Hot Rod poured on the speed. “Man, I hope the old bot can get out of there!”
“He’ll pull through!” urged Tails as he cradled the Allspark. “He’s called Ironhide for a reason!” An explosion then erupted in front of them and flipped Hot Rod over. He let Tails out and transformed, leveling the piping on his arms in front of his opponent, Megatron. He then got an idea.
“Kid, you get to a high building, board your new jet, and get out of here!” he directed.
“Will do!” replied Tails. As Hot Rod fired on Megatron, Tails dashed into the building.
“You’ll fall just as Ironhide did against Sideways,” taunted Megatron. “You left the Autobots after Nyon and Ki Aleta, yes?”
“Optimus told me about Praxus being made of Nyon survivors and how my team survived Ki Aleta!” snarled Hot Rod. “I’m not running from my mistakes anymore.”
“That’s ALL Velocitronians do. Even Kup did that in some measure.”
“…You did NOT just call Kup a coward!” Hot Rod charged at Megatron…but Megatron was faster. He simply threw lightning at Hot Rod as if he threw a skipping stone across a lake. Hot Rod fell, groaning in pain.
“I can call him worse.” Megatron then shifted his attention to an alley and entered it before transforming and projecting his holo-form into the building. He appeared in what looked like a science classroom, complete with beakers and lab stations. A rush of orange yellow then blew by the door. “Gotcha!” Megatron then ran out of the room and turned right to see a pair of fox tails disappear around a corner. “I smell you, boy!” called Megatron.
That was the last thing Tails needed to hear. He twirled his tails in an attempt to increase speed. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fast enough as Megatron was catching up to him fast! “STAY BACK!” cried Tails.
“Hand over the Allspark!” called Megatron.
“NEVER!” declared Tails as he activated his arm cannon and fired at the ceiling. Megatron dodged the falling rubble.
“Such heroic nonsense!” scoffed Megatron as he continued pursuing Tails. Tails dashed into a stairwell, saw that it had a wide opening in the middle, and leapt off the stairs, flying upwards to the roof at an accelerated rate. He made it to the rooftop door and ran outside, pressing a button on his wristwatch, nearly dropping, but reclaiming the Allspark in the process. Tails could faintly hear the sound of a Transformer changing shape but paid it no mind as he continued running. Pity that he paid it no mind, because Megatron’s hand grabbed the roof! “Is it fear or courage that compels you, Fleshling?!” he cackled as he climbed up to the roof. Tails tripped over himself, trying to back away from the Decepticon Lord. “I repeat my offer, Young Master Prower. Hand over the Allspark and you’ll live to be my pet!”
“I’m never giving you the Allspark!” declared Tails.
“Oh? So unwise!” rasped Megatron as he activated his mace. As he swung, it flew upwards…and gave the X-Tornado the opportunity it needed to damage Megatron. It arrived and fired a missile into his side, causing him to cry out. Tails got back up and flew onto the X-Tornado, cub first! The impact caused a surge of energy to overtake it!
“Oh no!” gasped Tails. He activated his watch to check the X-Tornado.
“Now that’s what I call a birth!” laughed a voice. Tails arched an eye-ridge as he could swear it came from the X-Tornado’s external speakers yet didn’t. “Hey, you might want to climb inside my secondary cockpit!” urged the voice.
“…X-Tornado?! You’re alive?!” yelped Tails.
“Actually, Dad, if you don’t mind, call me Scattershot!” A two-tailed fox, colored like the X-Tornado, then climbed out of the secondary cockpit and offered his hand to Tails.
“Well then, Scattershot,” declared Tails as he climbed aboard, “Got any ideas?”
“I have control of the Ground Bridge,” answered Scattershot. “I’ll get us out of the city, open a Bridge to the Vaults, throw the Allspark inside, then close it and rejoin the fight.”
“Do it!” urged Tails. Scattershot fired another missile at Megatron as he leapt off the roof. The missile hit him, and the Decepticon Lord tumbled to the streets below. Scattershot then circled and made his way to Station Square’s city limits and beyond them. He opened a Ground Bridge, then threw the Allspark into it.
“Allspark retrieved!” reported Teletraan. “Good shot, kid! That was one in a million!”
“Back we go!” called Scattershot as he returned to the city.
“Scattershot Prower,” declared Tails, “you’ve made me proud!”
“Just doing what I can, Dad,” replied Scattershot. “Now, I need to hit the ground.”
“Just come back to me alive, you hear me?!”
“Loud and clear!” Tails left Scattershot and found Sonic and his friend fighting Eggman, so he joined the fight. “SCATTERSHOT, TRANSFORM!” As the holo-form vanished, the top of the thrusters separated and swung forward as fists came out. The bottom of the thrusters unfolded down to make feet as the wings folded onto the back and the nosecone joined the underside of the jet to make the robot. The head popped up to reveal a blue visor over his optics and Scattershot landed near Optimus.
“Teletraan told me what happened, Mr. Scattershot!” called Optimus. “How can the Autobots repay you?!”
“By letting me join them, for one thing!” answered Scattershot.
“Help us beat the Decepticons back and you’ll undergo the Rite of the Autobrand when we return to base and are healed up!”
“Sounds good to me!” Scattershot then drew a machine gun and fired at the Seekers.
“This has become one nightmare after another!” snarled Megatron.
“Lord Megatron,” called Thundercracker, “we have Eggman. His Egg-mobile’s in pieces and he’s in need of medical attention.”
“And the Combaticons?” asked Megatron.
“Same condition as Eggman.” Megatron then pondered his next move.
“Soundwave, what is the status of security for both the moon base and Robotropolis?”
“Security systems from both locations have stood down when witnessing the Combaticons’ defeat,” droned Soundwave.
“Excellent. Gather up the Combaticons and their creator. We need to show them who’s where in the hierarchy. Open a Ground Bridge back to Robotropolis.”
“As you command, Megatron.” After gathering near Megatron, all Decepticons sounded off.
“Decepticons, retreat!” The Cons followed the order and dragged Eggman and the Combaticons through the Ground Bridge. “Optimus, know this! You have committed a grave blunder!”
“I say it’s YOU who were about to commit an error!” retorted Optimus. “We’ve gotten quite a bit of info from Sideways and Rodimus Unicronus! Rodimus Prime confirmed everything! You would have misused the Allspark and that would have woken up Unicron!”
“You have no proof of that!” snapped Megatron. “Farewell!” He followed the Decepticons and the Ground Bridge closed.
“What about Sideways and Rodimus Unicronus?” asked Hot Rod.
“They fled the instant they lost the Allspark’s signal,” explained Perceptor. “Thank Primus for the signal dissipators in the Vaults.”
“We’ll get them later,” declared Optimus. “For now, we must check on Ironhide.”
It was a tense moment at the Autobot base as Optimus and the Autobots waited with their organic allies to hear the news from Ratchet. After what felt like an eternity, Ratchet slowly came out, his expression full of grief. “He’s…he’s too far gone,” he choked, “even for stasis lock.”
“How…how long…?” asked Chromia.
“A few minutes, at best,” explained Ratchet, “but they’re going to be painful last minutes. He’s only staying alive long enough to talk to you and Optimus.”
“…Come on, Sir,” insisted Chromia. “We need to tell him that the mission was a success.”
“Right,” sighed Optimus. They entered the Repair Bay, following Ratchet’s finger as he couldn’t bring himself to approach Ironhide’s repair slab again. It was clear Ironhide was in pain.
“Th…the…” he gasped.
“We did it, Ironhide,” answered Optimus. “The Allspark is safe from the Decepticons and Unicron.”
“…You…you know?” asked Ironhide.
“Sideways sang like a Soprano at the opera,” replied Chromia.
“Sorry…I can’t…help you against…” strained Ironhide.
“We’ll take care of Unicron in your name,” assured Optimus.
“Did…did Hot Rod…?” grunted Ironhide.
“He’s beating himself up about this, but I know it wasn’t him who did this to you,” answered Chromia. “I refuse to blame him.”
“As do I,” affirmed Optimus. Ironhide then laughed weakly.
“That’s my wife and kid,” he chuckled. “I’ll…I’ll give Firestar your love, Chromia, Sweet-spark. Prime, you keep fighting the good fight, you hear?”
“Every victory, I will dedicate in your name, Master Sergeant Ironhide,” answered Optimus. “Rest easy, soldier. You’ve more than earned it.”
“…Goodbye.” Ironhide’s optics then flickered before they faded completely, and his body turned gunmetal gray. Optimus and Chromia declined their heads…until Ironhide’s body shifted to alt-mode!
“WHOA!” yelped Optimus.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” directed Chromia as she recovered. “It’s a reflex. Rigor-morphis. The body assumes its preferred shape. Yes, sometimes, it’s the alt-mode. Witnessing it will never get any easier.”
“That’s probably a blessing in disguise. …Are you coming, or do you want to stay here a little longer?”
“I’m coming with you, Sir. Hot Rod needs both of us to stop him from beating himself up.” They got up and walked out of the Repair Bay. Hot Rod was at the door.
“Sir, Chromia, I can’t begin to…” he began.
“Hot Rod, I’m ordering you not to blame yourself,” directed Optimus.
“Optimus doesn’t blame you,” continued Chromia, “I don’t blame you; NO ONE blames you for Ironhide’s death. We’ve gotten his final mission logs. You made sure the mission was a success, so we should all dedicate future victories in his name.”
“Whatever contempt we have,” called Optimus to all the Autobots, “is reserved for Sideways for deceiving us all and for being Ironhide’s real killer. Death will only be an escape for him as Terrorcons fear failure more than death. We must make sure he continually faces the music.”
“…Damn straight, we do!” hissed Hot Rod. “Sir, I request to be part of the Autobot force here as a full-fledged Autobot once again! I’m not running away from my past anymore. This time, I’m running towards my future! I will see to it that Unicron’s schemes never come to fruition!”
“That’s my boy!” called Kup.
“…Then you and Scattershot will undergo the Rite of the Autobrand together,” declared Optimus. “For now, though, we must observe funerary rites. We must grieve Ironhide’s loss as I’m sure the Decepticons are grieving Rumble’s loss.”