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Feet pounded across the asphalt, her worn and dirty sneakers making soft thuds with every step she took. It was not nearly enough to drown out the sound of the growing mob that was hot on her heels. She had no idea how long she had been running. Her lungs screamed; her legs felt like they would give out at any moment. She had to keep going, if they caught her…Visions of her gang, her friends being mauled and beaten to death filled her mind. She was the last left, Mayhem, Dagger, they had been the closest thing to a family she had since her powers emerged. A sob choked her already insufficient air supply.

It wasn't an uncommon situation, a small group of mutants banding together for survival in a world that hates and despises their kind. Mayhem had found her a few weeks after her last dash from foster care. Half starved and more than half frozen, Mayhem had taken her in, introduced her to others like her. Mayhem had given her a name, a proper mutant name. She had shown the little waif that it was the humans' problem that they were xenophobic, not hers. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her. Mayhem and Dagger and the rest of the gang had shown her that her abilities were a gift, not a curse.

A lot of good that it did them, the mutant known as Nova thought bitterly as she ran.

Her legs gave one final spasm and collapsed beneath her, sending Nova careening headfirst into the pavement. Only half conscious from exhaustion, she heard the sound of the approaching mob as if in a dream. She had to get up, she knew. They were coming. They were going to kill her! They were going to beat her down just like they did to Mayhem. They were close now; she could hear their taunts, see hazy outlines of them through her blurry eyes. She saw them moving in for the kill.

Suddenly, images of what they had done to her friends, her family ran through her mind. She saw Dagger's battered face; she could remember Wyvern's screams as they tore her reptilian wings off. White-hot anger rushed through Nova's veins. How dare they! How dare they take her family! What right did they have to hurt the only people Nova had ever cared about?! She could feel her power boiling up from within, the explosive core of energy that gave her her name. Fingernails bit down against the street, forcing gravel deep under the young mutant's nails, but she was well beyond such insignificant pain. These pigs had taken her family! They would pay! THEY WOULD PAY!!

The power washed over her with a force like she had never felt before. She was lightning, she was energy incarnate in a mortal coil. She could see it sparking across her skin. There was no vestige of humanity left in her now. Her very flesh was blue energy, her eyes blazed with the inferno of her power. She was the avatar of electricity itself.

She was shouting, but she couldn't understand the words, they were backing away, looking at her changed form with horror filled eyes. And still her power grew. Some turned and ran away, but that wouldn't save them. She curled into herself, feeling the power coil and condense, felt the pressure build. She would destroy them all! Almost of their own volition, her arms flew out, flinging a wave of power with all her might. The resulting burst was every bit as beautiful and destructive as her astral namesake. It left behind nothing but a scorched street and blackened bones.

Lying amid the devastation, Nova came back to herself. She saw the damage, the bodies, the people she had killed. Suddenly feeling ill, she closed her eyes and curled up on the ground. Mayhem was wrong, she was a monster, a killer. Her power was no gift, she was cursed. All mutants were cursed! Her power had done nothing but hurt and destroy from the moment it emerged.

"No more," She whimpered softly. "Never again."

Nova was a fantasy, she decided. A dream of something that could never be, and she would never use the damn name ever again.

Verity Carlo staggered away from the scene, already trying to forget what she had done.

-----------------------------------------Several Years Later------------------------------------------

"Hunter! Sunstreaker!" Verity shot upright in her bed in the Ark's human section. A cold sweat covered her body, and even more alarmingly, she could feel her long dormant power rising in reaction to her distress. In absolute panic, Verity quickly clamped down on it, not daring to exhale until she was absolutely certain that it was buried where it belonged.

Staggering slightly, she managed to make it to the bathroom, where she sat, shivering against the wall. It wouldn't do to have Jimmy see her this way. She refused to look weak in front of anybody. She had learned that on the street a long time ago. If you looked weak, people assumed you were weak. And those who were weak quickly became those who were dead. At least in here she could be reasonably certain of her privacy. She could fight off all of the nasty little internal demons without anyone bearing witness.

She caught sight of herself in the mirror, saw the bags under wild, nightmare filled eyes. Jimmy and the others were worried, she knew. She hadn't slept properly since the attack. They assumed it was just posttraumatic stress or something, but they had no idea. It was guilt. She could've done something. She could be doing something. In her the Autobots had an effective weapon against the Decepticons, she had the power.

A brief flash of that blackened street sent shivers down her spine. But it would be different, she argued to herself, she would be fighting for a good cause, it wouldn't be random destruction. She could redeem herself and her powers, she could be a hero.

Or you could be a freak, a part of her mind whispered. Some kind of side show exhibit for people to gawk at. Or a living weapon, the one thing you swore you would never be.

"They would never do that." She murmured to herself.

Get a grip. Inner her scoffed. They're soldiers, every one of them. If they see any advantage, they're going to use it. That includes you. Besides, you're not their friend; you're a novelty. Didn't Prowl just try to get rid of you? If it wasn't for the attack, you would be back on the street right now!

She had no argument to that. As usual, that little pessimistic voice in the back of her head was right. She imagined every person that had ever found out her secret. In her mind she called up the memory of their expressions, the mix of shock, horror, and terror that accompanied the knowledge that she was a mutant. It was far too easy to imagine that expression on Jimmy or even Ratchet. She couldn't tell them, she couldn't deal with them knowing.

As she made to stand up, her reflection seemed to bend and shift in her mind to Hunter's face. His sad eyes silently damned her for her inaction, and she turned her gaze away through sheer force of will. Her hands clenched tightly as she moved to the door. Her name was Verity Carlo; it had always been Verity Carlo. Nova did not exist anymore. Nova was nothing, just a naïve remnant of a past life, a pale echo and nothing more. Verity had worked hard to carve herself out a place among humanity in general and these people in particular. No long forgotten secret was going to get in the way of that.

It didn't matter anyway, she reminded herself. There was no way she could've helped Hunter and Sunstreaker. Even with her powers, the attack had happened too fast. But you could've helped catch the ones that did it, the part of her that was still Nova whispered traitorously. A glance to Hunter's now empty bunk brought fresh tears to her eyes.

"It wasn't my fault." She whispered under her breath as she moved to her bed. "There was nothing I could've done." But the disclaimer brought her no relief. "It wasn't my fault." Maybe if she kept repeating that, she would start to believe it herself.

A/N: That turned out slightly darker than I though it was going to, but I'm actually kind of happy with the result. What did you think? Love it? Hate it? Let me know! I know it's a weird crossover, but I just couldn't resist.