Shell Fragments

Initially, Megatron had shrugged the news off as he would any other minor setback. So what if Turmoil was dead and the striker under his command lost? It was of little consequence, for, though Turmoil had been ambitious and quite intelligent when compared to some other lieutenants Megatron commanded, he had been narrow-minded and short-sighted, and his death was hardly a hindrance. Rather, Megatron had taken the skirmish as a success because the incompetent had at least managed to murder the Autobot Chief-of-Science before his death.

At least, that was what all the reports had said. Though never fully trusting any byte of information he could not verify firsthand, Megatron had been mostly persuaded – after all, how could any mech survive a point-blank shot to both the spark and the central processor?

Apparently, it was possible.

"It seems my information network is not as reliable as I had hoped," the warlord commented idly, his cannon against the red examination tray of the scientist as the thin barrel of a precision rifle nudged his throat threateningly. "I was told that you were dead."

"...." The lithe red microscope did not answer.

Megatron's optics narrowed as he looked for an opening – surprisingly, considering the Autobot's military ineptitude, there was not one. Slowly, he began to charge his fusion cannon, the end whirring softly and growing warm against Perceptor's middle – the red mech growled.

"Don't."

His voice was harder, more confident than Megatron remembered, and danger flashed in the one optic not covered by the cross-haired targeting monocle.

The warlord considered his position, the lack of openings and the surprising demeanour of one he had assumed to be a useless scientist and, after a short while, decided to heed the warning signs for now. The fusion cannon powered down again but the stalemate was far from broken. Megatron was not worried; there were other ways to escape from this situation, after all.

Kliks passed, each one feeling longer and longer until it seemed as though they had both been standing frozen for several joors rather than a single breem. Both mechs stared hard at each other, only the occasional wary glance flicking to the raised weapons. The silver gladiator considered the weight and build of the sniping rifle thoughtfully; it was a heavy gun, accurate but not easily handled.

"You do not know how to use that," the unsmiling Decepticon sneered.

"Try me."

The iciness in the Autobot's voice would have chilled a lesser being to the core, but Megatron was unfazed. Yet... it was strange for an intelligence network so rigidly monitored to be so wrong about the fate of a mech. Megatron knew from experience that this mech, Perceptor, was a scientist and not a sniper, and about as effectual on the battlefield as a dud bomb. His uselessness was so famous that he was rarely included in field missions, with the Autobots recognising him as a liability.

Perceptor's optic narrowed, his gun pressing further into Megatron's neck.

"Don't think I've forgotten," growled the red mech, staring into those merciless red optics.

A flicker of emotion slashed across Megatron's sharp, angular features, a sliver of amusement at the toneless statement.

"Are you or are you not a mech of your word? A mech of honour?"

It was the question that the warlord had expected, and a soft chuckle escaped him. "When my life is endangered? No. I am not foolish."

"You owe me a life debt."

Megatron pressed his cannon further into Perceptor's chest to remind him of his position, but he eased off when the gesture was instantly reciprocated by the stony-faced sniper and his vocal processor was nudged uncomfortably against the smooth metal of his throat.

"..." The single azure optic narrowed.

Again the silence dragged as each mech sized the other up.

"... You are not as verbose as I remember you," smirked the warlord, "You hold your words, more than when you graced my flagship with your medical prowess."

"I have little to say to scum."

If the jibe had come from one of his warriors, Megatron would have ended the wretch's life instantly. However, because of the mystery surrounding the thin microscope's sudden, extreme transformation from loquacious social failure to unflinching do-or-die warrior, paired with the history they had once shared together, culled Megatron's murderous instinct.

"So cold, doctor," he said instead, his voice lilting with a rare good humour.

"Scum who do not honour their debts will get no respect from me."

Megatron found himself laughing at the courage he had not seen when the Autobot scientist had first graced his brig, a prisoner of war kidnapped and forced to find a cure to the epidemic of rust diseases plaguing the warlord and his forces. The long rifle, previously a threat, became little more than a presence against his neck as he remembered that Perceptor, so scared he could barely speak as he had been escorted to a cell.

This could yet be fun.

"So different from when we last met."

"Your lieutenant Turmoil nearly succeeded in deleting my spark."

"I see."

"I will not let your kind treat me such again."

Your kind. It was spoken with enough venom to be an insult when spat from the red-bodied microscope's mouth. Megatron smirked. "So now you think you are strong?"

"I am not weak."

The warrior-lord threw his head back and laughed, not even flinching when Perceptor took the opportunity to butt the rifle into his neck again.

"..." Perceptor did not laugh, but the silver Decepticon was in a rare good mood and he studied the other mech carefully, seeing the opportunity arise.

"If I were to honour my debt?"

"I would not slay you."

"No?" Another smirk. "You would return me to Prime alive?"

"Perhaps."

After yet another moment that dragged on, Megatron finally lowered his cannon.

"... what are you doing?" growled the microscope suspiciously.

"Testing this so-called strength you claim to have," replied Megatron. Perceptor's expression tightened, his gun-arm trembling.

"You...." the stoic sniper's voice was as tight as his face, and wavering with emotion that was now rare for him, "you owe me more than your life, you sick frag...!"

With a surge of power in his arms, the microscope was able to push Megatron backwards to the ground. The warlord landed heavily on his back-barrel, jolted but not injured, with the Autobot standing over him. He was not worried.

"Your memory circuits have not been damaged, I see," he taunted as the rifle barrel pressed between his optics.

"Silence!" snapped Perceptor, the edge of fury creeping into his tone. "Do not mock me!"

"You are weak."

"You're wrong!"

"Do you still remember it?"

"Silence!"

It was amazing how quickly the microscope's dour expression cracked, how easily his stoic control crumbled.

"Does it still haunt you, Autobot?"

"Shut up!"

Perceptor's single optic was over-bright, his intakes cycling two times too fast.

"..." When the gun spoke again, his voice was soft. "... Does it still affect you so much?"

"... Kh!" The microscope's foot pressed down against Megatron's neck.

The warlord sneered. "You are so laughably weak. A strong mech would have taken revenge. I am at your feet, helpless, yet you do nothing? That is weak."

Perceptor trembled and growled. "I hate you!" such force of loathing had always been uncharacteristic of the little microscope, even before his emergency reformatting. "Don't you enjoy this! Don't you dare enjoy it!"

Gripping his gun tightly in one hand, Perceptor lowered, moving his foot but using his spare arm to pin Megatron back. He was able to easily hold the larger mech down – but then, Megatron was not struggling. Even the cross-haired monocle was glowing cerulean with the force of Perceptor's barely-contained rage.

Megatron's expression flared as the Autobot, once so hesitant and timid, clawed at his neck. Perhaps a little more...

"Scared?" cooed the Decepticon, thoroughly enjoying the fluctuations in temper he could feel emanating from the other robot's frame.

"Stop mocking me!" cried the scientist, striking the captive Megatron's face – it was but a glancing blow, doing nothing but causing the warlord to laugh. Perceptor, usually so calm and silent, howled as though physically injured by the verbal blow, his fingers descending to claw the gladiator's chestplate.

Perhaps surprisingly, Megatron withdrew the first film-plate, his spark glimmering but not exposed.

"You're so easily swayed," he commented idly, watching Perceptor's face, how the microscope had frozen at the sight of the Decepticon's life-force, how the tender silver metal was illuminated by the pulsing glow of the electrical currents.

The protective cocoon closed about the fragile spark again – but it had achieved the desired result. Interpreting the lowered guard as a slight against his bravery, the microscope's trembling increased, his optic flaring out again.

"Stop – mocking – me!" Again he slammed his fist into the supine Decepticon's face, his rifle falling from his fingers in his anger.

"Prove your strength to me, then," purred Megatron, clearly enjoying himself immensely.

"Stop it!" hoarse-voiced and wild-eyed, Perceptor drew two wires from a panel in his side, scratching at the mirroring plating on Megatron's body. Finally, one clicked and opened, revealing the hidden jack. The Autobot hesitated, causing Megatron to sneer.

"So do it, if you aren't a coward. Only a weakly, useless scrap would back out now."

"Stop it!"

Perceptor made the connection. There were no sparks, there was no cry, there was not even a surge of energy to signify the connection. It was, for want of an adjective, anticlimactic and almost melancholy.

Megatron lay still a moment, allowing the cable to rest in his side as he watched the taciturn microscope shudder and spasm above him. He could easily have thrown the Autobot aside, killed him and gone about more urgent business – indeed, his efficiency-obsessed mind screamed at him to stop wasting time. Ah, but what was that amusing yet strangely fitting little human saying?

Ah yes... all work and no play...

As though he really needed an excuse.

With a few simple words and the shades of a memory, Megatron had unearthed more of the old Perceptor than the Autobots, for all their doctors and medical expertise, could ever have dreamed of finding. The combined spark and processor shots had, after all, almost lobotomised the once-emotional scientist.

The sniper growled, his hands slamming into the ground either side of Megatron's head, his black fingers once again curling loosely around the trigger-guard of the long-barrelled precision rifle as though it were a lifeline.

"Hurt ," he snarled, his meekly-accented voice breathy and harsh, the command curt as though it could truly be obeyed.

"I win again, Perceptor."

"Don't you dare use my name as though we are friends!"

"Aren't we?"

"Shut up!"

The surge of anger manifested as a spark so powerful that Perceptor was forced to break the connection; the triumph rattled through Megatron as strong as an overload and as powerful as victory could be. With a stifled gasp, Perceptor stared at his hands, which were still trembling with the strength of emotion.

"It looks like you are still under my power, Perceptor."

Perceptor shook his head, unable to form words. The rifle aimed at Megatron as the warlord rose to his feet. Glancing at the weapon, Megatron reached and took the barrel in one hand. It did not take any amount of exertion to bend it back upon itself with a screech, leaving it nothing but a useless hunk of scarred metal.

The microscope stared at his now-useless weapon before turning his head back up to Megatron, casting the large gun aside and swiftly drawing two pistols from holsters on his hips – but it was already too late. The warlord had the cannon pointed at his head again.

"You would have made a better Decepticon, Perceptor. True Autobots do not waste time with concepts as petty as revenge. You are not one of them. Rather, I feel as soon as they learn of your actions, they shall cast you out. It was weak of you to take revenge - a strong mech would have moved on."

"But -" Perceptor snarled, backing down under the sights of the mighty cannon, "you said -"

"And you trusted me." Megatron smirked coldly. "It seems that your naivety will never change. Autobot, I have settled my debt to you."

"You lie!"

"It is not a fair exchange?"

"No, you -"

Megatron shrugged. "Then you lose. I have no wish to waste my time here with an inconsequential scrap such as yourself. If you did not glean pleasure from your act, then that is not my fault - and the Autobots shall ostracize you nonetheless. Such a tragic ending... but I am sure I shall get over it. Farewell, weakling."

The cannon fired once, and as Perceptor fell to the ground with a cry, clutching his charred shoulder, Megatron took to the skies.