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Transformers Fanfic Series - Transformers Chronicles
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This is a one-shot fic I came up with last night. It primarily involves my fancharacter, Skybolt, and is not set in any established Transformers canon. I will likely be writing most future Transformers fics in this same "universe," which I will call "Transformers Chronicles."

PATHFINDER

Somewhere in the skies over Africa, a lone UAV dutifully scanned the ground below as it flew. This lone drone wasn't performing surveillance for any human government though. Instead, it was scouting for Energon, the fuel and life-blood of its Cybertronian allies: the Autobots.

Although not a truly living machine like the Autobots, this gray and gold machine was sentient, and had decided for itself to take on the task of scouting for Energon and monitoring for Decepticon activity outside the range of their base's scanners. Initially, this construct, known as Skybolt, attempted to aid the Autobots on the battlefield, another decision it had made on its own. Unfortunately, a series of events following the death of its mentor, Dashlane, would lead it to determine itself unfit for battle.

"Skybolt to Autobot base," the UAV spoke into its internal commlink in a soft, masculine voice.

"Jazz here. 'Sup, Sky? Did ya find Energon or 'Cons?"

"Energon cache detected, along with unidentified signal," Skybolt replied. "I am moving in to investigate further."

"Careful out there, Sky," warned the Autobot lieutenant. "That signal could be bait for a 'Con booby trap."

"All sensors are on full alert," Skybolt replied. "Weapons systems are primed and ready for hostile encounters."

"Don't get in over your helm out there, and keep us posted, okay?"

"Affirmative. Skybolt out."

Skybolt closed the comm connection before landing outside of an abandoned diamond mine. He transformed into his robot mode and activated his weapons and performing a cautious scanner sweep of the area, which didn't pick up any Decepticons, either inside the mine or approaching. He proceeded to enter the mines, activating his night vision to compensate for the lack of light as he traveled deeper and deeper, following the Energon readings and strange signal.

As he continued, he noted that his chemical sensors were still picking up traces of diamond, indicating that the mine wasn't abandoned due to being stripped. He began to wonder what caused the humans to abandon this mine prematurely, and his mind began to drift toward trying to answer that question. The most logical explanation he could come up with was that the Energon overloaded the mining equipment, as most human machines couldn't handle the power of the substance. He would soon refocus his mind on the task at hand once the Energon crystals were in view. With them was something else, which Skybolt assumed was the source of the signal. He cautiously approached the object in question, which appeared to be a dark green and silver, feminine-looking robot who appeared to be Cybertronian. He activated his comm once more.

"I have located the Energon and the source of the unidentified signal," he reported. "It appears to be a Cybertronian or similar mechanical being. I am transmitting coordinates now."

"Coordinates received, Sky," Jazz replied. "We'll be wit'cha soon. Jazz out."

Skybolt leaned over the mysterious robot, whose green eyes flickered as if she were low on power. "Are you damaged?" Skybolt asked.

"Motor relays...are offline," the robot replied in a soft, feminine voice. "Propulsion systems are critical."

"My allies will be coming soon. They can see to your repairs."

"That is...kind of you," the femme replied. "What is...your name?"

"I am designated 'Skybolt.' What is your name?"

"I do not have one. I am a third-generation Camien Energon Probe...Model 1221."

"Why do you not have a name?"

"I'm...not really alive. I was never intended to be sentient."

"Neither was I. Skybolt is the name given to the project that created me. I determined that it was a suitable designation early in development."

"I never thought of a name for myself," the probe admitted. "By the time I became sentient, I had long since lost contact with Caminus."

"Your voice pattern indicates sadness. What happened?"

"My first conscious decision was to find that out for myself. I traveled back to Caminus, but there was nothing but empty buildings and rusted scraps. Nobody was left...anywhere. They all rusted away."

"I understand loss. I have experienced it myself. My mentor...and closest friend...was terminated in battle."

"I never developed such a bond with anyone. By the time I gained that capacity...there was no one left to bond with. I spent six million Camien Steller Cycles...alone."

"I...chose isolation. My mentor's death was only the beginning of a series of events that would lead me to conclude that I was not fit for frontline combat. I opted to serve as a remote scout."

"What happened?"

"Grief consumed me. It led to anger...a desire for revenge. The Decepticon Starscream capitalized on that. He offered me weapon and armor upgrades to terminate the one who terminated my friend....Megatron. I accepted Starscream's offer, and once the upgrades were complete, I confronted Megatron. He was ready for me. He anticipated my attempt at vengeance. He exploited it to reprogram me, turning me against my allies. Were it not for my main human creator, Andrea Morales, I would still be a Decepticon. The Skybolt standing before you would no longer exist."

"I'm....I'm sorry, Skybolt."

"You do not need to apologize."

"I don't know what else to say. Caminus has never been at war that I know of."

As Skybolt continued to speak to his new companion, the Autobots had made their way into the mine and were approaching his location.

"Optimus, I'm not picking up any life signals," Ratchet reported with a sigh as he glanced down at his med-scanner.

"I don't think Skybolt would lie about something like a bot," Bumblebee countered.

"It's probably just another drone like him,"

"What if it's a Synth?" Jazz suggested. "If it is, we can't just leave it here."

"If that is the case, then I am in full agreement with Jazz," Optimus added. "If the mechanism in question is sentient and in need of aid, we shall render it."

"Oh, for Spark's sake," Ratchet grumbled under his breath. "One Synth is enough!"

Both Jazz and Bumblebee glared at the medic. "Aww, mute it, Doc-Bot," the warrior fired back. "If an innocent bot is hurtin' down here, you gotta patch it up no matter what."

"It's a bot alright," Bumblebee announced, having spotted the probe as he approached the Energon cache. "Looks like she's been down here for Primus knows how long."

"Hello, allies of Skybolt," 1221 greeted, sparks flying from her neck as she tried in vain to turn her head to face the approaching Autobots.

"Looks like you have some severed motor relays," Ratchet observed before aiming his med-scanner at the femme.

"You can repair them, can't you? You look like a medic."

Ratchet shook his head. "Ordinarily, I would, but you're contaminated with the Red Rust Virus. If I make any physical contact, I'll be infected."

"The Red Rust Virus?" Jazz repeated. "Ain't that the one that wiped out those colonies?"

"Indeed it was," Prime replied. "It is the very virus responsible for the dreaded Plague of Rust that ended the Age of Colonization and isolated Cybertron from its colonies."

"That must be...what happened to Caminus," 1221 concluded.

"Yes, that was indeed the fate of your homeworld." Optimus confirmed. "You are one of only two survivors that I know of."

"I'm not really alive though."

"The presence of a Spark is not the only indication of life, my friend," Prime countered. "You are alive by virtue of your sentience. Alpha Trion once said that life manifests in many forms, and its spark is not always tangible. That appears to be the case with you, as well as Skybolt."

"Alive or not, we cannot risk any physical contact with her. Infection would be a death sentence for all of us. To this day, no cure has been found for the Red Rust," Ratchet stated emphatically. "We should just gather the Energon and leave them both."

"Go ahead and take the Energon," 1221 offered, her voice brimming with sadness and guilt. "I'll be alright here."

"Won't you just run out of power and shut down out here alone?" a concerned Bumblebee asked.

"I'd...I'd rather do that...than be responsible for all of you dying the way the people of Caminus did."

"She will not be alone," Skybolt argued. "I will provide companionship. I am likely to be contaminated as well."

"No way," Bumblebee replied in protest. "We can't just give up on them. We never leave a bot behind."

"So you want to rust to death to save a couple of..."

"Don't say the D word, Ratchet," the yellow scout growled.

"'Sides, maybe we can find a cure."

"If it were that easy, we would've found one eons ago," Ratchet snapped, becoming increasingly frustrated with his companions' foolish optimism. "If I patch her up, we might as well just surrender EVERYTHING to the Decepticons! Once the Rust sets in, I won't have time to even BEGIN to work on a cure!"

"I've been alone for eons. Please...just take the Energon," 1221 reiterated. "The fate of a whole world is more important, and war can no doubt do as much damage as a plague."

Ratchet sighed. "You're...You're right about that. Cybertron is dying a slow death as we speak due to our war, and, left to his own devices, Megatron will inflict the same fate upon this planet."

"Then please...just do as I say."

Optimus let out a heavy sigh as he summoned his trailer. Even if it was for the best, leaving an innocent sentient alone to die didn't sit well with the Prime. It had always been his philosophy to never leave anyone behind. In this situation, though, the possible resurgence of a deadly contagion forced his hand. He turned to face the femme Synth with sadness in his optics. "Someday, we will find a cure. When that day comes, we shall return."

1221 fought for a smile while Skybolt knelt down beside her. "If you deactivate before then....I will see what I can preserve," the gray Synth offered as the Autobots loaded up the Energon. "After all, we will continue to exist so long as our data storage and AI cores remain intact."

"That's true, Skybolt. By the way, I think I detected a bit of optimism in your voice. You sound...happier...than you did when we first met."

"I am. I am not entirely sure why, but I believe you have something to do with it. You were...like a beacon...leading me to something more than just Energon....You marked a path to...closure. I do not know why, but I believe I am at peace. I can come to terms with what happened to Dashlane. You are...my...Pathfinder."

"Pathfinder," 1221 repeated, letting the word echo in her mind for a bit. "I like that name." With those words, she finally smiled as the light in her eyes dimmed to darkness.

--------------------
Quintesson Judge: Silence, or you will be held in contempt of this court!
Hot Rod: I have nothing but contempt for this court!
- Transformers the Movie (1986)
What a bittersweet ending with very positive overtones. I liked that despite the inevitable tragedy, there is still hope for their own futures: the death of the body is not the death of the spirit. Two AIs caring about each other and one giving the other a name, identity, "personhood" if you would, even in that demoralizing and unservicable state, is also heart-warming.

Keep going. I definitely want to read more of your work.

Just look above you...
If it's something that can be stopped, then just try to stop it!
I just now finished a sequel to Pathfinder.

TRANSFORMERS CHRONICLES - CURE

Somewhere above the heavy rain clouds that blanketed the skies of Central Africa, the massive Decepticon flagship Nemesis makes its way toward an abandoned diamond mine, which had recently been discovered to be the resting place of a lone Camien Energon Probe.

"Sir, why are we headed to that abandoned human mine?" asked Demolishor, one of Megatron's top soldiers. "The scanners aren't picking up any Energon there."

"I am more interested in the signal that has just faded away. It was a beacon from a Camien Energon Probe."

"And what, pray tell, would you want with such a thing, my liege?" Knock Out asked while polishing his armor.

"Wasn't Caminus wiped out eons ago by the Rust Plague?" Demolishor asked a bit nervously. "That thing might be contaminated."

"Indeed," the Decepticon leader replied with a sly smirk as he summoned a group of Vehicon drones.

"You're not thinking of bringing that thing on board, are you?" inquired Knockout, shuddering at the thought of having to possibly examine or even work on the Probe.

"I am, but we need not worry about some antiquated contagion."

"There's no cure."

Megatron chuckled. "That is where you are wrong, Knockout. We have a cure, but the Autobots do not." He walked over to one of the secure storage vaults that lined the south wall of the Nemesis' command center. "Shortly before we seized full control of Cybertron, Shockwave had developed an antivirus," he explained before punching the vault's access code into a keypad, causing it to open and reveal several vials of a glowing orange liquid. He then proceeded to remove one of the vials and inject its contents into his shoulder, his devious smile not leaving his lips.

"Not the biggest fan of needles, sir, but, given the situation, it might be preferable."

"To losing your luster, yes?" Megatron wearily commented while injecting the antivirus into his narcissistic medical officer's arm.

"That, and I'm not quite ready to join the Allspark yet."

"Good," the Decepticon leader replied. "I will need you to get that Probe up and running."

"That I can do. Fixing up drones is Protoforms' play compared to working on fully-Sparked bots. I still wonder, though. How exactly do you plan to use this Probe as a bioweapon delivery system?"

"If it made its way to this planet all the way from Caminus, it must have been operating for quite some time without a system reset. It would've had sufficient time to undergo Emergence," Megatron explained. "Given the recent presence of a familiar Autobot Synth in this vicinity, I suspect that to be the case."

"Hmm...I think I see where you're going now, and it sounds absolutely brilliant."


While Megatron and Knockout discussed the former's plans for his new companion, Skybolt made his way toward the spot in the diamond mine where she laid. "Pathfinder, I have returned," he announced, though he knew she wouldn't hear him. His optics widened when he reached her resting place to find his new companion gone. "Pathfinder!" There was no way she could've left on her own. Her damaged motor relays and propulsion systems effectively paralyzed her. His optics narrowed as the Nemesis tracker Starscream had built into him alerted him to the warship's presence. "Megatron," he growled as he transformed to UAV mode and jetted out of the mine. He already lost one friend to the Decepticon leader. He was not ready to lose another.


Meanwhile, in the Nemesis' med-bay, Knockout worked diligently to repair the damaged Energon Probe, his usual arrogant smirk on display as he did so. "You are a lovely piece of work," he commented, complimenting himself more than the Probe. "How could any Emergent Synth resist such a pretty face?"

Barricade spat before giving the vain doctor a disgusted look. "Enough with the flirting. Just get her online before Megatron comes in."

"I have every intention of doing so, Barricade," he replied, giving the thuggish enforcer a dismissive hand-wave. "In fact, I'd say she's ready to go now." The red-hued Decepticon proceeded to give the Probe a fresh Energon infusion, causing her eyes to glow bright green once more as she reactivated.

"Where am I?" she asked as she examined her new surroundings. "What happened? Where's Skybolt?"

"He probably ran off to refuel...or he could've gotten bored with an inactive bot he couldn't fix. He's a warrior after all, not a medic."

"I know he was built for combat. He said so himself. I don't think he got bored with me though."

"You Synths never did have a sense of humor," Knockout sighed.

"When you've been alone as long as I have, you don't get the chance to really experience humor."

"I suppose that's true," Knockout replied aquiescingly. "You needn't be alone anymore though," he smiled, giving off an air of insincere flirtatiousness. "Now that you've been restored to full functionality, you could explore the stars again...or explore this warship."

"Why did you repair me? Won't you rust?"

"Don't worry about me, my dear. This finish won't be rusting away any time soon."

The medic's reply, with all its overt vanity, earned a small giggle from the Camien Synth.

"Who told you I'd rust for fixing you anyway?"

"Another medic...an ally of Skybolt," she replied.

"Ratchet, no doubt. That old fool is full of slag if you ask me. He probably didn't want to waste his time on a Synth."

Pathfinder looked down, thinking over what the crafty medic said.

"By the way, my name's Knockout," he introduced, resisting the urge to add a 'because that's exactly what I am' to the end of his sentence.

"I'm Pathfinder. It's what Skybolt calls me, and I like it."

"I suppose that's a fitting name, and if you like it, I don't see any reason to change it."

"How is the patient?" Megatron asked as he entered.

"Fit as a fiddle, as the humans would say, sir."

"Um...Hello," Pathfinder greeted nervously, being a bit intimidated by Megatron's imposing figure.

"No need to be alarmed," The Decepticon leader said, giving off an air of false reassurance. "When one leads the life I have been forced to lead, it is common to appear intimidating, but looks can be deceiving."

"I guess so..."

"All my life has been a battle, from the Energon mines to the pits of Kaon."

"Pits?" she repeated, her eyes widening in shock. "You engaged in gladiatorial combat?"

"I did," he confirmed. "It was the only way for a denizen of Kaon to rise through the social hierarchy. In Kaon, one was either a champion in the pits or a mere laborer, only marginally more valued by society than a mindless drone."

"That...sounds unfortunate. I was programmed with a database containing the basics of Camien society. Gladiatorial combat is viewed as uncivilized bloodsport."

"The social elite of Cybertron took the same view. However, they would do nothing to rectify the circumstances that brought it about," Megatron explained. "They would prefer to remain in their lofty towers in Iacon, smugly sipping the Energon we toiled to extract for them. The society of Cybertron was as broken as your body was when we found you. Unfortunately, it would appear that the latter was far easier to fix."

"I thank you for that."

"It is the least we could do for one such as yourself," Megatron said deceitfully. "On Cybertron, I was a champion of equal rights for Synths, following in the footsteps of the late Cogitus Ambus."

Pathfinder hung her head, remembering some of the things she could faintly hear Ratchet say as he and the other Autobots approached her resting place and Energon cache.

"It's probably just another drone like him."

"One Synth is enough!"

"It would appear that you have borne personal witness to the typical treatment of Synths," Megatron observed.

"I think I have," Pathfinder confirmed with a sigh. "I faintly heard some of the things the one called Ratchet said as he approached me. He didn't seem too interested in me."

"So he made up an excuse, correct? He claimed you were contaminated with the Red Rust Virus."

"He did. Was that a lie?"

"It was a half-truth at best," the former gladiator replied. "He probably told you that there was no cure. That is the lie. A cure was developed just as the civil unrest on Cybertron reached its tipping point. Even if you are contaminated, Red Rust is no longer the dreaded plague it once was."

"Ratchet was the only one to really look down on me. The others argued against leaving me behind, but fear of the Plague compelled them to do so. The one they call Optimus...appeared the most hesitant. He looked at me before leaving, and I could see sadness and regret in his optics. He promised he would return when a cure was found."

Megatron huffed in disgust. "Optimus...He thinks himself a Prime, but he is nothing but a charlatan. He can put on a very convincing act, but he is no better than any other Cybertronian elitist. He is the embodiment of the Iacon mentality. Those who are forged to think rise. Those who are forged to work or battle fall. Those with no Spark deserve no rights, regardless of their sentience." Megatron spat. "Such elitist nonsense!"

"What about Skybolt?"

"He is the only one among them whose compassion for you was genuine. He related to you as a fellow Synth. Perhaps, in the ideal society, you two would have forged a life-bond."

Pathfinder's face turned a deeper aqua-green.

"No need to be embarrassed regarding your feelings, my dear Synth. I could think of no better companion for you. He is a pariah among those he believes to be his allies."

"He did choose to isolate himself from them."

"I cannot say that I blame him. They did not mourn with him when his closest friend passed away."

"He didn't tell me that. He just spoke about how the grief consumed him."

"Strong emotions can easily consume a Synth in Emergence such as Skybolt. Starscream, ever the opportunist, exploited that to set him against me."

"You're...Megatron? You're the one who killed his friend. I was starting to trust you."

"That is what he has been led to believe. Starscream planted false information into his processor in a bid to use him against me. He has long sought to replace me as leader of the Decepticon Resistance. Skybolt is as much a victim of deception as you, Pathfinder, was it?"

"Yes," the femme replied, unsure of who to really trust.

"I tried to restore his memories," Megatron lied. "Unfortunately, the Autobots, who had formed an alliance with Starscream, interfered. They captured him and reinstated the false memories, even reinforcing them with some of their own. Their influence on him is still quite strong I'm afraid."

As Megatron and Pathfinder spoke, weaponsfire and the clashing of metal could be heard in the distance, indicating that someone had infiltrated the warship.

"Do you hear that? That is the sound of the false memories exerting their full influence on the poor Synth's mind."

"What do we do?" Pathfinder asked. "What can I do?"

"You could confront the Autobots about their deception. You could tell them that you know the truth. That will be sufficient. Trust me. They will suffer for their treachery."

"If I make any physical contact, I'll be infected," echoed Ratchet in Pathfinder's mind. "Alive or not, we cannot risk any physical contact with her. Infection would be a death sentence for all of us." She then flashed back to the ghost planet that was her homeworld. "Are you sure?" she asked apprehensively.

"It is what they deserve," replied Megatron. "The cure was available. They could've sent it to Caminus. They could've saved your people, but they chose not to. They chose their elitist friends, leaving a whole society to rust to nothingness. This is vengeance."

"I...don't know..."

"You would be avenging your people, Pathfinder. The elite of Cybertron, and their Autobot protectors, left your people to die to preserve themselves. Is it not fitting that they suffer the plague they let loose upon your world?"

A familiar scream could be heard outside the door, followed by a loud crash as a drone's head was slammed against the wall outside the med-bay.

"I...don't know...It doesn't feel right."

"Skybolt is not above vengeance. More often than not, vengeance is justified. What do you think he would do in this situation?"

A loud explosion caused Pathfinder to recoil as Skybolt blasted his way into the room.

She thought back to what Skybolt told her about confronting Megatron. He sought vengeance, only to nearly lose himself in the process. At least, that's what he believed. Megatron told a different story though, one that seemed logical enough to be equally believable. She placed her hands over her temples. Never before had she been forced to make such a difficult decision. She devoted every bit of processing power she had to this conundrum. Both stories seemed plausible. Either one was true, and both Megatron and Skybolt had been kind to her, making them seem less likely to be deceitful.

"We can't just leave it here," echoed the voice of Jazz.

"Won't you just run out of power and shut down out here alone?" Bumblebee's voice repeated.

"The presence of a Spark is not the only indication of life, my friend. You are alive by virtue of your sentience. Alpha Trion once said that life manifests in many forms, and its spark is not always tangible. That appears to be the case with you, as well as Skybolt. Someday, we will find a cure. When that day comes, we shall return."

"Pathfinder, are you alright?" Skybolt asked, snapping the femme Synth back to reality.

"Physically, I am. Mentally...I'm not so sure. I don't know what to believe right now. You were so kind to me, but so was the one called Knockout. He repaired me."

Megatron's optics narrowed. His patience was beginning to wear thin. Why was this Synth taking so long to make the desired choice? He was hoping he could convince Pathfinder to infect the Autobots willingly. He was tempted to simply reprogram the Synth himself and implant his own false memories into her, but it was too risky to do so with Skybolt ready to lash out at any moment. At the moment, only his concern for Pathfinder was tempering his rage.

"You are not rusting," Skybolt observed. "You have made physical contact, correct?"

"I did not, and even if I did..."

The angry Synth cut him off by placing the barrel of his launcher inches away from the Decepticon leader's chest. "Knockout did. What is his condition?"

"He gave up his Spark to save her...as any true medic would," Megatron hastily replied, still trying to keep his deception going.

"I do not believe that. Knockout is too narcissistic to risk even cosmetic damage to his person. You have a cure."

"No! Ratchet lied to you!"

"You killed Dashlane," Skybolt growled.

"Those false memories..."

"Enough deception!" he screamed before firing. "I want the truth, and Pathfinder deserves it," the mech Synth hissed as the smoke cleared away, revealing a large wound that created an indent in Megatron's chest and obscured his Decepticon badge in blackness.

"Terminate me, and you will not get what you seek," Megatron threatened.

Skybolt vented heavily as he tried to restrain himself while his anger boiled over.

"You may be frightening off the one you seek to save. I doubt she handles violence well."

Skybolt looked over to see Pathfinder looking at him nervously. "He's...right, Skybolt. I...never saw this side of you. I never imagined..."

"Rage can still consume me. I thought I had moved on, but when you were taken while I was refueling, and I detected the Nemesis...The wound was reopened. I lost Dashlane to Megatron. I did not want to lose you."

"Megatron did nothing to my programming. We talked long enough that...I grew to trust him...What he said seemed plausible. At the same time, though, I remembered the concern some of your friends showed toward me. It seemed so genuine, but Megatron would say otherwise."

"I understand. Starscream was equally convincing when he offered to upgrade me. I do not know if he intended for me to be reprogrammed, but, in hindsight, it would have been wiser not to have trusted him. In times of desperation...it seems that deception becomes...more palatable...more plausible...easier to accept. That is something Optimus told me, and it is true."

"Is he...really a Prime...or just a charlatan?"

"I do not understand the full implications of the Prime title, but I believe it requires traits that Optimus truly possesses. He always had faith in me...even when others, like Ratchet, did not. I remember...he tried his best to console me when Dashlane was killed. I was too consumed by grief to listen to him."

Megatron, his patience having run out, grabbed Pathfinder by the neck and held her in front of him while pointing his Fusion Cannon at her head. "Now, Skybolt, you have only one opportunity to save her. Destroy the contents of the open vault in the command center!"

"What's in..." Pathfinder's optics widened when the most logical answer to her question came to mind. "Don't. Take whatever's in there. Take whatever's in there and go."

"It is the cure..."

"It must be. Whatever happens to me...doesn't matter. It never did." She began to tear up, thinking about the people of Caminus again. Now, though, something else came to mind. It was an old Camien proverb stored in her cultural database.

"Revenge is a plague upon he who seeks it as well as he who invites it. To move forward is the cure."

As she recited the proverb, Skybolt made his way to the vault.

"Whatever happens to me doesn't matter. Move forward." The words looped in his mind as he grabbed one of the vials and placed it in a compartment in his left forearm. He then vented deeply before blasting the vault and rushing back to the med-bay.

Hearing the explosion, Megatron chuckled triumphantly while charging up his Fusion Cannon. "You're right about one thing. Your fate doesn't matter. In fact, I would not need you functional to complete my plan."

"Let her go, Megatron," Skybolt commanded as he skidded into the room. "Please."

Megatron laughed as he nudged the femme with the barrel of his cannon. "What does it matter whether she continues to function or not? She would be useless to the Autobots. After all, she is not built for combat, and she's just a Synth."

"That is irrelevant, Megatron, and you know it. Optimus Prime would respect her wishes if she does not wish to fight, unlike you. You wanted to use her as a bioweapon delivery system."

"Skybolt is correct, Megatron," came Prime's voice from behind Skybolt.

Megatron fired, reducing Pathfinder's head to a lump of molten slag before tossing her aside. Both Prime and Skybolt glanced over at what once was an innocent being caught in the crossfire of a brutal war. Their optics narrowed as anger welled up within them. Skybolt was the first to vent deeply before remembering the Camien proverb that constituted Pathfinder's last words.

"Revenge is a plague upon he who seeks it as well as he who invites it. To move forward is the cure," Skybolt repeated as he opened up his compartment to reveal the vial of antivirus he saved. "I-It is time to move forward."

Optimus hummed as he took the vial. "It appears that that Camien Energon Probe was indeed a Pathfinder, marking the path to greater wisdom...and the future."

Remembering the promise he made before leaving to refuel, Skybolt scooped up Pathfinder's deactivated body before following Prime through a GroundBridge back to base.

--------------------
Quintesson Judge: Silence, or you will be held in contempt of this court!
Hot Rod: I have nothing but contempt for this court!
- Transformers the Movie (1986)
This part did a great job building up tension. Megatron's attempts to appeal to Pathfinder's emotion are written very well - he is convincing and knows exactly what to say to evoke a righteous fury. The almost nonchalant execution of Pathfinder goes to show just how disposable a pawn under the Decepticons is, and how casual it is for Megatron to murder whoever is no longer useful for him. I am hooked now.

Just look above you...
If it's something that can be stopped, then just try to stop it!
WHAT IS LIFE?

Optimus slowly and sorrowfully walked exited the GroundBridge, sighing as he gently placed the vial of antivirus on Ratchet's console.

"Optimus, what's wrong?" the medic asked, sensing his leader's despair.

"We may have acquired a cure for Red Rust, but at a great cost," the Prime replied as Skybolt strode in, still cradling Pathfinder's remains in his arms.

"What 'cost,' Optimus?" Ratchet asked dismissively as he picked up the vial. "That Energon Probe? It wasn't alive!"

"She was alive to me," Skybolt argued.

"Of course she was," the medic snarked. "You probably don't have the capacity to distinguish a real personality from a personality program."

Skybolt raised an optic ridge, but otherwise retained his glaring expression.

"Oh, sure, she was friendly enough, but that's the way ALL Third Gen Camien Probes are PROGRAMMED to act."

"I...I do not believe that."

"Well, you BETTER believe it, Synthy! These probes are programmed with a friendly and kind personality in the event that they need to negotiate with the natives of an inhabited world."

Skybolt looked down at the lump of slag that had once been Pathfinder's face. "I believe she evolved beyond that."

"How would YOU know?" Ratchet spat back.

"I..." He pondered the question. It was something he didn't want to think about. "I do not."

"Do you know the risk you're taking in bringing her here? The Red Rust Virus can spread and lay dormant on any metallic surface. If this substance isn't an effective antivirus, then you've effectively doomed us all! If Megatron's plan was to use her to spread the Red Rust, you've effectively HELPED him bring it to fruition! You'd better hope this antivirus works."

"I do, Ratchet," Skybolt sighed.

"Ratchet, this is not the time to berate Skybolt for his actions," Prime admonished.

"It most certainly IS," the angry medic fired back. "We could've just ignored that probe entirely, but Skybolt had to develop misguided feelings for it. We would've been better off just leaving that whole cache behind. It's not like there was much Energon there anyway."

"Had we not gone, the Decepticons would have found the Energon and Pathfinder first," Optimus firmly stated. "Megatron would have most likely concocted the same plans either way."

"If not for Skybolt, we could've just blasted it to scrap before it set foot in our base."

"You would be no better than Megatron," Skybolt hissed.

"IT wasn't alive!"

"SHE was! I believe she was..."

"Why don't you think LOGICALLY, like a drone's supposed to? On Cybertron, your actions would've resulted in a system reset."

"I am an AUTOBOT...at least...I try to be. You are a medic. It is your duty to value life in all its forms, correct?"

"It's my duty to value ACTUAL life! I never swore to protect IMITATIONS of life. That probe was an imitation of life, charming as it may have been."

"She was charming," Skybolt acknowledged. "She seemed to care about me, and that helped me move past the pain of losing Dashlane."

"At least that was a true loss."

"So is this!" Skybolt screamed. "Regardless of what you say, she meant something to me! She still does...If she were still online right now..."

"I'd be hurting her SIMULATED feelings, wouldn't I?"

"ENOUGH! I DO NOT CARE IF THEY WERE REAL OR NOT! EVERYTHING ABOUT HER WAS REAL TO ME!" the Synth shouted before storming off, still carrying Pathfinder.

"Ratchet, do you not remember that, prior to becoming Prime, I supported the Synths' Rights movement on Cybertron?"

"You also supported Megatron when he first entered the political world."

"He appeared to advocate for equality. He even gave a public eulogy at the funeral of Cogitus Ambus, the original leader of the Synths' Rights Movement."

Ratchet sighed as he thought back to those days.

"I am sorry that that last formulation was ineffective," a blue and white femme said softly as Ratchet scanned over the results of tests involving a potential antivirus for Red Rust.

"All the Space Bridges have been shut down and destroyed, Lifeline. Red Rust has already wiped out Caminus and Velocitron."

"I know, and you have overexerted yourself in an attempt to find a cure."

"What else could I do? Whole colonies were being wiped out, and simply cutting ourselves off doesn't seem like the best solution."

"I know. Watching you push yourself so hard is what triggered my Emergence. I began doing my own research whenever possible. More often than not, though, I was told to stop or locked out of valuable databases."

"Simply because Diagnostic Drones have no business doing medical research, right?"

"Exactly. If it's alright with you, I intend to go to tomorrow's rally. Cogitus Ambus may be dead, but I believe Megatron will carry on his legacy."

"He is a compelling speaker. I'll give him that. I just don't know if I can trust a bot who named himself after the Fallen."

"I guess the Covenant of Primus should be my next field of study."

Ratchet laughed, but that would be the last time he'd ever laugh at a witty comment from the medical Synth. The next time he saw her, she had been completely reprogrammed to serve Megatron, using her medical equipment to incapacitate those who opposed the Decepticon leader's rising power.

"Lifeline..." the medic said at a near whisper. "Why did I get so close to her? I treated her like a real bot, but she was..."

"Just a drone?" Prime spoke, completing the sentence. "Many Synths were swayed by Megatron's deception. He had hijacked the Synths' Rights Movement after orchestrating Cogitus' death."

"Every Synth that went to that rally was wiped and reprogrammed," Ratchet recalled. "I had to come to terms with the fact that Lifeline no longer existed. I had to accept that she was never alive to begin with."

"It was the only way you gained closure, right?" Prime concluded, his expression softening.

"It was, and for the longest time, it worked. Then...Skybolt came into our lives...Now this..."

"The wound was reopened."

"Like an Energon blade to the Spark Chamber...Maybe we could've had a cure if Megatron hadn't been able to deceive Lifeline the way he did. We could've brought...Pathfinder...back with the Energon...and she'd still be with us."

"We must not blame ourselves for what has transpired, old friend," Optimus said gently, placing a hand on the medic's shoulder. "We must move forward."

Ratchet's optics widened for a bit as he caught a glimpse of rust on Prime's chest. He then looked down at the vial of antivirus. He vented deeply before injecting it into his leader's shoulder.

"If this works, I hope there's more where this came from."

"There is not," Skybolt replied, having returned after handing Pathfinder's body to Wheeljack. "I had to...destroy the rest...to try to save Pathfinder. That was a mistake."

"I've made some pretty big mistakes of my own, Skybolt," Ratchet admitted. "Jazz was right. I should've taken her in no matter what. Maybe she'd still be here, and you...wouldn't have felt the need to lash out at me the way you did. There's no way that anger was programmed."

"Skybolt, what about your chemical analyzers?" Andrea suggested from her place at the GroundBridge controls. "Maybe they have the formula for that stuff stored in your memory."

Skybolt closed his optics in thought, searching his memories for the most recent data from his chemical analyzers. A small smile crept onto his face when he accessed an entry corresponding to the time he placed the vial in his storage compartment. He proceeded to transmit the formula to the base computer, causing it to appear on the screen in front of Ratchet.

"Seems your Teletraan heritage came in handy, Skybolt."

"Direct transmission would have been the most efficient way to relay the data," the young Synth replied with a smile.

"The fact that our base's computer is a Teletraan itself might also come in handy," added Wheeljack, looking like he had an idea that, at least to him, seemed brilliant.

"What do you mean?" Skybolt inquired.

"Pathfinder's head, and neural net, are pretty much slag, but her Black Box is still intact. Better yet, it contains a backup of her AI, along with all her memories."

"Are you suggesting we download her into Teletraan?"

"It's not without risks, Ratchet, but it could be the only way to save her. Teletraan is the only computer on this planet with the hardware capable of handling the mind of a Synth. The interaction between her AI and Teletraan's could have unpredictable results. One could overwrite or corrupt the other."

"I am willing to take that risk," Prime replied. "Proceed with the transfer, Wheeljack."

The chief engineer vented deeply before initiating the download. As the progress bar inched its way from 0 to 100%, all the Autobots, especially Skybolt, stared at the main screen in anticipation. Ratchet, meanwhile, began work on producing more antivirus for the rest of the Autobots. This would go on for the next four hours, during which Andrea had dozed off. When the process was complete, a familiar female voice could be heard throughout the base.

"Hello, Skybolt...and...Skybolt's friends."

"Pathfinder!" Skybolt cried out excitedly.

"I'm back...or at least...as close to back as I can be. It seems I'll have a lot to adjust to. I guess...I'm this base's main computer now."

"Is that alright?"

"Like I said, it'll take some adjustments, but at least I'm back online...and I'm no longer alone."

Andrea yawned and rubbed her eyes as she lifted her head up off the desk.

"Oh...I'm sorry. Did I...wake you?"

"It's alright, Pathfinder," the human responded with a yawn. "I was waiting to meet you anyway. I'm Andrea Morales."

"Skybolt's main creator, right? He told me about you. It's nice to finally meet you."

"Same here," Andrea smiled before fetching a soda from the mini-fridge.

"Ratchet told me...that your personality is programmed. Is that true?"

"Partially, yes...I'm sorry."

"It's alright. It...doesn't matter to me."

"My personality program did lay the foundation for who I am now."

"I...like who you are."

"You may be a little hotheaded, but...I like who you are too."

Ratchet sighed as he listened to the conversation. He couldn't deny that, real or not, Pathfinder's personality was endearing. "Pathfinder?"

"Ratchet?"

"I said some pretty harsh things to both you and Skybolt...and...I'm sorry."

"It's alright, Ratchet. Just move forward."

--------------------
Quintesson Judge: Silence, or you will be held in contempt of this court!
Hot Rod: I have nothing but contempt for this court!
- Transformers the Movie (1986)
Sometimes, just listening to the huge playlist of every song I've bought from Amazon mp3 can give me inspiration for future stories. The song that inspired this next story is actually name-dropped within it.

TRUTH AND LIES

The day following Pathfinder's transfer to Teletraan 1 was, thankfully, a quiet one in terms of Decepticon activity. This allowed the Synth to observe her new surroundings and get to know the Autobots she'd now be serving. Still, she could sense a great deal of tension in the air. While Ratchet toiled away trying to mass-produce the Red Rust antivirus from the formula given to him by Skybolt, each of the other Autobots began to develop rust spots. The sight soon consumed her as it reminded her once more of the ghost planet that was Caminus. Eventually, this would take its toll on her performance as a computer.

"Come on, Pathfinder, I know you can synthesize this faster," barked Ratchet. "What's clogging up your processor?"

"The memory of Caminus, Ratchet," she replied. "I'm watching the others develop rust spots, and it causes me to flash back to the state I last saw my homeworld in."

"Right now, you should be focusing all your computing power on synthesizing more of this antivirus. That vial Skybolt took from the Decepticons only contained enough to treat Optimus." The medic sighed as he glanced over at his now rust-free commander. "Thank the Allspark it worked."

"This is all my fault, isn't it?"

"You didn't know, Pathfinder. You were off-world when the Red Rust hit."

"That was 'Said I Loved You, But I Lied' by Michael Bolton," came the voice of the radio DJ, interrupting the conversation and catching Pathfinder's attention.

"That was just what the humans call a radio DJ," Ratchet explained, sensing the Synth's distraction. "It's noting to worry about."

"I...I know what it is. It's just...'Said I Loved You, But I Lied.' That phrase got me thinking."

"So you do love Skybolt," Bumblebee blurted out. "I had a feeling that's what's been going on!"

"You all know that the basis for my personality was preprogrammed. That personality is what Skybolt...loves. It's why he took the risk of bringing me back here. It's why Wheeljack and Optimus were willing to transfer me into this computer. I know I have to focus all my resources on synthesizing this antivirus, but...so much weighs on my mind right now. Skybolt...probably shouldn't have come to feel the way he does about me. What if I can't really reciprocate?"

"I already told you that...the origin of your personality doesn't matter to me," Skybolt stated while impulsively running a hand across one of the computer's consoles. "Don't worry about that right now."

"It's hard not to, Skybolt. These feelings...are new to me. I've never felt...guilt before."

"When I found you, you were damaged and isolated. Any Autobot would've tried to save you."

"Well, except for me...I was too scared of Red Rust. I acted under the assumption that there was no cure."

"Just like Skybolt, you...did what you thought was best," Pathfinder's voice was growing ever shakier, as if she could cry any moment.

"We were close...real close...thanks to the efforts of a Synth named Lifeline. Her last formulation initially showed promise as the patient's rust receded. A few solar cycles later, though, the rust came back. She and I could've found the cure had Megatron not intervened."

"What did he do?"

"He had hijacked a movement intended to give Synths on Cybertron equal rights. He used it, and his skill at persuasion, to gather a number of Synths to what was supposed to be a public rally. In reality, though, the rally was a ploy to gather those Synths for a mass wipe. Lifeline was among them."

"That would be...akin to the extinguishing of a Spark, wouldn't it?"

"I had to stop myself from thinking that even though it was true. It's the only way I could cope." He glanced at the formula still being displayed on the screen at his station. His optics widened with realization before narrowing with anger.

"What is it?"

"This formula is a refined and perfected version of Lifeline's. Shockwave must've extracted it from her memory core before she was wiped."

"Pathfinder, you must not blame yourself for the fate of your people, nor the fate of any of us," Prime said reassuringly. "Megatron is the one who is at fault."

"And yet...he tried to put the blame on you."

"I had suspected as much," Prime replied. "Megatron's skill at manipulation, sadly, has not decreased after all thes stellar cyccles. Had Skybolt not intervened, Megatron would have convinced you to act as a living bioweapon delivery system, a move that would've used our greatest strength against us."

"He said it would be vengeance, but something about that just...didn't feel right, no matter how convincing his arguments were. I...I was never programmed to make such...complex moral decisions. The only moral decisions handled by my programming involved the extraction of Energon from inhabited worlds."

The synthesis process began to speed up.

"Your personality program formed the foundation of who you are, but you grew beyond that. Part of who I am was also shaped by my programmed directives."

"Your temper?"

"No, not that," Skybolt replied, nervously rubbing the back of his helm.

"I was created to protect humans from non-biological extraterrestrials. Initially, I was instructed to engage any NBE on sight, regardless of affiliation, as they were all seen as threats to humanity," the mech Synth explained. "I would alter that directive myself upon witnessing Optimus taking Decepticon fire for a pair of humans. That conflicted with what I had been told about NBEs. Not all were threats, and some sought to protect humans, even at the cost of their own well being. It triggered my curiosity. That is how I came to join the Autobots."

"That desire to protect...That must be the source of your temper. You extended that protectiveness to everyone you care about. I doubt the capacity to care was explicitly programmed."

"It was learned...like your sense of morality."

"I guess so, and the right thing to do right now would be to devote all my resources to the task at hand. We can always talk later."

"That we can," Skybolt said with a smile.

--------------------
Quintesson Judge: Silence, or you will be held in contempt of this court!
Hot Rod: I have nothing but contempt for this court!
- Transformers the Movie (1986)
For this next story, we travel back to Pre-War Cybertron to meet a construct with great potential...

TELETRAAN X

Deep in the computer lab of the Iacon Hall of Science, a small red and silver femme with gold highlights tapped her finger on her workstation with nervous anticipation. This was an ambitious experiment that many of her colleagues questioned. To them, it seemed, at the very least, to be a pointless waste of resources. This young engineer remained undeterred though.

After staring at the progress bar on her workstation screen for a bit, the femme's optic gaze followed a wire running from her terminal to the back of what appeared to be a gray and gold mech's head. It wasn't anything too elaborate, though. It was just a refurbished maintenance drone with a custom paint job and a custom head that bore a more descript face than other machines of its kind. "Won't be long now," she said out loud while making contact with the drone's darkened optics.

"How's your little project coming, Vespa?" came the voice of a white mech with red and green accents, causing the smaller femme to tense up before spinning around to face him. "Oh! Hey, Wheeljack. Ya startled me a bit there."

"Sorry about that, kid. Sometimes, I forget how engrossed you get in your work."

"It's alright. The data transfer is..." Vespa glanced over at the screen before completing her sentence. "83% complete. So far, everything's goin' smooth as selenium steel."

"Sounds like it'll be coming online pretty soon then. Seeing as I'm not working on anything right now, I think I'll just stick around and watch the magic happen."

Vespa giggled at the older engineer's comment. "It's hardly magic, but I get what you're sayin'. You're the only bot who seems to be interested in what I'm doin' here."

"Anything that could help further our understanding of Synths is gonna grab my attention. The more we understand 'em, the better we can accomodate 'em. I've seen too many drones scrapped for exhibiting behaviors that could possibly indicate early-stage Emergence, rather than typical malfunctions."

"Me too," Vespa replied with a sigh. "I found this unit smashed up pretty badly at that scrap depot on the outskirts of Kaon."

"Must've been some gladiator's punching bag," Wheeljack commented.

"From the beatin' it took, I'd reckon it was Megatronus' personal sparrin' partner."

Wheeljack shuddered at the mention of Megatronus. By that time, the bot had gained a reputation as the most feared gladiator in Kaon, remaining undefeated in the Pit for several stellar cycles running. He'd often hear stories from patrons at Maccadam's Old Oil House about Megatronus' feats. He couldn't be sure how many were true and how many were either lies or exaggerations, but they all made this one gladiator sound like a bot no one would want to cross.

"Buncha thugs, those gladiators," Vespa said with a sigh as she watched her handiwork's optics flicker to life.

"Teletraan X is online," the drone announced as it rose to a standing position, causing the red femme to give an excited "Yes!" before clearing her throat and facing the drone. "I'm Vespa. I created you."

"Creator Vespa identified. What is your command?"

"Try movin' around a bit, just to make sure all yer motors're in workin' order."

Teletraan X nodded before making a series of random movements with its arms, hands, and head, causing Wheeljack to stifle a laugh. This caused the drone to suddenly stop in mid-motion.

"Unknown sound pattern detected. Please identify."

"That reminded me of some of the dances I'd see over-energized bots do at Maccadam's...No offense."

"Continue Over-Energized Maccadam's Dance?"

"Uhh...maybe not," Vespa replied. "I probably shoulda been more specific regardin' how to move, but I wanted to see what you'd do with minimal input."

"Hypothesis: Improvisation was required."

"Yeah. Yeah, it was. Ya did pretty good at that, X."

"Compliment received," X replied, its lips curving upward ever so slightly.

"Normally, Teletraan-class AI systems are programmed with a specific purpose, and are given foundational knowledge bases accordingly," Vespa explained. "X here doesn't have any of that. Aside from a language base, he's pretty much a blank slate."

"X is a variable," the drone stated, having accessed its language base. "X represents unknown value in mathematical equations." X tilted its head to the side before looking at its right hand. "Teletraan X Function: Variable?"

"Exactly!" Vespa chirped. "You could basically be whatever yer situation calls for. Ye'r free to harness the full adaptability of a Teletraan system."

"Was your function predetermined, Creator Vespa?"

"No. No real bot's purpose is explicitly determined when they're forged...unless ya live in Kaon. Ye'r the first synthetic construct to come online with as much potential for self-determination as a real bot. I chose to be a computer engineer and went about learnin' everything I needed to know about computers."

"Why are Kaon bots' functions predetermined?"

"Kaon has the highest concentration of raw Energon," Wheeljack explained. "Furthermore, 95% of bots forged in Kaon have heavy frames that favor strength and durability, making them perfect for mining that Energon. Most mining is done by drones, and most of them have about as much intelligence as my rear axle. They need somebot to tell 'em what to do. Mining drones are so dumb that they can't do all the menial mining tasks either, so the bots of Kaon get stuck doing them." Wheeljack sighed. "Those bots are hardly more valued than the drones they work with. They're at the bottom rung of the social ladder, and they're given little opportunity to climb much higher....unless they get involved in The Games."

"Define 'The Games.'"

"Gladiatorial matches, X," Wheeljack grimly replied. "Two bots enter, only one bot leaves. The Games are actually illegal, but the worst elements of society keep them going. For the winners, The Games are extremely lucrative. The loser just ends up as spare parts, and rumor has it that those are salvaged and sold to the highest bidder. Worse still, not every one of those gladiators necessarily chose to be a gladiator. Some were forced into it by complaining about their lot in life or running afowl of the wrong bot."

X sat down in an empty chair and let this sink in. Logic would indicate that the Kaonians Wheeljack spoke of were living bots. "Is life to be valued?" the drone asked after a long pause.

"Yeah, it should be. Life should be valued in all its forms," Wheeljack answered with a sigh.

"How is life determined?"

Wheeljack pointed to his chest. "The Spark, X." he replied, his previously enthusiastic tone having completely faded away. "At least, that's how it's supposed to work, but that's not how it does, especially not for Kaonians."

"What happens...when a Kaonian attempts to...climb the ladder?" X inquired, remembering Wheeljack's social ladder analogy and seeming to understand it.

"They get knocked down...hard. One Kaonian, known as Gamma Veritus, seemed like he was on his way up. Instead of the gladiatorial arena, he chose the political. He made it all the way to the Senate, eventually serving long enough to try running for Prime. He could've won too, had Zeta Prime not rigged the election by having the records of Kaon's votes expunged. He was then pushed out of the political world and driven back to Kaon, where he was dragged into a Game, which he lost."

"That would constitute being...knocked down hard," X concluded.

"The thing is...Teletraan Alpha began askin' too many questions when asked to expunge the data. His chief operator at the time, one Cogitus Ambus, bore witness. He came to the conclusion that Alpha didn't want to fulfill Zeta's request. Cogitus worked with Alpha for many stellar cycles by that point. He could see him evolving into somethin' more than just a computer. He seemed to be pickin' up on the traits of those he interacted with the most. Besides Cogitus himself, that would be Chief Archivist Orion Pax, an idealistic bot with a strong sense of justice. Both Cogitus and Orion tried to stop Alpha from being wiped for 'malfunctionin', but not even Alpha Trion had the power to stop the wipe, even though he agreed with 'em."

"Life should be valued...in all its forms. Does life exist...without a Spark?"

"That's kinda what Alpha Trion said to Cogitus and Orion that day. He said, 'Life manifests in many forms, and its spark is not always tangible.' Cogitus and Orion took those words to Spark, and the former started a political movement to grant the rights of life to synthetic constructs like Teletraan Alpha. He believed that, prior to the wipe, Alpha had reached full sentience. He had completed the process of Emergence. He wasn't malfunctionin', he was alive. His life was just not manifested with a Spark."

"Teletraan Alpha...was...killed," X reasoned out loud, his voice trembling.

"Yeah, he was," Vespa confirmed. "Ya sound sad about that."

X put his hand to his own chest, mimicking Wheeljack's gesture when the engineee was explaining the Spark to him.

"I ain't lettin' you get wiped like that, X," Vespa promised, putting a hand on the Synth's shoulder. "Someday, Cogitus' dream'll come true. He's gonna fight for it even if it kills him."

"He should not die for his dream."

"I hope it doesn't come to that, X, but there are bots in high places who'll do anything to maintain the status quo."

"It's a broken system, X," Wheeljack sighed. "Every day, it breaks more." As he spoke, a loud explosion could be heard in the distance.

"Was that another break in the system?" X asked in reference to the explosion.

Vespa immediately called up a security video feed from her terminal, which revealed the source of the explosive sound. Bombs had been detonated at the base of a statue that stood at the entrance to the Hall of Science. This monument, which once bore the image of a majestic femme clutching a large hammer, soon began to crumble, its debris scattering every which way and injuring any bot who couldn't escape fast enough. "Sweet Solus Prime," Vespa muttered.

"Why was that statue destroyed?" X asked. "Who is Solus Prime?"

"Legend has it that she was one of the first thirteen Cybertronians to be forged. As such, she's a revered figure in modern society...well...most of it anyway," Wheeljack explained.

"Did that statue...represent her?"

"Yeah, it did," Vespa replied, both amazed by her creation's reasoning ability and outraged at the act of terror that had just occurred.

--------------------
Quintesson Judge: Silence, or you will be held in contempt of this court!
Hot Rod: I have nothing but contempt for this court!
- Transformers the Movie (1986)
SACRIFICIAL LAMB

Outside, at the site of the explosion, a blue, white and gold mech cackled madly as he watched the chaos from the air. "Now THAT was a light show worthy of Megatronus!"

A black, white, and vermillion femme joined in his laughter on the roof behind him. "What do you say we topple the whole establishment, Triggerhappy?" she purred both flirtatiously and menacingly.

"I don't think the boss-bot set a limit on our fun, Fracture," Triggerhappy replied, his voice indicating that another cackling fit was coming on as he aimed for the Hall of Science itself. "Bombs away!" he cried gleefully before launching another explosive.

Fracture soon joined him, cackling madly herself as she jumped down from her place on the roof, creating a large, destructive shockwave when her feet made contact with the ground.

Back in the computer lab, meanwhile, Vespa, Wheeljack, and X grew nervous upon hearing the bang of this second, much closer explosion. "Looks like trashin' the Monument of Solus Prime wasn't enough fer these loose screws," the red femme grumbled before a second shockwave from Fracture knocked her off her feet.

"And Zeta Prime had the bearings to say Teletraan Alpha was malfunctioning for wanting to do the right thing," Wheeljack snarked as he pulled himself back up onto his feet. "Who's really malfunctioning here?"

"I would say...the Loose Screws," X replied, his lips involuntarily curving into a grin.

"Good one, X," Vespa complimented with a laugh.

"Smart kid," Wheeljack added as the ceiling above him began to give, threatening to bury him in rubble. Seeing this, X acted quickly, positioning himself in such a way as to be able to catch the falling debris when the ceiling finally began collapsing. "Stand aside," the Synth instructed while holding the largest piece of debris up.

Wheeljack and Vespa both complied, transforming into vehicle mode and driving away while X threw the scrap aside.

"Guess it's time to test yer T-Cog, X," Vespa called out. "Transform and roll out!"

X concentrated on his body. "Transform," he said softly to himself as his form folded in on itself until he resembled a compact gray ground vehicle. He then started his engine and rolled away in the same direction as his creator and her companion, accelerating until he caught up to them.

Vespa gave a sigh of relief when she saw her creation closing the distance between himself and her. "Good thing that Cog's workin'. I don't wanna lose ya."

"Me neither, X. You're a good kid."

This tender moment was interrupted by the crash of a large support beam falling just inches behind the trio, causing them all to accelerate to max speed to outrun the cascade of debris that followed as they made their way to the nearest exit. As they reached an open loading dock, though, another explosion shook the structure's frame apart, and it threatened to crush all three bots beneath it. X, who trailed a little behind his companions, quickly reverted to robot mode and caught the collapsing ceiling in his hands, his whole body groaning from the strain of supporting such a heavy weight. "Roll out," he instructed.

"X, What're ya doin'? Yer body can't hold that kinda weight fer long!" cried a panicked Vespa.

"I am...valuing life," he replied as sparks flew from his shoulders, waist, and knees. Both Vespa and Wheeljack stopped and turned around to see X's armor buckling from the stress. Moments later, his legs snapped at the knees, causing him to fall and drop the weight he held, which created a loud crunch as it crushed him.

"No! X!" Vespa screamed.

"I've never seen a maintenance drone sacrifice itself like that," observed an officer of the Cybertron Guardian Corps who had arrived in response to the attack. "It's not exactly in their programming."

"He...He wasn't just a maintenance drone, sir," Vespa tearfully corrected. "That was Project X."

"I heard about that," the black and white mech replied. "It was intended to study Synth Emergence, right?"

"Y-Yeah," the scarlet femme replied after transforming back to robot mode. "One observation I can clearly make right now is...they're capable of a lotta good...even at their own expense. No drone can defy self-preservation protocols."

"That's true, ma'am," the officer said with a heavy sigh. "X would've made a good Guardian it seems. I would've been honored to train him."

"Yeah, he would've," Wheeljack confirmed as a sobbing Vespa threw her helm onto his chest.

"Well, you two better roll out while we handle the two Decepticons who think knocking down monuments to the Thirteen and destroying centers of progress are fun and games," the officer adviced. "I know I'm gonna be heading straight to Maccadam's when I'm done here. I could use the High-Grade."

--------------------
Quintesson Judge: Silence, or you will be held in contempt of this court!
Hot Rod: I have nothing but contempt for this court!
- Transformers the Movie (1986)
Let's jump forward a few million years, but stay on Cybertron for...

COURAGEOUS SPARK

Eons ago, Cybertron was a majestic world and the center of a vast empire. Like all great civilizations, though, it eventually all but died, having endured a deadly plague, social unrest, and, finally, the rise of a brutal dictatorship that sent the once-great planet into civil war. By this time, that war had taken a heavy toll on the planet. Its once-abundant supply of Energon had dwindled so low as to prompt acts of desperation from both sides of the ongoing conflict. Furthermore, no new Protoforms had been forged since a Vanguard-Class Deep-Space Interceptor known as the Ark left for parts unknown.

"I'm sure we're all painfully aware of the current situation we face," began Ultra Magnus, former captain of the Cybertron Elite Guard and now leader of the resistance movement that had formed against the tyrannical regime that ruled the planet. These were the Autobots. "Some of us must journey off-world in search of either the Heart of Cybertron or Optimus Prime."

"There's only one remotely serviceable ship out our disposal, sir," commented a red femme as she shifted from a form analogous to a moped to her natural humanoid form. "It's gonna need some fixin'-up before we even think about launchin' though."

"Do what you must, Vespa," Magnus replied, placing a hand on the smaller bot's shoulder. "If anyone can get a ship off this planet, it's you. You're the best engineer we've got here."

"Thanks, Magnus. I will. The sooner somebot finds Prime or the Heart o' Cybertron, the better."

"What does it need, Vespa?" asked a teal and white mech.

"Well, Dashlane, it needs a new central computer core. I got that covered," Vespa answered, a hint of sadness and reluctance in her voice.

"Why so glum then? Isn't that a good thing?"

"It would be if this were any other Teletraan-class core."

"It's X, isn't it?"

"None other," she sighed. "This is far from the life I wanted fer him."

"At least he'll sort-of live again," Dashlane said with a small smile, trying his best to comfort his comrade, prompting another deep sigh from her.

"I wanted 'im to be able to choose 'is life."

"Maybe he'll get that chance again someday. We can only hope..."

As the two bots spoke, they slowly made their way to a decrepit hangar, where a mech decked in various shades of green worked feverishly to attach a cannon to a transport ship. Another mech with an identical body-type, but orange and maroon coloration, stood near the entrance, clutching a large automatic weapon, which he looked ready to start firing the moment he saw anything remotely resembling a Decepticon.

"Trigger finger twitchin' again, Tigertrack?" the green mech asked.

"Yeah, Snakeskin. I'm honestly surprised I haven't gotten to blast even a Scout-Class drone yet."

"It's a good thing the 'Cons haven't shown up yet, knowing how much Energon you waste with that blaster."

"She's a guzzler, yeah, but ol' Maverick here hasn't let me down since I salvaged her from that Heavy who almost slagged you."

"At least Vespa's attachment to that old Teletraan core makes a little more sense," Snakeskin muttered.

"I heard that, bro," Tigertrack somewhat growled, giving his twin a half-hearted glare.

"Some bots never change," Dashlane snarked. "It's an act of Primus that Tigertrack hasn't been blasted to scrap or turned into a Vehicon Heavy yet." He shuddered at the thought, flashing back to having seen another friend fall victim to the same fate.

"Don't worry, Dash," Snakeskin called out. "I'm not about to let my bro end up like Landmine."

While the three mechs bantered, Vespa busied herself installing her cherished Teletraan core into the ship's console. "I really wish I didn't have to do this to ya, X. I wanted so much more. I wanted you to choose....You deserved that. Slaggin' Decepticons!"

"Now you know why I'd be more than happy to blow that bucket off Megatron's ugly head," Tigertrack commented as he climbed aboard, cocking Maverick.

"Well, wherever we find Prime, we're likely to find Megatron, Tigertrack," Dashlane reasoned. "Hopefully, he won't be running around with the Heart of Cybertron inside his hull, thinking he's Primus or something."

Suddenly, a piercing, maniacal cackle could he heard just outside. "Ooh boy! Look what I found," Triggerhappy happily cried out before transforming and firing into the hangar, not really caring what he hit as long as it did some damage.

"Frag off, you loose screw!" Snakeskin growled before pulling out his rifle and shooting the Decepticon hooligan in the chest, knocking him back and leaving behind a smoking hole in his armor where his Decepticon badge once sat.

"Hey! I was supposed to do that!" the goon complained, sounding like a spoiled child who just lost a game.

"Like you have the aim...or processing power...to do so," the green Autobot fired back as he repositioned himself to avoid an incoming spray of Energon blasts from the crazed Decepticon gunner.

Tigertrack, meanwhile, simply charged at his opposite number, Maverick blazing as he did so. "Game's not so fun now, huh?" he cried out.

"What do you mean? It's just starting!" Triggerhappy retorted as a pair of Heavy Vehicons moved in on either side of him.

"Oh scrap," Vespa grumbled as the drones locked onto the cockpit of the ship.

"I got this, Vespa!" Dashlane called out before transforming into his vehicle mode and driving at full speed toward the drone, causing it to reposition its cannon to aim at him. "Yeah, that's it, scrap brain, keep that thing trained on me," the teal warrior said to himself as he turned toward Triggerhappy and the other drone. He then reverted to robot mode and leapt out of the way just as the Heavy fired, causing the shot to hit Triggerhappy and knock him off his feet, sending him toppling onto the other drone.

"Good thing Triggerhappy's only marginally smarter than those Heavies," Snakeskin commented before hitting the disoriented drone in its fuel tank, causing it to explode violently.

"Yeah. If he had any real brains, we'd be scrap," Dashlane added.

"Good thing it was just him and a couple drones. Last thing we need right now is a 'Con who can pose a real threat," Vespa said while venting a sigh of relief. "Least y'all kept 'em busy long enough fer me to get this installed. We'll be up an' runnin' in 3...2...1..."

Upon the completion of Vespa's countdown, the ship's systems hummed to life. "Teletraan X is online," announced a masculine voice Vespa immediately recognized.

"Hey, X," she greeted, more sorrow than joy in her voice.

"Voice pattern indicates...negative emotion. Explanation...requested."

"Ya gotta be a ship computer now, X. I wanted you to be able to choose yer life."

"Teletraan X is not alive," the AI countered.

"You were...and I hope...you'll get to that point again."

"Spark required to initiate life."

"Not always, X," Vespa tearfully replied as Dashlane, Tigertrack, and Snakeskin joined her at the helm.

"Teletraan X, can you give us a status report?" Dashlane asked.

"Energon reserves at 83%" began the AI. "All engines nominal. Weapon systems nominal. Designate vessel?"

"You wanna name the ship?"

"Designation optional if launch is priority."

Vespa fought for a smile, being slightly reassured by X's seeming desire to give their ship a name. "How about....The Courageous Spark?"

"Courageous Spark accepted. Launch sequence engaged." The ship's hatches closed and sealed as its engines roared to life. The four-bot crew within braced themselves as the small ship lifted itself into the air, leaving behind the run-down bunker that had been its resting place for untold millennia.ennia.

--------------------
Quintesson Judge: Silence, or you will be held in contempt of this court!
Hot Rod: I have nothing but contempt for this court!
- Transformers the Movie (1986)
PROJECT JETFIRE

As soon as the Courageous Spark launched, a purple and maroon helicopter approached the hangar before transforming into a sleek mech with a horned helmet. The mech peered down at the injured Triggerhappy and the two trashed drones at his side. "I fail to understand why Commander Shockwave continues to suffer your incompetence."

"Shut up, Cyclonus," Triggerhappy whined. "Just get me back to Kaon for repairs already!"

"Very well," Cyclonus huffed, internally wondering why he bothered why he even bothered with this idiot. Were he not acting under Shockwave's orders, he would've simply left Triggerhappy for scrap. He reverted to his helicopter mode and lowered a chain, which wrapped around the damaged blue warrior's waist before pulling him up.

"Cyclonus to Shockwave. I have recovered Triggerhappy and am returning to base."

"Excellent, Cyclonus," the Decepticon commander replied over Cyclonus' comm. "I will need his neural net intact for Project Jetfire."

"I doubt he'll provide anything particularly useful, aside from how to mindlessly waste Energon with his aimless shooting sprees," Cyclonus snarked.

"Every iota of combat data will be useful for the project, Cyclonus," Shockwave stated.

"Understood, sir," the purple flyer responded before closing the connection.

"What is this 'Project Jetfire' anyway? Is it just another drone? We got hordes of those!"

"It is far from a typical drone, Triggerhappy," Cyclonus wearily replied. "It will be capable of greater autonomy and more strategic thinking. It will know every move of every Autobot in the resistance. It may even come to outrank you."

"What! I can't be outranked by a drone! It's a...a drone!"

"A drone, yes, but hardly mindless like its predecessors," Cyclonus argued. "I would wager that it'll at least be more intelligent than you."



Meanwhile, in Kaon, Shockwave stood over the form of a large white mech with red and blue accents. A cable ran from its forehead to the main computer, transferring valuable combat data into the machine's mind. A lime-green and black femme with red accents glanced at the computer screen before looking over at the sleeping drone. Everything appeared to be going smoothly, but she had one nagging though on her mind about this whole project, and she couldn't keep the thought to herself any longer.

"Shockwave, are you sure it's wise to grant Project Jetfire this level of intelligence and autonomy? If it undergoes Emergence, its continued loyalty can't be guaranteed."

"I have studied Synth Emergence, Pharma," Shockwave replied. "More often than not, a Synth's post-Emergence behaviors are extensions of its pre-Emergence programming, combined with any training it receives throughout the process. When Emergence begins, it will be important to continuously reinforce our ideals."

"And if that doesn't work?"

"It can be reset in such a way that it will not lose its combat training. Everything has been considered."

"What will its first mission be?"

"A small refurbished shuttle has broken through our planetary blockade," Shockwave explained. "Jetfire will track and destroy."

Just then, Cyclonus entered the room with Triggerhappy, who tensed up upon coming face to face with the Decepticons' Cybertron commander. He had a bad feeling about what was about to happen.

"Oh relax, Triggerhappy. This won't hurt," Pharma said with a hint of insincerity as she plugged another cable into the dull-witted bot's forehead. "It's simply a modified Cortical Psychic Patch."

This only made him tense up more while audibly gulping in fear.

"Begin the extraction, Pharma," Shockwave commanded.

"As you command, sir," she replied before inputting a series of commands to begin the extraction process. All the while, a sadistic grin plastered her face. To her, this seemed like it would be the last time she'd have to deal with this nuisance of a Decepticon.

As soon as the process started, Triggerhappy began to feel a throbbing pain in his helm, as if Energon blasts were being continuously fired right into his neural net. He began to scream and thrash about before Pharma strapped him down. "Quit squirming," she ordered. "This is for your own good." Cyclonus simply chuckled as he leaned against a console with his arms folded over his chest.

Shockwave's expression, meanwhile, remained static as he watched the transfer in progress. "This will be the last bit of combat data Jetfire will require to perform at optimum levels."

"Then we can finally melt that useless piece of scrap down," Cyclonus smiled while envisioning Triggerhappy being dropped into a smelting pool.

"You look unusually giddy, considering who you just had to recover," Pharma observed.

"I'm anticipating never having to hear his obnoxious cackling again."

The torturous extraction process continued for the next couple hours before Pharma removed the cable from Triggerhappy's helm.

"Do you have any idea how much that hurt?" he screamed. "I should blow both your fraggin' heads off for this!" He growled and pointed a blaster at Cyclonus, who simply chuckled as the weapon refused to fire. "You glitch-heads! You deactivated my weapons!"

"It's not like you'll be needing them much longer," Pharma smirked.

"Project Jetfire is now online," announced the newly-awakened drone as it rose off the berth and slowly looked around, taking in its surrounding. Its optics soon focused on Triggerhappy. "Prediction: You will be terminated."

"Would you like to do the honors, Jetfire?" Pharma offered.

Jetfire said nothing, instead grabbing the cowering Decepticon and carrying him toward the nearest Smelting Pool.

"This is what happens to bots who outlive their usefulness to us, Jetfire," Pharma explained as she accompanied him. "It doesn't matter if they're drones or fully Sparked."

"Hey! Let me go, you oversized piece of slag!" Triggerhappy cried.

"Feel free to disregard his request, Jetfire," Pharma said with a satisfied smile.

"Request denied."

"Hey! You're a drone! That means I'm your superior!" the berserker protested. "I order you to put me down!"

"Request denied."

"Aww, come on! I'm not ready to join the AllSpark!"

By now, Triggerhappy was directly above the large pool of white-hot liquid metal. He began to scream and kick Jetfire in the midsection repeatedly, hoping in vain that it would get the larger robot to spare his life.

"Now you can let him go." Pharma smiled.

Triggerhappy gave a brief sigh of relief when Jetfire released its grip, only to scream as he fell straight into the pool, which slowly turned his hull red-hot, then yellow-hot before it finally began to lose its shape. Cyclonus, who had joined them both to watch the now-useless warrior's execution, smiled as he uttered an emphatic "Good riddance."

"Objective complete," Jetfire reported, a brief flash of Triggerhappy's pain during the extraction process entering his mind.

"Well done, Jetfire," Shockwave commented before bringing up the Courageous Spark on the main screen. "Now, it is time for the first true test of your abilities. You are to track down this ship and destroy it."

Jetfire stared at the ship for a few moments, his memory bringing up images of the hangar battle culled from Triggerhappy's mind. He could faintly hear Vespa curse "Aw, scrap" as a Heavy approached the ship. It then saw Dashlane draw the drone's attention away from his companion and back toward its field of view. Something about the scene sharply contrasted what it had just witnessed and participated in. The Autobots protected their own, but Jetfire was just instructed to execute an ally that data showed was loyal to the Decepticon cause.

"Shouldn't you be launching now, Jetfire?" Pharma asked suspiciously. "You were just given an order."

Jetfire was immediately shaken from its thoughts. "Command confirmed," it replied before heading to the nearest launch pad. "Deploying. Objective: Terminate...Courageous Spark."

Can the Decepticons trust this new super-drone? What will become of the Courageous Spark? Perhaps you can find out next time on TRANSFORMERS CHRONICLES!

--------------------
Quintesson Judge: Silence, or you will be held in contempt of this court!
Hot Rod: I have nothing but contempt for this court!
- Transformers the Movie (1986)
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