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"Warped", Chapter Sixteen

Title (chapter): Warped (16)
Series: Transformers, G1-based (“Blue” AU)
Rating: PG-13
Summary: In which Starscream crosses swords with Megatron, and Siphon finds new allies.
Notes: Dun-dun-dun... at last! And BOY is Deuce ever hard to write. :(




Warped
Chapter Sixteen

Sunstreaker was fuming, pacing, unable to quite find a way to sum up the true depth of his anger. In the aftermath of their attempt on the Screaming One’s life, he and Sideswipe had been comprehensively put through the mill by Prowl and forced to apologise to those two underclocked Airheads, and now he was brewing the mother of all bad tempers. (At least, and Optimus silently thanked Primus for the small blessing, he wasn’t yelling, just yet.)

“…It was bad enough when it was just a dirty, unarmed Skywarp lurking like bad vapours around the medical suite,” he snapped. “Now we’ve got the second in command for the entire Decepticon army in our base, and instead of deporting him to Cybertron for war crimes, we’re mollycoddling him, like some sort of freaking… naughty pet!”

“Sunny… I can’t help but think you’re still missing the point.” Optimus pinched the prow of his nose. It felt as if they’d been manoeuvring around this circular conversation for the last cycle and they didn’t seem to be any closer to the end at all.

“So enlighten me! Any other day I would have been lauded for trying to off the Shrieker, what makes today any different? I saw an opportunity, and I took it!”

“…‘any other day’ we may have actively been fighting him, not letting a political refugee take a bath in our washracks.”

“Of course, we’re still labouring the whole ‘poor little beaten-up Seekers’ thing, aren’t we?”

“Sunny-…”

“So, I don’t know, maybe you know something we don’t. How long do you think it’ll be before we go back to actively fighting him?”

“I don’t know how long it’ll be, Sunny. What I know for sure is that if you attack him out of the blue like that again, it might be the trigger that pushes him back into the enemy camp – and he might elect to take the little one back with him!”

Sunstreaker was silent for several irritable moments.

“You never know,” Optimus went on, in the silence. “Recent developments may just have given them the perspective they’ve been lacking. Although I very much doubt we’ll end the war altogether, this might be our opportunity to remove three major players from it, without the breaking of so much as a single actuator cable.”

“Orr this might all be yet another big, cleverly orchestrated trick. Primus, Optimus, when did you get so naïve? You know what Screamer’s like!” Sunstreaker threw his arms up in despair. “They’re probably here purely to weasel information out of us! And what do you think they’re going to do once they’re done with their little information-gathering exercise? Perhaps, I don’t know, they’ll suddenly decide hey, actually they don’t want the ‘political asylum’ any more, shoot the Pit out of us while our unsuspecting, trusting backs are turned, and run away back to Megs and his cronies with full details of the inner workings of the Ark!”

“Strange though it may be for you to consider,” Optimus argued, quietly, “just perhaps? This is genuine. You saw what he looked like when they brought him in. That Megatron’s trickery may stretch as far as shooting his own second-in-command out of the sky, I have no doubt at all. And that Starscream might end up going back to the Decepticons like he always has in the past I also accept is not completely outside the bounds of possibility. But this doesn’t read like trickery, to me – especially as Skywarp came to us first.”

“…hmph. Fair point. I can’t imagine him coping with a plan as complex as that without someone holding his hand the whole way,” Sunstreaker grumbled, in acknowledgement.

Optimus nodded. “What they do between then and now – and how much classified information they give us on the inner workings of the Decepticons – is entirely dependent on how we treat them,” he finished, softly. “I’m not asking that we suddenly try and become friends with them – just exercise a little civility.”

“What you mean is you’ve fallen for this vat of old smeltings they’ve put before you,” Sunstreaker challenged, softly. “The little one hasn’t magically turned them into paragons of virtue. Even now they’re probably plotting behind our backs. And I have no desire whatsoever to be involved in the fallout from it!”

0o0o0o0o0

Down in the comparative privacy of one of the siderooms in the medical suite, the two Seekers were plotting, exactly as Sunstreaker had feared. Fortunately, for once their plotting was geared not towards the Autobots, but more important things.

“Hey, Screamer?” Skywarp leaned across the table and watched as Starscream carefully removed the casing on the handheld laser pistol he’d ‘borrowed’ off Ironhide (without the big Autobot’s notice or permission). “Since you’re not gonna be flying anywhere for a while, how about you look after Lucy while I get to looking for TC?”

Starscream gave him a hard look. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, do you? To start with, you’re still unarmed-”

“Oh, like that’s gonna take you and Sepp a long time to fix-”

And what if you need backup? You’ll be a third of the way around this miserable mud-ball, at minimum!”

“Oh, psh. I don’t need backup, I can fly rings around those idiots!”

“…like you did last time, of course.” Starscream looked unimpressed, getting back to work; he had one of his own null-rays opened up on the desk, and was trying to match the collimators and focusing crystals with the parts he’d butchered out of his misappropriated stash of Ironhide’s weapons. “The answer is still no, Warp. You’re not going anywhere until I’m back in flying condition and can go with you, and you’re re-armed so you can defend my back if we need it. All right?”

Skywarp huffed his annoyance. “Aw come on. Screamer? I know we’ve been acting like ‘em recently? But I am not some little sparkling who needs his hand held,” he sniped back. “And I’m going to look for TC.”

Starscream managed to catch his arm before he could stomp out of reach, and shook his head silently when Skywarp gave him a frustrated glare. “We go together, or not at all,” he said, quietly. “It was not watching our tailfins that got us into this mess in the first place. If TC and I had gone together, we may have outmanoeuvred them and never been shot down in the first place.” He gave Skywarp a serious look, and noticed that the teleport was visibly deflating, his eagerness to be out and hunting going flat. “Megatron is a lot closer to the wire than we can know. I don’t know how, but he knows what we’re going to do almost as soon as we think of it ourselves.” His features hardened. “In fact? I’m almost willing to say I think Megatron knows where TC is.”

Skywarp’s expression had by now gone from annoyed to anxious. “Primus. If he gets to him first, Screamer-…!”

“I know, I know. We’ll have to co-operate or it’s ‘bye bye TC’.” Starscream rubbed his helm, tiredly. “And by co-operate I mean ‘hand over everything of value and accept your slagging gracefully’.”

“Well he’s not having Lucy; I’ll leave her here with the Auto-dorks before letting that big idiot get his hands on her.” Skywarp had voiced the sentiment before really realising what he was saying.

For once, Starscream didn’t challenge the ‘woolly-headed over-sentiment’. “Perhaps it won’t come to that. We don’t even know for sure… that he even has him,” he pondered, quietly, in that tone of voice that suggested he was cooking something up. “I mean, he’s not once gloated that he has them, correct? So… I wonder if we shouldn’t try contact him. See if we can trick him into giving anything away.”

“Oh right, and how are you suggesting we do that? Come on, the Ark is way too heavily screened for our personal arrays to get a message out, and I’ll bet they have extra damping baffles in place specially for us.”

“I wasn’t thinking we use our own communicators, as such-”

“Yeah, because using Autobot communications facilities is totally gonna throw him off the scent,” Skywarp scoffed, and folded his arms, glaring tiredly. “Not like they’re gonna let us use their comms room in the first place.” He paused, thoughtfully. “Mind you, it’s just one little Auto-dork in there. If we get the jump on him-”

“I think we should play this by the book,” Starscream demurred. “They don’t need any more excuses to lock us up after that little… ruction, earlier.”

“Hey, those moron twins started that!”

“True, true, but we don’t want to give them any more excuses to ‘start’ anything else. That apology earlier wasn’t so much grudging as forced – it looked like they’d have preferred to have all their main actuators superglued.”

“It was funny, though.” Skywarp’s optics twinkled wickedly.

Starscream’s lips twitched into a badly-restrained smirk. “Oh, it was certainly that…”

0o0o0o0o0

For several long moments, Red Alert just stood and stared at the unlikely group of machines in front of him, looking most discomfited at the idea that had just been presented. “You are suggesting,” he said, slowly, giving Optimus a long, incredulous stare, “that we not only allow these two to use the communications facility… but we allow them to do so in private… and contact Megatron?” He turned his aghast glare onto the two Seekers. “What sort of idiots do you take us for?”

“It’s all right, Red,” Optimus soothed, before Skywarp could jump in with an insult and things escalated into another riot. “I didn’t say you couldn’t monitor the transmission, just that I’d rather you weren’t in the same room. It’ll already be delicate, and you have a tendency to, ah… overreact.”

“But Optimus, these are valid security concerns-!”

“Red? I trust that you will keep us safe. If you sense the conversation is going where it shouldn’t, you can pull the plug on it.” Optimus lowered his voice. “Our fellow Autobots seem to be missing the significance of this situation,” he explained, softly. “We have two powerful former Decepticons among us, right now. How long they stay, and what secrets they give us will be entirely down to how we treat them.”

Red Alert fidgeted, unhappily. “I can understand that, but… it just…”

Listening in, Starscream could hear the opportunity slipping away. “All right. If you’re concerned about us conspiring while we’re in private, what if I were to, ah, volunteer the same?” he suggested, carefully. “And have Warp stay with Red Alert?”

“What? Hey! That’s not fair!” Warp bridled. “You can’t keep me out of this, Screamer, they’re my little ones and I’m going to give Megs a piece of my frickin’ mind.”

“Well, that shouldn’t take too long, should it?” Starscream deadpanned, irritably. “Just… for once can’t you do something without arguing it all the way there?” Over their private communications relay, he pinged the additional request; -just go with him, Warp, going to try something-

-not kicking me out, Screamer!-

-need you to go so he can’t kill the transmission, Warp- Starscream gave him a tired glower. -already be dicey without Autodorks jumping too soon-

There was a distinct pause before the return ping. -gonna trick Megs?-

-try to. So go with Red? Sit in the annexe or something-

Skywarp glared back at his wingmate but nodded, just once. -better work or your aft is totally getting kicked- he pinged, irritably, following Red Alert out into the corridor.

Starscream settled in front of the terminal, cast his gaze despairingly heavenwards, and waited for the grumbling voices in the monitoring annexe to go quiet before opening the channel.

“Starscream,” Megatron gritted out, not quite able to hide his displeasure. “How nice it is to once again hear your dulcet tones.”

Starscream wasn’t about to beat about the bush. “Where is Thundercracker?” he demanded, sourly, before Megatron had even finished his own sentence.

There was a pause at the other end of the line – only the most fractional one, but enough to show the warlord had been caught wrong-footed. “No demand for apologies, Starscream? Are you perhaps going soft-”

“I’m not interested in that right now. I can bludgeon an apology out of you later. I want to know where my wingmate is.”

“…remind me why this is a fact that should matter to me?”

“I’m not interested in playing your idiot mind-games, Megatron.”

“Trust me, indulging your paranoia is very low on my agenda. If you were a little less cryptic, perhaps we’d get a little further-”

“So help me Megatron, if you don’t tell me where he is-!”

“You’ll do what, precisely?” the tyrant interrupted, disinterestedly. “Stamp those pretty little blue heels and try to whine an answer out of me? Or – ah, heh – get the Autobots to help out?”

Now was Starscream’s turn to hesitate. “I don’t know what power you think you have over me by reminding me I’m a prisoner here-”

“Oh, is that what they’re calling it these days?”

“They have my wings and they have my weapons. I take no pleasure in being cooped up in here with the enemy-!”

“And yet they allow you to use their communications facilities! How very…” Pause, for effect. “Suspect.

“Oh please, Megatron. They’ve got both my cannons and have totally destroyed one engine core, I’m grounded and unarmed and slowly going crazy, and I take no pleasure in following their stupid instructions.” He paused, and sighed, melodramatically. “They think they can use me as some sort of bargaining chip with you,” he grumbled, more quietly, as if attempting to avoid being overheard. “I’m not sure what they want from you, yet, but they want you to at least know they’ve got me. Hard thought it may be for you to believe, I’m a political prisoner here.”

“That’s not what Ramjet would say.”

Those coneheaded morons would say anything to absolve themselves of having to admit to their idiocy. When have you ever known Skywarp to make a big enough leap of imagination to be able to disable Ramjet? Especially given that he’s still unarmed.”

There was a very long silence; long enough for both Red Alert and Skywarp to begin to prepare themselves for the flood of Starscream-flavoured cursing that how DARE he slagging well cut me off!

“All right,” Megatron replied, at long last, and the two observers unconsciously sighed and slumped in relief. “What do you want?”

“I’ve told you what I want. I know you’ve got him. I just want to talk to him.”

“I don’t think you’re in any position to go making demands of me, do you? Even if I write your treason off as nothing more than your usual backstabbing-”

“Yes. Or no. I just want. To talk. To my friend.” Primus alive, had he always been this hard to wring answers out of?

“A friend, Starscream? My, those Autobots really are rubbing off on you, aren’t they?”

“Oh-… just-… spare me the sanctimony, for once! Can I talk to him, or not?”

“All right. Maybe… I’ll do you a deal,” Megatron offered, at last. “You give me one of those worthless little blobs of tin you’re sheltering, and I’ll think about letting Thundercracker go.”

Starscream pursed his lips; something wasn’t playing quite right. Megatron had said ‘one of’ – which implied he thought both the sparklings were with them. And in the event Megatron genuinely did have their injured wingmate, (and the red Seeker was of the increasing opinion that he didn’t), he should know that Slipstream had been with TC, not safely tucked away in the Ark with Lucy. Still, better play along… “You know I can’t do that.”

“Then I can’t help you with whatever game you’re playing this time, Starscream,” Megatron drawled. “Because the only one who thinks he’s fooling anyone here is clearly you. Even that moron Skywarp wouldn’t be fooled by that ridiculous little story about being a 'political prisoner'. And your little defection won’t earn you many points with the Autobots, I can guarantee you that. So how about we start this conversation again? What exactly do you want?”

“How many different ways do I have to use to say I want you to let Thundercracker go?”

“And how many times do I have to tell you that I’ll only do that on one condition? You clearly attach value to your wingmate – Primus only knows why, maybe incompetence attracts incompetence? – therefore we will do an exchange. Like for like. Something of value for something of value.” There was a brief, dry chuckle. “It’s not even as if they’re yours to worry about. Now do we have a deal or do I hang up?”

“...All right, Megatron,” Starscream answered, softly, using his best defeated tone of voice. “I’ll try and make some sort of arrangements. It’s not going to be easy to do without the Autobots listening in, so just… give me an couple of orns to think of some way of getting them out of here.”

“You have an orn, and be grateful I’m generous enough to give you that long.”

An orn?! But that’s-… that’ll be impossible!” Crunch time. “I’ve agreed to give you what you want, can I at least just… talk to him?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, do you?”

Beat. “Why not? What could I possibly say to him that might spoil your cunning master plan, Megatron? You’re in the position of power, right now.”

“Starscream, I have known you for long enough to know you can ruin any plan with a few carefully placed words. It’s not worth the risk.”

“What you mean,” Starscream argued, thoughtfully, “is that you don’t want to prove you have him.”

“What purpose could that possibly serve?”

“Because there are those among us that are suspicious enough of your motives to want proof, perhaps…?”

“Unless I’m mistaken, you approached me to bargain for his freedom, Starscream. Being in the current position of power, I don’t need to prove anything, lest of all to you.”

“You know, I’m rethinking exactly who it is that’s got the upper hand, here. Aside from the fact I think you need me to hand the little ones over more than I need you to release Thundercracker – he’s resourceful enough to get himself out of trouble...” Starscream smiled to himself. “What you mean is you can’t prove it. Deal’s off, Megatron. I know you haven’t got him, and I’m willing to say I don’t think you even know where he is. Unless you can come up with something better? Goodbye.”

0o0o0o0o0

Back on Nemesis, a large black hand ended the transmission by putting a gaping hole in the viewing panel. “Slag it to the Pit, Starscream. For once can’t you try not playing a double game?”

Megatron sagged back in his seat, and re-examined the old message he’d saved but still not acted upon. Perhaps now was time to see if there was anything to it?

He sat forward and thumbed the intercom. “Ramjet? Yes. I have a task for you – and I would very much appreciate it if you could manage to achieve it without fouling it up, for once…”

0o0o0o0o0

Way above the Ark, the sun glittered off a large, pale body. It had been nice to have the invitation to join in with the university science project, but Skyfire was tired, and pleased to be coming home at last.

Human science was similar to the disciplines he was familiar with, but in a lot of ways it was strikingly different. Science back home had been less… well… fuzzy, in a way. Humans had a flexibility and an adaptiveness that was often lacking in the Cybertronian way of thinking, particularly most scientists. If a problem presented, they’d often just bend to take it into account, not rewrite the whole thing from scratch. (Perhaps that was why Starscream had been so good at finding solutions to problems? Back before-… no, won’t think about that.)

Satisfying though it had been, he felt filthy. Sunstreaker would no doubt have something to say about all this “wallowing in the mud”, but he didn’t mind. Helped make it feel like he’d achieved something. Still, everything had a “grittiness” to it, and he was looking forward to indulging himself with a good, long bath, with plenty of fresh water and detergent and the undivided attention of the biggest sonic agitator he could find…

Surprisingly, Optimus was waiting outside and watching his approach. Odd, he didn’t often have a welcoming committee because of the irregularity of his comings and goings. Not that he was complaining, of course, it was nice to think he’d been noticed, for a change! But it did make him wonder what had been going on in his absence… he hoped it wasn’t a bad sign.

“Hello, Optimus,” he greeted, transforming back to his gargantuan root mode and approaching with an incongruously light step. “I hope you’re just out for some fresh air and there isn’t a problem.”

“Well, first of all it depends on your definition of ‘problem’,” the Autobot leader replied, dryly. “Things have got… complicated… in your absence. I thought it was only fair I caught you before you walked smack into things and sank at the deep end.”

The first niggles of concern had already begun to spread like prickling static up Skyfire’s wings. “I would have happily come back, if it had helped.”

“Primus, no, I didn’t think it was fair to drag you back from something important purely so you could join the hotbed of political instability the Ark has turned into,” Optimus apologised. “And that’s aside from the fact that adding yet another voice to the melting pot of yelling wasn’t going to help clear the air and get people thinking straight again.” He sighed, and spread his hands. “On the other hand, I didn’t think it was fair for us to surprise you with our unexpected guests by just letting you walk smack into them.”

“Guests?” Skyfire gave him a curious look. “I’ve met them, if it helps?” What was so terrible about the surgeon and the sparkling?

Optimus pulled a face. “I’m not sure you’ve met all of them. We seem to be… accumulating refugees. There’s been the opinion that the little one is somehow magnetic.”

Almost as if it had been done to an invisible cue, there was a ripple of squeaking laughter, and something small and excited emerged from the Ark’s main entryway, not watching where it was running, and collided with Optimus’ legs. “Oops! Sorry Op’mus,” a little voice apologised.

“And what are you up to, Trouble?”

“Septor say to come get plants! For making sss…” The voice tailed off as the speaker finally noticed the newcomer, and tucked herself just out of plain sight behind one of the Autobot leader’s legs, alarmed. “Ooh. Ska’fie!” She re-emerged once recognition finally dawned. “Is back from science!”

“I take it by this you’ve met Footloose?” Optimus guessed, gathering the sparkling up off the floor so she couldn’t accidentally get trodden on.

She shrank back against his chassis, sucking quietly on her fingers, still a little in awe of the behemoth, and wiggled the fingers of her free hand in a shy hello.

“Yes, we’ve met,” Skyfire confirmed, bending slightly at the waist and carefully trying to make himself appear a little less imposingly enormous. “Hello there, little one.” He brushed a large finger gently over her aerials, and was rewarded by a shy grin, mostly hidden behind her fingers. “Still causing trouble for your poor aunt?”

“I always good,” Footloose disagreed, wrinkling her small face into a pout. “Ausep just make bad rules.”

Optimus chuckled, and shook his head, amusedly. “Come on in, Skyfire,” he said, at last, with a tired smile. “The sooner you meet the new family, the sooner you can join in the politics.”

“…politics?” Skyfire tagged along behind, warily; he could already hear familiar angry noises coming from the monitoring room as they approached. He hesitated, anxiously, and just in time – sure enough, next instant a pair of vibratingly-angry blue-and-white wings emerged from behind the heavy curtain, stomping lopsidedly off down the corridor in the direction of the medical suite, hotly pursued by a similar pair of wings in black-and-purple.

Skyfire jumped, openly surprised, and caught Optimus’ shoulder, involuntarily. “I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I am! What are they here for?” he wondered, softly. Thankfully, neither Seeker looked back and noticed him, so he only had to deal with the personal shock of seeing them there and free to move around at will, not Starscream’s furious hands clawing for his power regulator as well.

“It’s a concept a lot of our allies are having trouble with,” Optimus explained, carefully, “but they’re here as political refugees. Some more reluctantly than others.”

Skyfire looked down at him. “I… beg pardon?” He hadn’t wanted to look quite so taken aback, but couldn’t shake the dumbfounded expression off his face. “Why did you say they were here? I think I must have misheard.”

Footloose had already squirmed her way out of Optimus’ arms and was scampering down the corridor in pursuit of the departing Seekers. “Well, that there is one of the reasons,” the Autobot leader explained, pointing at the sparkling. “Actually, she’s probably most of the reasons, if you look hard enough. The jury is fairly evenly split over whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.”

Skyfire sighed, tiredly, and stared down the empty corridor for several more long moments. “Would you excuse me for a moment, Optimus?” he wondered, resignedly. “I think I need to prepare myself a little better for the moment Starscream latches his hands around my spark casing...”

0o0o0o0o0

For once, Megatron mused to himself, relaxing in the large central chair in Nemesis’ command hub, it was nice for things to look like they might be about to go his way. Rather than fluff things up and crawl back empty-handed as he seemed to have done every other time he’d been out recently, Ramjet had done quite well, actually finding and ‘arresting’ the stranger with the penchant for cryptic messages… but Megatron wasn’t about to tell him that. Primus, the Coneheads hadn’t seemed quite so bad with Starscream lording it over everyone, but now he was gone it became all the more obvious how intolerable the other jets had become.

…Attitude adjustments could wait until later. The noises filtering through the walls suggested Ramjet was back, and sure enough, the doors parted to reveal the large white jet noisily pushing a small olive green machine along in front of him.

“Show some respect to your new leader!” Ramjet bellowed, and gave his prisoner a brisk shove between his shoulders.

The scuffed little machine staggered awkwardly after the Conehead’s unexpected blow, but managed to catch himself on one knee before he went sprawling on his front on the floor. “Mighty Megatron,” he greeted, keeping his head bowed, remaining on one respectful knee. “I had hoped to get the chance to meet you. I regret only that you had not taken up my offer sooner.”

“Siphon, isn’t it?” Megatron drawled, softly, pacing around the smaller machine. “I’m trying to decide if you’re brave or just stupid, coming here.”

“You’ve, um… heard of me…?” Siphon peeked upwards, warily.

“Oh indeed. I have heard of you,” Megatron confirmed, still pacing. “Calibrator’s lackey.” He let his voice drop lower, to something more threatening. “I also seem to recall you had your foolish little sparks set on overthrowing the Decepticons.”

The tanker responded with an uneasy chuckle. “Um, that is perhaps oversimplifying the issue,” he suggested, warily. “Rather, you were not around to offer our services to.”

Megatron gave him a very long, hard stare. “Should I remind you where you are, Blue? Lying to Decepticons in Decepticon territory would seem to me to be a fairly stupid venture.”

Siphon kept his vocaliser carefully offline. Denying it, agreeing, and apologising all seemed equally likely to get him slagged.

“You messaged me for a reason, Blue,” Megatron prodded, in the silence. “Much as I would love to see you reduced to molten slag in front of me, I would like to know your reasons for doing so before I go ahead with it.”

“Indeed. I know I cannot speak on behalf of my employer for past indiscretions,” Siphon said, quietly, measuring his words with care, “but I do have something in my possession which I hope you may be interested in.”

Megatron quirked a brow back at him. “Don’t make me beat it out of you,” he growled.

The tanker finally let his murky orange optics meet boldly with the tyrant’s hostile scarlet ones. “One of Skywarp’s offspring.”

Megatron straightened. “Is this an idle boast, or do you genuinely have it in your possession?” he demanded, in his most threatening tone of voice. Seems I should have pushed Starscream a little harder. Now who has the upper hand? “If you are wasting my time-”

“I genuinely have him in my possession – admittedly in my own base of operations, along with your own operative, Thundercracker.”

“Hm, he survived?” Megatron flashed a glare towards Thrust and Blitzwing, who tried to look like they’d not noticed what was being discussed. “That is a piece of information that could prove equally valuable.” He narrowed his optics, cautiously. “I assume you want something in return. Your type do not do this out of the kindness of their sparks.”

Siphon didn’t need to think about it. “Skywarp,” he hissed. “I want him captured, shamed, crushed, and dismantled. I want him to suffer like I did.”

Megatron actually smiled at the little outburst. “Vengeful little creature, aren’t you?” he mused. “Perhaps I can use that.” He straightened. “All right, Blu-… Siphon. We will do a trade,” he ‘suggested’, in those tones that suggested saying ‘no’ wasn’t an option. “You have something I want. In return, I will give you the means to get something you want. On one condition.”

Siphon met his gaze, steadily. “Name your terms.”

Megatron flicked a hand, and Motormaster emerged from the shadows… carrying an electric heat-lance, tipped with a familiar arrowhead symbol.

“We don’t ‘subcontract’,” Megatron said, calmly, watching the smaller machine trying not to shy backwards too obviously as the brand came closer to his scuffed chest. “Your only way out of here? Is as one of us.”

Siphon forced a reluctant smile; he could already feel the heat of the lance bubbling his old enamel. “H-hail Megatron,” he said, faintly… and the brand planted hard down on his chassis-

0o0o0o0o0

“Ow! Oh, oops! Ow. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, I thought I’d unplugged all the live ones! Um, okay maybe I should- hey, no, nono, don’t touch that!- maybe I should try this one instead, maybe green means something else to what I thought it meant-…”

Deuce’s medicines had very clearly worn off, by now. He wasn’t the quiet, depressed little mech he’d been earlier, any more – he was looking far more like he’d been under the influence of Blue. And Thundercracker was running out of patience.

“Do you think you could perhaps just sit quietly, Deuce?” the blue Seeker wondered, despairingly. “Or isn’t that in your emotional makeup?”

“Well, I don’t know, see, I have mixed episodes,” Deuce explained, distractedly, tearing out wires in a carefully haphazard fashion and experimenting with twisting different ones together, as if that would somehow kill the field. The rest of the components that had previously been buried in the wall were now laid out in a very careful pattern in the sand that Deuce had forbidden anyone to go near, just in case they accidentally jostled any out of place or scuffed out one of the little notes he’d scribbled in the sand with a fingertip. “At least that’s what my psychiatrist calls them; he says I’m – what was it he said, um, ‘bipolar with a rapid emotional cycle and predisposition to mixed episodes’. I’m well controlled when I get my medicine but my moods go a bit loopy when I’m not, which is why Siphon usually makes sure I don’t run out, but of course this time I have run out because I’m stuck in here and my meds are out there and ehh, I don’t like silences, you know? They make me twitchy, like I should be waiting for something to happen, but if I talk I can fill them up and that makes me feel better…”

Small wonder Siphon keeps him partially sedated, Thundercracker considered, uncharitably, rubbing his temples. He’s exhausting just to listen to. Even Starscream’s occasional bouts of obsessive-compulsive weren’t this bad.

“Perhaps you ought to just sit quietly and wait until Siphon comes back,” he suggested, carefully. “I don’t think he’ll be happy you’ve destroyed the wall.”

“No, no need to sit still, I can do this! I can do it,” Deuce insisted, ignoring Thundercracker’s sensible concerns. Leaving the components spread out over the floor, he’d changed tactics and was making a valiant effort at digging his way down to the field emitters themselves, using a piece of plating to clear away the crumbly stone. “I mean I could do it a lot easier if I had the plans but I figure I’m a quick learner, so long as I can see where everything goes then I’ll be okay, and the emitters are fairly obvious, all I have to do is unplug them and then you’re out! See Siphon thinks he’s clever keeping you behind the field but the walls aren’t very good quality, you could even dig your way out if you tried hard enough.”

“I don’t think,” Thundercracker repeated, more slowly, approaching with his hands up, “that you should destroy much more of the wall.” Because if you do Siphon will doubtless think we coerced you into it and I don’t want any more of his sadism directed towards any of us.

“Why are you trying to stop me? Don’t you want to get out? You said you wanted me to help you escape and that’s what I’m doing, see? All I have to do is get the wall to short-… to short out-…” Deuce grumbled with the effort and struggled to reach the component he wanted, cheek jammed up against the wall. “…and then you’re out, you could be gone before he even gets back from… from… wherever it is he’s gone!”

“Deuce… Deuce?” Thundercracker caught one of his arms, and the truck froze up altogether. “I need you to listen to me. I need you to stop and think. You already said you don’t know when Siphon’s going to be back. To help us escape? You need to be out. You need to know where Siphon is, and how long you’ll have to get these collars off. You need to know how to get the collars off! If you go and fry yourself in here? Siphon will think I did it, and will punish me accordingly. And I would love to keep my helm between my shoulder vents. Is any of this sinking in?”

To his credit, Deuce had sat quietly and listened the entire time Thundercracker had spoken. Unfortunately, not for the reasons the Seeker had hoped.

“You want him to catch me?” The very instant the thought had finished processing, it was like someone had flipped a switch. Deuce froze up, for a fraction of an astro-second, stared with wide-eyed horror at the other three… and his composure fractured into frightened sobs. “I’m only trying to help you, I swear I’m only trying to help!” he pleaded, backing away and scuffing a line through his carefully-drawn schematics.

“I know you’re trying to help,” Thundercracker soothed, albeit through gritted teeth. “And I appreciate it. We all do! But you’re going about it the wrong way. Even if we get out, we can’t go anywhere with these collars on. You understand?”

“No, no, you’re all against me!” Deuce’s voice skittered up the scale. “You all want him to find out I’m helping you and have him kill me! And I know I should have stayed at the hospital and I know I’m a terrible mech and I’ve done terrible things but I don’t want to die, oh Primus please don’t kill me…!”

Thundercracker backed up as far as he could manage, and settled on the sand in his own corner; an anxious Slipstream climbed immediately into his arms. “I’m not going to hurt you, Deuce. I just want you to calm down.”

Deuce had already huddled into a ball, hugging his knees, green optics fixed like targeting lasers on the blue Seeker, and a hitching stream of unintelligible words simmered up from around his arms.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Thundercracker repeated, softly.

Deuce’s gaze flickered. “…Decepticon. Didn’t mean-… don’t hurt me. What do you want with me? I don’t do that any more, I don’t I don’t… they tricked me-… please don’t hurt me…”

Thundercracker sighed, inwardly; the only way he’d get Deuce to calm down would presumably be to ignore him. He turned his attention instead to the clicking, anxious sparkling in his arms, and – thankfully – it seemed to be working; although the truck remained on-edge and murmuring comfortingly to himself, he did seem to have calmed a little, as time wore on.

“My my. What a happy little family,” an unwanted voice drawled, from outside, and four sets of optics turned to find Siphon silhouetted against the harsh corridor lighting. “And-… Primus, what a mess. I don’t suppose you could have spread more components across the floor if I gave you a bomb, could you, Deuce?”

Thundercracker had spotted the new patch of malevolent purple on the tanker’s scuffed paintwork almost immediately; it felt like a hand had closed around his spark-casing and squeezed. He watched uneasily as the tanker let himself through the field, picking his way through the scattered components; Deuce had already tightened back up into a shaking ball in his corner.

Siphon gave Deuce several long cold moments of study before speaking. “See what it is you’re so determined to befriend, to speak up for?” He directed his scorn at Thundercracker. “Pathetic waste of good spares.”

“He’s unwell, and you left him without his meds,” Thundercracker challenged, remembering just in time that he needed to feign sleepiness. “What do you expect?”

“I left him without medication on purpose,” Siphon agreed, bluntly. “It irks me to see the way you pander to him. He is not your friend, or your little double agent; he may think he is helping but all he is doing is proving you are playing games. Stupid little creature is about as useful as your airheaded wingmate. All he is good for is fetching and carrying, and basic thuggery. Without drugs to deaden his excitatory nature, and a comprehensive list of instructions to follow, he is carried away on wild flights of fantasy and useful to no-one.”

It was a bit of an uncharitable description, but unfortunately semantics didn’t hide the truth in the tanker’s words. All Deuce had actually succeeded in doing was proving Thundercracker had got to him, which would mean the rules got tightened. Primus. It took every ounce of Thundercracker’s self control not to hit anything in frustration.

“As for you…” Siphon turned to glare down at his quaking underling.

“You want him to kill me,” Deuce wheezed, his words simmering with distressed static. “You want him to kill me, that’s why you left us in here together. You daren’t do it yourself, so you left me in here with the Decepticon-… please, don’t let him, please please I’ll be good-”

“Oh for Primus sake, take your medicine already,” Siphon snapped and hurled a vial of glowing green fluid at the navy-coloured machine. “Get out and get yourself back under control.”

It was like the flick of a switch – Deuce didn’t apparently take kindly to having things thrown at him. “Don’t you throw things!” he snapped, and lunged for him.

Siphon gave a yipe! of alarm and lurched out of the way, but not quickly enough; Deuce crashed into his midsection and they both slammed into the security field. Siphon gave a howl of rage, and suffered several tortuous astro-seconds of helpless shuddering agony before the discharge finally filtered through to Deuce and the truck abruptly let him go.

“Pit-spawned moron! Take your slagging medication, already!” the tanker howled, once he’d finally got control back over his vocaliser, and delivered a swift, vicious kick to the larger mech. There was a low crack! at the impact, and when Deuce finally scuttled past Thundercracker, clutching his vial of medication to his chassis and whimpering softly, one optic was dim and leaking fluid, cracked all the way across.

“Now, where were we? Oh, yes…” Siphon turned towards the blue Seeker, letting his long fingers reform into the finer of his nozzles. “We’ll be having… visitors, very shortly. And I need you on your, ah… ‘best behaviour’. So sit still while I dose you up, friend…

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
cmdrtekk
Feb. 5th, 2009 04:23 am (UTC)
Oh and look, you are posting here as well. Have you been posting here the whole time? Maybe a group I'm not in since yup, I know these have been FFnet alerts only stories to this point. Anyway... Another good chapter. I think I like displaced Seekers and Autobots interacting with themselves and each other, because those are certainly my more favorite parts of the chapters. And Footloose. Can't forget the little one. And I wonder if Skyfire's worry/fear upon meeting Starscream will be justified or not. The feel to me at this point is "not." I just view Starscream as presented, to be to level headed to "risk an operation" by going after Skyfire, especially while the guest of the Autobots. Seems it would be a guaranteed surprise to Skyfire if Starscream is all cool. Oh the possibilities. Thanks for sharing.
keaalu
Feb. 6th, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)

Well, I've been posting to my LJ account the whole time, I'm just useless at advertising and have never posted to any communities before. (To be honest, seekerslove is pretty much the only relevant community I'm a member of anyway ¬_¬ )

I'm having difficulty getting Starscream to tell me what he thinks of Skyfire, right now. On the one hand, he seems to want to be totally cool and collected and dismissive about him (like you said about not wanting to risk things, and of course the whole "I'm over you now (but I'm still reaallly hurting on the inside)" sort of thing), but on the other hand he seems pretty keen to just go for Skyfire's power convertors and to the Pit with the rest of it. :P
jill_dragon
Feb. 6th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I think you're overestimating Starscream's self control. He seems to fly off the handle whenever emotions get involved and I'd say with Skyfire emotions are definitly involved (in whatever context). He's not the most stable or level-headed individual so I tend to think his instincts would react ahead of his logic processors in this case.
cmdrtekk
Feb. 6th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
Like I said at the end: Oh the possibilities. :)
_silverfox
Feb. 5th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
Skyfire! Yes! :)

Poor Deuce, though ... and Siphon is once again looking spookier despite Megatron handling him so easily. (Well, he's obviously no Starscream.)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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