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Title: The Test (Part 1)
Fandom: Transformers Prime
Character(s): Bumblebee, Megatron
Pairing(s): None
Rating: R (for violence)
Word Count: ~5450
Warnings: Graphic depiction of violence: hostile interrogation, physical torture (no sexual content), psychological distress.
A/N: I have freely interpreted various (and occasionally conflicting) moments of backstory revealed in the Transformers Prime cartoon to create this piece; I have also borrowed details from other continuities (Aligned and G1) to flesh it out. The result is, perhaps, an unholy hybrid, consonant with no canon, but it is the story I wished to tell. Crossposted to [community profile] transficsation. Concrit welcomed with an escape tunnel.

Tis, finally, the Man ...
Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
For ever, and to noble deeds give birth,
Or he must fall, to sleep without his fame,
And leave a dead unprofitable name —
Finds comfort in himself and in his cause.

— William Wordsworth, "Character of the Happy Warrior"

          The whine of a blaster charging up beside his left proximal audio receptor and the words Don't move, slagger! weren't the subtlest of signs that Bumblebee's mission had gone to Pit, but they did clarify that it was taking the express chute.

          In hindsight, he probably should have retreated the third time he'd had to deviate from his planned route short of his goal because of unexpected Decepticon activity, but the possibility of such activity was exactly why his CO had assigned a scout to this sector rather than a surveillance drone. A drone could only do what it was told; a scout was capable of using his own judgment. Bumblebee was accustomed by now to treating his missions' parameters, if not their objectives, with a certain latitude. A scout's core function was simple: go over there and find out what's going on. Mid-assignment changes in the definition of over there and what's going on or even from find out to shut down didn't bother Bumblebee the way they did some of his tidier-minded colleagues. That said, the rapid shifts from go and find out to avoid and evade to prepare to resist interrogation were enough to give even him a twitch in the processor.

          Seeing the extent to which the Decepticons had dug in around Tyger Pax as he passed through their lines didn't fill him with hope for the success of the offensive to which he was supposed to be contributing vital intelligence, either. Not that Bumblebee knew anything about an offensive, officially, but between the trend of his most recent assignments and the gradual massing of mechs and materiel in this quadrant, it was a safe bet that a big push was coming. Add to that a private stash of high-grade, a tactician he'd known in OCS coming off a grueling double shift, and his own facility for putting 1 and 1 together to make 10, and Bumblebee had a pretty good idea of what was in the wind — a multi-pronged assault on Tyger Pax — and when it was coming down — soon.

          Which, given his current predicament, posed a serious problem. If he weren't careful, it wouldn't be just his own aft greased up for a slide down that Pit-bound chute, but a whole lot of other bots', too.

          "Any chance of a wash and wax before you ship me off to wherever you're warehousing Autobot prisoners now?" Bumblebee inquired of his captors, a pair of grim troopers with, he had already determined, no desire to converse with him. But since they were the only entertainment a dingy, gray storeroom in an abandoned building given over to the Decepticon security forces had to offer, he kept plugging away. "You have to have something set up; you wouldn't be able to keep all this cruft — " he stirred the dust on the floor with one pede — "off those shiny faceplates otherwise."

          "Clamp it, Autobot," growled one guard, while the other hefted his weapon in the universal sign for shut up or I'll shoot.

          Bumblebee grinned, hiding his growing unease. The shock cuffs around his wrists were making them itch; plus, he'd been idling his engines here long enough to wonder what in Primus's name the hold-up was. Had he accidentally dropped something during intake to put the 'Cons on alert? He racked his cache yet again and came up empty. All he'd offered his questioners were the usual transparent lies (I got separated from my unit; the slaggers ditched me on purpose — how did I know they were still carrying a grudge for that prank with the grenade and the waste-disposal unit?), useless half-truths (all right, so they sent me here to find out what you guys are up to, but in that case it's not like I can tell you anything you don't already know, huh? I mean, unless your higher-ups are even more narrow-band than ours ...) and insults. He'd collected a few dents in his plating in return, but nothing his auto-repair systems couldn't handle. They'd barely made a stab at hacking him, just knocked on his firewalls a few times and given up. Maybe that's what it was. It was hard not to look like you had something to hide while running high assurance security protocols. Or maybe they've just forgotten about me.

          The blocky, red-brown officer who'd previously grilled him ducked back through the door, followed by a tall, slender, gray and blue mech whose armor bore the insignia of Decepticon intelligence. "He's all yours, Wringer," said the security bot, with a wave in Bumblebee's direction.

          Nope. Doesn't look like they forgot.

          The guards' engines ticked over a little faster, evidently anticipating a good show. Expressionless, Wringer stared down at Bumblebee in a manner intended to intimidate him. Bumblebee obliged by shrinking in on himself, his optics flickering to the other mech's face and then away, the very picture of a cocky young bot who'd just realized he was out of his depth. For once the apparent immaturity of his frame might be an advantage; he'd forgive his seniors back at base every single mocking pat on the helm if he made it through this session with his processor intact. Bring it on, 'Con.

          "Now, then, Autobot," said Wringer, and Bumblebee stifled a flicker of amusement at the mech's hyper-cultured accent, like a pontificating holo-villain's. "We can do this the hard way — " his left armguard slid back and an interrogator's cable uncoiled, its business end hovering in the air between them — "or the terminal way." His right arm produced a well-honed blade. "Your choice."

          Exactly like a holo, Bumblebee decided. Were there no depths of cliché to which the 'Cons wouldn't sink? "Can we not do it at all?" he asked plaintively. "At least, not until I've had a chance to recharge? My shift started way too early."

          The cable reared up and struck, clamping onto the side of his helm and attempting to synch with his comms. Well, at least Wringer hadn't started by opening him up with the blade in search of a data port. Which means I still have that to look forward to, oh joy. Bumblebee resisted the connection briefly, then allowed it. Wouldn't want him to think he'd misjudged me. He fought another holding action until Wringer penetrated his neural net through an "unguarded" access. They played tag around Bumblebee's firewalls for a while and then the scout felt his opponent's attention shift into a higher gear. His attacks came more swiftly, with greater force, aimed at multiple nodes. Bumblebee "stumbled," drawing back, then turned and fled with the enemy at his mental heel struts, his eagerness obscenely palpable. Come on, you slagging sadist — come and catch the poor little mech. Turning at bay in an orphaned process, Bumblebee hunkered down as Wringer stalked closer, slashing through the scout's weakening defenses one after another.

          That's right ... come on ...

          Something warned the 'Con off just as the trap was about to close. Scrap! Bumblebee thought as the interrogator's executables shut down picocycles ahead of being co-opted with extreme prejudice. Had Wringer been a little less alert, his processor would have been so thoroughly fragmented that he'd have been lucky to return online as a traffic meter. As it was, he staggered back from Bumblebee's frame spitting static, his cable sparking and smoking where the feedback from a close encounter with an Autobot intrusion-detection system had fried it. The guards slammed Bumblebee to the floor, a gun-muzzle pressed against his helm for the second time that solar cycle. He felt rather than saw Wringer's glare — the mech's EM field was pulsing like an unstable wormhole — and didn't even try to keep the glee out of his grin.

          "Oops," he said.

          What followed was a lot less pleasant, if no more successful, and excruciating enough that Bumblebee had to dampen the sensitivity of his pain receptors. Unfortunately he couldn't disengage them altogether — that, his instructors had emphasized, was a good way to blind yourself to a physical hack. But he could dial them back to the point where his discomfort didn't unduly interfere with his concentration. Wringer, having thrown everything at him but the engeron dispenser, achieved nothing but another shorted cable and, Bumblebee devoutly hoped, a stabbing pain in his own processor. Three cheers for our plucky hero! The scout was pleased (and not a little relieved) to discover that his defenses held up as well in reality as they did in training sims and resolved to thank the programmer responsible for the advanced coding in his firewalls if — when — he made it back home. Rumor had it that Jazz himself had laid down those algorithms, in which case he was every byte the genius his reputation made him out to be.

          At Wringer's snarled command, the guards tossed Bumblebee into a corner of the room and loomed over him with unabated menace. He was content for now to sit quietly, helm hanging low, and pretend to be completely exhausted, though he doubted he was fooling anyone at this point. No question he was feeling the effects of beating a hostile interrogation — but scrap, you should see the other guy. The security officer had actually called a medic to attend to Wringer, who accepted a bolus of energon with a sour expression before submitting to having his damaged cables removed. The red-brown mech made some suggestion that Wringer emphatically negated and then the two of them began an undervoiced argument so furious that the medic, after one injudicious intervention on behalf of his patient, backed away.

          Bumblebee rested his helm on his knees and very cautiously turned up the gain on a couple of directional audio receptors. Any form of active eavesdropping would immediately alert his captors to his interest, but nobody was likely to notice if he simply listened harder — at least as long as they didn't scream at him or detonate anything close by, in which case his receptors would probably put on as conspicuous a display as Wringer's fragged cables. A grating array of environmental sounds amplified to white noise filled the sensor channels as he brought them online. Concealing a wince, Bumblebee tweaked the frequency modulator to drop the thrum of the guards' engines and the click of their joints lower in the mix and managed to catch a few words through the cacophony.

          " — know something — time — open him up — "

          "— risk — too valuable — Soundwave — "

          One of the guard's pedes boomed against the floor as he shifted position, startling Bumblebee badly enough that he jumped. The other guard clouted him on the shoulder; he hastily muted his sensors as both of them shouted at him to keep still, slag it! and tried to work through the implications of what he'd heard without panicking.

          Two things had held him steady through his capture: first, that as a commissioned officer, he had a definite value on the prisoner exchange market, so the 'Cons had an incentive to keep him functional even if they concluded he didn't harbor any useful intelligence; and second, that the most critical data he carried were time-sensitive. He called up his internal chronometer and noted that he'd now been missing long enough that all his passwords had expired unrenewed, which was one less worry. Anything that he knew or suspected about an attack on Tyger Pax would be similarly useless once that attack had taken place; he had only to hold out until the waste products hit the fan for whatever he could spill to be of nothing but historical interest.

          If he could hold out.

          Too valuable — Soundwave ...

          Bumblebee kept his doorwings from trembling with an effort. Megatron's faceless surveillance chief was legendary for both his loyalty to the Decepticon cause and his cunning as an intelligencer. It was rumored that he could read not just files but thoughts, infiltrate neural nets without a hardline, turn loyal Autobots into sleeper agents with coding so insidious that — Bumblebee yanked his processor out of a spiraling loop of dread. Whatever skills Soundwave possessed, he was certainly a far more dangerous adversary than Wringer. The scout's instructors had warned him that any bot could be broken, given time and the right tech. But against that eventuality he carried the suicide code: a program to crash and wipe his drives if his processor were compromised. Bumblebee grimaced against his patellar plates. A soft crash wouldn't by itself take him permanently offline, but the 'Cons would no doubt see to that quickly enough. Their medics were a lot more eager to offer the mercy-stroke to a stasis-locked mech than their Autobot counterparts. Primus help me. Bumblebee had known when he went for a soldier, and later for a scout, that he was shortening the odds on a long life, but he'd always imagined he'd go offline in battle, not on the floor of a Decepticon interrogation cell.

          But if he had to go, he'd do it without betraying his comrades. I swear it.

          Heavy pedefalls approached. Hastily unmuting and rebalancing his audio receptors, Bumblebee looked up into the drawn, angry face of Wringer. "Don't think this is over, Autobot."

          "Not a chance," Bumblebee said, trying to project an assurance he didn't feel anymore. "I can tell the party's just getting started."

          Wringer's optics blazed. "Joke while you can," he growled. "I doubt you'll find your next interrogation so amusing."

          "Oh? Why?"

          It was the wrong question. Wringer's faceplates twisted into a mirthless smile as he leaned in close and whispered, "Wait and see, Autobot. Wait and see."

          Well, that's not creepy or anything, Bumblebee thought, suppressing a shudder. Unable to formulate a quip, he settled for winking, but the 'Con had already turned away from him. Without a backward glance Wringer marched to the door, where the medic and the boxy security officer waited, and all three of them exited together.

          After that things became miserably boring for a while. The guards were no more inclined to talk with him now than before, so after one too many sallies at their expense earned him a gun barrel to the side of the helm, Bumblebee shut down every system he could without leaving himself vulnerable. No point in wasting energy; if Wringer was to be believed, he'd need his reserves for the next round of bad-bot-worse-bot. And if not, well, better to spend the time quietly defragging his drives than worrying whether Soundwave would scramble his processor or send him back to his comrades carrying a logic bomb.

          He also left the feed from his chronometer running in one corner of his HUD after he'd called it up for the fourth time. Come on, mechs. Get on with it.

          Enough microcycles had passed that Bumblebee had begun to wonder if he'd misunderstood his tactician friend's drunken hints when a stir in the corridor outside drew his interest: bots hurrying past on foot and wheel, some with voices raised in tones of command, others grumbling in the universal undertone of the overburdened. The guards, too, caught the change in the atmosphere. Though their weapons remained trained on their prisoner, their attention was divided between the scout and the door and the cant of their helms toward one another betrayed an exchange of speculations over a private comm. Bumblebee surreptitiously brought his idled systems back online, his spark catching fire with sudden hope. Let this be it! Please, let this be it ...

          It wasn't.

          The security bots sprang to attention as an entire squad of sharply buffed mechs entered the room, led by an officer Bumblebee recognized from Autobot intelligence reports: Bombard, a mid-rank 'Con grounder who'd lately been spotted running security for various members of Megatron's inner circle. Changed his paint, though; wasn't he teal and yellow in those images, not blue and gold? Promotion, maybe. Or maybe the head of Decepticon intelligence rated a particularly well-turned-out bodyguard. Bumblebee's spark seemed to flicker like a flame in a draught, but he contained his trepidation and remarked, "All this for me? You shouldn't have."

          Bombard ignored him. "Is this the Autobot scout Wringer interrogated?" he asked the guards.

          "Yes, sir!" they replied in unison.

          "I don't know if I'd call it an interrogation," Bumblebee put in. "More like a badly scripted episode of — "

          Bombard didn't telegraph the kick, but Bumblebee had been expecting something like it and was able to deflect enough of the impact to avoid serious damage. "You will speak only when spoken to, Autobot."

          "Good luck with that," muttered one of the guards, quickly cutting his vocalizer when Bombard side-eyed him.

          "Up, you," the Decepticon officer ordered.

          Bumblebee took his time complying, partly to delay the inevitable, partly to see what would happen. The freer his captors were with their abuse, the more likely they were to have classified him as just another POW rather than an intelligence asset. "Yow! Watch the joints!" he protested as he was yanked to his pedes by one arm. The squad formed up around him, energon prods leveled at his torso, and they all strode out the door behind Bombard.

          Bolts. Somebody thinks I'm important. Or dangerous.

          The thought didn't cheer him as it would have before he'd been captured. A fearsome reputation could be an asset on the battlefield, but here he'd get more mileage out of looking harmless. The contrast between his battered and dirtied plating and the parade-ground shine of his escort offered a useful contrast. He let his doorwings droop and his shoulders slump and shuffled along as if he could scarcely match the pace being set, though he took care not to fall behind. An energon prod could leave a nasty flux in your field and he wasn't keen on taking that kind of damage, not with another hostile interrogation on the horizon.

          He'd expected to be led to a new cell or perhaps to a transport, but Bombard's squad marched him outside and through a maze of narrow, rubble-strewn byways onto what must have once been the suburb's main avenue. Bumblebee's optics darted covertly from side to side, searching for clues in the surrounding bots' demeanor, in the damaged and half-toppled buildings they passed, but found none. This sector seemed truly deserted, no part of the Decepticons' camp. They turned left onto another broad street, after which the remains of commercial frontages gave way to the wrecked outlines of upper-caste residences, villas with pillared arcades and broken comm spires still reaching skyward. Bumblebee had run reconnaissance in the debris of many such neighborhoods, but only once had he seen one in all its glory, when a lull in hostilities had permitted his cadet class to travel to Iacon and receive their commissions from Optimus Prime himself. He and his comrades had paced down boulevards lined with structures even grander than these, their porches and colonnades crowded with cheering bots, all the way to the majestic amphitheater where the Prime and his officers had waited on a reviewing stand to receive their oaths.

          A weird sense of déjà vu overtook him and Bumblebee tripped on a fissure in the road, turning his false step into an awkward skip forward to avoid being struck by the mech at his heel-struts. None of his escort reacted. An elliptical arch loomed ahead, improbably whole amid the ruins, likely the entrance to the town square. Straining his sensors, Bumblebee caught the unmistakable rumbling of many engines in a confined space ahead, just as he had all those cycles ago when he'd stepped onto the ramp leading into the stadium. But he'd known why he was there, attended by all the pomp and circumstance Iacon could muster: to show the often beleaguered Autobots that their cause still lived in the sparks of the latest generation. Then he'd been a symbol; now he was just another scout. What could the Decepticons possibly prove by trotting him out in front of a crowd?

          His processor supplied the answer: that the cause which lives in the spark, dies with the spark.

          Oh, Primus. I'm going to be executed.

          He fought down the panicked impulse to break ranks and run. Outnumbered seven to one, his arms pinioned and his weapons offline, he'd never escape. They could beat him senseless and still prop his stasis-locked body up in front of the firing squad — if it was a firing squad that awaited him. Decepticon propaganda holos documented some peculiar interpretations of the rules of war when it came to dealing with Autobot prisoners. Thrusting those data away into locked files, Bumblebee raised his helm. There was no point in playing the wounded youngling now; if his end was being recorded, he'd make damned sure the 'Cons wouldn't be able to use him as an example of Autobot weakness.

          Decepticons lined the square five deep on three sides, sober-colored troopers interspersed with brightly-painted officers, with a gap left beneath the arch for Bombard's squad to pass through. On the fourth side, opposite the entrance, stood a raised concrete plinth, its decorative facing fallen away to lie in cracked sheets on the pavement, and on it sat a massive weatherworn cube of a chair — the magistrate's throne, perhaps, in the long-ago cycles when this town was still inhabited. And seated in that chair, dwarfing even its imposing dimensions with his bulk, was a silver-grey mech, blunt-helmed, a fusion cannon mounted on his right arm, every line of his colossal frame a testament to his power and arrogance.

          It was not Soundwave.

          ... oh scrap oh Primus oh scrap ...

          Bumblebee's escort paraded him across the field to the hoots and jeers of the assembled Decepticons. Bumblebee hardly noticed the noise, though he flinched involuntarily at the roar that went up when the great mech rose and spread his arms wide in acknowledgment of his audience. It was as much as the scout could do to keep putting one pede in front of the other, his processor coldly calculating that with each step toward the plinth his chance of seeing a firing squad, much less an interrogation cell or prison camp, asymptotically approached zero. He stumbled again and this time couldn't evade a jolt of energon to the backstrut. The pain and the feral howls of the crowd at his misstep shocked him out of his stupefied funk. Frag this! he thought. I've seen better mechs than these scrubbing out waste disposal units in camp — Pit, I've seen the very best of them with my own optics! He called up the memory file of Optimus Prime standing with quiet confidence among his officers, his visage solemn and attentive as he accepted the cadets' vows, the hint of a smile breaking through during the applause afterward as one of the bots beside him passed some cheerful remark.

          By the Allspark, I will keep my oath!

          He angrily shrugged off the servo of the guard on his left when the mech made to drag him onto the steps of the plinth. Instead he leapt up them lightly, striding out ahead of his escort, who fell back at a gesture from their lord that also quieted the crowd. Bumblebee halted just beyond arm's reach of the gigantic figure. No need to walk straight into the smelter, he reflected with grim humor. Our hero may be foolhardy, but he's not insane.

          "Do you know who I am, scout?" asked the Decepticon, his deep voice carrying easily in the anticipatory hush.

          "Why?" Bumblebee asked, pitching his own vocalizer to match the other's volume. "Don't you?"

          Faster than he would've thought possible for such a huge mech, the Decepticon closed the distance between them, his left servo whipping out to seize Bumblebee by the neck and lift him into the air. The scout's legs jerked in startled reflex; then he forced them to hang limp, feigning an impassivity belied by the rapid pulse of his spark. The other mech's arm bent, drawing him in, and Bumblebee's doorwings twitched in spite of everything he could do to keep them still. "Do you know," the Decepticon asked in precisely the same tone as before, "who I am?"

          Bumblebee put as much dentition into his grin as he could manage. "Who's asking?"

          The Decepticon's optics narrowed and his digits tightened, digging into Bumblebee's plating. The scout's HUD immediately filled with red alerts about the pressure on the housing of his dorsal neural cluster, though he hardly needed them given the stab of distress from the pain receptors along that portion of his backstrut. A numbing tingle began to work its way down his extremities and a new set of alerts warned that a primary motor control junction had been targeted. Subroutines already set on edge by the shock cuffs now threatened to overwhelm his processor with desperate inferences: if you can't move can't run can't transform can't escape you're dead dead dead dead. He shoved them down the stack, though he could not prevent his servos from rising to clutch at the stranglehold. Slagging glitch! he swore silently, as much to defy his own fears as the other's power.

          "Do you know who I am?" the mech asked yet again, but this time it was underlaid with a growl from his engines. Something popped in Bumblebee's neck and a firestorm of warnings clogged his HUD, blocking his vision ...

          "Megatron," he gasped. "You're ... Megatron."

          The pressure immediately decreased and Bumblebee's optics cleared enough to make out the satisfied smirk on the Decepticon's faceplates. "Yes, scout," he said, almost gently. "I am Megatron. And I will have answers to my questions." One clawed digit scraped down Bumblebee's plating, drawing an unhappy screech from the metal that the mech barely prevented his vocalizer from echoing. "Now, tell me, what is the current disposition of Autobot forces in this sector?"

          Bumblebee wondered if he shouldn't crash his drives right then and there, but who knew what the Decepticons might be able to recover from his hardware? Their engineers were second to none, even leaving aside Soundwave's legendary data mining capabilities. No, he had to hold out until he was certain the assault on Tyger Pax had been launched, no matter what. Surely Megatron would be notified of such a breach of his lines, and then ... Ignoring the disquiet the Decepticon's red optics sent through his neural net, he met Megatron's gaze with his own and replied, "Go frag yourself."

          A scout never planned for failure, never mentioned the possibility no matter how pre-glitched the assignment seemed. His trade offered fate temptations enough without adding to their number. But Bumblebee had been taught what to expect if he were taken, how to respond to imprisonment and interrogation, even to abuse and death. He'd braced himself for torment and public humiliation the moment he'd stepped onto the same stage as the Lord of the Decepticons.

          But what Megatron did to him was beyond all expectation.

          Using nothing but his servos, the Decepticon mangled Bumblebee's frame. He cut the cables behind the scout's knees first, so that his legs could no longer support his weight, forcing him to grovel at the other's pedes while Megatron's claws raked his mesh. Only his sensors were spared, to register every moment of his anguish, and his voice box, to answer the questions put to him. Who is your commanding officer? How many serve under him? What is the disposition of Autobot forces in this sector? What was your mission? Writhing in his tormentor's grip, Bumblebee tried to disengage his pain receptors and found to his horror that the control nexus had been disabled, crushed with unimaginable precision, leaving the sensor conduit itself intact. There was no relief from the agony of hyperextended joints and pierced plates, no defense against the brutality that harrowed them. The torrent of input devoured every cycle of his processor, rendering him all but incapable of thought. A wail spilled unbidden from his vocalizer; hearing it, the crowd replied with howls of amusement and approval.

          Perhaps Megatron realized that he would get nothing from his victim in that state, for he flung Bumblebee away from him into the chair. The scout's helm cracked against the hard polymer with enough force to dent it — but what's one more? he thought giddily as his processor popped excess sensory data off the stack. His HUD was awash in garbage, pixelated warnings blinking and overwriting one another. Only the counter in the upper right quadrant shone clear, ticking away the moments until all was safe. Primus, please, let it be soon ...

          Then Megatron's shadow fell over him and in the sudden darkness ghost-images danced before his optics: DANGER ... FAILURE ... HOLD ... "I am still waiting for my answers," the Decepticon growled, raising an energon-stained servo, and Bumblebee shrank back, drawing more laughter from the crowd. "Well?"

          Bumblebee shook his helm, wincing as the movement seemed to destabilize his gyros, and braced himself for what he hoped against hope would be his deathblow.

          But Megatron did not strike. "Do you set yourself to endure, scout?" he asked, and there was an edge of incredulity to his voice. "What do you expect? Mercy?" The incredulity was swallowed up in mockery and the onlookers, privy to the joke, screamed their derision. "Rescue?" The mech's cruel optics narrowed again, his red gaze scanning Bumblebee as if attempting a targeting lock. "Or something else?"

          The counter abruptly loomed so large in Bumblebee's vision that he was sure Megatron would see it, too. Wresting control of as many sensor channels as he could, he directed their input to his chronometer and crashed it. The image in his HUD winked out; his gyros spun crazily and one of his tanks purged, spattering him with his own waste. The Decepticons gleefully hailed his loss of control, but Megatron merely watched him with a dangerously shrewd expression. Tell him something ... anything ... no, something he'll believe ... He couldn't afford to let his adversary go digging for the truth with subtler instruments than his servos.

          "Autobots ... leave no mech ... behind," he rasped out. Something was wrong with his voice box now, too; the words emerged slurred and laced with static. "Optimus Prime's ... orders — "

          Megatron's optics burned with such fury that Bumblebee's muddled sensors registered it as heat. Seizing the scout by one pede, he dragged him from the chair. "Then let us see how much of you will be left for your comrades to collect!" Megatron exclaimed and, as the crowd bellowed its scorn, added in a snarl for Bumblebee's audio receptors alone, "If they ever find you."

          Without his chronometer to measure it, time stretched and contracted dizzyingly. Bumblebee's torment became a closed circle with neither origin nor terminus. Had he been able, he might have cursed the efficiency of the operating system that prevented his stack from overflowing despite the excruciating strain on every buffer, every register, in demonic counterpoint to the torture that rent his frame yet left him still online. Megatron asked no more questions, or none that Bumblebee could comprehend — his enemy's voice and the voices of the crowd and the shrieks that warbled from his own vocalizer blended together into one long scream in his audio receptors, clamorous and meaningless.

          But there came at last a moment when no new agonies joined the ones he was already experiencing. His processor, responding to some core imperative, spun a single coherent thread of awareness from the cycles thus freed and Bumblebee realized that Megatron's attention had strayed from him. The Decepticons were calling in one voice for his end, but it was not they to whom their leader seemed to be listening, but to his own thoughts or a private comm. Then he grasped Bumblebee by the neck once more and held his twisted and battered body aloft. "Any last words, scout?" he asked.

          Cliché, a subroutine suggested, tagging the analysis as critical, but he could not grasp its significance. As if from far away Bumblebee heard his own voice say, "Till ... all ... are — "

          Megatron's digits clenched convulsively, cutting off the words, crushing Bumblebee's voice box. Overwhelmed, the scout's awareness fragmented —

          — dead weight falling through space, impact in, in, in —

          "— no mercy for the weak —"

          — something left undone, something important —

          — internal error: deadlock condition

          — darkness and light and darkness and light and darkness —

          — tremors in the earth, in the air —

          — and light.

To be continued ...

[Acknowledgments: Transformers Prime was created by Hasbro Studios. Copyright for this property is held by Hasbro.]
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nebroadwe: From "The Magdalen Reading" by Rogier van der Weyden.  (Default)
The Magdalen Reading

August 2014



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