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Screaming Blue Murder, Chapter 31

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Screaming Blue Murder
Chapter 31

It was strange, what their unexpected Decepticon allies had done to the force, Boxer mused, standing off to one side of the briefing room and only half-listening to what Celerity was telling him, watching his fleet get ready to move. The large room was full, which wasn’t unusual, but it was full of excited, chattering officers, keen to head out, which was unusual. It made a dramatic contrast to the usual grim-faced, quiet, grumbling staff he usually had to somehow rouse into enthusiasm.

If the three Seekers could (somehow) be persuaded to stay on, they’d be just what the force needed, he recognised, tiredly. Now all three fliers were pulling in the same direction, for a change, they actually came across as somewhat effective. Unlike usual, when Starscream usually sabotaged himself by being a little too brazen about ousting Megatron from the top spot, or Skywarp’s overconfidence led him to be a little too daring and get a little too close to the enemy, or Thundercracker’s odd sentimentality over those poor little ground-bound squishy insects raised its head, and one of them ended up being the key to another defeat.

The surreality of it made him only too aware of what he was contemplating. Decepticons, on an Autobot police force? Although how “Autobot” the force would remain after this had blown over was anyone’s guess – he’d heard rumours that a significant number of previously-loyal Policebots might be ditching their badges and going neutral. ‘We’re here to uphold the law, not squabble over territory on behalf of a faction that’s barely even here any more,’ was a sentiment he’d heard one of the juniors chirp in the corridor.

At the side of the room, Starscream was still fussing over his weaponry, in contrast to Skywarp and Thundercracker, who’d given their systems only a cursory glance over before being satisfied. They now stood chatting, watching Starscream and making pithy comments, and the aerospace commander looked like his patience was wearing thin.

“Don’t the pair of you have anything better to do than give me a running commentary?” Starscream scolded, at length. “Skywarp, take this. You’ll want to get it installed before we leave,” he instructed, and flicked his wrist. Something small and colourless sailed lightly through the space between them.

Skywarp plucked it lightly out of the air; it turned out to be a small polymer pouch. He eyed it, warily, and wrinkled his nose. “What’s it for?”

“Well, Cali will expect you to need a top-up when you get there, correct? This’ll make a physical barrier between you and the Blue, so it’ll stop you getting addicted again.” Starscream didn’t even look up, busy checking the focusing lenses on his left cannon. “You can fake the high and the withdrawal, can’t you?”

“Well, I’ve done it for real, enough times, I think I know the symptoms. Just one question.” Skywarp waved the pouch, and affected a pained look. “Will this thing mean you’ve got to endoscope me again?”

“Well, you can get yourself addicted again if you like, but I imagine there’ll be a heavy demand on the Tank once we’re done.”

“That was a ‘yes’, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was.”

“I hate that thing,” Skywarp groused at the innocent device, but went obediently away to swallow the pouch. “TC? Gimme a hand with this…”

“Um, Commander Starscream?” The red Seeker didn’t even bother to look up; it was only the desk sergeant in the doorway, straining to make his harsh little croaky voice heard over the excited hubbub. “You have a visitor? Sir? Can you hear-… Oh, just-…” Whisper directed his attention at the visitor. “Never mind, just go on in. Never gonna be heard over this noisy bunch of idiots anyway…”

“Thank you, Whisper,” a familiar voice replied, and at last Starscream glanced up from his diagnostic, his features quirking into a grin at seeing who his visitor was.

“Long time no see, Sepp,” he observed, dryly. “What are you doing here? Come to join the party and exact a little righteous vengeance of your own?”

“Hardly,” the big female replied, drolly, striding casually through the thronging junior officers, who parted for her like ice before the prow of a ship. “Given how you three don’t seem to be able to do anything without getting yourselves broken up, I thought I best show willing and pre-empt being needed.”

“Tch! You wound me greatly, doctor-”

“Surgeon.”

“-And surely you’re not daring to accuse the mighty Starscream of being careless in action?”

She nodded briefly in greeting to the other two. “I’m not accusing anything, I’m just telling it like it is.”

“What are you doing here?” Skywarp wondered out loud, managing to do a full orbit and a half of surveillance before she caught his wing and growled at him to stay still. “Better be careful, Screamer, soon Ama won’t let you out of her sight without permission.”

“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” Forceps challenged.

“Well, you are being kinda mumsy, Sepp. Anyone would think you were his long-lost-creator.”

Starscream shook his head, wearily. “You have my permission to hit him, if you like.”

“Thank you, but I think I’ll decline. Wouldn’t want to squash our delicate little hero before he even steps out of the door, now, would I?”

“I’m not that delicate.” Skywarp pouted, tagging along at the rear of the group as they set off towards the yard where everyone else had begun to assemble. “Come on, doctor. What are you doing here?” he chased. “You can’t possibly be wanting to come along.”

“Why not?” Forceps briefly folded her arms over her powerful chest and stuck out her jaw. “You don’t think I’m going to let you merry band of overexcited idiots go off alone, do you?”

“But you’re Neutral-” Thundercracker reminded her, surprised.

“-and a medic! And a femme!” Skywarp added, sounding unrealistically horrified.

“And you’re a Decepticon, so what? Codustral has become all our enemy. If my coming along gets Blue off the streets and makes my job easier, then I’m all for helping out. Besides.” A flicker of a smile ghosted over her features, and she gave Skywarp a meaningful look. “Someone with a smidgen of common sense has to come along to haul all your afts out of the Pit.”

The yard was already over-full when they arrived, and there was still only two-thirds of the strike force present; a good number of the constables present had begun to spill out into the street. The large, unexpected patch of orange in the periphery of his vision was what attracted Starscream’s attention, however – Spotweld was waiting semi-patiently by the stairs, fidgeting his feet uneasily.

“Hello, Spots. You’re not going to tell me you’re coming along as well, are you?” the red Seeker wondered, curiously, leaning over the stair-rail to talk to the protoform.

Spotweld actually backed off a step. “Um, no? I wasn’t planning on coming with you, this sort of violence isn’t my scene,” he apologised, softly, watching as the little group finally filtered out through the doors and down into the little clear space at the rear of the yard, close to where Hardline and Boxer were going over a map. “I just, um, I though it would be good if I wished you luck? And I-… well, I wanted to try and persuade Sepp out of going?”

Skywarp gave the giant a considering look. “You’d be useful to have on the team, you know,” he mused. “Even just seeing someone as big as you would probably put a lot of ‘em off, even if you didn’t do anything. I bet you’ve got plenty of experience in subduing unruly mechs from working at the hospital, too.”

“Primus, no, I couldn’t possibly,” Spotweld disagreed, flatly, shaking his head. “Bad enough that you’ve corrupted Sepp into these violent ways, I really don’t want to be involved as well?”

“Well, yeah, but-”

“It’s okay, Warp,” Starscream leaned closer and patted the teleport’s shoulder. “Don’t keep pushing. If he doesn’t want to be involved, that’s his decision, and we should respect it,” he continued, gently, ignoring the way his wingmates gawped like idiots at this unexpected and unnatural change in manner. “I know how you feel, Spots. Must make you feel pretty helpless, correct? All those machines there who you can’t help…”

“That’s not what I meant,” Spotweld argued, shrinking back. Seemed his halves were in agreement for once. “I just… I don’t want to be involved. I can’t be responsible for adding to the problem. I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to be involved in this!”

“That’s okay. We’re not going to ask you to be involved,” Starscream smiled, and patted the taller mech’s shoulder, gently. “We’ll let you know when we’re done, and we’ll bring the sick and the injured to you at the hospital, so you don’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty.”

“-…injured?” Spotweld’s optics flickered.

“Oh, I’m sure there’ll be at least a few. We are going to blow up a factory after all. A factory probably full of toxic materials, shock-sensitive explosives, combustibles…” Starscream shrugged, apologetically. “Some probably won’t make it to hospital still functioning, but still. We’ll respect your wishes.” He’d only known Spotweld for a few dozen orns, but clearly knew exactly which of his buttons to press to get a result he wanted.

Spotweld was easily a third as tall again as Starscream, and could have probably loomed quite effectively if he’d wanted to, but ultimately he wasn’t up to the job. He struggled against the pleading look in those innocent blue optics for a full three astroseconds before folding like a wet paper bag.

“I hate you,” he muttered, slumping down in the corner of the yard like a kicked spider.

“Does that mean you’re with us?” Starscream looked obscenely pleased to have finally got a rise out of the lanky giant.

“Yes.” Pale green optics flickered murderously. “But only to help the injured ones! I’m not going to hurt anyone. I’m not going to fight. I’m just going to… to follow along behind?”

“What happened there?” Skywarp wondered, quietly, looking briefly askance at Thundercracker.

Thundercracker pulled a face. His brain already hurt, even without the need to think too hard over it. “I think… that Starscream just guilt-tripped a committed Neutral into joining our little ragtag Autobot-Decepticon Police Alliance,” he groaned, rubbing his temples.

“That’s like… a whole sentence of oxymoron,” Skywarp observed, almost admiringly. “I have got to learn how to do that.”

Pulsar was one of the last constables to arrive, tagging along behind Longbeam and a newly-decontaminated shamefaced Whitesides, who avoided Starscream’s glare and tried to pretend he wasn’t there at all really. Leaving her two room-mates to rejoin the rest of the lower ranks by the street, Pulsar sidled over to Skywarp. “Is this it? When are we going?” she wondered, quietly.

“Sorry, what was that? I distinctly heard a ‘we’ in there,” Skywarp gave her a stern glance. “We will not be doing anything. I will be making the first strike, and you will be going with your peers.”

“What, you’re not taking her as well?” Thundercracker half-teased. “I was beginning to think you two were joined at the hip.”

“Pssh.” Skywarp waved a hand, dismissively. “I can’t take Squeaky with me, she’s too big a risk.”

“What?!” She sounded outraged. “This is my job, how can you possibly sammf-!”

He’d flattened a hand over her mouth and wagged a finger, warningly. “Look, if I take you along, I’ll have to get you out, as well,” he groused. “And that is a risk. Besides! We’ve not had time to get our story straight, you’ll only blow my cover.”

“You’re taking him-!” She waved an arm in Jazz’s direction. “Cali will only suspect something if I don’t come with you, she expects it, now…!”

He’s got something useful to do, and you’ll only get in the way,” Skywarp disagreed. “And I can tell her she put her bug into the wrong Crisis, and you’re dead. Easy!”

“Oh, thanks,” Pulsar folded her arms and scrunched her nose. “Anyone would think you’re just scared I’ll get hurt, and I’m not some silly ineffectual little bit of fluff who needs your protection!”

“Now, see, if that was the case I’d find the highest building possible and dump you on the roof, then fetch you down afterwards,” he corrected, and smirked at the way she winced at the idea. “Regardless. I am not. Taking you. With me,” he repeated, slowly, giving her a prod for good measure. “I’m a good teleport but I can’t carry both of you. You’ll just have to slum it and go with everyone else, Squeaky.”

“You’re going to have to be careful, Warp,” Thundercracker lifted a finger. “Much more of this adult, responsible behaviour and people will think Screamer’s invention broke your brain, after all.”

“Oh, ha very ha.” The teleport wrinkled his lip, derisively.

“Would you please stop calling me ‘Squeaky’?” Pulsar hissed at him, once everyone else’s attention had drifted away. “Even Nightsun’s started to pick up on it!”

“Why, what’ll you do if I don’t?” he challenged, and gave her one of those indecent grins. “I look forward to being surprised. If you feel up to it.”

She narrowed her optics at him. “You seem to have stolen most of my tricks, but I’m sure I could think of something,” she huffed, grumpily. “That, or I’ll just ask Hardline to give you a good solid boot up the rear.”

“Ooh, kinky!” Skywarp grinned, and patted her helm before she could splutter her way to a counter-retort. “Come on Squeaky, no more time for chatting. We’re gonna hold everyone up…”

Standing away to one side, Forceps cast her gaze over the assembled fleet of vehicles, and huffed air tersely through her vents. Everyone here – with the exception of the two heavyweights, Boxer and Hardline – was built for speed; even the gangrel Spotweld had been built with running in mind – his long legs were light and springy, and he lacked an alt-mode altogether.

“You’re all too quick on your feet,” she grumbled. “I’ll never keep up. I’ll have to transform.”

Boxer gave her a look; he’d always assumed the femme to just be a very large protoform. “You even have an alt?”

“I’ve not used it in aeons,” Forceps admitted, quietly. “Not since taking the consultancy at the District General. I barely remember I have one. Won’t even be too surprised if I manage to get stuck in the shift. Give me a moment, would you?”

Boxer nodded, and backed off a step or two. Hardline had already transformed, and was sat with his engine idling patiently down by the gate.

Forceps cycled cool air, briefly, then let her arms dangle at her sides, gave them a little shake like an athlete limbering up, to loosen out the joints and make sure everything was in as peak an operating condition as possible. Then she offlined her optics, and concentrated, and felt little switches clicking over. There was an unfamiliar-familiar sense of shifting, of motion, the sensation of relays rerouting, of actuators reconfiguring, of familiar body parts tucking away behind screens and shields and heavy plating. It took a longer time than she figured it should have, but once everything had finally settled out she felt in fine working order, just a lot lower to the ground than she had before.

“I’ve not gone like this for aeons,” the new flatbed truck groused, running system checks. “Surprised I can still do it. Be glad to get back to my root mode.”

Boxer observed she’d been being literal when she said she’d drag their hides out of the Pit – she was built for heavy-haulage, a low-sided open-top truck floating on powerful gravity lifters, with plenty of space on board for both injured citizens and their helpers. “You could just stay in your root mode-” he offered.

“Too slow. Far too slow. I’ll get there after you lot have either won the day, or else got yourselves killed.”

“In okay shape, though?”

She revved her engines in reply – a deep, powerful roar that made the air quiver – and a dust of fine particulates vented from under-used exhaust-ports. “Not at peak capacity, but it’ll do,” she acceded. “Ready to head out whenever you are.”

Once he’d finally joined the truck and the tank in vehicle mode, it was more apparent where Boxer’s name had come from. He was a long, flattish construct, heavily armoured and bristling with weaponry, looking rather like a boxy vehicular battering ram. “Everyone good to go?” his voice boomed out over the yard, and there was a chorus of agreement. “All right. Skywarp, Jazz? We’ll follow you at a safe distance, for now. You’re both happy you know what you have to do?”

There were nods in reply from the only two still in their root-modes. “I’ll let you know as soon as the field’s down,” Jazz confirmed, and quirked a lopsided smile. “Although if you keep an eye out for some fireworks, you’ll probably already know.” He tilted his glance towards his partner. “Ready to head out, Warp?”

“Been ready for cycles, waiting for you lot to quit talking and get moving,” Skywarp replied, dryly, wrinkling his lip in a one-sided sneer. “You ever been teleported before?”

Jazz arched a brow in response. “No, wh-” was as far as he got before the Seeker dropped a ‘friendly’ hand down on his shoulder and stepped them forwards into nothing.

0o0o0o0o0

Skywarp returned to normal space a full body-length up in the air (Jazz considered purely to alarm him when there was suddenly no ground to stand on). The teleport touched down gracefully in a derelict corner of the plant, and let Jazz scuttle behind a heap of chemical drums. “Got all your kit?” he checked, quietly.

“Got it,” the smaller mech confirmed, nodding, and gave the flier a grin and a thumbs-up. “Good luck, Decepti-creep.”

“Ha. Good luck yourself, Auto-dork,” Skywarp sneered back, amusedly. At least some things don’t change. “Watch yourself, yeah? If I’m gonna be busy distracting the femme, I’m not going to be able to come snag your aft out of the fire if things get too hot for you.”

“Oh, don’t you worry about me, I’m far more resilient than you like to contemplate!”

“Peh, yeah, I’d noticed, after all those vorns we’ve been trying to get rid of you…” Skywarp gunned his thrusters, and launched himself back into the air. “Quicker you get that field down, the quicker we can all go home and get some rest.”

Calibrator was away on the distant margin of the plant, discussing something with Deuce. Skywarp rumbled his thrusters to get their attention, and glided gracefully down to land on his toes in the nearest little clear bit of ground. (Okay, so he was showing off a bit, but who cared? He was keeping them distracted, right?)

“Skywarp,” Calibrator greeted, with an inscrutable smile. “Good to see you back at last.”

He half-bowed. “Good to be back, Cali,” he agreed, offering his own enigmatic look and exaggerating a withdrawal-fidget. “Even if you do seem surprised to see me.”

Her smile became a little more cynical. “Perhaps a little,” she accepted, holding up one spidery hand with thumb and forefinger a few microns apart, and flicking the other at Deuce, who knew instinctually what was wanted. “I had begun to wonder if you lacked the appropriate devotion to the cause.”

“It’s always good practice to bet on the winning team,” Skywarp reminded, amusedly, accepting the smallest cube of Crisis that he’d seen so far off Deuce. “The police are waltzing around as if they’ve already won, but I figure they’ve underestimated you.”

She preened very slightly at the praise, then frowned, puzzled, looking around his wings, realising something. “Where is Pulsar?”

“What?” Skywarp followed her gaze back over his own shoulders, then affected an offhand look and shrugged, took a sip of the cube Deuce had handed over (and tried not to cross his fingers too obviously that Starscream’s pouch would work). “Oh, Skinny? Eh, she overdosed. No-one told you? She’s in hospital, but they don’t think she’s gonna make it.”

Whatever else she had going against her, Calibrator at least had the decency to look upset at the news. “I’m… sorry to hear that,” she admitted, quietly. “Regardless how we ultimately treated each other, I would have liked to still consider she may have forgiven me, thought of me as a friend.”

“Really? You put that bug-thing into her cube,” he replied, with a little frown, licking the last drop of Crisis from his lower lip. “I figured you must have really been narked off at her, for some reason. It was horrible to watch, even for a Decepticon like me.”

Calibrator kept her gaze downcast. “I hadn’t intended for her to die,” she disagreed, quietly. “I genuinely hoped she would elect to come back here. If she genuinely was poisoned, it was a mistake.”

“If killing her was a mistake, why’d you give her the bug in the first place?” Skywarp challenged, wondering if he could get her to admit her intention had been to kill him instead.

She gave him a probing look, and neatly sidestepped the question. “You don’t seem too overtly concerned at her misfortune. I had begun to think the pair of you were closer than you were trying to let on,” she observed, softly. “It would have made a nice change from the norm, and increased your value to my organisation.”

Aw, frag, don’t go blow your cover now. “Need I remind you what she was?” Skywarp sneered, trying to ignore the discomfiting feelings that flitted through the back of his mind. Just an Autobot, right? …right? “We are talking about the same skinny noisy little Policebot, right? Hardly a prize catch.”

Calibrator narrowed her optics. “She used to go to the same lengths to convince me you didn’t mean anything, either,” she said, testingly.

Really? “Eh, she was fun for a while, I guess,” he shrugged, and smirked. “Neither of us had any plans to develop it outside of a little temporary entertainment, and there’ll always be more of her kind around. Station’s full of ’em.”

“Hmm.” She narrowed her optics, more obviously suspicious, but let it slide. “All right, enough chatter. Did you get it?”

“Get what, this?” Skywarp unhooked the cannon from where he’d carried it on his own wing, and handed it over. “What did you want it for? And where’s my payment? I might be on your side for now but I expect to be adequately compensated!” Careful, Warp. Don’t want to sound like Screamer’s been giving you too many prompts.

“Patience, please, patience,” Calibrator soothed, gently, examining the battered weapon; against her small form, it looked almost outlandishly large. “You’ll get your pay when-… hmm. This is damaged,” she pointed out.

“Yeah, well, you know Screamer. He didn’t hand it over when I asked nicely,” Skywarp shrugged. “Had to, uh… persuade him. With a big metal beating stick.”

“I hope this doesn’t mean he’ll have followed you.” She gave him a warning glare.

“Nah. I left him with a broken vocaliser, locked in a storage compartment in a warehouse. He’ll be lucky if someone finds him before his spark gives out.”

“I seem to recall he is quite the tenacious little spark.”

“Tenacity doesn’t get you through a locked door without a key.” He leaned down closer to her. “Come on, you’ve had your look. Where is my pay, femme?”

“You will get your payment once I check this still works.”

“I get paid now or you won’t get the chance to work out if it still works.” His cannons were already humming softly as they charged. “Listen, femme, I took a huge risk to get you that thing! I’ve alienated my wing-mates, and if Megatron catches wind of it, he’ll drag me all the way to the Pit and back! I didn’t do this out of the goodness of my spark, I did this for the pay you promised me. You don’t pay me, and I can personally guarantee I’ll make things painful for you.”

“Watch it, you.” Deuce slipped himself between them. “Threaten her again, Airhead, and I’ll make things painful for you,” he warned, puffing himself up in threat.

Skywarp wrinkled his lip, derisively. “Is that my cue to run away and sob into my energon?” he wondered, lifting his chin. “Sorry, but it takes more than an argumentative addict to make me turn tail.”

“Perhaps you need a little re-educating on the fact that I’m bigger than you are.”

Calibrator gave the pair a long-suffering smile; Deuce and Skywarp faced each other, glaring, and looked about ready to come to blows. Much as I appreciate having such powerful machines ready to fight for me… “Stand down, Deuce,” she instructed, at last. “We don’t need to argue.”

Stand down?! I could take him out!” the truck exclaimed, irritably.

“Oh yeah? You want to test that assumption, ground-pounder?” Skywarp already had his fists up, in preparation.

Calibrator waved a hand. “Just come with me, and we will get his payment. Once our accounts are settled, we can discuss in more depth how things are to proceed.”

“But Cali-…!”

“Are you arguing with me, Deuce?” She smiled, dangerously. “I’d cut your allowance, but you’d be doubly unbearable.”

Deuce grumbled, but backed down.

“Please don’t undermine my authority again, Deuce,” she threatened, softly, once they were just out of audio range. “I tire of having to fight you about the smallest things.”

“But-”

“You know what I could do to you. Please don’t tempt me to actually do it.”

Deuce glared and flickered his optics, but hunched his shoulders. He knew it wouldn’t be inconceivable for her to introduce some sort of deadly toxin into his Ruin. “You know Codustral doesn’t need the likes of him,” he sulked. “We are in the position of power, here. The Autobots are spread too thinly, the Decepticons are too busy with their in-house power-struggles a whole world away… we’ve become the biggest faction here. We could take over quietly while their attention is distracted. We could seed Blue right through the warring camps before they even knew we were there. Even the Mighty Megatron could be ours, Cali, with a little effort, his own loyal soldiers taking it back to him.”

She stared up at him, irritably. “Your point,” she growled, warningly.

“We should do away with him now, before he turns into another giant fragging spanner in the works.”

0o0o0o0o0

Well, so far, so good.

As Jazz had predicted, the field generator for the plant’s defensive shield hadn’t been hard to find. It wasn’t very big - maybe half as tall as him, and only barely as wide – but it was a squat, powerful little thing, all glowing lights and gently throbbing power. It made half a dozen unused circuits light up in his frontal cortex just from the strength of electrical field around it alone – and he knew that since just going near it wasn’t going to get the job done, he’d have to actually touch it, and he wasn’t looking forwards to that at all.

The screen showed a large mushroom-shaped glowing field above the plant; not particularly deep, but covering a huge amount of area, and completely unbroken. The lowest portion of the screen had the technical schema, and if he was interpreting it right – and he was pretty sure he must be – then the thing was pulling a huge amount of power off the grid. No wonder the air around it fizzed with static. An array of bar-charts showed specifications like field-patency and field-strength, and all were green, all fluctuating around the 95-100 percent mark.

Well designed and efficient. It was going to almost – but only almost – be a shame to kill it. Jazz smiled silently to himself and shrugged. Maybe he could tell Wheeljack about it, use it on the Ark when he got back, if he got a good enough look at its insides-

Oh, who was he trying to kid? He’d never get enough time to study the thing in sufficient detail, certainly not the sort of detail ’Jack would need to Not-Blow-The-Ark-Up. It was a small miracle it was so unattended, right now – but then, if they were confident no-one could get in, and it was working well, why would they have a reason to guard it? They had better things to be doing, like making preparations for the impending police assault.

Jazz put out his hands and opened up the access panel at the device’s base; static shot up both arms and made him momentarily woozy. Wow. He clung to the device’s podium for a second or two and waited for the static to ground itself properly before going any further. Didn’t want to brush against something he shouldn’t!

There were a lot of loose wires in there, he mused, crouching to inspect the internal structure. He could theoretically just put his hand in and yank a handful out, and it’d have the same result. But then, if he just unplugged it, they could probably easily plug it all back in. And that might trap half the force inside and half outside. Had to remove the generator permanently.

Oh well. Good job he’d always liked fireworks, because this was going to get kinda noisy.

Using large handfuls of the plastic explosive that Calibrator herself had left in the form of her incendiary devices at the police station, Jazz got to work…

0o0o0o0o0

Leaving Skywarp to lounge atop a low storage garage, Calibrator slipped away to contact the main gates. She was getting increasingly suspicious of their supposed Seeker ally, especially since even Deuce – normally far too scatterbrained to make that sort of assessment – was grumbling sceptically. There was one last piece of information she wanted before calling in her heavy troops.

“Siphon.” She gave her loyalist a hard look when he finally got to the comms terminal. “We have an unexpected visitor.”

The tanker quirked a brow. “Is that good or bad?”

“You tell me. As I understood it, we had sent him away to die.”

The image on the screen hesitated for so long, Calibrator began to think the signal was being jammed. “You don’t mean Skywarp?” Siphon wondered, at last.

“That is precisely who I mean,” she confirmed, grimly. “Who, if I recall correctly, I told you to do something about.”

“Which I did! I gave him a bug, he should be long dead-… Primus! Don’t trust him, Cali,” Siphon insisted, softly. “Get rid of him while we still have the chance!”

She gave him a wary look; he was echoing Deuce’s words, and hadn’t even seen the flier. “I know you don’t like to have your superiority challenged, Siphon,” she reassured, testingly, “but rest assured I have no plans to replace-”

“It’s not to do with that,” he interrupted, urgently. “He’s playing games with us! Skywarp should be dead, so that’s either one of the other two painted up to look like him, or they’ve somehow found our trick and cured the addiction.”

Calibrator narrowed her optics. “He tells me you seeded the wrong crisis with the drill-bug.”

“I can tell you for a fact that he’s lying, whoever he is,” Siphon insisted. “I brought one bug from the cold store, and I know for a fact that I put it into his Crisis. Your Policebot friend had already had hers, remember?”

Calibrator’s optics dimmed to a dangerous, murky green. “Indeed. In which case we may have to take additional steps to remove this little problem.”

0o0o0o0o0

I hope you lot are well armed.”

“Of course we’re well armed.” Thundercracker was sitting on the edge of the roof of an old tower block, swinging his feet in the crosswinds and waiting boredly for the sign to go. The whole police convoy had halted just out of range of the factory defensive emplacements, waiting for the call to move in, and half had transformed back to root mode and were discussing the impending battle in anxious little voices in the street below his feet. “What’s up?”

There must be a thousand of ’em in here,” Skywarp explained, amusedly. “All right, maybe not a thousand, but still a fragging lot. They’ll do anything she says so long as she gives ’em the Blue.”

“Are they all armed?” Starscream wondered, pacing back and forth behind his wingmate.

Hn, no. Plenty of them have got proper guns, but they’re pretty outnumbered by ones that haven’t. Most have just got bits of old iron and scrap metal to try wallop you lot with.” There was a cynical laugh. “I think they’re relying on weight of numbers, here.”

“All right, all right, don’t go and blow your cover,” Starscream sighed, and let himself over the edge of the roof, descending smoothly to pass the message on to the superintendent. “Maintain radio silence for now. We’ll plan our next move once we’ve definitely got the upper hand.”

Yeah yeah, all right, oh paranoid one. Skywarp out.

“What’s taking them so long?” Boxer wondered, sharply, the instant Starscream’s thrusters touched down on the street.

“I’m not sure,” Starscream replied, with an irritable shake of his head. “That was Skywarp; he and Jazz are working separately.”

“And…?”

“Cali has ‘a lot’ of loyalists at her beck and call,” Starscream folded his arms. “Don’t ask me to define ‘a lot’ too accurately, because this is Skywarp’s subjective assessment and it could be anywhere from ten to ten thousand. From his manner, I would hazard a guess and say we’re probably looking at the hundred mark.”

“Hn.” Boxer rubbed his helm. “Loyalists? Or just addicts?”

“Again… Skywarp’s never been the hottest at battlefield tactical assessments,” Starscream sighed, and managed a half-hearted wince. “All addicts, I would guess, but how loyal they are is anyone’s guess.”

“Well, if they’re addicts, we owe it to them to give them the chance to clean up,” Boxer ruled. “Especially as we don’t know how they got involved in this in the first place. So we shoot to stun, not to kill. All right?”

The Autobots were quick to agree, and the two Decepticons, horribly outnumbered and outvoted, reluctantly nodded.

“The grunts, all right,” Starscream accepted. “The small fry, the ones with no choice in the matter. But I am not letting that tractor get away with what he did to us, and I make no guarantee I won’t dismantle that traitorous femme with my bare hands, either.”

“If you want them taken in alive, you better arrest the pair of us now,” Thundercracker agreed, from above. “But then you might find it difficult to get onto the premises.”

Hardline leaned closer to Boxer and murmured something neither Seeker could catch.

“What do you mean, you agreed to give them ‘first dibs’ on them?!” Boxer echoed, aghast. “We’re not talking about the best bunk in the dorms, here!”

“Well, it got them on board,” Hardline reminded, amusedly. “I think we should honour the promise, just this once.”

0o0o0o0o0

Skywarp was still sitting on his low perch when there was finally a low rumble in the middle-distance, and a plume of debris shot skywards. Took your time, Auto-dork. He dropped lightly back to the floor, watching as Calibrator moaned and laced her fingers over the back of her helm, staring in horror at the Autobot-induced fireworks, and slunk carefully backwards, drawing his feet carefully low to the ground so not to make loud footsteps. Time to depart-

A heavy hand dropped down onto the upper margin of one broad wing, and closed its fingers tightly enough to dent the alloys. “Aw, don’t run off,” a familiar voice said, sweetly. “We’re not done with you yet.”

Skywarp glared up at his captor, murderously, and tried not to look like the hand on his wing was painful, but his optics had tightened in the corners and he was leaning very slightly away from Fatigue, trying to curl himself out from the giant fingers. “Hey, get-… get off! Don’t you touch me-” he threatened, trying to contort himself into such a position as to be able to shoot him, but the tractor knew the Seeker’s wings were in the way.

Calibrator smiled triumphantly. “I knew I should have interrogated you for information the instant you got here,” she hissed. “Well don’t worry, I won’t make the same mistake again.”

“You won’t get the chance, you’re too late to make any counter-preparations,” Skywarp informed her, trying to look like he was just amused but still struggling to free his wing. “The police are going to descend on this place like the very spawn of the Pit, and take your whole operation right to pieces.”

If they can get in, and if they can get back out. Trust me, I have secondary generators that I just have to bring online, and we can deal with the police at our leisure, especially those who end up trapped inside here. In a way, you’ve helped us, Skywarp. We’ll get anyone trapped behind the field onto our payroll, and we’ll not only have the weaponry and expertise, we’ll have more insiders. Good job!”

Skywarp snarled inarticulately, and abruptly stopped trying to pull away, instead throwing himself bodily at the tractor, catching him by surprise and dislodging the fingers on his wing. “What if I get you first?!” he barked, lunging for the tiny femme while the tractor was still picking himself up. He latched one lurid hand easily around her throat and was grabbing the other for her narrow chest when a hand fastened around his thruster and yanked backwards. He gave a yeep! of alarm and lost his grip as both of them tumbled to the ground, and then there was a flash of intense pain through his wings when something very heavy came to rest on top of them.

“Nicely done, Fatigue,” Calibrator praised, breathlessly, observing the giant sitting square on top of the thrashing Seeker. “Do you think you could manage a little earlier, next time?”

The tractor inclined his head, amusedly. “Sorry, Boss,” he apologised, not sounding in the slightest bit remorseful, and petted the back of the pinned flier’s helm, which just served to incense Skywarp further. “Kinda got used to being gentle with the delicate little thing.”

“Originally I would have praised your dedication, but gentleness is rather pointless given that he has vastly outstayed his welcome. Bring him,” Calibrator said, her soft voice icy with finality, and flicked her wrist, sending a small glittering ring sailing gracefully through the air. “We will get rid of this troublemaker once and for all.”

Fatigue snatched the ring out of the air. “Aw, you’ve brought him some jewellery,” he chuckled, snapping it open between his massive fingers. “Sit tight, Airhead, and maybe we’ll make it painless.”

Skywarp struggled very briefly, trying to gather enough co-ordination to mount a defence, but the tractor mashed the collar easily down around his neck and he slumped against the ground, helpless.

“Good boy,” Fatigue snickered, picking him up by a wing, and followed Calibrator.

0o0o0o0o0

Ah, it was good to see some fireworks that weren’t the product of Wheeljack testing some new invention, Jazz mused, watching contentedly as the debris began to rain hotly back down on the plant. The explosion had been a reassuringly comprehensive one – a narrow plume of fine material had shot skywards, following the shape of the field, and the brilliant flames and roiling smoke had been contained in a reasonably small area, so with luck it would have just been property that got destroyed, not individuals.

There’d been uproar among the loyalists in the immediate aftermath of the detonation, and none of them paid Jazz the slightest bit of attention as he made his way quite brazenly back towards the perimeter – although whether they were just so addled that they thought he was one of them, he had no idea.

Way above, he could see Nightsun’s team beginning to move in, assessing the field, and one of the other helicopters fired off a brilliant scarlet flare to confirm the field was down.

No word from Skywarp, though. He was sure the dark Seeker should have been skyborne and raining a little righteous destruction down on the place by now, but there’d not been a peep out of him.

Gonna regret this, I just know it, Jazz groaned, inwardly, and slunk off in the direction he’d first seen Skywarp head off in.

…the teleport didn’t take much effort to find. In fact, Jazz almost walked square into him, just barely managing to duck out of sight before Calibrator spotted him. Skywarp himself was slung over the shoulder of an olive-green giant of a machine, and he looked… well, almost dead. He sagged pathetically down across the giant’s shoulders, arms dangling lifelessly, his wings dented, and looking closer Jazz could see the once-bright optics were a muted damson.

The saboteur fidgeted, awkwardly. Common sense told him to let them just do whatever they were going to do to him, get him out of the way for good. The fewer Seekers they had on their patch back home, the better.

…his conscience, however, gave him a sound scolding for it. The lengths the trine had gone to just to get Blue down for good… and Skywarp had actually not been too hideously Decepticon-ish, recently. Snarky and opinionated and noisy, but actually sorta… well, nice, for Megatron’s most loyal flier. Without him, the Blue could have taken over half the city by now.

He kicked himself, inside, quietly cursed them, then sneaked after Fatigue’s broad back.

------

A/N: Whee. About 2 more to go (and the epilogue) then I'm done. :) *skips* Then to think about... OMG sequels. *WIGGLES* Seriously, this one has been fun to write. :D

The epilogue is sort of almost a one-shot stand-alone thingy. I'm debating if I should post it separately. *ponders* Its horribly fangirly, so I may leave it as an ElJay-Land only special.

Hm hm hm.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
_silverfox
Sep. 5th, 2008 12:03 pm (UTC)
Yay for two more, another yay for epilogues and of course the biggest YAY for sequels! ... Yep, I can do fangirly too. ;)

I'm currently hoping we'll see Megatron's reaction when he finds out about Skywarp/Pulsar. Yes, mean to poor Skywarp, but ...
keaalu
Sep. 7th, 2008 11:46 am (UTC)
"I'm currently hoping we'll see Megatron's reaction when he finds out about Skywarp/Pulsar. Yes, mean to poor Skywarp, but ..."
Aww, poor Warpy. *snif*
I think that might be best left for the sequel, if I can get it coherent enough to start uploading it. ;)
_silverfox
Sep. 9th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Awwwww! Adorable icon!

I guess I just trust you not to kill any of my favourite seekers. ;) Your Megatron is pretty cruel, though, so I might indeed regret this wish sometime.
keaalu
Sep. 10th, 2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
We-ell, because you asked so nicely, I'll kill him gently...

Oops, spoilers! *puts hand over mouth*

;)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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