Time Units
Orn: 13 days
Solar Cycle: ~1 day

"Thinking"
:Comm. Talk:
~Bond Speech~


A New Version of Reality

Epilogue

Adaptation


The abnormally beautiful day did nothing to shift Bluestreak's depressed mood. In fact, he would have preferred that it be pouring down rain, lighting and thundering to brutally drive home what he was participating in. Feeling the sun's heat bear down on his holoform made everything seem too…normal.

It was anything but that.

It took all of Bluestreak's willpower not to cringe as he heard Terrence stumbling over his words as he stood next to one of the closed caskets. Nothing but guilt and anger flourished up in him when Victoria's stepmother left their toddler clinging to Eric's hand as she went to support the man on the verge of a complete breakdown. He forced his holoform to bite its lip when the guilt and anger doubled as Wheeljack moved to take the crying man's place, standing beside the other coffin to voice his final words to his "son."

Bluestreak could not take hearing Wheeljack recount Smokescreen's human life with tangible grief that was just as real as the emotions that Victoria's father had just revealed. He shifted his stance, preparing to flee from the front row of the burial service, but a strong hand landed on his shoulder before he could leave. He glanced up to see the unexciting image that Prowl had taken from the internet to apply to his new holoform. The hand awkwardly squeezed, and Bluestreak suddenly realized that it was an attempt on Prowl's part to behave as a Guardian should logically behave—no matter how long it had been since he had actively played the part.

The comforting gesture only served to make Bluestreak feel even worse.

Because Bluestreak was not experiencing the same emotions as the others were. His only grief came at watching an empty casket being lowered into the ground, signifying the end of both Smokescreen's Cybertronian and human life. He did not feel anything when they lowered Victoria's body into her hole. No sorrow, no anger, no guilt—nothing.

And that was the worst part of all.

As the combined ceremonies came to a conclusion and the crowd began to slowly trickle away, Bluestreak allowed his form to relax enough to fool Prowl. Of course, he knew that Prowl was far too observant to be tricked by a movement that was obviously forced, but the older Praxian took his leave anyway, meeting Wheeljack halfway to where their true forms were parked at the front of the cemetery. The Autobot SIC patiently waited for the engineer to finish speaking to Terrence and his family, and Bluestreak's guilt was only renewed when he spotted the human man wiping away more tears.

Bluestreak wanted so badly to walk up to the man and tell him the truth—the whole truth. He deserved to know what had really happened to his only daughter; he deserved to know why the ceremony had to be closed casket. Forget the consequences he would receive from both the human government and his immediate superiors. This was a father grieving the loss of his daughter; he deserved to know why.

As soon as the desire had come, it was instantly extinguished. Would telling Terrence really make it any better? To tell him that his daughter's final moments had been filled with nothing but pain at the hands of a psychotic terrorist group whose members were still out there? Perhaps it was better that the man remained as ignorant as he was.

However, that still did not relinquish any guilt for keeping the truth from him.

Bluestreak belatedly realized that he had not moved from his position despite his earlier desire to do so. He stared down at the twin holes, separated by a few feet of space. Soon they would be filled once more with dirt, and the only thing left to mark the caskets would be two, pristine gravestones that would slowly degrade over time from nature to match the many other plots scattered throughout the area. They were meant to honor the dead and never allow them to be forgotten, just as the tombs back on Cybertron had been used for.

The Praxian did not feel any of that sentimentality. One hole contained an empty casket because Optimus was now having to fight the human government to regain the frame of their fallen comrade because of the stupidity of NEST's current liaison. The other held nothing but a slowly decaying body.

Bluestreak stared long and hard at the impressions in the ground, trying to feel more than he currently did, before finally looking around him. His eyes fell on the only other person who still had not moved when the ceremony had finished.

Eric stood staring down at the graves as Bluestreak did, a severe frown replacing his usual grin. Butterfly bandages decorated his cheek, and his left arm was being held up with a sling. The young man had been one of the very lucky occupants at NIMROD to escape through the Ground Bridge at the beginning of the attack. He had only suffered a few scrapes, bruises, and one sprained shoulder while getting the Dinobots out of the base for Wheeljack. From the story Bluestreak had heard, Eric had attempted to return through the Ground Bridge to help get others out, but the surprised NEST soldiers who had been there to greet the incoming scientists had refused to allow him to go back, so he had settled for watching the sparklings until things had been settled.

He had not been the only person to completely avoid Bluestreak after the mech had returned to find NIMROD completely destroyed.

Bluestreak hesitated for a moment before approaching the man. If Eric heard him step up to stand at his side, the man did an impeccable job ignoring him. The mech forced air through is holoform. "Eric…"

"Don't talk to me."

Bluestreak physically flinched at the hard edge the man's voice possessed. Eric did not bother to look away from the hole he stared down in to. "Eric, please—"

"Seriously. Don't." Eric turned towards the mech in disguise, staring him down with harsh grey eyes that slightly glinted with unshed tears. Bluestreak could only keep his gaze for a few seconds before looking down at his feet with shame. "If you begin to spout some kind of excuse or explanation, I'll seriously be unable to stop myself from saying something I'll regret later."

"You don't understand."

"I don't understand?" Bluestreak cringed once more at the hot anger now coming off the man as he fully turned to face the mech. "I don't understand what? That my sister's dead because some whackjob inserted a bunch of tiny robots into her? That she wouldn't have been in that situation if you hadn't abandoned her? That my dad is left believing some crackpot hit and run story because I can't tell him what she was really doing? And on top of that, my best friend is gone, and we can't even hold a proper burial for him because of some bullshit the government is spewing out thanks to the Decepticon attack. Yeah, I'm pretty damn sure I understand what's going on, so don't you dare tell me I don't."

Bluestreak bit his lip for a second time that day, straining not to say what he wanted to. He knew that now was not the time to reveal what his spark was telling him. No one would believe him—not even the other mechs who had been connected to Victoria. There would be no way that Eric would understand. "I'm sorry."

Instead of swaying the man's anger like he had hoped, it appeared as if Eric was on the verge of confronting Bluestreak in a more physical way. His fist had even clenched into a tight ball before someone intervened. The mech was surprised to see Mikaela leave Bumblebee and Sam's side to come stand beside the older man, placing a hand on his back in an attempt to calm him down. The effect was instantaneous, and Eric eventually shrugged the hand off and simply walked away to join his family. The young woman appeared tempted to follow him but visibly restrained herself as she focused on Bluestreak. "Now just…isn't the time to bother him. He's been through a lot—we all have."

Bluestreak was suddenly reminded that more than just those directly involved with the last week's events had been affected by everything that had happened. Victoria had been the teenager's confidant for the last two years, and he knew the sudden death of the woman had struck the girl as hard as anyone else who had been close to Victoria. The same applied to Smokescreen and everyone else who had not survived the Decepticon's attack. It was selfish of him to forget that. "I know."

Mikaela simply nodded and took a step in the direction Eric had taken before changing course to join Sam, who was leaning against the yellow and black striped Camaro with Bumblebee's holoform. He could barely see the young college student fiddling with a little box as he turned his attention back to the holes. He stubbed his toe into the upturned dirt around it, watching a few pebbles fall down to land on the casket below, before turning to join Prowl and Wheeljack where they waited for him.

Bluestreak attempted to call upon the sorrow he should have been feeling, knowing that it was Victoria's body that the pebbles had fallen on to. He finally gave up as he pulled away from the curb to follow the other mechs towards the airfield where their ride to Diego Garcia waited. He had tried—he really had.

However, Bluestreak could not dismiss the fact that the odd wall was still there in his spark where a severed bond should have been.

)II(

In the past week, many things had changed for the Autobots and NEST in general. NIMROD had been officially disbanded after the residents of the nearby town had seen the destruction of the base. Government officials who were aware of the situation had immediately ordered that the area be cleaned up and anything that had survived the attack be shuttled to a more secure base in the NEST division. The inhabitants of NIMROD had been effectively reassigned to another area or dismissed under the proper protocols, while those who had died during the attack were honored by the military.

Except for Smokescreen and Victoria—the alien and the civilian.

Thanks to Galloway—NEST's liaison until Agent Fowler jumped through all the paperwork to have him reassigned—the Autobots were now greeted with nothing but suspicion outside of the group of humans they directly worked with. Optimus and his strategy against the Decepticons in general were being fully blamed for the mess that had occurred in Shanghai along with the sixty deaths at the NIMROD base. Galloway was using the fact that Optimus insisted that Starscream be held as a prisoner instead of promptly executed as well as the fact that Soundwave and Ravage were simply allowed to join the Autobots without a second glance as his strongest argument for heavier regulations. He was even starting to use the fact that the Seekers and Cassettes that have been their allies for two years were former Decepticons after Thundercracker had snapped at the man for making derogatory remarks during Rumble, Frenzy, and Laserbeak's reunion with their Cassette deck.

Thankfully, General Morshower seemed to have more respect for Optimus than the politician and was speaking on the Autobots' behalf along with Major Lennox until Agent Fowler was reassigned as their liaison. While those talks were taking place, all of the Autobot were moved to the Diego Garcia for an indefinite period of time. Even Bumblebee was being forced to leave the States after making Sam cave and let him follow the human to college. The (former) Decepticons were put on a "parole" status after the attack, which all but Soundwave heavily protested against. The Cassette deck simply watched every argument with an almost sense of confusion as even Ironhide came forth to defend at least Thundercracker being under forced supervision.

"It's a wonder we were even allowed to leave," Bluestreak thought as he rolled out of the carrier behind Prowl a few hours later. The sun was already beginning to set on the horizon, but Diego Garcia was just as busy as when he had left it. Not many turned to watch the group of Autobots roll across the airfield to the section of buildings that the mechs (and femmes) on base had been assigned to.

Bluestreak transformed outside one of the building and watched Prowl and Wheeljack drive in without pause. Bumblebee came to halt beside the sharpshooter's feet and gave a little honk. The Praxian simply shook his head at the scout's wordless question and shuffled over to the hanger further down the line. He could already hear Red Alert spewing out a series of well-thought procedures to escape the military when they turned on them while the little twins were suggesting the simple deed of "popping caps in some asses." He just was not in the mood to deal with that right now, especially when he heard Leadfoot agree and Roadbuster complain about how they had been unceremoniously forced to Diego Garcia. Bumblebee seemed to understand the mech perfectly and continued without him.

The Praxian quickly traveled the short distance to his destination, and he finally felt a small smile twitch across his face as he heard the familiar sounds of laughing sparklings from outside the entrance. He rolled aside the door and stepped in just as Star and Grimlock came rolling past, both locked in a tumbling battle over one of the blocks they were given to play with. Star was the first to notice the mech's arrival, and he immediately abandoned the tug-o-war with Grimlock to glare up at the sharpshooter as he ran to huddle up in a corner.

Fortunately, this was all familiar behavior for the Seekerlet, and Bluestreak could only feel tired relief over the fact that most of the sparklings did not seem to have been overly traumatized over what had occurred. The Dinobots had been evacuated quick enough to miss the majority of the battle, and the younger mechlings had a battle weary older brother to take care of them. Star had never seen the full extent of what had happened thanks to Thundercracker, but Bluestreak's main worry had been with Recall and Topaz.

Jazz had given a quick and emotionless rundown of how he and Bulkhead had found the two siblings before rushing them through the Ground Bridge. Bluestreak had worried that what they had seen had left them as traumatized as he had been after Praxus had been destroyed, and his worries had multiplied tenfold when Recall refused to let anyone touch Topaz, emitting frightened shrieks whenever someone he was not intimately familiar with attempted to approach them. The fear had gradually diminished over the past few days, but the mechling still ran to hide behind Jazz or Bluestreak when a less familiar face showed up in their hanger, and he absolutely refused to let his sister be more than a few inches away from him.

Not even as he ran to greet the sharpshooter when the Autobot entered the building. The slightly smaller Mini-Bot femmeling kept her arms tightly wrapped around Recall's neck as she rode on his back while he galloped towards Bluestreak. Recall's happy greetings caught the attention of the sparklings' current babysitters, and Rumble and Frenzy barely waved towards him as Soundwave silently watched the sparklings play under Bulkhead's unrelenting supervision. The Decepticon may have proven to be the Soundwave they had known from their original dimension and readily complied to the same guidelines that the Seekers had, but that did not mean he was given free reign around them just yet.

However, the mech was not Bluestreak's current concern as he reached down to carefully pick up the chirping sparklings. Topaz released her brother's neck to cuddle up next to the mech's thumb while Recall reached his hands out in an active attempt to climb up the mech's armor. Bluestreak chuckled and lightly admonished the Pretender's daredevil antics with a quick tap on the head. "I hope you guys behaved today."

Recall chirped and fell on to his back, pulling his feet above his head in an attempt to flip backwards. Bluestreak laughed again, this one being a little less forced, as he lightly stepped across the room to the section of the open hanger they had assigned as the sparkling's "bedrooms." He sat down beside one of the pallets that held a bundle of light blue and pink blankets with a stuffed bunny and baby doll tucked beneath them. This had become a new ritual after their first night at Diego Garcia when the sparkling siblings had refused to settle down without Bluestreak watching over them. Topaz buzzed in quiet agreement as she was deposited beside the doll, immediately taking her pink blanket and clumsily rolling up into it. Recall was not as eager to apply to the subtle meaning of Bluestreak's actions and loudly protested as he clung to the mech's finger.

Bluestreak softly vented and allowed the mechling to stay in his hand as he turned to watch Swoop round up Grimlock and Snarl. The mature Dinobot began to usher both of his brother's towards their corner of the room, Snarl whining as he stubbornly watched the door, waiting for their sire to come in and perform the same actions that Bluestreak did. The sharpshooter was saddened by the fact that he knew Wheeljack would not be walking through those doors any time soon. Wheeljack had been tirelessly working to salvage his work from NIMROD, attempting to keep all of his projects firmly in his hands and out of the government's. He had angrily told Bluestreak that he would not allow them to confiscate any of his belongings in the transition from base to base, especially since Galloway was heralding the small movement to take away a severe amount of the freedom they possessed as sentient beings. Bluestreak knew it was all just an excuse to keep his Dinobots from seeing the severe blow the engineer had emotionally suffered from the attack. It was that very scenario that Wheeljack had been attempting to keep the sparkling Dinobots from ever witnessing again, and his failure to do so piled up on top of the grief he already held for the many close friends they had lost, including Smokescreen and Victoria.

"Lights out in ten, little guys." Topaz growled from where she was tucked under her blanket, and Bulkhead quickly backtracked with a light chuckle as he helped usher the Dinobots to their pallets. "And little miss. You guys need to be rested up for tomorrow."

"Why?" Grimlock grouchily protested even as he tiredly stumbled towards his blanket. "We don't go outside no more. We stuck in here all day. It no fun."

Bluestreak ducked his head as he saw the former Wrecker's optics dim with melancholy. He reached down the hand he was not using to hold Recall to help Swoop get Snarl's blanket wrapped around the mechling's large kibble. "I know, but we've gotta work with what we have now. At least we managed to get a few toys for you guys to play with. Imagine how it would be without your sword!"

"Me Grimlock wanna go home."

Snarl immediately voiced his agreement, and even Swoop momentarily paused to stare wistfully down at the pillow he clutched in his hands. Bluestreak's door-wings fell before he could restrain himself, and he fought to happily smile when Recall turned to his bright optics up to look at the mech. The mechling climbed back up to his feet and moved to cling to the armor on Bluestreak's chest, standing on the tips of his toe to look the mech in the optic.

"When mama comin' back?"

A vicious stab pierced Bluestreak's spark at the mechling's innocent question, and the room went eerily quiet. Even Rumble had stopped snapping at Frenzy to help pick up the toys, and they both turned to stare in the direction the question had come from. Recall simply stared up at the sharpshooter with trust that was rarely displayed around even the Autobots now. Bluestreak's door-wings could only flutter at the sight of those optics, and he had to look away before he blurted out the answer he wanted to give the mechling.

It was not the first time Recall had asked for Victoria. The mechling had first posed the question to Eric, who at that time had been ignorant to the situation his sister had been in. The sparkling had taken the man's reassurance of Victoria' return to spark and continued to ask for the woman every day. First he had asked Jazz, who had not been able to tell any of the sparklings that Ratchet had been diligently working to keep Victoria alive at that very moment. Then he had asked Wheeljack, who had pretended not to hear as he rushed around to get the sparklings comfortable before retreating to the distracting task of regaining his belongings. Then there was Bulkhead, Rumble, Frenzy, Bumblebee, and even Jazz a second time.

However, it was the first time the question had been posed to Bluestreak, and he felt like he was hearing the devastating news from Ratchet a second time. He opened his mouth out of reflex before closing it again. The mech brought the sparkling even closer until Recall was comfortably sprawled out on his chest, listening to the spark thrumming beneath the mech's armor with a buzz of content that was even radiated through his now sleeping sister. Unfortunately, that did not keep the mechling from repeating his question.

"She's not coming back!"

Recall shot up from where he was laying, and even Soundwave jumped at the sudden screech. Star had moved from the corner of building to huddle up against the door. His bright red optics could be seen through the arms he used to pillow his head, and he directed his sharp glare directly at the other mechling.

The Pretender chirped in confusion as the other mechlings still awake bleated in surprise at the Seekerlet's words. Recall decided to ignore Star's statement and once more directed his question up to Bluestreak, who could only stare as Star leaped to his feet to charge over to them. The Seekerlet reached the Praxian's leg and scraped his tiny claws against his armor, leaving silver streaks behind as he peeled the paint off. "Didn't you hear me, stupid? She's not coming back; she's never coming back! 'Cause he killed her! He killed Vivi!"

Bluestreak was not the one to respond to Star's vicious accusations or even flinch away from the unrelenting attack on his leg. He simply stared in open shock as Star continued to claw at him, screeching with pent-up anger and grief, until Bulkhead reached down to restrain the Seekerlet. Star struggled within the former Wrecker's massive hand but eventually tired as his actions took a toll on his already weary frame. Bulkhead waited until the Seekerlet had calmed down before speaking. "Hold up. Bluestreak would never do that. Who told you he did?"

Star glared up at the Autobot before all of his aggression seemed to suddenly flee from his body. His shoulders slumped, and a mournful trill escaped him. "I saw her! Sky brought her back, and he'd said it was all his fault. I felt him—he was telling the truth! Bluestreak killed Vivi!"

The Seekerlet suddenly began to weep in the Wrecker's hand. Bulkhead stuttered at the sudden shift in behavior but was soon holding the mechling close, muttering awkward words of comfort. There was a series of growls from the floor, and Bluestreak looked down to see that Grimlock had transformed and was now snarling up at him, attempting to push his brothers away from the mech and dragging Topaz's blanket along with him. The mechling's actions hit harder than Star's words, and he looked down at his hands to see that Recall was staring up at him with hurt bewilderment. Even as Swoop protested Grimlock's overreaction and Bulkhead continued to defend him against Star's accusations, Bluestreak could only see the tiny mechling now attempting to find a way out of his hand. His spark stuttered, and his mouth opened without his permission this time.

"She's not dead!"

For a second time, activity in the room froze, and this time all attention was focused on Bluestreak. He allowed his door-wings to briefly flutter before forcing them into a rigid position on his back. Recall chirped in even more confusion as he was lifted so that he was eyelevel with the mech's determined optics. "She's not dead. I may not be able to connect to her right now, but I haven't felt her bond sever from mine. That means that her spark is still going, and that she's still alive out there somewhere. She would never abandon you, or your sister, or any of you guys either. I swear on my very spark that I will bring her back home, Recall."

Recall chirped at Bluestreak's earnest promise and tentatively reached out to touch the ridge of the mech's nose. The mechling chirped again and reached up to clumsily bump his forehead against Bluestreak, a silent show of the mechling having understood the mech's words and having his complete trust.

Unfortunately, Recall seemed to be the only one willing to believe Bluestreak at the moment.

"You're lying!" Star screeched, shattering the quiet moment. He viciously glared at Bluestreak from Bulkhead's hand and even looked like he was about to leap from the mech's hand to attack the Praxian again. "You're lying about everything! She's gone, and so is Toshi, and Dr. Zabby, and Smokes, and everyone else from home."

"Bluestreak, maybe you should go talk to Ratchet," Bulkhead suggested as he brought the sobbing Seekerlet back to his chest. His words were said with as neutral a tone as possible, but there was a discernable inflection of worry in his voice. "You've just been through a lot, and…maybe you should let Ratchet make sure you're okay."

The mech's reaction was the exact reason why Bluestreak had not brought this up before now. He knew that no one would believe him when he said that Victoria was still alive, but he knew it was true. He had made it just in time to watch Ratchet's final attempts to keep the woman's body alive, watched as Ratchet's machines shrilly cried as her heart flatlined. And he had waited—waited for inevitable, tearing pain of her spark being wrenched away by death. He knew how it felt to have a bond severed so harshly; he had experienced it twice before as his creators were slaughtered in the streets of Praxus. There had been no time to steel himself against that familiar pain, and to be honest, he had almost been eager for the pain as a silent punishment for the blame he held for having a part in Victoria's death.

Except that pain had never come. Bluestreak had waited for it—continued to wait for it even as he had made that promise to Recall. Until he felt their sparks sever from each other, he would not accept that Victoria was dead. What his spark felt was more convincing than what he had seen because he knew that unlike his optics, his spark could not lie. If Victoria was dead, he would know—everyone connected to her would know.

He was just the only one who was not ignoring the blaring truth.

"I'm perfectly fine, Bulkhead," Bluestreak finally answered as a new resolve filled him. He glanced up from the ground to look Bulkhead straight in the optics, conveying the truth behind his words. "I just needed a little bit to figure what was going on."

"Uh, Blue…"

"Really Bulkhead. I'm fine."

"Perhaps you should listen to him."

Bluestreak and Bulkhead's attention snapped towards the door of building, which had slid open without them even noticing. Thundercracker frowned at them from where he stood in the doorway, his wings set at a steep angle. Behind him stood Skywarp, who was glaring daggers at Bluestreak with unrestrained hostility. Thundercracker nodded towards Soundwave as the mech subtly slid past him with his silent Cassettes on his heels, and the Seeker wasted little time crossing the room to where the Autobots stood. To Bluestreak's surprise, Thundercracker took Recall from his hand without a word and, despite the mechling's loud cries, continued to pin the sharpshooter down with a harsh stare.

Eventually the mech's red optics softened a tad, though Skywarp's hostility never faltered. "What Star did may not have been the best way to reveal such sensitive information to them, but the sparklings would have learned the truth eventually. Making baseless promises to them won't help solve anything; it'll only make it worse. Things are starting to quickly escalate around here, and we need to be prepared to deal with whatever comes out of this. If we're not in the right state of mind, we might lose more than we already have. And you're obviously not thinking very clearly, which is understandable given the circumstances. Go to Ratchet and have him perform a complete defrag on you. It'll help."

Bluestreak was stunned by the flick of wings he correctly read as dismissal, and Thundercracker turned to collect Star and pointedly placed himself between the Praxian and the sparklings to help Bulkhead and Swoop calm them back down for recharge. Bluestreak slowly stood up when he realized that Thundercracker meant what he had said and took a step in the direction of the door. Skywarp sneered at him and placed himself fully between his trine brother's turned back and the Autobot.

Bluestreak felt no love lost between him and the purple Seeker, but he could not help but feel that Skywarp should actually be defending what he had said. Surely Skywarp should have been able to feel it too. The Praxian could understand that the wall that continued to separate them from Victoria would be overlooked by the Twins because they had not been able to form a tight bond with the woman before her "death," but Skywarp had been professing undying love towards Victoria since reuniting with her. He should have been able to tell that she was still there through the wall that kept them separated!

Skywarp's sneer never wavered the longer Bluestreak stared at him, and it eventually got to the point where the Seeker's posture went suddenly stiff. Bluestreak was surprised when Skywarp swiftly approached him, shoving him out the door despite the fact that Recall was sobbing for the Praxian now. The sharpshooter barely noticed that the dark grounds were now bare of humans as Skywarp gave him a vicious shove that sent him tumbling to the ground.

The Seeker glared down at him before harshly dragging the mech back to his feet, leveling their optics with one another. His quick words came out as a mere hiss. "You start spewing that slag around the sparklings again, and I'll personally make sure you never come within optic distance to them again. They're small and still innocent even after what happened, and I know for a fact that Vicky wouldn't want them to be lied to like that. You promised that mechling you would bring his mom back—what're you going to do when he realizes for himself that she's dead and never coming back? Lying's one thing; getting a sparkling's hopes up just so they can be brutally crushed is just despicable. Instead of trying to make yourself feel better, you should think about taking care of those sparklings like Victoria would've wanted us to do."

With that final statement spat in his face, Bluestreak was flung back to the ground, and he refused to move until he heard the hanger's wide door slam shut. The eerie silence of the island's night was only softy punctuated by the cries he heard from within the building he was just thrown out of, and his door-wings fluttered at the unsettling sense of uneasiness that began to twist his spark. Had he…had he actually been wrong about what his spark felt? Was his processor simply so fragmented at this point by grief and anger that he was able to delude himself into believing a lie? Maybe he did need to go see Ratchet.

Bluestreak finally looked up from where he had been staring at the asphalt and jumped at the hand that was in front of his face. He shifted his optics to look past it, and they clashed with a bright red visor that reflected nothing but detachment. The Autobot glanced down at the two symbiotes that flanked the mech's feet, and Rumble slightly shifted his head to the side, signaling for the mech to accept the gesture of assistance. Bluestreak tentatively did so, and he was surprised by the strength of the hand that gripped his.

Soundwave stared down at the mech that was barely a head shorter than him, visor never wavering from its detachment. However, without his usual mask in place to hide the lower half of his face, Bluestreak caught the tight frown that twitched across the mech's lips.

That tiny frown caused Bluestreak's door-wings to instantly rise, and he snatched his hand away to straighten his whole frame, causing his crest to reach just past the taller mech's chin. For some reason, that one small expression from the telepath made him feel more defensive than Bulkhead, Thundercracker, or even Skywarp had made him. "I'm not crazy."

Frenzy snickered at the Praxian's hissed statement, causing the bigger mech to slightly falter before regaining his posture. Soundwave simply continued to stare at the Autobot until Bluestreak felt a sudden worry that the former Decepticon was attempting to read his mind. As he began to scramble to raise his processor's defenses, Soundwave finally shifted. "State of mind: assessed as clear. Soundwave…believes Bluestreak."

Bluestreak could not resist balking in surprise at the toneless statement. Of any mech he ever thought would possibly believe him, Soundwave was not even on the list. "You do? Wait, why?"

"Soundwave—given objective. Objective requires mech connected to organic femme. Status of objective: first step complete. Second step—obtainment of Space Bridge."

The younger mech could only stare at Soundwave's back as the telepath turned away from him, his Cassettes obediently staying by his side. Bluestreak glanced over at the hanger—relieved to hear that Recall had stopped crying—before running to catch up with the mech. "Wait a minute! Where are you going?"

"Ravage still in care of medic. Requires constant checking in. Soundwave also requested to provide second opinion to full damage done to Barricade."

"But…but you can't just go talking about that kind of stuff and not explain! What objective are you talking about? Why do you need a Space Bridge? How did you even know anyone was connected to Victoria beforehand? You've been Primus only knows where since we got blasted to place!"

Bluestreak yelped when Soundwave suddenly turned to analyze him. His door-wings fluttered as he restrained himself from speaking under the other mech's heavy scrutiny. "Soundwave…has been duly informed. Pocket dimension afforded access to information. Soundwave and Ravage—last to be dismissed. Thus afforded to see bigger picture. Victoria required to fulfill other objective—Soundwave required to complete this. Now you are assigned yours. All paths meet at the same point if performed at precise time."

The Praxian was left to slowly process Soundwave's confusing words as the mech continued towards the building that the majority of the others were currently cramped in to. Bluestreak hurried to catch up to the mech before he disappeared through the door. "So it's true then? Vicky…she is still alive?"

Soundwave stopped for a second time to scrutinize the younger mech, noting how his door-wings had lost their stiffness and the optics that now conveyed silent hope. The telepath slowly tilted his head as his observation continued. "If bond has not been severed, then spark continues to function. Probability of life—high. Spark has simply been transferred to other frame as is common with upgrades."

Bluestreak's door-wings suddenly fell, and he began to scrutinize Soundwave in his own way. "How can I trust that what you say is true? It wasn't until a few days ago that you still identified yourself as a Decepticon, and you weren't even here until then either. You could be playing on my current emotional state to gain something else."

"Soundwave—cannot prove that words are true. Nor can I prove trustfulness. Simply know that objective must be completed within time span given. You can choose not to help but forfeits chance of seeing bonded again. Your choice."

Soundwave turned again, but he gave a noticeable pause as he stood outside the door. Rumble and Frenzy stared up at Bluestreak as he visibly contemplated the decision he was forced to make. Frenzy grunted when Bluestreak began to slowly shake his head, and Rumble glared at the Praxian. "You gonna take a chance that Vicky's alive or just let guys like Bulkhead and 'Cracker think ya crazy 'til that bond finally does sever? Skywarp aint got the bearings ta see what you do, and those twins aint any better. You already let her die once—what're gonna do when you let her die again?"

Bluestreak's optics suddenly dimmed, and the Cassette twins exchanged a brief glance of understanding. They knew that the Praxian was evaluating what he felt in his spark; they had seen him do it numerous times in the past week since everything had happened. While Skywarp, Sideswipe, and Sunstreaker got angry or closed up at any mention of the woman, Bluestreak was the only one who ever reacted with quiet contemplation. The first order they had been given after their momentous reunion with the Cassette deck was to find the mech that reacted that way, and now they were starting to see why. The Boss knew a lot more was going on than just what their immediate knowledge told them, and despite their long separation, Rumble and Frenzy still trusted Soundwave's judgements.

Periwinkle optics suddenly sharpened, and they focused a deadly glare on the mech before them. "If I find out you're just using me…"

"Threat: accepted. Decision?"

The twins traded another look, knowing the answer even before seeing Bluestreak's door-wings straightened with determination. "What do you need me to do?"

)II(

It took an impatient snap of fingers to regain Victoria's attention from the wall she dully stared it. The woman snapped her head towards the precise cracking sound that her ears—audials—whatever—had registered, and she blankly stared at the shining red mech standing in front of her.

Vermillion optics examined her from head to toe as the mech hummed. "Well, at least the circuits in the spinal strut are responsive. I can't say much for you equilibrium sensors though."

Victoria grunted as she realized too late that Knock Out was not the one leaning to the side. Her arm shot out to balance her leaning upper body, but her reaction was not quick enough to keep her from falling over onto the berth. She grit her teeth (or whatever she had now) when symbols began to pop up before her eyes, and she flinched when a pair of big hands gripped her arms to pull her back up. Once she was properly sitting up again, she embarrassingly ducked her head towards the bulky, red faced Decepticon that had sat her back up. "Thanks…again."

The mech shrugged and turned back to Toshi, or Patronus as he had insisted on being called after he onlined. Patronus' new wings flicked as he stared at Victoria while Knock Out's assistant performed a simple physical evaluation. It was the same thing that Knock Out had been attempting to perform on her until he began a more thorough examination thanks to her delayed responses to everything.

However, that was something that Victoria just could not help. Everything was coming to her so much faster now—she was instantly distracted by even the faintest noise her more powerful systems picked up on, her sense of smell had been doubled to the point of almost making her constantly feel nauseous, and she was constantly attempting to figure out how to get rid of the little messages that popped up to block her vision. Not to mention the fact that she was trying to figure out how to stay up straight because of the added weight on her shoulders from the wheels there (don't even get her started on how difficult it had become to simply walk), learning how to access programs that would allow her to do the simplest of things like sleep, and feeling like she was learning how to function in life all over again.

Give a girl a little break when she decided she did not feel like wiggling her fingers on command!

There was another snap in front of her face, and Victoria realized that medic had been attempting to gain her attention by using the ridiculous name that had been assigned to her without any consent. Knock Out suddenly scowled at her and waved a dainty hand in front of her. "I'm starting to think you're just ignoring me. If you lack any concern for you wellbeing, then by all means vacate my med-bay. I have better things to do than waste my time on you."

Victoria suddenly wondered if a snappish attitude was common for Cybertronian medics. She had even noticed that Swoop sometimes got that snappy quality the longer he worked.

The sudden reminder of the Dinobot instantly brought up memories of the other sparklings left on Earth, and it took all of Victoria's willpower not to do more than grip the edge of the medical berth she rested on. Apparently, she had not figured out how to effectively restrain an emotional reaction in her new body because Knock Out's optics instantly brightened, and he almost looked frightened. "Uh, I mean…why don't we move on from motor reactions? Let me just link up here, and I'll perform a quick scan to ensure your systems are up to date."

The woman did not react to having her brownish-orange arm armor slightly pushed aside for the medic to insert a slim wire in to the small port hidden there. She had seen Ratchet perform a similar action once or twice before and knew it was strictly for medical purposes. Ratchet was always quick about it, and no one ever acted bothered by it aside from the initial connection. She did not expect the sudden bombardment for warnings of an "uplink" to flash across her visor or how her persistent nausea was amplified as it felt like a battering ram was being plunged through her head.

Victoria felt her entire frame begin to heat up in an uncomfortable sensation that she was already beginning to learn as the new sign for a panic attack. She fought against the strange sensation that plagued her head as she struggled to stay upright with her nausea and new equilibrium. She vaguely heard Knock Out growl in frustration at her behavior, but she was too busy being flooded with more messages, these flashing in bold red and warning her of the inevitable crash she would suffer from if her systems continued to escalate as they were.

The woman was not aware that she was beginning whimper in pain until she felt a pair of hands restraining her shoulders, and the unwelcomed presence in her mind abruptly disappeared. Noises began to slowly become distinguishable as the whine of her systems began to cool down, and the messages from her visor were beginning to dissipate and allowed her to see a black and silver frame menacingly hovering over Knock Out.

"You were hurting her!"

"I was not! It was a standard medical scan. It's not my fault she attempted to fight back. My medical systems simply reacted to what it perceived as an attempt to hack through the medical uplink. How else do you think a medic survives through war when he's constantly having to link to others?"

Victoria's vision of Patronus being dragged off of Knock Out by the medic's assistant was cut off as a face appeared before her. The pair of hands still on her shoulders calmly clenched, and Mirage's golden optics never wavered from her face. "Calm down. This is just something you need to become used to. You did not respond fast enough when your systems sought permission to allow the medical uplink. You responded out of base instinct instead controlling your processes. Now vent and inhale just as Skyfire has guided you to do before. If you do not control yourself, you can cause major damage to your systems."

Victoria did as Mirage commanded, forcing her body to work in the way she wanted it to. She whimpered when all of the symbols refused to disappear from her vision and the mechanisms in her chest continued to uncontrollably whir. "It's not working this time."

"Yes, it is. Stop focusing on your HUD for a moment and simply control your breathing. It is just as you would have done before. Inhale and exhale."

The familiar command managed to break through Victoria's panic, and she could feel her chest rise and fall without her forcing it to do so. She had found out that the movement was not required as she no longer possessed the lungs that would cause the action to occur, but with the help of Mirage guiding her with commands that she was more used to, Victoria found that her frame was beginning to respond in a way more familiar way to her. A more human way. The messages slowly disappeared to leave her vision blank once more, save for the tiny small circle flashing in front of her eyes to lock on to Mirage's face.

Mirage's optics flickered across her face, evaluating her current state, before promptly turning to face Knock Out. Victoria allowed her head to fall into her hands and clutched the sides of it as she listened to the hard edge in the aristocrat's voice. "I informed you that a medical uplink was not necessary."

"Like I was going to even listen to you. If you haven't noticed, I'm the medic on board this ship. If I think a medical uplink is necessary, then that's what I do."

"And was it necessary?"

The silence from Knock Out was almost palpable, and it was merely punctuated by the sound of one of the mech's turning on the heel of his foot. "I rest my case. I assume that the examination is over, correct? Then I will escort Patronus and…Pixel to their quarters."

Victoria flinched when a hand gently gripped her arm, and she staggered onto the floor. Her ankles wobbled at having to carry her full weight, and Victoria vaguely remembered that her new form had here "wearing" heels now, something she was even unfamiliar with doing as a human. Mirage never faltered even when she did, and he properly looped her arm through his to guide her out of the med-bay. Heavy footsteps followed behind them, and the door leading out of the medical wing did not shut quick enough to hide Knock Out's infuriating yell. "Breakdown, hand me my buffer!"

The trio was quiet as they traveled down the halls of the expansive ship that Victoria had yet to fully see. Her legs gradually became more stable the longer they walked, and she felt as if she would have been fine on her own if Mirage had released her hand. However, he continued to guide her down the hallway until she realized that the taller mech was simply being polite instead of guiding her like a toddler who had just learned to stand. A sudden sense of gratitude flooded through her, and Mirage merely glanced down when the grip on his arm tightened.

"So…" Victoria started, but she paused when she realized that her voice came out sounding cracked. She attempted to clear her throat before realizing that it was not an action she could perform anymore. She fought not to feel overwhelmed by the thought and simply continued even as her voice radically fluctuated. "How have you been doing this whole time, Mirage?"

Mirage hummed but did not immediately answer her as a door ahead of them slid open. The towering Autobot that had helped her after she had first woken up stepped through the opening, and he briefly glanced up from the large tablet he held. He appeared to dismiss their approach before doing a double take and waited with a smile for them to reach him. "Good joor, Mirage. I see that you two have finally managed to escape the body shop of horrors."

Victoria attempted to smile at the flyer's joke. By the way the mech's smile slightly fell, she could tell that her effort was not as strong as she had thought. She nodded in an attempt to keep the mech from feeling bad. He had helped her, and it was the least she could do. "Yes, it was…quite the experience."

The Autobot made a sound that was a cross between a huff and a snort. "I'm sure. I've learned to keep myself in as tiptop shape as possible to avoid his expertise. Between you and me, he's not exactly the first person I'd go running to even with a severed main line. Far too messy for him to fix until the Energon stops flowing."

Victoria's smile came a little easier with the mech's teasing, and he found the expression as an opening to reach a massive hand out to her. "We didn't have a chance to be properly introduced. Name's Skyfire—current and only scientist onboard."

The woman automatically reached out to complete the greeting, and she truly marveled at how tiny her new silver hand was when it was dwarfed by the friendly giant's hand. Even after being thrown into a robotic body, she was still so tiny compared to the mechs! "It's nice to properly meet you Skyfire. I'm Vic-"

"Pixel," Mirage quickly intervened. Skyfire seemed surprised by the sudden outburst, and Victoria could not help but stare up at the noble with the same feeling. Mirage reset his vocalizer after a minute of staring passed. "I apologize for my outburst, but I am afraid that a few of her memory files have been corrupted. She has a tendency of using her carrier's designation instead of her own, and I simply wish to help her reestablish her thought process."

Skyfire only seemed slightly convinced by the story, but he eventually nodded. "That's right. You said that she used to live in the Iacon towers alongside your family before the war. It must be quite a relief to see a familiar face after what you've been through."

Victoria could only dumbly nod, feeling nauseous once more by the scientist's sincere pity. He only believed a story that Mirage had given him, but the statement hit home in a way that she was sure no one else understood. "It is. It really is."

Skyfire smiled and looked behind them to where Patronus still stood. He hesitated at the sight of the mech's red optics, but that did not cause his new smile to falter. "Pardon my ignorance, but I didn't exactly get a full story about you."

Victoria glanced behind her just in time to see Patronus' wings flutter in nervousness before he politely nodded to the bigger mech. "I'm Patronus, Miss Vic—I mean—Pixel's bodyguard."

"Bodyguard?" Skyfire slightly tilted his head, and Victoria abruptly realized that this mech was not buying their entire story despite the fact that he played along with it. He gestured towards the other flyer's helm. "Is that the mark of a Prime on your cheekplate?"

Patronus automatically reached up to trace the engraving just below his right optic before regaining his rigid posture. "Yes. I'm a…special kind of Prime."

Skyfire hummed and directed his gaze back to Victoria, paying close attention to the side of her helm as well before simply smiling once more. "Well, welcome aboard the Altair. If you ever need a friendly audial, my lab is always open to visitors."

Victoria waved at the mech as he stepped past them to continue where he was going before he stopped to talk to them. Mirage slightly nudged the woman, and they continued on to their own destination. She waited until they turned a corner before awkwardly elbowing the blue and white mech. "Pixel? Pixel? Of all the cool names you could have given me, you chose Pixel?"

Mirage hesitated as he stopped them outside an unmarked door. "You were small."

"What?"

"When I found you, you were smaller than I had originally anticipated. I required a name to give to Skyfire and Breakdown at the time…and Pixel was the first thing I thought of because it is tiny and feminine."

"…so I'm 'Pixel' by default then."

"Would you rather I had given them a name you would consider more 'masculine'?"

Victoria conceded by bowing her head in acceptance, and Mirage swiftly typed on the keypad next to the door. It soundlessly slid open for them to enter. There was not much to note in the room beyond it—two berths were pushed up against opposite walls, a large, metallic piece of furniture reminiscent of a nightstand sat in the middle against the back wall, and there was one chair shoved into a corner.

Once the door had shut behind them, Mirage promptly released Victoria's arm and watched her wobble across the room to one of the berths. He made no move to correct her posture, and his fixed expression never wavered when she unceremoniously fell onto the berth with a loud clang after tripping on her feet. Patronus proved to be a little more comfortable in his new form as he followed the femme to sit beside her legs as they hung off the edge of the berth. "You know why we're here, right?"

Mirage nodded in response to the mech's question. "Yes. Vector informed me before placing me in a settlement that Sideswipe was in charge of. You cannot imagine how difficult it was to procure a ship and leave with him constantly watching me, waiting for a sign that I had 'woken up' as I heard him once relay to Prowl. I am the one who found the Altair and provided the initial resources. Vector gave me various coordinates to travel to at certain periods of time, and that is how I found Skyfire, Knock Out, Breakdown, and…Megatron. It was also how I found you two five solar cycles ago. Apparently, this is his second dream team for the plan that he had 'forgotten' to fully explain to me."

"We have to get to Cybertron."

"I am very well aware of that part, youngling." Patronus looked decidedly reprimanded for his rudeness as Mirage stared him down. "I was also told that we must reach the planet within a two year time span or the seals inscribed on Victoria's armor will lose their strength and allow the AllSpark to run amuck. Or so the Prime informed me before promptly shoving me through a wormhole of his creation into a new world where I possessed little to nothing and was already looking up the barrel of a Decepticon grunt. Is there anything else you would like to add?"

"No, that pretty much sums it up," Victoria responded as she sat up. She faltered as the room swirled around her, and another message popped in the corner of her eye. She groaned and dropped her head into her hands. "Why won't these messages stop showing up? Is this what you guys go through every day? How can you possibly stand it?"

"Normally, we can decide what settings we wish to set our HUD to. Once you become more comfortable in the transition, I will teach you how to change them as well as learn how to work your other systems, such as changing into your alt-mode or accessing your subspace." Mirage paused and directed a calculating gaze towards her. "What messages are still appearing?"

Victoria turned her head in an attempt to see the symbols clearer. Not that it helped since the message remained fixed in the upper left corner of her vision. "It's…I don't know. There's a number I think—forty five…percent, maybe? There's like a little scale or something beside it and only half of it is highlighted."

The woman's focus was solely on figuring out what the message said that she did notice Mirage pull two objects from his subspace until he moved her hand to place one of the cubes in it. Victoria stared down at the luminescent pink liquid it contained and was able to identify it even without the "helpful" tip her visor gave her. She looked up to see Patronus being handed one as well, and the black mech did not hesitate in taking a sip.

Mirage tilted his head when he caught the femme placing her cube on the edge of the berth instead of mimicking Patronus' actions. He moved to pick the cube up and pointedly put it back in her hand. "You have to eat, Victoria."

"But…it's Energon."

"Yes, the fuel that powers your systems and keeps you functioning." He frowned when she simply continued to stare at it. "Victoria, have you consumed any Energon since waking up?"

"Well…no. I gave it to Toshi because he never got any. I figured it was all for him."

Mirage stared at them with an utterly unreadable expression. Patronus' wings uncontrollably fluttered when the mech abruptly turned to him. "What are your Energon levels?"

Patronus stuttered before going quiet and eventually answering, "Ninety-five percent."

The older mech grunted and took back the cube of Energon he had given to the flyer. "I was informed that Megatron was sent to be your trainer for combat. Report to him on the observation deck and do not return until I send a confirmation ping."

Patronus was utterly confused as he slowly slid off the berth. He stopped to stare down at Victoria, who gave him an awkward shrug. Now she realized why it was always weird to watch one of the mech's perform the gesture—it was an odd gesture to perform. He glanced back at Mirage, who was grabbing the chair in the corner and dragging it to the berth. "But I—"

"Yes, I know you were assigned to protect Victoria, but how do you plan on doing just that if you have no combat training?" Mirage waved the Prime off as he sat in the chair. "Go to Megatron. I have no idea why he was originally chosen, but his visit with your fellow Prime has made him a little more…observant of what he does. If anyone on this ship can train a Prime to fight, it would be him."

Patronus took a tentative step towards the door, but he did not leave until Victoria gave him an encouraging nod. Mirage merely sighed the moment the mech left, and he balanced the side of his head in his hand. "Now Victoria, listen very closely to what I have to say. I know this may have been a very shocking experience to go through, and it will take much longer to fully get used to. However, there are some things that you cannot afford to remain ignorant to. Your first lesson as a Cybertronian—you are a Cybertronian. A Mini-Bot to be more precise, which means that your tanks are smaller and therefore hold less Energon. Meaning you may have to refuel more often than a mech Patronus' size. If you do not consume Energon your systems will begin to slowly shut down until another program activates and begins to cannibalize 'unneeded' parts of your protoform to keep you going until you are able to properly refuel."

"I learned all of that from Wheeljack."

"Then you understand the need for Energon."

"Yes."

"Then consume the cube I just gave you."

Victoria stared down at the pink liquid she had nearly forgotten she held. "But…I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because it'll kill me."

Mirage sighed, though he amicably repeated everything he had just said once more. Perhaps this was why Vector had chosen to put him in this position. His immense patience would come in handy as he helped Victoria mentally transition from a human to a Cybertronian.

)II(

Victoria awkwardly reached behind her to scrub her back plates. After hours of back and forth with Mirage, she had finally consumed her first cube of Energon. The liquid had tasted decidedly…blander than what she had anticipated. Her embarrassment over the entire situation had caused Mirage to tiredly chuckle at her expense before he suggested she take a trip to the "wash racks" to scrub away the filth that had accumulated on her frame since her arrival on the ship.

When the mech had attempted to follow her into the stall she had chosen to use, Victoria had openly balked and vehemently protested. Mirage had seemed so surprised by her refusal to let him help her clean that she realized that what he had done was simply something in the Cybertronian culture she had never been privy to before. Cybertronian frames were difficult to wash completely without some type of assistance to reach places such as the one between the wheels now positioned on the back of her shoulders. She grunted as she strained to reach it and was happy that the stream of liquid raining down on her was loud enough to cover her noisy attempts.

The femme eventually gave up and simply shifted her posture to lean against the wall of the stall. Without meaning to, she slid down to sit on the floor, cringing at the obnoxious noise it made as metal grinded against metal. There was a noise from the stall on the other side of the wall, and Victoria felt her frame vibrate more than it usually did when her fans kicked on from embarrassment. "Are you alright in there?"

"Yeah," Victoria meekly replied to Mirage's honest worry.

"Would you like my assistance now?"

"No!" She cringed again at how that one word seemed to come out as a plea. "I'm just…I'm not ready to transition to that part of your culture yet."

The mech made a small noise and went back to silently waiting for her. Victoria curled her knees up as far as the armor around her thighs would allow and attempted to wipe away the droplets that landed on her visor. None of this could compare to even her wildest dreams of being a giant, alien robot. Adapting had always been something she had been good at, but this was beginning to really take a toll on her. She was having to fight against instincts she had developed over the years, like how even touching Energon before would give a human first degree burns. Consuming it would have killed a human within minutes. Wheeljack would have thought that Mirage's countless explanation were hilarious…

Victoria attempted to hold her breath in an attempt to restrain the whimper she wanted to release at the thought of the mech. One hand automatically lifted up to cover her chest, and she felt the powerful thrum of the spark she had never felt before waking up on this ship. To think—such a powerful thing had been hidden inside of her for years now, and she had never been the wiser. What other way was there to explain her connection to Bluestreak, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, and Skywarp though? And Swoop—poor Swoop! He must have felt as much pain as she had when they had been separated.

There had not been any pain like that this time though.

Victoria concentrated on turning her optics off—one of the very few functions that she had actually been able to figure out how to do—and fiercely concentrated on the spark spinning beneath her hand. She used every tactic that had helped her reach out to her other bonds before but was only greeted with a now familiar obstacle—the wall. It was only logical that it would continue to be there, especially considering that she was the AllSpark's new "vessel."

Her hand reached up to blindly find the indention on the left side of her head. It was placed in the very center of the part of her helm that had taken the place of her ear. She had not even known it was there until Mirage had commented about halfway through their "Energon is now good for you" discussion. He had confessed to being very surprised at seeing it the first time, explaining to her that it was a symbol from an ancient language that few knew how to decipher. Fortunately, Mirage had received a pretty thorough education back during his aristocratic life.

Control—that was what the glyph stood for. Victoria would have snorted at the meaning…if she had known how to make the noise now. She supposed the thing etched into her head was one of the seals that Vector and Solus had spoken of. She found it very hard to believe that the AllSpark would actually be deterred by it. Then again, Mirage had said that it was a symbol that had been very prevalent on the Cube, so maybe it held some merit in actually doing what it symbolized—containing the AllSpark.

Victoria felt a sudden pang in her spark, and her controlled breathing suddenly stalled. She internally scrambled to figure out where the outside sensation had come from, checking every connection she had for a weakened wall. She whimpered in disappointment when her final attempts to reopen Bluestreak's end of the bond gave her nothing, and she forced her optics to come online once more.

Mirage was quick to respond to the sudden shriek that came from her, and he was knelt before her trembling frame before she could scramble to her feet. Liquid bounced off of his armor with soundless pings as he examined her shaking frame and then over his shoulder for what had made her suddenly scream. His golden optics finally focused back on her, but she was too busy staring at the wall over his shoulder. "Victoria? What is wrong?"

Victoria could only stare at herself in the reflective surface of the stall's wall. After a few moments of silence, she finally shook her head to dispel the image of the blackened figure with luminescent white eyes that had been glaring back at her. The pang in her spark had fled the moment she had screamed, and Victoria could only shakily reach out to the mech to help her stand up. "N-nothing. I just…I thought I saw something."

Mirage stared at her in confusion before slowly nodding and reaching over to turn off the water that still streamed down on to them. "Perhaps it is time that you retire for the joor. You are still attempting to accept this transition, and the stress must have begun to affect your visual cortex."

Victoria merely nodded and followed him out of the room after he had given her a large cloth to dry off with. Something stirred within her again, and she reached up to cup the side of the helm that possessed the engraved symbol. She felt like she was going to need a little more than just an engraving to help control the AllSpark because it was not about to sit dormant and accept what Vector Prime had done to it like she had originally hoped. What would happen if the seals broke before the Prime had anticipated?

Victoria straightened her spine as a new sense of determination flooded her. No—the AllSpark was not about to make her live in nothing but constant fear. She had other things to deal with after being unwillingly put into this position because of two all-powerful beings who could not grow a pair and face each other. She had been wrenched from her home, her friends, her family, and she had plans of returning to them after all of this mess had been dealt with. Cowering and wishing for her past life would only slow her down. She had to accept what had been forced on her and work with it. That was always how she had moved forward. If Toshi could settle in to his new role as swiftly as he did, then so could she.

"Mirage, would you mind helping me figure out how to get these darned messages from popping up anymore before I try to sle—recharge?"

Mirage stared at the femme with a careful expression. "Are sure, Victoria? I do not wish to push you too much in your first orn as a Cybertronian."

"I'm sure. And Mirage? Call me Pixel from now on. You gave me the darn name, so we might as well get used to it now instead of later."


AN: And thus concludes A New Version of Reality. I hope you guys enjoyed this very, very, very long sequel because the original concept of Pint Sized has definitely morphed into something much bigger than what I had originally anticipated when starting that little story two years ago ;P. The final segment in this now trilogy—which was been given the very tentative title of Rise—will be uploaded as soon as I can, but I also have to go and finish the other story I had put on hold to finish this up. So I'm sorry ahead of time for the indefinite wait I'll be putting you guys through :(

A big round of thanks for everyone who has stuck around through this story and will hopefully be joining me for the next. Thanks for all the awesome reviews (over 600 guys!), favs, follows, and general views. You guys are just all awesome :3

A final farewell until the next story \^o^/