I Lost a World!

Chapter 13: In The Thick of It

And so, war came to Cybertron.

The black words glared back at Aria from the white page of the little, pocket sized diary she was growing more and more grateful for. Even now, the full meaning of the words hadn't sunk in. They were just too big an idea for her to comprehend in just a few days. Despite the overwhelming panic and fear at Megatron's ruthless and unexpected attacks, Aria could no more believe she was in the middle of an alien civil war than she could that she was a giant, pink panda wearing a fairy princess costume.

Movement outside her hollow shook her out of her daze. Aria looked over to see Wheeljack and Ratchet moving something she didn't recognize to make room for another something she didn't recognize. The two mechs had been some of the first to throw in their support for Orion Pax and had been modifying equipment and helping to make plans for the coming war ever since.

"Only he is Optimus Prime now." Aria reminded herself for what felt like the millionth time that day. Even now, more than a week after the High Council's proclamation, she kept thinking of the large robot as Orion Pax. Scratch outs proving her slow adaptation littered the last few pages of her impromptu diary.

Aria didn't have the details of what was going on, but she knew that the two mechs rummaging in the room beyond were setting up an emergency medical station for if, when, things went…bad.

But she quickly shook her head to scatter those more morose thoughts. Stubbornly, Aria turned back to her writing.

I don't know how long I've been here – I lost track of the days when I got sick – but it feels long, hopefully longer than it has been. If I had to guess maybe we've been here for a few months? Maybe three or four at the outside, although to be honest sometimes it feels like years. There's been no sign of Sera and it's not like there's been any time to look for her. I hate to think of what's happened to her, but I know she's alive. And even if, God forbid, she isn't, I'm not leaving until I see her. Even if it means staying for this war.

Aria sighed shakily at the very thought, but that didn't change her resolve. She was not leaving without her little sister and that was that.

"No matter what," Aria muttered to herself before moving her pen to a new paragraph.

Not that I don't do my part. However much of a Thumbelina I am compared to them, I'm still glad I can help my friends. Mostly they have me doing search and rescue because I can get into small places where Cybertronians are trapped. That is, if Ori-I mean, Optimus Prime lets me out at all. For someone that isn't actually related to me, he's awfully overprotective. I know he means well, but I still want to help them.

Aria rolled her eyes at the thought of the overprotective mech. Just the other day he had actually had Wheeljack baby sit her. Of course that plan had backfired when the inventor's current project had exploded. Impressively. Aria thought that it must have been some kind of stunning device because the two of them had been stuck there paralyzed for the next few hours.

But no one else, especially Optimus, needed to know about that, Aria decided as she once again put pen to paper.

For some reason I cannot understand – but it's probably because Optimus is a way more compassionate hu-eh, living being than I am – Optimus offered Megatron a chance to turn himself in for the large scale murders he committed. The red-eyed monster refused of course and the first real blows of the war were exchanged a few days later at a place called Fort Syck. Sadly the Decepticons, Megatron's name for his cruelly minded movement, quickly overran the fort, killing almost everyone inside.

Aria had to stop a moment, her pen beginning to shake too much for her to write legibly. "All those lives…" she couldn't help but mourn.

But eventually she turned her attention back towards what else she should write about. What else was there that she might possibly need to remember if she ever left this place?

She was hesitant to admit it, but the thought alone made her sad, even as she felt relieved to think of returning to her nice, safe home far away from a planet that was quickly disintegrating into war.

But Aria quickly shoved these conflicting emotions away, determining them to be nothing but a distraction. "Plenty of time to think on that later. First I got to find Sera."

But how?

The question nagged at her, whispering meanly to her every waking hour and bullying her out of what little sleep she got. It bothered Aria immensely that she still didn't have an answer. And now with everybody so busy just trying to counter Megatron's attacks, she didn't have the heart to ask for help.

Anxiously, Aria bit at her bottom lip as she stared at a new, blank page. She didn't know what else to write and kept fiddling with her pen so that it bounced between her fingers quick enough to form a black blur in front of the otherwise clean, white piece of paper.

Aria leaned her head back against the wall with a thump and sighed heavily. "There's nothing I can do right now. It's all hurry up and wait for something bad to happen." She muttered, feeling rather depressed, not so much at her boredom, but at the awful circumstances that surrounded her. If she wasn't sitting around waiting for something to happen, she was out there in newly made ruins, searching for survivors of the latest catastrophe, but mostly finding unlit eyes that showed the soul had long since flown its metallic nest.

A sudden clamor brought her head up again, except this time it wasn't Wheeljack or Ratchet moving furniture. Instead a familiar blue and silver femme had entered the room, and abruptly run into the stack of supplies that the two mechs had just set down, sending all sorts of things flying to the floor in a gigantic mess.

Aria peered out just in time to see the old medic chuck something at Chromia and say something Aria was pretty sure Ariel would refuse to translate if she had been there. Despite her downward mood, Aria found herself grinning at the white and red mech. He was so easy to irritate sometimes. It could be rather funny.

As Ratchet threw up his hands in frustration on the other side of the room and Wheeljack quickly but stealthily removed all other ammunitions from his friend's reach, Chromia spotted Aria poking her head out of the tiny alcove in the wall that some glitch-mouse or another had abandoned long ago.

"There you are," the warrior femme said in her hurriedly learned English when she was close enough, "ready to hit the road?"

Aria felt her grin shrink. "What's been demolished now?" she asked, unconsciously shrinking in on herself as if she was readying for a blow.

Chromia saw the automatic motion and felt a twinge of sorrow at her new little friend's reaction. She was so young, Chromia knew, barely more than a youngling even by her own race's standards.

"War is no place for younglings. Maybe that's why the well of AllSparks has ceased its flow of new sparks." The former High Council guard thought bitterly. But then she felt a sharp edged grin take shape on her face. "But just try and stop this one from coming and you'll end up with more dents in you than a road side barrier at a Kaon rage race." She thought, more than a trace of pride in her spark. Call it femme intuition, call it whatever you like; the fact of the matter was that Aria was good at finding things, especially lost things. Even Optimus couldn't argue against that, although it didn't stop him from trying most of the time.

Outwardly all Chromia said was, "The Decepticons have laid siege to Praxus, a state off to the west of here, but Prime received a message just before communication was lost for good. Apparently a handful of mechs broke through the Decepticon's barricade. Bad news is they didn't make a clean getaway and now they're trapped somewhere near the ruins of Primahex."

Aria's eyebrows rose in surprise. "And Optimus wants me to go?" She asked, pointing at her chest as if there was some other lost human girl Chromia could have confused her with.

Chromia half shrugged. "Well, not exactly," she tried, but at Aria's slanted look of 'well spit it out' added, "alright so he practically threw a fit when I said I thought you should come, but I think this'll be right up your alley, organic femme."

"Meaning there's a good chance there's going to be lots of little holes for me to crawl through, yeah?" Aria asked raising one eyebrow at Chromia.

The femme shrugged an affirmative. "If they aren't laid up in some half demolished building than I bet they're stuck somewhere under a pile of rubble. And besides, the Decepticons already think that the party of escapees is extinguished or Seekers would be emptying every projectile they have over the place. It should be just as safe as walking down the street."

Aria rolled her eyes. "Yeah, because that's so safe right now with Megatron bombing the city every other day. I swear it's like being in the middle of Germany's bombing of London except with aliens." Just saying it made her feel like she was in the middle of some cheesy, B-rated, alien flick from the eighties.

Chromia looked over Aria's strange words and smiled instead, looking more like a blue and silver wolf rather then a femme. "Well they haven't succeeded in wiping us out yet." She pointed out.

Even Aria had to admit the truth in that, even though she could feel the ground beneath her quake whenever one of Megatron's explosives hit the shield that still miraculously held over the city of Iacon.

"So, are you coming or what?" Chromia finally asked, propping hands on her hips as she looked down at her organic friend.

Aria breathed in deep, beating back her rising fear with her more powerful desire to help in any way she could. "Yeah," she said, her tone rising nervously, "wouldn't miss it for the world."

Chromia nodded and waited as Aria climbed down the rope Ratchet had hung so that the little organic could get down to the floor without constantly asking for his or some other busy mech's help.

They had just started heading toward the door when Wheeljack suddenly called out from the other side of the room.

"Oh Aria wait up a klik! I've got something for you." He shouted before rummaging through the strange looking metal objects that were always cluttering up his work table. "Now where did I-? Aha! Here it is!" He shouted triumphantly, holding up a cylindrical metal shape about as long as Aria's forearm. She thought it looked eerily similar to a light saber as Wheeljack came and proudly presented it to her.

"This is for you," he told her as he handed it over.

Uncertainly, Aria picked up the smooth cylinder. "Uh, thanks Wheeljack you, ah, shouldn't have?"

The inventor knelt down and smiled at her, not noticing her wariness of the whatever-it-was he had just placed in her hand. "Optimus told me that you could use some sort of weapon to defend yourself when you go out. So with a few suggestions from him and Jazz, I whipped this up for you. If you just press that button there you can test it to see how it works." He said pointing at said button.

Aria looked up at him. The inventor looked positively giddy, which did not make Aria feel any more comfortable with testing out her new weapon.

Chromia just took a safe step backwards.

Wondering if she shouldn't just do the same, Aria gingerly pressed the button, unable to disappoint Wheeljack's eager optics. She did however, close her eyes and pull back as far away as she could from the heavy metal cylinder.

With a sharp metal ping, a modestly sized, four pronged grappling hook popped out of the far end of the cylinder. It landed heavily on the floor with a clank, several feet of tough, durable, black rope connecting the hook to the cylinder in Aria's hand.

Aria blinked down at the hook, temporarily confused by the lack of explosion. Then her face split into a huge smile.

"It's a rope." Chromia pointed out flatly, less than amused.

Still smiling like mad, Aria looked up at the inventor. "It's perfect!" She shouted in excitement, truly pleased by Wheeljack's gift. Finally, something she knew how to actually use.

Wheeljack instantly turned bashful, looking down at the floor as he rubbed at the back of his head "Ah, well," he stammered, somewhat embarrassed by Aria's praise.

"Wouldn't it just have been easier to give her a gun?" Chromia asked as she knelt down and inspected the odd little device.

Wheeljack coughed as a different embarrassment took over. "It's hard to make one that small. I'm still working on one." He said defensively. "This was just simpler is all. And I, ah, couldn't get the darn thing to stop blowing up in my face." He admitted somewhat miserably.

Chromia gave an, "Ah," of understanding.

Aria ignored them as she pulled more rope from the cylinder, gripping it tight in her hand as she started to swing it in wide arcs first one side of her body and then the other in a large figure eight. She smiled at the satisfying whooshing sounds it made as it swung past her ears. It made her feel like Jackie Chan in that one western movie.

"If you push the button forward, it retracts again," Wheeljack told her when she had slowed the rope to a safer speed before letting the hooked end fall to the floor near her feet.

Aria tried it and, sure enough, the hook came flying backwards into the cylinder. Maybe with a little more force than strictly necessary, but hey, it still worked.

Beaming, Aria looked up at the inventor, liking the weight of the device in her hand. Not only did she have at least some slight way of defending herself, but now she didn't have to go snitching cables every time she wanted to relieve stress by hanging five feet in the air. "Thanks Wheeljack, I love it." She told him.

Wheeljack smiled back at her. "My pleasure, little Aria. And now at least you have some way of getting out of the direct line of fire should something go wrong."

Behind Aria, Chromia rolled her optics as she thought about how likely that was. "Well then," she added, "if there's nothing else you want to give us, like a slingshot or some other simple machine, we should get going. Come on Aria," she ordered, heading toward the door.

"Good luck!" Wheeljack yelled after them. Then when he was sure they were gone, he thanked Primus that his gift hadn't blown up like its previous prototypes had.

"And if it does later, well, please let it be in the face of a Decepticon," he thought, inwardly praying for the femmes' safe return.

The ride to Primahex was rough and tumble thanks to the mix of obliterated roads and cross country trekking. Aria bounced more than sat in the relative safety of the femme Firestar's cab as they sped across the last stretch of empty plains. As another large pothole sent Aria's head crashing into the red femme's ceiling, she began to honestly think it might be better if she just walked back to Iacon, no matter how long it took.

"There it is," Chromia's voice came over what passed for a Cybertronian radio. The other femme, and consequently the only other being on this mission, was driving off to Firestar's right, throwing up metallic rocks as she tore across the empty plains. Her alt-form had no cab and only two wheels to match her slim blue frame. She was practically a motorcycle, Aria had thought when she first saw Chromia transform.

Another bump nearly sent Aria nose first into the windshield. Seeing the still smoking ruins up ahead gave her a sense of relief strong enough to make her sigh at the sight, no matter how horrifying.

They arrived at the ghost town after another handful of minutes. Both red and blue femmes slowed when they crossed the line of burnt out buildings, sensors wary of anything lurking in the smoky shadows that still hung in the streets, even though the attack on Primahex had ended almost an orn ago.

"Alright," Firestar's voice whispered softly through the cab, "where are they then? This place is giving me the creeps."

Aria silently agreed with her. Burned, smoke blackened buildings lined each side of the narrow street, smoke still pouring out of some of the gaping windows. War debris and smoldering wreckage littered the street, making it nearly impossible for Firestar's larger alt-form to navigate it safely. Chromia, having a better time avoiding the scattered pieces of destruction attempting to bar their way, took the lead.

The only good thing Aria could see in this smoldering ghost town was the merciful absence of lifeless, metal bodies like the ones Aria had already seen too much of. This was one of the few places that had evacuated to safer ground before Megatron visited them with molten flame and screaming missiles.

"This way," Chromia whispered in front of them, "Prime said that, as near as they could figure, the last known coordinates of their transmission came from right around he-"

Before she could finish, a large mech, covered in black armor, leapt out from behind the next corner, ion cannons on each of his massive arms blazing blue-white with energy. Aria gasped when she saw one was pointed at her and Firestar and the other at Chromia.

But the blue femme didn't let that stop her from quickly gunning her engine and then transforming, mid-skid, as she slid forward, letting her sudden increased momentum carry her forward across the debris littered pavement.

She stopped, fully transformed, at the mech's feet, her own fully charged cannons aimed up at his chest and head.

For a long minute, Aria didn't even breathe. It had all happened so fast, her mind was still trying to figure out how Chromia had gotten her feet back so suddenly.

"Come to finish the job Decepticon trash?" The mech growled, refusing to back down even in the face of Chromia's smaller, but still deadly, weapons.

Aria could practically feel Firestar bridle under her. "Do we look like garbage to you?" She demanded, clearly insulted.

"Can't think of anyone else with a reason to come all the way out here," the mech said, calmly looking between the still un-transformed Firestar and the aiming Chromia down at his feet. "Especially with all of the fun going on at the Praxus border not too far from here." He growled angrily.

Against what Aria thought to be common sense, Chromia smiled, however grimly, up at the mech, blatantly ignoring the blue blaze of death he had pointed at her chest armor.

"You must be from around here," she said, voice smooth and low, practically a purr, but with a dangerous edge hidden under its softness, "no one insults complete strangers better than a Praxian." She murmured.

The mech growled low in his vocal processor, but didn't speak as he reassessed the two in front of him.

"Autobots?" He eventually asked, his voice low and gravelly.

Chromia smirked up at him. "Autobots."

Gradually, both lowered their weapons.

Aria watched, jaw practically blowing in the breeze, as the still unnamed mech reached out a large hand and helped Chromia to her feet.

"What just happened?" She asked, totally confused. For the femmes, it had only been a tense moment of assessing just who, exactly, they were dealing with. But for the little human, it had been a too long period of time wondering when who was going to shoot who already. And then they just got lowered their guns and went on their merry way? Really?

Oblivious to her small friend's complete confusion, Chromia introduced herself. "The name's Chromia and I've been sent by Optimus Prime to help any of the survivors that made it through the Decepticon siege line. I take it you're one of them then Praxian?" She asked with a smirk, no doubt remembering his earlier garbage-Decepticon comparison.

The mech snorted gruffly. "Ironhide," he said by way of introduction, "there are seven of us left, but we had to scatter to keep away from Megatron's goons. And with the interference they've got blanketing the area I can't reach anyone else."

Chromia grinned and jerked her head back towards Firestar. "You let us worry about that. Optimus Prime even lent us a good luck charm. She'll find your friends in no time. Any 'cons around?"

For the first time since they had met him, Ironhide grinned, mercilessly. "Not anymore." He told her. "But I wouldn't put it past them to be watching the area. The last ones I saw were coming from-" he trailed off, a perplexed look coming onto his face as he spotted something over Chromia's shoulder, "what is that?"

Chromia turned around to see Aria climbing out of Firestar's alt-form so the red femme could transform.

She turned back towards Ironhide, smirking again. "Our good luck charm."

Aria scrabbled through the hole in the debris pile on her hands and knees, huffing and puffing as sweat poured into her eyes. Stopping for a moment, she wiped her brow with the back of her arm.

"Lord, it's so hot down here," she groaned as small rocks dug into the palms of her hands. "I hope they're not down here just so I can go back," she muttered as she started forward again, crawling over and under the rocks that littered the space just big enough for her to make her way through. This was the third pile of stones she had crawled through this morning and still they hadn't found armor nor antenna of Ironhide's missing companions.

"Small town, she says, easy to search, she says, complete bunk says I," Aria complained under her breath. Soon she was forced to halt as a pile of large stones blocked her way.

"Slag," she swore, an alien word she had heard more than once from some of the more street wise members of Optimus Prime's forces. Then, grunting in frustration and exertion, Aria started shoveling the looser debris out behind her, digging a hole to the other side.

She stopped when her fingers struck grooved metal. And not just metal like the iron laced ores she had been staring at for the last twenty-minutes or so, but warm, living, metal.

Eyes going wide, Aria dug more frantically around the metal foot, slowly but steadily making her way to the left of the frame. She was rewarded with some breathing space up near the bot's ankle joint.

"Hey!" She called as she crawled past the creature's leg, "Hey, you alive over there?"

No one answered.

Aria swore again, this time going with a more human expression. "Are you alive?" She asked, a pleading note entering her voice. Carefully, desperately hoping that the poor bot wasn't dead like so many others she had found, Aria crawled, hand over hand, up the robot's chest armor.

Finally she stopped, just under the behemoth's chin.

"Hello?" She yelled, cupping her hands around her mouth as if that would help.

A vent of dusty air blew out of the gaps in between the mech's sturdy, red and orange painted armor.

Around her sudden coughing, Aria smiled broadly. He was still alive. "Hold on there mister! I gotta go call in the Calvary. I'll be right back!"

Elated, Aria jumped back down to the gritty ground and headed back down the crawl space she had just come up through. "Chromia! Hey, Chromia I found one! Quick, quick! Come help him!" She started hollering even though she knew she was still too far away for the femme to hear her.


Aria skidded to a stop when she saw that, instead of solid ground, a large gaping hole was sitting in front of her. It was dark and hot air kept blowing out, like someone was breathing on her.

"Must have taken a wrong turn somewhere," the human girl muttered as she stared down into the dark abyss, "I would blame it on Albuquerque, but it's off in a different solar system." Aria swallowed hard, her heart pounding as she realized the incline was too steep for her to climb. If she had fallen, she would have been stuck down there for a very long while.

Dirt slid over the edge in dusty landslides as Aria back pedaled, looking for a place to turn around and get herself back on track out of this hot pile of scrap metal.

Glowing blue saucers suddenly blinked on in the dark pit, making Aria scream. Then another set appeared, and a third. As Aria stared into the hole she began to see the dimly lit outlines of other robots down there in the dark.

"I guess I found all of you then," Aria muttered as she counted two more offline bots in the darkness. That made five, six plus their friend buried in the dirt. "Yep, that's the lot of them," Aria murmured to herself.

Before she could go tell Chromia and Firestar of her find, a very different kind of glow appeared in the black near one of the sets of gleaming eyes. The high pitched whine of an ion cannon coming online made the fine hairs on the back of Aria's neck stand on end.

Carefully, she held up both her hands as the barely seen robot pointed it at her.

"Whoa there big fella," Aria said, as low and soothingly as she could, hoping tone would convince them of her peaceful intentions when words couldn't, "I'm here to help you. I'm with Optimus Prime, an Autobot, just like you." And then when that got no reaction she tried, "Ironhide told me you were down here. He sent me to come find you."

Uncertainty entered the glowing blue eyes and Aria watched as the mech stepped forward, eyeing her suspiciously.

"Yeah, you know that name don't you; Ironhide." Aria said again, this time pointing back the way she had come.

The mech glared at her, but reluctantly lowered his weapon.

Only pausing long enough to smile at the group of buried robots uneasily, Aria turned and scrabbled off down the dirt tunnel. Fortunately, this time she didn't get lost.

She was out of breath by the time she crawled out of the rubble pile's grip and collapsed over by Chromia's feet, gasping for air.

"Aria?" The blue femme asked, sounding slightly worried at her state. "Did you find anything?"

Aria nodded and pointed back the way she had come. "They're there, all of them. One's unconscious about halfway down and then the other five are down in some sort of pit and can't get out."

Chromia nodded and then gently grabbed the little organic femme and placed her on her own silver shoulder. "Show me," she ordered, letting go of her small friend to re-aim her weapon, keeping a wary optic on the surrounding buildings.

With various pointing, and not a small amount of guessing on Aria's part, the small human did her best to show her metallic friend where the offline robot lay. Then with a little bit of digging, a deep red shin came into view.

"That looks like Inferno," Ironhide said, a worry in his voice that not even Aria, who didn't understand his Cybertronian speech, could miss it.

"He's still alive," Aria told Chromia as she readjusted her grip on the femme's silver streaked shoulder guard, "I saw him move and he blew a bunch of dust on me when I asked him how he was."

"He's under a bunch of rock, how do you think he's doing?" Chromia pointed out as she scanned the ashen buildings off to her left before helping Firestar uncover the offline Inferno. Between the two of them it wasn't long before they had most of the brilliantly painted mech unburied.

"Hey Ironhide, lend us a hand," Chromia called over to the black mech. Casting a wary look at the empty buildings, he came and helped the two femmes pull his friend from the suffocating dirt and into the relative safety of a fallen building that now more resembled a lean-to than anything else.

Quickly, he brought his cannons up to bear again. "How did you learn to speak with that," he looked over at Aria, "whatever it is."

Chromia smirked at him. "My sister was of the language caste. She's given us enough of a jump start on Aria's language that now the organic femme can try and teach us herself. Of course, she's not really the teaching type so it's slow going, but it's going all the same. Now, Aria," she said addressing the little organic sitting on her shoulder, "where is this hole?"

Aria obligingly showed her.

"Hey!" Firestar yelled down at the rocks. "Anybody down there?"

There was a long cycle of silence, and then a muffled cry reached their waiting auditory receptors.

From a few yards to their left. Aria grinned bashfully. "I guess my sense of direction isn't all it's cracked up to be." She admitted, making Chromia smile.

But it was a short lived gesture. "The debris' thicker here, it's going to take awhile to dig them out." Chromia observed as she prodded at the dirt.

Firestar vented a frustrated sigh. "Ugh, wonderful. This is going to take forever."

"Then we had better get to it then," Chromia said trading one of her cannons for a long fingered hand.

They hadn't gotten more than a few feet through the debris when a rock just above Chromia's head exploded.

The femme ducked so fast that Aria ended up falling off her shoulder, landing hard enough on the rock littered ground to chase the air from her chest.

Quick as lightening, Ironhide fired off a shot at the attacker, missing as the other mech dove for nearby cover.

"Decepticons!" He shouted, his loud cry shaking Aria out of her oxygen starved stupor. "Hurry and get them out of that pit!"

But another shooter pinned down Firestar, making her stay behind the dirt hill or brave a shot to the head.

Aria stayed behind Chromia's silver leg. From there she could make out the shadowy frames of five mechs, all darkly painted and with weapons primed and blazing.

Another rock exploded nearby and Aria flinched, shielding her head with her hands, much good it would do. Chromia fired off a well timed shot, taking out the Decepticon that was keeping Firestar pinned behind the rubble, and then turned and shouted above the roar of cannon fire. "Help Firestar!"

Aria nodded, terrified out of her mind, then with a fearful look at the attackers, she turned and fled towards the red femme. Frantically, she started burrowing through the dirt. Eventually she noticed that Firestar was just sitting there, a look of startled terror on her usually fearless face.

"HURRY UP!" The little human yelled.

With a sharp nod, Firestar shook herself and started flinging dirt behind her, almost reburying Inferno in the process.

With the first mech down, the other Decepticons were left to deal with Chromia and Ironhide. Another mech tried to stop the red femme, but Chromia's ion blast whistling just past his auditory receptor changed his mind.

"I'll teach you monsters not to mess with me!" Chromia yelled charging her cannons and shooting with enough accuracy that one of the Decepticons went down before he even had a chance to process Chromia's words.

Stunned, but obviously thrilled with Chromia's gung ho, hand-them-their-afts-on-a-silvered-platter attitude, Ironhide vented a laugh. "Where have you been stationed all my life?" He asked himself, absentmindedly smiling crookedly as he took aim and continued firing on the ducking Decepticons.

But Chromia heard him over the crackle of his ion cannons and smiled, feeling a thrill herself, and not just from the rush of battle, although she did find the black mech's cannons more than impressive…

Despite the distraction they seemed to pose for each other, Chromia and Ironhide quickly dealt with the handful of Decepticon scouts. By the time they were done, Firestar had managed to make a large enough hole for the trapped bots to scramble out of.

"Well," Chromia said, sounding a bit breathless, "that was fun."

Her words coaxed a smile out of the older black mech.

Finally, the last bot, a femme surprisingly enough painted sea green, crawled out of the rubble and dazedly looked around. Eventually she saw the extinguished frames of their Decepticon attackers. "Aw Ironhide, you stole all the fun." She complained, only somewhat teasingly.

Ironhide gave the femme a slanted grin. "Don't worry Moonracer. There's plenty more where that came from. Now let's go find them."

They headed out, Firestar helping the now only slightly functioning Inferno and Ironhide leading the way with the others following.

Aria fell in step beside Chromia at the rear. "Told you good things happen when you're around," Chromia leaned down to murmur to her with a significant look at Ironhide where he was scoping out the plains ahead of them. Aria was grinning and shaking her head at her friend when the mech turned and waved them forward.

"Hurry while it's clear-" he told them in his gravelly undertone. Chromia motioned for Aria to wait as the rest of the group joined Ironhide, staying low and, hopefully, out of sight. When they were the only two left, Chromia rushed forward, Aria dashing at her feet. The blue and silver femme glanced around the next corner before giving the little human a literal green light. They were only a few feet away from the others now.

And then all Hell seemed to break lose around them.

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