Series: Transformers, G1-based (“Blue” AU)
Summary: And finally, here we are in Amarna. And what's that you say? STILL no desert hugs? Aw, darn. Maybe next time!
Notes: I think little Seemy is going to have made himself a bit of an enemy-for-life, here. :shifty eyes:
Thank you all again for your reviews. :) Sorry it's got slow between updates, again - but I promise not to drop the ball! ;)
Sorry Ex. Still no desert hugs! I ran out of room. Next one, I promise! ;)
Down in Amarna, Starscream had adopted a ricketty old warehouse as a base – after temporarily evicting/bullying/bribing the resident cluster of squishies out of it – and was struggling to pull the plan together. The Aerialbots were busy jostling and quarrelling amongst themselves, and the Policebots – most of whom had never left Cybertron even once in their entire considerably long lives – looked fairly amazed by such simple things as all the sand, so retaining their collective attention was difficult.
Skywarp stood to the rear of the cluster, just outside of the shed, impatiently listening as Starscream dealt out instructions. He just wanted to get going, not have to listen to that old windbag droning on, but figured the fallout from Spoiling the Plan would be even louder, so he’d just have to endure it.
We go first, Starscream was saying. Warp and I. We’ll take Cali with us, with one of you Flybots to get her away if things start to look precarious. The rest of you? Spread out and make yourselves difficult targets, but stay visible, so they know we’re not just bluffing. I very much doubt, ah… Mighty Megatron will do the exchange at all, let alone without a fight, so-
A voice intruded into the teleport’s attention. “Not now, Sepp-” He waved a hand, distractedly, trying to listen to his wingmate, and irritated that he’d missed a chunk of information.
“Yes now,” she insisted, in That tone of voice. “We have a problem.”
Skywarp huffed exaggeratedly, and turned… to find the surgeon with her arms full of unhappy sparkling.
“We were just crossing into Africa when I found a stowaway,” Forceps clarified.
“Aw, frag…” Skywarp groaned, covering his face, briefing forgotten. “I thought I told you-… I thought we agreed you were gonna stay home, Lucy? That you needed to look after Ama?”
Footloose was out of Forceps' arms and up into his like a little dark streak of lightning the instant the big femme relaxed her hold. She butted her little helm up under his chin and mewed static at him, clinging to him.
“Why’d you have to sneak along, you dopey sparkling?” he prodded, despairingly. “I thought we’d agreed you were gonna be a good little femme and stay with Ama.”
“Day said was stupid.” she explained, miserably, hugging his neck. “Wanted to help, prove not stupid.”
“What?” He peeled her off him, held her out in front of him so he could look her in the eye. “When did I say you were stupid?”
“When talk with Unnol Sta’zim.” She wriggled and tried to squirm her way forwards, arms out. “Not to come because am not clever, and will mess up.”
“Aw, come on, Lou. You’re a sparkling.” He sighed hot air from his vents and allowed her to fasten herself back around his neck. “You’re not even a quarter-vorn old yet! Of course you’re not gonna be really smart, yet. And that wasn’t why I didn’t want you to come.” He straightened her scuffed little aerials, and listened as the static simmering from her vocaliser eased a little. “I might have said you were being silly, but that doesn’t mean you’re stupid.” At least – and he did feel kinda bad for thinking it – she was upset; had realised that maybe Day hadn’t just been being a big unfair meanie. “Now I’ve gotta find somewhere safe to park you until we’re ready to go home.”
“Am sorry,” Footloose whined, moulding into his arms. “Just wanted to help. Just wanted to help!”
Skywarp sighed and cupped the back of her small helm with his palm, comfortingly. Silly creature had really done a number on him, hadn’t she? There’d be no going back to how it had been before now. “When did you hear me call you stupid, eh, Lucy?” he wondered, quietly, watching Starscream still struggling to get his message across; ‘herding cats’ was what the humans would have called it, he thought. “’Cause I was probably just frustrated. I didn’t really mean it.”
Footloose gave him a funny sidelong glance, and stayed quiet.
“Hmm?” He tugged his attention from the surreal picture of the former Decepticon Air Commander trying to wrangle the squabbling gaggle of Autobots, and gave her a more serious look. “Footloose?”
The sparkling examined her fingers. “Is secret,” she admitted, reluctantly, posting the fingertips into her mouth. “Said not to say.”
“So… Did someone tell you?” Something had begun to click. His memory wasn’t brilliant because a foible of his teleport meant he often overwrote less-important memories with maps, but he was sure he’d have remembered saying something like that. Which meant… “You didn’t actually hear me?”
She was quiet, sucking her fingers, but the tiny involuntary flicker of a glance at Calibrator told Skywarp all he wanted to know.
“Ok, Button. Big important instruction time again.” He said, quietly, trying not to lose his temper with the analyst until he’d told Footloose what to do, because yelling at the sparkling instead of Cali probably wouldn’t help just yet. Maybe yell at her for being such a gullible twit once this was all resolved, but not while they were on such… shaky ground. “You’re going to stay with Sepp and do what she tells you from now on,” He told her, quietly. “And I mean it, Lou, if you disobey me again I’m gonna make sure there’s no fun things for you for a whole twenty orns.”
He felt her nod, very slightly, where her head rested against his neck.
“This is no place for sparklings,” he went on, seriously. “It’s not some merry jaunt through the dirt, it’s gonna be dangerous and some folk will probably get shot.”
“Am sorry,” she replied, faintly, and agreed; “I stay with Ausep.”
“Promise. Be good or no fun things.”
“There’s a good femme.” He carefully set her down in Forceps’ arms the instant she’d relaxed her hold enough for him to remove her without a fight, and swapped a meaningful look with the surgeon – she nodded slightly; not going to let this troublemaker sneak off again… Then he set his jaw, primed his weapons, and strode into the middle of the gaggle of Autobots.
Vector stood just off to one side, quietly guarding the diminutive analyst, one large blue hand mantled across both tiny black shoulders; it was an easy matter of simply pushing in and snatching the smaller femme up from under her warder’s hand.
“Whoa, hey, what’s going on?” Vector startled and snatched a hand at her, alarmed but far too late – and seeing it was Skywarp that had her wasn’t much more reassuring than seeing Megatron grab her up, given how the dark Seeker was already bristling and hot with anger, murder in his crimson optics. “Skywarp-!”
To her credit, Calibrator didn’t bother demanding to know what was going on – she knew exactly why he was angry, and even managed to smirk at him… until the wall impacted hard with her back and the emitter cone on the infuriated Seeker’s cannon jammed into the hollow space under her jaw, where the actuators were looser. She squeaked in pain and kicked out, uselessly.
“If I find out you’ve been seeding my little one with any more of your evil thoughts,” Skywarp promised, softly, lips so close to her audio receptors that she could feel them stirring the air as they moved. “I will melt a hole clean through to the top of your head.”
“Big words,” she retorted, although the static in her voice betrayed her fright, and hot, stressed air was pumping out of her vents. “You need me. Kill me, and you’re stuck.”
“We don’t need you that badly,” he hissed, giving a little push; she gasped faintly in alarm and clutched at him, trying to dislodge the weapon from where it was digging into her throat. “We could probably bait Siphon out just as easily so long as he can see a body. Probably easier, too, if he thinks we killed you. Make him niiice and angry.”
She offlined her optics and twisted her face away from him; his face was close enough to her own that she got the morbid impression he was going to bite a hole in her primary fuel line, like some noxious little predator-
A steadying blue hand settled onto Skywarp’s shoulder; the teleport snorted, disgustedly, and gave her one last hard shove, but took Starscream’s unspoken advice and dropped her. “You’re lucky I want my brother back more than I want you dead, femme,” he growled, stepping back . “Or you’d be in bits already.”
Calibrator’s knees had bowed inwards and she was struggling to stay standing on her own, but she was making a valiant effort at looking belligerent. “Big bad Decepticons going all wibbly over a sparkling,” she sniped, shakily, her voice still distorted from where he’d shoved her hard enough to damage the inner plating. “How shameful.”
Skywarp gave her a look of icy disdain, and folded his arms. “You’re hardly one to talk of superiority, putting an infant at risk purely to further your own campaign.”
She glowered up at him from below hooded brows. “Reject Decepticons preaching love and peace? Whatever next?”
Skywarp gave her a glaring smile, and a friendly-threatening swat on the shoulder that took her legs clean out from under her. “You best look after her from now on, Screamer,” he chewed out. “I might accidentally on purpose be forced to melt out some sensitive bit of anatomy if she pokes me again.”
Calibrator wisely elected not to comment, sitting in the dirt with the disgust fairly dripping from her. Vector scurried hastily in and reclaimed her charge.
Starscream had readily twigged what was going on, although his irritation had turned towards someone else – someone very big, and pale in colour. “Didn’t you notice her?” he wondered, in those curt, staccato tones he used when trying not to lose his temper. “Given that you were carrying her?”
Skyfire already looked somewhat humiliated for the error, wings sagging, and offered a half-apologetic half-irritable grimace. “Calibrator was not making any effort to come quietly,” he defended himself. “If you expected me to spot one tiny sparkling when two much larger machines are trying to calm a violent struggle going on inside me, then you have more faith in my capabilities than I do.”
Starscream grunted in that no-comment way of his, but actually seemed unexpectedly mollified by the answer. Skyfire decided he must have more important things to think about, and certainly wasn’t going to push the issue.
Forceps had advanced on the little group to get updated on the situation, with Footloose – still unnaturally quiet – perched on one shoulder, clinging to an audio vent. The sparkling looked sorely crestfallen and Starscream surmised that it was something to do with being told off by Day; the little one clearly considered him unable to do anything wrong – Primus only knew why – and that made it a big deal, hurting his feelings.
“So what’s the situation?” the burly surgeon wondered, peering over the top of his head at the crowd of Autobots waiting for their cue to move. “When do we head out?”
The smaller machine planted a hand down on her chest before she could push past, and she paused. “Listen. Sepp?” he kept his voice low, just for a little privacy. “There’s no ‘we’ in this; I want you to stay down here. I don’t want you getting damaged in this. It’s our fight; let the fighters take charge of it. Besides.” He wrinkled his nose. “You’re hardly outfitted for battle, are you?”
She recognised the unspoken sentiment – you’re as close as I’ll admit to calling a friend, I don’t want you hurt – and backed down. “Much as I’d like to disagree, I accept that it’s unlikely to be the sort of close-quarters fighting I’m capable of,” she agreed, gruffly. “I’ll stay back.”
Starscream muttered something she didn’t catch, and added; “Besides. We’ll need you in top condition so you can put Thundercracker back together when we find him.”
She elected not to comment on that bit. Asking ‘you think he’ll be that bad?’ seemed irrelevant, already having seen the taunting, black-daubed chips of wing sent back to them. “I’ll find somewhere secure to wait for your call,” she confirmed, with a little nod. “Soon as you’ve got him out, ping me.”
Skywarp was standing fidgeting, obviously keen to head out; he gave his wingmate a pleading look.
Starscream nodded back, just once. “Whichever of you lot is the best flier,” he instructed, darkly, surveying the cluster of anxious Aerialbot faces, “can come with us. The rest of you spread out and wait for our call – and we need you ready to move as soon as you get our ping. Understood?”
A flurry of nods responded to his instructions, and an alarmed-looking Skydive got ‘volunteered’ by a little push from behind.
“All right.” Starscream nodded to Skywarp. “Let’s go.”
Like most of his aerial brethren, Dirge hated this stupid little underground bunker. It was cramped and airless and he wanted to get out and feel the wind under his wings, but no. He was stuck here, sparkling-sitting that creepy little staring one until Megatron let him off. It was a punishment, he knew, for getting carried away the last time. Well, the sooner he could engineer an ‘accident’ to put the stupid little blob of tin into stasis, the better.
There was a low slup of air molecules deforming, and a moment later a small figure with alert purplish optics bumped down on its little aft on the top of the terminal. “Dirz?”
Great. Dirge pretended not to have noticed, in the hope it’d go away, but no such luck.
Slipstream bent down closer into his field of view. “Dirz?”
Dirge kept his gazed fixed sullenly on the screen. “I’m not talking to you until you quit staring, you creepy little-” He swallowed the rest of the sentence. He had no plans to repeat the verbal aft-kicking he’d endured earlier. “Go away and amuse yourself someplace else.”
“But am not staring, am asking questions,” Slipstream corrected, genially, and at last the Conehead glanced up to meet his gaze.
Ok, fair enough, so the little one wasn’t staring for once. “So ask,” Dirge prompted, gruffly.
“Where Megatron go?”
Dirge narrowed his optics. “Why d’you want to know?”
“Bored.” Slipstream siiighed melodramatically and propped his chin in his hands. “When to come back?”
Dirge’s expression evened, a little. Maybe the tricky little bugger was starting to come around to the Decepticon way of thinking? “Our mighty leader has gone to talk with the mutineers,” he replied, dryly. “Don’t know why he bothers. I’d have shot Screamer out of the sky as soon as I saw him coming, the stupid wannabe Autobot. There’s no way he’s up to anything ‘cept some more backstabbing.”
“Come to rescue?” There was an odd, suspicious sort of tone to the little one’s voice.
“Tch! They wish. A more inept bunch of losers would be hard to find,” Dirge sneered. “Nah, they’ve come to do some sort of exchange. Primus knows who’s gonna succeed in double-crossing the other.”
The sparkling gave a nervous little giggle. “Decepticons better at tricks. Megatron wins.”
Dirge gave him a grudging pat on the head. “Yeah, we’re the best. Now you gonna go find something to amuse yourself with?”
Slipstream rubbed his cheek into the conehead’s palm, and chirped agreement. “’Kay, Dirz. I go moos self.”
The dry gully leading up to the disguised entrance to Siphon’s lair had got crowded, of late. The two rival groups had each claimed a clifftop, across which they were glaring, just far enough apart that they couldn’t immediately come to blows. Starscream’s little group – consisting of only himself and Skywarp, Skydive and Calibrator – looked rather vulnerable, compared to the larger group on the other cliff… and the Stunticons had all clustered in the gully, ready and waiting for their cue to attack.
Siphon was mostly behind Megatron – for all his posturing, the two infuriated war-machines glaring at him from the other side of the gully were still fairly terrifying, especially since their anger was focussed mostly upon him and him alone. The heightened emotions were strong enough to be broadcasting fairly publicly; thick, hot layers of hate and anger and murderous desire.
Skydive looked fairly out of place, but was holding his nerve; he had a firm grip on Calibrator’s little shoulder. The analyst herself had her gaze fixed on Siphon, with the sort of intensity in her gaze that suggested she was trying to get a silent response from his radio.
“Oh, don’t bother,” Skywarp sneered, watching the two former Codustral employees swap meaningful looks. “Like we’re gonna let the pair of you plot together in secret.”
Calibrator recognised there must be a subspace blocker running. “Oh, we don’t have any special plans, do we?” she challenged, airily, and Siphon shook his head. “Just want to be back together.”
“All right, Megatron,” Starscream interrupted, impatiently. “Let’s get this stupid ‘exchange’ over with. You have something we want, we have something you want. We’ve shown willing, so you can bring our two out now.”
“An exchange?” The warlord gave them a disparaging look. “I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but is an exchange not normally of items of like value?”
“If rumours are right,” Starscream glanced very pointedly at the two Coneheads trying to look like they were a force to be reckoned with in the background, “then you’ve convinced Thundercracker he’s worthless. So to you, it is an exchange of items of like value.”
Megatron shot a glare at Thrust, who tried his hardest to look like he hadn’t been taunting his former ally over the radio. “Even in the event you’re correct, two for one hardly seems a logical choice for me to make,” he growled, turning back. A cynical smile pulled at the tyrant’s thin lips. “Or are you planning on staying behind as well, Starscream? I know your life wouldn’t be complete without unattainable positions to reach for. Unless, of course, you plan on going for Prime, now? I’m sure the Autobots would love to indulge you in that little fantasy.”
Starscream’s lips twitched and his fingers flexed into fists, but he allowed no further indication of his anger. “We’re quite happy to stay here in your pockets and keep needling at you until you agree to our terms, Megatron. We want both back, and are not going to make any exception because you don’t think it’s fair.”
The whiney tone the red Seeker had finished on was clearly intended to mock.
“My my. Living among Autobots has made you brave, Starscream,” Megatron drawled. “I don’t often recall you daring to take that sort of tone with me before your little mutiny, particularly in those times you knew I had no qualms about shooting you.”
“Oh, I’ve known you for quite long enough, Megatron,” Starscream sniped, grimly, lifting his chin, arrogantly. “If you were going to shoot me, you would have. You only have the power for such an, ahem… ‘witty repartee’… if you aren’t trying to power the cannon, too. You have to switch your brain off to run the thing.”
“It could be said that’s because I’m so very clever, my dear Starscream.” Megatron forced the words out through a clenched jaw, and stepped forwards one single step; his former second-in-command involuntarily fell back three, and cursed himself quietly for showing a weakness. “And I know you won’t shoot me, Starscream, because my back isn’t turned,” he went on, smoothly, recovering his upper hand. “Because for all the supposed skills you flaunt, we all know you lack the iron constitution to actually face me down. You’d rather snipe and disparage with little sneering comments until you’re called out on your weaknesses, then throw a tantrum.”
“I didn’t realise we were here to call each other out on character flaws-”
Skywarp lost patience. “Just bring him out, already,” he snapped. “Or I’ll go in and take him.”
Megatron smiled, pleased at having needled his way back to the upper hand. “All right, gentlemechs. Let’s talk business.”
Thundercracker was tired. So tired. His system had run extremely low – even the little aliquots of murky low-grade he’d been partitioning away for even leaner times felt heavy and sludgey in his tanks. Couldn’t keep this up much longer. Didn’t want to keep this up much longer. Couldn’t keep… hoping, like this; it was tearing him to pieces.
They weren’t coming. He knew they weren’t. Left him here to die a long, lingering, poisonous death as that accursed tanker stole every last scrap of self-worth and self-control away from him.
You’re disgusting. Look at you. Voices echoed from the recent past. Scornful, mocking voices. Filthy, pathetic. Lower than the sludge we scrape off the garbage processors at the end of every twenty-orn cycle. No wonder they dumped you here. No wonder they abandoned you here. You’re worth less than your weight in scrap iron, certainly not worth all the energon we pour in to keep that pathetic spark functioning. What are you?
…I’m really depleted. Please. His own strained, shaky voice was barely recognisable. All I want is a hookup for long enough to defragment-
:crack: Impact. Flare of pain in the side of his neck. Answer the question!
Cycling cool air, trying to steady his systems. Silence.
The demand again; lower, quieter, a hissing snarl like a cornered animal. Answer. The question.
The voice changed, sweetened. Worthless to them, perhaps, it whispered, softly. Not worthless to us. With a little work, we can polish you back to your former glory. You can be great again. Powerful. Clever. A force for change.
But I don’t-…
Just think on it, friend. Our mighty leader wants only the best for his most loyal-
The low slup of sound in the middle distance disturbed Thundercracker from his doze, but he didn’t bother onlining his optics. It’d just be another faulty memory record, a sensor ghost, triggered back to the surface of his consciousness by those wretched nanites, still lurking in his system. Far better to just… sit still, and quiet, and disconnect himself from the sounds that occasionally plagued him. It’d go away again in time. They always did. Return back to the layer of unconsciousness it had sprung from.
They were right, of course. How could he have been so stupid as to think his wingmates would come after him? He was an unnecessary risk – a dithering, introspective lump of old smelter-waste not fit for scrap. Here was where he belonged – at Megatron’s side, loyal to the last, along with all the other monsters.
If only they’d let him out of these contemptible manacles and let him see the sky again. His better wing vibrated softly in distress; they’d promised him repairs and refit, so long as they could source enough parts, but he knew what they meant. You’re untrustworthy. You’re a lying, cheating lowlife like everyone else stuck in this Pit, and we wouldn’t dare let you up there, where you could fly away from this all. You’re not fit to fly. Sure we’ll rebuild you, but too heavy, too wingless, too ground-bound sluggish to ever get off the dirt ever again. Never again to luxuriate in the simple pleasure of the freedom of the skies-
He onlined an optic, surprised, and watched in disbelief as a small figure clambered first into his lap, then up his chassis. “Seem?” he croaked, barely daring to believe his own sensors. This had to be it, he’d cracked and was hallucinating-
The sparkling looked utterly unafraid, which was a dramatic change to the last few times he’d seen him – fleeing from him, running to Megatron for safety and comfort. “Why in here?” he wondered, rubbing cheeks in greeting and humming an anxious little harmonic. “Dack hurt?”
“Primus-… Seem…” He rumbled the words up out of his vents, relieved, and hummed along with him, leaning their heads together. Sure didn’t feel like a hallucination. “You’re not afraid of me?”
Slipstream gave him a quizzical frown that reminded Thundercracker so much of Skywarp that it was almost painful. “Why to be scared of?”
Well, if the infant saw no reason to be scared of him, he sure wasn’t going to give him one, Thundercracker resolved. “Because I’m a big mean old Decepticon?” he creaked, softly.
Slipstream gave him a nervous giggle and headbutted his little helm up under his chin.
Thundercracker allowed himself only a moment or two of self-indulgent snuggling before looking more closely at the concern that had sprung up. “Megatron let you come in here?” he wondered, quietly. It seemed to be at counter-purposes to everything else they had done thus far.
Slipstream shook his head. “Meg’tron not here,” he explained. “Gone to see Autobots, outside. So come to help Dack make escape, now got chances!”
Despair pressed swiftly back down between the Seeker’s broken wings. The little one had lost his ‘jewellery’ at some point, but that accursed circle of high-explosives were still firmly fastened around his own neck. “Seem, I’ve still got a collar on,” he reminded, faintly. “There’s going to be no getting out of here until Siphon lets me.”
Slipstream lifted a heat-lance almost as long as his whole arm with a dramatic flourish. “Can take off.”
Thundercracker flickered his optics in a confused blink. “Can… what?”
Slipstream chirped, still unloading tools from his subspace. “Got tools. Can take off!”
“But… how can-…” What are you doing? he scolded himself. This might be your only chance at getting out and you’re trying to get him to stop? What’s the worst that can happen, anyway – even if he blows you up, at least all this has ended.
Slipstream was still watching from eager lilac optics, and at last Thundercracker nodded, exhausted. “All right. You’re a smart one-” I hope you’re smart enough, even if it doesn’t exactly run in the family. “-I know you can do it. Even if I don’t know how.”
The sparkling clicked and rubbed cheeks before getting to work. “Watched Deuce,” he explained, distractedly, around the screwdriver clamped firmly between his denta. “When took it off Ama. Know how it work.”
Of course, he’d very nearly been in the truck’s lap as he’d worked, that time, and there was probably a fair amount of memory space in that dark little helm if he’d not already filled it with maps. Still. Thundercracker offlined his optics and tensed, waiting for that abbreviated flicker of hurt as the circuit broke, and the plastic explosives detonated and took his head off. Maybe it would be better for both of them if the sparkling blew the pair of them up, he reasoned, as time dragged past, congealed and slow like old engine oil-
At last there was a little grumble and the motion of air past his audio vents, and when he finally dared to reactivate his visual sensors…
Slipstream lost his balance and slithered to the floor with an oof!, a large floppy loop of circuitry in his hands.
Primus! The little scrap of tin had actually done it. He’d just… duplicated what Deuce had done, and off it had come. He grinned up at him, half-triumphant, half-shy, and Thundercracker couldn’t help smiling back.
“Well done, spark,” he praised, relievedly, as the little one clicked and fussed around him.
Getting the cuffs removed from around Thundercracker’s wrists was more difficult, but that was partly down to Slipstream’s lack of upper-body strength, and partly down to his difficulty in reaching them. Whoever had done up these bolts had been many times stronger than the sparkling, and he was perched precariously on the Seeker’s upper arms, his little motors whining with effort, by the time the threads on each finally loosened.
While his uncle worked at getting fuel back into his gravity-starved arms, and recalibrated his actuators, Slipstream investigated the glass, curiously. “Is window?”
Thundercracker glanced up, palming the access flap in his wrist carefully back closed; the cuffs had pinched into fuel-lines and cramped the supply off, but it appeared to be normalising again now his weight was off them. “What did you think it was?”
Slipstream looked back over his shoulder. “Is screen. Mirror. Made pictures of nasty Squishies.”
Thundercracker knelt next to him. “You-… you mean… you never saw me? Through this?” Pieces of the puzzle were beginning to slot into place, and he immediately felt oh so stupid for not suspecting it. “And no… no pictures of me? Of Ama?”
Slipstream shook his head. “Only pictures of Squishies,” he confirmed, and added, more hushed; “they scary.”
“And Megatron-… What-… what was he… telling you?”
“About Decepticon Empire. About home. About war and history.” Slipstream examined his little fingers. “Looked after,” he admitted, very softly. “Siphon more scarier than Meg’tron am.”
Thundercracker gathered him up in an impulsive, relieved hug, and listened as the little one clicked and hummed back. Maybe something of this whole big mess would be salvageable after all! And maybe – just maybe – lying about what he’d done to the sparkling wasn’t the only thing Siphon had been lying about. It was seeming more and more like this had all just been one big carefully orchestrated plan to cow him into line, to remove any desire to reunite with his wingmates, which Siphon knew would hurt them as much as him.
That settled it. He’d spent too long labouring under Siphon’s spidery fingers and chemical trickery. If he managed only one more thing in his life before they executed him and broke him into pieces, it was going to be proactive, not just… sitting here, moping for a rescue that might not come until too late, if it came at all.
“Come on then, Seem. We’re taking our chance and getting out of here,” he whispered, holding out both arms and carefully gathering the youngster to his chest. He knew the door wasn’t locked – Siphon had taken great pains to rub his face in his captivity by loudly telling Deuce ‘don’t bother locking it when you’re done, he’s not going anywhere’.
“We not hide? Hide is better! Lots of tunnels. Only ways out is past Meg’tron, or make fly,” Slipstream tucked himself into his usual spot against the top curve of his guardian’s cockpit, cheek against his neck.
And I don’t exactly have a lot of fuel, either. “Well, that’s just what we’ll have to do.” Because I’m certainly not leaving you here for even as much as one breem longer than I have to.
Slipstream stiffened anxiously. “No fly,” he said, bluntly. “No fly, and Dack hurt!”
“I know, but we’re going to have to risk it.” Thundercracker peered out into the corridor, briefly, checked both directions. Dirge was still making oblivious grumbling noises in the distance, and they’d have to somehow get past him, but he’d not spotted them yet, and that was reassuring. “We can’t hold out for a rescue if it might never come.”
“No fly,” the youngling pleaded, quietly.
“We won’t go very far,” Thundercracker soothed, sneaking as quietly as he could down the corridor. “Just far enough that we can find a place to hide.” And try really hard not to get killed in the process. But Pit, if the humans could fly a jet aeroplane with only one wing, he was damn sure he could do it. Granted, they had the advantage of aerodynamicity – and speed, if he recalled right! It was less flying and more rocket-impressions – and his root mode wasn’t spectacularly optimised for flight, but damn, he had hundreds of millennia of expertise, this should be a doddle.
Now… just to get past Dirge. And the conehead was being quiet, reading something, so he’d hear their footsteps. Damn. The pair hesitated just out of his line of sight in the doorway, and in an instant where Primus was clearly for once smiling in their favour… Deuce looked up and caught his gaze from across the room. The truck instantly made himself look really really busy.
As anticipated, it attracted the Conehead’s attention. “What are you doing?” Dirge challenged, softly.
“N-nothing,” Deuce backed off, gathering bits of detritus to his chassis and trying vainly to look like he was hiding something behind it. “Just-… nothing.”
“What have you got?” Dirge advanced. “Are you stealing something? Give it here, now!”
“M’not stealing anything,” Deuce insisted, dithering in the doorway and ensuring the Conehead was advancing on him.
Dirge was getting close. “Is it that sneaky little Mini-Warp you’re helping?” he demanded. “Is that why the little bastard was asking me all those questions, working out when it’s safest for him to sneak out of here? Well I’m not so stupid as you’re thinking! Let him go or I’ll fragging well… beat the bolts out of you!”
“Nope. You’ll have to come take him!” Deuce bleated, and fled.
“Why you-… come back here!” Dirge vanished down the deeper corridors, hot on Deuce’s heels. “I swear, if you don’t come here right now you won’t live to argue about it much longer…!”
Thundercracker smiled, grimly, as the voices faded out. The scuffed little truck had managed to convince Dirge that not only was he sneaking about and up to no good, he had also abducted the sparkling! Well done, that mech. The longer Dirge’s optic was elsewhere, the better. Now to make the most of it – wouldn’t be fair to let their helper get beaten to slag for nothing.
Making sure Slipstream was still snug in his arms, Thundercracker trotted across the control room, and into the corridor that led to the air gate. He’d heard the Coneheads discussing their dislike of using the narrow door on the clifftop, and hoped it’d still be unguarded.