Chapter 1: Promising Horizons
Specific Section Warnings: Snarky Starscream, Silly Skywarp, and Thoughtful Thundercracker.
From The Twisted Minds Of: Dellykins & Chi Shiro
Verse: G1 AU
Series: Unintended (flag ship story)
Warnings: Mech-preg, Character Death, Violence, Spark-sex, H/C, Angst, Dub-con.
Pairings: Megatron/Skywarp/Starscream/Thundercracker/, Later Jazz/Prowl/Thundercracker, Ensemble.
Disclaimer: We don’t own.
Thundercracker curled up on the berth. He was tired all the time now, but it was to be expected. The little spark currently attached to his own was a massive energy siphon in comparison to its size. He wasn’t going to complain, though. He already loved it. The whole trine did.
Skywarp touched his chest-plates and warbled in seeker cant, pressing his cheek against the warm, living metal. The purple seeker hummed a Vosnian lullaby, one any flier would instantly recognize. It might be awhile before this little one could soar through the towers of their home city-state, but it would know the culture long before hand. Thundercracker could honestly say he had never seen Skywarp so happy, so content.
Starscream sat across the room, working at his desk on some project or another. Thundercracker could tell he was trying his best not to look their way. To focus on the data-pad in his hands, plans for tomorrow’s raid no doubt. He was obviously loosing this internal struggle, and Thundercracker could not help but smile softly as he heard his Star begin to hum softly along with Warp.
His Star, his trine-mate since they were tiny seekerlets. And his Warp, who came a little later but was never loved any less because of it. Soon there would be a tiny mechling trotting after them, making their family absolutely perfect and wonderfully complete.
Well, perhaps not absolutely perfect. There was one dark cloud on the horizon of his daydreams. A certain gray, ground-bound mech that Scree seemed to have an interest, bordering on obsession, in. If he were human he would liken the other to the drunk uncle who shows up on Thanksgiving and ruins the festivities for everyone. And he could very easily ruin these happy plans he was making for the future. Very, very easily ruin them.
“Scree...have you told him yet?” Thundercracker finally asked, feeling fretful about the situation. Fretful and more than a little bit scared.
“Mighty Megatron does not know yet, but it’s not like old bucket-head will do anything to harm the newspark. Our leader would not risk having his invitation in here revoked, he would not even think about harming one of us out of that fear.” Starscream snorted. He clearly felt insulted that Thundercracker would ask such a thing.
Thundercracker pulled a face, nowhere near as convinced of his leader’s volatile temper as his mate was. His tone carried all the worry and exasperation he felt at the situation, “Scree...”
“Well, it is the truth.” Starscream said, his usual haughty tone not wavering for a klik.
Thundercracker watched him for a long moment, and sighed inside. There was no use in arguing with Scree when he was certain of something. He had only met one other mech as stubborn and thick plated as his trine leader, and that was Megatron. Primus help them all.
The sparkling pulsed gently against his own spark, its presence warm and golden across the bond. It already loved him; flooding him with feelings of calm, soothing him, assuring its carrier that all would be alright as long as it was well. Thundercracker could feel it tug on the trine bond through its creation bond, trying to send equal amounts of love to Warp and Star. It loved all of them in a way he had not know was possible for grown mechs to feel, let alone half-formed newsparks.
Starscream watched him back, the snark and sass that made up his normal look melting away as he rose from his seat and crossed the space between them. He touched Thundercracker’s chest plates, his digits twining with Skywarp’s.
“Stop worrying so much, TeeCee.” Skywarp said, “It’s not good for the sparklet.”
Starscream sighed, a pensive look gracing his features. He did not want to have this conversation right now, to risk upsetting his carrying trine-mate, but it was something they needed to talk about, “He has been pushing for a greater commitment than what we have already given him.”
Thundercracker knew exactly who the he Starscream was referring to was and could not help but frown on the inside. Megatron again. It was always Megatron these days. If he was being honest, it had always been Megatron ever since a certain purple glitch-head (thank you, Skywarp) gave Star an arena holo-vid for his creation cycle so very many vorns ago.
“It is something to think on, Thundercracker. He could help us protect the newspark better than we could on our own.” Star said it in that infuriating way of his, like he was stating a fact his trine-mate should have already known. The Terran sky was blue. There were hammerhead sharks patrolling the waters surrounding the Nemesis. Megatron, and his deadly fusion canon, could better protect their newspark than the three of them on their own.
“You know how I feel about that.” Thundercracker said quietly, refusing to meet Starscream’s optics.
“I know,” Starscream ex-vented a sigh, pressing on. “But...it could be to our benefit.”
“Or he could slag you up worse than he already does,” Thundercracker frowned. Tumultuous did not even begin to describe Megatron and Starscream’s relationship. It left Thundercracker with a processor ache every time he tried to understand it. Why his prince, his trine leader, his bond-mate , would put up with such a thing had always been beyond him. He might have been an exceptional specimen of a ground-pounder, but he was still just that. Only a grounder, always beneath even the lowliest flier. Certainly not a fitting berth-mate for the Vosnian prince.
“It’s not that bad,” Skywarp chimed in. He then wisely snapped his mouth shut as a glare from both trine-mates was shot his way.
Starscream climbed onto the berth with them, wrapping his arms around Thundercracker so the blue seeker was safely cocooned between himself and Warp. He tried to send pulses down the bond; love, want, understanding, acknowledgement of Thundercracker’s feelings tinted with reasoning as to why they were unwarranted.
“Scree...” Thundercracker held on to him tightly, his tone thoughtful. He did not want to ask this, but he had to know. “About Megatron...are you really serious about him being... That is to say... Is this just another grab for power? Honestly?”
The silence seemed to stretch out for an eternity and a day. Finally Starscream found it in him to answer. “I like him well enough. He is far more eloquent than any uneducated, ground-bound, Kaonite pit-fighter has the right to be.”
Warp giggled triumphantly, “So you do like him! I knew it! I’ve been saying it for vorns and you’re always ‘Oh no, he’s just a good face. It means nothing. Why would I lower myself to liking him?’ when it’s been as plain as the nasal ridge on your face plates that you have a thing for him. Confession, as the squishies say, is good for the spark.”
“Fraggit! Yes, Warp, I,” the red and white seeker spit the words out as if he was a human toddler and they were cod liver oil, “...like him. Luckily for me, his bucket-headed helm is too thick to realize it. And you are never to tell him I expressed such sentiments about liking him beyond his usefulness to us.” Starscream hissed.
Thundercracker could only roll his optics at that. It was plain to anyone who had visual sensors that Star mooned like a love sick calf if he had to be separated from Megatron for more then a few cycles. He had no doubt the Autobots already erroneously assumed the two were an old bonded couple. Luckily, they had not seemed to factor Warp and himself into this equation. He took enough flack from those pit spawned front-liners without them asking him the same questions they taunted Scree with.
He ducked as both pillows and playful insults started flying. His trine-mates were nothing if not immature. Still, he could not help but smile. These were the sires of his newspark; he was sure they had both contributed to the coding, and he would love them even if they were the biggest pair of glitch-heads this side of Cybertron. Which they were, at times, so that was convenient for them.
“You know, if we do bond with him Scree....he will know you like him.” Skywarp smirked, lobbing a pillow at Starscream to add injury to the alleged insult. The other seeker made an indignant squawking noise not unlike a domestic chicken. Skywarp laughed at that, making loud kissing sounds. Kissing wasn’t something their kind had done prior to exposure to organic culture. It was a pleasant enough thing, but far too emotional an act for the average Decepticon. The fact Starscream and Megatron routinely engaged in it was a never ceasing source of amusement for Skywarp and he never missed an opportunity to rub it in.
Thundercracker smiled softly, snuggling deeper into the berth until he found a place that would protect him from errant pillows but where he could still watch the show. Such were the joys of his life.
Chapter 2: And We All Fall Down
Chapter Specific Warning: Plot Progression of the "TC gets fucked over" kind.
It happened so quickly that Thundercracker could not process it, not at first. There was pain, and then there was screaming. Dully he realized the noise was coming from his own vocal processor. A long and painful keen. He hurt. The world was moving like it was stuck in slow motion. It played over and over in his mind. An endless loop of searing pain. It felt like a flux. Like waking up covered in condensation from a half remembered nightmare.
He had always been told by his creators that right before you deactivated memories of your life would pass through your processor. His carrier had told him it was Primus weighing your good deeds against the bad to make an informed decision on whether to send you to the Well or the Pit. He had laughed right along with Scree, and told the mech that he was far too old for such newspark tales. But now he could not help but squeeze his optics shut and let the images come; unbidden, unwanted, but there none the less...
The young seeker hurried through the palace halls. It was never a good idea to keep the prince waiting, even if they were pledged as trine-mates. Star had comm’d him to tell him he had found something important today, that it would change their lives, and that he had better arrive no later then half past the 14th joor of the current cycle. He was precariously close to being late. And if he was late Star was like as not to use him to calibrate his newest null rays.
They had been together since they were bitlets, he and the prince. The first two-thirds of their trine had been an arrangement between creators, made before they were even sparked, but Thundercracker loved his Star more than anything. He could not have loved him any more if he had picked him out on his own accord. Even with all his snark, sass, and temper he made Thundercracker’s spark trill in happiness. It was his sincere hope lightening would strike twice when their creators found a third wing for them, one that the two groups of creators could mutually agree on.
So far Thundercracker's creators had pushed for a golden mech, the offspring of a family friend, to round out the royal trine. He was powerful but far too religious for Starscream's secular leaning creators. It was one thing to acknowledge Primus. It was something else entirely to live your life in fear he would strike you down for the smallest transgressions. All it had taken were the words "agent of Primus' wise and glorious judgement" to get that mech taken off the table.
Starscream's creators had offered no better, so far. Their main push had been a mumble-y mech with day-glo green coloring, the likes of which made your optics want to shatter. He was in advanced tutoring lessons with Star and came from a respectable enough family; but his fighting skills were near useless, his abilities as an elite seeker were weak, and when they had tried to fly formation with him he kept tripping Starscream up and had been well outpaced by Thundercracker. And, no, he was not getting that backward. Needless to say, he was not going to work out.
He stopped in his tracks when he arrived, shocked to find another seeker near to their age sitting on the berth with Starscream. The two of them looked up when Thundercracker entered, eagerness and expectation written in their optics.
“His name is Skywarp. I found him while I was out today.” Starscream rushed out, his tone excited in ways that could either mean something wonderful or pure trouble for all around him.
“I thought I found you!” The purple and black seeker chirped around the rust stick in his mouth. He poked Scree quizzically. Not to be outdone, Scree poked him back. Poke. Poke. Poke. Poke.
Thundercracker smiled indulgently. He already liked this one. Most were far too timid to attempt to correct Star on anything, and here this slip of a seeker was poking him. “I think you found each other, from the look of it.”
“Does that mean we found you, too?” The one called Skywarp giggled. His was a laugh that promised a lifetime of amusement, adventure, and the occasional prank.
Thundercracker felt his lip components stretching even wider. "Perhaps. Perhaps. What is he doing here, Star? Not that I'm not pleased to see him, but do your creators know you brought a lower class seekerlet home for a play-date? Do his creators even know he's with you?"
They answered him in unison, making Thundercracker want to smile and frown all at the same time.
"He's our new trine-mate!"
"I don't have creators."
Thundercracker's processor spun, and he promptly found himself seated on the floor of Star's chamber. Star was quick to his thrusters to come to him, rubbing his wings in soothing circles. The purple and black seeker still seated on the berth looked vaguely uncomfortable, like he didn't know what to do.
Starscream's optics flickered in annoyance as he gestured for the other seeker to join them. "Warp, come on, it's trine time. You need to help me massage TeeCee's wings."
Skywarp gave one last faint shrug... and disappeared with a soft pop of displaced air. Thundercracker barely had time to register the sight, or lack of sight, before he felt pressure near him. The air split and another pop, this one slightly louder, occurred to his left. He felt the second set of hands on his wings but still found it hard to believe the seekerlet was really there when he turned his head to look at him. Skywarp's grin broadened impossibly when he noticed the befuddled look on Thundercracker's face.
"He... he... he teleports!"
"Yup!" Their apparent third wing looked more and more pleased with himself with each passing klik.
"...And he's really going to be our trine-mate? Really? Both sets of creators said yes?"
Starscream gave him a look that clearly said he was being silly. "Of course they said yes. We found each other down by the edges of the main market. I felt something calling to my spark. As soon as I spotted him I knew it was him I was looking for. But before I could call out to him he warped over to me! I brought him home, showed him to my creators, who showed him to your creators, who both declared he was exactly what they wanted for us. Do you feel it, TeeCee? Do you feel the trill in your spark?"
"Yes." Thundercracker had felt it the moment he had gotten near the suite. The pull of something bigger, older, deeper than himself. He felt it locking into place even now, their energy fields mingling and forming a preliminary trine bond without them commanding it. It was like finding a piece of himself he didn't even know had been missing. "Yes, oh yes. I feel it."
Thundercracker shook uncontrollably, his spark pulsing madly in its casing for a moment as it attempted to deal with the whiplash of the bond breaking. It sent him reeling. The newspark pulsed in time with him, fear and pain shooting through their creation bond. He could not think beyond the sensations pouring through both of them. He was back in the past again...
Thundercracker had looked doubtfully at Starscream as the prince was followed into their rooms by a menacing looking ground-pounder. Thundercracker was not convinced of the situation entirely, prior to this meeting he had not met the gladiator and had only received information from Warp or heard fawning from Scree. He certainly was not sure of this one’s worthiness, to command so much of his trine leader's attention. But he was all Starscream seemed to think about lately. How wonderful Megatron was. How amazing his ideas were. How they would revolutionize Cybertron. They would bring about peace, unite the classes, bring together the ground-bound and the flier. Starscream was obsessed with this cause. So was Warp for that matter. War builds like themselves being treated as individual mechs instead of dangerous exotic pets? The lower class actually being treated with respect and given a chance? How could they not want it? How could anyone who wasn't a snobby Autobot elite not want it?
Thundercracker understood it very well. Warp had come to them from the lower class, had lost his creators. Star had found him wandering the streets near the market, half starved and hoping to steal enough energon to make it one more cycle. It was a common enough story. Sad though it was, it was the way of things all over Cybertron. Starscream had promised them he would restructure the foundling centers, as a bonding present to them, once he became the new Vosnian ruler.
Starscream though, he had been raised a prince. He was THE Prince. He forgot it only when it was convenient. Such as now, when he was enamored with the gladiator. Oh, he pretended otherwise, but Thundercracker knew his games. Their prince might have been a mystery wrapped in an enigma to others, but he was as easy to read as a sparkling’s datapad to his trine-mates. Sooner or later he would be dragging the grounder to their berth.
This did nothing to ease Thundercracker's dislike of the hulking ground-bound. Or the growing dislike of the way he went about his cause. But he shut that part of his processor up for the sake of his trine. He simply pursed his lips components when he watched his prince kneel before the gladiator. He was horrified, let there be no mistake of that, but he tucked those feelings down deep inside his being where even Starscream would not notice them if he bothered to look.
Thundercracker could not help but worry that this one was something different. That by letting him in they were altering the course of things to come in such a way that it could never be set back. Starscream brought lovers home often enough, but it never lasted. A cycle or two and they were gone. This was painfully different though...
The others were not like Megatron. They were not larger than life gladiators. None of the others had his presence, strength, or charisma. Considering Starscream had taken shuttles to berth, this was saying something. And some part of Thundercracker worried that once the Gladiator was allowed in their berth he would not leave it again willingly. Thundercracker was even more terrified Starscream would not want him to.
He was falling.
The sky, his creator element, had abandoned him and the cruel ground gaped open to take him in. To bury him down deep where he could never taste the wind again. And the world just stopped for a moment...
Thundercracker watched them as they writhed about on the berth. Starscream arched and clung to Megatron as the larger mech pounded into him. The rough slide of an almost too large spike into a purposely too snug valve making Thundercracker both wince and wonder if there was a way to discretely wipe away the lubricant slipping past his still sealed panel. Either would be so very nice right now. His spike ached in its housing in remembrance of tight heat that grasped it and massaged so beautifully. And, as much as he loathed seeing Megatron in their berth, he could not help but admit the grounder knew how to play him. To play all three of them. They had been at this game long enough that he knew exactly how, where, and when to hit the right nodes inside him to light him up like liquid fire was running through his lines.
Scree was vocal tonight, but this was nothing new. He keened, cried out, and mewed; until Skywarp finally silenced him with a thigh on either side of his face plates. Star did not have to be asked, his glossa snaking out with practiced ease to lap along the rim of Warp's valve. The breathy noise the purple seeker made was cut short as Megatron felt the need to lean forward and capture his lips. No one would be surprised if Soundwave wasn't having a psychic snit several doors down from the arousal being broadcast so powerfully by the three of them.
Thundercracker was almost jealous of that attention. He wished his trine was with him, lavishing attention on him instead of the undeserving grounder. It was a thought best put out of his processor though. As tempting as Warp’s lips and Star's hips were, he wasn’t about to challenge Megatron for them in his condition.
Megatron was so distracted by the two seekers worshiping his body that he failed to notice that Thundercracker was not getting involved for once. The blue seeker was feeling far too fretful, too worried that Megatron would find out their secret before Starscream told their erstwhile leader, to put on a show for their leader that would double as a claim to anyone inside Vosnian culture. They might be sharing their bodies, but Star and Warp belonged only to him at spark. They had never opened their chests for the grounder, too high a chance the merge would forge a bond. But they willingly slid aside to welcome the touch of his spark to theirs.
One of the seekers in question moaned, throwing his head back and away from his berth mate as he overloaded. The raspy sound overshadowed by Megatron’s roar as the spasming sent him into his own climax. Thundercracker's own valve answered it with a needy clench as he felt the rush through their bond. Starscream smiled languidly, casting as much of a knowing look toward him as he could around Warp’s thigh, sated for the moment. It wouldn't last. The red and white was ravenous if he was nothing else, and would be begging for another round within breems. Pride be damned when there was interfacing to be had. If Megatron ever figured out how to mix overloads with command decisions the two of them would never fight again. Primus help Starscream.
Megatron turned his attention to Skywarp now, pulling the seeker to him with the intention of finishing what Star had started. The tyrant kissed him hungrily, like he was energon and it had been a long time since a proper refueling. He nipped at Skywarp’s lips, biting hard enough to draw purple drops. The seeker didn't seem to notice, but he rarely did notice any pain when he was this frenetic. Thundercracker halfway wondered if he would mind even if he did.
The blue mech forced himself to look away. He couldn’t watch any more, not this time. His tank lurched, only partially with worry, as he heard the sound of Skywarp's back hitting the berth followed by soft sucking noises he knew were being made by Megatron.
“Do you,” Thundercracker’s voice was icy, dead, as he finally came down completely from the memories. He was always the thoughtful one. The one that carefully considered every angle. No one but his trine would have been able to sense the rage bubbling under the surface as he motioned slowly between Skywarp and Starscream’s bodies, “have any idea what you have done?” His voice rose in pitch at the last four words. Several of his fellow Decepticons, including Soundwave, began to back away.
“I have disposed of a long time traitor, and an apparent traitor in the making.” Megatron's voice was calm and even, he watched the seeker with an indifference that said he could not see death staring him in the optics. Perhaps he couldn’t, few realized how truly dangerous Thundercracker could be if he so chose. If the gray mech was feeling any guilt over offlining his occasional berth mates he was doing a very good job of hiding it.
Thundercracker shook his head, that was really just too much for him, a keening sound coming from his vocalizer. “He was going to say yes, you bucket-of-bolts-for-brains! He urged us to open the bond to let you in... And this is... Oh, sweet, Primus, look at what you have done...” He fell to his knees, pulling the greying bodies to him frantically. It hurt so badly. Nothing had ever hurt so bad in his long life. He wanted to join them in that moment, and would have had the newspark not pulsed against his own spark mournfully. Faintly. So weak was its tug he worried for a moment that it would go out altogether. He blocked out his own pain to safeguard it. It couldn't gutter, Primus would surely not be so cruel, it was all he had left. It was the only thing left of Skywarp and Starscream in this mortal coil. With their home in the state it was in, this little ball of shared energy might be the only thing to prove mechs named Starscream and Skywarp ever existed outside his processor. He sent a wave of love and comfort along the creation bond and was answered in kind.
He hugged his trine-mates to him, afraid to let go. It just made it that much more real. Impossible to ignore the two gaping holes where the trine bond had been. He wondered again if he just should not end it. End the pain. The emptiness. At the same time he knew he couldn't. He owed it to them to give the new life a chance.
He tried to think of a quick plan. Something to tide him over until the newspark was safely detached. He couldn't stay on the Nemesis. He certainly couldn't stay near the bucket-headed slagger who killed the two things that mattered the most to him. There was too great a chance he would fly into a rage and get himself deactivated if he even attempted to stay near the other mech.
He looked back, the creature in question watching him with an unreadable expression. He didn’t want it anywhere near his newspark. It started talking again, most likely directed at him, but Thundercracker tuned it out.
He hugged the bodies to him tightly, unable to bear letting them go. This was not Vos before the war, where the honored dead would be placed in the Skycrypts located in the most beautiful mausoleums in the highest towers. He knew painfully well what would happen to them. As soon as he let them go they would be carted off to have their part cannibalized. But he knew he would have to soon. He would have to do something other than cradling them and keening.
He would go somewhere. Yes, that was it. Somewhere safe. Somewhere his fragile newspark could not be touched by temperamental grounders. His higher processor was still reeling, and he could not quite grasp where he should be going. Not yet. He could only see the scene of what happened playing in his head over and over like a bad flux. How? How had it come to this?
The catalyst, the raid, did not go as planned. Far from it. Nothing that day had gone well. Megatron had been angered at being left out of their quarters the previous evening. As a result he had done nothing but bark at Star the entire morning right up to the raid. They had then raided the power-plant, but the Autobots were there nearly immediately. The red and blue form of Prime had come into view so swiftly a part of Thundercracker wondered if he hadn't known they would be there and had been just lying in wait. The Decepticons had been routed back empty handed and, as per the usual routine, Megatron had laid the blame squarely on Starscream’s shoulder vents. Starscream, for his part, had not made things any better by taunting Megatron.
“You think yourself so powerful, mighty Megatron , yet you have been foiled once again by a handful of peace loving stooges. I do not know where in your glitched processor you ever got the idea you could provide adequately for a seeker trine. You certainly aren’t proving you could handle even a solitary seeker.” The raspy voice was painfully loud in the clearing they had landed in. There was no way to avoid hearing the insults.
Megatron, always quick to anger, had fired his cannon. This too was part of their dance. Starscream would be repaired, Megatron would meet him in the repair bay to apologize in his own way, and the “I’m sorry I maimed you” ‘facing would somehow end up back in their quarters.
Except this time it was different. The shot did not simply graze, it fired with enough power to kill. Starscream had gone down in an oddly beautiful heap, gone down and had not gotten back up. Thundercracker had watched, stunned and helpless as he felt the bond snap. He had been too paralyzed to do more than turn his head in confusion. Warp had not suffered the same malady, much to Thundercracker's dismay. The purple seeker flung himself at Megatron, screaming, enraged. Insensate in his grief. He could only watch, frozen, while Warp too was shot. Watch, and then scream from the fresh wash of pain as the second bond snapped fully. He could not stop screaming. Screaming until his vocal processor gave out, emitting only static. Then, to his intense dismay, he had gone painfully silent as the memory files began to play...
A small tug made him come back to himself, the newspark reminding him that it was there and that it was worried. For the first time since IT happened he started thinking. He hugged Starscream and Skywarp tightly to him for a moment longer. He couldn’t take them with him, not and hope to save himself and the newspark. He let them go suddenly and took to the air in one fluid motion. He took one hasty shot at Megatron before transforming fully, shooting off into the sky faster than he had ever flown in his life. He didn’t look back, knowing if he did he wouldn’t be able to leave.
Megatron watched him go, face plates devoid of emotion. The seeker’s blast had gone wide and he was physically unharmed. Externally he was in no worse shape than he had ever been. Internally... What had he done?
Chapter 3: Of Raindrops and Autobots
Section Specific Warning: Sunstreaker in the rain. Do you really need a better reason to worry?
Thundercracker flew blindly at first, his processor a muddled mess filled with the still fresh pain of the missing bond. Soon, though, he began to fly with purpose. There were precious few places he could go, both on this organic slag heap and Cybertron proper. Fewer still with a newspark on the way. He would need help, medical assistance, energon. He would need to find someone to donate the spark energy the newspark would have otherwise received from its sires. The spark energy it would need if it were to continue to grow into a healthy bitlet.
He made his way to the only place he knew to go for the moment, landing on the edge of the Autobots' territory. They were many things, and all flavors of ridiculous, but he had always heard they were as protective of newsparks as any seeker could ever be. He walked to avoid the attention of any Decepticon aerial patrols Megatron might have thought to send after him. Walked until he couldn't anymore, feeling too weak. Low fuel and the newspark's drain on his own spark energy left him exhausted to the point of collapse. He sat down on the cold, unfriendly ground and waited. A patrol would come through sooner or later. They were meticulous, the Autobots, and he was near enough to the Ark he was probably setting off their radar.
It turned out to be later rather than sooner. For once in his life Thundercracker was unhappy to not see Autobots. The seeker was not sure how long he had sat there, but at some point in time it had started raining. Almost as if this wretched planet had felt the need to add insult to injury. He was so engrossed in the feel of icy water slipping into his seams that he did not hear the rumbling of engines as they came upon him.
“Freeze, Decepti-creep.” The red minibot, Cliff something or other his processor provided unhelpfully, screeched. It leveled a blaster at him, growling like some organic canine.
Thundercracker watched him, his optics dull. He was not entirely convinced the yipping little thing was not some hallucination brought on by malfunction of his processor. Even if it turned out to be real, surely Prime would not allow one of his ‘Bots to shoot at a non-resisting mech.
“Fragging rain, it’s spotting up my fini--,” Sunstreaker looked up just in time to avoid nearly running into Cliffjumper. He didn't understand what had caused the annoying, red, mini-pest (the title of overall annoying red pest went to Sideswipe) to stall out in the middle of the road at first. He followed the path of the gun, his gaze moving to settle on Thundercracker.
“What the frag.” He scowled, not sure whether to be more cross about the rain, patrolling with Cliffjumper, or the fact they had run smack dab into one of the Decepticon birdies. OR THE MUD. Oh, Primus, how he hated mud. It was all over everything, seeping into his seams and getting lodged in his transformation cogs. He would need a long, thorough trip to the wash racks when they got back. And to find someone who wouldn't make the situation worse (Sideswipe was definitely O-U-T out) or unintentionally uncomfortable (Bluestreak was a nice kid but lately he made him feel...).
“Just shoot him.” Sunstreaker snapped, angry at the world and not really caring what the slagging Con might have to say for himself.
Something inside the seeker registered the words through his mental haze. Shoot him? Just... shoot him? But, the newspark, shooting him would hurt the... Thundercracker’s optics widened, and he came to himself all at once, “I’m carrying! Please, stop! Please don’t! Don't do this! Don't hurt it! The newspark! Please don't hurt the newspark!” His voice was high, verging on hysterical.
“You will have to think of a better lie than that.” Cliffjumper snapped, fragging lying Decepti-creeps would say anything to get out of the punishment they so rightfully deserved for starting this whole slagging mess. Well, he wouldn’t let them. The blaster never wavering off its target, glowing with charged energy and ready to fire, until it was suddenly plucked from his grasp by an invisible hand.
“That is enough, Cliffjumper.” The cultured voice of Mirage snapped over the patter of rain, the 'Bot himself materializing to Cliffjumper's right. He looked down at Cliffjumper with all the snobbery he could muster, which was quite a bit having grown up in the towers, both because he knew it irritated the mini-bot to be looked down on and because he really was that perturbed a fellow Autobot would aim on an unarmed mech. “I doubt Prime would appreciate you killing him...considering he isn’t defending himself in the least. And did I hear him say something about a newspark? You had the nerve to aim on a carrier?”
“What are you doing here? Of course you'd believe his pathetic, little lie. Never were anything other than a prissy tower brat and slagging Con-sympathizer.” Sunstreaker let the slur fly, sneering.
“Prowl sent Mirage and I to relieve you.” Hound said, walking up behind them. His normally good natured optics were narrowed dangerously. It was so easy to forget he could be as dangerous, maybe more so, than the front-liners until things like this happened. “We will take Thundercracker back to the base with us. Prowl is expecting everyone back ASAP.” He cast them a jaundiced look as he got another message. The tinny voice of Prowl could be heard still on the comm. as he relayed the idea, “He wants to see you two in his office as soon as you get in. No stalling. And if he’s not there you are to wait until he returns.”
The seeker only half listened to the exchange, clearly dazed. He huddled in on himself when the gentler of the Autobots went to move him, looking surprisingly small in the rain. It took some maneuvering, but he didn’t protest when Mirage and Hound finally led him away.
Chapter 4: Slouching Towards Lucidity
Section Specific Warning: More TC torture and some of the Autobots acting like Autodorks.
They led him through the entry way and, had he been more himself, he would have sneered at the fanfare that greeted their arrival. Every mech on the Ark who was not currently on assignment was crowded around the entrance. His processor registered two of the Ark's three Praxians were down there. It made him feel better in a detached sort of way. Not seekers, but seeker-kin. They would not allow the others to harm his newspark.
At least he felt better until he registered that one of the two was pushing through the crowd. Not to get to him, oh no, but to get to the yellow front-liner. He began to babble so quickly Thundercracker was tempted to ask if one of his creators had a blender as an alt mode. The other was equally as bad, exchanging credit disks with several of the other mechs. Was he... Thundercracker was pretty sure he was taking bets. Wonderful, he had to end up in the presence of the only glitched Praxians in the universe. Primus really and truly hated him.
The tracker and the spy pushed him through the crowd and down the hall, heading towards what he assumed to be the medbay. Thundercracker allowed them to do so with the kind of detached daze of the truly and thoroughly traumatized. It was all he could bear to do to not to break down in hysterics again. It would probably get him shot if he started crying, screaming, or even laughing uncontrollably inside this place. And that was tempting, so very tempting, until the newspark sent a questioning push his way. Best to keep quiet and keep walking.
“He’s nearly catatonic.” He heard the spy, Mirage, murmur as they met the second in command in the hallway. The third in command was so close behind the Praxian he would have sworn the two had been holding hands coming down the hallway if he didn't know better.
Prowl frowned, the sensor laden panels on his back twitching. Even if he were not a Praxian, seeker-kin and protector of newsparks, he would have been able to pick up the unique spikes in Thundercracker's energy field. A carrier did not readily forget that tell-tale flux and one could often spot another. “Oh, dear Primus, he really is.”
“What?” Jazz asked, perking up. “A bitlet? Really?"
Polyhexian , Thundercracker’s processor noted. He had never really thought about it before, but the Autobots had attracted quite a few of the more nurturing frame types. Polyhexians can be as good as Praxians .
And they could, provided you ended up with the right Polyhexian. They were the lesser known seeker-kin, normally the result of multiple generations of Praxians breeding with other frame types. The mix of seeker sensibility and primarily grounder values often made for odd individuals. They tended to be artistic, with greater libidos than the average grounder. But there could also be a very nasty rub. Some would act in the typical seeker-kin manner, protectors of newsparks and family oriented. Others... Others could be just as careless towards newsparks as that red mini-bot had been. In very rare cases the seeker-kin coding was even inverted and they were more prone to harming newsparks than helping them. If Primus was kind, and the reaction so far was pointing to it, Jazz would fall into the true seeker-kin mold.
Prowl led them into the infirmary, the look on his face plates speaking of more than a little worry. Something had obviously happened, something bad from the state of shock the seeker was in. It was a dangerous situation to be put in. Dangerous for the carrier. Dangerous for the bitlet. And doubly dangerous for anyone unfortunate enough to be around them. Thundercracker was a larger than average seeker, and seekers were certainly no small frame type. If he should have an episode, if he should snap, it was a very real possibility he would take one or two others down with him.
It was scary, for Prowl at least, how off-kilter and docile Thundercracker was acting. A carrying seeker should be anything but. They tended to be fiercely protective and rarely let anyone they thought could be a danger to their newspark near them. The fact Thundercracker was in the heart of enemy territory, and was treating it like a boring patrol over the Pacific, spoke volumes of his mental state.
Prowl finally got him into the medbay, convincing him without much fuss to get on one of the berths while they waited for Ratchet. The medic had been in a meeting with Prime when the call from Hound and Mirage had come in, and would still be a few moments more.
Prowl watched the seeker as he began to murmur to himself in Vosnian. It was nothing Prowl could understand, though, and he spoke the dialect fluently. It almost sounded like the nonsense babbling of a newspark trying to self-soothe. This was yet another very bad sign.
“What happened?” He asked, not expecting the Seeker to answer at all. For him to promptly burst into tears was something Prowl's advanced tactical processor couldn’'t even have fathomed. This was above and beyond the most distressing situation he had ever encountered. His tactical protocols were going haywire, trying to assess the situation in a logical manner when the situation was far from logical. His Praxian coding was demanding he do whatever had to be done to save the newspark. And his latent carrier coding, left over from his own, now not so little, mechlet ached in empathy. Prowl was not as emotionless as some might think. Rather, he felt too deeply and the emotions would overwhelm him if he did not keep a tight reign on them. He could feel the start of a glitch building.
“He killed them! They didn't even... They couldn't begin to... They are both dead. Both. Lost. Everything is lost. Lost. Lost. Lost. Nothing will ever be good again.” The seeker had begun babbling like Bluestreak on his worst of days.
Prowl stiffened in barely controlled rage. It would not do to upset the seeker more by showing his emotions. Not many mechs would have understood the frantic babbling but, being a Praxian, he knew well enough what it was about.
“Megatron killed your trine.” It was not so much a question as a statement of the only events that could lead a carrying seeker to act in this manner. His optics were wide, truly surprised that Thundercracker had not joined them yet. That was generally the way of things for bonded seeker-kin. Something inside them, something more powerful than the average grounder bond, acted on their very coding. One died and the rest would quickly follow. Prowl knew he would not have the strength to continue with out Jazz. And very likely Jazz would not last long without him.
Thundercracker vented deeply before giving him a half sparked nod. His hand went to his chest plates without him even noticing, rubbing the spot above his spark chamber as if it would soothe the little spark within. Prowl’s own spark broke. This was something no one should go through, but it was a special kind of hell for a carrying mech.
“Can’t go back there. I can't. Please don't make me. I want asylum... as a neutral. I can be neutral, I can. I promise. I didn't even want to join the war but Star... And Warp... Now they are gone, gone, lost forever. I can’t go back there. He killed them. He would kill the newspark too.” His ramblings were painful to listen to, and Prowl could tell it was taking everything Jazz had to not climb up on the berth with the glitching seeker. Thundercracker looked up, catching Prowl’s optics with his own glazed ones. “Please don’t make me go back. I'll be good. I'll. Be. Good.”
“Shhhh... We won’t make you go back.” He ex-vented a confused sigh. He could feel Jazz's own confusion through their bond. The saboteur in him finding it odd to be comforting the Con, rather than shooting at him. The seeker-kin in both of them wailing as loudly as it could for them to do something. Anything. There is a carrier in distress and they must help at all costs.
Thundercracker let out another long, shuddering sigh; this one tinged with some relief. Prowl had honor, he had always noticed that about the Autobots' SIC. If he said he would not be forced to go back then he would not be forced to return to that underwater tomb. A lifetime in their brig was preferable to the Nemesis, as long as the newspark was safe.
“Thank you.” The words were spoken so softly, said in such a small voice, that the Autobots almost didn't hear them. They had given him some measure of security, if not peace. Enough that his stressed systems were able to cycle down and let recharge take him.
He did not feel two different hands settle on his chest, right above his spark chamber. Nor was he online to witness the soft, sad look exchanged between the black and whites as they felt the thrum of the newspark.
Chapter 5: Of Wrenches and Regrets
Section Specific Warning: Ratchet with wrenches, and TC can't catch a break.
He came online to yelling. It was unpleasant but certainly nothing that hadn't happen before. Most likely Warp had pranked the wrong mech, and who wasn't the wrong mech in the madhouse that was the Nemesis, and the prankee was demanding justice. Which he would never get. In that small thing Star was right. Megatron made it painfully clear to everyone that the elite trine was not to be touched by anyone but himself.
He reached for a pillow to cover his optics. Whatever slag was happening could be ignored for now, it was still too early in the cycle for it. Hmm, that was odd, the pillows all seemed to be missing. Maybe Warp and Star had been tossing them at each other while he was in recharge? Not like those overgrown sparklings hadn’t done it before. He booted up his optics, they were blurring around the edges and having a hard time focusing. He did not see Warp or Scree anywhere, but he could see the back of a mech he muzzily identified as the Autobot Ratchet. There was another mech in the room Red Alert , one the medic seemed to be arguing with if his wrench waving was any indication, but he could not make out the words.
His processor felt dull and off, fuzzy in ways he could never remember feeling before. His optics followed the IVs hooked from poles next to the berth and leading into his energon lines. Perhaps it was the medicine making him feel off? It was all so very queer, the whole situation. Last time he checked, the Autobots never drugged prisoners. Scree had been a guest of their facilities enough times that he knew their basic routine even though he'd never been himself. Take his weapons offline, check him for injuries, fuel him, and send him home after negotiating a promise from Megatron; something the tyrant had no intention of keeping. It was cushy as far as "punishments" went and he wondered if they had any idea the cassettes occasionally allowed themselves to be captured simply for the down time. He looked up at the orange ceiling and pondered, briefly, when the Autobots had even captured him. Probably at the raid, those things went badly more often than not.
The raid. He knew, in the back of his processor, that there was something he should remember from the raid. Eh, it would come to him in due time. He sent a reassuring pulse through the trine bond to let Skywarp and Starscream know that he was alright. They were most likely worried sick over him. They didn't answer. How odd, there was no real reason for them to be blocking the bond unless they were afraid of upsetting him. He tried again, using a basic override code that would force the bond open, to let them know where he was. There was nothing. It was like there wasn't even a bond...
It all came back in a rush of pain, frightening imagery, and the knowledge that he would never see them again. A mournful keen left his vocal processor as he felt the beginning of a brand new, full blown, Primus forsaken panic attack.
The yelling stopped abruptly, the Autobots' medic actually taking a swipe at their paranoid security director before coming over to his berthside. “How are you feeling? You gave us all quite a scare earlier.”
Thundercracker could only whimper for a moment, Ratchet's concern frightened him. The medic's temper and wrench throwing skills were the thing of legend before the war, and he had just honed them as the vorns went by. It was well known, by both factions, that he was only this calm with a patient if they were well and truly slagged. He tried to vent a large, cooling puff of air through his rapidly heating systems, fighting off the urge to give into the panic. He tried to gather himself before speaking. “I am as well as it can be expected. I am probably better, actually, than most seekers would be in this situation. The newspark---well---you know how it is.”
Ratchet nodded, “Speaking of the newspark, it is remarkably healthy. Its pulse is right in the base range for one its size. You, however, were dangerously low on energy. I have a hard time believing that even Decepticons would allow a carrier to be neglected like this.”
"They don't...if they know. But none of the officers or elites have sparked during the war before, so there is no protocol in place on how to deal with it. Megatron might have ordered it to be disposed of. Or if he let it come to term he might have sent it off elsewhere to be raised. Star was," Thundercracker felt his vocalizer spit static for a moment before he was able to continue on, "...he was working on him. But, until we knew it was safe, he and Warp were just trying to give me part of their rations."
The medic huffed and tried not to show how very annoyed that made him. He understood Thundercracker's trepidation, he truly did, but all that the previous way of doing things would have gotten them would have been three very sick seekers. Fliers had a very heavy energy cost attached to their gift. The amount it took the Autobots to keep Skyfire alone fueled to healthy levels was absolutely staggering, and they were working with renewable sources like wind and solar power. And a carrying flier? Primus forgive him for thinking this, but there was no way the Decepticons could have supported him on Earth. He would have ended up with the Autobots eventually, if he wanted to keep the newspark healthy that is.
Ratchet shook his head, he did not like how predatory that line of thinking was becoming. “When you are feeling up to it, Prime wants to talk to you.”
Thundercracker cringed visibly, unable to prevent it. He did not want to deal with the Prime yet, or ever really, but it was better to get it out of the way. “I’m---I’m well enough to talk to him now.”
He attempted to sit up on the berth, fighting against the rising churn coming from his tanks, only to have Ratchet push him back. “You need to relax, you are nowhere near strong enough to be moving about. I will go get him.”
Thundercracker let himself sink back against the metal mesh and did his best not to think, knowing he would only fall apart if he did. The medic was right on one thing, if nothing else; he needed to relax. It would not do for the newspark to exist in such a constant state of stress.
The wait was no where near as long as it could have been. Part of him wondered, as Prime’s large frame blocked the doorway, if the Autobot leader had not been simply loitering around in the hallway. Thundercracker couldn’t help the cringe, vorns of combat could not be erased so quickly and fear of a certain energy flail was only natural.
He took a calming vent of air. Another. Then a third. "How can I help you, Optimus Prime?"
Chapter 6: Hidden In Plain Sight
Section Specific Warnings: Creepily proud Prowl. And Jazz wants to drop kick cassettes.
Prowl and Jazz shared a look as they headed across the landscape in their root modes. One could plainly feel the exasperation rolling through their bond as they made their way to the patrol’s location. They had been comm’ed for assistance, the patrol asking for them specifically. That was not unusual, given whose patrol shift this was. A certain grey and red Praxian was going to be getting a lecture later about going above the chain of command. Again . Prowl was not even entirely sure what it was over. Bluestreak had been over-excited when he sent the comm; babbling something baffling about Rumble, Frenzy and dead seekers. His only child sometimes made Prowl shake his head, but he would not trade him for all the energon in the universe.
::So, what da ya think has Baby Blue's cogs grindin' this time, CN?:: Jazz's tone through their bond was one of mild amusement, tempered with the patience of a parent long used to their child's antics.
Prowl shot him a less than amused glance. The bond made them stealthier, the need for verbal communication done away with. The only problem being that Jazz tended to take liberties with this little fact. ::How many times must I remind you not to call me CN unless we're alone, Fall ? No, don't, I know what you're going to think before you even send it my way. I don't care if you're only doing it through the bond, you know what that does to me:: Prowl's winglets fluttered from half remembered caresses, and Jazz grinned broadly as he noticed his mate's signal.
::Hmmm, dun go offerin' nothin' ya dun plan on backin' up, CN .:: Jazz's visor flashed in his own signal of interest.
Prowl let a small amount of amusement leak down through the bond now, fluttering his wings with purpose. ::Who said I didn't plan on backing it up? But now is not the time, Fall. Most likely Bluestreak is as upset over the injured carrier as we are and he is allowing his emotions to get the better of him. He probably spotted some cassettes skulking about and is overreacting. I'm sure everything will be fine.::
They reached the clearing in good time, given their mode of travel, and Prowl considered that he may not have actually left the berth and this was some strange recharge flux. Next to him Jazz had raised his optic ridges to the point it would be comical if it were not all so surreal. Perhaps they would need to pay more attention to what their offspring was saying in the future.
Bluestreak had a blaster leveled at two little bots on the opposite side of the clearing from himself. Bipedal cassettes, which meant they were indeed Rumble and Frenzy. They, in turn, were both leveling a blaster at him. Not that Prowl was more than passing concerned. Bluestreak was their best sniper, after all, and he had a deactivation count under his chevron that rivaled his sire's. There was something unsettling at how proud that made him feel. If Blue had been sparked in Praxus, prior to the war, such a thing would have a been a mark of shame on their family. Now it was a badge of honor.
Or maybe not. They had never been the typical couple. Prowl was a middle child of a well to do, politically connected family. He had felt a calling, something bigger than himself; and joined the enforcers after his own, brief, political career was found to be lacking in purpose. All the power and credits in the world meant nothing if his fellow mechs were suffering. He could help, he knew he could. His tactical knowledge, used by his family to maneuver through the political landscape, could be put to a better use. And so he gave up a comfy birthright to take on a career his kind had viewed as only good enough for the lower class dredges.
And he had never regretted it. The number of times he had thought about his carrier could be counted on both hands with a digit or two left over. His selfish sire had only been acknowledged twice; once when he had been introduced to Jazz for a political purpose, and then again when Blue's coloration had seeped in and he had borne an eerie resemblance to the (then long dead) mech. If he had not become an enforcer he never would have met Jazz, never had Bluestreak, never joined the Autobots. CN would have lived a petty, vain little life until it was snuffed out when Praxus fell. Prowl lived a life of purpose and honor, with a wonderful bond-mate and an equally wonderful son at his side. He had made the right choice and he stuck by it.
Bluestreak might have even followed him into the enforcers if this war had never started. Or perhaps he would have gone down a slightly more insidious path and followed Jazz's footsteps. Blue could be as stealthy as his sire when not overwhelmed. And the little mechlet had shown a proficiency with weapons that had alarmed Red Alert and absolutely thrilled Ironhide. The weapons specialist had went about constructing sparklet sized blasters and teaching the tiny Praxian to shoot with an unrivaled glee.
It amused him, it honestly amused both of them, that the Autobots had seemed to forget how dangerous their family was simply because of Bluestreak. Prowl would have never become second in command by playing nice. There was enemy energon on his hands, he had paid his dues in the field. Jazz had even more direct enemy kills than he did. Prowl may have made the plans that brought them victory, but Jazz executed them with a chilling efficiency. Then Bluestreak had come along, a moment of serendipity in their battle torn lives, and the softer side of the tactician and the saboteur had been put on display for their fellow Autobots. They were no longer seen as the frightening battle couple, they were loving bond-mates and doting parents instead. So easy to forget Prowl could be ruthlessly logical, making plans that might mean suicide missions for some of them, when he was toting his sparklet around. Easier still to view Jazz as the good natured goofball, and not the mech who could kill you over a dozen different ways before you'd ever hear him coming, when he was nuzzling his bond-mate fondly over energon in the rec room. And sweet, little Bluestreak; the faction mascot almost from the moment of his sparking. His missions were often solo work, so it was simple to overlook his almost sickening kill count.
Prowl pulled himself from his, admittedly prideful, musings long enough to notice a pallet on the ground near Rumble and Frenzy. Something partially obscured by a tarp was laid out on it, and he had the sickening feeling he knew what it was. One of the little menaces, the purple one, noticed him noticing it. He gave his brother a firm shove to catch his attention, the weapons dropping to their sides so they could push it closer to them. The tarp pulled back enough as it was pushed along the ground to confirm that, yes, it was indeed the bodies of Thundercracker’s trine-mates.
He couldn’t help but sigh inside. This would cause nothing but additional chaos, he just knew it. “What are you doing here?” He asked the question with much more patience than he currently thought he possessed.
"Megatron says ta let traitors deal with traitors. We dun wan 'em, not even worth scrappin'.” The red one snapped at him. Prowl was more than fairly certain he didn't have any idea what dangerous territory he was skipping into, or he'd like to believe he would have chosen his words with a bit more caution.
Jazz glared, his coding blaring loudly through the bond, ready and eager to pounce on them, “What kind of monster does this ta a carryin’ Mech? What is wrong with ya lil' glitches?”
He surged forward, his arm upraised in preparation to deal out a few cuffs to their disrespectful little heads. This made the tiny bots growl, but served to do little else. Prowl grabbed his rash partner before he could act on whatever half formed thought raced through his processor next.
“Jazz.” He murmured a quiet warning, discreetly rubbing a spot on the saboteur's back he knew always served well to calm him down. Jazz's visor flashed minutely in interest again and Prowl knew he had temporarily succeeded. Even if it did mean he would most likely be thrown into the nearest berth the moment they returned to the Ark. It wasn’t like Jazz hadn’t already all but promised it anyway. And it had been awhile since they’d done it in Prime’s office... hmm, possibilities.
Frenzy glared right back at Jazz, not in the least intimidated. He spoke slowly, like he was talking to a young sparkling. "He wanted ta bond with the brats, ev'ryone knew it. Push'd an push'd like ya wouldn' buhlieve. Now, do ya honestly think he'd purposely take away his own toys?"
“It was an accident then?” Prowl asked this quickly, before Jazz could shoot off at the mouth again. He knew Thundercracker would not see it that way, regardless of the validity of the claim, but that did not mean his bonded need to egg things on. The seeker-kin in them both was being barely tamped down as it was, and it howled for revenge on whoever it could lay into. Mechs with purple faction symbols would do very well to stay clear of them for a long time coming. And here were two who were all but begging for a beating.
“Ya could say that. Ya could say a lotta things with those two. Ain't all as easy as all tha'.” Frenzy shrugged, looking uncomfortable with the topic. “Jus’ take ‘em and let us go. We gots ta be back ta the boss bef’re he sends Laserbeak out lookin’ for us.”
Chapter 7: War-Room Ruckus
Section Specific Warnings: Seeker-kin coding is awesome.
Ratchet vented heavily; looking more cross than was normal for him, if such a thing were even possible for the temperamental mech. “Primus, I don’t even know why he is online. Newspark or no, he should have offlined when Skywarp and Starscream did. Or, at least very shortly there after. The only thing I can figure is the creation bond with the spark is serving to keep him from guttering out. As it is, though, he is very weak. I am not entirely certain he will survive to carry it to term. The odds are more against it than in favor at this point.”
Prime nodded, looking grave. He had expected to hear nothing less than this. As much as he wished it to be otherwise, he had known when they had received the comm from Mirage that they were most likely dealing with a walking dead mech. He had to ask, though. “There is no chance at all then?”
"Who cares." Cliffjumper's outburst was more statement than question. It took the combined efforts of both Prowl and Bluestreak to keep Jazz from jumping up and tearing into the minibot. The black and white continued to growl even as Prowl murmured soft endearments and Bluestreak kept a warning hand against his wrist.
“I didn’t say that.” Ratchet said slowly, used to the craziness that went on in the Ark and able to ignore the confusion at yet another staff meeting. He was more unsure how to share this next bit of news than how he was going to repair the mini should Jazz take a notion to rip away. The room was oddly quiet, even Jazz's growling ceasing, as he finally forced himself to move on. “Spark merges would help enormously, they would at least get him to the separation if he’s lucky. A bond would fix the issue entirely. But you see the problem with that, I’m sure.”
“Yes. I see the problem.” Prime rumbled, frowning deeply. "I would not ask it of any of my mechs to aide an enemy combatant in such a way, even if he has declared himself neutral for the moment. Perhaps if we are able to commandeer the space bridge we could send him to the Autobot contingent on Cybertron. Or one of the neutral colonies. We had been receiving word there was a colony of neutral seekers before we embarked for Earth. With their prince is stasis they may have stayed neutral."
The sounds of shock alerted everyone in the room to how the second, third, and their offspring felt about Prime’s statement. It had often been joked, or really, half joked, that if the Decepticons had had younglings the Autobots would have lost Prowl and Jazz very early on in the war to the other side. Red Alert had never felt at ease with how high they had risen in the ranks, the fear that seeker-kin would always eventually side with seekers a very real one. Bluestreak really was the grounding force that kept most at ease with them.
Bluestreak's winglets began to quiver in obvious distress and his positions with Jazz reversed. The sire pulled his son close to him, petting Blue's cheek as the younger bot continued to shake and stutter, not even able to get the words out for a few long kliks. "But you can't do that Prime because there is no way the Decepticons are going to let us anywhere near the space bridge cause they always keep it heavily guarded and even if we did manage to get to it and get the carrier through there is no guarantee the Autobots left on Cybertron will be able to help him and that is kinda sexist of you to say because it kinda infers that the femmes are better able to take care of him cause they're femmes and it's easy to forget after we've been around the humans for so long that femme was more a model for us than an actual gender and to push them into that role just because they look sorta like human females is really not very nice of us and kinda disrespectful to them and even if they were like human females we would still be wrong to just assume they would take care of something because we don't want to and honestly I think some of us would want to cause you keep forgetting we're seeker-kin and we have a duty to protect the wing, the carrier, and above all the newspark. And we have no idea where the neutral seekers are if they still exist cause they might not exist cause four million years is a very long time and the last we heard about them was four and a half million years ago and they might have finally joined the Decepticons or they might have run out of energon or they might be so well hidden we'd never find them in time and then the carrier would die and we can't let the carrier die. On top of all that I saw the carrier when he came in to the Ark and he looked awful and I thought he was going to drop dead on his pedes and I didn't want to look at him because carrier said he might be a carrier and asked me to make sure everything was alright when he came in but the way he looked made me so sad and I couldn't stand to look any more so I ran to Sunstreaker instead to get the story on what happened and I feel really bad about that an..."
"Baby Blue." Prowl crooned soothingly to his only child. The soft voice of his carrier at that pitch seemed to work into Bluestreak's over taxed processor and he began to calm down. Jazz shot his mate a grateful glance before turning back to continue comforting their son. "Sweetspark, do you honestly think so little of your sire and I that we would allow harm to befall a carrier on our watch?"
Jazz stilled and turned to face Prowl fully. Next to him Bluestreak leaned over his sire's shoulder to get a good look at his carrier, hope plastered across his faceplates. As one they blurted out, "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
Prowl's optics brightened a perceivable degree. In less than a klik Jazz's visor flashed brighter as well, alerting the others that a discussion was going on through their bond. A wing would twitch slightly. Then Jazz would move his hand the tiniest bit. Cues they had mastered over vorns of being together. Only Bluestreak and Smokescreen seemed to know what was going on, both being versed in wing language and both knowing very well how to read Jazz's signals. Finally Prowl's optics flashed in three rapid fire bursts that made Blue squeal and throw himself against his sire in barely contained excitement. Prowl gave them a fond look, Jazz laughing and trying to push his grown son off of him, before speaking. “We’ll do it.”
The war room erupted in not entirely unexpected confusion. Ironhide was scoffing and muttering about slagging 'Cons. Red Alert seemed to be on the verge of a glitch and Inferno was shushing him and trying his best to prevent it. Bumblebee and Huffer had their hands clamped firmly over Cliffjumper's mouth, the red troublemaker struggling between them to get his piece in.
“Jazz---” Mirage started to speak and then silenced himself when his superior shot him a look.
“Prowl...” This one was Ratchet, who knew his words would fall on deaf audials but thought he should try none the less. He never got a chance to finish whatever he might have said.
Prowl held up a hand to shush him. “It is fine. We will do it, it will be fine. Jazz and I are both healthy. And I already have latent carrier nanites running through my system. The energy from a fellow carrier would do him more good than four merges with someone else at this point. I might as well put them to some good use.” The last part was said quietly, tinged with bitterness. He shared a soft look with Jazz before both of them pushed love down the faint creator-creation bond to a suddenly crestfallen Bluestreak. The bond would normally disappear once a creation reached adulthood, but seeker-kin were blessed with one that did not go away entirely no matter how old the child became. Some seeker-kin even claimed they could feel a link with their great-grandsparks if they pushed the bond hard enough.
Prime frowned, he should have known his top officers would react in this way. He had been one of the few who had seen their protective nature as a potential benefit to their cause instead of a liability. Their skills in their fields had been unsurpassed before Bluestreak came along. They had only grown better, a thing he would not have believed possible, when they had a youngling to protect. “Do you think that is wise? The security risk...”
“Is very small,” Prowl interjected. “There are mitigating circumstances in this case, sir. With all due respect; you can not expect us to sit back, knowing what we are, and do nothing while a carrier and newspark are in danger. It is simply against everything in our coding. Even if I could control it using cost benefit computations, Jazz could no more allow a newspark to come to harm then you could ask him to stop the flow of energon in his lines. And Bluestreak has never been around a carrier before. This is the first time his seeker-kin coding has activated. He is very confused, agitated. He would offer himself even if we could control our own coding.”
Ratchet vented a deep sigh, this really was a losing battle. Slagging seeker-kin code. “Merging with him as much as he will need... You must know someone bonding with him will be inevitable, especially if it is with the same few partn---”
“Ah," Jazz corrected himself as he felt the reassuring squeeze of Prowl's hand around his own, "We won’t sit back an’ let a newspark die, Ratchet. Like Prowler told ya.” He shrugged and leaned into his mate, the two of them leveling the Prime and the medic with even gazes. “If it happens, it happens. We'll burn that bridge if we get there.”
Chapter 8: At All Costs
Section Specific Warning: Longish section. Plus, do you remember that dub-con tag from the A/N? Yeah...
Thundercracker came out of recharge slowly, still feeling muddled and unable to function properly. Still in the medbay, though he might as well have gone on to the Well for how he was feeling. He was so very weak, weaker than he had ever been in his entire, long life.
The sparklet pulsed steadily inside of his chest, pulling him from his thoughts. He couldn't help but smile, if a little bitterly. At least the little one was alright for the moment. The greatest paradox that he should wish to offline but needed to remain healthy until the newspark detached.
His spark hurt, it was an odd sort of pain that only seemed to grow by the second. It felt as though it was splitting apart, trying to go in three different directions. As bad as the pain was, he could tune that out. What concerned him more, what scared him, was that it was there at all. Sparks generally did not register as being in pain unless the mech’s wounds were enough that they could be fatal. Something was clearly not right. He whimpered, off-lining his optics. This was the worst thing he'd had to deal with since Scree brought home his pet gladiator.
He heard the Autobots returning, but he paid them no mind. He was too caught up in his own misery and pain to spare them a glance. He would keep his sensor-net active but they had already proven they were not going to harm the newspark, or him for that matter. What concern were they to him?
“Thundercracker?” The medic cautiously addressed him. The seeker startled, he had not realized anyone had gotten so close. It only verified the notion to Thundercracker that there was something seriously wrong with him. No, even remotely healthy, carrier would have allowed themselves to lose track of those around them so easily or for external sensors to fail the way they did. “Jazz and Prowl have agreed to help you. Quite insisted on it, really. Do you understand?”
Thundercracker gave him a blank look as he tried to make sense of the words. He knew there was something he should understand here. Something big. It felt like he was navigating in a fog with no light. He finally managed to slur out a pathetic, “Help me with what?”
“Spark energy. The newspark will need it to grow properly.” Ratchet said, looking unhappy about the whole situation. He gave a quick tap to Thundercracker's chest plating. “Open up for a moment.”
It took Thundercracker a klik to understand what he was asking. The medic rolled his optics and gave another, more insistent, tap on the chest plating. When he did finally get it the plating slid aside with no hesitation. That only served to worry Ratchet more, if anything. Ratchet leaned in, hmmm'd thoughtfully as he probed softly, and clearly did not like what he was seeing.
“Close up.” He finally said, before turning to a bot obscured from Thundercracker's view, one who had walked up behind him during the procedure. Thundercracker craned his head as far as he could; catching an impression of not one, but two, black and white shapes. “I would suggest getting the first merge over with as soon as possible. He’s....”
“Fine," the slightly larger of the two gave the medic an exasperated look and waved toward him, "lets get him up then.”
Ratchet looked annoyed. Thundercracker would have smiled if things didn't hurt so badly right now. “You shou---”
“Despite certain rumors, and whatever Jazz might wish to the contrary, I made it a rule long ago that my chest plates don't come open in public unless it can not be helped. I would not do it for an audience then, I won't do it for an audience now, Ratchet. If you want to come and check him afterwards that is fine. You don’t need to monitor him constantly. He isn’t an enemy combatant, no matter how much Red Alert wants to claim otherwise. He is a neutral.” The tactician pursed his lip components together as he started disconnecting the seeker from the medical equipment. The saboteur was quick to help him, both ignoring the medic's continued protests in the background.
“Com’n, Thundercracker.” Jazz said, trying to sound cheerful as he and Prowl got the seeker on his feet. He was unsteady, certainly, wobbling like a newspark just into his frame as he stood. “We dun have far to go, mech.”
Jazz was at least thankful for that. The seeker was no light weight, and he leaned heavily on both of them as they tried to guide him down the hall. He was never so happy to see their door in his life, the glyphs spelling out their designations and ranks a welcome sight.
Prowl keyed them into their room, casting Jazz a worried look as Thundercracker almost took a tumble without the added support. The seeker looked like he didn't even notice his almost spill, he simply was barely with them. The Praxian had a very nasty feeling nothing short of a fusion cannon to the face would garner a reaction right now.
“Thundercracker, stay wit' us, mech.” Jazz snapped his digits, frowning as Thundercracker tried to slip down out of their grip. The last thing they wanted was for him to slip into stasis. As bad off as he was, there was no guarantee they'd be able to pull him back out of it.
The seeker nodded groggily. “So tired...”
“We know you are, but you can’t cycle down into recharge yet. You need energy for the newspark. We’re going to help you, but we need you to stay online for just a little while longer. We promise we will let you recharge all you like just as soon as this is over with,” Prowl said as they moved across their suite towards the berthroom.
It was easier said than done. Jazz was not the neatest mech aboard the Ark, only Bluestreak was anywhere near as disorganized. Like sire like mechlet, Prowl supposed. Stacks of holovids and pieces of human entertainment, graciously made mech sized by their adoring public, were strewn in their path. Prowl made a note to remind Jazz to clean it up later or he was going to pitch it. Again. Not that it would help since Jazz would just get more to replace it and the cycle would start all over.
It took them both to get Thundercracker settled down on to the berth. “Thundercracker. Thundercracker? Thundercracker, can you hear us? Thundercracker, online your optics now, you can’t recharge yet.” Prowl finally barked it like an order, and sighed inside when the seeker's face crumbled.
Prowl sighed once more and looked to Jazz, not quite knowing how they would ever fix this. If they could ever fix it. It was horrible seeing such a strong person brought down to this. They finally got the Seeker settled in fully. “Thundercracker, we need you to open up.”
The seeker didn't even bother to online his optics, too busy snuggling down into the organic pillows on the berth. Different from his metali-mesh ones back on the Nemesis, but certainly not unpleasant. “’m tired.”
“Ah know, but this is important.” Jazz cajoled in a tone Prowl was intimately familiar with. He sent an override signal to his interface systems before they could properly react to it. “Open up for us, so we can help the bitlet.”
They both sighed in relief when they heard the tale-tell sound of plates shifting aside. Prowl climbed up on the berth, for the moment it would be more beneficial to the seeker to share energy with another who had carried, and straddled the other’s hips. His own spark chamber opened with a muted click, odd that something so life changing could sound so soft, and he shared a long look with Jazz.
Jazz moved closer, looking serious as he laid a comforting hand against one of Prowl's door-wings. They had both gone mad. Their coding had overridden their good sense like Red Alert had always claimed it would. He had no doubt it had. And he couldn’t help but think of the repercussions for a moment, part of him screaming this was folly even as Prowl lowered his chest to the seeker's.
Thundercracker’s spark perked up as it felt another come so near its own. Ever since the bond had broken it had been searching, trying to make that connection. And there it was, offered so freely. His spark stretched up gleefully, unbidden. They were more than compatible, and the dynamics were close enough. The Polyhexian reminded him vaguely of Warp and the Praxian shared more than a few characteristics with Scree. It was nearly a trine bond already, was the unconscious observation. Nearly. They were seeker-kin. Already programmed for a trine connection, though not necessary to them like it was to pure seekers. It could be one, he could be their third with just a tiny push. It wanted to push, to Thundercracker’s surprise, so it pushed, and took. Took what it needed without the consent of his processor. Took even as Thundercracker tried to fight against it taking.
His perception of the world split into three distinct views. He could see himself and the Praxian; feel concern, lust, and sudden recognition as firewalls went up and parts of their processors were blocked from him before he could even think to probe. Then he was staring down into his own face plates; shock and acceptance overwhelmed by impending overload from this vantage. Suddenly, Thundercracker came back solely to himself. Prowl and Jazz's feelings still washing over him, through the newly formed bond, but not controlling him entirely. He gasped, clutching at the Praxian tighter as they rode the mutual overload and it finally crested.
“I’m sorry.” Thundercracker said, when he could find words once more. “I’m so sorry. I wasn't trying to. Your bond was just there and it felt so right and both of you are seeker-kin and it must have...”
“Hush, we knew it was a possibility.” Jazz said, stopping the babbling before it could be fully started. He watched Prowl finally come back to himself with a wry smile. He sent a pulse down the bond, trying out the new configuration of it. Want/Trust/Love/Love/Love , pleased to see it stretched properly to both of them.
“No. This isn’t right.” Thundercracker moaned. It was sacrilege to his trine-mates' memories. Yet his spark still reached for Prowl and Jazz, seeking the comfort it insisted only they could give him. Trine it insisted quite loudly. Bond-mates. Lovers. Protectors of our newspark. Need this. Need them. All will be well. All will be right. Thundercracker could not find it in himself to agree with his spark’s assessment.
Jazz looked to Prowl, moving closer until he could touch both of them affectionately. A firm, knowing stroke down a door-wing; a soft, reassuring one across an expanse of blue. He sometimes thought it was truly unfortunate his lot had fallen into the wingless subset of Polyhexians. His carrier and grandsire has both had such magnificent wings, and he had been crushed when his younger brother coded for winglets after he had not.
This was going to make things difficult. Judging from some bots' reactions already, he hoped that they had not lost the trust of the Autobots completely. It had been hard enough, in the early days of the war. They had both come from castes that favored Decepticons. Every promotion was met with scrutiny, every rise through the ranks questioned. Jazz had heard plenty of not-quite jokes about how he made a great spy because he already knew the tricks of the trade. If the Autobots had only known how close to the truth those rumors were they may have turned them both away. It wasn't until they had sheepishly come to the Prime to request time off because Prowl was sparked that the others began to accept them more readily. Their insistence that Blue sport an Autobot insignia from the moment of on-lining had clinched it.
Jazz looked thoughtful, if they had done it once they could do it again. “Ah dun know about right or wrong, but if ya didn’t bond with someone...Even Ratchet didn’t think ya were gonna ta make it ta term.”
“We will take care of it, and you.” Prowl said, tucking himself against Thundercracker’s side. The seeker grumbled but made no move to dislodge him. “We’ve always wanted a large family,” Prowl said softly. “But I can’t have a bitlet. Well, can't have another one at any rate. The first time proved too great a strain on my spark. It would most likely deactivate me if I tried again. It almost did the first time. And Jazz can’t have one because... well, we need him too much. A tactician can make battle strategy from the base. A spy needs to be able to go out in the field.”
Thundercracker frowned. This was all news to him, “You had a sparkling?” It was certainly nothing the Decepticon intelligence had told them. That meant it had either happened prior to the war or while they were both still relatively obscure soldiers. Either way, given the vast percentage of their population that had perished, the little bit must be long gone.
Prowl gave him a fond, tired looking smile. “Have, not had. You’ve probably met him. In fact, I know you have. The elite trine cornered us in a warehouse once during one of Starscream's 'I'm the new leader' moments. I promise he's normally much better behaved than he was that day.”
“He’s here then? On Earth?” Thundercracker asked, “I...am a bit surprised”
“Bluestreak.” Jazz chimed in, sounding smug. “We were worried ya might try ta use him against us. It really wasn’t that hard to make it look like he was a survivor of Praxus we were taking care of.”
““Oh.” The seeker frowned, it made a strange amount of sense. A lot of sense, actually. His looks had been close enough to Prowl's that Decepticon intel had launched a probe, thinking them distant relations. Nothing had come back, however, after shallow searches; and Prowl had been low enough in the ranks at the time to not warrant a deeper look.
"He had amber optics when he first came online." Prowl was obviously cycling down from the tone in his voice, but he was awake enough to speak fondly of his offspring. "A mix, you know. Jazz has a lot of Tarnian in his lineage and had crimson prior to the war. I had true seeker-kin gold, like a normal Vosnian might have. We were surprised when his coding ignored our blue overrides. Even more so that he was a mix. If this war ever ends we're probably going to encourage him to take off his override and go back to his original."
"I really had no idea. I mean, I didn't even know the two of you were bonded prior to this. All intelligence indicated you held a certain amount of contempt for each other." Thundercracker looked flummoxed.
“The things we hid from ya 'Cons could fill a ocean, my mech. Really though, one time Mirage came back home with the most interesting video feed. Three seekers an’ a certain ground-pounder in berth together.” He laughed. “Ah think if we could sneak in and get that footage; well hidin’ lineage an a bond ain’t that hard. Slagging near a walk in the crystal gardens compared ta some of the stuff we got over on ya.” He laughed again until he felt the bleed off of pain searing through the bond. His optics widened. “Oh, no... Thundercracker. I’m sorry---I didn’t mean ta... I---”
“It is fine.” Thundercracker said, his voice full of static. He turned his head and offlined his optics, making it clear he wanted to drop the conversation.
“No, it’s not.” Prowl sighed, shaking his head. “Sometimes Jazz doesn’t process things before he---well obviously.”
“It’s fine.” The seeker said in a dull tone, waving them off and curling in on himself.
“Ya say that, but it’s obviously not, mech.” Jazz said, looking exasperated. “I didn’t mean it like that, an’ you have every right to be upset. I ain't gonna get mad and go off on ya if ya point out somethin' stupid I said. Communication, my mech, is key. Prowler an I'd never have made it this far if we dinnit talk things out.”
“We’ll make this work, you’ll see.” Prowl added.
Jazz finally decided he'd had enough of being on the outside looking in, and climbed up on the berth with his mates. He let an arm fall carelessly across Thundercracker's cockpit. Prowl gave him a sleepy, pleased smile and did the same, effectively trapping the blue seeker between them. He let a pulse of muted desire run through the bond. Prowl answered it with his own pulse of amused exasperation. “We all win this way, ya know. We get another bit and ya get ta see it grow.”
“You’ll have to excuse Jazz.“ Prowl gave his fellow black and white a playful poke. “Believe it or not his coding is stronger than mine, and it has always made him a little bitlet crazy. There never was a prouder sire than when he was toting Blue around. And we will both treat this new one as our own, with all the love it deserves.”
“I--I want to die...You should have just left me go. I can’t do this. Not without them. I haven't spent a cycle without at least one of them around since...ever.” Thundercracker whimpered.
“It’s not an option.” Prowl rubbed his cockpit soothingly. Jazz began to do the same on the other side. “It wasn't really one before, and it certainly isn't one now. I’m sorry, we just can’t let you offline. There is too much at stake. For all of us.”
Chapter 9: A Bond Is Not a CB Radio, Jazz
Section Specific Warnings: Perhaps we were a little hasty saying TC had nowhere to go but up...
Thundercracker sat still, as patiently as he could anyway, while the medic poked and prodded at him. It was not an easy task. He felt bare without his weapon systems online. Bare and vulnerable. Almost immediately after the bond kicked into place his carrier protocols had returned in full force. Everything that was not one of his bond-mates or the little bot who was now registering as his offspring was coming off as a perceived threat. His sensor-net was thrumming more powerfully than it had on the Nemesis. Vorns of programming simply refused to believe that the Autobots were not a threat to him. He could even remotely pick up the vibrations of two of their pet humans wandering around down in the rec room, most likely Bumblebee's little male and female, and that was setting him off.
Even more so with the grouchy medic poking about in his spark chamber. Prowl and Jazz had left after getting their own exams, Prowl promising to come back to get him later when Ratchet was finished. Jazz had been sent out to do more public relations work and he would be gone longer than even Prowl's shift would last. So that left Thundercracker alone with the Hatchet’s tender mercies. And to top it off, his bond-mates were both apparently chatterers. Thundercracker had heard less mindless, and occasionally crude, babbling the last time he accidentally tuned into a CB frequency.
::Ya know Doc ain't gonna hurt ya, Thundercracker.:: Jazz sounded far too amused from where ever he'd gotten off to. ::Least not while yer carrin'. Can't promise too much once this is over'n done wit'.::
Right on cue Prowl chimed in. ::That is not very nice, Jazz. You are unduly worrying our bond-mate when he is already feeling quite trapped as it is. Carrier protocols are very taxing and are not your toy. One would think you'd have learned that lesson after you surprised me when I was still sparked with Bluestreak.::
::Tha' was suppos'd ta be a lesson? Mech, Ah will happ'ly learn tha' lesson any time ya feel like teachin' it. Couldn' walk righ' fer a deca-cycle afterward but it was worth it.::
Thundercracker was far from amused. ::Do you two ever stop?::
Blessed silence was his answer and he felt vindicated for just a moment until...
::Naw, not really. We ain't been apart more'n a few cycles at a time since we bonded. Feels wrong ta not know wha's goin' on wit' him.::
"I take it they're driving you a little mad right now?" Ratchet chuckled when he saw Thundercracker startle. The seeker was apparently surprised he had guessed the problem so easily. "Don't look so shocked. They might have put on a good act for you Cons but Prowl and Jazz are one of those couples. They can be almost sickening if they get separated for more than a shift or two. And I can't count the number of times I've wrenched one of them because the other was in here and they wouldn't back off and let me work. Prime even stopped putting them in the same duty rosters when they had a shared shift because it was distracting to watch them both light up."
"Bluestreak came up with the term, oddly enough. Different mechs give off different signals when they're accessing a private bond-link. It's not really something you would notice unless you've been living in close quarters with them for awhile. My left hand twitches slightly and his headfins flash orange when Jacky and I are using ours. Prowl and Jazz, for whatever reason, share a signal. Both of them have noticeably brighter optics when they are either using the bond or feeling a strong emotion. And Bluestreak took a notice of it when he was still a fairly young bot. Thought it was funny to tattle on them. He'd wait until they were around someone of a higher rank to ask if sire and carrier had been talking today when carrier was on duty 'because sire was lit up most of the time you were gone'." Ratchet ran yet another piece of equipment over his still open spark chamber, noting down the result before continuing. "If you're in the room with only one of them and their optics light up you can pretend they're feeling strongly about the task they've been set to. If you can see both of them then you know they are 'shooting the breeze' as the humans would say. They are a unique couple, a unique family really. The three of them deserved so much better than what this war has brought them."
Thundercracker did not miss the knowing glance the medic gave him at that last comment. He was no fool. It was very clear, from the throng of mechs that had been waiting outside the med bay when Prowl and Jazz had been in with him, that the second and third were liked well enough... now. He'd been given a small taste of their earliest days among the Autobots, before Bluestreak came along, when they had been under suspicion. It had not been pleasant for either of them but they had persevered; Jazz’s good nature and Prowl's surprising sense of humor coupled with both of their excellent parenting skills had won out in the end.
Except now their comrades clearly thought they had lost their processors. Only the Praxians had looked on in something akin to approval as they'd headed in, and Thundercracker had a strong hunch the blue and red one approved solely because he'd won credits on the deal.
The medic went blessedly silent, outside of the off hmmm and hum. The white and red, his processor froze up if he tried to think of him as red and white, mech poked and prodded a little harder than he could have. Which was actually something of a relief, a rough Ratchet was a Ratchet who was no longer worried you were going to deactivate on him. He finished up by stabbing him more than a few times, injecting him with Primus-knew-what kind of supplements. Thundercracker didn’t bother to complain; just as he didn’t complain when his weapons systems were taken off-line, or how much it had hurt when Ratchet helped him remove the faction symbols to solidify his neutrality. With the touch up job you could not even tell they had ever been there. But for that part, at least, he'd had Prowl and Jazz holding his hands and shhh'shing soothingly with every silent wince.
After what felt like joors, but was probably only a few breems, the examine ended. Ratchet made a noise that sounded eerily like a human clucking their tongue as he jotted down notes in the datapad he held. The medic held up one instrument, most likely double checking the measurements, before carefully replacing it in its proper cabinet instead of back on his work cart. He proceeded to do the same with each and every one of them, Thundercracker's agitation only rising with each passing klik. He was clearly trying to see how long he could make the seeker wait before letting him know if the merges had done their job for the newspark. Fragging medic. Fragging Autobots with their fragging weird senses of humor and fragging need to prove their points all the time.
::...cracker! Hey Thundercracker!:: The seeker in question nearly fell off the medical berth at the exclamation of his designation. He'd tuned the dynamic duo out during a long tirade from Jazz about some up and coming singer at the music festival he was at, the Autobots really spent too much time trying to play friendly with the natives, and it had been somewhat surprising to find himself called out. ::Wha's tha' 'bout fraggin' 'Bots? Cause Ah'm all fer it. Ya two got yer overloads last night cycle and lef' me out'n the cold.::
::And you were given two this morning to make up for it, dearspark. Now go back to discussing the lesbian influence on modern folk music with the hippies and leave our poor mate alone.::
::Yer no fun sometimes, Prowler.::
::Well, even smiling makes my face ache.::
::We need ta watch tha’ when Ah get home. Bet he's never even seen it.::
At this point the poor seeker didn't know which was the lesser of two evils; babbling bond-mates or the medic who was giving him the silent treatment.
“The sparklet is looking good.” Ratchet finally said. “And so is the bond. Your spark is healing faster than I thought it would from the backlash. There were some fissures still... but those will heal with merging, eventually.”
Thundercracker pulled a face, and looked away. He didn't need to be reminded that there were fissures on his spark. He could feel them, thank you very much. Jazz and Prowl had soothed over the major chasm, but there were definitely cracks that had yet to be filled. And he didn't want to think of merging, not more than he had to, and certainly not with them. They didn't really like him, he was sure to keep that thought locked away tight in the part of his processor he'd blocked off. They were victims of their coding and the minute the little one was sparked they would resent him, block him from even more than they'd already locked down. Their friendliness, the way they made sure to project down both pathways when using the bond, would prove to be a farce.
Ratchet let out a string of curses; an impressive mix of Iacon proper and various Terran languages. “I told them this would happen. I told them! But you can never reason with seeker-kin. I couldn't reason with Prowl about Bluestreak and I could not reason with either of them about you. They should have left you in the medbay. We would have found another way.”
“I would have died.” Thundercracker deadpanned, doing his best to seem disinterested with the medic's ranting. "You told seeker-kin that a carrier was in trouble. You, doctor, should have known what would happen."
Ratchet looked up sharply, sputtering and trying to find the proper retort to the seeker's statements. “Well that---”
Thundercracker leveled him with a look that any on the Nemesis would have identified as the are you really this stupid or do you just act like this to try me look. One he reserved for Skywarp after an incredibly imbecilic prank. “My spark was guttering when we left the medbay. I wouldn’t have lasted the night. You made that plain as the digits on your hand to a bonded pair of seeker-kin. What, pray tell, did you think was going to happen? There is a reason all seeker-kin introduce themselves as 'Protectors of the newsparks' you know. It is as base in their coding as needing energon. You... this is as much your fault as it is theirs. No one asked me what I wanted. No one consulted me. Instead I was coerced into merging with a couple with an incomplete trine bond while I was not in my right state of processor. How do you think I... Do you Autobots even think?”
Ratchet huffed but did not answer him, not yet at least. What was there to say to an accusation of that caliber? Ratchet had been aware of what would almost certainly happen, he had warned against it, but he had allowed it anyway. Even if he had urged Prime to lock the seeker away in the brig Jazz and Prowl had override codes. They would have made their way to the wounded mech. Slagging seeker-kin code!
Thundercracker glared with all the fury his taxed systems could muster.
::Thundercacker?:: Jazz's worried voice carried down the bond, agitation clear and present in his tone. :What's the matter, what's happening? Is something wrong with the bitlet? With you? Thundercracker? Thundercracker? Answer me, please.::
The blue seeker noted that Jazz's accent cleared up amazingly quickly when he was worried. Something to ask about later. As if he or the Praxian would answer. ::I'm fine, but I don't want to talk right now. Go back to your little fire festival and don't worry about my newspark.::
::It's Burning Ma...:: Jazz was abruptly cut off as Thundercracker slammed his end of the bond closed. The bond was new enough, and his section was really a piggyback of the original bond between Prowl and Jazz, that the Polyhexian could have forced it back open if he so chose. He waited a few tense kliks before sighing in relief. In this, at least, they were listening to him.
Ratchet glared back, noting that the seeker's right wing was fluttering gently. Most likely his bond sign as Jazz and Prowl would be frantic at his agitated state. He finally looked away, the seeker's wing was still fluttering and he seemed to be paying no attention to the medic now, and crossed the infirmary. He carelessly pushed aside a few vial and jars, the thing he needed hadn't been used in vorns and was really stocked more for a just in case than because they actually thought they would need it. He finally came back, trying to hand Thundercracker the large jar. “You need to take a scoop of that with your energon. Twice daily. If you're serious about this, now that you're back to you senses. Despite what you might think of us, we won't force you to go through with something if it is going to be too much for you. I..." Ratchet looked away, Prowl and Jazz would kill him if they knew he'd brought this up. "They aren't seekers. Seeker-kin without a doubt, but not seekers. There is a 97 percent chance they would survive the bond breaking if it did so within a lunar cycle. The bond would have to be blocked off on both ends, they would have to know what was happening and steel themselves against it, but it is doable."
Thundercracker gave him an incredulous look. "What's to stop me from going ahead with it without their permission? From taking all three of us down if they refuse me this request?"
"Nothing." The medic gave him a shrug, as if he was expecting this retort. "Nothing except the knowledge that they are our leading defense against Megatron, against the mech that stole your first trine from you. And you would take them away from Bluestreak. I'm sure in my assessment that you have been drawn into the creation bond with him, already feel somewhat protective of him. Even though he is grown, taking Prowl and Jazz away would destroy his world. This is not Cybertron, he does not have a large network of extended family to fall back on. He's not even bonded yet. You would strand a mech, who was barely out of his younglinghood when we went into stasis, on a foreign world with no family. Your own code of honor would not allow this." Ratchet pushed the jar at him again.
Thundercracker frowned, not convinced the medic spoke plainly. For all he knew, Prowl and Jazz could override him if he tried to deactivate. He took the jar with a wary glance. “What is it?”
“Mostly minerals. Some metals your nanites can convert into additional fuel. It will help. And the merges, of course. The merges will be the most crucial part of keeping the newspark healthy.” Ratchet tried to hide the small smile as the seeker subspaced the jar. Despite what he said, his carrying protocols were obviously strong enough to seek to protect the newspark. And he had faith in the healing power of Prowl and Jazz to pull him through the rest.
“You keep saying that.” Thundercracker looked less like an elite seeker and more like a petulant youngling as he glared at a spot on the wall over Ratchet's shoulder. He would not reduce himself to pouting at the floor, much as he felt it.
“I’m hoping someone in your trine might actually listen to me for once.” Ratchet snarked back. “You may not want the bond, but the sparkling needs the energy, and it needs for you to survive. All of you. It will have already imprinted on Prowl and Jazz, made the beginnings of creation bonds with them. The merges will only strengthen this attachment it has to them. So you are just going to have to get over it. This moping isn’t going to help things. You are shaping the spark's first views of the world. Every emotion one of you has imprints on it. Affects its own emotional state and personality. Trauma is hard on a sparklet, and there is only so much Jazz's good nature and Prowl's steadiness can do to balance what you are bathing it in. The carrier is the key until the separation. I’ve seen bots lose them going through a lot less than you have. So I’m sorry, I really am, to say you are going to have to suck it up, and put your emotions away for now.”
Thundercracker flinched, “I---”
“You what? Didn’t know? I will give you that." Ratchet picked up a tool, examining it carelessly. He began to toss it back and forth idly and the seeker could easily believe he wanted to toss it at him. "But you know now, and will behave accordingly. I'm not above telling your trine that you need to be kept under the least amount of stress, doctor's orders, until you spark. What do you think they would do?”
"You just said it was my choice. You wouldn't da..."
He stopped abruptly as he noticed a chevroned head peering in through the doorway. He cursed himself for shutting his part of the bond so tightly. He had not felt the Praxian coming, but chances were good the other had felt his rising ire radiating through the bond. Prowl peeked further inside, frowning. “Is everything okay? I heard shouting in the hallway.”
“Everything is fine.” Thundercracker said, closing up his chest plating. He felt suddenly shy, and more than a little foolish that he had left himself exposed. too busy berating the medic to even close more than his inner housing.
“Right.” Prowl said, not convinced in the slightest. ::Lying would work better if we weren’t bonded. Or if you knew how to close off both sides on your own. Or better yet, if you hadn't worried Jazz. Optimus is not pleased with him. He raced out of his obligation, mid-speech, when you shut him out. I do not joke when I say Jazz is closer to his coding than I am, but you will learn that in time.::
Thundercracker flinched again, unprepared for the brush against his processor or the anger behind it. He curled into himself subconsciously, carrier directive telling him to protect his chest at all costs.
Prowl's expression softened. His stance slumped slightly, wings dropping from their high and ridged positioning. He'd been puffing himself up unknowingly, trying to imprint on his new mate what the pecking order in their trine would be. Stupid coding. The smaller mech moved closer to the seeker, holding his hands out to show he meant no harm. “It will get better.” I hope went unspoken.
“Everyone keeps saying that, but do any of you actually believe it?” The blue mech refused to look at his trine leader.
"Do you honestly want to know, or are you venting?" Prowl reached out, stroking a wing lovingly. Pushing the bond open to allow love and soothing comfort to flow down it. As soon as it was opened Jazz added in Love/Concern/Concern/Love/Love/Love tinted with a desperate Need to get home now! Mate in trouble! Newspark in trouble! Home! Now! Home now!
"Yes. No, I don't know any more. Is there anyway to calm him down?" Thundercracker looked somewhat sheepish as he pushed his own Fine/Fine/Comfort/Fine down back to Jazz.
“Not really. He'll calm down as soon as he's held you down and checked every centimeter of your plating to ensure you are well." Prowl gave a soft shrug and half a chuckle.
Thundercracker was not as amused with the possibility and did not like the almost squeak that escaped his vocalizer. "Really?"
"I keep telling you he is closer to his coding than I am. He was... there was a mech who had to be reassigned after he roughed me up during a training session while I was carrying. It was unintentional. But that did not stop a protective Jazz, and he went on the hunt for the poor thing's energon until they were separated. It gets tiring. I know. But you will not want him any other way once you get to know him.” He could sense Thundercracker’s feelings rolling through the bond. Trepidation, curiosity, and a not so small sliver of relief. “Besides...Wheeljack is working on the specs for the frame. He needs your input before he programs the nanites. Best to get that done before you get 'grounded' as the humans would say.”
“That---Wheeljack? Really? Prowl is that wise?” He cursed himself inwardly, once he'd identified Prowl as trine leader he felt the innate need to follow his lead. He would question, of course, but he knew he would bow to the other's wisdom on most things now.
“It’s a frame, not an invention." Prowl looked almost hurt that Thundercracker would even feel the need to ask. "Besides, he designed the basic specs for Bluestreak. I think we will be safe.”
Thundercracker looked more horrified if anything, unable to believe that the calm and logical mech had allowed the mad scientist anywhere near Bluestreak's protoform. “Prowl. He will make my sparkling explode. You were lucky he didn't blow up Bluestreak.”
A soft snort and a quick slap to his wing, not hard but enough to make him wince, reminded him the Ratchet was still there. "My mate can be somewhat clueless in his weapons specs, but I wouldn't trust anyone else to make a sparkling design." The medic waved a wrench threateningly when Prowl began to growl softly. "And don't you start, you know I have no problem tossing these at you."
“Thundercracker.” Prowl dead-panned, choosing to ignore the medic for now. He would let Jazz know what happened when he got home and set his second-wing loose on a recharging Ratchet later. Maybe Bluestreak too, they did wonderful things with glitter. Not that he would ever admit that. “I promise Jacky will not blow up Our bitlet.”
“It’s Warp's. And it's Scree’s. I don't even feel like it's mine. I'm just the vessel it's coming into the world through.” He finally said, letting Prowl steer him out the door and down the hall, towards the science bot's lab..
Prowl’s doorwings twitched in annoyance. “It is yours, never doubt that. It loves you more than you will ever be able to fathom. And it is Ours .” Prowl corrected him. “We’re your trine, we're taking care of it, raising it.” He already thought of the seeker as theirs, the piece of the puzzle they hadn't known was missing, but he doubted Thundercracker would approve of that sentiment right now.
Thundercracker pulled an equally annoyed face but didn’t argue this time. It was obviously an argument he was not going to win. Clearly Jazz and Prowl were in accord on the matter. He couldn't help but think of all the times Starscream and Skywarp had pushed him into something, used the bond and their love to pull him their way. But Prowl wasn't Starscream. And Jazz wasn't Skywarp. And he doubted they would ever love him with a thousandth of the passion they felt for each other. The best he could hope for, the only thing he could hope for, was that they learned to tolerate him after the newspark came.
Chapter 10: The Alchemist in His Lab
We are so very sorry for the delay in the updates. I've had some health issues I've been dealing with and Dell has been trying to get ready for a major move. Not to mention the minor muse revolt that we seem to have quelled for the moment. I hope this update is worth the delay.
Section Specific Warnings: Dell was channelling the idea of Wheeljack being an alchemist in his lab and we just ran with it...
The hallway was oddly quiet in comparison to the mad house it had been earlier in the day. Either the others had grown tired of waiting for him to emerge or, and this was most likely, they had only cared about the state of Prowl and Jazz. He could not say he blamed them. Right now he didn't really want to be around himself either. The pulse of Prowl's EM field mingling with his own should have been soothing, it just served to make him feel more the traitor. It should have been him. He caused this. If he'd only let Scree... No, best not to go down that road right now. His tamp of his emotions was brittle at best. Hard to tell what Prowl and Jazz would be able to pick up since they were focusing on him. He couldn't let them know what he had done. Not now. Probably not ever.
They turned a corner and literally smacked into the sole unrelated Praxian on the Ark. Rather than looking agitated, the red and blue mech's optics lit up in interest. He gave Prowl half a nod before circling around them, pushing his own field against them in question. Ascertaining Thundercracker's situation. He nodded, more to himself than either of them, before sidling up to his left, a space Jazz would normally claim in this situation. Thundercracker gave Prowl a worried glance; standing in for a trine-mate without invitation when not a member of trine, family, or retinue, was normally something that could cost a seeker a wing. It was seen as staking an interest in the trine.
Apparently seeker-kin felt differently about the situation. Prowl quirked a brow ridge, shifting slightly on his peds, and his winglets fluttered almost imperceptibly. Are you sure you don't mind? Smokescreen's winglets rose higher before dropping back down, imitating a human's shrug. Why not? What else have I to do? Curious behavior indeed, one that made Thundercracker wish he'd studied seeker-kin harder instead of taking only the required courses at Vos' academy.
The silence was somewhat unnerving him. That was saying something given that he had been the resident stoic on the Nemesis. He preferred peace, quite, a chance to meditate on the events of the day over the bustle that went on around him. He had always been that way. It was a wonder he and Warp had gotten along the way they had.
That wasn't to say he hadn't joined in from time to time. A deeper voice adding to Warp and Star's off-key singing. A cube or so whenever they had high grade, he was not much of a drinker and it showed. He had even participated in the odd prank.
But this? He could not help the uncomfortable whine that escape his vocalizer as Smokescreen placed an errant hand on his wing. He knew it was probably something the other did without thinking, Praxians desired closeness as much as Seekers did and Smokescreen was the only Praxian who was alone. No kin but frame-kin. He had probably been commiserating with Prowl since the fall of Praxus. Jazz too. Seekers and seeker-kin always sought each other out for comfort in times of crisis and in times of peace. It was just the way of them, that much he did know.
He cursed himself for that tiny whine, small enough that no one should have noticed it. But Primus was not with him as the winglets of both mechs rose in worry. Smokescreen, much to his dismay, began to rub his wing in what he assumed was meant to be a comforting gesture. Prowl had stopped their procession and was looking at him in confusion and worry. "Is something the matter, Thundercracker? Are you feeling unwell? If that is the case we should return you to Ratchet before Jazz arrives home."
"I..." He stumbled, unsure of what to say. He did not know them, did not know their culture and the culture of the Ark in general. It would not do to upset his trine leader. "It's nothing. Really. Just something that flitted through my processor. Over and gone now. We should probably get to Wheeljack before Jazz gets back. We wouldn't want to upset Jazz any more than he already is, right?"
"Jazz will understand. In fact, he would most likely be upset if I allowed you to continue on without care if you are feeling unwell." Prowl gave him a look he secretly believed all trine leaders perfected in their spare time. Starscream had done much the same many times in the past, especially when he believed Thundercracker's goals to stand in the way of his own.
The seeker shored himself up. No matter what may come after the bitlet was sparked, for the moment his trine leader would not lash out at him. "I just... am unsure of something? Why is he coming with us?"
Prowl and Smokescreen exchanged an amused look, Smokescreen not entirely able to hold back a laugh. Thundercracker felt like a fool. Obviously there was something he should know that was escaping him. Probably some Autobot thing. They were all way too close and had a sense of brotherhood that the Nemesis never had.
He could have been happy here, among these mechs, if things had gone another way. If Starscream hadn't brought home his stupid pet gladiator and drug them along for the ride. Starscream and his inventions could have won them the war, could have negotiated terms for Vos and all the other war builds. This could have all been avoided. But the universe did not run on could or should, and the only thing this line of thinking was doing was causing him additional misery. And guilt, the guilt of blaming Starscream for what was happening to him now.
"Let's just say I have a vested interest in knowing what goes on around here." The red and blue clapped him on the back in a friendly manner, one that still made him wince.
Prowl chuckled, shrugging. "Smokescreen is often a font of information. He knows the goings on of the Ark as well as, if not better than, Red Alert. Only think of what you could accomplish if you applied those talents to your work instead of recreational activities, Smokey."
Smokescreen chortled. "Says you, Prowl. I prefer to think of that as my work. Our fine comrades need something to take their processors off the harshness of what we go through. If I can provide them with entertainment and provide myself with a little extra who am I to turn down things?"
"Are all Autobots completely insane, or just the ones I've had the good fortune to deal with?" Thundercracker ex-vented a sigh as Smokescreen laughed again and Prowl tried to hide a smile. He was going to take that as a yes.
"You quickly learn to stay sane inside insanity." Prowl gave him a soft smirk and Thundercracker was quite sure the mech's optics were twinkling. "Or you simply embrace the insanity. Either way, this will all seem quite normal to you by the time the bitlet comes. I promise. If you can handle Jazz you can handle anything else the Ark tries to throw at you."
Thundercracker ex-vented a huff, purposely making sure the recycled air flowed against Prowl. "Who says I can handle Jazz?"
"I have faith. You're a strong mech, you never would have made it this far if you weren't. Jazz is a drop in the ocean compared to what you've already been through." Prowl gave a firm squeeze to his wing before nudging him forward. "Come now, we're late as it is to meet Wheeljack. And Jazz will be back soon."
Thundercracker gave one last agitated huff but allowed himself to be led down the hall once more. Much to his annoyance, Smokescreen had taken up the place to his left again. But he supposed if it did not bother Prowl he should do his best to let it go. Besides, he was getting the distinct feeling that if he complained loudly enough in the vicinity of Jazz something would be done about it. In that Prowl was right, Jazz's protective programming could be used to his advantage.
The door to Wheeljack's area of the Ark did not exactly inspire faith in the poor seeker. As it slid aside to admit them he took notice that it was easily twice as thick as the other doors he had been through so far. The outside had been discolored with smoke. The inside of the door seemed to be pitted and dented from what could have only been numerous explosions. He gave another almost imperceptible whine and looked to Prowl. Prowl simply shrugged and pushed him further into the cavern.
And cavern it was. Wheeljack's lab was not an actual part of the Ark, but rather a cave in the volcano that the Autobots had deemed suitable for the inventor's uses. While it was brightly lit, almost cheerfully so, there was no hiding the fact they were now underneath a mountain. He shuddered as his inborn claustrophobia threatened to get the better of him. The high ceiling was probably the only thing keeping him grounded.
And it was a strange sort of mess. Organized chaos, as Starscream would have said. His spark clenched painfully at that. Starscream's lab had always been a jumble of beakers and tubes, chemicals he didn't have a name for along with some he wished he didn't know the name for. It had been a sanctuary for his wing commander to retreat to when the rest of the faction just became too much for him. Only three others had known the code to enter, and only one had really used it. Stepping into this place was like being transported back to the Nemesis and he could not help the shivering that ran through his plating.
But in some ways it was different from his trine leader's refuge. Where Starscream would have kept beakers, Wheeljack had unused stacks of coiling wire. A large rack of chemicals was replaced with piles of parts. Starscream had tinkered with inventions, but he really did prefer his scientific curiosity over his ability to piece together new toys that would amuse Warp or placate Megatron.
Starscream had also found most human technology to be paltry sparkling's play. Wheeljack must have been fascinated by it. There were several half dissected television sets piled in a corner. And it was quite obvious the science bot had been tinkering with a primitive combustion engine, perhaps seeing if he could get it to run on their cleaner burning energon. He didn't have Star's knowledge, but even he could tell the air quality on this planet was less than desirable for organics to be using.
Thundercracker took the lab in with a nervousness he knew he could not hide, optics wide as if he was expecting the place to explode about him. And if the door and piles of shattered rock were anything to go by, that was not an unreasonable belief. He began to inch back toward the door, salvation, and was stopped by a firm hand on his arm. He whined, and oh how he was beginning to hate that sound, and shot Prowl a pleading look. ::Is this really a good idea? This doesn't look safe in the slightest.::
The chuckle that reverberated down the bond didn't make him feel any better. Well, maybe slightly better. The Polyhexian didn't sound near as frantic as he had earlier. Perhaps he would get out of being "grounded", whatever that meant. ::Ah, dun be scareda Jackie, lil bot blue. He’s like The Doctor and Q squished inta one cuddly robotic mess. Sure, sometimes things go kersplat, but he has the best a' intentions.:: Thundercracker was pretty sure Jazz was attempting to reason with him over the bond, but it was not working. Not in the slightest.
::His intentions could kill me.:: Thundercracker’s optics darted to Prowl.
::We’ve not had many casualties.:: Prowl's voice was calm, reasonable; if a statement like that could ever be called reasonable. The seeker was not quite sure if his trine leader was playing with him. He still had a hard time getting a bead on Prowl, and when the humor was not really humor. These two were going to be the deactivation of him yet.
Thundercracker made sure to push all of his irritation down both sides of the bond. ::Now, that is comforting.:: Almost as an afterthought he pushed an even larger portion down towards the Polyhexian. ::And I am not "little bot blue". For starters, that sounds like a nickname you would give a sparkling; and I think we can all agree I'm well past that stage in my life. Another thing, I'm bigger than you. Hmph, little indeed.::
Prowl only laughed as Jazz began to send apologetic emotions down the bond. Worry/Sorry/Sorry/Worry/Love/Trust/Worry/Sorry . He shook his head, at least one of them would be able to resists Jazz's charms; however temporarily that might last. “Jacky, are you in there?”
Thundercracker wasn't sure how he had missed the bot standing among the carnage that was his lab. He just seemed to fit in there, like he was a part of it. An anaconda lying still on the forest floor. Or, more likely, a kitten half buried under a pile of blankets.
The primarily white mech stepped forward to embrace Prowl, his headfins flashing in what Thundercracker could only assume was a sort of greeting. The Autobots really were a touchy group of mechs. If someone other than the trine or Megatron had grabbed Starscream in an embrace like that, for example, they would have ended up in the med bay if they were lucky. The smelter if they weren't.
“Prowl, I’ve been expecting you. I’ve---Hello.” He said, noticing Thundercracker’s presence for the first time. He scanned the seeker over, much the same way Starscream would optic someone if he were taking assessments. Sure enough, he pulled out a datapad and made a few notes. "Hmm, must make sure to factor in extra material in case it's needed."
“Ah---Hello.” Thundercracker blinked at him. ‘Curiouser and curiouser’, as Skywarp would have said. He had a vague inkling that Warp had picked that up from somewhere he probably shouldn't have been messing. Most likely he had gotten it from the same place he had gotten "chasing rabbits". Or was that "fucking like bunnies"? Skywarp had accumulated a wide collection of human colloquialisms that had yet to make sense to him. Another regret, that he had not spent more time humoring his more playful trine-mate. "What was that about needing extra material?"
"No offense meant, I assure you. It's just that you're quite a bit larger than the last carrier to come through my doors. Sometimes bigger carriers have bigger sparklings and it's best to have extra baseline nanites waiting in the tank in case we need to grow a larger frame." Wheeljack circled him once, hmmm'ing a little more and made another notation in his pad. "It's really no big thing. If the little guy needs them he'll absorb them as material. If not he'll either convert them into extra fuel or we'll pour them out as run off when he finally comes out of the tank. But given the impressive measurements of your wings, I'd rather be safe than sorry."
"Oh, well," Thundercracker hemmed slightly. He honestly didn't know what to say to that. The Autobots were willing to potentially waste resources to ensure his sparkling was properly sized and not stunted? "I...ummm. Thank you."
Wheeljack beamed, or at least seemed to, his head fins lighting up. Thundercracker noticed the headfins shown orange for a moment. Hmmm, he wondered what the inventor was telling the medic. “Come on, big guy, let me show you the plans. Now, you may have to give me a few more design specifications. I assumed a seeker mechlet would take the same basic designs as its carrier and sires so I programmed in all the basic stats I had on your trine. Hopefully we'll get a nice mix. And whatever I was off on the nanites should specialize in and adjust as he grows.”
Reluctantly Thundercracker followed the bot deeper into the lab, allowing the smaller mech to pull him forth by a hand. He didn't think he would ever get used to just how much these Autobots liked to touch. Starscream would have had half this base slagged to the pit and back. Though Warp probably would have fit right in. He was always hanging off someone. The thought made his intakes hitch and he tried to ignore the pointed looks he was receiving from both Praxians. Stupid Prowl. Stupid Smokescreen. More so on Smokescreen. Just because he was one of the Ark's resident busybodies didn't mean he needed to be hanging around in this case. He really was going to complain to Jazz.
The area of the lab he was pulled along to seemed to be filled with plans. Half finished designs littered one table, quaintly mapped out on paper like an organic might do. One over-sized table was stacked to overflowing with datepads. Wheeljack stopped at this holo-table and pushed half the mound of datepads off the top of it. He fiddled with the controls, murmuring something under his intakes, until a three-dimensional rendition of the sparkling frame appeared. "Now this is just what Telatran 1 spit out when I entered in all of your designs. It can be programmed differently if you think something is amiss or want to add something that you think the mechlet can support."
Thundercracker let out a little gasp. This was... This was... “It’s perfect.” He reached out, marveling at it even as his hand passed through the rendering. He let out a breathy chuckle as it shimmered and then realigned itself. It made him think of how Skywarp looked just as he was beginning a teleportation. Suddenly he was struck by the hope that the mechlet could teleport. Which was rather foolish, as he would realize once he'd had time to think about it. A teleporting seekerlet would be a nightmare to keep track of. But still, it had been so long since he had seen a seekerlet. And this one was going to be his. His spark pulsed in true happiness for the first time since he'd lost his trine-mates, and the newspark answered in turn. This might work out yet.
“I was hoping you would think so." The inventor's headfins shown brightly once more. White. Blue. Calming colors. Happy colors. Thundercracker was genuinely surprised to find himself almost liking the inventor. "Shouldn’t take me long to fabricate the frame once the cultures have grown. And I already have the start of the nanite cultures growing. Like I said, I'd rather make sure we have some extra in case the kiddo decides he wants to be a record breaker. Oh, and a growth tank built, of course.” He nodded to the large tank at the back of the lab. Standard design, he knew. Starscream had kept one in his lab for when the odd grunt sparked. “We can move it to the infirmary before we frame the kid. Ratch'll want to pop him right in as soon as he separates.”
Thundercracker nodded mutely. He could not understand why they were doing this. Why they would do this. No Autobot would ever get such treatment from the Decepticons, bonded or no. He simply did not understand.
Wheeljack took his silence as assent and turned to Prowl for a little good natured ribbing. "So, Prowl, why is it always your family keeping me busy with sparkling frames? Hmm? Not that I mind, it's always fun to tweak a design for the next generation."
"Tweak, hmmm? Is that why Bluestreak had that curious little habit of his when he was newsparked?" Prowl gave him an equally teasing punch in the arm.
Thundercracker almost boggled at that. If someone had told him a lunar cycle ago that the Autobot's second in command had a sense of humor, could actually be playful, he would have accused them of getting into bad high-grade. This really was just too much for him to take in. He fumbled for the nearest chair and sat down heavily as they continued their bantering.
Wheeljack was smiling, at least Thundercracker assumed he was smiling behind the mask. His optics were lit up in what could have only been amusement. "Don't go blaming that little bot's peculiarities on me. You chose to bond with Jazz. You get to deal with the sparks who take after him."
"True enough. True enough. I suppose it's too late to do anything about it now. Bluestreak is rather fond of him and would ask too many questions if his sire suddenly disappeared on a mission." Prowl stopped as if to contemplate something. "And, well, you know. I am more than a little passing fond of him myself at this point."
"Well, all you need to do is say the word and I can have a vat of acid whipped up for you within a few breems." Wheeljack's headfins lit up in amusement again and Thundercracker felt faintly ill. He felt his tanks churn at the thought of losing a trine member. He couldn't go through that again. Not again. How could Prowl allow Wheeljack to even joke like that?
To his amazement it was Smokescreen who seemed to notice his distress this time. The red and blue mech gave Prowl a rather sound hit across his left winglet. Once he'd gotten the other Praxian's attention he pointed to the blue Seeker and tapped his ped expectantly.
Prowl and Wheeljack both ducked their heads, obviously ashamed of themselves. Prowl probably more than Wheeljack, as it was just last night cycle that he'd been getting after Jazz for something very similar to this. Without saying a word he came over to his still upset bond-mate and leaned against him, brushing one hand questioningly over Thundercracker's wing. Thundercracker huffed but returned the gesture against Prowl's winglet.
They were okay. Well, as okay as they could be in the situation they found themselves in. He sent a weak warble of gratitude Smokescreen's way and received a friendly pulse in response. It was soothing. Oddly so. Like he should know this mech somehow, now that his defenses were down.
As if catching his train of thought, Smokescreen turned and stalked out of the lab without so much as a goodbye. Like he had something to hide. Something Thundercracker wasn't supposed to know. Or at least, he wasn't supposed to know yet. Curiouser and curiouser indeed.
Thundercracker gave a tired ex-vent. This really was too much for him. These Autobots with their outward friendliness. And yet it was obvious they were keeping some things close to the spark. He wondered if they'd ever trust him enough to let him in on it. Probably not. He didn't deserve it. Not when he had secrets of his own he wasn't willing to let go of yet. "Prowl, if you don't mind too much I'm feeling about as drained as I can be without slurring stupidly. Is there any chance we could head back to your quarters so I can get a little recharge in before Jazz comes back?"
Prowl gave him a nod and a look that clearly said he needn't have asked. "Of course, your rest is very important at this stage in the sparking. Do you require anything else before we return? Another trip to see Ratchet? Some extra energon? I think I may have still have some rust sticks left in my personal stash, and if not we can always have someone whip up another batch."
The black and white held out a hand to help him up. He took it without hesitation and made sure to lean more of his weight than was strictly necessary against his trine leader. Prowl let out a soft whoosh but did not say anything, even though it was quite clear from the look in his optics that he knew what Thundercracker was doing. He gave half a thought to just what all he could get away with while carrying before pushing it away.
The inventor followed them to the door, scuffing a ped against the floor like a dejected sparkling. The blue seeker could tell he still felt bad for making jokes about deactivating Jazz so close to the loss of Thundercracker's first trine. The Seeker reached out, tentatively laying a hand on the other's shoulder. "If I wouldn't be in the way too much, would it be okay if I came back at a later date to help you configure things? It was...uh, favoring Starscream's thrusters too much. They would only need to be that high if he favors extreme speed. I mean, that is to say, if you were serious about me helping with the design."
That seemed to be the right thing to say, as Wheeljack's headfins lit up once more in those calming shades of blue and white. Blue and white. It was hypnotizing, in a way. It almost made him forget just how dangerous Wheeljack's lab could be. And, as Prowl said, this was a sparkling frame. It wasn't like an invention that would blow up on him. He could be here safely. And he was surprised to find that thought not at all unpleasant.
The door slid open, signalling that it was really time for him to go lie down before Jazz came back. The saboteur had sounded quite a bit calmer the last time he had accessed the link, but perhaps that was the calm before the storm. If he was going to be "grounded", and he had a feeling it meant something different from being forbidden to fly, he wanted to have it happen with clear processors.
He stepped out into the hallway, the filtered light coming through a few half blocked windows making it seem somehow darker than it had been in Wheeljack's sanctuary. Funny that. He was closer to the air and yet it had felt lighter in the cave. One more thing to get used to while living with the Autobots, he supposed. Contradiction and conjecture, and things he would never understand.
He noticed that Ratchet was leaning against the wall directly next to the door. Bluestreak stood nearby. Both were smiling and watching him with almost predatory optics. What was going on? Had he done something wrong?
Prowl took a few steps out into the hall before noticing the smirk of the medic and the casual smile of his own spark. He sent a wave of questioning down to his creation, his doorwings twitching in amusement. Bluestreak sent it back almost immediately. Thundercracker couldn't help but feel something was about to happen, something he wasn't going to be pleased with, as Prowl gave a small laugh.
"So, something you three feel like sharing with me?" Thundercracker did his best to look intimidating, even though he was well aware he probably wouldn't be able to swat a fleshy the way he was currently feeling.
The medic gave a small chuckle and shrugged. "Oh, not really. I just needed to come down and confirm a few things with Wheeljack. And Bluestreak there was starting to wonder what had happened to Prowl. You know how it is, he's still a fairly young bot and likes to make sure he knows where at least one of his creators is at all times."
Somehow Thundercracker doubted he was getting the full story. He probably wasn't even getting the full title of the story if the slag eating grin Prowl was giving Bluestreak was anything to go by.
He caught the sound a moment too late, just as Prowl was taking a few steps further away from him and closer to Bluestreak. It was a sound he was well aware of from countless battles. The sound of a high powered sports car tearing through an area on a mission. He barely had time to turn his head, no time to think or react, as he saw a blur of black and white screech around the corner and transform mid-turn.
He felt himself hit up against the bulkhead before he registered the black and white was now standing in front of him. Oh good, Jazz was home.
He could hear the distinct sound of laughter filling the hallway, not that he could identify the bots making the noise. He was nasal plating to nasal plating with a frustrated Polyhexian and all he could see in his field of vision was a blue visor. Jazz pulled back slightly, just enough to scrutinize him. He felt the smaller bot's field press against his own, gathering basic data. Hands somewhat smaller than his pressed against him, checking every inch of his plating. He whined slightly and sent Prowl a look that clearly said ‘Help Me!’, not that his trine leader seemed too intent on moving from his spot next to his sparkling.
This was mortifying. The youngling was gawping at him not unlike some landed Terran fish. He could clearly see the medic now, bent over and trying to force air through his overheating systems as he bellowed in laughter. Wheeljack wasn't being quite so loud about it, but his headfins were flashing bright shades of red and yellow. Prowl was chuckling softly, definitely not going to help him as Jazz pressed insistently against him. He had a feeling the Polyhexian would have crawled under his plating if he could have managed it.
He pulled back in a grimace as he heard the soft chuffing of air being pulled along olfactory sensors. Jazz was...dear Primus, he was sniffing him. There was no way this could get any more embarrassing. Nope, nada. Oh wait, yes it could. He vaguely remembered that there were security cameras in all the major hallways of the Ark. Someone was watching this right now besides those present. Someone was making a recording of this right now. Oh Primus, what he wouldn't give to melt into a pile of slag and seep through the cracks in the tile.
"The bitlet?" Jazz's growl was a little darker than he thought he'd ever heard before.
Prowl stepped forward and pushed his mate away from the now thoroughly freaked out Seeker. Thundercracker shot him a look of gratitude. "The bitlet is perfectly fine, Jazz. You need to back up a little and give Thundercracker some room to move. You're probably making him feel claustrophobic."
He sighed in short lived relief as Jazz seemed to move away. Only to settle in at his side, pressing as close as he dared. "And Thundercracker?"
Prowl pulled at him, the saboteur clearly unhappy with being made to back away. Thundercracker wondered if any full-sparked seeker could have behaved in a more protective manner. "Thundercracker is fine now, sweetspark. He just had a little flux earlier, that's all. Nothing we weren't expecting. He's been through a lot. We all have. You don't want to stress him out any more, do you?"
Thundercracker sighed in relief when the flash of recognition registered in his new trine-mate's optics. Jazz shook his head slowly, and pressed close to Prowl. The Praxian was still murmuring things into his audial that Thundercracker couldn't decipher. He caught one word, 'Fall', and wondered what magic it held that Jazz instantly relaxed and seemed to melt completely into Prowl. The word had been said so quietly he wouldn't have believed he'd heard it if he hadn't seen the instant reaction to it.
He heard the snick of an automatic door sliding back into place and his head snapped up. The medic and the inventor were nowhere to be seen. Clearly they had decided the show was over. And obviously they, well, the medic at least, had known there was going to be a show.
Fragging Autobots and their fragged up sense of humor...
At the same time this was somewhat comforting. Obviously Ratchet wouldn't have left him out here if he'd believed him to be in any sort of danger. Jazz was just being protective. And Prowl had mentioned that he was very close to his coding. He supposed to should be grateful the smaller mech hadn't dragged him back to his quarters by a wing to do a more thorough examination. Best to not tempt Primus by thinking such things.
Bluestreak, the little bot, or maybe not so little bot (he was slightly taller than his sire), was now nuzzling against his creators. He hadn't been disturbed by his sire's behavior, obviously this was just a worried Jazz thing. Prowl and Jazz were nuzzling him in return, not unlike some organic felines comforting their young. The soft hum of content systems synching up was hard to miss. This was a family. A family that loved each other.
Thundercracker couldn't help but feel that he didn't belong. For all of Jazz's show of possessiveness, for all of Prowl's attempts at comforting him, he simply didn't belong. He probably never would. And he could accept that, he supposed, as long as his newspark received what Bluestreak was getting now.
Chapter 11: Of Reunions And Choices
Section Specific Warnings: This hit out of left field. This section was supposed to be a talk with Smokescreen. Thundercracker had other ideas...
It had yet to cease to amaze him how the Autobots had integrated themselves into Earth customs and culture. They kept time in human measurements, clocks in all the rooms and calendars hanging in odd places. He supposed it did have its usefulness. Humans did come and go from the Ark at all times. The Autobots had speaking engagements, political maneuverings, and an abundance of human entertainment they needed to keep track of in human time.
It had been ten days by human reckoning since he'd bonded with Jazz and Prowl. Almost three weeks since he'd lost Starscream and Skywarp. A small blip in time that also felt like forever.
Part of him, a part he tried to keep secret for the sake of the peace, still blamed the Autobots for his new bond. He knew in some back processor-ed way that it was something that he had needed, the newspark would not have made it without it, but it still irked him. They had kept him in the med bay under sedation for too long. Over a week he had been let go while they decided what to do with him. It had caused his dire need for spark energy for the little one, exacerbated the need for a bond. He couldn't help but think he might not have needed the bond at all if they'd given him a little jolt from the start.
Some dark part of his spark questioned if it hadn't been deliberate. It was madness, against all common sense, but it was there.
He was kept busy, at least. Jazz had a wide selection of entertainment, both Cybertronian and Terran. Prowl had a secret fondness for some game he called 'Monopoly', a game no one else would apparently play with him. It was all tactics and strategy, so Prowl excelled at it. He had seen Bluestreak a few times, when the youngling could be coaxed into the suite. He either wouldn't look at Thundercracker at all OR he'd stare. The Seeker suspected the youngling's coding was adjusting itself.
And some of the Ark's residents were somewhat pleasant to be around. Well, tolerable. Optimus Prime stopped by on a daily basis to ascertain that he was thriving there. And to feel the newspark; the big, soft-metaled brat. The Seeker firmly believed if the conflict ever ended the Prime would grab the first 'Bot who said yes to his courtship and settle down. He was just one of those mechs, and his lack of family seemed to bother him deeply. Not that you would guess if you didn't know what you were looking for. But Thundercracker had seen him giving the medic the same look Megatron would always give Starscream in their nicer moments. Saw through to the concealed envy when Bluestreak was curled up with one or both creators in a pile on their floor.
The return of his weapons had surprised him, even when explained that Jazz and Prowl had override codes that would shut them down with a well placed signal. Not as much of a surprise when the Aerialbots had burst into his trine's quarters and "kidnapped" him to go flying. They wanted him to be able to protect himself if any Decepticon flyers showed up. At least once a day, since that first day, he found himself being grabbed and yanked out the front door by one flyer or another. Aerialbots, Cosmos, even once by Powerglide. Small miracle, Skyfire had yet to make the offer. Hopefully it would stay that way.
He found himself facing down Ratchet every other day. The head medic had insisted on it until he was sure the bond was doing what it should do. Little blessings, he had never had to face him alone again. Jazz and Prowl were always there with him. Wheeljack too. Smokescreen had caught two of the appointments, but he was always hanging around where he didn't belong so Thundercracker had learned to ignore him.
He had been surprised, though he shouldn't have been, to find himself a daily visitor of Wheeljack. So much so that there was a second cot in the inventor's lab now for when he needed to catch a quick recharge. He'd come out of said quick recharge yesterday to see Wheeljack and Ratchet curled together on Wheeljack's berth; and to find himself covered in seeker-kin. Prowl and Jazz on either side of him, Bluestreak sort of flopped over all three of them. The youngling must not have found him as intimidating when he wasn't online.
He'd come out of one of these naps, and humans did have some of the quaintest words to describe things, today to find Prowl and Jazz staring at him. Not an uncommon occurrence. Prowl often watched him with all the tenderness of a carrier with their newsparked creation. Jazz's looks were often more fearful, not of him but for him, and bent towards possessive. But today they seemed to be reserved about something, neither speaking as they guided him out of the door and into the hall.
“Where are we going?” Thundercracker finally asked with more patience than he thought they deserved. They had been traveling through the twists and turns of the Ark in continued silence. Where ever they were going it was making both Jazz and Prowl jittery. It was not physically apparent, save for the way Prowl's doorwings kept giving the odd twitch. But mentally it was quite clear, the way their minds buzzed with nervous energy. They were trying to keep it flowing under the surface, but it was strong enough for him to skim the flow passed between them.
They paused for a moment to share a look. Their optics lit up in a way Thundercracker was well versed with now, and it irked him. He gave a small push on the bond and found them both cutting him out of this conversation. It went on long enough that he had begun to contemplate seeing if he could get away with smacking one of them when Jazz finally spoke. “The med bay.”
The med bay? Was that all? He didn't understand the problem, then. They were the ones who had jovially coaxed him down there for every appointment so far. Jazz found his trepidation of Ratchet amusing. Prowl did too, not that he'd admit it. “I wasn’t supposed to see Ratchet today. What did I do to deserve this treat?”
“We know,” Prowl said. His doorwings began to flutter with intent and he refused to look Thundercracker's way. “You've done nothing. The newspark is fine near as we can tell, and Ratchet is talking about cutting back on your visits if tomorrow's appointment goes well. We just have...something to show you.”
Thundercracker frowned but let them lead him through the infirmary. It was quite today, there had been no Decepticon raids or attacks of any kind since the day that... There had been no attacks. The only injuries Ratchet had been dealing with were infaction or self inflicted. Mostly those pit-spawned twins. The red one had a penchant for pranks that often backfired on him. And yesterday they had both tried practicing jet judo on Skyfire under the excuse that the Decepticons had some shuttles in stasis. Thundercracker had watched from his own medical berth in somewhat justified glee as the dinobots dragged them in and threw them down with all their usual care.
His trine-mates bypassed the main medical area, not even pausing to give a greeting to Ratchet, and slipped into one of the smaller side rooms. He caught a pensive look on Ratchet and First Aid right before he stepped inside. He felt a heaviness settling in on his spark. The Autobots were a peculiar group but this was off even for them.
The lighting was dim and reminded him of a mausoleum Starscream had insisted on viewing when they'd been raiding a power source near New Orleans. He had never given much thought to the organic version of things beyond this realm until that moment. Standing in the doorway of that crypt he had felt something pushing in from beyond the shadowlands, some restless thing that wanted back in. Or maybe in for the first time. He felt that same chill now, ice in his lines.
He stepped forward, his processor still in that old (by human standards) tomb, and did not see the double berths in front of him. His knee joint made a painful sounding crunch as it collided with the nearest one. And now he knew why this place made him feel like he was in a repository for the dead. Because it was, he was. His processor swam as he looked down at the face of his air commander, and felt like his legs were going to buckle. He dropped down to his knees in a mix of respect and weariness.
“How---How did you get their bodies?” He asked, crawling closer to where the two seekers' frames were laid out. He needed to be closer, to feel them, touch their plating. This couldn't possibly real. Thundercracker’s hands shook as he reached out and touched Starscream’s greyed shoulder. It had muted the colors of his former trine leader, but not taken them away entirely. He noted the same of Warp. His purple was darker, uglier. Like a bruise or an ominous twilight.
His head snapped up suddenly. Frenetic in his actions as he lunged forward to pull Prowl down to his level. "How did you get them? How? The Nemesis, oh Primus, you went to the Nemesis. You can't...no no no no No No NO. You can't do things like that. Shouldn't have. Don't you dare. Never again. What if you... The newspark! What if you..."
He didn't expect the firm smack against a wing. Hard enough for him to feel it, for him to be knocked out of his babbling. Minor surprise that it was oh so protective Jazz who'd done it.
"No one went ta th’ Nemesis. Chillax mech." Jazz leaned forward to nuzzle him. Soft, soothing, his EM field caressing him in reassurance.
"Then how?" He knew the answer without having to ask, but he needed this. Needed to hear it. Painful, wrenching as it was. An afterthought, “And who repaired their frames?”
“Rumble and Frenzy brought them here, actually." Prowl murmured as he pulled him close, petting his wings. He sighed in spite of himself. Part of him was annoyed with the treatment, this was the same way his carrier had soothed him when he was very young. Part of him was grateful that they at least made the attempts. And the smallest, quietest, part of him dared to hope this meant more than it probably did.
His trine-mate, bond-mate his traitorous spark whispered, continued on. "And as for the repairs, well Ratchet and First Aid both worked on them. There has been little else for them to do. And, well... We all figured you would want to give them a proper burial when you were feeling better.”
Thundercracker shook his head, not trusting himself to speak for a long moment. Somewhere out in the med bay the tick of a Terran clock was sounding. Tick. Tick. Tick. Little clicks to wile away the time. Time that was so precious. Time that didn't mean anything. His shoulders hunched and he seemed to curl in on himself.
"Even in this," the Seeker's voice was pitched so low his trine-mates did not know if he were truly speaking at first, "they vex me."
Jazz and Prowl shared a worried look as a wave of misery and sorrow shot through the bond. It was painful, unhindered. Jazz lowered himself to the floor lest he be forcibly knocked to his knees. They both worried they had been wrong, that it was too soon.
“Thundercracker?” Jazz said softly, one tentative hand reaching out for him. An offering. A lifeline. Anything, everything. For a brief flash the seeker did not doubt that they cared for him. Maybe liked him. That maybe they were even starting to love him against all sense.
A flash. There and gone.
"Megatron." He muttered by way of explanation. "Starscream too. He wouldn't have let them... If anything had ever happened... Even in this they vex me."
Prowl studied him for a moment, working out things that Frenzy and Rumble had so kindly shared with them. He did not like the conclusion. He didn't like it at all. He pushed the worry aside, he needed more information to form a proper conclusion. "We were told that this was an accident. I need to know what the validity of that statement is."
"An accident?" Thundercracker's deep voice had taken on a surreal quality, detached. Like a mech casually discussing the weather instead of the deactivation of two he held so dear. "No. Not entirely. Well, maybe. Skywarp assuredly a no. What happened there was no accident."
Thundercracker pulled away from him, surprisingly steady on his peds. He touched Starscream reverently on a cheek strut. "Now Starscream, that could have been an accident. Probably was. Actually, most assuredly was." His laugh was cold, hollow. "Megatron coveted him. I can't imagine he would have deactivated his future mate on purpose."
"Future mate?" Jazz sounded more than passing disturbed. "They were tellin' th' truth?"
Thundercracker turned blank optics on him, nodding his head absentmindedly. "'S why we were Decepticons. Starscream wanted him, and the attraction was returned. Don't honestly know what you could call what they've been doing all this time. Something like love for the broken and depraved.
"Or maybe not. Megatron wasn't so bad at first. Star wasn't either. They fed off of each other, a shared current. They multiplied and rebounded and it would come back stronger, more dangerous each time. Maybe love. Maybe obsession. I never knew and I never wanted to know.
"But he was pushing. Get this, the most fragged up part of it all. He was pushing to be allowed into our bond. To turn our trine into a retinue. And Starscream was on his side of the issue." Thundercracker let out one of those spark shattering laughs. Jazz idly thought that it was what mechs in the pit heard.
Prowl sighed, upset he had asked but needing to go further into it. To uncover the relics that might be used to piece their seeker back together. "And you? What did you want?"
"For him," he caressed Starscream again, "to be happy. That fragged up, slagged up, pit-spawned, glitched, ground-bound, Kaonite pit fighter was all he talked about. How could I have... That sound you hear? That's Primus laughing at your good intentions."
"Starscream found him, you know? They shared the resonance before I did. Drove each other to the brink of insanity and enjoyed every moment of the flight." Thundercracker walked the few steps to the next berth. He touched Skywarp with the same affection he had shown Starscream. "Warp loved a good 'face. Had a hard enough life before he came to us that what Megatron was preaching was what he'd always waited to hear. That Unicronspawn had a way about him, and Skywarp liked him for it. Not love, that was Starscream, but enough like that he saw nothing wrong with making a retinue."
Prowl stood and Jazz joined him. They pressed against the half crazed Seeker, thrumming love down the bond. Thundercracker jolted, like it pained him. His glare toward them was suspicious. Like he didn't want to believe it. Even without the blue mech broadcasting the Praxian could tell he just could not force himself to believe it. The distrust was undercut with fear.
"You never had a choice," Prowl squeezed in tighter, "did you?"
Thundercracker deflated then, slumping against Jazz. He did not know how to classify the noise he made as Jazz wrapped his arms around him, mindful of his wings. Prowl quickly joining. Was this... a defeated sigh? A hopeful quirk? Did he want this? Really? They were being so... "Do any of us ever have a choice? Really? We are bound by the will of others. Our creators. The academies we are sent to. Those we apprentice under. Those we love. Even those who have the best of intentions for us force those intentions on us. And to hear some say it, Primus pre-destined all of this for us. Who are we to question the will of a God?"
"Ask yaself what kinda god would do that ta ya. None I'd wanna mess wit'." Jazz loosened his hold and stepped away. "'M sorry."
Thundercracker shrugged, feeling a distinct cold where Jazz had been. He was amazed that he wanted his warmth there again. "You didn't do it. Nothing for you to be sorry about."
"But we did," Prowl corrected him as he too pushed away. "No one gave you a choice. We presumed to know what was best for you without confirming with you that you wished for it. It was wrong. We pained you, we're sorry. But we are not sorry for the bond. We do not regret that. Just the way it came about."
"I need to... I need to go." Thundercracker felt the fine tremors shaking his plating. He would not believe them. In truth, he could not. And he felt hot and cold. The room was smothering him, suffocating him. He would die if he didn't leave, pressed by the weight of this temporary resting place of the deceased. At the same time he was so cold. So very cold. He wanted Jazz back. He wanted Prowl back. He wanted to curl up on the floor with one on either side and rest until this feeling went away.
Prowl pulled Jazz to him, and together they pressed understanding down the bond. "Take your time. All the time you need. We'll be here, we'll be waiting, when you're ready to come back."
And somehow Thundercracker knew they didn't mean they'd be waiting in the med bay. Would it be so awful to hope?
The seeker ex-vented deeply. “Thank you.”
And with that, he was gone.
Chapter 12: Smoke and Shadow
Specific Section Warnings: Frisky Jazzes and Plotting Prowlers.
"I calculate the probability that Thundercracker will return to us tonight at eighty-six point nine four percent." Prowl murmured into Jazz's audial. The Polyhexian gave a nod of assent, leaning further into the embrace of his mate.
Prowl clasped him gratefully, his logical conclusion given further weight by Jazz's agreement. It was not often they quarreled over the numbers. On all the occasions, save one, it had been unfortunate enough to happen it had been he, not Jazz, who had proved to be in the wrong. Jazz's intuition was little suspect when it came down to the odds. Prowl still thanked Primus every cycle for the singular instance in which his mate had been wrong.
On other things, however, Jazz could prove to be wrong-processored. Unfettered beliefs were well and good when nothing could be lost by them. Or the matter so trifle the negligence could be overlooked. But on a few very important things Prowl would not, and had not, budged.
In spite of their difference, or perhaps because of them, Jazz had learned to trust him, and he Jazz. It had led them together. It had influenced their choice of the Autobots. Their dynamic had given them Bluestreak, forever a blessing and never once regretted. It was not so far a stretch to believe Thundercracker could be brought around into this bond and its accompanying way of thinking.
Jazz gave him a fond shove to break his moment of reflection. "Is that processor of yours ever at rest? I can hear your cogs whirring even without needing to open the bond."
"On many things, my dear," Prowl smiled down at him, "I am quite at leisure. But my thoughts shall ever be, even in my quietest moments, filled with you."
Jazz rearranged himself in his mate's arms until he was able to nuzzle at the cabling in Prowl's neck. "Hmm, if our fellows should ever learn what a charmer you can be I am quite afraid Thundercracker and I would have a time vying for your affections."
"And if they ever learned you actually can speak properly I think even our darling Bluestreak would be stunned into silence." Prowl teased back. "If First Aid were to overhear you I have no doubts he would be shocked and dismayed he was not allowed in on the secret sooner."
"That secret is ours, and one day Thundercracker's, to do with as we please. If we choose to disclose, it will be on our terms and not because we were trying to assuage the vanity of some upstart medical apprentice. We have lost enough of our choices to our faction. I refuse to lose that one." Jazz gave a flippant snort and that was really all there was to say on the subject.
It was Prowl's turn to nod in assent. It was an old discussion, one as old as Bluestreak, and it was highly unlikely they would resolve it in the course of this cycle. His mate well understood choice and obligation. But understanding did not mean he had to like, or even agree, with it. Prowl would simply offer what friendly quarter he could until the day would come that this conflict were at end and the choices completely their own once more.
It would be remiss if Prowl didn't acknowledge their own struggles to affect their views of Thundercracker's. The ability to choose even the most minor of things was a precious gift in the times they currently lived. To not offer it when it was available would have been a crime. To not offer it to one who had never been allowed to choose before would be a grievous sin against both Primus and the mech they would make their own.
:: My love, my love:: Jazz sighed down the bond, evidently worried he had tempted chance too much and they would be found out. ::You once again allow yourself to be too disturbed by my old wounds. Soothe yourself and put them away for the time. It will be gone in the passing of a moment.::
::Until it's not and something brings it forth again, Nightfall. How could I ignore your feelings? How could something that is a mark against you not wound me as well? We were clever fools to begin this game. It has saved us greatly but at so dear a cost.:: Prowl caught himself, what he was at. As much as it pained him he shut the bond against Thundercracker, urging Jazz to do the same. It was a physical ache to no longer be connected, but some things lie buried deep and for now they needed to stay that way. ::He knows, or at the very least must feel, we are closing the bond to him. How can we deal fairly with him if we can not find it in ourselves to be honest with him? Logically I know the timing is not right...:: Prowl shook his head, unwilling to venture farther with that line of thinking.
Jazz pressed them together tighter, a macabre thing to do in a room that was very much a house of the dead. This was not the first time, nor would it be the last, a shell had been housed there after the spark had deactivated. Starscream and Skywarp were in good company. Jazz would even like to half believe they were watching over their remaining trinemate and guiding his new trine in how to deal with him. Sparkling nonsense, but comforting in moments like these.
::Your own calculations say that time will give us leave to indulge him in everything. Take comfort in what we may do; and do not fault yourself for what we may not.::
Prowl allowed himself a small laugh, running a hand teasingly along the Polyhexian's sensor-net. ::How clever of you to think of such a thing. I don't know where you come up with it, my dearest Night.::
::Don't go promising things you have no intentions of following up on. This is your first and last warning.:: Jazz revved and melded himself to his mate. There was no way for them to be closer without one being under the others plating.
Warnings, they both decided quickly, were overrated. Prowl leaned forward to kiss him, mindful of the bodies and urging Jazz toward the door with every firm press of their lip components and swipe of eager glossa. Thundercracker would need some time to himself, even if it was highly probable he would be back before the end of the cycle. They needed this reaffirmation, a time to be themselves. Once the Seeker knew all they would gladly share in it with him. Until then they would catch what minor pleasures they could when they could. But even they were not so foolish as to chase it in a morgue.
Prowl gave a small wave in parting as they stumbled over themselves in the medbay proper. Ratchet grumbled, he wouldn't be Ratchet if he didn't show some displeasure in his area being disrespected in such a manner, but allowed them their leave. First Aid looked faintly uncomfortable but didn't dare to say anything. Unlike their senior medical officer the apprentice was still somewhat in awe of the second and third in command.
Jazz pulled away only long enough to give Prowl a broad smile and eye a nearby medical berth. The clang as Prowl's hand firmly met his hip was enough to dissuade him from the idea. For the time being. No matter what he might say to the contrary, Jazz never missed an opportunity to show off his Prowl. The Praxian had been his everything for so long that he couldn't help but wish others could see him as Jazz saw him.
Well, partially as Jazz saw him. His demon-in-the-berth belonged only to himself and Thundercracker. His joviality and easy temperament, so little viewed outside their quarters, he wouldn't mind sharing.
"You are thinking wickedness, I can tell." Prowl chuckled as they finally made it out of the medbay and into the halls. He pushed Jazz to arms length, close enough to grab his hand but not near enough to allow the Polyhexian to feel him up. He tried not to smile at the soft whine from Jazz at his loss.
"When'm ah not, Prowler? Shouldn' have 'n aft tha nice if ya dun wan me grabbin' at it." Jazz grin was licentious as he reached once more for his mate. He noted the headshake of Hoist as they passed him and Grapple in the hall. He would always chalk it up to envy and general Autobot prudishness.
Smoke and shadow. Mirrors and reflections. Smile brightly for the outside world and hide your true self deep within. Somewhere deep within Prowl Crimsonnight was howling his displeasure. But it had to be done. For their safety. For Thundercracker’s safety. And above all, for the safety of the sparks. For Bluestreak. For the new mechlet; unnamed, unknown, but not unloved.
He cursed himself once more for these wicked games, and allowed Nightfall to pull him into their quarters.
Chapter 13: A Game of Shadows
"Because Thundercracker's life is never complicated enough."
Thundercracker walked down the halls of the Ark. They were oddly empty, but that didn't bother him. It was not uncommon for a party to start haphazardly around the Ark. He would never stop marveling at how different the Autobots were from the Decepticons. Not really odd, not once you'd gotten to know them; but very, very different.
He didn't know where he was going. He suspected it didn't matter. It was his choice, wasn't it? He could go nearly anywhere and he had a feeling no one would attempt to stop him. If there were anyone around to stop him. It was a queer sort of liberating.
Odd and oddly peaceful. Part of his prosessor told him to take caution, that Prowl hadn't meant it. A larger part was telling that part to frag off. Prowl was a mech of his word. Honorable to a fault. At least Prowl had proven himself to be so far; and, surprisingly, Jazz was as well. He fretted for a moment as he thought about his trinemates. He didn’t know what to do with them or about them. It left him flailing inside. Luckily, he was an old pro at bottling his emotions, and it would serve him well for now.
Though he was a little surprised that he didn't hear the stealthy pedfall of Jazz. The little game they were playing. He knew Jazz could be silent enough that he would never detect the other mech. That Jazz purposely stayed just loud enough for him to hear. He also knew that Jazz knew he knew. One more thing to be both thankful for and annoyed about. Contradiction and confusion; his old friends.
He sent a questioning push down the bond, not enough to communicate but enough to gather some basic data on where he was. The bond was not blocked, not obstructed in any way. Jazz was on the move, yes, but headed in the opposite direction. Prowl was with him, and they appeared to be heading back to their quarters...and running hot. A little shiver creeped up his own back strut, and his fan kicked on even after his attempt to suppress it. He could not help but wonder why they would even want him. They had each other, and that seemed enough. He was just...he didn’t even know what he was anymore. He vented heavily, and leaned against the hallway wall. He needed a moment, some time to try and compose himself. Either they must have felt the bond open on his end or they were just always this way. Love/trust/adoration swept through it, leaving him reeling for a moment. It was pleasant to feel this rush of trust. And yet not. He felt cold, lonely, and smaller than he had ever felt in his long existence. He wanted to turn around and go back with them. But he needed to do this. Needed to confirm he could walk away, anywhere he pleased, for as long as he pleased. He needed to know.
He pushed a little harder, wanting words to go with the emotions. The push seemed to remind them he was there. The love they felt really was a default setting. Foolish to think that they loved him, wanted him to share in their love; but it was the only thing that had made their actions make sense. Without a warning, and with more than a little regret filtering down from Prowl, the bond slammed shut on both ends.
It really had been a conversation for just the two of them. He had been overstepping boundaries when he went delving into it. Prowl had been referring to Jazz as Nightfall, and Jazz had been speaking so eloquently. It was like they were different bots. Curiouser and curiouser. He leaned against the wall, trying to gather himself for what seemed an eternity. It was a pain filled thing, bitter on the glossa; like bad energon. Not for the first time he wished that they had just left him to die. Confusion and contradiction; can I offer you a seat?
“Are you unwell?” A voice behind him murmured in a soothing tone. Thundercracker turned, only partly surprised to find the doorwinger from earlier standing slightly to his left. Smokescreen was on special ops, after all. He could be as stealthy as Jazz if he needed to be. Something back processored, something he didn’t understand yet, told him that maybe Smokescreen could be stealthier than Jazz if it came down to it.
“Smokescreen? No. I’m---I’m fine. But you don't really believe that, do you?” Thundercracker hedged away from him. This Autobot wouldn’t hurt him. First impressions, in this case at least, had been misleading. Smokescreen was a Praxian in every meaning of the word. That didn’t mean he wanted a protector of the wing and the newspark to see him panicking. He would tell Prowl. Prowl would tell Jazz. Jazz would weld him to the berth by his wings until he stopped panicking. Again. Slagging prone to overreaction Seeker-kin.
The Praxian snorted, “No, I don’t suppose I do. You are a horrible liar at the best of times. I doubt you could lie to me even if you were clear processored. Which you very much are not." Smokescreen gave him a lopsided grin. "It’s hard, carrying. The emotions carry you away sometimes. You want to love everyone, while wanting to kill them. You can't get enough personal space while you wonder why everyone’s running away. I always had that problem, at least. It gets better though, I promise, and it is worth it if you’re ready. It really is. Nothing is quite like the moment when your newspark comes online. To watch the first colors bleed in. It truly is a gift from Primus. One of the few he has allowed us to keep in these crazy days.”
Thundercracker watched him for a long moment. Trying to decide what the gambler was up to. Another trick? A way to get more information for a betting pool? He gave a soft sigh and decided Smokescreen was being harmless enough for the moment, “Bots keep telling me that.”
“You doubt it though?” Smokescreen asked, gently steering him towards the recreation room. He allowed himself to be led. The outsider Praxian wouldn't hurt him, and could be decent company on the right day.
“I doubt everything anymore.” Thundercracker gave a slight shrug. "Do I have any reason to believe?"
“It’s easy enough to fall into that trap.” Smokescreen said thoughtfully. "I certainly heard Prowl say as much many a cycle when he was carrying. Then again, I think every carrier says it from time to time. Like an unbreakable law of the universe."
Thundercracker glanced down at him in renewed interest. The casual way way he spoke of things. Something clicked; a phrase he hadn't been paying attention to when Smokescreen first said it. The Praxian was this way when he was carrying? “Wait...what...you carried? Do... I mean did you...have sparklings? I understand if you don't want to---”
Smokescreen rolled his optics. “I wouldn't have said anything if I didn't want you to know. I sparked two. Both made it into adulthood. In that I was blessed. Both are....well, were soldiers. One was lost to me early in the war, you see. And the other...well, it is complicated.”
“What isn’t?” Thundercracker asked, ex-venting loudly. “Everything is complicated, just plain difficult. It always has been.”
“That, unfortunately, doesn’t get any better, youngling.” Smokescreen said as he peeked into the recreation room. It was thankfully, at least to Thundercracker’s view, deserted. "Though I certainly think what we're dealing with now makes it worse. War never was a place for sparklings, I told Prowl much the same, but if they're coming then they're coming. Not many options these days. Few have the medical access we enjoy in Ratchet."
Thundercracker watched the Praxian as he followed the smaller mech inside. The mech reminded him of someone, maddeningly so, but he could not quite put his finger on who. “So, two sparks?”
“Sadly just two. I always wanted a larger family, but it wasn’t in the dice. My career didn't really allow for a large family. I would have had to retire; and while their sire would have loved to bond I just wasn't the bonding kind. Sparklings I could handle. Mates... well, you know how bondmates can be. I was lucky though, they...were the best little sparklings. So clever and resourceful, my boys. Nightfall and Scattershot.” He sighed, “No carrier should outlive their sparklings, but there it is. You would have liked Scattershot, I think. He was a character.” The bot gave him a crooked smile he was coming to associate with just two mechs. And half with a third. Smokescreen and...
Thundercracker nodded absent processoredly, not meaning to be rude but unable to stop thinking about the smile, “I’m sure.” His lips quirked into a frown, worrying what Smokescreen had just told him like a terran canine would worry a bone. He knew that name...he’d heard it somewhere. Smokescreen stared at him patiently, as if the bot were waiting for him to fit all the pieces together. Scattershot and NightFall. Nightfall and Scattershot. Nightfall...he stopped in the middle of the room, almost tripping over a chair placed in front of the view screens for the humans. He glared at Smokescreen for a moment, wondering if he were going mad. Maybe he was an idiot, after all he had just heard Prowl use that very name. Or maybe, Primus forbid, if the other was playing a cruel trick. Surely not. But that meant. “You are---Jazz is---”
“Ah, now you’re starting to get it. He always was a secretive spark. It paid off in our family, a boon really. But you are family now. It’s not fair for you not to be let in on the secret. I’m sure that they would have told you soon. But it’s just very hard for us all to trust. It’s not in our nature.” Smokescreen shrugged softly. "It has kept us alive when all others of our kind fell, but it doesn't forgive what we've done; kept from you. But I think you understand why they did it. Are still doing it."
Thundercracker froze and just blinked at him. He didn't understand at all. Was this a trick? Please let this be a trick. Or a bad flux. “I'm sorry, I don't---I don’t understand. I wish I did. I wish anything in my life made sense.”
Smokescreen patted his shoulder. “I was afraid you wouldn't. I thought maybe this was too soon. But we...” He frowned and searched for the words. “Our clan were Shadows. Secrets, I fear, were our stock and trade. We dealt with dangerous things. Dangerous enough to haunt us even now.”
“Why are you telling me this, Smokescreen? If your designation even is Smokescreen.” Thundercracker moaned. Too much. It was too much. No mech would ever joke about being a Shadow.
“I'm afraid not. It was...is...Shadowveil. But as I said, it’s a secret to be kept between family. You do understand, right, son?”
Thundercracker’s processor whirled, and he tried in vain not to shake. Shadows were the mechs carriers told their sparkling about to make them behave. The darkest elements of Cybertronian society. The assassins, the thieves, the ones who lived on the outskirts, who could be anything and anyone while being nothing at all. Most bots didn’t even believe they really existed. They were rumored to steal other bots sparklings, whisking them away into the night never to be seen again. If you don't behave I can't protect you from the Shadows. Something to fear when you were young, half joke about when you were grown. Boogiemen, as the humans would say. He had thought they were nothing but tall tales. Mechs who could be anything; would do anything. Mechs touched by Unicron himself.
It was rumored that Megatron had used them early in the war and then had them all executed. He didn’t believe it. He had never seen a real Shadow before Smokescreen, and so had imagined it was idle chatter Decepticons told each other on boring shifts. Surely if they had been real Starscream would have told him... Then again, Starscream had been good at keeping secrets of his own. “I---yes.” Thundercracker could not help but stare at the bot, try to hide his horror. If Smokescreen was what he claimed to be he and Jazz might be the last of their kind. Well, probably Prowl too. He couldn’t imagine a non-Shadow willingly bonding with one.
Smokescreen sighed. If Thundercracker made it through this discussion without having a minor breakdown it would be a miracle. But the Seeker needed to know. What his spark had done wasn't right. Not at all. He had gone against their clan's code. Brought disgrace. A Shadow must never bond with one who did not have optics wide open to the dangers around them.
If Nightfall had been a smaller mech, Smokescreen would have turned him over his knee. It was tempting to do so anyway, head of Special Ops or not.
“It needs to stay a secret. There are only two mechs outside of our family who know the truth about us..."
Thundercracker couldn't help but interrupt him. His processor would burst if he didn’t speak, "Optimus?"
"That goes without saying, youngling; though he doesn't know everything." Smokescreen rolled his optics and tried to push on, but the blue Seeker would have none of it.
"Who else? My newspark.... My newspark is going to be related to Shadows. Oh, Primus." Thundercracker moaned in fear.
"Someone we trust whole-sparkedly. We would not have told him otherwise. Don't trouble yourself with it for now. But you...you just needed to know. Your newspark will be fine as long as you remember to keep this close to your own spark. We have taken great care to hide this. Jazz and I have jammers, we can block others from picking up any conversation we wish. Jazz could even block others from having access to you, or Prowl. This room could be packed wall to wall and if I so chose no one would know what we are speaking about. We are not fools. And before you ask, we could not share our secrets with the Autobots without giving away what we are. We can only point Red Alert and Wheeljack in the right direction; hope they stumble on what our clan has known for vorns. But that is neither here nor there. If you want to know more you should ask your bondmates about it."
Thundercracker's processor swam. So much to take in. "Prowl is..."
"Prowl is something else altogether, but that is not my tale to tell.” Smokescreen said dismissively, watching the Seeker. “We aren’t what you think, dear one. I promise. Prowl had a similar reaction when he found out about Jazz. We don’t---we never have stolen sparklings if the job did not require it.” His laugh was bittersweet. “I had trouble enough with my own two. Much as I would have welcomed more, they were a handful. Nightfall was always a little too proficient in our clan's ways. Though, what I wouldn't give now for Scattershot to have had that proficiency.”
Thundercracker looked at the Praxian. Really looked at him. Smokescreen wasn't a monster from a sparkling's tale. He was just a weary carrier; grown old before his time with worry and grief. It was amazing he was able to put up as jovial a front as he did. “I’m sure they were trouble. He still is.” His lip quirked up. “He’s always been up to his browplates in it, I’m sure.”
“You don’t even know the half of it.” Smokescreen’s optics twinkled with mirth and Thundercracker got it then. Scattershot had gone, Smokescreen would never forget him, but Jazz was still alive. Jazz, and through Jazz the gift of Bluestreak. The Shadow had family, family that reduced him to a normal mech. Family that gave him hope. Even allowed him to feel true joy despite all his losses. What Thundercracker wouldn’t give for such feelings. Smokescreen continued on. “Honestly, Prowl isn’t much better at times, not that most bots would guess. He hides it well. But get the two of them in a mood. Or Primus forbid, get Bluestreak in on things...”
Thundercracker nodded, ducking his head. “They are well matched. The three of them belong together.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. You compliment them.” The Praxian grinned softly. "If you could only see yourself through my optics, youngling."
Thundercracker huffed. "I'm not a youngling. Not by half. I'm old enough to know when things don't look well for me."
Smokescreen gave him a light thwack against the plating of his side. He wondered if that wasn’t a habit the whole Primus forsaken family had. "Hush. Most of you are younglings to me. And you are my spark's bondmate. That alone makes you my youngling. And perhaps, fool's fantasy that it is, I can treat your newspark the way I've always longed to treat Bluestreak. Full family and clan, not just Seeker-kin. And when that day comes I can begin to make things up to Bluestreak. So many things I’ve longed to tell him. To teach him. He has Jazz’s proficiency. He would be a wonder. But I've kept you too long. We old bots do ramble. Perhaps we can speak more on this another time?"
"I would like that very much." Thundercracker didn't know if Smokescreen was doing something to him, making him feel things that were not his own, but a wave of calm swept through him. He found himself wanting it to be his own. Even if Prowl and Jazz never came clean with him, he had family now who would be there for him. He prayed to Primus that this was one of his life's few real truths.
He couldn’t find it in himself to feel awkward when Smokescreen pulled him into a hug.
Chapter 14: Framing A State Of Mind
In which Wheeljack works some magic.
When given the choice Thundercracker gave most of the Autobots a very wide berth. More so since he was carrying. Prowl had assured him time and time again that no one was going to hurt him or the spark. That the actions of Wheeljack, Ratchet, Optimus Prime, and most of the fliers should be enough to reassure him. But old habits were hard to break. And to trust his old enemies was harder still.
Thundercracker would add Smokescreen to the safe list, but neither Jazz nor Prowl had said anything. He was inclined to believe that that conversation had been left between just the two of them. That Smokescreen was giving his spark time to do the right thing of his own accord.
Knowing that Sunstreaker and Cliffjumper would have shot him out of a belief that he was lying made him even less inclined to believe in general Autobot goodness. He stuck to the rooms he shared with his new bondmates, and only went out to see the bots he knew where safe to be around; namely out to see the aforementioned Ratchet for medical appointments, and to see Wheeljack. Smokescreen came to him when neither bondmate was in the rooms. Sneaky Shadow.
He was surprised when he stopped to think about it, striking up some kind of friendship with the science bot was the last thing he had expected. But Wheeljack was a very good natured bot, and easy to get along with. It certainly didn't hurt that they were putting the finishing touches on the prefabricated parts of the sparkling's frame. The nanites would be allowed to do their magic with the finishing touches. It was a thing of beauty, at least to his optics.
He wondered briefly what colors the chromites would finally settle on when the spark was placed inside. It was something that would take place over the sparkling’s first vorn. He hoped it would be a nice mix of Warp and Star’s colors. It was hard to tell though, it might be something entirely different. He was certainly not coloured like either of his creators. It had been so long since he had thought of that old pain. He pushed it away. Some other time.
He touched his chestplates. Two more orbital cycles. It seems an eternity and the blink of an optic. He couldn’t help but fret and worry with what was to come. He has never spent much time around sparklings before. In truth it had been an age since he had seen a sparkling, and truthfully had never really believed he would ever have one himself. Megatron and Starscream just had to force his hand on another issue, as usual. Not that he could regret the little being that was on the way. Each day it was a bit more real, and a lot more daunting.
The family the little one was coming into certainly didn’t help matters. As frightening as the Decepticons were, it had taken everything in him not to go running the cycle after finding out about Shadows. The fact these particular Shadows were Seeker-kin was probably the only thing that had kept him in the Ark. He did worry about the unknown issue that was Prowl, but there was no way Prowl’s past could be anything worse than former-Shadow. And he could see some benefits in the long run, if he forced himself to think about it. Smokescreen’s overprotective zeal and surveillance on his fellow ‘Bots was a boon. A way to calm his processor. And an almost welcome thing on the long walks down to Wheeljack when he had to pass the pit spawned twins in the halls.
Today was no different. The red one had been smiling too broadly, the yellow one scowling too deeply as he had passed by. Knowing Smokescreen was discreetly behind him had kept him near sane until he could make it to Wheeljack’s door. The science bot looked up as Thundercracker entered the lab, his cheek’s flashing a happy shade of pink. “I wasn’t expecting you so early.”
“I was getting restless.” Thundercracker said, shifting from side to side. It wasn’t entirely an untruth. He left out the fact his pace was double what it would have been had certain frontliners not been so close to his quarters when he started off. “I’ve had a lot on my processor I guess.”
Wheeljack nodded conspiratorially, he wasn’t a stupid bot and not nearly as clueless as others believed him to be. If Thundercracker wanted to keep certain things to himself he could respect that. He gave a shrug and went back to the datapad he had been working on. “I can imagine, I know I’d be out of my processor. Perhaps a trip outside?”
Thundercracker shrugged, looking faintly uncomfortable with the suggestion. “Again? That’s all your few fliers seem to be able to do. Drag me out be the tips of my wings with the blessings of my ‘loving’ bondmates. No, today I was curious if you got that list of locations. Y-you’re still going to help me with that aren’t you? ”
“Just came in, actually. I’m partial to some of these pre-dug mountain-side graves humans in the past have used. Hard to get to for them, easy for us. Highly unlikely anyone would loot them for tech. And I was tweaking the design on the crypt itself. It should have good security just in case.” His headfins flashed in self praise.
Thundercracker nodded, managing to keep the roll out of his optics. His trinemate’s frames would keep until the sparkling was safe in its new frame. If Wheeljack wanted to pat himself on the back he was entitled to it....this one time. He just needed something else to concentrate on in the meantime. Building a crypt was far more ideal than the alternative. Putting them beneath the Earth’s soil made his tank churn. They needed to be somewhere high. He realized that he would not be able to create anything like the Skycrypts of Vos, but he would do his best to put them as close to the sky as he could. It was where they belonged. And Wheeljack’s suggestion sounded reasonable so far. He would have to look at the location himself, but it was the best he’d be presented with.
“Oh, let me see.” He looked over Wheeljack’s shoulder and tried not to gawk. Humans had carved these things? They were perfect. Far off the ground. Nearly impossible for humans to get to. “You think we can do that?”
“I wouldn't suggest it otherwise.” The pleased tone was apparent in Wheeljack’s vocalization.
Thundercracker let himself smile. “I know...I know. I wouldn’t have lived this long if I hadn’t paid some attention to you ‘Bots. You don’t do anything you don’t believe in.”
Wheeljack nodded and regarded Thundercracker for a long moment. The mech was nothing at all like he had first expected. For the most part he was quiet, and thoughtful. He had a good processor on his shoulders as far as Wheeljack could tell. He might have even have made a good science-bot. Why would someone of such intelligence waste it on war training? It was a puzzle.
“What did you do before the war?” Wheeljack asked, his curiosity getting the better of him, as it often did. If Ratchet had been there the odds would have been better than half of him being glared at. As it was he didn’t exactly like the look that crossed the Seeker’s face.
Thundercracker frowned, “I was bonded to Starscream when I was very young---but you mean work, I assume.” At Wheeljack’s nod he continued. “I worked in the Royal Vosian Archive. It was really more of a hobby than anything. But I found the work soothing and an easy way to pass the time. It also made studying easier. Skywarp had to be dragged down to the archives kicking and screaming for any lessons that were required of him.”
Wheeljack blinked at him, this was the last thing on Cybertron that he had expected. “You were a data clerk? Like Optimus? I...I see. And the War Academy?”
“Optimus was a data clerk?” He tried to keep the incredulity out of his vocalizer and failed. Perhaps he needed to spend more time with the Prime. “The things left out of our records... But yes, I was nothing if not a good Vosian. It was expected of all of us.” Thundercracker said, looking more than a bit uncomfortable. “It would have been remiss if a member of the future reigning trine shirked his responsibilities. Besides, it was a good way to learn your gifts.”
The colors of Wheeljack’s headfins cycled through in obvious amazement. “Your gifts? You mean the...the...thunder thing?”
“Do you mean my sonic boom? If so, yes I was sparked with it. As my youngling will be sparked with his gifts. They may take a little while to come in, but they will be there. Primus loves us best, after all. Any Seeker worth his wings will tell you that.” Thundercracker smiled in bitter amusement.
“We had always assumed it was an upgrade.” Wheeljack said weakly, ignoring the Primus comment entirely. He was not a very religious bot, but he knew a dig when he heard one. The fact Thundercracker had said it so casually, as if he didn’t recognize it as an insult but a fact of life made it sting a little more. He had to remind himself the mech was going through a lot and he was generally friendly.
“Hardly. Neither was Skywarp’s warping ability. Or Starscream’s speed, of frame and processor. You bots really have no clue about Seeker culture, do you?” Thundercracker’s hurt expression helped to soften any ill will Wheeljack had scrounged up.
“Very little, honestly.” Wheeljack said. “Your people did not precisely come flocking to our side. I would have loved to know more. And Ratch is always wanting to learn more about other frames.”
Thundercracker vented, “Well, grounders didn't exactly flock to Vos to learn about us. They only really came when they needed us for their wars. Too many sparklings grew up the way Warp did because of grounder issues. And now... It’s a pity. It’s been lost like everything else. A dead culture for a lost people.”
“Not everything is lost. You have the bitlet. You have your memories that you can share with it. With us, if you’d like. It doesn't have to go away unless you want it to.” Wheeljack gave him a hopeful look. He would honestly love to know about the devices of Vos. Ratchet would love to know more about Vosnian frame schematics. Thundercracker just needed to give them a real chance.
Thundercracker nodded, “I do have the bitlet, I suppose...but I have a hard time imagining it mine. It belongs more to Scree and Warp. I’m just how it’s getting into the universe.”
“You shouldn't say things like that. You’re the carrier. It will love you.” Wheeljack frowned, trying to find the right words, and watched the younger mech. “I think it will get easier, even if it doesn't seem like it will. You’ll never forget, but maybe you can look back fondly when the time comes.”
Thundercracker couldn’t help the woosh of irritation that rush through his vents. “You sound like Ratchet.”
“He’s a smart bot.” Wheeljack said, his headfins flashing with amusement. “And I’m not just saying that because he lets me share his berth.”
“Of course you aren’t. And I suppose that is one way to describe him.” Thundercracker said, thinking curmudgeon would be more apt. He held his peace on that, at least for the moment.
Wheeljack laughed, this wasn’t the worst way the conversation could have turned out. “And how would you describe him?”
“You read processors, don’t you? Crotchety. Definitely crotchety. Crotchety, but kind.” Thundercracker gave a mild shrug. “Don’t tell him I said so...the kind part anyway. I do have some small reputation left to uphold. Even if it is just the reputation of difficult patient driving his physician even more insane.”
“Oh, Sunstreaker and Sideswipe already hold that position for life. You need to find new aspirations. But I won’t tell him if you try to usurp them.” Wheeljack assured the Seeker.
They were too busy bantering to notice the door opening on the other end of the lab. Thundercracker nearly jumped out of his plating when a third voice chimed in.
“Jacky, are you busy?” Skyfire asked, making himself known.
Thundercracker stiffened, staring at the shuttle. To say Skyfire made him uneasy was the understatement of the year. His little blessing so far had been that the shuttle had never offered to take him flying. He was almost deathly afraid the time had come, and how he would deal with it if it were the case.
Wheeljack gave a friendly wave and motioned to Thundercracker. “We’re talking sparkling frames. And Vosnian culture. Did you know they’re sparked with their power chips instead of upgrading in their adult frames? It’s all very fascinating.”
“I may have heard something like that once. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were busy.” Skyfire muttered, optics on Thundercracker.
“Oh, it’s okay Sky. I’m sure Thundercracker is thrilled to see another flier around. Aren’t you?” He gave Thundercracker a friendly pat on the shoulder, not seeming to notice how the blue Seeker had frozen up. “Anyway, what’s going on?”
“Nothing really, Percy just asked me to drop these off. He knew I was coming down here to work on something later. And you know he can’t be bothered to leave his own labs.” He said, handing Wheeljack a pile of datapads. “He wanted you to check his calculations.” His optics never left Thundercracker, they were disturbingly settled on him. “Thundercracker, doing well I take it? Prowl and Jazz have had a lot of good things to say.”
Thundercracker pulled a face. Skyfire was the last mech he wanted to talk to. “I am---well.” he said in an emotionless tone. It was a personal sort of dislike. Thundercracker could not forget how the shuttle had tried to steal his trinemate away, and very nearly succeeded. He certainly felt like he could never forgive. Even after so long the blue flier could not forget the starry-eyed look on Starscream’s faceplates when he first met the shuttle, Worse still the spark breaking expression the time he had returned without Skyfire. It had nearly shattered Starscream. Perhaps it did, after a fashion. He had never been the same afterwards. He could not help but blame the other flier for Starscream falling into Megatron’s berth. Had he not disappeared... Had things been different... He cringed inside. There was no winning either way. If Skyfire had come back Starscream would have left with him. When he didn’t...
Skyfire nodded, and searched his faceplates. “Good. How long until the bitlet gets framed?”
Thundercracker shrugged, “Soon enough.” His optics flicked to Wheeljack, not even bothering to hide the panic and resentment. “Sorry, Jacky, I have to go.” He yelled over a shoulder vent as he rushed out of the room.
Wheeljack watched him go, completely flummoxed. “What just happened here? Did I miss something?”
Skyfire gave him a look of obviously feigned innocence. The shuttle knew exactly why the other flier was in such a state. He had done his best to avoid Thundercracker for this very reason. While he was not exactly proud of certain parts of his past, he would still defend them as appropriate at the time. “I have no idea.”
Wheeljack made a mental note to talk to Prowl later. Some things just weren’t adding up and the tactician would be better able to handle it.
Chapter 15: Building Bonds
In which Bluestreak pays a visit.
His moments of silence were precious and few, making his lingering uneasiness with them something of a real worry. He had not exaggerated when he'd told Wheeljack of his love of peace and quiet. Well, his seemingly former love of peace and quiet. There was none to be had here and he struggled with that as much as everything else. He had never felt so restless and off-kilter.
He gave his chest a fond pat, entirely sure this was the sparkling's doing. He had no doubt it had already grown to love Prowl and Jazz. That it wanted its substitute sires to come back from their shifts.
A happy little thrum of agreement came up through the carrier/creation connection. Oh yes! Oh yes! When are it’s sires coming back? it seemed to say.
Thundercracker was not entirely surprised (or unpleased, if he were being honest with himself) when the door announced a visitor. It was nearly time for Smokescreen to slip in. It would be a welcome distraction this time around. It was somewhat of a shock when it opened to reveal a grey chevroned mech, a Praxian that looked more than a little nervous, instead of his favorite Shadow.
“Hi, I’m Bluestreak, I don’t think we’ve met, not really, I mean we’ve met on the battlefield, but that doesn't count? Does it? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t cause that wasn't really an introduction so much as us trying to shoot each other, and I really don't want us to shoot at each other. I kinda didn't really want us shooting at each other before to be honest but I guess that's what war makes you do, and that makes me just all kinds of sad. You really have no idea how sad it makes me cause there were really no other bitlets cause of the war, so I never had anyone my own age to play with growing up but at the same time that's okay because everyone was super nice to me so don't worry about it with my little brother okay? Not that he’s my little brother but we’re all family on the Ark and that sort of makes him my little brother right? Carrier said you were going to be alone all afternoon and he knew I was off duty so he asked me to come over and see you and make sure everything is alright. He’s so very worried about you, and the bitlet plus Carrier has always just been very thoughtful, you have no idea how thoughtful but you will. So is progenitor, he didn’t say he was exactly, worried I mean not thoughtful though he is really thoughtful too, but I can always tell. Carrier is a real worrier, you’ve probably noticed, he worries and worries and just can’t help it. Then progenitor gets all stressed out because because carrier is. But that's okay because they wouldn't worry if they didn't care and I know that ‘cause they worry about me all the time. Of course I half think they think I'm going to babble for too long at the wrong mech and then they'll have to go retrieve me from Ratchet but I don't think so because for the longest time they were worried about me hanging out with Sunstreaker and that's been fine so far.”
“Oh.” Was all Thundercracker could eek out at the torrent of words. He blinked at the little mech and began to speculate. Bluestreak obviously had Prowl’s battle computer and not a processor to match. He’d heard of such a thing before, though it was a very rare processor anomaly. Most bitlets couldn't handle the overwhelmed processors and deactivated from overheating. Bluestreak may not have liked the war, but it may well have saved his life by giving him a large amount of training to focus on. At the very least mismatched internals would explain the constant babble.
"Do you mind if I come in ‘cause you haven't invited me in yet and I overheard Jacky telling sire that you like your quiet, and I've been waiting and waiting til shift was at least half over to make sure you got some rest and quiet but I couldn't wait any longer. Plus Sideswipe wanted me to come play football with him and Sunny and the Dinobots and someone said the minibots are playing too but I can't see how that's a very good idea at all, do you? At least they're not going to let Spike play or I hope they aren't ‘cause I did see him heading outside with Bumblebee and I'm kind of hoping they're only going out there to watch cause I'd hate for Bee to get hurt and I'd hate it even more for Spike to go squish. Did you know humans squish if you step on them? Well I'm sure you do cause the Decepticons were never as careful as we are about fighting around them, at least I assume so ‘cause I never saw any of them taking any pains to avoid it but that isn't to say I think you would do something like that cause you seem really nice and I bet it's easier for the fliers to avoid stepping on things..."
Thundercracker stopped him before the little bot could get up to full speed again. "I'm sorry, where are my manners? Of course I'd like for you to come and visit with me."
It wasn't entirely a lie. He didn't mind Bluestreak when he was visiting his creators and the little bot seemed harmless enough. Smokescreen spoke so fondly of him that you'd think the Praxians had been given a real relationship instead of the half one Smokey had been forced to carve out. Bluestreak's face lit up in delight, practically bouncing into the room to find a seat in the living area.
“Does it hurt, the spark I mean." Oh good, more babbling. "Or tickle cause I bet it tickles cause if it hurt why would so many mechs and femmes have put up with it before Cybertron fell? I can’t imagine having something against my spark like that even if it does tickle because I think I'd be tossing and turning as the humans like to say in my recharge all night. The humans have a lot of neat sayings don't they, they really are a nifty little species for as unevolved as they are I guess, I don't know if they're really that unevolved or if Sunstreaker just says that to make Powerglide angry because of Astoria. Carrier said you had two more months to go, that is such a long time, I couldn't stand to wait that long. It seems like a very very very long time, but then so is six orbital cycles. Although humans wait longer. Nine months, can you imagine? Three more than us which is weird since their bitlets are so much smaller than ours or not really cause I've seem datapads with my sparkling files on them and I really wasn't any bigger than Daniel is now, then again Daniel is a third grown according to Carly and she would know cause she is his carrier, though he says mother cause I guess humans call them mothers cause they're all weird and have two distinct sexes and I don't know how they can stand that cause Sire says most sentient species have more than two but each species to their own like Carrier keeps telling him. Anyway I know it isn’t really long in the grand scheme of things, I mean vorns are long but not really, but living here I guess I’ve gotten used to the way humans see time and well just about everything else. It seems like we’ve been here forever but I guess we really haven’t at least not while activated cause you could count the time we were in stasis and that was a really really really long time."
Thundercracker could only blink and nod. Bluestreak babbled worse than Warp when the purple flier had been overcharged. The thought made Thundercracker cringe inwardly. There was no getting a word in edgewise with either of them.
“Oh, now I remember what I was going to tell you, ‘cause I did come down here because Carrier asked me but I was halfway going to come down on my own anyway, cause I've been meaning to talk to you but it seems like so many things come up each day even without the Decepticons acting up and I'm easily distracted. Chip calls it Shiny Ball Syndrome but I think he made that up, then he called it ADHD and I don't think he made that one up but I haven't looked it up yet to check. When I was hanging out with Sunny...er...I mean Sunstreaker he told me to tell you he is very very very very very sorry he was going to shoot you ‘cause he didn’t think you were really carrying. I don’t know why he would think someone would lie about something like that, because you know most people wouldn’t but he’s really suspicious about everyone, and he thought you were---well I don’t even know what he thought you were doing but he doesn’t think before he does things sometimes. Ratchet says he has anger issues but I think it's just ‘cause he and Sideswipe were orphans and isn't that sad? Could you imagine growing up without any creators at all ‘cause I couldn't imagine life without either one of mine and to not have any! But at least they had each other and I think that's why Sunstreaker is the way he is because he never had anyone to teach him otherwise, and I have heard he's really changed since he got assigned to the Ark. I guess the old Sunny wouldn't have apologized but now he is very very very really sorry, so please don’t be mad at him cause it would make me very sad. I know you probably don’t care about that yet, but you know we are like family now and family looks out for each other carrier says so.”
“I’m sure he does.” Thundercracker said after a moment’s thought. So Sunstreaker and Sideswipe were orphans, like Skywarp. If only Starscream and Megatron had taken their heads out of their afts when the Autobots changed regimes. The old ones were bad, yes, but he was willing to bet that the Autobots under Optimus had more similarities than difference to the Decepticons.
Bluestreak took that as a cue to keep talking and rushed on. “But you know how he is, well Sunny not carrier obviously, ‘cause he doesn’t want anyone to think he actually cares or anything but he does and Cliffjumper doesn’t care but Sunny is sorta kinda actually nice. He even lets me call him Sunny even though everyone else has to call him Sunstreaker even Sideswipe so Sideswipe sometimes calls him Sunshine and he gets really mad like today. Sideswipe told him to stop being a slagger and finally come down here cause he's been putting it off and tell you he was sorry, and Sunstreaker hit him for calling him a stupid slagger, and then I had to break them apart. And then they started yelling at each other so Sideswipe hit him again, and Sunstreaker called him all sorts of names, and hit Sideswipe until Sideswipe finally sat on him, and got Sunstreaker’s paint all scuffed up and I thought Sunny was going to kill him because of it because he really cares about his finish but Sides said he wouldn’t get up until Sunny agreed to apologize which he’s really bad at because Sideswipe says he’s an arrogant aft so he asked me to tell you. He should probably tell you himself, but he’s really prideful, so he probably won’t. He is sorry though.”
“I’m not mad at him, Bluestreak. I’m really not. I probably would have done the same thing in his place.” Thundercracker said with a shrug, putting a protective hand over his midsection. “It wasn’t uncommon in the early days for some mechs to lie about carrying to avoid being shot at. Then some real carriers were deactivated and it just seemed safer all around to not carry when avoidable.”
The Praxian’s doorwings hitched up high, his distress apparent. Thundercracker could have smacked himself; the youngling might have been thinking of the danger his own carrier has put himself through, or might be thinking of the danger the Seeker was in now. Either way he looked like he was working up to being in a state. It pinged at Thundercracker’s creator protocols. The mech might have been grown but there was clearly much youngling in him. He probably had just gotten his adult protocols right before this mission.
“I wasn’t hurt, and neither was the bitlit. That is what is important, right?” Thundercracker’s tone was kind as it came out of his vocalizer. He wondered how much Jazz and Prowl were rubbing off on him, because the thought of upsetting the youngest Praxian suddenly had his insides in a knot. “It’s fine, I forgive him.”
“Thank you.” Bluestreak said, impulsively hugging the Seeker. “Thank you so very very much.”
Thundercracker hugged him back after a moment, more than a little bit stunned to have a Praxian barnacle clinging to him. Well, this Praxian barnacle at least. Though he didn’t know why. It seemed like every Praxian he encountered any more wanted to attach themselves to his side. “You’re uhm...welcome.”
Bluestreak finally pulled away, not looking the least bit sheepish. “I’m glad my creators have you, I really really am and you have no idea how much I mean that. I know things are hard...I mean I understand.” He said shifting from foot to foot. “I had bad things happen to me and I know it’s not the same, I really do understand that, but if you ever want to talk you can always have my audial, cause every now and then I need to learn to listen instead of just yammering away, at least that’s what Carrier keeps saying. And I’m really happy about the sparklet. I’ve always wanted a sibling, even though I know he really won’t be, but it would almost be like he was because your with my creators, and would you really mind terribly if I treated him like he really was ‘cause it would make me so so sooooo happy?”
Thundercracker stared at the little ‘bot and tried to untangle the rush of words. “No...I wouldn’t mind. I’m sure you’ll make a fine big brother.”
“Wonderful.” Bluestreak said, hugging the Seeker again.