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Chapter Text

"You will repay your debt to me, Breakdown... the day it comes time to choose sides…"

"Between 'Bots and 'Cons?"

"Between myself – and Megatron."

Starscream's words echoed in Breakdown's mind as the gray Seeker's jet form vanished into the night sky, leaving Breakdown all alone. As the roar of Starscream's engine faded from the range of Breakdown's audio receptors, a wave of nervousness washed over Breakdown, his remaining optic snapping to the terrain surrounding him, searching for anything even remotely out of place in the darkness.

Without the benefit of having two optics, Breakdown could feel the thrall of paranoia begin to consume his mind and entrench his chassis as the shadows of night crawled closer to him. No, no, no, Breakdown thought, this is not the time for this. I can't be found by that human or his-

Breakdown looked back in the direction of the abandoned town where he had been captured by the humans, a shudder of fear shaking his chassis to the core. I have to get out of here, Breakdown thought to himself as he transformed into his alt mode, revving his engine quietly to avoid detection as he headed down the road.

Breakdown attempted to activate his communications link but received only a high-pitched scratching noise of his comms slowly rebooting. Cleary the humans hadn't just targeted his pain receptors when they'd captured him. But he still had his mobile scanner buried away in subspace. The humans may have dissected him, piece by piece, but the humans didn't know everything about Cybertronians.

Breakdown removed a scanner from his subspace and activated it, hoping to find some kind of Decepticon activity near his location. His scanner brought up nothing of use, and with a frustrated rev of his engine, Breakdown shut off his scanner, not desiring the lonely scratching of his scanner to be the only thing he could hear this night. Not when he needed all of his attention to ensure he escaped safely back to the Nemesis.

As the cold emptiness of night surrounded the blue mech, his thoughts wandered to something else that had been nagging at his mind since he'd left the grasp of the humans - who had saved him. It hadn't been any Decepticon who had saved him, but the one mech in the universe he hated more than any other, the Autobot, Bulkhead.

BulkheadWhy had Bulkhead come to save him of all mechs? Or the rest of the Autobots for that matter? Why would the Autobots save me, a Decepticon? Breakdown could not fathom why his sworn enemies would come and risk their own sparks to save his, and no amount of thinking could summon a reason for their actions. For many, many vorns, Breakdown had known the Autobots as mechs set so against the Decepticons that they would never do anything to risk their sparks for that of their enemy. But now those lines had seemed to fade in Breakdown's mind, and they had faded so that when Starscream had commanded him to attack Bulkhead, Breakdown had hesitated - a hesitation that he was not know for. He never disobeyed orders from his commanding officers.

Three timesI disobeyed the orders of my Commanding Officer three times? And for Bulkhead? What the frag was wrong with me?

I am a Decepticon… Right? So why did I not attack Bulkhead the first time Starscream ordered me too? Breakdown mused to himself, the distraction of his thoughts deafening him to the soft pinging of his scanner coming online with a steady thrum. Almost too late, Breakdown noticed the pinging of his scanner and smashed his brakes, halting his alt mode just inches from a guardrail and the a sheer cliff drop beyond it. Breakdown transformed out of his alt mode and glanced down the cliff side, a small shiver coursing down his backstrut at the endless blackness that shrouded the sheer drop off the cliff.

Breakdown heightened his scanner's ability to detect energon or Decepticons as much as he could, a small vent of frustration escaping from his vents as the scanner indicated his target was below him. Down the cliff. Breakdown shuffled his pedes warily as his scanner continued to ping the location of the Deception mining crew far below him. He hated the idea of trudging down the cliffside in the pitch darkness of night with hindered sight that came from the loss of his right optic, but he knew it was his only option.

This is my only chance to get back to the Nemesis, I have to do this… Breakdown vented and leapt the guardrail, pedes hitting the rocky cliff side forcefully. The mech slid down the cliff haphazardly, and it took all Breakdown had in him to not slip and fall down the rest of the cliff face as his descent gathered speed. Finally, Breakdown reached the bottom of the cliff and a burst of relief washed over him when he felt his pedes smash onto solid, flat land with a heavy thud. Breakdown's scanner beeped, indicating that the signal he was tracking was somewhere to his right in the canyon.

With a heavily controlled vent, Breakdown transformed into his alt mode and headed in the direction his scanner was indicating, though he stayed sure of keeping his engine quiet to keep someone from detecting him. Though he knew this operation was a mining unit, all Vehicons were trained to attack any intruders who approached the excavated energon mines, and they would not hesitate to attack him should they find him. He wouldn't have the time to announce his allegiance or rank before the guns of the Vehicons had dealt considerable damage to him and, likely, offlined him.

Soon, Breakdown's audio receptors picked up the unmistakable sound of drilling, meaning that he was getting close to the Decepticon miner crew he had detected earlier. It only took a few kliks for him to find the large group of Decepticon miners, all of whom were hard at work both inside and outside the body of the mine. Breakdown slunk around the bulk of the workers, dodging Vehicons and drills in the hope that the blackness of the night would keep him hidden from the miners, for he did not want any of the miners to see the condition he was in.

He had befriended practically every single Vehicon that worked for the Deception cause, and knew almost all of them by their preferred name, but he still could not help but feel that even his friends would question him, if not judge him harshly, for being captured by humans. When Breakdown picked up the sound of approaching miner Vehicons, he halted and moved into the shadows, hoping none of the Vehicons would notice the disturbed shadow his form made. Nervousness gnawed at Breakdown as he pressed his chassis against an unused drill, optic snapping onto the three Vehicons that rounded the side of the drill, as one of the Vehicons, a flyer, waved one of his servos in a shushing motion to the other Vehicons.

The two Vehicons quieted down, their stances nervous as the flyer Vehicon's helm tilted and he nodded slowly, his wings moving with agitation.

"Yes, Lord Megatron. We have a supply of energon ready for pickup here at the Chukotka mine." The Vehicon paused for a few moments, his head nodding slowly, though Breakdown could see a flash of fear race through the Vehicon's visor.

"Got it, Lord Megatron," the Vehicon said sharply, turning to the two Vehicons standing behind him, both of whom shot nervous glances into the sky before turning back to the lead Vehicon.

The smallest Vehicon of the trio looked up at the flyer, servos clicking together. "What did Lord Megatron say, Coliseum?"

"Lord Megatron and the Nemesis will be here momentarily to pick up the energon supply," Coliseum advised his two fellow Vehicons, "I'll advise the miners."

The three Vehicons turned as a unit and walked away, their soft mutters fading into the dull sounds of drilling until Breakdown could hear nothing but the drilling, which was already powering down and leaving an eerie silence in the once loud canyon. Breakdown let out a tired vent as he relaxed his chassis against the metal side of the drill, a feeling of sludgy blackness settling in his mind as he attempted to get a few moments of rest before the Nemesis arrived. Breakdown's optic was shuttering close when the sound - or lack thereof - of drilling halted, snapping Breakdown back to the present. The blue mech glanced skyward, optic taking in the flames of color beginning to blaze in the sky as the dark, foreboding form of the Nemesis moved into view.

The Nemesis powered into a hover, then lowered the energon lift from the bottom of the ship, where it stopped at a large supply of energon guarded by a lone Vehicon. Breakdown got up from his position, his chassis creaking tiredly as he trudged towards the lift - his only option for returning back to his base. He pointedly avoided the Vehicon near the lift as he leaped onto the lift from a vantage point he knew the Vehicons would be unlikely to see him coming from. As Breakdown settled down behind the large stacks of energon, he glanced towards the troop of Vehicons loading the energon onto the lift, none of whom were really giving much time to check the lift for anything that wasn't energon.

It didn't take much time for the energon lift to be loaded full with the mined energon and, with a light groan of pistons, the lift began to pull back into the body of the Nemesis. When the lift snapped into place inside the Nemesis, Breakdown clambered from the shipment of energon carefully, exhaustion from his ordeal forcing him to trudge back to his quarters. The big mech's pedes drug over the Nemesis' floor platings as he headed out of the lift room, pausing momentarily in the hallway to glance around for any incoming Decepticons. Noting and hearing none, Breakdown headed towards his quarters silently, his helm lowered miserably as he walked.

There was a purpose to how Breakdown avoided the most populated hallways, forcing him to go the longest route to his quarters, which his entire chassis protested. Breakdown's thoughts strayed, a coldness settling over his chassis as unwanted memories of human tools cutting into him, stripping him off an optic and his confidence, ripped through his mind. Breakdown's thoughts turned to that of the human with the scars and poisonous voice, and an uncontrollable ripple of absolute terror blasted through Breakdown's chassis, causing the mech to falter in his stride. Breakdown had never felt such terror in his life, not even the thought of Megatron's disapproval could shake Breakdown as much as the thought of the human leader did.

Breakdown's thoughts were so consumed by the humans who had captured him, he failed to hear the soft clacks of an approaching mech or it calling out his name until a soft brush of metal traced across his left arm. The light brush against his arm caused Breakdown to leap sideways, servos transforming into hammers as his remaining optic whirled crazily, seeking, searching for what had touched him.

It wasn't Breakdown's optic that caught whatever had touched him but instead the nervous voice of a Vehicon from his side that drew Breakdown's nervous gaze. "Sir?"

Breakdown's optic landed on a purple Vehicon, a flyer, standing to his side, whose servos were raised in a non-threatening gesture. Breakdown let out a shaky vent as he pushed away the memory stifling his mind before he addressed the Vehicon.

"What do you want?"

"Uh… I was worried about you sir, I heard rumors-"

"What kind of rumors?" Breakdown asked the Vehicon, though he already figured what rumors the Vehicon was hinting at, much to his chagrin - nothing was ever truly private on the Nemesis, least of all when Starscream was involved.

"I heard from one of our mining units that you were captured by humans. I did not believe them, personally, for I know of your strength and I was worried because Megatron did not allow-" The Vehicon's blabber stopped mid-sentence as he finally noticed the fresh scars coating the chassis of his higher-in-command. Breakdown's stare was cold, the one yellow optic narrow as the small Vehicon backed away from Breakdown. "What happened to you?"

"Nothing that concerns you," Breakdown hissed before he turned his back on the Vehicon with a barely concealed vent of pure, unadulterated rage. It had always been easiest for Breakdown to resort to anger when he was hurting, as putting on an angry air always kept his true feelings masked from his fellow Decepticons. He didn't want to be angry at the Vehicon, who was just doing his prerogative by checking on an injured higher in command, but he couldn't let the Vehicon know the turmoil within him.

Breakdown had only gotten a few feet away from the Vehicon when the trooper jumped in front of him, wings flaring outwards.

"You are injured, sir, please let me help you the medical bay."

"I don't need the medical bay!" Breakdown snapped, surprising the Vehicon with his harsh tone - and Breakdown himself; he never snapped at the Vehicons and actually took great care to be kind to every one of them, much unlike the other higher ranking Decepticons. The Vehicon hesitated, then turned and fled from Breakdown, who watched the Vehicon go with a vent. Breakdown's temper simmered shortly after, for he felt sorry for the Vehicon who was only worried about the condition of his higher-in-command.

Breakdown shook his helm, and began heading back to his quarters, though he was unable to let the mention of the medical bay leave his mind - and the Decepticon who frequented it so often. He hadn't thought about Knock Out since escaping the humans' lap and he felt a twinge of anger that the mech whom Breakdown considered as his friend had not been the one to save him from the humans, but Bulkhead had. Why did Knock Out not come to save me? Am I not worth his time? Oh, who am I kidding, Knock Out only cares about himself and his coat of paint.

Breakdown pushed away thoughts of the Decepticon medic as he reached the door of his quarters and pushed it open with a servo. As the door creaked open, Breakdown was greeted by the signature emptiness of his room, one of the very few things of his personality that had not changed or darkened over the course of the war. Breakdown drug himself to his recharge slap and collapsed onto the slap heavily. Breakdown's thoughts turned over themselves, between Starscream, the human organization calling themselves MECH, the Autobots - MECH, Starscream, Autobots. Over and over and over.

The halls of the Nemesis had turned silent by the time Breakdown's thoughts finally began to slow, indicating that most of the crew was in recharge by now, though Breakdown could not delve into the depths of recharge yet for he feared what his sleeping mind would show him. Shuddering to himself, the large mech stood from where he was sitting when, without warning, his legs gave out from beneath him and he collapsed to the ground. A shudder tore through Breakdown's chassis, and an eerie, haunting thought tugged at his mind.

The Vehicon was saying something about Megatron… Megatron didn't allow the Decepticons to save me? Why?

Why did Megatron deem me as not worth his time to save?


Chapter Text

"No one is coming for you, no one will save you. You belong to us, to MECH, now. You will never escape-"

The chilly voice of MECH's leader, Silas, snapped Breakdown out of recharge, the Decepticon's chassis quaking with terror as he continued to relive those horrifying groons within the abandoned base turned laboratory. The sound of saws tearing through metal and the sharp static of a drill echoed eerily in the deep shadows of Breakdown's quarters, as if MECH was right there within his quarters in the Nemesis. Every shadow seemed to pulse with oozing life, reaching, grabbing, hungering for a taste of living metal. Breakdown's optic swiveled around wildly, lingering for moments too long on areas where the blackness of his quarters seemed to hide something living.

Shaken, the large mech pulled his limbs close to his body, ignorant to the sickening screech of metal on metal as he wrapped his arms across his legs, venting heavily. Each vent came heavier and heavier as the darkness wrapped itself around Breakdown, snagging at him with faint brushes against metal.

"We intend to pull you apart. Break you down, if you will…"

Silas' words boomed in the emptiness of Breakdown's mind, cutting deeper than any weapon or piece of equipment ever could, haunting, evil, lasting - invasive. Breakdown's chassis began to shake, growing more and more uncontrollable as Silas' voice grew louder and louder in his mind, until the mech finally snapped. An overwhelming urge to flee took control of Breakdown's chassis, forcing his entire frame to lunge upwards, off his recharge slap, and bolt out of his quarters.

He had no idea where he was going, nor did he care, so long as he could escape the shadows that haunted his mind and turned him to distrust every sound and every movement near him. The thunder of his pedes hitting the metal plating of the Nemesis only urged Breakdown to run faster, faster, faster, faster. Breakdown rounded a corner and promptly collided into another mech, bowling said mech over and, with a snarl of surprise, Breakdown tripped over the mech before he could react and smashed to the floor with a resounding crash.

Breakdown lay where he had fallen, drawing in successively deeper vents in an attempt to calm himself, and his mind, down. Letting out a powerful vent, Breakdown began to push himself back into a standing position, though he did so extremely warily, optic watching for anything - or anyone - who might jump out at him. As his legs stabilized underneath his frame, his audio receptors picked up the unmistakable sound of Knock Out fuming near him.

Of course.

Wincing involuntarily, Breakdown turned towards the Decepticon medic, though he was careful to keep his left side in Knock Out's view only. But when Breakdown turned around, Knock Out wasn't paying attention to him but was staring, horrified, at the small dings in his chassis, stance rigid.

Without turning to see his "assailant", Knock Out snarled venomously as he brushed himself off. "Look what you did, you foolish oaf! You ruined my paint job, ruined it! You Vehicons are just useless, clumsy fools. I can't even fathom why Breakd- Oh…" Knock Out stopped talking as he looked up and saw that his assailant was none other than his assistant. "Ahhhh…. Breakdown? What… What's wrong?" Knock Out's voice hitched ever so slightly with nervousness - and was that surprise? - as the red Decepticon spoke.

"Nothing's wrong," Breakdown lied, knowing full well that Knock Out would be able to easily guess that Breakdown was lying to him. Knock Out's frown deepened at Breakdown's words, optics flickering over Breakdown's chassis, which was still scuffed and damaged from his ordeal with MECH and fight with Bulkhead, before shifting up to Breakdown's optic.

Knock Out looked up into Breakdown's optic, an accusatorial glare burning like flame in his red optics. "What did you do to yourself, Breakdown?" Breakdown bristled at Knock Out's admonishing tone, a feeling of hate burning in his spark towards Knock Out.

He honestly believes I did this myself?

"I didn't do this to myself, Knock Out, I'm not that much of an oaf," Breakdown snapped, his voice cold as he stared Knock Out down while still keeping only his left side to Knock Out. Knock Out looked stunned by Breakdown's words, engine rumbling questioningly, optics glowing with confusion from Breakdown's snappish attitude.

"I didn't mean that Breakdown. I- Wait, why are you acting so strange?" Knock Out asked suddenly, advancing on Breakdown with a threatening glare. Wary, Breakdown began to back away from the medic but Knock Out snatched at Breakdown's wrist before he could and, with all of Knock Out's strength, he drug Breakdown down to his optic level.

Breakdown winced at the horror in Knock Out's face, the way his grip loosened on his wrist, and how the medic stumbled backwards ever so slightly once he saw the damage on Breakdown's faceplate and the missing and torn optic.

"What happened to you?" Knock Out whispered as he raised a servo to Breakdown's faceplate, grasping onto the larger mech's face and turning it to the right to get a better look at Breakdown's ruined optic area. Breakdown tried to pull away from Knock Out's gaze, nerves spiking higher for the fact that he couldn't see Knock Out, but Knock Out only clenched his clawed servo tighter around Breakdown's face instead, preventing any movement from Breakdown. "Stop."

"Now tell me, Breakdown, what happened to you. Who did this to you? Autobots?"

Breakdown didn't know what to say, didn't know whether to lie to Knock Out or tell him the truth, but Knock Out silenced his thoughts when the medic's optics widened and he let out a startled vent.

"Humans did this… Didn't they?" Knock Out's words were not a question but a statement and it was that moment that Breakdown realized what he had only silently suspected and feared.

Knock Out did know about my being captured, just like that Vehicon…

Breakdown hesitated for a moment, but that was all the answer Knock Out seemed to need from his assistant. Pushing himself to his full height, Knock Out stood, giving Breakdown a gentle tug on the arm that was a silent command for Breakdown to follow him, though Breakdown was still reluctant to follow him completely.

"Come with me. I'm fixing this." Knock Out didn't wait for Breakdown's response, as he was already headed in the direction of the medical bay, practically dragging Breakdown along behind him.

"Fine…" Breakdown growled.

Knock Out and Breakdown reached Knock Out's medical bay, where the doors slid open noiselessly as the red mech strolled in, followed by Breakdown. Breakdown's gaze tracked around the room, spotting evidence of Knock Out having already worked on some Vehicons, judging by the array of tools spread out over Knock Out's table.

"Breakdown, come on," Knock Out's voice was soft but urging as the medic pointed to one of the operating slabs in the medical bay. Breakdown grumbled and stomped up to the slab but hesitated as flashes of a different operating slab overtook his mind. Fearfully, Breakdown began to back away from the slab, but the gentle grasp of Knock Out's servos eased Breakdown's nerves for a moment.

"It's okay, Breakdown, you are safe here. Now get on the slab or I'll have to make you." The urgency in Knock Out's voice was all Breakdown needed to settle down enough, and soon he was laid out on the operating slab while Knock Out was busy rummaging through his tools for something.

Breakdown watched Knock Out closely, for even though he knew this was a fellow Decepticon trying to help him, Breakdown couldn't help but see flashes of other, fleshy surgeons with tools. Finally, Knock Out voiced an "aha" as he pulled out a metal file from a smaller box of tools, and turned to Breakdown with a tight smile and revealed an unused spare optic in one servo before he moved up to Breakdown's right side.

"Now then Breakdown, I'm going to have to file down this bit here," Knock Out pointed to the damage where Breakdown had once had his right optic, "and then, once that is done we'll move on to the next step."

Breakdown didn't reply to Knock Out, though he let a weary hiss of steam escape from his vent as Knock Out approached him, file in servo. Knock Out pulled a stool to Breakdown's right side, servos clacking as he readjusted himself until he was satisfied with his position to work on Breakdown's faceplate.

Too nervous to watch, Breakdown shuttered his optic, wincing at the feeling of the file running across the torn metal of his faceplate and the harsh, grinding sound it made throughout his entire chassis. Soon, Breakdown could feel Knock Out's file digging deeper into Breakdown's ruined faceplate, accompanied by an eerie high-pitched noise. Breakdown's optic snapped open and, instead of the friendly, concentrated face of Knock Out, Breakdown could see only the faceless form of a human standing over him, drill lowering to his optic.

"No!" Breakdown shrieked, both servos transforming into hammers as he struggled to get up, to escape the humans, his torturers, but something was restraining him. "No… no, no… NO! Get away from me! GET AWAY!" Breakdown swung out blindly, hitting nothing as a voice began to call out to him distantly.

"Breakdown! Calm down, you're safe, you are here on the Nemesis. You're with me, with Knock Out. I'm not going to hurt you!"

Breakdown heard the distant voice fall away but so too did the image of the human monster. As the image faded from Breakdown's mind, he felt his hammers transform back into servos and two clawed servos gently grasped onto his chassis, steadying him with the firm presence of another fellow Cybertronian.

"It's okay… I'm so sorry, Breakdown. I…" Knock Out's voice stalled, but his comforting grasp never left Breakdown until the large mech was finally able to vent normally, though his mind was still consumed by worry and fear. Breakdown wheeled his gaze on Knock Out, optic begging him silently for help. Knock Out's optics lowered, and for once Breakdown could see how much it hurt Knock Out to see Breakdown in this state of mental turmoil.

"Knock Out…"

"No, don't say anything," Knock Out urged Breakdown, optics pained. Breakdown attempted to shift his body, but Knock Out pushed him back onto the slap. "I can't fix your mind, Breakdown, but you can bet on Primus I will fix everything else. Now, please… Let me do this."

Breakdown opened his mouth, but closed it quickly and gave an affirmative nod to Knock Out, acknowledging the doctor's unspoken words. Knock Out nodded with understanding and pulled out the file again; Breakdown looked away from Knock Out, bracing himself as the sound of the rasp of metal cutting into metal cut through his audial receptors once more.

groon later, Knock Out had fully rasped away all of the torn metal from Breakdown's faceplate, leaving behind a hole where Breakdown's right optic had once been and three jagged scars that ran down part of his faceplate. Knock Out had pulled out his specialized buffer, which was small enough to easily clean away the scratches on Breakdown's helm and faceplate - Breakdown tensed at the sound of the buffer, much to his disgust, but he willed his entire being to lay still until Knock Out finished - and buffed away every scratch meticulously until all that remained was flat, empty scars of metal.

Breakdown wouldn't have admitted it but he had been relieved when Knock Out took the file and buffer away from his view and left Breakdown nothing to do but stare at the ceiling. Knock Out was busy looking over a datapad, when he turned to Breakdown once more, a failed attempt at a cheery smile curling over his faceplate. "Well then. I've got your faceplate fixed so now let's talk about a new optic. We don't have any yellow optics available, though there is a white one-"

"No," Breakdown interrupted, "I don't want a new optic. Just give me a patch that can cover all of this, please."

Knock Out looked surprised but he gave a noncommittal shrug to Breakdown in turn. "If you're sure, then I guess I can get you an optic eyepatch. I'll fix the rest of you when I get back, so don't go anywhere." Knock Out's voice trailed off into grumbles too quiet for Breakdown to hear, though he could guess they had to do with his "un-stylistic" choices. Breakdown snorted to himself, shaking his helm as Knock Out stomped out of the medic bay sourly.

Breakdown watched for the medic for a few kliks more, then shuttered his optic closed with a tired vent, welcoming the silence and loneliness of the medic bay. As the day's events played through Breakdown's mind like one of Knock Out's drive-in movies, Breakdown relented to his utter exhaustion and fell into a dreamless stasis.

Breakdown hated the way every mech on the Nemesis seemed to stare at him now, muttering things behind his back and shooting him distrustful glares. He had even caught Soundwave watching him extra attentively, which unnerved him far more than any of the Vehicon troopers could. Though it had only been six Earth solar cycles since Breakdown had been saved from MECH by Bulkhead and the Autobots, six cycles was more than enough to have a whirlwind of rumors fly about the ship over what had happened to Breakdown.

Breakdown tried his best to ignore the stares and looks by finding less populated halls to roam, but everywhere he went the feeling of being watched hung over him like a cloud of fog. It frustrated him that even the Vehicons stared at him, and he had a sinking worry that the Vehicons - his friends - thought little of him now that they knew that something had captured Breakdown, something entirely not Cybertronian and much smaller than him.

The static crackle of his comm link activating caused Breakdown to jump slightly as the voice of a Vehicon trooper came through the comms, though he calmed once he recognized the ever chipper voice of Simon over the comms. "Soundwave seems to have found something important to Lord Megatron, sir. You might want to check it out. They're on the bridge."

"Will do. Thanks, Simon."

"My pleasure sir," Simon said happily before he cut the link between their comms with a quiet click.

Breakdown vented harshly, engine rumbling with displeasure at the thought of having to see Megatron again; since Breakdown had returned to the Nemesis, he had avoided Megatron pointedly, still confused as to why the Decepticon leader would leave him to MECH's servos. Breakdown hadn't missed how Starscream would purposefully come to talk with him, always leaving with a reminder of the "debt" he had to repay to Starscream for "saving" him, a debt Breakdown strongly remembered never agreeing to - or even acknowledging.

Ha… Right. Starscream didn't save me, fragging Bulkhead did, Breakdown grumbled to himself moodily as he reached the control room for the Nemesis, a hint of nervousness spiking through his spark at the sight of Megatron, who had just turned to Soundwave with a thoughtful expression on his faceplate.

"I recognize this magnetic signature, Soundwave. And it would be unfortunate to have a Decepticon invention such as this used against us."

"I will secure the weapon, Lord Megatron." The words had come out of Breakdown before he could even process them, and it seemed to surprise Megatron as much as it surprised Breakdown when he realized what he had offered.

"Breakdown?" Megatron laughed, then began walking towards Breakdown, menacingly. "If you can be bested by mere humans, what chance do you have against the Autobots? Considering the scope of this weapon, I am unsure that it is wise we trust you and your penchant for failure to retrieving this weapon." Breakdown flinched backwards from Megatron's words, stung by his leader's utter lack of faith in him.

"Allow me to redeem myself, Master. What I have lost is a constant reminder that I must never again fail you."

Megatron raised an optic ridge, mouth turned down in a frown of disgust. "Fine, then. Go, find what I need, and don't even think about coming back here empty handed. My patience for failure has been worn thin," Megatron said before the Decepticon leader turned away from Breakdown with a careless snort, leaving Soundwave to deal with prepping Breakdown for his sudden mission.

"You seem to be getting yourself into all sorts of scrap these days, Breakdown. First captured by humans and now bringing me, Airachnid, back to this boys club without the gauntlet? Megatron must love the amount of success you've been having, one eye."

"Oh shut up, spider-freak," Breakdown snapped angrily, chassis tensing at the sound of metal hitting his back and an accompanying hiss from the spider-bot stuck to his back. Breakdown turned his optic on Airachnid, wariness rank in his chassis as the femme's legs twitched ever so slightly, bladed edges coming too close for comfort to Breakdown's backstrut. The blue mech's chassis shuddered involuntarily, causing a wave of anger to exude from Airachnid, though she folded her legs closer to her body with a veiled vent.

"Stop moving you one-eyed idiot," Airachnid snarled and, even without being able to see her face, Breakdown could feel the chilling glare the femme was giving him.

"Then stop moving those freaky legs of yours!" Breakdown snapped, mind whirling crazily as he attempted, futilely, to get away from the femme attached to his back.

"Oh, would you two stop fidgeting so much?" Knock Out's frustrated grumble jolted Breakdown and Airachnid from their squabble, both turning their gaze on the red mech standing to the side of the attached duo. "'Cause if you don't this detachment might get messy."

Flustered, Breakdown apologized quickly, though Airachnid said nothing except for giving Knock Out a pointed snort of disgust. Knock Out ignored Airachnid, though Breakdown noticed the way the medic's optics burned just a tad brighter then before as he approached Breakdown and Airachnid with a strange looking device.

"What is that?" Airachnid asked.

"Ah, nothing much. It's supposed to be able to detach you two from each other. Megatron promised me it shouldn't hurt too much," Knock Out answered, his optics showing how much he was going to relish peeling Breakdown and Airachnid apart from each other. Knock Out activated the device and, with one of his signature grins, began working on detaching the two mechs.

It took a groon for Knock Out to finally separate Breakdown and Airachnid from each other, much to the relief of all three mechs. Knock Out had just barely put away his tools when Megatron's voice boomed through the medic bay.

"Knock Out! Have you finally detached Airachnid and Breakdown?"

"Yes, Lord Megatron."

"Good. Then inform Airachnid that I would like to have her presence on the bridge. Now." The communication between the medic bay and Megatron ended with a harsh screech of static.

Breakdown turned his gaze on Knock Out, who only gave him a small shrug in response.

"Obviously I have other matters to deal with then, boys, have a lovely day," Airachnid said coolly before she turned on a heel and marched out of the medical bay without another word.

"Good riddance," Knock Out snapped, a sentiment to which Breakdown could not help but agree to with a nod of his helm. "Why did you have to bring her on the ship?"

"I didn't want to… But the weapon I was sent to find was some kind of magnetic device. That blue femme of the Autobots and Bulkhead came and messed everything up and, next thing I know, Airachnid is stuck to me." Breakdown muttered darkly, thoughts wheeling away from the current and back to the solar cycle's events. The Autobots, Airachnid, failing Megatron again...

Knock Out turned his gaze on Breakdown, expression unreadable, and vented softly. "What's wrong with you, Breakdown? You've been acting really off for awhile since you got back from that mess with the humans."

"Oh, I have?" Breakdown snapped as he stood up, intent on leaving to find somewhere quieter then the medical bay - away from Knock Out and his attempts to sound concerned for Breakdown's wellbeing.

"See what I mean?" Knock Out complained. "You're moodier then usual and you haven't been yourself of late. Tell me what the frag is wrong with you, Breakdown!" Knock Out's optics flared temperamentally as the red medic slewed his chassis in front of Breakdown.

Affronted, Breakdown pushed Knock Out aside, and strode away, engine growling. Breakdown ignored the sharp thrum of anger from Knock Out's engine, a cold trill of satisfaction burning through his spark at the sharp hiss of the medic bay doors shutting behind him, effectively cutting off Knock Out's growls of protest.

As each step of his pedes led Breakdown further away from Knock Out's medical bay, he sensed the loyalty he had once felt so strongly for Knock Out ever so slowly begin to fray like aged wiring, ever so subtly losing its structures. Breakdown felt unhappy about the tension he had unconsciously seen grow in his spark around his partner - urged on by the aversion of red optics, tightening of clawed servos, and repeated attempts to sway any questions about why the medic had not saved him from MECH onto any other subject - but the ability to forgive was something Breakdown had struggled with for ages.

Every one of Breakdown's preconceptions and beliefs were changing since MECH had captured him, and changing swifter then he could have ever before thought. Hanging out and assisting Knock Out did not produce the same satisfaction it had before, and every day he spent in the confined space of the Nemesis only made Breakdown's anxiety worsen. He was terrified of Megatron, of Starscream and the seeds of distrust the gray Seeker had planted in Breakdown's mind, but most of all Breakdown was terrified of himself. He was famous on the Nemesis for his unwavering loyalty to the Decepticon cause, and yet Breakdown had felt that loyalty waver and begin to wilt like the petals of a dying flower. And that scared Breakdown, more so than even Megatron, because he knew nothing else but the Decepticon cause, the darkness of the Nemesis and the cold acceptance of how much he had changed since the days he had wandered alongside mechs who were not Decepticons.

Breakdown shook his helm furiously, shaking away the ancient memories of his life before joining Megatron, his life as a Wrecker. He'd avoided thinking about who he was before the Decepticons for centuries, even gone so far as to deny any association with the enemies - no, the Wreckers - that he could not understand why he kept thinking about those times. Yet, he had seen glimpses of his past long thought dormant revived in his dreams and nightmares - some good and some bad, and all new to him only after he had returned from MECH.

I left the Wreckers, and summarily joined the Decepticons, on the basis that I believed the Wreckers had betrayed me. I swore loyalty to Megatron and his Decepticons out of hatred for a group I had believed in… But now? I feel so lost...

Breakdown's pedes halted before the huge hangar bay doors of the Nemesis, which creaked open slowly. Gaze wary, steps hesitant, Breakdown strode out onto the deck of the Nemesis, which was being pounded by sheets of relentless rain, and halted with a light vent. Breakdown tilted his helm upwards, his one remaining optic shuttering as streaks of rain pelted his faceplate, and let out a shuddering roar that ached of loneliness, confusion and betrayal. Breakdown stayed there on the deck, chassis drummed by the icy rain, washing away his thoughts until all that could be heard was the angry howl of the wind ripping over the metal body of the Nemesis.

The quiet emptiness of Breakdown's mind did not stay for long as the memories of that cycle's failed mission pulsed angrily in his processor. His fight with Airachnid, Bulkhead and the two-wheeler had been nagging at him all day, not for the fact that he had fought the Autobots, but for a feeling he had lacked throughout the fight. Breakdown had always welcomed the burning rage that turned his mind savage whenever he saw Bulkhead, but that gnawing hatred had not raged through him when he fought Bulkhead and all that he felt was a stiff dislike for the green mech. He could not have ever fathomed the thought of never not hating Bulkhead - hating him for leaving him for dead on the battlefields of Cybertron only to be picked up by a squad of Decepticon soldiers - and yet that was what Breakdown's spark was agonizing over.

Everything has blurred now, old loyalties, ancient grudges. I don't even know who to trust anymore… I...

A jolt of piercing agony hit Breakdown through his spark, causing the large mech to stumble back, servos tight and legs shaken, and his chassis shuddered as a sudden thought over took his processor.

I don't even know who I am anymore.

Chapter Text

Mud splattered the chassis of Breakdown's alt mode, urgency set deeply in the whine of his engine, straining as it was to get to his destination as swiftly as possible. A sharp turn on the mud soaked road took Breakdown by surprise and, when he instinctivly slammed on his brakes to slow down, his tires quickly slid out from under him and he lost all sort of traction. The weight of his chassis and the speed that he had been traveling drug him sideways relentlessly, and it was only through centuries of experience driving that Breakdown was able to stop before he was sent flying off the sheer cliff edge that his alt form slid to a stop mere feet from.

Venting in relief, Breakdown carefully collected himself then peeled away from the cliff edge, his engine thrumming with drive as he rushed towards the coordinates Starscream and his troop of Vehicons had given him upon requesting for backup. He had been surprised when Starscream had personally requested for Breakdown's assistance but, considering his last conversation with the Seeker, Breakdown agreed warily. He did not like the sudden attention Starscream was placing on him since Bulkhead had rescued him from MECH - especially not when he knew that Starscream only ever cared about his own wellbeing.

And yet, Breakdown had still agreed to help. He suspected that the only reason he had agreed was because of the Vehicon that traveled with Starscream. They were his friends and he would protect them, even if it meant helping Starscream when Breakdown despised the mere thought of helping the selfish Seeker.

Anticipating another sharp turn and his destination when Breakdown's scanner began to ping rapidly, Breakdown slowed just enough to avoid spinning out, fly around the corner and smash his entire frame into the yellow chassis of the Autobot scout. The Autobot scout was sent hurtling away by the forceful slam of Breakdown's heavy alt mode, rolling to an immobile stop by a small copse of trees. Breakdown double checked that the Autobot was down - at least for now - before he turned towards the ensuing fight that had led him to this place, quickly analyzing where his help was most needed.

Bulkhead and Optimus Prime were fighting back-to-back against Starscream and three Vehicons, of which Starscream was keeping to the back of the fight, attacking only when the two Autobots were distracted fully by his three Vehicon soldiers. Closer to Breakdown still was the blue femme, who was busy dueling against two Vehicons, her speed and agility outmatching the flyer Vehicons as they tried to match her speed. A pained engine rumble alerted Breakdown back to the Autobot scout, who was struggling to his pedes, mud splattered so heavily over his chassis that only small patches of yellow could be seen.

Before the scout could recover, Breakdown yanked the scout up by his shoulder pauldrons and flung him towards the blue femme. As the femme Autobot's back was turned towards Breakdown and the scout, she only became aware of the flailing scout when frantic beeping escaped from the Autobot seconds before he crashed into the femme. Both Autobots became a struggle of limbs even as they skidded to a stop away from Breakdown and the two Vehicons the femme had been fighting. Both Vehicons glanced towards Breakdown, relief and thanks sparking in their optics at his assist. Breakdown ignored them, turning instead to where Starscream and two Vehicons - the third was lying on the ground immobile, energon leaking from its helm - were fighting Optimus Prime and Bulkhead.

Breakdown turned on the two Vehicons he had helped, both of whom flinched backwards from him ever so subtly, though he only gave them a curt jerk of the helm towards the ongoing fight. "Contact the Nemesis and request a Ground Bridge for the wounded, I'll help Starscream and the others." Both mechs nodded in acknowledgement of Breakdown's command, one of the pair following after Breakdown to pull the wounded Vehicon from the fray before he was injured further by the dueling Cybertronians.

Breakdown let out a roar of his engine, startling Bulkhead from shooting one of the Vehicons fighting alongside Starscream. Noticing Breakdown, Bulkhead immediately turned away from Starscream and Optimus Prime, optics blazing with unbridled hatred, and charged Breakdown. Breakdown snarled at the large former Wrecker's charge, his servos changing into their hammer alt as Bulkhead swung one of his mace servos towards Breakdown. Breakdown dodged the swing then countered with his own strike, though Bulkhead was able to block Breakdown's attack with a snarl erupting from the green mech's engine.

"Surprised to see you back so soon, Breakdown," Bulkhead snarled, vents hissing angrily as his engine thrummed with anger and excitement.

Breakdown said nothing in return as he smashed his second hammer against Bulkhead's side, causing the Autobot to stumble back long enough for breakdown to activate his shoulder cannon and loose a stream of energy towards Bulkhead. Bulkhead stumbled back at the first shot but recovered quickly and returned fire. Breakdown let out a howl of pain as the energy blast hit the right side of his face, pedes slipping dangerously in the slick mud as he fell away from Bulkhead. Engine growling painfully, Breakdown raised a servo to his face, wincing at the blistering pain coursing endlessly through his helm. Suddenly remembering his situation, amidst the pain overtaking his senses, Breakdown turned, expecting Bulkhead to hit him but instead saw the green ex-Wrecker barrel into Starscream, who had still been fighting Optimus Prime.

Starscream floundered in the mud, then let out a hollow shriek before he slashed his sharp, clawed servos against Bulhead's chestplate. Bulkhead let out a growl of pain as Starscream slashed his claws across Bulkhead one more time then, with a desperate use of his missile, Starscream transformed into his jet alt and blasted away from the fight. The rest of the Vehicons, all flyers, followed after Starscream and it only took a few moments of sudden silence for Breakdown to realize that he had been left behind, at the mercy of the Autobots. Again.

Breakdown hesitated, unsure of how to go about his next course of action, unease growing inside his core when he noticed the optics of every single Autobot turn towards him. Optimus Prime's optics narrowed slightly before his servos switched out of their gun alt and, slowly, the Autobot leader began to stride towards Breakdown. Backing away slightly, Breakdown struggled to hide the telling thrum of anxiety his engine began to sputter out as Prime continued to move closer to him.

"Breakdown, please, lower your weapons. I implore you to help us end this war, to finish this fight before we are no more. Join the Autobots, and we will treat you fairly, Breakdown," Optimus Prime said, his voice somehow soft but commanding all at the same time. Breakdown's optic whirled onto the forms of the other approaching Autobots, of which none had any sort of friendly expression, though all three seemed hesitant to act while their leader attempted to sway Breakdown to their side. Yet, for the actions they hesitated to make, Bulkhead did not hesitate to snarl in response to Prime's words.

"What? Let him join us? Pit no. I won't stand by that." Bulkhead's snarl did not surprise Breakdown, for he knew Bulkhead too well to know that the green mech would never be able to even fathom working alongside a traitor, or "Decepticon scum" like Breakdown.

Prime looked down at Bulkhead, a hint of disapproval evident in his optics and the way his mouth turned down in a frown. "Bulkhead, put aside your differences for one moment."

Bulkhead moved to protest but the look from Prime halted Bulkhead before he even started and, sulking somewhat, Bulkhead quieted and saw fit to glare angrily in Breakdown's direction. Seeing that Bulkhead was passive for now, Prime turned back to Breakdown, gaze soft as he offered once more for Breakdown to join the Autobots. Uncertainty flared in Breakdown's mind as his processor lingered over the idea of leaving the Decepticons, leaving them to join the Autobots?

Breakdown backed away from the ring of Autobots watching him as his engine whined rhythmically, his thoughts blazing like fire. He distrusted the Autobots, but they had come to rescue him from MECH, even when he was their sworn enemy with his alliance to the Decepticon cause. None of his own had come to save him - Breakdown did not consider Starscream arriving saving him, he figured that the Seeker had done that solely to try and make Breakdown his ally - and he did feel unsure of his place within the Decepticon ranks. But joining the Autobots?

Uncertain at his own thoughts - and the fact that he was suddenly, seriously considering leaving the Decepticons - Breakdown felt his conviction waver. And with it, he could do nothing but reason with himself that he needed to get back to the Nemesis to think over his troubling thoughts. Breakdown wheeled about suddenly, transformed into his alt mode and drove away as fast as he could from the Autobots. Suspicious that one of the Autobots could be following him, Breakdown twisted one of his mirrors towards the Autobots, watching them for any move to follow him. To his surprise, though, none of the Autobots were following him, thank Primus, and, most surprisingly of all to him was the look of utter disappointment that radiated from Optimus Prime's optics. Breakdown's engine rumbled unsurely as the image of the Autobots faded from his mirror as he rounded a bend in the road, ever more uncertain in his place in the world.

Breakdown trudged through the Ground Bridge, helm lowered, thoughts elsewhere as streaks of mud slid down his chassis, leaving the floor of the Nemesis wet and streaked with mud. Breakdown let out a vent then glanced up to the Vehicon manning the controls of the Nemesis, an older Vehicon he knew as LeMat.

"Good to see you back, sir. Knock Out has been wondering where you were," LeMat greeted him cheerfully, a rumble of laughter escaping from his engine when he noticed the mud puddling at Breakdown's pedes. "Oh Primus, Knock Out is going to freak when he sees the mess you've brought in. What I would give to see that."

Breakdown's engine rumbled in acknowledgement of the Vehicon's words, but he said nothing else to the purple mech as he trudged past LeMat. The Vehicon shrugged at Breakdown's response then turned back to the Ground Bridge controls, clawed digits racing over the control board as he began to hum a soft tune to himself.

I should get this mud cleaned off, Breakdown thought as he headed away from the Ground Bridge control room and towards the ranked officials' washroom. On his way to the washroom room, Breakdown passed a small group of Vehicons, none of whom actually met his gaze or even acknowledged him with a respectful nod. Breakdown frowned but continued on, bothered though he was by the way the Vehicons had started treating him since his escape from MECH. Even worse for his mood was that Breakdown noticed two of the Vehicons, two that he had fought beside often, bend close and mutter to each other quietly.

Engine growling, Breakdown wheeled his gaze on the two muttering Vehicons, silencing them with a cold glare. Both Vehicons lowered their helms shamefully and shuffled away from Breakdown, though not before he heard both apologize to him quietly. The rest of the Vehicons followed after the first two Vehicons hurriedly, all avoiding Breakdown as best they could, likely for fear of his notoriously poor temper at times. Feeling even more unwelcome then before, Breakdown stifled a growl from his engine and continued towards the officers washroom, hoping only that he would be lucky enough to avoid anymore awkward encounters with Cybertronians he considered his friends.

To his relief, when Breakdown entered the washroom, no other mech was using it. Not wanting any other mech to stumble across him in the washroom, Breakdown accessed the controls for the washroom's doors and locked them. Slowly the doors slid shut, the shunk of them locking providing a small comfort to Breakdow. Quietly, the blue mech turned on one of the wash rack faucets, welcoming the cold stream of water that hit his chassis and began to wash away the mud still clinging to and inside his chassis.

But the sound of the water soon began to change, twisting into the menacing whine of drills and saws ripping through metal - his metal. Breakdown tried to push away the memories now surging through his processor as if opened like a floodgate by the once soothing water. Breakdown switched off the wash rack faucet, servo pressing against the wash room wall to steady his furiously shaking chassis as his mind was overtaken by a flood of memories.

"I'm afraid you won't survive the process, so thank you in advance for your sacrifice," the human, Silas, said, voice cool as ice as he strode into Breakdown's line of view. "MECH is very much in your debt."

"You are making a very big mistake, little man. When I'm finished with you, they'll have to scrape you off the floor," Breakdown snarled, his snarl a mask for the thudding fear beating in his spark at the wicked smile crossing the human's face.

"Since you're evidently not squeamish… I'll allow you to watch. Are his pain receptors disabled?" Silas turned to the faceless human standing on Breakdown's chassis, who nodded slightly in return.

Pain receptors? Oh Primus no!

"Good, then he won't make as much noise. Open him up." Breakdown's mouth and right optic ticked fearfully, helm turning to the masked human looming over him. No emotion could be detected from the faceless human and, as Breakdown watched, the human snapped its digits and one of the large drills lowered itself to the human's height. The drill began to whirl, and as it inched closer and closer to Breakdown's faceplate, the sound heightening as terror wrenched through Breakdown's spark.

The last thing Breakdown saw through his right optic was the drill, a flash of sparks, and then a shriek of metal cutting through metal as darkness engulfed the right side of his vision. Though Breakdown could not feel the drill sawing into his faceplate, his servos tightened from the harsh shrieks of the drill ripping through his faceplate, finally the  whine of the drill faded away as the human bent down, hand reaching out towards Breakdown's faceplate -

The sharp memory faded away like mist when, vents heaving, Breakdown stumbled backwards, collapsing against the wall behind him, legs sliding out from underneath him, forcing him to collapse to the floor with heaving vents. Breakdown pulled his legs in close to his chestplate, servos clenching around his knees as his engine let out a high-pitched keening noise, the pitch of the blue mech's engine rising higher as his thoughts dwelled deeper and deeper into the murky darkness that was Breakdown's mind

Breakdown's thoughts were so entrenched in his memories that he failed to hear the door to the washroom open, followed by a worried cry from a Vehicon. Only when Breakdown felt the grounding sensation of the Vehicon's gentle touch on his shoulder did Breakdown's mind slowly return to reality - to the present. Breakdown didn't even look towards the Vehicon as the small Cybertronian shuffled closer to him and settled beside him on the floor, staying unwaveringly his side, providing the quietest, most steadfast, comfort to Breakdown.

"You're all good, Simon. Be more careful around Starscream next time, though," Breakdown warned, engine rumbling with soft laughter.

Simon, a Vehicon grounder, nodded, rubbing at his shoulder - which Breakdown had just repaired - with a moody roar from his engine.

"Hey, don't whine to me, Simon. I warned you before about crossing Starscream. You can't trust him…" Breakdown's voice trailed off, his mind recalling Starscream threatening him to choose between Megatron and the Seeker. Yeah, you really can't trust Starscream. "All he cares about is his own betterment. Watch yourself around him, alright?"

"Yes, Commander," Simon grumbled in unhappy acknowledgement as he pulled himself up from the operating slab, striding out of the medical bay without another glance back at Breakdown; the hiss of the medical bay doors sliding shut affirming Breakdown that the Vehicon had left.

Venting softly, Breakdown turned back to the tools he had used to fix Simon's ruined shoulder and began to arrange each back into order within their corresponding locker or shelving unit. When he had finished, having replaced the blades on certain tools and even throw out a welder in its entirety, Breakdown packed each tool up, ready to put them in proper storage when the sound of the medical bay doors opening drew his attention away from the tools. Expecting another Vehicon looking for repairs, he turned his helm to the direction of the door, and halted. It was Knock Out, not a Vehicon, who had just entered the medical bay and, unsurprisingly, Knock Out looked anything but pleased at the sight of Breakdown in the medical bay.

"What are you doing in here, Breakdown?" Knock Out asked cooly as the red medic approached Breakdown, his gaze suspicious as he glanced around at the many shelves for supplies, as if he suspected Breakdown of messing with everything within the medical bay

"I was patching up one of the Vehicons who got on the wrong side of Starscream. That is all, Knock Out," Breakdown replied, his tone cold, "and I put everything away where it is supposed to go. One of the welders had to be thrown away and I replaced most of the blades on the saws, they were too dull to sharpen any further."

Knock Out hesitated at Breakdown's frosty tone, but shrugged it off with a quick shake of his chassis. "You could have commed me for help, I am the medical officer after all. It is my job to tend to the injured."

"I don't need help for a simple patch job, I'm perfectly capable of that at least," Breakdown snapped, furious with Knock Out's unsaid lack of belief in Breakdown's abilities. Breakdown's engine began to hum dangerously as he shot Knock Out a glare from his optic, to which Knock Out looked like he was going to reply to but, with a frustrated growl, the red medic turned away from Breakdown and stomped off. Breakdown watched the medic for a moment then, with a determined set of his mouth, walked out of the medical bay, passing Knock Out without a word to the Decepticon medic.

Breakdown was headed towards the dining area, to catch up with a few of the Vehicons he was friendly with, when a high, cold voice interrupted his thoughts. "Breakdown, I've been looking for you. We need to talk."


Groaning angrily, Breakdown turned in the direction of Starscream's voice, optic searching for the Seeker. Even after a few turns, Breakdown could not see Starscream, which made his vents start to hitch nervously - was he imagining Starscream? - but the cold voice came again.

"You still have to repay your debt to me, Breakdown. I saved you, you work with me." Starscream's voice echoed behind Breakdown's back eerily, the slim Seeker slinking up on Breakdown's blind side with a harsh laugh.

Breakdown turned his chassis so he could see Starscream, engine whining involuntarily, but a small amount of relief pulsed in his spark that he hadn't imagined the gray Seeker previously. "That makes no sense, Starscream. Why would I turn against Megatron, just to side with you? Everyone knows you aren't very trustworthy, and you left me behind a few days ago when I had to come save you and your Vehicons from the Autobots. I think that's more than enough payment for this ridiculous 'debt' you keep pestering me about. One I never even agreed to, Starscream."

Starscream let out a piercingly high laugh, startling Breakdown with its harshness. "Oh, trust me Breakdown, it makes perfect sense. I've been watching you, and I can tell that you've become restless aboard the Nemesis. You are unhappy here, and if you are smart enough to go through with repaying my debt, you won't have to worry about Megatron ever again. Side with me - with those loyal to me - and you'll be appreciated, as you deserve."

"You didn't even save me," Breakdown snapped, "that was Bulkhead who did that. There's nothing you did for me that would even put me into debt with you."

"Unfortunately I was unable to reach you in time, Breakdown," Starscream growled, "Megatron did not want me to save you and I had to wait for him to lower his guard to find you."

"Merely for your own benefit," Breakdown surmised, "you would never help anyone without it being beneficial to you. Don't think me a fool, Starscream."

"Ah, but I don't believe that, Breakdown," Starscream smiled, "though I do doubt your loyalty to the Decepticon cause."

"What makes you say that?"

"You and I both know that to be true." Starscream smiled as he spoke, his servos rising up to hover inches above Breakdown's remianing optic. Breakdown flinched as Starscream feigned slashing Breakdown's optic out, a reaction that only seemed to incite further joy from Starscream. Starscream edged closer to Breakdown, enough that the Seeker's small frame was pressed up against Breakdown's own, so close that Breakdown had to scoot back against the wall of the Nemesis to avoid Starscream. "I am always right, Breakdown. Always."

With a final warning slash of his claws near Breakdown's optics, Starscream backed away from Breakdown and turned on his heel, though the Seeker looked back at him one more time with a keen smile. "You would be wise to not make the mistake of betraying me, Breakdown."

With those words Starscream turned his helm away from Breakdown and strolled down the Nemesis hallway, leaving Breakdown by himself once more. Breakdown watched Starscream until the gray Seeker's form vanished from his sight then, with a shaky vent, Breakdown turned and trudged towards his quarters.

Everything was so wrong now. Every waking moment for Breakdown seemed to consist of avoiding Megatron, Airachnid, Knock Out, Starscream and even the Vehicons he had once befriended so fiercely. He felt ignored, disrespected, worthless even within the confines of the Nemesis ever since he had returned from MECH's grasp. Since Bulkhead had saved him from MECH, Breakdown had felt at odds with himself, and those feelings had only worsened with Starscream's nagging, Megatron's distrust for Breakdown and the poorly veiled looks of disgust from most other Decepticons on the Nemesis. But, to Breakdown the scariest realization was that Breakdown wanted out. Out of the Decepticon fold and off of the Nemesis - permanently.

Breakdown had almost reached his quarters when he heard the unmistakable sound of a pack of grumbling Vehicons, all crowded in the hallway that led to his quarters. Slowing to a stop, Breakdown slid against the wall, silencing his engine enough so that he could hear what the Vehicons were saying.

"Megatron is a foolish leader, he makes decisions that cost all of us, be it our lives or our resources, and he never blames himself for the failures. I am tired of working with an idiot of a leader, at least Starscream has promised those of us that join his side something better than dying under Megatron's careless gaze," one Vehicon said, voice confident.

"Bramble, shush. We can't have Soundwave hearing us," another Vehicon whispered, his voice high with nervousness, and Breakdown could just imagine the Vehicon glancing around for the Communications Chief. "He would tell Megatron... and then we'd all be offlined!"

"I'll say what I want, Jay. Now, come on, I want to find Starscream."

"Fine." The sound of the Vehicons' voices soon faded away, leaving a silence in the hallway.

Peeking around the corner for a moment to ensure that the Vehicons truly had left first, Breakdown headed back to his quarters, even more unsure of himself. The first Vehicon's statement had burrowed its way into Breakdown's mind, and he couldn't stop thinking about the truth in the Vehicons words.

Megatron has made a few foolish decisions, I'll agree with that… What am I thinking?! This is Megatron for Primus' sake… My leader… A shiver quaked over Breakdown's chassis. He still greatly feared Megatron, possibly more so now than ever, for he could not help himself but to think that Megatron somehow knew that Breakdown was weary of the Decepticon cause - and thus a traitor.

Clearing his thoughts of Megatron, Breakdown opened the door to his quarters, a small level of stress leaving his shoulders at the welcome emptiness of his room. Right as Breakdown was about to settle down for a quick recharge he heard his commlink suddenly crackle with an incoming message.

Who the… Breakdown wondered, activating his comm link hesitantly. Nothing except for a harsh static came through for a few moments, making Breakdown assume that it was just a Vehicon prank, when a faint voice came through.

"Is this Breakdown?"

Breakdown hesitated for the voice was overlapped with too much static for him to tell who it was, but he replied, though cautiously. "Yes, this is Breakdown. Who is this?"

"It's Starscream, you fool. I need you to come to these coordinates as fast as you can." A set of coordinates filed into Breakdown's processor as Starscream spoke. "I need your assistance."

"And why should I, Starscream?" Breakdown asked as his processor mapped out the coordinates, causing a start of surprise to shoot through his spark upon recognition of the location. It's one of the old Energon mines… What is Starscream doing there?

"Just do it, Breakdown! Please!"

"Uh... "

"Oh, for Primus' sake! I'm in need of your assistance, so just get over here! And I'm not asking you, I'm ordering you as your commanding officer to help me!" Starscream snapped, and in that moment Breakdown realized that the gray seeker's voice was flush with terror.

Something must really be up with him if he's this scared. But why contact me? Why not Soundwave?

"Why not contact Soundwave for help, Starscream? He runs the Bridge, you know that," Breakdown suggested calmly.

"I need you! Please! Don't make me beg again, Breakdown! The Autobots have me cornered in an old energon mine and I need someone strong to help me out of here before they catch me! Frag it, Breakdown, please!"

Breakdown mulled over his thoughts then let out a vent as he scowled to himself. "Fine. I'll come, but this does not mean I'm joining your 'side' or whatever you are trying to concoct against Megatron. I'm a Decepticon, not your lackey."

Starscream didn't say anything in return, though Breakdown detected a heavy vent of relief escape from his Commander as the line of communication cut off. A wave of frustration churned through Breakdown's chassis, but his sense of loyalty, that which he had once held so important to himself, made his decision for him.

Breakdown grabbed a few spare cubes of energon and a spare medical kit, just in case Starscream was wounded upon Breakdown's arrival, then he headed to the GroundBridge control room, along with a datapad he'd transferred Starscream's coordinates to in one servo. When he reached the control room for the Ground Bridge, Breakdown was surprised to see no Vehicons stationed at the control room. Shrugging and accepting his luck, Breakdown downloaded the coordinates Starscream had given him into the Bridge control computer and activated the Ground Bridge.

When the GroundBridge opened up, the first thing Breakdown observed was how quiet the abandoned energon mine was, a definitive sign of the fact that the mine had long gone dormant. Bright sunlight burned at Breakdown's optic as his sight adjusted from the dark hallways of the Nemesis to the ground world of Earth. Breakdown glanced around suspiciously, noting that there was no sign of a struggle outside the mine.

Starscream must be down in the mine, Breakdown realized, as his scanner picked up a very faint trace of energon coming from inside the mine. Shrugging, Breakdown headed down the mineshaft entrance, keeping his optic on the datapad and his surroundings as he moved deeper into the mine. Small rays of light seeped through holes in the roof of the mine, lighting the tunnels with a soft, amber light. Breakdown checked his scanner again, but it was pinging haphazardly and showed four energy signatures somewhere inside the mine - must be Starscream and the Autobots.

Memorizing the location that his datapad was showing, Breakdown deactivated his scanner and stored it back into his subspace, no longer wanting the distraction his scanner would provide him as he moved deeper into the mine. Breakdown had been wandering the mine for some time when, just as he noticed a light filled portion of the mine, he heard what sounded to be a commotion - a metallic brushing and then voices that were clearly Cybertronian.

"Lord Megatron, I can explain!"

The whiny, desperate voice of Starscream was recognizable immediately to Breakdown, but the context of Starscream's words made Breakdown shiver and stop in his tracks.

"Explain what? That you've been hoarding a supply of energon for your personal use?" That was Megatron's voice… What is Megatron doing in this old mine?

"No! Not exactly, you see-" Starscream's voice cut off as a resounding crunch rippled through the cave walls, followed by pained whimpers from the Seeker. Breakdown could only guess that Megatron had struck Starscream and, for a moment, he could not help but feel thankful that Megatron and Starscream were as of yet unaware of his presence.

"Do not take me for a fool, Starscream! I have been wise to your transgressions from the beginning. Not only did you pluck the Dark Energon from my chest in a failed attempt to snuff my spark, but you tried to raise your own undead warrior with it. It's no secret that you lost an arm in the process, which you since have replaced."

"You know about that?!" Starscream said indignantly. Against his better judgement, Breakdown began to slowly move down the mine tunnel towards the sound of his leader and commander's voices.

"Soundwave is quite competent at surveillance, I can assure you. The fact is Starscream, despite your treachery, I have allowed you to carry on this long because I took a certain delight in following your string of failures. But you have finally become tiresome, predictable. You've hit rock bottom."

"Master, please! Give me one more chance, I beg of you!" The desperate words escaped from Starscream right as the tunnel Breakdown was following opened into a large cavern, affording Breakdown the chance to see what had brought him here.

Starscream was crouched down on his servos, wings quivering, while Megatron loomed over the gray Seeker, the barrel of his cannon pointed directly at Starscream's back. Shock glued Breakdown's pedes to the ground, though his entire being was screaming for him to run for his life before Megaton spotted him. Recovering enough from his initial shock, Breakdown began to back away, back down the tunnel he had just come through when Starscream's optics fell on him.

"Breakdown! Help me!" Starscream begged hysterically upon recogniztion of Breakdown. Breakdown's chassis began to shake as Megatron turned in Breakdown's direction, red optics widening in disbelief and then anger as he leveled his attention upon Breakdown.

"What are you doing here, Breakdown?" Megatron asked, his voice quiet with rage as he turned fully towards Breakdown.

"I…" Breakdown hesitated, unsure of how to explain to Megatron why he was here, how Starscream had ordered him to come to this mine, under the guise of needing assistance. "Starscream..."

Wait… Did he ask me to come help him… To fight Megatron?

Megatron growled, chassis shaking with rage as he sent another glare towards Breakdown. "Explain yourself, Breakdown. NOW. Or I will personally offline you also."

Breakdown stepped backwards slightly, nearly stumbling over himself as he backed himself into a corner of the cavern wall as Megatron glowered rage unlike any Breakdown had seen before upon him. "Uh… It was Starscream, he asked for assistance-"

"No, it wasn't! He's lying! Lord Megatron, please, I have nothing to do with him being here. Nothing! I swear!" Starscream interrupted, the pitch of his engine hitching higher as Megatron turned his attention back to Starscream, who desperately gestured towards Breakdown. "He followed us here to ambush you, Lord Megatron!"

"So, you commed Breakdown for help, didn't you Starscream?" Megatron snarled, his voice dangerously low as the Decepticon leader stalked closer to Starscream, his cannon still aimed at Starscream.

"No! I-"

"ENOUGH!" Starscream shuddered beneath Megatron's roar and, even though he wasn't close to Megatron, Breakdown felt his own chassis shrink from Megatron's rage. Megatron turned his gaze back onto Breakdown, optics ablaze with unburdened hatred. "Don't think I have forgotten you, Breakdown. You have tested my patience one to many times of late, and I have been doubting your loyalty of late. Now is your last chance to prove your loyalty to me, Breakdown. Or do you wish to join this fool," Megatron flicked his clawed servo in Starscream's direction, "in death?"

Breakdown glanced between Megatron and Starscream, back and forth, back and forth. Megatron waited, though he seemed to be losing patience fast, and Starscream's optics bored into Breakdown, a silent plea burning in their red depths.

"Make. Your. Choice."

Chapter Text

Breakdown's gaze flicked between the forms of his two Commanders, one cowering fearfully while the other stood proud and fierce, his anger focused completely upon Breakdown.

"Make. Your. Choice." Megatron's voice boomed with the coldest authority, an authority that Breakdown had followed for eons without hesitance. But now Breakdown hesitated and, when he saw Megatron's optics narrow fractionally, he knew Megatron had seen his hesitation too, a fact that made Breakdown's backstrut crawl with nerves.

It angered Breakdown to think of how he would have immediately jumped to Megatron's side before, without a single thought except for preserving his spark and his loyalty to the Decepticons, but now? Now, he was hesitating. He had once believed he'd mattered to the Decepticons - looking back on it, Breakdown realized how foolish it was to think any Decepticon could value anyone but themselves - but no Decepticon had come to save him from MECH. And, while no Decepticon fully knew how he'd escaped from the grasp of the humans, Breakdown couldn't help but fear that Megatron knew the truth - or at least some of it.

He did not want to cross Megatron - no sane Decepticon would - and Breakdown had no desire to be seen as an ally to Starscream by the Decepticon leader. Knowing his best option for living past this moment, Breakdown lowered his gaze away from Megatron's stern gaze and then let out a long vent before answering. "I-"

A sudden gasp from Starscream interrupted Breakdown's words and, almost as if in cue, both Breakdown and Megatron both turned to see what had drawn Starscream's attention. To Breakdown's shock he saw the blue femme Autobot - and a small human - frozen in shock at the other side of the cavern.

The Autobot? What is she doing here?

The Autobot's optics widened in surprise while her human looked stunned and frightened at the presence of the three Decepticons. Breakdown whisked his gaze back to Megatron, backing away nervously as the leader of the Decepticons let out a furious, guttural roar, and fired his energy cannon at the Autobot, forgetting entirely about Breakdown and Starscream. The femme lunged for her human, snatching him up as the blasts from Megatron's cannon just barely missed the pair, and dove behind a column of stone. Megatron continued blasting the stone column, his roar of hatred echoing in the cave, nearly as loudly as his blasts.

"Stay down!" The femme called to her human, her right servo transforming into a gun, though she ducked behind the column of stone again as another of Megatron's blasts nearly hit her. Breakdown couldn't tear his gaze away from Megatron, who had begun to stride away from Starscream, intent only on offlining the Autobot femme and her human.

A sudden movement from Starscream tore Breakdown's gaze away from Megatron. The Seeker glanced at Megatron then, just briefly, towards Breakdown before he let out a cry and bolted down the tunnel Breakdown had come through without a second glance back.

"Starscream! You dare abandon me!" Megatron let out a bellowing shout of fury at Starscream's departure, then fired blast after blast from his energy cannon after Starscream. An explosion rocked the cave, unsteadying Breakdown as the cavern - and the entire mine - began to rumble ominously.

Steadying himself even amongst the mine's quaking, Breakdown watched as the Autobot shot Megatron in the back, though Megatron seemed unfazed by the shots, though it did redirect his attention from Starscream's departure back to the Autobot. Megatron snarled once more than swung his cannon around to face the Autobot, firing a moment after the Autobot did. But it was a moment that was costly for Megatron for, with a well aimed shot from the Autobot's gun, the femme's blast hit Megatron's cannon hard enough to force his arm upwards, and thus the blasts from his cannon hit the roof of the cavern instead of the Autobot.

Oh no… The thought crossed Breakdown's mind as a huge piece of rock, dislodged by Megatron's cannon shots, crushed the leader of the Decepticons underneath it and caused a ripple of cracks to tear through the floor of the cavern. Breakdown turned to flee, but the total collapse of the ground from underneath him, took him, the femme and her human down into a yawning chasm of blackness.

Breakdown awoke to stifling, choking darkness. Fear shot through his chassis as he became aware, even through the pitch darkness, that he was nowhere familiar - where ever he was smelled of dust and rock, not any smell the Nemesis would ever carry within its massive hull. Desperate for any purchase of reality, Breakdown tried to move but was met with stiff resistance on his entire right side, enough resistance that he knew he was trapped, though by what, he was unsure.

Needing a better understanding of his situation, Breakdown turned on his alt's headlights that were fixed upon his shoulder plates, wincing slightly from the sudden light that burned in the darkness. Though Breakdown's lights only provided a small flood of brightness, it was just enough that, with some maneuvering, that Breakdown was better able to understand his situation and why he was unable to move. All around him was evidence of a cave in, both for the lingering dust encircling him and the array of rocks that lay around him and, most notably to him, the rocks that were the source of his immobility. A large quanity of rocks lay atop most of his chassis, crushing his right arm, legs and most of his torso underneath heavy rubble.

Remembering the desperate call for help from Starscream that had led Breakdown to this abandoned energon mine, completely unaware of the fact that the Seeker was trying to use him to fight off Megatron, Breakdown felt anger flash through him. He had been led into a trap by Starscream and now he was to be punished for it by laying underneath rock for the remainder of his existence. A bitter vent escaped from Breakdown before his thoughts turned to the other Cybertronians he recalled present moments before he had fallen into this chasm. He wondered what had happened to Megatron, who he knew had been hit by the cave in as he had. Was Megatron as trapped as Breakdown was or had the Decepticon leader escaped? And what of the femme Autobot and her human? Had they escaped, or were they trapped in the cave in also?

What does it matter what happened to them? Breakdown growled inwardly. Even if they were caught up in this cave in, no Autobot would help me, least of all if one of their own was in danger.

Breakdown glanced towards the rocks pinning him, optic narrowing as he tried to think of a way to safely escape from the rubble. He contemplated using his shoulder cannon but decided against it when he remembered the instability of the mine from both Megatron and the Autobot's own guns. He didn't want to send more rocks tumbling down onto him if he misjudged his shot, even if it meant staying under the fallen rock forever. Eventually Breakdown's thoughts cooled down, leaving the large mech to stare endlessly into the darkness of his earthen prison and dwell on his position.

He knew not how long he lay there and stared dully into the darkness, empty of all hope, when an unmistakable far-off echo of a Decepticon mining drill growl pricked at his audials. A brief jolt of hope clawed at his spark and, for the briefest moment, Breakdown allowed himself to hope that someone had come to rescue him - no matter the reality of how unlikely that was. The roar of the drill's engine slowly began to heighten, telling Breakdown that whoever was piloting the Decepticon machinery was approaching his position - maybe they were looking for him! It was pure desperation - a desperation to escape from the confining space he was trapped in - that caused Breakdown to call out for help, hopeful that the being piloting the drill would hear him and come to his aid.

He called for help again and again but no help came his way and, instead, the roar of the drill that had given him hope for rescue only faded from his audio receptors until all he could hear was emptiness. No! Breakdown cried internally, his engine letting out a thundering roar filled with frustration, anger and fear as any thought of being saved left him.

He would die here in this mine, all because he had been foolish enough to allow himself to listen to Starscream's pleas for help. Abandoned again, Breakdown thought bitterly, when will I learn? Bitterness raged in Breakdown's spark as an unwanted memory of a different time he had been abandoned, by those he had trusted, wormed its way into his processor, preying upon him with merciless fervor.

Breakdown stumbled backwards, optics flaring and engine growling as he glared into the cold, steel-blue optics of his opponent. His opponent let out a small laugh and offered the him a servo up with a gentle smile. Breakdown grasped onto the servo and was pulled back up to his pedes as his opponent laid his other servo upon Breakdown's shoulder and gave him a respectful nod.

"You almost got me there, Breakdown. Almost." His opponent's light-blue and yellow frame sported a new set of scuffs and scars from his practice fight with Breakdown, and it was respect that Breakdown saw glint in his opponent's optics as he stepped away from Breakdown.

"Almost isn't good enoughSeaspray," Breakdown snapped, "almost isn't going to help me on the battlefield."

"This is only practice, Breakdown," Seaspray reminded him gently, "there is no cause to be so harsh on yourself over training. You have always been one of our strongest fighters, so what does practice against me matter?"

"Wheeljack could defeat you in practice but I can't? I've never bested you in battle, Seaspray," Breakdown reminded the Wrecker harshly, "so how can I be seen as strong against the real enemy when I can't defeat you?"

The look of concern that Seaspray shot Breakdown at his words only caused further humiliation and rage to burn through Breakdown's spark as the older mech slowly turned and led him out of the training room. Breakdown followed Seaspray with an irritated growl of his engine, his anger stewing within him as the two Wreckers entered the main room of the Wreckers' base. Seaspray gave Breakdown another concerned look before he bade him a good day and walked towards two Wreckers who were checking over their weapons.

Breakdown sought out an isolated corner of the room and settled into a chair seated behind a small table before he turned his focus towards the Wreckers occupying the room. He had always hated training with Seaspray, for the Wreckers Second-in-Command always seemed one step ahead of him, easily outmaneuvering Breakdown every practice session. The fact that Breakdown had yet been unable to best his fellow Wrecker was a source of bitterness for him. He had long prided himself on his prowess in battle and being unable to beat an opponent, even one who was his ally and friend, only served to make him ever more desperate to beat him.

"Whoa, watch out! Incoming lob!"

The warning shout from Bulkhead came almost too late for Breakdown, who dove to the ground seconds before a giant ball of metal flew over his helm and crashed into the wall behind him. Breakdown wheeled on the two Wreckers who burst into the room, the smaller of the two giving Breakdown an apologetic smile before he gestured to the lob ball behind Breakdown.

"Mind if we get that from you, Breakdown?" Wheeljack asked as he approached Breakdown, his ever present grin once more curling at the corner of his lips.

Breakdown glowered at Wheeljack but obliged the Wrecker by yanking the lob ball from the wall and, with irritated precision, dropped it in Wheeljack's servo. "Next time watch where you throw that, please? I don't much fancy the idea of losing my helm to a lob, alright?"

"We'll try to," Bulkhead assured him with a carefree smile, "Seaspray would be pretty upset if we offlined you in a game of lob."

"I'm sure he would," Breakdown grumbled with a roll of his optics, "though it might be worth it if he punishes you two again with cleaning the base."

Bulkhead made a disgusted sound at Breakdown's reminder before he rapped Wheeljack on the shoulder and, together, the two Wreckers trotted off, all the while lobbing the ball between themselves. Breakdown rolled his optics once more than rested an elbow on the table before him, a vent escaping from his mouth as he rested his chin against his servo. The War for Cybertron had been waging for vorns, every single one of those vorns being ones that Breakdown had spent serving with the Wreckers. Though he had been a member of the Wreckers longer than most of the current Wrecker unit, Breakdown, at times, felt out of place with his unit - especially since most of the unit were younger recruits. Many of his friends - the original Wreckers - had long since died in the war and friendships no longer came as easily to Breakdown, so he was, admittedly, not as close to the new Wreckers as he had been in the beginning of the war.

He liked Seaspray - except when they practiced together - and Breakdown even considered some of the recruits as his "friends", though he was nowhere near as close to them as he had been with his long deceased friends. Yet, for his reluctance to admit the Wreckers as friends, Breakdown still found his unit to be as close to a family as he believed he could get - especially Bulkhead and Wheeljack, both of whom he found himself assigned on missions with. And he would die for his family of Wreckers if the time came to it, though he could not help but hope that never played out in his life.

A sudden screech of static tore through the base's communications array, echoing harshly throughout the base, the shrill static clawing at Breakdown's audial receptors. Every other Wrecker in the room winced noticeable at the continued shrieking of their communications array, and it was only when the Wreckers Communications Chief, a young femme Wrecker named Annihilation, raced to the communication array and flipped the link online that all present were relieved from the audial splitting sound.

"Who is this?" Annihilation asked warily as she opened up communications between the base and the source of the contact, her optics narrowed as she waited for a response.

The voice that replied was heavy with static so only snips of what was said could be decipherable to the gathered Wreckers. "...'bots… Need backup… -ger Pax … Ambush..." The communication line was cut off with a scream and then static was all that followed.

Breakdown saw Seaspray glance his way before  Annihilation turned away from the communication control array and faced her team, confusion sparking in her optics. "What do we do, Seaspray? I wasn't able to get a lock on who that was to verify whether it came from Autobots or not, but the frequency locator says the message came from Tyger Pax."

"There's been endless fighting there lately,"  Roadbuster, one of the more senior Wreckers left, noted, "and I heard that a number of Autobot infantry was headed to Tyger Pax recently. No one has heard from those units since they were deployed, though."

"If there are Autobots in trouble, then we have to help," Seaspray said with a subtle turn of his head towards Breakdown, as always waiting for Breakdown's input before he fully decided upon the Wreckers' next course of action.

Breakdown met Seaspray's gaze and gave the Second-In-Command an unsure shake of his helm. "What if it's a trap, Seaspray? The Decepticons are known for drawing out units of Autobots with faked pleas for help over radio frequencies."

"Then we'll just punish them for it!" Sharpclaw snarled gleefully. "And since when did the Wreckers worry about traps, Breakdown? That's what we're made for!"

Seaspray shook his head at Sharpclaw's response then turned to the Wreckers, most of whom had gathered in the main room by now. "Wreckers, we've got Autobots we need to save. Annihilation, prepare a Ground Bridge, we're moving out momentarily."

"Yes, Seaspray," Annihilation muttered quietly before she pulled up the Ground Bridge controls for the Wrecker base and, after inputting the coordinates to Tyger Pax, activated the Ground Bridge.

"Breakdown, Bulkhead, Feedback, Grindstone, Roadbuster, Sharpclaw, Topspin, Wheeljack, all of you are all coming with me to Tyger Pax," Seaspray commanded as he stepped towards the Ground Bridge, "you too, Annihilation."

Annihilation's mouth sagged open, the large, black and red wings on her back lowering. "Seaspray, why?"

"Because I trust you, and you can provide air cover for us, should we need it," Seaspray explained, optics sparking.

"Fine," Annihilation said coolly before she turned over the communication array to a different Wrecker unhappily. As Seaspray and his selected Wreckers began to charge through the Ground Bridge, Breakdown could not help but feel a sense of dread come over him. The message unnerved him, worried him even but he knew he had to go on.

With a controlled vent Breakdown switched his servos into their hammer alts, activated his shoulder cannon and then charged after his team of Wreckers.

Breakdown stumbled backwards from the large Decepticon he was fighting, his left servo pressed desperately over a large wound that ripped through his torso, a vain attempt to staunch the flow of leaking energon from his chassis. His opponent, a golden brown Decepticon grounder, snarled gleefully at Breakdown's injury before he lunged towards Breakdown once more, servos extended to slash open Breakdown again. Breakdown met the Decepticon mid-stride with a fierce swing of his hammer, the force of his swing staggering the Decepticon enough that it was only a slight scratch that rent through Breakdown's chestplate instead of a crippling wound.

The Decepticon recovered with a shake of his helm, though he did not once again rush Breakdown as he, with wary optics, began to stalk towards Breakdown's left side, clawed servos twitching in tune with the irritated rumbles of his engine. Breakdown followed every movement of his opponent, waiting for the Decepticon - who he had already pegged to be extremely impatient - to act first. And act his opponent did for, with a roar from his engine, the Decepticon lunged for Breakdown again, the Decepticon's rage blinding him to Breakdown's slight smile.

Breakdown activated his shoulder cannon and, just as the Decepticon's servos were mere inches from his faceplate, fired a rapid burst of energy. The shots from his cannon blasted a hole through the Decepticon's chestplate, who staggered backwards, servos twitching, and gave Breakdown a hatred fueled glare.  Breakdown let out a fierce roar of his engine before he smashed his large chassis into the Decepticon. The Decepticon's optics widened as Breakdown smashed his body to the ground and, using one of his pedes to hold the wounded Deception to the ground, smashed the Decepticon's helm in with one hammer. Sparks jetted from the Decepticon's helm as Breakdown pulled away from the still twitching form of the dead Decepticon, his optics quickly searching out for the rest of the Wreckers amongst a blur of warring Cybertronians.

Not to his surprise, the message for help had been a Decepticon trap - as Breakdown had suspected - for when the Wreckers had left the Ground Bridge from their base, they had  been  ambushed  immediately  by a large unit of Decepticon warriors. The Wreckers had been unable to comm back to base for help due to a Decepticon frequency jammer and so, since Breakdown and his unit had left base, they had been stuck fighting for their lives against a fleet of Decepticon warriors that seemed never ending.

"Help!" The plea came to the right of Breakdown, snapping his attention to the unmistakable sight of Wheeljack pinned underneath a mass of Decepticon soldiers.

Fury built within Breakdown's engine as he watched his fellow Wrecker desperately fight to escape from the Decepticons and, without any hesitation, Breakdown fired his cannon at the swarm covering Wheeljack before he charged towards the stricken Wrecker. Decepticons leapt away from Wheeljack as Breakdown's shots struck living metal, offlining two Decepticons with well-aimed shots to the helm, while his furious charge scattered the rest off of Wheeljack.

Wheeljack scrambled to his pedes as the Decepticons swarmed him and Breakdown, the smaller Wrecker instinctively putting his back to Breakdown's as the Decepticons, now recovered from their surprise over Breakdown's attack, charged once more. Breakdown fired missile after missile at the Decepticons until his cannon was empty and he could resort only to his hammer servos to fight off the Decepticons. Wheeljack's swords danced in the corner of Breakdown's optic as he cut through chassis without pause, both Wreckers desperate to get out of this battle alive.

Finally the Decepticons, either offlined or too damaged to continue fighting them, fled from Breakdown and Wheeljack, giving both Wreckers a moment of respite. Breakdown winced and clutched at his chestplate, which was leaking energon from a multitude of wounds and torn open mesh. A firm servo on Breakdown's arm drew his gaze to that of Wheeljack's, who's optics were narrowed with worry as his fellow Wrecker glanced over Breakdown's damaged chassis.

"Are you alright, Breakdown?"

"I can still fight," Breakdown growled, "just some minor damage, that's all."

Wheeljack raised a single optic ridge doubtfully at Breakdown's response to his query, but Wheeljack knew better than to argue with Breakdown in the midst of a battle as outnumbered as this one. A distant cry drew Breakdown and Wheeljack's optics to the large form of Bulkhead surrounded by five Decepticons, all of whom were giving no quarter to their opponent. Wheeljack shot Breakdown a look before the two Wreckers charged towards their friend.

"Hang on, Bulkhead!" Breakdown yelled out as he and Wheeljack charged towards the Decepticons and their friend, Breakdown's progress slowing as he dodged a wild shot of energy from one of the Decepticon soldier's gun. Bulkhead looked towards Breakdown's shout, a grin appearing on the mech's faceplate when he saw Wheeljack and Breakdown charging towards him, a sight that seemed to give strength Bulkhead, for the thick-set mech drove his maces into one of the Decepticons mere moments before Wheeljack's swords slashed through the helm of another.

One of the Decepticons, seeing both Wheeljack and Bulkhead distracted, leveled its gun at Bulkhead's helm but, before it could fire, Breakdown plowed into the Decepticon. The Decepticon's claws dug into Breakdown's arm fruitlessly as Breakdown's  servo latched onto the helm of his enemy and, with a mighty heave, threw the Decepticon away from Bulkhead. The thrown Decepticon scrambled to its pedes moments before Breakdown's hammer sent the soldier flying into another Decepticon. The last Decepticon, having seen the rest of his allies fall at the combined force of Breakdown, Wheeljack and Bulkhead decided to flee, quickly transforming into a Cybertronian jet before blasting away from the fight.

"Thanks, Breakdown, Wheeljack, I needed that," Bulkhead thanked as Breakdown caught his breath and winced at the pain jolting through his chassis. "Are you okay, Breakdown? I saw you get hit…"

"I'm fine," Breakdown replied, his tone level as Bulkhead and Wheeljack sidled closer to him, "let's help the others."

Bulkhead and Wheeljack both gave Breakdown questioning looks but did not verbally question him as they followed Breakdown back into battle towards the rest of the Wreckers. The three Wreckers fought off Decepticons swarming Seaspray and Grindstone, freeing two more Wreckers to fight the Decepticon forces. Finally, after what seemed like vorns of battle, Breakdown noticed that the Decepticon soldiers were beginning to flee, leaving the battlefield until all was silent but for the heavy venting of the ten Wreckers. Every single Wrecker was sporting a multitude of injuries, some more severe than others, including Feedback, who's arm was dangling by threads of wiring to his chassis.

"Wreckers, we need to fall back to base. I'll try contacting them for a Ground Bridge. Hopefully our comms will work with the Decepticons gone," Seaspray growled as he gestured for his worn down unit to his side. "Base, we need a Ground Bridge now," Seaspray growled, "before more Decepticons come."

Static was the only reply Seaspray got, the harsh grating sound causing a scowl to curve at the Wrecker Second-In-Commands mouth. "Dammit! Wreckers, move out. Let's get as much space between us and Tyger Pax!"

Breakdown shot a look towards the sky, searching for any trace of Decepticon reinforcements and only upon seeing and hearing none did Breakdown slowly turn to follow the rest of the Wreckers. His right pede hit the ground as he prepared himself to transform-

A sudden explosion erupted from underneath Breakdown's pede, the force of the explosion hurtling Breakdown into a small building that collapsed when his large frame crashed into it. Unimaginable pain split through his chassis as rubble from the building crushed his damaged chassis, creating a fire within Breakdown that reduced all but the barest of sense to nothingness.

Almost without conscious thought of what he was doing, Breakdown struggled to move his chassis, but nothing would respond, not even his digits . Confused, the blue Wrecker tried to access his internal scanners but was met by ruptured feedback that only served to darken his hearing to a dull static. Another attempt at prodding his scanner provided somewhat better feedback than before, though it was limited information that only told him of the extreme energon lose he was suffering and nothing else. He knew that energon was pouring from a likely innumerable amount of wounds, and his scanner's struggled to update him on the exact time he would run out of energon...

All he knew was that it was too fast... too fast…

Dizzily, Breakdown shook his helm, he had to stay awake, had too…

As a swarm of darkness began to flood Breakdown's processor he could, very faintly, hear someone's voice calling his name… Very, very distantly.

Help me… please…

Breakdown felt his senses return to him weakly as a soft, yet seemingly very distant, touch, ran down his frame. "We need to get him out of here, Seaspray! I don't know how much longer he can last with these wounds not getting treated."

More servos pressed against Breakdown's wounds, trying to do what, Breakdown could not figure out. Slowly, painfully, Breakdown's optics opened, though everything in his range of vision seemed dull and edged with a dark tone. "Help..." The words leaked from Breakdown like the energon he could feel seeping from his wounds, weak and strained.

"Shush, don't talk Breakdown, you're injured."

"Bulkhead, have you been able to comm base, yet?" This voice… Seaspray… said from above Breakdown. The voice to Breakdown's side grumbled a negative and, even in Breakdown's weakened mental state, he realized that it was Bulkhead hovering over him… He's trying to help me…

"We're going to save you, Breakdown. Trust me," Bulkhead's voice seemed even more distant this time as Breakdown's vision began to melt into an endless black sludge.

"No, no! Stay with us Breakdown!" Another voice - Wheeljack? - begged before servos smashed against Breakdown's chestplate with an agonized roar. "Don't you dare leave us!"

Suddenly, an eerie roar of engines thrummed through the sky, the draw out sound of more Decepticon troopers coming.

"I thought we finished them!" One voice gasped to Breakdown's side as the drone of engines grew louder even to his dulled audials.

"We need to get out of here!" Sharpclaw's roar was loudest of all, even so much as to drill into Breakdown's mind and make him recognize the Wrecker immediately. "Leave Breakdown behind, he's practically offline as it is."

"But we can't leave Breakdown, he's one of us!" Bulkhead snapped above Breakdown.

"Wreckers don't leave another Wrecker behind, Sharpclaw!" Wheeljack's snarl was closest of all the voices and, briefly, Breakdown felt Wheeljack's servos tighten over his chassis as if protecting him. "We are getting Breakdown out of here, no matter what!"

"Who cares? We leave him and get out of here, or we stay and all of us join his sorry self in the Well of the All Sparks! I don't know about all of you but I would willingly choose my life over a mech who's practically already dead." Sharpclaw's voice sounded closer to Breakdown this time and, yet, also more and more distant every passing moment.

"How could you say that, Sharpclaw? You haven't even given Breakdown a chance! He's strong and Wreckers never leave behind one of our own!"

"We do now!" Sharpclaw's roar was followed by a strange, muffled sound of metal ripping into metal, a sound that was followed quickly by a new, blazing pain originating in Breakdown's neck.

"Why would you-"

"Let's go, Bulkhead!" Breakdown could barely hear the words shared between the Wreckers, but the sound of the approaching Decepticons seemed to be getting louder and louder - and the desperation in his unit's voices was only ever more stark, even to his dulled senses.

Then, from his right, a voice, flush with pain and anger, spoke up, "We can't stay here any longer… You need to decide what to do, Seaspray."

No response came from Seaspray, nor would Breakdown ever hear it, for blackness soon enveloped Breakdown and left him mindless to the world around him.

Breakdown awoke to the warm heat of a welder moving over his shoulder plates along with the unmistakable feeling of stiff joints and damaged wiring aching through his entire chassis. Slowly Breakdown's optics opened, though it took some time for them to adjust to the lighting in the room before he could discern the dull form of a lithe red mech hovering over his arm. The mech continued to weld Breakdown's arm joint, oblivious to his patient's change of state, even when Breakdown attempted to get a better look at the mech fixing him.

He did not recognize the sleek red chassis of the mech - he knew for certain no Wrecker had the same red as this mech - and he could not find any memory of an Autobot medic with the design of this mech. So where am I?

"Ah, you are awake. Good." The medic's voice caught Breakdown by surprise as he realized that he had spoken aloud without his knowing. "And to answer your question, friend, you are in the medical bay of Kaon."

"WHAT?! The Decepticons? What am I doing with the Decepticons?" Breakdown gasped as his engine let out a low rumble of uncertainty. How did the Decepticons get their servos on me? And where are the Wreckers? Were they captured to?

The red medic gave Breakdown a strange, piercing look with his red optics at Breakdown's outburst, his helm tilted slightly as he stared into Breakdown's optics. "Because that is where we take injured Decepticons. Where else should you be?"

Breakdown hesitated, unsure of what to say to the Decepticon medic, least his true allegiance be discovered and the Decepticon torture him for information on the whereabouts of the Wrecker's base. Knowing it best to play along with the Deception's belief, Breakdown gave a shake of his helm and tried to give the medic an apologetic smile. "Sorry, my sensor's are all wrong. What happened to me?"

The medic's gaze brightened and any trace of suspicion left his face as a weird smile carved over his faceplate. "A Seeker armada commander named Dreadwing found you on the battlefields of Tyger Pax. They believed you dead until Dreadwing detected a faint trace of life within your spark. He brought you here and, considering the condition you were in and the fact they doubted you would live, I got stuck with helping you. But now, h ere you are, alive and nearly fixed, all thanks to Knock Out!"

"But what about the Wreckers?" The words escaped from Breakdown before he could stop them, and he could not help the rush of fear that exploded in his spark at his near slip up. What will this Decepticon do if he realizes I'm not a Decepticon?

"Hmm? Who… Oh, them! Dreadwing and his armada scared them off and, from what I heard, they looked practically delightful running away scared from us. You were the only Decepticon alive on the battlefield there, the Wreckers destroyed the rest of our unit that was defending Tyger Pax." The medic's full statement did not process entirely in Breakdown's mind for his thoughts were too consumed by the nonchalance the medic had spoken with about the Wreckers fleeing.

The Wreckers had left him behind, left him to be picked up by Decepticons - Sharpclaw had even tried to offline him! They actually left me? My friends, companions… They left me to die on the battlefield? Why? WHY?! Breakdown let out a furious, spark wrenching roar as he came to terms with the fact his long-time unit of Wreckers had abandoned him. Damn them all to the Pit!

At Breakdown's roar, the medic shot away from him, optics hesitant as he watched Breakdown's optics blaze with fury, though the medic seemed to recover swiftly as Breakdown's roar petered into a soft rumbling from his engine.

"Uh… Well, then. I need to know your name, to log it into the databanks is all. Standard protocol."

"It's Breakdown."

"Okay then, well, give yourself some time to recover and you will be back to full functionality soon. We need as many strong, healthy mechs as we can get on the battlefield," The medic said as he turned away from Breakdown, "you must be strong if you lived all of that. Oh, and the name is Knock Out, if you were wondering - as I guess you were, of course."

Breakdown let his engine answer Knock Out with a short rumble, not wishing to be entirely rude to the mech who had saved his life. No thanks to the Wreckers. Why did they leave me behind - and let Sharpclaw try to kill me?

Breakdown's memories faded away slowly, though he still could taste the bitter hatred for the Wreckers in his spark even when all he could see was the faint light from his headlights and smell the ancient dust of the cave in. So long his life had been fueled by that abandonment - it had been the reason he'd joined the Decepticons without any secondary thought - that he'd never once thought that he could be abandoned again. But now that same feeling of abandonment was burning in his spark, this time for the cause that had saved him from certain death many eons ago on Cybertron.

Letting out a shuddering vent, Breakdown closed his remaining optic then tuned his audio sensors as best he could to try and catch the sound of the drill - his only chance at escaping - once more. It took some minutes before Breakdown was able to pick up on the sound of the drill, though he was unsure whether he was imagining it or if the rocks covering him were messing with his audio sensors. Again he heard a faint buzzing but he dared not hope that it was drawing near, not since he had already bypassed him before.

Breakdown's musings were cut off when a loud crack rippled through the cave, an ominous groan echoing through the massive cave as a heavy powder of dust fell onto his trapped chassis. The cave is collapsing in even more... Of all ways to go, I get offlined, not by Autobots, but by this planet. Well, better than getting offlined by humans.

But then a small blaze of hope burned through his chassis as another, far more welcome noise, greeted his audio sensors. It was the drill, and it was getting closer. Breakdown tried to call out for help, but his voice was hoarse from pain and tinged with exhaustion and all that came from his mouth was a weak growl. Again he tried to call out and was, again, met with only a hoarse rasp of his voice. Desperation set in as the sound of the drill began to fade away again - leaving him behind. No! Breakdown, with one last desperate attempt to draw the drill operator's attention to him, let a roar from his engine that seemed to make the walls of the cave shake and produced dust that sprinkled his chassis.

The sound of the drill continued to thrum near him but it soon faded away, again. Whoever is piloting that drill isn't coming for me. Of course not... I'm stuck here forever then. What I would give to be back on the Nemesis and to have never heard that damned call from Starscream-

Wait… the Nemesis, of course! I could try to contact the Nemesis. If I tell them that Megatron and I are trapped in an old energon mine, they'll have to come… Right? Pushing away his doubt, Breakdown switched his comms online, hoping - he sort of knew he was hoping too much - that his comms would be able to reach out to the Nemesis, even amongst all the rubble. But no signal showed up on his comms, not even a small, wavering beep of the Nemesis' locater that all Decepticons were downloaded upon arrival to Earth. When his efforts proved in vain, Breakdown slowly began to realize that not only was he not able to get the comm signal through the rock but he couldn't even seem to be able to open the Nemesis' specific communications link.

Soundwave must have known I went to help Starscream… And disconnected me from the Nemesis. I really am alone… Breakdown let out a huff of air from his vents, a sense of grim bleakness clawing into his thoughts. I've always been alone. Always.

A jolt of laughter, dry and emotionless, escaped from Breakdown's mouth, surprising the large mech in its unfamiliarity. I guess being alone is what I deserve.

Breakdown flinched slightly as another sickening groan echoed over him, followed by another thick cloud of dust and rock dusting from the ceiling. Even the rocks pinning Breakdown's limbs seemed to grow in their weight, to the point that the slightest twitch of his pinned servo sent jolts of unbearable pain stabbing through his core. An agonized groan escaped from his mouth as his his engine let out a shrieking cry for relief from the crushing pain, any kind of relief.

Then, suddenly, Breakdown became all too aware of the sharp sound of rock being ground up by the Decepticon drill - rock that was just to his right. Breakdown snapped his optic to the focal point of the drill's hum, flinching slightly when a spray of rock fragments flung from the drill's powerful blades pinged across his faceplate and chassis, before the purple hued tip of the drill burst a hole through rock and powered down. At the sight of the drill, Breakdown felt a smile curve over his faceplate, never before had he been so thankful to see a Decepticon drill, or anything Decepticon based, then he was right now.

Breakdown's engine thrummed with pure elation as he accepted that he was going to escape this cavern and- then he saw the small, fleshy body the femme Autobot's human peek around the driving console of the drill and any fragment of hope dissipated. He counted himself extremely lucky to have been rescued from MECH by Bulkhead, but he'd not been fool enough to know that it was not out of the good of Bulkhead's spark that had led him to save Breakdown - and he did not figure himself lucky twice with the Autobots.

"If you plan on using that drill to offline me, please just get it over with, human," Breakdown grumbled quietly as he watched the human peek around the drill and notice him with optics wide. Breakdown hated that he was trapped and unable to move, leaving him vulnerable to a human once more - and this time a human equipped with a Decepticon drill that he could easily turn on Breakdown - and he knew there was no way he could defend himself if the human did decide to use the drill against him.

But the human didn't touch the drill nor answer Breakdown, and instead turned its back on Breakdown and called out something to someone behind it. A few moments later, a few moments too long for Breakdown, a form appeared beside the drill - Bulkhead.

"Breakdown? What in the Pit are you doing here?"

Why is Bulkhead here? Did he come to save his Autobot pal? Or was he caught in the cave in too? Breakdown thought, though his question was answered by the strain in Bulkhead's optics and the layers of dust covering his chassis.

Bulkhead grumbled something under his breath, optics flaring angrily. "I'll have to ask you again. What are you doing here, Breakdown?" This time Bulkhead's voice was filled with hate, a hate Breakdown seemed to be oddly void of at the moment.

"I don't know," Breakdown replied sarcastically. "Just lying around. Why? What is it to you, Bulkhead?"

Bulkhead's stance stiffened, his servos clenching into fists and, to Breakdown, it looked like his old enemy was preparing himself to smash Breakdown's helm when a new voice halted him.

"Bulkhead, what is wrong?" It was the two-wheeler, the echo of her pedes much lighter than Bulkhead's as she leapt beside her fellow Autobot and peered down on Breakdown's plight. A rev of disgust hissed from the femme's engine when she recognized Breakdown and it would have been impossible for Breakdown to miss the snarl that curved across the femme's mouth before she spoke again. "So, you lived the cave-in too. How… fortunate."

Breakdown shrugged, or to the best of his ability tried, having no words to describe what he was feeling. The idea of staring down two Autobots and a human in easy reach of a Decepticon drill with no way to defend himself did not sit well with Breakdown. But I can't do anything about it. I'm at the Autobot's mercy… Or the lack of it.

Both Autobots seemed to share the same thought as Breakdown for, with a quick glance shared between the pair of them, both transformed their servos into guns and aimed them at his helm. Breakdown didn't react to the threat except to let a soft, resigned rumble escape from his engine, and the vent that escaped from his mouth was the most resigned of sounds. He was unsurprised by the Autobots' decision and there was nothing he could do to defend himself - his survival tettered solely on Bulkhead's hatred for him.

"Guys, is this what Optimus would want? He's defenseless." It took a few moments for Breakdown to realize that it was the human who spoke up, though the human's voice held clear notes of nervousness as he continued to stare at Breakdown. "He poses no threat to any of us in his state, guys. He can't even move."

"He could still use his cannon on us-"

"And bring the whole cave down on us, Bulkhead? Really? I'm not that stupid," Breakdown snapped.

"Come on," the human piloting the drill said, "just help him out and we can part ways. Optimus wouldn't approve of us leaving him, or you killing him."

Bulkhead and the femme both flipped their optics to the human and, for what seemed like vorns, the two Autobots seemed to mull over their decision until, finally, the femme relented first with a frustrated rev of her engine.

"Fine, Jack."

Bulkhead didn't immediately lower his guard like his companion had, the shift of his optics turning to where Breakdown was pinned making it clear that the green mech was contemplating leaving Breakdown in the cave. But, for all of Bulkhead's desires to see Breakdown dead, Breakdown knew Bulkhead well enough to know that the ex-Wrecker would not dare and go against the wishes of his superior commander. Finally Bulkhead relented, though he let out an unhappy growl of his engine when he did, and switched his energy cannons back into servos with a pointed glare aimed at Breakdown.

"Whoa, is that Breakdown? Your arch rival, Bulkhead!"

The loud, high voice of another human snapped Breakdown's attention to the small form peeking around Bulkhead's pede, its optics wide with awe as it stared at him. Bulkhead shifted his optics down to his human then turned them back to Breakdown, the blue glow of his optics dark with suspicion as he noticed the way Breakdown watched his human.

"Don't think about touching her, Breakdown."

"Don't worry, Bulkhead. I'm not going to touch your precious pet," Breakdown replied evenly, though he could barely hold back the biting tone that wanted to snap off his glossa, "I just want out of this cave right now. Your human can wait."

Bulkhead didn't seem to appreciate Breakdown's snappy tone as he lunged towards Breakdown, servo already switched to its mace form and raised to crush Breakdown's chassis into twisted metal. Breakdown snarled and glared at Bulkhead as the furious Autobot closed in on him, stopping only when the femme Autobot leapt in front of Bulkhead, kibble flaring outwards in a warning display.


Bulkhead fumed, steam hissing from his vents unhappily as he glared over his ally's helm to lock onto Breakdown's optic briefly but, with an annoyed huff, Bulkhead backed down from the intense gaze of the femme.

"Alright, you going to get him out or not? I'm hungry."


"I'll make it simple," Breakdown interrupted, "get me out, and I'll leave you be. I don't want to be stuck here forever, and I am willing to hold a truce with you Autobots if you get me out."

"How do we know we can trust you?" Bulkhead questioned, his gaze begging for Breakdown to do something foolish that would justify him getting to smash Breakdown's helm in. "If I remember correctly, Breakdown, you turned on me after I saved you from MECH. Maybe I should have left you to be dissected by them, now that I think about it."

Breakdown froze at the mention of MECH, memories flashing back to Silas' cold gaze and the empty, missing feeling of pain as his right optic was gouged out.

"Well? What will you say about yourself, Breakdown?" Bulkhead's voice was a distant echo but Breakdown grasped onto the anchor to the present, pulling his mind out of memories he really did not want to revisit again.

"I... " Breakdown hesitated momentarily but the hesitation seemed to be enough for Bulkhead.

"I knew it. We can't trust him, Arcee. Let's go, Miko," Bulkhead said. The green Autobot turned away from Breakdown and signaled for his human but, to Breakdown's utter surprise, she ignored Bulkhead's command and ran up to Breakdown, arms crossed over her chest as she turned her back to Bulkhead and pouted.

"I'm not going with you, Bulkhead. Not until we help Breakdown out of here."

Bulkhead's expression was priceless in its confused shock at his human's rebellion and, if not for the worry that the Autobots would leave him here, Breakdown would have laughed at the sight. The femme's expression was nearly as shocked as Bulkhead's, but she recovered quickly enough that it was only a brief moment of surprise, much unlike Bulkhead.

"But Miko," Bulkhead protested lamely but Breakdown knew the mech had been won over. "UGH. Fine, we'll get you out Breakdown, but after that we are done."

It's surprising how much sway that little human has on Bulkhead, Breakdown mused as the little human standing in front of him let out a squeak of triumph, her servo pumping the air happily as Bulkhead slowly approached Breakdown's position.

Breakdown felt a rumble of laughter, genuine laughter, pour from his engine at the dour look Bulkhead was giving him, as if he blamed Breakdown for his human's betrayal. "Can't handle having a little traitor in your midst, can you Bulkhead?" Breakdown teased lightly.

Bulkhead shot Breakdown a meaningful glare that said shut up as the green mech began to pound away at the rocks pinning Breakdown's legs, a scowl seeming etched permanently upon Bulkhead's faceplate. The femme soon approached the rocks pinning Breakdown's right arm, her servos transforming back into their gun alts as she started to fire away at the rocks pinning him. The duo worked swiftly at removing the rocks, though neither was kind about it, least of all Bulkhead who Breakdown hadn't failed to notice seemed to purposefully miss breaking the rocks apart and would hit Breakdown's chassis instead at times.

When the Autobots had finally removed all remnants of the rocks that had been pinning Breakdown, both stood around for a moment or two, as if neither knew what to do next. Tired of the Autobots games, Breakdown began to move, his legs dragging across the rocky ground with a harsh shriek before he gathered his legs underneath himself, and pushing himself into a standing position with a heave of his servos off the ground. Just as a small feeling of relief began to fill his spark, Breakdown felt his legs began to shake and, almost without warning, he crashed to the ground. Hot embarrassment burned through his engine as he noticed Bulkhead and the femme cast each other doubting glances as he again tried to stand on his own, and failed once more.

Breakdown let out an enraged roar as his chassis failed him again, leaving him ever more vulnerable around the Autobots and their humans, and it was an outlet of that anger that he smashed his servos to the ground in frustration. He was hurting, he wasn't foolish enough to not see that, but how he loathed showing weakness in front of the Autobots and the prying eyes of their human pets. When Breakdown again tried to stand, his weakened legs gave out before he had barely pushed his limbs into a crouching position and his chassis slammed unceremoniously to the ground again.

"What?" He snapped as fury, humiliation, embarrassment and self-disgust raging through his spark at the mild expressions of the two Autobots.

"We can help you," the femme voiced quietly, though Breakdown could tell she was not happy about her offering when her optics narrowed fractionally.

"Sure you will," Breakdown replied sourly, but he couldn't deny that he was too exhausted to continue trying to do something his entire chassis was telling him he couldn't and, irritating as it was to admit, he needed the Autobots help if he wanted to stand. A shuddering vent escaped from Breakdown as he gave a hesitant glance towards Bulkhead and the femme, then gave the curtest of shrugs with his sore shoulder plates. "It would be appreciated."

Bulkhead seemed to bite back his words as he put his servo out for Breakdown, though the glare Breakdown saw in Bulkhead's optics more than made up for the silence the former Wrecker was giving him. Breakdown stared at Bulkhead's extended servo for a moment then, having decided that getting help from his enemy rather than continue humiliating himself was the better option, Breakdown clasped onto Bulkhead's offered servo. The moment Breakdown clasped onto Bulkhead's servo, he was yanked up onto his pedes, a weird rush of dizziness almost causing Breakdown to collapse again were it not for Bulkhead's steadying grasp.

"Thanks," Breakdown muttered as he pulled his servo from Bulkhead quickly and stepped away from the Autobot, not wanting to meet the optics of Bulkhead or his fellow Autobot.

"I didn't know Decepticons had manners!" Breakdown heard Bulkhead's human gasp, though Breakdown's concentration was focused so much on keeping on his pedes that he almost missed Bulkhead's quiet retort.

"Decepticons don't have manners, Miko. And don't you dare ever suggest they do. They kill and torture others for fun. They don't know the first thing about respect, or for caring about others."

In that moment Breakdown felt his quiet tolerance for the Autobots snap as he wheeled on Bulkhead, ignoring the wave of dizziness hitting his processor painfully as his engine let out a snarl of rage. "We don't know about respect?! Who are you to talk, Autobot? Your kind murder and destroy countless lives on a daily basis too! You are no better than the Decepticons, worse even when your sole motivation is protecting HUMANS! Us Cybertronians don't matter so long as the precious human race is in danger, right?"

Bulkhead stepped towards Breakdown, anger spiking off his chassis as he glared hatefully at Breakdown. "Be careful what you say around us, Breakdown, we did just save your worthless spark."

"And I appreciate that," Breakdown reiterated sharply, "Bulkhead, but that does not mean you are much different than the Decepticons you swore to hate. You claim that Decepticons know nothing of respect or caring and yet your group is happy to offline countless Cybertronian lives, as if you are any better than us."

Bulkhead stepped back from Breakdown, confusion clear in his optics as the green mech attempted to process the meaning of Breakdown's outburst. "What are you talking about?"

"Who do you think, Bulkhead? The Vehicons and Skyquake, to name the most recent!" Breakdown was going to say more when a condescending scoff interrupted him. Furious, the large mech turned optic landing on the blue femme whose kibble was raised threateningly as she paced up to him and glared up into his optic.

"The Vehicons? Ha! I'd sooner believe that Starscream is a loyal Decepticon before I'd believe that those Vehicons," the femme spat the word Vehicon as if it was poison, "are really living, thinking beings. And Optimus never wanted to kill Skyquake, but Skyquake pushed him to it."

"As I suspect you would do the same if the leader of your rival cause approached you, Autobot," Breakdown hissed coldly, "and, like it or not, the Vehicons are Cybertronian, just as you and I are. You just aren't willing to see that."

The femme didn't respond to Breakdown's retort, though her blazing optics were more than enough of an answer to Breakdown, who returned her glare with his own. Shooting a dark look towards Bulkhead and the two humans, Breakdown transformed into his alt mode, and raced away from the Autobots, leaving a spray of rocks to hit the drill as he sped out of the cave. He dodged boulders and careened crazily through tunnels until the faintest trace of sunlight pricked at his optic, a sight that made him push his engine full throttle until he reached the source of light and burst out of the cave with a subdued roar of his engine.

Breakdown slowed to a stop for a moment and glanced back at the cave, his thoughts lingering momentarily on the Autobots, though those vanished quickly without a second thought. I can't return to the Nemesis, and I will not join the Autobots. I need to figure things out on my own. Breakdown turned his wheels to the sun and, with no destination in mind, roared away from the cave and the Autobots.

I am not the Decepticon loyalist I once was, nor am I willing to become an ally to the enemies I fought against for eons. The Autobots may have saved me from MECH but I am not ready to swear loyalty to anyone; not yet, at least. Though I may be factionless now, I have a score to settle and I'll see it through to the end.

Chapter Text

"... fire on the corner of Holly and Birch Street…"

"... new hit single…"

"... an officer down! I repeat…"

"... studies show that people who…"

"... If I'm gonna make it through the day / Then there's no more use in running / This is something I gotta face…"

Breakdown shut his radio off with a frustrated snarl, the furious rumble of his engine causing the chassis of his alt mode to shake almost unnoticably. After five solitary days searching every known radio frequency and broadcast system available to Breakdown, he still had yet to hear anything of MECH, or for that matter the Decepticons or Autobots. In his time alone, vengeance had ripped its way into his spark, clawing deeper and deeper each day that passed without finding the humans who had tortured him, and each failed attempt at finding MECH only fueled the tendrils of hatred for Earth and the species that inhabited it within him.

As much as he wanted to see MECH suffer for what they had done to him, deep inside his spark, Breakdown knew that hunting down MECH was foolish and practically a death wish for him. But, to him, destroying MECH was the only purpose he had left in his life, now that he had no Decepticon warship to call home or even any Cybertronian allies he could talk with. He had no home to go back to - and the one home he really wanted to go back to was unreachable without a Space Bridge - ever since he had been ousted from the Decepticons and Breakdown could not help but feel that he had no purpose left either. When he was a Decepticon he'd had a purpose, be it fighting to protect his allies in battle or commanding the Vehicons in operations, or even to provide assistance to Knock Out both in battle and in the medical lab. Now Breakdown was nothing... nothing but a mech driven by a vengeful need to destroy the humans who had captured and tortured him.

The thunder of Breakdown's tires hitting the rumble strips on the side of the lonely Utah highway jolted his thoughts away from MECH and back to the road he was driving on. An indignant honk from a car behind him blared at the same time as he swerved his alt mode back into the northbound lane, the side of his alt nearly scrapping the human driven car that had been passing him on the two lane highway. Breakdown glared at the car as it passed him and sped away, far above the speed limit, leaving Breakdown all to his lonesome on the quiet highway.

Only when Breakdown felt his alt mode's tires scuff dirt over his frame did Breakdown become fully aware of how tired he really was. He had become used to swift transportation with the Nemesis' Ground Bridge capabilities but, now that he was alone, to get anywhere he desired he had to drive the entire way. And he had been driving all over the western United States since the cave in with little to no rest in between brief stops.

Best I pull off somewhere before I crash, Breakdown realized with a tired vent. He knew when to accept defeat in terms of his wellbeing, especially since he no longer had any simple access to a medical bay or spare energon cubes anymore.

Venting tiredly, Breakdown drove for a few more miles along the highway until his locator detected a human rest stop approaching on his right. Breakdown slowed considerably as he took the off ramp to the rest stop and took considerable care in avoiding the human cars parked in different parking spaces and the humans that entering and exiting a large building in the center of the rest stop. Breakdown scouted for a spot to recharge for the night and, upon seeing an empty parking space near a sleeping semi, Breakdown pulled in.

Breakdown's engine tuned down slowly as he set his scanner to detect any and all Cybertronian life signals then, with a precautionary glance around the rest stop for any suspicious humans, Breakdown finally allowed himself to rest.

The incessant whine of Breakdown's scanner woke him from a dreamless stasis before the sun had even risen the next morning, though it took him a few moments to process his location and the nature of his scanner's proximity warning. Thinking that his scanner was warning him of approaching danger, Breakdown slowly turned on his engine, allowing it to warm up as he began decoding the signal his scanner had picked up on to verify what had awakened his scanner. It wasn't a warning of danger that his scanner had picked up on but, instead, was an open channel distress signal from an injured Decepticon.

Breakdown hesitated as a brief memory of a conversation he'd had with Airachnid prior to responding to Starscream's distress call in the abandoned mine came to his processor. Airachnid had told him of her encounter with MECH only days after he had escaped the vile group of human experimentalist, an encounter she had orchestrated by intentionally placing an open channel distress signal of a Decepticon - practically the same as what his scanner had awakened him too.

It's very likely MECH learned their lesson from Airachnid's trap, Breakdown thought as his engine came fully to power, and that means this signal could easily be a trap. But, if this is the only possible lead to MECH I can find, I have to go.

Mind set, Breakdown wheeled out of the rest stop, engine roaring as he sped towards the Decepticon signal.

Breakdown had been following the trace of the Decepticon signal for some time, crossing from the paved highway to a maintained dirt road a groon or so prior. So early had the Decepticon distress signal awoken him that he'd been driving the dusty road for long enough to see the beginning fire of dawn cresting the edge of the mountains in the distance. The signal had been growing steadily stronger as Breakdown traversed up the mountain road, telling him that wherever the Decepticon signal was originating from was likely high in the mountain pass - and that he was getting close to it.

Finally the signal became an uninterrupted droning at a spot where the road curved around a large bend in the road, a blind spot that Breakdown stopped at. Breakdown transformed out of his alt mode, engine ticking as he cautiously advanced on the point that his scanner was showing him, just around the bend of the road. Warily Breakdown paced around the bend of the road, still expecting something to be waiting for him, be it a MECH trap or a Decepticon one. His shoulder cannon kept on an activate swivel, primed to fire, as his scanner continued to ping the Decepticon distress signal even though there was nothing in sight.

Definitely a tra-

"Well, well, if it isn't the traitor Breakdown. I'm surprised you would send out a Decepticon distress signal when you are no longer a Decepticon." Breakdown recognized the venomous tone of Starscream behind him just as he felt the barrel of a gun press against his back.

"Took you long enough, Starscream," Breakdown growled as he slowly turned around to face Starscream - who was notably quite alone - his optic ridge raised as he stared down at the gray Seeker. "Where's your armada?"

Starscream's optics narrowed fractionally as a furious scowl curved down the Decepticon's faceplate before he spoke with thinly veiled hate for Breakdown. "I was not expecting to run into a Decepticon traitor on a routine flight. I can fend for myself just fine without those pesky Vehicons following me everywhere, thank you very much."

"So you're ousted from the Nemesis too, aren't you?" Breakdown couldn't help but let a rumbling laugh escape from his engine at the look of consternation on Starscream's faceplate as Breakdown spoke. "Megatron didn't seem too happy with you either last we met, Commander. I'd venture to guess you're just as much a traitor to him as I am."

"Megatron has given me another chance-"

"So he can laugh when you fail him again."

"Shut up, grounder!" Starscream's wing kibble grew rigid with the Decepticon's fury moments before the gray Seeker fired one of his missiles at Breakdown.

Breakdown jerked away from the missile as he fired his shoulder cannon towards Starscream, the sound of a pained screech confirming that Breakdown had hit his enemy. Starscream swore angrily before Breakdown saw the Seeker leap towards him, the servo that was in its gun alt firing wildly as Starscream's other servo slashed towards Breakdown's chestplate.

Unable to dodge both attacks, Breakdown lunged towards Starscream and swung out with his hammer just as Starscream's claws tore through the metal of Breakdown's injured right arm. The force of Breakdown's swing sent Starscream hurtling backwards, though the Seeker recovered quickly as he transformed into his jet alt and retaliated with a quick combination of missiles and gunfire towards Breakdown. Breakdown deflected the energy blasts from Starscream's guns with his arm but, even as he fired his own cannon at Starscream, the Decepticon's missiles - too many for Breakdown to defend against - exploded beneath his pedes.

The force of the explosions sent Breakdown flying over the guardrail, hurtling his large chassis down the cliff face with no chance to catch himself or recover. The ground rushed past Breakdown's helm in a dizzying rush until his chassis finally slammed to the ground at the bottom of the cliff. Agony torn through Breakdown's frame as a flash of darkness tore at the edge of his optic for a brief moment - stasis beckoning for him, though he denied it with a roar of his engine as Breakdown struggled to righten himself, optic blurred with dust and edged with blackness.

His chassis hissed with pain as Breakdown wiped away the dust coating his faceplate with one servo, clearing the vision of his optic enough that he was able to make sense of the shadow approaching him quickly. Stiffening himself for battle as Starscream transformed and slammed to the ground in front of him, Breakdown tried to stand but collapsed, his chassis unwilling to support him after such a hard fall, leaving him to Starscream's lack of mercy. Starscream approached Breakdown with a snarl of his engine then bent down so that the Seeker could look into Breakdown's one optic hatefully.

"How easily the traitor falls," Starscream hissed softly as one of his clawed servos hooked under Breakdown's helm and twisted Breakdown's helm towards him, enough so Breakdown could more easily see the gray Seeker. "You could have proven yourself a worthy warrior to my cause, Breakdown, but I have no use for a mech who willingly betrays his own kind - and the debt he owes me."

"I owe you nothing," Breakdown snarled with a threatening rumble of his engine. "The only mech I owe anything to is Bulkhead. Not you."

Starscream's wings flared out angrily at Breakdown's words as his jet engine let out a shrill, indignant whine. "I saved you from termination at the hands of the Autobots!"

Breakdown erupted in laughter at Starscream's words, bemused by the Seeker's arrogance. "Think however you like, Starscream, but you came to my 'aid' for no reason but for your own betterment. If you'd saved me from MECH instead of Bulkhead, maybe then I'd consider a debt due towards you, but you didn't, so there is nothing between us but your own arrogance."

Starscream shuddered in rage before he snapped his right arm out to his side, clawed digits unlocking with a hiss of pistons as he lowered each digit to Breakdown's remaining optic. "You will pay for mouthing off to your superior officer-"

Suddenly, Starscream jolted up, the Decepticon's helm snapping to Breakdown's right, a quizzical expression softening the Decepticon's optics as he stared into the dark shadows of the canyon Breakdown had fallen into. "What was that?"

Breakdown tuned his audio receptors, optic narrowing as he tried to make sense of what had distracted Starscream - and it only took a few moments for him to detect the beat of helicopter rotors rapidly approaching their position.


"MECH," Breakdown snarled quietly. "That Decepticon distress signal was a trap, you fool."

Starscream gave Breakdown a glare before the Decepticon backed away from him, his mouth turning into a smug smirk as he glanced once more in the direction of the approaching MECH helicopters. "I guess it won't be at my servos that you shall suffer today, Breakdown. I'd guess this will be our farewell, traitor, too bad."

Starscream turned away from Breakdown and, with Starscream's usual flare, transformed and blasted away from Breakdown's position, the roar of his engine echoing hollowly through the steep rocky walls. Breakdown scrambled to his pedes as the light of Starscream's engine faded away, leaving Breakdown all alone in the canyon with MECH looming ever closer to his position. Scrap... There is only one thing I can do to escape MECH. I don't like it, but I would rather live with them than become MECH's experiment again.

Breakdown swore under his breath before he transformed into his alt and, with tires spinning for purchase in the rocky ground, sped away from the approaching helicopters. As his alt picked up speed, Breakdown sucked in a deep vent then tuned his signal to a high-frequency tune unshielded by Decepticon frequencies. I hope they hear this…

"Autobots, this is Breakdown. I… I need help."

Chapter Text

A harsh, echoing shriek snapped Ratchet's gaze to the blaring display screens in the Autobot base - not the shrieks of the proximity alarm but something else entirely. The old medic slowly pulled himself up onto his pedes from where he had been taking a much needed rest, the groan of his pistons an ever present reminder of his age and lack of rest. Upon reaching the array of display screens, Ratchet's optics flickered over the display screens, trying to understand the source of the base's alerts, before his digits flew to the control panel, silencing the shrieking with a satisfied snort.

But Ratchet's satisfaction didn't stay long for, as the shrieking faded, his displays lit up once more, though this time with the transmission of an encoded high frequency signal. Now he knew why the base had reacted as it had, as the high frequency signal had breeched the base's firewalls, though that did not answer why or from whom the Autobots were receiving such a frequency. Agent Fowler and the children all had open access to the base's communications so, unless one of the children had accidentally triggered a defense in the base's communications array with an unauthorized method of communication, Ratchet knew that this signal was foreign to the base's recognized signals.

Then who could it be? As I doubt anyone would unintentionally contact our base, there must be a reason behind the contact.

Ratchet turned to the main control panels of his system and began unraveling the signal from the base's firewalls, though he had only just pulled the signal from the base's defenses when he heard the familiar sound of Optimus' heavy pedes stop behind him.

"What is going on, Ratchet?" Optimus asked, the tone of his query neutral, though still underscored with wariness as the Autobot leader glanced over the base's consoles.

"It's some form of high frequency signal. Foreign to the base, as it activated our firewalls upon being received," Ratchet explained as he resumed clearing up the high frequency signal so that the base's technology could decode the message within the foreign signal. A few moments passed as the signal unscrambled then, with an almost unhappy blare from the system, the origin and coordinates of the the signal's origin appeared on his main console.

"Breakdown?" Ratchet felt a jolt of surprise at the origin of the signal thrum within his engine, a feeling that Optimus seemed to concur with for his engine also thrummed, hinting at the leader's surprise too.

Ratchet turned a questioning look to Optimus, who gave the shortest of nods to the medic, agreeing to Ratchet's unsaid prompt. Venting, Ratchet opened the unscrambled signal and read out the message that flowed over the bright green display screens.

"Autobots… This is Breakdown. I… I need help."

"What?!" Bulkhead's shout caused Ratchet to jump slightly, wrenching his concentration away from Breakdown's message and to the large green mech staring at him with a bewildered expression next to the Ground Bridge. "Why in the name of Primus would Breakdown, of all mechs, send us a plea for help?"

"A trap? Who knows?" Ratchet suggested coldly. He had little faith in the Decepticons and, though his team had rescued Breakdown from MECH a few weeks prior, Ratchet did not trust the large Decepticon to remember and treat them fairly in turn. Ratchet knew no good reason a Decepticon would contact them, not so long as it would not serve them the better eventually or the Decepticon was playing them for fools to lure them into a trap. I wonder what kind of trick Breakdown has planned for us this time?

"Ratchet..." Optimus' warning was loud enough only for Ratchet to hear but, upon seeing the silencing look Optimus was giving him, Ratchet raised his servos in a relenting manner, not one to argue needlessly with the leader of the Autobots.

"Ratchet is right, Optimus," Bulkhead agreed, "we don't know if Breakdown's trying to lay a trap for us. We can't trust him. I say ignore the message, safer that way."

"Bulkhead… I understand that you and Breakdown have an unsavory history between the two of you, but we must not dismiss Breakdown's message so swiftly."

"But-" Bulkhead began to protest, but a steady glare from Optimus shut the green mech up quickly, though Bulkhead continued to look none too pleased with the topic of their conversation.

Venting, Ratchet turned back to the display screens, servos tightening tensely as he read Breakdown's message out loud once again. Optimus' engine rumbled slightly as Ratchet reread the message then, with his tone level and optics narrowed ever so slightly, Optimus began to speak.

"I believe that-"

"What is going on?" Arcee's voice interrupted Optimus, causing the Autobot leader to let out a frustrated growl from his engine. Ratchet turned his gaze to Arcee, who had just walked into the main room with Bumblebee from the outside tunnel of the base.

"A message," Ratchet said shortly, impatience beginning to turn his tone stiffer then usual.

"From whom?" Arcee asked, her tone wary as she stalked up to Optimus' side and peered over at Ratchet's consoles.

Ratchet groaned, rolling his optics as he turned his full attention to Acree. "Arcee-"

"It's from Breakdown. And he wants our help," Bulkhead snarled, cutting off Ratchet and causing the old medic to grumble to himself and turn back to his monitors.

"Breakdown? Why would he be asking us for help? Couldn't he just ask his Decepticon pals to help him instead?"

"That is what worries me, Arcee. You told us that you saw Breakdown at the energon mine that collapsed with Starscream and Megatron, and that you later encountered him trapped within the cave. No Decepticon was there to help him then, and I highly doubt there will be any this time either. We have all seen how the Decepticons treat one of their own in need plenty well."

Arcee let out a frustrated vent, optics flaring. "You aren't suggesting we help Breakdown, are you, Optimus? We've helped him more times than he ever deserved, and each time we've nearly died. We were almost blown up the first time, then we had to save him in the middle of a cave collapse. I'd rather not risk my life again for him."

Optimus' vents hissed at Arcee's words and he looked about ready to say something to Arcee when another high-pitched wail ripped through the base.

"Shut it off!" Arcee's scream was barely audible over the wailing alarms as Ratchet lunged for the control panel, digits racing over the monitor until the shrieking stopped, though the high pitched wail continued to pound an echo in Ratchet's audio receptors.

Ratchet shook his helm to clear the ringing from his audials then turned to face the console, which had another warning of an incoming high frequency signal, though this time the signal unscrambled on its own thanks to Ratchet's prior decoding, showing another message from Breakdown. Ratchet glanced over the message then, with the rest of the Autobots waiting warily for the message, read Breakdown's second message aloud.

"For Primus' sake, I'm not going to attack you! I'm currently being hunted by MECH and I don't really feel like becoming their experiment again. You are the only Cybertronians I can contact, now that I've been ousted from the Decepticons."

"Oh sure, and we are going to believe this, right? A Decepticon, mind you, thinks that we would be foolish enough to-"

"Enough, Arcee." The cold steel in Optimus' voice silenced Arcee immediately, the reprimand from her leader causing Arcee to lower her helm, though not before Ratchet saw a spark of flame within her optics. Though Optimus' command was short, every mech in the base could hear the frustration building in their leader's voice and it was likely that frustration that kept Bulkhead silent, though Ratchet could easily see how angry the former Wrecker was over this topic. Bumblebee just looked nervous, his optics flickering between Arcee and Optimus like a pendulum as their leader pondered their next move quietly.

"The right thing to do would be helping Breakdown," Optimus ordered, "especially if MECH is in pursuit of him. We cannot allow Silas to get his hands on Breakdown once more, not with what we know of the leader of MECH now."

Ratchet stayed quiet as Optimus turned to the gathered Autobots, a rush of uncertainty and loyalty towards Optimus conflicting within his processor. Saving Breakdown was the most honorable choice, especially if the Decepticon wasn't lying about MECH hunting him, but, at the same time, this was Breakdown. A known Decepticon loyalist. And Ratchet still couldn't put his suspicions of a Decepticon laid trap to rest, though he held his tongue and said nothing as he watched Optimus deep in thought. He's weighing the consequences of saving Breakdown, and how it will affect the team.

The telltale flicker of Optimus' optics told Ratchet that Optimus had made up his mind and, just as the large semi turned to the Autobots gathered around him, another wailing shriek wrenched through the base. Ratchet wheeled on the monitor and shut off the signal, already prepared to read out the newest message from Breakdown, which had decoded almost immediately upon entry into the base's system.

"If you Autobots have any of that 'honor' you preach so much about, you would give me a chance. I do not wish for MECH to get their hands on me again, just as much as I doubt you wish the same."

Ratchet turned his gaze away from the display screens and back to the Autobots ringed near him, his optics staying on Optimus as the Autobot leader let out a long vent. The tension sparking in the base was tangible until Optimus gave Ratchet a curt nod before turning to Bulkhead, Arcee and Bumblebee.

"We will help Breakdown. Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee, you are coming with me. Ratchet, be prepared for anything, this may very well be a trap," Optimus ordered tersely, frame tight with obvious tension as he stepped towards the Ground Bridge.

"I will, Optimus," Ratchet said as he input the coordinates from Breakdown's messages into the Ground Bridge controls and, upon powering up, activated the Ground Bridge. Optimus gave one last long look to Ratchet before he transformed into his alt mode and raced through the Ground Bridge with Arcee, Bumblebee and Bulkhead mere inches behind their leader.

Please, Primus, let this not be a trap.

The sharp crack of bullets hitting metal echoed through the forest and ripped into Breakdown's audio receptors as another spray of bullets strafed across his back. Though Breakdown had been afforded somewhat of a head start on MECH, the humans' helicopters had eventually caught up to him and had been hounding him relentlessly with bullets since. The only thing protecting Breakdown from the clutches of his enemy was the thick forest of pines he'd charged into, which had kept the MECH cars at bay and forced the helicopters to search the trees for him. But he knew that his luck would only run for so long, especially with the amount of energon he was losing, both from his encounter with Starscream and from the endless pursuit of MECH.

Breakdown felt the ground shake beneath his pedes when a rocket from one of the MECH helicopters exploded somewhere off to his left, the concussive force of the explosion forcing Breakdown to stumble into a tree. He used his servo to steady himself, resting for a brief moment before he pushed off from the tree and continued to weave between the trees, staying underneath the thick canopies with a desperate hope to evade MECH for just a few kliks longer. Until the Autobots come... if they come.

The rotors of one of the MECH helicopters grew closer to Breakdown's position, though it jerked away when Breakdown fired his cannon in the helicopter's direction, the temporary retreat of his enemy providing Breakdown with just a few seconds more time. Sharp pain blistered through Breakdown's chassis, drawing his attention once more to where energon continued to drip down his shoulder where a blast from one of the MECH helicopters chasing him had torn a sizable hole in his right shoulder plate, thus rendering his alt mode practically useless.

I'm faster in my alt, Breakdown surmised, but not with this injury. I can't risk transforming-

The approaching buzz of two more MECH helicopters snapped Breakdown out of his thoughts and, though knowing that he would only damage his shoulder more by switching into his alt, settled on the fact that transforming would be his best option. Breakdown vented before he shot a glance towards his injured shoulder then transformed into his alt mode and, with his tires throwing dirt skyward, roared away from MECH.

Almost the moment he begun to drive did Breakdown's inner damage sensors begin to screech at him, warning him of the weakened structural integrity of his right front tire which had already begun to wobble and groan loudly in protest at Breakdown's furious escape from MECH. Breakdown swore to himself as he shut off his sensors, leaving him deaf to all but the throbbing sound of rotor blades slashing through the sky, pursuing him from above the trees - waiting for its target to weaken so it could complete its hunt.

Primus damn those Autobots! Breakdown thought as another rocket from a MECH helicopter exploded a few meters behind him, sending shrapnel through his chassis as he attempted to swerve out of the way of a thick clump of trees-

A second rocket exploded mere inches in front of Breakdown, so close that he had no time to brake nor dodge the explosive charge before it sent Breakdown crashing into the copse of trees he had tried to avoid moments before. Breakdown was flung into the trees, a roar of pain ripping from his engine as he involuntarily transformed out of his alt and slammed through trees and branches alike until he crashed to the ground with a heavy, immobilizing thud.

Breakdown's chassis let out a groan as he slumped to the ground, unable to move for the jagged pain that arced through his frame as splintered branches scattered over his frame. Unwelcome despair flooded Breakdown's spark as he struggled to stand, only for his chassis to hiss and remain unresponsive to his demands - a response that only heightened his awareness towards the sound of the MECH helicopters growing ever closer to his position.

Fear stabbed through his spark as hated memories of shrieking drills and cruel, empty human eyes staring into him burned through his processor - what he knew he would face once more if he allowed himself to be captured by MECH. A prospect that seemed ever more likely by the passing minute as the droning, deafening beat of helicopter rotors swarmed ever closer to him. Breakdown felt a cruel sense of defeat begin to crush his spark as he stiffly pushed a servo into the soft earth beneath him to steady his shaking chassis, his sole optic shuttering with a deep vent.

The Autobots aren't going to come. It was a waste of my time even trying to ask for their help. Bullets whizzed over Breakdown's helm, smacking into trees and shredding through thin branches, causing a rain of splinters and leaves to fall on Breakdown's chassis as he continued to vent heavily, defeat having taken over his processor. He didn't even notice as bullets slashed over his chassis, cutting deep furrows over his faceplate, arms, legs and chestplate. A furious wind began to beat at the crowns of the trees, flinging away stray leaves and branches as one of the MECH helicopters began to lower itself to the ground cautiously.

A dull, temporary fury raced through Breakdown as the helicopter continued to lower itself to the ground, and it was that rage that made Breakdown activate his shoulder cannon and aim it towards the helicopter. Before he could fire his cannon though, the helicopter pulled back, lofting high into the sky out of Breakdown's range. Breakdown watched the helicopter warily, ignoring the dull blares from his internal processors warning him of energon loss as his rage faded into a dull hopelessness and his cannon deactivated. He had no fight left in him, not even to defend himself from the very beings that had led him to be stranded and alone with no alliance to any cause or even friends to fall back on. He was truly alone.

The helicopter seemed to realize he had given up for it soon began to lower itself once more to a grassy meadow only a few meters away from where Breakdown lay, and it was quickly joined by the other helicopters that had been chasing Breakdown, though these remained in the sky with their weapons aimed towards Breakdown. The machine's rotors began to slow as a human - Silas - stepped out of the side of the helicopter, his triumph clear to Breakdown even from the distance between them. Breakdown snarled as Silas began to step across the meadow towards him, but Silas was undeterred from his path towards Breakdown.

The human wasn't afraid of Breakdown, he never had been, and Breakdown accepted that this human saw Cybertronians as mere vessels of immense power, not something living that he should fear.

"We meet again, Breakdown-"

Energy bursts blasted down one helicopter at the same time as Breakdown heard the unmistakable sound of a Ground Bridge opening tore his gaze away from Silas and to the right where Optimus Prime and his Autobots came charging towards the MECH helicopters. Silas turned and swiftly ran to his helicopter as energy bursts from the Autobots' gun splintered wood and ground in a drive to ward off the remaining MECH vehicles. Just as the four Autobots reached Breakdown's side, the helicopter that held Silas took off and sped away from the grassy meadow, leaving Breakdown to glance upwards towards the Autobots, all of whom watched him warily.

A minute or two passed in which no mech made a move, though Optimus Prime kept his gaze locked solely in the direction the MECH helicopters had retreated. When the Autobot leader finally turned his gaze towards Breakdown, the former Decepticon flinched slightly, suddenly nervous about his situation.

"Thank you, Autobots," Breakdown said quietly as he slowly pulled himself up into a standing position, which made the two-wheeler tense up visibly. Breakdown raised his servos in a non-threatening gesture as the femme aimed her guns towards him, followed soon by Bulkhead and the Autobot scout's guns.

"Don't try anything, Breakdown," Bulkhead warned him as Optimus Prime strode up to Breakdown, expression unreadable as he stopped only a few feet away from Breakdown.

"Breakdown, we are glad to see you alive and in one piece," Bulkhead grumbled something from behind Prime as the Autobot leader spoke, "and so I ask you this. If we are to bring you back to our Autobot base, will you do right by your own word and be peaceful - both to the Autobots and our human allies? I will only allow you to our base, and to our medic to be healed, if you promise to honor your word."

"And what will you do if I do not agree?" Breakdown asked quietly, though he already assumed what Optimus Prime's answer would be.

"We will leave you here and go back to our home. I do not wish unnecessary conflict if it is not needed and if you do not wish to come with us. What is your choice?" Optimus Prime replied. Breakdown shrugged, thoughts settling on his decision without too much afterthought.

"I meant what I said in that message," Breakdown muttered quietly, "I have no plans or hidden motives to attack any of you. I'm just looking for a place to recover and rest and the Nemesis is no home to me any longer. If you are offering respite then I accept. By my word - take it as you will from a former Decepticon - I promise that I will not attack you, or any of your humans, nor will I establish any contact with the Decepticons, as if I still could or even had any desire to."

Once Breakdown finished talking he noticed Bulkhead and the femme both cast each other unconvinced glances, though the yellow scout kept staring at Breakdown with wide optics. Bulkhead and the femme turned their gazes back to Breakdown and, at a small signal from Prime, transformed their cannons back into their normal states.

"At least he knows we don't trust a single thing he says," Breakdown heard the femme two-wheeler snarl to Bulkhead, who gave an agreeing snarl of his engine before the green Autobot shot Breakdown a hateful look.

Breakdown turned his full focus onto the femme and Bulkhead, ignoring the aching pain waving over him as he let out a tired snarl. "I have no affiliation with the Decepticons anymore, nor will I ever again. Imagine what you want femme, but I want to make it clear to you that I do not work with them anymore."

Before the femme - or Bulkhead - could retort to Breakdown's response, Optimus Prime sent them a silencing glance. "Then we will allow you into our base, though do not mistake, Breakdown, betray your words and you will regret it."

"I understand, Optimus Prime," Breakdown vented quietly. I would expect nothing less.

"Good. Ratchet, open up the Ground Bridge, please."

A few moments passed before a Ground Bridge opened up near the Autobots and Breakdown, and none of the Autobots moved towards the Ground Bridge until Optimus Prime gave a signal to his three Autobots and then gestured for Breakdown to head into the Ground Bridge. The scout was the first through, then Bulkhead and the femme, though both seemed very reluctant about leaving Optimus Prime with Breakdown.

Breakdown turned his gaze to Optimus Prime as the three Autobots vanished inside the Ground Bridge, then wordlessly walked through the Ground Bridge with slumped shoulders and a hung helm, followed closely by the Autobot leader.

Hatred spiked off of Bulkhead's chassis as he watched Breakdown trudge into the Autobot base, the Decepticon's chassis scuffed and scratched and leaking energon as Optimus moved past him to stand beside Ratchet. Ratchet had his arms crossed over his chestplate as he stood in front of his monitors, which were shut off, and the medic's distrust was clear to Bulkhead.

Arcee and Bumblebee flanked Bulkhead as the five Autobots faced Breakdown, who kept his gaze turned away from the Autobots, unwilling to meet their gazes. Bulkhead hated Breakdown with all of his spark and he did not trust Breakdown as far as he could throw the blue mech, but even he could see that something was off with the Decepticon.

He'd known Breakdown for eons and he'd never seen him so quiet and without fight, especially when he was facing his enemies in the Autobots.

"So it wasn't a trap," Ratchet growled as he looked up at Optimus with a cold shift of his optics towards Breakdown.

"MECH was present as Breakdown said," Optimus explained, "though they left as soon as we arrived. Breakdown has agreed to ceasing hostilities with the Autobots in exchange for shelter in our base. I will need you to repair his injuries-"

"Optimus, I'm sorry, but how can you trust what Breakdown says so easily?" Arcee interjected. Bulkhead noticed Breakdown's mouth turn into a small scowl at Arcee's question, though he kept his helm lowered pointedly. "I understand that he gave you his word, but Breakdown is a Decepticon."

Optimus vented before the semi gave Arcee a slow nod. "Your sentiments are justified, Arcee. I too have my worries, but that is why we must lay ground rules for everyone to understand. Breakdown?"

Breakdown finally looked up as Optimus turned his attention onto the Decepticon and, with a hiss of his intakes, he met Optimus' optics with one dull yellow optic. "Yes?"

"It is only right that you explain your reasoning for being here. It is best all of us know what has led you to calling us for refuge."

"Of course," Breakdown vented. He took a deep vent, steadied his shoulders and straightened his chassis before the Decepticon's scowl tightened. "I have been exiled from the Decepticons. I have been alone since that cave-in where your Autobots found me buried, because Megatron believes that I betrayed him by allying with Starscream."

Breakdown rolled his optic and let a bitter scoff escape from his mouth as a thrum of hatred burned off his field at the mention of Starscream. Bulkhead shared a quick glance with Arcee before Breakdown continued to speak.

"I had nowhere to turn since I cannot comm the Nemesis-"

"Why?" Bulkhead sneered. "Forgot how to comm your warship?"

Breakdown shot Bulkhead a glare at his interruption and, for a long klik, Bulkhead thought the Decepticon would attack him, but Breakdown shook himself and turned away. "As I was saying, I cannot contact the Nemesis since Soundwave blocked my connection to the warship. I decided to see if I could find MECH and I did, finally. I detected a Decepticon distress signal before dawn. I followed it until I ran into Starscream, who was drawn by the distress signal as I was, and, typical of Starscream, he attacked me. The coward flew off when he realized that the distress signal was a trap laid by MECH."

Bulkhead heard Breakdown hesitate for a long klik before his yellow optic shifted to meet Bulkhead's for the briefest moment. Bulkhead glared at Breakdown at first until he realized that all he saw in Breakdown's optic was a tired dullness.

"As you can obviously tell, Starscream wounded me before he fled. If he hadn't I would have happily faced MECH on my own... but," Breakdown snarled suddenly, his engine's thrum raising with fury as hate darkened Breakdown's optic, "I did not fancy being captured by them again. You Autobots were the only choice I had if I didn't want to end up as MECH's experiment again."

Breakdown's snarl died as his vents puffed out a low vent. "I thought you were going to leave me for MECH. I appreciate that you did not, though. I know I am your enemy, but I am no longer a Decepticon," Breakdown hissed the name of his faction with unbridled malice, "and thus I cannot claim seeing the Autobots as my enemies anymore. The only enemies I have now are Decepticons and MECH."

"Right," Bulkhead snarled, "and I'm supposed to believe you, Breakdown? I know the kind of mech you are, if you remember, Breakdown."

"Then," Breakdown hissed as he met Bulkhead's optics, though his tone was guarded, "you should know I do not lie. I was left for MECH to use as a tool by Megatron. He thought that, if I was weak enough to allow humans to capture me, that I did not deserve to have a Decepticon patrol rescue me. My former faction left me behind for you to save. The Decepticons abandoned me, and I have no loyalty for those who betray me and leave me behind. You remember that, correct, Bulkhead?"

Hatred simmered anew within Bulkhead's spark at the veiled jab from Breakdown and he took a step forward to wipe the snarl off of Breakdown's faceplate when a look from Optimus stopped him in his tracks. Angrily, Bulkhead took a step back and shifted his optics away from Breakdown's piercing gaze. "Maybe I should have left you with MECH, you would have deserved it-"

"Bulkhead!" Optimus' snarl was so sharp, so sudden and unexpected that Bulkhead froze in mid-sentence before he ducked his helm and apologized quietly to his leader.

Breakdown glowered at him before he met Optimus' gaze once again. "I have nowhere safe to hide from MECH or the Decepticons, except here with the Autobots. I only am looking for refuge until I am healed and I can more easily avoid my enemies. I am... willing to accept whatever terms you Autobots deign for me if you allow me to stay with you."

Arcee bit back a growl but the two-wheeler still gave Breakdown a scorching glare that Bulkhead matched. "You only want to use us."

Breakdown shifted his optic to meet Arcee's gaze before he let out a humorless snort and rolled his optic. "As if I have any other choice."

"We don't want you here."

"Of course you don't!" Breakdown snarled. "Who does? The Decepticons didn't, the Wreckers didn't - the only ones who have ever wanted me are MECH."

Bulkhead flinched at Breakdown's words and it was his own servo on Arcee's shoulderplate that stopped her from continuing her argument with Breakdown. Optimus cast Bulkhead and Arcee quieting looks before he nodded to Breakdown.

"You already know that we have human companions. We will not tolerate you harming the humans, no matter your history with MECH. Jack, Miko and Rafael are children, and friends to my Autobots. As you are a guest in our base and a former Decepticon, we cannot allow you to go outside without an Autobot escort. You will stay in our medical bay until we can find you suitable quarters and you will be on probation until I am certain that you can be trusted."

Breakdown stared at Optimus, his optic lowering before he slumped his shoulderplates and nodded slowly. "I agree."

Optimus nodded then gently tapped Ratchet's shoulder. "Take Breakdown to the medical bay and get him patched up."

Ratchet nodded before he approached Breakdown and snarled for the Decepticon to follow him. Breakdown vented and trudged after Ratchet, though he did not pass by Bulkhead without fixing a look on Bulkhead that he couldn't read.

When Ratchet and Breakdown vanished down the hallway, Arcee moved in front of Optimus and jerked a servo back in Breakdown's direction. "Are you certain about this, Optimus? What if Breakdown's just tricking us?"

"No, I am not certain," Optimus admitted, "but it is only right that we provide him shelter as he asked. Bulkhead, I know you have known Breakdown for quite some time. Is there any indication from him that his intentions here may be a trick as Arcee suggests?"

Hesitation stopped Bulkhead from going with the natural response of telling Optimus to not trust Breakdown. He hated Breakdown but what the blue Decepticon had said was no lie. Breakdown didn't lie, even while he was a Decepticon. And Bulkhead had seen sorrow and hurt in Breakdown's optic that he recognized from millions of years ago.

"He's not lying, Optimus. I'm not saying that we should trust him - I don't - but Breakdown was not lying," Bulkhead growled, though he could not face Optimus as he spoke.

Bulkhead could tell Optimus was looking down at him before the Autobot leader dipped his helm and let a quiet puff of steam escape his intakes. "It is almost time for the children to get off from school. Retrieve them and bring them here, but do not tell them of Breakdown's presence yet. I would rather explain to them in the base."

Bumblebee shot Bulkhead a look before he and Arcee nodded in stiff agreement. .: As you wish, Optimus :.

"Well, I've done what I can to patch up your injuries, now you just need proper rest for those I could not fix to heal," the Autobot medic - Ratchet, as Breakdown recalled - said, as he lowered his servo, which had been transformed into a welding torch, and switched it back to a normal servo

"Thanks," Breakdown vented as he turned his optic away from the watchful gaze of the medic, uncomfortable with the watchful gaze of Ratchet lingering on him.

Ratchet nodded briefly, mouth tight with a mild scowl before the Autobot medic stood and headed out of the medical room without a second glance towards Breakdown. Breakdown's vents hissed as the medical bay soon became quiet and solitary at the medic's departure, leaving him all on his own within the Autobot base.

Slowly Breakdown picked himself up from the operating slab Ratchet had ordered him to lay out on prior to operating on him, then stretched out his arms, the groan of pistons telling him that his arms were functionally, even if they did ache from the recent damage they had incurred. Breakdown shrugged to himself then turned his gaze to shift about the medical bay with an experienced optic. No tools were laid out, and the floor was exceptionally clean, even for Ratchet having just finished operating on Breakdown's injured chassis.

Too clean… It almost looks like they never have any injured to take care of. Such a difference from the Nemesis and its constant state of disarray with all of our injured Vehicons. Then again, there are only five Autobots compared to the hundreds of Vehicons the Decepticons have. Breakdown shifted his gaze to the area beyond the small Autobot medical bay, and it was with a little surprise that Breakdown realized he was curious about the rest of the Autobot base. I guess I could look around the rest of the base, get a sense of where everything is in here. There's nothing much else I can do aside from that anyways.

Breakdown shrugged as he decided upon exploring the Autobot base, though he couldn't shake the nervous feeling that was making each one of his strides hesitant and his optic wheel about for any sign of danger as he walked out of the medical bay. Yet it wasn't just nervousness that caused his pedes to drag but also exhaustion, spurred on by more than a week of little to no recharge, and being hunted by his enemies - both Decepticon and MECH. Maybe I will get some much needed rest here... so long as the femme and Bulkhead don't try and offline me the moment I try and catch some recharge.

Breakdown's steps lead him to the main room of the Autobot base, though his pedes froze at the opening of the hallway that lead to the main room as his optic snapped about, taking in the entire room that constituted the main hub of the Autobot base. The first thing that came to his mind was how utterly small the Autobots' base was, small enough that, to Breakdown, the base gave off a strange, suffocating feeling to Breakdown - a feeling that Breakdown hated. The Nemesis, in comparison to this base, seemed to go on forever and ever - some of Breakdown's Vehicon buddies had even joked about getting lost in the Nemesis at times - and all the while here was a base that no mech could ever get lost in.

It was definitely a new feeling for Breakdown, this cramped, claustrophobic gnaw at the edge of his processor at the smallness of the base, and he couldn't imagine being okay with such tight quarters for as long as the Autobots - and Decepticons - had been on Earth. He had been more than happy when he and Knock Out had been assigned to scouting Earth for energon deposits all around the world before Megatron's three year stint on Cybertron, if only because he was not enclosed in the tight confines of the Nemesis.

As Breakdown peered about the base, his gaze caught on a path of small, elevated platforms - too small for any Cybertronian to use safely - that ringed most of the base's main room. Curious about the purpose of the platform, Breakdown approached the nearest bit of elevated platform, a part that had a small flight of stairs that lead from the platform to the ground, and bent close, helm tilted as he tried to understand the purpose of the small platform in an Autobot base.

Who uses this? Breakdown wondered as his gaze tracked up the stairs and across the maze of platform that wrapped in front of the display screens and all the way to the edges of the area of the base. Humans? Did the Autobots install this platform for their human pets?

It was only then when Breakdown realized that, though he was in the room he figured to be the main area of Autobot operation, there was not an Autobot in sight, not even Ratchet the medic. Even the femme, who so clearly disliked and distrusted Breakdown was nowhere in sight and, even when he tuned his audials to detect the faintest sound of a Cybertronian moving, Breakdown could hear no evidence of any of the Autobots.

Not an Autobot around and I'm wandering about their base unsupervised. Not a good first impression if they catch me out here alone. Not savoring the idea of being caught wandering about the Autobot base, Breakdown turned, aiming to go back to the medical bay - for the medical bay had been designated his "temporary" room - for a brief rest until the sound of vehicles approaching from behind him caused him to stop and warily turn to look down a tunnel that was at the end of the base, to the left of the Ground Bridge.

As he watched, a sleek blue motorcycle and an unmistakable green vehicle drove through the tunnel and slowed to a stop in the middle of the base, too close for Breakdown's comfort as he backed away from the stairs he was still standing to the side of. He immediately recognized Bulkhead, but it was the motorcycle - the femme, he guessed - that really drew his attention for, sitting astride her alt's seat, was a dark-haired human. The same human who had been piloting the drill in the collapsed energon mine that Bulkhead and the femme had helped Breakdown out of.

The human astride the femme slowly limbered off her alt mode as Bulkhead's passenger door opened to reveal the small femme human that Breakdown knew to be Bulkhead's "friend" bouncing out of his alt. Breakdown watched the two humans warily, unable to suppress his suspicions towards all humans since his torture at the hands of MECH, but, to his relief, neither human moved near him, though the femme Autobot noticed the way he was watching her human and shot him a glare.

"Breakdown." The femme's tone was flush with warning as she stepped towards Breakdown, the unsaid message that radiated from her chassis making her distrust towards him ever more clear.

Not wanting to aggravate the Autobots, Breakdown snapped his gaze away from the two humans and gave the femme a passive look before he turned and started to head back towards his temporary quarters. He had only laid one pede to the ground though, when a sudden, high-pitched voice piped up from behind him.

"Whoa! BreakdownHere? That is so cool! Ah! And look at those awesome battle scars! Did you see the missing eye, Jack? So awesome!"

Breakdown's gaze, and chassis, turned slowly, stopping at the sight of Bulkhead's small human standing on the ground near Breakdown, her optics and mouth wide with surprise as she stared up at him. Unable to move - for flashes of a different human had sucked his mind into a most hated place - Breakdown could only watch as the small human came right up to him and, without even a pause or even the courtesy to ask, rapped a servo against Breakdown's pedes.

The touch was light, merely a brush in actuality but it was a human touch nonetheless and Breakdown could not help himself but to react, not after the last humans to touch him were MECH. Without pause, Breakdown skirted back from the human as he activated his shoulder cannon and aimed it at Bulkhead's human - damn Prime's rules! - the transformation of both of his servos into their hammer alts following suit out of pure instinct, though he did not notice that he had switched them too upon the human's touch.

The human leapt away from Breakdown when she realized that all of his weapons were aimed towards him but, before she could retreat behind Bulkhead or the femme, Breakdown stomped his pede forward and leaned down to the human's height so that his one optic glared deep into her optics. "Don't you ever touch me again, human, if you know what is best for you. Unlike your Autobot friends, I don't have any qualms about killing a human, and that isn't going to change today."

The human's small frame shook fearfully at Breakdown's words and, as he slowly rose up to his natural height, the human bolted away from him, sheltering behind the femme, who's optics were wide with horror at Breakdown's reaction. Breakdown shot the femme and Bulkhead, who had been so shocked that he hadn't even moved a servo in protest to Breakdown's threat towards his human, a glare before he hurriedly whirled around and stormed back to his temporary quarters.

Night had fallen outside the Autobot base by the time all five of the Autobots returned to base and were able to discuss the logistics of their new guest and how long his stay would be tolerated. Ratchet, who had had to leave the base after fixing Breakdown's most notable wounds to retrieve new supplies from a nearby military base, was as yet undecided on his stance on Breakdown living in the base. Inherently, Ratchet knew that he did not trust Breakdown, though he knew that this prejudice stemmed from the Decepticon's allegiance more so than anything else.

Breakdown had engaged in conversation with Ratchet while Ratchet had been busy working to repair the damage the Decepticon's chassis had been in upon the Autobots Ground Bridging to his location and, though he always knew to be wary of what a Decepticon said, Ratchet had heard no lie from Breakdown or even any dishonesty to any of the probing questions Ratchet had fielded the Decepticon. That wasn't to say that Breakdown was happy answering some of his questions - Breakdown had been anything but when Ratchet probed him for information on what MECH had done to him - but he also hadn't been evasive or secretive with any answer he gave. The Decepticon had answered every question with an honesty that Ratchet suspected was true to his nature, and Ratchet knew that he would likely be hard-pressed to not explain the honesty he'd heard from Breakdown to Optimus and the others if asked.

"I still utterly dislike the idea of a Decepticon - be he former or not, you never can tell - living in our base. He's the definition of untrustworthy, Optimus," Arcee muttered darkly before she shot a wary glance in the direction of the medical bay where they all knew Breakdown was currently recharging in.

Bumblebee let out a long string of beeps and trills as he agreed with Arcee's sentiment, his discomfort over Breakdown's presence at the base clear to Ratchet as he could practically feel the distress rolling off the scout's chassis. .: I'm worried that he might hurt Raf, Optimus. We know of his history with MECH and Arcee and Bulkhead told you what he did to Miko today. What if he does that to Raf? Or Jack? I don't think it is safe for our human friends for Breakdown to be allowed to stay here much longer :.

Bulkhead, who was to the very left of Ratchet, let out a rumbling snarl from his engine as Bumblebee finished speaking, the large Autobot's optics narrowed to blue shards as he gestured in the general direction of the medical bay with one servo. "I agree with both Arcee and Bumblebee, Optimus. You weren't there when Breakdown threatened Miko - he threatened to kill her if she touched him, Optimus! To KILL her! And I thought that he was going to kill her… And I wouldn't have been able to stop him if he tried, not with how close he was to her."

"Exactly," Arcee snapped as she turned her gaze to Optimus, who had yet to say anything so far. "I don't think we should let Breakdown stay much longer. We don't know him, nor can we trust him, and I do not seek to endanger Jack and the others because we went soft and are harboring one of our enemies. Breakdown obviously hates humans and if he realizes how close we are to humans- I shudder to think what he might do to them."

Optimus nodded respectfully to Arcee then turned to Ratchet, optics guarded. "What is your opinion on this situation, Ratchet?"

Ratchet stayed quiet for a few moments, then vented. "I do not know, Optimus. I don't trust Breakdown, not at all, but…" Ratchet hesitated for a moment then continued, "None of you were there in the medical bay when I fixed Breakdown's wounds. I was, and I listened to what he was saying. Breakdown answered every question I had for him, and his story did not change from when you brought him into the base.

"He has been alone for a week, and hasn't had any fuel for at least four days. Why would a Decepticon be away from the Nemesis that long and without energon if he was loyal to them still? Breakdown made it pretty clear to me that he's not a Decepticon anymore," Ratchet explained, "and I didn't hear any lie in his voice when he told me that. He seemed upset about what the Decepticons did to him but he also seemed to accept his position."

Bulkhead shot Ratchet a questioning squint before the large Autobot let out a disbelieving snort of his vents. "That's 'cause you don't know Breakdown like I do, Ratchet. He's a Decepticon through and through and won't hesitate to hurt those who have helped him - all of you saw that when I rescued him from MECH. He may not have lied today but I still don't trust him."

"Yes," Ratchet growled, "after his commanding officer commanded him to. You even admitted to us that Breakdown hesitated on following through with Starscream's order before he attacked you."

Bulkhead glared at Ratchet but, with a huff of his vents and a frustrated growl of his engine, the large mech crossed his arms over his chest and looked away from Ratchet. "I still don't like the idea of letting him stay, Optimus, even if I know he wasn't lying earlier today."

"I know that, Bulkhead," Optimus said before he turned to Ratchet once more. "Is there anything else you desire to add, Ratchet?"

"I don't know, Optimus. I honestly don't know what to think of allowing him amnesty at our base. Breakdown made it obvious to me while I was fixing his wounds that he does not feel particularly keen in up and joining our group. He said he doesn't trust us."

"That makes three of us then," Arcee hissed. Ratchet gave the femme a cool look, one which she shot back with equal fire.

"I understand your sentiments - and fears - all of you, but we will give Breakdown a chance. At least until he is fully healed. Our guest deserves the chance to see what it is like fighting for the good of others once again. He was an Autobot long before he was ever a Decepticon and, if we can make him remember why he was first an Autobot, I believe everyone is capable of change. Everyone." Optimus' words rang with finality, and Ratchet knew that the argument was over. Breakdown would stay - for now - and no mech was going to change Optimus' mind.

Arcee and Bulkhead both shared looks of anger and disbelief, but nodded respectfully to Optimus, though Ratchet did not fail to notice that Arcee gave Bulkhead a sharp nudge in the side before she muttered a quiet, "He was an Autobot?" to Bulkhead.

"Wrecker," Bulkhead clarified quietly.

Arcee frowned at Bulkhead's response then signaled for the large Autobot to follow her to a corner of the base that was out of earshot of the rest of the Autobots.

.: I will do as you request, Optimus, but I'm not too happy with trusting Breakdown near Raf :. Bumblebee said before the scout scurried away to his recharge room, door wings flaring with his emotions.

Ratchet turned back to Optimus and, quietly, said, "I hope you haven't made the wrong choice. Harboring Breakdown is not worth losing the respect and trust of our friends."

Optimus looked away from Ratchet, optics unreadable.

"I hope so too…"

Chapter Text

Breakdown awoke with a cry, the flood of nightmares fading as his optic was flooded by light - by the living world, not the world of terror that controlled his thoughts at night. Vents heaving, Breakdown pushed his chassis up into a sitting position on his bed slab as his servos curled against his helm tightly, a futile attempt to ward himself of the sound of drills and the cold human voice that always was present in his sleep. It took a few moments for Breakdown's processor to remember that he was resting in the medical bay of the Autobot base, not the MECH laboratory he so often suffered nightmares over.

Damn MECH to the Pit, Breakdown snarled to himself as reality became the only present for him and his processor awakened fully from its plagued recharge.

He had been with the Autobots for two days, two very tense days that included multiple interrogations by the femme, Arcee, and the constant feeling that his life depended on the thinnest of margins for error with the Autobots. He suspected that his threatening of Bulkhead's human had made every one of the Autobots ready for him to snap at any moment, even though he had taken to great lengths to avoid the humans whenever he heard their voices echoing in the base. At least Arcee treated him that way, as each one of her "meetings" with Breakdown turned into thinly-veiled threats about what she would do to him if he so much as even thought of betraying the Autobots hospitality or hurting the Autobots' humans. Breakdown had lost count of how many times he had reassured her - and the rest of the Autobots - that he had no intentions of harming the humans or betraying their hospitality, but it was quickly becoming a tiring subject for him.

Aside from the nerve-wracking encounters with Arcee, Breakdown had done all he could to avoid the Autobots over the two days he had been present in their base, even going so far as to sneak into one of their empty weapons vaults and staying there for most of the day- out of sight from the Autobots. Of the Autobots Breakdown did see, other than Arcee, Ratchet was the only other Autobot that Breakdown encountered on a daily basis, as the old medic came in every day to check on how his wounds were healing. Ratchet was stern and Breakdown knew that the medic did not trust him but, even for the medic's distrust of him, Ratchet had treated Breakdown fairly so far and that was something Breakdown appreciated greatly.

Though the Autobots were no longer Breakdown's enemy, technically at least as he was not a Decepticon any longer, he could not help but to feel an innate wariness and distrust around the Autobots - as he suspected they did the same to him. But old habits died hard. Ages of listening and following Decepticon propaganda to have utter and full hatred for all Autobots did not leave one swiftly, even if those same Autobots had helped him escape MECH. For that Breakdown couldn't seem to get comfortable in his new "home", though he would not deny that some discomfort came from the open hostility of most of the Autobots towards him.

Shaking himself with a hard shudder to clear his thoughts, Breakdown clambered up off his slab and stretched out his locked up limbs, the pistons in his chassis wheezing and hissing as he stretched each limb. Breakdown rolled his shoulder plates gingerly, his engine revving up with a throaty, pained growl as he favored his right shoulder, which had yet to fully heal. Optimus Prime said I could stay until I am back to full strength but, once I'm healed, then what? Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee don't want me around now, I can only imagine they will want me around even less when I'm healed up. At least they're letting me stay this long.

Breakdown's vents released a gust of hot steam as another growl rumbled from his engine, its irritated idling always the first tell of his mood, though he had wisely kept his temper around the Autobots whenever they saw fit to visit him. Growing bored of standing around idle in the medical bay, Breakdown let his vents hiss then trudged out of the medical bay, a feeling of frustration at his current situation threatening to overwhelm his thoughts in a whirlwind of emotions. Knowing that distracting himself would be the simplest solution for his growing temper, Breakdown headed towards the main room of the Autobot base, though he reached it just as Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee raced through the activate Ground Bridge, leaving Ratchet behind to toil away at his computers.

"Where are they going?" Breakdown asked curiously as he approached Ratchet, his optic shifting towards the display screens as he stopped near Ratchet.

Ratchet turned his helm towards Breakdown but declined any comment as he turned back to the display screens, a blatant dismissal of Breakdown's question that forced him to snarl in frustration. He was about to turn away and leave - he wasn't dumb enough to pick a fight with any of the Autobots at the moment, no matter how much he disliked some of them - when he recognized the Cybertronian signature of an ancient Decepticon ship displayed on the Autobots' display screen.

"The Harbinger? Why - How did you get its energy signature to come up?" Breakdown asked, the surprise at seeing the signature of a legendary Decepticon ship making his words swift with excitement. The Harbinger has been gone for eons. What is it doing here? On Earth? And why is its energy signature appearing now?

Ratchet whirled on Breakdown with optics that were as sharp as flint, and the medic's voice was as sharp, if not more so when he spoke. "You know of this ship?"

"Of course I do! The Harbinger is a Decepticon legend, no Decepticon doesn't know of it or the circumstances of its disappearance. Wait… If you Autobots detected the Harbinger's signal than that means that the Decepticons long know of its whereabouts," Breakdown trailed off at the furious look Ratchet was sending him and quickly raised his servos in a non-threatening manner. "Nevermind, Ratchet."

Breakdown's engine let out a frustrated snarl as he wheeled from Ratchet and stalked off to the side of the base that had the tunnel that led outside. A stale breeze of air brushed against Breakdown's chassis and, with it, a deep longing for the freedom of the outside world choking at his spark. Breakdown slumped against the wall of the base, a miserable vent escaping from his mouth as he slid down to the floor of the base until he was seated on the floor of the base with his legs hunched close to his chest out. Anger, frustration and longing all battled in Breakdown's spark, tearing deep with unforgiving claws as he watched Ratchet fiddle with his computers.

Breakdown had not expected a warm, trusting welcome from the Autobots when he had asked for their help to escape MECH but, in the time he spent with the Autobots, he felt no better than he had with his last few days on the Nemesis. The Decepticons had mocked him for being captured by humans, even the Vehicons who he'd believed his friends had treated him as a lesser Decepticon because of his capture by MECH. He had not really desired to lay his spark at the hands of the Autobots but circumstances had pushed him to trust the Cybertronians whom he had considered his enemy for centuries.

The Decepticons kicked me out and left me to rot because Megatron and Soundwave doubted my loyalty, though they weren't far from the truth. I felt betrayed and useless there, and I've just come back to nearly the same thing here. None of the Autobots even want to spare me a chance and every glance they give me is filled with distrust. The Autobots are no better than the Decepticons in how they treat me - though I knew it would be this way.


The sound of a human's shout caused Breakdown's spark to halt momentarily as he was snapped from his thoughts, and his gaze wrenched to his left side where the three human pets of the Autobots were peering up at him. He had not noticed the humans approach him and their silent approach made his vents seize as he scrambled desperately to his pedes and sent the humans a hateful, distrusting glare. The three humans skittered back from him when Breakdown turned on them, though Bulkhead's human seemed to return Breakdown's glare with one of her own as her arms crossed over her chest and a scowl became clear on her tiny faceplate.

"Miko!" Arcee's human was the next to speak, though the taller human only stepped closer to Breakdown so as to pull Bulkhead's human further away from Breakdown. Bulkhead's human attempted to pull away from Arcee's human, all the while spitting angrily at her older companion as his grip only grew tighter around her small arm.

The smallest human - Bumblebee's from what Breakdown had observed - kept the furthest distance from Breakdown and there was little question of the human's feelings towards Breakdown for he could practically feel the rank fear wafting off the human. Breakdown let out a hiss of steam from his vents before he gave the humans a secondary, deep snarl of warning from his engine.

"Stay away from me," Breakdown snarled as he subtly backed away from the three humans, his mind yet unable to distinguish these humans from the ones of MECH who had tortured him. To Breakdown, all humans were to be treated the same as he would MECH - without an ounce of his guard allowed to drop, even with the Autobots' humans. The Autobots may like and trust their humans but the same could not be said of Breakdown - at least not at this time, with the scars of MECH far too new within his processor and on his chassis.

"Easy there, Breakdown," Arcee's human breathed as he slowly moved in front of the two younger humans, his dark eyes narrowed cautiously as he watched Breakdown, "Miko meant no harm towards you. She's just overly curious about everything."

"And clearly lacking in manners," Breakdown snapped as the femme human finally jerked out of Arcee's human's grasp, her servos clenching into tiny fists as she peered up at Breakdown defiantly.

"Pretty ironic coming from a 'Con." The femme human's words forced Breakdown's chassis to rattle with anger and it took all of his restraint to not swat at the human as he bent down to meet her optics once again.

"I am not a Decepticon," Breakdown's tone was barely level as he bit off each word with the low, dangerous rumbling of his engine. "The Decepticons left me for dead. I have no loyalty to them any longer, so you best find another method to insult me, pet."

The small femme looked to be on the verge of an argument with Breakdown when the tall male bent down to the her level and hissed something to her, that which was far too quiet for Breakdown to understand. The dark haired male gave Breakdown a cautious look before he moved to his full height beside the femme and, with a purposeful nudge to the femme's back, redirected her in Ratchet's direction. The femme complied with the male's directives, though Breakdown could tell she was very reluctant to do so and he did not miss the look she sent him, though it was one he was not able to read.

For as much as he could not read the femme's look, Breakdown was able to easily read the calculating look Arcee's human watched him with, a look of distrust as much as it was a curious, yet nervous glance. Breakdown stared at the human wordlessly, watching him until the human gestured for the small male to follow him and, together, the two humans moved towards Ratchet, leaving Breakdown to himself once more. But Breakdown could not help but watch the humans ever more closely, though only because he desired to understand these humans better - to prepare himself for anything should his fears become true.

Breakdown's nerves seemed to grow ever more on edge as he watched the young femme greet Ratchet - who responded with an irritated rumble of his engine - before she scurried up the flight of stairs that led to the platform that ringed the Autobot base and bolted to where the other two humans were only just beginning to settle down on a couch. The smallest human took hold of a small, servo sized device as Arcee's human switched on a small console before he too snatched up the same servo sized device that the smaller male had.

The femme let out an annoyed huff as the two male humans began to fiddle with the devices in their hands, devices that seemed to work with the console the humans were facing for, as the two humans moved their servos, Breakdown could hear the sound of cars racing - produced from the console all three humans were facing. Breakdown maneuvered himself so he could get a clearer view of the humans' console, and it only took him a few moments to realize they were playing a game - a rudimentary one in which two cars raced against each other - but a game nonetheless.

To Breakdown's surprise, it was not the older human who won the race but the smaller, younger one - though Breakdown caught the faintest of smiles appear on the older male's faceplate when the young one let out a joyful sound at his win. He allowed the young one to win? But why?

"Ha! Lost to Raf, Jack? Ready to try a race against me again?" Bulkhead's human mocked as she leaned her small frame over the back of the couch, her optics locked onto those of the eldest human.

Arcee's human shrugged before he shot the femme a challenging glare. "Why not, Miko? I'll enjoy winning, just like last time."

Bulkhead's human snarled angrily at the male's challenge but accepted it by snatching the controlling device from the scout's human before she shoved her way between the two humans and shoved her elbow into Arcee's human's side. The two humans dueled within the game with ferocity Breakdown would not have expected from the Autobots' humans and, when Arcee's human won, he gave a shout of glee then taunted the femme. The femme bristled and attempted to pass off her loss with a disinterested snort of her vents, but even Breakdown could tell that the young human was furious at her loss.

As the three humans continued to play their racing game, Breakdown couldn't help but approach Ratchet's position, though he made sure to keep enough distance from the medic that he would not draw the ire of the Autobot as he looked over the display screens of the base. Of the three screens, the right screen showed the schematics of the Autobot base, including the location - outside Jasper, Nevada - and its shielding mechanism, which was rudimentary in comparison to the Decepticon engineered shielding the Nemesis used.

Engineering that I know how it works, Breakdown suddenly realized, just as I know the locations of all the current and former energon mines.

Breakdown shifted away from the consoles and Ratchet, who had yet to notice him, as the full awareness of his complete knowledge of Decepticon secrets realized itself. He had not once thought of the danger he could pose to the Decepticons by residing within the Autobot base but, now that he remembered all that he knew and could offer the Autobots - as unlikely as that was - he couldn't help but feel that his existence rested on the patience of the Autobots and upon being shielded from the Decepticons.

Megatron will want my helm once he realizes that I've found my way into the Autobot base and, if he ever gets his servos on me, I can't imagine he wouldn't pull the Autobots' secrets from my mind just as I can give them the secrets of the Decepticons. I even know of the Space Bridge Megatron is reconstructing...

"Miko! What are you doing? Leave him alone!"

Breakdown's train of thought ground to a halt when he heard the shout of Arcee's human snap the air near him, drawing his gaze down to the platform nearest him where both Bulkhead's and Arcee's humans were rushing up to him. Arcee's human yanked back on the femme's arm before she could get any closer to Breakdown, and it was only from the male's stronger grip that kept her from reaching the edge of the railing closest to Breakdown.

"Let me go, Jack," she growled as the smaller human tried to wrestle her arm out of the eldest one's grasp. When she realized that escape from the other human's grasp was futile, Bulkhead's human gave a relenting snort of her vents before she turned to Breakdown and held out the small device she and the other two humans had used to play their racing game. "Want to race?"

"What?" Breakdown retorted as his optic narrowed on the femme human and the device in her hand, uncertain at the motives behind her question. Breakdown had never been against playing the occasional game at times, especially friendly games between Vehicons, but he could not stave off his paranoia of humans to not see the offer the femme had given him as suspicious.

"Come on, Breakdown, just one game? Please?"

Breakdown shifted his gaze to the human console before he glared down at Bulkhead's human and, with an irritated snort of his vents, shook his helm. "I don't play games with humans."

"Afraid I'll beat you?"

"No," Breakdown snapped as the femme gave him a smug, challenging look, "I'm just not interested in having to interact with you more than I already have to."

Bulkhead's human opened her mouth to retort but a meaningful tug on her arm from the older male drew her gaze to her friend rather than Breakdown. "Miko, Optimus and the others already told you to leave him be. So please, leave him alone - for all of our sakes."

"Oh, come on, Jack. Live a little. Following every rule Optimus gives you is boring," the femme said as she gave the taller human an irritated pout of her lip. "Anyways, if anything happens, we still have Ratchet here. Now excuse me." With a pointed sniff the small human turned on her heel and marched back to the human game console where Bumblebee's human continued to watch his friends with nervous optics.

The eldest human watched Breakdown for a moment longer than turned and followed after Bulkhead's human, leaving Breakdown to watch the human's departure with a wary gaze. He did not understand the continued insistence of Bulkhead's human, nor could he reason as to her curiosity about him. Whatever her reason though, Breakdown could not trust her - not when she shared the same flesh of the beings who had captured and tortured him.

"Instead of hovering over my shoulder, Breakdown, would you possibly mind helping me out with something?" Ratchet's question surprised Breakdown, who shot the Autobot medic a surprised glance when he turned towards Breakdown. "I would normally not ask for help in this but this is a task I can only complete with two - and you are the only one around I can ask assistance from."

"Sure," Breakdown shrugged, "whatever it'll be will be much better than standing around with these humans harassing me."

Ratchet raised an optic ridge at Breakdown's response but, with a mild snort of agreement, Ratchet left his consoles and marched towards the medical bay. "Come on, Breakdown. I want this done before the others get back."

Knock Out's engine purred as his tires slid over hard pavement, the sharp curve of the road helping him burst past the race leader and gain a lead in the race that was insurmountable for the human racers to breach as the road turned into a long straightaway. Triumph raced through the red sports car's chassis as he dashed over the finish line first and continued to race on, ignoring the humans standing on the side of the road as they waited for the rest of the racers to cross the finish line.

Silly, silly humans still believe they can beat me, Knock Out thought as he roared down the highway that led out of the mountains and down into the town of Jasper, Nevada.

Knock Out slowed as he drove into Jasper, knowing that it would be unwise for him to speed around and be chased by the local police - not if he wished to keep his cover. As he motored down Jasper's main street, an unwelcome flush of memories hit Knock Out, memories of the last time he had been in this town. He had fought beside Breakdown that day, his former partner and friend, as the two of them held Bumblebee's human captive. They had not be successful in their venture - and Knock Out had suffered the indignity of losing one of his doors to the Prime's hands - but it had been the last time they had worked together and for that, Knock Out could only think of his last visit to Jasper with bitterness. Especially now that Megatron had informed every Decepticon of the fact that Breakdown had betrayed their cause and had failed in an attempt to offline their leader.

Practically all anyone on the Nemesis could talk about now was the betrayal of Breakdown and much of that talk was dissent among the Vehicons troopers over the veracity of whether Breakdown would betray them or not. Knock Out did not disbelieve his leader's words per se but, to him, the idea of Breakdown betraying Megatron seemed farfetched. At least the Breakdown he had known for centuries would never have even entertained the idea of betraying Megatron or the Decepticon cause but, ever since Breakdown had been captured by the human organization MECH, his former friend had been acting stranger than usual.

Strange enough that maybe he did try and kill Megatron... though I wonder where he is now? No one has been able to locate him on the Nemesis' scanner, not even Soundwave has found a trace of him. And with Soundwave unable to find Breakdown, Lord Megatron's been harping on us relentlessly to find him... I wonder if Megatron honestly believes that Starscream fought Breakdown a few solar cycles ago. And if Starscream ran into Breakdown, why can't we detect his signal? Could Breakdown have joined the Autobots?

The idea of Breakdown joining the Autobots - let alone that of him betraying the Decepticons - was a notion too strange for Knock Out to take seriously and yet even more farfetched then him betraying the Decepticons that Knock Out rejected the idea. Breakdown hated the Autobots, and especially the Wreckers, too much to join with them - or did he?

Starscream had raised the question of Breakdown's state when he had reported encountering and fighting Breakdown two days prior - Knock Out could still vividly see the fury that blazed through Starscream's optics as he reported his fight with the slimy traitor, as he described Breakdown - which matched up well with Breakdown's disappearance from all Decepticon frequencies. And Knock Out knew quite well that the only way one vanished from the Nemesis' radar was death or from shielding the Nemesis could not detect Breakdown through. And, unless someone had caught his former friend unawares, Knock Out doubted that anyone had offlined Breakdown. So that left only one option... and that was the option Knock Out feared more than any other for, if Breakdown had joined the Autobots, every secret that Breakdown knew of the Decepticon cause was very possibly in the hands of their enemies.

Knock Out pulled himself out of his thoughts as the traffic light ahead of him turned red, making him slow his alt to a stop and idle in wait for the change of the light. His gaze traveled around the cars halted near him, though his gaze was drawn towards a lone white car that passed him heading east. Inside the car was a woman with dark hair, who was distractedly talking on a small cellular device, an image that made a small rumble of laughter shake from his engine, incited by the sheer idiocy of humans.

They may design some of the best cars in the galaxy but they aren't really as bright as they think they are. Far too distracted by -

"Knock Out, report! Have you found any evidence of our traitor?" Megatron's voice ripped through Knock Out's stereo, tearing the medic away from his thoughts just as the red light turned green.

"Uh… No, Lord Megatron. I haven't found anything yet," Knock Out replied as he took a sharp left to the east and drove down the road which led out of Jasper.

Megatron snarled again, though his voice was lower when he next spoke. "Fine, Knock Out. Keep looking for him and if you see him, report it. I don't fancy you getting any funny ideas like your former partner did."

"No, Lord Megatron. I wouldn't-"

"Good," Megatron snapped before Knock Out was greeted by the harsh static of the commlink being cut off. Knock Out's engine growled at the hidden warning within Megatron's words, and the cause of that warning made his spark flood with hate - hate for Breakdown.

Because of him, Megatron thinks I'm going to turn against the Decepticons, just as he did. I am not a traitor like Breakdown, I'm not foolish enough to go against Megatron, yet he distrusts me because of that traitor. If terminating Breakdown is the only way I can gain Megatron's trust once again, then so be it.

"Thank you, Breakdown. You're much better help than Bulkhead, all he ever does is complain when I ask him for help."

"You're welcome, Ratchet," Breakdown said with a mild shrug of his shoulder plates. "I just do what I'm told."

"Nice for a change," Ratchet grumbled as he led Breakdown back to the main room of the base, away from their project of fine tuning the Ground Bridge energon fuel line to try and reduce the energon consumption used by each Bridge. The fine tuning had taken awhile and Breakdown had found himself in conversation with Ratchet as they worked - he was convinced Ratchet had forgotten for a moment who exactly had been helping him.

Breakdown's engine let out a rumbling laugh at Ratchet's irritated tone and the image the medic's words brought to his mind, though that bemusement soon vanished behind a dark thought. The Autobots don't have to fear their leader killing them for insubordination, it seems. They may respect their leader but, at least from what I gather, it does not seem like they are always obedient to their leader's every word out of fear of punishment.

"Breakdown? You alright?" Ratchet's question snapped Breakdown from his thoughts, and he quickly gave the Autobot medic a short nod of his helm in response. Ratchet watched Breakdown for another moment then let a vent escape from his mouth before he once more thanked Breakdown for his help and headed back to his monitors.

The familiar sound of cars racing pulled Breakdown's attention to where the three humans were still sprawled across their couch, still occupied by their racing game. None of the humans noticed as Breakdown slowly approached their position and, cautiously, placed one of his servos on the guardrail of the platform as he peered down at the screen of the monitor.

Though he'd been thorny towards the humans when they had first approached him about playing, Breakdown's earlier observation of the eldest male human allowing the small one to win made him curious about the reasons behind that move. Currently both males were playing and, though Arcee's human put up an act of nearly winning, once again he allowed the youngest human to win. The young human smiled as he turned to face his opponent, who shrugged and returned his smile.

"You're getting really good at this game, Raf. Must be all the time you spent playing with Bee."

"I'm still learning," the young male responded, "a lot of it is luck."

"Yeah, you can say that again! Only reason Jack has beaten me is because of those scraplets - and because Ratchet distracted us with all of his welding." Bulkhead's human piped up, her optics snapping to Ratchet before she gave a glare to her eldest friend.

"Scraplets?" Breakdown asked the question before he could stop himself, a fact he quickly regretted when he saw all three humans turn and stare at him, all with varied expressions of shock at his close quarters to them. Breakdown tilted his helm slightly, observing how each one of the small humans reacted differently to his presence.

The small male looked very nervous as he backed away from the couch till he was positioned behind Arcee's human, who just watched Breakdown, though the blue mech could easily sense how tense the human was. The femme looked excited at his presence and Breakdown could not help himself but to glare at Bulkhead's human, if only to dissuade her from trying to get any closer to him.

"Scraplet trap," Ratchet interjected before the humans could explain, "infested our base but, to our luck, the children were able to help us rid the place of the hoard before they killed us all."

"What were scraplets doing here?"

"Our misfortunate luck," Ratchet vented, "fired off Cybertron centuries ago. Thankfully we have nothing more to worry of when it comes to scraplets, they are in the Antarctic now, long frozen over."

"Thank Primus," Breakdown shuddered. The mere mention of scraplets made the very being of Breakdown shudder and, though he believed Ratchet's reassurances of their infestation long taken care of, Breakdown couldn't help but cast a suspicious glance around the base.

"Did you come to try a hand at my game, Breakdown?" The snap of the femme's voice made Breakdown frown before he shifted his gaze back to the three humans with an annoyed snort of his vents.


"Come on!" The femme said as she waggled the controller device in front of Breakdown. "Just one race, please?"

"I don't play games," Breakdown snapped, though he knew that not to be true. He enjoyed playing games late into the night with the Vehicons that resided on the Nemesis and he was not disinclined to fool around when he was in the mood, but not with humans.

"Oh, come on. I'll go easy on you. I promise! Just try it… Please?"


Breakdown's curt reply seemed to deflate the young femme for her optics fell and her mouth twisted downwards in a frustrated scowl. Satisfied, Breakdown began to walk away when he heard the female's voice pipe up again - does she ever shut up?

"Hey, since you won't play with us will you tell us why you and Bulkhead don't get along?"

Breakdown's vents hissed in anger at the human's words as he turned away from the human, rage ticking within his engine as he stomped back in the direction of the medical bay. The soft patter of feet hitting metal informed Breakdown of the human chasing after him and, only a moment later, did she dive in front of Breakdown and stop an inch from Breakdown's pedes.

"Why won't you - or Bulkhead - tell me what's going on between you? I want to know what's going on!" Breakdown attempted to step around the human but for every move he made, she countered, leaping and weaving in front of Breakdown. And she continued doing this until Breakdown stomped his pede and glowered down at the femme with a snarl of his engine.

"Get out of my way," Breakdown warned before he brushed the human away from him with a shove of his servo, the force of which sent the human crashing to the ground with a sharp cry of pain. Shock raced through Breakdown's chassis at the human's reaction and, with a confused rumble of his engine, Breakdown stumbled away from the human swiftly just as the hurried sound of pedes charging up to him snapped his gaze to the right as Ratchet charged up to his side.

"What did you do?" Ratchet exclaimed with a worried edge to his voice as the medic kneeled in front of the fallen human, his optics dark as he scanned over the femme's body.


"We do not harm humans, Breakdown!" Ratchet snapped as he snatched up the young femme, his optics hard flint as he glared at Breakdown. Breakdown stepped back from Ratchet's furious glare as a nervous rumble escaped from his engine before he wisely headed back to his quarters.

The sound of revving engines and angered voices awoke Breakdown from his recharge with a snap. The others must be back, Breakdown thought as he pulled himself off his recharge slab with a tight stretch of his shoulder plates. Breakdown carefully maneuvered himself so that he could hear the Autobots but they would not be able to see him listening in on their conversation.

"Ratchet, did you record the coordinates for the Harbinger into our database?" Optimus Prime asked.

"Of course I did."


Breakdown heard Ratchet's engine stall momentarily then catch again as Ratchet spoke. "What happened to all of you?"

"We ran across Starscream and Airachnid on our mission to the Harbinger," Prime informed.

The sound of the two-wheeler venting halted the muted rumbling of the Autobots' words. "And I lost us Starscream. If I hadn't been so rash, so set on getting revenge for Cliffjumper then we might still have his promised intel at our servos."

A hollow laugh racked through Breakdown's chassis at the thought that Starscream would ever provide intel with his enemies; he hated even sharing intel with the Decepticons. Starscream despises the Autobots almost as much as Megatron does, I can't imagine him working with them, not unless his spark depends on it. He would only have promised intel to save his spark.

Chapter Text

"How long do you believe our energon stores will last us, Ratchet?"

Optimus Prime's voice pulled Breakdown's attention from the cleaning of his temporary residences and to where Optimus Prime and Ratchet were quietly conversing, far from the rest of the Autobots. Ratchet's vents huffed as the Autobot medic's mouth turned down into a frown before the medic's shoulder plates sagged tiredly.

"No more than a month, and that is only if we are lucky. Though there are only five of us left, we have been using up what little we had in reserve in greater quantities than before. At this rate, we will run out sooner rather than later, Optimus."

"Then we must acquire more energon if we are to survive-"

"And how, pray tell, do you suggest we do that, Optimus? We can't just create energon and Megatron holds all of Earth's natural energon supply. We only learn of new energon mines after Megatron has unearthed them. If there was a way for us to find energon mines before Megatron could, then, maybe, we could have an advantage."

"I understand, old friend, but we must do what we can. I have faith in you, Ratchet. You will find a way for us."

Ratchet let out a snort of disbelief at Prime's words and, for the briefest of moments, Breakdown saw Ratchet's gaze turn towards him. Breakdown stiffened as he felt the medic's gaze lock onto his chassis and, only after what seemed like a groon, did the unsettling feeling of Ratchet's gaze leave Breakdown.

"What is it that is on your mind, Ratchet?"

"There is someone who could direct us towards more energon, Optimus," Ratchet surmised quietly, "but I do not know if Breakdown would betray the Decepticon cause he was loyal to for so long to such a degree."

Breakdown felt his backstrut stiffen as the gazes of the two Autobots shifted to him once more, furthering the statement of Ratchet's suggestion that Breakdown himself was uncertain about. Though he felt no loyalty to the Decepticons anymore, Breakdown could not help but feel reluctant towards the idea of spilling the secrets of the Decepticon cause to the very faction he had considered his enemy until just recently. And, to his surprise, Prime seemed to agree with Breakdown's quiet sentiment.

"While I see the potential in your suggestion, Ratchet, I do not wish to make Breakdown tell us anything if he does not wish it."

"But he may be our only link to fresh supplies of energon that we need desperately, Optimus-"

"I know, Ratchet. I know."

"You were listening to what Optimus and I were saying earlier, weren't you, Breakdown?" Ratchet asked as he probed Breakdown's right shoulder plate, the medic's optics shifting once to Breakdown's faceplate before returning to scanning over Breakdown's healing injuries.

"Sort of hard to not," Breakdown muttered tiredly, "you were both outside my temporary quarters. I don't know how I couldn't do anything but overhear your conversation."

Ratchet let out a vent that lacked any trace of humor as the Autobot shook his helm, his gaze perpetually turned away from Breakdown as he continued to work on his shoulder. "Then you already know of our weakness and how badly we are in need of energon."


"And you know that I believe you could help us with the knowledge I assume you have from working with the Decepticons, correct?"



Breakdown hesitated to answer Ratchet for a moment until, with a defeated vent, Breakdown gave the medic a non-committal shrug of his shoulder plates. "I know the coordinates for Megatron's energon mines, yes."

Ratchet vented before he shook his helm and gave Breakdown a frustrated frown at his evasive response. "Optimus was right. I shouldn't have said anything."

A rumble of Breakdown's engine was all the reply he afforded the Autobot medic and, with the topic clearly going nowhere, Ratchet resumed tending to Breakdown, though he was entirely silent the rest of the time. Silent, that is, until the loud rumble of three engines racing into the base tore through the relative quiet of the base.

"The humans," Ratchet snarled under his breath as the rumble of engines turned into the combined laughter and loud voices of the Autobots and their three humans. "There goes any chance of quiet."

Breakdown's engine rumbled agreement to Ratchet's grumblings as the clamor of human voices reached a fever pitch - the sound driving nails through Breakdown's processor. Ratchet strode to his pedes and stormed out of the small medical bay, his voice raising into a furious shout for quiet that, at least for a few moments, drew silence back to the base.

But that silence did not last long and Ratchet came back to the medical bay with a scowl ever more obvious on his faceplate as he settled down beside Breakdown and finished his repairs. "You're good for now, Breakdown. Watch out for Miko, she's likely to get under foot if you aren't careful. Not that I wouldn't mind never having to hear her constant chatter if you did step on her."

"I have a feeling Prime would not tolerate my staying in your base if I happened to step on one of his precious humans, Ratchet," Breakdown snorted, "even the annoying one."

"No," Ratchet agreed with an irritated snort of his vents, "Optimus very much would not be happy if something befell any of the humans. As much as I may wish for relief from Miko, mind your step, alright?"

"So long as she doesn't touch me," Breakdown snarled, "I will continue to avoid her and the rest of your human pets."

Ratchet raised an optic ridge at Breakdown's statement as the medic transformed his welder servo back into its natural mode, though Breakdown could have sworn he saw the faintest trace of a smile present on Ratchet's faceplate before the medic ushered him away with his servos. "Get out of here, Breakdown, you've been lounging in my medical bay for too long. It needs cleaning. Go on, get."

"As you wish," Breakdown said before he pulled himself off the operating slab and, with a nod of thanks directed towards Ratchet, stalked out of the medical bay and into the main room of the base - with the rest of the Autobots and the humans.

The light beep of a car horn - and not from any of the Autobots - snapped Breakdown's attention away from the human datastreams he had been searching through and to the tunnel entrance of the Autobot base. As a white car pulled into the base and slowed to a stop near the Ground Bridge controls, Breakdown heard the unmistakable sound of Arcee's human pet letting a tired vent escape from his mouth moments before an older femme human stepped out from the driver side of the car.

"Hey, Mom," Arcee's human greeted the new human as she, in turn, greeted each of the Autobots. Arcee gave the new human a nod of her helm while Bumblebee beeped his Autobot binary happily and Bulkhead gave the human a wave of his servo in greeting. Optimus Prime greeted the femme politely while Ratchet, somewhat unsurprisingly, Breakdown was learning, seemed uninterested in the human's presence for he only grumbled a quiet "hello" in response to her greeting.

"It's time to go home, Jack," the new femme said as Arcee's human moved down to the ground level with notable reluctance. "You too, Rafeal. Your parents asked for me to drop you off at your home. They believe that you are visiting Jack at our house, so it would be best if I drop you off and not Bumblebee."

"Uh, alright, Mrs. Darby," Bumblebee's human said, "it is time I head back. I still need to get some homework finished at home."

The older femme smiled at the smallest human's response as he and Arcee's human climbed into the white car she had driven in, though Breakdown could not help but notice that Bulkhead's human remained in the base - and none of the three humans that were leaving even seemed to notice that she was not leaving with them. "Have a good day, everyone," the elder femme said before she moved back into the driver seat of her car, started its engine and drove away, leaving the base to some quiet - aside from the loud rumbling of engines that came from the small, human sized monitor Bulkhead's human was watching.

"What about her?" Breakdown growled rhetorically as he gestured towards the small femme with an irritated rumble of his engine. "Does she not live with other humans too?"

"Of course she does," Ratchet snorted, "she just thinks she's an Autobot and would rather spend time with us than her host parents. Unfortunately."

The sharp peel of an alarm tore through the Autobot base suddenly, snapping away any thought of a retort Breakdown could have mustered as the Autobots hurried up to Ratchet's side.

"What is it, Ratchet?" Optimus Prime asked as the Autobot medic began decoding the signal that had alerted the base. "Energon mining or something else?"

"Something else entirely," Ratchet breathed as an image of a cylinder appeared on the middle monitor of Ratchet's displays. "A Cybertronian data cylinder, to be exact, Optimus."

"On Earth?"

"Yes, Optimus, here. And if we've discovered it-"

"Soundwave already has picked up on the cylinder's location," Breakdown finished Ratchet's statement, though he felt an unwelcome bristle move through his chassis when Arcee and Bulkhead shot him dark looks at his interruption.

"Then we must move quickly," Optimus Prime ordered, "Arcee, Bumblebee, both of you with me. Bulkhead remain here at the base. We cannot allow the Decepticons to get their hands on this cylinder - least it hold knowledge that we would not wish to have fall into the wrong hands."

Ratchet gave Prime a nod as he entered the coordinates of the signal flare into the Ground Bridge controls, while Arcee and Bumblebee prepared themselves to leave with Optimus Prime. Once the Ground Bridge was tuned up, Ratchet activated the Bridge and, immediately after, Prime, Arcee and Bumblebee vanished through the Ground Bridge portal. The Ground Bridge powered down as the three Autobots left the base, leaving the base to being lit only by Ratchet's monitors and the monitor Bulkhead's human was sitting in front of.

"Come on, Bulk! Let's watch some more monster truck destruction!" Bulkhead's human gestured to the green mech as she resumed her monitor, the roar of truck engines soon flooding the base as Bulkhead moved close enough to watch the human's monitor.

Breakdown watched Bulkhead and his human for a moment before he approached Ratchet, who was still busy with his monitors, and gestured mildly towards the image of the data cylinder that was still projected on the middle monitor. "Why is a data cylinder here on Earth?"

Ratchet stopped what he was doing when Breakdown spoke, the medic's helm shifting slightly towards him before Ratchet gave him a shrug of his shoulder plates. "I do not know, Breakdown. Just as I wonder how the scraplet trap landed here or the Harbinger or that wrecked Autobot transport ship all were found on this planet too. There are thousands of planetary systems between Cybertron and Earth and yet we have found so much of our planet's history here? I cannot help but doubt that it is coincidence that we landed here on Earth and so did all of these ancient Cybertronian artifacts."

"But a data cylinder? Those were made before the war, right?"

"Yes, from Cybertron's Golden Age."


"Give it up for the baddest beast machines on the planet!"

The roar of truck engines and the loud, synthesized sound of a human voice projecting from the monitor Bulkhead's pet interrupted Breakdown. Irritation burned through Breakdown's chassis as he shot the human and Bulkhead a hooded glare that he saw Ratchet match.

"Would you mind lowering the volume?" Ratchet vented tiredly. "Some mechs prefer quiet here, you know?"

Bulkhead looked up at Ratchet's words, the large Autobot's optics pausing on Breakdown for a considerable amount of time before he gestured Ratchet to come to his side. "Hey, Ratch', check out the monster truck rally Miko took me to last week."

"I compiled some highlights with my cellphone!" Bulkhead's human encouraged, her excitement towards the matter of this "monster truck rally" glittering in her optics.

Ratchet scoffed with disinterest and made a disgusted noise at the duo's words. "Innocent vehicles battling for the pleasure of human spectators? Bloodsport!" Ratchet said as he turned his gaze away from the two with a wracking shudder that ripped through his entire chassis, a visual indication of the disgust Ratchet felt towards that which seemed to entertain Bulkhead and his human to such a degree.

"Ah, come on, Ratch', you haven't even given it a chance! Miko and I had more fun than you could imagine!"

"Bulkhead, your idea of fun is vastly different from mine," Ratchet muttered, "and I do not have the time for fun like you and Miko do."

"Maybe you should get out some more, Doc 'bot!" Bulkhead's human chuckled mockingly, her words forcing a snarl from Ratchet as the Autobot medic's servos clenched into tight fists.

"Maybe Bulkhead should join Optimus in the field before I force him to partake in my definition of fun."

"Aw, no need for that, Ratchet. Optimus wanted me here 'cause he knows that he doesn't need my help to search for some ancient educational thing-a-ma-bob," Bulkhead replied, the hitch of his engine rumbling with nervous laughter at Ratchet's threat.

"Besides, someone needs to be here in case you need help," Bulkhead growled as his gaze turned suspiciously on Breakdown, the wary look Bulkhead sent him forcing a threatening growl to rumble from Breakdown's engine.

"You don't need to watch over me, Bulkhead. I have no intention of attacking Ratchet, though," Breakdown snapped coldly, "you are making it quite hard to not attack you, Bulkhead."

Bulkhead's optics narrowed at Breakdown's threat, the large Autobot's servos clenching into tight fists as he stalked up to face Breakdown, his engine rumbling darkly as he glared up into Breakdown's optic. Breakdown's chassis began to boil for a fight as he matched Bulkhead's glare, more than ready for the chance to vent his frustrations of being locked within the Autobot base for two weeks upon the Autobot.

"Enough! Behave, both of you!" Ratchet snarled as the Autobot medic shoved himself between Breakdown and Bulkhead, his servos braced against each mech's chestplates as the medic snapped a glare between Breakdown and his rival.

Breakdown let Bulkhead hear one more tempting snarl rumble from his engine before he gave Ratchet a tight nod and, relenting to the medic's words, backed away from Bulkhead and the fight he so badly wanted. Bulkhead glared at Breakdown in turn but he too seemed wise enough to listen to Ratchet for he to backed away from Ratchet.

Ratchet shook his helm then turned away from Breakdown and Bulkhead, a slew of Cybertronian swears hissing from his mouth as the Autobot marched back to his monitors. Breakdown rolled his optic skyward before he turned and approached Ratchet, though he did not fail to notice the distrustful way Bulkhead watched him as he reached Ratchet's side. Irritated, Breakdown scowled and kept his gaze locked firmly upon the image of the data cylinder that continued to ping its coordinates to the base.

Ratchet's monitor suddenly beeped with an incoming message and, moments later, Prime's voice came through the base with a notable ring of desperation. "Ratchet! Decepticon ambush! The cylinder is at risk, we require back up!"

Ratchet turned his helm towards Bulkhead before he reactivated the Ground Bridge without a word towards the Autobot, though the medic's unspoken words were plain even to Breakdown. Bulkhead's mouth quirked into a grin before he clashed his servos together and smiled down at his human for a brief moment. "Back up is what I'm built for!"

Bulkhead charged through the open Ground Bridge as his human ran to the top of the stairwell and let out a shout of encouragement after her Autobot. "Go bend some fenders, Bulk!"

The femme human turned to Ratchet at the successful departure of Bulkhead and shot the medic a giddy smile. Ratchet raised an optic towards the human at her look, though the faintest trace of a smile appeared on the Autobot's faceplate before he approached the human's position. "I have an important mission for you too, Miko."

"Really?" The human's excitement did not last long for, with the faintest of smug smiles, Ratchet held a small stick with a bundle of white string attached to the end towards her. The human's body sagged as she snatched the handle of the stick from Ratchet, her optics blazing furiously as she glared at the small stick in her servo.

Ratchet's engine rumbled with amusement before he turned away from the human and turned back to his monitors. Breakdown stared at the human as she continued to shift her narrowed optics between Ratchet and the stick, a reaction that made Breakdown momentarily curious as to what Ratchet had given the human - though his curiosity abated quickly when the human threw the stick to the ground and locked her optics on the Ground Bridge portal. Breakdown could almost see the cogs turning in the human's processor as she snapped her gaze between Ratchet, whose back was turned to her, and the still activate Ground Bridge.

Suddenly the human bolted for the Ground Bridge, her small frame scrambling down the stairwell as she charged towards the Ground Bridge. Breakdown watched her closely then, to his own surprise, leapt in front of the human, his pedes smacking to the ground directly in front of her. The human attempted to stop when she saw Breakdown in her path but, owing to her speed and the suddenness of Breakdown's movement, she had no time to stop or redirect her course before her entire chassis smacked into Breakdown's right pede.

The human's frame bounced almost comically against Breakdown's pede, the force of her collision sending the human crashing to the ground in a flying tangle of limbs. Breakdown snorted at the human before he bent down and picked her small frame up with two of his digits, his optic narrowing onto her as she dangled in his grasp.

"Where do you think you're going?" Breakdown snarled as he glared into the small human's optics.

The human thrashed in his grasp, her arms flailing wildly as she turned a scorching glare on Breakdown that burned with outrage as she scrabbled ineffectively against Breakdown's servo. "Let me go, Breakdown! I want to witness the battle!"

"What? Why in the world would you want to do that?"

The girl fought Breakdown for a few more moments before she next spoke and, when she did, her optics glittered and burned with excitement. "I never get to experience anything fun with Bulkhead anymore. He's always saying it's too dangerous for me to watch battles! I'm missing out on all the awesome smack downs!"

"Fun?! You think our war is fun?" Breakdown snarled, outraged by the audacity of this human. He could not believe this human and her ignorant perception of the war that had ravaged his home planet and seen the near extinction of the Cybertronian species. "You humans are all the same, ignorant and with no notion of what our war has cost all Cybertronians. Thousands of Cybertronians lost their lives and you think watching a battle is fun?! Only a sparkling would ever consider war as fun!"

The human opened her mouth to retort but the sudden blare of an incoming transmission to the base stopped her. "Ratchet, we need further back up immediately! The Decepticons have sent reinforcements!"

"I'll go, Optimus-"

"No, old friend, we need you as our medic more than as another soldier. Send Breakdown."

Breakdown stared at the base's monitors as Prime spoke, his shock at the Autobot leader's suggestion seeming to be felt by Ratchet as the Autobot medic let out a surprised note before speaking. "Are you certain?"

"It is our only option, Ratchet."

"Alright, I'll send him through." Ratchet turned to Breakdown, who was still holding the femme human, before the medic gestured to the Ground Bridge behind Breakdown. "Help them, please. And put Miko down before she harms herself trying to escape from you."

Breakdown jerked his helm in a nod as he placed the human on the ground and, with a hesitant glance towards Ratchet, charged through the Ground Bridge.

When Breakdown's pedes hit solid earth, he couldn't help the surge of utter joy that pulsed through his spark at bring outside once again, though that feeling of joy vanished immediately at the sight of the battle before him.

The Autobots were fighting eleven Vehicons, all of whom Breakdown recognized and knew quite well. There were six jets, three helicopters, one tank and one car Vehicon all in the midst of battle with the Autobots. Two jets and the car Vehicon - Turbulence, Flak and Roadcruiser - were fighting claw to claw against Bumblebee and Bumblebee was losing. Bulkhead was struggling against four of the Vehicons, all three helicopters and one jet - Backwash, Hover, Blade and Condor - though Bulkhead continued to challenge his opponents with taunts and jeers. Two jets - Gulch and Pleasance - had their servos full with the ever speedy Arcee, though the two Vehicons were utilizing their alt modes to a dangerous advantage.

But it wasn't the Vehicons fighting Bulkhead, Bumblebee or Arcee that drew his attention but the last jet Vehicon - Scaffold - and the all too familiar red shine of Knock Out as the two Decepticons fought Optimus Prime that drew Breakdown's complete attention. He had not seen Knock Out, whom he had considered his friend for centuries, since before he had responded to Starscream's pleas for help weeks ago.

His last interaction with Knock Out had been tense as Breakdown had, once more, questioned his former ally on why it had not been him who had saved Breakdown from MECH. Knock Out had ignored Breakdown's question and had seemed satisfied with giving Breakdown nothing of what he wanted. They had argued when Breakdown, in a fit of rage and bitterness, destroyed one of Knock Out's buffers and neither had left the argument satisfied.

And now Breakdown was with the Autobots - the sworn enemies of Knock Out's faction - and facing off against his centuries long friend on the same battlefield. Breakdown felt his engine hiss and snarl as Knock Out was pummeled away from Prime, finally giving the chance for Knock Out to recognize who had just come as secondary support for the Autobots.

Knock Out paused briefly as he slowly pulled himself to his pedes, his sharp optics turning as if frozen until his gaze landed on Breakdown. A flinch rattled through the Decepticon's chassis as he recognized Breakdown, though his optics turned as hard as flint within moments.

"Breakdown?" Knock Out hissed as he slowly advanced on Breakdown, his right servo transforming into Knock Out's buzzsaw attachment as he stalked towards Breakdown.

Breakdown tensed, ready to fight Knock Out when a sudden punch from Optimus Prime sent the Decepticon medic hurtling backwards, his chassis coming to a stop with numerous pained hisses from his vents. Optimus Prime gave Breakdown a nod of thanks before the Autobot leader turned and met the claws of Scaffold before the jet Vehicon could tear open Prime's chestplate. Knock Out was still laid out on the ground, his chassis still of movement as Breakdown turned to assist Bulkhead-

A huge chassis crashed into Breakdown's, the force of the collision knocking Breakdown off balance as large servos - that of the tank Vehicon - wrapped around his chest plate and shoved him to the ground.

"Working for the Autobots now, Commander Breakdown?" The Vehicon questioned with a roar as his servos latched around Breakdown's helm and, with a twist of the Vehicon's body, smashed Breakdown's helm against a large boulder.

Pain ripped through Breakdown's helm as the tank Vehicon's claws hooked into the plates of metal that were Breakdown's neck and, with a snarl of the tank's vents, he leaned all of his weight on Breakdown's back - effectively pinning him.

Desperation filled Breakdown as he was, once again, lifted up by the Vehicon's servos. His optic snapped to the rock - which had faint traces of energon already on its surface - and, understanding the intent the Vehicon held, Breakdown tried to wrest himself from the tank's grasp.

He scrabbled wildly for a purchase on the Decepticon's left arm, which was positioned to support the tank's weight as it tried to bash Breakdown's helm against the boulder, but his efforts were futile. The tank noticed Breakdown's intent and quickly switched his servos so that he had both pressed against Breakdown's shoulder plates, rendering all resistance moot.

"I have fought you before in practice, Breakdown, I know your ways of fighting," the Vehicon snarled above Breakdown, "and I know enough to-"

"Hey, ugly, say cheese!"

Breakdown felt the Vehicon pinning him freeze at the same time as Breakdown recognized the high whine of Bulkhead's human pet. Breakdown snapped his helm towards the human's voice just as the small human flitted out from behind the boulder Breakdown was pinned upon and, with a smile on her faceplate, the girl snapped a picture of the Vehicon.

The Vehicon snarled at Bulkhead's human as the tank lunged for her, forgetting Breakdown long enough for him to scramble to his pedes and lunge for the tank.

Breakdown smashed the tank away from the human with his right hammer, the collision of his servo forcing the Vehicon to the ground long enough for the human to bolt away. Breakdown's engine snarled as the tank Vehicon shifted to his pedes and faced Breakdown, a hateful glimmer obvious in his dark purple ooptics.

"You really have gone slagged, haven't you, Breakdown? Traitor!"

The roar of the tank's engine matched the powerful lunge of the giant Vehicon soldier, though Breakdown was ready for the attack this time. The two met with a screech of metal as Breakdown's hammer smashed against the Vehicon's chestplate, staggering the Vehicon enough that his claws missed their original target of Breakdown's faceplate and, instead, tore through Breakdown's large chestplate.

Breakdown swung his left hammer servo towards the Vehicon but, before his swing could meet the Vehicon's chassis, the Decepticon crashed his full weight against Breakdown. Breakdown's chassis smashed to the ground as the Vehicon's servos slashed through his chestplate, cutting deep through the metal of his chassis.

It was with sheer desperation that Breakdown attempted to throw the Vehicon off him, though his attempts were null and void as the heavier Cybertronian pushed all of his weight on top of Breakdown's chassis. Breakdown tried to swing at the Decepticon with one of his hammers but the Vehicon's claws smashed his arm down, followed by his second servo being crushed painfully under the large pede of the tank.

Breakdown thrashed uselessly as the tank Vehicon's spare servo sprung open, revealing three sharp talons that the Vehicon lowered inches above Breakdown's remaining optic. Hatred burned through the Decepticon's optics as his clawed digits brushed Breakdown's helm, the close contact sending shivers wracking through his body as the Vehicon's helm lowered to his own.

"The traitor always dies in the end, Breakdown," the Decepticon hissed before he plunged his claws into Breakdown's faceplate. Darkness smothered Breakdown's vision as the Decepticon's claws dug ever deeper into his faceplate. Breakdown's screams of pain were met only by the jarring laughter of the Decepticon as he slowly, tortuously, began to pull his claws together in Breakdown's helm - around his left optic

He's trying to rip my other optic out, Breakdown suddenly realized with a desperate fear. I won't let him!

Rage, feral and beast-like, suddenly took over Breakdown's mind and with it, turned his actions feral as self-preservation ripped through his spark. Roaring, Breakdown wrenched his right servo from the Decepticon's grasp and then smashed the hammer directly into the Vehicon's helm. A shriek of pain echoed from above Breakdown, which only centered his next punch into an even more powerful punch to the Vehicon's midsection.

His second punch tore the Vehicon off of Breakdown's chassis and it was only for the primal rage that had overtaken his spark that Breakdown never noticed the fire that ripped through his helm as the Decepticon's servo was ripped from his faceplate. With his vision restored - blurred though it was by leaking energon - and his optic still safely housed within his faceplate, Breakdown scrambled to his pedes to meet the only just recovering Vehicon tank head on.

The tank shook his helm to steady his vision, though Breakdown's next swing with his hammer servo rendered the gesture moot as the Vehicon crashed to the ground in a tangle of limbs. To his surprise, the Vehicon rose to his pedes and swing at Breakdown with his clawed servos, though Breakdown lunged into the attack and only felt the Vehicon's claws ping off of his shoulder plate as Breakdown smashed his hammer into the Vehicon's chestplate without remorse. The Vehicon's digits swung towards Breakdown in a desperate attempt to get space between himself and Breakdown but, with a burst from his cannon, the Vehicon was thrown to the ground violently.

Breakdown stopped above the Vehicon and gave him a look of pure fury before he peered over the Vehicon's damaged chestplate. The Vehicon's vents heaved as it clutched at the gaping hole in the side of its chestplate, a mesh of shredded and twisted metal that already had a pool of energon forming beneath the injured tank.

The purple Decepticon's right sideplate, just beneath its ridged chestplate, had a gaping hole in it and every visible wire was sparking amongst the crushed metal. Energon pooled down the soldier's sides in thick rivulets, puddling underneath the damaged chassis steadily. One of the tank's servo, once digging into Breakdown's faceplate was now raised to the wound on his side, though the clawed digits were shaking visibly. The Decepticon's helm titled upwards slowly as he shot Breakdown a challenging yet wholly fearful look with his optics.

Breakdown's engine purred with a hungry pleasure as the Decepticon soldier tried to escape from him by scrambling backwards on his servos and pedes, though he could not get far for his injury. The Decepticon tried to leap to his pedes but, with a groan of pistons, collapsed to the hard ground with a harsh clang. Energon continued to pool out from under the severely wounded Decepticon, flooding the earth with an unnatural blue color as Breakdown stopped above the Decepticon.

"Breakdown, please!"

The Vehicon's plea went unheard as Breakdown activated his shoulder cannon and aimed directly for the Vehicon's helm. Fear pulsed through the Vehicon's optics as Breakdown smashed his pede against the Decepticon's chestplate, his cannon primed to fire-

A sudden flash of pulsing red light, originating from Breakdown's left, shook the feral drive from Breakdown and replaced it with cold horror at the sight of the injured Decepticon laying before him.

"Shockblast?" Breakdown whispered as he bent down next to the Decepticon, who's chassis was scorched by a hot blast of energy - from Breakdown's cannon. No answer came from the Decepticon, nor did his optics glow with red light, and then Breakdown knew. I killed him…

Breakdown looked away from the Vehicon - Shockblast had always been one of the hardest working of all the Vehicons and Breakdown had always enjoyed their sparing sessions together - and let a vent of frustration and misery escape from his mouth. I'm sorry, Shockblast.

"Miko!" Bulkhead's cry drew Breakdown's fractured gaze to the green mech, who was fighting off two of the helicopter Vehicon's near the large cylinder that had started all of this.

Lying near the cylinder was Bulkhead's human, who was staring at the cylinder nervously as it pulsed with livid red light. Bulkhead threw off Hover before he charged towards the cylinder, concentration so fixed on his human that he missed the blow from the Decepticon helicopter Backwash that sent the green mech to the ground with a resolute crash - directly in front of the data cylinder. Before Bulkhead could move away from the cylinder though, a stream of red light to pulsed into the middle of his helm.

Silence fell over the two warring factions for a few moments as Bulkhead's chassis sagged and he remained motionless, that is until Knock Out picked up the cylinder with his servos and glowered down at Bulkhead. The Decepticon medic's gaze shifted toB reakdown and stayed there for a few more moments until it shifted to the whole of the Autobots with a hiss of vents.

"Thanks for taking one for the team, Bulkhead. The winning team," Knock Out drawled before he turned and charged through a Ground Bridge that had only just opened right behind him. Knock Out was followed closely by Roadcruiser the car Vehicon while the remaining Vehicons capable of flight transformed and took off, fleeing the battlefield.

The Decepticon Ground Bridge faded away, leaving Breakdown to stare down at the still unmoving Bulkhead - the Autobot's human was crying over Bulkhead's arm - before the Autobots rushed to their friend's side. None of them acknowledged Breakdown as he stood uselessly by the broken chassis of Shockblast, his helm lowered with hurt and shame alike as the muffled voices of the Autobots wafted towards him.

He had understood the risks of calling the Autobots for help and never leaving - he assumed at some point the severely outnumbered Autobots would have to call him into a battle to provide back up - but Breakdown had never thought of killing a Vehicon. A friend he'd known for years, and he'd killed Shockblast with his own two servos - and cannon.

Doubt prickled at the back of Breakdown's mind as he continued to stare at Shockblast's sparkless chassis, doubts about working with the Autobots, but they did not stay in the forefront of his thoughts as Optimus Prime's voice snapped his attention elsewhere.

"Breakdown, let's go."

Breakdown turned his helm towards Prime, who was signaling him to the Ground Bridge that had opened behind the Autobot leader, then turned his gaze once more to the dead form of Shockblast before he glanced in the direction the Decepticons had fled, until his gaze stopped on the Autobots' Ground Bridge. His vents puffed as Breakdown's helm lowered before he turned in Prime's direction and trudged through the Ground Bridge with one final glance back at the Vehicon he had killed.

Breakdown stared at the floor of the Autobot base, oblivious to the conversation happening between the Autobots just a short step or two away from him as his processor replayed his battle with Shockblast. He had lost control and killed a Vehicon he had known for centuries, a Vehicon he'd befriended and fought beside in countless battles. He was ashamed, mortified even, at what he had done to Shockblast-

"Breakdown, are you alright?"

Ratchet's low voice pulled Breakdown from his thoughts, his gaze slowly cycling up to meet the concerned glint of Ratchet's blue optics - a concern that seemed to only heighten further as Ratchet noticed Breakdown's injuries. "Come on," Ratchet urged as he gave Breakdown a shove from the back, urging him towards the medical area that Bulkhead had been occupying mere minutes before.

Breakdown vented in frustration as Ratchet pushed him firmly to the medical slab, though he did not fight the Autobot medic as Ratchet began scanning his chassis to understand the extent of damage Breakdown had taken from Shockblast. Neither mech said a word between them as Ratchet began welding Breakdown's damaged chassis and faceplate, a silence that left Breakdown to his thoughts undisturbed.

Eventually Breakdown noticed movement out of the corner of his optic, that being Ratchet shifting away from him to log data into the monitor closest to the medical bay. Breakdown watched the Autobot medic for a few disinterested moments before, with a heave of his vents, Breakdown slowly pulled himself to his pedes. He did not move further from where he stood as Breakdown's helm sunk and his chassis ached with pain that was nothing of the physical sort.

"Hey, Ratch, you need to see what Bulk's painting in here." The sound of the femme human's voice drew what little attention Breakdown cared to afford to where the small human approached Ratchet.

Ratchet glanced towards the human briefly before the faintest hint of a chuckle escaped from the aged medic. "Yes, I'm sure one hasn't truly lived until one's beheld Bulkhead's take on 'still life with lugnuts'."

Ratchet and the human moved away from the medical bay, leaving Breakdown so that all he had left was his thoughts. Perturbed by the images of Shockblast's twisted, lifeless chassis clawed at Breakdown's processor, bringing with it sounds and a scent he knew from centuries of experience as death, Breakdown turned and trudged to the furthest corner of the base - away from the Autobots and their humans - so that he could try and let recharge chase away the memories burrowing so quickly into him.

"I will not allow another one of our own sacrificed, no matter the cost."

"If the living data transmitted itself from the cylinder, perhaps we could somehow coax it back inside."

"How are we supposed to get it back from the Decepticons?"

"Megatron will bring it to us."

The quiet drone of the Autobots' voices awakened Breakdown from his broken recharge, though it took some minutes before Breakdown's chassis would respond and allow him to move out of the position he had huddled into prior to recharging. When he had risen fully to his pedes and was aware enough to his surroundings, Breakdown joined the Autobots, though he kept distant from the group.

"Ratchet, Arcee, Bumblebee and I will go to meet with Megatron," Optimus Prime noted as he laid a servo upon Ratchet's shoulder. "I need you to stay here and watch Bulkhead. We will report back once we meet with Megatron. I need you to inform Breakdown that he needs to watch Bulkhead too."

"Are you certain that is wise, Optimus? You know full well the amount of distrust the two have for each other," Ratchet reminded as he crossed his arms and leaned his helm towards Bulkhead. "I don't believe Breakdown would do anything to endanger Bulkhead, but he may have little reason to care about him at this time."

"We have to rely on his ability to choose to be the better bot at this time," Optimus Prime stated. "We must be off now, though. I trust you and your decisions, old friend."

Ratchet let out a drawn sigh but still gave his leader a respectful nod as he opened up a Ground Bridge behind the group. "Good luck."

The three Autobots nodded before they moved through the Ground Bridge, leaving Ratchet to let out a quiet sigh once the three had departed. "I noticed you, Breakdown. Will you help me and keep an eye on Miko and Bulkhead? I have to continue logging the data Bulkhead is inscribing, and I can't do that and watch both of those two rabble-rousers at the same time."

Breakdown resented the idea of watching Bulkhead and his human - he wasn't Bulkhead's overseer - but he knew that this was a time that his stubbornness could not make his decisions for him. "I'll do my best, Ratchet, though would it not be prudent to send Bulkhead's human home? She should not be here."

"You don't know Miko well at all, Breakdown. She never listens to me and with Bulkhead in the state he is, she would be impossible to remove from this base." Ratchet's words were tired and the look the medic gave Breakdown was one of frustration and irritation. "Trust me, if I could have made her leave, I would have by now. I prefer quiet when I'm working.

"Oh, and while you are watching him, please pass me the slabs he finishes transcribing onto, if you could?"

"Alright, if you say so, Ratchet," Breakdown huffed as he turned and approached Bulkhead and his human.

Neither noticed him as Bulkhead continued to ramble under his breath with each stroke he made across the metal slab, and his human attempted again and again to draw Bulkhead's attention to her. She sounded desperate and her voice was high with fear as the young human alternated between calling Bulkhead's name and rapping her small servos against Bulkhead's pede.

Breakdown observed the two quietly as he took each newly inscribed slab from Bulkhead and passed them to Ratchet, who took each slab with an excited burst of steam from his engine as he thanked Bulkhead. The had only been at the routine for a few minutes before Ratchet turned to Breakdown and gestured him to his side.

"Don't go anywhere," Breakdown muttered towards Bulkhead as he approached Ratchet and stopped at the medic's side. "Yes?"

"Earlier I began to recognize the sequence that Bulkhead has been transcribing... the base root of that which he's been drawing is related to energon. It is by no means near complete - or even half way complete - but I do believe what that cylinder contained was a method of creating artificial energon. I know some of the ancient texts from the era that this cylinder came from, but not enough that I could finish the formula to perfection in the state it is right now. I need Bulkhead to finish this formula so that I can to create synthetic energon..."

"But there's a snag, isn't there?" Breakdown asked, though he already knew the answer by Ratchet's expression.

"Of course there is," Ratchet snarled coldly, "the data from the cylinder is devouring Bulkhead's entire processing unit. If we let him complete the formula, the data would have overwritten his entire processor and Bulkhead will be lost to us forever."

"And that's why Prime wants to return the data to the cylinder it came from?"

Ratchet nodded sharply as he cast a glance to where Bulkhead and his human continued to work, and it was not hard to miss the conflict within the medic's optics as he turned back to his computer. "Should I complete the formula we will have the ability to create an unlimited supply of energon, but at the cost of Bulkhead. And if we transfer the data back into the cylinder and give it to Megatron, then he will be able to produce even more energon. Neither choice is one I am happy to make, not when either decision could effect the entire outcome of this war."

"Oh..." Breakdown wasn't sure how to respond to what Ratchet had told him, or even if a response from him was desired by the medical officer. "I... I'm sure you'll figure out something, Ratchet."

"I suppose," Ratchet grumbled to himself as he continued to log the cylinder's data into his computers.

Breakdown watched the medic work until Ratchet swore and rubbed at his helm. "What's wrong?"

"Ever since the scraplets attacked our base, the Ground Bridge system has been giving me occasional issues. I haven't had the time to fine tune the repairs to the entire base since that attack and it has been causing minor glitches in the base's computer system, and energy output from our Ground Bridge.

"I had the children repair the energon fuel line during that attack but I haven't really had the opportunity to completely repair that section of the line. If Bulkhead weren't in the status he is right now I could repair that section but," Ratchet's optics shifted towards Bulkhead and his human for a moment, "I can't. It will have to wait."

"I could work on it," Breakdown offered, "I've worked on enough Vehicons that I've gotten quite good at welding. The fuel line shouldn't be too much different, right?"

Ratchet looked at Breakdown with a pondering frown that lasted only for a moment before the Autobot medic nodded. "Of course. I have materials - a welding kit and the like - near the section that was damaged." Ratchet pulled up the schematics for the base on his central monitor as he pointed to a part of the base Breakdown hadn't explored before. "Here is where the damage is."

"I'll take care of it," Breakdown reassured the medic as he headed off towards the damaged fuel line.

He wasn't an expert on engineering, least of all on the complicated science of Ground Bridge technology, but he was more than happy to take any chance to get away from watching over Bulkhead and his human like they were sparklings.

"How are the repairs going, Breakdown?" Ratchet's voice presaged the arrival of the medic, drawing Breakdown's gaze away from the repairs he was working on and to the approaching Autobot.

"Alright," Breakdown said as he rapped his servo against the fuel line he'd completely rewelded, "though I took the liberty to fix a few more of the damages around here."

Breakdown gestured up towards the ceiling as he detailed the repairs he had done, though he stopped when he noticed a faint smile cross Ratchet's faceplate.

"Thank you, Breakdown," Ratchet noted as he looked over Breakdown's repairs of the fuel line with a critical optic. "Very clean lines. I didn't remember your service records noting anything about you being a mechanic."

Service record? He looked at my service record? When!?

Breakdown chuckled nervously as he gave Ratchet a nervous shrug of his shoulder plates. "Knock Out taught me all that. I was a miner long before the war started, so I had no need to know how to repair anything. I was a destroyer, not someone who fixes things."

"He taught you well, Breakdown."

"Knock Out demanded perfection, always. It got to a point that I was the one taking care of all of the Vehicons minor injuries, and I wanted to make them look as good as they were before they came in for repairs. I am a lot better at repairing things now then I was in the beginning."

Ratchet nodded then gave Breakdown a gentle tap on the shoulder before he gestured back towards the main room of the base. "Let's check on Bulkhead and Miko, you've done more than enough for me today."

Breakdown hurriedly put away the welder before he scrambled up onto his pedes and followed Ratchet back into the base's quarters. But when the duo arrived, Breakdown noticed silence at the same time as Ratchet swore and let out a growl that sounded like "Miko!" under his breath.

Bulkhead and his human were both gone and, judging from the read out on Ratchet's monitors, they had used a Ground Bridge to leave the base.

"For Primus' sake!" Ratchet swore as he hurriedly reentered the coordinates of the last Ground Bridge drop into the Bridge control computer. "Miko never listens! I told her to stay here! Slag it! Breakdown, can you get those two back here before Megatron finds out Bulkhead's escaped and sends his forces after the fool?"

Breakdown nodded in agreement as the Ground Bridge reactivated, sending its bright green hue into the darkened base. "I'll get him and the human back."

"I'll tell Optimus what's happened, so you should have back up once they are free." Ratchet's voice followed Breakdown through the Ground Bridge as he hurried after Bulkhead and his human.

Breakdown stomped past a long row of monster trucks, frustration chittering through his engine.

Where is that damned Autobot and his idiot human? Breakdown thought as he angrily kicked one of the monster trucks, sending the vehicle flying across the parking lot and into another truck. The crunch of metal shrieked through the air loud enough that it made Breakdown flinch and scurry behind a row of monster trucks across the way from the one he'd kicked.

Good job, slag head.

He had just moved to emerge from behind the trucks he was using a cover when he heard light thuds of pedes approaching the parking lot from a tunnel across the parking lot. Warily Breakdown shifted back into cover as a very familiar red mech appeared from the large tunnel, his coat of paint as shiny and clean as ever.

Knock Out was alone, without even a Vehicon for backup from what Breakdown's scanner was telling him. The Decepticon medic held a scanner in his servo which he kept looking down at with narrowed optics before he would shift his gaze around the parking lot. The medic turned his helm to the right, optics glittering for the briefest moment until it was masked by darkness with a growl of his engine. Knock Out's servos clenched and he marched forward, silently striding through the rows of trucks in the parking lot. The Decepticon paused at a large truck, servos lifting the heavy machine as his helm titled, gaze searching, under the truck. Knock Out growled, dropping the machine back onto its tires as he straightened up and peered down at his scanner once again.

"Come out, Bulkhead," Knock Out hissed as he started to walk towards the row of trucks Breakdown was using as cover.

Breakdown ducked down cautiously, though never once did he let Knock Out out of sight as the medic slowly approached his location. Knock Out glanced down at his scanner again as an irritated scowl forced its way across Knock Out's faceplate and, slowly, his optics wheeled right onto Breakdown's location. Knock Out's helm tilted sideways as he approached the two trucks closest to Breakdown but, before Knock Out got any closer to Breakdown, he halted and snapped his gaze to the right. Breakdown followed Knock Out's gaze, narrowing his optic at the sight of Bulkhead, babbling away as he painted ancient Cybertronian formulas across the trucks neighboring him.

"Well it is nice to see you, Bulkhead," Knock Out hissed as he approached Bulkhead and stored his scanner away. The green mech looked towards Knock Out and promptly flicked the dripping end of the stick against the flawless red mesh of Knock Out's chest plate. Knock Out's mouth shook, his servos twitching, at the paint now splattering down his chestplate.

"You painted my paint job! Prepare for surgery!" Knock Out snarled as he transformed his left servo into a buzzsaw, optics lit with a savage light. The Decepticon raised his servo, plunging it towards Bulkhead-

"No!" The cry didn't come from Breakdown, but from Bulkhead's human, who had just skidding out from behind another truck, furiously charging towards Knock Out. Knock Out snarled as she neared him, then swung his servo straight into her body, sending her hurtling across the ground until the small human's body stopped near a truck and lay there, unmoving.

Breakdown stared raptly at the human, unable to move to assist her or Bulkhhead, as he watched the girl attempt to rise from her position, red energon leaking from scrapes on her arms. Slowly and with much effort, the small human rose up from where she had fallen, limbs shaking as she rose to her pedes and sent a deathly glare towards Knock Out.


"Stay away from Bulkhead!" The human cried out with a broken, pained voice as she attempted to hurry to Bulkhead's side, though her legs gave out and she collapsed before she could move even a foot towards Knock Out.

Knock Out ignored the human with a snort of his engine as he turned back towards Bulkhead, who had seemed to forget about Knock Out's presence as he continued to scribble across more trucks, and activated his buzzsaw once again. Knock Out pulled his arm back and swung for the back of Bulkhead's neckplate.

But Breakdown had already moved by then and he did not hesitate to smash his entire chassis into Knock Out, who reeled backwards from the collision. Knock Out stumbled sideways, servos slashing wildly, just briefly cutting across Breakdown's chestplate.

Knock Out recovered quickly with a shake of his helm as he slashed his buzzsaw towards Breakdown, the teeth of the whirring blade missing Breakdown by inches. Breakdown scrambled out of Knock Out's range as he transformed his right servo into its hammer alt and moved so that he was in front of Bulkhead, his remaining optic narrowed upon his former ally.

"Fancy seeing you again, Breakdown," Knock Out hissed as he peered around Breakdown's large frame for a moment then back onto him. "So… You protect humans now? And your sworn enemy? My, how far you have fallen to even allow yourself to be the Autobot's servant."

Rage overtook Breakdown's senses at Knock Out's mocking tone and, with a loud roar, Breakdown lunged towards Knock Out. The Decepticon medic dodged Breakdown's first swing before Knock Out lunged towards Breakdown and let out a roar of his own as his buzzsaw slashed up and across Breakdown's helm.

A harsh screech of metal cutting through metal came moments before Breakdown felt white-hot pain blaze through his helm, the force of it staggering Breakdown backwards, his pedes crushing trucks until he steadied himself. Energon pooled down his faceplate, covering his vision and leaving behind a cool, eerie feeling as it dribbled down Breakdown's faceplate.

Breakdown wiped at the energon falling from his faceplate furiously, though all that accomplished was further smearing the energon over his lone optic and blurred his vision further. Frag, this is no time to stall, Breakdown! Stop Knock Out before he gets to Bulkhead!

Snarling angrily, Breakdown turned in the direction of the loud whir of Knock Out's buzzsaw, though his blurred vision offered up only a hazy figure that he took to be Knock Out. Breakdown activated his shoulder cannon and fired at the form just as he heard a distant and weak human cry scream out in despair.


"Leave them be, Knock Out!" Breakdown snarled as he slowly approached Knock Out's blurry form, servos clenched and cannon ready to fire.

Knock Out's buzzsaw quieted as the blurred shape turned to face Breakdown, anger revving through his engine. "Bulkhead is no longer useful to the Decepticons, though-"

Bolts of refined energon flashed past Breakdown as the sound of a Ground Bridge opening behind him echoed through the quiet night, joined quickly by three equally different thuds of the Autobots racing towards him, Knock Out and Bulkhead.

"Another time then, Breakdown!" Knock Out swore loudly as a bolt struck across his paint and the Decepticon medic fled from the scene, the roar of his engine dying away into silence as the three Autobots brushed past Breakdown.

"Bulk? Bulk!"

"Breakdown, are you alright?" Optimus Prime's question came just as the large Autobot approached Breakdown and laid a servo on his shoulder plate momentarily.

"Just scratched up," Breakdown grumbled as he pulled away from Prime's touch. "I'm better off than Bulkhead."

Optimus Prime said nothing in response, though Breakdown thought he heard the Autobot leader let out a quiet, thoughtful rumble of his engine before he inclined his helm and nodded. "Ratchet, get the medic station ready, Bulkhead is not responding to us and Breakdown's injured, also."

"How bad, Optimus?"

"I'm... not sure, Ratchet. Miko is hurt too."

"Oh for the- I'm ready, Optimus. I'll see what I can do."

Breakdown watched the Autobots as they circled Bulkhead, whom had just been roused from his unconscious state with the - obnoxiously - loud strumming of the human femme's guitar. His wound had been patched up earlier by Ratchet before the Autobot medic had gone to help Bulkhead, and so Breakdown had been left to watch as the Autobots worried over their friend.

Quietly and only to himself did Breakdown wonder what it would feel like to have a group like Bulkhead did the Autobots, a unit that seemed to worry often over their friends and who all seemed to have an easy, unspoken loyalty about themselves. The closest thing he could think of as similar for Breakdown was long dead and buried under anger and betrayal. Not even Knock Out, who he had considered a friend, had ever been close enough to Breakdown that their relationship could have been considered as anything more than a working friendship.

Even the humans, who Breakdown still could not bring himself to even remotely trust, were part of the Autobot's family. Steam escaped from Breakdown's vents as he sighed and looked away from the celebrating Autobots, his optic shifting to the ground sullenly.

"Breakdown? Are you alright?"

Ratchet's voice drew Breakdown's helm up to face the medic as he sat down beside Breakdown, blue optics narrowed with concern.

"Yeah, I am fine," Breakdown muttered as he moved over enough that Ratchet could more easily sit beside him. "I've just had a lot on my mind lately."

"You aren't alone," Ratchet said, "even here. The others and I may take some getting used to having you around, but you have been offered refuge here and you have been quite helpful to us, and for that you are open to the same care as everyone else here."

"I do what I am told to do," Breakdown said coldly, "it's how I've always been. I don't expect anything more than the refuge you've already offered me. I'm not one of you Autobots, and doing some repairs or helping your lot out doesn't mean I'm the same as you."

Ratchet looked at Breakdown with an unreadable expression for some time before the Autobot medic let out a sigh and gave Breakdown a pat on his shoulderplate. The Autobot medic stood and approached Bulkhead and the rest of the Autobots without saying another word to Breakdown, who was left to watch the Autobots and realize he longed for something similar to the friendship the Autobots had.

Chapter Text

Haunting echoes, hollow and eerie, opened up the blackness of night. Wandering amongst the darkness was a solitary blue mech, yellow optics flashing warily. He felt something following him, tracking him from what remained of the darkness, but he could not - no matter how hard he looked - find his stalker.

The rumble of tank tracks was his only warning before a large, purple mech charged in front of him.

Its optics were dead, and pieces of metal dripped like liquid from a huge hole in its side. A crooked frown, grim in nature, showed no emotion except hate, cross over its faceplate.

"You… killed me… Weren't we friends?"

He steps backward, nerves flaring, "Shockblast- I-"

Before the blue mech could explain himself - or defend himself - the tank mech lunged forward, servo flashing forward-

Breakdown snapped awake, servos instinctively blocking the perceived attack from the Vehicon in his nightmares. Days had passed since Breakdown had fought alongside the Autobots - and killed Shockblast. He had been unable to stop thinking about the tank and the faint look of betrayal that Shockblast had given him before the Vehicon had died from the wounds he'd inflicted upon his friend.

Slowly Breakdown raised himself up into a seated position, pressing his servos against his helm with a shuddering sigh. Hatred ate at the core of his spark, hatred for himself and what he had done to his former friend. Killing Autobots - at least before he had been given refuge by them - had been a normal part of Breakdown's life and had been for centuries, but killing a Vehicon?

I fought so hard to change how everyone in the Decepticon high-rank perceived the Vehicons, and now I killed one. I-

Breakdown was pulled from his thoughts - which were quickly turning his mind into a mire of blackness - when a flash of pain tore through Breakdown's helm.

The scar that Breakdown had received when he was trying to protect Bulkhead from Knock Out had been bothering him recently. Every day it felt like his helm was on fire, no matter how much energon salve Breakdown would apply to it. Deep down Breakdown knew the pain wasn't physical but one that festered deep within his spark, a scar that blossomed within from the bite of Knock Out's buzzsaw. He had gotten his new scar from a mech he had once considered a close friend, but now? Now, there was nothing but a shattered bridge between the two mechs and that was what made Breakdown's scar flare with pain every day.

Maybe we weren't ever really friends, Breakdown hissed to himself. Knock Out only ever had time for himself and his paint job.

Bitterness settled within the core of Breakdown's spark as he rose from his slab and looked around his new quarters slowly. Prime had decided, in payment for Breakdown helping to protect Bulkhead and the former Wrecker's pet, that Breakdown was to be given one of the few unused rooms that lay within the base as his new quarters. It was a marked improvement from the medical bay for sure, even though it was small and somewhat discomforting at times, but that mattered little compared to the fact he had a room to himself now.

Breakdown shook his helm as he walked out of his quarters and headed towards the main room of the base, where the rest of the Autobots were already gathered.

Inside the large room Ratchet was busily stooped over a microscope while the brown-haired human looked on curiously. Ratchet had been like this since Bulkhead's incident with the data cylinder as, even though Ratchet had never been able to get the complete sequence for the synthetic energon formula, Ratchet was hard at work trying to complete the unfinished formula Bulkhead had transcribed.

Breakdown was curious about Ratchet's progress with the formula but he'd seen enough of Ratchet's irritation with the other Autobots questioning him on his progress that Breakdown knew not to bother the medic. But he still greeted the medic quietly as he passed him and stopped by the mouth of the short tunnel that led outside the base.

Ratchet looked up from his microscope for a moment, though only long enough for him to greet Breakdown in his normal curt tone and resume looking down at the formula. Breakdown nodded back in turn as he let his gaze travel around the base, noting the rest of the Autobots gathered near the medbay with their helms close together and their discussion quiet.

When his optic flickered to the walkway nearest him, Breakdown couldn't help but frown when he noticed Bulkhead's human approaching him quickly. Since the day Breakdown had tried to help Bulkhead at the monster truck arena, Bulkhead's human had been unable to leave him alone.

"Hi, Breakdown!" She greeted cheerfully as the small human stopped at the railing across from him, an excited look in her optics as she flashed a toothy grin in his direction.


"Do you want to go driving, Breakdown? I'll show you all around! There's some awesome off roading routes I want to show you!"

"It is encouraged that I am not to leave the base," Breakdown said coolly, "I'm sure you have heard that from Prime before. Anyways, Bulkhead's perfectly capable of taking out on a drive."

The little femme fixed a stern look on Breakdown as she crossed her arms over her chest and scowled slightly. "Bulkhead's not you, Breakdown. And besides, he's always trying to protect me. I want to have some real fun!"

"No," Breakdown snapped as he looked away from the human with a sharp scowl, "I'm not going to let any humans ride in my alt mode. Least of all for some kind of game."


"Miko, leave him alone." Ratchet's sharp tone interrupted the rest of the femme's words as the medic's optics sharpened a withering glare upon the human.

Bulkhead's human opened her mouth but she seemed to think better of arguing with Ratchet when she noticed the fire sparking in Ratchet's optics. The human let out a moody sigh as she gave Breakdown a dissatisfied frown, but she did not leave as she straddled the guard railing near Breakdown, her optics falling to a small pink device that she had pulled from a pocket.

Breakdown watched the human for a few moments until he felt a piercing gaze watching him intently. Though he knew who it was without needing to look up, Breakdown still glanced across the base to meet the hard gaze of Bulkhead watching him.

Bulkhead watched Breakdown silently for a moment before he turned his gaze away from Breakdown disinterestedly. Since Optimus Prime had informed Bulkhead that Breakdown had been the one sent to protect him and his human, the former Wrecker had grown less hostile around Breakdown. He didn't glare at Breakdown every time he was around, though Bulkhead did watch him with some measure of wariness whenever his human approached Breakdown. It was odd to not have his old enemy act like his enemy anymore, especially since Breakdown himself couldn't so easily give up his dislike for Bulkhead.

Too much bad history and hurt fueled Breakdown's dislike for Bulkhead for him to let one mission change his opinion of Bulkhead. I don't forget that quickly, Breakdown thought quietly.

The base's warning sensors suddenly let out a piercing shriek as the main monitor of the base began to flare brightly. Ratchet abandoned his microscope as he rushed to the monitors and hurriedly shut off the warning sensors, the medic's helm tilting as he looked over the data the base was receiving.

"What's going on?" Bulkhead asked as the Autobots gathered around Ratchet.

"Sensors are picking up energon movement a hundred miles from our location being moved by Decepticons."

"Not an energon vein?"

"No," Ratchet muttered to Optimus Prime's question, "it looks like it's a single pulse of energon."

"We need that energon," Arcee muttered quietly as she turned to face Optimus Prime. Prime looked down at Arcee for a moment then nodded his assent.

"Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee, with me. We will head our enemy, and do whatever we can to get that energon."

"Is it wise to chase down a single source of energon like this?" Breakdown questioned before the four departing Autobots could leave through the newly opened Ground Bridge.

Bulkhead and Arcee shot Breakdown glares as they turned around to face him, while Prime and Bumblebee both looked at each other quickly before Prime turned and gave him a questioning look.

"We are desperate for energon at this point, Breakdown," Prime said with a shake of his helm, "we cannot let any chance bypass us."

Breakdown hesitated to continue his argument as the four Autobots turned away from him and rushed through the Ground Bridge, leaving Breakdown in the base with Ratchet and the humans.

A sigh echoed behind Breakdown as Ratchet muttered something to himself quietly before the medic turned back to his monitors, his shoulder plates slumped as his helm hung.

"Ratchet?" Breakdown approached the medic slowly, worry for the surly Autobot overcoming his desire to keep the Autobots at arms length.

When Breakdown reached Ratchet's side, he noticed that the orange and white medic's chassis quivered with each shaky vent Ratchet took. Breakdown placed his left servo on Ratchet's right shoulder plate and steered the medic away from the monitors, dragging Ratchet away far enough that Breakdown could look the Autobot straight in the optic.

"Are you alright, Ratchet?"

"Yes!" Ratchet snarled as he threw Breakdown's servo off of him with an angry hiss from his engine. "I am fine, Breakdown!"


"I'm fine!"

Breakdown backed away from Ratchet as the medic turned away from him, though not fast enough for Breakdown to miss the despair darkening Ratchet's optics. "Ratchet..."

"Actually," Ratchet suddenly said, "I could do with your help on something. I have a few samples of this synthetic energon in my berth. They are located by my monitor, would you be able to bring those to me?"

"Uh... sure?"

Breakdown looked closely at Ratchet before he backed away from the medic and, somewhat reluctantly, moved off towards Ratchet's berth. He had his doubts that Ratchet really needed the samples he was sending Breakdown after, not when Ratchet was acting so unlike his normal, steady self. Breakdown shook his helm as he hurried to a faster walk - he had to find Ratchet's samples, quickly, before the medic did something foolish.

Breakdown approached the main room of the base with two vials of green energon clutched tightly in his left servo. He'd found the samples, though it had taken him much longer than he cared to admit to actually find them as neither had been where Ratchet had claimed they'd be but, nonetheless, he'd found them. As Breakdown emerged into the main room of the base, he noticed that Ratchet was nowhere to be seen and that all the lights but for the monitors had been turned off.



The small voice drew Breakdown's gaze to the walkway nearest the Ground Bridge controls and the small, brown haired human that followed Bumblebee around everywhere.

"Where's Ratchet?" Breakdown asked the human as he stopped in front of the walkway the small human was standing on. "I've got his samples he asked me to find."

"Oh... uh," the human looked away from Breakdown's hard stare as he rubbed at the base of his neck nervously. "He collapsed a little bit after you went off to his room and... Arcee got hurt and he went through the Ground Bridge to help her."

Breakdown stared at the human, completely flabbergasted by what he'd just said. Ratchet's in the field? And he collapsed? Why?

"Did Ratchet say how badly hurt Arcee was?"

Bumblebee's human shook his head before he nervously glanced towards the Ground Bridge and leaned closer to Breakdown. "He wasn't acting like normal, in all actuality. Ratchet didn't even bring his medkit!"

"Ratchet seemed to be acting strange earlier too," Breakdown said, "I think this synthetic energon formula may be causing undue stress upon him. I-"

"Rafael, please open a Ground Bridge at our previous coordinates. We are ready to return." Optimus Prime's tone was surprisingly calm for one of his own Autobots being injured, yet another odd thing to add to the day.

"Ground Bridge coming online," Rafael said as he filled in the prior coordinates and then manually activated the Ground Bridge.

"Thank you, Rafael."

Breakdown edged towards the medical bay as the Ground Bridge reported the five Autobots approaching, as he was fully expecting at least Arcee being injured, if not more of the Autobots. But, when the five Autobots came through the Ground Bridge, Breakdown noticed no injury worse than a few scratches on Arcee. Not an injury worthy of Ratchet leaving the base, by any means.

"What happened?" Bumblebee's human asked as he moved to the edge of the platform he was standing on to get as close to the Autobots as he could.

"I only saw the gory aftermath, but I hear the Doc was a one-bot wrecking machine!" Bulkhead laughed as Ratchet stepped up to the walkway near Bumblebee's human and picked him up with a light smile.

"Hey, little fella," Ratchet said as he lowered the human back onto the walkway and moved towards his monitors.

When Ratchet turned, Breakdown noticed a strange green tint to Ratchet's optics - one he hadn't seen when he'd talked to Ratchet last. But none of the Autobots seemed even aware of the change in Ratchet's optics or, from what Breakdown could tell, the change in his attitude. From what little experience he had with Ratchet, the medic had never struck Breakdown as the chatty or emotive type, and his serious nature never fit with the loud nature of the humans.

What did you do to yourself, Ratchet?

"Alright, what's your secret?" Arcee asked Ratchet. Ratchet shook his helm, green optics shifting to a tray of glowing green canisters.

Ratchet shook his helm, green optics shifting to a tray of glowing green canisters that were stationed near the medbay. It was the same green substance Ratchet had sent Breakdown to get from his berth earlier.

"No secret, just a little something I like to call Synth-en." Ratchet plucked one of the canisters from its holding place in the tray and chucked it to Arcee, who caught it deftly.

"From the data Bulkhead transcribed? I thought the formula was-"

"Incomplete? Not anymore," Ratchet scoffed as Bumblebee bent to stare into the green liquid, a swirl of curious beeps following the vial of synthetic energon as Bumblebee passed the canister to Bulkhead.

"So Ratchet makes a better tough guy than I do a smart guy?" Bulkhead asked jokingly before he finally passed the vial to Optimus Prime.

Prime took the vial slowly as his optics shifted down to meet the glittering gaze of Ratchet's green optics. Displeasure sparked within his optics before the Autobot leader finally handed the vial back to Ratchet. "I question the wisdom of using yourself as a test subject," Prime intoned. "The drawbacks of this synthetic energon are not known, Ratchet, and I would rather we not have our medic hurt from any unknown side effects."

"Optimus, you didn't see Ratchet out there, he was in overdrive! We should all try this stuff!" Arcee suggested excitedly.

"I do not believe now is the right time for that," Prime replied quietly before Bulkhead interrupted him with a giddy shout.

"Or give Ratchet more of this stuff so we can take a vacation!"

"I agree that the initial results seem promising but I recommend that further testing be confined to machines, not Autobots. Outnumbered though we may be, old friend, we need a warrior here in the laboratory right now, more than we need another in the field."

"Yes, Optimus," Ratchet muttered as he turned his helm away from Prime, though not before Breakdown saw a flash of bitter frustration burn within Ratchet's optics.

Realizing that the conversation was finished, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee joined their humans as they chattered excitedly over Ratchet's battle with a squadron of Vehicons. Optimus Prime said something to Ratchet quietly before he departed and made his way down the hallway that led to the Autobots' quarters.

Ratchet let out a sigh before he shook his helm and stashed away the tray of synthetic energon vials. Breakdown took the chance to approach Ratchet when the medic was bent down near the base of the medbay monitors and, with a low rumble of his engine, Breakdown drew the Autobot's attention to him.

"You completed the formula that quickly, Ratchet? Are you certain it's safe to use yet? You've only known about this ancient formula for a week-"

"It is perfectly safe," Ratchet growled shortly, "I would never do anything that could endanger my Autobots. The formula is sound."

Breakdown stared at Ratchet as the medic gave him a frustrated glare before Ratchet turned away from him and began fiddling with his energon vials once again.

"Now, if you intend to only bother me while I am working, I would prefer quiet."

Breakdown bristled slightly at Ratchet's tone but he relented with a nod of his helm. "I apologize for bothering you, Ratchet."

Ratchet snorted irritably in response as Breakdown turned around and headed down towards the room that the Autobots had retrofitted for Breakdown's own quarters. He knew something was getting under Ratchet, but he didn't want to press the medic, not when he knew so little of the Autobot's temper.

The sudden, resounding echo of something crashing into the base's walls snapped Breakdown's attention away from the datapad he had been reading. He hurried to his pedes and slid open the door to his quarters, glancing around until he spotted Bumblebee and Arcee both staring down one of the tunnel ways. Curious, Breakdown walked up to the two of them and glanced around the corner too to see Bulkhead laying upside down against a section of the base wall, across from a giant hole that hadn't been there earlier.

Bulkhead let out a stunned groan as Arcee stalked up to the green Wrecker and, servos pressed against her sides, glowered down at Bulkhead. "What was that?"

Bulkhead looked away from Arcee embarrassedly as Ratchet emerged from the hole opposite Bulkhead, a smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. "You have competition Bulk, I'm a bit stronger than I used to be, and faster!" Ratchet barked as he swung a fist towards BUumblebee, swinging a fist towards Bumblebee, who moved back just in time, chassis rigid with shock.

"Think you can take me muscle car?" Bumblebee hurriedly raised his servos, beeping and waving them in a non-threatening display in response to Ratchet's question. Ratchet snorted, tilting his helm sideways in disgust and he walked away from the young scout. "Wimp."

Ratchet passed Arcee and clicked at her coyly. "How's it hummin'?"

Ratchet strode away from the group, which left Breakdown and the Autobots to watch the retreating back of the chief medical officer.

"Did he just...?"

"Stronger, faster, studlier," Bulkhead offered up in response to Arcee's stunned question, though he seemed just as confused as the rest of the Autobots, and Breakdown.

Breakdown glanced sideways, meeting the worried gaze of Bulkhead for the briefest moment before he turned away from the former Wrecker, helm shaking slightly as he headed away from the three Autobots.

Breakdown thundered after Ratchet, Prime, Arcee and Bulkhead, dust flying from each stride of each mech as they ran down a steep hill. Breakdown had been surprised when Prime had contacted him through the comms and told him to come with them on a mission, though the Autobot leader hadn't told him what kind of mission they were going on. But at the moment Breakdown didn't care, he was just glad to be outside the base again… and to see the Autobot leader lowering his guarded distrust of Breakdown ever so slightly.

Ratchet had opened a wide lead from Breakdown and the Autobots and by the time the four mechs had crested a small rise in the hill, Ratchet had sprung from a creaking tree, and dove behind a large rock. Breakdown skidded to a halt alongside Arcee, who was huddled behind a rock beside Prime and Bulkhead.

Drilling echoed through the canyon - Decepticon drilling - which meant that yet another energon spike had drawn the Autobots to this location. It was a new location that Breakdown's records did not know of and, from what his scanners were showing him, there was only a small detail of trooper Vehicons and one sole drill and its Vehicon miner pilot.

Ahead of Breakdown, Ratchet shifted around the rock he was hiding behind to peer down into the canyon where the Vehicons were working.

Beside Breakdown, Bulkhead was peering down at a scanner that was pinging weakly as the drilling grew ever more pronounced. "The signal's weak. They may have hit a vein but they won't find much of an energon pulse. Not here," Bulkhead said as he turned towards Prime and Arcee.

Arcee adjusted her position on the rock slightly as her servos tightened onto the rock before her. "I take some comfort in the fact that Megatron seems as desperate to find this stuff as we are," she said with a mild shrug of one servo.

"Do you two always talk this much during these missions?" Ratchet snarled before he moved to his pedes and leapt over the rock and down the edge of the canyon. Breakdown heard the medic transform and roar down the cliff edge, straight towards the unsuspecting Vehicons below.

"Ratchet!" Prime roared before he too leapt down the canyon edge, blasters firing at the Vehicons who had finally noticed the encroaching Autobots.

Bulkhead and Arcee followed after their leader willingly, but Breakdown hesitated, for he had quickly gathered what kind of mission this was turning into and he did not wish to partake in the murder of Vehicons. Breakdown paced to the edge of the cliff and watched as Ratchet and the Autobots charged into battle against the small detail of Vehicons.

I can't fight them, Breakdown reasoned as he watched the one-sided battle rage below him. Vehicons, no matter which faction he was a part of, were Breakdown's friends. He knew every worker and every fighter that the Decepticon faction had created for their war efforts and he cared about all of them. And, after Shockblast, Breakdown dreaded the mere idea of raising his weapons against any of the Vehicons.

But we aren't on the same side anymore! I'm with the Autobots- No! Breakdown shook his helm furiously, I am not an Autobot!

But you want them to accept you, don't you? The Autobots won't trust you until they are sure that you will fight with them.

I don't want to kill Vehicons to make the Autobots like me! I don't even want to be an Autobot! I asked for their help because I was afraid of MECH and the Decepticons finding me and killing me! I didn't ask for them to help me so I could join their forces!

You're lying to yourself.

The Vehicons are my friends!

Breakdown's thoughts were ripped from his mind as a sharp cry shattered his thoughts and echoed through the air. His gaze whipped towards the sound of the shout coming from a mesa across his position. Swearing lightly, Breakdown transformed into his alt mode and charged after the Autobots, who were scrambling up towards the mesa where the shout had come from. Finally, Breakdown and the Autobots reached the top of the mesa, where they were met by a sight that froze Breakdown with horror.

Ratchet was hovering over a Vehicon miner with his welding torch servo pressed against the helm of the miner, sending sparks flying with the harsh sound of the miner's screams. The small Vehicon thrashed under Ratchet's pede until the medic deactivated his welding torch and tilted himself up ever so slightly.

"Now, was that so difficult?" Ratchet hissed as he switched his welding torch servo into a sharp blade that he plunged towards the small Vehicon-

"RATCHET!" Prime moved before Ratchet could kill the Vehicon - and before Breakdown could lunge to protect the Vehicon, who he now recognized as a hard-working miner named Littleshear - as the Autobot leader took hold of Ratchet's arm. "What are you doing!?"

"Getting results," Ratchet snapped as he yanked his arm out of Prime's grasp and shot a cold glare at the Autobot leader.

"And breaking protocol. That was a Decepticon miner-"

Breakdown moved without thinking as he hurried to Littleshear's side and gently placed a servo on the Vehicon's shoulder as he bent down beside the miner. "Littleshear, are you-"

Littleshear's chassis grew rigid the minute Breakdown spoke, his helm turning to face Breakdown before the Vehicon threw Breakdown's servo off his shoulder. The miner scrambled away from Breakdown, his servos scrambling for a purchase against the ground briefly before Littleshear was able to stand. Littleshear stared at Breakdown with fury and betrayal burning a fire in his visor as the miner backed away from Breakdown, chassis tense with wariness.

"'Shear?" Breakdown stepped towards the Vehicon until he noticed fear flash through Littleshear's visor.

"You traitor!" Littleshear sobbed before he turned and ran for his life, leaving Breakdown to watch after the Vehicon as he fled.

Shouting behind Breakdown suddenly reminded Breakdown of the four Autobots behind him, to whom he barely cast a glance at.

"Oh, and let me guess," Ratchet snarled, "I'm just a medic!"

"Autobots do not inflict harm unless all other options have been exhausted. It is what separates us from the Decepticons," Prime reminded Ratchet as he leaned ever so closer to the medic.

Anger surged through Breakdown's spark like a firestorm at Prime's words - his lies. He'd never seen the Autobots hesitate to kill any Vehicons that crossed their paths, Primus, he doubted they even considered Vehicons as thinking beings. No, he knew the Autobots didn't believe the Vehicons were anything more than drones used to strengthen Megatron's army.

"Heh! Is this really the time for another lecture, Optimus? You didn't just happen to discover Megatron's current location, did you? Well I did! And do you happen to know where there's a stockpile of raw energon right for the taking? I do!"

"Come on, Ratchet, calm it down," Bulkhead urged as he carefully pressed a servo against Ratchet's chest in a vain attempt to stop the medic's coming rampage.

"Calm is the last thing we need. Calm is what lost us Cybertron! The 'Cons have a warship, an army, all this energon scouting. You think Megatron isn't gearing up for something big? We're squandering our resources chasing after his crumbs, when we really need to be hitting him hard and hitting him now! Precisely where it hurts!"

"A direct assault on the Decepticons would only provoke retaliation and lead to incalculable losses. I will not endanger innocent human lives."

Disbelief sparked in Ratchet's optics at the same time as it raged through Breakdown's spark. Human lives? Is that all that matters to Prime? Humans?!

"Yet you seem to have no problem endangering ours. Just ask Cliffjumper. Oh, I forgot he couldn't be here today!" Ratchet snarled.

"That's it!" Arcee snarled as she lunged for Ratchet, though Bulkhead snatched her back and held her back from lunging at Ratchet.

Ratchet turned his gaze away from the blue femme and locked those odd green optics back onto Optimus Prime. "You know your problem, Optimus? For such a big strong 'bot, you're soft. You didn't pound Megatron into scrap when you had the chance! Many chances in fact!"

Prime looked away from the medic briefly before he closed his optics and shook his helm slowly. "I'm afraid that the synthetic energon has impaired your judgement, old friend. I am confining you to base until further notice. Bumblebee," Ratchet looked away from Prime furiously as the Autobot leader spoke, "Bridge us back."

As the green portal snapped open, Bulkhead released Arcee from his grasp, and the two of them watched Ratchet, disbelief obvious in their expressions. Ratchet looked up briefly then released a loud vent. "Fine."

Ratchet turned towards the Ground Bridge, his servos loose at his side as the medic trudged through the Ground Bridge without a secondary glance back to the Autobots. Breakdown watched the Ground Bridge warily as the three remaining Autobots shared a wordless glance between themselves. Arcee shrugged up at Prime as Bulkhead moved towards the Ground Bridge though, before the green mech could even step into the Ground Bridge, Ratchet charged back towards them, hooked his arms over Bulkhead and threw Bulkhead to Prime's feet.

Breakdown watched as Ratchet transformed into his alt mode and charged away from the group, leaving behind a trail of dust that settled quietly over the Autobots. Optimus Prime let out a sad breath as Ratchet's form vanished from view.

"Bumblebee... track Ratchet if you can, please. Autobots, back to base."

Arcee and Bulkhead followed Prime's order without a second thought as the two Autobots vanished through the Ground Bridge, leaving Breakdown and Optimus Prime alone.

"The humans are lucky you care so much for their wellbeing," Breakdown laughed humorlessly, "too bad us Cybertronians can't say the same."

"What do you mean?" Prime said coolly, though Breakdown could hear barely restrained anger within the Autobot's voice.

Breakdown shook his head as he began to walk towards the Ground Bridge, "you're smart, Prime. I'm sure you can figure it out."

"We can't get a fix on Ratchet's coordinates," Arcee muttered as she glared up at the monitors, servos clenched tightly over the control panel.

"That bogus energon must be scrambling his signal," Bulkhead suggested with a frustrated grumble as he turned a worried look towards Prime.

"Keep trying. We've got to find Ratchet, before he finds Megaton," Prime urged as he turned his helm up and peered at the three screens displaying the base's location and Ratchet's missing signal.

"These are the coordinates we were at when Ratchet left," Arcee said as she pulled up map displaying the previous coordinates for the Ground Bridge. "We were near the border of Texas and Chihuahua, right around Los Lamentos, Mexico. Ratchet inferred that the Vehicon he torched told him of a large energon mine location, one that has to be close enough to this location in Texas for him to drive there."

Breakdown peered at the map closely, before he remembered scouting an energon mine north of the location they'd lost Ratchet. "The nearest mine I know of to those coordinates is the one at Eagle Peak. This," Breakdown squeezed past Arcee as he typed in the coordinates to the Eagle Peak, Texas, energon mine, "is likely where Ratchet went."

Arcee shot Breakdown a wary glance before she gestured up towards the new coordinates flashing on the middle monitor. "How do we know this is where Ratchet would have gone, or that he didn't walk into a trap laid by that Vehicon?"

"The mine is there," Breakdown assured Arcee and the other Autobots bitingly, "I've worked at that mine myself. It is one of Megatron's most productive mines in this area. Large enough that Megatron always has a substantial force of Vehicons guarding it. Ratchet's not walking into a trap, he's walking to his death."

"Then we have no time to lose!" Prime urged. "Bumblebee-"

The monitors suddenly flared with a high pinging, long enough to interrupt Prime and draw everyone's attention to the monitors. Ratchet's signal had once again appeared, though Breakdown could tell that the signal was weak.

"Optimus, Ratchet's signal! It's back online!" Arcee pointed out Prime wheeled his gaze on Bumblebee, who tightened his stance under the leader's gaze.


"I'll take care of the Ground Bridge," Breakdown interrupted, satisfaction snapping through his spark at the singular movement of each Autobot's shocked gaze falling on him. "You'll need as many Autobots as you can have in this mine. It won't be weakly defended. And I'd hurry as, judging from the strength of Ratchet's signal, he's hurt."

To Breakdown's surprise Prime didn't refuse and instead gestured for him to take the Ground Bridge controls, which Breakdown did quickly as he entered the coordinates to the Eagle Peak mine and activated the Ground Bridge. Arcee, Bumblebee and Bulkhead hurried through the Ground Bridge, though Prime lingered for a moment to give Breakdown an unreadable look.

"We will contact you once we have located Ratchet."

"You need to go," Breakdown said as he jerked his helm towards the still active Ground Bridge. "I'll get the med bay ready."

Prime nodded once before he too charged through the Ground Bridge, leaving the Autobot base empty but for Breakdown. Breakdown sighed as he deactivated the Ground Bridge and moved towards the medical bay.

He knew full well that he could have gone with Prime, Arcee and Bulkhead to the energon mine, he knew he should have, but Breakdown couldn't bring himself to the idea of gunning down the Vehicons he knew would be guarding the mine. Not now, not yet, not even to help a potentially critically injured Autobot.

"Breakdown, we need that Ground Bridge, please."

"Yes, Prime," Breakdown replied as he hurried to the Ground Bridge controls and reactivated the prior coordinates, his optic turning to watch as the portal opened with a soothing chime. It stayed open for a few moments, empty, until the sleek form of Arcee charged through, her blue optics snapping to the medbay that Breakdown had already prepped.

"How badly hurt is Ratchet?" Breakdown asked Arcee as he hurried to the medical bay beside Arcee.

"He lost a lot of energon," Arcee explained quickly as the Ground Bridge thrummed with the sound of the rest of the Autobots coming back into the base.

Bulkhead and Optimus Prime were laboriously assisting Ratchet out of the Ground Bridge as Bumblebee followed behind the two larger Autobots worriedly. Streaks of energon coursed down Ratchet's chassis, originating from a heavily bruised section of the orange and white medic's chestplate, which was indented and cracked thoroughly as if some great force had smashed into the old mech's chestplate.

Arcee ran up to the two Autobots carrying Ratchet and assisted them as they carried Ratchet's unconscious frame to the medical bay, where Breakdown could not drag his gaze away from Ratchet's injury. He had a responsibility to help all injured Cybertronians as a medical assistant - assistant, not medical officer - but he'd never worked on a mech as injured as Ratchet was, not alone - not without help.

I'm only good at reattaching limbs! I don't-

"Frag it! How do we stop the energon loss!"


The Autobots shouts drew Breakdown out of his thoughts and once again back to the injured medic who's vents continued to heave laboriously, each breath growing weaker and weaker as the minutes passed. Bumblebee was standing, rigid, in a corner, optics distant as the scout's chassis shook with fear. Bulkhead had moved away from Ratchet's injured chassis as his right servo covered his mouth, fear flickering in the depths of his optics. Arcee herself was scrambling about, servos almost a blur as she tried to help Ratchet. And then there was Prime. The Autobot leader looked lost, his expression agonized as he looked down on Ratchet, his engine growling with worry.

The Autobots know even less than I do, Breakdown realized suddenly, a realization that steeled his resolve. Though he'd only known Ratchet for such a brief time, Breakdown had come to like the medic and he respected the Autobot deeply. An old instinct - and the quiet, sickening memory of what he had done to Shockblast - took over and with it urging him on, Breakdown stepped forward.

"Move!" Breakdown ordered as he pushed Arcee aside from her vain attempts to help Ratchet and swiftly pulled a large medical toolkit to his side that he'd stationed by the medical bay earlier. "I need more 3-O thread and the frame welder, get them now!"

Breakdown bent over Ratchet's prone chassis, his optic analyzing the critical structure damage Ratchet had suffered-

"What are you doing?" Arcee asked as Breakdown dug through the medical kit, stopping only when he found the scalpel he needed.

"I'm going to save Ratchet's life," Breakdown snarled as he quickly began cutting into Ratchet's chestplate. He had to expose the structure of Ratchet's chassis so that he could weld back the injured section of his chestplate and, though he moved quickly in cutting away the injured metal of Ratchet's chestplate, Breakdown moved with careful precision.

"Where's that frame welder?!" Breakdown snarled as he exposed Ratchet's inner frameworks and shot the Autobots staring at him a glare. "I need that welder!"

Bumblebee jumped at Breakdown's snarl as he rushed off and, moments later, returned with Ratchet's frame welder, which he handed to Breakdown. Breakdown snatched the frame welder from Bumblebee and quickly buried himself into saving Ratchet, oblivious to the sparks that popped and sizzled off his chassis, oblivious even to the Autobots who watched him without a word.

Breakdown never knew how much time had passed before he was finally able to step away from the repaired and stabalized Ratchet, and let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding the entire time he'd been working on Ratchet. He had been forced to hastily repair Ratchet's damaged chestplate before he'd been able to do anything more with the medic, as that injury was the source of Ratchet's energon loss. Only once he'd been able to repair the chest injury was Breakdown able to flush out what little of the Synth-en remained in Ratchet's system. Once the synthetic energon had been flushed, Breakdown was able to put Ratchet on an energon drip to replenish his depleted stores of natural energon reserves.

Then Breakdown had been forced to reopen Ratchet's injury so that he could more properly repair the weakened structure of metal where Ratchet had been hit. Filling and repairing the damaged metal had taken the most time but now nothing remained of Ratchet's wound - nothing except for a small, nearly imperceptible scar on the very right edge of where his wound had been and the acrid reek of burnt metal.

Ratchet's system had shut itself into a spark preserving recharge that the medic would not waken from for a few hours, which left nothing for Breakdown to do but wait and watch Ratchet's vitals. He remained at Ratchet's side quietly as the Autobots finally approached their stricken companion's side and pressed around him, voices low as they muttered amongst themselves.

"Thank you, Breakdown." Optimus Prime's words drew Breakdown's gaze away from Ratchet's vitals - which had steadied by now - and up to the Autobot leader, who had turned towards him and was watching him quietly.

"It's my duty," Breakdown admitted quietly in response, "it's what I am supposed to do."

"I still greatly appreciate your help, Breakdown," Prime continued, "you saved Ratchet's life and, for that, I cannot thank you enough."

Breakdown looked away from Prime's steady gaze self-consciously, he was not used to being thanked for doing his job as a medical assistant, least of all by a commanding officer. Before he could answer Prime though, Breakdown heard Ratchet stir beside him as the medic slowly regained consciousness.

Ratchet's optics opened slowly to reveal the normal pale blue glow he'd always had, though their was a sadness within Ratchet's optics that Breakdown had not noticed before. When Ratchet's optics shifted towards the Autobots he attempted to rise up off the medical slab, though Prime stopped him with a gentle servo on his shoulder plate.

"Easy old friend. You lost a lot of energon. Good and bad."

"I… I didn't intend to hurt anyone… I just wanted so badly to-"

"Help us. We know," Prime interrupted Ratchet softly, his gaze falling momentarily from the medic as he did. "But you nearly caused the loss of something irreplaceable. Our medic, and a most trusted friend."

"You did lead us to a much needed energon supply," Prime said as he turned and gestured towards the deactive Ground Bridge, where Bulkhead and Bumblebee were busy stacking a quanity of energon cubes. "And for that we should all be thankful."

Ratchet peered at the energon stack for a moment before he sighed, his vents heaving as he did. "The synthetic energon clearly needs refining before it can be tested again." Prime nodded with Ratchet's words, a small smile curving over his faceplate. "On machines, not Autobots."

"Let us take comfort in the fact that you were able to dispose of the quantity that remained."

Ratchet lifted each arm slowly from where he lay, his optics observing the movement of each critically until he turned to Prime with a quizzical tilt of his helm.

"Optimus, how is it that my injuries have been repaired? None of the Autobots know a thing about medical practices, even you do not know the level of knowledge that was needed to fix my injuries. Who repaired me?"

Prime turned his gaze towards Breakdown before he turned it to Ratchet once more. "Breakdown was the one who repaired you, Ratchet. We owe your life to him and his skills."

Ratchet looked at Breakdown silently, his blue optics narrowed slightly as he peered up at Breakdown. "Thank you, Breakdown. I did not realize how much you knew... I believe that I would like to have you as my assistant. The Autobots need a medic on the field as badly as they need one here in the base. Once I am recovered, your training with me will start."

"Uh," Breakdown blinked, startled by Ratchet's interest in him. "Alright. I will be ready to work with you once you recover."

"Good," Ratchet nodded, "though do not believe that I will go easy on you. I expect the best from my assistants."

"I wouldn't expect it any other way, Ratchet."

Chapter Text

"Go through the procedure again, Breakdown."

Ratchet stood over Breakdown, the medic's arms crossed over his chest as he looked down at Breakdown's work. Since the day that Breakdown had saved Ratchet's life, the Autobot medic had been putting Breakdown through the wringer - as Arcee had described it - in testing his knowledge of Cybertronian medical procedures. They'd started from the easiest issues, a dislocated digit joint here and a scrapped up chassis there, and moved up to more complicated procedures - all while working on a mock protoform that Ratchet had created from spare junk around the base.

Breakdown had showed his skills enough for Ratchet to test him with the delicate procedure of reconnecting lines from a severed arm to the protoform's shoulder socket, which was today's test. He'd already performed the procedure once today, but Ratchet was never satisfied with just one good attempt. Breakdown didn't mind doing the procedure but he couldn't help but feel somewhat frustrated by Ratchet's unwillingness to praise him or the sudden coldness Ratchet had for him.

Before Ratchet had made Breakdown his assistant-nurse-helped - Breakdown didn't know what Ratchet's designation for him was - Breakdown had thought that the medic was starting to accept him, or tolerate him, but now all he saw from Ratchet was disapproval and stern, cold optics. He didn't know what he'd done to disappoint the medic so badly, but it left a sour taste in the back of Breakdown's voice box.

Just when he'd thought one of the Autobots had begun to accept his presence within their silo base, he'd gone and messed it up somehow.

Hiding a scowl as Breakdown stepped away from practice protoform, Breakdown lowered his helm and let anger simmer through his engine as Ratchet disassembled the protoform's arm once again.

"Again." Ratchet's order was non-negotiable and, judging from the medic's hard stare, Breakdown knew he must have done something wrong last time.

"Yes, sir," Breakdown grumbled as he turned back to the protoform and bent down close to see the damage.

"Diagnosis," Ratchet growled to his side once Breakdown had enough time to survey the damage.

"The patient's right arm has been severed completely from his chassis. All fuel lines and wiring has been damaged. Energon loss is first priority."

"Fix it."

Breakdown bit back the growl that growled deep within his engine as he lowered his helm and muttered a quiet 'yes, sir' before he began repairing the protoform again. Ratchet barked for him to move faster as he worked to patch the bleeding energon and, when he'd done that, Ratchet only barked at him again.

He's never satisfied with anything, Breakdown snarled to himself as the Autobot medic hovered over him, his displeasure clear to him.

"You did well today, Breakdown."

Ratchet's voice came from behind Breakdown, where the medic was busy checking over his medical test protoform's repaired chassis, drawing Breakdown away from his current task - cleaning the surgical tools he'd used on the protoform. The medic wasn't looking at Breakdown as he moved his frame welder over the protoform's shoulder joint, but Breakdown knew the medic was entirely aware of what he was doing.

"You have a handle on the most minor and common of injuries and you even have a suitable wealth of knowledge on more dangerous injuries. Some of your methods are a little unrefined, though that doesn't matter in the end," Ratchet noted, "so long as you know what you are doing."

"I'm not stupid," Breakdown snapped angrily, "I learned enough being Knock Out's assistant to help the Vehicons on the Nemesis, and I've seen them come back to the warship with injuries that should have offlined them. Fixing them became my job and no one on the Nemesis questioned my ability to help them. I'm nowhere near as capable of a medic as you or Knock Out, but I do know how to repair a severed arm."

"That was not what I was implying, Breakdown," Ratchet said as he turned to face Breakdown, arms crossed over his chestplate as his blue optics narrowed on him. "Your methods are sound, and ones that I would trust my Autobot's injuries too - after further refining of the knowledge you already know. The Autobots need all the medics we can have, even if you were just a nurse."

"A nurse? What is that?" Breakdown asked Ratchet suspiciously. He'd never heard the word before from Knock Out and, considering the way Ratchet said it, he assumed it was a word of human origin. But whether that meant it was an insult was unclear to him.

"Medical assistant. One who is a caregiver for patients who manages their needs by observing and monitoring patients, and also the one who is tasked with recording any and all data the patient needs for treatment. It is a human concept," Ratchet admitted, "but it sounds close to what your job with Knock Out was."

"Though I doubt these nurses ever had to be their medic's bodyguards," Breakdown growled sourly.

He was resoundly against the vein of this topic, as the mention of Knock Out only made Breakdown's bitterness at his friend's betrayal ever more present within his spark. He knew that Knock Out had trained him as his assistant so that Breakdown could take care of the minor - and thus unimportant - injuries that were so common on the Nemesis and during the war, if only so that the Decepticon medic could have more time to buff himself. Knock Out's vanity had been something Breakdown had accepted as normal - for medics, at least - and it had given Breakdown a chance to talk with each Vehicon who came in injured.

"Was it your choice of Knock Out's for you to be trained in Cybertronian medicine?"

Ratchet's question caught Breakdown off guard. It had seemed natural when Knock Out had suggested they ally themselves on Cybertron, and so it had seemed just as natural when Knock Out had begun to show Breakdown medial procedures. Breakdown had not minded working with Knock Out and he hadn't even cared when the medic would leave him to tend to an entire squadron of injured Vehicons.

"I need to catch up on my recharge, Breakdown. Can you handle these drones? I'll pay you back in your favorite high-grade."

Breakdown scowled and it was only after he saw Ratchet's optics widen and the medic shouted, "I NEEDED that!" that Breakdown realized he'd crushed the scalpel he'd just been cleaning. Breakdown quickly apologized before he laid the now useless scalpel on the tray of cleaned tools and sighed.

"It was Knock Out's idea that I become his assistant," Breakdown admitted, "I never had a say in whether I wanted that position or not. I never really had a say in anything Knock Out decided. I figured he knew what was best for us and I followed him willingly. I assumed he cared about me and that's why he wanted me to become his assistant. When we came to Earth and were called to the Nemesis, Knock Out made me tend to each injured Vehicon so he could buff himself.

"He spent more time racing than he did tending to the injured Vehicons. That was my job - so long as he and I weren't on a mission together, that is."

Ratchet watched Breakdown for a moment before he turned his gaze away from him and let a derisive snort escape from his vents. "So, in the end, the only choice you've made for yourself of late is calling us for help."

"Only choice I've made recently that ins't related to impressing Megatron or appeasing Knock Out."

Dust whirled past Breakdown's mirrors, coating the glass with a thin film of grime as he raced over the rocky, mountainous terrain that surrounded the Autobot's base. Breakdown had asked for permission to leave the base after his conversation with Ratchet and, to his surprise, the Autobots had let him. He didn't stay to question if the Autobots really were alright with him leaving their base before he'd transformed into his alt mode and raced out of the tunnel that led outside.

It felt quite nice to be away from everything, with only wind, dust and the red rock of the desert to ground Breakdown to this world. Out here on the empty road, there were no distrustful glares, sickeningly boring lectures, obnoxious bratty humans, or the lurking monsters that lived in Breakdown's mind. He knew that leaving the shielded base was a risk that could expose him to both MECH and the Decepticons, but he had to get away from the Autobots and clear his head. What Ratchet had said to him earlier had gotten under his mesh and wouldn't leave him be for anything..

"Breakdown! Get back to base, immediately! Megatron has just confronted Optimus and the others and I need you back here, now!"

Breakdown braked when Ratchet's voice crackled over his comms, the medic's interruption somewhat worrying to him. Ratchet sounded more worried than usual - and he understood why. The last time he'd seen Megatron, his former leader had been more than ready to kill him, along with Starscream - and he did not look forward to seeing the Decepticon leader anytime soon.

"Alright, Bridge me back."

"Agent Fowler informed us of an attack on a military base by the Decepticons," Ratchet explained as Breakdown joined the medic's side back in the Autobot base. "It seems like they are trying to make another Space Bridge."

"Not trying," Breakdown growled quietly.

Ratchet's helm snapped to Breakdown but, before the medic could question Breakdown, the sound of Optimus Prime's strained voice broke through the base.

"Ratchet! Bridge us back now!"

"Must have an Autobot down," Ratchet sighed before he wearily pulled the levers to the Ground Bridge control. Ratchet shifted his chassis and turned his gaze to the open Ground Bridge, Breakdown followed the medic's gaze, to watch for the injured Autobot.

Only a few moments passed, in which a palpable tension filled the room of the base, until Arcee and Bumblebee walked through the Bridge. Bumblebee was staring intently at Arcee, who was carrying something in her arms. Odd.



The distraught cries from Arcee and Bulkhead's humans made Breakdown look twice at what Arcee was carrying, a note of surprise rumbling from his engine when he realized that it wasn't an injured Autobot but Bumblebee's human who had been hurt.

What was the human doing on the battlefield against Megatron?

Ratchet startled back when he recognized the still human in Arcee's arms before he rushed up to the two-wheeler, worry blazing off his chassis. "What happened?"

"Megatron," Arcee snarled as she glanced up from the young human in her arms to Ratchet, optics ablaze.

"Quickly, into my laboratory," Ratchet ordered as he turned his back on Arcee without waiting for her response, and hurried to the medical bay. Arcee quickened after the large medic with the human cradled in her arms gently. Bumblebee followed the two Autobots, though he stopped some feet away from them as he watched his human pet helplessly.

Breakdown glanced towards the scout before he looked suspiciously at the Ground Bridge terminal. Where are Prime and Bulkhead? Did Megatron do something to them… Or did they stay behind?

Staying behind to fight Megatron after one of the human pets had been hurt seemed like a very Optimus Prime thing to do, Breakdown realized, though it didn't explain why Bulkhead wasn't back at the base yet. Unless Prime had decided to fight Megatron and every single Decepticon onboard the Nemesis with Bulkhead as his only backup.

That's stupid, even for Bulkhead. And Prime seems unwilling to fight Megatron seriously enough that he'd risk storming the Nemesis. What are those two doing?

Worried beeping from the Autobot scout turned Breakdown's attention to where Bumblebee continued to stare at his injured human, doors and helm sagging miserably. Breakdown didn't understand the attachment the Autobots had to their pet humans - how could he? - but he was smart enough to know that the Autobots cared about the humans as much as they did each other.

He'd seen Vehicons who lost their entire will to live after a Vehicon they'd befriended was offlined - he understood their attachment to each other, when Vehicons so often felt like they were the only ones who cared for one another - and he assumed Bumblebee felt the same way about his human. Breakdown surprised himself when he realized that he felt actually felt sorry for Bumblebee. His human pet may not have been a Cybertronian, but Breakdown still understood the pain of losing someone close to you, as Bumblebee and his human clearly were. And he knew how rash Cybertronians could act if someone they cared about was hurt.

A sigh hissed from Breakdown's intakes as he walked up to the scout, who continued to pace near the medical bay, and halted the Autobot with a steady placement of his servo on Bumblebee's shoulderplates. Bumblebee's helm shot up, surprise flickering in his wide optics as he stared at Breakdown's servo on his shoulder plate. Breakdown looked down at him, his optic narrowing as he tightened his grip on Bumblebee's shoulder.

"I understand you are worried for you human-"

Bumblebee trilled something in the Autobot Binary Breakdown still couldn't translate when Breakdown mentioned his human.

"- but you need to stay calm."

The scout made an uncertain sound from his engine that only grew louder when Ratchet threw his tools across the base with a snarl of frustration.

"Rafael isn't responding! We must run diagnosis of his assemblage- vital statistics- My tools are all wrong!"

Bumblebee's chassis shook under Breakdown's servo for a moment before the scout threw Breakdown's servo off him with a snarl of pain. Breakdown stepped back from Bumblebee just as Arcee stretched a servo to Bumblebee's shoulder, her attempt to calm Bumblebee only slightly more placating than Breakdown's own. The scout's intakes were heaving as Arcee's human started to yell at Ratchet, who was looking increasingly uncomfortable with each word the young human snarled at him.

"We need to call my mom," Arcee's human urged Ratchet before he pulled a small device from his pocket and began tapping at it.

"Your mother may be a nurse but does she know anything about the effects of energon on the human body?" Ratchet asked the dark-haired human angrily.

"Do you know anything about the human body?" The ferocity in the human's voice surprised Ratchet enough that the medic backed away from the human, his optics shifting the left without protest. "Mom, it's urgent."

Ratchet let out a deep sigh, his arms already hung by his side as defeat turned his blue optics into a dull, miserable shade.

"The weak will perish. Be strong, Rafael."

The flooding green light of the Ground Bridge fading away turned Breakdown's gaze to the de-activated portal, and he watched as a small white car drove into the base, braking almost immediately as the dark-haired human ran up to its side.


"Grab my bag," said the older female human that came from the white car, before she ran past Breakdown to where Ratchet and the others were still hovering over Rafael's body. Ratchet was just finishing scanning the human's body, straightening his chassis as the scan finished and the older human ran up beside Rafael.

"Measuring the extent of the absorption should determine the proper course of treatment," Ratchet explained weakly, his optics oddly distant as the female wrapped her digits over Rafael's arm and body.

"If I don't get this boy stabilized NOW, he will not leave this table alive. Do you understand me?"

"Uh," Ratchet stepped away from the fierce human, shame shuttering his optics and lowering his helm without another word.

The dark-haired male gently placed a large black bag - her medical kit - on Rafael's stretcher, and as it fell Bumblebee suddenly reacted. His chassis shuddered noticeably as he let out an enraged trill, smashing his servo into the side of the wall behind him, making a large dent in the concrete wall.

Arcee leapt towards Bumblebee and pressed him against the wall. "Listen, you don't think I know what it feels like to watch a partner… harmed? Revenge won't help Raf right now, you need to keep your emotions in check." Bumblebee's optics adjusted, and he turned his gaze back to Rafael's unconscious body, placing a servo against his helm with a shuddering whine from his engine.

Breakdown had moved next to Ratchet, so it was only because of that that he was able to hear Prime's voice come through Ratchet's comms.

"Ratchet, how is Rafael?"

Ratchet turned away from Rafael, though his optics still stayed locked in the direction of the unconscious human. "It is too soon to know."

"He is in good hands," Prime said softly, almost comforting, though Ratchet did not show anything but sadness still in his optics.

"Not in mine, Optimus. Curse my Cybertronian pride. We've accepted these humans into our lives, yet I bother to learn so little of their science or medicine." Ratchet's voice fell away, misery hanging heavily over his chassis.

Breakdown moved a little closer to Ratchet, and slowly placed his servo on the medic's shoulderplates. Ratchet looked towards Breakdown wordlessly, but gave him a brief nod as Prime's voice cracked over the comms again.

"Pull yourself together old friend, Rafael needs you."

"And I have grown to need him," Ratchet admitted quietly.

"Lock onto my coordinates and activate the Ground Bridge," Prime ordered. Ratchet looked to move towards the controls but Breakdown stopped him with a short shake of his helm. Ratchet hesitated, but relented to Breakdown. Breakdown moved up to the controls and activated the Bridge with a pull of the levers.

As the base was lit again with the livid green of the Ground Bridge, Breakdown turned and waited for Bulkhead and Prime to return.

"Jack, help me get Raf to the car, he's going to the emergency room!" The older human ordered, though her gaze snapped away from Rafael's body at the sound of Ratchet's voice.

"Nurse Darby, your doctors won't be able to comprehend what's afflicting him, not without a decade of study."

"I don't have time to argue," she snapped back, moving to the head of Rafael's stretcher.

"The effects of an energon blast on an Autobot can be devastating enough, but this is a human," Ratchet said, digits flashing over the medical HUDs, which was displaying an image of Rafael. "I'm not getting any readings… How could I have not seen this? Rafael's been infected with Dark Energon!"

Every human and Autobot within the base, even Breakdown, glanced up at Ratchet, as if a singular thought had passed between all of them at the same time.

"If Dark Energon is devouring Raf from the inside out we must expel it, and fast. The only possible way I know," Ratchet said, a haunting look flashing momentarily through his optics as Ratchet picked up an empty energon canister. "I need energon!"

The older female looked up sharply, raising one servo in the air. "Wait. You said energon is devastating to humans-"

"Under normal circumstances, quite, but I am relying on the dark matter currently invading Rafael's body to meet it head on." Ratchet turned to Bumblebee, walked right up to the yellow scout and pressed the canister into the unarmored section of Bumblebee's arm. Energon flowed into the canister until it filled to the top, when Ratchet pulled it away from Bumblebee and placed it into a metal device.

"I need him over here, NOW!" Ratchet indicated to the cleansing bay. Both dark-haired humans pushed Rafael's stretcher into the cleansing bay, as Ratchet hurriedly typed something into the cleansing bay's monitors. Once both humans had put Rafael in place, they bolted out of the cleansing bay, the door shutting close just as Ratchet pulled the lever.

Light slowly began to flood the base as the energon within the canister flowed into the cleansing bay, illuminating the entire base with a bright flash, blinding Breakdown and the others momentarily. The light faded, though Breakdown had to shake his helm a few times until the dark spots blurring his vision faded away.

Once his vision had cleared, Breakdown glanced back over to the cleansing bay, where every one of the humans were gathered around Rafael, along with Bumblebee. Breakdown turned to Ratchet, who cracked the smallest of smiles at the sight of Rafael being hugged by the spunky female.

Ratchet, seeming to sense Breakdown watching him, turned to Breakdown and shot him a happy smile before his gaze turned distant.

"Optimus, we did it."

The joy and happiness flooding the Autobot's base did not stay long, for suddenly Arcee wheeled on Bulkhead, wing kibble flaring outwards.

"Where is Optimus, Bulkhead?" Arcee asked, causing Ratchet to whip his gaze away from the humans and to her. The medic's optics narrowed, and his smile turned into a dark frown.

Bulkhead flashed his gaze between Arcee and Ratchet, even briefly landing on Breakdown, which made Breakdown snort angrily towards Bulkhead. The green mech immediately moved his gaze away from Breakdown, locking it back onto Arcee.

"Uh, well… Optimus told me to come back alone because he wanted to face Megatron. He said that he was going to destroy Megatron."

"WHAT?!" Breakdown, Arcee and Ratchet all roared at the same time. Arcee and Ratchet snapped their optics onto Breakdown for a second, causing him to back away from the nerve-spiking stares until both looked back at Bulkhead.

Breakdown kept his mouth shut, not wanting to incite the wrath of the Autobots by voicing his opinion that Prime would never be able to defeat Megatron, not yet, at least.

Ratchet suddenly gasped, optics flashing sideways feverishly, then bolted over to the central monitors, flicking it on hurriedly.

Arcee slapped her servos onto her hip plates, wing kibble rigid. "Bulkhead, you let Optimus face Megatron alone?"

"I didn't have a choice-"

"It could be a trap, we need to get a fix on his location!" Ratchet hissed, and began to set to work finding Prime's location.

Breakdown stepped back slowly, turning to watch every single being inside the base thoughtfully, aside from Ratchet, who was still typing furiously away at the monitor.

All four humans were gathered together, the oldest of them checking over Rafael cautiously. Bulkhead and Arcee were busy arguing with each other, both of their voices rising nastily. Bumblebee, meanwhile was hovering over the humans, watching over each of them protectively.

The moment Ratchet's chassis grew rigid for a moment, Breakdown knew he had found Prime's location.

Hopefully Megatron left him in one piece…

"Locked onto Optimus' signal- Wait… How is this possible?" Ratchet's voice staggered, causing Arcee and Bulkhead to both stop arguing and come closer to Ratchet, right next to Breakdown.

"What? What is it?" Arcee asked.

"We need to get Optimus out of there, NOW!"

Breakdown turned to the Ground Bridge, watching as Bulkhead and Ratchet, who were both helping Optimus into the base. The Autobot leader's steps were slow and unsteady, and his finish was scratched thoroughly.

"Easy, Optimus, from the look of things you've been exposed to a massive amount of dark energon," Ratchet said, glancing up at Prime with deeply concerned optics. Prime glanced away from Ratchet forlornly, causing the medic to follow his leader's gaze. Both mechs locked their gazes on Rafael and the older human. Prime slowly shook his helm, then let out a slow vent.

"I am not the only one."

Ratchet glanced towards Breakdown, signaling him over. Breakdown came over, replacing Ratchet by hitching Prime's arm over his shoulderplates. Ratchet checked Optimus Prime over once again then pointed out one of the operation tables for Prime. Together, Breakdown and Bulkhead helped Prime to the slab, lowering him to the slab slowly.

When Prime was securely seated, Breakdown shifted away from the Autobots far enough so that Ratchet could begin checking Prime over. Prime glanced over at Rafael and gave him a slight smile, to which the kid responded back with a smile of his own.


"He's lucky to be alive," the old female chided, causing the Autobot leader to look away from her burning gaze with a frown cutting down his faceplate.

The sound of feet hitting metal turned Breakdown's gaze to the raised platform behind him, where the two younger humans were tramping down the metal flight of stairs. The dark-haired one was a few steps ahead of his female companion as both came down the stairs.

"Megatron's found more of the dark stuff?"

"A volcano-full," Arcee quipped at nearly the same time as Bulkhead said, "The question is how?"

"No, the question is what," Ratchet said, "as in what in the world is the blood of Unicron doing here? On Earth?"

"The 'cons killed a unicorn?" The young girl asked, glancing towards Breakdown for a moment, then to the Autobots.

"What?" Breakdown asked, stunned. What the frag is a unicorn? Breakdown glanced to the Autobots, relieved to see that all of them looked as confused as he was feeling.

The girl groaned. "White horse with a horn on its head? Prances around, all sparkly."

"Unicron," Ratchet emphasized, "an ancient evil whose fossilized blood comprises the matter with which we call dark energon. As, legend would have it…"

"So you're saying this… Unicron is some kind of boogeyman?" The older human asked, which almost caused Breakdown to laugh at the sheer weirdness of humans.

"Boogeyman?" Ratchet questioned, voicing the thoughts of every mech in the base. He turned his gaze back to the young female, who looked surprised that Ratchet didn't know what a "boogeyman" was.

"Make believe creepy guy who hides in your closet," she explained. Ratchet gave the femme human a flat stare before he turned back towards the older human.

"No, Nurse Darby, Unicron is very real. Was- That is- While I do believe he once existed, I just don't subscribe to the theory that his primordial life force is the substance which," Ratchet hesitated as his optics flashed back to the humans, "harmed Rafael."

"I've heard enough," Nurse Darby snapped, turning and latching her servos onto the bars of Rafael's stretcher. "Jack, please, help me get Raf to the car." Jack turned to Nurse Darby, but didn't follow her as she began to roll Rafael towards her car.

Bumblebee moved up, beeping in protest towards Nurse Darby but she ignored him and continued rolling the stretcher towards her car.

"Mom, I thought he was doing better," Jack pleaded, following behind the older human.

"Raf needs to be examined by real doctors, and Raf's family needs to know what's happened. His real family," Nurse Darby said harshly, pointedly looking towards Ratchet. Breakdown watched Ratchet's reaction to her words. The medic, who had been watching Nurse Darby closely, lowered his helm and stared fixedly at the ground, emotions unreadable.

"Mom, Raf's family can't protect him. Not like they can," Jack said, indicating towards Prime, Bulkhead and Arcee.

Prime slowly lumbered to his pedes, servos pushing off from the slab he had been seating on. "June, it deeply grieves me that I have failed. But I will do anything in my power to ensure that no harm comes to our human friends… Or any human, ever again."

Nurse Darby stopped moving Rafael's stretcher, turning her helm to the side slightly. "Optimus, they're children. They do not belong in your world. They should be worrying about grades, prom dates, pimples, not their own survival."

Breakdown couldn't help but agree with Nurse Darby as, ever since Breakdown had been captured by MECH, he'd grown to believe that no human should ever interact with any Cybertronian. And he couldn't help but feel that the three human children served no good - least of all the female, who always seemed to be running away to battles like a mindless sparkling.

"Mom, energon is pouring out the earth, it doesn't do that. This could be about everyone's survival, not just ours," Jack urged, though his mother still did not relent.

"You're coming with me, all three of you, and they will not be coming back." Nurse Darby turned away from the Autobots, anger pouring from her small frame as she continued rolling Rafael to her car. Breakdown moved forward, edging close enough to Prime to see the small human girl cross her arms over her chest.

"I understand," Prime acknowledged, his tone level.

But it seemed someone didn't understand for the young female whipped on Prime, optics blazing. "That's it? After all we've been through together? See ya?! What about our freedom to choose?"

Breakdown rolled his optic lightly, letting out a quiet, puffing snort from his vents at her words. He did not like the femme, but she had the same spirit and fire as an eager Wrecker. She was foolish but brave - she even dared to go toe to toe with Optimus Prime, something Breakdown didn't fancy.

"That may fly on their planet but not here on Earth," Nurse Darby said as she helped Rafael into the backseat of her car. She pointed to the inside of her car and looked towards the two remaining children. "Get in."

"Do you really expect me to ride in a non-transforming vehicle?" The girl scoffed, her arms still crossed over her chest.

"Miko," ahhh, so that's her name, "I'm serious."

"You're not my mother," Miko replied, her body posture reeking with sarcasm. Bulkhead approached Miko from behind, bending down slightly.

"Miko," he chided.

"Neither are you!" Miko snapped back, surprising Bulkhead. Breakdown looked away, hiding the wide grin curving over his faceplate with one servo - Bulkhead's expression had contorted into a mask of shock, disbelief and confusion that wa amusing, even in these current circumstances.

"But I am yours. Let's go, Jack," Nurse Darby said, gesturing to Jack and then back to herself. But Jack did not go to his mother, instead hanging his helm without word. The sound of Arcee's pedes turned Jack's optics to her, who turned hers in turn to Nurse Darby.

"She is your mom," Arcee told Jack, who turned to his mom, then Arcee, then back to his mom, back and forth.

"I'm staying," he announced, "I'm sorry." He looked down, so missed the disbelief and anger that raged over his mother's face until she turned back to her car. As she walked to the car, Jack's back bent and he rubbed self-consciously at his arm.

Nurse Darby slammed shut her car's back door, loading into the front seat of her car as Optimus Prime turned to Ratchet

"Ratchet, activate the Ground Bridge."

"No thank you," Nurse Darby snapped, reversing and driving her car out of the base. Bumblebee's chassis sagged as his human left, shuffling his pedes in the ground, leaving no one doubting how he felt about his human leaving.

"Prime!" A new voice came over the central monitor's comms, snapping Breakdown's wary gaze to the bright green screens.

"I hear you, Agent Fowler," Prime said, moving up to the HUDs.

"Been watching the news? Mother Nature's got a twitch in her britches," the new human, Agent Fowler, barked.

A twitch in her britches? What? … These Autobots sure have some very odd human pets...

"We know of the volcano-"

"And the quakes? Seven major tremblers of the exact same magnitude, at the same exact same time as the volcanic eruption. All over the globe, on different tectonic plates, in theory unrelated if they hadn't happened-"

"-At the exact same time," Ratchet interrupted.

"Check it out! More good news," Miko said though, judging by the sarcastic hiss of her words, it didn't sound like good news. She pointed to the small entertainment console, which was playing small, changing images on its screen. A deep voice came from the consul, which began to describe the images flashing over the screen.

"Freak storms unlike any the region has seen. Tsunamis threaten the Canadian coast while lightning storms pummel the Gobi desert. Meanwhile, electro-magnetic anomalies plague urban power grids. These abnormal global phenomena are leaving most to wonder, why now? And what next?"

"Don't tell me your 'Cons built a weather-machine," Agent Fowler snapped.

"One that powerful? Highly unlikely," Ratchet responded.

"Megatron wouldn't waste his time with something as stupid as a weather machine, anyways," Breakdown muttered darkly, avoiding the odd looks from the Autobots.

"I do not believe the appearance of dark energon at this point in time to be coincidental," Optimus said darkly.

Arcee and Bulkhead turned to glance at each other, then both turned to Breakdown, who gave them a noncommittal shrug as they turned away again. Bumblebee trilled and then fled from the base in his alt mode, the roar of his engine echoing harshly throughout the base.

Megatron's going to have a field day with this.

Every helm turned as the base was filled with the echoing thrum of Bumblebee's alt mode driving back into the Autobot base. Breakdown, who was hovering away from the main group of Autobots turned and watched as Bumblebee opened his door, letting Rafael and Jack's mother out, and then transformed out of his alt mode.

Jack moved over to his mother and began speaking to her quietly. Breakdown turned his gaze away from the two humans, when the voice from the consul came over the base.

"World leaders are classifying these bizarre weather patterns as a global emergency. And some scientist believe the phenomena to be somehow related to the current planetary alignment."

Just as the voice finished on the consul, the doors of the elevator shaft opened up and in walked a dark-skinned human, who Breakdown figured must have been the Agent Fowler person. He'd heard his name mentioned and had seen him on the screens of the monitors, but Breakdown had never seen this human in the flesh before.

"What have you learned, Prime? You better not blow smoke up my-" Agent Fowler halted when his gaze caught on Jack, Miko and Nurse Darby. He laughed nervously for a moment - which Breakdown found eerily unnerving - then said, "Nurse Darby. What a nice surprise."

"Special Agent Fowler."

Breakdown rolled his optic at the two humans, turning back to observe what Ratchet was doing. The medic had been busily trying to figure out the reasoning behind all of the strange occurrences happening around the globe since Bumblebee had gone out to fetch Nurse Darby and Rafael.

"We have learned this; as with the so-called magma from the volcano, these earthquakes originate far below the earth's crust. From the very center of the earth's core, in fact," Ratchet informed, pointing out an image on screen that showed what he was describing.

"Quakes don't start there, do they?" Agent Fowler asked, glancing towards Nurse Darby beside him.

"Tiny tremors rising and falling in a consistent pattern, almost like…" Ratchet's voice trailed off, his optics unwavering from the strange patterns flowing on the screen of the monitors. Tense moments passed with only the steady sound of beeping from the monitors when Ratchet suddenly tensed. "By the Allspark! If I convert these data points to audio files-"

"What? What is it?" Agent Fowler asked, worry obvious in his body.

"Listen," was all Ratchet said, and with that everyone in the base quieted down.

Breakdown waited and listened as, ever so slowly, a steady thumping noise began to fill the base. Arcee stepped forward, her steps masked slightly by the strange thumping coming from the monitors. Ever more moments passed, and with each of them, the base began to crackle with tension just like the ever louder thumping echoed through the base.

"A Cybertronian heart-beat?" Jack asked.

"And how is it possible?" Nurse Darby voiced right after. "A heart pumps blood, there's nothing inside the earth to pump except-"

"The blood of Unicron!" Rafael suddenly realized, cutting off Nurse Darby.

"Oh, you have got to be fragging kidding me," Breakdown muttered, which caused Bulkhead to shoot him a weird look. "What?" Bulkhead shook his helm in response, then turned his gaze back to the large monitors.

"Hold on, you mean something's living down there? Inside our planet?" Miko asked, looking directly at Ratchet and Prime.

"I fear that the earth's core is not comprised of magma as your science has suggested, but of dark energon," Optimus Prime said, gazing at nothing, and everything at the same time.

"If we are hearing a spark, then Unicron is the rising darkness that the prophecy foretold," Ratchet finished.

"So," Agent Fowler began, turning Ratchet's gaze towards the human, "how do we stop this thing from rising?"

"That, I am afraid, was not foretold," Prime explained with a shake of his helm.

Breakdown rolled his optic, placing a servo against his faceplate. "Oh look at that, a useless prophecy. Color me surprised," Breakdown snapped, though only loud enough that Bulkhead and Miko - who were closest to Breakdown - could overhear him. Bulkhead shushed Breakdown, glaring at him openly, though Miko positively smiled at Breakdown's words.

Breakdown turned away from the two, ignoring Bulkhead pointedly.

"How could something be in our earth's core? And be alive?" Nurse Darby asked, flicking one servo towards the monitors.

"Such a thing is not unprecedented. Before the beginning, there was Primus and there was Unicron. One the incarnation of creation, the other of destruction. For eons, Primus and Unicron battled. The balance of power was shifting between them more times than could be counted. Only by creating The Thirteen - the original Primes - who preceded me, was Primus finally able to defeat Unicron and cast him out.

"Primus became one with the core of our planet, creating life through the Well of the Allsparks, while Unicron was never to be heard from again. Until now."

"Maybe we can find the hole this uber-Con left when he dug himself all the way down there, and fill it full with explosives," Agent Fowler articulated, though he still seemed a tad flabbergasted at the idea of something living inside their planet.

Get used to it, Breakdown thought sarcastically, turning his helm towards Prime who began to speak again.

"Agent Fowler, I do not believe that Earth became Unicron's home but rather that, with time and gravitational force, debris collected around the slumbering titan."

"Forming your Earth itself," Ratchet looked towards Fowler, his tone soft.

"And he's only awakening now due to the magnetic pull created by the planetary alignment," Arcee guessed.

"Ok, so what happens now when Unicron wakes up from his billion year nap?" Jack prompted, crossing his arms over his chest as he did.

"Yeah, does he stretch and KA-POW! Earth poofs to dust?" Miko wondered, startling Bulkhead with her words. She looked towards Optimus but he did not answer, though the fear in his optics made it obvious what he had left unsaid was.

"You don't know? Do you?" Nurse Darby asked, making the Autobot leader avoid her gaze.

"My guess is that Unicron has transcended physical form as we know it. Nonetheless, we must find a way to insure that this force of nature never fully awakens. The fate of your planet depends upon it."

Prime lowered his gaze before he turned to the Autobots, humans and Breakdown slowly. "I will face Unicron alone."

"Optimus! Have you uncovered any further sign of Unicron's emergence?" Ratchet asked over the comms.

But the voice that answered was not Prime's, but a deep, growling voice that boomed endlessly inside the base.


"I'd take that as a yes. We are on our way!" Ratchet wheeled about but before he, or anyone for that matter, could move another step Prime's voice boomed from the comms.

"Negative! Unicron can not be defeated by sheer force, he wants me, Ratchet. This fight must be mine alone."

"But Optimus-" Ratchet began, halting when the connection between the base's comms and Prime's cut off into static.

Breakdown shrugged nonchalantly, turning a disinterested gaze on the Autobots. "Your leader is nuts, you know that right?" Arcee whirled her gaze onto Breakdown, her chassis tensing, as Bumblebee looked positively astounded at what Breakdown had said.

"Oh, like Megatron wasn't nuts!" Bulkhead snapped, advancing on Breakdown with a snarl of his engine.

Breakdown didn't say anything in response, the old - unwanted, frankly - loyalty for Megatron and the Decepticon cause forcing Breakdown to say nothing in response. But he did turn away from the Autobots, anger biting at his spark.

Bulkhead grumbled something, then moved away from Breakdown, stopping at Arcee and sharing a look between the two of them.

"Optimus?" Ratchet tried once more to contact Prime over the comms but was once again met with static. The medic shook his helm, then very quietly - enough that Breakdown could barely hear him though he was standing near Ratchet - whispered, "Optimus, please don't do this. We need you…"

Ratchet looked sullen for a moment or two longer, then suddenly turned on Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee.

"No matter what Optimus says, he needs our help. We are going to do that. Bulkhead, Arcee, and Bumblebee take Breakdown and help our leader."

"What?" Arcee and Bulkhead gasped, both turning their gaze on Breakdown, who stepped back from their intense stares nervously.

"Are you nuts?" Arcee yelled, "What if he," she pointed right at Breakdown when she said he, "betrays us, or…"

"Arcee! Stop thinking so black and white for once. Breakdown has already helped us. He saved Bulkhead from Knock Out, and he repaired me." Ratchet turned his gaze to Breakdown, holding it for a moment then, with a small nod of his helm, turned back to Arcee. "I believe in him. He is one of us now, and it's time we begin to act like it."

Arcee shut her mouth tight, though she still kept a frosty glance on Breakdown as she, Bumblebee, and Bulkhead moved to the Ground Bridge. Breakdown followed suit, stopping beside Bumblebee as the Ground Bridge became active.

Ratchet turned to the four of them, his expression grim.

"Bring him back, please."

Of all things to jump into battle against, Breakdown would never have guessed he would be fighting ginormous, earthen Unicrons, alongside the Autobots. It was odd.

The four mechs had come through the Ground Bridge with guns blazing, the energy bolts sending pieces of stone Unicrons flying everywhere. As a unit the four of them had leapt down the cliff ledge the Ground Bridge had placed them on, smashing apart the multiple Unicrons that had been holding Prime down.

Bumblebee dodged past Breakdown, avoiding a bright blast from one of the Unicrons which hit only micrometers from Breakdown. Breakdown snarled, activated his shoulder-cannon and firing it at the offending Unicron. The blasts hit the Unicron's chest area, blasting off one arm and leaving a gaping hole in the Unicron's chest. The Unicron wheeled on Breakdown, charging towards Breakdown with a roar of hatred. Breakdown leapt backward and fired one last time, watching as the red blast hit the Unicron square in the face. The Unicron had no time to react as its face exploded and body promptly crumbled to the ground.

Breakdown searched for another Unicron, spotting one that Arcee and Bumblebee were currently fighting until another dropped onto Arcee's back. Breakdown aimed his cannon at the Unicron but from nowhere came Prime, who crashed into the first Unicron Bumblebee and Arcee had been fighting, then flung that one against the one holding Arcee down. Both Unicrons went flying and Prime immediately turned a flaring gaze on Bumblebee and Arcee.

"Did Ratchet not rely my command? Return to base!"


"Optimus! You're Unicron's target, maybe you should consider returning to base," Arcee urged, as more and more Unicrons appeared, pouring down the sides of the canyons, only to be met by the combined shots of Breakdown and all the Autobots.

"These manifestations of Unicron can locate me anywhere on Earth, even our bases shielding would only cloak my position for so long. I will not put others at risk," Prime told Arcee, all the while still blasting enemy Unicrons.

"Then fall back, and let us take the lead!" Bulkhead offered. "Just this once!" Bulkhead turned away from Optimus and continued firing at the waves of Unicrons poring over the canyon walls.

"Concentrate on attacking, not talking," Breakdown snarled, dodging another Unicron energy blast as he wheeled to the left and shot at another Unicron advancing quickly on their position. That Unicron fell to dust, only to be replaced by another Unicron.

"Please, listen to reason! If you don't survive Optimus, I fear neither will this planet!" Ratchet's plea echoed over Breakdown's comms, and he figured every ones. Breakdown glanced over at Prime, waiting to see what he would do.

Thankfully, Prime didn't wait long. "Very well." Silently, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee formed in front of Prime, Breakdown falling in behind Bumblebee.

"Let's move!" Arcee urged and charged away. The femme leapt up onto a huge rock overhang, shooting a Unicron that was pacing towards her as she kept going. Another Unicron landed in front of Breakdown and the other three Autobots, but Bumblebee shot it before it could do anything. With their pathway cleared, Bumblebee charged on, followed closely by Prime and Bulkhead, and lastly Breakdown.

Chaos reigned as the five mechs ran for their lives, stone Unicron after stone Unicron following them, then replenishing after one was shot to dust. They leapt over gorges, scrambled up rocky cliffs, all in an endless cycle of running, shooting and being chased. A large gorge came up and each of the five leapt over it, landing on the opposite side of the gorge and then transforming into their alt modes without respite.

Dust and stone slashed across Breakdown's frame, but he did not stop. The endless stream of Unicrons suddenly ended, and with it, open space. Breakdown pushed his engine to the max, passing Bulkhead. Thunder echoed behind him. Unicron after Unicron, trapped, trapped, trapped.

But then the ground shook with a furious rumble and, before the five of them, rose another Unicron. But this one was bigger, much, much bigger. It seemed to tower all the way to the clouds, an endless being of hate and destruction.

Before him, Arcee, Bumblebee and Prime all braked and transformed out of their alt modes, and so Breakdown, along with Bulkhead, followed suit.

Breakdown moved up until he was right behind Bumblebee, fear shuddering through his chassis at the towering figure. Bumblebee trilled nervously, optics snapping over to Prime.

"No, though not Unicron himself but another one of his manifestations."

"If we can't beat Unicron, and we can't outrun him, what exactly are we supposed to do?" Bulkhead asked, making Breakdown glance over at him nervously. Bulkhead caught Breakdown's optic and together they shared the same worried expression.

"All we can do. Neutralize his vessels as they appear, until we find a way to destroy him. Without destroying the very earth upon which we walk," Prime said as he walked forward and transformed his servos into their gun mode. The Unicron did not stop moving and, as Prime charged forward, Bumblebee, Arcee, Bulkhead and Breakdown charged after the Autobot leader.

Bumblebee and Bulkhead transformed back into their alt modes, racing under the huge Unicron's feet as Prime, Arcee and Breakdown began shooting at his front. The Unicron paid no attention to Breakdown and the other two, turning its huge, earthen helm, as Bumblebee and Bulkhead switched back into their normal modes and began shooting at stone Unicron's back.

Breakdown fired one of his missiles into the Unicron's leg, though it did nothing to the Unicron and it still ignored him. The Unicron swung a servo towards Bulkhead and Bumblebee, driving the huge jagged bits of stone that formed the servo into the ground. Both tried to escape the swift-moving servo but neither were fast enough to avoid getting hit by the huge servo; flinging both away.

Breakdown snarled angrily as he continued firing energy blasts at Unicron, right alongside Prime. Arcee raced around the Unicron, her guns firing non-stop, which drew the Unicron's attention to her. Breakdown leapt backwards as the Unicron suddenly swung its other servo, this one a huge, hooked blade, towards the two-wheeler, flinging away Arcee.

Breakdown looked at Prime for a moment, then began to back away, transforming into his alt mode and swinging around Prime. With Knock Out, Breakdown would have run away by now, but something kept Breakdown going straight towards his target. The Unicron's leg.

Breakdown's engine roared a challenge to the great, hulking being. Breakdown activated his brakes, skidding sideways in an attempt to broadside the Unicron's leg but the Unicron lifted its foot and smashed it down onto Breakdown entirely.

Pain hit Breakdown in an instant, his metal chassis shrieking as it began to bend under the weight of Unicron's foot. Breakdown revved his engine in reverse, hoping he could escape the crushing pain but his chassis was beginning to crack under the immense weight and then there was no more.

Steam hissed from Breakdown's vent as the weight vanished, his chassis groaning as he switched out of his alt mode. Breakdown steadied his shaking chassis by placing both servos against the ground but blackness was still tearing into his vision.

He could faintly hear shots firing near him and then a thud of pedes skidded to a stop next to him. Rapid beeping told him it was Bumblebee beside him, so Breakdown turned his helm to the Autobot scout. The scout had bent down beside him, offering out his servo to Breakdown. This time, Breakdown did not hesitate, reaching and grabbing onto Bumblebee's servo. Bumblebee helped Breakdown to his pedes with a groan of pistons and, when Breakdown was to his pedes he stumbled back slightly, servo clutching onto his helm as waves of pain rolled over his helm.

Bumblebee steadied Breakdown, trilling something he did not understand, though Breakdown could understand the worry in the notes.

"I'm okay," Breakdown said, "Go help your friends." Bumblebee hesitated for a moment, then bolted off, guns blasting at the Unicron.

"I AM THIS WORLD'S PAST AND ITS FUTURE, AND AS OF THIS MOMENT-" Unicron's voice boomed, snapping Breakdown's attention back to the huge stone being. Its foot was falling onto a pile of rocks-

"NO!" Arcee shrieked, servo raised helplessly.


Primes? Wait- He's going to crush Optimus! Breakdown realized. He lunged forward, but the foot kept falling-

The sharp staccato of a bursting gun suddenly ripped through the sky, just as blasts of purple energy ripped through the head of the huge Unicron.

The Unicron began to fall backwards, towards Breakdown. Breakdown snapped into his alt mode, racing away from the falling Unicron. He skidded to a halt beside Arcee and watched as the huge Unicron crashed to the ground, sending a gust of dust flying into the air. Arcee glanced at Breakdown, bewilderment glowing in her blue optics. Breakdown only could shrug.

Soon, the dust cleared and, with it gone, Arcee and Breakdown walked up beside Bulkhead and Bumblebee. Bumblebee glanced towards Bulkhead, then trilled something to them.

"Wasn't me," Arcee said.

"Me neither," Bulkhead added.

Then who? Breakdown wondered, until flashes of memory hit him. Purple blasts… There is only one mech I know who uses purple energon, and that's-

"Ratchet?" Arcee's voice cut off Breakdown's train of thought, making him shift his gaze back to her.

"What is it? What happened?"

"I happened-"

"And that's Megatron," Breakdown muttered, fear latching all the way to the bottom of his spark as his gaze traveled to the pile of Unicron rocks, where his former leader, Megatron, showed himself.

Megatron leapt from the pile of rocks he was standing on, landing near Breakdown and the others. Breakdown began to back away, angling behind Bulkhead, hoping Megatron would not realize he was with the Autobots.

"Megatron?" Bulkhead asked, he and Bumblebee both tensing each other for an expected battle.

"King 'Con is there too?" Miko's shocked voice was unusually quiet, even over the static of the comms.

"He has aligned himself with Unicron," Ratchet snarled over the comms.

"Don't be so sure," Arcee said, "Megatron just saved Optimus' tailpipe."

No reply came from Ratchet over the comms, though his gasp was loud enough to be heard faintly on the comms.

Breakdown kept his optic on Megatron, though his attention was turned away when the smaller pile of rocks that Prime had been buried under began to move. Soon Prime pushed himself free of the rocks, though he fell to his servos. Megatron stepped up to where Optimus was, angling his energy cannon right at Prime's helm, with the sharp whir of Megatron's gun shocking the Autobots, and Breakdown.

Is Megatron really going to kill Optimus Prime? Even after he just saved his life?

Breakdown stepped backwards, watching as Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee all activated their energy guns, pointing them right at Megatron. But then Megatron's arm moved and he offered out his clawed servo to Prime.

Prime hesitated for a second then clasped onto Megatron's servo. Megatron gently pulled Prime to his pedes, the two mechs looking into each other's optics without looking away. Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee slowly lowered their guns, all sharing a glance between each other.

"It is rather ironic, considering our last encounter. If memory serves, you were desperately attempting to extinguish my spark," Megatron quipped.

Optimus moved up closer to Megatron. "That option remains very much in play."

Megatron leaned forward until he was faceplate to faceplate with Optimus. "I would expect nothing less. However, I have a proposal. Join me in defeating our shared enemy, Unicron the Chaos Bringer."

Shock hit Breakdown, and he moved back ever faster, optic snapping between the four Autobots and Megatron nervously. I don't like this, I don't like this…

"Ha! Absurd! Unicron is evil incarnate, if Megatron was to take any side, why would it be ours?" Ratchet snapped.

"Because Megatron's pride would never allow anyone other than himself to rule this planet," Prime explained, again advancing closer to Megatron.

Megatron laughed languidly, then gave a crooked smile. "You know me all too well, Optimus."

"You lead an army of 'Cons, why come to us?" Bulkhead asked, servo pointing towards Bumblebee and Arcee. Megatron began to move up to the Autobots, which only made Breakdown shrink away further and further. Please don't see me, please…

"Because this particular endeavor needs something beyond the realm of my command. The power of a Prime," Megatron gestured to Optimus, who kept his faceplate emotionless.

"Ha, then I guess we don't need you," Bulkhead said, a little too hopefully in Breakdown's opinion.

"On the contrary, Optimus may be the only one who can defeat Unicron but I remain the only one who can guide you to him. Unicron's lifeblood runs through me, only I can hear his thoughts, anticipate his movements. Optimus, our past alliances, Autobot, Decepticon, no longer matter, not while Unicron lives."

"The past ALWAYS matters!" Ratchet's enraged voice surprised Breakdown, making him shy backwards ever more.

"A truce between Autobot and Decepticon, how long do you think that will last?" Optimus asked, his tone icy.

"Only as long as is mutually beneficial," Megatron said, clicking his clawed digits together. His optics suddenly snapped onto Breakdown, who stopped moving as a deep growl rumbled from his engine. "Anyways, you seem to have already been working on that truce of yours, eh Breakdown?"

Every gaze snapped to Breakdown, almost as if they had forgotten he was there with them until Megatron mentioned him. Arcee's optics were once again guarded, as if she worried Breakdown might stab them in the back now that Megatron was there. Bumblebee thrilled at Breakdown softly, his optics filled with worry for… me? Bumblebee is worried for me?

Bulkhead winced and turned away from Breakdown, while Optimus shifted his chassis in front of Megatron, who had begun to walk in Breakdown's direction.

"Breakdown is one of us now, Megatron. Leave him alone," Optimus said warningly.

Megatron ticked a brow ridge up, mouth turning in disgust, but the Decepticon nodded to Optimus tightly.

"Fine, Optimus. You can have the traitor, I really don't mind." Megatron wheeled his gaze back to Breakdown, his purple optics blazing with unbidden fury. Breakdown could read the hidden message within Megatron's optics and for that he only felt that old, terrifying feeling of being trapped hook onto his spark.

Megatron turned back to Optimus and tilted his helm sideways. "Now about my proposal?"

"I want to know one thing. What will you do when our proposed shared mission is complete, Megatron?"

"I will conquer this earth, my way."

Arcee lowered one shoulder, turning her helm to the left with a snort. "Brutal honesty, from a Decepticon?"

"Aligning with a lesser of two evils is still siding with evil," Ratchet hissed over the comms.

"Do you think you've witnessed the full power of Unicron? Those foot soldiers were nothing more than a taste. Unicron has yet to fully awaken. With each passing moment, the Bringer of Chaos evolves, mutating Earth from the inside out. What we have witnessed until now is but a prelude to the utter devastation his rising will wreak upon your world."

"Like your quest for power destroyed Cybertron?" Arcee snapped, which made Breakdown wince.

They'd all played a part in that, Breakdown included.

"Make no mistake, this time there will be a planet left for me to rule," Megatron growled, his optics narrowing on Arcee.

"Even if we agree, Unicron's all the way down at the center of the Earth. How are supposed to get there? Drive?" Bulkhead asked sarcastically.

"There is only one way," Optimus said.

"Absolutely NOT! Ground Bridging into space, or onto a moving train is difficult enough, but plotting a blind jump inside of a sentient being? Besides, direct exposure to that much dark energon will debilitate you. You haven't built up an immunity like Megatron has," Ratchet barked tensely.

"Yet another strong argument for soliciting my guidance," Megatron drawled.

"You can provide Unicron's exact coordinates?"

"If you transport us to this planet's core, I can lead you directly to Unicron's spark. The very heart of his darkness."

"Optimus, even if we survive the jump, how are we supposed to stop Unicron?" Arcee asked.

Optimus turned his gaze to Megatron, who said nothing, but titled his brow ridges up slightly. Optimus turned his helm to the side, towards Arcee and said, "With the Matrix of Leadership."

"It was the combined power of the Primes that defeated Unicron so long ago, the very reason he now seeks to destroy you," Megatron said.

"It would follow that unleashing the power of the Matrix directly into Unicron's spark would return him to stasis." Optimus mulled over his words for a moment, which gave a few moments for Arcee, Bumblebee and Bulkhead to share worried glances with each other.

Breakdown's gaze turned down, in time for him to notice the rocks that had made up the huge earthen Unicron begin to move, rolling past the feet of the three Autobots, which made all three stop and look down. Breakdown, and the three Autobots' gazes, followed the rocks to the huge pile of Unicron rocks which were beginning to move.

"We've got another one!" Bulkhead stated, backing up next to Breakdown.

As the huge Unicron began to form again, Optimus' voice broke over the comms. "Ratchet, send a Ground Bridge."

Wind and dust tore at Breakdown and the Autobots until a Ground Bridge opened right behind Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Breakdown.

Arcee wheeled around suddenly. "Wait. We're opening up a direct path to our base with Megatron standing right there?"

"And seriously, he's going to risk his own spark to save us?" Bulkhead snapped.

Megatron only began to laugh, his chassis shaking wildly. "Hardly my nature." Megatron turned his gaze to the now reformed Unicron. "Consider my offer, I shall keep it busy." With those words, Megatron transformed into his alt mode, engines blasting, and raced towards the stone Unicron.

Bumblebee did not wait any longer as he turned and charged through the Ground Bridge, with Arcee and Bulkhead following right behind him. Breakdown hesitated momentarily, gaze watching as Megatron zipped around the Unicron, guns blasting at the stone being.

One last time, Breakdown glanced towards Optimus, then plunged through the Ground Bridge with Optimus right behind him.

"I know that desperate times call for desperate measures, but bringing Megatron here?"

"How can you even think about letting that monster near these children after what he did to Raf?" Nurse Darby snapped, agreeing with Ratchet who had just spoken.

"I'm not a fan of the idea either," Breakdown muttered, again finding himself agreeing with the female human - which he found endlessly irritating. No one heard Breakdown though, much to his relief.

"He will be closely monitored and only allowed to linger long enough to send us on our journey, not one moment more," Optimus' optics narrowed with his words.

"What's going to stop the 'Con from calling in an airstrike if he knows where you live?" Fowler pointed out sharply.

"By Ground Bridging Megatron here, he will be unable to get a fix on our coordinates."

"Optimus… What's going to happen to you when all your Matrix energy is released?" Jack asked, arms tight around his chest.

"The power within the Matrix has not been previously utilized in this particular manner."

"But you have an idea, don't you?" Jack inquired.

Optimus did not respond for a few moments, his back turned from the Autobots, humans and Breakdown. "Autobots, if humankind is to be saved, I have no choice but to proceed. But you do."

Why is it always humankind with Optimus? Do Cybertronians not matter to him anymore, now that he's found such a fascination with the fleshlings?

"Well, uh… I don't know about humankind but I'm willing to do it, for Miko," Bulkhead said, turning to look at his human.

"For Jack," Arcee added, followed by Bumblebee's short trill. Every gaze turned to the three young humans, and stayed there.

Seeing his opportunity to get away, Breakdown began to back away from the group but stopped when Optimus suddenly put the full force of his gaze on Breakdown.

"And you, Breakdown? What do you have to say?"

Every optic fell on Breakdown, which only caused his chassis to prickle. His optic snapped between each Autobot and human, and his steps began to falter, finally stopping with a heavy vent.

"I will never fight for humans, but I will fight for what really matters. Reviving our true home. I will do it for Cybertron."

Heavy footfalls echoed louder and louder through the base, and with each one of them, Breakdown only grew more wary. Thankfully though, none of the other Autobots seemed any less wary than Breakdown, as Bulkhead, Arcee and Bumblebee all had their guns pointed at the entrance of the Ground Bridge.

Tension roiled through the air like lightning as Megatron, Breakdown's former leader, the Autobot's enemy, stepped into their base. Uncertainty, fear and distrust warred in Breakdown's spark as Megatron's gaze traveled around the base then plunged, straight down onto Breakdown.

"Hello again, Breakdown."

Chapter Text

"Hello again, Breakdown," Megatron's voice was oddly humorous, though every other part of the mighty Decepticon's frame showed the exact opposite of humor. His purple optics were narrowed to furious slits, and his mouth creased downwards into a hard frown as his servos clenched with a veiled threat.

"Megatron," Breakdown replied icily.

Megatron began to laugh at Breakdown's tone then, with a deep growl from his engine, began to advance towards Breakdown.

"So it's just Megatron now, Breakdown? What happened to Lord, or Master?" Megatron asked, his tone no longer humorous. "Have you forgotten your manners living with the Autobots?"

Breakdown tensed, optic snapping to the Autobots - who were all silently watching Megatron and Breakdown with judging optics - then back to Megatron. The Decepticon was still approaching him, which only made Breakdown's anxiety heighten more and more - he was, and had always been, mortally afraid of Megatron.

"You're not my leader anymore, Megatron, you shouldn't expect me to greet you as such. Anyways, you did pretty much declare me as your enemy, if you so forgot."

Megatron perked a brow ridge, mock confusion whisking over his faceplate. "What could you ever mean?"

"You know full well, Megatron," Breakdown snapped, anxiety washing away to hate as he glared into Megatron's optics. Megatron snorted, one of his clawed digits tapping away at his chin with exaggerated confusion.

"Oh? I do? I can't imagine doing something so dastardly," Megatron simpered, before he suddenly leaned his entire chassis towards Breakdown, who stumbled backwards and hit the wall behind him as Megatron placed his servo on Breakdown's shoulder plate. The Decepticon leader's optics flared and, as he dug his servo into Breakdown's shoulder, began to whisper quietly, menacingly, to Breakdown.

"Those glitched failures of machines - your beloved Vehicons - and Starscream may have failed to terminate you, but you won't be so lucky with me. I will terminate you, as I have terminated all traitors before. Luckily for you, Breakdown, at least for a time, I actually need the Autobots help and I'm guessing offlining you won't get them to help me. But once Unicron is defeated I will not hold back."

Megatron released Breakdown from his grasp - who stumbled backwards, vents heaving - and turned away from the blue mech, steps fading from Breakdown's audio receptors as the Decepticon leader came aside the Autobots. Breakdown lowered his gaze, not paying attention to the Autobots or Megatron, as he attempted to steady his shaking chassis.

Breakdown knew, with a depressive fatalism, that Megatron would not go back on his threat to Breakdown. I'm more of a threat to Megatron than the Autobots because of what I know. I never thought about it, but me being with the Autobots I could tell them anything about the Decepticons. Anything. What I know could change everything… No wonder Megatron wants to kill me.

The sound of pitched voices shook Breakdown from his thoughts and drug his gaze back to the Autobots, Megatron and the humans, all of whom had bolted from where Ratchet had hid them before Megatron had walked into the Autobot base.

"You," Rafael said, rushing up to the Autobots, just as Jack caught him.

Megatron made a sarcastic note of exclamation at the sight of the humans, turning to the humans just as Arcee charged in front of him, blasters aimed at his chest. "Ah, you're looking much better than the last time we met, little one. Humans. Resilient."

"Come on Raf, he isn't worth it," Jack urged, pulling Rafael away from the Autobots and towards his mother. Once Nurse Darby had taken Rafael away from him, Jack wheeled his gaze to Megatron, before he turned away without a word to Megatron.

"And you, I never forget a face even that of a human," Megatron said coldly, which only made Jack turn his helm for a moment then continued past Miko.

Miko herself had been glaring at Megatron the whole time and Breakdown wasn't surprised when she lunged towards Megatron and yelled, "You double-cross anyone, mine is the face you will never forget. NEVER!" Agent Fowler snatched up Miko, which she protested to with grunts and swinging of her arms but eventually gave in.

Megatron said nothing, though he did tilt his helm up slightly with a sneer.

"Ratchet, obtain the destination coordinates from our guest," Optimus ordered, pointing his servo towards Megatron.

Megatron moved past Prime, glancing back once to the Autobot leader, and stopped at the Ground Bridge control. Ratchet followed after Megatron, along with Breakdown and the Autobots, and began receiving the coordinates from Megatron.

It took only a few moments for the Ground Bridge to open, which Megatron was standing near.

"Locked and ready," Ratchet informed. The Autobots moved forwards, with Arcee halting in front of Megatron.

"You first," she snapped, indicating to Megatron.

"As you wish," he replied, bowing mockingly to her, then turned and strode through the Ground Bridge. Arcee turned her gaze away from Megatron, staring for a few moments at the humans then headed through the Ground Bridge.

Bulkhead and Bumblebee followed her and, with a shrug of his shoulderplates, Breakdown followed after them.

The Ground Bridge opened up to a cold, eerie place laced over with huge purple walkways. The immensity of the place made Breakdown nervous and, without really thinking about his actions, he pressed closer to Bulkhead, who gave him a bewildered glance. Distantly Breakdown could hear the steady thumping that Ratchet had picked up on the base's monitors - Unicron's spark, from what Ratchet had theorized.


"So," Arcee asked, moving up closer to Megatron and Optimus, "how long before Unicron knows we're here?"

Megatron turned his helm in her direction and when he spoke his voice was dark. "Make no mistake, he already does."

Megatron began to move, Optimus following just after him. Arcee began to move but Breakdown, Bulkhead and Bumblebee all glanced at each other nervously. Together the three of them began to follow Megatron along the walkway - into the depths of Unicron.

Breakdown hated this. They had been walking for what felt like forever inside Unicron, passing over long walkways and now inside a very dark, pulsating tunnel. And he could swear he had hear some distant scrapping along metal, as if some kind of creature was following them.

Just what we need.

Briefly, Breakdown heard a high-pitched whistling noise then, just as Breakdown heard it, Megatron let out a gasp of pain, servo clutching his helm as he fell to one knee.

"Megatron?" Breakdown stepped towards Megatron, but Arcee stopped him with a furious glare. Breakdown backed away from her, quenching the concern that had shot through his spark at the sight of his former leader nearly collapsing to the ground.

He's the enemy, Breakdown! Remember that!

"Unicron grows ever stronger," Megatron hissed, lowering the servo from his helm as he rose up to his pedes, and turned towards Optimus. He kept his optics on Prime for a few moments then moved on, walking past Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Breakdown without even a glance.

"How do we know Unicron isn't using Megatron to lead us all into a trap?" Arcee asked, which Breakdown thought was a fair point. But he knew Megatron better than anyone else in the group - well, besides Optimus - and he knew that Megatron was not one to allow himself to be controlled by anyone, or anything.

Megatron would do anything to get rid of Unicron, and I don't think he's doing his actions because of any influence from Unicron. Not yet, at least.

"We do not," Prime answered Arcee, moving past her after Megatron.

Arcee said nothing, but she did transform one of her servos into its blaster mode. She glanced once more at Breakdown suspiciously, then began to follow her leader. Breakdown moved after her in line, the sound of pedes behind him telling him that Bumblebee and Bulkhead were right behind him.

Breakdown slowed his steps so that he walked beside Bulkhead, who could not hide the surprise in his optics at Breakdown's approach. Breakdown opened his mouth to say something, but Bulkhead interrupted him.

"What do you want, Breakdown?" Bulkhead asked, his voice nearly a hostile whisper.

Breakdown snapped his mouth shut and sped up, anger blazing through his spark. Everything I do, I piss somebody off. I don't want anything except to talk, but then again why would a Decepticon ever say something friendly to an Autobot?

Breakdown quelled his thoughts, though he couldn't shake the sadness that choked at him. He could vividly remember when he wasn't followed by a cloud of distrust or hatred back on the Nemesis-

"Breakdown, hey… I- I'm sorry," Bulkhead's apology halted Breakdown in his tracks, and whisked his thoughts away at the same time. He turned his gaze to Bulkhead, who had run up beside him, and watched the green mech silently.

Bulkhead shook his helm for a moment, looked like he wanted to say something, shut his mouth then shook his helm once again. Breakdown tolled his optic again and moved out with a hiss of his engine, which made Bulkhead follow suit.

"Sorry about, uh, that. I'm still not used to the fact that you aren't my enemy anymore… And, to be frank, this place is giving me the creeps," Bulkhead explained, his optics glancing furtively away from Breakdown.

"Whatever." Breakdown's icy tone made Bulkhead frown, the former Wrecker raising his servos wordlessly in complaint. Breakdown ignored him and kept following Arcee, who was switching small glances between Breakdown and Megatron.

Breakdown let a low growl escape from his engine, which made Arcee glare at him once more then turn her full attention back to Megatron and Optimus. Bulkhead was still walking beside Breakdown, though the green mech was not bothering Breakdown anymore, instead glancing around the dark tunnel with unhidden worry.

Bumblebee let out a long string of whirs and beeps from behind the two large mechs, which made Bulkhead fall back next to the scout.

"Hey, it's going to be okay, Bumblebee. I'm just as nervous as you are." Breakdown overheard Bulkhead whisper, which made him to his helm slightly to watch Bumblebee and Bulkhead.

Bumblebee let out another string of beeps to Bulkhead, who glanced towards Breakdown ever so slightly.

"I don't know 'Bee, I just don't know."

"Unicron's spark is near," Megatron hissed, optics traveling around the wide space in front of them. The group had reached the end of the tunnel finally, but Unicron himself did not end. Walkways were still visible in front of them, including the one that connected the tunnel they were in, to a strange, sealed door.

Arcee stepped onto the walkway, then turned towards Megatron. "You first."

Breakdown glanced towards Megatron, who quirked his brows at her for a moment, then marched on. As a whole the group moved after the Decepticon leader, though Breakdown couldn't stop the rush of nerves snapping at his spark. It had been far too quiet - well, minus the steady thumping still echoing throughout Unicron - while they had been inside the Chaos Bringer, and Breakdown couldn't help but feel that all of this way way too easy.

"Uhhh," Bulkhead's groan moved Breakdown's gaze to his old rival, and drew a few chirps from Bumblebee. "I'm fine 'Bee. Just woozy."

"The Dark Energon, it's starting to affect him," Arcee realized, servos latching onto Bulkhead. "Steady as you go Bulk."

Together Arcee and Bumblebee helped Bulkhead along and, with a roll of his optic, Breakdown turned his attention back to Optimus and Megatron in time to see Megatron halt suddenly. Breakdown stopped alongside Prime, both watching as Megatron turned his helm to the left then right before he turned to both of them.

"He's preparing to expel us," Megatron said, his tone calm.

"Expel us? This is fragging brilliant," Breakdown snapped, gaze snapping around as a high-pitched shriek echoed through the empty chamber. Strange creatures, dark in color with the freaky purple highlights so common inside Unicron, were rushing towards them in a huge, writhing mass.

"What are those things?" Bulkhead asked over the sound of the creatures, as he and the other Autobots transformed their servos into guns. Breakdown activated his shoulder cannon, optic wheeling about as the wave of creatures moved around.

"As we are within Unicron's body, it stands to reason that they are some sort of antibody," Prime answered, switching his servos into guns. The wave of creatures moved below the walkway Breakdown and the others were standing on then, in one massive surge rushed for them.

At once, every mech began firing their guns at the creatures, hitting and breaking about a few of the swarm. But not enough. The swarm kept coming, and they kept firing, but for every creature that was destroyed another seemed to replace it.

Breakdown dodged sideways as one of the creatures smashed into the walkway, its body spinning and flipping but, with a disgusted snarl, Breakdown blasted it to pieces. The visible parts of its body twitched momentarily then stopped moving. Growling, Breakdown wheeled back, gun blazing, on the swarm of creatures.

Fuming, Breakdown moved closer to Bulkhead, Arcee and Bumblebee, still firing his gun at the endless stream of creatures.

The swarm of creatures began to fire back at Breakdown, the Autobots, and Megatron, making each one of them have to guard themselves from the stinging blasts of the creatures. One of the creatures dove for Breakdown but he blasted it away from himself with a shot from his gun. A sudden grunt from Arcee whisked Breakdown's gaze away from the swarm of creatures, just as Arcee was hit in the back by a blast from one of the creatures.

The blue femme fell, but spun midair and slashed through one of the creatures with her arm blade and landed on a walkway below them. Knowing she had landed safely, Breakdown turned back to the fight, smashing away a few creatures with his hammer-servo. The swarm kept coming and, with a furious growl, Breakdown switched his gun to missile mode. He aimed in the middle of a large group of the creatures coming his way and fired. The missile hit one of the creatures, exploding and taking a good amount of the creatures nearest it down with it.

He released another missile into the swarm, which again took down a good number of creatures. Breakdown aimed to fire again when suddenly Bulkhead, who was beside him, fell from the walkway, servo just barely grabbing onto the edge of the walkway.

Bumblebee rushed to Bulkhead, diving to grab the green mech's servo just as Bulkhead's grasp slipped. Bumblebee snatched onto Bulkhead's servo in time, preventing him from falling to his imminent death.

"'Bee let me go! I'll only take you down with me," Bulkhead urged, though Bumblebee did not oblige.

Breakdown snapped his gaze away from the two as a creature smashed into him, pushing him nearly to the edge of the walkway. Engine roaring, Breakdown smashed his servos into it, finally crushing the creature. It fell from him and Breakdown moved away from the edge of the walkway, before anymore creatures could smash into him and push him over the edge.

"Just let go kid!" Bulkhead's yell snapped Breakdown's attention back to where he and Bumblebee where. still hanging from the ledge of the walkway. Bumblebee himself was starting to slip forwards, and Breakdown could only figure that the scout was losing his precarious hold on Bulkhead.

Frag it.

Breakdown charged forwards, skidded to a halt beside Bumblebee, who stared at him in utter surprise, and plunged his servo down and latched onto Bulkhead's arm. Bulkhead's weight began to drag on Breakdown, pulling him closer to the edge ever so slightly, but he yanked back on Bulkhead's servo and pulled the green mech up onto the ledge.

Bulkhead stared at Breakdown for a few moments, looking almost as if he wanted to say something to Breakdown, but Bulkhead stopped himself and continued to fire at the swarm. Breakdown did the same, but when Megatron began to charge down the walkway, Breakdown and the others all followed his suit.

Optimus yelled out Arcee's name, then began to shoot at more of the creatures, which were coming faster - and growing in size with each new wave - every moment. Breakdown skidded his pedes across the ground, firing his gun then ran once again after Megatron. They were nearly at the tunnel that lead to the door when Arcee landed in front of them all, turning and charging towards the door with Megatron right behind her.

All six of the mechs ran into the tunnel, but Unicron's creatures were still chasing after them, their actions growing more furious as they neared the door. Breakdown turned around, alongside Bumblebee and Bulkhead and together the three of them began to fire at the swarm.

Soon the sound of Arcee, Optimus and Megatron's guns began to shake from behind the Breakdown, and with it more and more creatures were torn to bits, or promptly exploded. Bulkhead dodged to his side, accidentally hitting Breakdown, who stumbled backwards with an indignant roar.

"Watch it, you idiot!" Breakdown snapped, firing his gun over Bulkhead, who flinched noticeably from the blast which nearly skimmed his helm.

Bulkhead didn't say anything, but he did jump away from Breakdown and began to fight back against the swarm. Breakdown continued to smash and fire at any creatures that came near the group, leaping in front of Arcee to block her from one of the creature's blasts. The blast smashed into Breakdown's shoulder plate, the pain shooting from it making him stumble backwards, nearly into Optimus.

Fury burned through his chassis and, as Breakdown straightened up to fight once more he heard Optimus call out Megatron's name. Breakdown snapped his gaze around to his former leader who, clutching at his helm, let out a piercing shriek. Megatron lunged towards Optimus - Breakdown aimed his gun at the Decepticon, ready to fire - but Megatron did not attack Optimus, instead he shoved the Prime aside and fired at a creature diving towards Prime. The creature exploded and Megatron wheeled his purple optics to Optimus.

"Unicron's spark lies just beyond," Megatron's voice was desperate as he raised himself up, pointed to the door and then charged up to it. Breakdown and Optimus followed after Megatron, both of whom continued to fire at the creatures.

"How do we get inside?" Optimus asked, lowering his guns briefly.

"By fooling Unicron defense's into believing we are not a threat," Megatron hissed before the Decepticon symbol placed over his spark chamber began to pulse lividly. Prime watched Megatron for a moment more then, along with Breakdown, turned back to the fight.

Breakdown glanced backwards warily, watching as Megatron halted by the door then, when it opened, began to walk down the deep tunnel the door had opened up to.

"Autobots! I will need you to keep our attackers at bay for as long as you can," Optimus ordered, raising his gun and firing at a large creature.

"We'll try," Breakdown said which, to his surprise, produced a nod from Optimus. Prime seemed to hesitate for one more klick then charged down the tunnel. Once he was through the doors shut, leaving Breakdown, Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee all on their own against the increasing wave of creatures.

"We've gotta hold fast. For Optimus!" Bulkhead rallied, his guns blasting with his words.

Breakdown was running desperately low on energon for his gun. The four of them had been holding their ground for the last half-groon, and Breakdown knew that all of them were reaching the point where they would not be able to stand, figuratively and literally, up against the swarm of creatures.

"How much longer can we do this?" Arcee yelled, her weary gaze flashing to Bulkhead, who was fighting beside Breakdown, then back to the swarm of creatures.

"As long as is needed Arcee!" Bulkhead replied, letting out a cry of pain as he was hit by a blast from one of the creatures. Bumblebee lowered his guns, and rushed to Bulkhead, who pushed him away. "No, we keep fighting! No matter what!"

Breakdown narrowed his optic and continued firing his gun, swinging at any creature that got close enough to his hammer-servos. But the waves and swarms did not end. Creatures kept pouring through the tunnel, firing at Breakdown and the Autobots with unrelenting fury - and each hit of Dark Energon blasts from the creatures sapped the strength of the Autobots and Breakdown far faster than normal, energon fueled blasts would have.

One such creature suddenly tore from its ranks, smashing its wing-like apparatuses into Breakdown and Bumblebee, both of whom stumbled back into the wall. Bumblebee whirred with fear as he attempted to escape from the creature's weight, his arms flailing to push the being away. Breakdown snarled, and punched his servo into the creature's face, which made the creature lunge backwards enough for Breakdown to attack it once more. He aimed his gun at it, but it moved too quickly for him.

The creature leapt forward, smashing solely into Breakdown this time, and let loose a rapid burst of fire from itself, which smashed into Breakdown's leg. Pain roared through Breakdown, causing him to collapse to his knees. The creature leapt, but was met by a rapid succession of blasts to its face. Writhing, the creature fell away, crumpling dead in front of Breakdown.

"Here," Bulkhead's voice pulled Breakdown out of the fog of pain and up, to where Bulkhead was quickly pulling him to his feet. "You okay?"

Breakdown hesitated for a moment, then gave a mild shrug to answer Bulkhead. Bulkhead nodded then turned back to the fight.

Breakdown steadied himself for more battle when suddenly the sound of bodies hitting the metal flooring startled his gaze to the ground. Creature after creature was smashing to the floor, and soon every single creature was lying on the ground motionless.

Bulkhead deactivated his guns and promptly fell to his knee, servo steadying himself as he let out a deep groan.

"It's over?" Arcee asked, her tone disbelieving. Bumblebee trilled something to her which made her snap her gaze to the closed door fearfully. Breakdown tilted his helm towards the door, then glanced over to Arcee.

"What is it?" He asked her, stepping towards her slowly to mask the pain shooting from his leg. Arcee whipped her gaze away from the door, locking her optics onto Breakdown.

"Optimus might be hurt, and he is all alone in there with Megatron. We have to help him."

"How? We can't just open the door like Megatron did," Bulkhead reminded, sidling up to Breakdown at the same time. Arcee opened her mouth then promptly shut it.

"I don't know…" She finally said, her gaze falling to her pedes. Bumblebee snapped his gaze to the door then back to the Autobots but he just shrugged.

Breakdown rolled his optic, then wheeled about suddenly on the door, blasting it open with one of his missiles. Every gaze fell on him, each filled with shock and surprise.

"What? You guys talk too much," Breakdown said, sarcasm ever so slightly noticeable in his tone. Arcee said nothing, though she did shake her helm and let out a small vent.

"Let's go," she said and, with that, all four of them charged down the tunnel. Breakdown lagged behind all of them, his leg flaring with pain for each step he took. Thankfully, this tunnel was not as long as the tunnel leading to this area had been and very quickly they reached another door.

When they stopped at the door, Bumblebee, Arcee and Bulkhead all turned their optics to Breakdown.

"Umh… What?" He asked, confused as to why they were just staring at him.

"Uh, blast the door?" Bulkhead offered up, pointing to the door behind him.

Breakdown let out a hysterical snort, rolling his optic skyward. "That was my last missile, Bulkhead. I guess we will have to destroy it the old-fashioned way."

"And what way would that be?" Arcee asked slowly.

Breakdown turned to Bulkhead ever so briefly, then let a small smile arc over his faceplate.


Bulkhead's optics lit at the words and so he whipped around, running back down the tunnel.

"What is he doing?" Arcee asked, glaring at Breakdown.

"I would suggest moving, Arcee, and you will see," Breakdown told her, moving away from the door just as Bulkhead charged towards them.

Arcee suddenly seemed to get the hint as she and Bumblebee both scrambled away from the door, with Bumblebee zipping behind Breakdown. Breakdown glanced at the scout then watched, satisfactorily, as Bulkhead leapt, smashing his servo-turned-mace straight into the middle of the door.

The door fell from Bulkhead's hit, crashing to the floor and reveling Optimus and Megatron standing very close to each other. Bulkhead clambered over the door, with Breakdown following close behind.

"Optimus, are you okay?" Bulkhead asked as Arcee and Bumblebee leapt over the rim of the broken door, landing beside Breakdown and Bulkhead.

"Why did he call me that?" Breakdown overheard Optimus ask Megatron, whose optics - now red, rather than purple - were blazing with triumph. Megatron turned his gaze to Optimus, saying nothing in response.

Immediately, Bulkhead, Arcee and Bumblebee began to run towards their leader, but Breakdown didn't.

Something is very wrong here.

"What did you do to him?" Arcee snarled, her stance narrowed for battle.

"Who are they?" Optimus asked, confusion flush over his faceplate. Before Megatron could answer, a Ground Bridge opened up behind the two leaders, which drew Optimus' and Megatron's gazes straight to it.

"Our mortal enemies!" Megatron suddenly exclaimed, turning and placing a servo against Prime's chassis. "We're outnumbered, go, I'll cover you!" As Optimus raced for the Bridge, Megatron raised his cannon at the Autobots and fired. The blast sent all of them flying, each crashing to the ground with a heavy thud.

Megatron continued to fire at them as Breakdown, Arcee and Bulkhead all scrambled to their pedes and rushed towards Megatron. Megatron fired once more at them and then ran into the Ground Bridge, which snapped shut just as Breakdown and the Autobots reached it.

"No…" Arcee gasped, horror tearing through her voice. But none of them had the chance to truly comprehend what had happened as their own Ground Bridge opened up, just behind them.

Breakdown turned his back on the spot where Megatron and Optimus had gone through Soundwave's Ground Bridge, and walked towards the Autobots' Ground Bridge. Arcee, Bumblebee and Bulkhead all hesitated but followed after him, all four of them crossing through the Bridge dejectedly.


"I was worried, Bulk!"

"You alright, 'Bee?"

Jack, Miko and Rafael were gathered before Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Breakdown as the four returning Cybertronians trudged through the Ground Bridge back to the base. Breakdown turned away from the humans and limped away from the rest of the Autobots, not caring anymore about hiding the pain he was feeling from the battle with the creatures. He passed by Ratchet, just as the medic let out a soft noise.

"And Optimus? Is he?"

"Dead? No," Arcee said.

"But he looked right at us without recognizing us. He didn't even know his own name," Bulkhead added, the disbelief and sadness obvious in his voice, even to Breakdown.

"When Optimus surrendered the Matrix of Leadership, he lost more than the collective wisdom of the Primes', he lost his own memories," Ratchet surmised.

Breakdown stopped before entering the tunnel that lead to his - and the Autobots' - quarters, optic turning back to the Autobots for a brief nanosecond.

And now Optimus' is with Megatron and the Decepticons.

Chapter Text

"In hindsight we accomplished what was required. With Unicron's awakening, extreme measures needed to be taken. Enemies became allies, allies became confidants and, with the Matrix of Leadership, planet Earth was saved. Thought at immeasurable personal costs.

"When Optimus surrendered the Matrix he lost more than the collected wisdom of the Primes', he lost himself," Ratchet said as he turned to what remained of the Autobots surrounding him. Breakdown was leaning against the raised platform that supported the Ground Bridge controls while Bumblebee, Arcee and Bulkhead hovered behind Ratchet with worried optics.

Not even a half-groon had passed since the group consisting of Breakdown, Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee had returned to the Autobot base without Optimus and so far, all they had been able to do was discuss the loss of Optimus. All of them - well, except for Breakdown - had been so busy discussing thus that none of them had had the chance to rest or recover from their battle.

Autobots, so worried about everyone else they never stop to think about themselves. It's almost suffocating to think about how selfless they all are - or act to be.

"But Optimus knew Megatron," Arcee pointed out with a growl, "that wouldn't make sense if he lost his memories."

"They were like BFFs," Bulkhead added, which made Breakdown wonder what in the Pit a BFF was. He didn't ask though as he did not favor seeming like an idiot in front of the group of Autobots and humans.

Bumblebee beeped something, which Breakdown still didn't understand - not that he cared, really, seeing as Bumblebee chirped all the time - but Ratchet nodded slowly to the yellow scout.

"Optimus did not know his own name, perhaps it is because the title of Prime hasn't yet been granted to him."



"Say again?" Miko asked, her confusion matching that of Fowler's and Jack's exclamations.

"With the power of the Matrix no longer within him, it would stand to reason that Optimus has reverted to his pre-Prime state. The historical archivist, Orion Pax," Ratchet answered, with ever the smallest hint of distance echoing in his voice.

"You mean in his mind?" Nurse Darby added, which made Agent Fowler snap, "You're telling me Prime thinks he's some kind of librarian? And a Decepticon?"

Not that there is - was - anything wrong with being a Decepticon, Breakdown thought to himself, though he was being more sarcastic than anything.

Ratchet shook his helm at Fowler's question, optics moving briefly to Breakdown before shifting back to the human. "Being a Decepticon is a choice, Agent Fowler, one that I have a hard time believing Optimus would make at any point in his life."

"So if he's riding with the 'Cons-" Bulkhead left unfinished, gaze shifting to Arcee, who finished what he was saying.

"It's because Megatron is working some kind of voodoo."

Ratchet turned back to the Autobots and narrowed his optics. "Orion Pax may not currently be an Autobot up here," Ratchet pointed to his helm, "but I must believe he will never stop being one… in here." Ratchet's voice shook as he placed one servo over his spark chamber, optics falling distantly before he lowered his servo and set his mouth determinedly.

"We must locate him to know for certain."

"Hold up, I have a chip lodged in my behind that lets Uncle Sam know when I stop for donuts. Are you telling me you can't just track Prime?"

"Obviously not," Breakdown muttered to himself, which no one overheard.

"Optimus' signal has not reappeared since he embarked for Earth's core. But we must get to work finding him, if we have any hope of initiating his contingency plan."

That finally got Breakdown's full attention, making him move from the elevated platform and next to Bumblebee, who glanced at him quickly then back to Ratchet.

"Contingency plan?" Arcee asked confusedly.

"What contingency?" Bulkhead asked.

"Is that even a word?" Miko asked genuinely.

Breakdown smacked his helm with one servo, letting out a muffled groan. No wonder why Miko is Bulkhead's pet. They're exactly the same and as dumb as a Dinobot.

"The key card?" Jack realized, and raised up a strange blue object in one servo. "So what does it do?"

"It grants access to Vector Sigma, the repository of the wisdom of the Primes," Ratchet offered to the human.

"The key-card connects to Vector Sigma?" Breakdown asked, bewildered. But I thought Vector Sigma was on Cybertron?

Ratchet turned to Breakdown and nodded. "Yes. It does."

"Uh, is that some sort of supercomputer?" Rafael asked, glancing up to Jack, who glanced back up to Ratchet with an excited glint in his optics.

"So we can just download Optimus' memories back to him? Great! Which one is the Big V?" Jack asked, twisting to the side. "Over here? Somewhere in back?"

"Vector Sigma is more than a supercomputer, Jack, it is an ancient source of mystical power," Ratchet's helm fell as he explained this to the human, who stared straight at the Key wordlessly. "On Cybertron."

Jack's mother wheeled on the younger, dark-haired human, servos pressed against her hips. "Jackson Darby, you will not be traveling to another planet."

"I'm in!" Miko offered, servo pressing against her chest.

"You're not going either, Miko!" Nurse Darby snapped. "Not when one of you can." Her gaze whipped to Breakdown, Arcee, Bumblebee and Bulkhead accusatorially, which made Bumblebee shrug his shoulders.

"June's right. Why send the boy to do a 'Bot's job?" Fowler snapped.

"Because only a Prime can access Vector Sigma, or one chosen by a Prime. Optimus gave the Key-card to Jack. It is now imprinted with his unique biosignature," Ratchet replied, while Jack stared at the Key with utter shock blazing through his optics.

"So you mean Jack's some kind of honorary Prime?" Miko turned to Ratchet, who vented softly.

"Let's just say that Jack is the only one who can return Optimus to the Autobot we knew."

"But why would Optimus willfully endanger a human? A child?" Nurse Darby asked, indicating to her son.

"Uh! I'm not a child, mom!" Jack gasped, affronted.

"Maybe Optimus believes that there is more to Jack than meets the eye," Arcee pondered.

"All of which is moot. The key-card is useless to us without a means of reaching Cybertron. Which we, at present, do not possess," Ratchet said, defeat echoing from his voice.

Miko hurried to the edge of the raised platform all the humans where standing, then pointed to the Ground Bridge. "Dude, what about that?"

"Miko, the Ground Bridge barely got them into Earth's orbit, remember?" Rafael reminded the young female, who turned to him with a slight scoff.

"Yeah but Ratchet built it. Can't he just turbocharge the thing?"

Ratchet turned to Miko, optics snapping to the Ground Bridge as a tight, pondering scowl crossed over his faceplate. The medic raised a servo to his chin, running his digits down it without a word.

Breakdown turned his gaze away from the medic, watching disinterestedly as Nurse Darby turned to the three kids standing near her.

"Okay all of you. It is time I take each of you home-"

"No need!" Bulkhead interrupted, his previously worried expression changing to one of excitement as his optics landed on Miko. "I can take Miko home for you."

Nurse Darby narrowed her eyes, opening her mouth to respond to Bulkhead but Breakdown interrupted her.

"I don't think so, Bulkhead. We are all tired from our fights with Unicron's avatars and his creatures. The human can drive your pet home and you - this includes you Arcee and Bumblebee - should smartly stay and rest." Bulkhead looked close to arguing with Breakdown but seemed to think better of it and, with one last glance to Miko, turned and walked towards his quarters. Arcee glared at Breakdown then followed after Bulkhead, with Bumblebee right behind her.

"Uh, thanks for that- Uh, what is your name again?" Nurse Darby asked, drawing Breakdown's gaze to her.

"Breakdown," he snapped, not interested in getting chatty with humans after such a tiring and long day.

"I don't really remember you from when Jack introduced me to the Autobots. Were you, ah, injured?" Nurse Darby asked, gesturing to Breakdown's optic patch. Anger burned through Breakdown's chassis at her blasé words, and so he lowered his helm until he was glaring her right in the optics.

"I was a Decepticon until a few weeks ago, human. That is why you don't 'remember' me all that well, since I was the enemy to your child's motorcycle up until recently." Breakdown whipped around and stormed away from the humans and the base, transforming into his alt mode and charging out of the entrance tunnel.

"I can't believe its been a month since Optimus has been gone... I hope Megatron hasn't killed him!"

"I doubt he would do that, Arcee."

"Are you certain, Ratchet? Completely certain?"

The sound of Arcee and Ratchet's voices woke Breakdown from his recharge. He shifted off his recharge slab quietly and moved to his door, though he hesitated to open it when he heard Ratchet's engine snarl angrily at Arcee.

"I would know if Optimus had perished, Arcee. And there is no reasoning I can surmise for Megatron offlining Optimus while his memories are only that of Orion Pax. At least... I hope."

"Hope isn't enough to get Optimus back, Ratchet. We need a Space Bridge if we are to restore Optimus' memories to him-"

"And what, pray tell, would be the use of that without Optimus?"

Arcee did not answer Ratchet, and Breakdown soon realized that the two-wheeler's pedes were stomping down the hallway, away from Ratchet and his room. But then her pedes paused and, suddenly, stormed back to Ratchet.

"Maybe you should ask Breakdown if he knows of any more Decepticon Space Bridges. As if he'd ever tell us any information that could hurt his beloved Decepticons. He's not loyal to us-"

"Arcee!" Ratchet's engine gave a sharp, warning growl that was as hard as his voice. "I understand your reservations about Breakdown but has he not shown that he is willing to work with us? He may not be an Autobot, but he's helped us since he took refuge here. He may have information that could be vital to providing us an advantage but I will not pressure him to give us any. If I do, he might very well decide he doesn't want to give us any information."

"Why would he want to protect the Decepticons, Ratchet? Didn't Breakdown say that they turned their backs on him? He should be more than willing to help us by providing intel, if the Decepticons are as much his enemy as ours."

Ratchet let out a low sigh before Breakdown heard the medic's intakes hiss with steam. "I do not believe it is that simple, Arcee. Not when he was a Decepticon for as many eons as he was."

"That's exactly why I don't trust him."

Arcee let a snort be the end of the two Autobots' conversation, then stormed away, leaving Ratchet to sigh as Breakdown backed away from the door to his quarters.

He understood Arcee's reservations, but hearing the level of distrust the two-wheeler had for him only made him aware of his place in the missile silo. He was not an Autobot, and had been a Decepticon for centuries, so the distrust was expected by all means, but it was constant and never ending.

Yes, he'd helped the Autobots in fights against the Decepticons, and, by now, the Decepticons knew that Breakdown was wholly and completely a traitor to their cause. But he knew now that his reluctance to give Ratchet coordinates to the Decepticon energon mines when the medic had approached him months ago had not helped his case. The Autobots, and most especially Arcee, had little reason to believe him fully willing to betray the Decepticons.

And even Breakdown had to pause and wonder if he could, should any of the Autobots question him again.

Breakdown narrowed his optic as he peered down at the test protoform, looking for any sign of injury. Ratchet, who was even busier than before now that he was the head of the Autobots, had relegated Breakdown to training for groons on end to test his medical knowledge. He'd even ordered him to read every single datalog on medical procedures Ratchet had stored in the base's files.

He knew that the Autobots needed every single Cybertronian at their strongest while Optimus was gone, but the stress was taking its toll on Breakdown. He wasn't a qualified medic, barely even an assistant, but Ratchet was pressuring him to learn and hone his skills as if Breakdown was the only mech with any sort of medical knowledge in the missile silo. Breakdown acknowledged how much stress Ratchet was under with Optimus gone but he wasn't blind to the fact that Ratchet was making misjudgements and mistakes in decisions involving the Autobots.

The medic hadn't even approached him with demands on Decepticon intel, and he'd not once mentioned any desire for knowledge on the Space Bridge. Breakdown knew that Ratchet didn't want to force him to give up Decepticon intel, as the medic had told Arcee, but Breakdown wasn't convinced that Ratchet hadn't completely forgotten his conversation with Arcee. Ratchet was smart, far smarter even than many of the Decepticon scientists Breakdown had heard much of, but the medic was thrown by his new role as leader of the Autobots.

And, though Breakdown was not an Autobot in any official term, any fracturing within the Autobot base affected him. I understand Ratchet's worried and scared because of Optimus being with the Decepticons, but frag, it doesn't mean he has to work up every Autobot in the base.


The low growl of Bulkhead, hissing from behind Breakdown's back, snapped him out of his thoughts and away from the protoform as he whirled around to meet Bulkhead's gaze. Bulkhead shifted his optics behind Breakdown and to the protoform for a brief moment before he met Breakdown's optic with a stern set of his jaw.

"I never took you for the medic type," Bulkhead grumbled, "you never showed any interest in the field back on Cybertron."

Breakdown scowled, his denta grinding at Bulkhead's words. Of course he wanted to talk about nothing but their past. "It's a useful skill that many mechs lack any knowledge of," Breakdown snapped, "including aft-headed Wreckers."

Bulkhead's backstrut bristled, his servos tightening before he let a hiss escape his vents and turned his helm away from Breakdown. "It's always an argument with you, isn't it, Breakdown?"

Irritation scoffed from Breakdown's vents as he angrily tensed up and glared at Bulkhead's turned away helm. "As if you are innocent of starting arguments, Bulk. I know you hate me, and I know the Autobots do too, and I know you have good reason to, but that doesn't mean you have to start a fight every time you look at me! I want to be here as much as you want me in your base!

"But I promised Optimus I would obey his rules and cooperate for shelter. I can't keep that promise if you are always trying to rile me!" Breakdown felt air heave from his intakes and felt his fuel lines burn, his optic narrowed as he glared at Bulkhead.

He was upset. Breakdown knew why Bulkhead hated him, but he felt cornered, trapped, and at a disadvantage while Bulkhead's optics prickled under his plating and left his spark unsettled. If Breakdown defended himself against Bulkhead, the Autobots would evict him from the safety of their base faster than a jet racer. Bulkhead, on the other servo, would get nothing for picking at his former enemy.

Breakdown couldn't raise his servo against Bulkhead, and he had to take every word and glare with a bowed helm. That wasn't Breakdown, not by a long shot.

"Don't think that I haven't heard all that you and Arcee have said about me," guilt flashed through Bulkhead's optics at Breakdown's growl, "I've heard every single scrapped up word you've had to say about me. You could have the decency to talk scrap about me when I can stand up for myself, but you don't. You're no better than the gossip rags from Cybertron."

Bulkhead's servo moved suddenly, snaking towards Breakdown so suddenly that he flinched and jerked his helm away from the green Wrecker. He expected Bulkhead to hit him, roar at him, but all he felt was the Wrecker's servo gently brush against his helm, digits framing the left side of his helm.


Breakdown jerked away from Bulkhead's grasp, his large servo shoving against Bulkhead's chestplate to shove the Wrecker away from Breakdown. "Don't, Bulkhead."

Bulkhead stared at Breakdown, his blue optics wide with hurt before they narrowed slightly with a coolness. The green Wrecker's engine growled at Breakdown before he turned and swept away from Breakdown, leaving the blue mech and the practice protoform to silence.

Breakdown watched the Wrecker as he retreated to Bumblebee's side. The scout turned his optics in Breakdown's direction before he said something to Bulkhead. Bulkhead looked back at Breakdown once with cold optics before he whispered a response to Bumblebee.

Anger pulsed through Breakdown as he watched Bulkhead's optics shift between Bumblebee and himself, all while the green Wrecker whispered to Bumblebee in quiet tones. Breakdown wheeled around and stormed up to Bulkhead and Bumblebee, the heavy stomp of his right pede snapping the two gossiping Autobots' gazes to him.

"Do you have something to say about me, Bulkhead?" Breakdown snarled as he shoved himself faceplate to faceplate with the Wrecker. Bulkhead flinched at Breakdown's closeness, though the green mech did not move as he met Breakdown's furious gaze. "Why don't you humor me and say it to my face?"

Bulkhead bristled as Breakdown leaned into the green Autobot's chestplate, servos clenched furiously, but the Wrecker did not back down as he glared into Breakdown's optic. "I have a lot to say to you, Breakdown!"

"Then say it!"

"Fine!" Bulkhead roared back, his optics blazing with malice as he shoved his faceplate against Breakdown's. "Just because you are working with us doesn't mean I'll ever forgive you! You murdered my friends - no, they were your friends too until you betrayed us - and you don't feel any remorse for what you did! Just because you've helped us, even saved Ratchet's life, that doesn't mean I will ever forgive you or trust you again! Ratchet and Optimus might be fine with you here but I am NOT!"

"You think I don't know that?!" Breakdown roared. "I didn't ask shelter from the Autobots to seek your forgiveness, Bulkhead, just as I have not come here seeking your forgiveness for abandoning me! You and Wheeljack and the others left me behind and allowed Sharpclaw to attempt to offline me. I was furious that the noble Wreckers turned their backs on me! I had a choice to make, and it was an easy one when the Wreckers turned their backs on me, especially when my only other option was being tortured by Megatron."

Bulkhead's optics flared inches from Breakdown, the hate in his field shoving at Breakdown as the Wrecker's servos clenched into fists. "A true Wrecker would never have betrayed their own to save their chassis."

"A true Wrecker?" Breakdown raged. "A 'true' Wrecker would never have left his wounded friend on the battlefield. I didn't leave you at Helex, did I? I stayed and defended you and Wheeljack until backup came. I was a true Wrecker, Bulkhead, until you and your friends turned their backs on the Wrecker code and abandoned me for scrap!"

Bulkhead opened his mouth to protest but Breakdown cut off the green Wrecker's attempt when he shoved the Wrecker away from him.

"You want me to what, apologize for bringing Megatron to the headquarters?" Breakdown scoffed as he jerked his helm away from Bulkhead's sharp gaze. "I won't, because an apology will mean nothing so many eons later. Not about me leading Megatron and his forces to headquarters, nor any apology from you for abandoning me. Apologizing won't change anything and it will not bring the Wreckers back, just as it won't change what Sharpclaw did to me."

"You are a right piece of slag, you know that, Breakdown?" Bulkhead hissed.

Breakdown snorted, his vents heaving with hot air from his engine, which was heating with the anger pulsing from his spark. "I know what I am, Bulkhead. I was happy to hunt down the Wreckers and destroy each and every one of them. I was a monster driven by revenge. Can you face what you are, Bulkhead? You are just as much a machine of war as I am, and just as much a murderer as I am. Just because you're on the side of the Autobots doesn't mean that you are better than me or the Decepticons. The fragging Autobots are no better than the Decepticons. We all played a part in the destruction of our planet and the destruction of our species. Don't act like the Autobots and Wreckers are innocent in this war."

Breakdown was so close to Bulkhead that he never saw the Wrecker's mace swing for his helm. Stars splintered in Breakdown's vision as Bulkhead's mace smashed against his helm, staggering him sideways as Bulkhead's engine snarled darkly.

"Shut up, Breakdown."

Breakdown glowered at Bulkhead before he let a snort hiss from his mouth. "At least I'm honest about myself, Bulkhead. I've accepted what I am, and I don't expect forgiveness. I can't go back and change my choices in the war, even if I do regret them."

Breakdown whipped around and stalked away from Bulkhead and Bumblebee, his backstrut and shoulders stiff until he passed out of the two Autobots' view. The moment he turned down the hallway that led to his quarters, Breakdown's shoulders slumped and he lost his fierce prance as he trudged back to his quarters.

The Wreckers had been his friends, when friends were such a hard thing for him to make, and he'd loved them deeply. He never wanted forgiveness - war didn't equate to forgiveness - for what he'd done to the Wreckers, but there was a part of Breakdown that still hurt. The Wreckers were family - a human concept Rafael and Miko would never stop talking about when the three humans visited the base - and he'd betrayed them, and betrayed them in a way far worse than what Sharpclaw and the others had done to Breakdown personally.

Before the Decepticons had turned their back on Breakdown and left him in MECH's servos, Breakdown had believed he was right in hating the Wreckers so thoroughly. But, now that he had spent deca-cycles with the Autobots, Breakdown could not do anything but reflect on the war and the atrocities he had committed throughout the millenia long war.

The end of the war would not bring redemption or forgiveness to him, even if he fought alongside the Autobots until the end.

Breakdown stepped back from Miko as she charged towards him, her denta glinting as she stopped in front of his pede. "It's Saturday, Breakdown, you have got to give me a ride today!"

"No," Breakdown snarled as he turned away from the small human.

Miko had begun pestering Breakdown nonstop for a ride ever since she'd realized that he wasn't leaving the Autobots anytime soon. Breakdown was sick and tired of her asking, especially when his answer never changed. The human didn't seem to care at all that he detested and feared her species with an almost tank purging revulsion.



The thud of pedes behind Breakdown drew his gaze to Ratchet, who was approaching him with a strained expression. "I need your assistance, Breakdown."

Breakdown straightened, forgetting about Miko as he shot Ratchet a questioning look. "Uh, alright. What about the Autobots?"

Ratchet shook his helm before he cast a quick glance down to the humans. "They are going to watch the children. Your locater scrambler has been working suitably, so the Decepticons should not be able to detect you on their frequencies. I need some heavy lifting and you need to get out of the base."

"Where are we going?" Breakdown asked as Ratchet opened a Ground Bridge and transformed into his alt mode. Breakdown followed Ratchet and transformed into his alt beside the ambulance. Ratchet did not answer Breakdown until the two of them had driven through the Ground Bridge and appeared in the middle of a military base.

"One of Agent Fowler's military bases. He acquired materials I have been needing for weeks for the Ground Bridge, but I need help transporting them."

Breakdown followed Ratchet as the ambulance drove down the base, though he stayed as close to Ratchet's bumper as he possibly could without hitting the medic. He could see humans everywhere and it made his spark beat rapidly with stress. Finally the two Cybertronians reached a large hanger and drove through the open doors, where Agent Fowler was waiting for them with crossed arms in front of large crates of unmarked origin.

Ratchet transformed beside Breakdown and bent down to Agent Fowler, who he quietly began talking to. Breakdown stayed in his alt and waited for Ratchet's orders. He wasn't going to transform when this many humans were so close by with their sharp, prying optics. He blended in better in the military base than he did out on the streets of Jasper but that did not comfort him.

But then he heard small pedes approach him and stop before his engine block. It was Agent Fowler, and he was looking at Breakdown with narrowed optics. "You are certain that Breakdown has completely turned his back on the Decepticons, Ratchet?"


Breakdown didn't say anything though he wanted to growl and remind Agent Fowler that he was sitting right there in front of the slagging human. But he kept quiet as Agent Fowler turned his back on Breakdown and looked up at Ratchet.

"You know that I told General Bryce that Breakdown was an Autobot, correct? I did not believe it a good idea to inform him that a Decepticon had joined the ranks of the Autobots, not when he does not understand any of you like I do."

"I know that Agent Fowler," Ratchet growled as he crossed his arms over his chest. "And why are you bringing this up?"

"Because General Bryce has been pressuring me for information on Optimus, and I had to tell him that he'd been captured by Decepticons. He is already greatly displeased by that news and, should something happen, and Breakdown's prior loyalty be exposed, I do not know how General Bryce will react. I need your guarantee that Breakdown will not turn on the Autobots."

Breakdown snarled deeply, his engine throttling with fury at the agent's words. "I do not intend to turn on the Autobots when they saved me from MECH twice. My allegiance to the Decepticons is no more, and I do not intend to ever return to them."

Agent Fowler looked at Breakdown with a judging, quiet look for a long klik before the human jerked his helm in a nod and gestured to the boxes. "I scrounged up what I could for you, Ratchet. This is all I could acquire as it is hard to find the right material for your Ground Bridge."

"It is better than nothing," Ratchet growled as he approached the crates and pulled out a datapad. from his subspace. "Breakdown, I'm going to catalogue each of these crates contents and then you will carry them back to the base."

Breakdown glanced back to the doors of the hanger and then transformed out of his alt mode as he walked up to Ratchet and watched the medic, who had opened the first crate and was logging its contents into his datapad. As Ratchet worked to log each crate, Breakdown continued to hover near the medic, uncertain about whether Ratchet would desire his help.

Agent Fowler finally departed from the hanger as Ratchet continued to work, and Breakdown hovered, ever uncertain. But then Ratchet's optics shifted towards him as the medic lowered a crate to the ground.

"I trust that you mean what you told Agent Fowler, Breakdown."

"I did," Breakdown snapped, "I have no loyalty to the Decepticons! I keep telling all of you that!"

Ratchet nodded his helm before he turned back to his work. "I believe you, Breakdown. You're honest, and even Bulkhead has admitted to us that you are not one for lying. I trust you."

Breakdown stared at Ratchet, shocked by his honesty. He knew that the medic did not like Decepticons as a whole and trusted them even less, so it was a surprise to hear Ratchet state that the Autobot trusted Breakdown. He ducked his helm and looked away from Ratchet before he felt steam hiss from his vents. "Not many Cybertronians have ever admitted to trusting me. You're one of the few, and you're an Autobot. I... thanks."

"You have helped us out more than we ever requested you too. You have been living in our base for deca-cycles and, though I know you do not care for the humans and have argued with Bulkhead just recently, you still are willing to help when asked. The others still harbor distrust and resentment towards you, but I have seen enough from you to believe you are honest in your defection."

Ratchet finished logging the crates as he spoke and then activated his comms to base. "Base, this is Ratchet. Please open and hold the Ground Bridge. Breakdown will be coming through with the crates Agent Fowler acquired for us."

A Ground Bridge opened in the hanger as Breakdown hefted two of the large crates onto each shoulder plate and moved into the Ground Bridge.

"Ratchet! You awake? This is an emergency," Agent Fowler's voice ripped over the base's comms, drawing Breakdown's attention to it. Ratchet rose up from where he had been working on the Ground Bridge controls, switching off his welder as he answered the human.

"Agent Fowler? Is it Optimus?"

"It's 'Cons, and they are busting into the same military research lab they hit two months ago," Agent Fowler explained as Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee approached the area Ratchet was working. Breakdown moved to his pedes and walked up behind the three Autobots, left servo resting against his hip plates as he listened to the human and Ratchet's conversation.

"Another Space Bridge?" Bulkhead asked, gaze turned to Bumblebee, who had beeped a bit earlier.

"For all we know, Optimus is riding with them," Arcee quipped.

Ratchet turned to the group, his paint shining with the green flare of the now active Ground Bridge.

"Roll out!"

Smoke was the first thing that Breakdown saw as he burst through the Ground Bridge alongside Bumblebee, Bulkhead and Arcee. The four mechs landed on the hard pavement of the base's runway, and when they did Breakdown stepped back slightly.

Knock Out was there, alongside a mech that Breakdown had never seen before in the Decepticon ranks. This one was an immense femme, with two huge wings that protruded from her back and what looked like tank treads running down her arms and legs. She was carrying a huge white power generator over one shoulder, while her unoccupied servo was a cannon pointed right at them.

"Drop the power source!" Bulkhead snarled, charging for Knock Out and his new, unfamiliar companion.

"Aren't you missing someone?" Knock Out hissed back in response, his optics pointed firmly away from Breakdown, who had skidded to a halt beside the three Autobots. Knock Out's companion smiled as a roar of engines became audible above them, and jerked her blood red optics upwards to three Vehicons, all in jet mode, diving towards them.

The Vehicons began firing their blasters at Breakdown and the others, which made Arcee and Bumblebee turn backwards and run from the blasts while Bulkhead fired back one of his own shots, hitting and taking down one of the Vehicons. Breakdown looked away from the Vehicons, and charged for Knock Out.

Knock Out stepped backwards, frantically calling for a Bridge, when his companion smashed into Breakdown's side. The force of her hitting into him caused Breakdown to stumble far to the right, pain biting through his chassis as she smashed her cannon servo into his helm. Breakdown stumbled backwards as a dizzying rush of blackness swamped his mind, almost knocking him into stasis, but he shook it away just as the soft chime of a Ground Bridge being activated drew his gaze up to Knock Out once again.

The red Decepticon had been joined by his companion again, but once the Ground Bridge was fully materialized she charged through it, leaving Knock Out behind. He turned his helm towards the Autobots and saucily said, "We'll be sure to tell the Big 'O' you said hello." With that Knock Out gave them a mock salute and ran into the Ground Bridge.

"Arcee, no!" Bulkhead's cry snapped Breakdown's attention to the two-wheeler suddenly transforming into her alt mode and charging towards the Ground Bridge, all the while dodging blast after blast from the remaining Vehicons. Just as the Bridge began to close, Arcee disappeared through it, the Bridge snapping shut behind her.

The two Vehicons flashed overhead and zoomed away, the sound of Bulkhead's pedes approaching Breakdown turning his gaze to the green mech.

"Does she always act so crazy?" Breakdown asked with a mild gesture towards where Arcee had vanished into the Nemesis based Ground Bridge. Bulkhead shrugged, then turned away from him as he contacted base.

"Ratchet, send us a Bridge," he asked, his voice hollow with dejection.

A moment later a Ground Bridge opened up behind the two mechs, which Bumblebee walked through almost at once. Bulkhead glanced towards Breakdown and marched through the Bridge. Breakdown followed Bulkhead, but stopped at the edge of the Ground Bridge and turned his gaze back to where the Decepticon Ground Bridge had vanished.

Who was that with Knock Out? Breakdown shook his helm, then walked through the Autobots' Ground Bridge.

"You weren't able to determine the Decepticons location or if Optimus was even aboard ship?" Ratchet asked Arcee as he finished scanning the frame of her leg. Ratchet had opened up a Ground Bridge for her only a click or two after Breakdown and the others had walked into the Autobot base, and when the medic had learned that Soundwave had sent her to the Arctic, he had immediately begun checking her over for any sign of frost damage.

Arcee straightened up from where she had been seated, her helm falling with defeat turning her optics dull. "I couldn't confirm."

Bulkhead let out a loud roar and swung to his left, which was where Breakdown was standing but he dodged out of the way in time to miss getting hit by Bulkhead's fists, but only just. Bulkhead's fist smashed into a drill, which made blue sparks race over it as the delicate metal crushed underneath Bulkhead's servo.

"Bulkhead-" Ratchet began, disbelief flaring in his optics.

"What? You needed that? Only thing I need is our head honcho back!" Bulkhead roared, clashing his servos together with a resonate clang. Breakdown shot Bulkhead a cold glare, which he returned briefly, before Bulkhead turned back to where Ratchet, Arcee and Jack were.

"It's not your fault," Jack tried to reassure Arcee, though even Breakdown knew that was pointless.

"If any of us needed rescuing, Optimus would have found a way. I didn't. Simple as that," Arcee finished, tightening her arms around her frame as she looked away from her human.

"Ratchet!" The sound of Agent Fowler's voice drew the attention of everyone in the base to the monitors, where Fowler's face was flaring across the screens. "What happened out there? Reports indicate at least a dozen wounded and the heat is on me to provide some explanation. You 'Bots better get your act together, or the Pentagon will make me shut down your base." With that cheerful note, the agent signed off of the communication link, the image of his livid face vanishing into static lines.

"But, where would you go?" Rafael asked, looking towards Ratchet.

"Who knows? Maybe they will ship us out to some island, or fire us into space. Wouldn't that be a welcome relief?" Ratchet snapped, throwing up one servo into the air dramatically.

"I don't blame Fowler, Optimus would have evacuated all humans in the area before engaging the 'Cons," Arcee snapped back, her glare fully on Ratchet. Bumblebee trilled something, then turned his gaze to Bulkhead.

"We don't actually know what Optimus would have done, because he's not here!" Bulkhead snarled, glaring down at Arcee, who got up from where she was still sitting and turned on the green mech.

"You're pretty good at stating the obvious, Bulk. Anything else you would like to mention that we already know?"

"Nothing I can say in front of the children," Bulkhead said, lowering himself down to Arcee's height.

"Oh, who cares," Breakdown suddenly snapped, interrupting Bulkhead and Arcee glaring match as they all turned their attention to him. "So what if some humans got injured? What really matters is that your enemies got their servos on a power source for their Space Bridge. I would imagine that is more important than some poor, injured humans? Right?"

Arcee looked stunned at Breakdown's words, then suddenly let out a growl from her engine. "Breakdown-"

"Hey! Stop! Listen to Breakdown for once, he's the only one here who has actually mentioned the fact that the Decepticons did get that power source-"

"Yes," Ratchet scoffed, "we managed to finally allow them to acquire a power source for their Space Bridge."

"And how exactly would that be a positive?" Arcee asked as she bent down to the humans.

"We let them finish building their Space Bridge," Jack offered, his gaze determined.

"Why? So they can bring back more zombies from Cybertron?" Bulkhead growled, glaring down at the humans.

"No, so we can commandeer it. And use it to send me to Cybertron," Jack said, pointing his thumb digit to his face.

"Whoa, that is a pretty good idea," Miko agreed, her optics turning approvingly to Jack.

"Well if Miko thinks its a good idea-" Arcee scoffed.

"Nobody is saying it will be easy, but you've seized a Space Bridge before," Jack said, cutting off Arcee's sarcastic retort.

"We blew one up! That is a whole lot different than three of us seizing and holding one," Bulkhead said, Bumblebee letting out a swift string of beeps and trills beside the former Wrecker.

"'Bee's right, we'd have to find it first," Arcee said, rolling her optics slightly.

"Hello! If it's a Space Bridge, isn't it," Miko pointed up to the ceiling of the base to finish her sentence.

"The term 'space' refers to its transport range, not its physical location. And we've been monitoring Earth's orbit since the last one, we'd know if it were there."

"Uh-" Breakdown began but before he could voice what he was trying to say, Jack interrupted him.

"So the Bridge could be somewhere right here on Earth?"


"It would be like trying to find a servo in a scrapyard." It was Bulkhead this time who interrupted Breakdown, making him growl to himself angrily.

"Would yo-"

"Then we better start looking," Arcee said, yet again interrupting Breakdown, who this time smacked a servo to his helm. Bumblebee turned to Arcee and beeped something to her, but she ignored him also.

"But the fact remains, we do not know what the Decepticons have in store for Optimus, or if he is truly safe from harm."


"And what if he isn't, what then, Ratchet?" Arcee snarled.

Breakdown's engine let out a dangerous rumble as, for the fourth time he had been interrupted by the Autobots. Bumblebee for some reason glanced towards Breakdown, then back to the Autobots, letting out another pointless string of beeps. Breakdown gave up, turning and stomping away from the Autobots. He came to a stop at the edge of the base's main room, shuttering his optic as the voices of the Autobots continued to raise in argument.

Finally the Autobots stopped arguing, Ratchet silencing them all with a loud rumble from his engine. Arcee and Bulkhead stomped away from each other, while Bumblebee stuck close to his human, who Ratchet was busy talking with.

The Autobots are so crazed about finding their leader, they don't even think about the fact that I was once a Decepticon, and I might know something valuable to them. And laughably, I do. I know exactly where Megatron's Space Bridge is, so long as he didn't move it that is, but what is the point of trying to tell them if all they are going to do is ignore me?

Breakdown sighed as he leaned against the base wall and slid down the wall, so that he was sitting on the metal flooring. He leaned his helm against his chest, and, with an exhausted yawn, fell into a cold, empty recharge.

"Is the test subject ready?" Ratchet's voice snapped Breakdown from recharge, the ex-Decepticon scrambling up from the ground, optic snapping around for danger. Realizing everything was fine, and he was safe, Breakdown eased up, turning curiously to where ratchet was.

The medic was standing at the GroundBridge controls, while Rafael was standing very close to the Ground Bridge itself with a small remote operated car. Rafael twisted the wheels on the car with his remote, then turned to Ratchet.

"Check. Long range GPS activated."

"I have doubts whether my recalibrations have successfully extended Ground Bridge range, but, there is only one way to find out." Ratchet sounded unconvinced as he pulled the Ground Bridge levers, the portal opening up in moments. Wanting to see what the two were up to, Breakdown headed over to them, placing his servos on his hips as he stopped beside Rafael.

Once it was fully active, Rafael drove his remote car into the Ground Bridge. Ratchet strode up to the boy and watched as the car began to hit the streams.

"Come on," Ratchet urged, as the car went deeper into the Ground Bridge's streams, but it began to shake and spark, finally exploding and crumpling to the ground. The Ground Bridge itself shut off, without Ratchet doing it, which made Breakdown think that the Bridge could not handle the amount of energy it was putting out.

Ratchet only let out a sigh, optics shuttering closed as he shook his helm defeatedly. Rafael looked up at Ratchet, remote still in hand, optics determined.

"It was only the first try-"

"No, Rafael, it was pure folly. A misguided act of desperation, it takes eons to master Space Bridge engineering, and no one is more accomplished than the Decepticons."

Breakdown tilted his helm, shifting his pedes lightly so he could watch the human and Ratchet. He said nothing about his knowledge of the Decepticon Space Bridge since the Autobots' argument two solar cycles before, as he could still feel a rash of irritation burning in his spark at the Autobots. Rafael seemed to ponder something for a moment, then turned to Ratchet.

"You know, there is this thing in gym class where you have to climb a rope all the way to the ceiling. It's really hard and I've never been able to do it but, when I told 'Bee about it, he believed in me, which made me practice a ton. Finally, just a couple of weeks ago, I made it to the top."

Ratchet wheeled on the kid, rage turning his blue optics to ice. "What does any of this have to do with gym class?!"

Whoa, harsh.

"I, uh, I was just-"

Ratchet vented, interrupting the kid, and turned back to the monitor's display screens.

"I'll give you some alone time," Rafael said, heading away from the medic, who tilted his helm up with a depressed vent.

"Optimus, I am so sorry."

Breakdown rubbed his digits together, disinterestedly watching Ratchet mope over his monitors. He liked and respected Ratchet, but he still hesitated to disclose the location of the Decepticons' Space Bridge - and it wasn't his old loyalty to the Decepticon cause that gave him pause.

Ratchet turned to glance at Breakdown as he stood behind the medic, but Ratchet said nothing to him, turning back to his screens and into himself. Breakdown glanced up at the screens, optic catching the location of the base, then to a random point, followed by another random set of coordinates.

"You won't find anything that way, Ratchet," Breakdown said, though he wasn't even surprised when Ratchet ignored what he was saying. "Fine, whatever."

"Ratchet, could you open a Ground Bridge?" Bulkhead's voice over the comms gave a start to Ratchet, who promptly shook himself then walked up to the Ground Bridge controls, which Breakdown had been standing in front of.

Breakdown moved aside for Ratchet, who ignored him and pulled the levers to the Ground Bridge. The green light began to flood the base, and with it a soft vent from Ratchet. Breakdown turned to the medic, concern for Ratchet snaking through his spark. Since Optimus had been taken by Megatron, Ratchet seemed not himself, growing snappy at everyone and also being overly distant.

Oh, fine. I'll tell them, just so Ratchet can stop moping around all the time, Breakdown decided, reaching out and placing a servo onto Ratchet's shoulderplates.

Ratchet turned to him, his optics dull and nearly lifeless. "Yes, Breakdown?"

"Call Arcee and Bumblebee back from wherever they are."

"Uh… Why?"

"Ugh, just do it, would you?" Breakdown snapped, releasing his servo from Ratchet and stomping away from the Ground Bridge, just as Bulkhead drove through it in his alt mode.

"No sign of an energon spike," Bulkhead told Ratchet as he walked up to the medic, who had begun entering the coordinates of the other two Autobots into the Ground Bridge control panel. "Arcee or 'Bee find the Space Bridge?"

"They haven't yet reported back but I'm calling them back either way."

"Ratchet, you alright?" Bulkhead asked moving a little bit closer to the Autobot medic. Ratchet glanced up at him, but Breakdown could tell how distracted and distant he was.

"Hmm? Yes, yes, I'm fine. Stay here though, I'm calling back the others," Ratchet said, tone dull.

"Why?" Bulkhead asked, but Ratchet did not respond as he activated the Ground Bridge once again. A few moments passed and then both Arcee and Bumblebee drove through the Bridge, both transforming out of their alt modes with matching worried expressions.

"What is it, Ratchet? Did you find something?" Arcee asked, rushing up to the medic, who only glanced down at her for a moment before shaking his helm.

"No, I did not find anything, but he wanted you two to come back," Ratchet said, pointing to Breakdown, who stiffened out of lax position as the four Autobots turned to him.

"What? Why would Breakdown want us to come back to base?" Arcee asked, turning back to Ratchet, who shrugged in response.

"No idea," was all the medic offered to the femme. Arcee whipped her gaze back to Breakdown, servos clenching dangerously.

"You better explain what made you think you could have Ratchet bring us back here, Breakdown. And fast," Arcee snarled.

"Relax, Arcee. I wanted Ratchet to bring you guys back here for one reason-"

"And that would be?" Bulkhead interrupted. Breakdown clenched his servos, he was so irritated with the constant interruptions, but he shook his helm. He was going to tell them, even if they interrupted him again and again. Impolite Autobots.

"Well, Bulkhead, it is pretty simple. None of you ever seemed to think a thing about the fact that you have a former Decepticon living with you, right?"

"Uh… I guess? So what?" Bulkhead said, glancing towards Arcee, who looked as confused as he did.

Breakdown dug his servo into his faceplate, engine growling frustratedly. "So what? So what is the fact that I know exactly where the Decepticon Space Bridge is. For Primus' sake, I even worked on it before I left the Decepticons. So why, in all this time, did none of you even think to ask your local Decepticon expert where the Pit the Primus forsaken SPACE BRIDGE WAS!? I know Arcee mentioned the suggestion to you, Ratchet, but no one ever asked me after that and that was a deca-cycle ago."

Every single Autobots' mouth fell open in utter shock from Breakdown's outburst. Ratchet looked stunned, but then his optics began to glow with life once again. Bulkhead and Bumblebee said nothing, though Arcee stuttered for a minute, then shook her helm.

"You did know! I told Ratchet you might, though I'm surprised you didn't try and tell us earlier if you seem so interested in telling us now," Arcee choked out, unbridled anger beginning to blaze within her optics.

Breakdown let out a disbelieving laugh. "Oh, that's golden, Arcee. I didn't try and tell you guys? Oh, trust me, I did. But each time I tried, you all interrupted me. So who is to blame?"

Arcee opened her mouth to protest but Bumblebee whipped his helm to her and beeped something very loud and angry at her. She stepped back from him, then turned her helm back to Breakdown.

"So you really did try and tell us?" Arcee's optics seemed almost to reflect shame, but it was gone so fast that Breakdown swore he had imagined it more than anything.

"Yeah, I did," Breakdown shrugged, turning his attention to his servos.

Again, Bumblebee beeped and even nodded his helm, as if he was affirming Breakdown's position.

"Breakdown," Ratchet's voice, both desperate and soft, pulled Breakdown's attention to the medic, who beckoned him over to him, "please, give me the coordinates to the Space Bridge's location."

"Fine," Breakdown growled as he moved up to the Ground Bridge controls and typed in the coordinates. Ratchet turned to him but before the medic could say anything a strange beeping noise came from the monitors. Every helm whipped to it, with Ratchet moving up to it.

"What is it?" Bulkhead asked first, tilting his helm towards Ratchet.

"A high-frequency signal with an embedded message," Ratchet tapped the monitor's controls, then jolted back slightly, "for me."

"Optimus?" Bulkhead asked hopefully.

Ratchet clicked the message, his entire chassis growing rigid as he let out a low snarl. "Starscream."

'I have obtained information regarding your leader. Bring medical kit, come alone.' "

Slowly, tortuously slowly, every optic turned to Breakdown who backed away from them slightly. Breakdown couldn't hide the rage stoking in his spark at the thought of Starscream, the self-obsessed, preening Decepticon Seeker who had been the root for Breakdown living with the Autobots - and leaving the Decepticons. As well as a mech who seemed more than happy to offline Breakdown every chance they crossed paths.

"What? I have nothing to do with Starscream. Don't look at me like that," Breakdown snapped defensively. "Anyways, did any of you wonder why Starscream of all mechs is contacting us? He is a Decepticon through and through, and if you were smart you wouldn't trust him, or anything he says."

To his relief, the Autobots all did look away from him and began muttering amongst themselves, with Ratchet finally setting his jaw determinedly.

"Bulkhead, you are coming with me. We'll go there, get the information from Starscream and then we will know if Breakdown's data pans out correctly."

Ratchet moved back to the Ground Bridge controls, logged in Starscream coordinates and together, he and Bulkhead headed through the Ground Bridge. Breakdown turned and watched and waited.

"The Decepticon Space Bridge is located here, deep within an energon mine, precisely where Breakdown's coordinates led to," Ratchet said, turning around to the four mechs gathered behind him.

"Adjacent to a raw fuel supply. Clever. I'm just surprised Starscream of all mechs didn't lie to us," Arcee said, shrugging her shoulderplates lightly.

Ratchet turned to the humans, whom he had called to the base after coming back from meeting up with Starscream. "So, do we have a consensus?"

"Do we know if people can even breathe your atmosphere?" Nurse Darby asked, ever the concerned one.

"I'll hook Jack up," Fowler said, which drew Nurse Darby's gaze to him, "completely state of the art. I still have connections at NASA."

"It's too dangerous…"

"Mom, I know that this is hard but Optimus risked his life to save our planet, and he's not even human. We owe it to him," Jack told his mom, who still looked unhappy about sending her kid to a foreign planet.

"Jack may be the only one who can do this, June, but I don't want you to think for one moment that I'll allow him to travel unchaperoned," Arcee said as she walked up to where the humans were standing, gazing up at them upon the raised platform.

"Not everyone is destined for an ordinary life, Optimus Prime was once Orion Pax after all," Ratchet explained to Jack's mom, who turned back to Jack.

"When you were little, you always wanted to be an astronaut."

"We will Ground Bridge directly into the energon mine, and make our way to the Space Bridge chamber, neutralizing any Decepticon forces we encounter. Once we secure the Space Bridge, we'll send for Jack. Stealth must be an absolute priority, we will most certainly be outnumbered, and if any Decepticon should transmit an alert to their warship-"

"The odds become 400-1," Bulkhead interjected Ratchet's words, though Ratchet seemed unbothered by it.

"Scrambling communications upon entry will certainly provide an edge, in this regard," Ratchet finished.

"Taking the Bridge is the easy part, you four need to hold it long enough for Jack and me to get to Cybertron and back," Arcee said, her optics burning.

"If Rafael can climb to the top of the rope in gym class, we can do this," Ratchet said, which made Breakdown roll his optic.

Not this again.

"Uh, what does gym class have to do with anything?" Miko asked, tone laden with sarcasm. "And if Ratchet gets to go on a commando raid, I'm going to."

"Miko, you will help Rafael operate our Ground Bridge and manage the communications hub," Ratchet informed her, to which she let out a frustrated growl and stormed other to Rafael, all the while muttering to herself moodily.

"And Nurse Darby will stand by in case of emergency."

"Son, it's time to suit up," Agent Fowler said, walking up to Jack and placing one servo on the kid's shoulder. The humans all moved away from the Autobots and Breakdown, which gave time for the five mechs to turn to each other.

"Breakdown, what are some things we should know before we go?" Ratchet asked, turning his full attention on Breakdown.

"Well, depending on when we get to the Space Bridge, there should be at least 80 Vehicons on guard. We most likely will have 30 klicks before a shift comes, or even sooner if one of the Bridge control officers on the Nemesis get suspicious with how there has been no contact from one of the Vehicons at the Space Bridge. I'm not really sure but we need to be wary of how much time we spend there."

"Good to know," Ratchet said, walking up to the Ground Bridge controls. "Are we ready?" He asked, which drew a nod from Breakdown, Bulkhead, Arcee and Bumblebee. Ratchet nodded too, then activated the Ground Bridge.

"Clear," Bulkhead whispered, lowering his cannon and turning to the four mechs behind him. Breakdown slunk around Bulkhead, gaze wary as Arcee noted her side was clear too. Ratchet beckoned the group and they all followed the medic down a large tunnel of the Energon mine. Soon, they reached a larger chamber, with all of them slowly slinking up to a large, inactive drill.

Arcee crept over the top of the drill, disappearing over the top as the sound of metal smashing into metal and grunts of pain echoed through the chamber. Ratchet signaled for the rest to move around, with Bumblebee charging out first. Bulkhead followed right after, then Breakdown and Ratchet.

As Breakdown and Ratchet came around the edge of the drill , Breakdown spotted a Vehicon still standing, who was backing away very quickly.

"Command, this is Space Bridge control, we are under attack. Command, do you rea-" Before the Vehicon, who Breakdown knew as Rust, could even finish his sentence he was sent flying by Bulkhead's mace, the small mech's chassis hitting the ground with a hard thud.

Ratchet walked up to the still Vehicon, raising one digit to his mouth and let out a soft shhh noise, before turning to the Autobots and charging down another tunnel. Breakdown hesitated for a moment, stopping at the fallen body of Rust, and then turned his gaze to the two other fallen Vehicons.

"Sorry, guys," he said softly, then charged after the Autobots, who all skidded to a stop on the platform of a lift.

Breakdown leapt on and it began its descent, stopping behind another Vehicon - was that Jetslip? - before Bulkhead said, "Going down," and smashed his maces together against Jetslip's helm, crushing it.

Breakdown looked away and followed after the Autobots, discomfort tugging at his spark. He hated seeing mechs he knew quite well, so easily being picked off, all in the name of rescuing the Autobots' leader. But the focus of his thoughts changed as all five of them charged into the Space Bridge chamber, the immensity of it so much more grand now that it was complete compared to when Breakdown had been working here.

"By the Allspark," Ratchet breathed, awe evident in his voice.

"Thank you, Starscream," Arcee said though, when Breakdown shot her a nasty glare, she hastily added, "and Breakdown."

Bulkhead turned and, with a groan of pistons, heaved a drill over the lip of the Space Bridge platform, the sound of blasters firing, then two grunts of pain following noting the loss of two more Vehicons.

Stop thinking about it, Breakdown though, moving with the Autobots toward the platform, of whom Arcee and Bumblebee were shooting rapidly at the Vehicons blocking their path. The Vehicons stood no chance to their rapid firing, each one falling with little fight. One last Vehicon remained, his blaster firing wildly at Arcee, who leapt up and fired at his back until he died.

Breakdown turned his helm away from the carnage of his former friends, moving up with Ratchet to the Space Bridge control panel.

"Amazing. A masterpiece of engineering," Ratchet sounded beyond awe as he looked upon the deep purple and blue screen, servo moving to the control area.

"Operational?" Arcee asked.

"Fully," Ratchet affirmed, turning to her with an ever so hopeful glow in his optics.

"Perimeter secured," Bulkhead said from below the platform.

"Well, that's good," Arcee said, turning to Ratchet, who smiled back at her. "Now the scary part-"


A voice boomed through the chamber, sending jolts of terror down Breakdown's backstrut. This voice was not one he recognized from the Decepticon ranks. His gaze snapped to and fro, stopping at the ceiling where something huge suddenly shifted on the ceiling.

"What is that?" Bulkhead squealed, rushing up beside Arcee, as the thing on the ceiling suddenly dropped to the platform. Shadows still covered the creature but Breakdown was getting a feeling of who exactly this was and, as the immense mech strode out of the shadows with her blood-red optics burning with hunger, and huge pedes hitting the ground with an echoing thunder, he gulped. It was the femme that Knock Out had been working with.

She halted at the mouth of the Space Bridge then, with a sharp snap of her clawed servos springing open, she glared right at all five mechs before her.

"You are not going any farther than you already have, Autobots."

With those words, the femme suddenly shifted into a huge, single-barreled tank with spikes ridging all the way from tread to tread, and fired.

Chapter Text

Breakdown dove aside to dodge the giant, ebony colored Decepticon's blast, though Bumblebee, who had been just behind Breakdown, was less fortunate in his attempt to escape the hit. For, as the scout turned from the blast, the bolt of red energy hit right in front of him, sending the yellow Autobot hurtling over the edge of the platform on Breakdown's side.

Breakdown snapped his gaze to the huge, imposing tank, her all-black paint making her ever more menacing as she angled her tank cannon towards Breakdown's chest plate. He scrambled to his pedes as the cannon began to charge, lighting up a row of red biolights that pulsed all over her chassis, and before he could move any further her cannon fired.

Something hit Breakdown in the side, shoving him to the ground just as the hot red blast flew over his chassis. Breakdown turned, nodding thanks to Ratchet, who leapt up from Breakdown and raced for the tank. Breakdown shook himself - get your helm in the game! - and raced after Ratchet, activating his shoulder cannon and sending a red blast right at the tank's cannon.

But before Breakdown's shots could hit the femme Decepticon she transformed once again, this time switching into a huge jet, the tank cannon now fixed to the underbelly of the Decepticon.

"A triple-changer?!" Arcee shrieked from somewhere to Breakdown's right, voicing Breakdown's sentiment perfectly.

The jet let out a booming laugh as she swooped over the helms of the Autobots, snapped around mid-air, and then dove straight for the cluster of Autobots. Breakdown charged to his right, keeping track of the Decepticon as she tore only a macrometer over the platform, gun blazing, then transformed out of her alt mode.

When the Decepticon's pedes hit the ground, Arcee charged towards her, scrambling up onto the tall spires protruding from the platform, then leaping off. Arcee's leap found the two-wheeler latching onto the back of the Decepticon, who roared angrily and began swiping at Arcee with sharp digits. Arcee ducked each swipe before she blasted her guns at the large femme's helm, then sprang away, landing near Bulkhead as the green mech barreled into the triple-changer.

The force of Bulkhead crashing into the Decepticon pushed her close to Breakdown, who lunged forwards and smashed his servo into her back. The triple-changer let out a snarl and slashed out at both Breakdown and Bulkhead with her razor-sharp claws. Neither Breakdown nor Bulkhead were fast enough to dodge the Decepticon's furious attack, her claws leaving deep scars on both of Breakdown's chest plate and Bulkhead's arms.

Breakdown stumbled away from the triple-changer, wincing at the waves of pain rushing through his chassis. He glanced up in time to see the Decepticon pick up Bulkhead and throw him, straight into Breakdown. The duo flew over the edge of the platform, crashing to the hard ground below with a heavy thud.

"Get off!" Breakdown snarled before he shoved Bulkhead off of him, who fell to the ground with a groan.

Ignoring Bulkhead, Breakdown charged back up to the platform, activating his cannon as he reached the lip of the Space Bridge's platform. His pedes skidded across the slick flooring of the platform as he reached the top, stopping at the sight of both Bumblebee and Arcee lying prone on the platform. The Decepticon had Ratchet pressed against one of the pillars, her claws digging into the medic's throat, causing streaks of energon to run down her claws.

"This is the end of the line for you, Autobot," the Decepticon hissed as she raised her cannon servo up to Ratchet's helm. "Good night." The Deceptiocn's cannon began to pulse, with Ratchet thrashing against her hold furiously.

"NO!" Breakdown roared, charging towards the Decepticon without even thinking. Her gaze, and Ratchet's, snapped to Breakdown, and she quickly switched her cannon from Ratchet to Breakdown, but not in time to prevent Breakdown from smashing his shoulder straight into her chest plate.

Time seemed to slow as the Decepticon stumbled back from Breakdown, her servo unclenching around Ratchet, and switching to Breakdown- And suddenly everything seemed to go faster, the Decepticon's cannon fired, hitting Breakdown square in the chest. Pain blitzed through Breakdown as the force of the blast sent him flying, crashing to the ground near Bumblebee and Arcee.

Breakdown slowly pushed his servos to the ground, raising himself up from where had fallen with an unsteady groan of pain. The metal flooring of the platform quivered as two huge pedes halted in front of Breakdown. Sharp claws drug Breakdown's helm up, his optic snapping onto the cold, emotionless optics of the Decepticon. Her mouth turned down into a dark frown, and her red optics narrowed as a low, furious growl rumbled deep from within her chassis.

Fear made Breakdown desperate and with it, he tried to pull away from the Decepticon… but nothing would respond, nothing. His enemy's frown slowly changed, from a dark frown to an evil, emotionless smile. She pulled back her cannon servo and activated it, the barrel beginning to pulse with red light-

Suddenly, the Decepticon jerked back, pain flaring in her red optics as a sharp, black blade pierced its way through her collar plate. Energon began to leak from the Decepticon's wound and, with her distracted, Breakdown forced himself to move. Pain followed his every movement as he pressed his servos against the black Decepticon's chassis, which made her turn a desperate optic to Breakdown. Breakdown snarled in response and, with a warning shout to whoever had stabbed the Decepticon, Breakdown fired one of his missiles straight into her helm.

The explosion sent both Breakdown and the Decepticon flying, through Breakdown recovered quicker than she did. As he pulled himself to his pedes, Breakdown noticed Arcee and Bumblebee finally moving, Arcee leaping up with blasters aimed at the downed Decepticon's chassis. Bumblebee moved a little slower, though he did mimic Arcee's tense stance. Breakdown glanced to his left and nodded to Ratchet, which the medic returned stiffly. He had realized fairly quickly that Ratchet had been the one to stab the Decepticon, but Breakdown didn't know how else to give thanks to the medic besides the briefest of acknowledgments.

A moment or two later, Bulkhead finally came up to the platform, his gaze turning suspiciously on the Decepticon. Arcee, with her blasters still pointed to the Decepticon, turned her helm to Breakdown, optics questioning.

"Did you kill her?" Arcee asked Breakdown, who shrugged in response.

"I don't know," he offered up.

Arcee's vents huffed and she turned back around to the still immobile Decepticon, though she suddenly turned her helm back to Breakdown. "Did you know this Decepticon? I don't recognize her."

"Well, Arcee, you and I are in the same exact ship. I've nev-"

Breakdown's words cut off when, with an explosive roar, the black Decepticon lunged upward, claws ripping into the empty air. Rivulets of energon was pouring down her helm, which, somehow, was still entirely intact - though burnt and damaged significantly. She lunged again, getting closer this time to Bumblebee and Arcee but the energon that poured down from her wounds was blinding her movements and easily Bulkhead struck her down with a mace to her helm. The dark Decepticon hit the platform floor with a mighty crash, her claws tightening and loosening as she fell into stasis before the Autobots and Breakdown.

"Good riddance," Bulkhead snapped, kicking the Decepticon with one pede.

Arcee and Bumblebee slowly switched their blasters back into normal servos, followed even slower by Breakdown and Ratchet, who both kept a wary gaze on the Decepticon. But she didn't move, and it didn't seem like she would anytime soon, so Ratchet headed back to the Space Bridge controls. Breakdown paced after the medic, stopping at Ratchet's right as the medic began to flick his digits over the purple screen of the control panel.

"I'm shutting down the scrambler in order to contact base and maintain communications for the remained of the mission," Ratchet explained, pressing a few images on the screen. "Strike Team to Base. Objective secured."

Each mech turned as a Ground Bridge opened up a bit in front of the Decepticon Space Bridge, with Jack walking through a few moments later.

"Locking onto Cybertron," Ratchet said, as Jack walked up to Arcee, who placed a servo against her hip plate.

"You ready?"

Jack nodded, lifting up the Key-card as he said, "Let's do this."

Ratchet moved around Breakdown, walking close to Arcee and Jack. "I will leave the Space Bridge portal open, in order to eliminate any communication lag over the great distance. And make it easier to locate when you are ready to return."

"Easier to locate? You're not Bridging us straight to the Big V?" Jack asked Ratchet.

"Vector Sigma's true location is shrouded in myth and rumor, Jack. It is said the path of the Primes' leads there. We must be confident that Optimus will guide you."

"Don't worry, Space Bridging is just like Ground Bridging," Arcee said, glancing to the Space Bridge, which activated after a moment, "just a little more intense."

Jack and Arcee did not hesitate, both turning together and walking into the depths of the Ground Bridge.

Ratchet waited for a few bit before he pressed the communications control on the Bridge control, looking towards the Space Bridge as he said, "Arcee, Jack, do you copy?"

"Roger. We're on Cybertron," came Jack's voice over the comms, which was muffled slightly by static.

"Just keep the sight-seeing to a minimum, huh?" Bulkhead reminded the human.

"Indeed, we don't know if your journey ahead is five klicks or five thousand," Ratchet added, his tone serious.

"Understood. We're out."

Arcee's voice faded away to static and with it, Bulkhead turned to the group gathered around the controls with a small vent.

"This could take a while."

Static snapped over the Space Bridge controls, snapping the attention of each mech to it. An annoyed voice came over the comms as they listened.

"Space Bridge Control, do you read? Space Bridge Control this is Knock Out - oh, why did Megatron assign me this job? This is a job for a Vehicon, not a medic! - your status report is overdue."

"Scrap," Bulkhead breathed, before he cleared his throat with a sharp cough.

Ratchet placed a servo before Bulkhead, shaking his helm and snapping, "Bulkhead. No, he'll recognize your voice, and he would recognize mine as well."

Both Ratchet and Bulkhead turned towards Bumblebee and Breakdown, to which Bumblebee trilled nervously, while Breakdown gave them a scornful look.

"Yeah, and Knock Out would never recognize my voice. Sure."

"Come in Space Bridge Control, I don't have the tolerance for Vehicon pranks, and you know it!"

"Somebody say something, pronto!" Agent Fowler said over the Autobot specific comms.

"Rafael, patch in Agent Fowler!" Ratchet suddenly said, which got no response from the human side of the comms.

"Control… I'm getting tired of this. You have one nano-cycle to respond or-"

"This is Space Bridge Control, situation… normal," Fowler interrupted Knock Out's whining, his voice higher than usual.

"Normal? Really?"

"Uh, yes. We were just calibrating the subsystems and we, uh, we uh, had a surge! But it's fine now. How are you?"

Oh great, Breakdown thought, smacking a servo to his helm.

"Hmm? Uh, I'm perfectly fine, well as fine as doing this boring, degrading job makes me. Haven't even buffed today, ugh…"

Knock Out's voice faded away to the great relief of everyone, especially Breakdown and Fowler, who vented audibly over the comms.

"Guys, we're being attacked by some kind of giant bot beetle!"

"An Insecticon!" Ratchet exclaimed, snapping Breakdown's attention to the Space Bridge - he'd been watching the Decepticon triple changer the entire time, waiting for her to online.

There's still some alive?

"what?" Nurse Darby exclaimed over the comms.

"What are Decepticons doing on Cybertron?" Rafael asked.

"A few remain in stasis for centuries, should the enemy return," Ratchet explained, fear deepening within the blue of his optics.

Breakdown could hear the sound of blaster fire over the comms, then Arcee's voice once again, "Jack, go!"

"Seriously?" Jack shrieked over the comms, which was closely followed by a surprised exclamation from Jack's mother.

"Without Arcee? But she's his guide!"

"No, Nurse Darby, Arcee is Jack's bodyguard. The Key-card is his guide," Ratchet explained, which was followed by another long string of blaster noise from Arcee's side of the comms.

"Do it!"

"Listen to her, Jack. You've made it this far, Optimus is counting on you."

"Roger that, Mom."

"Hey everyone, I'm in."

"Now what?" Bulkhead asked Ratchet, who gave him a long look. "You don't know, Ratchet?

"How could I? Nothing is noted in the annals of what the process of Vector Sigma is. I can't help Jack, it's up to him, and him alone."

Bumblebee beeped something very softly.

"Yeah, I agree, 'Bee. I hope he can do it too," Bulkhead commented, servos tensing ever so slightly.

"Hopefully," Breakdown snapped, drawing an irritated glare from both Bumblebee and Bulkhead. "I've never really seen humans as the most reliably species out there, maybe your humans will prove me wrong."

Bulkhead looked like he was about to retort but Ratchet silenced him with a stern glare.

"We don't have time for this you two, let it go for one day," Ratchet retorted tiredly.

"Commencing download, I think…" Jack's voice echoed over the comms, which snapped the gazes of every mech back to the control screen.

"Soon, Optimus." Ratchet's whisper was almost impossible for Breakdown to hear, though he could see Ratchet's chassis loosen very subtly and his optics glow ever so brighter.

"This is taking awhile," Jack said over the comms, his tone admonished.

"Of course it is! We are talking about the collective wisdom of the Primes," Ratchet replied, a little coldly.

The kid didn't say anything in response to Ratchet. Strangely, there was an odd whirring noise, very quietly seeping from Jack's side of the comms.

What could that be?

Just as Breakdown thought this, the whirring noise became much louder, and with it Jack began to make all sorts of odd human noises.

"What is it?" Ratchet practically yelled, his servos clutching onto the baseboard of the Bridge controls.

"Scraplets!" Jack's response caused a shudder to ripple down Breakdown's backstrut. He hated Scraplets very, very passionately. And the Autobots seemed to agree for everyone of them shuddered at the word "Scraplet".

"What's a Scraplet?" Nurse Darby asked.

"Why did it have to be Scraplets?" Bulkhead whined, ignoring the human's question.

"If they chew through Vector Sigma before the Matrix fully reloads-"

Breakdown was the first to hear the sound of a Ground Bridge opening inside the chamber and, as his gaze turned, fear choked his words at the familiar, menacing gray mech striding out from the Bridge.

"So, Vector Sigma is more than legend." Megatron's snarl brought the attention of Ratchet, Bumblebee and Bulkhead to himself, the Decepticon leader ticking up one brow ridge. "You Autobots have gone to impressive lengths to recover your leader. Be reassured, I shall never underestimate you again."

Megatron approached Breakdown and the Autobots, his optics narrowed to fiery orbs of hatred.

"Now, I assume the one called Arcee will be stepping through that portal with a reloaded Matrix of Leadership in hand," Megatron growled, making Breakdown tense up with a savage growl rolling from his engine. Megatron's gaze turned scornful as he turned his optics to Breakdown.

"I haven't forgotten my promise to you, Breakdown, and today seems the right time to fulfill it. Imagine, getting rid of your one chance to save your precious leader and destroying a traitor and the Autobots all at the same time. Perfect."

"It won't be the easy, Megatron," Breakdown snarled, switching both of his servos into hammer alts, moving towards the front of the Space Bridge entrance.

"No, Breakdown, it will be that simple," Megatron scoffed, clawed digits twitching almost imperceptibly with rage.

A flash of orange pulled Breakdown's attention to his side, surprise rising briefly as Ratchet strode up beside him, optics flaming. Bulkhead and Bumblebee moved on either side of Ratchet and Breakdown, when Ratchet swung his servo to the Space Bridge.

"We hold the Space Bridge at all costs!" Ratchet rallied, transforming both of his servos into long, surgical blades. Breakdown wheeled his gaze to Megatron and, with Ratchet and Bulkhead and Bumblebee, charged towards Megatron.

Bulkhead and Bumblebee began firing their blasters at Megatron, who took each blast without even noticing them. Megatron roared and charged forwards, swinging a fist into Bulkhead's stomach plate, sending the green mech hurtling over Breakdown and Ratchet's helms, crashing to a halt in front of the Space Bridge.

Ratchet moved for Megatron first, swinging his blades towards the Decepticon but Megatron snatched the medic's helm, throwing Ratchet off the edge of the platform. Megatron turned as Bumblebee's blasts hit his chest plate, and rushed for the scout, snatching him in one servo and flinging Bumblebee off the platform.

Breakdown tensed and charged for Megatron, smashing away Megatron's servo with one of his own, but Megatron still towered over Breakdown. The immense Decepticon slashed his clawed servos across Breakdown's chestplate, scouring deeper wounds than the femme Decepticon had been able to. Breakdown stumbled away from Megatron, transforming one of his servos back into its original state to press against the leaking wounds tearing down his chestplate.

Red optics met Breakdown's one remaining yellow one, fear snaking its way into his spark as his former leader lunged for him, bladed servo raised-

A loud roar accompanied Ratchet smashing into Megatron's back, bladed servos slashing for a purchase in Megatron's back but the Autobot was not swift enough. Megatron snatched Ratchet with one servo, smashing him to the ground before he let out an enraged shriek and threw Ratchet against one of the platform pillars.

"Ratchet!" Breakdown cried out, rushing to his pedes as the medic crashed to the floor, immobile. Red flooded Breakdown's vision as he turned on Megatron, who was moving swiftly towards him. Breakdown snapped open his servos and charged for Megatron.

Megatron slashed his blade towards Breakdown, but Breakdown was ready this time. He dodged backwards and lunged for Megatron's arm, grasping it in one servo and, with a roar of absolute hatred, threw Megatron away from him. The Decepticon scrambled to his pedes, pistons hissing and spitting his anger, as he charged towards Breakdown.

"You're going down, bucket head!" Bulkhead smashed into Megatron, pushing both him and Megatron off the edge of the platform. The sound of metal hitting metal assured Breakdown that Megatron was occupied. For now.

Breakdown snapped his attention to Ratchet, rushing up to the still unmoving medic. Breakdown checked over Ratchet swiftly, sighing with relief when he felt an obvious sparkbeat. "Ratchet? Come on," Breakdown wrapped his arms around the medic, and hauled him to his pedes. Ratchet's optics zoomed back into focus, nodding to Breakdown as the duo leapt down to where Bulkhead and Megatron were fighting.

Just as the two mechs landed to the hard earth, both with matching heavy thuds, Bulkhead crashed to the ground near them. Breakdown stormed towards Megatron, barreling into the Decepticon forcefully. Megatron stumbled back slightly, right servo snatching onto Breakdown's helm, then suddenly Breakdown was hit by a firestorm of pain.

He could not get away from Megatron for some reason, even with his servos digging desperately against Megatron's chassis. Pain blitzed hotter and hotter through Breakdown's entire being and, with all of Megatron's weight pushing him down, Breakdown began to sink to the ground.

"No!" Ratchet's bellow hit Breakdown's audio receptors just as the sound of metal crashing into metal rung throughout the chamber. The pain tearing its way into Breakdown's helm vanished - or at least most of it did - and collapsed to his knees, servos splaying outwards against the ground, unable to move for the fire still racing through his chassis.

Breakdown's mind only distantly registered the sound of Ratchet and Megatron's fight and, as his entire chassis hit the ground, blackness took over.

The sound of metal clashing against metal pulled Breakdown's mind from its unconscious, with him giving a quick shake of his helm to clear away the rest of the sapping fog. Bulkhead was struggling to his pedes near Breakdown, with Bumblebee already rushing past both Breakdown and Bulkhead. Breakdown turned his gaze to the sound of the fighting, slowly getting to his pedes as something huge crashed into the earthen walls of the chamber.

That was Megatron, Breakdown realized, the smallest glimmer of hope pushing him after Bulkhead, who was charging up to the platform. Together the two former Wreckers clambered up to the platform, striding up beside Optimus, who was standing before the Space Bridge entrance.

"Ratchet! How did we arrive here?" Optimus asked as each Autobot, and Breakdown, activated their blasters.

"Long story, old friend," Ratchet offered, the dullness that had seeped into his voice gone now with Optimus standing before them.

"Base to Arcee, we are reading six Autobot life signals down there. Is Prime with you?" Fowler's question came over the group's comms.

"-And Jack," Arcee replied back, which was met by an exclamation of joy from Miko.

Breakdown's engine rumbled as Megatron's cannon servo clutched onto the edge of the platform, the Decepticon raising himself up to the platform with a seemingly endless roar. All as one, Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee, Breakdown and Optimus began to fire at Megatron, when a Ground Bridge opened up to the side of the group.

"It's ours!" Arcee called out.

Optimus turned his helm to Breakdown and the others, voice firm as he yelled, "Autobots, fall back!"

Megatron's optics grew wide at Prime's words and he began his charge towards them, not noticing the shots of energy hitting his chassis. Breakdown moved back as Arcee dove down for Jack, snatching him up and leaping through the Ground Bridge; Ratchet followed right after.

"This time, he's coming with us!" Bulkhead growled and, almost as if his words were a signal, Bumblebee, Breakdown and Bulkhead all rushed into the Ground Bridge.

The Ground Bridge opened up to the Autobot base, and the four humans all staring hopefully out as Arcee and Jack, then Bumblebee, Ratchet, Breakdown and Bulkhead walked into the base. Bumblebee bent down to his human, who wrapped his arms around the scout's pede while Jack and his mother embraced each other. Breakdown moved to Ratchet's side, gaze turning to the Ground Bridge where, with a steadiness in his stride, Optimus Prime walked through the Ground Bridge, the portal closing behind him.

Rafael moved up closer to Optimus, his voice cautiously optimistic. "Optimus?"

"Hello, Rafael," Prime said with a smile.

Miko and Jack moved up to Rafael, all three of them staring up at Optimus with joy filled optics.

"YES! The big guy remembers us!" Miko exclaimed, leaping in the air with a loud whoop.

Optimus' smile turned down as he moved his gaze to his shoulder plate, where a Decepticon insignia was embossed onto his shoulder. "Although it seems there is much I do not remember…"

"Optimus, it has truly been our darkest hour, but know this - from every indication - your spark never ceased being that of an Autobot," Ratchet said as he walked up to Optimus, placing one servo against the Autobot leader's arm.

Optimus looked up at the Autobots, humans and Breakdown, who had all gathered before him, and let the smallest of smiles curve over his faceplate.

"Thank you, Ratchet. All of you."

The tension that had become common bedfellows for every Autobot within the missile silo since Optimus Prime had "joined" the Decepticons had, finally, cleared. The Autobots had not stopped for even a klick as they queried their leader on the last two months he'd spent on the Nemesis, not even to allow themselves time to decompress from their hard battle.

Ratchet, even, was too distracted by the return of his old friend to think of checking on the injuries of his fellow Autobots, or Breakdown for that matter. The medic clung to Optimus' side as if he was afraid he would vanish suddenly without Ratchet at his side.

Breakdown felt uncomfortable as he stood in the corner of the base, away from the festivities both physically and emotionally. That wasn't to say he wasn't glad that Optimus Prime was back with the Autobots - he was - but Breakdown was, truly, very dissimilar to the Autobots. He had always feared Megatron's wrath and that fear had shaped his opinion of the Decepticon leader. The Autobots, on the other servo, loved their leader, who seemed as unlikely to punish them for failure as Megatron would be to comfort one of his own soldiers.

And, the simple fact of it all, was that Breakdown wasn't an Autobot. Yes, he had helped take the Space Bridge and fight Megatron, but this was an Autobot celebration. He did not want to interrupt their joy filled reunion with mentions of his, or the other Autobots', injuries.

As the Autobots continued to surround their leader, Breakdown let a lonely sigh heave from his intakes before he turned and trudged towards his quarters. He did not want to linger where he knew he did not belong and he was exhausted. But that did not stop him from looking back at the Autobots once before he turned away.

"Well, you were lucky, Breakdown. Megatron's sword only got a few macrometers into this side," Ratchet tapped the right side of Breakdown's helm gently, "not deep enough to damage anything permanently." Ratchet paused for a moment, seeming to mull over his words before he continued to speak.

"You should be glad he went for the side you already lost an optic, otherwise, you could have lost your other one."

Breakdown said nothing in response, though he instinctively burrowed his feelings deeper into his spark. It would be best if Ratchet did not feel Breakdown's fear at the idea of losing his remaining optic or, worse, running into the wrath of Megatron once again.

It was the morning after the Autobots and Breakdown had sieged the Decepticons' Space Bridge, sent the human, Jack, and Arcee to Cybertron and returned Optimus' memories to him, and finally Ratchet had found the time and strength - he and Breakdown had both been too exhausted the night prior - to begin medical operations on any of the Autobots.

When Ratchet had begun his check ups on the Autobots, Breakdown had hung back, allowing everyone else to go before him. He had told Ratchet it was because he wasn't hurt that bad, but in actuality it was because Breakdown had become quite used to helping others - the Vehicons, mainly - before he ever let Knock Out fix him after a battle. His sturdy frame had always been able to take damage better than the small, lightly built Vehicons frames could. It made sense for him to be the last one for Knock Out - and now Ratchet - to check on.

And he had been wanting to ask Ratchet a few questions, mainly about his status with the Autobots - he had been in the Autobots' base for months longer than he'd originally planned when he had commed them for help against MECH. He had never planned to stay with the Autobots for as long as he had so far, as when he had asked for their aid in getting him away from MECH he had only planned to stay with them until he felt safe. So why was he still with them? Was it just because of his strong sense of loyalty to those that helped him, or something else entirely?

It can't be that I am staying because I want to be an Autobot. I already know I don't want to be one of them officially. I can't tie myself to a faction ever again.

Yet, so far, Breakdown hadn't said, or asked, anything of much to Ratchet except for the occasional noise of agreement when Ratchet would field a question towards him. Ratchet, nicely enough, didn't seem bothered by how quiet Breakdown was being throughout his medical check up. Ratchet finished repairing Breakdown's wounds, clicking the welding torch off with a satisfied huff.

"You're done, Breakdown," Ratchet informed, giving Breakdown's shoulder plate a gentle pat, "just don't be doing anything extraneous, or you will make all of my efforts moot."

"Will do, Ratchet."

Ratchet rolled his optics and slowly lifted himself up to his pedes, turning his back on Breakdown as the medic began to clean up the medical bay. Breakdown swung his legs over the side of the operating slab, pedes hitting the floor as he stood up. Pistons groaned as Breakdown stretched out the entirety of his chassis, a wide yawn escaping his mouth.

"I second that," Ratchet said softly, turning his optics to Breakdown, who rolled his optic slightly. Breakdown headed to the medical bay door, servo reaching out to pull open the door when Ratchet's voice halted his attempt to leave.

"Breakdown, I wanted to say thank you."

"Hm? For what?" Breakdowns asked, turning back around to Ratchet, who had walked up close to him.

Ratchet vented for a moment, then turned his gaze out, beyond the medical bay to where the rest of the Autobots were.

"I want to thank you for helping us save Optimus, and not just that. You aren't one of us and yet you have helped us out quite a bit. You helped Bulkhead when his mind was overcome with the formula, then you saved my life. And you helped fight Unicron, even though you had no need too. So, for all you've done for us, thanks."

Surprise filled Breakdown's spark and he tilted his helm quizzically at Ratchet. "Uh... it was the least I could do. You Autobots have provided me a safe haven for months now, the least I could do is help where and when I can to make up for the energon and space I take up. I'm not one of you Autobots, but you have still treated me decently... even for being a Decepticon."

A light snort escaped from Ratchet's intakes before the medic shook his helm slightly and gave Breakdown a knowing, and brief, smile. "Trust me, it is only because of desperation for numbers that I first asked for your help in the field. But I have come to see that you are a valuable warrior, and a mech I can trust."

Breakdown looked away from Ratchet as the medic walked past him and to the Autobots, who were gathered around their leader and chattering amicably amongst themselves. A quiet hiss from his intakes predicated the discomfort that rested in his spark.

He was surprised by Ratchet's statement, frankly. He figured that the Autobots desperation had pushed them to have Breakdown assist in the field - the number of Autobots compared to the Decepticon army made it almost a necessity for Breakdown to help - and that it was a great deal of risk the Autobots had taken in doing so.

And the Autobots were right in being wary. Breakdown had been an enemy to the Autobots, and Bulkhead's rival, for eons. Eons of distrust did not easily wash away, least of all in the few short months Breakdown had been with the Autobots.


Optimus Prime's commanding voice snapped Breakdown out of his thoughts, drawing his gaze with a startled jerk to the Autobot leader. The Prime gestured for Breakdown to approach him and the four Autobots standing at his side, most of whom were looking at Optimus with confused looks.

Breakdown slowly approached the Autobots, unable to stuff away the feeling of dread that choked at his spark - what did Optimus Prime want specifically with him? He met the Prime's gaze with a deep vent as he stopped in front of the five Autobots.


The leader of the Autobots looked at Breakdown for a long - excruciatingly long - klick before his engine let out a low rumble. "You have helped us greatly in the last few months, Breakdown. You have demonstrated a great deal of restraint with our human charges, though I know of your distrust of humans. You have also shown us a level of understanding of injuries and medicine that has saved our dear medic. I wished to extend my thanks personally to you and," the Prime's vents hissed slowly, "to extend the invitation to join the Autobots, officially."

Shock coursed through Breakdown's chassis at Optimus' words, and he could not stop from stepping back from the gathered Autobots as he stared at the Autobot leader. Arcee, who looked as shocked as Breakdown felt, narrowed her optics before she turned a stony glare on Optimus.

"Optimus, you can't be serious! We barely know Breakdown! He hasn't been with us for more than half a year! I, at least, can't trust him enough to call Breakdown a fellow Autobot."

The Autobot leader looked down at Arcee without saying a word as Bumblebee trilled beside her, his optics shifting between Arcee, Optimus and Breakdown in turn. Bulkhead said nothing and seemed to be purposefully avoiding Breakdown's gaze as the former Decepticon watched the Autobots argue. Finally, Optimus Prime silenced his Autobots and turned to Breakdown.

"My offer is still open-"

"I'm sorry," Breakdown interrupted with a harsh jerk of his helm, "but I do not wish to align myself with the Autobots, or any faction, ever again. I do not believe that my actions over these months constitute joining your faction, nor do I have much desire to swear loyalty again. I have no desire for such a commitment, just as I believe your Autobots do not wish for me to be part of your faction.

"I accept the reasons for their distrust, and believe it is easiest for all of us if I do not swear allegiance to the Autobots. I appreciate your offer, Optimus Prime, but I have to refuse. You have provided me with shelter and energon even when you are so low on resources, and I cannot thank you enough for that - but I cannot bring myself to join your Autobots. I'm sorry."

"Very well." Optimus Prime's optics and expression were completely unreadable and his voice was so level, Breakdown wasn't even certain if the Autobot leader had any reaction to his choice.

Before his overstayed his welcome, Breakdown excused himself from the Autobots and hurried towards his quarters. After the Decepticons had betrayed him, Breakdown could not bring himself to trust the fealty of allying himself with any faction, let alone the Autobots. He couldn't be betrayed by the Autobots if he never joined their faction, and he had seen the distrust that remained in Arcee's optics. Breakdown knew that she would not accept him as an Autobot, even if he did accept Optimus Prime's offer and joined the Autobots, and he did not want to cause division between the group when he had no real desire to join their faction.

But it hurt nonetheless, seeing the wariness in her optics and having to deny Optimus Prime's offer - and he knew it would always sting.

Chapter Text

Something within the missile silo, and the Autobots, had changed since Breakdown had denied Optimus' invitation to join their faction, though Breakdown could not put what had changed to words. It was still obvious, as it had been from the solar cycle he'd come to the Autobot base, that Arcee greatly distrusted Breakdown, but the other Autobots' feelings about him were harder than ever to read.

Bumblebee didn't go out of his way to make Breakdown feel welcome, yet the young scout made an effort to always greet Breakdown - at least, Breakdown assumed he was greeting him in his untranslatable Autobot binary - whenever he saw him. The scout even seemed to have relaxed his guard whenever the young children were in the missile silo and Breakdown was near them. Breakdown rarely even saw Bumblebee pay a nanosecond of mind to him whenever the humans swarmed Breakdown with questions.

From what Breakdown could assume, since he couldn't outright understand Bumblebee, he figured that the Autobot had accepted his presence after the five months that Breakdown had been living in the missile silo. It didn't make sense to Breakdown how the scout would, so willingly, move on from what Breakdown had done to him, and his faction.

They'd all been enemies less than five months ago and yet the Autobot had accepted Breakdown's presence in their base and even around his human charge. The change was almost unnerving and Breakdown couldn't help but give Bumblebee an extra glance or two whenever the Autobot beeped at him. It would take awhile to get used to the difference between Autobots and Decepticons, that much was for certain.

And then there was the matter of his former rival. Bulkhead and Breakdown had been bitter enemies for so many eons that, to Breakdown, he could not think anything other than this new situation between them as wholly odd and almost unnatural. But not at all unwelcome.

Breakdown didn't hate Bulkhead as he once had - it was hard to hate someone who had saved him from MECH - but the anger between them still harbored itself deep down in his spark. Too much anger spanned between them for Breakdown to forget everything, but he did not see Bulkhead as his enemy any longer.

And Bulkhead seemed to tolerate Breakdown, just as Bumblebee did, though Breakdown noticed that Bulkhead still kept an optic on Breakdown. But it was still a great difference between the intense hatred the two had shared until recently. Bulkhead hadn't talked to Breakdown about his refusal to join the Autobots but, judging from the way the green mech kept looking at him and shuffling his pedes indecisively, Breakdown knew that the former Wrecker wished to some solar cycle address the topic.

Unlike Bulkhead, Ratchet had immediately sought Breakdown out and questioned him on his decision - to no surprise on Breakdown's part. The medic had poked and prodded Breakdown for his reasoning until, finally, Ratchet had seemed to get the answer he desired from Breakdown.

After the badgering, Ratchet had resumed working with Breakdown, as if the entire matter of him not joining the Autobots was no more important than a report on the solar cycle's weather. Ratchet was ever the stern and strict instructor as he showed Breakdown increasingly more difficult procedures. The method with which Ratchet trained - hard work and demanding perfection - was quite similar to Knock Out's method but therein lay their only shared view on field medicine.

Ratchet blamed himself for every failure and seemed unable to forgive himself for not being able to repair his Autobot companions - namely Bumblebee - as the Autobot medic wished he could. Knock Out, on the other servo, did not feel guilt or sorrow for the Decepticons who left his medical slab deceased or in an ill state of repair. Ratchet barked for concern over the patient foremost, while Knock Out saw only to repair his injured charges without the same passionate concern Ratchet had.

Each was the extreme of the other while Breakdown, who now had apprenticed under the Autobots' and Decepticons' Chief Medical Officers, found himself set somewhere firmly in the middle of the two medics. Breakdown cared for his patients like Ratchet did, but he did not blame himself like the Autobot medic did for injuries he was not able to repair. He worried for the Vehicons who had always come to him looking for repairs and would help them to the best of his ability but the harsh sensibility of the Decepticon cause, and the teachings of Knock Out, had taught Breakdown that blaming himself for not being able to fully repair any injury was not to be laid blame upon him.

Breakdown sighed and slowly moved out of his quarters, though he paused in the long hallway as he looked in the direction of the base's main room.

I am no Decepticon, nor will I ever be again... but I also refused entry into the Autobot faction. And yet, I continue to aid the Autobots' in their struggle against Megatron and his Decepticon forces? My loyalties have all but been explained to the Decepticons and the Autobots, yet I cannot accept that station as an Autobot.

How deeply does my fear of betrayal run?

"Unfortunately, due to our limited resources, I have had to scrounge for suitable metal I can use for mesh on open wounds." Ratchet was explaining the shortcuts he had to make in his care for the Autobots, and the bitterness in his words was unmistakable. "I have been forced to make too many shortcuts. I was not trained to make shortcuts in the care of my patients but, here on Earth, it is a reality I am forced to face."

"And, with our energon supplies as low as they are, every injury is a drain of precious fuel I have to compensate for."

Ratchet's helm turned away from the medical bay monitor that he and Breakdown were hovering over, though not before Breakdown caught the dark scowl that twitched at his mouth.

"What do you mean by... compensate, Ratchet?" Breakdown had his suspicions about Ratchet's possible answer, but he wanted to hear it from the medic himself.

A low snort puffed from Ratchet's intakes before he closed his optics and turned his helm slightly towards Breakdown. "Optimus and the others need energon to defend themselves from the Decepticons. I do not need energon like they do."

"So you ration yourself," Breakdown growled before he placed a servo on Ratchet's shoulder plate and turned the medic so he was facing him. "The Autobots need you and your skills more than you can accept. Starving yourself is not helping anyone."

"Starving myself? No," Ratchet sighed, "I am doing what must be done to support my family."

Frustration charged through Breakdown's spark before he let go of Ratchet's servo and leaned down to his faceplate, one yellow optic to pale blue optics. "And harming yourself."

Before Ratchet could say anything in response, Breakdown gently pushed Ratchet away from the monitor behind the two Cybertronians and pulled up a map of Earth. Breakdown began typing in coordinates as Ratchet stared at him, bewildered.

"What in the name of Cybertron are you doing?"

"Inputting the coordinates to Megatron's energon mines. It was my job to scout traces of energon and then, after we sent mining details to those locations, to guard them from attacks. Many of these mines have been thoroughly excavated but some, many of them, in fact, still have traces of energon within them."

"But," Ratchet looked shocked, "you said before you did not desire to tell us anything of the knowledge you have on Decepticon mines and the like."

"That was months ago, Ratchet, and I need the energon just as badly as all of you do."

Ratchet looked at Breakdown with a studying look for a long, sufferable klick before the medic nodded his helm to Breakdown. "You understand what you are doing by giving us this information, correct?"

"Of course I do," Breakdown snapped, "and it is not one I take lightly. I have befriended many of the Vehicons who work in these mines. I do not like seeing them hurt, even if I am no longer on their side of the war. But this is the least I could do as repayment for helping me."

There was complete silence from Ratchet before the medic slumped his shoulder plates and let out a sigh. "You do realize that you do not owe us Autobots anything, correct? That isn't how the Autobots work. We don't help someone and expect payment in turn. We are not the Decepticons."

Breakdown did not meet Ratchet's imploring gaze as he continued to enter mine locations into the Autobots' database, unwilling to let the medic see the hurt that sparked in his optic. He'd been conditioned by the Decepticon way of thinking for far too long to ever be able to adjust the way of the Autobots. He was too different from the five Autobots, and changing eons of Decepticon conditioning - no mech did anything to help someone if they weren't looking for something in return - would be impossible.

Eventually, Ratchet peered around Breakdown's shoulder plate as he entered coordinates, the medic hmming at times as Breakdown courteously logged the specifics of each mine in unique files. Megatron had left him for dead, betrayed Breakdown in all aspects of the word, and Breakdown had turned and left the Decepticons but this? This was the final nail in his betrayal. He was not Decepticon.

"Breakdown, Optimus needs me to assist him on a mission with Bumblebee. When I come back, I want you to go through these mines with Optimus and I. Is that alright by you?"

Breakdown did not realize how much time had passed when Ratchet finally spoke, drawing Breakdown from his work. Breakdown returned the medic's question with a nod before he turned back to the monitor, though he watched as Ratchet met up with the Autobot leader and scout and left through the Ground Bridge.

Optimus, Ratchet and Bumblebee had returned from their mission relatively unscathed but with a new, strange, device Breakdown had never seen before. He was standing beside Optimus, the both of them in turn watching as Ratchet scanned over the device.

A clear image of the silver-and-blue device had materialized onto the screen of the scanning machine before Ratchet, to which Ratchet pointed out a small part on the bottom. The image zoomed up to show what looked like the Autobot insignia burnished onto the end of the device.

"Here. The source of the ancient frequency we detected."

"An Iacon homing beacon," Prime said, noticing the confused look Breakdown was giving him.

"What is an Autobot locator doing on that?" Arcee's question punctuated the air as she, Bumblebee and Bulkhead approached the three mechs already gathered around the device.

"The Class A Decepticons Weapon confiscated during the war were sealed below the vaults in Iacon," Optimus explained, gaze turning to the three. "The Spark Extractor was one such item stored within those vaults."

"Where you once worked as an archivist?" Bulkhead asked.

Optimus nodded slightly, then turned his entire chassis towards Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee. "Iacon was both a cultural center and a strong hold, which Megatron raided when Autobot troops were at their nadir. It stands to reason that in anticipation of Iacon being overrun by enemy forces, these weapons were jettisoned off world to keep them far from Decepticon reach."

"Clearly, the beacon was added as a safety measure, should the weapons ever be found by the undesired party," Ratchet said.

"Haha, thanks to our hotshot stunt driver," Bulkhead said as he smacked Bumblebee's back, "this one is going in our vault."

Breakdown rolled his optic out of Bulkhead's optic and snorted darkly to himself. More like Megatron was too shocked to catch Bumblebee in time to keep the device himself.

"Optimus… Do you think this is the only intel you provided to Megatron?" Arcee questioned, her tone breaking Bulkhead's cheery smile.

"Arcee," Optimus began, his optics tracking away from the Autobots, "you are right to ask. And, I am afraid, I do not remember."

"Optimus," Ratchet urged, "Megatron clearly took advantage of your amnesia. But for all we know this Spark Extractor is the extent of it. Have you stopped to consider that he might have suggested otherwise merely to plague our thoughts?"

"Megatron knows when to toy with his enemies, how to get under Optimus' chassis, in a sense. I have my doubts this time that what he says is all hot air. If this Iacon file has more items like the Spark Extractor buried within its file, I doubt he was lying when he told you that he had more than just this relic decoded by Optimus," Breakdown interjected, his optics turning warily as his words drew the scorching looks of every Autobot to him.

Ratchet narrowed his optics towards Breakdown, uncertainty flaring through his optics. "Do you truly believe that Optimus may have given more information to Megatron and the Decepticons?"

Breakdown shrugged his shoulderplates, then nodded. "Very likely."

"Hey, Ratchet, something is wrong with Bumblebee, he's saying he can't transform. Could you open up a Ground Bridge for us please? Here's the coordinates," Bulkhead's worried voice pulled both Ratchet and Breakdown's attention away from their examination of the Spark Extractor, each giving the other an odd look before Ratchet rushed up to the Ground Bridge controls. Breakdown followed after Ratchet, glancing towards the large monitors as Ratchet downloaded Bulkhead's coordinates into the Bridge controls and activated the Bridge.

A few moments after the Bridge had fully activated Bulkhead came rushing in, with Bumblebee following behind him nervously, his door wings sagging miserably. Ratchet rushed up to Bumblebee, quickly checking over the scout's chassis before indicating the scout to sit at one of the medical slabs.

"Lay down there," Ratchet ordered, which Bumblebee followed soundlessly. As the scout began to settle onto the slab Breakdown turned to Bulkhead, who was standing next to him.

"What happened to Bumblebee?"

Bulkhead turned his gaze to Breakdown at his question, his blue optics wide with nervous confusion. "I don't know. We detected an energy signal while out on patrol and we agreed to rendezvous there. Bumblebee was there before me and, when I got there he was laying on the ground. I asked him what happened, but he didn't know, so I suggested that we found out who did it. I transformed and started to drive off but Bumblebee didn't follow after me. When I realized that, I came back and he said he couldn't transform."

Bulkhead moved away from Breakdown after his explanation, the former Wrecker shuffling up to where Bumblebee, Optimus and Ratchet were. But Breakdown stayed where he was. Something felt oddly familiar about what Bulkhead had said-

"You can fix 'Bee, can't you?" The sound of Rafael's voice shifted Breakdown's attention away from his thoughts and back to the present. He walked up to Optimus, glancing down at Bumblebee as Ratchet finished scanning the scout's chassis.

Ratchet deactivated his scanner and pointed to one of the screens behind him. "Bumblebee was hit pretty hard. The stun blast may have fried his T-cog."


"T-cog? Is that like a T-bone?" Miko asked, her words snapping through Breakdown's silent examination of Bumblebee.

"Not exactly. It's the organ that allows us to scan and transform into vehicles," Arcee explained.

Breakdown turned his gaze back to the screens, speedily processing every single strip of data flowing over them before turning to Ratchet, who hadn't finished rescanning Bumblebee.

"Ratchet, did you say Bumblebee was hit by a stun blast?" Breakdown asked, which made Ratchet look up at him, scanner deactivating.

"Yes. Why?" Ratchet asked, though his attention shifted back to Bumblebee as he began his scan again.

"Because I don't know of any Decepticon who has the ability to use stun blasts. But I do know who does use-"

"By the Allspark… Bumblebee's T-cog isn't damaged, it's MISSING!" Ratchet whipped his gaze to Optimus, his interruption causing a wave of dread and fear Breakdown hadn't felt in weeks, crash over his spark.

Only one group would ever take a Cybertronian's T-cog away, and it's not Megatron and his Decepticons. No… I thought I'd escaped them...

"But the Decepticons transform too, why would they steal that?" Jack asked, though his voice was very distant to Breakdown.

"Megatron may be know to raise zombies, but he's no ghoul," Ratchet growled.

"Then if Megatron wasn't behind this. Who-"

"It was MECH," the snarl escaped Breakdown before he could even think, not even noticing the fact that he had interrupted Rafael's question. "Only they would do something like this." Breakdown pointed to Bumblebee, who had began to shake noticeably at the thunder in Breakdown's voice. Bulkhead and Arcee shot each other a nervous glance, while Prime glanced towards Breakdown with an unreadable expression.

"And it seems that their knowledge of Cybertronian biotech has grown more sophisticated," Ratchet said coldly.

"But what would they want with Bumblebee's part?" Rafael questioned, which made Breakdown's scorching glare turn on the naive human.

Breakdown snorted derisively, which drew the attention of everyone gathered in the base.

"Isn't it obvious? MECH wants their own army of transforming robots, I remember their leader saying that while they dissected me before my own optic. They have no thoughts of us Cybertronians as living beings, only machines. Machines that are nearly impossible to kill by any normal human method... and machines who they could use as an army," Breakdown snapped the word machine, rage building inside him like an endless fire. His gaze snapped to Optimus before he began speaking again.

"And I'm guessing they really don't mind taking from the Autobots, considering you messed with their experiment last time."

"Breakdown-" Ratchet cautioned, concern sparking in his optics. Breakdown ignored him, turning his gaze away and shutting his mouth without another word.

Bumblebee began to move, raising himself up from the medical slab with a flurry of beeps and whirs.

"Bumblebee please, you are not presently equipped to handle this," Optimus stopped the scout, which made Bumblebee trill angrily at his leader. "You are mistaken my friend, I do know what it's like to lose a vital part of oneself and, as a result, I know the value of putting one's faith in the strength of those around you. We vow to do everything in our power to make you whole again."

At least you can be whole again, Bumblebee, Breakdown thought nastily, hatred for MECH, even for Bumblebee beginning to cloud his thoughts and rumble from his engine.

"And if not, Ratchet can just make you a new cog thing, right?" Miko asked, which made every optic turn on her. Bumblebee stared at her for a moment then let out a strained trill before collapsing back onto the medical slab with both servos clutching onto his helm.

"What'd I say?"

"Miko! A T-cog is a biomechanism, not a scrapyard find. If it were that easy don't you think I would have replaced Bumblebee's voice box by now?" Ratchet grumbled, which Bumblebee followed up with a frustrated and overdrawn beep.

"You're not useless, 'Bee," Rafael interjected, but Bumblebee didn't seem to take the human's attempt at comfort to much value, for he only hugged his legs closer to his chestplate and let his optics grow distant.

"Alright, alright, I say none of us transform until Bumblebee gets his cog back," Bulkhead suggested, which made Arcee shoot him a small glare.

"Your spark is in the right place Bulkhead, but I don't think now is the time to be limiting ourself."

"Not with Megatron potentially seeking other doomsday devices. And, I fear, not while MECH uses Bumblebee's T-cog for their own sinister purpose," Optimus said, his gaze turning to Breakdown and Bumblebee for the briefest of moments.

Breakdown glared at Optimus and, without thinking, transformed into his alt mode and roared out of the Autobot base.

Rain streaked down Breakdown's faceplate, the cool liquid slowly melting away some of the rage that was eating into his spark, but not enough. Not enough to quell the memories of helplessness and torture that rose with his insatiable rage.

That was why he had run from the Autobots. As they had all been talking with Bumblebee, Breakdown couldn't stop the need to hunt down MECH - to torture them, tear them open as he had, especially their leader. But he hadn't planned much further than that, or how he could find MECH, so he had stopped finally in a large canyon near the Autobot base.

He had ignored every call from the Autobots to come back to their base since he had bolted from it, where he was now resting in the old canyon. He couldn't go back. He just couldn'tI can't let them see me, not like this. A shaking vent escaped from Breakdown, accompanied by a terrible, rattling that took over his entire chassis.

He had not thought of MECH for quite a while, even if what it had done still lingered in his mind distantly, as he had become occupied so heavily with Autobot dealings. But now that MECH was back, and back to their villainous, torturous ways, Breakdown couldn't do anything but think of MECH.

And with his thoughts set so strongly on MECH he couldn't hide what he was really feeling. Fear. He feared what MECH would do this time, as he knew they would never stop at just a T-cog.

"Hey Breakdown, you should return to base. I do not like the idea of you being out there where MECH could find you. I understand you're feeling Breakdown-" Ratchet's comms broke through Breakdown's thoughts.

"Do you really understand what I am feeling right now, Ratchet? Do you? No, you do not, so don't-"

"Breakdown. Stop. I didn't mean it like that-"

"Yeah, whatever, Ratchet," Breakdown snarled, engine thrumming lowly as the rain continued to fall from the sky.

"Breakdown… Don't do anything foolish, we do need you."

Breakdown said nothing, though he paced in circles as his thoughts slowly began to meter to a rational point.

"I'll open up a Bridge for you, Breakdown."

Breakdown shook his helm and let out a dragging vent, "Fine. Whatever… Uh, thanks."

"No problem."

Ratchet's comms turned to static and soon a Ground Bridge opened up a few macrometers from Breakdown, who walked through the Bridge, glancing once more at the storming sky.

Lightning cracked over the sky, thunder rumbling in quick succession. Wind roared over the canyon, which produced an eerie, audial-splitting shriek. Breakdown turned his helm away and, with a storm raging inside him much like that happening behind him, Breakdown walked through the Ground Bridge.

The chime of the Ground Bridge deactivating snapped Breakdown's attention away from the datapad he was scanning and over to where the Ground Bridge was just deactivating. His optic snapped around the base, frown tightening down his faceplate.

Where are Bumblebee and Bulkhead? Breakdown wondered. Bulkhead had been stationed to watch Bumblebee while Arcee, Optimus and Ratchet had gone off to search for any sign of Decepticon activity nearby.

Not seeing either of the two mechs, Breakdown moved up to the main monitors and summoned up the coordinates from the latest Ground Bridge. The data showed Breakdown that two Autobots, clearly Bumblebee and Bulkhead, had gone through the portal and landed somewhere quite a ways from the base.

Breakdown rolled his optic and switched his comms to Ratchet's.

"Ratchet, it's Breakdown. Bulkhead and Bumblebee just left base-"


"Yeah, looks like," Breakdown paused to bring up what Bulkhead and Bumblebee may have gone after on the monitors, surprise biting into his spark, "they went after another one of those ancient devices, like the Spark Extractor."

Ratchet groaned audibly over the comms then, before Ratchet could speak, Optimus ordered Breakdown to open up a Ground Bridge for them back to base. Breakdown obliged and, as the Ground Bridge opened up, a new blur of static cut through the comms before Bulkhead's worried voice echoed from the monitors.

"Uh, hey, Breakdown, could you get a Ground Bridge to my location, like now?"

"What did you do, Bulkhead?" Breakdown snarled lowly, not even turning his attention to Optimus, Ratchet and Arcee as the three rushed through the Ground Bridge.

"I didn't do anything! But… uh, Bumblebee is hurt-"

Breakdown was about to interrupt Bulkhead when he was pushed aside by Ratchet, who took over the comms with an angered roar. "BULKHEAD! What were you thinking? What did I tell you about letting Bumblebee out? For Primus' sake, you idiot."

"I'm sorry Ratch', honestly!"

Ratchet's engine hummed dangerously as he shut off the communications link with Bulkhead. The medic turned his gaze on Arcee and Optimus, who looked disbelieving and disappointed, respectively.

"We will bring Bumblebee and Bulkhead back. Do not worry yourself, old friend," Optimus said before turning and, with Arcee beside him, rushed through the Ground Bridge Ratchet had just opened up.

The Ground Bridge stayed open, and Ratchet turned a scorching, though very worried, glare on Breakdown.

"Why didn't you stop them?"

Breakdown stepped back from the medic, an indignant growl rising from his engine. "It isn't like they asked if I wanted to come with them, Ratchet. I was busy with something when I heard the Ground Bridge deactivate. I couldn't have done anything to stop them anyways."

Ratchet vented and lowered his gaze, giving his helm a small shake. "I apologize, Breakdown. I am just worried about Bumblebee, he's not acting like himself since… MECH stole his T-cog."

"It's fine," Breakdown said, placing a servo on the medic's shoulder plates comfortingly. Ratchet turned his gaze back to Breakdown, saying nothing until the faintest of smiles cracked over his faceplate.

Breakdown returned the smile, then both turned as the sound of the Ground Bridge activating chimed through the base. Ratchet moved closer to the Ground Bridge, arms crossing over his chestplate. Breakdown walked over to the medical bay, optic watching as Optimus and Arcee and Bulkhead walked in, with Bulkhead carrying Bumblebee. Rolling his optic, Breakdown quickly prepped the medical area, finding a distant comfort in performing the same tasks he had done for ages for the Decepticons.

After a bit, Bulkhead walked Bumblebee over to the medical slab, lowering the scout to the slab until the yellow mech was laying out on his back. Ratchet activated his scanner and began to scan Bumblebee's chassis, to the nervous glances of the rest of the Autobots, while Breakdown was standing at the ready to help Ratchet if needed.

Ratchet finished scanning Bumblebee, then turned on Bulkhead, who flinched back noticeably.

"Of all the scrap-brained ideas, taking Bumblebee into a potential chase scenario when he no longer has the ability to access his wheels?"

"He improvised," Bulkhead offered lamely, which only earned him a scathing look from Ratchet.

"Hey, Bumblebee is waking up!" Rafael exclaimed, drawing the attention of the others to him. Bumblebeee slowly righted himself up from the slab, servo pressed against his helm as his optics sparked a few times until staying fully active.

"You've already lost your voice-box and your T-cog, were you really trying to add your spark to the list?" Ratchet growled, approaching Bumblebee with his servos raised indignantly. Bumblebee looked away from Ratchet and let out a long, singular whirl.

"Don't say that Bumblebee, you're not useless!" Rafael's voice was growing desperate and his optics were dull with worry, which made Breakdown tilt his helm quizzically. Even though Breakdown had been with the Autobots, and thus their humans, for awhile he had still not fully grown used to the fact that the humans actually seemed to care about the mechs.

Or at least that is what they want the Autobots to believe, a dark voice said in the back of Breakdown's processor, though he shoved it away with a quiet growl.

"I hate to break up the pity party but the 'Cons just added unknown Iacon Payday Number 2 to their armory," Arcee interjected, her tone snappy. Breakdown turned his gaze towards her, watching as Optimus moved up behind Arcee and Bulkhead.

"Neither praise nor blame would modify past events, but we cannot afford to take further unnecessary risks. Bumblebee, you are not to leave our base, not until we can retrieve your missing biomechanism."

Breakdown choked back his snort of disbelief at Optimus' words. No one is getting anything back from MECH. Prime would be a fool to believe that line of nonsense.

Optimus seemed to hesitate for a few moments, then turned about, heading away from the rest of the Autobots. Ratchet moved after Optimus but stopped, an unreadable expression flashing through his optics before he headed after Optimus. Breakdown followed after the two distantly, listening as Ratchet caught up to Optimus.

"Bumblebee is right to be less than hopeful, but you and I both know that there exists a way to make him whole again."

What does he mean? Breakdown wondered, unable to stop himself from moving closer to the two Autobots.

"A transplant," Optimus answered, tone unreadable. "But that would require a donor." Optimus didn't even look back at Ratchet as he once again began to walk away.

"Then you need look no further than the Autobot standing before you."

Breakdown snapped his gaze to Ratchet, mouth falling open in disbelief at Ratchet's offer just as Optimus skidded to a halt and whipped back around to Ratchet.

"What?" Breakdown gasped, his yellow optic snapping to Ratchet than Optimus, who shook his helm slowly.

"A generous offer, old friend, but your solution would merely trade one Autobot's handicap for another's," Optimus said.

"But I don't rely on my T-cog, not like Bumblebee does. The ability to transform is virtually wasted on me. This," Ratchet pointed his left servo down at the base flooring, "is where I spend my days. Where my thoughts and hands are at value. Not my weapons or wheels." Ratchet turned away from Optimus, his optics sparking with sorrow as his gaze landed on Arcee, Bumblebee and Bulkhead. "Our team can't afford to be shy even one warrior in the field."

"You make a compelling case, but know that we will find Bumblebee's T-cog."

"Optimus, MECH are savages. Who knows what damage they may have already inflicted upon it, or… or if I will be able to repair it." Ratchet's helm fell from Optimus' calm gaze as he pulled his arms together tightly. Breakdown started to move up to Ratchet but stopped when Optimus gave him a small look.

"Ratchet," Optimus began, which snapped Ratchet's helm up, "you did everything in your power-"

Ratchet looked stunned by Optimus' words, though he cut off the Autobot with a sharp snort. "Please, do you really think this is about my inability to restore Bumblebee's voice box?" Ratchet's voice trailed away like fog as his optics fell, an eerie distance turning his blue optics to ice.

"Ah… I just want to do what's right. For our scout, for the team."

"Obviously, since I am the other patient involved, I will be unable to perform the surgery. Therefore," Ratchet walked past Arcee and Bulkhead, who were lined up before the medic, "one of you must serve as my proxy."

"But what about Breakdown? He's got experience with medical things," Arcee said, her voice tight, "make him do it."

"No, I have already discussed this with him and we both agreed on him not doing it. And don't ask why, Arcee," Ratchet snapped, then wheeled around, stopping at Bulkhead without looking at him. "Better at breaking things," he assessed, which made Bulkhead let out a relieved vent. Ratchet stopped at Arcee, still not looking at her as he said, "Arcee."

"Optimus has steadier hands," Arcee's tone was almost begging, though she still kept her gaze locked straight forwards.

"Steady, and much too large to be rooting around beneath my hood." Ratchet turned to the medical screens as Arcee dejectedly walked away from Ratchet, her wing kibble sagging over her backstrut.

"Arcee, you can do this. You're steely as they come," Jack attempted to comfort Arcee, which made Breakdown hide the smile cracking over his faceplate.

Not for this kind of work, he thought.

"On the battlefield. Not in an operating theater," Arcee said back to Jack, who let a small frown curve his mouth downwards.

"Same thing, so long as you're behind the knife, not under it." Arcee vented at Jack's words, unable to say anything for Miko interrupting her with a muted groan.

"Does this mean Bumblebee's going to transform into an ambulance from now on or be all cranky? 'Cause that would be weird."

Breakdown smacked a servo to his helm, turning to shoot Miko an annoyed look. "That isn't how a T-cog works, Miko. T-cogs aren't some kind of… personality chip or something that influences our emotions. Its only purpose is for transformation," Breakdown said snidely, which received a frustrated look from Miko, though Breakdown ignored it completely.

As Breakdown turned his optic back to Arcee, he couldn't stop the groan that escaped from his engine. The femme was still standing near him, her expression lost, worried, fearful, even disgusted, and so far she hadn't done anything useful. Breakdown moved up to her and, not gently, grasped her shoulder plate and began pushing her towards Ratchet and Bumblebee.

Ratchet had approached Breakdown first with the need for a medic to complete the transplant operation but Breakdown had refused almost immediately. He had more than enough practice on arms and legs and shredded chassis but a biomechanism? That was an entirely different field of study and one Breakdown did not feel confident testing out when his processor would not get images of MECH and their drills and faceless masks out of his memories.

"I'll help you Arcee, but this is something you can only do," Breakdown explained, releasing his hold on Arcee to begin connecting stasis tubes to both Ratchet and Bumblebee, both of whom were now laying on medical slabs.

Arcee came over to Breakdown, holding out a special medical scanner to him, which he took, logged a few things into it and gave it back to her. She nodded at him as she took the scanner from him, her gaze turning to flash over both Ratchet and Bumblebee's chassis's.

"What now?" She whispered, gaze beginning to turn frantic as she snapped her optics to Breakdown.

Breakdown sighed before he placed a steadying servo on Arcee. "Calm down, Arcee. You can't do any kind of operation if you aren't mentally here for it."

Arcee gritted her denta, shuttering her optics for the briefest of moments before she gave the stiffest of nods to Breakdown. "Fine," she said, double-checking the stasis tubes Breakdown had placed on each Autobot before walking up to the medical screen.

She glanced towards Breakdown, who raised an optic ridge at her, then turned to the screen. "Inducing Ratchet's stasis." She pressed a button on the screen before her, and soon a quiet hissing began to steam from the stasis tubes connected to Ratchet. Bumblebee glanced up just as the stasis began to affect Ratchet, letting out the swiftest of trills.

"Yes, yes, you can thank me when it's over…" Ratchet's words drug on until finally the old medic's optics shuttered close.

Arcee turned her helm to Bumblebee, who was beginning to look nervous and said, "Okay Bumblebee, your turn."

A low beeping suddenly began to ring through the base, the blare of which snapped Breakdown's attention straight to the main monitors, though Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and the humans all snapped their gaze around the base swiftly.

"What's happening?"

"Ratchet's flatlining!" Miko shrieked, though Arcee silenced her with a, "No he isn't!"

"It's an Iacon homing beacon," Optimus explained, his calming voice making Rafael and Miko breath out with relief.

"If we are picking up the signal, it means the 'Cons just unearthed another relic," Bulkhead surmised, his optics locked onto Optimus, who turned towards the group of mechs gathered in the base.

"Autobots, prepare to roll out!"

"Yes!" Arcee exclaimed, more to herself than anyone else in the base. Bumblebee immediately leapt from where he had been laying, punching and swinging his servos midair, until Optimus smashed his pede to the ground in front of Bumblebee.

"Except for our patients." Bumblebee fell back to his medical slab at Optimus' words, letting out a pitiful trill. "It would be best to interrupt stasis," Optimus told Arcee, to which she willingly obliged. The hiss of Ratchet's stasis tube shutting down echoed through the base, and Optimus turned to Breakdown.

"I need you to stay. You have the most medical knowledge of all of us here, aside from Ratchet, and if something should happen I need you here. And I need you to watch Bumblebee. Could you do this for me, Breakdown?"

"Sure," Breakdown acknowledged. Optimus' gaze did not leave Breakdown for a few moments, then he gave him a deep nod.

"Let's go, Autobots!" Optimus bellowed, leading Arcee and Bulkhead into the Ground Bridge. As they disappeared into the Bridge, Breakdown turned back to Bumblebee, who was watching him nervously, and began waiting.

"Prime! Breaking news!" The harsh growl of Agent Fowler's voice connecting through the comms turned Breakdown's attention away from Bumblebee, who shot up from where he was sitting, and Ratchet. Breakdown headed over to the base's main monitors, Bumblebee skidding after him, and stopped at the controls.

"What?" Breakdown growled, while Bumblebee let out the fastest beeps and trills Breakdown had heard from him yet. Fowler looked horrified for a moment before he turned his full attention to Breakdown.

"Where is Prime?"

"On a mission," Breakdown said coolly, which made Fowler grumble something unintelligible under his breath.

"Okay then. Let him know that I just received access to satellite imagery, which I believe pinpoints the center of operations of MECH."

Breakdown startled back, terror snatching full force onto his spark. Bumblebee, who was beside him, let out a stunned trill, the whir of his optics sounding unusually loud.

Rage began to burn through Breakdown's chassis and he turned a furious look towards Fowler's image on the monitors. "Tell me where MECH is. Now."

Fowler looked stunned by Breakdown's tone, which was unusually quiet, but ringing with a hollow evil.

"Send the coordinates, Fowler," Jack piped up. "We will make sure that Optimus gets them as soon as possible."

Fowler nodded. A few moments later the monitors began to display the coordinates. Breakdown walked up to the Ground Bridge controls, furiously putting in the coordinates. Before he could activate the Ground Bridge though the humans all came running down to the platform closest to the Bridge control, their small frames shaking as they glared up at him.

"Are you nuts?" Jack yelled. "You are seriously going to face off against MECH alone? Are you actually trying to die?"

Breakdown whipped his gaze on Jack, lowering his helm till he was optic to optic with the fleshling. "I'm going to do what I want, and I am not going to listen to some foolish human who believes he knows so much because Optimus Prime believed in him once. You know nothing of anything, human, and you never will."

Jack flinched openly, ducking his helm away from Breakdown as Rafael walked up to the very edge of the platform.

"Please don't do this, Breakdown," Rafael pleaded, though Breakdown ignored him.

"Please come back alive, Breakdown," Miko's voice, unusually quiet and somber, brought Breakdown's gaze back to the three humans. Each one of them all looked concerned, with Miko almost looking terrified, while Rafael kept glancing towards Bumblebee, who was pacing back and forth ceaselessly.

Breakdown turned away from the humans, smashed the Ground Bridge control levers down and locked his gaze onto Bumblebee.


Bumblebee whipped his gaze on Breakdown, fury and anticipation alive in his optics.

"You want to come?" Bumblebee nodded furiously to Breakdown's question, which made him smile unnaturally.

"Good. Let's go."

The Ground Bridge opened up to a dark, soundless forest. Bumblebee, who had seemed so fierce and willing to hunt MECH down moments before in the safety of the Autobot base, was now moving behind Breakdown nervously. Breakdown paid no mind to Bumblebee, stopping at the edge of the hill the Ground Bridge had opened up to. Below them lay an abandoned hangar and, if not for the faintest of light seeping from under the door of the hangar, one would think it abandoned.

Bumblebee halted beside Breakdown, an unhappy rumble escaping his engine as his gaze fell upon the hangar below them. The scout turned his gaze to Breakdown, but Breakdown did not notice. His every fiber was taut with tension, but his optics were distant, too distant.

Lightning ripped through his chassis, burning circuits and wires with a vengeful, white-hot fire. The smell of smoke hit his receptors - he was actually burning - before a swamp of darkness stole his conscious from him.

He next awoke in a place he did not know. Drills hung at the edge of his vision - odd, he could see from his right optic - and a strange, undefinable noise was echoing in his audio receptors. He turned his gaze around him, stopping at the sight of a scarred human staring down at him from a raised platform directly in his line of sight.

Its optics did not look alive, except for the hunger that made them glow even in the darkness of the strange room. Its mouth opened, but no sound came from it even as it began to move closer to him. As it stepped down the small stairs to his left, the oddest feeling came over him.

He felt like he had to get away from this human, its dead optics, crooked grin, and run forever. But he could not move. Something was holding him down. He searched for it, but nothing showed, except for more dead, hungry optics, slowly rising from the murky depths of shadows.

Something drew his gaze back to the scarred human, and kept it there. The human smiled, and a wave of dread smashed over him.

Danger. Danger. DANGER. His processor screamed for him to move, but nothing responded.

And then he felt something on him. His gaze snapped up. There. Another one of the humans with the dead optics was standing on his chestplate. One flick of its servo and a drill immediately moved next to the human. The human ran its servo along the metal of the drill, emotionless optics still watching him.

One of its digits flicked and the drill positioned again, this time hovering right above his right optic. His gaze snapped to the scarred human, whose mouth opened, showing a row of fangs that dripped with an oozy blackness, and then it spoke.


And then the drill plunged into his optic. But he felt no pain. He. Felt. Nothing. No sound, no pain, nothing, except for the gradual darkening of his vision, and then nothing.

Loud beeping snapped Breakdown from the strange memory - no, not really a memory, but an elaborate imagining from deep within his processor. Slowly, he turned his gaze down and met the sharp blue optics of a yellow Autobot.

Why was there an Autobot standing next to him?

What was happening?


But the beeping continued, and it wouldn't stop, until Breakdown said, with a distant voice, "What?" He could barely hear his own voice, every part of him was so dredged in oozing darkness.

The yellow Autobot began beeping again in binary, but an Autobot version of the Cybertronian binary dialect, not the binary of the Decepticons - or at least the low-ranked Decepticons, like Breakdown. Others, like Megatron could understand all versions of binary. But that didn't explain why he was with an Autobot. His enemy, his sworn enemy.

The little Autobot suddenly grabbed onto his servo, but Breakdown didn't pull away from the Autobot. Nothing in him screamed to destroy the nuisance, and that confused him so much.

He turned once more to the Autobot, engine letting out a faint warning to the yellow mech. The mech jumped back, pedes skidding against wet moss as he thumped into a tree. Breakdown turned away from the mech, his gaze shifting over the land and passing over a hangar that was bordered by a green helicopter and cars-

He recognized that helicopter, and the green cars.

He knew where he was.

And what he was doing.

He. Was. Hunting.

Without thinking, without a glance towards the Autobot still shivering against the tree, Breakdown charged. His pedes smashed over the ground like cracks of thunder. He skidded on the pavement that led to the hangar and when he did, his optic caught the little Autobot scout running just a ways after him. The fact that it followed him was odd, but Breakdown ignored it.

He was nearing the hangar's huge door and, with a thundering roar, drove his entire self into the door. The door fell beneath his weight, flying against the wall opposite of the hangar with a mighty crash, spraying bits of metal everywhere, even hitting some of the humans inside the hangar.

Slowly, Breakdown lowered his gaze until he was glaring into those dead, hungry, human optics.


Bumblebee was breathing heavily as he skidded to a halt beside Breakdown, who was glowering down at a human standing in front of them both. It only took a second or two for Bumblebee to recognize the leader of MECH, Silas, who was looking up at Breakdown with an expression that seemed all too amused at the giant Decepticon's appearance.

Bumblebee's engine began to rumble ominously at the sight of the MECH soldiers who had not been killed by Breakdown charging into the base walking towards him and Breakdown, all armed with guns.

"HAHAHA! Really? What is this, Breakdown?" A sudden high voice called out, snapping Bumblebee's attention to the sight of Starscream landing at the far corner of the hangar, near a strange machine that looked oddly like a Cybertronian.

Bumblebee growled lowly at Starscream, who wasn't really paying attention to him but to Breakdown, who was still staring down at Silas, oblivious to everything but that one human.

.: One could ask the same of you, Starscream. What are you doing here? And why are you working with MECH? :.

Bumblebee's question drew Starscream's attention, though the Decepticon's smile only grew wider at it.

"I work with who I can benefit from, that's all."

.: But why MECH? I highly doubt they aren't planning something sinister for you personally, Starscream :.

Starscream shrugged, then slowly moved one of his servos, which had been behind his back the whole time. "Do you mean something like this?" Starscream snapped open his servo and, to Bumblebee's horror, in the Decepticon's servo was his T-cog.

.: Give that to me! :. Bumblebee roared and dove for Starscream. The minute Bumblebee moved though, the odd stalemate that had ensued since Breakdown had busted down the hangar's door was broken and every single MECH soldier began to fire at him and Breakdown. Bumblebee could hear Breakdown roaring in the background, the former Decepticon's rage making the floor rumble as he picked up a helicopter that had been stationed within the hanger like it weighed nothing and flung it at the MECH soldiers.

But Bumblebee had more important things to care about right now than Breakdown's rampage. Starscream was still holding out his T-cog, though the Decepticon was hopping back further and further from Bumblebee as he smirked cruelly at him. Bumblebee didn't even notice the bullets that pinged off of his chassis from the MECH soldiers' guns - none of that mattered. Not so long as Starscream had his T-cog.

Bumblebee rushed at Starscream suddenly, smashing into the Decepticon with his shoulder plate, servo desperately clawing for his T-cog, which went flying from Starscream's grasp.

No! Bumblebee threw Starscream away from him and dove for his T-cog. He snatched the edge of his T-cog only for Starscream's clawed servo to grasp at it at the same time.

.: Let it go, Starscream! :. Bumblebee snarled as he smashed his fisted servo against Starscream's helm. Starscream stumbled back, though the Decepticon quickly lunged back at Bumblebee and swiped his left servo at the scout. Bumblebee ducked away from Starscream's claws, still cradling his T-cog to his chestplate as he punched at Starscream again.

But Starscream was expecting it this time for he leaped away and activated both of his blasters, pointing them straight at Bumblebee.

"Perish, Bumblebee!" Starscream snarled and fired. Bumblebee tried to dodge the blasts but the first one hit him in the shoulder plate, making him stumble back and drop his T-cog, while the other one only grazed against his helm. A second of confusion - where is my T-cog?! - halted Bumblebee's actions but Starscream's engine growling above him turned his gaze up.

The Decepticon was standing on the Cybertronian-like machine, with Bumblebee's T-cog in one servo and the other in its blaster mode, aimed right at Bumblebee's T-cog.

.: No, don't! :. Bumblebee begged, but it did nothing. Starscream's blood red optics flared joyfully, almost teasingly as his blaster began to thrum to life.

"Say goodbye to your precious T-cog, Bumblebee-"

"Starscream!" The harried voice of Silas snapped Starscream, and Bumblebee's, attention to the MECH leader standing below them. "We are retreating! Make sure you bring me that T-cog!" Once Silas was done with his orders he bolted away from the two mechs, avoiding the still raging Breakdown, who was firing at any MECH soldier that foolishly got in his sight.

"I'm not one of your foot soldiers! I am your consultant!" Starscream roared after Silas, wings flaring out angrily.

Seeing Starscream distracted, Bumblebee lunged. Starscream's optics snapped to Bumblebee, but not fast enough to avoid getting smashed to the ground by the scout. Bumblebee lunged for his T-cog, but Starscream ducked away, claws digging into Bumblebee's chassis remorselessly. The two scrambled at each other desperately, neither gaining an edge, until Starscream's claws hooked under Bumblebee's chin and, with a heave, he threw Bumblebee to the ground.

Bumblebee scrambled up and leapt. He smashed into Starscream, who fell back and released the T-cog. Time seemed to slow as Bumblebee dove for his T-cog, Starscream fired his T-cog, Bumblebee's servo brushed his T-cog, then it was sent flying by a devastating blast. The biomechanism thudded to the ground at the same time as Bumblebee did, the scout desperately reaching out to his T-cog.

He grasped the device and pulled it to his chestplate, optics widening at the metal, blackened and frayed by Starscream's blast. No…

Bumblebee whirled his gaze onto Starscream, who was now standing upon the machine once again.

"Time to jet, because I can!" Starscream snarled, leaping from the machine and transforming mid-air with a blast of his engine. Silence greeted Bumblebee as the sound of Starscream's jet mode zooming away faded to a dull roar. No MECH soldiers were left in the hangar as all of them, at least that had lived, had fled with Silas. But-

Bumblebee snapped his gaze around the hangar, uncaring for the many dead bodies that were strewn about the base, desperately searching for Breakdown-

"Get up, Autobot, and stop sniveling around." Breakdown's voice came from right behind Bumblebee, which made the young mech fly up to his pedes in a jolt of terror. He wheeled around to Breakdown, who had his shoulder cannon pointed right at him, and backed away from the blue ex-Decepticon.

.: Uh, Breakdown we're on the same side. Don't shoot me, please? :.

Breakdown frowned at Bumblebee, and deactivated his shoulder cannon. "I have no idea what you just said, Autobot-"

The sudden chime of a Ground Bridge opening outside the hangar pulled both Bumblebee and Breakdown's attention to the shattered door where, with matching looks of disbelief, Optimus, Arcee and Bulkhead were all standing.

"What in the name of Primus happened here?" Arcee snapped, rushing up to Bumblebee, who suddenly remembered his destroyed T-cog and slowly picked said biomech up. Arcee's optics widened at the thing that used to be a T-cog, her servo gently laying against Bumblebee's shoulder plate.

"Hey, Ratchet will fix that up in no time," she said as she gently began to tug him towards Optimus and Bulkhead. Bumblebee cast a misery-filled gaze towards Breakdown, who was watching them curiously.

.: Arcee… Something is off with Breakdown. He's acting really weird, like he doesn't even remember he's one of us… :. Bumblebee trailed off, but Arcee seemed to acknowledge what he said for, as she handed 'Bee over to Bulkhead, she turned and said something quietly to Optimus.

Optimus nodded and then commed base. "Ratchet, re-open the Ground Bridge, and prepare for surgery. And, one more thing, something has happened with Breakdown. I'll need you to check him over once you finish with Bumblebee."

"I understand. I'll get right on that," Ratchet said, just as the Ground Bridge reopened near them. Bumblebee looked back one last time at the wrecked hangar, where Optimus was talking with Breakdown quietly, then headed through the Ground Bridge alongside Bulkhead.

Breakdown snapped awake, vents heaving as the images of MECH vanished from his thoughts. Wearily he stood up, pedes slowly hitting the ground as he glanced around curiously. It was dark, and the only noise in the base was a very steady but quiet ticking.

But that wasn't what was bothering Breakdown. He couldn't help but shake the feeling that something had happened that he couldn't remember. Breakdown vented softly, shaking his helm to clear his mind of the strange thoughts when he accidentally tripped over something that was laid out directly in the path of his pedes.

"Frag!" Breakdown swore, stumbling back as whatever he had hit into scrambled up from the ground in a flurry of thick limbs and curses.

"Ratchet?" Breakdown asked, realizing it was the medic who he had smashed into by the continuous grumbling. "What were you doing just laying here?"

Ratchet's blue optics were the only light in the base as he turned his helm in Breakdown's direction and vented. "I was exhausted, and had to take a brief recharge. That is all."

"That is all? What is there that you aren't telling me, Ratchet?" Breakdown snapped, snatching the medic's arm before Ratchet could sneak away from him.

Ratchet looked away from Breakdown and let out another tired sigh. "Yesterday, you and Bumblebee went out to the MECH base to get Bumblebee's T-cog back and you, from all signs, completely snapped - Bumblebee said you went on a rampage and killed many of the MECH soldiers in the hanger. Bumblebee isn't sure what happened to make you snap, but he explained to me after I repaired his T-cog, that you started acting really strange once you Ground Bridged to MECH's base. I'm guessing it had to do with the fact that you were at the MECH base, but I'm still not sure what triggered your processor into that mode.

"And then, when Optimus literally dragged you back to our base from the MECH hangar, you didn't even have a clue why you were hanging out with - as you said it - 'your mortal enemies'. It was odd, but I was able to tweak a few synapses in your inner hardwiring and your processor and it seems to have worked in snapping you back to normal. At least, I hope it did. For your sake, more than anything."

"Oh..." Breakdown looked down from Ratchet's gaze as he slowly let go of the medic's arm and stepped back slightly. He didn't even recall going anywhere with Bumblebee, let alone going into a rampage against MECH. It was unnerving to say the least. But he shook himself and turned to Ratchet with a quiet sigh. "What happened with the relic?"

"Megatron has it, unfortunately, considering it is the Forge of Solus Prime."

"Oh… sorry."

"It's fine, losing it had nothing to do with you or Bumblebee. Now, I am sorry, but I need to get some proper recharge. So, if you don't mind me, I will be going," Ratchet said, and then the medic walked away, turning down the the aisle that led to the Autobots' quarters.

Breakdown didn't follow after him though, instead turning back to the medical slab and sitting down on it. Vague flashes of memories where slowly playing through his mind, but he could not understand much from them, except for one thing.

MECH was still out there.

Silas was still out there.

Chapter Text

A long deca-cycle had passed since the night Breakdown and Bumblebee had sieged the MECH base in Colorado. One long month that Breakdown had spent confined away from the Autobots, haunted by the patchy memories of him going insane at the MECH hanger. He hadn't even desired to go outside during the month, even when he was invited outside by Optimus - not when MECH was still out there and he'd lost complete control when he'd finally seen them again. He couldn't risk losing control of his own desire for self-preservation just to face off against MECH.

Luckily for all of the Autobots, aside from an occasional energy spike from the Decepticons digging for Energon, nothing exciting had happened in that month except for the Autobots acquiring much needed energon from some of the mines Breakdown had logged. Optimus had thanked Breakdown heavily after the Autobots had filled their storage room with stacks of unrefined energon crystals. And Ratchet had wasted no time in processing the crystals, though the medic remained stringent on the Autobots' consumption of energon.

Arcee, unsurprisingly, had suspected Breakdown of possibly tricking them when Optimus had finally decided to travel to one of the energon mines to search for left over energon crystals. So, when Arcee had returned with Optimus and the other Autobots and a store of energon crystals, Breakdown had been surprised by the two wheeler apologizing to him.

He knew she still didn't trust him completely, but it was an improvement to her watching him closely every time he moved in the base. Frankly, Breakdown was glad for the change in Arcee, as he no longer felt like something oily was crawling over him every time the two wheeler looked at him.

But Arcee wasn't the only Autobot who had changed after their run in with MECH. While Breakdown himself didn't feel the insatiable urge to find and destroy MECH anymore - he knew now he couldn't trust himself to not snap should MECH show their faceplates again - he'd seen that same desire spark in Bumblebee's optics.

The little scout had tried to talk to Breakdown ten solar cycles after the incident with MECH, though Breakdown, as always, knew nothing of what the Autobot was saying. He was getting tired of reminding the Autobots that he didn't have the translation codes for Autobot binary downloaded into his drives. Yet, for all of Breakdown's inability to understand Bumblebee, it wasn't hard to guess what the scout was saying to him.

He'd seen the scout's optics fade into the distance of his memories, seen the way the yellow Autobot flinched at loud pulses of electricity and he'd heard him wander the hallways of the base late into the night. Bumblebee was afraid of MECH, just as Breakdown was.

He felt sort of bad for the kid but, at the same time, he didn't. Bumblebee had been hurt by MECH, but at least he had gotten back what the human butchers had taken from him. Not like Breakdown. No, Breakdown had lost more than just an optic - or a T-cog, in Bumblebee's case - when MECH had put their servos on him.

Breakdown bit back the overwhelming rush of jealousy blazing into his spark, shaking the thoughts of MECH out of his mind with an angry snarl from his engine. He strode to his pedes and stomped out of his quarters, instinctively heading out to the main area of the base without even realizing where his pedes were taking him.

As Breakdown walked out of the tunnel and into the main room, the now-familiar screech of a communication link opening up to the base turned his attention towards the central monitors, where Ratchet was standing at the controls with Optimus.

"Prime! What in the blazes are your people doing out here? We had an agreement, no collateral damage!"

"I am sorry Agent Fowler, but all Autobots are present and accounted for," Optimus replied, turning his chassis so Fowler could see Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee, along with himself and Ratchet.

"Then explain why I'm receiving reports of two jumbo sized bots mixing it up twenty miles outside of Omaha?"

"Decepticons?" Ratchet suggested.

"Yes, there have been plenty of infighting lately, Megatron can't seem to keep his ranks in line," Arcee added, servos placed on her hip plates.

"Well, I've just arrived on the scene. Have a look," the image of Fowler switched to that of a downed ship, then zoomed up on a large, blue mech.

Hey, I know that mech, Breakdown realized and, with his curiosity piqued, moved up next to the Autobots to get a better view of what Fowler was showing them.

"I don't know, paint job aside, it can't be Skyquake. You and Optimus pounded him into the ground-"

"Before Starscream yanked him back out as some kind of undead Terracon. The question still stands, who's the dance partner?" Arcee asked, her helm tilting up to the screen as a new image showed on the screen.

This time Fowler's images showed a smaller white ship, then shifted around as it zoomed up on a mech.

"By the Allspark, it is one of ours," Ratchet gasped as the image on the screen grew to show only the white mech.

"Wheeljack! Haha, Jackie's back!" Bulkhead exclaimed, smashing his servos into the Autobots, which made them stumble forward. Breakdown's gaze snapped back to the image of Wheeljack on the large screen, his engine beginning to hiss quietly.

"I don't care if Abraham Lincoln is back, we have to contain this situation before we all wind up on the 10 O'Clock News!" Fowler yelled, sending one last glare towards the Autobots before he cut communications with the group.

Optimus' gaze snapped to the Autobots and then, with a low rumble from his engine, he said, "Autobots, roll out!"

"Can I come with?" Breakdown asked, getting in front of Optimus before he could leave.

Prime glanced at Breakdown then nodded.

"That's fine."

The Ground Bridge opened up to the scene of one heavily damaged ship crashed into the ground, and Wheeljack kneeling to the ground, clutching at his right shoulder plate. Breakdown couldn't hide the growl that ripped from his engine at the sight of the Wrecker, but luckily none of the Autobots noticed it as they scanned for the Decepticon, who Breakdown figured was Dreadwing - Skyquake's twin-spark brother and a fiercely loyal Decepticon. And the Decepticon Seeker who had found him nearly offlined at Tyger Pax.

After a moment or two of the four Autobots glancing around, Bulkhead and Optimus ran one way, while Arcee and Bumblebee went another. Breakdown ran straight forwards, skidding behind a building as blasts from Dreadwing's gun flew over the building. Warily peeking over the roof of the building, Breakdown began to move closer to where Wheeljack and Dreadwing were, his gaze tracking Bulkhead and Optimus, who were ducking blast after blast from Dreadwing's gun.

Knowing that Dreadwing had not noticed where he had hidden, Breakdown moved around the corner of the building, rushing swiftly after Dreadwing, who had turned away from Bulkhead and Optimus. The Decepticon Seeker began firing at Arcee and Bumblebee, who swiftly returned fire. Breakdown slunk around the building, aimed his shoulder cannon at Dreadwing's back but before, he could shoot at Dreadwing, a blazing hot pain hit him in the back.

Breakdown swore angrily and wheeled around, optics blazing as they locked onto Wheeljack, who slowly lowered his cannon servo to the ground. Bulkhead's optics looked quietly towards Breakdown before he grabbed onto Wheeljack's servos, preventing the Wrecker from doing anything more.

The sound of pedes thundering away from him drew Breakdown's gaze back to where Dreadwing had been moments before. Noticing him not there, and Arcee and Bumblebee shooting past him, Breakdown turned and watched as Dreadwing dove behind a gas station. Both Arcee and Bumblebee stopped firing the klik Dreadwing dove behind the gas station, which left Dreadwing the opportunity to notice Fowler's jet, which was hovering over him and the gas station.

A smile crossed over Dreadwing's faceplate and, before Fowler could react, began to scan the agent's jet. Once Dreadwing had finished, he turned around and began to flee.

"Oh, no you don't!" Wheeljack yelled, lunging away from Bulkhead as he activated his cannons and aimed them after Dreadwing.

"Wheeljack!" Optimus protested.

"Jackie, don't!" Bulkhead yelled, scrambling to his pedes after Wheeljack.

"No! Stop!" Arcee shouted as she sprang to leap in front of Wheeljack, though Breakdown took a rough hold of the two wheeler and held her back before she could jump in the way of Wheeljack's cannons.

But Wheeljack ignored all of their protests and warnings and, with a roar of pure fury ripping from his engine, fired his guns. The shots hit one of the fuel pumps in the gas station, which ruptured into a ball of fire immediately. Breakdown ducked away from the bright flash, Arcee and Bumblebee beside him both doing the same.

After a moment, Breakdown wheeled his gaze back to the now blazing gas station, watching as a dark blue jet burst from the fire's smoke and blasted by Fowler's jet, tearing away into the sky as shot after shot from Wheeljack's cannon chased after Dreadwing.

"Dreadwing rigged the place to blow!" Wheeljack exclaimed before he finally relented and deactivated his cannons.

Bulkhead walked up from behind Wheeljack as Arcee and Bumblebee moved away from Breakdown and stalked up to Wheeljack's position. Breakdown followed after the two wheeler and scout, though he approached Wheeljack much more warily than the others had.

"Actually that was your handiwork, sparky," Arcee snapped, which drew Wheeljack's gaze to her, and subsequently, Breakdown. Wheeljack's optics narrowed at the sight of Breakdown, his servos switching back to their gun mode, which he pointed straight at Breakdown's faceplate.

"Watch out, femme!" Wheeljack warned before he fired at Breakdown. Breakdown let out a snarl and ducked the hot blast as it shot over his helm, rage snarling from his engine as he snapped back up and sent Wheeljack a furious glare.

"I'm on your side you slagging glitch!" Breakdown roared as he stomped up to Wheeljack and glared down at the Wrecker.

Hatred burned through Wheeljack's optics as he met Breakdown's glare, one servo twitching for the swords on his back, as the Wrecker opened his mouth to retort. Breakdown braced himself for a fight from Wheeljack when Bulkhead pushed between the two of them, his shoulder shoving Breakdown backwards as Bulkhead turned his attention solely on Wheeljack.

"Wheeljack, calm down! Breakdown is one of us, honestly!" Bulkhead urged, but Wheeljack ignored him and shoved Bulkhead aside, optics blazing.

"Did you do something to the Autobots, Breakdown? Are all of these guys like that fool Makeshift, and tricking me into thinking I'm with the real Autobots?"

"Wheeljack, stop!" Bulkhead protested once more, forcefully pulling Wheeljack back, but again Wheeljack pushed Bulkhead off of him. Breakdown's engine snarled a threat as Wheeljack stomped up to him and glared up at him once again.

"Listen to your pal, Wheeljack. I'm not your enemy, though I won't protest to fighting you if you make that happen," Breakdown hissed, turning away from Wheeljack with a disgusted snort. Wheeljack growled angrily but finally relented to Bulkhead's urging, his pedes hitting the ground like thunder behind Breakdown.

Bumblebee shot a glance up at Breakdown nervously, but a glare from Breakdown made the yellow scout lower his gaze immediately and move closer to Arcee.

"Wheeljack," Optimus' voice was unusually intolerant, which made Breakdown turn slightly to watch the Autobot leader and Wheeljack, "Breakdown has joined our side, and for that I will not permit you to start a fight with him. I understand you may have past discretions with each other, but we must put that aside. And you would do well to follow my lead."

Wheeljack let out a huff from his vents then nodded slowly.

"Fine, whatever."

"Ow!" Wheeljack protested, pulling away from Ratchet, who had been welding Wheeljack's wound on his shoulder together. "Take it easy, Doc, I need that arm."

"Hold still and maybe you will keep it," Ratchet retorted hotly before he resumed repairing Wheeljack's shoulder.

"Look, Commander, apologies for the fireworks. Won't happen again, but I tracked Dreadwing across a hundred lightyears of space," Wheeljack explained.

Breakdown rolled his optic at Wheeljack's "promise". Won't happen again my aft. Wheeljack was never the one to listen to orders from high-ranked mechs back when I was a Wrecker, I highly doubt he's changed much since then.

"I thought you were roaming the galaxy, you know, looking for Autobot refugees?" Bulkhead quipped, which made Wheeljack's optics turn down sadly.

"I was, until I found one. A Wrecker…"


"Seaspray." Judging by the way Wheeljack's helm fell, and his optics dulled, Breakdown knew that Seaspray had obviously been killed - and he assumed by Dreadwing, judging off of how Wheeljack had seemed so focused on offlining the Seeker.

"How is old barnacle butt?"

"Not so good, Bulk. Blown to bits actually, thanks to Dreadwing. My flyer, the Jackhammer, picked up Seaspray's signal a couple of light years from Madera. We made contact and arranged a rendezvous in the Dromadon system. But Dreadwing must have intercepted the transmission 'cause he got to Seaspray first. He used a proximity bomb to destroy Seaspray's flyer, and it was supposed to take out both of us. Guess I should be glad the Jackhammer could take a punch," Wheeljack's voice grew to a tight growl as he said that, his optics turning up to Bulkhead, who stumbled away from Wheeljack, helm falling wordlessly. But Wheeljack's optics turned to Breakdown with that ever present hate as he bared his denta in a snarl at him. "I bet you are more than pleased to hear that Seaspray's dead, aren't you, traitor?"

Breakdown stiffened at Wheeljack's growl, his servos tightening into fists as he took a menacing step towards Wheeljack. "Think of me what you may, Wheeljack, but I am not pleased to hear of Seaspray's offlining. He was one of my oldest friends, no matter how my relationship with the Wreckers twisted in the war. I am sorry to hear of his passing."

"I doubt that," Wheeljack snarled lowly. The Autobots did not intervene as the white Wrecker slowly pushed himself to his pedes and stalked up to Breakdown, optics fixed on his own with malice. "You were never sorry about the Wreckers you killed on Cybertron, why would you care about Seaspray?"

Anger bristled off Breakdown as he lowered his helm until he was inches from Wheeljack's faceplate. "Because this is about more than just pettiness and revenge now, Wheeljack. Our planet is dead and our entire race is dying, and for what?"

Wheeljack glowered at Breakdown and opened his mouth to retort when Bulkhead shoved in between both of them and pushed Wheeljack back towards Ratchet. The white Wrecker shot a stony glare over Bulkhead's shoulder before he turned his back on Breakdown. Breakdown scowled as he noticed Arcee, Bumblebee and Optimus all looking at him with stony expressions.

The Autobots did not understand him or his motives and they never could. Breakdown was as different from them as night and day, even with his history as a Wrecker. They did not understand the clawing of fury, the yearning to make one's pain a weapon. Revenge was against the Autobot creed, and it was that exact rage that had fueled Breakdown for eons. Breakdown was nothing like the Autobots, and never could be one of them without them expecting him to change every fiber of his being.

The Autobots voices were muffled by Breakdown's thoughts, so he missed the conversation between Wheeljack and the Autobots until he heard Wheeljack mention Dreadwing's name again.

"Dreadwing was the one who led me back here, Bulk. I picked up on his ion trail after he murdered Seaspray, and tracked him through a dozen solar systems before catching up with him. And he led me right back to this marble. Some coincidence, huh?"

"I know of this Dreadwing," Optimus said, drawing the attention of everyone in base. "He was Captain of a Seeker Armada and, as such, is like his twin Skyquake. Fiercely loyal to the Decepticon cause. Dreadwing has no doubt traveled to Earth to pay allegiance to his one true master."

"Yeah, and to get revenge for you guys killing his brother. Or at least that's what I would imagine," Breakdown snapped sarcastically, his temper, fueled by Wheeljack's appearance and previous words with him, taking away the control he normally had around the Autobots.

Every single one of them turned on him, each with varied expressions. Optimus looked sad, Arcee looked straight up slagged off, Bulkhead and Bumblebee glanced at each other nervously, Ratchet shook his helm, and Wheeljack's frown only grew deeper into a scowl.

"Well, I hope he enjoys the visit, because it will be his last," Wheeljack growled, his optics lingering on Breakdown for a moment with a hidden threat.

Yeah, I know what you mean, Wheeljack.

"Wheeljack, this planet is heavily inhabited. Any strike we make against the Decepticons must be carefully measured. As a team," Optimus informed, shifting one servo to point around the group of mechs, "lest we risk endangering the human population."

"Are you suggesting that we sit back and do nothing-"

"YOU!" The shout from Agent Fowler cut off the rest of what Wheeljack was saying, and his gaze snapped to the human, who continued ranting. "Loose cannon! Your cowboy antics almost blew our cover!"

"Cover?" Wheeljack asked incredulously.

"We're robots in disguise, Jackie, you need an Earth based vehicle mode outside of here," Bulkhead explained, tapping lightly at Wheeljack's shoulder plate as he spoke.

"That spaceship you shot down. NOT Earth based! I had to jump through some big hoops-" Breakdown couldn't help but snicker at the mental image of Agent Fowler jumping through hoops. Now that would be a sight to see, "-to get it hauled out of plain sight. You need to keep a tighter leash on your people, Prime."

"A tighter leash?" Wheeljack whirled on Fowler, stomping towards the human, until he was glaring down at Fowler - who returned the glare without flinching. "Let me clarify, tiny, I'm not one of Optimus Prime's people."

Wheeljack turned away from the rest of the group, stomping away from all of them as Bulkhead turned to Optimus.

"I'll talk to him. Uh, with your permission."

"Of course," Optimus said, leaving Bulkhead to follow Wheeljack.

"So, the new guy has a little problem with authority?" Fowler asked, watching as Bulkhead got up to Wheeljack and began talking with him.

"Bulkhead and Wheeljack served together in the Wreckers, a combat unit that operated outside of the normal chain of command."

"Black Ops?"

"They accepted missions no one else would, and many of them did not come back." Optimus turned his helm away from Fowler, his optics darkening.

Breakdown grumbled something to himself and turned away, stomping past Optimus and after Wheeljack and Bulkhead as the two Wreckers headed towards the lift that led to the top of the missile silo's mesa.

Breakdown followed the sound of the two Wrecker's pedesteps all the way to a cave above the missile silo where Wheeljack's ship was resting. He stopped and ducked into the shadows, listening as Wheeljack whirled on Bulkhead and let a snarl tear from his engine.

"Have you forgotten who you were, Bulkhead? You never would have hesitated to hunt down any 'Con who killed one of the Wreckers, until you joined Prime!"

"Look, Jackie, even if it weren't for the humans we couldn't take on the 'Cons right now. We're outnumbered!"

"Roadbuster. Pyro. Impactor. Rotostorm. Seaspray. All dust," Wheeljack growled, shifting away from the Jackhammer to glare at Bulkhead. No flash of joy, nor welling of sorrow, filled Breakdown at the name of the mechs he had once been friends, and later enemies with, who had died. And that was the oddest feeling. At one point Breakdown would have celebrated their deaths, but not now.

"That's what I'm talking about! Wreckers are Autobots, there just aren't that many of us left," Bulkhead said, "but if we get behind Optimus, we have a chance to end this. Once and for all."

"Guys like Optimus, they talk a good game but when you are in the scrap, they don't want to get their hands dirty," Wheeljack snarled, his words making Breakdown raise an optic ridge questionably.

He had his reasons to not like Optimus, but even he had seen that Optimus wasn't the type of mech that Wheeljack accused the Autobot leader of being.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! You don't know Optimus like I do. Being a Wrecker meant everything to me," Bulkhead admitted, a twinge of sorrow echoing from his engine. "But-"

"Because Prime was the real thing, blah, blah, blah!" Wheeljack retorted bitterly.

"Wheeljack-" Bulkhead begged, but the white mech silenced him with a snarl from his engine.

"And what in the name of Primus is Breakdown doing with you? He's a Decepticon. Remember? This is the same Breakdown who orchestrated the attack on the Wreckers' base that left Topspin, Sharpclaw, Corsair, Chainsteel, Silverblight and Rumblefoot dead. And don't forget that Annihilation, the femme you fancied, was murdered by Breakdown in that attack too! And now he is working with you and the Autobots? Have you completely lost your bolts?"

"No, Wheeljack, it isn't like that! We helped Breakdown out after he was kicked out of the Decepticons, and he's been helping us out since. Optimus and Ratchet trust him, and if they do, I believe we should too," Bulkhead said, which only angered Wheeljack more.

"Then you and your precious Optimus are both fools," Wheeljack snarled. Bulkhead opened his mouth but a soft beeping stopped the green mech from speaking and turned both of their attention to the Jackhammer.

Bulkhead shot Wheeljack a confused look before he and Wheeljack came around to the tail of the Jackhammer. Breakdown snuck up behind them as Wheeljack opened up his ship's door and walked in. Bulkhead followed after Wheeljack and, sneakily, Breakdown followed after.

"Wheeljack. I know you are out there listening. I have a proposition for you."

"Is that-"

"Dreadwing." Wheeljack confirmed, as the Jackhammer's comms blinked with a new image.

"Meet me at these coordinates. If you have the spark." Dreadwing's voice drawled off with the finality of static.

"I'll see you there 'Con. Just to watch you fry," Wheeljack hissed, sitting at the pilot's chair of the Jackhammer.

"Jackie, it's a trap," Bulkhead said.

"No, seriously?" Breakdown growled, making Wheeljack and Bulkhead snap around to him. Bulkhead looked flabbergasted at Breakdown's presence but Wheeljack only began to growl, his servos clenched into angry fists.

"What do you want?" Wheeljack asked, his tone barely level as he strode up from his seat and stomped up to Breakdown. Again Wheeljack was only inches from Breakdown's chestplate, and the anger and hate that spilled from the white Wrecker's field could not have been muffled, even if Wheeljack tried. Breakdown snarled and then accessed an ancient link within his innermost data that he had not dared to touch in eons.

He could hear Bulkhead tersely telling Wheeljack to back off of Breakdown - :: Jackie, stop it, for frag's sake! He's on our side even if you don't like it! :: - within the special, forged bond that all Wreckers were installed with upon completion of their Wrecker training. Seaspray and Stormbreaker had insisted on the procedure for the times when their comms would fail them.

Breakdown had tried to rip the very coding from himself after the Wreckers had turned on him, but for every attempt Breakdown had made to remove the bond, it only burrowed deeper into his coding. So he'd resorted to burying it under mountains of data until he'd almost forgotten about its existence.

:: And you're accepting this? This is fragged up! He MURDERED our Wreckers! ::

:: I know what I did, Wheeljack, and so does Bulkhead. ::

Wheeljack froze at the invasion of the Wreckers' bond, his backstrut stiffening as the white Wrecker took a step back from Breakdown. "I hope you burn in the Pit."

Breakdown raised an optic ridge at Wheeljack's hiss before he let a disinterested snort escape from his vents. "I will someday, Wheeljack."

Wheeljack continued to glare at Breakdown before he jerked his helm to the entrance of the Jackhammer. "Get off my ship."

"Gladly," Breakdown snapped coldly before he shot Bulkhead a sharp glare. "Galavant off as you always do, Wheeljack. Killing Dreadwing won't be as easy as you wish to believe. But if fighting him to avenge Seaspray is what you desire, by all means, go. If you come back worse off for your encounter with Dreadwing, don't blame anyone but your own foolhardiness."

Before Wheeljack or Bulkhead could say something in retort, Breakdown whisked around and walked out of the Jackhammer and away from the two Wreckers.

"Hey, where'd you go?" Ratchet asked Breakdown as he walked back into the main room of Autobot base.

Breakdown turned to the medic and shrugged.

"Just out. Nothing else." Breakdown said without even pausing to look at Ratchet. He didn't feel like explaining to either Optimus or Ratchet that he'd just willingly let Wheeljack and Bulkhead track down the deadly Decepticon, Dreadwing. He'd wait. He was in no mood to be generous and he honestly wanted Wheeljack and Bulkhead to learn their lesson.

"Breakdown, please-"

But Breakdown still ignored Ratchet as he walked up to the far end of the base and, with the slightest glance, observed Ratchet and Optimus, waiting for the right time to tell them.

"Bulkhead's signal, over a thousand miles from here, and I would have to imagine that Wheeljack is with him." Ratchet's voice, worried as it was, drew Breakdown's attention to where Ratchet and Optimus were glancing over the central monitors. "But why?"

"Oh!" Breakdown exclaimed, biting back the sarcasm edging at his words, as he walked up to Ratchet and Optimus, both of whom turned to look at him. "I must have forgotten to tell you. Bulkhead and Wheeljack went off to go fight Dreadwing. I can't imagine how I forgot to tell you two."

Ratchet's mouth fell open in disbelief, his vents puffing with frustration. "Oh for the love of Primus, somebody save me from the idiocy of these Wreckers," Ratchet muttered before he turned the full brunt of his anger on Breakdown. "And why did you deem not to tell us this, Breakdown?"

"Uh, I don't know," Breakdown admitted casually, which only made Ratchet press an exhausted servo to his faceplate. "Just didn't want to."

"I can't believe this. First, Wheeljack blows up a gas station and now you've gone and let him and Bulkhead face off Dreadwing. Without telling us?" Ratchet vented. "Disappointing."

"Ratchet," Optimus' voice snapped Ratchet away from berating Breakdown and back to the leader, who looked worried, "have you attempted contact with either of them?"

"Yes, but no response."

"Then lock onto Wheeljack's coordinates, Ratchet. We do not know what trouble they may have run into," Optimus ordered.

Ratchet nodded in acknowledgement as he activated the Ground Bridge. Realizing now would be a good time to go back to his quarters, Breakdown turned, but before he could go anywhere Prime's ice-cold voice halted him in his tracks.

"You are coming with me."

Breakdown turned around slowly and vented.


The Ground Bridge had dropped Breakdown and Optimus off near a large, fallen pile of rocks. As both of the mechs approached the rocks, Breakdown began to hear what sounded like someone straining and groaning from within the rocks. Breakdown walked up closer, then jumped back, startled at the sight of a silver servo pushing out from underneath the rocks, struggling to move the rocks away.

At the same time Breakdown and Optimus moved to the rocks, each helping move aside the rocks until they could see Wheeljack, who was covered in dust and rubble as he shook his helm.

"What took you so long, Bulk? Don't tell me riding with Prime has made you-" Wheeljack stopped what he was saying as his optics landed on Optimus, who had just finished pulling away a rock pinning Wheeljack's leg. "-soft…"

Breakdown rolled his optic and checked his scanner for any sign of Bulkhead's signature, but nothing showed up. He turned around and watched as Optimus helped Wheeljack out of the rocks, though it took a bit of straining and pulling to finally get Wheeljack out of the pile.

"If you will not take orders from me, that is one thing, but when you place one of my Autobots in danger-"

"With all due respect, Sir, Bulkhead knew the risks. Every Wrecker does, I'm sure he's just… somewhere in this rubble," Wheeljack said hopefully, though Breakdown knew it was pointless hope.

"Optimus, Bulkhead's signal has moved from your current position." Ratchet's words only confirmed what Breakdown suspected and, with them, Wheeljack began to move away from Optimus and Breakdown. The Wrecker turned his gaze to them for a brief moment.

"You coming with?"

Optimus turned his gaze to Breakdown, who shrugged, and together the both of them followed right after Wheeljack, as the Wrecker led them to the Jackhammer.

Calling the inside of the Jackhammer cramped would be putting it very, very lightly. Breakdown was shoved in the very back of the Jackhammer, while Optimus looked extremely uncomfortable in the copilot seat, the Autobot leader's digits tapping irritably at his knees as Wheeljack piloted the Jackhammer towards Bulkhead's signature.

"You and Bulkhead share quite a history and yet, you would prefer to work alone," Optimus attempted to strike conversation with Wheeljack, who gave the Autobot leader half of his attention.

"The Wreckers scattered a long time ago, and alone is usually a lot less complicated." Wheeljack's curt tone halted anymore conversation Optimus could have sought out and stretched out a cold silence within the Jackhammer.

They flew for a while, until the Jackhammer's scanner began its continuous beeping as they neared a shipping yard. Wheeljack maneuvered the Jackhammer down to the shipyard, slowly setting the ship down amongst stacks of shipping containers.

Once the Jackhammer was shut off, Breakdown got off, thankful to not be stuck in so small a space anymore. He waited as Optimus slowly walked out of the Jackhammer, followed by Wheeljack, who had a scanner in his servo.

"This way," Wheeljack indicated, turning and heading down a row. Breakdown and Optimus followed after him, with Optimus keeping guard at their backs.

"We are close to population. Remember-"

"Blasters and fuel pumps don't mix. Our boy is just up ahead," Wheeljack said just as they rounded a turn in the row, halting at the sight before him. Breakdown came around Wheeljack's right to see what he was staring at and stepped back in surprise.

Bulkhead's servos were strapped to a row of shipping containers by two electronic bands, and there was one of Dreadwing's bombs strapped to his chestplate. "Hey, guys…"

"Scrap." Wheeljack growled, before he shared a look with Optimus and Breakdown. Wheeljack moved up to Bulkhead. "You really got yourself in a heap of scrap this time, partner."

"Stay back, Jackie," Bulkhead warned, though Wheeljack ignored him soundly as the white mech lowered himself down to stare at the bomb strapped to Bulkhead.

"Better get to work."

"Have you defused one of these before?" Optimus asked, just as Wheeljack tapped something on Dreadwing's bomb which snapped up the face of the bomb.

"Failsafes, dummy-leads, boobytraps. It's a work of art," was the only answer Wheeljack gave before Optimus turned to Breakdown and signaled him to follow. Breakdown shrugged and moved after the Decepticon leader, glancing back at Wheeljack and Bulkhead once before catching up to Optimus.

"What are we doing?"

Optimus turned his helm to Breakdown then, with his optics determined, said, "To find the one mech who can safely defuse the bomb."

"Oh," Breakdown said, looking away from Optimus without another word.

Optimus lead Breakdown a ways through row after row of the shipping containers, finally stopping at one row. Breakdown halted and moved against the stacked containers, watching as Optimus tilted his helm upwards.

"Dreadwing! If you are anything like Skyquake, I know that you value loyalty and honor," Prime yelled, his voice echoing throughout the shipping yard.

"Is there a point to your bluster, Prime?"

"Only that Megatron knows nothing of those principles. He lives solely for destruction, and conquest, but there is another path. Deactivate the bomb," Prime said.

"It's pointless to reason with him," Breakdown whispered, "Dreadwing is so honor bound to the Decepticons that he would rather die than leave them."

Optimus turned to Breakdown, about to say something when the sudden, sharp burst of Dreadwing's cannon firing in their direction caused both of them to scamper away from the shipping containers they had been hiding behind.

"Split up," Optimus urged, Breakdown nodding in acknowledgement to the Prime's command. Breakdown took a left, looping back around to the place he and Optimus had been before Dreadwing had shot at them.

Breakdown glanced around, listening to the loud blaster fire echoing throughout the shipyard, before his gaze landed on a loading crane. Breakdown moved to one of the cranes, grabbing onto a set of the stairs when he suddenly heard a heavy thud a ways from him. Breakdown immediately activated his shoulder cannon and aimed it, wary that Dreadwing was somewhere near him, but it was Bulkhead running towards the edge of the shipyard.

"Bulkhead, wait!" Wheeljack yelled as he landed in front of Bulkhead, tensing his body as Bulkhead crashed into him and began to push the white mech towards the ocean. "Would you listen to me, Bulk?"

But Bulkhead did not listen to Wheeljack as he continued to push against Wheeljack, finally stopping when Wheeljack's pedes hit the edge of the dock, and pushed against Bulkhead. Breakdown abandoned what he was planning originally and bolted over to Wheeljack and Bulkhead, ready to grab Bulkhead if the former Wrecker did anything crazy.

"You were right! Dreadwing is the only one who can defuse it, and Optimus knows it too," Wheeljack's gaze turned to the left, and up, which Breakdown followed to see Optimus scaling his way up one of the loading cranes.

"We should hide," Breakdown muttered before he turned and dove behind one of the loading cranes, which Bulkhead and Wheeljack followed suit. Breakdown turned his gaze, watching as Dreadwing walked out from a row of container warily. The large Decepticon did not notice as he walked under one of the magnet lifts until Prime let out a booming roar. Dreadwing's gaze snapped up, but he could not avoid the magnet before it crushed him to the ground. Once Dreadwing was done, Wheeljack leapt to his pedes, with Breakdown and Bulkhead following right after until they had surrounded the lift.

Dreadwing could not move as the magnet had crushed the entirety of his chassis, minus the upper part of his chestplate and helm. Breakdown was relieved - though he wouldn't say that to Optimus or the others - that Dreadwing was still alive, as evidenced by the Decepticon groaning and moving his helm slowly.

"Dreadwing, defuse the bomb or fall victim to your own device," Prime growled, which made Bulkhead glance towards him nervously.

"I will gladly sacrifice myself to avenge my brother," Dreadwing snarled, though only Breakdown was able to detect the misery buried deep in Dreadwing's voice.

"Then we will, in turn, gladly join the Allspark with our brother."

"And with you," Wheeljack added. "You'll never shake us."

Uh, I didn't sign up for this, I didn't agree to die. Do not include me in this conversation, please! Breakdown thought, nervously tuning his gaze from Wheeljack, who had crossed his arms over his chestplate, then to Dreadwing.

"Very well," Dreadwing finally said, to much the relief of Breakdown, as Optimus, Wheeljack and Breakdown helped lift the magnet off of Dreadwing. Dreadwing slowly lifted himself up to a sitting position, then lifted one of his clawed digits towards Bulkhead. The bomb began to beep faster, and louder, then stopped when Dreadwing pulled a wire from the bomb.

Bulkhead let out a vent of relief.

"I had it narrowed down to the blue or the yellow," Wheeljack said, "or the red."

Breakdown rolled his optic and turned his gaze back to Dreadwing, who was looking at him with a cold stare. Breakdown heard his inner comms crackle before Dreadwing's voice crawled through his chassis like oil.

"Megatron informed me of your betrayal of the Decepticon cause, though he did not tell me that you were aiding the Autobots - a capital offense, as you full well know. It is my duty to bring in all traitors to Megatron and I will - the next time we meet."

Dreadwing's engine let out a low hiss before Breakdown saw one of the Seeker's digits move at his side and, with a suddenness that shook Breakdown, Bulkhead, Optimus and Wheeljack on their pedes, a flurry of explosions erupted throughout the shipyard. Dreadwing leapt to his pedes, shoved Breakdown aside, and leapt off the edge of the shipyard dock, transforming into his jet form and blasting away from Breakdown and the Autobots.

"So, who do we call for clean up?" Wheeljack quipped as he, and everyone else, turned to stare at the now burning shipyard.

Breakdown saw Optimus shoot Wheeljack an unamused look, as he rubbed at his faceplate exasperatedly. Wheeljack was the same as he always been.


"Listen, Commander, I just wanted to say what an honor it was to watch you work. I think I may have had the wrong idea about you," Wheeljack admitted, rubbing at his helm shamefully.

Breakdown, Optimus, Wheeljack and Bulkhead had gotten back to the Autobot base and were all gathered together near the Ground Bridge controls. Ratchet had already finished checking each over for injuries and now Arcee and Bumblebee were hovering nearby, curious at the conversation between Optimus and Wheeljack.

"And it would seem that you place a greater value on community than you otherwise let on," Optimus said as he offered out a servo to Wheeljack.

"Whoa, let's not jump the gun here," Wheeljack said, raising his servos in protest to Optimus' offered servo.

Bulkhead smacked Wheeljack in the back, sending him stumbling forward. "Come on Jackie, if you leave you will probably just wind up coming right back again."

"All that wasted fuel. And Energon is in short supply," Arcee added, with Bumblebee saying something right after her.

"Then again, we do have limited space," Ratchet snapped, turning away from Wheeljack, who gave the medic a strange smile.

"Not sure if I'm ready to give up my freedom just yet," Wheeljack offered, looking again towards Ratchet. "Maybe I can do some exploring. See if this rock suits me."

"Eh, no offense to the Jackhammer, but you need an Earth-based vehicle mode," Bulkhead reminded, and Breakdown watched as an old, yet still familiar, smile curved over Wheeljack's scarred faceplate.

Great, Breakdown thought, he's going to pick the exact opposite of "in disguise", isn't he?

Chapter Text

"Welcome to the Wreckers, kid," Breakdown said to the gold and blue femme standing before him.

"I'm not a kid," she snapped, the wings on her back flaring out with her rising temper.

Breakdown turned away and rolled his optics. "Yeah, sure. You are a kid compared to the rest of the Wreckers, you don't even look like you ever fought in a battle before. Now what was your name again?"

"Annihilation, sir. I was part of the Communications Unit before my higher-ups had me transferred to the Wreckers, where they believed my skills would come in better use," the femme said, her stance rigid with a salute.

"You don't need to salute me. That isn't a thing we do here in the Wreckers."

"Uh, oh… sorry, sir," Annihilation whispered as she slowly lowered her servo out of its salute before she glanced around Breakdown.

Breakdown followed her gaze, then turned to her. "Want to meet the rest of the Wreckers?"

"Oh, yes, please!"

Breakdown sighed, then led her along, passing the armory, training room, and dining hall until he finally reached the main room of the Wreckers' base. Annihilation stopped beside him and gaped at the mechs gathered in the vast room, all of varied sizes, shapes and talents, sparring, talking or grousing about with each other. Her gaze turned to Breakdown, who pointed her forward. She nodded and began to follow Breakdown as he introduced her to each Wrecker.

He finally stopped at two Wreckers, one a large, green mech, the other a lean silver-and-white mech.

"These two are Bulkhead and Wheeljack, respectively. They are the ones I work with the most. Guys, this is Annihilation. She is the Communications Chief we were told about," Breakdown said, which got a happy smile from Wheeljack.

"It is nice to meet you," Wheeljack said as he walked up to Annihilation, who looked at him nervously as Wheeljack bent down beside her, and said, not quietly, "has Breakdown been telling you about all of his boring life inside the Wreckers? Or has he just been complaining again?"

"Wheeljack," Breakdown growled, though only half-heartedly. He and Wheeljack, one an original Wrecker, the other a much newer one, always loved to joke and tease each other, and today was no different.

Annihilation shook her helm at Wheeljack's question, her optics turning to Bulkhead, who gave her a sheepish wave of one servo.

"Hey," Bulkhead said, his voice oddly nervous.

What's up with the fool? Breakdown wondered, though he brushed it off when he remembered that he still had to bring the new recruit to the Wreckers Second-in-Command, Seaspray, as their Commander - Stormbreaker - was off with the main Autobot leaders.

"Come on, kid. You can talk with Wheeljack and Bulkhead later. I have to take you to Seaspray, and I don't fancy being late," Breakdown pulled the femme along, giving a short wave to Wheeljack and Bulkhead as he left.

"So you guys are all friends?" Annihilation's question gave pause to Breakdown's strides, which made her stop abruptly behind him. Breakdown turned his gaze onto Annihilation, unable to hide the anger blazing within their yellow depths.

"You don't make friends in the Wreckers, and that is a lesson you need to learn," Breakdown snarled, turning away from her before he could see the hurt expression flash over her faceplate.

"Why can't we have friends?" Annihilation asked, jumping in front of Breakdown, who halted once more. Breakdown turned his helm away from the femme.

"Because, if you get too attached to someone in war, more often than not, they die. And," Breakdown suddenly whirled his gaze back to the femme, who jumped back from him nervously, "in this field of war, it's very likely that, sooner or later, you will come back from a mission and your 'friends' will be dead. It's just easier for everyone to keep our relationships with each other strictly as professional soldiers."

Breakdown pushed the femme away from his path and began heading, once again, towards Seaspray's quarters. The femme hesitated then chased after him, catching up to Breakdown, who gave her a sharp growl from his engine when she reached his side.

"You lost someone close to you? Didn't you-"

"Enough!" Breakdown wheeled on the femme, anger tightening through his chassis. "Seaspray is waiting for you through that door."

Without waiting to see that Annihilation met with Seaspray, Breakdown wheeled all the way around and stomped away.

He passed Wheeljack and Bulkhead, who were talking to each other very quietly, but stopped when Breakdown stomped past them. Wheeljack scrambled to his pedes and moved up beside Breakdown, who pointedly ignored him.

"Breakdown, what happened?" Wheeljack asked as Bulkhead moved up on Breakdown's right side.

Breakdown said nothing to either, which made them share a worried glance with each other.

"Breakdown, hey, stop!" Bulkhead said as he got in front of Breakdown, which made Breakdown stop and glare at Bulkhead. Wheeljack walked in front of Breakdown, his bright blue optics worried.

"You okay?"

"Yes. Why would I not be?"

Wheeljack and Bulkhead once again glanced at each other, this time disbelievingly, before Wheeljack turned back to Breakdown.

"Breakdown, remember we are all in this together. We have your back, no matter what happens to us."

"Right," Breakdown replied, optics shifting away from his two companions. He couldn't help but think that Wheeljack's words were not true - the war made liars of them all at some point.

"Breakdown! Get up!" Arcee's call snapped Breakdown from his dream - well, more a memory than anything, one of many Breakdown had been having since Wheeljack had resurfaced on Earth - and recharge. Breakdown leapt to his pedes, glancing around his room furiously until he felt Arcee grab his arm soothingly from his right.

"Hey, it's okay. But something's happened, Ratchet just called me on my comms. You should come too," Arcee said.

"Uh, alright?" Breakdown replied, following after the femme as she left his room. Breakdown moved up beside her and looked down at the petite two wheeler, his optic narrowing. "Did Ratchet say what was wrong?"

"No, not really. He just sounded worried about whatever it was," Arcee explained. Breakdown nodded distractedly, only half-listening to Arcee as they began the long walk to the main room


"Hmm? Yes?"

"Are you okay?"

"Yes. Why do you ask, Arcee?"

"Because," Arcee moved in front of Breakdown, stopping him in his tracks, "you've been really out of it since Wheeljack was here. You didn't even want to go with us when we went fought Airachnid and the Decepticons a few days ago. Did something happen when Wheeljack was here?"

Breakdown tried to sidestep Arcee, but she moved in front of him no matter how he turned and finally he gave a relenting vent. "No, nothing happened because of him. It's just… I've been thinking of a lot of things lately. Old memories, regrets, that sort of thing. Nothing too important, honest."

Arcee growled under her breath, then gave a sharp glare to Breakdown. "Really? That is all you can say, Breakdown? I'm not a fool, I can tell there is something between you and Wheeljack, and I'm not even mentioning you and Bulkhead. So what, in the name of Primus, is your problem?"

Breakdown turned away from Arcee, hoping to ignore her, but she still would not let him pass her by, so Breakdown stomped right up to her and leaned down, until he was glaring right into her optics.

"If you really want to know, Arcee, fine. I will tell you, and you better shut up about it from now on." Arcee stepped back from Breakdown, every so subtly, but nodded, which made Breakdown vent unhappily.

"As an Autobot, I'm guessing you've never been betrayed by someone you trust, have you?"

"Not really… But what does that have to do with anything? You were a Decepticon before you asked us for refuge, so I would imagine that betrayal is something that happened all the time with your former faction. Autobots don't betray each other," Arcee said, her tone incredulous from Breakdown's question. Breakdown turned away from Arcee for a moment, hiding the dark laugh that escaped from his mouth, before he turned back on Arcee.

"It must be nice, having such a simple view on life. Decepticons are bad and Autobots are perfect, amazing, and always in the right. Correct?" Breakdown growled, leaning down closer to Arcee, who was beginning to back away from him.

"I don't have a 'simple' view on life, Breakdown, it is the truth!"

"HA! You really are naive, Arcee-"

Arcee snarled, interrupting Breakdown as she tensed up in front of him. "I am not naive, Breakdown. Unfortunately, what you said is the truth about Autobots and Decepticons. I've never known an Autobot who would hurt their friends, while I know Decepticons who will hurt anyone if it will gain them even an inch of favor with Megatron. They don't care about others."

"Then you must be one lucky Autobot. Sadly, I wouldn't say that had the same experience being an Autobot as you have-"

"Wait, what? You were an Autobot?" Arcee interrupted, her optics ablaze with shock. "Bulkhead wasn't lying..."

"Of course Bulkhead wasn't lying, Arcee. He's never been very good at lying, though he's learned how to hide the truth from his friends - very... Autobot of him, isn't it?"

Arcee's optics narrowed on Breakdown, her backstrut stiffening ever so slightly as her digits unhinged - she was suspecting an attack. Breakdown snorted and rolled his optic before he met Arcee's cold optics again.

"Technically, I was a Wrecker, not an Autobot. I was a Wrecker before Bulkhead and before Wheeljack. I fought beside both of them for many vorns in the beginning of our civil war. But I'm guessing Bulkhead never wanted to admit that little tidbit of history to you guys, did he?"

"All he ever said was that you were his enemy. I try not to pry into other Autobot's business."

Breakdown snorted coldly at Arcee's statement. "Yet, you are more than happy to pry into mine?"

"You were our enemy far longer than you have ever been an ally to the Autobots, Breakdown. It is only natural I am suspicious of you."

"You and everyone else," Breakdown growled lowly. "I turned to the Decepticons after Bulkhead and the Wrecker squadron I was fighting beside left me for dead during a Decepticon ambush at Tyger Pax."

The two wheeler's optics widened suddenly with recognition and, slowly, Arcee took a single step back from Breakdown. "You were the one who led Megatron's forces to the Wreckers' original base?"

"Who else could it have been? Wreckers never turned Decepticon - except for me," Breakdown snarled before he shoved past Arcee forcefully, as he was in no mood to continue to detail his betrayal of the Wreckers and long, cold history with the Decepticons.

The sound of Arcee's pedes chasing after him made Breakdown walk away from her faster, but she, only by running, caught up to him, her blue optics like ice. She opened her mouth to say something but, with a rumbling growl from his engine, Breakdown shot her a cold glare that made her falter for a moment.

Breakdown said nothing more to the femme, and she the same, as the two continued down the hallway until they reached the main room of the base. Bulkhead and Bumblebee were already there, as Ratchet was busy downloading coordinates into the Ground Bridge.

"What's happening?" Arcee asked, coming up near Ratchet.

"Fowler just contacted us. He's saying that Optimus is trying to run him off the road, I'm sending you out there to see what is going on," Ratchet explained just as the Ground Bridge was activated. Arcee cast a confused glance to Bulkhead and Bumblebee, who returned the glance to her with equal confusion.

Breakdown moved past all of them, stopping at the Ground Bridge and glancing back. "Are we going or not?"

"We're going," Arcee replied and, with Bumblebee and Bulkhead following her lead, the four of them transformed into their alt modes and drove through the Ground Bridge.

Breakdown had seen a lot of things in his life, but seeing what did look like Optimus Prime trying to push a small, black car off a bridge was a new one for sure. Bumblebee shot ahead of the group, racing towards Prime then transforming out of his alt mode as the car Prime had been pushing off the bridge, fell. Once the car had fallen, the semi that looked like Prime began to drive away hurriedly.

Bulkhead and Arcee transformed out of their alt modes as Breakdown maneuvered over to where Bumblebee was holding onto the car's bumper, hanging from one of the street lamps that illuminated the bridge. Breakdown bent down over the hole in the bridge railing and snatched onto the end of the car, which began to creak as Breakdown and Bumblebee slowly began to pull it up.

"It looks like Optimus," Bulkhead said in the background, which Arcee followed up with a growl.

"Prime's don't run." Arcee transformed back into her alt mode and roared away, heavy pedesteps announcing Bulkhead's presence next to Breakdown. Bulkhead reached his servo out to help pull the car up but, before Bulkhead could grab onto the car, the car tore away from its bumper and began to fall.

The street lamp Bumblebee was hanging on to suddenly snapped, just as the black car plummeted towards the ground. Breakdown swore and lunged for Bumblebee as the scout slipped and started to fall, his servo clutching tightly around the scout's arm. Bumblebee's weight drug Breakdown, who was leaning precariously over the destroyed bridge railing, but he steadied himself and yanked Bumblebee back up to the roadway of the bridge.

Bumblebee beeped something that sounded bright with gratitude before the scout peered over the edge of the bridge. Breakdown, remembering the car and Bulkhead, peered over the bridge too. Far below them, Bulkhead looked up and gave them a thumps from servos that were occupied by the black car.

"Fowler's okay, just unconscious. Has Arcee come back?"

"No, she hasn't," Breakdown yelled back, glancing in the direction Arcee had raced off. "I'll go check on her. You should contact Ratchet for a Ground Bridge."

Bulkhead gave a short nod to Breakdown as Breakdown wheeled about and transformed back into his alt mode, engine roaring as he followed where Arcee had gone. Breakdown traveled down the road for a mile or two when he spotted a gas station to his right. His headlights illuminated the abandoned fuel pumps and the convience station, along with some dusty old cars - well, scrap. It's the gas station where I fought with Airachnid against Arcee and Bulkhead.

"Arcee?" Breakdown kept his voice low as he shifted his alt, using his headlights to scan the murky shadows of night that cloaked the gas station.

A shape became visible in the flood of his headlights, one that was unmistakably Arcee.

The two wheeler's alt form was laying on the ground next to one of the abandoned gas pumps, the metal on her left side crushed in, almost as if something large had hit her. Warily, Breakdown transformed out of his alt mode, glancing around for the Optimus look-a-like for a moment or two, then bent down to Arcee.

Breakdown glanced quickly over Arcee's chassis, noting the damage she had received, then activated his comms.

"Ratchet, open up a Ground Bridge when you can. Arcee's been hit pretty badly," Breakdown said as he bent down and picked Arcee up. Arcee did not make a sound, which only made Breakdown certain that she had been knocked into stasis by whatever - or, whoever - had done this to her.

A Ground Bridge opened up behind Breakdown and he walked through it with Arcee in his arms.

"Yes, that's it. Follow the light," Ratchet said as Arcee's optics began to open slowly inside the examination area. Breakdown was standing to the left of Ratchet, with Bumblebee watching nervously beside him.

Arcee slowly shook her helm, then suddenly looked up at Ratchet. "Wait, what?" Arcee vented, then slowly shifted out of the examination room, though Bumblebee and Ratchet had to steady her as she glanced up at Ratchet. "Not the best choice of words, Ratchet…"

Arcee moved away from Ratchet and Bumblebee, her steps slow. Breakdown watched behind Bumblebee, leaning against the platform railing.

"Arcee, are you alright?" Jack asked the two-wheeler.

"Sure," she said, though everyone could tell she wasn't. "Except for being blind-sided by Optimus."

"Didn't I tell you?" Fowler snapped, his dark optics angry. Ratchet moved up to Arcee, who glanced at him wearily.

"Impossible," Ratchet spat.

"I'm only reporting what I saw," Arcee explained.

"But, why would Optimus try to knock off Agent Fowler?" Jack questioned.

Maybe 'cause he realized humans stink, Breakdown thought sarcastically, though he knew that the Prime would never think that of the humans. Except maybe MECH.

"Maybe Optimus believes he is a Decepticon all over again?" Rafael guessed, though Breakdown doubted that.

"Or," Miko added, "he's been faking being a good guy all this time?"

"If Prime has gone off the rails, for any reason, we have a serious problem," Fowler grumbled, which made Ratchet scoff disbelievingly.

"This is absurd," Ratchet growled before he made a show of moving up to the central monitors with a huff of his vents. "A quick check for Optimus' signal will reveal that he's nowhere near the location of tonight's incident. In fact, he's just returning now."

Ratchet turned his chassis to the entrance tunnel into the base, where a steady rumble was soon to be heard echoing out. Ratchet, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee moved to get a better view of the entrance tunnel, though Breakdown stayed where he was, as he didn't really believe this was something he wanted to get into.

After a bit Optimus drove out of the tunnel, transformed out of his alt mode, and slowly walked up to the four Autobots staring at him. When Optimus got close to them, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee all tensed up, though Ratchet stayed perfectly calm.

"Is something wrong?" Optimus asked the four mechs.

"We were just," Arcee began, then glanced towards Bulkhead before speaking again, "wondering where you've been."

"We haven't been able to reach you," Bulkhead added.

"I have been outside of our communication range," Optimus explained as he turned slowly to his right. Immediately, in reaction to Optimus' movement, Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee all jumped back, aiming their blasters towards their leader. Ratchet looked stunned and Breakdown raised one optic ridge.


"Whoa!" "Easy!" Bulkhead and Arcee said at the same time, which made Optimus turn to them very slowly and hold up one servo in a non-threatening gesture.

"-In a subterranean energon deposit," Optimus finished explaining, revealing a small energon crystal to the three tense Autobots. Arcee and Bulkhead glanced towards each other, then back to Optimus.

"Come on, it's our guy. Can't you tell?" Jack snapped, which made Arcee and Bulkhead glance at each warily once more, then slowly deactivate their blasters.

"We're sorry."

"Don't blame them, Prime. I was attacked earlier tonight, out on the open highway, by a big rig. One that bore a striking resemblance to you," Fowler explained, turning Optimus' worried gaze to him.

"I don't not understand how that is possible," Optimus muttered.

"I'm not sure, Prime, but I would suggest that, until we get this mystery of who the heck this Prime look-a-like is, you stay here," Fowler suggested, which did not seem to please Optimus.

"Agent Fowler, I do not mean to disrespect you, but it is very important that I find this, other self, and stop it."

A sudden ringing from Fowler stopped anyone else from speaking as the human flipped open a small device and placed it to his audial.

"Fowler. What? That's not possible! I can tell you, as sure as there are fifty stars on my star-spangled shorts, it isn't him!" Fowler turned towards Optimus, shutting his device before walking closer to the edge of the platform. "Alden Military Base is under attack. By Optimus Prime."

"The truck?" Jack asked.

Fowler shook his head and pointed to Optimus. "By the 'Bot."

Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee all turned to stare at their leader, whose optics were emotionless and his faceplate expressionless.

"Well, I guess your wish has come true, Prime. Now go save those boys at the base from this, whatever it is!"

Ratchet was pacing ceaselessly back and forth in the base, his every movement punctuated by nervousness. Breakdown had not gone with the Autobots to the humans' military base, deciding instead to stay out of this strange mess with the Prime look-a-like.

But something felt off. Not just for the fact that there was a crazy, murderous Optimus running around. No, it was something else. He knew that Megatron would never do something like this, no matter how much the Decepticon hated the Autobots Breakdown couldn't imagine Megatron making a fake Optimus.

So that left only one group who would do something like this.


"Autobots, return to base! We must not inflict human casualties!" Optimus' voice, and the subsequent sound of the Ground bridge being activated snapped Breakdown away from the revelation.

A moment later Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Optimus all charged through the Ground Bridge, skidding to a halt with heavy vents.

"What happened?" Ratchet asked Optimus, who looked up at him and, very matter of factly, said,

"It is as you said. Another me."

"No, General Bryce, Optimus Prime did not attack our boys. Because I was with Prime when I received the alert! Yes, Sir. The Autobots were at your base, but only in response to the initial attack. But Sir, I- Yes, Sir, I understand," Fowler vented as he closed his device, one optic turning to Optimus, who was once again showing no emotion on his faceplate.

"So, what's the damage?" Jack asked. Fowler vented once more, then turned his gaze to Jack.

"All military personnel are under strict orders to destroy any, and all, 'Bots on sight."

"Are you kidding?"

"But, they're innocent!" Rafael exclaimed.

"Optimus was framed!" Miko snarled.

"Though unfortunate, the military order changes nothing. Our imposter clearly imposes a great threat to humanity," Optimus stated, his words making Breakdown growl with irritation.

It is always about the humans.

"A thirty-foot tall transforming imposter," Fowler emphasized.

"So, they finally did it. Those butchers managed to crack the code," Ratchet said seriously, his optics turning to Breakdown for the briefest of moments.

"MECH," Optimus growled.

Breakdown shuddered then, without really looking at anyone, hurried down the hallway to his quarters-

"MECH abducted Breakdown and, from what I've seen and had him tell me, deconstructed him from cranial chamber to heel strut."

"I was there," Bulkhead said darkly. "And it wasn't pretty."

The Autobots' growls stopped Breakdown from moving any further than the entrance of the hallway, the mention of his name making him turn around and watch the Autobots, though he kept to the shadows.

"And we know that more recently, they obtained Starscream's T-cog," Optimus added.

"Which they evidently installed in a knock off of you," Arcee growled.

"Which, in turn, scanned an appropriate vehicle form," Ratchet rumbled.

"Filled a tank with energon-"

"And say hello to Nemesis Prime!" Miko interjected, which made Jack send her an unhappy scowl.

"So where do we start? MECH's base could be anywhere-"

"Not necessarily Agent Fowler, while MECH may have learned much of our biology-"

"They haven't necessarily absorbed our technology. Without access to a Ground Bridge, Nemesis Prime would rely solely on its vehicle mode for transportation," Ratchet explained, his servos flicking over the controls of the monitors to show an image of Nemesis Prime.

"Chances are that the MECH base is within driving distance of both incidents," Arcee suggested, walking up beside Optimus.

"What are we waiting for? Let's get out there and mash MECH's little science project!"

"Agent Fowler, I do not think it advisable to put yourself in harms way of MECH's robot again," Prime said to the human, who gave the Autobot leader a questioning look.

"Well I don't think it's advisable for 'Bots to be running recon with the military out there gunning for you," Fowler snapped, crossing his arms over his chest.

"We will maintain vehicular cover until absolutely necessary," Optimus assured, though Fowler only gave him the stiffest of stares.

"So," Arcee asked, "how are we going to do this?"

"We will split up and search in proximity of where the base may be," Optimus answered, his gaze turning to each Autobot, "Bulkhead, you will go out to the mesas, Arcee, I want you out on the road, search as far as you can. Bumblebee, you'll head out to the east of Arcee's position. And I will be heading north. If anyone finds even a hint of MECH, contact the others."

Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee all nodded, turning to the entrance tunnel when Bulkhead suddenly stopped and turned his gaze to Optimus. Arcee and Bumblebee stopped and turned, both with matching quizzical expressions on her faceplates, watching as Bulkhead walked up to his leader.

"Optimus, what about Breakdown?" Bulkhead asked, his gaze turning to the hallway Breakdown was hiding in. Fearing they would notice that he had been listening in to their conversation, Breakdown ducked further into the shadows of the hallway, though he did not move away.

Optimus followed Bulkhead's gaze, then shook his helm sadly. "We cannot risk Breakdown having another… episode, like he did the last time we had dealings with MECH. It's better for him if-"

"How do you know what's best for me, Prime?" The words escaped Breakdown's voice before he could even think, anger fueling his stride as he marched up to the Autobots. Bulkhead shifted his optics between Optimus and Breakdown, stepping away from the two rapidly as Breakdown glared up at Optimus.

"Breakdown, I understand-"

"Oh, do you? I'm surprised, I don't remember you ever being dissected, or looked at as some kind of tool for one's experiment," Breakdown snarled, his engine revving angrily. "No, Optimus. You don't know. And you never will."

Bulkhead moved closer to Breakdown, his optics pleading and servos raised, but Breakdown only turned his glare on Bulkhead.

"Don't even start with me, Bulkhead." Bulkhead lowered his servos, optics falling shamefully as Breakdown turned his gaze back to Optimus, who let out a drawn vent.

"Breakdown, it is safest for you not to encounter MECH once again-"

"Safest for who? Your Autobots?" Breakdown snorted derisively, his anger reaching a boiling point, "Or is your concern over the fact that I am willing to kill my enemies, unlike you, especially if they are human? You can't handle any one of your precious Autobots being violent. Can you?"

"Breakdown…" Ratchet warned, but Breakdown ignored him.

"I'm going out there, and looking for MECH, and you won't stop me." With those words, Breakdown transformed into his alt mode and raced out of the base, ignoring the shouts from Bulkhead and Arcee.

Breakdown still hadn't found a trace of MECH, or Nemesis Prime, even though he had been searching for more than two groons. None of the Autobots had tried to contact him over the comms - he didn't care that they didn't - since he'd left, though he had heard chatter over his comms from them.

"Nothing but tumbleweeds here," Bulkhead said over the comms, which Arcee followed up with, "Just a whole lot of empty."

Bumblebee let out a string of beeps, which got mild responses from Bulkhead and Arcee, before Optimus halted them with a rumble from his engine.

"Bumblebee, proceed with utmost caution. Reconnaissance only, we will rendezvous at your coordinates."

A moment later, Bumblebee's coordinates flashed up on Breakdown's monitor, and he turned in the direction of the coordinates, more than happy for once to follow Optimus' orders.

Bumblebee's coordinates led to an old, long derelict oil refinery factory. Breakdown stopped at an entrance between the high, wired fence and glanced around for the others before he transformed out of his alt mode and gazed around warily. The old factory was shrouded in shadow, with only the moon illuminating bits of it - a perfect night for an ambush from MECH.

"Hey, Breakdown!"

Breakdown shied sideways at the sound of Bulkhead's voice, then snapped his gaze behind him, where Bulkhead, Arcee and Optimus were walking up behind him. Breakdown gave the three Autobots a stiff nod, then fell in beside them as they walked into the factor.

"Bumblebee, do you read?" Optimus called over the coms, but they were met only with harsh static.

Arcee whirled her gaze to Optimus, her chassis tense. "Spread out?"

Breakdown tensed up, activating his shoulder cannon and switching his servos to his hammers as the Autobots began to split up.

"And beware of anything that might resemble me," Optimus warned.

Breakdown snapped his gaze away from Optimus and began his way into the factory.

Shadows lapped at the edge of Breakdown's vision, the silence of the factory only making Breakdown more wary. He'd heard the faint hiss of static twice over his comms, which he was certain was the Autobots fighting Nemesis Prime.

He only hoped-

"Well, well."

Optimus' voice, yet at the same time, not Optimus' voice, snapped Breakdown's attention to his right. There, in the shadows, came Optimus, but with cold, emotionless orange optics.

"You," Breakdown snarled, unable to hide his nerves as he backed away from Nemesis Prime, who had begun to advance on him slowly.

"Ah, I see you remember me, I'm surprised, frankly. But you won't escape me this time," Nemesis Prime snarled before he lunged for Breakdown.

Breakdown let out a roar and lunged towards Nemesis Prime, smashing his hammer-servo into the machine's side, forcing Nemesis Prime to stumble back, though only slightly from Breakdown's hit. Nemesis Prime recovered swiftly as he smashed his right servo into Breakdown's helm and then fired one of his guns at Breakdown.

The white-hot blast hit into Breakdown's chestplate, forcing him to stumble back from the impact, though there was minimal damage to his frame. Rage burned through Breakdown's fuel lines as he fired his shoulder cannon at Nemesis Prime. The blasts struck Nemesis Prime's shoulder plate, though it did not seem to faze the robot as it swung at Breakdown again.

Breakdown dove to the side, dodging the swing from Nemesis Prime, and barreled into Nemesis Prime's back. Breakdown's hit sent Nemesis Prime crashing into a large silo behind the machine but, before Breakdown could strike Nemesis Prime again, it lunged up from the ground and fired both of its guns.

There was no time for Breakdown to dodge either blast and, with a roar of pain, Breakdown stumbled backwards, shaking his helm desperately to clear the pain from his processor.

"You've given me more trouble than I expected, Decepticon. You escaped me the first time and then you nosed into my business in Colorado," Nemesis Prime - no, Silas, this was the human who had ordered his dissection, voice - snarled, his heavy footfalls echoed in Breakdown's audio receptors like thunder.

Ominously, from above Breakdown's helm, came the hiss of two guns powering up. Breakdown's optic snapped up to Nemesis Prime and, with a feral savageness, lunged into Nemesis Prime. Nemesis' guns fired over Breakdown's helm harmlessly as Breakdown smashed his hammer into the mech's chest plate.

Breakdown smashed one hammer into the helm of Nemesis Prime, then the other straight into the midsection of the machine. Nemesis Prime stumbled back slightly from Breakdown's attack, which only encouraged Breakdown to continue a flurry of punishing hits upon the machine. Nemesis Prime had no time to recover until the machine jerked out of range of one of Breakdown's brutal swings, one that left Breakdown open to retaliation.

As Breakdown turned towards Nemesis Prime, the machine let out a roar of anger from his engine and lunged for Breakdown. Breakdown dodged sideways, catching the machine off guard as he fired his gun at its back. Silas wheeled around on him, but Breakdown had already moved again, this time punching Nemesis Prime under the chin. The machine flew backwards, crashing to the ground with a heavy thud.

Growling, Breakdown moved up on his enemy, aimed his gun and-

Pain blazed through Breakdown's midsection, agony tearing from his mouth as he stumbled backwards. Slowly, disbelievingly, Breakdown stared down at his side, where Nemesis Prime's sword had slashed under his side plating.

"Hmph. You thought you could out duel me, didn't you? Well, that was your last mistake!" Silas scoffed then, without giving a chance for Breakdown to react, delivered a punishing blow to Breakdown's helm.

Stars popped in Breakdown's vision as he reeled backwards, though his vision was clear enough to see the sword plunging towards him. Breakdown jerked back and threw his arm up to block Silas' sword, which glanced off his arm with a harsh screech of metal. Breakdown reached for the machine's sword and took hold of the mech's arm before he put all of his strength behind his pedes and threw Silas away from himself.

Silas' machine backpedaled before he transformed both servos into their gun alts and fired. Blasts of hot energy jolted Breakdown backwards, unbalancing him long enough for Nemesis Prime to lunge for Breakdown and, with a snarl, swung his servo up underneath Breakdown's chin.

Breakdown was lifted from his pedes, thrown by the impact of Nemesis Prime's fist, and crashed to the ground with a heavy thud.

Stunned, Breakdown's chassis quivered as he tried to pull himself back to his pedes but, as Nemesis Prime turned his back on Breakdown and stalked away, Breakdown saw the factory fade in his vision and slumped, unconscious, to the ground.

"Agent Fowler, the control frequency is transmitting from a structure 100 meters due north."

"Copy that."

The hiss of voices over Breakdown's comms rose him out of his stasis slowly, his optic fizzing as it whirred to life. He was still in the old oil refinery, though the shadows of night had stretched out further since his fight with Silas' Nemesis Prime. Blinking slowly, Breakdown moved his servos underneath himself and slowly raised himself up onto his pedes, though he had to hesitate for a moment as his gyros centered.

Movement drew Breakdown's gaze to his right, where he noticed Agent Fowler moving hurriedly north. Anger hissed from Breakdown's engine quietly as his optic turned in the direction Agent Fowler was hurrying.

'The control frequency'?


No hesitation or secondary thought could have stopped Breakdown as he followed Agent Fowler quietly, keeping himself out of sight from the human and MECH - he knew they were waiting, somewhere amongst the silos and smoke stacks, watching for him.

Agent Fowler did not notice Breakdown as the human scaled up an access ladder on a large silo that- there. A MECH soldier. Which meant that Agent Fowler had found the headquarters for Silas' operation.

Breakdown snarled to himself as he slowly advanced on the silo, still careful to avoid MECH's gaze - though he'd noticed Agent Fowler take out the MECH agent on watch duty on top of the silo. Agent Fowler scaled down into the silo from a ladder on the top of the silo's roof and then all there was left was the distant sound of clashing metal.

But Breakdown paid that no heed as he carefully moved out of the shadows and approached the silo. He saw two MECH agents jerk and turn their guns on him as he approached their position, though the humans had no chance to fire before Breakdown crushed them under his pede.

His audio receptors picked up the sound of strained voices from inside the silo and then a high, human screech- Agent Fowler!

Breakdown drove his shoulder into the wall of the silo without hesitation, destroying the wall and drawing every human gaze in the silo to his - to the humans perspective - immense frame.

Agent Fowler was slumped to the ground, his mouth turned into a tight grimace of pain as MECH agents stood over his frame with their guns trained upon him. And there, staring at him with a torrid mix of anger and shock in his optics, was Silas.

The MECH agents whirled their guns on Breakdown as he charged towards Silas, the bullets of their guns ricocheting off his chassis with sharp hisses. Breakdown roared at the humans as he swept the MECH agents away from Agent Fowler with a hard hit from his left servo, and crushed Silas - who had frozen at Breakdown's intrusion - under his right pede.

One of the MECH agents let out a gasp of their leader's name before Breakdown turned on them and fired his cannon. His blasts were immaculate, striking the MECH agents down just as the ceiling of the silo shook deafeningly.

Breakdown looked up briefly before he snatched up Agent Fowler in his left servo and ran out of the silo, a nanosecond before the entire ceiling collapsed into itself and Nemesis Prime's frame crashed to the ground.

"Thank you."

Agent Fowler's voice was weak and thready, though loud enough for Breakdown to hear and it drew his harsh optic down to the human still held in his servo. "You saved my life."

Breakdown scowled and turned his optic away from Agent Fowler, just as Optimus, Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee approached Breakdown and Agent Fowler. Breakdown lowered Agent Fowler to the ground before he straightened up and met the imploring gaze of Optimus.

"Silas is deceased," Breakdown stated coldly before he jerked his helm in the direction of the silo. "I crushed him under my pede."

"Breakdown saved me," Agent Fowler interrupted, "MECH had me surrounded after I tried to distract Silas. They used some kind of electric shock on me while I was fighting Silas - it knocked me down for the count. And they were going to kill me, were it not for Breakdown barging in on the place."

Optimus let out a pondering hum from his engine at Agent Fowler's statement, before the steady, reverberating beat of helicopter blades chopped through the air. Breakdown bristled, expecting MECH to come in with a hail of bullets and electric disrupters until Agent Fowler ordered Optimus and the Autobots to leave.

A nod was all Optimus gave before he ordered the Autobots and Breakdown back to base.

"Breakdown... we need to speak."

Breakdown looked up from where Ratchet was running a frame welder over his side plating and to Optimus, who was standing with arms crossed just to his left. He felt a scowl tug at his mouth before he let an irritated snort hiss from his vents. "If you are going to berate me for killing Silas, then you should know I don't care what you have to say to me. I do not need to be lectured on the merits of killing humans, not when it is MECH in question. They have the same lack of compunction for Cybertronian life as I do their lives. It was my choice to kill Silas and the MECH agents with him, and one I can live with easily."

Optimus looked at Breakdown for a long klick before he relented with a jerk of his helm. "I understand that you had a history with MECH, Breakdown, but I do worry that  you could have made a dangerous decision."

"I knew exactly what I was doing," Breakdown retorted hotly, "and you will just have to live with that. We are all safer with Silas deceased, and I'm sure even you have to know that, Optimus."

The Autobot leader shared a quick glance with Ratchet before Optimus let out a sigh. "Not all of my concern has to do with humans, Breakdown."

"Oh, sure!" Breakdown snorted. "I'll believe that when I see it."

Optimus opened his mouth to retort - Breakdown saw the Autobot leader's optics sharpen with angered flint - but Breakdown turned away from him, engine snarling for the end of the conversation. Finally, Optimus turned and left, leaving Breakdown to Ratchet's care once again.

Chapter Text

"As Optimus is busy dealing with the human military, he has assigned me to take command of operations at our base. For now," Ratchet explained, his gaze turning to Breakdown, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee respectively.

"So, what can we not do?" Bulkhead asked, his gaze turning to Miko, who was watching the group with utter excitement crossing over her face.

It was obvious to Breakdown that the lack of the Prime's presence meant that Bulkhead and Miko would be finding some form of trouble to get themselves into. They are both like newly sparked protoforms. Loud and foolish.

Ratchet growled something to himself quietly, then rolled his optics. "Really, Bulkhead? That is the first thing you need to know?"

"Uh, yeah, I guess…" Bulkhead muttered, the embarrassment in his optics making Breakdown snicker. Bulkhead shot Breakdown a moody glare, who only shrugged nonchalantly at the green mech.

"Fine, Bulkhead. The only thing I don't want you doing is something stupid-"

"Uh, Ratchet, stupid is Bulkhead. Saying he can't do something stupid is like saying Miko can't be annoying," Breakdown interrupted, shooting Bulkhead a smug look as the former Wrecker's mouth fell open in shock and anger.

"Why, you-"

"Bulkhead. Enough. Optimus, why do you do this to me?" Ratchet muttered, turning away from the mechs standing behind him with a disgruntled snort. "Do what you want."

"Yes!" Bulkhead and Miko yelled at the same time, the young human running down the platform stairs to skid to a stop next to Bulkhead. Before Bulkhead could transform into his alt mode, Breakdown moved up to the former Wrecker, which drew both Miko and Bulkhead's attention to him.

"Hey! What do you want?" Miko asked, while Bulkhead watched Breakdown unhappily.

"Can I come with you guys?" Breakdown asked, his helm tilting curiously at the surprised glances Miko and Bulkhead shot each other.

He'd been wanting to get out of the base since he and the Autobots had fought MECH's "Nemesis Prime", but had found no time or an Autobot escort to take him outside. And, though he found the idea of traveling with Bulkhead and his human, Breakdown wanted outside too badly to be choosy.

"Uh, why not?" Miko said, though Bulkhead looked about to protest.

Miko shot a glare to Bulkhead before the green Autobot let out a sigh and nodded. "Fine, I'll allow you to come with us, if only because it gives me the chance to keep my optics on you."

Breakdown grinned smugly at Bulkhead, who pouted sourly then switched to his alt mode. Miko gave Breakdown an apologetic look before she leapt into Bulkhead. Breakdown transformed into his alt mode, moving up beside Bulkhead, who immediately set off, leaving behind a spray of exhaust that covered Breakdown as Bulkhead raced out the entrance tunnel.

Breakdown grumbled to himself then charged after Bulkhead, easily catching up to the green mech as they passed out of the entrance tunnel from the base.

It was nearly night, the sky shifting from a muted rainbow of colors to a dark blue, almost black color, as Breakdown and Bulkhead drove silently down the road. Breakdown did not strike up any kind of conversation with Bulkhead as he was enjoying just being out, away from the base and away from the constant, never ending struggle of everyday life with the Autobots.

Being a Decepticon for ages, Breakdown had never really had the chance to just go out, without a goal, or mission, influencing his actions, so he would not be foolish to turn down the opportunity to go out. Even if it meant going with Bulkhead and Miko.

You win some, you lose some, Breakdown thought.

The sudden crackle of his comms turning on caused Breakdown to almost swerve sideways until he realized that it was just Bulkhead contacting him.

"Hey, Breakdown, want to try something fun?" Miko asked, her excitement obvious even over the comms.

"No," Breakdown said coolly.

"Aw come on! You came out with us, so you gotta be like us!" Miko yelled, making Breakdown wince at her obnoxiously high-pitched voice. I'm beginning to regret this.

"I'm fine as is, Miko. You and Bulkhead can go play, I'll just observe."

"Ugh! You are no fun! Have you always been such a party pooper, Breakdown?" Miko whined.

"Uh… What?" Breakdown asked, bewilderment snaking into his spark. Human expressions made no sense to him - humans didn't make any sense to him.

"Ignore him, Miko. Decepticons - even former ones - don't understand jokes, unless those jokes are about betraying each other. So, it's kinda pointless to try with him," Bulkhead growled lowly.

Offended, Breakdown hit his brakes, skidding to a sharp halt along the gray asphalt. Bulkhead screeched to a stop a bit ahead of Breakdown, then drove back over to him.

"You okay?" Miko asked Breakdown as Bulkhead flashed his lights at him curiously.


"Then-" Miko began.

"Shut up, human," Breakdown snarled as he snapped his alt mode into reverse and screeched away from Bulkhead. He hooked a left and drove onto the rough, earthy terrain, slightly thankful for his alt mode's ability to traverse terrain such as this easily. Hearing the angry roar of an engine, Breakdown twisted his mirrors, his engine snarling at the sight of Bulkhead chasing after him.

"Breakdown, slag it, wait!" Bulkhead roared over the comms.

Fine, Breakdown thought nastily as he slammed, unannounced, onto his brakes. Smoke ripped from his tires as they skidding haphazardly over the rocky ground, finally coming to a stop at the edge of a small hill. Breakdown turned his left mirror and waited for Bulkhead to catch up to him.

Finally, Bulkhead pulled up next to Breakdown, the Autobot's passenger door opening up so Miko could climb out of him. Bulkhead transformed out of his alt mode and turned a tempered glare at Breakdown.

"What is wrong with you, Breakdown?" Bulkhead snarled as he stomped up to Breakdown, who was still in his alt mode. "You hurt Miko's feelings-"

There. That was it.

Snapping out of his alt mode, Breakdown turned on Bulkhead, who had leapt back, startled by Breakdown's reaction.

"What about my feelings, Bulkhead? Or do you think I don't have any, since I was a Decepticon once?" Breakdown snarled, stomping right up to Bulkhead as he said it. "Only Autobots are allowed to feel pain and hurt and betrayal? Is that it?!"

Bulkhead's optics, for a moment stunned, narrowed as anger flashed through them. "What are you getting at, Breakdown?"

Breakdown threw his servos in the air and released a scoff of disbelief. "Oh, I don't know, maybe the fact that I'm tired of the fact that you keep spinning this 'oh, Breakdown is evil, because he was a Decepticon' slag. You, and your Autobot pals, are always spinning this tale of how bad Decepticons are, but that isn't the whole truth is it?"

"Bulkhead? What's Breakdown meaning?" Miko asked, her optics switching between Breakdown and Bulkhead nervously.

"It's nothing, Miko. Breakdown is just being dramatic," Bulkhead replied cheerily, though his entire chassis was tense, and his optics narrowed to fiery slits.

"Oh, I'm being dramatic, Bulkhead? So is betraying your companion and leaving him for dead not worthy of anger?" Breakdown hissed, his voice rising higher and higher with his temper.

Bulkhead winced, lowering his gaze from Breakdown guiltily. "Breakdown- Please, not with Miko here," Bulkhead begged quietly, which made Breakdown laugh.

"Not with Miko here? What, you can't handle her knowing what the 'good guys' did?" Breakdown snarled, his gaze snapping to Miko, who was beginning to stare at Bulkhead with an unreadable expression flashing over her faceplate.


Bulkhead looked away from Miko and said nothing.

Coward, Breakdown thought, then turned on Miko.

"I remember you asking me why Bulkhead and I hate each other when I first came to the Autobots, and I guess it is time to tell you," Breakdown snapped, his gaze turning to Bulkhead briefly, but the Autobot did not move in protest.

"I know that Bulkhead has told you all sorts of stories about the Wreckers, right?"

Miko nodded.

"But I'm guessing he never told you I was one once, did he?"

Miko's shocked look was more than enough of an answer to Breakdown, who couldn't help but let out the most unamused of laughs.

"I thought so. Though I have a question for you, human. Who do you think was the one whose fault is it that we hate each other? Bulkhead or me?"

Miko hesitated, then pointed to Breakdown. Breakdown glanced towards Bulkhead, who shifted even further from Breakdown.

"That's rich, isn't it, Bulkhead?" Breakdown snapped, which made Bulkhead flinch very noticeable. "Well then, Miko, you would be surprised to learn that it wasn't me alone who caused us to hate each other. Bulkhead and his Wrecker pals left me behind on the battlefield when I was gravely injured," Breakdown looked towards Bulkhead as he said his next words, "and you did nothing as Sharpclaw ripped me open, Bulkhead.

Bulkhead looked at Breakdown finally. "Breakdown-"

"WHY?! Why did you leave me behind? Do you realize what you did to me when you left me behind? Well?" Breakdown asked, glaring into Bulkhead's optics.

"I…" Bulkhead finished lamely, making Breakdown only snarl even louder.

"You and your Wreckers pals destroyed me. That is why I told Megatron about the Wreckers' base. I wanted to destroy you, just like you had done to me. I trusted you, all of you, and you left me behind because I was injured. I thought Wreckers were always supposed to be there for each other," Breakdown said softly, his rage simmering away to be replaced by an eons long sadness.

He jerked his helm away from Bulkhead as hurt stabbed its long, eternal claws into his spark. Breakdown slumped to the ground, his arms falling to his sides, hitting the ground with a soft thud as he tilted his helm up, optic staring into the vastness of the sky.

Breakdown's words echoed at the edge of his processor, but not enough to dull out what he thought next.

Sometimes I wish I had died on that battlefield. Everything would have been simpler that way...

Breakdown was so caught up in his thoughts that he did not notice as Miko slowly moved up to him, leaping up onto his servo and climbing up his arm. Only the feeling of the soft patter of feet drew Breakdown away from his thoughts and, slowly, he turned his helm to watch as Miko clambered over his shoulder plates.

Miko walked up until she was very close to Breakdown's helm, close enough to his optic that Breakdown could see every strand of hair and detail in the small human's clothing. He hated that she stood on him, hated her human presence but he did nothing - he didn't care enough at the moment to remove the human from his chassis.

"What?" He asked, his voice empty of emotion.

Miko said nothing as she suddenly wrapped her arms around the lower part of Breakdown's faceplate, causing a jolt of panic to shot through Breakdown's chassis. But he didn't move, for the little human, with her arms wrapped so tightly around him, gave him a strange sense of comfort. She, like the other two children, had never once tried to hurt him in the many months he'd been with the Autobots, and Miko did not give off the same feeling of evil as the humans of MECH did.

So he let Miko stay, even when she snuggled closer against his faceplate and the feeling of her skin sent shivers down Breakdown's back strut.

Breakdown had come to understand that humans showed concern or affection for those they cared about by hugging them - he'd seen it enough in the drive in theaters Knock Out had insisted on them watching to know that, at least, about humans. He had never experienced affection from anyone, not even from Knock Out, and now that he was on the receiving end of it, even from a human, he didn't want her to leave.

He liked this feeling of affection, even when his deepest fears told him to yank away from the human. Before Breakdown realized what he was doing, he leaned into the human's touch and shuttered his optic peacefully, a soft, nearly silent thrum of returned affection rattling from his engine.

This is wrong… Right? I hate humans, so why do I not feel hatred for this one? She's annoying but… she still shows me kindness I am not due. All of the Autobots' human companions do. I don't trust them, I can't, but these humans aren't the same as those from MECH. Jack even argued for Arcee and Bulkhead to spare me when I was caught in that cave in with Megatron and Starscream.

Breakdown looked up from Miko as he heard Bulkhead's heavy pedes stomp over the hard desert with angry, loud hisses from his engine. Breakdown sighed and opened his mouth to say something to Bulkhead when his scanner suddenly began to give off a warning ping. Bulkhead seemed to have picked up whatever Breakdown's scanner was picking up for the green mech snapped his gaze to Breakdown, who gave him a short nod of confirmation.

I see it too.

"Miko," Bulkhead snapped, which drew the young human's gaze to him "Get over here." Miko obeyed Bulkhead and, with Breakdown gently picking her up and lowering her to the ground, Miko ran up to Bulkhead. Bulkhead pulled Miko into his servo, holding onto her tightly as he glanced around the desert suspiciously.

"I'll go check it out," Breakdown hissed. Bulkhead nodded and, without a glance back, transformed into his alt mode and drove off.

Pulling up the location of the anomaly, Breakdown switched into his alt mode and drove towards it.

An groon later and Breakdown still hadn't found whatever had made his scanner - and Bulkhead's, for that matter - activate. And strangely enough, the anomaly had faded away almost immediately after appearing, which was odd.

The signal had led him into Jasper though, but after that, well, nothing. So he was driving in circles around the town, looking for the anomaly - it had to be Cybertronian if his scanner picked it up on that specific frequency.

What a waste, Breakdown thought as he came to a red light and slowed to a stop. Bored, Breakdown turned his gaze around the intersection, not really paying attention to the assorted group of cars, including a fancy red-

"Knock Out?!" Breakdown gasped as his gaze locked onto the red sports car, edged with gold rims and flame-patterned doors, to the left of him. Knock Out did not notice Breakdown as the Decepticon drove forward with the rest of the cars at his light. Breakdown hesitated then charged into the moving traffic, cutting in front of one small white car, who honked at him indignantly, before he charged after Knock Out.

Knock Out took a right onto a road that led out of Jasper, which Breakdown took too. Breakdown passed one more car, rushing past it on its left, catching up to Knock Out, and letting out a threatening growl from his engine.

Knock Out's first reaction was to swerve to the right, sending sprays of dust up from his wheels before Knock Out drove back onto the highway, amidst honks of protest from the drivers behind them.

"Breakdown?" Knock Out gasped, though he covered it up with a furious growl.

"Pull off here," Breakdown warned before he drove in front of Knock Out, then took a sharp right onto a dirt road off the highway. Breakdown came to a halt, mirrors turning to watch as Knock Out slowly, hesitantly drove onto the dirt road. Knock Out pulled up beside Breakdown, who only afforded him a tight growl, before driving further down the dirt road.

Knock Out roared up beside him but said nothing to Breakdown until they reached the end of the dirt road, which halted at the edge of a mesa.

Breakdown wheeled on Knock Out, switching out of his alt mode as Knock Out did the same.

"What are you doing here, Knock Out?" Breakdown snarled, stomping up to the Decepticon medic, who was watching him warily.

"Out for a drive," Knock Out replied tartly, which only made Breakdown tenser.

"Whatever," Breakdown snapped, turning away from his former friend without another word. Knock Out didn't say anything either, though Breakdown could hear the medic shifting on his pedes beside him.

"Why did you leave?" Knock Out's question broke the silence between them, only mildly surprising Breakdown. Knock Out has never been one to skirt the hard stuff.

Breakdown turned his optic to Knock Out, who had crossed his arms over his red chestplate, then vented. "You should know. I would have imagined Megatron would have told you guys. He isn't one to avoid smearing one's dirty mesh to others, especially if it concerns one of his own defecting."

"That wasn't what I was meaning. I want to know why you never came back that day you went to help Starscream, and why Megatron has ordered any Decepticon who sees you to kill you on sight. He also said that you joined the Autobots? I highly doubt that," Knock Out scoffed, though Breakdown could tell the medic didn't really believe his own words.

"One thing Megatron did get right is that I joined did forces with the Autobots, though I have no desire to be accepted as one." Knock Out didn't look surprised at Breakdown's confession, though his red optics did seem oddly guarded. "And, if you really want to know, I left because I felt that I was worthless to the cause. Megatron didn't send any troops to save me when I got captured by MECH, and he definitely wasn't going to help me when a cave-in happened after I stumbled across him trying to kill Starscream. He knew I came there to help Starscream - not that I knew Megatron was trying to kill him, I was just following a commander's order."

Breakdown looked away from Knock Out, and let out a heavy vent.

"You wouldn't understand. No one has ever let you be dissected by humans, to only be rescued by your sworn enemies. It messes you up, Knock Out, it really does."

Silence spread between them once again, though this time it was less tense, yet heavy with unsaid words.

"I'm sorry, Breakdown."

Knock Out's words snapped Breakdown's gaze to the medic, who had his helm tilted up to the sky wordlessly.

"For what?" Breakdown asked warily, watching as Knock Out turned his right optic in Breakdown's direction.

"For not going to save you. Starscream told me about the disappearance of your signal that day, but I did nothing. I was to fearful of what Megatron would do to me if I went behind his back to save you. I was a… coward, and I left Starscream to save you alone," Knock Out admitted, his tone cold as he gave Breakdown an unreadable look.

Breakdown moved away from Knock Out, saying nothing to the medic for a few moments. Knock Out moved a little closer to Breakdown, but a snarl from Breakdown's engine made the Decepticon back away from him.

"I'm not surprised, Knock Out, and I don't actually care at this point," Breakdown growled - he was glad his voice was rough with anger, otherwise Knock Out would have heard the hurt in his words, "I gave up on being angry with you and with caring about anything you ever said to me after that day. You acted like you cared when I came back, but it isn't like you went looking for me on the Nemesis to see how I was doing."

Knock Out tightened his arms over his chestplate as Breakdown turned a frosty glare on him.

"We aren't friends, Knock Out, and we never will be again. You are a Decepticon and I'm with the Autobots, we're sworn enemies by that alone. And don't think I didn't notice you already have a new bodyguard running around with you on missions."

"You mean Razortalon? She's… She isn't that. She's just a wacko scientist who Megatron scrounged up somewhere. She's nuts. She's brought home humans bodies and dissected them, just to see what makes them run. Even for me it was weird to see. Razortalon was with me only for that mission because Megatron wanted her to keep an optic on me," Knock Out snapped grudgingly, his mouth tightening into a deep frown.

"Why?" Breakdown asked, tilting an optic ridge at Knock Out, who gave him a lifeless shrug.

"Because Megatron thinks I'm going to go crazy and betray the Decepticons, like you did. He thinks, because you and I were friends that I would follow in your footsteps soon after. But I can't… I don't want to be on the run again, away from the ease of luxury inside the Nemesis, and I definitely don't want to be one of the outnumbered fool Autobots," Knock Out said, before he turned his back on Breakdown and began to walk away.

Breakdown turned and watched as Knock Out moved further away from him, saying nothing to the medic.

Knock Out stopped then, slowly, turned around to glance at Breakdown. Breakdown waited but the Decepticon said nothing before he transformed back into his alt mode and raced away, down the dirt road with a trail of dust following him.

Goodbye Knock Out…

Breakdown sighed once then, turning the opposite direction of Knock Out, transformed into his alt mode and drove away, headed back to his home.

With the Autobots.

"Did you find the anomaly?" Bulkhead asked the moment Breakdown drove into the Autobot base and transformed out of his alt mode.

Breakdown turned his gaze to Bulkhead then shook his helm.

"No, I didn't find anything. It might have just been an anomaly, nothing more," Breakdown said, keeping his tone level as he walked past Bulkhead.

"Well, that's good," Bulkhead said cheerily behind Breakdown. Breakdown turned his helm to Bulkhead and nodded.


Breakdown walked away from Bulkhead before the Autobot could ask anymore questions about what he had not - at least that's what Bulkhead thought - found. As he was heading to his quarters he spotted Miko and Jack, both of them playing something on their entertainment console. Breakdown, curious, walked up behind the two, though they did not notice him.

The two humans were playing their racing game again and, by the way Miko was exclaiming, it sounded like Miko was winning. The game lasted only a few more moments before, with a shout of joy, Miko threw her controller on the couch and pumped her fist.

"Yeah, yeah, Miko, whatever," Jack said sourly, his tone make Breakdown laugh, which snapped both of the humans' gazes to him.

"Oh, hey, Breakdown," Miko said nonchalantly, her optics glowing as she turned a smug glance once more to Jack, who had waved at Breakdown. Breakdown nodded to Jack, and watched as Miko turned to Jack once again.

They really weren't as terrible as I have thought. Not these three.

"Want to go again?" She asked Jack, who vehemently shook his helm. "Aww, come on you baby-"

"I'll play," Breakdown said, a laugh almost escaping him again at the priceless expressions on the humans' faceplates.

"What? Afraid you'll lose, Miko? Come on, let's see how you do against me."

Chapter Text

"Team's down, requesting medi-evac."

Breakdown glanced over at Ratchet as Agent Fowler's voice broke over the base's comms. Ratchet let out a sigh before he reactivated the previous Ground Bridge coordinates and gestured for Breakdown to follow him through it.

When they passed through the Ground Bridge, Breakdown noticed all four of the Autobots scattered about a large canyon and each in frozen positions. But the Nemesis, which Bulkhead had damaged and thus left the warship open to attack by the Autobots, was gone.

"Where did the Nemesis go?" Breakdown asked Agent Fowler as he and Ratchet approached the first fallen Autobot, Bumblebee.

"It flew off, even though it had all of us dead to rights," Agent Fowler gestured in the direction Breakdown presumed the Nemesis had gone as Ratchet scanned Bumblebee's frame with a hard scowl.

"Breakdown, does the Nemesis have a stasis beam?"

"No," Breakdown replied. "It never has."

Ratchet's scowl deepened at Breakdown's response, and it was only at the medic's reaction that Breakdown realized what Ratchet had asked. The Nemesis had never been equipped with stasis weapons, only phasers, cannons and an assortment of armament that could lay waste to an army or the land. It wasn't made for stasis locking its enemies, so why in the world had Megatron retrofitted a stasis beam on the warship?

Or had the Decepticon warlord done something to the mighty warship that had changed its armament to that of a stasis based form of attack?

Breakdown's question would have to wait though as, with a command from Ratchet, Breakdown's attention was snapped back to the medic and the other Autobots.

"I believe that our friends have been put into a stasis lock, though not a normal one by any means. Their systems are still functioning completely, and none of them show any signs of damage, but my scanner shows that this stasis lock is unlike any I have ever seen before. But we need to get all of them back to base before I am certain. Help me would you, Breakdown?"

Breakdown nodded before he bent down beside Ratchet and helped the medic pick up Bumblebee's frozen chassis - the Autobot was far heavier now that he was in stasis then when he was awake - and hoisted the Autobot up in his arms. Beside Breakdown, Ratchet contacted base, where the three children still were.

"Base this is Ratchet, reopen the Ground Bridge, please."

Moments later the Ground Bridge reopened in front of Breakdown and Ratchet. Ratchet turned to Agent Fowler then looked back at Arcce, Bulkhead and Optimus, who were further down the canyon from Bumblebee.

"Breakdown, take Bumblebee through. I will retrieve Arcee but I will need your strength to get Optimus and Bulkhead back into the base. Agent Fowler, please follow Breakdown through the Bridge."

"Will do," Agent Fowler said as Breakdown turned and hurried through the Ground Bridge with Bumblebee's unresponsive frame.

The children gawked at Breakdown as he hastily positioned Bumblebee's frozen chassis near the medical bay and hurried back through the Ground Bridge.

It took Breakdown and Ratchet fifteen klicks to move Arcee, Bulkhead and Optimus back into the base, too long for Breakdown's comfort, but moving Optimus and Bulkhead when both were in stasis lock was a tricky task, even for Breakdown. But, together, they were able to bring the four Autobots back to the base, where Ratchet was fixated on the bioscans displayed on the medical bay's monitor.

Breakdown was standing to the side next to the children, all three of whom were watching the Autobots with nervously expectant expressions.

"They are alive, though I have never encountered this form of stasis lock before," Ratchet surmised as he rubbed at his chin with a single digit, optics shifting over the displays slowly.

"But didn't Breakdown say that the Decepticon warship didn't have a stasis beam?" Rafael asked.

"It didn't," Breakdown growled as he turned his helm down towards the humans. "The Nemesis was never equipped with one, nor does it have the capabilities to access stasis weapons - at least it didn't when I was still working on the ship. And, even with Decepticon engineering, I do not believe Megatron would have been able to manufacture a stasis beam on the warship, nor would he want to. A stasis beam is completely out of his character."

"So... how are the 'bots in stasis?" Miko asked incredulously.

"Dark Energon?" Breakdown guessed, though he looked to Ratchet as he spoke. The idea of Megatron fueling the Nemesis with Dark Energon unnerved Breakdown more than he cared to admit, especially when one considered what - or who, more precisely - the Nemesis had been forged from.

Ratchet narrowed his optics as he rubbed at his chin and, quietly, looked at the stasis locked Autobots. "Possible. That would explain the readings we received from the ship prior to Optimus deciding to siege the Decepticons, and would be the only explanation for the ship's rapid repairs."

Breakdown felt a shudder pass through his chassis before, from his right, he heard Agent Fowler approach Ratchet on the raised walkway nearest the medical bay monitor, a scowl plain on his faceplate.

"The 'Cons are crossing the Atlantic! Making a beeline to North America."

"Wait," Jack interrupted Agent Fowler as he moved towards Ratchet on the ground floor, "we can track them?"

"Why aren't they cloaked like usual?"

"None of this makes a lick of sense, Rafael," Agent Fowler shrugged, "they had us in their cross hairs but the 'Cons just... took off!"

"They even bailed on that Spark Extractor thingy!" Miko pointed out as she gestured to the forgotten Spark Extractor laid at the edge of the medical bay.

"Wait, if the ship isn't cloaked, maybe the communications relay is open and-"

Ratchet scoffed at Jack's suggestion before the medic turned a disbelieving optic down on the humans. "Are you suggesting that we just call Megatron and ask him what's happening up there?"

All three children shrugged at Ratchet's comment and, as Ratchet turned his helm towards Agent Fowler, the older human did the same questioning gesture. Ratchet turned to Breakdown, who could only shrug in return - he had no idea how Megatron would respond, if he even did - and look away from the scorching look of disbelief Ratchet sent him.

"Very well."

Ratchet left the side of the Autobots and moved to the central monitors where the medic let in a long hiss of his intakes before he attempted to contact the Nemesis. "Autobot Outpost Omega One to Decepticon warship. Megatron, please respond!"

No response.


Silence met Ratchet's request again until, with the base's signature beep of an incoming communication, a deep, gravely voice echoed through the base. "Megatron has been relieved of his command."

"That's not Megatron!" Miko hissed from the walkway next to Ratchet and in front of Breakdown.

But Breakdown recognized the voice, though only from holorecordings, and it sent a deep shiver down the length of his backstrut.

"Who is this?" Ratchet asked warily.

"Who is this?"

"Have you taken control of the Decepticon vessel?"

"I AM the vessel!"

"It is Trypticon," Breakdown gasped out loud as the voice warned them that any Cybertronian that interfered with its mission would be neutralized, and then displayed images of frozen Vehicons, Insecticons and even Soundwave and Dreadwing, all frozen in the hallways.

"What mission?" Ratchet implored.

"Priority One, decrypt Iacon database and recover Decepticon technology."

"For what purpose?"

No answer came in response to Ratchet's last question as the warship cut communications with the Autobot base. Ratchet stared at the monitor for a long klick before his helm jerked to Breakdown.

"What did you say a moment ago?"

Breakdown stood frozen, his optic shifting between Ratchet and the four humans, who were all staring at him with considerably curious expressions. He let a sigh hiss from his intakes before he looked away from the humans and Ratchet. "The warship is Trypticon."

"Tryptico- Oh my..." Ratchet breathed out, horror pulsing from his fields as the humans expressions only turned more confused.

"What's a Trypticon?" Miko piped up, her hands on her hips as she peered up at Breakdown.

"Who," Breakdown growled. "Trypticon was a science outpost before the war, though there were rumors that the station had the ability to transform. Megatron eventually took control of Trypticon Station and, near the end of the war, the Decepticons activated Trypticon's transformation cog. He was defeated, from what I understand, by Optimus and a few of his Autobot followers. after the Autobots defeated him, they recovered his body and kept him in pieces, pieces which Megatron eventually found and used to create the Nemesis."

"Wait," Jack stammered, "the Decepticon warship is a Cybertronian?"

"Naturally," Breakdown growled, "though he wasn't a Cybertronian like Ratchet and I are. Trypticon was of a massive scale, far larger than the Autobots' Omega Supreme. Only Metroplex was bigger than Trypticon."

"And this Trypticon is alive and inside that ship?" Agent Fowler gasped. The dark skinned human sounded properly terrified of the idea of a massive Cybertronian and, for once, Breakdown could not help but agree fully with Agent Fowler's sentiments.

"Not really, at least, he wasn't when Megatron formed him into the Nemesis. He lost his individuality and mind when they made him transform into the Nemesis - he had been too injured from his fight with Optimus to sustain that transformation and his mind."

"But now Megatron reawakened him with Dark Energon," Ratchet snapped, "the fool."

"He is nothing of the mech he used to be," Breakdown hissed.

The four humans stared at him with bewildered expressions before Miko, ever the loud one, narrowed her optics and shot Breakdown a quizzical look. "Do you admire Megatron?"

Breakdown let out a humorless snort at the human's assumption, though he couldn't help the angry snarl that crackled from his engine as he thought of Megatron. "No, Miko, I feared Megatron. All Decepticons do."

Miko blinked before she ducked her helm and looked away from Breakdown, biting at her lip as she stared at the ground sheepishly. Jack and Rafael glanced at each other before Agent Fowler cleared his voice box and squinted up at the monitors, which were still displaying the Nemesis' coordinates.

"The ship said that its mission is to recover Decepticon artifacts, and it is headed towards North America as we speak-"

"But the ship is filled with neutralized Decepticons," Jack interrupted, "how can it recover any of these relics if it doesn't have the manpower to do so?"

"The Nemesis will obliterate your cities to achieve its goal," Breakdown snapped. The humans all turned horrified expressions to Breakdown as he spoke, though Jack's expression changed quickly to a thoughtful one.

"If the Decepticons are neutralized, this could be our only chance to slip aboard and download the Iacon database."

"So that Optimus can decode it?" Rafael realized beside Jack.

"Ingenious," Ratchet growled as he turned to face the humans, "I will infiltrate the Decepticon warship."

"Not ingenious," Jack interrupted, "you saw what it did to the Decepticons."

"And probably Megatron too?"

"And Team Prime, Raf!" Miko reminded them as she gestured to where the four Autobots remained frozen in stasis.

Agent Fowler shook his helm before he turned towards Ratchet with narrowed optics. "But that tub had me dead to rights, and I'm still breathing."

"Maybe the ship is blind to humans?"

"Very well, Agent Fowler" Ratchet sighed - he sounded very displeased at this turn of events - and took a transfer drive from the main console. "But, at the first sign of trouble, I am Bridging you right back here. In order to download the database, you will need to use this transfer device."

All three children piped up as Ratchet handed the transfer drive to Agent Fowler, each volunteering to aid Agent Fowler on his mission. Ratchet raised a single optic ridge before he cast Breakdown a long look.

Breakdown could only return Ratchet's look with a shrug before he looked down at the humans doubtfully. Miko returned Breakdown's look with a scowl before Ratchet moved past Breakdown and inputted the Nemesis coordinates into his Ground Bridge monitor.

"Be careful," Ratchet growled as the four humans hurried through the active Ground Bridge, leaving Breakdown and Ratchet to wait.

A klick later, Agent Fowler commed the base back to confirm their arrival on the Nemesis. Ratchet responded in turn as he kept his optics fixed solely upon the displays before him.

Breakdown couldn't help but anxiously glance between the monitors, the Autobots and the Ground Bridge as he waited for the humans. He had his doubts about the humans' ability to complete this mission succesfully and, with a rev of his engine, he turned to Ratchet.

"Are you certain the humans can complete this mission?"

Ratchet looked away from the consoles, though only enough so that his optics were visible to Breakdown. "I doubted them as much as you do once, Breakdown. But the children have proven that they have their uses, both for the team's moral and in helping us."

Breakdown scoffed and rolled his optic but did not argue with Ratchet. Ratchet knew the human children far better than Breakdown and Breakdown himself had seen some of that which Ratchet had referenced from the humans. They might very well prove him wrong.

Ratchet soon ordered Breakdown to check on the stasis locked Autobots and, without even realizing it, Breakdown did not hear the rest of the conversation between Ratchet and the four humans. He checked the Autobots over until he suddenly heard static crackle through the base.

"Stay here!" Ratchet's command jerked Breakdown's helm to the medic just as he charged through the Ground Bridge and, moments later, appeared with Jack in one servo and the transfer drive in the other.

The Ground Bridge deactivated with a hiss as, with pistons heaving and gasps rattling from intakes, the four frozen Autobots awoke. Breakdown backed away from the Autobots as Ratchet placed Jack and the transfer drive down and moved to the sides of the Autobots. Optimus' optics shifted around the base slowly before he noticed Ratchet and questioned the medic on what had happened.

Ratchet quickly explained before he moved to the consoles and plugged in the transfer drive. Four sets of coordinates appeared on the middle monitor as Ratchet turned around to face the Autobots. "The download of the Iacon database may have been incomplete, but we now possess four sets of coordinates decoded by the ship."

"Then we must act quickly, for Megatron possesses the same four sets. And he will not hesitate to obtain the potential doomsday devices which lie at the site of each," Optimus growled. "If we are to have any hope of recovering the Iacon relics before the Decepticons do, we must divide our resources."

"But Optimus, when it comes to numbers we are already at a grave disadvantage," Ratchet said.

Not that it seems to make any difference, Breakdown thought, thinking to how easily the Autobots always seemed to defeat Megatron's forces - including two of the most deadly Decepticons, Makeshift and Skyquake.

"Under the circumstances, swiftness of action is paramount. This is one race that we absolutely cannot afford to lose."

Ratchet's attention suddenly turned away from Optimus, and locked onto the monitors, which had begun to track something across the screen.

"Well, here's a twist," Ratchet muttered. "The Decepticons have retreated from Manhattan."

"They just, up and left?" Arcee questioned.

"It is more likely that Megatron has set course for the second set of coordinates, having already dispatched a unit to this relic's underground location," Optimus mused, turning to watch the HUDs.

"Without busting up a city block to it?" Arcee asked disbelievingly.

"Decepticons don't destroy everything they touch, Arcee," Breakdown snapped, more to himself than any of the others in the base.

"They used the subway tunnels," Jack pointed out, "New York has a whole network of them running beneath the city."

"Since the human population no longer seems to be directly threatened, maintaining our disguise will be necessary," Prime said, turning his helm down to Arcee and Bumblebee, "Arcee, Bumblebee, you are the best choices to navigate through such a densely populated area."

"Optimus, New York has more than eight million people. The odds of being spotted by at least one of them are pretty high. Even if they are headed underground," Jack informed the Autobot leader, his gaze unwavering as Arcee, Bumblebee and Bulkhead all turned to glance towards him.

"Where are you going with this?" Arcee asked her human, servos placed firmly on her hip plates.

"You are going to need a face man. Someone who can speak on their behalf, a human who can run interference if their cover gets blown," Jack said, met only by the hard stare of the Prime. Miko rushed forward, up to Jack and looked up at Optimus.

"Well, I have actually been in subways stations. I grew up in a major metropolis. Unlike mister 'I've Never Been Outside Jasper, Nevada'," Miko mocked, before crossing her arms over her chest.

"I have been to Cybertron," Jack replied back to her.

"Cybertron doesn't have subways! Does it?" Miko asked, tilting her helm towards the Autobots and Breakdown, who was just about done with the whole lot of them.

"Cybertron had subways, Miko," Breakdown snarled to the side, though every Autobot and Miko ignored his response.

"Agent Fowler," Optimus said, turning to the unconscious human they had brought back from their mission aboard the Nemesis, "has experience in the field, thus making him our best candidate."

"If he weren't still recovering from his encounter with the Decepticon warship," Ratchet said, his gaze turning back to Optimus with the faintest look of annoyance.

"Which we survived," Miko began, pointing to herself. But Breakdown was tired of this, so he interrupted her with a sharp growl from his engine, snapping every optic to him.

"Why are you wasting time discussing such useless scrap? If these 'doomsday devices' matter so much to you, then I suggest that we get to the part where we all go on our merry way to find them, with or without the humans."

"Very well," Optimus said unhappily, turning away from Breakdown to look down at Arcee and Bumblebee. "Jack and Miko will accompany you. Ratchet, triangulate the coordinates and prepare transportation for all locations."

Ratchet gave a nod of acknowledgment to Optimus, then activated the Ground Bridge for Arcee and Bumblebee. Both mechs nodded to Optimus then, with Jack and Miko, raced off into the Ground Bridge.

Optimus turned to Bulkhead, who straightened up his stance at the gaze of his leader.

"Bulkhead, Breakdown will accompany you on this mission," Optimus ordered as he pointed to the set of coordinates located somewhere in Central America.

Bulkhead looked about to protest but, at a swift glare from both Ratchet and Optimus, gave up. Breakdown walked up beside Bulkhead, hiding his displeasure at working with Bulkhead, as Ratchet reactivated the Ground Bridge for them.

"Be on your guard, you two," Optimus said as Bulkhead and Breakdown began to move towards the Ground Bridge.

"Will do, Optimus," Bulkhead said, then turned and ran into the Ground Bridge. Breakdown rolled his optic and followed after the Autobot.

The Ground Bridge opened up on the flank of a volcano and the hard, cracked lava flow that stretched all the way to the vent of the volcano. It was oppressively hot and stank, stank worse than any smell Breakdown had encountered before on Earth.

"Oh, ew!" Bulkhead complained, waving a servo in front of his faceplate at the - admittedly - disgusting smell wafting from the volcano. "It's worse than the Decepticon barracks!"

"Have you ever been in the Decepticon barracks, Bulkhead?" Breakdown snapped, moving away from him before Bulkhead could answer.

"Hey, we are supposed to stick together," Bulkhead protested snappishly, running up to Breakdown on his right side, which made it even easier for Breakdown to ignore Bulkhead.


Breakdown's noncommittal answer drew a frustrated grumble from Bulkhead, before the former Wrecker turned his attention elsewhere.

"A volcano sure is an odd place for an ancient relic," Bulkhead stated, which Breakdown didn't say anything to before he began walking down the hardened lava.

Bulkhead followed after Breakdown, the heavy clank of each one of his pede steps echoing off of the volcano's rocky surface. Nothing was picking up on Breakdown's scanner so he could only assume that the relic was somewhere further down the mountain. But Bulkhead didn't seem to come to that conclusion as he let out a frustrated growl before contacting base.

"Base, I can't find any sign of the relic, can you reconfirm coordinates?" Bulkhead grumbled.

"Triangulating your coordinates, Bulkhead," Rafael responded, "you are at the correct location."

"Then the coordinates are wrong, 'cause there's nothing here!" The green mech snarled, wiping dust from his servos as he clambered up the lava behind Breakdown.

"The coordinates are correct, Bulkhead."

"Then where is the relic?"

"Have you ever tried shutting up and just looking?" Breakdown snapped back at Bulkhead, his backstrut stiffening with irritation.

Bulkhead returned a glare in Breakdown's direction before the former Wrecker let a growl hiss from his engine. "Do you have-"

Breakdown shushed Bulkhead, pointing up to the sky as a steady beating sound, like metallic wings, grew louder - and closer. Bulkhead glanced at Breakdown, then activated his guns, pointing them into the sky as the sound grew closer.

"What are you doing?" Breakdown snapped as he activated his shoulder cannon, waiting for the incoming threat.

Bulkhead wheeled his gaze to Breakdown but, before he could say anything, a large Insecticon came charging towards them. Bulkhead let out a roar and began to fire at the Insecticon, but the huge being did not seem to be affected by his blasts and smashed right into Bulkhead.

"Bulkhead!" Breakdown shouted, his cannon firing at the Insecticon as it hooked its pincers into Bulkhead and began to fly away with him. But, just like with Bulkhead's shots, none of Breakdown's seemed to affect the large beast as it carried Bulkhead away.

Great, Breakdown thought before he transformed into his alt mode and raced after Bulkhead and the Insecticon, still shooting at it with his cannon. The Insecticon suddenly transformed - its insect-like body changing into a bipedal form, sort of like a normal Cybertronian - then threw Bulkhead away from itself.

Bulkhead crashed to the ground with a heavy thud, the Insecticon landing in front of him. The Insecticon raised one of its claws towards Bulkhead but before it could, Breakdown smashed into the insection with the entire side of his alt mode, sending it flying against a hard spire of lava.

Breakdown pulled Bulkhead up with a hard jerk on the servo, then turned back to the Insecticon, who had recovered quickly and was stomping towards them.

"Leave it to Megatron to send a bug to do his dirty work," Bulkhead growled, servos tightening as the Insecticon paced up to them.

"You know a thing or two about dirty work yourself, Wrecker," the Insecticon hissed, claws clicking as it paced around Breakdown and Bulkhead, both of whom were doing the same.

"Do I know you?" Bulkhead asked the Insecticon, anger narrowing his optics and tightening his chassis.

"I know your kind, as I have crushed more than a few Wreckers in my time," the Insecticon snarled back, mandibles clicking furiously. Its gaze suddenly snapped to Breakdown, who tensed up with a low growl. "And you, Megatron told me of your betrayal. Killing you, and the Wrecker, will do more than enough to get into the good graces of my master. He will celebrate the strength of Hardshell!"

"You can try," Breakdown hissed, which made the Insecticon clack its jaws together angrily.

"You know, the thing about bugs your size? They make a bigger mess when I smash them!" Bulkhead roared, snapping his servos into their mace mode, and charged towards the Insecticon.

"Bulkhead!" Breakdown warned, but the Autobot did not listen as he smashed one of his servos into the Insecticon's side, making it stumble only slightly, before he lunged for the Insecticon again. But the Insecticon had anticipated Bulkhead's move and snatched Bulkhead's mace in one servo, jaw clicking.

Bulkhead tried to pull out of the Insecticon's grasp, but he could not move for the strength of it. The Insecticon raised its free servo up, claws snapping open and drove them towards Bulkhead-

Breakdown moved before he could even think, barreling straight into Bulkhead, which snapped the green mech's servo out of the Insecticon's grasp. But the Insecticon's claws drove instead into Breakdown's chassis, slicing upwards before Breakdown could process the pain.

Breakdown switched his servo into a hammer and smashed it into the Insecticon's stomach plates, the beast stumbling away from Breakdown, but only for the briefest of moments. Pain scorched through Breakdown where his plating had been scoured open by the Insecticon's claws, but he ignored it.

The Insecticon lunged back towards Breakdown, slashing down at Breakdown with its sharp claws before he could jump aside, leaving a long furrow of torn metal in Breakdown's chestplate. Breakdown snarled and smashed his shoulder into the Insecticon's chestplate, pushing it back with a strained roar. The Insecticon countered, driving its long pincers into Breakdown's backstrut.

Breakdown cried out as the Insecticon switched into its alternate bug form, its pincers still hooked into Breakdown's back, and began to fly. But, before the Insecticon could get much higher in the air, it let out a screech of pain and fell, landing on top of Breakdown, who bit back another shriek of pain as the Insecticon's heavy body began to crush him into the hardened lava.

Suddenly the Insecticon's weight vanished from Breakdown, who hastily scrambled up to his pedes in time to see the Insecticon get hit with a powerful uppercut from Bulkhead. The Insecticon was thrown backward, one of its mandibles breaking from its helm, and crashed down onto the dry lava.

Bulkhead snarled at the Insecticon then moved over to Breakdown, helping him up to his pedes.

"Thanks," Breakdown said, wincing as another roll of pain washed over his chassis. Bulkhead nodded then turned his gaze towards the waves of hardened lava that led down from the volcano.

"Let's go," Bulkhead said, transforming and driving away, over the lava. Breakdown waited for a moment as he glanced towards the unmoving Insecticon, then switched into his alt mode and moved after Bulkhead.

Pain coursed through Breakdown's chassis as he drove over the hardened lava after Bulkhead, though the shooting pain made Breakdown move sluggishly, as if he was driving through water, not over hard packed lava. Bulkhead didn't seem to notice the fact that Breakdown was lagging behind and, when Breakdown tried to contact him, he only got the message that Bulkhead's comms were busy.

Venting, Breakdown continued to follow after Bulkhead as the green truck motored along the lava.

Breakdown finally caught up to Bulkhead, but only because the Autobot had pulled to a stop and was walking towards a large white-and-teal container stuck in a mound of dry lava. Pulling to a halt, Breakdown switched out of his alt mode and came up beside Bulkhead, just as the Wrecker popped the lid off of the container.

Bulkhead peered into the container then, ominously, said, "Oh, no…"

"What?" Breakdown asked, worriedly glancing towards Bulkhead as the green mech shifted away from the container, a stricken, haunting look evident in his optics. Bulkhead turned to Breakdown then switched to his comms so Breakdown could hear the response from the Autobot base.

"Base, we have a problem."

"Bulkhead, what is it?" Agent Fowler asked over the comms.

"I found the relic, it's a cache of energon."

"That's good, right?"

"No, no, no," Bulkhead said, still backing away from the container. "It's known as Tox-en."

"WHAT?!" Breakdown whirled his gaze on Bulkhead, then swiftly backed away from the container, which had begun to leak noxious green fumes.

Bulkhead nodded, then turned back to his comms. "It causes nausea and dizziness on contact, prolonged contact can lead to paralysis. And then, it snuffs out our sparks."

"Well, what are you talking to me for? Get far away from that Tox-en, pronto! If it is as deadly as they say, the 'Cons don't want it either," Fowler suggested, which Bulkhead stopped with a sharp "no".

"They will want it even more, during the War for Cybertron, Megatron figured out a way to refine Tox-en and turn it into a weapon of mass destruction. I witnessed an entire unit wiped out by the sickness, no way I can leave this stuff for the 'Cons to find and abuse."

"So bring it back here! Raf, open a Ground Bridge!"

"Forget it! Even if we had a safe place to store it, the stuff is way too potent to risk exposing to the rest of us-"

Bulkhead stopped, helm snapping up as a distant beating sound became obvious. "I'll call you back." Bulkhead cut the communications with a hiss of static then turned to Breakdown.

"We need to take care of this," Bulkhead pointed to the still leaking Tox-en, before pulling out a small grenade from his subspace, "Wrecker style."

Bulkhead bent down to the container and plucked out a large portion of the Tox-en.

"What are you doing, Bulkhead?" Breakdown asked, stepping away from Bulkhead as the Autobot placed the chunk of Tox-en on the ground near the container.

"We're going to blow this sucker up, but my grenade isn't going to be enough to blow all of the Tox-en up," Bulkhead said as he activated a set timer on the grenade and buried it in the container. "So we are going to have to carry it up to the volcano."

"Have you lost your bolts, Bulkhead? This is Tox-en we are dealing with here," Breakdown snapped, pointing to the large chunk of Tox-en Bulkhead had pulled from the container. "I am not going anywhere near that stuff."

Bulkhead screwed the container's lid back on, then gave Breakdown a stony glare as he picked up the piece of Tox-en. Bulkhead said nothing to Breakdown as he began to head up the lava flow leading up to the volcano rim. Breakdown hesitated, actually contemplating asking for a Ground Bridge, but… He would not abandon Bulkhead. He may still have hated Bulkhead, but not enough to make him go up a volcano with the imminent threat of Tox-en and the Insecticons hovering over him.

Breakdown began to run after Bulkhead, startling at the sound of Agent Fowler comming back in.

"Bulkhead, what is your status?" The human asked.

"This is Breakdown, we're fine," Breakdown lied, he was still hurting from the Insecticon given wounds and Tox-en was the exact opposite of 'fine'. "Bulkhead decided to carry the rest of the Tox-en that he couldn't blow up to the volcano rim."

"What? You're carrying it? I thought you said that stuff was toxic!"

"It is," Bulkhead budged in, "but I needed to put some distance between me and the bugs."

"Well," Fowler questioned, "what now?"

"As Breakdown said, I'm gonna lob it into the volcano."

"But what about your bug problem?"

"This isn't my first time alluding an enemy patrol, you know. And Breakdown and I can easily fight them off should they come for us again."

After a few moments, in which Bulkhead and Breakdown continued on their path still, Fowler's voice came through the comms again.

"Wait… You're going away from the volcano?"

"Exactly," Bulkhead affirmed, then cut the comms from the Autobot base. Bulkhead pulled to a stop, then shifted his gaze to Breakdown, who backed away from him warily.

"I'm gonna drive the rest of the way, so I need you to put the Tox-en on my roof once I'm ready," Bulkhead ordered, and promptly dropped the noxious energon into Breakdown's servos. Breakdown turned his helm away from the Tox-en, unable to hide the shudders that tore through his chassis as the unnaturally cool Tox-en settled in his servos.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, Bulkhead had transformed into his alt mode and, hurriedly, Breakdown tied down the Tox-en onto Bulkhead's roof, relieved to not be touching the Tox-en anymore.

"Let's go," Bulkhead said, then began the drive up the volcano.

Both Breakdown and Bulkhead were struggling at this point, Breakdown from his wounds and Bulkhead from the Tox-en. But they both kept going up the volcano, though Bulkhead had been chatting with Agent Fowler the whole time.

It was tiresome at this point, to Breakdown. He didn't understand the desire to chat as much as Bulkhead did when they were still being hunted by the Insecticon.

"So you left a false trail, huh? I once played that trick when I got separated from my unit behind enemy lines," Fowler quipped over the comms, which only served to make Bulkhead let out a short laugh and Breakdown grumble with irritation.

"Since when were you ever behind enemy lines?" Bulkhead asked mockingly.

"I wasn't always a 'Bot sitter," Fowler replied.

"Hmph, next you are going to tell me that your mother doesn't tuck you in at night."

"Not since basic training."

"Training as what?" Bulkhead asked as he and Breakdown continued the slow climb up the hardened lava. "A rodeo clown?"

"You've been spending way too much time at monster truck rallies with Miko. I was an Army Ranger, we could wreck with the best of them."

"Who knew you and I were so much alike?" Bulkhead coughed.

"Standby Bulkhead, I'll be right back."

Breakdown was relieved to hear only static from the human's side of the comms, though he didn't admit that to Bulkhead.

The pair drove until they reached a large hill, Bulkhead coming to a laborious stop at the bottom. Breakdown pulled up beside him, saying nothing as Bulkhead breathed heavily.

"I'm… gonna get a running start on this hill," Bulkhead wheezed, backing up from the hill then, with a spin of his tires, drove for the hill. Breakdown watched as Bulkhead nearly got to the top, tires spinning and slipping as the Autobot attempted to reach the top. But Bulkhead was not able to and, with a futile transformation, Bulkhead slid down the hill, the Tox-en sliding down beside him.

Breakdown caught Bulkhead before the green mech could fall any further down the hill, his intakes and pistons hissing as he held onto Bulkhead's shoulderplate with a tight fist. Bulkhead shook Breakdown off of him, then picked up the Tox-en once again. This time, Bulkhead do not try to drive up the hill, but slowly walked up it, Breakdown following behind the green mech.

"Almost there," Bulkhead said, looking up at the volcano.

"Not really," Breakdown snapped, which drew a frustrated look from Bulkhead.

"Don't need... to be so... snappish, Breakdown," Bulkhead muttered.

Breakdown ignored him pointedly.

"Bulkhead, how you holding up?" Agent Fowler suddenly asked over their comms, his concern for Bulkhead making Breakdown even more irritated than he already was.

"Eh, any… word… from Miko?" Bulkhead asked slowly, each one of his words punctuated by a wheeze.

"Don't worry about her. You need to focus on your own mission," Agent Fowler snapped brusquely.

"Right… I need to rest for just one… minute," Bulkhead said.

"I know it's tough, but you need to hang in there."

Bulkhead suddenly tripped, collapsing to the ground but, before Breakdown could even move to help him, Bulkhead was already getting up. But that was a bad decision on Bulkhead's part as, with a tired, weary groan, Bulkhead fell back, his back hitting a large rock with a thud, the Tox-en falling from his servo.

"Bulkhead!" Concerned, Breakdown moved up to Bulkhead. The former Wrecker did not respond, his optics distant and weary.

"Bulkhead? Bulkhead? BULKHEAD! Answer me!" Fowler shouted over the comms, his voice rising more frantically each time Bulkhead did not respond to him.

"I'm here... " Bulkhead said.

"You had me scared, two-ton," Fowler breathed.

"Get up, Bulkhead. We have to get rid of the Tox-en," Breakdown growled, attempting to lift Bulkhead to his pedes, but Bulkhead refused to budge. "What is wrong with you?"

"I can't do it…" Bulkhead admitted, pulling away from Breakdown with utter disinterest.

"I do not want to hear that kind of talk especially from you! We both know you have made it through worse," Fowler urged.

"Nah, not worse, not even scraplets," Bulkhead said back to Fowler.

"Oh, stop moping and move, Bulkhead," Breakdown snapped as he glared down at the Autobot, "Or do I have to tell Miko that you gave up because you felt bad? How pathetic. You are weak."

Something seemed to snap in Bulkhead at Breakdown's words for the mech began to struggle to his pedes. Breakdown grabbed Bulkhead's servo and yanked him to his pedes, ignoring the way his wounds shrieked in protest at the quick, jerking motion. Bulkhead's pedes thudded to the ground and, if not for Breakdown holding him steady, Bulkhead would have collapsed once more.

"I'm up," Bulkhead said quietly.

"Good job, soldier," Agent Fowler said softly, approval evident in his voice.

Bulkhead bent to grab the Tox-en but Breakdown stopped him with a glare.

"I'll get it," Breakdown said as he snatched up the toxic energon, then turned to stare at the volcano rim. "Come on. Those Insecticons won't be tricked forever by our fake trail. And I'm not leaving you behind."

Bulkhead whipped a surprised glance to Breakdown, mouth opening and closing without sound.

"What? I don't want to face the Insecticons alone."

Bulkhead gave Breakdown a stiff nod then, with Breakdown moving first, they once again, headed towards the volcano.

A wave of blistering heat hit Breakdown as he and Bulkhead crested the rim of the volcano, a hard caking of lava highlighted by stripes of molten lava. Breakdown turned to Bulkhead, who was panting heavily even though he wasn't holding the Tox-en anymore, then began walking towards a hissing hole in the lava.


Breakdown and Bulkhead both snapped their gazes upwards, Breakdown tensing as the Insecticon from before landed in front of the lava hole, and transformed out of his alt mode. Two more Insecticons landed beside their leader and snarled at Breakdown and Bulkhead, their mandibles clicking with fury as they waited for their leader.

"Put down the rock. And allow us to put you out of your misery," the Insecticon snarled, a toothy smile cracking over its faceplate as two more Insecticons leapt over the rim of the volcano.

"Gotta swat some flies," Bulkhead growled, shifting closer to Breakdown as he pulled out a grenade and threw it at the feet of one of the Insecticons. The Insecticon stared dumbfounded at the grenade, then was sent flying against the volcano rim by the blast from the grenade.

Breakdown threw aside the Tox-en - Bulkhead caught it with a surprised grunt - as the leader of the Insecticons' rushed towards him, pincer arms snapping. Though he was weary from his wounds and the contact with the Tox-en, Breakdown knew he had to fight.

For this battle was not just some meaningless battle about revenge, but for his - and Bulkhead's - lives.

The Insecticon smashed into Breakdown, claws tearing at him wildly, ripping into his chassis, Breakdown pushed back-

Suddenly the Insecticon fled back from Breakdown, a racking cough escaping from it as flickers of noxious green gas flowed past it. Breakdown snapped his gaze around, nodding to Bulkhead, who had pressed the Tox-en he was holding against the Insecticon's helm. The Insecticon began to prowl around Breakdown and Bulkhead, keeping distance between itself and the two former Wreckers.

The other Insecticon leapt forward and stalked towards Bulkhead, who wheeled about on it and smashed it under the jaw, sending it crashing to the ground. Breakdown turned his cannon on the leader of the Insecticons, who snarled and jerked its gaze away from Bulkhead as Breakdown stalked towards Hardshell.

Hardshell tensed up before a hissing wheeze of agony tore from behind him, the sound drawing the Insecticon leader's gaze to where Bulkhead had pressed the crystal of Tox-en against its chestplate. Hardshell snarled and lunged for Bulkhead but a shot from Breakdown's cannon drew the Insecticon up short.

Bulkhead finally reached Breakdown's side as Hardshell continued to glare at them and circle, his claws snapping with anger. All three mechs circled around each other, none wanting to be the first to act.

"Bulkhead! Are you still with me?" Agent Fowler's voice interrupted Bulkhead's pacing and Breakdown snapped his gaze away from the Insecticon for a moment, then snapped it back to the beast.

"I'm in the scrap and you put me on hold?" Bulkhead teased lightly, once again pacing against the Insecticon.

"I want you to know Miko is safe. Mission accomplished-"

"Well, minus the Insecticon we're fighting, but that doesn't matter," Breakdown snipped, which elicited a spat of mutters from Agent Fowler.

The Insecticon roared suddenly and charged, but met the combined force of both Breakdown and Bulkhead punching it in the stomach. The Insecticon stumbled back, but recovered quickly, punching Bulkhead away from it as its pincer claws slashed into Breakdown, tearing long stripes of metal from his chestplate and arms.

Breakdown stumbled back, glancing up in time to see the second Insecticon slowly push the Tox-en off its chestplate, but collapsed back onto the ground with a hiss of its strained intakes.

The Insecticon fighting Bulkhead wheeled its gaze on the other Insecticon, a flash of worry racing through his red visor. "Scurrydown, contact the warship to prepare for a containment unit." The Insecticon was so focused on its companion that it did not see Bulkhead approaching it until Bulkhead was already in mid-punch. But Bulkhead's punch did nothing as the Insecticon just punched Bulkhead back, sending the former Wrecker crashing to the ground.

Breakdown moved in front of Bulkhead, but the Insecticon threw him away from Bulkhead with a single hard slash of his servo. Breakdown crashed into the ground a ways from Bulkhead and Hardshell, weakly raising himself to his pedes to see Bulkhead grab onto the helm of the Insecticon and throw it close to the hole in the volcanic layer.

Bulkhead walked up to the Insecticon then pressed its helm against the crystal of Tox-en, the toxic energon forcing a pained shriek to tear from Hardshell's chassis. Breakdown stayed where he was, keeping his optic on the other Insecticon, who still hadn't moved.

"You want a taste of this?" Bulkhead growled. "Do ya?" Bulkhead pulled the Insecticon up onto its pedes, then smashed it backwards with his mace. The Insecticon stumbled back, closer to the lip of the volcano's vent, its claws swinging wildly for Bulkhead before Bulkhead's mace smashed against Hardshell's stomach plates.

Hardshell stumbled backwards to the very edge of the vent, shook his helm and then snapped its gaze back to Bulkhead.

"Catch!" Bulkhead yelled before he threw the Tox-en straight into the Inseticon's chest. The Insecticon stumbled back, then fell into the pit, its screams echoing all the way down the hole. Bulkhead walked up to the hole and glared down into it.

Bulkhead turned away from the pit, heading towards Breakdown as he commed Agent Fowler. "Fowler, mission accomplished. But you may have to tuck me in."

Breakdown rolled his optic and turned as a Ground Bridge opened up to his right. Breakdown gave one swift glare to the still unmoving Insecticon then turned to walk into the Ground Bridge. But something stopped him. Some odd feeling.

His gaze snapped to the hole in the volcano where the Insecticon had fallen and, to his horror, he saw a molten red Insecticon slowly rise from the pit, jaw hanging half open as it raised one of its arms up towards Bulkhead.

"Bulkhead! Run!" Breakdown shouted but his warning was too late.

The Insecticon fired a red burst of energy that hit Bulkhead squarely in the back and threw him through the Ground Bridge.

Breakdown swore before he turned his shoulder cannon on the Insecticon and fired in its direction. The blast hit Hardshell's shoulder plate, staggering the Insecticon long enough for Breakdown to hurry through the Ground Bridge after Bulkhead.

Breakdown's pedes drug as he walked out of the Ground Bridge, exhaustion and pain making him only glance briefly to where Bulkhead was lying on the ground with smoke billowing from the hole in his back. No movement was detectable from Bulkhead's frame, even as Ratchet hurried to the fallen Autobot's side.

Ratchet did not even notice as Breakdown limped into base, as he was far too focused on attempting to restart Bulkhead's spark to notice anything around him. Agent Fowler and Rafael were staring down at the injured Autobot with shared expressions of horror, though Rafael had to turn away to activate the Ground Bridge. Arcee and Bumblebee appeared through the Ground Bridge, though the two Autobots froze when they saw Bulkhead's frame laid out on the floor.

Miko burst from Bumblebee and ran towards the fallen Autobot, though she was stopped by Bumblebee, who gently held her back as Ratchet turned to the newly arrived Autobots and barked for them to help him move Bulkhead to the medical bay. Arcee and Bumblebee rushed to aid Ratchet, and together, the three Autobots carried Bulkhead into the medical bay, their voices muted.

Breakdown steadied himself against the base wall then, with another wave of pain, slid to the base's floor and watched distantly as Optimus came through the final Ground Bridge. Optimus' optics widened as he walked into the base, though he glanced towards Breakdown after with a look that he couldn't have read even if Breakdown's processor wasn't slagged with bolts of pain.

"Breakdown." Optimus' voice pulled Breakdown's gaze up to the Autobot leader, who placed a servo gently on his shoulder plate.

"What?" Breakdown asked, glancing up at the Prime only to be surprised by the concern that flashed through Optimus' optics.

"Let me help you, until Ratchet can readily come and help you instead."

Breakdown looked down, not denying Optimus' request before the Autobot leader bent down beside him and looked over his injuries.

The roar of an engine turned Breakdown's attention to the entrance tunnel, where a sleek white car came through the tunnel and transformed into Wheeljack.

Breakdown rose from where he had been seated after Optimus had patched his wounds, though only well enough to prevent further energon loss, then walked up beside the Autobots.

"What's the damage, Doc?" Wheeljack asked, his gaze shifting to where Bulkhead was laying on the medical slab, fully under stasis.

"Bulkhead suffered massive trauma to his central neural conduit," Ratchet explained huskily, optics weary as Wheeljack walked up to him.

"I've watched you work, you are a maestro."

Ratchet shuttered his optics then turned to the medical screens. "The Tox-en exposure has caused system wide shutdown on a submicronic level. I can't even begin to operate until Bulkhead regains some strength."

Wheeljack's optics narrowed as he turned his helm up towards Optimus. "You going to tell me who did this to him?"

"At the moment, I believe that it is best to focus our attention on Bulkhead's recovery, rather than revenge," Optimus said softly, his optics once again devoid of his true emotions.

Wheeljack turned his gaze to Arcee and Bumblebee then, just briefly, to Breakdown before turning back to Optimus.

"You do that," Wheeljack snapped, turning around as he transformed back into his alt mode and raced out of the base.

"Wheeljack will most likely do something rash, you know?" Ratchet muttered, turning his optics to Optimus, who frowned slightly.

"And I am not sure we could stop him if he wanted to."

"Yeah," Breakdown growled emotionlessly, "it's just so hard for any of you to understand revenge. Isn't it?"

Before the others could say something, Breakdown stormed away to his quarters, ignoring how his every movement screamed with pain.

When he got to his quarters, Breakdown slammed his door shut forcefully, then leaned against said door. It would be best to get some recharge but first...

Breakdown activated his comms, searching through databank after databank until he found the precise signal he was looking for.

"Hey, Wheeljack. The one you're looking for is an Insecticon by the name of Hardshell. When you find him, make sure you kick his aft."

Chapter Text

"Sorry about not checking on you, Breakdown. I just… No apology could make up for leaving you injured as I did, but still, I am sorry," Ratchet apologized as he deactivated the welding torch he'd been using to repair Breakdown's scarred chassis.

Breakdown said nothing in response as Ratchet helped him off the medical slab except for a quiet thanks. He understood why Ratchet had been too distracted to check on him and, truthfully, Breakdown wasn't upset. The most severe injuries took priority in the medical field and, compared to Bulkhead's injuries, Breakdown had suffered a minor scratch.

"You know the drill by now, Breakdown. Tell me if your systems start to report further damage or if you are hurting and I will check on you tomorrow."

"I know, Ratchet," Breakdown sighed quietly as he walked out of the medical bay.

Arcee and Bumblebee continued to hover over Bulkhead's still frame as if they thought watching the Wrecker would bring him back to them in full health. Both Autobots had fields of anxiousness and worry sparking off their frames as they watched Bulkhead but, very faintly, Breakdown could feel their optimism. Autobots always seemed to cling to hope even when death stared them in the faceplate.

It made no sense to Breakdown how Autobots always seemed to see something that gave them a boost of confidence or hope. He wished he could have the level of optimism the Autobots all seemed to share, but he'd learned a long time ago that that wasn't him. The war had seen to that.

The Autobots hoped and dreamed. The Decepticons? Hope was for the foolish or the terribly naive - what was there left to hope for? The faction he'd sworn to die for once - long ago - had once been for those who'd dreamed of a better life on Cybertron, but now only the highest ranked Decepticons dreamed. The only thing Breakdown found himself hoping for was a dream more foolish than the idea of Bulkhead recovering to complete health.

Nothing could bring Cybertron back. They'd all played a part in destroying their home to the point that what remained of their species was in hiding in the vastness of space, or living on Earth. Yet both sides continued their fight, with no end in sight, and Breakdown wondered momentarily if their fight would destroy Earth also.

Then we would have learned nothing from our own home.

"Breakdown? Optimus and I have a few questions for you."

"I'm not surprised," Breakdown sighed as Ratchet and Optimus approached him. Everyone had been so busy worrying over Bulkhead that all any of the other Autobots knew of the fight that had led to Bulkhead being in such a dire situation was that from Agent Fowler. And, even then, all Fowler knew of Breakdown and Bulkhead's mission was that which they had decided to tell him.

"Could you explain to us what happened today, Breakdown?" Optimus' tone was surprisingly level, all things considered. But then, Breakdown had his suspicions that the Autobot leader had long ago detached himself from the emotions most Cybertronians felt when he'd become a Prime.

Breakdown explained to the two Autobots about his and Bulkhead's fight against Hardshell until he'd exhausted every question Ratchet had for him. Ratchet's optics narrowed with fury as Breakdown explained about Hardshell shooting Bulkhead in the back, but the medic said nothing until Breakdown had finished.

"Cowardly Insecticon."

A faint scowl of displeasure flashed over Optimus' faceplate - so quickly that Breakdown thought he'd imagined it - before the Autobot leader thanked Breakdown and once again turned away and headed back to Ratchet's central monitors. It was almost Decepticon how quickly Optimus Prime moved on to business as usual, even one of his own Autobots was suffering.

Optimus and Megatron aren't so different as they claim, are they?

"Frag!" Ratchet's snarl drew Breakdown's attention to where the Autobot medic was furiously looking around the base, his expression growing angrier with each passing nanosecond. "Where is Miko?"

"With Wheeljack?" Breakdown guessed.

"What? Why would she be with that ruffian?"

"Revenge against Hardshell."

Ratchet's optics narrowed on Breakdown before the medic grabbed onto his arm and pulled Breakdown close enough to Ratchet's faceplate that he could see specks of dust coating parts of the medic's faceplate. "You knew?"

Breakdown shrugged as he pulled away from Ratchet. "It makes sense, does it not, Ratchet?"

The medic's intakes heaved with frustration as Ratchet rubbed at his faceplate exasperatedly. "I told Optimus Wheeljack was insubordinate."

"It wouldn't have been Wheeljack's idea to bring her along, Ratchet."

The sound of metal dragging against metal turned the attention of every mech in the Autobot base from the central monitors and to the entrance drift where, with Miko beside him, Wheeljack limped into the base. The Wrecker's right leg drug behind him as he held his limp right arm with his left servo, a pained grimace haunting the corners of his mouth.

Miko trudged beside Wheeljack and, though the small human showed no signs of injury, Breakdown could tell something was different with her. Her eyes held the same look he'd seen every Autobot and Decepticon who fought in the war - she'd experienced death. No, she'd killed.

Arcee was the first Autobot to move towards the pair, though she ignored Wheeljack pointedly as she bent down beside Miko and checked over her body. "Miko, are you okay?"

"She's fine, kid's a pro," Wheeljack answered. Breakdown could hear a trace of pride in the former Wrecker's words and, when Wheeljack's optics shifted down to Miko briefly, Breakdown saw respect flash through the smaller mech's optics.

"I wasn't talking to you," Arcee snarled nastily, her optics snapping towards Wheeljack with an angered glare.

Wheeljack met Arcee's glare for a moment before he turned away, the hiss of his intakes the only hint that Wheeljack's spark was burning with anger, frustration and pain. Ratchet, who had crossed his arms upon Wheeljack's arrival, shot the Wrecker a disapproving glare before he took a slow step towards the injured mech.

Before Ratchet could take another step forward, though, Miko stopped him with a glance in Bulkhead's direction. "How is he?"

"Bulkhead will survive," Ratchet said quietly, "he... may never be fully functional again."

Miko's face fell as the meaning of Ratchet's words hit her and, if she weren't human, Breakdown could have sworn he felt a surge of agony spark off of the human. Miko stared at the Autobots for a moment before she rushed towards Bulkhead.

"Miko! I don't think it is wise for you-"

Optimus raised one servo to Ratchet, stopping the medic mid sentence. Ratchet glanced towards Optimus, who gave him a slow shake of his helm, before he too turned to watch Miko approach Bulkhead. Wheeljack limped up to the Autobots, his gaze turned to Bulkhead's still form and the human who lingered beside Bulkhead, her sobs growing more pronounced by the nanosecond.

Wheeljack turned towards the Autobots, his optics passing over the disapproving glares of the Autobots before his optics hesitated a moment longer on Breakdown than on any of the others and he looked down at the ground. "I… I don't think I want to see Bulk right now. Not like this."

Wheeljack turned away from the Autobots and, for a moment, it seemed like the Wrecker was going to leave the base - until he hesitated and turned back. "Can I talk to Breakdown, alone?" Wheeljack snarled lowly.

"You may, if that is Breakdown's choice," Optimus shrugged, his tone clipped as he and the rest of the Autobots joined Miko beside Bulkhead.

Wheeljack shot Breakdown a glare before he moved into the tunnel, arms crossed over his chest plate as he waited for Breakdown. Breakdown's vents hissed angrily before he joined the Wrecker in the tunnel - out of the range of the Autobots' audio receptors.

"What, Wheeljack?" Breakdown asked warily. He didn't trust Wheeljack, not when he knew how much the Wrecker hated and distrusted him for Breakdown's actions during the war. He wouldn't have been surprised if the white Wrecker up and decided to attack him for some long ago slight.

"Why did you contact me when I left?" Wheeljack hissed as he grabbed onto Breakdown's arm and pulled him further down the tunnel.

"I don't know."

I don't want to tell you.

"You don't know? Really?"

Breakdown closed his optic and took in a deep intake before he met Wheeljack's glaring optics. "Hardshell is my enemy too, Wheeljack. Can it not be as simple as that?"

"Nothing is ever simple with you, Breakdown."

Breakdown shot Wheeljack a glare that Wheeljack matched before the Wrecker's vents puffed angrily. Wheeljack said nothing to Breakdown as he transformed into his alt and drove out of the base, leaving Breakdown to watch after the Wrecker he'd once considered his friend - it took a few klicks for Breakdown to realize that he actually felt sad to see Wheeljack's alt race away from the base.

But he squashed that feeling away into the corner of his spark that held all of his pain as Breakdown turned and headed out of the tunnel, back to where the other Autobots were. He stalked past the Autobots, past Bulkhead's still form and past Miko, though he paused briefly when he felt the human's optics lock onto him.

Breakdown looked down at Miko as she glared up at him, her optics narrowed with accusation and anger.

I wish it had been you.

Bulkhead's condition had not changed in the days following Wheeljack's departure from the Autobot base and Miko's foolhardy quest to avenge her friend's injuries. The tension within the base was palpable and the reason for Breakdown keeping to himself even more than usual, though the Autobots had seemed to forget about him while Bulkhead was hurt.

It would be easiest - and most expected - for Breakdown to say that he didn't care whether Bulkhead recovered or not. Everyone in the base knew that Breakdown hated Bulkhead, and vice versa, and, for most of them, that was all they wanted to know. He knew that he still hated Bulkhead for betraying him centuries ago - forgiveness wouldn't come so quickly for him - but that hate couldn't mask the worry that had begun to nag at his spark over the last few days.

Bulkhead had been his enemy up until a year ago when the green Autobot had saved Breakdown from MECH and, through the long months that he had worked alongside Bulkhead and the other Autobots, Breakdown had begun to tolerate Bulkhead. He owed Bulkhead for saving him from those monsters, though he did not want to admit as such to his former enemy.

The part of Breakdown that continued to cling to the Wreckers past acknowledged Bulkhead as an ally, if not a distant friend. And, for as much as he and Bulkhead did not get along, Breakdown couldn't bring himself to enjoy the idea of Bulkhead dying here and now, in these circumstances.

Breakdown's vents hissed steam as he leaned his elbow joint against the raised platform positioned nearest the entrance tunnel and sighed. When he'd begged for the Autobots help all those months ago, Breakdown had expected that he'd recover, hide in the Autobot base for a few weeks until MECH forgot about him and then he'd leave. He didn't think that he'd still be living in the Autobot base and going on missions with the Autobots. He'd assumed they'd be wary of him until he left the base and, though the Autobots still gave him the occasionally watchful look, none of the Autobots displayed the distrust they had in the beginning.

Bumblebee, for whatever inexplicable reason, even seemed to like Breakdown, though Breakdown was always left clueless to what the scout said whenever he talked to Breakdown. Breakdown had learned to just nod and grunt his agreement in response to anything Bumblebee said to him. Ratchet appreciated his help, and though the grumpy medic rarely ever said so, Breakdown knew that Ratchet liked him. Optimus was hard to read but, since he still tolerated Breakdown's presence in the Autobot base, he assumed the leader no longer considered Breakdown a threat to the humans or the Autobots' security.

It was only Arcee who continued to distrust Breakdown and, even then, only whenever the human children approached him. But he knew quite clearly that Arcee did not like his presence within the Autobot base and, he suspected, she never would.

The light sound of approaching pedes drew Breakdown out of his thoughts and down to the platform he was leaning against. Miko, Rafael and Jack were watching him from only a few feet away, curiosity in each one's optics.

"What do you want?" Breakdown grumbled towards the humans. He still didn't trust humans, even the Autobots' friends, and anytime the three young humans approached him, Breakdown couldn't help but feel a fearful seizing within his spark.

Frag those MECH butchers!

Breakdown expected the three humans to pester him about Bulkhead - he had been helping Ratchet with the injured and offline mech over the last few days - or to ask him about random, trivial things he couldn't care less about or - the ones he hated the most - for more Decepticon war stories.

So he didn't expect to have Miko's gaze fall away from him, or for the boys to shuffle their feet awkwardly back and forth as if they were ashamed to approach him. Miko spoke up finally, though her normally cheerful voice was tempered with pain. "Do you think Bulkhead will recover?"

Breakdown wasn't even slightly surprised by the question, though he didn't let the humans know it. "He will, trust me. Bulkhead has been through worse before, he'll recover," Breakdown assured the humans, all while biting back the fact that he was lying outright to the kids.

Miko looked up at Breakdown, relief flooding her optics at his words. She rushed towards Breakdown, who instinctively began to scramble away from the human - threat, his mind screamed - but she did not attack. Her little arms wrapped around Breakdown's servo and, to Breakdown's utter surprise and shock, he did not pull away from the human's touch but instead allowed her to cling to him. The young femme began to shake, sobs wracking her body as tears began to fall from her dark optics. She clung ever tighter to Breakdown, which made Rafael and Jack wrap their arms around her in a tight, worried hug.

"I don't want to lose him… I don't know what I'd do without Bulk…"

"Miko," Jack said as he began trying to peel her away from Breakdown - he'd completely frozen up by now so that he couldn't shake off the human if he wanted to - but Miko threw Jack's servo away from her and promptly buried herself against Breakdown once again.

Breakdown felt droplets of water splash over his servo as Miko buried her helm against it, her breathing choked and weak as sobs wracked her frame. Breakdown watched as Miko continued to cling to him and, though he could feel his engine heating with stress from the human's contact with him, he did not move away. He was too shocked by Miko clinging to him to actually be able to make his servo pull away from her - and his processor refused to see these humans as threats.

So he allowed Miko to hold onto him until, finally, by her own choice, Miko let go of him and, wiping tears from her optics, shifted back beside Jack and Rafael. Breakdown retracted his servo from the humans - he'd had more than enough physical contact from a human for today - just as Rafael let out a nervous cough.

"Uhm," Raf's voice piped up, drawing Breakdown's and Jack's attention to him as Rafael glanced between Miko and Breakdown. "Could you tell us how you and Bulkhead know each other, please? Bulkhead's never told us why you two hate each other and... uh," Rafael looked towards Miko and gulped, "we've all been wondering ever since you came here."

"Bulkhead never told you because there's nothing good between us," Breakdown scowled, he was not liking where this conversation was going, "war isn't a game or some fun pastime. He has his reasons to hate me, just as I have my own for hating him."

"We understand what war is like, Breakdown. We can handle whatever you have to say."

Breakdown snorted shortly before he lowered his helm in front of Jack, Miko and Rafael. "Than you three are more foolish than I previously believed."

"We are not foolish!" Miko protested. "All three of us want to understand you better, Breakdown. The only perspective we have on you is that which Bulkhead and the others have said about you. The most we know about you is that you son't like humans because of MECH and that you've done horrible things during the war."

"Horrible, hmm? War itself is terrible, Miko. We murdered our brethren to the point that our planet died. But for a war to happen, there have to be at least two sides against each other. Decepticons were not alone in committing atrocities during our war. No one in this war is innocent."

The three humans shared a look between themselves that Breakdown couldn't decipher before Jack finally spoke up.

"That's why we want to hear your side of the story, Breakdown."

"Very well," Breakdown growled. "But to really understand what pushed me towards the Decepticons, I'll start at the beginning."

His intakes heaved and groaned as his fans attempted to clear the rust and metal shavings that had fallen into his chassis upon each swing of his hammer into the underground drift. The mine boss had claimed that he'd detected a river of energon within drift SE-987 a deca-cycle ago and that was where Breakdown and the rest of the mining detail had been working non-stop.

Only a small vein of energon had been found in all of those solar cycles, but the boss had urged that they keep digging deeper and deeper down the mine. Some of Breakdown's fellow workers had already collapsed from exhaustion solar cycles ago, but no one stopped to help their fallen co-worker. There was no time to stop and hardly enough time to even get a quick sip of energon before they were all pushed into service again.

Breakdown was long used to this routine - it was what he'd been forged for. He was a miner, and a perfect model for one as his boss had claimed when he'd purchased Breakdown from his previous mine boss. His hammers had been forged with a durable alloy that would not chip even after cycles, solar cycles and vorns of chipping away at the hard metal that made Cybertron and his chassis was strong, made to last under even the worst mine collapse. A cannon that fired energon bolts and missiles alike was fixed upon his shoulder, to aid in the clearing of cave blockages or to clear out new drifts.

He didn't use his cannon often and couldn't even recall the last time he'd needed it. He preferred his hammers over the long range cannon and its unpredictable anger, but he was always glad to have the cannon, just in case.

Systems at 14%. Recharge necessary before total system shut down.

A scowl tugged at Breakdown's mouth as his internal drives squawked at him angrily, chiding him to rest.

There was no rest when one worked in the mines and there was never any escape from the mines. Once you were forged for the mines that was your sole purpose upon Cybertron.

"Break time! You've got five klicks before every mech needs to back on the line and working! We are almost finished with this drift! Let's go, let's go!"

Breakdown heard the voice of the drift boss - a higher caste mech who's job it was to ensure that all of the miners were working at all times of the solar cycle - further down the drift, a sigh of relief puffing from his vents at the idea of a short break. He didn't bother to find the drift boss - none of the miners knew his name, so they had all started to call the arrogant mech  Bentonite - for his share of energon as Breakdown preferred getting a klick of recharge over drinking the poor energon they were given.

He had just powered his systems into a brief recharge when he heard a voice to his left and felt a servo clasp his shoulder plate.  "Come on, Breakdown. I got your ration for you."

"Thanks,  Chute," Breakdown said as he opened his optics and took the small cup of energon offered to him from the sharp servos of his fellow miner.

Chute was smaller than Breakdown - he was forged to fit into collapsed drifts to begin excavation that the larger mechs, like Breakdown, couldn't reach yet - and had an outwardly delicate looking frame. Though Chute looked the part of a weaker mech, Breakdown knew all too well that his fellow miner was one of the best miners of the entire system.

"You look tired, Breakdown," Chute noted as the charcoal colored mech sat down beside Breakdown. Chute drained his cup of energon quickly then turned to Breakdown with a smile, his red optics glinting. "Did you hear? The big boss bought a new mine claim from that old nut  Electrolysis? I heard that Electrolysis' mines are the most dangerous. He had to hire new miners practically every other solar cycle because of how many collapses his drifts had."

"Then he'll be sending us down there," Breakdown mused. "Boss doesn't care about us."

"We're the best mining detail on Cybertron, Breakdown, we'll show those others why the mines fear us!"

"Sure," Breakdown sighed as he finished his cup of energon.

"Alright, back to work!"  Bentonite shouted. "Move your afts!"

Breakdown shook his helm before he rose up onto his pedes and headed back down the drift, the only light within the miles deep drift that from his optics and few biolights.

Every day was the same process - wake up, go down the mine shaft, work for an endless amount of groons, head back to the surface for a brief recharge and back all over again - but Breakdown didn't complain. It was his job. Mining was why he had been made.

And, on Cybertron, if you were forged for a specific job, there was no going over your caste. A miner was a miner - always.

Breakdown could hear the ceiling of mine drift NW-1209 groaning its protest as his mining detail slowly broke their way down the new drift. They had been moved a few solar cycles to the mine their boss purchased from the old mine owner,  Electrolysis, and none of them had been permitted back to the surface since they'd gone down the mineshaft.

He hated this drift the klick he'd stepped into it and, judging from the sounds the mine made whenever they moved further along in their work, the mine hated them too. Breakdown wasn't afraid - fear was not a useful emotion in the claustrophobic confines of the mines - of what the groaning meant, he'd been in plenty of collapses.

"Come on, afts, we need to move faster! This vein won't excavate itself, you slags! Your pay hinges on the boss getting his energon, let's move!"

A growl rumbled through Breakdown's chassis as  Bentonite charged towards him and his small detail of excavators, rage flickering in his blue optics.

"Breakdown, why aren't you further down this drift by now!?"

"Sir, the structure of this drift is extremely weak. We've been having to reinforce the ceiling with pit props every time we move even two feet down this drift. If we don't do this, this drift will collapse!"

"There is no time for caution, Breakdown!" Bentonite roared, "get moving, you coward!"

"Yes, sir," Breakdown snarled as Bentonite hurried away from him to bark at the miners further behind Breakdown in the drift.

He loathed Bentonite and his obvious lack of concern for his workers and it took all of his self control for him to not take an angry swing at the mech. If anything hit the walls of this delicate drift - such as Bentonite's chassis - the entire section would collapse.

"Launder, Metallurgy, Muck, Rockburst!"

Four helms turned towards Breakdown as the miners who had been working to place a pit prop in a crumbling section of the wall, hurried up to Breakdown, their optics the only indication of their closeness to him.

"Yes?" Rockburst asked as his optics, a full red, blinked. "What's wrong?"

"I need you four to head up the drift. Tell Transport Detail we need at least four mine cars worth of pit prop for this section. I will finish this section here, but I need you four to get those cars."

"But we have enough pit props," Launder noted, "why do we need more?"

"I'd rather have more pit props ready before we move an inch further down this drift. This drift is highly unstable and we need to be ready with all the support we have available to us."

The four smaller mechs - Breakdown was one of the biggest mechs on the entire detail - rushed past Breakdown, leaving him to himself in the groaning drift. Breakdown moved to the pit prop the four had been working on, his servo checking for the set and strength of the prop. As he kneeled beside the prop, his audio receptors picked up on a very faint but distinctive creaking from above him that sounded far more ominous than the previous groaning.

Shards of metal began to pepper his helm, drawing his helm to stare up at the ceiling above him. The ceiling creaked and groaned and then, suddenly, Breakdown noticed a large fissure that ran the length of the drift he was in. He hadn't seen it before when they'd cleared away the metal that had made up this tunnel-


Breakdown whirled around just as the fissure burst, the pressure of the collapsing metal causing every pit prop to bow and shatter from the middle, the sudden failure of the support beams only increasing the speed of the collapse. He could hear voices shouting in horror as the drift collapsed over the detail, metal crushing him to the ground and knocking him clear into stasis.

Breakdown's optics opened to pitch darkness. His systems blared numerous warnings of internal damage, exterior pressure and numerous other readings that didn't make sense to him. It took more klicks than he was truly comfortable with for Breakdown's drives to run a complete scan over his chassis, only to report that any self-repairs his systems could initiate were down, thanks to that which he was buried under.

The mine collapse!

Horror pierced through his spark when he realized that he, and the rest of the miners, were all trapped within the collapsed mine. While he could withstand a few groons under the collapsed mine, his sturdy chassis saw to that, but most of the other miners would not last as long if aid didn't come quickly.

He knew aid was far away, if it had been called at all, and that he was one of the few who could help his buried miners. He thought nothing of his own safety as Breakdown worked tirelessly to clear the fallen trailing off of his chassis. Once he'd cleared all of the debris that had crushed him, Breakdown activated his comms and called out for any mech who was online.

None responded, leaving Breakdown to slowly bash his way through the collapsed drift in search of his fellow miners.

The first mech he found was already offlined, his helm crushed by one of the steel pit props. Breakdown turned away from the miner as he slowly pulled the offlined mech out from the rubble that had extinguished his spark. He continued his search, even as the mine groaned its displeasure at him, though the hope that had been pushing him on faded with each offlined mech he found.

A wheezing of intakes snapped Breakdown's helm to a pile of shattered pit props and the clawed servo that poked out, its digits twitching weakly. Breakdown moved quickly to remove the pit props pinning the injured miner. Pain flashed through his chassis when he recognized the charcoal chest plate of Chute and the large rod of steel that had pierced through his friend's spark chamber.


Red optics flickered up to meet Breakdown's own yellow optics before, with a faint smile, Chute let out a weak cough. "Hey... Breakdo... wn."

Breakdown placed a servo over his friend's shoulder plate and, unable to face his dying friend, he turned his helm away from Chute. "I'm sorry..."

"Your workers are recovering, though some of them will need more time before they can return to work."

The voice, situated some feet from him, woke Breakdown from his recharge, his optic moving until he spotted the bright orange and silver medic who had been tending to Breakdown and the rest of the miners that had survived the collapse. More than half of the entire detail had perished by the time rescue teams had uncovered the deep drift and freed Breakdown and all the miners. Next to the medic was the regally framed royal blue and cream chassis of Breakdown's employer.

Anger seethed within Breakdown's frame when he saw how dismissively the mine boss glanced over his injured workers, his lips curled ever so slightly in disgust as the medic detailed each one of the miners injuries. A snort escaped from the mine boss' intakes as he turned to face the medic and, disinterestedly, gestured towards one miner.

"I need them to be working. I have not been able to move further into my mine due to these fraggers slagging off and milking their injuries."

"They are not slagging off!" The medic barked angrily, his red optics ablaze with fury as he gestured towards the occupied berths. "You are lucky any of your workers survived, let alone that they can return to the mines eventually! You cannot push them into work until they are all fully healed!"

The mine boss shoved the medic out of his way with a disgusted snort. "You are soft. Make these lazy pieces of slag ready for duty in two solar cycles time or I will have you transferred off world."

"You can't do that!" The medic exclaimed.

"I can and I will," the mine boss yawned, "now get these afts back into working shape."

The medic glared at the mine boss for a few klicks before he relented and lowered his helm, unable to meet the boss' gaze. "As you wish..."

"Let's go, everyone! We've got a lot of miles to get done and only a few solar cycles to do it!"

Breakdown kept his helm lowered as Backfill, the new overseer of the mine operations, walked past him, shouting his orders to the workers busy chipping away at the new drift. Only a deca-cycle had passed since Breakdown and the rest of the miners from his former detail had been rescued from the collapse but he - along with everyone else who had survived - were back in the confines of the dark mine.

He was not happy being underground, surrounded by perpetual darkness and the ever present danger of collapse. But, compared to the rest, Breakdown was taking being back in the mines easily.

Only the solar cycle before, Breakdown had seen Drag Fold, one of the blasters on the previous detail, have a complete systems shut down from the stress and get carted off. Drag Fold hadn't returned today, which only meant he would never return. Drag Fold would be lucky to escape the mines and get repurposed for a different job, but that was unlikely, considering how much the mine boss despised the workers of his that showed any sort of ill effect due to being in the mines so long.

Breakdown's partner for the day, a large driller mech named  Oreshoot, was working steadily alongside Breakdown, though he was oblivious to Breakdown's busy thoughts. Oreshoot was new to this mine but, from what Breakdown had heard a few of the others mention, he was a very capable miner.

Suddenly the ceiling above Breakdown and Oreshoot groaned darkly, the steel pit props moaning as metal shavings slowly dusted over Breakdown's chassis.

Fear engulfed Breakdown as his processor flooded with images of drift  NW-1209 collapse. He felt metal crushing his chest, saw the many mangled and offlined chassis of his friends and fellow miners-


"What in the frag is going on, Oreshoot!"

"I don't know, sir! Breakdown just collapsed-"

"For Primus' sake!  Pyrrhotite! Reclamation! Get this aft out of here and to the boss. He's done."

Anger and hatred burned Breakdown's chassis as the mine boss glowered across his large desk at him. "Backfill informed me that you are no longer serviceable in my mines, Breakdown. Care to explain yourself?"

"I heard the ceiling start to heave, sir. It was the same sound that happened in  drift  NW-1209 before it collapsed," Breakdown explained quickly, "I guess that it triggered some kind of response in my systems that made me collapse."

"You're fired."

"What? Sir, please, give me a chance! I just need a good solar cycle's worth of recharge and I'll be good to go!"

"No," the mech snarled, "you are done. I don't accept back any mech who collapses in my mines. Now get out. Maybe you can find work elsewhere."

Breakdown stared at the mine boss, horrified, shocked and mollified. He was made to be a miner, he didn't know anything else but mining. Maybe he could find one of the other mine claims to work at-

"Oh, and before you think of getting hired by a different claim, I've already reported your unworkable status to my competitors. No one needs a mech who can't handle working in the mines. Now, goodbye."

Breakdown trudged down one of Kaon's many streets, his shoulder plates slumped and helm hung as he headed towards the gladiator ring. It had been many vorns since Breakdown had been fired by Ironsky - he'd learned his former employer's name by another former miner whom he'd met in the slums of Kalis - and his life had been an uncertain one since.

He'd tried to get jobs that fit him but none ever seemed to want him long enough for him to settle into that job, until Kaon's gladiator pits, that is. He'd been recruited into the gladiator pits entirely by coincidence when a sponsor mech badly in need of a fighter found him wandering Kaon's streets. The mech had drug Breakdown into the pits and made him fight a well liked mech named Firestalker, at the price of living quarters and pay for every fight he participated in.

Breakdown had lost to Firestalker narrowly but he'd become somewhat of a fan favorite after the fight - his sponsor, Windshield, was obsessed with promoting Breakdown as a miner who, upon falling onto hard times, had begun to fight to support his family. He didn't enjoy the lie but he'd learned that it was best to listen to Windshield and to not argue with her. Not if he wanted to continue having a place to live and credits for energon.

"Hey, you!"

Breakdown didn't recognize the voice that spoke up from his left and, with his servos primed for a fight - he'd grown used to being jumped from behind after he'd joined the gladiator pits - he turned to the left.

Standing near him were two mechs he did not recognize, one a tall flyer and the other a  light-blue and yellow grounder, both with their arms crossed over their chestplates. Neither were fighters from the gladiator pits, that at least he knew.

"Who are you and what do you want?" Breakdown growled as he glared down at the shorter mechs. He had always been short tempered but his vorns in the pits had made his temper as short as a blasting fuse.

"I'm Seaspray," the blue and yellow grounder said, "and this is Stormbreaker. We've been looking for mechs who aren't afraid of getting their servos dirty and aren't afraid of immeasurable odds. Stormbreaker and I want to make a team of highly trained and specialized warriors to defend Cybertron against unknown threats. We're thinking of calling it the Wreckers."

Breakdown let a snort of steam escape from his vents as Seaspray finished, and laughed. "You must be desperate if you are asking me to join this... club of yours."

"No," Stormbreaker growled, "we know what we are looking for in mechs. We want tough mechs who can take a beating and dish out twice as much to their enemies. And we want mechs who care about their friends."

"We have done our research," Seaspray continued, "we know about what you did when the mine collapsed. You tried to save your fellow miners instead of escaping on your own."

Breakdown stepped back slightly at Seaspray's words, his optics narrowed suspiciously as he looked between the two mechs. He never spoke of his days as a miner to anyone and the only mechs who knew of that part of him were his former co-workers. So that meant that these two had accessed files on him.

"We need a mech like you. Stormbreaker and I would be proud to fight alongside a mech like you, Breakdown."


Breakdown turned his back to the two mechs and stalked away, though he couldn't help but glance back at them once. The gladiator pits weren't a place where anyone could make friends or allies even. Everyone who fought in the pits was an enemy and nothing else.

Stormbreaker and Seaspray, to his aggravation, never gave up on getting him to join their fledgling group. Breakdown saw them at fights, saw them at his favorite bar, saw them out on the streets and many times they approached him with the same offer. He'd spent many groons talking with the duo over drinks of high-grade and, just as he understood both better, so did they him.

He'd refused their proposal at first because of his pride and refusal to become attached to anyone again but, as he got to know Stormbreaker and Seaspray better, Breakdown had begun to rethink his choice. And it was all that rethinking that had led him to the borderlands of Iacon and the large warehouse Seaspray had told him was the base for their new group. He hesitated at the front door for a moment before, with a steeling of his determination, Breakdown entered the building.

The warehouse was bare for all but a small table, three chairs and a small monitor that looked as old as Breakdown. He glanced around the warehouse curiously before he heard Seaspray yell his name as the grounder appeared at his side.

"Welcome to the Wreckers, Breakdown. It's just you, me and Stormbreaker at this moment but we've found a lot of mechs who have showed interest in joining. Stormbreaker's at the High Council making our team official now that you've joined us. Now come on, I'll show you around base."

Breakdown nodded quietly as Seaspray gestured for him to follow him and, with a cautious optimism, Breakdown followed the grounder inside.

Once the High Council had approved the formation of the Wreckers, acquiring interested mechs in their cause was simple.  Members came from all over Cybertron, and for many different reasons. Some joined the Wreckers for its promise of adventure, while others joined just for the chance to fight - the Wreckers was made up of very different Cybertronians with very different motivations.

Atoll, Brighthaze, Coarseclaw, Diamondhead, Impacter, Roadbuster, Skipaway, Sworddancer were some of many of the first Cybertronians to join the Wreckers and all were fierce warriors. And, for a few vorns, the Wreckers served primarily in the defense of Cybertron - until the day Megatron and his army of Decepticons attacked Iacon.

The war changed the Wreckers' as their group was molded into the Autobots' cause with the duty of taking the most dangerous and deadly missions. Many of Breakdown's fellow soldiers perished in the opening moves of the war and it was with added desperation that Seaspray and Stormbreaker sought out new recruits.

"Breakdown, I received communications from Ironhide a few klicks ago. He needs support on the field, his unit's been ambushed by Skyquake and his Seekers. I need you to take Bulkhead and Wheeljack and get to Ironhide's location."

"Those two?" Breakdown snarled. "You've got to be kidding, Seaspray."

"You know there's no one else at this time, Breakdown."

Breakdown shook his helm before he shrugged and gave Seaspray a pointed scowl. "You're the boss, commander."

"Thanks for your help, Wreckers," the Autobot named Ironhide thanked as Breakdown, followed by Wheeljack and Bulkhead, approached the Autobot unit.

Wheeljack and Bulkhead had surprised Breakdown - he was used to the two playing lob more than ever seeing them fight - with their battle prowess and fighting skills. Skyquake, who had quickly grown notoriety amongst the Wreckers as a vicious opponent, and his depleted Seeker armada had eventually retreated when the Wreckers had come in with their unorthodox - and un-Autobot - methods of fighting.

"You're welcome," Wheeljack said, "just call us next time you decide to pick a fight with someone, alright?"

Ironhide glared at Wheeljack as the Wreckers' Ground Bridge opened behind them but the red Autobot still thanked the three Wreckers as they walked through their Ground Bridge.

"Hold on, Bulkhead! Slag it, hold on!"

Breakdown pressed his servos against Bulkhead's chestplate, torn open and pumping energon, as his blue optics flickered weakly. Wheeljack roared in the distance as he fended off the waves of Decepticon soldiers surrounding the three Wreckers. Breakdown, Bulkhead and Wheeljack had been ambushed on a patrol of Helex, a hot blast of energy slicing past Breakdown and Wheeljack as it blasted a hole through Bulkhead's chestplate.

Decepticons flooded down upon them, their roars triumphant and angry as they trapped the three Wreckers. Bulkhead's intakes heaved as the green mech gasped underneath Breakdown's servos - he was going into stasis, if not going to be offlined if Breakdown and Wheeljack didn't get backup and soon.

"Wrecker base, this is Breakdown! We've been ambushed at Helex - grid SW 987.087 - by Decepticon troops. Bulkhead's down! We need backup now!"

But there was no sound, no response over his comms to tell that his message had gotten through to the Wreckers' headquarters. "Slag it! There's no one but us, Jackie!"

Wheeljack snarled as a Decepticon slashed his clawed digits across his faceplate and then kicked the white Wrecker to the ground.  Breakdown swore and stomped his pede over Bulkhead's injury as he turned and fired his shoulder cannon at the Decepticon, before he could tear his digits into Wheeljack's spark chamber. The Decepticon rocked back and fell to the ground as Wheeljack scrambled back to Breakdown's side, his right servo pressed against leaking wounds that crisscrossed his chestplate.

The Decepticon forces lunged for Breakdown and Wheeljack, and it took all of the two Wreckers' strength to fend the many soldiers off. Breakdown saw Wheeljack stagger as one Decepticon soldier tore her clawed digits under the plating of his chestplate, tearing open the Wrecker's chest plating as energon pumped from his wounds.

"Ah, frag," Wheeljack hissed as he swung his sword under the Decepticon's shoulder joint, and slashed into her chestplate.

"Hold on, Wheeljack," Breakdown snarled as he smashed another Decepticon away from himself and his two Wrecker friends with his hammer servo.

Slag it, Seaspray, we need you!

Wheeljack suddenly staggered against Breakdown's side as the air was rent with a sharp crack of a rifle, the smaller Wrecker's frame slumping against Breakdown's right arm as his pistons hissed and groaned with agony. Breakdown snapped his gaze to Wheeljack and took a hold of his friend before the Wrecker could fall. He could see a deep furrow running across Wheeljack's neckplates, deep enough that the Wrecker had been knocked into stasis.

But the Decepticons were still coming, and there was no hint of a fresh unit of Wreckers coming to his aid. Breakdown lowered Wheeljack to the ground, gave a worried look to his companions, and charged towards the swarm of Decepticons. Claws tore through his plating, blasts of energy and hard bullets slashed across his chassis, as Breakdown fired his cannon until its systems read empty of all ammo.

Exhuastion was blackening his vision as Breakdown fought the never ending swarm of Decepticons. He would defend Wheeljack and Bulkhead to the end of his own spark, but he was not going down without destroying a number of the slagged Decepticons. A giant tank suddenly appeared before Breakdown and, before he could even register the tank's barrel aimed at his chest, he felt fire burn through his entire chassis.

Breakdown staggered and fell on his right shoulder plate, optics fizzing as his vision blurred and stasis claimed him.

Steady beeping woke Breakdown, drawing his gaze to the monitor tracking his vitals. To his left, he could see Bulkhead laid out on a slab, his chestplate newly welded together. Wheeljack was awake and moving around the room slowly, an angered, dark expression clouding his optics.

"Wheeljack?" Breakdown hissed out. His voice was weak and strained, and his systems read that it had not fully rebooted.

Wheeljack heard Breakdown and whirled around, the dark expression in his optics shifting to one of relief and joy as he rushed to Breakdown's side. A servo gently pressed against Breakdown's shoulder plate before the white Wrecker lowered his helm to press against Breakdown's chestplate. He could feel Wheeljack's fear and relief warring within his spark as the Wrecker refused to release his grip on Breakdown, though he did raise his helm to give Breakdown a smile.

"You're awake..."

Breakdown jerked his helm slightly towards Bulkhead again before he gave Wheeljack a reassuring smile. "I'm alright. Sore and my systems won't stop yelling at me, but I'm good. Bulk?"

"He's recovering. Seaspray came just in time, by what he said. We would have been fragged if it weren't for you and them. Seaspray said he heard our bonds dying, and he brought a whole unit of our pals out to rescue us. Those Decepticons are no more."

Breakdown snorted, not believing Wheeljack's words. All he'd done was delay the Decepticons for a brief few kliks, he hadn't saved the lives of his friends like Seaspray obviously had. Wheeljack's optics shifted narrowly as a quiet scowl marked his faceplate. 

"Are you okay, Breakdown?"

"I'm... fine."

Wheeljack did not refute Breakdown's statement but he could see something in Wheeljack's optics that he wasn't able to read. Finally the Wrecker's shoulder plates slumped before he tightened his servo over Breakdown's shoulder plate.

"The Wreckers will always have each other's backs."

The war had ravaged the planet for vorns when Breakdown was left for dead by the Wreckers and discovered by the Seeker commander, Dreadwing. Breakdown's hatred for the Wreckers fueled him as he sought the destruction of the very Autobots he had once been tasked to defend, though not before he brought Megatron and his army to the doorstep of the Wreckers' base.

Breakdown had sought out Sharpclaw personally and, with rage fueling his spark, Breakdown had overpowered the vicious Wrecker. But he hadn't stopped at Sharpclaw as he hunted down Wheeljack and Bulkhead - two Wreckers he had always considered his closest friends - and found them both with  Annihilation, who Bulkhead had fancied for vorns. The three Wreckers shared the same horrified expression when they recognized the raging blue mech charging towards him, though all three fought without hesitation. Breakdown wanted to hurt Bulkhead and Wheeljack as they'd hurt him and so he'd used his shoulder cannon to blast a hole through Annihilation's spark chamber.

Bulkhead turned away from the fight the moment Breakdown killed the flyer Wrecker, leaving Wheeljack to face Breakdown alone. But Seaspray called for a retreat and, with one final, hateful glare towards Breakdown, Wheeljack and the remaining Wreckers had fled.

Sometimes he couldn't recognize the mech he'd become to the one who'd cared so deeply for the Wreckers.

But forgiveness was never something he could easily accept, least of all when betrayed by his friends and left for dead. And that anger fueled him all the way to Earth until the day MECH had captured Breakdown. He'd led himself to believe that the Decepticons were better than the Autobots but he'd learned his lesson there. Anyone could leave you for dead if it suited their needs best.

Breakdown got to his pedes as he finished, his engine hot with anger as he gave the humans a glare. "Now stop bothering me, alright?"

As he turned and stalked away from the humans, Breakdown heard Miko let out a shocked breath and then whispered something his audio receptors couldn't pick up. He noticed Ratchet's optics follow him down the hallway as Breakdown stalked off towards his quarters, though the medic's expression was unreadable.

"I can't believe Optimus replaced me with that upstart Smokescreen."

Breakdown grunted in response beside Bulkhead as he finished running diagnostics over the still injured Autobot. A month had passed since Bulkhead had finally awoken from his system shut down after their fight against Hardshell, though his healing process was still quite slow. And the green Autobot had turned bitter and sour when, a few solar cycles ago, a new Autobot by the name of Smokescreen had crash landed on Earth.

"Smokescreen got lucky in one fight against Starscream and now Optimus acts like that kid is the next best thing since high-grade! If I knew he'd replace me that quickly just because I was hurt-"

"And here I thought the Autobots needed all the recruits they could handle," Breakdown snapped as he stepped away from Bulkhead, his optic narrowed as he gave Bulkhead a disgusted scowl. "Everyone's tired of you bemoaning yourself, Bulkhead. You were getting along with your recovery fine until Smokescreen came."

"Because I knew I had a purpose before he came!" Bulkhead swore as he smashed his right servo into the monitor beside the medbay, shattering it instantly.


Ratchet stormed over to Bulkhead, who returned a moody scowl towards the medic when Ratchet shoved Bulkhead away from the medical bay, optics blazing. "If you are going to act like a child, Bulkhead, do it in the training room!"

Bulkhead scowled at Ratchet before he muttered something to himself and stalked down the hallway towards the training room. Breakdown turned his helm towards Ratchet with a scowl before he sighed and apologized for Bulkhead's actions.

"It isn't your fault," Ratchet snapped, "Bulkhead is his own mech. Though, if you could follow him to make sure he doesn't do anything more stupid, I would appreciate it."

"I'd rather babysit the children," Breakdown admitted as he followed after Bulkhead with a last frustrated look back to Ratchet.

When he found Bulkhead, the green Autobot was angrily swinging at the protoform Ratchet had made when he'd first enlisted Breakdown as his medical assistant, the roar of Bulkhead's engine echoing sharply over the walls. A warning growl from Breakdown's engine snapped Bulkhead out of his wild swinging, though the Wrecker's optics only sparked with further anger when he spotted Breakdown approaching him.

"What do you want, Breakdown?"

"You know exactly what, Bulkhead," Breakdown hissed as he stopped in front of Bulkhead and transformed his right servo into its hammer alt.

Bulkhead's optics narrowed fractionally before he shifted his stance and met Breakdown's glare. Without another word towards each other, the two former Wreckers lunged for each other.

Bulkhead swung at Breakdown wildly as Breakdown smashed his former enemy in the helm with his hammer, the force of his hit throwing Bulkhead to the ground. Breakdown snarled as he swung at the downed Wrecker, though he missed Bulkhead by mere inches when the green Autobot rolled out of the way. Both turned and roared at each other before Bulkhead's wrecking ball hit Breakdown under the chin, throwing him across the room.

"I'm not in the mood for a spate with you, Breakdown!" Bulkhead roared as he stormed towards Breakdown, who was slowly picking himself up from the ground while his vision swam blurrily. "But if that's what you want, I'll be more than happy to be obliged to fight you!"

Good !

Breakdown charged Bulkhead as the green Autobot rushed towards him, his sulking mood over his injuries and the arrival of the new Autobot completely forgotten as Bulkhead slammed his fist into Breakdown's chest. Breakdown staggered back but returned Bulkhead's punch with a harsh swing from his hammer that forced Bulkhead to trip over his still healing leg and fall to the floor.

Before Bulkhead could get to his pedes though, Breakdown stomped on his former enemy's back and pinned him to the floor. "Would you stop being a sparkling, Bulkhead? Your pouting is doing no one here any favors, least of all you! You get injured one time and you've become a sulking, sniveling, whiny little brat."

Bulkhead let out a furious scream as he suddenly lunged up from the ground, throwing Breakdown off him as the Wrecker grabbed Breakdown's leg and, with a mighty heave, threw Breakdown against the wall. Breakdown hit the wall and slumped to the ground, his intakes heaving as his gyros attempted to steady his spinning vision. He shook his helm and started to push himself off the ground when he heard the unmistakable sound of a blaster powering up in front of him.

"BULKHEAD! What are you doing?!"

Optimus Prime's shout stopped Bulkhead before he could fire his blaster at Breakdown's helm and, with a shocked gasp, Bulkhead deactivated his blaster and backed away from Breakdown. Breakdown glowered up at Bulkhead as Prime pushed himself between Breakdown and Bulkhead, then pushed himself to his pedes.

Breakdown turned away from Bulkhead and stalked out of the training room, where he passed Ratchet, who was looking between him, Bulkhead and Optimus worriedly. "Not now, Ratchet."

Ratchet's engine grumbled as Breakdown stalked into his quarters and slammed the door shut behind him. A sigh hissed from Breakdown's vents as he leaned his back against the door and rubbed at his faceplate tiredly.

Bulkhead's sulking had affected the entire base to the point that most of the Autobots avoided Bulkhead - even the humans had taken to avoiding the sulking Wrecker. In turn, Bullkhead only grew more bitter and angry as his team avoided conversing with the sulking Autobot. Smokescreen was the only one who seemed entirely unfazed by Bulkhead's attitude, though Breakdown attributed that solely to how new the young Elite Guard was.

Breakdown slowly moved to his berth and sat down upon the metal slab, his servo digging against his helm as the last moments of his fight with Bulkhead played through his processor again. He had picked the fight with Bulkhead knowing that an unrestrained fight against Breakdown would have given Bulkhead a chance to expel some of his frustration but, clearly, Breakdown had picked at a very sore spot of the Wrecker's.

A knock on his door drew Breakdown out of his thoughts and, with a bored sigh, Breakdown invited whoever was outside in. He figured Optimus would lecture him about picking a fight with Bulkhead, it wouldn't be the first time Optimus Prime had lectured Breakdown. But, to his surprise, the owner of the knock was Bulkhead, who looked thoroughly apologetic as he stepped an inch into Breakdown's quarters.

"Uh... sorry about that back there," Bulkhead apologized quietly. "I wasn't thinking."

Breakdown responded only with a flat stare before Bulkhead shuffled his pedes and gestured to Breakdown's side. "Can I sit?"


Bulkhead sat down beside Breakdown and gave him a weak attempt at a smile. "I really needed that fight, honestly. Thanks for that. It felt like the old days-"

"When we were enemies?" Breakdown snarled. "If that's what you want to talk about, you can go."

"No, no, no!" Bulkhead hurriedly shook his helm as he raised his servos defensively. "I meant when we were Wreckers. Wheeljack, you and I always sparred with each other back then. I miss those days. Wheeljack was a lot friendlier back then, and you were still..."

"Still someone you could trust," Breakdown finished coldly.

Bulkhead lowered his helm and let out a heave of his intakes before he slowly nodded. "I didn't want to rescue you when MECH had captured you. I was happy to let them keep you. Optimus understood my reasoning and let me stay here at base when he, Arcee, Bumblebee and Ratchet went to Russia to rescue you. I kept thinking of Topspin, Sharpclaw, Corsair, Chainsteel, Silverblight, Annihilation and Rumblefoot."

Breakdown scowled and jerked his helm away from Bulkhead, not wanting his former enemy to see the hurt that pierced through his spark. For many vorns Breakdown had said he didn't feel sorry for the seven Wreckers that had been killed in the ambush on the base Breakdown had led with Megatron, and sometimes he wasn't. The Wreckers had become his enemy at that point in the war and, as far as he saw it, there was no time for empathy against his enemies. But sometimes, when he couldn't recharge or his thoughts turned to the close companions he'd made in the Wreckers, he regretted what he'd done.

The war had changed all of them, including Breakdown.

"Miko convinced me to go after you," Bulkhead didn't sound overly pleased with that confession, "after she told me that I'd never get a rematch against you if I didn't help Optimus and the others rescue you."

"I assumed as such," Breakdown replied coldly. He'd wondered why Bulkhead had saved him from MECH and, upon meeting Miko and the other humans, had had his own suspicions about the green Autobots reasonings. "I likely wouldn't have rescued you either."

Bulkhead shot Breakdown a look before he let out a chuckle and nodded. "We aren't too dissimilar, are we, Breakdown?"

"Don't compare yourself to me. I am no lover of humans or Earth."

Bulkhead said nothing back to Breakdown for a few klicks and it was just when the silence was becoming ever so tense that Bulkhead sighed and got up from where he had sat beside Breakdown. The green Wrecker reached the door to Breakdown's quarters when he paused and stiffly turned his helm towards Breakdown.

"I'm glad you're on our side again, Breakdown."

Night had fallen groons ago when Breakdown approached the large rock formation that hid the Autobot base, his alt slowing as he drove through the entrance tunnel. While Prime had been busy decoding the Iacon datafile Ratchet and Rafael had hacked into the base, Ratchet had sent Breakdown to scout out a number of energon mines he had logged that the Decepticons controlled.

He had been surprised by the mission but he'd taken it happily, as a few groons away from the Autobots and the humans was something he'd take whenever he had the chance to. But his scouting had only turned up more depleted mines and a few Vehicon scouts who continued to patrol the old mines. Breakdown had taken care to avoid the Vehicons as he knew that they would follow orders and shoot him if they had the chance.

Ratchet's not going to be pleased when I tell him that six mines have been depleted entirely. We're running low on energon and Megatron's mined out almost every single sharp of energon left on this planet.

"-did Alpha Trion ask about me?"

"What was the message?"

"It is paramount that we recover the final four Iacon relics. The Omega Keys."

Breakdown slowed even further inside the tunnel as he picked up the voices of Smokescree, Bulkhead and then Optimus from just inside the base. When he drove in and transformed out of his alt mode, none of the Autobots - who were all fixated on Optimus and the giant white sword he held in his servos - noticed him.


"To what?"

"To the regeneration of our home planet."

If there was anything else the Autobots had to say, Breakdown heard none of it but for Optimus' voice repeating, "the regeneration of our home planet." His optic snapped to the sword Optimus held again before he realized the meaning of what Optimus had said.

Cybertron can be revived? Our planet can... we can bring Cybertron back? How?!

Though he wanted to feel excited at the possibility that Cybertron - their home planet - could be revived, the pessimist in him froze that hope before it completely filled his chassis. Prime had said something about Omega Keys and, clearly, the sword Optimus held was not the key to reviving their planet. Which meant that these keys were the last parts of the Iacon file that had not been decoded yet.

A file Soundwave is decoding this minute. The Decepticons have the same chance as us in finding these keys, though it doesn't seem like anyone but Optimus understands exactly what the keys do. And that gives us an advantage against Megatron - for now.

Optimus seemed far more hurried in deciphering the Iacon file, now that everyone in the Autobot base knew that the remaining coordinates could lead to the rebirth of their planet. He'd already decoded one and sent Arcee and Smokescreen out to retrieve that key, and now the Autobot leader was hard at work decoding the remaining coordinates.

"Ratchet... send the Ground Bridge, please..."

Breakdown heard Ratchet's engine start at the despondent misery that echoed within Arcee's voice as she commed the base back. The medic replied curtly before he opened the Ground Bridge and hurried over to the medical bay. Breakdown glanced once at the Ground Bridge before he joined Ratchet, though something in Arcee's voice made Breakdown doubt that anyone was injured.

"Smokescreen?" Breakdown hissed to Ratchet as Arcee trudged into the base alone, her shoulders slumped and door kibble flattened over her back.

"You can close the Ground Bridge. Smokescreen's gone..."

"No," Ratchet breathed softly as Optimus gently moved Arcee towards the medical bay, his blue optics wide with concern.

Breakdown checked over Arcee's chassis as Ratchet and the remaining Autobots gathered around their companion.

"Where is Smokescreen?" Ratchet asked.

"Gone. He was just... gone. Like dust. Megatron surprised us... he had a sword similar to Optimus', though it looked like he'd forged it from Dark Energon... and he told me that he'd wait for Optimus to come and face off against him."

"Poor kid," Bulkhead breathed as Bumblebee let out a despondent trill.

"Arcee, do not blame yourself. It could have just as easily been you," Ratchet attempted to rationalize, though Arcee took no notice to it as Bulkhead activated his blasters and glowered at the deactivated Ground Bridge.

"I say we go claim a piece of Megatron's miserable hide!"


Bulkhead and Bumblebee, who had started to follow the green Autobot, paused at Optimus' stern command.

"We have already lost another one of our own today. I will not risk more lives. Given what Arcee witnessed, it stands to reason that Megatron now possesses might to equal the Star Saber. Which means only I have a chance of recovering the Omega Key."

"The fate of Cybertron rests upon its retrieval."

"Whether Megatron knows it or not."

Breakdown finished with his scan of Arcee's chassis, though she did not notice as she kept her helm bowed away from every Autobots' gaze. Breakdown placed a servo on Arcee's shoulder plate as Optimus walked through the Ground Bridge that Ratchet had opened nanoseconds ago, and slowly pulled the two wheeler to her pedes.

"You need rest, Arcee."

Arcee shot Breakdown a half-heartedly glare before she jerked his servo off her shoulder and backed away from him slightly. "I can't rest right now. Smokescreen's dead because of me."

"How," Breakdown questioned as he positioned himself in front of Arcee before she could trudge towards the rest of the Autobots, "is it your fault?"

"I was the seasoned warrior, Breakdown! I should have been able to protect him-"

"From Megatron?"

"Yes!" Arcee snarled as she glared up at Breakdown with pained optics. "Smokescreen was my responsibility and now he's gone. Because I couldn't distract Megatron long enough for Ratchet to open a Bridge."

"So," Breakdown growled as he placed his servos on his hip joints, "Smokescreen was offlined because you weren't able to fight the leader of the Decepticons when he had a super powered sword made of Dark Energon. Even Prime has struggled against Megatron before, Arcee. Blaming yourself about Smokescreen will only hurt you in the end. It's not your fault."

"You don't understand," Arcee breathed, her optics shuttering closed as she tried to move past Breakdown.

Breakdown planted his leg in front of Arcee, the snarl of his engine stopping the two wheeler as he bent down to her optic level. "I understand fully, Arcee. I've lost friends were I believed that, if I had been faster to their aid or stronger to defend them, that I could have done something to prevent their death. But, just as I can't be to blame for the death of the friends I couldn't help, you cannot blame yourself for Smokescreen."

Arcee jerked her helm away from Breakdown and pushed past him, leaving Breakdown to watch the two wheeler as she retreated to Bumblebee and Bulkhead's side. A sigh escaped from Breakdown as he shook his helm-

"Ratchet, we need a Ground Bridge immediately!"

The Autobots all stiffened at the same time as Ratchet hurriedly reactivated the same Ground Bridge coordinates Optimus had used klicks ago. Bulkhead and Bumblebee tensed in front of the Ground Bridge as it surged with power and revealed two forms charging into the base, one tall and imposing and the other small and swift. Optimus trudged past the Autobots, his right servo occupied by the hilt of the Star Saber, with the blade shattered down to the hilt. Beside Optimus, Smokescreen danced forward with a large steel key in his servo and a smile brightening his faceplate.


"You're alive?!"

"And I got the Omega Key," Smokescreen displayed as he and Optimus stopped in front Ratchet and the other Autobots. While Smokescreen explained how he'd lived Megatron's attack - thanks to the Phase Shifter - Optimus approached Ratchet.

"Optimus... the Star Saber..."

"Megatron shattered it with his own saber," Optimus said quietly as he placed the shattered blade down on top of a storage crate. "He was going to deal the final blow to me after he shattered the Star Saber but Smokescreen distracted him. The young Autobot saved me, Ratchet."

Ratchet hummed his agreement as he set to work repairing the large rends of damaged steel on Optimus' chassis, though the medic's helm turned slowly to Smokescreen and then Breakdown. "When you are done regaling everyone with your tales of battle, Smokescreen, have Breakdown check you over for damage. You may have had the Phase Shifter at your side, but you could still be injured."

Smokescreen pouted slightly at Ratchet's stern command but the smaller mech relented as he turned to Arcee, Bumblebee and Bulkhead, promised them to continue his story in a few klicks, and walked up to Breakdown. Breakdown had Smokescreen sit down on a storage crate a good distance from Optimus and Ratchet - he wanted to leave those two to talk in private - and began checking the Elite Guard over.

"You're lucky, Smokescreen," Breakdown noted coolly when he found no notable signs of damage or stress anywhere on or within Smokescreen's chassis, "that Phase Shifter's proved useful in your servos. And it saved your life today. Just as you saved Optimus' life."

"That's the duty of all Autobots," Smokescreen said, his tone suddenly serious as he looked up at Breakdown.

Breakdown nodded in agreement as he placed his left servo on his hip joint and looked down at Smokescreen. "Arcee believed you were dead. She blamed herself when she believed you had been offlined."

Smokescreen's optics shifted away from Breakdown guiltily, his servos clenched as the white and blue Autobot shook his helm and stared down at the base floor. "I didn't mean to make her worry."

"Talk to Arcee later, Smokescreen. It will be good for both of you."

"Alright," Smokescreen suddenly chuckled, "though I'm not convinced she'll not yell at me."

Breakdown felt the slightest of smiles quirk across his faceplate as the white and blue Autobot scrambled up, thanked him, and hurried back to the sides of the rest of the Autobots. Smokescreen was young and ready to please, but he'd already proved his worth to the Autobots. He was a little too energetic for Breakdown, but Smokescreen's enthusiasm reminded him of the many Vehicons who had always sought to please their commanders.

The two factions may be enemies in this eons long war, but the Autobots and Decepticons shared similarities neither side would ever admit too.

It was late into the afternoon that day that Optimus was able to decode the second set of Omega Key coordinates though, when Bumblebee and Arcee returned from the coordinates with cracked chassis and no Omega Key, the air of hope that had pervaded the Autobot base became stiff with despair. And that despair continued, even when Optimus had dispatched Bulkhead and Smokescreen to hunt down the third Omega Key coordinates.

Breakdown had offered to go with the two Autobots but Optimus had refused, stating that he needed Breakdown ready for the moment he decoded the final set of coordinates. So Breakdown waited beside Ratchet, impatience itching under his chassis. However the Omega Keys worked, they were the key to the revival of Cybertron and Breakdown hated standing around and waiting for others to keep them out of Megatron's clutches.

"Ratchet, we're going to need that Ground Bridge," Bulkhead's defeated voice came over the base's coms, the absence of any sound of celebration drawing Breakdown to share a worried look with Ratchet before the medic moved to the controls and activated the Ground Bridge.

A klick or so later, Smokescreen and Bulkhead trudged into the base with no Omega Key in sight. Smokescreen's shoulder plates were hunched over as he stalked past the others without saying a word to anyone, not even Optimus. Bulkhead stopped in front of Optimus and slowly faced the Autobot leader.

"We failed to acquire the Omega Key, Optimus. Dreadwing ambushed us before we reached the Key. I told Smokescreen to find the relic while I fought Dreadwing," Bulkhead explained, "I was able to knock Dreadwing out but, by the time I reached Smokescreen's side, he was unconscious and the Omega Key was gone."


"Not possible. I would have heard his alt if was him who sideswiped Smoke."


"Doubtful," Breakdown growled to the side, "he's the one Megatron would have decoding the Iacon file. He wouldn't send Soundwave out unless it was desperate."

"I failed," Smokescreen snapped from behind Breakdown and the Autobots. The Autobot approached the group, his optics bright with self-loathing as he joined the group.

"Smokescreen was sucker punched," Bulkhead interrupted, "could have happened to any of us."

"But it didn't, because I was the one who dropped his guard. I was the one who blew it! Some great warrior I'm turning out to be." Smokescreen jerked his helm away from the group as he bit at his mouth angrily, servos clenched tight.

"Anyone can get snuck up on, Smokescreen," Breakdown said with a shake of his helm, "Bulkhead's right in saying it isn't your fault."

Smokescreen shook his helm sadly at Breakdown's words. "Doesn't make me feel any better for letting down all of you. I know what is at stake if we don't get the Omega Keys before the Decepticons! We know they already have one, and now they likely have a second! All because I let my guard down!"

"You still don't get it, do you?" Arcee, who was standing some feet in front of Smokescreen with her arms crossed over her chest, spoke up suddenly, her voice laced with anger as she glared up at Smokescreen. "A couple victories aren't going to make you a legend. And not every mission results in success. Not for me, not for Bee, not even for Optimus.

"We've gained relics and lost some, we've also lost friends - a world. But this is one time we get a do over. We have a chance to bring back Cybertron, and everyone in this room needs to be in sync. This isn't about you or your destiny!"

Smokescreen looked away from Arcee, hurt sparking off his chassis at the two wheeler's words. Breakdown glared down at Arcee as he took a step towards Smokescreen, though Optimus' stern voice stopped Breakdown in his tracks.

"Arcee, you have made your point."

"Optimus, he needs to hear this! You might become a great warrior someday and I sincerely hope that you do, but greatness begins and ends with putting the team first, not your personal score card!"

"Leave it be, Arcee," Breakdown hissed, "Smokescreen gets it."

"There's nothing I wouldn't do for you guys!" Smokescreen door kibble spiked up at Arcee's accusation, his optics dark with pain as the young Autobot looked between Breakdown and every Autobot gathered near him.

"Then stop trying to be a hero and start being an Autobot."

Smokescreen looked down, his optics shifting towards Optimus for a moment before the young Autobot, his voice thick with hurt and anger, backed away from the group. "You know what? Maybe I'm just not good enough!"

With that, Smokescreen turned and ran from the Autobots, charging out of the tunnel in his alt mode.

"Good job, Arcee," Breakdown snapped as the roar of Smokescreen's engine faded from his audio receptors.

"You aren't part of this, Breakdown," Arcee snarled back as she turned to met his glare, "stay out of it."

"Arcee!" Bulkhead hissed beside the two wheeler as he jerked her away from Breakdown, just as Ratchet's voice drew their attention to the medical bay.

"Next time Optimus advises you to stop, perhaps you should listen."

"I'll bring him back," Bulkhead volunteered though, before he'd even gotten two steps towards the tunnel, Optimus stopped him.

"Smokescreen is young, Bulkhead, and has much to learn but right now he needs to clear his thoughts. And I need to finish decoding the final Iacon entry."

Bulkhead looked at Optimus' back as the Autobot leader once again turned to the monitors and began his work, before the green Autobot looked down at Arcee with a scowl. "I'm just as at fault as Smoke was, Arcee. I failed to retrieve the Omega Keys just as much as Smokescreen did."

"You were engaged in battle with Dreadwing, Bulkhead. And you wouldn't have let your guard down-"

"Says the Autobot who lost us one Omega Key and almost lost the second," Breakdown snapped, interrupting Arcee with a snarl of his engine.

Arcee glowered up at Breakdown as she stalked up to him and shoved her servo against his chestplate. "How dare you! You haven't even gone out in the field and you stand here lecturing me, Breakdown?! You aren't even an Autobot!"

"I don't want to be an Autobot," Breakdown snarled as he lowered himself down so that he was optic to optic against Arcee, "not if it means having to tolerate you and your constant badgering. You just chased off one of your own because you couldn't listen. If you had paid attention to anything Smokescreen was saying, you'd know he regretted what happened. He didn't need you to go off on him, but you didn't care. You didn't even listen when your leader told you to stop."

Silence filled the entire silo as every single Autobot stared at Breakdown - all, except for Optimus - with mixed expressions of shock. Arcee glowered at Breakdown, though she said nothing in response as he continued to match her own glare until Bulkhead pulled him away from the two wheeler.

Breakdown jerked Bulkhead's servo off his shoulder plate before he turned away from the Autobots, anger sparking off his chassis in waves. Now was not the time for the Autobots to turn against each other, or for Arcee to pick on the youngest, and newest, recruit of Team Prime.

Two wheeled fool.

"The final entry has been decoded," Optimus' voice was unexpected and drew Breakdown to look at the Autobot leader as he turned towards the group.

"Has it?"

Ratchet's question drew everyone's optics to the central monitor which, as they watched, suddenly began to decode the coordinates ever further.

Optimus turned back to the monitor with a light growl. "Perhaps it's a layer of secondary encryption."

"Maybe it's a picture of the relic?" Bulkhead suggested as the monitor continued to display the coordinates forming into an image.

"Of what possible use could that be to us without knowing its location?" Ratchet snapped.

"I trust that Alpha Trion had his reasons," Optimus rumbled just as the monitor finished its encryption and displayed an image of Smokescreen.


"Is this that hotshot's idea of a joke?" Arcee growled irritably.

"Maybe he knows where the Key is?" Bulkhead suggested unconvincingly.

"And never bothered to mention it?"

"A more likely possibility," Ratchet interjected, "is that Smokescreen himself somehow is the Key without knowing it."

"He's carrying the Key inside him?" Breakdown guessed.


"Whatever the case, he could be in grave danger," Optimus realized as he attempted to comm Smokescreen, though there was no response from the Autobot.

"He may have deactivated his commlink," Ratchet noted quietly before Optimus ordered Ratchet to locate Smokescreen's position.

Ratchet nodded as he moved to his Ground Bridge controls and, upon locating Smokescreen's signal, activated the Ground Bridge. Optimus ordered Breakdown to stay as he led Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee through the Ground Bridge.

Breakdown scowled darkly as Ratchet let out a sigh and shook his helm. "Frag it, Arcee, you should have listened."

Not even a half-groon later, Optimus contacted the base and, with his words clipped, requested a Ground Bridge back to base. Ratchet scowled and shared a frustrated, knowing look with Breakdown before he activated the Ground Bridge and watched the four Autobots trudge through the Ground Bridge without Smokescreen.

"Where is Smokescreen?" Ratchet asked as Optimus stopped in front of the Autobot medic.

"Soundwave got to him before us," Bulkhead answered quietly. "He's gone."

Chapter Text

From the moment the Autobots had returned without Smokescreen, not one of the Autobots had even tried to get a klicks worth of recharge as they worried over their captured recruit. It was mid-morning already, and the Autobots still hovered around the Ground Bridge controls and the central monitors, constantly searching for any sign of Smokescreen. Breakdown had suggested that the Autobots travel to the Harbinger to see if the crashed Decepticon ship might have had anything to help them locate the Nemesis, but Optimus had shut the idea down in fear that the Decepticons could have a patrol waiting in ambush.

Breakdown had accepted Optimus' logic, though he still had a hard time pushing away the thoughts of the Harbinger. For all he could guess, Megatron likely didn't know that the Harbinger had crashed on Earth, let alone its location. But the Autobots and Starscream knew the Harbinger's coordinates and, last any of them had seen of Starscream, was when the Seeker had lost the Apex Armor to Smokescreen. The Seeker was flightless - MECH had seen to that - and could only travel so far on his own, unless he had access to a Ground Bridge.

Which the Harbinger would have.

The harsh growl that slipped from Breakdown's engine drew the Autobots' gazes to him, their expressions a mix of confusion, irritation - though only from Arcee - and concern, though he gave the Autobots a shake of his helm in response. He hated Starscream, loathed the self-serving Seeker to a degree that he would take a great deal of enjoyment out of offlining the silver Seeker.

He knew Starscream had it out for him, though he personally had not seen Starscream since he and Bumblebee had attacked MECH's Colorado base after the butchers had stolen Bumblebee's T-Cog. Breakdown had paid Starscream no attention that night, not when MECH stood before him, as vulnerable against him as he had once been to them. But he knew if he saw Starscream again, he'd be more than happy to attack the Seeker, no matter what it cost him.

Then the sudden sound of the monitors pinging drew Breakdown out of his thoughts of revenge and to the Ground Bridge controls, where the Autobots hovered. Ratchet's optics widened as a brief flash of a joyful smile appeared on his faceplate. "Smokescreen's signal! It's back online!"

"The kid escaped the war ship!"

"Smokescreen to base, I could really use a Ground Bridge!"

Ratchet hurriedly began setting Smokescreen's coordinates into the Ground Bridge controls, until he stopped and narrowed his optics on the controls readings. "Strange, Smokescreen's telemetry data doesn't make sense. I can't lock onto his position."

"Why can't you?" Arcee asked to Ratchet's side.

Ratchet did not answer Arcee as he rapidly typed at the controls, optics never resting until the medic's back stiffened slightly and he let out a worried growl. "I've isolated the problem... Smokescreen is in free fall."

"He jumped off the war ship?" Bulkhead gasped as Ratchet contacted Smokescreen and then activated the Ground Bridge.

"Brace yourselves, I'm gonna make an entrance!"

Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee moved away from the Ground Bridge's entrance quickly at Smokescreen's warning, though their optics never once left the monitor displaying Smokescreen's signal. Smokescreen's signal was almost to Ratchet's Ground Bridge when, suddenly, his signal was thrown left, far out of the Ground Bridge's reach.

"He's... off course!"

"You missed?" Arcee gasped.

"Open another one!" Bulkhead urged as Smokescreen's signal grew ever faster towards the ground.

Ratchet bent over the controls as he attempted to calculate another Ground Bridge for Smokescreen but, before Ratchet could finish his calculations, Smokescreen's signal crashed into the ground. Breakdown looked away from the monitors as Bulkhead and Bumblebee both gasped beside him in shock.

"No..." Ratchet looked away from the monitors, shame and despair darkening his words.

Breakdown approached Ratchet slowly and placed a servo on the Autobot medic's shoulder plate. Ratchet's right optic shifted towards Breakdown for a moment before he closed his optics again and hung his helm.

"Poor Smoke..." Bulkhead breathed behind Ratchet quietly.

"Hey, Ratchet? I could still really use that Ground Bridge."

A breath of relief escaped from every mech in the silo as Smokescreen's voice broke through the base's comms. Ratchet opened another Ground Bridge and, a klick later, Smokescreen hurried into the base, where he smiled and held up two Omega Keys.

Bulkhead rushed up to Smokescreen and pulled the smaller Autobot into a tight hug. Bumblebee slapped Smokescreen's back as Bulkhead lowered the white and blue Autobot to the ground. Optimus approached Smokescreen with Ratchet at his side and then gave Smokescreen a respectful nod.

Smokescreen returned the nod before he held out the Omega Keys to Optimus and Ratchet. "Didn't I tell you? Destiny! Alpha Trion knew I'd keep it safe."

Arcee, who was standing beside Breakdown with her arms crossed over her chest plate, sighed and placed her hands upon her hip joints. "Nice work, kid."

"Thanks, Arcee," Smokescreen whispered, embarrassment and a trace of pride bright within his blue optics.

Bumblebee pointed to the two Omega Keys Smokescreen had brought with him then counted three digits before he gave Smokescreen a questioning look. Smokescreen shook his helm and scowled.

"It was the only Key in Megatron's vault."

"Then three Keys are accounted for," Optimus noted.

"And the fourth is still somewhere on the 'Con's warship," Bulkhead surmised.

"Unless Megatron never had it to begin with?" Arcee suggested.

As Arcee finished speaking, the monitors suddenly changed and displayed an image of Starscream and coordinates somewhere in South America.

"A high frequency signal... with an embedded message," Ratchet noted coldly.

Bulkhead snarled angrily as Ratchet looked over the message and, warily, read out what Starscream had sent them.

'I have obtained something of interest to you which seems to have no practical use to me.' "

"It's gotta be the Omega Key!"

"He's the one who blindsided me!" Smokescreen growled, his servos tightened with anger as he glared at the monitor displaying Starscream's messgae.

"What else could 'Scream be referring too?"

Ratchet interrupted Arcee with a swing of his servo before he turned back to the message. "There's more. 'Bring medical kit. I only ask for the surgical replacement of my T-Cog in return.' "

Bulkhead guffawed as Ratchet finished reading Starscream's message, "like we are going to give 'Scream back his wings."

"Without the missing Key, Cybertron will remain devoid of life!"

"Broken record, I know, but it could be a trick," Arcee noted as she placed her servos on her hips.

"It has to be a trick," Breakdown hissed, "Smokescreen brings us two Omega Keys and Starscream just happens to contact us right after? I don't know about all of you, but as long as I have known Starscream, this is just the kind of trick he'd play."

Optimus shook his helm above Breakdown, then let out a quiet sigh. "It is possible that Starscream does not realize the significance of what he holds."

"And," Ratchet furthered, "we do know he's been incapable of flight for some time."

"The stakes are too great for us not to consider Starscream's proposal," Optimus decided, "however, we will take precautions."

"I don't think this is a good idea," Breakdown tried to reason as Optimus ordered Arcee, Bumblebee, Smokescreen and Breakdown to stay in base, while Optimus, Ratchet and Bulkhead would go to Starscream's coordinates.

Once Optimus, Ratchet and Bulkhead departed the base, Breakdown could not help but nervously pace behind Bumblebee and Smokescreen. Arcee stood waiting at the Ground Bridge controls while Bumblebee had his blasters primed and ready to fire should Starscream come into the base and Smokescreen kept his arms crossed.

"I don't like this," Breakdown hissed. Everything about this situation felt wrong-

The base shook suddenly with a loud boom, rocking Breakdown and the others unsteadily.

"What was that?" Arcee asked just as the silo's sprinkler system activated. Streams of water poured down from the ceiling in a torrent of water that splattered over Breakdown and the Autobots' chassis.

"Arcee, close the Ground Bridge now!"

Optimus' voice broke through the base's comms, though it was nearly deafened out by the water that continued to stream down from the sprinklers in the ceiling. Arcee grabbed the Ground Bridge controls and pulled them up, deactivating the Ground Bridge with a loud hiss. Breakdown turned as Arcee walked up to where he, Bumblebee and Smokescreen were standing, and gave the two wheeler a worried growl of his engine.

"What happened?" Arcee asked before Breakdown felt his spark freeze.

"The Keys!"

Without waiting for the Autobots, Breakdown ran to the hallway that stored every relic the Autobots had acquired over their time on Earth. When he reached the vault that had once held the Omega Keys, all he saw left of the vault was the shattered door. The Keys were gone.

"Starscream," Breakdown hissed just as Arcee, Bumblebee and Smokescreen reached his side.

Arcee growled beside him as Smokescreen swore at his side and punched the wall opposite the destroyed vault. Bumblebee trilled nervously as the scout turned worried optics to Arcee and Breakdown.

"Arcee? We'll take that Ground Bridge when you have the chance."

"One moment, Bulkhead," Arcee replied, "Starscream got the Keys."

"We saw," Ratchet's growl was punctured with frustration as he spoke. "Did he hurt anyone in the base?"

"No," Arcee noted, "but he set the sprinkler system off, so expect a soaking when you get back to base."

It took the Autobots and Breakdown until dawn to dry the water soaked base after Optimus, Ratchet and Bulkhead returned. Ratchet had gone to his monitors and never left, a scowl now seeming permanent upon his faceplate. Optimus seemed to be on the edge of an angry outburst but, as Breakdown and the others worked diligently to dry the soaked base, the Autobot leader only turned to working alongside the Autobots instead. Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Smokescreen had said nothing to each other about Starscream's infiltration of the Autobot base.

Not one Cybertronian wanted to talk to each other, not until cooler helms prevailed and there was less opportunity for arguments to break out between the Autobots. Breakdown was still seething from the day's events. Only the solar cycle previous had Breakdown felt a surge of hope that they had finally found a way to revive Cybertron, but now any and all hope of that happening was in the servos of Starscream. He was sure Starscream had already found his way onto the Nemesis and was making a bargain with Megatron, using the Omega Keys to curry favor with the Decepticon's leader.

Breakdown's engine hissed as he left his quarters - which he'd finally gotten fully dry - and stalked to the main room of the base. When he stalked into the room, he noticed Bulkhead, Arcee and Smokescreen huddled together near the Ground Bridge, their voices carrying through the base.

"What do we do now?" Smokescreen asked as he threw his servos in the air exasperatedly. "Starscream has the Keys and we've got a broken Star Saber, the Phase Shifter, the Apex Armor, Immobilizer, Polarity Gauntlet and Spark Extractor. None of those relics will help us revive Cybertron if Starscream has the Omega Keys."

"I don't know, Smoke," Bulkhead sighed, "even Optimus doesn't know what to do next."

"Maybe Ratchet's right... maybe Starscream will bargain with us?" Arcee suggested, though she did not sound convinced of her own idea as Breakdown stopped next to the group and let out a frustrated hiss of his vents.

"The Autobots have nothing Starscream wants. If you did, he would have taken it when he stole the Omega Keys. His goals have always centered around the Decepticons and nothing else," Breakdown growled, "he won't bargain with us."

The three Autobots shared a glance between themselves before Arcee crossed her arms and looked up at Breakdown. "You're certain of that?"

"Of course. I've known Starscream for eons... he's always been focused on doing whatever benefits him most in the current situation. The only reason he contacted us back when Optimus lost his memories was because he believed he had information the Autobots could not do without. Optimus reported that Starscream wanted to ally himself with Dreadwing while Optimus was out numbered and then Optimus right after he buried Dreadwing in the snow in Antartica.

"And," Breakdown snorted humorlessly, "he came to 'rescue' me from MECH, only so that I would choose his side when Starscream finally decided to turn against Megatron. Nothing he does is for the benefit of others."

"The only advantage we have at this moment is that Megatron doesn't know the function of the Omega Keys," Arcee noted.

"For now."

"Yeah, for now." Smokescreen's mouth turned down into a bitter scowl before the Elite Guard shook his helm and looked away from the group. "I've let Alpha Trion down again. We didn't even have the Omega Keys for a day and we've lost them again. And I'm not on the warship to get them back this time."

"We have to find someway-"

"Hey, Ratchet? Where's Arcee? She hasn't come by my house in the last two days. Are you guys alright?"

Every Autobot stiffened as Jack's voice came over the base's comms, sounding confused and somewhat hurt. Arcee sighed next to Breakdown and rubbed at her faceplate as she muttered something under her breath quietly.

Ratchet let out a frustrated hiss of his intakes before he responded to Jack. "We have been very busy here at the silo. None of us have had the time to pick you children up from school, I'm sorry but-"

"Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee will be at your houses shortly," Optimus suddenly interrupted Ratchet before the medic could finish his dismissal of Jack, "if you could call Miko and Rafael and inform them of such, that would be appreciated Jack."

"Oh... uh... alright, Optimus. I look forward to seeing all of you guys again."

The comms went silent in time for Optimus to let his vents hiss and turn his helm towards Breakdown and the Autobots. "Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee, get the children and bring them here. The least we owe them is an explanation for all of this secrecy."

"Yes, Optimus," Arcee said before she transformed into her alt and roared out of the base.

Bumblebee and Bulkhead followed behind her, which left Breakdown, Ratchet, Smokescreen and Optimus in the silo.

"Why do you want the children here, Optimus?" Ratchet questioned tiredly as he looked away from his monitors for the first time in groons. "We've failed and provided Megatron the ability to use the Omega Keys for whatever he could decide."

"The children need to know, Ratchet. We have been so busy that we have not spoken with any of the children since Smokescreen and Jack found the Star Saber. And the humans have been with us through many tough situations, they are part of Team Prime and thus deserve to know the truth."

"The truth that we've very possibly given Megatron untold power? You'll scare the children, Optimus," Ratchet argued, "maybe it's time we leave the humans out of our affairs."

"No, Ratchet, we cannot."

"Why didn't you tell us about the Omega Keys before?" Jack asked, his arm slung over a railing next to Arcee as he questioned the Autobots.

Once Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee had arrived with their human charges, Optimus had detailed the events of the past few days and the loss of the Omega Keys. The three humans had seemed displeased at the Autobots' silence, Jack most of all.

Arcee sighed, optics softening as she turned her gaze on Jack. "You probably didn't notice, but things have been kind of intense lately."

"So, you guys might be heading home soon?" Raf asked Bumblebee, his tone unmistakably stiff. The humans apparently disliked being kept in the dark as much as Breakdown did. Curious.

"Ah, don't worry Raf, we'll come visit! Once we get our place set up he can bunk with us! Right, Bulk?" Miko asked as she looked up at Bulkhead with a smile, to which Bulkhead winced.

"Been telling her feel good stories again have you, Bulkhead?" Breakdown snarled quietly, though just loud enough for the green mech to overhear. Bulkhead shot Breakdown a veiled glare but turned to Miko and stuttered a weak, disjointed reply to her prodding question.

"Uh, Miko-"

"You are taking me with you, right?" Miko's voice was bordering on desperation, the strain of her voice causing Bulkhead to quickly avert his gaze from his human charge's searching gaze.

"Aren't we getting ahead of ourselves here?" Ratchet snapped. "Not only do we lack any actual method of reaching Cybertron, but Starscream now controls the sole means of our planet's restoration."

"As far as we know," Optimus said, his slight attempt at optimism failing to lighten the frustrated mood that had become ever so pervasive within the base.

"As far as is obvious," Breakdown grumbled quietly - scathingly.

"What do you mean by that?" Optimus asked slowly, his words drawing the rest of the Autobot's gazes to the former Decepticon.

"It's easy. Starscream stole the Keys to get back into favor with Megatron. And with something as important as the Omega Keys in Starscream's servos, Megatron most likely was happy to welcome Starscream back," Breakdown explained, noting the tight scowl that curved down Ratchet's faceplate at his words.

"Without contacting the highest bidder? Ha, it wouldn't surprise me if he contacted us-"

Ratchet's words were cut off by a quiet, immediate, beep that echoed from the base's comms, snapping the attention of every mech to the base's monitors, which were now displaying an incoming message to their location.

"Okay, that is weird," Bulkhead commented as the Autobots all moved closer to the monitors, which was still pinging its strange staccato beat for an incoming message.

"Starscream?" Arcee guessed warily as Ratchet tapped a sequence on the control panel that silenced the blares and displayed a message to Ratchet.

"No," the medic said quietly as he turned to face the Autobots and Breakdown, "it is Dreadwing. And he wants to meet."

"WHAT!?" Arcee shrieked, her shout drowning out the gasp from Smokescreen, who had been standing beside Breakdown, and a shocked gasp from Bulkhead.

Breakdown said nothing though he could not help but feel a surprised jolt of electricity charge through his chassis at the mention of the Seeker. Though it had been some time since the last encounter with Dreadwing, Breakdown could only remember the mech as one of the loyalist and staunchest warriors of the Deception cause. For that, Breakdown could not help but feel an uncertain dread at the thought of this proud Deception contacting the Autobot base. Dreadwing was not one to trick his enemies, but contacting the Autobots was even more out of character for the mighty Seeker.

Something's wrong.

"But isn't Dreadwing a Decepticon? Why would he be contacting us? The Autobots?" Smokescreen asked incredulously before he gave Breakdown an odd glance, though Breakdown could not form a good enough justification for the young Autobot's odd look.

"A trap?" Bulkhead suggested, which made Optimus shake his helm lightly. "Then what?"

"I do not know, Bulkhead. But for now, let us not rush to decisions immediately," Optimus ordered, effectively shutting down the questions from the other Autobots. "But, in case this is a trap, I need every one of you alongside me. Including you, Breakdown. Stay here, Ratchet."

"Be careful, Optimus." Ratchet gave Optimus a short nod, then began prepping the Ground Bridge, though not before Breakdown noticed the medic watching him with a long, thoughtful look.

The Ground Bridge opened up to a thick, cloying cover of heavy fog, leaving visibility to a minimum and no sign of Dreadwing. As Breakdown and the Autobots emerged from the Ground Bridge, each Autobot immediately switched their servos into blaster mode and aimed around in the fog wildly. Breakdown kept his servos in their normal alt and kept to the side of the Autobots, not wishing to be seen as a threat to Dreadwing, especially if Dreadwing had arranged this meeting with no ill intent meant towards the Autobots.

"Autobots, drop your weapons." Dreadwing's demand snapped through the fog, his voice as measured and calm as always, yet also off at the same time.

"Hands where we can see 'em!" Smokescreen ordered in response just as Breakdown noticed a looming figure moving closer to them through the fog. The Autobots noticed the shadowed, fogged over form of Dreadwing moments later and then turned their blasters on the form.

"I'm not here to fight," Dreadwing's booming voice cut through the fog coolly, "but to give you this." As Dreadwing spoke, the fog - which had begun to burn off from the heat of the morning sun and the combined heat of seven different Cybertronians' engines - lifted somewhat, enough for Breakdown to get a good view of the Deception Seeker and the large hammer that lay on the ground before Dreadwing.

"The Forge of Solus Prime," Arcee noted with a hint of awe humming from her engine.

"Could be rigged to blow," Bulkhead suggested suspiciously as Dreadwing continued to watch the Autobots calmly, though the Seeker's gaze seemed to shift to Breakdown almost forlornly before moving back to the leader of the Autobots.

"Unlikely," Breakdown muttered to the side, as Optimus' faceplate guard shifted back and the leader lowered his cannons ever so slightly.

Once the Autobots' leader lowered his defenses, the rest of the Autobots followed suit slowly, leaving the two factions - Breakdown and the Autobots and Dreadwing alone - to watch each other for any suspicious movement, though the Autobots kept their weapons trained on Dreadwing still. Dreadwing seemed unfazed by the eight blasters staring him down, nor did he seem to care that the Autobots all watched him with distinct dislike and distrust.

"Dreadwing, what do you ask in return?" Optimus questioned the Decepticon cautiously.

Dreadwing's optics shuttered close as he answered, his once proud and authoritative voice now as broken as shattered ice and dulled to a thin sword, "Only that you use it wisely."

The manner in which Breakdown's former colleague and fellow soldier spoke made him give Dreadwing a closer, narrower look of concern. Something was very wrong with Dreadwing, and contacting the Autobots was only the start of it - Breakdown knew that Dreadwing would never contact the Autobots, let alone give them the Forge of Solus Prime, unless something was very wrong within the Seeker. On Cybertron, Breakdown had fought beside Dreadwing a number of times and, though he'd never really struck up friendly conversation with the Seeker, he had come to know the straight forward manner of Dreadwing.

And none of what he saw from Dreadwing seemed normal or remotely straight forward. Worry clawed into Breakdown's spark as he watched the Seeker's frame slacken ever so slightly, his red optics lingering beyond the Autobots as if he was watching something far away.

"And? The Omega Keys?" Arcee's question was more akin to a snarl as she lowered her stance, as if expecting a battle, or even a trap, from Dreadwing.

"They are in Megatron's possession, under heaviest of guard." Dreadwing's optics narrowed fractionally as he spoke, a simmer of hatred deeper than anything Breakdown could name blazing for the briefest moment within the Seeker's red optics.

"'Scream did make a deal with the 'Cons," Bulkhead realized, "frag him."

"What did I tell you?" Breakdown snapped solely to Bulkhead, irritated by the Autobot's continual statements of obvious fact, especially when they faced a tense uncertainty like this stalemate with Dreadwing.

Finally, Optimus deactivated his blasters and switched them back into their original alt, an action that prompted the rest of the Autobots to follow suit, though Arcee seemed almost reluctant to follow in her leader's directive. Dreadwing's optics shifted away from the Autobots as they lowered their guard, the Deception seeming to care little for the tension that had wrought the space between himself and the Autobots.

"A shadow of disgrace has been cast upon the Decepticon, it is a cause I no longer wish to be part of." Dreadwing's helm hung as the honorable Decepticon admitted his feelings, pain rolling off his chassis in waves. His words tugged at Breakdown, an unsettling feeling festering in his spark as Dreadwing continued to watch the Autobots listlessly.

That is exactly what I thought before I left the Decepticons, Breakdown thought, but Dreadwing would never leave the Decepticons like I did, he isn't that type of mech. Is he thinking-

The sound of Optimus' pedes moving snapped Breakdown from his thoughts and, before Optimus could say something to Dreadwing as was wont for the Autobot leader, Breakdown moved in his way. Optimus stared down at Breakdown, brow ticking up in surprise as Breakdown shot him a withering glare, before Breakdown gave a short jerk of his helm in Dreadwing's direction.

"Dreadwing will never join the Autobots, Prime, so don't even try. Give me the chance to talk to him - privately - please, and maybe I can convince something out of Dreadwing," Breakdown asked bitingly. He wanted desperately to talk to Dreadwing, though he already knew he would not broach the subject of the Seeker joining the Autobots as an ally, not when it was the Autobots who had gunned down Dreadwing's brother Skyquake so many months ago. To Breakdown's complete surprise though, Optimus gave him a respectful nod then gestured the Autobots to move aside, notably leaving the Forge be as Breakdown slowly approached Dreadwing.

"It is surprising to see you once again, Breakdown. What is it you are wishing to discuss?" Dreadwing asked Breakdown, his tone still dull, though the Seeker's optics held a hint of surprise at Breakdown's approach. The last time he had encountered Dreadwing, they had been enemies and Dreadwing had sworn to bring Breakdown back to Megatron, to serve retribution as a traitor to the Decepticon cause. Now, though, Dreadwing made no mention of Breakdown's turncoat actions.

"Why did you bring the Forge to the Autobots, Dreadwing? What happened to make you betray Megatron like this?"

Dreadwing's helm sunk at Breakdown's question and, with a deep sigh, the Seeker gave him a look that spoke deeply of loss, hurt and disbelief. "I learned that the traitor, Starscream, created a shadow demon of my deceased brother. He brought my brother back with that accursed Dark Energon, yet only in body, and has left him to wander a realm none of us can access. No longer can my brother lay in peace, thanks to that dishonorable Starscream desecrating my brother's body."

"I'm sorry, Dreadwing," Breakdown shook his helm, "for you and for Skyquake. Starscream has never been one to hold honor for his comrades, neither the fallen or those bounding with spark, so long as he can gain traction from misusing them. Skyquake was a noble, valiant warrior and one you should be proud of, Dreadwing, no matter what happened to him."

"I agree, Breakdown, yet I cannot live with the knowledge that the mech who has cursed my brother's chassis - his soul - to an eternal life in that shadow realm has been welcomed once more aboard the Nemesis. Megatron does not deign to care what Starscream did to my brother! Lord Megatron has lost all of his honor, allowing Starscream back onto the Nemesis. Starscream must pay, and pay dearly for the crimes he has brought to the memory and service of Skyquake."

"What are you going to do, go back to the Nemesis and try and kill Starscream?"

Breakdown's answer was found in the dark expression that flashed briefly over Dreadwing's faceplate, one of such hatred that Breakdown almost took a step backwards from the Seeker. "In the name of my brother, it is what I need to do."

"That's foolhardy, Dreadwing, you can't go back to that ship! Not with what you have in mind!" Breakdown snapped.

Dreadwing scowled in response, though his optics shifted momentarily towards the Autobots wearily. Breakdown glanced back at the Autobots to try and ascertain what had drawn Dreadwing's attention, but all he saw were the six Autobots talking amongst themselves and occasionally shooting suspicious glances towards Dreadwing.

"You should know that Starscream is far more favored by Megatron than any of his other Second in Commands, especially now that Starscream brought the Omega Keys to him. If you try something, I wouldn't be surprised, and I have reason to doubt that you would not see it too, if it came to Megatron choosing you or Starscream, he'd pick Starscream. Megatron won't turn his back on Starscream after he has recently delivered the Omega Keys to the Decepticons."

"I will think on it," Dreadwing replied cryptically.

"Dreadwing, this isn't the Decepticon cause we joined back on Cybertron - it is anything but at this point. I was too blind to realize that for eons, too consumed by my desire for revenge to ever realize that until they left me in the clutches of humans who wanted to use me as their experiment. The Decepticons have no honor, not anymore," Breakdown's words weighed heavily upon him, as the realization of all that he had done for the Decepticons he should not have been following bored into his chassis had lead him nowhere in the end, "its not worth it to go back. Skyquake would not want you to go into battle when you are blinded by your feelings, rather than the analytical thought that made you such a great leader. Please don't go after Starscream, not yet."

This time, Dreadwing said nothing in response to Breakdown's plea, though the Seeker had been listening to him respectfully the whole time, his helm tilted and optics narrowed in thought as Breakdown spoke.

Breakdown let out a vent and shook his helm before he turned away from Dreadwing. "I won't stop you, Dreadwing. Just think before you do something, please."

Dreadwing slowly gave him an understanding nod before the Seeker turned and stepped over the edge of the cliff behind him and, with a muted roar of his jet alt's engine, flew away from Breakdown and the Autobots.

Breakdown watched after Dreadwing until the blue jet was long out of view before he picked up the Forge and walked up to Optimus and the Autobots. "Here," he snapped as he dropped the Forge into Optimus' servos, "using it is the least we can do."

"Well, it's no Star Saber, but it's better off of Megatron's plate," Smokescreen commentated, gaze locked on the activate Forge spinning in Optimus' servos. Breakdown was standing away from the group of mechs admiring the Forge, his thoughts elsewhere, as they had been since the group of Autobots and himself had returned to the base.

"With the Decepticons in possession of all four Omega Keys, a more appropriate use of the Forge would be to use it to replicate our own," Ratchet suggested as part of the discussion going on between the Autobots about the use of the Forge now that they had received it from Dreadwing. Breakdown had tuned most of the Autobots' conversation out since they had returned, for his thoughts still lingered upon Dreadwing, but he could not help but to overhear the ongoing conversation.

"Even with such power, their reconstruction would require a level of expertise I do not possess," Optimus replied evenly, "and it is not a task I would willingly undertake without more knowledge of the Forge's capabilities."

"Then we better hope that Megatron doesn't destroy the Keys to prevent anyone from going home," Arcee retorted, "I wouldn't put it past him or Starscream."

"Megatron may be evil but I believe he will use the Keys for their intended purpose," Optimus expressed as he lowered the still active Forge to the ground, "he wants Cybertron as much as we do, Arcee."

"Then why don't we let him keep them and do the work for us?" Bulkhead interjected, his words causing the Autobots to turn their helms in his direction, all with expressions of stunned disbelief.

"Really, Bulkhead?" Breakdown hissed to himself, optic rolling at Bulkhead's words. We may tolerate each other now, but he is still dull as dirt.

"Well, I mean, what difference does it make in who restores Cybertron?" Bulkhead asked defiantly, reacting to the bewildered expressions of his companions.

"If Megatron revives Cybertron, he will no doubt use it to his political advantage," Optimus countered Bulkhead, who stuttered openly before the green mech glared away at the ground.

"You lost me."

"In all likelihood, the leader of the Decepticon would portray himself as our planet's savior, and brand all Autobots as war criminals."

And Decepticon traitors, too. Not that Cybertron would be much better off with Autobots ruling it either, Breakdown mused to himself humorlessly, neither faction would treat the other right if Cybertron was ever revived.

"Megatron's so called achievement would influence Cybertron for eons to come, poisoning the sparks and minds of its returning citizens," Ratchet said, the hope that had been so barely noticeable in his voice now ground away into defeat. "Hardly the ideal way to begin our new age."

"But there is hope, while Megatron may have the Omega Keys, he has yet to discover the Omega Lock itself." Prime's statement was cryptic as ever, a fact that Breakdown had grown to hate about the Autobot leader. It seemed like they never were given straight answers when they needed it most, as if Prime believed he was protecting them from something by hiding knowledge from them - even from Ratchet, of all mechs.

"Omega Lock?"

"Wait, now you've lost me," Arcee exclaimed.

"That which the four Relics were designed to activate. We must locate the device before Megatron does, and secure it until we can recover the Omega Keys," Optimus explained.

"But there are no more Iacon entries to decode. This Lock could be anywhere on Earth!" Ratchet exclaimed, servos clenched with frustration as the medic glared at Optimus, his frustration at being left out of the loop clear to Breakdown.

"Not exactly," Optimus said, "it is on Cybertron."


"How do you know?" Ratchet asked, the revelation of the fact stunning him to silence.

"Alpha Trion revealed the location to me during the message from the Star Saber," Optimus explained, his tone level and without emotion as the Autobot leader moved to the deactivated Ground Bridge.

"And… you never thought to tell us?" Ratchet asked incredulously.

"Alpha Trion did not wish it so," Optimus said sagely as he lowered himself down to the floor of the Ground Bridge, "With the Forge of Solus Prime, we now possess the means of reaching Cybertron. I must work quickly, as our tactical advantage over Megatron will not last long."

"Is it just my imagination or has Optimus been acting differently ever since that message?" Arcee asked as she joined where Breakdown, Smokescreen, Bulkhead and Bumblebee were all standing, watching Optimus work on the Ground Bridge with the Forge of Solus Prime.

"Yeah, he has been keeping things from us," Bulkhead admitted reluctantly.

"Even Ratchet is out of the loop!" Arcee pointed out with a seething anger as she cast a glance back to Ratchet, who was busy working on the monitor near the med bay.

"Give me one good reason Optimus couldn't trust us?" Bulkhead asked.

"So that if any of you got captured, Megatron wouldn't have been able to suck the info from your processors, obviously," Breakdown snapped, his gaze turning to Smokescreen standing beside him. He only assumed why Prime left the Autobots clueless, but he could not help but feel that that was only part of the reason for Prime's growing silence towards his team. He personally despised how much Prime kept from the Autobots and Megatron. "Megatron already successfully captured Smokescreen, imagine if Smokescreen had known about the Omega Lock? What then?"

No one answered his question, but Bulkhead did let out a moody growl as he looked around the encircled mechs. "What does it matter though? He has all of the Omega Keys, and we have nothing," Bulkhead sniped coldly, his sigh interrupted by a loud bang issuing from the Ground Bridge. Every helm snapped to Prime's direction, where the Autobot leader was slowly pulling himself up from the Ground Bridge base.

"I guess he finished?" Bulkhead said as the Autobot leader walked towards them, Forge in his servos. Prime ignored the group, his strides taking him past the Autobots and Breakdown, and down one of the hallways.

"Yeah… He really has been acting odd," Smokescreen said quietly as the Autobots watched their leader vanish without even a nod in their direction.

Breakdown bristled at Prime's silence, his engine hissing with the anger that lived underneath his chassis as Optimus' form vanished from view. But he said nothing as he instead turned to watch Ratchet, who passed Breakdown and the Autobots as he reached the Ground Bridge control. With a deep sigh, Ratchet activated the panel with a stroke of his servo, optics narrowed as he stared down at the panel.

"This is yet another astonishing convergence of magic and science, courtesy of the ancients," Ratchet said, awe filling his voice, "Optimus created a Space Bridge within our base."

"I just can't believe a few swings of that hammer and BAM-"

"Our Ground Bridge is now a Space Bridge," Arcee finished Bulkhead's sentence, just as a pulsating, green flash, lit up the base - and not a flash of color from the inactivate Ground - Space - Bridge.

Breakdown tensed at the unexplained flash, his shoulder cannon activating as he backed away slightly from group of Autobots, all of whom had tensed up at the flash alongside him.

"What was that?" Smokescreen yelled out.

"A massive energon burst occurring outside Earth's atmosphere! A surge of that kind can only mean one thing. Activation of another Space Bridge," Ratchet replied disbelievingly, "Megatron's Space Bridge!"

"Megatron has discovered the location of the Omega Lock is on Cybertron." Prime's commanding voice turned the tense gazes of each mech to him as he marched out near them. "We must hurry."

"It appears we have lost our advantage," Ratchet added, his tone darkening.

"But, with Megatron unaware that we now possess the means of interstellar travel, the element of surprise remains in our favor," Prime reminded. "We must embark on this mission with every resource at our disposal. Arcee, Smokescreen, Bulkhead, and Bumblebee, retrieve the Iacon Relics we gathered before." The four mentioned mechs nodded and moved away swiftly from Optimus, to acquire the relics still in the Autobots' possession.

As the Autobots hurried away, Prime snapped his gaze to Breakdown, who stiffened his stance as the Prime's optics locked onto him. What now?

"Breakdown, you will leave immediately, keep watch of the children-"

"What? Are you serious?" Breakdown gasped, rage and indignation fueling his words. "You're making me watch the fragging children? Do you think I can't fight? I can and I will for Cybertron!"

"Breakdown, calm down. I have decided this because I fear that Megatron may use the children against us if something happens on Cybertron and I need them to be protected should they be put into harms way. Also because I know of the feelings you still harbor for Megatron's soldiers, and I do not believe you would be fully effective in battle against those you still care for," Prime finished as he laid one servo on Breakdown's shoulder plate.

Breakdown jerked away from the Autobot leader's touch, his helm turning from Prime as he accepted his role bitterly with a taut nod towards Prime. "Fine, Prime. I'll do it."

"Thank you, Breakdown. The children are at their school and they will need to be picked up from there. Here are the coordinates for their location," Prime said as he handed Breakdown a small scanner. Breakdown took the scanner and quickly dowloaded the coordinates to his drives, as Prime continued to speak. "Do not bring the children back to base, instead get them as far from Jasper as you can. I do not want Miko to escape through the Space Bridge like she has before, nor do I wish for Jack or Rafael to be put into even more danger by them being here at the base."

Breakdown nodded, frustrated still with his task, yet accepting it all the same - he knew arguing was pointless when the Autobots did not trust him in the fight to defend Cybertron. "I'll leave immediately. And good luck, Prime, I hope we can someday go back home."

"I do too, Breakdown," Prime said quietly before he turned and hurried away to his quarters for his weapons, leaving Breakdown alone but for Ratchet, who was frantically tuning his computers.

Glancing once towards Ratchet, Breakdown let out a sigh then snapped into his alt mode and peeled out of the base, engine roaring with urgency as he raced towards the children's school.

Breakdown slowed to a stop in the parking lot of a large, brick building overflowing with humans, though he did not see any of the three that the Autobots had become friends with. As he powered down his engine and idled within a parking spot by the building overflowing with humans, Breakdown could not help but let a nervous stutter thrum from his engine as humans brushed close by him, loading into cars beside him in droves of varied numbers. It took all of his power to not reverse out of the parking spot and flee, though his processor was quickly becoming overwhelmed from the waves of humans brushing past him, oblivious to the living machine parked near them.

Breakdown scanned the face of each young human that passed him but none of them were the Autobot's humans, and so he sat there and waited, though he continued to look for the Autobots' humans. An hour passed, and still he had seen no sign of the kids, which only served to annoy - and stress - him further. By now, almost all the cars in the parking lot had already left and they were hardly anymore humans wandering near him.

He was about to give up when, finally, the three humans came through the doors of the school, though they did not seem to notice Breakdown as they searched the parking lot for their Autobots. Seeming to still not notice him, the three humans reclined on the steps that led up into the building and waited. After even more time, Rafael and Miko began glancing around more feverishly, while Jack pulled a small device from his shirt and began to tap away at it.

They must be looking for the Autobots… I hate doing this, Breakdown thought before he let out a sigh and blared his horn, the sharp sound jolting the attention of all three humans towards him. Miko leapt to her feet alongside Rafael, while Jack promptly dropped the device he had been holding, a clear statement of his - and the other two humans' - shock. Breakdown sighed again and drove up to the entrance of the school, unhappily unlocking his doors as the kids bounded up to him.

"No WAY!" Miko shrieked, her voice jarring at Breakdown's nerves as the young female scrambled over his passenger seat and bounced back into his backseat, her excited yell piercing and jarring his system.

Rafael followed Miko as he climbed up Breakdown's driver side door and squished himself on to the seat on the opposite side of Miko quietly. Though Rafael said nothing to Breakdown, his surprise was very evident to Breakdown, as was Jack's as the eldest human shifted into Breakdown's front passenger seat. Breakdown shuddered at the wholly unwelcome feeling of humans inside him but he stuffed the urge to purge his tanks deep within himself as he let his engine thrum to power.

"Why are you picking us up and not Bumblebee or Bulkhead? That is their job, not yours." Jack asked as he and the two younger humans buckled themselves into Breakdown's seats.

Breakdown let out a snarl from his engine as he backed out of his parking space, turned around and drove away from the school before answering Jack's question, still wary of the few straggling humans leaving the school. He did not favor letting the humans hear the truck Jack, Miko and Rafael climbed into talking to them - not when he knew it would mean they'd all gawk at him. The less human attention he drew the better.

"I came on Optimus' orders," Breakdown explained, ignoring the itching need to rid the humans from- Breakdown buried his thoughts, putting his entire focus on maneuvering the road from school that led out of Jasper. "The others are busy."

"Why?" Miko asked, her voice still breathless with surprise.

"Because they are and because Prime told me to pick you three up," Breakdown said, careful to keep his tone level as he pulled to a stop at a red light. He noticed the passengers in the car beside him staring at his alt in awe, one of the humans even leveled their communication device at him and took pictures of his alt - much to his chagrin. The only suitable vehicle he'd found on Earth for his alt mode was a specially commissioned military truck. It suited his needs in battle and to hide his true self from humans but, clearly, the uniqueness of his alt made him stand out nonetheless.

Jack covered his faceplate as the humans in the car beside Breakdown continued to stare, chatter and point at him, the eldest human child's sigh filled with embarrassment as Miko waved enthusiastically at the strangers through Jack's window. When the light finally turned green, Breakdown took a sharp turn left onto the wide main street, leaving the gawking humans behind.

"But why you?" Miko questioned from Breakdown's backseat as she hurriedly buckled up her seatbelt once again.

Do humans ever shut up?

"It doesn't matter to you humans," Breakdown growled nastily, effectively shutting up Miko. For now. "Autobot business, you know how it is."

He noticed the three humans share a glance between themselves in his rearview mirror quietly. Jack shook his head briefly before Miko and Rafael looked away from the eldest human and leaned against Breakdown's backseat walls. Breakdown merged onto the freeway that led west out of Jasper, his engine thrumming deeply as he was finally able to gain speed and leave Jasper behind.

"Hey, Breakdown? We're going in the wrong direction. The freeway doesn't take us to the base. Where are we going?" Jack asked suddenly, his words flushed with worry and confusion as the young human sat up and looked out Breakdown's windows.

"Yeah, where are we going? I want to go to the base!" Miko yelled from the backseat. "Please?"

There goes any hope of quiet, Breakdown thought to himself with a wince at the way Miko's voice seemed to echo ceaselessly through his interior. "I am not taking you to the base, Optimus' orders. I have to get away from Jasper," Breakdown explained, hoping that that answer would be enough for the vocal girl and her friends.

"But… why? Did something happen to Bee?" Rafael asked this time, worry leaking through his voice just as much as it reeked from the small human's body.

"Not that I know of," Breakdown admitted.

"That you know of?" Jack spoke up.


"What does that mean?" Jack asked, hand gripping tightly onto the inner handle on Breakdown's passenger door - Breakdown felt a strange thrum of nerves when Jack touched him, and realized that it was his own nervousness along with Jack's he was feeling.

"I'm more useful escorting humans than I am fighting," Breakdown growled.

Before Miko could ask another question of Breakdown, he let a loud, threatening snarl rumble from his engine in warning - hoping that his message would finally be understood by the young humans. Jack sighed in response and pulled out his communications device once more, to which Miko followed suit as Rafael pulled a large book out from his bag and began to read it. Soon, welcome silence spread between the three kids and the mech, the only sound being that of Breakdown's engine rumbling as he moved further away from Jasper.

A few groons had passed in their journey, every one of which passed in such silence that Breakdown had all but forgotten about the existence of the humans he was transporting inside him. That is, he had, until Rafael suddenly piped up from the back in a pleading voice.

"Uh, excuse me, Breakdown? I have to go to the bathroom, there is a rest stop - the Wadsworth Rest Stop - a half mile from here. Could you pull in there? Please?"

"Unbelievable," Breakdown muttered - humans had the most illogical designs - but did as Rafael asked. He pulled onto the offramp that led into the rest stop, turned left where a sign pointed out for trucks to park, then slowed to a stop in a spot that was away from every other vehicle in the rest stop. He sighed and then unlocked his doors and let his engine rumble once more in warning.

"Make it fast, we have to keep moving," Breakdown warned as the three humans hurried out of him and bolted towards the main building of the rest stop, leaving him to watch for threats around the somewhat busy rest area. Breakdown snapped his doors shut and waited, all the while shifting his mirrors to see behind him and in front of him, though he kept the closest of attention towards the sky.

His attention was so focused towards the sky that Breakdown failed to notice the young human that had approached him until he felt the foreign touch of a human's hand on his hood. Jolted from his attention, Breakdown froze, nervousness at the foreign human's touch making him itch to activate his cannon and rid himself of the threat of prying flesh-

"Hey! That's our truck!" Jack's voice snapped Breakdown's attention away from the human and towards the three rapidly approaching humans of his, all three of whom looked upset and fearful.

"Sorry!" The human apologized as it backed away from Breakdown hurriedly, just as Jack leapt up into Breakdown's driver seat and Miko and Rafael scurried up from his passenger seat to his backseat once more.

Breakdown gave the three humans barely a chance to buckle their seatbelts before he peeled out of the rest stop and hurried back onto the interstate, his mirrors glancing back towards the rest stop until he was reassured that the strange human was not following him. Finally confident that he was safe, Breakdown allowed himself the chance to vent and relax somewhat, though there was one more issue he needed to deal with. Jack.

Seeing a sign noting a pull off, Breakdown huffed then focused his attention on the interloper seated where Breakdown most despised. "Jack, I am going to pull over here. Once I do, please, move over to the passenger side," Breakdown asked as he took the exit.

The minute he had pulled to a stop, Jack hurriedly moved over to the passenger seat without a single complaint. Once Jack was settled in and reassured Breakdown that he was ready to go, Breakdown once again pulled onto the interstate and continued down the freeway.

The sky had begun to darken when Miko spoke up from the back for the first time in groons. "Breakdown, why aren't you telling us what is going on? All of the Autobots have been acting really strange lately and I don't understand why. I know you guys found those Omega Key things but everyone's been so quiet lately - Bulkhead didn't even call me!"

"The matter of our planet's revival has everyone tense and worried. This is not a matter for humans," Breakdown rumbled as he sped over the highway, his mirrors always shifting and turning, watching for Decepticons warily.

"But we are a part of Team Prime," Miko protested, "why can't they trust us enough to tell us when something this important is happening?"

"It is not that they do not trust you, but that they were all far too occupied by everything having to do with the Omega Keys to remember you three."

Hurt flashed in Miko's optics before the young femme jerked her helm away from Breakdown's rearview mirror. Rafael reached over and rested a servo on his friend's shoulder in an attempt to comfort Miko. Jack, who had been leaning on Breakdown's door, clenched his servos before he inclined his helm so that it rested on his passenger window.

"What happens if the Autobots can't get the Omega Keys from Megatron?"

"Then Megatron will have the power to revive Cybertron how he sees fit. And I know he wouldn't just stop at Cybertron."

"You mean Megatron would go after Earth?"

"Knowing him, it's very likely. He'd do it just to upset Prime."

Jack swallowed nervously at Breakdown's statement, his dark optics shifting back towards Miko and Rafael before he gave a weak attempt at a smile. "But Optimus and the others will get the Keys back. They always find a way."

Breakdown snorted, bemused by Jack's optimism. He wished that he could believe in Team Prime as much as the three human children did.

"So... the others are on Cybertron now?" Rafael asked.

"All but Ratchet," Breakdown confirmed. "Optimus hopes that he and the Autobots can surprise Megatron. Megatron doesn't know that we have Space Bridge capabilities now. It will give the Autobots an advantage... for a short time. That is what Optimus is banking on."

"And," Miko interjected, "if Optimus and the others get the Keys, what then?"

"I don't know. I just hope they can revive Cybertron safely. It has been so long so our planet has been our home..."

"Oh…" Miko whispered, her optics downturned as she rubbed at her arms self-consciously. "Are you excited to go back to your home, Breakdown?"

Miko's question surprised Breakdown - no one ever asked for his opinion. Not the Autobots, not the Decepticons and definitely not Knock Out. His opinion on matters had always been assumed for him before he could even speak. Most assumed he had no opinions or was happy going along with whatever anyone decided for him. It was a realization he had become aware of after he had been captured by MECH and it was one he hated.

"Of course I am. Earth is not my planet, not my home. I hate humans far too much to ever feel comfortable living in a world populated so heavily by them. Cybertron is where I belong, where all Cybertronians belong. None of us belong here. All we've done is bring our war to your home."

"Well, you better invite us over once Cybertron's-"

Miko's words were cut off suddenly by an audio receptor splitting explosion and a white-hot blaze of pain ripped through Breakdown's chassis. His chassis was hurtled from the highway, crashing against hard rock in a mad tumble until his alt mode came to a rest on his side.

Tires spun-

Vision... swam...

Get... up...

Another wave of murderous pain blasted through his chassis-

Got... to... get... up-

His systems were screaming-

19%... system shut... down...

The humans! Have to protect-

Another explosion threw Breakdown out of his alt, his frame crashing to the hard, mesquite covered ground with a wheeze of intakes-

Rapid system shutdown- initiating repairs-

Shrill engines roared overhead - jets?

What remained of his vision was blurry, too blurry to make out shapes but for a gray flash-

"BREAKDOWN! BREAKDOWN! HEY! BREAKDOWN!" The panicked voice of Ratchet pulled Breakdown from the blackness that had swamped his processor, though it took some time more for his systems to online to normal functionality.

"Ratchet…" Breakdown wheezed as he slowly pulled himself up off the hard ground, noticing immediately that a large amount of energon was pouring from numerous holes in his chassis.

Not again…


"The kids!" Breakdown tried to scramble to his pedes, but collapsed immediately to the ground with a shriek of protest from his engine as waves of blackness hit his processor-

"Breakdown? Where are you? What is going on?" Ratchet's voice pulled Breakdown back from the blackness and into the present once again, though this time Breakdown struggled to even remember how to use his communications link...

"Ratchet, I don't know. The kids… They're gone. And-"


"I'm going to need you to come get me, I can't move."

"Oh fra-" Ratchet's voice cut off with a flurry of swears and then silence.

Breakdown's fans ground against shattered metal weakly, his engine starting weakly then dying as he tried once more to stand, but to no avail. Again.

Only a moment or two had seemed to pass when the sound of a Ground Bridge opening behind Breakdown pulled his gaze - his helm slumped more than moved - to the far left where Ratchet was hurrying out of the Bridge, though the medic stopped short when he saw Breakdown. Ratchet stared for a nanosecond then hurried to Breakdown's side, his medkit already open and the medic's trained servos flashing through his kit.

"What happened to you?" Ratchet asked, horror very obvious in his optics as he began tending to Breakdown's wounds.

"I'm not... sure. I had the humans then something hit me, and… They're gone, Ratchet," Breakdown explained with a wince as Ratchet wrapped his arms around Breakdown and lifted him to his pedes. Breakdown wavered - his chassis was rattling as his gyros attempted to stabilize - but leaned heavily on Ratchet as the medic supported him back through the Ground Bridge and into the base.

Once the two were inside the base, Ratchet helped Breakdown to the medbay and forced him onto the slab of metal as the medic began pulling tools from their storage spots. Once Ratchet had everything, he came to where Breakdown was laid out and began repairing his injuries. Breakdown's optics fizzed and popped, causing his vision to blur once again as he turned his helm to face Ratchet.

"Ratchet... do minimal patching. Decepticons have... kids… I need-" Breakdown groaned as he felt Ratchet's welder scorch across exposed wires at his hip joints, the agony from the flame almost making his tanks purge, "to get to Cybertron... help the Autobots - warn them," Breakdown said slowly, biting through the pain blazing through his chassis as Ratchet continued, bent over his legs, to weld at his frame.

Ratchet stopped for a moment, his optics serious as he shifted his helm and stared Breakdown directly in the optic. But the medic said nothing before his helm turned back and he began repairing Breakdown once more.

"Ratchet! Come-"


"What? Why?" Breakdown asked incredulously, a gasp of pain escaping from his mouth as Ratchet pushed down on Breakdown's hip joint before the medic turned a hot glare toward him.

"You can't go, simple as that, Breakdown."


Before Breakdown could finish his sentence, Ratchet leaned forward and forcefully grabbed Breakdown's helm, thrusting his helm so that Breakdown could see the lower section of his chassis.

"That is why," Ratchet hissed as horror flooded through Breakdown, his engine choking as he stared at the torn metal before him.

His legs were shredded, the left one a mangled mess of loose metal and damaged wiring, clinging by strands of wire to his hip joint - it was hardly even recognizable as his leg. His right leg was only slightly less damaged, though it too was attached only by a few pieces of metal and wiring. He'd seen enough injuries like his own to know that neither of Breakdown's legs would be serviceable in this state.

Breakdown lowered his helm and sighed, angry with himself for his failure.

He'd failed the Autobots and Cybertron.


Determination suddenly steeled Breakdown, a snarl echoing from his engine as he met Ratchet's gaze. "I need to get to Cybertron, Ratchet. I don't care if I come back. Fix my legs and send me to Cybertron."

Ratchet looked at Breakdown for a long moment before he nodded and turned his welder back to Breakdown's legs. "Very well."

Chapter Text

Sparks flew from Ratchet's welding torch as he continued his harried scramble to repair Breakdown's legs. He had been able to find spare Cybertronian metal - mainly from the pod the scraplets had been in - which he had been able to piece together into makeshift legs for Breakdown, close to his original ones but not perfect. Ratchet doubted the integrity of his work and he did not much like the fact that Breakdown was going to Cybertron with untested limbs, but he knew it best not to refuse the former Decepticon.

He knew how badly Breakdown - and Ratchet himself - wanted to see Cybertron revived back to its pre-war glory, but it did not ease the worry in his spark.

Ratchet had done operations like this countless times during the war, but he did not have the materials here on Earth he had back then on Cybertron, not for the makeshift legs or his medical supplies. The medic could only hope what he had at the base would suffice, for now.

"Okay, Breakdown, I tried my best. I don't know how long those new legs will last," Ratchet said as he stepped back from Breakdown, who immediately swung his new legs to the floor and stood. Seeing what would happen before it did, Ratchet reached out and steadied Breakdown, who shot him a frustrated glare from his yellow optic.

After a few minutes, once Ratchet was sure Breakdown could walk on his own on the new legs, the medic hurried to the Ground Bridge controls. Breakdown walked up to the Bridge base slowly, then turned to Ratchet. There was a darkness in Breakdown's optic, an anger and rage that stiffened the blue mech's back and reminded Ratchet of the fact that this mech, who he had become quite used to, had been a Decepticon for eons.


Breakdown nodded then, as the Space Bridge opened, transformed into his alt mode and drove through the portal.

"Good luck, Breakdown."

This was a mistake. Frag, frag, FRAG!

Breakdown was beginning to regret his hasty decision. He was a medic - okay, more a medic's assistant than anything else - and he should have known driving into battle on newly repaired legs was an absolutely idiotic decision. But no, he had to feel sentimental for three dumb, obnoxious humans and go against what his instincts had been telling him. But the decision to have Ratchet retrofit him new legs wasn't the only decision he was beginning to regret.

Damn his stubborn desire to see the revival of Cybertron through and damn those fragging humans.

Frag humans. Frag the Decepticons. Frag the Autobots. Frag them all.

Cybertron was his most profound regret.

After Cybertron had been laid waste by the Decepticons and Autobots alike, Breakdown had believed he would never see his home planet again and, back then, he hadn't wanted to. He still didn't want to. This wasn't the Cybertron he had wanted to come back to, not this desolate, depressive, gray, lifeless planet the war had created. His Cybertron brimmed with life and without war, this empty shell of a planet was not the place he wanted to come home to.

I made so many mistakes, just for the sake of revenge, and who suffered for it? Cybertron... and the Wreckers. I was happy to play the part of destroyer back then, I never even thought what my actions could lead to. Idiot. Idiot.

The sharp rattle of his tires hitting metal caused Breakdown to pull to a hasty stop. Nervously, Breakdown turned back to whatever he had driven over, a wave of nauseous hitting him at the sight of a whole squadron of silver Eradicons littering the ground. His scanners did not pick up any trace of a spark from any of the Eradicons, which only meant that the flyers had been offlined.

What happened? Breakdown wondered as he drove up to the closest Eradicon. He was surprised to see no wounds, scorch marks, or any indication of what had ended its life. What happened to you?

Looking around the rest of the offlined Eradicons, Breakdown realized that the same malady had happened to all of the dead Eradicons, every single one of them.

No weapon the Autobots have- Wait… The Spark Extractor? They used the Spark Extractor? This realization hit Breakdown full force and, with a quick spin of his tires, he tore away from the ghostly field of death.

He did not know where he was going but a trail of dead Vehicons and Eradicons, all destroyed to some varied extent, gave him a good hint of which way to go. His engine began to thrum heavily as he sped even faster over the Sea of Rust, Optimus had made note-

Without warning, Breakdown was knocked off course, his alt mode sent careening crazily until he smashed into a half decaying pillar poking out from the Sea of Rust. Breakdown shook the stars from his vision and glared towards the gray figure standing just out of range of his cannon.

"Starscream. Nice to run into you again," Breakdown hissed as he switched out of his alt mode and steadied himself against the pillar behind him. His scanners read no damage

"I wouldn't say the same to you, Breakdown. It is actually quite frustrating to have someone I honestly thought I had killed come back, twice," Starscream snarled, his optics falling to Breakdown's makeshift legs. "But I see I did a number on you. Though I clearly should have aimed higher, then you would be dead and not here to mess with my master's plans, just like your meddling Autobot pals."

"Ah, Starscream, you must have poor aim-" Just as Breakdown said that, Starscream lunged for him. Breakdown activated his shoulder cannon and fired at the Seeker, the red hot bolt hitting Starscream in the chestplate. Starscream let out a shocked squeak and fell back to the ground, scrambling to his pedes as Breakdown slowly advanced towards him.

As Breakdown paced around Starscream, he could not help but wince from the pain shooting from where his new legs had been so hastily connected by Ratchet. Unfortunately, Starscream seemed to notice for the Seeker began to circle Breakdown much faster than Breakdown could move with his new legs.

"I'm honestly embarrassed, Breakdown," Starscream taunted from behind Breakdown, the blue mech wheeling about to keep his optic on Starscream but his makeshift legs could not hold the pressure and Breakdown almost collapsed. The only thing that kept him up was his own stubbornness, he would not show such an easy weakness to Starscream, for if he did, he could very well die.

Breakdown braced himself, shoulder cannon still activate, but Starscream continued to circle about him, the Seeker's optics watching him warily. "What did you do with the humans?" Breakdown asked, the ice in his tone unmistakable.

Starscream began to laugh, his gaze falling away from Breakdown for a moment before he turned back to Breakdown and smirked. "The humans? Do you actually care about them? Who are you and what happened to the Breakdown that got tortured by the humans of MECH? Or did you forgive the humans, since you are one of those simpering Autobot fools now?"

"I'm not an Autobot," Breakdown snarled but, before he could continue, Starscream interrupted him with a sharp laugh.

"So, you work for them, get hurt for them, protect their humans, and you still aren't an Autobot? Why?"

"I never wanted to be an Autobot."

"Oh, I doubt that, Breakdown. I suspect it's something more along the lines of that they still don't trust you, then again who would? You change your allegiances like Vehicons change their fuel. Whenever it best suits you, and I bet Prime knows that." Starscream's words struck at a nerve in Breakdown.

He had been with the Autobots for a year and, even though sometimes he tried to pretend he didn't see it, he still felt like the Autobots were treating him extremely volatility. They still tended to watch him closely whenever he was near the humans - as if they thought he would crush them without constant Autobot supervision - and he had heard the Autobots talking about him privately amongst themselves. He could understand if the Autobots did not trust him - he had been their enemy for eons - but it still hurt nonetheless to know the Autobots likely doubted him still. Did they still not trust him, like Starscream said, or-

No. Ignore Starscream. You have to help the Autobots. For Cybertron, Breakdown told himself, steeling himself to Starscream's words. The Autobots trusted you to get the humans out of Jasper-

Only because they trusted you even less to be able to fight against the Decepticons. Maybe you should help the Decepticons revive Cybertron? They at least know the importance of our home, a voice sang in Breakdown's processor, distracting him from Starscream's advances.

Megatron doesn't care about Cybertron anymore - all he wants is to control our planet!

The Decepticons will still take you back!

No, they would not! They'd kill me-

The gray Seeker had noticed the conflict in Breakdown gleefully, and was now silently approaching Breakdown, his right arm raising, missile primed and aimed straight towards Breakdown.

"Goodbye!" Starscream hissed. Just as he activated the missile, something big, heavy and green rammed full force into Starscream, the force of the hit sending the Decepticon hurtling backwards.

The noise of metal screeching across metal snapped Breakdown out of the convoluted mess of his mind and to where Starscream had once been. In the Decepticon's place was Bulkhead and Smokescreen, both of whom looked absolutely harried, Bulkhead even more so as his optics snapped to Breakdown.

"What are you doing here? Where are the kids? Where is Miko?" Bulkhead growled, advancing on Breakdown as Smokescreen checked on Starscream - who was groaning weakly on the ground a few feet away from the two Autobots and Breakdown.

"Uh… The Decepticons have them. I came to tell you - warn you," Breakdown explained as he quickly - and wisely - stepped away from Bulkhead, just as the former Wrecker let out a scream of rage.

"You let them take Miko?!"

"I didn't let the Decepticons take the children, Bulkhead!"

"How could you let them take Miko!? HOW!?" Bulkhead roared hatefully as he lunged for Breakdown. Breakdown scrambled backwards as he transformed both of his servos into their hammer alts and braced himself for Bulkhead's attack. Bulkhead swung his fist at Breakdown, only for his swing to be stopped by Smokescreen, who had leapt between him and Breakdown and was forcefully pushing against Bulkhead's chest plate.

"Now is not the time, Bulkhead. We have to catch up with Optimus, Arcee and Bee. Come on," Smokescreen urged, effectively shutting down Bulkhead's advances on Breakdown. Bulkhead nodded stiffly, though he still sent an accusatorial glare in Breakdown's direction.

Breakdown, for once, did not meet Bulkhead's glare with his own. He knew that he deserved the Autobots' frustration this time - he'd let them down and let the children be taken by the Decepticons.

"Ratchet informed us that you were coming. He didn't say why but he told us to come look for you," Smokescreen explained as he turned to Breakdown, signaled for him to follow them, and switched into his alt mode alongside Bulkhead. Breakdown did so a moment later and raced after the two Autobots silently.

None of the three said a thing as they raced along the Sea of Rust, finally coming to a stop beside Optimus, Arcee and Bumblebee, who were also in their alt modes.

Breakdown pulled to a halt beside Smokescreen, an uncomfortable hot rush of embarrassment racing through his chassis at the bewildered gazes falling on him from Optimus, Arcee and Bumblebee.

"Breakdown, why are you here?" Optimus questioned, the furious rumble of his engine shaking Breakdown to the core.

"I… I came to help you, and to tell you that the Decepticons have the humans," Breakdown explained sheepishly, wincing at the fury spilling from Arcee and Bumblebee as he told them of their humans being taken.

"How did this happen?" Optimus asked, his tone scarily calm.

Now Breakdown was afraid of Optimus. Breakdown's engine stuttered for a delayed moment as he felt five furious gazes scorch his metal chassis.

"I was ambushed by Starscream and his Eradicons while transporting the humans away from Jasper. I wasn't able to stop them from taking the humans," Breakdown said quickly, to which Optimus gave a worried sigh.

Prime was not pleased, Breakdown could tell, but the leader seemed to relent slightly. "We must hurry, we may have the Omega Keys now but we have little time to get to the Omega Lock and save the children."

Optimus' tires spun and he raced away, with the others following close behind. Breakdown followed close behind, ignoring the subtle waves of pain thudding throughout his chassis, dulling his vision and mind.

Finally the six mechs reached their destination, all of whom transformed out of their alt modes and skidded to a halt in front of a small, raised platform protruding from the ground.

"Our head start won't last long," Arcee commented beside Breakdown tensely.

"This is where Alpha Trion said we'd find it, right?" Smokescreen asked.

"These are the coordinates," Bulkhead assured the young Autobot, stopping at the strange device protruding from the ground. "It really doesn't look like much."

"Ratchet, we found the Omega Lock," Optimus informed, eliciting a sigh of relief from Ratchet over the comms. "According to Alpha Trion, the Omega Lock is a conduit to the very Allspark itself."

Smokescreen stepped forwards, Omega Key held tight in his servo as he stopped in front of Optimus. "Optimus, an honor like this shouldn't belong to me." The young Autobot held out the Omega Key for Optimus, but stopped short when it began to glow. As Smokescreen's Key began to glow the ones Bulkhead, Arcee and Bumblebee's Keys began to glow, and then the device began doing the same.

Pulsating light pooled from the device and into the ground, spreading beneath the pedes of Breakdown and the others and, as light spread out from the pillar they stood around, four massive pillars rose from the ground. The pillars rose until each towered high above the Autobots and Breakdown, two large arches rising from the each pillar's side, until they formed a large ring above them. As the ring formed fully together a large blue portal opened within the ring.

"Wow…" Smokescreen breathed, but his awe was cut off by the sharp roar of a jet's engine. Breakdown wheeled around, optic widening as Megatron, in his alt mode, landed on the platform with a heavy thud.

Breakdown, Bulkhead and Smokescreen tensed as Megatron smirked and slowly started towards the five Autobots and Breakdown. "Autobots, I would suggest that you put a halt to your task and hand over those Keys," Megatron growled.

"And why should we do that?" Smokescreen growled back, just as a Space Bridge opened up a ways behind Megatron. From the Bridge came three figures carrying three strange tubular devices. As the Bridge faded away Breakdown immediately recognized Starscream, Knock Out and Soundwave, who were carrying Jack, Miko and Rafael respectively in the tubes.

"So that I may hand over the humans!" Megatron taunted as he gestured backwards to the three humans in the tubes.

"And if we refuse?" Optimus hissed.

"Then I will have no choice but to open the pods, exposing your pets to Cybertron's toxic atmosphere and then we can all watch them instantly perish, together," Megatron answered, before turning to Starscream. "Starscream!"

Starscream smiled and lifted Jack's pod. "Oh, Jack! It's time to come out and play!" Starscream said as he drug his clawed digits down the glass side of Jack's pod, which emitted a harsh screech.

To Breakdown's surprise Jack did not cower, but turned to Starscream and, defiantly, said, "Go ahead. The Autobots were prepared to sacrifice themselves for my planet, I'll do the same for theirs."

"Me too, creepy!" Miko piped up, her words causing Knock Out to look down at her disdainfully.

Rafael only gulped out a nervous "uh huh" as he looked up at the menacing, silent stature of Soundwave.

"Well then, why don't we oblige them?" Megatron said, his voice practically dripping with pleasure as he slowly turned his helm to the three entrapped humans.

Optimus' optics flamed with anger as he tightened his grip on the hilt of the Star Saber. "If my decision dooms the future of the Autobot cause on Cybertron, so be it, but I will never forsake my humans allies. Even for Cybertron-"

"Wait, WHAT?!" The exclamation tore from Breakdown before he even realized he had said it. Every single helm, both Decepticon and Autobot alike, turned on him, the Decepticons bemused and the Autobots confused - all but for Optimus, whose optics glittered with veiled anger at Breakdown's interruption.

Optimus shot Breakdown a tense look, but Breakdown ignored him as he stomped up in front of the Autobot leader and glared up into his blue optics. "Are you fragged in your mind, Prime?" Breakdown snarled. "You would pick these Earthlings over Cybertron?"

"Now is not the time for this, Breakdown," Optimus hissed, his normally calm demeanor shifting as he glared down at Breakdown. "I am the leader of the Autobots and, as your leader, you will follow my orders-"

"No, I won't," Breakdown hissed. Breakdown's response seemed to surprise Optimus, for the large mech raised one brow ridge and his engine gave off a hiss of surprise, but Breakdown wasn't finished. "You may be the leader of these fools, but you are not mine. I'm no Autobot, Prime and I won't blindly follow a leader ever again-" Breakdown glared at Knock Out when he said this, "-especially if they are choosing humans over their own species. But do what you want, you are the Autobots' leader. Don't forget what you said about what Megatron would do if he got the Omega Keys."

With that Breakdown turned and stomped past Optimus and the Autobots, stopping a ways beyond the Omega Lock control device before he turned slowly and watched the Autobots. Bulkhead had his optics turned away from Breakdown, while Smokescreen and Bumblebee's optics were both wide with shock and Arcee, typical of her distrust for him, shot him a veiled glare.

No mech moved for a few moments, until Optimus turned the Star Saber in his servo and slammed it into the hard metal surface of the Omega Lock's platform. Arcee, Bumblebee, Smokescreen and Bulkhead all threw the relics they had been using for the battle alongside the Star Saber, laying down their arms to the smiling lord of the Decepticons.

"Now, if you please, the Omega Keys," Megatron urged. The Autobots hesitated for a few moments, their optics shifting towards Prime before Megatron turned his gaze to Knock Out, who had walked up on his left and jerked his helm towards Prime. "One at a time."

Knock Out paused a bit in front of Megatron with Miko's pod, which he raised up slowly and tapped with a single, sharp digit, and signaled towards Bulkhead. "You first, big guy."

Bulkhead hesitantly looked towards Optimus and the Autobots, then to Knock Out then back to the Autobots, when Optimus gave him a small nod. Silently, Breakdown willed Bulkhead to refuse, but Bulkhead returned the nod and walked towards Knock Out, Omega Key in his servo.

"If I don't get the girl, I'll make you eat this Key," Bulkhead growled when he reached Knock Out and dropped the Key in the Decepticon medic's servo.

Knock Out smiled, then passed over Miko's pod, saucily saying, "You're welcome," before Breakdown's former ally walked away from Bulkhead.

By the time Bulkhead was turning back with Miko, Bumblebee was already approaching Soundwave, who had walked up to meet the Autobot scout. At the same time Soundwave and Bumblebee exchanged the Omega Key and Rafael, Bumblebee trilling what Breakdown assumed was a threat at Soundwave angrily.

Next came Starscream but he stopped at Megatron, and waited. Megatron wheeled his gaze to Optimus, his red servo gesturing out towards Jack's tube. "If this human was important enough to be trusted with the Matrix of Leadership, he's worth two Omega Keys," Megatron growled.

Optimus turned his gaze to Arcee and Smokescreen and nodded to each in turn. Both Autobots strode forward with their Omega Keys and, as they moved closer to Starscream, the Seeker placed Jack's pod on the ground and aimed his arm missiles towards the Autobots.

"No, tricks, Keys please," Starscream said, then splayed his servos out invitingly. Arcee and Smokescreen handed the Omega Keys off to Starscream before Arcee bent down and picked up Jack's pod.

The sound of a Space Bridge opening drew Breakdown's attention away from the Autobot and Decepticon proceedings and to his right, where a wave of Vehicons burst through the Bridge. Vehicons surrounded the Autobots, and a small group surrounded Breakdown. Breakdown growled and tensed up as the Vehicons aimed their blasters at him, but he waited.

He did not know if the Autobots would fight alongside him should he try and move for the Decepticon commanders and, if they didn't support him, he knew he'd be offlined long before he even got near Megatron and the others. So he waited, his engine snarling his rage loud enough that the Vehicons who were surrounding him backed away from him slightly.

With the Autobots subdued, Megatron held up one Omega Key, which had begun to glow again as the Decepticon leader slowly moved it towards the pillar. "Now witness as a new era dawns on Cybertron." With those words, Megatron pushed the Omega Key into a slot inside the control column, Starscream, Soundwave and Knock Out following close behind with their respective Omega Keys. A golden light pulsed out of the control, though it faded away into a holo of a blue circle - the Omega Lock's control schematics. The four massive pillars began to glow, the blue substance inside the ring thrumming with a low hum as it too began to glow.

"Behold, the age of the Decepticons!" Megatron's shout echoed over the Omega Lock harshly, which Breakdown noticed made some of the Vehicons surrounding him shiver notably.

"You don't have to fight for Megatron," Breakdown hissed quietly to the Vehicons. "He doesn't care about any of you or our planet."

"Shut up, traitor!" The Vehicon who spoke shoved his blaster under Breakdown's chin, his red visor blazing with unbridled hatred for Breakdown.

The other Vehicons moved closer to Breakdown, all with matching expressions of anger, as they kept their blasters trained on his chassis. Breakdown shifted his gaze away from the six Vehicons surrounding him - he knew they would not turn on his side now - and watched Megatron once again.

Megatron pressed something on the holo of the Lock's control and, every mech, turned and watched as a jet of the substance from the circle spewed from the ring and hit an old, destroyed building. The building began to glow and then a burst of white light blinded Breakdown momentarily, but once it had vanished the building had been repaired fully.

"Whoa…" Breakdown heard one of the Vehicons near him mutter.

"Shiny," came Knock Out's response.

"You have what you want, Megatron," Optimus began, "this conflict is between Autobots and Decepticons. Allow me to return the humans to Earth."

"Oh, I wouldn't recommend it," Megatron said as he turned to face Optimus fully, "they would be a lot safer here."

Megatron turned to Starscream, who was still smirking as he watched the Autobots with a gleeful glitter of his red optics. "Is the Space Bridge ready?"

"Per your instructions, Lord Megatron," Starscream simpered as he bowed to Megatron.

"Excellent," Megatron said, before facing Optimus once more, "why rule only one world, when I can rule two?"

With that the sound of a sharp tear announced the opening of a Space Bridge above the Omega Lock's ring. The liquid began to pulsate, and then a huge beam of the Omega Lock's substance burst into the Space Bridge.

Megatron is trying to Cyberform Earth, Breakdown realized. Wearily, Breakdown glanced towards the Autobots, unsurprised to see all of them staring up at the ring, horrified.

"Such raw power! What should I call my new domain?" Megatron pondered. "New Koan? Or perhaps, Gilded Earth?"

The sudden laughter of Megatron, Knock Out and Starscream snapped Breakdown's attention to the three Decepticons, but only for a moment before something pulled his attention to Optimus. The Autobot leader suddenly moved, his servos transforming into their sword modes as he sliced through two of the Vehicons standing guard against the Autobots, and ran towards the Star Saber.

Optimus ripped the Saber from where he had pierced it into the ground then spun in a circle, sending a wave of energy into a group of Vehicons that had charged towards him, the wave sending them crashing to the ground near Megatron. Megatron let out a fierce roar and pulled the Dark Star Saber from his back as he charged towards Optimus. The two's Sabers clashed, but Optimus had the advantage for Megatron's Dark Star Saber bounced off of Optimus' Star Saber, leaving an opening for Optimus to swing the Star Saber down and cutting Megatron's red arm clean off.

Optimus charged on relentlessly, racing towards the control column of the Omega Lock, where Starscream, Knock Out and Soundwave began shooting back at him. Optimus deflected each shot with his Star Saber, then dodged one of Starscream's missiles before he kicked the Decepticon to the ground and leapt off of Starscream, Star Saber plunging down to the Omega Lock-

The Star Saber plunged into the Omega Lock's control and, within mere nanoseconds, a fiery explosion burst from the controls, sending every mech who was at the Omega Lock flying. Breakdown felt flames lick across his chassis as a high pitched buzzing drowned all sound from his audio receptors, his optic slowly opening to the sight of mangled steel, scattered Vehicons and weak flames licking at the edges of the shattered Omega Lock.

Slowly, Breakdown pulled himself up onto his pedes as his vision cleared and his helm no longer swam with that infernal buzzing noise, though he felt his repaired legs shake weakly underneath his weight. He waited until he was certain that he was steadied on his pedes, then turned and slowly bent down to the nearest Vehicon. Gently, Breakdown checked the Vehicon for a spark pulse, only for the small flyer to jolt awake at his touch.

The Vehicon's servos clenched worriedly as he recognized Breakdown hunched over his chassis though, to Breakdown's surprise, the small Vehicon did not bolt as Breakdown continued to check his frame for injuries. Seeing none, Breakdown gave the Vehicon a weak smile before he moved to the next Cybertronian near him.

When he bent down to the soot covered chassis and brushed off a layer of ash from the chassis, Breakdown realized that it was Smokescreen laid out before him. Smokescreen let out a wheeze of his intakes as Breakdown checked the Autobot for injuries and, upon finding none, hauled him to his pedes by one of his door kibble. Smokescreen let out a groan and weakly whispered Breakdown's name as Breakdown's optic searched the wreckage of the Omega Lock for the rest of the Autobots.

A few feet away, Breakdown noticed Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee slowly shifting up to their pedes, their servos clamped tightly over the tubes the three human children still stood in. And then he saw Optimus stride through the flames, the tip of the Star Saber's blade dragging across the ground as theAutobot leader reached the side of his Autobots. Rage boiled in Breakdown's systems at the sight of Optimus, but he snapped it back as he roughly pushed Smokescreen towards the Autobots.

When Breakdown and Smokescreen joined the Autobots and their humans, no Autobot acknowledged either of them for their focus was centered solely on Optimus Prime.

"Optimus," Arcee began but Optimus ignored her completely as the Prime contacted Ratchet and requested for a Space Bridge back to the Autobot base.

The Space Bridge opened behind them moments later, with Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee quick to run through it and back to the Autobot base. Breakdown followed behind the three Autobots as he continued to assist Smokescreen, while Optimus marched behind Breakdown into the Space Bridge.

Breakdown let go of Smokescreen and pushed past Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Arcee as the Bridge opened up into the base, even ignoring Ratchet's incredulous look as he, fuming, moved as far away from the Autobots as he could, though he still kept his optic on them.

"What happened?" Ratchet asked as the Space Bridge closed behind Optimus.

No Autobot answered the medic's question as they lowered the humans' tubes to the ground and opened them, each Autobot guardian assisting their human charge out of the containers quietly. Any other time Breakdown would have answered Ratchet, for he had come to enjoy Ratchet's company, but he could not bring himself to talk with any Autobot. Not after what Optimus had done.

"Somebody say something," Ratchet begged.

"Optimus… destroyed the Omega Lock," Bulkhead finally explained once Miko had been placed on the base's floor.

"What," Ratchet's voice cracked as he staggered away from Optimus. "You did wha-"

"What was necessary," Optimus began, "there was no time for another prolonged battle. Not with Earth in imminent danger."

"Earth, Earth, Earth, Earth," Breakdown snarled, his voice snapping the attention of every Autobot to him. Breakdown got to his pedes, and stomped up to the gathered Autobots.

"All you care about is Earth, Prime, and it's filthy, fleshling inhabitants," Breakdown growled. "You didn't even seem to think twice about what destroying our only chance at reviving our planet means. You are selfish, Prime. Did you even think to ask your Autobot pals what they would have liked to do, instead of destroying the Omega Lock outright? No, you didn't. And you never will.

"You chose these three humans above your own race, and you see no problem with it. I would have let them die before I would have ever handed the Omega Keys over to Megatron. I'm not blinded by a love for humans like you are. And that is what makes you weak, Optimus. You've chosen this planet and these humans over your own Autobots and everyone who has perished because of this Primus forsaken war," Breakdown snapped before he turned his back on the Autobots and stomped further away from the Autobots.

"Optimus… Why did you destroy our only chance at restoring our home? Optimus, we needed that." Ratchet's voice was weary with age, but his words drew Breakdown to watch the Autobots exchange silently. He understood the hurt and sorrow that reflected in Ratchet's optics - those same feelings were waging a war with the rage that was blazing through him as he looked at Prime - but Breakdown knew there was nothing he could do to comfort Ratchet.

"You weren't there, Doc," Smokescreen interjected, "And it's not your place to second-guess a battlefield decision."

"It most CERTAINLY is!" Ratchet snarled, his words causing Smokescreen to startle back in shock. "There had to be another way."

"It wasn't that simple, Ratchet," Jack interrupted.

"Megatron was using the Omega Lock to attack the Earth," Rafael stated.

"Optimus saved our planet!" Miko snapped, her words causing a snarl to thrum from Breakdown's engine.

"What about our planet?!" Ratchet retorted. "All of our struggles and energon spilt, and countless sacrifices, for nothing?!"

"Right decision or wrong, what's done is done," Arcee growled, "and we have another problem here on this world, the 'Cons just changed the rules when they put Jack, Miko and Raf into play."

"You were the first ones to involve humans," Breakdown snarled darkly to himself as Ratchet stared at the Autobots without response, the medic's optics shifting from disbelief, to cold outrage.

The bwoop of an incoming transmission cut off anything any of the other Autobots might have said, and turned all of their attention to the central monitors where Agent Fowler's image was being displayed.

"Prime! The Pentagon is preparing to go DEFCON 1, I need to know what we are dealing with."

"To what do you refer, Agent Fowler?" Prime asked.

"Maybe you should step outside and see for yourselves."

Optimus shuttered his optics then looked down at Ratchet, "Ratchet, watch the children."

Ratchet did not nod, but Breakdown did notice how the medic looked away in utter defeat as the three humans glanced at each other, bewildered.

Optimus walked towards the lift that went to the outside part of the base, with Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Smokescreen following after him. Breakdown ignored them, though he did watch them ascend to the top before he approached Ratchet's side and looked up at the monitors.

Ratchet sighed heavily before he turned back to his monitors and buried himself into its datalogs. Breakdown reached a servo out to comfort Ratchet but stopped when he saw the looks the three humans were giving him.

"What?" He snapped at the humans as he glared down at them with utter contempt.

"Uh, nothing," Jack said as he shot a hasty glance back at Miko, who still looked furious.

Miko shoved Jack out of the way and glared up at Breakdown. "I thought we were friends-"

"Friends? HA! You must be senile, human," Breakdown snarled, interrupting Miko, who quivered under his withering gaze as he lowered his helm down to her position on the walkway. "We aren't friends, and we never were. I mean what I said. Fortunately for you three worthless wastes, I wasn't the one making the decision."

The three humans said nothing more to Breakdown, though they did move closer to Ratchet, who didn't even notice them as Breakdown's intakes puffed steam as he moved away from the humans.

A sudden explosion of noise from the top of the base snapped Breakdown and Ratchet's attention to the lift, then to each other for the briefest of moments. Another explosion of noise shook dust from the ceiling forcefully, covering Breakdown's chassis with fine dirt and dust.

"What's happening?" Jack asked, though he obviously knew neither Breakdown or Ratchet could answer him.

Breakdown heard the heavy steps of Optimus behind him and moved away, closer to the Ground Bridge control panel as the five Autobots who had gone to the top of the base stopped behind Ratchet.

"What's going on out there?" Ratchet asked Optimus quietly as he turned to face his leader.

"The Decepticons have invaded Jasper," Optimus explained.

"And Fowler seems to think he can hold them off," Bulkhead added.

"But what do we do?" Rafael shrieked as another, heavier explosion rocked more dust from the base's roof.

"Prime, reinforcements have just arrived!"

"Agent Fowler, your military cannot prevail against the-" Optimus began before a voice Breakdown recognized easily interrupted him.

"Didn't think I would let Team Prime have all the fun, did ya?"

Bulkhead let out a raucous laugh, before saying, "It's Jackie!"

"Wheeljack?" Ratchet retorted, bewildered. "But- How did you?"

"I picked up a strange energy surge. Hope you don't mind the company." Wheeljack said, his voice unusually soft.

"No, it's just that… after everything… well-"

"We're still on the same team Doc. Always will be!" Wheeljack's comms shut off after that, though Breakdown didn't miss the smile that ever so slightly etched itself across Ratchet's faceplate.

Prime suddenly walked up to the opening of the Ground Bridge, drawing the attention of everyone in base to him. "Ratchet, prepare to Bridge everyone out of here."

"We're abandoning the base?" Ratchet asked, incredulous.

"The base is lost. Wheeljack and Fowler can only buy us time to escape. Bumblebee, Rafael, you will depart first," Optimus said.

"You are splitting us up?" Raf asked, shocked.

"Shouldn't we stick together?" Jack suggested hopelessly.

"All for one and one for all?" Miko added in as she clasped her hands together, optics begging.

"We must disperse to avoid capture until we can regroup and launch a counter attack. Survival is our only priority now," Optimus said, his gaze traveling to each being inside the base, even Breakdown.

"Fine," Ratchet muttered, then moved hurriedly to the Ground Bridge control panel. Breakdown moved out of his way and watched as Ratchet activated the first bridge and Bumblebee drove through it.

Ratchet sighed and scrambled the coordinates to a new location as Bulkhead drove up in his alt mode to the base of the Ground Bridge. Arcee and Jack pulled up alongside Bulkhead for a brief moment then Bulkhead was gone, and a new set of coordinates were rearranged for the Bridge.

Jack looked back at Optimus and Ratchet one last time before he, and Arcee, drove through their Bridge.

"You next, Breakdown," Optimus ordered. Breakdown looked towards him briefly then, without a second glance back, transformed into his alt mode and vanished through the Bridge.

Breakdown's Bridge dropped him off in a beautiful meadow of lush green grass and trees, rimmed by snow studded mountains. But he didn't even notice it - he wouldn't even have cared if Ratchet's Bridge had dropped him off in the middle of a volcano or amongst a swarm of humans. And how could he when his mind was occupied entirely by the destruction of the Omega Lock, and so much more. He was never going to go back home. Ever. All for those three, horrible humans.

Frag those humans! If they hadn't gotten themselves captured-

Breakdown's shoulder plates lowered, his optic closing tightly as a depressed vent hissed from his intakes. He'd lost the humans after Starscream had bombed him... and the humans had been used against the Autobots, most notably Optimus Prime. The humans' presence within Team Prime had weakened the Autobots to the point that they had chosen the aliens over their own planet.

Their beloved leader cost every single Cybertronian left alive the chance to go back to a revived Cybertron. All because they befriended humans and gave up the Omega Keys to Megatron.

I was such an idiot to believe that Optimus would put our home above the humans, Breakdown's thoughts raged like a typhoon as he walked away from the open meadow, towards the mountains, hoping for shelter. There were always some form of shelter in mountains and he needed to take a break and rest.

The trek up the mountain was agonizingly slow, as Breakdown's hurriedly repaired legs were definitely beginning to feel the strain from so much work after so little recovery time, and he was tired. Snow began to fall from the sky, the cold snowflakes relieving on Breakdown's burning chassis, the cold clearing some of his thoughts long enough for him to spot a cave just ahead.

Relieved, Breakdown moved towards it the cave as quickly as he could. Once he squeezed himself inside the tight cave, Breakdown collapsed against the wall of the cave and, before he had fully settled in, was fully in recharge.

"What happened to him?" A soft voice pulled Breakdown from his near stasis recharge, the blue mech's optic fizzing weakly as it onlined to a blurry vision of light and rock.

Slowly, with his makeshift legs still aching, Breakdown pulled himself up to see who's voice it was he had heard. His shoulder plates screeched on the cave's low ceiling as Breakdown shook his helm to clear the lingering darkness still gripping to his processor then, slowly, turned his helm up to look straight up into five pairs of cold optics.

It was Dreadwing and four Vehicons.

Chapter Text

"Oh, scrap," Breakdown swore.

Dreadwing and his Vehicon squadron did not move towards him as Breakdown hurriedly scrambled to his pedes, shoulder cannon activating as he backed away from the five Decepticons. He wasn't going to let the Decepticons take him back to the Nemesis without a fight-

"Easy, Breakdown," Dreadwing urged. "We aren't here to make any problems."

Breakdown quirked a brow ridge up. He knew Dreadwing was not one to lie but he still couldn't shake the suspicion that the Seeker could be lying to him. "How do I know that can believe you?"

Dreadwing sighed before he reached for the cannon strapped to his back, which made Breakdown leap back even faster than before, and then dropped the weapon to the ground. "Take my word however you want, Breakdown, but, on my honor, I am not here to fight."

Breakdown glanced between Dreadwing and the four flyer Vehicons, all of whom were watching Breakdown curiously, before he shook his helm and sighed. "Sorry," Breakdown muttered as he deactivated his shoulder cannon and loosened his tense stance.

"How'd you find me?" Breakdown asked.

"We detected your signal a bit ago," one of the Vehicons explained, "and Dreadwing ordered us to find out who, or what, it was, since our scanners couldn't tell us if it was Decepticon or Autobot. All we knew was that it was Cybertronian and leaking energon."

Breakdown turned to Dreadwing who was silently watching him, "So, you are still a Decepticon then, Dreadwing? If you are going to try and take me back to the Nemesis, know that I am prepared to fight."


Dreadwing's short reply surprised Breakdown. "What? What do you mean by that?"

"It means that I am no longer follow the Decepticon cause, nor do these four Vehicons."

"But… Wait, seriously?" Breakdown asked, still confused. Dreadwing sighed then turned and stared out at the slowly darkening sky.

"I did go back to the Nemesis after I gave the Autobots the Forge of Solus Prime, as I had planned to kill Starscream for what he did to Skyquake," Dreadwing sighed, "But I realized killing Starscream in the condition he was would not honor my brother nearly as much as defeating him in full health would. And, I thought about what you had said. The Decepticons truly are not what they once were. Knowing my brother died for a cause that is a shell of its former self, it did not sit well with me. I fled the Nemesis, for lack of a better term, for I could tell Megatron did not trust me and I could not trust myself to leave Starscream in one piece while I was there.

"I would not have seen this if not for what you said to me though, so I thank you, Breakdown. I was blind, and you helped me see."

"You're welcome, I guess? And what about these four?" Breakdown asked as he gestured to the four Vehicons behind Dreadwing.

"These four tagged along with me. They were tired of working for Megatron."

"Yep!" One of the Vehicons - Breakdown realized he didn't know these Vehicons, surprisingly - said. "Yosemite noticed Dreadwing leaving, told us and we took the chance to get off the Nemesis by following him. We swiped a whole crate of energon before we left too. I'm Skystrider, the helicopter-alt is Pillar, and that's Mortar back there. We all left because we had grown tired of how we, as soldiers of the Decepticons, were treated."

"Yeah, it sucked," the one Skystrider had pointed out as Pillar snapped, arms crossed over her purple chestplate as the rotor blades on her back flared out angrily. "Starscream stuck me on burial detail with these three. I grew tired of seeing how many of our brethren were discarded for our commanders desires."

"Quick question," the one named Yosemite interrupted, "We were scouting some of Megatron's older mines for energon when our scanners picked up a massive energy surge, unlike anything we've ever seen. Do you have any idea what that was?"

"Yeah, I know what that was. It was Megatron trying to Cyberform Earth from this device called the Omega Lock on Cybertron."

"The Omega Lock?" Dreadwing asked, optics blazing with too many emotions for Breakdown to read. "What is that? And how do you know this happened?"

Breakdown sighed, then explained all that had happened. The Omega Keys and the Omega Lock's connection, the children getting captured and him getting wounded, the journey to Cybertron, Megatron attempting to Cyberform Earth and then how Optimus had destroyed the Omega Lock, and any chance of them reviving their planet.

The whole time he spoke, Dreadwing was silent, though the Seeker's optics narrowed when he heard about the destruction of the Omega Lock. Yosemite and Mortar were speechless while Skystrider and Pillar both grumbled unhappily to each other under their breaths as Breakdown finished his explanation.

"It saddens me greatly to know that the fate of our planet has been sealed… for the fate of the humans' planet," Dreadwing muttered, his servos tightening into fists subtly.

"I know," Breakdown said bitingly. "But then, what can you expect from the leader of the Autobots? His thoughts have never been for the good of his own species, not since he landed on Earth."

"I wish Megatron had successfully Cyberfromed this horrible planet," Pillar muttered.

Mortar nodded agreement to her words, but Breakdown couldn't find himself agreeing. He hated the humans on this planet, not really the planet itself. No planet deserved the destruction that had been wrought on Cybertron, not even Earth.

"Earth isn't that bad, Pillar, they have great music! If you listened to more music you would like Earth more!" Skystrider piped up.

Pillar glared at Skystrider, who giggled loudly before a look from Dreadwing shot the Vehicon jet up.

"I just wish Megatron had fixed our planet. His thirst for power, and desire to destroy Optimus, made him forget about Cybertron," Breakdown said quietly, and to his utter surprise, Dreadwing nodded in agreement.

Before Breakdown could say anything more he collapsed, his weakened legs giving no warning as he thudded to the cave floor. Pillar and Skystrider scampered up to Breakdown, who was doing his best to bite back the roar of agony tearing at his insides.

"Whoa, steady there," Pillar urged him as she and Skystrider held Breakdown steady. Breakdown glanced up to Dreadwing, who had an unreadable expression masking his faceplate

Dreadwing turned to Pillar and Skystrider. "You two will stay with Breakdown. Yosemite and Mortar, you will come with me. We need to find something that we can repair Breakdown with." Once Dreadwing finished he, Yosemite and Mortar took off, the heat from their engines wafting over Breakdown and the two Vehicons.

Breakdown watched after Dreadwing and the Vehicons for a few minutes and then, with a deep, troubled sigh, hung his helm in defeat.

Quite a few hours had passed since Dreadwing, Mortar and Yosemite had returned with durable metal that they had made into legs for Breakdown. They had found the metal by scrounging from old Cybertronian depositaries dropped by the Nemesis. It wasn't ideal but it was better than nothing. Breakdown had instructed them during the whole process - thanking the Primes, Ratchet and even Knock Out, for his knowledge of medical procedures - and had finally finished after almost six hours of straight work.

Mortar and Yosemite had stolen tools from a local car repair shop and, in doing so had learned that they were near Great Falls, Montana which was at least a day's drive from Jasper, Nevada. Breakdown could figure that the Autobots, where ever they were, would be trying to go back to the Autobot base, but Breakdown wasn't going to do the same.

I can't go back… I can't bring myself to even think of seeing any of them again, not right now at least. Not after they chose the humans over Cybertron, Breakdown thought before a yawn of pure exhaustion stole over him. He had been awake for the last two and a half days, and was extremely exhausted, but he couldn't sleep for his thoughts. They plagued him ceaselessly, keeping him awake no matter how much he tried to quench them away.

As the only one awake though, Breakdown was on self appointed guard duty. Shaking his helm, Breakdown turned his gaze to where the five former Decepticons were sleeping within the cave.

Dreadwing was sleeping against the cave wall, his servos clenched into tight fists, as he muttered under his breath something Breakdown could not make out. The Vehicons, meanwhile, had all collapsed on each other, with Skystrider on the top of the pile, snoring loudly.

Slowly, Breakdown got to his pedes, gingerly testing them out as he walked out of the cave. Thankfully, Breakdown's new legs held under his weight, and they didn't hurt too much at the moment.

The night sky was midnight purple, clear of clouds, the only form of light being that from a magnificent belt of stars and the moon. There were millions of stars in the sky, some burning bright while others were dull, fading, dying.

Like Cybertron…

It hit Breakdown unexpectedly.

There was no going home. Breakdown had foolishly begun to believe Cybertron would be revived, and now all of that hope was burning up just like the Omega Lock. He would never be able to enjoy the luxuries of Cybertron again. All of the fighting between the Autobots and Decepticons, for nothing!

All of those deaths, betrayals, friendships lost, made pointless, all because of the  humans !

Breakdown wheeled around and smashed his fist into the cave's outer wall with a furious, stricken roar. He pressed his other servo against the hard stone and, if he could cry like the humans, he would. His chassis began to shake, rattling with each wracking sob that escaped from Breakdown.

Breakdown collapsed to the ground with a broken cry just as a storm of rain rolled over the mountain with a crash of thunder. The rain chilled Breakdown to his core as rain streamlined down his chassis. His helm pressed against the rough rocky surface of the mountain, his optic shuttering to a close as rain slid down his faceplate.

There was no more home and there never would be again.

Lightning lit up the sky and, with its deafening accompaniment of thunder, masked the soul shattering wail that tore from Breakdown.

The soft, early light of morning woke Breakdown from his fitful sleep. Aching, Breakdown maneuvered to his pedes, giving a quick shake of his chassis to dispense of any water that might have acquiesced on his frame during his rest.

Stiffly, Breakdown moved to the mouth of the cave and glanced into the darkened depths to see Dreadwing and the Vehicons still sound asleep. Breakdown looked to his left, at the valley below the mountain, at the cars traversing a road many miles away.

Life went on for the unsuspecting humans, as it always would, as it always had. They would never know the feeling of abandoning their home and seeing its fate sealed by the servos of one, not all.

Breakdown hated the humans ever more known, for their simplicity and their obliviousness and, most notably, he envied the fact that their planet still thrived.

If only the same could be said about Cybertron.

The sound of movement inside the cave snapped Breakdown's attention towards the cave, just as Dreadwing strode out from the cave. Dreadwing stopped beside Breakdown and turned his gaze to him.

"How are you faring, Breakdown?" Dreadwing asked, tone level with politeness.

"I'm fine, I guess," Breakdown replied with a noncommittal shrug of his shoulders. He knew he didn't sound fine, the exact opposite of fine, really, but Dreadwing made no mention of Breakdown's shaking voice.

Dreadwing gave Breakdown a scrutinizing look before turning his gaze towards the valley. "The Vehicons and I will be leaving today. It is not safe to stay in one place for too long. Would you care to join us in our travels?"

"Uh," Breakdown stammered, surprised by Dreadwing's offer. "But I'd slow you guys down. I'm a grounder, not a flyer!"

"That does not matter, Breakdown."


"Breakdown, I want you around because you do not deserve to go this alone. Megatron will be hunting for you and I. There is safety in numbers. Come with us, please," Dreadwing said, placing one servo on Breakdown's shoulder.

Breakdown hesitated for a moment, but relented with a nod.

"Good. I'll wake the Vehicons, you do what you need to prepare."

"Yes, Dreadwing," Breakdown said, nodding to his new commander.

"On the road again! Just can't wait to get on the road again-"

"Skystrider! Enough of your obnoxious singing!" Pillar roared over the comms, interrupting the very happy-go-lucky Vehicon.

"Ah, come on, Pillar! You know you love it when I sing!" Skystrider called out, his laughter booming over Breakdown's comms system.

"No, I don't!"

"Yes, you do!"

"You two are such idiots!" Yosemite barked over the comms, but neither Pillar or Skystrider paid much, if any, attention to him.



Skystrider and Pillar's arguing was drowned out by a much calmer voice over Breakdown's comms. "How are you doing, Breakdown?"

"I'm alright, Mortar," Breakdown answered, noting the Vehicon, whose shift it was to keep in close contact with Breakdown, flying a ways above him and to the left. "And you?"

"I'm fine. Happy to be away from the Decepticons and the Nemesis. At least with Dreadwing I don't have to worry about being thrown off the Nemesis," Mortar replied, the distant purple jet banking slightly in the sky as he answered.

"How is Dreadwing, since you mentioned him? How does he treat you?"

"He's not all too bad. He doesn't talk to us too much, and when he does he really only does to order us around. But that is a load better than Megatron or Starscream. And we've only been following him for the last three days!"

"Well, that's good, at least," Breakdown rumbled before he fell silent, Mortar seeming happy to do the same as the jet continued to keep in Breakdown's sights.

The sextet of mechs had been on the move to the southeast since early that morning, and had been on the move for the last three hours, and were only just now passing through the town of Billings, Montana. Breakdown didn't know where they were going as Dreadwing had told him that their only goal was to evade the Decepticons by not staying anywhere for longer than was absolutely necessary. The only thing Breakdown knew was that he didn't want to go anywhere near Nevada. Neither did Dreadwing, it seemed, considering that they had been heading away from Jasper the whole drive.

Suddenly Mortar dove down from his position above Breakdown, "Dreadwing says take the next exit, it leads to a dirt road in a half mile."

"Got it, Mortar!" Breakdown responded back as he turned his attention to the road signs flashing past him. Seeing the exit coming up, Breakdown slowed and hooked a sharp right onto a large dirt road. Mortar shot away from Breakdown, curving behind a hill and vanishing out of sight with a roar of his engine. Breakdown came around the hill and pulled to a stop, transforming out of his alt mode as Dreadwing, Pillar, Skystrider and Yosemite landed out of their alt modes.

"What's going on, Dreadwing?" Breakdown asked quietly.

"I caught chatter from a squad of Decepticons coming this way. They will be over this sector in five minutes, so we need to hide and fast," Dreadwing urged, his optics scanning around them before he gestured behind Breakdown. "There! An old mine, we'll stay in there until the patrol passes."

Breakdown looked behind him to where Dreadwing was pointing, where, in the hillside was an old, broken down mine entrance, the boards that made up the entrance rotting and crumbling away.

Without a second thought, the six mechs all charged into the mine, ducking and squishing against each other as they squeezed into the narrow, low ceilinged mine.

This is not comfortable.

"Get your pede out of my face, Skystrider," Yosemite hissed from somewhere behind Breakdown's left shoulder plate.

"Sorr- OUCH! Pillar, get your claws off my face!" Skystrider protested loudly.

"Quiet!" Dreadwing snapped, just as a steady thrum of jet engines roared above the mine. Breakdown peeked out cautiously and watched as a squadron of Eradicons streaked by, at least half a mile up. Finally the Decepticon patrol vanished and he ducked back into the mine with a relieved hiss of his intakes.

"It's clear, let's go," Breakdown hissed, moving out first from the claustrophobic mine, with Dreadwing coming out of the mine next. A rash of swearing and yelling funneled from the Vehicons in the mine, making Breakdown and Dreadwing glance at each other tiredly.

Finally, Yosemite and Mortar shuffled out of the mine, Skystrider and Pillar following behind them, all the while the helicopter and jet Vehicon were arguing. Dreadwing stomped up to the two arguing Vehicons, who didn't notice him at first, and let out a dangerous rumble from his engine. Both squeaked nervously and shot away from Dreadwing, who shook his helm with a long sigh.

"We need to move out. Skystrider, replace Mortar on relay duty," Dreadwing ordered, getting sharp nods from Skystrider and Mortar as he commanded them. "Move out!"

"And that was how I got this scar. Pretty exciting, to be frank. Oh! And then, this one time I was on patrol with Knock Out and-"

"Skystrider, please," Breakdown begged, "you've been talking for the last four hours. I can't-"

"Ah, come on! One last story? It is a really good one, trust me! It's about how me, Knock Out and five other Vehicons got-"


Finally Skystrider seemed to get the hint as the young Vehicon shut up without another word. The youngest Vehicon had made it clear that he was part of Megatron's newer wave of jet Vehicons, produced while the Decepticons hid in the Nemesis on Earth. He was young and still naive to battle, but the only one of the group who showed any trace of optimism.

He reminds me of Smokescreen, Breakdown realized quietly.

He hadn't thought about the Autobots in hours, not since he had set off on the road with Dreadwing and the four Vehicons. His first thought was anger but, deep down, he did hope the Autobots were safe wherever they had been Bridged to. The Autobots had allowed him to live in their base and they'd saved him from MECH more than once. He owed the Autobots quite a lot but, his engine snarled darkly, he could not forgive them for their leader destroying the Omega Lock and all chances for Cybertron's revival.

The sudden rumble of his tires hitting the rumble strip on the far right of the road snapped Breakdown out of his thoughts and to the present. Night had fallen in the ten hours since Breakdown, Dreadwing and the Vehicons had seen the Decepticon patrol near Billings. Dreadwing's directions had taken them down from Montana, south through Wyoming and pnto Utah's interstate 40.

It was getting late, and Breakdown was, quite literally, running on fumes.


"Yes, Breakdown?"

"I'm pretty tired, I'm going to need a break. I'm turning off. Skystrider'll tell you where I am," Breakdown finally said as he hooked left across the deserted interstate onto a dirt road - his internal navigation computer said the road was called Miners Draw - and drove up the dirt road until he came to the first turn. At the left of the turn was a small, sandy cutoff that he quickly turned his wheel towards and rattled over the rough road. He drove on this small offroad track until he saw a small copse of trees in front of him and pulled into the cover of the trees.

Breakdown let out a large yawn as settled himself in under one of the trees, still in his alt mode, and finally shut off his engine. His engine ticked loudly as it slowly cooled down, though the heat from his engine told him it would be some time until it was completely cool. He had not driven for such a prolonged time in vorns as, even when he'd been scouting energon with Knock Out, they had rested after only a few hours of travel thanks to the medic's distaste for overheated tires.

He was a half asleep when the sharp sound of engines pulled him out of his recharge and to where Dreadwing and the Vehicons landed in front of him, each of them settling in for recharge in their alt modes.

Without any words shared between them, the six mechs all fell into a peaceful sleep.

A roll of distant thunder woke Breakdown suddenly from his recharge, his alt mode's mirrors twisting as awareness returned to him. The four Vehicons were still soundly in recharge under the tree to Breakdown's right but Dreadwing was nowhere to be seen.

Worry spiked at Breakdown's spark as he transformed out of his alt mode and stepped out from under the large tree. He searched the sky for Dreadwing but couldn't see - or hear - any hint of the Seeker anywhere nearby.

"Dreadwing?" Breakdown probed at the Seeker's comms, hoping that the blue jet was in range of the comms enough to hear his call.

No response.


Desperation flooded Breakdown's tanks as another klick passed without any contact from the blue and gold Seeker. Frag!

Without hesitating a moment longer, Breakdown transformed into his alt, wheeled to the east and sped away from the sleeping Vehicons. He activated his scanner and tuned it for traces of energon - if Dreadwing had been injured, he'd be able to detect him - but no trace showed up. Focused intently on finding Dreadwing, Breakdown thundered over the low shrubs and sandy washes, oblivious to how the rough, desert terrain thrashed at his undercarriage.

He raced along the sandy road for how long he did not know until his scanner came alive with a faint Decepticon signal, though its location was along a deep, sandy wash that led to sandstone formations of rock that ridged the sky like a beast's spine. As Breakdown raced over the sandy wash, he became thankful that his alt mode was made for rough, off road travel such as this.

He would never have made it if he had a sleek racer alt mode like Knock Out, Bumblebee or Wheeljack had. But his durable, war grade alt could take the pounding of off road travel and show no worse wear for it. He preferred off road travel to highways or roadways and not just because he didn't see humans when he went off roading.

Finally Breakdown reached the ridge where his scanner kept pinging out the one lone Decepticon signal that he assumed was Dreadwing - but assumptions and safety could not be taken lightly. He activated his shoulder cannon and slowly approached edge of the ridge, though he stopped short when he recognized Dreadwing staring up at the sky wistfully.

Dreadwing's helm turned towards Breakdown slowly, the Seeker's red optics dull with a sadness Breakdown could feel even from feet away. "Yes, Breakdown?"

"I didn't see you back with the others. I got worried."

A faint smile flickered across Dreadwing's faceplate before his mouth turned down into the Seeker's perpetual scowl. "You didn't need to worry, Breakdown, though I do appreciate the sentiment. It seems I should have told you I was going away for a bit. I will remember to do so next time."

Breakdown frowned slightly at the veiled dismissal in Dreadwing's tone before he stepped up to the Seeker and tilted his helm up so he could match Dreadwing's optics. He wasn't used to looking up into other Cybertronian's optics - he only had to with Optimus Prime and Megatron - and Dreadwing was taller than him by some feet.

"Why did you come out here, Dreadwing?"

"Out here is where I can feel closest to my brother," Dreadwing admitted quietly as he turned his back on Breakdown. "I cannot stop thinking about Skyquake and, out here, under the stars and away from anything else, is where it is easiest for me to remember all those eons I fought beside him. And now he's a monster."

Dreadwing lowered his helm as his wing kibble slowly folded against his back, the sorrow that pulsed from his frame too much for Breakdown to bare as he put some feet between himself and the Seeker. Thankfully, the Seeker did not notice Breakdown's movement as the blue jet let out a sigh and turned his helm towards the night sky once again.

"A part of me no longer exists now that my brother's spark has been extinguished. Much of my entire existence has been upheaved in such a short time that I do not know what I want anymore. I know now that seeking revenge for my brother will do nothing for me, or for his memories. And the very core of my entire purpose in this war has been revealed to me to be not what it once was.

"Megatron himself is no longer a being I could follow without hating myself. My brother died believing that Megatron was someone worth fighting for, not someone who would willingly allow a desecrator like Starscream to live upon our mighty warship."

"Megatron did the same as Starscream did to your brother," Breakdown said quietly, his words drawing a horrified gasp from Dreadwing before the Seeker's helm snapped to face him.

"What do you mean?"

"He used Dark Energon to reanimate all of those who died on Cybertron. He was planning to use that undead army of Cybertronian fallen to destroy the Autobots and Earth but the Autobots destroyed his Space Bridge before those undead could join him."

"Then Megatron is no better than Starscream," Dreadwing snarled. Rage, hate, fury, disgust, horror and, most potent of all, murderous calm surged off the tall Seeker as he turned his optics slowly to Breakdown. "Both Megatron and Starscream have brought great shame to the cause of the Decepticons and have dishonored every Decepticon that has fallen in this war. They deserve nothing less than to face their crimes and pay with their sparks."

"I know, Dreadwing," Breakdown sighed, "and I agree, but we should head back to the others before they wake up and get worried like I did."

Dreadwing stared off into the sky for a few klicks longer before the Seeker nodded slowly and shifted into his alt mode. "You are right. Let us go."

"You know, humans are the absolute oddest creatures in the universe," Pillar observed disgustedly.

The group of mechs were resting inside an abandoned building inside a Colorado town named Aguilar, watching as masses of children swarmed by the weathered building, dressed in varied costumes.

Breakdown was on guard by the door, watching for any sign of Decepticons or overly adventurous human children. Dreadwing was standing in the shadows, so silent he seemed almost to be a statue. In contrast though, all four of the Vehicons were busily chatting with each other about what was happening outside.

"What are they even doing?" Skystrider queried. "Humans are odd little buggers."

"I have no idea," Yosemite added quietly, "but does anyone know why humans do any of the weird things they do?"

The Vehicons chatter faded to the distance as Breakdown watched the rush of humans move by, their laughter mixing with the hoots and cheers of others.

"Hey, Breakdown!" Skystrider's call turned Breakdown's attention away from the door and to where the four Vehicons were standing.


"Oh, I was just wondering-"

Before Skystrider could finish his sentence, a red hot blast tore through the Vehicon's chest, leaving a gaping hole in his chest plate. Horror struck Breakdown, freezing his pedes to the ground as he stared soundlessly at the Vehicon.

"Help," Skystrider gasped, optics searching helplessly around his friends faceplates, before he collapsed to the ground, energon pooling out from his wound.

"NO!" Pillar shrieked as she lunged towards her fallen friend, just as a towering Cybertronian crashed through the roof, crushing Skystrider under its foot. Pillar froze, her chassis shaking as the Cybertronian rose up and smiled, its one sharp, clawed servo opening with a menacing screech of metal.

Even with the poor light pooling in from the roof, Breakdown recognized who this Cybertronian was.

"Razortalon," Breakdown whispered, voice shaken as the obsidian black Decepticon stepped off of Skystrider's crushed chassis and began stalking towards Breakdown.

She ignored the shots from Pillar, Mortar and Yosemite's blasters as they pinged off her armor. Razortalon only had one target in mind and, unfortunately, that was Breakdown - and she would not stop until he was dead. But that didn't stop her from bodily throwing Yosemite away as he charged her, slashing her sharp talons down Mortar's chestplate and punching Pillar clear across the room without even a second glance to her discarded adversaries.

"Leave her to me!" Breakdown ordered the Vehicons as they scrambled up, rage sparking in their visors at the murderer of their friend. "Get out of here, all of you!"

He did not wait to see if the Vehicons and Dreadwing listened before Breakdown activated his shoulder cannon and growled a challenge to the advancing Decepticon. Razortalon continued her advance, evil laughter pouring from her mouth as she stopped in front of Breakdown, optics blazing with wicked pleasure.

With unmatchable speed, Razortalon swung her cannon-arm straight into Breakdown, sending him crashing through the door of the building and skidding across the road. Breakdown scrambled to his pedes, ignoring the screaming humans running around him crazily as Razortalon strode out from the building, cannon-arm primed to blast a hole in his spark chamber.

Breakdown transformed both his servos into hammer-alts and lunged for Razortalon before she could fire, desperation to protect the Vehicons and Dreadwing forcing his every swing. Razortalon dodged his first swing easily, but her dodge sideways put her directly into the arc of Breakdown's second hit, which hit the Decepticon hard. Razortalon roared angrily in response as she slashed her clawed servo towards Breakdown, who ducked down to avoid her attack. Once her servo passed over his helm, Breakdown lunged up and swung at the Decepticon again, but she leapt to the side, dodging his attacks with precision this time.

"Fight!" Breakdown roared as Razortalon leapt to his right, forcing him to turn with her, but she was in his blind spot, and she was faster than him.

The first warning Breakdown had that Razortalon had grabbed him was the agonizing, tearing pain that stemmed from his back as her sharp claws slashed through his backstrut. Furiously Breakdown attempted to fight Razortalon off but she activated her jet engine and blasted off from the ground, leaving Breakdown with no advantage as her sharp talons dug deeper into his backstrut.

Breakdown turned his helm towards Razortalon as she carried him higher into the sky, his servos splaying desperately at the cannon-arm that she had hooked around his middle He had no way to escape from the Decepticon and, if he did, he knew all he'd meet was a dangerous fall to the rapidly vanishing ground below him.

"Like flying?" Razortalon mocked him with a steely laugh before she lowered her helm so that it was beside his, her optics flickering with malice. Razortalon's entire helm was obsidian black, except for the faint, magma-like glow from her red optics. A crooked, sinister smile curled over her faceplate as she turned her cannon-arm towards the building and, without warning, blasted it to fiery ruin.

"No!" Breakdown shouted, then began to thrash furiously, but the pressure of Razortalon's activated cannon pressed against his helm forced him to pause.

"You eluded me for too long," Razortalon growled, her voice sounding like claws dragging down ice, as her cannon began to glow to life-

"Razortalon!" The sound of Dreadwing's shout snapped Razortalon's attention away from Breakdown for one moment, but a very critical one at that. Breakdown, with both servos free, wrestled Razortalon's cannon-arm away from his helm and, with all the might he could summon, shoved it straight into the triple-changer's chestplate.

Razortalon's optics widened as she realized what was happening but, before she could do anything, her cannon fired, sending her hurtling away and her talons to rip from Breakdown's back. With nothing to hold him in the air, Breakdown fell, limbs flailing as he hurtled towards the ground-

But Dreadwing was there. Before Breakdown had fallen more than a few feet, Dreadwing dove beneath Breakdown, who landed on Dreadwing's jet alt with a loud crack. Breakdown scrambled to hold onto the slick metal of Dreadwing's alt mode as the great Seeker activated his engine and shot in the direction Razortalon had fallen.

It didn't take long for them to find Razortalon, lying still in a ruined church, sparks flying from a huge hole in her chestplate. Dreadwing hovered a few feet over the ground so Breakdown could slide off him, then transformed out of his alt mode and landed beside Breakdown, the Seeker's optics narrowed with fury. Both Breakdown and Dreadwing warily approached Razortalon's unmoving form, Breakdown with his shoulder cannon aimed at her helm and Dreadwing with his cannon held taught in his servos.

But Razortalon never moved as the two mechs approached her, not even when Breakdown kicked her chassis harshly. Breakdown turned to Dreadwing, then jerked his helm towards Razortalon's still form.

"Do you think she's dead?"

"Hopefully," Dreadwing hissed.

"But, for added measure," Breakdown hissed before he aimed his shoulder cannon at the Decepticon's helm and fired. The red blast of energy hit right on target, tearing Razortalon's helm to pieces, leaving behind only a pitiful scrap of metal and sparks jetting from her neck.

Breakdown turned to Dreadwing, with a savage flick in Razortalon's direction. "You go find the Vehicons, I'll dispose of this Decepticon's carcass."

Dreadwing nodded, transformed into his alt mode and roared away from the church. Breakdown turned to look at Razortalon, snarling as he begun to drag her away from the ruined church by her arm. It took awhile for Breakdown to drag Razortalon away from the town and where it could be hidden, when a cruel idea hit him.

Bending down to Razortalon's arm he began to fiddle with it until he found what he was looking for. Smile curving over his faceplate, Breakdown pressed the locator button and raced off to the abandoned building that he, Dreadwing and the Vehicons had been sheltering in. When he got to it, the building was still on fire and he couldn't see any of his companions.

"Dreadwing? Yosemite? Pillar? Mortar? Where are you guys?" Breakdown yelled as he leapt into the ruins of the burning building, dodging a falling piece of burning timber as he reached the middle of the building. There, amidst the flames, was a quivering form, shaking and sobbing over Skystrider's still form.

"Pillar?" Breakdown asked softly, moving up to where the femme Vehicon was laid over Skystrider. Pillar looked up at Breakdown, rotor blades sagging on the ground as her visor turned to a dull red.

"Why?" She asked, "Why…"

The fire was growing more in ferocity and, not wishing to become melted scrap, Breakdown pulled Pillar to her pedes. "Skystrider is gone, Pillar, but if you take him out of this building we can give him a proper burial. Just MOVE!"

Pillar shook at Breakdown's shout but did as he said, transforming into her helicopter alt and magnetizing Skystrider to her underbelly and took off, away from the flames. Breakdown did the same as pillar as he transformed into his alt mode and raced through the flames until he reached a wooded hill where Pillar had landed.

By the time Breakdown had reached the hill, Pillar had already begun to dig a hole for Skystrider's body, her sharp digits tearing at the soft ground furiously as her frame shook with quiet sobs. Breakdown knew that Pillar would not want his help or any offers of comfort, Breakdown hurriedly contacted Dreadwing, relief flooding through his spark when he saw three jets zooming his way.

Dreadwing, Mortar and Yosemite all landed, Yosemite and Mortar running to Skystrider's prone form and collapsing to the ground with screams of agony and rage ripping from their vocal processors as they leaned over their offlined friend's chassis. Dreadwing stopped beside Breakdown and lowered his helm slowly as the two former Decepticons watched the three remaining Vehicons mourn their fallen friend.

"Once we bury Skystrider, we must move on. If Razortalon was able to find us, then it is certain any of the other Decepticons could too," Dreadwing said softly. "But for now, we will let them mourn their friend."

Breakdown said nothing but hung his helm in silent vigil, for he was not just mourning the loss of Skystrider's life.

There was a dullness to the group now without Skystrider to sing or chatter away amicably over the comms. Even though it had been a full day since Skystrider had died, hardly a word had been spoken between the group.

Pillar had only spoken at Skystrider's burial, which had had to be rushed, then said nothing else since. Mortar and Yosemite would only talk when given orders to relay to Breakdown, but aside from that they said nothing. In turn, both Breakdown and Dreadwing had nothing much to say at all, both silenced by the loss of another one of their species.

And now with no hope of restoring Cybertron, every time a Cybertronian dies, we get that much closer to extinction, Breakdown mused to himself, shivering at the thought of the ever lingering fact that Breakdown's species was rare.

Even though Breakdown was beyond the point of exhaustion - they had been on the move since Skystrider's burial - he could not bring himself to rest. Not knowing what he would see in his sleep. Breakdown could not imagine what kind of nightmares would plague him now, and he most certainly was not in favor of finding out.

"Squadron, we can't go on much longer without rest. Come to these coordinates," Breakdown's comms flashed with the coordinates, as Dreadwing continued talking, "I'll be waiting."

"Affirmative," Yosemite, Pillar and Mortar all responded at the same time.

"On my way," was all Breakdown offered before he shut his comms completely off. Breakdown added the coordinates to his nav computer, then headed that way.

Luckily, Dreadwing's coordinates weren't very far from where Breakdown was and so it did not take him long to reach the area. The coordinates turned out to be those of an empty field, with little protection but for a few abandoned cargo containers.

Dreadwing noticed Breakdown and acknowledged his arrival with a brief nod before turning away as the three Vehicons landed in front of Dreadwing. "Use these cargo containers for protection for the night, we don't want to be spotted."

Mortar, Yosemite and Pillar moved with tired urgency to one of the three containers, squeezing into it without protest. Dreadwing began to move towards one of the remaining two containers but Breakdown stopped him by hooking one servo around the blue Seeker's arm.

Dreadwing turned his gaze on Breakdown, who let go of his arm almost instantaneously at the sad pain in his red optics. "Yes, Breakdown?"

"Dreadwing, I can't stay with you guys much longer. Razortalon was searching for me and Skystrider suffered for it. My presence is only endangering you and the Vehicons to further danger. If I leave, hopefully you will be able to go peacefully in your travels with those three on this planet."

Dreadwing bowed his helm, not answering for a bit of time before turning his full, commanding gaze on Breakdown. "I understand your sentiments, Breakdown."

"Good. I may not agree with what the Autobots did to our home but I have a debt to repay them and going back to the old base is my best option to find them," Breakdown explained.

"When will you leave us?" Dreadwing asked, tone mild.

"Tomorrow, early morning."

Dreadwing pondered for a bit then gave a soft nod to Breakdown. "We will accompany you to your destination. It is not too far from our current location, it won't take us long to get to Nevada. But once we are there, we will part ways."

"Of course. Thank you, Dreadwing," Breakdown said, nodding to Dreadwing before he selected the last container and squeezed inside the metal container quietly. He did not savor the thought of returning to the Autobots, but Breakdown would rather go back to them then endanger Dreadwing and the three remaining Vehicons any longer.

I'll help the Autobots with what they need, then once that is done, I'll leave. Yeah, I'll leave, Breakdown thought as he curled into a comfortable position to recharge, optic shuttering closed as the heavy patter of rain began outside.

The ground was soaking wet and muggy from the rainstorm that had lasted all night, when Breakdown awoke the next morning, stretching stiffly as he strode out of the cargo container.

"Yuck, I hate mud," Yosemite whined to the right of Breakdown, the squelching sound of pedes walking through mud followed by another round of complaining from the Vehicon.

Breakdown turned towards the Vehicons, quietly observing the three Vehicons struggling to get footing amongst the heavy bog of mud. Pillar finally seemed to give up as she transformed into her helicopter mode and hovered over the mud, rotors whipping the water that had congealed on top of the mud in every direction. A few splatters of grimy water hit Breakdown, the cold water chilling Breakdown down to his core.

Breakdown moved out of range of Pillar's rotorwash, his gaze being drawn away from the Vehicons when Dreadwing walked out of his cargo container, expression serious.

"Pillar, Mortar, Yosemite, we're moving out. I will take relay duty. We are headed to Nevada," Dreadwing ordered, ignoring the groan of displeasure from Pillar.

"Why Nevada?" She asked, transforming out of her alt mode to land indelicately on the muddy ground. "That's groons away from us."

"Because Breakdown will be leaving us. We are escorting him to the Autobot base, and then we will be on our way. Without him."

All three Vehicons whisked their gazes to Breakdown, their optics clouded with a mix of emotions, from shock, to disbelief, to confusion and even hurt.

"Why?" Yosemite questioned Breakdown, who sighed before answering.

"Because my presence is endangering you guys. Razortalon was looking for me, and me alone, and Skystrider was offlined because of me being with you five. I enjoyed traveling with you guys, for the short time I did, and I cannot bring myself to see any of you suffer anymore than you already have because of who you are traveling with," Breakdown explained, dodging the hurt looks being shot his way by the three Vehicons.

"Razortalon surprised us, Breakdown, it isn't your fault Skystrider died!" Mortar countered, desperation lingering in his voice.

"I'm sorry."


"Mortar," Dreadwing silenced the Vehicon, "it is what Breakdown wishes. We will oblige him and be on our way. No more arguing."

Mortar sighed then backed up, averting his gaze to the ground. Dreadwing glanced towards the rest of the group and signaled the group to move out.

"Breakdown?" Dreadwing's voice crackled through Breakdown's comms, waking him from his mindless driving.

"Yeah? What is it?"

"I was wondering. Megatron never told me why you left the Decepticons, and Knock Out would clam up whenever I asked him about you. What made you leave?"

Breakdown grew quiet at Dreadwing's question, his calm demeanor frosting over guardedly.

"Not much… Some issues with Megatron and Starscream, is all," Breakdown lied, evading the whole truth, as even now, nearly a year after MECH had captured him he still had issues talking about what had happened to him.

"I gathered it was something more-"

"I don't enjoy talking about it, Dreadwing," Breakdown snapped, closing off his comms with a furious rumble of his engine. High above, Dreadwing banked, then dove, zooming up beside Breakdown, matching his speed easily.

"I apologize, Breakdown," Dreadwing said before he shot off into the sky once again.

Breakdown said nothing to Dreadwing, his silence creating a sour note between the two former Decepticons.

If I tell him what happened - that I was captured by humans - Dreadwing will know what I really am. A weak, pathetic excuse for a Cybertronian...

Night had fallen and they still had not reached Jasper, Nevada. They weren't even close, which irritated Breakdown to no end. He was tired and cranky, and luckily there were no other cars on the small interstate Breakdown was driving down or they'd hear his engine snarling angrily.

"Hey! My scanners just picked up something huge! It's coming our way!" Yosemite called.

"Any idea what it was?" Breakdown asked the Vehicon, who was now swerving wildly in the sky.

"No. It wasn't any signature I knew, and not one registered in the databanks. It could be anyone, or anything," Yosemite reported, his voice growing taut with worry.

"Tell the others. It could be a Decepticon ship for all we know," Breakdown ordered as he to activated his scanner and began searching for whatever Yosemite had detected. Yosemite blasted off into the clouds to explain what was going on, a few moments later appearing once again below the clouds with Dreadwing, Mortar and Pillar following his suit.

Yosemite pulled up alongside Breakdown, Pillar's rotors beat over him, Mortar's engine thrummed behind Breakdown, while Dreadwing flanked him.

"Yosemite, have you seen any hint of this-"

A blast of fire cut off Dreadwing's words as, from the sky, a huge creature dove towards them. The creature was lizard-like in structure, with massive, long orange wings, a long hooked tail, and huge, pincered jaws - and it was Cybertronian.

"Oh, scrap!" Pillar shrieked. "What is that thing?"

No one answered Pillar as the huge creature banked towards them, its mouth opening as another jet of fire burst from its throat, just missing scorching Dreadwing. Breakdown swerved off the road and activated his cannon, firing it at the strange creature when it flew over him. His shot pinged off the thing's tail with a resounding thwack.

The creature whirled on Breakdown with an enraged roar, then dove towards him, throat blazing as fire built within its body. Only by Breakdown slamming on his brakes was he able to avoid the creature's talons, but even then only by the smallest of gaps. The creature's neck snapped around and blasted a gout of flame at Breakdown that he had barely a nanosecond to dodge - and even then he felt the flames race over his left flank.

Pain blistered at his side where the flames had melted his paint and scorched his metal, but he ignored it as he fired at the beast again with his cannon. The beast's tail hit Breakdown as shots from Pillar's scoped rifle, Dreadwing's cannon and Yosemite and Mortar's blasters hit its helm. The right side of Breakdown's hood smashed against a large road sign as the beast's tail sent him spinning across the road, stunning him for a klick.

Above him he heard the creature let out another vicious roar, then shot up into the sky, its giant wings beating wind and throwing sand and grit everywhere. Dreadwing, Mortar and Yosemite followed it in close pursuit, firing after the creature as Pillar hovered near Breakdown and fired her rifle at the creature's wings. Suddenly, the creature whipped around and dove straight towards the three jets chasing it, wings tucking to its body with a quick snap. The creature's throat stoked with flames and, just as it snapped its wings out to come to a sudden halt, it released its jet of flames once again.

Dreadwing, Yosemite and Mortar dodged the burning hot blaze, all three firing back in retaliation, but the creature's armor continued to deflect every single blast and missile sent its way.

"What can we do?" Pillar roared over the comms, "We can't defeat this-"

A flurry of blasts slammed into the creature, surprising it and sending it hurtling to the ground. A huge blue ship shrieked overhead and, as it banked around for another shot at the creature, the creature scrambled to its pedes and took off with a heavy windblast from its wings, hurtling away into the dark sky.

The blue ship did not pursue the creature, landing instead a ways from Breakdown, Dreadwing, Yosemite, Mortar and Pillar. Dreadwing slowly, subtly, pulled the cannon from his back and cocked it, leaving it towards the unknown ship. Breakdown activated his shoulder cannon and transformed his servos into their hammer modes, waiting, waiting for whatever threat would show itself this time. The three Vehicons all switched their servos into blaster mode too, engines rumbling nervously as they slowly backed up behind Breakdown.

A sudden hiss came from the ship and, slowly, a ramp lowered from the ship. Breakdown tensed more, but stopped at the sight of who was walking from the ship.

"Arcee?" Breakdown muttered, optic narrowing as the form of the femme two wheeler grew clearer. It was Arcee and, to his surprise, Wheeljack and Bulkhead, along with an Autobot Breakdown did not know, who walked out from the ship's ramp.

"These are the Autobots, right?" Dreadwing asked as he turned a querying look towards Breakdown, who nodded in response. "Then we must leave. Mortar, Pillar, Yosemite, let's go."

The three Vehicons transformed and blasted away, tearing off into the sky without a second glance. Dreadwing, though, stayed as he turned to face Breakdown.

"Good luck, Breakdown," Dreadwing said with a respectful bow of his helm. "May you find peace someday."

Breakdown returned the honorable bow to Dreadwing then straightened up, his optic locked onto Dreadwing's own. "Thank you, Dreadwing, for all you did for me."

Breakdown held out his servo to Dreadwing, who looked confused for a moment then held out his own and together, they clasped servos and shook. At the same time they released their hold and, slowly, Dreadwing began to back away from Breakdown.

"Oh, one last thing, Breakdown. Give one to Starscream for me, would you?" Dreadwing said before he turned and transformed into his jet alt and, with a roar of his engine, blasted away into the sky.

"Safe travels, Dreadwing," Breakdown said softly, then turned his back and walked up to the four Autobots, passing by them without saying a word to them.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Wheeljack questioned behind Breakdown.

"Who was that with you?" Arcee growled.

"Where are you going?" Bulkhead asked after Breakdown, who came to a stop, before turning partially towards the Autobots.

"We're wasting time here. Let's go."

The ship was called the Iron Will and was piloted by Ultra Magnus, who Breakdown got the impression of being extremely by the book and rigid. Breakdown had caught up with the Autobots on the Iron Will, learning that the creature that had attacked him and Dreadwing's group was some kind of Cybertronian dragon, or at least that was what it was according to Jack and Miko. Bulkhead and Wheeljack had encountered the Predacon, and had chased it with Ultra Magnus' help to where Breakdown had been.

It was pure coincidence that they had found Breakdown, though all of the Autobots seemed… pleased, to have Breakdown with them again. Bulkhead most of all, even Wheeljack, both of whom had voiced that it was nice to have Breakdown back with them. And, deep down, Breakdown realized he felt happy to see the two Wreckers again - though he made no notion of the truth to his former teammates.

The sky was turning to fire as the dawn sun rose slowly, out from the mountains and towards the sky as the Iron Will continued on its trajectory towards the Harbinger. The Iron Will began to decelerate, gradually lowering until it landed in a large canyon, coming to a full stop with a pressurized yawn.

"Come, soldiers," Ultra Magnus commanded as he stood from the pilot's seat and moved to the lift. Breakdown glanced towards Wheeljack and moved to the lift, careful to stay in the back of the group on the lift. The lift began to shift and touched ground amidst a haze of dust.

Once the dust had faded, two figures became noticeable - one of whom made the smallest hint of a smile twitch at Breakdown's mouth - those being Ratchet and Bumblebee, and even Rafael

"Raf!" Miko cried as she and Jack leapt from the lift and met the smallest human, who they pulled into a tight hug.

A small smile arced across Ratchet's faceplate at the sight of the Autobots. "You're alive," he breathed, optics brightening as Wheeljack, Arcee and Bulkhead walked off the lift, moving past him with pats on the back and smiles. Ratchet's gaze fell on Ultra Magnus, brow ridges rising in surprise.

"Ultra Magnus…"

"Doctor," Ultra Magnus greeted back, himself moving off the lift. Ratchet didn't notice Breakdown as Ultra Magnus walked up to him, the two older Autobots talking quietly between themselves. Breakdown sighed and shook his helm, unsurprised to not be greeted as the Autobots were.

"New paint job looks nice," Bulkhead's compliment turned Breakdown's attention to where he, Arcee, Bumblebee and Wheeljack were gathered, Bulkhead pointing out how Bumblebee had reversed his colors to pre-dominant black and less yellow.

"Yeah, at least you had something to work with," Arcee sniped, "if I reversed my colors, I'd be pink."

Bumblebee let out a snicker of beeps that sounded very close to laughter at Arcee, Bulkhead laughing right alongside Bumblebee.

"Our communications link needs further calibration to be compatible with Autobot frequencies," Ratchet's voice, louder this time than previously, drew Breakdown's attention back to him and Ultra Magnus. "The Ground Bridge, however, is fully operational."

Ultra Magnus looked like he was going to respond to Ratchet when Miko interjected into their conversation.

"That would have come in handy when robo-dragon was trying to eat us for breakfast."

Breakdown pressed a servo to his helm disbelievingly at Miko's words, a groan escaping his mouth as Ultra Magnus gave a surprised scoff.

"The indigenous population of this planet… do they all display the same disregard for authority?" Ultra Magnus' tone was dangerously soft as he gave a cold look to Ratchet.

"No," Ratchet assured, "mostly just Miko."

A sudden, loud roar drew Breakdown, and the others, attention to the sky, where a jet, much like Dreadwing's alt mode, raced towards them. Ultra Magnus immediately activated his blasters, charging forwards as his weapons began to charge.


"Don't shoot!"

"Calm down, he's with us!" Bulkhead's words finally drew Ultra Magnus to a stop, the Autobot commander lowering his blasters slowly as the jet landed. Jack, Miko and Rafael ran towards the jet as Agent Fowler and Jack's mother unloaded from inside the jet.

Breakdown turned his attention away from the humans and back to the Autobots.

"The only signals Ultra Magnus was able to isolate are standing right here," Arcee said, looking down at Agent Fowler who had come over to the group.

"Maybe his scanner is faulty," Wheeljack suggested snidely.

"So the kid is unaccounted for," Bulkhead mused.

"Smokescreen Bridged out unaccompanied, only Optimus knows where," Ratchet said, "and Optimus stayed behind, to destroy the Ground Bridge to ensure that everyone else made it to safety."

"I watched the base go down," Agent Fowler said, "no one or thing walked out of there."

"Not that we could see," Jack's mother said hopefully.

"Even if Prime survived, I'm not sure we can afford to wait for him to show up. Not with Megatron holding our planet at hostage from his high and mighty perch of Darkmount," Fowler said.

"Darkmount?" Breakdown muttered, confused. Darkmount was on Cybertron, in the wastes of Cybertron's southernmost regions - what in the world was it doing here, on Earth?

"I would be inclined to agree with the native lifeform," Ultra Magnus said as he strode up between the Autobots and peered down at Agent Fowler, "we must stop Megatron, with or without Optimus Prime."

"And how can we do that?" Breakdown snapped, drawing a disapproving glare from Ultra Magnus. "All we have is the Iron Will and what few supplies the Harbinger still has with it. Megatron has that dragon creature, his army of Insecticons, Vehicons and Eradicons and Soundwave, Starscream and Knock Out, and who knows what else."

"We will have to try our best," Arcee growled, her optics hot with anger as she shot Breakdown a frosty glare.

"But our best might not be enough this time," Breakdown snarled, stopping only when Ultra Magnus gave him a quiet glare.

"We must do everything in our power to ensure Megatron's downfall, but we will need to be smart about it," Ultra Magnus said, looking at every mech gathered around him.

"Whoa, who put shoulder pads in command?" Wheeljack grumbled quietly as Ultra Magnus frowned openly at Wheeljack's comment.

"Uh, temporary command," Jack added, though his words only elicited a snort of disgust from Wheeljack.

"Ultra Magnus is the only logical choice," Ratchet said. "He was trained by Optimus and served as his commanding officer throughout the war for Cybertron."

"Well, then, if there is no further objection, soldier," Ultra Magnus looked down at Wheeljack, "please, follow me." Ultra Magnus wheeled on his pedes and marched back to the Iron Will's lift.

"Aye, aye, Captain," Wheeljack muttered quietly, though he still turned and moved after Ultra Magnus. Breakdown glanced towards Ratchet, who met his gaze wordlessly and followed after the rest of the Autobots.

Once Breakdown and the Autobots had settled on the lift, it advanced back into the belly of the Iron Will. The lift came to a stop and Ultra Magnus walked off it, not towards the piloting area but the very back of the ship where he activated a panel that slid open to reveal an assortment of weapons. There were a number of weapons from guns to others that Breakdown could not recognize - but it was all much needed firepower for the Autobots and Breakdown.

Ultra Magnus turned to the Autobots and, as he moved away from the weapons locker, said, "Autobots, take your pick."

Wheeljack breathed a sigh of appreciation before he moved up to the weapons lock. "Now you are speaking my language, sir."

"Move swiftly, we don't have much time," Ultra Magnus urged as, outside, the sun finally rose out from the hills and flooded the world with light.

Chapter Text

Breakdown circled around Wheeljack and Bulkhead, engine rumbling with a low, deadly snarl as he sneered darkly at the Wreckers. "Come on, Autobot scum, fight!"

Wheeljack's swords were drawn, which he would spin and strike against the ground as he circled around Breakdown to his right. Bulkhead's blasters were aimed right at Breakdown, the large green mech's optics narrowed to enraged slivers.

Then, en masse, Wheeljack and Bulkhead lunged for Breakdown. Breakdown swerved to the side, rammed his shoulder into Wheeljack, who stumbled from the brunt attack, pedes slipping out from underneath him, leaving him vulnerable. Seeing an opportunity, Breakdown grabbed Wheeljack by his door wing and threw him into Bulkhead, who stumbled back from Wheeljack's weight and collapsed to the ground.

Growling, Breakdown approached the two fallen Autobots, activated his shoulder cannon and aimed it at Bulkhead's chestplate. "You're dead, Bulkhead. Again. Are you even trying to beat me?

"You cheated," Bulkhead protested as Breakdown deactivated his shoulder cannon, helped Wheeljack to his pedes and offered Bulkhead a servo up. Bulkhead grasped onto Breakdown's servo as Breakdown yanked yanked Bulkhead up, optic rolling as Bulkhead dusted himself off.

"I didn't cheat, Bulkhead, I told you last time that I'm fighting like a Decepticon would. Wasn't that the whole point of this training?" Breakdown asked exasperatedly.

"Yeah, but," Bulkhead started but a bored glare from Breakdown changed his opinion, "oh, whatever."

"Again?" Wheeljack suggested, looking towards Breakdown then Bulkhead as he sheathed his swords.

"Nah," Bulkhead decided, "I'm tired of getting punched-"

"Well, I had fun punching you, Bulkhead," Breakdown snorted, Bulkhead's absolutely offended expression only serving to make Breakdown's engine rumble with mirth even harder, though he cut off his laughter after a nanosecond.

"Not funny," Bulkhead pouted, which made Wheeljack's intakes snort with laughter for a brief moment.

Bulkhead's expression twisted into one of absolute consternation at Wheeljack's mocking snort and, when the green Wrecker tried to complain, it only made Wheeljack's snort turn into laughter. And, when Bulkhead turned on Wheeljack and protested with a high whine, Breakdown felt himself laugh.

Wheeljack and Bulkhead alike stared at Breakdown, who straightened up at the focused gazes from the two Wreckers. Before either Wrecker could even think of saying anything to him, Breakdown moved out of the training room of the Harbinger as fast as possible.

Once he had gained some distance from the training room and Bulkhead, Breakdown slowed down to a subdued walk. His thoughts wandered to the days before joining the Decepticons, the days when he fought solely for the Wreckers. He had loved the Wreckers, loved the sense of fulfillment that had filled his spark after every mission, and he had loved the family he'd formed with the members of the Wreckers. The difference from who he was when he was with the Wreckers to who he became in the Decepticons was drastic.

Friendships and bonds had always been discouraged in the Decepticon hierarchy, but that had been one part of himself he'd never been able to fully change. He wanted companionship, wanted friendships, and that was what had pushed him to understand the underappreciated Vehicons better and become close to as many of them as he could.

Their friendship at least was genuine, unlike Knock Out's had been. The Decepticon medic had seen his chance to acquire a medical assistant and bodyguard for himself and he'd gotten exactly that from Breakdown. And Breakdown, for centuries, had believed the medic's desire to have him around was genuine but, he knew now, that his view on their former friendship and Knock Out's view on him were two totally different things.

"Breakdown?" The sound of Ratchet's voice, coming from his left, snapped Breakdown from his thoughts and halted his strides.

"Yes, Ratchet?" Breakdown asked slowly as he turned to face the medic standing close to him in the cramped hallway of the Harbinger.

"I wanted to check in with you while I have the chance. The repairs - if you can call them that - I did to your legs were not made for strenuous travel, and I doubt you've had anyone-"

"Uh..." Breakdown stammered as he looked down at the legs that Ratchet had repaired for him and Dreadwing and his Vehicons had helped repair, then gave Ratchet a mild shrug of his shoulder plates. "I had to coach Dreadwing and his Vehicons through the repairs they did on my legs when they found me. They had to use material from repository dumps the Nemesis made. But they just did touch ups, Ratchet, you were the one who repaired them with the materials you had at the base.

"Though I have been feeling pretty sore. Likely didn't help that I went off roading a few days ago..."

Ratchet raised a disbelieving optic ridge at Breakdown's statement before he forcibly grabbed Breakdown's arm. "You Wreckers are all the same. Come on, let's get you to the medical bay," he muttered, "it is my duty to check on my patients, especially those dumb enough to perform surgery on themselves! What do Decepticon medics get taught anyways, by Primus!"

Ratchet began to drag Breakdown away, muttering to himself darkly as they trudged towards the medical bay.

"Well, that is all I could do with limited supplies and tools," Ratchet explained as he gestured irritably at Breakdown, frustration bordering at the edge of the medic's voice.

"Ratchet, it's fine. They function well, so I'm happy, okay?" Breakdown said, hoping his words would calm the fretting medic down. Ratchet stopped pacing at least, though he still gave Breakdown a scrutinizing look.

"Fine. Since I can't do any more currently, I'll let it slide," Ratchet grumbled before turning to glare at Breakdown. "Well? What are you still doing here? Get out, I have work to do!"

Flustered, Breakdown scrambled to his feet, nodded thanks to Ratchet and hurried out of the medical bay. Ratchet was grumpier than usual, as the medic would snap and snarl at the slightest noise, a surliness Breakdown knew was centered on the two missing Autobots. No one had seen any trace of Autobots signals nor had anyone received any messages from Smokescreen or Optimus Prime, not even the Iron Will had been able to detect the two missing Autobots.

Breakdown shook his helm and turned to his room, needing recharge for the next day's battle.

"Autobots, we know we are vastly outnumbered and, despite our munitions, do not currently possess the firepower necessary to compromise the Decepticon citadel."

The Autobots and Breakdown had woken early and were now preparing to attack Darkmount, which Ultra Magnus was currently briefing them on. Breakdown, Bulkhead and Wheeljack where double and triple checking the weapons they had received from Ultra Magnus the day before as Ultra Magnus spoke behind them.

"Uncle Sam's military does, I just can't let them make a move so long as Megatron's rays guns are pointed at Washington," Agent Fowler said in response.

"Then we must infiltrate Darkmount in order to nullify its fusion cannons," Ultra Magnus decided, the discussion he was having drawing Breakdown's attention away from Bulkhead and Wheeljack.

"The problem is that the fortress is heavily shielded against unauthorized Ground Bridges, even those originating from Decepticon technology," Ratchet said pessimistically.

"Guess we'll have to sneak past enemy lines, Wrecker style," Wheeljack interjected as he smashed his servos together with a sharp clank.

"I couldn't deal with Wrecker style back on Cybertron, and I refuse to deal with it here," Ultra Magnus snapped, eliciting a low growl from Wheeljack. "Now we require of thinning the Decepticon ranks to even the odds, if we are to have any chance of completing this mission. Or of surviving it."

"Oh, that makes me feel better," Breakdown growled quietly before he looked over at Wheeljack, who rolled his optics in agreement.

"But what can we do?" Arcee asked, glancing over to Ratchet, who looked deep in thought.

"Maybe the Iron Will could be used to draw some of Megatron's forces away- No, that wouldn't be enough," Ratchet surmised, anger sparking through his optics as he suddenly punched the wall of the Harbinger.

Icy claws of shock pierced into Breakdown's spark at Ratchet's unexpected outburst, which every other mech seemed surprised by too.

"You okay, Ratchet?" Bulkhead asked the medic, getting only a furious glare in response.

"No, I am not okay!" Ratchet snarled weakly, turning his gaze away from the mechs gathered at the Harbinger's control room. "Optimus is gone, Smokescreen is missing, how can you think I am OKAY?"

"Ratchet, calm down," Arcee urged, earning herself another glare from Ratchet. Arcee stiffened at Ratchet's glare and turned away, Bulkhead began to pipe in with ideas, which Ultra Magnus promptly flattened as foolish. Wheeljack fumed and began to yell at Ultra Magnus, something along the lines of "who made you boss?" again.

Breakdown didn't throw out an idea, instead looking down to the humans, who kept glancing up at the Autobots than to each other. Miko threw her hands in the air and snapped something quietly to Jack, who forlornly shook his head. He couldn't hear what they were saying for all of the shouting from the Autobots arguing over their plan on sieging Darkmount.

Wait… The humans! Of course!

"I have an idea," Breakdown began, though none of the Autobots seemed to hear him as they continued to argue. Breakdown scowled darkly at the Autobots before he rolled his optic and shook his helm. "Typical."

Sighing, Breakdown glanced down to Miko then reached down and picked her up by the back of her shirt. Miko tensed up the minute Breakdown grabbed her, her eyes turning to him warily as he lifted her up to his optic level.

"What, Breakdown?" Miko snapped, her arms crossed with a furious expression as she glared into his sole optic.

"Could you do me a favor?"

Miko startled at Breakdown's request, an expression of pure confusion flushing over her face. "What?"

Breakdown sighed then pressed a servo to his faceplate before looking at the female human once again. "I've got a plan for how we can lessen the number of Megatron's forces at Darkmount, but I'm going to need you to help me get the attention of these arguing fools."

Miko's eyes lit up as Breakdown began to explain his plan to her, a devilish smile growing ever wider as Breakdown finished.

"You really want to do this? You're not going to do anything, right?" Miko asked Breakdown.

Breakdown nodded to her first question then glared at her for her second question. He did not want Miko to realize how much he didn't want to, but if they were going to get anywhere in planning their attack on Darkmount he had to. Breakdown lowered Miko to the ground, who scampered off for a few minutes, minutes filled with the Autobots still arguing, so much so that when Miko returned with her guitar, they still were going at it.

Breakdown lowered himself down onto one knee and watched as Miko unraveled a long cord from her guitar, holding it out to Breakdown once she had fully unraveled the black cord. Breakdown hurriedly hooked the cords into his radio system and cranked the volume setting to its max volume. Miko glanced up to Breakdown, giving him a thumbs up just as he shut off his audio receptors, and then, with her typical exaggerated flare, strummed her guitar.

By the way the Autobots all reacted, Breakdown was thankful he had decided to shut off his audial receptors, though he quickly snapped them back on and unplugged Miko's guitar from his radio system once had the Autobots' undivided attention. Ratchet and Wheeljack were staring at Breakdown, mouths hanging open as Arcee and Bumblebee rubbed at their helms, speechless. Bulkhead and Ultra Magnus were both furiously scrubbing at their helms also, though Ultra Magnus whipped on Breakdown with a threatening rumble from his engine.

"WHAT WAS THAT?" Ultra Magnus roared, optics blazing with disgust as Breakdown straightened up to his pedes.

"Did it have to be so loud?" Bulkhead complained as he cast an accusatorial look between Breakdown and Miko, both of whom shrugged.

"Yes," Breakdown replied, "it was the only way I was going to get your attention."

"And why would that be?" Ultra Magnus growled, advancing slightly on Breakdown. Breakdown put one servo on his hip plates and pointed towards the humans. Ultra Magnus stared at them for a while, then looked back at Breakdown. "I do not understand what you are trying to say, soldier."

Breakdown rolled his optic and pointed at the humans one more time. "You have the humans, so why not use them? I suspect Soundwave has their electronic devices tapped so that whenever they use them it alerts the Nemesis-"

"Of course!" Ratchet suddenly interrupted, drawing every Autobot's attention to him. "Brilliant idea, Breakdown!"

"Uh, Ratchet, I'm confused? What are you getting at?" Bulkhead asked.

"We use the humans as 'bait'! If we Bridge them to random places and then have them use their cellphones, it could draw a few squadrons away from Darkmount. We would Bridge the kids back, of course, but it should be enough," Ratchet said, excitement flush in his voice as he began tapping away at the Harbinger's controls.

"I don't know, Ratchet, it could get dangerous," Bulkhead said, followed by a flurry of beeps from Bumblebee.

"Ah, who cares!" Miko exclaimed, "Let's do it!"

Breakdown, Wheeljack, Bulkhead, Arcee, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Ultra Magnus had all gathered in the Harbinger's control room, only klicks away from heading to Darkmount. The plan was to send Miko and Jack out to different locations in the United States and then use their phones, which they had learned previously were tapped by the Decepticons, to hopefully draw out a group of Decepticon soldiers. They had sent Miko to New York and, ironically enough, Jack to the gas station where Breakdown had fought against Bulkhead and Arcee alongside Airachnid so many months ago.

Meanwhile, Agent Fowler and a squadron of jet fighters were waiting at a nearby base for confirmation of the Autobot attack on Darkmount as successful, for they were going to bomb Darkmount.

"There's five Decepticons closing in on Jack!" Rafael pointed out as the Harbinger's monitor displayed five Decepticon signatures converging on Jack's position.

"Not anymore," Ratchet replied as he reactivated Jack's Ground Bridge.

Moments later, Jack leapt through the Ground Bridge and landed on the ground with a soft thump, then snapped a thumbs up to Ratchet.

Ratchet nodded before he addressed Miko over their comms. "Miko, it's your turn."

Another five Decepticon signatures appeared moments after Ratchet had contacted Miko, and then Ratchet reopened the Ground Bridge once more. A moment or two later, Miko leapt through the Ground Bridge, turned her helm towards the Ground Bridge as it vanished and said, "I really could have used that pizza."

"I've tapped into the Decepticon communications network, are you ready, Jack?" Ratchet asked, gaze turning to Jack, who had moved up next to Miko.

Jack cleared his throat and, with an attempt at a deeper voice said, "Decepticon command, do you read me?"

Breakdown quirked an optic ridge, as Ratchet and Ultra Magnus just stared at Jack, Ultra Magnus' expression turning to thinly veiled disbelief.

"I remain unconvinced," Ultra Magnus said coolly.

"I will enhance your performance with static," Ratchet said with a slight shrug of his shoulderplates. Jack nodded in response, moving closer so Ratchet could pick him up and place him on the control panel.

"Decepticon command, do you read? We are under Autobot attack!" Jack repeated through the comms. They only had to wait a few minutes before a large swarm of Decepticon signatures swarmed on the location Ratchet had put into Jack's transmission.

Seeing that, Ultra Magnus wheeled to the assembled mechs, frame stiff. "Autobots, lock and load!"

Ultra Magnus cocked the large gun in his servos as Bumblebee activated his new shield device and gun, Bulkhead charged his cannon, Arcee pulled out her small gun, Wheeljack cocked his gun and Breakdown charged the large Gatling cannon he'd picked from Ultra Magnus' cache.

A Ground Bridge opened up behind the Breakdown and the five other Autobots then, at once he, Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Wheeljack charged through the Ground Bridge.

"So that's Darkmount," Breakdown muttered as the Ground Bridge shut behind the five mechs, leaving them a view of a dark tower that seemed to stretch miles into the blackened sky with dark clouds flanking its sharp structure. Arcee and Bumblebee peeled away from the three former Wreckers quickly, heading towards the tower in hopes that the two smallest Autobots could sneak inside Darkmount.

"It's bigger than I imagined," Bulkhead whispered to Breakdown's right, which elicited a grunt of agreement from Wheeljack.

"Enough chatter you three!" Ultra Magnus shouted over their comms - he'd not gone through the Ground Bridge so that he and the Iron Will could fend off the Decepticon's Cybertronian dragon should it be brought into the fight.

"Let's go," Wheeljack whispered as he signaled for Breakdown and Bulkhead to follow him. The three former Wreckers moved towards the front of the looming fortress as swiftly and quietly as they could - they didn't want to be found just yet.

"There!" Bulkhead gestured to a cluster of rocks that the three former Wreckers could use as cover near the tower. Breakdown ducked down against the rock, optic shifting to Wheeljack as the scarred Wrecker pulled one of his grenades from his belt and lobbed it towards Darkmount's entrance.

The grenade did not hit Darkmount but the hard ground outside of the entrance, leaving behind an explosion of bright blue energon and clumps of rock.

"Fire in another hole!" Wheeljack called as he chucked another grenade at Darkmount, this one hitting only a small ways closer to Darkmount than the first, leaving behind the same effect as the first grenade.

Once the explosion was clear, Breakdown, Wheeljack and Bulkhead charged towards Darkmount's entrance. The three of them had almost reached the entrance when Breakdown picked up the faint, but familiar sound of Eradicon engines diving towards them.

"Above us!" He shouted before he skidded to a halt just as a hail of red energy bursts hit the ground around him.

Breakdown snarled and aimed his gatling cannon up at the swiftly advancing Eradicons and fired. One Eradicon got hit, its wing flying from its chassis and sending the broken Eradicon crashing into another Eradicon. The two Eradicons vanished in a fiery explosion as the sound of Bulkhead's new gun fired near Breakdown, causing another Eradicon to fall in a fiery haze of smoke and flames.

Breakdown wheeled to the left, still firing as Wheeljack pulled out one of the other weapons he had taken from Ultra Magnus' cache and activated it, a long, energon charged whip spooling from its hold. Wheeljack swung the whip, catching three Eradicons in its devastating, charged wake as it snapped through the Eradicon squadron. All three hit Eradicons exploded immediately, leaving behind only the smell of acrid, burning metal.

For every Eradicon Breakdown, Wheeljack and Bulkhead destroyed, two more seemed to replace it in an endless stream of silver. Breakdown fired a few more rounds of the gatling cannon then, as shots from the Eradicons guns hit around him, switched into his alt mode and charged for Darkmount's entrance, Wheeljack and Bulkhead driving right alongside him.

The Eradicons chased after the three former Wreckers, making each of the three have to continuously dodge fiery hot blast after fiery hot blast that landed close to them, too close for comfort. They were nearing the entrance, only a few more yards, but the Eradicons-

Let up? The Eradicons attacks had suddenly halted and, as Breakdown, Wheeljack and Bulkhead transformed out of their alt modes, shot past them and back towards Darkmount, disappearing into the dark clouds just as a deep roar echoed from the top of Darkmount.

High above, on an outcropping pillar where the Nemesis was resting, came the dragon Cybertronian, its mandibled jaws opening with another roar. Wheeljack snapped a look towards Breakdown and Bulkhead as the huge creature opened its orange wings and took flight.

As it dove towards them, all three began to fire their weapons towards it, Breakdown with the heavy gatling cannon, Wheeljack with his servo gun and Bulkhead with his new gun. The dragon dodged each blast with surprising finesse for such a large creature until a round of shots hit it from the side, knocking it off kilter, where none of the three's weapons could reach.

Ultra Magnus shot overhead with the Iron Will, drawing the dragon's attention away from Breakdown and his companions and, with a booming screech, the dragon chased after the Iron Will. The dragon was closing in fast on the Iron Will, its underbelly beginning to glow a hot orange with flames as it grew closer and closer to the Iron Will.

"Come on, Magnus!" Bulkhead shouted just as a Ground Bridge opened up in front of the Iron Will. Ultra Magnus and the Iron Will shot upwards, just missing the Ground Bridge, but the dragon was not able to dodge the Ground Bridge and it vanished into it without even a roar.

"Yes!" Wheeljack shouted. "Take that, lizard-breath!"

High above, the Iron Will banked around, diving towards Darkmount as a static crackle came over Breakdown, and the others, comms. "Ultra Magnus to Stealth Team, status report!"

"Having a little trouble reaching the objective," Arcee replied, the sound of guns being fired distant from her comms, "security is tighter than anticipated, sir."

"Keep them occupied!" Ultra Magnus commanded as he piloted the Iron Will to the open spire of Darkmount. The iron Will hovered over the spire's platform for a few moments then blasted away.

The respite from the Eradicon attack forces did not last long as, with the dragon gone, they came back in droves, guns firing. Breakdown, Wheeljack and Bulkhead all formed into a tight circle, backs to each other, as they fired their weapons into the writhing mass of Decepticon forces. It seemed like there were more Eradicons than before, as no matter how many Breakdown, Wheeljack and Bulkhead destroyed, it did not seem to help dwindle the forces.

The sudden sound of a charging cannon was the only warning the three were afforded before they were hit with a powerful blast. The blast created an explosion right under their pedes, sending all three flying and crashing to the ground with mixed cries of pain.

Breakdown struggled to try and rise to his pedes as a large purple Decepticon approached Wheeljack, Bulkhead and himself, but he collapsed into darkness beside his two fallen companions before he could stand.

Pale, dawn light seeped into Breakdown's optic as he woke from the darkness, a pained groan escaping his mouth as he slowly attempted to struggle to his pedes. But something stopped him, something cold and sharp pressed into his helm. Breakdown peeked up, noting a Vehicon with its gun pressed to his helm standing over him.

Breakdown growled threateningly to the Vehicon, which earned himself a hard whack over his helm from the Vehicon's gun in response. Angrily, Breakdown turned his gaze away from the Vehicon, relieved to see Wheeljack and Bulkhead were still online, though both were in the same predicament as he was. More Vehicons surrounded the three Wreckers as Arcee and Bumblebee were thrust down beside the Wreckers.

Standing in front of the Autobots and Breakdown was a massive, hulking Decepticon Breakdown recognized with a nervous hiss of his vents. Wheeljack growled beside Breakdown as he too awoke, his optics shifting up to face the Decepticon tank.

"Who's that?" Wheeljack hissed quietly as he jerked his helm subtly towards the tank.

"Shockwave," Breakdown growled, only to receive another hard whack over his helm from the Vehicon guarding him.

"Quiet," the Vehicon snarled to him. Breakdown recognized the Vehicon's harsh voice as that of Turbulence, one of the Vehicons who had ambushed the Autobots prior to Ratchet's discovery of the synthetic energon formula. Turbulence had once liked Breakdown and followed him everywhere but, now, he could not recognize the hatred within the jet's words.

He knew why the Vehicons hated him but seeing it himself hurt Breakdown deeply. To the Vehicons, Breakdown had betrayed them when he'd left the Nemesis and sought refuge with the Autobots. And he'd been forced to kill Vehicons like Shockblast to aid the Autobots in their struggle against the Decepticons. They would never forgive him for killing their own, let alone for turning against the Decepticons.

"Transport the prisoners to Darkmount," Shockwave ordered the Vehicons just as Bumblebee let out a shrill round of trills that drew the attention of the hulking Decepticon to the sky. Something large, though not as large as the Iron Will or the Decepticon's dragon, shot overhead with the roar of heavy engines, headed straight