I was ready for love, I was ready for the money,
Ready for the blood and ready for the honey,
Ready for the winning, ready for the bell,
Looking for the water from a deeper well,
— Deeper Well, Emmylou Harris
Deadlock came back online first.
He twitched, rocks shifting around him as they fell away. He pulled himself free of the earth’s grasp. Red dark adapted optics flickered on, taking in his situation.
Dark. Damp. Rock.
Not much else to see.
He activated his emergency beacon and let himself slip into a power save mode. He’d conserve energy better like that, until he unarchived the protocols he’d need to survive longer. Or he might be found before he needed those old settings.
Not likely. A Decepticon could hope.
A stir from the darkness brought Deadlock out of power save. A trickle of power brought his weapon systems online. Minimal functionality. One shot. Already those long-archived starvation settings were rewriting his body’s priorities, only overridden by survival protocols written when he joined the Decepticons that insisted that he could never, never, be without a weapon.
No matter. He was a good shot. He’d either only need one, or he was dead anyway.
Red light from his optics bounced off the cold rock around him, almost too far into the infrared spectrum for mechanisms not similarly equipped to perceive, much less see by. His optics glowed, like all Cybertronians, but the light they saw by was so low-energy that, save the two points of light that gave away Deadlock’s position in the dark, a higher-caste ‘bot would still be effectively blind.
There… earlier the mechanism’s engine had been cold making the gleaming red/white darker, more like the rock that surrounded them, but now with it rumbling online its own infrared light combined with the faint almost-infrared put out by Deadlock’s optics to make the plating almost glow.
Carefully he timed his own movements to the creaking of cold joints and the skittering of rocks caused by the other’s movement. He came up behind the other an leveled his gun at the back of the red/white helm.
The other twitched and finished levering himself up onto all fours, shook his head and started to push himself up further.
And stopped, helm clink-ing almost gently against the barrel of Deadlock’s gun.
Deadlock heard the mech’s systems pick up in alarm. Energon pumped faster in the other’s frame, cables squeaked almost imperceptibly in the near-silence of the cave as they tensed, his engine turned over, weapons whined as they powered, yellow/grey winglets flicked in the very beginnings of panic. Optics clicked on.
Blue light blazed across the rock beneath the Autobot, reflected and refracted across the stone, tiny flecks of crystal embedded in the boring grey blazing into sharp cobalt stars.
Deadlock nearly pulled the trigger right there.
But he was reckless, not stupid. He didn’t know how long he’d be in this cave. It was unlikely that the Decepticons would come looking for him. It was marginally more likely that the weak-sparked Autobots would come searching for their lost comrade. A living mech would make a better hostage than a corpse.
And if neither of their factions came for them… Deadlock should probably wait to kill him for his fuel. The energon in his corpse would go terribly sour in the time between now and when Deadlock would need it. Bleh. Bad enough he was pulling up the starvation protocols he ran in the Dead End
Decision made, Deadlock pulled the gun away from the mech’s helm and smoothly pivoted away with the same motion. The mech gave an aggressive shout as he spun and threw himself at an attacker who was no longer directly behind him. The Decepticon clicked his optics off as the Autobot’s optics slid past him — with nothing but the darkness to contrast him with, his black and red plating was as good as an invisibility suite — then back on to watch the red/white and yellow/grey mech scan the darkness, cursing his attacker loudly.
What a waste of energy.
His own stealthy movements and calmly purring engine camouflaged against the panicked racket the Autobot was making, Deadlock stayed out of the Autobot’s line of sight, where the betraying light of his optics could not be seen by his companion in the darkness.
“I know you’re out there!” The Autobot’s voice echoed faintly in the small space. “Show yourself!”
“You should power down,” Deadlock whispered, pivoting out of the line of the Autobot’s sloppy and panicked attack, just as he had the first. He continued when he was no longer in danger of being caught by the Autobot’s flailing, “You’re just wasting your energy.”
The Autobot turned and charged…
… hitting nothing, just as before.
Deadlock stayed out of the Autobot’s sight. The Autobot’s red/white and yellow-grey plating practically glowed in the red light of his optics while the Decepticon’s own black and red faded to nothing in the blue of his enemy’s. He simply needed to ensure that the autobot did not catch sight of Deadlock's optics themselves.
He didn’t even need to do anything; he simply tucked himself into a mech-sized gap in the rubble and watched. He only needed to click his optics off when the Autobot was looking his way, and the Autobot made so much noise it was easy to know when it was safe to click his optics back on.
Despite his surety that the Autobot couldn’t find him in the darkness, he still only dared to recharge once the Autobot’s own systems cycled down into exhaustion.
The Autobot spent more time in recharge than Deadlock needed, so he spent part of that time where he needn’t be so careful of his movements to carefully start digging his way out.
The Autobot was red and yellow, he concluded eventually. No one would paint flames on his spoiler in white and grey. His soft chuckle sent his prey spinning, searching for the source of the sound.
No avail. The soft volume and faint echoes made it nearly impossible.
For the first time, he let the Autobot catch a brief glimpse of red optics, gazing malevolently out from the pitch blackness.
The Autobot raised his arms, but his weapons failed to power on.
He lost sight of Deadlock as soon as he clicked his optics off and moved away. He backed himself against the cave wall and lowered himself to the floor, red and yellow plating shaking.
The Autobot didn’t move; he just sat and stared out into the darkness, optics blind to the Decepticon only a bare touch away.
“Why haven’t you killed me?” he asked.
A live hostage is better than sour fuel, Deadlock thought, but did not speak. He would not give away how closely he now sat to the Autobot, close enough to feel the heat radiating from the other mech’s frame beating against his own starvation protocol cool plating. Instead he simply allowed the darkness to speak for itself.
The Autobot was in recharge when Deadlock broke through the cave in to the outside. No longer invisible in the bright white-light of distant stars, he looked back to the Autobot. He contemplated taking his hostage/prisoner with him, but he did not know how far he needed to go before he found the rest of the Decepticon garrison here and he had nothing to actually control a prisoner on the trek.
He contemplated killing the Autobot to fuel that trek. The idea was attractive. Deadlock wasn’t — quite — fuel critical, and — again — he didn’t know how far he would have to drive. But…
Deadlock had killed a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. No doubt he would go on to kill a lot more, but he’d never killed another for their fuel… and now, free of the suffocating darkness and the threat of imminent starvation, he found he didn’t really want to. Killing another to drain his fuel lines was something that weak, desperate Drift might eventually have done; Deadlock should never have that need. And he didn't. Not today.
He folded himself into his alt-form and drove away, dark volcanic dust kicked up in his wake.
Sunlight streamed through the hole in the rock, golden and cheerful and powerful with its ability to chase away the nightmares of the last week.
For the first time since he’d come online in the dark he could see everything in the cave around him…
… nothing to see but rock. The nightmare was still out there, somewhere.
I found some love and I found some money,
Found that blood would drip from the honey,
Found I had a thirst that I could not quell,
Looking for the water from a deeper well.
— Deeper Well, Emmylou Harris