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"Warped", Chapter Fourteen

Title (chapter): Warped (14)
Series: Transformers, G1-based (“Blue” AU)
Rating: PG-13
Notes: In which Starscream is finally removed from the dirt, but the Coneheads don't want things to be easy.
*does little fanfare* Finally! Finished 14. Hurrah.

Chapter Fourteen

The journey to the little research station was quite a tedious one, but it felt so good to be back on the wing, and not worrying about either getting shot at, or running out of fuel and falling out of the sky, Skywarp for once didn’t care in the slightest how slow their progress was. Following ground-pounders was usually a frustrating business, trying to maintain enough airspeed to not stall out of the sky altogether, and Forceps could never have been said to be a particularly speedy mover – even at her top speed, she was going well below eighty miles per hour – but Skywarp was quite happy revelling in his rediscovered aerial freedom. It looked almost like a crow mobbing a predator, the way he dipped and wheeled and generally larked about in the skies above the slower vehicle below him.

“You’re wasting fuel,” a voice scolded, over the radio.

“It’s not my fuel, and you have no idea how good it feels to be able to waste it in the first place,” he shot back, amusedly, strafing low enough that the sleek green flatbed on the highway below could feel the rushing air of his passing. “Besides, we’ve got an audience,” he pointed out, cruising briefly upside down above the road. “If they’re gonna stalk us, it’s only fair I give ’em something worth watching, right?”

“They’re probably just following to make sure we don’t get up to anything we didn’t ought to,” Forceps replied, evenly. She’d also seen the three small Aerialbot-shaped shadows tailing them at a respectful but watchful distance, as they’d left the Ark, and had been keeping a slightly more weather eye on them than she was the raucous black jet busy cluttering the airspace above her. Skywarp might look like he was going to crash spectacularly any minute, but she guessed that if he was going to misjudge a distance and fly into something, he’d have done so long before now.

The Aerialbots, however, were more of an unknown quantity. She trusted Optimus’ judgement, especially after he’d risked the ire of all his comrades by allowing the Decepticon amnesty, but she wasn’t yet prepared to state how far she trusted these three younger Autobots. They were full of the same noble ideals, granted, but they were a little more… how to put it… enthusiastic… in their pursuit of the Autobot cause. They knew, or at very least suspected, who she and Skywarp had come out in search of, and she was a little anxious that words would have been whispered into impressionable young audio receptors. The temptation to do away with two of the Autobots’ greatest foes in one hit might be greater than the Aerialbot desire to uphold Autobot values.

She elected not to explain her fears to Skywarp, however. He was quite contentedly showing off his aerial prowess, right now, and keeping him in an amenable, easygoing frame of mind was close to the top of her list of things to do. If she told him she was worried they were going to get shot in the back, he might be the one to get overexcited and start the firefight. If she kept quiet, it would hopefully – probably – all come to absolutely nothing.

They carried on in silence for a while longer; Forceps allowed her automatic guidance systems to take over and dozed placidly, and even Skywarp got bored of acrobatics and instead inscribed sets of big circles in the air, indulging Footloose in a session of what’s that, what does that do, why does that etc.

“Well, we’re coming up to the place.” Skywarp’s voice finally broke the silence almost a full cycle later. “Phoo, look at all them trees. Never took Screamer for such a nature-lover.”

Forceps gazed up at the stand of trees in front, as they approached, and eyed the glittering needle jutting up into the midnight sky. “You don’t think he might be more interested in that honking great radio antenna sticking up out of the middle of them?”

“Are you genuinely a humourless old grouch by nature, or does it take extra work to look it?” Skywarp huffed. “All right, Button.” He directed his attention inward. “You gonna jump out so I can transform?”

“I stay in, make fly?” Footloose wondered; she’d been investigating his controls, pretending to be his pilot.

“Not this time, can’t make fly if I’m in my root mode. Out you get.”

“Aw.” She patted his console, wistfully, then scrunched her nose in concentration and teleported herself out, knowing to re-materialise a few metres above him. “Whee.”

Very nearly operating on autopilot, he rolled over and caught her, lightly, coasting a short distance on his back before rolling back upright and swinging his feet up for a landing.

“Quiet here, isn’t it?” Forceps commented, over the comm., trundling up the road a few hundred yards back. “I know I needn’t ask if you got the co-ordinates right, but are you sure this isn’t a trick?”

“I don’t know,” Skywarp confessed, letting Footloose scramble up onto his shoulder and watching as the truck unfolded back into the surgeon. “I kinda figure it’s just because it’s got dark – the humans have probably gone to bed, and Screamer wouldn’t let us just walk into anything without warning us.” He shifted uneasily. “But then he might have been being cryptic about it and that’s not my strongest suit, y’know? Cryptic is only good when TC is about to work out what he’s going on about.”

“I don’t think there was a lot ‘cryptic’ about his message,” Forceps reassured. “Because what I heard was not so much cryptic as it was cripplingly exhausted.” She glanced warily around herself, anyway. “Let’s see if we can find any of the natives, maybe they’ll know where he’s got settled.”

“Good idea. But be careful, these Squishy biologicals are tricky beasts,” Skywarp counselled, then added, hopefully; “Tell you what, you go first, and I’ll watch your back.”

She glanced back over her shoulder and gave him one of her Looks, but went ahead of him anyway. “Because I’m bigger, or just more expendable, you big purple coward?”

“No-o, it’s so I can watch your back! Even if you are bigger than me, and armed.”

Armed?” she scoffed. “With surgical lasers, maybe, but I can’t shoot them.”

“Hey, it’s more than I’ve got,” he reminded, following closely in her footsteps and trying to watch where they were going over her shoulder. “Besides. I’ve seen what you can do with ’em.”

“…If I can get within grabbing distance to do it.”

“Exactly, and no way am I coming close to you when you’re having a bad day. Hey, look. There’s one.” Skywarp pointed over her shoulder at an oblivious-looking man moving between shadowy buildings a hundred or so yards away. “Wait here.” He deposited Footloose into Forceps’ startled hands. “I’m gonna go question it.”

Before the big femme could protest, grab him or remind him to be gentle about his interrogation, the teleport had vanished.


It had been a pretty strange day or two so far, Doctor Arundsen mused, heading out of the residential facility and back towards the science block. They’d always considered their little research station to be too small and too underfunded to have ever been interesting to the Decepticons, but now they had the second-in-command himself (admittedly looking somewhat under the weather) literally camped out on one of their roofs. It was only yesterday morning that the logging truck had arrived, carrying those infamous wings and a loud, unfriendly voice, and now the rumour mill said there were more Autobots on their way to ‘remove him’ (which he hoped wasn’t an euphemism for ‘shoot the crap out of him, attract the Decepticon leader into the fray, and reduce all the buildings to smouldering rubble’. Meetings between the two rival groups of aliens did usually seem to end with gunfire.)

Things were admittedly quiet, right now. Their unwanted guest seemed to be almost asleep (or whatever counted as somnolent, for a machine), his hostile crimson gaze dimmed out to a surly wine red, and the snide commentary of ‘you should be doing it this way, it’s more efficient and you’ll get better readings’ every time they tried to do anything had finally stopped. (He hated to admit it, but the alien had almost been being helpful, in a rude, disparaging sort of way.) It wasn’t making too much of an impact on his ability to work, anyway – Arundsen always had been a bit of a night-owl, and right now that was paying a small dividend, because now he could actually get something done. The night was crisp and the skies were clear, and in spite of the fact their antenna was still undergoing its scheduled maintenance (when they could get to it) he was getting some good readings, especially after the tweaks they’d had suggested to them by-

“All right, Fleshbag, where is he?!”

The voice boomed out of nowhere, and an enormous black leg with a vivid purple trim impacted hard enough with the dirt right in front of him to make the ground shake. Arundsen quite literally leaped backwards in alarm.

“What have you done to him?!” the voice insisted. “Tell me now, human, or I’ll flatten you.”

“Wh-what?” Arundsen cowered away from the bristly-tempered black machine that was suddenly towering imposingly over him, but the wall was against his back and he couldn’t get any further away. He staggered sideways; the door had to be somewhere near here! “We-we haven’t d-done anyth-thing to anyone!” he yelped, almost tripping over his own feet in his haste to get away. “Wh-whatever you want, just t-take it! Please don’t hurt us!”

“So tell me where he is, already-”

Under the challenging snarl, the scientist could hear the low whump of another heavy set of feet, and to his dismay an even larger machine appeared out of the gloom. Its large face was crimped in a glower and Arundsen barely resisted the urge to sink to the floor and whimper, arms protectively over his head.

Thankfully, the newcomer’s irritation looked to be directed towards its compatriot, not the cowering human. “Does the respectful approach never occur to you, or do you just assume everyone is as rude as you?” it wondered, steering the protesting flier out of the way; the gruff voice was deep and strangely feminine.

Arundsen shrank further back from it – her? – as she stooped closer to his level. “We don’t mean you any harm,” the new machine reassured the frightened scientist. “We’re just here to collect something.”

“Are you Auto-b-bots?” Arundsen stammered, hopefully. He couldn’t see any emblems to confirm it, and their symbols were usually pretty prominent so they could avoid getting shot at, but just because he couldn’t see them didn’t mean they were Decepticons…

“We’re, ah… Neutrals,” the female corrected. “We have no allegiance to either faction. We’re only here to collect our friend.”

“Um, the-… the D-Decepticon? He’s over there, st-stealing all our electricity.” He gestured an arm towards the transmitter building.

“Stealing? He said he was going to trade for it.”

Looking a little shamefaced, the man backed down, and made a futile attempt to smooth out the papers he’d been screwing into brutalised rags since the flier had narrowly missed stomping on his head. “Uh, well, all right, uh, he d-did give us some data,” he confirmed. “And he’s n-not been too much of a bother. Just… um, well, he’s scaring the contractors away! And we need to d-do maintenance work on the aerial.”

“We’ll get him out from under your feet,” the big female confirmed, with a nod. “And you can get back to your work.”

Skywarp had already headed off in the direction the man had indicated, when Forceps straightened and turned away from the jittering human. “Whoo-oo, Screamer? Where are yooou?” he sing-songed, noisily. (A small number of lights went on in the residential block, as if to scold whoever was making all the racket, but hastily went off again at seeing just who was shouting.)

“Well you certainly took your fragging time to get here!” a loud, familiar voice finally blared, and they followed the direction it had come from to see a pair of red and white wings sprawled out on the roof under the transmission aerial. “What were you doing, ground-pounding together, or something?!”

Skywarp gave a whoop of glee and leaped at him. “Damn, are you ever a sight for sore optics!” he crooned, enveloping his wingmate in a most un-Decepticon-like hug. “Even after speaking to you, I thought I’d finally find you in lots of bits.” Beat. “Well, lots more bits than you’re already in.”

“You might still find me in lots of bits if you don’t stop crushing the life out of me,” Starscream groused, although he couldn’t quite hide the relieved grin on his face, or the way he held his wingmate almost as tightly in response for a few seconds. “You’re squashing me, you big idiot. Now help me off this stupid roof before we end up inside.”

Knowing saving-face when he saw it, Skywarp backed down, with a disrespectful poke of the tongue, and secured his hands around both of Starscream’s thrusters. “All right, oh Screaming One, let’s get your red aft off this roof. One! Two!-”

“Hey, hey, you just be careful!” Starscream yelped, alarmed, holding up a hand in a useless plea of wait! “I’m damaged!”


One almighty tug later and both jets were on their afts on the dirt; one was hooting rudely in amusement, the other was bouncing clods of dirt off his head in a futile attempt to shut him up.

“All right, Warp, move over,” a voice grumbled from behind, and a large green foot boosted him out of the way with a quick shove to the aft. Skywarp gave a yerp of startled alarm, and scuttled hastily out of the way to nurse his pride while Starscream took his turn to snerk amusedly. “Let’s get a look at how bad you are under all that dirt.”

Something small and noisy dropped from the surgeon’s shoulder, as she stooped, and onto the red Seeker's chest; it turned out to be Footloose, squeaking happily (and completely incomprehensibly) in her happiness at finally finding him. He pinged her little aerials and managed a half-smile as she jammed herself up against his throat and purred noisily enough to make his shoulders vibrate in harmony.

“So tell me, surgeon. How long?” Starscream wondered, grimly, after a full breem had passed with not a word spoken by anyone.

“How long what?” The big femme spared him only the briefest of glances.

“How long before I’m in a fit state to help Warp go looking for TC?”

She actually winced, which couldn’t be a good sign. “Well, ah. That all depends.”

“Depends on what?” he challenged, optics narrowing.

“Depends on whether I can find the appropriate replacement cold fusion core for your left turbine. Without it? I’m afraid you’re going to be grounded for a lot longer than you’d like.”

“What? Again?!” He all but exploded, and Footloose hastily vacated her perch on his shoulder. “I swear, if this is just a silly plot to keep me somewhere you can keep an eye on me better-…!”

“Oh, hush your voicebox for once,” Forceps interrupted, darkly. “If you hadn’t noticed? Which incidentally I’m beginning to wonder if isn’t too far off the mark, the way you’ve insisted on walking around on it! There’s not actually a lot of substructure left, here.” She brushed a large hand down the skeletal remains of his left lower-leg. “All the leads into your generator have fused, and the core itself has burned out. If you ever want to get back into the air with a little more efficiency than trying to run everything off the one engine, I’m going to have to radically rebuild the whole thruster complex from the ground up. And that’s assuming I can find the parts.” She gave him a glower. “Trust me, keeping your naggy self grounded and close to my audios is the last thing I’d want.”

Starscream folded his arms and sulked quietly. “Well, if I find out you have been lying to me at any point, any unspoken agreement I might have made not to shoot you will have become null and void,” he griped, sullenly.

“Well, then I’ve got nothing to worry about, have I?” She clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s get you out of here, anyway, and away from these poor long-suffering natives. Warp? Want to give us a hand, here?”

“Not particularly,” Skywarp argued, sniffily, but came over anyway. “What do you want me to do?”

“Just help your brother onto his feet, so he can get into my trailer.”

“How many times do I have to tell you he’s not my brother?” Skywarp wondered, stooping and offering both arms to his wingmate. “And you could at least try and help,” he scolded, once Starscream had got a good grasp on his arms but made absolutely no effort to help himself get back to his feet.

“I probably could, but where’s the fun in that?” Starscream wondered, dryly, wobbling precariously but managing to balance on his right leg. “What happened to you, anyway?” He ran his fingertips almost tenderly down the outsides of his wingmate’s arms, lingering briefly over the little rounded ‘scars’ where his weaponry should be.

Skywarp let his gaze drop to the ground, shamefaced. “Uh, well… Megatron happened,” he explained, quietly. “Sepp’s only just finished reattaching my wing properly.”

Starscream’s lips had already compressed to a thin little line of anger. “He’ll pay for that, you just mark my words,” he promised, softly. “I’ll see to it that getting you re-armed is one of the first things I do when we finally get in out of the mud.” He hesitated, and his expression took on a different sort of suspicion. “Speaking of which… where are you two lurking, anyway?”

“Uhh, well…” Skywarp examined the dirt beneath his thrusters a little more closely, to avoid having to meet his wingmate’s accusing crimson gaze.

“I told you the last time you asked. We’re staying with friends,” Forceps added, evasively. She was back in her heavy alt-mode, which made it a lot easier to look guileless. “Isn’t that good enough? I would have thought you wouldn’t mind where we were, so long as it was clean and dry and had enough energy supplies to keep you comfortable.”

“Now now. Anyone would think you were hiding out with the Autobots,” the red Seeker chuckled, although his tone wasn’t particularly amused – it was challenging. Daring them to admit that well, uh, actually they kinda were.

“Uh, well, you see…” Skywarp shifted his feet and rubbed the back of his neck, trying not to look quite so apologetic and failing dismally. “I was kinda running out of options, and I thought you lot were all dead, so… I kinda… well… There wasn’t much else I could do, Screamer!”

“Neither of us really had much choice in the matter of our accommodation,” Forceps confirmed. “Until this time yesterday I was still limping, and Skywarp was barely able to remain upright after all the bad fuel he’d been forced to use.”

“Oh, I believe you when you say you’ve had a tough time of it,” Starscream accepted, using Skywarp as a crutch to help him limp towards the truck. “But I still want to know where you’re hiding out. It can’t be that bad that you’re going to avoid the question every time I ask it.” He paused, using one hand to prop himself up, and wagged a scolding finger at Skywarp; the teleport glared and swatted the hand away. “And if you don’t answer the question I’ll be forced to imagine the worst has happened and you’re hiding out somewhere with the Auto-morons.”

Footloose didn’t understand why they were being so evasive about it – he’d find out soon, anyway. “Am with Autobots,” she agreed, quietly, from her perch on Forceps’ cab. She frowned in concentration, and explained; “have a lytical of silums.”

“Agh!” Starscream threw up his arms in frustration and promptly lost his balance. Landing hard on his aft on the dirt again didn’t seem to have helped his mood. “Why is it you two are… just… rrgh!” He stabbed a finger in Skywarp’s direction, accusingly. “Every time I get a little clonk on the head and am out of the game for an orn or two, you slagging well go running to the Primus-damned Autobots!”

“Well, what else did you expect me to do, go running to Megs for sympathy?” Skywarp glared back. “He’d just ripped my slagging wing off! I was barely freaking airborne half the time!”

Starscream folded his arms across his chest, defensively, preventing Skywarp from easily helping him up – not that the teleport looked like he wanted to in the first place, any more. “Well I hope neither of you are expecting me to happily agree to come with you,” he pointed out, frostily. “Because it’s not going to happen.”

“You know, for once in your life it’d be nice if you could just accept what life offers you without arguing it all the way there.” Skywarp glared at him. “I used some really long words that made my brain hurt to get us in there, the least you could do is mutter a thank you.”

“…but…” Starscream released an arm to gesture. “Autobots?!”

“Yeah, Autobots, what of it?” Skywarp gave him a half-hearted, sulky kick. “So they’re a sentimental bunch of idiots, they still took time to get me cleaned up and fixed, and let me keep my little one with me, so what’s the big deal?”

“They’re the enemy, Skywarp! Have you forgotten all those thousands of vorns we’ve spent fighting them?!”

“Well where else was I gonna go?” Skywarp despaired. “I was falling to pieces, I was freaking exhausted, and the humans kept shooting at me when I tried to swipe fuel off ’em. Trust me, if there’d been anywhere else I could go? I’d have gone there.”

“Warehouses have served us pretty well in the past,” Starscream sniped, glaring.

“Oh yeah, because we’re gonna find one of them with enough amenities to organise search and rescue from, and look after Lucy,” Skywarp retorted. “And not many of them have energon converters or medical facilities, and very few have carwashes attached.”

“Not like that makes a difference to you.” Starscream gave him a disparaging look. “How many attempts before they managed to get you to take a bath?”

“They just did it while I was unconscious-”


“-and that’s beside the point! My state of cleanliness wouldn’t have been an issue if you’d been watching your back a bit better! I just about ran myself into the ground looking for you, that disgusting petroleum energon fouled up all my valves and almost glued my primary up altogether!”

“I wouldn’t have had to watch my back if you’d just kept your damned mouth shut!” Starscream yelled back. “If you’d just kept quiet and let everything just go to plan-!”

“He already fragging well knew about them! He’d have shot you and TC down regardless what I said!”

“So you must have let things slip earlier!”

“Or mayybe the resident Mindprobe rooted it out of your processors, mister I’m-Too-Obvious-When-I’m-Cooking-Up-Another-Scheme-Against-Megs!” Skywarp gave him another hostile kick in the side.

Unimpressed, Starscream swept his good leg out sideways, and took his wingmate’s feet out from under him while he was balanced precariously on one leg.

“If you weren’t so fragging obvious about it when you’re plotting another coup,” Skywarp went on, trying to simultaneously push himself upright and wave an arm in a way that implied he’d just like to shoot the red Seeker and drag him off while he was unconscious. “He wouldn’t have had Soundwave spying on you quite so much!”

“And if you actually changed the habit of a lifetime and considered what you were thinking, some times, he wouldn’t have had the chance to weasel it out of your stupid processors!”

“Don’t you try and blame this smeltery all on me!” Skywarp lunged for him. “I’ve fixed things the best I can, so you can like it, or you can frigging slag off!

“I am not going to live with Autobots!” Starscream almost shouted it. “And I am certainly not going to cohabit with them on the inside of a damn mountain!”

“Do I have to beat it into your thick head?” Skywarp wailed, using Starscream’s audio vents to smack his head into the ground. “We haven’t got any choice in things right now! Because we haven’t got anywhere else!”

Whether the blow had dazed him or whether the pain in the teleport’s voice had finally begun to register, Starscream – for once – didn’t snipe back.

“This is our only chance to get ourselves back in good condition, Screamer. We’re not gonna do it alone – even with Sepp to patch you up we need somewhere to live. So are you gonna shut up and help me find TC, or are you gonna keep telling me I’m stupid for making the best of a bad situation? Because so help me I will leave you behind to walk back by yourself.” Skywarp sat back on his thrusters and let his hands drape down in his lap, but in spite of how tired he looked, he still managed to find half a smile from somewhere. “Besides, I know why you don’t want to go, and he’s not even there at the moment.”

That reduced Starscream to indignant splutterings, not sure exactly what sentiment he was trying to convey. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Footloose took her chance and adopted the role of the absent Thundercracker, slotting herself in between them. “Not to be angry?” she pleaded, quietly. “Day hurt, Sta’zim hurt, need to make better so can look for Ama, for Dack and Seem.”

The two Seekers sat and glared at each other, for a moment or two, the silence broken only by the cycling of cooling fans slowly running down.

For once, Starscream was first to look away. “All right,” he growled, beaten. “I can’t do much with my leg in pieces under me. Annd… I suppose if they’re willing to give their energon away to their mortal enemies, provided we look sufficiently pathetic and beaten up, then that’s their choice, and who am I to argue with stupid Autobot sentimentality. And it doesn’t mean this is a permanent change, either! Soon as we’re fixed up, and reunited with TC, the old status quo is resumed. All right?”

Skywarp gave him a lopsided grin, and hauled him up off the dirt. “I think I can live with that, provided you quit whining,” he accepted, helping his wingmate finally hobble back to the green flatbed, who had been watching proceedings with a barely-hidden impatience, her engine ticking softly, irritably. “And so long as you explain to Lucy why she can’t go see the Auto-dorks, any more, when we’re done.”

“How exactly did you end up with the Autobots, anyway?” Starscream directed his attention at the sparkling now clinging to his shoulder. “Skywarp I can almost understand, because it all fits with his usual haphazard way of thinking, but I don’t even see how you managed to get that far under your own power.”

“Hoomings took away to sell,” Footloose explained. “Said to make into mints! But Jas made rescue. Aunnie Ausep am shot, but now fixed. Day come to find after!”

Starscream arched a brow first at the sparkling, then at his wingmate. “Did you understand a word of that?”

“I thought she was pretty succinct,” Skywarp argued, sniffily, and stuck his nose in the air. “You’re supposed to be the clever one, anyway, you work it out. Now, you gonna come with, Button?” He offered his hands.

She sucked her fingers, briefly, and looked first up at Skywarp, then sidelong at Starscream. “I go with Unnol Sta’zim,” she decided. “As can’t make fly.”

“Aww, how cute.” Skywarp grinned. “All right. You look after Uncle Screamer, and I’ll fly on ahead and make sure they’ve all got cameras ready for when you get there.”

“You fragging dare-!” Starscream was back on his feet in alarm, and his leg promptly gave out underneath him again.

Skywarp caught him before he could get another mouthful of dirt. “Aw, come on. They might be more willing to believe we’re being honest if you let them see your sensitive side,” he teased.

“My fist will be impacting against your sensitive side, in a minute!” Starscream snapped, frustratedly giving his fellow Seeker a thump on the wing. “Don’t make me undo all Sepp’s good work by forcing me to dismantle you with my teeth!”

“Now now, don’t be grouchy, you’ll upset your niece.”

Footloose gave him an exaggeratedly pouty expression to underline the thesis.

“Oh all right, all right. Lay off the emotional blackmail, you two.” The fallen Air Commander settled sulkily into Forceps’ trailer portion, making sure he was snugly between the two low ‘walls’ on either side of the flatbed, and folded his arms firmly over his chest.

Footloose promptly clambered up onto his chassis, and settled herself into the fold of his elbow. “We go now?”

Starscream sighed, irritably, and watched as the scenery began to move slowly past them. “Looks that way. And the sooner we get back, and the sooner I get fixed, the sooner we can get this whole mess resolved.”


“No offence, Mitch, but, ah… just… wondering how well you’ve thought this thing through?”

Mitchell glanced up from the unappealing breakfast he was struggling his way through (felt like trying to eat a plate of sawdust); Vallory was peering around the edge of the tent, warily. “What do you mean, Val?”

“Well… egh, you know.” The younger man scratched the back of his neck. “I have enough problems with just being accused of international terrorism without you actually embroiling me in the real stuff,” he grumbled, pursing his lips. His swarthy features had led to him being stopped a dozen times at major airports in the last month already. “I’m not sure I want in on this, any more. Kinda, you know. Just want to take my money, and get out while my head’s still attached between my shoulders.”

“Listen.” Mitchell placed his spoon down and gave his colleague a long, hard look. “I asked you this at the start, but I guess I have to ask it again. You want these freak machines off our planet, right?”

“Well… er, well, kinda, I guess. The crazy ones, sure.” Vallory eyed their truck, warily. He still hadn’t absolutely convinced himself it was just a truck and not Deuce under a different paintjob. “I’m not that bothered about the other… ones…-”

Mitchell lifted a finger for silence, and Vallory’s words dwindled to nothing. “All or nothing, right? That’s what we signed up for. Nab the little one if we can, but kill the big ones. Reclaim our planet for us humans, not let these damned machines keep using it as their playground. Right?”

“Well that wasn’t strictly what I joined up for,” Vallory argued. “I joined up because I didn’t want to live in that… that hovel any more. If I got a bit of money I could make something of myself, maybe go to University like Mom wanted me to-”

“Aw, lay off the sentiment, Val,” Mitchell gave him a humourless swat on the arm. “If that’s honestly what you’re here for? Then maybe you had best piss off back to the States now, before you go ruin it for the rest of us realists here.” He took a swig from his water bottle, and sighed, irritably. “From here on in, now we’re in a trusted position in the robots’ game, we’re gonna be playing to a different tune. The powers that be want the alien machines to be gone,” he explained, flatly. “They want the tech, they want the baby one, and they want to use both to develop up into something to use to defend us against any other threat to our way of life – alien or otherwise – that shows up on our doorstep, but these asshole giant robots? The adult ones? Need to be gone. Completely and totally.”

“I’m not sure starting an interstellar war is a good idea,” Vallory demurred, uneasily. “While they’re busy fighting each other, sure it’s annoying and folk get caught in the crossfire a fair bit, at least they’re not out-and-out trying to kill us. If we piss ’em off and they declare war on us instead, there might not be a whole lot of this world left worth fighting over at the end of it.”

“Tch. You just got no imagination. Listen. If we can get the major antagonists here? The bad guys, the… the Decepticons? There won’t be any more robot war, because we can wipe ’em off the face of the world. Turn them into little puddles of molten goop. If Megadong and his cronies are gone, whatever tree hugging idiots are left up in the States will be easily persuaded to fuck right off to wherever they came from.”

“I don’t think they’ll be so easy to get rid of as you think. If they can’t kill each other with all the tech they’ve got, how the frick are a bunch of primitive little animals like us gonna achieve anything?”

“Well, let’s just say we’ve got a little help.” Mitchell patted the oblate spheroid just inside the tent with a touch that bordered on tender. “Once we bait them into the area, we evacuate the people and leave this little cherry bomb where they’ll walk into it…”

Vallory gave it a suspicious look. “What is that, anyway? Something else that crazy tanker gave you?”

“Mm, not in so many words,” Mitchell shook his head. “It’s something another team swiped off a Decepticon shipment when they had their backs turned.” He glanced briefly up at Vallory, who had already backed away a futile few steps. “Oh, don’t worry. It’s pretty safe, so long as we don’t go drop it or anything froo-froo like that.”

“I’m not sure I like living with a nuclear weapon as my neighbour, you know.”

“Nuclear weapon? Heh, if only.” Mitchell grinned, showing his lopsided teeth.

“So what is it?”

“Y’know? Even our science guys aren’t entirely sure how it works,” Mitchell admitted. “What they said to me was to imagine it as a little chunk of baby sun in a round metal egg. Right now it’s ‘asleep’, but once fusion is triggered it’ll keep going until it gets too diffuse and spontaneously burns out. The official name they’ve given it is a ‘plasma percussive’ – generates a small, intensive burst of superheated compressed gas and obliterates almost anything in its path. But for now?” he smirked. “We’re calling it a Sun Grenade. All you really need to know is to get the hell out of Dodge once we arm it.”

Vallory was already unconsciously backing off. “…how far away would I need to be to be out of range?”

“Well, they weren’t too precise, but I figure about five miles should do it.”


“If you don’t shut up, Skywarp, I swear, next time you come past me? I will catch hold of you, and pack your vocaliser full of dirt.”

Skywarp sighed, melodramatically, and managed (with some difficulty) to match speeds with Forceps. “Sepp, is that seriously as fast as you can manage?” he wondered. “Screamer’s being a grouch again. Sooner we can get him in the bath the better.”

“I can hear him,” the surgeon confirmed, dryly; she’d got to seventy-two miles an hour, but with difficulty. “You know, if you stopped poking him about what he looked like, he might stop threatening you with violence.”

“Nngh.” Skywarp grumbled his vents and peeled away sideways, vanishing into the gloom. “He’s always prodding me about my state of cleanliness, so why should he get preferential treatment when he’s an old dustbucket?”

A glittering spear of vivid purple stabbed down into the dirt alongside the road right where Skywarp had just been, narrowly missing the truck and her passengers and sending a cascade of grit and earth over all three of them.

“Coneheads! Where the frick did they spring from?!” Skywarp yelped, throwing himself into a spin and dancing just out of range of the spattering of laser fire that chased him.

“Coneheads?” Forceps gunned her engines and managed to creep up to seventy six. “I was hoping never to have to meet up with those three again.”

“What do you mean, again?” Starscream wondered, clinging on for dear life.

“Why do you think I ended up at the Autobots in the first place? They dropped a mountain on me!” Seventy seven. “Nngh, I’m not going to squeeze much more speed than this out of my engines. We’re going to have to get to shelter and wait it out!”

“I’ll keep ’em busy!” Skywarp had already done a dramatic rolling curve and spun to face their attackers. “You three get back to safety!” The fact he had nothing to shoot with didn’t stop him acting like he was as fully-armed as usual.

“How are you going to ‘keep them busy’ when they’ve shot you down?” Starscream yelled after him, but Skywarp had already crowed a battlecry and gone on the offensive. “Primus-damned-... argh. Sepp? Get us to some sort of defensive position,” he instructed. “I’ll keep us covered until they get bored and frag off back to Nemesis.”

“Think they will?” Forceps wondered, tersely; most of her power was now going into her main drive.

“Of course. I used to work with them until very recently, remember? A bigger flock of cowards would be hard to find.” Starscream was already powering up his weapons. “A few well-placed null-rays should remind them who they’re dealing with. Just get us somewhere a smidge easier to defend that the open road, and we’ll show them a thing or two…”


“…shouldn’t we help them?” Trailing along unseen some distance behind, above the sudden flurry of fireworks that had sparked off along the road, Air Raid was jittering in his eagerness to join in.

“And get shot up in the process? No thanks! Just because you want the excuse to get a few punches in,” Slingshot retorted. “Besides, they look like they’re handling things pretty well themselves, anyway.”

“…Optimus said to follow to make sure they didn’t get into trouble,” Silverbolt demurred. “This looks like it counts as trouble, if you ask me. They might have come for the little one.”

“Puh. Trouble? Looks like just more Decepticon trickery. Skywarp’s unarmed, and still hasn’t had a shot land on him yet.” Slingshot sounded unimpressed.

“Could be a trick, yes. Could just be that usual purge-poor Decepticon aim coming in to play. Since when have they ever been able to hit anything?” Air Raid pointed out.

“We’ll give them a minute or two to get bored,” Silverbolt decided. “Then we’ll move in, if we’re still needed.”


While Thrust went after Starscream’s little group, Dirge and Ramjet had gone after Skywarp. They were using a sort of modified pincer manoeuvre to try and box the teleport in, but Skywarp was making things difficult for them. Flying low level and nipping in and out around the sporadic trees and bushes was keeping the pursuing Coneheads just out of range; he could hear them cursing him, noisily, frustrated by their inability to knock him out-

A lucky shot clipped the rear edge of his left wing. Skywarp yelped in alarm and promptly nosedived, digging a trench with his nosecone. “Ow, oww! Oh, damn, ow. I thought we’d got past the bit where I keep getting shot out of the sky!” he protested, transforming and flinging himself sideways just in time to avoid another barrage of laser fire as the two Coneheads flew overhead. At least all this stupid vegetation he’d ended up in was disrupting their aim! And his dark enamel helped him blend in with his dark surroundings – his crimson optics were all that gave him away, and provided he kept them dim… He darted for sanctuary under the spreading boughs of a large tree, and watched them fly past, swearing and annoyed that they’d lost him.

“…maybe we got him properly, that last time?” he heard Dirge suggest, as they wheeled about, two pinpoints of brightness picking out his engines.

“Maybe,” Ramjet sounded dubious. “We got him grounded, at any rate. Better go take care of our Screaming friend over by the cliffs anyway, before he gets Thrust somewhere sensitive and scares the big wuss away. We can nab the wee one before Warp gets back up on his feet.”

Skywarp narrowed his optics, irritably. Time to teach YOU lot a lesson. His temporary inability to fly didn’t mean the Coneheads were out of reach – in a spectacularly un-Skywarp-ly bit of quick-thinking, the dark Seeker teleported himself directly above the marauding Ramjet, and dropped squarely down on his back. Ramjet gave a yelp of alarm and bucked, but his assailant already had his arms around him in a parody of an embrace, scraping his hot thrusters across the Conehead’s sensitive wings, as if attempting to kick him out of the sky.

“Orders were to drag your carcass back with us but I swear, you traitorous slagger, I’ll see you in bits before I take you back!” Ramjet cursed.

Skywarp was silent, concentrating on just clinging on; now he’d got up here, he had no idea what he was going to do about getting down without getting shot, and falling this far (because Ramjet was already climbing higher) didn’t seem like much fun! If I can get Ramjet out of the picture, with luck the other two will lose the will to fight as well. Any minute now, Dirge would recover his wits and be back on the offensive, and with no leverage it wasn’t like he’d be able to turn Ramjet into the way of any shots.

If I can teleport him into something – without entangling myself in the process – that’d work. Skywarp surveyed the ground, hastily. Or maybe just hit him really hard. That might be enough…

One quick triangulation later and the two reappeared a scant hundred or so metres from the rocky hillside. Skywarp was already getting himself out of harm’s way as they re-materialised, and threw himself backwards off the Conehead’s wings just in time, landing with an oof! of pain but otherwise undamaged on the dirt.

Ramjet was not so lucky. He barely had time to register oh shit rocks before slamming into them, hard. His yelp of alarm was curtailed almost as soon as he’d begun to vocalise it, and curls of electricity and the bright flare of ignited energon sputtered around him as he slumped lifelessly to the dirt, leaving a trail of moonlit white paint against the rocks. He wasn’t dead, far from it – Cybertronian alloys were tougher than that, and he himself had been designed specifically to survive hefty collisions of this nature – but this was pushing the limit of even his capabilities, and had certainly taken him out of the battle for a while. The jarring shock of the crunching impact had destabilised his cortex, and he’d be unconscious for several breems while it rebalanced itself, and aching for cycles afterwards.

Dirge wailed in anger and swept low over the ground, scattering laser fire and forcing Skywarp to bolt in the direction of the ping of positioning data that told him where the others were hiding. Getting past Thrust was easier said than done, especially with Dirge hard on his tail, but a well-spread hail of laser fire startled the two marauders into enough of a retreat to let the teleport scuttle hastily under Starscream’s wing and into their shallow rocky alcove, taking shelter behind Forceps.

Footloose scrambled instantly into his arms; she was trembling hard enough to be vibrating. “Make them go, Day…!” she mewed, trying to burrow into his chassis. “Make go now.”

“We’re going to have to rely on Screamer to do that,” he said, and groaned, faintly. “Great, now we’re all trapped in the corner. Some master plan this turned out to be.”

“Oh, just… hush up… and let me… get on… Skywarp,” Starscream struggled the words out, exhaustedly. The red Seeker was covering all four of them, now – and he looked pretty much out of power. His shots were wobbly, underpowered – barely capable of scorching their assailants, let alone fending them off altogether, although he was cleverly targeting sensitive areas and making the best job he could of it.

Finally, luck ran out. Starscream managed to catch Dirge in one of his vents and sent the blue jet wheeling out of range, whining pathetically, but that was it. His null-rays fizzed a brief shower of lilac sparkles, but nothing more, and his knees bowed inward, sagging him sideways into Forceps. “That’s… that’s it,” he ground the words out. “No more… power.”

Watching and sensing victory, Thrust landed a few dozen yards away from them. “Bring out the little one,” he intoned, “and we might just spare the rest of you.”

Go get smelted, you big red heap of reject parts!” came the return catcall, from the back of the group.

“Get behind me,” Forceps instructed, pushing to the front. “I’ve just got the edge when it comes to the power to weight ratio, so we’ll see how he likes going up against someone a little more evenly matched.”

“You might be… heavier, but you’re not… khn, not exactly well armed,” Starscream hissed the reminder, quietly, but didn’t argue otherwise.

Thrust smiled, amusedly. “They dug you out still in one piece, huh, femme?” he taunted. “If you wanted a rematch that badly, you only had to say so, not tag along with these losers just to get my attention.”

Skywarp made an outraged noise at being called names, but couldn’t quite manage to climb his way through Forceps to take the point up with Thrust.

...The two remaining Coneheads were so focussed on their grounded prey that the Aerialbots caught them completely blindsided. Air Raid blistered down out of nowhere, raining ginger destruction down across Thrust’s wings, and when a startled Dirge did a big loop and attempted to go on the offensive, he all but flew straight down Slingshot’s intakes. Suddenly finding themselves outnumbered and outgunned, the two Decepticons hastily revised their plans, turned tail, and fled, snatching the insensate Ramjet out of the dirt on their way past. Air Raid and Slingshot followed them just far enough to ensure they didn’t double back; Silverbolt landed elegantly nearby to check no serious injuries had been sustained.

The main injury looked like it had been dealt to Starscream’s pride; he still sat there in the dirt, looking absolutely furious at having to rely on Autobots to get him out of a tight spot.

“How in Primus name did those three morons know where we were?” Starscream snapped, shaky with exhaustion, allowing Forceps to gather him up off the floor. “Unless somebody,” it was lost on no-one that he chose to direct his glare at Skywarp, “told them…”

“I guess they must have picked up on your transmission.” Skywarp looked deeply offended at the insinuation it had been his fault, but miraculously didn’t vocalise it. “I mean, your positioning ping was on our secure channel, they wouldn’t have caught that.”

Starscream gave him a challenging glare. “I don’t know, you’ve been having issues with keeping your mouth shut recently, if I recall right.”

“Hey, hey!” Skywarp hitched his wings, irritably. “Don’t you go trying to blame this on me! Why the frag would I have told them where you were?”

“Well, it seems a bit convenient that they picked up on my earlier conversation with you. The shortest, most woefully underpowered radio transmission in the history of Seeker communications, and they still managed to pick up on it?” Starscream challenged, maintaining a wobbly balance on one leg and stabbing a finger for emphasis.

“Well, maybe you should have quit asking all your stupid questions a bit sooner,” Skywarp snapped. “Then it would have been even shorter.”

“Gents, gents…” Forceps pushed them gently apart. “Let’s wait until we’re back in a slightly less hostile environment before starting to trade punches again, shall we?”

There was a little more hostile glaring, but thankfully both Seekers finally nodded reluctantly, and backed down.

“Skywarp?” She turned to the smouldering teleport. “You good to fly?”

“I guess,” he nodded, sulkily. “They just stunned the subdermal controls. I’ll be recalibrated properly in a moment or two.”

“Good.” She nodded. “If you think you can tolerate helping Starscream back into my trailer, we can head off again.” She turned to give Silverbolt a brief but meaningful look. “If our friends wouldn’t mind flying with us, this time, of course? Just in case.”

“We’ll keep you covered on the way back,” Silverbolt confirmed, with a little nod. “We’ll get you back to the Ark, and in one piece.”


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 2nd, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
*glares at Arialbots*

And hasn't anybody ever told Mitchel that one shouldn't play with technology one doesn't understand - especially if one thinks it might be a weapon.

Yay for Starscream being back and for peacemaker Footloose! :)
Jan. 4th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
Ahh, well, Mitchell thinks he knows best, see, so fooling around with alien technology is just par for the course. ;)
Jan. 4th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Right ... I'd sooner trust Megatron not to blow me up.
Jan. 3rd, 2009 07:18 am (UTC)
Starscream with the scientists: "You're doing it wrong!" *giggle*

Yay, so the little group is one step closer to being re-united, I can't wait to see the fallout (which will probably be quite nuclear) when Starscream shows up at the Autobot base. >:)

I have noticed that your Cybertronians are sounding increasingly 'Britishy' for lack of a better word. I know I'm probably splitting hairs, but I find it a little disconcerting, especially since you tend to opt to use Brit-slang when Cybertronian terms would work just as well. The characters are all starting to talk with British accents in my head, which is a little annoying considering that none of the chars (the canon ones at least) actually sound like that. XD

BTW I'm almost done the first draft of your 'little' ficlet (which has morphed into something around 2,000 words at this point). Would you mind sending me your email addy so I send it over to you? Mine is JillDragon@gmail.com
Jan. 3rd, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
Really? Hrf, that was kinda accidental. :\ I guess I'm drawing off the way I speak a little bit more than I ought to. Where in particular do you mean? So I'll know to avoid it more in future. ;)

Awesome. :D (Yeah, I never did so well with "short" myself, the cast go "WHOO PLAYTIME" and romp off into the sunset with my brain, and string things out to way longer than they should be.) I'm currently lurking at keaalu at gmail dot com, because it's not full of spam like my hotfail address.
Jan. 3rd, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC)
Honestly, it's nowhere in particular, I just notice it here and there when I'm reading. An example would be the bit in Chap.3 I mentioned before. *shrugs* Maybe I'm just being overly picky. :)

I've been having fun getting into Skyfire's head a bit, particularly in regards to Starscream and such. Footloose is fun to write naturally, the little wretch. ;)
Jan. 3rd, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
I'll have to keep a closer eye on what my subconscious compels me to write. ;)

...Footloose is hard to keep on a leash, I find. ¬_¬ I'll be all "aww, cute" and then five pages later "CRAP! YOU JUST COME BACK HERE WITH MY STORY, AUGH".

In the last half hour my brain has unconsciously spawned ANOTHER little one. Her name is Blink, and she's acting like she's going to be a very girly girl. (Disclaimer: No, she's not Skywarp's. :P I've only got one half of the pairing decided on, the other half is being all "NO I'M NOT GONNA TELL YOU WHO I AM")
Jan. 3rd, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
As if the fictional (well I suppose they're all fictional technically) 'Angle-grinder' wasn't enough! Dare I ask who's kid Blink is?
Jan. 4th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
*lol* Well, the first won't get any airtime, he was just a silly doodle, so no worries THERE. ;)

Blink is, uh, Whitesides' :P I'm not sure who the other half is yet. ¬_¬ I think the poor guy is going to end up a single parent, at this rate, given that the invisible other half has basically said "I want nothing to do with it and if you BREATHE a word about who I am you're going to be out of a job." So... go figure. ¬_¬

(Just throwing ideas around for future use, here. ;) )
Jan. 4th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
Footloose: Squee, someone to play with!

Sounds like an embarrassed Decepticon to me. And somehow Whitesides the single parent seems perfectly right in my head.
Jan. 4th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
Actually it sounds more like an embarassed superior officer on the police force. A Decepticon would probably just threaten to kill him. XD

And I know 'Angle-Grinder' was just a one-off. My brain is still trying to figure out how he could possibly have come about given that in the unlikely event Forceps and Starscream got together they're both smart enough to use contraception. I think either large quantities of alcohol were involved or aliens made them do it, lol! ;)
Jan. 4th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
OH NOES, aliensss. DON'T GIVE ME IDEAS. ;)

And uh, yeah, Boxer is seeming more and more likely as the other half. :\ Which is odd because he never really struck me as such an old git. OH WELL. I think Whites is still going to be a single parent, whatever the outcome. :P Aww. *pets*
Jan. 4th, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
Bwhahahaha! Like I haven't given you plenty of ideas already! >:)

Whitesides and Boxer hmm? MPreg always makes things interesting, lol! Althought depending on who you ask, gender when you're dealing with mechanical beings is pretty abstract anyway. I've seen your drawing of Blink, but I keep imagining the kid with Boxer's hat-thingy. XD
Jan. 4th, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
I always figured that when it came down to reproduction, if you were going to go the "conventional" way (good for biodiversity! or whatever, I think I explained my thoughts on it in the current story already ;) ), so long as you had two compatible sparks, anyone could spark off anyone. (I mean, I always saw gender in creatures without a biological basis for sexes as an abstract "societal construct" - a case of "if you feel female/male/both/neither, then that's what you are".)

*lol* Maybe that's why she has bunches at the moment, because the hat's too big otherwise. ;)
Jan. 5th, 2009 12:12 am (UTC)
Good answer. I don't mind reading about stuff like slash and Mpreg so long as there's some reasoning and explanation put into it and it's not just: 'A' deciding to randomly start boinking 'B' because the author thinks they'd look hot together. I read this one TF fic where the mech/femme thing was described as the diploid/haploid stages of a lifecycle such as there is with plants. It was pretty cool.

Still you wouldn't believe the amount of wank/flamming that goes on over TF reproduction. I find it all pretty amusing since pretty much none of it is canon anyway. XD
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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