AN: I'm not sure if anyone's even reading this anymore, but I had a blast writing this mini-fic even if only for my own enjoyment. This last chapter especially. It ties off what has felt like a loose end for feminine Dinobot's character that's been bugging me for the longest time now. I've also come to absolutely love Stahlhand. He's like my baby. My big brutish I-could-rip-your-head-off-if-you-so-much-as-look-at-my-daughter-wrong baby…
"Father, I wish to enlist in the army."
Stahlhand stared at his daughter, his canister of black market high-grade forgotten. It had been a long day at the factory and he'd been hoping for the opportunity to relax that evening.
Apparently, that was not to be so.
Dynamite withdrew a data pad from a sub-space compartment on her hip and set it on the table between her and Stahlhand. "I went and spoke to a recruiting officer this morning. I can enlist in the infantry - it has the largest corps of female soldiers. A convoy of new recruits is scheduled to depart tomorrow morning for training. I wish to leave with them. I only need you to imprint your electronic signature on this data pad so I can complete the registration process."
Stahlhand vented a heavy cycle of air. He'd been expecting this day for years - ever since Dynamite was upgraded with her first full set of armor. He'd always known his headstrong daughter would one day take it upon herself to go over his head to try and prove herself in the world. "Dynamite, we've discussed this countless times. I do not want you to join the military."
Dynamite's facial plates - so similar to his own - contorted into an irritated scowl. "Why?"
"I have explained my reasons to you before. You do not belong in the army. The military is no place for females. There are other things you can do besides being a nameless foot soldier."
"Like what?" Dynamite demanded. Stahlhand could hear the defiant anger brewing in her voice.
"You work in the shipping yards-"
"As nothing more than a lowly errand runner," Dynamite spat.
"-as a shipping assistant," Stahlhand calmly ignored his daughter's interruption. "It is a good enough job until you find a sparkmate and settle down."
Dynamite's face contorted with disgust. "I have no intention of ever taking a sparkmate. I want to have a more meaningful life than becoming some mech's domesticated servant."
Stahlhand's calm was beginning to fray. How many times had he had this discussion with Dynamite already? How many times had he tried to make her accept the bitter truth? As much as he wished it could be otherwise and had ignored it as much as he could himself, over the years he'd come to reluctantly accept the realities of his daughter's prospects. Their society was not meant to accommodate the desires and ambitions of a femme like his daughter.
"Such a future is the best a femme can hope for in our world, Dynamite. To become bonded and continue the propagation of your sparkmate's line is the most fulfilling future you can hope for."
"But I do not want that life!" Dynamite spat. "That is why I want to join the army. At least there I would have some measure of respect, some sense of accomplishment. I could go to different places and actually put my warrior skills to use."
Stahlhand wearily shook his head. Whatever his daughter's ideas of the military were, they were fantasies. Females could fight and die alongside their male counterparts in service to their faction but they still weren't afforded the same rights and privileges as mechs. They were the lowest of the low in the army's hierarchy and usually the first ones sent onto dangerous battlefields in order to test the enemy's offensive capabilities - regardless of potential casualties. In the Predacon military femmes were rarely given respect, treated as glorified drones and pleasure slaves and - most disturbing of all to Stahlhand - seen as completely expendable. He still remembered the jokes and off-colored stories other mechs in his unit used to tell when he was still in the service. There was no way he was going to let his daughter become the butt of some low-RAMed foot soldier's joke.
"No, Dynamite. I will not give my permission for you to join. My decision is made."
Dynamite growled, her hands tightening around the edges of the table. "I will not accept that, father."
"You will accept it because it is my final word on the matter," Stahlhand barked, his patience finally snapping. His voice rose to match Dynamite's. "You forget your place. I am the mech of this family - its head. I make the decisions. And I say this discussion is over. You are not going to join the army!"
"Mother served in the army. Why can't I?"
"Because your mother's sire had three other children to care for - all of them male - and he could not afford to keep your mother anymore. He wanted her out of the household to lessen the burden on the rest of the family unit. Your mother enlisted out of familial duty and lack of any other options. She never would have done so if she'd had any other choice. You, on the other hand, are influenced by none of those things. There is no good reason for you to sign your life away to the military."
"I am trying to follow in your footsteps, father! I am trying to do what you once loved to do. What gave you pride and fulfillment. All I want is the chance to prove myself. But I need your permission to do so!" Angrily, Dynamite shoved the data pad across the tabletop closer to Stahlhand. At the bottom of its screen blinked an empty square where all Stahlhand had to do was pressed his thumb against to give his electronic consent.
"No," Stahlhand stubbornly said. He pushed the data pad back across the table toward Dynamite. "I will not give my consent for my daughter to become cannon fodder."
"I will not become cannon fodder, father. You trained me yourself in martial arts and the warrior way. I can protect myself on the battlefield."
"I trained you in order to focus your energy! To help curb your recklessness! Not to give you unrealistic goals!" Heaving a weary sigh, the battle tank shook his helm "Obviously I have failed in that. Perhaps it would have been better if I had never trained you in the first place…"
"So that I could become a bonded slave and breeding vessel instead?" Dynamite tightly growled. "Something little better than an obedient drone?"
"Yes!" Stahlhand roared in frustration, all his previous calm gone. "I hate it too, but it is the only option left to you! We can no longer ignore facts. You are a femme. Your choices are pitifully few. We must face reality. We can no longer pretend it can be otherwise. You will never be a general, a commander, or great leader of any kind. You will never find glory on the battlefield. Your future was set the moment you came online. And no amount of yearning on your or my part will ever change that."
Dynamite's optic burned with fire, her expression a livid contortion of facial plates. With a violent snarl she surged to her pedes, knocking her chair over behind her. "I will NOT accept that, father! I will not submit to such a fate without a fight! I am trying to regain the family honor that you threw away when you left the military. Why are you so determined to keep us mired in shame?"
Stahlhand followed his daughter's example and sprang to his own feet, his hands balled into fists. Stahlhand and Dynamite glared at each other across the table. "I left the military to be able to provide for you and your mother," he snarled through gritted teeth. "To keep you alive. Primus! What sins did I commit to be cursed with such a disrespectful, willful daughter? It would have been better if I just discarded you as a sparkling. Perhaps then I wouldn't have had to suffer such hardship through the years or face such disrespect and scrutiny now!"
Dynamite froze, her facial plates betraying a flash of hurt. Silence hung heavy between them. "Is that what I am to you, father?" she finally said, her voice a subdued whisper. "A burden?"
Stahlhand's anger quickly faded with the realization of what he'd said. "Dynamite-"
"If I am such a burden to you then I will sever my ties with your household to help ease the strain. I see now that I can never bring honor to you the way a proper Predacon femme should. I am sorry, father, but I cannot quietly submit to the kind of life you want for me. I just cannot do it. Not for you or our family's honor."
Turning towards the door, Dynamite stiffly began to walk away.
"Dynamite!" Stahlhand yelled. "Come back!" But his daughter would not turn around and face him. She continued towards the door with her head held defiantly high. Stahlhand helplessly trailed after her. Every diode in his body screamed at him to grab her and make her stop. To tell her he hadn't meant what he'd said - that he'd just become caught up in the moment and let his frustration get the better of him. That he was sorry.
But Stahlhand had been taught long ago that to admit such things was a sign of weakness. And Stahlhand was nothing if not strong. His pride would not allow him to apologize or admit he was wrong.
Dynamite deactivated the door locks without even a backwards glace, as if she hadn't even heard her father's command. The door slid open with a hiss.
On the other side of the door - having just returned from a small errand - Tripwire stood in the hallway with her hand hovering over the apartment's outer door lock. She stared at her sparkmate and daughter, sensing the tension between them.
"What's going on?" she demanded. "What happened?"
Dynamite did not answer and shoved past her mother into the hall.
"Dynamite!" Stahlhand yelled, growing desperate. "If you leave like this I will never welcome you back into this domicile! You will be forever outcast!"
Dynamite paused in the hallway and slowly turned back towards her creators. A surge of relief filled Stahlhand's spark. Finally. Dynamite had seen reason and everything could go back to the way it was before she brought that accursed consent form to him.
Dynamite turned to Tripwire with an expression that could have only been described as sad. "Farewell, mother," she murmured. Then with nothing more than one last sorrowful glance at Stahlhand, she turned and walked away.
"Dynamite!" Stahlhand yelled after her. But his daughter turned a corner in the hallway and was gone.
Tripwire turned to her sparkmate. "What in the nine Pit Fires was that about?"
Stahlhand shook his head. "The same old thing, except this time Dynamite actually brought a data pad for me to sign."
Tripwire groaned through her vents. "Oh Stahlhand…"
The battle tank shook his head. "She'll be back. She just needs some time to let her circuits cool off."
But Dynamite did not come back. Stahlhand did not worry the first few days. He knew his daughter's pride ran deep and that it would be awhile before Dynamite admitted defeat and asked to return. After a deca-cycle of silence, though, he began to grow concerned. After two deca-cycles Tripwire caved and tried to contract their daughter at her domicile near the shipping yards. There was no answer. After another deca-cycle Stahlhand finally had had enough of his daughter's stubbornness, and with Tripwire went to their daughter's apartment complex to confront her. There they discovered that Dynamite had vacated her domicile weeks ago. The superintendent didn't know where she'd gone.
Panicked, Stahlhand sent word to coworkers, former comrades in the army, and members of his and Tripwire's extended family units to keep a lookout for her. He even contacted a private investigator to hunt down his missing daughter. But it was all for not. No one could find Dynamite. It was like she'd just disappeared.
It was sometime several months after Dynamite's disappearance that Stahlhand, in a fit of helpless despair, imprinted his electronic signature onto the data pad Dynamite had brought him. It became his talisman. As if that signed consent form would somehow magically make his daughter come back to him.
Deca-cycles turned into months. Months into years. Years into decades until Stahlhand and Tripwire finally gave up hope of their daughter ever returning. Despair and a thousand unanswerable questions constantly haunted him. Was Dynamite still alive? Dead? Living in some distant city? On a different planet or perhaps some space colony? Was she well? Was she in need of help? Was she in danger? Did she ever intend to come back home?
There was no way to know for sure.
As time went on Dynamite's name became taboo. Like the proverbial space frigate in the room, Stahlhand and Tripwire never uttered her name out loud because of the pain it caused. Memories of their daughter formed an invisible wall between Stahlhand and Tripwire that had never existed before. Stahlhand could feel through their bond the resentful blame Tripwire felt towards him for their daughter's disappearance. Stahlhand wished he could do something to ease his sparkmate's bitterness, but he felt his guilt too heavily to try to mitigate his blame.
Stahlhand tried to move on past the heartache, but something always felt missing. Like someone had reached into his chest and ripped out a section of his spark in the shape of his daughter. Too proud to let himself surrender to depression, the former Predacon commander forced a stoic expression onto his face and ordered himself to soldier on. But the absence of his daughter always hovered there just on the edge of his thoughts.
Then, one night almost forty years after his daughter had stormed out of her parent's domicile and disappeared, Stahlhand was sitting on the lounge in the living area of his apartment, watching the latest new feeds of the day. Apparently, a Maximal crew of explorers had recently returned to Cybertron after stopping a rogue Predacon general who'd stolen a precious artifact from the Maximal High Council's Archives. Details were still sketchy, but the Tri-Predacus Council had issued a statement commending the Maximal crew on their actions against the rogue general - a mech named Megatron of all things - whose agenda would have ultimately caused untold damage to the Predacons' government and power structure.
Impudent, power-hungry megalomaniac, Stahlhand snorted. No matter how many stellar cycles passed, the hubris of some mechs never ceased to amaze him. To adopt the name of the former Decepticon leader had to be the biggest show of foolhardy pride he'd ever seen. The original Megatron had been one of the biggest failures in all of Cybertronian history - an embarrassing black mark on Predacon and Decepticon pride.
The muffled ding of the apartment's door alarm startled Stahlhand out of his thoughts.
"Tripwire," he called to his sparkmate over the murmur of the tele-consol. "Are you expecting anyone tonight?"
"No," Tripwire called from the other room. "Why?"
"Someone's at the door." Hoisting himself to his pedes, the battle tank went to it. "I'll get it."
With a quick series of numbers punched into the keypad, Stahlhand disengaged the locks.
"What do you want?" Stahlhand demanded as the door slid aside. "It's rather late for-"
All conscious thought left the battle-toughened warrior at the sight of the one standing in the hallway. Like the resurrected ghost of some half-forgotten memory was his daughter, Dynamite.
Her body language tense with nervousness, Dynamite stared up at him with questioning optics as if she wasn't sure what kind of welcome she should be expecting to receive.
For a moment all Stahlhand could do was stare. He wondered if perhaps he hadn't finally gone mad with grief and that what he was seeing wasn't really the figment of a malfunctioning processor. As he stood there, frozen with shock, trying to rearrange his thoughts, he noticed the odd coloring of Dynamite's armor. Dark brown and tan stripes crisscrossed the armored plating on her arms, legs and chest, while bone-like ridges wrapped around her sides, forearms and shins.
It was then that Stahlhand in his stunned daze also noticed out of the corner of his optic a mech barely half Dynamite's size standing just behind her in the hallway. His superstructure was formatted with strange iridescent blue and silver plating the likes of which Stahlhand had never seen before. Beside the mech, half hidden behind his legs, was a third even smaller bot. It took Stahlhand's surprise-stricken processor several nano-klicks to realize it was a young sparkling.
These bots, however, were barely even fleeting thoughts in his processor. All he could focus on was his daughter.
"Dynamite," he numbly murmured. A part of him still feared the specter would dissipate into a cloud of smoke at any moment. That he would lose his daughter - even if only a phantom of his helpless yearning - again.
But then the specter spoke, proving her existence. "Father…"
Happiness and relief so intense it was almost physically painful blossomed through Stahlhand's chest. The confused jumble of feelings crashed against his spark like a tidal wave. Silently, he sent a prayer of thanks to Primus for this unforeseen miracle.
His daughter had finally come back to him.