Autobot City, 2005

Stillness, and the acrid smell of smoke still hang over the crashed shuttle. That shuttle; the shuttle that carried Megatron and his team safely past the outer defenses of Autobot City. Elsewhere, the battle rages in full fury, but here, there is only the silence of the dead.

It is not silent to those who know how to listen.

The whisper comes as a gentle susurrus, like the wind--but there is no wind, only stillness. The faintest of whispers, trilling gently to those beyond all hearing--but not beyond listening. An insistent whisper, gentle, quiet, yet powerful enough to re-make worlds...


Awaken, my children; the time for sleep is done. You are needed.

"Oh man, what hit me?" Brawn groaned as he got to his feet, his complaint steadying him while the sleep-heaviness faded from his mind. The oddly transparent orange and brown Autobot turned to look around, and froze as he saw the wreckage in the forward bridge. "Prowl? Ratchet?? IRONHIDE!" Then he looked down. "Oh."

The ghost of Prowl sat up and shook his head as if to clear it. "Offhand, I'd say Megatron. In gun mode." He knelt and pushed himself to his feet, then looked down at his own blasted and burned-out corpse for several long moments. Several expressions crossed his ghostly face in turn: regret, thoughtfulness, wonder, and finally a certain peaceful composure. "It's over now," he said to himself.

To Brawn he said, "That was Scavenger's shooting, I think. He nailed me square in the fuel pump and it exploded."

"Prowl!" Brawn looked at the ghostly black and white Transformer imploringly. "We're--"

"--dead. I know. Doesn't seem to have hurt us all that much." Prowl smiled reassuringly at the spectral orange and brown minibot. "Let's see how the others are." He stepped carefully around his own body and knelt by Ratchet.

"Didn't hurt us all that much?" Brawn said plaintively. "But we're dead!"

Prowl looked at Brawn. "We're still here, we're still us, and we're still friends," he said, his words clipped and precise as always. Brawn nodded, and Prowl continued, "And I feel fine--definitely better than I did just before I died." He patted the smaller bot's shoulder. "I don't what happens next, but I think we'll be all right."

Prowl turned back to Ratchet's corpse. "Ratchet, old friend, you with us?"

Ratchet's ghost raised himself on his elbows and blinked at Prowl. "Well this is new! Usually I'm the one looking you over in the repair bay. How bad is it this time? I know I took a pretty nasty hit from Starscream, and I thought you--" Ratchet broke off as he noticed Prowl's corpse lying on the deck beyond the transparent form of the Autobot. Ratchet scrambled to his feet. "Oh, scrap. Let me guess, I got hit just as hard as you did?"

Prowl nodded toward Ratchet's badly-holed corpse on the deck. "Pretty much."

Ratchet knelt by the blasted white shell and gently brushed transparent fingers across the gray chevron horns. "Never thought I'd see myself this way. Always worried that it would be one of you; I was always afraid I wouldn't get to someone in time, or couldn't do the job fast enough or well enough, and I'd never forgive myself for losing one of you guys... Never thought it would be me."

Ratchet glanced at Brawn, taking in his slight transparency and uncharacteristically subdued manner. "You, too?" Brawn nodded briefly. Ratchet turned to look where Ironhide had fallen. "Are we all--?"

"'Fraid so, Ratchet. You ain't puttin' me back together this time," Ironhide answered. The ghost stood by the main bridge console, arms folded, regarding the ghastly wreckage of his body. "Megatron must have been really afraid of me," he drawled.

Prowl walked over beside the transparent red and gray Transformer and looked at the object of his attention. He winced, and said, "What did you do to annoy him so much?"

"Didn't die fast enough." Ironhide strolled from corpse to corpse, inspecting each blasted shell. "Laser core hit, laser core hit, fuel pump exploded, laser core and fuel pump in one shot..." He shook his head in annoyance. "Why is it that most Cons can't hit the broadside of a battleship to save their lives, but Starscream with Megatron in hand turns into Annie Oakley every slagging time?"

"Annie Oakley?" Prowl asked, slightly bemused.

"You've watched as many of Sparkplug's westerns as I have. You know what I mean."

"I do." Prowl lifted his door-wings in his version of a shrug. "Starscream always has that extra motivation when Megatron is around. What caused the rest of the damage?"

Ironhide glanced back at Prowl. "I overheard Megatron's plan to attack Autobot City. I tried to stop him, but didn't have anything left to stop him with. All it got me was a cannon shot in the face."

Prowl and Ratchet both winced sympathetically. "I'm sorry, Ironhide," Ratchet added.

Ironhide shook his head. "It ain't yer fault. Fortunes of war. I always figured I'd go out in battle, though bein' caught in an ambush like this isn't exactly the way I wanted to go."

"I never figured on dying," said Brawn in his gruff voice. "Figured I could just bull through, no matter how tough it got." He slouched disconsolately against a console. "I tried to warn you guys, buy you some time," Brawn continued, "but it wasn't enough! I wasn't strong enough! We... lost." He tried to punch the console, but his hand sailed right through it with no effect. "I wouldn't mind dying so much if you guys had made it."

Prowl nodded in somber agreement. Ratchet rested a comforting hand on Brawn's shoulder and said, "We all feel that way, but what's done is done. Something I learned early on as a medic: sometimes, no matter how good you are, no matter what you do, you can't win. All you can do is pick up the pieces afterwards."

"And if you can't pick up the pieces?" said Brawn, as he looked at the wreckage again.

"We've already picked up the pieces," Prowl said, looking at each of them in turn. "Or we wouldn't be standing here talking about it. Whatever's next, we'll face it together."

Ironhide looked at Ratchet. "Even if you couldn't possibly win, it still hurts to lose. I feel like I let Prime and the others down, somehow."

Ratchet looked back one last time. "Yes, it does." He looked back at Ironhide. "And so do I. They'll need us very badly, very soon, and..." He could say no more, but his face betrayed the regret the Autobot medic felt.

Prowl moved to the gaping hole in the side of the shuttle and looked toward Autobot City. He glanced back. "Ironhide, we're done here?"

Ironhide glanced briefly at the other three. "I think so. I think we're done with the whole war, but...?"

"So do I," Prowl said. He nodded toward the city. "But there's fighting there. I want to know how it turns out. Even if there's nothing I can do about it anymore." One fist tightened and relaxed. "I'm supposed to be there, leading us in what looks to be the worst fight since we came to Earth, and I can't!" Rare emotion crossed Prowl's normally impassive face.

The second time, not a whisper but a great voice sang in their very souls:

Listen, my children, and attend: Ratchet, Ironhide, you will yet do more than you know. Brawn, you have not lost yet. Prowl--you will do what it is in you to do, and that is to lead

Come to me, beloved, to your proper realm; you are needed by both the living and the dead, and you shall return; but first, you must be made anew.

Everything changed.