Trapped as an Autobot prisoner in a cell barely larger than himself, Megatron only had two things he could rely on: time, and his own processor.
Well, not entirely. Megatron had to give Shockwave credit. The spy had taken the precaution of assassinating the previous Trypticon prison warden, replacing her with a much less competent bot, one that preferred locking himself up in the security room doing sparks-knows-what to taking proper security measures. Shockwave had even tested him out by baiting some grounder that had been imprisoned by being falsely framed as a Decepticon spy into escaping. And if some random unimportant Autobot with little military training could escape, so could Megatron.
That was only the first step, however. Insect, or whatever his name was, had used his small size to his advantage, something Megatron did not have. He did have something else. The ninja-bot back on Earth had somehow managed to slip perfectly good stasis cuffs once. Realizing the importance of this, and recognizing that the insufferable pain in his landing gears was using much of the same techniques his occasional hired help did, Megatron had at some point inquired to Lockdown the secret--after paying a small fee of course.
Ah, what you’re describing is processor-over-matter. I can teach you the basics, for a price, but it takes many stellar cycles of practice. You’re a smart, determined mech though, and might be able to do it anyway. It might just take you a while longer and more focus than an expert in Circuit-Su such as myself.
Megatron had used his time and processor to do just that, slowly and sporadically working on the unmaintained, unchecked stasis cuffs over the last two stellar cycles he had been locked up in this pithole unworthy of his presence. Using the extent of his strength, he could break them open, but it would be useless if he could not get out of his cell.
And so, Megatron was forced to wait.
Tall, dark, and imposing, all jagged spires and corrosive corners, Trypticon Prison mirrored its inhabitants. Even its windows seemed to glare right at Optimus as the Steelhaven landed at the entrance to the maximum security prison. The setting was almost as intimidating as Sentinel’s bad mood, Trypticon’s angry facade reflecting Sentinel’s scowling face.
“I can’t believe my approval in the polls dropped and people want Ultra Magnus back. He should have retired stellar cycles ago,” said Sentinel. A flash of the electrostorm that always seemed to plague Kaon crackled across the sky, shadows of a dark future where that very thing had happened. “Maybe if he had, he wouldn’t be laid up in the infirmary on spark support. I mean, no one’s denying he was a great war hero, but the bot’s no first cycle protoform anymore. Better to leave leadership to the younger--and stronger.”
Optimus ex-vented wearily. “You mean like you, Sentinel?”
“Well if the tierod fits…”
The door to the hangar bay finally finished opening with a screeching protest, and the ship’s bright lights--one of Sentinel’s tacky “upgrades” when he claimed the Steelhaven for his own--drowned Trypticon’s architectural edges in contrasting shadows. This was a top secret mission taken during cover of nightfall. The Stunticons had come too close to freeing their leader, and so Megatron was to be secretly relocated to a special prison cell built under Fortress Maximus. Even if another Decepticon prison breakout were to occur and be successful, none of them would be able to find the warlord there. It was surprisingly well thought out, at least for Sentinel. Who knew, Optimus thought. Maybe he was learning.
The warden, a lanky, squinty-opticked, green bot with a noticeable overbite and the look of someone who had been interrupted doing something more important than overseeing the highest level prisoner of the Autobot Commonwealth, waddled into the oppressive lights of the ship--grimacing as though trying hard not to make his impatience noticeable--saluting both Sentinel and Optimus so quickly he had to do it a second time.
“Yes. Yes, hello, sirs! I must apologize, I was only informed of this via the extranet a few minutes before you landed. I was, um, ah, doing some…routine maintenance on the prisoners’ stasis cuffs,” the warden said with all the confidence of someone who had been doing precisely not that.
“Don’t worry,” Optimus tried to comfort the warden, extending his servo to shake only to withdraw it, realizing in embarrassment he had spent too long on Earth. Sentinel favored him with a little tch . “This is supposed to be as secretive as possible.” Optimus looked at the conspicuous, lit-up ship that was probably alerting half of Cybertron of its presence at Trypticon. “For the most part.”
A few of the small entourage of Autotroopers behind them couldn’t suppress chuckles. Sentinel, however, ignored the hint. “Is the prisoner ready for transport?”
The warden started to salute again, seemed to recall he’d already done so, and tried to pass off the half-aborted gesture as if he’d been wiping his forehead. “I didn’t have enough time to transfer the prisoner to holding safely before your arrival, so you’ll have to get him from his cell. Much apologies!”
Sentinel leaned chin-first into the anxious warden’s face. “This isn’t acceptable! You need to be prepared at all times and quicker to follow orders. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir, of course, sir! I’ll return to the security room and get out of your way immediately!”
Sentinel huffed and stood straight. “I expect better from the warden of Trypticon Prison. These inmates represent the worst the Decepticons have to offer. Everyone must exercise constant vigilance!”
“Sir, yes, sir!” spluttered the warden, snapping into a salute before scurrying off in the direction of his office. “I’ll uh, get right on that, sir!”
“Hey, wait a second I didn’t dismiss--!” Sentinel said, but the warden was already gone. Sentinel scowled. “I should have him court-martialed for insubordination.”
“Let it go, Sentinel.” Optimus was really hoping that their top-secret mission would stay top-secret and that wasn’t going to happen if Sentinel kept barking out the details at the top of his vocalizer.
Sentinel grumbled and recovered himself, brushing a speck of dust from his plating. “Come on, we’ve got a schedule to keep. Let’s retrieve the prisoner and get out of here.”
Megatron and the other high-level prisoners were kept in the upper levels, close to the central guard station. Mini-Cons swarmed around Optimus and Sentinel’s pedes, beeping to one another in their strange dialect as they zipped about, seemingly oblivious to the larger bots in their midst. Sentinel eyed them with distaste but said nothing as they made their way down the hall where the Decepticon High Command had been imprisoned. Optimus found himself relieved that Sentinel displayed enough sense to keep his mouth shut for once. The last thing they needed was another diplomatic incident, particularly since the last one had ended with the Bhulians pelting the acting Magnus with their excrement.
Their presence did not go unnoticed. Shockwave turned to look as they passed, that single, baleful optic glowing crimson, his antennae twitching. Lugnut’s engine rumbled so loudly that the walls buzzed; fortunately he had his mouth literally gagged shut from the last time the Autobots had attempted to interrogate any of them.
Megatron raised his head at their approach, optics fixing unerringly on Optimus with a stare that promised bodily injury and untold property damage. Optimus didn’t allow himself to feel unnerved though, glaring back. Stripped of the cloak of bogeyman legend that typically surrounded him, Optimus found that he despised Megatron, this petty, cruel creature that slaughtered and manipulated without remorse, that had visited destruction upon a planet of innocent beings in revenge over what amounted to a misunderstanding. Revenge that had resulted in Prowl’s deactivation.
Optimus felt himself droop slightly. As much as he wanted to blame Megatron entirely for Prowl being gone, he couldn’t help but feel that it was mostly a failure on his part as leader to keep his teammate safe. His processor stalled and his optics averted, tuning out Sentinel’s pontificating at the warlord, failing to notice that Megatron was in no way paying attention to the acting Magnus. Fortunately, Sentinel didn’t notice either, averting another one of his angry rants.
“--know that any attempts to escape or attack will be met with deadly force.” said Sentinel, indicating the squadron behind them. “Now if you’ll just come quietly…” Sentinel stepped up to the scanner on the side of Megatron’s cell and pressed a servo confidently against it. A small beep, a blue light flashed and the door to the cell slid open. No doubt Sentinel had made sure to update all security protocols with his energy signature.
Megatron rose, his movements sluggish from the stasis cuffs. Behind them, the Autotroopers stirred and Optimus heard the disquieted clicking of weapons being checked and rechecked. Megatron scanned across the squadron briefly before turning his gaze back to Optimus.
Megatron smiled, and Optimus’s tank dropped out.
“Weapons!” Optimus shouted, unsheathing his axe, but Megatron was already on him, stasis cuffs clattering to the floor. He batted Optimus’s axe aside bare-servoed and went for his throat, hoisting Optimus up and slamming him against the door to Blitzwing’s cell. Static flashed across Optimus’s vision and his processor spun. Optimus braced himself for another processor-rattling blow, but instead, to his surprise, Megatron ripped the axe from his servos, flipped the stasis cuffs up from the floor with a pede and caught them in his own servos, before snapping them on Optimus’s own.The cuffs were maximum security grade, designed to subdue a mechanism as large as Lugnut, and they did their job perfectly. Optimus fell to the floor, as limp and useless as the cuffs had been a nanoclick ago.
The Autotroopers appeared to have recovered from their surprise and opened fire, plasma bolts flying wildly and bouncing off the doors to the other cells. The Decepticons in them were cheering loudly, including Lugnut, even if you could only make out the mumbles of praise.
It wasn’t entirely unwarranted. Megatron went through the squadron of Autotroopers like a battering ram, swatting bots left and right. Megatron snatched up Sentinel, who had stumbled backwards towards the door in shock, groping for the alarm switch.
Optimus’s spark leapt in terror, certain that Sentinel was scrap. No, no no not this again. Not again . Not another one.
Unexpectedly however, Megatron instead turned with a snarl and mashed Sentinel up against the door of Blitzwing’s cell, almost as if he was--
The door slid open. Of course, Optimus thought, weary. All the security protocols.
Megatron wasted no time in snapping Blitzwing’s cuffs before shoving Sentinel into his hands. “Free our Decepticon brothers,” he said. “I will procure us a ship. Anyone not aboard it when we launch will be left behind.”
Blitzwing’s angry mode made its entrance. “We should eliminate these worthless Autobots who think they can defy us!” Random then interrupted with a giggle, juggling Sentinel in the air. “The walls could use a repaint~!”
“Don’t bother,” Megatron rumbled, strangely quiet. “They are not worth the effort and we must leave before there is a lockdown. Get Lugnut out immediately. We will need his power if that happens.”
Don’t bother? thought Optimus. Don’t bother, as though killing Autobots was an inconvenience that would delay their escape. Megatron certainly hadn’t cared about delays when he was pitching Optimus through the constructed spacebridge on Earth, or stopping to destroy half of Detroit as a test-drive for his Lugnut Supremes.
Optimus’s helm clanged against Megatron’s back as he was hoisted over the warlord’s shoulder, narrowly missing having it impaled on the spiked pauldrons. Unsurprisingly, Megatron did not feel the same attachment to his Earth mode that Optimus did, and had reverted to his original root mode as soon as possible.
Wait… why hasn’t there been a lockdown yet? Surely the Warden would have noticed Sentinel getting pummeled by Megatron.
Blitzwing giggled, opening Lugnut’s cell before skipping down the hall, smashing Sentinel against every scanner within reach. In his excitement, Lugnut used all the strength afforded to him by the stasis cuffs to stumble and flop outside of his cell, wiggling on the ground at Megatron’s feet. Optimus heard the crunch of heavy warframe pedes smashing the stasis cuffs binding Lugnut. There seemed to be some hesitancy in removing the gag though.
“-REAT AND GLORIOUS ME-”
“Lugnut, mute your vocalizer. Try to locate our weapons.”
“At once, my lord!”
Megatron picked up the gag that had been in Lugnut’s mouth, then tossed it to Blitzwing, who caught it expertly. “Use this to keep that imitation Magnus quiet.”
Sentinel managed to look more scandalized than frightened. “Don’t you dare put that on mMMPH!”
“Grounders are prettier when they’re quiet,” said Blitzwing’s Icy personality, before his face spun wildly. “Hush little Autobot, don’t say a word, Megatron’s going to buy you a one-way trip to the smelting pit!” Random cackled. Sentinel somehow still managed to make enough noise to be heard, squirming and fidgeting in Blitzwing’s hands as best he could. Optimus wasn’t sure, but it looked like Sentinel was ineffectively trying to bash Blitzwing’s armor in with his chin.
The small crowd of now-free Decepticons made its way out with no effort to be stealthy or quiet, Megatron among them while Lugnut slumbered off, searching for his and his master’s weapons. At least the Decepticons granted Optimus the small mercy of not taunting him, leaving Optimus to get intimately acquainted with Megatron’s back in relative peace as they charged through the prison, the Trypticon warden nowhere in sight.
The Steelhaven shone like a quasar in the dark, a giant and glitzy invitation for the cons to take over. Just as he had predicted, Optimus was certain he saw one or two journalists flitting back to cower into the shadows. For once he was grateful for Sentinel’s lack of subtlety; hopefully the Autobot military would be arriving promptly.
The Steelhaven’s cargo hold was standing wide open, a perfect, Decepticon-sized, entrance leading up into the belly of the ship. Megatron thundered up the ramp, bearing a hard right and ducking through a door. “To the bridge!” he shouted behind him.
Optimus really hoped that the Steelhaven had some of the same security protocols in place as the prison cells, but no such luck. Megatron seated himself in the captain’s chair with only a little less than his usual dignity, and let Optimus fall beside it in an undignified heap. From the floor, Optimus could only just glimpse the command screen for the ship’s computer leaping to life beneath Megatron’s servos with a cheerful and entirely-too-helpful: Input Destination?
“Escape protocols!” Megatron barked.
Escape protocols: activated.
Blitzwing, clearly the fastest of the fugitives, skidded to a halt beside the command chair, Sentinel still scruffed in his grip like one of those recalcitrant fluffy organic creatures that Optimus had seen digging up the flower beds of one old woman near the warehouse. “Do you require the little would-be Magnus, Lord Megatron? Or should I snuff his spark?”
Sentinel’s optics went wide and his wriggles took on renewed vigor.
Again,that strange pause. Megatron actually seemed to be hesitating. “No,” he said finally. “I do not require him. Toss him out the airlock like the piece of slag he is.”
Blitzwing’s Icy persona looked a bit puzzled, “The airlock, but I could just--” but then Random intervened. “Tehee, great idea. Time to take out the trash!” Blitzwing disappeared with Sentinel in tow. Arguing echoed from the corridor; it sounded as if Shockwave was trying to bribe Blitzwing in the hall for the honor.
The ship’s engines roared to life and the deck lurched beneath them, sending Optimus rolling across the bridge like the sack of spare bolts he had been treated like until now. The ship rose, nearly scraping the roof of the hangar bay, before rocketing forward at breakneck speed. Buildings rose with frightening suddenness before the viewscreen and Optimus braced for impact, but then the autopilot kicked in and sent them spiraling up into the sky. A few stray plasma bolts bounced off the exterior, pinging warnings in the computer, but none of the few, sluggish Autobot ships that had risen to stop the escape could challenge the Steelhaven in the air. In less than a megacycle, Megatron had escaped from the strongest prison on Cybertron with all his lieutenants, kidnapped Optimus, and commandeered the fastest, most deadly ship in the in the Aubot navy, barring Omega Supreme.
Slag it all, Optimus thought as Trypticon Prison dwindled through the viewscreen. Some hero he turned out to be.
GENERAL COURT MARTIAL ORDER
FOURTH CYCLE 013
In the general court-martial case of former Trypticon prison warden, designation Slipshot, 000-844-936 Autobot Army, Division B, Kaon, for the charge of dereliction of duty, namely leaving his duly appointed post without being properly relieved, permitting the escape of dangerous prisoners, and consumption of illegal and immoral material during the abandonment of said post, the sentence of public reprimand and dishonorable discharge from the Autobot military forces will be executed.
BY ORDER OF SENTINEL MAGNUS [ACTING]:
/ signature /
Trypticon Prison Warden