Spurned and Burned
Arcee draped her slender, delicate frame across Ultra Magnus' desk while the city commander watched news and scrutinized one digipad after another. He compared seven specific pads against one another like a scientist comparing mold specimens.
Bored with her lover's devotion to duty, Arcee picked up one of the pads and tried to tease him out of it. But all he did was move her whole form to get the pad. Magnus did not even respond to her light giggle.
The commercial break ended and anchorman Earl Janowitz started with a greeting. Magnus listened in as he checked Mirage's schedule.
CBS learned early this morning of a video smuggled off Mars and brought back to Earth via a supplies run to the mines on the red planet. The video, which comes from an unknown source, depicts the voice of Amerello Martinez, a native Cambodian who is said to have volunteered to work on Mars three months ago.
We warn you, however, the sounds you are about to hear are a little disturbing."
A short video, partly scrambled with lines and static glowed on Magnus' screen. Some poor Human soul whispered while screams echoed from the background. "Can you hear that?" The voice, clearly accented in Spanish, choked with tears. "Yeah. They say it's a madness caused by poisoned gas. They-they always scream first. They always scream and then the skeleton is all that's left. They say gasses killed all those people. It's not the truth. We're mining rock. We're being murdered."
A clicking-shuffling followed the rasping whisper. A few more screams followed before the transmission failed.
Janowitz's face came back to view. His expression attempted a neutral-grave as though the reporter himself were affected by the disturbing voice and sound.
"Unfortunately, we are currently unable to verify the authenticity of the recording ..."
Arcee sighed impatiently and stretched like a cat roused from a nap. "Magnus," she pouted, "Is it possible for you to take an itty bitty break?"
He did not move from the tablets Arcee lolled her head side to side. She heard Roddi's name mentioned and returned her attention to the televisor:
"Contracts for the mining facility authorized by Autobot leader Rodimus Prime, do not stipulate compliance with the press. In other words, Iridic Enterprises is free to not answer to any law enforcement either from Earth or Cybertron."
Janowitz voiced over the video of an autobot femme.
"We contacted the Cybertron Council and Council member Solara offered her input: "We were completely unaware of the loopholes left in the negotiation process between Rodimus Prime and Iridic Enterprises."
Janowtiz's face appeared momentarily, "Counselor Solara, would you consider those Humans and Autobots on Mars as prisoners of the mining company?"
"Prisoner' seems a bit much of a word, Mister Janowitz. For all we know, the recording could be a prank." Solara regarded the Human reporter with no more interest than if he were a crack in a wall.
"That's a fairly serious prank, Counselor, Especially since communications-as promised by the CDA and Alpha Trion in particular-have yet to be established. According to our data, another twenty-three thousand people from Nigeria and the Ukraine have already left for Cybertron where they will be briefed and trained. Is there anyway to bring them back home?"
That's a very good question, Mr. Janowitz. And I wish I had an answer for you. But all that is completely out of Council hands. We're tied by the contract."
The reporter turned the news back to the station anchor. "Thank you, Earl. Is there any news from Metroplex?"
"Girty, the unfortunate thing is, that Rodimus Prime himself was brutally attacked by a group of unknown parties and cannot answer any calls at this time."
The lady anchor nodded sadly. "Very troubling times. All right. Thanks, Earl."
Arcee rolled over and moaned. "Oh, please. They act like Rodimus is just going to die or something. Pffp. Must be wishful thinking."
Magnus shut the news off and rose from his desk, now facing the window overlooking his town.
Was it even his town now?
Arcee sat up and proffered herself in a provocative pose. Her devilish smile reflected off the window. "What's on your mind, my dear?"
Magnus hesitated. Telling her anything meant Trion would eventually know about it too. Come to think on it, that's how it's been from day one. Trion knew everything whether Magnus wanted him to or not. "I have really slagged things up."
"Awe. You shouldn't be so hard on yourself. You didn't cause the problems on Mars."
"It's not that, Arcee."
She slid off the desk and sidled up to him. "You are the best at what you do," she cooed. "And you're my hunky hero." she tried to pry asunder his folded arms but the city commander remained unmoved. Arcee knew better than to push him. "So ... tell me, my sweet, what's bothering you?"
Magnus shook his head. Not that Arcee had a right to know. She baited him. Magnus severely berated himself for failure to notice before. She used him. The game was over, he decided. Optimus was missing. Kup had not contacted him in several hours. Rodimus' attackers were not found.
And now the city commander stood in his office, unmasking Arcee's true nature. It was time. "I was wrong. I should never have fought with Rodimus. I should have supported him." he looked at her with borderline annoyance. "Instead of pursuing my own interests."
"heh," Arcee turned and leaned against the window. She tired to sweet-face the city commander into forgetting business and tend to her. But Magnus' somber, self-recriminating mood would not bend. "I'd not worry about Rodimus, my dove. Whatever mess he's gotten into, he'll find a way out. He always does."
"Mm." Magnus stared across the city before reversing his visuals upon Arcee's faint reflection on the window. "Did you love him, Arcee?"
It took her a moment to realize what he asked. Her mouth dropped. "Ultra Magnus-"
"Just answer the question." he said sternly, "Did or do you love him?"
"No!" Arcee stepped away, disgusted. "Rodimus Prime is all about duty and responsibility. It leaves no room for-why are you looking at me like that? I'm telling you the truth!"
"It's a half-truth." Magnus sadly corrected. "Don't think for a second I'm ignorant of your flirtations with other Autobots especially Prime."
Guilt colored her bland and the femme shrugged. "Yeah. Okay. So sue me for being attracted to him. But that's not the same thing-"
"Ohh!" Magnus frowned, facetious. "It's alright to go behind my back and make advances to another mech, but Primus forbid that you love me enough to think how I might feel about it."
Arcee scoffed. "I never had you pinned as the jealous sort."
"I was considering asking your hand, Arcee. But then I realized everything about you is a ploy. You're not here because you love me but to keep me distracted. Did you ever try to flirt with Optimus?"
"WHAT?! WHY would I be interested-even remotely with someone who's no more alive than a rock?"
Magnus turned partly away. His frown deepened. "I wouldn't put it past you, Arcee."
"I've seen you with Sunstreaker. Blades, Pretensor. Twin Twist." he held her gaze, his optics declared her guilty but the femme lifted her chin, defiant of his charges. "So," Magnus continued, "How am I supposed to believe you when you cuddle up and declare your love? Why should I NOT believe you're just your father's pawn used to reward good behavior in others and distract me-and worse-cause a rift between me and Rodimus Prime?"
Her countenance shifted to wordless disbelief. "After all those sweet nights, just you and I and all the times we've shared you doubt my love for you?"
"I doubt your love because of your lack of devotion and honesty, Arcee. As it stands, I am not asking your hand and I will not be seeing you again until I get this business with Rodimus and Mars cleared up. So if you'll excuse me, I have business to attend."
Magnus turned his back to her and sorted through digipads he picked up from Optimus' unoccupied office. He felt her stare and resisted the temptation to check. Without another word, he left her alone and departed for Roddi's office.
Arcee watched him go, baffled and confused. Her optics fell upon his vacant chair and took it as an indication of her future. The femme abandoned his office, though she did not know where to go. Coldness swept through her as she waited for the elevator. She spent so much time with Magnus during the last three years she lost contact with her friends.
She did love Rodimus.
She loved Magnus.
What was to become of her now?
The elevator opened and Arcee met her father.
He did not smile. "Where have you been?"
"Is he in his office?"
"Why aren't you with him now?"
"He-he b-he broke up with me."
Trion stared hard at her. "Primus, Arcee, can't I entrust anything to you?"
She felt small and very used. "I did everything you asked! I just can't believe he broke up with me."
"Did he say why?" The look of contempt on her father's face made Arcee feel worse.
"He said he didn't trust me-"
"Oh, that's great, Arcee. Nice job. You were supposed to keep him distracted."
"I've done everything you asked. Why are you treating me like this? I loved Magnus and he doesn't want to have anything-"
"Get an upgrade, Arcee. When people say they love you it means you have something they want. And if what you say is true, then you might as well head back to Cybertron. I'll find someone else to do the job."
She caught Trion as he stepped away. "Wait a minute! I'm your daughter, not some tool! You asked me to entertain your friends and-and you used me as some sort of prize for your pet troublemakers and ... and you want to replace me?"
He yanked his arm with disdain. She slapped him and when he did not flinch, she slapped him again then departed. Arcee never spoke to him again.
Magnus couldn't leave fast enough. To be honest, it hurt to cut her off. But Magnus knew any ties to Trion jeopardized everything he hoped to accomplish. First, Magnus had to warn Rodimus. Next, Magnus hoped to find a way to communicate with Cyclonus without rousing suspicion. In the meantime, Magnus waited for Springer's return trip from Mars. Unfortunately, that won't be for another six hours.
Magnus sneaked and squeezed his way along a number of back doors through the city. He arrived at Medbay through a doorless wall. Undiscovered, he slipped into an unused elevator. Never had the city commander imagined using secret passages and emergency exits to hide from his own peers but he was glad such things and places existed in Metroplex. Magnus patched into the elevator's hidden compartment and downloaded patient files.
There. Rodimus: room 112, under strict security and house arrest. The information did not include what charges. Magnus had no power to bail Roddi out of that jam. But Rodimus would tell him not to worry; he'd get out on his own.
Magnus emerged from the back section of the EDC cafeteria. He maneuvered between pantries, dangling cooking articles and the refrigeration unit. Amazing, even to him, the city commander did not make much noise. He emerged into the cafeteria and froze upon the sound of an odd cackle.
"My son, Robert, he was the easy child. I had only two days of labor with him. But you know, he loved to sit right on my bladder! The little devil that he was."
"My goodness." Martha moaned.
Magnus moaned inwardly and pressed across the room. The eyes of two older women shot him with suspicion. One lady blushed at the cheeks and turned toward a painting. Magnus offered the one lady still staring a cheesy grin and continued out.
As he bulldozed toward Roddi's room amid nurses and workers, the commander realized security detail entailed delicate handling. As long as Magnus did not have to spar with Sixshot, things would go smoothly.
To Magnus' relief, there was security: Twin Twist.
The Jumpstarter hopped off his perch at the nearby comm counter. "Sorry, commander. Alpha-T says no visitors."
Magnus kept his voice even, "I'm not a visitor, Twin Twist. I'm here on business."
"Don't matter." Twist snubbed, "Alpha-T was very strict-g'k!'
Magnus gripped the annoying hot-tempered Autobot. "I know you spy for hm, Twist. But let me make this a bit clearer. Shut your trap, step aside or you'll end up with re-arranged thrusters." He dumped the traitorous punk into a nearby chair and tried the door.
"What's that?" Twist egged. He produced a glowing key. "Golly, Mr. City Commander, Sir. You don't' seem to have permission or access."
Magnus stared at the gloatatious Jumpstarter. He approached Twin Twist one menacing step at a time. His shadow blocked the upper hallway lighting from Twin Twist's visage and now, the Jumpstarter no longer smiled.
Magnus did not bother grabbing the key.
Magnus did not bother with asking permission.
Two bed covers + two curtains + a handy pair of energy cuffs + one annoying Autobot = a new package for the laundry chute.
Except that Twin Twist's bonded, bounded, blinded bundle did not fall all the way down the chute. Two stories down, the oversize Autobot ball caught in the smaller throat and he hung there, suspended.
Lesson learned? Magnus asked himself. Not likely. After all, if hanging out to dry by Optimus Prime taught the Jumpstarter nothing, then certainly nothing Magnus did left an impression on him, either.
I managed a little sleep. But weird dreams kept me from any real rest. Commotion outside my room woke me in the early evening. I figured Twin twist harassed a hospital worker. He certainly enjoyed waking me often enough and when I get out of this little predicament, I plan to find Twin Twist the worst assignment in the furthest part of the known territories.
And he will be there permanently.
The door reluctantly opened and of all faces, it had to be Magnus'. A sloppy grin lifted my mood. He balked at my physical condition. "Don't give me that stare, Magnus. You've seen me look worse."
He approached with a sigh and drew his gun. "Seems Alpha Trion finally put you where he's wanted you all along, Rodimus."
"Wait," I called. "Wait. No, Mags. This-as much as I hate it, this is necessary."
"To buy us time."
Confused/annoyed, Magnus glowered. "What is it with you and Optimus that you feel it necessary to use yourselves as a bargaining chip?"
"It's in my job description, Ultra Magnus. Look,
you need to get a communique to Cyclonus. Frequency-"
"Rodimus, this is ridiculous! I am not-"
"Are you listening to me?! For once, just pretend that I'm in charge, okay? I found Op's little bunker, Magnus. The CDA has their militia here. They're here and if we're to survive, you must get help and Cyclonus is the only option we have."
Magnus stared, unable to decide. "You want us to form a forbidden alliance with the Decepticons?"
"Do you have a better idea?" I asked in return.
Magnus bowed his head, defeated. "I suppose not. I've lost contact with Kup and Springer. My office is bugged. Arce ..."
"Magnus. Mags! The frequency is subspace point two seventeen. My personal code is Gazelle 1776. Okay?"
Magnus chilled. "Rodimus, why are you giving me-"
I yanked against the bonds. I'd rather be chased down and tortured than to be bound like a dog. I succumbed to the chains and growled, frustrated. "Don't let me down, Magnus. Don't leave Metroplex in the hands of those blood sucking piranha. Just, just go. Just go while we still have a marginal chance."
The familiar clong of Trion's brute squad boomed in both our audio sensors. I nodded toward the wall. "Best do that disappearing act, Mags."
"I don't like the idea of leaving you alone." he objected.
"Oh yeah?" I bit. "Who will mind the store if we're both locked up? GO! And call Cyclonus! Don't do a damn thing else until you've done that. Now GO!"
I watched Ultra Magnus utilize a special panel to access the city's shifting mechanisms. The wall folded twice and slid into the floor. He slipped through the pocket and disappeared into darkness. The wall closed just as Notch stomped in.
"What happened to Twin Twist?"
"Beats me," I shrugged. "I've just been hanging here." He fixed suspicious optics at me, knowing I was lying. "What?" I bit.
He glared and opened a comm channel. "Swiss, we have a little problem."
Magnus arrived at ground level disembarking from the same snug elevator. He stepped into an under-level parking lot and produced a subspace-connector data tablet. Magnus punched in Roddi's code and scrambled it so the transmission jumped to a different, random pad so as not to be traced. From the random location, the message left Earth through unused Autobot subspace frequencies-a frequency, Magnus hoped, would land in Decepticon communications.
A clamourous thunking stomp caused the city commander to freeze-he knew that annoying arrogant gait, though he'd heard it only nine other times.
"I was told to come look for you, Ultra Slaggus. Mind explaining yourself, or do I get to bitch-slap it out of you?"
Magnus faced Sixshot. "What do you know? Looks to me like Trion let you out to pee earlier than usual. I just wish you'd not do it in my yard."
"Are you threatening me? I don't like threats. Better see to it you can back it up, Mr. City Commander."
"You're not worth the effort, Sixshot. Not when Trion still holds your leash. Did he feed you a Milkbone when you stood up and begged, or did he feed you a Gains Burger?" Sixshot took one step forward and Magnus lost his straight face. "Hah! I'm-I'm sorry, Six. I was just thinking of a few names Rodimus rattled off about. Speaking of whom, he might fit you into his schedule some time next week. The two of you can play Connect Four or something equally as safe and simple."
Magnus wondered how far he'd have to take it before Sixshot lost his cool. The Decepticon transformed to wolf mode and leapt. Magnus anticipated the move and drop-rolled under the brute.
Sixshot landed gracefully and scampered around for a second attempt.
Magnus, already in automode, headed out the parking lot into early daylight. He took a sharp corner and just slipped between two other Autobots racing the opposite way.
Sixshot lost no footing. He pounded the flooring then leapt onto two moving Autobots in car mode and launched off them. Even with his mighty jump, Sixshot still missed Magnus by a hair's width.
Magnus accelerated and took an on-ramp, heading north. Metroplex was his town and if Sixshit wanted to play rough, Magnus felt it his prerogative to teach him how to do so properly.
The city commander barreled through four cross streets, barely passing under yellow lights. His opponent clawed the ground five miles shy of Magnus' speed. But Sixshot was not deterred. By the second street light, the Decepticon via doggie mode abandoned the road for walkways and avoided pedestrians by leaping along walls, flying over their heads or deftly darting around them.
The fifth stop light fronted an overpass leading to one of Metroplex's main power storage facilities. Magnus poured on the speed, transformed and used the acceleration of speed to carry him to the bridge. He grasped a light pole, swung around and just as Sixshot caught up, Magnus dropped his entire weight on the Decepticon's head.
Sixshot's frame caved under Magnus but only long enough for the 'Con to shift to car mode. Sixshot burned for the overpass and knocked Magnus off. But the Autobot wasn't going to be bested by an amateur warrior. The city commander slipped off, but held tightly to the Decepticon's backside bumper. Magnus ignored the scrapes and cuts the road delivered as Sixshot dipped into the city's second level.
"Got you by the gonads, Ultra Jackass. Good thing they're small; make them easier to crush!"
Sixshot sank into a tunnel leading to the city's water mains. Magnus counted the number of break lines in the road, waiting for the next manhole to appear.
Ten seconds. He dared not miss it; the next one did not come for another two point eight four nine miles. There! Magnus lifted his foretoe and cracked the lid (and his foot) just as he encountered it.
It really wasn't a brilliant idea. Sixshot's racing form yanked him and Magnus heard and felt every component in his body crack and strain under the tugging force.
It was rough enough for Magnus but Sixshot yelped when a chunk of him broke off. He slipped into robot form and rolled several yards before smacking into the tunnel hallway. Three cars swerved between he and Magnus and one car came painfully close to impacting the other two.
Magnus internally ordered Metroplex to divert all roads for the next five miles. He stomped toward Sixshot as the tall Decepticon popped kinks out of his joints and shook off fragments. "Not bad," Sixshot taunted. "Now, it's my turn."
He flew up, transformed to wolf mode, clawed along the ceiling and just as he aimed for Magnus, the Decepticon shifted to jet and tried to ram into Magnus' face. But Magnus pre-retaliated with a power punch. He clocked Sixshot who smashed into the nearby wall.
Unfazed, Sixshot switched to tank mode and fired. He missed Magnus by one seventh of an inch.
The aftershock kicked Magnus off his feet.
Magnus ducked. But the bolt zapped the light array and cast them into darkness.
The bolt flashed and disrupted Magnus' visual receptors. Magnus transformed and bore down Sixshot's direction at top speed. He flipped his shoulder rockets backward and fired them to give him extra acceleration.
Sixshot fired again and blew out Magnus' left tire, but Magnus had enough momentum that even as he skid along solid metal, he shifted back to robot mode and kicked Sixshot up. The tank mode rocked up and tipped. Magnus crunched his right shoulder into Six's underside then fired his left shoulder rocket when the Decepticon landed upside down.
Sixshot transformed to robot and started to shift to car mode when Magnus kicked him yet again. The 'Con landed in a hard skid, igniting a shower of dizzying sparks. He rebounded in wolf form and catapulted off the tunnel wall. Magnus tried to shield with his left arm in order to call his weapon from subspace.
The weapon did little good. The six-changer rammed head and shoulders into Magnus' lesser-protected mid section just under the grid plates.
Magnus bucked backward. He struggled to roll before Sixshot attempted to bite his face off. Magnus caught the wolf jaws with both hands and held the Decepticon's head at bay but it left him defenseless against the claws.
Sixshot dug deeply into Magnus' thighs and shredded his chest, piecing past the chest plating. Magnus managed to get his right knee up and pushed hard enough for a shoulder roll. He landed on top of Sixshot and immediately slipped his hands from the canine's maw to its neck and squeezed.
Sixshot growled and transformed to robot form. From there, he shifted to jet. "No free rides, Ultra Fragnus!" the Decepticon blew through the tunnel to an outside world crowded with figures standing at safe distances.
Magnus wanted to end the fight correctly: with one of them dead. He produced an electro-knife and stabbed Sixshot's starboard wing.
Sixshot roared and flipped upside down. But exterminating the city commander was not that simple. The Decepticon dropped onto a nearby freeway, still flying belly-up. "I've always liked a good head-on collision-especially if it's someone else's head-like your's, Ultra Gagnus!"
"Not going to happen." Magnus snarled. "I'm going to end this if I have to take you apart a piece at a time!"
They flew into traffic. The first would-be casualty: a Snap-On truck. Sixshot bragged, but Magnus paid no mind. He sank the electro knife deeper into the 'Con's wing and at the last second, the city commander forced all his weight and might hard to port so that it forced Sixshot's flight path, missing the white truck by a safe sixteen inches.
Sixshot growled and had to use his landing thrusters to avoid collision with an off-ramp.
Magnus shoved the knife into Sixshot's hydraulics. Sixshot screamed and swung up. He spiraled twice, rising further and further into the atmosphere.
The air frosted Magnus' hide but undeterred, he dug deeper into the wing until he sliced completely down. Sixshot bled freely, his wing rattled. The Decepticon yielded to the pain and dropped altitude, falling freely toward the fields outside Metroplex.
Magnus yanked the knife up, intending to slice the wing clear off. Even if the Decepticon crashed and Magnus did not survive, at least the city commander died with the satisfaction that he'd take more than a fair chunk out of his enemy.
The wing fell apart and Sixshot lost control and smashed into soft, dark earth. The two robots left a long deep trench in the ground, some of which smouldered.
Magnus released his opponent. Sixshot transformed and tackled. Magnus rolled with it until he gained footing. He forced the taller 'Con off then rolled when Sixshot drew his weapon and fired.
By the third shot, Magnus regained his footing and returned the tackle. Six caught him, however, spun once and kneed Magnus in the middle before delivering an upper cut. Magnus dropped with it then kicked Sixshot off his balance.
The Decepticon rolled backward as Magnus hauled out his gun. He shot off one finger, then another.
"GGG-AAAGGH! WHAT THE FRAGGING SLAG ARE YOU DOING?!" Sixshot shook his hands now bleeding.
Magnus answered with another shot to the shoulder and repeated the process until the Decepticon turned wolf and jumped. Magnus kept grip on his weapon and shot off Sixshot's tail.
Sixshot turned to car mode.
Dodging left, right and a leap over the top, Magnus blew out one tire, then another. He shot out a door and the third tire.
Sixshot shifted to tank.
Magnus used missiles and blew him off his tracks.
Sixshot shifted back to jet to utilize his own rocket launchers. Magnus shot off the other wing.
Six shot to robot mode.
They wrestled. Magnus tore off a hand, an audio receptor, a finger.
Six shot to wolf.
Magnus removed both wings and an ear.
Magnus walked away, leaving the ground littered with Decepticon body parts. And the city commander made sure 'Humpty Dumpty' could never be put back together again.
Not neat nor clean, but effective.
Due to damage of his own, Magnus walked fifteen miles back to Metroplex. Waiting at the main south side entrance stood Alpha Trion, his personal body guards and Dispatch, head of security from Equinox City, Cybertron.
"Ultra Magnus," Equinox declared. "You are hereby under arrest for the murder of Sixshot, appointed security officer to Metroplex. Comply quietly or we will destroy you where you stand."