Optimus and Erector headed out of the garden, taking the shortest route back to the main gate. They stopped for a moment in front of the Alcove of Honor. Erector looked at the rows of plaques disdainfully. The alcove was just inside the main entrance to the garden. On the opposite side of the entrance a large video screen played messages from prospective members endorsing their own election.|
"Vote for Windbreaker! Itíll be a gas!" came the announcerís voice as tape rolled of the orange and blue Autobot winning a race.
"Next time I see him, can I shoot him?" asked Erector shaking his head.
"Iíll take it under advisement," replied Optimus. "Iíve certainly heard worse ideas."
"Vote Revenge of the Fallen Devastator! Heís a candidate with balls! Vote Skids and Mudflap! If you donít, thatís because youíre a p*ssy!" the announcer said while movie scenes played.
"I never should have let them make those movies," said Optimus, facepalming.
"At least they stopped at twelve," said Erector. "Though they werenít all bad. I especially enjoyed your splitting Megatronís head open with an axe."
"Yeah, thatís the one time I wish they hadnít used CGI," laughed Optimus. "Iíd have done some upgrades and done that scene myself."
"Vote Nexus Maximus! Please Google for more information!" said the announcer.
"Okay, that one was funny, and thatís coming from a living penis joke," snickered Erector. "If he wins they should give out souvenir vibrators."
"Yeah," laughed Optimus. "I hope he wins just for the jokes. You know...maybe you should campaign next year."
Erector tried to laugh, but it was more of a grunt. "Do you know I get mistaken for an Earth vehicle at least once a week?" he asked. "No one would ever vote for me. Besides, I donít have any desire to be in the alcove."
"You sell yourself short," said Optimus. "No pun intended. You have as much right to be in the alcove as any Autobot. Donít ever forget that. It doesnít matter what the humans think. You can stand erect and proud knowing what youíve done."
Optimus and Erector reached the parking lot finding Bumblebee and Hot Rod talking animatedly with a humanoid robot.
"I almost forgot," said Optimus. "I need to meet with the convention organizer. It wonít take long. Come on."
"Thatís okay, Prime," said Erector. "Iíll just wait here."
Optimus Prime headed away and Erector sat down on a bench. At his small size, he fit on it pretty well. He was tired. He hadnít been getting a full nightís charge lately. He sat back and closed his optic sensors for a minute.
His auditory sensors were ringing and his head felt like Rumble had been pile driving on it for an hour. He managed to open his optic sensors, but the smoke was so thick, he couldnít see a foot in front of him. Sensors indicted vibration damage only, no major injuries.
Erector tried to get up only to realize something was on top of him. He wasnít sure what had happened or even where he was.
"Kid! Kid!" called a voice through the smoke over the din of the alarms he hadnít even noticed.
"Kup, Iím here," Erector managed to call back weakly. His head still hurt, but at least the ringing had stopped. Unfortunately, he was remembering what was going on.
"Iím cominí, kid!" called Kup. A moment later, the weight was lifted off his back and Kup helped him to his feet. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I think so," said Erector checking his internal sensors again. "Iíll live."
The smoke was starting to clear. They were still in the Decepticon base, or at least what was left of it. This was their biggest energy production facility. They had managed to make it undetected to the North Pole and into the base, but then things got dicey. They had placed the charges on all seven reactors, but they were discovered. Erector and Kup had been separated from the others.
"Come on," said Kup. "Weíre near the rendezvous point. If any of the others made it, theyíll be there now."
Erector tried not to think about their friends as he started climbing over the rubble with Kup. They had been training for this mission for months. Kup was the team commander, and Erector was the lowest ranking member of the team, with far less battle experience than anyone else. Heíd seen some battles, but nothing like this.
A laser blast rang out from the corridor ahead of them, hitting the ceiling just over their head.
"Down!" yelled Kup, as they both dove for cover.
"Kup...that you," came a weak voice up ahead of them.
"Skyhammer!" called Kup.
Kup and Erector jumped up and moved through the smoke until they found Skyhammer on the ground pinned against a wall by some debris. He was a mess.
"What can I do?" asked Erector, getting right into his role as team medic.
"I could use a massage," said Skyhammer sarcastically. "Maybe an oil bath...and a pretty little she-bot with no self respect."
"Guess ya ainít hurt that bad after all," chuckled Kup.
Erector looked over the much larger robotís injuries. His legs were almost completely gone, and he was missing a chunk of his face and shoulder. He had chest damage and was leaking energon. Erector pulled out his repair kit, and tried to stabilize the energon leak while Kup moved some debris that was pinning him against the wall.
"That leak stabilized, kid?" asked Kup.
"Yeah, mostly," said Erector. "Itís pretty bad, but we can move him now, heís stable." He smiled. "Least as stable as he ever was."
Kup grinned. "Okay, then weíll carry him," he said.
"Iíd like to see how you twoíre gonna to do that," asked Skyhammer. "Even with out all my limbs, I have ya outweighed by five times."
"Let us worry about that, Hammer," said Kup. "Have ya seen anyone else?"
What was left of Skyhammerís face fell. "We were all together tryiní to find you guys," he said. "We had three squads of Cons on our tail." He shook his head. "They picked us off one by one. Theyíre all dead. Tried to pullíem out...dead or not...didnít wanna leave Ďem...but I couldnít."
Erector felt his fuel pump seize. He knew this was a suicide mission. He knew none of them were likely coming back. He just wasnít ready to hear that his friends were dead.
"Okay," said Kup. "Weíll mourn Ďem later. We gotta get to the escape pods. Thatís our only chance."
"Kup..." began Skyhammer, but he was cut off.
"Shut it, Hammer," said Kup. "Erector, get his legs...whatís left of íem."
It was slow going over the rubble. The smoke kept billowing out of cracks in the walls and clogging Erectorís air intake, but they kept going. Occasionally theyíd find a dead Decepticon. They found a few live ones too, but they didnít stay that way very long. Kup took care of them. Erector knew they couldnít leave them alive to tell their friends which way they were headed, but he didnít have the stomach to kill a defenseless bot, even it they were Decepticons.
They had barely made it two hundred yards through the twisting corridors when Kupís proximity alarm went off.
"Damn," he said, setting down Skyhammer. Erector nearly collapsed as he put his friend down.
"You okay, kid?" asked Skyhammer as he watched Kup look at his base schematics.
"Sure," said Erector. "You ever consider a diet?"
Skyhammer laughed, but it faded. "Listen...just in case I donít make it out...I want ya to know, Iím proudía ya," he said. "They were too...Wideload, Roadbuster, Eject...even Gears, though that old bastardíll never admit it." He shook his head sadly. "He wouldnít have admitted it."
"Thanks, Hammer," said Erector. "You can tell me later...when weíre home."
"Always the optimist," chuckled Skyhammer. "Never lose that, kid...no matter what happens."
"We got trouble," said Kup. "I count twenty-five Cons coming up fast behind us. Weíve got about ten minutes before they reach us, maybe fifteen if weíre lucky. Weíve gotta get moviní."
"Okay," said Erector. He stood up and moved to pick up Skyhammerís legs.
"No, kid," said Skyhammer solemnly. "This is where we part ways. Been an honor serviní with ya. Finest team I ever beenía part of."
Erector turned and stared at Skyhammer. "What are you talkiní about?" he asked. He turned to Kup. "Whatís he talkinís about?"
"Comeíon, big guy," said Kup unconvincingly. "We can all get outta here."
"Damn it, Kup," said Skyhammer. "We both know I ainít gonna fit in those escape pods, and weíll never reach them together anyway. I may be a Pretender, but Iím not delusional. Iíll just slow ya down. Gotta leave me." He pulled out his laser rifle and four energon grenades. He pushed several buttons on the small devices and tossed them a little ways ahead of them down the hallway. "Iíll buy ya as much time as I can. I set the grenades to go off...when I do."
"NO!" yelled Erector. "Kup, talk some sense into him." He turned to Kup, and could tell from the look on his face, he wasnít going to try.
"Heís right, kid," said Kup. "We leaveíem or weíre all dead." Kup grabbed Skyhammerís hand. "Till all are one, my friend."
"Till all are one," replied Skyhammer. "Iíll take as many of íem with me as I can, but this whole place might come down when those grenades go off, so you best get goíin."
"Come on, kid," said Kup.
"Wait...no!" yelled Erector, but Kup grabbed him and pulled him down the corridor.
"Iím proudía ya, kid," called Skyhammer as he disappeared into the smoke behind them. "Fraid itís as later as itís ever gonna get."
"SKYHAMMER!" Erector yelled. "NO!"
"Hey, wake up."
Erector opened his optic sensors to see Hot Rod and Bumblebee standing in front of him.
"You okay?" asked Bumblebee.
"Yeah, Iím fine," said Erector, trying to push the memory from his mind. It was more of a nightmare than a memory.
"You not getting enough charging time?" asked Hot Rod.
"Guess not," said Erector. "Got a lot on my mind."
"Well, come on," said Bumblebee. "Letís go get some energon and unwind. A little overcharging might do you some good.
Erector was pretty sure nothing would ever do him any good.