The Ascension of Nova Black

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Fierceawakening, Jun 12, 2011.


How often should I post chapters of this fic? (The fic itself is finished.)

  1. Post them all now!

    2 vote(s)
  2. Daily

    2 vote(s)
  3. Every couple of days

    2 vote(s)
  4. Weekly

    2 vote(s)
  5. Something else (explain in comments)

    0 vote(s)
  1. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

    Jun 6, 2011
    Trophy Points:
    I've seen a few poll votes saying to post these more often. I'll try to do two this week, and the final one next week.

    Only two chapters to go!

    Part Fifteen

    The smaller machine emitted a piercing beep as the tool in Nova Black's hand spun, relentless.

    "Relax, damn you. I'm just trying to screw your new leg in."

    Was it a leg? She had no idea what repair drones' appendages were called. It wasn't the sort of thing she ever thought she'd need to know.

    "I told you I don't know what I'm doing," she muttered, dental plates clenched, as four optics glared at her. Even the unlit one glinted in reproach.

    And the medic's tools didn't help either. Built for use by repair drones, they would have been too small for Nova's hands even if she'd had the expertise to wield them properly. She'd barely been able to tell she had the damn thing in the right place.

    But as she watched, the thin appendage twitched, feebly at first, then stronger. Its owner chirred again, less angrily this time.

    She hoped, anyway. She lowered her arm, watching as the medic tested it, its movements smoother with each passing second.

    "After all that, you're telling me it worked?" Her scarred faceplates shifted into a grin in spite of themselves.

    The smaller machine nodded.

    "Fine. Let's see what we can do about these others." She peered at them intently. They were twisted so badly to one side that Nova wondered how exactly it still managed to balance on them. "Do you have any more spares?"

    It whistled, a high, grating noise, and shook its head.

    Nova grunted, putting down the tool she held and picking up a cutting laser and a far too tiny welding torch. That wasn't good, but it also wasn't surprising. Half the spare parts in Base Six were too rusted to use unless they belonged to Bane, or to someone he felt like being nice to. Apparently the little medic hadn't impressed him.

    Muttering curses as she strained to keep her too-large hands from getting in her own way, she set to work on straightening the pieces as best she could and welding the appendage back together. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was better than being bent half backwards.

    "How's that?" she asked. It trilled at her in a less annoying tone, so she set to work on the other one, cutting through it and working to reset it.

    When she was done, it shifted its weight gingerly to its new and repaired appendages and scurried down the alley, far more slowly than it should have. After a few steps, it listed to one side, correcting itself and moving on in a straight line, then wavering again.

    It turned, chirping, and tilted its head at her again.

    She waved the tools in her hands. "Don't ask me to try again. I might have too much fun."

    It chirred again and left the alley, not sparing her another look.

    Which meant she could get back to fighting. Leech had told her that Brightbolt was out there. Tearing up a member of her team, no less.

    Her weapons systems humming as she powered them up, she rushed back down to the alley entrance. Pausing only a moment to make sure she wouldn't be rushing headlong into a knot of enemies, she stepped back out, lasers at the ready.

    She could see the bright orange flashes of the weapon up ahead, and the angry violet of her comrades' return fire. Her immediate area, however, was deserted, smoke rising from the twisted metal of fallen bots.

    Satisfaction crackled through her spark as she realized that none of the bodies were Decepticon. Not that she had expected any different.

    Few of them were Neutral, either. Perhaps her team understood her insistence that the Autobots were the real enemy. Or perhaps the anti-aircraft weapon kept them from spending too much time forgetting their objectives and blowing things up because they could.

    Then she frowned, recognizing one of the blasted parts littering the ground. It was a massive blue arm, cabling snaking out from where it had been ripped free of the shoulder joint. The gray fist at its end was clenched tight, the fingers locked in place, making the arm a broad, heavy ram to batter down anything in its way.

    Both the fist and the exposed cabling were spattered with hydraulic fluid, some belonging to its owner and some to its enemies.

    Nova's lips drew back in a snarl. "Whoever did that to you will pay, old friend," she hissed. Colossus was perfectly capable of doing damage with only one arm, and he did still have his guns, unless there was one of those lying somewhere nearby too. Still, how exactly would they get rid of the weapon keeping the flyers out of the air with him severely damaged?

    Watching another orange flash light the sky, she clicked her comm link and spoke without preamble. "Quake. Get over there and destroy that thing."

    "Already on my way, 'Con," the big mech rumbled. "But the damn thing has guards your blue friend and I can't handle if we're busy smashing up weapons controls."

    "Understood. I'll cover you and get the others. But first I have something to do." Her optics flared as she cut the comm link and ran through the rubble toward the lights and sounds of the battle ahead.

    A shimmer of silver caught her optics. She snarled at the interruption and her new optics focused on the glare, magnifying its source.

    Someone's caught in there. Intrigued, she half-leapt, half-hovered toward the flashes of metal. If it was an Autobot, she'd need to kill it.

    Then she heard a series of cries, one wail repeated over and over in a stutter of wordless dismay.

    "Twitch?" she muttered, her wings clicking as she leaned down to see.

    The Neutral lay half-buried under debris, one of her long legs twisted under a heavy, jagged piece of metal, probably blasted out of a nearby building.

    It wasn't heavy, not in the grand scheme of things. Colossus or Quake might have been able to lift it, and even if they couldn't, they could probably break it up enough to get the flailing Neutral out from under it.

    But Nova was a flier, small and light, built for aerodynamics and speed rather than for strength.

    "Let's get you out of here," she heard herself say. Her wings fluttered in amazement at the words. Had they really come from her vocalizer? She hissed as she bent down to grab at the twisted metal piled atop the thin, mangled leg.

    "Damn it," she snarled. She didn't even like Twitch. Twitch had been less suspicious of her than the others, yes. But her live-and-let-live attitude had, it seemed, extended to Autobots as well as to Decepticons.

    That was disgusting. But somehow so was seeing Twitch's leg pinned like this. Twitch hadn't turned against her, even when the others had. If any of the Neutrals deserved this, it would be one of the ones who had cursed Nova, not Twitch.

    "You!" the flailing bot snarled, her yellow optics fixing on Nova. "You brought this on us! You did this! We didn't care who you were or where you came from! We gave you a place and you betrayed us!"

    Nova raised an arm, aiming her laser squarely at Twitch. "You talk too much."

    The silver head jerked up. "Fine," Twitch said, speaking in staccato bursts. "Kill me. I don't want to live anyway. Not now."

    Nova's arm twitched, her lip plates curling in a snarl as her weapons systems roared to life.

    "You want me to kill you?" Nova chuckled.

    Twitch stopped, keeping herself as still as she could, her head and chest vibrating with the effort it took to keep herself from moving.

    "That's a problem. I should - but I don't want to."

    She grunted, lowering her arm and firing at the mangled leg. Twitch tossed her head and howled, beyond words. Nova transformed her hand and swept down with her energon blade, severing the limb.

    Twitch stared. Nova kicked at the silver chest and watched with a satisfied grin as the smaller bot skidded away, squealing, landing hard near another pile of rubble.

    "There!" someone called. She heard the heavy clicks of a large-framed grounder transforming.

    She answered it with her own transformation, hovering as high off the ground as she dared with the surface-to-air weapon still hunting for airborne Decepticons.

    Transforming, however, gave her speed. Speed she'd need to catch up to the bots looking for her.

    There were two small ones, scouts by the look of them. One had transformed into a sleek, compact vehicle. The other had not. Swooping past the one who hadn't, she could see that the laser the other had trained on her had been hastily welded on.

    Guess that's the way it is when you're not built a warrior, she thought, scoffing, until the thin orange beam grazed a wing.

    She spun out of the way of his next shots. Then she sped after her attacker, her weapons systems roiling with heat as it charged.

    Let's show you what a real weapon can do,
    she thought, the bright lavender of her new lasers speeding toward her enemy. It flared as it hit. Encouraged, she fired again, hoping to pierce the Autobot's armor deep enough that she'd hit a volatile fuel line.

    Come on, come on, she thought, intent on her target but still thinking of the weapon up ahead, ready to sear her to cinders if she flew too high.

    The enemy below her swerved crazily. Whether he was losing control from pain or damage or simply trying to shake her, she couldn't tell. Letting her fancy new targeting system do the work it was designed for, she fired again.

    Obligingly, the small Autobot burst into flame.

    Heat surged in her own systems and she wheeled in triumph, twisting to avoid the beams of enemy fire that answered her. That's one down.

    A flare of bright orange light cut her celebration short. She veered off, transforming again and hitting the ground running. Fine. If that thing doesn't want me flying, I won't fly.

    She snarled, lunging at the nearest of her two enemies, catching him and knocking him sprawling. By the time they landed, her hand had already transformed, and she shoved her dagger into the enemy's chest with a cry. White light flared in her optics as her blade found the enemy spark and pierced it.

    She grinned fiercely despite the bright light momentarily blinding her and rolled aside, hoping her instincts would be good enough to avoid anything the big one threw at her now.

    Heat near her helm told her she'd just barely managed to avoid getting hit. Raising her untransformed arm, she fired, cursing.

    That last move had cost her. She was still dizzy, static flaring in her optics. She could see a black, charred hole in the Autobot's plating where her fire had hit, but he rumbled toward her, supremely unconcerned.

    She rolled out of the way, far too awkwardly for someone who'd just been upgraded. Still, big grounders weren't fast, especially in their vehicle modes. The ungainly move did its job, and the Autobot's engine roared in irritation as he turned, too slowly, to face the prize that had gotten away.

    She scrambled to her feet, darting in and out of the big machine's way, hoping her game would coax him into transforming. His engine rumbled in a slow imitation of laughter.

    "Slag you," she hissed. She couldn't hit anything this big with enough firepower to do much to it, not on her legs. But if she took to the air, she'd make herself a target for an even bigger weapon.

    Unless she could use that to her advantage.

    With a wild cry, she transformed, wheeling above the big Autobot and firing down at him. His engine stuttered in pain as her shots connected, and she gave a high cry of triumph, her circuits hot with elation.

    In front of her, she could hear the resonant hum of the Autobots' weapon activating. Come on, she thought again, diving down for another pass, swooping down close enough to her enemy that she almost scraped against his metal.

    Then she heard the deep boom as it fired, the crackle of its energy as it sped toward her, eager to make her pay for her hubris. She could have sworn she could feel its heat.

    She pulled up, racing high into the sky, just as everything beneath her flared an optic-searing orange.

    A low voice cried, deep and distressed, as the world around it exploded with fire.

    Gotcha, Nova thought, speeding back toward the ground, transforming, and running before it could charge up again.
  2. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

    Jun 6, 2011
    Trophy Points:
    One more to go after this!

    Part Sixteen
    Nova Black hastened toward the fuel reservoir, her spark wheeling its anxiety. The closer she got to it, the closer she got to the Autobots' weapon.

    She was reasonably safe on the ground. Most of the rebels - and most of the Neutrals they'd driven in to protect - couldn't fly. But her last battle had proven that they could, and would, aim the weapon low enough to hit someone on the ground if they had a clear shot and a reason.

    Lavender light ahead of her told her Bane was advancing. She guessed that he, too, was probably on the ground. But even his myriad guns and massive size wouldn't be enough both to disable the weapon and to handle the Autobots swarming to guard it.

    Where are our grounders?
    she thought. Her wings twitched as she remembered Colossus's arm, lying severed and still near a knot of rubble. How grave was that injury? Did he have other injuries as well? If he did, could Quake do enough to compensate for them? He was big, and she'd seen him in action earlier, but he wasn't built a fighter. Not like a Decepticon was.

    Unless he'd been built a Decepticon, too. That was certainly possible, but it would mean he was even more of an opportunist than she'd already thought. She snarled, willing herself to ignore that thought, and opened her comm link. "Nova Black to Quake and Colossus."

    Her old comrade answered first. She cycled a sigh of relief through her vents as she heard his deep voice say, "Reading you, Blackie."

    "What happened back there, old friend? You're - damaged." She wasn't going to say "they tore off your arm," not over an open comm with someone else listening.

    "I am. Don't get me wrong, it hurts like hell. But Leech's little green pal closed the wound and installed some temporary plating over it. The little thing knows what it's doing. I'll be all right.

    "Or at least," he growled, "all right enough to make a few of these bastards pay for what they did to me."

    She chuckled, a cold, metallic click. "Right. Quake?"

    "On my way. Don't worry. Bane, your big blue friend, and I will get the bots manning the weapon. You, Winder, Leech, and his little pet just worry about everyone else."

    She hissed. Bane was a flier. He should be waiting for the grounders to handle it and taking the air as soon as they did, not trying to be one of them. But what could she say? It was a better strategy than hanging around waiting. And what had she been doing for most of this battle, if not fighting from the ground?

    "Fine. You two concentrate on backing Bane up, then." Her optics gleamed as her faceplates twisted into a grin. "I've got someone to go after anyway."

    Quake whistled. "Something tells me I'd hate to be Shiny right about now."

    Colossus laughed, and promptly rumbled in pain. "Who is this?"

    "Just someone from the Settlement who needs taking apart."

    "The Settlement? I thought you were the one telling us to leave the Neutrals alone."

    "He's no more Neutral than I am," Nova answered, clicking the comm link closed.


    She found the debris easily.

    Plenty of bots here had extensible limbs, but she would have known Winder's parts anywhere. And Brightbolt certainly wasn't being subtle about his intentions to tear the serpentine little Decepticon apart. Everywhere Nova looked, she found more of the small links that made up his limbs. They lay in small puddles of hydraulic fluid and Primus knew what else.

    She reached down and picked up a hand, staring at it in morbid fascination. Then she threw it down. Maybe Grandeur had been right about Brightbolt after all.

    "Blackie." A familiar, high voice, laced with static. Startled, Nova looked down.

    Winder's head lay on the floor in front of her, rolling side to side as it howled in pain.

    "Help me," it wailed.

    Nova smirked, leaning down toward it. "Slither into more trouble than you could handle, Winder? You've got a lot of spark calling me by that nickname when you're in pieces."

    The head's optics flashed. Whether in agony or in anger, Nova couldn't tell. "Fine - N - Nova. I - I was wrong to turn the others against you. Please."

    Nova's grin twisted into a scowl. She'd known that Winder had no shame. But whining for his life like this was low, even for him.

    "For - for the team," he said, his rasping squeal disintegrating into another shriek. "I know you despise me. Primus knows - you have a right to. But the team - needs all of us -"

    Nova laughed. "The team? The team didn't need Cinder, and it doesn't need you."

    With a snarl, she kicked the head. It rolled away, squealing in protest.

    "The only problem I have with that shiny Autobot killing you is I don't get to do it myself," she muttered, watching the head spin as it moved. Then she turned away, her optics flaring bright, determined crimson.

    Turning the corner and hastening down another alley, she found Brightbolt. The silver bot leaned over what remained of Winder's chest. He'd torn the small Decepticon's spark chamber open. As she watched, he ripped the bright orb from its housing with his bare hands.

    She raised an arm and fired her laser. The silver bot easily dodged her warning shot. He squeezed the spark in his hand, frowning in concentration as it seared his palm and fingers. It flared brightly and then died.

    Then he whirled to face Nova, so quickly that even her upgraded reflexes couldn't match his speed.

    Nova fought down an exclamation of surprise. She twitched her wings and sneered. "That kill was mine."

    Brightbolt skidded to a stop, his visor flaring yellow. "I've been expecting you to betray us since the moment I laid optics on you," he said, his voice soft and cold. "But this one was your own kind.

    "Your own kind!" he roared, his hands curling into fists.

    "He was a worthless piece of scrap that deserved everything he got," Nova snarled, lunging at Brightbolt. "But I don't like Autobots getting my revenge for me."

    With a screech of metal, Brightbolt swerved out of the way. A silver hand grabbed at one of Nova's wings and pulled. "I already told you I'm not an Autobot any more. I don't deserve to be."

    The small fingers curled, damnably sharp, and dug deep into one of Nova's new brands. Thrashing, she screeched in pain, twitching her wings in an attempt to free them from his grip. It held firm.

    "Oh, that's right," she hissed, turning toward him and grabbing for anything she could reach. If he wasn't going to let go, maybe she could use that to her advantage. "Not even worthy to be scum. I remember now."

    Her hand grabbed the cables at his waist. They weren't part of any critical system, but they would have to do. She yanked with all the strength her upgrade had given her.

    Brightbolt snarled, clawlike fingers digging into Nova's brand as he twitched with pain. Pleased, Nova transformed her other hand into an energon dagger. She thrust out at Brightbolt's abdomen, hoping to do more damage.

    Her blade shone an eager violet as she swung, but it cleaved nothing but air.

    He was gone now, still too fast for Nova to know just how he'd twisted away. But at least he wasn't hanging on to her wing any more. Freed now, Nova whirled, just barely in time to avoid a stream of yellow blaster fire.

    She was a Seeker, which meant she was fast. She'd been upgraded, which meant she was very fast. This bot - this reject half-Autobot - was faster? That couldn't be possible.

    But somehow, she couldn't catch him. At least, not in this mode. If she could transform, and take to the air, that might even the odds. But to do that, she needed to be sure taking off wouldn't earn her a face full of fire from the Autobot weapon.

    She stared, her optics struggling to focus. She could see shimmering, shifting light as the other moved. Gritting her dental plates, she forced herself to be patient as her targeting computer calculated his probable location. Finally, with a grin, she raised an arm, aimed her laser, and fired.

    The sky outside the alley flared purple. That had to be Bane, firing on the weapon again. The ground shook, throwing Nova off balance. Had she managed to hit her enemy? Knocked to the ground, with the light of Bane's shot searing her optics, she couldn't see -

    Something landed on top of her. Awkwardly, thank Primus. She shifted her hand back again, wrapped her arms tightly around her enemy's frame, and rolled.

    Brightbolt hissed again. Nova knew why. She felt it herself, the sharp-edged pieces of her former comrade digging into her back and wings as she and Brightbolt tumbled over and over one another.

    And then her enemy lay beneath her, his blaster lying discarded near the far wall. His visor blazed yellow, and his mouth had twisted into a feral scowl. She yanked her hands away so they wouldn't be crushed beneath him and transformed them. They crackled brightly, energy humming through her weapons systems as her engines rumbled in anticipation. She grinned, imagining how it would feel to drive them deep into her enemy's chest, to pierce his spark and feel it flare in futile desperation. She raised an arm, grinning.

    A silver hand caught it, light but damnably strong, twisting hard as the body it belonged to arched up for better leverage. The cabling in Nova's shoulder went taut, pain flaring through the sensors as it twisted further than it was built to.

    Is this what happened to Colossus? Nova thought, thrashing as the cabling began to tear, sending pain speeding through her sensornet. Are you the one who tore his arm off, you vain little Autobot bastard? Maybe Grandeur was right after all. Maybe you are a one-bot army.

    She felt her arm go slack as the cables controlling its motions ruptured. Light flashed before her optics as his other hand reached up to claw at her face.

    "No, you're not ripping my optics out," Nova snarled. "Not after all I did to earn them."

    Hissing in desperation, she swung blindly with her other arm, hoping to get lucky, or at least to distract him.

    The blow never landed, but two things did happen. First, the arm lunging for Nova's optics stopped, twisting hard to block her other arm. Second, her enemy's whole frame moved as his weight shifted, easing the pressure on her damaged arm. With a supreme effort of will, she wrested it out of his grip. It hung, half-useless, at her side.

    That was better than nothing. If she could just control that arm enough to reach a weak spot, she'd still have just enough strength to plunge the blade in. That might not do much, but it would be something.

    The ground rocked again. Gritting her dental plates against the pain, Nova swung her injured arm as best she could. A strangled cry rewarded her - but a short one, as the heaving ground forced the combatants apart again.

    She chuckled, imagining Colossus's great fist pounding into the turret of the weapon over and over. Clearly the other Decepticons were doing well. Not that they're helping me any, she thought, cursing as another blast sent her sprawling.

    She saw the flicker of Brightbolt's movement above her, slower now than it had been. Still, he was upright and she was down. And he was built to stay on the ground and she wasn't. If she couldn't even stay on her feet, he'd get at her again. And this time she'd lose more than just the use of an arm.

    Keeping an optic on her opponent's movement, she transformed her hands again. He was going for his blaster. That wasn't good, but it would buy her the moment she needed.

    The hand on her damaged side twitched, stuck, and then finally transformed. Swerving to avoid an attack from Brightbolt, Nova reached out with her good arm to press her damaged shoulder as hard as she could into its socket. That was no substitute for repair, and it hurt like hell. She howled, shaking her head as her optics fuzzed with pain. Still, she needed to make sure it stayed where it was supposed to.

    After all, if the Autobots' weapon was damaged, they wouldn't be able to keep her out of the air.

    And she could take to the air like this. Did, in fact, leaping up and firing her thrusters, the laser atop her good arm aimed at the blur that was her grounded opponent. But if she wanted to outmaneuver him, she'd have to transform first.

    And she couldn't do that if her arm was too loose to slide into its proper place on the underside of her other form.

    Yellow light flashed as Brightbolt fired the blaster. The shot hit Nova's side, making her frame pitch heavily. Her engines roared as she struggled to right herself. No good taking off if this slagger was just going to shoot her down again.

    Encouraged, Brightbolt fired again. This time, he missed, and Nova wasted no time. She began her transformation sequence, accelerating as she did it, trying to get higher into the air. She ignored the next bolt of laser fire as best she could, refusing to think about whether it hurt and what damage it might have done. Instead, she concentrated on her arm. It failed to lock into place, hitting her underside with a sickening thud.

    "Oh, come on," she snarled at herself. Below her, she could see the yellow gleam as her enemy's blaster powered up again, and the gleam of his polished lips as he grinned. If he made this shot he'd down her for sure.

    Concentrating as hard as she could, she repeated the movement to lock her arm into place. Another spike of agony lanced through her sensornet, this one so bad her engines stalled, but finally her damaged limb locked into place. She hastened to finish her transformation, swerving out of the way just in time for her enemy's fire to blast a hole into the wall behind her.

    "No!" he cried, zooming toward the other side of the alley, still hoping to outrun her.

    She swooped down toward him, her engines roaring as she picked up speed, energy singing through her weapons systems as they powered up and she let go, beams of violet energy streaking toward her enemy.

    He dodged one, spinning out of the way with all the grace of the scout he was. Nova had planned for exactly that, however, and the second bolt of laser fire caught Brightbolt straight on, wreathing him in lavender lightning. He froze, screaming, and Nova dove toward him.

    She transformed again, smoothly this time, and barreled into his still-twitching frame. They hit the wall, hard. Brightbolt's visor flickered, dazed.

    Excellent. Nova slammed her good fist into his chest over and over, watching him slump, his head lolling.

    His hands twitched feebly and his visor flared, but the flurry of blows proved too much. His hand fell to his side.

    "Kill me, Decepticon," he snarled, the silver faceplates gleaming as he tossed his head.

    Nova chuckled. "I've been waiting a long slagging time to take you apart, Shiny. Why not enjoy it?"

    "That's - why," Brightbolt croaked, pointing.

    "Eclipse," said a voice behind her, the deep rumble of a heavy grounder. The gears of his great jaw creaked as he spoke. That wasn't unusual out here, but the sound was rather loud. Either the bot needed repairs, or he'd been built a long time ago.


    Moving her good hand to her enemy's neck cables and gripping tightly, Nova half-turned her body.

    In front of her stood Grandeur, a crude Autobot insignia carved into his chest, his optic strip gleaming brilliant blue.

    "Let Brightbolt go," he said. "I'm the one you really want."
  3. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

    Jun 6, 2011
    Trophy Points:
    Well, folks, here it is: the conclusion of Nova's saga. I hope you've all enjoyed it. I really appreciate all the comments I've gotten on it so far.

    Part Seventeen
    "You?" Nova Black's lip plates twisted in derision. "Why would I want you when I have him?"

    She had to admit that Grandeur's offer was appealing. If his new blue optics were any indication, he'd had more than a little to do with the weapon bedeviling her team. That made him a decent enough prize.

    More than that, he was the closest thing the Settlement had to a leader. If she killed him, the other Decepticons would surely be impressed.

    As would their superiors. This mission, if it succeeded - and right now she couldn't imagine any reason for it to fail - would get her noticed. Killing him would get her doubly noticed.

    He offered an excellent trade, all things considered. Still, Nova had been waiting for her revenge too long to make it.

    "He's not the one who organized all of this," the other bot insisted, his engine revving as he spoke. "He left the war behind, like he said."

    "He tore my teammate to scrap," Nova countered, hoping he hadn't heard her say she'd wanted to kill Winder herself.

    "But he's not the reason the Autobots - the reason we - installed that weapon here."

    His optic strip flared azure. "I am."

    "You are." Nova's good arm twitched at Brightbolt's neck. He gave a high cry of pain. "And now you're going to throw all that away? You claim this vain little bastard didn't even help you."

    She gritted her dental plates. They scraped together with a metallic squeal. "Did becoming an Autobot short out your logic circuits, or did I just never realize you're an idiot?"

    The golden head lowered. "This is my fault."

    Brightbolt thrashed under Nova's hand. She kneed him hard between the legs and he went still, his visor flickering.

    "It is," Grandeur said. "For not seeing all of this coming sooner. For not seeing you -" he waved a hand at Nova - "for what you were until too late."

    Nova's engines revved in anger. She hissed to calm herself down. Apparently, Grandeur wanted her to kill him. That was reason enough to keep herself from doing it, at least until she knew what was going on.

    "You've won, Eclipse -"

    You're gonna make calming down hard, aren't you?
    Nova thought, flicking her wings. "That's not my name."

    "That's not the point. The point is you've won. Our weapon's half in flames." He raised his head again, his optic strip bright. "I failed the Settlement. I failed myself. I even failed you."

    Nova snarled. Her injured arm rose, the heat crackling through her laser soothing away the pain of moving it. Whatever Grandeur had in mind, he wouldn't have to worry about whether Nova wanted him dead.

    He stared evenly at the gun leveled at him. "There's nothing more I can do here. Except to act like what I've just become. To trade my life for someone who knew what was happening. Someone who tried to stop it while I ignored what stood right in front of me."

    Nova's optics narrowed. Could he be telling the truth? As a rule, Autobots did. She hadn't gotten a comm from the others - but the ground at her feet wasn't shaking any more. It hadn't shaken for some time, now that she thought about it.

    "That's it?"

    His blaster fell from his hand and clattered to the ground. "That's it. Just let him go."

    Nova's scarred faceplates twisted into a grin as she slid her uninjured hand from Brightbolt's neck.

    Grandeur nodded, but made no other move.

    Nova's hand transformed in a blur of purple. Snarling again, she plunged her energon dagger into Brightbolt's chest.

    He did not even cry out. His visor flared - as did his spark, bright as the violet blade that pierced it - and Nova grunted at the burst of heat. Then he fell still, sliding to the ground as Nova slid her dagger free.

    "No deal," she answered, her injured arm twitching as she fired.

    Grandeur froze, his head thrown back in pain as the lavender light flared around him. Then he shook once, his battered frame gleaming with purpose, and snatched up his blaster.

    Nova thought again. Still, he was a grounder, and a big one. And he'd lived here long enough to prove he didn't just die easy.

    She transformed, willing herself to ignore the pain as her arm locked into place. She rocketed into the sky just in time to avoid a stream of orange fire from his blaster.

    Grandeur hesitated, turning his head to half-stare at something behind him. Nova wondered what had caught his attention, even as she took advantage of the free moment and fired again.

    Shaken out of his reverie, Grandeur threw himself hard against the wall, narrowly evading Nova's shot. Then his shape shifted as Nova watched.

    He's transforming? That won't help him, unless he's got some way to use his weapon in his other -

    A half-altered arm reached out and pressed the blaster into a socket on the top of his vehicle mode. It locked into place with a heavy click, swerving in its new mounting, and fired.

    Agony flared through Nova's wing. She roared, thrown off balance, and accelerated to avoid slamming into the wall behind her.

    To Nova's surprise, Grandeur didn't shoot again. Instead he turned sharply away, at a speed far greater than Nova would have expected. It wasn't nearly as fast as a Seeker in the air, though, and she raced after him, raining purple laser fire at his retreating form.

    Some of it hit. Unfortunately for Nova, it didn't do much more than her first shot had. She cursed, racking her processor for something to do about it, when suddenly she heard a voice through her comm link.

    "Bane to Nova. We're done here. And leaving. Wherever you are, do not engage any further enemies. Meet us at the fuel reservoir."

    Nova's engine roared. "I'm busy right now. Subcommander."

    It wasn't technically true. He wasn't shooting back. For all she knew, he was running away.

    But damn if that satisfied her. She wasn't just going to leave an Autobot alive when she had him in her sights. Besides, wherever he was going, it would be close to the rendezvous point anyway. She could see the Autobot weapon up ahead, one of its cells dark and the other two shot through with cracks.

    Slag. She really had missed it. Her engines revved again, half in pride and half in anger. Still, it didn't matter. She hadn't shot the thing to bits herself, no, but she'd done this. She'd brought the others here. She'd put down this rebellion.

    And whatever Bane wanted, this was the middle of a battle. Surely it wouldn't take too much to convince him she was getting shot at right now.

    "Get out of there, Nova Black," rumbled the voice on the other end of the comm. "Now."

    She fired as he spoke, hoping it would both hit her enemy and convince Bane she hadn't heard him over it. Then she cut the comm.

    She stared at the weapon, cracked and broken, and then at Grandeur, veering to avoid her fire. Was he heading for it? Was it possible that thing could run on the broken, barely-glowing cells that remained?

    It didn't matter. She was faster than he was. And he'd have to drive up to it, which meant he wouldn't have a straight shot, not when the ground was piled with bodies and rubble and pitted with holes where missiles had hit or where the ground had cracked open -

    Nova's engine stalled as she stared. A set of stubby maroon wings extended from Grandeur's back, locking into place with a metallic click. They looked new, less pitted with holes and cracks and dirt as the rest of Grandeur's aged frame. And in their centers, they bore red Autobot insignia, the proper painted kind.

    They were ungainly and hideous and whatever mockery of flying the newly-minted Autobot called what he was doing, it was terribly slow.

    Still, they were doing their job, and their owner was just-barely-flying toward the weapon's controls, unhindered by the many obstacles on the ground.

    "Get. Out. Of. The. Sky," Nova roared, rage lending her speed. Violet energy tore from her weapons systems in a blinding burst so intense she could feel her energy levels dropping. She didn't give a damn about that, about herself, about anything but bringing the abomination in front of her down and then tearing it to shreds.

    That shot connected, and her systems surged with satisfaction as her enemy twitched, metal clicking against metal as his old frame could no longer hold out against it. Fall from the sky he did, landing in a blackened heap near the weapon's controls.

    Nova roared again, heading straight for him, so intent on her prey that she barely saw the charred heap of metal stir to life, crawling toward the control panel.

    No! she thought, frantic to pull out of her dive.

    Then the world flared orange.

    The light came before the pain, bright and terrible and all-consuming, as if she'd been plucked from her battle and transported, somehow, to the center of some hostile planet's sun.

    Then agony lanced through her every system, her sensor net aflame with it, her plating cracking as it came apart, or was it melting, or was it both -?

    She didn't know. She bellowed, half-transforming without realizing she'd even tried, desperate to fight this, to survive this, to defeat this, somehow, because she couldn't possibly come this far only for some flying Autobot perversion to destroy her.

    Then the light swallowed her completely, and she knew nothing more.


    Everything was pain.

    Pain, and static. Nova Black tossed her head. Or at least she thought she did. Did she have a head any more? Did you need those in the Pit?

    She half-smiled. If I'm dead, at least I died fighting.

    Winning, if that last communique from Bane had meant anything.

    She could see something now, pinpricks and streaks of fiery crimson above her. Others, looking at her.

    Welcoming me to hell? she thought feebly, and laughed. Or would have laughed, but what came out was a thin rasp, a grinding sound of gears clicking against one another the wrong way.

    Broken, she thought. I'm - broken.

    But - if I'm broken, that means I'm not dead.


    She croaked, in lieu of a curse. If she wasn't dead, she was dying. And if she was dying, she'd lost. Her team had won, but she had lost, flying off after the last and greatest of her enemies, sure she could scour her little piece of Cybertron clean.

    She'd failed. She'd failed, and she was dying. And if those red things were optics - which they were, she realized, as her damaged optics focused for a brief moment on the faces of her teammates staring down at her - then she was doing it in front of everyone.


    "Her critical systems are unstable, her structural integrity compromised. Permanent deactivation is imminent," rasped a familiar voice. "Estimated time: five minutes."

    "Shut up, conehead," she croaked, her hands clutching at nothing, her voice more ruined than Leech's. "Dying, like you said. Leave me alone."

    With a supreme effort, she lifted her head and looked down at herself.

    She could see nothing recognizable, only twisted, blackened metal and cracked glass. She looked like nothing. Like debris. Like scrap. Hissing in defiance, she lowered her head again.

    Fine. She'd die. But not like this. Not thinking about what that damn ray had done to her.

    Light glinted off of something long and sharp. It pierced her. Her optics flared in anger, but she didn't otherwise respond. It was pain on top of pain. Why should she care?

    Then she felt a jolt of energy, every part of her sensor net flaring to an agonized mockery of life.

    "The slag - are you - doing?" she snarled, staring at the small green repair drone - no, it's our medic, she remembered, the influx of energy clearing her mind momentarily - who pumped the energy into her. "Not - gonna - hel -"

    The rest of her speech became a scream.

    Someone - some big bot, grounder probably, had torn off her damaged chestplate with his bare hand. Her optics flickered with static as the pain of it overwhelmed her, but she heard a clang as he tossed it aside.

    She heard a deep voice now, a calm voice, a voice she'd always hated for its evenness, its owner's engines rumbling as he stared down at her insides. "Her spark is fading."

    Leech just told you I'm dying, you lazy idiot,
    Nova thought, unable to resist lifting her head again and looking for herself. The bright orb still swirled with light, but it was dim, as dim as an enemy's when it finally went out. What the scrap did the others think they were doing?

    The big one bent over her again. Colossus, she saw now, a small plate of metal screwed into his shoulder where one of his arms had been. He carried a similar piece of metal, large and angular and, from what Nova could tell, lighter than his.

    She turned to look at Bane, surprised. She was dying. How could she tell what was going on?

    "Critical systems unstable," Leech said again. "Estimated time until shutdown: ten minutes."

    The medic chirped, waving its other appendages.

    "Then we're getting somewhere," said Bane.

    "Why?" Nova started to say, but another surge of energy cut her short, racing through her systems and shocking her into awareness again.

    Awareness, mostly, of the pain she was in. Who cared if she had another five minutes?

    Unless this was Bane's way of getting her back for killing his favorite little yes-bot. Five more minutes of hurting like slag.

    Bane's huge head loomed over her, his visor gleaming angry red. "Why? Because even though you're apparently hell-bent on getting herself killed, you're the reason all of this happened in the first place."

    Another surge blinded her, lightning crackling in her audios. Leech hissed some readout she couldn't hear, and then she heard Bane speaking again. "Because you always were the best fighter I have. And I like it when the good ones owe me."

    "Slag you," Nova snarled, beyond caring what Bane thought. Bane smirked and twitched his wings. Nova growled, envious, knowing her own wings were completely out of her control.

    "Lower it," Bane said.

    The medic chirred, its optics flaring, sounding almost as irritated as Nova felt. Her faceplates cracked into a grin.

    "It is correct, Subcommander," Leech put it. "My readings are encouraging, but we do not know yet if her spark has retained enough energy to be viable. It may gutter out for good in a few minutes."

    Colossus hovered, frowning, the temporary cover in his hand.

    "If she dies, she dies," Bane answered, still smirking. "If we don't get that cover on soon, more promising readings won't matter anyway. If she's strong enough, she'll live."

    Nova growled again as Colossus lowered the cover. If she was strong enough? Fine, she thought, vowing to live just to spite the bastard.

    Leech nodded. Nova gave another wheezing laugh. The cone on the top of his head was bent and twisted, the pale metal blackened where enemy fire had hit it. You look even more ridiculous than usual. I didn't think that was possible. If she died, at least she'd do it laughing.

    The medic skittered over her frame, his steps sending new flares of pain through her sensor net. He ignored her, using his appendages to screw the cover into place on her chest without even looking down at her.

    They waited, the medic chirping urgently at Leech, who nodded and waved his scanner over Nova again. Nova had the distinct impression he was doing it because his little green friend was telling him he was supposed to.

    She hissed a curse at them all. She hurt like slag. What were they all waiting for?

    "Well?" Colossus asked finally, his broad faceplates creased into a frown.

    Leech bent over Nova again, staring intently at the scanner in his hand.

    "Critical systems stabilized," he said.