Right. So, my dear friend ravynfyre loves her some Drift/Perceptor. And so, even though they're Autobots (SO not my usual stuff) I find I cannot resist the delicimous angst of the IDW-ness. This follows a few bits in 'Various IDW oneshots'-notably 'in darkness' and 'only the strong', but it is beginning to develop actual centralized plot. So, enjoy!
A little bit closer, Perceptor thought. A little closer and he'd be near enough to risk the dash across the open and onto the Mabaya—Drift's last known mission. If Drift himself weren't there, surely some trace of him, some clue, would be. And Perceptor was determined to flush it out himself.
He'd slipped away from the other Wreckers. Most of them would be only too eager to help—well, perhaps not Springer—but their approach was…too obvious. Too noisy. And, to be honest, Perceptor found the symmetry pleasing—Drift had rescued him once; now he would return the favor, make his saved life begin to pay back the debt.
It was night and the dropship's bulk was picked out of the darkness by halogen bright lights, washing the battered, space-pocked surface in high relief. Perceptor did not believe much in aesthetics, but it suited, here, too—an ugly mech should have an ugly ship.
Because in the end, that's who this was really about: Turmoil. Drift's megalomania about destroying his former commander matched only by Turmoil's violent fixation on him. It had to end; it had to stop. One way or the other.
If, Perceptor thought, and the thought chilled him, it hadn't already been settled by Drift's death.
No. That sort of thought was not helpful. It stirred Perceptor up too much, when he most needed to concentrate.
He paused, in the blackest shadow of a shipping crate. The crate's metal was cool against his shoulders as he edged along its side toward the sharp-edged pool of light pouring down from the Mabaya. He winced as his scope thudded against the crate's support rib. He froze, straining his audio, wishing it were as enhanced as his vision, stretching to hear anything like a response from the ship. After a decaklik, he risked craning his head around the crate's beveled edge.
Nothing. No movement, not even a random patrol. It had been like that for the entire surveillance he had set up on the ship—so why did his spark chamber seem to twinge? His black fingers rubbed idly against his reinforced armor. Never again, he thought. Not that way. But his spark chamber seemed on fire with the memory.
He thought about calling the mission—postponing it. He knew the Mabaya wasn't scheduled to leave for another three solars. He still had time.
But…Drift might not. And to cancel a mission, when he had come so far based on…what? A bad capacitor? Ridiculous. Illogical.
He shifted himself, peeling his back off the side of the crate, preparing his actuators for the sprint for the access panel he'd marked out on the ship's specifications. Oh, he'd done his legwork for this one. Never again be caught forgetting basic soldiership.
Now, he told himself, springing forward.
Before a hand crashed down upon his shoulder like a hammer of Primus himself, and the world went halogen white, then grey, then the crimson of Decepticon optics and of failure.
"So," the deep voice cut through the last of Perceptor's haze. "A little out of place, aren't you, scientist?"
Perceptor twisted, wincing as the tight wires bit into his wrists, bound behind his back. Not stasis cuffs or anything like them. Not for him—simply fine wire, wrapped time and again figure-8ing around his wrists, shifting and biting in under his plating. His wrists burned from a half a hundred microcuts but that was nothing to the pain from his right shoulder, blazing, raw.
His scope was missing, sparks spitting fitfully into the gaping air, trying to bridge to a circuit no longer there. Out of place? Yes. Despite everything. He said nothing. What could he say?
Turmoil strolled around him, close enough that Perceptor could feel every micron of the Decepticon's greater mass. And more—Turmoil's footfalls were nearly silent, his joints oiled to soundlessness. Even the hiss of hydraulics was masked in his case, so for all his size, the enormous Decepticon commander could move with absolute silence.
And he was flaunting this, now. And Perceptor knew that it was Turmoil himself who had caught him out by the shipping crate. This was what a real warrior was like—one who had given over his entire body, his entire being, to the craft of war.
And Perceptor, for all his effort, all of his modifications, had clearly not gone far enough.
A deliberate scrape of the foot behind Perceptor, to let him know Turmoil was directly behind him. Perceptor refused to move, refused to turn his head to see the gaping maw of his torn lens assembly. The voice rumbled over his head. "You came looking for him, didn't you?"
"I did." No sense in hiding it. And maybe, if he could convince Turmoil that he came alone, no one else would get sucked into another morass caused by his sloppiness. There was no need to specify who 'he' was.
Turmoil's enormous hand closed over Perceptor's head, fingers on either side of his crestridge. They squeezed, enough to put pounding pressure through the metal. "Mistake, Autobot."
"I see." Perceptor kept his optics staunchly ahead, the right one feeding him constantly refreshing targeting information. On the wall, on the bolt on the wall, on the floor plate. Aiming at nothing, with no weapon to fire. It seemed…symbolic.
"No," Turmoil said. "You don't see." Turmoil pushed down on his hand, bending Perceptor's head back, until his optics met the red ones glaring down at him. "Deadlock," Turmoil began, "is worthless."
"Drift," Perceptor corrected.
A dark laugh, that seemed almost to come from the shadows themselves, echoing around the room. "Deadlock. He can change his name, but he is still the same. Just like you, little scientist." One thumb tapped Perceptor's reticle optic, spiderwebbing it with cracks. "Superficial change."
Yes. He needn't respond—Turmoil could see his assent in his optics.
"Deadlock," Turmoil continued, "betrayed us. He will betray you, in time." He leaned in closer, his optics burning into Perceptor's, until the red Autobot's visual field was blocked by his face, his targeting reticle whirling down through numbers, splintered. "And the closer you are to him—or think you are," Turmoil hissed, "the more damage it does."
There was something ineffably bitter in his voice, that, even upside-down, Perceptor could see as some old, hidden pain.
Turmoil snorted, pushing Perceptor's head away with something like disdain. "You'll learn, Autobot," he said, pausing for a moment behind Perceptor, as if mastering himself. He moved around Perceptor's bound body, continuing the circle. "In time."
He wheeled in front of Perceptor, his hip-panel at Perceptor's optic level, folding his own massive arms behind his back. He bent down, the emotion in his optics giving way to malice. "Meantime, little scientist, what shall I do with you?"
He waited, head tilted in a parody of kind concern. Perceptor felt his mouth tighten, refusing to give words. They had betrayed him before, and he would give no more weapons to his enemy. His optics blazed up fiercely at Turmoil's face, daring him, challenging him, defying him.
The smile on Turmoil's face grew sharper, more feral. "Ah. I know. First, I shall make you scream. Then, you shall beg for your life. And…if you survive all that, I might let you see your…," the word seemed to tremble on his vocalizer, like a drop of energon, "Drift."
Perceptor's optics flicked closed, briefly. Yes. He was still not a soldier, still lacked a warrior's spark, but he could endure.
He would endure.