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"Warped", Chapter Twelve

Looool, I was listening to an old Blondie CD and I've found the perfect tune for Hardline :

"The Hardest Part"

"Big man of steel behind the steering wheel" - literally. ;)
...although now I want to give him a brother called "Overdrive". :P

What made me more amused was the fact that I misheard the lyrics when I first heard it (well, I WAS only about 10 or 12, my Dad gave me an old cassette with it on. I figured it was just more stupid lyrics). I thought it was "25 tonnes of heart and steel" - which is TOTALLY him. :D

I guess like a lot of authors, I like to have musics to represent my characters - it's just annoying to not be able to later listen to a track without going "lol that's so totally Character x".

Anyway! Back to your scheduled broadcast. :) This one's kinda nothingy, so I hope to get you all back to the action soon. ;)

Title (chapter): Warped (12)
Series: Transformers, G1-based (“Blue” AU)
Rating: PG-13
Summary: In which Skywarp gets leave to stay (and a bath), and Thundercracker gets a new uniform.

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Warped
Chapter Twelve

“Uh, Boss? Uhh, that is… you know that it’s not gonna change the more you watch it, right?”

Megatron turned to face the voice that had piped hesitantly up at his feet, and glared silently down at Rumble for so long that the cassette actually flinched back in anticipation of a blow when the warlord finally spoke. “I’m trying to work out exactly what the former resident idiot is trying to achieve,” he growled, watching as the purple blip on the screen once again drew its haphazard trace across the map of the United States. “Maybe you'd be better suited to imagining yourself in his position. Perhaps it takes an idiot to understand an idiot.”

Rumble kept his vocaliser offline; he sensed his superior was only looking for an excuse to give him a kick, and insubordination would probably be enough to do it. If he were Megatron, he’d probably be looking for an excuse to boot him a good one, as well, the cassette reasoned, charitably. It had left him and Frenzy feeling somewhat deflated to realise “their” master plan to get Skywarp out had all been orchestrated by Megatron anyway, and they’d been the source of more problems than usual as a result.

Instead, Rumble watched the screen – like some sort of drunken butterfly, Skywarp’s purple dot wiggled first up across the screen to the space bridge, roughly following Starscream’s ill-fated flight-path, then it skittered all the way back down the west coast. It paused very briefly, then set off back up the coast, taking an even more haphazard path than last time, before finally halting in the north.

“Well, this idiot thinks it’s pretty obvious that he can’t find ’em either,” Rumble pointed out, bravely, folding his arms.

“If you are trying to make a point, Rumble, I would do it when you are out of my range of fire,” Megatron grumbled, darkly, and watched out of the very margin of his vision as the cassette inched another couple of steps away backwards.

“Um… right, Boss. I was, ah… just making an observation.”

Megatron hrf-ed quietly, and rested his chin on one hand, elbow propped on the console. “Still. It pains me that I need to agree with you,” he accepted, ungraciously. “I’ve stared at this screen for so long I convinced myself I must be missing something, but I think it genuinely is that simple. All that plotting they seemed to be doing, you’d think they had a better contingency plan for the moment Skywarp sent it to the Pit.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and cycled cold air through his vents, irritably.

“You know, we could always go fetch ’em back,” Rumble suggested, warily. “Pretend this was all part of the plan, teach ’em a lesson, remind ’em where they stand, and all that.”

“I don’t think that will be so easy to achieve as you think,” Megatron sighed. “That there?” He touched one large finger to the blip on the screen. “Is Autobot headquarters.”

Rumble was silent for several long moments. “You think he’s defected?”

“I’m not sure what he’s done.” Megatron shook his head. “And knowing him, neither does he! I’m more inclined to think he’s gone too close and been arrested, but then Skywarp was never famous for his predictability.”

The purple blip in the Autobot base hadn’t moved at all for a while - not even the jittery fidget it had been doing at the start, around the few square metres that presumably indicated a cell - which wasn’t reassuring. If the idiot had gone and got himself killed, they’d have to go about trying to find the sparklings the hard way, and this accursed mud-ball was big enough that they could end up running in circles for vorns and still not find them.

Once Rumble had finally lost interest and left, Megatron turned his attention to the comms screen. A message had come in some time ago, on a Decepticon carrier signal using a cipher so old the silver giant couldn’t remember it having been used in hundreds of vorns, and very old-fashioned – it had actually been written, rather than the usual coded ping or vocal communiqué. He’d already read it three times, and while it had piqued his curiosity, he wasn’t yet sure how far he wanted to investigate – the supposed ‘thing of value’ was unlikely to actually be valuable. Just finding the sender and giving them a walloping for wasting his time seemed more useful.

Megatron thumbed the message pane open again, and debated sending one of the Coneheads out on reconnaissance.

Greetings, Mighty Megatron,” he read, for the fourth time. (Predictably, no new details revealed themselves.) “I approach you with an offer. I possess something of value which may be of interest to your good self. Please respond on this frequency so we may discuss terms. Respectfully, S.”

0o0o0o0o0

His little blob of world had changed, when Skywarp finally began to come around. He lay on his back, all his ventral armour opened up, and the crushing weight of Autobots on his wings had vanished. There was a strange, distracted sort of pain down his open chassis, as well – as if he’d been given a shot of painkiller, but not a big one and it was wearing off. Maybe they hadn’t anticipated he’d be waking up yet? Must have decided to use that period of enforced stasis to start to get his pumps cleaned out. Oww.

His worldview might have changed, but the unfriendly voices hadn’t – although they seemed to be arguing with each other, this time. He decided that remaining shamming unconsciousness was the best option for now. If they noticed him waking up, they might change their mind and decide to take things back up with him. Giving them the excuse to try ‘jet judo’ while his chassis was all opened up like this sounded like a spectacularly bad idea!

“So let me get this straight,” a voice challenged, over the general hubbub. Sounded like the yellow half of those damn twins. (Well, he could just go smelt himself, for starters!) “You, in your infinite wisdom, think it would be a good idea for us to let the single most defenceless creature in the entire base to stay with the one most likely to cause her harm?!”

“Sure. Why not? She seems pretty happy to stay where she’s chosen to be,” a far more easygoing voice replied, smoothly. “I mean, I can hear her purring from all the way over here – if you can’t, maybe you better get Ratch to check on your audios once he’s done with our guest.”

Ah, so that must be what that strange buzzing noise was, Skywarp reasoned, inwardly.

“But that’s… just-… come on, Jazz, that’s just stupid! That there? If you’d forgotten? Is a Decepticon. And that sitting in his hand is a sparkling. Probably not even a full solar cycle old yet, so how you think she’s old enough to make a rational, educated decision about these things is quite beyond me. And you think we should just let him keep her?!”

“Well she is his sparkling, if you were forgetting.”

“The idea of a Decepticon finding someone willing to procreate with them is something I will personally never forget. It will remain seared onto my memory plates like a solar brand for the rest of eternity.” Pause. “Those Decepticreep femmes must be getting pretty desperate to choose this raggedy bunch of bolts to spark off.”

“Actually, as I understand it…” There was a momentary hesitation. “I think Skywarp’s partner in creation was an Autobot.”

The silence didn’t last very long, but it was so cloyingly thick, you couldn’t have cut it with a laser scalpel. When it finally ended, it was like someone had set off a sonic grenade, with every single protesting voice in the entire damn room (and there were a lot of them) struggling to make itself heard over everyone else.

The aggressive voice cut through the hubbub with the stridency of a fire alarm. “You mean to say… what?! They’re not content with just attacking and killing us now, they have to rape our femmes as well?!”

One of the mechs helping clean him must have seen Skywarp’s wince at the description, because a steadying hand dropped lightly to the upper margin of his good wing, and brushed a thumb lightly across a sensitive seam, soothingly. Easy, Warp, he told himself. You’re still unconscious, remember?

“Hey, hey, that wasn’t what I said!” the more easygoing of the original two voices was already protesting, urgently. “I didn’t say there was anything non-consensual about it!”

“Right, because all our femmes are just queuing to fling themselves at that airheaded terror of the sky!”

“The fact the little ones were accidental,” a moderate – and familiar! – female voice added, to the jumble of confused voices, “does not mean either is the product of violence.”

“Yeah, but of course you’re gonna say that, femme,” Aggressive spat. “I’m almost willing to put credits on the idea that you helped.”

“Of course I helped! Just not in the way you apparently mean. Look, hard though it may be for you to understand, the only criminal act involved in Lucy’s creation was the fact her creators were too stupid to use the appropriate baffles when they went sharing sparks.” There was a faint grumble of displeasure from a powerful engine. “But I’m not going to argue about this with you, any more. Yelling isn’t going to change your mind, and I’m guessing a swift punch where it hurts isn’t going to smack much common sense in, either.”

“Just you try it, spy.” An equally-powerful engine revved back, meaningfully. “You go for me, and I’ll make sure you end up in… the-… Eh? Jazz, what in Pit are you doing?”

“Mmm? Oh, don’t mind me,” Easygoing replied, offhand, and there was the sound of pages being turned. “I’m just trying to find the part of the rulebook that says we can’t leave sparklings with their creators, so don’t let me distract you from your argument!.”

“Ha ha, Jazz, funny. It’s the same part of the rulebook that says we don’t leave defenceless, valuable things with sociopath Decepticreeps!” Beat, different tactic. “Surely even you understand that it’s hardly fair on her to leave her in his so-called ‘care’. The dice are already loaded against her because of who created her, you want to let her be put more at risk of being corrupted into some mini-Megatron by leaving her withhim?”

“Well, it doesn’t look much like he’s corrupted her yet.” Pause, hmm. “If anything, I’d say she was corrupting him.”

There was an uneasy ripple in response to that which almost sounded like reluctant agreement.

“I mean,” Easygoing moved to secure his advantage. “How many times have we had Decepticons actually genuinely ask us for clemency, then… well, I guess he’s kinda behaving himself, right? Even if he did put bootprints on Ironhide.”

“Unless he’s behaving himself so he can lull us into a false sense of security, and steal her away the instant he’s left unattended with her,” Aggressive pointed out, grimly.

“So we leave ’em together, but make sure there’s always someone about to keep an eye on them. Seems a pretty easy solution to me. Right?”

“I concur with Jazz,” a deep voice agreed, softly, from one side. “To forcibly separate them now would only be destructive – to both of them.”

“But Optimus-!”

“This is my final decision on the matter, Sunstreaker. Footloose has chosen where she wants to be, and I have no intention of denying her, in this instance.” Beat. “And yes, I do believe that she knows him well enough to make an educated decision.”

“She can’t even talk properly, yet!!”

It took every last ounce of self-control for Skywarp not to start to snicker at the pure outrage in Sunstreaker’s tone of voice.

“How can you possibly think she’s old enough to decide it’s safe to stay with him?”

“The mere word ‘Decepticon’ should send a sparkling running in terror,” Optimus pointed out. “The fact she is quite happily sitting with him – indeed, elected to go and sit with him all of her own conscious volition – suggests to me she knows that she has nothing to fear from him. The fact she is young and inexperienced does not by necessity mean she is stupid.”

“You’re clearly forgetting who she’s related to. Stupid runs in the family,” Aggressive complained, quietly, then elevated his voice and added; “I suppose you believe that ridiculous sob story about wanting asylum, as well.”

“As a matter of fact, I do. The fact all three Seekers are down suggests to me that something significant has happened in the Decepticon hierarchy – and I mean more significant than the usual power squabbles at the top. And I’m guessing if we look hard enough? We’ll find out that this little one is the root cause of it.”

“That, or it’s all a big trick and you’ve oh-so-helpfully obliged them by swallowing it.” The whine was petulant, however; Sunstreaker had lost the argument, and didn’t like it.

“All right, you lot, I’m done listening to you,” came the instruction, from very close by. “Out. Now. You can growl at each other all you like so long as it’s not in my medical bay. I’m trying to work.”

“-on a Decepticon!”

“It may surprise you to hear that I was already aware of that fact, Sunstreaker, now get out.”

OW! All right, I’m going, I’m going, quit throwing things, already!” The yellow twin’s voice faded as he moved into the corridor. “You lot might want to try and remember what the slag Decepticon means, before it comes back to bite you all on the afts! Your little patient you’re all so happily mollycoddling isn’t a freaking pet. He’ll turn around and run you through with your own surgical lance, given half the chance…”

His words finally faded into distant incoherence. Skywarp had to restrain the urge to sigh in relief – now if only they’d give him some more analgesia, he’d be quite happy to just lay here shamming stasis.

“Sunny does have a point, Optimus,” the medic counselled, softly. “You and I both know that this may only be a temporary change of heart, because a cute infant might not be enough to change thousands of vorns of animosity. And what happens when he decides he’s bored of her, because being a parent isn’t so new and exciting any more? Do you trust him not to simply hand her over to Megatron?” Sigh. “She’d at least be guaranteed a safe existence staying with us.”

“Safe? Mm, perhaps,” Optimus’ deep voice rumbled softly from a little closer. “Indoctrinated? Absolutely.”

“Is it so bad to ‘indoctrinate’ her in the Autobot way of thinking?”

They obviously didn’t realise he was listening in; Skywarp offlined his vocaliser altogether to keep himself from protesting. How frigging dare they even suggest-…

“If she grows up as a Decepticon, all she’ll know is violence and treachery from the outset,” the doctor continued. “At least we’d give her a good grounding to make her own decisions on what is right and what is wrong. If after that she chooses to join Skywarp’s side? Well… I suppose at least it’d be something she’d chosen, not something she’d been forced into.”

Optimus was quiet for a moment or two. “I don’t know that I can justify bringing her up as an Autobot, Ratchet,” he admitted, softly. “Because that would only lead her to think of half her family as the enemy, something to be feared. I don’t think I could forgive myself if I knowingly tried to generate hate in her, especially towards one of her creators.”

“Isn’t ‘something to be feared’ exactly what Decepticons are? Even to each other! To start with, I doubt there’s many machines that aren’t scared of Megatron – I can only think of one, offhand, and then I’m not sure he’s so much brave as just unable to keep his vocaliser on a leash.”

Must be talking about Screamer. If only they knew!

“There’s a time I would have agreed wholeheartedly with you,” Optimus said, tiredly. “But recent events have reminded me of something we’ve lost sight of. Behind the faction? We’re all just people, who have had to make distasteful choices to stay alive in a war we all want only to end.”

“Some of those ‘people’ you’re trying to stick up for were designed and built exclusively for that war,” Ratchet reminded, quietly. “And have spent almost their entire existences fighting against our freedom. The freedom that you believe in, above all else!”

“Freedom is not always simply from slavery and oppression.” Optimus’ voice was already moving away. “Sometimes it is the freedom to become the person you choose to be, not the person society instructs you to be, that is the greater blessing. And you know? Part of me thinks that it would be beneficial in the long run if some war-built Decepticons were allowed that.”

This time, Ratchet remained silent, and the irritating, painful touches on the valves of Skywarp’s primary fuel pump had slowed right down.

“I know our fellow Autobots will take some persuading to believe it,” Optimus went on, in the silence, “but I think this little one might be the shakeup we need to trigger an end to the stupidity that’s caught our entire species up for so long. She’s demonstrated that we’re not so intractably different as we’ve believed for so long. And the effort Skywarp went to just to get to her? I think there’s even hope for him, yet! And I think they should be allowed to remain together.”

“I stay here, Atchet,” a little voice agreed, from very close by. “Stay with Day.”

“Well, she’s certainly shaken things up thus far,” Ratchet agreed. “But I couldn’t tell you if I agreed with the sentiment. She might ultimately have just rearranged the factions a little. But…” He vented a soft sigh. “I’ll abide by your judgement. And hers.”

“I knew I could count on your support, Ratchet. Now if you’ll excuse me, it sounds like I have a riot to help Prowl quell…”

After the shuffle of feet had finally dwindled to nothing, there was a moment of silence, and the soft exhale of stale, frustrated air from tired vents. “You better make this worth my while, Skywarp,” a long-suffering voice commented, as if its owner was talking to himself. “Because I swear, if you go and bugger off the instant I’m done cleaning you, I will hunt you down and make your life twice as hard as Megatron ever could-”

“…won’t go anywhere if you gimme more painkiller, doctor,” Skywarp observed, softly, letting his optics finally come online. “Because this is kinda hugely uncomfortable…”

“Oh, hey.” The chevroned face of their chief medic hove blurrily into view. “You’re not supposed to be awake yet.”

“…that much was… khn, was obvious…” Skywarp groaned, faintly, shifting his back feebly against the padded surface he lay on. “You’d have been less rude if you knew I was listening.” He could see his distorted reflection in one of the overhead light reflectors; his canopy had been carefully removed altogether and laid to one side, and his chest turbines had been folded outward against his wings. “…oww…”

Ratchet had already got back to work; he was busy with one of the minor relays, carefully using something rather like a large solvent-dipped cotton-bud to clean the remainder of the residue off the pump’s valves. “Well, you know, if you’d just pushed your pride to one side and come straight to us, you wouldn’t be so gunked up in here, and I wouldn’t have had to open you up to get you clean.”

“Yeah, because you wouldn’t have shot me clean out of the sky, or anything.”

“Honestly? If you’d broadcast the appropriate signals, and requested asylum in the same way? Probably not. Even if you still ended up in the brig afterwards, you’d at least be in the brig and comfortable. And not… gah, not covered in all this smelt-waste!” Ratchet threw up his hands in annoyance. “Honestly, I’m halfway inclined to just let the twins dump you in a solvent bath and hit you with the ultrasound, but I know it’d still all go to the Pit. I have no desire to completely replace your temperature regulator when you manage to flood it with solvent.”

“Psh.” Skywarp made a face, and went back to studying his new surroundings. Both arms were stuck out to one side, across his wings, but one was folded at the elbow, pressed up against something that was vibrating – managing to direct his gaze sideways he found Footloose sitting at the crook of his elbow, with his arm folded up around her and his fingers tucked down over her shoulder, against her winglets, her small hands holding the digits carefully in place. She caught his gaze, and wiggled her fingers hello at him. “Day.” She was still humming her pleased little harmonic hard enough to make her dermal plating vibrate.

“This is a very restrained greeting from you, isn’t it?” Skywarp observed, amusedly, as she wiggled her way sideways along his wing until she was up against his shoulder vent, making his plating buzz quietly as well.

“Don’t you believe it. She’s already given you your obligatory mauling,” a familiar, deep voice commented, and an upside down face with golden optics hove into view in the top margin of his vision. “You were just unconscious during most of it.”

“I thought that was you I could hear, Sepp,” His muted optics lit up, involuntarily. “And you’re not dead!”

“Apparently not.” She gave him a small, sardonic smile. “Not going to tell me you were worried about your least favourite Neutral, are you? Head sideways.”

“Oh, psh. I was more worried about how I was gonna tell Hack you’d got squished,” he defended himself, leaning his head sideways so she could get to one of his cranial relays to give him the requested painkiller. “Without him walloping the almighty out of me.”

“You know I’m the one most likely to do any ‘walloping’,” Forceps reminded, with a smile.

“Never a point I would dispute,” he agreed, lifting a finger, “but he is bigger than you, and could hit me harder. And there’s always a chance I’ll get him that mad…”

“Harline not make Day go flat,” a little voice demurred, and alert little blue-green optics peered down at their upside-down parent. “Harline is Police! Hit is against laws,” Footloose explained, earnestly, then picked up a cotton bud. “I help Atchet make clean.”

“Not this time, Lucy,” Ratchet demurred. “You’ll only make a mess, and I don’t want solvent where it shouldn’t be.”

“I be careful. I help!” Her little hand was already reaching for the narrow tube of cleaning fluid.

“I told you, not now,” Ratchet repeated, carefully moving it just out of reach. “Maybe later.”

“Not later, make help now!” Her optics flashed irritably.

“You won’t make help, you’ll make mess,” Forceps corrected, leaning down over the smaller femme’s head and plucking the cotton bud out of her fingers.

“Want to help make Day clean!” Footloose squeaked, and peeped her siren, grumpily.

“Hey, hey! What’s the rule about using your beeper indoors?” Forceps scolded.

Footloose put on her best but-I’m-FAR-too-adorable-to-be-told-off face, and gave her mentor a sweet, inoffensive look out of huge optics. “I what rule?”

Forceps narrowed her gaze. “Nobody thinks it’s clever for you to be naughty.” She gave Skywarp a very pointed look. “Not even Day.”

Footloose looked immediately over to her sire, who had managed to achieve a very thunderous frown (in place of the previous delighted grin at how wilful his offspring was). She pouted, sulkily, and folded her arms. “Not make beeper indoors,” she replied, sullenly. “Still want to make help.”

Forceps sighed. “All right, looks like I have to explain things better again. Excuse us a minute, Warp,” she apologised, picking the sparkling up and setting her on her shoulder like a surreal parrot. “Now. Look here. What’s this?” She pointed down at one of the relay valves in the Seeker's open chest cavity.

“Is pump,” Footloose replied, promptly.

“Right. And what’s this?”

Skywarp twitched and tried not to snigger as a blunt finger traced its way along one of his transmission lines.

“Is line of fuel.”

“Correct again. Containing what?”

“En’gon!”

“And what must you not do with energon?”

That was easy. “Make mess!”

Forceps had to resist the urge to cast her gaze heavenwards. “What in particular should you not do?”

Footloose had to think a little harder about that. “Make spill?”

“Why not?”

“Might make burn and asplode.”

“That’s right. Now, watch this.” Forceps held up the wad of solvent-soaked cotton-wool by its stick, and dabbed one of her heat-lances against it; it gave a quiet whoomp and burned with a bright blue flame for a few seconds, before going out.

“See that?” the surgeon wondered.

“It make burn,” Footloose observed, optics going big and round.

“Right. Now.” Forceps gave the little femme a very long, serious look. “With all that in mind, what do you think will happen if you get cleaning fluid all around Day’s fuel lines, and he overheats while his coolant mesh isn’t working?”

Footloose went very quiet and sucked on her fingers.

“So how about we let Ratchet do this without you pestering him?”

Footloose nodded, quietly.

“Good idea.” Forceps lifted her down, and spoke quietly, close to her audio; “Tell you what, we’ll let you help get Starscream cleaned up when we fetch him in, because I’m sure he’ll be filthy.”

“…he’ll love it,” Skywarp added, from his prone position, and affected a similar look of butter-wouldn’t-melt to the one Footloose had worn a few moments earlier when Forceps glared at him.

“I think I’ll make sure I’m absent on that day, because I value my audios in their functioning state,” Ratchet deadpanned. “If you want to be helpful right now, Lucy, unless I’m mistaken you’ve not fed your fish yet today. They’re probably getting hungry.”

“Hungry Oolies!” Footloose actually sounded quite horrified at the idea, and was gone in a flicker of light.

“So. What happened, Warp?”

The teleport glanced sidelong at the muted golden optics, and shrugged, defensively. “Nothin’. Just the usual stupid arguments. You know how it is with us filthy ’Cons.”

“So getting shot out of the sky is the usual outcome of a stupid argument, now? I hate to think what outcome an outright coup would have.”

He averted his gaze, and pursed his lips.

“Must have been pretty serious if Megatron decided to kick his most loyal warrior out,” Ratchet suggested, carefully. “Doesn’t seem like the sort of thing he’d do for you just putting sucrose in his energon.”

“He didn’t kick me out, I got myself out,” Skywarp defended himself, having to restrain the urge to fold his arms sulkily while his chest was still gaping to the ceiling… then his optics flickered briefly pinker in shame. “He just, uh… well, dumped me in the brig. Those two little cassette twerps helped get me out. Been looking for Screamer ever since, ’cause guess what, he’s lost again.”

“Maybe he’s just trying to get away from you,” Ratchet suggested, dryly, carefully folding one of his patient’s turbines closed and checking the connectors were patent. “One prank too many.”

“Hey, Autobot. Do you like that pointy thing on the top of your head?” Skywarp smiled, sweetly. “Because it’s not gonna still be there, in a minute!”

“You might want to wait until you’re back in one piece before indulging too heavily in name-calling.” Ratchet glared peevishly down at him through the large scuffed structure made mostly of amber glass he held in his hands. “And you’re welcome.”

“Welcome to what?”

“Exactly. Next time, you can get yourself clean.”

“What is this, ‘how to make friends and influence people, the Skywarp way’?” Forceps wondered, intercepting the canopy glass before it could clonk down too hard on Skywarp’s nose. “You want them to shuffle you back off to the brig, or something?”

“Like to see them try,” Skywarp sulked, glaring at the ceiling and letting the surgeon manoeuvre the last piece of his armour back into place on his chest.

“Well, you might want to remember where you are,” the big femme counselled, quietly. “They weren't slow to jump on you last time you broke out, and there's a lot more of them than there are of you. And if you want them to let you out to go find Starscream, because I'm guessing that's the only reason you came here? You might want to try and get on their good sides, not spend every free minute catcalling.”

Skywarp studied his feet, and elected not to answer.

“All right, well, for now you’re clean.” Forceps changed the subject, stepping back and letting him sit. “Before you do anything, I want to get a look at that wing of yours. I’m surprised you managed to stay airborne with it hanging on like that.”

“You shouldn’t be so surprised. I’m just that good, and you know it.” He planted a palm against his chassis, modestly, and winced at an over-tightened relay. “Be nice to be able to transform again,” he admitted, more quietly. “I daren’t while they said it might fall off.”

“I’m surprised it stayed on this long,” she agreed, grimly. “All right, let me have a word with Ratchet and see if I can borrow a few of his tools. Never thought I’d be doing emergency surgery on any of you three pains-in-the-aft again…”

Skywarp watched her limp away, and pursed his lips. Physician, heal thyself? Although he’d seen her handiwork on Starscream, he wasn’t sure he wanted her so close to him with her laser-scalpels when she was still injured herself-

There was the sound of little footsteps from the hallway, and he turned his head to find Footloose finally reappear, a large white basin full of green… somethings…clutched like some precious object in her hands.

What did you say you were doing, you little pest?” Skywarp wondered, redirecting his attention. (He could badger Forceps to within an inch of yelling at him later, he reasoned.)

“Oolies!” Footloose explained, setting her basin onto the sideboard and teleporting herself up after it. “I feed.”

“Hrf,” he grumbled, levering himself to his feet and wincing at the tension around his newly clean fuel lines. They’d tightened up some loose connectors while they’d been working, and he felt uncomfortably constricted. “They’ve got you doing their pet-care for them?”

She gleefully scattered peas into the tank and watched the spherical fish swim after them as they sank. “Septor says I can look after,” she confirmed, demonstrating the pot of vegetables. “These am peas from garden. Oolies eat.”

“So… what do they do?” He ambled over, rolling his shoulders and trying to stretch himself comfortable again. “Those… ooly-things.”

She gave him a sidelong glance and sucked her fingers, puzzled. “Swim?” she suggested. “And eat. And make colours!” She flickered her optics and got the largest of the fish to flicker back, although most of the shoal had muted their shimmery scales and retreated to the opposite side of the tank, away from the large black object approaching.

“So what do they think you need those for?”

“No, Oolies not mine. Am Septors!”

“Right.” Skywarp crouched so his head was level with the worktop the tank rested on, and folded his arms under his chin. “What has he got them for?”

Footloose knew the answer to that one. “For making science.”

Skywarp cast his gaze skywards. “And they say Screamer’s mad…”

0o0o0o0o0

It felt like he’d been out for a lot longer than his chronometer suggested, Thundercracker considered, clawing his unsteady way back to consciousness and fighting off the dormancy that flickered like insects through the different levels of his mind. His chrono said he’d not even been offline for a whole terran orn, but he felt so unashamedly drained, so… muggy, and heavy… it had to have been longer than that. Just had to have been. Perhaps the clock itself had offlined, under the influence of Siphon’s chemical witchery.

Predictably, sensory perception was first to return, leaving him muggy and uncomfortable. There were spots of intense pain along the upper margin of what remained of his wings – one on each side, very closer to his shoulder vents. His head was propped precariously against a box or a ledge of some sort, and his arms dangled lifeless at either side, knuckles trailing against the sand of the cell floor. He winced, tried to shift a little of his mass onto one arm so it wasn’t suspended between the two spots of pain in his wings, and lifted the other hand to pat gingerly at the hurts.

He found an unyielding, ridged piece of thin metal jutting from the spot of pain, and a jagged edge to the plating where it had been inserted – and after a failed attempt to shift his weight so he lay a little more comfortably, he realised the stake must pass clean through his wing and right into the rock he rested against. He dimmed his optics and groaned softly – stapled down like a giant steel butterfly in a collector’s tray.

Someone obviously heard his moan. “Ah, you’re awake.”

Thundercracker turned his face towards the voice – he was still too drowsy to get his visuals in focus, but the dim amber glow of a familiar pair of optics advancing in his direction was enough to explain exactly who was watching him. “…what are… what are you doing?” he rasped. “…what’s… let me-… nngh.” He shifted his shoulders and made another useless attempt to get up. “…letme… up…”

“Ah-ah, can’t have you smudging your new outfit before it’s dry,” the tanker scolded, in that naughty naughty! condescending tone of voice that made his victim wish he’d come close enough that he could give him a kick. Siphon was a quick learner, though, and knew from his dealings with Skywarp that Seekers were just as lethal with their feet as their fists, and he was keeping out of range. “Otherwise I’d just have to start over! And I know you wouldn’t want that. Now you be a good boy and go back to sleep.”

There was another of those cold touches between the blue Seeker’s lips, and he made a spirited effort to fend off his attacker but his clawing fingers connected only with air. There followed another of those blurry periods of confused half-wakefulness – enough sedation to keep him quiescent, and cap the worst of the low throbbing damage warnings, but not quite enough to put him right under. He wandered through a haze of muddled thought, unworkable and incomplete plans for how to get free or contact his wingmates or… or anything… And the plaguing incoherence of sensor ghosts, echoed memories that for a time were indistinguishable from reality.

Although it took a while for him to cotton on to the idea this new development was real, not another sensor fault, eventually he became aware of a weight on his chest, and got his optics to come sluggishly back online.

The two blurry little bright purplish-blue smudges in front of him gradually resolved into concerned little optics; Slipstream was bracing himself against his chest, one small hand holding a shoulder-vent for support, the other carefully patting the sensitive area at the inside corner of one of Thundercracker’s optics in an effort to get him to respond. “Dacker? Dack? Wake up? Wake up, Dack…”

“…hey, seem,” Thundercracker managed; his voice was an unsteady, static-plagued croak. “…you all right? Not hurt?”

The little lights bobbed up and down in a nod. “Am okay,” the sparkling confirmed, quietly, sliding back to the floor. “Dacker hurt bad?”

“Just sleepy,” Thundercracker lied; his wings hurt pretty badly, but then he reasoned it wasn’t half as bad as it had been to get the wingtip sliced clean off. “I’ll be okay. Where’s Ama?”

“Ama not here.” Slipstream shook his head, sadly. “Went with Siphon.”

“Very long ago?”

“Nine breems and a bit,” Slipstream confirmed.

That’d have been just before he came along to top up his sedation, Thundercracker reasoned.

“Deuce bring energon,” Slipstream added, changing the subject. “Dacker want?”

Thundercracker managed a smile. “Maybe later. But thank you.”

Slipstream fidgeted for a little while, which wasn’t normal for him. So far during their incarceration, he’d usually sit quietly and watch the world, soaking it all up and remembering every tiny detail, but fidgeting usually meant there was something on his mind.

“Seem?” Thundercracker asked, at last, softly. “Something the matter?”

“Yes. Is matter, but is not bad matter,” Slipstream explained, hesitantly, crawling carefully back up the bigger machine’s chassis and speaking quietly into his audio. “Siphon not to hear, will take away, but look. Deuce give it. Said it not work now, but if nanites put in it and make fixed, can give signal to Day and Star. They can come get, make rescue!”

Thundercracker looked down into the small dark palm, and found a scuffed but intact little communications wafer.

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
_silverfox
Dec. 16th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC)
*giggles at Megatron*

I guess I'd better not tell Sunstraker that I think Skywarp's more attractive than he is. ;)

Now I wonder what Starcream is actually up to... :)
keaalu
Dec. 18th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
Screamer's probably still just on the back of his lorry, telling the driver to hurry it up. :P
_silverfox
Dec. 19th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
And not scheming at all ... right. ;)
jill_dragon
Dec. 17th, 2008 07:41 am (UTC)
Can somebody pleeeease punch out Sunstreaker? I don't like him at the best of times and he's being particularly obnoxious right now. *wonders what would happen if he meets Hardline >:)*

Points to Optimus for realizing that the enemy are people too - something it seems like _everyone_ has lost sight of during the war. It not exactly an unusual situation. Thoughout history governments and leaders have tried to de-humanize the enemies they're fighting against. I suppose the point is to make it easier for their soldiers to kill. It's not murder if the victims aren't real people, right? *sardonic expression*

As for Megatron's mysterious message, at first I thought it was from Starscream, but then _he_ was the one who wanted to get the twins back home the most, not to mention he doesn't actually _have_ anything to trade at the moment. That, and I like to think he still has _some_ small sense of integrity left.

So the message must have come from Siphon. I still want to know how the heck he managed to get to Earth without the Decepticons knowing about it. Or did they? Did he make some sort of deal with Shockwave and/or Megatron to use the Spacebridge?
keaalu
Dec. 21st, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)
I'm inclined to think Hardline would just be all "d'aww, he's little and grumpy *patpat*."

Yeah, "S" is Siphon. I guessed that since he knows Megatron knows his name (after everything that happened with the Blue), he wouldn't be QUITE so forwards with giving his name. ;)

I should confess I'm not thinking TOO hard about how Siphon (and Deuce and etc) got TO Earth. ;) I was of the opinion that they would have distracted Shockwave long enough to sneak onto the Spacebridge, and then invented some rubbish to fool Vantage when they got to the other side - he knew they'd come through, after all, as he said so to Skywarp (although Warp didn't pick up on it, or he might have got suspicious earlier).
jill_dragon
Dec. 22nd, 2008 08:50 am (UTC)
- I'm inclined to think Hardline would just be all "d'aww, he's little and grumpy *patpat*."

I would think that would be more something he'd say to Starscream, lol. Hmm, maybe Starscream would punch Sunstreaker out - for the sake of all the Jet Judo if nothing else... No, I really shouldn't encourage you to abuse characters. That's bad form, or so I hear. ;)

Jeez, Shocky isn't doing a terribly good job guarding his end of the Space Bridge. XD So is Vantage working for Siphon or did Siphon bribe/trick him into letting him through?

I feel a bit hesitant about asking this, but would you mind terribly if I used Footloose and Forceps in this little ficlet that's been nibbling at my brain where Lucy gets to meet Skyfire. Starscream and Skyfire's history is something I've always found facinating for some reason.
muffins_of_god
Dec. 22nd, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
i...i want to read it!
keaalu
Dec. 22nd, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
Meee toooo
muffins_of_god
Dec. 22nd, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC)
*nodnod* I am working on mine too....you gave me seeker!brains again!

And I TOTALLY took Squeaky with me to work today...>_>;;
keaalu
Dec. 22nd, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC)
...Ooh. Sorry!

*models halo*

Meow?
muffins_of_god
Dec. 23rd, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
XD Unfortunately, he's spending the holiday in the vet. So he got to occupy my lap at work so I didn't have to bring him before.

Because I'm a TERRIBLE WUSS when it comes to leaving my cat at the vet.
keaalu
Dec. 29th, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)
How is squeaky-kitty, now? Any better?
muffins_of_god
Dec. 29th, 2008 12:49 am (UTC)
Oh, nothing was wrong with him (other than the kitten insanity that all of them have): I'm out of town for the holiday season, and he is boarding with them. I called them up yesterday and got "Is there a thing as too much petting for that cat?" To which I deadpanned "Heck no." They laughed at that. Apparently he's been sticking his paw out of the kennel as someone walks by and fwapping them so they stop and pay attention to him.

My cat is a sneaky ninja.
keaalu
Dec. 22nd, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Tch, I don't need any encouragement to go around abusing my cast, it comes naturally. Um... *halo*

I think Vantage is too apathetic to be working for ANYone, to be honest. ;) And challenging newcomers would eat into his slacking-off time. Siphon would have been all "I've got a delivery for Skywarp, but no, no, you just sit tight, I'll contact him myself, no worries, byebye now!"

I'd be honoured for you to use them, to be honest. :) I think it's very flattering that people like the characters enough to want to use them. :D (Besides, it'd be a bit hypocritical of me to say "NO!" when I've borrowed all the canon characters for my own nefarious purposes in the first place, ne? ;))

(I WAS playing around with some notes for later on regarding the same kind of thing, a little bit, but I haven't yet decided if I want to go introducing MORE characters that won't get enough airtime... ¬_¬ I do want to bring Skyfire in, but I'm not sure how/where. I think he's off making science, somewhere, right now.)
muffins_of_god
Dec. 22nd, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
...didn't Perceptor know them back before the war (or is that a fan-thing?)? If the Seekers dropped on their doorstep I'd like to think he'd warn Skyfire before he'd returned....or not (that may just make him drop everything and come back immediately).

But yes...this would be an interesting side-development.

*snickers* Making science...now I have that "SCIENCE!" song stuck in my head....
keaalu
Dec. 22nd, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
Hm, I'm not sure, I'll have to look it up (FOR SCIENCE).

I kinda wing things, mostly, if that wasn't 100% apparent by now. ;P (LOL pun actually no shush)

I have a line in my head that I need to write down from Optimus where he's saying he didn't think it was fair to drag Skyfire (I keep wanting to put Skywarp TOO MANY SKY'S) back to the hotbed of political instability that the Ark had turned into, and adding another voice to the melting pot of yelling wasn't going to help calm things down... ;)
muffins_of_god
Dec. 23rd, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
That's a good line! ...one that's kind of made Perceptor wanna go hide in the corner in all sorts of "whoops".

...I am going to have to send you the SCIENCE song now. Then you will know my pain, and can giggle along with me.

XD Dude, I just realized I haven't friend'd you on LJ yet. I"m gonna have to rectify this!

Did the repair guy fix your boiler yet? (because, really? if it's as cold where you are as it just got in the last couple of days here? Hot water is a MUST)
keaalu
Dec. 29th, 2008 12:28 am (UTC)
Oops. Sorry Percy. :\

I are gud at this "reply" business, yes. Yes, the boiler is fixed. :) And luckily my flat has never been COLD, but it's hard bathing with just a kettle. Took 3/4 of an hour to run a bath and even then it got cold really quick. :(

(Heh, which makes me think that'd be even harder than getting Warp through the carwash - trying to do so with the only source of hot water being a 1.5 litre kettle...)
muffins_of_god
Dec. 29th, 2008 12:53 am (UTC)
Oh Percy doesn't mind...infact, he's off looking at something shiney at the moment FOR SCIENCE!

Good! I'm glad you don't have to fill you bath with the kettle anymore...that HAD to have sucked.

(I didn't write this...but I had the mental image of 'Warp getting stuck in the carwash tunnel, freaking out, and busting out of the roof of the building like Godzilla. I think I probably would've killed Jazz from the lulz.)
jill_dragon
Dec. 22nd, 2008 11:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I'll try my best to do Lucy and Sepp justice. Jeez, you guys have put a lot of pressure on me to make sure it doesn't end up being horrible, lol. ;)

As for getting Skyfire invovled, the obvious thing would be his relationship with Starscream. I could see Sepp, doctor that she is, trying to 'fix' them. Of course some things just can't be fixed, at least not without the people invovled _wanting_ to be fixed.
muffins_of_god
Dec. 23rd, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
No pressure! I just think that a little Skyfire action would help put a little pressure on Screamer. We haven't seen him angst to his full extent yet. We've seen him pretty calm and collected, despite the obvious pressure he's seemed to put himself under to keep his trine (and the adoptive family) together an safe. Oh, he acts tough, but you get little glimpses here and there that he's not as tough as he's broadcasting (that 'please' to skywarp in the last chapter and his non-verbal communique with Thundercracker right before he offlined kinda made my heart melt a bit). I've got the feeling those Autobots are going to be thrown for a loop by how complex and different these mechs are from their reputations.

And Jazz and Prowl won't be surprised one bit.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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