-1It had been a war zone, but now it was a cell.
After the excessively fierce but chaotically brief final battle, the claustrophobic control chamber lay littered with the bodies of both Autobots and Decepticons. Non-functioning carapaces and amputated robot parts littered the space around the centrally located holographic display module like the shattered parts of a fallen halo. On this island were the last two living creatures, the only soldiers that could possibly call themselves victorious.
They sat there, back to back, immersed in a solemn bubble of depression. There was no room for celebration when they knew that even though they'd survived the carnage of battle, they were doomed to die here anyway. The ship, now cold around them as lifeless as their comrades, was sinking slowly, sadly, silently to the bottom of a great alien ocean with no possible way in or out. There was nothing left to do but wait in silence for their stored energy to deplete, the war not yet over, the two champions of fate still enemies, even in this tomblike prison.
The Decepticon sat with one heel up on the module, his elbow propped across the scorched metal of his knee. He spent what was the beginning of his quiet eternity determined to escape his cage. There had to be a way out. He had always found a way to survive in the past no matter how certain death seemed, and no sinking ships or reinforced walls would tame him now.
He sensed none of this resolve in his one remaining companion. The Autobot had his chin pressed against his crossed arms, curled up tightly in his own ball of wandering thought. The Decepticon could have cared less what his fellow prisoner was dwelling on and saw no reason at all to disturb what for him was a pleasant lack of communication.
The seeker scanned the area optically and statistically, taking in as much as his limited sensors could gather. The room was static and unchanging, bodies piled up on the floor; some of his kind, some of the others, the thick alloy walls lined in blank black screens and alien control panels, their operators lifelessly slumped against the bulkheads. There was still no door. There were still no windows. The only way they'd found into this place was through molecular transport. Now the power was cut, the ship was sinking, and it was only a matter of time before the energon in his body slowly burned itself out.
There was no hurry to formulate plans, time was something they had in abundance, but the Decepticon still felt a nagging sense of helplessness and claustrophobia. He knew there was no use in waiting for a rescue his leader would never send. Perhaps his only hope was in his silent cellmate and the irrationally loyal programming hard-wired into his breed. He ventured to break the persistent silence.
"So," the seeker's voice seemed unnaturally loud over the hush of death, "it appears there is no way out."
The Autobot sank against his arms like an aged building settling on its foundation. He voice was muffled by his battered armor. "It appears so."
"You know, I should probably kill you now." The Decepticon said, offhand.
The Autobot was unfazed. "That would be in character for you."
The Decepticon smirked. "It would indeed."
Silence again took hold of the chamber. Seconds passed, and this time it was the Autobot that disturbed the deathly peace. "If you're not going to kill me, will you answer a question?"
The Decepticon narrowed his eyes and cast a backward glance to the horned helmet behind him. "What sort of a question?"
"Just a question."
The seeker pondered a moment. "Why not? What other occupation do I have?" He leaned his head against his hand. "You will have to grant me on in return of course."
"Ask away." The Autobot said, liltingly. "What's left to hide?"
"Are your friends coming for you?" The Decepticon asked quickly. "Is your leader coming for you."
"Prime would probably like to." The bot said sadly. "He's probably thought about it, but he's left me behind before." His heart sank a little further. "I never really did a lot of good."
"Permit me," the other interrupted. "But that attitude won't pry any pity from me. I don't feel a thing for you, your cause or your self-esteem."
"It doesn't matter anyway." The robot said in defeat. "I guess I feel better about saying it knowing there's no one to tell me otherwise."
"However, survival is an honorable trait in a soldier." The seeker ventured. "We fought through a forest of opponents, braving death separately to find ourselves forced together." He canceled his train of thought. "Are you sure your leader will not come for you?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
The silence settled once again like dust on the abundance of metal surfaces. Without power even the ambient room sound was absent, leaving no sign of life in the walls, the consoles, or even the highly advanced holographic navigation node where they sat. The Autobot disturbed the space again. "I didn't ask my question."
The Decepticon had forgotten their bargain and replied curtly. "No, you did not."
"Then I'll ask now." He raised his head in a halfhearted glance to his rear. "In all this time of being a soldier, did you ever actually follow Megatron?" The seeker was taken by surprise and flinched as the smaller robot spoke on. "Did you start your career believing his cause and trusting him with your life? Was there ever any loyalty at all… or was it lies and deceit all the way from the beginning?" He trailed off. "…with no allies at all?"
The Decepticon was unprepared for such a personal question, and found himself embarrassed by how quickly he'd lost control of such a simple situation. "I don't see how that's any of your business!"
"You put no rules on the content and/or nature of this question trade." The Autobot said, obviously. "It's something I've actually been wondering for a long time."
The seeker puffed air through his lips. "Don't you have better things to do than think about my motivations?"
"Don't take it personally." The Autobot replied. "It's just subject I tend to dwell on. Being a soldier. Decepticons are cut more for war than Autobots but for some reason you seem less unified. It makes me wonder if you start off with one trait and learn the other or if you can only have one of them and that's it. I mean, you were one of Megatron's generals right?" The Autobot seemed to gain confidence through speech. "You obviously didn't make rank by making friends first."
"Hmn." The seeker mused. "That much you have right at least. Decepticons are not motivated by silly ideals. Our goal is solely power and all the benefits therewith."
"I see." The other said.
The seeker noted disappointment in his voice and glowered. "Is there a problem?"
"No." The other shook his head, feeling naïve. "No I guess I just hoped otherwise."
"Now see here!" The Decepticon turned to stare down at the figure seated behind him. "What gives you the gall to judge me or my actions? The decisions I make are furthering my career toward my ultimate goal! It's foolish to expect me to put my faith in a leader that I know for a fact is only temporary. My faith is only in myself and in my own thirst for victory." He rolled his eyes and returned his head to his fist. "Why in the universe am I defending myself to you?"
"Maybe you feel guilty." He suggested. "You're defending yourself against your own conscience and making excuses to keep from regretting all the backstabbing you've done."
"I'd watch your mouth, Autobot." The seeker growled. "It is ironic you use the term 'backstabbing' while your aft is completely unprotected."
"Your death threats don't scare me." The other replied with a shrug. "Die fast, die slow, big deal."
"It's a waste of my breath to try and intimidate you anyway, runt." He tossed his head importantly. "You are no threat to me."
The Autobot frowned a little. He may not have felt like a soldier, but the Decepticon's words awakened a sense of pride in his spark. "You're brushing me off pretty easy. I specialize in reconnaissance not assault, but that doesn't mean I don't pose a threat."
The seeker smirked. "You just keep telling yourself that."
"So maybe I can't tackle you." The smaller of them snorted. "But if you're on the attack, you can be sure I'll tell the bigger bots what you're doing, which direction you're flying and when you'll arrive." He grinned a little. "I'm the preparation part of the operation. That's what being a team means."
" 'Team' is merely a shorter word for 'Masters' and 'Servants'." The Decepticon said. "I only need myself."
The Autobot chanced a laugh. "And how's that working out for ya?"
"About as well as your teamwork is." He replied.
"Hmn." His posture drifted back into melancholy. "Touché"
"What does that mean?" The seeker asked, irritated. "I'm guessing an Earth phrase?"
"Yeah one of their languages." Her replied. "It means you have a point."
Now it was the Decepticon who laughed. "Of course I do! And you said it in an Earth language! What is the point of learning anything about these rodents? They are little bags of flesh and water."
"Being on Earth taught me a lot." The Autobot said. "And not just about humans. I've spent a lot of time with them and they're really not that different from Cybertronians, at least in personality. Most if not all the traits are the same."
"A waste of energy." The seeker said, turning around again. "Especially for you. Your valiant leader spends more time telling you not to step on them than actually fighting! Are you aware of what an obvious weakness that is? How can you follow a mechanism so boldly when he possesses such visible and easily utilized flaws?"
"Hey!" The Autobot sprang to his feet and turned on the Decepticon with fists raised. "Optimus Prime is the best leader our civilization has ever had! Don't you dare say another word against him!"
"Oh, I seem to have hit a live wire." The Decepticon said, thoroughly amused at the smaller robot's rage. "You are awfully quick to defend him even though he's left you for dead."
"True or not, there's nothing in this universe you could say to make me turn on Prime." The Autobot said, firmly. "Understand that right now. I believe in everything he does. If he's leaving me here, then its for a purpose and I'm behind him all the way."
"An astrosecond ago you were moping because he abandoned you and now you seem glad of it." The seeker noted. "Hypocritical if you ask me. I don't know how you live with yourself."
"Primus you're annoying." The Autobot said, dropping his fists. "You're saying things to make me angry because you think its fun. Well you can forget it." He turned his back and plopped down in his previous seat. "I'm not some toy of yours to play with."
The seeker was still wearing his smile. "You must admit that I'm right though."
The Autobot crossed his arms and rested his chin on them again. "I don't think its hypocritical to be sad about dying. There's a difference between understanding the reason and being happy about it." He frowned again as he realized who he was lecturing. "And who's the hypocrite around here? You're trying to make me feel guilty about disagreeing with my leader when you try to murder yours every thirty minutes!"
"I never promised him anything." The other said, pointedly. He didn't like Megatron, but he didn't like being called a hypocrite either. "Keep your enemies close…"
"Yeah, well, we're pretty close right now."
"So it would seem."
Silence passed again between them. The seeker waited for the Autobot to once again interrupt, finding himself strangely uncomfortable with the deafening quiet. "So.." He examined a blaster burn on his blue forearm. "How long have we been in this place?"
"About 775 astroseconds." The other replied without hesitation. "Without the fight."
"And with the fight?"
The Decepticon glanced about the room, thinking aloud. "How big would you say this space is?"
The Autobot again responded automatically. "About 600 square feet by one human measurement."
The other cast him a look "By one?"
He shrugged. "183 square meters by the other."
The Decepticon shifted weight to look at him. "Convert that to megamiles."
"00.61 by 0.73."
The seeker was impressed in spite of himself. "14,586 multiplied by the sixth power of 125."
"Wow." He turned his back again. "You're good at that."
The Autobot shook his head. "They had to replace the warrior diodes with something I guess."
"I mean the conversion of human to Cybertronian figures." He began to form a new idea. "Is that your strength, Autobot? Calculations?"
"Simple calculations." He replied. "Just volume, speed, distance… environment stuff. Easy stuff. I'm no Wheeljack."
The Seeker gestured to the array of lifeless monitors. "How about electronics? Do you know what these things do?"
"If they were on I could probably figure it out." He replied. "Off they're just blank screens."
"If we restored power to them could you teleport us out of here?"
"Probably about as well as you could." He replied, catching on. "I'm not a technical savant. This stuff is as alien to me as it is to you."
The Decepticon stood up and walked to the nearest console. "What if I were to tell you it was not as alien as you have been led to believe."
The Autobot dropped his arms and turned. "What?"
"This submarine is a compilation of the Decepticon space bridge program and human nuclear technology." He poked at one of the switches. "The bastard child of two sciences."
"If this is Decepticon made then why can't you run it?" The smaller robot asked.
"Because I didn't build it!" He replied curtly. "The terrorists did. I had nothing to do with it."
"Terrorists!?" The Autobot put his hands on his hips. "For not liking humans, you certainly pick the winners to hang with."
"At least the terrorists don't get captured and beg us for help." The seeker said, pointedly. "Plus they're expendable, just like every other mad scientist, neo-fascist bad guy we use."
"Wait..." The Autobot thought. "If you guys commissioned this, then why were you trying to invade it?"
The seeker rolled his eyes. "Because they stole it."
"Of course, they're terrorists."
The Decepticon didn't like his obvious tone. "They're all dead now so it hardly matters."
"You guys are heartless." The other said, dismounting the module and moving to help inspect the console. "People are people no matter what they're made out of."
"You kill Decepticons." The jet said. "How is that any different?"
"I wouldn't if I had a choice." The other replied. "But when you try to kill me first…"
"Hmn." The Decepticon mused to himself. "Touché."
The Autobot couldn't help but smile a little to himself. "So… you know how to work Decepticon tech for the most part."
The seeker nodded. "And you know how to work human tech."
"For the most part."
The Decepticon studied the controls. "So between the two of us we should be able to get this contraption up and running."
"If you can stand the idea of working as a team for that long." The Autobot ventured
The Decepticon felt disgusted. "I suppose I could survive for a cycle."
"Great then!" The Autobot said, more than happy to have a productive task and refreshed by the return of lost hope. "First thing's first. We need a power source."
"This facility runs on turbine engines." The seeker said. "Which we could probably reactivate if we could get out of this room. But there's no door and there's no power and no exit other than teleportation."
The Autobot cast him an incredulous look. "A bit of a design flaw don't you think?"
"Don't blame me! I didn't build it!"
"Alright alright." He said. "We'll just have to use something else."
"What else is there to use?" The Decepticon protested. "Unless we can salvage parts to build a new engine."
"Let go of your functional fixedness for two seconds and listen to my idea…" The Autobot said. "There are still two working mechanisms on this ship. You and I are running on lots of energy."
"But we need the two of us to pilot it!" The Decepticon cried. "I will not be a sacrifice so that you can escape!"
The shorter one seemed proud of himself. "Who's a threat now?" He tossed open an access panel in the control array above him. "We're surrounded by robots here. I'm sure some of them are still storing energy in their batteries. We can use that since they obviously don't need it anymore."
The Decepticon took a turn at being prideful. "How very noble of you, siphoning the dead. And so cheerfully!"
"It's what they would have wanted I'm sure." He rose on his tip toes to reach for something deep inside the bulkhead. "We'll play taps while I jimmy their charge converters."
The Decepticon watched his lack of progress. "And how do you intend to cope with the refinery difference?"
"We'll hardwire it into this computer." The Autobot said, struggling to see up into the hatch. "We only need the transporter, so we'll cut the nuclear power relays and replace them with energon. After that the conversion should be easy! If I could just…" He waved his short arm amid the mess of wires. "..erg…"
The seeker rolled his eyes and marched over to peer easily into the bulkhead. "Which one of these do you want?"
"The yellow one."
The seeker snorted. "Figures." He yanked out the cord and handed it down. "I suppose you want me to play undertaker now?"
The Autobot was pleased with his matching wire. "It'd be nice."
"Bah." The jet stomped off into the graveyard. "My talents are wasted here."
He reached for the nearest Autobot but the technician stopped him with a shout. "No! Not one of mine."
The seeker let the badly damaged robot drop from his hands. "What do you mean 'not one of yours' ?"
"We're not using any of my people for fuel." The Autobot said, wagging the cord at him before jamming it into a plug on the surface panel. "It's not safe."
"Not respectful you mean." His partner said, accusingly. "You think your Autobots are better than us."
"No." The other replied. "Well, honestly yes, but for argument's sake no." He jumped and ripped a chunk of cord from the open panel. "Think about it. The teleporter is Decepticon in nature, so therefore it must take Decepticon brand energy to run it."
"You're making excuses."
"No no, it makes sense." The Autobot insisted. "It's a lot like human blood types."
The seeker groaned and hated himself for advancing the conversation. "It comes in types?"
"Yeah, like fuel grades." The Autobot began to untangle the web of wires. "You gotta give them the right type or they'll explode or something. It sounds pretty complicated. Spike says he's a 'B', so I don't know if there are 26 types to mix and match or what. I'm not a doctor."
Again, the seeker couldn't deny his curiosity. "Why 26?"
"Letters of the English alphabet." He said, crossing the wires over each other in a braid. "Don't worry about it, its not important."
"And thank Unicron for that." He huffed. "All this human mumbo jumbo is fraying my relays." He walked to one of his fallen comrades and drew him up off the floor. "I don't even know who this is."
"You guys are real tight aren't ya?"
"I don't think I knew one of them. I was leading a reinforcement squad." He answered, dragging the body unceremoniously. "They were either new or old."
The Autobot paused and sighed. "I knew mine. Not, like, best friends, but everyone had a story." He watched the dead Decepticon drop to the floor. "I wonder if I could have done more to save them."
The seeker groaned. "Oh please."
The Autobot slid him a glance. "I'm the only survivor of my entire squad! I'm supposed to feel guilty!"
"Not if I'd killed you straight off." The jet said, going back for another body.
"But then where would you be now?" He asked. "Staring at a blank screen wishing it would talk to you?"
"Shut up and ravage the corpses." The Decepticon scowled. "I want to get out of here."
The bot sighed and turned his first subject onto his back. "I'm assuming the power cells are in the same place as ours?"
"How should I know?"
He looked up and smirked. "Okay, so I'll stop asking questions."
The con gathered two more volunteers and returned dragging them by their feet. "Will this be enough?"
"I dunno. We can hope." He patched them into the console haphazardly. "I barely know this stuff, I'm learning as I go along."
The seeker turned his back to investigate the consoles again. "Fantastic. You're going to murder us both."
"Its better than not trying." The Autobot protested. "You complain about everything I do, but I don't see you offering to help."
"I did the lifting, that should be enough to keep you from nagging me."
"Okay then," the bot held up a loose plug. "Earn your keep and put that in the top speaker jack."
"Why you ungrateful - " The Decepticon did as he was told. "This one?"
"The other one."
"The other one." He wedged the prong into the outlet. "When will we know if it works?"
"It should be working now..." The Autobot opened a panel near the floor and inspected a circuit board. "Hmn... Nothings going. I think it needs a jump."
"Do you need another battery?"
"No, I don't think static energy will do it." He sat back on his heel and clicked open an access hatch on his yellow forearm, flexing his hand. He reached in and started tugging on one of his own wires.
The seeker took a start. "What are you doing!?"
"Giving one for the team." He replied, bracing himself. " 'One' being my functioning left hand."
"But you need that!" He cried. "If this is some pathetic attempt to live up to your dead friends-"
"It's all I can think of!" He took a deep breath, then yanked and snapped the cord at one end, sparks flying from his wrist mechanics. He winced hard in a paralyzing cringe. "Oooow!"
"You're mad." The Decepticon deadpanned.
He absorbed the rest of the shock and kicked the bulkhead open wider. "No more than your average robot." He hovered the live wire over the circuitry in the wall. "Here goes nothing."
The Autobot paused and raised an eye ridge at him. "Let's keep it at 'nothing' for my sake, alright? Here goes." He thrust the frayed end into the works and jumped back as a rain of sparks poured out. Above him the whole wall of monitors flashed white then died again. A faint hum migrated through the chamber.
The Decepticon looked around, unsure of weather to hope or fear. "Did it -?"
"Look!" The Autobot pointed his limp hand at the main screen. The monitor was cranking slowly to life, a recharging meter cascading up the side. "We did it!"
"Good." The Decepticon said, watching the bar rise. "Is it enough?"
"It's going through what looks like a standard startup so I guess so." The other replied, cutting the power to his forearm and tucking the loose wire inside the yellow hatch. "I think we'll be alright for one jump."
The Decepticon nodded his approval and listened to the ambient room noise as computers on every side channeled energy through their works. The two of them stood together watching program after program load normally, the screens lighting the space with an artificial glow.
The Autobot looked around with happiness and pride, his desperate eternity now significantly shorter. Still, he felt like he had one last question to ask before the two players could quit and go home. "So..." The Decepticon glanced down to him. "Why didn't you kill me straight off?"
The Decepticon snapped back to the consoles to avoid his upward gaze. There wasn't a good explanation why he had not carried out his many threats. Perhaps it was because the two of them were the only ones here who were present for the initial landing on Earth. Maybe it was because he didn't want to sit and wait for death alone. Of course he was determined to admit as little as possible, stiffening before providing his reply. "Because I thought you might have been useful to me."
"Uh huh." The Autobot didn't buy it.
The seeker sensed his skepticism and for some reason felt offended. Before he could stop, he found himself telling the truth. "And I like you, runt. You have spirit and guts even though you are small and insignificant." He regretted the words and tried to recover. "A command taker." He felt ill. "Like a good little peon."
"Ah ha." The other said grinning. He looked up again, more relaxed. "I never liked you."
The seeker stopped kicking himself and crossed his arms with approval. "And you shouldn't! We are still mortal enemies, and I will not be so forgiving next time."
"Yeah." He looked back to the monitors. "And I guess I have to thank you for that."
"For being unmerciful? Then you're welcome."
"No for giving me a next time." He glanced back to the navigation node where a holographic map of the ocean floor was flickering to life. "I'd given up completely. I never would have tried anything if you hadn't said something, and for that... Well... I guess I owe you my life."
The Decepticon paused and looked down to share a glance with the Autobot, recognizing the accomplishment they had worked together to achieve against all possible odds. He uncrossed his arms and extended his hand. "We'll call it even."
The Autobot shook with his only operational arm. "Even!" The smaller bot turned his attention to the monitor in front of them, which had finally booted the molecular transport system. "Looks like this is our stop!"
The Decepticon moved to the controls, finding with surprise that the space-bridge operating system had survived the terrorist programmers. The transportation interface was as natural as his own recharging bay back at Decepticon headquarters. "Why this is a cinch! I could run this easily!"
"Great! Get us out of here!"
"Right." He punched buttons. "The beam will activate in three astroseconds. Move to the receiver. The battery is barely holding a charge."
"I'm trusting you to come with me." The Autobot said, rushing to the platform. "This may be our only shot!"
"I'm right behind you!" He punched down the initiation button and dashed toward the back of the chamber at full stride. The Autobot was actually relieved when the Decepticon stepped onto the platform, the last astrosecond ticking away.
The teleporter whirred to life, a faint white glow covering its two occupants. There was a moment of fear and doubt, but the beam began its meticulous work, and the tech bot could feel his exterior structure begin to dissolve. He couldn't see the other robot through the light but spoke anyway, out of pure and joyful relief. "I guess this means we'll live..."
The Decepticon finished the statement in a voice of mirrored gladness, "...to fight another day?"
They blindly shared a final glance before filtering out through the wires leaving what had been their cell cold, dead, and empty.