Disclaimer: We do not own Transformers Prime or its canon charas. We do however own our OCs. Dream'sRealm owns Darkstorm, Skybreak, Shiv, Drift, Jolt, Air Raid, Blackout, Caliber, Speedway, and Jetfire. Blondie-moyashi owns Skye Shelsher.

Theme Song: However Long It Takes by Sent by Ravens

It had been weeks since Darkstorm and her charge were forced to flee their home. What had become of the others, she did not know. She feared to contact them via a comm link in case the Decepticons had hacked their network and since she did not know their locations, the chances of finding them again were slim at best.

Darkstorm inwardly vented. Oh, how she missed them. Her brother and Dre'wan. . . and her beloved scout.

But she and Skye had managed to survive. That is what mattered. Darkstorm had to be careful to not run into any Decepticon sentries, but she had not been discovered as of yet. Skye bought everything she needed at convenience stores along the way and Darkstorm had even managed to help her build a new prosthetic. It was a prototype, of course, and constructed out of whatever scrap metal they could find. It still had several glitches, but at least it was better than the crutches her charge was forced to use previously.

She checked her internal navigations systems. The area she was travelling over was scarcely populated. They were in the middle of a state called Minnesota, it seemed.

"Skye, I'm going to land. Is there anything you need while we're here?"

She looked out the cockpit and sighed. "Well, I could do with a bite to eat."

"A bite to eat it is then," Darkstorm conceded as she gently descended. She landed in a large field just outside of the town. Once Skye exited her alt mode, she activated her holoform.

"Let's just hope we can find another energon mine soon. . . I don't know how much longer I can fly in this state."

Skye looked at her, concern etched in her face. One of the few emotions she showed in the past weeks. "How soon?"

"Judging from how weak I already feel, not long. Perhaps another Earth week at the most before I shut down." Darkstorm mustered up the energy to smile encouragingly at her charge. "But, I am sure we will meet up with the others before then."

Skye solemnly nodded. "Then we'll make this quick."

Darkstorm smiled weakly as she and her charge walked into the small town. They soon found a small diner. Both of the femmes let out a sigh of relief as the warmth of the place enveloped them for it was quite chilly outside.

"Hello there. What'll it be?" a friendly waitress asked once the two had settled in their seats.

Skye breezed through the menu before deciding on a plain chicken salad. And when Darkstorm replied that she did not want anything, the waitress went on her way.

The femme Seeker sighed. "So, how is your leg holding up?" she asked, at a loss of what to say otherwise.

The girl looked down as she shifted said leg. "Better than the rest of me, it would seem."

"I feel the same. . . You miss him, don't you?"

She took a deep breath before letting it out in a sigh that said more than words would. "Honestly, I'm trying to not think about it. If I do, I'm afraid I'll lose it."

Darkstorm nodded, respecting her charge's wishes. The feeling was mutual. If she thought about her scout for too long. . . she was afraid she would cry and never stop. She needed to conserve as much energon as possible. Not waste it on such activities.

The two sat silently for forever it seemed like before the waitress returned with Skye's meal. "There ya go, hon. Enjoy!"

Skye smiled at the woman weakly with her eyes. "Thank you." She turned her attention to the meal, her attitude towards it suggesting she wasn't necessarily in the mood to eat, but knew it was necessary and needed to be done quickly so they could get going.

Skye finished her food quickly before her and her guardian deigned to leave. Halfway out the door however, Darkstorm's holoform began to fizz out. Her frame became enveloped in static much like an old television set. Her eyes widened.

"Dar'sain, are you . . .?"

"We. . . lea. . . n-" her voice faded in and out before her holoform faded from sight entirely. The spectators at the restaurant stood, shocked.

Skye wanted to run back to Darkstorm's alt mode immediately, but knew that would leave these people wondering what happened, and that could cause trouble down the road. She looked around the restaurant, trying to think of a fast explanation. After several seconds, she thought of one.

"I, eh, you know those holograms in sci-fi movies? It's, eh, kinda like that. Now, if you'll excuse me." She jogged out the door and made her way to Darkstorm as fast as she could. She wasn't used to this leg, not like she was with the old one, so her balance was off.

Eventually she did make it back to where Darkstorm had landed, wheezing slightly as she came to a halt.

"A week?"

"I said a week before I shut down, not before my external interfaces glitch," Darkstorm replied.

Skye deadpanned. "That's splitting hairs, Dar'sain. We need to take care of this now."

"And how do you suggest we do that? I cannot contact the others and I don't-" Darkstorm stopped short however, an idea finally coming to her. "Oh, how foolish I've been. . . The energon raid we conducted. . . It is far, but. . . I might be able to make it."

"Then what are we waiting for?" Skye climbed into the cockpit as she spoke.

Once Skye was safely inside her cockpit, she took to the skies, albeit a bit slowly.

Skye stared forward, eyes not focusing on anything in particular but facing the control panel. "Dar'sain, how are you doing this? How are you finding the strength to smile?"

Darkstorm's voice lowered to a whisper. "I find strength because I have experienced far worse and. . . because I have faith. I have faith that God will aide us just like He has in the past."

The rest of the trip was spent in companionable silence. Much to Darkstorm's delight, the mine was still in operation. She slowly opened the door to her cockpit and Skye exited her vehicle mode. Once she did so, Darkstorm transformed. "Stay here. . . I shall return," she ordered softly.

Skye nodded. "Be careful in there."

Darkstorm smiled. "I will."

The Seeker took a deep breath before advancing on the clearing, her weapons drawn. Darkstorm inched along the stone wall before quickly stepping in front of the entrance. The Vehicons instinctively drew their weapons. Before they could fire and before Darkstorm could harm any of them however, one of them lowered his weapon.

"Wait! Don't shoot!" Darkstorm turned to look at the Vehicon with disbelief in her optics.

She knew she had changed workers like Drift. . . but this was too good to be true.

"What's gotten into you, mech?"

"If Megatron finds out, he'll have our helms!"

"Don't you know who she is? It's Darkstorm," the Vehicon replied.

The Vehicons exchanged looks. A string of questions passed between them before they all turned to study the femme.

"Darkstorm. . .? Is it really you?" Vehicon 7-2435 asked softly.

"Y-Yes. . ." Darkstorm answered cautiously.

"Well, even if it is Darkstorm, I say we still shoot," another Vehicon spat. "She's an Autobot now. She's one of them. If we turn our backs, she'll offline us."

"Yeah, why should we give her special treatment?"

"She's a murderer just like every fragging member of her team!" Vehicon 2-8765 added.

Perhaps it was the energon loss or the frustrations she had to deal with for the past few weeks, but Darkstorm felt her spark alight with anger. She deactivated her weapons systems before reaching over and grabbing the Vehicon by the throat cables. She felt ion cannons trained on her once more, but she did not care. "Now, you listen and you listen well. Don't you dare call me a murderer! Megatron is the murderer. He is enslaving all of you just like he previously enslaved me." Some of the Vehicons looked downward and lowered their weapons, the gravity of her words reaching them.

"And in case you were wondering, I do not enjoy offlining Vehicons or miners. I do it to protect my team because you fire first, as you are ordered. The Autobots are not murderers! You are foolish to think otherwise. Can you not see that I still care for each and every one of you? Do you not know about the two miners and the Vehicon that joined the Autobots? They are cared for like an individual! Not like a mindless drone under Megatron's tyrannical rule!"

And, for once, Vehicon 2-8765 had no witty comeback. Darkstorm vented deeply before releasing him. "Are we not all slaves in this pit-spawned war? I am no different from you. . from any of you."

"Darkstorm speaks the truth. Don't all of you remember what it was like when Darkstorm was with us? She was gentle, kind. She fought to save the unsaveable. She. . . knew our designations. She talked to us. She treated us like we were somebody, not just a faceless worker that belonged to the lower castes. . ." Vehicon 7-2435 asked his fellow Vehicons, gazing at each of them with a searching gaze. "Don't any of you remember?"

"She. . . She reconstructed both my legs. Knock Out wouldn't have bothered. . . H-He would have terminated me. . ." one Vehicon spoke up hesitantly.

"She'd always say hello to me when her and her brother would go the bridge. . . and she knew my name."

Darkstorm smiled softly. "Let me see your faces. . . all of you."

The Vehicons exchanged another look before disengaging their battle masks. Darkstorm studied each and every one of them, spark aching. Why could Megatron and the others not see them how she did? They were individuals. No different from anyone else. They had various personalities, hopes, dreams. And they all longed for one thing: freedom.

"Yes. . . I know all of you," she turned to the Vehicon who spoke before. "1-4338. . . 3-776. . . 2-8765." The Vehicons' eyes filled with emotion. Darkstorm smiled and turned to her defenders. "And how could I ever forget you two? 7-2435 and 9-004, my dear friends."

"It's good to have you back, 'Storm," Vehicon 9-004 said with a smile.

Darkstorm beamed before stopping short as her optics shuttered. "Storm, are you alright?" Vehicon 7-2435 asked.

She gazed around the labryinth, her vision blurry. She stumbled forward, nearly tripping over herself as she did so. She opened her mouth and tried to speak. . . but found that she could not. Before the others could react, her red optics dimmed and she fell to the ground in a crumpled heap.

Skye, watching the exchange, immediately ran towards her guardian. "Darkstorm!" She placed her hands on Darkstorm's arm, looking at the Vehicons. "We came here because she needed energon. C-can you help her?"

"W-We can try," Vehicon 7-2435 nodded before turning to the miners in the cave, who had been watching the exchange as well, too distracted to continue their work. "Miners, grab some energon crystals. Darkstorm is dangerously low."

The miners immediately went into action. A few minutes later, they came up to the Vehicon with a handful of crystals. "But, we don't have an energon purifier," one of them informed.

"I'm no medic but. . . it will have to do," Vehicon 9-004 conceded before turning to Skye. "Do you have any water?"

She held up the small water bottle she kept with her as she and Darkstorm travelled. "Not unless this counts."

"It definitely counts. . . but we'll need a lot more," he said. He turned to Vehicon 7-2435. "Go with her and get some water from the river. Take a mining cart with you."

The Vehicon nodded solemnly and immediately went to grab a mining cart, gesturing for the girl to follow him. She did so after glancing at her fallen guardian.

While they were gone, the others set to work on grinding the crystals into a powder. Skye and the Vehicon eventually returned with the mining cart filled with river water. They then mixed the powder with the river water. It was primitive but, hopefully it would work.

Skye looked on as they leaned Darkstorm up against some boulders and made a small incision in her neck cables. They then funneled in the primitive energon solution into the cables using a makeshift needle, made with the metal scraps of an old bucket.

Silence reigned in the mine as the last of the solution was registered. A miner applied pressure to the cut, waiting for her nanites to prevent excessive energon flow.

It took about five minutes for her systems to take in the fuel. Her optics slowly onlined, though her vision was still slightly blurry. She placed a servo on her forehelm. "W-What happened?"

Skye closed her eyes in relief, placing a hand over her heart. "Our 'week' imploded. I almost lost you."

"No. . . You will never lose me, Ski'ri," Darkstorm smiled softly. "Besides, I was in capable servos."

"Not mine." Skye motioned to the Vehicons. "It sounds like they returned the favor. Many favors, actually."

It was then that Darkstorm felt a servo on her neck cables. She gently placed her own servo over it and stared into the facial plating of a miner. He smiled down at her. She turned to observe the others.

They. . . had saved her?

"Thank you, my friends. You. . . You saved my life."

"You've only ever treated us with kindness. . . You even welcomed some of our own into the Autobots. It was the least we could do," Vehicon 3-776 admitted a bit sheepishly. "And. . . we're sorry for doubting you."

Dreadwing and Skybreak flew side by side, checking their scanners every few moments for signs of Decepticons in the area. There were none.

Skybreak let out a slight vent of relief. "Hey, Dreads. You doing alright? You've barely been talking lately," he asked, using his voice rather than his communicator. "I mean, I know you're supposed to be Big, Bad, and Silent but. . ."

"How can you be so cheerful?" Dreadwing replied. "Dar'sain is lost to us. Megatron could have-"

"No!" Skybreak yelled a bit more angrily than he meant. He caught himself and tried to become composed. "No. She's out there and she's online. Both her and Skye. We'll see them soon. I know we will."

Dreadwing weakly chuckled. "Just like your sister. She was optimistic, as well."

"Hey, you know me. Optimistic? Nah. Telling the blunt truth. Pit yeah!"

Dreadwing internally smiled, despite himself. "Now, come on. Why don't we-?" Skybreak began.

The pair were interrupted as they received an incoming transmission. They hoped it was Darkstorm or at the very least an Autobot but then they remembered the possibility of the Decepticons tracking them. No Autobot would take that risk, not even the rookie.

So, then who was it?

"Unidentified aircraft, you are in a restricted military area. Identify yourself or we will force you to land," a human male ordered.

The two Seekers looked down and spotted a sign that said in bold letters: Area 51.

"Frag," Skybreak hissed. "Don't answer, Dreadwing."

"I did not intend to."

"If you do not answer, we will assume that you are spies and we will open fire."

"Dreads, what are we gonna do?" Skybreak asked frantically.

"Fly out of their airspace. I have not yet met a human that can outfly a Seeker," Dreadwing answered.

Before they could activate their thrusters, several AV-8B fighter jets began to rise into the air.

"Oh, pit no!" Skybreak zoomed forward, Dreadwing following close behind. The AV-8B jets began to fire missiles at the pair and they frantically performed various maneuvers in order to avoid them.

"Just like old times, huh Dreads?" Skybreak joked nervously. "Except we don't have any high grade. . . and we didn't slag anyone. And. . . these aren't Cybertronian enforcers."

"I do wish you would be quiet," Dreadwing stated irritably.

And, as if the Fates deigned to play a joke at their expense, Vehicon jets soon joined the chase. "Great. . . The 'Cons must have tracked us all because that fleshie had to tell us off."

"I blame you for leading us into a restricted flight area."

"Oh, so this is my fault?! You could have told me to go somewhere else at any time, Dreads!"

Dreadwing hissed in pain as a missile grazed his armor. "Let us focus on getting out of this predicament, shall we?"

It took them several Earth hours but, eventually, the two Seekers threw their pursuers off their trail. The Vehicons at one point became too distracted with dealing with the human pilots that they could not see them escape.

Skybreak and Dreadwing transformed and leaned against a rock formation, chassis heaving. They were desperately low on energon. . . that much they could tell.

"Any idea. . . where. . . there's an energon mine, Dreads?" Skybreak wheezed. "Nearby, preferably."

"Perhaps. . ."

Skybreak chuckled before wincing. "Let's just hope. . . it isn't. . . like last time. . . I'm still picking shrapnel out of my chassis."

"There is. . . no way around that. Vehicons will be there and. . . they will be heavily armed."

"Wonderful," Skybreak muttered as he leaned his helm back.

"Let us simply hope that. . . we find the others soon."

Skybreak shakily patted Dreadwing's shoulder plating. "We will, Dreads. . . Y-. . . You'll see."

Drift, Shiv, and Jolt sat next to each other in the field, their processors full of warring thoughts. And just when they thought that the war was over. . . that Cybertron would be restored. . . their team fell to ruin.

"Well, looks like we're alone again," Drift said, his voice laced with melancholy.

"Who knows what happened to the others. . . For all we know. . . Megatron could have offlined them already. . . and 'Storm," Jolt choked, his voice thick.

"Hey, mechs. There's no need for this cryin'," Shiv encouraged. "We'll see the doll and the others soon. Jus' wait." He frowned slightly, seeing that their expressions did not change. "It's jus' like 'Storm always said, we jus' gotta have faith."

Drift half smiled. "Well, not all of us are that optimistic."

Their luck only seemed to change when jet thrusters met their audio receptors. They all looked up curiously and brightened when they saw who they were. Dreadwing and Skybreak.

"Never thought I'd be so excited to see that aft," Jolt grinned.

"Well, glory, glory, hallelujah," Shiv added.

They began to fire into the sky, hoping to attract their attention. Seeing the ion cannon fire, Dreadwing and Skybreak cautiously descended.

"Well, what do ya know?" Skybreak grinned. "It is them!"

Skybreak and Dreadwing fully descended and transformed, their teammates running up to meet them.

"Mech, am I glad to see you 'bots," Shiv grinned.

"The feeling's mutual," Skybreak smiled.

"Any sign of the others?" Drift asked.

Dreadwing shook his helm. "None. We have only found you thus far."

"And speaking of finding, can any of you hook us up with energon?"

Drift, Shiv, and Jolt exchanged a look before turning back to the two Seekers. "Two of us are miners. Of course we do," Drift replied. "We've been surviving by going from mine to mine. . . but if we take you to one, you have to stay out of sight and we have to leave quickly. Wouldn't want any high-ranking Decepticon officers to discover that we've been there. It'll be bad for us. . . but it'll be even worse for the workers."

Dreadwing nodded solemnly. He had heard rumors of Megatron's cruelty towards the Vehicons and miners but he always dismissed them as malcontent gossip. However, now that he knew the truth. . . "We will try to be as quick as possible."

"Good," Drift smiled before transforming. "The nearest mine is fifty klicks east of here. Try to conserve your energy until then."

"What is it?" Vehicon 2-8765 asked as another Vehicon ran up to him.

"Two Seekers, one of them looks like Commander Dreadwing, and three of our own rapidly approaching."

Darkstorm perked up at this. "Dreadwing? You are certain?"

"I'd know his gold and blue paint job anywhere, 'Storm."

"Oh, thank God," Darkstorm whispered.

A few moments later, five familiar vehicles approached the entrance of the mine. Darkstorm immediately ran out to meet them. The moment Skybreak transformed, he was thrown backwards as Darkstorm embraced him.

"Oh, Brother! Thank God you've found us. I thought I'd never see you again!"

"Oh, come now. You know I wouldn't let events like these keep me from being with you," Skybreak smiled as he embraced his sister back.

Darkstorm grinned before chuckling and helping her brother up. She turned to Dreadwing and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Oh, Dre'wan. It's so good to see you, my dearest friend."

Dreadwing gently stroked her wings. "I have missed you, beag sain."

"I have missed you too," she softly smiled. She eventually released him before embracing Shiv, Drift, and Jolt. "And I have missed each of you, my friends."

Skybreak grinned once he saw Skye. "Hey there, kid. Didn't I tell you we'd see each other again?"

She shrugged. "I could've done without having to leave in the first place, but it is good to see you again."

Skybreak chuckled. "It's good to see you too, kid."

The Vehicons and miners reluctantly exited the mine and scrutinized their visitors. "X92874? Is that you?" one of the miners asked.

"It's Drift now but yes, it's me," he smiled.

"And is it true?" Vehicon 2-8765 interrogated. "Do the Autobots. . .?" He did not have to finish his question for the others to tell what he meant.

Shiv smiled. "That and much more, brothah. It ain't no military unit. We're a family. . . and Optimus Prime cares for each and every one of us."

The Vehicon's optics seemed far away even though he was looking at Shiv. He pondered this for a few moments before turning the others. They each solemnly nodded at his silent question. He vented softly before turning to Darkstorm.

"Then if what you say is true, then I say now we must have the courage to break free from Megatron. We were oppressed on Cybertron, are we to be oppressed on Earth as well? We will help you if you should ever need us. This war will end. We'll make sure of it," Vehicon 2-8765 said.

"Thank you, my friend," Darkstorm smiled at him before turning to the others. "I thank all of you for your help. It will be greatly appreciated. But for now, rejoice in your newfound freedom."

The workers let out a collective cheer. "But first, I think it's time we found all of you proper names."

"Proper names?" Vehicon 7-2435 asked tentatively.

"Yes. If you continue to hold onto to those numeric codes. . . it will be a reminder of how the others saw you. How the others saw us. You are not machines. You are not drones. You are living mechs with as much a right to individuality as they do," Darkstorm replied.

"Not to mention," Skye looked from her guardian to the Vehicons. "It makes things a lot easier on us organics who don't have perfect memories. Numbers can be confusing for us."

Vehicon 7-2435 shared a look with the others. "We. . . We wouldn't know where to start."

"I shall help you then," she smiled. "Hmm. . . how about Air Raid?" Darkstorm suggested, observing his flight mode.

"Air Raid. . ." the Vehicon stared at Darkstorm in awe, testing the words.

Vehicon 1-4338 stepped towards the femme. "What about me, 'Storm?"

Darkstorm pondered this for a moment before Skye interrupted her thoughts. "He looks like a Caliber to me," she smiled.

The Vehicon smiled in approval. "Caliber. . . I like it."

"And you, 3-776? Any ideas?" When the stoic mech shook his helm, Darkstorm set to thinking. "Do you like Speedway?"

He nodded with a smile. "Thank you."

"9-004, do you wish to be called Jetfire from now on?"

Vehicon 9-004 beamed and nodded. "Yes. I'm honored, 'Storm."

"And for you, 2-8765-"

"Blackout," he interrupted. "I've. . . always liked the name Blackout."

Shiv, Drift, and Jolt looked on smiling, as the other Autobots continued to help pick out names for the workers. Some of them were Earth-based and others were of both famous Autobots and Decepticons, but the important part was not in receiving name. No, it was far more than that. The important part was that they were taking the first steps in leaving behind the oppression they had experienced for so many joors for good.

Finally, Drift thought with a smile. My brothers will be free.

It took a bit of sneaking around and a near spark-attack, but Smokescreen finally found the Forge of Solus Prime. Luckily for him, it was conveniently stored in the vault of the warship. Easy enough to find after his last tour around the Nemesis.

He grunted as he dragged it through the cave wall to his and Optimus' hiding spot. Not that one could tell with the ease with which the Prime handled the relic, but it was fragging heavy.

"Optimus, I got the forge!" He dropped it and turned to face the Prime. He was in pretty bad shape, but that was going to change soon enough. "You can use it to fix yourself up."

"That is not why I had you retrieve the forge." His breathing was labored, requiring a breath every few words. A painful breath at that.

"What do you mean?" Smokescreen placed a servo on his leader's shoulder.

"Smokescreen," the Prime had to take a large breath. "The power of the forge is not unlimited. Its power has already begun to ebb and even it cannot heal me. . . but there is something that must be done for the good of all our kind."

The rookie's optics widened. "Optimus, you can't ask me to let you die to save Cybertron. Besides, we need a Prime to even handle the forge. We need you."

"But one can be made a Prime." Optimus' words sunk into Smokescreen's spark in the short silence. "Smokescreen, the time for a new leader is upon us. In my spark, I believe that leader stands before me right now."

D/N: And… there you have it! New characters, feels, drama, etc. etc. XD We all hope that you enjoy this installment just as much as you liked Across This New Divide and This Chasm Isn't Fixed Yet.

As always, we thank you all for your support and hope that you will continue to give us much-valued feedback. May God bless each and every one of you!

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken" Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

And if you could pray for my friend Ryan, I would be much obliged. He's been having terribly nightmares lately.

B/N: Aaaaand welcome back! So, if you're checking this one out first, you're probably a wee bit confused and we recommend checking out the titles mentioned above to ward off said condition. If you have already read them and are excited to see more adventures, then you can lay claim to any goodies in my name you desire *laaaa*