This story is by ZhangYuLian and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
What was normalcy? It was the condition of being normal; the state of being usual, typical, or expected. Simple enough, right? Yet every time the question popped into her head, it made Madi’s heart constrict. If being normal was so simple, so expected, why was it so hard for her to attain?
Her morning went about as usual. A ding on her smartphone reminded the brunette as she inhaled her breakfast that the checkup with Ratchet was in less than an hour. Her mind drifted over to Cliffjumper, who brushed the edges of her mind affectionately like a good morning kiss. She returned the mental gesture, grinning when he mentioned the ice cream parlor.
Despite being physically apart—her, miles underground inside a military bunker and her bonded, currently running sentry duty topside—it was like he was right there beside her.
Madi and the Cybertronian scout spoke through their neurological connection as she got ready to head out. After a quick good bye, she disconnected the bond, walking out the door. Glancing at her watch, Madi decided to power walk. She had no intention of receiving another one of Ratchet’s lectures.
It took her a good twenty minutes to travel from her apartment to where the Autobot medbay was located. The distance between the opposite ends ran several miles. Every time she trekked through the underground bunker, Madi couldn’t help but appreciate its complexity. From the advanced combined human/alien technology to the extremely complicated command hierarchy, very person and every thing moved and worked like a well-oiled machine.
The brunette glanced at her watch as she approached the large hangar doors that were the medbay entrance.
“Ten minutes to spare,” she sighed.
Her ears perked up at the voices coming from the thin opening. She leaned in, curious. Going inside her head, Madi activated her firewalls before pulling over an egress filter, cloaking her mind and presence.
“And when do you plan to tell her? The child has a right to know.”
Madi’s heart skipped a beat at Ratchet’s words. Tell her what?
“It will be soon. I don’t wish to ruin the celebration of her creation day, old friend.” The baritone was unmistakably Prime’s.
“I would want her bonded be present as well.”
“And what will that do? The scans I’ve performed each week have proven nothing but the same results. Her cells are not undergoing senescence, Prime. She’s practically immortal.”
Madi’s breath hitched. It felt as if someone had dumped freezing cold water all over her body.
“And the Allspark energy? Is it still there?”
“Are you glitched? Of course it is! Otherwise she wouldn’t have on-lined in the first place to be a living vessel of our people’s most ancient—”
He didn’t get a chance to finish as Madi burst through the door.
The two Cybertronians twisted around in surprise.
“Is that all I am to you?”
Madi barely gave them a moment to recover before she spoke again, voice laced with venom.
“I get it, you rescued me, I owe my life. But it’s been a year! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
Her eyes stung. It took every ounce of will power not to let them fall.
“Forgive us, Madi. We did not intend for you to find out this way. Without knowing what had been done to you during your captivity, strengthening you to optimal health was our main priority,” spoke Optimus.
“So that I’d be the perfect vessel for your god and people?” One shaky breath followed the other. Was this her destiny? To become not an alien, but not a human either; a being in between?
“Madi, you’re hyperventilating. Listen to me. You need to stay calm—”
Madi inched backwards, eyes wide, fearful.
“No!” She backed away. “Get away from me!”
Instantly, she bolted. Madi could hear their voices shouting her name but didn’t bother looking back. She blurred past the soldiers and civilian support staff, ignoring the concerned or curious glances directed her way.
Suddenly, she slammed the door shut, realizing that was back inside her own apartment. Madi leaned heavily against the wall, keening at the pain in her chest. Her lungs felt like they had been scorched by fire. Sliding to the floor, a tear finally streamed down her pale face. Then another and another until Madi became a sobbing mess.
Why did it have to be this way?
Since the day she was born, Madi’s fate had been sealed by the royal blood she bore. Born into war, survival and death had become her allies. They reminded her that fate was cruel and that no one was safe from the grim reaper. Not her parents, not her people. Even the Earth that she had come from fell victim to its demise. After accidentally crossing dimensions and making a life of her own on a different Earth, Madi thought she had left that all that behind.
Clearly, fate had other plans.
Her mind flitted back and forth. Suddenly, she froze in place. Her eyes widened as the puzzle pieces slid into place. The accelerated healing, the sudden knowledge and understanding of an alien language—it must have been the Allspark’s doing, keep her alive to preserve itself through her. Questions flew. Would she look the same for all eternity as in immortal, stuck in time unable to reach adulthood and mature into a woman? The thought of possibly outliving her friends by hundreds, if not thousands or millions of years, it made her stomach churn spin. Numbness, cold and ruthless, washed over her entire being. How much time would it take before she’d go insane?
Madi lurched forward, vomiting violently onto the carpet. Searing pain was all she could feel. She managed to prop her upper body on bent elbows, gasping and panting at the searing pain that wracked her entire form. The pounding in her head grew louder and louder. Sweat dripped from Madi’s forehead. She felt her egress filter slip moments ago and her firewalls about to do the same.
Suddenly, Madi stilled, realizing that if that happened, Ratchet, Optimus and the other Cybertronians would sense her distress. It would cause panic, especially from the medic. In that moment, she wanted nothing more than to put a bullet in her head and end it all there. Yet, another part of her wanted to scream and curse and fight whatever deity dealt her this fate.
The girl sagged as she released the hold on the firewall, instantly becoming exposed to the presence of multiple sparks across the island all at once. She felt each one freeze, turning to her in equal parts shocked, concerned, and angry. The last emotion took her by surprise, but Madi wasn’t sure if they were angry at her or at her situation. Either way, it didn’t matter. She just didn’t care.
Something dripped onto her arm, bringing the brunette out of her thoughts. A shaky hand flew up, dabbing at the warm liquid coming from her nostrils.
Instinctually, her spark pulled, yearning with the need to reach out to Ratchet or Cliffjumper for help. Something inside her twisted at the thought of her bonded and suddenly she prayed, begging whatever higher beings were listening that this wasn’t a perfect illusion. What her and Cliff had together was real, right? Her mind suddenly turned on itself.
What if it wasn’t? How many times does it take to kill an immortal?
Suddenly, a familiar form materialized beside her before a pair of arms wrapped themselves around her shoulder, pulling Madi up into a more comfortable position.
“Don’t you dare!” He whispered into her hair, holding onto her tightly. “Please, sweetspark. I swear on my spark what we have is real.”
The ruefulness in his voice made something inside her crack. Madi flinched at a cool, damp towel that rubbed away the excess bile on her face while another hand rubbed circles onto her back. Through her glossy gaze, she could make out the human forms of both her bonded and her warden. Both held onto her tightly.
“Did you know too?” She finally croaked, leaning into her Cliffjumper’s familiar warmth. The pulse of regret that crossed through their bond space was suffocating.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Cliffjumper held her like that for what felt like an eternity. Beside him, Ratchet’s gruff voice filled the uncomfortable silence.
“You are more than a vessel to us, Madi. Despite what you believe, you are your own person. You will always be one of us.”
Madi didn’t know what to say to that. Instead, Madi leaned into Cliffjumper’s holoform as another sob ripped through her, leaning into his warm glittering presence; the complete opposite of the maelstrom threatening to explode inside.
As they held her, rivers continued streaming down the sides of Madi’s face as she reflected the tragedy her life had come to be. All she wanted to be was normal. Madi wondered for the umpteenth time since the death of her parents…
Am I cursed?