The water was nice that day. Not too warm, not too cold, just the way he liked it.

Depth Charge glided through the water as easily as a hot knife cut butter, swiftly on his way to nowhere. He didn't have much to do, not that he ever did, on this lazy and hot Saturday afternoon off the coast of one of the many small islands of the Bahamas. It was on this two-mile long island that the reclusive Landray resided when he visited earth, version 2005, when he just couldn't stand the hustle and bustle of Cybertron any longer. If the planet wasn't so polluted and crowded with humans Depth Charge would very likely move there.

Unfortunately, it was very polluted, and very crowded, so he took his refuge here in the relative cleanliness of the southern Bahamas, on his little island. The fire-colored manta ray dipped low, diving fluidly towards the white ocean bottom, then raised his wings. He coasted along, skirting the sand with his belly, then paused, optics narrowing as his keen audios picked up a sound traveling through the crystal clear Caribbean. A motor. No -- an engine. A large engine.

Beating his powerful wing like fins, Depth Charge raised his wide, heavy head and slid towards the surface. He deduced that the roaring, buzzing engine sound was coming from the north, probably a mile or so ahead of him. His gold dorsal fin broke the surface like a shark might as he traveled, but anyone who knew anything about sea creatures would know he was a ray because of the consistent rhythmic cadence of his swimming with both of his pectoral's breaking the surface with every upward pump. The sound got closer as the investigating Cybertronian diminished the distance between them. Boats that large didn't usually trespass out there.

Depth Charge suddenly stopped short and scrambled backwards wildly, each fin moving on its own to get his ponderous bulk to go backwards. His beast mode nostrils, located on the middle of his snout and vertical in angle, flared open in startled surprised as his optics widened, staring in front of himself.

A fish net.

What was a fish net doing there?

The roaring of the boat engine passed directly over him, casting a shadow that had to be over forty feet long. Depth Charge watched as it slowly motored over top of him in a slow circle. He could easily spot the distorted vision of a human head leaning over the side of the ship, appearing to look at him as the vessel circled. It wasn't like he didn't stick out like a sore thumb out there...

Sharp audios picked up the muffled sound of the man shouting something, then a strange whirring as the boat sidled off to the south. The red ray grew mildly alarmed when the men dumped a heavily weighted fish net over the side of the boat behind him. He cocked his head to the side -- the net appeared to be glowing. By the Matrix, cursed the ray. That was an energy net. Those men weren't catching fish.

They were catching him.

Depth Charge's optics went wide and he darted to the left, then panicked as his tail became ensnared in the netting to his south. That gave the ship time to blockade the right side while the manta ray tried in a feral vain to loose his tail from the energy net. The Landray Maximal thrashed wildly, finally unsnagging his appendage and darting forward --

-- then cried out in dismay as his forward motion was abruptly and forcefully stopped by the fisherman's net. Depth Charge turned, panting, observing. He was trapped, netting on all sides in a makeshift seventy-foot area that extended from the sea floor to the surface. He gasped and thought, the surface!

Making like a bullet, he charged for the surface, intending on leaping from his prison back to freedom. Unfortunately, as the red ray found out, the humans were fast and resourceful. Leaping with full force, he screamed as the laser netting over the top of the area connected with and sliced a criss-cross pattern on his snout, bouncing him forcefully back into the water before he even fully left it.

He had to relax. Depth Charge's beast mode was rapidly taking over, instinct over logic, fear turning into the mind-numbing panic of survival. Shutting the lids to his optics, he let himself sink to the soft sea bed, taking deep, calming breaths of sea water. Relax..breathe..relax.., he told himself. I am the dominant species here. Just because they have energy nets doesn't mean I can't beat them. Depth Charge sighed as the tension began to bleed away. He'd never been prone to panicking, but he'd also never been caged like this before. Now the ray knew what an animal felt like.

The boat still hovered nearby, in fact when he looked it was idling not five feet from the rubber net-floats on the eastern side of his energy prison. The men's voices could still be heard, but their words were indistinct. The man on the boat, now suited in S.C.U.B.A. gear, lifted the laser netting at the top, and dove in. Depth Charged eyed him warily, but lifted his streamlined bulk from the ocean floor to swim up and see what all this was about. The netting surrounding him, glowed a mild yellow as the two beings met. Depth Charge stayed a decent eight feet away from the masked diver, peering a him though narrowed optics.

The man was probably six foot tall and a hundred and ninety-five pounds, a good upper body build and, if the ray saw correctly, blonde hair underneath the black diving hood. Nodding his head, the diver blew bubbles from his mouthpiece and waved his hands towards his chest, motioning in a friendly gesture for the Cybertronian to come forward. Closer. Depth Charge hesitated, but slid forward a few feet upon further encouragement from the human. It was unfortunate humans could not hear underwater, as that would make things much easier.

The blonde man watched the massive transformer approach. He was wary, and reasonably so after being so forcefully captured. The young adult nodded, continuing his motions, getting the red aquatic to get within arm's reach.

"I..I don't think we should hurt him, Carlos."

"Shut up, Brandi," the tanned-skinned and black-haired Latino scolded. "We're just going to have a little fun. No harm done."

"It just seems so mean!" the blonde girl whined, leaning over the side of the yacht to watch.

Carlos shook his head and smoothed his ebony hair. "Nah, just gonna make 'im take a little siesta. Besides, he's juss a transformer, Di. 'Dis is our planet, not his, an' it's our job to make sure 'dey know that."

"Brian's touching it," Brandi whispered, indicating the man in the water, who was tentatively running his hand over a tolerating red manta's nose. "And he hasn't done anything to us, he's just visiting."

"How do you know? C'mon, Brian-o, shock him already." The boy shouted in Spanish to the crew, telling them to ready the fishing equipment.

The captain, dark skinned but startlingly blue-eyed, glared at him. "This rig is not meant for a catch of that weight, Carlos."

"It can handle it, Ron. We ain't payin' you for nothin'. Get the equipment ready!" Came the barked retort, still speaking the main language of Mexico. "Brian's gonna shock 'im soon."

Depth Charge tolerated the man's touch for as long as he thought he could stand it, letting the seemingly friendly human pet him. He twitched his head away to look up as the boat emanated a new sound, gears grinding as a joint motor powered up. Some sort of arm swung over the side of the yacht, or so the ray thought he saw, and dangled over the edge of the floating prison. Two more men removed the laser net covering the top. What are they doing?

Brian Gierson, twenty-four years old, had been diving since he was twelve when he father took him out on his luxury sailboat the first time. Since then he'd mastered the art, and had taken up an underwater hunting hobby, of sorts. He had a menagerie of trophies back home in Florida; the jaws of a bull shark, two black-tipped reef sharks, a tiger shark, and even the skull of a dolphin he'd speared. He'd gained the dolphin's trust after trapping the cetacean in a net-prison similar to this one, then sent a gun-propelled spear right through the animal's lungs. Gain trust, then break trust.

He had this transformer's trust, or at least the majority of it.

Gierson reached to his belt with his right hand, then reached out and patted the massive manta behind the optic with his left as Depth Charge watched the men on the boat scurry about like mice. The former Guardians patience was quickly running thin. He wanted out of there! Diamond-shaped eyes focused again on his human visitor as the young adult moved, patting him and reaching to his belt, removing from a compartment a palm-sized black box with two metal prongs on the front. The terran male held up both hands and nodded at him when he backed away a few feet; a gesture of good will. Brian smiled as best he could, but the Depth Charge could see the smile in the mask in the form of deep brown eyes. Still...what was that device?

Brian suddenly thrust the pronged gadget directly against the Transmetals mouth, the metal pieces slipping between unexpecting lips. Before Depth Charge could even think to react a circuit sizzling surge of purple energy bolted through him and he turned, instinctively winging for the deeper water as he opened his mouth to scream. He felt the tip of his left fin connect with flesh as he retreated, but paid no attention. The Maximal manta cried out and twitched wildly as his servos shorted and failed, seizing hard as he sank heavily to the bottom. Gut wrenching pain shot through him, bringing every sensor to its peak of feeling as waves of violet interference danced over his form. Optic-lids flitted, then closed as Depth Charge panted and the energy began to disperse into the water, leaving him an uncomfortable, aching numb. A distorted hissing reached his audios -- no, those were his audios, shorting out badly. He was deaf.

Captain Ron Velasquez scrambled to the side of the boat when he heard Brandi shriek. She babbled incessantly, yelling that something had gone wrong, the transformer attacked Brian. "No," Velasquez shook his head, "he didn't attack. He reacted. That boy was just in his way. Stand back!"

The fifty-eight year old sea captain growled and ripped off his coat. I knew that boy would screw up! Why did I ever agree to such a foolish idea, no matter what they paid! he scolded himself as he dove over the side of his rentable yacht, Al-Sheba, swimming down to save the younger diver from drowning. Brandi Dickerson sobbed in panic, "Oh God, Carlos, oh my God! I told you this was a bad idea! I told you!"

"Shut up, it'll be fine. Eddy! Eddy get up here!" The boy shouted to the below-decks. He turned back to lean over the railing as another boy, this one younger then the rest, trotted up from the steps. "I'm going to..to kill that thing if Brian's hurt."

Edward Chiang was eighteen, and looked at his friend with a questioning look to his eye. "Kill it? Why? What happened?"

Brandi turned to him, crying. "It attacked Brian. The transformer attacked Brian!"

Velasquez moved swiftly to the limp form of Brian Gierson. Troubled brown eyes examined the boy, but he knew that the injuries sustained were bad. Blood stained the water around Gierson's head crimson. Shiny movement caught the captain's eyes, and he watched as a sluggish Depth Charge made his way towards them. The male Maximal eyed the other human, then shifted his gaze to the diver in Ron's arms.

The elder man was wise, and knew this robot would not hurt him. Skilled, rough hands examined Brian's head: the top of the skull had been completely smashed, exposing brain tissue that had jellified upon impact. He shook his head at Depth Charge. Brain Gierson was already dead.

But..how? Depth Charge queried to himself as he watched the captain swim up with the boy in his arms. As he thought about it, it made sense: he'd felt his fin connect with something soft as he turned to get away. He'd crushed that human's head like an eggshell.

Oh..slag.

He'd killed a human.

The manta was in deep, deep trouble with both the human government and his own. Killing humans warranted severe punishment, regardless of the circumstances, be it accidental or otherwise. But those humans had captured him! Hurt him! He'd only retreated. The boy had merely been in his way! Surely, the Council and the terran government would understand, the men were at fault as well. They had no right to imprison him, a sentient being, like this. They had no right to try to hurt him, and Depth Charge had no doubt that that is what that boy had tried to do. Many of his systems and circuits were down, including his audials. He still couldn't hear, and was only barely mobile for the aching pain in his joints. The ray's fins throbbed with every twitch of muscle cable. His gaze shifted back to the ship above.

Carlos Rodriguez stared at the bleeding body of the one who had been his best friend. He and Brian Geirson had hung out since they were in grade school, and suddenly one of them was gone. That disgusting transformer had killed him. Had attacked and killed Brian. The latino boy leaned against the railing as Brandi sobbed. Edward was eerily silent. "Eddy," Rodrigues whispered. "That thing is gonna pay, isn't it?"

Chiang nodded. "Yes."

"We're going to make it suffer, ain't we?"

"Yes, we are."

"Get the gun."

Edward nodded and ran for the steps, descending into the lower levels. No one onboard thought a thing, figuring that the eighteen-year-old was just upset at the loss of his friend. Digging furiously, Chiang pulled a shotgun from his bag, wiping angrily at the tears that slipped down his face as he cocked the weapon and ran back up the stairs. Carlos pulled a .45 from his coat pocket, "Attention everyone!" he shouted, snarling. "We are taking over for some private fun. Ron, escort your crew to the motorboat and leave."

The blonde girl stared at him. "What?"

"Don't be foolish, boy!" Captain Velasquez shouted, waving his arms. He took a step forward but halted when Chiang aimed the shotgun at him.

"Carlos told you to leave. So leave!" He screamed, voice thick with grief, but most noticeably, fury.

Ron Velasquez glared daggers at Edward. "I thought you were smarter than this, Mr. Chiang. All right, everyone, into the motorboat."

Carlos Rodriguez smirked in satisfaction as the six crewmembers and their captain piled into the ten foot motorboat and chugged away towards the nearest populated island. Brandi looked strangely at the boys, head tilted as tears brimmed her eyes. "What are you going to do, Carlos?"

"Revenge."

Edward lowered the Winchester and wiped at his eyes. "Are we going to kill him?"

Carlos shook his head, growling, "No, not yet at least. I want that thing to hurt, to beg us to stop or for death. In fact," the boy looked at his male counterpart. "I think I know how to do it."

Depth Charge sighed, optics closed as he rested on the sandy bottom. The ache in his body still hadn't dulled, despite thirty cycles of laying on the sand, keeping himself still. His repair sequences refused to work. Mark up one more system short-out..and it has to be my most critical one in this instance. He needed repairs badly. The former hunter couldn't function optimally with that kind of pain shooting through him after every move made.

He'd been in his water prison since mid morning, probably since eleven A.M. by human time. It was now five, by the same scale, six megacycles post-capture, two megacycles since the human had died, and about an hour and forty-five minutes since that little motor boat had sped off to the west. The yacht remained where it was, floating ominously close to the covered net that Depth Charge was trapped in.

The manta's yellowish optics opened and lit up when he heard a splash, the familiar sound of something entering the water from above. What do they want now?

What do they want from me..?

Brandi Dickerson, wearing nothing more than a pink and red floral bikini bathing suit and sporting nothing but a mask and snorkel, began to descend. She left the energy cover offline – it was a blatant opportunity that Depth Charge almost took advantage of. It would be unbelievably easy to swim past the girl and make like Free Willy, leaping to the freedom of the deep ocean blue, where he could remain hidden until he thought it next safe to emerge. The Landray knew exactly how big of a pickle he'd gotten himself into: killing a human was forbidden. The subject had been known to create cosmic chaos and rage between the two sentient species, and he understood that even the smallest death brought on by a Transformer would bring intergalactic headlines. Meaning, he was about to be yanked, kicking and screaming all the way, back into the uncomfortable heat of the limelight.

Great.

As if Cybertron didn't already know his name for unfavorable circumstances.

The girl paused about halfway down and appeared to re-think what she was doing. Depth Charge had no doubt that every single being remaining on that yacht (several of them had left on the motor boat) believed he had ruthlessly assaulted the boy and had terminated him on purpose. Muddied optics the color of the sun kept watch on the terran female as she backpedaled, using her arms and legs to kick back to the surface. Panic rose in the manta – would she close the top? This could be his only chance!

Grunting, Depth Charge narrowed his optics in sudden anger and darted from the bottom. Damn them. Damn them to the Pit, if they bothered him any more he might slaughter them all! His day had started out Primus-damned perfectly, only to be ruined by being captured and tormented by..by.. a couple of slagging flesh bag children! The very notion of it boggled his mind and sent him into an anger he hadn't experienced since being emotionally prodded by Rampage when his nemesis was still alive back on ancient Earth.

Brandi breached the surface, spitting water from her snorkel and retrieving fresh air. She had taken too long in wandering down, too frightened at the thought of getting near the thing that had killed Geirson to be any faster than she had been. Truthfully, she wasn't exactly certain as to why the girl had agreed to this plan in the first place. Brandi had no want to torture the giant red manta currently in their makeshift cage, and looked up after pushing the mask from her face. "Carlos! I don't want to do it!"

"Quit yer bitchin', mamacita, and get down there," snarled the Latino boy with barely hidden menace.

"No!" cried Dickerson in reply. "You can god damned do it. I'm not you're slave, Carlos."

Rodriguez didn't even have the chance to verbally reply. The blonde in the water screamed, the sounds high-pitched and terrifying, as her body was hurled suddenly clear of the ocean. Depth Charge's broad, blunt snout erupted from the water after her. He hadn't shoved her far, merely with enough power to toss her into the air for a brief moment before Brandi Dickerson once against joined him in this watery prison. It was a warning, a warning he intended for her and all of the rest of the terrans to understand. He immediately whirled on her, goldenrod orbs blazing in a fury that even the human could see and understand. The brown-headed girl screamed, bubbles erupting from her wide-open mouth as he snapped his jaws in her face and otherwise made a show of false attack, driving her to the gleaming yellow walls Depth Charge was confined in.

Carlos lurched forward and clutched at thenetting controls. That thing could not get out. It WOULD NOT get out. Chiang screamed a line of jumbled words that the Latino boy couldn't quite understand, but finally stopped with his mouth ajar in shock when the brightly glowing light of the lid suddenly turned back on. "Dude! What in hell are you doing? Brandi's still in there!"

Frag!

His attention tore away from the human he had chose to so ruthlessly terrorize as the yellow cage top re-activated. Brandi's concentration shifted simultaneously, no wait! I'm still in here! Taking that momentary distraction on Depth Charge's part and running with it, the blonde-headed girl beat feet for the surface, breaking it with a screech and a gasp. "What are you guys doing?" she wailed, terrified. "I am still in here! Open the top!"

Carlos's suddenly cold, cold gaze pierced the netting. "Do what you're s'posed ta do, and I'll let ya out, comprende?"

Dickerson, aghast, shook her head. "I said no! Let me out, right now!"

"Do what I told you, or I'mma let that thing eat you, you stupid slut! Now do it!"

Brandi Dickerson was taken aback. Never before had Carlos spoken to her in such a manner, not in all the years she had known him. Gierson's death had brought out a terrible thing, an ugly monster hell-bent on revenge. Flitting movement caught her eye: Depth Charge was on the move again, stirring in the crystal waters below her. Fear knifed her in the heart, and she looked up at the boat frantically, blue eyes blazing with the need to survive. "Allright! Fine! Gimme the harpoon gun."

"I thought you had it already!" came the barked retort.

Brandi glared at him and said, "Apparently I don't so give the fucking thing to me!"

Chiang was flabbergasted but chose not to dispute what Rodriguez wanted. Ducking to the side and grabbing the loose harpoon gun from the deck, the Chinese boy handed it to the Latino, who yanked it from his grasp and leaned over the side of the yacht, slipping the weapon through the energy lid into Brandi's awaiting hands. Slipping the mask back over her darkly tanned face, the blonde dipped her face back below water. Watching as the flame-patterned ray circled his prison in sheer, obvious irritation, she could hear her heart jackhammering away in her ears. Brian had hurt the thing, and it resulted in his death. Who was to say that if Brandi did the same, she wouldn't suffer the same fate? Either way, the only out of the watery prison she now shared with the angry manta, who was easily at least 15 feet wide, was to hurt him yet again.

She began to descend.

Depth Charge was far more than irritated.

He was angry. Furious. Enraged! How dare those puny bonebags even think about touching him! Pain shot through his systems as he swam, but the livid elasmobranch paid it no heed. They would pay. He would get out of his prison eventually, and when he did, they would never be found again. The raging ray-bot entertained malignant thoughts, mental images, neural impulses of bringing the ship down and sending it careening to the sandy bottom. Or better yet, just using his missiles to blow the slagging thing to pieces! But, wouldn't physically tearing the yacht apart be more gratifying? Yes. Yes it would. Playing the part of Jaws and breaking the craft open, allowing water to spill in, eventually ending in the vessel's demise and casting the humans aboard it in the cold, uncaring ocean, where there, he would play.

The ray jerked his helm to the side – he couldn't do that. He was no monster as these terrans were proving themselves to be, and it occurred to Depth Charge with a certain irony: he had reminded himself of Rampage. I'm not the monster here.

The female human was moving down again. Still trying to squelch the primal urge to attack and kill what the manta perceived in some bestial way was trying to kill him, he stayed well away, idling on the other side of the cage. The bikini-clad young woman was clutching something in her right hand, a spear gun. For the love of the Creator, I'm going to kill the lot of them! Was it any surprise that she had brought down a weapon with her? No. Was it mildly alarming that the blade on the end of the weapon glowed a bit and flickered with dangerous energy? Yes. Not only did they have energy nets, but they had energy weapons. Why, then, was it no surprise to him? The yellow-eyed devil gave her a look that plainly said, 'oh, what the hell are you going to do now, poke me to death?' Depth Charge didn't count on it. The blade the timid blondie held could easily slice through his armor and kill him if she hit the right spot, but he knew for a fact she didn't have the guts to get close to him, and he was betting that if they stayed on opposing sides of the seventy-foot wide cage, Depth Charge could dodge the shot, and that was that.

Dickerson trembled as she leveled the spear gun at the huge mech's optic. Some miniscule part of the young woman's mind knew she couldn't hit at this range, that she'd have to get closer, but for several seconds she disregarded it. The bright pinpoint of Depth Charge's pupil, the only optic facing her, shifted down slightly, leveling it's almost bored stare at the weapon she carried. Surprise and apprehension struck the manta, for he realized that attached to the energy blade was that black box. The Primus-loving thing that caused him such pain. It all made sense then: the human female was planning on sticking him with the spear gun, and letting that box do it's job. Continuous electric shock (which, quite curiously, he noticed did not effect the water as electricity should have) would destroy his remaining internal systems, and, after several cycles of agonized thrashing, kill him.

Oh, fuck me.

On guard now, the manta merely watched as she ran out of air and had to escape to the surface. He was stuck, unable to defend himself for fear of killing another human, and unable to retreat. However, he did have one thing going for him: Dickerson's fear. If Depth Charge could bully her and terrify her, force her to either drop the weapon or forget the whole thing and leave, maybe that could be his ticket out of there. After having gotten her air, the blonde-headed tourist once again made her dive, slowly inching level with her "prey" on the other side of the cage. Now or never.

What happened next surprised them both.

It wasn't Depth Charge who made his move, it was Brandi Dickerson. Much to his surprise, the little fleshy creature started at him from across the glowing prison, swimming furiously, petrified, but hell-bent to do what she'd come to do. It startled Depth Charge enough to make him backpedal as much as a manta could, until he felt the biting sting of the energy netting pressing against his right fin. For that moment, he just stared at her coming at him. Snap out of it, you retard, the Landray admonished suddenly, it's a slagging meatball human. Scare her or get the frag away from her! Needing time to recollect his thoughts, Depth Charge chose to latter and slammed his fins down, winging forward and away from his supposed aggressor. Brandi, abandoning fear, kicked with all her might and reached out with her left hand, straining to gain a purchase on the smooth metal form as it passed by. Much to Depth Charge's regret, she succeeded.

Feeling the small hand scrabbling for a grab-hold at the base of his tail sent the manta into a wild flail, an awkward bucking movement that snapped his tail out straight and bent his back in an awkward direction. Despite this, she took hold, gripping the golden dorsal fin that the ray-bot immediately regretted having. Narrowing his wheat-stained optics, the Landray was off like a day at the races, darting hither and thither, this way and that and back again, showing the short-lived but explosive speed bursts typical of most species of rays. Dickerson held on like a trooper until Depth Charge performed and unexpected and sudden underwater halt, using purely his fins, sending her float-skidding along his back. It was then, or never.

Do it, or die.

Raising her right arm and grasping the streamlined edge of Depth Charge's fin with her left, Brandi brought the weapon down just as the ray started to roll off to the west. The gleaming head of the spear, trigger forgotten, imbedded itself behind the manta's right optic. Depth Charge only had a microsecond to register that sudden nip of pain before his entire world was reduced to spine wrenching waves of it, and somewhere in his still sane mind he thought: what a way to die.

Brandi scrambled backwards and made like mad for the surface as the massive manta, one who possessed such power, lost conscious control of his body as the neurocircuitry was so brutally attacked. Emerging with a shake of her head, Dickerson spat water from her snorkel and gasped, panting in great heaves. Sick morbidity forced her to duck back down, floating at the surface while the slightly fogged mask allowed her to watch what she'd done. Purple interference dancing over his form, Depth Charge was caught in a violent seizure from which he could derive no control, no conscious thought, and no feelings other than the pain.

Brandi watched with morose fascination at the pain and terror she had brought on another sentient being. He has no control. Flashbacks of Brian's demise invaded her cerebrum, and the more she watched the more she realized that he had no control. The haphazard flail that, to them on the surface, had looked so much like an attack, was nothing more than just that: a thrash given by the unfortunate in his spasmodic attempts to escape. The shock had stopped after only a few seconds before, allowing the giant metal being to regain his composure, but that was not the current case. This is wrong.

This is murder.

From the yacht, the blonde heard Carlos yelling at her, but those water-muffled words went ignored in favor of watching the horror unfold as the Transformer, an innocent, slowly died in front of her. This is wrong. This is murder. Frowning, Dickerson dove once more, listening to the bubbly fffip as the ocean cascaded into the nozzle of the snorkel. Down she swam. It was wrong, and she had to reverse what she'd done. The blonde tourist realized after getting within ten feet of the viciously quaking robot that it was much easier said than done. One misguided wallop from those fins or that tail, as Depth Charge had unintentionally demonstrated already, and that would be the end for her. She paused again, is he worth saving? Fear engulfed her like a tide when she imagined just what metal impacting flesh with that sort of power behind it could do. Anything Depth Charge struck would be reduced to a bloodied mass, a liquefied meat-jelly, for certain. Was saving his life worth risking her own?

Swallowing her fear and taking up a stiff resolve, Brandi Dickerson gathered her courage and dove forward and down, kicking right for him. Reaching out, she yanked her arm back to avoid getting cuffed with a thick, twitching tail appendage that, she noticed, with no uncertain discomfort, was tipped with a blade that could cut her right in two. Gulping, the girl eased forward, close enough to get thwacked but alert enough to try to avoid it. Her opening came when the manta rolled unceremoniously, twitching and jerking, lolling a complete circle until he was belly down once more at an angle he didn't twitch his fins in. Sliding in above him, Brandi grunted as the seizing ray-bot arched his back out, slamming it into her stomach. Winded, having had the air knocked out of her, Dickerson braced one hand on the wide, gold panel atop the Landray's head and stretched, grabbing the spear and heaving backwards. It was like riding a hurricane, or a bull at the PBR Nationals, but finally all motion stopped when the head of the spear, and the box, came loose. For a single thrilling second she lay parallel to the great beast's back as he began to drift downwards towards the ocean bottom.

The pain was gone. No, wait, no it wasn't, it just wasn't as bad. Depth Charge's optics lay half lidded, the pupils rolled beneath the armored casing as his body stiffened, sinking for the bottom. He couldn't move, didn't bloody want to move. Somewhere in his mildly conscious mind he heard warnings being blared at him from his malfunctioning internal computer, system failure or something like that, but the Landray could hardly pay any mind do it. Brandi felt the water rushing against her skin a she kept her hold on the now still ray's fin and hitched a ride with him to the white sand bottom, relieved, but scared out of her mind. Dropping the spear, Dickerson made for the surface once more, heading back down after regaining her breath. The big ray hadn't moved an inch, his body limp as the soft tide gently rocked him back and forth with its power. Why wasn't he moving? Why wasn't he doing anything? Such questions required answers in the mind of the young woman, and down into the depths she descended.

Depth Charge knew he was dying. He could feel it deep inside himself; his time left in the universe was short. He mourned that fact in some way, realizing that after recklessly seeking death in his hunts for years, here he was, laying prone, his life leaving him, and he did not want to die. He was not ready to die. So badly the forlorn creature wished for the life he had previously wanted to discard, the life that he was now being denied.

Brandi sank down to his level, keeping ten feet to the manta's fore, watching his face. Slowly, the vertical nares opened and closed, inhaling, then slowly exhaling again. The blonde watched for several seconds before the mech's diamond optics opened, and he looked at her, and suddenly she understood. Oh my god. The human started forward slowly, but Depth Charge only watched, a somber shadow alight in his slowly dulling crystal orbs. You're dying.

Depth Charge sighed softly, beaten. I am.

Extending her hand, Brandi brushed her fingertips along the imbedded pattern beneath the glass eye. I'm sorry.

Scooting forward once more, Dickerson rested on the bottom, placing both hands on either side of that slowly dimming diamond, maintaining purchase so as not to float to the surface. The girl reached to her face with her left hand, taking the mask off, bearing her pretty face to the sea and her eyes to the salt in order to lean forward and rest her forehead above the ray's eye. Depth Charge's optics lidded shut as his body failed and his mind started to die. One last breath was drawn before, with a quiver, his life ran out.

But not before his eyes gave one last message:

You are forgiven.