~Then I must be thy Lady.~
William Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
The humans didn’t worry him. No organic pest had dared to put their slimy hands on his property for three consecutive solar cycles now, and latest intel implied that they - surprisingly - weren’t stupid enough to try again. But it wouldn’t be out of character for Autobot Strategics to try and lure him into a false sense of safety before sending out a salvaging party. A little damage precaution couldn’t hurt.
And, even more importantly, the upcoming events did call for some glamorizing. Yes, even the Slagmaker was not above a little image cultivation.
The damage the ship had suffered was more a result of its long entombment rather than the original crash. Standing on top of the wreckage, Megatron found himself faced with the task of actually getting inside without weakening the compromised structure even further. The electronic locking mechanism on the emergency hatch before him had long since quit its service, so there was no choice but to resort to physical strength.
The hinges protested his carefully controlled handling with an ugly, crunching sound, and a draught of stale air wafted out when the hatch opened. Dirt and debris rained down into the opening, but nothing pointed to an imminent cave-in. Megatron grabbed the first rung of the ladder and started to ease himself down.
The ship’s interior wasn’t much better off than its hull. Switching to IR vision, Megatron saw that most of the corridors had collapsed and were jammed with debris and a disgusting amalgamation of organic filth. A comparison of the ship’s layout plans with the latest scan results quickly revealed that blasting his way to his destination wasn’t an option. As expected, he’d have to take the long way around.
Clearing the path he’d chosen from rubble and the occasional climb over a boulder turned out to be more of a tedious task than a real challenge. He’d have called himself lucky for such light work any day on C-12. The whole endeavor was a trial of patience, which took on rather stringent conditions when he had to turn back not once but twice, as close-up scans showed that there was simply no chance to get through without violent measures.
Just as his impatience began to teeter on the brink of real anger, the last clump of charred debris finally gave way under his hands, unblocking the heavy doors to the command bridge.
Dust swirled in the air around him, and when it settled, Megatron looked down at himself. For someone who had just tunneled his way through a shipwreck, his armor had stayed remarkably clean. He still took a few moments to carefully wipe away the handful of smudges he could detect. Was that a flicker of excitement his spark had just given?
Probably just a trick of the sensors.
The door to the command center was heavily dented, but still tightly closed. With a last effort, Megatron pried it open and stepped inside.
Darkness greeted him. The door closed behind him with a dull thud, the hydraulic mechanism obviously still intact, and a tomblike silence settled upon the room.
Megatron looked around.
The command center had sustained comparatively little damage, probably due to its heavy shielding. He spotted burned-out consoles, a deep crack in the opposite wall, and a thick layer of accumulated metal dust on every surface. But the signs of organic decay that blemished the rest of the ship had not managed to break through the airlocks here. Had he not known how much time had passed, he might have pretended that it couldn’t be more than a few solar cycles since he’d last stood here, in the very heart and center of his once-proud flagship.
His beautiful, beautiful Nemesis.
The echo of his steps rang much too loudly in his own audios, and he instinctively trod more carefully as he walked along the circular platform that connected the individual work stations. His fingers brushed the cool metal walls - gentle, gentle - until he reached the large main screen.
“A good evening to you, my beauty.”
His rumbling voice washed through the darkness, filling it with its resonances. He waited as the echoes died away, but there was no sound except his own ventilations.
He wasn’t sure what he had expected. Perhaps the long estrangement had resulted in a certain degree of coyness.
“It’s been a long time, has it not?”
Again, no answer.
Megatron was many things, but he was not to be ignored. The main computer was functional; that had been the first thing he’d had Soundwave check, together with seeing to an injection of high-energy fuel into the auxiliary tanks.
“I know you’re online, by the way,” he said pleasantly. “And I know your perception sensors are perfectly functional.”
Exactly 4.6 astroseconds passed in silence.
Then the emergency lights mounted along the walls began to flash on, one by one like spotlights in a theater, casting the room in a dim, greenish glow. “Attention,” a disembodied voice said. “Commander on the bridge.”
Behind his chest plates, Megatron’s spark did a funny little thing he couldn’t identify, but the sensation made his hand move all on its own, his fingers curling around the handrail before him. “Yes,” he murmured. “Your commander has returned.”
If the ship’s AI shared his sentiment, she didn’t bother to let him know. “Your orders, commander?”
Right. First things first. He forced his grip on the rail to loosen and switched back to normal vision. “Status report,” he ordered.
Judging by the speed and fluency with which she rattled the data off, he was ready to bet his exhaust pipe that she’d had that report composed long before he had even entered the ship. Still, Megatron found himself listening with a kind of morbid curiosity. He created a subfile in his memory banks to carefully store each snippet of information for the day when he would finally, happily blow this planet to smithereens. This wretched, puny little excuse for a celestial body would pay dearly for every scratch it had inflicted upon his Nemesis, and no doubt about it.
He’d just worked himself into a nice little fantasy involving some plasma explosions when she had to go and ruin the mood.
“All systems running on auxiliary power supply. Main power source inaccessible.”
Ah, yes. That.
He had felt a bit bad about the Heart incident. Denuding them of their main source of energy was certainly not the way a gentlemech should greet a long-lost ally.
“I know,” he said. “The Heart was needed to maximize the chances of success of a major offensive. With this planet’s energy reserves, we are going to scatter the remaining Autobot resistance to the corners of the universe.”
“War; still in progress?”
“Affirmative.” Had he just detected a flicker of incredulity in her voice?
“Your chosen course of action; highly unwise. Damage to ship’s structure; likely and incalculable.”
Well, look at that. More than 480 megavorns of forced stasis obviously hadn’t caused her to forget the rules of the game. Megatron felt torn between pride and familiar irritation.
“The opportunity to gain a considerable advantage outweighed the calculated dangers. Since I am currently the only mechanism in this crew whose systems were designed to withstand a power backlash of such dimensions, I decided to take the risk.” If he had rehearsed that sentence as one of several possible arguments in this discussion, she didn’t have to know.
“The Heart; linked to your circuitry?”
There was a moment of heavy silence before an electronic hum filled the air, and Megatron felt the unmistakable tingle of a medical scan pass over his plating. It was alpha level, probably yielding barely more than his spark rate and energy levels. He opened his field to the questing frequencies, and the sensation sent a shiver down his backstrut.
“It changes nothing,” she grumbled. This time, her displeasure was plainly audible in her voice. “Your actions; still foolhardy.”
Megatron couldn’t help a laugh. “The flesh creatures have a saying: ‘All’s fair in love and war’, if memory serves.”
“Please define term; ‘flesh creatures’.”
“The humans,” he said. “Those organics that found you.”
Another moment of silence, as she presumably checked her data banks. “My information is insufficient. Data input required.”
She was interested in the humans? Pit, the crash seemed to have rattled her circuitry more than he had expected. He scowled. “For reasons yet to be revealed, they are the dominant species on this planet. Bipedal mammals, descended from -”
“Negative,” she interrupted. “Data. Input. Required.”
Excitement flashed through his spark as the room came alive around him. Monitors flashed, a series of electronic chimes sounded, and the overhead light in the middle of the ceiling switched on, casting a bright pool of light around the commanding officer’s chair.
Fond memory files rose from the depths of his long-term storage, recollections of exactly this little gesture which had frequently served as a prelude to much more enjoyable activities than simply working through his duty shift. “Now what? Interfacing on a first date? What kind of mech do you take me for?”
The main screen came online, changing from black to blue to a dazzling white and back to black again, displaying a single, bold line of glyphs: ‘Data input required NOW’.
Megatron did his very best not to smirk.
He approached slowly, deliberately, rerouting some extra power to his perception sensors and archival memory. The chair’s smooth metal felt cool to the touch when he sat down, but quickly warmed to the heat of his frame, and he smiled as she adjusted the backrest for him. “I daresay you’ve missed me,” he murmured.
In lieu of an answer, she extended her field to envelop him. It felt nothing like a mech’s, since her configurations differed so widely, but it still created a gossamer web of warmth and sensation which his sensors interpreted as touch/caress/pleasure. He reciprocated by browsing through the various controls embedded into the chair’s armrests, gently flipping a number of switches whose purpose he barely remembered. Many weren’t functional, which she indicated with a mournful chime. To the rest, however, she reacted smoothly, and Megatron could have sworn that the whole room vibrated with what could only be described as a sensual purr.
Another line of glyphs appeared on the screen. ‘Foreplay; not necessary.’
Primus, he’d missed this.
His fingers found the connector ports in the armrests with ease, following a motion pattern deeply ingrained in his memory core. For a moment he simply let his hand hover, enjoying the tingly sensation of small amounts of electricity passing back and forth between her open circuits and the highly sensitive sensors in his palms. He sent a tiny pulse of current, just to see if -
A zap of negative charge jolted his systems, not painful, but certainly not pleasant, either. He gasped. “What the frag, femme!”
“Recommendation; stop teasing,” she purred.
Megatron glared at the main screen. “Oh, just you wait,” he growled, and practically slammed his hand down onto the connectors.
The plan had been to gain the upper hand by catching her off guard. It backfired. Gloriously so. The connection opened with an effortlessness that was indecent after a 480 megavorn separation, and the combined surge of energy and data from her much larger processor sliced through him like a triple-energized plasma scalpel. The world turned bright red, and then dissolved into white.
He found himself crumpled in a heap at the foot of the chair, circuits throbbing. A handful of data cables had emerged from panels in the floor and wrapped snugly around his waist and torso, gently supporting him. “Status, commander?”
Megatron extricated himself and climbed back into his seat with a soft grunt as he tried to figure out whether he was feeling amused, chagrined, or just plain stunned. He reset his strobing optics, flexed his neck cables a few times and wiped the error messages from his HUD.
“Let’s try this again, shall we?” he purred.
The shock had activated a series of defense mechanisms which he had to manually disengage before he could reestablish the connection. She didn’t instantly push back this time, but instead kept her systems open and pliant while her field vibrated with the equivalent of a contented hum as he eased his way into her data streams. His old access codes still worked beautifully, blocks and firewalls melting away before him as he went. They both kept the energy transfer rate purposefully low, but simply making contact with a system-complex so diversified poured a hot, tingly charge into his lines and left him deliciously light-headed. He tried to dial down his increasing ventilation rate, but found that conscious control had been locked out.
He reached her core data banks, and the ship’s memory archive opened for him like an unfolding crystal. A number of search frequencies worked their way into his own processor like branches of an organic tree, pushing against his memory core shielding, and a new message appeared on his HUD:
Making her wait was necessary to reassert who was in charge here, but it was uncomfortable as all Pit. His systems had been primed and ready for this since he’d set foot aboard the ship, and keeping the process on stand-by was like a dull pressure on his entire frame. She gave a whistling sound, almost like a whine. His lingo files jumped onto the little noise, interpreting it as a plea, and thank Primus they did, because it meant that he could relent.
They entered each other’s minds almost simultaneously.
The sheer amount of data Megatron found himself faced with sent a flush of liquid heat through his circuits. His processor struggled to keep up as he virtually lived through 480 megavorns worth of memory files in mere astroseconds. It was disorienting, overwhelming - and the fragging hottest thing he’d experienced in longer than he cared to remember.
She took him back to where it had begun, to their departure from Cybertron, the hot pursuit of the Ark, the clash with the Autobots. He felt the strong, relentless pull of Earth’s gravitational field that had forced both ships out of their flight path; her panic as the engines broke down; the lurch of the tailspin. The mental impression of the impact, even filtered through both their circuits, had his plating flare and rattle in a full-body spasm.
She had survived, barely. Many systems were damaged to a degree that was beyond her AR systems’ ability to repair, but the physical pain became irrelevant the moment she realized that her crew wasn’t with her. There was a corrupted memory file of them leaving to enter the Autobot ship, but what had happened to them after that? Stellar cycles turned into vorns without the slightest beep of another Cybertronian life form, and finally, when fear and loneliness had threatened to overwhelm her, she’d forced herself into a state somewhere between stasis and standby mode, an interminable limbo only interrupted by the occasional earthquake or a volcano eruption. Species and climates, mountains and oceans came and went, but she lay inert, deserted.
Then and there, Megatron decided that a plasma explosion was too good for this wretched planet.
And then she shared the moment of reunion.
Wild, exuberant joy pushed and pulled at him like gusts of sparkling wind, a myriad of multi-colored pinpricks evoking pleasure and pain alike. The distant echo of a groan rang in his audios, and the two separate data streams they had been maintaining began to bleed together, creating a frozen moment in time that left him trembling, poised -
“My Lord,” she whispered.
White-hot light exploded across his sensor grid, causing his frame to twitch and tremble uncontrollably, sparks dancing on the metal floor. He thrust his field outward, and brief starbursts of needle-sharp ecstasy riddled his neural net as it met hers; then darkness pulled him under.
It took him a moment to get his bearings when he finished his reboot.
She had dimmed the lights to a soothing semi-darkness, and all her systems were emitting a deep, contented hum. The connection was still active, and Megatron didn’t feel particularly compelled to cut it. Not when their fields were so flawlessly aligned, pulsing in unison.
He switched off his optics again and leaned back with a smile, enjoying the gentle aftershocks tingling in his lines. “Well,” he said. “I daresay that was rather pleasant.”
She didn’t deem this worthy of a verbal response, but nudged him with a field flare that gave him a little jump. He chuckled.
“I have the Constructicons preparing for a recovery operation,” he told her. “That base of mine needs a decent main computer, asap.”
Her field swelled with wordless emotion, yours/happy/not apart again. In a mechanism with faceplates, Megatron’s emotional decoding system would have interpreted those frequencies as a smile.
His fingers absently caressed the ports that still connected them as he composed a comm. message to Hook, demanding a progress report on those recovery plans.
This sucked slag.
Frenzy kicked at a stone, glaring daggers at the crashed ship. Back at the base, his siblings would now be taking their evening ration together, sharing some quality time (play a game, watch a movie, prank the crew, that sort of thing), and then curling up snugly in Soundwave’s chest compartment for a good recharge.
He wanted snacks and snuggles, too, damn it!
Instead, he’d been ordered to hang around in the middle of nowhere and be bored out of his processor guarding this useless pile of scrap while Megatron crawled around in the debris, doing Primus knew what.
He paused in his maltreatment of the local geology when he heard footsteps approaching. A winged figure appeared against the evening twilight, and Frenzy half-heartedly shifted into a pose of attention - only to have Starscream whoosh past him like Astrotrain in zero gravity.
“Nothing to report, Commander,” he called.
That... might have been a mistake.
Starscream spun around, wings rising in a clear threat display. Frenzy instinctively took a step back as the Seeker stared him down, optics alight with a feverish, unhealthy-looking glow. “Problem, soldier?”
Well. Since he’d obviously gotten himself into hot slag, why not push a little further?
“Why do we have to guard this worthless lump? It’s a waste of time! And what the frag’s the big boss doing in there?”
Even with the distance between them, Starscream’s surging field hit him square in the faceplates, a roaring maelstorm streaked with ugly red. Frenzy stumbled backwards, and when he caught himself he was looking down the muzzle of a charging null ray gun.
“You dare to make fun of me?” Starscream hissed.
“What? No, I... I just...” Frenzy’s vocalizer locked up, together with the rest of his frame. His world narrowed to the purple glow in front of him, and he waited for the pain to come.
“You don’t know, do you?” Starscream said softly. His furious expression melted into one of genuine surprise.
Frenzy’s hydraulics kindly returned kinetic control to him, and of course his mouth was the first thing to move. “What in the fragging Pit is wrong with you?”
Starscream lowered his gun. “Well, well,” he purred. “Don’t fret, little one. I’m sure Soundwave will tell you when you’re old enough.”
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