In the late days of the war the Autobots built a ship unlike any other, to carry their last hope to the stars. Though the ship was lost, it and its crew were destined to rise again. The crew of the Ark were to become legends all. But before that fated flight, on Cybertron, they were merely everyday Autobots, who could not begin to guess that they were living out their last days in those ages long past… Last Days Long Past Brawn Two small figures moved through the dark alleys of Iacon. “This doesn’t look like the way to Maccadam’s.” “You’re good Heft. Prime should make you a scout.” “Brawn, why doesn’t this look like the way to Maccadam’s?” “Take a guess, Heft.” “Is it because you’re dragging me to another slagging Lobber Dive? Because I’m pretty sure I said `never again’ after we were arrested and thrown in the brig when you started a riot at the last one.” “C’mon, it’ll put some spark in your wires. You’ll thank me later.” Brawn stopped in front of two large, pitted metal doors. A multitude of dents bent the doors outward, as if something heavy had collided with it on the inside. The walls on either side showed similar bulges in the metal, above the doors hung a rusty sign with a crude picture. “The Driller’s Balls?” Heft read, disbelief heavy in his voice, “Really?” Brawn just smiled at his friend and threw his arms wide to slam open both doors. “Barkeep! Give us two tankards of your strongest ener-stout!” Heft shook his head and then followed Brawn into the dimly lit and fume-filled bar. Much like the outside, the inside had seen better days. Broken tables, cobbled booths and rickety stools filled the left side of the room. At the back a rusty bar followed the wall. The right side of the room was open space. That was why they were here. All of it had seen better days really, and that included the patrons: most seemed to have begun life as large scale industrial bots. Now they were Autobot warriors. The kind that fought hard, drank hard, and played too rough not to get thrown out of Maccadam’s so often it wasn’t worth going back. As Heft walked among the tables he quickly realized they all also had one other thing in common: they were huge. As subterranean demolition workers Heft and Brawn were compact to begin with, among the smaller minibots out there. Here they’d be lucky to come up to the waist of most of these robots. He heard one hulking, booming bot voice laugh and make a minicon joke as its owner pointed in their direction. This was not going to be a good place to start a bar fight and Brawn almost always started a bar fight… Heft looked ahead and saw his friend had already found a place at the bar. He hurried to catch up. Brawn was nursing his drink and looking over at the cleared lobbing court that filled the right side of the room. A number of metal balls of varying sizes filled racks against the far wall. Two huge mechs were standing in a long rectangle marked on the floor and sending a metal ball nearly the same size as Heft flying back and forth between them with building force. One, a big dual cannoned bot that was more tank than robot, his head nearly invisible atop his massive frame, caught the ball with one hooked appendage. He wound back and launched it right back towards his opponent, a tall red gladiator. The ball blurred in the air. Lobbing was a simple game. Take a metal ball and heavy as possible and throw it back and forth as hard as possible until someone missed, broke, or was knocked out of the play area. The red bot caught the lob and sent it back effortlessly. This time the tank-bot didn’t move quite quick enough and the ball smashed into his left shoulder. The shoulder shattered into scrap metal. The arm went flying and the large robot crashed down onto his back. Next to the two minibots the barkeep rang a bell. “Big Red wins again! Big Red is the winner! Better luck next time Tulcas.” Several bots dragged Tulcas from the court to a table and propped him up with a drink. One of them was even thoughtful enough to grab up what was left of his arm and lean it next to the chair. Meanwhile, Big Red had collected a small crowd of his own friends who slapped him on the back and offered him drinks. He raised his arms in victory and yelled a bragging challenge to the room. Brawn put down his tankard and stood up. “Brawn, no!” Heft quickly put down his own tankard and followed his friend away from the bar. “We just got here! I haven’t even gotten to finish my drink yet!” It was no use. Brawn walked right up to Big Red’s cheering crowd. None of them had even noticed the stout little figure. “Hey. I got winner.” They went quiet at the voice and stared for a moment at the small green and orange robot who’d just spoken. Brawn looked up at them from just over knee height. Then they did what bigger bots usually did when this happened, and burst out laughing. Heft cringed inwardly. That was that. Brawn just stood there for a moment, smiling up at them all. “So you’re afraid to lob a few with a simple minibot? I’m sorry, I thought I was talking to an Autobot warrior. Didn’t realize this was a protoform playground. My mistake.” That stopped the laughing. “Guess you guys are the ones who joined our side ‘cause you were too wussie for even the Decepticons. Ah well…” “What did you just say, microchip?” sputtered Red. Heft had been in more fights in the two vorns since he met Brawn than in the entire Great War before that point. The percentage of them that had been bar fights that began exactly this way was troubling to say the least, but he knew the drill. When Brawn gave him “the look” he turned to the rest of the bar and started taking all bets, be they energon chips or free drinks. Brawn had taken his place at the far end of the lobbing court. “Well, Little Yellow, I asked if you were gonna lob or not.” With a growl the large robot shook free from his friends, downed his energon, and tossed the tankard away. He walked over to the wall (“Don’t do it,” Heft thought) and heaved up one of the largest balls there. Big Red needed two hands and obvious effort to lug the monstrous ball back to the court. It was at least three times the size of Brawn’s entire body. That choice of ball might as well have been a fusion cannon. Heft felt a twinge of pity, but the cruel smile on Big Red’s lips ended that quickly enough. Big Red began to sprint forward; his whole body pivoted 360 degrees at the waist. Once, twice, faster and faster and launching the ball like a guided missile. The ball ripped through the air. The whole bar had gone quiet and time seemed to crawl. Every optic traced the balls path toward the tiny, soon to be obliterated, robot in its path. In his head the Bartender was already doing the math to figure what it would cost to repair the wall behind Brawn. Only Heft noticed the docking clamps in Brawn’s feet engage the ground. They were meant to brace workers during demolition explosions. They would keep Brawn from being knocked off the court, but what was coming next was all muscle. Only Heft showed no nervousness as the ball whipped across the room. Knowing what was coming made it hard not to smile. Oblivion arrived. Brawn reached out one hand and snatched the rogue planetoid from the air before him like it was made of tin foil. The room was as quiet as a tomb. Several robots rebooted their optics to be sure of what they were seeing. Brawn paused a minute to let what had happened sink in. Then he pivoted his shoulder and held the titanic metal ball, maybe closer to four times his size in truth, up above his head with one hand. He smiled his biggest, laziest smile. “Good throw, friend. Now it’s my turn.” ------------ Several hours later Heft drained his tankard. He added it to the crowd of free empties that now crowded the bar counter around him. Among them were scattered a number of full energon purses and stacks of glowing chips: his nights winnings from those who were still dumb or drunk enough to bet against Brawn after that first little stunt. The evening was running long now and the Driller had mostly emptied out. The last few bots nursed the dregs of their drinks and muttered in the shadows. Normally this would be the time to call it a night. Except… one challenger refused to surrender the lobbing court. Battered, dented and chipped, Big Red stood across from Brawn for the fifth time that night. “Doublerrrr Nuthhhin!” he yelled. It was hard to tell if the wobble in his stance and slur in his voice were a sign of drunkenness or concussion. Brawn looked doubtful. “I think I’ve drunk my fill tonight, and I don’t think you have the energon chips left to cover your mouth. Time to go sleep it off!” ‘“Beg Rid doesn’t lose at lobberin’! Doublerrrr Nuthhin!” “Maybe next time, friend.” Brawn turned and started to leave the court. Anger lit Big Red’s face. “Why’d you do this, huh?! Why’d you come in here to do…” Big Red gestured wildly across some imaginary carnage covering the court, “THIS, to your fellow Autobots, huh?” Though Red couldn’t see it, Heft noticed the first frown of the night darken his friend’s face. “Because I was looking for a challenge. My mistake.” As Brawn began to walk away again, Red suddenly straightened and started searching himself frantically. “Here! Here, I got a challenge for you!” He pulled an electronic data pad out and held it up. Even from across the room the bright orange glyph of a triple-classified, High Command security order could be seen. “I gots special orders! New mission, super secret, from Prime himself! Have a friend in Operations, got me the assignment. Haven’t even activated the packet yet. Supposed to be ‘Change da course of the war’ stuff. Death, danger, an’ Decepticons enough to make your career! How’s that for a bet!” He held the packet up high, like Brawn had the first lobbed ball. “Doublerrrr Nuthin’!” Heft was sitting up and swearing to himself. He looked around frantically, not sure if he was hoping for no one to have seen what was happening or for someone to tackle Big Red and stop it. Slagheap! Even seeing a classified packet like that could get them all court marshaled faster than they could transform. What idiot had thought giving that sort of order to this engine block was a good idea? “Put that away.” Brawn replied seriously. Instead, Big Red threw to packet down on the ground and transformed his hand into a huge fusion cannon. He’d lost it. “How about this then, huh, you rust stain? I bet you’re a Decepticon spy anyway. Come to show me up and steal my MISSION! Bet you crawl home to Soundwave’s chest at night, don’t ya, Shorty!” Brawn turned and started to walk slowly back to the court. “Brawn, don’t.” Heft warned. He could see the addled crazy in the bigger robot’s optics. The only response was a terse, “I got this.” Brawn continued to walk, slowly the full length of the court. The barrel of Red’s cannon arm waved around unsteadily but generally in Brawn’s direction. This wasn’t like lobbing, Heft knew, that cannon would blow Brawn to cinders. “Comin’ to apologize?” the larger robot slurred. “No,” and suddenly Brawn was sprinting. With a flying leap he was running up the barrel of the cannon itself, and then burst out with an even more powerful leap and a titanic roundhouse punch slammed into Big Red’s jaw. With the sound of a collapsing building the big robot went down hard. Brawn landed standing atop his chest. “That was for calling me `Shorty.’” As Heft clapped despite himself, Brawn walked over and picked up the classified data packet. Heft watched his friend. “You’re not actually thinking of opening that are you?” Brawn nodded towards the unconscious Red. “He’s in no shape to. Wouldn’t trust a glitch head like that to be part of a war changing mission, but wouldn’t want it to go understaffed either.” Before Heft could argue he placed his thumb on the activation scanner. “Don’t tell anyone, ok?” There was a flicker in the air and a holographic image of Optimus Prime appeared above the unit. “Greetings, brave Autobot soldier. You have been chosen as a member of a most important mission.” The image of a huge starship appeared. “This is the Ark. She is our last, best hope…” Brawn smiled as the voice continued. Now THIS looked like a challenge… --------------- -ZacWilliam, Brawn was my first Transformer, so I’ll always have a soft spot for him, but this is the first time I’ve ever written him. It was… fun.