Recall

Chapter Three

"I can't tell you how much better my life's gotten," I tell J-3912 over my second cube of high grade. Then I giggle. High grade tends to hit me hard. I 'm not worried. 12 will get me back to the main corridor at the Highest Level, and no one bothers me from there. I live in a room in Megatron's quarters now, and he's made it clear that anyone who messes with me answers to him. It's great to feel so safe.

"I'm glad to hear that, "12 says, sipping his cube in appreciation. I brought the high grade this time, some of the kind that Lord Megatron gets. He's told me a few times I could have a cube, and I hoarded five cubes for today. "Tell me what you're doing for our master now. Last time I talked to you, you were getting a little bored because you got his quarters reorganized and had trouble finding enough to do."

I grin. "Not anymore," I say. "I'm working in his office now. "As I tell 12 about being Lord Megatron's new receptionist, I remember the day he decided.

He brings me down to clean his office and leaves for a meeting. The place is a mess, with datapads overflowing the desk. To clean the desk, I have to move the datapads, so I sort them as I go. He gets back from his meeting as I finish the floor. "What's this?" he asks, looking at the stacks.

"These are from administration," I say, and list how I've sorted the others. He gives me a considering look, and I gaze at the floor, worrying if I overstepped.

"Very good," he says, and I head out to clean the outer office. "Wait." I stop. "Get rid of those," he waves at my supplies, "come back and help me." I put the stuff on the desk in the outer office. He sets me to skimming the largest stack, the admin datapads, while he goes through the others. I organize them again, and go over what each one holds when he looks over at me. "Now just why would Dead End send me this slag? That's Admin's department."

Despite my vocalizer opening, I hesitate, but he looked like he wants an answer. "In a lot of them, he says that if he doesn't hear from you within so many orns, the matter will end," I point out.

"I can't look at all this scrap in that amount of time," Lord Megatron says. "What's the point?"

"That way he can say you refused the request," I explain. Lord Megatron looks at the datapad, and then at me. We go over what the requests consist of again.

"Some of his clerks got caught taking bribes," he muses. "I think I need to have a talk with Dead End and what his responsibilities in directing Admin are, including not piling my desk with his work. What's my schedule like?" I tell him he has three appointments scheduled, all with either department heads or True Decepticons. "Can't put those off. When can I get him in? "I consult his schedule and tell him he has an opening in three orns. "Good. Send him the message from my computer in the outer office. Schedule to be here that day. In the meantime, put these on that table over there." More and more he asks me to do this kind of chore for him when he notices me cleaning in his quarters; I have his schedule memorized. I get the outer office clean and am putting up the supplies when he calls me in again. "Plan on coming in again tomorrow," he says. "47 should have that upgrade ready soon. Do you want to be the first to get it?"

I got the upgrade yesterday and 47 thinks it's had time to integrate." That's why I'm here with 12. Megatron told me to go to someone I felt safe with, and wait for activation. 35 walked me to 12's quarters. I got some assessing looks and a Three level J-class asked 35 if he would share, but no one else bothered us.

12 sips his cube thoughtfully. "She as mean as ever?" he asks.

"No," I say, and drink some more myself. Primus, but this is good stuff, just enough bite to tell you it's high grade. I'm so buzzed already. "She's been better. Not just to me, but to the other Fours. She said something a little odd tonight, asking me if I minded being a guinea pig. Then she switched it to test subject." I wave my cube, sloshing some of it. "I told her I didn't care if she called me rusted slag and painted it on my back as long as I could complain about it later without asking permission. "

"Here's to that," he says, and raises his glass. "Which reminds me. I saw S-3427, and he did not look happy. I wouldn't think he liked losing you just when 35 got reassigned."

"Ha," I snort. "He thought he could get me on his desk at last." I tell him about that day.

I show up with 30 for my exit interview, as ordered. The other Fours about to go on shift see us coming. One is S-4222, who tried talking me into the protection ring several times after seeing me fixed up again and again. When he sees me coming with 30, he gets a 'data crunch' look on his face. "S-3427 in?" 30 asks. I never gathered much in the way of personal possessions, and 30 subspaced them for me, so there was no way they could tell I was reassigned.

"He is, sir," 22 says. As I walk in, he adds to 30, "Be easy on him, sir, I think it's his first time outside of that Master that got transferred." I turn and record the look on 30's face to commit to my long-term databanks.

My supervisor is leaning against his desk, smugness just oozing from him. "So, M-1735 is going back to his humans early. I'm sure you'll miss him. But don't worry. I'll see you don't get lonely. Come here." I stop and shake my head. His face gets ugly. "Do you want to clean the secondary hanger again?" he asked, his voice dropping. "If you were under my protection, you wouldn't be on half-shift right now, would you? Wouldn't have gotten knocked around again so you needed more time to heal, would you?" I start backing up. "Get over here, 71. Or the next time, it'll be that pretty face instead of your back."

"Is that a threat?" 30 asks, stepping in behind me.

S-3427 wipes the snarl from his face and voice immediately. "Sir, I do ask that you contact me ahead of time for service," he says. "I need to discuss matters with S-4371 at this moment." He stands up from the desk and makes a grab at my arm, his smirk coming back." We can share him, if you like."

30 shoves S-3427 away from me. "I see now why Lord Megatron sent me with 71 here," he snapped. "Check your messages. He's been reassigned." I enjoy the shock on my now ex-supervisor's face. He scurries over to his desk and checks.

"I see," he says stiffly. "In that case, just return in about a half an hour and I'll-"

"I was ordered to stay and escort him back," 30 tells him. "Get him out of your database and be quick about it. I've got other matters waiting for me." He turns, and when he has his back to S-3427, he smirks. I have my face mask up, but I think he sees my grateful smile anyway.

"I wondered why he was so torqued off," 12 says, and finishes his last cube. "Scrap, that was good." He muses as I sip a little more of my own. "So you've got the programming and you're waiting to get the release?" I nod. He hesitates, and I look at him curiously. "You say that Lord Megatron's made you his receptionist," he says, looking hard at me. I nod. "And you have a room in his quarters. What other services has he wanted?"

I sigh and look at my cube for a moment. "Nothing else. But don't pass that around, OK? Nobody's bothered me since that rumor went around that he's fragging me through the berth every night."

In the meeting with Lord Dead End, Lord Megatron told him in no uncertain terms to deal with his own responsibilities or have someone else promoted over him who would. He sent me to be sure all the datapads from Admin left with Lord Dead End's personal assistant, a One called A-1849. The Admin One thought they no longer needed me. He waited until I cleared most of the datapads to one side and left some room before he fliped me onto my back on the desk. "Let's see what Lord Megatron likes so much about you, Four," the A-class One purred. He pinned me down and pressed the button that released my face mask. "Pretty," he approved, keeping me pinned with an expertise that told me he'd done this a lot.

One moment he had me down, and the next his weight lifted as he slamed into the wall. I stumbled to my feet as Lord Megatron loomed over the cringing One." I sent my assistant to fetch something, not be raped," he growled. "Find someone your own level to frag."

"He's only a Four-"Dead End came out and watched, but said nothing.

"Fours are Decepticons, too." He listed a sharp punishment detail. "That's for interfering with my assistant, and fragging on duty, but you can spread the word that the next drone that touches my assistant will lose a level, if he's lucky enough not to lose an arm." I gathered up the last of the datapads with shaking hands. Lord Megatron took them from me and handed them to the drone after he stood.

"Get those back to the office," Lord Dead End said, and the One left."Notch that one up a few levels if you don't want him bothered," he advised Lord Megatron, nodding his head at me,"or, better yet, let him stick to the cleaning and get an Admin. I'll send over a few recommendations."

"S-4371 has already done a better job than the last four of protocol-glitched idiots assigned," Lord Megatron told him, "and he doesn't answer to you. Only to me." That last comment came out in a hiss. Lord Dead End bowed and left abruptly.

Not two days later 35 told me about the rumor when our little committee met to discuss the Four objective. "Lord Megatron offered to raise my level," I told 12, "but I need to stay a Four if we're going to get anywhere with these changes."

I remember the mech that Lord Megatron calls the Fallen- and his master- speaking to me about that. "Why not ask Lord Megatron to raise your level?" he asked me. "Then you'll have every benefit you deserve, and you can forget about the others. You're better than they are, anyway, with all the work you do." I bow my head and nod, saying nothing, but I decide that whatever this mech wants me to do, I'm doing the opposite. He scares me, but I don't like him at all. "Do you remember your time as a human?" I shook my head, wondering where in the world that came from. Some drones recall, but not that many. Why should I?

12 says, "I guess that makes sense. But if you don't want your level raised, why the long face?"

"I don't want it to be a rumor," I blurt out and look down at my cube. After a long embarrassed silence, 12 takes the cube from me, though it's still half full. "I think I'd better not have any more," I admit.

He gives me an odd look, says," Here's to your new programming," and downs it.

I gape at him before touching my vocalizer. It's not sealing. "How about this?" I ask through the comlink.

"Works for me," I hear in my head, and I let out a triumphant whoop, both out loud and through the comlink to 47 and 35. They cheer back, along with an order to come back to the medbay from 47. I start for the door, and stagger a little.

12 laughs and grabs my shoulder to steady me. "Take your time," he advises. On the way back, we get a lot of amused looks, and several invitations for a threesome. After the second, 12 says, "You know, you are quite a beautiful mech." I stop and shutter my optics. Where is this coming from? He's not making a pass, is he? He pushed me and I got going again. "Get that look off your face, you're far too young for me. S-3427 figured it was a matter of time, so he put the word out that he was bringing you into his protection circle. I hear he had quite a list under your name before 35 came around and put a stop to it. He still resents that. "He stopped at the medbay. "Be careful, 71."

I smiled at him, still buzzed on high grade and the joy of free communication. "Don't worry. I'll be fine," I say, and go in the medbay where 47 and 35 wait impatiently to whisk me into a private room. "Hey," I yelped, stumbling a little, "give a mech a second!"

"Sounds like you've had a third and a fourth," 47 observes as I struggle onto the berth. 30 and 95 appear. "Weren't you celebrating a little early?"

"I just lifted a couple with an old friend," I defend myself, and to my embarrassment I sway a little.

"How many? Two?" 35 asks, and I nod sheepishly, not wanting to mention that I never finished the second.

Lightweight," 95 snorts. I hunch as the others laugh. "Old is right if that was J-3912," he goes on. I look at him, surprised he knows the old jet drone. "He's sure seen a lot, that one. What advice did he give you this time?"

"Look out for S-3427," I say, sobering a little. They assure me that they'll walk me to the Highest Level and I relax into the general good mood.

"Well, you've proven that the comlink works," 47 said, "and you seem to making up for lost time on the talking." She turns to make a note on the system and I make a face behind her back. The others all snort with laughter, but I only give her an innocent look when she turns around. "Since we're all here, let's discuss the order of the upgrades."

So far, the argument on the upgrades ended in an even split. 47 and 30 think that it would be easier to plan an area at a time; 35 and 95 think we should arrange for everyone to get the upgrade in one day, each Four coming in on their shift on that day. I listen as they argue again. I don't give an opinion as I think the second matter is much more important. When they come to the usual impasses, I ask,"So how are we avoiding a rash of 'accidents' when the upgrade is activated?"

Everyone goes quiet for a time, looking at each other. "Do you have an idea, 71?" 47 finally asks.

I nod. Without the remains of the high grade running through me, I'd never have the bolts to even mention my thoughts, but that last half-cube still hums through my systems. "If I understand correctly, it takes a while for a supervisor or enforcer to build the connections for a protection circle, right?" Everyone nods. "Do a massive transfer of the service supervisors and anyone else running a ring, and make sure the Fours stay put. If the activation happens after the transfers, they don't have time to make the connections they need. "

"And with the task force investigating outside the regular police force," 30 says thoughtfully, "that should limit the energon spill." He smiles. "You've got a processor behind that pretty face." I look away in pleased embarrassment, and the warmth I feel has nothing to do with the high grade and everything to do with the praise. "We've got a good group of drones set up for this task force. " His face goes hard. "It's going to be interesting for a few months, before matters settle out."

"Better than the alternative," I say, and everyone nods, even 47. Everyone looks at me, the Four who's brought all of them together, and I look back. Something in their expressions puzzles me a little. Just that I'm the example of who they're doing this for, I decide, and get down. We all leave at the same time, since all of us have quarters in the same direction. 47 leaves the group first. As we keep going, I glance at her, and wonder at the sudden odd look on her face. 35 is next, but he's smiling. He still won't touch the high grade or any other kind of altered energon, but he's happier now than I've ever seen him.

95 and 30 talk like old friends, while I dream of entering Lord Megatron's quarters and greeting him without being addressed first. While we wait for the service elevator, 95 says, "I'd like to introduce you to the guys in my squad. I'm certain you'll like them. They don't like seeing the Fours abused, say it's too easy for the matter to get out of control."

"How long have you known them?" I venture as we walk.

"Not too long, about a generation," he says, meaning twenty years. "One of them is the biggest Commander I've ever seen. He's like 30 here, doesn't like to see the smaller ones like the Fours knocked around. Got one of those commanding voices, too. He'd be leading a squad by now if not for the soft stuff."

"He's not the only one," 30 says. "Most of our squads believe in justice. Besides, they fight like true Cybertronians when they fight-What the hell!" That comes out in a shout, as the elevator opens and five drones rush out. Two apiece hit 30 and 95. I see A-1849 and the Three level D-drones that ran over me in the secondary hanger before someone shoves me against the nearest wall.

"Hurry it up!" S-3427 shouts, holding a shock baton to my neck. When I struggle, he activates it, and my knees buckle. He shuts it off and keeps me from falling. "Stay still if you know what's good for you," he hisses, his face an inch from mine. "We're going to teach you your place, Four. "

30 and 95 stand back to back, fighting with the expertise of Commanders. They hold the others off, but they can't get to me. "We didn't expect two of them!" A-1849 yells back. "Get him in the elevator and go, we'll meet you!

Fours have no weapons and we have no fight subroutines in addition to the communication restrictions. They expect no trouble from me, only my escort. Blind panic washes over me. I know exactly what I can expect if S-3427 gets me to that elevator. I headbutt him hard and shove at the same time, forcing him back a few feet, and he drops the baton. I feel something under my Decepticon symbol hum as S-3427 grabs the baton again and lunges at me. The moment he touches me, a jolt goes through him, strong enough to throw him into the two D-class Three drones attacking 30 while the baton in his hand shorts out and shocks everyone in the pile.

I wilt. Whatever that is, it drains energy. I hear shouts from other drones and start to panic again as Commander Ones race up, but 95 yells to grab all of the attackers, and they do. One Commander, C-6784, stops by me. "Are you hurt?" he says urgently. Even in my numbed state, I appreciate the sound of his voice, deep and reassuring. I can tell he's the one 95 told me about, since he's the largest Commander I've ever seen, and he exudes kindness as he looks me over for injuries. I shake my head, and he moves to grab a groggy S-3427 and put him in stasis cuffs as the others subdue the rest of the attackers and 95 helps 30 up and away from the pack.

"What's the meaning of this?" I hear, and look up to see Lord Megatron bearing down on the mess. He stops beside me, bristling with rage as the five attackers look at each other in rising panic. The Commanders bow and step back respectfully. "95, is this your squad?" When 95 confirms, he says, "Beginning your assignment early, I see. Good. Report."

As they obey, I see an audience gather, mostly Ones and Twos, but a few Threes and Fours peek in from some side corridors. Lord Megatron looks down on A-1849. "What did I tell you when you attacked my assistant in my office?" he asked.

"My lord, you never deal with Fours, they take advantage if you don't keep them in their place," A-1849 starts desperately and loudly, and his buddies mutter agreement. I feel sick as I see some in the crowd nod. He regrets opening his vocalizer as a True Decepticon foot kicks him in the gut.

"Is a drone daring to correct his High Lord Conqueror? " The Admin curls over his dented chassis. "I work daily with this one, who does Admin work better than you do. Which arm do you want to lose?" He looks at me. "Well, 71? Which arm, do you think?"

No matter how much I hate these glitches, I only want to go home. "My lord, if I remember correctly, a level was mentioned as well. The medics will only put his arm back." Just then, 35 and 47 elbow their way through the crowd. They see me and I see 35 sag in relief. I send them an apologetic explanation through the comlink as Lord Megatron beckons them forward and tells them to check me out.

As they do, I see reaction going through the crowd before the murmurs begin, both amused and shocked. The Fours try to shrink back into the shadows but they stay, wanting to hear Lord Megatron's response. Then I look over at my attackers. They look back at me in blank horror, with a dawning awareness of just how deep in slag they are. 95 and 30 try to stay passive, but their mouthparts keep twitching while the rest of the Commanders show no reaction at all.

"I believe there is merit to that suggestion," he says slowly, nodding. When my attackers start wailing, he shouts, "Silence!" and to 47 "Offline their vocalizers." When she finishes, he says, "Admin, you deliberately and with malicious intent disobeyed a direct order from your Lord Conqueror. S-3427, you were informed that S-4271 became my personal attendant, and deliberately targeted him. The rest of you callously injured this drone, and when punished for that, sought revenge in direct defiance to your orders on being released from that punishment. For these crimes, proven in my direct presence, I sentence all of you to reduction in level, down to Four. You will each be sent to a different sector, with all the restrictions currently existing on Fours. Commanders," he looked at the squad, "take them to the military prisoner holding and see the sentence is carried out tomorrow."

He puts a hand on my shoulder as he speaks, and I lean against him gratefully. The crowd thins out as the commanders take the prisoners away. The large one that spoke to me hauls S-3427 and one of the D-calls drones away without showing any effort at all. "95, 30! Here," Lord Megatron commands, and gathers 35 and 47 with his optics. "To my office."

I take two steps and weakness hits. Before I fall, Lord Megatron sweeps me up and strides off, the others following. I just lay my head on his shoulder, letting the thrum of his spark sooth me. "Thank you, my lord," I murmur, and he pats my back.

Once in the office he sits me on the desk. "Well," he says dryly, "So far I know that your vocalizer and your comlink upgrade work. So tell me, did the defense mechanism work as well?" I nod. The others look lost. "Before the last rebellion, the Fours possessed a defense consisting of the ability to shock an attacker. It has to be a life or death situation, because once it activates, it drains the Four's power until they rest and refuel."

"So that's what happened to S-3427," 95 says. "I wondered why he flew back like that. That's how the squad had time to get to us."

"Good thing both of us were there," 30 added. "Otherwise they'd've had 71. Five against two, with one a Four. That's disgusting." He shakes his head. "The rumor mill is going to work overtime in the next few days. "

"I put those glitches in the military holding for two reasons," Lord Megatron says. "One, I don't want a corrupt P-class releasing them on some technicality. I've sent orders to Lord Barricade to keep his hands off, and to Strika that she is to keep S-3427 isolated until I say different. That'll be when the updates are activated and I make my announcement." He looks at all of us. "I think I set a precedent, " he adds. "Lowering the level of a drone convicted of running a protection circle or raping a drone should make some of them think twice, hmm?"

Lowering the level of any drone but a Four remains one of the worst punishments short of torture or death. "I think it's appropriate, my lord," I say, and the other murmur agreement as well.

"Dismissed, all of you," he says, satisfied. The others file out. I get down and find I can walk. I manage to make it to Lord Megatron's quarters by going slowly and leaning against the wall. He walks with me. When we reach his quarters, he says, "Get a cube and get some recharge," before he heads for his berth room.

The energon helps, but recharge won't come. I cannot stop thinking of how close I came to my first time being rape, or how close I came to dying. Giving up, I do what I always do now with I need to think. I get the cleaning supplies and start to work.

As I dust and mop and polish, I ponder over a few matters that just won't add up. 35 and 95 worked with humans a lot, so I understand when they use a lot of human terms, but now 47 is using them too, and sometimes 30 does. 47 gets a haunted look on her face sometimes that reminds me of how 35 sometimes looks when he hears stories of Four abuse. And today, I fought back, when Fours have no knowledge of fighting at all. Every other level is taught basic fighting no matter what the job, but never Fours. Sure, the shock might be a defense mechanism only now released, but how did I know how to get my former supervisor off me in the first place? I get nowhere with that line of thought

Then I decide to face facts regarding my inexperience in one certain matter, ie, interfacing. How a drone's first time goes in interfacing colors how he sees it for the rest of his existence. I did not want my first time to be rape. But I can't see getting close to someone and losing them, either. No one's been worth that risk of pain, until now. I make my decision as I put away my supplies and go to the washracks to clean up. Having made my resolution, recharge comes at last.

I have a vocalizer that works now. I'm going to use it. The worst Lord Megatron can say to me is no.


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