Oh, man. There was only a four month break between updates! Miracles happen! Though it could also be because the things I'm writing at the moment are scenes I've been wanting to work on since I started writing this story back in 2013.
The scenes have changed from their original thoughts (one part a lot of time has passed and I've thought of better things, but also because this story has evolved), but the main core events are still there. A great deal of this story was inspired by some of my favorite comic moments and I'm looking forward to seeing their influence in this work. :D
Speaking, this is a good chapter to refresh yourself with the tags (I'm sorry) and know that I promise there will be another chapter soon(ish) because I really don't like leaving this story on a low note for long. It is a happy ending story! It has a lot of angst, but it's going to end happy gosh darn it!
But that's enough rambling. Enough story notes. The chapter awaits. Thank you so much for reading! :D
"Six were reported dead and four injured from a fire still raging at a local church and homeless shelter in downtown Kaon," the news reporter said. Rodimus bit a cracker in half and stared at the small television in the corner. Bumblebee looked up from his desk as well as the reporter continued to list the damage. "An investigation for the cause of the fire is underway, though arson is strongly suspected."
"Wow," Bee said. "I know things get rough down in Kaon, but a church?"
"Yeah," Rodimus said. "It's hard to believe."
"The Circle of Light has been a longstanding fixture in Kaon for over twenty years, founded by former Senator Dai Atlas," the news reporter continued. She put her hand her near headpiece and paused. "We have received word that Priest Dai Atlas was meeting with Mayor Shockwave when the fire started and is unharmed."
"The head deacon and half of the staff died in the fire," Bee said, pulling up the full news story on his laptop. "It figures the Senator was one of the only ones to escape unharmed."
Suspicious, too. Why was the priest hanging out with Shockwave? That guy was bad news and had serious ties with the Decepticons. It couldn't be a coincidence that he was the one to get out.
"This is a great loss to the district of Kaon," the news reporter said. "According to our sources, Mayor Shockwave will be running a charity drive to help pay for repairs and to rebuild."
Bee turned the television off and threw the remote on the table. "What do you want to bet this is a stunt for Shockwave's next election campaign?"
"Running a charity to fix a church that burned down would make him look good," Rodimus said. He rubbed the side of his lip and frowned. "But why would he pick one in Kaon? Shockwave already has the majority votes in their district. He's only on the fence in Iacon."
"It could be an insurance thing?"
Rodimus shook his head. "I don't think he had anything to do with it."
"Why is that?"
"Gut feeling," Rodimus said. He looked at Bee over his shoulder and scratched the back of his head. "Shockwave's a Decepticon, he denies it, but he is. Kaon's their home turf—you don't set fires to your own home."
"Then who did set the fire?" Bee asked. "If Shockwave is innocent, then somebody just set fire to his friend's home."
"I have no idea," Rodimus agreed. "Let's hope my dad and the force find the guilty party first."
Drift hadn't moved.
The bag of craft supplies leaned against his leg, sitting in the soot leftover from a wet beam. The firefighters walked around him, leaving him be. At least one—a Decepticon lackey pulling double duty in the service industry—recognized him and ushered the others to stay away and give him space.
He'd only been gone for two hours.
Wing had an emergency counseling session, but still needed to restock the craft pantry for the morning. They were having a "Kid's Day" and were out of card stock, glue, and colored paper.
"Drift! Would you mind going to the store for me?" Wing had said, catching Drift in the hallway. He handed him a small wad of cash with a list tacked to it. "I had planned to go tonight, but something came up."
Over Wing's shoulder, Drift could see a woman with mascara coating her puffy cheeks as she rubbed at her face. Her dress was torn and Wing kept looking back to check on her.
"Yeah, I can get it," Drift said, remembering that he was supposed to set up the tables for the kids in the morning. "Where's the best place to pick up the supplies?"
Wing took the slip and scribbled a store name and address on the top of his list. "There's a small shop on the other end of Iacon. It's out of the way, but they give us a hefty discount so it's worth the travel time."
"Sure," Drift said. He nodded toward the crying woman. "Good luck."
"You're a blessing," Wing said. "I'll help you with the tables later."
He patted Drift on the shoulder and rushed back to the woman, leading her into his office before shutting the door.
Drift got lost trying to find the small store, but he eventually found it. They were ready to close, but when he dropped Wing's name they let him inside. The Deacon had helped the owner during an attempted mugging when he'd gotten lost in Kaon. "He saved my life!" the owner had said before discounting Drift's purchase by fifty percent. Drift had grinned, admiring Wing's resourcefulness and reputation as he left the store with his arms full of craft supplies.
When he returned to the Church, the entire building had been on fire. Multiple hoses poured water onto the building, failing to control the flames.
Deadlock never dealt with fire. He didn't like burning things. It was too uncontrollable—too wild for even him. Deadlock thought the soot and ash that came from it was a pain to clean. Knives and guns were easier.
More personal to have blood under his fingernails and splashing on his skin—
Drift gritted his teeth and whined, shoving his fingers into his closed eyes to catch his breath. He didn't need those thoughts. Why was he having those thoughts when the Circle of Light was burning to the ground?
"Sir, we need you to back up," a man with a red, Autobot Officer badge said, tugging his arm. He reached down and picked up Drift's bags, pulling them both back. "It's not safe."
"I live here," Drift said, pointing at the building. "Where is everyone else?"
"Let's get away from the burning building," the officer said. His voice turned sympathetic, showing a kindness Drift had never heard from one of those wretched cops. "You can find out more from the medical tent."
Drift knew what that meant.
He followed the officer in a daze to a small area with where an ambulance had been parked next to a makeshift medical tent. Emergency personal treated a handful of the homeless men that had been staying in the shelter while the rest hovered in the corner in various shapes of filth and tears.
Six bodybags were zipped to the side.
Drift didn't see Wing helping to assist the injured. He didn't see Wing comforting the few people crying in the corner. Drift didn't see Wing praying.
He left without checking the unmoving bodies.
Only death would have stopped Wing from serving the living in a time of tragedy.
So he wandered back to the church in time to see the fire dying down.
He sat and didn't move.
"Drift," Dai Atlas said, moving to sit next to him. He didn't know how much time had passed since Drift sat and refused to move. Dai Atlas nudged the craft supplies aside and put his hands in his lap. "I take it you were told what happened to Wing."
"No," Drift said. He stared at the wet, crumpling and exposed drywall. "I saw the bodybags and knew."
"The coroner said he passed from smoke inhalation," Dai Atlas said, his voice as even and numb as Drift felt. The man leaned his head forward, resting it on his folding hands. "Knowing him, he was trying to find stragglers in the building instead of escaping."
"That sounds like Wing." Drift turned his head to Dai Atlas and licked his lip. "Do we know what caused the fire?"
Drift felt Deadlock banging on the back of his ribs, screaming to be let out. He swallowed him back down and bit out, "Who?"
"I don't know," Dai Atlas said. He exhaled and looked up, making the bags under his eyes more obvious. "Though I have my suspicions."
"Is this my fault?" Drift asked, not truly needing the answer. It had to be his fault. Drift was always at fault. He was Deadlock. "Death" was in his name. His new life meant nothing in the end. The name "Drift" was a shoddy paint job to cover up the truth underneath. "Am I why they set the fire?"
Was he why Wing died?
Dai Atlas put his hand on Drift's head. "Did you set fire to the building?"
"No," Drift said, his shoulders lowering. The man's hand was too heavy. Too warm. Too large. "No, I didn't."
"Then this isn't your fault," Dai Atlas said. The authority in his words cut to Drift's core. "Wing would agree with me. I can imagine he will have the longest lecture waiting for you when you meet him again in the Light if you dare think otherwise. Is that really the first thing you want to face when you two are reunited in the afterlife?"
Dai Atlas removed his hand and put it in his own lap. "If anyone is at fault for this, it is me."
"I should have known immediately something was wrong when Shockwave invited me over for a friendly visit," Dai Atlas said. Drift thought back to their talk in the diner, and the confession that Dai Atlas was friends with the Mayor and high ranking Deception. "It wasn't until I saw the news report on the fire that I realized Shockwave had only reached out to keep me away from the church. He was protecting me, in his own way, I suppose."
"So he knew about it?" Drift swallowed. "Did he tell you who did it?"
"No," Dai Atlas said. "He said he did not approve and assured me the guilty parties would be dealt with appropriately."
Coming from Shockwave, that meant Drift may not have the opportunity to take revenge himself.
"Then why didn't he stop it before it happened?" Drift asked. Shockwave had that sort of power and authority. Thinking back, Drift wouldn't have been surprised to know the Circle of Light had lasted in Kaon as long as it did due to Dai Atlas' relationship with Shockwave. "If he knew, why didn't he stop it?"
"I'm not sure," Dai Atlas said. He opened the craft bag and pulled out a piece of paper. He folded it in his hands. "Shockwave wouldn't give me details, but he did confess that Soundwave gave him a courtesy heads up. That leads me to believe he didn't know it was going to happen until the last minute."
"I need to go." Drift stood and swayed on his stiff legs. He smacked them to get the blood flowing and dropped his head back. No matter what Dai Atlas said, the fire had been his fault. A Decepticon did it and Drift was the only ex-Decepticon in the church. "I can't stay here as Deadlock."
He'd have to be Deadlock to find the monsters that killed Wing.
"You threw that name away," Dai Atlas said. He remained seated, though he did look up. "But whatever path you choose, you are always welcome at the Circle of Light. This is still your home."
"Even if I go out and kill everyone who set fire to the church?"
"Yes, you will still be welcome, though I suspect it won't come to that."
Drift choked out a laugh, rubbing his chest to loosen the tightness that had gathered. "What makes you say that?"
"Wing will be disappointed if you fall back into that pattern after all the progress you've made," Dai Atlas said. He stood and patted off his legs, reaching for the bag of craft supplies. "He truly and sincerely believed in you, and I'm choosing to follow his example."
"I might disappoint him," Drift said. He licked his lip and stuck his hands in his pockets. "But I won't know for sure until I hunt down the people who did this."
"You'll make the right choice," Dai Atlas said. "And when you do, you're welcome to come home. I'll say it as many times as I have to—it's the least I can do for the both of you."
Drift nodded and turned around.
If he listened further, he may not have the will to leave at all. The temptation to follow Dai Atlas to someplace safe and warm to cry and mourn was too great.
Drift had gotten too soft.
He walked away to his car, his feet crunching through the ashes. Drift threw himself in the front seat and turned on the ignition. He had to find the Decepticons that set the fire before Shockwave did.
Whether the poor souls would meet with Drift or Deadlock, he hadn't decided yet.