Author's Note: For those who don't know, this story can stand on its own but it's a continuation of Come Around joined with No Easy Answers. There might be a reference here and there you won't get without having read them, but it's not that big of a deal. You can get by without it. This one is going to be a lot more grim and dark in general. Angst out the wazoo, if you like that kind of stuff. Also this will be done on a much looser schedule. I'll try not to go any longer than 3 weeks between new chapters though. Enjoy and by all means feel free to leave comments. Transformers belong to Hasbro and Takara.
A Blessing and A Curse
World of Hurt
Somewhere in South Dakota.
Like a lot of people, she had always suspected it, but never really, truly believed in her heart that she would go to hell for what she had done. Those days were over now. The creature dwelling in the darkness far beneath the ground in the old silo that once served as a field headquarters was unrecognizable. The events being inflicted were the first of their kind.
The thing that used to be Erica J. Dawes, erstwhile Decepticon ally, was wishing for death that would not come. She was blind, deaf, immobilized and in indescribable pain. She could not move but she could scream. Her voice tore into the darkness over and over at pitches and lengths that she would have been incapable of otherwise…for all the good it did. She no longer had a sense of time passing. There was just the now and the constant feeling of burning and being torn apart. The only consolation was that she could not see what must have been demons or possibly the devil himself administering the torture. The nanites, which were the true cause of this suffering, were only acting in her best interests. They did not think in the same fashion as truly sentient beings but they knew what they were doing. It was unfortunate that this particular undertaking would last so long, but they did not operate on anyone's timetable but their own.
The destroyed silo might have gained a reputation for being haunted if anyone had been around to hear the tortured shrieks. Was it possible to go insane from this kind of agony? She did not know but was certain it would happen. The pain did not lessen but the screams were silenced after the nanites created a sort of pod. The gelatinous substance encased its subject. The processor had been maintained with no loss of content and rudimentary support systems had formed to sustain life while the nanites constructed a sub-frame to carry everything else that was coming. Now would begin the work of creating true systems and subsystems as well as the outer casing, a task that would be lengthy. For this the subject needed to be mercifully put off line for a while.
The Rooftop of Darkmount, Cybertron.
Skywarp could survey a great portion of Polyhex from his lofty perch. They had left Earth a while ago, but it didn't feel like so long to him. It was a wonderful thing to soar through the skies of his home planet again, to swoop and race among the tall spires of various buildings all without being shot at. The rooftop of the forbidding stronghold was the place he liked to go to think sometimes, or just get away from everyone else. He sat there on a ledge with his legs dangling over the side, swinging them back and forth a little as he thought. Things were going kind of slow but ever forward. The planet was gradually being restored. The main focus was on defense for the time being. There was no way the Autobots would just roll over and let them have Cybertron without some kind of fight. It would be a while before that fight happened though, probably.
The quiet was disturbed by another seeker approaching from behind at a great rate of speed. About 3 seconds later, Thundercracker passed above, no more than a couple of feet over his head. Such shenanigans were usually unlike him but he'd been pretty jubilant since they got back. The blue jet banked sharply and came back toward him before transforming and landing heavily.
"Watch out. You're going to go right through the roof doing that," Skywarp said.
Thundercracker grinned. Usually it was him that had to do the gentle admonishing. "What are you worried about, Sunshine?" He asked.
"Nothing. I'm just saying."
The mech walked over and sat on the ledge beside his gloomy friend.
"Maybe you ought to start hanging out with Dirge and Deadend," and then after a brief pause, "'Warp, you've got to snap out of this."
"You are not. You're still blaming yourself. I can tell."
"I just keep thinking there was something I could have done."
"How do you know?"
"Because I know. You've been in this war for how long now? Erica knew the risks and accepted them like the rest of us. Be proud of that. And you actually talked Megatron into letting you put a cenotaph in the Decepticon crypt, which I still can hardly believe, by the way."
"What, that I did it or he allowed it?"
"That you had the struts to ask at all."
"Yeah, well it's just a little plaque and he made me put it in a side hall away from everyone else."
"I was there, remember? And you had to know there's no way in the Pit he'd stand for honoring a human the same as one of us."
"I guess not."
They sat there side by side for a while in silence before Thundercracker put a friendly hand gently on his wingmate's shoulder.
"Let it go, Warp. You have to get on with your life."
"Come on. We have an assignment that'll take your mind off of it," he said, getting to his feet and balancing carefully on the ledge with both arms out for added stability.
"Megatron wants an aerial survey of Chaar to see if it'd be a good spot for an outpost."
"Chaar? That dump?"
"Yes. I can't imagine it either, but that's the job. Let's go. I'll race you." And then the mech leapt up and transformed, throttling up to top speed almost instantly. Skywarp followed, teleporting to make up the distance he was already behind.
The cocoon like encasement was beginning to dry out and crack open. The occupant was unaware of any of it but that would soon change. The first sense to return was sound. It was dead silent below the ground initially and so at first it wasn't obvious that hearing was restored. But then the slightest movement brought a rustling, cracking sound reminiscent of dried out corn husks. Movement? The being suddenly realized that, yes she could move a little and it did not hurt. The pain was gone but she felt weird. There was a sense of touch but it wasn't what she was used to. It was muted somehow. Blackness still surrounded her but then that too was banished in an unexpected way. When the optics suddenly activated, it startled her. It was very much like watching a television come on, only faster. The only things visible at first were indicators of her condition and those were blinking an angry, warning red. These were located more in her peripheral vision. And then she could see. It was like night vision goggles only much, much better. What was that right in front of her face?
The movement required to reach up busted the cocoon open and she could see all around her. Memory identified it as the silo after a brief pause. What happened?
There's no time. Get to the surface! A familiar voice whispered in her mind. She knew it but could not name it just yet. She felt slow and stupid as though heavily sedated.
The red status indicators warned that system shutdown was imminent. Only the most basic of functions were still operable. Why the surface? It didn't matter. The nanites had done all they could with what they had. The low voltage power supply was nearly depleted. A recharge from some other kind of source was required.
The doors for the silo and the secret entrance were just in the next room. She carefully got to her feet with a lot of metallic scraping sounds. What had happened to her? She was too out of it for the vast changes to really register. It was like being in a dream or hypnotized. And her vision was not clear enough to tell much by looking at what parts of herself she could see. A few steps were all that were managed before falling to the floor with a loud crash. Power was going to fail very soon. All the torture would have been for nothing. She slowly pulled herself across the floor and into the next room. It was painfully obvious that the silo doors were not an option. The whole thing was caved in and destroyed. The secret entrance was much too far for her to make it now. Damn. Her vision found one little bright spot, literally. The debris had fallen in just such a way that a tiny shaft of sunlight broke through and shone on the floor. It was no bigger in diameter than a dime.
There! Get to the light! Hurry! The voice in her head said again. What the fuck? What would that do? With the last bits of her failing energy she managed to get to the spot. Other systems began to shut down as she entered stasis. Unbeknownst to this being, a default of stasis unique to her was that several covers slid back to reveal solar panels of a sort. The nanites had picked the idea from her mind and then improved them with their own knowledge. With enough time, she would even be able to recharge with just starlight. Unfortunately the miniscule amount of sunshine was not constant. As the planet revolved the light would come and go. It was, however, enough to keep her alive but not enough to come out of stasis.
The rest of his grand ambition was about to come to fruition. The destruction of the Autobots was at hand. The ship was under their control and littered with the wreckage of his deactivated enemies. The last to be destroyed was Ironhide. He had been a thorn in their sides for almost ever but not anymore. Megatron was about as excited as he ever showed. Next they would infiltrate Autobot City on Earth and slaughter each and every last inhabitant right down to the humans.
The view screen showed the wretched blue and white planet growing larger as they gradually began reentry to its atmosphere. The mech considered decimating the entire place just for all the trouble it had caused him. But that would be wasteful. First they would drain every bit of energy THEN they would destroy it.
Going home to Cybertron renewed the fighting spirit of his warriors. All of them were focused on their assigned tasks. Megatron looked particularly hard at Starscream who was busy monitoring the engine readouts. That vile, contemptible traitor. He had been behaving himself for an awfully long time, so it was highly likely that he was up to something. Perhaps when all the Autobots had been rendered into so much junk, he would take his Air Commander and do likewise to him. The seeker was good at what he did, but he was not irreplaceable. Given time, either Thundercracker or one of the others could take his place. Even Skywarp might manage it now that he had stopped mourning the human and was back to normal. They were loyal and with no Autobots left, there would be no more serious threats. For now though, allowing Starscream to remain functional was a necessary evil. These thoughts were interrupted by the sight of Autobot City coming into view.
"Prepare yourselves," he said to the other mechs. "We stand on the brink of ultimate triumph!" Shortly after this, the entire ship pitched hard to one side as it was struck by laserfire.
The ensuing battle lasted the rest of that day, through the night and into the next day. For some of the citizenry living in the Great Plains region of the United States, the second day was notable for reasons that had nothing do with the fighting.
It was a record tornado outbreak. All along a dry line stretching up and down the Midwest there was destruction and many deaths. Though many people would not believe it, they were actually fortunate. The biggest of the twisters remained far away from populated areas. Or rather, areas populated by humans. A gargantuan f-5 tornado made contract with the ground and began a path that meandered across a large portion of northwest South Dakota. It encountered no towns but it did find some abandoned farmsteads, trees and what looked to be an area of fenced in rubble. The tall fence was topped with razor wire and was in place to keep anyone from snooping about and possibly being killed by hidden booby traps, but that was no deterrent to the weather. The fence was ripped away as though made of string. The big pile of twisted metal and smashed concrete was also affected. One or two big concrete chunks were easily tossed away and the entire mound was shifted over and down before the deadly wind wandered away, taking with it some sheets of tin from a rusty shed that was riddled with holes from some gunfire. It would be years before the pieces were found wedged partway into trees and the ground like giant blades.
The next day featured cloudless blue skies. Residents of the affected areas began to gather the pieces of their lives and decide on what to do. At the ruined silo, life was about to begin again. In rearranging the debris, the storm allowed the sunshine to penetrate far below ground in a large beam. A beam that fell upon exposed solar panels and began to create a substantial charge.
Skywarp could not believe what he was hearing. Throw out the injured to eliminate weight? He knew Starscream's ambitions, of course, but never really believed that it would mean his own life.
The battle was almost won, but then there was another wave of Autobots. Somehow the ones on Earth had managed to contact their fellows and then it got ugly. It was a day full of things that he never really expected to see. The main thing was the destruction of the much vaunted Optimus Prime, but maybe even more shocking was the damage done to their leader. Skywarp could tell Megatron wasn't dead yet but he had been unable to get back to Astrotrain on his own and was slumped against a wall saying nothing. Energon and internal repair fluid were leaking out at an alarming rate. Nearby, Thundercracker had not fared much better. There were also several badly damaged Insecticons, or maybe they were just clones, he couldn't tell. Internal systems were failing one by one. He could feel his strength starting to ebb. All of his leaks must have been internal since his exterior didn't look too bad. Oddly, he could feel a slight tickle. It was not unfamiliar and at times was sort of comforting. It was his good luck charm still dangling from a control lever. The four leaf clover was swinging wildly as Skywarp struggled to stay on his feet. In the corner of his vision the gray and purple mech could see the warning indicators flashing urgently, but there was nothing he could do and none of the others seemed interested in helping the wounded.
Starscream actually went through the pretense of putting the matter to a vote, though he never once made optic contact with either of his former comrades. The dying and wounded were easily outnumbered. Thundercracker gave Skywarp a look of pure desperation. He could not speak and his direct communication link would not produce anything but static. The blue mech was still strong enough to stand but the strength that had carried him through so many times in the past was rapidly deserting him.
And then the healthier members of the faction fell upon the wounded and unceremoniously forced them out into the void. Skywarp tried to look stronger than he felt but was too weak to struggle when he was pushed back toward the open door and there was no one to help him. He saw that his best friend had been ejected just ahead of him. His optics snapped to static for a few seconds. When it cleared he was adrift in space. Thundercracker was beside him and it soon became apparent that even if it still worked, trying to contact him via direct communication link was pointless. His best friend was dead. A few minutes after that, Skywarp's luck finally ran out as his optics faded from a dim red to black as he followed to whatever awaited the deactivated.
Thousands of miles away, and at nearly the same instant, new optics illuminated and began to look at the world as though seeing it for the first time.