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I'll Follow You Forever

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Step left, stoop low, lean away, cross-counter, go for the throat.  Soundwave's opponent wasn't a big mech, but he was broad, heavy, and well-armored – though the last wasn't uncommon for a gladiator.  The ring wasn't kind to fragile mechs – even Soundwave had piled on the armor as soon as he could afford it.  But even so, the extra protection didn't change the fact that his light build was ill-suited for his chosen profession.  He had to rely on means beyond brute force to win his matches, and for Soundwave, this meant strategy.

He was good at strategy – good at predicting his opponent's moves, good at turning those predictions to action – it gave the illusion that he was faster than he was.  And it was his sole advantage, the only way a highly-specialized failure of a science project could hope to compete with miners and warriors and all manner of heavy-duty machinery.

His opponent landed a blow – a solid hit to his chest-plate, and Soundwave went flying backward.  He recovered quickly, regained his footing as he hit the arena floor with a solid thud, sliding backwards, and sending a cloud of dust into the air.  The mech could hit hard, but his aim left much to be desired.  Had he struck even a few inches lower, Soundwave easily could have been split in half.

At last, he stopped sliding, processor already focused on his next move.  He could feel the vibrations of the ground below strike him to the core; his opponent was charging, heavy steps like thunder to Soundwave's audial receptors.  But Soundwave was ready.

Planting himself solidly on the ground, he allowed his data cables to deploy, shooting full-speed at the other mech, who was too slow to react before one creepy appendage was able to snake its way past thick plating, making contact with the sensitive protoform below.  From there, it was one solid jolt of electricity, and his opponent toppled over, heavy body twitching weakly on the ground.

"And the winner is: Soundwave, by knockout!" the booming voice of the announcer called out, moments later.  The crowd went wild, cheering his name even as Soundwave himself silently strolled out of the pit.

Soundwave was pleased.  Today was one more victory to add to his most-impressive count.  His undefeated status made him a fan-favorite, and as he held the record for most consecutive wins for his size class, he'd managed to gain some popularity even beyond the confines of his less-than prestigious position.  The real glory went to the mechs willing to trade their lives for it.  But that was not a luxury Soundwave could afford.

"Way to go, Boss!"

"That's gotta be a new record for you!  Couldn't've been more than two kliks!  Maybe even one!"

In the poorly-lit halls of the coliseum, Soundwave was greeted by a small army of Minicons – his Symbionts.  He allowed the tension to ebb from his frame, his EM field projected fondness, though his friends, family didn't need such displays to know his love for them.  The five mechs were joined by an unbreakable bond, sewn deep into the fabric of their being.  They were all of his old life that remained, and Primus himself could not force them apart.

"Are you okay, Boss?" said Ravage, the unofficial leader of the lot.  "That was a pretty nasty hit you took back there."

Soundwave conveyed his well-being.  He'd never much cared for the sound of his own voice, preferring to communicate through things unsaid.  His arrangement of mutual understanding with his Symbionts was the ideal setup, and beyond them, there were few who required the effort spent on words.

"Is it just me, or is it a small crowd today?" Laserbeak chirped, perching himself on Soundwave's shoulder.  His brother, Buzzsaw, reflected the sentiment, and took his post on Soundwave's other shoulder.

Frenzy, the small red mech at Soundwave's feet, began bouncing up and down on his pedes, brimming with energy.  He knew something.  "Oh!  That's because Megatronus is fighting today!  Right now, even!"

Soundwave bristled, resisting the urge to hiss.  He knew Megatronus, or at least knew of him.  There were few bots in the Pits of Kaon that didn't.

Much like Soundwave, Megatronus had a record unsmeared by defeat; nearly all who faced him never came back, such was his brutality.  But he wasn't just a brute.  The mech was intelligent – he had to be in his position, and that intelligence carried over to off the battlefield.  Megatronus was outspoken, and full of dangerous ideas, ideas that only a mech with nothing to lose could afford to indulge in.  And that was why Soundwave hated him.

The mechs with all the power so rarely deigned to visit the Kaonian slums, but if word got out – if the high council heard tell of the whispers of revolution floating on the wind from the south, the lot of them could be in very real danger.

Soundwave's Minicons, however, couldn't get enough of the guy, much to Soundwave's chagrin.

"I don't think his match is over yet," said Rumble, Frenzy's blue counterpart.  "Can we go see him?"

Soundwave could never deny his Minicons anything.  Despite the distaste that wafted from his frame in waves of uncomfortable energy, Soundwave nodded his assent.  A little suffering was a small price to pay to see Rumble's face light up like that, to see Frenzy, no longer able to contain the joy overflowing from his tiny body, leap up into the air with a triumphant hoot.  If Soundwave had had a face, he would have been smiling.

~~~

Megatronus's match was held in the main coliseum, a fair walk away.  Rumble and Frenzy tittered behind him all the way, while Ravage made a game of weaving through his feet as he stepped onward.  Laserbeak and Buzzsaw, on the other hand, remained firmly perched on Soundwave's broad shoulders.

The noise from the crowd was audible from the start of their trek, but as they drew nearer, it grew into a deafening roar.

"Megatronus!  Megatronus!"

There surely wasn't an empty seat in the house.  Fortunately, as a gladiator, Soundwave enjoyed access to exclusive stands right next to the action which, while not an ideal place to view a match, at least managed to rid him of the nightmare that was navigating through an ocean of overcharged strangers.  Though that was not to say he was alone.  This was Megatronus.  There would be no avoiding the slew of other gladiators crowding in the box, spying on the match, studying the movements and strategies of a mech they may one day end up fighting themselves.

Soundwave's small band managed to shift through the sea of bodies easily, and soon they'd found themselves at the front of it all.  They were slight enough in size that no one seemed to care.

 Frenzy scurried up onto the railing, and Rumble and Ravage followed suit.  Soundwave, ever the protective guardian, stayed close, prepared to drag the little ones to safety, should it prove necessary.  The proximity to the battlefield made for an excellent view, but more often than not, the gladiator box found itself plagued by a slew of flying bodies and stray energy attacks.  It was as much a training session as a spectator sport.

Beyond Soundwave's watchful eye, locked in the throes of battle, was Megatronus and his opponent, Broadside, a red and grey mech nearly twice his size – impressive, as Megatronus himself was no lightweight.  The battle was well-underway, had likely started not long after Soundwave's own, and both mechs looked to be at the end of their rope.  Megatronus was missing an arm, and sported crushed cranial plating, while his opponent was leaking energon profusely from his midsection, painting the arena floor in brilliant blue, and making the ground slick with the fluid.

While both mechs were struggling to remain upright, it was clear which was destined to be for victory.  So long as Megatronus didn't do anything unbelievably stupid, the match would be over in minutes.

"Soundbabes!" a voice called out, clearly audible over the roar of the crowd, at least to Soundwave's sensors.  Leaving most of his attention fixed on his Minicons, Soundwave turned his head and nodded his acknowledgement to the mech forcing his way through the wall of burly gladiators.

"There you are.  I figured you'd be out here when I couldn't find you in the infirmary.  Speaking of, you ought to get over there.  Those wounds won't repair themselves, and they're gonna have their hands full pretty soon."

This mech had nothing of interest to say, so Soundwave didn't bother giving him the dignity of his continued attention.  Octane was a fussy bot with a mind devoted solely to profits, but he was Soundwave's sponsor – arranged his matches, handled the winnings, managed the affairs that Soundwave had not the time, energy, nor experience to.  And as much as he disliked the mech, he couldn't deny his necessity.  There were few who cared to conduct business with a bot who looked as Soundwave did.

"Fine, fine.  Don't know why I bother," he said with an exasperated wave of his hands.  "Anyway, I figured you should know that I've arranged your next match."

Soundwave said nothing.

"Next Dixosol, twentieth cycle."

When he didn't continue, Soundwave turned to face him once again.  The bastard had quite the shit-eating grin pasted to his face; he always did get a kick out of forcing Soundwave to speak.  And so, resigned, Soundwave allowed himself to be coaxed.

"Opponent?" he croaked in his throaty, mechanical voice, which surely could not be heard over the roar of the spectators, not that Broadside needed to hear the question to understand, or even get his weird jollies.

The mech nodded towards the battlefield, smile growing ominous.

Suddenly fearful, Soundwave whipped around, just in time to see Megatronus rip the spark from Broadside, crush the life from it with his bare hands.

The crowd went wild.

~~~

"Come on, Soundbabes.  Don't be mad.  Think of the opportunity!" Octane protested, trailing Soundwave from the coliseum and onto the dirty streets of the Kaonian underground.  Soundwave ignored the nuisance.  Octane knew exactly why Soundwave was upset – would've known how he'd react to the news.

Megatronus was a death sentence to most – panic was a common reaction in situations like Soundwave's.  And while it would be a stretch to say that he was afraid, he also wasn't certain he could win.  Megatronus was a mech known for his brutality.  If given the opportunity, he would kill Soundwave.  That was for certain.  And though Soundwave did not fear for his own fate, he was terrified for his Symbionts.  What would become of them should he fail?

Octane continued.  "Come on!  Talk to me, Soundbabes.  Do you know how difficult it was to convince Megatronus's manager to go for this?"

Soundwave kept walking, but the Minicons were more forthcoming.

"How difficult?" Laserbeak asked.

"Very!" Octane finished, lamely.  He hadn't been expecting that reply.  Still, he recovered quickly.  "Megatronus doesn't do timed matches.  The fact that you're undefeated yourself meant nothing."

"So what got him to come?" asked Rumble, falling back to join Octane.

"Novelty," Octane said with a shrug.  "In his career, Megatronus has never fought a mech quite like you."  Mostly because Soundwave was unique among Cybertronians.  In all the world, there was only one other 'mech' like Soundwave, and he was living a comfortable life far from Kaon.  Probably.

Soundwave's pace slowed, which Octane took as an opportunity to increase the levels of schmooze.  He threw an arm over Soundwave's shoulders.

"We need this, Soundwave.   They need it."  He nodded towards the ground, towards Ravage and Rumble and Frenzy at Soundwave's feet.  "You may be at the top of your league, but it's still the minor leagues.  Ain't no one gives a shit about those.  We need a draw – something to bring in the crowds.  And nothing would say, 'I'm worth watching,' better than winning a fight against The Megatronus."

"Can he win?" Frenzy asked, nervous.  No one liked Megatronus as much as Frenzy.  Surely he was having difficulty processing this twist of events.

Octane shrugged again.  "Sure.  I got faith in my Soundbabes."  Soundwave always did hate that nickname.  He ducked out from under Octane's arm, marching ahead with a bit more force than was normal.

"You cut some kind of deal with Momus, didn't you?" Ravage speculated.  "You wouldn't risk the boss's life for nothing."

Soundwave stopped mid-stride, and turned back to face the mech, his cold blank face locked dead on those nervous optics, and his Symbionts followed suit.  Octane faltered under the eerie attention.

"Okay, so I worked out an insurance policy, just in case.  Lucky me, Megatronus seemed really interested in your sorry aft.  But yeah, I get paid whether you win or lose.  What does it matter though?  You're Soundwave.  You always win, and I like it that way.  Just cause your opponent is the great Megatronus doesn't change that.  Think of the glory, Soundbabes.  The crowds will flock to you after this, and you'll never hafta worry 'bout where your – their next meal is coming from again – mark my words.

Soundwave cast a glance at his Symbionts, who in turn watched him with matching looks of apprehension.  They were strong.  Without him, they would surely find a way to survive – a few were even gladiators in their own right.  They would be fine.  But should he allow things to remain as they were now, then their futures were less certain.  Six mouths were a lot to feed on a second-rate gladiator's budget, even with the small income brought in by Rumble and Frenzy; they were barely scraping by.  However,  if Soundwave won this match, it would be as Octane said.  More people would come to see his fights – more tickets, more bets, more money.  Things would be smooth sailing from here.

With an unspoken command, the Minicons hurried to transform, folding themselves into further armor for him, their colors fading to his own washed-out blue.  Ravage shaped to his back, Rumble and Frenzy took either shoulder, and Buzzsaw and Laserbeak slotted smoothly into his chest-plate.

"Affirmative."

~~~

The next several days flew by in a flurry of frazzled nerves and intense sparring with his pint-sized army.  As always, he avoided interacting with the population at large, but he could hear the whispers of coliseum frequenters on the street corners, in the alleys, shops, from their own homes – there was much talk of the upcoming match, and of the mechs that he dared lay eyes on, not a one looked at him without pity.

It made him angry.  Some of these mechs had seen him fight – all of them had seen Megatronus fight.  And still, they judged, as though the battle had already been fought.  How dare they!

His own Minicons ranged from cautiously optimistic to completely terrified.

"You can still drop out, Boss," Frenzy groaned from the dented ground Soundwave had just put him into, ending their sparring match.  "You're good, but he's Megatronus ."

Laserbeak was more confident.  "Megatronus isn't invincible, Boss.  And remember, he's never fought a mech like you before."

"Whatever that means," Rumble grumbled.  His pessimism was not reflected by Ravage.

"Laserbeak is right.  The nature of the death matches means that Megatronus has only fought undefeated mechs, but you?  You fight guys who get their asses kicked, learn from the affair, and grow stronger and stronger and stronger still.  If I had to wager, I'd say the better fighters are the ones you put in the infirmary each week."

It was reassuring, but Soundwave didn't want reassurance.  He just wanted Dixosol to come so he could be done with it.

And so it did.

From the moment he entered the coliseum, he could tell that today was special.  Never in his career had he seen the stands so packed – not even for Megatronus's battles.  Everyone was curious to see how their 'God of the Pit' would fare against a minor league mech with a reputation for being weird, alien, creepy, and most of all, different.  Octane had been right.  It was a strict novelty match, and the fact that it wasn't necessarily to the death made no difference to the spectators.

The rest of the evening passed by in a blur – at one point, Octane greeted him, a self-satisfied smirk on his face, and a shapely speedster on each arm.  He offered few words to Soundwave before moving on, and Soundwave preferred it that way.  The bots he cared about – his Symbionts, offered a few more words of well-wishing and praise, as well as one nervous goodbye.  Then, he was stepping into the ring.

Across the pit, he saw Megatronus, tall and confident, stride toward the center of the floor, greeted by  a  chorus of cheers.

"Megatronus! Megatronus!"

Though Soundwave was not without his fans.  His highly-specialized audials were able to pick out a small number of 'Soundwaves' scattered across the stands.  It was good to hear, even if it was drowned out by praise for his opponent.

Soundwave wasn't focused on the audience, however.  His attention was solely fixed on the mech who stood before him.

He looked smaller up close, the reality unable to hold a candle to his reputation – at least in Soundwave's opinion.  Still, he was a large mech, in every conceivable way.  Soundwave was no stranger to fighting larger opponents, while those of his own size class were significantly less common in the death league.  It was an advantage, though not one that would last him long.  Megatronus's wit was as mighty as the rest of him.

The mech was grinning at him, as though he'd already won – he always wore that expression in front of an audience.  It drove the crowd nuts.  But the pulse of his spark could tell no lies.  He was nervous.  Peculiar.

"Scared, Soundwave?" he growled, voice deep and gruff, a threat of violence, perfectly suited for a gladiator.  His effort at intimidation was destined to fail, however.  Soundwave was not a flappable mech by any means.  He took Megatronus's words, and played them back, with some assistance from the audience.

{{Scared – Megatronus?}}

Unlike Soundwave, Megatron was rufflable.  His eyes widened for the barest of moments – surprised that a mech who barely said two words to anyone, had the audacity to mock him.  But it morphed quickly into a wicked grin.

No more words were exchanged between them.

In the announcer's box, Soundwave could hear the judges conferring amongst themselves, discussing the challengers, the odds, the best bars to go to for post-game pints.  But the moment the twentieth cycle struck, they dropped the chatter, focusing on business alone.  One took up a microphone to address the crowd.  It was time.

"Mechs and femmes, welcome to our Dixosol evening minor league match, the one you've all been waiting to see: Megatronus," he paused allowing for the deafening roar of the cheers to subside, before he continued, "Versus Soundwave!" Another, smaller chorus of cheers followed.

"This match is a timed battle.  Our challengers will have a limit of ten minutes to inflict as much damage on one-another as physically possible.  Whichever's functioning capacity is higher by the end of the battle will be the victor.  Alternatively, if either challenger is able to knock out or kill their opponent before the time limit, they will automatically win, regardless of how much time remains.  But enough chatter.  Let's begin!  Match: start!"

As always, Soundwave's first move was to put as much space between himself and his opponent as possible.  He leapt backward, landing with a thud on the solid ground, and Megatronus, a mech known for his relentless assaults, broke character and remained steadfast in place.  For a long moment, neither mech made to move, as the combatants sized each other up.  But the moment ended when Megatronus smiled.  That was his cue.

The next thing Soundwave knew, some twenty-five tons of mech was flying straight at him, arm flying towards his face in a vicious punch.  Soundwave dodged the blow with ease, and the next, and the next, circling his way around the larger mech with the grace he was known for.   Step left, stoop low, lean away, cross-counter, listen to the sparkbeat, the grinding of gears; hear feet digging into the ground, the air whishing away, the energon flow faster, grow hotter; hear the roar of fans, dodge, counter.

But even the most minute of predictions couldn't serve him forever.  Megatron was too savvy for that.  He feinted left, Soundwave dodged right, only to hear too late the air part – feel thick claws wrap around the armor of his forearm.  Thick as it was, it wouldn't hold up under Megatronus's grip; he could already begin to feel it buckle as the monster squeezed.

But Soundwave was nothing if not a quick thinker.  Megatronus's brief success had allowed him to lower his guard.  His chest, and moreover, the arrogant hole carved into his plating, over his spark chamber, was unguarded.  It was even the perfect size for one of his data cables to slip into.  And so, with Megatronus's left arm currently occupied, Soundwave seized his opportunity.

There was a sickening whirr as metal ground against metal, and the heat of sparks danced between the two before Megatronus, surprised by the sudden invasion, leapt away.  Soundwave did not follow; he never did.  It was always better to let his opponent make the first move, to use the enemy's attacks against him.

"Playing it safe, Soundwave?  What a coward you are," Megatronus spat, quickly recovering from the assault.  Any ordinary gladiator would have taken the bait and charged full-on, but Soundwave was not a mech to be distracted by taunting.  He knew what was important in this fight.

After another moment of stillness, Megatronus took it upon himself to bring the two together once more.

Soundwave couldn't respond as he had been.  It was clear that Megatronus had grown wise to his dodging habits.  He would not be caught off-guard again.  It was time for a new trick.

With more speed than Megatronus had been expecting, Soundwave's right data cable shot out, fastening itself to Megatronus's chest, and much to the mech's surprise, bringing him to a stop, mid-charge.  Despite all appearances, most of Soundwave's strength was contained in those thin, frail cables.

Megatronus's shock did not last long.  He used their connection to his advantage, grabbing onto the cable that joined them, and dragged Soundwave forward, nearly sending him stumbling to the ground.  As it was, he was well within reach of Megatronus's free arm, though the precarious position of one of his most sensitive mechanisms had Soundwave far more worried.

It was a dangerous situation to be in, and Soundwave's left cable was quick to the rescue, aimed directly at Megatronus's exposed elbow joint, but it was too little too late.  With one sharp squeeze, Megatronus crushed the sensitive mass of wires and circuitry within his hand.  This time Soundwave really did collapse, releasing a stream of static as the feedback overwhelmed his processor.  But even through the pain, he fought on.  His remaining cable made its designated contact, and Soundwave sent a jolt of electricity through his target, momentarily stunning the hulking mech, just long enough to rip one massive arm from its socket.

Megatronus should have been howling in agony, but he had evidently grown accustomed to loss of limb over the years.  With his good hand, he took hold of Soundwave's head and raised him from the ground, squeezing all the while.  It did nothing to help the burn of the pain that already screamed through him.  Soundwave could barely focus, couldn't even pretend that he was still fighting in the pit.  He was hurting, and he wanted to share it with the world.

And so he did.

His scream was a weapon in itself.  Shrill, piercing white noise at just the frequency to create feedback in the processor of even the most guarded of bots, combined with a deep rumbling bass, that ripped right through the circuits of any unfortunate enough to hear it – a combination of sounds, modulated and mechanized, pain itself.

Megatronus was stunned, as though Soundwave had used electricity again.  He released his prey, who fell to the ground, dazed and weak, but with reflexes sharp enough to land on his feet.  Unfortunately, the respite was short.  Again, Megatronus's good arm came flying for him, and Soundwave, unable to dodge, blocked with his left arm.

There was no last-minute rescue from a data cable this time.  The arm was shattered before Soundwave was able to gather his wits, and Megatronus did not appear to be letting go anytime soon.  He had Soundwave in close, exactly where he preferred his opponent be.  Soundwave struggled, clawing with his remaining arm, in a vain effort to get away.  Megatronus laughed.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen – ugk!"

Soundwave had worked his data cable to the dense cluster of wires housed in Megatronus's neck, and sent the strongest jolt of electricity he could.  It worked for his purposes.  Megatronus's body was reduced to a twitching, uncontrollable mass, disrupting his circuitry and higher functions.  Alas, it wasn't enough to knock the monster out, and even worse, with his equilibrium shot, Megatronus had no choice but to fall forward, collapsing atop of Soundwave.  He'd gone and made a bad situation worse.

Still, with functionality on his side, Soundwave had the upper hand, if only for a moment.

Megatronus would be easy enough to throw off, but he had the greater range of Soundwave’s cable trapped beneath him at the moment, and squirm as he might, Soundwave couldn't seem to shake him.  So instead, he wrapped the scant slack of his data cable around Megatronus's arm, restraining him as best he could manage, given their positions, and used his own, free arm to claw at his opponent’s face, leaving a few long gouges across his lips.

Once again, Megatronus was quick to recover.  He was held close to Soundwave, unable to fight back with his upper body, but Soundwave had done nothing to keep his legs in check – couldn't really.  His own were far too short, and didn't bend in quite the right way to manage such a feat.

Megatronus rose as high as he could, and jammed one of the spikes that adorned his knee straight into the barely-armored protoform of Soundwave's belly, sending energon splattering all around him.

Megatronus was in a perfect position to finish off Soundwave.  If he wanted any hope of survival, he needed to act and he needed to act now.  Megatronus was unlikely to fall victim to Soundwave's screaming again, he didn't have enough energy for another electrical jolt, at least not one that would slow down Megatronus, and if he relinquished his data cable’s hold on the mech's arm, Megatronus would surely use that against him for an even quicker death.  And that was ignoring the fact that it was still pinned.  

There had to be another way – something he could say to shock the mech trying to eviscerate him.

He scanned the crowd for anything he could use, any individual noise that would be enough to distract Megatronus.  From a distant corridor, he found his answer, not ideal, but the best he had.

"Please," he said in the sultry voice of a stranger, strained with need of a different kind.  "Keep doing that, right there.  It feels so good!"

It worked.  Megatronus pulled back, his eyes widening in disgust, teeth bared, and most peculiar, sparkbeat pulsing quicker, flustered.  It wasn't enough to make him back off altogether, but the movement freed up Soundwave’s data cable, and the distraction provided lasted just long enough for him to dig its claws into Megatronus's unguarded back, pull him up, and fling all twenty-five tons of him across the ring.

The subsequent collapse of stadium wall was music to Soundwave's audials, as was the ear-splitting shriek of metal buckling beneath the weight of debris.  But it was over all too soon.  Megatronus stubbornly crawled to his feet, brushing off the rubble like it was nothing, though that wasn't to say he was unharmed.  Megatronus was no longer bleeding from his missing arm; the shock he'd received afterwards had melted the fuel lines around the wound shut.  Though that had been the only benefit of the electricity introduced to his frame.  It was clear that Megatronus was still reeling from the attack, his plating continued to twitch against his protoform, his legs trembled under the effort to hold him upright, and a blank look had overtaken his optics.  He was half on his way to the scrapheap.  But it wasn't enough.

Soundwave's victory depended on him ending the fight better off than his opponent.  The end was fast-approaching, and by his own estimation, Soundwave remained worse off, if only slightly.  He was back on his feet as well, fans cycling heavily to vent air to his overheating frame.  He'd retracted his broken data cable as best he could, though some three feet of it still hung limply outside its home.  His right arm was damaged; his left unusable.  His head was pounding, and his torso leaked a dangerous amount of energon that rather reminded him of Broadside, dead in Megatronus's last match.  He could not allow himself to suffer the same fate.  He needed to get back to his Symbionts, wanted to see them again.

Predictably, Megatronus was not content to wait on the clock, to win by virtue of being slightly more functional by the end of an arbitrary time limit.  He wanted to kill his opponent – it was how he operated.  He charged once more, noticeably slower, and it was all Soundwave could do to dodge.  He wasn't quite fast enough this time.

Megatronus clipped his shoulder, sending him off-balance, though again, he was able to catch himself, turning just in time to see his opponent moving in for another blow.  Desperate, Soundwave mustered up the last of his energy reserves, and aimed his data cable straight for the hole in Megatronus's chest, sending one more jolt of electricity through him.

With a shout of agony, Megatronus collapsed to his knees, but he wasn't done fighting.  Once more, he used their connection to his advantage, pulling Soundwave in close, and mustered the last of his own might to punch a hole through the earlier laceration he'd made in Soundwave's torso.

Soundwave collapsed forward, cradling Megatronus's head against his chest, static spitting from his vocaliser.  It wasn't a lethal wound yet, but if Megatronus kept up, it soon could be.  Only seconds remained on the clock, and Soundwave gave up all hope of winning.  So long as he survived to see Ravage and the others again, he would be happy.

He moved his data cable to the unarmored small of Megatronus's back and began drilling, hard and fast, until his cable snaked through to the other side.  From his new position within the brute, he was able to feed off of a small amount of the mech's energy, which was diverted into one more weak electrical shock, this time from within.  In the meantime, his own claws reached down to Megatronus's face, found his optics, and dug in.

He nearly didn't hear time called over the roar of Megatronus's own scream, and even once it registered, neither mech let go.  They'd fought to a stalemate, and it was not so easy to pull away.  Megatronus was known for his foul temper; if Soundwave let go first, the mech may very well decide to finish what he'd started.  And Primus knew that Megatronus wasn't going to be the first to budge.

Eventually, coliseum security had to come down and pull the two apart.  Both mechs sat on the energon-stained floor of the pit, in a flurry of stuttering vents and pulsing sparks.  Not long after, the judges came down, each carrying a diagnostic device to run over the challengers.

"Megatronus: operating at 23% capacity," called out one of the judges.  Scarcely a sound was heard from the crowd, beyond nervous sparks and shifting gears.  The judge moved over to Soundwave, scanning him with the tool.  Soundwave knew at that instant that something was wrong.  He could hear the surprise in the Judge's body, could see it on his face.

"Soundwave: operating at 23% capacity.  The battle ends in a draw!"

This time, the crowd did not cheer.