"A dark and troubling Omen. Sparkeaters are drawn to pain and emotional trauma [...] Horrific things must have happened on this ship. We're being punished." - Drift, The Lost Light.

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Fortress Maximus woke with Ratchet's face scowling down at him, lit from behind by the bright white of a medibay light. There was a jarring sense of displacement, and for a moment Maximus was lost, unsure how he'd ended up here. When Ratchet turned away from him to say something to Ambulon, the world lurched back into place, his last memory replaying itself like a slap in the face.

Rung.

Had he-?
Was Rung-?

Maximus made a move to climb off the slab, looking around frantically; if Rung was alright – or at least if he was still online, please, please let him still be functioning – the psychiatrist would have been in the medibay, too. But Maximus's panicked effort was interrupted by the bars clamped down over his wrists, forearms, thighs, and calves.

Of course, one small part of his brain reminded him; he was dangerous. But the rest of his mind was too easy to lose, and it was easier still to be rocked back to G9 and similar circumstances. Maximus couldn't stop his ventilations from picking up as a Ratchet-shaped shadow of Overlord loomed over him. Even when that figure spun around to investigate a monitor as it came to life, sounding a string of loud warning beeps, all Maximus could parse was the sudden movement. It was erratic and that never, ever boded well. It meant someone was in a mood, and that meant there was no way to prepare for what might come next. What would come next. Whether it was impossible demands disguised as necessary questions, or violence poorly disguised as interrogation, at least it helped when there was some way to anticipate the … paces he'd be put through.

Reality and spiraling memory superimposed over each other badly, leaving jagged gaps of terrifying incompatibility that rendered Fortress Maximus mute, eyes stopped on their widest aperture as he tried to find the seams between what was, and wasn't there. His processor stalling on garbage data and nonsense feedback, Maximus hypervented, running his fans but dispelling no heat.

From the edge of his peripheral vision, he saw the lanky shape of Whirl skulk out from behind a wall, closely followed by First Aid. Any familiarity that the nurse might have prompted was offset quite neatly by Whirl's dirty look, somehow reading loud and clear even with his entire lack of a face.

Maximus rotated his wrists, hands fisting as he checked for any give in the bars holding him down. Both the squeal of metal and whatever Ratchet might have said went unheard.

"Did you want to see him?" First Aid asked, looking up at Whirl but trailing off as another abrasive symphony of alerts started up. He cast a nervous glance in Max's direction and the warden was almost too tense to notice. Almost.

If you didn't keep track of where everyone was, it left you vulnerable to … surprises; and Maximus had discovered early enough that he really had no love for those.

Tensing further, he stared back at Whirl, anticipating a fight while his body remembered other things. If Whirl thought they weren't even… If he tried anything…

"First Aid, get over here," Ratchet demanded, preparing something just out of Maximus's view as the nurse scurried over, leaving Whirl alone and unattended where he'd stopped.

"Seen enough," Whirl said to no one, to anyone, or maybe just to Maximus as a line was magnetized to the warden's neck. Even as Maximus strained against the staticky claws of darkness groping up from the edges of his optics, the world started to fuzz back out and he was powerless to keep his grip.

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The rest was a jumbled blur; Ultra Magnus showing up at some point to drag him, cuffed, maglocked, and drugged to the brig. Maximus remembered gibbering a question, drunkenly asking after Rung as he was forced down the hall over his own stumbling feet. His only reply was a glower and a gruff, "That isn't your concern."

Maximus had expected more of a reprimand, more of anything really, but Magnus had only stared hard at him and then slammed up the energy barrier of the cell before storming out.

For a long time after that they'd left him alone. And in a way, it suited him.

He ... he needed to think. He hated to, but he didn't think he could face anyone, not after what had happened. Everything that had happened. But left alone with only the buzz of the energy wall and his thoughts, he found himself trapped in recollection, a loop of his last moments before onlining in the medibay.

He'd been holding Rung – if you could call it that. Really, Rung had been holding him, whispering something Maximus couldn't remember past a glass sliver of comfort. Then Rung had jerked, his entire frame shaking with the force of the blast. Maximus remembered how it had felt, the vibration of the tiny body, the heat of the explosion against his plating, the wet squelch and the smell of burning circuitry inches away from his face … and then Rung going limp. That was it. That, the fire, and its smoke, was all Maximus could remember before his memory file picked up again and his world became Ratchet and the beginning of an old nightmare.

The shock of Rung's last moments were so new and startling that for the first time in his life something actually overshadowed Garrus-9. And alone, in that cell, Maximus lost himself to replaying the horror over, and over, and over again.

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Things changed when they brought Red Alert in.