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Impasse

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Megatron settled into the temple complex, pleased that it was, at long last, whole and functional. The dead souls of their race, released from the universe around, were returning here to the point where the Allspark had once rested. Those energies had been feared lost, the experiences cast into the dimensional voids, and yet Megatron could sit and watch the swirl of ever growing energies.

They were not all here, not by any sense of measure. It would take time, a resource Megatron needed to see the rest of his plans to fruition. No, he came here to see the growing energy siphoning in, swirling and gathering in the glyphs of the temple walls. He felt more connected to his visions of the future when he was in here, surrounded by casualties of his lifelong ambition.

Granted, he did not look at it in such a manner; it was so easy to see how wrongly the Fallen had manipulated his original vision for their race. He could admit that listening to Sentinel Prime's shaping of the end of the war had been a bad judgment call. None of it was truly his fault; his design had been pure.

All he had to do this time was keep his dreams pure and unadulterated. That was why no one else was allowed to despoil the temple with their energies. It would remain pure, his sanctuary, until the time came for him to initiate the final steps.

`~`~`~`~`

Soundwave noted that this exploration tour of the Autobot medic was longer than previous outings from the palace. He considered making Scion aware of this, as Scion was technically in charge of their guest's safety.

Perhaps the length of the excursion would help eliminate the unknown factor Ratchet posed, though. There were still many mechs who resented the peace, and others with grievances against Autobot atrocities.

He neglected to send an alert to the Seeker currently on aerial maneuvers with the Rainmakers.

`~`~`~`~`

Longarm walked the line of mechs, inspecting their battle readiness. He was hard, a grueling taskmaster to his fellow brood-mates and the ones created after Cybertron was clear enough to support the use of the code-banks again. The code banks, bearing the Fallen's master programming code and the code donations that Starscream had approved as 'crisp' enough, lacking viruses and mutations, had been accessed twice now. Considering that the material was heavily weighted to the flying classes (which Hook admitted was sensible, given their far more capable shielding), Longarm was pleased that the broods had not produced any Seekers, Rotors, Transports, or their various flying ilk.

Let Thundercracker keep his aerial command as the defense force for now; in time, the ground-based mechs would install more than adequate artillery and shielding to dispense with the need of them.

"All mechs will fall into pre-assigned battle groups," Longarm instructed. "When the chronometer reads at the zero point, all teams will disperse. Battle will commence one breem later. Stay within the confinement zones, and try to survive long enough to eliminate the others. These are the only rules of today's battle exercise!"

A multi-voiced roar answered him; they were ready, even as they fell into their groupings, to prove their combat and strategy skills in the war games.

From an observatory room, Hook radiated pleasure and pride in his ward's superb handling of the others. No doubt, by the end of the exercises, Longarm and his command group would be the victors.

`~`~`~`~`

Blaster was sprawled out on the floor of his chamber, Scorponok laying atop his frame, contemplating the noise of the city. He was not as good as his mentor at actually hacking the public processes of mechs at large, but sometimes he could slip into one or two minds, letting him sample life away from the palace.

"Scorp, I'm bored."

The symbiont responded by brushing his chelae along the side panels of his bonded partner, trying to soothe Blaster's energy levels with a manipulation of the sensor nodes.

Blaster laughed, and then wrestled those strong pincers away, shaking his helm. "That tickles and you know it!" He hugged his partner to his frame, then stood up. "We're going out."

Scorponok made a noise of protest.

"I know I'm not supposed to go alone. Well, I won't be. You'll be with me. We need to practice that anyway." He turned so that the open socket for his symbiont was exposed, and though Scorponok was unsure of this venture, the call of 'home/security/belonging' was too strong. He moved, making the small transformations necessary to fit in the compartment space, adding his armor and shields to Blaster's already formidable defenses. In time, Blaster would have other partners, with their own niches in his frame. Some would even be adapted to subspace carrying. But for now, Scorponok was his only partner, and he reveled in that feeling.

`~`~`~`~`

"You should be pestering that medic," Starscream growled as Scion luxuriated in a deep, warm oil bath.

"He's got all he needs from me, and my tail fins need to repair, glitch!" Scion glared across the way at his ghostly mentor. "I had the right response for that incoming laser fire."

"Shove off into the chasm! It was low-powered and hardly a scuff on the plating!" Starscream did not reply to the fact that it had been his sudden jockeying for control in the mock battle that had caused the damage. "Why is he able to block me from the chamber?"

"He's got equipment that radiates signatures similar to the wild-wave radiation. Apparently it's one thing he uses to cure plating as he finishes it," Scion lied smoothly. "I asked about it, and he went into the benefits it gives the plating, making it superior in its annealing while keeping its weight down.

"Hmm, that would be beneficial in the long run."

Scion locked optics on the annoying specter. "You will not get my frame," he said in full confidence.

Starscream just laughed at him.

`~`~`~`~`

Chromia reared back, even as Grimlock took a more threatening stance. "What do you mean? The details we… gathered from a few previous guests stated firmly that Ironhide was not at the final battle of the war, and that his demise had been the point where Sentinel revealed his true allegiance!" Her tones left the medic sickly aware that forceful interrogations of possibly innocent soldiers just obeying their orders had taken place.

Ratchet could not stop his spark from aching, remembering that press of events, keeping him from mourning the mech that had been his deepest, truest connection within the cadre he served. He recalled Prime's discovery that the gun had not disintegrated Sentinel's spark casing, and that hurried communication concerning Ironhide's remains. His processor roamed over those months of getting to know Patronus, once a new frame was built, and the revelation that Ironhide himself had survived, despite the trauma, at the spark-memory level. While Ironhide now was subtly different than the Ironhide Chromia would remember best, he was alive.

"Sentinel Prime destroyed Ironhide's frame, processor, and memory core, yes," Ratchet said, watching the flicker of Chromia's optics as she felt that loss anew. "But his spark-case was intact, as was the spark case of both twins we lost the same day. Ironhide's was placed in a full-size frame, and onlined back into service with the temporary designation of 'Patronus'." Ratchet gave a short bark of laughter, even as he manually prevented his shielding from coming on, now that his secondary systems were handling the full needs of his frame. "Stubborn mech taught us all that things do go spark deep, though. While his guardian protocols are more his focus, Patronus proved to be Ironhide minus his memories. And he's made quite a path through reacquiring those… mostly by seducing mechs into doing memory merges instead of just integrating his last back up!" Ratchet's annoyance for that habit was tempered with the raw affection under it.

It was also so very much like Ironhide to find a way to cheat around something that would take far too much time, inactivity, and being out of touch with the rest of the situation.

"He lives. And he accepted peace?" Chromia asked, stunned.

"He didn't have any say when Optimus Prime hammered out the agreement, being in the tank at that point." Ratchet grimaced. "Chromia, no one on either side was one hundred percent pleased by the choices Optimus made, but our race was on the brink of extinction. The problem we've had, and what I can make out of Hook's own notes, is that there's not much in the way of pure code to work from for the ancient method of replication. Optimus knew it instinctively; he's still got a connection to the Allspark's coding, even if it has been destroyed that lets him know that. As for Megatron… he surrendered. In full sight of our allies and those warriors able to see the battle."

"Megatron would never!" Grimlock snapped, surging forward and pushing Chromia out of the way to glare at the medic.

"Don't know what rock you crawled out from under, rust-bolt, but even that glitch-taken slag heap has had enough!" Ratchet barked right back, unafraid of the one time leader of a very specialized Autobot unit. They had been used, time and again, to establish beachheads on worlds that had been heavily Decepticon dominated. And then, shortly after the Allspark was jettisoned, the team had been wiped out.

Except, Ratchet amended, apparently not.

Grimlock pulled a powerful arm back, digits curling in a fist for a blow, but Chromia's hand wrapped around the upper arm, catching and holding it.

It was a solid reminder that while the femmes were rare, why they should never be underestimated for all their small size. Chromia, joule per mass, was far stronger than any Autobot mech Ratchet knew. She always had been. That had been a large part of the attraction for Ironhide.

"Grimlock, go check on our team. I'll handle Ratchet's debriefing from here." Chromia's tone was steel-strong, and the elite warrior gave way despite his anger. Grimlock left the room, the door sliding shut with the whine of a lock engaging. Chromia focused fully on the medic in front of her, considering her words.

"The war's over." Ratchet could not help but put the protest there, knowing now that he was a prisoner, and that possibly neither of the two he had seen were processing anything beyond the need to avenge fallen allies and friends. Chromia, like Arcee, had belonged to the cadre of Elita One. The bonds each femme had forged with mechs in making their alliance at the early part of the war had always been secondary to that connection they had shared.

"There is no justice for anyone, for it to be over this way."

"There was never any justice in this slagging war and you know it!" Ratchet roared at her. "Are you really going to keep perpetuating the hate and violence when we have a chance to grow and rebuild?! Is this what Elita One would have wanted, when there is a chance to save our race?!"

He expected the blow across his face plates, damped down the HUD warnings, and ignored the fact his left optic ceased to work from the power of that strike.

"Funny. I remember her different," he said in a low tone.

Chromia's digits sparked before she forced the hand down, and stalked to the door.

"You will be repatriated, after our strike against the unlawful rulers imprisoning our home-world," she said tightly. She keyed the door open, sweeping out, and then Ratchet was alone with his secondary systems at his beck and call… but no way to actually use that advantage fully.