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Screaming Blue Murder, Chapter 28

A/N: I WAS going to post chapters 28 and 29 in the same post, as they're short(-er than my normal chapters?). But ElJay say "nooo, tl:dr!" so I had to divide it in two. Bah!


Screaming Blue Murder
Chapter 28

There was the thump of heavy feet in the distance, and after a moment Hardline appeared briefly at the end of the corridor, apparently on his way between the Medical Suite and the Command Hub.

“Chief Inspector?” Thundercracker called, evenly.

Hardline backtracked into view. “What?”

“Could you, ah…” Thundercracker beckoned. “…just come and take a look at this?”

“What is it?” Hardline wondered, advancing down the corridor, and noticing the pair of shellshocked constables trying not to look like they were hiding behind the Decepticon. Imagery in this place is getting stranger by the day, he mused.

“Well, I’m not going to shout for everyone in the entire station to hear until we have some sort of plan in place.”

“What? Is it really that…” The riot tank’s words tailed off at seeing what Thundercracker was pointing to. “…bad,” he finished, flatly. His broad face had crimped instantly into a concerned frown. “Where did that come from?”

“A parting gift from our ex-analyst,” Thundercracker gave him a sidelong glance. “I don’t know how many there are. This is the first we found, but if Skywarp’s ramblings are anything to go by she’s left us more than just the one.”

“Timer’s not giving us a whole lot of time to plan, is it?” the giant sighed, examining the connections. “Hnh. What’d be your suggestion on where we go from here?”

“Search the premises. Get every available officer to take a corridor and search it top to bottom,” Thundercracker replied, grimly. “We need to know how many of these we’re looking at deactivating.”

“You think there’s more?” Hardline arched a brow, nonetheless moving away towards the small comms pod built into the wall. “Last I saw, your wingmate was hallucinating all manner of crazy things, is it really a good idea putting faith in his ramblings?”

“Ordinarily, I’d say probably not. Warp does have a habit of picking up insignificant things to blow out of all proportion… But then, I think it’d be a very significant fluke if we just happened to find what she’d left, if she only left one,” the Seeker nodded, gazing tiredly down on the disc.

“All right. Well, I’ll get the bomb squad down here anyway,” Hardline accepted, carefully extracting the little microphone from the holder; it looked like a toy in his large hands. “You happy to co-ordinate the search?”

“Yeah. Just give me a minute to warn Screamer – it’ll probably take him a cycle or two to stop throwing things…”


Down in the reassigned main forensics lab, Starscream stared up at his invention – quickly dubbed “the Decontamination Tank” for its resemblance to a shallow, inclined aquarium – and nodded to himself, satisfied. The sample program he’d just run had gone completely to plan, the fake “test subject” coming up with green lights right across the board – he just had to make a few more tweaks, and then he could run it for real-

It was at that point that Hardline’s voice boomed over the tannoy, startling him into dropping a white-hot microlance on his foot. “Ow-! Primus-” he swore, quietly, grabbing for the refrigerant in the can on the sideboard.

“All able-bodied officers are to report to the briefing room immediately!” came the instruction. “And I mean all of you, even if you just got back off a shift, you can recharge later! All those not-quite-so-able-bodied officers can come along too! The rest of you, better assemble in the yard for now; Inspector Celerity will give you directions. And yes, I do mean the civilians among you as well! Now let’s move!”

Starscream had stopped hopping in pain long before Hardline had finished speaking, and was instead staring up at the small loudspeaker with a mixture of annoyance and concern. He hoped he was just misinterpreting, and hadn’t in fact just been told to evacuate the premises…

An instant later, Thundercracker leaned in around the doorway and sadly confirmed it. “Screamer, you got all your schematics somewhere easy to grab?”

Starscream glared at him. “What schematics? I built this from scratch as I went along,” he reminded him.

“Well, I hope you can remember how you did it! ’Cause if it goes to the Pit – which it probably will – you’re gonna have to build it allll over again,” Thundercracker said, and gestured to the Tank.

“What?!” Starscream turned so he had his back to it, and spread his arms, as if he could somehow protect it. “Where in the Pit am I going to get the supplies to do that?!”

“Well, you can hang around if you like,” Thundercracker shrugged. “But if we can’t unplug the devices we’ve found Cali left, you might find it gets quite hot and noisy in here. And painful. And kind of explodey.”

“She left us bombs?” Starscream challenged, flatly, and Thundercracker nodded. “How imaginative.”

“Yeah, I know. We’re running about like blue-afted wotsits, right now, trying to work out if we can unplug them, and how many there are. Might have to rule the whole building out as a lost cause.”

The red Seeker vented air in a long, laboured sigh. “I guess I’d better go and get Warp out of here. We’re all going to have to sit on him to stop him teleporting, you know.”

“Better give Warp some of his medicine before you go,” Thundercracker added. “If his tank’s okay we might have to risk overdosing him again, because we’re not gonna have many places to keep the stuff.”

There wasn’t actually a lot of Crisis left, Starscream realised, sadly, examining their meagre supply once Thundercracker had sprinted away to co-ordinate the search. He’d used some in the Tank, and some had already been given to Warp, to stop his withdrawal… Which left maybe half of one of those small cubes. And there was going to be nowhere to get more, certainly in the short term and probably in the long term as well. Damn. And he was so close to being finished, as well! He just about resisted the urge to stamp his thruster in temper. All that computing power, going to… waste…

He stared up at his Vinculums, a slow realisation dawning in his optics.

Cali said that a Vinculum would be powerful enough. Assuming she was actually telling the truth…

“I can’t believe I’m actually doing this,” Starscream groaned, set the cube into the analysis port, and threw the lever.


In the medical suite, things had grown peaceful again. Forceps had taken her (reluctant) leave at Hardline’s instruction, and Skywarp had mumbled something that actually sounded almost like a thank you, although it was more of a ‘thank you for not blowing me up like a balloon’ than ‘thank you for fixing me’.

The two addicts were alone, now. Pulsar was perched on the edge of the berth with Skywarp behind her, his limbs wrapped around her; she wore a studied long-suffering resignation on her face, but didn’t look like she was quite so horribly put out as she was trying to suggest. Skywarp had his cheek against her shoulder, using her as a prop to hold himself upright, but his optics were offline and he looked almost like he was dozing comfortably, for a change, in spite of the occasional little withdrawal tremors that made him twitch. (Of course, his tanks were empty, and Thundercracker hadn’t yet arrived with his next dose of Crisis.) It was just a shame he was quite so heavy, because it was taking more than a little effort to just remain sitting…

With a patent tank and proper partitioning, it had taken a while longer for Pulsar to get to the point of withdrawal, but at long last she’d had begun to feel twitchy herself. She was trying to ignore it – they were already short on supplies, and she sensed Skywarp’s need was significantly greater than hers. Not having overdosed, the worst that could happen was she got shaky and irritable. When Skywarp came down off his cloud, he’d go straight back into the more terrible hallucinations – and he might not stay grounded, next time. She was only too aware how much trust she was putting in the baffle that was keeping him from teleporting – any fluctuation in power that let him make a jump, and she’d almost certainly get dragged along with him… Primus forbid he merged both of them with a wall, or each other. Damn, would that ever be a nightmare!

The strident wail of an alarm pierced the calm of the medical bay. It had a discordant, pulsatory tone that beat down like a physical pressure on the audios, and she felt Skywarp startle out of recharge behind her, his grip reflexively tightening around her.

“What-what’s that noise?” he demanded.

“That’s the evacuation alarm,” Pulsar explained, wincing at a combination of the noise and the way he was squeezing. The whooping alerts were bad enough when not withdrawing, it must be an incalculable number of times worse when withdrawing and hallucinating. “That must mean Thundercracker’s found what’s in the walls, right?”

“…get out, get out,” Skywarp mumbled, shakily, jittering and shooting his gaze around the small room, as if looking for an exit. “We’ve got to get out…! Can’t leave us here, can’t, can’t-! Pulse, get us out!”

“They’re not going to leave us here, and we’ve got to wait for someone to come along and release the field,” she lied, not wanting to have to be the only one helping him evacuate the building. Primus, I hope they remember we’re in here! “As soon as someone comes along, we’ll get out, all right?”


Starscream’s hastily-rigged replication program on the tabletop Vinculum had worked perfectly. The small container of Basic had shimmered very briefly with a pale blue effervescence as the fractals rewrote, and when he finally removed the cube from the outlet port – gingerly, as if it might bite him – the palmtop analyser confirmed it contained an “unknown” Blue variant that just happened to perfectly match the same unknown in the half-cube of Crisis. He studied the new, pale violet-blue Crisis for only a moment or two before setting the supercomputer going to make a second cube, trying to ignore exactly what he was doing.

Skywarp was quivering animatedly when Starscream finally managed to navigate his way through the corridors and around the scurrying crowds of frightened constables up to the medical suite. The teleport gave him a beseeching look out of optics that burned bright as fever, and almost completely flattened Pulsar in his effort to jump up and run; she managed by some miracle to keep him back long enough for Starscream to slip past the glass and fasten it securely behind himself.

“No, no, nonono, let me out, let me out!” Skywarp pleaded, pathetically, and had done three full lengths up and down the glass like a captured animal before Starscream managed to catch him again. Fright had turned vague twitches into full body shakes, and it was a bit like trying to keep hold of an agitated pneumatic road drill.

“Okay, Warp, easy does it,” Starscream soothed, and actually managed to get his shuddering wingmate to settle back onto the bunk. “We’re going to get you out, but you need to take your medicine first.”

“Medicine-…” Skywarp took the cube, quietly. “Ugh. Do I have to? Makes me see things.”

“I know, but you won’t need it much longer.” Starscream watched carefully as the teleport obediently took half a cube before pulling a face and handing it back.

“Can we get out of here, now?” Pulsar wondered, quietly – she was still shaking, and now Skywarp wasn’t making her vibrate it was obvious she was withdrawing as well.

“Here,” Starscream glared and offered the remaining half cube to her.

“I’m all right-”

“Take the damn cube already,” he barked, and she jumped. “If you’re going to stay and help me keep an eye on Warp while TC is busy, I want you as lucid as possible. All right?”

“What happens when we run out?”

Starscream winced and looked away. “Eh, well, we probably won’t do that. I made that, and there’s plenty more in my subspace.”

She stopped dead, clutching the cube halfway to her mouth. “What?!”

“It’s not exactly difficult to replicate if you have the computing power to do it,” he defended himself, lifting his chin, belligerently. “Just take your damn medicine, so we can get out of here.”

She made a face, but sipped warily at the cube anyway.

“Come on, Skywarp. Hup,” Starscream instructed, and gathered the teleport up off the berth.

“We leaving now?” Skywarp wondered, dreamily, dragging his feet.

“Yes, we’re heading out,” Starscream confirmed, watching as Pulsar slipped herself under Skywarp’s arm on the opposite and jacked him up just enough to get his feet flat on the floor. “Away from all these walls you don’t like.”

“Ah, good, good,” Skywarp skidded his heels but managed to keep his thrusters underneath him. “Away from the noise as well. Don’t like it here.”

“Is it really that bad?” Pulsar whispered, peering round the teleport.

Starscream gave her a look. “Well, we’ve found twenty-six, so far, so you could say yes, it’s that bad,” he agreed, dryly.

“Twenty-six what?”

“Twenty-six of Cali’s leaving presents. For someone who acted so friendly, she certainly has a sting in her tail, doesn’t she?”

“Yeah, but what are they?”

“I’m not going to shout so a certain person can hear and work himself into another panic,” Starscream growled, pointing at Skywarp and moving hastily back out of the way of a small gang of officers sprinting in the opposite direction. “Especially when we’re so close to the margin between overloading his teleport capability with excess mass, and him successfully jumping. I don’t want to see if unnerving him gives him just enough spark to teleport all three of us, especially since we’ve not been able to find that portable baffle that'll keep him down here. So… let’s just say… Cali’s devices will make a very loud noise and make everything shake, if we can’t unplug them.”

The significance apparently bypassed Skywarp’s current powers of interpretation quite neatly, but it gave the grav-cycle under his arm quite a kick in the power regulator. “Primus-! You mean she left-” she swallowed the words before she could blurt them out loudly enough for Skywarp to hear.

Exactly. Starting to get the idea why everyone’s running around like headless fleshies, now?”


Time was getting very short. Up in the original corridor, Thundercracker and Hardline had been joined by the current ‘bomb disposal team’ – now made up of Prowl and Jazz, since the previous team had apparently gone AWOL some vorns ago and no-one had thought to replace them – but in spite of all the expertise on hand, a quick solution was still not particularly forthcoming. The general thought was clearly ‘if only we had a few cycles more’, but everyone thankfully had the sense not to risk all his peers’ ire by actually saying it.

“If they’re all like this one, like the report suggests, they’re all tied into the grid,” Thundercracker noted. “If we kill the grid, we’ll kill the timers.”

“Surely that’ll set them all off,” Prowl complained, darkly.

“Perhaps,” Thundercracker was fiddling with the wiring in the back of the device, trying to tease the individual wires apart enough to see how it connected up. “But if we kill the timers, maybe we’ll force them into dormancy. Right?”

“That is far too simplistic a solution!” Prowl argued. “A scientist with Calibrator’s ability would hardly have elected to install a device you could switch off just by cutting its power!”

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that some of the smartest machines also have the least common sense – naming no names, of course,” Thundercracker observed, clearly referring to his absentee wingmate. “It might be such a simplistic solution that she never even considered it. Or maybe was hoping that we’d think it was something she’d never considered.”

“Regardless of whether or not it’s logical, we’ve got under a cycle left, and we’re not going to be able to work out how to manually deactivate them all in that time,” Jazz agreed, softly, unexpectedly taking the Decepticon’s line in favour of Prowl’s. “We may even have missed one or two. We’ve got to do a blanket shutdown, or nothing. It might mean the place goes up, but equally, if we try and manually deactivate them all in sequence, we’re pretty guaranteed an explosion.”

Hardline nodded, tiredly. “All right. Time for talking has pretty much run out. Is the building evacuated?” he asked, quietly, arms folded.

“As far as we can make it,” Prowl confirmed, with a nod. “If anyone's still hiding in here, there's not much else we can do for them.”

“Fair enough,” the chief inspector pursed his lips. “You three grab your colleagues and get out. I’m going to flip the switch.”

All three just stared at him, for a second.

“But that’s suicide,” Jazz argued, flatly. “Can’t we rig some sort of remote to do that?”

“Do we even know what sort of safe distance we should have evacuated to?” Prowl added.

“What if I don’t, and the place goes up anyway?” The riot tank had a resigned half-smile on his face. “Let’s face it, even if we had enough specialists to unplug all of these little gadgets before one sets all the rest off, sod’s law says we’d have missed one. There’s no time for remotes, or anything fancy…” he sighed. “Just enough time for one big dumb machine with just enough power to throw the switch. And none of you scrawny little things would survive the blast, if you were still in here.” He smiled, tiredly. “If I’m going to go asking someone to risk their life, it’s only fair I get first dibs at it.” He gestured with both big hands towards the doorway. “Go on, clear out, the lot of you. I’m not going to spoil this weird working relationship we’ve got by blowing you lot up.”


The gathering of officers in the street had attracted an audience. By the time the three mechs finally sprinted out of the main doors and up the street to the distant evacuation cordon, there was quite the concerned clustering of civilian spectators as well as Policebots, all optics glued to the station.

Skywarp was sitting on the floor close to the centre of the crowd, clinging to his long-suffering Policebot and flanked by his wingmates, staring hauntedly up at the deserted building, as if it would somehow grow legs of its own and chase him into the street. Now they were out from the subspace baffle that had kept him safe, there was no guarantee that Skywarp wouldn’t try teleporting if he got spooked – but the general consensus was that he couldn’t take all three of them along if he did try, and that might just be enough to keep his gate generator overloaded and offline.

Forceps stood silent at the back of the small group, but it didn’t take a mind-reader to know what she was thinking. Hardline’s absence meant only one thing, and she’d apparently accepted his choice with the sort of silent dignity they’d come to accept from her – no pleading, no insistence that she must go in and convince him not to do it, no wailing of pleas or threats at Primus… Just a little nod of understanding when Thundercracker explained, and the agreement that much as it pained her to admit it, he probably was best for the job.


The master switch was hidden away in the upper basement, where not many machines with mischief in mind could stumble across it and plunge operations into darkness – not that one of the skinny little cycles prone to such stupidity would have been able to shift it alone, anyway. The heavy lever had been designed with so many springs and failsafes that it was too stiff for most machines to be able to even wiggle it, let alone throw it all the way into the ‘off’ position – but then, Hardline wasn’t ‘most machines’. He had the sheer brawn that with a little effort he could do it himself. Lucky, that.

He stood and stared at the dusty old switch for several long, agonising moments, listening to the countdown that beat quietly at the back of his mind.

… 307 … 306 … 305 … 304 …

If Thundercracker’s right, pulling the level will kill the timers. If Prowl’s right, killing the timers could just set them all off en-masse, he mused, to himself, wishing he could somehow operate it with the power of his mind alone. Mind, if I stand here looking like some half-sparked scrapheap for much longer, they’ll solve the problem for me anyway.

Well, I’m glad I found you again, Sepp, he thought, wishing he could somehow convey the sentiment telepathically. Even if it is only going to have been for a short time. He carefully folded both large blue hands around the lever, and circulated cool air briefly through his venting, flushed all the stale air out. Just wish it didn’t have to end like this.

Primus forgive me, he thought, grimly, closed his eyes, and threw his weight backwards-


The astro-seconds ticked past so slowly, it was as though time were flowing through treacle. The crowd had already gone silent, as if torn between morbid fascination and just plain cutting and running for their lives. It had already been a breem since Hardline’s last communication, where he’d announced he’d got to the switch, and the wait for the inevitable was getting agonising. Were they even at a safe distance, here? Should they push back another mile or two?

The sign at the front flickered twice and went out, and everyone subconsciously braced themselves for a boom that might even be felt halfway around the globe. Out of the corner of his eye, Thundercracker could see that some of the little teams of constables had physically clustered themselves into scared little huddles; he’d have smiled, amusedly, if not for the fact that his own fingers had tightened anxiously on Skywarp’s shoulder.

The station remained still, and quiet, however, and at long last the voice came over Thundercracker’s comm. “Looks like your hunch was right, Decepticon.” Hardline sounded shaky with relief, but unharmed. “The timers have all gone dormant. We can unplug ‘em at our leisure, so long as we’ve got enough torches to see by.”

Starscream released Skywarp from his hold, folded his arms, and huffed, irritably. “Right, great,” he hissed. “Now how am I supposed to run the Vinculums if they’re all turned off?!”


The silent crowd of civilians had already grown noisy and begun to dissipate in little relieved clusters when Hardline finally emerged from the main double doors and beckoned to Celerity, who was lurking conveniently nearby. The words “roll call” and “check who’s skiving off down the pub” could just about be discerned from a distance before she grinned and bobbed her head, scuttling away to get on with it.

Forceps stomped past the three Seekers and up the ramp to where her friend was giving out orders and discussing matters with Boxer; she wasn’t the sort of person to fling herself bodily at him and give him a relieved hug, but then she didn’t have to be. Her gruff scolding and checking him for damage was just as eloquent, and he put up with it with a patient half-smile.

“Oh, Starscream?” Hardline caught the Seekers before they vanished inside. “Found something in the basement I figured you might find useful,” he observed, and dropped a smallish ring-shaped device into the puzzled blue hands.

“What’s that?” Thundercracker peered over his wings.

Starscream rolled his optics, exaggeratedly. “Is it just me, or is time management an alien concept around here?” he growled, nevertheless accepting the device. “Portable baffle. Right when we don’t need it.”

In the laboratory suite, some of the technicians had managed to scrounge up a portable generator for Starscream’s precious Vinculums, and there had been surprisingly few resentful grumbles that the Decepticon got a source of electricity when everyone else had to do with battery powered handlamps and chemical sniffers until the devices had been removed and neutralised.

The Decontamination Tank was a hulking dark shadow in the near-lightless laboratory; the streetlamp just outside the window threw it into an unfriendly, angular relief that made it look almost like a weapon in itself.

“So where do we go from here, Screamer?” Thundercracker complained, grimly, staring at the device and waving his flashlight over it; cold metal glinted in an unfriendly way back at him. “We haven’t even tested it!”

“I don’t know if you’re mistaking me for one of those idiot Autobot scientists whose inventions blow up as soon as you look at them,” Starscream scolded, “but this is going to actually work.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know that. Still,” Thundercracker demurred, irritably, hands raised to indicate he hadn’t meant offence. “I think we should test it, just to be sure.”

“What about me?” Pulsar spoke up, quietly.

They glanced over at her, scornfully. She sat on a table just inside the doorway, with Skywarp still wrapped around her, his optics offlined, heads leaning together, but at least looking somewhat more comfortable than he had been before. The subspace baffle looked like a piece of particularly ugly, glowing jewellery around his wrist.

“What about you?” Starscream challenged.

“I meant…” she fidgeted. “I’m on Crisis as well. Could you use me as a test subject?”

“Tch! You just want to make sure you get fixed,” Starscream argued, darkly. “Just in case we elect to leave you damn Auto-dorks in the dust once Warp is back on his feet.”

“Seriously. Getting fixed is kind of a secondary benefit. Call it… settling a debt, if you like.” She lifted her nose. “I don’t much like owing debts to the likes of you any more than you like owing them to Sepp.”

“It’ll hardly go far towards settling accounts,” Starscream sniped back. “You’ve dug a hole for yourself so deep you’d need a rocket pack to get out of it-”

“Eh, Screamer? Surely it’s worth a shot,” she heard Thundercracker murmur. “At least we’ll know if your contraption works like it should.”

The air commander’s optics narrowed irritably, dimming to a resentful cobalt. “All right, all right, I guess it can’t hurt. We’ll use the blank Vinculums for now,” he allowed, at last, reluctantly. “That way if it doesn’t work properly, we’ll still have our backup fake-Skywarp to tweak the program on. Well, come here, then, it won’t work if you stay sat over there!” He beckoned with a sharp little flick of his hand.

Skywarp whined faintly and hugged his own knees, watching as they helped the Policebot clamber unsteadily into the device. “Not in the box,” he said, quietly, mostly to himself. “Not in the box…!”

“You know, I hope that’s not going to be a problem,” Thundercracker murmured, gesturing backwards at his ill wingmate. “Are we even going to be able to get him to sit still long enough for this to work?”

“We’ll jump that hurdle when we get to it,” Starscream replied, dryly. “If we have to offline him first, then that's just what we'll have to do. Come on, Squeaky, do you want to do this or not?” he directed his attention at the unnerved grav-cycle, who still hadn’t settled in the box. “Lay down.”

“Sorry…” she managed, awkwardly. The inner surface had been inlaid with protective memory foam, and it could have looked a little like an enclosed recharge berth if not for the coolant rig and bristling array of pickups all around the inner margins, looking like the mandibles of some sort of unfriendly xenoform, all glittering pale blue where they caught the light from her optics. “Just… doesn’t look too friendly, in the dark. Uh… This, um… this isn’t going to hurt, is it?” she asked, quietly, catching Starscream’s wrist as he went to make the connections.

“I don’t know,” he replied, honestly, and gave her a look. “I’ve never tested it, remember?” His lip curled. “Why, want to rethink your noble self-sacrifice?”

She released his wrist. “No. No, you need a test subject,” she backed down, reluctantly. “I said I’d help.”

“Iii… guess it wouldn’t hurt to give you a shot of sedative,” Starscream offered, unexpectedly, albeit accompanied by the sort of face that made him look like he was taking a pair of bolt-cutters to some sort of sensitive portion of his anatomy. “Sit tight. I’m sure I have some Virathesis around here somewhere…”

Her last vision before stasis finally claimed her was of three pairs of optics in the mostly darkness, watching her own fade out, and the echoing question/answer of will it work?/I honestly have no idea


Even with all the serial Vinculums, the actual decontamination program was not a quick one – quite the opposite. It’d take at least a cycle or two to chase down all the rogue fractals and delete them safely, and probably another cycle to patch the gaps back up and repair any basal defects… and that was on a machine that had not, so far as they’d been able to tell, overdosed at any point. Skywarp’s abused cortex would probably take a full orn to clean up and repair, if not more.

…Unfortunately, the well-programmed Tank pretty much ran itself, leaving Starscream empty-handed and in need of something to occupy his own processors. He’d fidgeted and paced for a breem or two before landing his attention squarely back on Skywarp and dragging him away to the office down the corridor to get a look at what sort of state his processors were in.

Thundercracker had already been busy running cables down the hallway from the generator, planning on getting some time for recharge, but Starscream got to the hookups first, and had wired them into the main computer before his friend realised what was happening.

“Hey, hey!” Thundercracker glared, hands on hips. “That was mine, you glitch! I’ve not had the time to recharge properly in orns-!”

“You make it sound like the rest of us have.” Starscream waved him off, parking Skywarp on a table. “If it had slipped your notice, we’ve all been busy. You’ll get your chance later. Make yourself useful and help Winnower get the second suite of supercomputers ready.”

Thundercracker huffed, quietly, but turned obediently away. “…fragger.”

On his table, Skywarp sat patiently under the analysis hood, and watched dreamily as kaleidoscoping colours flashed up on the large screen in front of him. “Pretty,” he observed, head perked to one side.

Starscream stared wordlessly at the display for a second or two, barely believing what he was seeing.

The diagram was a pictorial representation of Skywarp's processors - colour coded, weighted for power with different saturations and luminance... The Blue fractals had curled and twisted their way through every single layer of programming, like a luridly coloured malignant fungus – all the way from his basal systems and up through the psychological and cognitive functions… and there was a lot of it. It’d leave great big holes in his psyche if they just flat deleted it…

...he leaped for his internal communicator.

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