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Cade and Viviane insisted that they stay the night, but I refuted — mainly because this was my punishment, not their's. Linking with Unicron had been a stupid move and I was paying the price for it.

Viviane and I were roughly the same size, so she left me an ample amount of clothes to change into before she and Cade departed, bound for her apartment on the east side of London.

One more night, and then I'm out of here.

Said night proceeded to trudge on and on and on until I thought it would never end. I lay with my eyes open, room illuminated by the moonlight. London bustled beneath, but I was in my own little haven. I couldn't sleep — sleeping seemed impossible, considering that I'd been knocked out for a decent amount of time.

I'd started walking on my own, my body still trying to regain some strength from my three days of being stuck on fluids. I was on the second floor, and I could easily bust through the window and scale down. But that would look bad, and at this point, I was fairly certain I was being contained for show and not tell.

Eventually I began to drift off, eyes fluttering closed. The noises in the back became, well, noises in the back. I was in my own peaceful world, only to be yanked out of it by a metal hand around my throat.


She wasn't dead. She was very much alive and hovering over me, one hand on my throat while the other stroked my face.

"Oh, hell no," I gasped.

She spoke. It didn't echo around my mind. This wasn't a link or an elaborate dream. This was real. Her touch was real, like a cold rope around my neck.

"Be silent. Do not speak, or I will gut you," Quintessa snarled. She reared back, lifting me from the bed like a rag doll. My skinny legs kicked at the air, hands grappling for purchase. In my weakened state, I couldn't put up a fair fight.

And she knew that.

"Unicron has requested your presence," she sneered. I stammered, hardly able to talk.

"What the fuck—"

She tossed me like a rag doll. I flew, smashing into the wall and dislodging chunks of plaster. I slid to the floor, gasping like a fish out of water.

Fuck, fuck fuck.

Get up. Get up. She's going to take you — Get up!

If Quintessa had one weakness, it was her arrogance and her desire to play. I was a toy and she was a cat. She enjoyed batting me around before making her point.

I'd taken her in a fight before. I'd nearly lost, but I'd still fought. I wasn't about to give up now and cave in.

"Stay down," Quintessa said simply. "There is no reason for you to injure yourself further. Unicron want's you delivered to him in one piece."

I was going to stomp this bitch out. I had sheer determination on my side, and even thought that didn't make up for the fact that my limbs really, really didn't want to work properly, I could still outwit her. Or out-bitch her.

"Did it hurt when Bumblebee blasted the shit out of you?" I spat. Remarkably, my left arm and right leg decided to cooperate, and participate in pulling me to my feet. I stood, a hospital gown acting as my only armor. I watched her every move, before my gaze landed on the window. A second floor leap wasn't to long, though in my weakened state I wondered if the landing would be too much.

The moment Quintessa decided to make a move was the moment I chose my course of action. I darted for the door while Quintessa lunged. I narrowly avoided her, tumbling into the hallway, knocking aside wheelchairs and gurneys. Several nurses shouted in alarm.

Run. Run, run.

My legs kicked like a newborn toddler as I got to me feet, sprinting. The nurses were screaming now, knocked to the side by Quintessa. I felt as if I were running faster than I probably was. I was unsteady on my feet, but still making progress towards the elevator. Getting as far away from that metal demon as possible was my plan. This wasn't a fair fight at all.

She's never been about fair.

The elevator was so close, yet so far away. My legs gave out, suddenly, and I slid across the tile, arms outstretched. As I used the wall for support, I glanced back just in time to see Quintessa, looming above me like some demon.

She was watching me crawl, a horrific smirk on her eerily human face.

If you can't run, fight.

I stood, looking her up and down. The moment she reached for me, I swung my fist, fully intending to knock that smug smirk away. Instead I found myself stumbling and receiving a wheelchair to the spine. I landed hard, cheek smacking hard against the floor.

"I've quite enjoyed our little game. But Unicron is waiting," Quintessa murmured. I lifted my head and saw nurses and patients alike, huddling, fear etched across their faces. None lifted a finger to help, and I was glad. The fact that Quintessa hadn't killed them on the spot was a miracle.

Cold, metal fingers gripped my hair, tugging at my short locks. I squeezed my eyes shut, hearing Quintessa speak but unable to recognize the language. The tiled floor beneath me was no more, and for a brief moment I felt open air before smacking hard against rock and dirt.

I coughed as I accidentally inhaled dust. My bare feet felt slick as I slowly lifted my head, unable to pinpoint any source of natural light. Everything around me was stone, carved by nature, ancient rock sparkling from the iridescent, inhuman glow given off by a hovering Quintessa.

No sunlight. Just her.

"Where the hell are we?" Quintessa ignored me, instead beckoning for me to follow. I remained lying down, fingers testing the rock beneath me. When I looked up for a second time, she was closer. Again, I snarled, "Where are we? What is this place?"

"One of Unicron's many chambers. Come — he wishes to see you."

"Fuck you," I spat. "I'm not going anywhere with you."

"You do not have a choice," Quintessa said. "You will get up, or I will make you get up. I have brought you here for a specific purpose. Only you can awaken Unicron from stasis," she caught my chin with her fingers. I was forced to look into those devilish eyes. "Now come."

I trudged through knee deep water, barely able to keep my head up. My bare feet were bloody, rocks chipping away at my skin. Several times I search for an exit, and every time Quintessa would appear behind me, hand around my throat.

I had no idea how much time had passed, and my brain felt fuzzy. The closer we got to our destination, the more I was unable to tell where exactly I was, who I was…in the back of my mind, I knew it had to be Unicron's doing. I could feel his presence, like an irksome ant bite. He was preventing me from linking and calling for help — my scrambled brain could tell that much. But he couldn't reach out to me. Not directly.


Something tugged at me through the bond Prime and I shared. but at this I was to confused to tell what it was. I followed Quintessa like a zombie, swaying and having to regain my footing every few seconds. The cavern was getting wider and wider, the water now up to my thighs. Stalagmite rose from the ground, like fingers reaching for the sky. Quintessa stopped, tilting her head. I followed her gaze, neck craned. Then she looked down at me, and for the first time I saw…nervousness on her face.

I could hear clicking noises echoing around the vast cavern. I lifted my head, blood running cold as I saw at least a dozen Insecticons hanging from the stone ceiling. They made no move to attack, and they weren't in stasis. They were on a hair-trigger, I assumed, awaiting a command from Quintessa.

"Speak," Quintessa suddenly commanded. "Reach out to him like you did before."

No. No, don't.

Think of the pain he showed you—

"No," I breathed. Then, louder, "No."

Her hands were on my throat, the glow from her eyes drenching my face in blue light. She snarled and I snarled back.

I was flung violently. My back hit hard against stalagmite, sending showers of rock cascading down and into the water.

Don't do it.

Quintessa made a noise of disgust, hovering over the water. Heavy footsteps jolted me back into reality, and I saw a familiar, silver shape emerge from the shadows. Megatron raised his axe, resting it against his shoulder as he, I assumed, awaited orders.

I had no sarcastic remarks. Dread filled every part of me. I couldn't see the warlord's expression, for half his face was covered by his battle mask.

"I guess you found what you were looking for up on Cybertron, huh? Doing her dirty work," I sneered. "You're a joke, Megatron. Your army is gone. Now you're just her bitch."

The battle axe came down, hard, sending a spray of water in all directions. Quintessa raised her hand, a silent command for her enforcer. Panting and drenched in sweat, I watched. If Megatron struck, I decided, I wouldn't move. That way there was no possible chance of Quintessa pulling Unicron out of stasis.

"You're no warrior," I spat at Megatron. Quintessa watched with narrowed eyes as I stumbled forward, meeting Megatron's optics and refusing to tear my gaze away. "You're fucking weak. You're a coward. You're hiding behind her, because you know that you're nothing without a bunch of Decepticon thugs to back you up. And to think that Optimus once considered a pathetic asshole like you his brother."

I knew that I'd struck a nerve. I could hear the metal handle of Megatron's axe creak as he squeezed it with tremendous force. He stepped forward and it was Quintessa's turn to snarl, raising a hand and striking him to his knees with a blast of pure energy.

"Stand down, Megatron!"

"I will not!"

Megatron swung his axe, though not at me. Quintessa was caught by surprise, struck by the curved edge and sent careening through the air like a bullet shot from a gun. She disappeared into the rock, cutting through it.

I turned and ran, Quintessa's bellows of rage echoed throughout the cavern. But I wasn't as fast as the warlord. He was on me in half a dozen bounds, pedes splashing through the water, talons outstretched —

I was plucked from the ground, kicking, shrieking. My hospital gown landed in the dark water below, leaving me in nothing by my undergarments.

Yes! Do it! Kill me — that way —

I wasn't dead. I was still in Megatron's arms, and he was darting out of the cavern. My legs dangled and I continued shrieking, until Megatron lifted me close to his face and snarled.

"Be quiet. She will hear you, and she will find us. If you wish to live, for the love of Primus, stay quiet."

"Stop looking at me."

"You are in no position to make demands, fleshling," Megatron snarled. "Besides, you are still covered. It is not a sin to gaze upon you."

I was barefoot, arms wrapped around myself, clad in only my underwear I looked like I'd been wallowing in mud — which, I had, and it covered me like a layer of clothes. My dark hair was now brown with filth.

I'd been silent the entire flight to the old factory. The Decepticon's resided there — or, what was left of them. Megatron, Barricade, and two others that I'd never seen before — Knockout and Motormaster.

"Is this, like, a kidnapping situation? Are you going to torture me again?" I spat. Megatron rolled his optics while Knockout inched closer. Megatron had made several offers to have Knockout look me over, since he was a medic, but I'd declined. I didn't want him touching me. In fact, I didn't want any of them touching me, and I'd made that very clear.

"What purpose would that serve?" Megatron drawled, pacing around the factory hangar. "You are much more useful to me alive."

"Good to know you're doing this out of the goodness of your spark," I said sarcastically, crossing my arms over my chest. "I don't feel reassured."

"Is there anything I can do to ease your suspicions?" Megatron waved his hand, voice slick with false worry.

"Yeah. Let me go."

I was prepared to fight for my freedom. I'd already plotted my escape — I knew where the exits where and what tools I had at my disposal. The only thing keeping me from outright running was a sense of, well, uncertainty. I had no idea where we were, or, hell, what continent we were even on. I had yet to see the outside, but from the lack of noise I could tell that we were somewhere far from civilization.

"Should Optimus cooperate, freedom will be granted to you. I have no doubt that Prime would tear this planet apart in search of his sparkmate," Megatron settled onto his rear, lip plates parting as he soaked in my small form. "I am simply taking full advantage of that."

"You saved me from Quintessa. Why?" I craned my neck to meet his optics. "You betrayed her. She'll come after you, now."

"I attempted to form a truce with Prime. Did you know that, half-breed?" Megatron said lowly. "After Sentinel Prime was defeated, I offered Prime my hand. I offered him peace, and he cut me down like a barbarian. I am tired of having to fight for scraps. And I not a servant to some false god!" he paused, eyes narrowing. Those talons, which had once stripped the flesh from my body, stopped just inches from my chin. "You are the perfect peace offering. Prime will give me anything if it means that you are returned to him."

"He'll kill you," I said simply. "He's done it before."

"I have different expectations this time around," Megatron replied curtly. "Do not concern yourself with the musings of titans, half-breed. Now, I believe it is time for Knockout to examine your wounds."

"I'm fine. Just some scratched feet. I don't need a fucking examination," I brushed Knockout's hand away, glaring daggers. The red Decepticon returned the expression.

"Coming into contact with Unicron placed a tremendous amount of strain on you, both physically and mentally," Knockout observed. I scoffed.

"Yeah. That's why I was in the hospital before Quintessa grabbed me. Unicron fucked me over," I glanced up at Megatron. "You were there for that. You saw."

"I was not present for the aftermath," Megatron countered. He leaned in closer, adding, "You encountered Cybertron's greatest enemy, and survived."

"Is that why Quintessa wanted me?"

"You are the only one who could pull Unicron from stasis," Megatron growled. "And now that you have linked to him, the process is almost halfway complete."

"If I awaken him, we all pretty much die. Cybertron too," I said slowly. I glanced up, and saw the grave, yet subtle look on Megatron's monstrous visage. "So it's in all of our interest that we assure that doesn't happen."

"Are you suggesting some sort of alliance?" Barricade said gruffly from where he was crouched, polishing his weapons.

My response was filled with as much disgust as his request. "Hell no. I don't trust any of you. I don't like any of you. I'm just pointing out that now is not the time to pull some stupid shit."

"Duly noted," Megatron smirked. "I would not want to listen to your incessant blabbering, anyway. I don't know how Prime puts up wth it."

"He does it because he loves me. You should try love sometimes. It works," I grumbled, taking a seat on the dirty floor and tugging my legs against my chest. I listened to the sound of Barricade cleansing his weapons while Knockout and Motormaster discussed a topic in their native language, voices hushed. I could feel Megatron's gaze on me the entire time, unwavering.

"Incoming Autobot signal detected," Motormaster announced. My head shot up, followed by the rest of me. Megatron's pede slamming into the ground before me stopped my lunge to freedom.

"Is Prime one of them?"

"He is," Motormaster replied. "Him, and several humans."


"Barricade, Knockout, get the doors," Megatron instructed. As his two comrades obeyed, he reached down and wrapped those long, curved talons around my unclothed body. I knew better than to thrash, instead holding on as light flooded the factory.

"You will speak on my behalf," Megatron murmured. "Tell Prime to stand down, unless he wishes for more bloodshed. Us Decepticon's are willing to fight, and there will be casualties."

I glanced up. Prime was standing, flanked by Hound, Hot Rod, and Drift. Shuffling forward were N.E.S.T soldiers, Lennox at the forefront. When he saw me in Megatron's clutches, he very slowly lowered his weapon, gesturing for his men to do the same.

"Rachel," Optimus spoke first, taking in my disheveled and utterly fucked state. I knew I looked unrecognizable — I felt the dried layer of dirt on my skin, each pinprick.

"I'm fine. I'm not hurt," I croaked. Megatron squeezes a bit and I coughed, infuriatingly repeating what Megatron had told me. "He want's a truce or a pact or some shit like that. If not, they'll fight."

"Ze' can fight all day!" Hot Rod snarled, raising his weapon. "Hand over la mademoiselle!"

Megatron raised his free hand in a placating gesture, chuckling as if he found Hot Rod's threat amusing.

The whole standoff had me nervous. For all I knew, Megatron could have been bluffing. He could have kept me alive out of sheer pettiness, so he could end my life in front of Optimus. The mech was sick. He was sick, and I knew he wasn't above doing it.

"I propose an exchange. I rescued your mate, Prime, from Quintessa's clutches. My Decepticon's and I deserve some compensation."

"You tortured her," Optimus' optics were wide. "You brought her nothing but sorrow and agony. And now you want us to pity you?"

"As I said, we are prepared to fight. I have no qualms about her," Megatron squeezed me roughly, "being the first casualty. It does not have to end like that, Prime. You have a choice."

The only thing keeping Hound from blasting with his minigun was the fact that I was in the center, being held by Megatron. The big, green bot was furious, gnawing on his metal cigar to the point that I thought it would snap.

"What are your terms?"

Megatron nodded, chuckling at Prime's compliance. "There you go, Optimus. Now we're getting somewhere."