I'm such a monster when it comes to my characters. Sorry, Riella...

The door slid open with a click. Riella froze, waiting to see if she had been heard; but no, everyone was still asleep except whoever was at the security station. She cautiously inched her way along the narrow path just outside the security camera's range, stopping at the next door and keying in the code.

Prowl was curled up against the wall, apparently having fallen asleep while still sitting up. Riella half-smiled sadly. That had always been a habit of his. Her lower lip quivered, and she ruthlessly crushed the urge to simply cuddle up with him and stay there forever. No. That would only help for a day or two. Then someone will find out that I have no records, then they'll come…then…no. Breaking his spark is better than watching him die. Squaring her shoulders, the blue fembot set the mini-recorder next to Prowl, where he would be sure to see it when he woke up. Then she knelt and brushed her lips against his one last time, feeling the tears threaten to spill over as she remembered the last time she had spoken with him that night.

"What's the matter? You're awfully quiet." Prowl studied her with a concerned frown. "Are you still worried about Sentinel? Because I was thinking there may be a way to take care of it."

She forced a smile as she picked up his 'idea'. "Prowl, I really don't think asking Blackarachnia to paralyze him until they leave the planet will help anything."

"Okay, maybe not." Prowl cupped her chin in his hand and stroked her cheek lightly. "I was hoping that would get a better response. Don't worry, Riella; Sentinel's a glitch-head and a jerk, but I doubt he could really do anything to you. He doesn't have the nerve."

Oh, if only you knew… Riella nodded, hoping he couldn't read the truth in her optics. "I know." She stood up on tiptoe and kissed him gently on the lips before resting her head on his shoulder. "Prowl…"

"I know." His cheek rested against the top of her head. "I know."

Riella stared down at her sleeping love sadly. No, he didn't know. Wiping away the stray tears, she stood up abruptly and left the room without looking back. Bumblebee was on watch, which made it ridiculously easy to slip out of the base, transform, and speed toward the Steelhaven.

Prowl woke at precisely 6:30 a.m. with a stiff neck and a sinking feeling in his spark. Something had been wrong with Riella the night before, he knew it; but he had fallen asleep before she'd come back from patrol. I hope she's alright.

Picking himself up and rubbing the back of his neck, the ninja started toward the door, only to stop when he saw Riella's mini-recorder on the floor. "Oh, slag," he cursed, picking it up and pressing the activation button.

An image of Riella's head and shoulders appeared, framed by the wall of her room. She bit her lip before speaking. "Prowl, I'm sorry. I never wanted to do this. But Sentinel's comm call…It was to the Autobot security center."

Prowl growled, muttering very unflattering things about Sentinel as the hologram continued, Riella shaking her head. "The substance of the message was that he believes I am a traitor. It's in a file here if you need proof. I refuse to stay here and be treated like a criminal when I am innocent." Her optics glistened slightly with what might have been tears. "You understand why. I only hope that you can forgive me for leaving like this, but I love you and I'm not willing to watch you die because of me." She reached out to shut off the hologram, but hesitated. "I want you to know that the time I was with you was the happiest I have ever been. Goodbye, Prowl. I love you." The hologram disappeared a second later.

The ninja's jaw clenched hard enough to hurt. "No. No!" Dropping the recorder, he bolted out of the door and ran to Riella's room, slamming one hand against the door. She can't be gone! When there was no response, he keyed in her code and opened the door, only to see an empty room. The berth obviously hadn't been used, and her few personal possessions – a small medi-kit and some basic maintenance supplies – were gone. "Riella, no…" He shook his head in disbelief. "No!"

He hurried toward the main room. Maybe she didn't leave yet. Maybe I can catch up with her, stop her… He didn't see Jazz until he ran headlong into the other ninja.

"Prowl!" Jazz grabbed his arm. "Hey, mech, ya OK?"

Prowl shook his head, barely able to say the words. "She's…Riella…she's not here." He couldn't say gone.

"Oh Primus," Jazz groaned. "Follow me…I think there's somethin' ya should see."

Optimus, Ultra Magnus, and Ratchet were gathered near the side of the Steelhaven, studying the remains of what had once been the lock holding the emergency shuttle to the side of the bigger ship. Ultra Magnus was speaking as the two ninjas pulled to a stop next to them.

"Optimus Prime, I want you to take a full roll call of your crew immediately. Find out if someone is missing." Prowl knew what had happened immediately, and his spark constricted with grief and fury as he responded.

"That won't be necessary. Riella is gone. She left a message telling me…"

"Slag," Ratchet growled, looking from the ninja to the broken lock. "What was the kid thinking?"

Sentinel Prime exited the ship with a smug expression. "I thought as much! Of course it was her. And it doesn't take much to figure out why she left."

"No, it doesn't," Prowl hissed dangerously, voice dropping almost an octave. "You and I both know what you did!"

Sentinel smirked. "Are you accusing a superior officer of being responsible for her disappearance? That's a court-martial worthy offense."

"I'm not accusing you of anything," Prowl growled, stalking toward the blue Prime. "I'm saying that you falsely accused her of treachery, and she left rather than be treated like a criminal!"

"Isn't her departure further proof that she's a traitor?" Sentinel sneered. "Maybe you should accept that your pretty girlfriend isn't as perfect as you'd like to believe!"

That did it. Prowl lunged for Sentinel's throat, slamming the larger mech onto the ship's ramp and crashing a fist into his face. "LIAR! YOU SON OF A GLITCH!"

"Prowl, stop!" Optimus and Ratchet pulled him back, each holding one of Prowl's arms as the ninja struggled to attack again.

"He's nothing but a lying coward! If it weren't for him, Riella would be here!"

"That's enough!" Ultra Magnus barked. "Sentinel Prime, is it true that you accused Riella of treachery?"

Sentinel, looking somewhat shaken, pushed himself to his feet. No one offered to help, waiting for his answer. "Yes, Commander. I believed she was a threat to us, and acted accordingly. Cliffjumper will confirm that."

Ultra Magnus's frown deepened. "Optimus Prime, were you aware of this?" At Optimus's negative response, he turned to stare at Sentinel. "You, Sentinel Prime, should have followed correct procedure. You should have spoken to her commanding officer first. If he agreed there was a threat, then was the time to report it. Going behind his back not only implies an authority you do not have, but gave the accused fembot no chance to defend herself. The ninja is right; you gave her no other option than to leave, unless she was willing to submit to your investigation."

Sentinel's smile had dropped the moment Ultra Magnus spoke to Optimus, and his expression had darkened with every word. "Sir, I – "

"No excuses, Sentinel Prime," Ultra Magnus snapped. "I will speak to you later. Optimus Prime, do you have any way of contacting the missing member of your team?"

Optimus shook his head. "No, sir. Her comlink is short-range, and since she apparently disabled the comm system on the shuttle…"

"We can't reach her," Ratchet finished gravely.

Prowl turned away, jaw gritted against the possibility of tears. "She's really gone."

Ratchet held out a hand to him. "Kid, I'm sorry…"

"Don't be sorry, Ratchet," Prowl sighed. "It's not your fault." He glared in Sentinel's direction. "It's his."

Riella carefully adjusted the controls, angling her shuttle toward the space bridge ahead. Her optics flickered, dull with grief, but she forced herself to focus. She was alone again, the way she had been before…no. Don't think like that.

Prowl, and Optimus Prime's crew, were part of the past now. Someday, they would be nothing more than a memory…

But I don't want that, she thought, pain welling in her spark as space blurred at light-speed. I want to be with them.

But I will never let them get hurt for me.

The End

*covers head and hopes no one throws hard things* I know! I'm sorry! There'll be a sequel, I promise!