Jazz was led down several levels below ground until the three Constructicons guiding him came to a stop inside a large room, where a small group of Decepticons were seated around a table. He immediately recognized the three other Constructicons, as well as their Communications expert, Soundwave and, directly across from the entrance where he stood, the leader of the Decepticons himself. Scrapper and his two companions took their seats, and then all optics were fixed on him.
He remained motionless as he surveyed the small gathering with a characteristic collectedness – a part of his easy-going yet capable nature that he was well-known for amongst the Autobots. The moment that he had been waiting for had finally arrived; his opportunity to learn more about the Decepticons’ true motives was here, and he had no intention of blowing it.
Megatron was the first to speak, breaking the silence that had settled inside the room. “My Constructicons told me what you did for them. I suppose you expect us to return the favour?”
Jazz realized how his request to be here must look to them now. “Return the favour?” He repeated quietly, “Oh, no… I didn’t come here to ask for any favours,” he replied, making sure that he came across as non-threatening as possible. There was a pause, and Jazz continued. “I, uh… want to apologise for Streetwise… I had no idea he was going to show up like that.”
Megatron made no comment regarding his apology; instead, he gestured with a hand towards an empty seat. Jazz went to take the seat offered, and then Megatron spoke again. “Did Prime send you?”
“He doesn’t know I’m here,” Jazz replied.
“Hm.” Megatron leaned back in his chair, observing the black and white Autobot with interest. “Then, why did you come here?”
Jazz cleared his vocal processor. “A couple of reasons. But, mostly, to try to learn the truth about everything that’s been going on.” He turned to look at the Constructicons, and his gaze rested upon Scavenger. “I was also kinda hoping that I might be able to ask Scavenger… about what happened the night Groove was attacked.”
No one moved or spoke a word, and then Megatron leaned forward slightly, his expression one of apprehension and doubt. “Scavenger was not responsible for that Autobot’s misfortune – there is nothing further to be said on the matter,” he said determinedly. “As I have already told Prime; there will be no exchange, and no further negotiations.”
Jazz had no idea why Megatron had mentioned Prime, nor what he had meant by exchange, but that wasn’t important right now. He did not want any misunderstanding to occur between them. “I didn’t come here to accuse Scavenger. In fact, I think he’s innocent,” he answered with his own determination, looking resolutely back at the Decepticon leader. His words seemed to have the desired effect on all in the room; sensing their surprise, he continued speaking albeit in a softer tone. “Look, all I’m asking is that you just hear me out.”
Megatron considered his request, and after a few moments made his decision. “Very well,” he said simply, and gestured for Jazz to continue.
The Autobot First Lieutenant gave him a small nod in gratitude, and then turned his attention back to Scavenger. “When it was just you and me in that holding cell, you told me you didn’t do it… and I believe you.” He paused, watching the Constructicon closely, who remained motionless. “But you also told me that you didn’t see what happened.” Jazz slowly shook his head. “I think you did. I think you know who attacked Groove that night.” Before anyone could jump to Scavenger’s defence, Jazz raised his hands momentarily in reassurance. “Now, I can understand why you didn’t want to say anything then and, like I said, I just want to know what happened… I’m not here to accuse you… because, if I’m right… well, it changes things.” He paused and glanced back at Megatron, whose expression was impassive. “According to the official report, Scavenger was the only one in the area that night, other than the Autobots who later found Groove, of course… and it got me thinking – if Scavenger’s innocent, like he says… and, let’s say that an Autobot wasn’t responsible, either… then that leaves only one other possibility.” Jazz looked back towards Scavenger, as the other Decepticons in the room waited expectantly to hear what he had to say. “Scavenger… I know you don’t have to tell me anything. But I’m asking for your help, and I need you to know that this isn’t just about Groove… this affects everyone… including the Decepticons.” For the first time since Jazz had arrived here, Scavenger met Jazz’s gaze, though his visor and face mask hid his expression. Then he slowly looked away again, casting his optics down at the table, saying nothing. “I also want you to know that everything I told you in that holding cell was true.” A long moment passed by in silence, as Jazz allowed the Constructicon time to think over his request. “That night… you witnessed a Neutral attack Groove, didn’t you?”
Scavenger lifted his head up and glanced across at Scrapper sitting beside him, who gave him a reassuring nod, before he focused his attention upon Jazz once more. Then, finally, he spoke. “No… not one.” His voice sounded surprisingly self-assured, yet also carried an undertone of vulnerability. “Three.”
The gentle background hum of life support systems and the soft, overhead security lighting was the first thing that Sideswipe was alerted to when he regained consciousness, and immediately he knew that he was in Iacon Central’s Repair Bay and that it was the recharge cycle. Then the memory of his confrontation with Sentinel hit him like a hydraulic hammer, and he groaned, inhaled deeply to try to clear his confusion. His main processor felt sluggish – as if he had spent the previous evening overcharging at the Bar Magna – but he knew that that was not the reason for his unplanned stay in the med bay. His memory of the event was clear enough; Sentinel had shot him in the back when he wasn’t looking. Bastard. He really needed to be more careful, to keep his temper under control if he wanted to avoid a similar incident in future.
He tried to sit up from his berth, and discovered that he was hooked up to some cables that led to a monitor off to his left. Wrapping his right hand around the cables, he gave them a quick, sharp yank. They disconnected easily. Sitting up, he looked around the med bay and noticed that, save for Groove in semi-stasis nearby, he was alone. Sliding off the berth, he reached out a hand to steady himself as his feet touched the floor. Then he took a few steps forward and almost collapsed, though his determination and strong will spurred him on as he internally reset his equilibrium circuit until he was steady on his feet again. He reached the med bay doors and looked out into the hallway, first in one direction and then the other. It was quiet, empty; he felt that there was something amiss, but then he pushed that thought out of his mind before starting down the hall towards the Control Center.
Glancing behind him, he was not paying attention to where he was going and collided into something as he turned the corner. It was a large mech. A mech much larger than him.
But before he had the chance to realize the mech’s identity, he found himself being shoved forcefully against the wall, a pair of strong hands pinning his shoulders. A menacing, twisted scowl appeared in front of him, the mech’s face only mere inches from his own.
It was Sentinel Prime. “Ah… Sideswipe.” The voice was cold, deliberate; a whisper that belied its venom. “Tsk, tsk, tsk... that little stunt you pulled… I really should have your head for that.” Sideswipe remained frozen to the spot, too afraid to utter a solitary word, yet unable to take his optics off the leader of the Neutrals. “Well, do you have anything to say for yourself? You sorry excuse for an Autobot!” Sentinel’s voice was harsh, grating, yet easily remained in total control. Sideswipe visibly stiffened as he attempted to back away from him, though the wall behind him prevented him from doing so. He was filled with loathing and bitterness for the mech, yet he remained silent, refused to speak. “Whilst it would be much easier and, dare I say, far more pleasurable for me to simply have you terminated,” Sentinel continued, “I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to give you a chance to redeem yourself.” He paused, watching for Sideswipe’s reaction.
The red and black Autobot stared back at him, this time in desperation and uncertainty, his processor racing through several possible implications of Sentinel’s words, but the more he did so the worse those possibilities became. He tried hard to focus on regulating his air intake in a vain attempt to mask his fear, but it felt as though Sentinel was seeing right into his very spark. “Why… should I do anything you say?” He barely managed to vocalize his words, yet he felt compelled to confront the truth of his situation. He was tired of watching and waiting, and of allowing those he cared for the most to continue to suffer the consequences of his actions – or non-actions, as the case may be.
Sentinel snarled at him, pushed him harder against the wall. “Why? Why? Because if you don’t do as I tell you, you will never see your brother again!” He hissed, embodying pure malice and a depraved satisfaction from knowing that he had the upper hand – that as long as he played this particular card he had Sideswipe completely under his control.
Sideswipe’s anger and resentment threatened to surface once more, and he tried to throw Sentinel off him, but the mech was too strong. He had to fight with every ounce of strength within him to speak in a steady voice. “So… you know where he is?”
Sentinel backed off a little bit. “…Yes.”
Sideswipe’s expression hardened and his entire frame began to shake from the emotion as he fought to stay in control. “He’s… still alive?” His voice was barely a whisper.
Sentinel seemed to gain a certain satisfaction from Sideswipe’s vulnerable condition, and he played it now for all it was worth. He released his hold on the mech, took a step back and then slowly smiled at him. “Oh, yes… your brother is still alive. Though, he won’t be for too much longer.” He watched Sideswipe’s reaction: the pain and sorrow of the thought of losing his brother a second time too much for the Autobot to bear. “Oh, but don’t worry. Do exactly as I tell you… and you will see him again, I promise you.”
The loathing and need for vengeance that Sideswipe had felt only moments ago towards Sentinel was quickly replaced by the fear for his brother’s life, but also the faint glimmer of hope that he may, after all these years, finally get the chance to reunite with his brother again. And that, against all the odds, was all that mattered to him now, and his head slowly nodded in acquiescence. His utter humiliation and sense of betrayal would not fully register upon his conscience until later. “What do I have to do?”
Scavenger’s admission had left Jazz near speechless. If Groove had been attacked by only one Neutral who had acted on his own, that would have been one thing – but to have three of them gang up on the victim with the deliberate purpose of removing several of his components – not only was that downright disconcerting, but it also hinted towards a far more widespread corruption within the Neutral ranks than he had previously considered possible. How far up the hierarchy did it actually go? Was Sentinel Prime, the leader of the Neutrals, even aware of the corruption… and, if so, possibly even be involved somehow? It also explained why the High Council, which had allied itself with the Neutrals, would have wanted Scavenger terminated as quickly as possible – before he would have the chance of exposing the truth about them.
It also pointed to the ever increasing possibility that many of the Decepticons could actually be innocent of the crimes that they had long been accused of. More than ever before, Jazz was able to fit more pieces of the puzzle together, to see with greater clarity the reality of what might really be going on – not only with what had happened to Groove, but with many preceding incidents as well – how it all tied in together, and how the possibility of a corrupt Alliance would change everything.
Jazz did not respond; he was still in a quiet state of shock and disbelief, though he did not need to because then Scavenger spoke again. “I saw them attack the Autobot… the things they did to him. It was…” He faltered, recalling the memory of that unpleasant night.
“Did Groove provoke them in any way?” Jazz asked, finding his voice again. He already knew the answer to his question, but wanted Scavenger to confirm it for him.
The Constructicon shook his head. “No. They approached him. Then they started mocking him.” All optics in the room now rested upon him, including Megatron’s.
Jazz nodded in acknowledgment. “What happened next?”
Scavenger looked down at his hands, turning them over repeatedly in a gesture that Jazz could only construe as nervousness. “I watched them drag him away. I… I wanted to know where they’d taken him, so… I followed their trail. That’s when I found Groove lying next to a tunnel entrance close by… but those Neutrals were long gone.”
Jazz paused in thought, watching Scavenger intently. “He was violently attacked. Had several parts removed, including a vital component. Unfortunately, he’s not going to live much longer without it. But what I still don’t get is why...”
“Yeah, that’s the first thing I–” Scavenger began and then stopped suddenly. His whole frame stiffened, as if he had just seen the ominous Spark of the Chaos Bringer first-hand. His hands slowly moved apart, and he shifted uneasily in his chair.
“What is it?” Jazz prompted, his voice calm and reassuring. “Scavenger, is there something else you saw?”
Slowly, Scavenger rose from his chair and, very carefully and deliberately, retrieved something from a compartment in his forearm. He glanced at his team mates, and then briefly at Megatron before he tentatively made his way around the table and towards Jazz. He stopped short a few feet behind the Autobot Head of Special Operations, who had to turn around in his chair to face him.
At first, Jazz had no idea what the Decepticon’s intentions were, nor what it was that he was holding in his hand. He waited for Scavenger to say or do something more, but when he didn’t Jazz rose from his seat to approach him. As he did so, Scavenger slowly opened his hand to reveal a small object, extending his arm out towards him.
It was at that moment that Jazz realized what he was holding. He reached out gently to pick up the object, and then carefully held it up to examine it. “Groove’s missing systems link. I don’t believe it.” Before he had time to think through the possible implications of this unexpected turn of events, Scavenger spoke again, dropping his arm back down to rest by his side.
“I picked it up on the pavement where Groove was attacked.” He paused, watching Jazz’s reaction. He wasn’t sure how the Autobot would take this new information. “But, then… I forgot all about it.”
Jazz looked away from the component and back towards Scavenger, trying to make sense of what the Constructicon had just told him. “I’ve got to get this back to Iacon as soon as possible,” he said, his voice unmistakeably urgent, almost desperate. His thoughts were now racing, as he realized that Groove’s only chance for survival henceforth rested upon his actions alone. He could take the component back himself, though he’d rather avoid returning to a place where he’d no longer be welcome – not when there was another, better way. Streetwise.
He turned towards Megatron, who had been watching the entire exchange with reserved interest. “I know you don’t owe me anything… and I wouldn’t be asking you if it wasn’t to save Groove’s life. But, please… let Streetwise go free,” Jazz explained. When Megatron did not respond straight away, he became increasingly distressed. “You’ve got to believe me. Please, I’ll do anything you want – just don’t let Groove die, please–”
Megatron had heard enough. He stood up and held up a hand as an indication for Jazz to stop. “You do not need to plead for the Autobot’s life. You have already proven your word, and your worth.” He shook his head in a show of perplexity. “You are an Autobot, yet you do not behave like the others. If it weren’t for your actions, even at the risk to your own life, Scavenger would have been terminated. For that, we are in your debt.” Then he turned to the Constructicon leader. “Scrapper, take the component to the prisoner and then release him.” Scrapper nodded in acknowledgment, and Megatron turned back to face Jazz. “You are free to go as well,” he said finally, and started to leave the room, but Jazz stopped him.
“Wait–” The Decepticon leader halted, waiting for Jazz to continue. “I know how this is going to sound, but… I can’t go back to Iacon – at least… not until Prime has learned the truth.” He paused, inhaled slowly. “What I’m trying to say is…” He faltered, finding it hard to find the right words. But, then, Scrapper stood up from his chair and walked around the table to stand by his side.
“Megatron… I think what Jazz here is trying to say is that he’d like to stay with us, and help expose the Alliance… not just for the Autobots’ sake, but for ours as well.” Jazz looked at the Constructicon leader in quiet astonishment and thankfulness. Yes, that was exactly what he wanted. “That is, if you’ll allow him,” Scrapper added.
Megatron considered his words for a long moment. “The Alliance… yes. What do you know about it?” He asked Jazz.
“Not a great deal, other than the fact that a lot of things about it don’t make sense,” Jazz replied, as he recalled to memory everything that he had seen and heard since his mission to XR-5’s Mining Station. “Unless, of course, it isn’t exactly the friendly, benign outfit most bots seem to think it is.”
Megatron took a step closer towards him, holding his gaze steady. “Tell me, what is your area of specialty?”
Jazz responded in a casual manner. “Special operations, mainly – though, I’m flexible.”
“Hm. I see.” The silver mech paused, evaluating him. “But you are also one of Prime’s confidants, are you not?”
“You could say that,” he replied, unperturbed by the Decepticon leader’s line of questioning. “Though, we haven’t exactly been seeing things optic to optic lately.”
Megatron walked over to stand behind Soundwave, as he pondered his next question. “Yet you are willing to turn your back on your friends to help us?”
Jazz looked down at the floor introspectively. When he gave his reply, he spoke softly, yet deliberately. “The way I figure, they turned their backs on me.”
The Military Commander looked towards his Communications officer. “Soundwave?” He asked, and Jazz picked up a certain amount of weariness in his voice; it was barely detectable, but it was there.
“He is telling the truth,” was all the mysterious, blue and white Decepticon offered his leader, but it seemed to suffice.
“Very well,” Megatron replied, before steering the conversation back to Scrapper. “It is an unusual request… and one that I would not normally consider. However, if you trust him…” He said to the Constructicon, “Then you shall take responsibility for this Autobot.” He paused, walked towards the exit. “I shall return soon. In the meantime… Jazz is welcome to stay,” he said, and then disappeared out of the room without any further instructions.
Jazz watched him leave, and then turned to Scrapper. “Thank you,” he said.
The Constructicon gave him a small shrug. “Eh, it’s the least we can do. Besides, the more help we can get against the Alliance, the better. Come on, let’s get that component to Streetwise,” he said, indicating the primary systems link still in Jazz’s hand. Then he led the way out of the room and back up to the holding cell.
* * *
“I’ll wait here,” Scrapper informed Jazz as the two of them arrived just outside the door to the small room that held Streetwise.
Jazz nodded, and then opened the door before stepping inside. He noticed Streetwise sitting on the floor of the cell, cross legged, and facing the opposite wall; his back turned to him. Jazz walked up quietly to stand before the energy bars, watching to see whether Streetwise was alerted to his presence, but the Protectobot did not move from his spot. “Street?” No response. “Street… I want you to know that I’m only trying to help. It ain’t fair, what’s happened…”
Streetwise suddenly stood up, turned to face him. “Fair? What do you know about fair, Jazz?”
“Street, please just hear me out, okay?”
“No – I think you should hear me out!” Streetwise said, pointing, his anger once again getting the better of him, so Jazz decided to just let him speak. “Thanks to these Decepticons, Groove’s as good as dead. But, then, what did you do? You helped them get away with it! Then, if that weren’t enough, you come here, only Primus knows why, and you act like you’re one of them!” He shook his head in disappointment, his hands clenched into tight fists. “I mean, I don’t get it. What’s gotten into you, Jazz?”
Jazz watched him pace the small space of his holding cell, and realized that there was nothing he could really say in his defence that would help Streetwise see things from his perspective, so he kept his reply short and succinct. “I understand how you feel,” he said, though he couldn’t hide the defeat that he felt, and his own sense of disappointment.
Streetwise laughed derisively. “No, Jazz. You don’t. Because if you did, you’d want nothing to do with these murderous scum-bags.” Jazz said nothing in response, but it was the words that Streetwise uttered next that would torment him for a long time to come.
“I’ll promise you this right now, Jazz – if you ever show your face in Iacon again, I’m going to make sure that you get exactly what you deserve. I’m going to make sure that you and all your Decepticon buddies suffer in exactly the same way Groove was made to suffer… even if I have to do it myself.” His gaze locked onto Jazz’s, and the Autobot Special Operative saw an unforgiving coldness in the Protectobot’s optics that struck a new kind of dread deep within his spark, one that he’d never known before. “That is, if I ever get out of here alive,” Streetwise finished, a twisted scowl taking over his expression.
Jazz felt as if the stark, metallic-grey room was closing in on him and an irrational, almost desperate need to get out of there as fast as he could suddenly came over him. He had to fight with all his strength just to remain where he was. He nodded sorrowfully, reached out a hand through a gap in the energy bars and then opened it for Streetwise. Groove’s primary systems link rested in his palm. “Here. Take this with you back to Iacon.”
Streetwise carefully picked up the small object as he realized with sudden shock what it actually was. The scowl was slowly replaced by dazed confusion and surprise, but Jazz had already turned to walk away.
As he pressed a button on the door panel and waited for the door to slide open, all he could think about was just how unwelcome he truly would be, now, amongst his own kind, should he return to Iacon. He exited the room without looking back or saying another word to Streetwise as the door closed quietly behind him.
Outside in the hall, Scrapper was patiently waiting for him just as he had promised. Jazz paused, rested his head against the wall and looked up at the ceiling as he tried to regain his composure. Then he reactivated his visor, and the disappointment and despair evident in his optics were no longer observable to another living spark.
He turned his head to acknowledge the Constructicon.
Jazz nodded, though the expression on his face belied his true feelings. “Yeah. Everything’s just fine,” he said, and then followed Scrapper as they both began to make their way back to the other Decepticons.
The Conference Room at Iacon’s Command Center was beginning to fill with Autobots. There were mixed sentiments among them, and no doubt there were many questions they wanted answered, though not one of them was prepared to speak a single word until Optimus Prime commenced the scheduled meeting. Immediately to Prime’s right sat Sentinel, who had been invited to participate and contribute to discussions, and to Prime’s left was Prowl, holding a data pad and speaking over his com link to Red Alert, requesting the mech’s immediate attendance.
Optimus did not wait for the Acting Chief Medical Officer to arrive. “Before we begin with the reports, I’d like you all to welcome Sentinel to Iacon, if you have not already done so. He has agreed to stay for as long as necessary, and has kindly offered his assistance.” He looked around the room at the seated Autobots while Sentinel sat motionless, his hands clasped together in front of him. No one spoke a word, so he continued. “Prowl?”
“Sir, I’m just waiting on Red Alert to arrive,” the Chief of Security replied. “He’s on his way.”
Optimus nodded, and the room fell silent. There was an air of uncomfortableness that seemed to grow stronger with each passing second, until Ironhide broke the silence. “Ah, Prime? We heard about Sideswipe… is he going to be alright?”
Before Optimus could reply, Prowl intervened on his behalf. “Sideswipe is in good hands. Red Alert will provide us with a full report as soon as he arrives. Please, be patient.”
Ironhide, frustrated with Prowl’s stoic response, let out a sigh of frustration but gave him no reply, instead uttered something under his breath that no one was able to catch, other than Trailbreaker who was seated beside him.
Then, Sentinel cleared his vocal processor. “Optimus, if I may?” He asked, as graciously as he possibly could. Optimus nodded in the affirmative, and he smiled, turned to address the gathered Autobots. “I must extend my sincerest apologies to you all for my recent actions. Sideswipe gave me no other choice but to use force in order to defend myself. I know that I speak for everyone here when I say that we are all deeply concerned for his… emotional and mental well-being. It is evident that he is a deeply disturbed and confused individual… and, now more than ever, he needs all our help and support. I would also like to reassure you all that I will not be laying any charges against him. My only wish for him is that he makes a complete recovery.” There was murmuring around the table as the gathered Autobots offered him their understanding and agreement.
The door to the conference room slid open, and Red Alert stepped inside. He glanced quickly around the room, and then took an empty seat beside Prowl. “Sorry I’m late.” Prowl ignored his apology, gave him an expectant look. “Ah, right. My report.” Red wasted no time, looked to Optimus as he began. “Sideswipe is in a stable condition – sorry, was. He sustained only minor damage.”
“Was?” Prime repeated with slight concern in his voice.
Red Alert brushed it aside, nodded. “He must have discharged himself sometime during the recharge cycle. I haven’t seen him since,” he explained, none too pleased with the rebellious patient, but the former Autobot warrior’s behaviour was all too familiar.
“I see,” Optimus said simply. “What about Groove?”
Red shook his head in disappointment. “No change.”
The Autobot Commander nodded, and then Prowl took over. “Do you have the results for the full systems check-ups I authorised?” He asked Red Alert. Red looked back at him in confusion, so Prowl clarified for him. “The priority list of Autobots stationed at Antihex… I sent them to the Maintenance and Repair Bay for a complete systems check… do you have the results?”
All optics in the room looked expectantly at Red Alert, who touched his forehead with the tips of his fingers in an effort to recollect the entire list of patients who had reported in to the Repair Bay during the last few mega cycles for a full systems check. To his dismay, he could not recall a single one. “Sorry, Prowl. I haven’t had any…” He trailed off, and then clicked his fingers in sudden realization. “Oh! Right, of course...” He nodded in acknowledgment, and then shook his head. “They never showed up.”
Prowl straightened in his seat, placed his data pad down on the table. “I beg your pardon?”
“They never showed up for their appointments. Not a single one.” Red Alert shrugged; he was at a loss to explain it any further.
“Are you sure?” Prowl queried uncertainly.
“Yes, sir. Check the logs if you like.”
Prowl considered the situation, and then made his decision. “That won’t be necessary.” He turned to Prime. “Sir, permission to apprehend and detain the following list of Autobots for their failure to obey direct orders.” Prowl pushed the data pad across the table for Optimus’ perusal. The Autobot leader picked up the pad and scanned through the list, as Prowl explained the situation further. “They may have been compromised. If so, they pose an immediate threat to our security.”
“Understood.” Optimus handed him back the data pad. “Do what you must–”
He was cut off by Sentinel, who leaned across to reach for the data pad. “May I see that list?” Optimus nodded his approval, and Prowl passed it to him. Then, after a brief glance through the list, Sentinel handed the pad back to Prowl. “These Autobots are all stationed at the Autobot-Neutral Command Post in Antihex. My own teams work with them often. If you would allow me, I can have them apprehended and brought in. It will be no problem.”
Optimus considered his mentor’s request, and found no reason to refuse him. “Very well.”
Sentinel nodded, pleased, and then smiled.
Soon after the meeting had ended, Optimus retreated to his quarters in the hopes of spending some time alone. As the Commander of the Autobot army and co-leader of the Autobot-Neutral Alliance, there was a lot that he needed to ponder, many decisions that he still needed to make. He did not particularly favour the heavy responsibilities of leadership, to be sure; nevertheless, he accepted them without reservation or complaint.
If truth be told, he was worried about Elita and, though he’d never admit it to her directly, missed her company tremendously. The two of them were alike in so many ways, yet so different; he trusted her judgment and respected her opinion, probably more than any other Autobot’s, and he felt ashamed of the way he had treated her recently. But it was too late to tell her that now; all he could do was wait, and hope that Sentinel made good on his promise to bring her safely back to Cybertron.
Then there was Jazz. Perhaps he’d made a mistake, asking his First Lieutenant to accept such a dangerous mission into Decepticon territory. Though, Jazz’s recent words still troubled him.
What if I were to tell you that Scavenger wasn’t the one who attacked Groove?
He had refused to listen, had tried to convince his friend and confidant of the Decepticon’s guilt. Yet he knew Jazz better than that, should have known that his First Lieutenant would never have said such a thing without good reason.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door chime, and he hesitated. He considered denying the visitor, ordering them to leave him alone, but then the chime activated a second time, and again a third, and so he relented and opened the door to his private quarters.
He did not expect Ratchet to charge in, without even offering him words of greeting. “Prime, we need to talk,” he immediately said, and his anger, although restrained, was undeniable.
“Ratchet…” Optimus acknowledged. “What about?”
The Chief Medical Officer roughly pushed a data pad across his desk. “Take a look at this.”
Optimus looked down at the pad on his desk. Whatever this was about, surely it could wait until tomorrow. “What is it?”
“Just read it!” Ratchet insisted, all notion of rank seemingly put aside.
The Autobot leader sighed, picked up the pad and scanned the list of files before looking back up at Ratchet in puzzlement. “These are Wheeljack’s laboratory notes…”
“Original laboratory notes,” Ratchet corrected him, and then gave him an expectant look. “There’s an entry in there that appears to have been later deleted. Read it,” Ratchet pressed.
Optimus was in no mood to contend with the Autobot Chief Medic. He began to read through the contents of the first file until, after a few minutes, looked back up at Ratchet in puzzlement.
“If that Decepticon was responsible for coming up with the cure to that virus… then, why would he have also been the one to create the virus in the first place? It just doesn’t make sense.” Ratchet placed both hands on the desk to steady himself, his head down.
But Optimus had no immediate answers for him. He placed the pad back down on the desk and stood up, paced towards the live visual display of Cybertronian space on the wall. The room was quiet as he considered the seriousness, and the consequences, of Ratchet’s discovery, until finally he spoke. “It… certainly raises more questions than we have answers to.”
Ratchet looked back up to face his Commander. “I just don’t believe it. But it’s right there in Wheeljack’s notes. If it’s true... and he is innocent… Damn it, Optimus, after all this time…” He sighed in resignation. “Just what in the Pit is going on?”
“I don’t know, Ratchet… but, it is evident that someone didn’t want us to know the truth.” Optimus turned to face his Chief Medic. “It would also explain why Wheeljack might have gone missing,” he added.
Ratchet nodded, and then slowly paced the room in deep thought until, after a long while, he spoke his mind. “I think we need to find him. If he’s still alive somewhere out there… he might be able to shed some light on all of this...” He turned back to Optimus, a weak glimmer of hope in his optics. “And, maybe – he might even be able to tell us what happened to Wheeljack.”
“Elita! Elita… wait.” The femme Commander’s second-in-charge called out as she struggled to keep up through the crowded city pavement. Grabbing hold of her arm, she forced her best friend to acknowledge her. “Elita, would you at least tell us where we’re going?”
The pink Autobot slowed to a stop, and then pointed up towards large, lit-up letters above the entrance to a richly adorned establishment. “There,” she said simply.
Firestar and Moonracer stopped short right behind them, and they both looked up in puzzlement as they realized what their team leader had in mind.
“You can’t be serious…” Firestar vocalized her thoughts out loud, as Moonracer’s face lit up in surprise, her optics widening in anticipation.
Elita turned to face them. “Well, why not? Unless any of you have a better idea,” she said, looking at each of them expectantly in turn. “Didn’t think so. Come on.” She waved at them to follow her inside, but Chromia stopped her.
“Wait. ‘The Gambler’s Den’?” She read the words on the building aloud, incredulous. “What exactly are we supposed to do here?”
“Win us some credits,” Elita offered matter-of-factly. “What else?”
“But, Elita…” The blue femme paused, mentally gathered together all the many reasons why this was a really bad idea. “We don’t have any credits to gamble away! And, besides… none of us here are any good at it–”
“Ooh, let me try! Please?” Moonracer quickly cut in, her hands clasped together in prayer.
“’Racer – no!” Chromia rebuked.
“Oh, please! Elita, let me try, please? I can do it!” The green femme continued, beseeching their team leader.
When Elita said nothing to dissuade her, Chromia shook her head as she looked down at the pavement, her hands on her hips. “I can’t believe this…” She muttered in a low voice.
“Moonracer’s always said how she’s dreamed of experiencing the Big City,” Elita explained. “Well, since we’re here, why not let her have her fun?”
The green femme was ecstatic at the opportunity that had just been offered to her, and she jumped up and down in glee. “Yesss! Oh, thank you, Elita! Thank you!”
The femme Commander retrieved a handful of credits, and handed them to Moonracer, who took them appreciatively. “Here. That’s all we have. It’s not much, but it’s something.” Then she started towards the grand entrance of the luxurious gambling hall. “Come on.”
The three femmes followed their Commander into the brightly-lit foyer, where it opened up into several other rooms. Moonracer looked around until she finally settled upon the main gaming room, and Elita indicated for her to go inside.
Several tables and gambling machines occupied every available space of the large hall, and to the left was a bar and lounge. The three femmes watched Moonracer as she disappeared amongst the throng of patrons, her face beaming with excitement, and then they took some empty seats in the lounge area.
“So… how many credits did you give her, exactly?” Firestar queried, curious.
Elita shrugged. “Five.”
Chromia simply shook her head in disbelief, while the red femme snorted in response. “Well, I hope you have a backup plan,” she said.
“That’s all I know. One cycle I’m on Cybertron, and then the next…” Comet trailed off, shrugged dismissively. The discarded half-drum that he had been using to lean his head against earlier had now become his makeshift seat. Sunstreaker sat opposite him on the floor, watching him play idly with a non-functioning automatic release switch.
“You mean you don’t know why you were sent here?” The yellow Autobot asked. They had spent the last half hour sharing stories of earlier days on Cybertron, though the conversation had remained more or less casual. While Sunstreaker had tried hard to get Comet to open up and share more of his personal story, he could not get him to do so, nor could he deny that this frustrated him to no end, though he had no idea why he should feel this way about a Decepticon who he’d only recently met. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Comet had saved his life. Or, perhaps, there was something more to the seeker than met the optic.
“No.” They sat together in silence for several moments, the constant churn of the recycling machinery in the background the only sound to keep them company. He was about to say something further, when Comet spoke again – only this time, his voice took on a bitterness that Sunstreaker had not heard from him before. “I can’t go back. They abandoned me…” The words were barely audible, and he had to adjust his audio processor to make sense of them.
“They?” Sunstreaker asked, but Comet did not expand upon it further. His face was turned away, his expression hidden from view. “Comet?” He prompted softly, not wanting to upset him more than he already was.
When Comet turned to face him, his intense gaze suddenly made him feel uneasy. “They abandoned me! Banished me here. What other possible explanation could there be?” He spoke with such anger and resentment that it caught Sunstreaker off-guard.
“You… you think your own kind abandoned you?” Sunstreaker said incredulously. He shook his head in disbelief. “No – why would they?”
“I don’t know!” Comet could no longer hide his pain and he looked away again; he fought to keep his voice from breaking but was fast losing the battle. “I… I don’t know.” Then he stopped talking, sat in silence for a long while.
“Comet… maybe you’re wrong. Maybe they didn’t abandon you at all,” Sunstreaker offered finally. He spoke softly, comfortingly. “I… I know what it’s like to leave behind those you care about, and believe me…” It was his turn now to share his own feelings of regret that he had not been able to shake since he’d left Cybertron more than a vorn ago. “They probably had no choice.” Comet remained motionless, listening yet unwilling to share the circumstances of his exile any further, so Sunstreaker said nothing more on the subject.
It was just as well, because at that same moment the doors to the facility suddenly opened. Comet jumped into action, all discussion of the past along with the switch that he had been idly holding now completely forgotten. He ducked down behind a nearby scrap pile, and indicated for Sunstreaker to do the same. “Get down!” He ordered, motioning with his hand, and Sunstreaker quickly moved behind another scrap pile, using it as a cover.
Several moments went by, and Sunstreaker felt as though time had slowed. He kept his gaze fixed upon Comet, who was directly in his line of sight, and watched as the seeker kept a close optic on the incomer, tracking him, his blaster at the ready. It was too risky for him to do the same, since his scrap pile was not as concealed as Comet’s.
But Sunstreaker did not need optics to hear the deliberate footfalls, sense the ominous presence that was moving purposefully through the facility towards them. The incomer made very few sounds as he stepped forward, and then let out a low grunt. Before Sunstreaker knew what was happening, Comet had moved out from behind his scrap pile and was crouching down right beside him. “I’m going to try to direct him towards the explosive,” he explained quickly, his voice just below a whisper. “Wish me luck,” he added, before leaping out from behind the scrap pile.
Comet stopped several mechano-meters ahead of the Pretender, his arm-mounted weapon raised threateningly. “Don’t come any closer!”
The robot warrior laughed mockingly. His sword, now drawn, shimmered with pink energy along its length. “Ah… just the stupid fool I was looking for,” he replied menacingly, his voice a low rumble.
It was then that Sunstreaker realized, with mixed feelings of trepidation and excitation, the identity of the incomer. “Bludgeon…” He whispered to himself, as he tried to settle his frantic thoughts.
“Why don’t you just go back to the slag heap you came from?” Comet insulted the samurai warrior, and hoped that the explosive he had anchored to the wall wouldn’t be spotted. “You and your Supreme Lord spark-mate, you worthless pieces of scrap!” He continued, inching a few steps closer towards the wall.
Bludgeon’s mocking laughter faded and was replaced by a snarl. “I’m going to enjoy crushing your very spark with my bare hands!” He threatened, and then lunged forward with an angry bellow, his sword held high in front of him.
Sunstreaker looked up from behind his cover just in time to see Bludgeon step close enough to trigger Comet’s makeshift bomb. The surge of the power pack made a high pitched noise before it overloaded, and then the wall exploded in a magnificent show of sparks and plasma energy. Bludgeon did not know what had hit him; he was instantly knocked offline. The impact of the explosion caused him to hit the ground violently, his body bouncing off a discarded manifold and then rolling over a few times before coming to rest on his back. His left arm had been blown cleanly from his body, and his left optic was shattered. His Pretender shell had sustained a large tear down the middle, from which mech fluid was already leaking.
The yellow Autobot warrior slowly straightened; his optics fixated upon Bludgeon, he began to make his way towards the offlined assassin while Comet, who had safely avoided the blast, waited several seconds before he went to stand behind Sunstreaker.
“Well… that worked better than I thought,” the seeker said smugly, more than a little satisfied.
Sunstreaker turned to look at him in astonishment. Still in shock after having witnessed his long time adversary so easily defeated, a nod in agreement was all he could manage.
Almost half hour had passed since Moonracer had disappeared to try her luck at the gaming tables, and Chromia was beginning to worry. “Where in the Pits is she? Surely she doesn’t still have those five credits you gave her?”
“I’m going to go look for her. Wait here.” Elita started to get up, but was stopped by Firestar pointing with a finger in the direction of the tables.
“Speaking of our little femme, here she comes now.”
They watched as Moonracer bounded up to them, ignoring their concerned looks. She beamed at them, held out a credit token in her hand.
“Well?” Chromia asked, curious.
Moonracer giggled. “Well… here, take it!” She said, jumping up and down in a celebratory dance.
Elita grabbed the token from her and had to do a double take. “’Racer…” She looked up at the green femme in astonishment. “How did you…?”
Moonracer grinned proudly. “Piece of oil cake!” She said.
“Let me see that,” Firestar cut in, pulling the token from Elita’s hand. “No way...”
She showed it to Chromia, who shook her head to make sure her optical sensors were functioning properly. “Five hundred credits? ‘Racer… how’d you do it?”
“It was easy,” Moonracer answered. “Do you want to try? I can show you–”
“No,” Chromia quickly responded, raising a hand to back her off. “Thank you, Moon, but I think we’ll leave all the gambling in your capable hands.”
“Oh, okay. Well, if you’re sure...” Then she looked back at Elita, her optics widening in thought. “Oh, can I go again… please, Elita?”
“Oh, no. Uh-uh,” the femme Commander replied sternly. Moonracer’s face fell, her shoulders slumping slightly, and Elita sighed, tried to explain her reasoning. “’Racer, you’ve done really well… I mean, these credits will certainly come in handy. But, you wouldn’t want to push your luck.”
“Aw.” She took a seat beside Firestar, hands in her laps. “Okay.”
Elita sighed again, turning the token over in her fingers. “But… if I were to let you go again…” She said after several moments.
Moonracer’s face lit up like a homing beacon. “You mean it?!”
Elita gave her a resigned look, handed her back the token. “Here, take fifty, but hold onto the rest.”
“Oh, thank you, ‘Lita! You won’t regret it, I promise,” Moonracer answered, and then jumped up from her seat and rushed back into the crowd.
“Think she’s cheating?” Firestar asked the other two femmes in a casual manner.
“Hm. Maybe,” Elita replied.
Chromia considered the possibility before shaking her head dismissively. “Nah…” Then she stood up, motioned for the other two to do the same. “Come on; let’s go watch her – just in case.” Shrugging, Elita and Firestar rose from their seats and followed her into the multitude of enthralled gamers.
Watching the three femmes from the bar nearby, the spotter downed the rest of his liquid fuel before casually, though guardedly, activated his transceiver and spoke into it. “Yeah. It’s Doubledealer. Yeah… thought he might be very interested to know who’s at The Den… Elita One… no, I don’t know.” He began to move slowly through the seated patrons in between the gaming tables, making sure he kept a safe distance behind the Autobot femmes. “Yeah. Got it. Will let you know.” Then he cut the transmission and, after a brief pause, walked up to the Roulette table to stand behind Moonracer.
Several long moments passed before Sunstreaker had recovered sufficiently to be able to speak again. “Is he dead?”
Comet shrugged, knelt down to examine the body. “Unfortunately, no. Just offline.” He stood up again, kicked Bludgeon in his side to show his disgust. “Come on, let’s get out of here,” he said, and started towards the open doors of the facility, but was stopped by Sunstreaker.
“Wait…” Comet glanced back around to witness the Autobot simply standing there, staring down at the offlined mech.
Sunstreaker carefully, cautiously, knelt down, extended a hand out to hover tentatively over the skeletal-looking face before withdrawing it again in a sudden change of mind. He seemed mesmerized by the Pretender, almost as if he were overcome with morbid fascination. Then he stood up again, took a few steps back, though his optics were still fixated upon their defeated foe. Comet went to stand quietly beside him, unsure of what was going on with the Autobot and feeling altogether uncertain about how to handle the situation. He crossed his arms in front of him, looked back down at Bludgeon’s motionless body. “He’s going to be really mad when he wakes up, you know,” he offered, trying to make light of the situation. “We should go now while we still have the advantage.” Still no reaction from the Autobot. “Or… we could stay here, wait for his goons to come by just so we can kick some more aft. Hey, I’m easy,” he said, shrugging.
That seemed to break Sunstreaker’s silent reverie, and he cracked an apologetic smile at the seeker. “Sorry. It’s just that… I’ve been trying to track this guy down ever since I followed him here to Alternity City.” He paused, reflecting upon the few times he had come close to overpowering the Pretender, only to have his attempts thwarted by the powerful warrior. “And now…” He trailed off, gesturing with his hand at the fallen mech.
Curiosity suddenly got the better of Comet. “Why on Cybertron would an Autobot like you waste his time with a slag sucker like him?”
Sunstreaker sighed regretfully. “Long story… but, remember how I said that I know what it’s like to leave behind those you care about? Well, he’s the reason I left Cybertron behind,” he said, nodding towards Bludgeon. “Only I did it against direct orders. I knew that Bludgeon was involved with that virus somehow because I had caught him trying to gain access to one of our labs… so I confronted him and he told me that if I didn’t keep quiet I’d end up like Wheeljack, our resident scientist. I tried to warn the Alliance, but was told to stay out of it. Sentinel had insisted that he would take care of Bludgeon himself… but then, soon after, I overheard them both talking in private, and that’s when I knew that something wasn’t right.”
Comet had remained perfectly still, listening intently until Sunstreaker had finished speaking. “So, you decided to follow Bludgeon to Alternity City by yourself,” he said, finishing the story for him. “…against your brother’s wishes.”
Sunstreaker looked at him in astonishment. “Yes. But… how did you know about my brother?”
The seeker shrugged. “It makes sense, from what you’ve already told me.”
“Oh.” Sunstreaker turned away from him, walked a few paces as he sought to gather his thoughts. “I should never have left the way I did.”
“Well, does he know how you feel?” Comet asked him in his decidedly straightforward manner.
“I tried getting a message to him a few times… but I had no way of knowing if he ever received them.” Sunstreaker walked back to stand beside the seeker. “Then… after a while, I just stopped trying.”
Several moments of silence passed between them, and then Comet returned his attention back to the situation at hand. “So… what do you want to do with him?” He said with contempt, motioning with his thumb at the still offlined Bludgeon.
“I’m… not sure.” Sunstreaker looked uncertainly down at the warrior. If they simply left him here, they could be long gone by the time he awoke. Alternatively, he could try to interrogate him; try to find out who was responsible for those deactivated Autobots he’d found at that relay station, along with the extent of Sentinel’s involvement. “I mean, he must know something about Hitec’s operations…”
But there was a third option that he had not considered – at least, not until Comet brought it up. “Yes… we could question him, find out what he knows,” Comet affirmed, nodding, “or… we could just kill him.”
Sunstreaker stood motionless as he considered the consequences of that particular course of action. He had never killed anyone before in a premeditative manner, and the very notion of it made him feel uneasy. “You mean… just like that?” He said finally.
Comet noticed his discomfort, though he made no attempt to alleviate it. Instead, he reached down to pick up Bludgeon’s sword, which lay only a few feet from the warrior’s inert body. Then he held it up, examining its lethal blade, before offering it to Sunstreaker. “Here, finish him off with this.”
The yellow Autobot fought to overcome the quandary of his conscience, and reached out to grasp the sword by its hilt. Then he carefully positioned its tip so that it was pointing directly at Bludgeon’s spark chamber. The weapon felt powerful in his hands, and he experienced a macabre sense of satisfaction with the knowledge that his enemy would soon be slaughtered by his own sword.
But if he killed Bludgeon in cold blood, he knew that there would be no going back.
He raised the weapon above his head, ready to plunge the blade deep into the mech’s heart, but then, gradually, he lowered it again, dropped his arm down to his side, sword still in hand. “I can’t…” He said.
Unfazed by the Autobot’s momentary show of weakness, Comet grabbed the sword from him and, before Sunstreaker could make sense of what was happening, the seeker had plunged the sword’s tip straight into the Pretender’s spark chamber with a mighty thrust, and in less time than the flicker of an optic, the deed was done.
Sunstreaker watched in stunned silence as Bludgeon’s body twisted and writhed as surges of electrical energy pulsated through it, the very life force irreversibly draining away, the spark extinguishing in a sudden flare of blue light. Then the body became still once again, its remaining optic now only a pool of empty blackness, and it was over. Bludgeon was dead.
Sunstreaker looked towards Comet and, for the first time, understood exactly what this Decepticon was capable of.
Astrotrain led the way through one of Binaltech’s many exchange hubs, accompanied by Astro and Rook. His orders had been to rendezvous with several Decepticon jets, but the recent close encounter with Jhiaxus had prevented him from doing so until now. “They’re going to have my aft,” he said, as he stopped and looked around for any sign of them.
“Over there,” Astro said casually, as he scanned the area.
Astrotrain turned to see where he was pointing, and then nodded. “Ah, that’s them.” He recognized the familiar forms of the Decepticon seekers; four of them were seated on a bench, while the fifth stood a few paces away from the others, peering out into the crowd. As he and his two companions started towards the group, he called out to them once they were clearly within audio range. “Hey, you five seem kind of lost. Need any help?”
Dirge, the blue and black team leader, spun around as his four team mates got up from their seats at the sound of Astrotrain’s voice.
“There you are, you slagger,” Dirge grumbled in greeting, walking over to him. “Where the Pits have you been?”
“It’s nice to see you, too,” Astrotrain replied glibly, ignoring Dirge’s obvious discontent. “Sorry I’m late; we got a little side-tracked.”
Dirge sized him up, his expression grim. He nodded towards the smaller green mech beside him. “What the hell is Rook doing with you?” He asked, doubtful, before turning to observe the unfamiliar Cybertronian accompanying them. “And who’s he?”
Before Astrotrain could reply, Astro answered for him. “You can call me Astro.”
There were blank expressions from the five jets. “Astro, huh? Never heard of you,” Dirge said.
Astro ignored him, instead turned to Astrotrain. “You remember that Decepticon transmission you were tracking earlier?”
Astrotrain nodded. “Sure.”
“Good. You’re going to help us find the one who sent it,” Astro asserted. “And then you’re going to take us all home,” he added, after a pause.
The triple changer took a few moments to consider Astro’s instructions before nodding in acquiescence. “Sure thing.” He seemed unperturbed by Astro’s clear exertion of authority; Dirge, however, would not accept it so readily.
“Hey, we’ve already got our orders. Astrotrain’s returning to Cybertron with us,” Dirge said, gesturing towards Astrotrain and his own team of seekers.
But Astro did not appear intimidated by him at all. “Not any more; there’s been a slight change of plans.”
Ramjet, the grey and white jet standing beside his team leader, cut in; he was just as confounded, if not bothered, by Astro’s apparent lack of respect for them as Dirge was. “Now, you look here – I don’t know who the hell you think you are, Astro, but no one tells us what to do except for Megatron,” he said, his voice angry, as Thrust, Bitstream and Acid Storm stood resolutely by in silent support.
“Then… I suggest, if you don’t want to disobey Megatron’s direct orders, that you do exactly as I tell you,” Astro replied, without hesitation.
Dirge was about to reprove him for his self-proclaimed position of authority, when he stopped short. “Wait a nano-second…” He stepped closer towards the strange mech, scrutinizing him. “You’re…” Then he pulled away in suspicion. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
Astro gave him an unreadable expression. “That’s not important right now. What is important is that we find Comet before they do.” The Decepticons gathered all listened intently to what he had to say, including Rook; it was the first time he had heard Astro mention the missing mech’s name.
Dirge tilted his head to the side, recalling his recent encounter with Thunderblast. “Did you just say Comet?”
Astro nodded. “Was he here?”
“I have no idea, but…” Dirge started. “Some femme was telling us about a Comet just a short while ago.”
“A femme, huh?” Astrotrain queried, his curiosity piqued. “Cybertronian?”
“Yeah. Real piece of work, too,” Thrust commented.
Rook glanced up at Astro, and their thoughts were the same. “Thunderblast,” they said in unison.
“Yeah, that was her,” Dirge confirmed. “You two know her?”
“Not in a way she’d like, I’m sure,” Astro replied. “What did she say, exactly?”
Dirge hesitated as he recalled the details of his conversation with the femme. “Not much. She said she’d spoken to this Comet recently… then mentioned that he was in trouble. She didn’t say what kind of trouble, nor did I bother to ask.” Astro nodded in contemplation, and Dirge added, “Oh. She also said that he’d been here.” The eight of them stood there in silence as they each considered Dirge’s account. Then Astro turned away from the group in thought, as Rook watched him carefully.
“What are you thinking?” Rook asked him, away from the others’ audio sensor range.
Astro shook his head uncertainly. “We’ve got to return to the Base…” He said quietly.
Rook’s optics widened in fear at the very suggestion. “The Base? As in…”
“Yes, Rook; as in the Hitec Base.”
“No… you can’t… I won’t!”
Astro watched as the smaller mech stood his ground, his protestation attracting the triple changer’s attention.
“He won’t what?” Astrotrain asked, concerned.
Astro exhaled slowly. “If Comet’s been captured, then there’s only one place I can think of where they would have taken him.”
Rook spoke up before Astrotrain could respond. “If we return to Hitec, we’ll be captured for sure – if not by Jhiaxus, then by one of the High Commander’s many other servants.”
“You mean aft-kissers,” Astrotrain corrected him.
“…Right. The place is swarming with them. It’s a suicide mission!” Rook complained in exasperation.
Dirge, having overheard, offered his view. “He’s right. It’s suicidal. We barely got out of there alive ourselves,” he said, indicating behind him at his team.
Rook seemed to calm down somewhat, quietly thankful for Dirge’s insightful opinion. Astro hesitated, and Rook found his atypical uncertainty rather odd.
“Besides, how can we be sure that Comet is still functional? If he’s been captured, then–” Dirge started, but Astro cut him short.
“No. They’d want him alive.” Astro did not elaborate, nor did any of them bother to question him on the point further.
“May I make a small suggestion?” Astrotrain said finally, and then continued without waiting for a response. “If we can’t go to them, then… maybe, we can get them to come to us.”
After a brief moment, something inside Astro clicked and he looked across at the triple changer, a satisfied smile spreading across his face.