OKAY! Now this is Only Hope! And you will see why later on, WOW LONGEST CHAPTER BY FAR! yay, anyways, enjoy

Day 5: Several hours ago…

Location: Barren flats, several klicks from the tunnel

Silverbolt and Slingshot landed onto the uneven terrain with a loud crash, their weapons already aimed at the Decepticon commander. Said commander had his weapon pointed at a severely damaged Skyfire. He and Slingshot had witnessed as Skyfire had been shot down by a Decepticon and after dealing with a group of Decepticons, were finally able to track down Skyfire.

Silverbolt kept his optics on Starscream, his expression remaining emotionless as he risked a glance at his young charge. Judging by the damage to his wings and thrusters, it was clear Skyfire wasn't going to be flying anytime soon.

"Let him go!" Silverbolt ordered as he kept his optics locked on Starscream, but Skyfire's flickering optics caught his attention. A pained smile crossed Skyfire's faceplates as he bowed his helm in what looked like defeat. Silverbolt knew Skyfire better than that and his optics widened as he suddenly realized what Skyfire was planning to do.

"What is he doing?!" Slingshot yelled as the mech's frame was engulfed with color and light.

"SKYFIRE!" a voice screamed from above, getting the attention of the two Autobots and the Decepticon commander.

Jet Storm suddenly materialized in the air above Skyfire and Starscream, his servos grasping around the mech's shoulders as both Autobots suddenly disappeared.

"Scrap!" roared the Decepticon commander as he turned on Silverbolt and Slingshot, sending out a volley of missiles at them before jumping into the air before flying back into the fray as the ground around Silverbolt and Slingshot was engulfed in flames.

Moments later the two Autobot fliers emerged from the smoke and shot up into the sky, unharmed by the missiles.

"Screamer's getting away!" Slingshot yelled as he attempted to fly after Starscream, only to be held back by Silverbolt.

"Leave him," said the aerial commander. With a growl, the younger mech turned from his commander as his optics scanned the surrounding terrain.

"Is he insane?!" Slingshot demanded as they took off into the blackened sky. "Silverbolt, doesn't he know a jump like that can kill him?! Especially when he's taken that much punishment, what's he even doing here in the first place?!"

"Disobeying my orders." Silverbolt said, as he shook his helm. "But none of that matters right now. We have to find Skyfire, where ever he went and before it's too late." His expression remained calm, but Silverbolt made a mental note to have a long discussion with Skyfire once they find him alive.

At first Skyfire had felt nothing, but then he felt the pain, as if spacebridge itself seemed to absorb the very life force within his spark. For a while the pain was the only thing that told him he was still alive. He felt as if his spark was a flame and was slowly sputtering and dying as it starved for oxygen. Skyfire wasn't sure how long the pain lasted, all he knew was that if he died before he could reach his location (or anywhere for that matter) his spark would give out and he would forever be lost in oblivion.

He knew he wouldn't be able to last much longer. He shut his optics and thought of his next location. As gravity suddenly took over, he cried out as pain screamed through his frame as he landed painfully on his damaged wing. Something heavy crashed down on top of him, practically crushing the life out of his already damaged frame.

He could hear a voice above him as a pair of servos around his shoulders shook his frame, which only seemed to cause his processor to ache. But somehow, life seemed to flow from those servos and into Skyfire. A low groan escaped his voice box as his vision and processor began to clear.

"Jet Storm…?" Skyfire asked as the azure and golden mech suddenly came into focus, but something seemed off about him. Jet Storm seemed to sigh in relief but kept his servos clamped around his shoulders.

"You okay?" Jet Storm asked as Skyfire got himself into a seated position, but Jet Storm refused to remove his servos from his shoulders.

"Never better…" Skyfire lied, he felt utterly miserable, but he said nothing as he rubbed his faceplates with a servo.

"Yeah…I can tell." Jet Storm said, "You may want to have that wing of yours checked out first, and the rest of you while you're at it." He added with a weak smile.

"Ha, yeah." Skyfire said as he bowed his helm and dimmed his optics, and for a moment he could no longer feel the pain in his frame or anything around him. He was suddenly being shaken back and forth again, which caused him to online his optics and stare into Jet Storm's optics.

Skyfire could see Jet Storm's mouth move as he spoke but he could hear no words as the mech spoke into his comm link. But just before his vision gave out, he realized what was off about Jet Storm, he wasn't wearing his visors.

His optics looked like stars, and then the darkness consumed him once again.

Much time had passed since Skyfire had used his space bridge ability to save his own life. He hadn't remembered much that had occurred after he had blacked out. He knew he hadn't fallen into stasis because he could hear every word spoken around him, but he had been unable to move to tell his comrades he was awake.

He knew for sure that Silverbolt was there, as well as Slingshot because he had heard the mech speak to Silverbolt earlier; "Are you sure he's related to a Seeker, Silverbolt? Cuz he sure doesn't think like one." Slingshot had said before tapping Skyfire's helm. At that moment Skyfire wished for a moment that he wasn't paralyzed just so he could whack the mech in the back of his helm.

After that Silverbolt had dismissed Slingshot and told him to return to his post till further orders. Silverbolt had seemed to remain the entire time Skyfire was under, only leaving every once in a while to speak to Prowl as the battle strategist gave him a report.

After some thought, it occurred to Skyfire that once he woke up, he would have to confront Silverbolt. Not that he was ashamed of being in his presence after the stunt he pulled (okay maybe a little). Skyfire wasn't quite ready to confront his mentor just yet.

From what he could tell, Silverbolt and Slingshot had arrived within moments of him falling into, what the medics describes as a comatose state. But as Skyfire had come to understand, he was far from being in a coma. How could one be in comatose if they remained conscious? Skyfire wondered. Somehow during all that time he had finally been able to get some recharge.

When he had woken up, a medic was repairing the damage to his wings. He had listened to the medic work to repair him, occasionally speaking to him as they worked. Skyfire had been grateful for the mech's one sided conversation since the silence probably would have driven him mad. He wasn't sure how long he remained in that state of awareness.

After a while he finally seemed to slowly regain feeling. Once in a while he would move his digits to ensure that they were still functional.

Now he was lying on a portable medical berth within the Medical tent with Silverbolt sitting on a chair beside the berth. For the past hour or so Silverbolt had been staring at his every move as Skyfire had pretended to be in recharge as he attempted to avoid the enviable confrontation with his mentor.

Skyfire would have gladly gone into recharge during that time but was unable due to a pounding processor ache that had begun to form after an hour of being in his state of awareness. That, along with the pain all over his frame that had returned with a vengeance as his mind seemed to return to his frame, kept him from doing just that.

"I know you're awake." Silverbolt said after what appeared to be an eternity of silence. "And in case you were wondering, I've known since you woke up over a mega-cycle ago." Skyfire let out a tired, defeated groan as he attempted to get himself into a sitting position, sighing in relief as he removed some of the pressure on his wings, which he had been laying on this entire time.

Skyfire tried to swing his legs over the edge of the berth, but due to a series of cables and wires connected to his frame which lead to a group of portable monitors that recorded his vitals, stopped him cold. Skyfire decided against trying to move and stayed where he was. He stared forward, avoiding his mentor's optics for a moment before turning his helm to meet his optics.

"What were you thinking, Skyfire."Both Silverbolt and Skyfire said at once. "Is what you were going to say to me," Skyfire said as he avoided Silverbolt's optics.

"Are you alright?" Silverbolt asked concern concealed with his optics. Skyfire hadn't seen that coming.

"I sneak past First Aid and his army of medics, fly myself into the heat of battle, help out a slightly deranged Autobot, get shot down by a mech I had once considered a brother, nearly fall into stasis lock and to my death, all because of my actions, and you ask if I'm alright? Shouldn't you be threatening to have First Aid disable my warping matrix?"

"I would, but knowing you, that would not stop you from getting back out there again." said Silverbolt.

Skyfire said nothing to this as he watched his mentor. "I can't say I'm surprised by your course of action by disobey my orders, but I'd be even more surprised if you had chosen to obey them." Silverbolt continued.

Skyfire remained silent as he focused his gaze on his now repaired thrusters, but he doubted he would be able to fly anytime soon.

"But I can't say you are the only one to pay for your actions." Silverbolt said as he watched Skyfire with calm optics. "Had I kept better optic on you, you wouldn't have gotten injured."

"Maybe if you didn't leave me behind all the time, this wouldn't have happened…" Skyfire muttered bitterly under his breath.

"If you wish to speak your mind, I suggest you say it now." Silverbolt continued calmly.

"You want me to speak my mind? Alright then, you want to know why I went behind your back and got myself into this mess?" Skyfire said as he faced his mentor. "I've been stuck here for orns because I failed to do one simple thing!"

"It wasn't your fau-" Silverbolt began, only to be cut off by the younger mech.

"It was my fault!" Skyfire argued. "I couldn't do anything to help anyone!" Skyfire yelled, not caring if anyone could hear him.

"I've been stuck in here for orns while mechs die all around me!" Skyfire practically yelled as he gestured to the other hundreds of Autobots, either injured or dying, overflowing the large medical tent, beyond the thin curtain that separated them from the rest of the tent. "Why didn't you just let me get out and help you?" Skyfire demanded. He was tired of either being ignored or left behind unless it involved the use of his powers.

"Ever since I've woken up, I've done nothing but watched mechs die all around me, and not just here, everywhere! And whether or not I'm here, bots are still dying! I'm not a medic, Silverbolt! I don't serve anyone any good here!"

"No you don't, but you are injured, Skyfire." Silverbolt remained calm as he spoke. "And you must remain here until deemed fit for active duty by a medic."

"With First Aid and all these other medics working on over duty, I don't see that happening any time soon." Skyfire scoffed.

"You wouldn't be stuck here if you had just listened to my orders and remained here." Silverbolt narrowed his optics. Skyfire only shook his helm.

"At least I could make a difference out there! I wasn't even that injured before I got out there!" Skyfire argued. Unimpressed, Silverbolt lifted an optic ridge at the younger mech.

"At least not as bad as I am now… but that's only because-"

"Because you disobeyed my orders and nearly got yourself killed by Starscream!" Silverbolt yelled, an edge clear in his voice.

Skyfire said nothing to this at first before muttering; "At least I was actually some use out there."

"Do you even understand why I didn't want you fighting Decepticons after having been in stasis for several orns?" Silverbolt demanded evenly.

"No, maybe I don't understand." Okay maybe he did understand, but he didn't have to agree with him. "I've been kept in the dark ever since I got here, Silverbolt. I've always been left behind in every mission you and the others are assigned to and I'm sick of it!" Skyfire yelled. Why was it now that he wanted to speak his mind? It never bothered Skyfire before about being left behind; it always gave him time to be alone with his experiments, which he never minded. So why was it bothering him so much and why now?

"Do you not realize that you are possibly the only chance these civilians still have; their only chance of seeing daylight again?" Silverbolt said as he approached his charge. "Without you, they're lost, them and the Autobots who are trapped inside." he tried to explain to Skyfire.

To his surprise, Skyfire began to laugh. But it was a humorless laugh as the younger mech shook his helm. "Like I'd be of any use to them, I couldn't even warp inside the damn tunnel!" Skyfire's voice broke slightly. He shook his helm and dimmed his optics. "Some hero I turned out to be, I'm utterly useless!"

"Skyfire, you are not useless! If you wound up getting yourself killed, then those civilians and our own comrades are as good as dead! They need you, Skyfire."

Skyfire ignored his mentor. He didn't want any sympathy, not from him or anyone else. Why couldn't anyone see that he just wasn't cut out for this? He wouldn't even be able to save them if his life depended on it.

"I can't even save someone's life without it coming back to bite me in the aft." Skyfire laughed humorlessly as he remembered how he had saved Jet Storm from getting shot down, only to get shot out of the sky himself not even ten breems after the fact. "I don't even make a decent descendant."

"What are you talking about?" Silverbolt frowned as his optics filled with concern.

"Didn't you hear what Slingshot said?" Skyfire shook his helm before imitating the smaller mech. "Are you sure this kid's seeker material? Cuz he sure don't act like it!" Silverbolt's frown deepened as Skyfire stared at his servos. "Some descendant I turned out to be; I couldn't even make a fraggin' spacebridge without nearly putting myself in stasis-lock!"

Silverbolt stared at the young mech with solemn optics. He made a mental note to have a long discussion with Slingshot later. As he watched Skyfire, whose optics stared into emptiness, he knew exactly what was troubling the mech and causing him to behave defiantly.

"Skyfire," Silverbolt began, his voice softening, "It wasn't your fault that one of the surviving civilians had gone offline two orns ago."

Skyfire looked away quickly, clenching and unclenching his servos, which have gone cold suddenly. "I could have done something!" Skyfire growled under his breath. "If I hadn't gone into stasis after the tunnel shut me out, I could have found a way in and then maybe he would still be alive!" Skyfire spat bitterly. Why couldn't it have just been me? He didn't deserve to die... Skyfire thought as he stared down at his cold servos.

Suddenly at that moment, Silverbolt's comm link went off; he shut it off and found Skyfire staring at him with icy optics.

"And now you're going to leave me behind again, as usual." Skyfire muttered as he crossed his arms over his still heavily dented chest.

Silverbolt held back an exhausted sigh as he stared Skyfire in the optics. "Skyfire, have you ever considered that I left you behind because I actually have some regard for your safety?"

"Why should you care?" Skyfire spat, "You're not my father! So stop pretending to be!"


For a moment Silverbolt's optics seemed to widen slightly before it was replaced by his solemn mask. Skyfire wasn't sure if he had hurt him or not. Whether he did or not, it didn't matter, the damage was done. Silverbolt turned his back to Skyfire, his optics locked on the floor.

Before Silverbolt could even say anything in response, a small voice piped from behind the thin curtain.

"Uh… is this a bad time?" Both Silverbolt and Skyfire's optics locked on a white, red, and blue mech, who appeared from behind the silvery curtain.

"Smokescreen," Silverbolt addressed the mech as he composed himself. "What is it?" he demanded, almost excessively.

"I uh…was -uh- sent down…I mean actually…I came down here to tell you that uh… Zeta Prime wishes to see you...now." Smokescreen babbled nervously as he slightly jumped from pede to pede before adding, "S-sir…" As he spoke his optics seemed unable to focus on one thing for very long. He looked very much as if he didn't want to be there as he seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere else.

Silverbolt stared at the mech for a few moments before nodding in understanding.

"You better be here when I get back." Silverbolt threatened, almost tiredly as he left the room without turning back.

Like that'll happen… Skyfire thought a breem after Silverbolt was gone as he began to rip off cables and wires from his frame, the monitors they connected to screaming as they falsely registered his spark and other bodily functions going offline.

After several moments of walking along side Smokescreen in silence, Silverbolt stared down at the short mech, as he seemed to be moving in double his pace.

"Do you have something against medics?" Silverbolt questioned the mech as they weaved around the rows and rows of moaning mechs. Several mechs rushed by them as the alarms of one of the many spark rate monitors went insane.

"What?" Smokescreen asked, as if getting out of a daze, "Oh, no not really." He said quickly as they departed from the medical tent. "I just have some where I need to be." He said as he looked up at Silverbolt. To the Aerial commander's surprise, his cyan optics almost seemed to be scolding him for moving slow. But Smokescreen dared not say a word after what he had just witnessed as he quickly spun on his heel and continued forward.

"I know where to go from here," Silverbolt said, a thankful sigh almost escaped Smokescreen, as if he were relieved that he would not need to escort him the whole way to the Commander's tent. He appeared as if he were just about to dash away from Silverbolt, but before he could sprint off, Silverbolt stopped him.

"Wait," Smokescreen looked up at the Aerial commander with questioning (but impatient) optics.

"Do you need something, sir?" Silverbolt nodded before glancing around for anyone who might be within earshot.

"How much did you hear back there?" Silverbolt questioned the red, white and blue mech.

"Um," Smokescreen hadn't seen that coming, "Ah, well… I'm pretty sure anyone who was nearby coulda heard just about as much as I did." He rubbed the back of his helm sheepishly before earning a hard glare from the Aerial commander. "IIII'mmmmm gonna go back to my station now." Smokescreen said before quickly folding himself into his vehicular mode and practically burned rubber in his effort to get away from Silverbolt, as if the Aerial commander was infected with contagious Cybonic plague.

With a sigh, Silverbolt began to make his way to the 'command center' of the camp. Skyfire's words still echoed in his processor. He dimmed his optics as he remembered the last thing he told the younger mech before departing. He couldn't shake the feeling that it would be the last time he would see Skyfire again.

Day 5: Present time

Location: Tunnel

After some discussion regarding their safety within the tunnel while the drillers continued to lurk beneath their pedes, the bots had come to agree on taking shifts to make sure the drillers didn't appear while they were all recharging. So for the past few hours Orion and Ironhide had agreed to take first watch, despite Ratchet's protests.

As Orion and Ironhide did their rounds, Orion thought about a conversation he and Arcee had several hours ago after she had pulled him aside after the meeting. Their discussion was still fresh on his processor as he walked alongside Ironhide.

"Just what exactly are you trying to prove?" Arcee demanded once they were out of earshot. She had taken him a good distant away from the others but was careful to keep them still within running distance in case the drillers appeared while they were separated from the others.

"I am not trying to prove anything." Orion answered as he gazed into Arcee's intense optics as she crossed her arms defiantly over her chestplates.

"Orion, I know…knew you well enough to know when you get like this."

"I don't understand." Orion stated as he narrowed his optics slightly. Arcee scoffed at his ignorance.

"Whenever something happens and you're about to do something either stupid or reckless you always get this look in your optics. As if everything is your responsibility and only you can make it right."

Orion said nothing to this. He could understand why she was behaving like this. She was afraid, just as he was, for the safety of everyone within the tunnel. Orion would not rest until they have all safely escaped the dark clutches of the tunnel.

"I shouldn't be alive, but I am." Orion said as he stared into the nothing as dark memories threatened to flood his processor, he pushed it back.

"What?" Arcee eyed the mech with concerned optics as she watched him shift his weight from one pede to the other.

"Why didn't I die back in Tagon Heights?" Orion seemed to ask himself, his voice remaining even.

"You want to discuss this now?" Arcee asked in astonishment.

"Yes, I do." Orion turned back to face Arcee. "I should have died back in Tagon Heights, but I didn't."

"So what, are you doing this all as in excuse to get yourself killed?!" Arcee demanded.

"No, that has never been my intention. I survived that Decepticon attack; it may have been for a reason… Perhaps I survived to serve a bigger purpose."

"And what purpose would this be?" Arcee asked.

Orion shook his helm, even he wasn't completely sure what his purpose was anymore. "All I know now is that the events that transpired in Tagon Heights lead to all this" And perhaps we are all here for a reason. Orion thought. "And I will do whatever it takes to free us all from this imprisonment."

"And what if you can't free us?" Arcee demanded, "What if no one can? What if this plan doesn't even work and we all end up dying?"

"It's better to die trying than doing nothing."

"At least doing nothing means we'll still be alive." Arcee countered, "Have you even thought his plan through?"

"It's become clear over the past few orns that so far nothing has gone according to plan." Orion stated as he gazed into the darkness before adding, "I will not rest until we have completed this mission." Orion said as he averted his gaze from the magenta femme. He vowed that he would not allow anyone else die before their time, even if it meant sacrificing his own life in the process. But he dared not to say it to Arcee.

"Why does everything have to be a mission for you?" Arcee growled. "The drillers haven't bothered us for over an orn now, why not just wait for the rescue team?"

"You know as well as I do why we cannot wait." Orion spoke calmly as he bowed his helm.

"I know, I know." Arcee said as she pinched the bridge of her nose, "But why you or any of us? Why do we all have to lay our lives down when we've been the ones trapped inside this Primus-forsaken pit all this time? We barely even have enough energon to survive! Let alone take on a pair of drillers on our own!"

"It seems as if living among neutrals has changed you Arcee." Orion said as he kept his back to her.

"Excuse me?" Arcee demanded as she places her servos on her hips.

"You have not been in active service for vorns, Arcee. I have." Orion explained. "While during all that time it seems you have forgotten the Autobot way."

Arcee's optics widened slightly, taken back by his words. She said nothing but he could tell he had hurt her somewhat. Orion dimmed his optics. Under normal circumstances he would never speak to Arcee in such a way, but he knew she needed to hear this. For a while Arcee said nothing as she seemed to stare daggers into the back of Orion's helm. With a tired sigh, Orion dimmed his optics and was about to leave when Arcee spoke up.

"Protect all life and safeguard the innocent from tyranny…" Arcee said, causing Orion to stop. He turned to look at her, his harsh words having gotten through to her as her optics, having long been drained of tears, stared at him hard as the fire within them slowly began to spark to life again.

"I have never forgotten, Orion, because it was what got Cliffjumper and thousands of other Autobots killed in the past." Arcee said almost bitterly as she wrapped her arms around herself.

"This is war…" Orion muttered, remembering Ironhide's teachings. "In war sacrifices must be made and not everyone can be saved... I've accepted that now, but that doesn't mean we have to die while protecting those on the outside." Orion said as he placed his servos on Arcee's shoulders.

She lifted an optic ridge at him as he raised her helm to look her in the optics. "We can still make it through this alive." Orion said as they held each other's gaze. "Every one of us, we will get through this."

Arcee's bowed her helm and dimmed her optics as she turned her helm away from Orion as the ice that had frozen over her spark seemed to thaw.

"Then I'm with you all the way." Arcee said, remembering Cliffjumper's old words. She found herself thinking about the mech more and more as the days progressed. For a moment determination flashed in her icy blue optics.

Something that almost looked like a smirk formed across Orion's faceplates as he turned away from her.

"Now that is the Arcee I remember." He said; a smile almost in his voice.

Arcee looked up at Orion, somewhat stunned. Could he be remembering?

After that Orion and Arcee had returned to the others without a word just as Ironhide set out to begin their shift. Orion had joined him. And now here they were.

"So, do you really think it's a good idea to trust these cons?" Ironhide asked breaking the silence and bringing Orion back to reality. It had nearly been an hour after Orion had released Sunstreaker and Barricade from their cuffs.

"Do we have a choice?" Orion replied as they walked around the tunnel. "It wouldn't be right to leave them for dead." Orion said as he kept his optics on the uneven surface, part of him expecting the drillers to burst through the ground beneath their pedes.

"We can always use them as bait," suggested Ironhide. Orion shot Ironhide a look as the mech lifted his servos in defense.

"I'm just kidding." Ironhide said. Orion just stared at the mech before continuing onward with Ironhide in tow.

"Down here, far from the war we are all equals. Nothing separates us, not when our own lives are at stake." Orion said after several moments of silence.

"Starting to sound like a Prime, kid." Ironhide said with a smirk. "Though, Orion Prime doesn't have much of a ring to it, but Optimus Prime, now THAT has a ring to it."

Orion lifted an optic ridge to his statement. He still couldn't fathom how Bumblebee had come up with such a nickname from him. Orion assumed the youngling had come to know of the old story The Lost Prime, which depicted the tragedy of the fall of the Prime Dynasty in the optics of the last known Prime, Optimus Prime. Bumblebee could probably see similarities Orion couldn't see between that young Prime and himself.

Though, that Optimus had never technically been a Prime, said to having been a youngling in the time of the fall of the Dynasty, or so the story described. It was said that one must earn the mark of the Primes and because of his age and lack of experience, he was unable to earn the title before his death. As Orion thought about it, he knew he would never be worthy of being a Prime.

He shrugged off Ironhide's words as he began to walk back to check on Ratchet and Bumblebee, who were currently sitting beside the large wall of rock. He was vaguely aware of everyone else camped nearby as he made his way back.

Sadie was sitting next to Bumblebee, holding a nearly empty cube of energon close to his mouth, but the youngling only stared absently past the cube and kept his gaze on the floor. Standing beside them was Override, whose dull gaze remained on the dark emptiness around them. Bumblebee looked up as Orion and Ironhide arrived.

"Hey," Override greeted them as they approached, "Better change shifts with me before ol' Hatchet over here blows a fuse." She said, pointing a digit at the medic, who gave both Orion and Ironhide a hard look as the weapon specialist found a place beside the wall and dropped to the ground.

"Alright," Orion said as Override walked past him, pausing for a moment as she spoke to him via private comm link.

-'Bee's still a bit shaken from the drillers. Ratchet says he might be traumatized and he doesn't seem to be very responsive when you're not around. You might want to spend some time with him; it might get him back to normal.'-

-'I understand'- , Orion said as he nodded his helm. Override left without another word and continued on into the darkness. Orion watched Override for a moment before turning his attention to Ratchet, whose optics were dimmed as he stared forward at the emptiness.

"How are you feeling?" Orion knelt down to the medic and gently shook his shoulder.

"Hmm?" Ratchet stirred slightly, as if having been woken up from a dream. "Not much better than before I suppose," he said with a tired yawn. "But not any worse either." Ratchet stretched his aching servos before his optics adjusted to the dimness.

"Orion, Bee won't drink his energon!" Sadie complained, getting Orion's attention as she once again attempted to force the youngling to drink the energon.

Bumblebee did nothing in response to her efforts and continued to stare at Orion blankly. A few drops of energon slid down the youngling's faceplates, no doubt had been spilled as a result Sadie's efforts to feed him his energon.

Orion stared at them for a few moments before he made his way to the two younglings and held a servo out to Sadie.

"I'll make sure Bumblebee drinks his energon. Why don't you go see if your mother's alright?" Sadie stared at Bumblebee then back at Orion.

"Okay," Sadie pouted before handing Orion the cube and made her way over to Arcee.

Orion turned to Bumblebee as he rose to his pedes and took his servo. He gently held the youngling's servo in his own as he found a place several feet away to recharge.

Orion sat down on the ground, rubbing his sore muscle cables as he held the cube of energon to Bumblebee. He stared at the cube for a moment before taking in and drinking its contents. Orion watched Bumblebee as he held the partly filled energon up to him.

Orion shook his helm, "I already had my fill today, Bee."

Bumblebee didn't look convinced as wordlessly climbed onto his lap and held the cube up to Orion's faceplates.

"You…need it more." Bumblebee muttered in a scratchy voice, somewhat surprising Orion. With a tried sigh, Orion took the cube from the youngling's servos and consumed the remainder of the cube before placing it on the ground.

Satisfied, Bumblebee leaned his helm against Orion's spark chamber and dimmed his optics. Orion stared down at Bumblebee, who clung to his frame before offlining his optics completely. For a moment he remained still, unsure of how to react.

In the end, Orion wrapped his arms protectively around Bumblebee. He dimmed his optics as he listened to the youngling's even intakes as he seemingly fell into recharge.

Nearby and hidden by the shadows, Barricade sat apart from the others as he leaned against the wall with his arms crossed over his onyx chest. His crimson optics remained dimmed, completely aware of the red and blue mech several meters away.

Remember when things were easier? A voice seemed to speak to him in his processor. Barricade's optics shot open, suddenly awake and alert of everything around him. No one seemed to notice him as his optics scanned the tunnel for the owner of the voice.

His hopes seemed to deflate when he realized had only imagined it.

Stupid ghosts… Barricade leaned back against the wall but did not relax. He offlined his optics as memories began to fill his processor as he stared at a short elegantly designed rod he held tightly in his servos. It was the only weapon Barricade had managed to convince Orion not to confiscate several orns ago.

Being shackled in stasis cuffs the rod would be useless to him, so the Autobot had allowed him to keep it. And from the look in the mech's optics, Barricade could tell that he knew that the artifact held significant importance to the Decepticon.

Well he's not wrong… Barricade thought as he absently ran his digits along the inscription running along its side. He had long forgotten what the symbols meant, but that didn't matter. He could still remember when Crossfire had told him the story inscribed on the rod.

At first glance it appeared to be just a piece of decorative metal. But when at its full length it was a fierce weapon. And when in use it depicted an illusion like no other. He remembered when Sunstreaker had first asked about it, claiming that it was a piece of junk before he had carelessly tossed it back to him.

Barricade would have beaten the youngling to a pulp but unfortunately for him, Megatron had been present at the time. Despite what others said, the rod was much meant much to him than any Decepticon would be able to understand.

It was the only thing he had left of the greatest thing that had ever happened to him. The Decepticon dimmed his crimson optics as a low sigh escaped his voice box. He had no doubt he was probably going to die the following day, may it be from the drillers or, if he somehow managed to survive the encounter, he would most likely die of injuries he would receive or lack of energon.

Either way he calculated that his chance of survival wasn't exactly high. But for some reason Barricade didn't care whether he would die or not. If he died, so be it. As the days progressed, he began to wonder what he had left to return to once he escaped.

Without his mate he didn't have much to return to. And with the mountainous terrain surrounding the pass no doubt filled with Autobots he would be captured he moment he escaped from the tunnel. So what would he do then? Barricade thought as he stared into the nothingness.

Guess I'll be seeing you again soon, Crossfire. Barricade said as he held the rod close to his spark before drifting off into a dreamless recharge.

Day 5: Two hours later…

Location: Tunnel, Inner entrance

As Orion leaned against the wall of rubble, he became only aware of the bots around him and the youngling in his arms. After discussing the plan to take down the two remaining drillers, Ratchet had convinced those who were involved with the plan to get a few hours of recharge. And with Override currently on watch, they would know exactly when or if the drillers came near while they were recharging.

Earlier after speaking with Ratchet, the medic had attempted to repair Orion's injuries but Orion had refused treatment. He had insisted that he and the medic tend to everyone else's injuries before he was to be treated. He had been able to convince Ratchet since he only had minor injuries. But even after they were done with repairs, Orion had insisted that he treat himself, fearing that the medic would find the wound he had hidden beneath his armor.

Now the wound was keeping him awake while he should have been recharging. Orion sighed tiredly as he stifled a groan as Bumblebee's knee joint dug into the armor above it. Not wanting to disturb the youngling, Orion dimmed his optics as he dealt with the discomfort.

Despite being physically and mentally exhausted, the dent seemed to act up every time he nearly fell into recharge; a nagging reminder that it was still there. Orion sighed for what seemed like the eighth time before finally giving up on recharging.

"Can't sleep, huh?" Ironhide's voice came from within Orion's head.

"No," Orion responded through his private link.

"So what do you think's gonna happen tomorrow?" Ironhide asked the younger mech.

"I don't know." Orion responded truthfully. "You're not backing down are you?"

"No way kid, we've come this far already, might as well take a shot at it." answered Ironhide. "Besides, who's gonna be there to save your sorry aft if something happens?"

Orion smirked lopsidedly. "Ironhide, we're going against two drillers. We'll be outnumbered and the odds won't exactly be in our favor, I strongly believe that something will happen."

Ironhide smirked. "You've changed a lot since we first met, kid."

"A lot has changed since then, I suppose." Orion gazed down at the youngling in his arms. He may have failed Ariel, but he wasn't about to let Bumblebee down. Determination seemed to burn in his spark like a growing flame.

"I don't know about you but I'm not planning on going down that easily." Orion said as he locked optics with the weapon specialist.

"I was wrong." Ironhide smirked as he folded his bulky arms behind his helm. "Same stubborn mech you were during training, same stubborn mech now." Ironhide said with a chuckle. "You haven't changed a bit."

"It seems so." Orion said before adding. "It looks like training's over."

Override wandered around the tunnel, deep in thought. Despite her mind being elsewhere, she was completely aware of the vibrations that emanated from the two remaining drillers burrowing far beneath her pedes.

Override wasn't sure whether it was because she had been stuck down in that tunnel for days, or the fact that she had quickly been able to take in her surroundings, that it seemed to be the first time in a long time she actually had a sense of direction.

She thought about what would transpire. In only a few hours they would find themselves face to face with the two remaining drillers. She wasn't sure how she should feel. Afraid? No… she wasn't afraid. She stopped being afraid after Hotshot died...

No…Override thought, he's not dead…

So where did that leave her then?

"Nowhere that's where!" Override muttered to herself as a smirk formed on her faceplates as she remembered one of her old friends; Blurr. She found herself wondering where they were, her friends, and how they were doing. Override hadn't seen Blurr or any the others, who were all Autobots, since she had been evacuated from the last remaining neutral colony.

Now how did that make her feel? Lonely she guessed. But, like Blurr would say, that still left her nowhere.

Override did admit to herself that she wasn't overly fond of the idea of the two drillers wreaking havoc in the middle of the tunnel, which would leave her completely blind (like she wasn't already) and vulnerable to attack. Override hated being left defenseless.

And to make matters worse, Orion was planning to leave her in charge of protecting Ratchet and the younglings while he and the others would handle the drillers. Override had immediately opted against the idea. What was he thinking?! How could Orion trust her to protect them on her own? She was blind for crying out loud!

But what surprised her hadn't been that Orion had chosen her to accomplish the task; it was that Orion had so much faith in her and believed that she would not fail. No one has had that much faith in her ever since she and Hotshot had been partners. She began to wonder if somehow by the mystery that is the Allspark, that through the afterlife Hotshot had somehow gotten to Orion.

Now she was just thinking up nonsense.

Sure the mech had changed a lot since they first met orns ago, after he ended up saving her aft when she nearly fell through the ground. But he really had become a different mech. He's changed more than Override has ever seen someone change, ever, and all in a matter of days.

She began to wonder what had broken through the seemingly emotionless mech's hard shell. Override had a pretty good idea what, or more like whom, was responsible for his sudden transformation. Override didn't need her optics to see how close Orion had gotten to Bumblebee.

At first it had seemed like a brotherly bond between the two, but as the dark days progressed, Orion had significantly stepped up and become a father figure to the orphaned youngling. Override had not witnessed such compassion in a long time.

It was almost as if Orion and Bumblebee were the ones kept all the endless chaos in the tunnel in order. Orion was the light that lit a path through the darkness while Bumblebee was the one who kept everyone together and he kept that light going. Override had the feeling that if either mech had either perished in the crash or had not been present during the cave in, none of them would be alive today.

If it wasn't for Orion, they would have been goners, and if it wasn't for Bumblebee, Orion would have been as good as dead. They kept each other alive, Override realized. And as long as either of them was alive, they all would as well.

A tired huff escaped Override's voice box. Now she really was thinking up nonsense. I'm beginning to sound like Brakedown… Override thought, automatically wondering why she had thought it. Brakedown would be no help to her, her old mentor was long gone. And thinking about the past and present wasn't going to prepare her for what she was going to do in a few hours. She needed to think about the future. That would be a whole lot easier if her mind didn't keep drifting off.

She needed to think of the issue at hand; Orion having faith in her and having to guard Ratchet and the younglings with her life. Right and how was she supposed to do that?

No matter how much faith anyone had in her, and with the threat of the drillers bringing the ceiling down on top of them, didn't exactly raise Override's hopes. With a frustrated groan, she kicked a rock with her pede and listened as it echoed in the emptiness before her.

Suddenly the faces of bots she once knew flashed across her processor. She narrowed her optics and shook her helm to get the faces out of her head.

Great…a blind femme seeing things… She thought as raised her servos and shook her helm as she began to make her way back to the others.

Suddenly an image of Hotshot flashed in her mind, causing her to stop in her tracks. Hotshot's trademarked grin as she stared at her cockily with a cannon slung causally over his shoulder.

"Ready when you are, Ride." He beamed as he held a servo out to her.

Override found herself extending her servo out to the mech, only to realize moments later that he wasn't there. She let out an audible groan as she angrily kicked at a nearby rock, sending it flying until it was lost to the darkness.

"Get it together, Override." she growled to herself as she placed her servos over her faceplates. She did all she could to rid the image from her processor but no matter what she did, Hotshot's cocky grin was branded in her mind. She groaned in utter defeat as she continued forward.

Override found herself thinking more and more about the mech over the last few orns, well more than usual (if that was possible). Sure she missed Hotshot (basically everyday of her life), but during her time in the tunnel she had been finding herself missing him more and more to the point where it became utterly painful to think about him.

And the more she thought about him, the more it seemed as if he hadn't died all those vorns ago, along with countless other Autobots during the raid on Trypticon. But that was impossible, everyone said it was, so why was it so hard for her to except it?

Because she was so damn stubborn, that's why.

Override knew that she had to put those thoughts aside if she wanted to successfully complete her task ahead. With a tired sight, Override onlined her useless optics and tilted her helm back, imagining a star filled sky above her rather than a dark cracked ceiling separating her from the outside.

I swear Hotshot, if you're still alive somewhere out there, and if I…if we all make it out of here alive, I'll find you and bring you home. Override thought as she closed her dim optics. But not before she gives him a good whack for leaving her all alone with stasis depression, Override added as a slight smirk crossed her faceplates, strangely for the first time feeling at peace after so long after so long.

Orion sighed softly. Not much time had passed since he had spoken to the weapon specialist, who had somehow managed to fall into recharge in a matter of seconds. Orion slowly onlined his optics as he gazed down at the youngling clinging to his frame. Despite his even intakes, he knew Bumblebee was still awake.

"Bumblebee, you need to recharge." Orion said exhaustedly as he resisted the urge to rub the sleep out of his optics. No response came from the yellow youngling. Orion sighed and dimmed his optics, knowing full well that Bumblebee was still traumatized from his experience with the driller.

Orion didn't blame him. Despite the exhaustion weighing down on him, the thought of the drillers appearing at any moment kept Orion on high alert, that along with the nagging irritation emanating from his wound. Orion stifled a yawn as he dimmed his optics to converse energy.

"Orion?" Bumblebee said, speaking for the first time after what seemed like an eternity of silence.

"Yes, Bumblebee?

"I'm scared."

"It's okay to be scared." Orion said softly.

"I don't wanna be alone again."

"I promised you that you would never be alone." Orion said as he stared down at the yellow youngling.

"But if something happens to you, I'll be alone again."

"No you won't, if something happened to me, you'll still have Ironhide, Ratchet, and Arcee to look after you." Orion said as he gazed down at Bumblebee's bright blue optics. "Besides, nothing is going to happen to me."


Orion paused for a moment.

"I promise I will protect you no matter what." Orion said as images of the other night flashed across his optics, seeming more and more like distant memory. Orion dimmed his optics as he listened to the intakes of the bots around him.

At this Bumblebee wrapped his arms tightly around Orion's neck. Orion's optics widened slightly as the yellow youngling tucked his helm under Orion's chin and dimmed his optics and finally fell into recharge. Something seemed to unlock deep within Orion's spark for a moment and then the feeling was gone. But as silence seemed to take over, he could still feel it lingering.

Orion dimmed his optics as he watched over the youngling in his arms. Despite the threat of dying at any moment looming over them, for the first time in a long time, it was the closest Orion has ever felt feeling at peace.

A lullaby Orion hadn't thought of in vorns suddenly came to mind. It had been a lullaby Ariel had sung him once after a long day of working at the docks. She had told him it was a lullaby she had sang while working in the Youth Centers that she used to sing to younglings and sparklings when they couldn't sleep. Orion could barely remember the words or what it had been about but he could still somehow remember the song. He closed his optics as the lullaby seemed to play in his mind, the smoothing tune slowly relaxing him.

"I know that song," a familiar voice suddenly said.

Orion jumped, somewhat startled when he realized he had been mumming. He looked up and realized it was Sunstreaker who had spoken. The golden youngling sat several feet away with his younger brother leaning against him as he recharged.

"They used to sing that song in the youth center I lived in." Sunstreaker explained.

"Do you know the words?" Orion suddenly found himself asking.

Sunstreaker turned away and gazed down at his slumbering brother. "No, I don't remember. Sorry."

Orion said nothing to this as he closed his optics. It was no use asking the young mech to try to recall something he couldn't remember. He yawned tiredly as fatigue finally took over his frame. As Orion finally fell into recharge, Sunstreaker was now wide awake.

The golden youngling signed softly as he dimmed his optics and listened to Sideswipe's intakes. Sometimes Sunstreaker even forgot just how young he was. He wasn't sure if it was because of all the battles he's been through or the intense training he had been forced to go through to become a Decepticon, he wasn't sure anymore.

But he knew that whatever the Decepticons did to him it would never change who he really was; a fighter. With a sigh, Sunstreaker fell into a deep, dreamless recharge.

The Autobot main camp currently stationed within the Advent Pass was bustling with activity, either in the medical tents or surrounding the tunnel entrance. For the past few mega-cycles the Decepticons had shown no sign of activity since the destruction of one of their energon reserves within the pass.

From what Silverbolt knew, the Decepticons had taken a heavy loss and were currently recovering from the destruction the explosion had caused. They no doubt that taken heavy damage and lost a considerable amount of soldiers, but compared with the surrounding masses of Decepticons currently surrounding them within the pass, the numbers lost barely dented the Decepticon's ever growing army. But things were looking up for the Autobots, after all, what energon would the Decepticons supply to their soldiers now? Silverbolt thought with a smug grin. The grin soon faded when he remembered that the Autobots still had no advantage in this campaign.

There were, from what Silverbolt had seen from flying overhead, only a dozen camps set up all over the pass. Though each held at most several companies of troops, though none of them were as large or as organized as the one he was currently residing in.

If one could call it organized...

The main camp was currently stationed at the mouth of the tunnel, closer than any of the others, which were either scattered among the mountains or in small tunnels beneath the flatlands below.

Silverbolt was no geologist but from what he knew the flatlands, also dubbed as the Dead Zone, had once been a harsh desert of sorts, but with Cybertron's sun having been blocked due to the constant smog in the sky followed by millennia of harsh winds, the area had been shaped into a cold and bitter terrain.

Silverbolt didn't blame anyone for being restless. Being cornered in a mountainous pass with the threat of Decepticons swooping in from above at any moment would put anyone on edge. But luckily for them, the weather had changed significantly since the first orn they've been stationed there.

The devastating winds that roared all the way from the Sonic Canyons seemed to have threaded its icy fingers all throughout mountains and ripped through the mountain peaks high above, which made it impossible for any Decepticons to sneak up on their camps without being detected. The downside was that it was difficult for a mech to get even a breem of recharge with all the noise that was created and amplified by the wind tunnel.

Fortunately for Silverbolt he had found a simple way to maneuver himself over that obstacle. Shutting off his audio receptors was an excellent way to drown even the slightest of irritations. But unfortunately for him that method didn't appear to work on everything.

Or everyone… he thought with a grunt as his optics scanned the other Autobots standing around a table before him. Currently the Aerial commander was standing in the corner of the command center (tent) as he and the other leaders waited for the last few members of this unofficial counsel to arrive.

Around him stood Autobots he recognized as having either fought alongside with, knew by reputation or knew personally. They were all either commanders or leaders of the other camps, as well as a mech who was there on behalf of the monitor crew who over saw the events that occurred within the tunnel the last few orns, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Currently there were ten Autobots within the spacious tent, all of them standing around a large table. Once everyone arrived, there would be a dozen mechs, including Skyfire, and one femme. Standing at the head of the table was the leader of the Autobots, Zeta Prime.

He stood out among the others with his servos placed in front of him on the table and, from what Silverbolt could tell, appeared to be in deep thought. Silverbolt wasn't sure if the mech was drained, heck they all were, or if he was simply thinking a plan over in his processor, probably both. If he was, the Autobot commander kept a detached yet somehow focused expression as they waited for the remaining members to appear. He appeared to being a private discussion with a mech by his side.

Standing beside the leader of the Autobots was Zeta Prime's second in command, who stood with his servos clasped before him with a placid expression plastered on his faceplates. No one spoke a word but Silverbolt could tell by the body language and occasional gestures that several of them were conversing through private comm link.

Suddenly all activity ceased as Zeta Prime suddenly stood to his full height and lifted a servo to address them.

"My fellow Autobots, there much to be discussed here today." The leader of the Autobots spoke solemnly as his second in command, Epsilon, stepped forward.

"And due to the importance of what is to be discussed, we will begin this meeting without the remaining members who have yet to arrive." Just then an aged, pale jade colored mech marched into the tent.

"Sorry I'm late," the mech, whose name was Kup, excused himself as he entered the tent, "Picked up a couple stragglers who got lost on the way here." The mech said as he pointed a digit to two mechs who followed closely behind him.

Silverbolt glanced at the two mechs for a moment and assumed they were the representatives for the remaining camps. Both were young, Silverbolt realized, probably around Skyfire's age. As the war progressed it seemed as if Autobots were recruiting younger and younger. He shifted his gaze from the two mechs and briefly focused his attention on the older mech.

From what he knew, Kup was stationed in the main camp and was assigned to monitor duty. He didn't know the mech personally but was aware Kup was skilled in hand-to-hand combat, no matter how frail he seemed Silverbolt knew Kup would be able to hold his own during a battle.

But for one reason or another, the aged mech had decided to be on monitor duty, a virtually thankless but necessary job. Silverbolt wasn't sure where the other two were stationed. The two young Autobots bowed their helms slightly in respect of the Autobot commander before the three Autobots took their places around the table.

"Now that everyone is present, we will begin with the present issue at hand." Zeta began.

The large table suddenly came to life as a holo scan of the surrounding area materialized before them, showing a clear, gridded image of the tunnel just several meters away from them.

"I know you are all aware of the reason why you've been gathered here," Zeta Prime said as he stood before the group of Autobots. "Despite all efforts, over the last five orns the group of Autobots and civilians remain trapped inside the tunnel."

The image on the table zoomed into the interior of the tunnel to show twelve faint but still visible energy signatures. A small blue femme, the only femme present in the tent Silverbolt noted, stood with her delicate yet scarred servos gripped the edge of the table.

The femme was tiny compared to Silverbolt's large stature but due to the multiple scars all over her frame as well as the various symbols branded into her armor, he knew she was a soldier. The femme seemed to lean forward as her gaze locked on the remaining energy signatures. It was almost as if she were using her optics to reach out to those trapped within the tunnel and appeared to be in a trance-like state as the Autobot second-in-command began to speak.

"We are here to discuss the issue of choosing to remain here or, in order to lower the loss of more soldiers, to call off all rescue attempts." Epsilon stated bluntly as he stood with his arms crossed over his chestplates. For a moment there was silence, not even the howling wind high above them seemed to penetrate the stillness.

"Say what now?" one of the younger Autobots managed to blurt out.

Suddenly there was uproar among the group of Autobots, either with or objecting the idea; Zeta lifted a servo to silence them, though one of them was too stubborn to stay quiet.

"You can't be serious!" the blue femme, Chromia, practically yelled, having snapped out of her trance-like state. "You can't call off the rescue!" she argued as she nearly dented the metal table in her iron grip.

"Our course of action has not yet been decided," Zeta clarified, but it did nothing to calm her nerves for his words were ignored by the femme. "We are here to decide what the most reasonable action is."

"And abandoning them would be reasonable."spat Chromia before shaking her head in disbelief. "Call off all rescue attempts? With all due respect, sir, BUT ARE YOU INSANE?!" she snapped, directing her anger towards the second in command.

Yikes, Silverbolt was glad he was currently not the one suffering the femme's wrath at the moment. He'd be grateful never to get in her way when she became crossed. Her demeanor almost reminded him of a cyber-fox fiercely trying to protect its young.

"You dare speak to your commanding officer in that tone?" Epsilon spat as he glared at the blue femme, who in return glared daggers at the mech. Silverbolt could immediately tell that the second-in-command and Chromia clearly didn't see optic-to-optic.

"We can't just leave them at the mercy of the drillers." Silverbolt said, almost calmly as he attempted to establish peace among the two.

"They're drillers I doubt they have mercy to begin with." Chromia muttered bitterly as she crossed her arms over her chest and looked away with anger burning like a raging fire in her optics.

"We can't call off the rescue," A ground force troop by the name of Springer said.

"Why must we stay here any longer?" other mech said, "We've been stationed here for nearly five orns now and we're nowhere close to breaching the walls which separate us from the survivors."

"How dare you even consider leaving Autobots behind!" a large red mech named Warpath argued.

"I agree that we must not allow these Autobots and civilians to fend for themselves until their final days, which will before by the next full lunar cycle is complete if we choose to abandon them now." Zeta Prime said as he attempted to bring back order among the group.

"With supplies and soldier both low in stock, we either have to call off the rescue or risk being terminated by the Decepticons. We cannot risk the lives of-"

"Enough," Zeta ordered, he placed a servo over his optics, suddenly appearing as if he were exhausted. He composed himself and scanned the room, his optics meeting with every Autobot present. "We will come to a decision based on a vote among the 12 leaders of each camp, excluding myself and Epsilon. Only then we will decide our course of action."

"Very well, those in favor of retreat…" Epsilon said as he raised his servo. For a moment no one moved.

In reality none of them seemed too keen on the idea of abandoning the trapped Autobots and civilians. But of course, with their own lives hanging in the balance, ideals could be swayed. Silverbolt noted as he watched several servo hesitantly rise into the air.

About half of the Autobots had raised their servos, but the other half remained silent as they eyed one another uneasily, careful to avoid optics, as if locking optics would change their decision. But of course not all of them seemed to be as willing to leave, Silverbolt thought as he eyed the femme who stood with a defiant look in her optics.

"So we're just going to abandon them?" Chromia demanded as she scoffed at the mechs whose servos had risen.

"Sometimes one must be sacrificed for the good of many." Epsilon said with conviction.

"But sometimes the sacrifice of many could drastically chance the fate of One." Zeta countered as his optics seemed to dim. "We will decide a course of action once a decision has been made by all the members of this council,"

"But we have already lost a significant amount of soldiers, are you willing to sacrifice countless more lives for the existence of a handful of Autobots? If the entire cargo of the train had not perished then perhaps there would still be a reason worth fighting-"

"WE ARE NOT LEAVING THEM!" Chromia snapped suddenly as she slammed her servos on the table, somewhat denting its sleek surface and slightly distorting the image before them.

"Hey, watch it!" Kup hissed as the image returned to normal, but he was ignored by the fuming femme.

"You dare interrupt me?!" Epsilon yelled at the femme, his placid expression melting away for a moment as the two stared each other down.

"I don't care if you were Prima himself!" Chromia spat, "I'd rather go offline than follow your command!"

"Enough!" Zeta Prime ordered, silencing the two Autobots. Chromia glared at the second in command before her gaze drifted to the image before them.

"You're judgment is based off the fact that you have a love one trapped within the tunnel I assume." Zeta Prime said his voice softened slightly with sympathy.

"Three," Chromia muttered, keeping her optics locked on the energy signatures. "And I do not intend to abandon them."

Zeta Prime seemed to nod in understanding as a loud noise caught the attention of the Autobots present. Kup stood at the controls of the image, "Now that I've finally gotten your attention…" the aged mech said as the others waited for him to speak.

"Proceed," said Zeta.

Kup nodded and turned his attention back to the image before them. "Though Epsilon has considered a 'retreat', he has failed to realize one key element that prevents us from doing just that." Kup said as he kept his optics locked on the holo-scan in front of them.

"Explain," Zeta said calmly.

"Have you youngsters who voted getting out of here even considered that leaving may not even been an option for us?" Kup said as he panned out the image on the table to show the Decepticon army currently surrounding the tunnel.

"The only means of escape for us would be through the Dead Zone." Silverbolt said as he pointed a digit to the large flat area that almost seemed out of place in the mountainous range. "But the Decepticons have kept a constant patrol over the area for several orns now."

"And there's virtually no cover for mega-miles," Chromia pointed out as she drifted a digit across the digital replica of the Dead Zone, "Crossing the damn thing would be suicide." She said as she shook her helm.

She was right, Silverbolt thought. The Dead Zone virtually no cover within a radius of several hundred mega-miles and any Autobot who tried to cross it would be spotted and killed in a sparkbeat. It didn't help being confined to the mountains for orns now and the Autobots stationed there have been getting restless over the last orn due to the increased Decepticon activity over the last several orns. And with supplies in low stock it only seemed to make things worse than they already were.

"We are low on resources as it is and with the Decepticon blockade surrounding the pass there no way to restock our supplies. It appears we will have to take that risk." Epsilon intervened.

"That's not entirely true," all optics locked on a small orange mech who stood several mechs down from Silverbolt.

"What is it you wish to inform us?" Zeta asked patiently.

"Our camp, stationed in the mines down below, has discovered several abandoned mines stretching beneath the Zone. After finding some schematics of the area we've been able to navigate through the mines beneath the Dead Zone," said Wedge, "And after my team and I cleared away a few dead ends, we've been able to resurface to an area far from the Decepticon's prying optics. I've been planning to share this with you all but it was a little difficult to get your attention."

"If you indeed have found a way to get past the blockade," Epsilon began, "Then why not use these tunnels in order to retreat?" he suggested.

"Yeah, well the thing is," Wedge began as he rubbed the back of his helm sheepishly, "We're only able to dig up so much without causing a cave in and alerting the Decepticons of our presence. In some areas the ground is too unstable to mine through and we nearly lost a few mechs in cave-ins." Wedge explained.

"Care to enlighten us on how you intend to use these tunnels for?" Chromia asked as she narrowed her optics at the mech.

"Well the passages are not large enough to traverse an entire army of Autobots." explained Wedge. "We are however now able to reach the Autobot forces surrounding the area around the Decepticon blockage in small groups. We will be able to restock supplies; I've already several members of my Built team to the other…uh… side per Zeta's orders." Wedge said as he straightened himself.

All optics turned to the Autobot commander, whose optics narrowed slightly in confusion.

"Why did you not inform me of this, sir?" Epsilon demanded Zeta.

"I did not know the existence of these tunnels that stretched beneath the Dead Zone." Zeta answered truthfully as he narrowed his optics slightly.

"Sir? You did order me to send my team, correct?" Wedge asked when he noticed the Autobot commander's uncertainty.

"No, I'm afraid I did not," Zeta frowned and appeared to be in deep thought.

"Sssooo…who the heck told me to send 'em?" Wedge asked in confusion.

"I did." An almost ancient voice drifted into the tent

All optics turned to the entrance of the tent as an ancient mech suddenly materialized before them. His frame was hidden by a dark cloak that hid his faceplates and much of his frame. Though his intense paled unmistakable sapphire optics were still visible.

"Alpha Trion," Zeta Prime practically hissed, "What brings you here in this time of conflict?"

"I am simply here to help," the ancient archivist said as he removed his hood. "I see you are discussing an event that fate has already decided." For a moment the two mechs stared each other down. From Alpha Trion's words it appeared clear that he knew something that no one else present was aware of, but no one dared ask what it was. Though it appeared as if Zeta Prime knew exactly of what the old archivist spoke of and was currently part-taking in what Silverbolt could best describe as a battle of wills and knew only one of them would emerge victorious.

For a while no one spoke a word as the Autobots stared back and forth from Zeta Prime to Alpha Trion. Finally a white and black Autobot who had not yet spoken broke the silence.

"Since it is clear that we will not be able to leave the pass anytime soon, we must continue to plan as if we can still free the trapped survivors." The Autobot war straightest, Prowl, spoke.

There was a silent agreement as things seemed to return to the way they were moments before. It was almost as if a fog had been lifted as Alpha Trion made his way to the corner of the tent and stood silently as he observed in the shadows.

"Continue," he said as he lifted a servo, almost as if releasing them from a spell.

"Is there anything of significance to report from within the tunnel?" Zeta Prime finally spoke, keeping his optics narrowed slightly at the archivist before turning his attention back to the mech. Prowl nodded silently as he took out a data pad Kup had given him prior to the meeting.

"These driller-like creatures have not appeared within the main tunnel in nearly over an orn for now." Prowl explained as digital recreations of driller appeared before them, depicting its various weapon like tendrils.

"It seems that there has been interference with the cameras set within the tunnel each time something significant occurs." said Kup.

"Explain," said Zeta.

"We were not aware of the drillers that were trapped within the tunnel until recently when one of these creatures appeared to have kidnapped one of the civilians, who, thank Primus, appears to still be alive and with the group." explained Prowl.

"How many drillers do you think there are?" Chromia questioned as she shifted from pede to pede uneasily with her arms wrapped around her frame.

"Our scans show only twelve life signals within the tunnel, which has stayed that way since the latest death of one of the civilians. We've come to the conclusion that he was killed by one of the drillers but our scanners show no sign of any other forms of life within the tunnel." explained the Chief scientific expert, who was representing one of the camps.

"What are they, a new species of driller? Or something else entirely?" questioned Wedge.

"It is most likely the latter. We would be able to see them if they were a new life form, the only logical conclusion would be is that they simply aren't there." said Perceptor as he earned a few odd glances from the Autobots around him. "But… clearly due to the damage the interior of the tunnel has taken, as well as the footage salvaged from the cameras, it is clear that they are present within the tunnel, our scanners simply can't pick up their energy signatures."

"So what? They're not alive?" Chromia questioned him skeptically.

"Of course they're alive! They just do not appear to have cybertronian signatures. And obviously from what we've seen they are and pose a great threat to the Autobots and Civilians-"

"And the cons,"

"Trapped within the tunnel." Perceptor finished. "My team and I have been using various frequencies to find out exactly what they are as well as where they may be hiding."

"What good will that do?" asked Silverbolt.

"We will be able to discover weaknesses they may have that may demolish the remaining drillers. From what we've gathered, so far one driller has been neutralized and two still remain alive, though one appears to have been damaged in the mist of all the chaos. All of this has been difficult to learn with all this interference with the cameras have been receiving." Perceptor sighed tiredly as he rubbed his temple with a digit.

"Have you and your team been able to discover the cause of these disturbances." asked Zeta.

"So far, no." said Perceptor.

"But we've figured that the drillers are somehow involved, seeing how the disturbances occur right before each attack." added Kup.

"From what I can tell from the footage, the Autobots as well as every cybertronian trapped inside clearly know something we do not and are planning something." Prowl said as he stared intently at the digital image before him. Chromia appeared as if she were about to speak, but Silverbolt beat her to it.

"What makes you say that?" the Ariel commander asked as he raised an optic ridge.

"Within the past mega cycle they appear to have formed an equal union upon one of the Autobot soldiers; Orion Pax, freeing the two Decepticon prisoners from their bonds." *speaks as a holo scan of Orion freeing the Cons appears before them*

Chromia seemed to perk up at this new as she stared at the dot that symbolized the mech she knew. "He probably wants them to have a fighting chance." Chromia smirked slightly as she shook her helm slowly. That's Orion for ya.

For a moment Prowl said nothing. "I've developed a theory, from what I can tell, they are planning to confront the drillers before we manage to find a way to break through the sealed doors."

At this Chromia had lifted an optic ridge, she hadn't seen that coming.

"What makes you say that?" Silverbolt asked skeptically as he too bore a similar expression.

Prowl nodded to Kup as the aged mech typed on the control panel. Within moments a digital image of a familiar, and slightly damaged, silver Autobot appeared to change the electric instrument in his servos seemed to come to life for a moment before transforming in a shower of sparks into a weapon of some sort. Beside Jazz, a digital representation of Ironhide seemed to be distributing weapons among the other survivors.

"How much closer are we to breaching the entrance?" Zeta demanded as he kept his optics locked on the image before them.

"Not even close. Whatever we throw at it, it sends it all back. We've already had three causalities as well as a severely damaged Skyfire after several failed attempts to break through the gates." Prowl explained.

Silverbolt cringed slightly at the mention of Skyfire's name before his optics filled with sorrow as memories of their past argument floated into his processor. He shook his helm to clear his processor, unaware that two Autobots had noticed his reaction.

Chromia and Alpha Trion stared at the mech for a moment. Chromia turned her attention back to Prowl as she remained silent, moments later the aged archivist did the same as the mech continued to speak.

"We've nearly exhausted our efforts but as long as they are still alive, we refuse to give up." Prowl concluded. "And with Wedge's team now on its way to bring back much needed supplies, we may still have a chance. But…" the mech trailed off suddenly.

Zeta Prime nodded solemnly in agreement and waited for the mech to continue as Epsilon narrowed his optics at Prowl.

"Perhaps force isn't what we need to breach the gates…" Prowl concluded as he crossed his arms over his chest plate.

"What do you suggest we do?" questioned Epsilon.

"I recommend that we consult with the autobot, Red Alert, who created the Cerebros system which keeps the Autobots and civilians trapped inside. Perhaps he can shut it down or override the security system."

"That will be a problem." Zeta stated solemnly.

"Why?" Chromia asked, more harshly than intended. She lightened her tone as she continued to speak. "Don't tell me he's somewhere stationed halfway across Cybertron."

"So far the Decepticons have been preventing anyone within the Advent Pass from getting in or out. The air and ground forces have been doing everything they can to push back the Decepticons, but it will only be a matter of time before they overtake our troops." Silverbolt stated before adding, "We cannot risk transporting another Autobot though the blockade."

"We could always use the tunnels." Wedge suggested

"That will not be necessary," Epsilon stated. Zeta nodded slowly before speaking, "The Autobot we desperately need is here in this camp."

"You make it sound like it's a bad thing…" Chromia stated uneasily.

"What is the problem if I may I ask?" said Prowl.

"Red Alert was stationed here to assure the safe passage of the train and was injured severely during the raid when his command tower hidden within the mountain was ambushed. He is alive but he will not be able to help us anytime soon." Zeta explained.
"What were his injuries?" asked Silverbolt.

"First Aid has reported that he had received severe damage to his processor and he has been in stasis ever since…"

Silverbolt dimmed his optics as he suddenly remembered seeing a mech lying in the medical tent beside the area Skyfire had been placed in. A mech by the name of Inferno had stayed beside the comatose Red Alert, who was at the time, the only hope the Autobots and civilians had of escaping the tunnel with their lives.

A voice suddenly spoke within his mind in a language Silverbolt did not understand. He opened his optics and scanned the tent, which had suddenly fallen silent after the revelation. His optics rested on the still form of Alpha Trion, who stood hidden within the shadows. His cloak had shifted slightly, revealing what Silverbolt assumed were glowing symbols, but as soon as they had appeared, they were gone, lost to the darkness.

Their only hope lies does not lie within the hands of one mech, rather within the sacrifice of One.

KAY! So now you all know who's really the only hope left for the bots on the inside, Red Alert, the creator of Cerebros which is (unwittingly) keeping them trapped inside the tunnel, or is it? *creepy music*

SO! Thanks to Transformer's Prime new episode Hard Knocks, Smokescreen has made his debut in Through Dying Eyes. …What? after finding out that he really is Destiny's Child, I had to put him in the story!

Anyways…next chappy the real action begins…hhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeee... :D