Hey! I'll keep this short: This is a sequel to Moments of Our Choosing, and a parallel to Taking A Little more as well as a slight sequel because the VERY end of this happens directly after. It also parallels a bit of my upcoming Jettwins portion of this section and the Blurr one. But that's all coming up. The last two sections didn't really come out like I wanted but oh well. A bit of Red Alertx Hot Shot, so if you don't like it skip it or something XD And finally: good people, I'm touched when you story alert these Aftermath oneshots. But when I mark something as complete, they are complete. Its a mindgame for me. First off, I never initally planned for this to be a oneshot series. If I planned ahead it would've been a chapter story. ALSO when I do chapter stories, I tend to make them sloppy and not good, because I always think 'well if this is crap then I'll surely make the next chapter better'. So if you want to follow this Author Alert me or just check up every now and then or something. Well, I hope you enjoy this! Please review and tell me what you think!
Ironhide fiddled with his fingers and stared at the floor. He had never felt so powerless before in his life. Or confused. At least he wasn't alone. Brawn was in the same situation with him. He was propped on a chair, his viz scanners shut in what seemed to be concentration. At the moment he may not be the best company, but the fact that he was there helped. Ironhide didn't know what he would do without Brawn.
It was still so unreal. Like being in a daze. Things like this didn't really happen to anybot. Not even stories meant to scare the slag out of you involved anything this gruesome or detailed. And yet, there, lying before him on examination tables, were the sparkless chassis of his three teammates. Rodimus. Red Alert. Hot Shot. All in the same state. Hovering dangerously between online and off. And nobot knew why.
Wheeljack continued to run diagnostics, which he had been doing nonstop for megacycles. Ironhide sometimes watched him, fascinated with the professional way the sciencebot handled his tools and such; he wasn't one of Cybertron's smartest for nothing, Ironhide supposed. Even Red Alert had spoken highly of him and Perceptor when she had something nice to say. But at times, watching became too close for comfort. Like now. Wheeljack was cleaning out their sparkchambers, removing all the crusted energon from the crater. The device made a horrible squeaking as it did its job. It made Ironhide sick.
"Are you okay, Ironhide?"
He looked up, a bit startled at being addressed. Brawn was looking at him, concern showing even through his own painful expression.
"F-Fine…I guess…" He winced as the noise became louder, reminding him of what it was doing.
"D'ya wanna go outside and wait?"
Ironhide hadn't seen Brawn this soft in a long time. He was always ill-tempered, though good-natured under all his grumpiness. If Ironhide had one of his uncomfortable moments he would tell him to 'go suck it up'. But now it was different. They had both been affected by the shocking twist of events, and only now could Ironhide truly see its effect on Brawn.
"Nah. We need to be here…in case…y'know…something happens." He jostled his shoulders and leaned back. He hoped nothing would 'happen' like he thought it would 'happen'.
Brawn nodded. "Well…if you ever feel like you need to leave…just say so an' I'll go out with ya."
"Thanks, Brawn." Ironhide smiled weakly.
"No problem, `hide."
It was quiet again, but not in the same sense of the word. There was a more calming sensation in the air. Ironhide felt, as long as he and Brawn were together, they could get through this. Once again, he was immensely grateful not to be alone.
Wheeljack stopped cleaning and began to wipe off his servos. He turned to the two of them.
"I know I've said this a lot…but whoa…" Wheeljack shook his head, "…this is unbelievable."
"Anything new yah found out?" Ironhide asked.
"It's more of what I haven't found out. So far everything seems fine. They show no sign of graying. Energon levels are stable. They aren't overheating, so their coolant is equally dispersed. Vital signs are all okay…"
"Except for their sparkbeat." Brawn frowned.
"Well, yeah. But without a spark…that would be completely normal. I've patched up the small wounds they received from the blast…but other than that they're absolutely healthy." Wheeljack informed, "Almost above normal, actually."
"How does that work?" Ironhide asked. He didn't usually understand most of this scientific stuff. Even most of the reasons Wheeljack had previously listed had gone over his head. But he did get that somebot without a spark shouldn't be at pristine health. They should be offline.
"That's what I hope to discover…" Wheeljack mused as he entered some data into the computer next to him.
A door slid open and another sciencebot walked in. It was Perceptor. Head of the science department or whatever. He didn't even acknowledge Ironhide or Brawn's presence as he approached Wheeljack. How rude! Even Ironhide knew it was impolite not to say 'hi' or something.
"It will be more effective if I take over from here." He informed monotonously.
"But Percy! I was just getting started…" Wheeljack pouted. If megacycles into something was 'just getting started', Ironhide didn't want to know how long this would take. "Are the twins being a hassle?"
"They won't take anything I say seriously. When I ask them to perform important tests they just make loud noises at me." Although the `bot's faceplate set straighter than a line, it betrayed a small hint of disappointment.
"So they laughed at you? Well, I'd say that would actually be an improvement. When was the last time they really laughed…?" Wheeljack pondered for a nanoclick, "Okay, I'll go whip those twins into shape."
He laughed softly as he surrendered his work area over to Perceptor. Then he briskly walked out of the room, not before nodding farewell to Ironhide and Brawn. At least he had some manners. Ironhide liked him more than the stiff.
Perceptor turned and looked at them for the first time. He didn't even seem to bother who they were or why they were there. Though, he probably knew who they were. Maybe he got their files before he arrived. Ironhide had always wondered was was written in his file…
"How far had Wheeljack gotten in his diagnostics?" Perceptor asked. "Had he started the exhaustive method?"
Ironhide blinked several times and made sure Perceptor was talking to them. "Uh...I dun even have a clue what that means, sir…" Brawn nodded as if to say that he didn't either.
"A processor scan?"
They slowly turned and looked at each other, not knowing what in the blazes Perceptor was talking about. They were soldiers, not sciencebots.
"I am going to take your silence as a 'no'." Perceptor analyzed the data in front of him on the computer screen, "I require some assistance in order to accomplish this." He looked back over at the two of them and sized them up, "Ironhide, it is imperative that you assist me. I would ask Brawn, but seeing as the table is this height…"
"Are ya callin' me short!?" Brawn growled, jumping up from his chair.
"Now Brawn…" Ironhide got up and pushed him back gently, "Dun do anythin' yah'd regret…"
"Oh, I wouldn't regret it…" Brawn said through clenched dental plates, but he sat down nonetheless.
Ironhide walked up to Perceptor. "So, whaddaya need me t' do?"
For the next several cycles, he followed the directions of Perceptor. Very difficultly, might he add. It was extremely hard to pay attention to what he was saying without falling into a coma. Slag, he was so slow and boring! Ironhide wasn't sure what he was doing, but he did it anyways. By the end he had several wires hooked up into the three bots' processors. He was nervous the whole time through. It was a bit sickening working this close to such an important part of the chassis. What if he messed it up!?
"The positioning is completed. You can go back to your seat now if you prefer." Perceptor offered.
"Nah. I…I wanna help sum more." Although it felt a bit uneasy, it was better than doing nothing. He didn't feel so helpless now. He was able to accomplish something.
Perceptor nodded and turned on a machine behind him. It hummed and some screens came to life. Ironhide watched in amazement as it produced a black and white image of a basic processor, with certain sections of it lit up. It was fascinating what sciencebots thought up of.
"This can't be right…" Perceptor muttered as he observed the screens.
"What's wrong?" Ironhide asked. If something wasn't right…that couldn't be good.
"Their processor activity level…it suggests complete consciousness."
"…and that means?"
"At the moment we know two things for sure: They are online, and they aren't unconscious."
Rodimus lunged to the side, barely escaping the sweeping servo. The gooey green servo. He grimaced as some of the slag flew off of it and landed on his armor.
It was weird. They were in the middle of the city. `Bots were walking down the street, minding their own business. Completely unaware that in the same area four ghosts were being attacked by…well, Rodimus wasn't sure what it was. He refused to call it by the designation Hot Shot had come up with. Whatever it was, it was big. Much larger than all of the buildings surrounding it. It had no real definite chassis, but it had two craters that could be viz scanners and an opening that might be a mouth. And it was slowing them down. He didn't know why, but Prowl said they had to get to Earth and quickly. This thing was purposefully preventing them from moving forward.
There could only be one `con responsible for this: Dirge. And the uncanny resemblance to this and the substance that made them ghosts in the first place only made the evidence stronger.
Quickly, he retrieved his bow and arrow and aimed it at the creature's head. If it was anything like a `bot, a clean shot through the processing unit would take it down. He concentrated, thinking about how important it was to stop whatever Dirge was planning. Then, feeling he was ready, he let the arrow fly.
It struck the creature directly where he aimed. Unfortunately, it only seemed to be dissolved into its chassis. He watched solemnly as the arrow sunk deeper in. The creature didn't even notice it as he continued to sludge forward, heading for Hot Shot.
"Get `im offa my tailpipe!" Hot Shot screamed as he ran forward.
"We're trying, Hot Shot!" Rodimus heard Red Alert shout from the other side of the creature.
Rodimus activated his commlink (which somehow functioned still) and called Prowl. "How do we get our weapons to work again? Something about spark power, right?"
"You're doing fine. If you didn't have the spark power, your arrows would've gone straight through, like a hologram. This JaAm monster is just absorbing everything we throw at it…" Prowl replied, "It's actually really similar to something I've fought before…"
Rodimus cringed. "You're really going to call it that?"
"We have no other name at the moment, do we?"
He had a point, no matter how annoying it was. Hot Shot would be glad to know that somebot liked his nickname for the creature.
"So if you fought something like this before…how did you beat it then?" Rodimus asked.
"Well…I actually almost went offline during that fight." Prowl admitted, "And it was different enough that the same solution won't work this time. I'll think of something…"
"…that's just great…" Rodimus muttered as he deactivated the commlink.
He didn't understand Prowl. He spent way too much time thinking things through that didn't matter. Using previous events to form a plan was always good. But part of being a leader is having the instincts to just act without much thought. And at the moment, Prowl had taken the role of the leader. He hadn't announced it audibly, but Rodimus knew. It was in the way he so easily told them what to do without necessarily saying why.
The JaAm monster (not that he wanted to give Hot Shot the satisfaction, but it just made it easier) began to grab at Hot Shot again. The poor `bot scrambled out of the way, racing through a building and out again in the process. For him it must be like a nightmare come true. After all the trouble that JaAm had caused him, Rodimus doubted he wanted anything to do with. And now it was targeting him specifically.
Red Alert came into view and ran up to him.
"Nothing I can do will bring it down!" She announced. "It's like…indestructible!"
"Yeah, that's what it looks like so far." He rolled his viz scanners, "Tell me something I don't know."
"Hey, don't get snippy with me now, Rodimus Prime." She glowered, "What should we do?"
"Ask Prowl. He seems to think he's on top of things."
Two ninja stars flew past the two of them and hit the JaAm monster, instantly dissolving like all the rest of their attempts at wounding it. It did seem to take more effect, as the monster turned and glared for a nanoclick before continuing its pursuit.
"Looking for me?" They both jumped and turned to see Prowl, who had appeared behind them.
"Could you stop doing that!?" Rodimus snapped.
"Doing what?" Prowl asked.
"Just…popping out of nowhere like a ninjabot!"
"But…I am a ninja-"
"Look, this isn't the time to just be standing and talking! We have a problem here, in case you couldn't tell!" Rodimus cried, "So will you get your gearshaft in gear and do something!?"
"But…you're the one who-"
"No. No. No. You are the one who's talking." Rodimus corrected.
"Rodimus, cut it out." Red Alert narrowed her viz scanners and put her servo on his shoulder. He shook it off and continued, unaffected by her plea for a stop.
"Remembering the good ol' days when you were online. Meanwhile we are actually trying to do something."
Prowl winced. Sure, the words probably hurt. But Rodimus didn't care right now. He was frustrated. This was a no-win situation, and it didn't compute in his processor. He had to take out his aggravation on something in order to get back on track. Or somebot. And Prowl was the only open target at the moment.
"I'm sorry…I wasn't aware that…"
"I mean, what even makes you think you're cut out to be the leader, anyways? Why do we desperately need to go to Earth? Why won't you tell us anything, Prowl!?"
Red Alert scowled. She was obviously still upset that he hadn't listened to her.
Prowl stared at Rodimus with a pained expression. "My friend's life is in danger. If she goes offline…I…I don't know…" He trailed off.
Rodimus suddenly felt the weight of everything he had said. This wasn't the time to be angry at anybot. Especially Prowl. He had been nothing but cooperative with him and his team since they got there. They had demanded so much of him, expected him to have all the answers to their predicament. He was just trying to save his friend.
Rodimus shook his head. He wasn't acting like he should at all. This whole becoming a ghost thing really messed him up.
"No…NO! HOT SHOT!"
Red Alert's scream brought him back to reality. He turned quickly, servos already on his bow. Prowl's attention was gained as well.
He should've been paying more attention. The JaAm monster was several hics away, its pursuit stopped. In its servos was the squirming form of the pyromaniac.
"No! Not me! Why me!?" Hot Shot yelled to himself as he felt the goo wrap around his chassis. He had been running away so well. As fast as he could, which was pretty good. And yet he had still gotten caught. Curse his luck.
This was only the second time this orbital cycle that this awful JaAm had plagued him. What he ever done to it? Except…well, look at it and touch it. It still had an alluring aspect. He couldn't explain it, but something in his processor just screamed that he needed this. Like nothing he had ever needed before. It was strange. And kind of creepy.
The servo lifted him up. He pushed against it, trying to get out. He wasn't going to really go offline. Not after he just learned that he wasn't offline. He had so much to live for! He had so many `bots to live for! What would he do without Rodimus, Brawn, Ironhide…and Red Alert…Slaggit, he wouldn't be able to wait in the Well of All Sparks for her. She's smart. She would be able to last a lot longer than he did.
"Hot Shot, hold on!"
It was Rodimus. He was right next to the JaAm monster's (which, by the way, was his ingenious name for the thing that was about to offline him) foot, trying to shoot it down.
"Yeah. Yeah, sure. I was totally planning on letting him drop me into his mouth!" Hot Shot shouted. "Now hurry up and get me down, please!"
He didn't have time to watch Rodimus and the others try to help him. He already knew they wouldn't be able to do much. Although their weapons were completely operational, they didn't work on this JaAm monster. Not that Hot Shot's even worked at all. No matter how much he concentrated or 'focused his spark' or whatever Prowl said, his flamethrowers wouldn't activate. He didn't understand why he was the only one who couldn't. He was sure that Rodimus and Red Alert would use this later to form more insults for him.
Oh wait, that was right. He wasn't going to be online to hear those insults.
There wasn't anything to lose. He tried again, concentrating until his processor hurt. He had to get his flamethrowers on. He had to burn this JaAm to the ground. He had to keep going. He had to help Prowl with whatever he needed help with. He had to stop Dirge from whatever he was doing. He had to stay online. He didn't want to leave anybot.
Nothing. Again. Not that he expected anything else. He sighed. The goo began to close further around him. He was being consumed, just like all the weapons they through at it. They all dissolved. He wonder what would happen to him. He hoped it wouldn't hurt.
"Rodimus! Do something! You've got to do something!" Red Alert? Hot Shot couldn't believe it. He had never heard her sound so scared before. He tried to look down at her, but the JaAm prevented him from moving to get a better view.
Red Alert still wanted him online. She was begging Rodimus to help. She was desperate. He felt an odd sense of warmness at her discomfort. He had to get out of this deathtrap. For her sake.
He looked back at the JaAm that was around him. He had to somehow get it to drop him or something. But if he couldn't burn it, and if the other's weapons didn't affect it…what could he do? He didn't have that much time to think. He was sinking further in every nanoclick. Soon his servos would be submerged.
He only had one idea, but it was rather stupid. Well. More childish than stupid. But he had to try something. And this would also satisfy his JaAm cravings.
Quickly, he leaned forward and took a bite out of the substance.
It was an amazing sensation. The taste was unlike anything he had tasted before. A thousand times better than the best quality oil. He swished it around in his mouth and smiled. No wonder he wanted some of this before! He should trust these unexplainable longings more often.
Suddenly the goo hardened. It felt like chalk, scraping against his chassis. The JaAm monster's face was frozen in a scowl as the rest of its body became solid. No way! It had actually worked? What had he done anyways? He kicked against the servo and it began to crack. He watched as the crack continued through the whole monster. Then it all crumbled.
He hit the ground pretty hard. He hadn't really expected to feel anything. Usually he passed through solid objects. The ground had always been an exception, however. Slag the ground.
"Why my shoulders hurt…?" He asked dizzily as he rubbed his aching parts. His processor was still in a whirr from the adrenaline and the ecstasy of JaAm. Pieces of the monster was spread everywhere around him. A dust had formed from the collapse. He groaned and picked himself up to his stabilizing servos.
"Hot Shot!" Red Alert cried. She ran up towards him…
…and slapped him right across the faceplate.
He stumbled back, shocked. It burned where she struck him. She must have used that spark-power or whatever. He could see Rodimus and Prowl slowly approaching them. Rodimus looked a bit amused. Of course he was.
"Don't you ever do that to me again, got it!?" She snarled, "Spark, you couldn't be more of a disaster waiting to happen, could you?"
"Slag, Alert…aren't you supposed to kiss me or something and say how worried you were?" Hot Shot asked sheepishly.
She glared. "Be glad I don't offline you right now."
"Not even a hug?"
She shot another look and walked past him. He wasn't sure, but he thought he caught a glimpse of a smile before she left.
"Hey…I'm sorry about…before…" Rodimus began. Prowl raised his servo.
"Save it. You're stressed, I know. I was a little when I start out being like this too." He replied. "We don't have the time to talk though. Sari's still in trouble."
Prowl was thankful for Rodimus's change in attitude. It was a sign that hopefully their friendship wouldn't be as strained as it appeared. But he did understand why he had been so easily flustered. He would love to discuss this, but as he stated there wasn't time. Sari's life was at stake.
He should've known this would happen a long time ago. He had always assumed that Sari's key was more than meets the viz scanners. The Allspark had to have had a plan. And that plan was revealed when Sari had upgraded herself.
The Allspark knew that it was going to be destroyed. With all the conflict surrounding it, there was no way it would survive. So it created a back-up and entrusted it in the servos of a techno-organic. A techno-organic that was still young enough to absorb the power without offlining itself. It transferred all of its abilities, all of its knowledge, into Sari's systems. That was how she had known so much so quickly. She was literally the Allspark incarnate. And she was vulnerable.
Dirge was after her. He would take her spark. Prowl didn't know if her organic half would last without it. It was a different situation than that of Rodimus and his team.
"I still don't know what in the pits you did, Hot Shot…" Red Alert murmured as she observed the remains of the monster. "It makes no scientific sense…"
"Oh, and anything that has happened to us this orbital cycle does?" Hot Shot shot back. She frowned but didn't object.
"We have to get to Earth…" Prowl reminded as he walked forward through the street. They didn't seem to grasp the severity of the circumstances. Not only would Sari go offline, but Dirge would become super powerful and smart. He would have enough power to accomplish much worse damage than he had already done.
"But how will we get there fast enough?" Rodimus asked, "It's not like we can teleport like Dirge did."
He had a point. Prowl hadn't thought that far through yet (which was odd for him). If they walked there, which was the only form of transportation they really had at the moment, well first off it would be impossible. You can't walk through space. And what were the odds of finding a ship bound for Earth now? Completely unlikely.
"But we have to stop him…" He reasoned.
"It looks like it was already done." Rodimus gestured over to the building that housed Cybertron Command, as well as the office they had previously been in. Slowly walking out of it was a very small girl, in an energy outline just like them.
He couldn't have failed her. He couldn't have been too late.
Sari looked up and upon recognizing Prowl stopped walking. She looked scared. And much younger. As young as she had been before she upgraded herself. He hadn't quite considered that as an after effect. Then again, he hadn't tried to consider what would happen to her if Dirge got to her.
"An organic!?" Hot Shot whimpered as he took a few steps back, "What's an organic doing here?" Prowl ignored his insensitivity and stepped forward toward Sari.
"Are you alright?" He asked. That sounded stupid. Of course she wasn't all right. She continued to look at him in fear.
"P-Prowl…am I offline?" She stammered. "The Well of All Sparks?"
Not sure how to answer the first question, he stuck to the second one. "No, not the Well of All Sparks."
She sighed. "I thought this looked too much like Cybertron." She gave a feeble smile. "Who are your friends? The small one looks like a big scaredy-bot."
"Am not!" Hot Shot protested as he scooted out from behind Red Alert.
"They're just like you Sari. They've…had their sparks stolen by Dirge." Prowl explained. This was hard. "All of you aren't technically offline. But you will be if you stay like this for too long."
"But you are offline?" She gave a look of disappointment. As if by seeing him there he would suddenly come back. She didn't even seem concerned that she might go offline. She would rather have him back. He felt very saddened. Never more than now did he want to be online again.
"Yes, Sari. I am."
Prowl frowned and was about to correct her on her language choice when a familiar voice filled his audio receptors.
"Greetings ghosties, and newest ghostie!" Dirge called from seemingly nowhere. "The time has come for me to begin my attack! I would like you all to be first-hand witnesses of the start of my reign of terror!"
The lights on the street suddenly flickered. Prowl looked around wildly, not sure what was happening or how to stop it, if it was indeed preventable. The remains of the JaAm monster faded away slowly, like it was never there. Prowl grabbed Sari pulled her close, making sure not to burn her but to simply give her a warm feel. He wouldn't let Dirge do anything else to her.
Some of the `bots that had been taking their commute staggered a bit and fell over. Sari gasped as they saw a bright light rise from their chassis. Their sparks. Prowl covered her eyes, not wanting her to see the splurge of oil and energon that followed. It flowed from their sparkchambers, splashing onto the street.
The holocaust had begun.
Poor Dirge didn't get the writing time I had originall intended. Oh well. I hope you liked it!