Moments of Awakening
Prime didn't know how long he had been like this. His entire existence had been reduced to nearly endless moments of crushing, numbing darkness, and blissfully brief eternities of blinding light and scourging pain. For either whole cycles - or maybe it was merely minutes - the juxtaposition of light and dark was his everything. For the moments when he found himself dimly aware of being awake, and fleeting memories danced at the edges of his consciousness, whispering softly to him of who he was, and why he was there, Prime found that he didn't really know which he preferred. At least the darkness carried no memories...
As time progressed, and the moments of light slowly became more common and less painful, Prime gradually became more aware of his surroundings with each waking period. He quickly found that he was rarely alone. For the most part, Prime had fleeting glimpses of either Ratchet or First Aid adjusting his bed monitors, or checking his vital signs. Once, coming out of an odd, shapeless dream, Prime found himself staring into Ratchet's cool blue optics. The chief medical officer actually offered Rodimus a warm, genuine smile.
"It's good to see you, kid, but you should be sleeping," the medic said in quiet tones, while adjusting the sensor-dampening fields that were keeping Prime sedated and relatively pain-free. "You're damned lucky to be alive. Rest, now." As the world blurred around the edges, the colour bleeding away in slow motion, Prime had just enough time to see the medic's smile fade away, replaced by an expression that told Rodimus that he had come closer to death than he knew.
O o O o O
The next time Prime woke up, he had the feeling that several days had passed. His chassis felt both numb and raw at the same time, and his limbs felt like they were made of stone. From the look of the ceiling, he could tell that he had, at some point, been moved from the main med-bay to one of the observation wards. Slowly, Prime turned his head a little, to get a better idea of his location, and was greeted with the sight of a familiar, blue and white mech sitting just a few feet away. Ultra Magnus was in recharge, his head slumped against his chest plate, his massive frame only barely balanced on his chair. Prime smiled weakly, then powered up his vocaliser.
"H-hey," he tried painfully, his voice barely above a whisper and riddled with static. Focusing, Prime tried again. Magnus' optics slowly flickered to life, and he looked up, smiling as he saw Rodimus awake.
"Hey yourself," he said, leaning closer and tilting his head to one side, meeting Prime's gaze square on. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I got the slag kicked out of me," Prime offered, his smile turning slowly into a wry, lopsided grin. "How about you?"
"Much the same," Magnus chuckled. "All things considered, things could have been much worse."
"True." Rodimus shifted slightly, turning a little toward his friend, his demeanour becoming serious. To Ultra Magnus, the young commander looked far older than he actually was, his optics conveying the weight of the last few weeks. "Did... did we get him?" Prime asked, his vocaliser straining slightly. "Slipstream... is he...?"
"It's over, Rodimus," Magnus said, placing a comforting hand on Prime's shoulder. "Slipstream's dead, his forces have all been captured, and it's all because of you. It's done now."
Rodimus slumped back onto the diagnostic bed, and let go a sigh of quiet relief. The tension seemed to just drain away, the lines of his chassis becoming more relaxed than Magnus had seen Rodimus in years... since he had taken up the mantle of Prime, in fact. Magnus was about to continue, to tell Prime about the clean-up operation that was now in effect across Iacon, and the problems involved in that operation, but stopped as he noticed that Prime's optics were flickering. A moment later, and he slipped into full recharge. News could wait, Magnus decided, and so he stood slowly, and headed for the door as quietly as possible, not wanting to disturb his sleeping friend.
As Magnus crossed the threshold into the corridor, he turned briefly and allowed himself a smile of approval. Optimus would have been proud, he thought to himself, before turning once more and heading back to work. Slipstream may have been gone, but his legacy would take a lot of work yet to exorcise...
A Form of Catharsis
Ultra Magnus stood alone in Rodimus Prime's office, surveying the grim scene before him. Iacon was burning; a sickly pall of smoke blotted out any light from Cybertron's remote star, bathing the city in a greasy, pallid haze. The lights of the city below shone weakly in counterpoint, a set of flickering ghost-lights adrift in a sea of twilit fog. Despite what he had told Prime, the war was far from over. Slipstream had, in the space of just a few weeks, carved a hole in Iacon's collective memory so deep that it would take perhaps centuries to forget the events of the last few weeks. The healing process was going to be long and difficult. The dark, hideous irony of the whole affair was that Slipstream's forces hadn't been the ones to set the fires.
After Slipstream's destruction, and the deactivation of his drones, the surviving Autobots had begun the work of rounding up the creatures and moving them to holding cells at the command centre. As the convoys began moving from the factory district through Iacon, word had begun to spread... the battle was done, and the vampires had been routed. The elation of the masses was like a living thing, running through the streets like wild-fire, preceding the Autobots everywhere the went. But it was to be short lived. The vampires were unconscious, not dead... and they didn't stay in their dormant state for long.
Eight of the monsters woke up as they were being gathered up for transport. They overpowered their guards with some ease, and fled straight for the undercity, the labyrinth of sub levels that made up the foundation of Iacon, just like so many of Cybertron's cities. Ultra Magnus had ordered an immediate round-up operation, and issued a general order to stop any information about the escape being leaked to the general public... in hindsight, it had been a bad move, but at the time Magnus had feared that to drop this new proverbial 'bombshell' onto the fledgling carnival atmosphere sweeping the city would be too much for the populace. He just hoped they could recapture the monsters before their escape became common knowledge.
That didn't come to pass. Two of the drones made straight for the most densely populated parts of the city, apparently intent on causing as much mayhem as possible, rather than hiding and waiting as Magnus had hoped. Twelve civilians were injured before the Autobots could catch up to them, but by the time they did, it was far too late. The people, who had so recently moved from a state of fear to one of jubilation, found themselves tumbling toward panic then outcry in quick succession. Many wanted answers, demanded to know how the Autobots had failed, when the populace had been told of victory. The Autobot hunter team had answered poorly, and one of the younger members had let slip to the increasingly agitated crowd that they had never been meant to learn of the escape...
The response had been both violent and immediate. In minutes, the small scuffle had broken into a sizeable fight, then into a full-scale riot. Within hours, the riot spread; the criminal elements of the under-city took advantage of the distraction to loot the more affluent districts, small cells of Decepticon sympathisers used the opportunity to stir the rabble, and before long the Autobots and the Enforcers were fighting a pitched battle in the streets. Fires were started, the violence escalated, and before long every med-evac unit in the city was swamped with injured mechs.
That had all been just four days ago. The rioting had stopped, though the state of unrest still hung in the air surrounding the city. Fresh fights would break out from time to time, and on occasion the repair teams that the Autobots had tried sending into the city had been attacked. Iacon's people were acting collectively like a wounded animal, refusing to let anyone or anything help it, for fear of being hurt or betrayed further. Ultra Magnus could understand the impulse, and felt a great swell of remorse at the knowledge that he had been part of the cause for this fresh wave of suffering. In the end, he knew, that this was precisely what Slipstream would have wanted. Even in death, the vampire had managed to strike one last blow at his enemies. Magnus just hoped that in venting its anger, Iacon could finally find a form of catharsis.
Ultra Magnus looked down at his hand, and the data-slate that he held there. Support was coming; Perihelion, Altihex and Lexaris states were sending supplies, troops and enforcers to the beleaguered capital city. Magnus was surprised; for the grand city-states of Cybertron, politics rarely moved faster than tectonic plates, and a response as cohesive as this one would have taken far longer to achieve. Optimus Prime would have been elated to see the people of Cybertron finally working as one, even if only for a short time. Rodimus Prime would be both surprised and overjoyed at the news. There was hope for the planet as a whole after all.
Despite the grim vista before him, the thought made Ultra Magnus smile...
A Promise To A Friend
"I don't know if you'll be able to understand any of what I have to say, but I have to say it."
The words echoed around the quiet stretch of hallway, just one of the sections that made up the detention block, deep inside the ACC. The cells in this section only had a handful of occupants, and most of those were either in recharge, or wisely keeping their peace. The only sounds were those of the solitary voice, backed by the near-subliminal hum of half a dozen energy fields and the occasional distant echo of life in other parts of the Command Centre. It was always quiet at this time of the night shift, which was part of the reason the owner of the voice had chosen to come down here so late.
The voice belonged to Rodimus Prime. He stood facing one of the active cells, peering into its depths. The lighting was kept low, in keeping with the shift rotation – something the Autobots had picked up on Earth, and never quite stopped using – and so Prime could not see more than a few feet into the cell. He knew that the cell's inhabitant could hear him, though, because the scraping noise it had been making had abruptly stopped. Rodimus waited patiently for any kind of response, shifting his weight uneasily from one foot to the other, causing the dim lighting to strike faint reflections on his freshly grafted armour.
If it became common knowledge that he had come down here when he should still be in the medbay, Ratchet would probably flay Prime's chassis all over again. He was still supposed to be convalescing, after all. But this needed to be done, so far as Prime was concerned; he couldn't rest properly until he'd done this. In the cell, the scratching noise had started again, and Prime instantly got the feeling that he was being ignored. Clearing his vocaliser, which was still a little awkward to use and awaiting final adjustments, Rodimus tried speaking again. In the end, he figured, it didn't matter if the creature in the cell understood him, or even if it listened to him... it was just something he needed to say.
"I don't know if any of this will get through," he began again, whilst searching the cell for any sign of movement, "but I had to come down here. As soon as they told me you were one of the survivors, I had to come.
"I don't know if there's anything left of you, old friend, but I have to hope that there is. We have to hope. Ratchet and Wheeljack are working on a cure, a way to undo what Slipstream did to you and the others. They think that they're close, but it'll take time yet. I just wanted you to know... wanted you to know that I won't stop looking for a way to get you back. I promise that on my spark, and on the Matrix. I'll do everything I can for you and the others."
The scraping noise had stopped again, and for a brief moment Rodimus fancied he could see a pair of blood red optics regarding him from the shadows. As he finished making his pledge, and silence once more began to descend on the brig, a low, dangerous hiss snaked its way from the gloom. An instant later, there was a blur of movement inside the cell, followed by a bright flash and a resounding ker-rack! of displaced energy, as a pale green shape hurtled into the cell's containment field. The creature within rallied quickly, and dropped into a defensive crouch, snarling loudly at Prime, baring razor-sharp fangs and glaring at him with obvious hatred.
Taking a step backward, Prime took in the twisted, pitiable shape of the creature; it's chassis had warped in seemingly random places, running and splitting like heated wax in sections, and showed poorly healed scars over Primus-knew-what injuries all over its body. Most recently, and perhaps most disturbingly, he could see that the creature had been using its claws on itself, gouging at its chest plate and the Autobot sigil that resided there. Prime could do nothing but watch in mounting horror as the vampire drone threw itself at the cell barrier once more... if Prime didn't leave, there was a chance that the mech would do itself serious harm.
"I'm sorry," Prime whispered, before turning to leave, his features filling with sorrow. "I am so very sorry. Goodbye, Kup."
O o O o O
From the other side of the corridor, remorseful blue optics watched Rodimus Prime leave. As he exited the hallway, they turned their focus onto the now-retreating form of the creature that had once been Kup. Faced at last with what his pride, his hubris, had allowed to come to pass, Perceptor could do little more than lay back down on his berth and weep, four bitter words circling his processor.
What have I done...?
Stumbling Toward Apotheosis
It had been six months since Slipstream's reign of terror had been stopped in its infancy. Six long months since the riots that had caused so much damage in its wake. Iacon City was finally on the mend, though it still bore the marks of its recent past. It showed in the faces of its people, in the soot marked walls and damaged pathways that still had yet to be repaired. But, where six months ago the city had known only despair, now it carried a sense of hope, albeit a muted one. The damage was being undone, the fear was going away, slowly but surely. Even the cyber-hawks had returned to their roosts...
The people of Iacon had noted the feral creatures' return, and taken it as a good sign. After that, the birds had been paid little attention, just as it had always been. So it was that, when one of them started to act strangely, no-one even noticed... The first one had been just like any other of its kind, cawing and preening and looking just like its flock-mates. One second, it was acting perfectly normally, watching its surroundings with beady, amber optics, preparing to take flight. The next moment, those optics had turned red.
It was just a flicker, a momentary jump in colour, and then it was gone. The cyber-hawk ruffled its flight-vanes as though feeling a sudden chill, then took to the air, screeching loudly to the night. A few minutes passed unremarked, and then another of the birds had the same, momentary change of optic colouration, amber to red, then back again. By the time the third, then fourth, such event had come to pass, the change had started to last a little longer, the change in colour becoming just a little brighter each time, as though the force causing it was gaining strength.
With each new spark touched, the sensation running through the cyber-hawks began to realise that it was aware. It didn't know what it was, or even why it was. There was little more than a gnawing instinct to reach as many of these creatures as it could. They were important, somehow. It was as though it knew, without really knowing just how it knew, that they contained parts of itself, that at some undefined point in the past, it had hidden fragments of itself here, within their sparks, to find when it felt strong enough.
The awareness grew, slowly, surely, gaining more of itself with every spark that it touched, a wisp of thought, a wraith in the shadows. After a time, it began to find feelings; they weren't yet true memories. It still didn't know its own name, but it knew that once it had owned a name. It sensed things from its past; a feeling of power, of ascension, an abstract vision of godhood... it knew that it had been attacked by enemies, that it had been destroyed. At one point, the ghost even encountered the burning sensation that it recognised as part of a memory of that destruction.
As days passed, and the jumbled collection of thoughts and emotions began to coalesce, becoming something more, it finally remembered its own name. And in that same moment, it realised that now was not the time for it to become whole again. It had to be patient, to wait, to subsist as nothing more than the ghost of a memory, hidden in plain sight, until the time was right for it to return. It might take a hundred cycles, a thousand even, but it would once more be able to bring its plans to life.
The world would speak the name Slipstream once more, and tremble before it... but not yet...
Author's Notes: And here it is at last, the final instalment of Slipstream: Resurrection.
I have to say, it has been hard work in places, but very much worth every minute of it. Revisiting a character like Slipstream has been a hillarious amount of fun in its own right... there's just something about sinking your teeth (pun most definitely intended... stop groaning at the back!) into a really villainous character. And Slipstream is just that; utterly barmy, viscious as all hell, but quite cool while he's at it; though that's just my opinion of the critter. As much fun as this has been, though, I doubt I'll be revisiting him for some time, if at all. There's only so much more I can do with him, after all, and besides that, he's already in someone else's capable hands.
That someone is Lady Shockbox, who can be found on my favourite authors list. Her own sequel to this story and its predecessor is well underway, and is shaping up to be a real riot. It's called Slipstream: Savior, if you fancy giving it a look (though it is rated M, so parental advisories must apply, I guess :) ).
My deepest gratitudes go to all of the regular reviewers for this story; your support has made this venture doubly worthwhile. I'm so glad that Resurrection has been so well recieved, and that so many of you took time out to read and review. I truly hope that you enjoyed this fic as a whole, and look forward to hopefully seeing what you think of any future TF fics I may write.
Lastly, a note to my fanfic sister: Shocks, I officially hand the reigns over to you. He's all yours now, my friend. Have fun!
Thanks again for reading, everyone!