Image property of Dreamwave Production, Generation One Ongoing Vol. 3 #12
Yes, I know the image is of Optimus Prime holding Elita One. I thought that it was a powerful image, and if you read the story, you'll understand why...
Mayhem III: Repercussions
Arcee ran. She could feel her body carrying her quickly through the street as the rain came crashing down. Her legs were aching, and the rain pitter-pattered against her form like cold needles. Ice was beginning to condense around her collar and thighs; she did not like the cold. She veered around a corner and scrambled up a low-set roof. She heard the voices; they were getting closer. She shivered.
She did not halt. The voice belonged to the one person who she had tried to avoid for all her career as an Autobot mercenary. She hated him. She turned and tumbled off the roof, summersaulting in the air, landing with a thud on the slick pavement. Her body ached. She fired a couple blind shots behind her, attempting to distract her pursuers.
They were not so easily distracted.
She turned left, her legs aching as she sped up. She ran up a ramp, leaping onto a second rooftop. She slipped, caught herself, and rolled sideways, catching the lip of the roof. She shivered in spite of herself. Her chasers were coming up quickly.
Arcee swore, dived off the building… and transformed.
Her body glided through the motions of transformation with ease: her arms and head compressed cleanly into her chest, her legs twisted around, vehicle armature springing from the insides of her body. Her back unfolded, sprouting turbines and wings; her abdomen compressed and swiveled, and her entire body twirled until it snapped into its final altered form.
The hover car plowed forward, aligning itself with the ground, racing through the streets. The Cybertronian lights whizzed past as Arcee swerved around, darting through alleys and closed street shops. Her vehicle was admittedly not well suited for the rain either, but it was fast, and she had plenty of time to make up.
She heard her pursuers transform as well, their piercing engines revving as they continued the chase. She saw the infamous red-and-blue clad vehicle wing up beside her, its weapons deployed. She was surrounded now; another vehicle had drawn up beside her, with three more flanking her. She sped up and took to the skies, deploying her wings as she did so. Three of her opponents transformed again and drew weapons; evidently they did not possess full flight. The other two joined her in the air, their weapons firing.
She steadied her ascent and continued to move forward, her engine humming along as she did so. The other two kept pace right with her, attempting to squeeze and stop her momentum. The rain beat harder now, hail-like, and Arcee had to fight it to remain in the air. Her exterior was frozen solid, and the two vehicles on either side of her were beginning to wane under the constant hailstorm. They tried another collision… and Arcee stopped her engine, dropping like a brick to the ground.
She did not see what happened to her enemies, nor did she care. She had not planned this out very well. Her exterior was so cold and stiff that transformation was now a chore in and of itself. She screamed as her body contorted itself back into robot mode; she felt her back and chest pop into position, sparks erupting from contact. Her arms and legs unfolded painfully and assembled themselves sloppily, ice popping out of her joints. Lastly, her head sprang up from its recessed hiding place, and her eyes widened as she saw how close she was to the ground.
She managed to cushion her fall slightly by landing on her side, cruising along a slick roof before finally hitting and bouncing off of a lip, landing a second time with a clunk. She was out in the open, now, and her body was not doing well. Hail had made her limbs numb and slow, her eyes frosty and her breath stiff with cold. She looked up, and groaned. The other three adversaries had caught up with her, and their weapons were trained at her Spark chamber. Her two aerial attackers were nowhere to be seen, and she was slightly glad of that. She could feel Energon pumping rapidly within her; her head was pounding. She looked at her captors, studying their faces.
“Arcee,” said a voice. She had not seen him arrive, and her heart sank. “Stand down. You are outnumbered, wounded, and you have nothing to gain from continuing this pursuit.”
She turned, looking up. He was just as she thought he would be: heavy-set, broad-shouldered, and he looked like he could take out a legion of Decepticons with but a glare. She glared right back at him, staring daggers into those crystal blue eyes. His armor was frosted with condensation, the red turned almost pink by the saturation of the color. The blue of his legs was thinning, revealing the silver beneath. His silver abdomen had been bandaged from where he had been stabbed, and his breastplate was cracked and dented. One of his antennae was fractured. His gun hung limply by his side.
“Prime.” Arcee spat the word. She got up, wincing as she noticed pain course through her right leg. She looked down. It was not supposed to bend that way. She looked up again, burying the pain beneath her resumed glare at Optimus Prime. She was a good head shorter than he was, her physique much slimmer.
“You cannot fight all of us,” Optimus said in a sad tone. His eyes sparkled in the rain. Arcee cocked her head to the left, thinking. She could evade him long enough to take out his men. She could flee; disappearing would not be difficult, she’d done it before. She felt Optimus’ eyes studying her face; he knew her plan.
Arcee stared blankly at Optimus’ gun arm, wondering how long it would take for him to react to her idea. The sleet and hail whirled around them. She was so cold. Her arms and feet were frozen. High-class marksmen and the leader of the entire Autobot army surrounded her. Was it worth it? Could she pull it off? She’d done battle with Starscream, Bludgeon, Banzaitron, Overlord for Primus’ sake! These were not names to be tossed around lightly. Taking out a couple top-notch Autobots and their leader was nothing compared to that! She locked eyes with Optimus.
She smirked as he blinked.
Her kick landed squarely in Prime’s groin, sending him down to one knee. Arcee backed up, deploying her knife as she did so. Two of the other Autobots lunged at her, their daggers drawn. She backpedaled. Her first priority was to relieve them of their weapons; she was good, they were better. Time to prove that wrong.
One of the Autobots began slinking around, attempting to get behind Arcee. She ducked his blade, flipped, and sent her attacker flying back with a lethal kick. That made her leg hurt even more, it’s pain rippling through her circuits like successive shocks. She gritted her teeth as two more marksmen came rushing at her.
She flipped and skidded, momentum carrying her quickly toward her attackers. She reached up and grabbed one’s arm, bringing him to the ground. She finished him off with an elbow to the chest. He gasped, his hand springing open, and dropped his weapon. Her third attacker backed away, drawing his blaster as he did so. She turned and tumbled, avoiding the gunfire as best she could, landing behind a raised column of roof. The Autobot advanced, still firing. Her leg was throbbing, the ice was condensing, and her Spark fluttered nervously in her chest. She transformed her arm into its rifle form and fired back, sending up shards of ice between her and her opponents.
She ducked back behind her hiding place. She had to flee. She peered over the side of the raised platform, and was seized by the throat by one of the Autobots. She landed on her back; the wind had been knocked out of her. The Autobot continued his assault, his arm transforming into a bladed weapon. She was able to dodge the first blow, her bladed arm coming up to block. She got up then, spinning and kicking the Autobot in the chest. She plunged her blade into his throat, wrenching it out with such force as to pull out his voice box.
She looked around frantically as her third kill dropped to the floor. Optimus had to be around here somewhere. “Prime,” she screamed, turning more frantically now. She shivered furiously. “PRIME!!!”
“Arcee.” Arcee turned hastily, her rifle pointed squarely at Prime’s chest. Optimus’ tone was even; he was trying to comfort her. “I grieve for you, but I was no more responsible for Cliffjumper’s death than you or any other Autobot. Starscream made the kill. You do not need to do this anymore. Please, lower your weapon.” Optimus stepped forward, transforming his arm back into its ambulatory form.
“Don’t come any closer, Prime.” Arcee held her stance. She tried not to shiver. It was very cold. “You sent me and Cliff on a suicide mission. You knew he wouldn’t make it back. Starscream finished him off just as an afterthought. He didn’t have a chance.”
“Cliffjumper’s death was indeed tragic, but survivor’s guilt will not bring back those we have lost, and yours needs to stop. Now.” Optimus’ stern eyes pierced Arcee’s head like hot needles. “Your desire for revenge is understandable, but the execution of a fellow Cybertronian, be he Autobot or Decepticon, in service of that desire is detestable, and as such, you will need to come with me for a full court martial.”
“No.” Arcee’s eyes narrowed. She felt the rage fill her again, her fists tightening. The rain continued its barrage. She shrugged off a sheet of ice condensing on her shoulder. She relaxed her form, loosening her joints.
“Arcee, please. You aided the enemy.” Optimus retracted his faceplate. His mouth was frowning.
“No, the enemy aided me. We killed Starscream. Do you know how much I’ve done for this team? I killed him. My reasons are irrelevant. I’ve given you a fighting chance, and now you’re going to throw that away just to bring me to court for helping you?”
“Your actions are commendable, but working with the Decepticons is an action frowned upon by our faction, and, whether you choose to admit it or not, by you yourself. How would Cliffjumper feel if he knew that the only way to avenge him was to work with those who murdered him?”
She snapped. Her sword swung around, its blade glistening in the light of the rain and the two moons. Optimus saw it coming. Arcee felt the blow of his fist into her abdomen as he reached around, grabbing for her sword arm. She darted the grab, hitting Prime in the back with her elbow. He barely noticed, absorbing the impact and continuing his assault. He twirled around in mid stumble, crashing his right fist against the left side of Arcee’s head. She grunted, her head curling against her body in pain.
Optimus’ left arm assembled itself at lighting speed into its blaster form, following through with his attack with a sharp blast to Arcee’s already-damaged leg. Arcee went down, her leg throbbing. She looked up. He was so much quicker than she was, so much more calculative. He had thought all of it through. He had brought her down with two punches and a single gunshot. She grimaced.
“Are you finished?” Optimus sounded no different than before the fight had begun.
“Not… quite.” Arcee was breathing hard. Her stomach throbbed, her leg ached, and her head was pounding. She was so stupid. Why couldn’t Megatron have dropped her off at… Tyger Pax, or Miranda II? But he didn’t, and after a day, she had run right into Optimus and his crew, right into the man and crew whom she had tried so hard to avoid. She rolled, deploying her shoulder cannons as she went, putting enough distance between herself and Optimus to warrant a firefight.
Firing, Arcee saw Optimus’ sword deploy, ripping through her proton bullets like paper. Arcee’s sword rose as Optimus ran towards her, his blade connecting with hers. They were locked now. Arcee began hacking away at her opponent, Optimus dodging all of her swipes and thrusts. Optimus’ blade came down hard and fast, Arcee’s sword coming up just in time, the impact sending shockwaves up her arm. She went down to one knee, her leg on fire. Prime pushed the assault. Arcee did a sloppy tumble, her sword skidding across his, dodging his following downward stroke by luck, and making a slash just under his left eye. Optimus stumbled, and Arcee took her chance. She fired her blaster, the proton bullets connecting with Prime’s chest.
Arcee got up, running, elbowing him next in the head. Keeling, Prime made a blind jab with his sword and clipped Arcee’s neck. Arcee screamed, her weapons retreating into her arms, her hand shooting out for protection of the wound. Optimus’ fist came up for a finishing blow, sending Arcee flying backwards, crashing into the ground. A thin layer of ice shattered beneath her.
She was so tired, so cold, her body curled. “You… killed… Cliff.” Her voice was shaky. Her wounds were beginning to drain her.
“Arcee, stand down, and I promise you leniency.”
“Leniency?” Arcee’s eyes shot upward. “Prime, you sent me and Cliff on a mission from which you knew both of us would surely perish. Except I didn’t do that, did I?” Her voice was shaky, her wounds throbbing. She locked eyes with him. “I survived, and you didn’t like that. And when I killed Starscream, you didn’t like that either, so now here we are, and you’ll have to kill me now in order to grant me leniency, because I don’t serve you and I certainly don’t recognize your faction of government. Not anymore. You’re God to those you command, Prime, and you have far too much power.
“Cliff was smart; he knew your lies and deceit and tricks. And then I learned them, too. You’re no leader. You’re a heretic. You’ve mutated the Autobots into a force of personal gain. You didn’t want Cliff and me in the picture anymore, so you tried to have us killed. That isn’t what we were founded upon. Cliff believed in the true Autobots, in what our faction was created to represent. You don’t impress that anymore, and Cliff saw that, and I certainly see it in what you did to him.” Arcee spat, her blue eyes pulsing with anger.
“You make a compelling argument, Arcee. And I may have overstepped my boundaries in allowing you and Cliffjumper to venture forth into unknown territory in order for the Autobots to be rid of two rogue elements, and for that I am deeply sorry. But you are still held in contempt of the Autobots for aligning yourself with Megatron in an unsanctioned alliance to take down a powerful agent of chaos; a victory perhaps, but a costly one, and one which is not without further repercussions. You must learn to take responsibility for your actions. And don’t think that I have not taken responsibility for mine.
“I have had Cliffjumper’s death on my mind since your initial foray, and I have indeed questioned my fitting the role of Prime. But my personal demons are no concern of yours, and I will have you sanctioned and under guard, whether you permit it or not. So please, Arcee, let me help you. Let me try to redeem myself for my mistakes by helping you heal. Let me help you recover from your wounds.”
Arcee’s body was stiff and raw, the rain continually beating down hard, and with great effort she managed to rise, staring at Optimus with loathing. “You sent us to die! What kind of a leader does that? You’ve slipped, and you cannot ever redeem yourself in my eyes. You want me, fine. But I am not going to go willingly.”
“Then you leave me no choice. Arcee, by the power vested in me by the Tyrest Accord, I hereby place you under arrest on charges of corroborating with the enemy, of conducting treason against fellow teammates, and of abandoning your fellow Autobots in the line of duty.” Optimus held out the stasis cuffs, their blue bands glistening.
Burry the pain.
Arcee flipped back twice, putting some distance between herself and Optimus. Her leg was dead weight now, and her neck was throbbing, but she did not care, not so long as Optimus was alive. Her weapons deployed in tandem, and she began firing, trying to keep her balance on the slick pavement.
Optimus dodged the fire with ease, unsheathing his sword and coming at her with a sideswipe. Arcee was nocked off her feet as the flat of the blade made contact with her abdomen, making her trip. Optimus kneed her in the chest, then made a grab for her arm. She rolled, dodging his grab again, and made for his blaster.
Grabbing onto it, she scampered up his bulky form until she was on his back, viciously hacking away at his heavily armored figure. Optimus spun, but Arcee continued her barrage. Groaning in agony, Prime dove, attempting to take Arcee down quickly. Arcee frantically sliced the left side of Prime’s helmet before dislodging herself. Both combatants went down hard, each rolling away from the other.
Arcee sprang up first, immediately firing her blaster at the spots on Optimus’ back where he had suffered the most damage. Optimus screamed, turning so that his chest absorbed the impact. His physique was in shambles now. Like Arcee, Optimus had been weakened by the cold, and he was starting to succumb to it. Arcee darted forward, tripping Optimus, and scrambling up onto his back once again. She retracted her blaster from her arm, replacing it with a second sword. She slammed it hard into his left shoulder, the sparks and Energon running down his red armor, mixing with the hard rain as he screamed.
With her other sword, she hacked again at Prime’s weakened back armor. His blaster retracted, his hand grabbing at air from the pain. “You will not take me alive,” she whispered darkly. Arcee’s work was devastating. Optimus’ shoulder blades were almost completely gone, revealing the complex circuitry and biotech that surrounded the Cybertronian skeleton.
Arcee plunged her sword into his spine, making a precise downward stroke quickly. Optimus jolted upward in pain, his screams piercing the night air. “Enough!” Optimus reached around and tore Arcee off of him, transforming his arm next into its blaster form, firing. Arcee spun uncontrollably on the ground, her body taking in the blasts. Optimus rose, his form smoking, his calm demeanor now replaced with calculative rage. His left arm was limp. Arcee quivered against the ground, her leg’s pain returning to her. Optimus walked slowly towards her. “You may add Cybertronian disfiguration to your list of wrongdoings.” Optimus' spine smoked, the rain turning to steam as it met his disfigured form.
“And you…” Arcee was out of energy now; she couldn’t fight anymore, not well, anyway. “You can go to hell.” She twirled off the ground, her blade sweeping across the air.
She would finish him here and now. Her blade made a satisfying slice as Optimus jerked backward, his face contorted. With his remaining functional arm, Optimus made a counter jab with his sword.
Arcee froze. Her body was numb from the chest down. She looked at Optimus. He was glaring. His right eye had been shattered from Arcee’s sword swipe. Her sword was jammed between his head and helmet. Arcee and Optimus just stared at each other for the longest time, their wounds manifesting as they did so.
The rain came down hard. It was very cold.
Optimus’ sword had sunk deep into Arcee’s chest. She could feel her Spark draining. They were at a standstill. Optimus’ good eye fluttered between his sword, stuck in Arcee’s chest, to Arcee’s outstretched arm and sword now impaled in his head. Arcee knew that any major movement would send them both to their deaths. She could deal with it.
Arcee raised her good leg and pried herself away from Optimus. The two swords exited their bodies with grinding agony. Arcee flipped lazily in the air, landing on her stomach. Optimus groped at his head with his good arm. Energon was everywhere, mixing with the rain and sleet. Arcee was dying. Optimus tore off his helmet, wires and armor retracting into his scalp as he did so. Arcee turned her head, the world sideways in her eyes. She saw Optimus topple to the ground a little ways from her. She rolled over onto her back.
Her chest was badly injured. Armor and burnt metal cascaded around her upper body. She felt her Spark pulse gently within her form. She leaned her head back on the ground, taking in the sweet feel of the bitter cold rain. This is how her lights go out? On a rooftop in the dead of night? All of her battles and victories and disobeying the rules and this is where she ends up, getting killed by the leader of her own goddamn faction. Funny, no? And they would find Optimus, and he would be healed, and he wouldn’t even give her a second thought. He’d be glad to be rid of her. She hated him so much.
She would die. No one would care. All the people who loved her were dead. She would join them soon. So very soon… Cliff. She would see him again. And Tailgate, and Rodimus. All of them. She wouldn’t be alone. Not anymore. Her legacy didn’t matter. All of her battles and carnage all for nothing. She closed her eyes. Take me. Take me now. She smiled. The rain beat against her chassis, cold and stiffening. She had won.
Arcee opened her eyes. Optimus was bent low, holding her in his arms. “Prime…”
“I have called for rescue. You will be healed.” Optimus’ eyes found hers.
“Not today. You’ve granted me leniency.” She coughed, her eyes squeezing shut. The rain collected around the two Autobots. “I’m seeing Cliff soon.”
“Arcee, I’m sorry… so, so sorry… for everything.” Optimus’ eyes glistened beautifully in the rain.
“I… am sorry too, Prime. I ask only that you fulfill this favor: Tell my story to those who would ask. Tell it truthfully, would you? Tell of the ill as well as the good; Primus knows there is a lot of the ill in mine. And allow my judgment to pass accordingly. The rest… is silence.”
Optimus closed his eyes. He bent low, caressing Arcee’s head. “You have lived a warrior and have died a believer. May your Spark join the Matrix as the greatest of Cybertron.”