The Advance Man
Chapter 4 of 7: The Other Side


Faith slowly regained consciousness, which also made her aware of the terrible ache that held her entire body in its grip. God, she didn't remember the last time she'd hurt so much. Probably after the first time Kakistos had gotten through with her. Then again, Kakistos hadn't kicked her with metal feet the size of a vending machine.

The last thing she remembered was the Predacon jumping forward to... well, kill her, she'd assumed. She was quite certain that the image of the giant jaws with the many teeth coming toward her would haunt her nightmares for quite some time to come. No, she'd never go swimming again, that much was for sure.

Seeing as she was obviously still alive, the Predacon had apparently not killed her. So maybe it was time to open her eyes and find out where she was.

She was in a room that was obviously built to Cybertronian dimensions. Just like during her visits to Autobase, she felt like a doll. The ceiling was easily forty feet above her, if not more, and the table she was currently on was about ten feet high. Oh, and she was currently sitting underneath a glass bowl. Well, probably not glass, but transparent.

Trapped like a rat.

"Good! You are awake," a voice boomed.

Faith turned to look towards its source and saw two things. Number one was the Predacon, now back in robot mode, striding towards her with an unholy gleam in his eyes. The other, though, was potentially even more interesting.

So much for her intent never to go swimming again.

The big view port behind the Predacon showed nothing but ocean. Faith figured she was somewhere under the sea - made sense for a guy who transformed into a shark, she guessed - which meant getting out of here would be... challenging.

Deciding not to let her nervousness show, Faith stood up and looked the Predacon directly in the eye.

"You got a name, ugly?" she asked, challenging.

The Predacon seemed to smirk. "The name's Sky-Byte, meat puppet. What is your designation of choice?"

"I'm Faith. So, any particular reason why you decided to bring me to your humble abode under the sea?"

The Predacon, Sky-Byte, took a seat beside the table, so his head was now more or less at the same level as Faith. He folded his hands underneath his chin, looking to all the world like a scientist studying a rather interesting insect.

"I am here to gather knowledge, little Faith. Knowledge about this planet, knowledge about our objective, knowledge about anything that might impede our mission. The fact that the Autobots are here is a... complication. The fact that the Autobots are apparently working with the natives is... intriguing."

Faith laughed to cover her growing nervousness. "So what? You think I'll tell you about the Autobots? Please! You got the wrong broad if you're looking for a stool pigeon."

Sky-Byte laughed as well, obviously amused. "Ah, I see you have been taken in by the 'noble' Autobots. What have they told you, Faith? The usual tales about how they're protecting the universe from the evil Decepticons? About the cruel war that we started, ending their precious Golden Age? How we spilled the Energon of millions of innocent robots for our own amusement?"

Faith was a bit stunned. Yes, that was pretty much what the Autobots had told her about the Decepticons. Only it hadn't sounded so... trite then.

"Are you saying they lied?" Faith asked, disbelieving.

Sky-Byte studied her closely. "There are lies, truths, and half-truths, little Faith. Those most skilled can mix the three to the point where they are completely indistinguishable and you can convey any message you want without ever resorting to downright falsehood."

"You are a pretty wordy fellow yourself, aren't you?"

Sky-Byte laughed, almost bellowed. He seemed greatly amused.

"I haven't brought you here to discuss ancient history with you, little flesh girl. But answer me this one question: Does a perfect society produce revolutionaries? If Cybertron was such a perfect place before, why did so many flock to the banners of war?"

It might have been an interesting question, but Faith was rapidly getting tired of this guy. Her thoughts strayed to Arcee. Was her Autobot partner still alive? Probably. They couldn't know what the spark alignment between them would cause if one of them died, but Faith doubted it would have been pleasant. So the fact that she was here and more or less all right had to mean that Arcee was, too. Right?

Concentrating, she tried to access the spark alignment. The only thing she got, though, was a vague impression of Arcee's presence... somewhere. She just hoped the biker girl was all right.

"What do you want from me?" she asked Sky-Byte, keeping up her concentration.

"No longer interested in Cybertronian history? Ah, just as well. You are right. Let us get to the matter at hand."

He leaned forward, looking more closely at her.

"You and the Autobot I fought, you are connected somehow. She shared your pain. I have only ever seen such a phenomenon between spark-aligned warriors. I have never heard of any Cybertronian bonding with an organic being in such a way. Is that what happened to you, little one?"

Faith just looked back at him. She certainly didn't intend to answer any of his questions.

"I think that is what happened," Sky-Byte continued when she didn't answer. "And you know what that means? It means you have made my job somewhat easier."

He stood and walked over to a nearby console, picking up a complicated-looking electronic gadget.

"Interrogation techniques have come a long way during the course of the war. It is always important to know what your enemies do not want you to know. At the same time, of course, methods to resist interrogation have progressed just as far. I happen to know that most Autobots in positions where they might have access to sensitive data are equipped with a full range of countermeasures to prevent anyone from accessing their memory banks.

"When it became apparent that the Autobots had discovered my presence and would impede my mission here, I intended to capture one of them and find out how much they know. It would have been a long and complicated process with no guarantee of success."

He came back to the table, setting the device down next to Faith's glass prison. "Organic beings, though, are so much simpler to interrogate. Your biochemical memories are a bit more complicated to interpret than our own electronic data streams, yes, but the upside is that there are no known ways to shield organic brains from cerebral probes."

Faith didn't like the term "cerebral probe" at all.

"Interrogating you will be far easier than it would be with any given Autobot, Faith. And given the fact that I believe you are spark aligned with that Autobot I fought... well, there is a very good chance that access to your memories will also give me access to hers."

This wasn't good, Faith mused. Not good at all. She didn't say a word, but she feared that Sky-Byte was quite correct in his assessment. After all, Arcee and she had shared memories across the alignment more than once already. Just fragments, always unintentional, but the connection was there. And so far neither Arcee nor she had successfully managed to shut it down once it got going, at least not before whatever memory they had shared had played itself out.

Nope, this was definitely not good.

"We should hurry, of course," Sky-Byte continued in conversational tone, oblivious to her thoughts. "After all, there is also the possibility of your spark-bonded partner being able to track your whereabouts. I have no idea whether she can sense your presence with so much ocean between you and her, but there is no sense in taking chances, is there?"

He leaned closer. "So what say, little Faith, that we begin the process right away?"

Faith gulped. Really not good.