Here's chapter four of the Arcee Mayhem story that I actually ended a whopping two years ago! This story is also published on FanFiction.net if you want to favorite it over there!
Well, here it is, the first installment of what might otherwise be called Phase Two of this little story. After ending it in chapter three two years ago, I got a few responses that wanted me to continue to build this universe, a couple more that wanted me to bring Arcee back, and so I decided to do both with this. I realize that doing this automatically kind of makes the last chapter lose a lot of its punch, but I'm hoping that I can pull off an equally satisfying ending with this arc as I did the last one.
Not much to say about this chapter in general; I debated whether I should include a forthcoming battle sequence in here, but I decided not to so as to better wet the reader's appetite for it later on. Anyway, here it is, the first of three new chapters! Enjoy!
Arcee Mayhem IV: Awakening
Her eyes snapped open, and a rush of thick air filled her lungs as she took a breath. She felt her throat seize up at the attempt to inhale, and the rest of her body began to shake. It was as if a great weight was pressing down on her whole body; not just her chest or her limbs, no. Her entire frame felt crushed, every surface of her body at the point of buckling under this… pressure, whatever it was. The ache of her body didn’t help distract her from the pain behind her eyes. She could see, yes, but there was something else there too, like when one looks into a bright light for too long and then turns away, there’s that residual afterimage of the light burned into the eye. Except here it was physical as well. The burning in her eyes; the weightiness on her body; the mounting fear of… of…
And then it hit her. She was alive.
That realization turned almost immediately to fear, cascading over her, a rush of emotions and memories accompanying it. She remembered: the mission, Cliff’s death; Megatron, killing Starscream; Optimus, and her… dying. She had died. So how was she back? How the fuck was she back, and why?
Arcee wanted to scream, more out of a sense of rage and frustration than fear- though there was fear too- but something caught in her throat and all she managed was a loud cough. It was enough, though, as she heard the sliding of a door and a rush of air wash over her. She heard the voice next.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, Arcee.”
It was a cold voice, raw, but not without a sense of debonair charm. Arcee stared groggily up at the ceiling trying to recall to whom the voice belonged. She opened her mouth to speak, but found that she couldn’t.
“You’re body’s still readjusting to… well, to not being dead. And yes, you were dead. But don’t worry. You’re back now!” The voice moved closer to her, and the man’s face finally loomed in front of her.
He had a long face, silver of color, red beady eyes that seemed to be angry all the time, even though right now he was smiling. It was not a kind smile. He had a thick line of black running along the bottom of his chin, snaking up around his mouth and meeting just below his nose. His helm was a matte black, ridged, with silver spikes jutting out the sides, and it complimented his red pupils with a sloping crest that made his expression all the more sinister.
“Decepticon engineering can do a hell of a lot,” he said. “But there are some laws of the universe that still must be broken, and hurray for today, because we’ve broken yet another one with you.”
Arcee’s mind was racing. She had died. She remembered it. And now she was alive. The pain was real enough. And pain was all the reminder she needed; it’s not like she’d experienced much else during her life. My first life, she realized.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked, the voice lilting along. “You can nod if you do, or shake your head if you don’t.”
The burning in Arcee’s eyes began to worsen as a dim pounding in her head made itself more insistent, running through her ears and making everything just a bit duller in tone. She nodded her recognition of him. This was Lockdown, though she knew of him by reputation alone, though that wasn’t exactly new; few people actually met Lockdown in person and lived. How ironic for me, then, Arcee thought.
“I’m glad. It’s good, I think, to have a familiar face in the crowd, even if it does belong to, well, me.” Lockdown’s face receded from view, Arcee’s vision replaced with the dull grey of the ceiling above.
The voice came wafting over to her. “I suppose, though, that seeing me will be one of the highlights of the coming months for you. See, the thing is, we lost. That is, the Decepticons lost. And we’ve brought you back to, in Overlord’s own words ‘make us stop losing’.” His head reappeared above her then, and his grin was replaced with a serious frown. “You’re our best, possibly last, hope for victory.”
Hearing that made Arcee want to laugh, the urge battling feverishly against the fact that her speech and wider vocal abilities were greatly hampered.
“It’s been three years since you died,” Lockdown continued. “And the Autobots have won. And no, you shouldn’t really be too happy about it.”
In truth, she wasn’t too happy about anything at the moment; pain racked at her, and her mind raced to think up the proper questions. She was more confused than anything else. The war’s over? I’m alive? I died, and now I’m here. Overlord? What happened to Megatron? How did the Autobots win? How did they lose?
Too many questions, too insignificant of answers for so few questions actually raised. Lockdown continued to stare at her, a smirk playing on his face, his ruby red eyes boring into her brain. He knows I have questions, Arcee thought. Why doesn’t he answer some of them?
“This is a lot of information to process, I’m sure, what with your being brought back from the dead and all, and I assure you that you’ll have plenty of time to readjust and settle back in.” A hand was in front of Arcee’s face then, holding a device. “But for now, we need you ready. You’re alive, and that’s good. But when you next awake, you’ll be able to talk, and move, and we’ll explain everything.”
Lockdown pressed the device to her forehead. Her vision began to blur and the pain began to recede somewhat. I’m going to sleep, she realized belatedly. Will I dream? Will I wake? Her eyelids grew heavy, and she welcomed the black void of sleep.
She did dream.
Her memories swirled around her in a miasma of pain and guilt. Optimus stood beside her, then Megatron, then Cliffjumper. She was on board the Nemesis, then she was back at the Autobot headquarters, then duking it out with Lockdown, Starscream… no, Optimus. She saw Cybertron, then she was racing along a road, then she wasn’t. She was flying, holding tight to Megatron, storming the Nemesis again with him. And then it wasn’t him, it was Cliff by her side instead, his red helmet picking up the light as he rushed past, barreled over a few bodies. She followed.
Cliff opened the door and they stood on a rooftop, covered in Energon and burnt metal and smoke. She looked at Cliff. He smiled, gesturing for her to step outside. Optimus was out there. Arcee felt the rage bubble back to the surface. She turned back to Cliff, meeting his eyes. I don’t want to leave you, she thought, but her body was already moving away from him, a numb feeling in her frame.
Arcee was dying now. She felt it. It was cold. Like the rain, she realized. And there it was, the rain, pouring down on her. She saw globules of her own blood mixing with the water. She tasted something too, something sweet. Her throat closed around that sensation as she tried to swallow. The burning was less painful this time as her eyes fluttered open, her throat still trying in vain to force down whatever was blocking her ability to breath properly.
“Ugh,” she groaned. There’s something in my mouth, in my throat. What the hell is this? She could feel the bile and taste the metal and plastic at the back of her throat, along with a foreign liquid. She realized haphazardly that there was a tube running into her mouth and down her throat.
She choked. Her dream was fading fast, and the fact that she was alive was sinking in again. It felt more real. She looked around. The lights were dimmer now, and the air felt cooler. She dimly remembered Lockdown’s promise of her being able to talk and move when she awoke next, and experimentally, Arcee stretched out one of her hands, then flexed her harm up. She touched the tube of plastic and metal, running her fingers along it, seeing where it led, finding a smattering of medical equipment to the right of her. Gingerly, Arcee began tugging the tube out of her mouth, gagging as the tube exited her throat and mouth. Tossing the tube aside, Arcee righted herself into a sitting position, her head groggy, the room spinning before her.
She was in a circular room, completely stark grey in color, with a single overhead light bar overhead. She looked around for other supplies. There was a chair, presumably for visitors, or more likely for the guard or doctor to sit while she rested. There was the bed she was sitting on, a bedside table covered in medical instruments, and she spotted three security cameras dotted around the room. This is Decepticon territory, no doubt, and I’m most certainly a prisoner.
The door swung open, and Arcee startled at the heavy sound. She turned, her eyes widening at the sight of the man before her.
“Overlord,” she breathed, standing up. The room was still spinning a bit, but she managed to mask her unsteadiness with the help of the bed between her and the new Decepticon leader. Arcee was immediately on her guard, taking a few steps back. Overlord’s smile did nothing to reassure her. He had his hands behind his back, but just looking at him made her feel small, weak, defenseless.
Her mind was racing. This was Overlord, a Masterforce-level Decepticon, as everyone knew, enhanced by Megatron in the infamous Godmaster Program. She had read the files, watched the vids, seen in person the disfigured corpses left in this person’s wake. If this was the person who had succeeded Megatron, it begged the question as to how the Autobots secured victory at all.
She eyed him warily, trying not to show the mounting fear inside her. It took her a minute to realize that Lockdown had also come into the room behind him, carrying a tablet, its screen washing Lockdown’s face in blue. Overlord’s eyes flickered around the room, landing on Arcee once more. He gestured with his head for her to step forward. I’m dead, Arcee said to herself. I died and here I am in hell. I’ll just die all over again. Overlord being here at all means death. She stepped forward despite herself.
“How are you feeling?” he asked her. His voice was surprisingly gentle and soft despite his large appearance.
Arcee stared forward, not meeting his eyes. Overlord didn’t seem to mind.
“Doubtless you want to know what’s going on,” he continued. “Put simply, you died, you’re back, and we need your help.”
That last bit took Arcee by surprise. She met his gaze for the first time. His eyes were a piercing red, almost blinding. “You… you need my help?” Arcee repeated the words to make sure she had heard correctly. “To do what?”
“The Autobots won the war,” Overlord said, moving to take the pad from Lockdown. With a few swishes of his fingers, he changed the display and handed it to Arcee. On it was a news headline that read “AUTOBOT VICTORY: OPTIMUS PRIME REINSTITUTES CASTE AND CLASS SYSTEMS; DECEPTICONS FIRST IN LINE TO BE SUBJEGATED.”
Arcee reread that a few more times. Her memories were coming back to her now, about Optimus and the fight. Optimus had killed her, had killed Cliff, had run the Autobots into the ground… and yet they’d won. And she was also responsible for that, at least in part. I killed Starscream, she remembered. And that was the beginning of the end.
Overlord must have sensed her frustration, because he said, “I know of your history with the cause. It’s been rocky at best. And that,” he gestured at the pad in her hand, “is what happened. We need your help in setting things right again. We have a plan in place; we just need your help in executing it.”
Arcee looked up, startled. “You want me to go into enemy territory on a mission for a cause that I don’t believe in… any of this sounding familiar? You’ve read my file, you know what Optimus did. I won’t be tricked again.” She handed the pad back to him and turned away, focusing on the cool grey of the room.
“Three years is a long time,” Overlord offered, filling the silence.
Arcee whirled around. “You’re Decepticons! No, I don’t agree with the Autobots, and yeah, this looks like a pretty shit situation. But I am not going to side with you.”
“You did so with Megatron.”
“To counter and kill Starscream!”
“To rid the world of a great evil,” said Overlord. His voice was still calm. Arcee was reminded eerily of Optimus Prime’s own calm voice.
“I…” Arcee paused, thinking on that. They’re ‘Cons. They’re evil. Optimus was also evil… Are they the same? Her brain was pounding. Her frame felt wobbly. Making her way to the bed to sit, she asked, “The caste system? Optimus’ reinstated it. So how are we meeting here at all? Where am I?”
Overlord nodded at her questions as she asked them. “Come with me. I’ll show you.”