TFE

C19 - War

Copyright 2007, masterfwiffo. All rights reserved.

Michelle stared quietly out the car's window at the complex before her. It was not so different from the other military bases she had been in, but was much larger. Our of the corner of her eye, she saw a vast hanger, larger even than the ones that had first held Evac so long ago, with much hustle around an object in the middle. But before she could make more out, her door opened and she was grabbed by two soldiers and forced out rather roughly. Smith lead the way, Ben looking quiet and grim right behind him, and Michelle forced along behind them as they entered the base, heading immediately into the vast network of the underground complex.

They were ushered into a small room. Smith turned around, ignoring her completely. The two soldiers at her side kept a firm grip on her as Smith waved in a third soldier, carrying a small overcoat bundled around something. It took Michelle a moment to figure out what it was. "Aris..." She whispered.

Smith glanced at her for a moment, then signaled the third soldier to leave. Ben turned around as the door closed, and clicked a key into place, locking it, then pocketing the key. Michelle struggled against the two soldiers hold, but they held her tighter. She looked into their faces, and saw nothing but blank, cold expressions. Smith signaled to them and their grip relaxed. He took them aside and spoke to them quietly for a moment. They returned, this time with their weapons in their hands, and stood silently on either side of Michelle, the air about them making her nervous for reasons she could not fully understand.

Smith leaned down toward the bundle and unwrapped it, exposing the machine underneath. Aris's now true form lay sprawled on the floor, unmoving, as if dead. No light shown from the diodes on her bulbous head, and the wiry frame and arms were unmoving. Smith prodded it gently with his foot - but he could get no reaction.

"Damn." He muttered, turning away. "Unlock the door."

Ben sighed, reached out and grabbed the lock - but a sudden burst of sound filled the ears, causing everyone to grab their ears in pain. The room seemed to fill up suddenly with the image of a monstrous beast. A deafening howl filled the room as the beast made a lunge for the doorway.

But Smith was prepared. His arm shot into the beast's heart, and the apparition melted away into nothingness as Smith grabbed Aris's central unit. Aris's hologram shorted and disappeared, leaving Smith holding the small form by its rod-like neck.

"Can I assume you're done now?" Smith hissed, his eyes burning into the central circle that made up Aris's main center.

The robotic eye glared back at him, but made no response.

"I have a few simple questions, and I will get answers." Smith continued. "I already know you can understand and speak English, so no playing dumb."

"No."

Smith glanced at the machine in his hand. "You're playing with your life here, such as it is. You will answer me or you will die. I'm sure we can reap plenty of technological benefits from this little form of yours."

Aris remained stoic. "No." She repeated.

"You don't fear death?" Smith asked with a hint of amusement. "Perhaps your AI is not as advanced as I thought."

The small robot's glare didn't waver. "No."

"If you would forsake your own, then perhaps you would respond to another's life." Smith raised his hand, and Michelle let out a cry as she was suddenly and violently thrown to the ground. Ben's jaw dropped, and he charged toward her, but froze when he found one of the two soldier's weapons pointed at him. The other soldier grabbed Michelle's arm roughly, forcing it behind her back, and pinning her with his knee. Metal touched the base of her skull, sending a chill throughout her entire body as she realized that a gun was in contact with her head.

Smith turned back toward Aris, his arm still in the air. He was pleased to note the machine's entire demeanor had changed to one of timidity and fear. "Unless you answer my questions," He said coldly, "She dies."

Aris sat trapped in his grip, her mechanical body quaking. The mechanical lense turned up toward Smith, shaking and unsteady.

"Tell me exactly," Smith said coldly, "What would an EMP blast do to your friends?"

Aris froze, her shaking ceasing, the fear replaced with terror. But no answer came. After a moment, Smith sighed. "Oh well." His arm began to descend. Michelle felt the tip of the gun push into her head, and closed her eyes tightly.

"STOP!" Aris cried. "I'll talk." Her gaze shifted to the floor. "I'll talk..."

"And?" Smith said expectantly.

Strange clicks sounded from Aris, almost like one chocking back tears, as she said, "It would destroy their spark's."

"Killing them and leaving the bodies..." Smith said thoughtfully.

"Yes." Aris answered through the chocking noises.

"Thank you." Smith said stiffly. "You were an excellent help." Smith flicked his arm and the two soldiers grabbed Michelle, hoisting her to her feet - which due to her shock and fear, could no longer support her. As she was forced out, Michelle cast a frightened and forlorn glance at Aris, who had simply collapsed on the floor in a mechanical heap, the chocking sobs still coming from her shaking body.

As Michelle was forced away, Ben whirled on Smith, grabbing his collar. "What the HELL was that about!" He roared, "You were going to kill her!"

"Put me down." Smith said calmly.

"Like hell!" Ben roared. "This is it, you've gone to far-"

"I will do what I must." Smith said. Four pairs of arms suddenly grabbed Ben and pulled him off of Smith. Ben struggled against the grip of two more soldiers, protesting loudly as they dragged him away.

Smith shook his head. He called out after them, "You don't understand Ben. You never did." Ben disappeared into another hallway heading toward the makeshift jail in one of the lowest levels.

To himself, Smith added, "The whole world is at stake. I will protect it at all costs. Even if I must be damned for an eternity to do it."

He turned, and headed toward the main command, where Michelle would be waiting for him.

---

Megatron and his command faced the crews of Optimus Major and Evac. Eighteen Cybertronians faced off, prepared to battle to the death for a planet not their own.

"None of this concerns you Megatron!" Optimus yelled.

"On the contrary, Optimus." Megatron called, "It is you who are of no concern. Leave now and you will be left alone. All I want," His eyes turned and focused on Evac, "Is him."

"Revenge?" Evac scoffed. "Is that what this is about?"

"You still don't get it, do you." Megatron sneered. "You have something I want, and not you, nor any Autobot, nor any force in this universe will keep me from getting it."

"What's he talking about?" Optimus asked Evac.

"You don't realize it?" Megatron asked, a shadow of incredulity crossing his face, which quickly faded. "It is of no consequence. If you insist on fighting, then die wondering what it is you are doing so for!" With a roar, he launched himself toward Evac, as Optimus rushed to intercept him and Evac braced for the attack.

As one, the Decepticons followed suit, shooting forward toward the Autobots. Shock Fleet intercepted Omega Supreme as he rushed to defend Evac, and brought him to the ground with a thunderous crash. Jetfire grabbed Skywarp and threw him aside, then shot into the sky with both Skywarp and Starscream hot in pursuit. Demolisher and Cyclonus rushed toward Jazz and Crosswise, while Ironhide and Red Alert made a dash at Shockwave and Sixshot, already raking the ground with their deadly lasers. Hightail transformed, and made for higher ground where she could grab a better tactical advantage and watch the battle unfold. In a few brief moments, the air was filled with the sounds of war.

---

Smith found Michelle glaring hatefully at him, but ignored her. He brushed past her and her escorts, and faced the main control area, eyes sweeping over the lines of computers and technicians, all working at them and calculating constantly, making sure the weapon was ready for its first, and hopefully only, shot.

"Completion?" He said simply as an aide rushed up to him.

"We'll have it working within the hour." The man reported. "But a problem has arisen."

Smith's eyes narrowed. "What?"

"We've detected them. Lots of them."

Smith swore. "Get it done, double time. We can't let them get here before our weapon is ready."

"They aren't advancing." The aide said quietly. Smith arched one eyebrow.

"Then what are they doing?"

"Fighting sir. It's like a war out there..."

---

Megatron's fist shot into Optimus's torso, dropping him. He whirled and grabbed Evac's arm as the Earth transformer tried to make a strike at his face. He yanked Evac's arm sideways and threw him to the ground.

"It will be mine." He hissed. "I won't let you stop me this time-" He words chocked off as Optimus's arms wrapped around his neck and yanked him backwards. Megatron flailed at the hands, grabbing one and wrenching it free, then hurling him over his back on top of Evac. Both cried out in pain as Megatron started toward them.

"If I have to kill you both I will!" Megatron roared. "Your sparks, both of them, are forfeit!"

Optimus rolled off of Evac, pushing himself to his knees. Megatron kicked him violently in the side, and Optimus collapsed to his side, groaning.

"For too long, you've been in my way, Autobot." Megatron growled, his hand wrapping around Optimus's throat. "I'll treasure this-" He paused as a sound pierced his consciousness.

He whirled, dropping Optimus as Evac charged toward him, and grabbed Evac's blades, bending them as Evac struggled to free his weapon. Then Optimus came from the side, throwing his full weight into Megatron and sending all three tumbling to the ground.

Optimus and Evac clambered to their feet, and turned as Megatron pushed himself up a bit more slowly, chuckling softly to himself. "I had forgotten what spirited fighters you both were." He said softly. "Come Evac, Optimus, lets make this a fight to remember!"

---

Hightail watched the battle unfold before her. Small and nimble, she went all but unnoticed by the combatants around her. In the dust-bowl that was now their war-zone, she had found one crag that gave her a place to settle herself in relative safety. She crouched near of the ledge and surveyed the battle before her. She saw Jazz and Crosswise giving Demolisher and Cyclonus a solid pounding, and watched in awe as Shock Fleet and Omega Supreme wrestled each other on the ground, shaking the Earth with each strike of their mighty fists. "This... is war?" She thought timidly, as she saw Sixshot's arm catch fire under Ironhide's hail of fire. She fought back the urge to freeze up. Megatron had asked of her but one thing, to do the job she was assigned. She would not disappoint him. Hesitantly, she raised her gun to her shoulder, and focused through the targeting lens. Sixshot had made the gun specially for her use, a laser-sniper rifle designed to mix in with her alt mode. She peered through the small glass and focused in on the field. Her eyes scanned over several of the conflicts, and then settled on one.

She saw Megatron, Evac and Optimus engaged in a harsh struggle. While Megatron fought valiantly, he was ever so slowly losing ground, though causing much damage to his two opponents in the process. She saw Evac suffer a blow to the chest and fly backwards as Optimus rushed in to take the advantage. She moved her targeting sights to the fallen warrior and zoomed in on his chest. She stared through the cross-hairs locked on where she knew his spark was, and hesitated. For a long moment she hesitated, and slowly, so slowly, the the barrel of the gun lowered. Her eyes narrowed, and she whirled and refocused as Optimus was thrown to the ground. This one she could kill. The targeting locked onto his head, and she reached for the trigger, when two small arms wrapped around her neck, yanking her back and sending her blast harmlessly into the sky.

Hightail gave a cry and fell backwards, her arms flailing as she fumbled for the two tiny arms around her neck.

"Traitor!" A voice screamed in her ears - a human voice, one she vaguely recognized from another time. She rolled over, trying to get the human, only a few feet smaller than her, to let go. But she couldn't- Chris held tight to her back as she stumbled wildly around, trying to detach her unwelcome passenger, but to no avail...

----

Smith stared at the screen in shock. "All of them..." He whispered, "Autobot, Decepticon alike... Together..." His eyes closed for a long moment. "Fate smiles upon me." His eyes shot open. "I need it up as soon as possible. We're only going to get one shot at this, and I want it done now!"

His aides scrambled with their new orders. Smith watched them go, then turned, pacing recklessly. "We've got to delay them as long as possible, I can't risk them getting closer." He whirled on another aide. "You! Scramble every fighter we have and throw them in there. Cause as much chaos as possible.

"Against 18 of them?" The aide cried, "They'll be slaughtered!"

"It doesn't matter, we have to keep them where they are till the weapon is finished. Do it now!"

The aide skittered off. Smith turned away, and found Michelle staring at him wide-eyed. "What... weapon?" She whispered in fear.

Smith simply smiled.

----

Jetfire shot through the air, spinning wildly as laser blasts from two Decepticon jets raked his flank. He flipped up into robot mode, his cannon firing wildly at his pursuers, then switching back into his jet mode and tearing off. The Decepticons evaded his blasts and returned fire, then separated, each flying off in different directions in an effort to surround him. Jetfire banked right and found himself heading straight for Skywarp's nose. He pulled a hard right as Skywarp did the same, and the two skidded past each other, then underbellies of their jets scraping with a hideous squeal. Skywarp transformed, his engines keeping him in the air. Starscream came up beside him.

"He's good." Skywarp gasped.

"No, you're just pathetic." Starscream snarled, then spun off after Jetfire, all cannons blazing.

Skywarp paused, taking a moment to survey the battlefield below him. Omega Supreme and Shock Fleet took up the entire center of the field, their punches and throws, sluggish in comparison to the skirmishes below, doing damage but failing to slow each other down. Demolisher was firing wildly as Jazz ran circles around him, occasionally using his body as a living battering ram to knock the Decepticon down. Cyclonus was fairing far better against Crosswise, his chopper mode pursuing her through the middle of Omega Supreme and Shock Fleet's colossal struggle. Sixshot and Shockwave were back to back raking the field with their powerful lasers, scattering their Autobot opponents.

But two battles in particular caught Skywarp's attention. He saw Megatron fighting fiercely and valiantly against the combined efforts of both Optimus and Evac. Though Lord Megatron was the superior, the combined efforts of the two were slowly driving him back. But then Skywarp's optics fell on Hightail, and to his shock, the human she was attempting to dislodge.

The sight stunned him, more for the fact that the human was brave enough to take on a transformer by himself than for anything else. "Such courage..." He thought to himself. Another blast caught his attention as he saw Megatron stumble backwards, a smoking wound in his chest. He cast a quick glance back towards Hightail, then turned. The human was no real threat. Megatron needed help. Skywarp's engines fired up, and he prepared to come to his leader's aide. And he would have, had he not exploded a moment later.

----

Hightail cried out with rage, trying desperately to reach behind her and remove the pest attached to her. From Chris's view however, he was simply holding on for dear life.

"Just had to get involved didn't I?" He thought bitterly to himself, "Could have sat this out like Jazz said, but no, I just had to play the hero..." Hightail cried out again, then in desperation, threw herself backwards to the ground.

Chris let out a gasping scream. His vision blurred even as the cracking sound reached his ears. Pain welled up in his chest and all the strength he had vanished. He felt his arms fall to the ground as the heavy weight that had just hit him relieved - but still the pain burned, growing worse with every second. Hightail rolled off, leaving him flat on his back, trying to hold back the groans of pain.

Hightail pushed herself to her knees, panting with rage. "I hate you." She gasped, grasping for her weapon. "I hate all of you." She pushed herself up, and pointed her weapon at Chris's body. Chris stared wearily back at her, unable to move.

"It was always about you, wasn't it." Hightail hissed. "You humans never gave a damn about any of us. Everything you always did, all about you."

Chris didn't have the strength to answer.

"I'm doing the universe a favor." Hightail growled, aiming her weapon. "Ridding it of one more of you." Her weapon came up and aimed. Chris's eyes squeezed shut as he waited for the end to come.

A moment later, he was surprised to find himself still alive. He opened one eye, and winced at the smoldering hole that was now right next to his head. He looked up, and gaped as he saw Hightail standing there, her hands shaking, weapon still pointed at him.

"Can't do it." He managed to breathe out. "You can't escape who you're supposed to be."

"Shut up!" Hightail cried, aiming her weapon at him again, and firing off another shot- one that landed farther away than the first.

Chris smiled faintly, then coughed violently, a cough that he knew was not a good sign. He could feel the blood welling up inside of him. He knew now that odds were in favor of his death. But no... He was determined to see this battle out. And maybe, just maybe... "Hightail, you don't need to keep running." He said weakly. "You don't have to be an enemy."

"Shut up!" Hightail cried again, her confidence wavering.

"Look around you." Chris closed his eyes. "Is this what you want?"

Hightail, trembling, obeyed him. Her eyes turned around again taking in the horrors of the war around her. She saw Omega's protective faceplate shatter under a blow from Shock Fleet; she saw one of Cyclonus's blades snap under fire from Crosswise, sending him plummeting to the ground; she saw Shockwave and Sixshot's laser carve right through Ironhide's legs, and she saw Evac and Megatron locked together in combat, their eyes burning into each others as nearby, Optimus struggled to bring himself to his feet.

"Is this really the path you've chosen?" Chris repeated, attempting to push himself up but failing.

Hightail stood, shaking, unable to respond. "I- I-"

A sound shook her out of her shock - a sound that echoed through the whole field. All eyes turned to the sky where a swelling of fire signaled an explosion. A moment later a form plummeted from the fire, straight toward the ground.

"Skywarp!" Hightail cried in horror, transforming and racing toward the falling body.

Chris stared up at the sky, then saw the form of twelve familiar shapes soaring overhead. "Reinforcements..." He whispered softly. "We're saved..."

And only then did he realize that they were firing missiles indiscriminately.

-----

Starscream whirled at the sound of the explosion, and his eyes narrowed as he saw the human piloted jets racing towards him. "The insects!" He snarled, "How dare they oppose us!" With an angry roar, he shot toward the incoming foes, transforming and letting out a burst of his own missiles as the human jets scattered. He transformed, striking blindly at one of them as they passed, then whirled, jumping back into jet mode and letting out another round of fire. Then a shadow from the sky struck him from behind as he transformed again, spinning to face his opponent.

Jetfire glared back at him. "I won't let you take any more lives today, Decepticon!" He roared.

Starscream laughed. "You fool, they'd destroy the both of us."

Jetfire's optics strayed toward the ground, where more of the human jets let loose with missile barrage, sending the combatants below sprawling. His optics dimmed for a long moment, then lit up brighter then before. "Than I'm ready to die. Are you?"

Starscream's eyes widened, then narrowed. "Fine, let's play your game, Autobot!" With a roar he charged Jetfire. Jetfire dove, switching in and out between modes. The human jets came around in a wide circle and fired at them. Starscream flipped sideways, letting out a burst from his weapons and then spun around to face Jetfire as the Autobot threw himself into him. The two tumbled through the air together, then Jetfire's engines flared up sending them both back into the sky. Another couple of jets shot past, raking the two with small arms fire. Starscream attempted to fire back, but Jetfire's sudden blow sent the blasts wildly off into the sky. Starscream gave a roar of rage, then fired back. The blast sent Jetfire flying, then another burst from the human's fighters sent Jetfire spiraling toward the ground. Starscream whooped with triumph, then spun on the human pilots, his cannons blazing to life and taking down two of them with a single blast. Then with his cackling laughter filling the sky, he shot off after the remaining jets, his laser-fire raking them from behind.

----

"Skywarp!" Hightail cried, roaring towards him. The battle had turned to sheer chaos. Two, then three more large explosions shook the ground. She saw Megatron's silhouette surrounded by flames as he threw Optimus to the side. She saw the Autobot jet spiraling to the ground, then his engines lighting up, and him shooting overhead back toward the battle unfolding in the sky. She saw Omega, his arm alight with fires, still struggling to attack Shock Fleet, who's legs were sustaining similar damage. She saw Sixshot and Shockwave sent sprawling on-top of their Autobot opponents. She Jazz and Crosswise on the burning ground, staring up in shock at the sky above.

And then she found Skywarp, blackened and charred by a direct hit from the human jets, laying face up with a blank expression on his face.

"Skywarp?" she asked hesitantly, grabbing him.

His eyes flickered. "What are you doing here, child?" His voice was faint, barely audible. "There's a war going on..."

"Snap out of it Skywarp, I need you!" Hightail cried, shaking him violently.

Skywarp shook his head weakly. Another explosion rocked the ground, throwing dirt and debris all over them. Hightail grabbed Skywarp and held tightly onto him. "This isn't right." She sobbed, "This shouldn't be like this!"

Skywarp's arm came up and gripped her tightly. "This is the reality of a warrior." He said softly. "This is the life we lead, and this is how it ends too..."

"No, no, no, don't talk like that." She gripped him tightly. "I need you, I can't go back-" She grabbed him tightly, and, after a moments hesitation, pounded hard on his Decepticon symbol, then touched her own. Skywarp gazed at her in a daze as light surrounded them, and she grabbed tightly to him, as together they were pulled off the battlefield, up into safety...

---

Out of the corner of his eye, Megatron saw the two lights escaping into the sky. "Cowards." He growled, then his attention returned to his opponents as Optimus opened fire on him yet again...

---

"Two of them have escaped!" A technician cried.

Smith swore loudly. "Damn-it! How long till we're ready?"

"We're doing final systems checks now-"

"Skip it! Launch the weapon NOW!"

"Sir it's not ready-"

"I DON'T CARE!" Smith screamed. "I will not lose this opportunity, not now!"

The technician gawked at him for a moment then turned, consulting quickly with his fellows. "Twenty minutes." He announced.

"Do it!" Smith yelled. The technicians scurried off. Smith closed his eyes and sighed.

"What weapon?"

One eye opened and stared down at a sullen, yet defiant face in front of him. "What weapon?" Michelle repeated, struggling in vain against the two soldiers who continued to hold her.

Smith turned toward her and smiled. He motioned at the guards and said, "Follow me. I'll show it to you."

----

Ben stared quietly at his cuffed hands as the two guards escorted him along. It was easy for him to see now that he had picked the wrong side. But at this point, it was too late to do anything. And now all the Transformers were going to die.

None of Smith's actions since General Corbet's death had sat well with him. Even before Evac's crew had left, something didn't seem right with Smith anymore. And since then, every single decision had been, in Ben's opinion, worse. But Ben was a soldier, he was not supposed to offer his opinion. He was supposed to follow orders.

Well, to hell with that, he thought. He closed his eyes, and sighed. Well, a court martial wouldn't be that bad...

He let out a sudden grunt as his feet stumbled over something unseen, sending him sprawling forward. As the two guards reached down to grab him, with a sudden flash in his eyes and a burst of strength, he spun, bringing his feet under one of them and pitching him into the other. Ben pushed himself to his feet, and whirled, one foot catching one of the guards in the head and dropping him. The other cried out in surprise as Ben threw his entire weight against his stomach. The guy let out a gasp and collapsed.

"Wow..." Ben said, panting weakly. "Didn't actually think that would work." He knelt down, grabbing the key to his cuffs from one of the fallen guards and after a moment of fiddling, freeing himself. He dropped the cuffs to the floor and stretched. Then he reached down, and grabbed one of the guard's small pistol. He then turned and looked down the otherwise empty corridor.

"Well genius, now what?" He muttered to himself. "Can't face down Smith, can't disable the weapon..." He stood for a moment thinking, and then one thought hit him. "That may just work..."

----

"This is our weapon."

Michelle gasped. Before her was a great cannon-like object, with a great sphere at its end. Steel supports surrounded the entire thing, looking as if to brace it from impact. Technicians and engineers crawled all over the massive surface, making last-minute checks and adjustments. Michelle swallowed, then turned toward Smith. "What does it do?"

"It's an EMP cannon." Smith said proudly. "The only one of its kind. We began developing it 12 years ago for military use, but the half-completed project was shelved for different weapons. Our situation brought it out of retirement, and finished it in half the time. It fires a concentrated pulse of energy that detonates at a calculated time, destroying any and all electrical signals within a two mile radius. And as your friend informed me," Smith turned, an evil smile on his face, "Their life force. The threat will be ended, and their bodies ours for research. And if they ever decide to come again, we'll be ready for them too."

"You can't just kill them all!" MIchelle cried.

"Watch me." Smith said coldly.

----

Aris lay on the ground in an unmoving heap. Her logic circuits were unable to comprehend what she had been forced to do, her AI unable to deal with the stress she had been subjected to. So she just lay there, where Smith had left her, sprawled on the floor as if dead.

Her system became aware of something touching her. It promptly decided to reject the feeling and continue in her apparent death.

A voice penetrated her consciousness. "Hey, you there? Listen, we have one chance to save your friends, but I'll need your help."

Aris allowed her head to move, and gazed up into Ben's face.

Ben watched her for a second, then spoke again. "If you can get into our communications, you can broadcast a warning to them. I can get you there and give you a little bit of cover. Can you do it?"

"Yes..." Aris said softly, as a new emotion was re-introduced to her systems. One of hope...

----

Michelle continued to glare hatefully at Smith, but she was powerless now. Smith stood, tall and confident, a smile on his face.

"Ten minutes!" One of the technicians called.

"Sir, what of our jets?" One of the technicians asked. "The EMP will take them out too-"

"Tell them to be ready to eject." Smith said coldly. "Do not draw them back."

"Sir, if the eject doesn't work, it's suicide-"

"I don't care!" Smith roared. "We can't alert them! They stay!"

The aide stared back at him warily. "Yes... sir."

Smith turned back to the monitors and glared. "Almost time." He muttered. "Then at last, this nightmare will be over."

THere was a sudden round of gunshots. Technicians dove to the ground, and soldiers whirled, guns already aimed at the source, who was currently diving out of the way. Smith swore as he recognized the gunman - Ben. Another burst of gunshots fired. Michelle was dropped to the ground as her guards charged, weapons at the ready, firing wildly in Ben's direction.

"What's he shooting at?" Smith growled, trying to follow the track of the bullets. "The ceiling?"

Then he turned as something else caught his eye - a small blue form hovering over a control panel. "No..."

---

THe casualties continued to mount. Jetfire returned to the air and smashed head-first into Starscream, sending them both tumbling to the ground below. A direct hit from the human jets had sent Jazz and Crosswise sprawling. Sixshot was clutching his now-detached cannon arm as Shockwave covered him with a spray of lasers. And Optimus, Evac and Megatron continued their battle, underneath the titanic struggle of Omega Supreme and Shock Fleet.

Evac and Optimus charged at the same time. Megaton's arm met Optimus's head, smashing his faceplate and sending the Autobot sprawling, but Evac took the advantage and shoved his blades deep into Megatron's side. Megatron roared in pain, then grabbed Evac and with a sudden burst of strength, hurled him atop Optimus. Then Megatron gasped, clutching the wound and falling to one knee.

"You fight well together." Megatron panted. "Worthy opponents, you are."

Evac attempted to push himself, but failed as his arms gave way. Optimus groaned and pushed him aside.

"But at last..." Megatron grunted as he pushed himself back to his feet. "I have finally won..."

"Not a chance, Megatron." Optimus growled, jumping to to his feet, and planting himself between Megatron and Evac. "You want him, you'll have to get through me."

"You have great endurance, Optimus." Megatron growled. "But you can't stop me. Nothing can-"

A sudden squeal filled their audios - and all the auditory equipment of everyone on the battlefield.

"This is Aris!" A sudden voice cried, "You're all in grave danger!"

---

Aris, connected with the only broadcasting station she could find, screamed frantically into the comm. "The humans have an EMP weapon aimed at you, repeat, they have an EMP weapon-" Her voice turned into a mechanical scream as a bullet penetrated her mechanical head, shredding her insides and ending her communication and dropping her remains straight to the floor. Smith cooly lowered his gun, and then turned with a glare toward Ben, as eight soldiers wrestled him to the ground...

----

Starscream let out a terrified scream. "THE SPARK-KILLER!" His voice howled, echoing over the battlefield. He shot straight upwards into the sky, and vanished.

"Decepticons, retreat!" Shockwave yelled, tapping his Decepticon symbol and pulling himself and his brother into the safety of the teleportation beam. Shock Fleet let out a grunt, then kicked Omega Supreme and leapt into the air, his engines flaring as he too followed away into the sky. Megatron watched his troops dissipate with horror.

"Come back cowards!" Megatron roared, to no avail. He turned on Optimus. "I'll get what I want!" He roared, charging into him. Optimus grabbed onto him and pushed with all his might, becoming a living roadblock. With a twinkle in his eyes, Optimus's optics met Megatron's. "I'm prepared to die today. Are you?"

With a burst of strength from the Autobot, Megatron was forced backwards. He let out a roar, and then vanished into the sky.

Optimus stood up, and grabbed his communicator. "Aidia, we need a warp out of here, NOW!"

----

"They're escaping!" One technician cried.

"No, No, NO!" Smith roared. "FIRE IT NOW!"

"It's charging!" A technician called back. "23 and rising!"

----

A warp appeared in front of Optimus. He reached down and pulled Evac to his feet. "Come on Autobots, let's roll!" He yelled.

But before he could move, a cackling laugh filled the air. Evac whirled at the sound, swearing loudly, "Sideways!"

The invader shot out of a sky like a bullet, charging straight into the warp gate, a small burst of energy leaving his body as he did so. There was a sudden explosion, and the warp gate collapsed on itself, disappearing.

---

Back at Autobase, a sudden surge of energy threw Aidia backwards from her post. She screamed as she was thrown against the wall, and then she slumped offline...

----

"Their warp gate has collapsed..." A technician reported grimly.

"Forty-five percent and rising!" Another voice called out.

Smith smirked. "At last..."

----

Optimus stared in shock at the collapsed gate. He turned toward Evac. "Evac, Omega! You've got to-"

"Omega!" Evac cried whirling towards him. "Open a gate!"

The colossus turned back to him, and for the briefest of moments, Evac could see his hardened face was full of sadness. "Not enough energy." Omega reported quietly.

Optimus stared back in horror, then turned, looking in turn at all the faces that he had led here, to die. He opened his mouth to try and give a final speech, even as overwhelming despair threatened to short his vocals, but another voice spoke for him.

"Forgive me." Omega's voice rumbled. Everyone turned to the giant, who was sad optics were gazing down at Evac. "That I was not able to protect you longer." He paused for one long moment that seemed to stretch to eternity. "Farewell, My Prime."

Then with speed that far surpassed one expected of his size, Omega Supreme turned and transformed, racing toward the human installation...

----

"Eighty-five percent!"

Smith closed his eyes. "Almost over..."

"SIR!"

Smith turned, staring at the picture presented before him. Omega's seemingly endless train raced toward them at impossible speeds, shrugging off all obstacles before him. The train skidded to its side and smashed through the walls, even as Omega transformed. The building collapsed around Smith, crushing the engineers technicians and soldiers alike under the rubble. But Smith could only stand and stare as he beheld for one terrifying moment, Omega Supreme grappling with the weapon. There was a sickening crack as the cannon snapped - and then the energy reached full burst.

Smith saw a blinding blue light that filled the entire room, and then nothing as debris surrounded him, burying him beneath a ton of rubble...

----

The dust and debris settled, leaving an image that would be forever burned into the minds of all who saw it. The colossus, frozen against the weapon designed to kill him, locked in an epic struggle with it for what would seem to some an eternity. Humans and transformer alike picked themselves up, their minds barely able to grasp all that had just happened.

Evac was the first mechanoid on the scene, arriving in vehicle mode, the light and dust sparkling through his blade on the unmoving form below him. He transformed, hovering at Omega's head level.

"Omega..." He touched his guardian's face, his voice like that of a lost child. "Get up... Omega?"

"It's too late." Optimus said grimly, arriving at his side. "He's gone."

"No..." Evac shook his head violently, "He's fine, there's not a mark on him. Omega? Omega?"

He pushed the giant ever so softly- and then recoiled in fear as the body turned gray at his touch, then slowly began to crack and crumble. The gray began to spread, creeping up the body and slowly incasing it in the mark of an ancient Cybertronians death.

"No..." Evac whispered in horror. "NO!" He whirled, his eyes filled with rage, searching the debris for something to take his anger out on. He spotted him, half buried in the rubble. He roared, and dove at the ground, grabbing the large slab of ceiling that covered his target and throwing it away carelessly, hatred clouding his thoughts and actions.

Smith stared back up at him, his eyes glazed, his legs crushed underneath the weight. His breaths came in ragged gasps as he looked up at Evac, but despite all he managed a coolness about his demeanor.

"WHY?" Evac screamed, the pain and loss contorting his face. "WHY DID YOU DO IT? All I ever wanted was peace... to be left alone... why?" His voice trailed off into a noise emulating broken sobs.

Smith closed his eyes and spoke quietly. "You were a loose cannon. You all were. You joined our enemies, and were too dangerous. We had to make an example to your species, so that it wouldn't happen again."

"WE WOULDN'T HAVE HARMED YOU!" Evac screamed. "WE JUST WANTED PEACE!"

"I did what I had to to protect the human race." Smith answered. "You would have done the same."

"No." Evac shook his head violently. "Not this, NO!" Evac raised his fist, fully intending to bring it down and end Smith's life once and for all.

Smith closed his eyes tightly. "Go on..." His voice whispered. "Perhaps I deserve it..."

Evac raised his arm, but felt it restrained. "Don't, Evac." Optimus said quietly. "You'll regret it for eternity."

Evac held for a moment, trembling, sobs still escaping his throat, but then his hand relaxed and dropped. "Yes, Optimus..." He said softly, biting back the continued emotions that threatened to come forth. He stood for a moment, dimming his optics as his body relaxed itself. "You're wrong Smith." He said with a sudden firmness, pushing himself to his feet and opening his eyes again. "We can live in peace." His eyes wandered over the wreckage till he spotted one form he was looking for, climbing over the wreckage a weary look on her face. He knelt down and welcomed Michelle into his arms, holding her tiny form tightly against his. "We can live in peace," He repeated, "If you only give us the chance."

Evac turned, picking up Michelle and placing her on his shoulder. He again glanced sorrowfully up at Omega's decaying form, which was beginning to collapse under its own weight. "Let's go home." He said softly.

Optimus looked over the room grimly. "Let's."

"I think this is yours." Ben's voice said softly. Optimus turned, and knelt down as the human approached him, carrying a limp blue form. Optimus reached out and took it. "Aris..." He whispered softly.

"She was shot by Smith." Ben reported grimly. "And then she was in the path of that EMP thing. I'm afraid she's gone."

"Unlike us, she can be restored." Optimus answered. "Thank you, human."

"Any chance you could give me a ride out of here in return?" Ben asked.

Optimus's eyes smiled. "Of course."

Optimus and Evac turned, their eyes on the sun which was just beginning to set. "Let's go." Optimus said quietly.

Evac wavered a moment longer, his eyes on Omega's form. "Thank you..." He whispered, "Old friend..."

---

Chris continued to stare at the sky. Pain was a constant companion now, and his vision was beginning to blur. 'It's kinda nice lying here...' He thought, 'Bleeding to death, dying, not knowing what's going on...'

"There he is!"

Chris turned his head weakly, as a massive form rushed up to him. "Oh... Hi Jazz..."

"Oh no you don't, little buddy." Jazz said, reaching down and scooping him up with surprising gentleness. "You ain't leaving on my watch."

Chris closed his eyes. "Jazz... just shut up and get a doctor..."

"You shut up and keep breathing." Jazz replied, gently taking his friend away with him.

Chris smiled faintly. "Guess I'm not going today after all..."

---

"So here it ends." A voice roused Smith. He tilted his head feebly. He could barely make out the medics gathering the wounded behind the form that crouched over him. "Duke?" He said weakly.

"Yes." Duke responded. "I saw everything that happened. I spent a long time wondering if I did the right thing, deserting you. Well..." His eyes surveyed the human wreckage. "Now I know."

Something small and light clinked as it landed besides Smith's head. He turned, and could barely make out a set of dog-tags lying on the ground, "Consider that my resignation." Duke's voice said. "Oh, and you might want to know, that I've sent everything to your superiors. If I were you, I might want to start looking through the classifieds while I'm in the infirmary."

Smith closed his eyes as he heard Duke's footsteps becoming more distant. And he was left alone. Sooner or later, the paramedics would get to him and get him to safety. But it didn't matter anymore.

A brief smile crept across his face. "At least it's all over..." He said softly. "Finally..."

----------

Near the edge of a system occupied by an insignificant yellow star and 9 insignificant little planets, a small temporal disruption signaled the coming of a vessel foreign to the system's few inhabitants.

On the bridge, a massive red form stood with crossed arms. "Report." He said dryly.

"We believe this is the system Megatron was speaking of when he went on his final mission." His aide reported. "If he's alive, we'll likely find him here."

"Excellent. Decepticons, spread out and search the system..."

-----