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"Warped", Chapter 23

Title (chapter): Warped (23)
Series: Transformers, G1-based (“Blue” AU)
Rating: PG-13
Summary: The arrival of the Secret Weapon.
Notes: ...I has a cold and my brain hurts. I apologise for any typos. You'll all be relieved to hear I'm getting close to the end for this one. ;) If you watch my LiveJournal you'll probably already know I do have ideas for a third story, titled "Future Tense", but I'm planning on leaving that one until after "NaNoWriMo" - trying to keep two stories on the go led to my miserable failure last year. ;)

...one of these days, I'll write something I'm happy with. And I won't read other people's things and get too dispirited to finish. Bah. -_- Oh well. On we go.




Warped
Chapter Twenty-three

-Hey, Starscream? This is Vantage. Just got a heads-up for you. I think you’ve got visitors on the way-

-...You just let them through, Vantage? I’d love to hear you wiggle your way out of trouble when Megatron finds out-

-Hey, talk about self-preservation, you should see the size of some of ‘em. I wasn’t gonna argue with ‘em! Let Shocky take the flak for letting them get onto the bridge in the first place, I say. Anyway, consider yerself informed. I got more important things to be doing than chatting with you all day-

-Of course, all that porn you have stashed around the place won’t ogle itself, will it?-

-…couldn’t possibly comment on that. Vantage out-

0o0o0o0o0

Skywarp met his commander’s gaze over the top of the table. “News?”

Starscream nodded. “Communication on our secure waveband, from Vantage-”

“Whoa, hey, wait, you gave that slacker our personal frequency?” Skywarp straightened, with an offended pout.

Starscream glared at him until it became clear his wingmate wasn’t going to back down, before answering. “How else did you expect me to get information off him, Skywarp? Get him to go through the normal channels on Nemesis?”

Skywarp muttered something under his breath, but let it drop. “What did he have to say, anyway, need us to send him the latest issue of Playbot?”

Starscream didn’t even tell him to grow up, for once, merely bounced a stylus irritably off his helm. “Actually, no. Our visitors are on their way, and should be with us in a dozen or so breems.”

Skywarp brightened. “You mean we’re going to get to go tanker-hunting at fragging last?”

Starscream gave him a look, but didn’t vocalise what he was thinking. His wingmate was the most animated he’d seen him in orns, and that was… well, worrying. Skywarp didn’t do well with deep thinking and heavy emotions, much more of this and he’d probably burn out his master fuseboard. The sooner they got this smeltery over and done with, the better.

They were expecting him, Starscream discovered, when he finally fended Skywarp off for long enough to get to Teletraan. Jazz gave him an inscrutable look and nod of greeting as he arrived, but remained silent.

Prowl was a little more forthcoming. “We just registered an, ah… something… come through the space bridge,” he commented, glancing up. “Something large. I don’t suppose anyone here would know about that?” The expression on his face was clearly an invitation for Starscream to elaborate, but the Seeker just returned with an exaggeratedly modest smile and inclined his head.

Red Alert was already fidgeting, making pecking little back and forth strides behind Prowl’s chair. “Maybe we should go and check it out. Just see what it is. Just until we can get that satellite footage off the humans.” He shot Prowl a dirty look. “I told you we should have left Sky Spy to keep an eye on it. I told you Megatron could be up to anything when our optics were off the target-”

“Sky Spy had more important things to monitor,” Prowl demurred. “The goings-on in Egypt, for one. Additionally… I have a fairly strong suspicion that I – and certain guests – might know what this is.”

The machines present followed his gaze to the doorway, where Starscream was trying not to look too suspicious.

“Would I be right in thinking this is, ah… our ‘secret weapon’ being delivered?” Prowl went on, carefully, and there were more exchanged glances and one brief nod.

Red Alert almost blew a fuse. “You’re letting them bring weapons from Cybertron, now?” he raved, infuriated. “Have you taken leave of your sanity?!”

“Its all right,” Prowl soothed. “ ‘Secret weapon’ is more of an… exaggeration, if you like. It’s not exactly a weapon in the traditional sense.”

“And you trust him? He could have had anything sent through the space bridge!” Red Alert stabbed a finger at Starscream in a violent point. “Even as a so-called Neutral he’s still as untrustworthy as he was before! Probably moreso, now he thinks our attention is elsewhere! The only thing that makes him different from before is the fact his wings have no insignia-!”

“Red, Red…” Prowl interrupted, putting up his hands in surrender. “All right. Just… let me explain, then you can blow a gasket afterwards. I’m sorry we didn’t inform you earlier, but we thought that the fewer people knew, the fewer chances it’d have to go wrong…”

“You know? For once I’m inclined to agree with your over-reactive security chief, because I still don’t think this was such a good idea,” Starscream observed, quietly, folding his arms defensively across his chassis and half-listening to Prowl’s attempt at calming Red Alert.

“How so? I don’t think the Autobots will be ‘aching spark liberal’ enough to fall for any lies Cali might try to feed them to get them to let her go,” Jazz reassured. “Especially not given how most know of her history.”

“That wasn’t precisely what I meant,” the jet clarified, shaking his head. “I mean… however careful we are organising this, there’s still going to be far too many opportunities for it to go wrong.”

“…like?” Jazz coaxed.

“Like-… well, Primus. There’s a very strong possibility Siphon will succeed in actually getting his hands on her, which means Megatron will not only have that clever sociopath on his side, he’ll have a talented chemist, too. Machines wouldn’t know which way to turn.” Starscream huffed hot air from his vents and shook his head, studying his feet. “All Megatron would have to do is hint at maybe releasing a new batch of Blue into the supply chain, and you’d have mass hysteria all over again – and with good reason! I know I wouldn’t be happy unless I’d thoroughly screened all and any energon for impurities before I intook it!”

Jazz remained thoughtfully quiet, mulling an idea over.

“The only way we could get around that would be to not take Cali, and that defeats the object of having her brought here,” Starscream went on, huffily.

“How about I have a word with her?” Jazz suggested. “Get her on board with us.”

Starscream snorted, unimpressed. “To do what, exactly, Autobot? Persuade her to make a nice batch of Screaming Blue to give Megatron as a little gift in so-calle reconciliation?”

Jazz smiled and inclined his head, unruffled, stepping back out of the way so the first batch of curious new arrivals could get through the door and see what had triggered Red Alert’s latest outburst. “Maybe not just yet,” he acceded, amused. “I was thinking more along the lines of… well…What did she design Blue for? First and foremost? Because she’s an unarmed little protoform, and the war made her scared, and she was defending herself the only way she knew how. And what has Siphon done?”

Starscream was already nodding. “He’s turned himself into the exact thing she was most afraid of,” he mused, out loud, and a slow smirk pulled at the corners of his mouth. “All right, I take that back. Maybe we can use this, Autobot. And after everything he’s done to my wingmates, it’ll be nice to reciprocate a little in kind.”

Recalling who they had recuperating in the medical suite, Jazz found the Seeker’s feral grin a little less unsettling than he felt he should have...

0o0o0o0o0

Skywarp was first outside to investigate the new arrivals, avoiding the crush in the doorway and simply teleporting himself to where he wanted to be. As he watched, the little cloud on the horizon resolved into a heavy police vehicle, decked out in white and a lurid chequerboard of dayglo-yellow and royal-blue squares, kicking up clouds of grit from the powerful anti-gravity emitters it cruised on in place of wheels.

It finally came to a halt a few strides away, and transformed to reveal a tall, sturdy-looking female that he kiiind of recognised. There was something about those two silly little sensory boutons – he had a vague memory of someone calling them her “bunches” – on the back of her helm…

He didn’t remember any of the femmes being quite so big, though – the biggest had been the two little twin inspectors, and they’d been lanky little grav-gliders. This bruiser could have easily given Sepp a run for her money. He narrowed his optics and pinged an identity request at her, even as he probed her appearance for additional clues; she gave him a grin and wiggled the fingers of one hand in a wave, so presumably knew him.

He got his answer from three sources at once. In a remarkable stretch of imagination he noticed the number of stripes on her upper arm, and twigged that it might mean promotion and upgrade. His pingback gave a familiar set of identifiers that he recalled he’d worked with a few hundred orns ago-

The third answer came from Footloose. She’d followed him out, curiously, and spotted the newcomer. “Aunnie Vecks!” She promptly hurled herself into an enthusiastic, traditional greeting maul.

“Oh no, I’m under attack!” ‘Aunnie Vecks’ intercepted her mid-strike and bowled her over, pinning her in the dirt. “Submit, you terrible monster!”

Footloose shrieked with laughter and kicked her feet in the air. “Nevah!”

Skywarp smiled triumphantly now he’d worked it out. “So that there must be one half of Verity and Selector?” he suggested, listening to a familiar set of heavy footsteps approaching from behind.

“Celerity and Vector,” Forceps corrected, dryly, giving him a swat around the back of the helm. “And that is Vector.”

He gave her a half-resentful look and rubbed his head. “They’re twins, they won’t care,” he argued. “Besides, this way I get their names half right all the time.”

Forceps cast her gaze despairingly skywards and shook her head, but didn’t argue the point.

“Anyway, you sure that’s Vector?” Skywarp gave the approaching femme a very long, speculative look before announcing; “Because Primus. She’s got… huge. She was a skinny little puff of nothing last time I saw her.”

Vector arched a curious brow, boosting a squeaking Footloose up to her shoulder. “Are you calling me fat, Skywarp?”

“Pit, I wouldn’t dare – you might sit on me!” he deadpanned, po-faced. “Promotion?”

“A little one,” she confirmed. “Lara and me are jointly in charge of Quayside, now.”

He grinned, and quipped; “I bet you still haven’t escaped the curse of the name, though, Chief Inspector Vector.”

“That’s Detective Chief Inspector Vector, to you,” she growled, amusedly, and took a swing at him, which he skipped nimbly back out of the way of.

“No Hardline?” Forceps wondered, ignoring Skywarp’s snerk of amusement.

“Nah, he’s coming.” The Policebot cast a look back over her shoulder, idly, in the direction she’d just come from. “Just… speedy as a brick, as ever.”

“Bricks not speedy, Aunnie,” Footloose explained, seriously, tugging her aunt’s aerials. “Bricks not move.”

“Why, you’re right. How could I have got that wrong, Button?” Vector agreed, with an exaggerated horror that made Footloose giggle. “It’s a good job you’re here to make sure I get things right.”

“Aunnie Larry not come?” Footloose questioned, leaning forwards just enough to meet Vector’s optics without falling off her shoulder.

“Hmm? Nah, Lars is bringing up the rear with Hardline. She’s looking after The Package. I was just the ‘advance guard’ to check for trouble – and found it, right Button?” She gave Skywarp a meaningful look before adding; “Pulsar’s flock of idiots are with them, too.”

“How many do you think we need, here?” the teleport wondered, dryly, looking past her shoulder towards the new dustcloud building on the horizon.

“Pssh.” The femme waved a hand. “You try holding them back and getting past Shockwave. I know I don’t have enough arms…”

Ratchet hrm-ed in reluctant satisfaction once they’d opened the channel to him. “Calibrator’s got through safely? Good. Bring her down to Medbay as soon as she arrives,” he instructed, . “She might be a prisoner but that doesn’t mean she deserves to be mistreated, and I want to check she’s in optimal health before you start dragging her off to foreign lands.”

“Oh, no problem there, doctor,” Vector reassured, cheerily. “We were careful, she’s not got a scratch on her.”

“That’s as may be, I still want to check her over.”

Vector exchanged a glance with Skywarp, who shrugged, non-committally. “…er, ok. You’re the doctor-”

“Why that’s right, so I am,” came the shocked observation. “You know, if someone didn’t remind me every so often? I’d completely forget – the amount of thanks you ingrates all give me for it.”

“Is he always like that?” the police van wondered, once the connection had closed and she’d picked her jaw back up off the floor.

Skywarp made a face. “I’m not gonna say anything because it’ll only get back to him, and I don’t want to turn into target practice again.”

Perhaps wisely, Vector elected not to comment, instead watching quietly as the rest of the group finally arrived.

At the very rear of the crowd was the heavyweight; a blocky, heavily-armoured machine that looked like it must have weighed as much as both the big femmes together. The massive vehicle deactivated its powerful gravity jets and set itself to the ground before transforming, revealing a pale, broad-chested giant. Soft azure optics scanned the crowd, briefly, before spotting what their owner wanted-

At first, there was a ripple of alarm that the giant maybe intended harm towards someone, the way his face was set in a serious frown and he strode single-mindedly forwards as if no-one existed, in Skywarp’s direction… He ignored the Seeker, though, going straight for Forceps, wrapping both big arms tight around her, and letting his cheek rest against her head, rumbling his engine softly. “Don’t you ever, ever do that to me again,” he scolded, relievedly.

“Anyone would think you missed me,” she commented, dryly, but it was a fact not lost upon anyone that she seemed to be holding back just as tight.

“I was sure you were dead.”

“You were nearly right. I gave Megatron’s Coneheads some target practice.”

“If the two of you are quite finished…” a voice cut in, irritably. “Screamer’s nagging me that he wants to get the next part over and done with, asap.”

They turned to find Skywarp exaggeratedly tapping his foot, arms firmly folded, and channelling his commander, if his glower was anything to go by.

“Anyone would think he’s jealous,” Hardline commented, in a stage whisper.

“Pfft, don’t flatter yourselves.” The teleport flapped a dismissive hand, and jerked his head towards the Ark’s main entryway, suggesting they should follow him. “I just value my audios…”

Of the crowd following the Seeker down the corridor, Celerity was the only one to remain untransformed; like Vector, she was a heavy, boxy police van, grills over her windows, decked out in the same vibrant blue-and-yellow battenburg everyone else wore. She followed on quietly behind; soft, irritable murmurings could be heard within, but they didn’t seem to be coming from the policebot herself…

“Right, Lars; let’s get this over and done with,” Vector suggested.

Celerity gave a click of nonverbal agreement, and popped her doors open, obediently. A small black shape lunged out – not for freedom, though, it went straight for Starscream.

The red jet caught it by the upper arms, and it revealed itself to be a hissing, kicking, spidery-looking dark-coloured femme with huge green optics. His grip around her shoulders kept her clawed, spidery-fingered hands securely out of reach, but her small feet were free and thrashed angrily at his abdomen.

“Well well, if it isn’t my old friend Calibrator,” the red Seeker deadpanned, keeping the analyst at arms reach so her flailing feet couldn’t quite impact his paintwork. “How’s life in the psychiatric unit treating you, hmm? They still hiding your sedatives in your energon, or are you taking it of your own volition like a good little femme, at last?”

That made her even more incensed. She shrieked inarticulate static at him, as if determined to make up in noise what she couldn’t achieve in violence.

He endured it for a moment or two before sighing, melodramatically; he did a quarter-turn… and dunked her in Perceptor’s fish tank. The shrieking static turned very rapidly from crackling fury to simmering bubbles of fright; she scrabbled her dark fingertips across the restraining blue forearms, but succeeded only in throwing water (and fish) all over the decking.

Footloose squeaked in alarm and gathered the fish up in a convenient empty bucket. “Ausep, Ausep! Oolies need water!” She thrust the container in Forceps’ direction, who carefully extracted it from the small hands and filled it with water, setting it back on the floor where the agitated sparkling could get to it. The semi-spheroid uulus looked… well, not dead, but certainly not healthy; Footloose set the bucket down in the circle formed by her little legs and hummed hopefully at them.

“Look, you can either behave, or you can flood your temperature regulator,” Starscream growled, darkly, ignoring the clicking sparkling. “We don’t need you that badly. Either option is acceptable. To be honest, drowning you would be preferable, because that way you can’t play a double or triple game with anyone.”

She thrashed under his hands, but her kicks were weakening and the bubbles that streamed up from her vents were beginning to run out.

“Are you going to behave yourself?” he repeated, grimly.

One last bubble quivered to the surface, and there was the feeblest of nods – defeated. Her feet sagged, pathetically.

Satisfied, he yanked her out of the tank and upended her, casually, holding her by her small ankles; water cascaded over the floor. Her fans made a hideous crackling, barking noise as surplus fluid vented away over them, but judging by the way her optics blazed a furious acid green she wasn’t that badly damaged. Just… humiliated.

“I won’t bother asking if you’re going to mop all that up,” Ratchet deadpanned, in the background, but was ignored.

Starscream deposited her gracelessly down on the closest berth, where she sat in a spreading puddle and coughed and hacked to get all the water off her vents. “One of these days I will get my hands around your spark-casing,” she swore, unsteadily. “And when I do-…”

A towel hit her square in the face. Startled into silence, she looked up to find Skywarp leering at her.

“How about you just quit dripping?” the teleport sniped.

She narrowed her optics into a glare, but decided not to argue – they might take the towel back. Sulkily, she began mopping herself dry.

Down on the floor, Footloose looked up from her bucket, at last, and gave Starscream a reproachful glare. “Sta’zim not to make Oolies go on floor,” she said, wagging a finger, accompanied by snickering from certain Autobots in the background. She stood and lifted the bucket, making a noise of effort at the unexpected weight, and tottered three unsteady steps towards the sideboard, sloshing water.

Starscream cast his gaze skywards, and picked her up by the scruff in one hand, her bucket in the other. “Well, you better put them back in their tank before they end up on the floor again,” he instructed, dryly, setting her down on the worktop, and watched (with a badly disguised amusement) as she carefully placed each one in the tank and examined it minutely for damage before reinstating the next.

“Oolies happy?” the sparkling wondered, flickering her optics, once the handful of uulus were securely back in their optimised environment, and they all crowded to the front and flickered back, so that must be all right. Oolies were none the worse for their misadventure. Now, on to more important things! Footloose gave a determined little click and launched herself off the shelf to finally say hello to Celerity.

“No Thundercracker?” the big femme wondered, disappointedly, at last getting a chance to look around, examining the room’s current population while Footloose clambered to her shoulder and treated her to a belated-but-no-less-enthusiastic flurry of clicks and cheekrubs.

“No. Why do you think we were so concerned to get Calibrator here? She’s, ah… our bargaining chip.” Starscream gave her a narrowed-optics look. “…besides, why does it matter to you?”

The big femme averted her gaze, blue optics going a hot cyan-white, and Vector snorted amusement and elbowed her twin in the chassis.

Starscream shook his head and rolled his optics, adding two and two and getting to a very obvious four. “Never mind.”

An uneasy sort of quiet descended while Ratchet satisfied himself (in laborious detail) that the Secret Weapon was in good health and functioning normally. When Starscream was finally allowed back in to find her, to inform her of their plans, Calibrator was standing alone at the side of the medical suite, watching silently through the window into the side room.

The fallen air commander felt a momentary flash of concern that some idiot had given her free run of the Ark, after all, then noticed the analyst’s hands were firmly cuffed in front of her and there was a stasis collar at her throat, which was probably keyed to kick in the instant she stepped over the infirmary threshold into the corridors. So she was free, but sorely restricted in where she could actually go. That was a relief.

He drifted up behind her, quietly, and acquainted himself with what she was looking at. Of course, Pulsar. The two femmes had (supposedly) been close friends, when both were employed in Deixar police station, until Calibrator had betrayed everyone so dramatically.

“Guilty conscience?” he wondered, softly.

She glanced briefly sidelong and met his chilly gaze. “Didn’t know you cared, Decepticon,” she sniped, and wrinkled her lip. “Oh, sorry. You aren’t any more, are you?”

He gave her a ‘friendly’ clap on the shoulder that almost sent her sprawling. “Watch your manners, femme. I can engineer nasty ‘accidents’ just as easily as you used to,” he chuckled.

She tottered on one leg for a moment before recovering her balance, then straightened and puffed out her scrawny chassis, as if to make up for the few new scuffmarks on her pride.

“For your information? This is bothering Warp,” the red Seeker explained, in that quietly threatening tone of voice he did so well. “And because it’s bothering Warp, it’s bothering me. So in a roundabout way, yes; I do care – and you would do well not to challenge me over it.”

She glanced up at him, and he was graced with the briefest glimpse of the genuinely scared little protoform hidden under the sneering disregard before the mask slipped back into place. “Got to keep a good grasp on all your possessions, of course,” she observed, hollowly. “Far be it for anyone else to make a claim on your territory.”

“Learn quickly, don’t you?”

The analyst didn’t reply; simply directed her attention back through the window, and tried not to feel guilty. Pulsar had brought all this on herself, she consoled herself. If she’d not betrayed her, she’d be living a comfortable and well-tended life as an advisor and confidant in the well-defended Codustral plant. So it was her fault she’d made herself an enemy out of Siphon- Calibrator folded her arms across her chassis, defensively, hugging herself. The words felt… hollow. Insufficient to excuse what she could see.

The gravity bike – what was left of her – was sat propped against her wedge at the far end of the berth. She still wasn’t repaired – far from it – but she was looking a fraction more normal than she had done. She had a brightly coloured cloth shawl slung asymmetrically across her shoulders to make it a little less obvious her arm was missing, and a cunning little piece of frosted plastic set with diffuse LEDs made her optics look almost normal again. Her plating was still a scuffed sort of beige and grey from the sandstorm, but the caked-on grime and the worst of the black graffiti was gone – a quick bit of epoxy paste had even covered up the engraved insults – so at least she was a clean beige and grey. And the tiny machine that Calibrator had seen earlier, while recovering from her Starscream-induced near-death-experience, was snuggled into Pulsar’s lap. Sparkling. That explained why it was so small, at least.

“Siphon did this to her?” Calibrator wondered, softly, at last.

Starscream watched her, carefully. “Yes,” he confirmed. “Why? Satisfied, femme? Finally getting a sort of vicarious revenge on those poor idiots who dared to defy you?”

Calibrator gave him a dirty look. “I don’t know what you think you can possibly know about my situation,” she sniffed, snootily. “I was just trying to make the best of a bad situation.”

“Oh please,” Starscream scoffed. “If you’re going to claim that you were the sweet, mistreated little innocent in all of this-”

“I’m shallow, yes,” the femme cut in, sharply. “But not that shallow. I do regret that our friendship had to fail in the way it did. If she’d stayed on the Codustral payroll, I would have continued to treat her like a friend. But she broke my confidence!” She glared at him, as if attempting to bore holes in his fuselage with the heat of her gaze alone. “She betrayed me, so why should I have put my head in the mill for her?”

“Talk about betrayal, now here you are, helping us betray your own bondmate-”

“The fact we might have interfaced a few times doesn’t make me his property,” Calibrator snapped, and Starscream had to work hard at disguising a smirk, clearly having touched a sore spot. “We were happy, felt we needed a reward for a good job.” She narrowed her glare and smiled, coolly. “If you must know, we were celebrating what we thought was your demise.”

The jet’s self-satisfied smile turned sour and he lifted his chin, glared down his nose at her.

“Aside from that,” she went on, more quietly, “it was meaningless. It was something to do, and it felt nice. Do I need to make it more significant for you?” She gave him a challenging stare. “For a Decepticon you’re putting a lot of emphasis on feelings and emotions. You’re not… jealous, perchance?” She ducked her shoulder and peeked up at him, exaggeratedly coy. “We did have a certain… how can I put it… frisson… in the lab, in Central Station.”

Starscream quirked a brow, archly. “Don’t flatter yourself,” he snorted. “And it would seem Siphon thinks considerably more highly of you than you do of him.”

Calibrator dropped her gaze and pursed her lips. “We were allies, that's all,” she defended herself, quietly. “Not... not lovers, or anything as sentimental as that. He just... provided the muscle that I lacked, and I was a convenient intelligence he could use to further his own agenda.”

“His gift for psychological torture was just an added bonus?”

“That’s-… I mean…” She shuffled her feet. “It’s not something I’m proud of.”

“You’ll forgive me for exercising caution in how far I believe you.”

She was silent, for a moment. “He’s turned himself into everything that I worked to get rid of,” she admitted, softly. “Blue was supposed to calm, to control. To remove violence. To make it safe, to make it…”

“Predictable?”

She looked up at him, attempting to gauge whether or not he was being cynical, and he actually seemed – almost – to be sympathising. “To make it logical,” she agreed, bluntly. “I was a chemist, not a tactician. I needed order and predictability in my life just to feel in control of myself. When the world around me all turned so… insane, with the war and everything…? I lost that – and Blue became the only option I could get to work.”

“You lived in Deixar,” Starscream corrected, softly. “The least important, least desirable and quietest district on the whole of Cybertron. The war hardly touched you. You could have holed up in Codustral and waited it out, without making an enemy of almost everyone there, if it was that worrying to you.”

“Big words, coming from Megatron’s finest,” she sniped, cattily.

He smiled and inclined his head, modestly. “Don’t take it out on me for being able to see through your lies, Cali.”

“Not lies,” she argued, sulkily. “Just… elaborations of the truth.” She shuffled her feet, rumbled her vents in a sigh, and met his gaze. “All right,” she agreed, beaten. “I’ll help you. Just this once.”

Starscream arched a brow – she guessed it was probably as close to an admission of surprise as she’d get out of him. “No special conditions?” he challenged, suspiciously.

Calibrator shook her head, glumly. “I’m angry at Siphon,” she said, quietly. “For doing all this in my name, and for believing I would be appreciative and want to join him. That’s why I’m going to help you, and that’s all.”

0o0o0o0o0

Once the murmuring voices outside her door had finally departed, Pulsar allowed herself to relax. One had clearly been Starscream – no-one else had that glass-etching cadence – and one sounded almost like… could it be Cali? She’d heard the rumours they were bringing her over, but until now hadn’t really given them much credence. It didn’t sound like Starscream’s way of doing things, leaving himself vulnerable by “bargaining with terrorists”, but maybe he’d been overruled.

It had been nice to get the opportunity to see her friends, at last, as well, although they left her feeling slightly… overwhelmed. A concerned clustering of blue and white blobs, all talking over each other in their urgency to find out how she was, and it had been a relief when they’d been called away by Prowl, for a debriefing. There were just… too many of them, all at once.

Peace had returned quite quickly. Footloose was curled in her lap, cheek pressed against her dam’s chassis, humming a soft harmonic. Pulsar had attempted to hum back, but her shattered vocaliser couldn’t produce the same pleasant sounds to harmonise with her, so instead she was purring her fans, just loudly enough to be heard.

“Why Ama not go see Day yet?” Footloose wondered, at last, gazing up at her parent.

“It’s… complicated, Button,” Pulsar replied, softly, straightening her sparkling’s scuffed aerials. “There’s… things…that make it difficult.”

“Is all on own,” Footloose pointed out, quietly.

“You can go and see him, if you want,” Pulsar offered, with a smile. “I won’t stop you.”

Ama all on own,” Footloose disagreed, dropping her gaze back to her fingers, and added, quietly; “Want Day to be with.”

“Soon,” Pulsar promised, evasively. “Just not right now.” Not when he still makes me feel like screaming.

The was enough to satisfy her sparkling, though. The little femme rubbed her cheek affectionately against her dam’s chassis, then squeaked cheerfully in recognition and bounced out of her lap, teetering on the edge of the berth with her arms flapping – notice meee! – before a big white and blue blob swooped in and intercepted her.

“Hey, Button. Still falling off things, huh?” a familiar male voice teased.

“Whitesides?” Pulsar guessed, unable to get her optics to focus.

“Hello there, sarge.” Her fellow gravity bike gave her a silly salute. “Looking like you’ve been through the mill a few times.”

Feeling like I’ve been through the mill a few times,” she agreed, softly, watching as Footloose wriggled in her friend’s arms, chirped greetings and rubbed cheeks with him. “I didn’t think you were all coming.”

“Neither did we, at first,” Whitesides confirmed, ruefully. “When it stopped looking very likely that they’d get past Shockwave on their own, we piled in to help.” He parked himself behind her, touched his fingertips to the outside of her arm, and rested his chin very gently, very briefly on her bad shoulder. “Listen, Squeaky,” he said, gently. “We’re going to help you through this. Okay?”

She tensed up in his arms, uneasy at the close contact, but that was it.. Whether it was familiarity, or whether it was the fact they simply shared the same model, she didn’t know – she just knew she didn’t feel the need to hurl herself away from him, didn’t have to offline her vocaliser just to keep from screaming. She’d shared a dorm with the mech for so many thousands of vorns – almost since the day they strolled off the production line together – and aside from the incident with the Blue, he’d always been very close to her.

She lifted her shaky hand to cover his fingers, and leaned her head against his. “Thank you, Whites,” she rasped, quietly.

0o0o0o0o0

When Skywarp put his head around the door sometime the next morning, it was to find the sideroom’s population had almost doubled. Longbeam and Surefire had joined the little group some time during the evening, and now all four former roommates were heaped up together on the same berth, so snarled in recharge cable it looked like it’d take them a good few breems just to untangle themselves. And – strangely – Pulsar was right at the middle of the protective muddle. He felt an unexpected pang of jealousy that she wouldn’t go near him – make that, wouldn’t even look at him – but was quite happy to clump together with these three-

He squashed the needy little voice, annoyed. Stupid whiney stupid voice. Not as if it mattered if she went near him or not, was it? She could abuse his audios just as easily from a distance, right? Right? He huffed quietly to himself.

Footloose wasn’t one for ‘sleeping in’; she’d already been awake – albeit drowsy – as part of the muddle of arms and legs, but upon seeing him she wiggled out from under Surefire’s arm – the bigger femme barely even stirred – and tottered unsteadily over, her little arms up. “Awning, Day,” she greeted, sleepily.

“Morning, you,” Skywarp replied, amusedly, kicking the annoying whiney voice away and plucking the sparkling up off the floor. “All energised and ready to cause trouble?”

She giggled and butted heads. “I always good,” she argued, clicking and rubbing cheeks.

“Yeah, like you keep reminding us,” he agreed, boosting her up to her usual perch. “And you’re sure good at something, but I’m not gonna say it’s behaving yourself.

She made a noise and plopped down on his shoulders. “When Day and Ama be together again?” she wondered, dangling her feet either side of his neck.

“It’s…” Frag, how am I supposed to explain this? “…complicated.”

“Always complicated.” Footloose folded her arms on the top of his helm and pouted, sullenly. “Ama said, Day said. Ska’fie said complicated with Unnol Sta’zim. Ausep said all complicated ever’where.”

“Well, I figure Ausep’s probably right.” Skywarp rumbled his turbines in a sigh.

There was a very long pause, and when Footloose spoke again she had an anxious tone to her voice. “Day not like Ama?” she wondered, quietly. “Because not Decepticon? That why not go see?”

Eeeh, now that was awkward. “Uhh-… well… not quite-…” It hurt to have to put the thoughts into words, and he wasn’t even sure why. The root cause of most of these problems had been pretty evenly split between him and that silly little Autodork. “Ama’s scared of me, Button.”

“Why scared?” She peered at him, confusedly. “Day not do anything.”

Well, not personally. “A bad mech hurt her, and used-… ah, someone that looked like me… to do it.”

“Why they do that?” Footloose sounded hurt, and confused. “Why they do that, Day?

“Because they were angry, ’cause I did something to them, and they want to punish me for it.”

“Don’ understand.”

“You will when you’re older,” he reassured, with a smile (even though he didn’t feel like smiling).

“Want understand now,” she sighed, but didn’t pursue it. She was used to being told ‘when you’re older’, and knew pursuing it wouldn’t change the answer. “Miss Seem,” she said, softly, slumping forwards over his helm and letting her arms dangle either side of his face. “When we go make rescue?”

“We?” he echoed. “I don’t think there’s gonna be any we about it, squirt. You’re staying here.”

“But I come help,” she elaborated, leaning further over his head and peering down at him.

“Oh no you don’t; baad idea. Don’t want you getting in trouble.”

“Want to come help,” she chased. “Am little, can get in places like where Seem am. Please?”

“I need you to look after Ama,” Skywarp told her, firmly. “She’ll be all on her own! You need to stay here.”

Footloose made a staticky raspberry across her vents, but nodded agreement. “I look after Ama.”

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
_silverfox
May. 16th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Good old Vantage! :)

Poor Ooolies, though. And poor Footloose.
jill_dragon
May. 17th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
Soooo who here thinks Callibrator is full of shit? *raises hand*

I like how she's become Starscream's personal enemy much like Siphon has become Skywarp's. And you're lucky I wasn't drinking anything when I got to the part about Screamer dunking her into the fish tank, I just about laughed until I cried. XD

I'm interested in seeing how the cops interact with the Autobots actually, there's bound to be some culture shock. Plus we haven't seen much of the residents of the Ark lately apart from Ratchet. What's their whole take on the situation? How do they feel about being invaded by a pack of Neutrals? ;)
cmdrtekk
May. 19th, 2009 05:25 am (UTC)
"I'm interested in seeing how the cops interact with the Autobots actually, there's bound to be some culture shock. Plus we haven't seen much of the residents of the Ark lately apart from Ratchet. What's their whole take on the situation? How do they feel about being invaded by a pack of Neutrals? ;)"

I very much agree with jill_dragon's desire. You skirted around some of it with a couple of teasing one line hints as the group was arriving.


Another well done chapter. Thank you for sharing.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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