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After it was all over, Optimus Prime sent his people back to Earth, to secure their final refuge. He stayed behind for now on the battered Peaceseeker, his flagship - though it, too, was broken, little able to defend itself were the Decepticons to return. Optimus judged this unlikely, despite his people’s protests. There was nothing left to return to.

Outside the broad viewport of the Peaceseeker’s bridge, the rubble field that had once been his homeworld glittered in recrimination.

It was cold comfort indeed that the dismembered corpse of Unicron floated among the remains of Cybertron. The god of oblivion had been spoken of in prophecies since the first Golden Age, but war had left their people so little time for stories that they hadn’t even known what Unicron was when he first appeared. Whether it was Primus’s pain that had summoned Unicron, or His own childrens’ seemingly endless appetite for self-destruction… they as a race would likely never know. Unicron had come for them at their weakest, when Optimus and the Matrix had been nowhere near Cybertron. Now Cybertron was gone.

Thousands of sparks extinguished. The remaining sparks of Cybertron - barely a hundred in number - left homeless.

It was over.

Optimus rose painfully from his seat. Since the destruction of the Matrix - the only force that could finally kill Unicron, though far too late - he’d felt empty, the space in his chest aching like a wound. Just walking from his seat to the viewport exhausted him; he leaned against the clearsteel, his helm clunking faintly against it. Outside, the shreds of his homeworld lay in a slow, dead orbit. Nothing moved. Nothing signaled. No matter how many times he scanned, there was nothing to give him the slightest shred of hope.

Megatron… look at this. Look what we have done.

How many times had his rival warned he would regret standing in his way? Though he doubted Megatron would have thought it would come to pass this way. He wanted to believe Megatron would have been as sparkbroken as Optimus was, that there was still room enough in his raging spark for their world, for their species’ future. Megatron’s final expression flashed before him then - scarlet optics filled with hate, with defiance, until at last the light drained out of them, leaving Optimus only with the ash of Megatron’s spark in his hands.

Ash. Now that was all that was left. I would have let you kill me instead rather than have to see this, my old enemy, my old friend. I would have surrendered on the docks if I’d known this is how it would end. Oh, Megatron, you would laugh to see me now!

Megatron was gone. Starscream - who knew where he was, now that his devil’s bargain with Unicron had borne such terrible fruit. And his people - the Autobots who survived, the few Decepticons who remained, Carly who had lost a husband and son the same day… they still looked to him, despite everything. Despite his role in this final calamity.

He had nothing left to give them. But he still had duties to perform.

He made his painful way back to his console. The death certificates waited for him to sign and process them, so many that they strained the memory capacity of his datapad. Normally this duty would fall to the deceased’s immediate superior, but Optimus had insisted on doing them all himself, and there was no one left of high enough rank to argue him down. Perhaps this was self-flagellation. Perhaps it was an attempt, however futile, to make all those senseless deaths of good, brave soldiers mean something.

Ratchet… farewell, my friend. I’m sorry. Prowl… I look forward to you telling me everything I did wrong when we meet in the Well. Ironhide… thank you for your loyalty, misplaced as it was in the end. Spike… I’m sorry I could not protect your son.

Optimus put down the datapad a moment, overcome. The deaths of so many of those closest to him all in one horrible day… perhaps it was too much. He scrolled past the images of the deceased mechs of rank, choosing the profile of a common soldier almost at random.

Hot Rod. Died on Earth, August 8th, 2005.

He remembered Hot Rod, a little. Barely more than a youngling, gunner and scout under Ultra Magnus’s command. They’d sparred once, when Optimus had elected to spend his limited free time sitting in on one of Ironhide’s combat classes. Their match had been brief, but Hot Rod’s words rang now in Optimus’s head - less of a boast than a promise, all boundless energy and determination, adoration and hero-worship for a mech he barely knew.

I’m going to be as good as you, one day!

It was a mercy the youngling was dead.

Optimus signed his death certificate and moved on to the next, even the name fading from his mind. The Peaceseeker wandered, no more than the shards of Cybertron surrounding her - so much useless detritus, silent forever in the void.