"Who are we?"
"The defenders of peace!"
"When do we fight?"
"When the enemy strikes!"
"When do we sleep?"
"When the danger has passed!"
"When do we wake?"
"When our duty calls!"
"When do we rest?"
"Strength is the machine!"
"And we are the cogs!"
"With one eye on the sky!"
Cybertron Sector 15 Penitentiary. I used to work there. The head count among the prisoners there was 2,035 then. Now? It's zero.
I was a guard there. Keep the filth in their place. Show no weakness. I just did what I was told. As an Autobot, that's what you were supposed to do. I guess it's different now. But that's the way it was then.
Anyway, my job was to patrol the corridors, check every sell to make sure nothing was going on, stand in the refueling station, in the medical ward, stand here, stand there, look tough, easy stuff. Well, easy for everyone else.
"Augh! Look out!"
The security monitor crashed to the floor, sparks flying from the harsh metal box. It lay in a crumpled pile, looking very hurt.
"Geez, Latchkey, watch it!" Doppler snapped. His optics, one purple and one red, like all of ours, were flashing with irritation. "I told you not to touch that!"
"I'm sorry," I said earnestly. "I didn't mean to touch it." I honestly didn't. I was just stretching out my arm to lean against the wall, and somehow I must have leaned against the monitor by accident. I had sort of forgotten where it was.
"That monitor was brand new!"
"I know. I'm sorry," I said again.
He sighed, putting one hand over his face. "Just…" he said through his teeth. It looked like hard work. "Just go stand in the corner or something. I'll call Minor. For Primus' sake, don't touch anything!"
I went to the corner and stood there, like he said. He contacted Aegis Minor, the warden, and then continued to yell at me. I didn't mind so much. I'd been working here for a long time, and he was younger than I was, but I knew I wasn't that bright. I had never, in all my years, gotten the hang of doing… well… anything really. It was okay if other people told me what to do. They knew better than I did. I didn't mind so much.
When I was working there, life was all about duty. You woke up, breathed, lived for the sake of your job. Maybe that's not how it was for everyone else, but that's how it was for us. From the day I first walked in there to begin life as a guard, I never once walked out. None of us did. I guess we were prisoners there, the same as the inmates. But that didn't even occur to me until later.
I remember wearing the Autobot insignia, right on my chest plate, where anyone could see it. I remember it didn't really mean anything to me. It was just there. You look at yourself and see it there, and maybe you notice it or maybe you don't. No pride, no sense of duty, just… there. Like a scar.
A lifetime of this, thousands of years of being pushed aside, of quietly obeying. Hemmed up together with allies and enemies, at least people who fancied themselves your enemies. Dirty looks and pitying shakes of the head. That was my reality.
Until the day it all changed.
I was in the hallway, patrolling I guess. I don't really remember. I had heard that a new inmate was to come in that day, but I didn't pay any more attention to it than that. What was one face, more or less? One more pair of resentful eyes, hating everyone, most of all, it seemed, me. It wasn't my fault you were caught. I'm just doing my job.
This pair of eyes wasn't the same, though.
I turned around, surprised. Someone was making a commotion. The hallway turned into an L at the end, and the noise was coming out of sight, at the turn on the left. I was at the far end of the hall. I didn't move; I just stared, listening. It sounded like quite a racket. I heard crashes, like things were being thrown around. People were firing because there was a twang of lasers. I don't think anyone was hitting anything, though, because it sound like it was just exploding on the walls. A cloud of smoke was starting to drift out into the hall. As luck would have it, I was in a ward where the prisoners were being kept, and they all stared, one per cell, in the direction of the sound, gladly leaning towards anything to break up the monotony. People were shouting, and I heard voices I recognized, but there was one, louder than the others, and higher, too, that sounded above the rest. It sounded like it was… laughing?
More crashes. The voices became more distinct.
"Halt! I said, 'Halt!'"
Bang bang bang.
"Get back here!"
"Don't let him get away!"
And then I saw him. The one they were yelling about. He had transformed into a helicopter, and was coming around the bend, his blades whirring. A blast of air billowed out from where he was and flew down the hallway towards me. I stood there, my optics wide, frozen. Prisoners weren't supposed to be able to transform. They were fitted with a chip that made it impossible. When I saw something huge, something that should not be, something coming right at me, I seized up. I forgot how to think.
He was getting closer, the air was getting stronger. Another second and he would be right over my head.
Suddenly a faced appeared around the corner. It was another guard, Ironclasp, looking haggard.
"Latchkey!" He shouted. "Do something!"
My mind wasn't working. I wasn't really aware of myself standing there with my mouth open. I wasn't really aware of the huge helicopter streaking towards me. All I could think of was, Do something.
So… I did something.
Without hesitating, I jumped into the air. I got a lot higher than I thought I would, considering how bulky I am. I guess the prisoner wasn't expecting that either because he slammed right into me, so hard I felt my teeth rattle. I dragged him down and we collapsed on the floor, him vibrating and humming so loud my audio receptors protested with a long, loud screech. One of his blades had caught on my shoulder, and it kept slashing into me as he tried to take off. It hurt, but I didn't let go. All I could think of was to not let go.
Suddenly, the helicopter shifted. I grappled with him, still trying to hold on, because I knew that he must be changing back. Would he fight me? Slag, I hoped not. Some prisoners, thinking that because I was quiet or dumb, figured they could take me. I'd fought with prisoners a few times. I hated it. I always hated the feeling afterwards. Like I'd broken a bird's wing.
The helicopter changed and the 'bot emerged. He had an orange face, sort of a pointed nose, and bright green eyes. He blinked, looked right at me, and said:
"Are you crazy or what?"
It wasn't the words that got to me. It was the tone. It didn't sound angry or hostile. It sounded… impressed.
He stared at me, in utter awe. His optics, I noticed, were brighter than most bots'. They shone white over the green. "That was awesome!" he said, looking right at me.
"Er…" I said, not knowing what else to say. Was he being sarcastic?
He laughed, he actually laughed, and said, "Gee, if the army had moves like that, maybe Megatron wouldn't be able to scrap 'em up the tailpipe."
"You..." I stammered, shocked. "You… You have…" I was trying to say, the right to remain silent, when I heard footsteps running down the hall. I didn't look up; I had to keep my eyes on the prisoner. Soon, a cluster of shadows appeared in front of us. It was the other guards.
"Wow," I heard Ironclasp say, "You actually got him. Nice work!" He sounded surprised. Well, I couldn't blame him.
"Thank you Latchkey," I heard someone Pointblank say. "We'll take it from here."
He bent down over us and grabbed the prisoner. I got a glimpse of his face. A trickle of Energon was spilling down his head, over his cheek. He looked pretty mad.
The prisoner yielded readily enough, with all the blasters everyone now had pinned on him. "Did you see that?" he chattered. "Did you see what he did?"
"Yes, I saw," Pointblank answered stonily. "You're in a lot of trouble." He had a pair of stasis cuffs. He slapped them on the prisoner's wrists, and immediately he became weaker. Two other guards had to help him stand. "The warden will see you now," Pointblank said.
"Impatient to see me, eh?" the prisoner laughed. He was laughing again. "I understand. Everyone is!"
As they led him away, he shot one look over his shoulder at me, his bright eyes flashing.
They turned the corner and went away.
Ironclasp was still there. He stood in front of me, smiling.
"Nice catch," he told me.
"Thanks," I said.
"But you know," he went on, "You could have just shot him."
I blushed. I honestly hadn't thought of that. I told him so, and he chuckled.
"C'mon, you big lug," he said, holding out his hand. "I'll take you to medical."
"You don't have-" I started to say, then I winced. Reflexively, I gripped my left arm. There was a pretty big gash there from where the blade had got me.
"No, seriously," Ironclasp said. "Let's go. Besides," he added. "I need it to."
I looked up. He was holding his other hand over his optic, and I could see there was a lot of Energon spilled around it. It flowed out from under his hand to his chin. He grinned, sheepishly, wincing a little.
"Yeah," I said. "Okay."
We were in the medical ward. A nurse was patching up my shoulder, whistling at the thought of the crazy man who must've done this. The ward was rather full, actually. Every bench was occupied by a bedraggled or banged up guard, some of them worse for wear than others.
Crossfire, a lieutenant, was reading us the prisoners' profile. Ironclasp sat at the bunk next to mine, also listening.
"Prisoner A2036. Cyclonus. Helicopter, but I guess you knew that." He lowered the screen he was reading from and looked at us. "I can't believe it took seven men to bring one inmate down."
"Actually," said Ironclasp. "It really only took one." He looked over at me pointedly. Crossfire looked me right in the optics, skeptical. I shifted on the bench, embarrassed.
"Regardless," he went on, raising the screen back up again. "As you've probably guessed, this prisoner is regarded as extremely dangerous. We're having him put into solitary, given today's incident." He looked back up at us. "I know this seems bad, but we can't afford to get sloppy now. Especially with the riots all over Cybertron."
"You mean the war?" I asked.
Crossfire shot me a cold look. I looked down, feeling my cheeks warm with shame.
"I mean the riots," he said, in a tone that ended the issue. "It would be disgraceful to call this little demonstration a war."
Ironclasp opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, but both Crossfire and I turned to look at him, and he closed it.
"Anyway," Crossfire went on. "From now on you need to be careful around this guy. The police have been tracking him for a while, and he has a history of mental instability. Apparently, he's got some sort of glitch in his brain. His medical records are out of date, but he has consistently displayed signs of manic behavior."
I remembered his laughter and the odd, bright gleam in his eyes, and I suddenly became very uneasy.
"What was he arrested for?" I asked, nervously. "Murder?"
"No," Crossfire answered briskly. "Not murder."
I felt myself relax.
"Arson," he went on. "He's been arrested for five counts of arson."
Hey guys! Remember me? Yeah, it's been a while hasn't it? I'm sorry. Don't worry, though, I haven't given up on Evolution, if you've been reading that. Believe it or not, I haven't given up on Really Screwed Up Future either, even though it's been forever since I updated that. Give me time. (If you haven't been reading that and don't know what it is, don't worry about it, hah.)
This story started, believe it or not, as a writing assignment. I take a creative writing class in high school, and the teacher is pretty lenient about what she lets us write. The assignment was to write a story driven by character. I had already written a character based story, so I couldn't think of anything original, so I thought, "Screw this, why don't I write a story about Transformers?" *laugh* What you just read is what I turned in. You like?
I've actually been working on this story in my head for a while, but it didn't really start to come together until I sat down at the computer and started actually typing it. Sometimes that's just how it works.
Reviews are appreciated! Thank you and see you next week!