First of His Name

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by peteynorth, Dec 15, 2014.

  1. peteynorth

    peteynorth TFW2005 Supporter

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    Ultra Magnus





    This couldn’t be real, this had to be some sort of off-line vision he was having. He’d wake up, Delta would be meeting with his witch and ever-ready to deliver a scowl at his younger kinsman, a scowl that Ultra once hated but would now give the world to see again. The Grand Convocation, Delta’s death at the hands of Megatron, it all had to be a dream. But it wasn’t…he knew, he just knew it wasn’t. Delta was dead, his body missing, likely dismembered and dishonored by the Decepticon hordes, never to be laid upon the sacred pool deep within Citadel Magnus, and this chaos going on around him, the frantic shuffling to treat the countless wounded and save lives, this panicked horror of indecipherable busy and frantic noise and desperately purposeful movement; all of it was all too real. Magnus stepped back and pressed himself against the infirmary wall to allow the Autobot medic First Aid and the hulking former Decimus security captain Rook rapidly carry a listless and wounded femme to a table to his left, his optics still locked across the room on Ratchet working on the head of the Emir of the Torus Heights, the Autobot Commander standing on the other side of the table his brother was laid upon, frantically watching and ready to do anything he could to assist in the all but certainly impossible attempt to save Roller’s life. Magnus was both envious of, and relieved not to be the young…so very young Orion Pax. The panic that Magnus had been riddled with prior to acknowledging Delta was gone was currently flowing through the not even two decade old Autobot leader, just one of the many things the leader of the only remaining non-Decepticon living military was now forced to bear. It had to be overwhelming, but even from his brother’s bedside he still met with his sub-commanders and issued orders and instructions for the regrouping forces. The various triages were set up, the countless patients all seemed to be accounted for and their prioritizations assigned based on severity of their injuries, scouts sent out to monitor the progress of the Decepticons, other scouts sent to scan for dangers from other directions, and even more scouts sent out to analyze potential escape routes and destinations should that be necessary.



    Countless details, more so than even Delta dealt with on a regular basis as the Autobots had made the salvation and care of civilians a far greater priority than the Unified Forces ever had, and yet Orion took in all the data and replied with astoundingly effective solutions and orders within moments, never taking his optics off of his dying brother. Ultra Magnus had always known the youth was gifted, but this, this brilliance and professionalism in the midst of such overwhelming personal and global tragedy…this was something he had never seen before. “What do you think he’s going to do?”



    The voice coming from low to his right pulled Ultra Magnus out of his deep contemplations and he looked down to see that Minimus Ambus had somehow come to a standing position next to him and was also staring at the Autobot Commander. Magnus turned back toward Ratchet and Orion trying to keep Roller alive before answering, sensing through his periphery as two more forms, both incredibly tall, came to a stop on the other side of Minimus Ambus. “He’ll do what’s necessary.” Magnus looked over again and saw that the almost impossibly massive Fortress Maximus was standing next to Ambus, and on the other side of him stood the Mistress of Flame. It probably looked odd, the twenty-eight foot tall Magnus standing next to the seven foot tall Ambus, next to the thirty-four foot tall Maximus next to the thirty foot tall Mistress of Flame; Minimus Ambus barely came up to any of their knees.



    “What’s necessary is the absolute eradication of the Decepticon shitbags.” Fortress Maximus growled.



    “It’s odd, but…” Minimus Ambus started in a far less enraged tone, “I knew, somehow, that it would be Orion that would be the most effective of our leaders. I just assumed that in the course of his heroism he’d get himself killed, undoubtedly sacrificing himself for the greater good.”



    “I wouldn’t rule that fate for him out just yet.” Magnus replied.



    “Orion Pax must not die.” The Mistress of Flame chimed in. “Not yet, not until he fulfills his destiny, and certainly not to save others who bear no importance to Primus’s greater plan.”



    “Ah, I see, now that Delta Magnus is dead it’s time for a new messiah, is that it?” Minimus Ambus blurted out with a bit of venom in his voice.



    “I…” the Mistress paused before providing her answer in full, “I recognized greatness within Orion Pax the moment I was in his presence, though I sensed greatness in Delta Magnus as well, that never changed. I suppose I allowed more practical, worldly concerns to impact my judgement on the matter. Delta was born into in a great house, Orion was merely a foundling, Delta was elected Emir shortly after I came into contact with him, Orion had provoked the ire of the Prime within months of his forging, and was an outlaw fugitive at the age of one year. All this occurred before I ever saw Orion Pax in person, and even years later, after the death of Sentinel Prime, the likely link to Convoy metallico, and my recognition of his greatness, well…I suppose I’m as flawed as anyone. It’s difficult to admit a mistake.”



    “Your assertions that Delta was some chosen one, some messianic savior,” Ultra growled, “all that nonsense! All of that contributed to him believing he was infallible, that he was invincible! And those delusions played a large role in getting him, and most of those that followed him, killed!”



    “I…I was wrong about him.” The Mistress muttered, casting her gaze at the fluid spattered floor below, but raising her optics back up to lock upon the young Autobot Commander once again. “I know that I am not wrong about Orion Pax of House Convoy though.”



    “It’s Orion Pax of Iacon.” A youthful voice shot out as its red owner trotted past them, brushing against the Mistress of Flame, and cut down the aisle leading to Orion Pax. Following closely behind him was Blaster as they made their way to their leader, and Magnus noted that the Mistress of Flame seemed uncharacteristically unsettled by the contact with the mid-sized red robot.



    “Who…” the Mistress pointed at the smaller red robot stopping before Orion, “who is that?”



    “I believe his name is Hot Rod.” Fortress Maximus answered. “Young, doesn’t know his exhaust port from a hole in the ground, think I heard he was whelped in the last birthquake, but he’s fast and has good instincts on the battlefield. He aided in the withdrawal of some of the Maximus forces, acquitted himself quite well and I saw him personally save at least six of my soldiers. So I think that any anger you’re harboring at him bumping your arm, you should probably let go.”



    “No, it’s not that. It’s something else…” The Mistress replied, but Magnus tuned her out as he was far more interested in whatever news Hot Rod and Blaster had for Orion and had started walking in that direction with Fort Max and Minimus Ambus walking with him.



    “Sir, we’ve gotten word back from Cosmos on the Decepticon advance into the Pentiathan,” Magnus could hear Hot Rod reporting, but then the red youth paused and looked to Blaster to pick up, apparently ill at ease with some aspect of Cosmos’s report.



    “Yeah, something’s come up.” Blaster continued. “The ‘Cons are well on their way to gaining access into the valley, they’re winning pretty handily against the sparkeaters, but there’s been no sign of Violen Jiger on the battlefield.”



    “You think he abandoned his monsters and slaves?” Ratchet asked absently as he continued to work on Roller Pax’s cranium.



    “I doubt that’s the case.” Orion replied as he focused on Ratchet’s work, but still shooting an anguished stare every few seconds over to a slab on the far side of the room that held the dead Torenia Pax.



    “Yeah, we think we may have tracked him down.” Blaster muttered, handing a data pad to Orion. “Something grabbed Cosmos’s attention a couple hundred miles northwest of the Pentiathan. Something gigantic. Something being led by a high speed craft. My guess is Jiger is on that bait craft.”



    “Something gigantic?” Orion asked quietly as he gazed intently at the data pad’s screen. “This…by Primus, this can’t be right.”



    “Cosmos made sure he was seeing what he was seeing.” Blaster replied. “He knew full well that he’d better be absolutely sure before presenting something like this, and Pax, he’s sure.”



    “This will likely offset the Trypticon advantage…but will it be in time?” Orion muttered absently before a surge of energy seemed to go through him and he looked directly at Blaster. “How much damage have the Decepticons inflicted on the sparkeaters thus far?”



    “They’ve decimated them.” Blaster replied. “Almost all of the demons are dead, probably less than a couple hundred vrykol remain, and likely only a handful of aswangs. As for mutants, bit hard to say for sure as they scan just like baseline Cybertronians, so a bit tricky to differentiate them from the ‘Cons, but I can’t imagine many of them remaining in fighting condition.”



    “So Megatron is on the cusp of wiping them out…” Orion muttered as he thought deeply. “Decepticon casualties?”



    “Heavy.” Blaster replied. “They’re winning, at least they are prior to the introduction of King Worm there, but they’re paying a huge price.”



    Orion looked down at the floor for several moments before turning his gaze upward slightly to meet the optics of the diminutive robot standing next to Magnus. “Minimus Ambus, I need you to arrange the evacuation of all civilians from this base. Blaster will provide you the details of where you will go, I will need you to oversee the transport of all healthy non-combatants and arrange the preparation for the moving of all wounded and their caregivers immediately if word comes in of our defeat.”



    “Your defeat?” Ambus questioned, but Orion shifted his gaze to Magnus and Fort Max.



    “You boys up for a fight?” Orion asked.



    “Slag yeah!” Fortress Maximus enthusiastically replied.



    Orion turned to Blaster and nodded. “Open a channel to the base; all of it.” Blaster nodded and held a speaker for Orion to take, which he did and raised it to his mouth. “Autobots, Maximals, United Forces and everyone else, this is Orion Pax. The last twenty four hours have been a period of horrific violence, tragedy and betrayal. Unfortunately, the violence is not over. Right now the Decepticons are assaulting the Pentiathan, and with their titanic beast, they’re laying waste to the sparkeaters. But we’ve received satellite footage of what appears to be a second titan, some sort of serpent shaped creature of equal size to Trypticon, being led to the Pentiathan as well, and will likely be there shortly. Our assumption at this time is that this second beast is being brought there by Violen Jiger to combat Trypticon.” Orion paused and looked around the infirmary before continuing. “I intend to advance our military forces, Autobot, Maximal, and willing Unitied Forces, to a position twenty miles south of the Pentiathan and maintain our position there.” Orion looked down at Roller on the slab next to him, and caressed the side of his brother’s face. “For those of you who do not know, Arlon Pax served as an early mentor to me, laying the foundation of much of my moral code and values. He taught me that justice was worth fighting and dying for, vengeance was not.” Orion paused a moment, continuing to stroke his brother’s cheek. “But there are times, rare occasions, where justice and vengeance might find themselves aligned. We will act as champions of Cybertron, doing whatever we need to do in the interest in her and her people, which means that despite what has been done to us, we will not act against the Decepticons until the threat of the sparkeaters has been removed. The destruction of Violen Jiger and his sparkeaters must be our priority;” Orion paused for a beat, “but should the Decepticons appear to be overwhelmed by the monsters, we will not be wasting our lives on such a lost cause. We will observe from our southern position, and will only advance once it becomes clear that the sparkeaters are falling or will likely fall with our assistance. If and when we advance, we will do so treating the sparkeaters with extreme prejudice, and treating the Decepticons with extreme caution.” A hard look came over the young Commander’s face. “But the long term good of Cybertron involves a future without Decepticons, so once the sparkeaters fall, should we find ourselves in a position of superiority over the Decepticons, we will turn on them. We will be swift and decisive in our attack, we will offer mercy to those that ask, but we will not take chances, and any duplicity will be met with lethality! Until a senate and government can be rebuilt, we will have to serve as the planetary authority, and as such we will offer Megatron and his officers a chance to surrender and stand trial at a later time, but that offer will be made once, and only once. And should he and his advisors refuse, we will kill them. And knowing Megatron as I know him, he will not be surrendering.” He looked to the others in the room. “Autobots and Maximals are to assemble in their pre-assigned hangar bays with their respective platoons. Those United Forces willing and capable of fighting, find Autobot officers and they will assign you per your rank and abilities. Shuttles launch in one hour, prepare to move out!”



    Orion cut the transmission and handed the speaker back to Blaster, looking at Ultra Magnus and Fortress Maximus. “I could use your leadership and expertise out there. I would bolster your remaining forces with Autobots, I will make sure that they respect your authority, but you in turn must acknowledge that the respect they give you will be due to your rank and experience. No Autobot will submit to you based on your name, social status, or any perceived birthright, and you both must accept this reality before I place Autobots under your guidance. Is that understood and accepted?”



    “Slaggin Convoys.” Fort Max retorted with a broad smile across his face, placing his massive hand on Orion’s shoulder. “I’ve never met one, but there’s no doubt that your ancestors would be proud. As am I to accept your trust and your terms.” They all then turned and looked at Magnus.



    Ultra Magnus smiled and nodded, looking deeply into Orion’s optics. “Of course. In fact…” this was insane, it went against everything he’d been raised with and would cause Delta to assault him from beyond the grave, but, “I agree with not only your terms, but your philosophies. Brand me, have me swear an oath, whatever you require to be an Autobot. I take pride in adhering to reason, and the goals and ideals of the Autobots are nothing if not reasonable and right. I hereby renounce…”



    “Don’t.” Ratchet interrupted, causing all optics to turn to him. His head was still down, his optics still locked onto Roller’s injured cranial shell, but he continued speaking. “Keep the name. The other Autobots get giddy whenever we recruit a highborn.”



    “But we’d all be honored to have you as one of us.” Orion picked up. “We’ve long been friends, Magnus, I’m thrilled we’ll finally be brothers.”



    “Speaking of brothers…” Ratchet said as he closed a hatch on the side of Roller’s head and looked up at Orion, “there’s nothing more I can do. The damage…well, the odds are definitely against him, but there’s still hope.” He saw Orion’s optics dim slightly, his gaze go to the floor, but then the Autobot Commander gave a weak nod.



    Ratchet reached out and placed his hands on Roller’s frame, seeming to prepare for some sort of manipulation, but Orion’s hand gently went out and grabbed his wrists. “No, my friend, let me.” Orion said, sending another mournful glace to Torenia on her slab before looking back down at his brother. Ratchet removed his hands, and Orion took over, gripping Roller and adjusting him, bending his body, reshaping him. The sound was familiar, but far slower and lighter than Magnus had ever heard it before. ‘TSCHE’, Orion shifted some more, ‘CHU-CHU-CHE’, more shifting, ‘TSCHE-CHU…CHU-CHU…TSCHE-CHU-CHU-TSCHE’.



    ---



    Nightbeat





    There was no shortage of negative things to say about Sentinel Prime, but at least his intel was good, and Nightbeat was most thankful for that fact as he stepped into the ancient ship, likely the first person to do so in over one million years. A remote transmission of the admittance codes provided by the deceased Prime had kept the Manifest’s defenses from obliterating him as he started across the ocean floor, and entering them into the hull computer by the port he had just passed through had gained him entrance. The ship didn’t seem to be wanting to kill him anymore, at least not overtly enough for Nightbeat to notice with any of his senses, but as he walked through the dark hallways he couldn’t help but feel as though the vessel itself was sizing him up and determining a way to end him. He shook these nonsensical feelings off and made his way to the bridge. He had been studying this vessel for over a century, every file he could get his hands on, the schematics, the crew manifest, photos, video footage of its construction, the documentary of the tour Guardian Prime gave journalists prior to the launch; Nightbeat knew this vessel and within moments he was standing in the middle of the bridge. He froze in the darkness, aware of the legends all around him, but unable to see them yet, and terrified to illuminate the room and allow him to do so. They were likely dead. There was really no way that any of them could still be alive after all this time.



    He made the necessary adjustments to his optics to allow him to see in the dark and hesitantly made his way toward the captain’s chair, knowing that the dark form sitting in it would be the greatest hero in his planet’s history. Granted, a bit of Guardian Prime’s polish had been worn off in Nightbeat’s optics due to what he’d uncovered over the last several years, but as he rounded the corner and looked upon a face he’d seen thousands of times in recorded images, but which had been lost forever long before he’d been brought online, the blue and yellow detective felt nothing but awed admiration…and a wave of discomfort at the facial and crest similarities to Sentinel Prime. Guardian was clearly an Honorum, the crest extending forward farther than most, similar to a Magnus crest, wider at the top and tapering down, just like Sentinel’s, and bearing a handsome silver face. The entire helm was nearly identical to Sentinel’s, only instead of orange it was a deep maroon. The body was also roughly similar in shape to Sentinel’s, but was orange instead of yellow, with maroon arms and crotch that matched the helm in color, and legs that matched the torso’s orange, as opposed to Sentinel’s red limbs with yellow accent colors. But despite the similarities, this was not Sentinel Honorum, this was a champion to rich and poor alike, and a Cybertronian to be selected by the Matrix…the last Cybertronian to be selected by the Matrix. A true Prime. A true Prime that had likely joined the Matrix long ago.



    Nightbeat quickly brushed aside his awe and the slight misgivings he had, as well as the desire to look around at the other heroes and legends that surrounded him, and set to work on his evaluation of the long lost leader. Layers of dust fell away as he jostled the frame a bit and connected a series of scanners he had stored in various compartments on his body. No brain activity, energon distribution systems were long dry, all hope was lost…wait, what? Spark sensor readings were…impossible. They were displaying weak…but viable. According to this, despite his frame being shut down for countless millennia, his spark was still hanging on. But this ray of hope was tinged with frantic desperation. Even if Prime were somehow alive, Nightbeat had no idea of what to do to keep him that way or revive him. The good news was that, as far as he knew, he hadn’t disturbed whatever it was that had kept him alive for a million years, so he could take the time needed for a thorough evaluation and hopefully come to a solution.



    The time needed for that thorough evaluation was roughly four hours, and while still confused about a great many aspects, Nightbeat was somewhat confident he had a roundabout idea of what was going on. The Manifest had indeed been sabotaged, a tranquilizing agent of sorts that had been dispersed throughout the entire ship had incapacitated the crew shortly after arriving on this planet. All measures designed to awaken or protect the crew were disabled, whether before the sedation or after Nightbeat had not yet determined, leaving the crew in their dormant states. It seemed that the tranquilizing measures were designed to remain in place for several hundred thousand years, a measure to ensure there would be no recovery by the crew, or that any outside rescue attempt would be thwarted or severely hampered until long after the crew had expired. But it seemed that deeply hidden emergency measures, ones not on any ship schematics that Nightbeat had come across, and something overlooked by the saboteur, had kept the command crew alive.



    Some deeply embedded and hidden protocol, one involving simple miniature servant droids apparently beneath the notice of the sabotaged systems, had prompted the ship to siphon energon from the lowest ranking soldiers into the highest ranking officers, but only the most trace amounts to either avoid detection or keep the command crew alive for as long as possible. Or perhaps it was for both reasons, but whatever the reason, this hidden function had succeeded in allowing Guardian Prime, Galvatron, Cyclonus and everyone else on the bridge to survive. How many of the rank and file soldiers had died to enable this, Nightbeat had not had the time to determine. He had devoted every second so far to discerning the cause of Guardian Prime and his crew’s disorder, and a possible solution. Ultimately, it seemed simple enough; disengage anything in the Manifest that could remotely be tied to the sabotaged systems, and pump some energon into the dormant crew. Nightbeat was well fueled when they had arrived at the human air force base, and even now he had more than adequate reserves, enough to provide one or two individuals with the sustenance to bring them out of their long-forced stasis. As to which one to start with, well, there was no real decision to be made.



    The blue and yellow robot, one whose colors weren’t really visible in the dimly lit bridge of the ancient ship, slid out from under the control panel at the front of the bridge and slowly and carefully made his way across the large command room, stepping over the dormant form of who he knew to be Bulkhead, an Iaconian that was the oldest member of the crew, who if everything went well, would soon awaken a million years older in what to him would be the flicker of an optic. Nightbeat lifted his feet over the predominantly green form, being careful not to step on any of the rotor blades attached to his back, and started shuffling around the orange Landmine, a Tagan Heightsian that was almost as old as Bulkhead. The next body in his way on the floor belonged to Tailpipe, but the white robot was small enough that Nightbeat simply hopped over him. He slowed as he approached two chairs, each holding far more recognizable Cybertronians. Nightbeat turned sideways and shuffled between chairs holding the legendary Cyclonus and Scourge, both peacefully leaning back, partially slid off of their seats. The detective was beyond careful in making sure he did not disturb their slumber, before walking toward a hulking dark form on the floor, one with an orange fusion tub tucked under him. He stared down at the inert legend, a warrior that started a revolution and killed a Prime, a war that rocked Cybertron as brutally as either of the uprisings of Deathsaurus, one that this legend seemed destined to win, a victory that would have made him the unquestioned overlord of the planet Cybertron. Nightbeat looked down at Galvatron, a hated monster to everyone in the north, a hero to most in the south, and someone who had inadvertently caused the creation of the modern age. The histories were careful to record the end of the war as a stalemate, a peace reached by two willing sides, but the post-war world, one that they still lived in, was definitely not what the purple would-be conqueror would have wanted. But even a Northerner like Nightbeat recognized the essential role that Galvatron played, and looked upon him reverently as he walked around his frame.



    A moment later he was standing before Cybertron’s greatest legend, their greatest leader, the one that rallied a defeated planet to an impossible vic…well, they couldn’t call it a victory, but it was a victory, a leader who brought a brutal conqueror to heel, and who created the closest thing to an egalitarian society their world had ever seen and ushered in a golden age that lasted until his departure. Nightbeat stood before Guardian Prime’s dormant yet regal form once again and raised his hand toward the Prime’s head. A tube extended out from Nightbeat’s wrist and jacked into a small port on the thick neck of Guardian Prime, his flawless but dust-covered silver face showing no reaction to the external stimulus. “I hope I haven’t overlooked anything.” Nightbeat muttered before forcing energon from his body, through the tube, and into the long inert frame. Each second that passed seemed painfully slow, as they rolled into minutes the fear and anticipation was nearly more than the blue and yellow Cybertronian could handle, and as his internal chronometer reached twenty minutes with no discernable change to the ancient leader, all hope started to fade. By his calculations, more than enough time and energon had passed for Guardian Prime to have awoken, but there he continued to sit, unmoving, optics as dark as when he had first entered the ship, the layers of dust over his frame undisturbed by any movem… “URGH!” Nightbeat gurgled out as a hand shot up and gripped him by the throat.





    ---





    Megatron





    “Decepticons, ATTACK!” The Decepticon leader roared as he charged forward toward the returned Violen Jiger, his feet pounding against the shredded metal, circuitry, tubing, fluids and other gore completely covering the ground of the valley. His forces did the same, following behind the massive Trypticon as he lumbered toward the serpentine Dweller of the Depths, or whatever that three-faced demon called it. What remained of the sparkeater forces and the heavily bloodied but still strong Decepticons charged at one another in a final surge to eradicate the enemy once and for all, but the armies were thrown down or back by the impact tremor and shockwaves of Trypticon and the Dweller savagely slamming into each other. They were all quickly back up and laying into the opposite forces with brutal fury, Megatron focusing on Violen Jiger, blasting him with his fusion cannon as they charged each other. Shockwave, Overlord, and Black Shadow fell in beside Megatron, and the four super-warriors barreled into the three-faced king of the sparkeaters and their subterranean allies. They pushed him back, causing Megatron to grin as they started overwhelming the monster, but that smile disappeared as all four of the Matrix-caliber enhanced Decepticons were thrown back by the horrifically powerful Violen Jiger, Megatron himself catching a backhand to the chest that caused all his senses to flicker and fling him hurtling through the air.



    Megatron hit the ground hard, shattering and spraying the carnage-covered stone embedded over the metal and leaving dents in both cyber-firma as well as his frame. While aware of it before, the smell of the death and shredded corpses nearly overwhelmed him as he gathered his wits. For organics, the smell of rot was either a warning to herbavores and those carnivores with more delicate digestive systems, or a beacon to carrion feeders, but for the mechanical species of Cybertron, it was a message that this was a place of danger and destruction, so advance at your own risk. He quickly shook off the disorientation caused by the impact and the sense of dread caused by his surroundings and crawled back up to his feet. The Decepticon Commander looked up to see both Devastator and Heretech trying to engage Bloodron, but making little headway against him. The aswang was too fast for the gestalt, and was both too fast and too powerful for the only Warrior Elite not engaging Violen Jiger, but they were keeping the devastatingly powerful sparkeater general from impacting the other Decepticons, who were still suffering losses, but effectively laying waste to the remaining enemy forces. Ultimately it would come down to the battles between Trypticon and the Dweller, and between Megatron’s Warriors Elite and Violen Jiger. Megatron turned with a snarl and charged back to re-engage the smiling sparkeater king, who easily wrestled Overlord off of him and beckoned the Decepticon Commander with his finger.







    ---





    Cybershark





    It was only a matter of time before one of Sky Shadow’s scouts discovered this deposit of enhanced energon, or as Polar Claw had taken to calling it, Ore-13. This particular deposit, one roughly at the half-way point between southern Florida and Cuba, was a densely packed cluster of crystals jutting out of the ocean floor and possessing enough raw power to run multiple cities for years, or obliterate them in moments. Fortunately the unnaturally large fiddler crab firing on him now seemed to recognize the raw destructive power of their environment and was choosing its shots wisely. It had gotten the drop on Cybershark, patiently waiting until the shark-shelled Maximal was swimming directly above it before opening fire, but Cybershark’s bestial shape and the armoring beneath the nanite-created dermis had sent the shot glancing off with minimal damage, and the careful firefight had commenced.



    They both had been smart enough to not use the glowing stalagmites as cover, at least unless desperate, and then the enemy was smart enough not to fire until they were clear of the jutting post of raw, mutated energon. They had maneuvered around each other for nearly an hour, firing their selective shots until finally they were just yards apart, peering at each other through the murky depth’s from behind moss-covered boulders practically right next to each other. Cybershark fired around one side of his rock and charged around the other, catching a glancing shot against his shoulder but ignoring the pain as he tackled the smaller Predacon and drove it to the ground. The two hammered away at one another, their firearms being dropped shortly into the hand-to-hand combat, Cybershark saw an opportunity and drove his head down toward the horrifically ugly robot’s face. The smaller robot was quick, and dodged the head-butt and used Cybershark’s forward momentum against him, rolling the Maximal up and over him, through the murk and into the mud behind him. The Predacon pulled himself through the water toward his gun, gripping it and turning it on Cybershark, who was moving toward his own weapon but knowing full well that this crab-bot had the drop on him. The Maximal could only watch as the Predacon prepared to open fire, but was stunned as the Predacon’s gun-wielding right forearm was blasted to pieces.



    The Predacon’s cry of pain was almost entirely muffled by the water, the blast of the shell destroying his forearm far less so. Cybershark turned to see two dark forms about seventy feet away through the murky depths, but as they walked closer across the ocean floor the glow from nearby energon stalagmites illuminated their forms, and to a barely adequate extent, their faces. Faces that he’d familiarized himself with from database files and then forgotten repeatedly over the last million years, but with the renewed interest from both other colonies as well as Cybertron itself in recent years, these faces were fresh on his mind. “Cyclonus…Scourge.” He whispered through the muddy and now bodily fluid streaked water. He immediately turned, transformed to shark mode, and cut through the water, pumping his tail at a rate impossible for a biological shark to do to reach a speed impossible for any aquatic animal, but it evidently wasn’t enough. He put miles between he and the disputed energon field, but his sensors made him aware that a rounded yet flat shape was cutting the distance between them.



    Cybershark cut toward the direction of the Gulf, but within moments the craft was back on his tail gaining on him. The Maximal suddenly transformed and turned to face his pursuer, weapon drawn, but the craft open fired before he could get a bead on it. His weapon was instantly destroyed, and a shot to his shoulder sent him back, pain overloading his systems for a moment and threatening to remove him from consciousness, but he struggled to remain online, and watched as the long half-oval shaped vehicle transformed into the robotic form of the ancient warrior Scourge. The legend trudged through the murk of the ocean floor, ominously and slowly bearing down on the wounded Maximal. He finally reached him, stopping just a few feet away and glaring down at Cybershark. “You will be more informative alive than dead, so don’t make me kill you.” He then raised his wrist to his mouth. “The fleeing Cybertronian has been detained, I will return to your position momentarily with it.”



    “Good.” The deep voice replied through the speaker. “I’ve gotten some preliminary information out of the one I shot, and if what he has to say is true, the one in your custody will have a lot to answer for. Return them to me, I’ll see to the prisoners, you transport as much of this energon-like substance back to the Manifest.”



    “Of course, Cyclonus.” Scourge replied, motioning with his rifle for the lean Maximal to get up and move.





    ---





    Thundercracker





    It was likely the most awesome display of power and destruction in the history of the planet, possibly the history of any planet, but Thundercracker was too busy keeping himself and other Decepticons alive to really take in the battle between Trypticon and Violen Jiger’s titanic worm, though the absolute chaos they were making of the rest of the battlefield was unavoidable at the time, their stomping and rolling and thrashing killing more troops on either side than the other combatants’ efforts, which was truly terrible for the Decepticons as the crushed sparkeaters eventually came back to life. Thundercracker banked away from another jet of flame coming from Trypticon’s mouth, a stream that impacted the worm but also went wide and nearly incinerated Thundercracker and four other Decepticon fliers trying to provide support to their comrades.



    He shot down toward the scurrying ants below, each ant a warrior trying to remain alive and kill other warriors. A sparkeater was overwhelming three ground jockeys that Thundercracker was pretty sure were named Motormaster, Drag Strip and Dead End. Motormaster was a clumsy moron, but he was strong as hell and had a broad sword, so a quick diversion, something to shift momentum just a bit, could give he and his guys just enough to shift things in their favor. The pair of pit-fire missiles Thundercracker sent into the back of the sparkeater should suffice; if not it was on the ground-jockeys, there was nothing more the blue flier could do for them. He cut away and went on a strafing run that nearly cut another sparkeater in half, an injury that should provide enough time for Decepticons in proximity to it to perform a sparkectomy and destroy it.



    The blue flier cut away again and saw Violen Jiger batter Megatron and Black Shadow to the ground before leaping toward his super-sparkeater general Bloodron going at it with Devastator and Heretech. Heretech turned just in time to see Violen Jiger’s fist barrel into his face, sending the pink Decepticon super-soldier into the viscera-covered metal ground clinging to consciousness. His efforts to remain awake proved pointless as the sparkeater king continued after him and first tore his head from his torso, and then thrust his fist into the heavily fortified frame to pull out Heretech’s pulsing green spark and devour it for all to see. The horrified Thundercracker directed himself toward this atrocity, something he was beyond surprised he was doing, especially as he watched the juices still flowing out of the massive monster’s central mouth, a mouth grinning with glee as it turned toward Devastator and leapt.



    Devastator’s strength and durability proved to be greater than Violen Jiger’s, but not by enough for him to remain unharmed by the combined attacks of the two most powerful sparkeaters. Violen Jiger was too fast for the green and purple behemoth to strike, catch or effectively counter in any way, and the monster’s strength was enough that his strikes actually did cause damage to the prototype gestalt. Devastator was sent reeling back by a thunderous thrust-kick that shattered his optic. Jiger kept his assault up, even as Overlord and Shockwave joined in to counter him, continuing with his pummeling of Devastator’s head until the giant collapsed and fell to the ground. Only Shockwave’s transformation to cannon mode and his unloading on Violen Jiger forced the sparkeater king to cease his attack on the gestalt, but the damage done healed quickly and the forty foot tall monster continued after the other Warriors Elite.



    A world-shattering animalistic cry cutting through the atmosphere brought a momentary end to all of the fighting and forced everyone to look toward the battle of the titans. The shredded midsection of the dying super-worm was crunched in Trypticon’s jaws, but the head of the worm was buried within the massive mechanical dracosaur’s torso, obliterating Trypticon’s insides with its bladed maw. Trypticon released the creature, which fell hundreds of feet to the abattoir floor below, sending countless tons of rock, metal, corpses and robotic gore into the air. Thundercracker rejoiced at seeing its unmoving form, its dead form, but his joy was short lived as Trypticon let out a weak whimper and collapsed himself, an unmoving mountain likely just as dead.



    “The Dweller has served its purpose, Decepticons!” Violen Jiger roared joyously. “Your end is here!” Thundercracker’s fluids ran cold as the massive sparkeater king looked up and locked its optics onto him, following the blue jet’s movements through the sky. Thundercracker banked away from the monster, increasing his speed to put as much distance between he and the creature as possible, but the monster merely lifted a discarded cannon off the ground, took aim, and fired a shot. Thundercracker attempted to evade it, but the shot clipped his wing and he felt himself spinning and plummeting to the ground below. No! As a flier he could escape this oncoming slaughter, but grounded, he’d be food to the monsters within the hour.



    Thundercracker struggled to stay aloft, but he recognized immediately that the damage to his wing was just extensive enough to ensure that there would be no chance of success with that. He leveled himself as much as possible, enabling his jet-configured frame to skip across the ground as opposed to being pulverized on contact with it, which while successful and creating a crash landing that he would survive, the impact and grinding across nearly a half mile of metal and rock ground caused him extensive damage and brought him to the point of going offline. Blackness encroached, but he fought it off, he had to remain awake, he had to continue his escape. With Trypticon out of commission, the Decepticons were doomed. Sparkeaters were probably already crawling over the dracosaurian titan looking to get into its body, dig through its guts, and feast on its massive sun-colored spark. Perhaps that would provide a big enough distraction to the sparkeaters to allow Thundercracker to get away. All he had to do was transform and move his ass.



    Transform.



    Transform!



    TRANSFORM!



    Finally his agonized body started to respond, his normally quick and enjoyable transformation now a slow, painful series of brutal parts shifting that seemed to take far longer than the actual two minutes it was really taking and causing him to cry out in pain more than once. Finally he was laid out across the ground, resting on his left elbow, a slow trickle of energon and other fluids oozing out of his mouth, his dim optics looking down at his seemingly intact hands. His optics then traveled a bit, slowly over the rest of his frame, heavily battered, dented and scraped portions, some minor lacerations, and obviously a wrecked wing, but nothing crippling, at least outside his ability to fly. He could feel the nose of his jet mode pressed against his upper back, fully cognizant of the front cone crunched, but apart from his wing that seemed to be the worst of his injuries. The short flight from battle and the subsequent crash had put him on the outskirts of the battle, where the valley opened up into the empty metal wasteland south of the Mountains. He raised his gaze out to where he would need to start fleeing, and wasn’t sure his optics were relaying an accurate picture to his brain.



    A line of vehicles nearly a mile wide and seemingly dozens of rows deep was arrayed across the horizon and speeding toward him, a wall of kicked-up dust in their wake. Fliers; jets, freighters, helicopters and other assorted craft, including the massive combined space freighter mode of Omega Supreme cut over the oncoming line of vehicles and were soon speeding over Thundercracker’s position. The Autobots had come for their justice; there would be no escape for Thundercracker today. The blue Decepticon painfully forced himself to his feet, determined to meet his fate with honor, and finally getting upright moments before the line of speeding vehicles reached his position. He clenched his teeth and waited for shots to lance out…but the Autobots seemed to be more concerned with reaching the battle than firing on him. So be it, he’d be beaten to death. But Orion Pax, his red form leading the charge and moving far faster than a bulky ground jockey should be able to move, just shot by him, as did dozens of others, the wind and dust whipping against Thundercracker’s frame and they sped by.



    “Git yer ass back ta’ tha’ fight, shithead!” A red cargo transport with the voice of Ironhide snarled out as it whipped by him, trying to keep up with his faster moving comrades. Thundercracker turned and peered quizzically at the Autobots, noting that within their ranks were not only Maximals, but even Unified soldiers as well, he even saw the robotic form of Delta Magnus’s fire priestess riding on a large freighter for some reason, yet none of them had stopped to deal with him or assaulted him in any way. He didn’t fully understand what was going on, but he heeded Ironhide’s call and started to painfully run back into the fight.





    ---





    Rattrap





    “Where the hell are you?”



    The rodent peered around to make sure that no humans were around to have heard the enraged deep voice coming from a speaker embedded beneath its faux fur before calmly replying. “In Florida.”



    “Florida?” Polar Claw’s confused growl shot back. “You’d better be there to help Cybershark in securing the Ore 13 deposit off the southern coast! If you are…how did you know we got a sensor trip? If you’re not..”



    “I’m not.” Rattrap interrupted. “Look Claw, you’re not gonna be happy ta’ hear this, but, well, I may have done somethin’ kinda stupid.”



    A low grumble preceded “Damnit all to the Pit, what did you do?”



    Rattrap gulped. “Well, ya see…I…well…I kinda helped Nightbeat.”



    “YOU WHAT?”



    “Look, he’s on da’ level!” Rattrap shot back with completely fabricated piss and vinegar. “The sparkeaters are back on Cybertr…”



    “You can’t trust him!” Polar Claw snapped back. “Shit! Florida? You better not be doing what I think you’re doing!”



    “Uhhh, yeah, about that.” Rattrap replied. “We did try to find it. In fact, pretty sure we did locate it correctly, but when we went there…well, it found us. We stole a plane, and when we got over the coordinates, we got blasted out of the sky. I swam back, I have no idea what happened to Nightbeat.”



    There was a long pause. “I genuinely had nothing against him, but frankly, it’d be for the best if he was killed.”



    “That’s a shitty thing to say, regardless of whatevah your reas…wait.” Rattrap looked off into the distance over the Atlantic, some unidentifiable form seemed to be rising from the surface very far away. “Holy smokes, something’s coming out of the water. Very far away, hard to tell, but it seems…huge.”



    A low growl came through the speaker before “Give me whatever details you can.”



    Rattrap enhanced his optical settings and ran the numbers in his head. “My best estimate is that it was about twelve thousand, eight hundred feet above the surface of the water when it came into view for me.”



    The low growl grew louder and more ominous. “That puts it at about one hundred thirty nautical miles away from your position.”



    “Oh shit.”



    “Oh shit is right.”





    ---





    Starscream





    “What in the Pit is going on out there?” The prisoner growled from the floor of his cell at the filthy mutant guards just down the hallway. By the Hand, they’d been on the surface for years, yet they still looked like they’d just crawled out of the muck. Starscream understood that they were the bottom rung of Violen Jiger’s totem pole and their existence was to be constantly treated like tarpanicus shit, but how could they not have at least the tiniest shred of pride compelling them to bathe from time to time? He crawled to his knees as rubble tumbled around him and the entire mountain shook, his strength had been slowly eking back into his battered and still sick-feeling frame, enough that he believed he was capable of standing now. Doubt surged through him as he started to stumble, but he caught himself and pulled himself upright to defiantly glare at the pathetic, non-useful-alt-mode-bearing morons who apparently thought that ignoring him was a viable option. “Assholes, what is going on out there?”



    “Silence prisoner!” One of them, a tall, slender robot that almost seemed like what Starscream might look like, were he ugly, disgusting and lacking wings, barked back at him.



    “No, I will not be silent, and had you a functioning brain module in that rusted and shit-covered cranial shell of yours, you’d realize that this brief moment where you’re in a position to treat me like garbage will be very short-lived, and will determine how the rest of your life will be.” The Decepticon snarled. “Either your demonic masters win, and your god-king finishes what he’s doing to me, thus making me a demi-god that you will have to worship and answer to, or the more likely scenario of Decepticon victory, in which case your fate will be completely dependent upon whether I ask Megatron to allow you to live or die.” The threat was punctuated by another tremor rocking through the ancient mountain fortress.



    The guard turned to face Starscream, seemingly unimpressed, and was about to speak when another voice cut in from the hallway accompanied by footsteps. “Violen Jiger has made it clear to all of his thralls that once you become a sparkeater, we are to answer to you as we do to any aswang.” Mindwipe walked into the room, nodding to the mutants and then smiling at Starscream. “But until that time, you’re just a prisoner and you are to be treated as a prisoner. These loyal thralls can’t physically harm you, but otherwise, you’re nothing to them. And our Lord King has assured us that as you are to be considered separate individuals before and after the change, he will not tolerate any acts of vengeance against any of us for things done to you while you’re a mere mortal.”



    Starscream glared at the hated traitor, but the words seemed to tickle something in Starscream’s mind. He felt compelled to look down at his hands, and then the rest of his body. He was in pain, granted, it had been ebbing consistently for hours, but despite the pain and utter lack of any sort of medical treatment, his body looked good. Yes, unforgivably dirty, but it appeared completely uninjured despite the savage beatings he’d gone through over the last couple days. Could it be…? The prisoner scanned his cell and looked over at a bent and jagged piece of metal that had been wrenched from the first tremor to have shaken the mountain, walking up to it, and after only a moment’s pause, slammed his wrist into the pointed jutting metal strip, cutting into his wrist. “AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!” Shit, what a stupid idea! His pain threshold wasn’t any different.



    “What in the Pit are you doing?” Mindwipe roared, the other two guards clearly unsettled by the act. “Whatever self-inflicted damage you do won’t result in us getting in trouble, idiot!”



    Starscream yanked his arm free of the metal chunk, now with his energon and other fluids running down it, and brought the wound before his optics. He looked at the jagged, gaping cut and sparking circuitry below, but gasped as he saw it slowly, very slowly stitching together. Nowhere near the rate of healing that the sparkeaters displayed, but no creature should heal so quickly that their optics were able to register the changes. “Mere mortal?” Starscream muttered, caught Mindwipe’s optics and nodded for him to come closer.



    Mindwipe paused for a moment, but then walked to the outside of the cell’s bars and looked closely at the damaged wrist that the prisoner was now so focused on. He looked away as another external impact caused the mountain fortress to shudder, but he started to scrutinize the wound as the prisoner was, and while it took some time, he finally did notice what had garnered Starscream’s shock. “Guards, the master has returned with an answer to the Decepticon’s titan. Get out there and assist him in any way you can. I will deal with the prisoner.”





    ---





    Ratchet





    “Yes Huffer, get six more patients in there, there should be more than enough room in that freighter, then take off.” Ratchet instructed the small predominantly orange Autobot.



    “Yes sir.” Huffer replied before setting off to direct the final loading for one of the nine remaining ships that needed to take off. Ratchet had been overseeing the evacuation for the last few hours, and so far everything had gone pretty well, which was fortunate as for the most part he was phoning this in and delegating a great deal of the work. His main focus had been, and still was, on the treatment of the Emir of The Torus Heights.



    He walked back to the now almost empty central infirmary where the vehicular form of Roller was sitting on the central slap strapped to a wide array of sensors and other equipment. “How ya doing kid?” Ratchet asked, knowing full well there would be no reply. He checked the monitors as he gently stroked the top of the dark blue six-wheeled vehicle. “You know Roller, you and I never really got to know each other very well, but I’ve heard he talked about me to you, and I can’t tell you how often he told me about you. To the point where I do know you, to the point where I am very fond of you. It hurts me to see you like this, it’s painful for me to know you may not pull through. This is tough for me…it’s agony for Orion. So pull through, but not for me, pull through for your brother. He needs you.”



    “Ratchet, come in.” Ratchet jumped at the voice, but settled and chided himself as he knew it was Ironhide’s voice coming through his wrist speaker.



    “I’m here Ironhide.”



    “We’re actually making headway against these slaggers, most of ‘em anyway.” Ironhide reported. “Can’t seem to do diddly squat against Violen Jiger. Pax and a few guys are engaging Bloodron, as always the kid’s doing better than anyone could have predicted, but he’s seriously outclassed. Anyway, continue with evacuation, can’t say we’re gonna lose, but sure as hell can’t say we’re gonna win either.”



    “Evacuation is almost complete.” Ratchet replied. “Nine transports remain, they’ll all be gone within the hour. I’ll be taking Roller in a small shuttle after the last one leaves. All craft are or will be en-route to the pre-assigned facilities for two hours after arrival, then will jump to locations no one on your end know, as discussed.”



    “Well done.” Ironhide replied. “Time ta’ git back ta’ crackin’ sparkeater skulls.”



    “Good luck old friend. Ratchet out.” The physician severed the connection and returned his focus to his patient. “We need some good news kid.” The white and red Autobot shook his head, almost ashamed of himself. “When you’re ready.” After one more check of the monitors Ratchet turned and walked over to an array of computers, clacking at several keyboards and downloading files into a portable drive he had installed earlier in the day.



    “Beep.”



    Ratchet turned and scanned the room for whatever had made the beep. “Is anyone there?”



    Nothing but silence met him for nearly a minute, before Ratchet started to turn his head back to the computer array, but before his head twisted more than a couple inches “Beep.”



    “Roller?” Ratchet was immediately at his side. “Was that you kid?”



    Several moments passed before “Beep.”



    Ratchet let out a laugh. “Thank Primus you’re as stubborn as your brother!”



    “Beep!”





    ---





    Orion Pax





    He hit the ground hard kicking up a spray of bodily fluid that was floating on the ground, the impact and the blow that preceded it causing a slight flicker to go through his optics, but he was immediately back on his feet and charging at the aswang that had swatted him away. Up ahead he watched Ultra Magnus swinging the large Star Saber, its blade awash in energy, but the swing was just too slow to catch the evading sparkeater general, who leapt back and then forward again to land a thunderous punch to Ultra Magnus’s chest, sending the heavily armored warrior skipping across the ground. Orion locked optics with the huge Bloodron, whose grin of oil-lust vanished and his face shifted to a look that was indecipherable, almost…hesitant. But that look quickly vanished to one of malice. “Stay down! Stay back, fight another!”



    Orion didn’t slow down his charge, scooping up a fallen proton emitter and opening fire on the large sparkeater. “You can’t possibly be afraid of me, Bloodron!” Orion roared as he closed the gap between he and the monster.



    “It isn’t fear!” Bloodron snarled as he swung heavily at the charging Autobot, but the young robot blurred into a duck under the massive swing and came up behind him to slam his right fist into the giant’s side. Bloodron twisted around savagely with another swing. “It is respect! I couldn’t save Premius, nor will I be able to save you, but I would rather not be the one to extinguish House Convoy! So fight another!”



    “I know of no Premius, House Convoy had no direct influence in my upbringing!” Orion roared his reply, the words interspersed with a flurry of blows to the lower body of the sparkeater.



    “Idiot!” The frustrated and angry Bloodron roared as he flung another fist at Orion Pax, but once again missing. “All that is good of your precious House Pax, of House Honorum and Magnus and Maximus and the rest; all that they have that is not self-serving arrogant posturing, they learned from House Convoy!”



    “Orion!” Magnus’s voice called out as he tossed the Star Saber toward the Autobot Commander before barreling into the equal-sized aswang, but barely forced Bloodron back a couple steps. The Autobots had done their best to quantify as much as they could regarding the sparkeaters, and the general assumption was that in addition to being huge, prior to becoming an aswang Bloodron had been a Point One Percenter, which explained his tremendous power and durability, even among aswangs. But Magnus’s impact provided enough of a distraction for Orion to catch the handle of the blade unimpeded. The intent had been to catch it and immediately parlay the catch into a swing at Bloodron’s thigh, with the swing continuing through, around, and then back into the rear of Bloodroon’s head, but at Orion’s touch the surface of the blade exploded into a tapestry of green and blue and orange flames.



    It had glowed with other wielders, specifically Delta and Ultra Magnus, but this was different, this was vastly more, and it was momentous enough to leave Bloodron stunned. “By Primus!” Bloodron exclaimed. “Not even in the hands of Solus did it burn like that!”



    Orion’s momentary surprise ended and he shot into action, bearing down on the much larger Bloodron with the flaming blade. “Magnus, clear out, I have no idea what to expect from this thing, but with flames like these, it’s not going to be surgical!” The flaming broadsword came down hard, slicing right through the fusion cannon mounted on Bloodron’s right forearm and cutting halfway through his arm before stopping. The aswang wrenched his arm back trying to yank the flaming blade from the hands of the Autobot Commander, but Orion kept his grip and was pulled back with the sword, flung eighty feet behind Bloodron as the blade dislodged from the monster’s forearm, but Orion twisted to get his legs under him and landed skidding on his feet, sword in hand and ready to re-engage.



    “Vrykol!” Bloodron roared out. “Kill the Convoy, feast on his green spark, and bring me his sword!” At the command throngs of mindless cybervores came barreling from all sides, through combatants and over the dead, dozens of the nightmares made real converging on Orion Pax’s position. Orion watched them charging at him and for a moment felt his mind scrambling to formulate a way out of his situation, but he’d spent countless hours fighting these creatures, he’d spent even more engaged in melee combat on Junk, and the most clear, undeniable course of action all of his experience had taught him in this type of situation was to let go and let his instincts guide him. His combat training would be utilized to the fullest, but it would be a nearly subconscious utilization. It was something that he hated about himself, an undeniable truth he had no choice but to accept; he was a killing machine with few if any peers, and the realization made him sick. But the unleashing of his dark, unwanted gift against sparkeaters was something that gave him no pause whatsoever.



    The first of the beasts heedlessly launched themselves at him, and were shredded to pieces in a series of movements most would have trouble seeing even without the other-worldly flames of the sword blurring it all. Several of the dismembered torsos exploded as they hit the ground, the blade cutting into their sparks and killing the beasts. Others hit the ground and shuddered, as their sparks were spared but the body parts cleaved from them did not grow back as they did when injured by other weapons. They lived on…in their way, but they no longer posed a threat to Orion as he continued slaughtering their brethren without pause. Orion didn’t see what he did as others did, and had he, he’d have not shared the reactions that it elicited in those watching this happen. A glorious, horrific, terrifying yet mesmerizing dance of mutilation and destruction. His movements were so fast, so perfect, his balance, his spatial awareness carried him over the slick, uneven and even shifting terrain without any stumbling, faltering or slowing down. So often he hesitated, so often his compassion, even empathy for enemy and possible civilians had slowed his hand, caused him pause. But here, against these monsters, he let go. No hesitation, no compassion, no pause. This blade, now nothing more than an extension of his own body, carved through those that would kill those he loved…the few that remained, as well as those whose lives were still salvageable.



    He hated that he loved this feeling, he hated that he was so comfortable destroying bodies, but regret was for later, right now he allowed himself to give into his guilty pleasure, and for nearly twenty minutes he gleefully obliterated the monsters foolish enough to come at him. But soon there was an end to what had been an endless horde, and Orion stood, covered in gore, in the center of an abattoir of his creation. He raised his optics, eager for more, but his surroundings and morality came rushing in to replace the berserker he had been, and the way those around him, friend and foe alike, were staring at him, terrified and sickened him all the more. Absolute awe from many of his Autobots and all of his Maximals, shock from most Decepticon and Unified Forces, a look of almost concern coming from Ironhide and Ultra Magnus, looks of terror from many of the others, and, most disturbing, looks of appraising respect from Megatron and Violen Jiger. The battle had momentarily stopped to watch him slaughtering the vrykol, dozens of vrykol, and for that to have happened, he must have been a truly terrifying thing to behold. His optics finally worked their way back to Bloodron, whose reaction was perhaps most perplexing of all.



    “You…” the massive aswang general sputtered, “you are not Premius reborn. You…you are something more. You are…Cybertron’s justice.” Bloodron started walking toward him, stopping forty feet away. “You are what I’ve been fearing, yet…longing for. What I knew was waiting for me.” Bloodron dropped to his knees and held out his arms. “It is time for the reckoning I’ve deserved through my atrocities for fifteen million years! For the evil I’ve done, for the good I’ve refused to do, for the lives I’ve eradicated, administer your justice!”



    “NOOOOO!!!” The roar from Violen Jiger echoed from across the battlefield.



    Orion sensed the sparkeater king battering away those around him as he made his way toward Orion and the kneeling aswang. It was a perfect opportunity to be rid of their second most dangerous enemy, but to kill a defenseless enemy, to act as the weapon in what was essentially a suicide…but ultimately, the good of Cybertron and its people outweighed his conscience by an unfathomable margin, and he drove the legendary flaming black through Bloodron’s chest, through the polluted green spark beneath, and out his back. Bloodron’s fanged mouth twisted into a smile. “Thank you, Convoy.”



    “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” The roar was closer now, but Orion barely registered the noise. He could only stare into the red optics as they suddenly went black, and a moment later the chest embedded around the flaming blade erupted. The blast sent Orion hurtling back, the power of the spark evidently had a direct correlation to its explosion, but while dazed, Orion seemed unharmed as he propped up onto his elbows and looked up from the ground to see the Star Saber still in his right hand, and the flaming wreck of Bloodron a dozen yards away. But the ground shuddered as Violen Jiger landed heavily next to the corpse, reaching down mournfully as if to touch the corpse, but stopping mid-way and twisting his head so that the central face, one displaying a look of absolute hatred, now locked onto Orion Pax. “You will suffer as no one has ever suffered before!” With that the beast leapt from his friend and onto Orion, his brutal barrage of punches raining down the moment his feet touched down.



    Everything went black for a moment, but Orion came back on to see the horrific face glaring at him repeatedly. The pain was agonizing, he heard commotion all around him but blackness soon took him more securely, but still only temporarily. He came to some time later, possibly seconds, possibly days, he did not know right away, but turning his head to follow the closest sounds of chaos, he saw Megatron, Magnus; again wielding the Star Saber, Elita in the Apex Armor, Fort Max, Shockwave, Overlord and Black Shadow all trying to overwhelm Violen Jiger ninety yards away. Orion painfully twisted his head and saw Ironhide looking down at him. “How in tha Pit are ya’ awake already?”



    “What…what…” Orion stuttered.



    “Jiger was beatin’ ya’ ta pieces,” Ironhide explained “so we charged him and I dragged ya outa there.” Orion struggled to get to his feet, Ironhide gently pushing him back to discourage the effort. “No way, Pax, you’re done.”



    “No!” Orion growled, pushing his way to a seated position and then getting to his knees. “Need to stop him!”



    “Ya should be dead!” Ironhide barked. “You’re done in this fight, we need to get you away so you can fight another day!”



    “There won’t be another day!” Orion roared as he got back to his feet, the last of the fogginess fading away. He looked over to the fight and witnessed something that scared him to his core. Violen Jiger skipped forward a few steps and swung savagely in an open-handed uppercut, a blow capable of disemboweling an eighty-foot primordial, and caught the armored Elita One in the chest. The blow caused her to cry out in pain and sent her hurtling through the air and landing heavily a hundred feet away. Orion transformed and sped to her, transforming back to robot mode and skidding to a kneeling stop next to her armored frame, noting the slash marks across the armor slowly stitching itself back together. “Elita!” Orion cradled her head, still covered in the gray with glowing blue accented helmet, in his hands as hell continued on around them. “Elta, are you alright?”



    “I…” she sputtered, her slightly amplified voice coming through the mask, “I’m fine.” She started to stir and then forced her self to a sitting, then kneeling, then standing positon, with Orion following her up at each stage. “I’m fine, I need to get back!”



    “Yes, me too.” Orion turned, but stopped as a gray armored hand gripped his arm. He turned at looked at the nearly featureless facial armor. “What?”



    “I’m not strong enough to make a difference against him, even in the armor.” She replied, the armor peeling away from her and forming a disk that she held in both of her hands in front of her.



    “You’re the strongest warrior we have!” Orion snapped in shock. “Put it back on, now! You’re exposed, they can kill you like this, and if you’re lost…”



    “It wouldn’t matter!” She belted back, thrusting the disk out toward him. “My strength magnified fivefold barely gets his attention! But yours…”



    “You tried this with Delta Magnus!” Orion snapped back. “It didn’t work, now put on the armor!”



    “He wasn’t worthy!” She once again pushed the disk toward him.



    “Neither am I!”


    The protest garnered a slight twist of Elita’s head and an annoyed but not unkind smile. “We don’t have the luxury of indulging your fucking humility anymore, Orion. I know it scares you…not the fight, not death, not pain or injury or humiliation; none of that frightens you. You fear being special. I’m sorry my love, but the one thing you fear is the most undeniable truth I’ve come across in my life. I…we…Cybertron, needs you to be who you are, and if that scares you, well, tough shit!” She thrust the disk into his chest, prompting him to grasp either side of it.



    He looked down at it, the ancient gray relic held in his hands, and he felt nothing. “See, only you…oooohhhh”, the power suddenly surged into his fingers, through his hands and up his arms, followed by the gray armor. In seconds he was completely engulfed in the material, and he felt his core extending outward into it, making the both he and the armor one entity. But unlike Elita, he noticed that what had been blue highlights glowing through the armor on Elita were green for him. He peered through the visor and saw Elita notably lower than he was used to.



    “Go kill that fucking thing!” She whispered as she jumped up, grabbed his shoulders and kissed the armor over his cheek.



    “Yes, my warrior queen.” Orion replied before whipping around and charging at the fray of leaders ahead of him. Ultra Magnus swung down hard with the Star Saber, but Jiger used amazing quickness to palm away the flat of the moderately flaming broadsword and then lay the hulking blue, red and white robot out with a cross, knocking him to the ground. Megatron and Overlord shot at him with a coordinated effort, Overlord driving into Jiger’s upper torso while Megatron shot to his legs and abdomen; neither of them accomplishing much as the sparkeater king tossed them aside, but they did capture his attention enough so that he didn’t see the thirty-foot tall hulking gray form charging at him until a right cross was already connecting with his face.



    All present who were not already fighting off other sparkeaters or their allies gasped as the sparkeater king was sent flying back and skidding across the ground. The sense of hope was short lived as the giant creature shot back to his feet immediately and started toward the armored warrior that had struck him. “I assume that’s you, Pax! The ancient weapons apparently like you! I wanted a bit more resistance to killing you than you provided before, so my thanks to Solus for providing you with these slight enhancements!” The two charged each other, hammering away with similar speed and skill, but while his strength was vastly enhanced and enough to hurt the sparkeater king, the armored Orion Pax was still not as powerful, and was soon being battered back and to the ground. Orion headbutted the larger warrior and jumped back a bit to put some distance between them and regroup, but Violen Jiger kept on him, unrelentingly hammering at the young commander.



    Others tried to intervene on Orion’s behalf, but the brawl was so savage and quickly moving that nobody was able to really get involved in a way that would benefit the Autobot. Jiger reached high and came down with a hammer strike and grunted with exertion as it impacted Pax so heavily that armor was torn away and his left shoulder was sheared completely off. “Arrrggghhh!” Orion cried out in pain, but instinctively connected his right fist with Jiger’s jaw, forcing the beast back. The armor repaired itself slowly over Orion’s armless shoulder, but nothing could be done to stop a snap-kick that impacted his chest and sent him back two dozen yards. With Orion thrown clear, other combatants charge in to buy the young armored warrior a little recovery time, but with a missing left arm most hope was fading quickly.



    As Orion climbed to his feet a large hand gently but firmly clamped down on his right shoulder, and he looked up to see Magnus smiling up at him, a bit shorter than Orion for once. “You’re doing great, Commander, but here,” Magnus kneeled and presented Orion with the hilt of the Star Saber.



    Orion nodded and gripped it, setting the smoldering blade awash with multi-colored flames again. “Thanks Magnus, but get up. We Autobots don’t abide anyone kneeling.”



    “Aye, Commander.” Magnus said with a grin. “Let’s go kill that bastard.”



    “No, once I start swinging this thing, anyone close is going to start losing parts.” Orion muttered as he charged forward with the sword in his remaining hand. All optics turned toward Orion charging with the flaming Star Saber, even the skirmishes around them seemed to pause to watch this final battle. Those who had been engaging Violen Jiger knew to back away, they’d be nothing more than obstacles to their young and unlikely champion, and the two warriors met head on.



    Flames cut through the air, and a cry of agony echoed out as the blade came down and sliced the left face off of Violen Jiger’s head, the monstrous visage hitting the ground. The monster replied with a cross that sent Pax stumbling back, but he immediately regained his bearings and charged forward once again, slicing at his enemy. There were some missed swings, some missed punches, but Orion finally thrust the blade into the side of the creature, the blade penetrating through the left portion of the creature’s abdomen and causing him to roar out in pain, but Jiger then stomped down hard on Orion’s planted right leg, tearing through the armor and then through the leg, amputating it just below the waist. Orion cried out in pain but possessed the wherewithal to wrench the blade from Violen Jiger’s torso, causing enough pain in the beast to allow Orion to hop away quickly and prepare as best he could.



    The enraged beast peered down at the wound in his side, and like with his missing face, it didn’t seem to be healing immediately the way all other wounds he’d received since becoming what he was had healed. “Time to end this, Convoy-spawn!” He leapt through the air, barreling into Orion and battering him to the ground. Orion slashed up, cutting into Jiger’s left side and causing the beast great pain, but not enough to keep Violen Jiger from planting his foot onto Orion’s armored abdomen, clamping down on the armor of his chest, where the outline of the original disk-shape could be seen, and yanking upward violently. The armor held, but Jiger continued wrenching the chest armor up, over, and over, and over until it tore, and as it came apart, the disk that held the fabled Apex Armor started to reform, but then shattered, the chunks of metal that had made it up falling down to the gore-covered ground and disappearing beneath the flowing bled fluids.



    Orion’s abdomen, now exposed, was crushed under the tremendous pressure Jiger had been exerting down on him. The monster reached down and clamped his clawed hands onto either side of Orion’s chest and hoisted him up, tearing away everything below the abdomen where his foot had been planted. Orion’s head wobbled from the excruciating pain that overwhelmed his body, his remaining right arm dangling off to the side as he was lifted up for a final taunting prior to his execution, the handle of the Star Saber teetering upon his outstretched fingers. His mind wandered, forcibly set adrift by the pain. As his consciousness faded in and out, the words of A-Three came into his head, words from an early lesson he’d been given a lifetime before. ‘You asked why you are gifted with so much that you feel you do not deserve.’ The flow of his ancient teacher’s voice was the only cohesive thing running through his head. ‘Well young one, deserve them! Don’t refuse the gifts you’re given; accept them, appreciate them, and use them to better yourself, so that in time, you can better the world!’



    “Stay with me, Convoy-spawn, I want you awake for this!” Jiger’s enraged voice cut through the darkness.



    ‘Well young one, deserve them!’ The words faded as the pain came roaring back, the light of the afternoon sun came roaring back, the central face of his soon to be killer came roaring back.



    “Good, you faded away for a moment, I was afraid I wouldn’t get to say good-bye.” The beast growled into Orion’s face.



    “Iiiii…it’s time.” Orion whispered in his weak, heavily labored voice, fluids spurting out from his metal lips.



    “Time for what, Pax?” The beast asked with a malevolent grin.



    “Time for me to me to deserve it.” Orion growled before gripping the wobbly blade handle tightly, savagely twisting and thrusting the Star Saber into the center of Violen Jiger’s massive chest. Jiger roared in pain, clamping down on Orion’s torso and crushing the portions he was gripping. The flames from the sword erupted even further as Orion channeled all the strength he had remaining and wrenched his arm upward, the blade tearing through Jiger’s chest and blasting out between the monster’s neck and left shoulder, revealing the flaming blade with a large, green polluted spark speared by it. Jiger looked at his own spark in terror, releasing his grip of Orion’s chest with one hand to desperately reach out for it. Orion pulled the blade away from the monster, he turned his head to stare at the glowing green orb impaled by the flaming broad sword, dark tendrils flowing through the outer portions of it, and he gave one final mental command that seemed to manifest with his remaining strength flowing out his arm and into the sword. “Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrggghhhhhhh!” The desperate cry caused the flame to burn impossibly brightly, and then…



    BOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!



    Blackness, silence. He’d think he was dead, but the pain, the intense, unyielding, all-encompassing agony came rushing back into what was left of his body. The noise, like the light, started forcing their way in as uninvited blobs of undecipherable sound and color. Physical blows of sound to his audio processors, and sharp stabs of light to his optics…or rather, to one optic. His right one was non-functioning. Final memories came rushing back, staring at an enormous polluted green spark detonating like a massive explosive just feet from his face. Finally images started taking shape, or rather, one image. Orion found himself staring into the scowling face of Violen Jiger and panic overwhelmed him for a moment, but the optics were black, the face unmoving; the monster…dead.



    His body was being shaken, lifted and twisted now, the face of his enemy disappearing as he was lifted and moved, and in the place of Violen Jiger’s horrible features were those of this friends and his love. He was set down, looking upon him from above he saw Ironhide, Magnus, Blaster and Elita. He tried to smile at them, but it felt like portions of his mouth had been torn away. Their faces told him the story; fear, horror, desperation. He was dying. He was dying, he felt it, and based on the reactions of his loved ones, he looked like it as well. He could hear Elita yelling at him, making demands… “By the Hand, you’re going to pull through this! You hear me Orion? You hang on!”



    “Hang on there, kid!” Ironhide grumbled as his hands frantically worked below on Orion’s torso, likely trying to push his guts back into his frame. From over Ironhide’s shoulder he saw the Mistress of Flame standing above him, looking down on Orion with…was that worry? Sadness? How had she even gotten here? He knew she had tagged along for the battled, but he’d assumed she’d have remained in the outskirts of it. Ultimately it didn’t really matter, and was definitely not what Orion wanted to devote his final thoughts to.



    Orion’s head rolled to the right…was part of his neck missing? His optic took in the area around him, and his fading spark froze as he saw sparkeaters approaching them…approaching his friends! He lifted his arm toward the approaching monsters, pointed his index finger toward them, one of only three remaining, desperately hoping his friends would see the threat and get away. He was already as good as dead, get away. Get away! Get the hell away from me! He desperately needed them to understand, he somehow managed to get his head to look back upward, and he was relieved as he saw both Magnus and the Mistress looking toward the oncoming monsters, Magnus rising from his previous kneeling position and taking a threatening posture toward the beasts. Thank Primus! Now grab the others and get away! Don’t just stand there…



    “We have company.” Magnus stated.



    Ironhide twisted his head and saw the creatures, Elita’s optics were fixed onto Orion’s lone remaining optic and wasn’t turning away for anything. Ironhide stopped working on Orion for a moment and stood as well, but instead of facing the sparkeaters, he turned back to where the bulk of their forces were. “Autobots! Maximals! Rally on your commander!”



    “NAY!” The Mistress of Flame contradicted loudly, her voice a thunderclap against Orion’s audio processors. “Cybertron! Come defend your PRIME!”



    NO! What in the Pit was she talking about? Worst of all the outlandish nonsense was immediately met with nods and signs of obvious affirmation by his friends. Orion tried to call out, tried to correct the crazy witch and his friends who were suffering from grief-induced psychosis, but his voice wouldn’t work. They needed to get the hell out of there! Why were they still here? He could hear the sparkeater approach now, the slavering of their gluttonous jaws, they’d be upon them in moments! Why were his friends not running? They were doomed. He’d come so close to saving his friends. So close, but like with his family, he'd failed to protect them. He’d failed. ‘Please, Primus, please get them out of this. I’m ready to die, I’ve served my purpose, but please protect these noble souls who’ve fought and suffered for your children.’



    Then he saw something he hadn’t been expecting. As his vision was starting to fade to black, as his systems seemed to be running their final course, he saw something large cutting through the few fluffy clouds above. A vast, metal shape, a…familiar shape. He’d seen that shape before. His lessons from years ago, Cybertron’s greatest vessel, one that carried their greatest non-Knight legends. It was impossible. It was…The Manifest.” Orion now painfully raised his hand upward and tried to point at the ship, their salvation. His face was destroyed, his body for the most part unresponsive, but he could feel himself smiling as bright lights burst forth from the ship, and around him he heard explosions. His optic shifted over his friends, all of them staring up or around them at the chaos in confusion, all save Elita, whose gaze had never left him, but whose face was now riddled with despair and panic. He saw this as blackness overtook him, the last thing he saw was her face, the last thing he heard was her terrified voice call out his name.
     
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  2. crystalarcee

    crystalarcee i exist i guess

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    this is getting so cool
     
  3. Blam320

    Blam320 Assembly Inventor

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  4. batmanprime

    batmanprime Omega-con

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  5. peteynorth

    peteynorth TFW2005 Supporter

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    Galvatron





    His finger gently pressed the data pad screen, prompting it to continue the slow scroll downward, the words conveying the details of a multitude of injuries pertaining to a single individual scrolling up at a leisurely rate where the hulking purple warrior could take it all in comfortably. “Asynchronous transfer adapter shattered beyond repairable status.” The legend’s voice lazily listed off the ailment. “Yet somehow, it repaired itself, avoiding an injury that’s often times crippling for life, even with a full replacement.” He muttered his own thoughts, these words not picked from the report. “Complete cydraulic system failure;” his red optics raised toward the other imposing robot in the Cybertropolis throne room, whose back was toward him as he gazed out the floor to ceiling window at the center of the vast capital city below, “something that if isn’t repaired or stasis lock imposed, results in death within six hours one hundred percent of the time.”



    “You can’t say that.” The other robot, the beloved Guardian Prime, responded. “The number of cases where repairs or stasis lock aren’t conducted immediately are so few, that assigning a statistic to it is irresponsible.”



    “However few, it had been a one hundred percent mortality rate beyond six hours.” The purple robot, Galvatron, Warden of the Southern Hemisphere, grumbled.



    “Until it wasn’t.” Prime replied, still not taking his optics off of the citizenry gathered outside. There’d been a gathering of citizens there, their numbers vast nearly beyond count, for almost two weeks, having started amassing there in the Primal Courtyard shortly after Guardian Prime’s return to Cybertropolis once things were settled at the Pentiathan the day after the Manifest’s return to Cybertron.



    “This isn’t stretching previous boundaries. We’re not redrawing the time limit from six hours to eight or anything like that.” Galvatron muttered as he continued looking over the data pad. “The patient wasn’t stable enough for, or even physically capable of achieving stasis lock for two days, and they didn’t even bother working on the cydraulics until a couple days after that. That injury wasn’t even high enough on the priority list of injuries for them to look at the first few days.” The comment did not get a reply, so Galvatron continued scanning the medical details quietly for a few seconds. “Seventy-two percent of all trauma buffers removed, destroyed, or damaged beyond repair.” He stated, muttering his own response to the observation a bit quieter. “Roughly, forty percent survivability rate.”



    “For Point One Percenters?” Guardian chimed in.



    Galvatron shrugged. “Fine, ninety percent.”



    “Higher.”



    “Were the trauma buggers the only injury, I wouldn’t be giving a shit.” Galvatron grumbled back. “This report is pages long. It reads like an injury report for a platoon, not one individual. Certainly not an individual that survived! Yes, on their own, and especially with a green spark, most of these injuries are survivable, but things like crushed transformation cog by itself can be touch and go, even for a lot of POP’s. But all of this accumulated damage? He was damn near eviscerated, he was awash in an as yet unidentified radiation believed to be given off by Violen Jiger’s spark explosion. And this!” Galvatron stabbed his finger into one section of the screen hard enough almost to make it crack. Guardian Prime did not turn to look, but Galvatron continued anyway. “This, perforated cosmitron! That CAN kill a bearer of an ignis superious quite easily all by itself, yet it’s just another injury on a very long list of injuries, all of which just seemed to be shrugged off fourteen days after receiving them.”



    “You seem upset that he didn’t expire.” Guardian Prime chuckled as he finally turned away from the window and took several steps into the central section of the room.



    “He had served his purpose. A heroic martyr would have been ideal, especially if there’s any truth to that Convoy nonsense. But alive…I can’t imagine him being anything but a pain in my skidplate going forward; more realistically, an ambitious obstacle.” Galvatron reasoned and continued with a snarl. “Plus, it’s just not reasonable for someone to survive all that!”



    “No, it’s not.” Prime replied with a grin as he settled into his throne. “But by all accounts, this youngster is very hard to kill. And I’ve looked into it; that Convoy nonsense…it’s not nonsense.”



    “How could you…oh, the arm I blasted off of Big Convoy?” Galvatron muttered and noted Guardian Prime’s nod. “You’re a freak for having kept that thing.”



    “It’s bears historical significance, an artifact of our war, and as there’s no Convoy birthing pool anymore, there was nothing else to really be done with it.” Prime explained. “There’s a lot more making up this one’s unique genetic structure, but the core sentio metallico is definitely Convoy.”



    “I don’t like it. I bear no more hatred for the Convoys than I do for anyone else, though Big and Lio will have earned a special bit of hatred should what the crab has to say prove true, but those two are beside the point. This Orion Pax, it’s just too…unnatural for one to have been born twelve million years after the destruction of his birthing pool. Almost as unnatural as him surviving the un-survivable. I really think that radiation may have altered him.” Galvatron replied almost as a protest. “We may be dealing with an aswang.”



    Guardian Prime peered at Galvatron questioningly for a moment before recognition came over his face. “Oh, yes, the thinking sparkeaters.” He shook his head. “No, Ratchet was quite adamant that whatever the radiation that washed over Orion Pax was, it was beyond detrimental to him. In fact, he believed that Pax’s complete lack of medical progress for so long was due in large part to this necrotic radiation.”



    “Lack of medical progress? So long?” Galvatron grumbled as he got up from his chair and tossed the tablet on a table. “It wasn’t even two full weeks! For these injuries that’s the flicker of an optic; that he didn’t die is medical progress beyond unreasonable expectations!”



    “You’re certainly an expert on the unreasonable.” Guardian Prime chuckled.



    “Careful Honorum.” Galvatron’s voice had an undercurrent of venom. “We’ve both had moments we aren’t proud of.”



    “True.” Prime replied, shifting in his throne before changing the subject. “I’ve been told you’ve seen the prisoner?”



    “Which one?”



    Prime groaned to himself before answering. “Not the shark or the crab.”



    “Ah, the gator then. Yes, I did, but it’s still alive, if that’s what you’re asking.” Galvatron replied. “I saw him for a few moments, but did not have the opportunity to interrogate him.”



    “Good, I’d rather you not question him.” Prime muttered with a slight undercurrent of relief. “I’d like to handle this matter myself.”



    “If you’d made sure the Decepticons’ titan was dead, we wouldn’t need to be bothering with this so soon.” Galvatron replied with disrespect running through his voice.



    “That thing is dead.” Prime replied.



    “We didn’t make sure of that, we made an assumption.” Galvatron snapped. “And the Decepticons would not have bothered to steal it when we left unless it was worth employing the massive resources required to steal the fucking thing.”



    “I’m telling you, it’s dead.” Guardian Prime growled, his impatience just starting to show.



    “Then why bother with this prisoner?” Galvatron questioned almost tauntingly. “We didn’t want to engage the Quintessons until we’d made further preparations. Wasn’t that the plan?”



    “The agenda we once had weeks ago is suddenly a million years old.” Guardian Prime replied without looking at his second. “Despite that, I still have many of my prior sources, and they’ve informed me that the ancients have not prospered in that time. The ease by which we plucked up one of their Alicon security chiefs should make that evident. What we’re striving to achieve would make this necessary whether this Trypticon survived or not.”



    “My Prime, he’s here.” A feminine voice cut through the speaker mounted in the center of the table that was positioned in the center of the room.



    “Excellent Bayonette, please send him in.” Prime responded as he stood and walked quickly to the table, switching off the speaker and then looking to Galvatron. “I have no idea why Sentinel hired her, but I don’t feel like interviewing for a new receptionist at this time.”



    Galvatron grinned as he slumped back into another chair. “I know why he hired her.” The comment just got out as the door to the room slid open and the shiny frame of Orion Pax walked in, his entire body either heavily repaired or completely replaced.



    The youth locked his optics onto Guardian Prime and bowed his head. “My Prime.” He then looked to Galvatron and did the same. “Lord Warden.”



    “If it isn’t Posthumous Prime.” Galvatron snidely remarked with a chuckle as Guardian Prime marched toward the newcomer.



    “Ignore Galvatron’s comment, he, and only he, thinks he’s quite clever.” Prime smiled broadly at the hero of the hour and clasped his shoulders firmly, looking down at the large and well built, but still shorter by three feet and less bulky, Pax. “By Primus it’s wonderful to finally have you in front of me! How’s the frame. You required an almost seventy percent body replacement.”



    “Ratchet did an excellent job as always, Prime.” Pax replied. “The replaced parts function perfectly, though they’re all a bit numb.”



    “It’ll take time for your CNA to rework them into fully integrated body parts, assuming there isn’t any rejection.” Prime explained, but grinned. “Though from what I understand, your medical knowledge is such that I didn’t need to tell you that.” The kid just shrugged and smiled before Prime continued his gushing. Cripes, he’s worse with this kid than he was with that cunt Sentinel right before the launch. “Yes Pax, I’ve read up on you. For two weeks I’ve learned all there is to learn about you. Your feats, your words, your victories!”



    “I highly doubt there was enough reading material of those things to fill anywhere near two weeks, your grace.” The little shit replied with a good natured smile. “I was merely a soldier trying my best to do my duty.” He then glanced over to Galvatron to share the smile before locking his optics back onto those of Prime’s. “And Lord Galvatron’s prior comment broaches a subject I’d like to discuss with you. What was said as I was dying, or injured, was said in a moment of confusion and desperation. As far as any of us knew, there was no living Prime, and those closest to me must have felt it was the best way to garner protection for me.”



    “Relax.” Guardian Prime released one shoulder and guided Pax into the center of the room by his gentle grip on the other. “Nobody did anything wrong. On the contrary, Elita One, Lord Magnus, Constable Ironhide and Blaster are all heroes of Cybertron.”



    “Glad you didn’t include the fire witch, not sure how I’d classify that one.” Galvatron muttered almost disinterestedly, gazing apathetically off to the side of the room, but then sent a sideways glance to the red upstart. “She did seem fond of you though.”



    “If that’s true, it’s a very recent development.” Orion replied. “Prior to the events of that day, she’d seemed to find me mildly interesting, but more as one would consider an anomaly they weren’t quite sure was worth the effort of further evaluation.”



    “Well the others, and many more that you fought with, are true heroes and will have the histories remember them as such.” Prime stated.



    “Thank you sir, Cybertron was blessed to have so many fighting and suffering for her.” Pax replied.



    “And you, Commander Pax?” Guardian Prime turned to him and asked. “How would Cybertron remember you?”



    The kid once again looked down and shook his head, smiling a bit. “Your grace, if Cybertron must remember me, let it be as one who did his best to serve, and nothing more.”



    Prime laughed loudly, and even Galvatron was forced to snicker at the ridiculous statement. “The slayer of the sparkeater king, wielder of the Star Saber, wearer of the Apex Armor…”



    “Destroyer of the Apex Armor.” Orion muttered with a shrug.



    “Destroyer of the Star Saber too. You killed them all.” Galvatron snarked, and laughed fully at the surprise on Orion’s face as he turned to look at him. “He doesn’t know! Haaaa!”



    Prime groaned and led Pax to a display case along the far wall of the room. They both gazed down at the handle and broken shards held within. Pax looked deeply saddened, a sight that nearly made Galvatron laugh some more. “I must apologize, your grace, this was a relic of your House and a treasure of Cybertron.”



    “By Primus, are you for real?” Prime almost scolded the youth. “These weapons were forged by Solus so that the Knights could defeat the sparkeaters. These relics, these treasures, exist solely for that purpose, and it was a purpose that the Knights failed to fully achieve. Where the Knights failed, you succeeded. You utilized this sword, and the Apex Armor, as they were meant to be used, and you accomplished what they were meant to help accomplish. I will hear no further about your regrets regarding these objects,” Prime chuckled a little before continuing, “and should you attempt to apologize to Elita One regarding the Armor, well, I would fear for your safety.” He gently squeezed Pax’s shoulder and displayed a broad, genuine smile. “Any suggestion that you did wrong, even by you, will likely be met with an assault. The Emir of Axiom is quite fond of you.”



    The kid smiled and looked out toward the window across the room. “It’s mutual.”



    “The Emir of Axiom and the outlaw leader of an outlaw commoner rights band.” Galvatron grinned sarcastically. “It sounds more like a cautionary tale than a fairy tale.”



    “Oh, I don’t know.” Prime countered. “The last Convoy, raised by House Pax, Commander of the most effective of Cybertron’s resistances…”



    “The Decepticons were more effective against the sparkeaters.” Galvatron interrupted Guardian Prime.



    “Until they weren’t. It was an Autobot that killed Bloodron and Violen Jiger.” Prime shot back.



    “He’s still an outlaw.” Galvatron raised an optic brow.



    “Is he?” Prime asked, then looked at Orion. “Seems that Galvatron is big on broaching touchy subjects today.”



    Orion stood tall and met Prime’s gaze, no fear at all in his face. “I am willing to surrender myself and stand trial for any and all charges, my Prime.”



    Prime squared up and peered down at Orion for several moments before smiling again. “And are you willing to provide a full disclosure of where you were for the fourteen years you were off world and what you were doing?”



    Orion faltered slightly, but maintained his gaze and seemed to regain his resolve. “I apologize your grace, but I swore that I would keep the secrets of my benefactors, and I honor my word.” He smiled and shrugged. “It’s just how I was raised. If there’s a charge for that, I will answer it like the others.”



    Prime maintained his stern gaze for a few moments more before displaying a slight smile. “That’s admirable, Orion Pax of Iacon, but there will be no charges. Even were you not the savior of Cybertron, there would be no charges against you.”



    “Your grace, you’re the savior of Cybertron, it was the intervention of the Manifest that saved us all.” Orion responded.



    “We mopped up some remnants that your forces would have taken care of even if we hadn’t arrived.” Prime replied.



    “Not until…”



    “Enough, Orion.” Prime interrupted. “You’re humble and grateful, we get it. But my point was that even ignoring any debt the planet owes you, I could never in good conscience pursue legal action against you for taking the stand I failed to take for seven million years.” Guardian Prime crossed the room with a sense of purpose, stopped at a table on the far side and picked up a data pad that had been resting on it. He returned to Orion and held out the pad for the red Autobot to take. “You’re right, I did more over the last two weeks than just listen to your words and view your actions. I was inspired to act on them.”



    Orion looked down at the pad in his hand. “Cybertronum Quod Aequalitas?” The youth read aloud quietly.



    “Cybertronian Equality.” Guardian Prime provided the unnecessary translation from Ancient Cybertronian. “Your words made law.”



    “My words?”



    “All sentient beings are created equal.” Prime replied. “I spent hours watching and re-watching a one year old refer to it as an intrinsic axiom.” Guardian smiled. “I can forward you a copy of the video feed if you’d like.”



    The island-born whelp’s optics were wide with skepticism for a moment before directing them down to the data pad and scrolling through it, his optics darting over it so fast that he couldn’t actually be taking it all…”One Cybertronian, one vote. Full transparency with all legal proceedings, the only exceptions being victim or informant identities when applicable or with classified government assets or information.” Orion shrugged. “Reasonable, though we’ll need to make sure these aren’t used as loopholes for situations that aren’t intended.”



    Prime smiled and nodded. “Of course.” The way he looked at Orion was…unsettling. The traces of uncertainty that were present when Galvatron witnessed a similar gaze directed at Sentinel Honorum, what was to him a couple weeks ago, but in actuality was over a million years ago, were returning. But the uncertainty caused by Sentinel was easily dismissed. With this Orion Pax of House Convoy, it was not as easy to dismiss. As much as Galvatron wanted to consider the red and blue whelp a harmless young fool, his accomplishments, his gifts, his standing in the world, these things were not so easily discounted.



    “Competent legal representation for those who otherwise could not afford it.” The kid was smiling by this point. “Government officials forbidden from accepting payment or gifts from sources outside their direct office, and any payments are to consist of official salary or pre-arranged and approved bonus…” Orion looked up with gratitude. “Prime, this is exactly what we’ve been fighting for. Frankly, this is more than we ever expected to see.”



    “Before you even think of uttering any sort of thanks, know that this is something that should have been enacted millions of years ago.” Prime held up his hand. “This is your doing, Orion Pax of Iacon, you and your fellow Autobots. Your words and actions are what inspired me to finally do what was right and necessary.”



    “Eliminating lobbyists and others that offer bribes is going to piss off every senator we’ve ever known.” Galvatron snickered as he finally stood and wandered over to the transparent doors that led to the main balcony.



    “Most of the senators we knew were killed by the Decepticons or the sparkeaters.” Prime replied, smiling at Orion Pax as the youth continued looking over the document. “And if any of the old guard do remain, they’ll fall into line quickly. That’s provided they even keep their positions after the next election. I don’t think most of them would fare well in a world where each commoner gets a vote that weighs the same as that cast by a high born.”



    “Guardian Prime,” Orion questioned, his optics still glued to the screen, “when will you be implementing this? When will this be the law of the land?”



    “Two days…ago.” Prime smiled more broadly as the shocked Orion looked up at him in disbelief. “I didn’t think you’d want me to wait for you to wake up. Frankly, until this morning the smart money was on you dying.”



    “Uhhh…of course, Prime.” Orion stammered.



    “That was a joke Pax.” Prime replied. “But yes, though having flown under the radar, what with all that has transpired recently, this has been the rule of law for almost thirty-six hours.”



    “I can never thank you enough, my Prime.” Orion stated.



    “You’d better never thank me at all, Pax.” Prime replied. “Not for this. It is I that owe you a debt, one that I will never be able to fully repay. At one time I believed in true justice, I strived for it, but after some early successes and some prosperity, I sat back and rested on my laurels. I had a mission, one that I left unfinished for millions of years, one that I chose to forget about, until I set the Manifest down on Cybertron for the first time in a million years, and as I started making my way down the gangplank, an old friend named Ironhide charged up; but not to greet me. He planted himself in front of me, looked me dead in the optics and used his most authoritative voice to TELL me that under no circumstances was I to allow the corpse he was carrying, one dripping fluid all over my legs, to die. I have rarely seen such absolute devotion, and not just Ironhide, but royals like Ultra Magnus, Fortress Maximus and even the Emir of Axiom; all of them, and many others, just seemed to brush past me, to dismiss their long lost Prime, to see to your care. And from what I understand, had he been there, the Emir of The Torus Heights would have run me down just to get to you. I barely got a ‘welcome back Prime’ out of Ratchet when he came sprinting into the infirmary a couple hours later.”



    Orion smiled and looked down. “I hope you don’t think they were being disrespectful, Prime, it’s just…we’re all very loyal to one another. Roller, Elita, Ratchet and Ironhide in particular, no living being is more important to me than them.”



    Prime nodded and smiled. “I know that now. But I must admit, I was a little taken aback by the situation, so once things had settled down, and Ratchet had arrived to work on you, I started inquiring as to who you were. I spent hours talking to Ironhide, to Ultra Magnus, but it was footage provided to me by Blaster…”



    “Ugh.” Pax groaned



    Prime laughed. “Yes, he told me you have never been comfortable being the poster boy for the Autobot cause, but that as a public relations, propaganda and recruitment tool, you had no equal. None. And he had no shortage of footage of you, which was amazing in light of the fact that not only are you so young, but that you’ve apparently spent the vast majority of your life off-world. So while Ratchet frantically wasted his time on a clearly lost cause, I studied some commoner protoform adopted by perhaps the sweetest, kindest individual I’ve ever had the honor to know…” Prime smiled sadly as Orion’s optics grew, “you have my deepest condolences for Torenia, by the way, and for Arlon as well; our world is made so much less by their passing, but…but they left us you, and for that gift, we will forever be in their debt. I read about how you solved an unsolvable case just a few days into your existence, I watched footage of you protecting my predecessor and arrest those you would later call comrades. I watched training footage, I studied your tests and evaluation reports, I watched footage of you standing up against a gang of high born, their leader a royal of my own house, in Iacon no less, to defend the lowly, fully aware of what would likely happen to you. I saw you stand without fear before the Senate, a Senate stacked against you and ready to condemn you, yet you maintained your composure, even in the face of the revelation of your origin, at least what was known of your origin at that point. You were an impressive youth. But it was your storming the Senate months after that, after you’d already become a hero in Rodion, it was then that I truly saw what you were. You defied the law to enact justice, you stated a truth to millions; a truth that had been suppressed for the entirety of our planet’s history, and though few would ever admit it, you forced these millions to accept the validity of this truth. And then you vanished.” Prime shrugged. “Most thought you dead, that Sentinel Prime had found you and had you secretly killed. Or that your Autobots, believed at that time and for many years to come to be murderous terrorists, killed you because you objected to their new, violent course of action. But whatever the suspicions, all that Cybertron truly knew was that you were gone…until you returned.” Prime shook his head. “And what a magnificent return it was! What you and your brother did that day! I mean, obviously with the pilgrimages…”



    “Pilgrimages?”



    “By the Hand’s middle finger, we all know what the boy did!” Galvatron grumbled in annoyance as he gazed out over the border of the balcony to see the expectant throngs in the Primal Courtyard. “Why are they still slagging out there? How many speeches do you need to give these needy fools before they set out to start living their lives?”



    “Cybertron’s greatest heroes have come home after a million years.” Orion explained. “The people have suffered, and right or wrong, they see you as the end of their suffering, and possibly the return of the Golden Age.”



    Prime fixed his optics on Orion, an appraising smile on his face. “They’re only here for us?”



    “Of course, my Prime.” Orion replied, a little confused. “Why else would they be assembled in the Primal Courtyard?”



    “Well, it is known that the leader of the Autobots is being treated in the infirmary here.” Prime clarified. “Perhaps that’s playing a part.”



    Orion gave a playful smile as he swept his optics over the room, clearly dismissing the implication. “The Autobots have amassed a great deal of good will, but believe me Prime, those citizens are out there for you.”



    “Maybe sending him a bill for the storage of all the stockpiles innermost energon will knock the humility out of his dumb ass.” Galvatron grumbled.



    “Innermost energon?” Orion questioned.



    “Thousands of the shitheads think it’d help you pull through.” Galvatron replied dismissively.



    “Tens of thousands,” Prime chimed in with a grin, “and perhaps it worked. Orion’s here now, talking to us, isn’t he? And there will be no storage charges. Unfortunately, this post-apocalyptic world has left us no shortage of empty buildings to find uses for.”



    Orion was a bit staggered by the overwhelming good will directed to him by the populace, but seemed to snap back. “Be that as it may, I’m still fairly certain that those people out there are there for the returning heroes of the Manifest.”



    Prime smiled and shrugged. “Maybe. I suppose I should go out and greet them.” Prime cupped the Autobot’s shoulder again and led him to the transparent double doors that led to the balcony, releasing Orion to open the doors. The throngs below immediately went silent at the opening of the doors, and let out a thunderous roar as Guardian Prime stepped out onto the balcony and into their sightline. The crowd cheered non-stop for over a minute before Prime finally raised his hands for them to quiet. It took some time, but the commotion eventually died down and the crowd silently stared up expectantly for their returned leader to address them as he had every day since coming to Cybertropolis. Prime lowered his hands and he sent a broad smile out over the crowd of thousands eagerly awaiting his words of wisdom, or encouragement, or whatever else the morons needed to hear. He opened his mouth to begin, but stopped, closed it, and raised one hand, his index finger extended, an indication that he needed a moment.



    Prime then turned and took a long step toward the open doorway, reaching in and once again grasping Orion by the upper arm. Orion’s optics grew wide and he shook his head in a negative fashion. “No, please Prime, no.”



    “You don’t understand what you are.” Prime replied with a grin before pulling him onto the balcony gently, but insistently. The annoyingly optimistic and naïve shitbag was not getting out of this. “It’s time you did.” Prime pulled Pax out onto the balcony and pushed him forward to the front of it, practically pressing him against the railing and presenting the recovered Autobot Commander to the throngs below. The masses stared up, silently. The silence continued for several long seconds, and Galvatron snickered quietly to himself. They couldn’t care less about the dork. Then…it happened. The silence stemmed from a lack of belief, not a lack of care, as an eruption of sound manifested itself as a physical blow, a blow that made the absolutely stunned Orion Pax take a small step back. Even Guardian Prime was surprised by the sheer vastness of the roar. Orion, a stunned expression etched onto his stupid face, turned to look at Guardian Prime, unsure of how to react. The unfathomable wall of sound started to take a coherent shape as ‘PAX’ was starting to be chanted. Prime just chuckled, and called out over the roar, his words barely decipherable. “Raise your hands, they’ll quiet down, and address them!”



    “Address them?” Pax questioned. “I have nothing prepared!”



    Prime laughed. “That wouldn’t be a problem for the Orion Pax I’ve come to know!” Pax seemed to groan, the dumb shit not realizing he was being tested by the ever-evaluating Guardian Prime. Despite his apparent trepidation he turned back to the throngs in the courtyard, smiled at them, and raised his hands. They instantly went silent. He paused, seemed to collect himself for a moment, and finally opened his mouth. Galvatron grinned as he knew the unprepared, overwhelmed little shit would finally come across as the idiot he was. Galvatron’s position as Cybertron’s second in command would be as secure as it ever was, allowing him to bide his time for the opportunity to fully take charge.





    ---





    Chromia





    She couldn’t put her finger on it, but her emir had been damn near floating all morning. Throughout the last week Elita had been an empty shell; she’d been doing her duty, doing it most admirably, but her mind was elsewhere. Where her mind actually was wasn’t a mystery to anyone, it was clearly thirty-seven hundred miles away in Cybertropolis, where she’d spend the entire week prior to her return at or near the bedside of the dying Autobot Commander. But her duty to Axiom had called her home, something Elita knew that Orion would insist with his dying breath, were he capable of uttering anything, that she attend to, but it was an agonizing choice for Elita One none the less. She had returned to Hyperious a shadow of herself and remained that way…until this morning, and Chromia wasn’t the only one to notice the difference. She’d even heard mumblings that gave her the impression that some of the volunteers at this combination hospital/energon kitchen had been gambling on the reason for Elita One’s more upbeat attitude, with the smallish, yellow Sideways appearing to be the one organizing it and taking the action. Someone who had been clearly involved early on in the whispered discussions, but who appeared to have ceased his involvement a couple hours ago was the diminutive Erector, who since that time had borne an odd grin himself. Chromia had considered prying into what she had thought she’d observed and disciplining those involved should her suspicions about the gambling have proven correct, but decided there was no real harm in letting them lay odds on the cause of their emir’s improved mood, and she had more than enough on her plate that needed to get done.



    Chromia smiled as the object of her thoughts entered the energon kitchen section of the re-purposed warehouse, and just like the last couple hours, she bore a broad smile and happily greeted everyone she passed. Chromia lifted the last supply crate and carried it to the store room, and upon returning she noted that Elita had made her way to the energon distribution counter to hand out rations to the masses returning to Hyperious. Chromia took her position next to her emir and handed out rations as well, playfully bumping shoulders with Elita. “Good afternoon my Emir. Fine day, isn’t it?”



    “Is it?” Elita playfully batted back. “A bit overcast outside for my tastes.”



    Chromia smiled as she offered a plate with a couple of energon shards on it to the next person in the long line, sending a glance over to Elita as she did the same. “I guess it is a bit cloudy today, so it must be something other than the weather to have broken you out of your funk.”



    Elita displayed a subdued smile as she arranged another plate to hand out. “Whatever do you mean my friend?”



    Chromia gave her a playful nudge with her elbow. “I’m afraid to vocalize what I think has lifted your spirits, mainly because it’s completely impossible.”



    “We live in wondrous times, my dear friend.” Elita smiled, prompting Chromia to put the plate she had just lifted back on to the stack of clean plates and turn squarely toward her closest friend.



    “Tell me.” Elita simply maintained her smile and continued handing out plates with energon shards on them. “My Emir…Elita,” Chromia whispered pleadingly, “please. I don’t love him the way you do, but he’s still the police officer that saved me from a fate worse than death, and led you to me. I must know.”



    Elita handed out the plate in her hand, looked down at the counter, then turned and locked her joy-filled optics onto Chromia, opening her mouth to speak when suddenly a roar of voices thundered from the medical wing and poured into the energon kitchen. Every startled head in the kitchen turned toward the hallway linking the two facilities, and a moment later Azimuth, a small, boxy silver and black native to Axiom, a robot renowned for her statistical expertise, came jogging in pointing at Sideways as soon as she saw the yellow robot. “Stop taking bets!” Her gaze shifted to Elita One’s, prompting her to give a nervous grin. “That,” she motioned toward Sideways, “has nothing to do with…anything. Especially not this.” She turned and gazed at a large viewscreen taking up most of the top half of the southern wall. “Viewscreen activate. Transmit Cybertropolis gamma channel newsfeed, rewound ninety seconds.”



    The screen came to life, showing the empty Balcony of Armistice overlooking the Primal Courtyard. Chromia looked up, curious as to what was about to be shown when she felt Elita’s hand slide into hers and give a gentle squeeze. Chromia’s optics shot to those of her leader and friend, and Elita gave her a broad toothy smile before nodding back to the screen. At that moment the crowd, one vast beyond count, that had been gathered in the courtyard in Cybertropolis roared as Guardian Prime was seen stepping out onto the balcony high above. After several moments of cheering he raised his hands, and soon everyone fell silent. He paused, was about to speak, but paused again and raised his hand and finger to request a moment from the crowd. The leader of Cybertron stepped back toward his throne room, only to reappear a moment later, but this time he was pulling someone with him. Guardian Prime stepped back as he pushed the other party forward, and a cheer to match the one that had emerged from the medical section erupted through the food bank as everyone recognized the individual standing upon the balcony.



    “How?” Chromia called out over the roar, but Elita’s response would not be able to overwhelm the almost latent cheer erupting from the televised crowd, one that would have been heard throughout the entirety of Cybertropolis and likely the surrounding suburban centers. They looked at Orion Pax, cleaner and shinier than any of them had ever seen him, turn back to Guardian Prime to seemingly question him about something, and then return his attention to the crowd, staring out at the cheering throngs, all chanting ‘PAX’ in rhythmic succession, before raising his hands. The cheers immediately ceased, and Chromia just stared up at the youth who had saved her over eighteen years before. “He had time to prepare something?”



    “I seriously doubt it.” Elita replied almost angrily, and louder than she intended, her voice having been prepared to talk over the now-ceased cheering. “I think Guardian Prime is putting him on the spot.”



    “Let him.” Erector called out. “Standing before that crowd may be my nightmare, but my Commander does more on the spot than anyone else can do with weeks of prep!”



    “Sisters and brothers!” By the Hand, that voice… “It would appear that the reports of my death were, well, frankly they were probably accurate, but those reports must not have made it to Ratchet’s audio receptors, because he just wouldn’t let me remain dead.” A light chuckle rippled through the crowd, and seemed to echo through the energon kitchen. “So here I am, somehow alive, looking over a people, composed of many distinct groups, ethnicities, religions and hailing from all over the planet; yet one. One people, one Cybertron. A Cybertron diverse, yet unified in its defense of life, of all life. Unified in the dignity and the freedom for all! For freedom IS the right of all sentient beings, and the defense of that freedom requires the dedication of not just the mighty, but of us all!” Many in the crowds watching him recognized the words of his two houses and roared their approval, and those that did not roared as well, as while they may not have been familiar with the words, they agreed with them. Orion paused for nearly a minute as the crowd cheered before finally waving them down to allow him to continue. “I am proud to be a Pax. I am proud to be a Convoy. I am proud to be an Autobot. I am proud to be a Polarun, an Iaconian, a Rodionian! I am of the north, I am of the south! I am proud of all of these things, but I am most proud to be a Cybertronian, I am most proud to be a member of a planet-wide family that faced hell, that faced extinction, that faced incalculable loss, that looked into the snarling jaws of death and declared…‘NO’!” More roars of approval from the crowds. “I did NOT kill Violen Jiger! I did NOT defeat anything! WE killed Violen Jiger! WE defeated the sparkeaters and the other monsters that came to destroy us! WE protected and defended our world! All of US! ONE Cybertron!”



    He smiled. “And when we had fought the monsters to the tipping point, some friends returned to finalize our victory.” More thunderous cheers at the mention of the Manifest’s dramatic return. “Guardian Prime and the heroes of the Manifest returned in our moment of greatest need, and fell in beside us to secure our victory and survival, not as returning legends, but as brothers and sisters reunited!” Orion grinned broadly at the roar that greeted him, and waited for those cheers to die down again. “That was two weeks ago. A lot has happened since then. While I’ve been peacefully napping, our world has been in the midst of a rebuilding. I came online this morning to find our world full of hope. I came to find our government well into the final stages of being functional. And moments ago, I was made aware that two days ago, a series of laws had been passed, a series of laws called the Cybertronum Quod Aequalitas. I’ve only had a chance to briefly skim them, but from what I have read, it’s everything so many of us have hoped and suffered for. Full legal, electoral and social equality for all Cybertronians.” A roar erupted again, but Orion waved it down quickly. “This is magnificent news, but there are those for whom this will be a difficult adjustment. I count many of these individuals as dear friends, few,” Orion looked down sadly, “few I count as family.” His head raised and he re-engaged his gaze over the crowd. “But to those who view this change as frightening, as the taking away of power and privilege, I can only say that this is just, that this is fair and necessary, and that in time you will all recognize this to be…” he smiled sheepishly, “an intrinsic axiom.” More cheers erupted from the crowd below, which Orion allowed for nearly a minute before once again waving them down. “But however these changes may impact your life, remember, we are all in this together. We are all one people, and we have a lot more to accomplish. Our work is far from done.”



    More cheering roared up from below, and Orion let it continue on for some time before continuing as it abated on its own. “Like with our work, the challenges before us are by no means done. The quest for safety and security is unfortunately far from finished.” A low rumble came from the crowd. “We are one Cybertron, but there are those that stand outside us; that stand against us. Those that called us ally, who called us guest, all as they aligned their blade to plunge into our back. I speak of course, of Megatron and his Decepticons.” A chorus of anger and outrage lifted up from the courtyard below. “Megatron! Hear me now!” Orion snarled. “You sought to destroy us, you nearly succeeded! But we persisted, we survived, and we saved you from your own evil and short-sighted stupidity!” The crowd roared once again, and Orion didn’t wait for their voices to die down before continuing. “If ANY honor, ANY gratitude, ANY sense of decency resides in your absurdly enhanced frame, then come now, turn yourself in, and meet fair and true justice. I swear to you, you will be treated more honorably and justly than you treated the invited guests of the Grand Convocation!” An even harder look came over Orion’s face. “And if you do not come to justice, then I swear this as well, justice will come to you!” With that the young Autobot Commander turned and walked back inside as a roar that equaled the one to first greet him erupted again at his final words and departure.



    Everyone in the energon kitchen continued watching for three more minutes before Elita called out. “Viewscreen, turn off.” With that the huge screen went black, and all optics turned to her. “I’m certain that was all.”



    “THAT’S my commander!” Erector proudly roared, pounding his fist down on the table he was stationed at, the table where used trays were returned to be washed and reused. He looked to Elita with a broad grin, one which she returned. Erector chuckled. “I got a mass communique from Jazz an hour and a half ago saying he was alive, but to keep it to ourselves. Obviously you got word prior to that.”



    Elita chuckled. “Yes, I got a call from Ratchet this morning, I was terrified when I saw who it was, terrified to the point where I refused to answer it for nearly a minute, and terrified further when his voice came through asking if I was sitting. But there was…well, the somber voice Ratchet had possessed every day for the last two weeks was different, and then I heard a glorious voice, the one we just listened to, demand to speak directly to me, and Ratchet said I needed to brace myself, and they bickered like protoforms and I wept for joy at the sound of that bickering, a symphony of immaturity and friendship and love that I’d convinced myself I would never hear again. The bickering ended, Ratchet relented with a laugh and I spoke to Orion.” She looked down, grinning broadly at the memory.



    “What’d he say?” A citizen called out.



    The question prompted Elita One to laugh. “That…is between Commander Orion Pax of Iacon and myself.” She smiled at the crowd.



    “Elita One, my emir!” Erector called out. “If I may…”



    “Honorable Erector,” Elita One replied, “you who have served Axiom, you who have served House Solus, you who have served the Autobots, you who have served Cybertron, you…you who have served my beloved with absolute loyalty. You may ask anything of me.” Elita looked down and smiled lightly as a thought seemed to tickle at her. “Though I will ask a price of you, whatever your request may be.”



    “A price, my emir?” Erector asked quizzically.



    “Many years ago I made a request of you, a request that you talked me out of.” Elita answered. “At the time you were right. But thanks to you and your comrades, our world is not the same as it once was, and so I come to you once again with this request.”



    “And I will regard your request, and performing it, as the greatest honor of my life.” Erector replied.



    “And what is it that I can do for you?” Elita questioned.



    “Not for me, my emir, but for Axiom.” Erector stated. “The rebuilding of our emirate with take a great deal of time, require a great deal of resources, and will necessitate the forging of strong relationships with other emirates.”



    “All that is true.” Elita followed.



    “With that in mind, I would suggest a series of state visits.” Erector continued. “In time you will be able to send representatives for such meetings, but initially, I feel Axiom is best served if the One establishes such friendships in person. At least, I believe we should follow this course for the first such meeting and base future endeavors off of the success of that.”



    A knowing smile stretched over Elita’s face. “And which emirate, my friend, do you feel that the first such diplomatic visit should be to?”



    “Ironically, despite being from where the sparkeaters emerged as well as the condition of their emir, The Torus Heights seems to be one of the more stable emirates, and has ample resources ideal for construction.” Erector replied. “They’re wealthy in the strongest ores, dense stones and so on. And Axiom has always had very strong relations with The Torus Heights, I think it’s important that we remind them of our friendship.”



    “Old friend, I see what you’re doing.” Elita One smiled gratefully. “And I truly appreciate it. But I do not need, nor am I deserving of some rendezvous with…someone special. Not when there’s so much left to do here. I agree that diplomatic visits would be quite beneficial, but the One belongs in Axiom at this time.”



    “I think that such a display, our emir traveling on a mission of goodwill, would be highly valued and worthwhile.” Erector countered respectfully.



    “Elita One,” Chromia said gently, waiting for her friend to look her in the optics before continuing, “we can handle things here without you for a few days. And if anything comes up, I know your number.”



    Elita smiled, and was about to reply when Erector spoke first. “My emir, IF I were to see this visit as a gift to someone deserving some sort of…respite from reality, it would not have been conceived of with you in mind. At least, not with you as the primary recipient.” The tiny Autobot lowered his gaze. “His suffering does not make him unique; in this world, it does not make him atypical in any way. But as much as every one of us, you in particular, went far and above what could ever be expected of anyone, it was he that carried us all.” He lifted his optics and locked onto Elita’s. “He carried us out of the Pit, away from extinction, and lost almost everything doing so. If this visit brings you joy, well, that warms my spark, but IF I had any motivation beyond the good of Axiom in suggesting this, it would be for my commander.”



    Elita One held Erector’s gaze for a minute before finally replying. “Well, my friend, who am I to deny anything to the Commander of the Autobots? Especially as I’ll be bearing their brand within the hour.”



    “Within the hour?” Erector asked, a bit surprised.



    “Diplomacy with The Torus Heights is of the utmost importance.” Elita replied, suppressing a grin. “It mustn’t be delayed. And if I happen to run into your commander there, well, I think it fitting that my show of support be there for him to see.”



    “Of course, my emir.” Erector smiled.





    ---





    Ratbat





    It had been several years, but he still was unaccustomed to this detestable little body. Yes, the ability to fly was beyond pleasant and convenient, but he was all but useless on the ground, and looking like a sub-cybertronian beast was infuriating, especially as he was lumped in with Soundwave’s other pets by most Decepticons. But it was temporary, he just needed to bide his time and eventually he would find a way back to a body like his original one and a position of respect and authority as well. He still couldn’t comprehend how his CNA had been altered to the point where it accepted such a drastic form and function change, but if Megatron could enlist those capable of such medical miracles, Rabattus Decimus would be able to as well at some point.



    “Hey Ratbat!”



    The revised name was almost as infuriating and degrading as the new body. The flying rodent turned and glared at the little blue robot, still not really sure whether it was Rumble or Frenzy, and not interested enough to bother with learning. “What do you want?”



    “Ya’ may wanna look sharp.” The little blue shit disrespectfully shot out at him. “Soundwave’s coming, and according to the rumor mill, Megs ain’t far behind ‘im.”



    “They can threaten me, insult me, belittle me, beat me even…” Ratbat snarled, “but it won’t make me any more able to achieve the impossible!” With a wing he waved toward the prostrate and inert mountain of a frame that was Trypticon. “The physical and energy resources required to not only keep Trypticon alive, but to rebuild him to what he was prior to that fucking worm tearing him apart is simply impossible to acquire and maintain! And Megatron pointing his fusion cannon at me isn’t going to change that fact!”



    “You will have the opportunity to tell him that yourself.” Soundwave’s harmonic voice cut through the brisk air as the large blue Decepticon rounded the corner. “Frenzy, quit taunting Ratbat and return to your assigned task.”



    “You got it boss.” The blue one, Frenzy, replied before running off.



    Soundwave stopped and looked up at the perched Ratbat. “I recognize that the acquisition of all that’s needed for your project is difficult, but it is achievable. I suggest accomplishing your task, otherwise I won’t be able to protect you from Megatron for much longer.”



    “Protect me from Megatron?” The bat snarled. “You served me up to him! You allowed him to mutilate me! You made me a slave, the equal of your other beasts!”



    “Negative!” Soundwave heatedly, or as heatedly as Soundwave got, shot back. “You are NOT the equal of Ravage, or Lazerbeak, or Buzzsaw! They are upstanding, honored Decepticons, worthy of the respect given to any of us. You, however, are beneath contempt. You exist solely because it amuses Megatron to allow you to exist, and because you can be resourceful. Once you stop being useful to us, then I doubt my protection or Megatron’s amusement will be enough to keep you alive.”



    Ratbat displayed a scowl across his already hideous face. “I’m aware of what’s thought of and expected of me, but this time, this time there’s just not enough energon. There’s just not enough metallico and compliant metals, at least not enough around for us not to be detected and tracked! So save your threats, especially those disguised as concerned advice, because I cannot achieve the impossible!”



    “Perhaps your task won’t be impossible for much longer.” The voice, one that sent a chill down Ratbat’s shortened spinal column, came from around the same corner Soundwave had emerged from a moment before, and Ratbat turned to see the hulking chrome form of Megatron approaching. “We may, just may, have gotten a hint of a new energy source. Energon, but more than just energon. Something significantly more powerful.”



    “Energon is already the ideal mix of potency and stability. It’s regarded universally as the pinnacle of energy sources.” Ratbat protested. “Anything more powerful would be dangerous.”



    “Pinnacles are only pinnacles until something better is discovered.” Megatron replied. “And I would think you should be praying that this possibility turns out to be true and accessible, as it’ll likely be the only thing that can provide you success in what you’ve been charged with doing.”



    “Mighty Megatron, I will turn every rock to find the resources needed to restore your titan,” Ratbat started, “I currently have teams out scouring southern Cybertron, but you need to have more realistic expectations. What you’ve charged me with accomplishing…”



    “Utter the words impossible or unfair, and I’ll yank your head from your body.” Megatron warned, then turned to Soundwave. “Are the preparations made for this evening’s visit?”



    “They are, Lord Megatron, but I can’t help but sense this is a trap, or some sort of trick.” Soundwave replied.



    “That’s likely, but we’ll take any necessary precautions. And if it is on the level,” Megatron smiled, “this could change everything.”





    ---





    Sideswipe





    He just wanted to get back to Iacon. Cybertropolis was…well, it wasn’t as bad as people in Iacon liked to make it seem, but it was still a pale imitation of Cybertron’s greatest city, a half-assed fabrication of a capital city that was a bone thrown to southerners after the last great war in that Iacon wasn’t made the capital city of Cybertron, but the new capital was well within the borders of Nova Cronum to let everyone know the Honorums and other northern houses ran the show. It was constructed to be what it was, a vast metropolis because it was designed to be a vast metropolis. Iacon, Kaon, Petrex, Harmonex, The Hydrax Plateau and other large cities started out as small villages and grew over the eons, causing lots of uprooting, adjusting, expansion…growing pains. And it was those growing pains that contributed a great deal to the individual character each of those cities possessed. Cybertropolis had no growing pains, it went from non-existence to essentially what it was today, and therefore, at least as far as Sideswipe was concerned, it lacked character. But despite this, Sideswipe could find things he liked about the planetary capital, he just had a lot more to like back home in Iacon, even the shitty parts that he and Sunstreaker liked to frequent.



    His brother felt similarly, only Sunstreaker was far more denigrating of Cybertropolis. But despite his apparent hatred of the capital, he did seem to find something he liked. Sideswipe watched as the polished yellow Sunstreaker presented his most beautiful and disarming smile to the femme, who to her credit, seemed completely disinterested in anything about Sunstreaker apart from the official business that compelled her to deal with him. Sideswipe looked beyond them at the vast onyx wall behind the line of desks housing dozens of government officials taking names and information to be etched onto the wall at a later date, one of these desks currently occupied by the fairly attractive white and pink femme dealing with Sunstreaker. “Are you done yet?” She growled in annoyance. This Clipper had been a good sport, but after nearly an hour and a half of Sunstreaker’s persistent bullshit, she was finally reaching her limit.



    Unfortunately for her, Sunstreaker had no limit for tormenting femmes, especially those few that showed no interest in him. “No Clips…”



    “That’s Clipper and you know it!” She snarled.



    “Right, Clipper, as in one who clips masculine…”



    “Shut the hell up, Streak.” Sideswipe interrupted. “This is her job, she’s been very helpful, we’ve fed her thousands of names, all while you’ve been hitting on her, taunting her, teasing her and everything else, and she’s been a good sport the entire time. This is supposed to be a somber fucking endeavor, so show some respect to your fallen comrades, show some respect to Clipper here, and just list the remaining names so we all can move on.”



    Sunstreaker stood up and squared up across from Sideswipe, displaying a look of anger that Sideswipe hadn’t seen in over two weeks, not since the days they knew they were living on borrowed time, just waiting to be made a meal by the sparkeaters’ superior forces. The red sibling knew it was entirely possible that they would be brawling in moments, but then Sunstreaker cracked a smile and raised the tablet that had been in his hand and continued reading off. “Zaam, with two A’s, of Cesium Bay, Zagnut of Hopron Hollow, Zaxon of Ia…what?” Sunstreaker looked up at Sideswipe. “Zaxon kicked?”



    “Yeah, heard he was assigned to the western Decagon contingent.” Sideswipe sadly reported. “Found what was left of them last week. Estimates are that they were killed about three months ago.”



    “Slag.” Sunstreaker muttered. “Can’t say I liked Zaxon, but never wanted him dead.”



    “That’s high praise coming from you.” Sideswipe joked, getting a look of disdain from his brother before Sunstreaker turned back to face the seated Clipper. “Zaxon of Iacon, Zazz, two Z’s at the end, of Ultimore, Zazz, same spelling, of Polarus…hmmm, wonder if the Commander knew him, Zazzor, same thing with an O R at the end, of Petrex, Zazzorius Major of…ha, there’s no way he didn’t give himself that slaggin’ name!”



    “Please continue!” Clipper growled, her patience nearing its end.



    Sideswipe chuckled as Sunstreaker provided the hometown of Zazzorius Major and continued on down the remainder of the list. The red Autobot turned and gazed over the crowded park, filled with those primarily there to provide the names of their dead, anyone killed by sparkeaters were to be honored on the wall behind them, as well as those murdered by the Decepticons at the Grand Convocation. Sideswipe, Sunstreaker and thirty other Autobot warriors had been ordered to serve as guards to the dying Orion Pax in Cybertropolis, which seemed apt as they were the first Autobots to ever protect Orion in any way. Yeah, Inferno and Roadbuster served as Pax guards, but they didn’t become Autobots until long after Sideswipe had shot out Megatron’s legs to keep him from killing Orion, and it’s not like Orion ever ran into trouble in Polarus back then…though there were rumors of some sort of bar fight. Anyway, the brothers had been in Cybertropolis for two weeks now, and with the revelation that Orion had miraculously survived, and, equally miraculously was up and about and seemingly perfectly healthy, his need for guard detail was likely gone. Pax and Ratchet had contacted Jazz that morning, before the big show on the balcony over the Primal Courtyard, to let the Autobots know he was alive and awake, and word had spread, but with it the expectation that the Autobots keep it to themselves for security purposes. Of course, Guardian Prime wasn’t aware and likely wouldn’t have cared about the Autobot desire for discretion, especially as he wanted to give the public a treat, so…yeah, Pax out of the bag.



    A quick sweep of the area reminded Sideswipe that not every new bit of construction in Guardian Park was related to the Wall of Remembrance, there was also the new statue at the center of the park that Grapple and Hoist had been commissioned to build, one not yet completed, but definitely far enough along so that the subject matter was easily recognizable; not just who it was, but also the historic moment and significant act it represented. Sideswipe chuckled at realizing how much the subject of the statue would hate it, as well as at the sight of the creators bickering undoubtedly over the same damn thing they’d been bickering over hours before when Sideswipe and Sunstreaker had first arrived. The siblings had been released from guarding Pax, but assigned to delivering the names of the Autobot fallen for inclusion on the Wall. He and Sunstreaker had chatted with their fellow Autobots for a bit, and over the course of that discussion it was revealed that, among other things, the two architectural geniuses were of separate minds in regards to how many fingers should be carved into the statue. Hoist was of the opinion that they should stick to the factually and historically accurate five fingers of the right hand gripping the handle of the blade impaling the grotesque, polluted spark. Grapple, a bot with a bit more artistic flair, felt that while not historically accurate, having three fingers better conveyed the sacrifice and suffering of the subject; that he lost the two fingers that he lost as a result of the detonation of the spark that occurred moments after the representation was something for the historical data tracks, the statue they were creating was art and for cultural pride. One of the few things they agreed on, that all four of them agreed on, was that Orion would not be happy about having his own statue. But Guardian Prime wanted it, and frankly, so did every Autobot other than the commander.



    As these thoughts rolled through his head, Sideswipe noticed a bystander looking at the statue and shaking his head, seemingly disapproving. Sideswipe laughed out loud as he instantly recognized the form even though the bystander’s back was to him, and started walking toward him; Clipper would have to be on her own with Sunstreaker for a bit. Sideswipe just hoped that he reached the large observer before the guy was recognized. “Definitely not their best work, they carved the face of this statue to be so much better looking than the guy’s real face.”



    Orion Pax turned his head and smiled at Sideswipe. “I understand you and your brother were protecting me while I was dead.”



    “Two of many that bore that honor, Commander.” Sideswipe replied. “And comatose was the word we were given, though to be honest, you looked pretty dead.”



    The large red and blue leader smiled at the comment and casually turned his head back to the statue being constructed. “Is there any chance I can command those two to scrap this atrocity?” Pax muttered, knowing the answer already.



    “Well, they were commissioned to do this by Cyberton’s Prime, a Prime that’s not trying to kill you and arrest us…yet anyway, and a Prime chosen by the Matrix, so there’s your first problem.” Sideswipe mused. “And there’s also the fact that while you were napping we kind of decommissioned the Autobot military, so there’s the problem of your authority being…undefined. And then there’s the fact that Prime passed the Aequalitas a couple days ago. That’s a series of laws…”



    “I’ve read it.” Pax interrupted.



    “Oh, right, yeah, forgot you mentioned it in your rambling ass speech. Well then, you should know that with that in place, there’s not much cause left for the Autobots as a force of civil disobedience anymore.” Sideswipe explained. “And then there’s the fact that everyone, including those two dipshits up there bickering about how many fingers to give you, genuinely believes you deserve to have a statue. Pretty much the entire planet feels that way except you.”



    “We all deserve statues.” Orion muttered then looked at Sideswipe roll his optics at the comment. “I am a cheese-rod, aren’t I?”



    “Yes sir, I’m afraid you are.” Sideswipe chuckled. “So you here to lament the efforts of Grapple and Hoist?”



    “No, I have names to add to the Wall.” Orion replied. “I had no idea that thing was…a thing until I got here.”



    “Commander, Streaker and I are providing the names of the Autobot fallen.” Sideswipe stated. “We’re actually almost done. I think you’re free to do what you want, which I’m guessing is a trip to either Polarus or Hyperious.”



    “Jazz let me know you two would be handling the addition of our fallen.” Pax smiled and gently squeezed Sideswipe’s shoulder, raising a data pad for the smaller red Autobot to see. “And I thank you for that. I’m here for the fallen of House Pax.”



    “Oh.” Sideswipe’s optics grew wide. “Of course.”



    “I spoke with Olnius this morning, offered to do it as I’m already here in Cybertropolis and they…they have their hands full.” Orion sadly trailed off.



    “Well come on.” Sideswipe cupped Orion’s arm and led him back to where Sunstreaker was chatting with the uninterested Clipper. “Shithead should be done by now. I just hope we can get you through this without anyone recognizing you.”



    “Everyone has their own things to do, nobody is going to notice me.” Orion said, though even he wasn’t convinced and kept his head down as they walked toward Clipper’s desk. “So this decommissioning of the Autobot military, Guardian Prime mentioned that, but said it was more lip-service than anything.”



    “Kind of.” Sideswipe replied. “As you well know, we were always fairly loosely knit, initially because we were unarmed outlaws being hunted by the authorities, then with the rise of the sparkeaters we became an armed military force, but we were still small guerilla groups for the most part due to us being physically out-classed by the cybervores. So in a sense, that hasn’t changed much, we’re still armed, the training you and the other commanders provided hasn’t been forgotten, though for Streak and I most of it was just rehashing stuff we learned as a protoforms, and we’re still ready to go at a moment’s notice, which is good as Prime hasn’t set up a standing government force yet and has mentioned he may need to lean on us for a bit, but we’re considered more a militia than actual military.” The red Autobot shrugged. “So basically just semantics.”



    “Good.” Orion muttered as they finally drew near Sunstreaker. “Prime had a request, and I think I may have to call some of you to active service.”



    “Streaker and I are always up for a good scrap.” Sideswipe grinned, then called to his brother as they got there. “You done yet?”



    “Zumatta of the Crystal City, and Zuzzetta, two Z’s in the middle, of the Corrat Penninsula.” Sunstreaker paused, scrolled the data pad up and down a little, and then shrugged. “That’s it. Guess we’re done here.” The yellow Autobot leaned forward giving Clipper, who was still busy entering the data into her system and making arrangements for the etchings to honor them, a broad, saucy grin. “Hey Clips, let’s say you and me go get a libation or five somewhere.”



    “Twenty-three vorns serving as Governor Riker’s most trusted advisor, nine hundred twenty seven commendations for exceptional service, and now I’m reduced to dealing with arrogant assholes all day.” Clipper grumbled as she continued clacking away.



    Sunstreaker chuckled and turned his head to look at his brother, catching sight of Orion, which prompted him to jump up off the table he was leaning against and stand at attention. “Sir!” He gave a rare sincere smile. “Great to see you up and about again.”



    “Hey Clipper, I’ve got a friend here who has some names to add to the Wall.” Sideswipe said to the seated femme still finishing the arrangements for the Autobot dead.



    “Shouldn’t be a problem.” Clipper replied, her optics still on the screen in front of her. “Just give me a minute to complete the inclusion of the Autobot fallen.”



    “They’re members of a royal house.” Orion stated.



    “Oh, then it shouldn’t be a problem provided you’re a member of that house or an official representative.” She shot back while typing.



    “Well, I have never been made a member officially.” Orion explained.



    “And you hold no position with them?” She asked, optics still on her screen as she finished up.



    “No.”



    “I’m sorry then,” Clipper answered, still not looking up, “but for high houses, it’s been established that only enrolled members or official representatives can add, remove or amend names for the Wall.”



    “You’re telling me you cannot make an exception for our friend?” Sunstreaker asked.



    “I have the authority to, but I won’t be doing it.” She replied, still focused on entering details for the Autobot dead. “Too much potential blow-back should there be any problem that comes of it. So, sorry.”



    Sideswipe smiled and leaned forward, closer to Clipper. “We understand, but please at least show our friend the courtesy of looking him in the optic before telling him he’s shit out of luck.”



    “Sideswipe…” Orion grumbled in a hushed tone.



    Clipper stopped typing and twisted her head almost violently toward Sideswipe, giving him a glare before turning to Orion. “Look, I’m sorr…” recognition immediately crossed over her face, followed by dread, then remorse, “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry, my lord. Of…of course I can help you.” She stood up and turned to face the newcomer as she gazed at Orion’s suddenly nervous face. Her face momentarily seemed to be overwhelmed by emotion. “Thank you,” she whispered, then continued more loudly. “Thank you my lord.”



    “I’m no lord.” Orion attempted to clarify, terrified that she would draw unwanted attention to them. Her body started to lower, and Orion’s hand reached out to try and convince her to stop. “NO, please don’t!” He quietly stressed, to no avail as she fell to her knees and lowered her head to him. “Shit.” He whispered.



    It was a couple of her coworkers that noticed the scene first, then those that were providing names of their fallen to them, then the crowds walking around the park, those observing the construction of the wall, and soon nearly everyone was staring at Orion and the femme kneeling before him, and moments after that, many started falling to their knees as well.



    “HEY!” Sunstreaker roared out as he took a step toward the Autobot Commander, then pointed to the face of the Common Man, the Autobrand, etched into Orion’s left shoulder. “Off your slaggin’ knees!”



    “You want to honor Orion Pax?” Sideswipe called out. “Stand with him and raise your heads as his equal, as he fought and suffered for all of us to have the right to do!”



    “Guys,” Orion whispered, “this was your cause long before it was mine.” Despite his quiet objection, the calls to the people by the brothers were heard and obeyed as everyone rose back to their feet, but awe-fill optics were still locked onto Orion.



    “Maybe you should give Clipper those names.” Sideswipe suggested, himself starting to feel a bit unnerved by the attention directed toward them.



    “Right.” Orion said before turning and looking to Clipper, who nodded and sat back down at her terminal. “Uh, this is for both those killed by sparkeaters and those killed in the Grand Convocation, right?”



    “Everyone except Decepticons killed in the Grand Convocation.” She answered.



    “Wait, ‘Cons killed by sparkeaters can be honored here?” Sunstreaker snarled the question.



    “It was a hot topic, but was decided that they suffered under the sparkeaters, a suffering that they were not the cause of.” Clipper replied. “What are your names, my l…”



    “Commander Pax.” Sideswipe provided the correct title to address Orion by. “He’s more than earned that one, and don’t let him tell you otherwise.”



    “Of course.” She smiled at Sideswipe, then turned back to Orion. “I’m ready when you are, Commander Pax.”



    Orion nodded and raised his list. “I do not believe these are in any particular order, hopefully that won’t be a problem.”



    “No Commander, it’s fine.” She smiled.



    Orion paused sadly. “Parcher of House Pax. Arudis of House Pax. Loronus of House Pax.” Another pause before “Stronghold of House Pax. Gantor of House Pax. Martrax of House Pax.” Orion suddenly froze, his optics locked onto the screen of the data pad.



    Sideswipe craned his neck to look at the pad, his optics widened and he gently took the pad from Orion with one hand and gently squeezing the large Autobot Commander’s upper arm with the other. Sideswipe then leaned down toward Clipper and quietly spoke for his Commander. “Torenia, of House Pax.” Clipper was about to type, but her hand reached up to her mouth and her optics shot to Orion sorrowfully.



    “We have all lost those we love, my lady.” Orion replied sadly. “It is why we’re all here.”



    “Yes.” Clipper composed herself. “Of course, please forgive my lack of profe…”



    “There’s nothing to forgive, my lady.” Orion smiled.



    “Hey Pax,” Sideswipe muttered, “with your permission, I can go through the rest of House Pax’s fallen with Clipper.”



    “Let him, Pax.” Sunstreaker added as he placed his hand on Orion’s shoulder, a rare show of compassion from the likely sociopath. “While he finishes up your list, I can point out the benefits of utilizing a disguise when you don’t want to be noticed. I may not have saved the world, but looking like I do, I frequently attract attention, and there are just times I just don’t want to be noticed.” Sideswipe smiled at Clipper as he continued reading off the names of House Pax, the twenty-four that remained, recognizing all but three, which was a bit confusing as while by no means an expert on the members of high houses, he had thought that he was more familiar with the members of House Pax than he evidently was. He did smile slightly at seeing Roller’s name absent from the list. He knew the emir had been severely wounded, likely crippled for life, he knew the prognosis had not been good for how long that life would likely be, but the absence of his name from this list meant that the tough little royal was still hanging on, and Orion needed that. Sideswipe finished the list after a few minutes, thanked Clipper and turned around to hear the last of Sunstreaker’s discussion with Pax as Swipe handed the data pad back to his Commander. “So while you can get pretty elaborate with the disguises, it’s usually unnecessary to go to that much effort. Like with most things in life, it’s best to go with the old KISS acronym, Keep It Simple, Stupid.”



    “Got it.” Orion replied, nodding to Sideswipe as he took the tablet back. “Thank you both for your help with this.” He then turned to look at the crowd around him, all still staring at him, but there was a slight commotion as a pair of robots were pushing their way through to get to the Autobots. A moment later Grapple and Hoist emerged through the crowd, a smile from Grapple and a nod from the face-plated Hoist to greet their leader.



    “Commander Pax, it’s great to see you up and about again.” Hoist said jovially. “Have you had a chance to look at your statue?”



    Orion seemed to deflate as he nodded. “Yes, it’s…well, it’s something.”



    “Sir, if we may trouble you for your opinion,” Grapple said, “what do you think would be better? Five fingers or three?”



    Sideswipe chuckled as he heard Orion unsuccessfully attempt to stifle his own groan of annoyance.





    ---





    Cyclonus





    The sun was burning off into the western sky, probably directly over the eastern portion of Nyon about now, it’d still provide light to west-central Polyhex for a few hours more, but the shadows were already getting long. They were just entering the outskirts of Kaon now, the shuttle he was piloting was a top of the line combat craft, but should things go poorly, it would serve as little more than a coffin. Granted, it was unnecessary for he and Scourge, and even Galvatron was a competent flier in his robot mode, but a craft like this against potentially hundreds of flying Decepticons wouldn’t last a minute, and even outside of it, their chances weren’t good. But Galvatron claimed to be confident in this course of action, and Cyclonus had never been one to question Galvatron. “Lord Galvatron, we will be arriving at Castle Macht in a few minutes.”



    “Good, my old friend.” Galvatron replied as he looked out over the landscape of his former home. It had been over a million years since any of them had been here, a relatively tranquil million years…apart from the last four that is. But those last four had left the formerly bustling metropolis a ghost town. Some had returned, but the south, especially Polyhex, was generally regarded as Decepticon territory. As Cyclonus caught sight of the Castle Macht landing pad surrounded by heavily armed soldiers, he was forced to accept that in this case, the stereotype proved valid. “It’s all a show. Just set down in the midst of those posturing fools.” Cyclonus nodded and directed the craft toward the center of the landing pad. The Decepticons surrounding the ship maintained their positions, and moments later the three Cybertronians were walking toward the door to exit the craft. Galvatron stopped and turned to his two most trusted lieutenants before exiting. “What is about to happen is to remain between us. I have never fully submitted to Gallus Honorum and his northern forces, but he’s been smart to limit any possibilities for any sort of successful revolt. These Decepticons may represent a means to our shared ends, but as I’m sure you’re aware, absolute discretion is essential. This is just an initial meeting, a feeling out of this Megatron, treat it as such and tell no one of any of this.”



    “Of course Lord Galvatron.” Scourge declared, his assurance accompanied by a resolute nod from Cyclonus. With that Galvatron turned back around and marched out the door and down the gangplank, where approaching from the outskirts of the circle of Decepticons came the sturdy blue form of the one their intelligence files identified as Soundwave, a member of House Torrent that had betrayed his house, his station and all of Cybertron to serve as the rebellious gladiator Megatron’s most trusted advisor.



    “Welcome to Castle Macht, Galvatron.” Soundwave’s harmonic voice addressed. “Megatron awaits you and your lieutenants in the main hall. Allow me to lead you.”



    “No need,” Galvatron grumbled as he marched past Soundwave, “I know where it’s at. You forget that this is my home, Fluctus-spawn. You and your Decepticons are the intruders here, you should be looking to me to be welcomed.” The trio of ancient warriors made their way across the landing pad, not waiting for Soundwave to respond and indifferent to the Decepticons that had surrounded them, who were now following after them as the three strode beyond the ring they made, and finally entered the vast structure that had been the seat of Polyhexian power until the uprising of the Decepticons four years before. Due to the size of the enormous castle, it was several minutes before Galvatron finally pushed through the double doors and entered the main dining hall, where the chrome rebel leader stood on the far end, casually looking out the southern facing window with his back to the new arrivals. Galvatron continued into the center of the room, Cyclonus and Scourge behind him, before finally coming to a stop at the central table. “I’d read that you’d stolen the Cannon of Machtus, but to see it nonchalantly bolted to your forearm like a piece of jewelry while you loiter in my home is particularly galling!”



    “The Emir of Polyhex didn’t bother offering to make me a duplicate, so I had to settle for the original.” Megatron replied with a smirk and he turned to face the three newcomers, sending a casual glance down at the cannon on his forearm. “I’ve never thought of this as jewelry, but it’s undeniable how good it looks on me.” He then fixed his optics and a polite smile on Galvatron, but presenting a skeptical optic brow arch as he continued. “And don’t pretend to bear this place any degree of sentimental attachment. You don’t possess any more sentimentality than I do, which is to say you’re devoid of it, and your admittance to House Macht was nothing more than a means to an end.”



    “Oh, and you’re suddenly an expert on me?” Galvatron quipped back.



    “Suddenly? No.” Megatron replied as he walked to the other side of the table and pulled out a chair, waving to one on Galvatron’s side as a silent suggestion that they sit. A moment later both hulking robots were seated, facing each other. “I’ve studied you for years. You, perhaps more than anyone else, have provided me with a roadmap on what to do, as well as, and I mean no disrespect, what not to do in my quest to conquer the planet.”



    “You view me as a cautionary tale?” Galvatron growled ominously.



    Megatron met his heated gaze with an even one completely devoid of intimidation. “I view you as the historical warlord that I can most relate to, one that did many things right, and that did many things wrong.” The Decepticon leader leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, the massive cannon barely broader than his impressive chest. “Do not feel slighted, mistakes are made by all. I have certainly made more than couple wrong turns in my young bid to conquer the planet. And have even been lucky enough to benefit from a mistake or two.”



    “Your failure to eliminate Orion Pax.” Galvatron smirked.



    “Yes.” Megatron nodded amicably. “Twice. But had I succeeded, I’d have been killed and you and Guardian Prime would likely have taken one look at the state of a sparkeater-infested Cybertron before turning back to wherever you’ve been for the last million years.” The chrome revolutionary chuckled. “But, while I studied all major historical conflicts and their leaders, you were the one I could take the most away from. Deathsaurus was a royal, who was born into vast wealth and resources. Much of what he did was impressive, but only now can I look to what he did with any parity to my situation. You, you started from nothing, like me; you rose up in the shadow of House Macht, like me, and though we went different routes, we both used the Machts to further our own goals and ambition. So yes, Galvatron, I have gone to great effort to know you.”



    Galvatron displayed a condescending smile as he replied. “I suppose you’re expecting me to be flattered, but frankly…” the purple warrior paused, thought for several moments, and then changed course. “Actually, I am flattered to an extent. But don’t think for a moment that reading multiple biographies means you know me.”



    “I know you do not trust Guardian Prime.” Megatron stated, then leaned forward and displayed a knowing grin. “And I know with absolute certainty that Guardian Prime does not trust you.”



    “Right to the point.” Galvatron grinned. “I’d probably be starting to like you at this point were you not so fucking arrogant. But yes, the great friendship borne of two enemies desiring peace and finding common ground is a farce. A fairy tale for the ignorant masses. Prime and I would love to see each other dead, but we play our parts, maintain the illusion, and continue jockeying behind each other’s backs to gain some advantage over the other.”



    “Like the Matrix-caliber enhancements?” Megatron queried with a smile.



    Galvatron leaned back and shared the smile. “When Ultra Magnus debriefed us on the Grand Convocation and your Warriors Elite, and that their enhancements were from theoretical data found in research discovered in one of Jhiaxus’s hidden labs, a long incomplete puzzle finally came together.” Galvatron let out a short, choppy laugh.



    Megatron gave a casually amused, yet interested look. “Care to explain that statement?”



    Galvatron displayed a thoughtful look for several moments before offering a reply. “Not at this time. We are not allies yet, merely potential ones agreeing to a meeting…and a barter.” Galvatron’s hand lowered to his side, the orange tube of his own fusion cannon swinging gently a few inches over the floor, and as his open hand got to a small compartment on his waist a small chunk of energon popped out into his palm. He then tossed the chunk of the precious element onto the table toward Megatron. “Analyze it, verify its potency.”



    Megatron scrutinized it closely before tossing it to Soundwave, who was standing a dozen steps behind Cyclonus and Scourge, watching his lieutenant catch it and begin using sensors built into his chest to study the glowing rock, but speaking to his guest. “And there’s much more of this where you were?”



    “Yes.” Galvatron replied.



    “Send Laserbeak to retrieve Rossum.” The Decepticon Commander instructed Soundwave, who looked into the darkened upper corner of the room, prompting a small winged form to drop from hiding and swoop into the hall. Megatron turned to Galvatron. “I assume you have a green spark. You won’t survive the procedure without one.” Galvatron displayed a look of annoyance at the comment. “Of course, I just felt obligated to provide the warning. I’ve been told that for every individual like you and I, there are forty nine thousand, nine hundred ninety nine individuals not like us.”



    “They can’t achieve what we’ve achieved, they can’t survive what we’ve survived.” Galvatron growled.



    “Mighty Megatron,” Soundwave piped up, “readings of mutated energon verify Galvatron’s claims.”



    Megatron smiled at Galvatron. “Well then, your procedure is a go. And after you’ve had some time to recover, we’ll discuss your payment; where to find more of this element.”



    Galvatron nodded. “I would like to keep open the possibility of future transactions between us.”



    “As would I.” Megatron nodded, then looked to the doorway to see a slender robot standing there expectantly. “Rossum here will escort you to his lab, we’ll speak further afterwards.”





    ---





    Matronly Docent





    It had been a long trip, both in considering the eons to finally decide to accept the invitation of an old friend, and the couple hours of this flight taking her the final leg of the journey, a concluding jaunt from Cybertropolis to Polarus. She’d spent the flight chatting with several of the other passengers on this economy transport, a varied collection of survivors; some displaced Torus Heightsians returning home, but mostly pilgrims traveling to see where hope had been born. Many stories, some hesitantly shared through whispers, others cheerfully announced for all to hear; all tiny pieces making up the dark yet inspiring history of their suffering and final victory over the monsters of the depths. There was no escaping the story of the one loud fellow in the front, the one who’d clearly had work done to look unsettlingly like…well, there were far worse individuals to emulate, but this Sureshot was taking it to an unhealthy level. She had seen this sort of thing in others over the course of her long life, but this was the first time she’d observed this level of apotheosis in anyone not altering themselves as an homage to Guardian Prime. This…this was far more than just an homage though. Sureshot’s devotion was, well, in the two hours since lift off he had not stopped talking about Orion Pax, fortunately only a portion of that time was to her. Docent had given him twenty minutes before needing a break from the overly enthusiastic hero-worshipper, which seemed fine to him as the blue helmeted Sureshot was eager to talk about his hero to others. When she had left him he had just gotten the idea to nominate Orion to be the Emir of The Torus Heights, something she wasn’t sure he had the legal right to do, even with the Aequalitas.



    She had moved on to get to know two femmes seated together a few rows back, biting back the pain in her leg as she walked toward the pair. Karga and Pelt, most recently of Burthov but who were originally natives of separate regions of Nyon, had come to The Torus Heights many vorns before to become conjux endurae in an emirate where it was both legal and socially acceptable for them to do so. They, like everyone else in the region, had fled their northern home at the advance of the sparkeaters, and were eager to return after four years away. She chatted with them for several very pleasant minutes, but sensed that they wanted time alone so she moved on down the passenger section to talk to a group of seven pilgrims from differing parts of Ultrix. She’d spent over an hour talking with them, discussing what all of their lives had been like prior to the fall of the Gates, where they had waited out the four years of horror, how they had heard about the defeat of the sparkeaters and the return of the Manifest, how the Aequalitas would impact their lives, and a myriad of other subjects. She had chatted with them for over an hour before painfully making her way to her own seat near the back, exchanging a few more pleasantries to other riders as she went.



    She had connected with nearly everyone on the flight, all but a few in the far back, and the large ‘vagabond’ seated across from her who had been looking intently at a small data pad just a couple feet below an enormous cloth hood that bled into a cloak that nearly covered his entire body. She had offered him a greeting when they had both first boarded, one that he courteously returned without looking up, and at seeing him pull out the pad she had assumed he wished to be left alone so she moved on to the front where she had thought she had seen the heroic Orion Pax, but instead had met Sureshot. Sitting back down in her seat with only a mild grunt of pain due to her leg, she saw that not much had changed with the vagabond, he was still sitting and staring at the pad, which had looked like some sort of surveillance footage from the glimpse she had managed to see. She reclined her head and casually gazed out the window to her left, where in the distance, over the minimal polar landscape that seemed almost alien to her, she could see a vast structure with a spire emerging from it that almost seemed to tickle the sky; Tyger Pax. She’d seen thousands of pictures of the seat of polar power, countless depictions of the gardens, the courtyards, the exterior of the buildings, the interiors, of the vast libraries; almost all of it. Arlon Pax may have been reclusive, but that trait wasn’t universally shared among the Paxes, a fact that Docent thanked the Hand and Primus for. She’d been studying at the Ibex School of Epistemology when she’d come to know and befriend a student from The Torus Heights…from House Pax. Both she and Torenia had been ancient at the time, but their friendship had made them feel like protoforms that had broken out of their adolescenters. Docent was adding to her long list of professional degrees, and Torenia, well, she claimed it was to expand her knowledge base, but Docent believed it was to escape Polarus for a little while, and while both diligently tended to their school work, they found plenty of opportunities to get away and have fun. At the end of their studies in Ibex, Torenia had encouraged her to make her way up to Tyger Pax at some point. They had a Polyhistor of exceptional skill, at least according to Torenia, though Docent had heard nothing about him, but Torenia insisted that there would be a job for her and plenty for her to do. But regardless of what Torenia might have been able to find for her at Tyger Pax, with a competent Polyhistor there already it would have been a significant step down career-wise for Docent, so she had passed, but the idea of working at Tyger Pax had never fully left her thoughts.



    And then the world had been upended, monsters roamed the planet, and Docent had hunkered down with a band of fourteen others in the mountainous and thickly forested region of central Praxus to avoid certain death for as long as possible. A week and a half ago, Backfill, the member of their group that had pulled scout duty for that particular day, came running back claiming to have seen streams of Cybertronians driving, flying, and walking north, all oblivious to the threat of the cybervores that would definitely be attacking them at any moment. It had been Docent who had volunteered to go out and speak to members of the numerous caravans flooding through their long-unused roads. She had expected it to be some trap, either captured Cybertronians doing as their masters bid or mutants fitted with alternate modes, but after speaking with dozens she’d finally started to allow herself to believe what they were telling her; that the sparkeaters were defeated and the few that remained were scattered, that the Manifest had returned to ensure the victory, and that the sparkeater king had been killed by none other than Orion Pax, the commoner adopted by her old friend Torenia. It had taken hours to convince her comrades to come out of the woods and join the masses trekking back to their former homes, or in many cases all the way north to Cybertropolis to lay optics on the returned Guardian Prime. She herself had returned to her old domicile, finding it in good shape, though a bit dusty, and decided to reactivate her personal communication code. Two days later a call came into that code, one from the acting caretaker of Tyger Pax, Olnius Pax, who had said that it fell to him to re-staff Tyger Pax, and after eighteen years they could no longer hold out for the return of their Polyhistor. They needed an archivist for the Tyger Pax libraries, and in going through some of Arlon Pax’s old notes he’d come across a letter of recommendation penned by Torenia. It was then that Olnius gave her the tragic news regarding her old friend, news that prompted her to ask to request time to think, end the call, and spend the next two days laid out on the floor unmoving in her dark room. On the third day she forced herself up, contacted Olnius Pax to accept the offer, and then spent the next few days uprooting her life and preparing for the move to Tyger Pax.



    Her optics lingered on her new home in the distance for several minutes before slowly leaning her head back and letting it roll toward the aisleway. She glanced at the floor, then let her gaze flow upward to see that the ‘vagabond’ was no longer staring at his small data pad; he was now staring at her! His face was still left dark within the shadows of the large hood, but the blue glow from his optics deep within were visible. His gaze was intense, or at least it seemed that way. It was hard to be certain given that none of his facial features were visible, but whatever the case, Docent was very much unnerved to find the stranger staring at her. She slowly moved her head as she tried to casually move her way to get out of her seat, but noted that as her face moved, the stranger’s gaze did not. She paused for a moment, then moved a bit more to test her theory, and at seeing the ‘vagabond’s gaze unaltered, she realized he was looking past her. Of course, he was looking through her window. He was looking at Tyger Pax. She felt both silly and relieved at the same time, and shifted her head one more time, hoping he hadn’t noticed her terrified reaction.



    “I hope I didn’t alarm you, I was looking through your window, not at you.” Darn, he noticed. His voice was muffled, whispered but loud enough so that she had no difficulty hearing him. There was a deep familiarity about his voice that she just couldn’t place, but she quickly dismissed it.



    “No, I wasn’t alarmed.” She smiled at the optics buried in the shadows within the hood. “Well, perhaps I was, but you did nothing wrong, I was just being silly.”



    “After four years of being on high alert, nobody can blame anyone for being a bit jumpy.” The vagabond stated.



    Docent smiled at the faceless stranger, then stood up, forcing a grunt from her, and she flipped the back of the vacant seat in front of her so that it was now oriented for the occupant to be facing her. She sat back down and waved for the stranger to sit in front of her. “Please, you’ll get a far better view of Tyger Pax sitting here.”



    The stranger nodded. “I thank you, my lady.” He stood and walked across the aisle to the seat, Docent finally recognizing how large he was. Not just tall, but very broad as well. He took his seat and gave her another nod before turning to the window.



    “Is this your first time seeing Tyger Pax?” Docent asked.



    “No,” he replied quietly, “I’ve seen it before.”



    “Whatever you were watching on that data pad of yours must have been enthralling.” Docent commented. “You’ve been glued to it for the entirely of the trip so far.”



    “It…” he paused as he seemed to determine how best to describe it, “I was offline, recovering. It looked like I would pass, and several friends came to…offer their support, or in some cases to say their good-byes. The doctor treating me told me of this and put the security footage of it on this pad. Don’t worry, he swore that those on here were fine with me viewing it and hearing their words.”



    Docent nodded. “I see, beyond enthralling.”



    The hooded stranger looked down at Docent’s right knee. “It’s not my business, and I do not mean to intrude, but I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve been having trouble with your knee.”



    Docent smiled and padded her knee. “Oh, I had an injury last year. Some friends did an admirable job of repairing my leg, but the…” better go with layman’s terms, “there’s a crescent-shaped…pad of sorts, kind of a shock absorber…”



    “Your meniscular semi-lunar pad was damaged and your friend was unable to repair it.”



    What? “Uh, yes, exactly. He tried his best, but it’s tricky. I’m just thankful he was able to get it so that I can walk.”



    “It’s a very difficult area to work on, and if the damage was severe enough there’d be no way to properly repair it outside of a fully equipped infirmary. And one of the oddities of our self-repair systems is that as long as the meniscular pad is still there, our bodies won’t recognize the damage to the fibro-caoutchouc material and repair it. Your friend should be commended for his efforts, but you need to get it replaced.” The stranger said authoritatively. “You should not have to endure such pain when you don’t have to.” The well-informed hooded and cloaked stranger brushed away the cloth that was covering his right leg and began working on his knee, opening the metal panels and digging inside with his big but elegant blue fingers.



    “What are you doing?”



    “I have the means to get a replacement meniscular pad very quickly, so I’m giving you mine.” He said as if what he was suggesting wasn’t insane.



    “You can’t do that!” Docent scolded. “I appreciate the gesture, but if nothing else, your CNA has been fully integrated into your anatomical components. Even if we’re compatible it’s not something to be done on a transport.”



    Despite her protestations, he continued disassembling his knee. “I…this leg isn’t mine, not really, not yet at least. It has been recently rebuilt, it’s still very, very numb. My CNA has not had a chance to integrate itself into the new components. Your body will have no problem accepting this pad, though it will be a bit large. The size will be nothing more than a very mild annoyance, and once your CNA incorporates it fully into your body, it will adjust the size to better fit you. I’m guessing about three weeks at most for that to happen.”



    “I…that’s most gracious of you, but I can’t possibly accept.” She continued with her protests. “Please, put your knee back together.”



    The stranger chuckled as he pulled a crescent-shaped pad out from his knee, slick with fluids. He wiped it down with the cloak he was wearing and knelt before her. “I assure you my lady, it will not be long before I have a new one of my own.” He said as he began working on her leg. This was insane, she was letting a complete stranger, one hiding his face, perform surgery on her in a public transport.



    “Without a meniscular pad you’re going to be in agony!” She objected as he worked on her knee. “Mine was damaged, but even a damaged pad prevents the majority of the pain of impact and torsion. You’ll have nothing!”



    “I have an exceptionally high pain threshold my lady.” He stated as he slipped her damaged pad out with exceptional skill and grace.



    “Are you a physician?”



    “No, but I’ve had extensive battlefield medical training.” The stranger replied as he made adjustments to her knee to prepare it for the larger new pad. There was discomfort involved, but it was far more mild than what she would expect.



    “You’re more skilled than any doctor I’ve seen.”



    Mild chuckling came from within the deep hood. “The physician who trained me, he’s…he’s astoundingly good.” His deft blue fingers finished up and resealed her knee components before he slid back and sat back down in his seat. “Please, stand, take a few steps. Test it out and let me know if any adjustments are needed.”



    Docent nodded at the blue optics glowing through the dark shadow within the large hood and rose to her feet, wincing instinctively at a pain that no longer shot through her leg. Her optics widened, a broad smile came across her face, and she stepped out into the aisle and walked several steps in either direction. “Amazing! It takes a little getting used to, I can definitely tell it’s a size or two too large, but it works and I feel no pain.” She slid back into her seat and beamed at the hooded stranger.



    “Your body will correct the size in time.” He nodded a reply.



    “I can’t possibly accept this tremendous gift.” She continued her objections. “This is insane, you have given up the ability to walk.”



    “I will still be able to walk.” He replied. “And I’ll have no problem driving, which is what I’ll be doing to get home. And once home, I’ll have a new pad within minutes.”



    “I…I cannot thank you enough!” Docent was finally recognizing what had happened and was becoming a bit overwhelmed at the exceptional kindness this stranger had shown her. “Please, tell me your name.”



    He paused, clearly hesitant, but finally relented. “I am O.P.”



    Docent smiled and nodded. “And where are you from, Opie?”



    “Iacon.” Came the reply.



    “Ah, an immigrant like me.” Docent chuckled lightly. “In what part of Polarus are you living?”



    “Just outside the city.” Opie replied. “How about you? Where are you going to call home?”



    “Outside Polarus as well.” She grinned. “I’m to be the new archivist of the Tyger Pax libraries. The position comes with room and board.”



    “Congratulations, you will enjoy working and living at Tyger Pax.” He replied, but seemed to shudder, as if immediately regretting what he said.



    “Have you been there?” Docent asked. “You’ve mentioned that this isn’t the first time you’ve seen it, but you didn’t elaborate.”



    He was quiet for a moment before, “Yes, I have been there. I lived…in the servants’ section for a brief period years ago.”



    Docent sat up excitedly. “Oh, so you’ve worked at Tyger Pax?”



    Opie nervously fidgeted before answering. “I…I helped out where I could, but my function was with the Polarus Constabulary.”



    That…that didn’t make sense. “If you worked in Polarus for the Constabulary, why were you living in the Tyger Pax servants’ section?”



    “Just the arrangement I had.” Opie replied. “It was only for a few months.”



    “I’ve never heard of such an arrangement.” Docent stated. “So where are you staying now?”



    “Orion Pax!” The voice called out from behind Opie, and a black right hand came down on his cloaked left shoulder, a large data pad was thrust before his hooded face. “The next emir of The Torus Heights! Sign it and help us make it happen!”



    Docent looked up to see that the intruder with the data pad was Sureshot. Opie just slightly shifted his head so that he could look upon the data pad through his deep hood. “I was unaware that Orion Pax had any interest in politics.”



    Sureshot laughed and clapped down on Opie’s shoulder again. “He’d been on the floor of the Senate twice before his first birthday! I’d say that’s an indication he wants to lead, my big friend.”



    Opie turned his head away. “I will wait until I see or hear some indication that Orion Pax wishes to run for emir before I sign anything.”



    “Look, if he chooses not to go that route, then fine, no harm done.” Sureshot stepped forward and sat next to Docent, giving her a smile before looking at the dark interior of the hood across from him and continuing. “But at the very least this petition will let Commander Pax know the regard we hold him in. He is our savior,” the comment elicited a very light groan from Opie, one that prompted Sureshot’s optics to narrow and a look of enraged scorn to come over his face. “Do you have a problem with Orion Pax?”



    “None at all.” Opie replied. “I’m actually very much at peace with Orion Pax and who he is. But we all fought and suffered for the last four years. We all did our part. Orion Pax was just one of mill…hundreds of thousands of saviors.”



    “We number less than a million?” Docent asked disbelievingly.



    “Aye.” Opie replied despondently. “Based on the government’s best estimates, yes, we’ve fallen below one million. That includes the Decepticons.”



    “Circling back to your slighting of Orion Pax.” Sureshot grumbled.



    “There was no slight, Sureshot.” Docent scolded. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I believe your hero Orion would tell you that were he here.”



    Sureshot maintained his glare at the hooded figure across from him. “What are you hiding under that hood? Maybe you’re a Decepticon terrorist out to sabotage Tyger Pax! The bastards missed that target the first time around!”



    “He’s no Decepticon!” Docent growled. “A Decepticon wouldn’t cripple himself to help a matronly old bird like me! Now go leave us alone!”



    “Fine, but I’ve got my optic on you!” Sureshot snarled and pointed at Opie as he stood and marched back toward the front of the transport.



    “In case you didn’t notice, he’s a fan of Orion Pax.” Docent chuckled.



    “That would explain the facial reconstruction.” Opie replied with a bit of mirth in his voice.



    Docent looked at him for a moment. “Why do you hide your face? Have you been disfigured?”



    Opie looked down as he answered. “I was.” His head turned to the side. “But I was repaired. Fully repaired. I just wanted to not be seen.”



    “Alright.” All sorts of trauma had been endured by everyone, and everyone dealt with their own personal trauma in their own personal ways. “I’m not the fanatic that Sureshot is, but I too have a high regard for Orion Pax, and am truly hoping to meet him.”



    “I assure you, my lady, I have no negative feelings for or about Orion Pax.” Opie explained. “I did…for a very long time, but I’ve made peace with all that. I have come to like and respect Orion Pax. I’m just fairly certain he has no interest in becoming emir.”



    Docent smiled. “Good. I’m glad to hear that whatever negative feelings you had for him are gone. I wouldn’t want to have to smack you across your hooded cranial shell.” Opie laughed. “I’ve never met him, but I was close to the femme that raised him.” Opie’s head shot up at that, his blue optics burned through the darkness within his hood. “Torenia Pax and I were both students for a while at the Ibex School of Epistemology, and became fast friends.” Docent leaned back and displayed a smile and faraway grin. “We were eons older than the point of ‘shoulda known better’, but one time she and I decided that it would be a good idea to brew our own engex. We snuck some liquid energon to Torenia’s suite,”



    “And blew out her windows, damaged her wall, and scorched both of your paintjobs.” Opie finished. “You’re Docent.”



    Docent looked at him, an absolutely stunned look on her face. “How did you know that?”



    “Torenia told me…” he twisted his head toward the window, almost in anguish, “years ago.”



    By the Hand! It…it can’t… “Who…no. It can’t…it can’t be…it is, isn’t it? It’s you, isn’t it?” She leaned forward. “Opie….O…P. Of Iacon.” Docent’s hand went to her mouth as she gasped. “Please, let me see.” She pleaded in a whisper as she slowly reached for his hood.



    He flinched initially, but then set his head back toward her shaking hands. “Please,” he whispered, “do not react.”



    She nodded emphatically, keeping her lips together tightly, and gently rolled the large hood back enough to reveal his face and the front of his helmet, his Convoy crest clearly visible. Both hands shot to her mouth to muffle the joyful cry she was about to emit. She successfully stifled the cry, but the whispered weeping tumbled out. “Oh my sweet, sweet child. She loved you so very much. I only exchanged one recent correspondence with her, shortly after Emir Arlon was executed, but she made it clear how wonderful you are, and how much you meant to her.” The widened optics and straining of his face made the staggering affect her words were having on him exceedingly clear. She was about to continue, but she caught sight of someone approaching. “Hood.” She whispered right before standing up. “Why are you back?” She growled as Orion slid the hood fully back over his head.



    “Here!” Sureshot snarled as he shoved his data pad screen in Orion’s face. Docent had to maneuver herself around to the side to see what was being depicted, but soon was watching Violen Jiger pulling Orion off the ground, tearing his body apart as his foot was stomped down on his lower torso. Orion was helpless in the monster’s grasp, the large broadsword dangling on his outstretched fingers, and his optics fading between light and dark. Docent directed her gaze away from the screen and looked to the real-time Orion, and saw his hands shaking.



    He was terrifi…oh no, sweet child, of course, how could he not be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? “Get this damn thing out of his face!” Docent roared and pushed the data pad back toward Sureshot.



    “He needs to know!” Sureshot snapped loudly. “He needs to see what Orion sacrificed for us! I didn’t do that!” He pointed at the screen. “You didn’t do that, and that hooded jackass sure as the Pit didn’t do that! Only Orion Pax did that!” All optics had turned to the commotion by this point.



    “Would Orion do this?” Docent snapped as she pushed Sureshot back down the aisle toward the front of the section. “Would he? No, he most definitely would not be doing this and you know it!” She gave one last gentle but insistent shove. “Stop doing what you think you should do for Orion, and try to do what you think HE would do!”



    “Attention passengers,” the pilot’s voice cut through the intercom, “we will be making our landing in Polarus in a few moments, please take your seats.”



    Docent gave Sureshot one last glare before turning to sit across from Orion again. She took Orion’s hands and gave a squeeze. “Our friend Sureshot is a bit obsessed.”



    “It’s a variation of Primus Apotheosis.” Orion stated. “Ratchet gave it the classification of Convoy Apotheosis. I’m not enthused about having a mental illness named after me.”



    “Yes, Torenia said you were never one for flattery, though in this case your apprehension is merited.” Docent replied with a chuckle. “Are you alright? That footage was clearly having an impact on you.”



    Orion, hood still in place, nodded. “It was just a bit jarring to actually see it like that.”



    “You haven’t seen that footage before?” Docent was surprised.



    “I’ve only been online for a little over a dozen hours.” Orion shrugged. “Though I have seen that event depicted in statue form.”



    “Well, for those of us who’ve been awake the last two weeks, it’s been replayed non-stop.” Docent smiled. “Never be too strong, too proud, or too stubborn to ask for help. You are beyond deserving of it.”



    “I will take that advice, my lady.” Orion replied just as the shuttle rocked gently at touching down on the ground. The hood turned and Orion looked out the window. “We’re here, Polarus.”



    “Care to share the road to Tyger Pax?” Docent asked as she stood, no longer flinching at all, and grabbed her large knapsack.



    “It would be an honor.” Orion replied as he got up a bit gingerly, favoring his now damaged knee.



    “I still can’t believe you did that for me.” Docent stated as she looked down at Orion’s shrouded knee.



    “When we get to Tyger Pax, I promise I will not be too strong, proud or stubborn to ask for help.” She could almost see the smart-assed grin shining through the shadow under the hood. They made their way to the front, down the steps and onto the tarmac. “If you’d like, you can toss your knapsack onto my rear section. I think it would be easier for me to carry it in vehicular mode than you.”



    “Hey!” Sureshot’s voice cut through the early evening dimness. “Hoodie! Do you really think you belong this close to Tyger Pax, as prone as you are to slighting Orion Pax?”



    Orion turned his head down and away from the approaching Sureshot and raised his hand to hopefully keep the angry Convoy Apotheosis sufferer back. “Please, I bear Orion Pax no ill will.”



    “Is he our savior?” Sureshot snarled loudly, causing everyone else around the landed craft to turn and watch. “Yes or no?”



    “Sureshot, you listen to me!” Docent snapped. “Leave him alone, you’re making a terrible mistake!”



    The sound of approaching vehicles, three that were traveling quickly, caused everyone to look and see a larger than average red cargo transport, a large red fire and rescue lorry, and a large green all terrain ground cruiser making their way toward the passengers. The three vehicles reached the group and transformed into robots with Common Man brands on them. “What seems ta’ be tha trouble here?” The larger than average red robot, the one that had been a cargo transport, asked authoritatively with an accent that let Docent know he wasn’t native to The Torus Heights…likely Uraya near the other end of the planet, probably the region far east of Crystal City.



    “Nothing sir, just a minor argum…”



    “Excellent, Autobots!” Sureshot loudly interrupted Docent. “First, let me thank and commend your organization. I intend to join your ranks, if you’ll have me, in the coming weeks.”



    “Thank ya’ son, we’d be happy ta’ consider ya’.” The authoritative Autobot replied. “Though ya’ may get some stares an’ comments fer how you’ve remade yerself. Don’t worry, Pyro seems ta’ have taken the ribbin’ he’s gotten in stride, so if ya gotta thick shell, you’ll be alright.”



    A look of confusion came over Sureshot, but he set that aside and continued. “My friends, this, this…” he pointed at the hooded and cloaked Orion, “tarpanicus turd is denigrating your leader and our hero!”



    The Autobots all turned their heads and looked intently at the disguised Orion. “Ya’ don’t say?”



    “Sir?” Docent stepped forward.



    “It’s Constable ma’am.” The robot replied. “Constable Ironhide.”



    “Ironhide?” Sureshot called out. “Advisor, lieutenant and close confidant of Orion Pax?” He then stepped toward Orion and pointed at the covered robot. “You are so screwed now!”



    “What are you claiming he did?” The other red Autobot, one as large as Orion, asked in a no-nonsense voice.



    “He refuses to acknowledge that Orion Pax is our savior!” Sureshot snapped, expecting that to cause the Autobots to jump to his cause.



    “That true, son?” Ironhide asked the disguised Orion as he took a step toward him.



    “Of course it’s true.” Orion replied, his voice altered.



    “Can you even imagine such arrogance?” Sureshot growled.



    Ironhide glared at the hooded figure long and hard for twenty seconds before breaking out into laughter. “Sunstreaker said you’d be in disguise, but I really expected better than this.” The red Autobot slapped the hooded robot on the shoulder and turned to Sureshot. “It ain’t arrogance that prompts this guy to downplay Commander Pax, kid, it’s humility.”



    “Damn it, Ironhide.” Orion grumbled from the inside of his deep hood.



    “What?” A bewildered Sureshot asked. “What’s going on?”



    “Take that ridiculous thing off and lemme look at ya’ son!” Ironhide demanded, prompting Orion to groan and reluctantly pull the cloak and hood away from his body.



    Orion, finally revealed to the gasps of all the other passengers aside from Docent, gave Ironhide an annoyed look. “Happy?”



    Ironhide started to smile, as if to continue joking, but a look of absolute sincerity, etched with a hint of disbelief came over his face, and in an instant he had Orion Pax wrapped in a solid embrace. Orion returned the embrace, and the two were silent for several seconds before Ironhide’s quiet voice could barely be heard. “I was sure we lost ya’ son.”



    “Not yet old friend.” Orion replied, then looked up at the other two Autobots, who now walked forward. Orion released Ironhide and greeted the other two with firm wrist-shakes. “Inferno, Roadbuster, great to see you both.”



    “It’s a miracle to have you back, sir.” The red one, who Docent believed Orion had called Inferno, said.



    “Let’s get you home, Commander.” The green and dull yellow Roadbuster suggested.



    Orion nodded and turned to Docent. “Ironhide, Inferno, Roadbuster, this is Docent, she is the new archivist for the Tyger Pax libraries.”



    Inferno and Roadbuster dipped their heads slightly. “It will be a pleasure working with you at Tyger Pax, Docent.” Inferno said.



    Sureshot stepped toward Orion, and knelt down before him. “Commander Pax, Hero of Cyber…”



    “Stand up, Sureshot.” Orion ordered. “Even before the Autobots, there was no kneeling in The Torus Heights.”



    Docent overheard Roadbuster whisper something about House Boltax to Inferno, but she focused on Sureshot rising to his feet and humbly addressing the object of his obsession. “Commander Pax, please forgive my atrocious behavior and my insults. I did not realize that it was you under that hood.”



    “Apology accepted, but ultimately it should not matter whether it was me or not.” Orion replied. “Treat everyone with the inherent respect that all sentient beings are deserving of.”



    “I…I will Commander.” Sureshot replied.



    “Ah’m assumin’ yawl are on yer way ta’ Tyger Pax.” Nearly the entire group nodded their affirmation. “Awlright then, let’s get going.”



    Orion peered around at the other passengers, looking a bit confused as he took a step forward to get room to transform. “Why’s every…urgh.” He nearly stumbled, forgetting that his knee was now very damaged.



    Ironhide and the other Autobots gave him an odd look. “Ol’ Ratchet use second hand parts ta’ rebuild ya’?”



    “That would be my doing.” Docent piped up. “Or a sacrifice Commander Pax made on my behalf. He found out my meniscular pad was severely damaged and before I knew it he was removing it and replacing it with one of his own.”



    Everyone looked at Orion, who just rolled his optic in annoyance at the added scrutiny. As one, all three Autobots burst out laughing. “A Convoy raised by Paxes, whattaya expect?” The green and yellow Roadbuster blurted out.



    Orion just groaned and transformed. “Just take me to my brother.” The red and blue freight hauler grumbled. Docent placed her sack on the rear portion of Orion and the group transformed, a shuttle for those lacking vehicular shell modes was acquired; it appeared the need was anticipated and several shuttles had been purchased and placed at the port by House Pax, at least that was the impression Docent got as the Autobots and those who could drive headed out shortly after Orion requested to see his brother. It wasn’t long before they were approaching the shadowy Tyger Pax, Docent in her small ground cruiser form to the left of Orion Pax, with Ironhide driving beside him to his right. “Tyger Pax isn’t as well-lit as one would expect for dusk, don’t you think, Ironhide?”



    “I…I spose not.” Ironhide replied, sounding as though he was hiding something. “I’m not really sure what the lighting situation is at the Tyger these days.”



    “Do you really think I don’t know what’s about to happen?” Orion grumbled.



    “Ah have no idea what yer talking about.” Ironhide said back, suppressing a chuckle.



    “Damnit Ironhide.” Orion whispered as they drew near the front of the vast castle or small city, depending on how one viewed it. Just as they started to slow to a stop large floodlights boomed to life and throngs of people stepped out of the shadows, cheering the arrival of Tyger Pax’s long lost son. “Damnit Ironhide.” Orion’s repeated whisper was barely heard by Docent and Ironhide, and it got a chuckle out of them both.



    The front three transformed, followed by the Autobot/Pax guards Inferno and Roadbuster, with the other pilgrims following suit shortly after. “Welcome home Commander Orion Pax of Iacon!” The figure Docent recognized to be Olnius Pax stepped out from the crowd and approached Orion, but looked to Ironhide. “Thank you Constable.”



    Ironhide shrugged. “He figured it out, but not til we were just about here.”



    Olnius smiled and looked back to Orion, but caught sight of Docent and focused on her. “Docent! You made it! Welcome to Tyger Pax! I see you’ve already met our famous prodigal son!” They both walked toward each other to shake wrists, and Olnius stopped as he noticed something. “I thought you said that you had difficulty walking.”



    Docent smiled and nodded toward Orion as she took the knapsack he was offering her. “I did, until an incognito prodigal son took out his meniscular pad and transplanted it into my leg on the transport.”



    Olnius turned and looked in disbelief at Orion, who just shrugged. “Yes, well, I was hoping to rummage through the Tyger Pax infirmary and swipe a fibro-caoutchouc crescent, if that’s OK with you.”



    Olnius just shook his head in surprise at the knee and then the face of Orion Pax before shrugging and answering. “Well, that’s not really up to me. I’m afraid you’re going to have to ask the Emir.”



    Screeching tires could be heard from the shadows, immediately followed by a small, low to the ground dark form shooting out toward them. Docent flinched, but relaxed as the form, now visibly dark blue under the lights, zoomed ahead and shot into the air to be caught and embraced by Orion Pax. “Roller!” Orion hugged the vehicular form of his brother tightly.



    “Beeeeeeep. Beep beep beep.” Came the reply from the severely damaged Roller Pax. If Orion was affected by his brother’s condition, he gave no indication of it. He just gleefully hugged the six-wheeled cruiser tightly before finally placing it down.



    “Emir Pax,” Docent spoke, controlling her emotion at seeing the reunion, “please order your brother to the infirmary before he decides that his time would be better served helping someone else.”



    The request was met with a whistle and series of beeps that Docent recognized as a version of the Mahpop Code, but even for those not familiar with the ancient and obscure communication method, what Roller Pax was saying could not be interpreted as anything other than a resolute affirmation.





    -





    Orion Pax





    The one good thing that could be said about sparkeaters was that they tended to leave structures and possessions undamaged. They’d tear a building to rubble to get to a spark if they sensed it, but aside from their ravenous feeding frenzies or pursuits, they were indifferent to inanimate objects. Even using Tyger Pax as an early base, Violen Jiger and his army of monsters had left things more or less as they were, and Orion had no problem finding a new meniscular pad and installing it into his knee. He had then had no problem finding the various repair materials he needed in an exterior supply shed on the outskirts of the main courtyard and was now making his way toward the Spear of Paxus.



    The sun was going down, but the lighting around the Spear was always more than adequate, even for what he had planned. He wasn’t the most skilled of metal workers, but he was definitely better than most, and easily good enough to handle this minor repair work. The sounds of a large crowd coming from the area near the Spear was a little surprising to him, there usually weren’t that many people in the courtyard, especially as evening was coming, but the sounds gave the impression of hundreds gathered near the Spear. Orion turned the corner, around the large building serving as the servant’s dormitory and recreation center, and his optics verified what his audio processors had been telling him. Hundreds of Cybertronians, perhaps over a thousand, were milling about, gathered in a semi-circle of sorts around the Spear of Paxus. What in the Tartarun Gates were they doing here? This was going to make the simple task he needed to do that much harder, and delay his visit to the birthing pool of House Pax to say good-bye to…so many. Oh well, might as well get on with it; focusing on an obstacle’s difficulty wasn’t going to help surmount it.



    Orion marched toward the immense Spear carrying his supplies in a large bucket and climbing gear in a sack thrown over his shoulder. Gasps and whispers cut through the air as the throngs of visitors caught sight of him and parted to let him pass. Why were these people here? What was going on? Perhaps these were the pilgrims that everyone kept mentioning. Perhaps they were making a pilgrimage to the remains of the Tartarun Gates, and Tyger Pax was a stopping point along the way. Whatever the case, he’d just have to deal with a group of spectators watching him fix the damage he’d done to the ancient spire four years ago. An ancient, beautiful structure, one built nearly fifteen million years before to commemorate the most noble, humble and compassionate of the Knights, and the dull gray axe Orion had forged on the Planet of Junk was still sticking out of it. Lodging it in there seemed like a good idea at the time…hell, it WAS a good idea at the time, but it was way past due to retrieve it and fix the damage. And it would be nice to finally have his axe back…damn he missed that axe.



    “Commander Pax?” An elegant femme approaching through the crowd called out to Orion.



    Orion turned, and dipped his head as he recognized the femme. “Lady Nelonia, it warms my spark to see you again.”



    “I apologize for not greeting you when you arrived.” Nelonia stated.



    Orion chuckled. “Absolutely no need to apologize, my lady, the greeting was a bit overwhelming even without you. And I was told you had matters to attend to.”



    Nelonia waved to the throngs around her. “Yes, as you can see, there is much here to attend to.”



    “Yes, what is all this?” Orion asked, causing a look of surprise to come over Nelonia’s face.



    Her explanation was pre-empted by “Commander Pax!” Orion turned to see Olnius approaching with Roller zipping past him to get to Orion.



    “Hello Brother, I did as commanded, got myself fixed up in your infirmary.” Orion said, getting a series of beeps and chirps he translated to roughly ‘it’s your infirmary too’. Orion looked up at Olnius. “How is the evening treating you Olnius?”



    “Quite well, my friend.” Olnius looked over the supplies in the bucket Orion was carrying and the sack slung over his shoulder. “Those don’t look like things we keep in the infirmary.”



    Orion smiled and shrugged. “No, supplies for a repair job. I caused some damage the last time I was here. High time I fixed it.”



    Now it was Olnius’s turn to look confused. “As far as I know we’ve fully repaired all damage to Tyger Pax. There’s a bit more restocking that needs to be done, but everything should be in tip-top shape.”



    Orion maintained optic lock with Olnius, but nodded toward the Spear. “There’s still a seven foot long, one-to-two foot wide, and, heck, maybe three foot deep gouge in the Spear of Paxus that’s been there for four years. I caused it, it’s fitting I repair it.” A terrified, ghastly look came over Olnius’s face, and at turning toward Nelonia Orion saw the same etched into hers. “What?”



    It was Roller who spoke, or beeped, chirped and buzzed rather, a rapid-fire series of noises that were clearly conveying anger. His tirade ended, it was Nelonia who first spoke. “I normally can follow Emir Roller’s communication fairly well, but much of that was…indecipherable.”



    “That’s because it seems my brother has introduced profanity to the Mahpop Code.” Orion grumbled, his words to Nelonia but his frustrated annoyance to Roller. He then looked down directly at his brother. “Why am I a selfish idiot? And be thankful I’m only listing selfish, and not the string of other adjectives you used to describe the kind of idiot I am. How am I ruining Tyger Pax?”



    “Commander Pax,” Olnius started, still aghast, “Orion, this is, well it IS selfish, and frankly, not what we’d ever expect of you. I’m deeply, deeply…”



    “Olnius,” Nelonia interrupted, then looked down at the blue vehicle at their feet, “Emir Roller, he doesn’t know.”



    “What?” Olnius asked disbelievingly.



    “Know what?” Orion questioned in a frustrated voice.



    “That’s impossible.” Olnius stated. “He sees the pilgrims, there’s no way he doesn’t know.”



    “Pilgrims?” Orion looked around. “People have been mentioning pilgrims to me all day, but nobody has elaborated on any of it.” He then looked to Nelonia. “I had assumed they were traveling to the Gates, using Tyger as a resting and restocking point.”



    A regretful whine came from Roller, who gently rolled forward and rubbed against Orion’s leg. “By Primus, what a fool I am.” Olnius stated. “You’ve barely been awake twelve hours, you’ve had an entire world, possibly the most pivotal two weeks in our history to take in, and we’re chastising you over something that we should have considered that you may not be aware of.”



    “No need for self-recriminations, but please tell me what I’m missing.” Orion asked as mutters of ‘he doesn’t know’ rippled through the crowd.



    Nelonia stepped forward and reached up to place a hand on Orion’s shoulder. “Orion, these people aren’t on a pilgrimage to the ruins of the Tartarun Gates. The Gates have come to be viewed as a stop-gap measure that ultimately failed us. These people have come to see the birthplace of hope and resistance. And the object that symbolizes it all.” Orion opened his mouth to ask, but paused as he realized what the answer would be.



    “Orion’s Axe has become the symbol of our refusal to lay down and die for the cybervores, our unwillingness to be prey, a hardening of our resolve to fight. It freed the Guardian of the Gates, and was the first weapon to kill a sparkeater in fifteen million years.” Olnius explained.



    “I think, technically, the first sparkeater spark was detonated with…”



    “Semantics.” Olnius interrupted Orion with a smile. “It doesn’t change what was done here four years ago. What you,” he looked down at Roller for a moment, “what you both did here four years ago. It doesn’t change anything that Orion’s Axe has come to commemorate.”



    Orion looked at Olnius intently, then to Nelonia before waving his gaze over the crowd and then up at the axe in question, still lodged deeply into the massive spire. “You really want an unsightly chunk of Cybertanium jutting out of the Spear of Paxus?”



    “Yes.” Olnius, Nelonia and nearly every pilgrim surrounding them replied.



    “The center point of Tyger Pax? The vast, beautiful spire to commemorate the greatness of Paxus?” Orion further asked.



    “I’m sure he’d be alright with it.” Nelonia smiled as she squeezed Orion’s shoulder.



    Orion smiled and nodded. “As you wish.” He then looked down at his brother and chuckled. “You’re doing this because you know I love that axe.” Orion and Roller started walking and rolling away from the group, a series of playful chirps and beeps shot out from Roller, causing Orion to groan and playfully respond. “I DID raid your armory, four years ago…with you! You didn’t have a good axe then, and I’m sure you don’t have one now! I guess I’ll just have to keep using the energon one Erector designed for me.”



    “Commander Pax?” Olnius called out, and continued as Orion turned back to him. “Where are you going?”



    Orion shrugged. “To return this stuff.” He nodded to the supplies he was carrying.



    “No need.” Olnius said, looking off to the side to Roadbuster, who had been standing at attention with other Pax guards just outside the group of pilgrims. Roadbuster came jogging over. “Roadbuster, would you please return these supplies for your Commander?”



    “It would be my honor, sir.” Roadbuster said as he took the supplies and equipment from Orion. “You’re home Orion, I’m sure there are things other than work you could be doing.”



    “He’s right.” Nelonia said as she walked up toward Orion. “For the first time in almost nineteen years, you’re here and free to do whatever you would like.”



    Orion nodded, and looked down sadly. “Yes. Thank you. I would visit the Pool.”



    Nelonia and Olnius both nodded sadly. “Of course.” Nelonia said.



    “I’ll accompany you.” Olnius offered. “Roller once told me that the Pool of Paxus was perhaps the one part of Tyger Pax that you had never really familiarized yourself with.”



    “The Pool was for Paxes, I was not a Pax.” Orion stated. “And death had not touched anyone I loved while I lived here, so there was never any reason for Roller to drag me in there like he did everywhere else in Tyger Pax. But A-Three did walk me there once, I do know how to get there.”



    “That’s fine, I would like to accompany you anyway, if that’s alright with you.” Olnius requested.



    “Of course my friend.” Orion said with a smile, though a simple look at his optics let everyone know his thoughts were far away. The two headed out, taking their time, Orion almost dreading what he was approaching.



    “Orion, I know that this is not a conversation you wish to have, but I would like to take a moment to discuss the greater good of The Torus Heights.” Olnius tentatively addressed the returning hero.



    “You are concerned Roller is no longer fit to be emir.” Orion stated.



    “I mean the lad no disrespect.” Olnius replied. “I am quick to admit that when he had all his faculties he made a better emir than I ever did, but…”



    “He no longer possesses all his faculties.” Orion stated. “Don’t fear, I know you’re approaching this from the good of the emirate and its people.”



    “I would never suggest a vote of no-confidence, but something needs to be done.” Olnius blurted.



    “I appreciate that.” Orion said. “I’ll talk to Roller. There’s enough of him left where he’ll understand. And truth be told, it’s a job he never wanted.”



    “I know.” Olnius said sadly. “I forced him into it through my own inaction.”



    “It was an impossible situation you were both in.” Orion stated. “Frankly, without the intervention of the Decepticons and the sparkeaters, there’s no way to know how things would have turned out.” They continued on in silence for two minutes before Orion continued. “He did say that you were an outstanding peacetime emir. He’ll likely nominate you.”



    “I’ll decline.” Olnius replied. “There are other Paxes more fit. I’m walking with one now.”



    “I’m not on the rolls, nor do I have a taste for politics.” Orion answered, his optics forward as the crystalline mound that held the Pool of Paxus within came into sight.



    “As your brother will tell you, sometimes the most fit for the job is someone with no interest in it.” Olnius chuckled, allowing Orion to dwell on his thoughts in silence the remainder of the way.



    The entranceway was flanked by two House Pax guards, individuals Orion did not recognize, which made sense as it had been so long since he was at a Pax-controlled Tyger Pax, and so much of The Torus Heights, and the rest of the world had changed. Orion stopped before them. “Greetings, my name is Orion Pax. I am not an official member of House Pax, but I have been given permission to visit the fallen laid upon the Pool of Paxus.”



    The guards, one large with a frame similar to Inferno’s but with predominantly white coloring, and the other a mid-sized predominantly black robot similarly built to Jazz, looked at one another before the smaller one addressed Orion. “Commander Pax, we have been instructed that you are to have complete unhindered access to any square millimeter of Tyger Pax you might choose to visit. Please do not hesitate to go where you wish, nor to ask us for assistance in any way.”



    Orion nodded. “I thank you both.”



    “You never need thank us, Commander.” The larger guard said, looking straight ahead. “My conjux endurae was at the Grand Convocation. He would have been slaughtered were it not for you and your Autobots. The debt I owe you is even greater than the debt owed you by every other living being on Cybertron.”



    “No debt is owed me, I assure you.” Orion smiled at him and walked reverently inside the large, shimmering dome, stopping in the archway and taking in the sight of it. A few steps more and he would be standing before the Pool of Paxus, the birthplace of Paxus and all to bear the name Pax, all but Orion. It was also where the frames of the Paxes who had fallen were laid to rest, to over time break down and have their traits reincorporated by the Pool so that future generations might inherit what made them great. There were legends of reincarnation, or wisdom passing from the deceased to newborn, but Orion didn’t buy into that. But when the body degraded some of it was converted to metallico, and metallico was precious. Not treating metallico with reverence was seen as a sin, damaging or destroying it, a great crime, and what Saurus Onyx had done to own his ancestral hotspot, an abomination.



    Ancestral? Genetically, yes, House Convoy was his ancestry. But they weren’t his family. It was Torenia Pax that had cradled him as he formed. It was House Pax that had given him shelter and nourishment, an education, and love. It was Torenia that had taught him compassion and kindness, and it was Arlon Pax that had taught him honor and courage. It was time to thank them. Orion walked through the crystalline archway and onto the lush garden that surrounded the polished silver metal ground, one that seemed almost an ice rink in appearance, though deeper gray than ice. Laid out on the surface were dozens of bodies, all covered in shrouds, shrouds that all bore indications that the deceased below was a member of House Pax, but also individual details that told a story of the person laid to rest. Orion stepped onto the metal, barely aware that Olnius had followed him in and was hovering in the background.



    Orion looked around him at the shimmering fabrics that covered the corpses of those he had called family, and noted that that there was one shroud that was noticeably more ornate than the rest, the shroud of an emir, one larger and wider to cover a non-humanoid frame, and one that was flat against the ground. Orion sadly nodded at the realization that this made sense. Arlon had been killed over eighteen years ago, his frame would have been fully integrated back into cyber-firma years before; in all likelihood the shroud had been placed back here for his benefit. Orion walked over to the flat shroud, knelt beside it, moved the shroud slightly and placed his hand on the metal below. “Hello Arlon, I would have come sooner, but, well, I got waylaid.” He smiled sadly to himself. “I used to blame myself for your death. For that, I apologize. For me to accept blame would be to diminish the sacrifice you made…the choice you made. What happened to you, it was not due to any mistake on my part, it was your decision to be brave, to make a stand, to make a statement. You stood up to tyranny, to injustice, you weren’t forced to do so, you chose to do so, knowing full well how Sentinel Honorum would react.” Orion paused, and fought back a wave of emotion. “I’m being celebrated, being called a hero.” Orion shook his head with a sad smile “I’m not one. All I’ve done is just follow your example. At best I’m a good student, nothing more.” The Autobot looked at the shroud, taking in every detail. “And at no point through any of it was I alone. I had my army, our comrades, even the aid of enemies for some of it, but beyond all that I had you. Whenever fear and uncertainty entered my thoughts, I was always buttressed by memories of you. You won this as much as any of us, and I wish you were here to celebrate it.” Orion dipped his head. “I love and miss you Arlon, thank you for so very much…enjoy your well-deserved rest.”



    Orion stood up and started to scan the pool for one particular shroud, but something else caught his optic; three shrouds, all minimal in their adornment, in relatively close proximity to one another, and covering shapes that seemed not to be bodies laid flat against the ground, but jutting up under the pliable metal fabric. Orion started toward the forms, but as he nearly reached them Olnius called out. “Orion, stop.” Orion turned and looked to the far older member of House Pax, a look of worry etched on his face. “Please, there is no reason for you to look at those; not until I’ve had a chance to explain…the situation.”



    Orion was bewildered, having no idea what the issue could be. He turned back around and focused on one of the forms, the shimmering metal covering something roughly the size of a typical humanoid form, but was pushed up by something small, slender…a finger? Yes, likely a finger, but why lay the body in such a way, and who would have such little adornmen…oh sweet Primus no. Of course, he had seen three unknown names on the list of the Pax dead, had intended to ask about them, but had forgotten upon arriving as everything else had come up. Orion dropped to his knees beside the form and gently pulled the shroud away, confirming his fear. Barely formed, never having had the chance to arise from the ground, reaching up in agony with its chest torn open, the body degraded after four years, but still clearly a protoform murdered at the moment of its birth; and there were two others. “Pax newborn from the last pulse. Innocence, Purity and Infantus Pax.”



    He heard Olnius’s gentle footsteps approach and come to a stop next to him. “Yes. They never had a chance. The monsters were upon them before they were even clear of the ground, before they even qualified as protoforms.”



    “Yes…” Orion mournfully said quietly, expecting to say more, but nothing came.



    “Aye.” Olnius answered. “This is Infantus Pax.” Olnius nodded to another misshapen shroud. “There lies Innocence Pax. And their sister, Purity Pax.”



    Orion scanned them all for a couple of minutes before finally speaking. “You deserved better, brothers and sister. There’s nothing I can do to undo the cruel fate you received, but you will be remembered, and you will be a constant reminder of the innocent victims of all conflict that must never be forgotten or ignored. Be one with Primus.” Orion covered Infantus with his shroud and once again rose to his feet to sadly scan the pool, seeking out one particular shroud, the details of which he did not know, but there was no doubt in his mind that he’d recognize it when he saw it. He did. Deep gold and blue around the edges, but this had much more than just designs; it bore specific images beautifully etched and colored into it, one depiction in particular was something Orion immediately recognized. A verdant jungle, one surrounding a cliff face, a dark cave cut into it with a brilliant green light emerging from it. There were countless other designs on the shroud, but no other Pax would have the place of Orion’s birth etched onto it in such stunning detail. Orion made his way to the body, Olnius remaining behind and allowing Orion privacy to say good-bye to the one to pull him from the ground and show him unconditional love.



    Orion once again fell to his knees and placed a hand on the shroud. “Mother.” He paused, unsure of what to say despite having so much that needed to be said. “I miss you. I miss you so much.” Another minute of silence went by before, “Someone very wise, very wonderful once said ‘Long lives make us foolish. I see the organics, the mortal creatures, cherishing every moment with one another, recognizing how precious their loved ones are and that their time with them is so very limited. Immortals take these things for granted, thinking there will always be more time with those we love. I pray for more time, but I will never take the time I have with you for granted.’” Orion had to forced his voice from cracking. “You asked me to be safe, and come back to you whole and filled with life experiences.” A sad chuckle came out his metal lips. “Well, I did come back whole and with experiences; I can’t say I was safe, but you know that. I was lucky to have been able to share those experiences with you. But like the potential immortals you said were foolish, I took having you in my life for granted. Despite having lost Arlon so suddenly, despite the slaughterhouse that our world had become, it still didn’t occur to me that you might someday be gone while I was still here. Your words were wise, I thought I had taken them to spark when you spoke them to me, but here I sit unable to grasp that you’ve left me. I don’t think I took our time for granted, but I know I did not cherish it the way I should have.” He turned away for a moment before turning back and gently rolling the top of the shroud away to reveal the grayed face of Torenia Pax, her optics practically black. “I…I hope you know…knew…know what you always meant to me, how I felt about you. How I’ll always feel about you. I don’t know whether I would have lived or died on that island had you not found me. I don’t know how I would have turned out if you’d found me and done the responsible thing of alerting the Iaconian authorities to my existence. I don’t know what would have become of me had you done anything differently. But you chose to cradle me, to protect me, to raise me…to love me. I am what I am, whatever that may be, because you chose to love me, to make me yours, to make me…me. You taught me to love and protect others; I’ve strived to do that. This world honors me for doing what you and Arlon taught me to do. Thank you…but I don’t care about honors. I never wanted them.” He paused and his head dropped, his optics dimmed. “I only wanted more time with my mother.” He was quiet for another minute. “I love you mother.” He slowly pulled the shroud back over her face and remained still, contemplating whether more words were necessary when he felt…it. A familiar sensation in his spark.



    Orion turned toward the entrance to the Birthing Pool and saw her. Flanked between the two House Pax guards was Elita One, staring back at him, awe in her optics. Orion barely registered the Autobrand on her chest, so focused was he on her optics. “Elita One…” a startled Olnius Pax said loudly, “I’d heard mention that you planned on coming to Tyger Pax, but I thought your arrival would be closer to tonight’s feast.”



    “I…” Elita’s optics never unlocked from those of Orion. “Lord Olnius, I apologize for my early arrival, and I know that the Pool of Paxus is a sacred place meant only for members of House Pax, I was already granted…”



    “Nonsense.” Olnius interrupted. “You, my lady, are always welcome at Tyger Pax, no invitation or notification will ever be needed for you. And you were a beloved friend of Torenia, you are always welcome to visit this place to pay your respects to her or any other fallen Pax.”



    Orion stood up and started walking intently toward Elita, his optics boring through her, his spark, which normally required one to concentrate deeply to detect, was pulsing wildly. Her gaze continued to meet his, her optics widening as he approached, awed and seemingly a bit intimidated. “I…thank you…Lord Olnius.” She stammered out as Orion cut the distance between them with each purposeful step. “I….” she seemed unsure of how to react to Orion’s intense gaze and approach, “Commander Pax, it is,” she choked back a surge of emotion, “all Cybertron is…” she was interrupted as Orion reached out to her, gently but firmly gripped her upper arms, and pulled her in for a deep, passionate kiss. The guards on either side and a couple steps behind Elita turned their faces away uncomfortably, but both adopted a grin. The kiss finally broke and Elita’s head lowered back a bit, her optics wide and her face stunned. “Commander Pax…” she gasped, then continued in a whisper, “what is it that you want?” Orion just continued his intense stare and gently squeezed her upper arms. Elita gained her bearings and met his gaze with equal intensity. “Take it.” Orion released his grip on her left arm, and lowered the hand holding her right arm to grasp her hand, which gripped his in return. Orion started leading them out of the domed Pool of Paxus. “But take it in my ship. Torenia showed me your room years ago, and…yes, the ship.” Orion smiled, but continued on his way out of the dome and to the landing field without delay.





    ---





    Straxus





    It had been a few years since he had been to this mine. Four to be exact, not since the decision for the Decepticons to reveal themselves and the need to continue his role as a manager of House Macht mining operations was no longer necessary. He had liked the job. Truth be told, he somewhat preferred his old life under the Machts over his current role in the Decepticons. Platoon commander, mid-level officer; Megatron had told him it wasn’t due to any animosity from his days as a miner, but Straxus knew better. As high and mighty as he’d become, the Tarnian wasn’t too evolved as to not harbor old grudges. The hulking gray Decepticon platoon commander grumbled to himself as he keyed in the access code to the entrance of the energon mine in the northern outskirts of Kaon. “What’s the likelihood of the sparkeaters having left this place intact?” The annoying pseudo-engineer Ferak asked.



    “The gates have not been battered, and they certainly haven’t been penetrated.” Straxus growled as the large metal gates slid open, revealing the cavern within, hints of glowing pink emanating from deep in the depths. “And the monsters only resorted to energon when sparks weren’t around. Which was a rare occurrence as sparks were plentiful for them on the surface these last four years. As you can see from the glow, the mines remain unmolested. Nothing has been in here in over four years. Now get to work! The Trypticon reclamation will require every ounce of energy here and from dozens of other mines.” The five other Decepticons behind them, all in freight hauler mode and hooked to empty trailers, detached from their trailers, transformed to robot mode, and marched forward toward the mine entrance where Straxus and Ferak were already standing, and the group of seven powerful Decepticons marched into the cavern.



    Straxus’s vorns working as a mine administrator and his familiarity kicked in, and he quickly assigned the soldiers to the tasks he needed them to perform. Shorthanded as they were, Straxus himself had to grab a pickaxe and dig for the precious element. He’d been hacking away for a couple hours when he heard the scream emanating from a tunnel deeper within. A shrill cry of terror followed by some small arms’ fire. Straxus pulled his own rifle magnetically strapped to his back around and had it level as he ran down the tunnels to see what the commotion was about. Three other Decepticons fell in with him as they charged toward the sounds, and they all rounded the corner to see Ferak running toward them, rifle in hand. “What’s going on!” Straxus roared through his plated mouth.



    “It’s….it’s a Convoy!” Ferak yelled back as the last two Decepticons caught up and joined them. “Thought they were all dead, but I saw one!”



    “You mean Orion Pax?” Straxus snarled. “He’s the only Convoy left, and it can’t be him! Provided it’s not some dumbass publicity stunt, that little turd is thousands of miles north of here, getting his rod polished by every sycophantic pissant north of the equator!”



    “It was a Convoy!” Ferak paused. “Not Orion Pax, this one was blue, and had a mouthplate like the Convoys of old, and a little shorter than him, a bit blockier, and darker, a lot darker. And his optics…yellow.”



    “If it wasn’t fucking Orion Pax, then it couldn’t be a Convoy!” Straxus growled. “And that’s assuming this mystery guy wasn’t a figment of your imagination!”



    “He was real!” Ferak snapped. “And yeah, he was definitely very Convoy looking!”



    “Uh, what’d this guy do?” One of the grunts, one so covered in soot that he wouldn’t have been recognizable had Straxus even bothered to get to know him, asked.



    “He…he was just staring at me.” Ferak muttered. “He had a big ass rifle, but he didn’t even bother to point it at me, just stared and disappeared.”



    “So you didn’t hit him in your panicked barrage?” Straxus grumbled.



    “He’s real and he’s here!” Ferak snapped again.



    Straxus took a threatening step toward Ferak and stared at him appraisingly. “There was no sign of a break-in, the mine appears to be untouched, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest there’s someone here other than us.” He paused before continuing. “But it’s not impossible, you have a pretty good track record, and crested helmets and mouth plates are hardly unique to the Convoys,” he straightened up and addressed all the Decepticons, “so fan out and see who else is here! But be careful with your shots! The energon to ore ratio here is low enough that you probably won’t blow us all to the pit, but I’d still rather not hear any explosions!” The soldiers splintered off down the dark tunnels, all eager to obliterate whatever Ferak was claiming was in there. Straxus sent one last glance at Ferak before heading after the mystery bot himself. “Probably some empty seeking refuge from the sparkeaters in here. Pretty smart actually, the energon should shield him from their ability to detect sparks, and he’d never go hungry here.”



    “It wasn’t an empty, he was too…” Ferak shook his head, “too confident.”



    “Whatever, just find him and kill him.” Straxus grumbled as he jogged down a tunnel. He cut through the shadows created by the sporadic and dim pink glow of the few energon crystals that poked through the rock. He circled through the caverns for nearly twenty minutes before nearly tripping over something solid yet possessing some give on the ground. He looked down, directing the spotlight on his rifle at it, and found himself looking upon the decapitated frame of one of the grunts he’d brought here. “SLAG, there IS someone in here! He’s killed…” damnit, what is this guy’s name… “Blowhard…I think.” He yelled both down the tunnel he had come through as well as into his wrist communicator.



    “You think Blowhard’s dead, or you think the dead guy is Blowhard?” Ferak’s voice came through the communicator.



    “Think it’s Blowhard.” Straxus snarled back as he waved his rifle in all directions. “Whoever it is, he’s definitely slaggin’ dead.”



    “Heading to your loca…” the voice cut off.



    Damn, was another one of the grunts. Straxus tried to remember the name, but finally gave up. “Identify yourself and verify you do not need assistance!”



    “He’s beyond assistance.” A somewhat familiar voice, but one Straxus couldn’t quite identify at that moment, replied through the channel.



    “Who is this?” Straxus roared.



    “Your reckoning, Decepticon.” The eerily familiar voice growled in reply.



    “Decepticons, find this idiot and eradicate him!” Straxus snarled and started jogging down the tunnel back toward the others. He made his way through the maze, and every so often he’d hear the burst of weapon’s fire and the occasional cry of agony…unfortunately not sounding like the voice that had taunted him.



    “Near the entrance, we’ve got him!” Ferak’s voice came out through both the speaker and through the tunnels just ahead of him. Straxus sprinted and rounded the corner to catch sight of…the impossible. Engaging Ferak and the other three remaining Decepticons in close range melee combat was a corpse. He had seen Megatron kill this bastard himself. But the voice he’d heard, it was his, it was…Delta Magnus. Straxus froze, unable to process what he was seeing. “Straxus, move your ass!” Ferak roared at him.



    Straxus snapped out of it and charged ahead, aiming his weapon and opening fire at the twenty-eight foot imposter…yes, it had to be an imposter. His rounds connected, but the darkly colored Magnus armor absorbed it easily and this resurrected Delta Magnus turned just enough so that his left shoulder cannon was aimed at Straxus and fired. The missile impacted Straxus’s upper right leg, blasting it open and sending the Decepticon platoon commander tumbling to the ground. The pain was intense, and Straxus did struggle to get back up, pushing against the wall of the cavern to try and get to a standing position, watching Delta Magnus dismantling his troops with ease, stomping down to crush the cranial shell of the one he believed was called Lead or Bled or something…didn’t matter, he was dead, maybe that’s what his name should have been. Ferak was hurtled through the cavern toward Straxus, landing several yards to his right and grinding to a stop against the side of the cave. Straxus re-aimed his rifled as he hobbled back toward the fray, but his renewed shots were as ineffective as his prior ones, and he could do nothing to stop Delta Magnus from using another grunt’s pick axe to cut into the grunt’s own spark chamber. The Decepticon died with a gasp, leaving only one more soldier separating the impossibly alive Magnus from Straxus and Ferak.



    The last Decepticon, a tall, thin dark blue warrior named Cutter, chopped wildly at Delta Magnus, cutting into his upper chest armor, but the axe blade got stuck. Magnus reached down, gripped Cutter’s proportionately small head, and began crushing it. In moments the cranial armor gave, and the brain module was crushed, killing the last of the grunts. Straxus opened fire, roaring maniacally as he did so, but Magnus charged him and sent a hammer strike with his fist to Straxus’s segmented face, knocking him to the ground. Ferak charged in, but a straight left sent him back to the ground. “Straxus of Kaon, platoon commander of the Decepticons.” He then looked over a Ferak. “Ferak of Petrex, lieutenant and engineer in training for the Decepticons.” He stepped forward and stood between them. “One of you is going to die, one of you is going to live…for a while longer anyway.”



    “How…” Straxus growled through the pain and dizziness, “I saw you die!”



    Delta Magnus twisted his red-helmeted head and glared at him. “The death of one hero will not stop Cybertron from extracting its justice from Megatron and all that follow him.”



    “Where…where’s your friend?” Ferak asked nervously looking around. “The Convoy looking one.”



    Magnus looked to the other surviving Decepticon. “Dishonor has claimed many throughout Cybertron, and has given Cybertron many of the mighty to choose from in obtaining justice against those dishonorable monsters.”



    “I am the commanding officer!” Straxus snarled. “I am the one to be spared.”



    “Rank is irrelevant here.” Magnus countered. “All I need is one to let Megatron know that I am coming for him, and either of you can achieve that task.”



    “You will spare me none the less.” Straxus growled. “You are Delta Magnus, I refuse to believe that you came back from the pit forgetting your reverence for chain of command!”



    Magnus fixed him with a stare, his yellow optics boring through Straxus’s, before turning to Ferak. “Your commander is a coward and wants me to kill you so that he may live.”



    “It would seem so.” Ferak hissed, sending a hate-filled glare at Straxus.



    “If I were to release you, what would you report to Megatron?” Magnus asked.



    Ferak looked up at Magnus intently for a moment as he considered his answer. “I would tell Megatron that Delta Magnus, and…some Convoy have returned from the Allspark to administer justice to him and all that follow him.”



    Magnus pulled a large rifle that had been magnetically strapped to his back and held it over Ferak. “Ferak of Petrex, I find your report to Megatron to be….adequate.” Magnus twisted and pointed his rifle at Straxus’s face. Straxus started to protest, but a bright light preceded oblivion.





    ---





    Minimus Ambus





    His light footfalls caused barely a ripple of noise coming off the floor and bouncing off the walls compared to those of the two guards escorting him through the dimly lit hallway toward the noise of calm festivities coming from the large chamber ahead of them. “You’re certain he’s still here?”



    “Yes, Lord Ambus, there’s no way they’d let him leave yet.” The hulking white and red guard introduced to him as Artfire replied.



    “While the plans for this feast have been in place for days,” the predominantly black mid-sized guard who called himself Ricochet chimed in, “upon hearing that he’d be here, the theme quickly changed to one focusing on him.”



    “Definitely appropriate,” Minimus smiled, “but from what I hear, he’s not fond of being the focus.”



    “Apparently nobody told Prime before putting on that show this morning.” Artfire chuckled as they made their way to the huge double doors separating them from the mild clamor beyond. “Lord Ambus, we appreciate the distance you have traveled, but know that should your presence not be welcomed here, we will be escorting you to a more common section of Tyger Pax, or possibly to its gates should it be asked.”



    Minimus smiled. “I know I’m not expected, but I don’t believe that I’ve amassed that much ill will…yet anyway.”



    “I’m not expecting a rejection either, Lord Ambus, but you weren’t invited, so I can’t dismiss the possibility.” Artfire explained.



    Ricochet chuckled before adding his comment. “Plus Commander Pax is a Convoy, and, well,”



    “I’m aware of the accusations regarding House Ambus’s lack of action in Deathsaurus’s attack.” Ambus snapped. “And I realize that those accusations are at least to some degree valid. But every Ambus that was alive then no longer lives.” He looked down at the floor sadly. “All Ambuses apart from me and the two newborn sparked in the last pulse no longer live.”



    “Understood, Lord Ambus,” Ricochet sheepishly replied, “and I apologize for my lack of tact.”



    “No need for apologies,” Minimus stated before nodding toward the large double doors just ahead of them, “but if we could…”



    “Of course.” Artfire answered before pushing the doors apart and leading them in. Within a few steps the guards had fallen back into position flanking the miniscule seven-foot tall robot. Though Minimus had never been to Tyger Pax before, he knew this to be the main audience chamber, just reconfigured for a feast, dining tables aligned along the walls, the center of the vast room open but currently occupied by an elegant orange femme expertly strumming a giganoharp, creating a sound worthy of the ears of Primus. On the far end, golden letters called out the words of House Pax, words coming ever closer to becoming a reality with the creation and implementation of the Cybertronum Quod Aequalitas. Directly across from the Pax words, near the ceiling on the opposite wall, the top section of that wall was covered by a tarp. The perpendicular walls, which were the longer stretch of wall, held the face of the Common Man in the center of each, an obvious welcoming of the Autobots and their ideals to Tyger Pax. Seated, or mounted given his perpetual vehicular mode, in the center of the long table to the right of the dais under the Pax house words was Emir Roller Pax, seated to his left was former Emir and currently Tyger Pax Caretaker Olnius Pax, seated to Roller’s right was the bot of the hour, Autobot Commander Orion Pax, and seated to his right was Emir of Axiom Elita One, who was looking a bit…dazed, her optics glossy, an odd, euphoric smile on her face as she seemed to stare off toward the harpist. The rest of the room was filled with other members of House Pax, high ranking aids to the house, prominent Polaruns, and various others Minimus did not recognize. What little conversation taking place was muted so as not to interfere with the beautiful sounds of the harp, but what conversation there was paused as the dozens of guests caught sight of the newcomer and the Pax guards escorting him. Even the harpist paused, at which point Artfire addressed the room. “I present Lord Minimus of House Ambus of the emirate of Tyrest.”



    “Lord Ambus, we were not expecting you.” Olnius Pax said as he rose from his seat, a pleasant, but not altogether welcoming smile on his face.



    “I apologize for coming uninvited and the lack of notice, I only recently received verification of Autobot Commander Orion Pax’s arrival in Polarus, and felt compelled…” Minimus’s gaze shifted from Olnius to Orion, “I felt compelled to come and pay my respects…and thanks.”



    “The thanks go both ways my friend.” Orion stood as he replied. “Our forces were only able to fight as valiantly and efficiently as they did because we knew that those we left behind were in exceptionally competent hands and would be seen to safety. You and Ratchet organized a flawless withdrawal from our base of all the wounded, civilians and support personnel, and channeled them to areas as safe as could be hoped for. Ratchet explained how masterfully you arranged everything. As commander of the Autobot armed forces and the other warriors that day, you have my eternal gratitude for ensuring the safety of those we left behind.”



    Minimus was stunned. “You…you honor me beyond…thank you Commander Pax.”



    Orion nodded and smiled. “Please,” he looked down to Roller, who provided a cheerful chirp before Orion continued, “find a place and dine with us. We’ve been fortunate in finding ample energon, and have it in solid and liquified forms, both pure and engex.”



    “I…I thank you Commander Pax, and you Emir Pax.” Minimus replied, and noted Ricochet politely nodding to an open space at the table several seats down from Elita One. “Before I sit, I would like to ask something of you, Commander Pax.”



    “Please, it’s just Orion, and ask.” The Autobot Commander responded.



    Minimus peered intently at the young hero for a moment before starting. “Orion, four years ago, in the hours preceding the start of our war with the sparkeaters, I interrupted a moment of revelry that you were trying to have with Emir Roller and Elita One,”



    At the mention of her name, Elita focused on Minimus and smiled. “Lord Ambus, how wonderful to see you, when did you arrive?”



    A few people chuckled lightly at Elita One’s disorientation. “Just now, Elita One. I was just discussing the time I took your seat, interrupted your time with friends, to ask something of Orion Pax. I know not whether he took my words to spark or not, but if he did, I ask now that he disregard the request.”



    “What request did you make of him four years ago, my lord?” Lady Nelonia Pax asked from her seat to the left of Olnius.



    Minimus’s optics remained fixed on those of Orion’s. “I told you that they, the people of Cybertron, would be looking to you for inspiration, for leadership, for protection, for justice, and everything else imaginable. At the time I wasn’t sure whether they would be right to do so or not, clearly history has proven that they were. I told you that if they were right to be looking to you, it wouldn’t be because of any destiny, or birthright, or your metallico, or green spark or your name, I told you that they would be right to look to you because you weren’t good enough, not in your own optics, but that you eternally strove to be.” Minimus quelled a surge of emotion before forcing himself to continue. “If my words were taken to spark, if they did inspire you to be better than you already were, then I suppose that would be some sort of silver lining for these words that I have been ashamed of speaking for the last four years. I said them to prompt you to be braver, and more selfless, and more inspiring so that I and others could survive, knowing that you doing these things would make it all but impossible for you to survive with us. I apologize for being selfish by prodding you to be more selfless than you’d already always been. But now that you’ve achieved what we needed you to achieve, now that you’ve done more than any of us could have ever hoped or expected of you, please disregard those words. Please see Orion Pax as the rest of the world sees Orion Pax.” He smiled and looked to Elita and then Roller. “And I should apologize to both you, Elita One, and you, Emir Roller, for interrupting your planned time with friends that day.”


    Elita smiles and wobbled slightly in her seat. “I remember returning to the table to see you standing on it, poking your finger into Orion’s head.” She giggled.


    Minimus smiled. “I remember that as well, my lady. Perhaps you should slow down on the engex.”


    Elita gave a confused look. “This is my first glass.” The comment caused some muffled and subdued chuckling from the guards a step behind him on either side, as well as an odd smirk from Orion. Wha…ohhhhh, the disorientation that comes after….ah-ha. But this was more pronounced than he’d ever…oh, right, Orion bore an ignis superious. “My mistake Elita One, perhaps I should find my seat now.” Ricochet and Artfire led him to a seat at the same table that the Paxes and other high ranking dignitaries were seated, roughly ten seats down from Elita One. “Thank you both.” Minimus stated as he took his seat.


    A few minutes passed as another song was played on the giganoharp, a sweet but melancholy tune that typically was accompanied by lyrics regarding the life of a Warden of the Gates, but no singing accompanied the harp. As the song faded Minimus noted Olnius Pax making his way around the table, his goblet in one hand and a data tab in the other, and walk toward the center of the vast room. The former emir smiled and nodded to the harpist. “Thank you.” She nodded in return and rose from her seated position to take another seat at the table on the other side of the room. Olnius then turned around to gaze at everyone present. “I would like to thank you all for coming. This was a feast that was in the making for over a week, one to celebrate our survival, to celebrate our resolve, our victory over a seemingly invincible enemy. We did it my friends, all of us, all of Cybertron. The histories will be written of this era, they will detail our glorious survival and victory.” He raised his goblet. “To Cybertron!” All present raised their glasses and repeated the toast. Olnius took a small drink with everyone, sent a smile around the room before settling his gaze upon the seated Orion. “I say histories because there will be many accounts of the last four years entered into the historical record, many perspectives, many points of view, many individual stories of suffering, and hardship, and sacrifice and heroism. But every one of those histories will have at least one thing in common. In each one, the name Orion Pax will be mentioned, liberally more often than not. The reason for this, as so personally and beautifully stated by Lord Minimus Ambus moments ago, is that no individual is more responsible for our salvation than you.” Olnius lowered his goblet and looked earnestly at Orion. “As I said, this feast was in the making for over a week, but the news this morning of a miraculous survival and recovery, and subsequently your return, well, that has come to add so much and change the tone of this celebration.” He then smiled and looked around the room. “Oh, wait, I apologize, I misspoke. Every one of the histories regarding the last four years will prominently involve the name Orion Pax, UNLESS, the story in question is being told BY Orion Pax. I have not heard his telling of the war with the sparkeaters, but I’m willing to bet that at no point does he mention his own contributions, and were he to be asked of what Orion Pax did during the war, I’m certain his answer would be along the lines of ‘he was a soldier in an army, a spoke on the wheel, a cog in the machine’.”


    Olnius smiled. “I mentioned this to Emir Roller earlier today, and he laughed, his playful chirping, and then told me in his code that I was right, and that he was very glad for it. You see, for the handful of you who may not know, Roller and Orion were born in the same pulse, they grew up together, their friendship, their brotherhood was forged almost from the beginnings of their lives, and as they were both raised here at the same time, they were educated together until Orion went to Iacon several months later. And having been educated with Orion, and being his closest and most dear friend, Roller has every reason to be grateful for Orion’s rendition of the last four years playing down the accomplishments of Orion Pax. It’s the first opportunity Roller has had to point to something…anything, as proof that Orion can be wrong.” The room gave a soft friendly chuckle, and some chirping could be heard from Roller. Olnius once again looked intently at Orion. “In all seriousness, welcome home, my brother, my friend, my hero. And please know that wherever you go, whatever you choose to do or choose to become, know that Tyger Pax is and always will be your home.” Olnius turned to the wall opposite the one bearing the Pax words, and nodded to a servant, who returned the nod and pulled a string, releasing the tarp that had been in place high above. As the tarp fell, another set of house words was revealed, gold like those of House Pax, similar in meaning to those of House Pax, but these were words that preceded the creation of House Pax and their words, and words that most historians agreed were the inspiration of House Pax’s words. ‘The Defense Of Freedom Requires The Dedication Of The Mighty’.


    “Legend has it that Paxus was found by members of House Convoy as they were investigating claims of an underground labyrinth in the polar north. At the time the depths were to be used as a sanctuary for the living to escape to, only later was its intended function changed to a prison for the cybervores. But according to legends, it was Convoys that found the young Paxus, and played an integral part in his upbringing, raising him to be the most honorable and selfless of the Knights of Cybertron. One look at our words and our core values is verification enough of these legends. House Convoy has always been a part of House Pax, and as they raised and nurtured our first, House Pax is honored and fortunate to have raised and nurtured their last. Orion, when I say that this is your home, know that it is not just home to the line of Pax, it is home to the line of Convoy.” He then raised the tablet in his left hand. “I want you to know that we all encourage you to fully embrace your Convoy heritage, as we encourage and support the unquestionably just cause of the Autobots,” he waved behind him at the Autobrand mounted high on the wall behind him and nodded to the one on the wall in front of him, “before I make a request of you.”


    “House Pax has always been beyond supportive of everything I’ve done, my lord.” Orion replied. “Ask anything of me.”


    Olnius nodded to the tablet. “This data pad houses the initial draft of your legal admission to House Pax drawn up by Arlon Pax and A-Three the day you left for Iacon. It was something Arlon realized before anyone other than Torenia and Roller, that you are one of us, that House Pax is incomplete without Orion. You took our name, but your birth outside Torus Heights borders made it so that you could not become one of us until you reached the Age of Self-Determination, and by that point, you’d embraced the ideals of the Autobots and would accept no enhanced citizenship.” Olnius shrugged. “And that seemed to be it…until two days ago when Guardian Prime revealed that we were all social and legal equals via the Cybertronum Quod Aequalitas. For most formerly highborn on Cybertron, this was a curse. But for House Pax, it’s was a way to take a step toward completing our house after years of so much loss.” Olnius walked over to the table where Orion was seated on the other side, and placed his goblet on the table as he flicked the screen of the data pad to make a few adjustments. “In addition to the initial draft, this data pad also contains a finalized and updated legal admission to House Pax. Really, the only difference between the two versions is that the updated one has been stripped of the rights granted by becoming royalty, as now, thanks to the efforts of you and the other Autobots, there are none.” Olnius smiled at Orion. “You’ve always been one of us, please make it official.”



    Orion smiled back at Olnius before glancing down at Roller’s vehicular form. “What say you, brother? You really want to make your connection to me undeniable?” Roller emitted a series of beeps, squeaks and purrs, causing Nelonia to gasp and Orion to chuckle. “Jerk.” Orion muttered before looking at Olnius and standing up, pressing his right index finger on the center of the data pad. “Torenia Pax embraced me as I emerged from the ground, Arlon Pax granted me a home and place at your table, Roller Pax made room for me in his education and in his spark. Tyger Pax has always been my home, House Pax has always been my family, and it would be my tremendous honor to be counted as one of you. I will always do my best to bring pride to House Pax.”



    Olnius smiled, but nodded his head toward the data tab. “You have to, you know, make it…”



    “Oh.” Orion chuckled. “I, Orion Pax of Iacon, do hereby accept membership into House Pax of The Torus Heights, accepting all responsibilities inherent in membership to House Pax.” He removed his finger from the data pad.



    “That’s sufficient, and it’s official, but the actual acceptance agreement is ‘accepting all entitlements and responsibilities inherent in membership to House Pax’.” Olnius corrected.



    “I’m still an Autobot, Lord Olnius,” Orion smirked, “and besides, there are no more entitlements to be issued for being a royal.”



    “You are entitled to a better room now.” Nelonia chuckled, causing many others to laugh as well.



    Orion smiled, looking down at Elita before looking back up and sitting back in his chair. “Everyone is quick to ridicule my room, but it’s always been exactly what I needed it to be, and it reminds me of a time when there were more Paxes. I will be staying there.”



    “What’s wrong with his room?” Minimus asked the person next to him, a slender, predominantly golden-hued femme with a blue head adornment and large blue optics.



    “It’s in the servants’ wing, and my understanding is that it’s quite small.” The femme answered with a smile.



    “Autobot or not, he should definitely upgrade to a better room.” Minimus chuckled. “Perhaps he’ll come to his senses when he sobers up.”


    “He’s sober.” The femme replied. “I’m new here, just arrived and met most of the Paxes today, but I’ve come to understand that Orion Pax has never imbibed tainted energon.”


    “He’s a tea-toddler?” Minimus expressed surprise.


    “According to Nelonia, who I believe heard directly from Roller, Orion has always intended to have his first drink of engex with his brother.” The gold and blue matronly robot explained. “I understand there was an occasion early on in a Polarun public house, but while Roller did consume some engex, Orion was not able to before the two of them were arrested for being in a pub prior to their Age of Self-Determination. And now Roller’s brain module is in such a delicate state that consuming tainted energon could be very detrimental to him.”


    A look of dread came over Minimus. “Sweet Primus, just as I was getting some peace over what I did that day…”


    “What?” The femme asked.


    “My lady,”


    “I’m Docent, I am the new caretaker of the libraries here.” Docent replied.


    “Docent, that day I was speaking of earlier, I fear that had I not interrupted Orion, Roller and Elita as I did, they would have had at least some of their engex and Orion’s requirement for having his first drink with his brother would have been met.” Minimus sadly muttered. “I’ve condemned the poor fellow to a lifetime of sobriety.”


    Docent chuckled. “I think you can put your mind at ease, Lord Minimus. Orion does not seem to be troubled by this life of sobriety that you seem to fear for him.”


    “Not yet maybe.” Minimus grumbled. “At least I didn’t keep the lad from spreading his blue…err, green.”


    “Pardon me?” Docent asked, genuinely confused.


    Minimus took a deep slug of engex before belching out a reply. “Never mind.”


    Suddenly the main doors, the doors that Minimus had entered through, were pushed open and the Autobot known as Ironhide entered the vast room. “Constable Ironhide!” Olnius called cheerfully as he stood. “Welcome dear friend, find a seat and partake in all that House Pax has to offer!”


    “That’s most kind, Lord Olnius,” Ironhide replied with a sad smile on his face, “but ah’m still on duty.” He took a few more steps forward and looked directly at Orion. “I apologize Commander, but might I have a word?”


    “Constable, am I to infer that you’re here to arrest Orion Pax?” Nelonia asked jokingly. Her question prompted a clipped series of chirps from Roller, prompting her to look over at him and broaden her smile. “That’s right, arrest him again?”


    “No, mah lady, nuthin’ like that.” Ironhide once again looked directly at Orion. “It’s not fair ta’ ask, especially as you’re still kickin’ tha tires on yer new body, but, well, we’ve got a situation in Polarus that my officers may not be quite ready for. They’re good, but, it’s a situation they’ve never encountered, but it’s somethin’ you’ve dealt with dozens-a times.”


    “Of course.” Orion said as he stood up and started walking toward the end of the table to make his way around. “Let me guess, a stray sparkeater in Polarus.”


    “Yep.” Ironhide stated. Roller let out a series of beeps and pulled out from his mount to follow after Orion, something that caused Ironhide to sway a bit uncomfortably.


    “I’m coming too.” Elita One, suddenly snapping back into her senses, said loudly as she too stood and started walking after them.


    “Oh, I’m not missing this.” Minimus laughed as he too jumped down from his seat and headed out after them.


    “Emir Pax,” Ironhide called out, “perhaps it would be best if you stayed. You as well, Elita One.” A series of beeps and chirps, tied to him speeding up as he rounded the table and pulled past Orion, let the Constable know that there would be no sitting this one out for the Emir.


    “What he said.” Elita chimed in as she followed after the two Paxes, Minimus jogging to catch up to them.


    “Et tu, Lord Ambus?” Nelonia asked as Minimus rounded the table after the others.


    “Strictly an observational role for me,” Minimus replied as he caught up to the group as they headed toward the door, “but as I told your new librarian, I’m not missing this.”


    In minutes they were on the road to Polarus, speeding there with a pair of Ironhide’s deputies accompanying them. Finally reaching the outskirts of what qualified as a large city in The Torus Heights, but which seemed rustic and quaint to Minimus Ambus, the group zipped through the empty streets, darting around turns, getting into what would be a seedier part of town by Polarun standards, and finally coming to a stop in a dimly lit alley leading to an almost hidden doorway with several other members of the Polarus Constabulary around it looking a bit fretful. “Damnit,” Orion muttered as he and everyone else transformed, “it had to be the Wolf at the Door.”


    “So this is the place you met these troublemakers, eh Ironhide?” Elita chuckled as they slowly made their way to the door.


    “Fraid so.” Ironhide replied. “So here’s the deal, couple a’ would-be patrons wandered through the door to see a sparkeater crouched over the body o’ someone about an hour ago. We looked through the window an’ verified there’s a body lying on tha floor, chest ripped open but too far an’ dark to identify much more than that. An’ we heard a commotion and a bit o’ slaverin’, so pretty sure the creature’s still in there.”


    A hatch built into Orion’s back opened and he reached back with his left hand to withdraw a collapsed ion blaster, snapping it into its full shape with a quick flick of his wrist. His right fist flipped into his wrist and his energon axe ignited, providing a mild orange glow to the alley. “I’m going in alone to assess the situation, everyone is to remain here until I return.” Roller started beeping in protest, but Orion turned and cut him off. “Let me just see what we’re dealing with. I promise I’ll try to avoid an engagement until after I’ve reported back.”


    “Commander, that thing has been sensin’ ya’ since we got ta’ within two miles a’ here.” Ironhide protested. “Ya’ go through that door, it’ll be on ya’ in a sparkpulse!”


    “I’ve read reports that suggest that they’ve been far more hesitant since the destruction of their leadership.” Orion replied. “I’m just going to take a look and report back.” Orion made his way toward the door, the constables near it nodding to him reverently and backing away to let him through. Orion disappeared through the door, causing everyone outside to shudder in fear for him, and everyone but Minimus to gear up to charge in should any indication that he was in trouble be given. Fortunately there was no commotion and less than a minute passed before Orion returned, retracting his energon axe as he approached them with a solemn look on his face. “One victim, one sparkeater, fortunately a vrykol. I will go in alone and dispatch the cybervore. Elita, Roller and Ironhide will oversee the exterior in case it gets by me.”


    “It’s not going to try and get by you, your green spark is all it’ll be focused on!” Elita nearly growled. “We slaggin’ lost you, but you’re back! It’s a gift, we’re not letting you throw that gift away!”


    “I WILL go in alone and dispatch the cybervore!” Orion shot back, not cruelly, but in a tone that made it absolutely clear his course of action would not be swayed. Of course, the only one in a position to overrule Orion Pax fully intended to do so, and the Emir of The Torus Heights fired off a series of beeps and chirps. Orion looked down at him and sadly shook his head. “Brother, a word alone?” Orion walked back down the alley, Roller following after him, and once they had put twenty yards between themselves and the group, Orion knelt down and began whispering to his brother, and after several seconds a long, mournful whine came from the emir. “There’s more.” Orion’s whisper was barely heard by the group, and what followed was completely undecipherable, but whatever it was, it resulted in an even more spark-wrenching cry from the vehicular Pax. Orion rose back to his feet. “Brother, please let me do this alone. You know now that it isn’t about keeping you from physical danger.” Roller was silent for many seconds before emitting a chirp that obviously meant acquiescence. Orion nodded and returned to the group. “Emir Pax has agreed that I am to dispatch the sparkeater on my own. Afterward I will need Elita One and Minimus Ambus to take temporary command of the Polarun Constabulary while Ironhide protects Roller from the secure position back in the alley.”


    “Excuse me sir?” Ironhide shot back, shocked. “What do you mean?”


    Orion stepped toward him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “My friend, like with Roller, this isn’t about protecting you from physical injury.”


    “Wha…” a look of realization came over the old robot’s face, “ah slag, who is it?”


    Orion looked down sadly. “The victim is, it’s Dion, Ironhide.” Orion watched his friend shake his head sadly. “The beast…I’m sorry old friend, but it’s Ariel.”


    “Ah nooo!” Ironhide growled. “Prahmus no. Not Ariel, she was such a sweet kid.”


    “I promise I’ll make it quick, my friend.” Orion said.


    “Do whatcha need ta’ do, son.” Ironhide replied sadly. “Ariel died the moment that thing was born.” Orion nodded and started toward the door. Ironhide sadly watched his commanding officer in the Autobot Armed Forces march into a building housing one of the few remaining sparkeaters on the planet, a creature that would be driven ravenous once his green spark got close enough, a creature that had been at one time a friend and someone Orion’s brother had apparently been extremely close to. “Prahmus speed, son.” He then looked directly at Minimus and then to Elita. “What he asked is beneath ya’, and ah’m fully capable of goin’ in there for tha aftermath. Ah’ve scooped up friends before, this’ll be nothin’ new ta’ me. But yeah, let’s not let Roller see either a’ them.”


    “You see to Roller, my friend.” Elita placed a hand on Ironhide’s arm. “Helping Roller and Orion Pax is never beneath anyone.” Minimus opened his mouth to add something, but the sounds of weapon’s fire came from within, then an unholy screech that terrified everyone present, and then, two seconds later, an explosion that blew out the windows of the first floor. A moment later Orion emerged through the scorched door, his energon axe retracting again as he flipped his ion blaster back to compact mode and placed it into his back-hatch with his other hand. His body was scorched, something that made him look more familiar than the shiny polished look he’d borne that entire day, and his optics were downward cast, a look of sadness on him. Elita turned to Minimus. “I have this, Lord Ambus. I…I need to do this, this is something,” she looked sadly at both Orion and then back to Roller, “this needs to be me.” Minimus nodded, getting a mournful smile from Elita before she walked up to Orion, touched his face, looked deeply into his optics and nodded as she stepped away and walked to the door, addressing the other officers as she made her way. “We’ll need tarps for the bodies, they are to be completely wrapped. There is to be nothing exposed, nothing at all. Lord Roller and Constable Ironhide are to see no part of the victims’ bodies.”


    “I thought there was only one victim, my lad…Emir…Elita One.” One of the officers stated.


    “They’re both victims.” Elita replied as she walked into the Wolf At The Door.


    Minimus watched as Orion reached he and Ironhide, cupping Ironhide by the shoulder and leading him down the alley to where Roller was waiting. From yards away, Minimus tried to listen to what Orion was saying to them. “I’m so sorry Roller, I’m sorry for both of you, this is a terrible thing that’s happened, we will all remember them both fondly, and we’ll arrange a service for them. That said, I am glad I have a moment with you both, another matter has come up and I need to discuss it with the two of you. Guardian Prime has asked me to serve Cybertron once again,” he shook his head an displayed an odd smile, “by leaving it…again. I’ve accepted, but I need a small team, and I would love for that team to include the two of you.” Roller immediately replied with a frantic series of Mahpop chirping and buzzing, something that made Orion smile. “You’ll need to set aside your role as Emir of The Torus Heights.” Another series of chirps caused Orion to emit a low chuckled. “Okay, fine, we’ll arrange for an election tomorrow.” Orion then raised his gaze to Ironhide. “How about you, old friend, have you gotten your fill of taking orders from your old cadet, or do you feel like endangering yourself a bit more?”


    Ironhide laughed as he slapped Orion’s shoulder. “Commander, I’d follow ya’ right inta Unicron’s maw!”


    “Good to know, I’ll keep that in mind should Prime ever suggest it, but for now we’re headed to a ball of dirt, water and rock call Helios 3,” Orion replied, “I guess the natives refer to it as Earth.”
     
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