His – their – life had always been full of contradictions. He – they – was a contradiction himself – themselves.
Pronouns, for example. Technically speaking, he was Spyglass, Spectro and Viewfinder. But deep inside, where it mattered, he was Reflector, because he was only himself when he was one, transformed into the most precise camera of the whole Alpha Centauri.
But aside from simple technicalities, the biggest contradiction was that he still functioned after fifty thousand vorns of war, most of them spent in the very core of the Decepticon elite forces.
How in the Pit could that be possible?
He was the weakest Decepticon by far – not to mention one of the weakest Cybertronians ever – and yet here he was, functional and kicking, and, as he constantly reminded himself, securely positioned amongst some of the deadliest and vilest mercenaries in the whole universe.
Then, perhaps, if brute strength wasn't the reason for his miraculous survival, it was his indispensability.
He wasn't the best spy either – most of Soundwave's cassettes outmatched him any day, not to mention Soundwave himself. Then why hadn't he been slaughtered to bits by mechs who thought of weakness as the only flaw their murderous ethics could conceive?
He liked to write – he had always liked to write. Thanks to his limited usefulness as a warrior, he had a lot of free time to spare, and thus he had begun to write. As a direct consequence, he had also begun to erase. Millions and millions of bits of data had been written and destroyed immediately. As a spy himself, Reflector knew perfectly well that one of the best ways to get oneself destroyed was to leave traces behind, so no one but his three selves would ever know about his feelings, his insecurities, his doubts about the war, his fears…
Or his curiosity. The day he started wondering about his survival was the same day he wanted to put those thoughts into a datapad. He didn't do it, though, until the former Autobot Air Raid became a Decepticon – or a Stunticon, to be precise. The similarities he found between his own case and the newcomer's were the final push his restless mind was waiting for to finally take that datapad and start writing, no matter if oblivion was the only fate waiting for those words.
Still, he would make sure to read at least a couple of times his:
Ultimate guide to become a Decepticon – and survive in the Nemesis
Rule number 1: Stick to your buddies – no matter how much you hate them. In other words, roam on your own and you're dead steel.
Reflector took five, then six pictures before he decided to wait for the perfect moment for the seventh.
An adequate decision; number seven proved to be the best when Air Raid stopped so abruptly that his feet scratched the floor. Now that was one picture worthy of being kept for posterity. It was a shame that it lacked of blackmail properties because, if anything, Reflector loved to blackmail his comrades. Telling bullies like Brawl or Ramjet that he had very incriminating images of them stealing Energon from Megatron's personal stash had saved him more than once from getting pummeled to junk. The trick was to make sure they believed that the images would be made public if anything happened to him. It was a blatant lie, but it worked with brute, simple minded guys who usually thought Reflector was a mere tool to clean up their exhausts.
"What are you, my shadow?" Air Raid growled, turning around and fixing a very intense glare on his follower. Of course, he had to know that Breakdown hated to be stared at.
As expected, Breakdown lowered his gaze. "You shouldn't walk the halls on your own…"
Air Raid expelled some air from his vents. "And why not?"
"The other Decepticons… They'll destroy you if they catch you alone."
"Let them try and we'll see what happens. You know what? I actually want them to try!"
Reflector took another picture. He made a note in his processor to call that one 'Ridiculous Bravado'.
When Breakdown didn't reply, Reflector was sure that Air Raid would keep walking but, much to the three-in-one spy's surprise, he didn't.
"Besides, why would you care if I get slagged?"
What? Seriously? Did that tin-head ex-Aerialbot knew nothing? It should have taken just a little peek into the gestalt to know that Breakdown was the one that kept the Stunticons together. He would do anything for his teammates. Please, everybody knew that! Even Reflector did.
"See that?" Breakdown said, positioning his anxious gaze at the number at the top of the corridor.
"Sector 117-Alpha… so?"
Breakdown cleared his vocalizer. "That's Triple Changer territory."
Yes, and thus Reflector's territory. Okay, maybe he wasn't a Triple Changer per se – kind of the opposite, actually – but he had been smart enough to become friends with one of the most deadly sub groups in the Decepticon army. Back in Cybertron, he used to take pictures of females in provocative positions and gave them to Octane, probably the most lecherous mech Vector Sigma had ever sparked. Of course, Octane had appreciated the detail and had made sure to tell his fellow Triple Changers to keep an optic on his little buddy, hence Reflector had acquired two very powerful friends in the frames of Astrotrain and Blitzwing. Two murderous maniacs for sure, but they were also the best way for a small guy like Reflector to keep himself alive in a war in which mechs ten times stronger than him hadn't made it.
"So?" Air Raid insisted, folding his arms across his chest in another display of his childish bravado.
"So…" Breakdown fidgeted with his hands. "You don't enter Triple Changer territory alone. Not a good idea."
Had he had been in bipedal form, Reflector would have nodded. It was good that Astrotrain and Blitzwing inspired respect and fear in his comrades-in-arms. Between the Decepticons, it was all about letting the others knew you could crush them, or else you got crushed yourself. In Reflector's case, his share of respect was based entirely on his association with his powerful occasionally roughed him up, of course, but never with deadly force.
"I go wherever I want," Air Raid said. "I'm a slagging 'Con now, right? That's what this slaggin' badge says. Or are you going to tell me that your slagging team isn't part of the 'Cons?"
It wasn't about badges, but territory, one of the most important words in the Decepticon dictionary. It seemed that the rebellious ex-Autobot still had to learn his lesson about it. It would be good if Blitzwing or Astrotrain showed him some manners.
Breakdown kept his gaze low, but didn't get out of his teammate's way. "This is like tease-it. Nobody will tell you about it, but it's better to respect the zones in the ship where other teams hang out. It helps to avoid problems."
"Wouldn't you mean to say TACIT, by any chance?" Despite his rude tone, Air Raid didn't get physically violent with Breakdown. Interesting, Reflector thought as he zoomed in. "I don't know how you 'Cons run things there, but it's not like this in the Ark. You can go everywhere and nobody messes with you, except that time when I sneaked into the Dinobots' lair…" Air Raid stopped talking, perhaps realizing that he was getting too personal in a conversation with a former sworn enemy. Or perhaps you are getting a little too comfortable with your new brother, Autobot.
"You mean…" Breakdown twitched. "You mean you don't have to watch your back, like all the time?"
Reflector prepared his lenses. Most likely Air Raid would retort sourly to the other Stunticon, mocking him or looking to hurt him, a very easy task considering how vulnerable Breakdown was. Had Reflector been just a little viler mech, he would have made sure to exploit such weakness. He knew his Triple Changer buddies did – whenever Motormaster wasn't looking, that is.
"No, there's no need to watch your back. The Autobots are pretty decent to each other, friendly… You'd like it there."
Now that was something that Reflector wasn't expecting. Getting softer, Auto-fool? The uncomfortable silence that followed gave the camera-shaped Decepticon three perfect shots to title 'awkward'.
But it was the look on Breakdown's face that made the moment, especially when he raised his head and actually looked at his teammate's optics. That gesture had to mean something, given that Breakdown never looked straight at anybody's optics.
Reflector had always known that he wasn't the only Decepticon who longed for a peaceful life. There were some rare exceptions, like Scavenger of the Constructicons, and now Breakdown… Of course, the mech computing such treacherous thoughts had to make sure to keep them to himself, unless he wanted to be obliterated.
"Are you," Breakdown said, his optics still fixed on Air Raid's, "are you still going to Triple Changer territory?"
The flier opened his mouth to respond, but Breakdown was faster. In what looked more like a move that Reflector had seen the humans perform in their wrestling matches, Breakdown managed to make a head-lock on his teammate and dragged him backward, at the same time placing one hand on his mouth plates.
Air Raid struggled but his position didn't allow him to stop Breakdown from dragging him toward a big crack in the wall, curiously the same one in which Reflector was hiding – and curiously the same one that had been created by Breakdown himself some deca-cycles ago, when Motormaster had crashed him brutally against the wall after failing in retrieving some human military device. It was barely big enough to hide two Transformers of average size, but hopefully both Stunticons wouldn't notice the camera right above their heads. Reflector trusted in the reduced dimensions of his alt mode, not to mention that the heavy steps approaching through the corridor had caught all the attention of both Stunticons.
That took Reflector to Rule number 2: Unless he speaks directly to you, make sure Megatron believes you are invisible.
"Q-quiet," Breakdown said to an already mute Air Raid, not easing his grip on his teammate.
And Air Raid didn't move. Maybe the winged Stunticon wasn't as suicidal as Reflector had begun to think, because he kept very still as Megatron walked outside.
It was only when the steps couldn't be heard anymore when Breakdown removed his hand from Air Raid's mouth.
"Do you value your finish as much as your diva teammates, Breakdown?"
"You mean Dead End and Drag Strip? They are your teammates too…"
"Can it, you paranoid freak! Don't remind me about that! I asked if you value your finish or not?"
"I… I suppose so."
"Then let go of me right now or I'll make you eat your tires!"
Air Raid didn't have to yell. He had gotten rid of Breakdown's grip with a violent yank before finishing speaking.
"Sorry…" Breakdown stammered.
Air Raid turned around, with some difficulty considering the dimensions of their improvised hiding spot. "What was that all about?"
"Let me guess. You don't get on his way, right? He slags you at first sight."
"Not necessarily… but you better stay away from him. He's not happy about you being here."
"That makes what, like everybody else in this dump hole? Look, I don't care if Mega-brute doesn't want me in his army of trash cans. I don't hide from anybody, let alone that bucket-head."
Breakdown shook his head slightly. "Don't call him that. Motormaster wouldn't like—"
"Maybe you mindless fools worship the ground he steps on, but I saw Megatron firsthand back before the war started. I saw what he did… That's not a guy I'd ever feel respect for."
Both Reflector and Breakdown gave Air Raid an odd look, Reflector zooming in even more with his powerful lenses. Was that Autobot over-energized, or only insane as the rest of his Stunticon brethren?
"What are you talking about?"
"Nothing of your slagging business," Air Raid said with a frown. "Just make sure you understand that I'm here because I have to, not because I want to. I'd choose being in the bottom of a smelting pit over being part of your team any day."
Breakdown looked hurt, that was something Reflector could understand. The camera-shaped Decepticon was no gestalt, but somehow he suspected that Breakdown was thinking about Wildrider.
Reflector was very fortunate. If he lost any of his three selves, he wouldn't have time to mourn it; he just would stop functioning. Breakdown, on the other hand, had lost a teammate and got another he hated in return. The exchange was not only unfair, but highly ironic.
Whether realizing that he had gone too far or was merely getting attacked by the claustrophobia natural to all fliers, Air Raid snorted in a way that sounded apologetic. His next words, though, didn't seem like an apology at all.
"Out of my way."
Breakdown moved but only succeeded in tangling himself with his teammate a little more. He didn't know exactly what it was, but Reflector could feel some chemistry between them. That accursed Gestalt bond really created wonders in its victims.
"I said out of my way, freak!"
"Wait… my shoulder joint got stuck in your arm."
"Try to move it to the… That's it, now I'll move my own arm and—"
The metallic sound that followed was one of the most horrible things Reflector had ever heard. It hadn't been loud, it hadn't been screechy… but still, it meant doom.
Breakdown raised his head to look at whatever he had hit when he had raised his arm, almost suffering a collapse when he saw the camera above him. If Reflector hadn't been too busy fearing for his life, he would have remembered that one of Breakdown's worst nightmares was the idea that they were cameras pointing at him all the time.
Air Raid looked upward too, his optics shining with rage.
There wouldn't be a more fitting moment to recall:
Rule number 3: Bully the small guys – sigh…
The smirking face displayed on the metallic can seemed to mock him.
Reflector had never wondered who had come up with the idea of immortalizing Megatron's electric pet on a beverage, but whoever had turned the maniacal Kremzeek into the image of the most popular Cybertronian drink had to be a very rich mech.
That thought didn't make his predicament any easier. He was still at the bottom of a waste disposal unit, stuck between alt and bipedal mode, and buried under a pile of junk that had to weigh more than Astrotrain and Blitzwing together. The smirking face of Kremzeek on the can against his optics didn't help to minimize his humiliation a bit, or at least the pain…
The good news was that his lenses hadn't been damaged.
Breakdown had been too shocked to do anything, but Air Raid gladly covered for him. After receiving the worst beating he had had in at least three deca-cycles, Reflector was certain that the new Stunticon was going to fit within the Decepticons pretty well.
There were, though, some rules yet to exemplify, and he would make sure to follow the renegade Autobot until he proved Reflector's point.
Of course, first he was going to need to find a way to get out of there. Besides the weight, there was something viscous running through his half transformed face plates.
Perhaps he should comm. Blitzwing or Astrotrain and ask for help?
HA! He was not that crazy.
Rule number 4: Never ask your best buddies for assistance, unless you want to end up worse than you are.
To be continued.
Hello people, it's been a while. I know I haven't updated for, um, like more than a month, but later is better than never.
I hope you enjoyed the first part of Reflector's guide of how to become a Decepticon. The most important rules will be explained next chapter, always with Air Raid's involuntary assistance.
As you certainly noticed, I blinked to the G1 episode in which the Aerialbots travel to the past of Cybertron and witness Megatron's evilness from the front line, hence deciding to stay with the Autobots and help them to fight the Decepticons.
If you guys are familiar with the Transformers comics, you may remember the Kremzeek drink that both Dreamwave and IDW featured. I figured that some of those could be found in the Nemesis' trash cans.
Many thanks to Starfire201 for beta reading this chapter. I may pester her again if my usual beta gets tired of me :oP
Thanks for reading and for your patience. Please review if you liked.