A Death In The Family
Prologue - Partings
The memorial ceremony had been a dignified affair. Without a body to fire into space, Optimus Prime had decided that Silverbolt should be honoured instead in a style similar to that of the humans who inhabited the planet that he had loved in life. It had been Silverbolt’s love and overriding concern for the inhabitants of Earth that had both helped him earn his position as leader of the Aerialbots and what had ultimately led him to sacrifice his own life in order to save them.
What more fitting memorial to him then than the human style gravestone that now stood a little way distant from the entrance to the Ark. Standing some ten feet tall the stone was elegantly designed without being gaudy. The inscription upon it read:
In Memory of
Who gave his life
defending his friends and
the people of the planet Earth.
He will be missed.
Till All Are One.
The erection of the stone marked the end of a painful time for the Autobots. The preceding week had seen no fewer than seven other memorial services for the Autobots who had died during the Decepticon’s occupation of the Fusion power plant in Australia.
It had been decided that Silverbolt’s memorial should be the last as it had been his actions that had ultimately led to the defeat of the Decepticons. So it was that all the Autobots and their human friends, Sparkplug, Spike, Carly and Chip had all turned out in the twilight of a cold winter’s day.
At the memorial itself many of the Autobots had spoken words of tribute, reminding everyone of the bravery, humour and dedication to duty that Silverbolt had demonstrated. It had been expected of course that Silverbolt’s teammates, the remaining Aerialbots would speak at the memorial. However much to the surprise and disgust of many none of the Aerialbots had chosen to speak.
Even worse, one of the Aerialbots, Air Raid, had failed to turn up to the memorial at all. Many of the Autobots had muttered to each other about his disrespect for his fallen leader. The other Aerialbots were either unable or unwilling to shed any light on the whereabouts of their missing member however. In the end Optimus Prime had begun the memorial in Air Raid’s absence.
The memorial had ended with a moving speech by the Protectobot leader, Hot Spot, in which he recalled how Silverbolt had helped him to curb his own reckless nature and desire for action. Persuading him to think about his actions and the consequences of them, making him a more responsible leader. Something he would be forever grateful to Silverbolt for. At the end of his speech Hot Spot had ceremoniously removed the cover from Silverbolt’s gravestone.
Then Carly had placed a large bouquet of flowers on the grave, as was the custom in many human cultures. With that the memorial was over and everyone began to head back towards the Ark.
Part One – Air Raid
Air Raid flew on towards the ever-darkening horizon. Sometimes he would fly straight, other times he would bank sharply left and right as though weaving through obstacles. Then he would just as suddenly shoot high into the sky and perform a loop the loop or a barrel roll or whatever aerobatic trick came to mind. Still he flew ever onwards though getting further and further away from the Ark, the Autobots and his fellow Aerialbots.
He didn't want to see any of them right now. He knew they would be angry with him for missing the memorial. But there hadn't been a choice. He couldn't face going to yet another memorial; any memorial but especially not this memorial. He couldn’t face having to stand solemnly for all that time as speech after speech was given extolling the virtues of the deceased.
After all there was a whole world out there and the dead would surely want the living to enjoy it, wouldn’t they? He would want that wouldn’t he. He wouldn’t have wanted them all to stand around moping for him. He would want them to go out and have fun! Fun! Isn’t that what life should be about? Silverbolt would be the first to admit that wouldn’t he?
Up ahead a cliff face rose out of the desert, Air Raid reduced speed and at the last second transformed and landed on a rocky outcrop, several hundred feet above the ground. He looked out over the surrounding desert. In the distance he could just about make out the tip of the volcano where the Ark had crashed.
Were they all talking about him right now? Saying that he had disgraced himself and dishonoured the memory of his leader? Probably, he thought with an inward groan. Why had he done this? If it had been him that had died, Silverbolt wouldn’t have behaved this way would he? No. He would have been at the memorial; he would have spoken words of comfort to his friends and words of reverence for his fallen comrade.
Silverbolt would’ve done that for him. Why couldn’t he have done it for Silverbolt then? Because you’re a coward, came the response in his head. You couldn’t face it, couldn’t face the loss of your leader and your friend. Couldn’t face the fact that Silverbolt wasn’t there any more and would no longer be able to give out advice and comfort.
You are a coward and an idiot. Rather than face Silverbolt’s death you would rather go out and have fun. As if nothing had happened! You are hiding from the truth, hiding from your grief. You are a failure!
It’s your fault he’s dead! If you hadn’t been so weak, if you hadn’t let Bruticus break the bonding process between you and the rest of Superion then Silverbolt would still be here. Maybe a lot of other Autobots would be too.
“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Air Raid shouted into the night, then turning he punched the rock face so hard that it cracked, creating a spider’s web effect expanding outwards from the point of impact.
Air Raid fell to his knees and whispered, “I’m sorry Silverbolt. Sorry I let you down. What are we’re going to do without you. How will we cope? You held the team together.”
He knelt on the ledge for what felt like hours not moving, just staring at the ground below. The night darkened around him, soon the ground was lost to sight. It was only then that he raised his head, stood up and looked at the stars overhead. The night sky was clear and the stars shone brightly.
A shooting star streaked through the atmosphere. Some humans, Air Raid knew believed that a shooting star signified a death. He had smiled when he had first learnt that. He wasn’t smiling now. He stood up straighter and said out loud, “Goodbye Silverbolt, may you become one with Primus now.” With that thought in mind he transformed and headed back towards the Ark.
Part Two – Fireflight
After the memorial Fireflight returned to his quarters. He sat there for several hours, looking at nothing. He felt a hollowness inside of him that he hadn’t experienced before.
Ever since his creation as an Aerialbot the year before he had been fascinated by the world around him. The Earth especially he found to be full of wonder and constant surprises. Over recent months he had developed quite an interest in wildlife. He spent much of his free time at the moment soaring over the land looking at the various animals, large and small that lived there.
But now, his enthusiasm had been dampened, as though someone had thrown a tanker full of water over him. The war with the Decepticons had always been something of a nuisance to him. It took him away from the altogether more important job of studying the world around him.
He had done his duty without complaining, gone on the missions, gotten the job done. True he had sometimes let things distract him but not enough to prevent him and the other Aerialbots from carrying out their mission. But in the end the war was nothing more to him than a distraction.
Now however that distraction had intruded into his little world. This was his first real brush with the consequences of war, with death. Silverbolt was gone! While he was alive Fireflight hadn’t really thought much about him. Yes he was their leader but that was all. He followed the orders that Silverbolt had given him but never really thought about them. He took it for granted that they had been the correct ones. But now that certainty had gone. Silverbolt was dead! Who was going to give the orders now?
Fireflight stood up and walked out his quarters towards the main entrance. He passed a couple of Autobots on the way. They passed him without so much as a glance. They were angry, Fireflight knew, that none of the Aerialbots had spoken at the memorial.
But that wasn’t my fault, he thought. I couldn’t have spoken. What could I have said? It should have been one of the others who had spoken. Slingshot after all rarely shut up.
He walked out of the entranceway into the darkness. Crickets chirped all around him, oblivious to his problems. Then his optics spotted a movement in the distance. An animal of some sort darting across the landscape using rocks for cover. “And so the world moves on”, he thought.
He walked over to where the gravestone of Silverbolt stood, a black silhouette against the darkness. He stood for a while in silence, his head bowed slightly. Perhaps it was time to take responsibility for himself. He couldn’t spend his whole life expecting others to tell him what was the right thing to do. With this new resolve in mind he turned and headed back towards the Ark.
Part Three – Skydive
Skydive stepped nervously into Optimus Prime’s ready room. Prime was seated behind a large desk and he looked up as Skydive entered.
“Come in Skydive and take a seat,” he said gesturing to a chair opposite the desk.
Skydive sat down wondering why on Earth Prime had summoned him here. Had he done something wrong?
“I know this is a bad time for the Aerialbots,” Prime said. “The loss of Silverbolt is a grievous blow to us all. We are all mourning him and the other Autobots who died defending this planet. At the same time it is my responsibility to ensure that the Autobots as a fighting force are ready for any threat from the Decepticons that may come along.”
“Of course Optimus Prime, I understand that,” Skydive put in, feeling that he ought to contribute something rather than just sit there looking vacant. “Many battles have been lost because the commander’s have failed to take their responsibilities seriously.”
Prime nodded and then continued, “I’m glad that you see things that way. The loss of Silverbolt leaves me with a problem. The Aerialbots are still very much an important unit. We have very little air power and as such we need to make the most effective use of that which we do have. That is why I feel that it is important that I choose a new leader for the Aerialbots as soon as possible. I would like you to be the new commander of the team.”
“Me?” Skydive asked incredulously. “But Optimus, I’m just a strategist, I’m not worthy!”
“You are the perfect choice I assure you,” Prime said. “As I said I know it is a hard time for the Aerialbots. You not only have to contend with the death of your leader but also the death of Superion as well. I am looking to you to help bring the Aerialbots back together as a team and an effective fighting unit. I know you can do it.”
“I…I don’t know what to say,” Skydive stammered. “I am honoured that you think me capable of this responsibility, I’m just not sure I’m up to the task.”
“You are more capable than you know Skydive,” Prime said. “I know that you can do this and what’s more your fellow Aerialbots know that you can. They have long been aware that you are a vital member of the team.”
Sometime later Skydive walked out of the entrance to the Ark. The night was creeping in but darkness had not fallen fully. He had a lot of thinking to do. After leaving Optimus Prime’s ready room he had gone to command centre where WheelJack and Perceptor were in the midst of repairing Teletraan-I.
The repairs to the computer were almost complete now; most of the remaining work was purely cosmetic, much of Teletran still being blackened with scorch marks.
“Is it okay if I access Teletran?” Skydive asked Wheeljack who was currently bent over an access panel a few feet away.
“Sure,” said Wheeljack curtly before returning to his work.
Skydive hadn’t missed the tone in Wheeljack’s voice. It had been obvious ever since the memorial that the other Autobots were angry that none of the Aerialbots had spoken. He could understand the feeling like that but at the same time he also knew that none of the Aerialbots had felt like giving a speech.
They had lost more than just a leader. Like Prime had said, without Silverbolt they could no longer form Superion, so in a way he too had died. In effect a part of each them had also died. It had he knew been too much for all of them. Eventually the Autobots would come round and understand.
He walked up to Teletran’s main access terminal and with practiced ease connected the Autobot’s supercomputer to the human’s worldwide network, what they called the Internet.
When he had first discovered the Internet, Skydive had spent many days browsing through the many millions of pages of information, especially those on aerial combat. Now however he was looking for something different. Running a search on “The Art of Leadership” brought up over three million pages. He quickly downloaded these into his portable datapad.
Many of the Autobots had laughed at him when they had discovered that he used a datapad to download and then read information, rather than just downloading directly to his cerebral circuits. But as he had explained, there was something special about reading rather than just absorbing information.
What he wanted now was a quiet place where he could sit and read without being disturbed by anyone. So it was that he had made his way outside. He looked up at the volcano towering over him. He knew the very place.
He transformed and flew up to the top of the volcano. Transforming again he landed near the rim of the crater. He carefully made his way to the edge and looked down. There it was, a small rocky outcrop on the inside of the crater.
He picked his way over to it. He had found this spot a few months before and had since used it as a retreat where he could read and relax in peace. He sat down on the ledge and took out his datapad and began to read.
A few hours later Skydive looked up from the datapad. He had just finished the last page of data. The sky was dark now it must be getting late. He looked down at the datapad in his hand. He still wasn’t sure that he had what it took to be a leader but he felt more confident now than he had done when Prime had first given him the job.
He stood up; it was time to get the team back into some sort of order. With that thought in mind, he clambered out of the crater and headed back towards the Ark.
Part Four – Slingshot
“Hey look bud, if you’ve got a problem why don’t you just come out and say it,” Slingshot yelled at Huffer.
“Well okay then,” Huffer retorted. “I think that you’re an arrogant, insensitive windbag.”
“At least I don’t go out of my way to depress everybody,” Slingshot snapped back.
“No you just go out your way to annoy everybody instead,” Huffer yelled.
The two of them were stood outside Slingshot’s quarters. Slingshot had been heading back there when he’d spotted Huffer coming towards him carrying a crate full of spare parts for the repair bay.
The crate was so big that the diminutive Huffer was almost totally obscured from view behind it. Slingshot had laughed and said, “Hey Huffer, you sure you can manage that all by yourself? Why don’t you get on top and I’ll carry you both down to the repair bay.”
Huffer immediately put down the crate and spun to face Slingshot, “Why don’t you just close your afterburner?” It had all gone downhill from there really.
Slingshot was just about to throw another insult at Huffer, when the Autobot turned away from him, picked up the crate and said, “You know what? You’re just not worth bothering with.”
Slingshot watched as he walked slowly away down the corridor. “Oh yeah,” he called after him. “Well at least my team go down fighting rather than running away when things get tough.”
Huffer ignored the remark however and Slingshot turned back towards his quarters with a muttered curse. He went inside and once the door was shut behind him, he leaned back against it with a sigh. Why did he do things like that? Huffer had been right, he did go out of his way to annoy others. Why? Why, why, why? He banged the back of his head hard against the wall. It didn’t make him feel any better.
He looked around the room; he had to get out of here. He turned and walked back out towards the exit. He didn’t meet any other Autobots on the way, something that he was relieved about. He didn’t want another scene like the one with Huffer.
Once he was outside he transformed and flew off to the South. “I’m an idiot,” he thought to himself. “I act like a jerk and then wonder while I’m always having to have an argument. Why can’t I just be sensible?”
He thought back to those early days, just after the Aerialbots had been created. He had behaved like an idiot then too, almost coming to blows with Ironhide and then actually having sympathy for Megatron. Was there any wonder nobody liked him?
He remembered how he had jeered when he’d found out that Silverbolt was scared of heights. The worst of it was, he realised, he had never apologised to Silverbolt for that. Even after Silverbolt had shown that he had more courage than most. Again he asked himself, why? Now it was too late, Silverbolt was gone.
Why hadn’t he gotten up at the memorial and spoken a few words? He had wanted too. He had wanted to say how much he had secretly respected his leader. How much he wished that he could be like him and that he hoped he would be able to live up to the standards set by him. But no, he had just stood there and not said anything.
Then a few hours later he’d gotten into a stupid fight with a fellow Autobot. He had practically accused Huffer and the other Autobots of running away from the battle at the power station. He raged inwardly at himself.
Why did he feel this need to show everyone that he was better, faster, and braver than they were? He knew the answer. Because he wasn’t any of those things. He was the slowest of the Aerialbots and he was sure that he wouldn’t have had Silverbolt’s strength to sacrifice himself the way he had.
“I’m a failure,” he thought. “I can’t fight anymore. I should leave.”
Then it was almost as if he heard the voice of Silverbolt in his head saying, “The Auotobots need you!”
“Yeah, right!” Slingshot snapped back. “What do they need me for? I should have died instead of you. Nobody would have missed me.”
“Then do something about that,” came the voice in his head again. “Change things, make them better for them and for you.”
“What can I do? I’m a failure!”
This time however there was no answering voice. Slingshot flew on into the night for a few more minutes and then suddenly he banked sharply to the left, coming round in a tight circle.
“You’re right,” he thought to himself. “I’m the only one who can do anything about this and running away won’t help. Thanks Silverbolt…wherever you are.”
With this thought in his mind he powered up his afterburner and headed back towards the Ark.
Epilogue – Meetings
As Air Raid approached the Ark he was surprised to see Fireflight trudging slowly away from Silverbolt’s gravestone. Transforming Air Raid landed on the ground and went up to him.
The two looked at each other for a few seconds and then Fireflight said, “Hi, where’ve you been?”
“Oh nowhere,” Air Raid replied. “But I’m back now. How was the memorial?”
“It was nice,” Fireflight said lamely. “There were some good speeches.”
Air Raid nodded and was about to say something else, when the sound of engines made them look up. Skydive was flying down from the volcano top.
“What were you doing up there?” Fireflight asked.
“Oh, you know, thinking,” Skydive said. “I’ve got some news. Where’s Slingshot?”
“Don’t know,” Fireflight said. “After the memorial he said something about being in his quarters.”
Skydive nodded and then turned to Air Raid and said, “How are you?”
“Okay,” said Air Raid. “Better than I was anyway.”
Skydive nodded again. “We need to go and find Slingshot,” he said.
“No need,” Fireflight said pointing to the sky. “Here comes Mister Personality now.”
The other two turned in time to see Slingshot transform and land on the ground not far away. He walked over to where they were standing.
“What are you guys all doing?” he asked.
“We were just about to go and look for you,” Skydive said.
“I have some news. Optimus Prime has made me the new leader of the team, effective immediately,” Skydive said.
“Well Prime sure didn’t waste any time did he,” Slingshot snapped. Then he seemed to catch himself and he continued in a more reasonable voice. “Still, I think he’s made the right choice. Well done Skydive. I’m sure you’ll do a great job.”
Skydive, Fireflight and Air Raid all exchanged glances at this. “Er…thanks Slingshot,” Skydive said. “I’m pleased you have such confidence in me. I’ll try and live up to it.”
“I’m sure you will,” said Air Raid.
“You’re the best candidate for it,” Fireflight put in.
I’ll never be able to live up to Silverbolt of course,” Skydive said hurriedly turning to look at the gravestone in the distance. “But hopefully I’ll not shame him.” And with that thought running through all their heads, they turned and headed back towards the Ark.