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"Warped", Chapter One


Chapter One

Cybertron, three-point-five weeks previously, comparative-Earth-time

It had been a busy day, and Detective Sergeant Pulsar was only halfway looking forwards to getting home and collapsing into an armchair. On the one hand, it would mean work was over for the day, and she could finally defragment some of the chaff out of her stacks and begin thinking straight again. On the other hand…

…right on cue, she had barely dragged her tired feet over the threshold and into the large house she shared with a few friends when there was the exulting cry of “Ama home!” and two small, exuberant bodies assaulted her legs, clicking excited greetings at her.

She sagged exhaustedly into the closest chair. “Hello you two. Hope you’ve been behaving yourselves,” she said, too tired to do much apart from sit with her arms open and let them climb all over her.

Always behave,” Slipstream reminded, rubbing cheeks with her. “We good.”

That is a matter of opinion,” a deep voice rolled, dryly, and the Policebot glanced up to meet the sardonic golden gaze from the big female in the kitchen doorway.

“Oh, you’ve not been causing trouble for Auntie Sepp, again, have you?” Pulsar half-scolded, amusedly, petting the small helm that had butted up into her hand; Footloose shook her head and affected her best Look of Total Innocence. “She won’t look after you any more, if you keep on being troublemakers.”

‘Auntie Sepp’ made a dismissive noise that could have meant anything, and rolled her optics. Consultant Surgeon Forceps had been somewhat ‘shoehorned’ into the role of adoptive Aunt, but she was proving herself to be unexpectedly adept at handling the twins – although that was probably something to do with her unwillingness to accept any of what she called ‘nonsense’. She ruled with very much the velvet glove; she didn’t often actually say ‘no’, provided they at least attempted to behave themselves, but once the negative ruling had been made there was no going back on it, no matter how much whining ensued.

“I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up, Sepp,” Pulsar sighed, quietly, giving up attempting to shoo the rambunctious pair away. “Look at them. They just don’t stop.”

“They’re only pleased to see you,” Forceps reassured, watching the twins vie for their parent’s attention across her lap. “They’ll settle.”

“They’re wearing me out, that’s what they’re doing,” Pulsar corrected, wearily. “I don’t know how you manage to keep pace with them.”

“By not even attempting to!” Forceps vanished back off into the kitchen, clanking around with cups and flasks. “I usually let them wear each other out. They’re on their second flush, by the time you get home.”

Sparkling-care was very much a trial-and-error experience, right now. It wasn’t that the area was unsafe for sparklings, as such… just that they were such a rare occurrence that facilities for looking after them weren’t so much uncommon as non-existent, and the closest specialist medic was literally half a world away. The war had meant that ‘young’ machines had to be able to stand and fight from the very instant they first came online, and that meant being built as adults, already armed and outfitted for whatever their side needed. A pre-designed cybernetic personality uploaded direct from Vector Sigma bypassed the juvenile stage they just didn’t have the luxury of allowing time for, any more.

It was better for diversity if young minds were allowed to develop in their own way. Going to Vector Sigma and getting a “pre-designed” personality often led to some very stilted, inflexible behaviours – and there was always the risk that something unexpected would happen, and a machine would freeze up altogether. Malleable, unprogrammed little brains were a whole lot psychologically stronger – they grew into their emotions at the same speed that they learned everything else. Any new spark was analysed very early on, because spark alone would only go so far towards getting a body to function correctly, and the appropriate supportive engrams would need placing into the protoform before the spark itself was settled in. The early analysis of the harmonics had implied both would be male, and possibly both fliers, although the opinion was the purplish spark would mostly take after his sire, and ultimately be a slightly exuberant little flier, and the greenish one after his dam, and be a judicious little groundling.

As should probably have been expected, from harmonics derived in part from Skywarp, what actually resulted were two very muddled little sparklings who almost instantly decided they were going to do the opposite of what had been expected of them.

Slipstream – who everyone had anticipated would be the flier, and was named accordingly – showed an immediate fear of heights, just like his dam, and rejected every last insignificant flight-related command in his process core. After a few tense orns where he did nothing but squeal and hide under cupboards in fright, he finally settled once he’d been refitted as a groundling, and was quite happy with his lot provided no-one made him look too hard at the sky, just in case he should fall off the world.

Footloose had a particularly dramatic transformation – not only did he have his former groundling optics continually directed skywards, he also decided that he wanted to be a femme. Gender was an even more abstract concept among sparklings than among adults – most seemed quite content to be genderless little entities for vorns, referred to in the masculine simply to get around the ‘non-person’ ideal that came with being called an ‘it’ – but Footloose was quite insistent that everyone call her ‘she’.

They turned out to complement each other quite well! Footloose’s enthusiasm helped to inspire Slipstream out of his dithery introspection, and in turn his thoughtful moderation counteracted his sister’s tendency to leap in feet first without thinking too hard about what she was doing. Both also proved very early on that they were going to be… handfuls, small though they were. For Cybertronians, they were tiny – but that itself was pretty advantageous. Not only were they more resilient, as there was less mass being flung around as they tumbled their way through their early days, it also meant finding spares was easier. Footloose in particular was getting through new parts at an impressive rate of knots – aside from her periodic ‘Falls from High Places’, she already had a completely new lower body after experimenting with her teleport and quantum entangling herself with the furniture.

Slipstream calmed first, as ever; tucked himself under Pulsar’s arm and curled into her side, quietly. By contrast, Footloose felt obliged to go through her day in exhaustive, animated detail – and there was nothing too small to bypass the little femme’s voracious attention. A breem passed with no slowing to the flood of words, and she seemed quite happily set to continue in the same vein for the rest of the evening until Forceps made a timely intervention.

“Hold that for Ama, Button,” the big surgeon instructed, thrusting a cup of energon under the sparkling’s tiny nose. “And don’t you spill it!”

Exactly as predicted, Footloose lost her train of thought, and went muddled and quiet. “En’gon,” she observed, mouthing the rim of the cup and trying to tilt it far enough to drink without spilling it. “For me?”

“For me,” Pulsar corrected, carefully extracting the cup from her infant’s fingers before its contents ended up in both their laps. “Thank you, Sepp.”

“I have some?” Footloose chased the cup, curiously.

“All right, but only a little, you already have energy to spare for everyone…”

“Hm, we seem to have an infestation,” a deep voice mused, and everyone looked up to find the giant figure of Superintendent Hardline framed in the doorway, his head literally brushing the lintel. “Shall I call pest control?”

Slipstream peered out from under his dam’s arm and wiggled his fingers in a wave, but stayed put. Footloose was still far too full of energy; she threw herself at him, and had half-climbed half-teleported to sit on his broad shoulders almost before he realised she’d moved. “Guess, guess!” she insisted, planting her tiny hands down over his optics.

“Hm, I can’t imagine,” Hardline replied, drolly. “Is that… District Commissioner Boxer, I wonder? Or… I know, it must be Constable Longbeam, she has little hands.”

Footloose squeaked her excitement at ‘tricking’ the big Policebot, and rubbed her cheek against his. “Caught you,” she observed, pulling at his antennae. “Is Oosie!”

He winced as her tugging grew more energetic. “Yeah, yeah, all right, Button, time for you to get down now.” He caught her by a foot and swung her gracelessly off his shoulders, and she squealed her noisy excitement as he dangled her over to her dam. “Here you are, Ama, I found something of yours.”

“Thank you, Hack,” Pulsar replied, dryly, accepting the energetic bundle of parts back into her lap. “Just what I always wanted…”


It wasn’t particularly late when the comparative calm descended. Pulsar was completely out cold in the armchair, feet tucked up onto the seat, her head cricked at a painful angle and her vocaliser buzzing quietly as her body worked to assimilate her energon and recharge the most depleted components. Even Footloose had finally exhausted herself and settled into a torpor, snugged so closely against her twin that they formed an incomprehensible tangle of bright limbs in Pulsar’s lap.

Hardline and Forceps were sharing the other couch, under the pretence of watching the news but not really paying it any attention. The surgeon was particularly drowsy, slumping sideways against her riot tank; he’d gathered her against his chest, mantling an arm around her shoulders. She had another night shift due at the District General, and was trying to maximise the charge she could get from her energon before heading out.

“You’re quiet, tonight,” she commented, softly.

“Preoccupied,” Hardline confessed. “I didn’t really want to talk about this in front of everyone, because we’ve kept Pulse out of the loop on purpose – conflict of interest – but we had a break in at the local mental health facility. Cali’s hospital.”

Forceps sat straighter, optics flickering a brighter gold. “Is she still there?” she wondered, urgently.

“Oh, still tucked up all cozy in her padded cell, no worries about her,” Hardline reassured. “She was the first one we checked on, and she was still with her psychiatrist, didn’t even know anything was going on.” He sighed, tersely. “I think the maximum security wing was beyond the capabilities of the idiots who attacked, so they hit what they stood a chance of success at, and managed to spring half the minimum-security inmates from lockup. We spent all second shift rounding the patients up. Still haven’t got all of them back.”

Forceps gave him a wary look; he was clearly leading the conversation somewhere. “…who did you lose?”

“It’s, ah… eh, well…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Deuce is among the few still unaccounted for. Overhaul’s team think he might have been, ah… enticed away.”

Forceps groaned, softly. “And he was doing so well.”

And the delivery truck had been doing well, now he was off the Blue and out of the self-destructive spiral he’d got himself caught up in – still a bundle of neuroses and prone to over-reacting, but far more moderate, and actually making some proper plans for his future.

“Doesn’t he have a transponder on him, somewhere?” she wondered. “Specifically for this sort of eventuality?”

Hardline hrm-ed, guiltily. “I, uh… think they took it off him,” he admitted. “They were short of supplies, and since he’s not one of the most dangerous inmates, they figured they didn’t need him wearing it any more.”

“…this is not going to end well…”


Spotweld was one of the twins’ favourite ‘uncles’ because he was just as patient with them as Forceps, and said ‘no’ even less than she did; he let them sit in his office and play games on his computer, while he was working in the neighbouring rooms. The one firm ‘no’ had (predictably) been levelled at Footloose – she had taken an intense interest in what the polymorph did for his day job and amused his patients by ‘helping’, until she’d found an unattended laser scalpel and wreaked no small amount of havoc with it – “…but I Seeker!” – at which point she’d been summarily banned from the surgery altogether.

Technically, the large house the all shared was Spotweld’s; Forceps alone had lodged with him for a very long time, but the past few dozen orns had seen Hardline finally elect to move in, and Pulsar wasn’t long after him, once the twins finally got their own casings. A shared dormitory was not the place to bring up Sparklings! The polymorph was pretty lenient about it – provided everyone chipped in towards bills and cleaning, he considered it the more the merrier! – and of course, who could dislike such bright, cheerful little sparklings? Rays of sunshine in a gloomy world.

He arrived home from his shift at Accident and Emergency to the usual scenes of chaos, and yet there was something sliightly different about it – the twins were even more overactive than usual, and almost took his feet clean out from under him as he stepped through the door.

“Whoo!” Spotweld teetered unsteadily on one leg while the two youngsters ran in agitated circles around him. “Steady, you two! What’s got you so excited?”

Slipstream was first to stop orbiting. “Where Ama?” he asked, seriously, and Spotweld finally realised (with a flicker of disappointment) that they weren’t so over-excited at seeing him, but in the anticipation their dam might be with him.

“Where’s Ama?” he echoed, watching as Footloose did another quick circuit of the room, checking all the windows, and finally fetched up on the front porch, hanging over the guard rail at the end, her small optics glued disappointedly to the street. “She’s not come home yet?”

“We’d hoped she’d just been too busy to answer her pings, and was with you,” Forceps filled in, quietly, from the doorway to the back room, wiping her hands dry after unloading the washer.

The polymorph’s lips tightened into an anxious line. “I’ve not seen her all day?” he replied, warily. “I know Hardline had to visit their station earlier, perhaps he’ll have seen something…”

Hardline arrived home alone as usual, however, wondering why the place was so quiet. Footloose had a funny sort of floppy despondency about her when she went to say hello, as well; no greeting maul was forthcoming, and instead of leaping at him, she just ambled over, arms up.

“Aw, what’s got you all grumpy for, hm, Button?” Hardline wondered, picking her up; she sighed and slumped her head against his big shoulder.

“Ama los’,” she supplied, quietly. “No home yet.”

“Lost? Now, what has Sepp told you about putting things away so you can find them again later?” he teased, gently, and listened as she rewarded him with a quiet chuckle. “She’ll be home later. She’s just been working late…”

An orn later with still no sign of the sprightly little gravity-bike seeded an inkling of what was a potentially-serious problem into the minds of the local police. Chief Inspector Celerity confirmed that her officer wasn’t scheduled for any investigations that would have taken her away from home for longer than a cycle or two, and dispatched Longbeam and Whitesides to check their former room-mate’s old haunts. Even Spotweld had been roped into the search, by orn two, and spent several fruitless cycles checking local hospitals.

Two sad pairs of optics peeked over the back of the chair at him, when he finally got home on the third orn.

“No Ama?” Slipstream wondered, quietly.

“Still no sign, Seem,” Spotweld apologised, quietly, patting both small heads as he passed. “But we’re still looking for her, don’t you worry.”

That evening, Footloose went to bed without the slightest whisper of complaint; she burrowed under her blanket, and now all that was visible in the darkened room was the dim blue-green glow from her optics, shining out from underneath the coverlets, and even that seemed… desultory. Dispirited.

Slipstream clambered up and lay in front of her for a moment or two, on his front, optics level with hers. “Lucy?” It was not his sister’s way to just do as told without at least attempting to string things out and stay up as long as possible.

“Want Ama,” she replied, quietly, and turned her face away.

Slipstream crawled underneath the covers next to her; she sighed and wilted sideways onto his shoulder. “They find,” he counselled. “Are police, can do anything.”

Ama police,” Footloose corrected, grumpily. “Now lost!”

Slipstream wasn’t sure what to say in response to that; it was true, after all. He hummed a low, soothing harmonic to her instead, and she joined in after a moment or two, snuggling better against him; when Forceps poked her head around the doorway, both little pairs of lights had gone dim.

“I think they’re offline,” the surgeon confirmed, quietly, settling next to Hardline at the table. “It’s probably a little safer to talk, now…”

The adults’ voices were soft, but the low murmur was just enough to attract both youngsters’ sleepy attention. Footloose lifted her head and watched the doorway for a while. “Talking,” she observed, curiously, scooting her way to the edge of the berth and slipping her ungainly way to the floor as quietly as she could manage.

“Shouldn’t listen,” Slipstream whispered, peering down off the edge of the berth at his sister. “Not talking to us.”

“Talk about Ama,” she argued, softly, edging her way closer to the door. “Maybe find! Come lis’n.”

“…You don’t think she’s cut her losses and done a runner, do you?” Spotweld wondered, very quietly, not spotting the very muted greenish glow from the twins’ room. “She’s not been seen in the station at all for the past three orns, and I know she was feeling like she wasn’t coping…?”

“I don’t think she’s been finding it as hard as she’s trying to make out,” Forceps demurred. “I think she’s just after the sympathy vote. And I know she had her doubts at the beginning, but I don’t think she’s the sort to just dump the little ones, either.”

“What if it was related to the break-in?” Hardline’s deep voice rumbled, soft like distant thunder. “I know all of us Policebots are on the Blue hit-list, and Pulse just happens to be wee enough to be a good target.”

“You’re suggesting someone’s abducted her?” Forceps sounded doubtful. “Who’d want to do that? Deuce is the only one left, and he never really seemed too set against her - it was me that arrested him, if you remember. If he’s going to have a vendetta against anyone, it’s me.”

“Well, I figure that’s true enough, but the scuttlebutt says he was pretty interested in her all those times they met up when Blue was still a problem. Pit, one of the little ones could be half his, and he’s snatched her up to get an explanation!”

An awkward silence hung heavily over the assembled adults for a moment or two.

“As distasteful – and unlikely – as the idea is, I doubt she took too much care over her systems when she was too high to know where she was, so it might be a slim possibility,” Forceps agreed, reluctantly. “But that’s just muddling the issue. We have no evidence at all to suggest he’s anything other than spooked, and hiding out around the hospital, somewhere – if he even knows about the twins, which itself is unlikely.”

“Maybe we should see if our three Decepticon allies could come back and give us a hand?” Spotweld half-joked.

“Primus, don’t say that where They can hear you,” Forceps scolded, quietly; no names were mentioned, but it wasn’t too difficult to work out who she meant by ‘They’. “The last we need is for our troublesome twosome to think they ought to go find help in the form of the Three Musketeers.”

“Tsh. You’d like to see them again, as well, Sepp.”

“…well, yes, it would be nice to see them again.” She seemed peeved at the semi-forced admission. “That wasn’t the point I was trying to make! I just-…” She lowered her voice to a whisper, as if to avoid disturbing the little audios that were already both listening in. “I don’t want them taking it upon themselves to go and see if they can find them!”

Just out of sight in the doorway to her room, Footloose perked her head, thoughtfully; Slipstream shook his head at her, knowing instinctively what she was thinking.

“The fact that they’re the first sparklings we’ve seen in a great many vorns doesn’t mean they’re anything other than normal!” Forceps went on, irritably. “They’re far too young to have any proper concept of danger, and I’m willing to bet they’re already perfectly content in their ability to do anything.” She paused long enough to fix both friends on a glare. “If anyone’s going to even attempt to go, it should be adults – more than one, and armed well enough to get past Shockwave!”

Having heard quite enough to satisfy her curiosity, Footloose teleported herself back to their bunk and sat in her little nest of blanket, optics thoughtfully narrowed. “Day Skawar fine Ama,” she mused, watching Slipstream take the long way and climb up, laboriously.

“Don’know Day,” Slipstream argued, softly, shrinking down into the foam surface of their shared berth. “How we find him?” He didn’t often like his sister’s plans, and it was usually with good reason.

The solution was obvious to Footloose, even if Slipstream didn’t immediately see it. “Have name, ask where!”

“Ask Ausep later,” Slipstream decided, firmly. “She help.”

Footloose huddled down in her blanket and gave him a hostile look. “Ausep say no.”

“Not asked,” Slipstream challenged.

“Not need. Ausep say no.” Footloose gave him a thoughtful look. “Mm, Seem? Not asked...”

Slipstream tucked himself closer, and hummed anxiously. “Trouble.”


The twins had been up to something all day, Forceps was sure of it. As well as being their usual exhausting selves, Footloose in particular had been sneaking around in the kitchen – she’d caught her on the sideboard and rooting in the cupboards on more than one occasion. The sparkling had admitted to being ‘hungry’, when pushed, but she’d been in such a funny mood all day it had been a relief to pack the two of them off to bed and get a bit of down-time for herself. She had a whole pile of journals that she still hadn’t had the chance to read, and she really wanted to get them read so she could dump the wafers in the break-room at the hospital, but concentrating on them was… kinda hard… right now…


A voice was calling her name, as if down a very long echoey tunnel. She grunted softly and tried to ignore it. So tired

The voice was pretty insistent, though. “…se-epp? Sepp…?” Something prodded her shoulder. “Hey, Forceps! You okay in there…?”

She finally lifted her head off her arms, muggily. “…what?” How odd, she’d slumped into recharge against the table, on top of her pile of journal wafers. She was sure she’d not been that tired…

Spotweld had his chin right down on the table and was watching her, anxiously. His words came to her as if through yards of blissfully soft, sleepy cotton wool. “Are you all right?”

“Of course I’m allrrnnh-” She sat up far too quickly and her gyroscopes swam dizzily. “Of course I’m all right,” she repeated, as if it’d somehow force it to be true. She felt… woozy. Like she still needed an orn or two of rest. “What’s wrong?”

“Resector asked me to check on you?” Spotweld straightened up, and shared a glance with someone unseen behind her. “As you’d not showed up for your shift, or called in sick?”

“What?” She checked her chronometer. “Primus!” Half an orn – and three-quarters of her shift! – had passed completely without her knowledge. She lurched unsteadily to her feet, and promptly fell straight back down.

“Steady, steady…” Hardline caught her shoulders from behind. “Spots, go see if there’s anything in the kitchen might explain-”

“No need,” she growled, irritably, rubbing woozily at her temples. “I know what’s been going on. That little wretch, I knew she was looking for something she shouldn’t have, in the kitchen, I bet she put something in my energon-”

“…er, Sepp?” Spotweld was at the door to the spare room, a worried, pinched expression on his face. “I hate to interrupt, but, um… Where’s the twins?”


On Nemesis, at the bottom of one of the oceans on a small green planet called Earth, one member of the Decepticon Aerial Elite was busy keeping the side up. Skywarp was in the monitor room… his feet up on the console, chair rocked back on two legs, hard at work catching a few breems of recharge. Now, Megatron would usually have a major hissy-fit if he could see him, but he figured that since the tyrant was safely tucked away down in the repair bay – again – after getting his aft handed to him by Optimus Prime – again – what the optic couldn’t see, the mind wouldn’t worry about. So all was good.

At least, all would be good if not for that damned beeping! He onlined one irritable crimson optic and studied the control console; there was a light flashing on one side. How long had that been going, for? He rocked the chair back onto all its feet and stabbed a finger at the ‘receive’ button.

“What?” he barked.

The flinch from the other end was almost audible. “Er, commander Skywarp?” It was that stupid dithery little silver ground-pounder who seemed obsessed with space bridge guard duty – Vantage, the teleport recalled his name was. Not much of a Vantage, he was about as much good as a frigging spark in a trance.

“Yeah, what?” Skywarp propped his chin on one hand, boredly.

“I need to talk to you.”

“What about?”

There was a long pause at the end of the line. “It’s important.”

“So tell me, already!” Skywarp chased. “Am I gonna get it out of you one word at a time?”

There was another long pause. “I mean, I need to talk to you in person.”

Now was Skywarp’s turn to pause. “What?” He lifted his head off his hand, and studied the blinking light a little more closely. “I’m on monitor duty, can’t it wait?”

“Oh, right, because we all know how seriously you take that job,” Vantage scoffed, bravely.

“I’ll have you know-”

“Look, sir, this is important. Can’t you get commander Thundercracker to cover you for a little while?”

Skywarp let his complaints die unspoken; the little glitch had actually called him ‘sir’, so it must be a little bit serious. “All right,” he growled, resignedly. “I’ll ping you when I’m on my way. And this better be serious, or I’m gonna personally dig a new track to the space bridge with your head.”


And lookit, lookit!
My story got fanart.
*dances about in joy*
HOW. COOL. Is that? :D :D


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 26th, 2008 01:21 am (UTC)
Isn't Skywarp going to be in for a surprise. ;) Pulsar has my sympathies dealing with those twins, but then I'm not maternal in the least. When other people gush and go "Awww, cute babies!" I tend to stay as far away as possible from the little monsters, lol.

And I have this mental image that won't go away of Starscream yelling something along the lines of "Did it ever occure to either of you to _use birth control_?!" to Skywarp. XD Of course that's assuming Cybertronians _have_ birth control, though most societies do in some form or another. *ponders*
Oct. 2nd, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
I'm not maternal either - Sepp's phrase of "as maternal as a sack of wrenches" is a play on my own assertion that I'm about as motherly as a brick. That's why I don't mind other people's kids as much, because I can give them back. (Not that I have my own kids, but that's why - I'd be stuck with 'em. :P)
Sep. 26th, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC)
Wheeee! Extremely cool! Congratz to your first fanart! XD
Sep. 26th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
“…but I Seeker!”
LOL! Now I'm imagining her going right up to Megatron and asking for a job: "I Seeker!"

Primus, has Vantage ever been off duty at all since he arrived on Earth?!
Oct. 2nd, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
I think Vantage likes it at the space bridge, he can goof off with impunity, and he's out of range for friendly fire. :P
Oct. 2nd, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
I think I'd like that job best, too, but I'd occasionally want some time off. ... Anyway, I like Vantage.

And I forgot to mention earlier that I'm curious how Soundwave responds to sparklings. He's got little ones of his own after all. ;)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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