This idea was born in my head when a friend and I were discussing Perceptor and how one could explain his cannonical quirks. If you want to have a link to the conversation to find the logic behind this, PM me or leave the question in a review. My beta is Dreaming of Everything, so I have a bunch to thank her for. Thank you, Dreams!
By the way, I (basically) got the name 'Finehold' from Sir Thursday by Garth Nix, so credit is given where credit is due.
Warning: child abuse.
Light. Bright light.
"Arise, my creation."
A raspy voice. It sounded hard. Hurtful.
But he didn't have anything to compare it with, did he?
"He will have more trouble adapting to your military schedule than the average drone. He is much more complex; you have to treat him with more care than you would normally."
"That is fine. I will raise my child to be the perfect weapon. Our enemy will never know what's coming."
He onlined his optics, wanting to see who was talking. They were calling him their child. So that would make the ones talking his creators. His parents.
He wanted to see his parents.
Colors swam before his optics, only to sharpen dramatically. Look at all the dimensions of light! Look how tiny particles seemed to zip through the air! What was this gas he was cycling through his filters? He wanted to know.
But he looked up to first see his creators. There were four alien-looking things, things he knew instinctively weren't like him. They had five masksto serve as faces.They looked upon him with no love, merely satisfaction and accomplishment.
He looked around, wanting to see the creators that loved him. He was met with two pairs of red optics. These were the ones like him, but they didn't love him. He knew their names. It was ingrained in him before they had even spoken to him.
"Welcome to the land of the living, Perceptor," Megatron chuckled.
"Perceptor? Perceptor, are you there?"
Perceptor was snapped out of his daze by Jazz's insistent voice. "I apologize; I seem to have drifted away for the moment."
"We asked you about where you came from before you joined the Autobots," Wheeljack supplied helpfully.
"I know. I do not remember very well; I believe I was created in Trinox and taken away by the Decepticons when they attacked my city. I was rather young at the time," Perceptor said vaguely, waving his hand a little.
Jazz, Tracks, and Wheeljack seemed satisfied by his answer. Perceptor simply dipped his head and took a sip of energon, making himself unnoticeable.
"Trinox? I lived in Morin," Jazz said. "That means we probably lived pretty close. I barely remember the battle at Trinox; it's mostly a mess of distant smoke and my creator shouting. I joined up with the Autobots a couple hundred years later, when I was able to fight properly."
"I lived in Iacon my whole life. I was made by Autobot Steelfist to be a fighter and inventor, Primus rest his spark."
Perceptor nodded and listened to his comrades' stories quietly, knowing that they didn't have to lie about their past.
Soundwave looked down at the small blue and black Decepticon sparkling. The child had a data disk clutched to his chest, as others his age clutched their toys.
"Term to identify me: unsatisfactory. Reason: too soft and familiar. Designation: Soundwave."
The small child winced at his creator's metallic tone. "My apologies, Fa… Soundwave."
Soundwave looked at the sparkling at his feet with nodiscernable expression. The sparkling had a black helm with a silver face and a black color scheme, painted blue only at the dips that made his waist. His ruby optics were fixed on his creator's feet, waiting to be acknowledged.
Soundwave seemed to soften a little, if that were at all possible. "Reason for approaching me, Perceptor?"
Perceptor bit his lower lip lightly, shifting his weight a little. Soundwave wasn't very affectionate, but he was a big improvement on the other Decepticons. The other Decepticons thought of him as a wimp for being so timid, but he knew in his spark he could do things none of them ever dreamed of.
"I found this data disk. It was talking about a group called 'Autobots.' What are Autobots?"
Soundwave seemed surprised, but it was hard to tell. Irritability, surprise, contentment… it all looked basically the same on Soundwave.
"You are… abnormally intelligent. Only online for three hundred years, and you already have been scouring the data banks."
Perceptor's optics flashed in surprise when Soundwave deviated from his normal speech patterns, but the moment passed. "I want to learn everything there is to know," Perceptor said earnestly.
"Yes, that is admirable. It is a useful tool. You are ready to learn of the Autobots." Soundwave picked up the small sparkling, letting Perceptor loop his arms around the cassette player's neck and resting his head against the blue Decepticon's chest. It was a small, subtle, tender gesture that Soundwave didn't tell him to let go or to act like a full grown mech. Soundwave was much more affectionate than Perceptor's other creator, though that really wasn't saying much.
"Perceptor, what we have not told you for the sake of the development of your mind is the fact that the Decepticons are at war. The Autobots have run a corrupt regime in Cybertron, a dictatorship, that the Decepticons wish to overturn."
"A dictatorship? What did they do?" Perceptor asked, looking up with bright, curious optics.
"The Autobot hierarchy depends on an artifact called the Matrix of Leadership. The Matrix is said to be a fragment of Primus's spark. The Matrix chooses an Autobot to lead all of Cybertron every time the last leader has passed on. The Matrix, however, is not a part of Primus's spark. It is an Autobot hoax that uses Primus's name to elect one of their own as the leader, and they oppress the Decepticons into small areas without voices of their own. Because of this, Megatron and the Decepticons are at war with the Autobots, to liberate Cybertron from their tyranny. When we win, Megatron shall rule Cybertron."
Perceptor couldn't stop the chill that crawled down his back at the thought of his other creator. Cold, harsh, disapproving Megatron. It was hard to think of him as a liberator, but if Soundwave said it, it had to be true.
The little Decepticon sparkling rested a hand on the insignia painted on the center of his chest. He looked up at Soundwave quietly. "Well, if the Autobots are like that, we will win, won't we? We are in the right, and they will see that. In every war, there must be sacrifices. You are either an ally or an enemy, and you cannot spare thought to those that stand against you, can you? The Decepticons can crush the corrupt Autobots, and I will help them," he said, his eyes burning. He slammed a fist against his chest, a low humming coming from his light cannon, warming it up in readiness.
"Attitude: appropriate. Pledges: honorable. The Decepticons are proud to have you."
Perceptor's spark glowed in light of Soundwave's approval, and he rested his head against his creator's chest again.
"Whoa, will you look at the time!" Jazz exclaimed, taking note of his internal chronometer.
"It's past eleven. I truly must get to Prowl for my shift!" Tracks said, immediately standing out and striding out the door.
"By Primus, you'd think that the universe would end if Prowl didn't get the patrollers exactly on time," Jazz said, amused. "By the way, 'Jack, I think we've lost Perce."
Wheeljack looked to his friend, noticing how he was studying the dregs of his energon blankly, like they held all the secrets whispered from the mouths of gods into divine ears. There was something… off about his expression. Wheeljack wasn't sure what it was. Maybe it was… fear? Anger? Sorrow? Well, he didn't think he had ever actually seen the scientist angry. He'd never seen him show fear, either. For lack of a better term, Perceptor looked upset. It was so subtle that Wheeljack was probably the only one who picked up on it, and even then it was probably only because he was a close friend.
"Hey, Percy? It's time to recharge," Wheeljack said, gently nudging the scientist. Perceptor snapped out of his daze immediately, and he made a reflexive jerking motion with his hand, like he was trying to deflect a blow to his face, but he swiftly forced his hand down.
"You okay, Perce? You drifted off for a minute there," Jazz said, flashing an easy smile.
"I am perfectly alright. I apologize. I was merely… lost in thought." Perceptor's mouth curled into a smile of his own, but his smiles were always sweeter, kinder… gentler, than Jazz's. They were also more subtle, something that didn't make you star-struck with the sheer charm of it, but rather something that warmed your spark to see. Wheeljack, however, noticed how this one seemed a little… forced.
Jazz shrugged a little. "Whatever you say, Perce. See you tomorrow." He punched Perceptor lightly in the shoulder and walked out the door.
Wheeljack stood up and regarded his friend. Perceptor still had a somewhat distant expression on his face.
"Hey, are you sure you're alright? You look upset," Wheeljack said, invoking the only word he could think of to describe his friend's perceived mood.
"I'm perfectly fine."
"Are you sure? You've been a little out of it since Jazz asked about where you came from. Did we pry too much? Were you thinking about Trinox or something?"
"I'm fine, Wheeljack."
Wheeljack winced at the scientist's tone. Perceptor immediately softened, a hand resting on the engineer's shoulder, light as a feather.
"I apologize, old friend. That came out harsher than I meant it. But I am fine. There is no need for you to worry," he said in a much gentler tone. He was lying, but Wheeljack didn't try to point it out. "Come, we should go back to the med bay to recharge to prevent Ratchet becoming furious at us."
Wheeljack nodded once and followed his friend to the med bay. It wasn't long until Perceptor was lost in thought again.
Wheeljack sighed, not bothering to try to awaken the mech again, and gently led him to the med bay.
"What do I have to do Fa… Soundwave?" the sparkling asked. Two Decepticons, Starscream and Thundercracker, came into the round room, dragging a beaten-up looking mech in-between them.
Perceptor's optics brightened in interest. This mech wasn't like the ones he knew. He looked like he changed into a car of some sort, and he had a purple and black paintjob with bits of red on his side, and white on his face. There was a red sigil at his chest, right where the Decepticon sigil usually was. He had never seen this kind of mech before.
"That is an Autobot," Soundwave said. Oh. An Autobot.
Perceptor's optics immediately darkened in disgust, but the interest still remained. "Soundwave, may I keep him? I have never met an Autobot before, think of what I could learn…"
"Negative. Perhaps when we capture a smaller one."
Perceptor's disappointment was gone before it even started. There was no room for such petty feelings in him, if he ever wanted his creators to feel that he was worth the effort put into his construction.
The seekers threw the Autobot to the ground. Perceptor's optics picked out the black accents to the Autobot's paint.
The Autobot's? That's right. He was solely defined by his faction.
The Autobot struggled to support himself on his arms. He grimaced in pain and looked up defiantly to face Soundwave, but his expression turned to one of horror.
"What are you doing with a sparkling? He can't even have been online for a half a thousand years yet! Don't tell me you've actually stooped to using sparklings as tools for war!"
"Silence, Autobot! In war, there must be sacrifices. If I become a sacrifice it does not matter. As long as I have died for the greater good, it does not matter!" Perceptor said harshly, but his words had the mechanical undertone of recital.
"Good job, Perceptor."
The sparkling, the Autobot, and the cassette player all looked up at the owner of the voice. Perceptor's optics brightened in happiness and nervousness at seeing his other creator.
"What a noble statement. I see you are willing to do anything for our cause," Megatron said, optics gleaming blood red.
"Yes, Megatron. Anything," Perceptor said honestly, bowing his head.
"Then I want you to test out your other form for me. Hook has told me that you are still underdeveloped, but I think you have enough firepower to do some harm. I want you to use your other form on that Autobot."
Perceptor looked at the Autobot expressionlessly.
"Autobots have no spark. Their lives are nothing," Soundwave said harshly.
"I wasn't pondering morals. I was pondering the best place to hit."
The Autobot's optics widened and the seekers quickly jumped out of the way. "Little one, you do not know what you are doing. They have brainwashed you. Please, you have to know what is right, in your spark…"
"This is my function. This is the only thing that can be right for me." And his creators would never approve of him if he wasn't strong enough to help them fight.
Perceptor folded in on himself, straining to take the shape he innately knew how to take, yet which he had never used before. He ground his dental plates and grimaced in pain as his legs twisted in a foreign way, turning into treads, and his microscope barrel became larger and more powerful.
"Make him stop! He is too young to try to take a form like this, he could seriously damage himself!" the Autobot shouted.
"Silence, Autobot! He is designed to take this form, he cannot hurt himself!" Megatron shouted.
Perceptor felt something tearing internally and he bit back a cry of pain. His own words echoed in his audios. All for the greater good. Sacrifices must be made. It does not matter if I am a sacrifice. That was the mantra that had been ingrained in his processor his entire life, spoken by countless Decepticons, his creators included. He had to please them.
He only realized that he had completed his task a couple seconds after it had happened. Where a sparkling had once stood, there now was a sleek black tank. He aimed his great light cannon at the Autobot.
Wheeljack opened the door to the med bay, carefully leading his friend on a chair. Ratchet looked up from putting away his tools, quick optics taking in his two friends.
"What's wrong with Percy?" he asked.
"I don't know, he's just in one of his little… I don't know, daydream things?" Wheeljack said, making a vague wave of his hand.
"That thing he does when he's concentrating on something? I guess we shouldn't be too worried, but this is the first time he's done it while walking." Ratchet put his wrench down and walked to the scientist, kneeling in front of him so they were face-to-face. "Hey, Perce? You there?"
Perceptor didn't respond, optics looking at Ratchet but not totally seeing him. The medic's optics suddenly sharpened and he looked up at Wheeljack with a deep frown on his face.
"Is it just me, or does he seem a bit… upset?"
Wow. He'd even used Wheeljack's word.
"Yes. I asked him about it earlier, but he insisted that he was fine."
"Well, it's obvious he's not. I'm going to wake him up, and he's going to tell us what's going on."
"Don't, Ratchet! Whatever it is, Perceptor doesn't want to talk about it."
Ratchet paused, something in Wheeljack's tone stopping him. His frown got deeper and he glanced at his friend's distant cerulean optics.
"What do you think it might be about?"
Wheeljack sat on a chair, propping his head in his hands. The artificial light in the room dimmed a little, signaling how late it was. If Wheeljack listened really hard, he could hear crickets outside.
"It was something about his past. He's been… off since Jazz asked him about where he came from before he joined the Autobots."
Ratchet's frown deepened even further as he concentrated on the scientist's unresponsive face. His optics were glowing softly, like small sapphires fixed in his face. Ratchet studied the gentle way his gaze seemed to look at him, not forcing anything, just floating there, like a feather. He looked at how Perceptor simply seemed to be frowning slightly, almost as if he were wrestling with a moderately hard problem, and Ratchet knew that, if they hadn't been such close friends, he wouldn't have seen the undertone to Perceptor's expression that had disturbed him and Wheeljack so much. He noted how the scientist's hands were folded perfectly on his knees, thin and slender fingers laced together. He listened to the soft hum of the scientist's light cannon, something that faded into background noise so easily yet, once heard, felt as lulling and familiar as a mother's voice. It was a small natural song that Ratchet had, and always would, associate with his shy friend.
But come to think of it, what did he really know about the scientist?
All Ratchet knew was his now, what he currently did in the war. But what about his past? Ratchet searched his memory, only to come up with nothing. Wheeljack had always been open about his past, and even Ratchet himself had told his friends a bit about his, but Perceptor…
Either they hadn't been paying any attention to what he had said, or to what he hadn't said.
"Congratulations, Wheeljack. You've piqued my curiosity," Ratchet grumbled.
"But don't ask him. He snapped at me when I asked him. He actually snapped at me!" Wheeljack said, waving around his arms to try to communicate the bigness of the situation.
Ratchet frowned a little. "I won't ask, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to let him know that he can talk to us."
"That's what I expected you to say," Wheeljack said, smiling a little and doorwings relaxing.
"You did well, Perceptor," Megatron said as the sparkling pulled himself out of his tank mode. He bowed his head to hide his proud beam. He never got praise from his aggressive creator.
"When you grow older and bigger, a blast like that will be unbelievably powerful. Right now, you are too small. You were only able to do that." He swept his arm towards the Autobot. A good portion of him had been blown away completely, and he was lying sprawled on the ground. Perceptor cocked his head a little, looking at his victim emotionlessly. He could already feel the power deep inside of himself, waiting until he was capable of wielding it. For a moment, knowing that power, he knew he would be capable of much more than what his creator had said, but the realization was simply filed away neatly in his mind for later use.
"Starscream, Thundercracker, get this thing out of my sight. Have Hook give him only the essential repairs, and then take him to the dungeon. We'll interrogate him in a few orn's time when he's more… receptive."
The seekers each took one of the Autobot's arms and dragged him out, disgusted by their menial task.
"You have done very well indeed. You will make an excellent soldier. An excellent weapon. How did it feel?"
Perceptor pondered his creator's question for a moment. It hadn't felt like much. He felt proud that he was doing something for the Decepticon cause, but in the actual action of it? He had felt nothing when he'd nearly killed the mech. He didn't regret it or enjoy it. He knew what Megatron wanted to hear, though.
"It was magnificent. The feeling of having a life in my hands… I felt powerful," Perceptor said.
Megatron nodded, smiling cruelly, his optics brightening. "Well, my creation, you will feel powerful again soon."
Perceptor's optics slid back into focus when Ratchet pushed him a little. Wheeljack frowned in recognition as the scientist's hand once again went up to his face to deflect a phantom fist, but once again it jerked down. It was exactly like the last time he'd woken him up from his daze.
"Oh, Ratchet. I wasn't aware that we had reached the med bay yet," Perceptor said, blinking his optics slowly, as if he was still trying to comprehend why Ratchet was in front of him.
"You've been in here for five minutes. Are you okay?" Ratchet asked, a gleam in his eye telling Perceptor that he already knew the answer.
Perceptor lied anyway. "I am fine. I must have a small virus of some sort. I will run an anti-virus once I find the time."
"Right," Ratchet said, nod a little too curt. Perceptor, having known his friend for a very long time, could tell the medic didn't believe him. He could also tell that Ratchet was a little hurt.
Perceptor glanced around the med bay, eager to get his mind off of recent events, and some not-so-recent events. "Here, I will assist you in cleaning the med bay for the night. I am not in immediate need of recharge."
"I'll help too," Wheeljack said. Perceptor looked up, taking note of the engineer's posture and expression.
His doorwings were up and erect, though they were twitching a little. His optics seemed a little dimmer than normal, but it wasn't too noticeable. He was worried.
The thought of telling them his secret teased his CPU. They weren't Brawn or Sunstreaker. They wouldn't judge him based on family. They were his friends.
But it wasn't like his creators were low-ranking Decepticons. His creators were Soundwave and Megatron. And… there was the possibility they wouldn't see him as the same after they found out that his main function wasn't supposed to be sitting in a lab learning. He was built to be a tool of war, and a highly effective one at that. He was a triplechanger. He had lied to them. Not only that, but he had lied about his past, his origin, his physical capabilities… Primus, what hadn't he lied about? They wouldn't see him as the same Perceptor once they found out he was the war machine creation of Megatron, Soundwave, and the Quintessons. They wouldn't see him in the same way after they had found out his betrayal of their trust, the mere fact that he lied.
No. Telling them wasn't an option. He hated lying to them, but he couldn't stand the thought of losing their friendship.
Perceptor nodded, expression betraying nothing of what he was thinking, and stood up. Ratchet wordlessly stood up as well, optics boring a hole through the scientist.
There was an awkward silence. There was frostiness in the air, and no one could quite decide who it was coming from. It was probably Ratchet.
"So, let's get moving," Wheeljack said in an obvious effort to smooth away the cold atmosphere. His blinkers flashed pale blue as he talked, betraying his mood.
Perceptor dipped his head gracefully while Ratchet jerked his a little to the side, both agreeing with the engineer. Silently, the only sounds the clinking of metal and the tinkling of glass beakers, they all began to clean and put various tools and materials in their respective cabinets, and while they worked, Perceptor thought.
Perceptor slid into the shadows as though he was born of them. Soundwave had long since taught him how to pass through small spaces unnoticed. A little stealth never went amiss in a war, but Soundwave probably hadn't guessed that he'd use it for this.
The sparkling looked around with his three trained optics, one of them doubling as a light cannon. The place was free of Decepticon sentries, and there were no electromagnetic pulses to suggest that a camera was watching him. His creators wouldn't be happy with him if they knew what he was doing. They wouldn't be happy at all. But he was so curious…
Glancing around once more for good measure, he slipped down the dark stairway into the prison, but that was just the official name. It was no more than a dungeon.The metal around him had turned to hard stone, stone only found in the dense planet of Ira. Ira's rock was so hard thatit could withstand a hit from Megatron's own fusion cannon.
The deeper he went, the more paranoid he felt. What would his creators say? That he was a disappointment? He had betrayed them? Perceptor felt the worst he had ever felt in his young life at the thought of them feeling that way.
Yet his curiosity was great. There was also a faint tug in his spark that told him he should do this, but he denied that the tug existed.
He raised his arm to touch the stone, then winced and put it down. It hurt to move it.
He continued down the steps, glowing ruby optics darting from side to side. He was going to hit the bottom soon, and his young sensors were on high alert.
The stairs finally ended in a hallway. One side was lined with large barred cells, and one wall was bare. The dungeons.
Perceptor scanned the area once again, noticing the energy-signature in one of the cells. He walked to the only cell with a living Cybertronian in it and entered in the access code.
The bars slid apart just long enough for him to get inside.
On the ground lay the Autobot. He was leaning on the wall, nursing wounds that had come from Perceptor himself. At the sound of the bars opening, he looked up.
"Sparkling? What are you doing here?" he asked, struggling into a more comfortable sitting position. His optics housed no resentment towards Perceptor, something the little Decepticon sparkling didn't understand.
"I'm here because I want to ask questions. If you lie or try to trick me I'll blast you. Don't move, I'm only going to be here a little bit," he said, talking sternly.
The Autobot raised an optic ridge. "You talk like the Decepticons, but that's understandable. You didn't have a real childhood, did you? Don't answer that, I think I've seen enough to know the answer. My name is Finehold. What is yours?"
Perceptor sat down slowly, keeping his light cannon aimed at the Autobot and a wary eye on him. "My designation is Perceptor. Why do you fight for the Autobots?"
Finehold's lips curled in a small amused smile. "I see you aren't going to stray from your goal." He leaned back a little, getting comfortable despite the light cannon blatantly aimed at him. "I fight for the Autobots because I don't believe in what the Decepticons fight for. I fight for the Autobots because it's what I think is the right thing to do."
Perceptor leaned forward a little, optics brightening in interest. "How could you believe that the Autobots are right? They're the ones who oppressed the Decepticons!"
Finehold cocked his head and raised an optic ridge, frowning a little. "Great Primus, is that what they told you? Oh no, Autobots didn't oppress Decepticons. If you're talking about the Primes, the Prime is only the leader of the willing. If you weren't willing to be led by him or her, you were always able to leave. The Matrix is unbiased when it chooses the next Prime. Autobots tend to be Primes only because they are usually less violent and less likely to attempt to conquer other planets."
Perceptor was expressionless save for the curious glow in his optics. "I have never met an Autobot before now. I am unable to either verify or deny your claims. But… violence is the way of life. It is an integral part of it. My fami… I mean, my comrades don't seem inordinately violent. Though, like I said, I don't have much to compare it with."
He had meant to say 'family' instead of 'comrades.' The replacement word was put in mechanically, like he was simply repeating what had been told to him. Finehold's gaze softened. "Is that why you're so dented? Is that why you look like someone beat you bad?"
Perceptor's hand reflexively touched his face, wincing a little at the pain it instilled. Starscream and Thundercracker hadn't liked how he hadn't been able to finish off Finehold completely. They had called him a waste of time, and they had made him feel like that as well. They always did. Then Megatron had caught them, and after he had successfully damaged Starscream, he had made Perceptor regret not standing up for himself.
"It's nothing," he said harshly, jerking his hand down into his lap. It was nothing. It wasn't the first time Megatron had taught him about proper Decepticon behavior.
"It doesn't seem like nothing." Finehold was quiet, regarding the little sparkling. "You know," he began, easing back a little, "when I was with the Autobots, the only wounds sparklings got were from falls and not being careful. When they would go to their creator or another Autobot they loved, the Autobot would repair them, hug them, and make it better, not hurt them more. I think… maybe that is one of the reasons I believe the Autobots are in the right."
"Love?" Perceptor wondered aloud, cocking his head. "I know of love. At least, I believe I do. I have never had blatant love shown to me, as I understand it. What is love?"
"That is a big question. Love is… well, I can't truly answer that. Love is many things. The best way I can explain it is that love is what makes you want to protect someone. Love is what makes you want to give the world to someone. Love is what makes you willing to die for someone."
"No, I have never had someone feel something like that for me." And he didn't seem to care.
"That is… very, very sad for me to hear. No sparkling deserves no love."
"I don't require your pity, Autobot."
Finehold didn't even flinch at the sparkling's harsh tone. "Do you want to know anything more, Perceptor?"
Perceptor paused. "What was Cybertron like before the war? I've never been outside the base, and all Fa… I mean, Soundwave tells me is that the Autobots were tyrants beforethe war and that everything is getting better. He doesn't tell me anything else. What else is there to know?"
"You're a very curious sparkling, aren't you? It's a virtue. What else isn't there to know? Here, I'll try to tell you about it the best I can." And so he did.
Perceptor paused in his work, snapping to reality again. He frowned slightly and continued to sort through the various wrenches. Come to think of it, he really hadn't thought about what having someone love him would have felt like before then. He looked up at his friends, putting away the med bay. He hadn't known what it felt like to love anyone besides his creators before that, either.
"'Kay, Perce. I think we've pretty much done everything. Go get some recharge; your energy levels are low."
Perceptor looked at Ratchet, nodding faintly. He wanted time to think anyway.
Perceptor stood in front of Megatron, bowing low. He ignored the energon that dripped off of him to the floor, ignored the battle wounds clawing for his attention. Still bowing, he took a metal object from subspace and rolled it on the floor to Megatron's feet.
It was the head of the leader of the defeated Autobot unit.
Megatron picked up the head and Perceptor straightened expressionlessly.
"You certainly have done well in your first battle, Perceptor," Megatron said slowly. Perceptor's expression didn't shift, even at the unnerving calmness in Megatron's voice.
"Thank you, Fa… sir."
Megatron ignored the slip and turned around, holding the head in his hand. "But it is not enough. You were engineered for battle. You. must. work. harder."
Megatron swung his fist around and Perceptor didn't have time to react. His creator's fist connected painfully with his face and sent him sprawled on the ground. The Decepticon sparkling rolled into a ball, knowing better than to protest or to try to fight back.
"You must be able to wipe out an entire army by yourself! What is a small Autobot unit? It's nothing! You were created for this, solely for this. That is your purpose, to kill the Autobots. YOU MUST FULFILL YOUR PURPOSE!"
Perceptor kept his mouth firmly shut as his creator continued to kick him. His small body hadn't been able to handle battle, and now then this. It hurt.
But it was his purpose, his reason for being. He was not created to live, he was created to destroy and endure. So destroy and endure he would.
Ratchet and Wheeljack watched Perceptor's back as he walked into his room, the door sliding shut behind him.
Immediately, Ratchet went to the computer and sat down.
"What are you doing?" Wheeljack asked, peering over Ratchet's shoulder as he began to type.
"Checking out Percy's background."
Ratchet brought up the med bay computer's connection with Teletraan-1 and opened Perceptor's profile, pausing briefly to enter the password needed.
"He says he's from Trinox. When someone asks him about his past, he starts thinking so hard he might as well be catatonic. He tells us he's fine when we ask him what's wrong. Yeah, call me curious."
"But if he doesn't want to tell us—"
"Then we'll find out for ourselves."
"Child! What happened?"
Perceptor was expressionless as he sat down on the floor of the cell. The movement sent jolt of pain running up and down his body, but it didn't even elicit a wince.
"Megatron saw it fit to put emphasis on my performance. He saw it fit to teach me that anything less than perfect can not be tolerated," he said in a voice so devoid of emotion that it chilled Finehold.
"Percy, your creator did all this?"
Perceptor played with the idea of telling the Autobot to stop touching him when he felt a gentle hand brush his arm, but it felt… nice. Soft. No Decepticon had touched him like that.
"I had received wounds from my first battle beforehand, but the vast majority of my damage was indeed caused by Fa… Megatron."
"I see you're using eloquent language to distance yourself from reality again," Finehold said. Perceptor did not reply.
"Why don't you go to a Decepticon medic?" Finehold asked, taking the sparkling's hand with that achingly gentle touch and examining the wounds.
"Hook has been instructed to refuse me medical assistance and to alert Megatron should I attempt to attain it."
"Megatron was damaged by an electrical pulse to his CPU. It has made him inordinately angry, insane if you will. Soundwave has assured the troops that his CPU shall right itself in due time, an orn at most, but we are still bound by his orders. When he is well he will most likely alleviate my punishment, but it is also likely he will not."
Perceptor shuttered his optics and sighed. Dear child. It was a term of endearment. No Decepticon had ever referred to him in such a way. It made his spark ache, something that was completely unfamiliar.
Perceptor listened to the imprisoned Autobot without hesitation. Maybe during his first visit he wouldn't have, but in the many visits that had followed, Finehold had proven, numerous times, that he had no intention of harming him.
"I don't have any materials or equipment here, but I can try to get it to not hurt."
He clicked open the unresisting sparkling's chassis and clicked off the pain receptors, and Perceptor's posture noticeably relaxed.
"That is certainly no way to treat a sparkling…" Finehold muttered. He had the darkest tone Perceptor had ever heard come from him.
"Why do sparklings hold precedence over adult Cybertronians? I have not seen that attitude displayed in any Decepticons."
"Sparklings are young. They're sacred. They're still developing, still vulnerable. It is an adult's duty to see that sparklings are taken care for and stay as innocent as they can in the circumstances. I know what you are going to say, that you aren't physically vulnerable. I understand that. You can't be weak—physically—if you've been designed specifically for war. But you're still developing mentally, still learning. I don't think that your spark was ever meant to be housed in a war machine."
He looked hesitant for a moment, but he gestured the sparkling closer. Perceptor shuffled next to the Autobot, and Finehold wrapped his arms around him.
"You may not believe it, but you really are a gentle soul. It's only conditioning that makes you able to take another life so easily. Remember that there is a place where creators love their sparklings no matter what they become, where Cybertronians can talk to someone about their pain openly and not receive ridicule, where people can show weakness and only receive strength in return. I'd like to take you there one day. I'd like to take you there very much."
Perceptor pressed a little closer to the Autobot and rested his head against Finehold's chassis. Neither of his creators had ever held him like this. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to let the old Autobot keep holding him a little longer.
"Here we are."
"Ratchet, I feel really sneaky about this."
"I didn't say you had to stay."
Wheeljack let out a low moan. "C'mon, Ratch'. Just let him have his secrets. Don't snoop around his profile!"
"I'm not snooping; his profile is available to anyone with a password."
"If you want to see, stay, if you don't, leave."
They both leaned forward a little to see the screen clearly, optics flicking over the text at speeds a human could only dream of. It was a simple biography, listing his microscope alternative mode, his strengths and weaknesses, and his scientific specialties.
Ratchet almost laughed. Perceptor didn't have specialties. Everything was his specialty.
As for his past…
"It only says that he lived in Trinox and was captured by the Decepticons when they attacked the place. Apparently, he was later liberated when an Autobot unit found and broke into Decepticon Headquarters. After that he joined up with the Autobots as an apprentice of another prisoner, an Autobot medic and physicist named Finehold. There's nothing here past that." Ratchet propped his head in his hands and glared at the computer. "What about siblings? District he lived in? Creators? Amount of time in captivity? It doesn't even mention his age or his date of creation."
"Oh well, it looks like all our resources have dried up. Now let's turn off the computer and get to our berths," Wheeljack said, tugging Ratchet lightly away from the computer.
"Wait a minute, Wheeljack," Ratchet said irritably, waving the engineer away.
"Seriously, Ratchet! Perceptor's our friend, we shouldn't be running a background check on him like he's some sort of criminal!" Wheeljack said desperately.
"Well he shouldn't be keeping stuff from us, should he?" Ratchet said, apparently nonchalant, leaning forward and going deeper in Teletraan.
"What if it's not a matter of trust, just a matter of not wanting to talk about things? He was a captive of the Decepticons for we-don't-know how long at we-don't-know what age. Maybe it was traumatic and he doesn't want to recall it. Have you thought of that, Ratchet?"
The medic paused for a moment as the computer wormed deeper into Teletraan's files. "Well, then we're saving him the trouble of telling us by looking it up. Besides, if it's something traumatic that happened inside the base, Teletraan won't know anything about it unless he or another prisoner reported it. Here we go, the residents of Trinox when the Decepticons attacked…"
"Get out of the way, brat," Starscream said, pushing past the Decepticon sparkling. Perceptor glared up at him, mouth curling in a small snarl before becoming neutral again.
"Hey, I don't think he liked that," Skywarp laughed, pushing the air commander gently.
"Oh? You didn't like it? Did I hurt your feelings, sparkling?" Starscream asked, turning around and swooping down on the child like a vulture.
Perceptor said nothing, looking up at the air commander expressionlessly.
"Listen, brat. You won't get any respect from me just because you're Megatron's creation. I'm still superior to anything Megatron can create. You're just a drone made for war, just one that happens to have a spark. Now, remember that I am to be respected."
Perceptor's hand went up, a learned reflex, to deflect the fist that went straight for his face. Starscream's other hand went low, punching the sparkling right where an organic's stomach would have been.
The sparkling doubled over, but not without clutching the wrist of the arm that hit him. Starscream tried to withdraw his hand, but Perceptor knew he would only hurt him more. And then his creator would find out. And then it would hurt still more. No.
Perceptor tapped into something he had never been aware of before. His core began to glow and he felt power running down his arms into Starscream. Power. That was all he knew. Power. A lust for it, a need for it. Was that how the air commander felt? He felt these previously unused circuits heating to dangerous temperatures, but this power was too good to let go.
Starscream tried to pull away, but the little sparkling was angry. Perceptor sent a blast of electricity through Starscream's circuits, electricity that had originally come from Starscream himself, and it was over.
"That's weird…" Ratchet muttered.
"What's weird? That we're looking up information our friend obviously doesn't want to tell us?" Wheeljack asked darkly.
"Oh come off it, Wheeljack. What's weird is that I've just looked over the people of Trinox's names three times, and 'Perceptor' isn't one of them."
"Wait, what?" Wheeljack said, peering over Ratchet's shoulder.
"He's not listed among those who were captured, and he's not listed among those who even lived there. I've even checked photos of each and every one of them, and I can't find him in there either. Wheeljack, he lied to us."
Perceptor was just looking forward, expressionlessly, as Megatron stared down at him and Soundwave picked up the comatose Starscream to take to Hook.
"How did you do it, Perceptor? His circuits are fried and there are signs of burns and melts as well as the invasion of his mind, how did you do it without making a hard-line?"
"I would be lying to say that I knew," Perceptor said emotionlessly.
There was silence. Perceptor tensed his arms in preparation to deflect another blow to his face.
"You have developed faster than I had ever imagined."
Perceptor stayed expressionless, save for the slight upturn of his optics and one barely raised optic ridge.
"As you know, your construction and design was done mostly by five Quintessons we… motivated… into helping us with our project. They gave you a complexity of design no Decepticon ever could. You were given a tool inside of you, called a universal emulator. It gives you the ability to take things apart mentally and put them back together when used properly, as you did with Starscream. You also have the ability to control other mechanical objects, even become those objects if you place your emulator inside of them. You have power at your command, Perceptor. Power that can decide this war if you use it."
But Perceptor didn't like the sound of that. For once in his young life, he was afraid. He was afraid of himself.
Perceptor shivered on his berth, wrapping his arms around himself. He couldn't calm the torrent of memories invading his mind. It had been so long since he had walked those dark corridors that housed his childhood, his secrets.
He could swear that he heard the echoes, the echoes of his past, ringing in his audios. How he wished he could dispel them forever.
"Please Fa… Megatron, just let me go."
Did that really come from him? That small, vulnerable whisper? Did he really almost slip and call that ghost Megatron in his mind 'Father' again? He hadn't done that for millions of years.
Oh please Primus, make his creator let him go.
"Little one, are you alright?" Finehold asked, leaning forward a little to get a better look at Perceptor.
"I am… unsure," Perceptor said honestly. "Finehold, what is an Autobot's attitude towards life?"
"Ah, that's probably the defining difference between the two factions. How we look at life." Finehold leaned back and shuttered his optics, a thoughtful look on his face. Perceptor waited patiently for the old mech to tell him. Finehold always answered his questions.
"Decepticons—pardon me if my observation is flawed—see life as expendable. Does it matter if the life of a 'lower' being is lost? It doesn't, not to them. Forgive me if I offend you, but I'd even venture to say that if you were to lose your usefulness, they wouldn't care about your well-being or survival either. I do not believe they even care about your well-being now."
Perceptor couldn't help but agree. One small bob of his head let Finehold know this.
"Autobots are the opposite. From the smallest of organics to the greatest of machines, all sentient life, and some not sentient, is cherished. Autobots don't fight because they want to. They fight to protect life and to protect those that they love. They don't fight for power."
Perceptor was silent, his fingers laced together. A foreign feeling rose up in his spark. Longing.
"I… can't say that I'm familiar with that sort of attitude. All I have known is destruction and a feeling of worthlessness. But a life of protection? Not needing to take another life? Of simply living?" Perceptor held a hand over his insignia and looked into the distance. "To be loved? I don't think… I don't think that my creators ever saw me as more than a tool. Perhaps Soundwave, but in the end he looks upon me not as a sparkling but as a machine that must be taken care of. I… don't enjoy killing. I enjoy learning. All I ever wanted was to learn."
Perceptor looked at Finehold and huddled closer to him. His optics shined with a childlike hope that the Autobot couldn't remember ever seeing there. "If I was a part of them, would they mind if I didn't fight back with fists if someone was hurting me? Would they look at me like you do, like my value isn't measured by how effectively I kill the enemy? Would they mind if I just tried to find out everything there is to know? Would they care about me, like I always wished my family would? Would they…" he looked down, "would they hurt me?"
Finehold picked up the sparkling and held him close. "They would love you, young one, and they would never hurt you. You would have friends, people who you loved and who loved you. You would be allowed to learn what you wanted. They wouldn't care if you didn't want to fight a lot; there are many pacifists in their ranks. You wouldn't have to fear."
Perceptor buried his head into the older Autobot's chest, something he had never dared to do with any other mech. "I hurt Starscream terribly today. I do not wish to do something like that again, but Megatron wants me to. I think… I think I know a way to have the Autobots rescue us, rescue all the prisoners here."
Finehold smiled down at the sparkling. "I don't doubt it, little one. You are a clever sparkling, a genius in fact, and let no one tell you otherwise. When they come, we can tell them that you are from Trinox. Trinox was recently sacked and many of the civilians taken by the Decepticons. We'll tell them that you were forced to serve. We'll figure out anything else when they come."
"There's no way that's right. Perceptor doesn't lie. He doesn't lie to us. He just doesn't do that," Ratchet said again and again, rereading the list.
"Well, it's obvious that he did, so it's all the more obvious that he doesn't want us to know," Wheeljack said, blinkers flashing with irritation.
"But he doesn't lie."
"Ratchet, just let him keep his secrets."
The sparkling glanced both ways down the hall outside the control room. If he was found out now, he would be killed. He didn't mind if he died, but then who would help get Finehold saved?
He worked a plate of metal from the wall, glancing at the wires within. He stuck his hands in and began to tap into his universal emulator. The best way to get the Autobots to swarm here was to send an Autobot distress signal. With any luck, it'd work. Without any luck… he'd prefer to not think of that.
Perceptor woke up from his fitful sleep yet again. He remembered that moment so clearly in his mind. It had indeed worked. The Autobot forces had arrived within the hour, and in the confusion he had slipped in among them. They had swallowed his story easily, hadn't even run a background check, and Finehold had taken him as his apprentice.
None of the Decepticons had forgotten his betrayal, however.
Perceptor valiantly ignored Megatron's furious gaze burrowing into the back of his neck. It had probably killed the Decepticon overlord inside to ask for the scientist's help, but he couldn't be choosy with a disease eating away at his armor. And besides, there was still a lingering mixture of fear and love inside the scientist's spark for his creator, something that rendered him unable to actually kill or refuse medical assistance to the Decepticon.
"I hardly believe that I can work to my optimum level if you are so intent on watching my every move," Perceptor said primly, not even looking up.
"I know how well you can work. Staring doesn't do anything to you, does it, traitor?" Megatron sneered.
"It would probably be wise to not antagonize the one who is working to create a cure for you and your men, especially given that the person in question has no objective reason to help you in the first place."
"I'm offering peace, Autobot," Megatron snarled, optics burning in fury.
Perceptor simply raised an optic ridge coolly. Megatron never had been able to control his temper that well. He hated being in close proximity to the creation that had betrayed him, in his mind. "You must truly think me an idiot if you think I believe you. I know you, Megatron. Many millennia haven't changed that."
"Well then why are you helping me? We both know you were never afraid of getting killed," Megatron said, crossing his arms and leaning back and snarling still.
"Your rather poor job of raising me made sure of that," Perceptor said, a trace of contempt in his voice. "You very well know why I'm helping you."
"That is weakness," Megatron spat.
"And it's that weakness that's saving your life, so I would think you should be grateful," Perceptor snapped. He never acted this way, why was he doing it now?
Simple: he resented his creator. Perceptor would even go as far as say he hated the Decepticon. But his sparkling self still clung to the strain of love that he had felt for the mech that had helped bring him into being, but the love had been twisted and contaminated by centuries of abuse and fear. And then further twisted by the millennia of fighting him, of seeing through clear optics what he had done.
Megatron frowned and leaned back on his berth a little. "Those Quintessons always were angry that we were forcing them to work on a project they didn't want to work on. They probably meant for this to happen."
"Of course they did, you fool. They recognized that you just wanted a mindless yet ingenious war machine, so they made sure to give me the spark of a pacifist. I figured that out long ago," Perceptor said scathingly.
Megatron snarled, but he didn't fire. He needed the Autobot scientist, and Perceptor was probably the only one who could get away with speaking to him in such a way.
"I see you have become more insolent over the years."
"Probably because I'm not a sparkling anymore."
"You were definitely more manageable as a sparkling."
"Then I should thank Primus I grew up, shouldn't I?"
Megatron sneered, something that seemed to happen a lot in the presence of his creation, but then his expression turned thoughtful. "Come, Perceptor. Why don't you join us again?"
Perceptor looked up in surprise. "What?"
"Why don't you join us again? You are right, you have grown. I could give you a position of power, or if you don't want that you could stay a scientist. I'd be lying to say that I wasn't impressed with what you have done with yourself, but I'd also be lying if I said I didn't think it to be a waste for you to use your talents for the likes of the Autobots. They could never appreciate you. You haven't even told them about me, have you?"
Perceptor glanced away guiltily. That was answer enough for Megatron.
"What about your Decepticon heritage? Your triplechanger status? Your tank mode? Have you even told them about your universal emulator?"
Perceptor looked increasingly guilty with every question. He looked back to his work, trying to ignore the overlord.
"They wouldn't appreciate your talents, would they? They wouldn't understand if you told them the truth. Even that yellow minibot, Brawn, doesn't trust you as you are now. Is it simple dislike or does he have good intuition? I can understand better than any of them can. I am your creator, I helped design you. If you come back, you don't have to be afraid of anyone finding out your secrets."
Perceptor turned around slowly, his optics unreadable.
"I wouldn't join you even if Primus himself came down and threw me into the Pit," he spat at the overlord, and Megatron's lips curled back to show teeth.
"If you don't join I will reveal every one of your secrets to them publicly! They will abandon you the minute they find out about me."
"That may be so, but I don't fight you for the sake of war and bloodlust like you. I fight you because what you do is wrong, and no matter what you told me when I was only several centuries old, I'm going to fight in what I believe."
Megatron's expression darkened and his dental plates clenched. "Have it your way, then."
Perceptor knew that Megatron would dispose of him the minute he was done with the cure, but he didn't really care. He turned back to his work and began to concentrate.
Megatron had yet to tell the Autobots, but Perceptor knew his creator well enough to know that it wouldn't be long until he made good on his threat.
He woke up from his half conscious state when he heard his door open.
"Hey, Perce, are you okay? You were making some odd sounds," Wheeljack's voice came from the doorway. Perceptor turned around to see two shadowy shapes, assumedly Ratchet and Wheeljack, come into his room. His hand drifted to his cheek, and he noticed that it was wet. He had been crying during one of those memories. Which one, he wasn't sure. He wasn't even sure if he had been crying during one he recalled at the moment.
"I'm fine," he said.
"You don't sound fine."
Perceptor flinched and his hand went up reflexively to deflect his creator's fist from his face, only to jerk it down when he realized that it was only Ratchet's finger that had touched his cheek.
"You don't feel fine, either," Ratchet said, tracing a small wet line down the scientist's face.
Perceptor played with the idea of lying again, but he had already told enough lies. He decided on not saying anything.
Neither Ratchet nor Wheeljack pried. Instead, they both just sat on his berth. Wheeljack took his hand and squeezed it while Ratchet gently stroked his helm. Perceptor wondered vaguely if he should tell them to stop and go back to their berths for the sake of professionalism, but he decided against it. It called up shadows of memories in his mind, but not bad ones. Ones of listening to Finehold talk during one of his visits to the dungeon.
"You know, if you ever want to talk about something, me an' Wheeljack are here to listen. We won't judge you no matter what you tell us," Ratchet whispered.
Perceptor thought about the medic's words for a moment, shuttering his optics at the soothing hand on his helm. "I know you probably wouldn't. I hope to tell you one day, but today isn't that day."
"I can live with that."
"So can I."
Perceptor let a small smile cross his face before falling into deep recharge. He didn't need to tell his friends now. They could wait.
Perceptor appreciated it.