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Come closer, We don't bite

Chapter Text

Everybot knows of the rivalry between the two one of the most powerful beings of the cosmos, one born of chaos, the other – of creation. For millions upon millions of centuries these opposites struggled, neither succeeding at gaining the upper hand until finally one of them prevailed. The Thirteen Primes, created by the very servos of Primus himself, banished the opposing God, Unicron, the Chaos bringer, to the stars, where he would sleep for many years, unable to spread disorder and mayhem, till he made his inevitable return. But Unicron did not accept his defeat so easily.

His wicked spark roiling with resentment and rage, Unicron vowed to take his revenge at any cost. In the final moments before slumber overtook him, upon a distant planet, he created his own defenders, ones that were more powerful and more vicious than any of the Primes. They were the most vile creatures the universe has ever seen, creatures born of darkness, madness and absolute chaos. They would attain victory in their Creator’s name and attack Cybertron from the shadows, their pedesteps falling silent, their movements too quick for the optic to see and their blows always finding their chosen victim.

Though their appearance may be monstrous, however, it is said that their voices are the most beautiful sounds a Cybertronian will ever hear. These creations of Unicron will cry out in the dead of night, reaching out to anyone who will hear them. But, it is a grave mistake to follow their songs, for waiting in the gloom are sharp claws and teeth and a crazed mind.

The Thirteen Primes searched and searched, but none could ever find the planet upon which Unicron had planted this seed of evil. They say that these creations of Chaos are still out there, only biding their time and awaiting the perfect opportunity to avenge their fallen Master.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

The humans were listening intently for once, Ratchet noted. Not unusual for Jack and Rafael, but certainly a surprising occurrence with Miko. The hyperactive girl was practically on the edge of her seat, eyes large and sparkling with excitement as she literally forced herself to remain seated and mostly silent. The medic had to admit that he couldn’t see why she was so enthusiastic. The tale he was recounting was old, one of the many stories centered around the two most mysterious Gods in Cybertron’s history. That did not mean that such myths were true, not at all, and this particular legend had more often than not been used to discipline disobedient sparklings instead of being taken seriously. ‘Behave, or Unicron’s creations will come after you’, or something along those lines anyway.

But Rafael had asked to learn more of Cybertron’s history after the whole mess with Unicron’s awakening and Optimus’ subsequent amnesia and if Ratchet were being honest with himself, he had been more than happy to oblige the youngest human’s request. Not that he’d ever admit to it of course. If anyone asked, he would just claim that he was just happy that the humans were finally showing an interest in learning about Cybertron, rather than forcing the Autobots to learn about Earth.

It upset Ratchet greatly that so few of them were eager to talk about their former home now.

Optimus no doubt still blamed himself for playing a major role in Cybertron’s destruction, Arcee forbade herself from reminiscing, instead opting to focus on the here and now, Bumblebee felt saddened that he got to spend so little time there, being barely able to recollect the way their home looked before the smoke, explosions and non-stop shooting and Bulkhead refused to think back to the times when his build had dictated his function. Only Ratchet seemed unable to forget, to move on, to accept Earth as his new home. Only he was still eager to tell stories of an older time, before the war, the corruption, the disgusting belief-system of Functionism. Yet, there was nobody who wanted to stop and listen. Except for this one brilliant, ever curious twelve year old boy the medic was quickly and inevitably becoming attached to.

“….well? Did they?”, Miko’s voice, high and annoying as ever, broke him out of his thoughts, forcefully dragging his attention back to the three humans standing by the metallic bars on the catwalk.

“No, of course not! Nobot in the history of Cybertron has ever heard of a living xevertronian, much less encountered one. What I just recounted to you is an ancient legend, a myth, created to scare youngsters! There is no such thing as a ‘creation of Unicron’ and never was”, Ratchet scoffed, turning back to the monitors, quite done with the brief history lesson. He had other, far more important things to attend to now and hopefully the children would get the hint.

They did not.

“But how can you know for sure? The universe is huge, right? Isn’t it possible that they’re really out there somewhere?” It was Raf who was speaking now, briefly adjusting the large spectacles perched on the edge of his nose, brown eyes narrowed in confusion. Ratchet expelled air from his vents in a heavy sigh, already feeling the helmache bloom inside and starting to regret ever telling the children about the legend of Xevertron.

“Because, Rafael, many cybertronian explorers and historians have spent their lives searching for the mystical planet and none ever managed to find it. Besides, we used to communicate with many different life forms throughout the galaxy and shared many stories. If Xevertron had ever existed, we would’ve at least heard rumors of it. As it were, the legend of Unicron’s creations has passed down from generation to generation, has been told and shared many times, but never proven to actually be true. It is the basic equivalent of a ghost story, nothing more, nothing less”, he answered, pinching his nasal ridge and praying for what was left of his patience. No over legend had had this sort of effect on the humans and why this particular one intrigued them more than the others was beyond him. But despite his visible irritation, the children were not so easily dissuaded.

“But at the heart of every legend there is a grain of truth, right? Could it be, that this ‘Xevertron’ just slipped under your radar? I mean, one of your prophecies with the planetary alignment turned out to be true, so why can’t this be true as well?” Jack asked, leaning sideways against the railing, thoughtfully twirling his phone in his fingers. Ratchet considered him for several moments, before sighing again, his exasperation slowly ebbing.

“Well, it is possible, but highly unlikely in my opinion. If you’re really interested, I suppose you can always ask Optimus. Being a former archivist, he’s quite well-versed in the ancient legends of Cybertron, better than me in fact”, the monitors failed to show any worrying changes, Arcee and Bumblebee’s signals were still absent due to them being deep in one of the energon mines in the Ural Mountains, Bulkhead was still out on patrol and Optimus was following up on recent decepticon activity in Australia. None were calling in for pick-up as of yet and as far as he was aware, there were no direct decepticon proximities he needed to warn them about.

Miko groaned in disappointment at the prospect of having to wait, soon retreating back to her video games when she realized that Ratchet was not inclined to continue the conversation, focusing instead on his work. Jack returned his attention to his phone, quickly sending a text message to his mother to inform her that he was at the base and would soon be heading out for his shift at the diner, before joining Miko by the TV. Only Raf lingered, mind churning with different possibilities and ideas.

“What did they look like?” Ratchet tore himself away from the screens for a few minutes, looking down at the smallest human.

“Well…”, the medic trailed off, silently considering the question and thinking over how to best answer it. “Nobot knows for sure, but it is generally believed that they resembled predacons, one of the ancient races of Cybertron that looked like, well, some of your Earth animals I suppose I should say, except that xevertronians had the same ability to choose and transform into alt mode as we do and retained some animalistic features even while in bipedal form.” That was the most common version any way.

“Oh”, Raf said in reply, nodding Ratchet his thanks for the clarification, before opening his laptop, beginning to type away like he usually did, no doubt analyzing the gathered information in his own mind.

Having achieved peace and quiet at last, the autobot medic allowed himself to finally relax. However, after about half an hour of scanning for anything out of place, Ratchet found his own mind straying back to the accursed legend that didn’t seem to want to leave his processor. What if the children were right? What if they really did exist? That would mean that somewhere out there existed a species closer to cybertronians than any other and considering that they were slowly dying out, perhaps they would be the only ones really able to carry on their legacy. Not that there was much left to carry on anyway given their more recent history.

This war had to end, otherwise they were all going to go extinct and all hope of ever reviving Cybertron would be lost. Unfortunately, it was starting to look like there was no other way to finish it other by removing one of the armies’ heads. And knowing how difficult it would be for Optimus to kill an admittedly former brother, knowing the desperate hope that Megatron would realize how much he’d changed that the Prime still held close to his spark… Ending the war would also mean the end of Optimus as they knew him, he would simply not be able to live with himself, knowing that he could’ve changed his former ally, could’ve helped him see the atrocities he was committing. Even victory would ultimately prove to be a defeat for the autobots.

Ratchet was so lost in thought that he did not pay much attention to his surroundings, moving almost on autopilot when Jack asked for a groundbridge to the KO drive-in since Arcee was not available to drive him there at that time.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

His shift turned out to be a boring one, like most of his shifts at the diner. The majority of the customers were fellow teenagers, some from his school, others being foreigners spending only a few days in Jasper before flying back home. There were some drunks too, but fortunately Jack himself didn’t need to deal with them. Wasn’t his turn much to his colleagues chagrin.

In the end in a desperate effort to relieve some boredom, his thoughts strayed back to the old cybertronian legend. It was puzzling why a mere legend would interest him so much, but if it entertained him for a few hours until he could go home, well, who was he to complain?

 “Would Arcee know about it?” He wondered. She probably would. Though not much of a storyteller as Ratchet or Optimus, she did know quite a few old stories and ghost tales that she’d sometimes share with Jack if she felt like it. He quite enjoyed those moments of quiet serenity where he and Arcee would just sit on the highest level of the autobot base, watching the sunset, and she would start telling him about some things she missed or liked back on Cybertron.

But also, what if Ratchet was wrong? What if xevertronians were real? That would open so many possibilities. What would they look like? The medic had said that they resembled Earth animals, but he could be wrong. And in a certain sense it would be logical to assume that they did exist, at least for a time. After all, Dark energon was a very real thing as they’d all learnt and supposedly the ‘blood of Unicron’. If, using that logic, plain energon was Primus’ blood and the main fuel of all cybertronians, wouldn’t it make sense that its dark equivalent would be the lifeblood of a different species, a species created by the Chaos bringer himself?

The topic was interesting enough for Jack and kept him entertained for several hours as he retreated deep into dreamland to escape the dreariness of work when somebody decided to ruin even that for him. That somebody being Vince. 

Jack had never liked Vince, even before the latter decided to pick on him. The ginger was nothing more than a bully, feeding off of other people’s misery to hide his own insecurities. He spent his days making fun of the smart kids, like Raf, who, unlike Vince, actually had a chance at a future, hitting on the prettiest girls the school had to offer, mostly on Sierra, and participating in illegal street racing, despite being almost arrested once. Vince was a typical school bully, nothing more and nothing less, and one Jack had quickly learned to ignore (What was the point of paying attention to people like that anyway? Would his life drastically change just because someone didn’t like him? No, of course not, so why waste the energy by getting upset? That’s what he told himself anyway). The only surprising thing about Vince was that he didn’t have a gang, which was usually the case with such types. In fact, despite his popularity, Vince had very few friends, consisting of only Sierra and her blond friend, Abilene, or ‘Abbie’ as most of the kids called her. And even then that friendship seemed strained.

So, when Vince’s voice filtered through the speaker, Jack grit his teeth and did his best to remain calm, refusing to allow the jerk to get a rise out of him. Everything was okay, he was going to be the bigger person, he’d just ignore the jibes and do his job…

Yeah, right. Easier said than done.

“Hey, Darby! Didn’t think I’d see you here. Still working as a janitor, I see. Well, don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get a promotion… Eventually”, Vince sneered as he stopped his car, leaning back almost casually in the driver’s seat and watching his supposed ‘rival’ through narrowed green eyes. Food bag in hand, Jack turned to the window, ready to throw it in Vince’s smug face and send him on his way.

Only to come to an abrupt halt as he finally caught sight of the car the boy was driving.

It wasn’t his usual black sports car with red flames drawn on the hood and sides. This was a different car entirely. For one, it was Porsche, making Jack wonder how in the hell Vince and his family could afford it. For two, it was dark purple and black in color with intricate and stunning designs of swirls, all of breathtaking shades of azure and dark sapphire.

It was a far cry from Vince’s usual ride and definitely not his style. Jack literally had to force himself to look away, jealousy worming its way into his heart despite his best efforts.

Unfortunately, Vince caught him staring anyway.

“A beauty, isn’t she?” The ginger said, faking nonchalance while brushing the back of his hand over the driver’s seat door, smiling nastily at the frozen in place Darby, seemingly enjoying the effect his new ride made on the other boy. Jack cleared his throat, making a conscious effort not to glance back at the car and instead looking up to meet Vince’s unpleasant grin.

“Eh, I don’t know, I’m more into motorcycles”, he shrugged, seemingly radiating indifference, enjoying the affronted look those words earned him. Placing the food bag on the windowsill, Jack leaned forward, a mock smile already fixed firmly on his face and the demand of payment on the tip of his tongue- when suddenly something else caught his attention. He could not see it before, but at this close proximity he saw it clearly. A barely there shift of plates, the twitch of the mirrors and a quick flash of headlights. The same movements Arcee herself made when Jack said something amusing during their quick joyrides. There was a burst of static, the radio turning on and off by itself, but Jack caught what sounded suspiciously like a laugh, but could easily be lost by an untrained ear. Vince’s car was laughing at him!

 In a blink of an eye, the movements were gone, and the car was completely still and silent once again.

Jack was so shocked by what he’d seen that he didn’t hear Vince’s snide comment, didn’t see him grab the food bag without the intention of paying for it until the Porsche suddenly sped off, leaving behind a cloud of dust. Coughing, Jack took a quick step back away from the window, rubbing at his watering eyes where the kicked up sand had gotten in. What the hell was that? He had to be imagining things, right? There was no way Vince’s car could actually be… be a transformer, could there? It was simply impossible! There was no autobot on Earth with that color scheme and no decepticon would ever willingly allow a human driver! Or wouldn’t they? Could this be one of Megatron’s newest ploys?

Mind racing, Jack fished out his phone from his dusty jeans, quickly dialing the by now memorized number, hoping against hope that Arcee would be able to answer him. There was a distinctive click as the call was accepted and Arcee’s voice, low and tired, but also laced with worry filtered through easily, “Jack? Is everything alright? You never call me at this time, aren’t you working?”

“Never mind that”, Jack interjected quickly, reluctant to start explaining himself when they had much bigger problems at hand if what he was thinking was correct. “’Cee, I think Vince might be working with the decepticons..”

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

“What!?”

Sighing, Jack repeated, “I said, I saw his car shift, exactly like Arcee does when she’s in her alt mode, like I’ve seen Bee and Bulkhead move their armor plates when they’re amused, but can’t speak up because we’re in public. I heart it laugh. I’m not crazy, alright? I’m positive that Vince is driving a transforming vehicle! That would explain how he got a Porsche of all things out here too.” His gaze moved from autobot to autobot, noting the disbelief and rising concern present on their faces, and he had to do his best not to flush from mild embarrassment and growing irritation when he realized that they did not believe him.

“But why would the ‘Cons allow a human driver inside one of their soldiers? Megatron hates humans, thinks they’re beneath him. Why would he willingly ally himself with them, much less a teenager?” Arcee blurted out, servos placed firmly on her hips as she frowned down at Jack’s hunched form. She believed him of course, the boy wasn’t one to lie, but this just made no sense!

“Ratchet”, Optimus rumbled, expression serious and blue optics worried as he turned to his medic, “Is there any way it could be a neutral? I, too, find it highly unlikely that Megatron would ever cooperate with humankind, especially a human child.”

“No”, the response was instant as Ratchet turned back to the monitors displaying the various signals all over the world. “If it were a neutral, our scanners would’ve picked up his ship’s signal as it entered the Earth atmosphere. And by the time Jack contacted Arcee, Vince and his new… ‘companion’ were long gone, so we cannot be sure it even was really a cybertronian, decepticon or otherwise.”

“Are you suggesting Jack’s lying?” Arcee snapped, turning on the white medic, optics flashing in suppressed anger though her EM field remained tightly controlled. From where he was standing near the catwalk, Bumblebee spoke up, a series of buzzes and clicks escaping his vocalizer, doorwings low and tense and his arms gesticulating wildly. Optimus nodded in agreement, turning back to the fuming two-wheeler.

“Bumblebee is right, we are not suggesting that Jack would ever willingly deceive us, but isn’t it possible that he saw what in fact wasn’t there? From my understanding jobs can get extremely tedious and even the best of us would retreat into our minds to better pass the time. Isn’t it a possibility that Jack simply imagined the movements he witnessed? Especially if he was being deliberately antagonized?”

“Wha-?” Jack sputtered, offended. “With all due respect, Optimus, I saw the car move on its own! I wouldn’t imagine something like that out of boredom or anger!”

“Jack”, June’s voice, calm, but stern, interjected her son’s tirade before he could lose himself to his frustration. “Nobody here believes you’re a liar, we’re just trying to make sense of what you saw. You heard Ratchet, it could not have been a neutral, so if it really was a decepticon then we have to figure out why Megatron of all mechs would be willing to work with a human child who can’t possibly have anything to offer him! We’re just trying to consider all options here before opening that can of worms.”

Jack visibly wilted at his mother’s gentle scolding, nodding along as she made her point. She was right, he knew she was, but it was just so frustrating! The ‘cons could have their servos on Vince right now, just like when Knock Out had kidnapped him some months back and truth be told, he didn’t want the guy dead. Sure, he hated him, but a brutal death at the hands of decepticons wasn’t something he’d wish upon even his worst enemies.

Raf, Miko and Bulkhead remained silent, none of them having anything to add and all three confused by the situation. You could practically see the wheels turning in Rafael’s head, but the twelve-year old remained silent, watching the scene play out.

At last, Fowler spoke up, arms relaxing from where they had been tightly crossed against his chest, his brows furrowed and expression thoughtful. “If the ‘Cons finally did decide to ally themselves with humans, however unlikely that is, could it be because they’re trying to get to the kids perhaps? After all, Vince and Jack’s rivalry is well-known in a small town like this and if Buckethead is willing to literally raise an entire army from the dead I doubt he’ll have any moral reservations against using the children as leverage.”

Unfortunately, out of all theories the autobots could come up with, Fowler’s suggestion seemed like the most plausible one. Both the autobots and decepticons were getting reckless, fighting viciously over the few relics of the Primes they could find on Earth. The war was nearing its end, they could all feel it. Desperate times called for desperate measures and if hurting the children allowed Megatron to attain victory, he’d do it without question. They all knew that.

Optimus frowned, looking away as he considered the possibilities, even ones he was reluctant to accept, but there could be no other explanation. He could tell Jack wasn’t lying if the fierce conviction in the teenager’s eyes were anything to go by. Taking a deep invent, he turned to his teammates, leveling each one with a serious look. “If that is the case, then we need to exert extreme caution. Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee, I want you to pay close attention to your charges. Do not let them out of sight outside of the base. “Ratchet,” he turned to his old friend, noticing that the white medic was already facing him and listening intently, “I want you to keep an optic out for any decepticon activity and report to us immediately if there is any within the city of Jasper itself, if Vince is really in the company of a decepticon soldier, I would like to be made aware of it instantly.”

Ratchet nodded, understanding the seriousness of the matter and sensing the unease in Optimus’ normally controlled field. His own reached out, projecting understanding and a silent promise that he would fulfil what was asked of him. He didn’t miss the small twitch of the Prime’s lip plates as the larger mech forced himself not to smile and his spark warmed slightly at the sight.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

The Vehicons were confused. Not unusual for them, but this time they genuinely had a good reason to be puzzled. Not because they were wondering how the hell Cybertron’s fauna was so similar to Earth’s, but because they couldn’t explain the spark signature they’d picked up momentarily in the city of Jasper in Nevada. One moment it was there and the next it was gone. If the computers hadn’t detected it immediately, they would’ve missed it. But that wasn’t even the most puzzling aspect of it.

The signature was… peculiar, to put it simply. It was undoubtedly that of a spark, but something was off about it. It’s beat was slower than a normal mech’s yet much faster than an Insecticons. It didn’t belong to any signatures in the decepticon databases, so it could not belong to one of their own. When they compared it with the many autobot signatures they had it didn’t add up either. There were also signs of dark energon contamination, but that could not explain the… darkness of the spark involved.

The Vehicons couldn’t exactly put it into words, but there was just something… unsettling about this spark. Something that gave them an ominous feeling. Something unpleasant that they couldn’t quite put their digits on.

When hours passed and they still could not identify the mech it belonged too, ST3V3 raised a servo, cautiously addressing the large mech standing at the very front of the bridge. “Lord Megatron?” The warlord angled his helm, not turning around completely to face the speaker, but making it clear that he was listening. Slightly emboldened, the Vehicon, Steve as he liked to call himself, continued, bowing his helm in a show of submission and respect. “Our scanners have picked up a spark signature, sir, yet it remains unidentified.”

At this Megatron turned around, intrigued enough to tear his attention away from where Soundwave was working diligently on the Iacon database. “What do you mean?” He rumbled, approaching the monitor displaying the puzzling signal. Even Soundwave looked up, momentarily halting his work, before resuming it, but much quieter now, listening intently.

Steve and the other Vehicons stepped aside as Megatron approached, allowing their leader full view of the screen. “We’ve compared it to all the signatures we have in our data base, it does not match any of them. There are also signs of dark energon contamination and… something else. We do not know how to explain it, but if we didn’t know better we’d say that this spark does not belong to a cybertronian.”

One optic ridge quirked, Megatron studied the information displayed on the screen, searching his own memory for anything alike. Coming up empty he turned to his TIC, not surprised in the least that Soundwave was already at his side and examining the readings as intently as the warlord himself. When the silent mech turned to him and his visor remained blank, Megatron knew that Soundwave did not recognize the signature either.

His interest piqued, he addressed the gathered Vehicons, optics never leaving the screen. “Add this signature to your search parameters. I must know to whom it belongs to and how to find them.”

“Yes, Lord Megatron.”

Chapter Text

“He could’ve seen you”

“He probably did”

“How can you be so calm about this!?” In a rare moment of incredulity and frustration, Vince threw up his hands, taking a few steps away from the motionless Porsche, anger and worry clear in every line of his tense body.

As soon as Darby was distracted, they’d bolted, leaving the loser in a cloud of dust, shocked and confused. The animatronic knew she screwed up, allowing herself that small moment of mirth as she laughed at the other boy’s obvious jealousy even as he claimed about his leaning more towards motorcycles, but she couldn’t help it. Vince’s rivalry with the black haired teenager was a source of endless amusement for her, even if she didn’t quite understand what they were really fighting over.

Of course Vince knew, mostly from herself and the ever-talkative Hipport (or ‘Mr. Hippo’ as Sierra had jokingly nicknamed him), of Jack’s ties with the autobots and his involvement in the cybertronian Civil War. But that couldn’t be the source of his jealousy, he was content spending time with them, with her, and didn’t need or want to be part of the Autobot club. Perhaps he was just jealous of the attention Sierra gave the poor fool. That was probably it.

So when she sensed Vince tense up in her seat after being forced to talk to the Darby boy (to be fair, they didn’t know he was on shift until they heard his voice), she did the only thing she could do to calm him down. She drove him to the canyons, only stopping when they’d reached the top where they could comfortably observe the sunset and talk. This was also where they’d first met, both of them distraught and searching for a quiet place to air their grievances. At first Vince had been terrified, naturally, but after they started talking… it was like something clicked. A connection bloomed between them, a mutual understanding and eventually even respect.

The others didn’t accept the human at first. Many hurtful words were exchanged before they eventually warmed up to the redhead. But eventually Vince managed to worm his way into their sparks, just like he did with hers and they learned to tolerate him. Even Springtrap, who had been the most vehement in his disapproval. And of course that all came crashing down when Sierra and Abilene were brought into the picture. Albeit accidentally.

“You know what Nightmare said, Racer! And Agent Azalea? She said that our government has an agreement with your kind. You provide our scientists with technological intel and keep yourself hidden from humankind and we allow you unlimited access to all the dark energon within Earth and let you coexist with us, call this planet your new home since yours was destroyed! Mine, Sierra and Abilene’s presence was bad enough, Vex barely managed to smooth things over, but if Darby is dragged into this? If the cybertronians are dragged into this? Nightmare will have your head, don’t lie!” Vince was ranting loudly, pacing up and down the canyon edge, the red and yellow hues of the setting sun making his ginger hair light up as if it were on fire. For a rebel he sure was a stickler for rules, Racer thought.

Sighing heavily through her vents, Racer transformed, a low, mechanical purr escaping her vocalizer as she was finally allowed to stretch her arms and legs, the relief sending pleasure signals all along her frame. Crouching down to be on eye-level with the human, she reached out with one long claw, tapping him gently on the shoulder to get his attention. Vince didn’t look the least perturbed as he turned around to find the rabbit form towering over him, green eyes troubled and arms crossed tightly over his chest.

Black eyes narrowing in concern, her white irises glowing almost eerily in the growing darkness as the sun steadily, bit by bit, disappeared beyond the horizon, painting the sky into beautiful shades of purple and dark blue, so similar to her own color scheme, Racer spoke, pearly white fangs practically flashing in the shadows. “Okay, first of all, Nightmare won’t do anything to hurt me, the worst he can do is give me a disciplinary task like cleaning the washracks and waste disposal chutes around the base for about an Earth week. Which… is still pretty terrible if I think about it, but still not a physical punishment. You’re overreacting. Second of all, I highly doubt Agent Azalea and the government can be a true threat to us. All we have to do is threaten to destroy half a continent and they back off instantly.”

Racer snorted in derision, looking away from her small human friend, large ears twitching as she listened intently in order to bolt instantly to avoid being seen. “In fact, I’m quite confident that Vex used that threat at least once during her monthly meetings with your ‘General Bryce’.” Vince didn’t seem convinced or relieved in the least, his features still twisted in a worried thrown.

“Yeah, bet you said the same thing about MECH.” He regretted those words the moment they left his tongue, green eyes widening in horror at what he’d said. Racer stiffened, her EM field pulling in tight as her fangs bared and servos clenched at the mere mention of the vile butchers… murderers. “I thought we agreed not to speak of them.” She rose sharply to her paw shaped pedes, turning away to glare at nothing, servos crossing tightly over her spark chamber.

Vince reached out, his fingertips softly touching the armored plating of her foreleg, guilt coursing through him at full force. His voice was soft and quiet when he spoke up again. “I know that Beast’s passing was difficult, for all of us and especially for his brothers and sisters, but you shouldn’t just internalize it. Just because you avoid talking about it doesn’t mean that the pain will go away… When my mom died, I shut up too, but the grief ate away at me. Talking to people helped-“

“Your mother was sick, Vincent, and she got to pass away peacefully amongst family,” Racer whispered, the look in her optics growing more and more distant, her claws digging into the armor of her upper arms deep enough to draw dark energon, the bioluminescent purple liquid beginning to drip steadily down her plating. “Beast was barely more than a sparkling, a child and those butchers strapped him down, tore him apart to see how we worked! They murdered him, don’t you understand?!  And then your government forbids us from tearing those MECH agents to shreds! Tells us that ‘they’ll deal with it personally’.” Unable to stop her voice from cracking, Racer fell silent, her ears drooping to press against her back in a blatant show of distress, glancing at the silent human over her shoulder.

“We lost a family member that day and the worst part is that he died alone, in pain and afraid and we didn’t even get to him in time to say goodbye. A luxury that you had with your mom.”

When Vincent failed to reply, Racer sighed shifting into her alt mode and opening one door in an inviting manner. “Come, it’s getting late. I should probably drive you home and return to the Flipside.” The boy nodded, though reluctantly, and slowly clambered into the driver’s seat, making himself comfortable as the animatronic wrapped a seatbelt securely over his chest and started up her engine, beginning their slow trek home.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

Miko was bored, really bored. Nothing exciting happened ever since Jack called in, claiming Vince was working with the ’Cons. And then the next day Vince arrived at school in his usual black ride, no Porsche in sight. Naturally, she followed him around all day, being as inconspicuous as possible (which was not at all) and still came up with nothing! He didn’t do anything suspicious, except leaving with Sierra and Abilene in tow at the end of the day, but even that could be explained. Vince was a known flirt, probably took them to a drive-in theatre or something.

Which found Miko sitting on a couch in the autobot base, doing nothing as Jack was too busy studying for a test and Raf out racing along the empty roads with Bumblebee. Ratchet wasn’t paying attention to her and she really didn’t feel like annoying him as she’d noticed the broom the medic had pointedly placed right by the TV. She didn’t feel like being forced to clean up again.

The girl was so lost in her own thoughts that she almost didn’t notice the groundbridge whirling to life, closely accompanied by heavy pedesteps that reverberated through the small (cybertronian-wise) room. She looked up, a bright smile immediately lighting up her face when she caught sight of the familiar sturdy green armor, leaping up from the dusty couch with a joyful whoop and rushing towards the metallic bars of the catwalk to greet her autobot guardian. "Bulk!”

Bulkhead smiled at her, instantly scooping her up into his servos, so she could clamber onto one of his shoulders, keeping himself still and ready in case she slipped. “Hey, Miko! How was your day?”

“Booooooring!” Miko sang, kicking her legs excitedly as she flipped open her phone, already searching for the best song to play just for this occasion. “Let’s go for a drive!”

Bulkhead nodded in agreement, making the teenager whoop again, before turning to a quiet, but expectant Ratchet, relaying the report of his findings. Not that there was much to report anyway, the decepticons were being especially quiet as of late and there had been no sign of the car Jack mentioned anywhere near Vince. Which worried them all.

At Ratchet’s nod, he transformed, gears and plates shifting into place smoothly and almost soundlessly, before opening one of his doors to allow Miko inside. Once she was safely strapped to the seat, he stepped on the gas, zooming through the empty base corridors and out the hidden entrance, enjoying Miko’s excited shouts and the booming heavy metal music now filtering through his speakers.

They were just leaving Jasper when the girl suddenly spoke up, tearing herself away from her phone, and he had to lower the music’s volume to hear what she was saying. “Hey, Bulk?”

“Yeah?” He answered, making a smooth turn onto one of the many empty roads stretching along Nevada.

“Have ya ever heard of…  Xevertron?”

Bulkhead remained silent for several minutes, the music slowly lowering to a mere whisper before the radio shut off completely. “Where did you hear about it, Miko?” His voice was quiet, unusually so, causing his passenger to furrow her eyebrows in confusion.

“Uh, Ratchet told us the other day, y’know, the legend of Xevertron? Raf was just curious, so he asked about cybertronian literature and folklore, or whatever it’s called. Why? What’s wrong?”

The former wrecker remained silent, obviously thinking it over and searching for the most appropriate way to answer. Sighing, he eventually settled on brutal honesty, lowering his speed to the average, so they could speak normally without him having to worry about accidentally crashing into any stray car at a huge speed. “Yeah, I’ve heard of it. In fact, it became one of the most popular legends towards the end of the Golden Age.”

Miko remained silent, so he continued, a heavy sigh escaping his vents with a soft hiss of expelling air. “Miko, you have to understand that those were difficult times for all of us. The corruption in high places, the caste system – everything. Many working class citizens were dying due to the difficult work conditions and low pay. Unrest spread through the masses and we all knew that something big was coming. Cybertron as we knew it was coming to an end. And when Megatron began to voice his concerns and declare his ideas, we knew for certain.”

Bulkhead sighed again, but continued, vocalizer quiet but steady. “The more religious mechs began talking about how this was the end, that this was Unicron finally taking his revenge. Which of course caused many old legends to resurface, including the story of ‘Unicron’s creations’. People latched onto that immediately, some claiming that it was the xevertronian race’s fault for the council’s actions, that they were secretly pulling the strings. Some claimed that Megatron himself was one. When our world finally exploded in chaos, those rumors only grew.”

“War is a terrible thing, Miko. Endless shouting, fighting, shooting, explosions, blood being spilt needlessly, the death of many innocents who were at the wrong place at the wrong time… At first I wanted to remain neutral, I did not want to fight, but circumstances pushed me to it. I joined the Wreckers, an elite fighting force that took upon itself even the most risky and suicidal missions. That was also how I found myself on a distant, nameless moon, battling with the ‘Cons over the meager energon deposits there. As years passed and the struggle failed to stop, the planet we found ourselves upon began to die. During my last mission there, I got trapped in a cave-in, the blaster fire causing the structures of the cave to become unstable and collapse. One of the rocks must’ve hit my helm, because I was knocked unconscious.”

Bulkhead fell silent for several moments yet again, Miko leaning forward excitedly all the while and waiting impatiently for him to continue. “To this day, I’m not sure what I’d seen”, the wrecker admitted finally, making a smooth U turn to begin their return to Jasper. “But when I came to I remember I was confronted with these red optics, watching me from the shadows. And they weren’t like any decepticon optics I’ve ever seen either. They were this deep red, full of malice and thirst for energon, crazed even, yet focused and intelligent. I remember thinking that they were not cybertronian. And then I saw the claws and teeth on the thing, the dim light only allowing me a glimpse.” The girl felt the car around her vibrate as Bulkhead shuddered at the memory.

“It’s jaws were parted as it leaned over me. The fangs themselves were longer than my legs, not to mention the claws. And they were practically soaked in energon. I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even vent. I must’ve lost consciousness, because when I woke up again the thing was gone and light was filtering through the cracks in the cave walls. But when I finally found my way outside… You didn’t see it, Miko… Everyone stationed on the planet, Autobot and Decepticon, were dead. Obliterated. Torn to pieces. Gone. I had to literally wade through a sea of spilt energon. In all the time I’ve spent fighting, I’ve never witnessed such a scene of a ruthless massacre as I had on that planet. And I know that that thing was the one responsible for it.” The girl could hear the sadness mixed with horror in his voice and instinctively knew that had Bulkhead transformed in that exact moment, she’d see a haunted look in his bright blue optics.

“The worst part is, I still don’t know why it left me alive. I still don’t even know what that thing was exactly. Maybe I was just hallucinating. But deep in my spark, I always believed that that was a xevertronian out for blood and if a single one could do that kind of damage… I shudder to think what a whole planet of them can do.”

“Ratchet doesn’t believe in them though,” Miko mumbled, leaning back in her seat and looking out at the darkened road. Night was coming, she’d better get home before her host parents began to worry. They were nice people, but sometimes really overbearing and she didn’t need an argument that would only result in a massive headache.

A low chuckle travelled through Bulkhead’s frame, mirrors twitching. “Ratch’s a skeptic. I don’t think he even truly believed in the planetary alignment prophecy until it came true. But then, scientists rarely believe such things like legends and myths. But simple mechs like me, the ones who spend a lot of time on the front lines, tend to believe if only to comfort themselves for a few cycles before their inevitable deactivation.”

A comfortable silence fell between them after that, both of them lost in their own thoughts. Soon enough, Jasper came into view, the bright street lights illuminating the lonely roads and the dark blue sky overhead. At some point, Miko fell asleep, her phone slipping through her fingers and dropping to his seat, so Bulkhead drove slowly, careful not to jostle her too much and allow his human friend to get some rest.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

“How’s Racer? Nightmare chew her out?”

Sierra’s soft voice broke Vince out of his thoughts, dragging his attention to the red haired girl now standing beside him.

The night was a pleasant one, the air crisp and fresh with a slight breeze ruffling his hair where he stood leaning against the wall, a nearby street lamp highlighting his lanky figure. Vince loved nighttime, the only period of the day where he could shed the arrogant mask he wore to hide the loneliness and hurt and feel like a person again.

“Thankfully no, but Springtrap was particularly upset. Puppet too. I swear even though she doesn’t speak she was judging us in that moment.” His lips quirked up at the soft giggle that statement earned him, tilting his head to glance at her from the corner of his eyes. Sierra quickly composed herself, however, the serious look returning to her face as she leaned against the wall beside him, green eyes worried. “So, if she wasn’t punished, then why didn’t she drive you to school this morning, or back? We can’t be sure that Jack saw anything and even if he did, what does it matter?” Vince sighed, letting his arms fall from their crossed position. “Sierra, you know their history. They don’t want to risk the cybertronians finding about their existence on Earth, they don’t want to risk being dragged into someone else’s war.”

“But why not? After everything the cybertronians have done to them! Destroying their planet, trying to wipe them out, arriving here to stake a claim on Earth just when the animatronics have finally settled down! Why not get revenge? We both know that if they really wanted to, neither the autobots, nor the decepticons would stand a chance against them! Why remain hidden?”

“Precisely because they have a home here!” The boy exclaimed, whipping around to face his companion, face contorted in helpless anger. “Do you really think they haven’t thought of teaching those cybertronians their place? Don’t you remember Nightmare Fredbear’s story where he told us how he and his twin brother completely decimated an entire army on one of Xevertron’s former moons? They left that green bot alive to tell the story as a warning and the cybertronians still didn’t stop! And what about their origins? How Unicron literally created them to be killers!”

His voice softened when Sierra took a step back, her arms raised in front of her as if they could hold his anger at bay, her forest green eyes wide in shock. “Violence gets you nowhere and they realized that a long time ago, in fact, they learned that from the cybertronian race itself. I mean look at them, they’ve been fighting for four million years now and not one of them had even tried asking for a truce. If this continues, it’ll only end in the extinction of their own race. Do you really think the animatronics want a future like that for themselves? For their young? Plushtrap, the Freddles – they deserve a home, a decent life.”

Understanding dawned in the girls eyes, “That’s why you’re angry with Jack, isn’t it? You’re angry that he chose to ally himself with the cybertronians, with the species that had hurt our friends so much. You’re angry that he decided to play war and is able to openly ride around with his autobot friend, while Racer is forced to do everything to keep herself and her kind safe and hidden, not allowed to even pick you up from school every day…”

“Why aren’t you angry?” Vince snapped in reply, shooting her a sharp look. “Why isn’t Abilene as furious as I am? Why are the two of you so friendly around Darby? He and his little band are the reason that neither Victor nor Lolbit are allowed to step outside the Flipside for longer than necessary.”

“Because it isn’t Jack’s fault”, Sierra’s voice remained soft and calm even when the boy turned on her, mouth open to deliver a scathing retort. She interrupted him before he could do so. “He couldn’t have possibly known what he was getting into, just like we didn’t know anything when we stumbled upon the xevertronians. Purely by accident. Jack has been a loner all his life, without purpose, without goals. The autobots gave him that purpose, made him feel a part of something bigger, accepted him into their family. Just like the animatronics did for us. But unlike you, Jack actually tried to return to a normal life. You know it’s true”, she added quickly when she saw Vince’s face darken. “Jack didn’t know what he was doing by joining the autobots and he has no idea about what we know, so this imagined offensive behavior of his is just that: imagined. And even if he hadn’t joined the autobots, Racer and the others would still have to hide. From the cybertronians, from MECH..”

Sierra trailed off, eyes watering as grief swallowed her whole, the wounds as fresh as they had been on that fateful day just a few months ago. “They’re in a terrible situation, but that isn’t Jack’s fault.”

Vince had nothing to say to that.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

Nightmare’s optics narrowed as studied the screens before him, soon turning away in obvious displeasure. Agent Azalea had not been pleased when she'd been informed of Racer’s little ‘blunder’ with the human boy. Even though there was no guarantee that the Darby kid saw anything, they had to be more cautious, they could not afford letting the cybertronians know of their existence.

But he was so tired. Tired of hiding, tired of watching his every step, tired of holding his anger and hurt at bay. And he knew that his people felt the same. The Flipside, though functioning as well as the ‘Shadow Zone’ and thus allowing them to wander unseen everywhere on the planet, just wasn’t the same. He longed to drive along the streets, to feel real air brush against his plating, to see more color than the bland assortment of grays and browns they had here. The others longed for those things too and he couldn’t hold them back forever.

His brother spoke to him less and less, exhausting himself by making sure everything was going smoothly: that enough dark energon was mined each day, that their storerooms had enough space, that the strong shielding was still up and successfully hiding their signals, that the younglings were watched and kept away from the crowded areas where anyone could step on them (the last time they’d allowed Foxy to babysit had been a disaster), that the medbay did not require additional staff or supplies and so on and so on. The only thing Nightmare Fredbear had enough strength for at the end of the day was to drag himself to the nearest berth and fall asleep.

Springtrap too, kept himself unusually busy, even to the point where he couldn’t pick his son up and Plushtrap had to be brought to the rabbit’s apartment by one of the caretakers. Nightmare didn’t approve of that particular new habit, but every time he tried to speak to his Second, he was waved off and assured that everything was fine. When it obviously wasn’t.

The Puppet had to be literally dragged away from the monitors each day as she spent countless hours tirelessly sorting through both autobot and decepticon databases, tracking their movements and pulling back some of their own mining teams if the cybertronians were anywhere near their vicinity. Sometimes he wondered if she and the decepticon TIC Soundwave were somehow related.

Tensions were rising and they could all feel it. Like a calm before the storm. Something was about to happen, something terrible and Racer’s little slip-up was just the beginning.

By Unicron, he needed a drink.

The walk to the bar was short and not very eventful. Most had already retired for the night, leaving only a few mechs unfortunate enough to be on the night shift. They passed Nightmare quietly, dipping their heads in respect or mumbling a low greeting. Toy Bonnie seemed the least enthusiastic, normally lustrous light blue plating dull and scuffed. The massive bear raised and optic ridge at that, but did not inquire. It was not his business.

There were few patrons when he entered the small bar, the bartender looking up for a few seconds, before turning to the shelves, most likely already preparing him his usual drink. Nightmare resisted the urge to smile. She knew him well.

The Classics were here, he noticed, the whole gang this time, including Foxy. Nightmare Freddy was among them also, which was surprising. The mech wasn’t the most social type. You would almost be tempted to describe him as emotionless if it weren’t for how much he obviously loved his little brothers, the Freddles. They greeted him politely, and he nodded in acknowledgement, making his way between the small tables to the bar itself.

“Nightmare”, the bartender greeted him, poisonous green eyes flashing as they glanced at him before a shot of a light purple liquid was pushed over to him.

“Majeen”, he rumbled in return, massive claws wrapping around the glass. He threw his head back and downed it in one gulp, slamming the drink back onto the polished surface of the table and smirking at the distasteful snarl the magenta colored bear made.

“Must you always do that?” Majeen growled, swiping the glass back for a refill. “If you make a single crack in the table, you’ll be paying to fix it.” She didn’t mean it of course, though her words were harsh, her tone was light, playful and pleasant. Nightmare finally allowed himself to relax, shoulders falling from their stiff hold with a weary sigh. Majeen noticed instantly. Of course she did, it was her job after all.

“Bad day?” She asked, handing him his drink and fetching a glass for herself, putting it down beside his.

“You have no idea”, Nightmare chuckled bitterly, eyeing the empty glass curiously. “Aren’t you supposed to be working?” The reddish female snorted ungracefully, pulling over a stool to sit across from him.

“Do you see any other patrons?” Majeen asked, green eyes twinkling and sharp fangs bared. “Those five will be gone soon”, she nodded at the only occupied table. “After that, the bar’s closed officially. We can sit here and drink as much as we like.”

“I have work tomorrow”, Nightmare protested weakly, but reached out to pour himself another shot when the bear form set a bottle of cyberwhiskey between them. “Where in the name of Fazbear did you get this?” He rumbled incredulously as he examined it, large claws turning it, so he could see the label and year. Though plain energon was not poisonous to xevertronians, not like dark energon was for normal cybertronians, it did function as a very strong alcoholic drink. Just what Nightmare needed given his current situation.

Majeen shrugged uncaringly, grabbing the bottle once he was done with it to fill her own glass. “The boys stumbled on yet another cybertronian wreckage, the planet’s littered with them. Some mechs just shouldn’t fly”, she smirked, slowly sipping her drink, optics brightening at the charge the beverage brought to her systems. Nightmare chuckled.

“They were probably shot down”, he noticed, leaning against the polished surface of the table separating them.

“Mh, details.”

They sat there in comfortable silence, just enjoying the quiet, but friendly company until there came the sound of moving chairs and heavy paw steps. Nightmare remained seated as Majeen moved to show her patrons out, locking the door behind them, and contemplated whether or not he should tell her the full extent of what was bothering him. It wasn’t a question about trust, after the fall of Xevertron there had been little to no infighting and the magenta colored femme was one of his oldest friends. No, Nightmare was just used to keeping his problems to himself, rarely confiding in anyone else. It had been a trait of his since sparklinghood.

Fortunately, Majeen seemed to solve that dilemma for him. “So, now that we’re alone, tell me what’s bothering you so much that you came to me and not your brother?” She rumbled pleasantly, refiling both their glasses once again. Cutting to the chase as usual, was she? Nightmare supposed that he really shouldn’t be surprised about that.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of the incident with Racer?” The news was supposed to be kept secret, but as it usually happened in a large community, spread quickly. Majeen nodded, only confirming his suspicions, now watching him carefully. Nightmare hesitated for a minute, claws flexing around the drink, before continuing. “Agent Azalea was really… unhappy, to say the least. While Agent Fowler has not made any reports so far, we can’t be sure that the boy didn’t see anything. For a small flesh creauture, she can be very loud when she wants to be.” He winced at the memory, rubbing almost absentmindedly at his poor abused ears. “Moreover, the rest are getting restless, I’m sure you’ve seen that. Not only are they still furious and grief-stricken about Beast’s murder, they’re also getting tired of being cooped up in the Flipside for over three years. More and more are signing up for the mines just to get a chance to get some fresh air and soon I won’t be able to hold them all back.”

Nightmare sighed, rubbing a servo down his considerable maw, glancing at his companion almost uncertainly. Majeen was still watching him, ears tilted forward as she listened closely. Her face softened with each uttered sentence, her green eyes now giving a sad glow. “Beast’s death shocked all of us”, the femme said at last, looking down at the glass that was still firmly clasped in her servos. “I understand better than most why you keep us back, with the information MECH got off his frame it would be far too dangerous to attempt an assault now. And wandering outside could get the attention of the cybertronians, and none of us want to be dragged into their senseless war. But many of us are thirsting for blood, Nightmare. I’m afraid it’s not something we can fully control, we were created for it after all.”

“The humans assured me they would deal with their little rogue organization problem”, the black bear rumbled, red eyes dimmed. A soft snort sounded from the bartender.

“And you believe them? They’ll either sweep the whole ordeal under the rug or get their autobot pets to deal with them. They’ll hardly be willing to get their hands dirty.” She looked away, muzzle contorted in a disgusted scowl. “Don’t get me wrong, Agent Azalea is a good and honorable person, a rare occurrence in her line of work, but her superiors are not. MECH is our problem to deal with either way.”

Nightmare knew Majeen was right, of course she was, but that didn’t make him feel any better. For over three million years he kept himself back, only killing when all other options were exhausted, vowing to himself that he would not play the role Unicron wanted them to. It would seem that he could not avoid their nature forever.

Clinking his glass against hers, he gulped down the remains of the cyberwhisky, his voice a deep rumble. “Yes, I suppose you’re right.”

Majeen’s eyes twinkled in the dim lighting, making her pale face light up in different shades of poisonous green.

“Always am.”

Chapter Text

The base was in an uproar. Not only did Fowler almost get run off the road by an Optimus look-alike, but now they were being informed that a military base was under attack. By Optimus Prime. Who was currently standing in front of them, confusion and growing suspicion clear in his bright blue optics. Looking at him, Fowler himself began to suspect just who was really behind this whole thing: MECH. They should’ve known that stealing Bumblebee’s T-Cog and mastering the art of transformation was just the beginning. Scrap.

Ratchet moved immediately, typing down the coordinates to the base and opening a groundbridge. After a second of deliberation, Optimus charged through, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee following close behind him.

They got there just in time. The fake Prime was tearing viciously through the line of soldiers, screams and cries of pain echoing across the open field, drowned out by explosions and sounds of shooting. “Tend to the wounded, try to get them as far away from here as possible”, Optimus rumbled, transforming his servos into blasters as he advanced on his dark double, optics narrowed in anger. “We must not allow any more human casualties!” The autobots nodded, moving quickly towards the smoking remnants of human vehicles.

The imposter turned around the moment Optimus approached, movements much too fluid for even a cybertronian, and the Prime had to take an involuntary step back in shock. Though the fake was an exact copy of himself, not surprising really given the misunderstandings, the look in those yellow optics was practically predatory, making Prime’s every instinct to scream for him to retreat, now.

Whatever this was, it definitely wasn’t created based on only cybertronian biology.

A shrill cry escaped the fake Prime’s voicebox, a piercing, haunting, animalistic sound that shook both the autobots and humans to the core, their optics and eyes alike widening in horror, fear making the energon and blood freeze in their veins.

Optimus stumbled back, servos pressed over his audio receivers in pain, bolts of electricity running through his whole body. Terror, unbridled and unwelcome, coursed through him for the first time in millennia as he sank to his knees, unable to gather enough strength to stand, the loud scream still echoing in his audials even though the fake Prime had long since turned tail and escaped. “Optimus!” All of a sudden there were servos underneath his arms, lifting him up from the ground, a low groan reverberating through his chest.

He could see the green glow of a nearing spacebridge, but it seemed oddly distant as he struggled to remain conscious, pedes dragging heavily along the ground as Bulkhead and Bumblebee carried him along, the green wrecker taking the brunt of his weight. Optimus tried to stand on his own the moment the autobot emblem was beneath his feet, but failed, swaying the moment the additional support was gone.

“Set him on the crate! Now!” He felt himself being lowered into a sitting position, his processor still spinning and causing the whole room to tilt and shake before his optics. A steady servo clasped his shoulder armor firmly, keeping him upright as the blue light of a scanner swept over his frame, informing the autobot medic of any injuries the Prime had sustained. “He’s fine, thank Primus. Merely disoriented. Whatever sonic weapon MECH used was strong enough to momentarily disrupt his vestibular system. He just needs a few minutes to recover.”

Relieved sighs sounded from all sides, soon interrupted by Miko’s curious (not to mention excited) voice. “So… what kind of sound weapon could possibly knock Boss Bot down like that? You guys are pretty sturdy, I’m sure you can withstand anything mere humans create!” Raf nodded in agreement at that, directing his curious gaze at the gathered ‘Bots.

Arcee shrugged, optics growing distant as she recalled what had happened merely ten minutes ago, frame shuddering at the unpleasant memory. “I… don’t know. It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever heard either of decepticon origin or human.” Servos crossed tightly, almost defensively, over a blue chestplate even as Bumblebee and Bulkhead nodded, the yellow scout letting out a series of beeps and whirrs all the while gesticulating wildly.

“An animalistic scream?” Ratchet echoed thoughtfully, rubbing at his chin guard in thought. “Have any of you managed record it?” Bumblebee nodded, already locating the sound file and sending it to Ratchet’s comm. The medic went still for a moment, analyzing the information before turning to the computers, uploading the data onto them for further inspection. “Was there anything else? Every little detail can help us figure out how this ‘Double’ works and how to disable it.”

The three autobots hesitated visibly at that, glancing at each other as if asking themselves whether or not they should share what they felt in that moment. It was surprisingly Optimus who answered, a black servo still rubbing his aching helm, but he seemed more focused now than when he’d been first brought into the base. “There was something else, old friend. Though I am not certain how to explain it, I have reason to believe that we are not the only ones MECH has used to make this… ‘replica’ of a cybertronian.”

Ratchet frowned, opening his intake to ask just what Optimus meant by that, but was interrupted when Fowler’s voice, loud and frustrated, reached their audios and soon were graced with the human himself as he appeared on the catwalk, free arm gesticulating animatedly as he spoke heatedly into the phone. “Yes, sir, the autobots were at your base. But only in response to the initial attack!... But, sir, I- Yes, sir, I understand…” With a sigh, Fowler lowered his phone, expression troubled.

“So, what’s the damage?” Jack cautiously ventured to ask, approaching the government agent, Raf and Miko following close behind him. The man only sighed again, turning to face the kids, his face betraying his displeasure at the news he’d received.

“All military personnel are under strict orders to destroy any and all bots on sight.” This caused a round of protests and indignant exclamations at once.

“Are you kidding?!”

“But, they’re innocent!”

“Optimus was framed!”

“Though unfortunate, the military order changes nothing. Our imposter clearly poses a grave threat not only to humanity, but to us as well.  We must not only destroy MECH’s creation, but also, if possible, confiscate any information they currently have both on cybertronians and whatever they used on us so effectively today as well… Or whoever they used.” The last part was added almost as an afterthought, the Prime’s gaze clouding in thought.

“Optimus, what are you implying?” Ratchet asked, a frown marring his aged features. The red mech glanced at him, expression unreadable.

“I cannot be certain, but I believe I know the origin of that sonic weapon…”

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

The sounds were distorted as they came through Soundwave’s speakers, but what was said could still be clearly heard. Megatron merely raised an optic ridge as he watched the video, crimson optics studying the form of the fake Prime right up until the moment it screamed, sending the real Optimus to his knees and his autobots collapsing to the ground, while clutching at their helms in obvious pain. Interesting…

Megatron was no fool. Even though he found it laughable that a decepticon could ever be imprisoned by humans of all species, the warlord could not dismiss the fact that they’d clearly had time to study Breakdown and document all their findings on cybertronian biology. To the point that they even managed to make a fully automated replica, meaning that they were in possession of both a T-cog and energon, knowing quite well about their respective functions. Now, since Breakdown still had the ability to change into alt-mode and did not mention them finding out about the uses of energon, where did these pitiful sacks of flesh get their information?

Megaron had a pretty good idea where: from Starscream. It would make sense. The seeker was most likely desperate for fuel and shelter, not to mention he never shied away from sharing data if it benefited him. The humans could provide him with both. But it had obviously backfired from what he’d seen. Meaning that Starscream was most likely alone, hiding and grounded. If not deactivated. The thought made him scowl.

If that were indeed true, then he’d have to deal with the insolent humans soon. They had already attacked and injured two of his officers and were quickly becoming a thorn in his side. One that he did not need and that could be taken care of easily. Though he did not particularly care for Starscream, the human’s actions were a blow to the decepticon’s pride. And the warlord would not allow to let that offense slide.

But there were other things that caught his attention in the recording. He took notice of them instantly. The human made replica moved too smoothly, too quickly for a normal cybertronian, much less for a creation of an inferior species. He’d even liken it to the movements of an Earthen predator cornering its prey. And that scream… Crimson optics narrowed in thought. In all his long life he’d never heard anything like it. Except.. “Have you compared the sound frequency to the Resonance Blaster?” That weapon was listed as one of the weapons hidden on earth according to the Iacon database. It was possible that MECH had somehow stumbled upon it, however unlikely, but the warlord currently had no other explanation for the devastating effects he’d witnessed on the screen.

Soundwave nodded, the image on his visor changing to show two very different frequencies and Megatron’s frown deepened. Could it be? But, no, this had to be a mistake. The council blew up their planet millions of years ago, even before the war, just when he’d first started his speeches. How could any of them be here on Earth? But… it would explain so many things, including the disappearing spark signature, the dark energon and the odd sonic weapon that could have a such a profound effect on even the strongest of cybertronians. “Now compare it to a xevertronian vocal attack.”

The effect those words made showed instantly. Soundwave stiffened imperceptibly, tightly controlled EM field brushing against his in a silent inquiry. Breakdown and Knock Out turned sharply to look at him, the blue bruiser looking as if he were considering the possibility that his audio receivers glitched and he heard wrong. Airachnid scoffed, purple optics flashing in disbelief and hidden mockery and didn’t hesitate to voice her opinion. “The legendary ‘creations of Unicron’, my liege? Isn’t it a bit of a stretch? After all, their existence has never been proven and the most we have are sparkling stories, not something we can take seriously.”

Megatron shot her a sharp look, scarred lip plates curled in a sneer and the femme instantly wilted, her posture changing from a haughty and arrogant pose to that of a submissive hunch, helm dipping down in acknowledgement of his superiority. “Oh, but the xevertronians are very real, Airachnid”, he hissed, turning to glance at his Third who was already sorting through various sound files, searching for that very old recording he never thought he’d need again. “Five million years ago, when I had just begun rallying the lower castes to rebel, the council became worried and searched for alternate methods to control us and stop the growing tide of a revolution. Their plans and threats to utilize slave coding, empurata and shadowplay were failing to affect the enraged low castes in any way and they were becoming desperate. That was when one of their ships reported finding a planet. A planet, that was a perfect copy of Cybertron itself, except much, much larger.”

The warlord fell silent, assessing the effect his tale made before continuing. “That planet turned out to be Xevertron. And suddenly, the council had another problem on their servos. Here they were, trying to hold on to their power, and out of nowhere a new threat appears on the horizon. One that could prove to be even more devastating than the growing rebellion. But it could also be useful. They made contact with the xevertronian race, offering them companionship, trading and promising a seat in the Galactic Council. Yet only if they agreed to help them win the Civil war. The xevertronians refused. They did not want anything to do with our race. With no other options left, wracked by fear and paranoia now that their power was slipping from their digits, the council ordered the planet to be blown up and those orders were carried out.”

Megatron’s optics flashed in barely suppressed fury, sharp fangs bared as he recalled discovering this information in Shockwave’s reports upon storming the Loop in Cyber city. The decepticons around him remained quiet, shock and fear clear in fluctuating EM fields and he could hear the quite murmurs as the drones spoke to each other in low tones. Soundwave turned towards him, displaying the two sound frequencies that were… a perfect match. “I thought they’d all been wiped out along with their home. Now it would seem that not all of them were destroyed after all.”

The growing panic was practically palpable in the room now. Everybot had heard of the legend at some point during their lives and to learn that it was all true, that those nightmarish creatures were really out there - Their leader’s infuriated growl dragged their attention back to the warlord standing at the helm of the warship, crimson eyes flashing in the semi darkness. “This is no reason to give into fear! You are decepticons! Act like it!” The murmurs subsided instantly, EM fields pulling in around respective frames.

Megatron turned away, now facing the large windows, his servos clasped behind his back. “Keep your optics out for this ‘MECH’ activity. If they managed to get a hold of a xevertronian, then whatever information they managed to gather could prove to be a danger not only to autobots, but to decepticons as well.”

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

The hallway was dark when the driverless truck entered it, an unseen hand controlling its movements and steering it in the right direction. It wasn’t long before it entered a large, circular room, gears and plates shifting as it transformed into robot mode at the flick of a switch.

Silas watched MECH’s newest creation in satisfaction, cruel features betraying the smugness and sense of early victory. A masked man approached where he sat in front of the screens that were hooked up to the clone’s visual feed, allowing him to see everything it saw. “Sir, any parallax or latency issues?”

“The telepresence interface performed flawlessly. In vehicular and robot mode”, Silas replied, rising from his seat and circling around the monitors and screens to gaze upon their creation. “And so did the sonic weapon we managed to salvage from the animatronic’s body. It proved most effective against Optimus Prime and his team.” A slow smirk spread across his scarred face, the MECH soldier beside him fidgeting in slight discomfort though Silas did not notice, or didn’t care enough to mention it.

Not everybody was as enthusiastic about using the captive robotic organisms for science. In fact, it disturbed most of them and some even regretted doing it. But nevertheless they proceeded to follow Silas’ orders for they genuinely believed that this was the best way to push humankind forward, to bring about the era of transforming technology. And if they had to kill to do so, well they would. After all, they were just deactivating machines, not people.

They had gotten lucky with the xevertronian. After months of tracking those creatures down, analyzing their individual strength and how much it would take to bring even one of them to its knees, they’d managed to capture a single subject, a ‘rabbit form’ as it was classified due to it’s physical similarities to that of an Earthen rabbit. It had been much smaller than any other animatronic they’d seen, but they couldn’t afford to be picky. They scanned it, analyzed different reactions to all kinds of stimulus and then stripped it for parts. Quickly and professionally.

So why did it feel so wrong? Why did they hesitate when they looked into those monstrous pitch black optics with their white irises and read the terror in them? Why did it feel like they murdered a child instead of taking apart an alien machine? Because their last subject had in a sense been a kid. Much younger than any of its brethren for sure. And the way the animatronic had cried, its voice a mixture of growls and high pitched whines, black tears running down ebony cheek armor as it called for someone – anyone – to come save it… Well, that memory would not be leaving any of their minds any time soon.

Some of them couldn’t take it, some of them left and were never seen again, most likely ‘dealt with’ by Silas himself, he couldn’t afford risking information being leaked to the military after all. Those of them who stayed started taking pills just to get through the day and do their job. Of course, there were also those that were like Bishop himself, cold, calculating and heartless. They had the same views on the robotic organisms as their leader and had no qualms about killing them to make new discoveries.

What they did was sick, disgusting and utterly wrong, but it was all for humankind, the soldiers told themselves. One day, humanity would thank them, be grateful to them for sacrificing themselves and becoming the monsters everybody needed. To push their race forward, to evolve even more.

Silas had a vision for this world, and they would do everything in their power to help him bring it to life. Even if that meant going crazy in the process.

So, when the soldier left his side Silas didn’t even pay attention, too entranced by the towering creation MECH had managed to finally create. This was only the beginning. Soon they would not only have ground based transforming robots, ‘ground pounders’ as Starscream had called them, but also flight capable ones as well. Speaking of Starscream… Maybe it had been a mistake to leave him after taking his T-cog, perhaps it would’ve been even better if they had stripped him for parts as well.

Frowning slightly, he turned to his men, watching them for a few minutes before addressing the problem at hand. “I would also like you to track down that… seeker and, if possible, bring him here. I believe there is still a lot of information that he could offer us.” The soldiers nodded in acknowledgement of his order, resuming their work and Silas allowed himself to smirk in satisfaction.

Yes, his plans were definitely coming along nicely.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

The MECH’s new base had to be within driving distance of both the attacked base and the road off of which Agent Fowler had been sent careening only a day ago. Optimus was forced to order his team to fan out in search of possible hide outs to more efficiently search the large area, but made sure to instruct each and every one to exercise extreme caution. Not only because of the threat MECH posed, but because of the possibility of encountering a race Optimus thought he’d never hear of again.

He did not tell his team of his suspicions yet, opting instead to keep it to himself until he could be absolutely sure, but deep within his spark the Prime knew that they were here. But how could it be possible? Xevertron had been destroyed millions of years ago, Optimus had read the reports himself. It still saddened him to no end that a species that was, contrary to popular belief, so peaceful became yet another victim of the council’s crimes. Would they still be willing to communicate with their cybertronian brethren? They were so alike after all, having been created by deities that were practically brothers. Or were the wounds dealt in the past still too deep to heal?

Optimus hoped that would not be the case. With all his spark he wished to make contact with them, to learn more of their culture and hopefully even create an alliance. He had no intention of dragging them into war with decepticons, he only wished that he could be privileged with getting to know the xevertronians as a race. The war between autobots and decepticons was dragging on, more and more cybertronians out there dying every solar cycle. If the war didn’t come to an end soon, they would all be forced into extinction. He was swiftly losing any hope of ever reasoning with Megatron, of negotiating a ceasefire. At this point, Optimus could only hope that there would be something left of them once the cybertronian race was successfully wiped from the face of the universe. And if xevertronians were to carry their memory, well, he would be eternally grateful.

But Optimus also couldn’t shake the worry that Unicron’s creations would not be open to communication or reason, much like their trapped master. Couldn’t dismiss the dread he felt each time he entertained the possibility of them being hostile. If they did attack, his autobots would not be able to stop them and after their death, there would be nobody to protect humankind from both the decepticon threat and the xevertronian one. The sonic weapon he experienced had most likely been one of their vocal attacks, the one legends mentioned on several occasions as one of their most devastating weapons. There were many theories as to how that particular ability was utilized. Some said that a xevertronian scream was used to immobilize a victim, so they could not defend themselves when the creature decided to tear into them. Some speculated that the ability was only used when the xevertronian in question felt cornered and allowed for a quick escape. Others hypothesized that it functioned as a cry for back-up and the shock it brought to the cybertronian system was a mere useful side-effect.

Whatever it’s function – MECH had somehow gotten ahold of it and Optimus had a grave suspicion of how. Silas had made a great mistake by targeting one of them, of that the Prime had no doubt. The xevertronians, if there was more than one on this planet which was a very likely possibility, would retaliate and it could get ugly very quickly. He could only hope that he would have the chance to talk it out rather than being forced to engage them.

But first of all, he needed a definite confirmation. Breaking the news to his Team about a mythical race actually being real and here on Earth with them would be… difficult at best. He had no doubts that the children would be absolutely ecstatic, Miko especially, but the autobots – less so. Xevertronians being here meant that they had a third very powerful, very dangerous enemy, one that they had little to no hope of defeating. All he could hope for, was that it would not come to a confrontation.

A few hours later after departing for his own quadrant to search, he received a comm from Bumblebee, informing him that he’d found a location that so far looked promising and could be a potential hiding spot for MECH’s soldiers. Informing the rest of the news he received from the yellow scout, he ordered Ratchet to groundbridge them all to the scout’s location.

And not a second too soon as it turned out.

“Shut off your audials!” Optimus roared over the comms, battle mask sliding into place as he transformed his servos into swords. “Silas could attempt to utilize the sonic weapon again to disable us! Communicate through comms!” A rush of affirmatives reached him, before his soldiers struck, launching themselves at the dark armored double. They were easily swatted away, the replica of the autobot leader moving faster than any cybertronian could ever hope to move, using it’s superior strength to throw them off and away. Even Bulkhead, the strongest in their little team, was easily sent flying into a wall, crashing into it with enough force for the stone to crack, collapsing in a heap of groaning metal.

Optics narrowed, Prime launched himself at the enemy, dodging when his sinister double swung his blade, the deadly tip barely scratching his red armor as he leapt back. Nemesis Prime said something, Silas no doubt using this opportunity to taunt him, but Optimus could not hear him as he kept his audials shut in case of another sonic attack, focusing only on the battle at hand. Unfortunately, MECH’s leader seemed to catch on. His comms activated.

“Keeping your audio receivers offline are we, Optimus Prime? A wise decision if I do say so myself.” The smooth baritone, the nonchalance of this butcher, this murderer – all of it served to make the Prime more enraged, his blows and movements becoming more harsh as the fury surged through his lines, beginning to cloud his judgement even though he tried to control himself.

“Silas”, Optimus growled, blue optics narrowing. He had no doubts in his processor now. “How did you get ahold of xevertronian technology?”

“You mean the animatronics? I thought you had learnt of their existence upon this planet a long time ago, or do you mean to tell me that Agent Fowler did not deign to inform you?” A dark chuckle escaped echoed over the comms. “It would seem that he keeps some secrets from you after all. That or he doesn’t have the clearance to know such things.” The smugness in the human’s voice was practically palpable. Optimus was forced to roll out of the way when the replica swung it’s blade, bringing it down in a smooth arch, swiftly turning on it’s heal to face the Prime again.

“Did you butcher them, like you attempted to butcher my soldier?” The autobot leader rasped through the comms, landing a heavy punch against the dark chassis and pushing his double back, quickly taking advantage as Silas’s creation momentarily lost its balance. Unfortunately, the alien agility even Optimus did not possess allowed it to recover quickly, leaping out of his rage and sinking back into a practiced battle stance.

“Butchered? I prefer the term ‘experimented on’. For technological advancement, surely you can understand.” Silas said, circling him cautiously, gauging his strength. “I must admit, it took me a long while to capture even one specimen, but the results were highly productive as I’m sure you’ve just witnessed.” The prime could feel the smirk in the human’s voice. “And that was just from one subject. I’m sure you can already guess my intentions with their fascinating race. Have no fear however, there are many more of them on this planet, they aren’t going into extinction any time soon.”

“Do you realize the risk you’re putting your men at?” Optimus exclaimed, horror, disgust and anger welling in his spark. “The xevertronians will retaliate! You’re putting both yourself and your soldiers in grave danger! This is not the kind of enemy a cybertronian could handle, much less a human!” A fist connected harshly against his cheek plate, sending him crashing down hard onto the ground. Nemesis Prime stood over him, yellow optics now narrowed slits.

“Do not underestimate MECH, Prime!” Silas roared over the comms, lifting his blade in preparation to strike. Optimus couldn’t move, too disoriented from the blow and pinned down by a massive pede so similar to his.

Several things happened at once. A massive burst of dark energy they long since learnt to associate dark energon, the loud sounds of jet engines, multiple decepticon signals showing up on his radar and the weight of Nemesis Prime vanishing from atop of his body.

“Optimus!” Megatron’s voice rang across the field, echoing in his ringing audio receivers that had onlined against the Prime’s will. Optimus shook his helm, dizziness making his tanks churn nauseatingly and forced himself to look up.

The familiar form of his long-time enemy stood about ten steps away, but he wasn’t moving, as if he were frozen in place. His red optics were wide, faceplate slack from shock as he gazed at the dark form now towering over the autobot leader, the dark human-made replica grasped in one massive servo by the neck, sparks traveling over torn wires and crushed circuits, its struggles weak.

Optimus looked up, feeling his vents stall.

The only way he could describe the creature now standing over him would be by likening it to an Earthen canine. A huge, bipedal and metallic canine. Its armor was a faded red and brown, cracked and dented, huge gaps in the plating baring the sensitive circuitry and protoform for all optics to see. A large hook replaced its right servo and the left was holding the replica elevated, long and deadly claws digging mercilessly into exposed neck cables. But the most frightening part of it was the face.

A long muzzle, partially lacking any armor and baring sharp fangs as long as the Prime’s servo and a hinged jaw. Through the gaps between the first set of teeth, Optimus thought he could see another, a much smaller, but equally as dangerous set. The worst part however, were it’s optics. Bright yellow and burning with so much malice, so much anger, they shook the autobot leader to his very core. There could be no doubt now as to what this creature really was.

A xevertronian. Quite alive and very furious.

He heard his team crying out in the distance and could see them running towards him from the corner of his optics, only to skid to a sudden halt and freeze in their steps just like Megatron had, blue optics blown wide as they caught sight of the looming, terrifying and monstrous mass standing over their leader.

“Don’t move”, Optimus rumbled quietly over the comms, keeping very still beneath the beast’s paw shaped pedes. His voice was steady, though his vents were beginning to quicken, involuntary fear pooling in his tank as the creature slowly shifted it’s gaze to look down at him, a long silver tongue swiping over the long and cracked maw.

“It cannot be”, Ratchet uttered, his voice no more than a faint whisper. It would seem that he had hacked into the visual feed the security cameras around the large complex provided. “That’s –“

“A xevertronian”, Optimus finished for him, flinching when the creature tilted it’s head, a sharp crack echoing through the field at the sharp movement. It’s jaws parted and Optimus did his best to remain still as hot vents swept over him. It was as if it were tasting the air around it. He could just barely see Megatron shift, sword slowly extending in preparation to attack should the monster decide to launch itself at his long-time enemy. The Prime did his best to warn the warlord not to make a move, blue optics widening as he desperately tried to convey the message.

An audial-shattering cry burst from the xevertronian’s chest, causing them all to cry out involuntarily in pain, clutching at their helms. When they recovered, it was gone, as if it had vanished into thin air.

 “So it would seem that my suspicions weren’t unfounded after all”, Megatron’s voice, deep and rumbling, broke the silence that had fallen over the gathered mechs, both autobot and decepticon. Faint murmurs and terrified whispers travelled between the vehicons as the warlord approached, extending a clawed servo to help his enemy off the ground, crimson optics still studying their surroundings warily.

Optimus allowed himself to be pulled to his pedes, stumbling slightly before regaining his balance, blue optics immediately focusing on the silver mech before him. “Suspicions? You speculated that the xevertronians were here as well?” He was unable to hide the surprise in his voice.

Megatron shot him a sharp glance, a faint sneer pulling at the corners of his lip plates. “Soundwave is very adept at surveillance, I can assure you”, he rumbled in warning, red optics flashing before turning away, glancing at the spot where a Unicron’s creation had stood mere minutes ago. “The humans were quickly becoming quite the bothersome pests and he informed me of your recent run-in with this ‘MECH’ organization. When I heard the sonic weapon they deployed, I recognized it immediately.”

“And you surmised that the humans had somehow made contact with the ancient race. So when you caught MECH’s signal again, you bridged here instantly to catch them in the act.” Optimus finished, watching his rival evenly. Megatron inclined his head in confirmation.

“Wait… So that’s what a xevertronian looks like?!? The thing’s hideous!!!” Miko’s voice came from the comms, loud and filled with indignation as if Unicron’s creations had somehow failed to meet her expectations. A dark chuckle escaped Megatron’s vocalizer.

“Unicron has never been exceptionally concerned about aesthetics. He created a race specifically to hunt and overpower the Thirteen Original Primes and if they managed to strike fear into their sparks while doing so, well, the better.” He rumbled, beginning to pace up and down the open area, watching the shadows closely as if waiting for the creature to return and attack. But all was still and quiet around them, the only sounds permeating the field being those of shuffling pedes and quiet whispers.

“Optimus”, Arcee seemed to find her voice first, her blasters never leaving Megatron, but her blue optics fixed on the tall form of her leader. “What do we do now? Should we inform Fowler and the human government of the situation?” Her voice shook slightly and with growing concern Optimus noticed how her winglets trembled almost imperceptibly. Bumblebee and Bulkhead didn’t seem to be in better condition, the scout’s whole frame shaking and the wrecker’s eyes clouded and distant as if he were reliving a memory. It would seem that he was not the only one left shaken by the discovery.

“That would perhaps be the best course of action”, the Prime rumbled, watching Megatron carefully. The warlord raised an optic ridge, meeting his gaze head on. "Ratchet, please make sure that Agent Fowler delivers the news of our findings immediately. I’m afraid that the matter is very serious and has to be made aware of as soon as possible.”

“Don’t sweat it, Prime”, Agent Fowler’s voice, gruff and frustrated, sounded over the comms. “The government already knows. I just got off the phone with one ‘Agent Azalea’. She’d like to have a word with you. You and Megatron.”

“Well”, the warlord rumbled, faintly amused, “This is certainly an interesting turn of events.”

Chapter Text

Agent Zoe Azalea turned out to be a tall, olive-skinned woman in her mid 30s with sharp green eyes and a no-nonsense attitude. Optimus could see instantly why Agent Fowler had sounded so frustrated while informing them of the situation over comms. Her speech was clipped and to the point, professional and cold. Some questions she answered, some she did not however much they tried to persuade her, repeating the same line over and over again: “I’m not at liberty to divulge this information”. It could be frustrating at times, even he could admit that,  but both Megatron and the Prime were familiar with these kinds of interactions and thus were successful with remaining calm and collected. Though the fact that the woman did not seem to be unnerved by the giant alien robots towering over her seemed to amuse the warlord greatly, if his EM field was anything to go by.

“They’ve resided here for how long?” Optimus asked again, surprise evident in his wide blue optics as he faced the government agent now standing on the catwalk with her arms folded behind her.

The US military base or Hangar: E turned out to be the place the agent had chosen for their meeting and though the Prime would have preferred to convene in a more private setting, away from human settlements, Agent Azalea remained steadfast on her decision. So, after instructing their respective troops, with Optimus urging his autobots to return to base and Megatron ordering his eradicons to fly back to the ship and remain on standby, the two leaders were bridged into one of the empty hangars where they were met with the sight of a disgruntled Agent Fowler and his mysterious colleague.

“Around 10.000 years now. From what we’ve gathered, they’d been travelling from planet to planet for a long time, before finally happening upon Earth.” The woman said, her cool gaze fixed on the Prime almost unblinkingly and causing him to feel vaguely uncomfortable at the intense scrutiny. “Our planet proved to be the most optimal option for inhabitance.”

“That would make sense, with the endless supply of dark energon being produced by Unicron in the core of this planet”, Megatron rumbled, red optics narrowed in thought. “It would also be logical to assume that they were drawn to the presence of their creator, seeing as the portion of his spark that remained on Xevertron had been destroyed along with their planet.” The Prime nodded in agreement, pensive.

Miss Azalea continued to watch them, before directing her attention back at the stack of documents before her, slowly and methodically searching for the most recent report she’d received from the Puppet. “It says here that your double, ‘Nemesis Prime’ as you’ve named it, was intercepted by Nightmare Foxy and subsequently taken back to the xevertronian scientists. Yet, when the rest of the team consisting of Nightmare Bonnie, Nightmare Freddy and Nightmare Chica searched the rest of the complex, Leland Bishop and his men were gone. My question now is this: are they in your custody or, if they aren’t, do you have any knowledge as to where they could have fled? Please note that they used to be government agents and concealing their whereabouts would be a serious offence, punishable by imprisonment or even death.”

Optimus felt Megatron dark amusement increase even before the silver mech spoke, scarred lip plates twitching in a smirk at the corners. He took a step forward, now towering over the catwalk on which the agent stood, crimson eyes burning even brighter in the dim lighting of the hangar. “Is that so?” The warlord purred, powerful engines rumbling threateningly as he leaned closer, his faceplate barely a few feet from Azalea’s comparatively tiny form. “Are you threatening me, human?”

“Megatron”, Optimus rumbled warningly, grasping the larger mech by one spiked shoulder in order to pull him back from the government agent. To their surprise, Agent Azalea did not seem to be unnerved or fearful. Instead of taking a step back to put some distance between herself and the bloodthirsty warlord, she sharply leaned forward to bring them even closer, green eyes flashing fiercely.

“No, I’m warning you”, she said, her voice so faintly menacing and icy cold that even the Prime felt compelled to slowly back away. “And if you’re smart, which I do not doubt you are, you will take that warning seriously. Need I remind you that humankind has worked with the xevertronian race for many, many years, much longer than they have with you. I’m sure that, should we ask, Nightmare will be more than happy to allow his people to escort you off this planet. And not in a gentle and nice manner either.” Azalea allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction when Megatron reluctantly backed off, red optics narrowed, but Optimus could feel the feelings of respect and growing interest that pulsed through the warlord’s EM field as he studied the government agent.

He decided against commenting on it, instead focusing on answering the question in order to keep this conversation more or less civil before the two could get at each other’s throats again. The Prime did not like the look in the silver mech’s optics. “No, unfortunately it would seem that MECH had successfully evacuated without drawing attention of either your xevertronian operatives or us. We have no knowledge of where they could have gone.” The agent seemed unsurprised, though disappointed nevertheless, quickly jotting down the information as the autobot leader continued. “On another note it would seem that the xevertronian leader’s name is Nightmare and, judging by your comments, he does not seem to be planning on utilizing hostile methods against us.” Even though our race is responsible for the destruction of their home and current predicament, he added to himself silently.

Optimus knew he could not be held responsible for the High council’s actions toward another race or even their own people, but he still felt the heavy weight of guilt settle in his tank at the thought of the many lives were lost at the servos of paranoid tyrants. Just as he felt responsible for Megatron becoming one himself. Four million years ago that same mech had thought for freedom, equal rites, for being able to choose your own path instead of allowing your frame to dictate your function. He had stood beside Optimus, back then Orion Pax, and talked about his vision for their people. A vision that the Prime still remembered and believed. But now, this same mech was a warlord who ruled his subjects through fear, his punishments crippling if not deadly, his rebukes containing threats and his digits perpetually stained with the blood of millions.

Yet, deep in his spark Optimus still believed that he could bring his old friend back, bring Megatronus back to his side. Despite all of the silver mech’s actions, he held on to the hope that the other would one day see what he was doing. Cybertron was gone, their people – scattered across the galaxy, their numbers – growing less and less by the solar cycle. Surely there had to be a peaceful way to end this? To lessen the pain and hurt they were already experiencing each day.

“No, fortunately for you, Nightmare is still willing to talk things over before resorting to drastic measures. Which is why he’s sending two representatives that should be arriving any minute.” Agent Azalea’s voice broke him from his thoughts, dragging his attention back to the human standing on the catwalk before them. Megatron bristled, mild irritation flashing through his field before it was pulled back tight around his large frame.

“And you’re only informing us of this now?” He rumbled, clasping his servos behind his back, his red optics never leaving the small form of the government agent. Now he could understand the frustration the other fleshling experienced while talking to this one. The warlord himself had to physically restrain himself from ‘accidentally’ squishing the insolent human where she stood, his curiosity and her apparent fearlessness the only things keeping him from doing so.

The woman raised an eyebrow, glancing minutely at her wristwatch. “This meeting had been called for on short notice. MECH has gotten their hands on both cybertronian and xevertronian technology. Our best option would be to work together. And don’t tell me that you can ‘handle’ them.” She added sharply before Megatron could speak up and offer his opinion. “The sonic blast Bishop used was only one of the abilities the standard xevertronian possesses and it nearly fried your circuits. In fact it would have destroyed them completely if the subject to whom the voice box belonged to hadn’t been so young.”

Optimus stiffened, blue optics immediately shooting to look down at the tiny form of the human agent. For the first time in the last two hours, Azalea was not looking at them, her shoulders slumping from their rigid position and hands clenching around the thin stack of documents, though she failed to notice that last part. “Are you… insinuating that the xevertronian MECH managed to capture… was not full-grown?” He asked, vocalizer deathly quiet. He’d of course known that Silas was cruel, but not that cruel. He wouldn’t… couldn’t have possibly hurt a child? But judging by the way Zoe sighed, he had.

“MECH’s last experiment, Beast, was only approximately 5.000 years old when he was captured and his caretaker critically injured while trying to defend him.” Her voice was unusually quiet compared to her usual loud and confident speech, green eyes downcast and faintly shimmering as if she were desperately trying to regain her composure and failing. “It was his first and last time outside the base.”

A massive burst of murderous rage from Megatron’s EM field almost caused him to stumble, his own horror and disgust pulsing back and mingling with the uncontrollable fury he felt from the other mech. A cybertronian’s life span was long, so long that most even considered them to be immortal. It would only make sense that the same could be said about the xevertronians. 5.000 years was barely anything… By that age a sparkling would only just have mastered the art of walking and begin using rudimentary speech for communication. The first transformation would occur much, much later. Which meant that MECH strapped down an infant and mercilessly tore him apart-

Bile rose in his throat and he pressed a servo against his intake, doing his best not to upheave the energon he’d drunk this morning. A clawed servo grasped him by the upper arm, keeping him steady when he swayed and he looked up in surprise at the silver mech standing beside him. Megatron was not looking at him, crimson eyes still burning with suppressed anger, promising a slow and painful dismemberment to the vile excuses for sentient beings that had raised a hand on a child. It would seem that even he had lines he wouldn’t cross.

Despite his obvious fury, however, his servo was warm where it pressed against Optimus’s plating, the clawed digits holding him gently enough not to draw energon, only leaving small scratches involuntarily in his armor. Agent Azalea seemed to have managed to pull herself together, her professional and cold façade making a reappearance as she spoke up once again. “It would be best if you did not mention his name to any of the xevertronians. Nightmare’s community is quite tightly knit, seeing as the situation they’ve found themselves in is quite serious, and they’re all still reeling from the sudden loss. Including myself.” She added softly, crossing her arms almost defensively over her chest. “They might react violently.”

“What of the caretaker?” Megatron rumbled. “You mentioned he was critically injured. What is his current status?” Optimus wanted to know that too, though for different reasons than perhaps the warlord. Knowing what MECH did to Beast, he was worried what the organization had also done to the mech who was supposed to be watching him. Megatron however could be asking more in order to know what they’d gotten off the adult frame, what could be used against them, rather than out of concern.

“The medics are doing everything they can, but so far he remains unconscious. It is unclear if he’ll ever wake, given the extent of his injuries.” Azalea said, once again checking her wristwatch and stacking the documents in one neat pile on the left side of the desk. “The representatives should be arriving any moment now, so it’s best that we leave some topics for a later time.”

Just as she finished speaking, the wall behind them made a sudden cracking sound, prompting the two cybertronians to turn around, weapon systems onlining against their wishes.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

Bulkhead was shaking, Miko noticed as the groundbridge spiraled into existence, allowing the three autobots entry into the base. While Arcee and Bumblebee instantly approached their respective human friends, the two-wheeler turning to speak to Ratchet the moment Jack was securely perched on her shoulder, Bulkhead hung back, optics clouded and unseeing before lumbering down the hallway frame tensed and on edge. Frowning, the girl ran down the stairs, jumping over two to three steps at a time and rushing after her green partner.

Miko would be lying if she said that she hadn’t been terrified while watching that screen. The xevertronians looked nothing like she’d imagined they would. Sure, Ratchet had said that they were the ‘most vile creatures the universe has ever seen’, but nothing her mind conjured could’ve compared to the terror and repulsion she’d felt when she saw that monster towering over Optimus. It looked like it straight up walked out of someone’s darkest nightmares! She hadn’t felt so much fear since the time she’d been trapped in the Shadow Zone with Jack and Raf.

She found Bulkhead sitting in his quarters, helm bowed and covered by his servos, almost imperceptible trembles travelling through his entire body though he did his best to stop them and compose himself.

Contrary to popular belief, Miko could be kind and considerate when the situation called for it. Just because she often rushed headfirst into dangerous situations did not mean that she was unable to think things through. The girl genuinely cared for her friends, both human and autobot and did not want to see them hurt. But her excitable nature and occasional carelessness got them into trouble anyway. It was something that she simply couldn’t control, it was part of her character.

She approached the berth slowly, brown eyes wide and worried as she took in the form of the distressed wrecker. “Bulk?” Her voice, though quiet and soft still made the large mech flinch, helm quickly shooting up to glance at the newcomer, shoulders slumping in relief once he recognized who it was.

“Miko? What’re you doin’ here?” Even his voice sounded hoarse. Miko struggled to hide her surprise and growing worry. In all the months she’s spent with the autobots, she’d never seen Bulkhead like this.

“Ya alright?” She whispered, clambering onto his outstretched servo so that she could be brought to optic level with the large mech. Bulkhead looked down at her, blue optics sad as he considered how to answer. Was he alright? No, definitely not.

Seeing the animatronic had brought back memories of his experience back on that accursed moon. Reminded him of the red optics watching him from the pitch-black shadows, of the glowing white fangs as long as one of his legs, of the sea of energon and graying husks of dead mechs. His ventilations quickened despite his best efforts and he grit his dentae.

The xevertronian they’d seen wasn’t the same, but it still made him remember what he’d tried so hard to forget. And he was falling apart because of it. Frag it, Miko didn’t have to see this. “You should go back to Ratch and have him bridge you home until this whole situation is made sense of.” He rumbled halfheartedly, not really expecting the girl to actually agree to it. She didn’t.

“Nah, I think I’d rather stay with you, Bulk”, Miko grinned, plopping down to sit on his palm and crossing her legs. He allowed himself a small smile when she flipped open her phone, her joyous chatter filling the small room and successfully pushing back his increasingly darkening thoughts. At some point, the girl turned on music, one of the new songs their favorite band had released and that Bulkhead had not had a chance to listen to. The familiarity and friendly atmosphere allowed him to finally relax, leaning back against the wall and settling Miko beside him.

At some point Raf came in, cautiously knocking on the door and inviting them to watch a movie with him and Bumblebee. With little else to do, they agreed. All they could really do now was sit inside the base and wait for Optimus to call, might as well pass the time enjoyably.

“’Treasure Planet?’”Miko asked, eyebrow raised inquisitively as she glanced at Jack who had suggested the movie. “Aren’t you too old for Disney?” She smiled when the boy practically sputtered in offence, crossing his arms and definitely not pouting.

“You never outgrow Disney.” Jack grumbled, inserting the disk and making himself comfortable on the couch, Miko and Raf soon joining him. Raf because he genuinely loved that specific movie and was excited about sharing it with Bumblebee and the others and Miko because she apparently didn’t have anything better in mind. She even had her phone with her and everything in order to not watch the ‘stupid kid’s movie’. And consequently spectacularly failed in her endeavor.

The next hour and a half was spent enjoying the heartwarming story, Arcee getting extra angry at Scroop, most likely because he reminded her so much of Airachnid, they had the same spider features and the black color scheme, and describing all the ways she could saw off his limbs, thus disturbing the other watchers and prompting Jack to complain, Ratchet criticizing the movie’s blatant disregard for the laws of physics, but at the same time admiring Captain Amelia to the point that he promised to quote her sometime, Bumblebee comparing his servo’s abilities to Silver’s and Bulkhead silently wondering whether or not he would’ve noticed the very obvious security system at the entrance to the Flint’s trove.

In other words, the movie break turned out to be a success. “Though”, Bulkhead thought, “It would’ve been even better if Jackie were here.”

How would Wheeljack have reacted to the discovery? Would he have been terrified? Disgusted? Or would he have seen it as another obstacle to overcome? Probably the latter. The wrecker used to be an engineer before the war, perhaps he would’ve literally jumped at the chance to learn more about xevertronian technology, especially since it was likely far more advanced than cybertronian.

The legends had never really made it clear what the creations of Unicron were like as a culture, as a nation, Bulkhead realized. They’ve always empathized their less pleasant attributes such as their monstrous appearance and hatred for cybertronians. They did everything to make them sound as abominable as possible. The only ‘nice’ thing the stories mentioned were their voices. And even then they made that sound bad too. ‘The cybertronian equivalent of human sirens’, Miko had said. When he asked her what ‘sirens’ were he couldn’t help, but see her point.

It wasn’t that hard to buy into what the legends were trying to tell them, the hate they were trying to instill in cybertronian sparks, but now that Bulkhead looked back, the xevertronians didn’t really use acts of aggression unless they were either provoked or cornered. The one he had encountered back on the moon might’ve felt threatened by the constant battle going around it, yet it spared him because he didn’t do anything hostile while lying there half-conscious on the stone floor. And the one standing over Optimus… It could’ve gutted all of them, left them for scrap. Judging by the speed with which it disappeared, they wouldn’t have been able to stop it if they tried. Yet it didn’t do so.

So why didn’t it? Why didn’t it act like the monster it was supposed to be? Why did the xevertronians call for a meeting with Optimus and Megatron to talk of all things? Why didn’t they just storm their forces and kill them all? Why didn’t they exterminate the humans in fact? In a certain sense, you could say that Earth was like a miniature Xevertron, seeing as Unicron was in its core, constantly pumping dark energon that seemed to function as the lifeblood of all xevertronians. Or ‘animatronics’ as Agent Azalea had called them. Which was another interesting aspect.

The woman had almost seemed… fond when she spoke of them. Respected their leader for sure. And those kinds of emotions could not be earned by threats and other less savory methods of intimidation.

Something wasn’t right here.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

Soundwave didn’t like this.

The Nemesis was quiet and dark around him, the only light source being the monitors that were scattered around the ship, their soft blue glow creating an eerie atmosphere that normally the silent mech would dismiss with ease. But not now, not when Megatron was in the presence of those… those-

Laserbeak trilled up at him, tiny claws hooking into his chestplate so he could hang more comfortably, concern and worry pulsing through his EM field as he gently brushed it against Soundwave’s. The mech allowed his own field to flare, enveloping his symbiote in a warm, soothing blanket of love and affection, turning away from the monitors.

The drones didn’t look up as he passed them, much too focused on their own jobs to be wondering why their superior decided to retire so early in the evening. Megatron’s last order before he left to for the meeting with the xevertronian representatives was to track down Starscream, before MECH could get their hands on him. Considering just how easy it was to make the seeker roll over even for humans (they did somehow manage to steal his T-cog after all), it would be even easier to make him squeal with xevertronian technology. And the last thing the decepticon cause needed was classified information falling into Silas’s grasp. Though Megatron had not considered the humans a threat before, he certainly did now.

Soundwave forbade himself from thinking back to that one terrible night. For many years he’d succeeded at that, successfully hiding all reminders, including his face, building himself up in the arena, so that he could defend himself if there ever was to be a… next time, putting up strong mental barriers to shield away all the awful memories that would only leave him a keening mass on the floor. And now, all of that protection was crashing down, bringing forth everything that he had pushed down and out of sight for over four million years.

As soon as the doors to his personal quarters slid shut behind him, the composure he’d held onto by force of will alone crumbled into tiny pieces.

Soundwave collapsed heavily against the wall, narrow digits grasping at the small ridges with a desperation that few could possibly understand, his whole body wracked by violent trembling and his vents quickening until he was practically hyperventilating despite his pathetic attempts at controlling them. The room suddenly felt too dark, too stifling, too claustrophobic. Anything could be hiding in those shadows, something with black eyes and sharp, white teeth meant for tearing-

The lights turned up to the maximum so quickly that they hurt his optics and he stumbled, blinded. Nausea made his tanks roil and the floor suddenly felt unstable beneath his pedes. Laserbeak squealed in worry, detaching from his chest and making a broad circle around the room, as if assuring him that they were its only occupants.

He slid down the wall heavily, long arms wrapping securely around his knees as he did his best to vent deeply, closing his optics and repeating the same sentence over and over in his helm. “You’re safe, they aren’t here, you’re okay, they’re gone.” Soundwave didn’t know how long he sat there, but when he could breathe again and his chest no longer felt like something immensely heavy was pressed against it, Laserbeak was pressed against his side, wings flapping as he desperately tried to bring his attention back to him, field flaring with worry and fear. It had been many years since he had last seen Soundwave like this…

The silent mech gathered his symbiote to his chest, wordlessly apologizing for genuinely frightening him even though it had not been his fault entirely. Laserbeak said as much, comfort and support flooding in through his side of bond and making him struggle not to smile beneath his mask. With a soft click it fell away, baring his usually concealed face to the world. Thin digits traced the deep scars stretching across the formerly smooth surface, beginning to tremble halfway and almost sending him into another panic attack if it were not for the soothing presence of the mini-con snuggled close over his spark chamber.

He was fine, he was safe, the Nemesis could not be infiltrated so easily (or so he told himself, the autobots seemed to have a knack for finding their way on here and Starscream had managed to track it down on at least one occasion as well), they were gone.

Gradually the comforting presence his symbiote and the impossibility of them finding their way on board just to get him soothed his spark, calming its rapid beats and allowing him to finally drag himself off the floor. He did not need to worry Megatron with his condition when the silver mech was already so concerned with other, more important matters.

Idly, he considered returning to the bridge to continue his work, but ultimately decided against it. He did not feel ready to face the drones and their curious stares just yet. Besides, though not as powerful, the monitor in his quarters would suffice for his current needs. Working on project Iacon, however, would be pointless. Soundwave did not even nearly have the focus to deal with autobot codes now. But what he could do, was to start tracking down their elusive former Second.

The silent mech held no outright hatred for the loud seeker, the most he experienced while in his presence was a mild irritation or sometimes even amusement. Though he did not nearly enjoy Starscream’s blunders as much as Megatron did (he was often saddled with the task of clean up after all), he did find him moderately entertaining at times. Yet at times he also almost felt… sorry for the Air Commander.

Starscream had been a promising second once, at the very start of the war. A confident mech, a brilliant strategist, a fearless and ambitious soldier. There was a reason Megatron had appointed him as his Second In Command after all. But after the deactivation of his trine something just broke within the silver mech. His missions were failures, his work done halfheartedly. The warlord was never the best at offering comfort, even during his miner and gladiator days. And they were at war, they could not afford to give their soldiers time off to grieve. So, he dealt with it the only way he knew how: by spars and physical punishments. Not the best way to deal with a mourning mech, even Soundwave admitted that, but perhaps Megatron was hoping that the pain would just… make him snap out of it. Focus on the more pressing matters. And Starscream did, though not in a way they were expecting.

A traitor had been crafted in the Air Commander the moment the first blow came crashing down on the silver seeker. The confidence and ferocity with which he fought for so long vanishing and being replaced by groveling and cowardice. His military plans turning from brilliant and successful to needlessly complicated ones that more often than not ended up in failure. His attempts to usurp Megatron here on Earth were proof enough.

And yet despite his better reasoning, the warlord still allowed the seeker to function, to be in their ranks. For what reason? Well, Soundwave had several suggestions, all of which could be true. The decepticons were a bloodthirsty lot, the pain and degradation endured for centuries under the council’s rule springing forth and unleashing a frightening amount of sadism and thirst for revenge to the point that the mechs started to enjoy spreading the hurt they themselves suffered so long ago. There were and would always be those who thought themselves better than Megatron and would make plans on taking him down. Starscream kept the silver mech on the tips of his pedes and constantly alert. Also, as previously stated, the seeker could be entertaining. Some of his more spectacular failures were made into running jokes amongst the ‘Cons. And perhaps somewhere deep down, Megatron still hoped that the Air Commander he once knew would make a reappearance, returning the brilliant SIC the decepticon cause was so sorely in need of.

Regardless of the reasoning the warlord used to keep the useless seeker around, he did order his soldiers to find him and bring him back to the Nemesis. An order that Soundwave would fulfil just like any other orders he was given by his Lord.

The monitor switched on easily, bathing him in a soft blue light as it powered on. He was really starting to hate that color.

There were multiple locations that the seeker could use as a possible hideout. There were many wreckages upon this planet, though the few they had found were strangely empty by the time they got there, almost like they’d been searched and stripped of all belongings beforehand. With the newly discovered xevertronian presence upon this planet, Soundwave figured he really shouldn’t be surprised. And considering how Starscream lost his ability to fly, he really couldn’t be picky about his choices of hiding places, he could be in any of them.

But… there was one ship that the xevertronians had not yet stripped empty. And Starscream knew about. His digits now flying over the console, Soundwave hacked into the satellites, bringing up images of the fallen ship. Squinting, he enhanced the image, purple optics carefully taking in every detail. Those marks in the ground did look suspiciously like pedeprints…

The groundbridge spiraled open instantly and he walked through it, Laserbeak following close behind him.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

“Racer?”

The rabbit form looked up sharply, her digits curling tighter around the glass of high grade she held, before relaxing abruptly once she registered who’s form was standing in the doorway. “Lord Nightmare?” She said, surprise clear as day as the hulking form of her leader pushed through the narrow entrance clearly not designed for a mech of his size and frame, his red optics fixing on her hunched form worriedly.

“I… came to see how you and your family are faring, considering the circumstances” He said, black and partially transparent shoulders falling as faint embarrassment flashed quickly through his field, almost instantly replaced by the much stronger emotion of concern. Racer looked away, unable to meet his questioning gaze.

“Have they… finished extracting everything that’s left of him?” She asked quietly, voice a mere whisper and breaking halfway. Her servo clenched tighter around the glass, a faint cracking sound permeating the room before silver, red strained claws wrapped around hers, gently taking the object away before it could shatter and hurt its owner.

“They’re doing everything they can…” The bear’s voice was unusually soft and the couch surface dipped as he sat down beside her, feeling awkward and out of place, but compelled to offer what comfort he could to the distraught female. “But you have to understand that there’s very little we can salvage…”

A bitter chuckle escaped the rabbit’s lip plates, sharpened digits covering her faceplate as she practically curled in on herself where she sat. “You mean to tell me not to expect to even get a body.” She knew her words were harsh, but could do nothing about it, the hurt and grief she had managed to keep down and out of sight for so long pouring out despite her best efforts. It was like with the news of Nightmare Foxy bringing Beast’s remains a floodgate opened, all of the pent-up emotions spilling forth no matter how hard she tried to control them.

Nightmare remained silent beside her and truthfully Racer couldn’t blame him. He was a good leader, truly he was, but he just wasn’t suited for dealing with emotions such as these, wasn’t accustomed to offering comfort to grieving comrades even though he tried to. Taking in a shaking vent, she turned to glance at him, black tears prickling at the edges of her optics though neither of them deigned to comment on that. “Where are my brothers and sister? Do you know?” Racer had hoped to avoid them while dealing with her grief on her own, but now she was desperate for the comfort of her littermates and older sibling, for the warmth of their gentle fields and familiar frames and softly uttered words of comfort.

The black bear inclined his head, understanding flashing through his optics before slowly rising, offering her one massive paw to pull her up to her pedes as well. “Aros and Victoria are in Majeen’s bar last I was aware, I suggest you do not join them in their drinking however. As for… well, I believe he’s in surgery, we’ve had an accident this morning in one of the mines. Lefty got his whole pede crushed to a pulp by one of the fallen boulders, so I suspect that your brother will be busy with repairing it for a while yet.” That’s probably for the best, Nightmare added silently, but didn’t have the heart to actually tell the femme that.

Racer nodded almost absentmindedly, black eyes distant before slowly heading for the doorway, turning to glance at her leader for a second, her whole posture slumped over as if by an unseen weight and long ears drooping. “Well, I suppose I’ll go make sure Victoria doesn’t get overcharged.” She tried to smile, but it came out crooked and sad. “Last time she got drunk she invented an explosive that nearly blew up half the complex.” Nightmare chuckled at that, moving to follow the dark purple rabbit form outside.

“You do that.”

Chapter Text

Optimus expected a groundbridge or at least something similar to it, expected a familiar green spiral to meet his optics the moment he turned around to face the origin of the loud noise of cracking stone. But what he didn’t anticipate was the black smoke that appeared out of nowhere, wounding around their pedes like an Earthen snake and swirling around the far wall. Which seemed to be its origin. The Prime couldn’t even see the stone anymore, lost in the dark abyss that appeared seemingly out of nowhere, feeling dread coil in the bottom of his tank as he took a cautious step back, battle protocols activating on their own. Beside him, Megatron froze, his red optics narrowing as they watched the blackness steadily surrounding them.

Two figures emerged from the shadows, stepping out of the black screen as if they were appearing out of nowhere and Optimus’s blue optics widened when he took them in completely.

The tallest of the two reminded him of a dragon, a creature from human mythology that Miko told him about during their rare talks. It towered over them, at least two meters taller than Megatron himself and had to noticeably slouch, so as not to drag the considerable horns on each side of its head against the ceiling. Upon further analysis, he could tell that she was a femme, if the frame that was so similar to Arcee’s in structure and EM field were anything to go by. Her armor was a mixture of blacks and dark grays, a few brown plates scattered over her body and tail here and there. Wait… a tail?

The Prime felt himself tense as the spiked limb just barely brushed against the tip of his pedes, the dim light making the deadly ends glint menacingly, before she pulled her tail back, the amused crinkle of her blue eyes informing him that she had noticed his discomfort and found it quite entertaining. Optimus’ blue optics narrowed just slightly, but the femme merely smirked, baring razor sharp fangs that could probably pierce his armor with frightening ease.

Her companion barely reached her shoulder with his helm, though his large bat-like ears more than made up for the lost few meters, reaching her cheek armor and the base of one of the horns. His frame was of a dark reddish-brown hue, making him light up in the sunlight that was streaming through the scarce windows of the hangar as if with tiny flames. His optics were peculiar, consisting of two rings of green and yellow. They were currently half-shuttered, giving the two cybertronians the distinct impression that the xevertronian was bored out of his mind and would rather be elsewhere.

They both had wings, though they were different from those that seekers usually possessed. In fact, they were almost perfect copies of their respective Earthen counterparts, except of course larger and made of metal. Optimus was sure that if those wings were spread out (at least the dragon form’s) their wingspan would be almost as long as the width of the hangar.

They approached the gathered trio slowly and the Prime suddenly had the intense urge to turn around and flee, or better yet, charge and attack and destroy. To his surprise and growing worry, his sword extended of its own accord and he took a step forward even though he wanted to remain motionless. He tried to sheathe his blade, but the transformation sequence wouldn’t go through no matter how many commands he sent.

“What are you doing, Optimus?” Megatron’s voice distracted him from his growing panic momentarily and he managed to turn his head to glance at the silver warlord, noticing how those red optics narrowed in confusion… and was that concern?

“I-I do not know, I cannot offline my battle protocols.” He glanced almost helplessly at the xevertronian representatives, as if desperately trying to convey that he did not plan on attacking them and his armor prickled with an emotion he hadn’t felt in million upon million of years when he noticed the femme frown, the horns on her helm perking, the movement very similar to that of cybertronian audial fins.

“The Matrix’s telling you to attack me, isn’t it?” She uttered, voice deep and rumbling in her broad chest, blue optics still watching him closely in consideration. The femme signaled for her companion to stay back with one servo, cautiously approaching the armed mech. Optimus felt his arm try to move and had to force it to remain still, trembling from the effort.

“What is… going on?” He managed to grunt out, feeling the increasing burn as he kept himself motionless. The dragon didn’t seemed to be bothered by that however, seeming to debate for a few moments before suddenly retrieving a small vial of bioluminescent blue liquid, energon, Optimus recognized, and spilling a small amount over her clawed servo. “What are you doing?”

The femme remained silent, watching him for several seconds before reaching out in a sudden quick movement, her energon stained digits brushing quickly and professionally against his chestplate, right over his spark chamber where the Matrix resided. The urge to attack dissipated instantly the moment the blue liquid came into contact with his frame and he was allowed to relax, field flaring in confusion and a small amount of shock. Even Megatron seemed surprised though he remained silent for the whole exchange, red optics watching the femme closely as she retrieved a rag from her subspace, wiping her digits clean.

“What did you do?” The silver mech rumbled, watching in astonishment as his rival was finally able to transform his blades back into servos, the battle mask around his faceplate retracting immediately to show an equally astounded expression. The xevertronian shrugged, hiding the now soiled rag back in her subspace.

“I fooled his systems into believing that I was of cybertronian origin.” She said, watching Optimus carefully, gauging his reaction and whether or not he’d be wracked by the urge to attack again. “The xevertronians and the Primes have been enemies since the beginning of time and are attuned to each other’s presence, prompting them to attack and destroy the moment they sense their… well, let’s just call it ‘archenemy’, however unsavory the term might be.” Once she was sure that Optimus no longer felt compelled to lash out, she nodded at her companion and he approached, just as slowly and cautiously as she had only a few minutes ago, two toned optics watching him closely, before allowing himself to relax once he detected no threat from the other mech.

“Why are you not affected as well?” The Prime asked, unable to keep the curiosity from his vocalizer as the dragon form came to stand in front of them, her wings swaying up and down behind her back and her tail swishing restlessly over the floor.

“Because we’ve rejected Unicron a long time ago”, it was the bat-like mech who spoke up this time, crossing his servos over his chest and giving Agent Azalea a quick nod of acknowledgement before returning his attention back to the cybertronians. “It also helps that we do not carry Matrixes in our chests like you do. The Matrix of Leadership is considered to be one of the few direct lines to Primus, your god, and accepting it means accepting him and his ideals.”

“Including his apparent hatred and fear toward our race.” The femme finished, her long muzzle contorting in a derisive sneer. This close they could all feel her large field as it basically draped itself over their smaller ones like a thick and warm blanket. Not an unpleasant sensation by far, Optimus noticed. The dragon shook her helm, tearing herself away from whatever deep thoughts she’d momentarily lost herself in, fixing each cybertronian leader in turn with a serious look. “No matter, I believe introductions are in order now, wouldn’t you agree?”

“My name is Vexeria, however most call me Vex. I was sent here in Lord Nightmare’s place, seeing as he’s busy with other more pressing matters and I am intimately acquainted with Agent Azalea and have been reporting to her government since the beginning, making me more than qualified to hold this meeting with you.” The femme, Vex, Optimus corrected himself, turned to gesture at her companion, who now stood leaned against the wall and was watching them with the same bored look. “That is Tennel, he’s here for security reasons mostly, to ensure that we are not overheard or interrupted.” The mech nodded almost absentmindedly, closely examining his razor sharp digits. Megatron was vaguely reminded of Knock Out.

“Vex, I thought we agreed that this is not necessary”, Agent Azalea spoke up, her voice and posture radiating exasperation from where she stood in front of the four aliens. The dragon form looked down at her, servos clasped neatly behind her back and wings stretching as much as possible in the confined space.

“I understand that, Agent and though I have learnt to trust you over the years we’ve known each other, I still cannot take the risk of vital information somehow falling into the wrong hands. MECH is reason enough. Remind me, just how much experimental technology did those soldiers manage to take with them before going AWOL?” Azalea clenched her jaw, her green eyes flashing in anger before she averted her gaze, admitting that the femme had a point. Vex remained unapologetic.

“Now”, Vexeria turned to face the two cybertronian leaders, her previous friendliness and something akin to mischievousness gone, replaced by a serious mask, her field that was so warm and inviting pulling back against her frame, successfully concealing her emotions. “As you’ve already gathered, our xevertronian community stationed here on Earth does not wish to start a conflict with you, despite our… less than pleasant history.” She winced. “However, there are things we need to discuss. And I believe that your plans for this planet would be a good start.” Vexeria turned to glance at Megatron with a small frown. “From what our intelligence has gathered, you wish to conquer Earth. Is that correct?”

“Yes”, the warlord’s voice didn’t waver and he didn’t even flinch when the dragon form turned toward fully, reminding him of the substantial height difference. “And you, I assume, have a problem with that?”

“Naturally”, Vex replied, not even blinking as she looked down at the smaller mech. The frown never left her faceplate. “As I’m sure Miss Azalea has informed you, we’ve lived here for quite some time now. Long enough to consider this place a second home in the wake of Xevertron’s destruction. We won’t be giving it away so easily.” Her fangs flashed in the dim light, snapping at thin air in a threatening manner though that didn’t seem to faze Megatron in the least.

“You’ll take on my entire army for this mudball of a planet?” The warlord asked, raising an optic ridge and watching the larger being even without a hint of fear. Optimus resisted the urge to sigh, rubbing a heavy servo down his faceplate. There went his hope of avoiding confrontations…

Vexeria merely smiled, leaning forward, so that she was almost on eye-level with the silver mech, blue eyes glinting in mischief and hidden threat. “I’ll take on five officers, only two of which are competent, and a bunch of walking sacks of bolts you call drones any day. Try me.” They glowered at each other for several minutes, before Agent Azalea, thoroughly done with the spectacle of the comparison of egos, cleared her throat and dragged their attentions back to why they had agreed to convene in the first place.

“If you two are done, I would prefer we get back to work.”

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

Optimus couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Here he was, discussing a temporary treaty with Megatron of all mechs for the second time in the span a few months and a being who, by all accounts, should be long since extinct. Yet, he wasn’t hallucinating, this was really happening.

Once they started discussing the recent events and the reasons for establishing a short-term alliance between the three parties, both cybertronian leaders realized that the femme wasn’t as frustrating as they’d first thought. Vexeria proved to be a competent mediator and a clever strategist, her eyes focused as she watched the holographic map they had settled between the four of them, pointing out possible MECH locations the others did not immediately see and discussing peace conditions, demonstrating a sharp wit and attention to detail that even Megatron seemed to respect if his idle glances and relaxed field were anything to go by.

It wasn’t Vex’s intention to be unpleasant, Optimus found. The reason she seemed so churlish at first could be because of her unpleasant habit of testing boundaries, intentionally pushing on their buttons in an effort to see whether or not she could get a rise out of whoever she was talking to in that moment. Which was probably why she got along so well with Agent Azalea. It was obvious that the two knew each other very well and were, in fact, good friends by the way they exchanged snarky comments unabashedly all the while keeping the amiable atmosphere between them.

The longer the meeting went on, the more relaxed they all became, to the point that even Tennel became compelled to join the conversation, stilling every now and then to listen closely for any suspicious noises that their audials couldn’t catch, demonstrating his own sharp wit and patiently waiting for the current speaker to finish before voicing his own opinion. Even Megatron himself seemed more… approachable would perhaps be the most appropriate term. The warlord listened intently, never once undermining either the xevertronians or even the human herself which was… astonishing really. He seemed to be taking all of them seriously, even accepting criticism with a grace that the Prime had not seen in the silver mech for a long, long time.

Optimus couldn’t help but be… confused. Every story, every legend that ever spoke of the feared creations of the God of Chaos himself pictured them as vile and cruel beings, designed to kill and destroy and bring unspeakable pain and devastation to anyone who crossed their path. Encountering that xevertronian, Nightmare Foxy, back at that complex only proved what the myths had been telling all along.

But now, after meeting them, after actually talking to them after watching how Vexeria held herself, wings stretching restlessly and horns betraying her emotions in an almost endearing way, dipping and twitching depending on what she was feeling, of how she leant against the catwalk, exchanging jokes with the government agent with a familiarity that Optimus could never truly achieve with Agent Fowler, after seeing how Tennel rubbed at the back of his neck almost bashfully after being addressed to by Megatron himself as if he subconsciously did not expect to be taken seriously… It just didn’t make any sense.

Even though he no longer felt compelled to unsheathe his blades and attack, the Matrix still pulsed in his chest, making his every instinct yell at him to run: danger, danger, get away – Optimus couldn’t understand it. Why were they being so reasonable? Why weren’t they trying to snuff their sparks, to rip the apart limb from limb? Why were they so willing to coexist when they were created to eradicate every cybertronian they came across? Why did they denounce Unicron? It just- it didn’t make any sense-! They weren’t acting like they were supposed to, like how he’d read they would act back when he was an archivist!

“Why are you doing this?” His voice was quiet, but cut through the easy buzz of conversation like a laser, silence falling upon the small group in an instant as all of them turned to look at them, optic ridges furrowed and fields pulsing with confusion. Optimus held his ground, raising his optics to meet Vexeria’s, expression stoic and determined. “Why are you not trying to kill us? Why are you so eager to settle things peacefully?” Why do you care about the lives you could so easily destroy when you were brought into this world to reap pain and suffering?

Vexeria went very still, all previous amusement and amicability vanishing from her faceplate in an instant, watching him closely. Tennel was not so successful at hiding his reaction, optics narrowing dangerously in suppressed anger, razor sharp fangs beginning to peak from beneath the top lip plate. The Prime remained steadfast in his decision to get an answer, even though his armor was starting to prick in regret of ever asking, especially when Megatron turned away from him, the now familiar look of disdain that he had not seen all day reappearing in his crimson eyes. It was the same look he’d gotten after his meeting with the council…

Should we attempt to kill you?” Vex’s voice, calm and cold as ice, tore his attention away from his long-time rival and he looked up, meeting the dragon’s serious gaze. A faint sneer pulled at the corners of the femme’s lips as she continued, slowly crossing her servos over her angular chestplate and watching him closely. “Will it make you feel better to know that we are as ‘evil’ as the stories tell you? As the Matrix tells you?”

Optimus bristled, though he could feel the doubt beginning to swirl in his spark the longer he stared into the grayish blue depths of Vexeria’s optics. Could it be that the Matrix was… was lying? But no, that couldn’t be, it contained the combined knowledge of all the Primes, it couldn’t be deceiving him. Right?

Understanding flashed in the dragon’s eyes and she took a slow step forward, gesturing for her fellow comrade to remain where he was as she steadily advanced on the autobot leader, eyes never leaving Optimus’ own. “Do you think that we are monsters?”

“No!” The word left his lips without hesitation and he quickly raised his servos in a pacifying gesture as if he could hold her cold anger at bay, electric blue optics desperate as Vexeria came to a stop before him, their height difference fully registering with him as he had to crane his neck upwards to hold her gaze. This close he could feel vibration of her powerful engines thrumming, the massive expels of hot air as she vented, could see her deadly claws, twice as longs as his digits, twitch and flex, and witnessed as that long and incredibly strong tail curl around her paw shaped pedes, the sharpened spikes dipping instinctively, so as not to harm their owner.

This being had the power to kill him in a mere nanosecond and he would be powerless to stop her. She could wrap her massive servos around his neck and crush it, could rip off his limbs and tear him to shreds, could easily crush him beneath her pedes. This femme has been a monster from birth, created to kill and destroy. And yet, she held herself back, controlled her emotions, stopped herself from giving into her savage urges to maul him and send his spark to the Well of All Sparks. Why? It didn’t make sense-!

“No, of course not, but the Matrix-“ Vexeria interrupted him before he could finish that sentence.

“The Matrix is telling you that we are killers”, she practically whispered, and to his shock Optimus saw her façade break, just for a second, allowing him to see the spark-wrenching look of a deep pain from an old wound he had no hope of ever fully understanding, there and gone again. “It’s trying to convince you that we are the enemy, that we must be eradicated, that all of this is a ruse and an elaborate plan to murder you all the moment you turn your back, like the vile creatures we are-

Unable to contain his shock, he nodded, opening his mouth to ask for an apology, but the dragon did not allow him to utter a single sound, suddenly walking past him back to the far wall. Deathly calm, Vexeria pressed a single clawed servo against the cold steel and to his shock, the same black smoke they had witnessed earlier spread from beneath her palm, quickly encompassing the large area, the gray surface vanishing in the pitch black darkness.

The dragon form turned to him, once again meeting his optics with the same serious and long look before gesturing to the dark opening. “Come with me to the Flipside and I will show you which legends are true and which are false.”

Azalea froze, Optimus and Megatron’s optics widened and Tennel let out a startled sound, quickly reaching out to the femme with a single servo as if he could swipe away the mere notion of letting the cybertronians into their world. “Vex, are you insane?! We can’t let them into the base! You’ve heard what he thinks of us!” He shot the Prime a venomous look. “He could attack-“

“No, he won’t.” The dragon replied, not even glancing at her comrade and still watching the autobot thoughtfully. “Don’t be a fool, Tennel, even if, however unlikely, they decide to attack us, they’ll be overpowered easily. I trust them to value their lives enough to behave.” A sardonic look passed over her faceplate, vanishing almost instantly. “If we are to successfully work together, we need to rid them of any… false impressions based on ancient stories and a compromised device.” She glanced at the seam of the Prime’s chestplate and he immediately knew she was speaking about the Matrix.

Unexplained anger suddenly rose in his spark, prompting him to defend the artifact hidden beneath his armor. “The Matrix of Leadership is not a ‘compromised device’.” Optimus spoke, a little taken aback by the amount of vehemence in his own voice. “It’s the combined-“

“Oh stop it, Optimus.” Everyone went still, slowly turning to the mech who had suddenly decided to join the conversation, the Prime’s vents stalling when he found Megatron’s crimson optics boring into his own. “Do you even hear what you’re saying? Repeating things you’ve been told like a broken record, spouting moralistic speeches when history has proven time and time again that no one, not a single bot, in the council has ever possessed even the basic understanding of morals! Are you even capable of saying anything on your own?” That look was back in the warlord’s optics and it hurt more than Vexeria’s cold remarks ever could. “No wonder they bestowed the Matrix upon you, you preached their own lies so well, that they just had to commend you for it.”

Optimus took a deep vent, trying to regain his composure and doing his best not to look at the black gaping maw of the entrance to the xevertronian’s lair or Unicron’s creations themselves. “You proposed violence-“

Because violence was the only way to serve justice!” Megatron roared, red optics burning so bright they could’ve scorched the very air, all four of the hangar’s occupants jumping back in shock at the sudden, unbridled fury the warlord exhibited.

“Do you really think things would’ve changed just because you said so?! Do you honestly believe that all those rich mechs of the high castes would just listen to one of your speeches and magically decided to let all of us go?!? That they would suddenly see us, lesser mechs, as their equals?! No! No, they would laugh and spit in your faceplate and continue their crooked ways until somebody taught them a lesson! They would never let go of their slaves, of their riches, of their posh lives! After four million years you still remain so naïve that you cannot grasp that, Orion Pax?

Optimus’ intake went dry. His voice was quiet and hoarse when he spoke again. “We could’ve made reforms, new laws, there were peaceful methods-“ A loud snort reverberated through the large silver chassis as Megatron advanced on him, waves of uncontrollable rage surging through his EM field, making the Prime wince and pull back his own from the unexpected assault.

“Just because you made it illegal, the practice would never go away! It would have just gone underground and our suffering would’ve continued as it had before!” The warlord’s voice never lowered, instead it increased in volume and if it had not been for the soundproofing, he would’ve undoubtedly been heard by the soldiers outside. “Someone had to instill fear in them! Teach them a lesson they would never forget! Show them just how much of insignificant rats they really were compared to the mechs they oppressed!

“But was that really reason enough to justify genocide?!” Optimus yelled, losing control of his own emotions, letting the pain and devastation of losing his home, his people, his very life to this accursed war pour forth. “How could your thirst for revenge have ever been enough cause to murder millions of your fellow cybertronians! How could you ever let your hurt and humiliation rationalize killing others, doing the same things to them as those that had been done to you! This war, this entire war, has always been about your desire to punish everyone you deemed responsible even if they weren’t!”

ENOUGH!” Vexeria’s boomed, the sudden commanding and frightening tone making both cybertronians to momentarily fall silent, turning around to face the angry xevertronian- And feeling their vents promptly stall.

For the first time they truly saw the monster hiding just beneath the surface.

The dragon’s eyes had gone completely black, tiny pinpricks of white replacing blue irises that had previously been there, making a chill travel down their back struts. Her claws curled and seemed to extend, turning silver and red-stained at the edges where they had previously been dark gray. Her wings were spread, making her seem much larger than she already was and covering the two leaders in their shadow. Her tail was poised like a snake, slowly swaying behind her frame, the deadly spikes glinting maliciously in the dim light. Her whole frame jerked and twitched erratically, prompting them to slowly back away as one. Tennel and Azalea remained unsurprised however, watching the scene unfold with serious looks on their faces, though keeping very still at the same time.

In less than a nanosecond the horrifying creature was gone, Vexeria regaining her previous façade like it was nothing, pitch black and empty eyes returning to their usual blue color. “Enough.” She repeated, much quieter now, rising to her full height and folding her wings back behind her back. “We have convened here today to form an alliance, to protect both of our races from a very real threat, but that won’t work if we keep fighting amongst ourselves. As difficult as it may seem, you have to temporarily push back your animosity for your own survival. After MECH is destroyed, you may return to your cozy little war.” Vex sneered and they both wilted, the dark aura the xevertronian presented them with earlier convincing them it would be best not to test her patience again.

“And Prime?” Optimus raised his helm, meeting the dragon’s gaze. Vexeria sighed, her shoulders sagging as she forced herself to relax and took a few moments to compose herself, before continuing. “I will not pretend to fully understand what you’ve experienced during these four million years of civil war.” She began, voice quiet compared to her earlier exclamation and steady. “But I will say this: Lord Megatron has a point. Do not take this the wrong way, I do not support his decision to slaughter millions of his own people, nor do I believe that violence is the only answer to everything. But I do agree that you should not believe everything you read, or everything you’re told. “Her eyes flicked to his chest plates momentarily. “Even if it is an ancient artifact whispering in your audio receiver. In fact, I will assist you with dissuading some wrong impressions it may have given you.”

Her white fangs glowed in the shadows the portal had created as she grinned.

“Now, join me in the Flipside.”

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

They found themselves in a forest, though it was by far the strangest one either the Prime or Megatron had ever seen. The ground beneath their pedes was dark, almost completely black and so was the sky, the only light being provided by the bioluminescent white fir trees flanking them from all sides. This Earthen forest seemed to stretch on forever, no matter which way either of them turned to look, blue and red optics examining their surroundings warily, though their two xevertronian companions seemed to be at ease in the eerie atmosphere.

“Tennel, walk behind us, make sure they don’t accidentally wander off.” Vexeria rumbled and the bat form nodded, falling back to the end of the line and keeping the two cybertronians between himself and the dragon. “Lord Megatron, Optimus Prime, please follow me and whatever you do, do not lose sight of me.” She instructed the two leaders, beginning to make her way through the glowing trees.

“What is this place?” Optimus asked, blue optics darting over their bizarre surroundings, carefully making sure to keep up with the pace Vex set. Vexeria hummed, her glancing at them from the corner of her eyes.

“We call it ‘The Sub-Tunnel’ or ‘Glitch World’, a failsafe measure to keep any… unwanted guests from entering our base.” She turned her head to properly look at them over her shoulder. “Only we are able to find the entrance to the Flipside. Xevertronians rely more on their instincts and senses than the average cybertronian. While you mostly use sight and occasionally touch and EM field, we use all six senses including our fields to navigate ourselves. If anybody were to try to invade our home, they would merely get lost and starve if they are lucky, if they are unlucky however, they will find themselves going down more than three levels or ‘glitches’ as we sometimes refer to them and meeting Old Man Consequences on the fourth.” The femme shuddered at that, horns dipping just slightly at the apparently unpleasant thought.

Even Megatron seemed unnerved by this yet curious nonetheless, crimson optics burning into Vexeria’s back. “Do you not retrieve the intruders after a certain amount of time? And what of the possibility of them stumbling upon the correct entrance by chance?” The answer this time came from Tennel and the two cybertronian leaders had to crane their necks to look at the bat mech walking behind them.

“The probability of them of stumbling upon the entrance is very low, considering this forest is endless and the right portal visually being the exact copy of the false ones. And no, we feel no inclination to retrieve them even after a period of time. Being trapped here is the best punishment we could’ve possibly come up with anyway.” There was a hint of savage delight in his voice, one they all caught and the warlord seeming to understand on a personal level if the amused look in his optics was anything to go by. Optimus, however, was horrified.

“That is barbaric”, he protested, glancing at each xevertronian as they slowly herded them through the dense foliage. “Nothing warrants such cruelty.” The Prime fell silent when he saw Vexeria’s back struts tense, but the femme didn’t stop walking even though her voice was now as cold as ice.

“Anyone who stumbles into the Sub-Tunnel usually comes here with the intention of harming us. Of using us. We’re only protecting our own people by devising this trap and simultaneously we’re punishing those who wish to threaten us. Would you not do the same for your comrades, Prime?”

“I would do everything to protect my fellow autobots.” Optimus protested heatedly, blue optics narrowing. “But I would never even think of utilizing such cruel and unfair methods as punishment.”

“Yeah, guess that’s why there’s only five of you left.”

The Prime stalled at the whispered comment, stopping in his tracks abruptly and making Megatron almost crash into him where he’d been walking behind him. Unable to contain his indignation and anger, he turned on the bat form who had spoken, electric blue optics narrowing and mouth plate opening-

“Tennel!” It was Vexeria’s voice that rang out, interrupting the autobot leader before he could even say anything, her eyes flashing and teeth baring. “We are not provoking our new allies or commenting about things we do not understand, do I make myself clear?!” The mech seemed ready to protest, but a fierce growl from the femme stopped him in his tracks and he dipped his helm, ears drooping to press against his back almost submissively.

“Transparently, Vex.” Satisfied, the dragon turned away and they continued on their journey. It didn’t take them as long to reach their destination as the cybertronians thought it would.

After a few winding turns the small group came upon a single white tree standing at a little distance from the others. It didn’t look any different from the ones surrounding it, but Optimus could feel something odd about it nonetheless, something strange and out of place. And then he saw it.

The tree seemed to… almost glitch at the edges, periodically changing shape before returning to its original one. The movement was almost unnoticeable if you did not look closely. And it also seemed to pulse, the light coming off it dimming and brightening sporadically, making the cybertronians shutter their optics in discomfort and mild helmache.

Vexeria examined it closely, brushing the tips of her digits over the bioluminescent bark, her long maw twitching and optics narrowed before nodding and promptly… walking through it. Megatron and the Prime stilled in shock as they looked at the spot where the dragon had just been standing mere moments ago with wide optics.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Tennel groused behind them, seemingly growing tired of their gawking before nudging them in the tree’s direction, albeit gently. Seemed like he’d taken the dragon’s warning to spark.

Taking a shuddering vent to calm his own spinning spark, Optimus slowly approached the odd portal, looking at it for several minutes, before closing his optics and taking a step through.

Chapter Text

The medbay was quiet around him, the only sounds disturbing the peaceful silence being that of the steady whirr of his tools and other machinery as he steadily snapped a wayward cable back into place. The mech above him hissed a sharp intake of breath at the motion, the pain still felt even with the dampeners he had injected into the damaged area. Wincing in sympathy, he muttered a quiet apology, pouring all of his attention into his work and trying his best to ignore the way his usually steady servos shook. Idly, he wondered if he should have agreed to let Ciar take over after all while he focused on… the other things.

No, he decided almost instantly with vehement conviction, carefully untangling the jumbled and torn wires with gentle and rhythmic motions. This was good for him, the monotony of work successfully dragging his attention away from the hole within his spark, the darkness that was slowly eating away at his mind. It grounded him, stopped his thoughts from wandering into dangerous places.

His emotions must have shown upon his face at some point for the xevertronian perched upon the berth above him stilled, his deep voice a soft rumble in the otherwise still and silent room. “Hey, mech, you alright?”

The medic’s servos stilled for a split second, soon resuming their practiced movements as their owner slowly repaired the mess that was once his comrade’s ankle. “I’m fine.” He snapped gruffly, his words sharper than he intended them to be. Guilt flooded him almost instantly and his ears lowered, his EM field offering another quiet apology, but this time for his own behavior. The soothing responding brush against him soon assured him that no offence had been taken. A scathing retort would have been better.

“You ain’t ‘fine’ and you know it.” Lefty argued, his voice never rising from the quiet murmur, the action giving his healer the distinct impression of being treated as a cornered and wounded animal. “Nothing about your current situation spells ‘fine’.”

“I know!” Victor snapped, his composure shattering at last as he slammed the tool he’d been working with on the instrument tray, nearly sending it flying to the floor. It took him several moments to realize he was standing, when exactly had he jumped to his pedes? Embarrassment washed over him like a giant wave and he shut his optics, leaning heavily against the berth his comrade occupied, unable to look the other mech in the optics. “I know”, he repeated, his voice a mere whisper now compared to the shout just a few seconds earlier. The medic knew he was shaking, the exhaustion and emotional torment returning with a vengeance the moment he lost his focus, though he could not stop it. He refused to acknowledge the dampness gathering in his optics. “And I do not want to speak about it any longer.”

His patient fell silent beside him, at a loss for words for perhaps the first time in his entire life, his single yellow optic softening in sympathy. Lefty wished he could offer some consolation, some comfort that would not sound fake or unfeeling, but there was nothing no matter how many times he wracked his processor. All the usual phrases like ‘it will be alright’ or ‘everything is going to be okay’ sounded hollow and abominably artificial, invoking only disgust rather than gratitude. The bear considered placing a servo on his distraught comrade’s shoulder armor, to speak through physical touch since he failed to do so through words, but refrained from doing so. Victor would not appreciate such a gesture.

The door swooshed open with a soft hiss, admitting another person into the dimly lit space and both occupants straightened immediately, a conditioned response to the sudden appearance of another intruding upon a surprisingly private moment.

Victor felt his colleague’s gaze burning into his plating almost instantly, and instinctively knew that the other realized what he had inadvertently walked in on. Rising quickly to his pedes, he practically scurried past the other xevertronian, stubbornly avoiding the questioning bright yellow optics set in a dark face. “You can finish up here”, he stated, satisfied that his voice was far more steady now than it had been earlier and left before he could be stopped.

The hallway outside the operating room was just as sterile and bare as everything else seemed to be in the entire building with the exception of several large windows stretching across the opposite wall. Almost frantically desperate for some fresh air, Victor stumbled towards one of them instantly, shaking digits fumbling with the simple latch and throwing it open a tinge too forcefully, his fanged jaws gulping in air in massive amounts as he panted.

Why had he come here? Into this lifeless, colorless place filled with death and sickness and injury, only reminding him of what he had lost with its very existence? Why had he entertained the idea that being here, working here again would somehow help him manage the pain that had befallen his family so suddenly? Stupid, idiotic, foolish.

Gritting his fangs, he shut his optics, leaning heavily against the smooth windowsill, his long purple ears perked up and tense. Victor knew he wasn’t dealing with this correctly, there was nothing even remotely healthy about burying himself in his duties, ignoring the offered support and doing his best to avoid something that he inevitably would have to deal with. He just couldn’t help it, couldn’t face his family even in these dark times, couldn’t stand listening to the soft comfort his comrades provided him with.

Accepting help would be a disservice to Beast, it was his fault that he’d been killed.

Racer didn’t understand that, in fact, none of them did. Even Victoria, his twin, the one person who understood him better than anyone else couldn’t meet his eyes, her EM field filled with silent judgement whenever they accidentally bumped into each other in the streets. Aros had tried his best to bring them all back together, but eventually failed in his venture. “Like a good big brother”, Victor thought scathingly. Aros had always taken his duties as the eldest child in their family a little too seriously. It probably didn’t help that their father had left them so early, instructing his son, who was even then his spitting image, to watch over his mother and brothers and sisters before passing. And when their mother’s time came, well, his sense of responsibility only strengthened, becoming too stifling and unbearable for some of them to handle.

Though the four of them had had their differences, they had all agreed they would watch over their youngest, the fifth child that would never get to meet his parents, would treasure and protect him no matter what. Well, look how that turned out. A bitter laugh attempted to escape his chest, but came out sounding more like a choked gasp, his servos beginning to shake violently once more.

The door behind him slid open again, Ciar’s quiet baritone permeating the empty hallway as he instructed his patient on the medication he was being prescribed and ensured that he understood the importance of bed rest, before joining his fellow medic by the window, the now closed operating room door shielding their conversation from curious ears. Silence fell between them, heavy and palpably awkward though Victor tried to regain his usual nonchalance and failed dramatically at doing so.

Noting that his friend was not going to start the conversation they both knew had to be held, the dark furred rabbit form let out a heavy sigh, pinching the bridge of his angular muzzle. “You can’t continue to work like this, you know.” Victor remained silent, reaching into his subspace for the pack of cyber cigarettes Majeen had so graciously provided him with, fully intent on returning to his bad habit – only to feel it snatched from his servo by his ever meddling colleague. “You know you can’t use these here! And didn’t you say that you quit?”

Heaving a heavy, frustrated sounding sigh, the purple rabbit turned to his dark counterpart, white irises set in black eyes meeting fiery gold. “What do you want from me?” He growled at last, reaching for his stolen property only to let out another frustrated snarl when his traitor of a friend immediately took a step back and held it out of reach of his grasping fingers. “Give me that!”

“No”, Ciar said firmly, his tone holding a deep sense of finality as he regarded his exasparated coworker coolly. “Not until you explain to me why you’re here and not down at the morgue with your family. And even then I will probably consider handing it to Lolbit and have her smack some sense into you.” Victor grit his teeth, their nearly bioluminescent white color a stark contrast against his dark purple armor.

“Because they don’t need me there with them.”

A loud snort echoed down the hallway. “And why’s that, may I ask?”

“Because I’m responsible for their little brother’s death.”

The sardonic smile slid off Ciar’s face, his optics widening in horror as he regarded his friend more closely. “Victor… You can’t- You don’t actually think- You weren’t even there!”

That’s the whole point!” Victor snarled, his optics flashing in frustration and pain as he rounded on his companion, the hallway seeming to darken behind him and increasing the menacing aura as he towered over the other xevertronian in his rage. “I wasn’t there, when I was supposed to!” He waited several minutes, but Ciar said nothing, too stunned to even begin to formulate a response, so he continued. “I was the one who was supposed to take him outside for the first time! Not Mangle! I should’ve known she would not be able to protect him!”

“Mangle did everything she possibly could to save Beast!” The dark furred medic exclaimed the moment he regained his voice, incredulity and astonishment dripping off from every uttered syllable. “She nearly lost her life defending him! Do you really think that you would’ve fared better? You are a medic, not a warrior, you save lives, not end them!” Dark fingers grasped, Victor’s shoulders with startling fervor. “In fact, that is why you were not there that day, you cannot blame yourself for helping someone in need!”

“Then what is the point of saving others’ lives if I cannot even save one of my own…” Victor murmured, his voice so quiet and broken that Ciar’s spark ached in his chest, his own optics beginning to shimmer at the blatant show of despair in his usually spirited comrade, his fingers curling even more desperately around the now hunched shoulders. “What is the purpose of all of this?”

For that Ciar had no answer, none that his grieving friend would accept. A tense hush fell upon the darkened hallway until the rabbit form sighed, releasing his friend from his firm hold. “Life is worth fighting for despite its cruelties.” He said at last, glancing outside the window at the empty sky above. “Life and family and right now your family is in desperate need of you. Please, be there for them like you could not be for Beast.”

When he turned to look back at his colleague, Victor was gone.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

Beast had always been the favorite, the one everybody doted upon ever since birth. He doubted that fact would have changed even had their mother survived. Speaking of Mother… Beast had been just like her, even as a newborn swaddled in heating blankets and hidden against a dark neck. He had had her obsidian fur, her unique white tipped ears and more importantly, her eyes. They were just as black as hers had been, but not in any eerie or unsettling way, not even remotely. Some form of velvet softness persisted in those optics, bringing a strong sense of all the love and kindness the universe could ever provide them with, the silvery irises glowing like tiny stars. Their father used to joke that it was their mother’s best feature and now Victor agreed full heartedly.

None of them inherited her eyes, not him, not Racer, not Victoria or Aros. The latter had inherited their father’s optics completely, the rest of them mere mixtures or parodies of the two. Looking into Beast’s eyes reminded Victor of the distant memories of a better time, back when they had a home and a planet and were happy. Before their world upended in smoke and screams.

He felt like his mother was back with him during those scarce moments, offering the quiet wisdom and gentle tenderness he didn’t realize he missed so dearly until he experienced them once again. But all of that was gone now. Beast was gone. And he was never coming back.

Victor could feel the sympathetic gazes the passerby directed at him as he passed, the quiet whispers of conversation echoing loudly in his sensitive ears until his helm throbbed painfully and his servos itched to grasp at his aching temples. What usually brought him so much pride and helped to further his career as a medic now served as a source of agonizing torment he did not have the mental fortitude to immediately overcome.

For a moment he imagined that he was walking down an empty street, the only presence beside him being that of Mother, calmly guiding him just as she did so many millions of years ago while escorting him to the local education center through a bustling city. Oh, how he’d missed her voice… The bland walls of his destination rose up before him sooner than he would have liked and he rushed inside as fast as he could, feeling the intense urge not to look upon them longer than necessary.

They were already there when he arrived and Victor allowed himself a brief period to be surprised that they had actually waited for him, halting in the narrow doorway, before cautiously approaching them. He expected them to repel him with cold bitterness, for their fields to pull away from his and for their faces to contort into hateful glares. None of those things happened however.

Long arms wound around his chest, a damp muzzle burying itself in his dark chest as a slender figure shuddered against him, long ears pressed flat against her back. He recognized her instantly without looking, the scent and abrupt touch clear indicators of his twin, Victoria. Aros and Racer stood nearby, his brother’s emotions hidden behind a stoic façade though his optics burned like golden suns with relief and gratitude that he had joined them after all. The bitterness Victor had been expecting flashed briefly through Racer’s dark optics, there and gone in an astrosecond, before she too embraced him once their sister stepped away.

Their EM fields engulfed him in their warm and loving embrace instantly and he willingly lost himself in the soft comfort that contained no hatred or disgust, only affection and tenderness and grief, his own field reaching out tentatively to merge with theirs. Despite his beliefs that they would be better off without his poisonous presence, Victor had missed them all dearly.

A soft cough broke the family out of their brief trance and they simultaneously turned their helms to peer at the person interrupting their family moment, slowly releasing each other from the tight embraces of both their servos and fields. “You are the Kaasmeera family, correct?” They nodded, sharing a brief second of amusement when the mortuary attendant, a small arctic fox femme, took a step back at the unsettling movement. “If you would follow me to this room please, I will show you the images to confirm the identity-“

“We’d like to see the remains if possible.” Aros interjected, his deep voice resonating in the dimly lit hallway and startling the skittish attendant, most likely a newbie, Victor deduced. And damn, if his older brother’s voice did not have an effect on her! If they had been in an entirely different setting, the poor girl would have definitely offered her comm frequency.

Even so, the fox stuttered, gripping tightly at the chart she held within her thin claws as she stumbled over her own words. “I-um-it’s not a very good idea-“

“We can handle it.” Racer spoke up, her servos crossed over her chest as she regarded the femme that stood at least two meters shorter than her. “We have a medic in the family, trust me, we’ve seen worse.” Her words had the desired effect though they all knew she was lying. Nothing could be worse than seeing your own sibling lying deceased and in pieces on an operating table.

They were led through a short series of hallways, Victoria finding comfort in hiding her face in Aros’ shoulder armor and Racer and Victor falling slightly behind to have the short spat they both knew was coming. “What took you so long?” Racer hissed, doing her best not to be overheard by the slender attendant walking ahead of them.

Victor heaved a heavy sigh he didn’t realize he’d been holding back up until that moment. “I was in surgery, I’m sure Lord Nightmare has informed you of this.” The femme beside him bristled with indignation.

“He has, but you and I both know that you should not be operating! In fact, you should be nowhere near the hospital or anything sharp for that matter.” Her voice lowered in pitch like it always did when she was particularly angry, becoming more of a growl and if it were not for the many years Victor had spent beside her, he would not have been able to decipher what was being said.

Raising a single optic ridge, he tilted his helm in her direction, regarding her with mild curiosity. “Do you really consider me to be suicidal?” He asked despite his better judgement, but too incredulous to care. However he needn’t have feared her reply. A short laugh escaped his sister’s vocalizer at the odd inquiry and she flashed him a small smirk before speeding up to catch up to the rest of the group.

“No, but I do entertain the possibility that you are fully capable of killing someone if you are sufficiently angered.” She replied and Victor shook his helm, a small smile pulling at the corner of his lips.

“You and I both know that if I ever did choose to do so, it would not be in such an obvious location as a hospital.” Racer did not deign to reply to that, though he could feel the small sliver of humor in her field and relished the return of their morbid jokes. Given the circumstances, perhaps he should add those to the list of unhealthy coping mechanisms as well.

Finally, they came to a stop by an unassuming white door, the skittish attendant fumbling with the keys before unlocking it, almost stumbling over her pedes as she did so. They paid her no mind however, far too distracted by the spark shattering scene before them.

There was hardly anything left of Beast.

A dented and warped voice box lay carefully on the polished surface of the table, a few scattered pieces of black armor plating surrounding it along with a processor module and the familiar round shape of a sound disk, a trait they all genetically inherited having had a Funtime in their family tree. Aros quickly turned Victoria away from the gruesome scene, but not quickly enough it seemed as he politely, but urgently inquired the attendant where the nearest waste disposal was located moments later. Victor and Racer’s faces remained blank as they looked at what was once their little brother.

These parts were once part a living being… Until a human got its filthy servos on it.

The femme was the first to turn away, a sharp intake of breath breaking the silence that had fallen between them, only broken by the distant sound of retching as their younger sister upheaved her last meal somewhere down the hallway. Or drink anyway. Victor knew she probably spent the whole night drinking her sorrow away and just hadn’t had time to properly filter it out of her system. He stared in silence at the meager amount of remains their medics and scientists had been able to salvage, feeling the disgust and rage bloom in his chest like a rising storm.

How could anyone do this to someone, much less a child? How could they mutilate him like this, as if he were nothing, a simple faulty machine and not a living being he so clearly was… How cruel did you have to be to consider such atrocities acceptable?

“I understand your anger, but this is not the time for us to be careless.” Nightmare’s voice permeated his thoughts and he turned around, startled. He had been so consumed by his rage and thirst for revenge that he completely neglected to pay attention to his surroundings. Victor hadn’t even noticed the black xevertronian walk in until he was standing right next to him.

Seeing that he successfully gained the rabbit’s attention, the massive bear leaned towards him, briefly resting a large paw over the younger xevertronian’s shoulder. “With the combined knowledge of both ours and cybertronian technology, Silas is far more unpredictable and dangerous, it would be unwise to charge at him until we have more information.”

Victor felt the intense urge to argue, to demand that they immediately hunt down the pathetic meat sack that had mutilated his brother in such a merciless way, but held his tongue. Instead, he nodded sullenly, his leader’s heavy servo soon leaving his frame. “You should rejoin your family.” Only then did the medic notice that Racer was now gone too, how long had he been lost in thought?

With a quick, but respectful nod, he set off, suddenly desperate to leave the room with its terrible contents as soon as possible.

Nightmare watched him leave with a sad glance, turning back to the poor femme that seemed to be even more on edge now that she was in the presence of their lord. She let out a tiny squeak and he inwardly sighed at the expected reaction. Even among his xevertronian brethren, Nightmare was far from being the most pleasant looking individual. “There was something you wished to bring to my notice, miss Icera?” He prompted politely, eager to leave the unpleasant atmosphere of the mortuary.

The arctic fox nodded, her claws clenching so hard around the chart that the bear considered taking it from her lest she break it in half. “There is, sir. It’s about Beast’s processor module, sir.”

“What about it?” Nightmare asked, growing increasingly more alert by the second. Whatever the news was, it definitely was nothing good. The next words only confirmed his darkest fears.

“I did not want to mention it with the family present, but… It’s the Saktobi re Kuro virus, sir. All traces of it have been successfully removed. I believe MECH have successfully uploaded it into their computers.”

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

The emergence from the SubTunnels was certainly an acquired taste, Vexeria noted as she looked down at the sprawled and disoriented cybertronians upon the floor. The moment they had escaped the tight squeeze of the portal to another dimension, they’d collapsed, their weaker systems unable to handle the immense pressure like a xevertronians could and requiring recalibration, or, in Megatron’s case, a complete reboot.

It was certainly a pity that Tennel did not share her amusement, but she supposed that that was a given, considering he nearly tripped over the two cybertronians while making his way out of the Border.

The round room they found themselves looked much the same way as it had when they had left it, just as bare and not really aesthetically pleasing, the only source of light being the portal itself. Disappointing, sometimes it changed, often depending on who was monitoring it. Though in this case, Vex supposed that they were rather fortunate. Last time she had left and Molten Freddy had been in charge, well, she spent several hours searching for the door in the neon colored room, finally having to resort to her fire breathing reserves, and then taking about twenty minutes of beating a certain someone up before heading home. Pranks were fine. Panic inducing jokes, however, were not.

The dragon leant down, offering her servo to pull her guests up and to their pedes, only to instantly draw back when Optimus quite literally flinched away from her offered arm, blue optics flashing with fright, quickly replaced and concealed by a healthy dose of suspicion and wariness.

Vexeria knew it wasn’t entirely his fault, she could clearly see that the mech himself truly wanted to trust them, to learn more about him, but unfortunately for the autobot leader, the ancient artifact behind his chestplates was of a different opinion. The Matrix feared the xevertronians, hated them for reasons the femme hesitated in disclosing to their newfound allies. Some things were best left alone in the past the wise ones said.

But realizing the magnitude of the artifact’s influence did not mean that Vex could excuse the way Optimus himself continued to be deluded by the Matrix’s charm, the way he continued to act around them. Now that she really thought about it, some part of her had hoped that the Prime would open his optics about the old relic. He’d witnessed its profound effects first hand after all when he was nearly forced to lunge at the two of them, his battle protocols and transformation sequences overridden by the infernal piece of scrap metal hiding in his chassis. But for reasons she could not fathom, he still continued to put all of his trust in it, to allow it to guide his actions and mold him into whatever was most convenient for it at that point in time. Optimus’ blind trust brought her endless dismay.

Perhaps he really was the weak minded fool his mortal enemy considered him to be.

Vexeria’s lips pulled back in a soundless snarl and she quickly turned away once she noticed the others watching her in confusion and slight concern, hiding her irritation behind a forced mask of indifference. Inwardly however, the femme cursed her overly compassionate soul. What did she care what the cybertronians thought of their people? So long as they behaved and worked with them, rather than against them, her mission could be considered a success, right? Then why did she feel the urge to help the autobot leader she was already learning to detest see the truth? Make him acknowledge the fact that they were not the mindless killing machines everybody considered them to be throughout the ages. Why did she want Optimus to see them in their moments of happiness and grief, want him to hear the songs they sung to the empty sky above, the gentle lullabies and heart-wrenching croons filling the air like a beautiful symphony.

Despite her growing dislike she knew he could clearly see and sense, she desired for him to truly understand.

Just as the cybertronian guests managed to regain their footing, the massive doors of the Border Gateway room slid open in a simple fluid motion, allowing another mech inside. The prepared and rehearsed excuses she knew Nedd Bear would accept already on the tip of her glossa, Vexeria turned around, opening her mouth to speak- only to shut it with a low groan of exasperation in the back of her throat. It was Withered Bonnie, of course it just had to be the least agreeable xevertronian working in the entire complex to meet them upon exiting the SubTunnels.

The two leaders behind her shrank back the moment they caught sight of the stranger, the familiar shings of drawn blades permeating her sensitive hearing and she quickly stepped between them before a fight could break out. The dragon couldn’t say she blamed them for their instinctive reaction however, the Withered’s appearance was very off-putting even to his own kind.

His face absent due to an ancient injury, jagged wires spilling out grotesquely from where his forehead used to be and partially concealing the tiny twin pinpricks of his red optics made him a very threatening presence indeed. His lower jaw had the unpleasant (and frankly nauseating) habit of moving up and down as he spoke, involuntarily dragging attention towards it and making the listener’s tanks roil as he was forced to witness the small motions until he could not handle it any longer. His left arm, now ending at the elbow, was a sight to behold as well, the long wires swishing softly in the stale air of the Flipside, almost convincing even Vexeria that they were utterly benign even though the dragon knew that at a single command from their owner they could come alive like a bunch of serpents to seize their unfortunate victim. By Fazbear, a Withered with their disconcerting looks and shrewd personality was perhaps the worst person possible to come and meet them. Where was a happy, but in the long run stupid, Classic when you needed them? She would definitely need to hold a little chat with the ever joyous Nedd Bear after this.

“Vexeria”, Withered Bonnie’s cold monotone permeated the darkened room, his voice slightly distorted by the periodic glitching and faint accent, but still quite easy to understand. “What is the meaning of this?” It didn’t matter if she offered compelling arguments or not, he was probably already filing a report to Nightmare that would definitely make hear appear in the worst light possible. What did she ever do to this mech?

“Withered Bonnie. I must admit, I was not expecting you. I was told that Nedd Bear would be on the day shift today.” She began evenly, fighting to keep the professional façade and conceal the annoyance and frustration boiling beneath the surface. The dragon was also acutely aware of a certain warlord already moving behind her back, most likely eager to confront the strange xevertronian head on. For what purpose, Vexeria could not tell, though she supposed it was mostly out of arrogance and unwillingness to allow someone to speak for him. Nevertheless, she could not allow him to interfere in this conversation, so she stretched out a single wing, her ears perking happily at the sound of metal colliding against metal as the silver mech promptly walked into it, not expecting the sudden obstruction in his path.

The outraged growl was music to her audio receivers.

“Do not toy with me, Vexeria, I am not in the mood for your pointless games”, the disfigured rabbit spoke, his vocalizer now holding a faint sign of irritability, almost absentmindedly nodding towards Tennel who by now had emerged from behind his superior, standing at a noticeable distance from the two powerful opposing forces. Coward, the femme thought with slight amusement, but also a very smart mech. Noting, that she’d remained silent long enough (hesitating to answer never failed in driving Withered Bonnie crazy, yes, she was just that petty), Vex turned to the other xevertronian, bluish gray optics cold.

“I do not need to explain myself to you”, she stated matter-of-factly and they both knew she was right, in Bonnie’s case he just wouldn’t admit that the dragon was ever right about anything.

“But you do need to explain yourself to Lord Nightmare and he will not be pleased if he learns that you have brought in cybertronian guests without proper authorization and offered no explanation when stopped and questioned.” If the rabbit had still had a face, he would’ve smiled. Damn him. Vexeria felt her lip pull back in a small grimace.

“You and I both know that even if I do offer an explanation for my actions, your report will conveniently omit everything I’ve said to defend my case.” The Withered actually had the audacity to shrug at that.

“Perhaps, or perhaps not. Despite what you think of me, dragon form, I am capable of leniency.” Only as long as it suits you, Vexeria thought to herself, optics narrowing and tail beginning to lash in vexation. Eventually, she sighed, her shoulders falling from their stiff position as she realized she’d have to tell him something, just to get him out of their fur all the faster.

“Very well then. As you already know, Lord Nightmare has decided to align himself with the cybertronian factions in the face of the new threat from MECH. To further solidify our truce and ensure that there are no… misunderstandings, I have decided to bring the cybertronians here, so that our leader can speak to them personally and they can better understand us and our ways.” She could tell that Bonnie was vehemently against her idea even without him having a face to betray his emotions.

“But was it really necessary to bring them immediately, after only one meeting?” He, predictably, questioned, the wires of his left arm beginning to spark in a vaguely threatening manner. The femme, in turn, withheld a wince. No, it really wasn’t that urgent. In fact, it would most likely have been a better idea to bring them in much later after several meetings to write up their as of yet temporary peace treaty. But, she couldn’t just tell the other that it was one of her strange compulsions that prompted her to bring them along! Vex was supposed to be an experienced mediator and politician for frag’s sake, not an emotional youngling! “Do you even remember what day it is?”

All thoughts screeched to a sudden halt as she stared at the other xevertronian. That’s right… How could she have forgotten? When she spoke again, her voice was quiet, “So they’ve… finished extracting everything then?” The Withered nodded in reply, the wires hanging over the remains of his face swaying revoltingly.

Vexeria suddenly felt very tired, dragging a heavy servo over her chestplate, a deep vent escaping her broad chest, after several seconds, she turned back to her cybertronian guests, noting the confusion and unasked questions present in their optics. Bringing them to something so personal, so.. private seemed immoral and unjust towards the Kaasmeeras. They had just lost a baby brother, the last thing they needed was the presence of an enemy race, even if the people of said race were not directly responsible for the countless losses and pain they all suffered. Vexeria would not put them through such an ordeal.

She really, really needed a smoke.

Turning to the cybertronians with a low growl of resignation, she briefly met Tennel’s multicolored optics, noting the way he was watching her carefully, gauging her reactions and seeming to peer into her very processor, reading her thoughts. A single nod drove him into action, the bat form beginning to move back to the portal. Directing her attention back to them, she spoke with no small amount of regret and slight guilt along with a self consciousness she hadn’t felt for many years.

She shouldn’t have brought them here.

“I… think it is best that I take you back to the air base, the Flipside will open to you at a later, much more appropriate time”, the dragon said at last, her glossa forming the words stiffly and reluctantly, preparing to herd them back into the portal. She could already see the decepticon warlord preparing to argue, his shoulders squaring. Vex withheld a sigh. The last thing she felt like doing right now was arguing with an arrogant being used to having his own way.

“I am quite sure that will not be necessary, Vexeria”, a deep voice rumbled from the doorway, prompting everyone to spin around in shock, optics wide as they took in the massive figure now standing in the doorway.

It took the femme several moments to form a reply, an audible swallow echoing across the room.

“Lord Nightmare.”

 

Chapter Text

They came on a sunny day of the 220th century after the Great Liberation. Three massive ships entering their atmosphere without authorization or even any attempts of communication and hanging there in midair, blocking the near blinding rays of the nearby star. Even though they have been expecting their visit for thousands of years, the peaceful race of the xevertronians were all too stunned to take immediate action. Within a few short cycles however communications were established, several small ships and a trio of flight capable xevertronians deployed to guide them to their designated landing pads. He was sent with them.

Xevertron’s air was cold against his plating as he set out that morning, his massive wings lifting him up into the air with practiced ease. His colleagues joked and muttered over the comms, all of them, every single one, worried and disturbed by the situation. Who could blame them? The prophecy foretold this would happen and if you chose to believe it, the next series of events would bring about their end. He laughed it off, naturally, never quite the sort to believe in such things. The others however, were not so willing to let go of their superstitions.

Their ships were so much different from the xevertronian ones. Spiky, intimidating and festooned with different decorations that bordered on impractical compared to their own sleek and speedy designs. He found himself grimacing at the mere sight of the three vessels. You could tell a lot about a mech based on the ship he owned, that he’d learnt a long time ago. If these flying monstrosities were anything to go by, the beings aboard them were conceited, simple-minded fools that would bring nothing but trouble. The others laughed when he told them this, telling him that he really should stop judging a datapad by it’s framework. He ignored them, trusting his own ability of judging someone’s character more than their words.

The cybertronians gaped at them as they flew by the large windows of the bridges, some almost pressing their faceplates flat against the translucent smooth surfaces like newly forged sparks. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t show off at least a little bit, spinning and gliding in the clear, cerulean sky with a grace not even the best seekers of their cybertronian world could ever achieve. He relished in the power he had over them, a broad grin stretching across his face as he soared over them, his comrades joining them all the while whooping and cheering in unbridled joy.

As it often happened in cheerful moments like these, a song broke out between them and he joined in, the words rolling off his tongue almost tenderly, joining seamlessly in the beautiful melody. He could feel cybertronian stares upon his form, their confusion and admiration only spurring him on as he sung in a language they could never understand, could see how transfixed they were as they listened, noticed even how some pairs of foreign optics shimmered with unshed lubricant at the breathtaking music.

They arrived at their destination far too soon for his liking. The United Council was already there to greet them. Lord Fazbear nodded at him as he landed, asking for a short report on what he had gathered during their brief flight. Being the supreme ruler’s trusted spymaster, his views were valued and trusted. Especially since he had long since proved himself to be amazingly attentive, able to read between the lines and see the tiny details most would miss, and loyal, which is why he had become the youngest director of intelligence in at least a century.

But proud as he was, he could not afford to lose himself in the glory. Many were unhappy to have someone like him taking up such a post, someone who could not be bought or reasoned with. Many would be all too happy to remove him, permanently. Which is why he always kept himself on his toe plates, constantly looking over his shoulder and never trusting anyone until they managed to prove themselves.

He relayed his impressions quickly and professionally, making particular emphasis on the foreign ships’ designs. There was not a single weapon to be seen as he had flown by them and that put him on edge. He’d be all too glad to believe that the cybertronians truly came here with peaceful intentions and that their vessels were of civilian class, but he had not earned his place by being naïve. Even if you approached an unknown planet with no intent of harm (which happened very rarely), common sense dictated that you to bring some form of weaponry for self-defense in case the inhabitants 1) could not be reasoned with or 2) were too undeveloped or even lacking sentience to see them as anything but a threat. Those were only two reasons out of many. He didn’t like the looks of the ships themselves either. They were simply too large to be civilian class, too heavily armored, something definitely wasn’t right here.

Lord Fazbear only nodded and smiled as he thanked him for the information and dismissed him. Reluctantly, he followed his superior’s bidding and returned to his office to write up the official report of his findings.

She was waiting for him when he stepped through the sliding doors, her welcoming smile melting away all the feelings of frustration and trepidation he had been harboring all day. He lost himself in her embrace, breathing in the welcoming scent and the feeling of her spark thrumming through the thinner armor against his. Having a relationship with his current job was dangerous, he knew. All too many would be more than happy to take advantage of it. But he also knew that she would not be the easiest person to take down and it would be a grave mistake to underestimate her strength.

That evening, he relayed his worries over their fuel, the soft purple glow of dark energon bathing the cozy room in comfortable shades of violet. There was something off about the cybertronians, something that just made his instincts scream danger. No matter what they claimed, they were not here to bury their turbulent history and seek coexistence. If Primus was still unwilling to look upon the xevertronians, his beloved children would be even less likely to do anything but despise them. The prophecy might come true after all, he had said then, looking up into her concerned magenta optics. Something bad was coming, something unavoidable.

Her comforting words and quiet reason had no effect upon him for the first time in many years.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

He was not surprised in the least when they summoned him a few weeks later to be briefed on his newest task. Lord Fazbear wanted him to infiltrate the Autobot High Council, to keep them informed on what was going on behind their closed doors. Feeling strangely reluctant, something inside of him prompting him to stay on Xevertron, he offered some of his best spies to go in his stead, using his long years of unquestionable loyalty to grant him this one wish.

The United Council denied his request, stating that the matter was far too important and needed to be handled by someone they knew that they could trust. An added bonus, naturally, was that he was a Mirage Class, able to alter the perceptions of others, making them see what really wasn’t there and thus surpassing any kind of disguise they could’ve possibly crafted for him. He could make the cybertronians see him as one of their own, rather than one of the monstrous beings from old stories long out of date.

His spark heavy in his chest, he said his goodbyes to Ballora, promising her that he would be back as soon as possible, before departing, a strange feeling telling him that this was perhaps the last time he would ever see her and his home. He brushed that thought away as soon as it flashed through his mind with almost frantic fury. The Mirage would be back, he’d make sure of it.

The plan was to take him to the nearest cybertronian settlement and then have him transfer himself to Cybertron via the many transport shuttles that were constantly coming in and out from there. Perhaps there could’ve been a simpler way to go about it, but they could not afford to be reckless lest they be found out. The mission was far too important.

During the briefing he had been informed in full detail of the peace treaty between cybertronian and xevertronian races, of the Science Pact that required them to share certain scientific information including their biology and history as the Autobot Council was apparently very interested in learning more about their species. In return, they would receive an equal amount of data from Cybertron. Furthermore, xevertronian scientists were encouraged to visit and perhaps even find work on the other planet. The Mirage found this odd, more so than his colleagues and immediately suspected foul play. Maybe he was being too cynical, too suspicious, but he couldn’t help it, something deep inside telling him that this whole alliance would soon blow up in all their faceplates.

Apparently, Lord Fazbear was of the same opinion. While a few medics, chemists, mechanical engineers and historians had already agreed to make the trip, their curiosity overcoming their common sense perhaps, they were told that they would have to be transferred via specially created shuttles as no xevertronian ships could possibly land safely in any air bases on Cybertron due to their vastly alien technology. That could possibly be true, but the spymaster and the lord questioned that anyway, getting the distinct impression that the cybertronian officials did not wish for them to be seen.

Why though? Surely they had informed their citizens of the discovery of Xevertron and its inhabitans? Surely the public was made aware of the peace treaty? Why the secrecy? Were there mass riots and protests? That wouldn’t be unheard of due to the suddenness of the whole agreement, not to mention their history. But in that case why would they invite anyone else much less civilians if the situation was that dangerous? This whole thing stank of something foul.

His trip to the colony went smoothly and uneventfully. The xevertronian ship had to stop as soon as it neared its destination, forcing him to fly the rest of the way on his own while it made its silent retreat. The last thing they needed was to be detected. Entering the atmosphere was always an unpleasant experience, but his sturdier armor provided him with sufficient protection. He activated the sound illusion disc hiding beneath his chestplates as soon as he entered the atmosphere, utilizing the disguise he had created for himself beforehand. To anyone else, he would appear as a large, red seeker, his features neither particularly handsome, neither astonishingly ugly, the kind of face that would easily blend in with the rest of the crowd. He had a name prepared too, along with the necessary credentials and other documents. They had been very thorough in his cover story, so the possibility of being found out was low unless he somehow gave himself away.

Even though this was not the first time he was being sent into enemy territory, he still felt the familiar emotion of trepidation and worry that he would do something wrong. And could he really blame himself for it? He had never infiltrated an alien planet before, he was not familiar with their mannerisms and customs. Even the smallest false action could ruin the mission.

That is why once he had successfully landed and checked into one of the many hotels (being forced to pay a simply astounding amount of money, cybertronian economy was indeed atrocious), he immediately got onto the nearest console to find out as much as he could about this world, to gain the important information his briefings failed to contain, which turned out to be a lot. His suspicions of something going on were justified after all as the cybertronian ambassadors conveniently omitted a lot of revolting facts to show themselves in a better light to their xevertronian counterparts. Like the caste system. The Mirage caught himself gritting his fangs in barely contained fury as he read, his experience as a spy allowing him to store massive amounts of data within his drives. Mode dictates functionality… What kind of rubbish was that? Many xevertronian scientists were bear or dragon forms, beings too large and bulky for most delicate operations yet somehow managing to do their job better than their smaller and lither colleagues.

His disgust rose to worrying levels as he read on, having to forcefully tear himself away from the monitor at some point and beginning to pace back and forth in the tiny room he had been allotted. What he had managed to access right now was only the tip of iceberg, that was for sure, most of the information on the free nets contained propaganda and he did not have the time or patience to spend hours deciphering what was true and what wasn’t. One thing was for certain however, he needed to get into the Autobot High Council. Only there would he be able to gather the true motivations of the accursed race already sinking its oily claws into his own.

Lord Fazbear was a fool to have accepted their offer, but could he really blame the other? The old mech was probably blinded by the prospects of working alongside their historical adversaries, to push Xevertron even further and perhaps even get a spot in the Galactic Council. “It is time that we come out of hiding,” he had said in his speech to the news reporters. “Xevertron’s future will be a prosperous one with our long lost brothers at our side once again.” The memories only made the Mirage snarl derisively. Lies told by a professional liar, what else was new?

“At least,” he thought, stopping to look at the identification card in his clawed servo, “With this little thing I will easily get in wherever I need. After all, who would turn away a prince?”

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

Infiltrating the High Council turned out almost laughably easy, all they needed was one look at his credentials to allow him inside. Granted, he did not as of yet earn a seat as a council member, but he quickly found work by knowing the right people. He soon figured out that it did not really matter what level of intelligence or skills you possessed, the only aspects anyone focused on were wealth and status. This whole planet seemed to be backwards, the sooner they broke off the alliance, the better for Xevertron.

The Mirage also soon found out that no news of their Pact had reached the masses, no surprise there, he had suspected as much even before coming here. That did not mean that it wasn’t upsetting however and made the cybertronians seem all the more suspicious.

He tried to make contact with his own people stationed here, but, to his own shock, did not encounter a single one of them. When the database failed to provide any information on either xevertronian ambassadors or civilian visitors, he was forced to cut his hours of recharge scouring the whole building in hopes of finding them, going as far as to use the ventilation systems so as not to be caught. He found nothing, it was as if they had never even arrived on Cybertron, which was strange, because they had departed for this planet solar cycles before he had. By all accounts they should have arrived a long time ago.

So if they were not in the Council building, where were they?

He made contact with his superiors the moment he realized the troubling implications of his comrades’ absence, but only got a confused response. They were receiving regular messages, and so were the family members of those that had left. Nothing seemed to be amiss. Growing, more and more disturbed by the second, the Mirage advised them to inspect all communications soon disconnecting before the signal going off planet could be detected and triangulated. Although he doubted that they could fully understand the xevertronian language as they did not have enough time to properly study it, he just couldn't risk being found out so early.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

The High Council had a problem.

A young mech, a gladiator, going by the name of Megatronus, one of the Thirteen Primes, was speaking against their tyrannical regime. His passionate words inspired the public, catching the attention of everyone from the oldest mech to the youngest sparkling. And this was only the beginning. Megatronus had plans, grand ones, of equality, of everybot being allowed to become what they wanted, of miners being permitted fair wages and better accommodations as well as working hours and many, many more ideas that went against the Council’s interests.

The Mirage could smell the fear in the air, the atmosphere so filled with trepidation and anxiety that it was absolutely delicious to his olfactory sensors. Revolution was coming. They all knew it. About time too, he was going to enjoy seeing these rich glitches getting what was coming to them.

Several orbital cycles had passed since he had first arrived upon this planet and he had quickly earned the approval of the majority of the inhabitants of the tower. In other words, a lot of people owed him favors and he had plenty of blackmail material to use as he saw fit, the usual. But even with all the resources now at his disposal, he still could not locate his vanished colleagues.

All received communications had been confiscated to be analyzed at his suggestion, but ultimately yielded nothing. Though families and friends had said that there was definitely something off about the messages they had received from their loved ones, they could not say what the problems were for sure and when they inquired their ‘allies’, they were granted a video conference with one of their scientists and one that the Mirage was intimately familiar with.

The copy of the video was sent to him via their heavily encrypted network.

Funtime Freddy appeared before their lord looking harried, but otherwise in good health, attentive and astute as always, speaking in his familiar slightly crazy manner as he discussed his treatment upon Cybertron and the progress he and his team had made so far. But the Mirage could see the almost panicked glint in those blue eyes, the slight twitch of faceplate seams as if they were trying to split apart, a habit all Funtimes possessed when they were particularly angry or frightened, the way the bear’s gaze would sometimes flick sideways as if somebody was standing over him, monitoring what was being disclosed. The subtle notes of hysteria only confirmed his worries. Something was going on. But they needed more evidence. By Fazbear, he hated politics.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that their scientists were being used for something, something that was most likely malicious in nature. He already knew of the disgusting practices of empurata, shadow play and worse yet, slave coding, but it soon proved not to be enough to control the masses. The cowardly rich mechs were scrambling to keep their power, the reigns they once held tightly now slipping like oil through their digits. They needed the xevertronians. But why? What vital role could they possibly play?

He received the horrific answer to that question a few weeks later.

One of his many informants notified him of an… ‘experiment’ the High Council was about to carry out on one of the distant mining colonies Cybertron possessed. Intrigued and worried, he managed to blackmail his way into the observation room the day it was scheduled to happen. The moment he was inside, he shifted perceptions yet again, blending into the shadows so as not to be seen.

A lone little gray planet was displayed on the large, central screen, it’s numbered designation in the left top corner. That never failed to bring him dismay as well, the way the cybertronians were reluctant to even provide names to their own planets, much less their citizens. He could see a ship approaching it from the side, his optic ridges furrowing in confusion. What were they about to do? What kind of experiment were they going to execute? Surely they wouldn’t dare to-

They did.

Something detached from the cybertronian ship, speeding off in the direction of the small mining colony with monstrous speed. It took him a while to realize that it was a bomb. The Mirage could only stand in the shadows and watch as the weapon made contact, the great impact shaking the planet to its core as evidenced by the numerous cameras they had all over the surface. He could do nothing, but witness as panicked civilians, miners, scattered on the screens, running without direction, without a plan from the dust and the dark purple gas the bomb expelled. He watched horror-stricken as some fell upon their knees, grasping desperately at their intakes before collapsing, unable to vent and twitching uselessly as if they were still attempting to escape.

Nausea made his tanks roil and he pressed a servo against his faceplate, leaning heavily against the wall behind him, suddenly desperate for some form of stability. Now he knew what they had been using his comrades for, he would recognize that gas anywhere even thought it had not been seen upon Xevertron for many long centuries. The Saktobi re Kuro virus.

The Black Madness.

The Mirage escaped the room as soon and as swiftly as he could, slipping noiselessly from the dark room. No matter how hard he tried, he could not block out the horrifying sounds of the cybertronians cheering as though they had not just knowingly committed genocide.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

The alliance was broken off the moment the news reached Xevertron. Several teams were dispatched to the stricken planet to scour for any survivors though the chances of there being any were very slim. They found only one, a tiny mechling who had not even received his final upgrades, but had been working in the mines ever since he could walk and talk. Their entire world was in an uproar, enraged xevertronians creating protests in the streets, loudly demanding for cybertronian blood.

Lord Fazbear was forced to take action, threatening to unleash their full fury upon Cybertron if the Autobot High Council refused to return their citizens unharmed. Sufficiently cowed, they agreed, the shuttle containing their foolish scientists reaching Xevertron’s orbit a few days later. The Mirage was ordered to remain behind, even though his position became all the more dangerous once the Council members realized they had an infiltrator in their midst. They began mass interrogations, resorting to the most painful torture methods in their desperation to find out who exactly had betrayed them. If it weren’t for his experience, quick thinking and political power, he would’ve surely been found out within the first week.

One thing was certain though: war was coming to Cybertron. Even though they all knew that the whole planet could not be held responsible for the misdeeds of its cowardly rulers, the xevertronians were too outraged to care. They had agreed to work together, to put their history behind them where it belonged, extended an olive branch to their cybertronian counterparts – Only to be betrayed, their civilians tortured and exploited, a disease that they thought they had freed themselves of long ago rearing its ugly head once more thanks to the idiocy of Primus’ race.

All of this spelled out doom for the High Council. They already had a rising revolution on their hands, a war with Unicron’s creations would mean them losing their positions in the best case scenario, and their deaths in the worst. No amount of negotiating could fix what they had done, the xevertronian government refusing any attempts to do so.

However gleeful he was to hear such news, the Mirage also could not shake the awful feeling that this would not be the end of it. The Council had not remained in power for so long just to give up now. They had a plan. And he would find out exactly what it was no matter what.

Security was far tighter now than it had been before, if that was even possible. Even he had some difficulty getting in on certain operations. Thankfully, due to the reputation he had managed to craft for himself thanks to his extensive knowledge of engineering and science, the Mirage managed to get into the departments he needed to. That and the other, more disgusting methods he was forced to utilize to get where he was now. He just hoped Ballora would be able to forgive him for it someday.

The squad of scientists responsible for developing new weaponry was given a new task, one so important that all other projects were told to be put on hold indefinitely. Immediately suspicious, the Mirage tried to get in on the development, but was denied the request, instead tasked with trying to squash the growing rebellion, a useless feat at that point as the lower castes were far too motivated and enraged to back down now. However, he could still use this in his favor.

He made contact with the mech at the head of the entire movement, Megatronus himself. If he could ally himself with the revolutionary, perhaps he could destroy the High Council before whatever plan they thought of against Xevertron could come to fruition. Upon meeting the gladiator, he soon found that he actually liked the young mech, could align himself with his ideals and views for Cybertron. A mutual understanding bloomed between them, soon followed by what could only be described as friendship.

The Mirage got to meet the rest of the other’s allies as well, the young archivist by the name of Orion Pax being one of them. To his massive surprise, he also caught a glimpse of the same mechling they had rescued from the bombed colony, but didn’t get the chance to actually converse with him as the mech seemed too wary and distrustful of him due to his status as a newly appointed member of the High Council. Of course, his meetings with the two leaders did not go unnoticed, but he knew how to play the game well, feeding each side enough information to keep them off his scent. With the one exception that the data he was transmitting to the Council was far less trustworthy than the one he sent to Megatronus.

With his efforts, things went much quicker, the lower castes beginning to actively fight back against the nobles’ tyranny. But the Mirage also realized that by accelerating the freedom movement, he was also quickening what he assumed to be the development of the weapon of mass destruction against his own planet. He had warned Lord Fazbear of course, but the old fool refused to run from the cybertronian threat. Unfortunately, he also had some valid reasons to back that decision up besides mere pride. After all, where would they go? There were no suitably large worlds for the whole of Xevertron’s population, not to mention any planets with sufficient dark energon reserves. The substance was so rare, it was virtually nonexistent outside their home. They would simply die of starvation while searching for a new place, that was of course if they didn’t get stranded somewhere when their ships ran out of fuel.

Their only option was to stop the Council’s plans before they could be carried out and storming the building would be enough to postpone the operation long enough for the Mirage to disable whatever it was that they intended to use.

But life had another idea.

It was on the day of Megatronus’ plea for the title of a Prime, during the cold season of the 223-d century after the Great Liberation that he received the message he had been dreading from day one. All Council members, including him, were to convene in one of the main rooms of the citadel for what he assumed to be another meeting filled with discussions of the out-of-control rebellion. He hadn’t heard from the science team in a while and so was not worried when he entered the chamber at the appointed time.

How wrong he had been.

The voices around him became muddled, as if they were reaching him through water-clogged audials, his horrified optics fixed unblinkingly on the countdown displayed on the screens in massive red glyphs. In a mere few hours, his home would be gone. It was too late to save the planet and its inhabitants now. The same ships he had been wary of since the moment they had entered Xevertron’s atmosphere 300 years ago were the very ones to fire three deadly missiles at his planet. They had already been deployed even before this meeting was called for.

Shaking from helm to toe, he quietly excused himself from the table under the guise of being unwell. The moment he was out in the hallway however, he bolted, pouring all of his speed, all of his desperation into getting to the communications transmitter as fast as possible. Black tears blurred his vision, flying off his faceplate in rivulets as he gasped for breath, his spark constricting in his chest. He had to warn them! He had to get them off planet! Had to-

Ballora’s face flashed before his optics and he choked, running even faster as if he could outrun the missiles themselves. He had to save her. Even if the weapons were intercepted, the force of the blast would still be enough affect the planet. Xevertron would become uninhabitable. They had to start evacuating immediately!

He had just finished transmitting the dreadful news when his cover was finally blown. The door of his quarters was kicked down, the Elite Guard pouring in and dragging him away from the comms, shackling his wrists behind his back in stasis cuffs. The Mirage didn’t look up as Halogen came to stand before him, telling him of what he was being accused of and informing him of his rights or their absence, didn’t blink as the Council members jeered and insulted him, some even daring as much as to strike him as he was being dragged through the door.

The only thing the xevertronian was aware of was the tiny communications device lying forgotten on the smooth metal surface of the table.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

He soon lost track of time. Peace became a distant memory. His world was a never ending turmoil of pain and suffering as he was subjected to every torture method the cybertronian race knew. After a time in their captivity, he lost the ability to change their perceptions, the disguise he had used for so long falling away and revealing his true, monstrous form. Illusion required focus, and the cybertronians were successful in robbing him of it.

They didn’t hesitate to experiment on him then. Neither shadowplay nor empurata could work due to his vastly different biology, but from the brief time the xevertronian scientists were in the Council’s captivity, the cybertronians had learnt enough of about them to drown him in a world of hurt. They didn’t subject him to the virus, but that was a small comfort compared to the other things he was forced to endure.

His armor was torn off completely, never to be reattached again, his wings - surgically removed after extensive studying of how exactly he could achieve flight without visible thrusters, his memories – invaded and scrutinized via the accursed Cortical Psychic Patch. At the end of it all he was left broken, mutilated and invaded in every sense of the word with not even his memories to comfort him in his darkest time.

And then the war began.

One day he was being told he would be finally put to death and the next strong servos were pulling him up from the slab he had been shackled to for so long, a vaguely familiar voice calling for a medic with a desperation he never thought would ever be directed at him. After all, who would care enough about his wellbeing?

Apparently, two mechs did. He remembered them from the early days when he was just beginning his work of infiltrating the Autobot High Council. He had never paid them much attention despite the amount of time he spent with them. At the end of the day they had just been mere tools. But they had remembered him, had cared enough to search and rescue him. Even when they saw his true form, even when they realized just what he really was, they did not abandon him.

He remembered embracing them upon waking up in an unfamiliar medbay, his injuries patched up as much as possible with his alien biology, tears running down his mutilated face. The Mirage had no one left but them now. His planet, his friends, family, mate – all were gone now, and they were not coming back.

As soon as he had been deemed healthy enough by a medic that was paid handsomely for keeping all of this a secret, the xevertronian rejoined Megatronus, now named Megatron in his war against the Autobots. He was confused at first, the last time he had seen the gladiator, the silver mech had been working alongside an archivist who was now nowhere to be seen. His first assumption was that Orion Pax had been offlined, only later did he learn that he became Optimus Prime by accepting the Matrix of Leadership bestowed upon him by the former High Council itself.

His thoughts instantly returning to the agony filled orbital cycles he had spent as a captive, the xevertronian felt his wounded spark burn with dark rage and hatred and betrayal. How could Orion Pax have actually aligned himself with those monsters? Those vicious beasts that had taken everything away from him! They were the ones responsible for Xevertron’s destruction! They were responsible for his life becoming a living hell. They were responsible for his whole world erupting into chaos!

So when Megatron approached him with the opportunity to join his army, the Mirage, who had by now regained his ability of illusion, perhaps the only thing he now had left of his past life, accepted gleefully. After all, what did it matter anymore? His life was forever ruined and if he got to shatter the lives of those responsible in return, well… It would certainly be worth it.

The war raged on as the years blurred together, Cybertron’s surface no longer holding the same beauty it had before, forever marred by the endless explosions and deafening sounds of blaster fire. The Mirage did not miss its former glory. It had been a false beauty, a trap for naïve fools such as himself. Now that Primus’ children were fighting amongst themselves, Cybertron’s true face had been revealed for what it always was. An ugly, scarred and hellish place.

It soon became apparent that the planet was dying. Less and less energon was being found every day and the blue light always emitting from the Well and illuminating the night sky was growing dimmer and dimmer as the months flew by.

During their last missions on Cybertron, tragedy struck for him once again. His friends, his only family, the ones who had rescued and nursed him back to health were now gone as well. He was well and truly alone from now on. The worst part perhaps of the whole matter was that he barely reacted, a dull numbness filling the hole in his spark as he listened to a random soldier’s regretful report. There were no tears in him left to shed, instead, he felt the painful bite of bitter amusement as he walked quietly back to his designated quarters.

What else had he expected? That they would survive? How foolish could he have possibly been to convince himself that they would be safe when history taught him time and time again that everybody around him was destined to die? They disappeared from his life forever, just like everything else had before them. Why was he in any way surprised?

When orders to leave Cybertron for Earth were issued out, the Last Mirage followed the cybertronians to the stars, his mind broken and his spark more hardened and battered than it had been upon his arrival.

Chapter Text

They didn’t know where Nightmare was taking them and none of them dared to ask. All they could do was follow the massive mech as he stalked down the crowded streets, either ignoring the odd looks thrown their way or bidding the passerby to move along, albeit politely. At least, Optimus assumed he was being civil since neither he nor Megatron understood the odd, growling language of the xevertronian people. Feeling more and more like an errant sparkling by the second and not at all pleased by the knowledge, the Prime directed his gaze elsewhere, examining the scenery surrounding them.

The Flipside really was beautiful, Vexeria had not been lying to them on that account. Neat little streets stretched out in every direction possible as far as the optic could see, lined by towering buildings that were not at all overbearing in their nature, on the contrary, seemed to fit right in with their alien and stunning architecture. Though the Flipside was a different dimension like the Shadow Zone and thus kept the Earthen landscape, it did not feel as bare or stifling as the other had. Where everything was black and white and depressing in one, judging from Miko’s embellished recollections anyway, here it was colorful and pleasant and welcoming. He really could not see why the xevertronians would be willing to leave it, especially if they wished to remain secret, but perhaps they felt trapped within their artificial home and longed for the freedom they were no longer permitted. As sad as it was to acknowledge that.

Vexeria had tried to explain it once, but he could see that his limited views and opinions brought her great annoyance. Once he got over his irrational dislike and revulsion of the mere sight of them, Optimus noticed just how… expressive they really were. Where cybertronians communicated through words, the xevertronians seemed to take another approach. The smallest twitch could speak volumes about the speaker’s mood and reactions when they stopped to listen to someone else. Even the barest quirk of an optic ridge could convey a thousand emotions, causing another animatronic to stop whatever they were doing or change tactics.

By watching his current guides, the Prime could begin to guess what they were feeling in that moment. He could tell that the two were having a silent conversation, Tennel not taking any part in it as he had left their little group a while ago to attend to his own duties. The Prime could not exactly see Nightmare’s face, but whatever the bear had just conveyed to the femme striding beside him must have been bad for Vexeria’s optics widened just slightly, the horns crowning each side of her head tilting upwards just slightly in a shocked manner. That astonishment was soon replaced by anger as her bluish gray optics narrowed suddenly into tiny slits, a long fang peeking from beneath her top lip and her long tail giving an infuriated lash.

Optimus must have somehow given himself away as the femme’s pointed ear suddenly twitched, her head swiveling in his direction as if he had rudely and vocally interrupted their discussion. Feeling oddly chastised, the autobot leader quickly turned away, clearing his throat quietly and doing his best to ignore Megatron’s smug aura, the warlord having noticed their noiseless exchange. He briefly entertained the immature notion of giving the silver mech an elbow to the rib struts, but decided not to.

The last thing they needed was to start a fight in the middle of a street that was simply teeming with xevertronians. The Prime did not wish for claw marks to appear on his plating yet and it was definitely not because Ratchet would have to be the one to repair them after explicitly telling his leader to be careful. Not at all.

At long last, they left the main street, heading down one of the tiny alleyways until they came upon what seemed to be a small pub, Nightmare walking right in while Vexeria held the door open for them before entering behind them.

An overwhelming sense of nostalgia hit him the moment he entered the tiny tavern, memories of his time upon Cybertron as a youngster all seeming to flood back at once. The atmosphere of the entire room was cozy, the soft yellow light of the overhead lamps bathing the entire room in pleasant shades of orange and highlighting the small round tables and private booths framed by what seemed to be burgundy velvet curtains. The simple, but elegant décor only added to the comfortable ambiance and fully convinced both cybertronians that the owner of this establishment certainly had great taste.

There weren’t many patrons at such an early hour, the scarce few that were present quickly gulping down what seemed to be the xevertronian version of coffee, their optics glued to dimly glowing datapads, before speeding off in great haste, but not without a smile and a softly worded thanks to the bartender. The Prime had not encountered similar peace and quiet for such a long time, that he had forgotten just how good it felt, finding himself suddenly unable to stop from looking around, relishing in the warm aura the whole inn seemed to radiate.

They were cautiously led to the bar, Vexeria’s large wings unfurling to hide them from sight once again. Judging by the odd looks she was throwing some of the xevertronians sitting around the tables, Optimus could assume that certain members of them were far from the most friendly and cool-headed sort. Nightmare was already speaking when they approached, the bartender, a slender, maroon colored bear femme, listening intently. Poisonous green optics flicked in their direction the moment they came to stand beside the massive xevertronian leader and both cybertronians felt the distinct expression of being sized up before the female directed her attention to the dragon standing behind them instead.

“Vexeria!” The bartender exclaimed in a what could only be described as a playful manner, eyes twinkling in the dim lighting like tiny emeralds. “Long time no see, how have you been?” The easy familiarity of that inquiry made the autobot feel vaguely uncomfortable, as if he were intruding on a personal conversation though his decepticon counterpart remained unbothered, blood red optics fixed on the elegant femme with startling intensity.

“As well as I can be, Majeen, but as much as I would love to stay and chat, I have other matters to attend to,” Vex replied uneasily, glancing at Nightmare from the corner of her optics. Majeen seemed to notice this, of course she did.

“So I’ve been told. Your booth’s over there,” the bear form said, nodding to one of the farthest booths that was tucked into one of the dark corners. If he had not been pointed in its direction, Optimus would have missed it entirely. The perfect place for to hold a private meeting. “I’ll join you in a second with your drinks.” The Prime was about to courteously inform her that he did not require any refreshments, but he was already being led away, the dragon’s servo gentle, but insistent against his shoulder armor.

Despite outer appearances, the nook they had been directed to fit all of them comfortably, even leaving enough space for several more people to join them. Those suspicions were confirmed when Nightmare quietly informed them that his Second and Third would be making their way over as soon as they possibly could.

Optimus sat between Megatron and Vexeria, unwillingly remembering his academy days as the awkwardness was practically overwhelming. Though that might have just been him as neither the warlord nor the femme seemed to care all that much, casually starting up a conversation and only stopping to smile politely as the familiar form of the bartender slipped inside with a silver tray heavily laden with drinks.

“Cyscotch?” Megatron questioned incredulously, looking down at the glass now cradled in his servos while the Prime studied the Visco that had been placed before him dubiously, debating whether or not he should actually accept it. He could hold his alcohol just fine, but it had been millions of years since his last drink.

“Yes,” Majeen replied easily, handing Vexeria a tall and thin glass of Engex, all the while cradling her own crystal of Energon wine in one clawed servo. “Is it not to your liking? I assumed you had the same alcohol tastes as Nightmare here.” She winked at the black bear, grinning widely as the latter let out a low chuckle.

“It is, I was merely surprised as I have not had any since the fall of Cybertron,” the warlord admitted, cautiously tasting the beverage, a quiet hum resonating in his silver chest as his glossa registered the pleasant and familiar taste. Optimus took this chance to try his own, letting out a sigh as the familiar warm weight of high end Visco settled in his tank.

“I have plenty of bottles stashed in the back rooms, I’m sure I could spare some… for a price of course,” the femme smiled, sipping at the dark blue liquid from her own glass. Judging by the dark purple flecks, there were Dark Energon additives in the femme’s drink. Vexeria feigned a disdainful snort, her own optics glinting mischievously in the half-light of the booth, both servos now lying on the table, her wings stretched out over the backs of the seats.

“You know, sometimes I forget how shameless you are. Don’t you have Nightmare Fredbear to flirt with? He has a thing for you if you hadn’t noticed. No offence, Nightmare,” the dragon added, glancing briefly at the black bear leaning back comfortably against the plush surface of the sofa. The Prime did his best not to glance at the long, red stained claws curled around the fragile glass.

“None taken,” Nightmare rumbled, his gaze growing distant for a brief moment as if he were far more concerned with other things. “Every one of us has gone through something like this at least once in our lives, he’ll survive. Although,” he continued, fixing the maroon colored femme with an admonishing stare. “It would certainly help matters if a certain someone would just admit to the truth and allow him to move on.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Majeen shrugged, softly tilting the wine glass in her servo, her slitted eyes flickering to her leader’s own. “Besides, I like the attention, so I think I’ll keep him around for a while yet. Don’t worry-“ She added quickly as the black bear opened his considerable maw to protest. “- I will be as polite and gentle as possible when I do eventually break the news to him.”

“You weren’t all that nice to your previous suitors,” Vexeria noted, her optics fixed on her purple tinted drink. The bear form bristled almost imperceptibly, but there was no anger or disdain when she chose to reply to the quiet accusation.

“Yes, well, none of them were the most pleasant mechs or femmes around here,” she stated with a note of sadness, before quickly shaking her head as if she were chasing such thoughts away. “Now that we’ve had our drinks, I think it’s high time you filled our guests in on the recent news don’t you think so, Nightmare?”

The leader of the xevertronians nodded with a heavy sigh, placing the now empty glass upon the smooth surface of the table and turning a serious gaze at the two cybertronians seated beside him. 

“Majeen is right. I am afraid that MECH is far more dangerous now than we had previously anticipated and you deserve to know why.”

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

Half a cycle later, the Prime couldn’t believe his audio receivers as he listened to the xevertronian leader finish his brief tale of cybertronian and xevertronian history. The Council… bombed an innocent colony in a twisted experiment? No, even they couldn’t have been that merciless. He had known of their shady dealings for millions of years now, but never something like this. It just- It couldn’t be actually true… Could it?

“The Saktobi re Kuro virus, more popularly known as the Black Madness among our brethren is a deadly disease present in every xevertronian to date,” Nightmare was saying, red optics dim as he recounted the grim story. Even Majeen had stopped smiling, her attractive faceplate hardening as she stared down at the glass cradled in her clawed servos, white ears pressed flat against the back of her head. “Millions of years ago, when we first refused to do Unicron’s bidding, the demigod released the virus upon our people. Those were dark times for the xevertronian race and perhaps this precise episode of our history was recorded within your legends,” he added, glancing at the two cybertronian leaders across the table.

“Nothing can prevent this disease from integrating into your system and as far as we know, there is currently nothing that could possibly remove it. The virus eats away at the recipient’s mind, slowly consuming them with murderous rage and a thirst for blood that can never be fully satisfied until there is nothing left of the person behind. The only reason we are not suffering from its effects even though we carry it within us is thanks to the actions of ‘The Four’, the first leaders of Xevertron. However, the details of what they did to free us have been lost to time.”

“Meaning that we have no cure and are in grave danger of being infected with it,” Megatron finished, blood red optics narrowed and silver claws clenched into fists. Lord Nightmare nodded, his face equally grim.

“Indeed. It is in our best interests that we keep our distance for now and make sure that none of us are captured until we discover the location of MECH’s current base. If we can ambush them, then we can eliminate the threat without putting our soldiers at risk. We should also exercise extra caution as Silas doesn’t only have the virus on his hands, but also certain… physical attributes young Beast carried that could easily be weaponized.”

“Such as the sonic weapon,” Optimus said, blue optics troubled as he struggled to come to terms with the massive amount of information that was thrust upon him so suddenly, dragging a heavy servo down his faceplate.

“Yes,” It was Vexeria’s voice that sounded across the small booth now and the Prime turned to glance at the femme, noting how her elongated muzzle glinted in the dim light. “Amongst other things. Beast belonged to the Funtime class as well as the Classics. It is possible that he possessed not only the disabling scream, but the illusion ability as well.”

“Which could prove very dangerous should Silas learn how to utilize it.” Nightmare said, his voice a low growl as he interlaced his red stained digits upon the polished table. “Underestimating the human now could be fatal. Which brings me to another point I’d like to address: our arrangements.”

“We will keep communications open between us,” The Prime said perhaps a touch too quickly judging by the considering looks thrown his way. “All information considering MECH’s activities will be shared. However, I believe it is for the best if we remain in our separate bases for the time being.”

Nightmare nodded, faceplate contemplating, but Megatron and Vexeria seemed reluctant to agree. “I believe it would be better if you and your team moved onto the Nemesis.” The warlord growled, turning to face his autobot counterpart. “It is well hidden, constantly moving and protected. You would be far safer on it rather than in the human made hideout you are no doubt hiding in.” Slightly offended, the Prime opened his mouth plate to retort, only to be interrupted by Vex as she, too, had something to say.

“The Flipside would welcome your team as well, in fact, both your teams would do better by staying here.” She remarked, the lines of her face set in a serious expression as she regarded both cybertronians seated beside her. “We have security measures that surpass even your warship’s defenses, Lord Megatron. The ship can easily be shot out of the sky, but few can pass the SubTunnels without xevertronian guidance.”

“I don’t think it’s as much of a matter of security as it is of their people’s comfort, Vexeria,” Majeen joined in, placing the now empty wine glass on the metal table. “Imagine what would happen if we actually brought them in. You’re a politician, surely you realize the possible ramifications of such an action.”

“If we just explained the severity of the situation-“The dragon began, but the bear cut her off, poisonous green optics softening in understanding even as she spoke against the other’s suggestion.

“Vex, I understand what you’re trying to do, I really do, but it’s not going to work. Our history is not something that we can all just forget overnight. They may not be responsible for the Council’s actions, but they represent the same race those abominable mechs belonged to. People are going to get angry and lash out. Even the idea of aligning our forces against the humans created a massive backlash that you yourself took part in pacifying. Bringing them here could cause fights, their soldiers could end up seriously injured or, in the worst case scenario, dead. Same thing if the autobots try to move onto the Nemesis. So I agree with the Prime about the matter of separate bases. For the time being we must remain divided until better relations are established.”

The dragon didn’t seem all too happy with that, but was forced to agree nonetheless. Since their conversation had returned to the matter of the Autobot High Council, Optimus took this chance to say what had been on his processor ever since Nightmare told them of what had happened all those millions of years ago. “I must admit, I find it hard to believe that the Council would be so… ruthless. I’ve heard of their shady practices, but they could not have commited genocide just like that. There has to be more to the story.” He could feel Megatron tense beside him, but did not turn to acknowledge the other mech, his optics fixed on the three xevertronians surrounding him.

Vexeria’s features hardened, her optic ridgesfurrowing in what he now recognized as a disdainful glare. Nightmare sighed, looking as if he had expected this, downing his recently refilled glass in one gulp, suddenly looking too exhausted to deal with this conversation. Majeen merely raised an eyebrow, reaching into her subspace and retrieving an old-looking datapad. Dropping it unceremoniously on the smooth surface of the furniture between them, she pushed it over to the Prime, wordlessly gesturing for him to turn it on before gathering the now empty glasses and leaving, most likely to have them washed as nobody seemed keen on drinking anymore.

After a moment of hesitation, Optimus switched the device on, the soft purple light illuminating his faceplate in the darkened booth. Megatron craned his neck, equally curious to read what it contained so he placed it between them, his optics immediately noticing the signature at the top of the page. “’The Mirage’?” He echoed, looking up at the two remaining xevertronians seated within the hidden booth.

“Our former royal spymaster,” Nightmare rumbled from his spot on the plush sofa, red optics dimming as he tried to recall whatever memories he had left of the mysterious mech, not that he had much. He had been very young when the mech had left Xevertron on his last assignment. “He had been tasked by Lord Fazbear himself with infiltrating the High Council back when we were still considering an alliance between our races. He was against the whole thing from the get go too, apparently he didn’t trust you cybertronians.” For good reason remained unsaid, yet heard by all.

“The Mirage was a good mech, one of the best Xevertron ever had,” Vexeria added, her voice unusually soft. “He was the one to warn us that our planet was to be destroyed. If it weren’t for him, we would’ve all perished in the bombing. Though not everyone could be saved, several ships containing the xevertronian young did manage to leave the orbit just in time. Our ship was one of them.”

“You mean… there are more of you out there?” The warlord asked, looking up from the datapad he had been hunched over to glance at the winged femme. She shrugged, bluish gray optics uncertain.

“It is possible, we can’t be exactly sure as we were separated in an asteroid field. As far as we know, however, our ship was the only survivor.” Noticing that the topic seemed sensitive for her, neither of them questioned her further, looking back down at the information displayed on the datapad. Optimus couldn’t believe his optics as he read on, the descriptions of the Council’s inner workings more ghastly than he had ever imagined. Megatron seemed unsurprised and grim, his faceplate dark as he read through the multitude of reports sent from Cybertron millions of years ago.

The last message was the most shocking of all. Jumbled and confused, it was fairly obvious that it had been written in extreme panic and haste. The Prime could decipher only a few words. “Betrayal”, “Death” and “Run”, the rest too confused to be readable. The last sentence ended halfway as if the messenger had been forcefully dragged away and had only managed to send the transmission before it could be deleted. He looked up, blue optics concerned, the pad’s screen fading to black as he shut it off having finished reading what it contained. “What happened to him?”

Nightmare shrugged, the motion bizarre and vaguely comical given his appearance, but the cybertronians did their best to ignore that, more concerned with getting an answer to the autobot’s inquiry. “Nobody knows really. Some believe that he had been executed, others say he escaped. Majeen herself still entertains the hope of him being alive, seeing as he had been a close friend of her parents. If he is offline too, then she will have lost the only thing she had left of her family.”

Optimus bowed his helm in understanding and sadness, missing the way Vexeria glanced at him, her faceplate unreadable and a strange look in her optics as he genuinely expressed his compassion for one of their comrades.

This was not the Matrix speaking now, but the Prime himself. Perhaps he was not a simple blind fool to its will after all and could still be reached. 

Majeen soon rejoined them in the darkened booth, glasses now nowhere in sight as she sat down. She wasn’t alone however. Two more xevertronians slipped inside after her, nodding politely in greeting and taking up the free spots around the small table. The cybertronians couldn’t help, but stare, instinctively leaning away when what appeared to be a white clown mask turned in their direction, pitch black optics scrutinizing them with eerie intensity.

“Puppet. Springtrap. I see you’ve finally decided to join us!” Vexeria rumbled, her voice dripping with irony as she leant back in the plush seat. The Prime envied her ability to appear nonchalant as he himself could not seem to tear his eyes away from the unsettling newcomers. The green rabbit form snorted as he pulled up a chair instead of joining them on the sofa, accepting the cube of Dark Energon the bartender extended in his direction and fixing the dragon with an exhausted look.

“There is no need for sarcasm, Vex. We just spent the whole night fixing the clusterfuck that is Mine 2204, something you wouldn’t understand given your inability to focus on anything for longer than three cycles,” He growled, voice deep and scratchy, ignoring the way the autobot leader winced at the coarse language. The femme bristled, leaning forward to give the other a piece of her mind, but Nightmare beat her to it, obviously sensing an explosion and not wanting to take any part in it. Just like June did when Miko and Jack were fighting for the umpteenth time.

The humorous analogy almost made him smile.

“Enough,” the massive mech said sharply, fixing his two squabbling subordinates with a half-hearted glare. “We have far more important things to focus on than your petty fighting. Now if you please, Marionette, give us a breath report of your findings.” The silent femme (or mech, Optimus really couldn’t tell which) nodded, extending a three digit servo and placing a small device onto the reflective surface which soon turned out to be a holographic screen, displaying several reports in a language that neither of the cybertronians could understand. Nightmare and the others seemed to have no trouble however, looking through the written notes with startling intensity. The Prime was grateful when the dragon sitting beside them activated the comms system, translating the black xevertronian’s findings.

There wasn’t much to report. It seemed that MECH was keeping a low profile, so low in fact that even their advanced scanners couldn’t pick up any signs of them. Mapping out possible locations turned out to be a problem as well, as there were many places suited for keeping a large facility that the organization obviously required for their activities well hidden. The Puppet had taken the liberty of flagging the most likely possibilities, but that did not make matters easier as there were still too many options to consider. Furthermore, Agent Azalea had reported that more and more government agents were going AWOL, taking advanced experimental technology with them. That was especially concerning as it meant that Silas was most definitely preparing something big.

There was also the matter of the funeral the xevertronians seemed to be holding that same evening, though they skipped over it rather quickly, as if reluctant to discuss it in detail in their presence. The Prime couldn’t really blame them for it, though the whole matter saddened him just as much and he wished that he could offer the grieving family some form of comfort. No child deserved to die, especially not in such a gruesome manner at the hands of Leland Bishop.

Springtrap, he soon discovered, was a lot like Ultra Magnus. Pragmatic and seeming to constantly be in a harried state, his speech was always short and to the point, silver eyes glowing dimply and eerily in the half-light of the pub booth. It also seemed that he was a father, at least from what Optimus picked up from the idle conversation.

 The Marionette or Puppet (she seemed to answer to both and yes, he had learnt that she was indeed a femme even though she preferred to keep her frame type ambiguous) turned out to be smart and focused, preferring to speak through gestures rather than using actual words, but when the black xevertronian did speak, both cybertronians couldn’t help but focus on the melodious sound of her voice with startling intensity. Megatron was strongly reminded of Soundwave, though she seemed to be a bit more emotional and sarcastic than his Third.

Perhaps that was for the best as the warlord definitely did not appreciate being occasionally talked down to. Springtrap had not been lying when he had said that the two of them were exhausted as the femme’s irritation seemed to increase as the cycles went by, so much so that Majeen had had to run back to the bar to get the other the strongest Engex she had before the black xevertronian could murder someone.

As the voices from the main room steadily multiplied, people flooding in after a long day of working, the bartender quietly excused herself from the conversation, leaving to tend to her establishment, but not without promising to deliver her own findings to Nightmare at a later date. What that was about, the Prime had no idea.

 They didn’t sit around for much longer after that, Nightmare soon escorting them through the back door, Springtrap, Vexeria and Puppet following close behind.

=.=.=.=.=.=.=.=

Awareness came torturously slowly. The first thing that came to notice was most definitely the hard surface beneath his spinal strut, causing an intense ache to steadily radiate throughout his entire body. Had he been a lesser mech, he would’ve groaned at the pain. The second thing he noted was the confusing, addled mixture of sounds surrounding him that progressively became clearer as his systems took their time coming out of a forced reboot. Voices, ones he did not recognize, sounds of machinery that was obviously not of cybertronian origin.

An inconspicuous movement of his right servo soon proved what he’d suspected from the moment he awoke: he was a prisoner and judging from the sounds around him, his captors were human.

Soundwave opened his optics, a mere sliver in case his visor had been removed. To his great relief, it remained intact, chipped and cracked as it was, but he did not care for its state at that moment. What was important was that it bought him time before his captors realized he was awake.

Several warnings popped up in his visual feed instantly, urgently informing him of the many attempts of access to his drives. Purple optics narrowed in anger and derision. Had these humans really attempted to hack him? Him? The communications officer of Megatron himself?

“Ah, so you are awake. Much sooner than we expected too.” He knew that voice… Images of Breakdown’s capture, autobots and an explosion flashed before his eyes, an uncomfortable feeling settling in his tanks. Silas.

The human was looking down upon his bound form from a raised catwalk, leaning almost casually against the flimsy railing, a revolting leer plastered all over his organic face. Soundwave failed to feel intimidated. In fact, he felt really bored.

Instead of humoring the arrogant creature, he focused on assessing how he had gotten into this situation in the first place in hopes of calculating his own whereabouts. Using his internal GPS soon proved to be a useless endeavor. The building was too heavily shielded, even for a cybertronian. It would seem that Nemesis Prime was not the only thing they had managed to build while basing their technology off of a xevertronian.

It took him some time, more than he would ever care to admit, to get his bearings and recreate the proper chain of events. Soundwave had left to search for Starscream, that he remembered clearly. After hours of waiting for his leader to return and struggling with his own demons that he hadn’t faced in a long time, he decided to take matters into his own hands and track down the elusive seeker Megatron had tasked them with finding. He could understand the urgency of that order after all. Starscream, though a decepticon through and through, was also self-centered and cowardly and would not hesitate to spill whatever secrets to either the autobots or humans if it meant his life would be spared. Given the circumstances, they could not afford that.

He tried to recall what had happened after he stepped through that groundbridge, but the memories came back sluggishly and reluctantly. Soundwave remembered opening it in the air, using the thick cover of clouds to conceal his approach, carefully circling over the small clearing, scouting the area for any suspicious signals or other signs that could indicate to something being wrong, before finally swooping downwards, transforming and landing on the ground in one graceful movement.

The forest had been silent and dark around him, the lack of any sound instantly putting him on edge with its ominous atmosphere. Normally, it wouldn’t have bothered him in the least, but with the recent developments he couldn’t help, but be on edge, the dark memories of his past experiences clawing at the back of his mind with frustrating insistence.

Soundwave couldn’t lose himself to those memories again, not twice in one day.

The dark hull of the Harbinger rose up from the shadows as he approached, not much of the ship visible from beneath the soft ground, but just enough for him to locate a possible entry by scrutinizing the wreckage, his processor beginning to calculate whether or not he could just groundbridge into one of its halls instead of resorting to blasting his way in.

That was when it happened. The scream came out of nowhere, something attaching itself to his armor as the sonic device did its job at immobilizing him, electricity arching through his veins and effectively knocking him unconscious. The last thing he remembered before his systems were forcibly offlined were red optics watching him from the blackness of the night, something long and white stained with crimson glinting threateningly in the moonlight.

Soundwave frowned behind his visor at that particular recollection. He had been kidnapped by humans, not… Something wasn’t right here, surely they wouldn’t-

The decepticon TIC lurched against the bonds pinning him down with new fervor, desperation coursing through his frame as he struggled. He had to free himself, had to warn them! Megatron was making a huge mistake! But the metal bands holding his arms down failed to budge, didn’t even bend when he pulled against them with all his considerable strength. Soundwave shouldn’t have been as surprised as he was, they had managed to hold down Breakdown and while the silent mech had far more experience and skill in battle, the blue bruiser had the sheer physical strength that had helped him to survive on many occasions.

Silas fell silent, watching him with something akin to amusement on his scarred face. Soundwave grit his dentae, purple optics narrowing into slits. When the flesh creature decided to speak again, the decepticon was all audios. “I see you’ve finally realized that we’re not working alone. Do not worry, neither your Second nor your leader are in any immediate danger, not yet anyway,” Bishop paused, shooting him a smug smirk over one broad shoulder that made his digits itch to scratch it off. “I would advise you to be far more concerned about your own wellbeing right now. Is it ready?” He inquired, glancing at the MECH soldiers working by the monitors. Soundwave had a brief moment of feeling ashamed for being so unobservant that he had not noticed them up until that moment.

“Yes, sir,” the minions reply sounded from across the room, but the decepticon TIC stopped paying attention, his optics fixed on transparent walls extending from the sides of the slab he had been tied to, encapsulating him. What was going on? What were they doing?

The monitors beeped confirmation at the press of a button, an odd hissing noise reaching his audios before light purple gas began streaming into the makeshift capsule, the decepticon going still in realization and horror.

He knew this gas…

The sounds of explosions and scream filling his audio receivers, Soundwave pulled desperately at the bonds keeping his arms and pedes pinned down, his vents clamping shut so as not to allow the malicious substance entry. But he could keep them closed only for so long before he began to overheat... When his internal temperature reached critical levels, they opened on their own, his own system overriding his wishes.

Silas watched as the figure steadily disappeared in the purple mist, a small sadistic smile pulling at the corner of his lips as he crossed his arms. If what he had been told was true, he would soon have control not only over the cybertronians, but of the entire world as well. Earth would learn to see him as its only leader, the one who would push humanity further than anyone had in history.

Leland Bishop would become a legend.

“Enjoying the view?” A deep voice rumbled from above him and he looked up, his brown eyes meeting deep red, the silver wires extending from their corners giving the being above him an even more intimidating presence. Not that Silas cared of course.

“Oh, yes,” he said, turning back to the sight before him.

“Very much so.”