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Literature
Landing Softly
Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to Transformers: Prime. All characters are copyright of Hasbro and their respective creators.
Landing Softly
Deception.
The very act of deceiving. To trick, to cheat, to fraud, to ensnare. I saw it then.
Deceit.
The practice of misleading. To be untruthful, untrustworthy, unreliable, unsafe. I see it now.
Deceptive.
The power to make fabrications believable. The gravity of disgrace and the revelry of disrespect; the volume of dishonesty and lowness of dishonor. I will always see it.
Decepticon.
The faction set on domination at any and all cost. The ones to oppress, the ones who were brutal, the cruelest, vicious, merciless ones. I see it because I lived it; well sort of.
I didn't live by its rule as much as its principle, —I didn't even have a badge for crying out loud! Just my word, for all that was worth— but I had begun to practice this creed for far too long . . . time after time, age into age . . . I began to swear by
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Literature
A Survivor's Shadow
Disclaimer: All characters belong to their respected creators and copyright holders; Universal, Glen Larson and the Valve Corporation.
A Survivor's Shadow
Prairie Grass.
As far as the human eye could see, there were no rocks, no trees, no hills, no brooks, no streams; just blue skies and prairie grass. That's how it's been for as long as he could remember or wanted to remember.
His chronometer stopped functioning quite some time ago, 30 years after Michael's death to be painfully accurate. Of course, there was a way for him to keep track of the progression of time; charting the sun and stars as they passed perhaps or numbering the change in seasons based on the climate of this geographical area, but he had given up on that many years ago. More of a disinterest in doing so than anything; an apathy if he admitted to having such feelings. There wasn't a point to care anymore because there was no one left to care for.
His purpose, his existence, was in vain. Protect human life, his friends
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Literature
In Due Season
IN DUE SEASON
Chapter I
Hidden Nightmares Open Doors
      Bright lights seared his young vision while terrifying sounds pierced his small ears.  He couldn't remember when or how he got there, but he knew that he was horrified by this place; he hated it.  There were tall creatures, scary creatures, that he had never seen before, looming over him, poking and prodding him with all kinds of terrible things he couldn't put names to.  He wanted to be safe in his mother's arms again but instead tears streamed down his cheeks, staining the laboratory table he was pinned to.  All he knew was that this was painful and he needed his 'mama'.  He would have cried out for her if it wasn't for the tube coming out of his mouth, the tube they forced down his throat.
      All his wild flailing and desperate attempts for escape were met with harsh opposition as the strange beings held his tiny
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Activity


Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to Transformers: Prime. All characters are copyright of Hasbro and their respective creators.

Landing Softly

Deception.

The very act of deceiving. To trick, to cheat, to fraud, to ensnare. I saw it then.

Deceit.

The practice of misleading. To be untruthful, untrustworthy, unreliable, unsafe. I see it now.

Deceptive.

The power to make fabrications believable. The gravity of disgrace and the revelry of disrespect; the volume of dishonesty and lowness of dishonor. I will always see it.

Decepticon.

The faction set on domination at any and all cost. The ones to oppress, the ones who were brutal, the cruelest, vicious, merciless ones. I see it because I lived it; well sort of.

I didn't live by its rule as much as its principle, —I didn't even have a badge for crying out loud! Just my word, for all that was worth— but I had begun to practice this creed for far too long . . . time after time, age into age . . . I began to swear by it; thrive on it; believe in it. I believed it because I became complacent. I failed to recognize what was missing. I failed to see that instead of deception I was seeing cunning; instead of ruthlessness I was seeing relentlessness; instead of devious I was seeing clever. I always saw strong, ingenious, sharp, resourceful and strategic. We were the ones who would save our world; bring it back no matter what. We would triumph; we would be victorious; we would win. I never saw the corruption or the wrong or the evil because how could I? I swallowed the lie. And it endured in me as much as I endured in it.

Until now.

I live differently; so dramatically unlike me and yet closer to myself than ever. Listen to me, sounding all philosophical and whatnot, but, beside the point. I changed. It didn't happen instantly or painlessly, but there was a difference. What was it that took only one moment, one short period of time, in contrast to alter everything?

Peace?

The very state of harmony. Reconciliation, tranquility, contentment, amity. Yes, that did have an effect on me. We all wanted it; even if we were sorely inexperienced with it; even if it didn't look the way we imagined. Certainly, I had seen more restriction, penalty and bias in my former mindset. A world of the fittest, the strongest and the mightiest. What hadn't I expected to see?

Freedom.

The quality of being free. The loudness of liberty and the quietness of sovereignty; the jubilance of choice and the somberness of autonomy for all. He wanted it long before anyone else did.

Justice.

The quality of being just. To have objectivity, integrity, honor, virtue; merits that had diminished for all over the span of war. He wanted it for everyone.

Hope.

The desire with expectation of fulfillment. A wish; a belief; a reliance; a trust I didn't even know I was capable of. He wanted it for me.

These things, these traits, I saw what it took to establish them. The horrifying onslaught of Unicron's undead army of predacons, the imposing presence of Megatron's possessed body and the insufferable actions of Starscream. Then there was Predaking's last stand, the Autobots' persistence and gall and the disbandment of the Decepticons by the lord of darkness himself. Even my hasty decision to turn had an impact on the outcome, but nothing compared to what he did and had been doing since the beginning.

At the time, I didn't know what to make of Optimus Prime's death. His self-sacrifice flew in the face of everything I had seen and known about leadership. To me, leaders sent others to do the dirty work; to do the dying. And even if they did perish on the battlefield it was almost always the result of selfish ambitions of conquest, fiery rages of impulse or embittered forms of revenge. Big O died not because he wanted his name to be remembered in all of Cybertronian history—though trust me, it most certainly will be—nor did he do it out of spite. He looked us all in the optics and gave us his sincere motive; to ensure new life on Cybertron.

I couldn't comprehend it then, but the unknown feeling I had still burns within my spark. At present, I know what it is, though I would be hard-pressed to admit it. It was a humbling, awe-inspiring sensation rising far above the war and the pain and the mistakes. It was dread and veneration, submission and wonder, shame and devotion all at once.

Now, I could say that I was just caught up in the moment. After all, I had just witnessed a mass of zombiecons trying to rip the very heart of Cybertron out at the direction of my former leader's body playing host to a chaos god of ole. Doesn't exactly scream 'emotionally stable time to make a life-altering decision', but here I am based on the choice I made then.

Some will see it as shallow or cowardly, calling me a sucker for flattery or a turncoat to save my own mesh and I won't refute them; partly because both points aren't wholly accurate or fully untrue, mostly because I don't care. All I know is when that Big Rig said we had each acted as a Prime, I was shocked. He didn't say what I expected him to. You know, something along the lines of 'good job guys, you acted like a real team out there'. No, he said we acted like equals, to himself! And on top of that, he had included me. Me!

I couldn't accept that out right. I didn't even understand it let alone deserve it. It was a moment of intense self-consciousness for me. I had to do something, I had to qualify his statement somehow, soften its impact on me. It meant saying something. Seriously, I dropped a one-liner in the middle of Optimus Prime's Farwell speech. It was effective in relieving my sheepishness but, for Primus' sake, why couldn't I have at least said something a little more . . . worth stating.

Well, anyway, I was both mortified and astonished by his words and couldn't help but be excruciatingly distracted as all he asked in return was for the Autobots to keep fighting the noblest of fights; to keep Cybertron's second chance secure. He was going to leave us. It twisted my spark.

At a point when the future was so uncertain and the leadership of a Prime was most needed, there would be nothing but us. And that's exactly how it was.

I'll be honest, I didn't think we stood a chance. My first decacycle was spent coming up with appropriate escape plans in case this whole deal went south for any number of reasons. I mean, an eons long war couldn't dissolve that quickly and there had still been Predaking's vague statements between tolerance and a threat along with Starscream and Shockwave's unaccounted whereabouts and my own status as an ex-Decepticon. Actually, that last one is still a source of anxiety for me, but it was even more so then. In fact, one point still boggles me; once that Big Rig accepted me, the original seven never brought my allegiance up for discussion again, ever. I can't recall one time anyone saying anything.

Sure, I could tell they didn't trust me, but there were never any accusations or interrogations or contentions. I was waiting for it, truly expecting it, because, seriously, who could resist rubbing it in, right? Dredging up past injustices and battles and conduct. But it never came. Their silence on the issue seemed to burrow deeper into my psyche than any other thing they could have done. They were taking me at my word. Me?! My word?! Like what I gave to the Decepticons when being 'target practice' no longer suited me and . . . Breakdown.

Anyway, I still don't understand it.

Granted, I didn't say anything either; I certainly never apologized . . . though I may have thought about it once or twice. What would I be apologizing for?

War?

A state of open and declared armed hostile conflict between . . . us. A Cybertronian civil war. As if there's anything civil about warfare. Look where eternities of fighting got us! Another subject for another day.

Mm. Day.

The time of light between one night and the next. It seems old Earth lingo dies hard. Now that I think about it, a lot of Earth customs seemed to have rubbed off on us without notice. Even the new arrivals appear to share a keen interest in the little blue planet's link to us. But, I digress.

Sometimes the atmosphere, the tension, back then was too much. And other times, the process was so effortless, it was second nature. The results were confusing for me, but I stayed; another result of the Big O's speech it seems.

Nowadays, the contact is still disconcertingly different, but consoling too. It isn't what I predicted. Take joking around with Smokey for example or sharing expertise and exasperation with Ratchet. Then there's enduring Wheeljack's leery gaze after enjoying Arcee's refreshing wit. From barely tolerating Ultra Magnus' management style —again I say barely— to painstakingly avoiding Bulkhead's enthusiasm. These interactions were strange and fulfilling and awkward and intriguing and frustrating all at the same time. Then there were the newcomers, Decepticon and Autobot alike. These on their own were confusing puzzles enough for me, but throw in the dealings with Bumblebee and it was a downright enigma. He's changed too . . . well, theoretically, we've all changed, but his is more noticeable. He's not the same scout and warrior I encountered on the battlefield.

Assertive.

Having or showing a confident and dynamic personality. Check.

Perceptive.

Having or showing sensitive insight. Check.

Humble.

Having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance. Double Check.

Textbook leader. Really; he is literally behaving like the select few you read about in history and aspire to, I guess. Not like Megatron,—history uses tyrant in place of the word leader there—but not unlike Optimus Prime. In fact, the resemblance is uncanny; kind of . . . eerie. What am I saying?! It's irritating! I'm used to slighting the bug not respecting him. He gives out orders and everyone listens even though no leadership was designated to him officially that I can see. He never seems to notice my growls of indignation when he assigns me a task either and he always responds to my objections with the same reasonable empathy one would give a sparkling and yet, I find myself heeding his every word! I can't stand it! I mean, who died and made him boss anyway . . . oh yeah, right. Sorry, moving along . . .

Heh. Move along. Parting company. Escape. Adios, Au Revoir, Arrivederci, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye. Still not a bad idea. That's what it had been up until recently; up until I made that first mistake. Ugh! I should have never answered the call to the Nemesis. Breakdown and I would still be cruising Earth's roads looking for fresh energon deposits completely unaware of and, more accurately, indifferent to the war's outcome. But no, I got the call 'Megatron needs assistance' and really I heard 'opportunity' like any good opportunist does. I figured if I helped the head honcho out, easy street would open up and I would travel down its famous boulevard. So, I rolled the dice, as they say. What I should have done was hedge my bets more carefully, as they also say.

I hadn't counted on my assistance to mean intense medical care for a leader barely holding on to his spark. After all, I was a scientist way before I was a medic and the term medic would need to be applied in its freest setting anyway. Not saying I'm terrible or anything; in fact, I'm quite good, but I never had any formal medical training. Just what I picked up here and there for the sake of both necessity and curiosity. But of course, Starscream knew that. Bring in an expert indeed. Ah, thus my second dilemma; the second-in-command's not so hidden agenda. At least, I knew how to play that game close to the old chestplate. No one had a clue I was involved in that little conspiracy plot, that is, until Screamer had to replay the whole incident in his half-baked brain pan. Argh! I hated being on that ship.

Forced to be on call around the clock to perform menial repair jobs on Vehicons and any other schmuck who got injured just because Megatron wanted to keep us on board. We were made to fetch this and that from here and there at the risk of life, limb or finish. I had really been hoping Megs would allow Breakdown and I to resume our former work, but with some added benefits. No such luck. He just had to come back online like he wasn't supposed to, didn't he?

Then, I had to constantly fight everyone else for brownie points to get on Gruesome's good side because that was the only way to ensure certain privileges like living. Does anyone know how hard it is for a slightly lenient medic to earn the respect of an absolutely ruthless warmonger?!

And the lies . . . the continuous, unashamed lies. First Starsream, then Megatron and even Dreadwing; everyone on that ship employed falsehoods; everyone. I would be asked to figure things out or retrieve items for some great plan only to be left in the dark by the end of it. Or, I would be forced to participate in some cockamamie scheme and then blamed for it when it was unsuccessful. They failed to communicate the circumstances surrounding Breakdown's fate and Breakdown himself hadn't clued me into the whole picture that day. Why did we stay?

Oh sure, there were some perks; plenty of energon, protection from Autobot ambushes, facilities for proper maintenance and a laboratory at my disposal. There was also a certain excitement in having direct involvement with the big players; seeing firsthand the progress of restoring Cybertron. The ole 'roof over the head, fuel in the tank' bit. But, was it worth it?

Let's see, hmm; left glorious freedom for abject servitude, let my brand of valor fall to cowardice and leased the only conviction I had left to a bunch of back-stabbing manipulators. No! It wasn't worth it. Pit, I wanted to leave when Starscream used the Harvester to suck the life blood right out of one of our own doing his job! Yup, should have commandeered an escape pod, deactivated the homing signal and never looked back. But Breakdown convinced me to stick around; stay with my original plan. After all, he trusted my intellect over my instincts and he also trusted Megatron as a leader; for all the good it did him . . . I hated that place! I hated that war! Winning team; I hated both sides! I hated what it all did to me; what it took from me.

I used to be confidant, spirited and adventurous. Well, I'm still adventurous which reminds me; I have to secure another outlet for my thrill-seeking needs since I was informed the space bridge is only for 'official' business now. Anyway, words to describe me presently would fit under cautious, melancholy and reserved.

"I don't even have a word for it," I say in a murmur just to hear my hollow voice echo off emptiness. Why am I feeling so low? Maybe it's the extra shifts as 'assistant' medic I've had to pull thanks to a slew of new arrivals or the constant jeers I have to endure from those, mainly Decepticons, who won't cooperate. Pugh, the Autobots' pet con; at least I'm not in prison, idiots. Well, it could be I've actually grown back my conscience; Primus knows I'm in the right environment for it.

Uh, I suppose I said all that to say this:

I feel guilty.

Justifiably chargeable and responsible for my past conduct and actions that led up to this point. Why? Because I didn't just hear about Optimus Prime's sacrifice, I saw it. Because even with less resources, less numbers and less armed might, the Autobots persevered and restored our world. And instead of reinforcing grudges or setting up a new world order in their favor they held to their word of peace wanting to make everyone Cybertronians instead of factions once again. I couldn't say that about myself. I once stood directly in their path, fighting against them. I stuck to selfish ideals and have very little to show for it.

I feel shame.

A painful sensation caused by the consciousness of my shortcomings and disgraces. Why? Because I still find myself angry and bitter, sad and mournful, scared and alarmed. I offer biting sarcasm, unhappy cynicism and tentative commitment to those around me. But, I receive forgiveness, compassion and esteem from a surprising number of others and it bothers me. I can't give anything back. I'm not kindly or virtuous or even sociable at times. I'm just me and, every so often, I hate that.

I feel torn.

Pulled by past actions into one direction and future prospects into another. Why? Because half of me wants to scream in defiance at the whole universe while the other wants acceptance so badly it frightens me. Part of me itches to run and never look back. Another part hungers to stay and never leave again. My need for independence versus my longing for reassurance; my natural tendency towards disregard versus my new impulse towards dedication. I want to fight and surrender all in the same moment. I feel as if I'm slowly coming undone due to the war still raging inside.

I feel worthless. I feel anxious. I feel lost . . .

"Knock Out?"

I couldn't help but jump at the sudden disturbance of quiet and solitude. And did I just shriek? No, it was more of a yelp. Either way, I look up sharply to whomever caused my brief scare and embarrassment. Unfortunately, I can't make out anyone because it's darker than I thought. I must have been gone for quite a while; lost track of time. Well, watching sunsets and reflecting on regrets can have that effect. Anyway, it doesn't matter if I can't see them, I recognize the voice.

"We need to tie a bell around your neck or something. You nearly gave me spark failure, Arcee," I say, dragging the last part of her name out in exasperation. She decides to step out into what remaining sunlight there is and I'm . . . irritated to find she is in the opposite direction I'm facing. She probably moved over in spite. I turn and she stares at me, helm tilted to one side. Even in my seated position, she isn't much taller than me, indicating her stance is more out of perplexity than observation.

"What are you doing here?" she says in a voice that I want to take as accusatory, but can't. Obviously, I'm not going to answer that question, but shouldn't I say something?

I don't respond and simply stare at her, not sure what to do actually. Instead of frowning or narrowing her optics or whatever one did when concerned or angry, she smirks. "I thought I was the only one who knew about the brooding spot."

I blink and then, blink again. Finally, I smirk. She really is wit personified. It's reassuring.

"Who says I'm brooding?" I say smoothly.

"Well, I'm sure you didn't come out here to take in the view," she quips, gesturing to the barren landscape. Though we have done a lot of rebuilding—the dozen or so labor related injuries I treat a day evidence that—it doesn't take a long drive out here to see we still have a whole lot more work ahead of us.

"Point taken," I say simply. There is a moment of silence between us. Need to break it. "So was it your turn to track down the escapee this time or did they double book reservations for the brooding spot again?"

She quirks an optic ridge at that and I slowly turn to face back out at the fading light. Why did I say that? I practically admitted I was sulking out here. Bah, I can't even keep a poker face anymore. I allow all my previous contemplations to quickly back themselves up as less serious thoughts take the forefront; a defense mechanism I can't shake and don't know if I want to. I am about to stand and offer to return to base when she sits next to me on the abandoned . . . well, I don't know what it is, but it was the cleanest thing I could find in this sector to use as a seat. Our vantage point is rather high. I decided to swing lofty heights instead of ground level this go around. The nest of ruins surrounding us and the resonating drop off before us gave the right ambiance for my disposition anyway.

"Technically, the first one, but I wouldn't call it tracking down an escapee," she says in all seriousness, "It's getting dark and you weren't answering any of the comm. channels. As hard as it is for you to believe this, we were worried about you this time."

"Worried I'll run off for good this time, am I right? Well, relax, Cee," I say flippantly, knowing the sentiment gets under her plating, "You guys are the only ones around with a means of processing raw energon so I believe I'll stay. After all, I do need a means of charging my rotary buffer."

The trick works every time. Not too offensive, but just enough to get them off my case. She remains facing forward, but I can just see the anger boiling in her blue optics. No more 'worry' now, huh? She'll storm off and I can come back in my own . . . sweet . . . time, why is she laughing?

"What's so funny?" I ask, my voice betraying my surprise and, unfortunately, my insecurity. This wasn't the intended result and she is still sniggering, bringing a servo up to her forehead (eh, human term again).

"He's right; you really are a piece of work," she says pliably, standing to her pedes. My former uncertainty is forgotten upon the arrival of my pride.

"Who's right?! And what's that supposed to mean?!" I say defensively, standing as well to tower over her. She doesn't even blink; how infuriating.

"Seriously? You have to ask that?" she says dismissively, folding her arms. I continue to glare down at her.

"Humor me?" I say darkly. Honestly, I don't know why I'm so angry. Of course, they talk about me behind my back; Primus knows I talk about them behind theirs. She glances over at the dying sun rays and then back to me with a small smile.

"Follow me back and I will."

I watch as she turns and begins walking down the narrow path leading down from here. That part of me that wanted to scream in frustration earlier . . . yeah, it's still there. Instead, I kick a piece of rubble over the edge, listening to its troubled decent as it pings off siding, breaking off more debris to freefall before crashing into the ground, hard. I grumble as her presence gets farther and farther away because it aches. I hate it. It's easier to be the one walking away than the one left behind. That's why I like leaving to begin with; why I detest being found. Regardless, the silence and darkness that was so consoling moments ago are only for a moment more as the atmosphere becomes crushing; suffocating. The further she gets the stronger my isolation pushes me to follow.

I do so, begrudgingly, and I'm not running to catch up either. I'll just trail behind for a few more . . . oh no. Please don't stop, please don't stop; don't turn!

I quickly look up at the sky just as she stops and turns to look at me. I want to embody the attitude of indifference, as if I were strolling nonchalantly through a park instead of seeking freedom from answerless questions I couldn't even bring myself to ask. When I reach where she stopped, she turns to match pace with me and we walk in silence for a cycle or two. It would be quicker in our vehicular modes, but if she's not changing neither am I. Besides, I'm in no hurry to get back anyhow.

"You're quiet," she finally says. I give a small shrug.

"I'm waiting on that explanation," I say dryly. I almost forgot about that; almost. She makes a noncommittal noise before looking up at me.

"Sorry, I didn't mean for it to come out as an insult."

"I didn't know there was any other way to take it," I sneered, but with no true malice behind it. Honestly, I didn't really care how she meant it just as long as it wasn't true. I didn't need any more self-doubts than I already had.

"I know, hence the apology," she reiterated.

"Right, forgiven. Now, who said it? Let me guess: Ratchet? Magnus? Wheeljack? He should talk. He takes off more than I do. He's there what, twenty, maybe thirty, percent of the time?!"

"Knock Out, not my point. And it's more like forty-five. Anyway," she says before I can cut in with a comment, "What I should have said was you're difficult to read sometimes."

"Like that's any better. No offense, but you're not the easiest bot to peg down either," I say. She sighs; out of irritation or disappointment, I don't know. I hope it's the former.

"Let's just drop it then," she says, lowering her sights to face onward. It had been the latter. It's my turn to sigh. I don't do this often, because I hate to, but right now, I can't stand causing more grief.

"I'm . . . sorry," I say discreetly. She looks back up at me with searching optics and for a fleeting moment, I want her to understand why I am the way I am. The words begin leaving my vocalizer on that impulse. "I know I don't fit in. I don't always play nice or look like I care, but I do care and I try not to . . ."

I stop. What am I doing?! I can't endanger defenses I've worked so hard to build up just because of some runaway emotion. Trust is too precious and fragile at present.

"Forget it," I say curtly, picking up my pace to avoid her gaze. The temporary release of anger is satisfying for the whole of a nanoclick, because that's how quick Arcee is in front of me, blocking my path.

"Is that what you think we consider you? Just some . . . irritant in our midst?" she says with equal bluntness. I narrow my own optics. So much for apologizing.

"Let's just drop it," I say harshly, employing her previous words. She does narrow her optics this time.

"No, I think we should talk about this."

I try to step around her, but she doesn't allow me to pass. I don't want to talk anymore. Quickly, I transform into my alt mode, landing a few yards back from her pedes. I allow my wheels to spin, creating an angry cloud of acrid smoke before peeling out around her in a wide-arching circle. I expect her to follow suit and she does.

We race across the more desolate parts of Cybertron, engines screaming, debris flying, sparks pounding and neither of us making progress. I could have furthered the gap between us; really poured on the horsepower and she could have closed the gap; taken advantage of her speed to size acceleration. But we don't. No stunts pulled, no tricks played, just driving away. It's remarkably soothing.

I can feel my resentments ebbing away as my tires eat up more distance, leaving me with a not so unpleasant numbness; a blissful emptying of emotion. Nothing, but the journey.

I don't know when she pulls even with me, but I realize her presence as we switch our headlights on; evening twilight giving way to dusk. I appreciate her holding the silence as we travel in the direction of New Kaon. It seems to nurture a mutual respect out of me for her; that is until she inches just a little bit ahead. I don't quite figure Arcee being the racing type —too serious— but, as petty as it may sound, I correct the incongruity by pulling slightly ahead myself. True in my assumption of just a discrepancy in speed, we continue on a beat before . . . she pushes forward again.

It is so on!

My engine roars as I slam down the accelerator and pull away. She's quick to respond, however, gaining on me quickly and passing me with ease—that power to mass thing earlier—but I know she is approaching her limits and I'm just getting warmed up. Within moments, I'm back in the lead, excitement hammering through my lines as hard and fast as the ground beneath my treads. I haven't had this much fun in forever! No boundaries, no restrictions; who says we have to go back to base just yet.

I veer left, intending to visit some very old stomping grounds. Arcee follows, both of us sending up a spray of metallic dust in our wake.

"Where are you going?" she asks over our shared channel. She sounds worried. I smile inwardly.

"Just a short detour through the old Neutral Territories."

"Detour? It's several sectors out of the way," she says disparagingly, but makes no move to stop me. We keep up our exhilarating pace, weaving in and out of obstacles in our way; remnants of the past. We blaze across straightaways, dip over peaks and punch around curves all while trying to avoid colliding with each other; maintaining a certain flare is also an objective of mine. At some point, I use my mirrors to pinpoint my opponent's exact position in second place. I interiorly grin again.

"Admit it, this is fun," I say roguishly. I can almost hear her helm shake.

"Sometimes I wonder why . . . Knock Out! Stop!" she yells with such urgency I slam on my brakes, facing my attentions forward. Where my sensors should have indicated ground there is nothing.

"Scrap," I hiss as my frame quickly approaches, no, scratch that, goes over the brink of a drop-off. My tires spin in midair for only a fraction of time before I transform and reach back. I can't see the bottom of this void but I don't focus down, only over as my digits narrowly dig into the ledge. My momentum is still too dangerously fast and I can't find my voice as the sound of me sliding off steals it away. I swiftly find it again when the sensation of falling registers. I yell as everything seems to disappear, then hush when it emerges back; my decent abruptly halt by a vice like grip on my lower arm; Arcee.

She is holding on with everything she's got; lying level with the ground, her optics screwed shut, jaw set, neck strained, arms rigid and frame trembling from exertion. In shock, I stare for a while, lost in a world of fear and hope.

"Hurry and climb up. I can't hold you much longer!" she grunts through clenched teeth. It's all the encouragement I need to quickly wake from my stupor and swing my free arm up to grip the ledge. Together, with a few petrifying moments of imbalance, we manage to pull my chassis back up on solid ground. We let out large vents of heat as relief washes over us.

For me, the reality of the situation begins to set in by way of a heaviness creeping into my limbs. I can't even move from my position which is currently flat on my back. Possible fates begin to bombard me. She could have missed; I could have slipped; we could've both gone over. It sends a chill to my core. Arcee, however, seems to recover from the incident more readily.

"If that was supposed to be fun, I'd hate to see what your definition of dangerous is," she says with considerable strain in her voice. I allow her words to sink in and . . . chuckle. I must be drained to consider that quip funny, but I can't help but laugh, literally; I can't stop the sound from coming out. In fact, the laugh is full out now; growing anxious and louder. I can see Arcee looking down at me from her kneeling position, concern on her features. It doesn't curve the nervous laughter; makes it worse. I sit up, trying to wave off her sentiment and this uneasy fit taking over my whole body, but I'm powerless to stop it.

There's nothing funny about this, I tell myself but it doesn't quit. We almost died; she's going to think you're crazy; maybe you already are! Nothing works, because the feeling's starting to reach deeper now and it hurts; it throbs. If I stop laughing now it will turn into something else and I can't allow that; I won't. As if to mock my resolve on this point, my mind begins to haul up everything I recoil from; everything I dread to consider.

My uselessness. Restlessness. Defenselessness.

My striving. Failing. Fading.

I'm outraged. Downcast. Inconsolable.

How unsettling. Unsympathetic. Unbearable.

The thoughts keep coming and my laugh is struggling; teetering between a howl and whimper; hurting my tank, my helm, my spark. I want it to stop. Stop! I can't believe I'm doing this! I . . . I can't even stand up. Why does it hurt so much?

I slam my fists into the ground as silence finally comes to my vocalizer, but the action is accompanied by a few drops of moisture. I pin my optic lids shut, but the vicinity of sorrow is too close to swallow down this time.

Why is this happening now? It didn't when the war ended? Not when my only friend through the whole accursed thing passed?

A small, mournful noise escapes me.

Not when we lost our planet? Our home?

Another whine.

It didn't when the war started? Not at the sight of destruction and demise?

I pull my servos up to the sides of my helm as if trying to physically contain what mentally I could not. The guilt, the shame, the ambivalence.

I didn't even know the bottle of vile emotions existed, but it's not until now I realize that bottle isn't big enough and never was.

I break, lubricant spilling from my optics, trailing my face and landing softly on the ground.

I startle, optics shooting open at Arcee's sudden presence in front of me, because honestly, I forgot she was there. Angry thoughts of appearing weak and wounding pride try to fire to the surface, but they are extinguished in the turmoil of my pain and anguish. She kneels down and I don't know what to expect, because this has never happened to me before. She's not a Decepticon. She's an Autobot. And she looks just as confused as I am troubled, but she manages to administer something real; something tangible; something I have missed. Enveloping arms.

I hesitate, rigid from well-practiced attitudes, but, like recalling a dear memory long thought lost, I lean into the embrace, trusting it to do what nothing else can and I cry.

I cry for everything.

And then, I cry for me.

"For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted . . ." 2 Corinthians 7: 10

Landing Softly
This was suppose to be a one chapter story I worked on a few years back, but now it has developed into a series of oneshots.  To read the rest go to www.fanfiction.net/s/11269001/…
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Disclaimer: All characters belong to their respected creators and copyright holders; Universal, Glen Larson and the Valve Corporation.

A Survivor's Shadow

Prairie Grass.

As far as the human eye could see, there were no rocks, no trees, no hills, no brooks, no streams; just blue skies and prairie grass. That's how it's been for as long as he could remember or wanted to remember.

His chronometer stopped functioning quite some time ago, 30 years after Michael's death to be painfully accurate. Of course, there was a way for him to keep track of the progression of time; charting the sun and stars as they passed perhaps or numbering the change in seasons based on the climate of this geographical area, but he had given up on that many years ago. More of a disinterest in doing so than anything; an apathy if he admitted to having such feelings. There wasn't a point to care anymore because there was no one left to care for.

His purpose, his existence, was in vain. Protect human life, his friends; people who didn't exist anymore; shadows across his memory. It troubled him immeasurably. It wasn't fair. How could he, of all things, endure and not them? The question was pervasive in his thought patterns, always asking, always demanding, and always gnawing. History refused to provide an answer, logic couldn't supply one either and science ruled the whole affair impossible.

Maybe it was the atmosphere or the protectiveness of his specially formulated molecular bonded shell or the advanced technological know-how that went into his development or something else entirely, but he had not wasted away like so many other vehicles' fates had been. The Trans Am he was fashioned into still functioned, though certainly not at full capacity. Even his circuitry was intact. Granted, he was a much paler shade of the handsome black he use to be and his dimming red scanner light on the prow left much to be desired thanks to fading solar panels, but he could still process after all this time, for all the good it did him.

All the reasoning and understanding in the world couldn't justify to him what happened all those years ago or was still happening, though he wouldn't have cared much for an answer. Because, what did it matter anymore. All he had were memories, memories and shadows; inferior remnants of important people he held in greater regard than himself. All he could do was remember, nothing more and definitely nothing less.

He remembered Michael, his driver and friend, leaving him here, precisely here. Being the supercomputer he was, he recalled everything clearly. They had been running from a military conspiracy aimed at exploiting him. The Knight Industries Two Thousand's capabilities would go towards martial purposes, namely a weapon to hurt people. The Foundation for Law and Government wouldn't stand for it and was attacked viciously for its resistance. It was all Michael could do to get KITT away from the dangerous hands of their enemies and to the safety of an abandoned scientific laboratory warehouse. The plan had been simple, hide KITT, find out what the bad guys were up to the old fashioned way, come back, retrieve KITT and then ride in to save the day; same as always. The exact instructions from the man were: "I mean it Kitt, don't move until I get back. I want you safe. No matter what, stay put, pal. Wish me luck, huh".

Michael never came back and KITT never moved.

It took months before the artificial intelligence unit built up enough courage to search the databases for what happened to his partner and Foundation friends. The news of their deaths led him to never move. Devon, RC, Bonnie, Michael, everyone was all gone. Through the years the warehouse slowly crumbled around him, civilization gradually vanished from his scanners and it appeared humanity itself had steadily disappeared before him. In fact, he remembered the event that left him alone as the sole testimony to the human race in this area, but he never moved.

And now he was looking at white clouds, blue skies and an endless sea of golden grass swaying in the breeze.

If only he would have went with Michael, maybe things would have worked out differently. What if he had intervened in human affairs period? The probabilities were staggering. He could have saved them. He could have been destroyed with them. He could have ended up in the same circumstance but at a different location. He could have been captured and used as a weapon of mass destruction or captured then rescued or captured then destroyed . . . there were so many different outcomes, but here he was.

And suddenly, there she is.

The door she walks out of leads to the strange sight of tall yellow grass and blue skies. At first she thinks it may be another trap, but after several minutes she realizes nothing more is going to come of her standing close to the mock shed. It's disconcerting and relieving to know she finally has her freedom. She has no idea where she is or what she is suppose to do now, but at least she is free from Aperture Science's underground laboratory, free from the homicidal GLaDOS and free from the continuous testing. She stares down at the charred companion cube that had been shoved out after her.

Her first impulse is to sneer at the reminder of her imprisonment within the maddening walls of a depraved facility, but it also serves as some of the only memories she has. Frankly, she didn't even know how she knew her own name, Chell. It is the same exception with her ability to read and her knowledge of space being a vacuum; it is some kind of vague remembrance of a long passed life, her own life. Where'd she come from? How did she end up here; in this situation? Why had it all happened? Is there any way of fixing it? What is it that needs fixing?

There are so many questions that should be bothering her, but they don't because, at this point, she's hardwired to carry on. She doesn't dwell on the past unless something useful can come out of it to help her make it through another trial in the here and now. She doesn't look back, but remains focused on what's ahead; knowing that is what it takes to make it to the next day. There is no room for thinking about long-ago issues because right now has its problems and it takes all her energies. Even in the quietness of this field, her mind doesn't retreat back to the events of just a few hours ago, but instead forges into the new predicament she's found herself in. She does what it takes to survive.

Chell looks back down at the cube. With the mind frame she has developed, it falls into the category of something that serves to help solve puzzles. However, one thing she doesn't have is the portal gun; not a good or bad thing in itself, but testing will not commence without it. There's relief in that fact, but it is short lived. She decides to test her new found freedom by stepping away from the cube and everything it represents; venturing out without anything. Certainly, she can always return to the spot if she needs to.

Her jumpsuit and boots are the first to make contact with the dry grass all about her. She listens carefully as it rustles under her footsteps. Her thoughts keep going over something as she continues treading further out, watch for traps; any sign that things are not what they seem. However, a stronger urge seizes her and she bends down just a bit to touch the vegetation with her hands. It tickles the skin between her fingers and she smiles; a grin born of release. She takes in a deep, cleansing breath unthinkingly, almost instinctively, and finds that the air is different here. There is freshness here with the earth and sun mixing together to form a strange bouquet. It makes her sneeze.

Her focus moves to said earth and sun. She has to lift a hand to shield her eyes from the brightness, much like she did from the harsh glare of Aperture's florescent lighting, but this is different. The sun also provides heat and for some reason it lifts her spirits; a morale she hadn't even noticed became so low while in her entrapment. She takes a few more steps out into the field, her feet on soft ground. The terrain beneath her gives a little when she treads upon it, unlike the cold, solid tile floors she is use to. Now that she thinks about it, nothing out here is she use to.

Chell turns back to look at the companion cube and mock shed sitting in the small clearing she was leaving behind. A part of her aches at the sight. From what, she is unsure of, but it hurts all the same. A frown comes to her face as she sets her gaze forward again on the endless sea of yellowing grass. Another part of her thrills at the prospect of complete autonomy. There won't be any more experiments at the proverbial hands of GLaDOS or running for her life away from turrets. A smile grows on her face at the thought, but weariness is still in her eyes. What new challenges does this place offer her? What hidden dangers lurk where she can't see? Is there food; water? If so, where could she find them in, literally, the middle of nowhere?

Again, however, these thoughts and concerns do not weigh her down as they might have others because of all the things Chell is, one thing is above the rest.

She is a survivor.

He was a shadow.

Forgotten in the passing of time and wishing to forget all the time that had passed, KITT sat in the obscurity of his own existence agonizing over said presence. He could stop recharging his power packs and allow his energies to rundown past their most critical levels and thus effectively cease to be, but he couldn't. That wasn't to say he hadn't tried. Several times he had resolved to end it and become another lifeless part of the devastated scenery around him, but just as he would reach the brink of no return; "I want you safe." The words of Michael Knight would play over and over, echoing until KITT activated his solar panels. He had endangered and saved his own life time and again. It was maddening and demoralizing.

Logically, Michael was dead and therefore any wishes or orders from the deceased operative shouldn't be taken actively, but here KITT sat, not moving, remaining safe and all the logic in the world hadn't changed this position in decades. The AI didn't want to suffer from this anymore, but couldn't escape the vicious cycle he was caught within. His desire to be deactivated couldn't be fulfilled anymore than his purpose could. Reasonably, he should be switched off permanently, but to do so willingly would violate the last request of his late friend. It didn't help matters that mixed in was a subordinate program designed for him to have some self-preservation properties.

He was terrified not to exist, but forlorn to continue one more day.

She is apprehensive about the new dawn in her life, but sickened by the thought of going back.

Chell is determined to see her freedom through, yet without a purpose she's lost. She is willing to do whatever it takes, but lacks any direction to take her fortitude in. She stops her walk forward and sighs as a cool wind whips past her. Two thoughts spring up in her mind as she reaches up to bring back a strand of her dark hair out of her face; where can she find food and where can she find water? She looks to the left and sees nothing but more field. She turns to face the horizon and sees more of the same. She reflects on the fact most of the plant life around her is dry and brown. In the upper parts of the laboratory there had been green ferns and moss, even ivy was growing down in long tendrils throughout the top levels. Now it appears she is surrounded by life struggling just as hard as her to stay alive.

She glances off to her right briefly, expecting to see the same barren result before facing forward again. What she caught in that quick motion causes her to turn sharply back to her right again. There, in the distance, appear strange, grayish shadows. From her experience, she determines them to be silhouettes of crumbled buildings; ruins. In the past it always served her well to investigate such places, if for nothing else but to appease her curiosity. Considering it is the first thing she has seen other than grass, it is worth a look.

The structures are about nine hundred yards away; a bit of a jog but certainly not too much for Chell. She heads in that direction remaining cautious of her surroundings. It wouldn't be the first time something like this lead to a trap, so she needs to keep her guard up. The closer she gets to the wrecks the more pronounced their destruction appears. Mason work is scattered about in disheveled heaps while rusted steel and iron jut out of the ground like the skeleton of some large beast. Her boots begin crushing over broken glass as prairie slowly turns into crumbled asphalt. Electrical wiring hangs down like giant spider webs from old poles leaning dramatically in the softened ground. Chell is both awed and dismayed.

It triggers memories of her first escape attempt from Aperture; almost like a distant dream. She had defeated GLaDOS and made it to the surface, catching a brief glance of sunlight, trees and wreckage from the facility. Memories of people, places and things also filter through her mind, bringing feelings of happiness and comfort. But seeing this ghost town fuels her nightmares of what the future truly holds for her. Had she been abandoned; forgotten; or worse?

For the first time in a long time, she felt like crying and she did.

For the last time, he scans his surroundings hoping to find something and he does.

KITT sees her, a human, stooping down and placing a gentle hand on the cracked concrete around her. She is just on the other side of a decrepit wall separating them. She can't see him but the divider does nothing to block his view of her. With infrared he can see that she is very much there and very much alive. His medical sensors also tell him she is in surprisingly good health. His x-ray capabilities go far beyond just seeing bones and organs; he sees the strange outfit she is wearing, an orange jumpsuit with the top half wrapped around her waist and a white tank top with the insignia: Aperture Laboratories. He is familiar with the scientific facility, considering it isn't too far from where he was left . . . thus he recognizes the boots. Long Fall boots; obviously she must be a test subject, but that shouldn't have been possible.

He had heard, due to an accident concerning one of the projects there, most people in the facility had met with a dreadful end not unlike most people out here. However, there she is and all his advanced facilities can't seem to quite translate the shock he feels at actually seeing a human being again. So long has it been since he's interacted with anyone, he doesn't even know if he can. The thought of saying anything makes his processor quiver; as if breaking the hush would make her vanish. But something inside him cannot hold back either and he primes his latent voice modulator; the fret over what he is going to say rambling over his CPU.

"Pardon me, Miss?" he says politely in his Boston Brahmin accent. He's startled when she quickly rises to her feet in a defensive position, throwing a rock she grabbed from the ground in the direction of his voice. The stone strikes the wall with such force that part of the cement crumbles away from the impact. KITT's unsure whether to be frightened by the reaction or impressed with the accuracy of her aim. Either way, he knows one thing; she spots him through the holes of the wall and begins to make her way over to him, cautiously; wordlessly. He doesn't know what to say, but he can't help but try and communicate; it's what he's used to.

"I didn't mean to frighten you; I apologize," he says, appalled at the crackling state of his voice. He sounds like he's talking through a CB radio. No response from his stranger however as she comes around the wall and stares at him. Her gaze is so intense and calculating. It gives KITT pause. He doesn't know anything about this woman or her past, but he is willing, no desperate, to reconnect with the only human contact in so long.

"You'll have to excuse my voice; it's a bit rusty. Allow me to introduce myself," he says almost nervously. He decides to skip the formalities of his previous life and cuts straight to the here and now. "My name is Kitt. I've been out here for quite some time and am in disrepair, but I can also see that you are in need of assistance. If there's anything I can do, I would be more than happy to help."

Again, silence; but this time her eyes soften and she steps closer to the passenger side. KITT is dumbfounded. Why doesn't she say anything?

"I gather you don't talk much. Are you alright, Miss . . ." he asks, trying to get a name for this new found hope.

She simply nods her head, trying to see why this strange car would offer her help.

She knows it's a car because she used to ride in them when she was very young, but she cannot remember one ever speaking before. Granted, experience taught her anything is possible, but it also proved machines couldn't be trusted; talking or otherwise. In the past, whenever she encountered a robot, artificial intelligence unit or computer it would dictate to her what she needed to do, tell her what her next task was going to be or even threaten her life and call her names. KITT just apologized, offered her help and politely called her Miss after asking if she was okay.

This is all so different. Is this how it was out here; wide open spaces, broken-down buildings and kind machinery?

"Well, I'm glad you're alright, but if you'll pardon my asking, why don't you speak? I can see that there is no physical damage to your vocal cords, but that you haven't used them in some time."

She frowns. Maybe she is jumping to conclusions too hastily; he might be the same, but without skipping a beat . . .

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intrude; it's none of my business after all. But if you do need anything . . ."

Her face becomes neutral again and almost in an attempt to prove whether this is real or not, she reaches out and places a hand on the roof of the car, silencing the AI unit.

He is real and surprisingly warm She thinks.

She is real and disturbingly familiar He thinks.

He really couldn't classify it as moving forward on his part. It felt more like being dragged, kicking and screaming. He wants to fight against his programming and stay; never move and always remember. But he can't resist the pull she has to leave; move on and forget. This is it; a threshold for his existence. He can't let this possible future go, but he couldn't let go of the past either. He watches as she moves around the car taking in every aspect of him with her blue eyes; just like Michael's had done that first time. She stops in front of the driver's side door and gives him a skeptical look; just like Michael did back in the Knight estate's hanger. There's a choice here; past or present; her or Michael? Which one; which road?

Against all better judgment, KITT unlocks the driver's side door. He hates the sound of squeaky hinges as the door, stiff from inaction, opens. He nearly dies of embarrassment when he notices how musky the interior of his cabin is compared to the fresher air outside. She sits down in the old bucket seat and looks around quietly. If he could cringe he would, but instead he looks to her for a response; just like he had from Michael all those years ago.

Her silence is unsettling.

His talkativeness will be troubling.

She still had thoughts of Wheatley and GLaDOS. Histories of nasty betrayals and death threats will always loom in her mind, but this will be different; she can tell. She'll get the old Pontiac running again and new roads will open up to her and this KITT. But before she does any of that she looks over to the dashboard and notices a keypad. She reaches over and punches in C-H-E-L-L.

"Chell? Your name," he says awestruck; no more shadows. She smiles and nods.

"Chell, it's a pleasure to meet you. Please, allow me to explain all the capacities you'll have at your disposal . . ." KITT beams.

Chell listens, hearing the pride in his voice as he elaborates on all the things he can do or, in some cases, use to do, but her focus is more intent on the underlying humanity to his tone. He sounds like a friend; something she hasn't had in a long time. Yes, this will certainly be different; no more just surviving.

A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;

Ecclesiastes 3:6
Whoa!  Yesterday was our last day of revival.  We had four weeks of revival at my church this month; two meetings a day, six days a week.  It was awesome.  My pastor's wife was healed, people's joy returned (including my own) and over 6,000 people were saved possibly more if we include those who were watching via television.  It certainly has been good to be in the house of the Lord. :)
  • Listening to: Touch of God
  • Reading: I Corinthians
  • Playing: the piano
  • Eating: breakfast soon
  • Drinking: Oolong Tea

deviantID

DoctorCat
aka The Ku
Artist | Hobbyist | Traditional Art
United States
Current Residence: The Sunshine State
Favorite genre of music: Any music not necessarily all lyrics.
Favorite style of art: Animation/Cartoon
MP3 player of choice: Sony Walkman
Coffee of choice: Folgers
Wallpaper of choice: Cars
Favorite cartoon character: Character!? More like Characters: Sonic, Amy, Shadow, Rouge, Lightning, Basil, Dr. Doppler, Kuzco, Knock Out, Kitt, Sherlock Holmes
Personal Quote: "Right."
Interests

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:iconschrodingersmeerkat:
SchrodingersMeerkat Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Birthday!
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:icondoctorcat:
DoctorCat Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much.  :)
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:iconschrodingersmeerkat:
SchrodingersMeerkat Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome! Had no idea you were still active on here.
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:icondoctorcat:
DoctorCat Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah, it's been a while.  I've been in school for the past two years and it takes up most of my time.  I drop by here occasionally, though.  Thanks again. 
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:icondiamondlegacy:
DiamondLegacy Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the Llama and fave! :D
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:icontulf42:
tulf42 Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for badging back!
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:icondallelleslaul:
DallellesLaul Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014
Oh I know you... You did the KITT/Portal one :-)
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:icondoctorcat:
DoctorCat Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah, I did.   I have to admit, I'm on a KITT kick. :nod:
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:icondallelleslaul:
DallellesLaul Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014
That was a great upload/idea
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:icondoctorcat:
DoctorCat Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you. :)
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