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And Our Light Shall Never Fade

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“Rodimus- before you go…”

Rodimus stopped and turned, glancing back at Drift. Rodimus wasn’t a specialist on auras, but lately, everyone seemed to be feeling darker. “...Do you think it worked? I know it was years ago, and I know Nautica said it was a long shot, but… I’ve been thinking about it a lot now that Ratty’s gone.” Rodimus pinched the bridge of his nose. “We agreed never to talk about it,” he sighed. “Please,” Drift answered. “For me.”

“...I dunno, Drift. I dunno if it worked or not. I don’t think we’ll ever know.” He looked up, locking optics with his best friend, who looked so much older than he should have. “And… I think that’s good. Because it means we can keep telling ourselves it did.

 

Somewhere else… sometime else… 

 

“So, what do we think the new universe will be like?” Misfire grinned. “Too soon to say,” Drift responded. “It could be virtually identical to ours, or it could be fantastically different.” Chromedome leaned on the back of Rodimus’ seat. “Happy to settle for fantastic.”

“The fun is finding out,” Rodimus added with his signature smirk. “Crankcase? Set a course for hijinks and mild peril!” Swerve sighed happily. “That’s the best order that’s ever been given.” Magnus leaned forwards. “How long will it take us?” Rodimus looked up. “What, to explore the entire universe?” He asked, wide-eyed. Magnus gave him a Magnus-smile, which was more of a pleased grimace. “I will accept an estimate.” Rodimus stifled a laugh and pretended to think about it seriously. “Well, if I had to guess… taking account of all known variables and allowing for every possible outcome… if I had to guess, I’d say it’ll take us more or less… forever.” He turned to Megatron with a smile. “What do you think, co-captain?” Megatron looked to him, surprised. “What do I think?” Rodimus nodded. “Yeah.” Megatron sat back and looked out the front window, at the stars, the expanse of nothing and everything, new and old, all waiting to be seen on a quest that would never end.

“I think forever sounds about right.”

Chapter Text

“Why are you guys talking like this is the end of something?” Misfire howled. “This is just a beginning! Imagine! You all went on a quest that never really went anywhere until the very end, and even then, it sucked, right?” There were reluctant murmurs of agreement from those who were present at the time. “Now you’ve got new crew, a whole new universe to explore, no time stop!” He seemed too giddy to continue. Brainstorm nodded. “Yeah, he’s right. We can literally go wherever and do whatever we want. Why be melancholy about it all? Let’s party!” Cheers rippled through the crew. “Who’s up for raiding Swerve’s before he gets there?” Whirl cried. A louder cheer ran through half of the crew, who stumbled over each other to make it out of the deck. “Oi!” Swerve screeched, transforming and tearing off the deck in hopes to beat the crowd. After a short stampede in which 90% of the bots onboard ran out of the room, the few who were left stood in silence for a moment, then burst into laughter. “I’m glad the melancholy has left everyone’s systems,” Drift smiled. “I’m not. If they drink themselves into some kind of new-universe alcoholic coma, I’ll throw them out the airlock,” Ratchet grumbled. Drift just smiled wider. “What do you think we’ll find, Cyclonus?” Tailgate hopped in place in his excitement. Cyclonus tilted his head. “Adventure,” he answered. “Cheers to that!” Rodimus replied.

 

It was only a few cycles before the team found their first adventure. The short bout of relaxation was welcome, after all that had happened at the end of their first quest (Swerve had already removed the Knight Quest from the top of his Best Quests, ranking it second, and in the first slot, written “Foreverquest”- It sounded right, though he couldn’t really remember if it meant something else), but right as a few crew members were beginning to get antsy… 

“Hey, can I see that report?” Rodimus asked. Megatron stared blankly at him. “Can you say that again, about twice as loud, so everyone can hear it?” Rodimus narrowed his optics and held out a servo. Megatron regarded him for a moment, then they both cracked a grin as he handed it over. “What’s brought about the sudden interest in paperwork?” He asked. “Nothing, really,” Rodimus said. “I just…” He trailed off. “What is it?” Megatron asked, leaning over him to look at the datapad. Rodimus scrambled away and out of his chair, displeased by their height difference even sitting down. “Right there,” he said, pointing to the datapad. “Don’t you see that?”

“I see the status results of the quantum engine check,” Megatron said dryly. Rodimus narrowed his optics and turned the datapad back around, then blinked. “W- there was something there!” He said. “I am not crazy. The datapad had a totally different reading.”

“Okay,” Megatron said slowly, “so what did it say?” Rodimus opened his mouth, then looked down, uncertain. “It didn’t say anything, there was… I don’t remember. It was important.” Those who had remained on the deck glanced at each other. Looks like their quest had officially started. “Better call Brainstorm and Perceptor,” Rodimus muttered. “If anyone can figure this out, it’s them…”

Brainstorm answered the comm almost immediately. “Do we have a new mission?” He asked, ecstatic at the possibility. Perceptor leaned over, trying to listen in. “Of a sort,” Rodimus answered. “I need you to take a look at a datapad for me.” Brainstorm whined in disappointment. “I thought I saw something on it, but nobody else did, and when I looked again, it were gone… and now I can’t remember what it looked like. But I think, whatever it was, it was important.” Brainstorm sat up from where he had collapsed to the lab floor. “Okay, you’ve recaptured my interest,” he said. “He hasn’t captured mine. What are we doing?” Perceptor protested. Brainstorm hopped up to his peds, momentarily disconnecting from Rodimus to respond. “Looking for ghosts in a datapad.”

“Sounds about right,” Perceptor shrugged. Brainstorm clicked his comm back on. “We’ll swing by to pick it up now, Co-Cap.” 

“Cool. Don’t call me that again. Or at least come up with a better version of it.”

“Yes, sir.”

On their way to the deck, they passed that anomalous room that nobody could remember the use for, with the desk and model ships. Their treads rang eerily in the empty corridor. Nobody knew why the room was there, but nobody could bring themselves to disturb it. “What do you think happened to the datapad?” Brainstorm asked. Perceptor hummed. “Perhaps it detected a distant frequency for a moment, or a transmission that was pulled through from our old universe to this one?”

“Well, if that was the case, why would it have taken so long to show up, and only on one datapad?” Brainstorm pondered. “We’ll know more when we can study it,” Perceptor replied. Brainstorm shrugged.

Rodimus was quick to give it away once they arrived at the deck. Something was itching at him about the whole thing, that kind of quest-itch, that itch that said something important was about to happen that would send them on a year-long twist-and-turn adventure that would only make sense if someone started at the very beginning and had a wiki open at the same time. 

It was a very specific feeling. 

“Tell me what you find,” Rodimus chirped. Brainstorm gave him a mock salute as the simpatico duo ran off to study the mystery datapad. Talk of what it could have said quickly swept through the ship, mostly thanks to someone being on deck at the time, and then telling Swerve, who told everyone else, in increasingly crazy made-up ways. Soon, half the ship thought Rodimus had gotten a crazy vision from Primus himself because he looked at math for a second, which wasn’t incredibly unlikely, considering where they were and what they had overcome as a group of individuals in the past year or so... but was still definitely (probably... maybe...) not the truth. Rodimus, as usual, did nothing to either confirm or deny these rumors, as the end result was a story far too entertaining to ruin.

“While they’re on that, run a scan for any nearby energon deposits,” Rodimus said. “This is a great plan, but if this universe doesn’t have naturally occurring energon, we could be in big trouble.” Crankcase nodded, doing something with a panel that Rodimus didn’t bother to watch. “How are we doing energy-wise, Nautica?” Rodimus asked over the commlink. “We refueled before we left,” came the reply. “The jump took about 20% of our fuel, but we should still have enough to last a week or two until we find more. None of our crew reserves were impacted, so everything is in the clear.”

“Good to hear,” Rodimus said. “Report once the fuel gets to 50%.”

“Will do,” Nautica said. Cutting off the line, Rodimus leaned back in his seat. “What are you thinking about, co-captain?” Megatron said, knowing that Rodimus’ processor never stopped (even if what he was thinking was rarely a good idea). “Not sure yet,” Rodimus replied. “There’s a plan formulating in my mind. I’ve just gotta let it congeal by itself.” Megatron shook his head. “That’s a disgusting way of describing your slow thought process.” Rodimus shrugged, grinning. “Hey, it’s worked out so far, hasn’t it? We’re here, free of worry, and free to hang out and fly around the universe to explore forever.” 

“True.”

Still, Rodimus couldn't help his growing unease.

A few cycles later, and his shift was over. Megatron waved him off the deck. “If anything interesting happens, you’ll be the first person I tell,” he assured. Rodimus sighed and stretched as he walked back to his suite. “First nap in a new universe,” he mused, unlocking the door and stepping in. He didn’t bother to turn the lights on, instead flopping down onto the recharge berth and offlining his optics, pondering again the vision he’d had with the datapad. Whatever he saw seemed to be avoiding direct thought. Whenever he let himself drift to other things, he could just barely feel the thing coming together, but whenever he thought about it again, it vanished, and it was beginning to annoy him. Deciding that recharging on it might help, he resolved to not think about it more, instead letting his mind wander away as his systems wound down to rest. It seemed to help- he dreamed of… something. Ships, and orange-white-blue something. A voice he knew, he could remember, but couldn’t put a name to. His recharge was fitful, cycling between wanting desperately to know what was alluding him and trying desperately to ignore it. Rodimus was not a patient mech, and even asleep, he loathed the idea of having to wait for answers.

He didn’t have any warning before he realized what was happening- matrix-induced visions occurring even after holding a matrix wasn’t unheard of, but all Primes said the same thing about them; they’re hell when in recharge. With the mystery voice came others, Optimus, Nova, even, all talking simultaneously, as colors and sound swirled in his mind, mixing together into an incoherent mess, and he couldn’t understand anything they were saying. Was this Primus getting back at him for Mederi? That hadn’t been the real Guiding Hand, but Rodimus had somewhat thought it was, and if Primus really was omnipresent, he must have still seen Rodimus sassing fake-Primus, and damn was he too tired for this. He tried to mumble his discontent with the situation, but found himself unable to move. The voices began to speak louder. I can’t understand you, he wanted to shout as they came to a deafening crescendo. I don’t know what you’re trying to say. As soon as he had that thought, it stopped. The voices, the colors, all of it. He was left in total darkness… but only for a moment.

Remember,” a voice hissed into his audial, and he could feel vents drafting air over his helm. His optics onlined with a flash, and he shot upwards, overcorrected, and fell off of his berth. The rest of the vision had been dream-like, but that voice had sounded real, like it had been right next to his body. He looked around frantically, but there was nobody there.

He was alone.

A brief check to his internal chronometer told him that though it felt like it had only been a few kliks, he'd been in recharge for five cycles. Damn.

“Brainstorm?” He asked shakily into his comm. “Status update on the datapad.”

Chapter Text

“We ran every test Percy could think of, and some that I made up on the spot,” Brainstorm said apologetically as he gave the datapad back to Rodimus. “There just wasn’t anything there. The only thing we could find was the data saved on it. No trace of anything else being added or removed.” He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “Sorry, Rodimus. It’s not that we don’t believe you…”

“It’s just that it’s scientifically improbable that you actually saw anything there,” Perceptor finished. Brainstorm elbowed him. “Not helping,” he scolded. Perceptor shrugged. “I didn’t say impossible.

Rodimus sighed. “Alright, thanks anyways. Maybe all the stress from the multiple things that happened to us is finally catching up to me…” It didn’t seem right, especially considering his dream-vision, but after this, there was no way he was going to tell anyone about that unprompted. 

The orange-white-blue swirls still haunted his processor, the voices whispering to him as he paced the bridge. His crew watched him with worried expressions- well, the ones capable of such did- but he paid them no mind. He’d solved mysteries before, he could solve this one. Who had he heard? Who could be trying to get him to remember them? Optimus? Bumblebee? Starscream? None of his solutions made sense. He wished he could remember whoever it was, for his own sake if not theirs. 

Finally, Megatron spoke. “Rodimus, you’re going to wear a groove into the floor. Sit down, please.” Rodimus huffed and flopped into his co-Captain’s chair with a growl. “Relax,” Megatron said gently. “Whatever’s happening, it will work itself out.” Rodimus sank further into his chair, glowering out the front window. “I guess.” It didn’t help that he hadn’t gotten any rest at all. His processor kept going back to the dream, the colors and voices. They had come in a specific sequence, but he just couldn’t figure out why. 

It was really starting to get on his nerves.

“What’s the status on the energon sweep, Crankcase?” Rodimus called. “Still looking, Cap,” Crankcase responded. “None of the closest planets have any detectable veins, but we’re still moving steadily. We’ll find some soon, I reckon.”

“Psh, ‘I Reckon’, who says that?” Rodimus grumbled under his breath, then spoke louder. “Thanks, Crankcase.” Megatron gave him a knowing look, but said nothing.

Cycles passed as such. Rodimus would recharge and have the same dream, getting no rest, and reporting for duty the next shift exhausted and grumpy. Soon enough, Ratchet dragged him to the medbay for a checkup. “You need recharge last week, kid,” he scoffed. Rodimus frowned. “Yeah, tell me something I don’t kn-ow! Ratchet, rude,” he whined when Ratchet yanked on one of his finials too hard. “I know I need to recharge, but it’s hard when every time I do, I get this stupid dream that makes me feel like I raced Blurr across five planets and lost.” 

Ratchet gave him a look. “Dream?” 

Ah, frag.  

“Yeah, uh,” Rodimus said, internally calculating his chances of a successful escape from this conversation if he screamed at the top of his lungs and ran at a dead sprint down the corridor to his suite. “I keep having this dream, and I… don’t call me crazy or do that thing you do. But I think it’s the matrix.”

“The matrix you don’t have,” Ratchet said drly. “The-”

“See! You’re doing it! That thing! The ‘I-Don’t-Believe-You’ thing!” Rodimus cried, pointing at Ratchet, who swatted his hand away. “If you wanna talk prophecies, call Drift. As your doctor, I say get some rest, and dreams be damned,” Ratchet sniffed with finalty. “Now get out of my medbay.” 

Rodimus grumbled as he stood, which earned him a wack over the helm. He scurried away before further incurring Ratchet’s wrath, fear briefly overcoming his sleep-deprived frustration. 

Talking to Drift was a good idea- if anyone would listen, it was him. He sent a quick message- :: Meet me in the training room in ten? :: and was answered almost immediately.

:: Of course. See you there! :: 

Rodimus grinned. That’s why he liked Drift. When it came down to it, he was just a good friend. No questions, ready to go with whatever awful scheme Rodimus had cooked up and would wait until afterwards for any critique.

A few kliks later, and Rodimus and Drift were seated on a training mat, facing each other. Drift had a peaceful smile on his face as he crossed his legs, tilting his head and gesturing for Rodimus to speak. “Okay, so, I- where do I start…” He ex-vented heavily. “I haven’t been recharging well for a few days- ever since we got here, actually. I’ve been having this dream, the same dream every time.” Drift’s optics glowed a little brighter, and he leaned forwards, curious. 

“There’s these voices, right, and they sound like people I know- one of them is Optimus- I think they’re the Primes. They’re all talking at the same time, and I can’t understand what they’re saying… it starts out quiet, but it gets louder and louder as it goes on, and then they all go silent and one voice, this voice that I know , but I can’t remember who it is, Drift! It says ‘remember’, right in my audial. And then I wake up.” 

Drift was nodding thoughtfully, and had placed a comforting servo on Rodimus’ shoulder. “Is it just voices?” He asked gently. Rodimus shook his helm. “The only things I can see are these colors, swirling around, orange, white, and blue, and ships…”

“Did you recognize any of it?” Drift asked. “I can’t explain it, but yes,” Rodimus replied. “It was all so familiar, but I just can’t remember why.” Drift considered this for a moment, then pulled Rodimus in for a hug. “If it truly is a message, then you will know its meaning when the time comes.” 

Rodimus opened his mouth to respond, but his pinging comm interrupted him. “Rodimus!” Megatron barked, loud and urgent enough that Drift heard it as well, causing them both to exchange a look. “Get back to the bridge now! We have company!”

“Never a dull moment, huh?” Drift asked, standing and holding out a servo. Rodimus took it, and Drift pulled him to his peds. Rodimus grinned, though worry gnawed at his tanks. “On my ship? Frag no.”

 

Bursting onto the deck of the Lost Light , Rodimus readied himself to begin shouting commands, only to fall short at the sight out the window. Every bot there turned to him, wanting orders, but he had none to give.

“That’s…” he started, but trailed off. Drift was equally wordless next to him, optics wide with shock. Megatron nodded solemnly, turning to face them. “It’s a Decepticon warship. And it’s readying its canons.”

“Well,” Rodimus said after a moment, “Fuck!”

“Eloquently said,” Crankcase shouted. “Now, how about some orders?” Rodimus shook himself out of his shock and sprinted forwards to the captain chairs. “Get the hell out of their way!” He cried. Crankcase pulled the Lost Light up sharply, narrowly avoiding a high-powered beam, throwing everyone off balance. Rodimus gripped tightly to his chair. “Do we have anything we can use to fight back?”

“Against one of those things? No way,” Misfire scoffed from a control panel to his left. “I thought those were all taken out of commission,” Drift said, scrambling up from the floor. “In our universe, perhaps,” Megatron muttered. “But here…”

“Here, maybe the war never ended,” Rodimus finished. “And maybe you, this you,” he gestured to the ship before them. “Is still going strong.” Megatron growled angrily. “I cannot tolerate this.” 

“What do you plan on doing? Landing on top of it and storming the thing?” Crankcase scoffed, diving the ship down and curving away from the destroyer. Megatron shook his head, steading his large frame with some difficulty, but still fairing better than most of the crew at the ship's newfound acrobatics. “We have nowhere near the firepower necessary to take on a warship. Do we have a clear jump path away?” Crankcase shook his head. “Nowhere that they couldn’t follow,” he responded, a tinge of panic rising into his voice as he spun the ship hard to avoid yet another blast. “What the frag is going on up here?” Brainstorm cried, bursting through the doors just in time to be thrown into the ceiling. Nautica and Velocity were right behind him, grabbing the door frame to keep themselves steady. “Hey guys!” Rodimus called, trying to sound calm. “Where’s the rest of the squad? We could use all hands on deck h- look out!” Another charge shot straight through one of the wings. “Scrap,” Misfire yelped as alarms began to blare, the deck lights flashing red. “Damage report,” Rodimus and Megatron said instantaneously. “Clean shot. No crew lost. Sealing breach now.”

“Get us the hell out of here, Crankcase!” Rodimus shouted. “If I jump, they could follow us, and there’s no guarantee that the layout of the planets and stars in this universe are the same as ours-”

Now!”

“Your funeral,” Crankcase scoffed, flipping the quantum engines online. “Brace for hyperjump. Jumping in three, two-” 

An explosion interrupted his countdown, a flash of white light blinding everyone on the bridge. Rodimus’ last thought before whiting out was exhausted, but unsurprised.


Engine failure again? Can't Primus have an original idea for once?

Chapter Text

Rodimus groaned as his systems booted up.
 
“What the slag,” he muttered. A self-diagnostics report gave no evidence of major damage to his frame or internals, but for some reason, he couldn’t see. He reset his optics a few times, to no avail, then realized something.

“Spinister, get off of me,” he growled, shoving Spinister’s arm off his face and struggling to wiggle away. A quick glance around the dimly lit deck didn’t show anything important broken, besides the doors to the deck, which seemed stuck half-closed… but it was hard to tell, since everyone had collapsed onto the nearest surface- with some on top of each other, like Rodimus’ current situation. Ultra Magnus, luckily, had not crushed anyone.

Ugh!” Rodimus grunted as he fought to free himself. “Primus, you’re heavy. Is anyone else up?” he called. 

A few groans rang from around the room. “Present,” Magnus grunted, struggling to stand. A pile of bots shifted, and Megatron sat up from where Nautica, Velocity and Brainstorm had fallen onto him. “What happened?” he asked, blinking. 

“I think the quantum engines exploded again,” Rodimus answered, with a roll of his eyes. “Because of course they did.” He turned to the nav panel. “Crankcase? Misfire? You still online over there?”

There was no response.

“This is why safety straps were installed in the seats,” Magnus muttered.

Rodimus rolled his eyes. “Okay. We need to see if anyone’s been hurt, find whoever else is awake, and check for damage to the ship.” 

“You seem awfully prepared for this,” Megatron noted, carefully standing and moving around the bots on the floor to lift Spinister off of Rodimus’ legs, resting him gently against the nearest console.

“Thanks. And yeah, well.” Rodimus dusted himself off as he stood. “The quantum engines exploding was the first adventure my crew had. I’m going to call Ratchet and First Aid, see if they’re alright. The last thing we need right now is our medics down for the count.”

Megatron nodded, moving to Ultra Magnus next, hefting the larger mech to his peds. “I shall check the engines, and bring back anyone I encounter.”

Rodimus gave a distracted thumbs up as he paced across a small patch of clear floor. “Cool. Teamwork. Love it.” Megatron nodded to him, then left the bridge, prying the broken doors open with ease.

Clicking through frequencies, Rodimus first attempted to call Ratchet, then First Aid, then, after a moment of thought, Swerve, wondering how many members of his crew had been in the bar during the explosion. He got no response from all three.

Rodimus sighed and pulled up the ship-wide frequency, sending a quick, urgent message. 

::Rodimus here. Anybody who’s awake, report to the bridge for an emergency meeting. Bring others if you can.::

He hoped that was enough. 

Turning back to the consoles, he clicked through each of them, trying to gauge the ship’s damages. While he wasn’t completely certain how the computers worked, he performed best under pressure. Ultra Magnus was pulling the unconscious crew on the deck to the side, where they wouldn’t be stepped on or tripped over. “Doesn’t seem like we’re being followed, for now,” Rodimus said, “but I can’t be sure that they aren’t tracking us. The hull is intact, but the wing they shot is pretty totaled from our jump. We’ll need to repair it as soon as possible.” 

Magnus nodded quietly. Though he knew that Rodimus could be serious when needed, it still pleasantly surprised him on some level to see the switch be flipped from “carefree young adult” to “responsible leader.” 

Bots slowly filed into the deck as they awoke, and it filled up quickly. Soon, the entire ship, more or less conscious, was present. Some limped in carrying their friends, some walked in on their own, awake and confused about everyone else. Rodimus gestured for them all to find a place. Ultra Magnus stood on his left side, Megatron on his right, as Rodimus himself perched on top of the control panels at the front of the deck. “Okay, roll call,” he said loudly. “Is everyone here? I’m gonna yell your name, and you just yell something back.”

One by one, the crew sounded off, sometimes with profanity. Whirl in particular had been colorful. Rodimus made a mental note to himself to be more clear next time on what should be shouted, as he scrolled down the list Magnus had handed him to make sure nobody had gotten lost. Luckily, the entire crew was present, but…

Rodimus leaned in as he gave the datapad back to Magnus. “There’s an empty space right here,” he whispered, pointing to an extra line between two names. Magnus’ optics widened at the error, and he straightened as he corrected it. Rodimus reset his vocals. “Okay, now that everyone’s here, damage report. The left wing of our ship is basically scrap metal. We can still fly, but any landing we make will be a rough one at best, and there’s no way we can jump again, since the engines blew. How did they look, Megatron?”

“Bad,” came the response from his right. 

“How bad?” 

Megatron gave him a look. “I have no doubt in Brainstorm and Perceptor’s abilities,” he said, “but they may have their servos full with repairs.” 

Brainstorm did a fist pump from his spot in the corner. Perceptor sighed. 

“Stormy, that’s bad,” Rodimus clarified. 

“No, I know, I’ve just been wanting to upgrade the engines for a few weeks, so this is the perfect time to try it out,” Brainstorm chirped happily, pulling a datapad from his subspace and tapping away at it as he spoke. “Percy thinks none of them will work, but if the engines are dead anyways, he’s got no choice but to help me.”

“I’ll try to keep him from building a new ship,” Perceptor assured. 

“...Okay. I’m just going to move on, because I’m not sure how to respond to that,” Rodimus replied. “Here’s my question, and I want this to be a discussion everyone is involved in.” He waited a moment for the burst of whispers between crew members to quiet down, then continued. 

“Should we signal for help? No nearby planet looks to be inhabited, and we’re probably going to need help and extra materials to fix the ship. But, judging from the warship that tried to kill us, either the Decepticons in this universe are a lot angrier about Megatron defecting, or he never did, and the war is still active. Both of those options are bad for us, for multiple reasons,” he said, pointedly not looking at Megatron. 

The crew was dead silent.

“Guys?” Rodimus asked. “Hello? Floor is open for discussion…” He turned to see what everyone was staring at, and lo, the warship that had attacked them was sitting politely in the blackness of space, almost like it was waiting for him to finish. “Oh, son of a bitch,” Rodimus yelped, leaping off the control panels in his fright. Ultra Magnus caught him. “What the fuck, what the fuck? When did that get there?”

“While you were rambling,” Megatron said quietly. “And we’re receiving a transmission.”

“Yeah, of course we are,” Rodimus muttered. “Well. We can’t run, we can’t fight, might as well open it up.” Megatron pressed a few buttons, and the transmission opened, projecting onto the windshield. 

Rodimus nodded. “I’m dreaming. I knew it.” 

“Hail, new friends!” said the pink mech on the other side. “I’m Tarn, of the Decepticon Friendship Division! I sincerely apologize for attacking your ship, the Laughing Diplomat has auto-defense mechanisms, and I didn’t turn them off in time to call before you jumped away. Do you require repairs?”

Rodimus fell onto the floor with a clunk, unconscious. Megatron didn’t look much better. “The what,” he said flatly, locked in a look of icy horror. 

The Pink Tarn gasped dramatically when his optics landed on him. “L-Lord Megatron? Why do you have the Autobots’ symbol on your chassis? Have they captured you? Do you require assistance?” As he spoke, other bots leaned in to look- Megatron barely recognized Vos and Kaon from their brightly colored paint jobs. The Pink Tarn himself was rosy reds in place of the purple and black the ‘Cons on board feared so terribly, Vos was a pleasant shade of lavender, and Kaon was a happy sunshine yellow. 

A third face that he thought he’d never see again poked up into the screen, and Ultra Magnus hit the ground beside Rodimus. Rewind screamed from where he’d been recording the entire thing atop Chromedome’s shoulders. “Dominus Ambus?!”

The mech’s optics widened. “Rewind? Is that really you?” Confused shouts began to ring throughout the deck. Megatron cut through them all with ease.

“What in the name of Primus is going on?” Megatron barked. “What kind of sick joke is this?”

“I could ask the same of you!” The Pink Tarn huffed. The crew on both ships shrank back in fear at the anger in his voice. Cyclonus looked like he was having a minor aneurysm. Most of the Scavengers had passed out as well. Swerve was swinging violently between visibly horrified and visibly delighted every few seconds.

“Okay, I need clarification,” Whirl shouted loudly. “Is everybody else seeing an Easter commercial version of the DJD on the screen, or am I hallucinating again?”

“What’s Easter?” Brainstorm asked quietly. 

“DJD?” The Pink Tarn tilted his head. 

“No, it’s real, for once we’re all in the same boat you are.” Swerve patted Whirl’s arm. Whirl’s head spun between all three as they spoke at once, looking dizzy.

“Please explain what you’re doing in this region of Decepticon space, looking like Megatron and wearing a symbol of hate on your chest, before we shoot down your ship,” The Pink Tarn demanded. “I assure you, when we try, we don’t miss.”

“As soon as you explain why you’re parading around in those ridiculous colors,” Megatron scoffed. “Who on the List would fear you when you look like that?” 

Had he turned around, he would’ve seen most of the crew raising their servos.

“Wait, wait, everyone stop.” Brainstorm pressed his servos together and raised them to his faceplate, looking up at the screen. “Tarn, do you know who I am?” 

The Pink Tarn stared at him silently for a few seconds. Then he sat up. “Oh! Brainstorm? I didn’t recognize you with the new colors. They look good on you!” 

“Okay, that’s what I thought,” Brainstorm nodded. “Tarn, you might find this hard to believe, but we’re from another universe. We came here to escape… stuff. It’s a long story. In our universe, Autobots are the good guys, and the Decepticons… kind of went off from how they started. Most of them are evil for fun. Your gang in our universe killed other Decepticons for sport.” 

As Brainstorm spoke, Tesarus and Helex had revealed themselves, just as pastel and bright as their counterparts. Somehow, the colors weren't as reassuring as they probably meant to be, as Tesarus’ blades still looked sharp from under the rubber caps that covered them, and Helex’s oven looked polished and ready to use. The Pink Tarn looked horrified, his emotions clear even with the mask. “That can’t be true! I would never- we would never do such a thing!” Vos and Kaon nodded, optics wide. Dominus looked disgusted at the concept.

Crankcase, the last Scavenger standing, sat down heavily. “I can’t take much more of this, or I’m gonna blow a gasket,” he muttered.

A voice called from off-screen. “It’s not impossible that they’re telling the truth,” Nickel said, skating into view. She was white with reddish-pink highlights. The color swap wasn’t as shocking the sixth time, though a few people still gave considerate hums. “But jumping into a completely new universe would take considerable skill. How did you manage it?”

“Guessing and dumb luck,” Brainstorm said off-handedly, “but that’s how we do everything.” 

“Okay, I’m going to believe you for now, but I want to hear the whole story while we repair your ship,” The Pink Tarn said carefully. 

“Hold on, you’re going to believe a story this ridiculous that fast?” Megatron said, surprised. 

“Why wouldn’t I? What would lying get you here, other than a few more hours of freedom until we arrest you?” The Pink Tarn chirped cheerfully. “Now, don’t move! We can dock your ship remotely.” Thin, robotic arms detached from the bottom of the ship, reaching forwards to grasp the Lost Light, guiding it into a docking bay.

“That was a fast switch. Hey, do you think our Tarn would be delighted or horrified to know that he’s scarier when he’s pink?” Whirl asked in a stage-whisper to Swerve. 

“Maybe a mix of both?” Swerve shrugged, glancing at the crowd. “I’ll take bets.”

Numerous servos offered credits as bots whispered their opinions on either side.

 

Poor Rodimus woke up to Nickel, Ratchet and First Aid leaning over him, and his screech echoed through the Laughing Diplomat. He stood (at the protest of the three medics) and stumbled out of the medbay to the dock, where Brainstorm, Tesarus, Kaon and Nautica had set to repairing the wing. 

“Hey guys,” Rodimus waved. Nautica waved back, less affected than the others by the presence of nega-Tesarus and Kaon. “Hey, Captain! Percy’s checking the engines! Oh, and Drift’s inside, waiting for-” Drift cut her off, sprinted out of the Lost Light and tackled Rodimus in a hug. “I was worried about you!” He cried, spinning around. Rodimus squawked indignantly. 

“Drift! What did we say about picking me up!”

“Sorry,” Drift said sheepishly, putting him down. “Where’s Mags and Megs?” Rodimus asked, still a little shaky on his legs. 

“Well, Ultra Magnus, Rewind and Dominus Ambus are having a conversation somewhere private, and Megatron and Tarn are talking up in the deck of… of the…” he trailed off. Rodimus gave him a questioning look, and Drift shook his head, lowering his voice. “It’s just such an awful name for a ship, Roddy. It’s bad enough that they’re the Decepticon Friendship Division, but they named their ship the Laughing Diplomat…” 

They both turned to look at the others. Tesarus was holding Brainstorm and Nautica up, and Kaon was carefully welding sheets of metal together using the electricity in his coils. Tesarus waved with a cheerful grin. Rodimus hesitantly waved back. Drift forced a grin and suppressed a shudder. “Hey, did Ratty clear you from the medbay?” he asked. 

Rodimus sighed as he recalled barely getting away from the three angry medics. Nickel was so fast. “No, and it’s only a matter of time before they catch me, so actually, let’s leave right now please.”

The Pink Tarn and Megatron were having a quiet conversation on the deck of the Laughing Diplomat when Rodimus walked in, Drift right behind him. “What did I miss?” he asked. 

“According to Tarn here, this entire universe is the polar opposite of our own,” Megatron answered. “It’s actually rather interesting. Whereas in our universe, the Autobots are widely considered the ones in the right, here they’ve done countless evil deeds. Optimus Prime is a name rarely spoken. He’s become some kind of evil overlord. Like…” he paused uncomfortably for a moment, then continued, “Anyways, we entered this universe deep in Decepticon territory, so we probably won’t run into him before we get out.”

Tarn’s shoulders slumped. “Oh, are you leaving so soon? Your universe sounded so interesting!” He stopped. “Well, aside from the obvious. Did you really end the war? We kind of thought it would go on forever. All our attempts at settling the differences between the factions ended horribly. The Autobots just want all of the Decepticons eliminated, like we’re some kind of disease…” He shuddered.

“We should leave immediately, before I lose what’s left of my mind,” Rodimus said firmly. “I can only handle so much of…” he gestured to the scene in front of him. “All of this. Where’s Ultra Magnus?”

“Talking to the- to Dominus Ambus.”

“Well, yeah I know that, but where?” Megatron gave him a look. “Let them speak in private, Rodimus. The last time he saw his brother, it wasn’t pretty.”

Tarn looked between them. “Huh?” 

Megatron spoke right over him with smooth, obvious practice. “Evidently, in this universe, Dominus defected willingly after meeting Tarn and his, uh, friendship gang.” The words seemed to pain him physically to say. Tarn made a sort of wiggle motion that disturbed Rodimus. 

“Oh, please, you’ve at least got to stay long enough to meet our Megatron! He’s coming for a meeting; we were on our way there when we found you! He would love to hear your story.”

“I don’t think I can handle more than one Megatron existing in the same universe at all, let alone the same room,” Rodimus protested, but Megatron seemed thoughtful. 

“I would like to compare notes with him, learn about the war from his point of view..."

Rodimus silently sent a plea to Primus for his spark to be spared from this torment. He was, of course, ignored, so he settled for making use of what he could.

“All right, fine. But as soon as our ship’s repaired, we’re getting the hell out of here.”

Chapter Text

As if the chaos of the new universe wasn’t enough, the strange dreams still plagued Rodimus.

 

“This again,” he muttered, irritation sinking into his frame as soon as the colors started. It seemed more solid this time, the swirls like a backdrop for a larger picture. Rodimus could move here, too, could look around and speak. About time, in his opinion.

 

“Sooo.” He crossed his arms. “Why am I here? Can I get an explanation? Even just a bit of one?”

 

He was met only with silence, and somehow, it felt expectant.

 

“I don’t remember who you are, and I don’t know what you want,” Rodimus hissed, “so why don’t you stop tip-toeing around it and just tell me? I’ve got other things to worry about than some mystery bot with an honesty deficiency!” He began to pace, almost sure the annoyed whirring of his processor was audible. 

 

“I can’t find any fuel for my crew, our ship’s busted, we’re getting help from some fragged-up, wannabe-kid-friendly version of the DJD, I’m meeting a brand-new Care Bears version of Megatron in a few cycles, and here I am-” he cut himself off as he paused his pacing, casting a glare to the sky. His expression softened after a moment, and he sighed, spoiler drooping in a rather resigned movement. “Talking to myself,” he finished softly.

 

The unknown wasn’t new to him. He’d be dealing with it for the past… however long of his life, ever since he first picked up the Matrix. A strange, recurring dream wasn’t exactly the craziest thing that he’d experienced. In fact, he doubted it even ranked anywhere near the Top 10 Weirdest Lost Light Moments (a record that Rewind was keeping, most likely).

 

It was still annoying, though.

 

He turned on his heel to continue his pacing, and promptly leapt into the air with a screech as he came face-to-face with a mech that had been standing directly behind him. So startled was Rodimus, in fact, that he jolted right out of his berth and onto the floor with a reverberating crash.

 

“You’ve gotta be fucking me,” he growled. “Who was that supposed to be? I didn’t even get a good look…” Rodimus continued to grumble as he stood, surveying the new scuffs his unexpected stunt had left in his paint. Ah, well. He was due a turn in the washracks, anyways. He still tried to remember what he’d seen as he collected himself.

 

He couldn’t, really.

 

Just those colors. Red and orange, white and blue… what could they have meant?

 

There had been someone there, someone he knew, but he just couldn’t remember. They had been looking at him, stern, but clinical, with good intentions, as if they cared. Not entirely unlike Ratchet, or any other medic.

 

Rodimus huffed as he failed to recall anymore than that (or decipher the odd way he was thinking about it), glaring at his berth as if it would come to life and explain his dreams to him. It didn’t, obviously, so he just ran a few vent cycles to compose himself, let an easy grin slide onto his face, and stepped out of his suite as if nothing had happened.

 

There was no time to worry about a mystery mech from a Matrix-vision or be embarrassed about falling out of berth, after all. He had a Valentine’s Day Edition Megatron to meet.

 

Rodimus’ crew and the DFD had set down on a nearby planet once the Lost Light had been repaired. Evidently, Tarn had comm’d Megatron of the recent news and rearranged the rendezvous to… wherever they were now. Rodimus hadn’t caught the planet’s name during Tarn’s excited rambling about something or other.

 

It was weird, Tarn being thoughtful. Even weirder was the new Megatron in question.

 

Rodimus’ own Megatron, whom he mentally denoted "Normal Megatron" for his sanity's sake, had been quite obviously torn between being interested to meet Other Megatron and considering throwing himself out of the airlock. When Other Megatron arrived, in a ship identical to the Nemesis, but a lighter shade of purple, he seemed to be leaning to the latter option.

 

Other Megatron was… well, he fit the general tone of this universe so far. He was laughing as he exited his ship, stepping onto the landing pad on the strange planet- apart from the pad itself, the planet wasn’t metal, but it was seemingly vacant of life, besides ruins such as the city they had set down in. Beside him was Starscream, grinning jovially up at Other Megatron. Soundwave was on Other Megatron’s other side, snickering.

 

Other Megatron offered Rodimus a wide smile and warm greeting as he approached. “Hello, Rodimus Prime. Tarn explained your situation to me. On behalf of the Decepticons, I offer whatever assistance we can give, and a warm welcome to our universe.” Rodimus nodded as they shook hands. Other Megatron’s grip was strong, but surprisingly gentle around Rodimus’ servo. He seemed very aware of his large stature, like he was used to dealing with mechs much smaller than him. 

 

It kind of weirded Rodimus out.

 

Starscream and Soundwave waved energetically to him from where they had taken station a few paces behind Other Megatron, standing at attention. Starscream was still smiling a strange, genuine grin. It creeped Rodimus out, so he turned to look away.

 

Other Megatron then turned to Normal Megatron and Ultra Magnus. “And I suppose this handsome mech must be, well, me,” Other Megatron laughed, clapping Normal Megatron on the shoulder. Normal Megatron sported an incoherent expression of pure existential horror. Ultra Magnus looked like he was about to evaporate into rust at any given second, and that he would see it as a blessing from Primus himself. However, somewhere deep in Rodimus’ processor, he thought the positivity was refreshing.

 

His EM field had subconsciously pulled in, but he felt a pulse hit it from behind him as he stepped away from the taller mechs. He turned again. Starscream hadn’t moved from his spot, but seemed much calmer. Soundwave seemed to be shifting from pede to pede. When Rodimus looked around, another pulse rolled gently over him. “Is that you doing that?” he asked Soundwave.

 

“You seem stressed out, dude,” Soundwave replied. “Take a few vents. It’s all cool.” Waves of calm continued emanating from him. Despite Rodimus’ short bout of distrust, he couldn’t deny that he was feeling much better. No wonder Starscream suddenly seemed so chill. “Huh. Thanks.”

 

“No problem, my guy.” Soundwave tilted his helm ever-so-slightly. Rodimus got the impression that he was smiling. This entire universe was creeping faster over the too-weird line every time someone spoke, at this point. Shaking it off, Rodimus decided to tune back into the conversation. 

 

The two Megatrons had begun discussing the war and differences between the universes. Surprisingly, Ultra Magnus seemed incredibly interested in Other Megatron’s side of the story. Rodimus wondered if he was taking notes somewhere in his processor. “At first, Optimus had agreed with me, as he had with you,” Other Megatron was explaining, “but then he began to push harsher ideas onto me. He wanted change to be not only swift, but violent. I’d led a few riots in my time, but he seemed to think that murdering the Senate was the fastest way to fix it.” 

 

Normal Megatron looked appalled by the statement. “I don’t think I could even imagine Optimus saying that,” he murmured. “The Optimus I knew hated the very idea of murder. For him to have turned to needless violence and tyranny in such a way… it’s inconceivable to me.”

 

As if on cue, alarms began to blare.

 

Chaos was immediate. Soundwave and Starscream broke from their positions at once, sprinting away in opposite directions. Other Decepticons began swarming off Other Megatron’s ship, taking up positions and creating makeshift cover of sheets ripped up from the landing pad with practiced speed. Rodimus’ own crew was helpless in the onslaught. “What’s going on?” Rodimus asked, though Normal Megatron spoke over him at the same time, his voice taking on a Commander Tone. “What should we do?”

 

“Have your best shots line up in defensive positions around the perimeter,” Other Megatron answered, flicking his canon on. “And have the rest of your crew try and get your ship running. That alarm can only mean one thing, and your cybercricket there won’t last long under full fire.” 

 

He didn’t need to explain further. Rodimus was already calling Perceptor, but too late, as he saw the mech run out of the Lost Light with Brainstorm close behind. Other members of the Rod Squad followed. Normal Megatron began barking orders, though Rodimus could see the tiny flash of discomfort in his optics. Brainstorm and Perceptor were busily setting up some strange canon by the assembling front line, probably a new invention they’d been wanting to test out anyways. Someone tossed Rodimus a gun, which he fumbled with before gripping it securely. It was a foreign model, but with laser guns, there’s usually not a lot to figure out. He glanced up to see Starscream smile reassuringly at him, before disappearing into the last of the swarm of mechs running to and fro. Other Megatron called out a few commands, and the sea finally parted. Decepticons were settling into formations and positions like they’d been forged there.

 

Tarn and his crew seemed to appear out of nowhere- Rodimus hadn’t even noticed that they’d left the leaders alone until their presence returned. At that moment, Rodimus really understood what the term “ parallel universe” meant- because this Tarn and his crew may have behaved like sweet mechs, but they were still all walking death machines. Kaon’s coils crackled to life with a horrific sound as Helex hefted him up like a Cube. Vos transformed as he backflipped into Dominus’ waiting hands, almost too big for the beastformer. Tarn’s bubbly demeanor had iced over with cold fury, his cannons whirring to life. Starscream and Soundwave slid beside Other Megatron, carrying weapons Rodimus had never seen before. The DFD fell into formation beside them, a strange sight to behold- but Rodimus was quickly distracted by the alien contradiction as, finally, the source of the alarm made itself known.

 

Sailing through the clouds like wrath from Primus himself, a demented version of the Arc descended, guns already blazing with light, ready to fire. Rodimus’ spark halted in its spinning for a moment as he realized that the ship was identical to the ones he’d seen in his first vision-dream. 

 

“Primus help us,” he whispered as two, then six, then twelve additional battleships identical to the first broke through the atmosphere.

 

A voice rang over the landing pad that had so quickly become a battlefield. “Hello, Megatron,” a horrible, horrible mockery of Optimus’ voice chirped out through speakers. “And hello, new friends. Welcome to our universe, I’m sure you’ll find it quite a blast!”

 

Rodimus didn’t even get the time to groan at the cheesy villain line as the battleships’ cannons began to fire.