Be seen but not heard.
Do as you're told.
Speak only when spoken to.
These rules make sense, my commander says. The perfect Four is silent, obedient and loyal to his superiors and Lord Megatron. The perfect Four is dutiful, always on time for his assignments, and never hesitates to help his commanders. I am the perfect Four in every way but that last, which I think is his way of saying he wants to top me till my processor shorts. My commander subscribes to the idea that there's more than one definition of 'service' when the drone is a Four. Still, a compliment's a compliment, right?
Doesn't make it any better when you can't even scream when you're getting run over by a gang of three-ranked D-classes.
I hobble down the path to my quarters like a good little drone, keeping my shoulders back to block both the flow of energon and the pain receptors. I keep my head low, though, my optics, not so much. I glance at the wrists of each person I pass, never at their faces, which would be considered a threat. I'm not in the S Area, and 35's on duty right now, so one false move could mean I get hurt even more than I already am. The hallway I'm in is mostly full of 3s and the rare 2, but no one stops me. I think I hear the sound of gagging chirps behind me as I walk past one group.
I'm heading for a Service door down the corner that will eventually take me back to my quarters. From there I can call 35 up as ask for his help in an impromptu repair session. It's not the first time, won't be the last. I reach the corner. It's more of a crossroads where different paths go to different sectors. It's who's leaning against one of the walls that nearly makes my spark stall.
He's one of the oldest drones, so old that his chassis has aged. J-3912 stares at me. I shrink back and slump my shoulders. Energon spills onto the ground as I do, and I immediately straighten back up again. Too late- the Elder's optics glance at the energon, then look back at me, directly on my face. Our optics lock for a long, long moment. I don't dare break the contact, not even to bow down and beg for mercy. Anything could be assumed to be a threat, but as he stares at me, I realize what he's trying to say.
Get to the medbay, or there will be no high-grade energon.
I bite my lip under my mask to keep it from wobbling. The Elder knows how to threaten me. He knows how much I hate the stuff they give us Fours. What he doesn't know is why I didn't want to go to the medbay in the first place. Primus, I'd rather deal with my horny commander than that femme medidrone!
The Elder's optics narrow at me. I clench my fists, look down, and nod obediently at him, like a good little Four. Turning away from the path that would have led to the Service door, I move to the path that leads to the medbay, the same one that the Elder stands next to. Keeping my head low to the ground, I walk past him, only for something to jab me in the leg. I stiffen up, and look at J-3912 again. This time, he smiles as he meets my optics. I relax everything but my back and shoulders, and nod at him. He takes a risk every time he associates with me. Jets aren't supposed to be seen with Service drones. And yet, without fail, when I need guidance, he's there.
Turning away from the Elder, I walk down the path with a renewed sense of strength in my frame. These hallways remain empty except for the rare Service drone running up and down them, washing the walls, polishing the numbers and letters on the doors, cleaning the floor. They mostly ignore me as I pass. We Service drones don't even care about each other when we're at work. That's a testament to whoever designed us.
It doesn't take long to reach the medbay, as it's designed to be easy to reach from every area of the base. Along with the rare uprisings and rebellions, not to mention machinery accidents, training mishaps, and the more than rare exploding gun prank gone awry, the medi-drones are always a little grouchy. Still… I've been here more than I want to be. Service drones don't get into accidents. When we come into the medbay, it's typically because of violence against us. That makes the medics very paranoid about when we come in. But this time it actually was an accident, right? Anyone could have gotten run over with a bunch of busy D-ranks around. This time they don't have anyone to blame but me. Thank Primus. Otherwise I'd be dead already.
I step up to the large door. The metal is painted a matte shade of dark red, with an oversized, glossy black K in the middle of the door. I hesitate. The door is open a little. I can hear voices through it. One of them is too familiar. I hesitate, then remember the Elder and step close enough so the door's sensors can pick up my signal and open up. Please, Primus please just let another medic be in there too. With others, she stops acting like she owns the place and tones down the insults. The medbay is empty except for two figures. My optics land on the first figure, and I want to groan so badly my vocalizer hurts. She's sitting on a medical berth, light shining off her gray highlights. She's mostly black, but she's got gray in just the right spots. K-1347 is beautiful, but she's got a temper as bad as Lord Megatron's. She hates anyone lower than her. Because she's a level 1, that's everyone but other level 1s and the True Decepticons. Right now she's laughing, but when she sees me?
Too late. I feel her eyes land on me and wince. 1347 leaps to her feet, feet hitting the metal ground with a loud noise. She points her finger at me. "You!" She snarls. "What the frag are you doing here?" My vocalizer almost opens up to answer her, but apparently that was a rhetorical question, because she goes on, and my vocalizer seals up again. "I said the medbay was closed," she said. I keep my eyes glued to the ground."There is no reason for you to be in here!" Her voice drops to a hiss. "Didn't you hear my announcement, Four?"
I did. I nod, keeping my eyes on the stark, stained metal floor.
"What did it say?"
My vocalizer opens up as it recognizes an order. I speak slowly, reciting from memory. "The medbay is closed for an emergency meeting. Vital Emergencies only."
"Good boy." I hate it when people call me boy. 1347 goes on. "Do you know what a 'Vital Emergency' is?" I start to respond, but she starts on without me. "That means only True Decepticons are allowed to come in here! You are not a True Decepticon you stupid-"
"That's enough 47." A voice snaps from across the room. Without meaning to, my head jerks to look over at who'd spoken. It's the mech that had been talking to 1347 when I came in. He's standing now, uninjured, towering over me even from across the room. The body is tall and strong and he's painted in the same shades of dark brown and green that all the soldiers are. I glance at the numbers written on his wrist. C-1730. No wonder 1347 called an emergency meeting. This guy's a Commander. This guy's a 1 too. I'm slagged.
C-1730 walks up towards 1347, a glare in his optics. "47, you know the Level 1 code as well as I do," he says, arms behind his back. He's menacing especially with his mask up, but 1347 meets his gaze without fear.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Don't harass the lower levels and all that. But look at it 30! It's just a Four! Should be dusting the vents instead of bothering us."
I wince at her careless mention of the common punishment for Fours, not to mention the common location for Fours of my class to be assaulted. C-1730 keeps staring into her optics. "Do you really think that, 47?" the Commander says softly.
1347 winces this time. "W-Well yeah, of course I do! It's just a Four, there's nothing special about it!" Damn it? I fight the urge to react outwardly to the human curse. It's not every day you hear anyone, drone or True Decepticon alike, using human curses anymore. It typically happens when we drones are under high stress. I understand being under the gaze of a Level 1 Commander is stressful.
"Then dismiss him and let's move on." 1347 sighed.
"Right, right." She looks at me, and I stiffen up, optics going back to the ground. "You're dismissed, Four." She's obviously never done this before. "Go back to your quarters until your shift is called. If you're still hurting, come back when your shift is done." 1347 looks over at C-1730 to see if she did it right. He nods.
I let out a soft exhale, unnoticeable. All this trouble to get here, and now I'm being turned away. It's not the first time. Besides, it's probably not that bad an injury. At least J-3912 won't be able to get after me for not trying. I turn. Before I walk one step, I hear 1347 yelp. "Holy slag!" Her voice reaches a pitch I didn't even realize drones could hit. "Four, get back here now! Do not jump, do not jolt your back plates, and do not relax your shoulders!" There's no trace of arrogance and cruelty in her voice now, only medic shock and panic.
A large hand wraps around my arm. "Easy there, kid," C-1730 says. "Listen to her, don't panic now, everything's going to be fine." Don't panic? It's just a cut, right? Maybe a deep one, but it'll heal on its own. That why drones have a self-repair system. Right? There's nothing wrong that a little sheet metal won't fix… Right?
C-1730 half-carries me to a berth to lay me down on the berth on my chassis. I flinch as C-1730's large optics, reflected in the metal on the berth, narrow down at me. He glances at 1347, and I follow his gaze. She has her back to us, gathering medical tools from her box. I glimpse one of them and shift, only for a strong hand to clamp onto my shoulder. I keep my shoulders tight, automatically looking away when she turns back. There's no anger or aggression reflected in those optics, as far as I can see from her image in the metal. She walks up to me, and messes with a spot on my back with the tong-like tool in her hand. I relax as my pain receptors offline.
The First Level Commander taps my shoulder. Turning in his direction, I keep my optics trained low. He tilts my head up with those sharp claws of his, and for a moment I notice the deep shade of his optics. I try to turn away but he grips my chin hard and locks optics with me. He's furious, and my instincts scream at me to beg for my safety. I wish I had access to my vocalizer. "Who did this to you?" I shutter my optics in a blink, as I feel my vocalizer opens up.
He has to know that I can't tell him that. "Beg pardon, sir?" Huh, my voice isn't as hoarse as it usually is after I need to scream but can't.
C-1730 kneels in front of me, keeping our optics locked. "I need an answer before I can do anything to help you. Why did you get run over, and who did it to you?"
Under my mask I bite my lip hard. It's one thing to be under the gaze of a Level 1 Commander. He'll go away eventually. It's another thing to be a Four. The higher classes aren't nice to lower-level drones, especially to Fours like me. If a high class, high rank group of drones decide you've wronged them, you're dead, or worse. Even brushing against one in the hallway could be considered a 'wrong'. Fours are killed by higher ranking mechs all the time, to the point that our average lifespan is shorter than a human's. Somehow C-1730 doesn't realize the danger I'd be in for telling him. Then C-1730 looks past me, back at 1347. I don't turn to look at her but if the look in his optics is any indication, they're conversing over commlink. He looks back at me, optics soft and almost kind now.
"Listen. If I can promise you that you'll be protected from any attacks that might happen to you, will you tell me what happened?" It's a nice sentiment, oddly compassionate for one of the group that is looked up for being rough and gruff. Does it take away my fear? Pit no. I can trust 35, but he's not a Commander. Even nice commanders are connected to the True Decepticons. Who knows what kind of questionable jobs they do on a daily basis under the orders of their True Decepticon commanders? "Please," There's a note of distinct desperation in his voice now, "If you can tell me anything at all?"
I shutter my optics closed, then opened them as impulse took over. "It-it happened…" I hesitate, my logic nodes getting control for a moment, then letting the words slip past anyway. "It happened in the secondary hanger."
The Commander drone looks at me expectantly. "And?"
1347 snorts. "Don't you get it?" she says, and I hear her sigh as C-1730 looks over my shoulder with a blank expression in his optics. "If it happened in the secondary hanger, the security cameras were on!"
Comprehension dawns over C-1730's face. "Then you don't have to say anything. I just have to tell the guys at the security station that a drone came in with his back nearly torn in two." He smirks. I look at him is shock, but he ignores me and continues. "You won't even have to testify. All we need is the video." He shutters his optics and looks at me like it's the first time he's ever seen me. "Didn't you realize how damaged you were?
I shake my head. "N-No, sir. I thought it was just a cut."
C-1730 sighs. "Do yourself a favor and try to keep yourself out of harm's way until this is all sorted out. I don't want those guys coming back for more." Well, he does have some idea of what's going on. He stands up and brushes non-existent dust off his knees. "I'm going to get on that now, before anything can be recorded over. 47, give him some painkilling energon before he leaves." Then he's gone, out the door before I could even ask him why exactly he was helping me. 1347 muttered something about being told her job. My pain receivers jolt back online, bringing back a dull ache in my back. Compared to what I felt earlier, it's an improvement. She gestures me up. I sit up, giving my shoulders a few rolls to get the kinks out.
I watch her as she walks to the other side of the medbay, eager to see if she's going to give me that painkilling energon. Yeah, she types in a code on the wall, revealing a cabinet. She pulls out fourteen little sealed cartridges of painkiller energon. Wow, I've gotten painkiller energon before, but not so much. Maybe about a week's worth, if the medics were feeling nice. Walking back to me, 1347 passes me the energon, and lists off the usual group of back injury dos and don'ts: Don't scrub the plates too hard, don't fall backwards, don't recharge on your back, do take it easy on the floor scrubbing and do avoid touching the wound. I wonder how many back-slaps I'm going to get from a bunch of malicious higher-level drones in the halls. The medidrone looks at me, like she's reading my mind. "Avoid the big hallways unless you're with that Master drone you like so much. And by the way, if you want to interface, do it against the wall, standing or sitting up, or on your side. Any position other than lying on your back will keep it from getting further damaged." 1347 smirks unpleasantly. "Or you could just go celibate. That would save both of you a lot of trouble."
What is up with everyone thinking me and 35 are together? Just because we share a room and hang out all the time doesn't mean we're fragging each other senseless! Even after so long being his friend I haven't gotten used to the presumptions other have when your best friend took care of the humans before getting transferred.
Climbing off the berth, I head for the door, before glancing back at 1347 for any further instruction. She's eyeing my back. "I'll contact your boss and tell him to put you on half-shift until the groves heal. Won't take that long, maybe a few solar cycles." She doesn't realize how big a deal this is to me. Any time away from S-3427 is time well spent. I nod eagerly in thanks, and she waves her hand at me. "Now get outta here. You're wasting my air." Her voice holds no trace of the aggression it held earlier. I don't stick around.
Guess I should head to my quarters first. I really do need to lie down, and 35 should be off-duty so I can chat with him before I go on my shift. Since I'm just another Service drone, no one gives me a second glance, if they even looked up at me the first time. I walk into the Service elevator untouched and content. There aren't many drones on the S-level. Everyone's either sleeping, drinking their fill in the break room or still on shift. I type in the code to the quarters I share with 35, and step inside, locking the door behind me. My quarters are sparse, as everyone would expect with a Four. Two beds, both neatly made up, a floor lamp in between two nightstands, mine empty of everything except a datapad, his cluttered with all sorts of junk. Attached to the foot of the beds are two desks, both with small lamps. The desks curve around the lamp to block out the light, so one drone can sleep while the other works on his paperwork. The connecting wash room lets off steam through the crack in the top of the door. 35's home. That's a relief. Walking over to my berth, I slump down onto it on my chassis, just as instructed. Offlining my optics, I let myself drift off, happy to be safe at home once more.
Someone's shaking my shoulder, calling my name. I shutter away my recharge and look up from where I lay my head. Two brilliant ruby optics watch me, face mask pulled away revealing soft, angled lips turned up in a kind smile as it registers I'm awake. 35 pulls away.
"Rough shift?" He glances at my back, displeasure in those familiar optics. I feel my vocalizer opening up and sigh, sitting up.
"Yeah. Got run over by some D-class jerks on while I was going through the secondary hanger. Slaggers had their ice traction boots on in the middle of the base. Didn't help that some weird Level One Commander decided it was a good idea to prosecute them." I shake my head. "I'm on half-shift for a few days though. Didn't you say something about being bored?"
That last comment was supposed to distract him, but as usual, no such luck. 35 narrows in on the important details. "You ran into a Level One Commander?" His optic ridges furrow. "Was his name C-1730, by any chance?"
I shutter my optics in a blink at him. "Yeah, it was." I scoot forward on the berth. "Do you know him?"
He shrugs, leaning back into his desk chair, which he pulled up to the side of my berth. "We Level One Masters take our orders directly from the Level One Commanders. They considered our work distasteful, which is ironic, really." 35 smiles at me sadly. "But then, you know about the stereotype about us as well as anyone, right?"
The rumors about the Master class… I nod in response to his comment. Since the Master class stayed to themselves, all you ever hear are the cruel types that used to be so common among them. But ever since I got roomed with 35, I've met a lot of Masters, and none of them are like that. The Master class is different now, much to the pleasure of the humans. Today's Masters are chosen to take care of the humans before their Rebirth because they're the kindest, the softest, the ones that act more like Autobots. Someday, 35 will have to go back to that life. He technically still is a Level One Master, even though he works in Service. When his punishment cycle is complete, he'll go back to his job. I'll be alone again.
I force those thoughts away. Don't borrow trouble, I remind myself. There's so much of it around for free. "So, did you take orders from him or something? Was he your boss?"
35 shakes his head. "No, but I dealt with him a lot more than you'd think. My boss and he were really close for some reason. They were polar opposites, yet they loved each other's company. Never made any sense to me, but it wasn't my place to comment." He frowns and sighs, staring at the ceiling. "He's the one that turned my druggie aft in, actually."
My back arches like it's been prodded with a white hot iron spike at the words. "W-What?" I knew about 35 once being a drug addict. Wakeup energon in the morning, recharge energon in the night for dreamless sleep, various other chemicals to keep him going-it left him a battered mech. He doesn't talk about that phase of his life much, or how he recovered. When I ask, he makes some odd comment about there being no 'twelve step' program to help him.
Thanks to that experience, he never touches a lot of the energon the other Level Ones do. It's a personal choice than a practical or forced one. I don't think he trusts himself enough not to relapse.
He nods. "Yup. When everyone else thought I was hopeless, he was there. Monitored me, helped me through the withdrawal symptoms, did everything someone has to help a druggie go sober." 35 looks at me with an odd expression on his handsome face. "I was just wondering if he was helping you because he knows you're my best friend, or if he's just the type of dude to take care of people at random."
Now I shake my head. "No idea. I would have asked if I'd had a chance, but it was like some weird dream. One minute there's this Level One grilling me about getting run over, the next he's out the door talking about checking the security footage and telling 1347 to give me some painkiller energon." I flinch at the mention of that particular item in my possession, but 35 doesn't seem fazed.
"You know the drill," 35 says, "Don't leave it where I can get to it. Put it in that safe I got you. Still got it in a good place?"
"Yeah." I say, "But I can't tell you where." I push the button that pulls back my facemask and smile at him. Even now, even as much as I trust him, I have to remember I can put it back safely and let him see me smile.
35 grins brightly. "Great! I'm glad you remembered that." He looks at me, seeing the look in my optics, and sighs. "Don't worry about me. One of these days I'll trust myself enough to try some high grade or something." He cups his large hand around my cheek. I reach up to take his wrist, nodding. 35 says 'one of these days', but it's never happened. It means I drink my high grade somewhere else, usually with the Elder, who sees that I get to the Service sector safely if I get buzzed.
We're silent for a moment, staring at each other. 35… he's beautiful. I've never been one to deny that. Midnight blue, sleek and strong, big hands. Sometimes I dream about the two of us, what could happen if we decided to go past friendship. I hate those dreams. They mock me. 35 and I can never be together, because he'll have to leave someday to go back to his real class. I can't get attached to him like that. It'll just make separating harder.
"You still have to go to work at your usual time, right?" 35 interrupts my thoughts.
"Yeah," I say, letting go. "You have paperwork to do, right?"
"Mm-hmm." He says, and rolls his chair back to his desk with his feet. "You go on ahead. I'll be awake when you come home. "
I grin, standing up. "Okay 35. See you later." I head to the door, then pause, looking over my shoulder at him. He's watching me, and as our optics lock, he waves me off with a smile on his face. What am I going to do without him? I turn away, walking out the door, heading to my boss' office for my assignment.
Of course, the door is locked when I get there. From behind the door, I hear 'odd noises'. That's the boss, exercising the 'other meaning of service'. So far I've managed to avoid his desk, mostly because of my friendship with 35. The board next to the door lists our assignments. I scan the list, coming to my name and reading over the assignment area. I have only one area instead of the usual two, so 1347 followed up on contacting the boss for a half shift. A sense of horror fills me and I check again, hoping I read it wrong. I didn't. I must have pissed him off. He's sent me up to the Highest Floor.
That's where the True Decepticon quarters are. I've never met a True Decepticon. Seen them from afar and on the holoplayer, yeah, but never actually interacted with one. I want to keep it that way. If the drones that are higher ranking to me are cruel, I don't want to find out how an actual Decepticon will treat me. I take the nearest Service elevator up to the Highest Floor, thankful when the door opens up to only more Service drones like me. I walk through them, brushing past mechs and femmes dusting, scrubbing, sweeping, and careful not to step in any of their messes or areas. They ignore me, focused on getting their work done and leaving as soon as possible.
Stepping towards my assigned area, I see an ornate staircase leading down to some kind of balcony. Hm, the stairs themselves won't take too long, but scrubbing those flourishes will. I walk up to the closet beside the wall and type in my code. The keypad hums, and the door slides open, so I know I'm in the right area. I take out the cleaning fluid, a mop, a few other assorted items, and a rag and begin to clean the floor around the staircase. Doesn't take long to make it shine, so I step down onto the staircase itself, going to the bottom and moving up as I work. The staircase is harder to clean, with lots of little decorative crevasses that look pretty but serve no practical purpose other than to make us Service Drones work harder. I 'm at the top when I put my foot and my weight down onto the next step and miss.
I'm in the air. Time slows to a standstill. Distantly I hear the thud of my mop rolling down the stairs, before I follow it. Pain shoots all over my body as I begin to roll. Every time my back slams against the stairs I want to scream, and it hits over, and over, and over until I hit the bottom. As I lay on the floor, trying to get up the strength to move, I hear the wind through a thin metal mesh screen, the sounds of the city around the base, laughter from far away, someone calling. I'm lying in. My vision dims automatically at the brightness. Suddenly a shadow hovers over me, blocking out the sunlight. A clawed hand seems to materialize in front of my face as my vision steadies.
This is definitely not the hand of a Service drone. We do too much delicate work to have claws. Still, I reach up and take it. The other person grips my hand reassuringly, and with one quick motion, jerks me to my feet. I stumble into him and sway, feeling another hand steady me. I breathe a silent sigh, and look up to see who helped me. He's silver and spiked, with a crown-like protrusion for a helmet and the most brilliant crimson optics to ever grace a mech's face. His appearance is all too familiar, and all too feared. I am staring Death in the face. I am looking at High Lord Conqueror Megatron himself.
No drone should ever lock optics with a True Decepticon without permission. Yet I can't force myself to look away. The jewel- like color of his optics fascinates me. There's no hatred or bloodlust inside them, no desire to harm me for disturbing him. Instead, he examines me intently. Finally he breaks the silence. "You've had work done on your back recently. That fall broke the repair open." The voice is deep, sending pleasant and unwelcome chills through my body. I nod, able to speak now but too frightened to try. Suddenly I'm in his arms, my chassis pressed against his.
I've never been with anyone before, mech or femme. That's rare among my ranks, a virgin Four. 35 knows, but no one else, especially my boss. With our low rank making us vulnerable, a lot of Fours interface for protection. I won't do it. It's why I know the medbay so well. I'm set down on the couch. I can't fight the shiver at the silky fabrics against my frame, so different from the harsh but warm cloth on my own berth. High Lord Conqueror reaches down into a cabinet next to the couch, pulling out a few amateur medical tools. I wince at the sight of them. Am I about to be punished ?
"Turn around," he commands in that rough voice of his as he pulls up one of the chairs around the table and reaches for a pair of tweezers. I obey, shifting myself on the seat so my back is to him. I fight and lose the urge to look over my shoulder at him. "Stay still," the Conqueror commands, "I'm going to get this debris out of your back plates."
Then the pain hits as he pulls at something. I grasp the back of the sofa hard as my whole body shudders, and that massive hand grabs my shoulder to hold me still. Washer fluid floods my optics. The tweezers pause and he turns me to look at him, revealing the washer fluid leaking from my optics. I never thought something so simple could hurt so bad.
But when he sees my face, he frowns. "You can't offline your pain receptors, can you?" His tone answers his own question. The grimace on his face deepens, and I shrink back. "Turn around. This will only take a moment." The pain stops as he twists something on my neck. I let out a long sigh of relief, going limp against the back of the couch. He begins to pick my back clean again. It's a very odd sensation. Not feeling anything when you know something is happening is almost as bad as feeling the pain itself. Almost. I'm not a masochist.
I'm expecting the High Lord Conqueror to pull away after I hear the tweezers being set down, but instead of the chair scraping the floor, I hear the lid of a jar being unscrewed. I glance over my shoulders to see him dipping a sponge into a jar of cream. He leans forward to apply it to my back, before catching my optics and giving me a reassuring smile. Is this the Tyrant, the Megatron that I'm looking at? Finally he onlines the pain receptors to my back. The salve feels good, helping numb the pain. "There," he says. "The debris is gone, and that salve will help you heal faster. Turn around." I obey, keeping my back far from contacting the couch. I don't want to get his nice furniture dirty. "Are you hungry?"
"Y-Yes, sir." My words come slow, and I wince at how I sound, so hopeful. But his energon has to be better than what I get. High Lord Conqueror Megatron doesn't seem to notice. He reaches into a container under the table, and pulls out two cubes. One cube he sets near him. The other he gives to me with an expectant look on his face. "It's not high grade."
I take a sniff of the energon. Dear Primus, I'd give up high grade forever to get good stuff like this. I nod quickly. "It's good, Sir." I reach up to my neck and press a button. My facemask parts. I take a sip, offlining my optics to savor the taste.
"Drone," the High Lord Conqueror interrupts. I online my optics to look up at him, afraid I did something wrong. "Why didn't you tell me your pain receptors were still online?"
He's the High Lord Conqueror, so he knows that Fours can't talk unless spoken to. Maybe he didn't see my identification number. "Sir, I'm just a Four. See?" I hold up my wrist, bearing my name on it.
The Conqueror stares at my wrist blankly. "What does that have anything to do with it?"
By Primus, he really doesn't know. "Fours can't talk unless spoken to, sir. It's part of our programming, just like not being able to remove our facemask unless we press this button." I demonstrate.
Megatron goes still. "You can't talk unless spoken to." It was a statement, not a question, so I looked down and nodded. 'Not even to scream?"
My vocalizer resets, and I answer, "No, sir." I drink more of the energon while he considered my response. Anger flickers through those optics. I fight the urge to fall to the floor and plead for my life, but instead of snapping, he picks up a datapad.
He writes something down, and looks back at me. "Thank you for reminding me of this. That change was only for the Fours in the rebellion."
My body jerks. "S-Sir?" In the last rebellion, the Fours joined the humans, though the trigger for it was vague. But I'd be shocked to find out that any of those Fours are still alive. Scrap, that rebellion was before I woke into my drone body, and I'm not young for a drone.
The silver mech nods, his optics distant. "I was wondering why I sign orders to Rebirth more Fours every time I turned my back. Somehow that temporary programming went into the permanent files. I will look into this immediately."
I'm speechless. This is Megatron, right? High Lord Conqueror, Leader of the Decepticons, the Tyrant that won the war and defeated every enemy that came his way. There's no reason for him to care about something as low as the Fours. "High Lord Conqueror Megatron, we matter to you?" I blurted out.
"Of course you do." Megatron hisses, a dangerous edge to his voice. I bow my head submissively, frightened. A moment later I feel his hand on my chin, and I let him raise my head. Those crimson optics lock onto mine, shining like rare gems. "You are one of mine." I recognize that edge now. 35 uses that tone whenever I tell him about another raped and murdered Four discovered lying in the gutter like a piece of trash, ignored except for disposal simply because they're a Four. "Tell me how you got that first injury."
"It was in the secondary hanger," I said, and tell him the whole story. His grim expression alarms me. He makes more notes on the datapad as I speak. I tell him about C-1730's intentions, and he notes that down as well.
"I will speak to C-1730." Good. C-1730 understands my situation, so maybe I will survive this whole mess. "I would not subject Alpha to such cruelty," he growled. I jolt. Everyone knows the story of Alpha, the first drone. He was Megatron's closest companion, the only drone lover he ever took. According to the stories that circulate, Alpha earned his trust as his most reliable and devoted follower. They became the closest of companions, until Alpha betrayed him. No one really understood why he turned on his beloved leader. Rebellions of both humans and drones litter history, and in all of them, the leader calls himself Alpha. In the last one, when the Fours joined the rebellion with the humans,they came closer than any of the others to overthrowing the True Decepticon leadership. Supposedly, that's why Fours endure such harsh restrictions. "You are dismissed from your duties today." He reaches, and I flinch back automatically, but he only picks up my wrist and looks at my name. "I will notify your supervisor."
I leave in something of a daze. The mop sits untouched. I pick up my supplies and shove them into the closest. I dart back to the elevator, nearly running over a tall rust colored mech in my haste. I barely give him a second glance. All I can think about is the conversation I just had with Megatron. Then the impact of what he just told me hits, and I took off.
No one goes near me as I run through the halls. No slaps to the back, no snide comments, no insults or curses. I reach the door to my quarters so fast I barely realized I was there. My fingers shake hard as I type in the code. I run inside, throwing myself onto my berth and curling into a ball.
"71?" 35 calls out in alarm. My face buried deep into my pillow, I hear him rush up from his chair and hurry to my side.
"71, what's wrong? Are you alright? No one hurt you did they? What happened?" I uncurl to lunge at him and hold onto his neck, breaking into hysterical sobs. I have no idea why I'm crying, I'm not sad, just so mind-numbingly furious I want to strangle something. Through my tears, I get the story out. 35 stiffens as I go on, but I can't stop. I shouldn't be telling him this, but I have to tell someone. The rage returns in a flash and I shove him away, slamming my unprotected fists into the wall. "All this time he had no idea what was happening to us drones! Never thought once that something was wrong even when he had to keep making Fours! All this time we've been treated like disposables, and he says it was supposed to be short term!"
35's arms wrap tight around my chest, and he pulls me into him. His soothing voice hums a song familiar and soothing, a song he probably learned as a Master. After a moment, I fall limp, listening to him. He's singing as much for himself as he is for me. I notice that sometimes, he sings when he thinks. He trails off, stroking my helmet. "You know," he says, "If Megatron wasn't just messing with you, this means the beginning of some interesting changes."
The idea makes me shiver. Change is hard. "But if he means it?" I venture. I want so badly to hope, but I'm afraid.
"High Lord Conqueror Megatron," 35 begins, and pauses. "You have to looks out for what he does, not what he says." I look up at him, meeting his gaze without worrying about his thoughts. "Don't spread this around," he warns. "I guess even Megatron can be careless, but if the word gets out to the Fours that the government didn't even know- It's not a good time for a rebellion." He got up. "Get some of that painkiller energon," he says, and leaves for the washrack. I got up and pulled out a cube, downing it immediately and resetting the lock. Within moments, I feel the effects. As I lay on the berth, the events of the day crowd through my processor. I hear 35 come back, but he just mutters something and goes back to his desk.
Why did Lord Megatron treat me instead of sending me to the medbay? Why did he talk to me as though I was his confidant instead of a service drone sent randomly to clean the stairs and hallway to his quarters?
As I slide into recharge, unable to fight the exhaustion of the day and the effect of the painkiller, I think I heard 35 say, "And so it begins again."