An Important Note from the Author

Dear Readers,

I have a folder in my computer I called "Stasis Fanfiction".

I called it "Stasis Fanfiction" because I never felt like I actually left fanfiction behind permanently. For four years, it was an integral and vital part of my writing development. Now I find myself in university studying English Literature. I'm currently writing a book myself, but it's slow going and ill-planned and needs to be plotted more carefully. But, what with so many ideas in development, and few actually being implemented, I find myself without a writing project, without a project where I could develop my skills.

Then a little voice whispered in my head, "What about Good Men?"

I don't think I ever intended to give up on this story. My muse never left me, it just went into stasis.

That said, these updates don't mean a return to fanfiction. I'm literally on my last legs in the fanfiction business and I don't plan to ever post a new story. But I have my old ones, the ones that meant so much for me to finish that I never forgot about them.

Transformers: Prime, I felt, was a disappointing addition to the Transformers universe, with lacklustre storytelling, but TFA was something special, in that it was defiant. It broke so many rules about what the fans thought Transformers should be, and though the character designs were less than sublime even when you got used to them, the storytelling made the series. The fact that it was so readily replaced by a cartoon that felt like G1's attempt to be edgy is disappointing to say the least. Let's face it, the G1 cartoon was never edgy. It was ridiculous and that's why we love it. TFA introduced new storytelling ideas, and then they were swiftly forgotten.

For these reasons, I'm resuming "Good Men". Rodimus and "Team Athenia" meant a lot to me, and I still have ideas about adventures they can undertake. It's going to be a long, arduous process that may never be finished, but I'm making an effort at it. There won't be regular updates – my life is hectic as it is, and in addition school, work, and planning my novel, I'm drawing/writing a fan comic, and in the process of planning a webcomic. I put aside some time during the late hours of night to write, and these are the best times to get serious work done. It's the only time I have.

Thank you for reading.

-Fastern


No Greater Evil, Part II

It was a firefight.

Cliffjumper pressed his back against the makeshift cover, squashed in between a pair of Autotroopers whose voices were lost in the various shots flying over their heads. Just like the old days. Just like the old days when he used to find himself locked in battle with comrades-in-arms. Except he didn't know the Autobots he was with, and he was in the last place where he wanted to fight.

He glanced over to where he'd last seen Shockwave. Slagging traitor. He didn't know where he'd vanished to, but that was something he seemed to be good at.

When the Decepticons came pouring through, he'd been joined by a number of fellow Autobots, mostly Autotroopers. At least they had the experience of handling weapons. Others were just ones that happened to be nearby and were doing their civic duty, or as much as their salaries demanded. Their only advantage was that the Decepticons they were against were obviously new recruits and the ill-trained, used as cannon fodder before the real warriors entered the scene. With the two factions positioned strategically on either side of the Nexus, it was really a matter of who would make the push to overcome the others.

He was going to push.

He abandoned cover. Several voices called him back, but he didn't listen.

Cliffjumper tossed a grenade right as the first Decepticons hit the ground. An explosion rocked the clearing and he barely had enough time to assess any possible form of cover, of which there was none. No problem. That would just make this a little more interesting. He rushed forwards, and before the Decepticons could register his sudden approach, he'd slapped a small, hand held device on one of their legs and dived out of the way. An explosion of light sliced through the air. Cliffjumper didn't pause to examine the results; the moment he set his sights on a second pair now emerging, he fired two shots and their heads removed themselves from their bodies.

He dipped his head slightly, just enough to avoid an attempted shot from yet another group of Decepticons. Only this group was different. This group held themselves with the kind of organized respect that the younger ones lacked. He briefly spotted Oil Slick (should've recognized him by the acidic stench), and then Cyclonus, and then Blackout, and then several other 'cons who he recognized from file photos and profiles that had passed over his desk over the years. Finally, all that general knowledge about the big players was coming to use, but none initiated such a reaction from him than he saw who stood at their forefront. It was worse than peering into the face of Megatron himself.

Strika was in the lead.

Quite a bit of profanity went rolling through his mind. Strika the General of Destruction was a good acquaintance to any survivor of the war. Most of the time rather than sitting back and planning like most generals, she led a squadron right into action and ended up having the most enemy casualties. Cliffjumper gave her a bonus for that. If he was ever in a position of power, he as sure as the Pits wouldn't settle for sitting behind a desk. And as Strika looked across to where he was standing, a dawning expression of terror and realization crossed her normally stoic faceplate.

'It's Cliffjumper!' she shouted. 'Quick, shoot him! SHOOT HIM!'

Cliffjumper twisted to avoid the first few shots, but soon they started raining down on him like no tomorrow. He was blinded and dazed by vibrating light boiling hot to the touch. Gritting his teeth, he fired into the fray, but with his vision properly blurred by the sudden activity, he was incapable of discerning targets. Cliffjumper moved to the 'con he'd just killed and held the shell up in front of his own. Still, the force of the shots forced him back several feet, until he was right next to a collapsed Decepticon unfortunately caught in the crossfire. The shell was large enough that he could take cover.

Safely in cover, Cliffjumper reloaded, took a deep breath, and brandished the rocket launcher. He had to knock out those Space Bridges, but it wasn't as simple as pulling the plug. With the barrel safely nestled on top of the shell, he peered out across the space to see that at least twenty Decepticons were perched opposite of him and unleashing a steady hail of gunfire. It was a smaller number than he'd anticipated, but just enough to be a major issue.

Fortunately he'd been prepared for this kind of emergency situation for quite some time. All he needed to do was make sure the Decepticons didn't leave the Nexus.

'Fire at will!' Cliffjumper barked at the nearest Autobots. 'Keep them pinned down!'

Just as he said this, the Space Bridge before them seemed to bulk.

A mass of black swarmed out of swirling blue energy erupting in the sky. At once, he thought it was a large Decepticon – but then the insignia came into view and he saw the blasters hanging haphazardly from the bulkhead, pointing directly down on their position. It was a ship, hastily pasted together from odds and ends, but nevertheless an armed ship.

He felt the blasts before they impacted on their position, heavy and hot and reeking of a stench rather like brimstone. Then his sensors screamed all at once. Loud, static, white noise blurred out every sensation. Suddenly he started thinking about Blurr, and that time they were stranded on a blistering planet orbiting terrifyingly close to a neighbouring sun. Then he started thinking about finding the gun, which had been ripped from his hand.

Cliffjumper's cooling units worked in overtime, gears grinding together as he became aware that he was feeling the ground for his gun. Where was his gun? There. He raised it, struggling to regain awareness of his surroundings. Truth be told, he had no idea where he was and what he was doing. With his last battle a fading memory, his senses were forgetting how to react instantaneously, and with every movement be feared he wasn't able to see a Decepticon brandishing his weapons, pulling the trigger.

Then the noise hit him.

He was still behind the barrier erected between themselves and the 'cons. The Autotrooper that had been at his left shoulder was gone, possibly vaporized, and the other lay nearby, bleeding an unnatural amount of energon. Cliffjumper ignored them both and scrambled to find the nearest cover. He found himself in the company of Autobots who had obviously just arrived at the scene, their optics wide with fright and having never experienced the full rush of a Decepticon firefight. As one unfortunate mech stuck his head out from over the top, a well-timed shot hit him, and his chassis – turning grey – twisted back and struck the ground.

'Don't stick your head over the barrier,' Cliffjumper advised the nearest Autobot.

'R – right,' agreed the Autobot.

'Kup to Cliffjumper.'

This was the last thing he needed.

'Make it quick!' Cliffjumper barked. He armed his rifle, braced it on top of the shelter, and fired blindly into the crowd of Decepticons at the far end of the trench.

'Cut the scrap,' Kup's voice replied evenly. Nothing ever seemed to phase him. 'I need to get in touch with Longarm, but he's not responding to his comm link. Where is he?'

Cliffjumper grunted and ducked back down.

'...Are you in the middle of that chaos going on down there?'

'Damn straight! As for Longarm, you'll be happy to hear that Longarm was never Longarm! It was Shockwave in disguise the whole time!'

'You've got to be kidding.'

'Do you think I like it?! He must've been in deep cover!'

'Not exactly what I was hoping to hear...'

A brandishing shot went flaring across the open space. It slammed right into the head of the Autotrooper at Cliffjumper's elbow and he ducked back down.

'Dammit,' he grunted. 'Why aren't you down here? We could use back up! Strika and her cronies just came through!'

'Well, that's promising. My servos tied. Politics. I need you to report to the command centre so we can talk strategy.'

'Forget it!'

'Cliffjumper, with Longarm gone, so to speak, we need a commander for Intel. You're the best qualified to fill that position right now.'

'I'm not leaving! Someone has to hold the Decepticons here!'

'We're having all available troops congregate on that position. We need you up here.'

'Last time I'm saying this: NO!'

'Cliffjumper,' Kup pressed. Cliffjumper rolled his optics; he could tell by the tone that Kup was on the edge of his patience. 'Sometimes being a commander means you have to hold back and let other Autobots take the damage for you. It's not easy, but it's the way it is. We need you up here to organize.'

Cliffjumper glanced at Rosanna's unconscious form, then at the Autotrooper that had taken the place of his deceased comrade. He sighed heavily.

'I'll get there when I can,' he said. 'I have something I need to take care of first.'

'Glad to hear you've come to your senses. Make it quick.'

Cliffjumper bent back down into the shelter. He turned to the agent. 'I've been called to the Metroplex. Keep the Decepticons grounded here.'

'Yes, sir,' the agent saluted him.

'And if you call me "sir" again, I'll kick your fanbelt all the way to the Galactic Rim!' Cliffjumper barked. 'Cover me.'

Cliffjumper leaned down and grabbed Rosanna's unconscious form. Instinct. He didn't know. He just knew that he was leaning down and grabbing her and not even thinking about her having pointed a gun at his head not too long ago.

Then, he was running. He slipped up the road leading into the Nexus, feeling blasts of gunfire barely grazing his chassis. He didn't look back to see if an Autobot covering him had been shot and killed; frankly he didn't care. It was all in the line of duty. Those heads rested on Kup, and his insistence on having Cliffjumper physically present for a debriefing.

Cliffjumper moved on. Occasionally Autobots rushed passed him in their hurry to get to the Nexus, not knowing that they were going headlong into their graves. He pausing at every corner to ensure that no one was following, with a gun in one hand and Rosanna slumped over the other. He paused frequently to readjust his grip on her; this wasn't the easiest task, but the alternative of leaving her behind was unthinkable and unacceptable. He trudged along at an awkward pace and didn't pause or flinch at the explosions sounding overhead, causing the tunnel to shudder dangerously. As he went along several Autobots wielding their respective weapons rushed by him in eagerness to participate in the battle, unaware of the fruitlessness of their efforts. As they passed he gave them vacant warnings of what to expect. He, however, focused intently on where he needed to be.

Despite every instinct telling him to rush back and leap into the heat of battle, he was drawn back to his current course knowing that most of the high ranking Autobots were out on the Galactic Rim and Rosanna was unconscious over his shoulder.

Or, she was. Up until she stirred.

Cliffjumper threw her unceremoniously to the floor and drew up his gun, aiming directly at her head. Her complexion had returned to normal.

'Get up and put your servos where I can see them!' Cliffjumper roared.

'Cliffjumper?' Rosanna swayed and staggered to her feet. 'What happened? Did Longarm knock me out?'

'Servos where I can see them!' Cliffjumper demanded, his gun poised.

'Why are you pointing that at me?' Rosanna asked in a tone that betrayed that this wasn't the first time he'd directed a gun at her face.

'Servos up!'

'CJ – .'

'Last chance!'

'What's going – ?'

Cliffjumper pulled the trigger. Rosanna visibly flinched as the shot grazed the side of her head and slammed into the wall behind her.

'Oops,' Cliffjumper glared at her. 'I missed.'

They were at a standstill. He did his best not to feel too sympathetic towards her visibly confused expression; but the fact of the matter was that he didn't like having guns pointed at him, especially by someone who he had confided and trusted for far too long. Slowly, Rosanna complied with his demands and raised her servos.

'Walk ahead of me,' Cliffjumper demanded.

'Where are we – ?'

'Shut up!'

Rosanna hesitantly started walking.

'Okay, CJ, game over,' said Rosanna. 'What's going on?'

'You know what's going on.'

'Cliffjumper, if you know me, you know that I never know what's going on!'

He didn't respond and they continued in relative silence, meeting nobody until they came to an abandoned staircase clearly used for maintenance purposes. He forced Rosanna up first and entered the deepest levels of the Metroplex, leaving behind the sounds of the battle, though the weight of it never elevated.


Cliffjumper handed custody of Rosanna over to the next Intel agent he met, explained the situation (while Rosanna looked on, quite perplexed), and then ordered her to be confined in the brig. Official agents were sent to interrogate her. Cliffjumper headed right to the centre of all the action.

The command centre was place he rarely had the privilege of entering and which largely sat, stagnant, since the Great War. However, he went to it with a specific purpose in mind, which was good because his mind was ravaged with worries, concerns, and general discontent. But mostly it was just naked hurt that sent him emotionally careening whenever he found himself stealing a moment of privacy in a vacant hall. One of his best friends was potentially dead. The other was definitely a traitor. And for the first time in a long time, Cliffjumper realized that his greatest fear had come true: he was alone, and his own impatience and stupidity allowed him to back into this situation. Before he went to the command centre he hid in an empty room and tried to get a hold of himself. He trembled and not from the experience of battle – war never made him tremble.

Eventually, though, the time for hiding was over and he ascended to the highest reaches of Fortress Maximus. The command centre was surprisingly vacant, but alarms were sounding everywhere and whenever he caught a glimpse of an idle Autobot he ordered them to grab a weapon and hold off the Decepticons. It was the only plan they had. But when he reached the command centre, it was far from empty. Perceptor and Wheeljack were already there, and accompanying them was a surly Autobot Cliffjumper hadn't seen for too many stellar cycles: Kup.

'There you are,' Kup barked the moment Cliffjumper stormed in.

'No time for pleasantries, Kup,' Cliffjumper snapped.

'Charming as ever...'

'You're one to talk!'

'Knock it off!' Wheeljack intervened. 'CJ, there've been some rumours floating around. Is it true that Rosanna's a traitor?'

'Word travels fast around here,' Cliffjumper remarked. 'Look, I don't know. I have agents trying to figure that out. More importantly, though, is that Longarm was never Longarm. It was Shockwave.'

'I can't believe that slagger has been right under our oflaculty sensors all this time!' exclaimed Kup. 'Tell me you arrested him!'

'You don't just "arrest" Shockwave!' snapped Cliffjumper. 'The Decepticons came careening out of the Space Bridges and he disappeared. As for Rosanna...well, I don't know exactly what's going on, but from initial appearances, she's a Decepticon deep cover agent.'

He was met with silence.

'I'm so sorry, CJ,' Wheeljack murmured.

'Sorry for what?' he demanded. 'She's just a 'con! She deserves to die like the rest of them!'

'The Autobots don't work that way,' said Wheeljack. 'We need a plan.'

'All available personnel are holding the 'cons at the Space Bridge Nexus, but it won't be enough,' said Kup. 'The Decepticons have obviously prepared for this. We need to take drastic measures.'

'I'm more interested in where the security breach came from,' said Cliffjumper. 'The 'cons couldn't have gotten through without security codes.'

As if anticipating this response, Kup handed him a datapad.

'What's this?' Cliffjumper asked.

'Transwarp records,' answered Kup. 'The first Decepticons came in through Space Bridge 687-081, but the codes were transmitted from 687-030.

'What?' Wheeljack piped up. 'Wait, 687-030. Wasn't that Athenia?'

'Yeah, it was,' Kup replied.

'Red...'

'What was that?'

'Never mind, just...some Autobots Percy and I knew was in that area,' Wheeljack said quickly.

'Same here, but their fate isn't a priority right now,' said Kup. 'We'll untangle this mess once we figure out what to do about the Decepticons here on Cybertron. Wheeljack, are those bombs still planted underneath the Nexus?'

'Woah, wait, "bombs"?!' repeated Cliffjumper.

'Yup,' Wheeljack nodded approvingly. 'Bombs. Big ones. In the maintenance tunnels underneath the Space Bridge Nexus.'

'When – how come there are bombs underneath the Nexus?!'

'It's a precautionary measure we took during the big one,' explained Wheeljack. 'Perceptor and I discretely placed them there under the orders of Ultra Magnus. When the war ended, Ultra Magnus ordered them dismantled, but Perceptor, Kup, and I agreed that it would be more efficient to leave them where they were.'

We need to hold the 'cons at the Nexus long enough to detonate the bombs. How long will it take you, Wheeljack?'

'Will have to do it manually. It's been a while...no telling what condition those bombs are in. Any slight error and we could end up destroying the city. I think we'll have to go check them ourselves to see if it's a plausible idea.'

'Then we're going to blow up the Nexus?' asked Cliffjumper.

'I formally request that this group takes into consideration that if we do destroy the Nexus, it could take years to reestablish connections in the Cybertronian territory and could permanently cripple relations with distant colonies,' Perceptor expanded. 'Travel would be increasingly vulnerable to attacks by dissidents and Decepticons, alike.'

'The only other way would be to lock down the Space Bridges,' said Wheeljack. 'We can't do that without authority from Ultra Magnus and he's not here right now.'

'Couldn't we hack our own systems?' Cliffjumper suggested.

'It would take too long. I hate to say it, but destroying the Nexus may be our only option to control the situation before the Decepticons get into the city, and we can't risk waiting for the Elite Guard.'

'Okay, the decision's been made,' said Kup. 'Wheeljack and Perceptor, get into the maintenance shafts and check on those bombs. I'm heading to the Nexus to give the Autobots there a hand. Cliffjumper, with Long – Shockwave – disposed of, I'm placing you temporarily in charge of Cybertron Intelligence and all its resources.'

'Fine,' said Cliffjumper. 'I'll be on the front lines shooting things.'

'No, you aren't,' snapped Kup. 'Rosanna may know more about what's going on than we do. Interrogate her.'

'Forget it!'

'Go interrogate her, Cliffjumper!'

Were this any other time Cliffjumper would have protested. But all protests were lost and – perhaps sensing the need for a private chat between the two of them – Wheeljack and Perceptor left the room.

'She's from your department,' said Kup when they were alone. 'She's turned her back on everything we stand for.'

'She claims she doesn't remember!'

'You can't possibly believe that. No, I'm not letting you get away with this.'

Cliffjumper stared at his feet.

'Are the rumours about you and her...true?' Kup asked.

'What?!' Cliffjumper jumped. 'No!'

'You're the worst liar in the history of the Autobots. You've never been able to lie and that hasn't changed now.'

'We're not anything,' Cliffjumper protested. 'It's just...casual! She's a casual friend – no, acquaintance!'

'You realize she could be responsible for killing your best friend?'

'What are you talking about?'

'Blurr.'

'You think I don't know that? It doesn't make it any easier!'

'You need to be the one to question her.'

'I'm not going to have my personal life paraded in front of the whole department! If I question her, it'll come up!'

'So shut off the cameras and microphones and have a nice spark-to-spark in private. Do I have to keep coming up with solutions for you or what?'

Cliffjumper forced himself to meet Kup's gaze. He didn't want this old bastard to be right, but the more he analyzed he words, the more he realized that he was right. Kup didn't wait for an answer, though. He slapped him on the shoulder and left the control room, leaving Cliffjumper to the mercy of his own indecision.


Can't do this. Can't do this. Can't do this.

Cliffjumper paced impatiently in an abandoned corridor, listening to the vague sounds of trampling feet. Every inch of him was screaming that he was wasting time, that progress had to be made.

Then, like an insect drawn to his doom by an eerie glow, he could no longer keep himself from the brig where Rosanna was being held. The first Autobot he met stood just outside, solemn, grave, and flinching at every distant gunfire that reached these deep recesses of the Metroplex.

'Have you made any progress?' Cliffjumper asked.

'What?' the agent frowned.

'Have you made any progress with Rosanna?'

'And who are you to ask?'

'...Cliffjumper?'

'Oh, scrap!' the agent went rigid and saluted. 'My apologies, sir. I only just go the memo from Kup...Is it true about Longarm?'

'Unfortunately, yes, but we have bigger problems. Have you made any progress with Rosanna?'

'She claims she doesn't remember anything. Well, at first, she didn't. Her behaviour has been irrational and it's near impossible to tell whether or not she's being straight with us. However, we've been keeping the pressure on and cracks are starting to show.'

'Good. I'm going in.'

'Yes, sir.'

Cliffjumper stepped into the interrogation room. There were two agents shadowing Rosanna, who sat in a chair in the very centre, her faceplate in her servos.

'We know you're responsible for this!' shouted the nearest agent. 'If you don't want to face execution for the atrocities you've committed, you better start talking!'

'I don't know what happened!' Rosanna argued. The strength in her voice was surprising. 'I don't know what you're going on about, but I swear – I swear – I had – I had no idea! I don't know what's going on!...Cliffjumper!'

The agents turned. They simultaneously saluted.

'Any progress?' Cliffjumper barked at the nearest agent.

'No, sir,' he replied. 'She claims she doesn't know anything.'

'Alright, then. Out.'

'Um...could you repeat that, sir?'

'I said get out.'

'But that isn't exactly procedure – .'

'This whole mess isn't "procedure". Get out.'

The agents silently filed by. The door slid shut behind them. He didn't turn. He could sense Rosanna's spirit crumbling. Finally, he gathered his courage to use a datapad to mute the microphones, cut the camera feed, and seal the door. It was only when he knew that they were truly alone that he turned to face her.

Betrayal gnawed at his spirit. Betrayal. He felt the ground start to waver underneath his feet, though he knew it was only in his imagination. But finally he gathered the courage to break the omnious silence that had befallen them.

'How could you?' he said quietly.

Rosanna peered up. 'Cliffjumper – .'

'I trusted you! How could I have been so stupid?! I practically handed classified information to you and now – and now this?!'

'You think I meant for this to happen?!' Rosanna argued. 'Cliffjumper, I didn't know! It's like I have an intruder in here and – I don't know. Nothing is making sense.'

'Is this the part where you deny what happened? Call me a liar? Use the insanity plea?'

'No,' she drew her breath. 'No, it did happen, didn't it? I can see it in your optics and I can feel it...Even if I didn't directly cause it – I was there.'

'I've had it checked. You were the one who sent the Decepticons information concerning the deep cover agents. You killed them!'

'I KNOW!' Rosanna shouted. 'Dammit, Cliffjumper, Blurr was my friend, too!'

'You think this is just about Blurr?! This is about the good Autobots offline because of you! I should have you decommissioned – permanently! You know what Cybertron Intelligence does behind closed doors and there's nothing to hold me back! No rules! No regulations! Not even Ultra Magnus could stop me! I'm free to do whatever I want! No restrictions!'

Rosanna looked at him carefully. 'Except me.'

Cliffjumper froze.

He sank to his knees in front of her, clutching the sides of her chairs and looking into her optics.

'Tell me everything,' he begged.

'I don't know what's happening,' Rosanna croaked. 'I've been...having blanks in my memory. Big, empty spots where I don't know where I have been or what I have been doing. I'll...I'll leave the office and the next thing I know I'll be standing in my quarters, drenched in oil and energon...'

'You should have come to me sooner. I would have helped you! Maybe we could've stopped all of this!'

'I couldn't.'

'Why not?'

'I don't know. That isn't a very good explanation, but every time I thought about it...it was like there was a locked door. I slammed my fists against it until...'

'You can't just tell me you have amnesia. You know more than you're letting on.'

'I just thought – .'

'Where did the Decepticons come in?'

'Cliffjumper, I can't.'

'Yes, you can. You're an Autobot. What are their plans? Where is Megatron?!'

'Megatron is dead.'

'Don't give me that. He's alive. Where is he? Is he coming to Cybertron?'

Rosanna clutched her head. 'I can't...'

'Where is he?!'

She didn't answer.

He grunted in frustration, rose to his feet, and briefly turned away. 'You're not making it easier to choose between my duty and you, Rosanna. I have to do what I – .'

He stopped short. As he swung back around to face her, he no longer saw Rosanna sitting in the chair.

Well, it was her, but at the same time it wasn't. Instead of the bubbly, pink femme he knew, there was instead a Decepticon with a distinct dark purple hue to her chassis, her eyes fading from blue to deceiving red. At once, he drew out a pistol and aimed it at her.

'Who...or what...are you?' Cliffjumper demanded.

'Flip Sides,' she responded.

'You're dead!'

'I wouldn't do that if I were you. Your Rosanna is still in here and I think you already know that. Put that down.'

Cliffjumper kept the pistol poised. 'Start talking.'

'Pistol down, Cliffjumper,' the Decepticon directed, 'or I say nothing. Let's have a civil conversation.'

He paused, for the longest time, but he couldn't help but be compelled by her presence. He lowered his weapon, though by no means did he relax his guard.

'Rosanna, as you know her, doesn't exist,' Flip Sides explained gravely.

'Not possible. I was just talking to her.'

'Rosanna is a program, a projection perfectly created to interact and emulate the Autobot ideal. I'm always watching, in the background, in perfect control of her every action. She was created to be installed in a deep cover agent to provide information, but she's almost too perfect. The program is vigorous...eventually it starts to fight and gain a semblance of self-awareness. I always knew it would be a one way trip.'

'What was your mission?'

'Our primary objective was to plant seeds of distrust in the Autobot ranks and collect information regarding your own deep-cover agents.'

'So you are responsible for the missing agents.'

'Yes. I was also a critical player when it came to the murder of Highbrow Prime.'

Cliffjumper fell quiet. '...You were...?'

'Well, it wasn't me, precisely - I just supplied the information and lured him into the trap. Shockwave was the one who struck the final blow.'

'Are there any other Decepticon deep-cover agents?'

'If there are, I don't know about them; our system works the same way yours does. Our deep-cover agents can't recognize each other for security purposes. Shockwave was our liaison here on Cybertron.'

'And Megatron? Where is he?'

'I'm not entirely sure. His disappearance was as much a mystery to the Decepticons as it was to the Autobots, and his reappearance was an even bigger surprise. I'm not sure if Shockwave knows where he is; if he does – or did – then he wouldn't share it. I'm a subordinate and it would be inappropriate to share such vital information. I did the extent of my job.'

Gripped with the sudden urge to move around, Cliffjumper started pacing around the room, never taking his optics off of her.

'Decepticons are currently pouring in through the Space Bridge Nexus,' said Cliffjumper. 'What do you know about their plan of attack? What's the purpose of this?'

'Things...aren't...going to plan,' explained Flip Sides. 'It has gone awry. Strika has disobeyed orders.'

'Oh?'

'Strika was supposed to wait until Megatron gave her a signal indicating that he was ready to transwarp, and then initiate a mass attack on his signal. Unfortunately, Megatron has gone silent. Strika jumped the gun.'

Cliffjumper tested the level of eye contact she maintained. He narrowed his optics. 'Why are you telling me all this?'

'I'm not really telling you anything,' said Flip Sides. 'Just confirming you what you already suspect or repeating what you already know.'

He crcled Flip Sides. She stared at the floor, fists clenched tightly.

'Wait, wait, wait,' Cliffjumper stopped. 'Shouldn't someone come...rescue you?'

'I don't expect anything so glamourous. Decepticons value each member of their ranks highly since there are so few of us now, but...' she paused. 'Well, these are desperate times...and I'm near my end, anyways, with the program gaining dominance over my personality. In the last few stellar cycles Rosanna has been relentless in trying to erase me, fighting for control over this form...Soon I must offline myself to prevent her from gaining total control and wrecking havoc among our ranks by releasing our intel operations. Besides, I wasn't good enough to evade capture, so Shockwave would consider that a mark against my character. To him, I wouldn't be worth fighting against. I am also equally capable of breaking out of this place should I wish.'

'So why haven't you?'

'Because I would be expected to kill you in the process...and I would never forgive myself.'

Cliffjumper turned his back on her.

'I was fully conscious while the program was in control,' Flip Sides continued. 'I'm a part of it.'

Cliffjumper didn't reply. He focused on the wall. The wall, so wonderfully undecorated and uncomplicated.

'No, you aren't,' he denied. 'You're just some double agent – .'

'Rosanna and I are one. We cannot exist without each other. Her decisions are mine.'

Another lengthy pause.

'It wouldn't work,' Flip Sides murmured softly. 'I'm a Decepticon You're an Autobot, and not just any Autobot. You're Cliffjumper, the Autobot who Decepticons fear to speak of.'

'You think that's what this is about?!' he chortled cruelly.

'I know that's what it's about. It's the only reason you walked in here.'

He glared at Flip Sides challengingly. 'What does Rosanna think?'

'Rosanna doesn't think. She's a program designed for the sole purpose of infiltration.'

'What do you think Cybertronians are? We're all just basically a whole bunch of programs! We're technology! Other species argue that we aren't even alive! If this "program" is complex enough to make decisions and formulate her own thoughts, then she – .'

'She isn't sentient. That's the universal acknowledgement of life, isn't it? Rosanna isn't aware of herself. "She" has always just been an extension of me. That's how I kept in control.'

'So everything that happened was "just business"?'

'I wish I could say that it was – that's what any good Decepticon would claim. But Lord Megatron has always advocated that if we didn't believe in our cause, that if our actions weren't true, then we shouldn't be a Decepticon. The Autobots, on the other servo, don't care if you believe in their cause – only that you fight for it...It's an interesting paradox, isn't it?'

'Yeah, yeah, I've heard the paradox before,' Cliffjumper waved vaguely in her direction.

'Decepticons know when to act and how to plan,' Flip Sides straightened herself, still not meeting his optics. 'Autobots, on the other hand, tend to be unpredictable and unreliable. I want to know what you plan to do with me now that you know.'

'Obviously you have a plan for that, too,' Cliffjumper countered.

'If you're good at your job, you're going to arrange for my execution. If you're exceptionally good at your job, you'll kill me right here.'

'...And if I'm not?'

'I will remain alive and you will cower in the face of your own weakness, because Rosanna is the only thing you can't bare to loose.'

Cliffjumper averted his gaze and didn't reply.

The Decepticon colours gripping Flip Sides started to fade to a pale pink. The program had reasserted itself, but Rosanna did not meet his optics. She averted her gaze, her expression tortured at best and focused on the ground. That's when Cliffjumper realized that Rosanna knew it all, that she and Flip Sides were fighting for control, now fully aware of each other's presence and unable to do anything about it.

Silently he left the room to the agents waiting outside.

'I'm going to join Wheeljack and Perceptor and handle the situation at the Space Bridge Nexus.' Cliffjumper said to the nearest agent.

'What about...her?' the agent questioned.

'Keep her in custody. Something isn't right here, and I want to know what it is. Oh, and if you so much as put one dent in her...it's your head.'

'Yes, sir,' the agent saluted him.

Cliffjumper readied his weapons, took a deep breath, and marched back through the Metroplex, but amidst the chaos he perceived existence as being painfully quiet, save for Flip Sides' haunting voice penetrating the shadows.