The sky’s cloudy demeanor made the shadow all the more ominous. Streaking down low over the mountains, the jet stopped, hovering ever so slightly, and then transformed.
Panels and plates moved over each other. The rear of the jet split by way of twelve, each piece moving quickly into position. Flipping, the debacle of a jet completed its transformation, and there stood Megatron.
“I was beginning to suspect that you would not show up at all,” a voice said. Turning, Megatron’s eyes narrowed.
“And what exactly am I here for,” asked Megatron, smiling.
“Your going to help me. You got my calling card?”
“Oh, indeed. And what a lovely mess you made of my men.”
“Not very hard.”
“Oh, please.” Megatron waved a hand. “They nearly killed you. But you are correct in assuming that they were merely my foot soldiers. They were indeed. As you have bested the prelude of what the Decepticons are truly like, I suspect that you have made enhancements to your exoskeleton structure, Arcee.” Megatron’s eyes ran down the female’s slim form. “I am impressed.”
And he had every right to be: Arcee’s arm had since been replaced; now sporting the latest Autobot weapons technology available, her physique was far more battle-laden. Two knives clung to her belt, accompanied by the sparks of those whom she had slain not three days ago. Complementing those was a rifle slung over her shoulder, and a bulky looking gun that hung limply by her side, below the sword.
“I see you’ve… upgraded. I suspect you’ve been equipped with ablative trans-phasic combat armor?”
“Yes,” said Arcee, a little sheepishly.
“Impressive, though I must say,” Megatron said, gesturing at the bulky weapon “it doesn’t suit you. You seem far too elegant for that sort of thing. The rifle, too; it seems too big. The daggers, on the other hand, those are a woman’s weapon…”
Arcee cut him off. “Stop with the flattery, Megatron. I need your help in killing someone.”
“You seem to have no trouble in that particular capacity. Why call upon me?”
“Because this particular opponent is one who often gets you and the Decepticons into trouble.”
“Oh, and to whom are you referring?” Megatron furrowed his brow.
Megatron’s eyes widened, if only for a moment. Arcee smiled. She had him hooked. “You want my help in defeating Starscream? Why?” Megatron’s tone had changed. No longer was if filled with the confidence and gravitas of before. Now it was Arcee’s turn to be smug.
“Why not? He’s been nothing but trouble for you and your team. Why not take him out?”
Megatron clasped his hands behind his back, bowing slightly before taking a step forward. “Because, while my personal feelings for Starscream are not above reproach, his knowledge and usefulness to the Decepticons is far too valuable. If I were to help you, I would perhaps be doing both you and I a favor, but I would be then at the mercy of my troops, of whom only a handful would think our collaboration a worthwhile endeavor.” Megatron turned his back to the female, gazing out into the landscape of Cybertron.
“I would think that with him gone, you would have a far better chance of being rid of the Autobots,” said Arcee.
Megatron turned hastily, his eyes ablaze. “Do not insult my tactics! I will be rid of your f action soon enough. But tell me, why is it that you take an interest in the Air Commander? What has he done to you personally?”
“He killed a partner of mine.”
“Did he?” Megatron smiled maliciously, revealing sharpened razor teeth. “And who was this partner of yours? Was he a colleague of Optimus’s?”
Arcee looked up into Megatron’s looming face. She glared into those hideous red eyes. Megatron backed off in mock cowardice. “Perhaps not,” he grunted. “So, Arcee, you want revenge, and you suspect my motives are of a similar origin, yes? Though the offer is growing increasingly tempting, I’m afraid that I cannot help you. Find another to assist in your massacre. Nobody summons Megatron.” Megatron turned, but Arcee caught his arm.
“Please.” She pulled him back. “I need your help.” Her demeanor was now softened. She was pleading.
“Hm.” Megatron pondered, thinking how he could spin this to his advantage. “What do I get in return?”
“You get to have a thorn removed from your services, and you thus are able to destroy the Autobots that much quicker in the long run.”
“And why the preoccupation with the destruction of the Autobots? You wear their badge yet you treat them as one would treat an animal for slaughter. Are you not proud of your allegiance?”
Arcee’s stare was dead now. “No,” she said flatly.
Arcee let Megatron’s arm go. Megatron thought for a moment, then said, “Very well. I will help you, but when this is over, do not expect my men to be lenient to you. Expect the opposite. As long as you stay out of our way, you will be safe. If we find you, we will not hesitate to kill.”
“Fine. Where is he?”
“Ah, hasty are we?” Megatron smiled again. Though however pitiful Arcee may act, she was not one to be underestimated, and Megatron would fall for none of her guile. “I lead you there, and we take him out. He has undoubtedly amassed quite a number of troops against me.”
“Then I guess you’ll be busy.”
“And you won’t?”
“I can handle it. How will we get to wherever he is?”
“Obvious, no? We fly.” Megatron pulled Arcee close and took to the sky once more. Arcee made no attempt to free herself. She would tolerate the poison of the Decepticon Supremacy so long as she could kill his second-in-command. Collusion though this was, she could live with it… she could live.
The wind ripped past them like knives. Megatron climbed and climbed, past the clouds, steadying his ascent only at the upper atmosphere. Arcee’s temperature gauge read hers at negative twenty degrees Celsius. She shivered in spite of herself. Megatron hovered there, gazing at the horizon.
“What is it,” Arcee asked, impatiently. “What do you see?”
“There,” Megatron murmured. He bolted, heading toward a speck of silver set against the beauteous Cybertronian night sky. Megatron’s grip tightened around Arcee’s waist. Arcee welcomed his gentlemanly manners with grudging reverence.
As they drew nearer, her memory of the vessel came back to her: it was the Nemesis, the Decepticon warship. She had ventured near it twice before, once on a scouting mission with her now-deceased partner, and once before that with the Autobot Wrecker Infantry Force. Both missions were failures because of her. She would assure success this time ‘round.
They landed. Arcee drew herself away from Megatron as quickly as she could. Megatron cocked his head, trying to remember where that airlock hatch was… ah, there. He strolled over to the bulkhead, insouciantly knocking on the door. Arcee looked around instinctively. Stupid; there was no one else out here. She was surprised, then, to hear the door open.
“Megatron sir!” the voice was startled, undoubtedly by the fact that Megatron would choose such an incongruous way to enter his own ship. “Was your trip a success?”
“Indeed, Kickback. But while it was a triumph, the results do not bode well for you.” Megatron seized Kickback by his head and nonchalantly yanked it off of his body. The body fell, and Megatron strolled into the ship with not so much a glance at Arcee.
Arcee, impressed at Megatron’s vindictive yet pitiless actions, followed suit, noting that, had she and Megatron done battle on the mountaintop, she would have surely been defeated. But that was, of course, not what had happened. And so, here she was with the power to take down her enemy in the form of her factions’ enemy, who was, for the moment, her uneasy ally. While Megatron had the advantage of being on friendly ambit, Arcee had to crouch low to avoid interaction with her opponent’s friends. Arcee felt jaded, probably from the flight, and Megatron had to catch her twice to stop her from falling.
“I’m fine,” Arcee grumbled, shoving herself out of Megatron’s arms. She paused, feeling but an iota of remorse for her partner. “Thanks,” she blurted,
Megatron wasted no time in twisting his ally’s emotions to his advantage. “Ah, feeling a little guilty, are we? Perhaps a morsel of regret toward your enemy.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.” Arcee shot him a glare.
“Hurmph,” Megatron grunted. Arcee looked around, and her eyes widened. Standing not twenty yards away were two Decepticon drones. Megatron had noticed them as well.
Transforming her new arm into its weapon mode, Arcee tried to duck behind a wall, but Megatron drew her close, whispering to her. “You play the part of prisoner, and I’ll court you ‘cross these halls, lest you be shot at.” Arcee nodded, and put on her best “battle-fatigue” face that she could muster. This was not easy, as she had not been in many battles where she had lost.
The troops let Megatron pass, though skepticism ran across their faces as he did so. Arcee had little time to reassemble her arm into its ambulatory form before the guard at the entrance to the next door noticed them. With a salute, the trooper let Megatron through, and Arcee gasped.
She had been brought into what she could only guess was the main bridge of the ship. A central seat looked out over a vast display of consoles, each displaying different data. Above them, and in the direct line of sight of the current Bridge Commander, was the view screen, currently showing the vast night sky to all. And seated in the command chair was Starscream.
“Welcome back, Lord Megatron.” Starscream’s voice dripped with false respect. “Ah, we have a prisoner.” Starscream leaned down, stroking Arcee’s cheek. Her head jerked back, and Arcee could feel the rage bubbling to the surface. Megatron’s hand tightened on her shoulder.
Starscream laughed. Megatron was now gripping Arcee’s shoulder so tightly that his hand was beginning to shake. Starscream noticed, and a look of puzzlement ran across his face.
“If I may be so bold, why have you brought her here?” Starscream spread his arms in grand gesture.
“Because I wanted to exemplify what happens to those who attempt to stab me in the back. I wanted to let them know that I know of their groveling and their supposedly devious machinations.” Megatron had Starscream nervous now. Starscream backed away, trying to mask his cowardice with a stupendously low bow, his head crest brushing the ground. “Execution seemed like the most poignant of ways to ensure that message’s reception, yes?”
“Of… coarse. Your all-seeing wisdom is absolute…” Starscream’s eyes still rested on the floor.
“Yes,” Megatron mused. “It is certainly far better than your attention to prisoners.”
“What?” Starscream looked up frantically. Arcee had disappeared. “Where did she-”
SMACK!!! Starscream careened over the side of the deck. Arcee sprang for her hiding place above Megatron and began to free-fall after him. She couldn’t stop herself. Don’t make it personal. Just another lackey to be dealt with.
Starscream felt the shock of the first punch leave him as Arcee tackled him to the ground. Smoke and debris encircled the pair of combatants. Megatron dove down from the observatory command deck, taking out two Decepticon guards as he did so. Security would be on their way.
Not long, now.
Within the cloud of wreckage, Arcee fended for herself as best she could. She swung the giant plasma rifle around from her back, pointing the deadly weapon at Starscream. The shot rang out against the walls of the deck, shooting even more debris into the air. Starscream flipped, kicking the massive weapon out of Arcee’s hands. Arcee doubled back. Quickness and nimbleness were the techniques she was most accustomed to, and Starscream would exercise the better part those skills in combat himself, engaging her in hand-to-hand.
Arcee’s mind went into its Scenario Mode.
Scenario: Wild haymaker to the jaw; blocked with elbow. Follow up with kick to diaphragm; blocked again, this time by left hand. Flick; sends opponent upward. Flip. Land on feet. Rebound; gain the upper hand. Draw weapons: two serrated daggers. Draw weapons; extended razor claws. At it again; parry, dodge, spin, perhaps a jab or two. Nothing major. Elusion: best chance to stay alive. Block blade by interlacing claws; keep the blade restricted. Render other blade useless. How? Engage the legs. Side step attempted run-up. Kick to left knee. Buckle under pressure. Blade rendered useless, remember. Upper cut; fly back. Land. Locate weapon. Second blade. Draw. Elude. Claws and arms weakening. Advantage? Keep it together. Lunge low. Require digression; explosion to the left. Anticipate digression. Ignore. Digression unsuccessful. Compensate. Null rays. Fire. Dodge. Backhand to left side. Spin, right yourself. Follow-up with direct assault. Punch. Absorb. Too much? Perhaps. Too little. Black out. Advantage. Crush with knee to gullet. Asphyxiation. Death: inevitable. Blade: advantage. Jab. Unexpected. Off the throat. Knee to eyes. Blinded. Compensate: fire weapon. Blast catches the blade. Lucky shot: blade out of reach now. Recover sight. Draw pistol. Deploy null-ray.
Execute. Arcee’s eyes glowed bright blue, as she and Starscream danced the motions just as she had envisioned them. Then she looked up. Starscream aimed his null-ray cannon squarely at her head. She steadied her hand, aiming for his chest. They were at a standstill. Armor.
Normally, Arcee hated upgrades. She preferred to fight with her brain, fists, simple tools, tools that were hers. Here, however, she welcomed the armor, and deployed it hastily. A blue aura surrounded her. Panels slid about, encasing her body in a form-fitting silver suit. Interface with the armor’s weapons was instantaneous. Starscream fired.
The shot bounced off of her like a pin, and she jumped high, absorbing fire like air. Starscream was nervous now, taking more steps back from his opponent. He needed her back on his own field. Vehicle mode.
Starscream transformed, his wings spreading wide, his legs collapsing into sections, and his arm splitting into pieces, each flipping over to form a solid block of fuselage, revealing weaponry associated with his newly formed jet mode. He took to the skies immediately, soaring high over the deck.
Arcee, barely noticing Megatron stepping aside to let her pass, jumped up, clinging to a railing. Pulling herself upward, she deployed her wrist-mounted torpedoes and fired. Her shot hit the jet squarely in its belly, sending it off coarse. Starscream adjusted, but his jet motif was beginning to lose its structure. He transformed, landing.
His wings and chest were steaming; these torpedoes were new, and he didn’t like them. He turned, deploying his weapons. Arcee walked toward him, her torpedo launcher aimed at his head. She would finish him now. Starscream smiled, and pointed his gun down, firing at the floor just beyond Arcee’s feet. The shockwave was intense, as the debris formed a wall, bombarding Arcee, sending her flying backward. Starscream quickly followed this up with a barrage of null-ray fire at her, consuming her in a plume of smoke.
Arcee hurtled backward into the wall. Starscream followed, charging Arcee, null-rays firing. Arcee was caught, bombarded. Her wounds were becoming more and more severe. Attempts to get back on her feet were rendered futile, as barrage after barrage of artillery came hurtling toward her. Her new armor had been pierced, her normal garb doing nothing in preventing the fact that she was dying. Energon collected around her, percolating the floor with an ominous hiss. Activation of her newfound weapons was pointless; she didn’t have the power reserves for such actions. Even the casing itself was only preventing her from crumbling to pieces. She could see Starscream’s smile, advancing toward her. She was dead. She felt it. Her spark of life was waning.
Was this what her partner saw before he died? Killed by this maniac? She would end up like him pretty soon if she didn’t do something. She tried to stand again, ignoring the pain this time. Starscream was standing over her now. He pointed his null-ray cannon down, aiming between her eyes. She felt the gun press into her head. Do it, already. Fire the damn weapon!
She heard the voice. “Starscream.”
No… Arcee closed her eyes.
Starscream turned. “Ah, Lord Megatron. The prisoner has been apprehended,” he said, bowing once more.
“Good,” said Megatron, aiming his fusion cannon downward. “You’re no longer of use to me.” Starscream looked up, and his eyes grew wide. Megatron fired.
Arcee felt both relief and rage course through her body. Megatron killed Starscream. Megatron! No. No!
“NO!” she screamed. The Energon rush was exhilarating. The pain was gone. She leapt to her feet, rushing Megatron. She collared him around the neck and threw him to the ground. “This was my fight! Me! You don’t get to finish it!”
Megatron got up, smiling. Arcee made no move to stop him on either count. “Arcee, please. Your dance was pathetic. You had your shot and you missed. I did as I agreed. I helped you kill him, and I leave you be.” Arcee was on her knees, shaking. “Whatever your condition now is of no consequence to me,” said Megatron, lowering himself so as to be eye-to-eye with her. “We had an agreement, and I saw it through to the end. Now get up.”
Megatron put his hand on her shoulder and helped her up onto her feet. “You require medical attention. I’ll drop you off at the nearest Autobot outpost and be on my way.”
“Why… did you help me?” Arcee fumbled the words. “He could have killed me, and you could have taken him out afterward.”
“Because Starscream didn’t deserve to kill you, and his doing so would have prevented me from engaging you in the future at your prime.”
They walked out of the bridge. Security officers rushed up to meet them, pointing their weapons at the wounded Arcee. Megatron stopped, raising his hand. “Hold your fire. I’ll deal with this one. Oh, and when you go in there,” he gestured to the door the lead to the bridge, “clean up the mess, and don’t ask questions. It’s embarrassing.” The men obeyed, sauntering onto the bridge in unison.
Arcee thought about what she had done, where she was, whom she was with. Megatron had saved her. She was thankful, and disgusted. A Decepticon had saved her; the worst of them all. The leader, who had killed so many of her allies, who had done battle with Optimus.
“So that’s it then. The deal’s done.” Arcee looked down at her battered body. What had she done?
“Feeling that guilt course through your system again, Arcee? Hurts, no?”
“Oh, please.” Megatron rolled his eyes.
“I have! I’ve committed treason against the Autobot army. I’ve crucified my name and the name of the Autobots. The name of my partner…”
“Perhaps. But you did a remarkable thing today. You helped kill Starscream. Starscream! One of the main players in the Decepticon army! The fulcrum of our Arial Combat Unit. You’ve dealt us a heavy blow. So, this is a huge victory for the good guys! You may have instigated the final phase of this entire war. Oh, and if your conscience is bothering you, you can put it at ease with the knowledge that you changed the coarse of history, and all it cost was the life of one Decepticon Arial Commander, and the self-respect of one Autobot mercenary. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a bargain.” Megatron smiled down at her as they strolled onto the outside of the warship.
He thought he knew, but he hadn’t deduced everything. She’d been okay with the entire arrangement from the beginning. Did she hate herself for it? She had slowly succumbed to Megatron’s charms and gravitas for revenge. She’d made this personal. But the most damning thing of all for her was she could live with it. She could live with it. And if she had to do it all over again…
“I would,” Arcee whispered, gazing at the rising Cybertronian sun.