Chapter 16

IMPLOSION

This is the CBS Evening News Special Western Edition with Jack Pranscal live from Central City, Oregon.

"Good evening and welcome to our special west coast edition. Four days ago, the entire Autobot civilization turned upside down, rocking with conspiracies, betrayal and murder. The results of which are felt around the world and across the known galactic quadrant. CBS has learned of recent and disturbing activity taking place on Mars. Our NASA correspondent Kelly Waveder reports."

"Jack, NASA astronomer Tekie Callers has just confirmed that explosions have taken place on Mars. The details are not forthcoming as all communication to and from Mars has been disrupted for the fourth week in a row. Amateur astronomers from all over the globe have turned their eyes and their telescopes onto the red planet, offering whatever assistance they can to find out exactly what is going on.'

'NASA says they are determined to find out the cause of the communication blackout, with or without help from the Autobots. They are planning to send a team along the trade routes as early as next week. But it takes time to pull professionals and resources together. People want answers and if they're not getting it from the Autobots, they are determined to get the answers for themselves."

"Kelly, are any other countries involved in this investigation?"

"Jack, six other countries including Canada, Japan, China and Russia are sending probes later this week. The problem with probes, however, they tend to disappear, which is why Australia and the U.S. are sending manned ships in that direction."

"Kelly, thank you. We turn, now to our CBS affiliate, KBOT Metroplex and our correspondent, Loni Carlson as she reports the turmoil and chaos in Metroplex, Oregon."

"It's been twenty-four hours since the historic trial of Rodimus Prime recessed. Autobot City sources state that one quarter of Metroplex is on fire and no sooner is one fire put out than another is started. Rioters have wracked the streets with violence and chaos of unimaginable proportions. No one is permitted in or out of the city. The militia, currently under the Cybertronian Defense Administration, cannot restrain the turbulence.'

'What's more the trial, now hailed as the political lynching of Rodimus Prime, has twisted and turned with accusations, unchecked facts and a surprise voluntary attorney for the defense. Her name is Akhal. And she is a Decepticon.'

'With the city roiling with civil unrest, the only place safe enough is right around the administration chamber. And as some Autobots have pointed out, oddly enough, this is the center of the storm; the cause and focus of dissent. And in one hour from now, the political lynching will recommence, and most likely, add fuel to a city already at war with itself. Loni Carlson, CBS News, Metroplex."

*

Sleep eluded me. It bounced around my head in a game of hide-and-find. People trickled into court after recess. Their disdainful stares needled me like poisoned darts. Why did they hate me? Why were they willing to listen to false testimonies by bureaucrats? Wasn't *I* supposed to be the Autobot leader? Wasn't I good enough?

I doubted my own innocence. My signatures stained several digipads like bloodied fingerprints. I betrayed everyone. Their private judgement burdened the air and smothered me with irrational guilt. falling sick, I longed for my quarters. I wanted to lie down and die.

The spectators and prosecutors returned, muttering and grumpy. Arbitous Chi called the room to order, his voice thrummed a bad imitation of a door-to-door salesman bluffing his way through a sale. I wondered what stakes, if any, Arbitous Chi had in this political lynching.

As his High-and-Mightiness bored everyone with a summary of topics, my head transposed the figure of the judge character from Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'.

My optics narrowed. What a weird image to conjure at a time like this. The animated judge from the rock opera spoke out his aft.

Daring to face the crowd, I turned my optics upon the assembly behind me. Rationally speaking, I knew they were a conglomeration of Autobots, Humans and few aliens. I saw their physical bodies, their faces, but I also witnessed their characters like looking into their souls; the root of their personas. I almost laughed and would have were the situation different.

Where was His Trionness? I spotted Dumbo and behind him sat a Gingerbread man. This was really twisted. I dreamed without sleeping.

Waitaminute. That figure who looked like a Mrs. Humpty Dumpty... was that Contrara?

Arbitous Chi hit the stand. "This court has reviewed all evidence and is prepared to move forward with its decision. Prosecution, you may take the floor in summary."

Trion stood, regal and cool. My head throbbed. Despair bled within me. Trion paused. He scanned the whole room left to right and made a point to look each camera directly, his face a mask of gravity. "My friends," he addressed, "CDA members, Autobot officers, people of Cybertron, Metroplex and Earth. It grieves me that I am forced by the tide of events to prosecute one of our own. More than that, I am wounded by the truth that people we trusted, depended upon and loved have betrayed us. From Ultra Magnus' shocking murder of another trusted and loyal officer to Rodimus Prime's ..." Alpha Trion paused here, his voice cracked. He collected his composure.

He was way too good at acting.

"...to Rodimus Prime's indescribable betrayal of Earth and Cybertron, his... alliance with the Decepticons and ultimate conspiracy with the Quintessons. I-I wish this did not happen. But it did. I wish I could turn the clocks back and prevent whatever it was that drove Rodimus into the arms of our hated enemies. But we have to face the facts. We have to stand to the truth and deal with the consequences as they arise. As Contrara said, we must protect what is ours, demand justice so that we may never see something of this nature again. I acknowledge this is difficult for many of you to fathom the causes and conditions of such affairs. I promise you that we will recover and strengthen from it. And to Rodimus Prime I... am anguished almost beyond words. Why, Rodimus? Why would you consider personal gain above your call to serve? Why would you send hundreds of Humans to perish on Mars? Why would you make a pact with-with demons? I might understand the Decepticons, certainly they have not caused us grief in quite a while. But the Quintessons?"

He paused and I turned cold. "Maybe, maybe it's our fault," Trion continued. "Autobots have relied on the old system of Prime for millions and millions of years and maybe, just maybe it's time for us to move forward. If we... if we as a society could somehow find it within ourselves to forgive and move past these dark days of horrors, perhaps we can also find for ourselves a new way of looking at things. We can consider restructuring our society not around an antiquated alien artifact, but around ourselves.'

'I want you to take Rodimus' position for just the moment. He is responsible for every Autobot, worker and officer, in Metroplex. Now it used to be that the Autobot leader was responsible for every Autobot on Cybertron but the CDA has lifted much of that burden. We did this in hopes making things easier. And maybe what we did was take the first steps forward to a more democratic society. Why can't other Autobots step in and take charge? After all, we are a civilized people and the need for a military leader is more or less over.'

'As I say, we can take this tragedy and press ever forward. And we can start with justice. We can ask-yes, we can demand to end Rodimus Prime's administration and thereby, end the fallacy of the necessity of the Matrix. We can step away from the imperfection of the office and duty of Prime and move into a freer, more independent society. And so I ask the court on this day of days, to give us the chance to decide our own path. We ask the court to find Rodimus Prime guilty on all charges and thereby do away with the office and tyranny of Prime and make law for democracy and independence from an old system of life. We are not at war. The Decepticons are pacified. We can now take that extra step of freedom by casting off old ways of thinking, old dependancies and improve our lives and those with whom we share the cosmos."

I sat, stunned silent like the rest of the room. The Matrix has repeatedly come to our rescue for millions of years. It guided Optimus and saved us from the Hate Plague. An alien artifact? Maybe. But It considers us Its children. Why should it matter whether or not it was alien? I did not care what the court or the Autobot population did with me. But the Matrix could not be condemned; a thing to be tossed aside like an obsolete trophy. I hurt. And I hurt for the Matrix.

"RODIMUS PRIME!"

Arbitous Chi fumed at the depth and height of his vocalizer. Tired and strained, I felt pain in places I did not know I had. I narrowed my optics, realizing that my mind drifted far from the courtroom, far from the moment. Just like Contrara changing into a Mrs. Potato Head, he melted into a cockroach.

Since Cockroach Arbitous Chi took the effort to scream my name in front of everyone, I decided to give him twenty-two seconds of attention.

"I will try this again," he drawled. (seventeen seconds) "You have been read a list of charges from under-handed dealings to conspiring with the enemy to insolence and treason. These are grave charges. How do you wish to plea?"

I considered it. Not that I cared, but obviously it was important enough for the roach to scream. He had nine seconds so I answered him. "If there was any treason to be committed on my behalf, it was failure to eliminate the right people from our society."

Good enough for me. Arbitous' twenty-two seconds ended. My aching head forced me to lie upon the floor, optics frozen on one spot. The spectator's underlying hostility smothered me.

Arbitous Chi glared at the Autobot Prime before sending a colder glare to Akhal. "Have you anything to add, Counselor?"

Akhal returned the judge's cold glare until he looked away. She took the front and stared at spectators, into the cameras and at the table of prosecutors. Her silence forced everyone to freeze their attention upon her.

"I am not sure if anyone here or out there will hear my words. It may be too late. But I will try. First off, I have to wonder how any people-especially Autobots-could be so self-centered as to allow these attacks against your leader. There's no real evidence. Where are the Quintesson witnesses? Where are the contracts and records? And who is Alpha Trion to bring these charges against your leader? Is Trion a Prime? No. No. While everyone in the court is allowed to return to their homes and quarters, Rodimus has been forced to remain here. Humans would consider that cruel and yet there you sit, allowing it to happen.'

'Rodimus' only function is the care and protection of his people. But you have allowed sharks to attack him. Do you not realize that a Prime was designated a leader, the center of your society long before Autobots were Autobots? And hasn't it occurred to anyone how the charges are absurd and outside Rodimus Prime's character? The Matrix would never have chosen him if Rodimus did not qualify for the position of Autobot leader.'

'You must put an end to this! You have been lied to, deceived and blinded by the ambitions of a group of people who weren't supposed to be in authority. Ultimately, they will destroy you."

She eyed them one then another. Akhal could think of nothing more to say. She returned to her table and ignored whispers around her.

Arbitous Chi glanced from prosecution to defense, his face a mask of neutrality. "This court is hereby in recess. We will reconvene in ninety minutes at which time I will deliver a final verdict."

The crowds departed and ushers escorted stragglers out. Akhal scrunched before the cell in which Rodimus now sat, non-responsive. "Rodimus? Roddi, can you hear me? I'm going to go and get you some energon. I'll be gone just a little while, I promise." Rodimus only sat there, his optics locked in a distant stare.

*

Metroplex rocked and recoiled with violence. CDA militia arrested, harassed and shot several Autobots and usually arrested those Humans who protested alongside their Autobot City friends. Medbay, already reeling with casualties and wounded, took an unfair hit when rioters bombed the main emergency entrance.

Power mains staggered before crashing, leaving one half the city in darkness. Without power, Metroplex lay incapable of relaying information. All entrances and exits broke down, leaving people stranded on roads leading to and from the city.

Then the Decepticons appeared from nowhere. They marched along the streets and flew among buildings. Confused, Metroplex personnel vacillated between attacking the militia and the new invaders. But when Galvatron ordered the destruction of all CDA automatons, no one doubted the difference between enemy and ally.

During the last four days, reporter crews swarmed the CDA chamber hall day and night. Automatons and those Autobots loyal to CDA surrounded the building, using weapons, threats and their own bodies to keep people out. But upon recess, all CDA's automatons, and all CDA's personnel could not bring order back together again. The chamber doors opened and people poured forth, stepping into a media minefield.

They failed, however, to catch the minute shadow movement of one Human reporter, dressed darkly, invisible behind a barrage of Autobot correspondents.

"Alpha Trion!" Someone shouted above the chaos. "Sir! Elder Trion?"

There he emerged from the hall, the charasmatic, informal leader of the Autobots. His twin body guards, Swiss and Notch backed him with bulldog expressions. Trion lifted his hands to quell the barrage of questions. "It has been an emotionally tumultuous day, my friends." he lamented, "I've not quite felt so distressed since the era of Nemesis."

A female Autobot squeezed her way forward, armed only with a mic in her thumb. "Elder Trion, my lord, could you explain what you said in suggesting we do away with the Matrix? Do you think it really is no longer necessary? What about future events the likes of which we may see again such as Unicron or the Hate Plague?"

"What is your name, my child?"

"Gabby, sir."

"Gabby, what do you think? Certainly we are intelligent enough, strong enough and wise enough ourselves to face our own destiny. We do not need the Matrix-or any other crutch. I believe we are capable of dictating our own future. Think on it, each and every one of you. Consider yourselves lords, masters and owners of your own futures." Trion scanned an attendant crowd. Their optics held him in adoration. "It is something to consider. But first, we must tackle the problem at hand. We must live today. It's all we have now. So let's take the moment to rest before dealing with the problem ahead. Tomorrow, we shall explore the possibilities of creating a brand new society. I look forward to hearing ideas from all my children and yes, even the Children of Earth." Trion paused. "But for now, at this time, I must rest."

Reporters sprang to life, questions rolled from their lips, their praising voices called for Trion's attention. But he said nothing more as he and the Doberman Pincers departed for recess.

The small shadow slipped past Notch, making no sound. 'She' kept kissing-close to the wall and stole her advance until she passed the second security screening, the interior cameras. Form there, the shadow crawled on hands and knees to a statue representing an ancient Autobot leader. She squeezed between the monument and the wall and waited for the janitor.

The custodian arrived half an hour later. The skeleton of an Autobot, weary and old, opened the door and the shadow slipped in, quiet as a passing cloud.

I tried to sleep. I fell to blissful ignorant darkness but woke shaking. My head rattled with sounds of war. I thought they shot me over and over.

I tossed about the uncomfortable floor until my right foot hit the energy barrier. A sizzling, hot electric shock coursed through me, not for the first time. I had many burn marks along my arms and legs. I grew fed up with the undue treatment.

"Oughta stay 'way from them bars, young fella." the janitor admonished from several rows off.

Ignoring him, I sat up, hunched over, cold and miserable. I told myself to quit whining. Just stop. I'm not the first to suffer, won't be the last. But I found no comfort in my personal admonishment. It wasn't the uncomfortable floor that hurt or the energy barriers. Hell, I've been through worse.

My heart, my spark hurt. I realized I hurt because my own people considered me obsolete. The Matrix has been rejected.

Was it really possible to die by rejection? By the thunder of bombs, the high-pitched tones of laser fire, the scream of death, my answer came positive. The so-called riots were of a catalyst for change.

My mind and body slumped as I tried to shut down and sleep. I whispered Optimus' name. I did not regret leaving him in the hands of someone I trusted. Oh, but I miss... I miss...

Vaguely, as though mental curtains drew aside for clearer thoughts, I sensed a presence other than the absent-minded custodian. I shuddered from electrical overload.

"Rodimus?"

I felt part of Metroplex fall. Oh Primus, the bastards are killing the city. Fuckheads.

"Rodimus?"

"I'm coming home," I slurred. I don't know why I said that. Come on, Prime. Back to reality. I sat; a straw doll in a place I didn't belong. My insides bled, torn up as though someone revved a hacksaw and set it loose inside me. I missed Op. I wanted to see him again. But he was far away; safe. Did he think of me? Would he care? Was he angry that I left him? "Rodimus?"

The Matrix called me to leave this reality. I wanted to see Optimus again, to say good-bye. To tell him I was sorry I could not stay.

"Rodimus Prime."

Was that Arcee? No. The voice moused, small and sweet. Carly? No, she moved after Rusti died.

"Rodimus?"

Yeah, look to the right, dummy. Not as easy a task; pain stiffened my joints. And the voice wasn't a mouse. Loni... Loni Carlson. My optics narrowed, surprised. She smiled, trying to cheer me. I wanted to say something but my jumbled thoughts disagreed on what needed to be said.

"I... I guess I came to see if I might be able to help in some way. I... Rodimus, I saw Ultra Magnus. I don't know where they've taken him, but-"

"Arrested him."

"Yes. They did." I felt her squirm in uncomfortable silence. She had no words to encourage me, no poems to heal my wounds, no song to give me strength. "Rodimus," she said softly. "I know all the politics, the events and people involved with Metroplex, the CDA and something about Optimus Prime. But I was wondering if I missed something." Loni paused, biting her lower lip. "Is there something more behind Alpha Trion's... disingenuous smile? Is there something more that needs to be said? I find it difficult to believe that you'd betray your own people. Tell me something about Alpha Trion that maybe I'm not supposed to know."

That roused me enough to grab the opportunity. I stared through her, my head raced with thousands of memories demanding disclosure. "Where would I start?" I asked myself. "How many people did he exploit?" Clarity came to me for but that split moment. I thought of one story, just one thing that someone else needed to investigate. "Loni, you must find the truth about Elita-One. You must find out who was ordered to kill her. Find out if Trion's daughters are hers." My voice failed to a whisper while Loni unsnapped her shoulder bag and produced a hand-held recorder-thingy.

Her eyes batted with disbelief. "You mean Arcee might be Elita One's daughter? How do you know this? Are you sure?"

The courtroom doors clanged open. Loni's eyes shot wide and she disappeared. I'm glad she did. She's Human; just big enough to get into trouble, too small to save anyone like me. I bowed over, dying for a good night's sleep.

Metal scraped the floor before me. The grating squeak dragged me from internal musings to face Trion.

Trion swept a chair across the floor and sat backwards. He lapped his arms across the back of the seat and he considered me a long moment. "I thought a small, momentary heart-to-heart was in order, Rodimus. I'm sure by now you're wondering where all your friends and colleagues have gone." He paused as usual so I drank the poisons of his silence and solemnity.

"Well, Rodimus," he continued, "rest assured your closest friends are just fine. We arrested Springer and Kup to keep them off our backs. We hoped to have eliminated everyone who would have defended you."

He chuckled, angry but amused. "I am amazed. Of all people, a Decepticon stood up for you. She was good. I'll give you that. She was good. But I have all the votes. So did you want to say anything to defend yourself? It's alright, Roddi. You can tell me."

It took a lot of will for me to finally speak. "I have nothing civil to say to you. I have nothing nice to say that you'd want to hear."

"I see. Well, I have plenty to say. So you can just listen."

That roused my ire enough to stir the embers of what remained in my head. "You won. Whoopee. Knock yourself out with joy. But eventually another Prime will come along. Someone chosen by the Matrix, not purchased at a political price. And that Prime will know to be wary of you. I'll make sure the Matrix remembers this."

He sat still, optics glinting upon deep consideration. "You know, you're right, Rodimus. It's not been you or Optimus at all. All this time my problem has been the Matrix." He nodded, agreeing with his own conclusions. Trion stood and drew the chair aside. "I suppose we need to take care of that, don't we?"

He disappeared behind the judges' stand. The force field holding me evaporated. Fresher air cooled my body. I struggled to stand but weakened by injury, lack of rest and sustenance denied me strength. I sat and searched my surroundings for leverage.

Trion returned, wiping his hands on a soft cloth. "Boys," he said to his Doberman Pincers, "I need the Matrix."

Notch knelt behind and coiled his arms around me. I struggled against Notch's grip while Swiss tried to figure out how to open my chest. I kicked him in the face while Notch slowly choked me into submission. "It's no good!" I shouted at Trion. "The Matrix has completely rejected you!"

Notch rolled over; pushing me underneath, face down. His weight smothered me while his arms squeezed more tightly. Swiss recovered and kicked me in the side until he breeched my exostructure. With each new kick, my fluids splattered his foot and soaked the finely polished flooring.

Strangely enough, I felt nothing more than greater weakness. Convinced they subdued me, Notch rolled on his back. I faced the ceiling lights but barely saw them. Cold air invaded my chest. Rough hands snapped off heavy-plated locks and my second heart, the Matrix, left my pathetic, useless body.

I failed. I failed as a leader. I failed as a Prime. Notch tossed me aside and I lay there, a dying child on the side of the road, discarded and betrayed.

"Hah!" Trion declared loudly. "Thank you so much, Swiss. We finally will attain that which we have worked so hard for."

The gasp of a butterfly screamed at me. Butterfly; Loni. I thought she was safely out of the room. Feebly, my fingers moved as fear stirred me to life. No, no. Trion kept speaking, preaching to his chump body guards. He did not see her. But Loni heard and saw what happened. Trion's true nature revealed itself to an outsider. A Human. A reporter with a recorder. I searched for a strand of strength, a shallow pool of energy with which I might protect her.

Faint footfalls tapped outside the courtroom doors. BOOM! The doors flew open. "Trion!! Elder Trion! Sir!" Heavy footsteps clunked down the isle. Not once did this person take note that the Matrix resided in Trion's hands. Nor did this same thick-headed Autobot heed my pathetic struggle for survival.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Alpha Trion, Sir. But there's news from Mars-the facility has been completely blown apart."

"WHAT?!"

"We just saw the photos. They found sixteen Quintessons strung upside down and shot execution-style."

The news gave me hope. That had to be Cyclonus. And that gave me a measure of strength. I managed to pull myself together so that I sat up enough to face Trion. Loss of consciousness fought me. "What's that, Your Trionness?" I slurred, "have-have you found a glitch in your well-laid plans? While you were... so busy with public and political bragging, gloating over your accomplishments, I reconciled with the Decepticons. They are an ally you could never corrupt."

Trion scrunched in front of me and gripped the Matrix tightly. He stared at it; treasure of the ages. He nodded. "You must think that I fear your little unholy alliance, Rodimus. You probably think the Decepticons will come galloping into Metroplex and save the day. But I have the last say, my incorrigible, juvenile recalcitrant. I am taking over. Now!"

I watched Trion lift the Matrix high over his head; a offering in the name of power lust. He brought it down like a priest speeding his knife into a sacrifice. My laser core stopped dead. Time froze. Trion smashed the Matrix; he smashed my heart. I stopped breathing. The universe fell silent.

"This way, Rodimus. I want you to come home."

A million splinters skittered across the floor. Fragments of a sacred entity lay lifeless around me.

Inconsolable anguish consumed my whole being.

I trembled. My hands shook like leaves in a strong winter wind. My shaking right hand stretched forward and carefully picked up a shard of what remained of the Matrix. The incandescent life-light that gave it such beauty now darkened. Dead... just like Op's optics when he left us decades ago.

Just like the light inside me.

I smelled Trion's smugness. But overwhelmed with grief I felt no anger. I picked up another lifeless Matrix shard. "It's over." my voice broke in grief. "How-how could you do this? You've destroyed us. You've destroyed ... Why? Why?" Why did my life keep going even with the Matrix's death?

He kicked my face with such force that I landed on my back. I lay broken, pained, bewildered. "Quit your whining, Rodimus. I've replaced an ancient, useless system of government with a more up-to-date idea. From now on, those with ambition, drive and determination will rule. Not some alien-possessed, dictator-wannabe."

I managed to roll over as rioters exchanged fist-blows, gun fire and fierce words just outside the courtroom. Someone screamed for help. Nearly lifeless myself, I hurt for them all. I could rescue no one. I could not save the Autobots.

Trion watched Rodimus crawl along the floor. A wonderful sense of power and victory gave him the ultimate high. After millions of years, he wormed his way to the position he lost when the Matrix chose Optimus. Why he had not thought about destroying the alien artifact long ago left him puzzled. Such a simple solution! Well... he did want it for himself. One cannot be Prime without it.

By eliminating the position and office of Prime, he also eliminated the Matrix, making it an object of little to no consequence. Trion took charge; free to do as he saw fit.

I found breath. Shock gradually dissolved, leaving me in the midst of brutal reality. Denial could not save me. How could the world and the universe continue to go on when death loomed above us?

Someone attempted to stop the fighting in the foyer. Bladed weapons clashed. Growling voices challenged one another. Trion demanded a status report but only a muffled answer returned. I did not recognize the voice or understood what was said. I did not care. Reaching for another shard, I slowly flinched when a small intense light hit me. It focused on the fragments then zipped to Trion who kept calling his chump bodyguards to answer. The light bounced off the Matrix shards; beautiful even in death. I still paid no attention when the light shot back to me. My body slowed as death claimed me layer by layer.

A small but firm voice spoke; Loni was still here. She stepped closer to me, hugging her camera close. "We are live in the CDA courtroom. Where just outside a fight has broken out between Alpha Trion's personal guards and a pair of Decepticons. Alpha Trion, you just shattered the Matrix. What are your plans now that Rodimus is no longer able to lead the Autobots?"

Not only did she film the moment, she used her cell phone to snap additional pictures.

Realization ran cold through my body. The one thing Trion loved most in life turned against him, tore aside his secrets and left him utterly exposed. Loni snapped every angle, capturing the debased, disconcerted Alpha Prime and his shattered, powerless Matrix lying on the floor.

I did not see his expression but I felt fear and horror flood Trion. My optics climbed Trion's posture. He stared down, not at me or the decimated Matrix but at Loni. No great words of wisdom came from his trembling lip components. He had no entertaining performance for the millions watching Loni's report. No defense for the prosecution.

"Stop," Trion's proud voice failed. His regal, grandfather image fled, replaced by the horror of undeniable truth. "You're not supposed to see this... this... Stop. Please."

He could not attack her; not without revealing the brutal side of his nature; not without endangering his precious image. Trion's voice fell to a pitiful whisper: "Stop."

The courtroom door, still open, smashed asunder and something thunked down the thick red carpet along the isle between Prosecution and Defense sides. The object rolled to rest beside one of the Matrix's casings.

Trion stared in revulsion into the dead and bloodied optics of Exel Pi. Trion withdrew. "Barbarians," he muttered.

Another rounded object hit his shoulder and landed at his feet. Notch's head lay there, half the helm cracked clean open. Fluids leaked and exposed meta processors sparked brightly in the air.

"Who did this?!" Trion demanded. "Swiss! Where the Pitt-Swiss!" he turned to the judge's stand and regretted turning from Rodimus. A bitter cold object pierced upward into his back. Trion froze with a gasp, shocked. Then Optimus' voice entered his left audio, slow, quiet, dark, emotionless.

"Hello, Alpha Trion. It's been a long time since I've had a real knife in my back. Tell me, how does it feel?"

"Op-timus!" Trion gasped for air as life support systems failed to reach his laser core.

Optimus further impaled Trion's bleeding wound. "I finally realized why the Matrix brought me back; it was to bring you down. You might have destroyed the Matrix, but at least I can take you with me. Enjoy your trip to the Pitt."

I heard the conversation between Optimus and Trion. I heard Trion gasp and gurgle as Optimus sliced his fluid lines. I did not care. The Matrix no longer existed. I gathered every minute shard and cradled them in my hand. It amazed me to learn that a major part of the Matrix was simply energy; the crystalline was the barest physical embodiment of the artifact. Maybe we'd find another one. Maybe there's more somewhere, somehow.

Yeah, I was fooling myself, or trying to. Six Decepticons entered the courtroom. It pleased me to think of them as friends. Cyclonus, Galvatron and Akhal approached. She knelt beside me, her warm hand lay on my arm, but I could not face her. I was a ghost, fading with the setting sun. I picked up three more diminutive pieces as Optimus scrunched before me. I found comfort in his presence. My best friend was here.

"Roddi."

His deep warm voice touched me inside. Emptiness masticated my soul. I am broken, bleeding mess. Optimus laid his hand on my hand, my hand filled with the shards of a destitute future.

"I failed," I whispered. "I failed. I failed."

"No," He spoke so quiet, soothing my internal pain. "I failed. I could not save you in time. I understood and too late."

I trembled, heartbroken. "It's over, Op. I mean, completely over. Any new Autobots; any sparklings will be automatons, won't they?" Optimus' color faded as I sat before him, optics locked. I was losing color, too as I hemorrhaged to death.

"I am sorry, Roddi. None of it was your fault."

I lost the shards. They dropped like tiny wind chimes and shattered into minuscule fragments, echoing the finality of my existence, of the extinction of my people. I embraced Optimus as my systems failed one after another. "Op... Op," my voice faded as I wept. "Op... Promise me you'll find Rusti. I want you to be happy. Cyclonus will take care of you. He promised. He promised."

Optimus clutched Roddi tightly as the Autobot leader's body dwindled to the grey and cold. Optimus did not think he'd ever weep for anyone but Rusti. But as his own life ebbed, he wept for Rodimus and gently rocked his lifeless friend.

Akhal laid a hand on Roddi's head, her face drawn and solemn. "I'm so sorry, Optimus."

"There was nothing you could do, Akhal. They killed him yesterday when they rejected him."

People from all over the world, visitors from other planets and both Autobots and Decepticons came to Metroplex to pay farewell to Rodimus. Reconstruction on Metroplex ceased for three days in memory of the last Autobot leader they'd ever have.

True to his word, Cyclonus took care of the Autobots. He and Ultra Magnus buried Rodimus at the foot of Lookout Mountain. Five days later, they buried Optimus next to him.

Just as Rodimus said, in Trion's greed and power

lust, the First Autobot sealed the fate of his entire species. Vector Sigma continued to instill artificial intelligence to the new generation of Transformers. But there resided no spark within them.

Cybertron finally knew peace. But it became the peace of death.

End

T.L. Arens