Disclaimer: Transformers © Hasbro/Takara. Any and all creative liberties are by the author, and in no way are connected to The Powers That Be.
Inspired by the LJ prompts.
The First Set : The Rookie's Tale
Log Entry #3: If I Never Knew You – Stationed at Vos.
They generated the only lights in the entirety of the city. They were perched on one of the great towers that made up the lonely metropolis, among the other high towers of Cybertron's last Golden Age, the crumbling legacy of those glory days. Few Cybertronians ventured into the once mighty Aerial city once the civil war engulfed it, for fear of collapsing buildings, scavengers, the marauding Neutrals, and the creatures of the dark, and who could blame them? Aerial Cybertronians rarely descended to ground level, and what festered in the darkness was never their concern. They lorded the skies and their buildings soared upwards with them.
But to the Autobot and Decepticon ground soldiers, Vos was a terrifying place. The only Decepticon visitors were former residents and they rarely stayed for longer than several cycles. Autobots were a rarer presence; they had no business in a district so close to the Decepticon strongholds. No Autobot ventured into the borders of Vos by himself, but no group of Autobots would come within miles.
Unless they were forcibly stationed there.
His squad members moaned and groaned all the way from the safety of Ky-Alexa to this Allspark-forsaken metaphorical hellhole, and they only shut up when they were assaulted by Neutral Aerials while scaling a tower. Vos' many skyscrapers were connected by impossibly stable arching bridges, but first one must get to the top and only two Autobots in the squad could fly.
Eventually the Neutrals flew away, either satisfied that they were no threat – and they really weren't – or bored. None of the Autobots seriously injured, they pulled themselves to the top, waited three cycles for Crosswise to double check their wounds and patch up the more severe damages, and slowly crossed the bridges from one tower to the next, until they reached the center of the city.
And there they watched, and waited. For what, they didn't know. Presumably they were there to observe any possible Decepticon activity, with "possible" being the key word. As the cycles dragged by, "possible" became the word. Except for their brush with the Neutrals, they saw nothing and no one other than themselves. They were the only ones in this cold and windy world.
They resorted to long shifts, two at a time, while the others rested and recharged for their turn. This would be nothing out of the ordinary – it was protocol – if Springer hadn't decided on his own to partner up disagreeable Autobots. The others protested the idea, with Arcee, Gears, and Blades the most vocal, but he acknowledged Springer's point – that they were sent to Vos precisely because the team wasn't getting along with each other.
One had to wonder what Prowl was thinking when he first compiled the roster for this team. Was there a glitch in his circuits, or was it just one of his rare days? And who would've thought the lieutenant's idea of fostering teamwork was stationing them in a ghost city for a few megacycles, looking for Decepticons that weren't there.
So here he was, sitting at the edge of the skyscraper with his optics on the skyline. His optics strained to see the blue white haze just beyond the horizon. There was nothing of interest here to look at; they've been here for over fifty cycles, and Springer and Blades' recons informed them of all they needed to know about the city. Unable to see beyond the horizon, he tilted his head up to the winking stars.
He heard his partner shift, the fifth time in the past thirty kliks, and said, «Bored already?»
Her tone was sour. «Aren't you?»
He shrugged, having nothing to say, but she didn't move for a full cycle and a half.
His audio receptors were overly keen, picking up the faintest noise in the eerie lull. He could hear the slow shift of gears underneath the armor of the resting Autobots behind him, and the furious hum of Arcee's Spark Chamber. Underneath his swinging feet he thought he heard a howl winding around the bases of the buildings; preliminary reports and accounts from the Aerials who once lived here said that the outskirts of Vos were tame but the deeper one went in, the windier ground level became. Whether this was the result of the enormous towers or a natural occurrence nobody knew, but he was glad none of his squad members lost their footing while crossing from one tower to the next. Springer and Blades were always on standby, but even the slightest mishap was bad news, especially this far from the Autobot strongholds.
They really were alone.
He felt the building vibrate faintly, heard something banging against the ledge, and turned to the femme. «You mind?»
She glared at him but stopped swinging her legs. She muttered, «There's nothing here to notice us anyways…»
He stiffened. That was something he still wasn't used to, besides her opinion of him. She really had to stop retorting to whatever's on his mind.
The next shift was thirty-six cycles away, a very long time. This was their fifth shift together, and as far as he could tell they were not getting along. The squad had spent a number of megacycles here now, and while Springer's suggestion seemed to patch things up between Gears and Blades – Smokescreen was quiet, Brawn was too amiable, and Crosswise and High Wire were already committed to each other before the team was formed – there was no love lost between him and Arcee.
He heard gears shift, pieces click, and he turned around again to see her disassembling the crossbow cannon that was balancing on her lap.
«Um…what are you doing?»
She paused and looked up at him. «What does it look like I'm doing?»
«Besides taking your weapon apart?»
She shrugged. «I'm cleaning it.»
And once again the conversation died.
Something in his Spark told him not to let it happen again. Wasn't that what got his squad holed up in the ghost city in the first place? Of course he could very well ignore Springer's suggestion – he did have the authority after all; this was his squad – but he knew much better than that; he was the youngest of the nine Autobots and Springer was the only one who really knew her.
So why couldn't he talk her into accepting him? But of course, she must be one of those types who couldn't be swayed by the voices of others. Either she convinced herself, or he made the effort. Nobody else could do it. Not even Prowl.
Like Prowl would even bother.
«How did you get that cannon?» he ventured, optics watching her meticulous movement.
She paused. «Ol' Grumps got it for me. Found it, remodeled it himself.»
Silence. He looked away, and then held out his arm, staring at the pulse cannon. He transformed it, flexed his hand, and turned back to see the femme watching him. Perplexed, he only stared back.
«Ever wonder why the Allspark made you that way?» she finally said.
A confusing question, but at least she instigated the conversation this time. He shook his head. «You?»
She studied a piece of metal in her small hands. «You mechs are lucky your weapons are built into you.»
He'd seen her lose that cannon before, in the middle of a battle outside of Autobase. She had no problem taking a Decepticon drone's detached arm and firing its built-in pulse cannon at the opposing force. As far as he could tell, Arcee had nothing to complain about.
The femme startled him when she continued talking. «I thought this was a dumb idea, especially since Springer has a shift all by himself. He's an idiot, but he's not as stupid as Hot Rod. If Hot Rod was here, he'd go down to ground level, just because he's that thickheaded.»
He heard of this "Hot Rod" before; Ironhide's friend Kup spoke highly of him. Ironhide wasn't one to dole out praise, but even the Prime's chief weapons specialist approved of the rookie's swift elevation to squad commander. And then he realized that she was treating Hot Rod with the same contempt she had for him. Was she jealous of them, young rookies who were leading their own teams?
And then he remembered the rumors in the barracks back up north, talks of southern gladiators who chose to side with the Autobots. They were a rough bunch, the rumors said, and they knew how to kill. All that experience, all that skill, and they were forced to tag alongside those who had no idea what they were doing, except Hot Rod was from the south, too, which made things all the more confusing.
«You're a gladiator,» he said aloud.
He turned at the sudden noise that followed, and saw her expertly reassemble her crossbow cannon. Then her hot blue optics looked up at him. «So?»
«What's it like?»
«Why do you care?»
«Why shouldn't I? I'm the commander; shouldn't I make an effort to know?»
Her retort was spoken as softly as her voice capacitor would allow it. «What do you know about me? You weren't even alive for most of it.»
She said it, as plain as the infamous grin permanently impressed in Sideswipe's faceplates. And he had no way to respond to it. He couldn't even look away. She was right; he was one of the youngest Autobots in the ranks, coming in from the northern regions of Cybertron. He knew nothing of the illegal blood sport that thrived in the southern states. He had no idea what Cybertron's Golden Age looked like. Truth was, whatever he thought he was fighting for looked nothing like what the others were fighting for.
She was making a point. He didn't belong.
She reacted sharply, as if he hit her. Her faceplates were perfectly blank, but her body language betrayed her wariness.
«I can't explain why the Allspark didn't create me any sooner. I can't tell you why I was raised up north, with those who eventually became the Autobots' High Command. It just happened. So can you please, for at least this watch, just forget that? I mean, what do you have against me?»
She straightened up, though her optics never left his. Then she turned away, latching her cannon to her back, and drew her long limbs up against her. «…nothing.»
They were silent for the rest of the shift.
He slowly rose to his feet to alert Smokescreen and Brawn of their shift, but didn't expect the femme to follow him into the tower. He gave her only a cursory glance before stalking inside, but froze when the small Autobot took a hold of his arm.
«Look, I…» He was startled when her grip on his arm tightened considerably. Sensors exclaimed at the denting armor. «I a-I'm sorry.»
Wait, what? Did she just… «…what for?»
«What do you think?» was the snappy retort. He raised a faceplate at the response, and the series of very fast curses flying out of her voice capacitor. He recognized a great many of them, as Ironhide tended to spew them out when something went wrong.
His sensors demanded attention to his armor and he asked, «Can you let go? Your denting my-»
She released him and strode inside the tower.
In two kliks, Smokescreen and Brawn staggered out, gears shifting as they roused themselves out of stasis. While Smokescreen gave him a cursory nod, Brawn stopped to address him with a rather booming, «Nothing threatening-»
«Please, Brawn, keep it down,» he cut in. «Nothing yet, but you'll never know.»
«Eh, that's what we always say,» the bulky Autobot replied in a much lower tone. «Springer's next, right?»
He nodded. Brawn turned to follow Smokescreen out to the ledge but, and he didn't know why, he blurted out, «Can I ask you something?»
«The…the Autobots from the south…what happened?»
Brawn's optics flickered for a nanoklik. «Simple – down there's where the outcasts go. That's where the former Lord High Protector Megatron recruited his army. That's where the war started. Why?»
«Just…» He fine-tuned his audio processors and picked up nothing from within the tower. «Springer seems fine, but Arcee…she's always so angry.»
«They were both sent south for the same reason,» Smokescreen said, appearing silently next to Brawn. «They're more prone to violence than the rest of us…except Blades, of course.»
Their communications expert then walked out of the conversation. Brawn shrugged. «He's right, you know. We're just lucky we have Springer, and Arcee. If we never knew them, we wouldn't have lasted as long as we did.»
Brawn turned and followed his partner out to the ledge for their watch.
The gears under his armor shifted, sighed. Brawn and Smokescreen were right, of course. They were all right. The Autobots from the south had no inhibitions when it came to violence, and that was the reason why Prowl took great care in including at least one in each team roster. That was why Ironhide was part of the High Command. That was why both Inferno and the Dynobots were located at Autobase. That was why Hot Rod, a non-gladiator, headed his own squad. That was why the noble Silverbolt included a few southern Aerials in his elite team.
And that was why he felt more excluded than ever from his squad members.
His body began gearing down as he walked into the darkness of the spacious round room, taking care to avoid stepping on a fellow Autobot or stumbling down a flight of stairs somewhere next to the wall. Apparently the Aerials did spend some time on their feet. Where the spiraling staircase went none of them knew; the way was blocked off by rubble.
He settled down in a metaphorical corner, waiting for his body to enter stasis, when he noticed electric blue optics burning through the darkness at him.
«You're not in stasis,» Bumblebee said softly, stopping the shutdown momentarily.
The pair of optics tilted to the side, and then straightened.
«…if I…» Arcee said hesitantly, «…if I never knew you…things would have been very different.»
Then his optics were the only ones burning in the darkness.
Author's Note: It was insinuated in the prequel graphic novel to the 2007 movie that Bumblebee was the leader of a team of Autobots, so I took the idea and ran with it.
Reviews deeply appreciated.