The Secret Lives of Decepticons

Chapter 8: Celebration

Sunstreaker watched the second-in-command from a distance. Jazz was currently biding his time out on the shooting range the Autobots had set up behind the volcano. It wasn't unusual to find the second out there, or any other place where Autobots gathered. Jazz was always where everyone else was. The mech was happiest when surrounded by others, laughing and chatting it up with them. It was, however, unusual to see Jazz out there by himself.

But the normally social Autobot had turned quite solitary as of late. At first, he had only stuck around Prowl or Optimus Prime. Gradually, he had stopped spending time in their company as well.

Everyone dealt with loss in his own way. Pulling away from social interaction was how Jazz dealt with his. Even two months later, it wasn't getting any easier like it should have. There wasn't a single Autobot on the Ark who didn't know what it was like to mourn the passing of a friend or loved one. But in those cases, there was always proof that the spark had rejoined Primus and the Matrix, and a body to pay respects to before offering it to the depths of space as per tradition.

In this situation, they had neither. It was the lack of closure that hurt the most. No one knew whether to let go or to keep hoping. The fact that everyone on the Ark had his own opinions on the matter wasn't helping. Some felt strongly that it was time to move on, while others just as strongly insisted that they should attack the Decepticons again. The three highest officers were caught in the middle, unable to officially voice their own opinions, lest more conflict be unleashed.

Strangely enough, it was Prowl who had been the most vocal, at least as vocal as one like him could be. Everyone knew where he stood on the issue with his constant planning to try and get a step ahead of the Decepticons. Optimus Prime had adamantly stayed out of the debate. Anything Optimus had to say would be taken as truth, despite the fact that he didn't know any better than anyone else on the matter.

Jazz had been a silent supporter of Prowl's plans as he carried them out, but had yet to voice any personal opinions about anything. Sunstreaker had almost considered him a rival once. Now, watching his commander standing there, all alone, Sunstreaker wasn't sure whether he should respect Jazz or sympathize with him.

After a few minutes of watching, Sunstreaker decided to join Jazz at the firing range. He avoided the lame, predictable question of "Do you mind if I join you?" and just pulled out his own energy rifle. Jazz made no indication his presence was noticed. The two practiced in silence for several minutes. Sunstreaker noticed Jazz was developing deadly aim. He had been out practicing quite a bit lately.

Finally, after several shots, Sunstreaker put down his weapon and looked over at his commander. "How are you doing?" he asked in a flat voice. It really wasn't a sentence he was used to saying.

Jazz popped out the dead power pack from his weapon and clipped in a fresh one without even looking down to make sure it was in properly.

"Not bad. Same old," Jazz responded neutrally. He didn't reciprocate the question as he began firing on the targets again.

Sunstreaker stood there, watching him for a while, a vision of disappointment. Not that Jazz was exactly his idol, but there were certain things he expected from him. This behavior was unexpected.

"Have you just given up?" he suddenly blurted out.

Jazz's finger paused on the trigger. Then he slowly lowered his weapon and turned to face the yellow Autobot. Sunstreaker inwardly flinched when he got the full view of the jagged gash still running across Jazz's chest. The word on the base was that he had grappled with Motormaster during their assault on the Decepticon base. If that was true, tangling with a Decepticon that size, Jazz was lucky he came away with only that.

Still, the fact that Jazz continued to sport his new battle scar instead of getting it repaired offended every sensibility Sunstreaker had. He could see a small sliver of exposed engine where the wound was the deepest. Soon, debris was going to get in there and irritate the area, if it hadn't already.

"Given up?" Jazz repeated.

"Yeah," Sunstreaker insisted. "The only one who does any pushing or planning around here is Prowl. And you know how much I hate to be on Prowl's side. But he's the one that's fighting for Crys and you're not. Why not?"

A hand reflexively went up to scratch at the wound on Jazz's chest. "I haven't stopped hoping just yet," Jazz told him. "But just be careful putting your chips in with Prowl. He doesn't know when to let things go. I'm behind him for this plan. But if it fails, I'm done. I miss her, Sun, but I don't spend my time chasing ghosts like he and Smokescreen do."

"I see. But you wouldn't be opposed to helping the Dinobots and I rip that base right up from the ocean floor, would you?"

Jazz smirked and held out his hand. "You can count on me. I've got some special explosives put together just for them."

Sunstreaker grinned as he took his commander's hand. "That's all I could ask for."

The construction went on for three days. Several sections of the Nemesis were shut down completely to conserve and redirect the remaining energy toward their last ditch effort to save them all. The oil drill had top priority and was completed first. Mixmaster had researched and was now knowledgeable in the process to refine the oil in its crude state into energon.
Fossil fuels weren't their ingredients of choice when it came to an energy source. They had an unfamiliar taste. Electricity-derived energon was more palatable and familiar. But the Decepticons were taking what they could get, especially since Scavenger had located a heavy depository not far from the base. If the conversion process worked, the energon would be plentiful and that was the top priority for now. There would be time to fine-tune and venture into other avenues when the immediate emergency had been dealt with.

When the first glowing, pink cube was produced, every Decepticon was present and silent as its contents were tested again and again. Finally, Mixmaster and Soundwave gave the okay for the next test. Megatron allowed the Insecticons to try it first. Granted, their fuel tanks were far more durable than the average Decepticon's, but the results would be dependable.

All three of them were hooked up to monitoring systems as each was allowed to munch on a cube. After a while, both Soundwave and Mixmaster gave the green light. The energon was safe to consume and the project had been a success. There was much cheering throughout the masses and soon everyone was put to work harvesting the energy for their storage rooms.
Megatron sat back and observed, a pleased look on his face. It had been a while since he had seen his full army attack any task with such enthusiasm. Those Autobots weren't going to know what hit them when they finally resurfaced at full power. Things were looking up indeed.

Next to Megatron stood Soundwave, going through numbers on a data pad, as emotionally detached as a calculator. Megatron watched him curiously for a while before speaking. "This plan was quite a brilliant one, Soundwave. I commend you for taking the initiative and researching ways of solving our problem."

Soundwave gave a slight nod to acknowledge the compliment before turning his attention back to his numbers. "Decepticon soldiers will run at full power within 24 Earth hours. Nemesis full power expectancy: three solar cycles."

"I see," was all Megatron said in reply and continued to think silently to himself.

Every other place on the Nemesis was dead silent and dark. Crystal trudged through it, level after level, hallway after hallway, without bothering to turn on the lights. She preferred it that way. Darkness without for the darkness within. Her newly repaired shoulder still ached with a phantom pain from her injury. She was starting to develop a habit of rubbing it every now and then.

There wasn't much to do around the base any more. With the energy gathering now in full swing, all Decepticons were helping up there instead of breaking things and making a mess on all the other areas. It left Crystal to use her imagination to find something to do.

As down as she was, it was a bit depressing to realize that no matter what Crystal did on the base, no one noticed any more. She wasn't under lock and key, but without bars or a jailer, she was still a prisoner. There was no escape and there wasn't a single one of them who would care if she suddenly went off into a dark corner to rust until the end of time. Not even Megatron worried about giving her tasks any more, with so many other things on his mind. She felt almost like a ghost sometimes, something that wandered aimlessly, lifelessly, and no one else cared to see.

And yet, Crystal still pushed herself forward, if for no other reason than just to have something to do. If she wasn't useful, then what would she be in this horrible place? While she had given up on rescue, to stop working would be giving up on herself and she just couldn't do that yet.

Crystal's meanderings led her back to the repair bay, just as dark and empty as most other places. She flipped on the light. It didn't look too bad, but there were still a few things strewn about from the damage acquired in their last energy raid. Possibly their last raid ever. Who could tell? Maybe they would never steal again, or maybe they enjoyed it so much they would be out doing it as soon as they could.

Crystal didn't care any more. The whole object of the plan was to get Soundwave in her corner before Starscream had a chance to retaliate. But the seeker had been too quick for her to see her scheme through. She really sucked at this plotting and sneaking around. Backstabbing was hard.

In a corner, there was still a pile of damaged parts, mostly taken out of Skywarp's body. He definitely had quite an interesting wound, Crystal recalled. More damage inside than out. She almost wanted to ask how he got it, but she knew better.

Out of the pile, Crystal reached down and picked up the remnants of the damaged cockpit. The first pane of glass was shattered and the frame bent out of shape. The other two were still intact. She looked at her distorted reflection in the yellow glass.

'What are you doing?' Crystal mentally asked herself. 'If you keep going like this, where exactly is it going to end?'

That was all that was left for Crystal on the Nemesis, how it would end. All that she had gone through, and this was the end of her road, this dark fortress under the sea. It was so wrong. It irritated her to be reduced to this. It made her angry.

Crystal threw the cockpit pit to the floor and the shattering glass made a very satisfying sound. She picked up another part and did the same thing. Broken pieces littered the floor as it hit the ground. She returned to the pile, grabbing more parts and slamming them to the floor or against the wall. It wasn't fair. These beings with parts that could fall apart so easily, that could shatter and crumble, they were in charge of her life and they could end it at any time.

Crystal tossed everything that was light enough to throw, not caring if she made a mess. She was the one who would have to clean it anyway. It would be days before the Decepticons even noticed if she decided to leave it here like that. Almost blindly, she grabbed at whatever she could, letting the sounds of shattering exorcise her demons.

Her hand found a hollow cylinder and Crystal flung it clear across the room. The sound it made when it hit the wall reverberated throughout the entire room. It was enough to cause her to pause before hurling the next object she had in her hand.

Crystal walked over and picked up the long, thin cylinder again. Then she tapped it on a metal table. It made an interesting noise. An idea popped into her head and she gazed at all the scraps strewn about. With the Decepticons unconcerned about her activities, she was free to play around, at least a little bit. Grabbing a stool and collecting a few odds and ends and a long roll of thin, flexible wire to use as string, she got to work.

After several minutes of drilling holes and tying everything together, Crystal felt a tug on the wire that was trailing off the table. She looked down to see if it was caught on anything and there, like he always was when she thought she was alone, was Ravage. This time, his optics were glued to the twitching wire as she worked. He shot out a paw to grab it again.

If this had happened a few days before, Crystal might have felt lucky Ravage was in a playful mood around her. As it stood now, she was sick of seeing all Decepticons, no matter what they looked like.

"Go away," Crystal said neutrally as she waved her foot at him.

Ravage ducked and backed off a little, but didn't leave the room.

Crystal figured, due to her previous encounters with him, that he would eventually leave. So she went back to work. A few moments later, there was another tug on her wire. This one was hard enough that it pulled several objects to the floor. This irritated her more than usual.

"Beat it, you dumb cat!" she barked as she jumped off her stool.

Ravage hopped in surprise at the sudden attack and skittered out of the room like any high-strung cat would. Now it was Crystal's turn to growl after him.

"Stupid animal. When I want him to come, he won't and when I don't want him around, he won't leave."

Crystal continued to mumble to herself about cats and Decepticons in general until her project was finished. Once done, she held up her masterpiece to inspect it. The cylinder was suspended from a triangular piece of metal with several bits of scrap pieces and glass surrounding it. Crystal shook it gently and it made a bit of an off-key, but still beautiful-sounding wind chime. So funny that it was made from parts of Decepticons.

Suddenly wanting a place to hang it, Crystal set out of the med bay and began to wander the halls. The rec room seemed like a good place for it. She was curious to see how long it would last before the Decepticons broke it, or if they would even notice it at all. At least it would give her something different to think about and she badly needed that before she fell into a permanent pool of self-pity.

Upon reaching the rec room, however, she was not prepared for the sight that greeted her.

Crystal hadn't expected to see any Decepticons in there at all. She assumed they were still working. Instead, practically all of them had filled up every table in every corner and were happily laughing and talking and drinking their fill of energon. All of them were obviously over-energized, and thus, in a good mood. Not a single one noticed Crystal standing in the doorway.
So Crystal entered, skirting around the room and making her way to the back where she figured her little craft would at least survive the party. She found a chair in the back no one was using and stood on it so she could reach the ceiling and fastened the wind chime up there. Once it was secured, she flicked it for good measure. The tinkling sound it made was lost in the bedlam of the room.

Returning the chair to where she found it, Crystal had started out the way she came when one of the Decepticons grabbed her and she was suddenly sitting in someone's lap. The red optic band and yellow paint gave away her attacker as Drag Strip.

"Where do you think you're going, little lady?" he asked jovially as he bounced her on his knees. "You should join us! This is a celebration! Ol' Choo-Choo Face over here is teaching us drinking songs!"

Astrotrain just laughed at the nickname. He was too over-energized to care. All of them were. Several around the table were hardly able to sit up straight, yet they managed to keep most of their energon in their hands. Some was splashed on the table.

"Alright, one more time, boys!" Astrotrain announced, then he, Drag Strip, Wildrider, Blitzwing and Breakdown broke into song.

It was loud, it was out of tune, and it was in Cybertronian so Crystal couldn't understand a word of it. But Drag Strip clutched her close as he swayed and sang and splashed a tiny bit of energon on her.

Crystal just sat there stupidly in his lap, optics wide, wondering what she should do.

When the song was finished, they all raised their cubes high and drank deeply again. Drag Strip wiped his mouth and then turned to Crystal. He repeated a line to her from the song they just sang.

"You know what that means, doll?" he asked, his voice a little slower than normal.

Crystal shook her head at him. "I don't know much Cybertronian."

"It means 'A good femme is worth a thousand drinks. Without her, I'll drink a thousand more.'"

"So must we all, thanks to Megatron," slurred Blitzwing, catching himself before he fell out of his chair. "A femmeless army is a strong one, but certainly a colorless one."

"Colors don't win no victory!" Breakdown insisted. "Maybe ol' Megs just loves his drink. A thousand drinks for all!"

"A thousand drinks!" they all chorused together, sloshing their cubes against one another's and spilling more on the table.

"Did Megatron not let any femmes into the Decepticon army?" Crystal spoke without really thinking. It was a topic she had been curious about since her short conversation with Soundwave. Why were there female Autobots but not female Decepticons?

The Stunticons at the table got a little quieter. They were too young to know anything about it.

"There were female Decepticons at one time," Astrotrain said. "But Megatron had us kill them all." He made the universal motion of murder with the finger across the throat.
Crystal's hand instantly went to her own neck. "Why would he do such a horrible thing? They were a part of his army. They were on his side."

"Megatron called them distractions," Blitzwing said, looking close to dropping his head in his cube.

"And backstabbers," Astrotrain added. "Though it gave us an excuse to lay it heavy on the Auto-Femmes as well. Just in case."

The two chuckled at the memory. Crystal couldn't help but be sickened to hear about a mass annihilation of an entire gender. A gender of their own kind. It didn't make sense at all.
"To Megatron," Breakdown announced, raising his cube again. "For being such a miserable slag-sucker."

"Glitching scrap head," Wildrider added, raising his own drink.

"Pain in the aft," Drag Strip agreed, joining them.

"Rat bastard," Crystal blurted out.

"RAT BASTARD!" the three Stunticons cheered as they clanked cubes and then each took long drinks.

Blitzwing and Astrotrain stayed out of it. Even as drunk as they were, they knew better than to openly badmouth Megatron. They didn't have a whole combining team to back them up.
Wildrider finished first and wiped a trickle of energon from the side of his mouth before turning to Crystal. "What's a rat bastard?"

Crystal opened her mouth to answer him and Drag Strip, on whose lap she still sat, grabbed her chin and turned her head around to face him.

"So how about it, Doll?" he grinned, his face right in hers. "Think you're worth a thousand drinks?"

She raised a single optic ridge at him, her voice flat. "What?"

"Come on babe, what say you keep me warm in my berth tonight?"

Crystal could hardly believe it when the Stunticon leaned over and tried to kiss her. Both of her hands went on his face as she pushed him away and scrambled out of his lap. Drag Strip fell on the floor when he tried to follow her. His teammates laughed at him.

"Drag Strip, you silly fragger. You're always so handsy when you're over-energized," Breakdown tittered.

"So am I," Wildrider announced, and promptly started to feel himself up.

Breakdown laughed harder.

Crystal turned to flee from all of them and almost ran right into the much bigger form of Thundercracker. She balked and stumbled a bit herself so they wouldn't collide. He looked down at her with purpose in his face and Crystal prayed he didn't have a similar proposition for her.

"Megatron wishes to see you," Thundercracker reported in an even tone.

Ugh. She would rather stay with the handsy Stunticons.

The blue seeker turned without a word and expected Crystal to follow. Part of her wanted to just step out of the rec room and run down the opposite way, but what would that solve in the long run? Especially when she was dissing Megatron himself. Perhaps he had consumed a bit too much energon as well. Over-energizing usually made the systems warm and a bit slower, leaving the body in a pleasant, relaxed mood. Very seldom were Cybertronians angry drunks. She learned this from the Autobot's Christmas party.

Hopefully, Megatron wasn't the one that was an exception to the rule. Though she really couldn't imagine what Megatron wanted from her at this time, drunk or sober. Unless he thought she could take her turn drilling for oil on the ocean floor. Why not? She had done everything else there was to do at the base.

As she fell in step next to Thundercracker, Crystal noticed he kept stealing glances at her. She could also tell he was a little tipsy as well. Not as much as any of the Decepticons in the rec room, but the light in his optics kept meandering from bright to dim, a sure sign of drinking more than needed.

"What?" she demanded when Thundercracker glanced at her again.

Finally, the seeker skipped the pretense and openly gawked at her. "What are you, exactly? I just can't figure it out."

"What do you mean, what am I?" Crystal repeated.

"There's no way the Autobots built you. There's something wrong about you."

Crystal narrowed her optics in annoyance, shoulders slumped. "Thanks."

"I'm quite sure you know what I mean."

"Even if I do, what does it matter? You don't even believe I'm female."

"The Stunticons obviously do."

Crystal glared at his silly smirk. Yes, Thundercracker was definitely a little drunk. "Yeah, but no one believes the Stunticons. And, judging from Megatron's past, it might be good to keep it that way." She paused and then looked irritatedly at the seeker. "I don't know why I'm even telling you this."

Thundercracker shrugged. He didn't know either. And his processor was buzzing so pleasantly he hardly had it in him to push the subject.

"So, how is your friend?" Crystal then asked, changing the subject. The less they talked about her, the better.

"He's fine, all put together now. Though currently passed out in his quarters. But it was kind of nice to see his more pleasant side before his warp drive was repaired. Uh-- that was-- after his rude awakening, he was pleasant for a while, of course."

Crystal never took offense to the attack in the med bay. She had survived too many by now to keep holding that many grudges and that one seemed to be driven almost by fear alone. It was the other comment that made her curious.

"His warp drive changes his personality?"

Another shrug from the seeker. "It seems to wind him a little tighter. It makes him more irritable, more aggressive. But, of course, that's what Megatron wants in his soldiers. And he would terminate Skywarp if he ever decided to have it removed. It's too valuable a weapon." He paused and then looked down at her. "And I don't know why I'm telling you this."

They arrived at their destination, a room Crystal had never entered before. Thundercracker pressed a large button on the side and two massive doors slid away from each other. They were almost as big as the double doors to the room the Stunticons shared. One glance inside and Crystal instantly knew where she was.

Megatron's private quarters.

Before stepping in, Crystal took one last look at Thundercracker. She had a hard time figuring him out. He had helped her a few days ago without kindness and was now throwing her to the wolves without any hint of regret. He was as emotionless and as blank as Soundwave, but Crystal just couldn't put the two of them in the same category.

She just couldn't put her finger on what it was, but there was something sympathetic, maybe even tragic about the way Thundercracker carried out his duties. As if he would do it all differently if he were given a choice, even if the regret were not allowed to show on his face. Or maybe she was getting so desperate, she was just trying to find someone to identify with and Thundercracker's blankness was as good as anything.

But either way, he was leaving her on Megatron's doorstep. Even if all her limbs were torn off this time, he would not be back for her.

Crystal faced the gloom of the shadowed room and stepped inside. The doors shut neatly behind her. The room felt like a command center and personal quarters had collided into one. The room was large and wide with a few personal mementos and furniture here and there. A large command chair was stationed in the middle before a long, blank screen, similar to what Starscream had in his room. The lights were dim, as if the resident was still concerned with conserving energy. Or he just liked the darkness.

The chair had its back facing toward her, but there was obviously a heavy body sitting in it.

"Approach," came Megatron's gravelly voice.

Crystal steeled herself and came forward, stopping subserviently next to the chair. She glanced at Megatron's slouching form, wondering if she should ask what she could do for him. Sometimes even little questions set him off. It was hard to predict what was safe around the massive Decepticon.

She noticed in his hand a nearly empty energon cube. The flickering in his optics and the few empty cubes on the floor confirmed he had consumed more than his fill.

When Megatron didn't speak right away, Crystal decided to press her luck, hoping the energon would put him in a more easygoing mood.

"You drink alone... sir?"

He didn't look at her. "I am the commander of the entire Decepticon army. I must conduct myself in a manner befitting my status."

Crystal didn't think it was fair for him to punish himself. It was amusing to think what Megatron would be like in that rowdy rec room, drunk and singing with his underlings.

"Optimus Prime drinks with his soldiers," she offered.

Megatron crushed the cube in his hand. The remnants of energon splashed to the floor.

"Do not speak to me of Prime. You know nothing," he growled.

Crystal decided to keep quiet after that. It appeared Megatron could be in a foul mood no matter his consumption. So she waited patiently for him to let her know what he wanted from her.
Megatron seemed to be doing it on purpose. He sat just as silent and still as she stood next to him. Neither spoke or moved, as if each waited for the other to do so first. Finally, Megatron swiveled his chair to look at her. Crystal lowered her head a bit, uncomfortable under his gaze. For a few minutes longer, he just looked at her, not moving, not saying anything.

"You have seen the results of our labor," he stated suddenly.

Crystal shook herself. "If you mean the party that's going on down there, yes. I've had a front row seat to it."

"They have earned their celebration. Soundwave's plan was a brilliant one."

"I'm sure it was."

"There is only one problem with it," Megatron leaned to closer to her. "Soundwave does not have the imagination for such a thing."

Crystal's face stayed neutral, but Megatron wasn't buying it. He gestured with a finger for her to lean down closer to him. When she did, he grabbed her chin, forcing her optics right into his. His face grew close to hers as if he were trying to see into her very thoughts.

"Do you have any idea what you have done?" he murmured.

Crystal looked at him blankly. The little bot had no clue of the Autobot's plot to starve them out. She didn't know how close she had come to being released to them--in pieces. She had lost her freedom and saved herself at the same time. She had also given the Decepticons the means to continue their war with the Autobots. Without having to constantly scavenge for energy, Megatron's full attention could be turned toward defeating Optimus Prime. All thanks to this little creation. She had no understanding of what she had done at all.

"You are such a simple thing, aren't you?" he then asked, releasing her face. "You don't really understand anything of what's going on around you, do you? And yet, you and I are quite a bit alike."

Crystal didn't say anything, but it was obvious she could not fathom what characteristics the two had in common.

Megatron took her hands in his and turned them over, palms up. The black paint on her hands was completely worn away. Even the metal underneath was showing wear and tear. Soon, the joints underneath would begin to be exposed. Her fingers twitched a little bit in his grip. Crystal willed them still.

"We both attack every obstacle to the best of our ability and we never know when to give in. Megatron does not know the meaning of surrender, and neither do you, little one. And you are against great odds here; you must understand that."

Crystal pulled her hands back, a bit annoyed that he talked to her like he knew her. "Was there something I could do for you?"

Megatron reached back and pulled some small items out of a hip compartment and placed them on the large arm rest between them.

Crystal recognized them instantly. "My cards." She had completely forgotten she had them on her when she was kidnapped.

"What sort of purpose do these serve for a maintenance bot?" Megatron asked.

"It's just a fortune telling game I do."

Megatron smirked. "You. Can tell my future? You have no such powers."

"I said it's a game. It's just something fun you do at parties. It's not real."

Megatron shifted thoughtfully. "Well, we are in celebration right now..."

Crystal's shoulders sagged. "Really?" she asked in a flat voice.

"Show me," Megatron nodded.

"Fine, shuffle the cards for me."

Megatron did so and placed them back down.

"Now what do you want to know? she asked.

"What is in my future?" was his simple response.

Such a broad question, Crystal wasn't sure what type of answer she could get for him. But she picked up the cards and fanned them out before him.

"Pick one."

Megatron did so, pulling one randomly out of the middle and handing it to her. It was obvious from his face that he expected to be entertained by whatever her findings were.

Crystal was a bit surprised when she looked at it. "You know, this is actually the same card Optimus Prime drew."

"Really, now.." Megatron was starting to look more intrigued through his drunken haze. "What does that mean?"

"It means peace. Peace is in your future."

Megatron looked a bit surprised at that answer himself. He sat back in his massive chair, rubbing his chin in thought.

"An encouraging sign, indeed," he murmured. "Interesting."

Crystal eyed him dubiously. "You want peace." She stated in a voice that clearly said she didn't believe him.

"Of course, that was always been the Decepticon goal," Megatron insisted. "One single faction for Cybertron, united under my rule. No more petty squabbling over power and territory. We will be of one power and that power is me."

"But... but that's not peace! It--it's.. tyranny!" Crystal objected.

"Peace through tyranny, then. If that's what it takes," Megatron argued. "Cybertron needs to be united--it needs to be strong. It has been divided and broken for far too long."

Crystal looked at him in confusion. "Then what are you doing on Earth?"

Megatron opened his mouth to deliver an automatic response, then closed it again when he realized he didn't have an answer. A frown began to pull at his mouth as his expression grew troubled.

"Enough of this, tidy up this room," Megatron ordered and the conversation was done.

Crystal tried not to huff as she was dismissed. How great would that be, to end any conversation you might be losing with the wave of a hand? Though she wasn't sure what to do in the room. The place was immaculate, save a little dust. Only his chair looked well-worn. The rest seemed hardly touched. But she tidied up the best she could, making sure to leave no corner untouched under Megatron's watchful eye. The last thing she wanted was to miss something obvious in his own quarters.

Once she had done everything else she could think to do, Crystal approached the massive chair in the middle and cleaned up all the empty cubes on the floor. When she went back to wipe up the energon, Crystal noticed Megatron wasn't moving and his optics were completely off. He was sitting, slumped in his chair, cheek resting heavily on his fist.

He had passed out from too much drinking. Leaning against the chair was the massive arm cannon he had removed before she came in.

Crystal looked around and then at the ceiling as if asking what powers that be why they left her in such a situation. The greatest warlord in Cybertronian history, passed out drunk with his weapon at his side. This metal body, this heartless, mechanical warrior had killed so many, and not just in the heat of battle. He destroyed whatever did not bend to him. If anyone on this ship deserved oblivion, it was him.

Before she realized it, Crystal had picked up the fusion cannon. It was heavy, but not so heavy she couldn't aim it and fire at point blank range. What would happen if she killed Megatron right here and now? She had a perfect shot at his spark. She didn't even need to touch him to feel it pulsating heavily beneath the chest armor.

With Megatron dead, what would the other Decepticons do to her? Would Starscream kill her or commend her for what she was about to do? Did she even care?

Her arms began to shake as she fingered the power button. Megatron didn't stir. Crystal willed her finger to push it. She willed with all her might. Nothing happened. After a while, she lowered the fusion cannon with a sigh. Monster, robot, evil, whatever he was, she couldn't bring herself to attempt to take a life.

In failure, Crystal set the fusion cannon gently and safely against the wall. She finished cleaning and then she left. When the doors closed behind her, the chair swiveled to face her exit and there sat Megatron, crimson optics aglow and wide awake.

Crystal avoided the celebrating Decepticons as they continued to drink themselves into an over-energized stupor. She needed time to think, time to think about what she almost did and what she couldn't do. What was she turning into in this place? How was she supposed to keep going like this?

Turning a corner, she almost ran into the prone figures of Rumble and Frenzy, haphazardly passed out and sprawled on the floor. Crystal's first impulse was to merely step over them and be on her way while they slept it off. She only made it a few paces before she stopped and, after shutting off her optics for a moment, she turned around and gathered up the two inebriated cassettes. She draped Frenzy over her shoulder and carried Rumble's limp form with her other hand before setting off to Soundwave's workshop.

As expected, Soundwave was in there and was probably the only sober Decepticon on the base at the moment. He looked up when Crystal entered and marched the two cassettes towards the recharge berth, dropping them on top of it. Ravage, was already curled up on it. He growled a little at being disturbed, but otherwise made no movement.

When she got up, she noticed Soundwave watching her from the doorway. The two looked at each other for a moment.

"What?" she asked, annoyed at the constant silent act he always gave her. "Do you have something for your property to do?"

She was still sore about him calling her that. For a while, she had almost thought he hadn't tried to hurt her because he was nicer than the other Decepticons. It seemed he was just protecting something he considered to be a personal article that he possessed. Like trying to keep your rowdy friends from busting your gaming system. It wasn't that you saw the equipment as alive, but that you didn't want people breaking your stuff. That was all.

He seemed less alive than she did and she was the property. She really wished the Decepticons would stop pretending she was some thing they just found on the floor and decided to keep. She was a prisoner, a slave, not a Roomba that you just turn on and it cleans for you.

When Soundwave didn't provide a response, Crystal assumed he didn't need her for anything. She brushed past him and marched out the door. Soundwave watched her go, but didn't follow.

Optimus Prime looked up from his desk when his one o'clock appointment showed up. Not very often did an Autobot actually make an appointment with him. Usually, if an Autobot required his attention, they would just track him down and talk to him. But Perceptor was used to how things were run on Cybertron. Up there, commanders like Ultra Magnus stayed pretty busy with all sorts of meetings. One had to schedule in proper time to see them.

So Optimus Prime let Perceptor schedule his meeting and made sure he was available at his desk right at 1 o'clock sharp.

There was a polite knock on the open door's frame, right on time, and Optimus nodded the scientist in. "Hello Perceptor, so what can I do for you?"

"Optimus Prime, sir, I have a report for you. I'm aware Prowl usually receives all the paperwork, but I thought it best you see the findings for yourself before you authorize its release to your seconds."

"Really..." Optimus was now interested and possibly a little concerned over what Perceptor had on his data files. "What is this report about?"

The scientist handed the data over as he explained. "Shortly before Crystal's abduction, I performed a series of scans on her programming when she made a few rather odd complaints."

"Complaints such as...?"

"Nervous twitching and involuntary muscle spasms."

Optimus nodded. He tried glancing through the report, but the technical jargon was a little too advanced for him.

"I have been studying the results of those tests and I have landed upon a conclusion," Perceptor continued. "Crystal's mental capacity for her physical relays is slowly breaking down. Now, I'm not yet sure of the actual cause, but my theory is that the marriage between her downloaded organic brain and her physical neural processor aren't quite meshing the way they should.
Possibly because of the lower level of technology used to build her body.

"Of course, neither Ratchet nor Wheeljack could have predicted such a thing. The transfer of organic to technological is still a brand new science and we all have much to learn until it's perfected."

"So you are saying Crystal's body isn't advanced enough to support her brain properly," Optimus surmised. "How would that problem be solved?"

"She needs an upgrade, Optimus. Either a massive transplant of several internal systems and relays, or a transfer to an entirely new body."

"I see. And without this upgrade, what will happen to her?"

"If her condition goes unchecked, she will slowly start losing control of her physical functions: arm and leg movement, speech, sight, and so on. Eventually she will lose all ability to respond to the outside world. Then it will start to deteriorate her internal motherboard and processor. Basically, her brain will eventually die and then so will she."

Optimus put down the data pad and steepled his fingers. "This is... not good news. How long until she reaches this critical condition?"

"At the rate that she was going, the deterioration process was exceedingly slow. I would have given it two or three Earth years before her situation became so dangerous to her health that there might be permanent damage. However, that was if she had continued to live with the Autobots. Her condition advances faster when she is in high-stress situations..."

"Like being a prisoner of the Decepticons for two months," Optimus finished for him.

"Indeed," Perceptor confirmed. "That is, if she is still alive and functioning under their care. Which is why I thought I should report this directly to you first. IF she is still alive, she is in danger from within, not just without. However, I am not going to make the call as to whether the rest of us should risk our lives on a rescue attempt that may or may not result in success. Not to mention, I know Prowl has been carefully calculating his own plan of action for weeks. I did not want a hasty reaction in his schedule because of these findings. I will leave it up to you, Optimus, on who you give this information to."

Optimus was silent for several moments. "Who else knows this information?"

"No one, Optimus."


"No, sir. Forgive me, but I feel ill-equipped to make any judgment calls and, frankly, I do not want the responsibility."

Optimus vented out a long puff of warm air. He didn't really want this responsibility either. "Thank you, Perceptor. I will do the best I can with this information."

"I'm sure you will," the scientist nodded. "Forgive me for leaving you in this position."

Optimus waved away the apology and dismissed Perceptor. When the door closed behind him, Optimus looked at the report again. This was a grim revelation indeed. As if there weren't enough ethical questions floating around as it was.

Immediately, his thoughts turned towards Prowl. Optimus had been the one to mobilize and direct the first attack on the Nemesis. After that mission had flopped, the stunned Autobot leader was left feeling aimless as to the next course of action. Megatron's reaction to the attack had been uncharacteristic, leaving no clues as to what he knew or what he had done. Without that information, Optimus was at a loss as to formulating a plan of retaliation.

Prowl insisted on taking the reins after that and Optimus happily let him have them. Optimus Prime had been a leader in the Autobot/Decepticon war for years. He knew how to be a leader, how to organize troops and design plans for attack and defense. But Prowl was on a completely different level.

He knew how to predict the actions of the enemies better than anyone with whom Optimus had ever worked. Jazz had once joked that Prowl must have been Decepticon once himself to read them so well. Prowl hadn't appreciated that comment at all.

Every action that had been taken against the Decepticons since the retreat from the Nemesis had been all Prowl. Optimus was happy to let him be the point man on this. He had gone where Prowl told him to, even to the extent of facing one of Megatron's raiding parties under Prowl's direct orders. He very much approved of his second's plan to starve the Decepticons out. It was a good plan and, if they were lucky, would leave them all with the smallest possible number of casualties.

But with this, Perceptor's worry of this report expediting the plan may be correct. But the decision to continue this girl's life had been Prowl's. Optimus thought it appropriate that he decide now what to do. He would also let his fellow Autobots decide whether or not they wanted to fight. He would not force any who were unwilling to risk their lives for an uncertain rescue.

As for him, whatever Prowl wanted, for all the times his second had followed him blindly into the fray, Optimus Prime would do it.

It had been maybe a day or two since the party had started at the Nemesis. It was so hard to tell time in the underwater base. Crystal had no idea if the Decepticons were still passed out or drinking it up some more. One thing was for sure, they certainly knew how to have a good time with their energon. She, however, was not going to be caught inebriated with them. They may be in a gay disposition now, but letting those heavy machines stumble around her was not a good idea.

Instead, she went back to her usual chores. It was really all she wanted to do. The plentiful energy supply calmed the waters for now and seemed to keep her safe, but she still didn't want any part of the Decepticons, in good times or in bad. So she spent her hours roaming the corridors of the Nemesis, looking for anything she could do with herself.

Her meanderings took her all the way back down to the lowest level again. Crystal had been trying to avoid it since her first time, but all the other levels were running in tiptop shape. It was this or nothing.

This was the level that had been flooded knee deep with seawater and Crystal had spent a very miserable and claustrophobic time draining it and cleaning it up. Now, after trying not to go down there for so long, she was praying it wasn't flooded again.

To her pleasant surprise, the level looked good. There was a small puddle gathering in the middle, but definitely not as bad as the first time. Before she started on that, Crystal wandered the whole level, seeing what else there was to do. In one area, it inclined upward. Crystal had never been that far because it was too high to get the water damage and Megatron had shown up to fetch her the moment she was finished.

Without anyone to dictate whether or not she was allowed in this area, Crystal wandered right into it. It was mostly more of the same: long halls and doorways. But at the end, there was the door to the smaller internal elevator. It couldn't fit as many as the main one that led up to the launch tower. Crystal used it often to get from one level to the other. She had had no idea it went all the way to the bottom floor. At least, there wasn't a button for it that she had noticed.

Right next to the elevator doors was a much, much larger pair of doors. From the looks of them, they led to some kind of massive storage room. Great. That was certainly going to take a while to clean. But then again, she had all the time in the world and was looking for something to do.

Little did she know, that if she had come across this door at any other time, she would not have been able to access it. It was kept strictly locked at all times. But it just so happened that on this particular day, just a few minutes before, one of the Decepticons had used this door and completely forgotten to lock it behind himself.

Crystal pushed the open button and the doors slid back. Exposed to her view was no storage room, but a long, dark tunnel.

She was confused at first by what she found, but then Crystal realized what it was and her whole body went numb. The Decepticons had several jets in their numbers, but they had even more car types. And, of course, they had to find their way to land somehow. This tunnel led out of the base and out of the ocean to freedom.

Almost panicked, Crystal looked around her, waiting for Decepticons to pop out of the shadows and drag her back. No one came. The entire level was empty.

Crystal stared down the tunnel again, her fuel pump beating like mad. Did she dare to try? Did she dare to hope again?

Opening her chest panel, Crystal slipped a hand in and easily removed the Decepticon tracking device they had implanted in her. It was their mistake to assume she was like them. Decepticons didn't bother to even know much about their own inner workings, but Crystal knew all her systems inside and out. She looked at the small device in her shaking palm. Then she clutched it tight and tossed it down the hall, close to the puddle that was still on the floor.

She turned and ran.

As fast as she could, as far as she could, Crystal fled down the massive tunnel. It was so dark she had to turn on her night vision. She ran and ran for several minutes, several miles, her robot legs not yet giving out. It occurred to her how much easier this would be if she had a car mode of her own. When she got back, she was totally going to push those Autobots to make her that new body fast. They owed her for this. She didn't care what their excuse was for not finding her, she was going to wrap her arms around the first Autobot she could get a hold of and just cling there until...

Crystal slowed as the tunnel opened up into a much, much larger room. In here, a few lights were on, enough to light one's way around. It was circular, with a high ceiling and a massive shuttle-like vehicle parked in the middle. It sported an Autobot symbol on the side. It was the shuttle they had stolen from Ultra Magnus. So that's where they were keeping it.
To her alarm, the docking ramp of the shuttle was down and there were lights on inside. Somebody was here. She couldn't be found. There had to be a way out of here. Frantically, Crystal skirted the wall, searching all the way around for evidence of a door or some other exit. There had to be a way out.

To her infinite relief, she found one, hidden almost seamlessly in the wall. This had to lead out to freedom. She pushed the button, her whole body shaking with anticipation. The button turned red, signaling the door was locked.

Crystal shook her head in disbelief.

No. No, no, no, no, no. This couldn't be happening.

She fumbled for a screwdriver from her hip compartment, dropped it, and then attempted to take apart the control panel. Several times she had to stop to collect herself, her hands were shaking so badly. Finally, she managed to remove the cover and expose the wires. She fingered through them, trying to figure out which wire was connected to what. She had to make sure she got the right wire the first time. If the security system detected that it was being tampered with, it would lock itself down completely and she would have no hope of getting the door open, short of cutting the thing right out of the wall.

Finally, Crystal located the wires she needed. She carefully stripped the cover from the wires and gave them a small jolt. The panel beeped and she heard a click from the door as it unlocked. She almost cried, she was so relieved.

As she returned her tools to her hip compartment, a heavy hand fell on her shoulder and if Crystal had the ability to faint, she probably would have done so right there.

"Well, well, what have you been up to?" It was none other than Megatron himself.

Crystal's shoulder slumped and her arms fell lifeless to her sides. Well, she had given it her best shot. Now Megatron was going to kill her for sure.

For now, he threw her at Soundwave, who was standing next to him and gave an order of "Bring her" as he marched toward the open loading dock of the shuttle. Soundwave kept a solid grip on Crystal's shoulder as they both followed him up into the well-lit hull.

Thundercracker and Skywarp stood in the command room of the shuttle, both aiming their weapons at an extremely miffed Starscream.

"Starscream," Megatron greeted sarcastically. "What a surprise that you would be behind this plot to steal my shuttle. I've been aware someone had been skimming off the top of our energon storage for some time."

"And here," he motioned to Crystal. "I found your accomplice."

"I don't work for him!" Crystal barked. If she was going to die, she was at least going to be killed for the right reason. "That son of a bitch almost had me killed!"

"That's because you're absolutely useless," Starscream shot back.

"Useless?" Now Crystal was wholly offended. "I have kept your whole damn base running despite the fact that all of you tear it up on a daily basis. Not to mention I gave you the means to power your sorry asses and this ship."

All three seekers looked surprised. They obviously were not aware of that fact.

"Enough petty squabbling," Megatron announced. "Starscream, tell me what you intend to do with my space shuttle. Now."

Starscream's earlier look of objection at Crystal's words now settled into stubborn silence in the face of his leader. This was his plan. No one else was ever supposed to know and he was not willing to share.

It hadn't been the first time Starscream had clammed up on him. Megatron was prepared.

"Soundwave, search him."

Leaving Crystal to Skywarp, Soundwave advanced and the seeker suddenly looked scared. Having information sucked right out of your memory files by Soundwave was not a pleasant experience. Not to mention the fact that once he had ahold of you, he could see anything he wanted. One's past, dreams, hopes, plans, experiences... anything. As much as Starscream had put into this plan, it was not worth that degree of personal invasion. Especially when he still had so much more to hide.

"No, no! Stay back!" Starscream squawked. "I'll tell you, just stay away!"

Megatron nodded and Soundwave halted his advance.

"I needed the shuttle for a space mission," Starscream said nervously. "There's something out there. I've been watching it for years." He carefully pushed a button on the shuttle's console and the massive screen in the front turned on. It showed a large map of space, with Earth as a mere speck compared to it all. In the vast darkness, something blipped.

"This," Starscream pointed to the light on the map. "I need the space jump technology of the shuttle to get to this."

Megatron stepped closer. "What is it?"

"I'm not entirely sure," Starscream admitted. "But I have been monitoring it for almost ten Earth years. What I can tell you is that it is mechanical and it is very slowly making its way through space."

Megatron frowned. "Idiot, what does it matter? You are wasting your time on such a thing."

Starscream smirked. "Am I? All this time that I have been watching it, I have noticed that it's energy signature never grows or diminishes. Ever."

"Meaning?" Megatron growled, losing his patience.

Starscream huffed. "Must I explain everything to you? It means whatever this is, it never grows low on energy and never refuels."

A light was starting to come on in Megatron's optics.

"Yes," Starscream encouraged. "A limitless power supply. Imagine what we could do with that, Megatron."

"What the Decepticons could do with it," Megatron corrected.

"Oh-oh yes! Of course, Mighty Megatron! You know I do everything only to serve the Decepticon cause." He bowed low and Skywarp made the equivocal motion of rolling his optics at the display.

Megatron didn't notice. He was drowning in the excitement of victory so close to his fingertips. "Soundwave, radio the Constructicons. Tell them to load the shuttle with energy and supplies."

Megatron turned his head to look right at Crystal. Any hope she had of being left out of this little adventure was dashed when he grinned at her.

"We're going on a little trip."

Artists Notes: First of all, as always, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my massive series this far. And an extra thanks for anyone who took the time to send me comments. I was very surprised how well this story was received at the beginning. Near the end, I got fewer comments than when I started, but I'm hoping that was more because it's now finals time and not because people were getting tired of it.
I'm relieved to have this fic finished. Ten plus years ago, I wrote a similar fic to this one and the Decepticon kidnapping stage of the fic was where I lost my steam. So now, as I attempted to rewrite this story, I really worried the same thing would happen again. But the support I got from you guys really helped to keep me excited about the story and I really enjoyed getting these chapters out to you as fast as I could. So thank you again for the support, it really helped me out.

Now is the time when I really beg for reviews. This fic is over and I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on the story as a whole. I know I've had a great time learning a little bit about the Decepticons. I didn't know them well at all before this so it was a learning experience for me as I got to know them better.

I know, I left it on another cliffhanger, but that is how I get people to follow me to the next story. This next one has a good chance of being the final story in the series and it's going to be quite large. I thought about splitting it up into two stories, but I think we'll just make it one massive fic. And now that set up is over, it's going to be one big ball of plot and action and I'm quite excited to get to it. Some of you may think you have the plot figured out now, but I'm hoping there will still be a few surprises for you along the way. And I'm very much looking forward to play with more characters I haven't been able to touch on yet. *cough*femaleautobots*cough*

I'm going to take a few weeks to plot out this monster and make sure I have all my ducks in a row and then we'll get started. As always, I look forward to seeing everyone there and thank you once again!