Fuckers. They won’t tell me what to do…
She climbs fast, one hand, the other hand, one foot, the other foot… Always three points of support. So much of the way up still ahead of her, so much down already behind her. The radar antenna is huge, lightly structured, embroidered with dipole cages, it looks like a giant scaffolding. Many years inactive, falling apart slowly but persistently, with rusted remains of ladders barely holding in place, scarce places to grab and hold on to, ready to collapse upon any wrong step she might take.
Bulkhead is lying up on the very top of the strange structure, heavily wounded, in stasis, put up there by the Cons as if in a test or a bad joke. A trial for her, the lithe but small and light grounder - to pick him up and fetch down in promise to let them both keep their fragile lives.
“Well we may spare his life and yours too if you climb there and make it down with him… little femme. We may let you go if you do it. Let’s see how tough you are for real. We will be watching you from the safety of Nemesis, amused how the old dying metal structure bends below the weight of the bodies of you both, of course he is twice as heavy as you *little femme*, poor you, my lady, how you’re gonna make it down and not fall all together with this fragile structure, with him dragging you downwards to the abyss, to the trees, to the rocks, to the snow below you, while we will be watching from the safety of here… in amusement”
Little femme, huh?… Go fuck yourselves.
Her forearms are slightly fainting already half way through. Irrelevant for now but may bring trouble later… She always hated her forearms. She trained them a lot, she trained her whole body like mad, with no mercy for herself, no relief. She always wanted to be strong, to make up for what nature deprived her of, to be something she had never been born to be... She did all the gym routines, remorselessly, regularly, with dedication. She *made* herself strong as much as it got. She worked a lot to be vigilant, fast and smart… But the forearms, unproportionally delicate in their structure, they always were leaving something to desire. Always falling behind…
Them fuckers, always needing background for their imperfection, wanting someone to be worse, weaker than themselves, to make them feel stronger, to let them shine. Easy just to condemn part of the population to be weaker, just because they’ve been forged femmes and not mecha… Very funny.
The forearms are not a problem. Yet. But with such a great burden, like Bulkhead, tied to her… How is she going to bring him down?
She looks up. She’s more than half way up. A drop of energon falls down from the heights above her. It is Bulkhead’s blood. Energon from his wound. Fuck. He *must* be alive. She prays to Primus. She doesn’t accept any other option.
“Be a femme, what are you training this ninja stuff for, you are beautiful as you are… Don’t deny your female nature. You should be kind and gentle. A femme’s got to be a femme…” Yeah. Hilarious.
In-forged physical weakness forced her to become smart. Smarter than all those big and strong mecha who now look at her from the distance and expect to have a laugh. More persistent than them. More durable and able to bite her teeth tighter together and bear more pain… when she has to.
Floor after floor, she is advancing up fast, to the top of the multi-levelled scaffolding. She is getting closer. Occasionally she looks down, just to measure the distance to the ground. The world whirls around a little but she doesn't care.
“Aren't you afraid?” - “No. And even if, what does it matter? I can overcome it.” - “So you are afraid.” - “It is irrelevant, it does not have any impact.”
Part of the art is to know how to be afraid and not to be hindered or altered by fear. Fear is a useful emotion raising attention and alertness, helping to make proper choices. Those who don't know fear are stupid and they will fail of arrogance. Those who know it, who have learnt it and tame it to make it act in their advantage, they are the toughest survivors. They know both sides of the coin and they have steel hardness in them. Like a combination of concrete and steel… reinforced to harness all the forces that smash them and tear them apart...
She is proud of herself. She's become what she wanted after all. A slender body filled with muscular matter, high pressure hydraulics, extreme durability, heavy duty armour… It does really not matter what it looks like, it has to work. But such a body just cannot look bad. A trained eye can see the power condensed and concealed within her lightness, and the fierceness-filled despise for the slightest bit of own weakness.
She reaches the top finally, tired, venting heavily. She takes a look at Nemesis up above, and even if she does not see them precisely, she knows, she can feel it, they are staring at the show that they prepared for themselves. Megatron, the monumental and strong gladiator figure, is gazing with his purple eyes. He must stand in the middle. In the centre of things, centre of attention. She can easily imagine how he licks his lips gently, with content, looking at her struggle. She has seen that before… She knows he looks at her body and despite his ironic statements he admires her strength. He likes it strong… She shrugs a little as this thought gives her a strange shiver which she does not want to like at all.
Next to him Starscream, for sure blabbing and commenting everything, making bets with the Vehicons, assuming her failure right from the start… He is not so much bigger than her and he is tall, handsome and shapely. If not for this whole talking and cowardly weakness that she can see in his every sneaky movement avoiding confrontation and full of fear of Megatron... yep… she is sure, she would defeat him in many battles, if he just wasn’t a seeker, a bloody jet that transformed into a flight frame and flew away any time when the push came to shove. And her, a grounder, a meager two-wheeler at that, she could not even chase him up in the skies.
Airachnid, the “real” feminine one, always beautiful, always cleaning the shit from the fan with someone else's hands… A manipulative bounty hunter bitch that has not yet paid her dues. Oh how Arcee despises Airachnid. Her long nails, high heels and the shining armour, her fake biolight jewellery, her manipulative sexual femininity just to bite out of the sudden and get her pray… A neck that shakes’ the stupid mecha's heads. Yes she gets what she wants. But she wants so much else than Arcee would ever consider. Arcee wants to be strong and she wants to be independent. Airachnid wants power, beauty and attention.
Go fuck yourself Airachnid.
And finally, Soundwave. The eyes of Arcee hang one more second at the shape of Nemesis above her. Soundwave. She looks for cold and bad words in her vocabulary to throw at the silent, nerdy bot, but she knows he couldn't care less. He stands there because his master enjoys the show. Maybe he even knows the outcome already. He has likely calculated all the variables within one second and a half, long ago, and now he’s dealing with whatever else in his head, not to bide his precious time with bullshit. Probably he would not bother with this all, a waste of time… But he has to, so he just stands immersed in his geekness, listening to the sounds of the universe. “Good, watch me defy your physics, douchebag,” she murmurs to herself.
Femmes should be gentle, and feminine… They should accept their differences, which is the essence of their beauty...
Yeah, carrying their two tonnes-of-live-weight best friend down the five hundred meters high scaffolding of a short-wave derelict radar structure…
The scaffolding does not give her secure support. It seems to be moving under her weight and the rust-defeated joints give way in many places, she needs to calculate her moves carefully. She almost crawls the last bit towards Bulkhead and stands up next to him, pulled by the wind, so strong at this hight. The radar structure gives screeching sounds from within its bowels that she doesn't really like. Tension is letting go inside the rusty metal...
Femmes who workout and think they can equal to mecha in fight are hilarious and pathetic. Funny. Ridiculous… They need to accept who they are - weak and beautiful - or they will live in an eternal conflict with the idea of who they will never become, because it is against their nature…
Yeah, them damn fuckers.
She assesses Bulkhead’s state. He is unconscious, probably in stasis. The wound across his chest is not that bad, but it should not be strained. He is inert and heavy as hell.
She is prepared for many things though. Life made her be it. Like MacGyver from a human TV series, she is a do-it-yourself engineer and she had time to think while climbing. She unsubspaces a bundle of ropes that is one of her best-friend-artifacts, next to a set of mechanical tools, a pair of jumpstart cables, a small shovel, a knife, a handy flashlight and spare batteries.
She puts together a kind of a cat’s cradle for Bulkhead and ties him to herself swearing to Primus that she will make Optimus cut half of the big bot’s energon diet once they make it safely back home.
She assesses her work with satisfaction. This will work if only the scaffolding, the poor ladders and her thin forearms will bear such a horrific and dangerous distribution of weight. But she can do nothing more about it. There is no other way she can do it, bring him all the way down, half a kilometer of the shaky metal structure.
She gets up slowly transferring the dead weight of her friend onto herself. Onto her lithe, slim, fragile back.
Her legs bend heavily under the burden, she almost falls down on her knees. Even a light person, when unconscious, seems twice as heavy, unmovable, worse than a piece of furniture or a bagful of stones… And Bulkhead… Bulkhead is huge and fat and hurt…
The rusty structure releases very uneasy sounds and the wind does not help. Everything moves below and she is tired already. She catches her breath and raises her head slightly, seeing the dark shape of Nemesis in the distance. She sticks out the middle finger towards them, convinced that this is what they see right on the big screen in front of them.
You goddamn fuckers...
The scaffolding tilts dangerously as she starts to climb down, really slow, tight to nothing, without any protection. It is enough with ten seconds of this climbing effort for her to realize how bad an idea all this is. Relying on the ropes tying Bulkhead to her back is far too dangerous, the combined weight of them both pulls her back and the metal pipes and rods that she is holding on to just do not have sufficient capacity… And her forearms, her fingers… She sees with the eyes of her imagination how she falls down right into the trees, into the debris below, barely visible from this height. The vision of her hands letting go is just too plastic, to material, it squeezes her in the abdomen and freezes her energon veins to a standstill. We are so screwed…
She looks down again. Everything seems to be moving below as if the whole construction was coming alive. No no no…. She gasps for air suddenly breathless and dizzy. Think! She forces herself to vent slower. There is a little platform ten meters below. She could stop there to think… Just ten meters, ten times one meter, just a bit more than two times her own height, not that much. Doable. But her hand grabbing the ladder step compulsively would not let go. She has to start somehow, convince her stubborn body to move. She starts with her leg. A little lower… half a meter. Done. Now one leg is lower than the other and her arms are stretched up almost to maximum. The other leg bent, keeps holding the balance. The ropes are cutting into her shoulders. Bulkhead is so heavy... It hurts already… And she is no longer sure if the body of her friend, the way she fixed it to her, would hold well and not slip away suddenly from the loosening ties.
Will the right hand let go if she moves the left down? Is there any choice? She is trapped already… She forces herself to let the hand go and panically reattaches it lower balancing off her weight with the legs… It works. The right hand doesn't betray her, although the forearm aches dangerously under the strain of the stretching tension. Yet, it is somehow easier. Slowly, she’s moving downwards. Few centimetres by few centimetres, she literally crawls down vertically until she reaches the little platform.
She places Bulkhead on the floor with a rattling sound and for an instant she feels as if she reached the ground already. But the relief is an illusion. She almost did not move a bit towards her objective in comparison to what is waiting ahead. She needs to find another way…
She checks on Bulkhead's wound and scans his life signal with her basic scanner. “I will get you out of here, my friend, I promise,” she says to the unconscious mech in a silent voice and her eyes drift almost automatically to Nemesis. She wonders for a moment if Megatron will keep his word in this brutal game that he set up for her. Will he really let them go if she manages all this heartless exercise? She feels like in the freaking Mortal Kombat that Bumblebee keeps playing at the base, except that this is a climbing tournament with no other adversary than the giant old radar antenna full of dipoles falling off in the wind, and the only fatality would be falling down from this dramatic height with no chances of survival. She never trusted Megatron, but she wasn’t left any choice. Nobody friendly knows where they are and she cannot groundbride from here anyway. So what is the choice but to play along and hope that he will for once do what he promised…
Having rested a minute she looks at her big friend again. “You sure are huge, Bulk…” she says to him even though he can't hear her. Then she looks down along the remains of the ladder. Ten meters lower there is another small platform. Will her ropes be long enough? She recalculates. A close fit or a narrow miss… worth trying, for the win... She looks up again. Despite the additional effort she leaves Bulkhead and starts climbing back again. Looking up she sees Nemesis again.
Can you *please* stop staring at me this way, Soundwave? You’re not the only one with brains around here.
She wonders briefly if the long-winged fragger knows already what she’s up to. He seemed the only one out of the four in question who did not behave like if she were stupid and sentenced to a certain death. Of course, he said nothing when the others were making fun. But he was the only one she did not really hate…
She shakes the thought off. What does she care what Soundwave thinks. If he only groundbriges them from this fucking hole as agreed and ordered by his megalomaniac boss. Now, to get going...
When she is up on the top again she takes out a small laser blaster, the only weapon apart from the harmless human knife that they did not take away from her. She cuts slowly a big metal plate out of the top platform. She makes a few well measured holes in it, ties it with a rope and slowly lowers it to the platform on which Bulkhead is resting.
Then she goes down the scaffolding quickly. The operation to get Bulkhead properly positioned on the plate, tie him properly to it, and then fix in the rope mechanism takes about an hour but she completes it effectively. At least his wound is safe and he won’t fall off if only the ropes don’t let go. Now her weak forearms do not matter that much anymore. She chooses a big, long, bulky rod from the barriers present on the structure in abundance, picks a place for leverage and ties the ropes. Her strength will be crucial anyway. In a dry run she tests the idea of a make-shift elevator and it works.
The moment of trial would make her sweat cold if she were a human. Instead she feels her spark pulsing like mad. Primus, if that is a bad idea, I will get him killed…
But the whole invention is not a bad idea. The platform goes down slowly as she releases the ropes and after a few moments Bulkhead’s frame touches the next level below her. The lever takes much of the stress, so that she can steer it with manageable effort. Another floor down. Forty something to go.
So she goes. Ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five… Her arms hurt, her legs ache, her backstrut is killing her… But at least she is in the steer. She checks everything in detail each and every time. She becomes an expert. She knows how to do it now… Thirty, thirty five, forty… Almost there. Her hands bleed energon. She doesn’t even feel that she has them anymore. She is automatic. She only watches to get not too much and not too little rest in between. All the hours of her training, all the strain of her body at the gym, all the cyberninja exercises, all the worlds going round in effort… They are paying her in gold now, they give back all the debts, they save Bulkhead’s life…
It is just a few floors down left. She is so tired that she almost cannot see. She staggers when she goes on the ladder to another platform below. She faints all over again but she does not give in. The ropes are blue with energon from her palms and forearms and shoulders, which she uses to block and restrain the ropes against the overwhelming weight she need to lift down… down to safety. I will bring you home, she promises her friend in her mind and she does not look at Nemesis anymore. There is only one thing that she does. She survives and follows the chore. Like Sisyphus pushing his stone. Regardless everything. No matter what. She will worry later. She is so close…
Finally she hits the ground. She kisses the ground. They are both down there, they reached the target and she cannot even walk. She lies flat on her belly, with her cheek on Bulkhead’s great chest. She hardly vents and she does not really see. Blue energon stains everything around her.
A green-yellow circle of the groundbridge opens in front of them. Arcee hardly reacts, she has barely the strength to lift her head. The welcoming committee crosses the portal with light steps, relaxed as if on holidays. Altogether five Cons, including KnockOut, the medic.
She raises her head on her faint forearms really slowly as if this was the last effort she would ever make it her life.
“You had your fun… Fuckers...” she spits out before Megatron even chooses the proper winning grin on his already ironic face.
“You shall respect…” Starscream jolts towards her but is stopped by the powerful hand of his master gripping him by the arm.
Airachnid smirks viciously. “If you asked me, we can leave them here to die slowly and pray to their almighty Primus. It will be kinder than just to kill them directly not giving my friend Arcee here a chance,” Airachnid’s claw lands right under Arcee’s strained chin pinning into her protoflesh even before the lying femme manages to react at all. She tries to strike back, but everything she does is just too slow, the spider lady withdraws already, laughing in her face.
Megatron watches the scene amused, clearly letting them play and waiting for any satisfying reaction. Waiting for her… to ask for the promised reward? For her and Bulkhead's life? To beg him to set them free?...
Arcee’s eyes slip over Soundwave who stands a bit behind. Silent and motionless as usual. She has a feeling their gazes meet for a decimal of a nano-second. What are you staring at? She snaps in her thoughts and she makes a tremendous effort collecting all her remaining powers to raise herself from the ground in a very slow, hurtful movement.
“Very funny,” she utters and stands on her feet finally. Her body aches, her fingers, palms and arms are bleeding. “Doesn't a mech of honour keep his promise?” She measures Megatron with brave eyes, feeling her body to be weak but her spark cold and decided.
“Madame,” his voice is deep and considered. “With deepest regret I am forced to announce the promise null and void on formal grounds,” he smiles and his eyes shine a bit more red for a moment, it is hard to say if he is teasing her or is that her imagination "You cheated".
“What?” she asks and takes a step forward. “This is not how we agreed… You damn fucker…” weak or not, suddenly the rage overwhelms her and she throws her abused body towards him in a fierce attack. It is more than easy for him to dodge, but he does not even have to do that because Soundwave is there already grabbing her by both arms from behind, stopping her in half-a-jump and keeping her in place.
Starscream claps his hands in amusement, while Airachnid raises her optic ridge, clearly unhappy that she was not the first one to react.
“Soundwave, finish her,” Megatron says in a cool voice. “Or at least hold her back a bit. Whatever you choose. She is yours.”
“But...” Airachnid barks suddenly, enraged by the decision. “You said she’d be mine”...
“I said many different things,” Megatron waves her off. “One day, she will be yours… perhaps. But you have to admit she did well on that scaffolding. You would not do half of what she did, even with these webs of yours.” Airachnid withdraws as if kicked right in her spider belly while he continues. “Don’t tell me I’m wrong or I will make you try it yourself. With Knockout as the dead cargo load,” Knockout’s face becomes instantly pale and much longer than usual as his jaw drops visibly.
“What? You must be joking…” he utters at Megatron who ignores him.
“You fucking loser…” Arcee hisses and jolts again but Soundwave’s grip is made of steel. He pulls her closer to himself not to let her free and suddenly she realises that his body is touching her from behind, almost as if he were embracing her in a weird hug. It is warm and strong. His mask is just above her shoulder, she can almost feel him venting behind it… Surprised she feels the pulse of his energon in the tentacle that is pinning her to him and his spark rhythm radiating at her almost intangibly from his chest. The pulse is fast, as if he were running, completely out of sync with his cold composure. Not willing to admit it, her own spark speeds up and her tired body suddenly loses the rest of its powers leaning heavily on him, as if she could faint down any second.
“Yeah,” Airachnid’s sarcastic voice reaches her again, as if from the distance. “Sure, right, you leave her fainting in his arms. Now *he* is gonna have all the fun… So maybe we can go and watch them fuck from the screens of Nemesis,” she cannot contain her embitterment.
“You bitch…” Arcee spits out from her pitiful position, overwhelmed by the sudden feeling from Soundwave’s body and trying to regain her ground and stop leaning on him in such a helpless way.
“You heard the lady, may I kindly ask you to shut up, Airachnid,” Megatron’s voice is calm and distant. “Soundwave will do what he sees fit, and he may well fuck her if that is what he pleases,” the warlord smirks openly while she feels how her captor’s pulse jumps high for a short moment and the mask right behind her turns straight in Megatron’s direction.
“Time to get going. There is more serious business to attend to,” the warlord announces visibly amused. “Have fun, Soundwave, and see you in a bit.”
They walk off into a groundbride that opens next to them. KnockOut relieved, Starscream grinning, Airachnid pulling an angry face, reluctantly obeying the order.
Arcee has no more strength to stand straight on her own and she feels how her legs are betraying her. She collapses in slow motion hanging almost fully now in Soundwave’s arms, who does not move until the other Cons disappear and the groundbridge closes behind them. She feels the slenderbot's strong spark pulse just next to her and even if she doesn't want it, it floods her processor and records itself somehow in her memory banks. She knows - soaked in self disgust - she is sure, that this is something that she won’t easily forget…
He only lets her go when the others disappear. He loosens the grip gently and puts her on the ground at his feet. Then he kneels down on one knee, leaning close, just above her, for a short moment, and he seems to be watching her intensely from behind the visor. Again she has that strange feeling that if not for his mask, she would feel him breathing right onto her face. And that she would… *want* that to happen... She closes her eyes for a moment but the feeling of his closeness does not disappear. She opens them again.
They are left alone, save for Bulkhead in stasis, who hears nothing, sees nothing, says nothing. She does not know what to say herself. She does not know what is going to happen next. Is she now completely screwed, why did Megatron leave his most loyal officer with her, alone, to kill her, hurt her or keep her alive…?
The weak body receptors splash her with warnings, while Soundwave, after an endless moment of silence reaches for her hand, the same one he twisted badly just a moment before blocking her desperate attack against Megatron. He opens her bleeding fingers and puts something small in her palm. Then he closes her fingers around it and holds her small fist in his hand for a brief moment too long. She feels his warmth again and she stares at him, confused and dizzy, with wide open eyes not understanding anything.
“ ... you have to admit she did well on that scaffolding”
The record and the visual of Megatron’s voice plays across Soundwave’s mask reaching her hearing sensors all too well. Then he lets go off her completely and slowly walks off, not paying any attention to the still unconscious Bulkhead lying nearby. She follows him with her eyes, and she sees his slender, long arm-wings stained in the energon from her injured arms and hands. Her eyes glare as if she saw a ghost, a demon, an alien dragon, her spark is racing, pounding loud like a church bell and her energon is throbbing through her veins right into her eyes and her ears blurring the world around her.
“Soundwave, wait!” She wakes suddenly from her stupor and tries to get up from the wet, cold ground. He hesitates for a slight moment but finally doesn't look back though, heading straight into a new groundbridge open in front of him. She has an illusion that his head drops a bit down when he hears her, but it might only be a delusional impression of her stupid, exhausted and worn out system. Then he just vanishes through the portal, in the same moment as the sound of his name ceases to vibrate in the cold air around her.
The green yellow haze disappears and she remains alone. Only then she realizes that the wind is no longer blowing and the almost total silence allows to hear snowflakes that have just started falling from the heavy grey sky. The trees are high, the debris deep and the top of the radar scaffolding invisible in the fog that shields it...
A deep sigh escapes her chest. Still half lying on the ground, she slowly raises her hand in front of her eyes and opens her clenched fist. She looks at the two, now smeared in her blood, small objects that he left her. The communication transmitters that the Cons demounted from her and Bulkhead’s helms after they had caught them first. She glares at them blindly suspended for a few moments between the emptiness of her own soul and the white infinity of the falling snow. Then she sighs again and raises the hand slowly to her helm clicking the missing component back into place.
“Arcee to base”
“Arcee!! We thought we lost you,” Ratchet's voice cuts through the static. “You alive? Bulkhead with you?”
“Affirmative. I am fine. Bulkhead unconscious but alive. Requesting immediate groundbridge.”
“Roger that. One minute and we’re there. Am I glad to hear you!”
“Me too. Watch for the Cons, they were here a moment ago.”
“Are they gone? We’ll be careful. Hold on there. We're coming.”
“Yes, they seem to have left but you never can be too careful. Waiting for you. Over and out,” she disconnects and a feeling of sudden relief and sadness fills her exhausted body as she lies down and looks up at the sky. The snowflakes fall on her from above, one by one, from the dark cloudy sky, just to melt on her warm frame and the still heated, pulsing cheek plates.
…you have to admit she did well on that scaffolding.