Winner of Most Like a Beast Wars Episode and runner-up for Most Thought-Provoking '04


The Other Side of Purpose

By: Sapphire

The silver droplet slid lazily down the stained, empty tube, catching the light as it went.  Down, down it worked its way until it found the dark at the end of its tunnel.  A hazy moment fluttered by, and then another droplet just like it, wormed through the tube.  Eternally.  Rhythmically.  He could hear it slip and sweep the plastic sides of its narrow pathway.

He blinked slowly, and sighed.


"He's awake!"

A voice he knew.  It tickled a memory at the back of his mind.  It was familiar, but not pleasing to his ears, although he knew it was not a threat.

"Shh, Cheetor!  Don't disturb him.  He's just coming to.  We don't want to alarm him."

Cheetor, yes, and the one scolding him:  Optimus.  He groaned.

There was a shuffling noise and a shadow came over him.  Primal's large green eyes gazed down at him.

"Depth Charge?  How're you feeling?"

The manta-ray bot lifted his right arm gingerly.  It was tender, but not excruciating to move.  He rubbed his forehead gently.

"Like I've been under several large doses of drugs for a stellar cycle."

A voice from a bot out of his sight drifted to his audios.

"Aw, would you look who's finally risen from slumber!  Sleepin'  Beauty 'imself!"

"Rodent," Depth Charge grumbled, and Optimus smiled.

"You have been under a lot of drugs, it's true.  You nearly died.  We've been putting you through grueling repair cycles for two weeks.  We didn't think you'd pull through, but then, by some miracle, you found some strength in you.  There's really no explanation for it, but I'm glad to have you back online, Maximal."

Depth Charge sat up slowly and rubbed his face with his hands.  He felt heavy and sore and incredibly weary.

"Nearly died?  How...where...?" He looked around and realized for the first time that he was not in the Ark, but on a small shuttle...and in space.

"Primus!  We're...we're not on Earth anymore!"

"Welcome back to da times, Charlie Tuna!  We left Earth almost a fortnight ago," Rattrap stated as he passed by in front of him, momentarily blocking Depth Charge's view of the stars racing past.

Optimus shook his head in quiet irritation at Rattrap, who shrugged and stared.

He sighed and looked back at Depth Charge.  "I'm not surprised that you're disorientated.  It's quite something to wake up to.  If you like, I can explain later, when you're feeling better."

"No," Depth Charge breathed gruffly,  "I want to know now.  What happened?"

A strange but brief expression flashed across Optimus's face, but vanished quickly.  Depth Charge wasn't sure what it was, but it looked like...regret?

"Well, what's the last thing you remember?" the Maximal asked.

Depth Charge paused and stared intensely at the floor for a moment, as he allowed his tired and confused mind to gather his sketchy memories.

"I remember...being underwater.  You sent me there to stop Megatron.  He had the Nemesis."

"Yes, but you didn't stop it."

Depth Charge glanced up quickly.

"I didn't?"

Optimus shook his head tentatively.

Depth Charge lowered his eyes and frowned deeply.

"Why...?  I...I remember something distracted me.... It..."

Rattrap opened his mouth to say something but Optimus silenced him with a swift wave of his hand.  He was watching Depth Charge closely.

A distant, high-pitched noise started sounding, growing louder and louder.  It was like a large mosquito, coming closer to his audios.

"Listen!  Can you hear that?" Depth Charge asked, eyes wide and alert.

"Hear what?" came Primal's voice, but it was soft and muffled.

Depth Charge stared at him, frowning.

"Hear what, Depth Charge?"

The noise grew in intensity, until it was screaming in the room.

"Depth Ch..." Primal's voice drowned in the high, singing noise that filled the air.  Depth Charge watched him in morbid fascination, slowly bringing his hands up to his audios.  Rattrap started melting in the background, blurring and then sliding down the wall into a blue liquid.  Optimus's form became mashed and jellified, only his mouth was clear.  He could see it moving.  Mouthing: "Depth Charge?  What's wrong?"  The noise was piercing.  He groaned, but he could not hear his own cry.  Then, all of a sudden, the window broke in slow-motion, the shards of glass floating casually towards him.  The stars poured in with the night sky, like a black liquid...

And then, abruptly, it stopped.

"Depth Charge?!" Optimus put his hands on the bot's shoulders and shook him.

Depth Charge shuddered and Optimus let go of him.  Slowly, with a dazed look of confusion, Depth Charge turned to look at him.

"Are you all right?  You just kinda, well, for lack of a  better term, 'spaced out' there, all of a sudden," Optimus said slowly.

"Must be da drugs," Rattrap commented.  Depth Charge stared at him.

"What?" Rattrap asked, throwing his hands up.

"Yeah," Depth Charge finally said.  "Must be the drugs...  Why is this drip still in my arm?"

Optimus cleared his throat and glanced briefly at it.  "Oh, well, you were having some...some bad nightmares, during the healing process.  The drip is a tranquilizer, although we're only giving you tiny doses now, seeing as you stopped shaking about two days ago."

"Shaking?" Depth Charge murmured.

"Yeah, pretty violently too.  I would know!  I was yer vigil more dan once," Rattrap said as he came to Optimus's side.

Depth Charge nodded thoughtfully.  "I suppose a near-death experience would do that to a guy.  But how...?"

"I think we've established that you're not well enough to hear that just yet, Depth Charge," Optimus cut him off quietly.

"Eh, let dem drugs work deir way outta yer system, Cap'n Minnow.  By tomorrow, you'll be feelin' better."

Depth Charge continued nodding, and sank back down onto the recharge bed.

" last thing, before I pass out," he whispered.

"Yes?" Optimus said expectantly.

"Where am I?"

"On an emergency Autobot shuttle..."

He faded from sight, and sleep set in.

Blackarachnia elbowed Silverbolt lightly.

"Do you mind?  I'm trying to read!" she growled.

"Surely the Covenant of Primus isn't more interesting than me?" he said, flashing his sweetest, most dorky-looking grin.

"Bowser, we have a long life ahead of us on Cybertron, so, quit the mush already.  I can't give you my attention all the time!"

Silverbolt sighed and settled down onto his seat.  "Blackarachnia, there are three very small rooms to this ship.  The control room, the engine room and a tiny corner room where our injured comrade sleeps.  Why, when we finally have a room to ourselves, for once in this dreadful flight, must I ignore you?!"

She glanced around her.  "Silverbolt?  This is the engine room.  It's hardly an ideal setting for romance of any kind, and I'm not in the mood for cuddling and talking about 'the future'.  Really, I am enjoying this. If you can't sit still, go play cards with Rattrap and the others in the control room!"

Silverbolt snorted gently.  "I feel....left out, with them.  Rattrap doesn't play fair."

"Hel--LO!  He's a rat, bone brain!"

He sighed.  "Very well," he said as he stood up and stretched.  "If my lady wishes for a quiet moment to herself, I shan't deny her that."


Silverbolt walked to the exit and glanced back at her.  "Goodbye."

"Mprmph," she grunted, as she buried herself in her book.  He frowned, and walked out.

He was immediately in the control room.  That was how cramped and tiny this shuttle was.  He was immensely glad that Cybertron was only four days away.  He was really beginning to feel the claustrophobia.

He looked across the room and saw Cheetor, Rattrap and Optimus playing a came of cards.  At the front of the ship, Rhinox was day-dreaming in front of the controls.  The ship was set on auto-pilot.  All he really had to do was make sure there were no unforeseen asteroids crossing their path, and even then, the computers would give him some warning.

"You lose again, kiddo."

"I hate you, Rattrap."


Silverbolt shook his head and glanced to the right-hand side of the room.  There was no door leading into the small, corner room in which Depth Charge slept.  He could see the ray-bot's legs and feet, twitching slightly.  Apparently, he'd woken up yesterday, but at the time both he and Blackarachnia had been asleep.

A sudden curiosity overcame him, and he walked unnoticed across the room to the entrance of the corner room.  He peered into the darkness.  Depth Charge was sound asleep, muttering a little.  Silverbolt tilted his head slightly, and stared at the raybot..  His fists kept clenching and unclenching, and he was snorting uncomfortably.  It looked like he was having a bad dream.  Feeling a little sorry for him, Silverbolt made to step inside and wake him, but felt a tight, sudden grip around his arm.  He swiveled around to see Optimus, who was giving him a warning look.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you.  Waking someone up when they're in the middle of a nightmare is apparently very bad for their psyche, and Depth Charge isn't the most stable of bots at the moment, either."

Silverbolt nodded, and Optimus released his grip.

"I'm sorry.  There's just something, unnerving, about seeing another experience a bad dream.  You feel empathetic for them."

"I know," Optimus said, his gaze drifting towards the sleeping bot.  "But there are some things we should just let be."

He turned back to Rattrap and Cheetor with a sudden, bright smile.  

"So!  Who's up for scrabble?"

There was a collective moan from both of them.

"What?  Are my suggestions always that bad?" Optimus laughed.

Silverbolt watched Optimus seat himself in front of the bored, dreary looking pair.  They seemed to be in a different time and place to him, somehow.  Again, he was drawn to the dark room and the sleeping bot within.  He let out a very small, startled gasp when he saw two bright red optics glowing in the darkness.

"Depth Charge?  Are you awake?"

No reply.  It took the fuzor a moment to realize the ray-bot was sleeping with his eyes open.

The noise a water droplet makes as it plunges into a puddle, fast becomes an annoying one. It also carries with it a sense of loneliness, as in order to hear such a gentle sound, it has to be very, very quiet.

But he was not alone.

He stepped cautiously forward into the dark recesses of the building.  Broken pipes dripped fluid onto the white-tiled corridors.  Sparks of electricity spat out little flares into the gloom, momentarily highlighting his pathway.  A door ajar, at the end of a hollow passage.

Destruction.  This place was a wreck.  Not a thing stirred in it.  The heavy stench of mech fluid greeted his senses.  The air was bated with death.  Who had done this?  He could hear the thought pass through his mind like an echo, but he knew the answer.  His present self was nestled, trapped in a memory and all he could do was follow the drive of a memory recalled.  His footsteps were heavy with dread, as he approached the door and attempted to enter the darkness, the blackest black there was.


He awoke.  Had there not been a strong, warm light coming in through an open doorway to his lower right, he would not have been aware he had awoken at all.  Voices drifted to him, and he sat up groggily.

"You cheated!"

"I did nuthin' of da sort!  I'm tellin' ya kid, "hunnies" is a word!  It's slang fer femmebots."

"Please can we not argue over scrabble, for Primus's sake!"

The last voice was Primal's.  Depth Charge stood up, and regretted it immediately after.


He flopped down onto the bed, and a moment later Optimus rushed into the dull room.

"You tried to stand, huh?" he asked, the alarm fading from his face.

Depth Charge nodded, still feeling unnaturally subdued.  Usually he would be irate and snappy, but the drugs must still be calming his systems.

"How long have I been out?"

"About eleven mega-cycles.  You needed the rest."

"Obviously," he said without an ounce of sarcasm.  He looked up at Optimus.

"I want to know now, what happened, to me, to everyone."

Optimus glanced over his shoulder.

"He's all right, you two carry on playing.  I'm no good at that game, anyway."

"You suggested it!" Cheetor protested, but Optimus ignored him.

He switched on the light and walked into the room.  His head just skimmed the roof.  He sighed.  "This is an Autobot ship, and I still feel too big for it."

"I don't think it was meant for anything but weapons and storage," Depth Charge said, looking around the otherwise empty room. 

"Probably.  Now, you said the last thing you remembered was being distracted when you went down to stop Megatron and the Nemesis, right?"


Optimus pointed to the ceiling with a smirk.  "It might please you to know in advance that we defeated him, and he's tied to the roof of the ship as we speak."

"Sounds good so far," he replied cautiously.

"Well, to cut a long story short, you bumped into Rampage while you were down there------"


His face.  His horrible eyes!  There he was, inches away from him.

"Take it!!  Take it straight to the pit you sickening--"


"---and you two got into a fight.  While this was happening, Megatron raised the Nemesis---"


"You sickening piece of slag!"

A look of fear and then, he let go of the blade and stared up at him, his body convulsing in wicked laughter.  He knew then that he had to take him out on the spot, even if it meant they would both....


"---and somehow, and I'm still curious to know this, you killed Rampage and floated up to the surface.  We thought you'd taken out the Nemesis at first, but then it came up and we realized by scanning the bits of floating Rampage that you'd obviously been preoccupied."




"No!" Depth Charge roared and lunged forward, clamping his hands around Primal's throat.  He responded by thrusting him away with such force that Depth Charge fell all the way back onto the bed.  His chest heaved and a surge of heat charged through his inner tubes and pipes.

"What was that for?" Optimus breathed, a protective hand over his own throat.

"I killed him."

Optimus stared at him incredulously.  "Yes.  Yes, you killed him.  I don't know how you did that, but you did."

"Impossible.  I would be dead too, then."

Depth Charge could just see Optimus's head shaking.

"No, it's the truth.  Rampage was in tiny pieces when we found him.  You were much the same, but your chest had remained in tact, and your spark, although severely battered, was online."


A sigh.  "Depth Charge, I'm not lying to you.  I brought you back to base while Tigerhawk held off the Nemesis.  I'm afraid he died doing so.  Megatron very nearly destroyed us all with that ship, but then something miraculous happened.  I had managed to get into the Nemesis myself, but Megatron, to give him his due, defeated me in one-on-one combat.  Then, when he gave Transmetal Two Dinobot the order to blast the Ark, with you and all the others in it, he defied him."

Depth Charge jerked upright and shot Optimus a look of disbelief and disgust.

"He did what?"

"He'd also sent down emergency class data to the Ark, to give us an honorable, fighting chance.  The information let Rhinox know about this shuttle, which he then flew into the Nemesis, and took out Megatron.  The rest is history.  We brought you onboard and here you are, recovered.  Megatron's minions were either killed or left behind.  That's the story, I promise."

"No no no, that raptor carried the core of X's spark.  No way he'd do that.  There's just no slagging way."

Optimus rubbed his temples, obviously feeling a headache coming along.

"Well, he did, and quite honestly, I think it was because his spark was finally and completely separate from Rampage's, thanks to you.  I suppose, if you look at it that way, your defeat of Rampage saved us all."

"But it doesn't make sense!" Depth Charge choked, his voice breaking as he stared, wide-eyed with fear and confusion at the Maximal leader.

A whispered, almost inaudible cackle sifted through the following silence.

"Did you hear that?" Depth Charge rasped.

Optimus shook his head and sighed again.  "I think this has all been a bit much for you.  Go back to sleep.  You're distraught."

"Where are the pieces?" Depth Charge growled. 

"Where are what?"

"Where are the pieces!  I want to see his remains!"

"For Primus's sake, Depth Charge, we didn't salvage the---"


He became aware of the shocked, total silence that followed as the voices from the other room stopped abruptly.  His cry rang in the air.

Optimus backed towards the exit very slowly, holding up his hands defensively.

"We don't have them.  We never salvaged them.  It was clear---"

"You didn't SALVAGE them?!"

"---It was clear he'd been annihilated."

"HOW can you be so SURE if I looked 'much the same' and then I turned out to be alive?  That-I-would've-survived a direct energon explosion to my chest and Rampage wouldn't?" he blurted, his hands clutching at the edge of the bed, weakly trying to hold his own trembling body from erupting into spasms of panic.

"Now listen to me Depth Charge," Optimus said, his voice rising with impatience, the soothing, rational edge to it gone.   "Rampage is dead, and we're all heading back to Cybertron as the victors of the Beast Wars.  Understand?"

"LIAR!" he yelled, and lunged once more at him, but Optimus was prepared.  

He pushed Depth Charge back down again. "Rhinox!!" Optimus called, and there was another set of arms holding him down as Rhinox came quickly to Optimus's aid.  Depth Charge kicked and struggled, thrashing wildly on the recharge bed.

"Hold him still.  Hold him!  I need to give him a dose of tranquilizer..." Rhinox said, although Depth Charge could no longer see him.  His vision had turned into a violent red and all he could feel was searing heat and unwanted, restrictive hands holding him down.


"Calm down, Depth Charge.  Calm down!"

A sting.  Brief, but sharp.

"There we go.  It's in."

"Liar!" Depth Charge grunted.  He could feel his body begin to sag as the drug took effect.  The voices of Rhinox and Optimus became faint.

"What happened to him, Rhinox?"

"I don't know.  I guess he mus...ave..."

His body stopped jolting, and there was stillness once more, and darkness.

When he next opened his eyes, it was totally dark.  He shifted and found his movement free and unrestricted.  The pain was gone and he felt light.  He stood and felt the cold of the metal floor seep into his feet.  He stared into the gloom, and gradually his eyes adjusted.  He had infra red vision, he knew that, but when he tried it, it was offline.  A part of him that was still being repaired, it seemed.  The swallowing darkness subsided a little and now he could make out the exit of his room and the dull grey light of the control room filtered in.  Was everyone asleep?

He walked a step forward and was relieved that he did not stumble.  Cautiously, he took another step, and then another, and then a turn and he exited the room without tripping or collapsing.

There was no light in the control room save the flickering colourful buttons from the console and the fuzzy, dull grey light of a static computer screen.  Only the streaming stars seemed to be moving in the cold stillness around him.  Where was everyone?

He narrowed his eyes and stared ahead at a door that was slightly ajar.  A gentle humming noise came from behind it.  The engine room, perhaps?  Why would everyone be in there?

He turned and looked at the flight desk.  Ah, someone was sitting there, in front of the ship's banded front window.  Funny he hadn't noticed him before.  The hulking form barely moved, his frame highlighted by the flickering lights of the buttons and the grey glow of the screen.

"Rhinox?  Where is everyone?" he asked.  His voice shattered the silence and a heavy sense of regretful fear settled upon him.  He felt as if he'd done the greatest sin, breaking that quiet.

The form did not stir.  Perhaps he was asleep?  He approached, each footstep heavy with dread.  He straightened out his arm to touch the large bot.


He was right behind him now, and his finger brushed the shoulder of the silhouetted Transformer in front of him.  It moved, and turned. 

Rampage looked at him, his body shuddering with deep chuckles.

"How are you feeling, my old friend?" he asked, voice ringing in deep tones and echoed screams.

"You!" Depth Charge reeled back a step, horrified.  

"What is it?  Surprised to see me alive?" he leered.  "You didn't honestly believe I'd go down without a fight, now, did you?"

"I knew it!  You slagging bastard!"

Rampage's eyes widened with shock.  "Excuse me?" he gasped, in Silverbolt's voice, but it was too late.  Depth Charge threw his hands forward, and dug his fingers into his eyes.

A howl erupted and the lights burst on, sound came flooding to his ears and suddenly he saw Silverbolt, clutching at his face.

"Depth Charge!  What have you done to me?!" the fuzor moaned in agony.  Depth Charge saw the little shards of yellow optic glass on the floor, and splintered in his finger tips.

Thump thump thump thump.  The all too familiar sound of rushing footsteps.

"Slag!  He blinded 'Bolt!  I told you he was lookin' strange when 'e came out!!" Rattrap exclaimed as he reached Silverbolt's side.  "You shoulda let me stop him!"

Optimus grabbed Depth Charge by his arms and spun him around.  The room was full.  Cheetor and Blackarachnia were seated, staring at him in horror.  Rhinox was approaching him slowly with another syringe, a look of remorse on his face.  Optimus's intense, scolding glare demanded his attention.  Depth Charge looked up at him, and held up his fingers.

"But the room was empty," Depth Charge murmured.

Optimus didn't acknowledge his statement, and broke into a rant.  "What in the Matrix were you doing?!  You just walked out of there and started accusing Silverbolt and then smashed in his eyes!  Are you delirious?!"

"He obviously is, Optimus!" Rattrap called.  

"My eyes..." Silverbolt moaned.

Depth Charge jerked out of his grip.  "But Rampage...  Rampage was there.  I saw him!  He spoke to me!"

"And what did he say?" Optimus asked with seething fury and sarcasm.

"He said....he asked how I was feeling.  He said he wouldn't have gone down without a fight!"

"I said that!" Silverbolt cried out from behind him.  

"You hallucinated.  Primus, what's wrong with you?"

"It must be the drugs!  You're driving me insane!" Depth Charge yelled furiously.

Rhinox shook his head.  "You had tranquilizer six hours ago.  We haven't given you anything since.  It would have dissipated in your systems by now."

"Nooo!" Depth Charge cried out in dismay and frustration.  "It was dark!  I couldn't see!  You were all sleeping!  He was here, I tell you!!"

"Shut up!"  Blackarachnia snapped, rising from her seat.  "You strode out of there like the walking dead and attacked my boyfriend for no reason!  We were all watching you, wondering if you were aware of us, which you obviously weren't.  Rattrap was going to stop you, but Silverbolt said to let you be and see how you were!"

"So it was a set up!  You tricked me!" Depth Charge roared and reached for his gun.  It was gone.

"Optimus," Rhinox called faintly.  Optimus turned and saw him hold up the syringe.

"No, don't you put any more of that poison in me!" Depth Charge snarled and backed up against the wall.  "Get away from me!  Get away!"

"I'm tellin' ya man, he's lost his wiring!" Rattrap warned.

The high-pitched noise started singing in his ears.

"By the Pit!  There it goes again!  Can't you hear it?!" Depth Charge looked around wildly.  "Where the heck is it coming from?  Turn it off!!!  Turn it OFF!"

Optimus yelled at him, but his voice was lost in the intense monotonous note that played out and filled the entire ship with its voice.  The walls began to melt, and Optimus dribbled and blurred with his surroundings.  A low-sounding whoosh pounded against the ship over and over and then the glass splintered and broke and the shards came sailing slowly towards him.  The stars oozed inside with the black liquid of space and around him everything melted into blue.  A far-off rumble overpowered the singing note and before him the ship disappeared and an enormous wave of water came charging at him.

The sound was deafening and he started stumbling back, his feet sinking into the mulch of wet sand as the shallow water fled back to join the mother wave.  It towered above him, thirty feet at least and he collapsed onto his rear-end and watched, petrified to the spot as it broke and tumbled over itself.  And then his world became thunder.  The pressure of the body of water pushed all the air out of every part of his body like an iron fist and the light was gone in an instant.  He felt his body being rolled in the water like a rag doll and sand and salt choked him.

He clutched at the ocean floor and squeezed his eyes shut and waited an eternity for it all to pass.  And finally it did, and he opened them again to stare up at a rippling, distant surface.  He lay still on his back, strangely calm.  A small school of fish swam two meters over him and a cool current stirred at his feet like a breeze.

He sat up and stared at his surroundings.  He was at the edge of a reef.  Ahead of him was a shallow wall of coral, teeming with ocean life.  It was radiant and colourful amidst the murky blue waters.  

Depth Charge got to his feet and a few tiny bubbles rose with him.  He gazed around, mystified.  He turned around and saw an enormous, dark shape in the water.  He squinted at it, and then his eyes widened in realization.

"The Nemesis," he said.  It was still and foreboding.

"I have to stop it," he thought aloud and started to walk towards it.  

He had not walked five feet when a voice from his far left snatched his attention.

"But that's not how the story goes, now is it?"

He faced the speaker with clenched fists.  About a hundred meters away, Rampage stood with his back to him.  With a swaggering turn of arrogance, he grinned back at Depth Charge.

"You get interrupted.  By me."

Depth Charge stamped his right foot into the ground with malice.  "And I defeat you," he growled back.

Rampage opened his arms in a self-conscious gesture.  "But look at me!  I'm all in one piece!  Do I look defeated?"

"Not yet," Depth Charge threatened and felt for his weapon instinctively.  It was still absent from his side.

"Tsk tsk," Rampage tutted.  "You don't kill me with that silly piece of electronics.  You do it in style, my old friend.  An energon blade, I believe."

"Why are you telling me this?" Depth Charge asked, eyeing him suspiciously.

Rampage folded his arms with a cackle.  "Because this dream has to play itself out!  When it is over, you will be clear in mind again, and you will stop hunting me."

"I will never stop hunting you, X," Depth Charge replied icily.

"Aw, but you already have.  You're on a shuttle heading back to Cybertron as we speak.  Your leader insists you destroyed me, comrade.  Game, set, match."

"He's lying!  There's no way I would have survived an energon explosion and you wouldn't have!  We both know that!" Depth Charge hissed, taking a step forward.

"Do we?" Rampage pressed, striding across the sand towards him.

"You're supposed to be indestructible, but I knew raw energon through your spark would have to finish you, but the resulting explosion would kill us both."

"And YET!" Rampage cried out, stopping mid-stride for dramatic effect,  "There you ARE!  Alive!  Now isn't that proof enough that your theory is in fact incorrect?"

"Impossible!  Either way, I should be dead!  Neither of us could have survived an explosion like that!  Especially me!  Especially...." Depth Charge trailed, exasperated, desperate.

Rampage pointed his right arm at him accusingly.

"Especially YOU.  Then I suppose that leaves only two explanations.  You can take your pick."

The murky waters darkened around him and only the space between them both was illuminated by the daylight filtering in overhead.  It was as if two bright spotlights were shining on them both as they faced each other in some nightmarish stand-off.

"Explanation one.  You miscalculated.  The energon explosion killed neither of us, and your Maximals took you home, letting sleeping dogs lie, as far as they were concerned, on my part."

"No," Depth Charge murmured, starting to shake.

"Or we can opt for Explanation Two, which is my personal favourite!"  Rampage laughed sardonically.  He stopped abruptly and fixed his eyes on Depth Charge.  

"You're dead."

Depth Charge quivered, the water seemed to drop ten degrees in temperature at that moment.

"I can't be dead," he choked.  "I know so.  I woke up on the shuttle.  Optimus said...."

"Then FACE IT!" Rampage spat, growing in stature as malice rose in his voice.  "You're going insane, because you can't accept the fact that you've won!  You're on the other side of purpose and it is killing you, tearing you up inside to realize that the hunt is over!  Oh, maybe you'd have some consolation if you'd seen the pieces of my shredded body floating in the water.  But you didn't, and all you have are the words of a leader who barely paused to rescue you, before fleeing the Nemesis.  He never checked and so a singing little question of doubt hovers over your head, growing like a storm cloud.  Is he really dead? you ask.  Is he really dead?"

Depth Charge screamed out and charged in a blind fury at the crabbot.

"Is he really dead is he really dead AM I really dead?!" Rampage roared and the sound of his voice clogged his ears and the sight of his face filled his vision.  His green eyes pierced, his body convulsed again with insane laughter and Depth Charge struck him and struck him.  His fist connected with the side of his face and each time Rampage coughed and spluttered out blood, but continued laughing, shrieking in glee.

And then, quite suddenly, Rampage struck back, and he fell.  Darkness scrambled over him like a pack of hungry wolves and all the world went silent, with only echoing whispers fading into oblivion.

_ _ _

Depth Charge awoke in the corner room with the lights on and with Rattrap's scowling face hovering over him.

"Man, you're a restless sleeper, 'Charge."


Rattrap snorted and shuffled to the exit and peered out.  "Yo, Pop Op!  Tuna Face is awake, again!" he called.  

He turned back into the room and eyed Depth Charge suspiciously.

"You okay?" he questioned cautiously.

"Yeah, I think so--hey!" Depth Charge looked about him angrily.  He was chained down onto the bed.  "What is this?"

"Protective measures.   So far every time you've woken up, you've gone nuts on us."

"What did I do?" Depth Charge breathed, alarmed that he only had a vague memory of something horrible, lurking at the back of his mind.

Rattrap shifted uncomfortably and averted his gaze.  "You stuck yer fingers in 'Bolt's eyes, an' then you..."

"I what, Rattrap?  I what?"

Rattrap met his eyes once more, frowning slightly, although he looked strangely sad and not angry.

"You attacked Blackarachnia.  You just went haywire.  Ya kept punchin' her, but luckily 'ol Legs dere knows how ta defend herself.  She kicked you in yer face an' knocked you out cold."

"I attacked her?  I... But I have no memory of that," Depth Charge nearly whispered.

Rattrap shrugged lightly.  "I dunno what's wrong wid' you buddy.  Just tellin' you da facts."

At that moment, Rhinox entered the room, with Optimus standing behind him at the doorway.  There wasn't enough room for him.

"Depth Charge?  How are you feeling?" Rhinox asked worriedly.

"Why does everyone keep asking me that?  Isn't it obvious I'm feeling pretty slagging terrible?" the ray-bot groaned.

Rhinox and Optimus exchanged glances.  The Maximal scientist turned back to Depth Charge with a look of sympathy.

"Rattrap" he said gently, without looking at the Transmetal.  "Please can you leave me alone with Depth Charge for a while.  And, I'd appreciate it if you left too, Optimus."

"Sure," Rattrap replied weakly and Optimus nodded calmly.  The two left the room in silence.

Depth Charge looked up at Rhinox with tired eyes.

"What's the matter with me, Rhinox?  What's going on?"

Rhinox put a hand on his shoulder and stared down at the edge of the bed, his eyes glazing over.

"You''re very sick, Depth Charge.  We're not entirely sure what's wrong with you, but we think it's energon poisoning.  Your body is quite contaminated.  In all honestly, we didn't think you'd wake up at all."

"Is the poison spreading?" Depth Charge asked, feeling a wave of nauseous dread come over him.  He feared the answer.

"We think so...  But we're trying our best to treat you.  For a while it looked like you might overcome it.  When you woke up, we thought you'd broken through the worst of it.  It seems you've fallen into a relapse of some sort.  All I can suggest is that you...that you rest.  Your body needs to recuperate."

"Ohhhh," he sighed and let his head that had been straining to look up at the scientist, settle back onto the bed.

"I'm sorry.  I wish there was more to say."

A heavy, surreal pause followed as Depth Charge let the information sink in.

"Is Silverbolt all right?"

"He's recovering.  His optic glass is mended, but there are still some tiny malfunctions that will take a few days to repair."

"I didn't mean to hurt him.  I thought he was someone else."

"It's okay, we believe you," Rhinox said calmly

Another pause, and then he struggled to say:  "Rhinox, how long until we get to Cybertron?"

"Two days.  We're almost there."

"Oh," he sighed, nodding.  He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, suddenly very tired.

"Wake me...when...we get there," the ray-bot whispered, feeling sleep encroaching on him.

"Will do," Rhinox replied softly.  Depth Charge barely heard him leave, shuffling out of the room into the control room.  A distant conversation between Rhinox and Optimus drifted lazily through the air.


"How is he?"

"Too far gone, I'm afraid.  He won't last another night..."

The sand crunched beneath his feet as he made his way forward, swaying a little from side to side, holding his gun with affection.

It was night and he was on the beach, striding along the shore at a comfortable pace.  The moon hung low in the sky, spilling its majestic silver light onto the rippled surface of the ocean.  The stars glimmered above in the velvet sky and a cool zephyr kissed his body.

To his left the steep cliffs rose, towering above him like nature's own castle.  The narrow stretch of beach he was walking on he knew very well.  He'd often come down here when looking for X.  It was like an unofficial meeting place, a refuge they both escaped to, when the others simply didn't understand.

Depth Charge paused and listened to the hiss of the water as it traveled up the beach and licked at his feet.  The breeze caressed him lovingly and he smiled, breathing it in, savoring its salty flavour.

"I'm glad you could make it," Rampage said from the far end of the beach, where the cliffs protruded and created a dead end to the strip of sand.  He was eighty meters away, although his voice carried well on the wind.  He had his back to him again, hands at his side.  He turned around slowly and grinned coolly at the ray-bot.

"So am I," Depth Charge replied, adjusting his weapon in his arms with confidence.  He felt totally at ease, standing there before his mortal enemy.

"Shall we play one last time?" Rampage asked as he settled down onto a rock.

Depth Charge chuckled softly and shook his head.

"Why not?  I've got time..."