A/N: No reviews for the last chapter, but I'm hoping I get some for this. Be warned: May be dangerously tear-jerking and heart-breaking.

Note: I don't own Transformers.

17. Calling Up Loss

Genre: Tragedy

Word Count: 1,111

Lennox listened with increasing dismay as Mearing rapidly informed him over the phone of what Sam had told her – the Decepticons' real plan had been to have Optimus revive Sentinel all along. Now they were coming for the former Autobot leader to complete their scheme.

Grabbing a PA microphone, he barked orders into it.

"All NEST units, high alert. We've got an Omega-level threat. Mobilize and initiate Defense Protocol 117-D."

Then he went off to find the nearest Autobots – who just happened to be Skids and Mudflap. The Youngling twins had been on probation for the last two months after an outlandish prank that the other Autobots found highly distasteful. Lennox had never seen Optimus so angry before. The two pranksters had been stripped of their privileges and what little clearance they had until they proved themselves worthy enough to join NEST operations again.

"Yo, Lennox!" called Skids. "What's up?"

"Yeah, what's with the threat alert?" Mudflap added.

Lennox didn't even waste time replying; he simply rushed past them to find the next Autobot.

"Well, if that don't slag all," Skids said indignantly.

"That's just rude," Mudflap agreed.

Within seconds, Lennox had caught sight of none other than his family guardian. "Ironhide! Where's Sentinel?"

"He's in the city with Optimus," the weapons specialist replied. "What's going on?"

"Sam just called Mearing. The Decepticons are coming for Sentinel and the pillars. You gotta get out there now."

"Frag," Ironhide swore. "Sideswipe!" he called to the warrior. "We're needed! Move out."

The next minute, both he and Sideswipe had folded themselves into their vehicular alt modes. Lennox heard Ironhide contacting Optimus as they sped away. Lennox himself then ran ahead to take charge of his squad.

The shit was about to hit the fan.

"Lennox!" Burke called. "We've got Autobots approaching the gate. Bumblebee's one of them."

Lennox immediately took off for the entrance, even as his mind whirred. If Bumblebee was here, it meant Sam was too.

Sure enough, just as he reached the gate, he saw the cars that were Dino, Bumblebee, Sentinel, Sideswipe, and Ironhide. Lennox waved them in.

"Inside, let's go!"

The second Bumblebee screeched to a halt, Sam jumped out of the car.

"Lennox!" he said. "We've got Decepticons everywhere."

"I've got my whole team deployed looking for them," Lennox assured him. "Ironhide!" The black Topkick transformed into his full Autobot mode. "Protect Sentinel – get him locked up inside." Lennox had no idea how much and how soon he was going to regret that decision.

"Consider it done," Ironhide agreed.

"You gotta guard him, 'cause he's the key to the whole thing," Sam said.

"Indeed I am," Sentinel agreed as he turned to face them, a sudden dark note entering his voice. Lennox was abruptly struck by a deep sense of foreboding.

"What you must realize, my Autobot brothers, is that we were never going to win the war," Sentinel continued. "For the sake of our planet's survival, a deal had to be made…with Megatron."

Then, before anyone could even react, Sentinel swung around and callously blasted Ironhide square in the chest – twice. The dam on his emotions that Lennox usually kept in place when he was on duty burst open, spilling over his feelings of shock, horror, rage, fear, and dread. His guardian's pained cry hammered at his own heart.

At that moment, Lennox wanted nothing more than to run to his friend's side and get him the medical attention he needed in the hope that he would be all right. But Lennox's first duty was to Sam and the humans at NEST – and no matter how much he might deny it, he knew Ironhide was going to die. So it was with a heavy heart and a guilty conscience that Lennox gave the order to retreat.

"Get back!" he warned, ignoring the stabs of anguish that pierced at him as he backed away from Sentinel and the dying Ironhide. Never had he thought that those two simple words would hurt so much.

The pain he felt was only intensified as Ironhide, being the warrior he was, struggled to get up, even though he was mortally wounded. The black Autobot crawled on the ground, energon leaking out of his circuits.

"What have you done?" he gasped.

Sentinel stood over him, staring down at him with cold-hearted cruelness in his optics. "I hereby discharge you from duty," he said, without even a hint of remorse. And suddenly Lennox knew what he was going to do next.

"No!" he cried – but it was too late; Sentinel had already delivered the killshot straight into Ironhide's Spark chamber. Lennox felt like his own heart had been ripped in two.

The backlash from the shot was explosive, causing men and Autobots to fly. Bumblebee crashed onto the ground; then got up and started shooting at Sentinel.

"Bee!" Sam shouted.

"Get back!" Lennox yelled, restraining the young man with only a half-hearted effort. Whatever small hope he might have had that Ironhide could be saved had now vanished; his guardian was truly, really doomed – if he wasn't dead already, he would be in mere minutes.

Sentinel fired at the gathered NEST operatives, and Lennox snapped back to himself. He could grieve later. He yanked Sam behind a truck to shelter him from the flying projectiles and cannon blasts Sentinel was exchanging with Bumblebee. The traitor Prime seemed hell-bent on destroying the entire headquarters.

After a quick, military assessment, Lennox ordered a soldier next to him, "Get all the NEST forces back to the base!" The man nodded and rushed off. Then Lennox pulled Sam in the direction of the building – it would be safer for them there. "Come on, move!"

Across the compound, Sentinel shot a few more rounds before transforming into his alt mode and driving down the road.

"Get in!" Lennox said, pushing Sam into the building. Lennox was ready to follow and assume his command, masking his grief behind the face of the leader he was; but he couldn't go without looking at his friend one last time.

He spared a final glance at Ironhide, who was rapidly disintegrating into rust, and felt a new wave of hot anger. It wasn't enough for Sentinel to kill him – no, he had to completely and utterly destroy his body too.

As the last of his frame crumbled away, Ironhide turned his desiccated head towards Lennox. The anger gave way to sorrow. His eyes prickling with unshed tears, Lennox bade a final goodbye to his guardian, his friend, his brother.

And as he ducked into the building, he swore he saw the black mech's optics flicker once in recognition, then go dark forever.