"Despair"

Dead End lifted his head over the empty cargo carrier that served as the barrier between himself and certain death, unflinching against the heat of Autobot laser fire that barely missed him. He watched the Autobots across the field for a moment before sitting back down and regarding his Stunticon commander.

"I don't really see the point."

Motormaster shot him a withering glare from the ramp of the escape shuttle. No doubt it was meant to spur the warrior into action and obey the suicidal command: "Dead End, advance to Wildrider's position." Dead End looked down at his arm and brushed some dirt from his patina. To Dead End, the expression that had taken hold of the Stunticon commander's face simply reinforced his belief that if the Autobots were not to be the tool that ended his existence, then Motormaster would be.

Dead End released a heavy sigh. He turned to look over his right shoulder again and braced his arms to lift himself up so he could look at Wildrider's precarious situation. After a moment, he stopped. Motormaster had turned away again and Dead End instead leaned against the cargo unit and returned to his previous position, his back against the barrier facing away from the battle raging around him. He crossed his arms across his chest, his faceplate showing the usual glum expression.

"Doesn't matter," he muttered to no one but himself. "I already know what's going on. Just get my head shot off if I looked."

Wildrider was alone, barely holding on very close to where the Autobots had dug in. Like the crazed mechanism he was, he insisted on staying put, stating it "freaked the Autobots out." In actuality, it put the Decepticons in a defensive position and unable to safely lift off with the energon cubes they had accumulated.

Dead End looked back at Motormaster only to see that his commander had moved closer to the Autobot ranks. His optics instead fell upon those of Breakdown. He held Dead End's gaze for a moment with a distant look in his optics before quickly looking away, busying himself with loading as much energon into the cruiser as he could. As Dead End continued to sit behind the cargo carrier, watching the back of his fellow Stunticon morosely, he felt the odd sensation rippling down his face, driving him further into despair. It was a look he had seen before. It was disappointment. Dead End frowned.

Why do I feel like this? he thought. Why should I care?

But he already knew that answer. Upon coming on-line several years earlier, Dead End immediately noted one thing. All of the Stunticons were in some way dysfunctional. Wildrider was insane, something that was painfully obvious at the moment. Motormaster was belligerent, leading the Stunticons through fear and strength more than charisma and respect. Drag Strip was bragging thug, more keen on coming out on top in anything than aiding an ally. Breakdown was paranoid, constantly worried about being seen as a phony. And of course, Dead End already was aware of his own personality quirk. How could I possibly forget? he thought sullenly.

Through Breakdown's own problems and idiosyncrasies, he had always tried to be something of a friend to Dead End. He would often try to pull Dead End into some inane conversation he had with the others. Sometimes, he even tried to say something to cheer him up. Dead End rarely regarded it, shrugging off overtures to conversation for the fact that he knew that his own death would soon follow in its wake. No doubt that it would be a fitting end to his life, loosing it just as he started to befriend another that may have his own doubts about the universe. Its ironic tinge would undoubtedly make Megatron giggle with delight. Dead End frowned, pulling his arms tighter across his body and dropping his head to his chest, suddenly sure that the shear volume one of Megatron's laughing fits would likely cause a transistor in his cranial unit to burst, leading to a slow and painful death.

With his head still down, he shifted his optics over the Breakdown again. The other Stunticon continued to work dutifully and hurriedly, doing what he could make certain the Decepticons could lift off quickly once the foolish Wildrider was back in the fold. Dead End felt a still darker blackness gnaw at his laser core. He shut his optics and brought his hands up, heavily placing them over the top of his head, as if this would shield himself from the continuous growing hopelessness that was building inside him.

How can he do that? Dead End thought. He forgets his problems. He forgets he's different and that humans and inanimate objects see that he's different. He tries to see himself different. He tries to talk to me and involve me, even if he knows it's doomed to fail from the start. Dead End lifted his head and watched Breakdown carry crates while deftly dodging laser blasts. He tries.

Dead End squeezed his fingers into his neck.

"You don't," he whispered to himself accusatorily. "But you will. At least today."

With his usual dark expression slowly transforming to resolve, Dead End leapt to his feet and spun. His weapon was in hand. Drag Strip, firing at the Autobots from nearby, jumped in surprise at the sudden burst of movement. Motormaster, having caught the movement out of the corner of his optic, dropped and leveled his weapon. Dead End ignored them both. He simply stared at the Autobots as they fired upon him. He watched one of them train their weapon on him, preparing to fire. Dead End closed his optics, waiting for the sensation of death to fill him.

NO! a voice in his voice shouted.

With a jolt, Dead End's optics popped open and he dove aside, just in time to evade the blast that sailed past him. He cringed as the rocky ground scraped across his armor, leaving scratches and dents in it wake. His shoulders slumped, the gloom returning at the thought of his armor in such a state. But instead of succumbing, he slammed his fist defiantly into the ground and rose to his feet. He glared at the Autobots, barely noticing the wave of doubt creep through the ranks, barely moving except to evade a few of the shots that they fired upon the exposed Decepticon. His focus was elsewhere. He had to try.

There has to be something more to me than just despair, he thought. I'm a Decepticon warrior and I'm in the heart of battle. The others, they laugh and joke on the battlefield. They feel something. But what?

He cringed, in part from the sting of hot laser fire striking his shoulder and in part from the melancholy that threatened to envelop him again.

Maybe they laugh because they're all insane, a dark voice responded. Surely one of them will be off in la-la land just as the missile with your name on it crushes through your—.

"No!" he shouted. This can't be all that I am. There must be something more. There must.

His optics remained riveted on a point in the air above the Autobots. He raised his weapon to return fire. He paused, but felt no different. He evaded several more shots and advanced. Still nothing.

"Come on!" he shouted aloud but yet to himself. "Come on!"

His unfocused optics remained on the Autobots, trying to ignore the pain from the blasts that struck his armor. Dead End never saw the wary expressions exchanged among the Autobots as they tried to drive him back. He never saw the resolve grow through the Decepticon ranks as Dead End continued to single-handedly attack their enemy with a bravery they had never seen in him before. He simply focused on feeling something. After several moments, after more laser blasts impacted him, Dead End felt a new emotion rising from within.

He felt rage.

A part of him could not but express the usual disappointment. Couldn't it be happiness? he asked himself. Couldn't it even be solace?

As the Autobots continued to rain laser fire around him, Dead End felt himself raise his own weapon again and angrily return fire. He continued his march forward. He ignored the shouts of pain and anger from the Autobots at the other end of the assault. His allies were all but forgotten as they followed him on a new offensive. Most of all, and most importantly, he ignored his nagging questions, silenced under the slow simmer of anger boiling in his laser core.

He was feeling something other than despair.

That was all that mattered.