Chapter Seven

I'm in hell. The Pit. Whatever.

I can't move. The Fallen holds me down with ease as he explores my download. While I firewalled the download, the Fallen grabbed me, and made a hardline connection. Since all my attention was on the firewall, he shredded any remaining defenses and yanked out the one human memory that confirms who my host is. Then the world whited out. In one moment we went from the medbay to a small room with one solitary berth.

Without disconnecting me, he arranges both of us on the berth. I try to struggle, but I can't move. "Such a stubborn little fool," he croons. "I've been waiting a long time for you to recall."

"I'm 71! I'm not Alpha, I won't be Alpha!" I shriek.

"We need to have a little –oh, how did the humans use to put it? We need a little attitude adjustment here. You see, Megatron's always played with you, and you're going to want your revenge, aren't you?" But Megatron's never hurt me. I remember his fierce protection, his hands cleaning my back that first time we met, staring down drones that hit on me, gentle hands teaching me pleasure. The Fallen sighs as I bring up that memory file. "Little fool, can't you see how he's manipulated you? Who doesn't want a beautiful adoring pet waiting on him hand and foot? He's done just enough to keep the Fours from rebelling and you happy and not recalling. The moment you made one little protest, this would happen." He activates a file.

Pain rips through me, every sensor wide open with pain as shocks go through me. They stop. "Tell us where they are," Vortex says. I draw air into every vent I have. I have to give them time. If I give them enough time, they can get away. I say nothing. Then the pain starts again. Stops. The same question, again and again. Too soon, I break.

I scream until my vocalizer shorts. "That's one of your memory files in real time," he tells me. "Megatron watched." He's reprogramming me, warping the loyalty programming all drones have for loyalty to Megatron, changing it to him. "I told Megatron again and again that the programming on drones is too lenient," he says. "There should be no way the drones can rebel."

I fight him, using knowledge from the download. He punishes me by playing pain files. He sees what the pain does to me and enjoys it. I never liked him but I didn't know he was Unicron's personal servant until now.

I don't want to be Alpha. I don't want to be the Fallen's puppet. I fight despite the pain. But I don't know how much more I can take.

Poor 71. He's right. The chances of this physical shell getting out of this one alive are pretty slim and his gentle loving personality is not going to make it at all. I hate that.

The Fallen. Old and wise and skilled in every form of sneaky cowardly ways to force chaos and misery. How 71 and Megatron's joy infuriated him! He loves 71's pain, loves his despair, as he makes sure that 71 sees the reprogramming. He gets off on that suffering instead of knocking 71 into stasis and just getting on with it. There's where I'm lucky. He's so busy with 71 that he misses me entirely. I sneak around and work on undoing the lock he put on the com.

I was seriously annoyed with 71 when he fought the recall, not to mention my old friends and fellow Original Five drones for their careless chatter. But his stubborn fight gave me the chance to withdraw when the Fallen came for him. I watch what the Fallen's doing.

That slagger is going to die.

"Oh, what do you want!" the Fallen shouts to whoever is at the door. Then he leaves. I gather the tatters of my strength and get out a garbled call. I thank Primus when the first two I reach for, Lord Megatron and 95, answer. I chatter out what I can before the Fallen comes back and offlines the com again, hurting me as he does. This time he jacks in and finishes programming without the torment, brushing aside my struggle effortlessly. At some point the feeling comes back to my body. I stir, and he says, "Be still." I do. I want to struggle and curse, but I can't. He unhooks and says, "Get up." I do. He holds out a cube. "You need to refuel."

"Don't move" something in my head whispers. Great, I'm going insane, hearing voices. I don't move.

"Go on, refuel," the Fallen says impatiently. When I listen to the inner voice and still don't move, he says, "Take the cube." I take it. "Now refuel." I do. It's awful stuff, like the energon I used to get as a service Four. When I finish, I stand holding the cube. "Disperse it," he commands, and I do. For some time, he tests my responses. I've caught on to the voice's idea by this time. I don't do anything unless I'm given a direct order, at which time I do what I am told and nothing more. It annoys the Fallen to the pit and back. A few times he knocks me around. After the hell he just put me through, I barely notice. "I don't have time for this," he snarls. "Do you see this?" He holds up a beautifully curved and filigreed object. "This is the Matrix of Leadership. I'm going to destroy this planet once and for all, and with the energon I get from your sun, I will wake Unicron and unleash destruction on the universe!"

He's insane, I think. "That's not news" the inner voice says with disgust. I don't move, don't react.

The Fallen huffs in irritation and grabs me. The world whites out again, before we are standing in a huge stone room, with one wall torn apart. I see the remains of Cybertronians like the Fallen. Others come and get orders. I don't know most of them.

The inner voice does, and comments constantly. "That's Vortex. He's as bad as the Fallen, loves to hurt people, and he's nuts. That's Motormaster. He's vicious. Looks like the Fallen has every glitchhead Megatron threw out because they couldn't settle down. The better ones came back and settled down. "

"Who are you?" I think.

"Give me a break here, kid. You know who I am." He's doing something. "I'm trying to undo the loyalty programming the Fallen put in," he explains, while I watch the Fallen take reports and give orders, often knocking around his underlings with both his telekinesis and his hands.

"How is this happening?" I think.

"I've been awake a while, kid. Been feeding you files as you need them, instead of running the whole recall. I kept hoping you'd let me come through a little without taking over. You know, I really got annoyed when that download triggered and you tried to stop it. "

"I don't want to be Alpha! I don't want to die!"

He's quiet for a time, working busily. Then he stops and gives a mental vent. "Look, kid, I'm sorry. "he says. The Fallen backhands a mech almost into us. "Ouch, that had to hurt. He's worse than Megatron on Starscream, back before that Seeker disappeared. Look, I meant to just undo this stuff and let you stay at the controls, OK? But I can't. He's hooked this stuff into your core programming. Without the changes I made, you'd just do what he orders, period. With them, you can resist an order, but the moment you do, you're going to glitch to the Pit and back, and he'll know something's going on."

Conflict rushes through me. "What do you mean? What can I do?"

"What you've been doing," he tells me. "The white mutiny stuff. Obey his command to the letter and do nothing else. He thinks it's his programming, and like you see, he doesn't have time to work on you again. " He gives a mental snort. "I was a programmer in the last shell. That shell was an arrogant slaghead before I took over, but he did know his job. If you want a shell to be able to work without constant supervision, there's only so much you can do with the loyalty programming."

"And when I need to act?" I ask.

"You can't," he says sadly. "No matter what I do, you'll glitch. I'll have to take over. I'll still have your memories, you'll be part of Alpha. Part of me."

I can't help it. I feel a washer fluid trail down my face. I've been so happy, and now this. "But if I glitch he has to fix me and you can help again, right?" I ask desperately.

He's sorry for me, I can tell. "Megatron's coming," he reminds me. "That's why the Fallen's in so much of a hurry."

"If I glitch I can't hurt him!" Relief rushes through me.

"True," he agrees, "but you can't help, either, and now that the Fallen's been through your files, he can renew that programming fast. We got lucky that he didn't notice me last time. He was having too much fun playing with you. Next time he's going to find me. "

"I don't understand," I think helplessly. That's when he opens the files and shows me how he works. He and other Original Five got actual implants to interact with the shell, a direct connection to the major brain centers and the larger nerves of the host body before Starscream, Hook and Scalpel figured out one hardline to the brain in the right place is enough.

"We have more control over the drone body and the drone programming," he explains, "since there's standing orders on insertion files that the shell be altered to accommodate such implants. Someone's always fiddling with insertions to make them better so no one questions the orders. That means that our core personality, the ones we had as humans, can cross over to the drone shell."

"I never heard of a human host taking over a shell," I tell him doubtfully. "I know drones that remember being human, but they don't become the human."

"No, that's only the Original five. In essence, we human hosts can take over by uploading a copy of our human and past shell memories into the current shell. That's the recall. The other hosts can't do that the same way. The shells can access their times as humans, even get a sense of the pain and hell they went through, and can bypass the loyalty programming when they do, but shell and host personalities don't integrate the way the original Five do. " He paused. "That, and we all come from a time when humans were free. Before Megatron conquered us."

"You remember being Sam Witwicky?" I remember the first memory.

"Yes. That's why, even though as Alpha I love Megatron and always will, I rebel when the situation for the humans and the drones get unbearable. But not this time. This time, for the first time, the Fallen couldn't sway Megatron and he started working on the problem before it got that far. That's why I fed you files when you needed them and stayed back." He gives a mental growl. "I could've killed the others when they triggered that massive download. Sorry, couldn't help it. I wanted to kick Beta and Gamma for being idiots. Epsilon was right, but by that time the download started and I couldn't stop it."

I think. Everything's gotten quiet, and both of us know that's not good. Megatron will be here any time. "But the Fallen can only be killed by a Prime, and all of them are dead. The Fallen said." He said one of them was an ex-Prime, but I didn't understand that.

"I can help Megatron," he says flatly. He's hiding something from me. "But if you glitch, he'll just kill Megatron himself and reprogram you. Or he might torment him and make you kill him after you're reprogrammed."

It hurts. "I don't want to die," I admit.

"Who does?" he says sadly. "Even suicides just want the pain to stop most of the time. But at least you'll be part of me."

The Fallen appears with Megatron. Holding him to the floor, he rants. I take a deep breath. "All right. Do what you have to."

I started stirring a long time ago, when 71's scrapheap of a supervisor started giving him the eye. When Beta started taking care of 71, I went dormant again. When 71 met Megatron, I woke completely, and got the shock of my life. Megatron wanted to stop a rebellion before it started, by taking care of the root problem instead of grinding the source into the dirt. That's a first, an absolute first! What happened to him? I stayed back, watching through 71's eyes instead of taking over the shell.

It took me a while to puzzle it out. He's stopped listening to the Fallen. He figured out that the cowardly slagger tried to replace him with Shockwave. The Fallen hates me, but he loves the chaos I cause when I rebel, or he would have killed me long ago. When he kept trying to trigger a recall, I knew something was going on. That's part of why I stayed quiet. I fed 71 what he needed when he needed it.

Megatron built Alpha for a lot of reasons, none of them good. But when I woke like a sparkling, his protective programming took over. I adored him, and he loved me. We still have that bond, through everything that's happened between us. I rebel out of desperation. When Sam Witwicky's memories broke through that first time-God and Primus, the guilt! What possessed me to send Optimus away like that? It left Earth wide open to conquest. But I thought Megatron wanted the Cube more than he wanted to destroy this planet. I didn't know about the Fallen then. He's the reason Megatron is still here.

In that first rebellion, I rescued humans he meant to execute for rioting. They were just hungry! It would be so easy to get them food, there were surpluses in other areas, but Megatron wouldn't listen to me. He insisted that the humans had to be punished, and that he knew better than a drone a fraction of his age. I knew we had to make it right. We fought for over a human generation before that last desperate push so we could call for help to the only possible source. I died so the others got that chance. When we recalled again, Gamma and Beta told me that the call went through. We didn't try again when there was no response. We were on our own; the Autobots could not or would not help us.

So many times I could have killed Megatron, and didn't. So many times he should have killed me, and didn't. I hoped this time could be different. This time I don't have to rebel; if I can get 71 to recall slowly, we can merge, we can both have a Megatron who will listen to us. But after all this time the Fallen thinks he's gotten what he waited for: the last Prime's death, and the Matrix of Leadership. The Fallen wants this planet destroyed, along with every human on it. Damn him and his obsession to Hell and the Pit!

Jetfire told me about the Matrix and what it's for way back when I rebelled the first time. He's been hiding as a drone all that time! Different drones, really. He found that scanning a shell and transforming into one masks the spark signature. So every time he's been there to help. I kept wondering why he hid as a drone. I know he's not the only one hiding. I've recognized two in particular. I don't look for a spark signature to see if someone's a drone. I'm certain that 30 knows that at least two of 95's squad are Autobots since he's 'facing 84. 71 didn't notice, but I did. It's why I didn't come through to demand why the Autobots are here. 30/Delta is loyal, this time around.

Poor 71. I give him a mental hug just before I override his programming and take the shell.

I smile at Megatron and slam the spear into the Fallen. With my luck, I miss more vital spots but it does knock him down as Megatron gets up. We rush out. But the Fallen grabs both of us and holds us in the air and still, in that ancient street. Most of the buildings are rubble. He must have torn them down one at at time looking for the Matrix.

"You fool!" he shouts. Megatron starts screaming. "I'm going make you watch while I crush his spark a little at a time!"

In that moment J-3912, also known as Jetfire, C-6784 and C-2330 appear behind the Fallen. Jetfire looks awful, with a hasty patch over his spark chamber where the shell was blasted off. They tumble to the ground themselves, but manage to roll to their feet and fire as the Fallen turns. He bellows as he's hit and we drop. In the next moment, the newcomers rise.

Megatron gets to his knees and transforms to the tank. His shot misses as the Fallen blocks it, but when he throws Megatron back, the others drop. Jetfire stays back as C-2330 and C-6784 start to fire. Megatron manages to get another shot off as well. Why isn't the Fallen warping? I wonder, and realize that the spear hit his space bridge. I also see that he keeps the Matrix in his hand instead of subspacing it to safety. Is it enhancing his power? This time he manages to get everyone but me and Jetfire into the air. "You can't defeat me!" he exults. "Only another Prime can defeat me!"

I race up and strike the Matrix from his hand. He backhands me away, but Jetfire strikes from the other side with the ax he uses as a staff. The others fall when the Fallen knocks the jet away, but Megatron, who can only get to his knees, knocks the Fallen's legs from underneath him. The Fallen crushes Megatron's arm as the drones transform. The larger transformed drone strikes at the Fallen with a huge war ax. The Fallen's head rolls away and stops by the Matrix.

I push myself up and pick up the spear. "Thanks," I say , trying to com out and failing. The Fallen turned it off. I work on getting it back on.

"You're quite welcome," Optimus said as he leans over and picks up the Matrix.

"Brother," Megatron finally manages. He's clutching at his arm and venting heavily. Now that the overdrive from the battle hits him, his injuries make themselves known. "The Fallen thought you were dead. How-Why-" He tries to stand and fails.

I drop my spear to run over and help him. As I get the energon flow stopped by holding the main fuel line in his arm, I get my com working and contact 30. I look at Megatron as see he is getting the same news as I am. 30's asking if the squad can come back because the Autobots just appeared in overwhelming force.

Once again, I've made a terrible mistake regarding the Autobots. You'd think I'd learn.

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