Tally-ho, this is slightly different.

I'd like to point out right now that this is nothing like anything the wondrous Clumsy Peg and I have written before. We have splendidly joined forces once more, so be sure to remember that I am not the only voice telling this tale! It is indeed another joint venture between us that this time I have the pleasure of hosting, but read this very carefully:

This is not humorous. This is not crack. This is not even eloquent angst. This may get very nasty. We're Autobot fangirls really, we don't really do... this.

There are also character deaths ahead, but I find it difficult to say whether they're major or minor. Surely that depends on your love for the character?

Nor in fact do we know how long this is going to be, so if you like, pop us a review so that we know we've got some support in this sick and twisted world! This is new to both of us, so feedback is greatly appreciated. There might be some serious Optimus trauma if we get to another chapter, which will obviously be very exciting.

I can't think of anything else of note except that we've upgraded Soundwave's size. He looked huge in RotF only to be a complete midget in DotM. In this we've returned him to being massive as this suits our malignant purposes better.

Hope wasn't lost, Ratchet told himself. Hope was never lost.

Of course, no matter how many times he told himself the same thing it didn't make the situation any better.

The Autobots would be lucky to get out of this alive: too brazenly they had entered Chicago, full of righteousness and no real plan- not that there had been much time to make one, let alone plan tactics even Prowl would have approved of.

They had had to fight immediately (there had been no other option), but it certainly hadn't turned out well. Separating themselves across the city had made sense at the time: wider spread, better chance of finding Decepticons- but the enemy had found them, or just Ratchet, at least. He fervently hoped that the others had been luckier.

Unfortunately the sheer numbers of the Decepticons meant Ratchet was as good as dead, though surprisingly they hadn't blasted him into the Matrix yet. The amount of mechs surrounding him meant that there was no chance for escape unless something miraculous happened (and Ratchet was sure the Autobots' miracle quota had been used up a long time ago).

'Surrender,' a bulky, trigger-happy looking mech ordered, weapons pointed directly at him.

'Make me,' the medic spat. If he wasn't going to live through this, he wasn't going to go down spinelessly.

The armaments held by the Decepticons were hefted, and Ratchet was suddenly sure that it was the end; he immediately opened fire, hitting at least one majorly and another-

The Decepticons were not blasting him to death, he abruptly realised. Miracles could not be wasted, he reasoned, and resolved to take as many out as he could.

The mechs were shouting furiously amongst themselves in some Decepticon language but still standing there.

Were they stupid? Were their processors damaged from the spacebridge? That would be priceless indeed.

But no, perhaps there was something else at work here. Why would they ask him to surrender and then not fire back-?

They were surely up to something... and if his hunch was correct, he was in for a whole lot of trouble.

Before the medic could continue this thought, a sharp hit to the back of his helm jarred his processors, causing him to black out.

When he finally came to, he was no longer on the battlefield that had been a proud city until so recently (just as Cybertron died from the War, Earth had begun to die too).

Instead he immediately registered he appeared to be in a building, being held captive between two rather large Decepticons and, if that wasn't enough, staring into the ruined face of none other than Megatron himself.

'What do you want with me?' Ratchet inquired wearily, though he wasn't sure if he really wanted to know the answer.

'Being such a renowned medic,' the Decepticon leader replied, 'You and you alone have the skills to repair my...unfortunate visage.' He wasted no time getting to the point.

'No one can repair that,' Ratchet snapped. 'Ugliness cannot be cured.'

Megatron growled with rage and swiped his long, sharp claws across the medic's face. Deep scratches were left across his optic ridge and nasal plating; to his credit, the Autobot barely flinched.

'Why would I do anything for you? After all the Autobots...all the friends of mine you've killed?' Ratchet demanded angrily, ignoring the blazing pain slicing across his face.

'Because if you don't,' Megatron answered cooly, gesturing for his minions to come forward, 'Your Prime will suffer the consequences.' A sadistically fanged, gleeful grin appeared on the Decepticon's face at the Autobot medic's horror: Optimus, flanked by both Soundwave and Shockwave, was pushed roughly towards them. Starscream and Sentinel Prime also emerged, though the CMO paid them no heed; they were irrelevant to the situation.

'You've done some pretty low things in your life, Megatron, but this tops them all,' Ratchet said venomously.

'Not at all,' the silver mech replied. 'Optimus is to blame for it, so it seems logical that Optimus should suffer as I do if you do not comply.'

The Autobot Commander gave a short growl; it was all he could give, being forcibly restrained by the two Decepticons simultaneously. He was forced to his knees between them before both hands were wrenched behind his back and Shockwave unsubspaced some cuffs; they were clearly taking no chances.

'It is just cosmetic damage,' Ratchet lied hurriedly, visually evaluating the damage as he spoke. 'Prime is to pay for your vanity?'

Megatron's short bark of laughter turned abruptly into a dark growl. 'You know as well as I that this is not simply cosmetic. The next time you lie, perhaps Soundwave or Shockwave shall have a little fun. Do you remember the type of fun they enjoy, Autobot?'

Ratchet needed no prompts to recall the sadistic reputations each mech had earned.

'Do not listen to him,' Optimus insisted abruptly, struggling between the giant mechs. 'Ratchet, do you hear me?'

The CMO could see the desperate conflict surging in his Prime; Optimus would not ask him to sacrifice his own existence for this, but it was the only alternative, and a painful one at that.

'I would care little for my life,' Ratchet said, 'but this situation threatens yours.'

'You speak as if I shall survive this and then live a joyful existence,' Optimus replied, 'but we both know that the likelihood of that.'

Ratchet fell silent; his processor provided enough outcomes- each as excruciating as the last- for him to know that the mech was right. Either way he could not save his Prime.

'Come, brother,' Megatron spoke reprovingly, as if he were rebuking a sulking child, 'why so downhearted?'

'Do not mock him,' Sentinel suddenly said warningly.

'I do not want your defence!' Optimus growled, enraged.

The older Prime watched him sadly as the other endeavoured against his captors once more. 'The Decepticons were our only chance of success, Optimus. To work with them is far better than to work against them fruitlessly.' And with that the mech simply left the room, abandoning his student to the non-existent mercy of his enemies.

'As amusing as I find your little situation, I think we can make it even more...interesting,' Megatron said. He gestured for more Decepticons to come forward, and Prime suddenly noticed that behind their bulk a slight yellow mech was just visible.

'Bumblebee,' Optimus sighed with heavy acceptance, his resolve melting away as Barricade thrust the aforementioned prisoner before his leader. He couldn't sacrifice the young scout's life as well- the Decepticon Commander truly had them trapped.

The yellow Autobot whirred sadly, optics wide as he glanced from Ratchet to Optimus.

'It is not your fault,' Prime managed to reply gently.

'How touching!' Starscream cried with a hysteric giggle, interlacing his talons and rubbing his metallic palms together briefly. 'May I have the yellow one, master?'

'Ah,' Megatron mused, 'I believe Soundwave has already claimed that one. Perhaps you should go capture your own?'

'Have?' Ratchet repeated incredulously, 'what do you mean, have?'

He was ignored as Starscream turned to hiss at Soundwave. Despite the threat, the Communications Officer radiated a disturbingly smug air.

'Enough,' their commander said shortly. 'Go and make yourself useful. If you want an Autobot, seek one, Seeker.'

'Are there any left?' With that wry, foreboding question, Starscream swept into a low bow before fluidly leaping up and transforming mid-air into his alternate, then spiralled up into the sky through a large hole in the ceiling.

'Let us return to business,' Megatron declared with awful brightness. 'Where were we, the scout?'

Ever attentive, Shockwave gave his commander a nod as if the larger Cybertronian had actually required an answer.

Megatron turned to look at Bumblebee thoughtfully, but he seemed to be systematically evaluating the mech more as an object than a being.

'Perhaps we can make the scout as delightful to behold as I,' Megatron finally said. 'Do you think he would survive, medic? What is your... professional opinion?'

Ratchet doubted that Bumblebee would indeed survive the same assault that the Decepticon had, despite his admirable stamina and resolve. Such strengths would be nothing in the face of such a brutal attack.

Megatron took a few longing steps closer to the yellow mech.

Bumblebee tried fruitlessly to break free- not because he wanted to run, but because he wanted to at least get a few hits in before dying. Barricade and a taller, unknown mech were managing to hold him fast; his efforts only served to humour Megatron, who laughed at the defiance in his victim's optics.

'You always were a feisty one...'

Ratchet's resolve had completely crumbled. 'I'll do it!' he pleaded. 'I'll do whatever you ask, just don't hurt Bumblebee!'

The Decepticon leader was triumphant. 'See? That wasn't so hard, now was it?' Turning to Shockwave, he added, 'Execute him.'

'With pleasure.' The officer immediately left Optimus' side and slowly approached the yellow scout, optic boring into him as he examined the small mech from varying angles.

'No, Megatron!' Prime cried desperately, once again struggling violently against Soundwave alone, who was having visibly more difficulty holding the Autobot by himself. 'Brother, stop! We'll do what you want, isn't that enough?'

The large silver mech regarded him coldly. 'What do you think?'

'Bumblebee!' Ratchet called out, horrified. He too tried to break free from his captors. This couldn't be happening. 'Megatron, stop this! You will have my compliance!'

'Compliance is simply not enough, medic,' Megatron spat. 'You need to learn that I do not like dealing with your pathetic heroics. If you had simply done what I had asked in the beginning, this could have been avoided.'

'Don't let him blame you, Ratchet,' Optimus interjected urgently, attempting to reassure his dismayed medic. 'He is twisted enough to have done it regardless-'

Bumblebee gave a mechanical whirr, nodding in agreement. The scout's bravery was too much for Ratchet to handle, and he looked away.

Unfortunately- but unsurprisingly- Megatron wouldn't allow such an action.

'Make him watch. Both of them,' he added as an afterthought, but Optimus had already locked optics with Bumblebee, perhaps trying to convey all the emotion and message he could through visual contact alone.

The two mechs restraining Ratchet forced his helm to look forward as Shockwave thought carefully about how to make the small Cybertronian's death as painful as possible. He was standing but a foot away from Bumblebee and just about to pull some murderous tool from subspace when Soundwave suddenly and unexpectedly spoke in a fast Decepticon dialect the Autobots could not understand, glancing at his commander and then gesturing at Bumblebee.

Megatron frowned heavily before returning low, dark sounding words at which the Communications Officer inclined his helm respectfully.

There was a brief pause before Megatron then spoke in the foreign tongue to Shockwave, who reluctantly retreated a few steps whilst his commander strode forwards and grasped Bumblebee by the face, clawtips cruelly digging into the more delicate plating.

The yellow mech attempted to pull away with a rare growl.

With astounding and terrifying speed, Megatron had him by the throat and was slowly pulling at something with his other clawed hand: the Autobot's vocal processor.

Bumblebee squirmed with a broken scream, his already damaged capacitors unable to withstand the mistreatment. The processor was ripped out of his throat once more, and abruptly all sound stopped. All the scout could do was mutely choke, his optics shut in anguish and his mouth open as he silently gagged and writhed in agony.

'Ah,' Megatron said almost regretfully, releasing his neck and watching the Autobot crumple to the ground, 'that was over too quickly. I suppose it hadn't recovered fully from the last encounter we had.'

Prime interrupted his musings with a furious snarl. 'You will pay for that,' he warned, half-risen to his pedes whilst both his guards had been distracted. Unfortunately for the Autobot, Shockwave was fast to knock him to the ground again.

'Of course I will,' Megatron said. 'Are you going to make me, Optimus? Do you think I fear you?'

'You should,' the flamed commander replied tightly. 'Because if I ever get the chance, I swear that you will regret this.'

Megatron turned back to Bumblebee, apparently unimpressed by the threats. 'I prefer you much more when you cannot make a noise,' the Decepticon informed the scout, sprinkling the shattered pieces of the processor onto the ground. 'Yours as promised, Soundwave. I suppose a mute does not matter to you; you have your means.'

The Intelligence Officer nodded, content. He would have his fun later.

A roaring jet engine announced Starcream's return. The Decepticon smoothly transformed to his bipedal form before easily angling through the ceiling-hole and landing lightly on his pedes.

'Master,' Starscream cried with disturbing jubilation, his back to the Autobots, 'see what your most loyal servant brings you!'

Megatron ventilated heavily. 'Spare me your theatrics.'

The smaller Decepticon's chassis clicked as his cockpit hissed open, and two small bodies tumbled out with a harsh smack into his hand, followed by a cry of pain.

'No,' Optimus whispered, already guessing where this led.

Megatron's helm cocked to the side; he barely spared his second a glance. 'Insects, Starscream? What might I want with them? Repulsive-'

'But these are very special insects,' the Seeker insisted, approaching his leader with his captives petrified on his palm.

'Oh god,' one of the humans choked, his speech quavering as he caught sight of the silver behemoth.

'Stay behind me,' a brave but frightened voice announced, shuffling slightly in front of the other figure, and Ratchet's worst fears about their identities were confirmed.

Losing all restraint, Bumblebee began to struggle violently against Barricade as Optimus tried once more to plea with his counterpart.

'Megatron, please-'

Starscream hastily continued, urgent to convince his superior of the captives' worth. 'My liege, this is the joint commander of the Autobot-human alliance and-'

'The boy,' Megatron suddenly interjected, optics narrowing even as they brightened, locking onto the young man Lennox was attempting to hide.

'Bumblebee!' Sam cried, eyes darting about and spotting his best friend. 'Bee are you alright?'

The Autobot tried to communicate with him, but without his vocal processors and his arms held in the vice-like grip of the Decepticons guarding him, he could not.

'Bee?' Sam asked, eyes threatening to spill over with tears. 'What's wrong with Bumblebee? Why...why isn't he saying anything? Or making some sort of- of mechanical noise, or anything?'

He looked around at the other Autobots, who avoided his gaze. Realization dawned on his face as he figured out what had happened. Then Sam himself couldn't even manage a sound due to the intense fury building inside him, angry tears falling down his cheeks. The boy then fell to his knees in despair, finally managing to choke out a single sob.

'Don't lose hope, Sam,' Lennox said quietly, kneeling in front of the younger male, hands firmly on the other's shoulders and trying to make eye contact. 'Ironhide is still out there, with the others. You know he'll find a way in.'

Shockwave laughed - a terrifying, sickening sound, unsettling the two humans. 'Oh, he'll find a way in, all right.' The glee in his voice was unbearable. 'But not the way you're expecting.'

Gesturing for another Decepticon to take his place at guarding Optimus, Shockwave left through a side door without comment.

The Decepticons' captives waited tensely, nervously, for Shockwave to return...hoping that they were wrong in their fears that Ironhide had been captured as well.

When they finally heard Shockwave return, there was no shouting, no sounds of a struggle, no name calling...it was ominously quiet.

Deadly quiet.

The only sound that pierced the air was the sound of a heavy, metallic object being dragged across the floor.

Shockwave finally re-entered the room, dragging an immobile black mech behind him. Sentinel Prime followed solemnly after, sad optics fixed on the body as the Decepticon then unceremoniously tossed the downed Autobot into the center of the petrified captives.

'No...Ironhide, no! ' Lennox cried, voice threatening to crack. He sank down to all fours. 'Get up, please, please get up,' the soldier desperately continued, whispering.

The Autobots mirrored the human's disbelief, and a strangled whimper came from Sam.

'Where's your hope, now?' Shockwave cackled. It had been too long since he had this much fun.

'Ironhide,' Optimus croaked. There had to be a mistake. No one could take him head on and come out successful-

Almost as if he had read the Prime's mind, Shockwave elaborated. 'He was so occupied with my pet Driller, he didn't notice my approach from behind...and what Decepticon would pass up the chance to take down the Autobots' fiercest warrior?'

'You coward!' Ratchet shouted angrily. 'Taking him out with his back turned!'

'Perhaps I should have politely asked if he'd wanted to battle instead,' Shockwave retorted. 'Do not pretend that you Autobots are so noble that you would not have taken the opportunity should the roles have been reversed. It is logical to attack if the opponent is foolish enough not to guard themselves properly.'

'Humans make such irritating noises,' Megatron mused, frowning upon the natives' dismay and grief. 'I should terminate them now for the sake of my audio receptors.'

'We will do anything,' Optimus pleaded, 'just let them go-'

'I desire nothing less than your complete submission,' Megatron said.

'Don't you do it,' Sam cried, his voice breaking and betraying his fear despite his brave words. 'Not for me, Optimus!'

'Not for us,' Lennox added immediately; respecting the other's resolve, he made no false promise that they would survive, but instead gripped Sam's shoulder in silent camaraderie.

Prime hung his helm in mute defeat. He could see no other option. It is a simple choice, isn't it; his pride or the chance that his allies might live? The Autobots have been defeated here, and at this moment there was nothing they could do but try to survive.

'There is no guarantee that the Decepticon will keep his word,' Ratchet said, only to be harshly kicked by Shockwave, who was clearly displeased at the slight on his leader. 'You know what he did to...to Bumblebee-' the medic persisted, earning another- stronger- kick to his abdomen.

'But there is nothing else that can be done,' his Prime replied softly.

Sentinel shook his helm in- disappointment? Shame? 'To think that you, my brightest, would be ruled by such a lowly species, Optimus.'

'I am not ruled by them,' the flamed Autobot said lowly. 'These are my allies and friends, not that you would appreciate such things.'

'What a pity...they will pay a high price for associating with you, Optimus. Especially, especially the boy who has defied me for so long,' Megatron stated, turning to leer at the humans.

'For what he has done I will show him the meaning of pain,' Shockwave promised with worrying eagerness.

'No,' Megatron said with absolute certainty. 'The boy is mine.' And he reached out and wrapped a claw around Sam's middle and slowly tightened it, squeezing him with unearthly pressure. The young man cried out with pure, raw anguish emanating from the howl.

Frantically, Lennox ineffectually grasped and pulled at the digit, unable to be so close and do nothing despite knowing there was no action he could take that would save the other.

Bumblebee's optics grew wide as he began violently twisting and clawing at his captors, silently screaming out for Sam. Prime howled with unbridled rage, and it took incessant blows from both Soundwave and Shockwave- the latter had returned to the flamed Autobot with premeditated intent- to begin to subdue him.

'You will break and kill him!' Ratchet tried desperately, frantic to earn the human even a slight reprieve. 'Is that what you want?'

'You cannot begin to fathom what I want,' Megatron replied, but the pressure stopped increasing.

Sam's upper half bent over the claw as he let out a choked sob, wheezing heavily.

Bumblebee managed to stretch out a trembling hand in his ward's direction before Barricade wrenched it back behind his helm.

Thoughtfully, Megatron eyed Sam for a moment before lifting him into the air, the young man still limply curled over his claw.

'No!' Lennox cried, jumping to his feet and reaching out for him.

Starscream twitched his hand slightly, and the remaining human tumbled into his palm on his back with a startled grunt.

Sam coughed and gradually, shakily raised his head to find Megatron staring at him.

'We certainly shall get well acquainted,' the Decepticon promised forebodingly. 'Do you remember our first conversation?'

'Con- conversation?' Sam repeated bravely. 'I wouldn't call it a conversation-'

'We exchanged words, such is the definition. Apparently you do remember,' Megatron said delightedly. 'Let us make my proposition to you a reality.'

'No!' Sam cried, horrorstruck. 'Never-'

The commander frowned incredulously. 'Did I mention you having a choice, creature?'

'Here, my liege-' Starscream reached into subspace and threw him a small metallic cuboid. 'You do not have to behold his gormless flesh incessantly.'

'Aren't you simply full of brilliant ideas today?' Without ceremony, Megatron caught the container, flicked open a lid on the top and then dropped a startled Sam into it. 'Well done, Starscream.'

'What of the other insect, master?' the Seeker inquired, still holding Colonel Lennox captive.

Megatron studied the human with contempt, and then his Air Commander, clearly eager for something of his own... 'You may do what you wish with it.'

Starscream's wings blatantly flickered in barely repressed anticipation as he cast a darkly gleeful glance at the soldier in his hand.

Lennox swallowed hard but remained determinedly tight-lipped.

'The humans are of no use to you,' Prime pleaded once more. 'Let them go. If it is Cybertron you want then the Autobots will help you restore it-'

Megatron laughed incredulously. 'Hear that, Autobots? Your leader willingly trades you into slavery in place of flesh!' And he strode over to the other commander and knelt down so they were more level with one another before resting one hand's clawtips on his counterpart's face with deceptive tenderness. 'Optimus, you have no power here,' he said, ever so quietly. 'And you cannot save anyone.'

And as he scored his claws deeply and slowly across the Autobot's face, Prime flinched and hated himself for it, though it was impossible to tell whether it was in response to the words or the physical pain.

'You had better start acquitting yourself appropriately and earn as little agony as you can.'

As Megatron rose to attend to other business, he caught the optic of Shockwave, who was looking at his commander expectantly.

'Very well,' the larger mech conceded with somewhat of a heavy sigh. 'But I expect Optimus to be alive by the end of the day, Shockwave.'

Prime's optics narrowed slightly as his facemask slid into place: threats to himself he knew how to handle. 'You will have no satisfaction from me.'

'How many have said that before you?' Shockwave asked rhetorically. 'And how many screamed and begged by the end-'

'Alive,' Megatron reinforced darkly. 'And not a jibbering wreck.'

'You are overconfident in your vermin's abilities,' Prime said.

'As are you,' Shockwave nearly whispered.

And just for the briefest moment of a moment, Ratchet espied complete and utter despair in Optimus' optics and knew that his words and performance were no kin with the way his commander truly felt.

'Oh, what fun we will have together, Optimus,' Shockwave beamed. He had been looking forward to this.

Megatron watched his valiantly struggling brother be dragged away with mild interest before returning to matters that required his full attention. That medic still needed to be broken.

He nodded to the mechs keeping an aghast Ratchet captive.

'Bring him,' Megatron ordered, leaving the room.

The next thing Ratchet knew, he was being forcefully pulled through a corridor before being shoved through a door, the Decepticon Commander himself following him through.

If it were possible, the medic's Spark would have sunk even lower.

Restrained against the wall, battered yet still defiant, were five of the other six remaining Autobots on Earth...Sideswipe, Mirage, and the three Wreckers. 'Maybe Wheeljack escaped,' Ratchet thought hopefully. The mech was indeed a genius, it could happen-

'Oi, you!' Roadbuster shouted at Megatron. 'Where's the bastard that killed Wheeljack? The 'bot had surrendered and was completely defenseless! What kind of monster does that?'

Ratchet's hopes had been shattered. ''Jack...They got you, too?' he asked the absent inventor quietly, optics downcast. This was entirely too much for him to handle.

'Oi! I'm talkin' to you, Ugly!' the stock car continued, clearly irate.

'Shut up, you're going to get us all killed!' Sideswipe hissed, shooting the mech next to him a venemous look.

Roadbuster was about to argue back, but thought better of it before settling into a furious silence.

Megatron, miraculously ignoring Roadbuster's polite request for information, simply smirked to himself before making his proposition.

'I'll make a deal with you, medic,' he said, pointing to Sideswipe. The other one may have been more insulting, but this one clearly had more intelligence. Something he was determined to take care of. 'Join the Decepticons or he will face the consequences.'

Ratchet couldn't even manage the words to express his incredulous horror.

'Defect,' Megatron ordered coldly, 'Renounce all ties you have to the Autobot code and swear loyalty to me. Or he will die. And I hope you remember from the experience with the scout how much patience I have.'

'Scout- Bumblebee?' Sideswipe asked, optics wide.

'What did you do to him?' Mirage demanded fiercely.

Megatron ignored them both. 'How much time do you think you have, medic?'

Still rendered speechless, Ratchet kept looking between Sideswipe and Megatron. He knew better than to think even for a second that the Decepticon was bluffing.

'Don't do it, Ratch,' Sideswipe pleaded, fear breaking through his confident demeanor. 'We're all going to die anyway. Don't do what he wants! You are an Autobot, you can't give that up!'

It was probably the truth; soon all of them would probably be killed. But even so...if he had a chance to at least delay his comrades' deaths - clinging to the minuscule hope that maybe someone would survive all this - Ratchet would do it.

Even if it meant joining the very mechs he hated. (Any of them would, if they were in the same position.)

He avoided the optics of his fellow Autobots before replying. 'I-' Ratchet began, his voice catching. It was almost impossible for him to say. 'I renounce my ties to the Autobots...'

'And?' Megatron prompted impatiently.

'And...I-' the medic closed his optics, ventilating deeply, before forcing himself to continue. 'I swear loyalty to you...Lord Megatron.'

'Wonderful,' the commander said with a sickeningly false smile that promised imminent darkness. 'However, you'll forgive me if I do not take your word alone as proof; we Decepticons can be a little shifty like that.'

Ratchet's optics narrowed as a strong foreboding feeling washed over him. He should have known it wasn't going to be that easy.

'To prove your loyalty to me,' Megatron started, 'You are to kill one of the Autobots before you.'


'Right now.'

'You can't be serious-'

'Are you a Decepticon or not?' the commander asked, unable to keep the sadistic grin from his face. 'Although, if you are not up to the task...I suppose I will just have to terminate all of them.'

'You can't,' Ratchet whispered.

'My word is law.'

Mirage looked from the Autobot medic's stricken face -he knew Ratchet would never be a true Decepticon- to the fearful optics of his fellow captives, and made his decision.

'Ratchet,' he said, catching the other's attention. He didn't have to elaborate for the newly defected mech to know exactly what he was going to say.

Ratchet couldn't see any other way out of this. '...Are you sure?' was all he could manage.

The red mech nodded his assurance. Sideswipe and the Wreckers could only watch in horror as their comrade sacrificed himself for them.

Grimacing, Ratchet prepared his cannon to fire, arm shaking as he aimed it at his friend.

'Mirage...I'm so sorry,' Ratchet croaked out, barely audible, before pulling the trigger.

He did not need to look at the body to know it had been a clean shot and that death had been instant. The former Autobot was instantly sickened with himself; the knowledge that he had ended Mirage's life quickly and painlessly did nothing to lessen the burden that he was now a murderer and traitor.

'Welcome to the Decepticons, Ratchet,' Megatron cackled, using the mech's name for the first time since the war had started. He slapped the medic's shoulder jubilantly. 'Barricade!' he called. 'Take our new recruit to replace those hideous faction symbols with something more... appealing.'

(And if there was hope, Ratchet could not see it.)