Hi everyone! I know it's been ages since I posted, but I have NOT stopped writing ;) Thanks to everyone who has asked, and thanks to everyone who keeps reading and reviewing!

The routine patrol had gone terribly, terribly wrong.

A chain reaction, Prowl thought, never taking his optics from the close danger.

The anomalous signal that had led him and Ironhide to this narrow ravine through the pouring rain.

The sudden volley of weapons fire that had incapacitated Ironhide, who now lay, unconscious, behind the second in command's feet in the sandy mud.

The deliberate destruction of the canyon walls; the rocky avalanche that trapped the Autobots on both sides.

Prowl pressed Ironhide back with his heels, as far as he could into a slight gap where the ravine walls met the desert floor.

"Those panels, panels," Shrapnel hissed, snapping his mandibles, "Thin casing, fine internal structure. Delicious, delicious,"

"And the old one," Bombshell sneered, flexing his metallic bug legs, "Thick Energon lines! A feast alone!"

In a flash Prowl recalled a wildlife documentary he'd watched.

A slavering pack of hyenas on the hunt, chasing down a weakened gazelle and her tiny calf.

They'd ripped her insides out, blood and organs pouring from her mutilated hindquarters and belly, while her front legs frantically tried to run.

The hyenas took her down, just kept taking her down, down into the dust, alive and screaming.

Prowl had been horrified by the savagery of the pack mentality.

They tore her to pieces with a primeval bloodlust, and her helpless calf never had a chance to run.

The carrion birds watched, waiting silently for their chance.

To Prowl, that had been almost as bad as the killing itself.

Once the poor beast went down, she never got up again.

I am not going down, and they are not getting to Ironhide.

The three Insecticons taunted him, feinting left, then right.

Prowl stood his ground.

He knew they wanted to goad him into leaving a flank exposed, allowing them access to the injured Autobot.

Bombshell chuckled as Kickback and Shrapnel snapped at the Autobot's legs, and made decoy thrusts toward Ironhide, not letting him be still for an astrotick.

Prowl knew they were toying with him.

Like a predator teasing its prey.

He braced himself, and met Shrapnel with a powerful kick to the chin as the Insecticon danced toward him.

Shrapnel landed a full three astrometres away, squealing on his back and legs flailing.

"You'll pay for that, Autobot scum!" Bombshell shrilled as Kickback righted the fallen Insecticon.

He gave a shrill signal, and Prowl heard a slight rustling...from every direction.

Insecticon clones.

They swarmed into the ravine like ants, sending a chill through the black and white mech.

Prowl calculated between fifty and sixty clones...and that wasn't counting the ones he could sense and hear massing on the rocks above him.

"Do you like our army, Autobot?" Kickback snickered, clicking.
At that, the ground clones moved in behind their leaders, forming a semi-circle phalanx.

Prowl refused to be backed against the rock wall.

The more space he lost, the closer they could get to Ironhide.

Shrapnel suddenly leapt at the Autobot with a vengeful shriek, and as Prowl turned slightly to meet him, Bombshell lunged from the opposite side.

He impacted with the Datsun's left knee-joint, making Prowl fall to the same knee as Kickback leapt to his right hip.

Prowl heard his casing tear within the metallic bug's jaws, felt Energon spraying from a secondary line.

KIckback fell over backwards, the Autobot's Energon-stained casing chunk clamped firmly in his mandibles.

Shrapnel fell on him, and a fierce tug-of-war began.

Even through the sudden rush of pain, the tactician sensed the clone pack move as one toward him.

Don't go down.

Prowl never broke optic contact with Bombshell as he forced himself upright, holding onto a fissure in the wall.

The Insecticon leader halted as Prowl straightened, even as cycled Energon pulsed and ran to his foot.

Kickback had torn through casing and line both, damaging several relays.

And leaving the gaping wound exposed to the elements.

Bombshell moved in and yanked the tasty morsel from his subordinates, leaving them with a small portion each as he gobbled the lion's share of black casing with pink fluid dripping from it.

Alpha male.

Even through the sudden pain haze, the image sickened the tactician.

Survival of the fittest.

The phrase ran through Prowl's CPU over and over.

The black and white mech felt the warm Energon running from himself, and he realized he was becoming slightly dizzy from the vital fluid loss.

The Autobot pressed hand to hip as hard as he could bear, hoping to stem the bleeding.

The three Insecticons had devoured the chunk of casing, and they snapped alert as Prowl's knee buckled for a split astrotick.

Prowl pulled himself up again, still holding the slippery ravine wall for support, never taking his optics off Bombshell.

"You won't last," the malevolent Insecticon almost purred through his sharp metallic tone.

"How long do you think you'll be able to keep this up? You're bleeding. Badly. You'll lose consciousness soon,"

"Then we'll feast, feast," Shrapnel declared with a snicker.

There will be few remains; there's little of an Autobot's structure that an Insecticon can't ingest.

Prowl tried to force that thought away.

Animals killed for food, not sport.

Being devoured by an intelligent, sentient, offshoot of one's own race...that was inducing a deep, insidious horror, the kind nightmares are made of.

The rain was coming down hard.

Prowl shivered involuntarily.

His internal temperature was dropping from the Energon loss.

He startled as something touched a door-panel from above, clamping his mouth shut to keep back a cry of pain that surged from his torn hip as two small clones slithered down the wall.

Prowl realized they were after his cycled Energon that was staining the desert floor, and made a tremendous effort to control his appalled disgust.

Kickback and Shrapnel ploughed into them with a tangled mess of legs and mandibles, tossing them aside as they tried to get to the pink liquid.

"Enough play," Bombshell declared, "Attack!"

He launched himself directly for the Prowl's throat just as the clones above tumbled forth, taking the Autobot second in command down as effectively as a rockfall.

He felt a dozen steel-crushing jaws clamp into his door-panels as he crashed to the wet ravine floor, frantically trying to keep Ironhide behind him.

Prowl gasped and gurgled in agony, unable to cry out.

Cycled Energon bubbles frothed from the corners of his mouth as Bombshell slowly crushed the Autobot's vocalizer, and ingested the pink liquid as it ran from his victim.

"Delicious," he hissed as Prowl fought to free his arms and tear the savager from his throat.

The clone pack swarmed over him and Ironhide, he felt the cold metal legs of the creatures one-third his size that would rip him and his friend literally to shreds.

The pain that seized the Autobot second in command was incredible enough, but the horror was absolutely unbearable.

Bombshell still held to Prowl's throat, enjoying the cycled Energon as it bubbled from torn lines and basking in his victim's agony.

A sudden, all mighty blast rocked the ravine, sending the Insecticon clones who weren't clamped on the Autobot squealing for the air.

"Slagging animals!"

Pink fluid sprayed over Prowl's optics and obscured his vision, but even half-conscious he recognized Ratchet's cursing.

The Insecticons released their hold on the tactician almost as one as dull thuds meant two Autobots had landed in the ravine.

Bombshell hissed through his vocalizer as rifles were fired in his direction.

"You live to fight another day, Autobot, but remember this - you are still prey to us,"
He made a hasty retreat as Optimus Prime and Ratchet got almost within touching distance.

Prowl wheezed as Ratchet gently supported his head and shoulders, trying to ask about Ironhide.

The Datsun gasped at the pain, but he could feel his CPU fading.

"Get them inside," Prime rumbled as he transformed, throwing open his trailer and despatching the ramp.

Prowl fuzzily recognized the commander's trailer, realized cold rain was no longer running over him.

Warm hands pressed his hip, and something soft was pressed under his chin.

He felt a slight prick at his wrist.

The stabbing pains in his hip, and the sharp, dragging ache at his throat began to ease.

Ironhide...

Prowl tried as hard as he could to ask, but couldn't get beyond a choking rasp.

Ratchet leaned close and spoke loud and clear.

Prowl managed to receive and comprehend just enough to settle him on the inside.

"I...hide...fine..."

One vaguely triumphant thought ran through his CPU as he began to lose consciousness.

Nothing left for the vultures.