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Death Did Us Part

Chapter Text

 Optimus was sitting on the berth with his elbows on his knees and face in his hands.  Ratchet wanted to sit next to him, but instead he was leaning against the wall and waiting. When Optimus had said ‘I need to talk to you right now,’ it wasn’t what Ratchet been expecting.  He and Optimus were finally able to breath, so he expected a bunch of kissing, maybe something hot and quick? But most of all he expected a hug.  At the very least he deserved a hug after all this nonsense!

 But had he gotten one?

 Nope.

 Some rust bucket of a Sparkmate he had.

 “Ratchet…” It was the first thing Optimus had said since they walked into the room an hour ago.

 “Take your time, I’m not going to rush you.” Even though he really wanted to. “I’m just… Primus, I’m so glad you’re back.” Which was true.  In fact it was beyond true, feeling Optimus’ spark this close was like having a hole in his own be filled.

 Optimus finally looked up and Ratchet could see his partner near tears.

 “I’m not,” Optimus admitted, “I’m… Primus, I’m so tired.  I was so relieved when I thought I was going to be one with the All Spark, I just wanted to let go so much.” He rubbed at his faceplate and groaned.  Ratchet heard his vents explode in a sigh. “Don’t you ever just want this to end?  Don’t you ever get tired of it?” He was shaking now, just a tremble in his fingers.   Ratchet could see it as if the entire planet was falling apart.

  There was never a day on any planet that his Sparkmate being unraveled was okay.  Ratchet hurried forward, ignoring the awful clang as their fingers locked together. “Don’t you dare, neither of us asked for this,” he could feel fluids building up in his optics before he could see them, “when this started I… I just wanted to frag the overly attractive archivist.  I never dreamed it would come this far, I want it to be over so badly.” Now he was shaking, how typical.  The fluid leaked down his cheeks and Optimus pulled him in until their forehelms touched, a little ting of reassurance as he wiped the tears away.

 “Hush love, ‘Til our bond joins the All Spark,’ I’ll be with you forever.  I won’t leave you yet.” Optimus leaned in to kiss him.  It felt like a dream.  When they were together it was so easy to relax, but at the same time it was as if fire charges were going off in Ratchet's chest.  When Optimus pulled back he chuckled and held Ratchet loosely in his arms. “And you can still frag the overly attractive archivist, right?  I’m still attractive aren’t I?” Ratchet cackled and pushed him back to the berth.

 “You are terrible and I never should have encouraged you.” He smiled anyway when Optimus huffed and offered him his hand.  Ratchet took it without question.  “And yes, you’re still attractive.” He had to bite his glossa to keep from making a rude remark at the smile Optimus shot him.  But it was fine, he covered it up easily with a kiss.  He was so glad his Sparkmate was home.

--

 Humans called them fireworks.  They celebrated things and were a joy to them, a wonderful occasion, but all Ratchet saw was utter chaos.  Those lights looked like pain to him even though he knew that they were little sparks looking for a home.  But they weren’t the one spark he wanted to see.  All of those lights hurt to watch, they left his vents frozen and his body stiff.  Someone, probably Bulkhead, was pulling him away from the edge of the well because he was fragging sobbing and already tried to dive in after Optimus.

 There was a hole in his spark this time, his bond no longer thrumming and warming every core of his chasse.  Instead of the worry of a break, there was a pit of frozen tundra.  Ratchet felt like ice was slowly immobilizing every single one of his core functions.  He screamed as loud as he could over the sound of the booming sparks as they took flight, but it didn't make it hurt any less.

 Ratchet was pleading for it to ‘Not be true!’

 But it was.

 And Primus it hurt so much.  He wanted to die from the ache of his broken Sparkbond, he wanted to be one with the All Spark, one with Optimus.  He couldn't do this without him, he just couldn't!

 Knock Out was scrambling to his peds from the corner of Ratchet's optics, the finish on his faceplate smeared with transmission fluid.  He grabbing Bumblebee and shouted something, but the sparks were too loud and Ratchet couldn't hear him over the ache in his chest.  Bulkhead had to pick him up off the ground before he start moving again, and when he did the world seemed to stop.

 Lights began flying by them, zooming faster and faster until they blurred into one.  Two hit Arcee and she fell, then one hit Knock Out and he screamed as he clutched his chest.  This time Ratchet heard the scream and he turned to call out to them, but something blinding flew right at his face and everything went white.

 Heavy footfalls echoed in the distance, ones he knew.  The sounds of the booming sparks faded to nothing as Ratchet tried to look through the fading white light.  He knew he was here, he knew it!

 “Optimus.” His voice sounded like a roar in his own ears.  The light turned off as everything was swallowed in black.

 ‘Find me.’

 The next thing he knew he was sitting bolt upright and screaming his cords out as Bulkhead and Wheeljack rushed to his side, both pinning him onto his back.

 “For the love of scrap metal!  Calm down Doc, it’s just us!” Wheeljack’s grip tightened and Ratchet turned his wrist joint until it popped out of his captors hold.  He used his free hand to clutch his chest, the ache there a burning pool of molten rock.  The feeling was no longer an empty pit, but a scared and confused struggle.

 “I can’t understand him, what’s that he keeps babbling on about?” A voice asked in the background.

 “Doc, Ratchet?  Ratchet!  Calm the frag down!” Wheeljack shouted as he grabbed the doctors shoulder plates and shook him. “Tell me what the scrap is happening?” Ratchet felt himself vibrate and jerk until his vents explode and coolant leaked out of his sides.  His systems were still in overdrive but he had to let them know, he had to get up and find him.

 “Jackie… Bulkhead…” He tried to gather the words but felt warmth spread through his inner tubing.  Someone had administered a sedative into his system.

 “There, now he’ll relax.  I already told you what was going on.  You think it won’t effect him too?” Knock Out asked, suddenly looming over Ratchet. “Go on, tell them what I told them.” He whispered it, smiling as one hand hovered over his spark core.

 Ratchet looked around and smiled as his joints ease. “Optimus is alive, I can feel him.” And then the sedative really kicked in.

Chapter Text

 Starscream had been yelling at him since he stepped on the ship and registered his Earth bound altmode.  It wasn't like it mattered that he'd picked a car instead of something airborne, there were plenty of Flyers to begin with.  Contrary to popular belief, Knock Out had never actually been a Seeker, he was just a rare grounder from Vos with the capability to choose flight should he ever want it.  Starscream was just upset over nothing.  That had to be the reason he slammed the door and told him to ‘Go run off some of that useless data.’  So yes Knock Out had been upset, and Breakdown had been following him like a lost pup-bot ever since they hit Earth soil.

 His alt form was beautiful, why was it such a crime to enjoy it?  His colors were matching, his form sleek, his interior luxurious, he was even one of the fastest models Earth had to offer.  But oh no, Starscreech had to have an ‘issue’ with it.  He didn’t throw a fit when Breakdown picked his alt form, bratbot.

 Wasted piece of Seeker!

 “Knocks?” Breakdown sat next to him on the ledge with a groan of frustrated metal, and Knock Out didn't want to answer him.

 “What?” But he did.

 “Please don’t pout, you know I hate it when you pout.” Breakdown reached over, thumb brushing against Knock Out’s helm and then down to his audio port.  Knock Out shook his head and looked away.  If Staraft could be upset about him picking a nice car as an alt, he could be upset at Starfrag for being a bitch bird. “Oh, don’t make that face… okay, how about this?” Breakdown stood up and stretched.  His body was a dull matte shine in the light, not reflective like Knock Out was, but he was still beautiful.

 “How about what?” He was still upset, don't get him wrong, but it was Breakdown.  No one on the ship could calm him down like Breakdown could.

 Breakdown bent down, hands outstretched as he hoisted Knock Out to his feet. “Why don’t we race, you said your alt mode is fast right?  I bet I’m faster.” It was a tease, a well placed barb to rile him, and Knock Out can see it like a neon sign.

 He yanked it out of the air without a second thought.

“I’ll wipe the floor with you.  Where to?” He asked, resisting the urge to cross his arms again and rev his engines in challenge.  Breakdown just smiled at him and point down the valley, all grass and Earth flowers.

 “Between those two rocks, by the bottom of that hill.” He switched modes and Knock Out followed his lead.  His engines revved in excitement, he hadn’t had the chance to try this yet.  To feel how fast this mode could go, how far it could take him. “Go!” Breakdown hit the gas and his engine roared.  The tread of Knock Out's tires was going to go thin in the future from these kinds of speeds, he could feel how much he loved it already.

 Breakdown honked once and sped ahead of him, and Knock Out felt his fluids boil as he shifted gears and sped after him, ready to cut ahead of him.  He got right behind Breakdown when the fragger jumped into the air, shifting modes and landing right on top of Knock Out.  With a shriek of surprise he shifted as well, both of them ruining the grass as they skid and rolled to a stop.

 Breakdown had him wrapped up in his arms, protectively cradled against his chest.  They probably looked a mess, and Knock Out's finish would be awful, but he laughed anyway as Breakdown planted them back first onto the grass.

 “You stupid bot!” Knock Out smacked him in the shoulder plate through his laughter, optics shutting as his core wracked with giggles.  The sound made Breakdown hum and it reverberated against Knock Out’s chasse in the best of ways.

 When he opened his eyes, Breakdown was close enough to lean in for a kiss.  Knock Out took his face in both his hands and pulled him in, deepening the offered kiss and then pulling back to sigh.

 “How…” He paused, lost for words as Breakdown kissed all over his faceplate. “How did I get so lucky?  You never let me be angry for long.  I should get to be angry, how do you do that?” Breakdown paused and then planted one soft kiss on Knock Out’s mouth.

 “Knocks, as your newly made Sparkbond partner,” he drew back and kissed Knock Out’s forehelm, “it is my job to be the angry one in this relationship, and your job to be the pretty one.  Now shut up.” Knock Out laughed and pushed weakly at Breakdown’s shoulders.

 “You did not just tell me to shut up!  You overgrown tank!  You owe me a wax and a finish!” He was still laughing when Breakdown kissed him again, much slower this time.  Eventually he quieted and kissed back because Breakdown was right.  Knock Out wasn't meant to be the angry one.

 He was meant to be the pretty, spoiled one.

 Breakdown was way too good for him, one day he’d realize that.  One day Breakdown would realize that being in love with a narcissist was really dumb and not worth it at all.  Until then, Knock Out was going to continue letting Breakdown touch his interface panel.

--

 The lights made Knock Out keen in misery, those should have been beautiful.  All those stupid sparks did was remind him of the family he and Breakdown were never able to have.  The family they’d talked about having, the one they’d promised would be small but loved.  Breakdown had been so excited to be a carrier, and they had planned on putting in leave to slip away from it all and raise their own bitlet.

 One of these Sparklings.  The scab Knock Out had formed over the wound Breakdown’s death had caused in his spark seemed to peel off.  Knock Out felt a heavy sob escape him before he could shut it down.  He fell to his knees thinking about how much Breakdown would have loved this, he had always been a sucker for Sparklings.  He wouldn’t have wanted Knock Out to mourn like this, it was the main reason Knock Out hadn’t done any proper mourning since Breakdown was confirmed to be KIA.

 Breakdown would have wanted him to be a doctor first, a widow second.  

 Knock let out a single scream of frustration and pain before he scrambled to his feet.  His optics sought out the nearest Autobot and he grabbed him. “You!  I need you to help me open the hatcheries!  We need those doors and windows open.  They’re going to be waking up in dust and they’ll die if we can’t get the rooms vented properly.” Knock Out could barely hear himself over the booming sound of each spark, but Bumblebee seemed to read his lip plates because he lifted his hand to call Arcee to him.

 Two of the lights sent her straight to the ground and Knock Out gasped as he turned to see what had happened.  He didn’t have time to rush to her aid, something warm punched him in his spark and it felt like… oh Primus take him off this horrible world. 

 It felt like Breakdown had slotted back into place in his chest.

 ‘Knocks, Knock Out where are you, where am I?  Knocks I need you where are you!’

 Knock Out gasped and reached out, someone’s hand grabbing his own. “Breakdown…”

 ‘Knock Out, I need you.’

 When he blinked the light was gone and Bumblebee was hoisting him up, chirping in question.  All Knock Out could do was laugh almost hysterically. “The... the sparklings are more important right now.” He finally breathed as he pushed Bumblebee away.  He seemed to get the hint and switched modes before he sped off.

Chapter Text

 “Holy scrap T, you are an awful shot today.” Arcee said as she sat on one of the spare tires at the range.  Tailgate lowered his gun and glared at her.

 “Shut it you, I just got my optics cleaned, that means you have to give me a break.” He muttered before raising the gun once again.  Arcee just snorted and watched as her Sparkbonded missed yet another can.  She watched for a few more shots and sighed before rolling her shoulders.

 “Shouldn’t having them cleaned help you improve your aim?” Her comment had Tailgate droop visibly.  She stopped joking and stood up, walking over to rest in the comfort of his EM field, even if it was frustrated.

 He squinted down the shooting range and then shook his head. “Remember that mission on Iota i told you about?  I was stuck on that planet with so much dust that I rerouted my optics to lock onto things that moved in the blur of the wind.  I’ve been having serious trouble rerouting them to their regular targeting ever since.” Arcee looked up at her bonded and offered him a sweet smile.

 “Wow, really?” she couldn’t help the tease in her voice, “no don’t pout.  Here,” she reached up to her helm and unlocked the panel at the base of her neck, “you can plug into mine and copy my targeting code.” Tailgate’s engine revved in surprise as he set the gun down on the table next to his ammo clips.

 “Uh… isn’t that a bit… intimate?” Tailgate asked, suddenly bashful.  Arcee couldn’t help but feel the thrill of her new bonded being so shy.

 “I trust you with my life.” She assured him with as much honestly as she could convey. “You know how much I love you.” Tailgate smiled so sweetly at her that she had to kiss him before she offered her hook up cable once again. “You nerd.”

--

 Arcee sighed as Cliffjumper sat on the med berth and let Ratchet grumble at him while he fixed one of his canons. “You were reckless.” Ratchet snapped as he walked off to get his welding torch.  Cliffjumper just looked down at his peds, petulant.

 “No, I was awesome.” He muttered as he kicked the air in frustration.

 “Nope,” Arcee said with a smirk, “you were reckless.” Cliffjumper huffed at her but he still held a smile. “It would have been much safer to just drive down the path, not jump off the side of the mountain.” Cliffjumper chuckled at the thought and extended his good arm.

 Arcee reached out and took his hand, hoisting herself up onto the berth beside him and letting him settle a hand to her hip.  She hummed and poked him with her EM field, which he normally held tight to his form, but the second she nudged him she’d been engulfed.  Cliffjumper set his helm atop her own and closed his optics, relaxing against her.

 “I wanted to get to you as fast as possible." He whispered. "Bee said you were upset and I hate when you’re upset.” He smiled when she nudged his side with her elbow. “Love you too.” She laughed and lifted her face to kiss his cheek.

 “The next time you want to cheer me up, show up somewhere in one piece.” She chuckled when he nodded in earnest and felt him pull her closer.

 “Yes Sir sergeant Sir.  Whatever you say scout.  Your orders are my prime directive.” He didn’t stop until Arcee had pushed him over with a laugh.

--

 Never in her life had Arcee expected to see Sparklings born right before her eyes.  They were the most beautiful sight she had ever seen, so bright and so alive.  Around her the world and the bots in it were falling into chaos, but right now, right this second, Arcee could only stare at the lights in the sky.  She hadn’t felt this mesmerized in years, and even though she’d just lost her commanding officer there was no way she could feel the sorrow just yet.  Not with how painful she knew it would be.

 So instead she occupied herself with feeling joy at the lights that flew past her.  She was so caught up that she almost missed Bee raising his arm to try and get her attention.  A gesture that meant ‘Fall in’ or ‘Follow me’, but she didn’t get to see the hand gesture that would tell her the difference.

 Two lights blindsided her and knocked her straight to her back.

 She gasped and felt as if she was floating, white light all around her.

 ‘You are going to have one hell of a surprise when you wake up.’

 Arcee felt her throat close up as she reached out, desperately trying to latch onto that voice.

 ‘Don’t be mean, she’s going to be in shock.  Don’t worry Arcee, I’ll be with you soon.’

 “Cliff?  T?” She choked out and felt something warm brush against her fingers before two solid balls of fire burned inside of her Spark chamber.

 ‘It’s going to be okay, we’re coming home to you.’

 Arcee sobbed when the lights went dim, but she couldn’t tell if it was from pain or joy.

Chapter Text

 Bumblebee glared at the door in front of him and gripped the small wedge he’d made with the pry bar.  If this didn’t work he’d get some serious backup, because Primus this wasn’t okay.  With everything going on today he just needed to open this door and sit on that floor while he stared at the hatchery all lit up and filled with life.  He wasn’t ready to watch anyone else die.  No matter what he’d see that his commanders goals in life and death were kept.  He would protect life at all costs.

 His peds scrapped loudly across the floor as he pulled, trying not to cry out from the sheer amount of exertion he was putting forth into the only hatchery left.  All the others were too run down, too broken to hold life or too buried to get to.  Bumblebee would see to it that as soon as this Hatchery were secure, he’d get a group together to help him clean up others so the sparks floating in the sky could nestle down and form their own eggs.

 The door made a low groan and Bumblebee could hear the rust trying to give way as he pulled.  He was almost there, he just needed to hold on a little bit longer.  He couldn’t wait until Bulkhead or even Wheeljack were done making sure Ratchet and Arcee were alright.  As much as he wanted his friends safe and under a careful watch in case that Decepticon doctor switched sides again, he really needed help.  He took a small break to catch his breath and got his feet locked into place before he grit his denta.

 “Please, I’ll go to church if that’s what you want, just… move.” He pulled again and felt the ball-joints in his elbow snap out of place at the same time that the rust on the door cracked.  With no more hinges to keep the door slotted, it rolled back with enough force that at it fell off the track and thumped along the inside of the holding.  Bumblebee screamed in pain at how loose his elbows felt, the connections to his fingers lost as he fell face first into the dust of the hatchery floor.

 Holy scrap.  Holy scrap.

 He’d done it!  Bumblebee, defender of Cybertron, had opened the hatchery door and could now start venting out all the dust so the sparklings currently growing in here wouldn’t wake up and suffocate!

 For a moment he forgot his arms weren’t working as he tried to push himself up, but then he gave up when he realized the connection would have to be manually reset.  With a long groan he rolled onto his side and looked over at the hatchery beds sunken into the ground and the few hanging from the ceilings.  The future of his race was sleeping peacefully as they developed.  He could barely see the glow beneath all the dust, but he knew they were there, he could feel curious little EM fields bouncing about trying to force into something strong enough to touch someone else.

 The closest bed to him was only a few feet away, so Bumblebee shifted and blew away as much dust as he could that lay across the nearest sparkling.  The little EM field grasped his own with a grip so gentle it felt like wind, and Bumblebee felt his spark ache with it.  He’d never figured himself for a paternal type, but he was humming to the little egg before he could stop himself, his own EM field nudging gently against the smaller one as it struggled to form.

 He wondered if this would be an independent egg or if it would stay this small and need a carrier to help it gain nutrients.  Some of these eggs would, and Bumblebee was going to have to grab as many bots as he could to volunteer their chambers and bodies to protect their future.

 The little egg hummed back at him and Bumblebee felt his intake catch.  Oh frag.

 He’d never wanted to be a carrier so much in his life.

Chapter Text

 Ratchet was up and on his feet and ready to head out the door, but instead of hunting down his Sparkbound crazy trailer-toting trashbag of a husband, he was stuck answering Bumblebee’s comm before he was even out of the hallway.  Knock Out was too busy bringing Arcee up to speed on his theory to even notice the comm was beeping, and Wheeljack and Bulkhead were… well, he had no idea what those two were up to.  He knew that they were nearby because he could feel their EM’s if he stretched his own, but other than that they were out of sight.  Smokescreen had run in from guarding the door the second he was called and had handed Ratchet the comm without question.

  :‘Hey, Ratchet?  Oh thank Primus, it’s me, Bee.  I uh… I think I fragged up?  I can’t feel my arms.’: Ratchet groaned as Bee's voice echoed through the line. :‘But on the bright side, I got the door to the hatchery open and we’ve got eggs forming.  They’re going to need a lot of T. L. C. if you know what I mean, and possibly several dust-bots.  But yeah, eggs.’:

 Smokescreen practically jumped when he heard the word. “Wait, real eggs?” He ran the scanner over Ratchet as instructed, though he was obviously distracted.  Ratchet flipped the device over and read his own readings as the other bot rambled on. “I thought… well I mean since the lights were flying into the sky.  I mean, I thought they’d fly into gestation tanks, not into… eggs.” Smokescreen wilted when Ratchet stopped and widened his optics at him in amusement.

 “Did they not teach you how Sparklings work in that fancy academy of yours?” Ratchet asked with a chuckle as he waved a hand over the scanner.  It beeped happily and went back to sleep.  He checked for his weapons and then headed toward the door.

 Smokescreen made a defeated noise behind him and followed. “Well, no, they told us that… soldiers have no time for interfacing, no time for Sparklings.  If you want to bring a newspark into a world with a war going on, you aren’t fit to be fighting.” Smokescreen recited it, spinal strut tight as if he were being scrutinized by a head officer.  When Ratchet blinked at him he wilted again and rubbed his cheek plate. “Yeah… sorry about that.  Sometimes they had to give that speech and they'd... they'd make us recite it.” He muttered it as if he were ashamed.

 Ratchet tried not to groan as he looked back into the med bay as he reached the door.  Wheeljack had just walked in and was making a straight shot to Arcee’s side, hand extended to her as Knock Out turned away from them.  With a huff, Ratchet waved at the door. “Hey, I’m taking Smokescreen with me, don’t be afraid to shut Knock Out down if he tries anything.” Wheeljack gave him a salute and Arcee laughed, a hand pressed to her side as she threw her legs over the edge of the berth.

 Smokescreen seemed to brighten as Ratchet walked out, and he was quick to follow. “Hey, does this mean I get to see them?  The eggs I mean?” Smokescreen asked as he finally caught up to Ratchet on the pavement.

 Beneath Ratchet’s peds there was dust and ruined road.  Getting to the hatchery by alt mode might be rough on his wheels, but it would be faster.  Beside him Smokescreen was hanging on an answer that hadn’t been said yet.  He was surprised to see him in such an excited mood, but Ratchet figured that Smokescreen was pushing everything out of his mind until Magnus was better.

 There was going to be so much chaos by the end of the day, and it reminded him of how old he really was.  Primus, Ratchet needed a vacation.

 Without another word he transformed and tested his tires on the pavement, then kicked off.  Smokescreen kept a healthy distance behind him as they drove in silence, but his EM field was erratically seeking out something, bumping into Ratchet every few minutes.

 When they finally arrived, Ratchet was quick to transform and stare up at what was left of the only Hatchery in the area.  The walls were mismatched and rust littered everything, his intake skipped at the thought of those sparklings inside.

 “This is it?” Smokescreen asked, confusion in his voice. “This is so… so small.  How can it hold all the sparks?” He crossed his arms as Ratchet walked toward the busted up door.

 “Smokey?  That you?  I thought Ratchet was coming to help me out.” Bumblebee’s voice called from inside the Hatchery.

 “Ratchet is here to help you, you never show me any recognition do you?  No faith in your doctor.” Ratchet chuckled when Bumblebee chirped nervously, his laughter frustrated.  Smokescreen hurried inside before Ratchet, and he could hear the two muttering as Smokescreen pulled Bee into a sitting position.

 “You look awful.” Bumblebee laughed loudly as Ratchet stood in the doorway, and he glanced at the two bots on the floor as Smokescreen took Bee’s immobile hand.  He turned away from them and looked at the Hatchery, a small sixteen by sixteen square building with shuttered windows.  All the locks were set on the inside, so there would be no need to fight the rubble outside to open them.  Many of them had rusted to the point they would be toxic to a newspark if they weren’t removed quickly enough.

 The lights weren’t on, but the sun shining in from the doorway lit the back wall and Ratchet sighed in adoration.  Of the six hanging garden hatch beds, only four were still up and stable.  Still, Ratchet could see the glow of life beneath the brown dust on the tilted left hatchery, but nothing on the other hanger as it had fallen off both back right hooks and rolled over on the floor.

 Below each hanging hatch bed were ground beds that were uplifted a small fraction off the ground, full of new and budding metal but still covered beneath all that awful rust and grime.  A light to his right flickered and he jerked his head in terror, but it had only been a glint off of Smokescreen’s shoulder.  For a moment there he’d been horrified that a sparkling had gone out due to the toxins in the air of an un-vented hatchery.

Ratchet exhaled and saw the dust stir even though he wasn’t in the room full, and he shuddered. “Bee, what’s wrong with your arms?” He asked as he stepped inside the Hatchery and coughed at the stench of mulch. “Smokescreen, see what you can do about these windows, we need them open now.” Smokescreen passed Bee off and nodded, already on his feet.  Ratchet knelt down and looked over Bee’s arm, his friends EM field distracted and stretched. “Does this hurt?”

 Bumblebee shook his head no and looked down at one of the eggs in the ground bed. “I think some of my supports snapped when I got the door opened.” He hummed and Ratchet looked briefly at the egg, then felt Bee’s EM field nudge the little thing and listened to the soft buzzing.  He couldn’t help but smile and roll his eyes as he pulled out his scanner, then ran it over Bee’s left arm, then right.

 “Find one you liked?” Ratchet muttered as he read the scans.  Bee seemed to splutter as Ratchet popped open the panel on his right arm and reached inside. “You sure that’s such a good idea?  We don’t know if they’ll need a carrier or if they’ll be able to grow by themselves.” Behind him, Smokescreen grunted as he forced a window shutter open with his shoulder.

 “What does that even mean?” He muttered before moving to the next window.  Ratchet sighed and found the ends of the cords that had snapped.  Oh yeah, he could fix this, no problem.  He dug into his subspace and pulled out a laser scalpel.

 “What, you don’t know how Sparklings work?” Bumblebee teased.  Smokescreen turned and must have shot him a look, because Bee seemed to wilt. “Wait, really?  I didn’t know, Ratchet can tell you though!  I mean he told me.” Ratchet huffed as he cut the end of the tattered cord, slicing back plastic, then offered Bumblebee an apologetic smiled as he winced.

 Smokescreen stopped pushing the shutter up and let out an excited sound. “Really?  I’d love to know how they work, and to not ever hear the ‘You don’t know how’ speech ever again.” The last bit he muttered, but Ratchet still heard him.  He sliced the other tattered end of cord so it was a clean cut before peeling back the cord.

 “I’m only going to tell you how they work if you keep opening those windows.” Ratchet muttered, switching from scalpel to heat pen.  Smokescreen quickly started fighting with the shutters again and Bee laughed.

 “Someone’s eager.” He muttered as he watched Ratchet work.  Ratchet just smirked and heated each tip of the cord in his hand, waiting until they were red.

 “Sparklings are very single minded when it comes to being hatched.  Two bots can of course interface to create a Sparkling, but it weakens them for a time because it draws part of your spark out and settles into one of the bots gestation tanks.  It uses the walls, metal, and energon to form a film around it, then melts everything around to better absorb it.  When the protoform of a newspark is fully developed-”

 Smokescreen cut him off with a yelp. “Yes, birth, gestation tank, very messy.  I know how that works.” His voice sounded squeaky and embarrassed.  Ratchet smirked as he eased the two cords together and checked that they were registering properly, “I wanted to know how these work.” Smokescreen must have gestured at the eggs.

 “I was getting to that.” Ratchet muttered as he folded the plastic back over the cable when it had cooled. “Clench your fist for me Bee?” Bee did so, then followed Ratchet’s movements in delight. “Good as new, now I need to fix the other one.” Ratchet said as he shifted on his knees to get better access to the other arm panel.

 “Great work as always.” Bee said with praise.  Ratchet just smiled and popped open the panel on his other arm.

 “Of course.  Now, these Sparklings.” He went in search for the disconnected cords, squinting at the scramble of cables.  This one might be more that one cord he needed to repair. “Sparks from the well know to find Hatchery grounds or to hover in the atmosphere in stasis until a spot is open or a willing tank is pinged and given entry.  They only react to a certain kind of metal, metal mulch that is.” He found one end of the cord and sneered at it, it wasn’t a clean snap.

 “Wait, mulch?  As in farming mulch?  The kind we can grow our energon in?” Smokescreen sounded horrified as one of the shutters rattled open.  The light was suddenly much brighter, and Ratchet could feel a breeze. “Does that mean they’ll be growing underground?” Smokescreen asked, almost scared.

 “No, Smokey, they need light or they go out.  They all stay above ground.” Bumblebee reassured him as Ratchet dug deeper in his arm. “Oww.”

 “Hush.” Ratchet mumbled as he finally grabbed the cable. “Anyway, they find the mulch and nestle into it, then do one of two things.” Ratchet switched his tools to scalpel again and started cutting at the cord.  Bumblebee groaned and looked away. “They grow to a certain size and stop, needing to be fostered in a gestation tank until they're ready to hatch…” Ratchet paused as he cut back plastic.

 Smokescreen grunted and opened the last window.  One of the shutters was leaning against the wall now.  He came over to Bee and knelt down, hand sliding into his friends working one.  Bumblebee looked up and smiled, then squeezed his fingers with Smokescreen's and grunted.

 Ratchet quickly heated the tips of the cords and prayed to Primus they would stretch enough to fit. “Or they just stay eggs and get what they need from the mulch, and then pop out one day as a screaming newspark.  Which reminds me, dust them off.  I don’t want them absorbing anymore of this dust than they already might have.” Ratchet pulled the cords together and Bumblebee whimpered. “Almost done, this one was closer to your nerves than the other one.”

 His friend nodded and grit his denta, but stopped making little pained noises once the heat had cooled.  Smokescreen gave one last squeeze to Bumblebee’s hand before standing and looking around the room. “How am I supposed to dust all of this off?” He muttered before searching the walls. “Do they keep dust-bots in cabinets?  Would they even work?”

 Ratchet sat back and smiled as he set the plastic in place, then closed Bee’s arm panel. “Okay, it checks out, clench your fist.” Bumblebee did as he was told.

 Behind him, Smokescreen let out a triumphant sound as he pulled a dust-bot and rag from the cabinet.

Chapter Text

 “Follow the light.” Knock Out clicked the light pen on and moved it from one side of Arcee’s helm to the other. He watched the dilation and the path her optics traveled with interest. Her left optic seemed to be honing in slower than the right and didn’t fully dilate, and that was cause for concern. “Lift your left hand.” She sighed and did as she was told, her eyes narrowing. “Now cough.” Arcee blinked at him in shock.

 “Seriously? I feel fine, just-” She was cut off when Knock Out dropped the pen onto the tray next to him. Wheeljack snickered from his position against the wall, having backed up for Arcee’s exam.

 “I had no idea you had a medical license,” Knock Out drawled, “because from my professional stand point you have an acute misfire concussion. Also your left optic is strained, and if you want to walk out of here and let it pop, by all means. Take your professional opinion over mine, wouldn’t be the first time.” He waved toward the door and waited for her to get off the slab.

 Arcee glared and him and Wheeljack openly laughed. Her glare quickly switched to her friend and Knock Out rolled his eyes. “Whatever, you’re in no shape to be traveling. And no transforming for at least a cycle until your body can properly reset.” Knock Out said, trying to use as much authority as he could. He wasn’t the one who delved into the aftercare, he fixed the problem and Breakdown told them how to keep themselves together.

 He’d always been better at it, kinder.

 Primus, Knock Out needed to find him. He turned away from Arcee and put a hand over his spark, feeling the warmth of Breakdown pulsing in his chest. Every time he felt that tug he wanted to buckle to his knees, finish be damned. They were becoming more insistent, almost afraid. The faster he could find Breakdown the better, he needed his mate and at this point he wasn’t above begging.

 Behind him, Arcee was whispering at Wheeljack with such a heated ferocity that Knock Out was starting to worry she’d pop her optic from stress before strain.

 “Look, I need to get back to Earth.” Arcee finally spat, her hands nearly denting the med bay berth. Wheeljack narrowed his optics at her and shook his head no, hand on her shoulder.

 “No way Arcee, you heard what Doc Evil said.” Wheeljack muttered as he waved a hand at Knock Out.

 “Excuse you, that’s Doc Fancy Finish to you,” Knock Out quipped, “but Wheeljack is right, no traveling. Mandatory berth rest. If you don’t believe me we can call Ratchet back from whatever it is he’s doing so he can tell you that you’re not allowed to move your little two wheeled aft out of this building.” He huffed when Arcee scoffed. She looked ready to tackle him to the ground and rip his fins off.

 “I won’t accept that, I can’t. I have to go to Earth and get Cliffjumper.” Arcee said as she took three steps forward and stumbled. Knock Out threw his hands up in exasperation, but Wheeljack was quick to catch her.

 “Does no one have audials that work?” Knock Out grumbled.

 “Whoa there Peachy Keen, I hate to break this to you but I think the Doc was right about that concussion. Cliff has been gone for months now.” Wheeljack took his time guiding Arcee back to the berth. “You know that, you were the one who set up his memorial site.” His voice was soothing, one used to breaking bad news to people.

 Knock Out felt an ache at how much he missed Breakdown right then and there.

 Arcee quickly waved Wheeljack off after he helped her onto the berth, but her hands were clenched at her sides. “He’s not dead,” she said sternly, “not anymore. I felt him Jackie, him and T, I felt…” one of her hands traveled to her chest and she shut both her optics. “Primus Wheeljack, I feel both of them right now. They’re so warm in my chest, I can hardly take it, every breath hurts.” She let out a long sigh and Wheeljack tilted his head at her.

 “Doc, you sure it’s just a concussion?” Wheeljack asked in a stage whisper. Knock Out paused, hand reaching out to grab a chart. He skimmed the words and then threw it down.

 “I’m positive, just the concussion.” Without another word he hoisted himself onto one of the medical berth’s and drowned out the chatter between the two bots. Knock Out buried his face in his hands and let out a long vent, shutting himself tight inside his own EM field to feel the thrum of the bond between himself and Breakdown.

 There was a warble of fear and Knock Out quickly surged himself toward the bond, pulsing warmth and love at all that fear to try drowning it out. Breakdown’s pulses quickened, then thrummed with such an overpowering relief that Knock Out nearly whimpered. Feeling such a longing pull on the bond he had was almost enough to make him cry, but not here.

 The floor rattled as Bulkhead entered and started muttering between himself and Wheeljack.  Knock Out tried once more to drown them out. He focused on the bond, trying to sort through each and every feeling being flung about. He picked at one at random, a string of frazzled curiosity. Knock Out hushed it, nuzzling reassurance against the single string and almost purring as it pulsed.

 “No, she’s not going.” Someone shouted behind him. Knock Out scowled behind his fingers, trying to capture the warmth of the bond back. “She’s too sick. I can’t go because I have to help with all this reconstruction, and you need to watch the Decepticon.” Knock Out groaned when the bond fluttered away. He looked up to see Bulkhead crossing his arms as Wheeljack gave Arcee’s back a rub.

 “She wants to go, if I don’t do it for her then you know she’ll leave. Let Knock Out watch her while I’m gone.” Wheeljack pleaded.

 “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t trust this bot with a wrench!” Bulkhead snapped.

 “Well that makes me feel welcome.” Knock Out muttered and he put his elbows on his knees.

 “Bulk, that’s not right, the Doc has done nothing but take care of us since he switched sides.” Wheeljack said, voice becoming heated. “If you don’t want him to watch her, then you watch Arcee and I’ll take the Doc back to Earth to look for the memorial site.”

 “For Cliff.” Arcee interjected.

 “Right, I’ll look for Cliff, and I’ll keep an eye on the Doc.” Wheeljack said. “Does that make you happy? Because so far, nothing I seem to do or say has even gotten a smirk out of you and I’m pretty fragging tired of it.” Wheeljack waited as tension coiled in the air.

 Bulkhead swallowed and looked away, then turned a sharp glare to Knock Out. “Fine, but only if he’s in stasis cuffs.” He jerked a thumb at Knock Out before walking toward the door. “Arcee, I’m going to get you a hover chair, don’t you dare move.” The feel of his angry footsteps down the hall made Arcee chuckle.

 “Way to frag that up big guy,” she muttered as she reached out to pat Wheeljack’s arm, “just be safe out there. Bring him back to me.” Wheeljack smiled and leaned over, his lips pressing a gentle kiss to the top of Arcee’s helm.

 Knock Out watched as he departed from her and scooped up a pair of stasis cuffs. “I take it I get no say in this?” he asked even as he held out his hands. Wheeljack offered him a half-sparked smiled and slipped the cuffs on.

 “Hey, at least you’ll get to move around, right?” the shrug he offered was weak at best, but Knock Out accepted it. With practiced ease he hoped off the berth and let Wheeljack lead him out of the room and into the hallway. Above them, dust rattled down from the ceiling, each of their steps dislodging particles that couldn’t be good for their fans.

 Knock Out watched the lights flicker as they went, and Wheeljack hummed as he led them out into the open. The front side of the building had been blown off during the war, but the doorway remained with enough power to keep the medical offices clean. Wheeljack helped Knock Out over the rubble and kept a hand on his shoulder as they started walking away from the crowd of drones and the prickle of agitation.

 The further they got, the more Knock Out saw the growth of each little plant as it began to spring up from the ground. There were cyrstal flower buds peering through the rubble of what was once a small café, and the further they got the thicker the gem ivy became on the walls and rubble. Wheeljack reached out when they were far enough away, taking them off the main path so he could pause and pick a few of the garnet roses.

 “So, you used to be a Decepticon.” Wheeljack stated as he held five flowers in his hands and turned them over and over. They looked lush in the soft light, covered in a sprinkling of dew that Wheeljack shook away.

 “Yes, not even a few hours ago in fact.” Knock Out couldn’t help the tease in his voice. He turned away from Wheeljack and walked to the nearest wall, examining a set of ruby snapdragons that yipped and nipped at each others petals. When they noticed him they shied behind the chunk of metal debris they were growing out of.

 Knock out smiled and extended his fingers to them, watching as they slowly spread their petals out and bumped their stems against the tips of his claws. This was a sight he never figured he’d see again.

 “You think you’re going to stick with the change?” Wheeljack asked, his voice startling the plants back into hiding.

 With a frown, Knock Out shrugged. “I don’t know, what do you think? The Decepticons have literally been disbanded, Megatron is off on his ‘great big sulk,’ and there isn’t a chance in the cosmos that I’ll follow Starscream again, wherever he is.” He turned when Wheeljack nodded back toward the path. “I have my own agenda, I won’t lie to you about that, but I don’t know when I’ll get to go through with it.”

 Wheeljack snorted and let the medic catch up with him. “And what, pray tell, is this grand agenda?” he seemed to be humoring Knock Out, and something about the way he said things made Knock Out ache. Breakdown talked like that.

 “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Knock Out said as he stumbled over more debris.

 “Try me, I’m going to Earth for a dead friend.” Wheeljack said with a smirk as he squinted ahead of them. “Also, be careful up here, the ground looks unstable.” Knock Out nodded, feeling a sudden pull on the bond. Another insistent reminder that the place he needed to be wasn‘t here. Then again he didn’t even know where Breakdown was, so he’d need to find out first.

 “I need to find my conjux endura.” Knock Out admitted. “Same as Arcee, even Ratchet from the looks of it. We can feel them again, all of us. I feel their spark every second and it’s like agony. I know you won’t let me go look for him though so I'll have to figure out how to sneak away in the dead of night.” Knock Out felt the words leave him and his fans skipped a beat. He suddenly felt very hollow as he climbed over what was once a doorway.

 Wheeljack was quiet for a while, and once they were back on the path he kicked at the dust on the ground, a small cloud filling the air before he subspaced the flowers.

 “So uh… wow, I honestly have more questions than answers after that.” Wheeljack admitted as the Bridge came into view. Knock Out narrowed his optics at the other mech and bit back a venomous retort.

 “You’re saying you believe me though?” he asked. Wheeljack laughed, helm tossed back before he righted himself. His hand came up to rub at the side of his neck and he looked forward, sheepish.

 “Honestly, why not? It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me, and I mean if you’ve got a conjux why not find him!” Wheeljack huffed and crossed his arms. “Okay I don’t know where I’m going with this. But… if Arcee and Ratchet get to have a happy ending, why would I deprive you of one?” Knock Out felt a lump rise in his throat. “Who’s the lucky bot anyway?”

 “Breakdown,” Knock Out said, not a hint of embarrassment, “we’d been together for six Earth years, well, bonded together.” Wheeljack chuckled.

 “I used to know that bot, well, know him if he’s alive. We were in the Wreckers together, I never figured him for the kind of bot to settle down.” Wheeljack shrugged. “Then again, I never thought that about myself either.” Wheeljack tilted his helm a bit and Knock Out caught sight of a wistful smile.

 “Bulkhead, right?” he asked. Wheeljack nodded and kept his optics on the bridge. “How does that work, I thought you were one of those ‘never stays in one place for too long’ bots.” Knock Out admitted. Wheeljack chuckled and waved his hands at the space bridge drones.

 “I am, we have a very…unconventional sparkbond.” Wheeljack rubbed the back of his neck and Knock Out raised an optic ridge at him. “I think humans call it an open relationship?”

 Knock Out shuddered. “Doesn’t that hurt your bond?” he stepped up onto the Bridge platform and listened to the vortex rippling. When he turned to look at it he felt an urgent cry from Breakdown’s spark and sent another reassuring nudge. This was getting harder the longer he spent time away from him.

 “Nah, we’re not the clingy type.” Wheeljack pulled out a small data pad from his subspace and flashed it at the reprogrammed drone. It happily let them pass and leaned over the console to wave excitedly at the familiar face.

 “Have fun Knock Out, get those cuffs off soon.” The drone called.

 “Will do, Curtail.” Knock Out replied even as Wheeljack lead him to the waiting pad. “So, how long do you think we’ll be on Earth? Is it a drop in and pick up or are we going to be lingering?” he asked with a smirk. “I could go shopping.”

 Wheeljack groaned, but he was smiling as he entered coordinates into the process pad. “Just shut up and walk through the Bridge.”

Chapter Text

Arcee sighed and watched as Bulkhead prodded one of the support beams of a strange building. There was no denying she was bored, and if it weren’t for how scared Bulkhead was of her hurting herself, she’d have gotten out of the hover chair to help. Her friends fear was gut wrenching and palpable though, so here she was bored out of her processor as she watched Bulkhead work.

The drones around them were cautious little things, most of them awkwardly shy or seemingly terrified without a chain of command to follow. One of them had been ‘assigned’ to her by Bulkhead and was hovered behind the chair with an air of anxious worry. She wanted to tell it to buzz off, but a few hours of watching the bot told her that if she gave it any hint of direction it would happily jump at the chance to follow her orders.

These things were practically starved for affection. Or maybe it wasn’t affection, maybe they were starved for direction. She turned slightly to look back at the little flyer as it fluttered its wings and stared at its feet. If she was going to be stuck in this hover chair she might as well have something to do.

“Hey,” her voice startled the drone into looking up, “do you have a designation?” Some of them did, some of them didn’t. She thought that was the oddest thing about them, but she was still learning to treat them like bots and not target practice.

The drone nodded, looking away before taking a stance at attention. “D8X321,” it recited, “flight class, clone of Cloudspin who you personally set on fire 3.8 Mega-Orns ago. Third generation of his batch.” They sagged a little after their recitation, but kept a firm posture. Arcee waited and then nodded toward the group of drones listening excitedly to Bulkhead as he directed them.

“Wouldn’t you rather be helping them than playing nursemaid to me?” she asked. The drone’s visor lit up, but then quickly dimmed back to its normal glow.

“I was given a task, I must see it through until it is fulfilled before I can do another.” The drone nodded and then brushed off its arms. “Commanding Officer Knock Out gave us directive orders to follow Bulkhead and any other Autobot that was present during the… whatever.” The drone looked down and frowned.

“The whatever?” Arcee asked, curious.

“All the lights and the sparks,” D8X321 explained, “I know my kind aren’t the smartest, and I know we lack certain… core processors that true Cybertronian’s have, but we still felt that. It… whatever it was, I think it did something to us.” The drone looked away again and Arcee raised an optical ridge. She quickly shut both her optics and rubbed at her temples when a tugging pressure formed there.

Slowly, the pain webbed away, and when it did she turned the hover chair toward the drone. “What do you mean?” she asked, “Use as many words as you want to try and explain it.” The Drone stared at her, a surge of emotions flicking through the light against its visor.

At first it didn’t respond, but eventually it reached up to place a hand over its spark. “I… I feel fuller, I guess. Warmer, like something I’ve been missing wormed its way into my spark and is making it… bigger?” The drone shrugged and looked away, its wings drooping. “I don’t know, whatever it is I feel like a part of me that I never even knew was gone… well, I feel like I have it back.” Arcee blinked in surprise at the amount of raw emotion bleeding through the drones speech.

That… wasn’t normal behavior. She tilted her ahead and maneuvered the hover chair to circle the drone. D8X321 didn’t so much as flinch.

Something was off about this drone, but she couldn’t put her servo on what. When she settled back into her hover chair, D8X321 shifted its weight and scratched at its neck cables as if it were nervous. Drones did feel a very large range of emotions, but nervousness wasn’t in their coding. They felt fear to keep them obedient, loyalty to keep them in line, and of course a scattered few here and there to help them in battle.  But they were not nervous creatures.

She watched the drone until it looked away from her, its focus back on the construction site. D8X321 caught her interest, and for a moment she was reminded of the days before the war. The times when the drones didn’t have sparks to ignite them, they were thoughtless. The first drone to be infused with the slice of spark had been a breakthrough that startled and delighted Cybertronians.

She honestly couldn’t remember how it had made her feel back then.

A warm tug at her spark made her look away from the drone, her focus internalized now. The split bond she shared with Cliffjumper and Tailgate was worming about her chest as it tried to settle between the three bots. They seemed to be tugging at one another through her, trying to figure the other out while they made their way through space.

Or in Cliffjumper's place, through rock? Where was he anyway? Was he still buried in that mine or was he buried in his memorial? Was he even buried?

‘Cliff?’ She nudged at the red string inside of her chest that represented her bond with him. ‘Can you hear me through this?’ she waited for a reply. Most bonds didn’t allow words, most were just feelings. On rare occasions a bot would excitedly report a word or two going through.

:‘Is this thing on?’ :Cliff’s voice came through her comm link and she shrieked in surprise. D8X321 stood at alert, gun drawn as it scanned the perimeter.

“What is it?” it asked as it’s wings twitched angrily. Arcee shivered and reached up to her comm unit, and from her audial she heard the telltale ‘Mooing’ sound that Cliffjumper made when he was impatient.

“My comm just startled me,” she admitted, “you can stand down, solider.” D8X321 lowered its gun, but its stance remained alert.

:‘Seriously, anyone still using this frequency?’: Cliffjumper huffed into the comm line, :‘because the last time I was alive we were using this. Did you guys seriously ditch this line?’:

“Hey you,” she muttered as she tapped her comm link, “I… it’s good to hear your voice. We actually did switch frequencies, I just never took this one off my list.” She leaned back into the chair and tried not to shiver. “… How are you?” She could heard Clifjumper’s rumbling chuckle, feel the warmth through their bond at his amusement.

From farther away, she got a questioning nudge from Tailgate. She let Cliffjumper’s amusement leak into her own, then into Tailgate‘s link to their bond.

:‘I am climbing up the side of a very deep hole. What are you doing beautiful?’"

Arcee smiled and imagined Cliffjumper glaring at the side of the rock face as he stubbornly tried to climb it. There were probably stairs right next to him.

“I’m sitting in a hover chair next to an ex-Decepticon.”

:‘What?’: Across the line she heard rocks slip away and crumble. :'What happened? Are you okay? Who hurt you, I’ll kill them.’: Arcee tried not to laugh at the vehemence in Cliffjumper’s voice.

“I’m fine, Cliff, I just have a small concussion.” She pushed as much reassurance through the bond as she could and felt trickles of confused reassurance from Tailgate to Cliffjumper. She tried not to laugh again, these two didn’t even know each other and they were still being supportive.

Everything between them had to go through her though, seeing as she was the only connection between both bots. She nudged them both with affection and closed her eyes, basking in the warmth and love they sent back. With a small spike of fear she worried they’d reject each other and make her pick between them, but more love and reassurance flooded the bond.

:‘Hey, I don’t know why you’re freaking out, but it’s okay.’: Cliffjumper said softly. Arcee knew he was hoisting himself up by the soft grunt after his words. :‘We’ll be there soon, me and the other guy I mean. Though me probably sooner than the other guy, but still.’: He paused and Arcee reached up to put a hand over her mouth.

“I miss you.” She muttered between her fingers as she opened her optics. “I love you, and I miss you.” Beside her, D8X321’s wings twitched in confusion. “Please come home soon.” Her voice was a whisper into her palm as she tried not to tremble.

:‘Hey, when I’m with you, I’ll be home. I don’t care where it is, Earth, Cybertron, that Viloqian moon we went to that one time.’: Arcee couldn’t keep her laughter in, and D8X321 jerked in shock.

“Sorry,” she waved the drone off, “comm line.” The drone nodded and fluttered their wings. It reminded her of a parakeet she’d seen on television once with Jack.

:‘Oh hey, who are you talking to,’: Cliffjumper asked with a teasing tone, :'do we have competition?’ Arcee tried not to laugh again.

“It’s a drone, D8X321 to be exact. Bulkhead has him… her? It? I don’t know what you like being called.” She turned to the drone, waiting a response.

D8X321’s visor flickered as if it were blinking in surprise. “Umm… he?”

“He, Bulkhead has him watching me.” Arcee said. “… He says hi, by the way. Cliffjumper I mean.” She said as she waved a hand at her comm for the Drone to see. D8X321 blinked in surprise again, then his wings ruffled again.

“I… uh… I say hello back?” The tips of his wings fluttered and hitched up toward his shoulders. Arcee chuckled at the drones embarrassment, then turned her focus back to the comm line.

“Hey, how long until you think you’ll be here?” Arcee asked suddenly. Cliffjumper hummed in thought, then let out a bark of laughter. “Cliff?”

:‘I’ll have to call you back sweet spark, talk to you soon.’:

“Cliff!” The comm cut off and she sat up, elbows on her knees as she pulled out her audial-bud and glared at it. “I swear Dee, don’t ever get a conjux. They’re terrible creatures and hang up on you before answering your questions.” D8X321 laughed, hand quickly covering his faceplate.

“I will have to say too late to that one.” He muttered. Acree turned to him in shock, but just as she was about to ask what he meant by that, Bulkhead shouted at them.

“Arcee, can you hover on over here for a minute? I think we’ve found the library but I can’t really tell. You‘ve got better optics as a scout right?” Bulkhead waved a hand excitedly. His reaction made Arcee shake her helm and jerk her thumb toward her friend, motioning for the drone to push her there.. D8X321 nodded and quickly got behind the hover chair, then started directing it toward Bulkhead.

This had better be a worth while find. Hopefully it would distract her long enough for Cliffjumper to get to her. To get home.

Chapter Text

The spacebridge dumped both of the bots right onto the top of a cliff side facing a large ravine, and Wheeljack shivered at the tingle of residual energy. He tapped his facemask and got in a lungful of Earth’s oxygen just to cycle out the jitters from his fans, maybe clear any dust that had settled in there from his extended immobility on Cybertron. Behind him, the other bot groaned as he stretched his cuffed wrists above his head.

“Well, that was unpleasant.” Knock Out muttered behind him. “But at least we’re used to the terrain. Though it’s far too bad that I can’t move properly with these cuffs on.” The tips of his finials gave a frustrated flick.

Wheeljack rolled his optics and knocked the medics shoulder with his own. “Just help me look around, Cliffjumper was buried around here somewhere.” He started looking at piles of rocks off in the distance on the cliff face.

“I thought his remains were at the bottom of a mine shaft,” Knock Out muttered, “or did Arcee and company dig his body out just to rebury it?” Wheeljack scowled as he looked back at Knock Out.

“I can’t tell if you were genuinely curious or if you were intentionally being an aft. But hey, just letting you know, try not to repeat slag like that around Arcee.” Wheeljack said as he walked to the edge of the cliff. Knock Out mumbled what sounded like a half sparked apology and Wheeljack was tempted to turn around and tell him off.

Instead he looked down and caught a glint of something climbing along the cliff side. Something red. Something with horns. Something waving one arm at him.

“Jackie! You slag eating son of a discharged rifle, good to see you!” Cliffjumper shouted.

“Primus bite me on the node.”

“That’s filthy, I’ll need to remember it.” Knock Out walked over to the cliffside. “What is it, do you see him already?” He looked down and a smirk bloomed across his face. “Oh would you look at that, a not dead member of your crew.” He gave Wheeljack’s stunned shoulder a gentle nudge with his cuffs.

Laughing, Wheeljack raised his arm and waved franticly. “Cliff! Cliff you enormous moron, what are you doing down there?” He could see his friend pulling himself up onto a small outcropping about thirty feet below.

“What the fragging rust nut does it look like I’m doing!” Cliffjumper shouted back. “I’m trying to get out of this hole! You want to lend me a hand with… is that a Decepticon?” His voice was shocked.

“Not entirely, no.” Knock Out shouted down to him.

“I’m trusting you on this. Look, just throw me a rope or something will you, I’m better at jumping off cliffs, not climbing up them.” Cliffjumper slumped against the outcropping he’d found and sagged. “And while you’re at it, tell me about Arcee, is she okay? I was talking to her and she said there was a con around, but I thought she was joking.”

Wheeljack put his hands on his hips and let out a long ex-vent.

“Man, do I have a story to tell you!” He said with a laugh before he reached into his subspace. “Hey, Doc Evil, you want to help or stand around and look pretty?”

Knock Out watched him as he tugged a chain out of his subspace. “If I help you, will you help me find Breakdown?” he asked after a pause.

“Slag yes I will! I’ll lead the search team myself! If Cliff is back, if Tailgate is too… Doc this means countless frame could have been re-sparked. We have to get the word out and see who all is alive, we’ve got to see who came back from the well.” Wheeljack seemed to shiver in excitement.

“Thank you, pass that here.” Knock Out made a motion to the chain, even with the stasis cuffs.

“Right, yeah. Here, grab this end.” Wheeljack handed it over. “When I say pull, we pull.” Looking over the edge he grinned. “You ready Cliff?” He tossed the other end over the side and listened to it clatter.

There was a pause as Cliffjumper grabbed the end and wrapped himself up, then he grinned upward. “Get me the slag out of here Jackie!”

“You got it! Pull!”

Chapter Text

Predaking felt a pulse form deep within his spark and he sat up with a hum. The pulse began anew and he stood, waking his kin with a flick of his tail before he shifted modes from dragon to mech. Darksteel was the first to croon at him in question.

“Do you not feel that?” Predaking asked, one hand over his spark. Skylynx keened, optics shut as he sniffed the air. His snout flared and his wings trembled, and after a moment or two Darksteel joined him. Pausing, Skyline shifted to stand beside Predaking.

“It smells like the sky is on fire, but it… it’s sweet.” Skylynx whispered, then ducked his head as Predaking passed him to walk to the edge of the platform they had perched on. Darkmount gave a great vantage point.

He scanned the horizon, then paused as he saw lights flickering on the skyline. “Darksteel, go inform Shockwave that I wish to see him immediately.” Predaking ordered with a flick of his claws. “Draw him up if you must, his work on our brethren can wait” Darksteel giggled at the thought, wings perked before he dove off the edge of Darkmount.

“Predaking… what are those lights?” Skylynx asked, almost crooning with concern.

“I’m… not sure, but they look so familiar. I want verification.” Predaking reached out, claws closing around nothing as he did so. He didn’t have to wait long for Darksteel to return with Shockwave toted in his talons.

“What does my creation need of me at such an early hour?” Shockwave asked, even though he’d been dumped unceremoniously to his knees on the platform.

Predaking turned toward the horizon once again and pointed. “Those, tell me what they are. Tell my why my very spark is singing to them.”

Shockwave stood, much to Darksteel’s displeased screeching, and turned to follow Predaking’s claw. His optic brightened and spun a small fraction, and there was a pause before he crossed his hands over one another.

“It seems that Optimus Prime and his crew truly did posses the Allspark, and with it they’ve returned Cyberon’s power to create new life.” His optic turned to Predaking. “Those are newsparks, they are waiting for open space in a hatchery bed. The Autobots likely have one open already, but because so many of them were destroyed or corrupted during the war-”

Predaking cut him off with a wave of his hand. “Those are newsparks?” He asked, turning to beckon to Darksteel and Skylynx. “And they need a hatchery?”

“Yes. As I said.” Shockwave waited patiently as his creations drew up toward their king.

“What… would there be predacon newsparks? Is there a chance of that?” Skylynx asked, fingers twitching.

“There are. Predaking’s spark confirmed it. Had you three not been online when the well awoke, I doubt they would have existed. I gave you life from the old, and the well is giving you life from the new.” Shockwave vented once, then stood up straighter. “I will continue to clone your kinds CNA with the few scraps I have remaining to me, I will not cease my work just yet.”

“That’s fine, we’ll need more fully fledged predacons if what you’ve just said is true.” Predaking looked out toward the lights and let out a sigh. “We need a hatchery. We need a dozen hatcheries.” He turned back toward Shockwave and his gaze narrowed. “What do we need for a hatchery.”

“Yeah, we’ll get it! We’ll set it up and there will be eggs!” Darksteel said, looking between his King and his creator with fire behind his optics.

Shockwave paused, as if thoughtful. “If you do construct a hatchery, know that you will likely get more than just predacon eggs. The well has had millions of years worth of backlog, the newsparks are not entirely logical in their choices of where they bud. Are you willing to foster even non-preda mechling?” The clinical firmness with which he spoke made Predaking’s plating clamp down.

“No!” Skylynx shouted.

“Yes!” Darksteel pushed his brother and snapped sharp teeth at him.

“Be quite!” Predaking turned to them both and let a long, drawn out growl silence the two. They bowed their heads, crooning in submission. After a moment, he turned back to Shockwave. “It seems that there is one other hatchery… and if that one has settled then there might be newsparks of our kind already forming. I will travel to the Autobot outpost and speak to them of our plans for our own hatchery.”

Skylynx hissed his disapproval.

“They will have predacon eggs already forming!” Predaking snarled and Skylynx stood down. Darksteel giggled at him from behind Predaking’s shoulder. “I will… we will raise whoever buds in the beds we build. We will usher in a new era of mech who do not fear us like our predecessors. We will not be driven to extinction by mistakes of the past ignorance this world once fell folly to.” He took a step back. “Darksteel, Skylynx, clear one of the levels blow and ready them for the hatcheries. Shockwave, inform them both on how to build the beds. When I return I want to see progress.”

His mode shifted effortlessly, his claws scrapping the platform before he let out a bellowing roar and took to the sky. Darksteel seemed to flutter in his wake, hands grasping at Skylynx’s arm.

“Bitlets, Sky, we get to see real bitlets! Not just clones, they’ll… why don’t you look more excited.” He shoved his brother and got a roar in return as the two dove at each other. Were Shockwave the sort, he would have let out a long sigh. Instead, he began to walk toward the stairs that lead to one of the lower levels. He would have to build on to one of the existing balconies, gather glass for roofing and siding. His projects were increasing by the day.

Chapter Text

:‘D8X321? What did you do, why is your spark rate that erratic, did someone hurt you? I swear by all that grows I will rip their heads off if they’ve hurt you!’: Curtail’s voice through the comm link was erratic. There as clanking in the background as he shuffled around, ready to bolt away from his post.

:‘Curtail.’: D8X321 tried to cycle his fans as he bit his lip behind his battle mask. :‘I love you.’:

:‘If you’re saying that so it’s your last words in that body, I will bring you back just to punch you in the face!’: Curtail screeched. It was a wonder he wasn’t a seeker with vocals that shrill.

Arcee was leaning over in her hover chair, pointing at a long row of support beams. “It does look crooked, doesn’t it? Why is it leaning?” She asked him. “You’re a flight frame, right? Would you do me a favor and check the view from above?”

:‘D8X321 I swear to Primus-’:

:‘They’re asking for my help!’: D8X321 felt giddy as he said it. Directing his attention away from his internal comm, he nodded to Arcee before taking off into the air. The landing pad Bulkhead had been organizing wasn’t that high up from his current point, but it was large enough that it took a great curve in his thrusters to swing around.

:‘You had me worried sick! You’re a horrible conjux! I want a Sever!’: Curtail’s own spark was beating erratically against their bond, and D8X321 couldn’t help but laugh as he finally reached the top of the structure.

:‘No you don’t.’: He smiled and flew around the surface of the platform, counting the support beams and plates that were empty. D8X321 could feel the warm flutter of love through the bond, and he happily returned it. :‘They’re a lot nicer than I thought they’d be. The Autobots, I mean. Arcee keeps asking me to help her, and she makes small talk like Break… like Big Boss used to.’:

Saying Breakdown’s name still hurt. He was one of their closest friends, and one of the only officers who had taken the extra time to get to know them all.

He’d officiated his and Curtail’s bonding ceremony.

:‘I miss him too.’: Curtail sent warmth and sympathy. :‘But it’s good that the Autobots are kind. I honestly think I’m too tired to retreat back to fighting. I know we’re used to shooting them for all they’ve done but… honestly I’m so tired.’:

:‘Same.’: D8X321 turned and re-counted the support beams. That wasn’t right… he flew over to the side of the building and nodded. One of those needed to be restructured.

:‘Any idea when you’ll be off shift? I want to head to our bunk and move out of that awful warship once and for all.’: Curtal muttered. :‘Klick says he’s been hearing banging and moaning. Do you think it’s terracons again?’:

D8X321 laughed and landed in front of Arcee and Bulkhead. “One of the support’s on the back east wall isn’t set right, it might have been knocked loose in the fight. Without that back structure it‘s a wonder it‘s even stayed up this long. You sure picked a landing pad you patch up..”

“Thank you D8X321, it would have taken us forever to find that out without your help.” Arcee said with a smile. “See Bulk, they are useful.”

:‘I doubt it, it’s probably just someone playing tricks again. Probably TurnTrack. Now, I love you, but I’m working. I’ll talk to you soon my sweetspark.’: D8X321 said as he reached up, ready to turn his comm off.

:‘Rude. I love you too, be safe, stay in your body. Come home to me in one piece.’: Curtail ended the call and D8X321 tapped his comm off.

Chapter Text

Ratchet had made a quick sling out of scrap metal he found and welded it together for Bumblebee’s right arm. While the cords may had been properly mended, there was no denying that one misplaced tug would pop them loose. Bumblebee was more than grateful for the help, but when he finally pushed himself to his feet he was denied the right to clean any further.

So he stood in the doorway of the hatchery and frowned at both of his friends with a vengeance. Smokescreen was attacking clumps of dust and dirt alongside the little dust-bot, and beside him Ratchet was oiling the shutters on the windows and testing their new movement. He forced them open as wide as he could, having to prop one or two open with the busted remains of a sprinkler system. Bumblebee looked around, trying to assess what he could do to could help without putting strain on his injured arms.

What little light they could see through the rubble on the roof felt insufficient, and he realized that a few of the hanging beds needed to be rotated if the ones on the ground were to get any light. Not to mention the debris around the building itself, if that wasn’t properly cleared away, a good hard shove could send it crashing through the walls. Hatcheries were meant to stand up to erratic weather, not erratic war.

His spark stuttered in horror and he sucked in a sharp vent at the thought of a fight breaking out anywhere near here.

That would never happen though, he wouldn’t let it. These newsparks were going to grow up to be big and strong, they were going to survive despite the wreck that their planet was.

Suddenly, a small, humming field called out to him, searching and curious. The warmth of it was small in radius, the feeling confused as it batted clumsily through the air.

Bumblebee recognized it as the tiny egg he’d crooned to earlier and he bit his lip. Ratchet had just lectured them about the dangers of jumping into the role of carrier only a few minutes ago, but for some reason it seemed liked a paltry price if it meant comforting a newspark. Reaching out with his own field, he curled it around the egg and hummed back, feeling the confusion and curiousness relax under a warm acceptance. Whoever this little one was going to grow up to be, they seemed more than happy to have contact so early on.

Closing his optics, Bumblebee slowly retracting his field, pulling it back in after hushing the other. He sent comfort, warmth, and assurance that he’d be back through the line before it slid apart. Truth be told he wasn’t sure if that last one would work out very well in translation, but he sent it anyway.

“Primus be with me, you didn’t.” Ratchet’s voice was right in front of him and loud enough to make Bumblebee jump in surprise. “I just told you abut being careful, and you imprint?” There was laughter behind his sternness, but it also had a hint of incredulity.

“Uhhh…” Bumblebee looked to Smokescreen for answers, but his friend just shrugged and pulled the wriggling dust-bot out from beneath a fallen bed. The little thing squirmed in his hold, not satisfied with the state of the corner even though his tank light was full.

How that thing even had charge after all these years still baffled him.

Ratchet paused, his face contorting with confusion, then he seemed to deflate. “I always forget how young you two are.” He muttered before reaching out to pat Bee’s working arm. “Alright, imprinting is when you endear yourself to a newspark.” He waved over at the beds. “When they’re this small their fields are constantly reaching out, testing how they want them to feel as they grow. They latch on easily to stronger fields, and if given the open invitation they will resonate and use another mech as a guideline.”

Smokescreen walked over, dust-bot dangling from his folded arms and trilling happily. Ratchet reached out absently to pat its head as Smokescreen pressed a button on its side so it would begin compressing the dust in its belly.

“That newspark is going to try to imitate your field, if not outright copy it. They’ll probably end up looking like you, or at least share a feature or two.” Ratchet smiled and sidestepped Bumblebee.

“Wait, how? I thought you had to share genetic code or something for a newspark to look like you.” Smokescreen hurried to the door, standing just behind Bumblebee’s shoulder. Ratchet rolled his optics and stretched as he walked.

“You do know you share bits of your coding when you share EM fields, right?” Ratchet said with a warm chuckle. Bumblebee turned back to the egg, then sighed.

“So… no turning back, that’s my newspark like it or not?” He smiled at the thought. Raising a sparkling wouldn’t be that bad. True he wasn’t the most experienced mech, but he knew for certain he’d be able to provide for his little one.

“Ratchet where are you going?” Smokescreen asked, suddenly pushing passed Bumblebee. The sound of a transformation cog in motion made him turn again, and he watched as Ratchet rolled onto the road and sat idle.

“I have someone to hunt down, you two can handle yourselves from here. When you’re done though, I want you back at base camp, no arguing.” His lights flickered once and Bee couldn’t stop his smile. “Be good!” And he drove off with a puff of dust.

Smokescreen huffed and lifted the dust-bot to check his tank levels. “Why does he always do that, treat us like we’re the newsparks I mean. We’re grown mechs.” His words were muttered, but they still carried weight.

“Probably because we are newsparks compared to him.” Bumblebee said before he stepped out of the building. “Think about it Smokes, Ratchet is ancient! It’s no wonder he’s so protective after everything he’s seen, he’s like that because he cares.” He looked over the roof of the hatchery and sighed. “Hey, do you think you can get up there and move some of the rubble, or should we stick with a hose?”

Smokescreen lowered the dust-bot, who trilled in an almost defeated way, and looked at the roof of the hatchery. He squinted suddenly, hugging the little helper to his chest.

“Hey… what is that?” He asked as he put a hand over his optics to shield the sun.

“A roof, Smokescreen. We put them on top of builds.” Bumblebee said before Smokescreen shoved him.

“No, that!” He hand pointed skyward and Bee followed his finger. There was something heading towards them, slow and… swooping almost? Bumblebee felt his plating bristle the closer it got. “Is it a cyber bird or something?”

“Nope.” Bumblebee grumbled as he squared his shoulders and took stock of their surroundings. “Get out your gun because if I’m not mistaken… that’s Predaking.” He plucked his own out of his subspace.

“Oh come on!” Smokescreen threw one arm up in frustration before he hurried the little dust-bot inside. “Stay, keep cleaning.” He pointed inside the doorway and then pulled out his gun. “Shouldn’t we call for backup?”

“No time. Predaking’s too fast for that.” Bumblebee was right, as soon as Smokescreen had returned to his side and primed his weapon, Predaking transformed and landed gracefully on what remained of the building to their right. He rolled both his shoulders before looking up at both of them impassively.

Bumblebee stepped to the side to cover the doorway with his body.

“I believe…” Predaking shifted his stance before he jumped to the ground, arms crossed, “that we need to have a talk about sparklings.”

Chapter Text

Apparently the closer a mech was to a newspark, the heavier the air around them felt. Normally that would mean an oncoming storm, a desperate search for shelter, but this… this was different. The heaviness seemed to lift Predaking instead of drown him, and he’d felt the lightness of it as he flew below the cloud of sparks as they hung in the atmosphere. He’d felt a few of then reach out, their unmanaged fields brushing against him in flight. Had Predaking been a lesser mech, he’d have reached back.

But he was not a lesser mech, and he had important business to attend to.

He’d landed on top of a ruined structure after sniffing the Autobots out, and now he was watching the two of them bristle their plating at him in warning. How cute these little mechs were to think he’d ever feel threatened by them, but the hostility was taken into account none the less.

“I believe…” Predaking shifted his stance before he jumped to the ground, arms crossed, “that we need to have a talk about sparklings.” Bumblebee held his blaster steady as he aimed it at Predaking’s spark.

“We’re not going to talk about anything, you’re going to fly away and leave us alone. I mean yeah you helped us out big time with Unicron, but we don’t owe you for it.” Smokescreen snapped, but Predaking could see the slight tremble in his hands.

“I want to know that your Autobot hatchery will be fit enough to sustain future predacons.” Predaking flicked his glance between the two of them and settled on Bumblebee. Not once had he flinched away, and he’d kept his demeanor similar to the last time they’d spoken. Were he to get his answers, it would be from this one.

“What are you talking about?” Smokescreen asked. “I thought you guys were stuck with cloning, isn’t that why you let Shockwave run off with you? You need your mad scientist for life, not sparklings.”

Predaking scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Shockwave is invaluable to the future of my race, this is true. Now more so than ever in fact, considering the oncoming…” he paused to look up at the sky, “storm. I appreciate that word for the future weight it’s going to hold. ” He looked back and saw Smokescreen squint at him. “Be that as it may, he is not the only means by which my race will continue. I want to know if the future predacon sparklings will fit.”

Bumblebee tilted his head. “You think there are going to be predacon sparks?” He asked, the grip on his blaster loosening.

“I know there will be.” He watched, eyeing the blaster in Smokescreen’s hand. “And if you feel you are unfit to care for them without prejudice, you are to hand them over to me.”

“Why would we give you any newsparks?” Bumblebee lowered his arm, but didn’t release his gun. “You don’t exactly have anywhere to keep them.”

“Oh, and you do?” Predaking asked, feeling a burn of something flicker in his belly. “I have Shockwave working on a hatchery of my own, but until then I want to speak about this one. All I see is a single building, is that where the newsparks are raised? If that’s the building than replenishing the Cybertronian race will take far longer than expected. That shell holds what, a dozen sparks at most?” He waited as the two glanced at one another, then behind them.

“They don’t stay there.” Smokescreen said, as if reaffirming it.

“No, there’s no way.” Bumblebee shook his head, but looked doubtfull.

Predaking blinked at them both. “Are you… are you telling me you don’t know?” Both mechs turned to him and seemed to deflate. “How do you not know? I understand my lapse and need for knowledge, having been brought back with limited input, but you two have had far longer than I to learn.”

“Yeah, about that.” Bumblebee muttered. “We were forged in the middle of the war, and Smokey was in stasis lock for most of it,” he seemed to flinch at his own admittance, “we barely know the basics. Ratchet’s the one who tells us all this stuff. I mean we can tell you what we know, but we’re still learning ourselves.” Beside him, Smokescreen elbowed his hip.

“Tell him everything about us why don’t you.” With a heavy sigh, Predaking ruffled his plating before letting it settle. He was talking to people who might know even less than he did about this, and he was a clone who only had vague memories and a few scattered datapads.

“If the two of you are ill fit to supply me with the answers to my questions, then I want you to take me to Ratchet.” He demanded. “This is a conversation that deserves answers, and if I cannot get them from the two of you, I’ll get them from someone who knows what they’re talking about.”

Smokescreen’s optics narrowed suspiciously. “Then go talk to Shockwave, Ratchet’s busy.” Bumblebee made a hiccupping sound and laughed, elbowing his friend back.

“Ratchet just left, sorry Predaking.” Bumblebee offered a weak smile and then turned a look toward Smokescreen. “No idea when he’ll be back, but if you give us a comm line or something we can let you know?” He shrugged as Smokescreen nodded.

“I’m not giving you my comm line.” Predaking conveyed the slightest hint of a growl in his throat.

Bumblebee flinched, his optics darting toward the building behind him once more. He seemed to communicate to Smokescreen via comms, watching his friend droop. Smokescreen groaned before trudging off toward the door. Cycling his vents, Bumblebee rubbed the arm he still had nestled in his sling.

“To be honest with you, I’m not sure when Ratchet will be back. He’s got it into his head that…” He looked away slowly, his entire face seeming to frown, “look, he doesn’t know when he’ll be back and neither do we. Shockwave probably has more answers for you than both of us combined.” Predaking sighed in resignation.

He came out here to talk, and since these two didn’t have the answers he needed…

“Ratchet said he wanted us to get back to home base once we were finished cleaning up here… do you want to join us?” Bumblebee looked uncertain, watching as the predacon took a step back and looked toward the sky.

“No need, I’ll find Ratchet myself.” Unfolding his arms, Predaking transformed and kicked off the ground. Dust littered after him in his wake, and he scanned the roads ahead.

He was going to have his answers one way or another.

Chapter Text

Curtail knew stations like these like the back of his servo. They were simple light directories, no buttons, just your basic touch screen. They clacked when his claws tapped their edges or when a section of the screen needed to be amplified. They took coordinates well, via a simple wave or wireless transfer, and the whole console light up and blinked. He’d been staring at it for a while, waiting for something to do other than ready the space bridge for the Autobots return.

Could be worse though, he could have had a job he wasn’t even suited for. Being an intelligence officer in this new world had a few perks, but none as grand as the ones he’d had when he’d worked with Soundwave.

Oh how he missed that sassy faucet hose. No one had quite made him laugh as much as he had, D8 not included.

Perhaps now that the war was over he’d have time to look for his Commander once again, perhaps he’d actually find him. He’d tried so hard to write up a petition the instant he’d realized Soundwave had gone missing through the bridge, but the war had…

The war had left so many numb to too many losses. There was every chance his Commander was dead in space or slit in two across the universe. Had he not been trying to stay alive so vehemently, he’d have grieved. He knew Megatron would have done the same, probably was now if he was honest with himself.

But war wasn’t a time to grieve, and this peace was so new and alien to him that he was too tired to try. Greif was for mech’s who had futures set in stone, not mechs who had to download their memory cores every night in case of bodily destruction.

Clones and Drones didn’t get the luxury of proper mourning.

Cycling his vents, Curtail rubbed one optic and flicked his claws over the screen. The idle hum flickered away as the communications hub came to life. Requests flickered across the screen, small comm traffic an underlining wave on the radar of colors. No new orders had come in, and his shift would be over soon, but he couldn’t help but listen in when he had nothing else to do.

While aboard the Nemisis he had been tasked with monitor duty on more than one occasion. As boring as it could be, there were times when Soundwave would jack into personal comms and share with the rest of the room, thus inspiring those under his command to be extremely petty. Let it never be said that a communications officer wasn’t one to eat up a rumor or gossip, it was their job to spy on people after all.

Looking around, he made sure that the area was clear before tapping a port on his wrist and extending a thin cable that he plugged in beneath the monitors screen. His orders weren’t to spy, but old habits died as hard as front liners.

He wasn’t even meant to have one of these cables, but Soundwave had favorites and wasn’t as lifeless as everyone assumed. This was far above his pay grade, but for old times sake he might as well listen in to what was going on in the ranks and over the Autobot comms. Silly mechs were getting sloppy, leaving their channels unlocked. He slipped in to Wheeljack’s line.

:‘She’s going to lose her mind! Frag it, I’m loosing my mind!’:

:‘Jackie I’m standing like a ped away from you, you’ve been hugging me for what feels like a joor, just use your voice.’:

:‘Are you kidding me? With a Con standing right there!’:

:‘A Con in stasis cuffs asking to look me over because he‘s a medic. I get being cautious but, oh frag this.:’

Curtail switched frequencies, already bored of the elated conversation. He tapped on Bumblebee’s icon.

:‘Can you get a hold of Ratchet?’:

:‘No, I think he turned his comms off, or at least set them to busy. He’s not responding to any of my pings.’:

:‘Scrap. What do we do?:’

:‘Well don’t look at me, you’re the calm one! Just talk to him!:’

:‘I am definitely not as calm as I look, trust me. Predaking is standing in front of us and asking questions we don’t have the answers to. Normally I have time to think things through, or ask for advice.:’

Curtail snorted as he thought of all the times Predaking had been anywhere near him. The mech was certainly intimidating enough to leave one weak in the knees. Or maybe that had something to do with him being stupidly attractive, even D8X321 had admitted the slagger was as hot as a smelting pit.

:‘Look, just head back inside, keep your blaster close and get ready to send out an emergency ping if I shout.’:

:‘Are you kidding me? I’m not leaving you out here all by yourself!’:

:‘Smokescreen, please, don’t argue, Optimus said-:’

Curtail didn’t stick around to find out what the Autobots newly dead leader would have said. That was too fresh a wound for those mechs, and he didn’t want to listen to the raw emotion over their lines. Flicking through the feeds, he saw Klik sending near frantic pings to TurnTrack.

:‘I’m telling you there’s something down the hallway from my suite! I know I joke a lot but this kind of slag, but this is freaking me out!:’

:‘Then go check it out! Bring somebody with you if you’re so scared. I am welding right now, I don’t have time for games. Just open the door-:’

:‘That’s just it Track! There is no door down there! That section was medically sealed and quarantined, the entire wall was put over the alcove! Knock Out saw to it personally.:’

:‘Then tell him about it!’:

:‘Why is it every time I try to be serious with you, you pull this fire out of your crankshaft!’:

Ahh yes, the old trouble in paradise couple.

:‘Look, were I not elbow deep in weld lines-’:

:‘Did you set this up to get back at me for missing date night?’:

Curtail snorted and leaned over his monitor, a grin hidden under his mask. These two were so much fun, he’d never get tired of them.

:‘What? No! Klik, sweet soft loving spark of mine.:’

:‘Frag off.’:

:‘I swear on my current body that I have not set up anything down the hall from your suite. In fact, the last time I was down there was when everyone was paying homage to Big Boss, you were with me.’:

Curtail flinched and yanked out of the comm call, feeling his engine tremble and roar. Twice in one day to be reminded of Breakdown was far too many. That wasn’t a conversation he wanted to hear, it wasn’t a conversation he even wanted to remember. Desperate to get his mind off of Breakdown’s corpse set up in the alcove, painted fresh with golden ceremony lines, he flicked through several old comm lines that were open but not in use.

He snatched up his Commanders old line and clung to the soft static, the familiar buzzing of being on perpetual hold when in actuality it was just the undertone that Soundwave set for all his calls.

The comfort was enough to make him shake as he gripped the edges of the terminal. After several long vents, his engine relaxed and he was able to steady himself. This was nothing new, this was work, this was relaxing, this he knew.

:‘ID: 874H61. Codename: Curtail. Sending updated data burst report in zipped file, password protected.’: He sent along the same packet of updates he’d been sending ever since Soundwave had gone missing, and then closed both his optics. :‘Boss… where are you?’:

The static played.

And played.

And played.

Curtail let go of the monitor, ready to rip his cable out and check the bridge status.

‘Here.’

He nearly jumped out of his armor, looking around and standing at full attention at the sound of his commanders prerecorded voice. Looking around he saw nothing, and looking back to the monitor he saw no indication that any sound had slipped out through the comm line. Honing in, Curtail maximized the sound volume, replayed the last several minutes over and over again.

There was no imagining that voice, he’d heard Soundwave! But… from where?

The monitor interrupted his search and pinged at him with a request for a bridge portal. Wheeljack and Knock Out must be ready to come back.

With shaking fingers, he went to press the sequence to start up the bridge.

‘Two.’

Curtail screamed in alarm as he finished the sequence, Soundwave’s voice right in his audial. His hands seemed to move on their own, or maybe it was years of following orders, years of knowing the tone of that voice.

He drew up the Autobots bridge controls and slapped a second bridge behind the first. Watching with an erratic spark. His optics widened as he watched the bridge brighten, flash white, and then both collapsed.

Everything went silent.

Another ping popped up, a proper request from Earth this time. Shaking, Curtain opened the portal and watched as Wheeljack, Knock Out, and Cliffjumper walked through. They were smiling and chatting it up, unaware of the last few seconds.

“Curtail? Are you alright, you look like you’ve seen a-” Knock Out was cut off as a loud bang like an engine backfiring caused all three of the mechs on the ramp to jump away and cover their helms.

But Curtail couldn’t move. He watched above the three mechs as his Commander’s altmode flew out of the bridge and into the opposite direction, unseen to anyone but him.

Chapter Text

The room was littered with mementos, the only lights that weren’t his own a row of half shattered emergency liners inside the floor. Breakdown didn’t recognize this room, but he recognized the things in it. He knew the hand painted murals, the weaved wire baskets, he knew everything around him was traditional for a memorial and had been crafted by his friends. His body had been laid center stage and surrounded by these tokens of devotion, but he didn’t know how they got there.

Last he remembered he had been swinging his fist at that vile femme as she’d run away from him. He’d been mid motion when the memory cut out, half a word snapping in his memory banks before everything went black.

He’d never been a religious mech before death, the only real religion he deemed worthy would have been the kind he paid to his conjux in the privacy of their berth. Breakdown had wanted to say that there was an afterlife he could remember, some semblance of peace to convey to others whenever he got out of this situation, but he didn’t remember that. Breakdown had known he was dead, but there was no warm glow of Primus or the cold bitterness of Unicron. He’d died, acknowledged his death, and floated in a sea of darkness and fear, but that was neither here nor there.

Right now he was doing his best not to panic. And honestly, his best wasn’t really cutting it.

Breakdown had done his best to try and break the walls down around him, but every time he moved he felt weaker and weaker. His vocalizer was disconnected somehow, wires too thin for his thick fingers to reconnect. No matter how much he tried to scream, nothing had come out. There was something wrong with his spark, or maybe his frame was simply trying to rebel since it hadn’t been online in… however long. Cycling his vents, Breakdown closed his remaining optic and pulled his knees to his chest as he slumped to the floor. He drove his thoughts inward, seeking comfort in his bond and in the bright fire that was Knock Out.

When he’d first woken up in the room he’d been horrified, thinking his sparkmate was lost to him, but then Knock Out had bloomed in his chest and he’d been able to stop shaking. Now he sought comfort in the only thing he knew that would keep him calm.

Knock Out sent nothing but love down his end, and Breakdown could almost feel the mech nuzzling his helm beneath his chin. He could feel the phantom ghost of Knock Out’s fingers curling into his own, his lip plates pressing gentle kisses along his cheeks. Soon Knock Out would find him and everything would go back to normal, they’d be hunting down Autobots and patching up drones in no time.

Speaking of drones…

Breakdown reached down and plucked up one of the many trinkets that had surrounded him upon his waking. He took his time running his fingers over the curved metals and shallow engravings, memorizing every detail he could. All he wanted to do was get his mind off his churning tanks and the slow, terrified creep of darkness as the emergency lights dimmed. Soon they’d plunge him into a darkness that he knew would remind him far too much of a death he couldn’t entirely remember.

When his vents stuttered he reached out and punched the nearest wall, the shaking that rattled through his plating kicking his fans back on. There was nothing wrong with fear, but that didn’t stop him from buckling under it.

Chapter Text

With the revival of Cybertron came the revival of the mines, the ores blooming beneath the surface and metals curling over the eons of damage. Flora and Fauna awoke around the world along side it, twitching and alive as they fought their way through the metal of the soil. By the time Megatron found the familiar shelter of his adolescence, he’d wanted to do nothing but sleep on the ground and never wake up. He pressed his back to the inner wall and slid to the floor, breathing in the smell of the cave before its corruption. Letting out a long vent, he pressed a hand to his chest as a vine crept through the ground and curled around his ankle.

There was the itching of a bond he’d severed so long ago that shouldn’t have been there, a bond that had left him empty and reeling upon its end. With his optics closed, Megatron let himself remember every mistake he’d made, every wrong he’d done in the name of justice. He thought about how his ideals had twisted into something vile somewhere along the line, how he’d turned vile. This wasn’t what he’d wanted when he’d started his revolution, and yet here he was drowning in his own failings.

What atrocity had led him to this? Which wrong turn was the one that he fell too far to save himself from?

Megatron felt a tightness in his throat and he reached up, fingers pressed to the cables there. He wouldn’t cry, he was a Warlord. A revolutionary. A Leader of the oppressed.

But that wasn’t true anymore, not after millions of years. Now all that was left of Megatron was a Tyrant King, a selfish murderer. In his quest for change he’d done nothing but turn into what he’d hated most, and only now could he see it. Why had it taken so long for him to realize he’d ruined himself and the planet he’d thought he could fix?

After everything he’d been through he was left barren and alone in the mines he’d clawed so hard to get out of. Megatron had gone from everything to nothing, and every ill he’d cast unto others turned sour in his throat as it tightened more. He didn’t even have anyone beside him at this end, he’d waste away in all but history right here on the floor of his start.

The hours passed by silently, save the sounds of the planet awakening around him and his own eventual sobs. He fought them at first, as he fought everything these days, but eventually they broke him with enough force to buckle his legs to his chest, face hidden between his knees. The tears felt right, but he felt wrong. This wasn’t him, he hadn’t cried in all of his life, and here he was sobbing near uncontrollably in the eyes of only Primus.

By the time he’d gathered himself, the sun had started to set against the curve of the world. What little warmth had bathed him was beginning to trickle away and be replaced by the soft caress of a breeze he’d longed for in youth. Wiping his face off, Megatron turned toward the sunset and watched as the light was blanketed by the ruin of Cybertron.

Leaning against the wall, Megatron closed his eyes and soaked up the warmth he could before the world would be plunged into night. He realized that he was hungry, that crying that hard and that long must have drained his reserves.

The fact he’d maintained anything after that entire debacle astounded him.

All around him, grass blades shot up and rustled in the wind, snap dragons chirping happily to one another. There was the soft trot of a deer padding through the new grass, stumbling here and there on new growth before it stilled to eat. Megatron tracked that deer for what felt like years, just listening to it trotting and snuffling about the dirt. He was startled to hear another set of footsteps approach, and he opened his eyes to see a figure he’d thought lost to him.

Pushing himself to his feet, he stumbled toward the mouth of the cave and startled the deer. One of his hands braced against the wall of the cave and was nipped by a nearby snap dragon.

Across the valley, Soundwave walked toward him, something held in his arms. He was haloed by the sunset, his colors reduced to blacks by the glare, but his silhouette unmistakable. As he crested the hill, his mask flipped up, a scarred face revealed with a smile.

In his arms, something, no, someone stretched and flicked their tail at him. Megatron’s breath caught in his throat as Ravage lifted his head from the crook of Soundwave’s arms.

“How?” He asked, stumbling forward. “I watched… we both confirmed…” Words left him as he reached out. Ravage leaned over, head butting the underside of his palm as Soundwave hummed. His throat lit up, a recording readied and prepped, but the light dimmed as he smiled.

He opened his mouth, voice scratchy and unnatural. “We have… so much to talk about.” Soundwave said as he let Ravage jump from his arms. Megatron felt his legs threaten to buckle under the sound of his friends voice, and he didn’t even stop himself from throwing his arms around Soundwave in a hug.

To which his closest friend returned, his grip tight as he rested his helm against Megatron’s shoulder. Ravage huffed at the both of them, but weaved between their legs, his peds standing gently on Megatron’s own before he stalked off into the distance.

“I thought you were dead.” Megatron whispered, optics closed.

“Go out together,” Soundwave muttered, “or we don’t go out at all.” Megatron couldn’t help but laugh as he pulled back and began to examine Soundwave piece by piece. He took stock of every injury, every scratch, and he turned toward the cave.

Ravage was sitting in the entrance, the deer dead and lifeless at his peds as he preened himself. Vain little scrap, even resurrected from death. Megatron sighed, then felt Soundwave’s hand on his cheek, turning him away.

“Other symbiotes out there,” his slender fingers waved to the expanse of Cybertron, “Laserbeak already looking for brother.” He paused, almost cautious. “Request…” Soundwave trailed off, and Megatron took his hand and squeezed it.

“We’ll find them.” It was the least he could do at this stage. After everything he’d put his friend through, the death of his symbiotes, the war, not fighting hard enough to look for him after his disappearance. Megatron had so much to make up for, and the fact Soundwave was still willing to stand next to him after everything…

This was more than he deserved.

“Refuel, necessary soon.” Soundwave muttered as he looked toward the cave. “This place, base of operations?” He pointed at the cave, at the way Ravage was dragging the deer inside. Megatron shook his head no, not liking the taste of that word any longer.

“No, my friend,” he gave Soundwave’s back a hearty pat, “I think it’s time we left bases behind us and went home.” Soundwave smiled and pulled his mask down, the lights flicking on as he began scanning the area. Megatron followed after him, feeling a small bit of tension ease in his spark.

He wouldn’t die alone after all.

Chapter Text

When Predaking finally caught the medics scent, the sun was dipping out of sight on the horizon. The moon had crested over the ruins and was hanging heavy behind the clouds, the lights of the waiting sparks an open hum in the air. Predaking hunted him down easily enough, finding Ratchet standing on the edge of the Well of Allsparks with a bottle in one hand, gesturing wildly with the other. From his spot hovering in the sky, Predaking could almost hear what Ratchet was shouting as he pointed accusingly at the opening of the Well. Whoever or whatever he was talking to seemed to be upsetting him, so Predaking approached with caution.

He made himself known by flying a full circle around the Well before he landed next to the mech, transforming and standing tall. Best not to scare Ratchet into tumbling over the edge like his dearly departed after all.

Before he could even open his mouth though, Ratchet cut in.

“Don’t get a spark bond.” He lifted his bottle to the air before taking a hefty swig. When he pulled the bottle away, he corked it and shoved it into his subspace. “They aren’t worth it.”

Predaking paused, mid step, then let his foot fall as he raised an eyebrow ridge.

“No, you don’t want to ask.” Ratchet stated before he sat on the edge of the Well. He looked sad, and sad mechs were harder to get answers out of. Resisting the urge to sigh heavily, Predaking sat a respectable distance away from Ratchet and stared off into the sunset. He wasn’t sure what to bring up first, or if he should even bother asking why the mech was sitting slumped out here by himself.

The silence didn’t feel as awkward as he’d expected it to.

Ratchet was the one to break it, one hand settling over his spark. “I thought for sure Optimus would be here, waiting for me.” He admitted. Predaking hummed, not knowing how to respond to that. “When the Well burst open, I… I lost him for a few kliks. I felt him vanish, or maybe I didn’t? I’m a little over charged, but you can’t really blame me.”

Predaking could, but he wouldn’t. He didn’t know what was going on to begin with, but he couldn’t blame a grieving man his vice.

“He’s not here though, so I’ll have to look tomorrow.” Ratchet muttered before he turned to Predaking and offered a smile that could only be described as bedside manner. “Right, what can I do for you?”

Finally feeling it was proper to speak, Predaking nodded. “As you know, there are sparks in the sky and sparks in the hatcheries your mech are tending to. I plan on starting my own hatcheries, seeing as there are predacons waiting and calling to me. I need to know that your mech will be capable and willing to care for them, otherwise I demand they be transferred into my care.”

Ratchet blinked.

“I will not stand idly by while my kind are mistreated.” Predaking growled and watched as a smile tilted at the corner of Ratchet’s mouth.

“Yeah, I’ll be happy to take care of them if my friends can’t, and if they get to be too much then we’ll bring them to you. Anything else?” The way he was smiling was unnerving.

“Yes. Where do you keep the newsparks when they have hatched? Certainly the hatchery itself isn’t sufficient enough to keep growing protoforms once they are large enough to walk.” Predaking watched as Ratchet stood and stretched.

“Nursery,” he said around a yawn, “once a newspark hatches they’re taken to a nursery, then home with a carrier or sire once their primary upgrades have settled in.”

Predaking stood as well, arms crossed. “And you have these nurseries set up? I take it your other mechs know how to take care of newsparks, seeing as the ones I met at the hatcheries were clueless.”

Smiling, Ratchet began to walk away from the Well and toward the road. “I’ve got it covered, don’t worry bout any of that.” Suddenly his knees buckled and he wobbled in place. “Oh… that’s not… supposed to happen.”

“You’re overcharged, what do you expect?” Predaking sighed and rolled his shoulders, ready to transform.

“I’m not that overcharged though, something’s…” Ratchet stopped, looking straight to the sky. “Do you hear that?” Predaking looked up, not seeing anything out of the ordinary save the sparks flying around them.

“No, what am I meant to be-” There was a loud thud, and Predaking looked over to see Ratchet collapsed on the ground. His optics were white and dull, his fingers twitching as he trembled against the top plates. Despite his better judgment, Predaking rushed over, hesitant to reach out and touch. Ratchet was mumbling something though, repeating the same words over and over again, so Predaking bent over to hear him.

“Alive but not yours, yours but not alive.”

Chapter Text

Cliffjumper slowly pulled his arms away from his helm when the smoke cleared, and beside him Knock Out grunted. By the Slagmaker, he hadn’t been around an explosion like that since he’d last seen-

“What the frag was that?” Wheeljack shouted as he stood up. Right, Wheeljack was with him, not galaxies away being a Wrecker. Sighing, Cliffjumper looked around the area and watched as Knock Out hurried over to the drone manning the terminal.

“You tell me Jackie, you’re the one who likes to make scrap explode.” Cliffjumper called back, watching Knock Out check the drone over even though his hands were still cuffed.

“Well yeah, but not around a bridge! Nasty slag could happen, you know that.” Wheeljack rubbed at his arm, then looked over to Knock Out as well. “Besides, I’m pretty sure Arcee would kill me if I brought you back missing an arm or something.” He walked closer and looked back at the bridge. “Status report?”

The drone trembled, trying to babble something quietly to Knock Out. It was clearly distressed and trying to be helpful, but Cliffjumper kept having to turn his battle protocols off on the instinct to just shoot it. Knock Out hushed them, hands moving slowly as he reminded the drone to vent so he didn’t overheat and pass out.

“Oh no, we can wait.” Cliffjumper muttered, arms crossed as Knock Out rolled his optics.

“We can, I’m in no rush.” Wheeljack said with a smirk.

“I sort of am.” Cliffjumper flicked his friend in the shoulder. “I’ve got a conjux to get back to after all.” He shrugged and tried not to smile.

“I need to get Curtail to a medical bay, one of you has to take these cuffs off. If you really want me to be an Autobot, let me do my job and tend to the wounded.” Knock Out said as he rattled his wrists. Glancing over at Wheeljack, Cliffjumper bit his lip and shrugged.

Wheeljack groaned and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “You know I can’t leave you by yourself, Primus just come here.” He pulled something out of his subspace. Wheeljack now thoroughly distracted, Cliffjumper took a moment to look back at the space bridge. Despite the smoke that still rose into the distance and the burnt scorch mark blotting the walkway, the bridge seemed completely stable. There were no crackles of energy along the ring, no electrical hum coming from the bridge itself, everything appeared normal.

Which fed into Cliffjumper’s suspicion that something definitely was not normal. Had the drone not freaked out enough to babble and hiccup as much as he had, Cliff would have assumed it had caused the malfunction. But the way that drone had looked…

He hadn’t been expecting it, he couldn’t have planned something like that without a tell. Not being a drone at least, drones always had tells.

“There, tend to your patient while we walk, I want to get a good distance away from the bridge. Curtail was it, call in your replacement.” Wheeljack waited by the terminal, poking gingerly at the access panel. He let the drone mutter into his comm link. When Curtail looked up and nodded, cradling one arm to his chassi, Wheeljack waved them toward the front with Knock Out. The two huddled close together, whispering heatedly to one another before Cliffjumper growled at them.

“Hey, Jackie might trust you two, but I don’t. You speak where I can hear you or you don’t speak at all. None of that secretive planning nonsense.” He poked Knock Out in the back of the shoulder and listened to the affronted noise of distress.

“Watch the paint you heathen.” Knock Out said it offhanded, then turned back to Curtail. “As I was saying, how is the connection in your arm to your primary access, do you think the cable line has eroded due to overheat? You told me your range of motion feels… wrong?” Cliffjumper tuned him out and looked toward Wheeljack, already walking and tapping his comm.

Wheeljack frowned and poked harder at the side of his helm, then cursed under his breath. “Feedback must have killed the comms. How’s yours?” He asked as he thunked his palm against the side of his helm.

Tapping his own comm line, he listened to the dull static. Switching to various channels, he realized that the static was ever present, the piece itself had shorted out.

“Mine’s down too, if self repair doesn’t fix it by the time we get to base we’ll just have Ratchet look over it.” Cliffjumper looked at Knock Out, suddenly nervous. “I mean, he’s still alive and kicking, right? We‘ve just got the Decepticon’s war medic as a prisoner, right?”

Wheeljack made a sound Cliffjumper could only describe as a chortle. “Right!” He patted his friends back. “I have a lot to fill you in on.”

“Yes you slagging do.”

Chapter Text

“No, what? I’m an Autobot, I’ve done a lot for the universe.” Tailgate rubbed at his badge nervously. “Why would I be a Decepticon, I’m just… retired military.”

“Thank you for your… service?” The receptionist bit her lower lip and cringed. Tailgate tried not to groan at her behind the protective glass. She’d just pulled her screen up and turned it around so he could see it, he could feel her nervous EM field flittering in and out. “I just… umm, I need you to confirm that the information is correct.” He let his elbow drop onto the table between them and started scrolling through.

“The death date is wrong.” He muttered as he tapped the glass where the information sat.

“Oh! Right, because you’re… you’re not dead.” The mech turned the screen. “We get so many M.I.A.’s coming through here that we just label them as… after a certain… while.” She quickly started typing, her optics brightening in embarrassment. Tailgate could hear the sound of her engine roaring and he almost felt bad for her… almost.

All he wanted to do was get his credit open and buy a transport ship to Arcee’s location. The bank was making a big stink because he was technically classified as dead, but wow look at that, standing tall before them. He only slightly remembered being brutally murdered.

“Is this everything?” She asked as she turned the screen again. Tailgate nodded and let out a sigh.

“Yeah, it’s all in order.” He offered a tired smile. There was still so much to do before he could be home in Arcee’s arms. Wherever that was.

“Alright, here’s your new account information.” She pushed a data cable through the small slot at the bottom of the window. Tailgate hooked it into his wrist port for a quick transfer and closed his optics. “And there we go. If we can help you with anything else just let us know.” He unhooked the cable as soon as the download was complete.

“Yeah, sure. You have a good day.” He stood up after setting the cable down and turned toward the door.

“I… avoid the North Docks, try not to… tell anyone that you’re an Autobot.” She said, hand clutched to her chest. “You shouldn’t have told me, do you have any idea how deep in you are here?”

Tailgate paused, hand hovering over the door panel. “I thought this was neutral space.” He watched as the clerk flinched.

“Yeah… neutral.” She quickly pulled the shutter behind the glass down and seemingly disappeared into the back.

Tailgate turned around and opened the door.

Alright, he’d have to buy a blaster, ammo, energon, and then a transport ship. Maybe not so retired.

Chapter Text

Ratchet was floating, that was the only way to describe it. His spark was wrapped up in the warmth of Optimus’ own light, and he could feel Optimus humming to him as he lay there. Something was strange about the apparent bliss he was in, but he couldn’t really be bothered to try and figure it out.

‘You’ve been asleep far too long.’ Optimus whispered, hands petting at his helm.

Still, he laid there in that comfort. To wake would mean to face a reality just on the edge of his mind, waking would mean realizing something wasn’t true. Or something wasn’t real? He didn’t really understand it, but something told him deep down in his coding that waking up would be a bad idea.

‘But you should anyway. You’ve been walking around in a dream for years, so tired. All you’ve had to do is rest, and I feel terrible that I have to take that rest away from you now.’ Optimus sighed, the tips of his fingers tracing over Ratchet’s lips.

Something was wrong. Speaking in riddles wasn’t something Optimus really did. He was horrible at riddles.

‘I still am darling.’

True, very true. But why was Optimus talking in circles to begin with, he wasn’t one to lead someone on a wild goose chase… alright that wasn’t entirely true either.

Optimus’ laughter echoed through every inch of his plating.

‘I cannot speak with my own tongue at this time, it’s closed and resting quietly. I can only speak through the waters of birth.’

What the frag?

‘They are eternal, quiet, they have not spoken in eons. They only know the old ways, the old scripts and hymns sung on throats as dry as space itself. Riddles are the closest to my spark for they are all it knows. Not all of them are meant to make sense.’

Ratchet tried to reach out, to touch the hands caressing his helm without opening his optics.

‘That will wake you.’

Ratchet’s hands fell into the soft comfort of nothingness.

“Where… are you?” His voice sounded broken, as if bits of his vocalizer were fried in his throat.

‘I am where I am. While I remain I am safe, but I want you to find me and make me unsafe. I need to be unsafe. I am alive but not yours, I am yours but not alive. When you find me I will wake up.’

That didn’t make any slagging sense!

‘You’ll find me, I know you will. I am blooming.’

Ratchet was about to open his mouth to ask another question when he felt something punch through his chassi like lightening. His optics opened and sensation ripped through him like blaster fire as he screamed silently.

Knock Out stood over him, defibrillators coiled out from his chest as his hands shook. When they locked optics he dropped them, the metal snapping back into his chest as the light from his spark was covered once again. He dropped onto a stool and covered his face.

“Oh praise Primus above!” Smokescreen’s voice was beside him, and Ratchet turned his helm as he felt his body map out the contours of the medical berth.

“Thank you, thank you so much.” Bumblebee’s voice was shaken, but Ratchet couldn’t see him from this position. “If you hadn’t flown him here…”

“There aren’t many medical Cybertronians left in this universe, it would be a tragic moment to lose one of two on this planet.” Predaking muttered, and he sounded both regal and awkward all at once.

“He’s alright!” Smokescreen shouted toward the door, his hand reaching out to loop his fingers with Ratchet’s.

He could see the state of him, every minor fracture of stress dissolving as he steadied himself against Ratchet’s fingers. He opened his mouth, his throat dry, and attempted to speak.

“Stop,” Knock Out snapped, “you’ve shorted out your voice box. I can fix it if you don’t speak, but any more words might make the damage irreversible.” Ratchet saw how he didn’t move from his stool on the other side of the room. What in the pit had happened?

Wheeljack walked in through the doorway shaking, Cliffjumper trailing behind him and clutching his chest. When they saw Ratchet awake on the berth they nearly collapsed into one another.

“You have to stop being old, okay?” Smokescreen muttered. “I can’t…” He didn’t finish, just pushed his face into the space on the berth. Ratchet was pretty sure he was going to say ‘I can’t loose anyone else,’ but he was glad Smokescreen didn’t voice it. Instead he let himself relax on the berth, accessing the damage and rerouting power for his internal repair.

His systems had been overcharged by… well, he wasn’t sure. Something internal inside of him had just exploded with energy, and the echoing waves of it had thrown him into…

Holy slag maker he’d had a seizure. No wonder Smokescreen told him he needed to stop being old, he probably thought his age had caused this.

With great effort, Ratchet turned his helm again and attempted to lift his hand. Knock Out huffed at him, but understood when Ratchet crooked a finger toward him.

“Yes, I know, you probably want your voice box fixed now, but you’ll have to wait for a few minutes. I… I overexerted myself, my spark’s running too hot right now.” There was a noise behind Knock Out that sounded horrified. “What? No, Curtail I’m fine. I just need to cool off for a few minutes.” Knock Out pointed at his vents and revved his engine. Suddenly Ratchet heard all the ambient sounds around him fall into place, and the room seemed far noisier than it had a few seconds ago.

From Smokescreen’s tears, to Bumblebee’s sniffling, right down to Cliffjumper’s scared intakes. Wheeljack and Predaking remained quiet, but there was an odd tension to them both, as if they were too scared to move. There was also the sound of someone puttering about just out of view behind Knock Out.

“Just… fix him up, get him stable.” Wheeljack said. “Then we’ll… we’ll go looking for your conjux, yeah?” Knock Out looked up, a haughty smirk on him.

“Yeah, then who’s taking Cliffjumper to meet his conjux?” There was a nervous look in his optics as he said it.

“No one, she’s on her way here.” Cliffjumper’s voice was a sound Ratchet had almost forgotten. He had to try not to choke back tears as he forced himself to turn his helm and reach out with his other hand. Everything on him hurt, but it was worth it when Cliffjumper hurried over and looped their fingers together. “Hey, hey take it easy. We’re all pretty shaken up right now old man, don’t do anything reckless and hurt yourself again.”

Ratchet would have laughed had he the working components to do so.

Cliffjumper was alive.

And if he was alive… who else was out there?

Chapter Text

Arcee watched as D8X321 flew down the hallway, their field frantic as they called out to ‘Curtail.’ As she walked, she gripped the wall for support and pushed through her pain. She refused to sit in that stupid chair for another klik longer. She wasn’t going to wait around for someone else to help her when she could just as easily help herself. Bulkhead was down the hall in the doorway, whispering with Wheeljack as she got closer. She let out a sigh and tried to stretch her leg , maybe take another step forward, but her body was in full protest of that. Injury wasn’t meant to be this debilitating, but here it was screwing her over. She was a scout, one of the elite, she could walk anything off!

As long as Ratchet was there to pick up the pieces…

Slag, had they really almost lost him? Was it some sort of elaborate ruse pulled by Knock Out to trick them into thinking he was needed? Was… was Ratchet really just that old?

Staring at her feet, she ignored the footsteps walking toward her in favor of trying to sort through her thoughts. She didn’t want to talk to Bulkhead right now. What she wanted was to see Ratchet, to see Cliffjumper. The last thing she wanted was to be stuck in that stupid hover chair again on some doctors orders.

“What the frag are you doing on your feet?” A familiar voice shouted. Arcee looked up in time to see a red set of arms wrap around her and scoop her off the floor. A warm, familiar presence filled her and she gasped. “You’re supposed to be resting, you told me you had a concussion.” Cliffjumper muttered against her shoulder.

For a few seconds all she could feel was numb. Her mind had tricked her into a fantasy, this couldn’t really be happening, could it?

But then she felt the warmth of Cliffjumper’s vents on her torso and she went limp in his arms. She was shaking from head to ped, and soon strength bloomed in her as she threw her arms around Cliffjumper’s neck. She pulled him closer, optics shut tight as she thrust her EM Field at him and felt the barrage of his own hit her back. The bond in her chest that branched toward Cliffjumper was on fire as it settled into a proper place, and all she could do was cling.

Her claws scrambled against his back as she tried to pull him closer.

Image be damned, she didn’t care if Unicron himself saw her blubbering like a newspark. She clung tight to her conjux and listened to his laugh, to the way he vented, to the hum of his engine. He was crying to, she could feel it on her shoulders, and after what felt like a lifetime Arcee pulled back just enough so she could touch her forehead to Cliffjumper’s.

His smile was infectious as his optics looked her over.

“You look like shit.” Cliffjumper whispered.

“You used an Earth term.” Arcee countered. “You know I hate those.” But she was smiling anyway. How could she not be? Cliffjumper was here in her arms, he was alive, she wasn’t crazy!

“I know, that’s why I used it.” Cliffjumper lifted one hand, cupping it against Arcee’s cheek as he wiped away her tears with his thumb. “I’m so sorry I didn’t wait for you in the desert, I should have waited. I was so stupid, you always told me it would get me killed. I should have... I never meant to hurt you like that. I should have been smarter and remembered Tailgate but I...” He trailed off as he watched Arcee shake her head.

“Just shut up and kiss me you giant idiot.” Arcee used both her hands to grab Cliffjumper’s face and pull him close.

His lips were just as chapped as she remembered them, his body under her fingers just as warm and as scarred. Cliffjumper hoisted her higher with one arm, propping her up against his chest as he moved with the kiss. They were slow about it, gentle brushes against one another as if they were scared the other would shatter under their touch.

Behind them, someone coughed awkwardly.

“As happy as I am that you two are reunited,” Ratchet’s voice was scratchier than normal, “could you maybe not overload in my hallway? I have to walk through here.” Cliffjumper pulled back with a laugh.

“You shouldn’t be walking.” Knock Out shouted from deeper in the medbay.

“I’ve got him, I told you that!” Bumblebee shouted from right beside Ratchet. “We’re taking him to the recovery room you suggested.” Arcee leaned over Cliffjumper’s shoulder and saw both Smokescreen and Bumblebee holding Ratchet up. One of Bumblebee’s arms was in a splint.

“You better make sure he stays there!” Knock Out sounded exhausted, and there was a small clatter and a rush of worried voices. “I’m fine, just dizzy.”

As Ratchet was dragged along the hall, he rolled his optics and shot Arcee a knowing look. “Recovery room three is empty and unlocked.” He winked at her. She could see it took real effort to pull that off.

“Please don’t be gross.” She muttered even as Cliffjumper turned and started walking toward the Recovery room. “Get some energon in him!”

As Cliffjumper rounded on the door, another couple stepped out of the medbay arm in arm. D8X321 was pressed close to the side of a grounder drone, the two of them nuzzling their helms together. Arcee gave a halfhearted wave.

“Arcee!” D8X321 returned the wave and bumped his helm against the other drone’s. “I take it that’s Cliffjumper? Hi again Cliffjumper.” Cliff looked back and nodded, a confused but genuine smile on his face. “Right, Arcee, this is my conjux, Curtail. Curtail, that’s Arcee.”

“I know who she is, D8, she’s been shooting at me for years.” Curtail’s voice was full of mirth even as he was being ushered passed.

“I know that, it’s called being polite.” D8X321 muttered. “Anyway, we’ll be back, comm me if you need anything!” He didn’t look back as he hauled Curtail by the arm that wasn’t in the sling toward the entrance.

Cliffjumper grunted in triumph suddenly. “Finally, stupid thing was stuck.” He set Arcee down on her peds and walked into the room. “Don’t move, everything needs to be perfect first.”

“Cliff I don’t really care if-”

“No no, you deserve it to be perfect.” And then he started clearing out the clutter before he’d let her inside. Arcee watched him work, watched how meticulous he was as he cleaned off the berth and floor, how he turned on the vents and waved away the dust in the air.

She felt the warm nudge of Tailgate in her chest and sent her own warmth back. She flipped through old, long forgotten comm lines and sent him a ping. After a few minutes she got a very static laced reply.

:‘Hey, reception is slag all, can’t stay long, what’s going on over there?’:

She smiled. :‘Cliffjumper is back, though I’m pretty sure you felt that. I’m also pretty sure he’s about to send a lot of emotions down the bond line, so I suggest you find somewhere private to bunk down for a bit.’:

:‘Good thing I already bought a shuttle. Don’t let him wear you out too much, I’d like you to be conscious when I get there.’:

Arcee snorted and laughed, and Cliffjumper looked up.

“What was that for?” He asked, a fresh berth cover in his hands.

“Tailgate says don’t wear me out before he gets here.” She told him with a smirk.

“Oh yeah, well you tell him no promises.” Cliffjumper tossed the sheet onto the berth and held out a hand. “There, finished. Now you can come here.”

With another smirk, Arcee entered the room. :‘He said no promises.’:

:‘Tell him I’ll bite him right on the spike if he doesn’t listen to me.’: Tailgate’s line crackled loudly.

:‘Tell him yourself.’: She sent the proper channel request along the line and then shut it off as Cliffjumper closed the door.

Chapter Text

Tailgate finally opened his optics and stared at the ceiling of his shuttle, small crackling lines of overload still trickling through his plating. He was panting as he let his spike go and wiped his hand off on the berth cover, the thrum of the bond slowly easing back into his chest. Everything felt just this side of fuzzy, but at least he wasn’t stuck writhing in pleasure anymore. Not that he’d minded, but he did still need to be somewhere.

:‘You alright?’: Cliffjumper’s voice was warm in the static, but genuinely curious.

:‘Yeah just... got stuck in a feedback loop for a bit.’: Tailgate let himself tremble as he bit his lip. :‘Did you...?’: He trailed off, hoping he got his point across.

:‘Yeah, did you?’:

:‘Like you wouldn’t believe. Or I mean, I guess you could. You were there, sort of.’: Tailgate couldn’t help but laugh. :‘Did she?’:

This time Cliffjumper laughed. :‘More than once. I’m making her recharge, do you... do you want to stay up and... I don’t know, talk?’:

With a smile, Tailgate forced himself to his feet and braced a hand against the shuttle wall. He fought his way to the Captain’s chair and eased himself into it. He needed a wash, but the shuttle only had the sink.

:‘Yeah, while I still have connection I want to get to know you.’: Tailgate started tapping out coordinates. :‘Tell me how you and Arcee met.’:

Chapter Text

D8X321 and Curtail ran out of the building arm in arm. They entered the streets with great amounts of glee, finally free from prying optics. The Nemisis loomed, sitting idle in the distance, but it still had that air of home that only force of habit could enlist. Curtail knew that it was a warship, knew that it was, currently, Autobot property, but he also knew he had been formed within those walls. Much as he wanted to leave, The Nemisis was his first home, possibly his only, and he didn't know what he was going to do moving forward.

They flew in silence, but it wasn't uncomfortable. D8X321 knew his partner, knew that sometimes Curtail needed the quiet of his company more than the sweetness of his voice. Being plugged in as often as he was, Curtail had explained that sometimes he needed to hear nothingness instead of endless chatter.

Today though, Curtail was tenser than normal and longing for the chatter, but unable to connect to anything. Curtail had a hope that D8X421 assumed it was all the stress and would let him bring it forth on his own time. After all, how do you tell your loved one you brought a ghost back from the dead? As distracted as he was, second nature and years of war kicked in and he let his senses explore the world around him. Now he was on high alert, but it was familiar ground at least.

And as soon as they stepped foot on the Nemisis, Curtail knew something was wrong. Beside him, D8X321 stopped mid-step and flicked his wings up in question. Curtail shook his head, hands rubbing over his arms as sensory warnings pinged along his HUD. Strange energy levels, too many sparkbeats.

“What's wrong?”

“I... I don't know.” He admitted as he looked around. “Something doesn't feel right, I'm getting all sorts of alerts.” He shook his head. “The faster we can get our stuff and get out of here, the better.”

There was a hum from deep within D8X321's chest. “Do we have anywhere to go yet?” He asked, wings drooping as they walked hand in hand down the entrance corridor.

“Well, not yet, but I know that Knock Out will find us a place. And if he doesn't, then my comman-” Curtail cut himself off and stopped at a crossroads. D8X321 nearly tripped over his own two feet when he was yanked back by Curtail's hand. “Do you hear that?”

“Hmm? Hear what?” D8X321 strained his audios and shrugged. “Curtail come on, our room is right-”

A loud thump came from down the hall and echoed along the walls. Curtail turned a glare at D8X321 and crossed his arms. “That. I told you my alerts were going off.” He began marching down the hallway, hurrying toward the noise. D8X321 groaned but followed, ever the devout conjux.

“This is supposed to be peace time, you shouldn't even have those activated.” D8X321 watched as Curtail ignored him in favor of sleuthing out the noises origin.

The two followed the sound down a twisting hallway, then froze when they came to a wall they knew all too well. There were memorial lights flickering along the floor leading to the hastily erected monument. Glyphs circled the wall with a name, a rank, and a devotion written in a shaking hand. A holographic still of Breakdown sat dead center against it all, his smile sweet and caught mid-laugh.

Just looking at it made Curtail's tank roil.

“We... we shouldn't be down here.” D8X321 whispered. “You know how I feel about this place, it's really fragged up.” Curtail reached out, squeezing D8X321's hand.

“This is... this is where it's coming from though, the sound.” He took a step forward, hand reaching out toward the memorial lights. “Do you think... with everyone else coming back?”

“Curtail, don't, he's-” Another, heavier thump echoed behind the wall. D8X321's breath caught in his throat. One more thump, this time hard enough to shake the wall. “Boss?” D8X321 whispered before he and Curtail scrambled to press themselves against the wall. “Boss! Boss is that you?” Hope bubbled up between them both.

The thumping was weaker, but insistent.

Primus lift me into your arms.” D8X321's fingers slid over the weld lines. “I need a torch, a saw, anything!”

“Busy.” Curtail held a hand to his comm link.

“What the frag is more important than this! He's in there!” D8X321 shouted. “We have to get him out! We're going to get you out, hold on Boss! We're here now!” The last was shouted at the wall, D8X321's fist slamming against the metal.

Curtail shook. “Knock Out, I need you to... give him back his comm line this is fragging important!” Curtail shouted. “Wake him up, I don't care! … I don't give the underside of Unicron's unwashed spike who you are, we found him! We found Boss!” Tears were welling up beneath Curtail's visor.

“Hey, hey calm down. If you lose it now you'll be no help when we get him out.” D8X321 whispered, a shaking hand outstretched to rub at Curtail's shoulder. His conjux smiled and turned back to his comm link.

“Boss... what do you mean 'who,' I mean Big Boss! Who else-oh, right you're an Autobot. Breakdown. We found Knock Out's conjux, get him to the Nemisis. I'm pretty sure if you just tell him Nemisis, he'll know. We're outside the Memorial.” Curtail scowled. “Primus who shoved a-”

D8X321 snatched Curtail's hand away from his comm link and shut it off manually. “You're loosing your temper.”

“I have every right to! First Soundwave and now this?” Curtail snapped. D8X321 stared at him, waiting for the punchline to the joke, but Curtail had frozen, tense and panicked all of a sudden. “I didn't-you heard nothing come out of my mouth!” His optics started to brighten.

D8X321 sighed and reached up to cup his conjux's cheek. “No, please don't panic on me, I need you here right now. Just give me a few more kliks of your time, then you can run off and hide in our berthroom, okay?” He closed his optics and leaned forward, forehead pressed to Curtail's. “You don't have to talk about it now, but later I want to hear about this. Right now we're focusing on Breakdown though, not... not whatever else you said. Okay? We can pretend it didn't happen.” He waited, feeling the small tremble coil up Curtail's arms as he pet him.

“I... yeah. I'll... do a scan, see if he's hurt. See what I need to get so we have it on hand when the wall comes down.” Curtail nodded, grounding himself with each new word.

“That's my roadie.” D8X321 teased.

“Shut up.”

“They found Breakdown.”

Knock Out couldn't remember how he got there, but he stood at the base of the memorial with a laser saw and pushed into the weld line. His entire chest felt like it was on fire, and behind him a small group of drones had gathered despite the Autobot's protesting it. They had set up a small triage camp, any and all medical supplies at Knock Out's disposal for when Breakdown got out. And he would be getting out.

“Where are those energon bags I ordered?” Someone shouted behind him. “I thought you said you knew where everything was, you lot live here! How am I supposed to help if none of you will listen to me?”

“You shouldn't be on your feet!” Someone else shouted back.

The wall started to heat and curl, the groan a near physical weight on Knock Out's audios. Ropes slipped in beside him, and when the last weld popped, Knock Out jumped back as the drones pulled the wall forward. The metal came crashing down with a deafening shriek, and Knock Out was over the mess before it had even finished bouncing.

Breakdown was laying there, half propped against the wall, hands outstretched when Knock Out dove at him. His arms were around Breakdown's neck before his conjux could even get out a word. In return, Breakdown's arms were familiar and heavy when they wrapped around him, pulling him impossibly closer as Knock Out hid his face in Breakdown's plating.

There was no need for words. Breakdown probably couldn't have spoken even if he tried. Knock Out refused to open his optics as he listened to the groan of Breakdown's overtaxed engine and felt his fingers tighten on his waist. He'd need to let him go soon, there was no denying he needed major reconstructive surgery, but he just...

Knock Out needed to feel him under his hands, feel the pulse of his spark pressed against his chest and helm. Breakdown had been his worst decision, he never should have gotten attached... and yet.

There wasn't a mech in the entire universe that Knock Out loved more.

Chapter Text

The sun was setting as Predaking landed in front of his throne with a loud thump, optics closed as he let the last of the warmth bathe his wings. It wasn't long before the sound of familiar crooning caught his attention. Darksteel was climbing up the steps, paws light against the ground but head bowed low in respect.

“I take it you've had a productive day?” Predaking asked as he transformed to his root mode and stretched his arms above his head. Darksteel nodded, wincing as bits of his kibble wobbled. “What happened?” Predaking strode over and ran a finger over the affected kibble, hearing the pained whine. He watched as Darksteel snuffled but let Predaking fiddle with his metal.

“We were getting supplies and the building we were in collapsed on us.” Darksteel muttered, thoroughly embarrassed. “We weren't even rough housing, it just fell, a lot of the buildings around here just fall.”

Predaking held in a sigh. “Oh, and where is Skylynx?” He reached down to realign a piece of Darksteel's plating.

“Downstairs with Shockwave in the hatchery.” Darksteel yelped as the plating snapped into place. Predaking hushed him, a soothing hand down his back between his wings. “He had us welding boxes together after we got back, then putting up a glass shield over the hatchery so the weather wouldn't...” Darksteel flinched away from Predaking's hands as he reached for another piece of misaligned plating. Predaking only had to growl before Darksteel was bowing his head.

“Wouldn't affect the newsparks I take it?” He asked before snapping the plating into place. Darksteel roared, claws scraping across the ground. Predaking waited him out until he nodded, then let his engine purr against Darksteel's side. “All better, did you already tend to Skylynx?”

“Ugh, he wouldn't let me.” Darksteel pouted. “One of his wings dislocated and he said he didn't trust me to put it back right the first time, so he had Shockwave do it.” His paws crossed and he stared at the floor. “Then Shockwave made me dig up a bunch of mulch because I kept laughing at the splint he's making Skylynx wear. How come I got punished for that?” His helm kibble drooped as he pouted.

Predaking tried very hard not to roll his optics. “Come on, let's go look at the hatchery. If things are going well then we can begin to make plans for the nursery.” Darksteel perked up at that, obviously excited at the prospect of anything to do with the bitlets.

“I'll lead the way.” He said, kibble around his horns twitching with excitement as he turned toward the stairs. “Shockwave has been working really hard on this, I didn't think anything would drag him away from cloning.”

Predaking huffed but smiled. “Whatever furthers our goals.”

Two floors below the throne where the Predacons spent most of their time preening and soaking up the sun, Shockwave had taken over. What had once been a greeting room for Vosian dignitaries who wished to impress upon the seekers under Megatron's rule was now turning into a combined nursery/hatchery. With a welding gun and re-purposed and re-fabricated materials, Shockwave had gotten Darksteel and Skylynx to expand upon the already obnoxious balcony and support it better against the side of the building.

The glass roof curved down and over, casting a windshield over the edge of the railing while still leaving gaps for fresh air to float up. The support beams that held it in place also crossed the ceiling, leaving plenty of space to hang the hatchery boxes for any future flight capable newsparks that wished to settle there. Only four beds hung there, but there was plenty of room to add more should his efforts come to fruition.

There was only one ground bed, set dead center of the four, and Skylynx was sitting in front of it tending to the mulch and budding newspark. Only one had nestled into the mulch so far, and Skylynx, despite his avid protest, had fallen deeply in love with it the second it began to glow. He and Darksteel had actually stopped bickering to croon and purr at the palm sized egg as it formed atop the mulch, and they hadn't been back to bickering since.

Shockwave left him there with a watering can and strict instructions, then turned his attention instead to the inside of the building.

One of the walls had to be completely replaced, another fixed with new glass, and Predaking had been gone long enough that Shockwave had easily cleaned up the mess before his creation arrived back. Currently he was working on sectioning off the room for the nursery berths. There was white tape all across the floor where he planned on building.

That was how Predaking found him, knelt on the floor with a roll of tape as he measured out the last corner of the room and typed up a list of materials he'd need for tomorrow.

“Shockwave.” Predaking's voice was surprised. “You've outdone yourself. This must have exhausted you.”

Except exhaustion was reserved for those who didn't have internal battery reserves.

“I was given a task I saw worthy of my time, so I set forth with it in hopes of finishing with time to return to my other projects.” He didn't stand up to properly greet Predaking, but he did nod his helm. There was only the last few feet he had to map out after all, and that took president over bowing and posturing.

“Skylynx still hasn't shown his face.” Predaking didn't call him out on his inattentiveness. Instead he focused on the missing member of his flock, optics narrowing. Shockwave couldn't fault him for that, he'd programmed his Predacons with an instinct for loyalty.

“He has bonded with a newspark, his attention is justly diverted.” Shockwave said before he ran his hand over the floor. “He is out on the balcony, tending the eggs. I believe a few more have settled since your arrival.” He didn't need to be a genius to hear the excitement in both Predaking and Darksteel's footsteps as they hurried toward the fogged glass doors that separated the nursery from the hatchery. His creations may have been grown adults in their full maturity, but they still had young sparks.

Young ones always had soft spots for newsparks.

Shockwave pressed more tape to the floor and let his processor recalculate the last corner.

Fourteen eggs. Fourteen future bitlets, and that was only so far. There could be more in the following days. Predaking stood in front of one of the hanging beds and felt his spark clench in his chest. They were all so small, he could have easily cradled two of them in a palm of his hand and had room to spare. They had so much growing to do, but they thrummed with such a strong energy that he felt it down to the tips of his wings.

Skylynx had 'bonded,' as Ratchet had called it, to the spark in the ground bed, and he'd not left its side since. Only pure instinct had made him show the courtesy of greetings owed to his King, but with bitlets involved Predaking didn't feel a punishment deserved. After all, who would have thought Skylynx of all mecha would have shared his spark and become a future carrier. Darksteel was seething with jealousy, but also brimming with delight over the prospect of caring for any number of little ones.

The datapad that held the care instructions sat heavy in Predaking's subspace as he stared at the little thrumming lights in the mulch. He could do this, they all could, but something about it was... oddly thrilling. Newsparks were small when born this way, at least that's what he'd been told. They didn't pop out and slide into fully formed frames, they grew their own plating and struts and expanded as they got older.

His flock now had to watch where they walked for fear of stepping on roaming bodies, sooth aches from metal growing too fast, chase away jumbled flux dreams when the little ones woke up screaming.

How were the three of them supposed to handle fourteen little bodies that wanted constant attention? Predaking could barely keep the two grown adults in his flock in line, how was he supposed to rule over fourteen more that could barely comprehend?

Would Shockwave help? That still only left four mecha to care for fourteen, maybe even more.

He wouldn't call it fear, he didn't feel fear, but... trepidation might be a word to describe his current emotional upheaval.

Oh, but how did they start out so small? They had to get bigger than this before they hatched... didn't they?