“Yess!” Moonracer clasped her hands together in excitement, bouncing gleefully up and down as she watched the winning numbers light up on the spinning Roulette wheel. “Come to Moony…” She said to herself as the gaming attendant handed her a proportion of the total credits on the table.
“Hey, you’re pretty good at this. Mind if I watch?” A masculine voice said from behind her.
Moonracer giggled. “Well, sure! If you want–” She turned to face the mech. He was a tall, blue Cybertronian with a right shoulder mounted missile and an Autobot symbol prominently displayed in the middle of his chest. “Oh, hey! You’re an Autobot!” she said in pleasant surprise.
The Autobot smiled at her. “Sure am… at least, last I checked,” he answered her.
“Oh, of course! Well, what I meant was… I mean–” Moonracer paused, and for the first time in a long while began to feel a little self-conscious.
“Oh, let me guess,” the Autobot interjected reassuringly. “You were wondering what a strong and capable mech like me is doing in a place like this? Well, quite frankly, my dear, I find you utterly captivating.” His voice was soothing, and his undeniable self-confidence came across strongly.
Moonracer was caught off guard by his charm, and she bit her lower lip. “I… um,” she said, pointing behind her with her thumb. “You know, I really should be going…”
“No – please, stay,” he said, feigning concern. “If I’ve offended you–”
“Oh, no… I wasn’t offended. I mean, you didn’t offend me. I just – well, you know…” She started, and then chuckled as she realized how silly this whole conversation must have sounded.
“’Racer?” It was the familiar voice of the femme Commander.
Moonracer’s face lit up as she welcomed Elita One, who now stood beside her along with Chromia and Firestar. “Oh! Hi, Elita!” She proudly handed her the credits she’d won at Roulette. Her winnings were nowhere near as substantial as her beginning streak, but it was still impressive.
Elita looked down at the credits placed in her hand and slowly nodded in approval, hand on hip. “And you haven’t been cheating… of course?
Moonracer looked taken aback. “Cheating? No way, Elita – I swear!”
The Autobot, who had been listening in on their conversation, cleared his vocal processor. “It’s true – she didn’t cheat.” The three femmes glanced over at him in confusion and he added, “I was watching her play.”
Firestar crossed her arms in a defensive gesture, while Elita sized him up. “Oh. And you must be…” She said.
“Of course… I’m sorry, where are my manners? Name’s Double,” he answered, smiling.
Elita noticed his Autobot insignia, and then directed her attention to Moonracer. “He a friend of yours?”
The green femme shook her head. “No… we only just met.”
Elita looked back towards the Autobot. “Double… interesting name.” Then she suddenly changed her focus, as if no longer interested in learning more about this Autobot. “Look, we’ve got to get going. Chrome?” She said, indicating towards the exit with a nod of her head, and then turned to leave.
“Hey, listen, uh… how about a round of drinks?” Double called after her. “On me?” Elita One hesitated. She really did want to source that beam array they still needed for a long distance transmitter, now that Moonracer had won them enough credits. She was about to decline his offer, when he said something that caught her attention. “They know you’re here.”
A feeling of coldness ran through her as he uttered those words. “I beg your pardon?” she said, now on guard.
Double casually motioned for them to follow him towards the bar, trying to remain as low key as possible. “Come on,” he said, indicating with a nod of his head.
The femmes watched as Double headed over to the bar to order some drinks, then exchanged glances among themselves. “I get a bad feeling about this, Elita,” Chromia said.
Elita nodded in agreement. “Me too,” she replied, and then motioned for the three femmes to follow her. “Stay on alert,” she warned them, as she led the way after Double towards the bar.
* * *
It wasn’t until Double had showed Elita and the femmes to an empty table in a separate lounge area adjacent the main gambling hall at The Den, encouraging them to each take a seat, that he spoke to the femme Commander. “You’re lucky I found you first. You’ve got a price on your head.”
Elita did not appear surprised at the revelation. “Yeah, I kind of figured that when our cruiser was attacked,” she said, taking a sip of energon as she eyed the unfamiliar Autobot with a certain amount of scepticism. “Tell me, why don’t I remember seeing you back on Cybertron?”
Double responded with a casual tilt of his canister. “Probably because I’m part of special ops. We don’t usually have much to do with normal military efforts.”
“I see…” Elita was not entirely convinced, but let the matter slide. “Have you been following us?”
Double shook his head. “Nope. I happened to notice – I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?” He said, looking across at Moonracer with a smile.
“Moonracer,” Elita answered for her.
“Right. Moonracer,” he repeated. “That’s a pretty name.” The green femme returned his smile, as the other femmes watched the two of them with reservation. “You know, she seems to have quite a knack for gambling. I think she’s a natural,” he continued.
“You know, it’s probably just beginner’s luck,” Firestar retorted, attempting to deflect the beguiling influence he appeared to be having on Moonracer in particular, who couldn’t help smiling.
Elita finished the rest of her drink and stood up, almost slamming the empty canister down on the table. “Right, well, thank you for your hospitality, Double, but we really do need to get going now. Let’s go, girls,” she said to the femmes, and then turned to leave.
As the rest of her team stood up to follow her, all four were stopped dead in their tracks by a group of six mechs standing right behind them, blocking their path. To their utter surprise and disbelief, the mechs were all Neutrals. Elita turned slowly back towards Double, who now had a weapon pointed at her. “Going somewhere?” He asked, as his previously calm and casual manner all but disappeared, replaced by a scowl upon his face. He nodded at the six Neutrals. “Take her,” he ordered them, indicating towards Elita One, and they began to close in on her. Chromia and Firestar tried to stop them, but three of the Neutrals already had their laser blasters pointed at them.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” Chromia said to Firestar in frustration, as Moonracer reached out in an attempt to grab onto Elita One. But it was no use; the Neutrals were too strong as they held her back.
“Chromia, find help–!” Elita managed to say, before she was silenced with a blaster shot to her chest, causing her to go offline.
“Elita, no!” Moonracer exclaimed. “Let her go, you double-crossing scum-bag!” She said to Double, who stood watching them, a smug expression on his face. “How could you?!”
“As I said before, your dear Commander has a price on her head,” he explained, and then motioned to the Neutral team to leave the lounge area. They did so, carrying Elita One’s inert frame away with them. “Now, you three will stay right here and behave yourselves,” he continued, as he began to leave the lounge, his rifle still trained on the remaining three Autobot femmes. “If you don’t want any harm to come to her,” he warned.
Watching helplessly as Double disappeared out of the lounge area, the three femmes saw no other option but to do as he’d told them.
Streetwise had no idea how he’d ended up back outside the solitary tower at the site of the former Darkmount castle, nor did he care. He scrambled to his feet and checked to make sure he still had the small component that Jazz had offered him only moments before. Relieved, his hand closed tightly around the object, and then he started down the road back to Iacon even before his wheels had hit the ground, transforming into his patrol car mode.
Boosting power to his engine, he tried to keep his mind on the task ahead, but after all that had happened he couldn’t believe that one of their own kind had betrayed them; in the midst of his rage he could not comprehend how or why Jazz, of all mechs, had had Groove’s vital systems link in his possession, though the more he thought about it the more he came to realize the implications of Jazz’s possible involvement in Groove’s attack. Had he played a deliberate part in all of this since the very beginning, all the while convincing everyone of his innocence? Streetwise couldn’t prove any of it, of course, but it was all now starting to make a lot more sense to him.
But the question of whether Jazz was guilty or not would have to wait. The most important thing right now was that he get Groove’s component back to the Repair Bay as fast as he could. He opened an emergency communication channel to Iacon’s Command Center, and waited for a response.
“Iacon Command here. What is your emergency?” Though it wasn’t stated, by the sound of the mech’s voice Streetwise was certain that it was Prowl on the other end.
“Yes. Please state the emergency.” Prowl sounded distant and somewhat distracted – a character trait that was very much unusual for him.
“This is Streetwise. I’ve got Groove’s systems link. I’m headed for the Repair Bay; I’ll be there in less than half a mega cycle.” There was silence on the other end, and Streetwise thought that maybe his com link had been momentarily disconnected. “Prowl? Did you hear me? I said I’ve got Groove’s systems link!”
“Yes, Streetwise, I heard you,” Prowl replied curtly.
“Well, could you let Ratchet know so he can get ready to bring Groove out of stasis?” Streetwise continued impatiently.
A few moments went by, and then Prowl acknowledged him again. “Understood. Stand by,” he said, and then cut the link without any further explanation. A few moments later, Red Alert’s voice came over his com.
“Street?” Red Alert asked. “You’ve found Groove’s P.S.L.?”
“Not exactly…” He began, reluctant to go into any details.
A brief pause and then, “But you have it?” Red Alert questioned disbelievingly.
“Yeah. I have it with me. I’m on my way to Repairs right now.”
A slight pause as Red assimilated the news. “Okay. I’ll be waiting,” Red Alert said, and then added, “Hurry,” before closing the link.
Streetwise increased power to his engine, breaking the cautionary speed limits as he passed through south central Iacon, determined to save his team mate’s life.
* * *
Groove was beginning to take on the pale, washed out color that signalled the beginning of death. Standing by Red Alert’s side, Arcee waited anxiously for Streetwise to arrive with the patient’s vital part. She was overcome with mixed feelings of excitement and dread as she stared down at the Protectobot still in semi-stasis on the med bay berth. His systems had unexpectedly begun to deteriorate over the past few days, and neither Red Alert nor even Ratchet himself could offer a probable explanation for it.
So when Streetwise had contacted them several breems ago with the completely unexpected news of the safe recovery of Groove’s stolen systems link, she had cried out in joy, had even shared an embrace with Red Alert.
“It’s not over yet,” the Medical Officer had told her in a low voice, wanting very much to offer her his words of comfort but not quite knowing what else to say.
She had gently pulled away, nodding in understanding. “I know, I know…”
Then they had focused upon preparing the area for the emergency operation that they would soon need to perform if Groove was to have any chance of survival.
Arcee had notified the other three Protectobots as soon as she’d heard the news. Hot Spot and Blades had told her that they would be there before the end of the duty cycle while First Aid, who had just returned from an assignment in Altihex, promised to get to the med bay as fast as he could, even offered his assistance if he made it back in time for the procedure.
When Streetwise eventually burst through the Maintenance and Repair Bay doors with Groove’s component clutched tightly in his hand, the place was relatively quiet and sparingly occupied, save for Red Alert, Arcee, and their critical patient.
“Red! Red! I’ve got Groove’s systems link–” Streetwise yelled out, and then stopped in his tracks when he saw his team mate’s grave condition. “Are we too late? Red?” He asked in a sudden panic.
Red Alert took the component from his hand and then immediately went to work on the dying patient, not even stopping to acknowledge the distraught Streetwise; that job would rest upon Arcee’s shoulders.
She forcefully yet gently guided him away from the berth while she spoke in a soothing, comforting voice. “No, we’re not too late – he’s still got a fighting chance, but you need to move away if we’re going to have any shot at saving his life.”
Streetwise faltered, backing away slightly, though his gaze remained fixated upon his fallen team mate. “He looks terrible… why does he look so bad?” His gaze suddenly turned towards Arcee, who continued to gently guide him away.
“You did well, Streetwise. Recovering his systems link was the best thing you could have done for him,” she said, empathy in her optics, trying to reassure him.
“But what if he doesn’t make it? What if it’s too late?” Streetwise said, his panic resurfacing. “What if he’s already dead?”
“Arcee! I’ll need your help here!” Red Alert suddenly called out over his shoulder, and she quickly glanced towards him before looking back at Streetwise.
Her tone became firm, though her voice was still kind. “Listen, the rest of your team mates will be here very, very soon, but I’m really going to need you to stay right over here, okay? Can you do that for me?” She drew her hand away from where it had been resting on his arm and dashed across to the emergency berth, though she did not take her optics away from Streetwise until she was sure that he had calmed down enough to heed her request.
“Arcee, I’ve reinstalled his link. I’m ready for the power core, but I’ll need you to let me know if there are any incompatibilities in the power signal and compensate accordingly,” Red Alert explained, talking quickly. “It’s going to be especially critical when we bring him out of stasis.”
“Got it,” Arcee replied, and stood by the monitors ready for Red Alert to begin the next step in the delicate procedure. She watched as Red Alert carefully, yet working as quickly as he could, positioned the power core within the receptacle in Groove’s chest, then went to work restoring Groove’s spark chamber connections, effectively taking him out of semi-stasis.
Red Alert paused momentarily for a deep intake of air. “Initializing…” He said, and then activated the power core as Arcee continued to monitor the signal output. After a few moments, Arcee sighed in relief as Groove’s systems accepted the new power core without any problems. Red stepped back, watching as Groove’s colour gradually began to return to a normal shade before he finally turned his attention to Arcee, deep relief evident on his face. “I think we did it, Arcee…” Then he laughed – a triumphant, nervous laugh – and she smiled back at him – the tension and worry that had been building up within her own systems finally allowed to be released.
“Is he okay? Can I speak to him?” Streetwise’s concerned voice distracted their reverie.
Red Alert slowly turned back to face him, properly acknowledging the tough Protectobot for the first time since he’d made the emergency call a little over half hour ago. “Uh…” He began, still caught up in the emotion of the experience. “Yeah… I think he’s going to be fine.” He paused in reflection before answering Streetwise again. “Oh… he won’t be conscious for a while yet, though.” Then he looked to Arcee before smiling again. “I don’t want to wake him too soon… give his systems a chance to recover.”
Arcee, still smiling warmly, nodded in understanding. “Great work, you two,” she said in encouragement. “…Great work.”
After several hours covering a large proportion of inner city Binaltech, the Decepticons managed to track down just the femme they were looking for. They had picked up her Cybertronian energy signature, despite the fact that she had made a simple modification to its frequency in an effort to prevent anyone from tracking the signal. Astro had eventually found a way of demodulating it so that he could read her original signature and consequently pinpoint her location.
Not surprisingly, they found her sitting inside one of Binaltech’s many exotic refuelling outlets.
“Good. She’s alone.” Astro glanced towards the establishment, tracking the femme with his internal sensors. “Though, she’s transmitting some kind of message.”
Rook, standing by Astro’s side as per usual, looked up at him. “Can you intercept the message?”
Astro shook his head. “No, but it’s not important.” Then he glanced around at the other Decepticons until his gaze settled upon the blue and black jet. “Alright. She’s all yours.”
Dirge nodded solemnly. He had practiced in his mind what he was about to do many times over during the last several hours, from the moment the eight of them had settled upon the details of their plan. Whilst he hadn’t been overly thrilled in having been nominated by his fellow Decepticons to play this particular part in their scheme, he hadn’t outright refused it, either. In fact, in a way he was rather looking forward to it.
Without another word, Dirge activated the door to the establishment and disappeared inside.
Brawn, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper and Gears had been sorting and stacking medical and various other supplies inside the receiving and dispatch facility of Iacon’s Maintenance and Repair Bay for well over an hour. They had remained relatively quiet for the most part as they concentrated upon their task, until they were almost done.
“Brawn?” Bumblebee’s voice broke the silence.
“Yeah?” Brawn answered without looking up.
“Do you remember that night at Macaddam’s? You know… when we all got over-energized?”
Brawn looked up slowly, as Gears let out a low groan. “Yeah, that’d be every other night,” he replied facetiously.
“…Do you remember what you told us? About being a mini-bot?”
After a brief pause, Brawn returned to the container of spare relays he had been putting away on a shelf. “Nope.”
“Well… I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately,” Bumblebee continued, unperturbed. “And… I honestly believe that it’s not all as bad as you think.”
Brawn sighed, stepped away from the shelf. “Well, good for you, Bumblebee. You can believe whatever you want to believe.” Then he turned to the other mini-bots. “Alright, fellas, looks like I’m done here.”
Cliffjumper hauled the last oil barrel on top of the transport platform and straightened. “That’s all the oil from the last shipment.” Then he turned and walked over to join Brawn.
“That’s a lot of oil. More than we need,” Brawn said inquisitively, holding an elbow in one hand and his chin underneath the other hand.
Gears, who had not spoken for a while, looked up from the data pad he was holding. “Ever since we’ve pooled our resources with the Neutrals, our inventory has more than doubled.” As he spoke, the green light on the access panel beside the double doors activated, and the doors slid open. As they did so, the four mini-bots turned to see who it was.
“Hey – you’re not supposed to be here,” Brawn started, as the tall frame of the black and red Autobot appeared in front of them. “How’d you get in here?”
Sideswipe walked into the bay and hit the panel button to close the doors. “You’d better watch your mouth, small fry. Don’t forget I still outrank you.” He wasn’t about to forget their encounter outside the Command Center so easily.
“Hey, who are you calling ‘small fry’? Why I oughtta–” The demolitions mini-bot threatened, taking a step towards him with a fist held high.
Gears placed a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, don’t get your gears out of whack, Brawn.”
Brawn hesitated, sneering at Sideswipe. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t call security,” he threatened.
Sideswipe showed no sign of being intimidated by him. “Maybe because I am security.”
The mini-bots appeared shocked by his answer – even Bumblebee, who stopped what he had been doing to join them.
“Security? I thought you were officially dismissed?” Cliffjumper asked in puzzlement.
“Was,” Sideswipe corrected him. Then he moved over to the shelving units containing various medical instrumentation, started to search for something.
“So, you’ve been reinstated?” Bumblebee asked in amazement.
“Uh-huh,” he replied simply.
“Wow – congratulations, Sideswipe… welcome back!”
Brawn, however, still had his reservations, not to mention a distinct dislike for the Autobot warrior. “Oh, yeah?” He paused as he tracked the mech’s every move. “Did Prowl reinstate you?”
Sideswipe found the item he had been looking for; a reducing field micro-beamer, primarily used in medical procedures to clear out unwanted code that might have been assimilated from a virus within an Autobot’s self repair mechanism. “Nope. Sentinel Prime, actually.” He walked back towards the exit, ignoring their looks of surprise and uncertainty. Then he opened the doors again, stepped outside and turned back to face them, his hand resting on the access panel. “See you around,” he said, before the doors closed after him.
Dirge took the empty seat opposite Thunderblast without waiting for an invite and leaned across the small table with his elbows in front of him, in a pose that he hoped she would find intimidating. “Well, isn’t this a pleasant surprise?” He greeted her, using almost the same phrasing that she had used when she’d first introduced herself to his team of Decepticon jets several hours ago.
She sat up straight with a start, quickly deactivated her com link. “Oh, it’s you again. What do you want? Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Dirge shrugged. “We should talk.”
Thunderblast gave him a pout. “Oh, yeah? What have we got to talk about?” Then she glanced around in apprehension, but did not notice anything unusual – as far as she could tell, the small outlet was filled solely with regular patrons simply minding their own business. “How did you find me?”
Dirge spoke deliberately, his voice low yet intimidating, though he tried to act as casual as possible. “You were easy enough to track down.”
His answer seemed to worry her somewhat, though she tried not to let it show. She sighed in annoyance. “What the slag do you want to talk about? I’m a very busy femme, you know.”
“Yeah… I bet you are,” Dirge retorted, smirking. She waited impatiently for him to continue, not the least bit amused. He glanced over his shoulder for a brief moment, as if he were alerted to something. Then he lowered his voice again, speaking softly to her. “Look… I couldn’t help but notice you were being followed earlier.” He glanced around again in all directions. “I think you’re safe now… for the time being, anyway. You just gotta stay low for a little while.”
She looked back at him incredulously, not entirely convinced but not wanting to put his word of warning to the test, either. Her gaze darted in all directions. “And why should I believe you?”
Dirge said nothing straight away as he watched her reaction; she was growing more uncomfortable with every passing astro-second. “You don’t have to believe me… that’s your choice,” he said, shrugging.
“Look, if this is about Comet – I swear on Primus I have no idea where he is!” She blurted.
Dirge feigned puzzlement. “Comet? Nah…” He replied, shaking his head dismissively.
Then she stopped, tilted her head questioningly. “Then… what is it that you want from me? I mean, you don’t honestly expect me to believe that a Decepticon would go to all the trouble to find me just to help me out? I wasn’t sparked yesterday, you know.” When he didn’t offer her a reply, she tried once more, watching him intently. “Would you at least tell me where the rest of your Decepti-pals are?”
The conehead grimaced. “Why do you need to know?”
“I don’t,” she said, a mischievous smile now playing upon her lips. “Not really. I just thought it kinda strange, you know? You being all by yourself and so… lonely,” she added, smirking.
But Dirge would not be fooled by her wiles, though he continued to play her. “Why? You think you can fix that for me?”
Thunderblast burst out laughing, and he forced a rare smile. Then she bit her lower lip, not entirely trusting his motives. “Well… what if you’re not my type?”
The Decepticon jet shrugged. “Oh, I’m sure I can make it worth your while.” She giggled at his response, and then he stood up. “Come on… We should talk somewhere more private.”
She hesitated for a brief instant, before jumping up from her seat and following him as he started towards the exit, curiosity finally getting the better of her.
Sideswipe stared down at the still offline Protectobot, grasping the small, precision medical instrument in one hand. Groove seemed at peace, content in his own dream-like world, and for a brief instant he wished that he could trade places with him, even after what he must have experienced during the night of his attack. At least Groove’s life had been saved – thanks to his recently restored systems link, which could not have waited much longer – and he would soon be reunited with his team mates when he was brought back online.
‘I know… you were only trying to look out for me, and I get that, I really do… and I probably shouldn’t have said those things to you. Although you should know that I didn’t mean any of it, and… and I’m sorry. You’ll always be my brother, no matter what.’
The memory of Sunstreaker’s holo image flooded back into his processor like a tidal wave and he flinched, tried to resist the urge to turn and run out of the med bay, and simply disappear, leaving Iacon and all his troubles behind. He was well aware of the strong possibility that perhaps Sentinel had lied to him, was manipulating him into doing what he wanted – but was he prepared to take that chance and stake his brother’s life on it?
The answer was no. Sentinel may have very well told him the truth, and he couldn’t simply ignore that possibility.
“Sideswipe?” A gentle voice called his name from somewhere close by, but it did not register through his audio processor the first time. “…Sideswipe?” He was jolted out of his thoughts with a start. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t want to startle you.”
“Hey, Arcee.” He looked across and smiled at her, though it was strained. “Congratulations,” he added, indicating towards Groove with a tilt of his head. “When’s he coming back online?”
“Well… Red wants to keep him here a while longer… a couple more mega cycles at most, I’d say.” She hesitated, sensing his tension, though he seemed guarded. “You know… we were worried about you. When you just left like that, not knowing where you were…” He did not give her a reply, so she added, “Or whether you were okay or not.”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he answered finally, but then trailed off on his own, private train of thought, looking away again.
“Oh, listen… the rest of the Autobots will be arriving soon. They want to be here for Groove when we bring him back online, you know? Help him readjust to things. Answer any questions he might have. He’ll probably want to know what happened to him…” Arcee explained, and Sideswipe simply nodded in acknowledgement. “You’re welcome to join us, of course.”
He turned to her again, studying her petite features, her piercing blue optics. “Uh… thanks, Arcee, but no thanks. I’ve got some stuff I gotta do.”
“Oh.” She looked back at him with concern. “Well… sure. That’s okay. I understand.” She smiled at him, and he smiled back at her with that same, forced smile. “Well, I’d better be going. I’ve got to help Red with some scheduled data backups. Let me know if you need anything, okay?” When he didn’t reply, she smiled once more and headed for the Repair Bay’s double exit doors, but stopped to turn back one more time. “Oh, by the way… congratulations, yourself! I heard you got reinstated!” She said, waving, before disappearing down the hall.
“Yeah… thanks,” he said flatly. Though he was alone once more, he wouldn’t be for too long.
One breem later, Sentinel Prime appeared in the doorway. He was so quiet that Sideswipe was not alerted to his presence until he had spoken. “Do you have it?”
Sideswipe did not turn around to face the former Prime. “Yeah… I got it.”
“Good. Place it beside the Protectobot.” Sideswipe did as he was told and placed the micro-beamer he’d retrieved from receiving and dispatch a short while ago down on a table beside Groove’s med berth. Then he remained motionless, awaiting Sentinel’s next instructions. He received them almost immediately. “Leave now. Be ready when I call for you again.”
Without speaking a word, Sideswipe stepped away from Groove and headed straight for the med bay doors. He deliberately tried to keep his gaze diverted away from Sentinel Prime’s optics as he walked past him on his way out, but was stopped short when Sentinel unexpectedly grabbed hold of him with both hands.
“Oh. There’s one more thing…” Sentinel said to him in a low voice, releasing his grip on the warrior almost immediately, who had to force himself to look up at the former Prime; Sentinel’s powerful, imposing presence was a sombre reminder of just what kind of mech Sideswipe was actually dealing with. Sentinel extended a hand towards him, revealing a small vial containing a bright green powder. “Here… take it.”
Sideswipe continued to stare at the former Prime’s optics, and then his gaze began to gradually move downwards until it came to rest upon the vial. He picked it up, held it in front of him, his impassive expression masking deep, troubled emotions.
“I assume you know what this is?” Sentinel asked him, and Sideswipe replied with a small nod. “Good. Think of it as a small… incentive. Now, go.”
Sideswipe’s hand closed around the vial, and then he continued on his way out of the med bay in silence, not looking back.
It felt like a long time had passed before Dirge finally arrived at the dwelling complex, located in an outer region of northern Binaltech, with Thunderblast in tow.
Dirge had kept the location a mystery during their journey; he had insisted that the fewer anyone knew about the place, the better – in fact he’d told her that, as an added precaution, not even his own team mates knew of its existence. He had also told her that there was no chance that anyone would be able to track them to their location. She’d still had her doubts, of course, though she’d eventually decided to drop the subject.
Thunderblast stepped off the transport platform which had taken them one level down, and had to partly retract her alt mode hull wings in order to comfortably fit through the narrow passageway that opened up before them. “Are you sure we haven’t been followed?”
The Decepticon remained silent, patiently leading the way ahead until he came to a stop in front of a set of sealed doors. “Sure, I’m sure. This is it,” he said, and then activated the access panel by the doors.
“Wait–!” Thunderblast reached her hand out to touch Dirge’s forearm. “Look, I don’t know if this is really such a great idea, after all.”
“Why, are you afraid?” Dirge taunted her.
“Um, no… no, of course not,” she rebuked him, not wanting the tall seeker to think that she was intimidated by him in any way, and casually retracted her hand.
The doors slid open, and Dirge indicated for her to step inside. “Come on…” He waited patiently as she stepped into the room and then followed her inside, sealed the doors closed again. He activated the overhead lighting, and watched as Thunderblast studied the small quarters, moving slowly around the room as she did so. It was furnished with its own energon dispenser, lounge area and recharging berth. A stack of data pads and various precision instruments filled a nearby shelf, while a screen, set into one wall, displayed an image of their home planet. She finally turned her full attention back to the Decepticon jet.
“So… these are your private quarters, huh?” She asked, intrigued.
Dirge shrugged, walked over to the dispenser and filled two canisters with high-grade. “You could say that.” Then he walked over to her and handed her one of the canisters, which she accepted graciously. She was starting to relax.
“So, Dirge… what’s a handsome mech like you doing on Alternity City, anyway?” She probed, taking a seat in the lounge area while beckoning for him to join her.
He slowly walked around to sit beside her, placed his canister down on a table nearby. “I’m here on official business.”
“Ooh… official business?” she repeated playfully. “Tell me more.”
“What’s there to tell?” He replied nonchalantly.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, drawing circles with one finger around the rim of her canister. “Like, maybe… what is it that you really want to tell me, Dirge?” She downed her energon in a few gulps, and then placed the empty canister down on the table.
Perfect. “Like I said… you were being followed.” He paused, and it looked as though he had more to say but was having some trouble saying it. “And, besides…” He added as an after-thought.
“‘And, besides’ what, Dirge-y?” She pressed, curious, smiling admiringly at him. “You know you can tell Thunderblast anything,” she enticed, her hand gently caressing his forearm.
He sighed, and tried hard not to cringe in front of her. “Uh…” He cleared his throat, resisted the urge to push her hand away. “I, uh…”
“If you tell anyone, Thunderblast, I swear I’m going to–” He started, but Thunderblast pressed a finger to his lips.
“Shhh… your secret is safe with me. I promise.” She nudged him and pressed herself against his arm, still caressing it.
He cleared his throat again and then spoke in a low voice. “You, uh… you – really are the femme of my dreams.” Uttering these words to Thunderblast had proven to be a much more difficult exercise than he’d first anticipated, but it got him the desired response.
She widened her optics in shock and awe, and then giggled gleefully. Staring back at him in satisfaction, she wondered why she’d never noticed his attraction to her before, and made a promise to herself that she would definitely be making up for lost time. “Tell me, Dirge… what’s your fancy, hm?”
He feigned naivety, wanting to stave off her advances for as long as he possibly could – at least until the highly unstable compound he’d slipped into her energon drink had taken effect. “My… fancy? What’s that?”
She looked at him quizzically, giggled again. “You know, your fancy… hot linking… power core combining… spark bonding… you name it.”
“Oh.” He rubbed his chin in thought, wondering how to respond to her. He did not particularly fancy sharing any kind of experience with Thunderblast, whether it involved hot linking or not, but he couldn’t tell her that – at least, not just yet. “Uh… actually…”
But only a few astro-seconds later Dirge was spared the effort as Thunderblast slipped into his arms, inert. She was mercifully offline.
Sentinel took careful, deliberate strides as he approached Groove’s berth. Making sure he was alone, he picked up the micro-beamer from where Sideswipe had left it for him on the berth-side table.
He moved around to one of the med bay’s terminals beside the berth and inserted the device into a small receptacle, accessed the control program on the terminal with a high level clearance code and input some commands. Once this was done, he deleted the relevant log file, exited the control program and then retrieved the micro-beamer from its receptacle.
He activated the small device, watching as the precision probe protracted from its casing, and then carefully leaned across Groove’s offlined form, reaching down to access a port behind the Autobot’s black helm. He inserted the shaft of the micro-beamer into the port, its flexible probe extending and searching for Groove’s memory module. Once it had found and locked onto its target, the probe initiated the process of collapsing the module’s information field.
Sentinel released his grip on the device, stepped back and waited for the operation to be completed. He had only a short window of opportunity; the other Protectobots would return shortly, as would the attending medical officers who would oversee Groove’s activation – but less than one quarter of a mega cycle was all the time he needed.
* * *
Half a mega cycle later, Iacon’s Maintenance and Repair Bay had become the center of activity within the Command Complex. A number of Groove’s closest friends and allies were gathered, forming a wide circle around his med berth; the Protectobots Hot Spot, Streetwise, Blades and First Aid; Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Bluestreak, Hound and Prowl; as well as Ratchet, Red Alert and Arcee, in their official capacity as the attending medical officers. Sentinel Prime was also present for the occasion, standing behind the gathered crowd and watching with his arms crossed in front of him, his face largely expressionless; other than the former Prime, each and every Autobot in the room was present for the purpose of sharing in the joyous moment when Groove would finally awaken to rejoin their ranks as a fully functional Autobot – something which had seemed almost impossible just one day earlier.
As Red Alert guided the procedure, the atmosphere in the room was thick with expectation and excitement, though no one dared utter a word. The procedure was simple enough, and wouldn’t take more than one or two minutes to complete; check the patient’s vital signs, perform a routine systems check and then, if all indicators were within normal operating parameters, reactivate the patient by transmitting a pulsed boost signal along his master control pathway.
Arcee checked the monitor readout carefully, and then checked it again just to be certain. Even though Groove’s systems had shown stability for several hours already, she wanted to be absolutely sure that the activation proceeded smoothly and without any problems. It also helped that Groove had the immediate support and encouragement of everyone around him as soon as he was brought back online. “Alright… we’re good to go, Red.”
Red Alert exchanged a deeply purposeful glance with Arcee, and then with Ratchet, who stood by watching them, though he would not interfere with the process unless he was needed. Then he bent over Groove, opened his chest panel and connected a pulse gun to the master control port, which would transfer and distribute the pulsed signal to where it needed to go. Red Alert hit the trigger, sending a jolt of directed energy into Groove’s systems. After a few astro-cycles, he hit it again, disconnected the gun, and closed up Groove’s outer armour plating. Then he stepped back to stand beside Arcee, and joined the rest of the Autobots as they intently fixed their gaze upon the Protectobot, waiting expectantly for him to demonstrate the first signs of his return to the fully conscious world.
Over the next two minutes, Groove’s optics increased in brightness and intensity, and his face seemed to glow with a strong, vibrant energy, the very life force flooding back into his systems to fill every extremity and every component of his physical structure. Then he let out a low groan, his head turning slightly to look up at his fellow Protectobots. “What… happened?”
Arcee couldn’t help but smile as she tried to hold back the overwhelming surge of emotion; feelings of empathy and compassion that rose up from the very spark of her being. She stood patiently by and watched as the Protectobots reconnected with their team mate, exchanging words of gratitude and encouragement and sharing in the joy of his simply being alive.
After several minutes, Optimus Prime quietly approached Groove’s berth to stand beside Hot Spot, the leader of the Protectobots, who respectfully made room for him. Optimus gave him a nod in acknowledgement, but did not immediately approach or speak to Groove, who slowly sat up on his berth, his closest friends by his side, looking up at the Autobot Commander. “Optimus…” He said in greeting.
Optimus moved to stand in front of him. “It is good to have you back with us, Groove. On behalf of us all.”
Groove gave him a gentle smile. “Thanks. It’s… good to be back.” He looked around at his fellow Autobots, and contemplated the reason for their presence here in the med bay, as well as the circumstances that had led up to this moment. The next few words he spoke would confuse some and take others by surprise, though they would please the former Prime, who stood quietly in the background. “Did… something happen to me?”
Optimus glanced over at Red Alert, Ratchet and Arcee, who had come to stand beside him, though their expressions told him that they were just as uncertain as he was. He turned back to Groove, his voice gentle yet firm. “You mean you don’t remember anything at all?”
Groove hesitated, holding a hand to his helm, and then shook his head. “No… sorry, Optimus. I don’t remember a thing.”
Listening in on the conversation behind the gathered Autobots, Sentinel Prime nodded his approval and satisfaction, a small smile appearing on his face. Then he turned around and walked out of the med bay.
She awoke with a start, her vision blurry and with a headache that was almost unbearable. She groaned, recalling her encounter with Dirge at the refuelling outlet followed by his invitation back to his private quarters, and realized that she could not be experiencing the after-effects of having over-energized because, as far as she could remember, she’d only had that one canister. As her vision readjusted to normal levels, she tried to sit up and realized that she couldn’t.
Startled, she also realized, in a moment of rude awakening, that she was still in Dirge’s private quarters, strapped to a chair with energy restraints. “Why you slag sucking, double-crossing low life scum bag!” She called out at the top of her vocal unit, her surprise turning quickly into unbridled anger as she struggled against her bonds. “How could I have been so stupid?! And to think… I ever wanted anything to do with you, of all mechs! Let me go, or I’ll have you hunted down and handed over to the High Commander! Do you hear me? Dirge!” She appeared to be alone in the room, and while she wasn’t picking up any energy signatures she sensed that, somehow, her captor was still very much nearby, and could probably hear her. Then she stopped suddenly to listen to the sound of movement, and tried to turn her head to glance about her but the restraints held her head firmly against the chair. “Dirge? Dirge! Hello? Why don’t you show yourself, you coward?!” Then, finally, just as much to her relief as to her apprehension, a mech stepped in front of her view and stood looking down at her, arms crossed in front of him; however, when she realized who it was an astro-second later, a sense of disappointment and dread swept over her.
“Dirge was only carrying out orders,” Astro said. “And, I must say, he did so very well.”
“What the hell do you want?” She managed to say, though her voice wavered with nervousness and uncertainty. Two other mechs now quietly appeared beside Astro, watching her, and she groaned and tried to turn her head away, not wanting to meet Dirge’s gaze. The other mech, standing on the other side of Astro to his left, was a little smaller than the average-sized Decepticon, and she now recalled seeing him once before at one of Binaltech’s many transport terminals, though she had no idea of his name.
“I think you already know what I want,” Astro replied.
Thunderblast exhaled sharply, her frustration and total contempt for this particular mech apparent. “I told you! I have no idea where Comet is! Now, let me go!”
Astro dropped his arms by his sides. “Not so fast. I believe you.”
A look of puzzlement crossed her face, her anger momentarily put aside. “You… you do?” He gave her an affirmative tilt of his head, and she did not expect his next order.
“Dirge… I think we can release her now,” Astro said with a casual wave of his hand, and the seeker nodded, moved towards the femme. She remained quiet as Dirge deactivated the restraints that held her to the chair, a small hint of a satisfied smirk on his face, and she realized that whatever words or sentiments he had confided in her when he’d first brought her here had all been lies.
Once she was freed, Dirge stepped away from her. Astro sat down on the lounge seat opposite her, leaning across with one elbow on the arm rest in a casual manner. He continued to watch her, when she spoke first.
“So… does this mean I’m free to go… then?” She asked, slowly rising from her chair and rubbing a hand along both her hull wings as if she were dusting them off. She strongly doubted that they would just let her walk out of here.
Astro shrugged, answered her casually. “Well, that depends.”
“On… what?” She asked with caution.
“On how much you value your life.”
Thunderblast frowned, placed her hands on her hips in a defensive gesture. “Now you listen here, Astro, I have a strong mind to let my boss know where you are – and believe me, he’s not going to stop until he’s sent his whole fleet after you. Then you’re going to be really sorry any of you ever decided to cross me!”
Astro did not respond to her threat; rather, he allowed her to vent her anger in full before finally sitting up straight, peering up at her. “Are you done?” When she didn’t reply, he continued. “Good. Now, this is how it’s going to work. You’re going to contact Jhiaxus and tell him that Megatron is offering to make an exchange for Comet.”
The femme looked at him in bewilderment, open-mouthed. “You’ve got to be kidding me?”
“Nope,” he said, shaking his head.
“An exchange for Comet…” She repeated, glancing tentatively around at the three Decepticons in the room. “An exchange… for what?”
“Not ‘what’. Who,” he corrected her. She slowly turned back to look at him, and her entire frame went still. But then, aware of what she must have been thinking in that moment, he relieved her concerns. ”Don’t worry; Jhiaxus isn’t interested in you.”
She let out a slow exhale before venturing to ask. “Okay. Then… who?”
Astro clasped his hands together, keeping his attention focused upon the femme. “Me.”
She stared at him in disbelief, and then turned her back to him, one hand still on hip, the other hand upturned in mid-air. “Okay. You’re crazy.” No one said anything, and she turned back to face the blue Cybertronian once more. “I mean… okay. First of all, even if I knew how to get in contact with Jhiaxus… why the slag would I ever agree to help you?”
Once again, Astro replied with a calm assuredness that Rook had come to know of him. “And… secondly?”
“Secondly…?” She sighed in exasperation. “Secondly, I mean – how do you even know that I won’t try to double-cross you?”
Astro smiled. “Getting in contact with Jhiaxus shouldn’t be a problem… I’m sure that Sentinel Prime will be happy to help, once you’ve told him about our offer of exchange. As for why you would agree to do as I’ve asked? It’s the same answer as to why you won’t try to double-cross me. You see, while you were offline I took the liberty of making a few enhancements to some of your internal coding. From now on, we’ll be able to track your every move, intercept every transmission you send and receive. Also, as an added precaution… if you don’t do exactly as I tell you, your autonomous control system will shut down. If that happens, your main processor will begin a critical cascade failure… which, as you know, will cause you to be permanently offlined.”
Thunderblast stared at him in utter disbelief, and had to slowly sit back down in her chair to allow the sordid news to fully sink in. “But… I mean… how could you?”
Astro leaned back in his seat, gave her a small shrug. “You have nothing to worry about, as long as you do what I tell you.”
It was several long moments before Thunderblast finally spoke up again. “Comet is really that important to you?” When Astro didn’t respond, she inhaled deeply, and then exhaled slowly. “Well, you’re not going to give me much choice, are you?” Another pause and then, “Will you at least do something for me, Astro?”
He glanced briefly towards Dirge and Rook, and wondered whether he should consider her request. “What would that be?” He said to her.
“After this is over and you have your Comet, promise me that I’ll never have anything to do with any of you, ever again!”
Astro looked back at her thoughtfully. “Well, I can’t promise you that,” he answered, amused. “But I’ll do my best.”
When Megatron returned to Darkmount after a couple of mega cycles, accompanied by Laserbeak, the Decepticon mini spy, he did not have good news to share. “Sentinel Prime is already in Iacon,” he informed the Decepticons present, as Laserbeak returned to Soundwave’s chest compartment. “It is only a small matter of time now,” the Decepticon leader concluded. They were all gathered in the primary control room, one level below the surface. Jazz was with them.
“We need to warn the others still on Alternity City,” Scrapper said.
Megatron nodded. “They will have received my previous instructions, though I cannot easily get in contact with them.”
The room fell quiet as each mech in the room contemplated Cybertron’s current state of affairs, and their part in it. Jazz watched them intently and, whilst he was grateful for having been allowed to stay, nevertheless he couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable. Perhaps it was because he, as an Autobot, represented their long-time adversary. Or, perhaps it was simply due to the fact that he wasn’t sure how best he might be able to help them. Perhaps the reason was both but, either way, watching them now he became aware of an underlying, yet undeniable, vulnerability about them.
He was probably the only Autobot in a long time who had been able to get this close to the Decepticons and, being given the chance to observe them first-hand, he’d begun to see them in a way that he had never expected, had not counted upon. They were not the cruel, domineering, evil enemy that the rest of the Autobots had always accused them of – far from it, in fact. Of course, there had been many encounters in the past, during the Great War but particularly during the Great Devastation, when there had been no mercy shown to Autobots by Decepticons – however, Jazz realized, those Decepticons had been an entirely different breed to Megatron and his loyal followers.
In the short time that he’d spent in their company, Jazz had noticed camaraderie among these Decepticons, but also a strong sense of purpose and belonging; while this insight should have surprised him, somehow it didn't. He recalled that incident near the dividing ridge in Kaon, during the Great War, when his life and that of his comrade’s had been saved by two Decepticon jets, and was encouraged by it, comforted by it.
“Well… what about the others?” It was Scavenger who had spoken. He sounded uncertain, his voice wavering. He did not elaborate further but, other than Jazz, they all seemed to know what he was talking about.
“He’s right. It may be our last chance,” Mixmaster agreed, though he, too, sounded nervous.
The Decepticons all looked expectantly at Megatron, who did not answer them straight away; he also seemed troubled by whatever it was that they were discussing, and Jazz sensed a certain amount of heavy-heartedness in the room that had not been there before.
“If we’re going to get ‘em back at all,” Scrapper said, tentatively, “we probably should do it sooner rather than later, before the Neutrals destroy the Detention Banks.”
Jazz looked across at Scrapper upon mention of the Detention Banks, and began to realize what they must be planning. Located in a heavily guarded, yet isolated sector deep below Iacon known only as “Quadrant Epsilon”, the Detention Banks contained prisoners of war who had been condemned and sent there for deactivation. While many of the prisoners were kept in stasis, others were not so lucky. “The Detention Banks…?”
They all glanced over at him, and for a moment he wondered whether his interest in their affairs was unwelcomed, but then Megatron answered him. “Yes. Towards the end of the Last Great War, many of us were captured and sent there by the Alliance.”
“But you don’t know for sure that they’re still alive?” The question had been a difficult one to ask. Jazz felt their collective sadness; the thought of many of their comrades being kept at the Detention Banks, not knowing whether they were still alive or not must have been a heavy burden on them all. He could not even begin to imagine how he might cope in the same situation.
Scrapper shook his head sadly. “No… but we have to try.”
Jazz redirected the conversation back to a previous track. “What makes you say the Neutrals are going to destroy the Banks?”
Megatron replied. “Once Sentinel Prime gains complete control, he will seek to destroy us all… until there is nothing left of us – not even a crypt.”
Jazz gave him a look of puzzlement. “Hold on an astro-sec… you say Sentinel’s going to take full control as if it’s a guaranteed thing,” he said, trying to make sense of the situation. “I mean… for starters, how could he even begin to pull something like that off?”
It felt as if the Decepticon leader could see right through his visor, holding his gaze steady. “We have known about a planned takeover by the High Council for some time now, but it is only recently that we have learned the extent of Sentinel Prime’s involvement. The fact that he is here, now, in Iacon only serves to confirm our suspicions.”
Jazz turned his gaze away from the Decepticon. He couldn’t help feel a deep sense of betrayal by the Alliance, and it hit him now all at once. If what Megatron had just told him was true, then there’d be no telling what might happen next. He knew how much Optimus trusted Sentinel Prime, as his long time mentor and friend, and also knew, probably better than anyone else, how much the Autobot leader would be devastated should Sentinel suddenly turn against him and the rest of the Autobots. The likelihood of such an event happening seemed utterly absurd – impossible, even – though, unlike Optimus, Jazz was able to confront such a possibility without being blinded by the same level of emotional attachment and trust that Optimus demonstrated towards Sentinel, no matter how ludicrous it all seemed. Furthermore, he could see no reason at all why Megatron would want to mislead him – especially after everything that he’d shared with the Decepticons since Scavenger’s rescue. Many long moments went by before he spoke. “I’ve got to warn Optimus…” But his voice was a mere whisper.
Megatron could clearly see Jazz’s difficulty in accepting the truth of the situation, though he didn’t blame him. Sentinel was generally very well liked amongst the Autobots, and his reputation for wisdom and his strong power of influence over others far preceded him. Still, it would not serve Jazz or anyone else if he were to be anything less than truthful. “It may already be too late for that,” he said. “You know as well as I do how stubborn he can be.”
As much as Jazz didn’t want to hear it, he knew that those words were true. If there had been any chance at all of relaying a warning to Optimus before Sentinel had arrived in Iacon, there was virtually no chance of it now. Nevertheless, Jazz needed to believe that there was still hope. “Still, I’ve got to try,” he said, echoing Scrapper’s sentiments. Then he glanced around the room at the Decepticons, who all looked back at him intently, as if he were some strange enigma that they hadn’t quite figured out yet. He knew exactly how they felt about their missing comrades who, as far as any of them knew, may already be lost to them. “Tell you what,” he said at last, carefully considering his words. “I’ll do what I can to help you get into the Detention Banks…” He began, and then trailed off. He knew that the Decepticons would have a much better chance of succeeding in their plan with his unique knowledge and abilities as a special operative. He also knew that if the Decepticons had any inclination at all to help stop Sentinel Prime, they would do so. He did not need to say anything.
After giving the matter some thought, Megatron replied. “Very well.”
When Optimus agreed to speak privately with Sentinel Prime inside the main conference room near the Communications Center, he did not, in his wildest imaginings, ever suspect what his old friend was about to say. It was completely beyond belief, and entirely unexpected.
“Optimus…” Sentinel began, looking directly into the Autobot leader’s optics. He did not offer Optimus a seat, nor did he offer him any words of congratulations for Groove’s recent recovery. “An urgent matter has come to my attention, and I believe it only fair that I hear it directly from you first, allow you the opportunity to explain the situation… if there is any truth to it at all.”
“What is this about, Sentinel?” Optimus asked, completely unaware of what his former mentor might be alluding to.
Sentinel inhaled deeply, pausing to collect his thoughts. “There’s no easy way to ask you this, Optimus, as I simply cannot believe that you would be capable of treason…”
Optimus offered no hint of an emotional reaction. “Treason?”
“Yes.” Sentinel turned away from him, paced the length of the room. “It is my understanding that you recently gave the order to cease carrying out the Council’s directive to search and apprehend all remaining Decepticons on Cybertron.” He paused for a long moment, his head looking down at the floor, and to Optimus it felt like an eternity had passed before Sentinel spoke again. But, eventually he did. “Is it true… Optimus?” He asked softly, facing him once more.
The Autobot leader turned his head away from Sentinel’s questioning expression, and slowly took a seat in one of the empty conference room chairs. “I had no other choice… my team had been captured by the Decepticons… their lives would have been in danger had I not agreed to Megatron’s terms for their release.”
“Then… it is true?”
“Yes. It is true,” Optimus finally admitted, but did not elaborate further. No matter what happened, he would never regret that decision.
“Optimus… do you realize what you have done? Not only have you refused a directive from the Cybertronian High Council, but you have also placed me in an extremely difficult position.” For the first time since he’d arrived in Iacon, Sentinel’s voice carried with it a tone of underlying anger as he spoke to Optimus – one in which he did not try too hard to hide.
“I did it to save not only the lives of my fellow Autobots, but also the lives of many Neutrals–” Optimus started in defence, but was cut short when Sentinel suddenly burst out in unrestrained bitterness – a side of him that Optimus had rarely seen before.
“The Neutrals?! Any Neutral would gladly give up his own life in exchange for the death of a single Decepticon!” Sentinel’s optics glowered with an intense hatred, but then he seemed to calm himself down almost as quickly as his temper had flared. “Do you not understand, Optimus? I have no other choice now but to enforce the rules as set out by our Governance Agreement. Do you have any idea what that allows me to do in this situation – what I must do, as is not only my solemn duty but also my right?”
The Autobot Commander remained still in the face of his old friend’s unforeseen resentment and frustration. “I am aware of the Agreement, and I deeply regret that I have disappointed you… but you must also realize that the safety and well-being of those who are under my care is more important to me than anything.”
Sentinel studied him for a long moment before stepping closer, his steady gaze fixed upon the Prime. “So… does this mean that you will not rescind your order?”
After a few moments in serious thought, Optimus gave him his final answer. “I cannot.”
Sentinel straightened, his expression filled with consternation and utter regret. “Very well,” he replied, and then exited the room without another word.