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.