The nights on Cybertron even smelled wrong. As the boy scraped his palms over the jagged ground that had been long ago thrust towards the sky, he could taste the wrongness all the way down to his lungs. The nights on Earth smelled of water, wet grass and crystalline droplets sent by sprinklers to glint momentarily in the porch light. It was a smell that stuffed your airways and made you feel full. The air could be gulped and savored and could send you off to sleep with aching limbs and sweet dreams. But on Cybertron, it was different. Each cloud of ancient dust kicked up by his sneakers sent the unstirred funk of ages into the air. So much time had passed since the air had been scorched, and yet it remained tainted, and though the air was now cool it still left an acrid burn on the in the throat and nostrils that would never entirely fade. The history of this place could be sampled in its air, and it was a history of sparks and smelting, charred metal and blasted glass.
Of course, Kicker did not comprehend all of this. But he did not need to. There was no mistaking that forlorn atmosphere even as he scrambled through it. Sweat twisted his hair, and he felt a raw burning in his chest which flared in rhythm with the pounding of his pulse in his neck. And still he didn't stop. Not until he heard that voice seemingly rumbling over the very sky.
"Kicker!" Optimus Prime called desperately, "Are you in here?"
Kicker clapped his hands over his mouth to stop himself from screaming. People in movies always screamed before the monster got them, so if Kicker didn't scream, the monster would never come. If he were calmly sitting at home, home on Earth, Kicker would have been able to admit to himself that that logic made no sense, that monsters in real life wouldn't follow any such rules or obey any such sequence of steps, but right now Kicker wanted the rules and steps to be true so he could cheat them.
"Kicker!" Prime called again. The sound bounced against every empty ruin. "Don't run! I promise I'm not going to hurt you!"
Kicker scrambled into an open doorway, many, many times his own height, and curled into a ball pressed up tight against the wall. In the shadow of the ruin, Kicker squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his fists into his ears, willing the monster to go away…
The ground trembled with every titanic footfall as Optimus Prime gingerly stepped over debris it had taken all of Kicker's energy to climb over. He scanned his optics over the jagged landscape, casting a bright yellow glow over that deepened every shadow. Behind his closed eyelids, Kicker saw the accompanying dull red fill his sockets, and he felt tears leak out the corner of his eyes.
"Please, Kicker! You can't be here! It's not safe!" Prime sounded desperate now. "Tell me where you are, and I'll come find you!"
Kicker couldn't hold it in anymore. "Shut up!" he yelled. "I want my daddy!"
"I can take you to your father, Kicker!" The relief in Optimus Prime's voice would have been clear to anyone else. "Please come back with me! He's worried sick about you!"
"Liar!" Kicker screamed. Prime's footsteps came closer. What dim light that entered the structure where Kicker hid was soon obstructed by his towering form. Kicker unclenched himself and kicked his heels against the floor, propelling him backward, deeper into the darkened space beyond.
It happened so quickly that only Kicker's body was able to process it; his thoughts were too slow. Just as he had placed his left hand against the floor, it had given way, and all the nerves in Kicker's left side lurched sickeningly and he tilted through the gap left by the panel that was now clattering distantly in the vaulted space below. Kicker didn't see the panel fall, couldn't see that he was now falling the same way, slipping from view as easily as a coin slips through fingers. The last things he knew before everything went black were the square window racing upward as his own voice tore up to follow it and the distant echo of Optimus Prime frantically crying his name…
Ocean City couldn't have picked a better day to rise. Many times the inhabitants had looked forward to their break from the endless indigo of the sea depths and had been disappointed to be greeted with gray skies and pounding rain once they broke the surface of the water. Few things were more disheartening than looking out of Ocean City's gigantic windows, which were over six inches thick, and seeing the flash of lightning when one expected to see sun. The city was below the sea more often than not, and to not get a proper amount of sunlight before heading back under often felt like an extension of a prison sentence.
But, thankfully, it was not so today. The sky was a pale blue bleached almost to white at its zenith, the clouds were few and pleasantly fleecy, and the sea was calm, gently falling over the city's domes and towers like rainfall as the thick rods supporting it from below slowly extended, pushing the city and everyone inside it into the air. Finally, as the sun gleamed off the city's glittering white flank, the enormous disk which formed the city's base came to slow stop level with the water, and it lay still for an instant, quietly drying in the summer heat.
But the stillness did not last for long. A loud metallic groaning resonated in the endless space around as a thin strip of concrete emerged from a slot hidden in the city's side. As it extended to its full length, another slab emerged out of the sea as the stand supporting it from below slowly unfolded. This was followed by yet another and still another, all rising like a film of dominoes played in reverse. Soon, a road was formed, straight as a ray pointing to the coast a mile away. The surface of the road was formed a parabola too slight for the human eye to notice, which allowed the saltwater to stream through the gaps in the guardrails. Before long, the road was dry, and the heat that rose in waves off of it tasted of salt.
Within the city, the drivers, human and otherwise, received the signal that the road was ready. Eagerly, they drove up to the gate, where the guard was already waiting, towering above the hood of even the largest truck. With the push of a button, the gate opened, and the first in the convoy departed. So it went with the second and third.
When the fourth truck pulled up, however, Demolisher held out his hand. "Hold it," he said.
The truck screeched a little on the asphalt. It had been expecting the same go ahead as the others and had been caught off guard. "Eh?" it asked, "What's going on, Demolishor?"
Demolishor's expression bordered on grim. "Open up the trailer, Roadblock. Now."
"What for?" Roadblock protested. "You know what's in there."
"No arguments! Just do it!"
Roadblock sighed. A car behind him in the line honked. "Fine," he said.
The trailer door slid open. Demolishor leaned closer to peer inside. His Decepticon insignia reflected the red gleam from Roadblock's Autobot symbol. Time was the sight of the two insignias so close together would make one or both bearers nervous, but times had changed.
The light from Demolishor's purple right optic glowed steadily, illuminating the crates stacked inside the trailer. Demolishor's eyes narrowed, and he growled: "Found you, Kicker."
"What's that you said? Kicker's back there?" Roadblock repeated dumbly. "When did that happen?"
"You mean you don't even know?" Demolishor snapped.
"Are you sure, though? I mean, I didn't even hear anything, or-"
"I'm sure the little punk dumped out some of the cargo and climbed in there himself when you weren't looking!" Demolishor snapped. He turned his attention back to the trailer. "Listen, you brat, you better haul yourself out of there before-"
But Demolishor was momentarily stunned into silence as a bright yellow light clicked on, plunging the rest of the interior into darkness and throwing its beam directly into Demolishor's optics. Demolishor squinted as the aperture in his optics shrank and the sound of an engine revving reached his audios. Before he could adequately react, a motorcycle jumped over the bed of the trailer, knocking aside crates which tumbled into the road. One crate was knocked open, spilling its glowing yellow contents.
"Ah! The Energon!" cried Demolishor, as the human driver behind Roadblock popped his head out of the sunroof to see what the commotion was about.
The motorcycle landed and turned sharply as if spun by hand without pausing.
"Too slow, old man!" Kicker laughed, as he jerked his hand forward on the handle.
"Why you-!" Demolishor spluttered, but Kicker was already tearing off down the road.
"You're not getting away with this, you little monster!" Demolishor shouted. He pushed his way past Roadblock - whose only protest was a slight "Hey!" - and transformed. Soon, a heavy green tank was proceeding down the road after the boy.
"Demolishor! Come back! You'll tear up the road!" Roadblock shouted, but Demolishor showed no signs of slowing down. Roadblock sighed and pulled away, leaving his trailer and its fallen contents behind.
Decepticon or not, tanks were not built for speed. It didn't take long for Roadblock to catch up with Demolishor. As soon as he was near enough, he transformed and vaulted over the tank pressing down only briefly with his hand before he landed back in vehicle mode in front of an even more outraged Demolishor.
"Go back, Demolishor," said Roadblock, cutting off Demolishor's stream of half-coherent grievances, "I'll get Kicker for ya."
"Wha-? What makes you think you can give me orders?"
"I'm faster than you." Roadblock pulled slightly ahead to demonstrate. "If you want to make yourself useful, you can go back and pick up the Energon he knocked over. I'll be back in a jiff." And with that, he pealed away, leaving Demolishor behind.
Demolishor transformed and stood scowling in the middle of the road, watching the Roadblock and Kicker disappear into the horizon.
"Autobots!" he fumed, "Humans! I'm sick of all of them!"
Meanwhile, up ahead, Kicker's heart was pounding. He felt the rush of the wind spraying sea salt into the bangs swinging free of his helmet and the cooling stream of it against his ears. Grinning, he took in an open-mouthed gulp of the blue air. He felt a compulsion to close his eyes, and simply feel the sensation of speed and motion and light whirling around without shapes the ground it, but even he wasn't foolish enough to drive a motorbike with his eyes closed. Instead, he popped a wheelie to make the road drop away.
His front wheel hit the pavement again when he heard a car horn go off behind him. He looked down into his rearview mirror and glimpsed Roadblock coming up behind him.
"Kicker!" Roadblock's voice sounded as if projected from a speaker. "Pull over!"
Kicker snarled and hit the gas. The engine of his bike whined with the effort. By now, Kicker had caught up with the convoy and was forced to slow as the back of the trailer came bearing down upon him. Kicker's eyes darted to either side of the road before he made his decision and pulled into the left side of the road.
"Oh, you've gotta be kidding me," Roadblock moaned.
Kicker's bike roared as he picked up speed again, whooping and hollering as he zipped past the three vehicles, whose drivers stared in shock, one of them wondering as he leaned out his window: "Say, isn't that Dr. Jones's son?"
In the next moment, the radios of all three crackled as Roadblock's voice was heard over them: "Gonna need you guys to stop for now. Need Kicker off the road ASAP. I'm coming up on your left."
Obediently, the line stopped. Roadblock tore past them before swerving again into the right lane. He could see the splotch of color that was Kicker, still on the left, growing larger as he grew close to it. With a final push, he pulled ahead of the bike and, after going a little farther, turned sharply so that he lay perpendicular to the road, blocking it from either side. He waited, pleased with himself, until he saw Kicker roll to a reluctant stop.
"Gotcha, kid," he said. "Now we- Hey!"
Roadblock sat dumbfounded as Kicker dropped the bike with a clatter and bolted. He was almost over the bed of the truck before Roadblock recovered himself enough to reach out an arm and grab him by the back of his jacket. He transformed, holding Kicker in front of his optics with a half-frustrated, half-impressed expression.
"You're a real piece of work," he said. "You know that?"
Kicker glared back. "Bite me."
"Charmer, too." Roadblock bent down and picked up Kicker's bike with his other hand. He weighed it his hand. "Might put a stop to your stunts if I flattened this. What do you think?"
Kicker gnashed his teeth. "Don't you dare!" he yelled.
"All it would take is one squeeze," said Roadblock, grinning, "And I'm not sure you deserve a motorcycle, after what I saw today."
"If you break it, you'd better be ready to pay for it!" Kicker snapped, "And that bike's worth enough to buy the parts for a second hunk of junk like you!"
"I wouldn't be so rude if I were you," said Roadblock, lowering the bike gingerly to the ground. "You're in a lot of trouble, Kicker. I hope you realize that. Me thinks Hot Shot will want to hear about this."
Without waiting to see the very ugly look Kicker shot his way, Roadblock placed Kicker back on the ground and transformed, being careful to block the road again. His front door swung open, showing the empty driver's seat. "Get in."
Kicker didn't move. His eyes flicked outward, to the sea.
"What, you planning to swim to California?"
Kicker rolled his eyes as savagely as he could manage and lifted his bike as slowly as though it pained him to do it. A minute later, both were heading back the way they came, the motorcycle rattling in the bed of the truck.
Demolishor had finished reloading Roadblock's trailer by the time the two pulled back up to the gate. By now, a lot of the human drivers had exited their cars. One of the Autobots in line was now in robot mode, leaning against the gate with her arms folded. Demolishor seemed very pleased to see Kicker sitting with his arms folded in the driver's seat.
"Here's where you get out, kiddo," said Roadblock, as his door flew open. Kicker climbed down slowly, his face burning.
"Good call on searching the trailer, Demolishor. How'd you know he was there?"
Demolishor's face split into a wicked grin. It didn't suit him. It was the only expression that could make him resemble the war machine he once was.
"Call it a hunch," he said.
"Nice instinct," said Roadblock. "You think you can handle escorting the perp to Hot Shot?"
Kicker pulled his bike out of the truck as the lounging Autobot scrambled back into position. Roadblock backed up and reattached himself to his trailer.
"Be careful. That one's slippery," he said. "Alright, folks, roll out!"
The rest of the convoy moved away. Soon, Kicker was left alone with Demolishor. He had just removed his helmet and had hung it from one of the handlebars when Demolishor reached down and scooped it up.
"I'll take that," said Demolishor. He held out his other hand, a heavy metal block with silver protrusions for fingers. "Climb on."
Kicker grimaced and stepped back. "You'll think I'll let you carry me in there? What am I, a toddler?"
Demolishor growled, and the tips of his fingers retracted to reveal gun barrels underneath. "Would you rather be escorted at blaster point?" he snarled.
"Do what you want," said Kicker, shoving his hands in his pockets. Without a glance behind, he strolled past Demolishor and back into the city.
Demolishor gnashed his teeth and followed after him. "You think you're real tough, kid," he fumed, "But you're nothing but a spoiled brat! You ought to be grateful I caught you; you could've killed yourself in there! How the Autobots put up with you humans is something I'll never understand! You all think you're so smart, that rules set by those older and wiser than you are just not good enough! But you, you're the worst of all of them! Why should we have play babysitter for you when we have actual-?"
Kicker made an effort to pretend that what Demolishor was throwing at him didn't interest him in the slightest, but try as he might, Demolishor's words seemed to cut into him like the blades of a juicer. Being careful not to look back at the furious Decepticon behind him, Kicker peered up towards the walkways above. Now that enough water had run off the sides of the city, the large windows and roof had retracted, and many of the city's inhabitants were stretched out above on lounge chairs, soaking in the sun, no doubt to the envy of their colleagues who still had to work indoors. Ocean City's robotic inhabitants, both Autobot and Decepticon, were always amused by the humans' craving for sunlight, having no real need of it themselves. A group of children were ecstatically feeding pieces of a hot dog bun to a seagull that had just landed nearby while a nearby Decepticon laughed, and Kicker tried to focus on them, but…
"-always acting as though we're the bad guys! The way you behave, you'd think we were beating you or something! You act so tortured, but you've never really suffered a day in your life-!"
Kicker whirled around. "Shut up! You don't know anything about me!"
Demolishor snorted. "What's there to know? You're a human! What could you possibly have seen? Or done, for that matter? You've had the softest existence-!"
"You think I'm acting smarter than I am," Kicker shouted, "But who are you to tell me my life is easy? You don't know me at all!"
"Even if there is more to you," said Demolishor, "Who cares? You don't exactly make people want to find it! You expect us to care about you when you're so nasty all the time?"
Kicker blinked, then turned away. His eyes were burning. "Shut up," he muttered, more quietly this time.
Things didn't improve when they reached Hot Shot.
"He did what?" The exclamation went right through the walls, and Kicker was sure everyone in the command center had heard it. He definitely saw a passing Mini-Con look up at the sound. Hot Shot in general was more collected then he'd used to be, making an effort to appear more authoritative in front of others. But it seemed Kicker's actions had blown that facade away.
Humiliatingly, Kicker had to wait outside the closed door while Demolishor went inside to speak to Hot Shot. Kicker had definitely spotted a gleam of sadistic pleasure in Demolishor's eye when he told Kicker to wait outside as though he were back in elementary school. Of course, he had taken Kicker's bike inside with him, but Kicker was strongly tempted to bolt down the hall while no one was looking. But in the end, he stayed put, so when he finally heard Hot Shot say, "Thank you Demolishor. You can return to your post," Demolishor was able to shoot him one last look of triumph before he heard Hot Shot shout, "Kicker! Get in here!" Kicker pushed himself off the wall with a deep breath and walked in.
Hot Shot was standing against the console when Kicker entered. Around him, enormous flickering screens displayed different feeds from the security cameras all around Ocean City, including a few displaying the bright blue sky. Kicker tore his gaze away from the screens and smiled at Hot Shot, but all he could manage vocally was a small, "Hey…"
Hot Shot's face was grim. "Kicker, is what Demolishor told me true?"
Kicker shrugged while feeling the back of his neck grow hot. "That depends. What'd he tell you?"
"Did you really try to sneak out in Roadblock's trailer?"
Kicker decided the cloud drifting across one of the screens was worth staring at after all. "Yeah," he muttered.
"And you drove off when they told you to stop?"
"And you made Roadblock go get you?"
"And you drove on the left side of the road?"
"You gonna give me a ticket, officer?"
"Kicker this isn't funny!" Somehow, Hot Shot's injured expression was worse than either Roadblock's amusement or Demolishor's anger. "You could have seriously hurt yourself! You delayed the shipment, and you made Demolishor and Roadblock stop their work to come after you!"
Hot Shot sighed and rubbed his brow with his fingers. Kicker stewed in the silence.
"Where'd you put the Energon you took out of the trailer, anyway?"
"In the theater," Kicker mumbled.
Hot Shot frowned. "When did you do that?"
Kicker grinned nervously. "Yeah. I used a cart."
"Don't look so proud of yourself, Kicker. Don't you realize that what you've done today is illegal?"
The smile Kicker had managed dropped off his face. "I'll tell you what ought to be illegal!" he said, his voice rising, "Holding a teenager against their will! Don't you think that's a punishable offense, Hot Shot?"
Hot Shot groaned. "Oh, for crying out loud-"
"Don't give me that!" Kicker was shouting now. "Other people get to leave this city when it surfaces, but I haven't been out in years! You never let me go in here! I'm fifteen, I'm not a kid anymore, and I'm definitely not your prisoner!"
"Kicker!" said Hot Shot, "You know why we can't let you leave! It's for your own safety!"
"Not that line again! The war's been over for years! It was over before I ever met you!"
"It isn't just the war!" said Hot Shot, "We need you on site, Kicker! We're still digging here, and without your power-!"
"'We can't find the Energon,' I know it!" Kicker glared at Hot Shot. "All this talk about 'my safety,' it's all just a front! You're not trying to protect me, you just want to keep me on a shelf! I'm not a tool, Hot Shot!"
Unexpectedly, Hot Shot's expression grew somber. "I know you're not," he said.
Kicker was breathing heavily. Hot Shot didn't seem to be able to meet his eyes. The seconds dragged on.
"Look," he finally said, "If you really want to leave the city, I'm not the one you need to convince. You need to talk to Optimus. He's on Cybertron; you know how to reach him."
Kicker smirked. "Thanks," he said, "I think I will-!"
"And!" Hot Shot cut him off, turning the blue light from his optics right on him, "You need to talk to your parents."
Kicker looked down. "But… can't Optimus-?"
"They're your parents, Kicker," said Hot Shot firmly. "You need to talk to them." He turned back towards the console. "I guess that's all. You can go."
Kicker was halfway to the door when Hot Shot added, "Oh, and I'll be notifying your mother what you've done."
Kicker groaned. "For real? C'mon, Hot Shot, I've already had three lectures today!"
"Well, it's about to be four. Bye!" Hot Shot raised a hand in farewell without turning around.
Kicker heaved up the loudest, most long-suffering sigh he could and trudged out the door. It wasn't until he heard the door slide closed behind him that Hot Shot turned back to gaze at the spot where the boy had been.
*Demolishor distrusts your youthful demeanor.
Hello, folks! It's been a while since I last attempted a Transformers work.
For those of you who don't know, Transformers Energon, the sequel series to Transformers Armada, is not only widely considered one of the worst Transformers shows of all time, it might very well be one of the worst anime of all time, period. Sure, other shows might have more unpalatable content or more offensive points of view, but when it comes to sheer incompetence, Energon wins every time.
Recently, on Tumblr, I saw someone express the rather enthusiastic desire for someone to try to make Energon again, except redone so that all its flaws were fixed and the epic story it was trying to tell could shine through.
And to that, I went, "OKAY."
So, here it is, the rewrite of Transformers: Energon! I'm really excited to share this with you guys! Feel free to leave any criticism you can think of! We're gonna have a lot of fun, here, so I hope you stick with me 'til the end!