Author notes: ..Hi again, three months later. ^^; I got distracted by things like.. Work. And hobbies. And.. Work. BUT HEY, I said I'd write this! So.. Here we go.
This will not be the same as Souvenir. There will be no happy ending for most of our protagonists. But if you're reading this at all, you probably already knew that.
But the stories will be told from start to end of our six.
Here we go..!
I I I I I I I I I I I I I
If you want to know how far to go to hell
Just ask me
I'm the final straw, the nail in the coffin
Just by being who I am
Is so God-damned
I'm not the master of the universe
I walk the earth the wrong way
Met my potential and fulfilled the worst
My best is cursed the wrong way
- 'Master of the Universe', Sick Puppies
Souvenir: The Six
I I I I I I I I I I I I I
Waking up was one of the hardest things Hubcap had ever had to do.
It wasn't so much the slow stir from unconscious itself - though that did move about much slower than it should have and came accompanied with a terrible, painful pulse of his own sparkbeat in his helm. For the most part, the worst of it came about when he realized that things weren't quite right.
When the universe was off-center, Hubcap tended to pretend to still be unconscious. It was a defense mechanism and, ordinarily, useful in the sort of life he lead; it would not have been the first time he woke up in an alleyway, sporting fresh wounds from a disgruntled customer.
However, this was no alleyway. The stench of garbage was missing, although there was the faint smell of stale energon. There were also far too many people around him; far more than a stray thief or even a gang of some sort. It didn't help that the hard, cold surface he was laying on could only be some sort of floor instead of the gritty, trash-strewn streets of Cybertron.
Then there was the fact that he couldn't quite recall how he had gotten there in the first place.
Hubcap strained to recall anything beyond the pounding in his head and the distraction of nearby whispers. Anything, even so much as a bar fight or going out to get drunk in the first place, would at least give him something.
It took several nervous, nearly panic-ridden seconds to remember the mad dash through his apartment, the wail of Autotrooper sirens, and the broken glass as he leapt out his own window. The local authorities had, once again, grown wise to his scams and tricks; as usual, he hadn't picked up on the warning signs and was forced to escape just in time.
If the memory had ended there, he would have been pleased; at least, the fall from his fourth-floor apartment would have explained why he had been unconscious and in a cell. Instead, his processor proclaimed there was more, bringing up a barely conscious stumble in to vehicle mode and the rush to a nearby spaceport. He would not have been surprised if he had a concussion at the time, as foggy as the memory was.
After that, things were hazy; he must have purchased a ticket to somewhere, because he could remember sitting in a small craft. However, there wasn't much left to what he knew after that, save for some in-space turbulence and flashing lights.
"Ow." Hubcap decided to stop pretending; he would never know if he continued to lie there. Several gasps came from around him. "The slag is going on..?"
"You were smacked by a suitcase." A short blue and gray mech with a face Hubcap thought resembled the nozzle hose from a vacuum cleaner knelt above him. "Could've been worse, though. Could've been a body." A vague gesture was made over a sloped shoulder pad as a servo was offered down.
In the direction of the gesture, another bot lay unconscious on the floor. The frame sported far too many dents and wounds to be healthy.
Hubcap boggled as he took the hand up and stared at the odd logos on the unconscious bots' frame. "Is that.. A flight attendant?"
"Was." The vacuum bot shrugged. "He didn't buckle up before we got shot down."
The words struck Hubcap as if it were a crowbar. "Wait, what? Shot down?" Panic and a deep, unsettling confusion flared at the information. "What do you mean, shot down? Who shot us down?"
Then, he took a moment to glance around. They were certainly in some sort of cell; the space was far too small for all the bots in it, dark and barely lit by two dying lights in the ceiling above.
What sort of craft had he snuck on to? Try as he might, Hubcap couldn't recall if he had been on a small six-seater or a multi-floor turbojet. Even with a processor injury, he thought he would have gotten on to a cheap enough ride that this should not have even been something to worry about.
Had the Elite Guard shot them down trying to arrest him?
A glance around the crowd ruled that last one out; no one glared at him or demanded his head on a platter. There was only a mesmerizing cocktail of fear, confusion and a disturbing hopelessness on the faceplate of every one of what looked like about three or four dozen Autobots there.
"Decepticons." The vacuum bot seemed far too level-headed, Hubcap thought. "Decepticons shot us down."
For a moment, he could only stare at the strangely helmed mech, unable to comprehend what he had just said. "..But Decepticons don't exist, anymore. The history channel said so."
His own voice sounded small even to his own audios.
"Well, looks like the slaggin' history channel was wrong." The strange bot growled. "None of us know what's going on other than 'Cons got us. Name's Searchlight. Don't suppose you know.. some.." The blue and gray mech trailed off and turned to what seemed to be the door, suspicion crossing what amounted to his face.
Hubcap stared for a brief moment of confusion. Before he could think of a proper question to ask through the thick haze of shock, noises began to trickle in from beyond the solid steel keeping them inside.
With the door in the way, it all came muffled and with an odd echo; still, the voices could be made out for what they were.
"You better have one fragging good excuse for this." A deep, gruff voice that sounded like sandpaper. Whoever it was did not sound happy.
"Commander, sir..!" An obviously frightened response. "I.. I was under the impression that the intelligence agent was on board one of those ships.. Sir..!" The voice actually pitched.
"So, you decided to shoot them down." The gruff voice mocked, clearly unimpressed. "In space. All four ships, less than a thousand hics from Autobot surveillance."
"It.. I.. But.."
"Was the agent on board any of those ships, soldier?"
"..No." Barely a whimper, it was almost inaudible.
"I see. Lord Megatron, you understand, is going to be very unhappy about this." A snarl. "I am not all that happy with this, either. You will be severely reprimanded, you realize. Now, get out of my sight."
Then, the sound of shuffling metal and what might have been the frightened Decepticon running off. Inside the cell, nervous glances were traded about.
A moment later, the door opened with a slow, horrid creak.
No one spoke; the few hushed whimpers that had risen during and after the overheard conversation died as soon as they saw the tall, bulky excuse for a Cybertronian at the door. As large as the menacing, spike-covered being was, they could see nothing of the hall beyond.
The Decepticon - Hubcap could only assume it as the snarling commander that they had overheard - grumbled and glared. "Pathetic lot."
There was no response from any of the Autobots.
"Ugh.. Might as well get the injured fixed up." A snort and a sideways glance to something or someone further down the hall. "Waste of a slave, otherwise."
The words finally evoked a reaction other than blank terror; gasps and startled cries rose up from the various Autobots that quickly rose in volume.
"What?" Several yelled at once.
"What do you mean, slave?" A femme cried.
"We haven't done anything! Please, let us go!" A mech that seemed far too old called out.
For his part, Hubcap could only feel a deep, cold pit in the core of his spark. He was still trying to get past the fact that Decepticons not only existed, but had captured them; the concept of 'slave' seemed far too much to even consider. The words churned in his processor, combating denial and the sudden need to believe that he had injured his head worse than he thought and that this was all some strange hallucination.
Hubcap felt ill; the screaming and pleading were only becoming worse around him, even as Decepticons came in to drag the injured and unconscious away. All he could do was sit there, trying in vain to comprehend the situation.
Perhaps it would have been better to have been arrested.
I I I I I I I I I I I I I
Eventually, the noise died down to an exhausted, frightened silence.
The only sound were the whispers; attempts at comfort, promises that everything would be all right and questions about possible escape.
"We need to stay calm." Searchlight had said, seemingly out of the blue. "Things are probably going to get worse before they get better, but we have to stay calm if we have any hope of getting out of this."
Everyone had turned to stare, looking to that one bot with such need in their optics. The longing on so many faceplates had been the worst thing Hubcap had ever seen.
It took several hours for the desperation to reach a peak; several bots had attempted to open the door. It hadn't budged, of course - Searchlight had said it wouldn't, that Decepticons were much too smart for that -, but they had tried anyway.
When the metal didn't so much as move an inch, fists pounded on the door and demanded release, begging once again for any sort of mercy.
Nothing happened. There had been only sparkbreak.
For the first time in his life, Hubcap didn't know what to do. Before, there had always been some way out; bribery, persuasion, a back door or window, or even a scam he could run.
Somehow, he doubted any of that would work here. All that he knew of the Decepticons - wicked, cruel creatures the media had always portrayed as spark-less monsters - were not those that could be swindled. Less than a month ago, he would have laughed at a horror movie depicting a similar situation.
This was simply beyond his scope of reasoning; he had no worldly idea of what he should be doing or what was going to happen.
According to his chronometer, six long hours passed before anything happened. The first warning came when what sounded like heavy footsteps echoed from outside; then, a few startled yelps and what sounded like, "Lieutenant! Sir!"
A few seconds later, the door swung open again.
A monster stood there.
Those that had been sitting by the door lurched in horror and ran to the back of the cell; someone screamed before another clamped a servo over their mouth.
There were no words that Hubcap could think of to properly call what was there; it stood tall, sported a deep shade of purple and black markings that would have otherwise not been so bizarre had it not been for it's head. A long, elongated faceplate that lacked any mouth or visible olfactory sensors; only startlingly frightening sensory antennas that reached and branched upwards as if to grab at something and a single horrid, bulbous red optic sporting a wide slit from top to bottom. Hypnotized by that optic the way he was, Hubcap almost missed the long, wicked claws that appeared to be individually larger than most Autobots.
That slitted optic somehow seemed better fitted to the organic off-world animals all Autobots were warned about; it looked to their huddled, trembling mass of bodies, twitching slightly as it glanced from one bot to the next.
Perhaps the thing - and Hubcap honestly could not think to call it anything other than a thing; no natural Cybertronian could look like that, as far as he knew - was taking stock of who was there.
"Holy slag..!" Someone whispered from their cowering mess of limbs and frames. "What is that thing..?"
At least he wasn't the only one.
In the sudden shock of fear, Hubcap found himself trying to hide behind Searchlight. Despite that the other bot was barely taller than he was - they sported the same protoform mold, in fact - he refused to move away to hide behind the larger parts of the small mountain the captives had become. The whole of them quaked in the back of the cell, some closing their optics shut or burying their faceplates in friends' frames.
Only Searchlight didn't seem frightened; instead, he glared at the creature at the door.
Hubcap wondered if his fellow minibot was insane.
The great red optic continued to glance from one Autobot to the next; every time it focused on one, the mech or femme in question would whimper or shake even worse. However, the gaze never focused on one for too long; not any longer than these eternal seconds seemed to be, at any rate.
Eventually, it stared in his direction. Hubcap ducked and tried to hide behind his living shield; again, Searchlight didn't so much as flinch as he was the target of the very same glare.
The eye moved on.
Then, it looked back at them.
This time, it kept on staring. It did not turn away nor did it focus on any other point in the room.
It was focused squarely on them. The seconds ticked by.
Hubcap trembled and sincerely hoped it was Searchlight that the monster was focused on.
Suddenly, it moved; a strange, round, cloven pede took a single step in to the room. Several Autobots yelped and jumped at the seemingly thunderous footstep that resulted. Another step was taken, the gait slow and casual.
The entire time, it stared down at the two minibots; Searchlight continued to glare upwards as Hubcap began to whimper.
It didn't take long for the terrifying Decepticon to loom above them. If he had dared, Hubcap could have reached out to touch the towering creature.
The optic was moving again; back and forth, this time, between one minibot and the next. It was silent, never letting out any noise.
For a moment, nothing happened.
Then, before any of them could react, there came a sudden lurch from the claws on one impossibly large servo; three pointed digits wrapped themselves around a much smaller target. There came a frightened commotion at the unexpected action.
Hubcap let out a scream of his own, especially once he realized that he had been the one grabbed; he screamed again as he was lifted in to the air. The claws pinned his arms to his side, making struggle impossible; still, he twisted and flailed in nothing short of sheer terror.
"Let him go!" That was the loudest Searchlight had been since he had met him; Hubcap dared to glance down to find shock on the other minibots' faceplate. "Put him down!"
The monster said nothing; even as Searchlight moved to rush at Primus only knew what, the claws on the free servo violently tossed him aside. Several Autobots let out startled cries as their fellow mech landed on them.
Hubcap was lost in a sea of terror and confusion; he could barely understand what the creature holding him was, let alone what it wanted. He tried to kick in the air and squirm out of the claws holding him, but they held firm.
Suddenly, he found that he couldn't move his head; it took a moment longer to realize that the pointed digits of two claws were holding on to either side of his own helm. They didn't so much as dent, despite the wicked point that they ended in, but Hubcap was unable to move away.
That large, red optic was far too close; with the claws on his head, he couldn't turn away; he could only stare with his own wide optics and tremble.
No one else was making a sound, either.
"What.. What do you want from me?" He had to force out the words.
The claws holding his helm twitched, forcing his head to tilt ever so slightly to the left; for a moment, Hubcap feared that the monster would tear his head off as some sort of example. Those sorts of things had been shown in the horror movies with Decepticon villains enough times. A long, thin keen left his vocalizer at the recollection of various films.
However, the same claws didn't turn his head enough to hurt; instead, it forced the minibots' skull to the right.
Only then did Hubcap realize the monster was inspecting him for something; for what, he had no idea.
"Hmm." The monster finally let out a sound.
There was a small popping noise and the sensation of warm liquid trailing down his lower back; Hubcap whimpered and flushed as he realized he had sprung an oil leak.
The monster didn't seem phased, although it did glance down at the new puddle forming on the floor. "Have any of them been claimed as of yet?"
"..Uh.." Was the slow response from the hallway. "..Not yet, no, Lieutenant Shockwave."
"Good." The now named monster let out a breath; from where, Hubcap couldn't be certain, since it didn't appear that this Shockwave had a mouth. "I'm taking this one."
The world spun as the monster turned with the minibot still in his hand; his skull was let go, but that was small consolation to the claws still around Hubcap's body. The rest of the Autobots in the cell - Searchlight in particular - began to yell and cry out demands for his release.
Hubcap didn't know what was happening, but the claws held firm; he was being taken somewhere, and he didn't know why or for what purpose. He wasn't even certain what had just happened.
So, the minibot, yellow armor shining in a stark contrast to the gray and purple holding him, whimpered and tried very hard not to panic.
It wasn't working very well.
I I I I I I I I I I I I I
Your glass is half, his glass is full
My glass is empty
You're running short of not enough
Well, I got plenty
And when I die, I'm gonna fly
And come and get you
And when you try and run
I'll be the curse above you
It's gonna end, it's gonna end
In the race for disaster, I will come in first
That's what I've learned the hard way
- 'Master of the Universe', Sick Puppies