Madness (AU one-shot)

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Prime_Directive, May 4, 2016.

  1. Prime_Directive

    Prime_Directive less than meets the eye

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    A/N: This is the first piece of writing I've published from the AU I've been developing for a while. If you ever read any of my past fan fictions Hellbound and Legion, it's related, but sort of a revised universe. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!

    *****​

    The winds rose as Hot Rod slipped onto the docks, as he had many times before. Fingers of rust and sand reached across the sky, blotting out silver moons and golden stars and the indigo heavens. Even under his heavy fiber cloak, he could feel gritty detritus in his finger and elbow joints. He took one last look at the sea of rust behind him, and then turned and headed into the city.

    All Nyon was quiet. With the oncoming storm, the whole city had retreated indoors. It was just as well; he wouldn't risk transformation until after an oil bath. He was young, only fourteen thousand solar cycles, but all the same, he'd seen the rust burn out transformation cogs more times than he would have liked. The way the eyes flickered, the chest heated up, and the smoke... the acrid, choking smoke was worst of all. Tread's burning cog had melted straight through his chestplate. Hot Rod remembered the way Tread's fingers dripped off as he tried to stuff molten slag back into his chest.

    He adjusted his hood, gazing up and down the seaside road. It had been a while, but this was his place, and he still remembered all the ways. Great black mountains of steel and chrome and glass rose up into the sky on either side as he proceeded down Street 453 toward the heart of the city.

    He'd been gone far too long. Boss would have expected him a decacycle ago. The gleaming city of Iacon had its charms, but the trouble at the borders had left a bad taste in his mouth.

    The old engex bar came up faster than he realized, and he turned left down an old alley. The skyscrapers closed in around him, reaching miles into the sky, but the feeling of claustrophobia he had felt when he first began no longer so much as touched his spark.

    What did weigh on his spark, however, was the news of Prime's death. Some said he had died at High Commander Megaton's hands, other said Zeta Major was responsible. Still others suggested Soundwave, Prime's all-knowing Director of Intelligence, but never said the words outright. And all this after the bombings in Iacon. Now Primes were popping up left and right. First Megatron, and then Zeta, and after him some clod called Grimlock. Alpha Trion had fled into exile after declaring for some Pax, and if the rumors were true, some had even tried to put Ultra Magnus forward. It would be war, Swerve swore. And Hot Rod was not sure he was wrong.

    There had always only ever been one Prime, since the days of Delta Prime, who overthrew the warlord Jhiaxus and united Cybertron under one banner. Those who held to the Thirteen said that Primus himself had proclaimed the law of One Prime, before the Matrix passed from Prima to Primon, at the beginning of the dark ages. Hot Rod did not hold to the Thirteen, but all the same, war was war, and the news brought a feeling of dread that weighed heavily on his spark.

    The alley turned east, and Hot Rod followed it for some time. It was even darker where the skyscrapers pressed close together, and clouds of rust drifted past his feet. He stopped in front of a sliding chrome door. It opened for him, and he descended a flight of steps to the underground levels.

    Beneath the shining surface, Nyon was a dull red-orange. The lights were a harsh white by day, but day was hours past. He emerged from a door onto Runner's Way. He looked up and down the street, finding it deserted. Most nights, the undercity would be abuzz with 'bots looking for their next shot of spiked engex, a battery of crysmag, or both. Not tonight, though. Everyone would be holed up in their homes until the storm passed. Day might come and go and come again before that happened, but until then, few would risk the rust.

    He didn't notice the other 'bot until they were within a few feet of each other.

    “Well, well,” a familiar voice said, “look what the turbofox dragged in.”

    “Swindle?” Hot Rod said.

    The other 'bot pulled back his hood, and Hot Rod found himself staring into those familiar gleaming violet optics. Swindle sported his usual smirk. Bits of rust floated down off one of the two square protrusions on either side of the top of his black head. He draped an arm over Hot Rod's shoulders and walked with him, back the way he had come from.

    “The boss has been worried about ya, y'know,” Swindle said.

    Hot Rod frowned, and forced himself not to cringe away from Swindle. “Why's that?” he asked.

    “You're awful late,” Swindle answered.

    Hot Rod shrugged. “Trouble in Iacon. I've got his Shanix, don't you worry.”

    Swindle guffawed. “Worry? Me? You've got me all wrong, buddy!” He stopped Hot Rod and looked him dead in the optic.

    “I've got another opportunity,” he said in a low voice. He glanced around, as if to make sure nobody was around to hear. “Megatron's gonna give us all new lives.”

    Hot Rod recoiled. “Megatron?”

    “Shh!” Swindle hissed, putting a thick finger to his mouth. “You don't want the boss to hear!”

    Hot Rod huffed. “What could I possibly want with a false Prime?”

    “False Prime? Pff! Just think about it, kid,” Swindle said as they began to walk again. “Swerve might be a Minicon, but he's right. It'll be war. Don't you wanna be on the right side?”

    Hot Rod shook his head. “I don't want to be on anyone's side.”

    “Oh, no, I getcha, kid. You an' me, we ain't fighters,” Swindle said, turning a palm up. They turned left at an intersection with another alley. Down and down they went. Even the usual red-orange night lights were off tonight. The power plant would be shut down due to the rust storm.

    “Thing is,” Swindle went on, “that don't matter. Let's you and me hightail it to Kaon. Megatron's gonna make a whole new world, and if we play our cards right, we start out on top of the new world order. Most of the military went with Megatron. In a few decacycles, it'll all be over, and we'll be on easy street for the rest of our lives.”

    They stopped right on cue, in front of an old iron door. “I dunno, Swindle.” The door swung open, and a bouncer Hot Rod didn't recognize waved him through.

    “Think about it,” Swindle said, smiling his slimy smile and disappearing down the alleyway.

    Hot Rod shrugged off his cloak and proceeded through a tarnished golden archway into a smoky, crowded room. Strains of strange, alien music drifted across the room. Hot Rod had to take care not to step on some tiny organics that crossed in front of him on their way to an equally-tiny bar on the other side of the room. Hot Rod waved to Bluestreak, the engex bartender, who was rubbing down some synthcrystal glasses with a fiber rag.

    A great cyan brute with no face to speak of and a single red optic stepped in front of him and grabbed him by the shoulder with a claw. “Boss been lookin' for ya.”

    “Yeah, thanks, Whirl,” Hot Rod said, shrugging him off.

    Boss himself, a heavyset black 'bot with red visor-optics, sat in one corner of the room, surrounded by as shady a crowd of Cybertronians and off-worlders as Hot Rod had ever seen. Hot Rod tapped a sequence of hidden buttons on his lower arm. A secret compartment popped out, and from it he produced a tiny cylindrical drive made of black carbon-fiber. He tossed it to the watching Boss, who caught it easily and flashed Hot Rod a thumbs up.

    Hot Rod passed through another archway and down a narrow staircase and found himself in a room lined with deep tubs sunk into the floor. He stopped at an empty one, third on the right side of the long, dim room, his usual, and lowered himself gingerly onto the ledge that circled the tub halfway down. He tapped some buttons, and oil rose up from a drain in the bottom of the tub, filling it almost to the rim.

    The bubbling warmth seeped into every joint, through every tiny gap in his armor, bathing every circuit and servo. He finally allowed himself to relax, sinking deep into the brown world beneath the roiling surface. Molecule by molecule, the grit and rust left him, carried up to the surface and sucked away through the drains around the oil's edge. Soon his fingers and elbows and shoulders could all move without giving the vaguest hint he'd been out in the rust sea at all.

    He switched off his optics, and envisioned Cybertron at peace, as it had been when he was born. In his mind, the great golden arena in Iacon was whole, and the racers sped around the track at blinding speeds, with himself leading the pack instead of sneaking around smuggling this or that. Sentinel Prime sat the High Seat of the Senate as he had for a million years, his white sword at his side. Megatron himself stood stark and striking above the armies of Cybertron in his flowing purple cape, leading them to countless victories as he always had.

    The illusion vanished as someone hefted Hot Rod up to sit on the submerged ledge, his head above the oil. The world flickered back into view, and Skids frowned down at him.

    Skids was broad-shouldered and wiry, with yellow optics and a narrow face framed by a blue helmet. Blue was his color now, Hot Rod could see. Last time, he'd been yellow, and before that, red, and before even that, green. Skids always refused to talk about his green phase. “I'd had word of your return,” he said, his Urayan accent surfacing.

    Hot Rod sighed. “Wood doesn't grow on Cybertron.”

    Skids pinched the bridge of his nose and shut his optic-shields. “Not the time.”

    “Sorry,” Hot Rod said, draping his arms around the rim of the tub. “Bluestreak told you?”

    Skids shook his head. “We heard before you even got out of the rust sea. Boss has his sources.”

    “I already gave Boss his money,” Hot Rod protested.

    Skids shook his head again. “Not what I'm here about.”

    Hot Rod knew then. The weight returned to his spark. “What then?”

    “Is it true?”

    Hot Rod hesitated, as if refusing to acknowledge it would make it a lie. “Yes,” he said, finally. “Sentinel Prime is dead.”

    Skids turned away, gazing down at the floor, his arms folded behind his back. “This is worse than I thought. The fighting's already begun. Kaon and Tarn have already declared for Megatron. And Decepticons have been sighted in Vos, Tesarus, and Helex as well. Hundreds might be dead already. All in the name of his new order.”

    “Decepticons?” Hot Rod repeated.

    “That's what they're calling themselves. Haven't you seen Zeta's holomessage?” Skids asked. When Hot Rod shook his head, Skids held out his palm, and a vision of Zeta Major's head appeared in the air above it.

    “Friends, Cybertronians,” Zeta said, “it is with grave sadness that I inform you of Sentinel Prime's untimely demise. Though we all mourn for his passing, the Senate has appointed me to take up his burden. Thus, it is my duty to inform you of the treason of Megatron. Conspiring with Grand Keeper Alpha Trion and members of House Pax, Megatron murdered Sentinel in his own home and attempted to usurp the Primacy for himself. Any groups or individuals found harboring Megatron or his... Decepticons... will be arrested for treason. Only together, as One, may we return the light to Cybertron. 'Til All Are One.” Zeta's hologram face disappeared.

    “He's accusing Alpha Trion of all people?” Hot Rod gaped.

    “Not just him, but this, ah, Orlean Pax,” Skids said. “Though why he would accuse the great and holy Keeper of the Matrix Flame of supporting a false Prime...” he shook his head again. “Dark times are ahead of us, Hot Rod. We should get out while we can.”

    Hot Rod remembered Swindle's words. “And go to Megatron?”

    Skids scoffed. “Of course not.”

    “Where then? To Alpha Trion? Zeta Prime?”

    “Off-world. Dai Atlas and the Circle of Light are leaving Cybertron, and offering passage to any who wish to join them. Don't take this the wrong way, Hot Rod. I'm not interested in their hokey religions. The truth is, I'm scared. Alpha Trion is mad, and Zeta is madder. But Megatron... Megatron is maddest of all.”