I knew it was him.
A part of me had known right from the start. The strange deaths, the bizarre disappearances, I knew it was all his doing. But I didn't want to believe it. What I really wanted to do was close my eyes and shut my ears, to shut out the evidence that was screaming right at my face. But I couldn't avoid it forever. And when the fires started, when I heard the explosions and the screams, some of terror, some of ecstasy, and saw the flickering orange lights and heard the sounds of buildings crumbling and death flinging itself against everything, I knew I could sit in ignorance no longer. Whether or not it was him, I had to know. If it wasn't him, I would fall on my knees and thank Primus, thank Primus for not making this my fault. But if it was him, than I was the only one who could stop this.
I had promised myself, after all.
I dashed outside the apartment and stared up at the fire, my mouth hanging open. Dear Primus, there wasn't going to be anything left! The fire roared and whirled in the buildings up ahead. Just the sound of it spoke to me of ruin and death, the hissing and anguished snarls of burning. Windows were cracking, either from the heat or from the mob outside, who were throwing oil barrels, gas tanks, shards of metal from the crumbling streets, even parts of their own bodies if there was nothing else into the burning buildings. I saw an arm fly into the air, shadowed black against the bright red and orange backdrop, and hurtle itself down into the government building below. There were more screams of terror from inside, followed by the jeering roar of laughter and approval from the crowd. And there was a crowd. Possibly hundreds of people all gathered around to watch the Autobot officials burn.
I knew why these people wanted the Autobots to die. I had lived their reasons. The Autobots ran the government of Cybertron and had had the same leader for ages. The same leader who made it impossible for non-Autobots to get good job, good houses, go to good schools. There was poverty everywhere and if you were the wrong kind of person, maybe a Seeker, for instance, you were mocked and ridiculed wherever you went. Some people even died in acts of violence spurned by hatred.
Now the tables had turned, and it was the commoners who were gathered around the Autobots, taunting, while they died trapped and aflame inside.
I stepped off of the porch and ran towards the inferno; there was no time for hesitation. I pushed myself past the thronging crowd. Some people saw me and their mouths popped open in surprise. They paused in their revelry to watch me run by, shocked. Some people looked glad to see me. Complete strangers would throw their arms around my shoulders, laughing, and thickly say things like, "Hey, kid! You see that? See the blue eyes burn? See their sparks rising up? Watch them burn up, the fraggers." I got a good whiff of energon off one of them. Over-energized, I expect. I shoved them off me and kept running through the crowd, holding my hand over my optics. People kept stopping me, wanting me to celebrate with them or just to gawk. I ran past all of them, apologizing as I went. I had to find him. I had to find him. And no one was going to get in my way.
I was appalled, as I ran. I felt sick to my stomach by the way they could joke and drink and be merry while building a pyre for the people screaming inside. But I couldn't hate them. Not completely. I understood their pain because I was one of them.
There's a name for people like me. They called us, "Street Cleaners." It was a name I had to endure my entire life; I heard it spoken to me from porches, from windows, from the inside of moving ships. I'd heard it with every possible infliction, yelled with spite and hatred, called with jeering laughter, spoken softly with pity, muttered sideways as an explanation to a friend, to a customer who bumped into me trying to leave a store, to a child. To a child! That's the absolute worst. Having a parent explain to a child how worthless you are. How you don't have a future and will never have one and having to endure the following stare of pity and curiosity that comes from those wide, child-eyes. I always ran away after seeing those eyes. They were eyes that told me I was nothing.
The way it was used on Cybertron, "Street Cleaner" was a name for someone who was nobody, someone who had nothing, not money, not a home, someone who had to live in the street, feeding off the leftovers of society to survive.
Someone like me.
My parents left a long time ago and left me suddenly an orphan. Now, the only one I've had to take care of me is myself. That was the way my life worked. I cared for me.
Well, not just me.
I turned a corner and saw more buildings, some just beginning to smoke. The fire hadn't had time to feed properly yet. There others celebrating here, but most of the people thronging the street were just ordinary Transformers, not part of the crowd at all. They were mostly just trying to get away. They fled, the ones who could fly in vehicle mode, screaming as they went. The screams seemed to delight the people who were cheering. They laughed and pushed and made as if to grab at the Transformers whizzing by. Then they starting singing an obscene song. I ran past them, pumping my fist nervously as I did, so that they would I think I was one of them, and darted around another corner, their drunken song following me as I left. One of them, I noticed, was a Seeker. Half of one of his wings was missing. Did he break it off to toss into the fire or had someone else broken it off before? There was no way of knowing.
I turned a few more corners and ran a little more ways. I was getting deeper into the Autobot complex, and there were fewer and fewer people as I went along. I knew they would come here eventually, but for now the flickering lights of the fires were distant, and the chanting of the crowd was reduced to a murmur of distant sound. I whirled around the square, searching desperately for him. Was I too early? Was he not here yet?
Suddenly, there was an explosion close by, followed by a roar of delight from the mob. I turned in the direction of the sound. I could see a new pillar of smoke rising from the now shattered roof of one of the buildings. The pillar was directly northwest from where I was. I knew that if I turned the corner, I would see the building right in front of me.
I also knew that that was where he was.
There was no time to wait. I had to catch up with him before he moved on. I ran in the direction of the new smoke pillar, bracing my wings as I did so.
There have been stories all over the news about a new "trouble-maker."
They told us all kinds of things about him. He's a rogue, a complete mystery, untrustworthy and dangerous. He's extremely ambitious, seeking to undermine everything that our revered leader, Sentinel Prime, has sought to build. He's a gang-leader, a murderer, who wants to build an army and conquer all of Cybertron in the name of criminals and outcasts.
Of course, everyone knows that the Cybertronian news is controlled by the Autobots. As a Street Cleaner, I lived among the people that the nets were condemning as "criminals and outcasts," and I knew what was really going on.
Apparently, there was some sort of rebel leader that had recently begun popping up on Cybertron. He was calling himself "Megatron," and his followers were known as "Decepticons." He claimed that he sought to liberate all of Cybertron, meaning that he wanted to completely redo the government, revise all the policies, make sure everyone has equal opportunities, and basically completely rework the system to benefit "us." It all sounds wonderful, and he'd already built up a pretty solid block of followers. But it wasn't his goals that worried me. It was how he was reaching those goals.
Apparently, this "Megatron" character didn't believe in negotiation.
It all started a few months ago with Scalpel's death. Scalpel was a medic who lived in our sector. I say "medic" in the very loosest sense of the term because it was a well-known fact to street cleaners like me that Scalpel had lost his license to practice medicine long ago. He worked as a doctor for both people who were too poor and too stupid to go to anyone else. They would walk in; he'd fix them up, cheap, and then send them back out later. He was the kind of person who always had a really oily smile. He stopped a little and rubbed his hands together for customers and only ever said nice things to people.
But a story that involved Scalpel never had a happy ending.
Sometimes a customer would walk out feeling great, and then a week later they would start falling apart, the extra part that they needed rusted through and inadequate. Or maybe the parts that were already in the customer were exceptionally rare or valuable, and the customer, during the course of the procedure, would mysteriously lose parts. Or maybe the money taken from their account was a little more than was needed for the treatment they wanted. Or maybe a customer went in for a little check-up, and Scalpel pulled a plug somewhere, whether purposely or by accident, no one ever found out, and suddenly the customer was dead, and the remnant of their spark was seeping out their chest. I've heard a lot of stories like that. I'm one of the people whose lost a part to him.
The worst, though, are the things I used to hear about children. He'd beckon to kids who came close to his shop, wearing his oily smile and stooping over in his little bow. They would walk in and never walk out. Over the course of the next week there would be a significant rise on the black market for spare parts.
So there was a lot of relief and absolutely no sadness when it was reported in the news net that Scalpel was found dead, lying in an alleyway in a pool of his own motor oil. Apparently, someone had taken him to the roof of a building nearby and severely injured him before pushing him off to his death. The police gave a half-hearted search for the murderer, but he was never found.
I was glad about Scalpel's death, I really was. But it worried me. Who would've done this thing? Who would have the guts to? What if it was someone who didn't care about justice, who just wanted to kill him just because? What if more murders happened, this time with not so evil people?
Sure enough, over the course of the next few months, more deaths occurred. An Autobot who was known as an avid hater of Seekers was found shot to death, hanging off a flagpole on the side of a building. A cop who made a habit of beating people was found burned to a crisp in a dumpster, both of his legs sawed off and thrown in a heap on top of him. An Autobot soldier turned murderer was found in a sitting position under the flag near one of the Autobot Boot Camps with a huge stab wound in his chest, right through the middle of his spark chamber.
And the killer was getting bolder, killing more and more important people on a larger and larger scale. Suddenly, he came out in public, revealing himself as Megatron and telling the whole world his plans to ruin the Autobots and make this age "ours."
We didn't have a tele, so I had never seen Megatron, nor even heard his voice, but suddenly he was everywhere. Everyone was talking about him. They were hailing him as a hero, a champion for the weak and a defender of justice and honor. The picture of integrity. They turned him into an idol. Some people were fanatics. They shouted his name to the sky like he was a god, sometimes on their knees, weeping, and everytime he killed someone knew or went on a raid like tonight, they were there.
These were the people who wanted him to take over as a dictator.
There had been other raids before the one tonight, but this one was the biggest. Tonight, a whole sector of official buildings would be burned to ashes. That was the promise, and Megatron was right around the corner, delivering that promise.
I turned the corner into the square and saw Megatron. He had moved on from the smoking building to the one next door. His back was to me. There were some other people with him, some of his followers I suspected. One of them handed him something; I couldn't see what it was. I heard a sound like a small clink of metal and then a beep, and then the object was in the air, making an arc high against the smoky sky. I didn't see it come down, but suddenly there was a bang and a rumble and a fire billowed out of the top of the building in front of them, the orange flames reaching high above the roof. The distant crowd cheered wildly. This fire was exceptionally bright, and it cast the group in front of me into dark silhouettes.
I knew that it was Megatron in front of me. That fact seemed obvious. The Decepticons wouldn't look at anyone else with that kind of simpering, adoring look. But there was still room for me to doubt that it might be him. As long as I didn't know who Megatron really was, there was still room left in my spark to doubt. I clung on to that small, impossible hope.
But I couldn't cling forever. I had to be sure. My mind would never rest until I knew whether or not it was him.
I took a step forward. "Metalwing?" I called hoarsely.
Megatron started and I felt my spark plunge down into my stomach and chills of horror break out on my neck. If Megatron wasn't him, then that name wouldn't have meant anything to him. There was no longer any hope left for doubt.
My younger brother turned around to face me.
He had changed so much. Metalwing, the brother of my memories, looked almost nothing like this half-soldier, half-assassin that stood before me now. He was so much bigger now. His wings were not thin and weak like they had been before, but broad and powerful. His voice had grown deeper, too. And now that he was out in the raid with his followers, there were two shoulder cannons mounted on each side of his neck and he wore two swords with jagged blades on his waist.
And yet, I could still see traces of Metalwing in this person in front of me. His eye color was the same, the deep, crimson red prisms, a trait he inherited from our father. The shape of his face was vaguely the same, and when he saw me, his eyes widened in the familiar way they did when he was surprised.
"Brother?" he whispered, shocked.
That was what he called me. I was far older than he and had raised him. He knew me by no other name.
The three that he had with him were confused. "'Brother?'" they repeated dumbly. "Megatron, do you know this guy? You have a brother?"
He ignored all of them. He took a step forward. "What are you doing here?" he asked. The surprise had started to fade from his face, and he was smiling. There was an embarrassment there in his features, as if he were a little kid who'd been caught doing something he shouldn't and knew he owed an explanation. I couldn't believe it. The thing he was guilty about was not telling me what he was doing! He didn't regret everything else at all. I could tell, just by looking at his eyes.
I felt completely numb. I stayed where I was. "I just..." I stammered, trying to find words. "I… I saw the flames…"
"Ah," he said. His smile was a little sheepish. "I'm sorry, Brother. I know I should've told you, but I didn't know how to explain."
"Megatron, sir," murmured a woman standing next to him.
He held out a hand to her. "It's quite alright," he said. I felt myself reeling. Sir! Someone was calling my younger brother, "sir"! Nothing felt real anymore.
He looked back up at me, still waiting for my reaction. When I said nothing, he turned back to the fire. "Isn't it wonderful, Brother?" he asked, over the crackle of the flames. "I did this. His smile was serene. "I did everything. It's all because of me. Isn't it wonderful? Things are finally going to change." He was looking at me expectantly. He thought I was proud of him.
I should've thought about what to say. I should have run over every possible reaction in my mind before I spoke. But it felt like my CPU had shut down. I could barely think. This is what I said:
"Are you mad?"
That was all. I said it with my eyes wide, with the chills of horror erupting all over me. I wasn't seeing my brother standing in front of me. I was seeing the towering flames, the murders, one by one, replaying in front of me, the crowd outside, cheering and singing, feeding the fire with parts of their bodies. Metalwing, my Metalwing, had done all that? He'd done everything? No. No, it couldn't be true! It couldn't be!
My brother's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?" he asked suspiciously.
"What... What have you done?" I choked. "What have you done? You did all this? You killed all those people? You started all these fires? You've been parading around Cybertron like some sort of god, like a messiah, while you were committing all these murders? Are you mad?" I felt my voice rising, I was shouting now, maybe thinking that the volume of my voice would make all of this not true. "Why? Why are you doing this? What the pit are you thinking?"
My brother was no longer smiling. His red optics flickered in the firelight. "I'm recreating Cybertron's future. All those people I killed deserved to die. Have you forgotten what it was like for us, what it is like for them? To wake up each day not knowing if you would be able to go to sleep that night or if you would be dead and rotting in a dumpster? Have you forgotten how you could barely scrape up the money just to get enough fuel to keep us running for one more day? You always told me that things needed to change, that the future would someday hold a promise for us, that we would no longer have to live in fear or poverty. Well now, I intend to carve that future, by whatever means necessary, but it seems that my dear brother has forgotten!"
"Traitor!" screamed the woman next to him. Her voice was shrill. It pierced my already ringing ears. "Blood traitor! You are a shame to the entire Decepticon cause!"
"Stay out of this!" he snapped at her. "This is a private matter!"
"Brother, listen to me," I said. I was no longer shouting. I was pleading. "You don't have to do this. Things can change another way. You don't have to result to all this violence. We can find another way."
"There is no other way," he said, scowling at me. Then suddenly, his face softened. "Brother," he said quietly, "Can't you see? I'm finally going to create that new world, that new future that you always spoke of. Everything I'm doing now, everything I've worked so hard to build, it's all been for you! The reason I've been able to accomplish all of this is because of you!" His face hardened again, and he looked at me through narrowed eyes, as if he was seeing me for the first time in his life. "I thought you, you of all people, would be able to understand! But you can't understand at all! You're just a coward!"
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Metalwing. Metalwing. What happened to you?
My thoughts flew back, back in time, throughout all the millennia that I had known my brother, all the time I had watched him grow, trying to see how this could've happened, trying to see what could've gone wrong. I flipped desperately through the memories, looking for something, anything that would tell me why this was happening. Anything that would make this not my fault.
What did I do wrong? The memories flickered, it was as if my very life was passing before my eyes. I saw myself, sitting on the roof of a skyscraper with my mother, her telling me that maybe it was time she made me a sibling. I saw my father, years later, strike me across the face before he and my mother were gone, gone forever. I saw the way my brother was then, only a protoform, so tiny. There was a point where I could scoop him up and cup him in the palm of my hand. I saw us huddled together in an alleyway, him snuggled up against my plumage, desperately trying to keep warm. I saw myself sick, maybe with fatigue, maybe with injury, or maybe after breaking down from the terrible lifestyle we were forced to lead. I had collapsed, thinking that I couldn't faint, I couldn't because oh Primus oh Primus how was Metalwing going to know where I was if I was unconscious? I remembered a few days later, waking up and finding that a joint from my arm was missing and Metalwing bending over me, looking furious, vowing to catch Scalpel one day, informing me that he had screamed at him as he ran off. I could still hear his mock-screaming in my head. "Don't you come back! Don't you ever come back! Because if you do, I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"
Then my mind froze. There was one memory. One memory that now stood out from the rest.
It was many years ago. We were inside an upgrade shop, me standing in front of the engineer who worked there, Metalwing at my heels. He was still just a protoform then, his body made of liquid metal. Protoform shells could grow on their own to a certain extent, but Metalwing's had stopped. But even though his body had stopped growing, his spark had not. He had to get his body upgraded to a bigger size before his spark outgrew him because if it did… I really didn't want to think about it.
The only problem was, we didn't have enough money. We never did. And a full body upgrade, especially for a protoform, was incredibly expensive. I remembered, the engineer had told us that he wouldn't do it. He had looked down at Metalwing with the gaze of a mechanic looking at a machine that won't work, then looked up at me, square into my eyes, and said that he didn't do nothing for free. Either I get my lazy bum off the street and get a job like a real man or get out. And take your little toy with you, you freak. I remembered staring into his green eyes and seeing nothing but disregard there. In my mind, my father's image had flashed through my head. I felt this unbelievable heat course through my circuitry, clenching my fists, turning my vision red. Through the dark red haze, there was only one clear thought in my head: We need that upgrade. We need it now.
So I unsheathed my talons and clamped my hand around his throat, letting each sharp point dig into the metal. My teeth were clenched, grinding against each other with dull screeches and crunches. I remembered now, though I barely noticed at the time, Metalwing looking up at me curiously, while the engineer's optics opened wide with fear and his mouth fell open.
"Listen," I hissed. "We came in here for one thing: for that upgrade. He needs it, you understand? He needs it. If we leave here without it, he might die. He will die. What part of that is so hard for you to understand?"
His hands had flown up to my arm, trying to pry my claws off of his neck. But he lived a cushioned existence, never having to fight to survive, and so I was stronger than he. "Look, buddy," he choked, his voice compressed by my grip, "I ain't no medic, here. I have rights. You don't have the money, you don't get nothing. I have half a mind to call the police on you."
"You can't call anyone if you're dead," I had hissed. I slammed his back into the wall, pinning him there, still only dimly aware of Metalwing watching me silently.
"You will do this upgrade," I had growled, making every word a threat. "You'll do it today, and you'll do it right, exactly the way I ask. If you get anything wrong. If he," I flicked my head in Metalwing's direction, "is harmed in any way, I'll know. And I'll find you."
"The. Police." He had gagged on the words, his eyes rolling with panic. "I'll. Call. The. Police!"
"Go ahead and call them," I had said, trying to make it sound as if it didn't matter to me whether they were here or not. "It won't matter. They haven't caught us yet; they won't catch me before I'm done with you. And by then it won't matter to you whether they've caught me or not, will it?"
He had cast his eyes around the room wildly, looking for some invisible hand to come to his aid. I could feel his fear through my clenched hand. It made me feel uneasy, being the source of his fear, but there was no time to feel guilty. My brother's life was at stake.
I could tell he was flipping through his options, seeing if there was some way he could send me off without me tearing him limb from limb. He was definitely seeing that as a possibility. Once again, my thoughts were not clicking together coherently. All I could think was, He's taking too long. So I gripped him tighter and slammed him against the wall a second time. I didn't want to give him time to relax while he was in my grip. "I'm getting impatient," I hissed.
"Alright!" he gasped, his hands groping uselessly against my arm. "Alright! I'll do it! I'll upgrade the kid! Just… Just…" He didn't finish. I'd clenched my fist in victory and cut off his voice completely.
I felt a cold hand wrap around my spark. I had rendered him speechless. I little more and I might kill him. But I still let none of my remorse show through. I unclenched my hand and stepped back from him, trying to make the movement as smooth and effortless and possible. The engineer dropped to his knees and clutched at his now torn and dented throat. A spurt of energon dribbled over his lips. He gagged there for a while before looking up at me. "What… What are you going to pay me?" he whispered. He looked up at me, terrified. Never in my worst nightmares had I ever imagined anyone looking at me with that much fear.
I could have stopped there. It was enough that he had agreed to help Metalwing. That was all I had really wanted. I could have stopped. But I didn't. I held my hand out in front of my face and reactivated my talons, bathing all three of us in their yellow glow. For good measure, I also activated my wings. From the generators on my back, they spread out and fanned the air in the room, making the walls hum with their energy. They glowed a cool, transparent blue, but unlike the glow of my talons, which cast pools of light over everything near them, my wings glowed with the kind of light that seemed to draw energy from the space around it. They rendered me in shadow. The shadow of the blue against the glow of my talons… I had frightened many a cop with that image.
"With your life," I had whispered. His life. That would be his payment. Not only was I forcing someone to help us, I was forcing them to do it for free.
"Okay!" he had said, cringing back in fear. "Okay! I'll go and set everything up! Just…" he was backing away, crawling on his heels and the back of his legs. "Just, please! Don't hurt me!" He got up and bolted then, leaving flecks of energon on the floor in a trail behind him. The light in the back room came on.
I deactivated my wings and sheathed my claws and sighed. Something in me had deflated as soon as he ran from the room. I put my hand up to my forehead, as if to feel that it was still there, then, to my surprise, I started laughing. I was laughing. The exact wrong reaction. But I couldn't help it. I couldn't believe that I had pulled that off.
Just then, I felt something pat against my leg. I looked down. Metalwing was there at my heels, Primus he was so small then, not even to my knee, looking up at me in that way he did whenever he had a question. He looked worried. I got down on one knee and did my best to smile at him. "It's okay, Brother," I said touching his forehead with my hand. "Everything's gonna be okay. I took care of it. That guy in there's going to fix you up."
I could tell that that wasn't the question. Metalwing kept looking at me with that same concerned, quizzical look. "Brother?" he asked softly. "That guy was bleeding."
I felt my smile evaporate. "Yeah," I said quietly "Yeah, he was."
"You really hurt him," he informed me.
"I know," I said. What else was there to say? "I know."
"Brother?" he prompted. "Is it really okay to treat people like that?"
I felt myself stiffen, both in the memory and in the present day, with the inferno swirling all around me and Megatron glaring at me with hatred in his red eyes…
I remembered being stricken by that question. He had no idea how close to the mark that was. I sighed and placed my hand against his shoulder, so tiny, and calmly told him the words I now know I will always regret:
"Brother… Sometimes when we need something, really need something, we can't think of whether it's 'right' or 'wrong.' We do what we must to survive. I know that it's frightening, and I'm not proud of it, but just now, I couldn't think about that. All I… all we can afford to think about right now is what we need and how we can get it. It's the only way we can obtain anything.
"It's the only way we can survive."
The memory ended. Nothing was left in its place. There was nothing, nothing in my mind, nothing in my spark. All that was there was a swirling numbness. Those words. Those words. Those fragging, fragging words. I had said that to him. I had. The speech I had given him as a child was now serving as the logic he used to justify everything he had done. The fires. The explosions. The people drinking and singing. The lone arm, severed and lifeless, flung high against the backdrop of the flames. All of that. "Isn't it wonderful, Brother?"
"We do what we must to survive."
Something inside of me collapsed. I sank to my knees, my eyes fixed on the sky. What an odd sky it was. The stars that should have been shining were being choked by the black and gray smoke. Tiny embers, like the points of light reflected in a pair of optics, flew into the gray mass and lit it briefly. Everything was swirling and moving angrily. I knew I wasn't thinking clearly. My brother had become a mass murderer, and I was looking at the sky. But I couldn't help it. The cold hand had found me again, and now the numbness swirled inside me with the strength of a thousand pillars of smoke.
My fault. My fault. This was my fault. I had told him those things. I had raised him to distrust the Autobots. I had told him that things needed to change. I had told him, all through his life, that he was different, that he was smarter than anyone I had ever met, smarter than me even, that one day he would get a chance to prove that. "Don't let anyone hold you back, Brother. One day things will change. One day they will see what you are worth."
"My fault." I whispered. My head fell forward. I closed my eyes, still feeling my brother's glare on me. "This is my fault. I should have told you… I should have explained…"
"Save your breath, Brother," my brother snarled. "It's done. Nothing can change that. I have decided my destiny."
My head snapped up at the sound of his voice. Suddenly, I was consumed by one thought and one thought only: I had to fix this. Somehow, I had to take this back. And all of the sudden, I was filled with the thought that I could fix this. I thought that it was actually possible.
Anything to bring my Metalwing back.
"Listen," I said, fixing my eyes on him. I was smiling, trying to make the words true. "Brother, listen to me. This isn't… This doesn't have to be final. We can end this. Right here and now. You don't have to be a soldier or anything. We can just… just walk away, right now. Just, leave everything behind and go. We'll go to the other side of the planet. Somewhere the Autobots will never find us. We can just walk away right now! You can get rid of those upgrades, and we'll go together, and things will be… will be…"
But even as I was saying it, I knew it was no good. My brother's expression had not flickered for even an instant. If anything, his eyes became more hateful than ever. I felt like his gaze was actually boring into me, condemning me.
"I am no coward, Brother," he spat. "I will not run. I am not like you."
That was it, then. That was it. That was all there was to say. I felt myself break. My head dropped forward again; my hands fell limply to my sides. Everything that I had felt up until then, all the fear, the shock, the sadness, the love, was all lost. There was nothing left but anguish. A coward? I was a coward? So be it, then. After all I've done for you Brother, after all we've suffered through together, you think of me as a coward. Then so be it. My brother is gone. Gone forever. He's been completely erased and now only Megatron stands in his place. So that's the way it is. Goodbye, Brother, goodbye.
I felt myself sobbing, weeping uncontrollably. My shoulders shook with the force of it. I bowed my head so they wouldn't see, but I knew it was no use. They could hear. My voice crept out against my well, breaking out from my throat in sobs I could not contain. I felt their eyes on me, Megatron's and his lackeys, and I felt myself burn with shame. How could I care that they saw me? My whole world was dead, so why was I troubling myself over their gawking? Nothing made sense anymore.
My fault. My fault. All my fault. My thoughts followed no pattern but this. This was all my fault. That was the only thing that made sense. If only I had… If there was only some way… If only…
"Enough of this," Megatron spat. Through the haze, I could see him gesturing imperiously to the other three. "Come now," he said, "We have more work to do."
I looked up. "No you don't," I said.
He stopped. Then he turned. "Excuse me?"
"No," I stood up, steadying myself on my knees. "No, you're not going anywhere."
For a moment, Megatron just stood there, staring at me. His lackeys were staring, too. Then, a flicker of amusement came into his face. "Oh, really?" he asked, an ironic tone to his voice, "And who's going to stop me, Brother? You?"
I raised my head and looked at him, straight into his eyes. "Yes," I said.
The other three hooted with laughter. I didn't care. My mind was suddenly clear. This was my fault. I had caused this. I had failed to keep my promise. But if all this really was my mistake, then I had to fix it. Here and now, this had to end. And I was the only one who could finish it.
Megatron had told me that he had decided his destiny. Well, right there and then, I had decided mine, too. My destiny was to do everything in my power to end this. Whether or not I would succeed, I didn't know. But I had to try. I had to try to repair the damage that I had done.
It was the least I could do for Metalwing.
Megatron was grinning now, going along with their joke. "Really," he said calmly. "You will stop me, Brother? You really think you can defeat me by yourself?"
"I'll try," I said, keeping my optics level with his. "If you force me to fight you, Metalwing, I will."
The others were in hysterics now. They were leaning on each other's shoulders and slapping their knees and letting the entire smoky sky know their mirth. "Aw, c'mon, Megatron, just get rid of the guy, already!" one of them pleaded, his voice cracking with the strain.
"I don't think so," Megatron said, ignoring the other's jeers. He was smirking cruelly. "I'm afraid I'm far too busy to waste my time battling you." He turned his back to go.
"You can't just walk away from this, Brother!" I called after him. How strange. After all that crying, after my voice shattering into a thousand pieces, it was remarkably calm and steady now. It was almost like it belonged to a different person entirely.
Once again, Megatron stopped. He turned and looked at me. "Really?" he repeated, "And why not?"
"Listen, Metalwing," I said, ignoring his question. "I'll give you one more chance. Walk away from this. No more killing, no more fighting. Just walk away from it all, and I'll walk away, too."
More laughter greeted this proposed deal. I didn't really expect any different. Megatron's grin grew broader. "Maybe you were stronger than me once, Brother, but now things have changed. I have defeated Autobots far stronger than you."
"All those killings weren't from battles! It was murder!" I yelled at him. The others were silent now, staring at me with shock in their eyes. I ignored them. They didn't matter. All that mattered was my brother, getting him to end this. "You didn't 'defeat' any of those people!" I continued. "You killed them brutally, and if I'm really a coward like you say, then why are you afraid to fight me?"
I was looking straight into Megatron's eyes. The others were watching him carefully, waiting to see if their god would take up the challenge. They were starting to get impatient.
"You can take this joker!"
"You can't let him say those things about you, lord Megatron! Put the blood-traitor in his place!"
"Enough!" he snapped at them. He turned back up to face me, eyes flashing. "Listen to me," he hissed, "You may be a coward and a liar and a traitor, Brother," he spat the world, "But you are still my family, the only family I have. I will not fight a brother."
"Oh," I said sarcastically, "So suddenly that matters to you."
"It's always mattered to me!" he shouted, gesturing with his arm at the flames. "Always! Don't you get it? Don't you understand! All of this, everything I've ever done, everything I've ever dreamed of, I did it all for you!"
"It's not for me!" I yelled back. "It's never been about me! You're not doing this to help me, you're doing this for you! This is your sick, twisted dream, not mine!" I could tell I had hit a nerve. Megatron reeled, as if struck in the face, then looked away. I softened my tone. "Metalwing," I said, "I understand what you're trying to do. Liberate the people, change the world, I get all that. But Brother! Brother! The way you're doing it is all wrong! Killing people, putting together an army, history isn't kind to people who do that kind of thing, Brother. History won't be kind to you. History won't remember you as the one who changed the planet for the better. It won't remember you as a freedom fighter. It'll only remember you as a dictator, as a murderer and a fascist. Is that really the way you want to be remembered, Brother? Is it?" I was staring straight into his eyes, trying to make him see. "Do you want to be remembered as a murderer, Brother? Is that really what you want?"
My words didn't affect him the way I had hoped. If they did anything, it was only to make him even more furious. "I am not a murderer," he snarled. "And this conversation is over." He turned to walk away.
I realized I was going to have to fight him. And this knowledge caused a despair that washed all the way through me. "I made a promise a long time ago," I whispered. I could feel another sob work its way up my throat. "I promised that I would always look after you, that I would always protect you! Please, don't make me break that promise!"
"No one is making you break anything," he said without turning around. He jerked his arm ahead of him, and his three lackeys shot one last look at me before walking after him.
So that was it then. It was now or never. I stared after him for just a moment more before I rose into the air and transformed.
I had always transformed into a bird. I wasn't sure what a bird was, exactly, but I knew that that was what I was. My mother had said the word to me, a long time ago, so I had come to know that term. But it was such a strange form; no one else had it. I think it was some kind of creature, one that existed off of Cybertron. It had broad wings that moved up and down when it flew, two claws for landing gear, a sharp object on its face that my mother had called a "beak," and a strange soft material that coated its head and body. No one except for my family seemed to know of this creature's existence. It was the reason I was labeled a freak, the fact that I could become this creature.
Metalwing used to brag to anyone who would listen. "My brother can turn into a bird!"
And now I was soaring down towards him, my claws and wings outstretched, dodging past the three that surrounded him, narrowing my eyes in concentration, willing myself not to miss…
Someone behind him screamed, and Megatron whirled around. But he wasn't fast enough. One of my talons found purchase on his shoulder, and I felt his armor give way and tear underneath it. He cried out in pain and raised his arms to shield his face. My claws continued to rake him, chipping bits of white metal off his arms. He swung his fists at me, trying to hold me off, but I kept just out of the way, flapping my wings rapidly in his face so that he couldn't see.
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain sear across my stomach. I gasped and fell back. I looked down and saw motor oil leaking out of a long slash on my stomach. I looked up at Megatron and saw that one of the blades I had seen swinging at his sides earlier was now in his hand, an oily black liquid dripping off the end of it. He was advancing on me, his other hand reaching over to his other sword, fingering it tightly.
I raised myself into the air again and flew over him, intending to graze the top of his head with my claw. Instead, he anticipated what I wanted to do and rose into the air himself. I slammed into him, hard, and he took advantage of my moment of confusion and grabbed me tightly by the scruff of my neck. We landed in a heap a little further down the path, his fist still clenched on my neck. As soon as we hit the ground, he used this grip to fling me away from him, I landed on my side, my wings flapping, trying to regain my balance. There was a moment where we both struggled to our feet.
"Megatron, sir!" one of the others cried. All three of them were looking at me, varying expressions of shock on their faces. They couldn't believe I had actually managed to strike him. The two mechs were glaring at me, brandishing weapons. They began to converge on me.
"No!" Megatron snarled, rising to his feet. "Leave him! He belongs to me!"
"I said, leave him!" His teeth were clenched. He was eyeing me murderously. "He's mine." The others looked curiously at him, then at each other, but they raised to further objections. They stepped back, waiting for Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, to finish off this traitor.
"I can't let you do this, Brother," I said, spreading my wings out. "I can't let you continue."
"And I cannot permit you to stand in my way," he growled. He brandished both swords in front of himself before lunging at me.
Greetings and hello! Dragonkeeper here! Wow, it's been a long time, hasn't it? Almost a year since I submitted anything. (Sloppy. You're getting sloppy, Dragonkeeper!) Sorry about the wait. I wanted to continue my story, but life happened, so I never got around to it. I did, however, start this piece over the summer, and have every intention of finishing it.
The only trouble is that I'm getting demotivated on this, too. Frankly, I can't let that happen, so, in order to prevent the waste of yet another perfectly good story, I have uploaded Brother's Story here, in order to encourage myself. So please, leave a review if you found this story interesting. It may be just what I need to inspire me to write more!
Until next time! - dragonkeeper19600