Rian: Welcome back everyone! Metempsychosis sequel is up! We'll be getting into more drama, angst and if memory serves me right, action in this installment! We'll be continuing right where we left off, picking up from the aftermath. Enjoy!
Misgel: And here's the next installment of Metempsychosis... Transference! Rian and I have a lot of plans for this one, including a few original ideas, so we hope you guys enjoy!
"On behalf of the President and the Joint Chiefs, I thank you all for your selfless heroism in defense in this planet," Fowler spoke, raising his voice so all the present Autobots could hear him.
The aliens crowded around the small human. Some stood close, some lurked in the dark corners of the warehouse. Some listened intently, some did not at all. They wounds had been healed, thanks to a tireless Ratchet who had worked through the night to ensure each and every one of them had been treated. They had come back alive.
Optimus Prime stood before his subordinates. After months of scouring the planet, finding no trace of the Autobot leader, they had dared to think the unthinkable. And then the Guardian Knight just appeared. And he was completely changed.
An Optimus that was stronger and bulkier, his shoulders twice as broad and he stood a head taller. He had been reformatted with a new weapons systems and wings. He could fly, as fast and maneuverable as any Seeker. He had been resurrected, brought back from the dead into a new body.
Just like Rafael.
The boy—youngling, stood in the shadow of his protective guardian, Bumblebee, shifting from pede to pede. The wires that spread through his body were tight and his plating was clamped down onto his protoform. His optics were dim and unfocused as he stared at the ground, refusing to look at anyone. His winglets were angled downwards and his audial fins were flat against his helm.
Raf knew he should be happy. They accomplished their goal. Darkmount had been destroyed. Jasper was reclaimed by the U.S. government. The Decepticon invasion of Las Vegas had been thwarted. The Autobots had saved a great deal of lives. There was still a long road to recovery ahead, especially now as the world was reeling with confusion and mourning, but the cities would be rebuilt. Earth would stand free another day.
But there was no buzzing excitement of victory when the Autobots returned to their base of Diego Garcia. Instead the air was thick and heavy, filled with distressed electromagnetic fields. Even the soldiers were somber, Lennox standing by Fowler's side with a tired expression. He still had gauze taped to his brow from his recent injures from the Battle of Las Vegas.
No, it didn't feel like a victory. Not when Raf had failed.
Failed to save Jack and Miko.
The human-turned-Cybertronian hardly listened the rest of Fowler's speech, only hearing the end.
"I, for one, owe you my life, my liberty, and my future," the government liaison finished, standing to attention with a stiff salute.
"And you have my gratitude, Agent Fowler, Colonel Lennox," Optimus replied, nodding to each man, "for your continued support of the Autobots. You have given us this base to shield us from the enemy and stood beside us." He turned to his subordinates, that straightened underneath his cool gaze. "You fought bravely, Autobots, in the name of freedom, even in my absence. I am proud to call all of you my comrades."
It was a rare, warm praise from their stoic leader. Raf knew he should have felt gentle pride fill his veins at that, but instead his chest twisted horribly. The former human didn't fight bravely. He had spent most of the fighting cowering at the base, and when he finally found the courage to infiltrate Darkmount, it had been ripped away from him again. From Miko and Jack, chained to their cruel slavers.
How could that be considered freedom?
Raf was brought from his brooding thoughts as Ultra Magnus stepped forward, helm bowing humbly.
"Sir, I am honored to relinquish command of the Autobots to you," the Autobot commander hummed.
Optimus Prime nodded. "You have my thanks, Ultra Magnus. It is good to have you by my side once again. Welcome to Earth, my friend, and to Team Prime."
"I only apologize that I came too late. As the head of the Elite Guard, it is my duty to protect the Prime, yet…" Ultra Magnus paused for a moment, and chose not to say the words. "…if it had not been for the Forge of Solus Prime, you would not be here now."
At that, all optics turned. The massive, golden hammer resting against the wall. Instead of gleaming with warm light and radiating with a mystic power, the ancient weapon was cold and dark.
"Is it true?" Ratchet inquired carefully. "That the Forge has been drained of its power?"
Smokescreen's optics were dim, despite he had his energon levels restores. He looked away from the others, wings low.
"Yes…" he answered quietly. "It's all gone…"
The medic frowned and forced a heavy ex-vent, saying solemnly, "Then any hope of restoring the Omega Lock has truly been lost."
"I… I did what I thought was right."
"Then your instincts have again proven to be quite sound."
Smokescreen's optics widened at that. Intake agape, he turned around to face the old mech.
"Y-you really think…?" The former Elite Guard glanced at Raf, who met his optics before briskly looking back to his pedes. The rookie frowned. "But… it wasn't enough."
Ratchet's frown deepened, and there was the sound of heavy pedes as Bulkhead stormed forward.
"Yeah, does anyone care to talk about what happened back there?" the Wrecker demanded, his expression set in a scowl.
"Bulkhead..." Arcee warned, so softly Raf hardly heard her.
"No! We saved the Earth, sure, just like we did plenty of times! What about Jack and Miko? They're still in those greedy 'Cons' servos."
Raf shuddered, unconsciously stepping closer to Bumblebee's warm frame, optics still locked in the spot between his pedes.
"The Decepticons will answer for their crimes, Bulkhead," Optimus said, a different tone lacing his voice. "Rest assured, I will do everything in my power to save our young friends."
Raf bit his lip. He had down everything in his power, but it still wasn't enough.
"Something's wrong with that kid, Jack," Wheeljack put in from where he leaned against the wall. He had several welded gashes across his body, but he didn't seem concerned about them. "Looked at me dead in the optic and he didn't even flinch."
Raf unconsciously rubbed the scratch marks on his neck, from the cruel claws that had manhandled him. He could still see that poisoned, malicious gaze and still hear that cold voice. Beside him, Arcee curled up on herself, placing a servo on her arm. Colonel Lennox tentatively placed a comforting hand on the femme's leg, but she did not seem to notice.
"It's like what happened in Africa," the man frowned.
It was then Raf spoke up in a low, timid voice, "J-Jack is infected with dark energon." He whispered, unable to meet their optics.
The room turned to him, silence following for a moment.
Arcee's optics became wide and bright as moons. "Wait? No, that can't be! Impossible!"
"I-I saw it myself. He attacked me, but he wasn't himself!" Raf insisted heatedly. "It was like... like Megatron was acting through him."
Ratchet frowned at the words, giving a heavy ex-vent as he shut his eyes. "If Megatron can control the undead with dark energon, it stands to reason he can enforce his will on even a living being."
"They were controlling Miko, too."
Several frame stiffened and EM fields flared with shock. Bulkhead snarled viciously, frame shaking with range. Suddenly he rounded to the nearest wall, slamming his fist into the concrete with a reverberating boom.
"Slagging 'Cons!" he shouted, pulling his fist back angrily.
"How can you be sure, Rafael?" Ratchet asked, gentle but stern.
"I-I don't know how," Raf answered truthfully, "but I... I sensed something, in her. I think they impeded like, a mind control device or—"
"An inhibitor," Arcee realized. "It was a device that restricts a 'Bot's functions, sometimes even their processor. It was used on Cybertron, to keep workers of the lower class in line."
"W-why would they need something like that?" Raf asked, bewildered by the prospect.
"Some supervisors feared a revolt from their workers, especially those from the warrior class or kept in poor conditions. They were given inhibitors to prevent them from rising up against the higher castes."
"But… that sounds like slavery."
There was a long moment of stiff silence before Arcee nodded slowly. "The Decepticons condemned the practice as part of their propaganda during the war."
"Puh, they don't seem like they have a problem using it now!" Bulkhead spat.
"The Decepticons must have difficulty reigning in Miko," Ratchet hypothesized, "and were desperate enough to—"
"To enslave her!"
"Enough!" Optimus scolded the furious mech. "While your anger towards Miko's predicament is well deserved, it will not help her if you remain blinded by your rage."
"And Jack? What do we do about him?" Arcee demanded frantically. "Megatron isn't inhibiting him. He's controlling his mind! How do we—"
She was cut off by Optimus's stern glare. The femme stiffened, but slowly, reluctantly, forced her bristling armor to fall and looked to the ground.
"Although Jack is an Autobot at spark, while he is under the thrall of Megatron, he is not held accountable for his actions. As such, it would be unwise for us to hold restraint, should we yet encounter him."
Raf's jaw slacked open in horror and Arcee's wings went straight up.
"You want us to attack Jack? That's your solution?"
"Not attack," Optimus shook his head. "But we must defend ourselves against our aggressors, or we give the war to Megatron."
Raf's tanks rolled at the words. He… had to fight Jack and Miko? He could barely bring himself to do it in the bowels of Darkmount. It was only because the elder mech continuously struck out at him, that he was finally forced to fight back, and he hardly held his own. He didn't hold his own, falling to their superior strength before they dragged him to Megatron.
It was then Raf realized. Optimus Prime was right. It was obvious Megatron was using Jack and Miko as hostages, like what Starscream did against the Wreckers. Not only that, but using them to damage his enemy's morale. Not only crushing their spirits but making them doubt themselves, preventing them from attacking. While the former humans would be forced to and not hesitate to destroy them. Allowing the Decepticons to win.
Raf realized every battle his friends participated in, the 'Cons had gotten away with the spoils. A cruel tactic Megatron would continue to use, because his prisoners were still in his firm grasp.
"I vow to you we will rescue them," Optimus assured the distraught Arcee and Bulkhead. "But we cannot allow Megatron to gain further advantage."
"We still got a fire-breathing dragon with a bad attitude on the loose," Epps spoke up from where he lounged on some nearby crates.
"That thing nearly killed us in the city," Lennox muttered lowly. "And it's smart. It spotted us trying to set up a sniper's nest and... it was like it knew what we were up to."
"You fought the Predacon?" Ratchet gasped.
"It tried to light us on fire," Epps deadpanned. Gauze was wrapped around his arm, where a blast of fire had burned the skin, proof to his words.
"But once it realized it couldn't get us," Lennox continued, covered in similar wounds. Some of his hair was singed, along with large parts of his uniform. "It knocked the entire building over. Like... it was learning."
"That is troubling news," Ultra Magnus commented with a deep frown.
"Indeed," Ratchet said in agreement. "There are no records on Predacons, so their intelligence has always been a mystery. If it's learning, we have more to worry about than we first believed."
"It looked me dead in the eye. I know this sound's crazy, but..." Lennox opened his mouth to say something, only to shake his head and told instead, "There was something wicked in there."
"Your experience with the Predacon will be noted." Ultra Magnus stated calmly. "We should locate the next Predacon bone, if we are to remain ahead of the Decepticons. When the next battle comes, we will be ready this time."
Raf gritted his denta. Ready? Ready to fight his friends? How could he even face them again? He had failed them. He was right there and he promised to bring them home and he had failed.
Now the Autobots planned to continue fighting the war like nothing ever happened, like Jack and Miko were just more 'Cons to take out. Savage words echoed in Raf's helm. He couldn't take it anymore.
Without warning, the youngling wheeled around, barging passed Bumblebee in a frantic sprint. He ignored the several gasps and shouts following him, even his guardian's. Instead he transformed into a Corvette, speeding across the active NEST base with reckless abandon. An orchestra of startled screams and blaring horns of vehicles greeted him, but he didn't pay it any mind. Not even when a Humvee almost crashed into his side, tires shrieking as it skidded to a halt. It was only because of Bumblebee's continuous driving drills he was able to pivot around it in time.
The mechling did not stop, keeping his speed even as he left the confines of the base and the smooth paved roads turned into narrow, gravelly trails. It wasn't until Raf was on the other side of the island did he finally come to a stop, returning to his bipedal mode. It took him several moments to realize he was shaking.
He dropped to his knees, tucking his hands to his chest, venting heavily and rapidly as he tried to go over the last few months. It had all gone by in a blur.
Raf and his friends were at school, waiting for their guardians to pick them up, but they never came. Instead, the Decepticons had come, plucking them up like bait. And used them against the Autobots.
All three children could only watch, helpless as Optimus surrendered the Omega Keys, all to save their charges' lives. Only for Megatron to fire the Omega Lock onto Earth. Raf had protested, screamed at the top of his lungs, but it was Optimus that did something. He destroyed the Omega Lock. He sacrificed the chance to save his own planet, just to save the teenagers'. To stop Megatron from using it to conquer the galaxy.
But no one could have expected the consequences.
The power of the Omega Lock was released in a great explosion. Raf, Miko, and Jack could not escape. The cyber-matter had dug into their bodies, twisting them, transforming them.
Raf had awoken in the bowels of the Autobot base, while Jack and Miko were trapped in the brutal clutches of the Decepticons. And then Raf had found them. He had finally found his friends. They were together again.
Only to find that Decepticons had corrupted them into twisted puppets. He had fought them, hurt them. And they had tried to do the same to him. The youngling shuddered, covering his face with his hands. He couldn't—this was too much!
He wasn't strong, he wasn't fast, he wasn't clever. He was just a human, hardly a teenager, thrown in a body of a giant. He could barely stand up for himself in a fight, and he couldn't even save his friends.
He had Jack in his arms, and Miko was right next to him. Then without warning, Jack just... left. Before Raf could go after his distraught friend, the tower rumbled and the room around them twisted. The mech didn't know what came over him. Something deep, a primal nature lingering from his human instincts, telling him a single order: run.
He had done just that. Raf had run while the world crumbled around him, his only thought on the groundbridge, on salvation. Not Jack, lost somewhere in the falling tower. Not Miko, struggling to keep up.
It was not until he collapsed on the floor of the hanger, the groundbridge forced close behind him, did he realize.
Jack and Miko were gone.
They were right back where they started. The desperate rescue attempt failed, and his best friends were still prisoners of the Decepticons.
Doubt started to creep into his mind. Were they never going to rescue them? Did they even want to be rescued? Jack had been so...furious. At him. At the Autobots.
Suddenly it was hard to cycle air through his body, like his vents weren't working properly. He felt warm- too warm. The rattling increased and his cooling fans sputtered to life, but it did little to relief the stress building in Raf's systems. He didn't even know it was possible for a Cybertronian to have a panic attack.
So lost up in his misery, he didn't even notice the hum of an engine filling the air, followed by the sound of transformation. Raf almost screamed when a servo clasped his shoulder. He flinched, violently, and the servo retreated quickly. When the youngling twisted around, he was greeted with a flash of yellow.
His guardian said nothing, looking at him with sad, sorrowful optics. It was then Raf realized something wet was trailing down his cheek. He quickly wiped the tear of coolant away. When had he started crying?
"What's wrong, Raf?" Bumblebee buzzed quietly. The answer was obvious, but Raf couldn't help but reply.
"I...I...I wasn't able to do anything," he sniffled, the dam all but breaking now. "I-I lost them. I lost my best friends. And n-n-now—"
He broke off with a weird bubble static that erupted from his vocalizer. Bumblebee hushed him gently, a soft, gentle whirr as that warm servo returned, but it was light and careful. When Raf didn't slap him away this time, the larger mech slowly lowered onto his knees beside the former human.
"You did nothing wrong, Raf," Bumblebee assured in a tender voice as his fingers stroked small circles on his back. "You were very brave."
"And how did that change anything?" Raf demanded in a wail. "Jack and Miko are still captured!" He sobbed and added in a pitiful whimper, "And now they hate me..."
Bumblebee blinked at that, but kept his artificial voice even. "No, of course not."
"T-they do! Jack blames me for being captured b-because you guys rescued me instead..."
"Why did they save you, and not us? Why did they leave us on Cybertron?"
Was that Megatron, controlling Jack through whatever sick hold the tyrant had on him? Or was it Jack's resentment, drawn up to the surface? Raf didn't know anymore. He wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"That wasn't Jack, Raf," Bumblebee assured. "If the Decepticons are really controlling the others—"
"Then how are we going to rescue them?"
"We'll break the Decepticons' hold over them, whatever it takes. We Autobots don't leave our friends behind."
But Raf did. He left them, and he was alone again.
The youngling didn't hear it at first. A high-pitched, weird, metallic sound. It took him several seconds to realized he made that sound. And then another one escaped. By now the Cybertronian data of his processor froze, replaced by thoughts of a human brain.
Thoughts of his friends, his family, his home, and how he would never see any of them again. He would always remain like this.
Raf curled in on himself, bringing his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them. His engine sounded like a sputtering car and his rattling plating sounded like it was going to fall off. Bumblebee said nothing, merely continued his gentle, but firm strokes. The larger mech dared to move closer, comfortably pressing his frame against Raf's. At first the human-turned-Cybertronian did not react, until the desperate instinct to interact, felt the warmth radiating from the larger mech.
Raf pressed against Bumblebee's chest, arms wrapping protectively around him, and sobbed.
Megatron awoke to the sensation of a strut deep ache coursing through his body, his optics cracking open slowly to find solid, black wall surrounding him. Groaning, he slowly lifted his helm, only to be greeted with tables covered in tools surrounding him. It took him a long moment to realize where he was. He was in the med-bay of the warship. He groaned, venting deeply as he felt a multitude of cables attached to his frame.
His processor swam with lines of useless data. The gears and wiring were tight and stiff. Every time he tried to move his limbs, he was only rewarded with a twitch.
The Decepticon leader was vaguely reminded of when he had awakened from stasis, so long ago. After he was caught in the spacebridge explosion. After Starscream tried to terminate him, plucking the dark energon out of his chest. It was only when the shard was returned, the Blood of Unicron had restored its host to the realm of the living.
So what had happened this time to damage him so gravely? He remembered the capture of the human city, before he had returned to his citadel of Darkmount after receiving information of an attack.
Megatron let out a deep, savage growl at a changed, but just as familiar phantom flashed before his optics.
Like a shard of rust, the arch-nemesis dug and twisted into his gears, and was painstakingly difficult to remove. Optimus just wouldn't die.
No sign of the Autobot leader for weeks. Megatron had dared to come to the logical conclusion that Optimus been lost in the destruction of the Autobot base. Not even a Prime could survive the direct hit of a particle cannon, and the resulting explosion. Yet, Optimus did.
His fist clenched with a creak in his anger, snarling at another failed termination of his nemesis. How much longer did this rivalry need to go on?!
Megatron had been thrown into his own fortress, into its core! Then the surge of power had invaded his systems, frying his chassis from the inside out. He had blacked out from the agony coursing through his body. But how? How did he possibly survive?
The warlord faintly remembered the world trembling around him, but his vision had been horribly distorted. His hearing had been fried, only detecting changes of pressure against his audios. Oh, how the Autobots would revel, to know the Decepticon leader weak, blind, and deaf, because he had failed to correct his flight. It was all the more humiliating, that he realized it must have been one of his subordinates that found him.
Not even the Autobots were foolish enough to let the warlord live, if they had the opportunity to finish him. Megatron wouldn't even put it past those in the Decepticon ranks. Especially if was Starscream. It must have been Soundwave. It couldn't have been any other. His third-in-command had always been loyal to his lord.
But what had happened? The human city? Darkmount?
Victory was in his grasp. The insects had been ruthlessly crushed. His enemies were defeated. New Kaon was his.
But nothing in his memory banks except for the unbearable agony that had filled his frame.
What had happened?
Megatron had to know. With a determined snarl, he willed all the dark energon in his body to redirect to his arm. It raised slowly, agonizingly, towards the spark monitor attached to his chest. Only when his sharp claws wrapped around the cable, a high-pitched gasp assaulted his audios.
"My liege! Wait, you haven't fully recuperated!"
He glanced up to see Knock Out rushing towards him, but the tyrant had a question of his own.
"What happened?!" he demanded with a roar, his optics glaring down at the medic as he sat up. He was not quite able to make his legs move just yet, even with the aid of dark energon.
Knock Out flinched at the harsh tone. It was lower and more gravelly than usual, static filling his voice, but the medic did not comment on it.
Instead, he answered hesitantly, "Y-you crashed into the tower's fusion core, Lord Megatron. The energon overloaded your systems—"
"How long has it been?"
"Um, er, three solar cycles, my liege. I treated your injuries to the best of my abilities. I even buffed your finish, as good as new!"
Megatron glanced down at his body, to confirm that the medic was telling the truth. His spiked armor was a pristine, gleaming silver. Knock Out must have been in a good mood, to share his precious polish. Or—
The vain Decepticon was groveling. He only groveled when he feared the tyrant's wrath, knowing it could turn to him a nanosecond.
"What of the Autobots?" Megatron demanded to know next, the medic smiling weakly in a vain attempt to ease off the anger surging through him. He knew that look.
"They...they escaped my liege. The humans bombarded the tower, giving them the window of the time they needed—"
"What of our forces? The human city?"
"Starscream was forced to retreat with his armada. W-We had, um, significant losses, but not—"
He was interrupted by a ferocious roar the reverberated across the medbay.
"I-it is not all setbacks, my Lord!" Knock Out was quick to assure him, his voice and frame trembling before him. "Why, if it wasn't for your pet, you might have perished at Darkmount!"
Megatron quickly scanned through his memory banks. His pet. Jack. Quickclaw.
He had sent the former human into the fortress to secure the fusion core, and he had returned with the captured technopath in hand. Then Optimus appeared. So distracted by his fierce battle with his rival, the Decepticon leader had completely forgotten his slave was even present.
"Yes, my liege," Knock Out gestured to the other of the room. Megatron noticed for the first time that J—Quickclaw laying on another berth. He appeared to be still in medically induced stasis, his chest moving slowly. "He retrieved you from the core just as it was about to overload—Soundwave opened a groundbridge in time to save you both."
Megatron's optics widened as he snapped his gaze back to the medic, as if to confirm he heard correctly. Quickclaw? Saved him? But he didn't even feel the bond between them when—
Megatron narrowed his optics. He was vaguely aware, of the pressure against his audios, as the world had trembled around him. Of a voice, desperately trying to reach him. It was mostly an incoherent blur, but he had been aware of something that had pulled against him. Had brought his consciousness to surface, however briefly.
But the true question remained as to why Quickclaw would have chosen to save him.
From the moment the mech awoke on the Nemesis, he had defied the Decepticon lord at every turn. Not even the dark energon quelled his fiery spirit. The only way Megatron could reign him was completely replacing his stubborn will with his own. But, he had not felt the blood-bond between them. Quickclaw had no reason to risk his own life for the warlord's, if the dark energon in his veins was quelled.
Scowling, Megatron returned his attention back to Knock Out.
"What are the extent of his injuries?" the titan asked, glancing back at Quickclaw.
"Not severe, my lord," Knock Out answered quickly, eager to please his master now that he was not at the receiving end of his wrath. "Though he received minimal damage to his superficial plating, his internal wiring was eroded, likely due to a certain crafty little runt. Energon deficiency forced him into stasis—don't worry, I restored his levels. Soundwave had to fish some dark energon out of your personal reserves—hope you don't mind—"
"Will he recover?"
"Considering both of your surgeries were successful, I expect you both to make a full recovery!"
Despite the good news, Megatron continued to frown, staring intensely at the human-turned-Cybertronian. This was an... intriguing turn of events, indeed.
"Of course, your injuries were more critical," Knock Out babbled on, "but thanks to my brilliant expertise—my liege! What are you doing?!"
The medic broke off into a panicked shout as Megatron unceremoniously ripped the spark monitor from his chest. He briefly felt an insistent tug on his protoform as the cable clung on, but was easily removed nonetheless. Along with the other cables, each monitoring a different section of his frame or directly feeding dark energon into his fuel lines. Sure enough, it resulted in the medbay coming alive with blaring alarms and the life-source splattered across the ground, but Megatron didn't pay attention to it.
He ignored Knock Out's displeased cries and persistent pleas, as he slowly, agonizingly, rose to his pedes. Instantly his stabilizers quivered with strained and there was a groan from the pistons of his legs, but they held his heavy weight. He forced one pede in front of the other, baring his denta when he discovered his movements were horribly retarded.
"Lord Megatron, all due with respect, but have you lost your senses?!" Knock Out shrieked. "You—"
"Is there any chance that I may deactivate?"
"W-well, no, my lord—"
"Then we are done here."
Knock Out couldn't say anything more as Megatron forced his way past the medic, who didn't dare to stand in his way as he stumbled past him.
The silver titan sluggishly crossed the room to Quickclaw. Megatron took in the sight of the cables attached to various parts of the little one's chassis, just like how the tyrant was a few moments ago. And just like he did with himself, the Decepticon detached each line one-by-one. Knock Out squawked.
Megatron slipped his arms underneath Quickclaws frame, cautiously, gently, raising him off the slab and against his warm chest. Ignoring the medic's desperate chirps, he trudged out of the lab.