Series: Transformers, G1-based (“Blue” AU)
Summary: In which plans start to be made...
Notes: Annnnd we're back to semi-normal intervals between updates. Yay!
In the darkened interior of one of the rooms of the Nemesis’s living quarters, Skywarp lifted his head and grunted resentfully at the world. He’d been in stasis for way too long, and probably missed several duty shifts, Screamer’d have his-… wait, no. It was Screamer had dumped him here in the first place. And this wasn’t Nemesis, it was Autobot HQ. That’s right – things had gone properly aft-up this time, hadn’t they? He chased a few memory fragments around for a breem or two, before leaving his poor brain to work on slowly picking all the relevant things back out of the holes in his psyche that it had tidied them away to.
Something rustled as he lifted his head; craning his head to look backwards, he watched as a thermal foil finally completed slithering off his shoulders and to the floor. There was something else, too – an object, tucked just under his chassis where his turbines made an angle with the berth-
He sat up to find Footloose had burrowed up under his arm and was snugged in next to his canopy. How had she got there? He didn’t remember her being here when Starscream had dumped him down and clipped that thing to the back of his head. (He put up a hand and found the whateveritwas was missing.) All he remembered was Screamer talking about nothing at him in a low, comforting drone while he descended into enforced stasis. He pursed his lips and reviewed his memory record;
He’d been barely conscious, at the time, slowly succumbing to the device pushing him all the way into stasis – certainly beyond the point of comprehension, even if his sensors had picked it all up to be reviewed later, obediently. He had seen but not really processed the tiny figure in the doorway, dragging its own foil behind it, fingers in its mouth. “I scared,” the tremulous voice had said, in the distance. “I stay with Day?”
There’d been a drowsy grumble from Starscream – he had a vague impression of his commander having been recharging in a chair in the corner, feet propped on the table – and a grunt of effort at getting back to his mismatched feet. “Come on, then. But if you’re not a good little femme, and go and wake him up, I will personally see to it you stay in your own berth next time!”
“I always good,” she reminded, as he scooped her up.
“I noticed,” Starscream replied, drolly, using his dry I’m-only-humouring-you voice, and set her down just behind his wingmate’s wings. “Although to be honest, right now he probably wouldn’t wake up even if you sounded your beeper right in his audios. And no, that wasn’t an excuse to try it.”
There was a rustle and Skywarp shifted involuntarily so his sparkling could climb her way up under his wings. Her tiny spark came up close to his, and her diminutive static envelope harmonised with his much stronger one; goodnight, Button.
She hadn’t stirred, yet – he ran his fingers thoughtfully over her winglets, and wondered if he’d ever been this small. Somewhere in the distant – correction, very, very distant past, maybe. Frag, it was hard to imagine any of his trine being small and cute.
He curled his back and grumbled, trying to stretch a bit of the tension out of his overwound servos. At least, he consoled himself, his diagnostics hadn’t misinterpreted an overfill and purged anything while he’d been labouring through his enforced defragment. Thank Primus for small benefits. Cleaning that up would have been, like, the last straw. Yuck.
He swung his feet off the edge of the berth and stood-… correction, slumped to the floor, unsteadily. While half his motor relays had gone stiff and tight while he’d been offline, the other half had relaxed beyond the point of being able to support his considerable bulk. Wrinkling his nose in concentration, he managed to tighten his actuators enough to get back to his feet. He stood swaying for a second or two, ensuring he wouldn’t go flat on his face, before finally leaning down and prodding Footloose in a winglet.
“Awning, Day,” she greeted, although her vocaliser was still thick with bootup distortions, stretching her arms up to him.
“Hello, Button.” He gathered her up off the berth. “How about we go see how Ama is today, hm?”
“See Ama,” she agreed, tucking herself into her usual spot alongside his cockpit, already sounding brighter. “She better now?”
He hesitated. “Um… well, yeah, she may be. A little bit,” he agreed, lamely – he winced at how pathetic he sounded, but Footloose seemed satisfied. Sufficiently satisfied, in fact, to sit patiently and ‘look after the Oolies’ while Skywarp went to investigate the situation.
He dithered outside for three whole breems; he wanted an answer, an explanation, wanted to know where to divert his anger. Screamer was right – at the moment, he was tearing himself to pieces, trying to blame everyone except the one whose fault it actually was.
It was taking every last ounce of self-control – and Skywarp could never have been said to be particularly well-endowed with such a virtue – not to barge in and shake an answer out of her. What did they do to you?! What did they do to you in my name?! He already had a very good idea what Siphon might have done – he’d added all the evidence together and come up with something that felt worryingly like ‘two plus two equals four’, not his usual ‘five’. He knew Thundercracker had had a hand in it – TC, how could you? – and the knowledge left him cringing and curling away inside. That their wingmate would be a smashed-up fragging mess when they found him was seeming more and more likely, and yet-… and yet… it was hard not to feel angry with him, too.
Urrgh. He let his forehead bump against the wall and fought to bury the black thoughts grinding around inside him like a chunk of broken clockwork. Things were so much easier when he could let the other two do all the deep thinking and listening to consciences. You know it’s not his fault (TC, how could you?) it was Siphon and his chemical trickery (you could have resisted him, TC) and he’s only doing it to get at you (and succeeding). So pull yourself together, Skywarp. You’re strong (pathetic), you’ve survived (barely) Megatron’s rule and you’re going to win this (some hope of that, you whiney loser!)
Although he couldn’t make out the words very well – was deliberately not enhancing his hearing because he wasn’t sure he wanted to – he could hear the unfamiliar soft rasp that had replaced Pulsar’s light voice, and the gentle rumble of Forceps’ speech, and the delicacy the surgeon was using in her dealings with the injured policebot was unsettling. The big femme usually had a somewhat scolding, irritable manner, so for her to be exercising such caution-…
He paced outside, a few steps each way. Maybe he’d be able to-… to gauge the tone of the situation, if he dithered long enough. Starscream had said barging in and reminding her of things would be a bad thing. So – for once – he planned on doing what Screamer had advised; Primus, you knew it was getting pretty dire when Starscream gave good advice about a relationship.
…he jittered angrily outside, fists clenching and unclenching, and daydreamed about doing hideous things to little tankers.
In spite of the way Skywarp’s quiet approach had an unfamiliar hesitance, the resonant thok-s of his footsteps had been immediately recognisable; the cylindrical thrusters made hollow noises where they struck against the floor. The only other one with the same sort of lower-leg was Starscream, and he still had a very lopsided gait with his mismatched feet.
Pulsar had been sitting propped against a foam wedge at the rear of the berth, partially upright, watching as Forceps worked; seeing the scuffed blue plating of her lower leg set to one side and the frayed cabling beneath no longer unnerved her as badly as it had done at the beginning of this whole ridiculous saga. Hearing Skywarp’s footsteps, however, she had gone quiet, and was watching the doorway; her fingers had tightened on the edge of the berth, just in case she felt compelled to dive for cover. “Sounds like I’ve got a visitor,” she observed, creakily.
“Mm-hmm. Good timing on his part, for once. Do you still want to do what we discussed earlier?” Forceps prompted. “If you’ve changed your mind, no-one will hold it against you, but now seems like a pretty good time to do it. He’s probably straightened himself out enough to think as logically as he’ll manage, and the sooner you get over this hurdle, the sooner we can think about how we proceed.”
Pulsar dropped her gaze into her lap. “I don’t know if I dare,” she husked, quietly. “Don’t think I’m brave enough.”
“Well, you know it was Siphon doing it, Spark,” Forceps reminded, gently, using a soft brush to clear the last of the sand out of the cabling around Pulsar’s right knee. “You’ve even said you know Thundercracker wasn’t responsible for what he did. You know it was all careful trickery.” She glanced up at her. “I think if you keep all that in mind? You can do it.”
Pulsar remained quiet. She knew the fear was mostly irrational, because she knew it hadn’t been Warp doing it, but she couldn’t explain it. She just knew that she’d see him, and her mind would instantly go back to the indistinct dark blur looming above her, promising only unspeakable horror. Her fingers tightened, reflexively.
“I can’t… I can’t distinguish between them,” she explained, at last, shakily. “I can think about him, and I know it wasn’t him doing it. I think about him, I can almost make the distinction, in my mind’s eye. He’s just Skywarp, the eternal idiot.” The cycle forced a smile, trying but mostly failing to make light of it. “…but then I see him, see the blur standing over me, and he’s the same terrible shadow that did all those things-… and I know I’m not strong enough. I see him and-… and-... all I can see-… all I can feel… is…” She sat on her hand, to stop it shaking. “I see him and it’s like it’s all happening all over again. The memories come up and I can’t stop them. And all I can think is how I don’t want him near me, don’t want him to hurt me. And I know it wasn’t him! I know that for once in his life he’s actually innocent, but I remember the screaming and the pain and I just-… I can’t do it. That tiny little logical part of me sees him, but my subconscious, my self-preservation, my memory… just sees a monster...
“Deep down, I knew what it all was. I knew none of it was real. I should have been stronger. Should have been… should have blocked it out.” She studied her friend’s blurry features and struggled to get them to resolve into focus. “What’s happened to us, Sepp? I’m supposed to be some stupid little noisy Autobot with ideals above her station, when did I start to feel sorry for managing to break up the most lethal Decepticon trine to terrorise our airspace?”
“Since you let yourself be guided by your own experience and your own judgement, not let the ‘guardians of society’ dictate what you should feel from their safe distance.”
Pulsar examined her broken fingers, and remained silent.
“You can’t always control what your spark dictates, Pulse.” Forceps grasped her friend’s hand, and felt the smaller fingers thread between hers. “And nothing’s ever as clear-cut as ‘he’s bad, he’s good.’ Decepticons come in every flavour from wholly evil to slightly imperfect to very, very confused, just like Autobots are sometimes ‘good’ only because their label says they’re on the ‘good’ side.”
“…but this is different-”
Again, the Policebot was silent. That she wanted to believe her friend was obvious in her manner, but that her emotions weren’t going to let her was equally so.
“You could run through a million what-ifs, Spark, and never come to a resolution,” Forceps counselled, softly. “And none of it will reset time to how it was before. You’ve been given a bad set of options; it’s up to you to make the best you can of them.” She managed a lopsided smile. “If the pair of you have somehow survived through the worst of the war’s atrocities this far, I think you can get through this, too.”
“But how do I apologise? I know this whole mess is my fault, and I don’t know how I can even begin to say I’m sorry. For hurting him. For tearing the three of them apart. If I’d been more careful, all this would be fine-”
Outside, Skywarp leaned his head against the wall. Her words echoed what was running through his own processor. How do I start to apologise for getting everyone stuck in this? It’s my stupid mess. If we three had just kept to ourselves, we’d all still be together. Slag, if I’d killed the fragger properly, none of this would have kicked off-!
He was just at the point of giving up and leaving when Forceps emerged from the doorway. “Skywarp?” she questioned, gently.
“S’okay, s’okay, I’m already leaving,” he reassured, tiredly, waving his hands and backing up. “I can go poke Screamer instead, or something. You don’t have to kick me out.”
“Nono, hang about, don’t go just yet-… She said she’d like to see you,” Forceps corrected, quietly, catching a wingtip.
One brow slowly arched, as if its owner was attempting to gauge whether it was a trick. “…she does?”
“Mm-hmm.” Forceps nodded. “And now is probably the best chance you’ve got. Before she talks herself out of it again.”
He shuffled his thrusters and left purplish scuffmarks. “…think she might?”
The surgeon nodded, sombrely. “I won’t mince my words,” she said, more quietly, to keep her patient from hearing. “I’d say… you’ve got a fifty-fifty chance of getting anything even remotely like a normal conversation out of her.”
“And equal chance of her screaming the place down, I know,” he agreed, grimly. “…uh, well. Okay. So… what do I need to do?”
Now was Forceps’ turn to give Skywarp a careful look, trying to gauge whether he was being serious or sarcastic. She decided – and hoped – it was ‘serious’, for a change. “Keep absolutely calm, and keep your distance from her unless she invites you closer,” she instructed, bluntly. “And if I think you even smell like you’re going to start to make angry noises and demand to know what’s been going on… Well, let’s just say that if you value your mobility, you’ll behave yourself.”
He pouted, unhappily. “Sepp, that’s really-… I don’t know if-...”
Her face relaxed a little, sympathetically. “I know it’s going to be difficult for you,” she soothed. “And I know ‘gentle’ has never been the Decepticon modus operandi. But if you just try, you might find that it’s easier than you thought. All right?”
“Small hope of that,” he grumbled, sourly. He hesitated in the doorway and glanced back, hoping for reassurance, but Forceps had already elected to give him some space and moved away.
He cycled cool air, to steady his systems, lowered the gain on his hearing, and took the last step across the threshold-
It was the first time he’d got a good look at Pulsar without her thermal blanket wrapped like a cocoon around herself, or her shrieking loud enough to destabilise his hearing. A narrow length of fabric had carefully been wrapped around her head, covering her optics and removing the last of any ability to see. It did seem to be keeping her calm, at least; she turned her face in his direction and listened to the slow thuds of his footfalls on the padded floor, and although she tensed, hands trembling, she didn’t instantly start to shriek. She was still filthy – still scuffed to those pale gingery greys – and maybe it was his imagination, but did she look a teeny tiny bit better? Yeah, so okay, it probably was his imagination… but at least it brought with it a spark of optimism. If Squeaks could get over it, so could TC, right? Primus, if I only ever ask one more thing of you, let TC be okay.
He took it all in, slowly, before trusting himself to speak – all the way from the missing parts and broken plating to the scrawls of insulting graffiti across her chest, and the Cybertronian for ‘whore’ that had been hacked into her shoulder, where it had once read ‘Police’. The dark paint transfers across her torso were what made anger clench like constricting fingers into his chassis, strangling pumps, choking off fuel-lines. He struggled to maintain the calm exterior he’d been instructed to use by Forceps; his hand, hidden down by his side, had flexed into a fist hard enough to damage an actuator.
“Hey, Squeaky,” he managed, at last, thinly, struggling to keep his voice even.
Her lips moved, but she had to reboot her vocaliser before the words would come, and even then they were little more than a feeble scratch of fright. “…h-hey, Warp.”
“Are you all-” …right, yeah, stupid question. “… uh, that is… what’s with the, uh…” He waved his hand around his head, vainly, then twigged that she wouldn’t be able to see him. “The, uh, head-ribbony thing?”
“Just a precaution.” She forced a smile. “Didn’t… didn’t want to… overload your audios, again… or… something…”
The reluctant words dribbled away to nothing for an uncomfortably long time; both knew the other was probably frantically looking for something to fill the silence.
“Listen, I’m sorry I dragged you into this-” Both started at once, stopped in exactly the same place and looked surprised for a second or two, then laughed, startled. Thankfully, the uneasy little twitter of laughter did work to break the tension a little.
“I’m serious,” Pulsar found her vocaliser first. “I’m sorry. If I’d been watching who was following me, you’d never have got dragged into this-”
“And if I’d took better care of things, he wouldn’t have been there to follow you in the first place,” Skywarp argued. “Screamer’s right, this is my stupid fault, and I-... I guess... I mean...” He rebooted his voice to clear the blockage. “...I’m sorry.”
Another beat of silence passed. “…we could play the blame game until the stars burn themselves right out of the sky,” the cycle commented, softly.
“Yeah, and it’s wearing me out,” Skywarp quipped, grimly; both knew he was referring to his earlier drunken outburst. “Listen, uh... You think you could handle having Lucy in here for a bit? The little one’s been going crazy out there, trying to get in to see you. She’s driving Screamer nuts.”
“I think I could, for a little while,” Pulsar agreed, reluctantly, and managed to force out a little smile. “She’s taking after Day in more ways than one, then…?”
Skywarp managed a more genuine snort of amusement. “Pit, she’s exhausting, isn’t she?”
“You’ll have to get Sepp to give you her sparkling-care secrets. She makes it look easy and they actually behave for her-” Pulsar could sense him coming closer; she could hear his awkward shuffly footsteps, and feel the prickle of his static field against her own. She tolerated him getting closer until he was within arms reach, before her sense of self-preservation decided it couldn’t stand it any more. “And-… uh, and-… I-I mean-…” Her voice was going shaky again, staticky, and she finally blurted the words out in a rush. “Primus, Skywarp, I’m sorry, but could you move back?”
He felt something tighten in his chest – he wasn’t sure if it was anger or an unfamiliar concern – but did silently as told, trying to keep his voice even and relaxed like Forceps had said. “Is this better?”
Now there was space between them again, a little of the femme’s shaking eased.
“Listen, I’m going to get him,” Skywarp said, quietly. “For everything he did to you and TC. I’m not gonna let him sit back and laugh at me.”
“…I’m glad you’re angry with the right person,” Pulsar observed, quietly. “I was scared you’d be angry with TC.”
Oh if only you knew. Frag it, TC, why’d you have to go and make things complicated?
“It’s exactly what Siphon wanted,” she went on. “It’s why he made him do-”
“Oh, hey, no, don’t,” Skywarp interrupted, hastily, waving his hands and only just resisting the urge to grab her. “No, Pulse, I don’t want you to think you’ve gotta tell me. I don’t want to look at you, and-… or look at TC and… think of him… doing… things. To you.” He lurched across the words. Felt like something had dug crampons in around his spark and was gradually loading lead weights onto the hooks. “At least, not right now. I want to stay mad at Siphon. Don’t want to get mad at anyone who doesn’t, you know… actually deserve it.”
She actually managed a tiny fragment of a smile, in spite of the topic of conversation. “He was holding it together really well, you know?” she rasped, listening to the approaching chirps of an excited sparkling out in the main medical bay. “Being strong for all of us.”
Skywarp caught Footloose in passing, before she could fling herself bodily at her dam. “That’s… good,” he agreed, lamely, over the little femme’s unintelligible squeaking, and hoped his wingmate would have enough momentum to keep him sane until they worked out how they were going to get him out.
…why does it always have to be so dark down here? Under all this rock and dirt and cold constricting crushing weight. I wish they’d let me see the sky again. Even just put a little screen up for me to look at. I wish they’d let me fly again… poor wings. Ow, poor wings. Why do they always ache these days? They’re the same as they were when I arrived, but they hurt again. Stupid wings. Stupid Megatron. Stupid Siphon. Please let me out?
Time ground past like a tide of old motor oil, and Thundercracker spent most of his time in a hazy dreamworld, reliving better memories. His first clumsy (but oh! so good) flight. Joking with his wingmates – temporarily forgetting the war existed. Soaring in the endless clear beautiful blue of a spring day – the only good thing this cursed mud-ball had to offer. Anything to keep his mind of the blackness creeping up around him. Black outside, black inside. Dead, decaying. Just good at hiding the necrotic bits.
Faithful Deuce was making sure he was getting his energon at regular intervals; just enough of that mucky brown poison to keep him functioning, but not enough to give him back the strength to do much aside from sit and doze and struggle to keep himself level. Thundercracker was attempting to partition tiny aliquots away in a backup tank – just in case the guard was ever relaxed enough for him to attempt a break for freedom – but it was slow going. Siphon was carefully tailoring each allowance to pretty much the absolute minimum he needed to keep out of stasis. At least, the Seeker consoled himself, Deuce was still allowed to bring it to him three-quarters of the time, he didn’t have to also endure Siphon’s tubes down his intakes – he got the feeling it was a kind of a punishment for the truck, as well, look what you’ve done to him, you bipolar idiot. This is your fault for not getting all of them out.
The truck would pass over tiny snippets of information every now and then, if he could, but a slim collar glowed at his own throat, now, and Thundercracker got the impression that judging by its size, it probably contained monitoring devices rather than explosives. There was never much to report, though, and nothing that sounded like it wouldn't be permitted by Siphon. Slipstream was holding his own fairly confidently, and Pulsar had been found – still alive, thank Primus – and taken to safety, but no more contact from his exiled wingmates, yet. And the humans were still lurking at a respectable but suspicious distance; what they were up to nobody seemed very sure, but Deuce quietly voiced the opinion they might be after Slipstream. He was trying to plot another escape, but Siphon wasn’t giving him much space to maneouvre behind the scenes, any more.
Thundercracker was half-dozing, running through a pleasant daydream of escaping and getting back to Cybertron’s beautiful big skies, when voices in the background in the often-deserted control room attracted his attention. Sounded like… could it be-
“Starscream.” Megatron’s voice filtered through the glass; Thundercracker didn’t really want to listen, but felt his attention drawn, regardless. Maybe it would be an update. Maybe it would be a good thing. Maybe it would be a way out. “I wanted to do you a deal.”
“A deal?” familiar nasal tones scratched back, disinterestedly. “I’m quite sure you have nothing I could possibly want.”
“Not even a cease-fire? I give you the opportunity to go away in peace, if you come and remove your Primus-damned angst-ridden brother?”
Beat. “…okay, you’ve got my attention. Where’s the catch?”
“No catch. He’s depressing my loyalists,” Megatron growled. “I don’t want him here any more. He’s your trinemate, you come take him away. Remove him, and you have my solemn vow I’ll leave you in peace.”
Thundercracker winced, subtly; surely Megatron was exaggerating? But-… please, Screamer, make the deal. I don’t care if you chew on my audios for the next Vorn, just come get me.
“Oh please,” Starscream’s voice cut through the wall like the shriek of diamonds down glass. “What would we want him back for? Have you seen what he’s done to this little family cluster of idiots?”
Thundercracker leaned forwards in his bonds, alarmed. No, there had to have been a mistake-!
“If his name alone can send the femme into a fit of screaming, what will seeing him do to her?” the red Seeker went on. “The sparkling spends all her time hiding from invisible monsters, and Skywarp is going right off the rails through the stress of having it all fall apart around him. The only reason we could possibly want that blue moron back would be to kick the bolts out of him.” There was a dismissive snort. “You fought to get that worthless heap of tin so bad, you keep him.”
Intangible pain shot through his spark, and his mutilated wings suddenly began to ache. No. No. I didn’t break up our trine, I didn’t. They always say I’m the glue that holds us together! Voice of reason, voice of sanity, clarity.
“Surely I can persuade you somehow,” Megatron wondered.
“Yes. Give back the little one and I’ll consider it.”
The gravely voice chuckled, humourlessly. “No deal.”
“Then stop wasting my time, Megatron. The fragger’s outlived his usefulness. Melt him down for a throne-room trophy, I don’t care.”
Thundercracker jerked frustratedly at his wrists, threw his whole weight behind the manacles, but they just jangled, despairingly. He knew that even at peak strength, he’d not have succeeded in breaking them.
“Megatron-! I want to speak to him!” he shrieked at the dispassionate purple walls. “Oh Primus please, just let me talk to him…! Just let me talk to him-!” His voice fractured at the end of the sentence, dissolved into static. “…please?”
Out of sight and audio range in the main control room, Megatron gave Siphon a tired glower. “Don’t you think you’re overdoing it very slightly? I only want him to think he’s unwanted enough to rejoin the ranks, not to collapse into a shivering heap of plating that's fit for nothing.”
Siphon coughed up the vocal modulator that had temporarily given him Starscream’s glass-etching tones, and bowed. “Only making sure your soldiers remember their place, Mighty Megatron.”
“The benefit you get from totally psychiatrically destroying them is nothing to do with it, of course.”
“Of course not!”
Megatron narrowed his optics. “Just be sure you remember what we’re trying to do here. I would like all three back and functional by the end.”
The tanker flared up, boldly. “Hey, now! You said I could have Skywarp,” he snapped. “That was the bargain. Starscream and Thundercracker will just have to learn to work as a pair. Or a quartet, if you get both the younglings.” He bared his denta. “If there’s anything left when I’m done with him, you can have Skywarp back.”
Megatron bristled and leaned down closer to the smaller mech. “Let it be known,” he growled, softly, “that I don’t like your tone, Newcomer.”
Siphon backed off, startled optics going bright with alarm, lifting his hands. “Of course. Of course,” he stammered, remembering who he was talking to. “Please, forgive me.”
Megatron elected not to qualify the apology with a comment; merely glared down his hawkish nose and turned away into the corridor, to find one of his layabout loyalists to do a job for him. The sounds of riot emerging from the small galley were not inspiring the greatest confidence.
He arrived to find Dirge thrashing in Ramjet’s grasp, struggling to free himself, while Thrust bubbled with badly-controlled snickers and made himself completely ineffectual at hanging onto his wingmate’s other arm. The trio were supposed to have been ‘sparksitting’ – their charge sat and watched silently from his perch on the top of a computer console.
“I swear, I’m gonna shoot it if it doesn’t quit staring at me!” Dirge flailed his arms in his trinemates’ restraining grip. “I don’t care what the Pit makes it ‘special’, it’s freaking me out!”
“What precisely is going on here?” Megatron growled, and Thrust hastily swallowed his laughter.
“Er, uh, well, Boss…” Ramjet started, before Dirge cut in over the top of him.
“That Primus-damned mini-Skywarp is freaking me out!” the blue Conehead explained, as if it needed clarification. “It’s so frickin’ quiet! It just stares at me!”
Megatron gave the sparkling a curious look, and Slipstream offered a very carefully-serious look in return. The youngster seemed to have cottoned on to the fact that he was valuable and thus unlikely to be damaged. Had a sense of self-preservation equal to his sire’s, obviously – as in, said self-preservation seemed rather lacking. Push one’s luck as far as it would stretch and hope not to be caught in the recoil when the rope snapped.
“Well, Dirge, you’re in luck,” the tyrant growled, turning his attention back to his whining soldier. “I need someone to deliver a parcel for me…”
Most machines at the Ark had strong suspicions of what was in the parcel long before Red Alert even let anyone – Seekers included – venture out to pick it up, let alone open it. (“Honestly, what’s wrong with you lot?! It could be a bomb! Wait until I’ve scanned it, fraggit!”)
The box itself hadn’t gone via the standard postal channels. Dirge had swept down very low across the top of the Ark, his engines pitched at their most sweetly unnerving, and simply dropped it into the dust. Once he’d vanished from the Autobot base’s sensor sphere, and Red Alert had finished his little panic attack, Skywarp went out and collected it, resisting temptation to open it until he’d reached the safety of the medical suite and could palm responsibility off on Ratchet.
Forceps and a newly-repaired and pleasantly symmetrical Starscream joined the little group assembled around the berth to examine the box. Skywarp subtly closed the gap between himself and his wingmate enough to touch wings, and for once the red Seeker didn’t shove him away. It was subtle, and even Jazz missed it, but it was probably as public as they’d make the admission of a need for closeness and comfort.
…the contents wasn’t anywhere near as gruesome as an entire body part, but the ragged little chips of blue armour – some of which were discoloured with smears of sloppily-applied black paint – were just as eloquent. The note – buried in the same glittery, decorative paper – was short, and to the point. You know my terms. Expect the same every three Terran orns until I get it. S.
Silence hung heavy and cloying over the little group for a full breem; not even Jazz seemed willing to break it.
“All right, Siphon has the upper hand right now, correct? So… what if,” Forceps wondered, at last, very slowly, as if weighing up each individual word before vocalising them; “…we were to go along with some of his requests, and… ‘bait him out’, as it were…?”
While Starscream’s expression was growing slowly darker, Skywarp’s was improving. “Yeah!” the teleport agreed. “Once we know how he’s getting in and out of the place, I can follow him in, and spring TC from wherever he’s keeping him.”
“And what happens when you get caught?” Starscream challenged. “How are we going to ‘spring’ you from the place?”
“I’d love to hear your idea that’s obviously so much better.”
“No offence, Skywarp,” Jazz spoke up, carefully turning one of the chips end over end in his fingers, “but I agree with Starscream.”
Skywarp pouted, miffed.
“Trust me. From experience, I can tell you that getting in is the easy half the problem. Once you’re in, you’re going to have to somehow sneak about without being seen, find your brother, and get him out, probably injured, without them catching you.”
Skywarp looked fairly well deflated. “…I’ll just be quiet, then.”
“You will need to know how to get in,” Jazz clarified, trying to salvage a little of the dark Seeker’s prior enthusiasm. “You just need a way to get Siphon and his allies out of the immediate vicinity first.”
“Like a distraction?”
Jazz nodded. “What does Siphon particularly want?”
Skywarp made a face. “Me.”
“…as well as you.”
Forceps gave Starscream a long, probing look before speaking, knowing he was thinking the exact same thing that she was, but hoping no-one would venture it. “He wants someone small and dark with green eyes, as I recall. I think I can make the necessary arrangements-”
“Oh, no, Sepp, no nonono.” Starscream waved his hands, urgently. “That is such a bad idea I can’t even begin to quantify it!”
“Why not? We don’t have to hand her over-”
“There is no way we should be bowing to his demands! And no way should we be letting that-… that… treacherous, treasonous little backstabber out of prison!”
Every optic in the room turned immediately to stare at him.
“…and you lot can stop being so sanctimonious, as well,” he groused, and folded his arms.
“Well… I know you’re gonna shout at me for it, but I think it’s a good idea,” Skywarp confessed, in a little voice. “He’s got all the cards, at the moment.”
“He’s very much got the upper hand,” Jazz agreed. “We need to throw him off balance, first and foremost! The instant he loses the advantage he’s got over us, the instant we’ve got an opening. And Cali might just be what we have to use to get it.”
“This should be the absolute most last resort we even contemplate,” Starscream protested. “If he manages to get Cali, then we have no opening.”
Skywarp gave him a sad look. “Screamer? This is the last resort,” he observed, quietly. “If we don’t do something, and do it now, he’s gonna kill TC and deliver him back to us in a hundred tiny bits.”
Starscream studied his newly matching feet, and closed his fingers into frustrated fists. He was silent for several long moments, fully aware of the array of optics waiting for his move. “…All right,” he sighed, and clarified, irritably; “All right. I’ll consider myself overruled. But let it be known that I do not like this idea, not one tiny bit. I know it’s going to go direct to the smelter. But equally? No. We haven’t got anything else.” He ran the pad of his thumb over one of the pieces of broken blue plating, almost tenderly. “Sepp, if you make the arrangements, Jazz and I can try and formulate a plan…”