Chapter 1: Wishes
It wasn’t that he didn’t like space, because that would never have been the truth, but he hated being alone in it. He understood the need for his solitude--a single small space craft was much more likely to be overlooked by the Decepticon forces than a group--but that didn’t mean he had to like it.
Cosmos wished that he could have a partner for a change.
It would be nice to have someone to talk to. Someone who understood how beautiful it really was in space and wouldn’t think he was silly for loving it so much. Someone who sympathized with his desire to get out and explore it again, instead of continuing to wage a war that was doing nothing but destroying planets and civilizations.
He sighed, though the sound didn’t carry in the vacuum. He would settle for just having a friend to greet him when he went back to the Ark.
He wondered if anyone knew how lonely he really was.
Cosmos? The minibot was started out of his thoughts by the unexpected comm. I didn’t realize you were on patrol in this sector.
He stretched his sensors out a bit further and found Skyfire orbiting a large asteroid. Well, you haven’t been back at the base recently enough to have gotten an updated duty roster. Have you been in this sector long?
An Earth day or so. I’ve been moving along with this asteroid while I take mineral samples. The shuttle’s warm laugh filtered over the comm system. It’s really been quite boring, but Perceptor says I’m not allowed back until I prove my theory that we could harvest the asteroid belt for some of the trace elements and minerals our fuel has been lacking.
I’ll be finished with my patrol route tomorrow afternoon. I could come back after that and keep you company. The words were spoken before Cosmos realized he had been thinking them. Hesitantly, he added. I mean, if you’d like me to.
There was a long silence on the end of the other end of the comm channel. The minibot was beginning to regret his sudden braveness when Skyfire finally replied. I would like that very much, Cosmos.
If he had been in his root mode, Cosmos would have smiled. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.
Have a safe patrol, Skyfire responded.
They returned to their duties, but Cosmos did so with a considerably lightened spark.
Prowl didn’t sound pleased when Cosmos called in his request to stay out for an unknown number of days to assist Skyfire, but he did grant permission. The second in command couldn’t deny that having the minibot on site with the scientist would speed the research and sample gathering along, and Cosmos really did want to stay and help. Skyfire had been in root mode when Cosmos returned to the asteroid, and had given the minibot a relieved smile when he saw the smaller mech.
I was afraid I was going to have to try and carry this back by myself, The larger mech said when Cosmos carefully set down next to him.
Carry what back? The minibot moved closer, trying for a better look at whatever Skyfire had found.
The scientist waved a hand at the asteroid’s surface. This. Ratchet will be glad to see it, I’m certain.
Cosmos was almost embarrassed by his lack of understanding--or, more accurate in this case, knowledge. He had never installed the chemical analyzers or mineral scanners that some of his coworkers had used back before the war, and hard sciences weren’t really within the scope of his expertise. I’m not a science bot, he told the other mech softly. You’re going to have to tell me what it is.
Skyfire looked at him, frowning. Cosmos, I’m sorry! I was thoughtless.
The smaller mech held very still when the scientist knelt next to him. I often forget that others are not as learned as myself, Skyfire confessed. I do not intentionally try to belittle you. Please forgive me?
Of course. Cosmos didn’t hesitate. The larger mech hadn’t meant any harm--he never did--and his self esteem issues weren’t Skyfire’s fault. When the scientist gave him a relieved smile, Cosmos ventured carefully, So, what is it?
Titanium. Almost half the asteroid is composed of it. Skyfire stood back up and pointed toward a dark patch of metal that Cosmos could barely distinguish from the rest of the asteroid. Most of our armor uses it to some degree, but the Dinobots are built largely from it. Ratchet has been running low for some time, and worrying over how he would repair them if they sustained any real damage.
Cosmos smiled, pleased to hear that Skyfire’s outing had resulted in such a wonderful find. He liked the Dinobots--particularly Swoop and Sludge--and he was glad to know the wouldn’t have to offline from lack of parts if anything serious happened. Then I guess it’s a good thing I flagged this asteroid during my last pass.
A very good thing. Can you help me break it up? We won’t be able to load the deposit in one piece.
Sure. The minibot pulled his blaster from subspace--and action the scientist copied--and began carefully cutting sections out of the titanium deposit.
You said you weren’t a science bot, Skyfire said while they worked. But you knew to flag that asteroid as one we needed to investigate. Where did you learn that?
Cosmos was quite for a long moment. He didn’t talk about his life before the war much--he didn’t like to think about how his team had been killed.
I understand if you don’t want to talk about it.
He supposed the scientist would understand. The other mech never wanted to talk about his life before the war. I just don’t like remembering how my team died.
I’m sorry. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. The scientist looked genuinely sorry that he had asked.
Cosmos gave him a weak smile. I worked for a company that made maps and charts. We were a small business, but we did very well. I did the space exploration for the star charts. One of the other members of the team was a mineralogist and he taught me how to spot an asteroid that might be mineral baring. He knew he was rambling, but considering how often the science team did it themselves he wasn’t particularly worried about it. This asteroid probably has some other minerals of value as well, because it didn’t really give any signs of being metal-bearing at all.
And you say you don’t know anything. Skyfire’s voice was so warm and kind that Cosmos looked away in embarrassment. You will have to take me on a patrol through the belt with you sometime and teach me. I had no idea you could tell the probability of mineral content just by looking.
I’d enjoy that. The minibot couldn’t help but smile at the idea.
There was some excitement when the scientist and the minibot came back to base together. The gossip chain, apparently, had failed to report that Cosmos was coming back from his reconnaissance run two days late and Prowl had not shared his request to assist Skyfire with anyone except the other officers. It was actually kind of funny when Bumblebee and Windcharger started fussing over him like he was a missing sparkling.
Ratchet had been delighted to hear about the load of titanium they were brining in. The medic had immediately enlisted the aid of the Dinobots--the mechs most likely to need the supply in the near future--to unload Skyfire and thanked them both profusely.
Cosmos was happily embarrassed by the whole ordeal.
When his cargo hold was finally empty, Skyfire transformed and gave the smaller mech a smile. “Thank you, Cosmos.”
“You’re welcome.” The minibot returned the scientist’s smile. “Bumblebee and I were going to go get some energon now that the cargo’s unloaded. Would you like to join us?”
Something subtle changed in the larger mech’s expression, and Cosmos though he suddenly looked truly happy--possibly for the first time since he had met the scientist. “I would like that very much. Thank you.”
He wondered, as they walked to the rec room, how anyone could have missed the way Skyfire wished he wasn’t alone, too.
Chapter 2: Reminding
It seemed strange to know that he would have company when he returned to base after a long stint among the stars, but Skyfire always met him at the landing pad. They would always be certain to spend at least an hour together afterward, talking and sometimes drinking energon. It was a pleasant routine, and Cosmos enjoyed it greatly, but it was still strange.
He spent so much time alone, after all.
“How was your patrol?” Skyfire asked after he had touched down and transformed back to his root mode.
“Uneventful,” the minibot replied with a smile. “But I did find a few more asteroids that look like likely prospects for your mineral study. We just have to get Optimus’ permission to go on that teaching expedition now.”
Skyfire’s face brightened and his lip components turned up in a delighted smile. “That’s wonderful news. How many months have we been waiting now?”
“Four. And it would have been sooner, if Starscream and the Constructicons hadn’t already been mining our last prospect.”
They walked across the landing pad and into the Ark proper, continuing their conversation.
“True, but I was pleased enough with the fact that Starscream inadvertently proved my theory to Perceptor with his project.” Skyfire’s smile turned into a mischievous grin. “I wish I’d been able to see his expression when he found out that he’d proven yet another of my theories.”
Cosmos had long resigned himself to the fond tone the scientist used when he spoke about his former partner. He wasn’t bitter that Skyfire and Starscream had once been friends—very good friends—but it was disquieting to hear someone speak about the Decepticon so glowingly. “Did he do that often?”
“All the time when we were at the academy. And usually before he even knew I was working on a new project or theory. He would always get so mad—probably because he hadn’t come up with the idea first.”
The large mech’s tone turned sad then. His posture slumped and he almost reeked of sorrow. “Not that I’ll ever get to see that again.”
They stopped walking in the hallway and Skyfire scrubbed his face with his hands. “I’m sorry. You don’t want to hear about Starscream or my past or how much I miss my friend.”
Cosmos reached out and put a hand on the other mech’s leg. “Yes I do. I want to hear about all the things that are important to you.”
Skyfire reached down and picked the minibot up. Cosmos would have protested the action from any other mech, but the scientist didn’t use the action as a way to make fun of him or remind him of how drastic the difference in their sizes was. Instead, he held the smaller mech against his chest plates in a tight hug—a hug that the explorer didn’t hesitate to return.
“Thank you,” the scientist whispered, “For not letting me be alone.”
“But you never were,” Cosmos replied.
Chapter 3: Warmth
Five months and twenty three days after their teaching and resource harvesting project had been approved,
Skyfire and Cosmos were finishing it up. After their near-disastrous run in with the Decepticons four months before, there hadn’t been any other setbacks and they were both grateful.
Skyfire gave the smaller mech a smile as he loaded the last of their mineral harvest into the towable crate Wheeljack had built for him. After twenty three days out here, it’s going to feel odd to be back in noticeable gravity again.
It will, Cosmos agreed. But it won’t be as bad at the time I was out mapping a solar system for an entire meta-cycle. I almost had to learn how to walk again.
The scientist nodded, remembering a time or two like that during his own exploration days. Think Jazz will throw a party for us?
The minibot gave the larger mech an amused grin. Jazz will use any excuse to throw a party. And so will Blaster. I think we need to be more worried about when it will stop, so that we can get some recharge.
Skyfire laughed, and the sound sent tingles through Cosmos’ fuel lines. He was immediately embarrassed by the feeling—and glad that he didn’t give off external signs of it the way Humans did. It was silly for him to be acting like a sparkling with his first crush; he was far too old for that.
I will miss working so closely with you, Skyfire said after he stopped laughing. You are an excellent field partner and wonderful company.
Cosmos felt a twinge of hurt at the larger mech’s words. He didn’t want to just be a good partner or good company. Despite himself, he replied, I enjoyed working with you, too. Are you ready to head back?
Yes the scientist replied. He transformed into his shuttle mode and moved so that he was hovering over the cargo carrier. If you would make sure the magnetic locks are secure?
Sure. The explorer waited until Skyfire gently touched down on top of the container, then activated the magnetic locks from the hand held controls Wheeljack had given them. Then he stepped underneath the big mech and checked the locks’ security. Everything looks good. But I’m glad I’m not the one carrying this into the atmosphere.
It’ll be as bad as it looks, Skyfire agreed. I’ve carried worse through atmosphere, though. It’ll be fine.
Still, I don’t envy you. Cosmos transformed and took off. He extended his sensors to their longest range, checking to make sure they were really alone before the scientist joined him. We’re clear.
Skyfire lifted off the asteroid slowly, ready to stop moving if it looked like the mineral crate was going to come unlatched. Cosmos was relieved when nothing happened; if the magnetic locks hadn’t held they would have needed to transport the minerals back in loads small enough to fit into Skyfire’s cargo hold.
Everything is still secure, the scientist reported. Let’s head home.
Home, where things would return to normal and he wouldn’t be the sole focus of the other mech’s attention anymore. Cosmos frowned mentally when he realized he was jealous of the rest of the science team.
Skyfire was recounting the story of an academy research trip gone wrong when the Decepticons registered on Cosmos’ sensors. They had been having fun until then, with none of his early upset or awkwardness coming back.
And now Astrotrain and Starscream’s trine was ruining it for them.
At least we’re close to Earth, Skyfire said philosophically. If we must, we can jettison the mineral crate and make a run for it. We’re both faster in space than any of the Seekers right now.
Yes, but we need these minerals. And we don’t want the Decepticons to get them. Cosmos ran a second sensor sweep, checking for addition Decepticons and looking over the local space in the hopes of finding something to hide behind. If they could hide from them—or outrun them—long enough, Omega Supreme would be able to come to their aid.
There was nothing.
We’re outnumbered and outgunned, with no place to hide. The scout knew he sounded defeated.
Don’t give up just yet. We might be able to negotiate with Starscream. Skyfire’s words were brave, but Cosmos didn’t think he sounded particularly hopeful.
I think we should run. Starscream isn’t exactly known for being reasonable when there’s something he wants.
The scientist chuckled and increased his acceleration. I cant’ argue with that; he’s always been that way.
Cosmos increased his acceleration as well. I’m going to call for help. Omega and the Aerialbots might be able to get up here before we’re totally slagged.
The scientist didn’t reply as the minibot sent his distress call. He simply continued moving forward, as quickly as he could move and still keep the mineral crate attached. Blaster acknowledged the distress call and promised reinforcements, but when Astrotrain began firing on them, Cosmos wasn’t sure they would make it in time.
Skyfire screamed over the comm lines when one of the triplechanger’s shots took off a chunk of his right wing. Cosmos felt his fuel tanks lurch at the damage.
They really might not make it back from this trip.
Cosmos, I’m sorry. The scientist’s voice was strained. I had hoped we would get to know each other better.
Don’t talk like that. Cosmos dodged a blast of null-ray fire as the Seekers came into range. This time tomorrow we’ll be bragging to Powerglide about surviving this mess.
There was a long silence over the comm. They both knew he was lying. Thank you, Cosmos. You’ve been the best and truest friend I think that I’ve ever had.
The scout’s reply was prevented by another hail of laser fire from Astrotrain and Skywarp. When he finished his evasive maneuvers, he turned to check Skyfire’s position and had a moment of horror.
The scientist had disengaged the magnetic locks on the mineral crate, leaving it floating in the space between them, and was on a collision course for Astrotrain’s side. Skyfire, no!
Run, Cosmos! Get out of here!
Cosmos could only watch in horror as fire erupted where the two shuttles met. Blackness overtook him a moment later, as Starscream’s null-rays finally hit.
Cosmos jolted online so abruptly that he fell off the berth he was resting on. He lay on the floor in a jumbled heap for several seconds before he realized he was seeing the bright orange plating of the Ark. His processor raced with worry about Skyfire.
“Are you all right?” The minibot blinked his optic shutters to bring his vision into focus as Wheeljack leaned over him.
“What happened to Skyfire?”
The engineer leaned down and extended a hand to help him up from the floor. “Well, he rammed into Astrotrain, which obliterated his nosecone and took out some of his landing gear. We had to do a lot of patchwork on his wings, too. Omega Supreme ran the Seekers off before they could do any additional damage to either of you, though. And since Astrotrain was offline, the Aerialbots didn’t have any trouble getting the two of you into Omega and safely home. They even managed to retrieve the mineral crate.”
Cosmos felt relief wash over him. Skyfire was alive. “Is he where I can see him?”
“Sure. Ratchet has him a private room.” Cheerfully, Wheeljack led him to the back of the medbay and opened a door. “Just keep the noise down. Ratchet’s recharging in his office again.”
“I will. Thank you, Wheeljack.” The scout stepped through the door and into the room.
Skyfire was laid out on the berth as peacefully as if he were simply recharging. The marks of fresh welds on his wings and nosecone shone silver in the light. His canopy was clean and scratch free, and even the small dings and scratches on the scientist’s plating were gone. Aside from needing a bit of touch up paint, Skyfire looked better than Cosmos had ever seen.
The scientist’s optics lit up at Cosmos’ soft steps and he gave the smaller mech a smile. “You made it.”
“We made it. But that was crazy.” The minibot crossed the room and climbed onto the larger mech’s berth. “I thought for sure you’d deactivated yourself.”
Skyfire wrapped an arm around him and pulled him close against his side. “Would have been worth it, if you made it away.”
“Not to me.” Cosmos looked up at him sadly. “You’re my best friend too, you know. And… and maybe more than that and you almost took away our chance to find out.”
“Oh, Cosmos.” The scientist tightened his grip on the minibot. “I’m sorry. I didn’t… I can’t say I would change what I did, even if I had known how you felt, but I didn’t want you to go through that.”
Cosmos took a moment to really think about that. “I suppose I understand. I still don’t like it. And you’d better not ever do something so stupid again!”
“Absolutely not,” Skyfire agreed. “It was a rather painful experience.”
“Okay then.” The scout adjusted himself so that he was comfortably nestled against Skyfire’s side.
Skyfire smiled and cycled back down into recharge. A moment later, Cosmos did the same.