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Title: Winner Take All (Panic)
Fandom: Transformers (Bayverse/[personal profile] hellkitty 's Combat Control/Meta-verse)
Pairing: None (Barricade-centric)
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1,140
Warnings: Slight angst, slight creepiness, stylistic run-on abuse, em-dash abuse

Author's Note: Based off of [personal profile] hellkitty 's Combat Control Barricade. Used with permission.

May thanks to Pellimusprime for the beta.

Written for
[community profile] transformers_chain prompt table.

ERI=Energon Ready to Inject


When those first few seconds of cyberadrenaline pump through your systems, they say, one can smell the fear and anxiety exuded from a mech. In those first few seconds, senses are heightened—attuned to an almost painful level where you can hear the squeal of your own servos as you run, smell the odor of burning rubber from the friction of joints—and your processor is naught but a scramble of thoughts.

Run, run, can’t stop, must survive, must run, run, can’t.

There is no rhyme or reason to what you think. You are merely an object set on one goal—survival. And when you know death is inevitable, it only makes that urge—that need to live—that much more insistent.

And Barricade knows (oh, did he know) that he cannot keep this up that much longer. Knows that his defeat—his capture, is inevitable. It did not matter whether it was at the hands of his teammates or of his trainers. It didn’t matter, so long as it happened.

But I won’t let it, no, not this, run, must survive, can’t stop, need to run.

They are of the same make and mold, and they are all hunting him—hunting each other—and it is cruel and debasing and disgusting. There is no humanity. Not in this—and it scares him. He is too small, too tiny—not meant for this—and he is far too unprotected out in the open.

It was a game, they had said. Merely an exercise. But they had lied. They were pitted against each other unwillingly—some part of their programming unknowingly altered from afar—adding to the chaos.

Except him.

He does not know how or why, and his paranoia insists that it was all planned—and maybe it was—but what did it matter now? Eight against one. How unfair. Eight against one, unfair. But then, when was life ever fair?

It’s not, never will be, hasn’t been, never, have to run, need to run, can’t run, can’t, need, won’t, but I will.

But where is there to hide? Before him stretches miles and miles of vast expanse—all metal and soil—and the two suns dance off of every reflective surface, dazzling his eyes in brightly-colored bursts of light. And he cannot see. And when one cannot see, panic almost enviably seeps in.

A part of him knows that such a panic is foolish—that it blocks off any reason that could possibly be left inside of him—but Barricade is too far gone, too focused on his survival to push such things to the far corner of his mind, and in that, there is weakness.

Not weak, always weak, can’t stop running.

But he is tired—has been running for days. He is caught and cornered in this godforsaken game, and he knows the outcome is inevitable—capture is inevitable.

***

It is a relief when night falls. Temperature drops and overheated plating cools. But with relief, there is always a price. Cyberadrenaline only lasts but for so long before it sputters out—empty—taking its owner along with it.

He’s on his last legs—he can feel it—and it’s do or die. In this vast wasteland, there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Just miles and miles of steel and dirt. And night only heightens that sense of exposure.

There is always a time when you must rest.

But not here, never here, can’t rest here.

Barricade is sure they are watching him, wherever they are—surveying him from their crystal towers of safety—calculating his every move. They are prolonging this for their sick enjoyment of watching him break. If he could only find out how they knew his every move—how they knew his coordinates—he could eliminate that one single obstacle. Give him one small advantage over them.

He takes out his sole ERI, cradling it almost as if it were a child. It is his last source of sustenance—the others used long before in a moment of sheer terror and fear—and he knows he should have rationed his supplies better, but panic always wins out in the face of reason. And as he injects it into his system, his intake sucking it up almost greedily, there is no sense of satisfaction as his fuel level recalibrates itself. It is only to prolong the inevitable—giving himself life just so he can die later on.

And then he digs. There is no other place to hide but underground.

I’m digging my own grave.

The dirt between his claws is pitifully organic and it is irritating between his joints, caking between the rubber, but he cannot worry about that—cannot worry that the moisture will eventually rust him out, leaving him nothing but a sentient empty shell. And so he digs deep, deep enough until he hits the steel base—everything here is nothing but a synthetic fabrication. For now, this is all he has for protection—just a thick layer of detritus and nothing more.

It will do for now.

He is buried under, and the dirt invades his mouth, his intakes, any small crevice it can find, and it is bitter and tastes like the dead. How many mechs before him had perished in the name of Combat Control’s little games? How many were tortured for amusement? Taken control of to kill their teammates? How many received the “honor” of this?

Don’t know, don’t care, need to recharge, need to survive, must not be caught.
***

They find him in the early morning, before his systems even know what is happening. He just knows that he sees light before he even started digging himself out—not his doing—and there’s a foot planted in his face obscuring what little view he has.

They are like him, he knows—had even worked with them in the beginning—but they are no longer themselves, taken over by their trainers. By the very ones who put them here in the first place.

His hands are restrained behind him and he’s emitting a horrible electronic squeal in outrage, just barely beyond comprehensible Cybertronian and he hates it—hates that he has lost in a situation where such was the only outcome.

“Silly little drone,” one says. “You can never escape. We know.” The drone—no, he is nothing but a ‘bot now—taps his cortex. “We always know.”

Barricade’s eyes spiral inward, upper lip curled over clenched teeth in a snarl of anger. It is not his voice. It is CC’s voice. CC has no humanity, no compassion, no morals. CC just takes—takes over another mech’s processor just for the fun of it—and they were taking him. That was it. No questions asked.

Dead mech walking. Can no longer run.
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