

Aidia glared at him, but did not answer.

Skywarp studied his opponent cautiously. The hatred on her face was a stark contrast to her slight form, but the Autobot could do nothing to back that emotion up. She was defenseless, unarmed and certainly no warrior. "Do they send civilians to stop us now?" He muttered to himself.

"If you're going to kill me, do it." Aidia said quickly, her voice cracking.

Skywarp weighed his options. The Autobot continued to glare at him- obviously, she hated him with every ounce of strength she had. THe conclusion of her imminent death was not an uniformed one. Most Decepticons would not have let her live as long as she already had. But Skywarp was no ordinary, brutish Decepticon. That's what Megatron respected about him, and thats what Skywarp was most proud of. He had expected the Autobot to be something he could fight one-on-one, in an honorable battle, truly worthy of the Decepticon honor he possessed. But it was obvious no such opportunity would present itself. He could kill her, true. It would be quick, it would be efficient, and one less Autobot would certainly not hurt their efforts. Yet, he could not bring himself to kill an unarmed opponent. How could he? There was no shame in defeating an Autobot in combat, but murder, like this? The thought made Skywarp ill.

Another solution must presented itself. The hostage tactic had worked on this Autobot. Threatening the humans with no intent to harm them had produced the desired results. His mind quickly recalled the Autobot Code of the Ethics he had studied to learn more about his enemies. The Autobots had many honorable concepts, but they were also their weakness. The hostage tactic worked once. It would work again. He allowed himself another smile. Megatron would be proud.

"You will not be harmed." Skywarp stated, calculating the tone of his voice to be as threatening as possible. "But you are now my hostage. Wether you remain unharmed depends entirely on your comrades."

Aidia glared at him hatefully, her face filled with a terrible combination of fear and rage, as he walked toward her. Skywarp grimaced, but that she would not fight. What would be the point? She was desperately outmatched, weaponless, and far weaker then he, a trained Decepticon veteran, was. Skywarps one hand went into one of his storage compartments, withdrawing some energon wire, from which to bind her. "No offense." He muttered. "But some things must be done."

And from a distance, the dark form shook his head in dismay as Skywarp leaned down. "Hostages? Now, where's the fun in that?" He chuckled, the sigil mounted on his arm flashing back and forth between red and purple, as he brought his arm up and took aim.

-----

It was nearly black now. Only a few dim lights could register his optic. Prowl hated to admit it, but he did have an underlying fear of the darkness. He switched his own lights on, but the darkness seemed to smother them. He chanced another shot at the radio.

"The police found the body nearby. He was beaten to death, with major injuries in the-"

He shut it off in disgust, rolling to a stop near the closest streetlight, and opting to stay there. He hoped no one would notice. He was in a residential zone now, narrow streets and apartments stretching up on all sides. Dark alleyways were between each of the buildings, with shadowy movements in every one. Prowl tried to keep his imagination in check, but he could not.

THe haunting words and images that accompanied the human information broadcasts were now his constant companion, one that he wished he could rid himself of. But he could not. The thoughts began to frighten Prowl to his very spark. If the humans could be so dangerous to each other... what could they do to him?

Fear, paranoia and misconceptions are often a dangerous combination. Prowl was suffering deeply from all three. The streetlight he had found comfort under flickered and went off. Prowl almost jumped out of his vehicle mode, and was only barely able to stop himself. In desperation, he switched on his radio again, running through as many channels as he could. Gibberish, incoherent loud noise, and frightening stories were all that greeted him. He shut it off. The light flickered again, and returned to its normal state. Prowl allowed himself a sigh of relief, and for a moment, the fear fled him.

A few minutes later, his sensors homed in on some nearby motion. Walking together, a tall thin man dressed in black, and a small boy, in white.

The boy was crying. The man didn't seem to notice or care, but maintained his firm grip on the boys hand.

Prowl watched warily, trying to keep his thoughts on the present, not on the radio reports that ran through his mind. But the crying of the child upset him, put him on edge. There must be a rational explanation for it... right?

"Stop crying." The tall man said gruffly.

The boy started crying louder.

"I said stop crying!" This time, it was a shout.

Prowl shook. No, there must be something more to the story. It was just a child, the man wouldn't possibly-

The man reached down, open his palm, and hit the child across the rear.

Prowls optics went wide. The thoughts came back all at once. Every fear, every tale, every conversation he had seen that night again flooded his brain. Beaten to death... Murder of a 5 year old...

The hand came down again, and the child's cry only increased.

"Stop it..." Prowl found himself whispering. It seemed surreal, like he was watching everything unfold in terrifying slow motion.

Again the hand came down.

"Stop it." His thoughts passed up reality. He saw the man change, bearing down on the child, beating him violent, the child's cries changing to pleases of mercy, and unbridled, evil glee on the mans face.

And then reality returned with another hit.

And the last inhibitions in Prowls mind disappeared. He could not let his vision come to past. He could not let this happen!

One final hit.

"STOP IT!"

Prowl stood, now a robot, staring at his red stained hand in horror. The broken body of the old man stared back up at him, mouth agape, trying to move, but with no words coming out, a pool of red forming underneath him. Prowl took a shocked step backwards, tripping over a parked vehicle, whose rear end crumpled and the alarm sounded, sending a blazing howl into the night.

And then the child screamed.

"DADDY!"

Lights came on suddenly all around, trapping Prowl in the center of a cell of light. Humans began to appear from seemingly nowhere to stare. Lights from dozens of small dwellings all around him that had been hidden away from the light. One woman screamed, and several men shouted. People began running out into the street, yelling in horror and anger. The cries mixed with the siren, creating a cacophony that assaulted Prowls audios. And in the onslaught of noise Prowl saw the old man close his eyes and give a soft gasp, as the child ran toward him, crying in an entirely different manner. Prowl tried to speak but found he could not, as the realization of what he had done sunk in.

"No..." Prowl shook his head, trying to deny the obvious. "I- No- I"

Then one of the humans in one of the apartments found a handgun, aimed and fired. Prowl through up his hands. The bullet did not penetrate, but in Prowls already unstable state, the tiny sting felt a thousand times worse. Then another, then another. Prowl stumbled backwards, crashing through another two cars, trying to get away. A different kind of fear permeated his mind. Not of the humans. Of himself. Of what he had done. He felt as though his systems were trying to reject his body. The horror of what he had done permeated his very consciousness and infected his spark itself.

"No!" He yelled again, trying to push himself away from the cars, tearing through the wrecks, pushing them aside trying to escape in his panic.

And then another sound joined the fray. THe most horrifying one of all. Sirens. In the distance Prowl could see the flashing red and blue lights, the same vehicles he had chosen for his alternate form, racing toward him. He stumbled into the middle of the street as they rolled up, and one of the humans began shouting through a loudspeaker. Prowl didn't take time to hear the words. He transformed and fled.

And the vehicles followed, sirens blaring.

-----

Skywarps back exploded. Aidia let out a cry of surprise and fear, as Skywarp stumbled forward, falling on top of her. She pushed him aside, pulling herself away as quickly as she could. Skywarp attempted to stand, but his legs had difficulty supporting his own weight. His optics attempted to refocus, creating a jarring effect on his vision as he gasped, doing his best to drawn in air to cool the small fires in his system,

He whirled, cannons on his black flipping forward, and charging into concentrated streams of energy firing blindly into the night, hoping to hit his assailant. But his shots went wide, leaving red streaks into the night.

He stood, continuing to take in air for a long moment, hoping to draw enough energy to regain his composure. His optics searched the area, but nothing presented himself to him. The female Autobot remained curled in a ball, quaking in fear. Judging her not a threat, Skywarp turned his focus to his attacker.

He had been facing the Autobot from a northeasterly direction, so the shot must have come from- He turned and fired again. But no return fire came.

"SHow yourself Autobot!" He called into the night. "Face me!"

No answer. Skywarp turned warily, his optics searching, searching for anything. Nothing.

"Your friends are cowards." He announced to his captive, turning to face her. "They cannot bring themselves to face on lone Decepticon warrior." Aidia stared back at him hatefully.

Then Skywarp paused, thinking for a moment. "Are they, perhaps... civilians like you? How desperate have the Auotbots become? It a wonder they haven't lost yet, if you are the best they can afford to throw at us-AGH!" His statement ended in a scream as his side collapsed. A second shot had torn into him, ripping easily through the delicate circuitry. Several energy containers ruptured, and he collapsed again. It took all his strength to keep himself from falling to the ground and giving in completely. His arm was on the wound, attempting to stop the flow of mechanical fluids. His nerve receptors screamed pain at him, as he attempted again to struggle to his feet. Every bit of effort brought more pain, as he again brought himself up, almost collapsing again under the weight.

And he looked up, at where his captive was huddle, staring with a mixture of terror and fascination, he scanned, looking, looking for the one who could have attacked him. He was clever, this Autobot. Wherever he had come from, where he was hiding... the placement was impeccable, to be able to hit him from two different directions. He calculated the distances between the two angles, looking for where he must be hiding. But no answer presented itself.

Then his chest caught fire. The third shot knocked him completely off his feet. And as Skywarp fell, he saw for the first time his assailant, the pointed horns, the narrow figure, and the orange, triangular face glaring right back at him. Skywarp managed to get off one shot, which went wide. His attacker seemed to grin at him, then disappeared. Not fled, simply vanished from sight.

Skywarp hit the ground, and quickly rolled over, clutching the new wound. He pushed himself to his knees. While pain clouded his thoughts, he let himself calm, and focused in. He had been in worse situations before. He could survive this. Easily. But he would have to be quick.

He turned again towards his captive, who stared back. He grimaced, and went for his sword, stored alongside his wing. He grabbed it and the blade ignited, coated in energy. At the same moment, the jets on his feet alighted, and he catapulted forward, even as a fourth shot hit where he had been a mere second before. His body collided with the female Autobots, and using all the strength he had available, he forced her against the wall of the building, and his sword was at her neck.

"Show yourself Autobot or your friend dies!" He roared into the night.

Aidias eyes shot wide in fear, but she could not move.

"You hear me?" He roared again. "Three! Two!"

Aidias optics went dark and her jaw and fists glimpsed, bracing for the end.

"ONE!"

The sword moved.

----

Chris Johnson lived a rather boring life, now that he lived at the government installation. For an action junky, internet surfing ubergeek (as he so eloquently identified himself), the monotony of his daily life did little to lift his spirits. Internet access was entirely restricted, and action movies a rare commodity to come buy. Even the little public bookshelf (which was more or less in existence solely because of him) was only allowed a new book once a month. And Chris, fast reader that he was, could go through a long book in about a day, if that.

So Chris had since become a news junky, keeping himself glued to the 24 hour news station between his many assignments. To his credit, he was NOT the first one to see the news. At the moment the story had broke, he had been in the cafeteria, fetching a snack to fill his endless appetite- everyone hated the fact that he could eat so much and stay so thin. But as he came back out, he saw a cluster of three others huddled around the TV.

One saw him and called out. "Hey Chris! You gotta come see this!"

And the instant he saw the brief footage, the footage that would be replayed countless times over the next few weeks, his jaw dropped, and he knew the entire course of his career, if not his life, had changed.

"Holy crap."

----

Aris was also bored. Jetfire, Red Alert and Ironhide were more then engrossed in their game, and seeing as she had no real ability to physically handle the stocks with any dexterity, she could not be involved. Optimus, of course, was still offline. And Prowl and Aidia were doubtlessly having fun on their little trip.

In other circumstances, she might have used the time to conduct test and repairs on her body- the ship itself. But, seeing as that now consisted of a crashed wreck, there was not much point in that either.

With little else to do to occupy her circuits, she turned to monitoring human broadcasts. As her screens flipped through a seemingly unending supply of soap operas, old movies, and cartoon shows, she began to notice something. Several channels were preempting their normal programing for 'breaking news.' She switched over to one of the major news channel, where a young woman was saying, "Something unlike anything I, or anyone has ever seen. A police chase going on with police cars... and a- a- just play that footage again-"

Aris's eyes went wide, as she saw an all-too-familiar vehicle leap into robot form. "Oh no..."

----

Prowl raced along the streets, the human enforcement fast in pursuit. Their sirens blared as Prowl desperately cut his way through the other cars, weaving in and out of the slower moving vehicles, and praying that there was no blocked traffic ahead.

Ahead of him, the traffic controlling light switched to a red tint, and Prowl panicked as a dozen human vehicles streamed forward in front of him. With no other choice he transformed, pushing his way through the intersection and attempting to dodge the fast moving vehicles. One vehicle crumpled under his foot, causing the one behind it to crash, shoving the material into Prowl's leg. It buckled, and he let out a cry of pain. But then he was through the intersection. And he fell forward, back into vehicle mode, racing forward with every ounce of energy his systems could muster.

But to his horror, the human vehicles only increased their relentless pursuit. As he rolled, he became vaguely aware that in the sky, something else was following him as well. The rotary blades of human air vehicles, with humans manning mechanical eyes that monitored the chase for the entire world to see. The secret was out now.

---

Aidia screamed. Pain raced through her circuits, filling her mind with terror and shock as the sword cut into her neck. But it stopped. Aidia allowed her optics to open again. She was not dead- in fact it was only scratch, a shallow cut. The decepticon was staring into the sky grim determination etched on his face. He was waiting for a response. Any response.

None came.

"Do you want her dead?" Skywarp roared in angry desperation, pulling his sword out. Aidia winced at the tearing sensation.

He stood above her, the red energy surrounding his sword shimmering in the moonlight. "Come Autobot!" He yelled into the night. "Show yourself!"

Again, nothing.

"You've signed her death!" He roared. The sword pulled back for a second strike. Again Aidias prepared for the end. Pain greeted her, overwhelming pain. The sword tore through her shoulder, severing rotary joints and coolant tubes. But again, the blow was not a mortal one, nor even a serious wound.

Skywarp stood over her, intaking air in heavy puffs. His systems were exhausted, taxed to their very extremes He knew that another shot or two could terminate his spark. But he was certain he would not die without taking, at the very least, this Autobot with him. It was a matter of pride now- he would have at least another fall alongside him.

But the one who had seemed so determined to kill him never came. Neither knew it, but he had disappeared some time ago, leaving the Autobot and the Decepticon alone with each other.

----

The mad chase lead out of the city. Then, hope was rekindled as Prowl recognized the towering bridge-like structure ahead of him. The highway was ahead- if he could make it there, he could escape. He made a sharp, violent turn through a red light, weaving through the oncoming traffic. With a deafening screech, two cards turned sharply to avoid him, but instead collided into each other. Prowl did not notice or care. His only thought now was on getting away from the horror of the night.

But the pursuing sirens served as an ever-present reminder of what he had done. Despite his best efforts, they were still gaining. And more were joining the chase; he could make out dozens of the flashing red lights behind him. But Prowls biggest fear was not what they would do to him- he feared far more what he would do to them. He had to get away.

Again he swerved through a red light. A deafening horn and an oncoming monster of a truck forced him out of vehicle mode with a yell, and he stumbled to the ground. There, an idea hit him. He got to his feet, and started in a dead run towards the side of the overpass. Humans below yelled and scrambled out of the way as he leapt off onto the highway, transforming back into vehicle mode as his wheels squealed against the pavement. And he was in the clear.

The city falling away behind him, Prowl allowed himself some measure of relief. They couldn't possibly follow him now. The city was well behind him, and on both sides was the serene quietness of a large reservoir, the shimmering water offering a quite contrast to the hell he had escaped from moments ago.

So wrapped up in thoughts of relief he was, that he did not notice the row of spikes lying on the ground in wait for him. His tires exploded with a rush of air, and he tumbled back out of vehicle mode, skidding along the ground.

He sat lay there for a moment, his systems drawing in as much air as they could to cool down his systems as he pushed himself slowly to his knees. They, like everything else now, sent pain to his systems.

And then the sirens roared as multiples of the very alt mode he had dared to call his own surrounded him.

Prowl got to his feet quickly and backed away, finding himself up against the thin layer of cement separating the highway from the reservoir. And as the humans got out to face him, he panicked.

-----

Michelle was awakened by a loud pounding on her door. With a yawn she got herself up from the bed, and sleepily shuffled toward it. "What?" She called tiredly.

"Get up!" Bens voice called. "You need to see this! Hurry!"

Michelle glanced down- she hadn't bothered to change when she had collapsed on the bed only, what, three hours earlier, so she was presentable.

She sighed, trying to shake herself awake, and opened the door. Ben grabbed her hand and pulled her along, a bit more roughly then he intended too. Michelle struggled to keep up. "What's going on?" She demanded, trying to sound angry, but only succeeding in sounding exhausted (which she was.)

"That." Ben said as he pulled her into the rec room. A huge crowd, virtually every person in the base was glued to the TV. She recognized Chris, staring intently at the screen, his eyes wide behind his glasses. And there, in the far corner, was Mr. Smith, his arms crossed over his chest, and a deep frown on his face.

But the faces did not capture her attention. The movement on the screen did. With a loud gasp, her hands went to her mouth in a mixture of surprise and terror, as something she recognized very well played on the screen. It was the one she had dubbed Police-bot, backed into a corner, surrounded by human officers, wielding guns. As the picture circled around the scene slowly, she could make out the face that she remembered so clearly, it's eyes wide in a look of terror.

Police-Bot tried to back away, but lost its footing. And then, with a cry audible even over the weak sounds coming from the TV, it collapsed backwards into the reservoir. Michelle let out a cry of surprise, and several others in the crowd murmured.

No one was prepared for what came next. From nowhere, a deafening roar filled the sounds as a massive green cargo jet roared over the field, only a few hundred feet above the ground. And everyone saw it change form as it righted itself, and dived in after Police-Bot. Everything on the screen went still, as everyone waited with baited breath for the next development.

There was another sudden roar as the massive jet robot erupted from the reservoir, the gleaming white of Police-bot in his arms, and streaked into the sky, well above the clouds. And nothing more came.

The yammering reporters went off, trying to interpret what they had just seen, even as the police officers scrambled around, doing their best to handle the situation, one which no human could have possibly prepared for.

And Mr. Smith came over to her, and placed his hand on her shoulder. "Seems your secret is out now." He said quietly. Michelle couldn't muster the strength to answer.

"So thats what this is all about." Ben shook his head. "Damned if I've ever seen anything like that."

"Shh! Listen!" Someone yelled. Chris, from his row up front, reached over and turned up the volume.

"We are getting new footage in now." The reporters voice rang through the little room. "The white robot apparently attacked a man in the suburbs of the city. We have footage from a surveillance camera coming in now..."

And when the image, one that would be forever ingrained in the eyes of the world, played for the first time, Michelle screamed.

----

The warp-gate opened up in mid-air, and Jetfire took Prowl through., landing much lower to the ground in front of the wreck of Aris. Prowl looked up at him weakly. "Thanks..."

Jetfire glared down at him, then through him violently against the wall. "What did you DO?" He roared, his voice-box so loud that Prowls Audios skipped. Unsurprisingly, Prowl could not find the strength to answer.

"Forget that!" Red Alert roared, shoving Jetfire aside, and grabbing Prowl by the throat. "Where's Aidia?" He demanded, his optic glowing a fierce red.

"We... got separated..." Prowl said weakly.

Red Alert dropped him. "Aris, find Aidia, NOW!"

----

Aidia and Skywarp sat together in the night, both letting slow gasps of pain filter through their vocals. It was clear to Skywarp now, that his assailant had fled, leaving him alone with the Autobot. His damage was painful, not irreparable, but crippling for a time yet to come. Hers was as well, slightly less but what Skywarp had suffered physically, she had suffered mentally. They were both broken and defeated.

But anger was in Skywarps mind. How dare the coward attack him like this, then not even bother to rescue his friend. This was against every code of the Autobots that he was aware of, and it was insulting, both to the Autobots and to him, for the coward to dishonor them that way. He looked again at his captive, who's optics were squeezed tightly in pain. How could the Autobot let her suffer like this? It was against everything he knew about them.

He withdrew his sword again, which was a slow, laborious motion, that was as painful to him as it was to her. He stared at the frightened and pained face of his enemy, but shook his head a solemn no. There was no honor in killing this helpless victim, who hadn't raised a hand against him. His opponent, his true opponent, had been the mysterious assailant; the coward who would never reveal his face, and had now disappeared entirely. He pushed himself to his feet and stared down at her.

"Who did it?" He stated, in as loud a voice as he could muster. "Which of your friends attacked me like this?"

Startled by the question, Aidia shook her head. "I- I don't know."

"Tell him..." Skywarp he said, his voice betraying the strain on his systems. But he was determined to finish. "That the next time we meet. I, Skywarp, shall defeat him him."

"And as for you..." Aidia optics winced for what she had determined her fat was. But the words that greeted her were of an entirely different sort. "You are free to go."

Aidia started. staring at the Decepticon, whose appearance no longer seemed menacing, but almost noble in the pale moonlight.

And then the image shattered as a howling siren broke with the opening of a warp gate, and Red Alerts form, shot through. He transformed with a scream of "LEAVE HER!" he charged forward, the pointed tip that replaced his hand long ago crackling with energy.

Skywarp didn't have a chance to react as Red Alert shoved it into the open wound in his chest, and fired it off. Skywarp screamed as his circuits fried, and he stumbled backwards gasping in pain. He sank to one knee, his optical sensors becoming dim and fuzzy as he saw Red Alert standing over him. His systems going into critical shutdown, he activated the emergency teleportation system. As the field, the Autobot he had held captive, and the newcomer shimmered and faded, his own regret was that he didn't have the chance to face that Autobot in honorable combat. It would have been a terrific fight.

----

Megatron glanced up as the teleporter reactivated itself. "Ah, Skywarp, you have returned?"

Skywarp didn't answer. He simply fell to the ground and ceased to move. Megatron rushed to his side, hollering for aid. He propped Skywarp up on his arm as Cyclonus came running in to offer his assistance.

"I'm sorry... Lord Megatron." Skywarps voice came weakly.

"You can apologize after you're well." Megatron answered, as he and Cyclonus carted off their fallen comrade to the CR chamber.

-----

"Are you all right?" Red Alert said gently, holding Aidia closed to him.

"Fine." She answered weakly, ignoring her wounds to the best of her ability. "Where's Prowl?"

Red Alert didn't answer.

She pushed aside. "I'm fine. Is Prowl all right? Is he hurt?"

"Perhaps we best go back to base." Red Alert answered.

"What's wrong?" Aidia demanded. "Red you're scaring me. IS he-"

"He's not hurt." Prowl answered quickly. "But Aidia... Things aren't going to be the same again."

----

Michelle entered her room. She had seen all she could take. The door slammed behind her, and sat down on her bed, head in her hands. She shouldn't be so upset... But still...

The image had replayed a hundred times in the past hour, of the robot attacking that poor boys father. Every single time she saw it, it hurt more. No amount of rational thought could explain its actions away. It had attacked for no reason at all.

Her eyes fell on her desk, where one drawing stared back at her. The one she had dubbed her white knight, gallantly striding forward to protect her on the battlefield.

She tore the picture up, and threw the remnants in the trash.

-----