Whew! "Invasion" finally comes to a close with this concluding part! Many thanks again to everyone who has been following. I've appreciated reviews.

Invasion - Part 7.5

Optimus Prime was robbed of voice. It couldn't be. Ultra Magnus was...deactivated. Megatron had offlined him so easily, so quickly...just like that. Something terrible rose from within Optimus, an emotion he had experienced on Earth when he had fought Megatron right after Prowl's deactivated body had been brought up before him: rage. Optimus' back-mounted flight boosters suddenly flared to life and he rocketed forward straight toward Megatron. With a roar, he crashed into the Decepticon leader and pushed him all the way to a wall, slamming him violently into it. Then he began pummelling into Megatron's face with punch after punch, channelling all his rage into each powerful hit, denting Megatron's face.

"MURDERER!" Optimus bellowed, his voice a thunderous decibel.

The other Decepticons had begun to move forward to aid their leader when, to their and Optimus' surprise and shock, Megatron began to laugh through his cracked face. It was a chilling, maniacal laughter.

"Yes, Optimus Prime!" he cried. "That's what I want! I want to see you suffer! I want you to suffer so that you may rise stronger than before! I want you to become a worthy adversary! I want you to give me a real challenge!"

Optimus looked at the Decepticon leader in disbelief for a moment. Then his optics filled with hatred. "You're mad! You're insane, Megatron! You don't deserve to function!"

Megatron spread his arms apart to Optimus. "So finish me off then, Optimus Prime," he said calmly.

Optimus looked like he wanted to, desperately so. He was barely holding himself back. One shaking hand was poised ready to tear into Megatron.

"If you had finished me off before when you had the chance," Megatron taunted, "Ultra Magnus would still be online. Perhaps now you are willing to do what you should have done on Earth."

Optimus suddenly flung Megatron away from him in disgust. Megatron hit the ground. Optimus glared at him hatefully.

"No. I'm not like you, Megatron."

Megatron turned himself onto his back to look up at Optimus.

"We are more alike than you realize, Optimus Prime. I underestimated you before, but now I have come to see that you are more than what you appear. You possess the potential for greatness as I. And in order to be great, you must be ruthless. You must be willing to make sacrifices. For without sacrifice, there is no victory. Do you understand me, Optimus Prime?"

Optimus looked at Megatron stunned. For a long moment, they watched one another wordlessly, each waiting for the other to make a move.

Then Megatron said: "If you are still too weak to do what is necessary, then I will make it easier for you."

Suddenly, Megatron kicked out and swept Optimus' legs out from under him. Optimus fell down on his side. Megatron was on his feet in an instant and, activating his feet boosters, he flew over to Ariel's position. Ariel gasped sharply as the Decepticon leader seized hold of her neck and lifted her off the ground. He then dragged her up into the air with him.

"NO!" Optimus cried.

Megatron came to hover in the air before a Space Bridge. "Activate the Space Bridge!" he ordered.

On the ground, Strika activated the Space Bridge from a control console. A blue portal opened between the spires of the Space Bridge structure.

"DECEPTICONS! TRANSFORM AND RISE UP!" Megatron bellowed.

The Decepticon forces transformed and took to the air. They were reminiscent of a swarm as they flew into the Space Bridge portal, the Air Attack Squadron led by Obsidian leading the escape charge. Non-flight-capable Decepticons were air-lifted by the flight-capable ones. Cyclonus picked up Oil Slick along with Scalpel riding on his shoulder; Mindwipe carried Spittor, both still nursing their arrow wounds inflicted by Roulette; Barricade hitched a ride with the Starscream clone Ramjet; Shockwave was taken by Blitzwing; and Lugnut scooped up Strika. One after another, they all passed through the Space Bridge portal until only Megatron remained with his female hostage.

"I will give you a choice, Optimus Prime," Megatron announced, holding Ariel out at arm's length in the air, "save this female Autobot, or pursue me through the Space Bridge!"

Ariel wriggled in Megatron's grip. "Optimus, forget me!" she managed to gasp. "Don't let him escape!"

Megatron opened his hand. Ariel descended, screaming. Optimus watched in horror as a nightmare from his past replayed itself before his very optics. He saw Elita-1 plummeting into the fire again... No! Not again! Not again!

Optimus' wings snapped out and his flight boosters and wing thrusters roared to life. He tore upwards toward Ariel's free-falling form. His internal fuel pumps thundered in his audios. Time seemed to slow as he closed the gap between himself and Ariel. He reached out for her with both arms...

THUNK! She landed in his cradle. Optimus brought her into his chest instinctively.

Above him, Megatron rocketed to the Space Bridge portal, glancing back down at Optimus Prime. "Until next we meet, Optimus Prime." And then he disappeared into the portal.

Optimus lowered himself to the ground and landed softly. He knelt down on one knee to let Ariel slide out of his arms and back onto her feet. Looking away from him, she took a moment to recompose herself. Then she turned around.

Without warning, she slapped Optimus hard across the face. Optimus' head swung to one side.

"Why did you save me?" Ariel yelled furiously. "I told you to go after Megatron! I wasn't important!"

Optimus did not respond. He did not move. His head hung low and his optics had darkened. Ariel's anger dissipated as she observed him. He looked like he was about to collapse. Suddenly, it dawned on her that Optimus was burdened by the weight of two failures at that moment: he had failed to save Ultra Magus and he had failed to stop Megatron.

Ariel's features softened. She stepped closer to Optimus and reached up for his face, placing a hand tentatively against the side of his mask.

"I'm sorry, Optimus," she said quietly.

She drew him down into her arms. He offered no resistance.

"It's alright," she whispered, stroking the back of his head. "Everything's going to be alright."

At that moment, Ratchet, Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee arrived through the Nexus' open entranceway in vehicle modes. They came to a screeching stop and Arcee's vehicle mode canopy swung open to allow Sari to jump out. The bots transformed into their robot modes and stood speechless at the sight before them: a desolate Optimus Prime was being held by a pink and white fembot and near to him, Ultra Magnus lay deactivated on the ground.

End of Invasion.

A/N: Gonna take a break from the TFA universe for now. Next week, I'll be posting up a new TFP fic!