I do not own Transformers except in my daydreams. Last chapter, folks; enjoy. Thanks to Nessus for the sparkling names.
Thanks to those who favorite and story alert, but as hummergrey states, reviews are love.
Megatron was heading for the renegade's tunnels when he got the first message. The news that the renegade's base was a death trap was not much of a surprise. That they would abandon it told Megatron that they were desperate. Enigma was clear that he met no one coming out of their base.
Megatron pushed away the images of everything that might have gone wrong. Enigma was whole and sane. Now they just had to keep the settlement intact.
He had no idea how Annihilate intended to destroy the settlement, but he knew what at least one of the targets would be. He sent Sunstreaker to see that the school was evacuated to the most stable area the golden mech knew.
He contacted Soundwave to organize squads to each of the tunnels leading under the settlement, each squad to have a snake hunter with them, and for the neutrals at the tunnels openings to be replaced with squads.
He got the second message from Optimus, which was lengthy. He forwarded the grim warning that these people were on suicide missions with the intention of taking the settlement with them, and that the younglings were in the greatest danger.
He got a message back that Elita and Chromia were organizing a safe area for the younglings and the injured, as the place Sunstreaker found was near Ratchet's med bay. He was grateful for that foresight almost immediately.
The neutrals had not yet been replaced, and encountered mechs carrying explosives coming out of two of the opening. There were several short, nasty fights that left several neutrals badly injured and the tunnels collapsed. The tremors from that explosion shook the settlement.
Megatron sent Optimus word to get topside and organize there while he dealt with the tunnels. Soon after, he had his first encounter with the suicide squads. There were two of them, with a load of something.
As soon as they saw the squad, they dropped their loads and moved, not to run, but to fire at the explosives. Megatron saw that and went flat. The tunnel shook with the force. When he got up, there was an impressive hole below and above where the renegades had been. They could see pieces of renegade in the hole below them.
He sent the order get the renegades down before they could activate their explosives. "I don't care how you do it," he told the squads.
The hole was too wide to jump, too deep to climb into, and there was no way to work along the sides. Instead they had to circle through other tunnels. In the meantime, other squads reported in. It became clear that the fight would end only when all of the renegades were dead.
Enigma was glad to see the surface, where they could transform and move much faster. The younglings' camp was near Ratchet's med bay. Optimus made certain that Enigma was with Bumblebee before he left to talk to Ironhide and Elita, with instructions to get the youngling to the med bay.
Enigma went in and saw the neutrals that Ratchet repaired. "Primus, youngling, it's good to see you're all right," Chaffer said, the patches on his arm showing where he was hurt. "What happened?" At that moment, Ratchet appeared, First Aid behind him.
"You can tell us while I check you over," the medic said firmly. Enigma protested, but even the neutrals told him he needed to be checked, and Enigma reluctantly got on the berth. Enigma told an edited version, leaving out why he was out in the ruins alone. He got a chorus of how stupid that was, which he already knew and resented hearing.
But they fell silent and listened intently as he told what happened. He did not mention that he found the place for the sparks; that was between he and Optimus, and Megatron when the time came. "So he told you that the block was a psychic ability," Ratchet said slowly. "Like Soundwave's telepathy."
"Like his, too," Enigma said. "I couldn't fight him." He whimpered. He felt guilty about that, even though Optimus said it was all right.
"Thank Primus," First Aid said. "If you could, you'd be either permanently off-lined or insane." He met Ratchet's look. "I think an anti-virus scan and update would be a good idea." Enigma did not protest as he was plugged into the program. Ratchet said that his scan was fine.
Then everyone else in the med bay left, leaving Enigma to recharge while the program ran. The neutrals wanted to head for a refuel, while the medics had other patients. Soon after, Hope popped in. "Knew you'd be here," she crowed, and gestured behind her. Stainless, Pedigree, and Whirlwind came in. "Tell us what's going on!" Hope demanded.
"Where's Sirius?" Enigma asked, looking around.
"He's avoiding everybody since yesterday. What happened! We all know you're in on it!" Whirlwind was restless, as usual.
"I'm going to tell all the older ones first, down to Whirlwind. Get Boombox, Joy, Sunspot, and Sirius." They huffed, but left to fetch the others. When he had all of the older younglings around him, Enigma started talking.
"You mean they moved us from the school because someone is trying to kill us?" Joy whispered, her optics bright. "Why?" Normally she was one of the optimistic ones, always trying to see the bright side.
"They're glitched?" Whirlwind offered. Sirius, who was sitting against the wall pretending not to listen, got up and approached the others.
"Yep," Enigma said, completely serious. "He said we would be better off because we didn't have a chance to get corrupted. They thought they had already killed the race because there weren't anymore younglings, so they were just looking for a way to destroy the planet. They didn't care about the adults coming back. Now they know we're here, and that there's a way to renew the race, so instead they're going to try and kill everybody."
"Why did he tell you all this and leave?" Sirius asked, finally joining them. "Bragging?"
"He wanted me to think about what he was saying so he could get the thoughts from my processor, like Soundwave does," Enigma told him, and looked at the ground. "It was so-so-warped. " He wrapped his arms around his chest, remembering. "He got me to look at him, and I dropped my shield when I did, and then he kept hold of my arm so I couldn't get the shield up again. He made me watch the video, when he blew up the tunnel so Megatron and Optimus and the others couldn't follow. I thought they were dead! Then later, when he was talking to me, he held me in his lap and petted me, like I was his sparkling. He's really warped."
"Why didn't he kill you?' Sirius asked. The others gave him various stunned or hostile looks. "Well, if he's going to kill all of us, it's a good question!"
"I was bait," Enigma said. "He thought there would be a rescue and he set up the whole place as a death trap. If I hadn't gotten out and someone did come for me, all of us would have been killed. Megatron would have known if I was dead, so he had to leave me alive. I only got out because of my shield. I didn't even know I could use it like that, so he was sure I was trapped."
"So what do we do?" Stainless asked. "Our caregivers are here. They won't let us go out or anything."
"That would be stupid anyway," Sirius said. "We can't fight them. Enigma means that we need to make a plan so if they do come here, we can defend ourselves until the adults can come. " He looked over at Enigma, who nodded.
"All of you have a weapon. I've got the block. The leader's going to find out where we are, so we need to figure out how to stop him," Enigma said. "He's a telepath and he's insane. That's a bad combination. We need to think how to fight that."
The search went on.
All the tunnels had a squad at the opening, and one squad following it. It was slow going. Optimus kept track of which tunnels were clear from the surface. The teams had orders to bring any renegade found alive to the surface to be interrogated by Soundwave. All the information they had came from Enigma and Hound, and there was no way of knowing how many of the renegades there were.
But the renegades kept to their original pattern; if seen, they did not fight. In the tunnels, setting off the explosions was more effective than fighting. Four of the defenders were killed; two in a tunnel collapse, and two who were hit by shrapnel. Several more were injured. None of the renegades survived.
Then luck finally came in on their side. One of the squads crossed a group of three closely enough the group had no chance to set off the explosives. It took two squads to hold down the three renegades and temporarily off-line them. Taken to the Decepticon med bay, they were rebooted by Hook and Scalpel, after being restrained and searched.
Soundwave questioned them much as Annihilate did Enigma. Then the telepath broke the connection to their leader on the last one they questioned. The renegade went into deep stasis. The renegades were so strongly under Annihilate's sway that there was nothing left of their own personalities.
But the settlers knew now that there was a total of thirty renegades in addition to the leader. They had encountered eight groups, a total of twenty so far who were down. There were ten to go, and Annihilate. Soundwave told Megatron that the leader was on a 'special mission.' The renegades had no idea what it was.
But the ultimate goal of the last groups became obvious as they tracked them. Megatron ordered his men to stop past a certain area, as there were no openings past them. He was certain of their goal, and made sure no one was near it.
The ten renegades died in the explosion under the schools. Megatron counted the loss of the building a small one compared to the loss of more lives or threats to the younglings. There was only one threat left.
Where was Annihilate?
Then there was a distress call from Soundwave at the Decepticon med bay. Hook was attacked; his brothers and Soundwave came to his defense and rescued him, but not before the renegade leader got the information he wanted, and took the two followers still connected to him along.
First Aid heard young voices and found Enigma surrounded by friends and talking. He looked over the scan, which was clean, and called Bumblebee to come get them.
"It seems you've stirred up a hornet's nest," the former scout said to Enigma. That got him the guilt reaction he expected, shoulders hunched and eyes to the ground. He sent the others on; they went with backward glances. Enigma glanced after them with longing. Of all the caretakers, Megatron included, Bumblebee knew how to make Enigma listen even as he cringed.
"The cult was already there, and someone would have found it sooner or later," Bumblebee went on. "But you knew better than to run off that far alone." Enigma nodded. A finger went under his chin, making him look up.
"I know you're very mature for your age, and why," the former scout went on, "but even the adults tell someone where they're going. We were all frightened for you." He paused. "You know how important all of the younglings are, and you're our youngest." Enigma felt like scrap metal. "I want you to promise me that you won't do this again," Bumblebee went on relentlessly. Enigma promised, and Bumblebee let him go.
Everyone was assigned chores, Enigma with them, but he managed to find Solar for the easiest part of the plan. "Tell any caregiver if you see a stranger to you," he instructed. "If you can't find a caregiver, find Hope or Sirius." Solar nodded. The Autobot younglings were to go to Hope or Sirius, and the neutrals to Enigma or Whirlwind.
The day dragged on. They were called to refuel, and finally to set up to recharge. The caregivers took turns staying with the younglings. When Enigma jerked up the third time with a flashback dream, Blaster had Enigma recharge next to him. Enigma protested but once he powered down for recharge again, he stayed down until everyone woke the next day.
But the word was circling around that the renegades were being found a few at a time. The caregivers were careful, but little audios picked up information anyway. "They're all dying before they're caught," Boombox whispered to Sirius and Enigma. Enigma shivered.
Word came that the camp would be broken soon. Finished with his chores but too restless to be still, Enigma found a datapad and wandered off to a quiet corner near the med bay. He used the datapad to draw some of the murals he saw at the temple.
He was about to research the pictures when he heard a commotion and saw Scrapper and Long Haul bringing Hook in. They had Hook down and were taking him into the med bay when he started fighting them. Enigma, who had come over to talk, scrambled to get out of the way."
Screams and shouts broke out of the other end of the camp. He started to run in that direction, and almost ran into the leader.
He jumped back just in time, and put his block between them. He refused to look at the leader's face, focusing instead on his torso. "So, youngling, I had the answer to my plans in my hand and I left it behind," the telepath drawled. Enigma looked in all directions, and saw no one.
Then his mind was full of sharp pain, and with it, a compulsion to drop his block and go with the leader. That compulsion had worked on most of the adults Annihilate overcame, and he expected it to work here.
Enigma screamed, and screamed again, but the shield did not go down. Annihilate struck the invisible force between them. Enigma stumbled back, and the shield dropped as he shrieked again.
Then he was moving through the air in Whirlwind's grip. They made it to the roof of the med bay building. Enigma could hear fighting in the med bay. The telepath must have gotten to Hook. They wouldn't get help from Ratchet and the others in there.
The two younglings on the roof vented air to cool overworked systems, and looked down. Sirius, Hope, and Joy were on one side, with Pedigree, Sunspot, and Stainless on the other. All of them had some kind of ranged weapon, and they were taking turns using them, keeping the telepath from focusing.
Enigma felt the pain subside as the six younglings stuck to a pattern that Stainless worked out, and they did not hit each other. Enough shots hit that the leader was constantly distracted, though their weapons were not powerful enough to take him down.
Whirlwind said," The caregivers are all fighting snakes on the other side. They told us to get out of the way and that's why we heard you scream! "Then he left to find more adult help. Enigma helped the other younglings with his block.
The plan worked until the last two renegades showed up. One tried to grab Hope, and Enigma knocked it back with the block long enough for the other two to start fighting with her. The other group saw their renegade before it attacked, and turned their fire on him.
Annihilate found the processor he was looking for. Enigma howled as the assault began again. The compulsion to surrender to the leader was incredibly strong, and when Enigma resisted, the pain increased.
The leader's plans leaked through the compulsion. If he had Enigma, the Prime and Lord Protector could not attack him. He would take Enigma to the temple, and be able to finish his plans there, where the core resided. He had tried to get in before, but was forced back. He knew Enigma had gotten in when he saw the murals in his processor. "Come, little Prime," he crooned, and pushed harder.
"No," Enigma moaned, but he was a youngling against an ancient and wily foe who battled other Primes in his time. The pain increased, until he could not process at all.
Megatron got word to Optimus about the attack on Hook; the Prime assured him that the hunt would begin. Megatron worked on getting one last sweep of the tunnels before heading for the surface.
He contacted Optimus again, but there was no sign of Annihilate or the renegades. Long Haul and Scrapper had just gotten Hook in and there was some kind of problem. Not long afterward, Megatron got another contact.
"Snakes appeared near the youngling's shelter," Optimus said grimly. "They were lured here by the renegades; Mirage was attacked and just barely managed to get away. Hook is berserk, and pinning his brothers and the medics in the med bay. Ratchet tells me it is all they can do to contain him. We need help."
Megatron went to jet form even as he was ordering the closest squads to assist. When he was close, he met Whirlwind, who was wobbling with exhaustion. Megatron contacted Starscream to come get his youngling before he crashed, just as Whirlwind got close enough to shout.
"It's the leader guy, the telepath, he's trying to get "Nigma!" the little seeker yelled. "And the other bad mechs are after the rest of us! All the adults are fighting the snakes!"
Starscream appeared and grabbed his youngling. "Go on, I'll contact you if there's more information!"
Megatron did not wait for more. When he was closer, he could see the snakes, but Optimus and caregivers were on one side while several squads were racing up on the other. He heard shots, and he saw Enigma on the roof of the med bay, head in hands. He saw the telepath focusing on Enigma. The renegades were fighting the other younglings.
Annihilate never had a chance to change his focus. From the skies came a roar and a transform, and Megatron stood behind the telepath. In one short blow it was over. Megatron leaned over the crushed body and made certain the spark was gone. When he turned to deal with the other renegades, he found them dropped, with confused younglings standing around them.
Then he retracted his weapon and held his arms up to his youngling, who fell gratefully into them. Megatron ensured no one was badly hurt before he left Enigma with his friends and went into the med bay.
As he came in, Ratchet was putting Hook into forced recharge while his brothers held him down. Everyone was battered but no one was leaking or limping. With Megatron's news, First Aid went to deal with the renegades and the younglings, while Ratchet went back to the injured and Megatron took the others to fight snakes.
Later that day, when the immediate needs were settled, there was a meeting in the shelter to find out what happened. First Aid met the caregivers as they came in, with the news that no one was injured beyond some scrapes and bruises, and that Enigma was shaken by the telepath's attack but otherwise all right.
"That attack was planned," Megatron said when they were settled into the room. "They lured the snakes-nobody knows how, but Mirage was sure of it- and then they went after the younglings."
"'Nigma knew that the leader would come after us," Hope said. "So we told the little ones to tell an adult if they saw a stranger. Then we talked about how you would have to fight somebody who could read thoughts." Bumblebee brushed dust off her back and she squirmed.
"Sirius came up with a plan," Boombox said, "We didn't know 'Nigma would be in the way, though, and Whirlwind had to get him out of the way before he could go for help. But a lot of it worked great!" Blaster looked at a dent on Boombox's arm and thought how much worse it could have been.
"Did you know that Annihilate would use some kind of distraction?" Sideswipe asked. He kept his arm around Sunspot. He was almost numb with relief. First his twin had been in the thick of the fighting, before the snakes appeared and had to be fought off, and then he discovered that his youngling was fighting. That all of them were alive with only minor injuries was a miracle he thanked Primus for with great sincerity.
"No," Enigma said, "but he told me he would go after the younglings. So we made a plan. It didn't work the way we thought it would. "Megatron kept his arm around Enigma, who was huddling against him.
"We thought he would go after all of us, and that there would be more, and that the adults would be fighting the other bad mechs," Joy said. "We were just going to help the leader that read processors. We thought if he was busy the other bad mechs wouldn't be as hard to fight." Bluestreak said nothing, only holding her to him and thanking Primus that he agreed for Ironhide to teach the younglings fighting skills.
"Stainless came up with the fighting pattern," Pedigree said, "so we wouldn't hit each other." Hound resolved to upgrade Pedigree with his own holoform abilities as soon as possible. If his youngling had that ability, he could have used it instead of having to fight.
"And everybody followed it," Stainless crowed, "so none of us got hurt and we banged up that slagger good!" Chromia smacked him for cursing, but lightly. She was proud of him.
"That one would have got Hope if 'Nigma hadn't knocked him out of the way," Sirius noted. Elita was relieved. Sirius used his analytical skills the way they should be used.
"The leader was after 'Nigma," Sunspot said. "He called 'Nigma a Prime. I heard him."
Stunned silence followed that, with every gaze going to Enigma, who tried to bury himself into Megatron's side.
"You all did very well," Optimus Prime said. The younglings started. The adults saw him come in. "You made a reasonable plan, you followed it when it worked, you improvised when it did not, and you worked together. I am proud of you, and I hope none of you ever have to use those skills to fight again."
"I agree," Bumblebee said, "but my little fighter needs the wash racks and her recharge berth." In agreement, the meeting ended, with caregivers dispersing with their charges.
Megatron said nothing as they reached home. He felt better after getting clean. Enigma climbed into the larger berth with his mentor, curling up against the solid reassurance of that massive bulk, and began to talk. Megatron listened and fit the pieces of events together.
"So you seem to have settled matters with Optimus Prime," Megatron said, when Enigma stopped. The youngling nodded. " He knows?" Enigma nodded. "Then don't worry. When you're ready, you'll work with Prime, and not before, and if anyone gives you a problem, I will deal with them."
Enigma sighed in relief. "You're the best mentor anyone ever had," he said, and soon after settled into recharge. Megatron held his youngling Prime to him, and thanked Primus for the safety of the youngling who became his greatest treasure.
Optimus and Megatron waited. They were in the forecourt of the Temple where the sparkings were arranged.
Enigma came out of the Temple and gestured him in, smiling. "I wondered when you would get around to this," he said. Optimus smiled back. Enigma, upgraded now to twice his former height, was still small but he was comfortable with his status. Optimus was still the leader, being the senior Prime. Enigma Prime ran the Temple, managed sparkings, and was the lead judge when such was needed. Even now the settlement was too small to need that position often.
But it was certainly growing. There were two cities now. A few mechs lost in space trickled in, but now each Cybertronian judged able to raise a sparkling had at least one. All of the matured younglings had siblings. Hope had two; Arcee and Bumblebee joined and each had one more child. Some, like Sunstreaker, had to agree to accepting help with their sparklings. Sideswipe was glad to agree to work with his twin.
"Sirius and Powersurge are trained enough for us to take the time now," Megatron said.
"Excuses, excuses," Enigma sing-songed. "You raised me."
"You were easy. Everyone said so," Megatron sniffed. "This time I'm getting a sparkling, not a youngling."
"Come on then. I have everything ready." He led them into the sparking room. "Who's building your protoforms?" Predictably, Wheeljack was building Optimus' and Starscream built Megatron's. Megatron wondered why Enigma was leaning against the wall casually.
"Soundwave and Elita are willing to pitch in with child care as well. " Soundwave got a double spark and was raising twins. "I still have that big berth we used to sleep on," Megatron went on, "and the new school and daycare is near the central offices. "
"You're good now," Enigma told them. "Be sure to visit Ratchet and Hook and get your lectures. I swear by Primus that they haven't changed since we were on Earth."
They looked at each other and then at him. "What, did you expect the third degree or something? I knew you'd both get a spark before you ever came in. And let me tell you something, I better be told when both of you are ready for the awakening, because I want to be at both."
Some time later, new holograms were in his private quarters. Megatron held Skytearer and Blast-Off in one picture. Enigma smiled to himself when he remembered his mentor telling him he's better help with sparkling sitting. The other was Optimus and Sirius holding Projector and Enforcer.
Renewal, Enigma thought.