Summary: It was their last stand - but in their darkest hour, there is a beacon of light. Or two.
Pairing/Characters: Ensemble cast. Elita/Optimus, Prowl/Jazz, Chromia/Ironhide.
Warning: Character deaths
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: This fic, and my other updates tonight, have all been up on my writing LJ for awhile, but I finally decided to update them here. Be prepared for extreme angst. Sequel to "Ragnarök Rising: Optimus" and "Ragnarök's Eve: Prowl". Note that the name change at the end of this is entirely stolen from idiosyn on LJ in her fic "Prime Rising". She has said she doesn't mind me making off with the name.
- Ragnarök -
Soundwave found it extraordinary just how much noise the human race could put out. Even with his barriers at full, it was hard to block it all out - which was why he'd so readily accepted assignment to the outer solar system when his symbiotes had (inadvertently or not) fragged off Megatron one too many times. But now, with Unicron hanging over their collective heads, he was back on Earth, and it seemed that the noise level of the planet had only increased in his absence. His processor had started aching from the moment he landed, but Megatron had been firm about not letting loose another virus to shut down Earth's communications systems.
So Soundwave stood stoically by on the tarmac, trying his best to ignore the white noise of the numerous human communications in the background in favour of making sure his symbiotes didn't get into too much trouble. Some part of him was absently paying attention, though - it was what made him such a good communications officer - and caught an interesting communication that was passing through a few select channels, and after some quick research and a moment of thought, Soundwave decided smugly that he had a legitimate way to interrupt the human chatter. Hacking into the appropriate channels, then re-routing the connection to Optimus Prime, Soundwave sat back, satisfied, as his hacked feed played all around the world, granting him a few minutes of peace.
It was impressive, how quickly even the ambient noise on the base quieted as people picked up on the feed, listening as the religious leader asked to what god he should pray to for the Cybertronian's souls. Soundwave was impressed that the human was open-minded enough to ask such a question, but from what he'd found on this 'Dalai Lama', it was to be expected from the man. It shocked Optimus into silence, however, and in the end, it was Ironhide who answered.
"All are one. Primus holds our sparks now." the usually gruff weapons specialist said softly, and around the base, there was a visible straightening of mechs and femmes.
"May he keep them well." the human on the other end of the connection replied gravely, and then Soundwave regretfully let his hacked communications protocols drop. He was rather surprised that afterwards, the noise didn't start up. All the many communications channels stayed open, but most were silent now. It was as if the human race had finally realized what the Cybertronians had known the moment Optimus and Megatron had identified Unicron - there was no coming back from this assault. This was the last they would see of the Cybertronians, forever. The last gasp of their race, spent to save the organic world which half the Cybertronians would have gladly obliterated a few weeks before. Soundwave found himself wanting to laugh at the irony, but knew it would be inappropriate, and so turned his attention to rounding up his cassettes.
The ships lifted off an hour later, and the Cybertronians left Earth, leaving behind only a few facilities, locked down with an AI program set to release the knowledge and technology inside to the humans when they were ready. That had, oddly, been Megatron's idea - the Autobots had wanted to destroy all evidence of their presence, to leave Earth to develop on its own, but Megatron had argued long and passionately about leaving a legacy of some kind, until Optimus had caved. Whether or not that legacy was ever attained, none of them would know, but it did help, knowing they were leaving something behind. Even Soundwave had to admit that.
Once the armada of Cybertronian ships had settled into orbit, there was more waiting - just another half an hour, for the last stragglers to make it in. The Cybertronians already present watched the complexity of Unicron's transformation while they waited. Megatron and Optimus watched on in silence, standing side by side on the bridge of the Nemesis, the chosen flagship for this fleet. It was something that hadn't been seen in an age, the Prime and Lord Protector standing side by side peacefully, and Soundwave saw Elita capture the image and send it to the news stations on Earth. A record that in the end, the Cybertronians came together peacefully.
Then, finally, the last of the ships arrived. Mechs and femmes filtered onto the ships in orbit, exchanging quick, bittersweet greetings - and then everyone's attention turned to the pair at the center of the Nemesis' bridge. For a moment, it seemed like neither was going to say anything. Starscream, typically, broke the tableau.
"Well, are we going to charge boldly into the mouth of the abyss or not?" he asked, voice dripping with sarcasm. Megatron barked out a laugh, and even Optimus seemed amused.
"I'd rather not, but since we're here, we might as well." the Prime said, then glanced at Megatron. "I think it's my turn to order our race to its death." Megatron just nodded, taking the jibe and shouldering the blame for his actions in the simple motion. Soundwave wondered if the Warlord realized what he'd just done, or if he was so concerned with other things that he hadn't stopped to think before he'd essentially made peace with the Autobots. Either way, it didn't matter now.
"Begin the attack." Optimus ordered.
The ships were paralyzed or destroyed within the first opening minutes of the battle - Unicron had been swift and merciless when the armada started shooting at him. Fortunately, they'd anticipated that, and only a handful of Cybertronians had been on board their vessels, manning the guns. Soundwave's symbiotes were among those onboard the ships, reasoning that their small size might help them survive. Soundwave felt their loss as the battle began, but his symbiotes had blocked their bonds to him before the battle, and Soundwave had returned the favour. Their loss was nothing more than a dull ache right now, though should he survive, Soundwave knew he would grieve for them later.
For now, he had a mission to complete. All Cybertronians not manning the armada's guns had left the ships, running in deep-space mode, when Optimus had given the order to attack. They fought up close and personal with Unicron's defenses, working their way inside - they'd known from the start that a frontal assault would do little to Unicron, so the plan was to split into dozens of teams and make their way inside Unicron, where they could do the most damage. That meant no communications with each other, but Prowl and Starscream had pulled an all-night planning session and divided everyone into teams, regardless of faction, paying attention only to skills, subspace storage space, and personality. Which was probably how Soundwave had ended up following Chromia through Unicron's internals, Swindle and Beachcomber right behind him. Neither second had ever liked him overly much.
Chromia kept a tough pace, liberally distributing their explosives among any systems they came across that seemed even vaguely important. Theoretically, the transformation nodes were primary targets, but there were over a million of them in Unicron's body, and the Autobots and Decepticons, together, had only had enough explosive to take out a quarter of them. So they were just hitting whatever they could, working their way deeper, looking for more and more sensitive equipment to damage.
They didn't proceed unchallenged, however - Unicron's internal defenses fought against them. Sentient-seeming cables, red-hot lasers, pulse weapons, even acid tried to stop them, but they pushed on, no matter the traps that stood in their way - or how many they lost. Beachcomber ended up crushed as the walls of the corridor they were in suddenly starting closing, and he couldn't get out fast enough. Swindle was grabbed by cables and dragged into a hole in the ceiling, screaming the entire way, before Chromia or Soundwave could grab him. The two of them continued, grimly, looking for more things to destroy, and trying to ignore the corpses from other teams that they found, except to take whatever explosives and ammo the dead had on them.
The carnage as they worked their way deeper into Unicron got more brutal, and more personal - the ones that got in this far were the more skilled ones, the officers - mechs and femmes they knew, either from working with them, or fighting against them on the battlefield. They started stopping, now, when they saw dead that they recognized. They found Red Alert pinned to a wall and Chromia insisted they get him down, setting him next to Inferno, who was resting against the base of the wall, his body untouched, but his spark long gone. A few corridors farther on, they found Hook, half-dissolved in acid, and Chromia stood back as Soundwave planted a few of their weaker - but still powerful - explosives on the medic before motioning that they should proceed. He hit the detonator as the turned the corner out of the hallway, but even then, the explosion shook them, nearly knocking them off their feet.
"Now that's a way to go." Chromia said with a smirk to Soundwave, and the communications officer nodded, catching the double meaning in her comment.
They continued onwards, finding fewer corpses now, and then, for the first time, they ran into someone still living - Jazz, with First Aid and Breakdown. Before they could do much more than exchange greetings, however, Unicron shook, rocked by some massive explosion. As they regained their footing, Soundwave glanced down, and realized that though he'd instinctively caught Chromia before she'd hit the floor, the femme was no longer with them, her spark gone like Inferno's.
"'Hide always did say he had enough explosives on him to take out a small moon." Jazz said grimly as Soundwave gently set Chromia's body down. After a moment of thought, the communications officer opened Chromia's subspace, wedging it open before pulling one of the plasma grenades out of it. Hooking the grenade up to a remote detonator, he took the detonator and stood, turning to the grimly smiling Jazz.
"Suggestion: we should vacate this area." Soundwave told the saboteur.
"Sounds like a plan. Come on, you can come with us now." Jazz said, motioning for Soundwave to follow, and they headed off, running at top speed until they reached the edge of the detonator's range - and then they ran even faster, stumbling as the corridor shook around them with the explosion.
Once the aftershocks died down, they resumed their destructive path through Unicron, planting explosives as they went, stumbling along due to shockwaves more often than not. They saw no corpses, now, but occasionally they'd find evidence that someone else had been through recently - charred corridors, destroyed consoles and machinery, it was clear that others were still alive down here. They didn't really expect to run into them, though, and so stopped in surprise when they turned a corner and found Elita standing in the middle of the corridor in front of them, her head bowed, charred defenses resting around her. She looked up slowly when they slid to a stop, and Jazz, mid-greeting, stopped short as he realized she was cradling something in her hands.
"Frag." Jazz sighed as they all recognized it.
"I need to find Hot Rod." Elita said flatly, drawing the Matrix closer to her chest, hiding it from view.
"Hot Rod?" First Aid asked incredulously.
"Optimus..." Elita trailed off, her voice shorting out, and Soundwave, wondering what it was with him catching Autobot femmes today, darted forward to support her as she suddenly sagged. Elita looked up at him in surprise, and then she frowned. Suddenly, the normal firewalls around the femme's processor came down. Soundwave staggered back as he found himself assaulted with the data in her mind, and especially the last hour worth of memories. The exchange lasted a split second, but it was enough for Elita to get her point across, and as he straightened, Soundwave looked to her and nodded.
"Find Hot Rod. He's the only hope for our race." Elita said, holding the Matrix out to Soundwave, and he reluctantly took it from her. When she let go, Soundwave's sensors started screaming at him, and it took him a few moments to realize what they were telling him - then his gaze snapped up to Elita's. "Run." she said calmly, and Soundwave did, Jazz and the others right behind him as Elita overloaded her unique fusion core. The explosion was as expected, but Soundwave decided not to theorize too much on the waves of energy that swept over all of them during it. Instead, he turned his attention to Jazz.
"Do you know where Hot Rod might be?" he asked.
"Let me -" Jazz's gaze unfocussed, and Soundwave waited patiently as the mech spoke with his new bondmate. "Frag. Haven't a clue." Jazz said grimly.
"Then we'd better keep looking." First Aid said grimly, and the others agreed as they kept running. A few corridors later, they turned a corner and literally ran into the twins - Soundwave found himself grabbing onto Sideswipe with his free hand to keep them both from falling over, while Jazz made use of his extraordinary flexibility to twist out of Sunstreaker's way as the golden twin staggered to a stop.
"Fancy meeting you here!" Sideswipe said brightly, then noticed what Soundwave was holding. "Hey, how did you get that? Elita ran off with it after..." Sideswipe trailed off.
"She reached her limits, Sides." Jazz said grimly.
"Query: have you seen Hot Rod?" Soundwave asked just as grimly.
"Hot Rod?" Sideswipe asked incredulously. "Why don't you just give it to my brother? At least he'd be quick about it." Sunstreaker glared at his twin.
"Hey!" he protested.
"Well, you would." Sideswipe said reasonably.
"QUERY: have you seen Hot Rod?" Soundwave repeated more forcefully.
"Oh, right, no, but we did run into Skywarp awhile back - weren't they supposed to be on the same team?" Sideswipe asked curiously, looking between the two officers.
"Affirmative." Soundwave confirmed, then added, "Fact: probability of Skywarp staying with his team less than 10%."
"True, but maybe he's checking back in with them occasionally?" Sideswipe suggested.
"Worth a shot." Jazz said, glancing at Soundwave, who nodded. "Lead the way." With a nod, Sideswipe turned and headed off, Sunstreaker right behind him, and the other four right behind Sunstreaker. It didn't take them long, running through corridors whose defenses had already been destroyed by the twins, for them to reach the spot where they'd seen Skywarp. The teleporter was, unsurprisingly, nowhere to be found, but they headed off in the direction of the destruction the twins said they hadn't caused, hoping to track the seeker that way.
They lost Breakdown a few minutes later when they made a wrong turn - they turned into a corridor with its defenses still active, and though they were quick on the draw, taking out the laser net before it was half-formed around them, Breakdown had been at the back of the group, and had been cut to shreds when the net had started forming where he was standing. They moved his remains to the side of the corridor, backtracked, and kept going - just in time to lose First Aid to grasping cables that had probably moved too slowly to catch Skywarp. Jazz, looking grim, motioned for the twins to fall into formation around Soundwave - the telepath, oddly, found himself the most important person in the group, due to his precious cargo.
It was another several minutes before they turned a corner just in time to see a seeker jet by the other end. Jazz had already started cursing when the dying sound of the engines began getting louder again, and a moment later, the jet screamed around the corner, decelerating rapidly. Transforming and skidding to a stop just in front of them, Thundercracker was clearly not holding back on his abilities anymore, like he had when fighting for the Decepticons.
"Finally! I've been looking for someone since I ran out of ammo." he said. Sunstreaker wordlessly opened his subspace and started pulling out missiles and charge packs, all built for seekers. Thundercracker gave him an incredulous look.
"Dirge bit it early on." the golden twin grumbled, glaring at all and sundry, as if it was their fault that the conehead was so inept.
"Better him than me." Thundercracker said after a moment, grimly, and started loading up. He was just about finished when Unicron shook around them, sending everyone staggering. Soundwave ended up crashing into Thundercracker and losing his grip on the Matrix - fortunately, as Thundercracker had just been handling explosives, the seeker's reflexes were on high alert, and he caught the Matrix before it hit the floor. As they all straightened, Soundwave looked to Thundercracker, who had frozen in place, staring at the Matrix in his hands with an odd expression on his face. Then, suddenly, the seeker shook himself, and handed the Matrix back to Soundwave.
"We'd better get going - Hot Rod decided to make a push straight to Unicron's core." Thundercracker said, then pointed behind them. "Which is back that way." Jazz frowned, clearly wanting to ask how Thundercracker knew who they were looking for, but also knowing they were running short on time. They took off, Thundercracker running along the corridor with them most of the time, but occasionally jetting ahead to scout the way, especially as they began cutting a new path through Unicron's innards.
During one of those scouting trips, he unexpectedly returned with company - Skywarp. The two seekers set down in front of the group of ground-bound mechs, who had stopped in anticipation. Skywarp seemed inexplicably shocked as he landed, his gaze fixed uncertainly on Jazz.
"How -" the seeker trailed off in confusion, then blurted out, "I thought you two bonded." Jazz blinked in surprise.
"What?" he asked, then suddenly went very still, his expression going from confused, to concerned, then straight to panic and finally, as he turned to Soundwave, rage. "You! You did something!" the saboteur launched himself at the surprised Soundwave, but Thundercracker grabbed him. Jazz fought against him, but the seeker held on.
"Jazz, calm down, there's nothing Soundwave could have done, you know that. Your bond was young, and you were focused on something else. Prowl probably knew that and blocked what he could from you so that you could continue. Everything's muffled in here anyways." Thundercracker was speaking soothingly, trying to get the saboteur to calm down, but Jazz was having none of it. He was incoherent with grief and rage, and in the end, Soundwave broke into Jazz's processor and forced him to shut down.
"What was that all about?" Sideswipe asked as he took Jazz from Thundercracker.
"Prowl's dead, duh." Sunstreaker said with a snort, glancing over to Skywarp for confirmation.
"Rather nasty trap got him." the purple seeker said with a nod. "He sorta made it implode after it got him, though I dunno how the frag he managed that."
"Fact: we can discuss this later." Soundwave interrupted, then looked to Skywarp. "Query: location of Hot Rod."
"He's right outside Unicron's core, but he won't be for long." the purple seeker said, then glanced down at the Matrix Soundwave still held. He took a step forward, holding out a hand, as he looked up to Soundwave. The telepath considered for a moment, but in the end, he knew that as goofy as Skywarp made himself out to be, the seeker could and did know when to be serious. Skywarp nodded to Soundwave as the telepath handed him the Matrix, and then teleported out. They waited in the corridor in silence after Skywarp left, for what they didn't know, but knowing there would be some sign that they had succeeded - or failed.
And, with an unholy scream echoing from the very walls around them, it came, a wave of bright energy washing over them as Unicron began to tremble and shake.
"We gotta go!" Sideswipe said as the corridor around them started to break apart.
"Out, this time!" Sunstreaker agreed.
"I'm going to look for anyone else still alive!" Thundercracker yelled over the destruction around them, and took off, leaving the rest of them to follow the twins' suggestion and head out. A few corridors along, they met up with Ratchet and Wheeljack, who were also on their way out. None of them bothered to ask why the medic and engineer were heading out - the urge to run out was strong in all of them now. Soundwave suspected the wave of energy that had swept over them had held an order from the new Prime, which had gone straight to their sparks.
Still, the way out wasn't without its perils, and they barely managed to stop as a pit trap opened up in front of them. Sunstreaker, ahead of the pack, was the only one caught, tumbling down the chute underneath, his cursing audible long after he was out of sight.
"Catch ya on the other side." Sideswipe said after a moment, turning and handing Jazz to Soundwave. Then he flashed them all a grin and did a back flip into the chute, his jetpack flaring to life.
"Somehow I knew they wouldn't make it out of here." Ratchet said with a sigh.
"It's the perfect way for them to go." Wheeljack commented, and Ratchet nodded, then motioned back to the junction they'd just passed.
"We'd better continue." he said, and Soundwave nodded. They all turned and headed back, taking a different corridor. After a few minutes, Ratchet suddenly pulled ahead and turned.
"I'll catch up!" he called over his shoulder.
"Oi! No you don't!" Wheeljack called after him, and took off after the medic. Soundwave sighed, then adjusted his grip on Jazz and headed after the two of them. Ratchet seemed irritated when he realized they were following him, but didn't say anything as he lead them straight to Moonracer, pinned against a wall, but still very much alive - and cursing up a storm. Between the three of them, it didn't take long to free her, and then they were off again.
It wasn't long after that they passed through a low-level maintenance field and found themselves in a vacuum - they were nearing open space. Seemingly just in time, Thundercracker appeared shortly after they entered the vacuum, towing a disgruntled-looking Barricade with one hand. He slowed as he came alongside their group of four, holding out his other hand, and Soundwave took it, adjusting his grip on Jazz to make sure the saboteur didn't get left behind. Wheeljack, getting the idea, grabbed Ratchet, and then the none-too-pleased Barricade. Moonracer, after a moment of eyeing the collection of mechs, jumped and ended up latching on around Thundercracker's neck, startling the seeker slightly, though it showed only in a slight wobble in his flight path. Once they were all attached, Thundercracker picked up the pace, rocketing through the corridors at an incredible speed, until he suddenly burst into open space.
Outside, their comms crackled to life once again, and Thundercracker opened a general channel.
"Where to?" he asked.
"Destination: the ships. Mission: salvage and repair one." Soundwave, as the ranking officer among them, intoned.
"I'm not sure that we'll have time." Wheeljack said softly, and Soundwave looked over to see the engineer looking behind them. Taking the cue, he glanced back as well, and was startled as he saw beams of light bursting from deep within Unicron, seemingly destroying the giant Cybertronian from the inside out.
"Earth." Soundwave said, for once dropping his vocal modulation as he rapidly calculated that only a planetary atmosphere would be able to protect them from the explosion that was undoubtedly coming. "Quickly."
"Earth it is." Thundercracker said grimly, adjusting course. The seeker was pushing his engines to the limit, but even in the vacuum of space, he could only go so fast, and as he watched the destruction of Unicron behind them, Soundwave knew it wasn't going to be quite fast enough. And, sure enough, just as they entered the outer edges of Earth's atmosphere, the explosion building inside Unicron reached its climax, and the exploded outwards, speeding towards, and then over them. The last thing Soundwave saw was the Earth rushing up to meet them.
Jazz awoke to pain - aching, searing pain, throughout his entire body and spark. He groaned and tried to move, hoping to make the pain go away, but a hand on his chest pushed him back down.
"Don't you dare!" a familiar voice snapped. "I've spent the last week putting you back together, when you weren't trying to follow Prowl, and I'll be fragged if you undo all my hard work now!"
"Ratch?" Jazz asked blearily, activating his optics and getting a staticy, but workable, result. The medic, clearly still pretty banged up himself, was visible working on Jazz's hip. Then what Ratchet had said caught up with Jazz's processor, and he whimpered, turning off his optics as he searched along his shattered bond with Prowl, finding nothing. He was aware of yelling around him, but only one voice broke through his grief as he desperately tried to find something, anything at the other end of the bond.
"Don't you dare die on me, Jazz. We need you - I need you! There's few enough of us left, and I don't have a fragging clue what I'm doing, but I'm supposed to restore our race and I can't do that without you!" the voice was familiar, but not recognizable, and in the end, it was Jazz's insatiable curiosity more than what the voice was saying that drew him back from the edge. Activating his optics, Jazz stared dumbly up at the relieved face above him.
"Thundercracker?" he asked incredulously after a moment.
"Thunderous Prime, technically, but I'm still getting used to it, so Thundercracker works." the seeker said with a grimace. Jazz stared at him for a moment longer.
"Ok, this I gotta see." the saboteur said, and somewhere off to the side, Ratchet started laughing.
- THE END -