Sentinel sighed as he looked at the deactivated frame of Zeta Prime. "So few of us left now," he murmured. Zeta had been afraid of something, that was clear. Why else would he have spawned a clutch alone, far from Cybertron, and then tried to hide them away? It was all very...interesting. How much had Zeta known? It was all metal in the smelter, now, he supposed.
From behind him came a rustling sound as Quig, Cybertronian Ambassador to Nebulos, shuffled his feet nervously. He had been the one to contact Sentinel after the Theta Con attack had revealed Zeta Prime's demise, and his clutch of hatchlings, hidden in an ancient section of the Nebulon Vault-Archives. "What will happen to them?" Quig asked tentatively.
The hatchlings were very recently emerged, only cycles old. A Prime should gain strength and wisdom with age, but Zeta had been weak, and foolish to spawn so far from Cybertron, as was shown by the quality of his clutch. Only seven, and five of those inferior femme sparks. At least there was a Prime-spark.
"This one I will take." He briefly considered the other mechling, as a companion for the Prime-spark, but no. He had neither time nor inclination to rear one hatchling, in all honesty, let alone two. And this one would be easier to mold as he wished without the distraction of a second hatchling. He would find him a brother as guard and companion, more suitable for the purpose. In fact, Sentinel had just the mech in mind. The femme-sparks he dismissed without further thought.
"The rest you may do with as you will," Sentinel said, rising as he cradled the small, bright-opticked hatchling to his chestplates. It squeaked and latched on tightly with its talons, seeming strong for all the uncertainty of its beginnings. Good.
"But...Prime? My Lord Sentinel, what...?"
"You will need a name," Sentinel told the hatchling, as he strode rapidly up the spiraling walkway and back to his ship. The hatchling blinked up at him, and Sentinel felt the warmth of his spark resonance, reaching trustingly for his own. Oh yes, strong indeed, this one, even so young. He would need to be careful.
"Orion. Hm? Yes, that will do nicely. Orion you shall be."
"Sir! Sentinel Prime? Come back...please?" Quig slowed and came to a halt as the much taller Prime rapidly outpaced him. Very clearly any and all conversation was over. "What...what am I supposed to do?" he plaintively asked the empty rampway in front of him. Surely there was some mistake. Sentinel Prime wouldn't just...leave, wouldn't just...abandon...
Quig shivered suddenly as he recalled Sentinel Prime's words: "The rest you may do with as you will." Sentinel had been every mechanometer the wise and compassionate leader up until that moment, but...deep uneasiness roiled through Quig's processor. Any impulse to chase after the Prime or attempt to contact him by comm signal died completely. It was almost a relief to hear the sound of the Prime's shuttle engine departing overhead. Quig turned and made his way back down to the Vaults.
The six hatchlings were snuggled together, but they squeaked and squirmed towards him as Quig sat down. Very different from Vector Sigma-sparked youngsters, but quite similar in many respects to newborn Nebulons in their developmental state. Sentinel Prime had given him a few instructions, how to keep the hatchlings alive until he could arrive. Quig had grown rather fond of them, in the short time they'd been under his care, but they'd also been an exhausting and full-time responsibility. He was in no way prepared to...what was he even thinking, of course it was impossible. He'd done some research on his own, while waiting for Sentinel, but other than a few vague acknowledgements that hatchlings existed, there was an appalling lack of information about them anywhere. As if it had been deliberately erased. And Zeta Prime had hidden them, and been killed, in the oddest, most strangely targeted Theta Con attack ever seen on Nebulos.
Quig opened a tube of medical-grade energon gel and picked up the closest hatchling to feed, as he tried to comprehend why it felt like the bottom had just dropped out of his world. Sentinel Prime was wise and kind and was going to be the one to bring a new Golden Age to Cybertron. Everyone knew this. Everyone said so. And he had left behind Zeta Prime's deactivated frame and six helpless hatchlings without a second glance.
Quig suddenly wanted to stand and pace in a panic, but was prevented by the five other hatchlings beginning to climb and cling to his leg armor. "I can't stay here," he said aloud, his spark beating hard in his chest. He was not prone to overreaction or fits of paranoia, had, in fact, been chosen for his position on Nebulon in part because of the steadiness and sensibility of his temperament, but Quig couldn't deny or ignore the stark fear coursing through his energon lines.
His hands were trembling as he gathered the other five hatchlings from his legs and hooked them to his chest armor next to the one he had just fed. They cheeped up at him hopefully, and he patted them as he stashed the rest of the energon tubes. "In a little bit, small ones. Your fuel will be delayed just a little bit," he told them, as he rose and made his way out to his small personal transport shuttle. He'd switch it with an unmarked public one as soon as possible.
Was he really doing this? Quig thought. Leaving the position he'd worked so hard for, his duties, his responsibilities to both Cybertron and to the Nebulon people? He looked down at the small frames clustered against his chest, fighting panic again. He had friends here, Quig reminded himself, people he could trust with his spark, or so he would have said a joor ago, before Sentinel had rattled the foundations of everything he thought he knew. Still, what else could he do? He couldn't do this alone. Quig patted the hatchlings again for courage, with a pang of worry for the fate of the seventh one, but there was nothing he could do about that now. Six innocent and helpless lives, and they were depending on him. He activated his shuttle and steered resolutely for the sky.
A bit of alien marsupial-like reproduction in this chapter, so sorta mpreg but not exactly...
“Quig, dear one, surely it can’t be as bad as all that? Surely there’s been a mistake or misunderstanding somewhere.”
Former secretary-liason Hi-Nob patted Quig comfortingly on the back as he sat carefully on the edge of the couch, in the home Hi-Nob shared with his two life-mates, RaNoot and Professor Zariga. Their high-domed dwelling had been specifically designed to accommodate visits from their Cybertronian and other larger non-Nebulon friends and colleagues, and Quig was a smaller frame type anyway, but the way his armor was rattling he was afraid if he moved too much he’d dislodge the delicate plantings that RaNoot used to decorate their home.
Quig rubbed his hands over his faceplates, trying to get better control over himself. He’d shown up here in the home of his friends unannounced, carrying six hatchlings, five of them cheeping non-stop in hunger at the top of their vocalizers, and proceeded to have a complete babbling meltdown on their couch. They’d listened to every word and RaNoot and Zariga had figured out his somewhat garbled instructions and were even now feeding the hatchlings, and Hi-Nob was handing him a cube of high grade. Primus bless their sparks, no matter if they were organics and didn’t have sparks. Primus bless them anyway.
He took a sip of the high grade, and then another, and felt some of the trembling ease. “I’m sorry. You must think I’m completely out of my processor.” He managed a wavery smile down at Hi-Nob.
“Well…” Hi-Nob paused.
“It’s ok,” Quig laughed, as Hi-Nob tried to think of the most diplomatic response. “I think I’m completely out of my processor.”
“It’s just, I worked with Sentinel Prime, many times. I never had the honor of meeting him in person, but we worked together on the mercury trade treaties, collaborative research missions.”
“He facilitated the sharing of technology for our field harvesters,” Professor Zariga added, as she evaded another talon-grab by one of the hatchlings. Organic skin covering was not designed to handle sharp hatchling talons. “He was always so kind and thoughtful, in all of his communications.”
Quig nodded. “I know. I always felt the same way, but...if you just could have seen him. It was so...I can’t explain it. The way he just walked away like that.”
“Maybe he is ill?” RaNoot suggested. “Not in his right mind, somehow? I agree, it seems terribly out of character for him to abandon these little nubs, of his own species no less!”
The hatchlings were quiet now, much happier now that they had all been fed, and most of them were powering down to recharge. One of them, however, kept insisting on trying to climb into RaNoot’s lap from the makeshift nest they’d created for them in the middle of the room. Quig almost got up to rescue him, but RaNoot reached behind him to grab a metal serving tray from the end table and placed it in front of the hatchling to latch on to.
“There you go, little nubbling,” RaNoot crooned, cradling the tray with hatchling to his chest. “Is that what you wanted? Is that better now, sweetheart?” The hatchling buzzed up at him, blinking, its optics starting to dim in preparation for recharge. Quig smiled. RaNoot was such a nurturer, from everything from the plants in and around their home, some of them experiments from Professor Zariga’s agricultural research, others grown only for their beauty, to his two lifemates. He was happy Zariga, who he’d watched grow from a little nubbling herself, the daughter of his first host family on Nebulos, had found such caring and wonderful lifemates, even if it had meant the loss of his favorite liason.
“It’s good practice for our little nubs, isn’t it.”
Quig intercepted a fond look between Professor Zariga and Hi-Nob, and Zariga smiled including him in their moment. Something about the mirthful twinkle in her pale green eyes made Quig widen his own optics suddenly. Zariga grinned wider, helplessly happy, which confirmed it.
“You’re...you’re not speaking rhetorically, are you,” Quig said, looking at Hi-Nob, who wore an equally happy and helpless smile.
Zariga laughed. “I gave birth three day cycles ago. Two healthy little nubs. We would have told you, but at the embassy they told us you could not be contacted.”
“They’re only embryons as of yet, of course,” Hi-Nob said, looking uncharacteristically shy as he unfastened the front of his jacket covering, “but, would you like to see?”
“Oh!” Quig said, as Hi-Nob tenderly opened a long narrow fold of skin along his abdomen to reveal the small squirming embryon within, pale pink against the dark green of his pouch. “Oh,” Quig said again, in wonder. He had seen baby Nebulons before - Zariga had been a bright-eyed infant peeking from her parent’s pouch when they had first met - but never one so new. This one had small clinging limbs, sealed slits for eyes and a tiny nose, mouth latched tightly to one of Hi-Nob’s feeding nipples, but not even the beginnings of horn nubs or hair covering.
“This is little Zill,” Hi-Nob said, touching the nubbling gently with one finger before closing his pouch again.
“And I have his sister, small Q-bok over here,” RaNoot added, smiling and dipping his chin towards his abdomen, currently covered by the recharging hatchling still clinging to the serving platter. “You can meet her later, if you wish.”
“I’ve hardly gotten to use my pouch,” Zariga laughed, “they’ve both been so eager to carry them. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”
“Oh Zariga, this is...momentous. Congratulations! Congratulations, all of you,” Quig said sincerely. “This is such a special time for you, and here I’ve come bringing all of this...disruption.” And danger, his processor added, in sudden fear. I have brought danger to their doorstep. “I should go,” he said, getting up from the couch.
“Quig, no, you are family, please sit back down.” Hi-Nob and Zariga were both at his sides, urging him to stay, and against his better judgement Quig let himself be persuaded. He didn’t know where else he could go, in any case.
“I”m sorry,” he said, sitting back down on the couch again. “I just...I don’t know what to do. I don’t think it’s safe to keep the hatchlings here on Nebulos, but if I leave without explanation there will be too many questions.”
Hi-Nob looked alarmed. “Now, now, let’s not do anything hasty. Quig, you are the best ambassador we’ve had in a long time; you’ve done such wonderful things for both our worlds and we really couldn’t bear to lose you. I’m quite sure there’s been a misunderstanding somewhere.”
Zariga’s communicator buzzed, and with a worried look at Quig, she excused herself to answer it. She returned, looking deeply shaken.
“Oh Quig, I’m so glad you came to us,” she said, sitting on the couch and hugging his arm tightly.
“My dear, what’s wrong?” Hi-Nob asked.
“That was the Cybertronian ambassador’s office. They wanted to make sure we were notified as soon as possible…” her voice trailed off and she shook her head. “I think we should all see this.” She turned on the holo vid unit.
“This is Sorziza with the Nebulon News Network reporting live from the scene of a widespread structural collapse at the Korajan Vault-Archives. Our sources tell us that instability from the attack four day cycles ago likely led to the collapse, but engineers will conduct a full investigation into the causes. Tragically, it has been confirmed that archivist Ne-Velon, archivist Gorta, and Cybertronian ambassador Quig all perished in the collapse, along with countless irreplaceable artifacts and stored data. Recovery and salvage efforts will be delayed-”
The broadcast continued, with news footage panning over the destruction showing flames and rising billows of smoke.
“That’s not a structural collapse. That damage came from the outside,” RaNoot said, sounding shocked but certain. Quig was reminded that in addition to his talents in gardening and the culinary arts, RaNoot also dabbled in engineering and architectural design.
“Oh Primus,” he said, starting to shake again. Zariga and Hi-Nob hugged him tightly on either side.
“Looks like your instincts were right,” RaNoot said, looking at Quig in mingled fear and approval.
“I’m putting you all in danger, just by being here,” he said numbly. “I’ll go-” Professor Zariga thwapped him sharply on the armplates before he could finish that thought.
“Don’t you even dare think about it,” she said, in a tone that he’d learned long ago there was no arguing with. “You’re not going anywhere, not until we can figure something out.”
“But you have the nubblings now to think of,” he worried. “I really can’t let you do this.”
“Quig, when we say you’re family, we mean it,” RaNoot said from the floor, where he was still cradling the recharging hatchling to his chest. “Your nubblings are our nubblings now, and we’ll do what we must to protect them.”
“But...my transport,” Quig said. “I left it at the switch station. If they find it, they’ll know I wasn’t in the Archives when they collapsed.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Zariga said, giving his arm one more squeeze. “Lay low here for now. Did anyone see you arrive? What else do we need to know?”
Quig shook his head. “I don’t think anyone saw me, but...the hatchlings. I’m almost out of medical grade energon tubes. I don’t…I don’t know if they can have regular energon.” So much he didn’t know. Quig should have ordered more medical grade, but he’d thought Sentinel would be taking all of the hatchlings with him.
“That will be more difficult,” Hi-Nob said, “at least without potentially arousing suspicion if it’s traced, but...there should be a way. Let me think on it.”
Professor Zariga embraced him, and then RaNoot. “Be safe, my love,” they murmured.
They were all handling the upheaval of their safe little world much better than he had, Quig thought, as he watched her leave, with no small amount of trepidation. He’d never forgive himself if anything happened to them. RaNoot got up and handed him the hatchling-with-serving-plate, and gave him a hug.
“It’s going to be ok, Quig,” he said.
Quig was not nearly so sure, but if there was one thing he had learned as ambassador to Nebulos, it was to never underestimate small, fragile organics. They had to be twice as smart and tough just to survive in the first place.
“Thank you,” he said humbly, the only thing he could say. “Thank you.”