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to the grit of it

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Deadlock’s dentae were clenched around the slippery feeling of energon, and his frame burned hotter than the falling water around him, surrounding him in steam.  

He whirled from the broken frame in his wake and leapt onto the next mech to charge him.  The light from his optics shone into his opponent’s terrified face, bathing him in blistering scarlet as Deadlock shoved him to the ground and began tearing at his chassis with sharpened claws, ripping away frame and girder with senseless abandon until the Autobot’s spark was revealed.

“Stop,” the mech begged, and screamed as Deadlock went for his throat instead, fangs meeting vulnerable cabling and finding them easy to tear free.  The Autobot thrashed, but Deadlock’s frame weighing down on the mech as he was torn to pieces prevented him from taking any real action.

As the light faded from the Autobot’s optics, Deadlock snatched the gun from his loosening hand.  He’d gotten his own lost in a pit somewhere in the middle of the battlefield, and the last seven or so kills he’d torn his way through had been purely teeth and claws.  He was sure he looked terrifying enough to scare any Autobot that dared to come near him, dripping with blood, engine roaring, fangs bared and a permanent wild-eyed snarl etched onto his face.  He felt terrified, the anger and fear battling inside and out.  It was no wonder his baser instincts had risen to the surface in the lack of a readily available gun.

“Deadlock?” came a voice, and Deadlock whirled.

It was too ridiculous to believe-- Hot Rod.

He was here , in this suddenly calm area of the battlefield, standing ten feet away from Deadlock and watching him rip his enemies to pieces.  Hot Rod.  Ridiculously small, ridiculously present.  Stupidly safe in between two stretches of wall in what was left of the city, looking at Deadlock like he was some monster that crawled out of a nightmare.  

His face was a distressed plaster of emotion, one hand halfway stretched out toward Deadlock, the other clenched at his side, and he said, “You killed him.”

Deadlock had to remind himself to cycle in a vent. “Hot Rod?”

Hot Rod’s frame was battered, scuffed and sparking, one optic dimmer than the other.  He wasn’t-- had Prime made him join in the battle? If so, why-- why was-- “Why are you here?”

“I--  It doesn’t matter,” Hot Rod said, suddenly.  “That was an innocent mech--”

“He was an Autobot,” Deadlock hissed.  

“So am I!”

“You’re different,” Deadlock said, taking a step forward.  Hot Rod stumbled backwards, terror winning over the other emotions on his face, and Deadlock was struck with sudden betrayal. 

 He faltered, bolstered, snarled.  “Unless you want me to treat you like everyone else here!”

“I didn’t think you would,” Hot Rod said, his voice tiny and shocked.  “You killed him with your teeth and he’d-- surrendered--” 

“I surrendered,” Deadlock said, a lot of times, to a lot of different people.  Didn’t do me any good.” He bared his fangs, feeling the blood drip down his chin.  “Also, this is a frikkin' battlefield. Really, why are you here?”

“I ph-phased here,” Hot Rod stammered.  “Stole the trans- transmat, I fought the guards, I-- I had to warn you there’s--”

“No,” Deadlock said, horror dropping into his chest.  “You’re not here because of the bomb strike, are you?  Hot Rod, we know about the bomb strike!  You need to get out of--”

“You don’t know,” Hot Rod said urgently.

“Yeah, we do.  Tomorrow, seventh decacycle.”  Deadlock shrugged. “Right here.  Autobots want to take down the city and get rid of the hiding places--
“That’s fake information,” Hot Rod said, stepping toward Deadlock again, the fear, ridiculously, gone from his face.  “At least, part of it.”

“What part?” Deadlock asked, narrowing his eyes as he bridged the gap.

Hot Rod opened his mouth, and hesitated.  His eyes wandered over to the Autobot lying on the ground not ten feet away, his throat and chest torn open.

“Hot Rod!” Deadlock snapped, stepping closer.  Hot Rod startled, took a step backwards almost unconsciously, and his blasters primed.  

Deadlock glanced down at the mech’s arms, still at his sides, and back to his face.  “Hot Rod, I need you to tell me.”

“I don’t--” Hot Rod said, stepping backwards again.

“What part is false?” Deadlock repeated, clenching his fists and staying his ground, no matter how much he might want to keep advancing on his-- friend, Hot Rod was a friend, he couldn’t afford to scare him--

“The time,” Hot Rod blurted.  “The time is wrong.”

Deadlock processed this, heard the bomb before he saw it, and barely had time to scream “Down!” at Hot Rod before it hit, the blast sending him flying and cracking, hard, against a metal wall.  The blow took him offline for precious seconds before he was forcibly booted back up by his emergency battle systems, given a shot of much-needed panic, and thrown back into the fight.

Except it wasn’t a fight, not where he stood.  The ground was littered with rubble, but not much else-- the Autobots, performative goodness at its fullest, had only bombed the abandoned city instead of the battlefield raging outside.  Fools!  

“Hot Rod!” he yelled, whirling around.  “Hot Rod! Where are you?”

Silence.  Deadlock cursed, hands reaching up to grab at his finials in panic, before lunging toward the rubble that was once the alleyway Hot Rod had stood in.  He tore at it with his hands, throwing it backwards behind him in a mad frenzy. “Hot Rod!”

“Slag, slag, slag,” Deadlock panted, digging frantically until the clawed tips of his fingers broke away and the dust from the rubble coated his plating.  “Hot Rod!”

Finally, finally, there was a glimpse of red-and-gold plating beneath the crumbled stone and material.  Deadlock snatched at it, pulled a hand and subsequently an arm from the wreckage, and before long the entirety of Hot Rod was uncovered, so dented and bleeding that the actual color of him seemed far away.  Deadlock scanned him quickly.

“Deadlock,” Hot Rod managed, his eyes flickering as his system rebooted.  “My--”

“Yeah,” Deadlock grunted, his hands landing on the shard of metal protruding from Hot Rod’s abdomen, blood oozing around the base.  If it had been just a little higher--

“The Autobots are coming,” Hot Rod whispered.  “They’ve got a strike team coming to claim the city before anyone can-- can--”  He coughed, dentae gritted in pain. “They know I stole the transmat to go w-warn you.”

Deadlock cursed again, looking around.  “I can get you out.”

“You can’t.  If-f you pull the rod out, I’ll bleed out,” Hot Rod said, and his hand landed on Deadlock’s arm, shaking before it touched.  “I want to tell you to go.”

Deadlock hissed out a sharp chuckle, shaking his head.  “But you won’t.”

“I don’t want to,” Hot Rod said, and his mouth trembled, just a bit, before he bit down on it stubbornly.  “Don’t go.”

“I’m not going to,” Deadlock snapped, and stood.

Hot Rod was silent for a long time, as Deadlock angrily paced and intermittently swore, unsure how he would get out of this one.  The Autobots would kill him if he was caught. But Hot Rod-- what would they do to him?

“Do you still have the transmat?” he demanded, turning.

“It needs time to recharge,” Hot Rod said, booting up his optics again.  Deadlock noted this with a sinking feeling, realizing that his energon levels were steadily depleting.  “I don’t. . .” He took in a slow vent, offlining his optics again. “You need to get out of here, Deadlock.”


“You need-- to go.  I’ll be okay.  You won’t, not if the strike team gets here.”

“I’m not going to leave you,” Deadlock said, refusing to look at Hot Rod.  “You might’ve been stupid to phase here and warn me, but you-- you did it, okay?  I owe you. You’re my. . . we’re friends.”

“Yeah,” Hot Rod said, and coughed out a painful chuckle.  “But I need you to go.”

“Hot Rod, I can’t.”  Deadlock started pacing again.  “Even if I wanted to, I’d not have enough time to get away.”

“You. . .” Hot Rod’s words faded, as the sound of engines grew louder in the distance.  “Oh.”

“Guess I’m going down fighting again, huh?” Deadlock said, offering Hot Rod a bloody grin.  “S’okay, Hot Rod. I’m tougher than I look.”

“You can’t,” Hot Rod said, his face set stubbornly.  “Do not kill them.  Not for me, I mean.  Don’t.”

Deadlock shook his head angrily, and positioned himself in front of Hot Rod where he lay, half-covered in rubble.  By the sound, the strike team was around seven mecha, strong engines, most likely well-gunned. Deadlock didn’t even have the one he’d stolen anymore.  He really needed something less. . . losable.  

“Deadlock!” came a shout, and the lead car transformed into a familiar, if hated, face, skidded, and pointed a gun.  “Get away from Hot Rod!”

“Jazz,” Deadlock sneered.  “You’re not taking me alive.”

“Didn’t say I wanted to,” Jazz said coldly.  He tilted his head to look past Deadlock. “Hot Rod, are you functional?”

“I-- yeah,” Hot Rod said, and hissed, “Deadlock.”

“We’ve got guns, Deadlock,” Jazz said, gesturing to his strike team.  “There’s a hit out on you, but we promise to let you go if you don’t hurt Hot Rod.”

“We do?” Sunstreaker murmured.

Deadlock dug his heels further into the ground.  “Come and get him.”

“Bye, Deadlock,” Hot Rod said, and before Deadlock could comprehend what that meant, he was seized with a sensation that was terribly wrong, as if every atom inside him and out was suddenly not here, and as he turned to look at Hot Rod’s face, he realized.

“No!” he screamed, but by then the transmat had him.