[Rated PG for some sci-fi action]
1. Ironhide (G1/Aligned Continuity)
2. Ratchet (G1/Aligned Continuity)
3. Shockwave (Animated/Aligned Continuity)
It is midday, but the tunnels of the sewer system are dark and humid. Summer rains had filled the subterranean canals, and torrents of runoff rush beneath the outskirts of a city. At one of the system's points of convergence, where the canals combine into a single river, the passageways cease their dark journey and open into a large room, reverberating with the sounds of thundering water. Sunlight filters in through gratings in the ceiling like illuminated daggers. The labyrinth of channels roared with a ferocity that would easily sweep any unfortunate human to their doom; however, humans were not the sentient beings present.
Inaudible over the din, six metallic feet clank along the damp concrete and step into the light of the room. Three Transformers move forward in a horizontal line, shoulder to shoulder. On one side, a hulking red Autobot named Ironhide, on the other, his red and white ally Ratchet. Between them, they haul the slender yet powerful purple body of their unwilling prisoner. The damaged captive occasionally seems to struggle for freedom, but each time, he is brought down by the unmatched strength of the battle-hardened warrior.
They reach a wide platform where they violently heave their third party member to the ground against a wall, the Decepticon insignia emblazoned on his chest gleams in the new light. The prisoner does not cry out in pain or try to escape, but instead tilts his hexagonal head up to his captors; his single yellow optic expressionless, but the looming Autobots well-aware of his registered discomfort. Shockwave was not an easy bot to break.
As if realizing the first phase of their goal was complete, a brief moment of silence passes between the Autobots as they prepare for the next step. Ratchet begins assembling a frightening looking gun-like object with some smaller pieces he'd packed with him.
"I assure you the theatrics are entirely unnecessary," the Decepticon speaks first.
Ironhide leans in with both rage and excitement glittering in his optics, "Maybe. But we ain't done yet," Ratchet, having completed his assembly, moved next to his warrior ally, "Now let's get this over with nice and easy. Tell us, are there currently any other infiltrators among us? Are there any more spies? Name them!"
"Give me one tenable rationale why I should provide the enemy with such confidential intelligence. Maybe you can convince me that your actions are not so apparently futile."
"How about this? If you don't, today will be forever scarred into your memory banks as the worst day of your miserable existence," Ironhide spits.
"That implies that I am to survive this fruitless interview. In that case, the wrath I would incur from Megatron due to my treachery would be vastly more unpleasant than whatever harm you have planned for me here."
Beyond words, Ironhide manages to counter, "Well, we'll see how your calculations measure up when we're through with you."
The furious warrior nods to his medical officer who approaches Shockwave with the assembled machinery. Ratchet lowers the end of the machine to the level of Shockwave's optic. The tip palpitates with the kind of static only generated from refined energon batteries. Then, in a swift move, Ratchet drives the tip into the space between metal plates on the Decepticon's shoulder. Pinkish white sparks erupt from the oversized cattle prod and flicker across his metal skin.
It is a weapon of Ratchet's own design. Based off of construction tools found in the mines of Kaon and the medical Tesla coils found in repair houses, Ratchet knew the effect of the torture weapon. He hated that he had created it to cause harm. He hated that their endless war had driven him to defy that which was his singular purpose in life to heal. He knew that every one of Shockwave's sensors was relaying a message of intense pain, and he knew that by simply turning the level up on his device, he could overload even this walking computer's processor to the point of insanity.
Ironhide, anxious and quivering with the desire to fight, allows the prisoner a moment to gather himself from the onslaught, "Shall we try that again?"
"You will learn nothing from me, Autobot."
"Then you have learned nothing from this. Again!" The torture device stabs deep into Shockwave's shoulder, this time remaining there longer. Ironhide kneels down face to face with the slumped purple figure and growls with immeasurable rage, " For millions of years you evaded us. For fifty stellar cycles, we thought you were our ally, our friend--our Longarm."
"Your performance seemed so genuine, I sometimes wonder if there is an Autobot buried somewhere deep inside that calculating shell of yours. Or perhaps, what began as a simple bit of acting, became something real, like maybe, just maybe, we were rubbing off on you. Is that why you fled?" Ratchet communicates rationally, one scientist to another.
"I terminated my infiltration at the return of my lost leader Megatron. That is all."
Ironhide explodes again, "Or maybe it's because you're a coward! You started to get it through your sick mind that the Autobots are right, and all you've done is contribute to the needless destruction of our planet, our home!" The hulking red warrior trembled with sorrowful rage; it's a rage he sometimes draws upon to blind him to the images of his dying brothers, to deafen him to the cries of the bots he kills, to blot out the regret, "You're just afraid! Terrified you've made a horrible mistake!"
"The only mistake I've made is allowing myself to be captured. Do you think I give a scrap about the Autobots? About your precious morality? Do you think I care about the death of Cybertron? All the materials or equipment I will ever need are there for the taking. And Megatron--"
"I can't help but notice," Ratchet interrupts, "you remain the only Decepticon I have ever encountered who refers to Megatron in such an informal manner. You neglect what seems to be the customary use of imperial epithets denoting your status of inferiority, almost as if...you consider yourself his equal."
A few seconds of silence pass between the members of the interview. The calculating Shockwave considers structure and form, action and reaction, cause and effect. He observes his location, and finally reflects upon the insolent Autobot's last statement. An ego was something Shockwave didn't have; or if he did, it was buried deep inside some long-repressed primal subroutine, but it was true he found Megatron's actions questionable if not downright counterproductive at times.
"Aw c'mon, Shockwave," using the enemy's actual name was an uncommon act for Ironhide, "You make an alright warrior, but everyone knows you're the most genius Cybertronian that ever lived."
A kind word, from Ironhide. Something isn't right.
He is goading me. He wants me to open up to him -- like his hollow compliments mean something to me. I need no reassurance from my enemy to convince me of evidence I already know to be fact.
"I do not deny my marked lack of humility in reference to my leader Megatron. I will follow his orders so long as they remain beneficial to me in some manner, or at least do not hinder my ability to accomplish my own goals. Ultimately though, I serve only one master...pure logic."
"Logic my axle! You call the slaughter of millions of Cybertronians logical? The megalomaniac you call your leader is completely insane!" Ironhide begins to pace along the cement platform, turning his back to the seemingly incapacitated Decepticon. Shockwave sees his opportunity.
"You fail to understand the simple beauty of logic. It bends to no one!" As he shouts, he leaps to his feet. Aiming at the warrior with his cannon arm, he takes a shot but only grazes his shoulder; his targeting system still on the fritz from the electrical torture. Before Ironhide can react, Ratchet stabs the prod into Shockwave's back knocking him down.
"Impossible! Yet--" The Decepticon tried to rationalize his repeated defeat.
"This thing doesn't just cause you pain, it inhibits correct sensory input from any surrounding stimuli," Ratchet stands over the smoking purple figure.
"A very effective weapon you've invented, medic. I have always respected your skill. Are those refined energon batteries? Tell me, how does Optimus Prime feel about your methods of extracting information? Does he approve of this?" Shockwave sits up and begins slowly backing towards a large sealed pipe sticking out of the platform. Ratchet's grasp on the weapon loosens, "I see it in your eyes, Autobot. Prime knows nothing of our interview this afternoon, and nothing of the device you are holding."
"Don't listen to him, Ratchet! He's playing you! He may be an emotionless piece of scrap, but it's not beyond him to manipulate your feelings. Let's just finish this. Here and now!" Ironhide takes aim at Shockwave.
"No, Ironhide, he's--he's right. If we do this, we are no better than them. We can find any spies ourselves." Ratchet lowers the weapon.
"No, Ratch. We'll never be one of them. Because the torture and murder of one Decepticon likely saves the lives of scores of humans and Autobots alike. Especially one like Shockwave. He doesn't deserve to live!"
"Should listen to him, because he's right!" At that, Shockwave rips the seal off the pipe, causing gallons of pressurized water to blast into Ironhide's chest, launching him across the room into one of the torrential canals. Shockwave aims at Ratchet, fires, and misses by inches again. Ironhide struggles to regain stable footing in the rushing water.
"IRONHIDE!" Ratchet glances in the direction of his comrade. Shockwave charges towards Ratchet, his optic aglow like hellfire. Ratchet turns back around, and is face to face with the Decepticon, who now looms over him by several feet, his cannon arm outstretched. No need for targeting systems at point blank range.
Ratchet's processor clicked in overdrive, but the same images kept leaping to mind, distracting him.
Longarm was a valuable, irreplaceable asset to the Autobots. Optimus said it himself. We owed the defeat of some of our greatest Decepticon foes to Longarm. We mourned his loss like he had died. That's what it felt like--like Shockwave murdered our dear Longarm. Was it really all a lie, or was he sending a message? Was this all part of one of his sick, elaborate plots that demands the sacrifice of even his own comrades, or was there in fact some part of Shockwave that wasn't a disciple of Megatron, that betrayer of Primus? He imagined Longarm, in all his humility and courage. He recalled the day his true identity was revealed.
Then he pictured the savage battles he fought against Shockwave while the war still raged on their homeplanet. He remembered how Shockwave became Megatron's second-in-command, and all the cruel experiments he performed on Autobot sympathizers during his rule of the city-state Tarn, how he destroyed Vos and Tarn without a nanoclik of remorse.
Ironhide was right. No amount of torture to a bot like Shockwave could ever lower them to that level. The galaxy could only benefit from the slaughter of every Decepticon in existence. And this was just one more 'Con that needed to be reduced to slag.
Ratchet raises the weapon barrel-to-barrel with Shockwave's cannon, "You betrayed us all. You betrayed the Autobots, you betrayed Cybertron, and you'd even betray your leader Megatron. Truly, no one will lament your death."
Ratchet flips a switch on the device, changing it to a ranged weapon setting.
"Despite your obvious skill and determination, you've neglected to consider one particular constant regarding your clever device."
"Oh yeah?" He pulls the trigger and the tip of the device glows white hot, as it charges in the second of delay before the shot.
Shockwave's optic gleams with all the malignance of a giant Kaon ore smelter, "Batteries...run...out."
A white beam of energy explodes from the end of the gun as Shockwave simultaneously fires a beam of nuclear energy from his arm cannon. The two beams collide with massive force, instantly evaporating all water in a fifteen foot radius. The two remain locked on to each other, not daring to move their beam out of the way that would leave them open to a fatal close range shot. Ratchet sees the beam of his weapon falter, the energon batteries are depleting fast.
Shockwave is a genius. There's no doubt about that.
The energon batteries dwindle on their last drops. Ratchet looks into the optic of his foe. He searches for some sign of fear or anger. Ratchet could feel his own face fraught with it, but the countenance of his assailant remains as blank as the cement walls around them.
A genius perhaps, but a talent squandered. What did the AllSpark intend when it created this monster?
"You've lost, Autobot. Just like you'll lose this war. Just like it took you fifty stellar cycles to locate one spy. You're lucky I was the only one..."
Then, a shadow appears in the steam beside them. The beam on Ratchet's device flickers its last bit of strength, when Ironhide's cannon blast hits its target. Shockwave flies backwards and into the dissipating mist, and Ratchet quickly drops the smoldering weapon now drained of power. Shockwave jumps to his feet, but instead of returning to the fight, he immediately takes off down one of the many labyrinthine tunnels of the sewer system. Ironhide begins to follow, but Ratchet reaches out and touches his big red arm.
"Ratchet, we can't just let that traitor get away! Not after all he's done."
"We'll get another chance Ironhide. I guarantee it. Besides, he gave us the information we needed to know," Ratchet half smiles at his old partner, "He was the only one."
Ironhide understands, "I guess that makes sense. No one could else carry on that kind of charade for all that time. It might have taken fifty stellar cycles, but Shockwave's a hard bot to break," the warrior gazed at the device on the ground, "What happened back there though? With you and the..." He gestures at the weapon.
"It's just some part of me feels like anything can be healed. It's hard to accept that some things can simply never be fixed," Ratchet picks up the burnt out torture device, "Should I tell Prime?"
Ironhide considers the question; a question planted by Shockwave in his attempt to destroy them. But maybe he had a point.
"Y'know, Ratch, as much as I hate to agree with him... maybe you should."
The two Autobots turn down a different tunnel and head to the surface. Ratchet walks a few paces behind his warrior friend. He holds the device in his hands, admiring his work, regretting his work; remembering the words he shared with the sick mad scientist called Shockwave, and pondering the traits they might share. But Ratchet would never go down that path.
Maybe Shockwave's descent to his unfortunate alliance with evil is the product of his dormant sense of morality; perhaps something in his past, or maybe his undying ambition and incessant curiosity.
If Shockwave is indeed the most genius of us all, and he turned to evil who are we to say he's wrong? Can he see some future still unknown to us? Are we even still fighting for something real, something possible?
Ratchet pictures their ex-ally Longarm. The pang of loss still strong in his spark. He touches his chest.
But some things can never be fixed.
Deep in the darkness of the labyrinthine sewers, a single golden orb shined. Shockwave's energy reserves were badly depleted from his encounter. But he was alive. And better yet, he'd gotten the last word.
He took the bait, and it was far too easy. He believes I was the only one. That miserable Autobot's trust in me is so highly...illogical.
Shockwave may not have an ego, but if he had a face, he'd probably be smiling.