TFE

C10 Abandoned

Copyright 2006, masterfwiffo. All rights reserved.

The small town in middle California burned. Megatron stood amongst the wreckage, arms crossed. "Raze it." He ordered. "Plenty of property damage, lots of violence - but no killing."

"No fun." Cyclonus squawked, but obeyed, trying to find pleasure in the carnage-less destruction.

Demolisher stood at his side, firing steadily, watching the humans below flee. Explosions hit the small houses, and several started to collapse. The residential zone was entirely engulfed in flames.

A fire-truck charged forward, in attempt to extinguish the flames. With a hint of amusement, Megatron blew out the side of the vehicle. Despite that, the humans still struggled forward, preparing water to extinguish the flames. Megatron smiled inwardly - the tiny species did have spunk.

Then he paused a hum filled the air. A great portal opened up within sight of him, and several forms charged through.

"As I thought." Megatron mused, "The Omega has a warp portal device build in. Interesting." He looked up at his two soldiers. "All right. Decepticons, fall back."

"No fun at all." Cyclonus lamented, and he and Demolisher warped away. Megatron stayed long enough to shoot a long, meaningful glance at the oncoming Evac, before he too disappeared.

Evac transformed, landing on the ground, right where Megatron had once stood. "Damn him." He hissed. "Damn him..."

"Calm down Evac." Michelle said quickly, grabbing his leg. "That's what he's trying to do."

Evac paused, staring grimly at the carnage. Michelle looked up at him, and saw the mixture of pain and anger on his face.

"Evac..." She said quietly, "You won't help anyone by getting angry."

Evac took a deep intake, and darkened his optics. "You're right." He whispered.

"Pity they ran." Jazz growled. "I owe that big one a sock in the face."

"Won't do you any good to try." Sideways cracked. "He didn't earn the rank of third general for nothing."

Evac glanced at them, again checking behind to make sure Omega, Crosswise and Hightail were with them. "Lets get to work." Evac sighed, transforming. "Stay in vehicle mode as much as possible. Remember what Smith said."

Jazz, Crosswise and Hightail obeyed. Omega grunted, and remained where he was. Sideways chuckled. "I'll stay with the big guy, call us if you need us."

Evac shot back a brief confirmation, and let Michelle climb into his cockpit as his rotors began to turn, propelling him upwards to begin rescue missions.

---

From his station in their new base of operations in Northern California, Smith watched the satellite feed glumly. This was the first sign of Decepticon retaliation they had seen since the disaster in Nevada - it was something they had all known was coming, but it had finally arrived. Fortunately, now they were a little better prepared for the attack, and what they had seen was at least a little encouraging. Omega Supremes counter attack in Nevada had put the Decepticons satellite laser-cannon out of commission at least, that much was clear by its absence. Plus Omega had revealed he did indeed have a teleportation device, so they could go where needed at ease and without fear. And best of all, Sideways had agreed to stay on with them.

Sideways was an odd case. Smith didn't trust him, nor did several others, especially high-command. He had all the marks of a trade liar, though what for and why constantly eluded Smith. If he was on the level, however, he had contributed a wealth of information. Sideways had seemed shocked at just how out of date the others were, and was quick to fill them end on all of the Cybertronian history he remembered. And that was a lot- he had told them much of the Autobot-Decepticon civil war, and the two opposing sides - as he had said, "The Decepticons are a pain in the exhaust, but don't think for a second the Autobots are any better. The Cons will pillage and kill you, but at least their honest about being the bad guys. The bots will do the same, but do it in the name of freedom." It wasn't a pretty picture.

Sideways had admitted to spying on the two fighting groups on Earth, and he had provided the names at least of the two leaders, and several others. Optimus Major and Megatron - those were the names of Smiths enemies now. With General Corbet (God rest his soul) now deceased, Smith had complete control of all forces assigned to deal with the 'Giant Robot' problem, as the higher-ups were so fond of putting it. That made things a little easier.

But for now, he was content to let Evac attempt to stop them. It gave him more time to study the situation and find solutions. He stared at the screen, and radioed in. "Evac, I'm sending some disaster relief squads to help. They'll be there within the hour. Help them out."

The reply was a melancholy "Roger." Smith leaned back and let the work continue.

---

The citizens of the burning town were treated to unusual aid. Empty cars and a helicopter were using tow cables to pull apart the burning wreckage, trying to find survivors. A block away, a small motorcycle was having trouble of her own.

Hightail was both small and weak, and her alt-mode did not generate much power. The side of one of the dwellings had collapsed inwards, bringing the rood down on the rest of the house. Cries for help were emanating inside, and Hightail was the only aide around.

She didn't like her job, and her lack of strength made it worse. Despite having successfully looped a tow around one of the fallen beams, struggling with all her might, she could not bull it loose. The little motorcycles wheels squealed in protest as she put herself in full reverse, then tries again, turning herself around and trying to pull it away. But it was to no avail. The beam wouldn't budge.

With an angry cry of frustration, Hightail transformed. She hurried over to the houses side, and used her bare hands to tug at the beam. Once it was loosened, she pulled it aside, and glanced in.

A small child was huddled in the arms of a woman, his mother. And in front of the two of them, holding a shotgun, was the father.

All three looked into her eyes, and the mother and child promptly screamed. The man yelled angrily at her, words she could not discern, and aimed her gun.

"No, wait-" She tried to explain herself, but she was cut off by a shot. The blast missed her- mostly, but some shot hit her shoulder, stinging her light arm. She cried out in anger and frustration, and transformed, roaring off, leaving the family still trapped inside their home.

Evac was busy lifting the roof off another fallen building, his cables wrapped entirely around the buildings structure. His rotors whirled continually faster as he raised the roof up higher, before he finally dumped it on the lawn. Another cable was let down, and a moment later, he carted safely the houses occupants from their wrecked home, to safety.

As the small group hurried away, they barely missed being run-over by an angry motorcycle, who rolled right up to Evacs and stopped.

"What's wrong?" Evac demanded, a bit more harshly then he intended.

Hightail transformed, and glared at him in fury, her face turning slightly red. "It's not worth it!" She cried angrily, yelling to make herself heard. "Why should I waste my energy helping these, these, ungrateful-"

"Hightail!" Evac roared. "Get back in vehicle mode! Remember what Smith said-"

"No!" Hightail stamped her foot on the ground. "Why should I? Why do we have to do everything the humans tell us too?"

They were interrupted by an explosion, as flames hit a nearby gas line.

"Later!" Evac roared, his rotors beginning to spin faster. "Get back in vehicle mode and help us! We have work to do."

"NO!" Hightail yelled again.

"Dammit!" Evac said, fury and exasperation evident in his voice. "Get in vehicle mode, NOW!" His piercing yell broke through the noise, and caused everyone within hearing distance to turn and stare at him.

Hightail stood in front of him, shaking in rage. Then with a frustrated cry, she transformed, and promptly turned about and roared off- in the opposite direction of her friends.

"HIGHTAIL!" Evac roared, trying in vain to get her attention, but she was too far away.

----

Starscream did something he rarely ever did. He sat around, and stayed absolutely quiet. He stared morosely off in the distance, away from where he was supposed to be looking. It irritated Skywarp to no end.

"Megatron told us to study them." Skywarp said angrily, staring down at Starscream intently.

"Who cares?" Starscream answered, his tone making it blatantly obvious that the answer did not include him.

Skywarp sighed, and returned to examining them through the macro-binoculars, large heavy sensors that could increase a Transformers sight range tenfold. He and Starscream were stationed on a large hill overlooking the town, and they were supposed to be observing any and all actions and abilities their latest enemies displayed. Megatrons quick and impressive show of force belied the fact that none of his troops had recovered from the last fight yet. Shockwave was barely alive, and his cannon arm was gone at least until they could return to Cybertron. Cyclonus and Demolisher had been haphazardly patched together. Sixshot had developed a paranoia over his own wounds, and spent much time trying to convince Megatron that he needed far more time in the CR chamber. Skywarps left shoulder was still functioning at only 50 percent efficiency, having been injured when the one called Evac had thrown him aside. Starscream, however, was hurt more in pride then physically. He was nursing that pride in silence, and in an atypical fashion, hadn't said anything for a long time. Skywarp wasn't sure what made Starscream so mellow - after all, he had fallen to a clone of Omega Protectorate, so it was hardly dishonorable. But Starscreams ego was the least of Skywarps present concerns. He was here for recon duties, but so far, it had been rather uninteresting. The Omega and the now familiar traitorous coward stood to one side and did nothing, while the others engaged in uninteresting and routine rescue missions. It seemed their recon mission would be a dismal failure.

Skywarp sighed, but orders were orders. He returned to his observations.

Starscream lazily reclined, staring at the distant hills with a bored look in his face. Occasionally he would glance up at the ever-vigilant Skywarp, and look in the direction he was staring. He'd repeat this routine every ten minutes or so with little regularity. The sixth time he did it, his own eyes caught something interesting.

The roads had been clogged with people leaving the city, and rescue vehicles trying to get in. But to his surprise, he saw something kicking up a dirt storm far away from the roads.

"Give me those." He said, quickly swiping the macro-binoculars from his companion. Skywarp protested but did nothing. Starscream focused in on the object, eyes narrowing. "Didn't they have a motorcycle with them?" He asked.

"Er, I think so. Why?"

Starscream grinned. "I may get a bit of fun out of this day after all."

----

Hightail petered out some seven miles outside of city limits. The surrounding area was full of dry hills that seemed long dead, and as she fled the dust that she kicked up seeped into her system and slowed her down. Finally, she simply rolled to a stop and transformed, collapsing into a heap in the middle of nowhere.

Frustration and anger clogged all her circuits, blocking out all semblance of rational thought. Deep inside, she knew she was overreacting, that her actions were wrong on some level, but she was far too angry to care. In fact, her anger was so great that it was causing overheating within her systems. She closed her eyes, making breath-like actions and trying to let herself calm down. Even still, she couldn't help but clench her fists and teeth with the raw emotion that continually threatened to let itself out.

It wasn't fair. She had never liked the humans and now she was forced, against her will, to do things for them, when all they seemed to want was to reject her. Why should she hide herself, trying to force herself to do and be something she wasn't, and never was, and never wanted to be. Evacs words hurt, not so much for their content, but because he was the only one she had ever been able to turn to. Refusing to believe her over the human was a crippling blow. This was the mortal strike. She closed her eyes and shook.

She remained there for some time, oblivious to everything but her own thoughts, until a voice spoke beside her.

"What's wrong, child?"

She was too upset to notice the smoothness and eerie glide of the voice. She may have even thought it was her own thoughts. Without looking, she answered. "Why do I always have to help the humans. They've done nothing for me... they don't even like me... and I don't like them. They're liars... they use us... Why can't Evac understand?"

The voice was silent for a moment, then it whispered back into her ear. "You're absolutely right. Why should you? You are, after all, of a superior breed." A hand descended on her shoulder, and the sudden contact brought her instantly back into the present. Her eyes shot wide open, and she whirled, pulling away from the hand and the figure that loomed over her. She did not recognize him- but she did recognize the sigil he bore. Her anger was immediately replaced by a new emotion - terror. She cried out in horror, pulling away from the figure.

"Calm down child." The figure said smoothly, calmly. "I'm not here to hurt you."

She stared back at him, unbelieving. He noted this, and decided to attempt to pursue conversation further. "My name is Starscream. What's your name, child?"

She hesitated for a moment before replying. "Hightail." She said cautiously.

"I could not help but notice you are out here alone." Starscream continued, casually circling her in a gentle stroll. "And you looked most upset. Perhaps a quarrel with your commander, Evac?"

"He's not my 'commander,'" Hightail said, sounding more bitter then she realized. "He's my... friend..." She did not sound convinced by her own statement.

Starscream eyebrow raised slightly. "Is that so?" He said smoothy. "It seems to me that friends would not force them to do what they dislike."

Starscream let that sit. Hightail remained on the ground, staring at her feet. Starscream smirked, He had entered one of his own personal niches now, and he was convinced he had her. Before he became a soldier, he had been a young politician, thrown out for his many lawless misdeeds. But he had gotten away with those for a long time, because he could read characters easily and exploit. Only a few, such as Megatron, remained immune to his words. But this one... she read like an open book. Easy.

"Why then, do you stay with them?" He asked softly, "If they hurt you so much?"

"They're all I've ever known..." She said sadly. "They're... all I... have..."

Emotion threatened to overwhelm her, but to her shock she found Starscreams arm to comfort her.

"There, there..." He said sweetly. "There are always ways out... you just haven't found them yet."

"How?" She said sadly.

"There are others besides yourself, you know. Do not think us the villains yet." Starscream said gently. She looked up at him in surprise, her eyes wide.

Starscream smiled, straightening to his full height and showing off what he knew (or rather, fully believed) to be his gorgeous body. "Do I look like a monster to you?"

"No..."

"I thought not. You see child, you've only seen a tiny piece of the puzzle. There is a grand universe out there you haven't even begun to dream of."

Hightail stared at him, her blue optics shining intensely. "Can you tell me more?"

"Of course." Starscream said sweetly. "Why, I-"

"Starscream!" A voice roared, coming in suddenly and harshly over the com, "They're moving toward you!"

Starscream grunted, his fun interrupted. He had been so close too... Hightail was staring at him, desperation coming over her face as she began to realize he was leaving. Starscreams ultimate goal would remain unfinished... Unless...

"Here." He said, giving her a small com device- one he used for his own, 'personal' business. "Perhaps we can continue our talk some other time."

"W- Wait!" She protested, "Please, I want to hear more!"

"Some other time." Starscream said, giving her a friendly wave before flying off into the distance.

"Wait..." Hightail repeated, staring quietly at the com within her hand. "I want... to... I don't understand..."

---

As soon as Starscream was in front of him, Skywarp grabbed him violently by his front vents. "What the slagging PIT were you doing?" He roared.

"Talking." Starscream answered smoothly, pushing Skywarp away.

"You told me you were going to take her hostage!"

"Hostages won't talk willingly." Starscream cooly replied. He stepped away, staring back at the lone figure who's companions were fast approaching. "There is a seed of dissent in their camp, and I plan to nurture it to full health. A mynok in the hand, so they say..."

Skywarp shook his head, sputtering angrily before finding his words. "Megatron won't approve! When he finds out he'll-"

It was Starscream turn to grab Skywarp, whirling and grabbing his neck. "Megatron doesn't need to know." He hissed. "And should you tell him before I am ready, your spark is mine. Understand?"

Skywarp glared hatefully back at him, but said nothing.

"I thought so." Starscream said with a smirk, and quickly teleported back to the ship.

Skywarp stood there for a long moment, Starscreams threat ringing in his audios and combatting with his loyalty and sense of honor. With a sigh, he decided to settle the matter later, and returned home.

----

Hightail stared blankly at the com device, bewildered and perplexed, unable to form an thoughts other then his face. He seemed to... care...

"Hightail!"

She started, turning to face the other Earthen Transformers. Evac landed in front of her. He crossed his arms and looked at her expectantly. She avoided his gaze. He sighed deeply, then found his voice. "I'm sorry I snapped at you, but lives were on the line. It wasn't the time to raise questions."

Hightails eyes darkened and she refused to say anything.

Evac looked at her, annoyance creeping on to his face. "Hightail..."

Again, he was met with silence.

Evac sighed. "We'll talk later. Come on, we're going home."

Hightail followed obediently, but remained silent the entire trip to home. Everyone ignored her, save one. Sideways watched her with great interest.

-----

The next few days passed with relative silence. Hightails insolence was soon forgotten as the bots preceded to grow accustomed to their new home at the California base.

Evac caught Sideways loafing around, his head staring up at the sky as he leaned back and relaxed. Sideways didn't acknowledge him for a few moments, before finally taking notice. "Hey guy, whatsup?"

Evac looked down at him, a look of uncertainty on his face. "I was wondering if you can help me with something."

"Well, I ain't particularly good at nothing, but I help where I can. Whadya need?"

"History."

Sideways chuckled. "Ask Crosswise. I told her everything I know. I can't believe she asked me who won the battle of Praxus 7. How the high hey am I supposed to know-"

"No, no, ancient History. About us."

Sideways sat up, looking intently at him. "What do you mean?"

"Are there any stories of lost colonies, anything that might tell us who we are?"

Sideways shook his head and sighed. "I'm not one for old stories. I'm only a drifter after-all. If I knew, I'd tell ya buddy. You know that."

"Yes..." Evac said quietly, staring off to the distance. "How did you come to Earth anyway?"

Sideways started, caught off guard by the question. "I, err, stole away on a freighter. When it made an in-system maintenance stop, I jumped ship."

"Why'd you leave?"

"Didn't want the Bots or Cons to find me. The bots hate deserters and the cons hate former bots. Where else is a guy to go?"

"Hmm, yes, I suppose so. Thank you Sideways."

"Don't mention it." Sideways said, waving him away. As Evac turned, suddenly Sideways thought of something. "Hey, Evac!"

"Yes?"

"You might want to keep an eye on Hightail. She looks to me like she's having second thoughts about your cause."

Evac paused, glancing back at him.

"I know what the signs of desertion look like." Sideways added. "I should know, I deserted once. She looks like she won't stick around."

Evac whirled on him with sudden fury. "Don't be ridiculous." He hissed, trying to hold in his anger. "She would never leave us."

"Oh?" Sideways asked.

"No." Evac growled. "We are her friends. She wouldn't leave us." And with that, he turned his back and left in a huff.

As he walked off, Sideways smirked. Easy. Now, if the Decepticon acted as expected, fun would soon ensue...

---

Starscream leaned back, feeling rather pleased with himself. Plans and thoughts had been forming in his mind ever since his meeting with the young Hightail. He had her, he was sure of it. Within a week, he could have a Decepticon symbol on her shoulder, if all worked according to plan. If it worked, it would accomplish several goals at once.

First, it would weaken the Earth forces. Starscream had grown to hate Evac and his men. He didn't take being humiliated lightly. Besides, weakening the Earth forces would lead directly to his second goal.

It would impress Megatron. Starscream was under no false pretense that Megatron was pleased with his work. Starscream was not particularly concerned with impressing that old windbag of a general, but a severe blow to the Earth forces would indeed make Megatron happy with him, as would one new soldier.

And finally, it could gain him an ally for his eventual coup, that would end Megatron and his interference for good. That prospect was one Starscream relished more then anything, He could be patient, that day would come. But for now...

His thoughts turned back to Hightail. Unwilling to wait any longer, he decided tonight was the night to continue wooing the small, Earthbound child...

-----

Even in stasis, Hightails thoughts were active. She dreamt, sporadic firings of her memory banks into her subconsciousness. They were not pleasant thoughts.

Evac looking at her with a look of pity as he became she convinced she had not seen the corpse.

The humans crowding around her after her activation, eager to talk and touch her, and only wanting to get away.

Evac confusing her voice with Michele's.

Smiths harsh words to her about lagging behind on the long trip to their new home.

Sideways talking about the continuing war and a devastated Cybertron.

Jazz and Crosswise having fun with the humans.

The shredded wreckage of the Transformer she had seen slain in the humans lab,

Starscreams gentle voice promising something more...

"Hightail."

At first, she thought she dreamed the voice, but when it repeated, she awoke from her, scrambling to her feet as she looked around wildly in a vain attempt to find the voice. None could be found, until it repeated again, and she realized it was coming from her side-storage compartment. Carefully she withdrew it, staring at it curiously. She had forgotten about it entirely. It flashed softly, then rumbled as it spoke again.

"Come to the north side of the compound."

She hesitated for a moment, then transformed, rolling off. The north side was the least guarded and she visited often. One of the guards took notice of her as she rolled past, but made no effort to stop her. She liked to spend her time alone on the hills, and he was not supposed to keep her from it. She rolled out onto to the hillside, the only light coming from the sky above. To her surprise and horror, she saw a familiar shape outlined by the full moon waiting for her.

"What are you doing here?" She whispered in horror, moving quickly toward Starscreams form.

Starscream reached out and touched her shoulders gently. "I wanted to continue our conversation."

"Not here." She whispered. "If they see you-"

"They won't." Starscream smiled, seating himself. "Don't worry, they won't see or hear us up here. I've scouted it already. Now come, lets have a talk, shall we?"

"I-" Hightail glanced back longingly, but gave in and sat down. "What do you want?"

"Tell me," Starscream grinned, "What do you know about the Decepticons?"

---

Sideways watched from a distance. Beneath the orange mask, he was grinning wildly. Both his sight and hearing were far, far better then he ever let on, and he could hear the conversation as though he was present. As he anticipated, the Decepticon was seducing her, both with his charms, and the Decepticon ideals. Predictable and ideal. This was a perfect opportunity.

Starscream was speaking. "Our powerful and illustrious leader, Lord Gigatron, only wants peace for all members of his species- yourself included." Sideways had to chuckle at that. Indeed he wanted peace- by killing everything else. Gigatron was a xenophobic tyrant, and everyone knew it. But he held his tongue and continued to listen.

"Then why the war?"

"The Autobots started the war. Not Gigatron. They hated his new ideals, and when some rebel assassinated their leader, they tried to blame Gigatron. They just wanted him removed, because they feared him- for they knew he was right and they were wrong."

Spoken like a true propagandist. Sideways lay back, trying to determine exactly when it would be best to raise the alarm. Not yet, let the Decepticon have his fun...

----

Hightail stared up at Starscream with interest. Starscream leaned back, a smile on his face. The bait had been taken, and she was nearly in the boat. Just a little more...

"I have just one question."

"Of course, my dear. Ask me anything."

"Why did you attack Earth?"

Starscream smirked. This answer he had prepared well in advance. "At first, it was an accident. THe primitive and inferior humans did not register on our scale and sapient beings. After that, we ignored them- until the humans retaliated in an unanticipated attack, and nearly destroyed our ship. We merely had to return to teach them that we are the superior species."

Hightail was staring at the ground. "That doesn't feel right-"

"It is the truth." Starscream said softly, reaching out and caressing her face. "You know it. Compared to a human, your value is incalculable."

Hightail stared up at him, eyes widening with hope. "I'm worth something?"

"Of course." Starscream said sweetly. "More then you, or any of your 'friends' realize."

Hightail stared up at him, unable to say anything, as a rush of thoughts and emotions clouded her mind. "I- I-"

"Its all-right." He said, very softly now. "I know what its like not to have your worth known."

"You- you do?"

"I've been undervalued all my life. Same as you." He said ever so softly. "I know the pain you face. And I can make sure it will never happen again."

Hightail began to shake in uncontrollable bursts, as a soft gasping sound came from her mouth. Starscream saw with surprise and a tiny amount of disgust that she was imitating the human reaction of crying. She had been more assimilated into Earth culture then even she realized, he thought with, for the first time, an amount of true pity. Fortunately, he could sense what the reaction that would capture her for good would be. He reached and put his arm around her, letting her pull close to him. She held close to him, clutching to him as a support to keep her emotions from drowning her,

Starscreams did his best to keep his sympathy from turning to a smirk. He had her now.

----

"Ok, that's close enough." Sideways chuckled. "Time to bring this party to an end."

He suddenly disappeared - another talent he had yet to tell to his new comrades - and reappeared at Evacs side.

"Evac!"

Evac, Jazz and Crosswise, near-unconscious in their offline rest periods, were startled awake by his shout. Evac left to his feet, whirling toward him.

Sideways motioned wildly- "Out at the edge of the compound, I saw a transport beam coming down!"

Evacs eyes narrowed. "Decepticons." He hissed, transforming and roaring into the night sky. Sideways chuckled to himself, and followed.

---

Starscreams eyes shot open as he heard the whirls of a helicopters blades. Hightail too was snapped out of her stupor as she heard the ominous whirls.

"I've got to go." He hissed, climbing to his feet.

"No!" She cried, grabbing on to him. "Take me with you!"

Starscream started. He hadn't planned for this emergency. He could take her, theoretically, but... with a sudden panic, Starscream realized that he had no plan for this situation. Megatron would not react well to him bringing her along, and at this point, if he abandoned her, he'd lose her for good.

"Starscream!" She whispered, pushing him urgently as the rotors grew louder. "Please-"

Time ran out as Evac landed with a whump, Sideways at his side.

Starscream, for one of the few times in his life unsure of what to do, drew his sword and put himself between the defender of Earth and Hightail.

----

Chris was sleeping soundly when he was awoke by a thud on his small cabin door. The cabins were all the government had provided for him and the other refugees from the destroyed complex. He shared his cabin with Ben, who at the sound leapt to his feet and grabbed his gun.

They pulled open the door to find Jazz's large face filling it. "Get up!" He called urgently, "Somethings happening out there!"

Jazz transformed, and Chris and Ben darted into his seat. As he sat down, he noted Smith and Michelle in Crosswises seats, and then he was thrown into his seat as Jazz roared forward.

-----

"Let her go!" Evac roared, his bladed weapon ready.

Starscream remained steadfast and sullen, his mind working quickly, trying to compensate for being unprepared. He was ready to run- hell, he should have at the first sign of trouble, but Hightails insistence of taking her with him had caught him off-guard. Now, he couldn't afford to abandon her, knowing that she'd be under the watchful eye, and distrust him for leaving him at the same time. It was either fight, or lose his catch.

Fortunately, Starscream had always considered himself an expert fighter.

"Let her go!" Evac repeated again.

Starscream glanced back at Hightail, who stood quivering with a mixture of fear and confusion. For the briefest of moments, Starscream almost felt sympathy. But that abandoned him the instant his plan formed.

"I am not holding her against her will." Starscream announced, stepping to the side. "Hightail, child, who do you stand with?"

Hightail turned ashen white. Starscream held in his chuckle as she saw her sway with confusion, first toward him, and then back toward Evac.

Evac too saw this, and his eyes narrows as she swayed back toward Starscream. "What lies have you been feeding her, Decepticon!" He roared. "How dare you pollute her mind with your filth!"

"I have said no lies!" Starscream said indignantly. "ONly opened her to a truth that you can't begin to comprehend."

Evac recoiled at the worlds, bracing his weapon.

"She is ready to enter the Universe as a Transformer." Starscream continued, his face contorting into a sneer. "Unlike you, who will always remain a slave to an inferior species."

Evac let loose a vicious howl that even shook Starscreams steadfastness, and charged forward, launching himself into the air. His blade came back, prepared to cut Starscream in half. The Decepticons true colors showed as he drew away in sudden fear.

But neither saw Hightail push herself into action, throwing herself between Starscream and Evac.

---

Jazz and Crosswise roared to a stop, ejecting their passengers and Transforming in the same motion. Smith clambered to his feet, already calling for army reinforcements as his eyes focused on the Decepticon. They saw Evac leap into action.

But the first one to see Hightail move was Michelle. She gave a cry that brought everyones attention to the smaller form, moving in-between the blade and its target.

It was far too late for Evac to stop his motion. Her body impacted against his steel, as the full force of Evacs swing went into her side. Her small frame was thrown violently aside, hitting the ground at full speed and crumpling into a shaking ball.

Starscream and Evac both stood in a stupor, shocked into silence by the sudden motion. Evacs weapon fell to the ground with a clatter, as he stepped backwards, mouth agape and eyes wide in a look of horror.

Starscream regained his composure first. With an exaggerated air of nobility, he rushed to Hightails side, holding fast to the wounded Transformer.

She looked up at him, shaking in a mixture physical and emotional pain. "You... were right..." She whispered, grabbing hold to him.

Starscream helped her to her feet, where she grasped tightly onto him for support. Megatron be damned, he thought briefly. He'll just have to deal. And now... Starscreams eyes narrowed on Evac as he opened his mouth for one final speech. "So, this is how you treat her? I was right. She would fare far better with the Decepticons."

And with that, he initiated the Transport, holding tightly to Hightail so not to lose her in the process. As they vanished together, Hightails eyes never left contact with Evacs. They faded away, following a beam of light into the night sky.

As Jazz and Crosswise ran to his side, Evac let out a wordless cry of hate and anguish, a sound that echoed into the night for miles. He fell to his knees, shaking, staring at his hands.

"What happened?" Jazz was babbling in confusion. "I don't understand, why'd she go? What's going on?" At his side, Crosswise was staring at the place where both had been in complete shock, unable to form words.

Michelle to ran up, laying her hands on Evacs legs as best she could. "Evac?" She said softly, staring up at him.

He neither saw nor heard her. All he saw was his hands, and his weapon lying beneath them. And Hightail, disappearing into the night, forever in his mind.

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