...xXx...

Is it possible to be a traitor to something that no longer exists? Megatron was dead for good this time, his body frozen and crushed beneath this planet's oceans, untouchable, even to most of the Decepticons. The others were gone, probably dead, ripped apart and cast into the water like so much trash. Starscream had deserted them yet again, the worthless coward. There was no one left to answer his signal but the vicious Autobot weapon's specialist who never failed to hunt him down as he tried to rally any other Decepticons who might still have been alive.

Blackout had even returned the the rolling dunes of Qatar in search of Scorpinok, but the servile drone was either dead or too injured to respond to his calls. Blackout combed the white sands for months, scanning, calling, searching for his lost partner. His hails were met with silence.

It was ten months as the humans measured time before Blackout finally abandoned the wasteland, traveling north and east across water and sand until he found a suitable place in the mountains to wait. By now he had repaired most of the damages caused by the filthy flesh bags, and his own internal repair systems had smoothed all of the superficial dents and scrapes. There were still a few large gashes that had yet to close, and so Blackout settled down, raising his dampening field even higher before slipping into recharge.

They would call him a traitor for this. He had done nothing to salvage Megatron's body. He had not attacked or threatened the Autobots since the lost battle in the human city. And even now he was not sure that he ever would again. Starscream would return eventually. He was a coward, but he was a proud and arrogant coward that would not let such an energy-rich world spit in his face and continue living unscathed. Starscream would return, probably with the other seekers and as many powerful mechs as he could find to do his dirty work, and attempt to take this planet from the Autobots. They would fail. If even Lord Megatron could not destroy the Autobots, what hope did Starscream have?

Megatron might have been proud and arrogant, he was neither a coward, nor was he stupid. Blackout nearly cringed as he thought of what rule under Starscream's fist would be like. Starscream had taken control of a faction of Decepticon's in Megatron's previous absence. Everything had gone straight to the Pit shortly after. Starscream preferred to seek immediate gratification rather than think of the long-term affects of his choices. His incompetent leadership, willingness to flee from battle, and inability to command the loyalty of his own troops led to defeat after defeat, bringing the Decepticons to the brink of oblivion as their numbers continued to dwindle. As the death-toll rose higher, Starscream's orders became more erratic. The risks grew higher as Starscream sought to compensate for the previous losses. They had won a few key battles, but it had almost been in spite of Starscream's commands.

Blackout's only hope through those dark times was the fact that Megatron was alive and would one day return and reclaim rule of the Decepticons. But that hope was no longer a reality. Starscream had failed to take the cube, failed to aid Megatron in the final battle against the Prime. Now there was no hope. The Decepticons would perish. It was only a matter of time. Eventually, Blackout's own spark would be extinguished fighting for something that could no longer be achieved.

It would almost be better to serve the Autobots.

Oh yes, they would call him a traitor for this.

...xXx...

"So...you know he's there because you can't see him?" Epps asked over the comm.

They were currently flying over Iran in a C-5 Super Galaxy with the four Autobots homing in on the Decepticon's signal, or lack of signal as it were. They'd been briefed before departure, and chances were that this Decepticon was the same one who had attacked their base almost a year ago. He was the one to initiate the war. It seemed almost fitting that his death would bring about its conclusion.

"We use dampening fields to conceal ourselves from our enemies," Ratchet explained. "But it's designed to work in space. Here on Earth, there is too much matter in the atmosphere. The dampening fields only work if set to a certain level. Set it too high, and the field turns into a black hole in our sensors."

"So, why would he change the field now?" asked Captain Lennox.

"He has probably gone into recharge," said Optimus Prime. "His injuries were grave, and he will be very low on energon by now. Recharge will speed his healing and conserve what fuel he has left."

"So, if we're lucky, we'll catch him while he's napping." Epps grinned. "We'll catch him off guard and return the favor, right?"

"We won't shoot him while he is in recharge," said Ratchet. "No mech, not even a Decepticon, deserves to be shot while off-line."

"You're actually going to let him wake up?" asked Epps incredulously.

"He has a minimal chance of survival," said Optimus. "It is, after all, four against one. And your military will offer us air support should he attempt to flee."

"Then let's do it," said Lennox. "This war is almost over."

Epps' smile twitched.

"Tell me the first thing you're going to do when you get back," he said.

Lennox returned the knowing grin.

"I gonna give my baby girl a hug and kiss for her first birthday," he said.

...xXx...

Blackout could feel the human aircrafts coming into his sensor range. At first he paid them little mind; military planes were common enough in the places he'd been. But he came fully online when they swooped along the edges of his sensor range and surrounded him. The flesh bags were cautious, keeping their distance and forming a wide, loose ring meant to prevent escape. If his sensors hadn't been set to their maximum potential, he might never have noticed him. A moment later, he sensed the large plane, larger than any he'd seen before, coming to land on the nearest section of flat ground. It was definitely some sort of transportation aircraft, and there was only one thing they could possibly want to bring to him.

The Autobots.

How had they found him? Blackout rechecked his dampening fields. They were still on full power. They shouldn't be able to sense him at all, and yet here they were. It would take them some time to reach him where he was nestled in a small, secluded valley. The humans had not fired on him yet, probably believing that he was still in recharge and not wanting to alert him before the Autobots came within range. The fools. It was almost insulting that they thought he would be so careless. Either that or they believed that he was far more injured than he truly was. He could probably escape from the human jets with relative ease, find another place to recharge, and set about waiting for Starscream to return. He should leave now, but he didn't move.

Blackout watched the four Autobots roll out from the massive plane and make their careful way up the difficult terrain. His sensors failed to detect them, unsurprising as they obviously still intended to catch him unaware. He should fly away while he still had the chance, while the Autobots were out of range and detached from their transport. He should leave now. Still, Blackout couldn't bring himself to twitch.

When they came, his death would be quick and assured. When Starscream came, his death would be slow and uncertain. No, he would not wait for Starscream. He was a warrior meant to kill and destroy, and that would be what he devoted his final moments to doing. The Autobots were coming into range.

Blackout did not know how they had found him. He did not know why they did not order the humans to destroy him from the air. What he did know was that they had and they didn't, and that, one way or another, they would regret both.

They were in range.

...xXx...

"Incoming!"

Ratchet veered to the right as the plasma bomb exploded in front of him. It was followed by two more. Optimus, Ironhide, and Bumblebee were almost finished transforming, having forcefully expelled their human occupants. Ironhide was already returning fire.

"He was expecting us!" Ironhide shouted, dodging another salvo.

"Why isn't he trying to escape?" Epps shouted from where he crouched behind a massive boulder. The vegetation all around them was exploding and showering them with debris.

"He must be low on energon or he knows that it is futile," said Optimus, taking careful aim before firing.

The roar of fury and brief halt in the onslaught proved his aim to be true. After that, the battle was short and brutal.

Bumblebee disappeared ahead of the others, moving to flank the wounded Decepticon. Ironhide did the same, moving in the other direction, but continuing his onslaught unabated. Optimus moved forward slowly when given the chance, and Ratchet held back to lay down cover fire. Lennox ordered his team to advance behind the Autobots. They moved forward, firing at the writhing mass of metal that materialized through the haze. When Optimus finally ordered a halt on the attack, Blackout scarcely resembled his former self. His arm twitched and he tried to bring his weapons up.

Ironhide's foot came down on Blackout's arm.

"You're dead, Decepticreep."

Blackout's red optics glowered.

"Better at your hands than Starscreams, you aft-brained piece of scrap," Blackout hissed, his vocalizer hissing with static. Then he added, "but not by much."

Ironhide raised his canon with a snarl.

"Ironhide, wait," said Optimus. "What did you mean by that, Blackout? Why would Starscream want to kill you?"

"Why the slag should you care, Autobot," Blackout spat. giving his pinned arm a half-hearted tug.

"Let me atomize him already, Optimus," said Ironhide.

"Not yet, Ironhide," he said, a little more firmly. "What did you mean, Blackout?"

Blackout was silent for a long moment, apparently trying to decide if it was worth talking to them. Finally, he relented with an annoyed grunt.

"I will never follow Starscream again, and he will brand me a traitor," Blackout growled.

"Can I kill him yet?" asked Ironhide impatiently.

This time, Optimus ignored him.

"Why?"

Blackout gave a low shriek of frustration.

"He is a coward and a fool," he hissed. "He will destroy us all. I would rather die having served Lord Megatron than that incompetent aft-brain."

"He makes a good point," Bumblebee muttered.

"Starscream is the new commander of the Decepticons," said Optimus. "Yet, you will not follow him?"

"Are your auditory receptors glitched?" Blackout snarled.

"If you are a traitor to Starscream, then we share a common enemy," said Optimus.

"Wait..." Lennox was glancing back and forth from the downed Decepticon to the Autobot leader. "You can't seriously be thinking that..."

"As you might say 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend,'" said Optimus.

"What?!" Ironhide's roar shook the newly settled debris from the few remaining trees.

Ironhide's look of incredulous fury was only matched by Blackout's, whose was, if possible, even more severe.

"I am no Autobot you oversized piece of slag," Blackout's hiss was cold enough to freeze nitrogen. "Do not insult me with your pompous offerings of peace and friendship. I am a Decepticon still, and I will remain one until my spark is ripped from my chest."

"I hate to say it, but I agree with the slagger," muttered Ironhide, whose canon was still aimed squarely at Blackout's head.

"No, Blackout," said Optimus. "I do not offer you a chance to join our ranks. But in all this time since the Mission City battle, you have not once attacked the humans. Why?"

Blackout slammed his fist into the ground.

"Why do you insist on dragging this execution out?" he snarled. "Tell your soldier to finish me now!"

"Answer me," Optimus' command was calm and reasonable.

"The squishies are of no interest to me," Blackout finally snapped. "Filthy sacks of flesh..."

Optimus seemed to consider this.

"What do you say to an offer of a...truce."

"I say that you're out of your processor if you think that I would agree to that," said Blackout. "It is treason to the Decepticons."

"Refusing to follow Starscream is also treason," Optimus pointed out. "You are already branded a traitor, or will be once Starscream returns. What purpose do you hope to serve by delaying the inevitable?"

"Optimus, are you sure that this is the wisest course of action?" Ratchet asked.

"If he no longer fights against us, we should give him a chance," said Optimus. "My terms are these: you do not harm the humans, you do not aid Starscream or his faction, and you do not attack any Autobots."

"Slag you to--"

"In return, Ratchet will repair you and you will be free to go where you choose," Optimus finished.

Blackout looked as though he dearly wanted to rattle off a list of curses, but Ironhide rapped his canon against Blackout's armor, and he stopped.

"You will not interfere with anything I have to do on this planet?" he asked softly.

"If it does not harm the humans or ourselves, then yes, we will leave you to yourself," said Optimus.

Blackout seemed to struggle with himself.

"Fine then," he spat. "Fine. Truce."

Epps looked over at Lennox.

"This is--" Epps began.

"Trouble."

"I was thinking totally insane, but trouble works too."

...xXx...