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Title: 00:00
Warnings: Character death, overblown prose
Rating: G
Continuity: G1, Season 3 After the End AU
Characters: Vortex, Spike Witwicky
Disclaimer: The theatre doesn’t own the script or actors, nor does it make a profit from the play.
Motivation (Prompt): Zero Hour

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“The End of Days!” cried the despairing and defeated, and it made a grandly dramatic pronouncement. Very Woe betide us, the end is nigh! prophet on the mountain, heralding the apocalypse with hands outstretched to the heavens. The people would gather under him, repenting sins, weeping, and praying unto the gods for deliverance, forgiveness, or both. Final scene to the act, the agonized poses held as the lights fade to black and the curtain comes down.

Ta-daa! Climax done, story over, no more lines to be spoken. Cue the audience moved to tears as they applaud.

What utter garbage.

Storytellers liked to throw in that cliché ‘The End!’ because the depressing truth was that stories didn’t end until the last character died. And even then, in all likelihood the scenery went on.

The end of days wasn’t. Even after Megatron and Optimus Prime killed each other, there was Galvatron and Rodimus Prime. Then came Unicron, and in the wake of that catastrophe chased the Quintesson Wars. Factions went to pieces somewhere around the time the Quints executed Galvatron. All of Cybertron united as it fought against its slavemaster creators. Civil war shifted to a war for freedom with no pause in-between. Autobot, neutral, and Decepticon fought and died side-by-side, and they won, but even winning was a loss. Hope was irrefutably squashed by the Quints’ endgame ploy: Unicron’s revival. The Chaos Bringer’s corpse cut like a battering ram through Cybertron’s defenses, followed up by waves and waves of enslaved Sharkicons and lesser mechanical creatures.

They fought. They won. And still Cybertron cracked apart, melting slag spiraling too close to the nearest star as survivors desperately spilled out into the gravity well to be sucked in and die, or – rarely -- escape. Most died. Some lived.

It all happened, it all ended. The fabled Zero Hour arrived, and when it did, time kept going.

The living were shell-shocked but alive. Somehow, that fact left them more reluctant to turn on each other than ever before. The remaining Autobots and Decepticons met on wandering asteroids, congregated in old colonies, and flocked like the refugees they now were to the cold comfort of Earth. The humans, at least, no longer had the civilization left to mount any kind of resistance to the race that had led the Quintessons to their world. What resources remained on the planet were free to whomever needed them. To whomever had the ability to get them, because not many did anymore.

“The End of Days has come!” cried the filthy, crazed prophets in the ruins of New York City, and even the Decepticons awkwardly avoided those ones. Out of some lingering sense of obligation and a heavy weight of guilt, the Autobots still tried to help those humans eking civilization out of the wreckage. Many of the humans didn’t want help. The majority didn’t have the means to refuse it, and accepted the Autobots’ aid with a bitter hatred that never faded.

Spike Witwicky stayed with the Autobots, of course. There was loyalty to his race, or loyalty to the ones who would save it at the expense of their own lives, and that was a choice not many could claim a right or wrong of. It wasn’t like he had anyone flesh and blood left to defend. He sat often with his shoulders pulled forward against the burn scars, grief nursing parasitic at his heart, and it visibly ate age into him day by day. He hadn’t been young when he’d lost his wife, and he’d already been old when he’d buried his son.

He was the only one of all of them who ever tried to speak with the prophets. He claimed to do it as some long-forgotten duty as the Autobot-human ambassador. When asked what he said to the prophets, Spike just shrugged. “Well, now what?”

Vortex thought it an appropriate question.

It wasn’t an exact translation of his thoughts when he stood over the grayed-out corpse of Swindle, but the sentiment came through. He’d felt the gestalt-links fail in his spark like limbs being removed. Phantom voices, memories of sensation and emotion fell into the terrifying numbness he remembered so well from the Detention Center. Gestalts were a one-way equation: all addition, no subtraction allowed.

But he lived. Vortex survived, a pathetic echo of a life, and in response to the human’s question, he shrugged in turn. They were both lingering, a bit disbelieving that the end wasn’t finished.

“I don’t know,” he said back, and together they looked out over a world limping on, post-Apocalypse.

Zero hour -- and counting.


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