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Missing Perspective

Chapter Text


Beep... beep... beep...

His systems came back online, one by one, each one bringing a flood of errors with them. Fans slowly clicked and vibrated, then engaged, whirring to life, reacting to the sudden demand on his power unit as the errors kept pouring in. He couldn't gather the processing power to read or even close the messages, having no other choice but to endure them till they timed out on their own.

Beep... beep... beep...

That was the sound of a monitor. He wasn't sure what it was supposed to read, but he knew the sound, the beat, whatever it was watching of him, there was no cause for alarm. What did he know it from before exactly? Everything was... slow, numb. Most of his sensors weren't online, the ones that were weren't exactly co-operating with his requests for feedback. Almost nothing of himself was cooperating, demanding power but supplying nothing but static and failures. His powerlines crackled with pain as they tried to alleviate the Energon demand in his systems.

What... what happened to him?


“͘͡C̨̛a͏̧̕de̡ţ͞ ͢͡#̧͡͝#̡̛͟͝#̸̴̕҉̵s̶p͢,̴̴͜ ͢͏sta̛n̷͜d̶͢ ̵͏down̶͡ ̕im#̧#̶̨͡d̢͠i̶a̷̧te͝l̷y͘!”̴̡


“͠I̶'͝M̸ ͏NOŢ ̷A DEC͜EPTI#̸͏̴̡͜#̸̛#҉҉!͢ HȨ ̧PLA͟N͘T̛ED IT̵! B̕#̧͡͝#҉͠#̡̛͟͝#̸̴̕҉̵B̴O͞T’͟S ͏BE͏E҉N ͟OU̷T ͏FOR ͜ME ͟THE͝ ͘W͞H̷O̸ĻE ͘TI͠M͘E, ̶B͠OTH OF TH#̢̨͞#̡̛͜#̶̕͘#̢̧͜”̨


The beeping of the monitor quickly turned rapid and uneven. His servos and faceplates twitched with the alien memories surging through his processor. Those were his, weren't they? His spark twisted and turned in its nesting chamber, desperate to tell him something now that he was finally regaining control over his systems.


“HE'S A̡RM̶ED̡!͠ GE̸T D͟O#̷̴͟#̶̨͠#̨͟҉”


“#̡̛͟͝#̸̴̕҉̵#͞͏͞#̧͜͢͡͝#̷̴͟#̶̨͠#̨͟҉VER͘ TAK̴E̴ ̨ME͘ ONL͟I̵NE̢!̶”


“#̴̷ǪN̢G̢#͡҉̷#̸M G͜E-͢ L͜o͏#̴̕͝͡#̨͡rm? ͟




Longarm woke up, and something was very, very wrong.


He tried moving his helm, but another chain of error messages put that notion away. His optical shutters sluggishly raised themselves up as the optics themselves turned on, straining them downwards he saw himself strung up like a-


A bo̢t͘ he di͠dn’̨t (c͜a͟rę to) ͏re̕c̨o͜gni̕s̢e͡, ̡s̕t̷r̕ap͞pe̵d̵ ͠do̡w͞n,͘ ̧s̷c̢rea̶m͟i͞ng, hel͝m̕e̢t cru̸sh̕ed, reve̴al̵ing the soft̵er c͢o̶mp͞on̵e̕nts a̶n̷d s̸e͘n͢s̕it̨ive ̧por̶t͞s͜ wit͝hi͡n͢.


“̧Ma̛ke͘ y͠#͏̛͜u͜r sp̶a͡rk ͟#͏̛͜t͝ ̛h̵o͞me,͠ lit̢tle ̷#͏̡#̸̶#͘͜obo̷t.”҉ A vo͜ice m̴ocked͘,͏ c͟o̸l̸d͢, c͠al̴m̸. ͜Gian͡t ̛c͘l͘aw͡ed s͜ervos͏ f̴o̵rcefu͝ll͘y͞ a͡n͜d̵ ̶art̨i͏stical͢ļy̧ p̵lugģing cables̨ i̸ņt̡o̧ t̢h͟e o͡theŗ bot'͢s͡ d͞a̡t̛a͜ ͜p͞or̷t̨s l͢ike ͝a well rehearsed ͜dan̕c̶e. “#̵͡҉̶͡#̛̛͟#̶̷'ll have the̸ #̵͡҉̶͡#̛̛͟#̶̷t͟io̷n͝ ͠o̵f th҉e ̶̸͠҉#̢̢͢͏#̧͡#̧̛͢#͘͟͞#̸̡̧͏rk͢ ͢so͝ǫn ͠eno#̵̛͟͡#̴̴̨̧͡#̧̛͝”


Where in the name of the allspark did that vision come from!? A holonet video? That sounded vaguely plausible, he was up watching horror movies in the barracks one night with somebot. He recalled not enjoying them at all, ridiculous Decepticon fearmongering plots, the inexcusable production qualities, and him having to be so picky about every detail. Hmm, that latter one seemed more a complaint about himself than a film.

He wasn't even sure why he was thinking about movies to begin with, the original query it was meant to answer had fragmented away. Bringing himself back to the present, he reassessed the room he was in. It was a specialised repair bay, very dissimilar the one he and the other cadets went to for the scratches and nicks they got during training. On one side of the medical berth was the state of the art spark support system he was hooked into, on the other side was a lone chair and a berthside table, holding a few sparse crystal arrangements.

It was obvious now that something critical had happened to him, but the questions were what, when, and how?

The door to the bay shifted open and he rolled his optics away from the crystals to see who exactly. A medical technician swiftly entered, logical enough, the moment they made optic contact her mouth opened with a small gasp before it transformed into a relived thin line.

‘You're online, good.’ She stated, getting out a tablet and swiftly typing a message into it. ‘You scared half of the staff room with your sparkpulses just then.’


‘Who?’ Was the first question that came to Longarm's voice synthesiser, it crackled in a way that concerned the technician.


‘I'm Red Alert, your doctor during the time you were in stasis lock.’ She replied, still scribbling into her tablet. ‘Did it hurt for you to speak? Can you move?’ She asked.

‘No, and, uh, no.’ Longarm replied, his voicebox working better the second time over, now that it was warmed up.

‘Hmm.’ Red Alert thought aloud to herself. ‘Usually it's the other way round.’

‘Oh, haha.’ Longarm laughed thinking she made a joke, but then they were just staring at each other awkwardly with an embarrassing silence between them. ‘M-ma'am, what happened?’ He asked in an attempt to move on. ‘Why am I in the repair bay?’

‘A spy was discovered among your ranks during room inspection. He critically injured you in an attempt to escape.’ She explained, moving over to the monitoring unit and checking its screen.

‘That's right.’ Longarm murmured, following her with his optics. ‘Wasp, Wasp had a Decepticon communicator, he-’


Had gone hysterical, screaming before firing on Sentinel Minor and the rest of the cadets with his stingers. Sentinel was the first downed from two shots to his shoulder plates, then Bulkhead wit͢h a͠ b͘la̛st͡ to͏ ͡hi͡s fuęl t̵a͟n̕ks,͞ ̧th͞os͞e we͢r̢e͡ miliţary gr͟ade s̛t̨in̛g̴e͞r̴s! ̢He wasn̸'t͡ ̵t͞h̶e o̡n̵ly͘-


‘Take it easy, cadet.’ Red Alert said softly to him, taking him out of the memory. Gently, she took out some of the support unit's wires from his chassis, small prickles of static bubbling up after they were detached. Were they sedating him while he was unconscious? ‘He heavily damaged your central processor and memory core in the fight, but thankfully we got to you in time.’ She went back over to the monitoring unit, checking up on his systems to see if removal of the cables hadn't caused an unnecessary side effect.

‘Did-’ Longarm started but the sentence his processor constructed fragmented and fell apart. He tried again. ‘Was anyone else...?’

She quickly shook her helm. ‘Don't worry, you were the worst one damaged, all your friends are well and healed now. It'll be some time before I can let them see you, we have a lot of tests to run you through as per standard protocol.’

A surge of panic shot out of Longarm's spark and straight down his frame, though he didn't know why for. ‘T-tests?’ He managed to stutter.

She finished pulling out the last of the wires and turned her full attention back to him. ‘Like I said, your physical memory and central processor were heavily damaged. Most bots suffer heavy glitches from that kind of damage and we need to diagnose how severe it is before rehabilitation can begin. Before we start, can you feel this?’ Red Alert asked, softly tapping his servos then his lower chassis and stabilisers. Longarm couldn't feel a thing.

‘Well then.’ She continued, taking his silence as a no. ‘Judging from your current condition you're experiencing a little sensory deprivation, that means the most we can do today is your scans and memory checks. We can start whenever you're ready, the sooner we get through the tests the sooner you can rest.’

She took hold of the nearby chair and sat next to him, pressing a button on his berth. It shifted and raised till he was in a sitting position, he was grateful for the change, now he wouldn't have to strain his optics to follow her around.

‘We'll start with your memory, I'll go over a few simple questions to begin with and you say what comes out your processor first, no answer is a wrong answer. What's your designation and do you remember its origin?’

‘Longarm, ma'am.’ He replied instantly, he knew that much definitely. ‘Sentinel Minor gave it to me, it means...’ He felt the need to move his arms around for demonstration but nothing would respond, not even a twitch. ‘Well, I have long arms.’ He looked down to them in disappointment, only to have second thoughts now that he had a good view of them. ‘Don't I?’  

It seems embarrassment was going to be the emotion of the cycle.

Red Alert typed out something on her tablet, she flipped it around and presented it to him. On the display were several pictures of important looking autobots, none of which he recognised. ‘Can you tell me which one of these bots is Sentinel Minor?’




Longarm frowned, what did Sentinel look like again? The answer floated in the depths of the static in the back of his mind, just out of his reach, flitting little bits of itself out only to snap right back when he tried to access them. There was something about Sentinel though, something that- yes he had a big faceplate feature. Longarm and some... some other bot had mocked about it for cycles in the mess hall.

He looked over the portraits, checking them carefully until he saw the one that fit the bill.

‘Second on the right, the, the one with the blue helm.’ Longarm finally answered, proud of his deduction skills.

The silence between them said otherwise, destroying that small spark of pride.

‘That is Optimus Minor.’ She finally corrected. ‘Why did you choose him? Did he feel familiar?’

‘No I-’ Longarm sputtered. ‘I-I remember Sentinel having an abn-n-normally big faceplate feature and-’ His vents hissed and sputtered, the shame of failure boiling in his tanks. ‘and Optimus has... big lips.’

Red Alert had less than a nanocycle to mute her voicebox before she shook the whole ward with laughter. Longarm wanted to shutdown then and there.

‘T-that's ok Longarm, no... no answer is a wrong answer.’ She shakily attempted to reassure him, both glad that the room wasn't being monitored. ‘C-can you tell me about your caretakers?’ Longarm stayed silent. ‘Who was your tutorbot?’ Still silence, he had turned his optics lower, the feeling of failure rippling through his motherboard. ‘Ok, let's try some more recent events...’

The tests went on for mega-cycles. After the questions he was subjected to oil blot interpretations and several different kinds of scans. Other medical bots came to and fro from his berthside so quick and busy doing their things that the whole event passed as an unpleasant blurr. There was a sick feeling in his fuel tanks throughout the ordeal, he had just barely been able to answer Red Alert's questions related to his time in Autobot training, everything before that hurt to try and process. Longarm tried taking comfort knowing that at least he was still online and Wasp was either offline or in the stockades but it did him no good. Finally though the tests were over.

‘All done cadet.’ Red Alert congratulated, patting longarm on his shoulder tracks, his sensors just barely registering the pressure. ‘Sit back and get yourself some recharge.’ She adjusted the medical berth back down so he was lying on his backstruts then began to exit. ‘Oh, before I forget.’ Red alert paused before she left. ‘Sentinel Minor has a big chin.’

He fell into recharge with a strange quivering feeling on his lips.





When he woke from recharge he instantly knew he wasn't alone, already picking up around three others in the room, they hadn't been there for long, and were moving towards him, they must have just entered. He felt much more alert this time round, was he always this quick to boot up? Well, he was training to be an intelligence agent after all. But, more importantly his sensors were working much better than when he first woke from stasis.

‘-Haven't yet gotten round to testing his motor functions since he was still experiencing sensory deprivation in his servos but his scans have come back and- ah, you're fully online Longarm. That was quick.’

Red alert adjusted his medical berth so that he was back in a sitting up position. ‘Can you feel your servos now?’

‘U-uh yes I- I think so.’ Longarm replied. He certainly felt more feedback now that all the monitoring and support cables had been taken out of him. He tried lifting his arm up, it felt incredibly not right, not his, but shakingly he managed to lift it several inches off of his chestplate.

Red Alert looked absolutely relived. ‘Excellent. Don't push yourself to move too hard now. Let me introduce the others.’ Oh, right she entered with two other people. ‘This is Sentinel Minor and medical officer Ratchet, he will be replacing me as your technician.’

Longarm looked towards the two other bots, instantly deducting who Sentinel was with the information that he of all cybertronians had-


“-a chin so huge you could beat Megatron offline with it!”

“Seriously he should forget the shield - weld a bit more armour to his faceplate that’ll do the trick!”

“Like... chin ball, ball chin boy... c'mon Longarm, help me think up a name!”


He didn't realise he was laughing till Sentinel's face shrivelled with his anger. ‘What's so funny cadet!?’

Longarm's vents sputtered. ‘O-oh! I, sorry sir, I-’

‘Settle down Minor, I explained this to you earlier’ Ratchet grumbled to Sentinel. ‘Be gentle around memory-loss patients, any and all feedback can trigger a rapid memory access.’

Sentinel squinted. ‘A what?’ He asked.

‘Popular fiction calls them flashbacks. But enough about that.’ Ratchet stepped forwards to Longarm. ‘I'm Ratchet, kid, your new doctor.’

‘Pleasure to meet you sir.’ Longarm greeted back, he lifted his servo up to shake his but Ratchet quickly pushed it back down with a single digit.

‘Uppupup, none of that kid.’ He chided. ‘This is your recovery, not an interview, I'm just here to make sure you mend right. Now, don't you want to hear your test results?’

‘Oh, yes, of course.’ Longarm nodded, waiting for the worst.

Ratchet started. ‘The good news is your hardware's completely repaired on the physical level, algorithms, problem solving, memory commission, yadda yadda, all somewhat fine. Best of all your critical maintenance and spark supporting systems are working perfectly and that's strongest spark I've seen in a youngbot you got there, it would take a real mean Decepticon to crush it.

Bad news is your memory is I estimate around 87 to 92% heavily fragmented, large strings of your coding is also severely corrupted. I suspect we'll know exactly what's missing when we perform the physical tests. Your transformation coding is definitely part of that mess but unlike the others that's easier fixed.’

‘W-what does that mean doctor?’ Longarm asked, not completely following exactly how badly damaged he was.

‘What do you think kid?’ Was the answer he got back.


Longarm looked completely confused. ‘I-I, uh, I don't know.’ He admitted.


‘Exactly, your biggest problem is you don't know.’ Ratchet finally explained. ‘But like I said, your spark is healthy and your maintenance systems are all working perfectly. They'll work on their own to restore whatever they can of your memory and your coding. What happened to you was a corruption, not a complete wipe like-’ He paused abnormally. Longarm must have reminded him of something else he deducted. ‘-well, like other patients I've seen.

You'll get what you lost back, you just have to be patient. When your systems have fixed all they can naturally, if there's anything still missing we'll do what we can to finish the job. Open processor surgery isn't something I want to put you through unless absolutely necessary.’

Longarm didn't realise just how tense he was during Ratchet's report till the relief in his spark waxed over his frame. It was a lot better than what he dreaded, he just hoped Ratchet was right and he would get back everything lost.

Sentinel, finally having enough of standing around and listening, took the soapbox. ‘Unfortunately soldier, we have a very strict policy on the processing capacity of our intelligence agents. It's imperative after all that an agent be in top mental shape, especially if dealing with sensitive information. Because of this you cannot join the Elite Guard Intelligence Agency unless you make a complete recovery.’

What?’ Longarm squeaked.


His spark sank like a ore rock. Rejected from the Intelligence Agency? But that was- he really wanted- no, he NEEDED to be an agent.


“̸I͟ trust in̛ ͡your a͜bil͞it͢i̴es S̢͢͡͞h#̧̨͘#̵͏͢҉ķ̴̸͢͝wa̴̸͘v#̴̴̕͟͝#̨̕̕͏̛#̨̕,̛ they ̢̨̡͘͞#̕͜͝͞#̸̶#̨͘#̵̢ ͡h҉a#̴͝͞#̧̕͏#̢͜#͜͏̵̛͞ to҉ ̨̛͝#̶̕͞͠͝#̡͟#͏̷#̴̧͜#̸̴͠͞ ̛͘͏̵͠ ͠fo̴r͘ ̸#̷̢͜#̛͘#͟͜#҉̴#̴̴̵#̴͟͢#̵͞#҉̴#̡̨̨͝#͏̨͡#̕ i҉nt͢ell̛#̡͞#̷̢̕#̢͘͏ agent wi#̴̨̛-͝”͞


‘No, no nonononono.’ Longarm whimpered, shaking his helm with increasing fervour.


“Longa͠r̵m ̡P̧rim͞e̶, my͏ ҉#҉҉̴͜#̸̢̡#̡͜͢͡g̕e ̷ca̕n ̴y̡o#͡͞͞#̷̨̛͘͝#͟͜ e̴ven i̛maģ͢͞҉i̸͘n̵̕͢͏e̵͝?”


He reached forwards, desperate to grab, hold, claw something.‘S-sir please y-’


“The au#̸̴̡̛͟#̴͏҉̶#̢̧͡#̢#̷͜͝͏ won't know wha-”


Longarm jerked out of his random memory access to find Red Alert and Ratchet holding him down, Red alert withdrew an emp pulse generator from his side. His sensors dulled and once again he couldn't feel his frame at all, leaving him to sag inelegantly into his berth. He noticed Sentinel was on the far side of the room looking highly disturbed from what had just happened. Whatever that vision was, he didn't want to experience it again.

‘And that's exactly why you were supposed to listen when I said to be careful.’ Ratchet scolded Sentinel while releasing his hold on Longarm.

‘Well excuse me mr "you've lost half your processing functions".’ Sentinel backtalked, even using his digits to emote the quotation. ‘How was I supposed to know!?’

Ratchet got closer to Sentinel, pointing a digit accusingly under the other's chin. ‘There's a big difference between telling 'em they can't walk for a mega-cycle and crushing a youngbot's dreams kid!’

‘Kid?!’ Sentinel exclaimed, before turning his helm high. ‘I am a superior officer, Ratchet!’


‘And you're a glitc-’


That voice was new, Longarm didn't have time to process who it belonged to till a little blur had zipped straight to his side and right into his viwfind. He got a faceplacte full of big blue optics little yellow horns, black and yellow stripes, just like a-

‘Bumblebee!?’ Longarm gasped in surprise, his optics light up with joy and the corners of his intake twitched upwards.

Of course, Bumblebee! He remembered, it was all rushing back to him! The tiny little bumbling servofull, his go to bot, the only bot he socialised with, the only one who actually bothered listening to him. He was the one making up designations, watching movies after dark-cycles and coming up with ideas together with. They were trying to catch Wasp in the act together to boost their chances to get into the Elite Guard.

Bumblebee meanwhile could barely contain himself, a mess of relief and regret plastered all over his faceplate. ‘Longarm are you ok? I'm sorry, I'm sorryI'msorry- I didn't mean to- I should've known he had-’

‘Who let you in here, bug!?’ Sentinel seethed, Longarm had never seen him so angry at Bumblebee in his entire memory of boot camp. ‘This is a-’

‘Shh!’ Ratchet slapped sentinels shoulder with the back of his palm, not bothering to look at him. ‘You've done enough, we're done here anyway.’


Somehow it was possible for Sentinel to look even more outraged. ‘I'VE DONE ENOUGH!?’ He challenged, but Ratchet merely dragged him out the room.

Longarm hadn't even registered the older bots taking their leave, he was so genuinely happy to see Bumblebee. Finally, a familiar face he remembered, freshly defragmented memories and information skipped over his CPU and part of his spark even fluttered in its chamber. He let out a long and soft vent, trying to move into a more comfortable position.

Bumblebee finally calmed down enough to talk at a normal pace. ‘Longarm, buddy are you ok? You'll be able to leave soon right?’ Bumblebee suddenly paused his interrogation, just noticing something. ‘Are... are you smiling?’

‘What?’ Longarm looked dumbfounded at the odd question.

‘Yeah, you were!’ Bumblebee pointed out. ‘B-but you're the most serious grumpy bot I've seen since that smelly old docbot!’


‘I HEARD THAT!’ Came the distant snap of Ratchet's voice.

Red Alert moved closer to them. ‘He's been visiting you almost every solar-cycle, haven't you Bumblebee?’

Bumblebee's optics widened and steam hissed from his vents while his faceplates turned red. ‘Y-you promised not to tell him!’ Bumblebee squeaked.

Red Alert looked absolutely unapologetic. ‘I'll schedule the physical tests for the next solar cycle and leave you both to catch up.’ She said, getting ready to leave the room. ‘Have fun~’




‘So you can't even remember your caretakers or the big guy who inspired you to become an intel agent?’

‘It's weird.’ Longarm tried his best to explain. ‘It's there, but the gaps aren't always in the events, sometimes it's in the details. I could remember almost everything about Sentinel Minor, his weapons, his skillset, him breaking his arm during training, but I couldn't pick him out from a crowd.’

Bumblebee's optics went wide at that remark. ‘You forgot Chin Magnus' face?! Chinnus Maximus?!’ He exclaimed.


‘And half the designations you came up with too.’ Longarm chuckled slightly before stopping after seeing Bumblebee's instant discomfort. Why was him being so cheerful upsetting him? ‘Bumblebee, what happened exactly? After Wasp critically damaged me, that is.’ He asked, having a feeling it was something to do with the incident.

Bumblebee's faceplates fell very low and he hung his helm. ‘Well... uh. Everything went- I-’ Bumblebee fumbled with his words, regret was something he wasn't well at dealing with Longarm assessed. ‘I should have waited till Wasp was out the room before opening his locker like that.’ He finally admitted. ‘H-He was a Decepticon spy, of course he would have weapons on him and backup plans.

An- now you lost your memory and can't get into the Intel Agency and I'm on the fasttrack for deep space spacebridge maintenance a-and.’ He finally looked up to meet Longarm's optics, coolant was leaking from his own in bucketfuls. ‘I-I'm really sorry Longarm I-’


‘Wait.’ Longarm interrupted. ‘Spacebridge repair duty?’ Only junior technicians and failed cadets ended up in that position. ‘Catching Wasp should have landed you in the Elite Guard.’

Bumblebee fidgeted nervously. ‘If he didn't land all of us in the repair bay and you in the critical ward. Exposing him was just enough good rep to clear me of "severe endangerment of my team and superior officer". Besides, I don't deserve being in the Elite Guard anyway.’

Bumblebee heaved a large ventilation sigh, slumping in the chair and lowering his optics back to the floor. Longarm thought for a long while in their silence, obviously this was all Bumblebee's fault, but Longarm couldn't quite find it in himself to hate his friend. Some small part under the corruption and fragmentation did bubble up, angry that he had nothing left, furious at Bumblebee for ruining his career, but it was so small and insignificant compared to his memories.

“Besides, I can still recover.” He argued back in his mind. “I just need time.”


Ratchet was good at giving him hope for his recovery, but he let slip enough for Longarm to still worry about his future. He may never fully recover, enough to try and specialise in another field maybe, but not the Intelligence Agency. But... He never smiled, laughed or joked before the incident did he? In fact he could right now if he wanted, perhaps it was the emp shorting out his sensor net doing the talking, but he felt lighter than he thought he did in the past. It was like a giant burden had been lifted from his shoulder struts.

Perhaps it wasn't worth crying over spilt Energon. He mulled it all over for a while before making his conclusion.

‘I forgive you, Bumblebee.’ He whispered, struggling to reach Bumblebee with his servo, his systems were still acting up after the emp he was given. Bee looked straight into Longarm's optics, not sure of how to translate his emotions to his faceplate. ‘Don't blame yourself for what happened. It was my idea for us to not go straight to Sentinel when you found out in the first place.’

He finally was able to clasp Bumblebee’s servo in his. ‘I-I saw how hard you wanted to be in the Elite Guard, I just wanted to help.’

He said that, but a stray feeling in his spark said otherwise.


Chapter Text


‘Do you ever get that feeling that you were programmed for something more than just, repairing Spacebridges?’ Optimus Prime asked Ratchet, as they walked through the corridor of their ship and into the loading bay.

‘All the time, Optimus sir.’ Came the reply he didn't expect.

‘Oh, Longarm.’ Optimus turned to him slightly. ‘How are you feeling today?’

Longarm meekly settled the crate of alloys off his trolley onto an impressively organised stack ‘Better sir.’ He turned round to face his doctor. ‘Ratchet? I managed to move all these storage crates on my own, a-and I've categorised them in order of alphabet, material, mass and colour. Could I-’

‘No, Longarm.’ Ratchet groaned, knowing exactly what he was going to ask, that would make this the fifteenth rejection that deca-cycle. ‘No outside work yet, you're still unstable, besides-’ Ratchet paused, two youngbot sized yells went through the group channel on their commlinks, followed by a crash outside. ‘With those two out there, you'd be safer on a Decepticon battlecruiser.’

Both Ratchet and Optimus stopped to consider the disheartened look on Longarm's face. ‘You're welcome to watch any of my history holovids, when you've finished.’ Optimus suggested. ‘Let's go help the youngbots, Ratchet, and keep up the good work Longarm, we're almost done here.’

Longarm watched the two of them leave out the airlock, then went back to his task of reorganising the hold, letting out a big vent that he'd been holding. Optimus' history documentaries were so boring, they almost physically bothered him with how inaccurate and unspecific they were, but they were better than nothing, and nothing was Longarm's worst enemy.

Things had progressed much since he was cleared from the repair bay, first Bumblebee had been assigned to a ship for Spacebridge maintenance and Longarm was getting ready to deal with leaving the academy, finding another career, and... being on his own. At least until Ratchet suddenly revealed he too was on Spacebridge repair duty, and neither he or Bumblebee were even remotely okay with leaving him alone on Cybertron. His spark warmed a bit at that knowledge, at least he was in familiar company.

He looked out of the view port window to see Bumblebee and Bulkhead, struggling to get out from under a pile of collapsed asteroid debris, Optimus and Ratchet just arriving to sort them out. That strange ninja bot they had recently picked up wasn't anywhere to be seen, but Longarm had a sneaking suspicion that he too was on the asteroid somewhere. A twinge of annoyance passed through his CPU, sometimes he wished they weren't so incompetent at repair work, they would have been finished by now if Bulkhead wasn't such a klutz and got himself stuck, again. But he was one to talk about incompetency, the whole reason why he wasn't allowed out to begin with was that his condition was, like Ratchet said, unstable.

He couldn't quite explain it, neither could Ratchet for that matter, but sometimes his frame would "turn" on him. Like some cycles he woke with his corrupted combat protocols completely online, giving him less than 10 nano-cycles to shut them down before the resulting errors would crash him back into stasis. Other cycles, especially ones when he had little to do, his entire frame would almost literally itch for action. His motor processor, still unable to fine tune delicate pressure he applied with his digits, made refuelling an absolute nightmare to the point where he might as well be better off with claws, and being "straw buddies" with Bulkhead wasn't fun or reassuring, it was humiliating. All of it was nothing but humiliating.

So here he was, finding more and more convoluted ways to sort every item in the ship, while everyone else worked outside on the more important and dare he say, interesting work. He felt more like a glorified janitor bot than an Autobot on solar-cycles like these, a lot of slacker bots would have killed to have a job this easy and carefree but for some reason it just never sat right with his spark. He sat down after arranging the last crate, hopefully the others would completely disregard his new sorting system so he would get to do all this again, and again. Offlining his optics, he pressed his backstrut against the side of the crate stack and let himself sag.

Why was he even here?

The all too familiar itch started crawling over Longarm's frame, and it was especially worse now, it always found a way to get worse. He scratched at his chestplate, adding to a small canyon of scrapes just under his Autobot insignia. He quickly realised what he was doing and lightly smacked himself, he needed to find another distraction quickly, before he dug a hole right into his protoform. He considered calling Bumblebee's comm but he didn't exactly have anything new to talk about, and didn't want to subject him to the same old complaints. Guess those documentaries would have to do.

Suddenly, the ship's alarms started blaring, snapping Longarm out of his malaise. That, that was something new, was it an approaching asteroid?


‘Warning, unidentified ship approaching.’ Teletran-1 stated through the group channel. ‘Energy signature consistent with that of a Decepticon warship.’


‘D-DECEPTICONS!?’ Longarm shrieked, shooting up onto his pedes so quickly that his equilibrium stabilisers lurched and he stumbled halfway across the hold. He rushed back to the viewport hoping that Bumblebee and Bulkhead weren't still trapped under rocks, they needed to get out of here, fast. There was no way he could fight off a Decepticon, let alone a whole ship full of them, none of them could.


He couldn't see them stuck outside, thank goodness, and just before he began to worry if the Decepticons had whisked them away, the alarm of the docking bridge sounded while the airlock opened. The entire rest of the team rushed in, Optimus, Bulkhead, Bumblebee and even the mysterious newcomer Prowl all rushed inside, escorting Ratchet in his vehicle mode before rushing to his rear and taking a strange golden object out of his hold.


‘What's going on?’ Longarm asked fearfully, looking towards the object. ‘What is that thing?’


‘I dunno!’ Bumblebee squeaked, also panicked by the situation. ‘The moment we found this glowy thing Teletran and Ratchet go all-’


‘This "glowy thing" is the Allspark’ Ratchet sniped, concern forged deep into his faceplate. ‘Long ago, to keep it out of Decepticon hands, we hid it in deepspace, now it's here.’


Everyone's optics went as wide as tires. ‘Wait, you're saying we found the Allspark, the real Allspark?’ Bumblebee asked in a mix of awe and denial.


‘No, it found us.’


Between the sheer wonder of finding Cybertron's most important artefact, Teletran-1 made another announcement overhead. ‘Warning, spacecraft approaching, positive identification as a Decepticon warship.’


Prowl quickly looked up towards the front of the ship. ‘It's not the only one that found us.’


There was no way the Decepticons here were just pirates looking for weak ships to prey on, Longarm knew, the timing was far too close to be a coincidence, they were also here for the Allspark, said Allspark now on display right in the middle of their ship.

They were all going to be scrapmetal.


Optimus however was keeping several degrees calmer and cooler, despite the situation. ‘Everyone to your stations, we set off immediately, head straight for the nearest Elite Guard outpost and call for backup.’ He commanded, he was halfway towards rolling out before noticing Bumblebee and Longarm weren't making any moves, oh right, one crewmember had no station. ‘Longarm head down to the repair bay and hide, stay safe.’


Bee looked concerned and still wasn't making any move towards the bridge. ‘But Bossbot he-’


‘We don't have time for this!’ Optimus argued, picking Bumblebee up and running towards the bridge. ‘If the ship gets boarded the bridge and hold will be their main targets, get moving Longarm!’ He warned behind him.


The others had already rushed to the bridge, leaving Longarm alone to meet the worried look in Bumblee's optics before he and Optimus left the hold and vanished from sight. The fear in his spark translated itself into an earthquake of terror all over his frame. Stay safe? He would have been far safer stuck in the asteroid field, in the cold reaches of space, than anywhere on this vessel! A warship was a warship, they were built to take on entire colonies, going against one would be like Bulkhead vs an Energon glass or a cityformer vs a minibot.


His spark felt like it was going to burst from the fright, faulty combat protocols on high alert, Longarm had to manually start venting to try and keep his systems from overheating. He took slow and unsteady steps towards the repair bay, half scared that his stabilisers would turn to gel now that the ship's engines had turned on at full power.


He was just about to leave the hold when he stilled for a moment, beyond the wails of the ships alarms, the thrumming of the engines as they were brought online and the ominous sounds of laser fire missing the ship he thought he could hear something, feel something behind him. He turned around to face the strange artefact they brought in moments before, stepping slightly back to it. Was it-


Was it calling him?


He stepped closer to the Allspark, hearing it much more clearly than he would have thought possible, it sang softly, and the noise of the ship, the Decepticons and even the terror in his frame became muted. A warm, soothing feeling entered his spark, flowing through his powerlines, shutting down his faulty combat programs, not that they would have done him any use to begin with. His spark finally settled back down in its chamber, forgetting why he was even afraid to begin with.


He sat down in front of the Allspark, optical shutters half-closed. Listening to it was... eerie to say the least, hard to put into words, there were voices but they weren't exactly speaking, there was a tune but it was nowhere near what most would consider singing, strung with strange vibrations and distortion. Some might have considered it rather scarey but for him it felt nice, nostalgic, he could have sworn some of the voices were specifically calling him, like old friends, a greeting after vorns of being apart, senses and smells he knew from before but not where from.


“Th͢#̢͟͞͠҉ Al̕l͜sp͟ark̷ ha̢s b͢ee͘n l͡ost ̕to̸ us, S͟h̡#̸̴̡#͞҉#̷̴̨#̴̧#̛ b̶ut we̶ st͘il͠l̴ h̡͏a̸͡#̡̕͘#̧#̶͠ Cyb͢#̶҉#̴̢͘͡#̛͘n,͢”


“I ̢w͟on̸'̶t ̨fail ̛you,̡ ̸m#̴̡̕#̕͜#͏҉e̢̨͘͢͡r.̷ I w#̛͜͞͠ll ͞p̢r͢oţec͏t̵ ̴̕#̢͘͡͞#̷̵͠#̡̢̢͝͠#͟͢#̵͜͡#̨̨͜͞͠#͘͢#̸͘ ͠wi̛#̢̕ḩ ͘a͡#̸̶̡͞͝#͟͠ my spa#̷#̷̶̛͝͡.”


That voice, it was his... no, not his caretaker, someone else, the one who inspired him to be an Intelligence Officer. Master? The Allspark pulsed a strong disciplinary wave against him and he supposed it was right, that felt too un-Autobotlike. Mister? Mentor? The Allspark didn't respond and Longarm felt a bit disappointed with the lack of an answer. He thought hard, determined to know exactly who he was trying to remember, and what he promised to protect, but the Allspark refused to give any more hints, content on soothing his circuits instead.


After all the rumours he heard about the Allspark, its origins and capabilities, none of that compared to actually being in front of it, hearing it whisper and hum and respond to the thoughts exclusive to his processor. Did it really hold billions of sparks inside it, all waiting to find frames? Or was it one single entity? By the alien tune and voices, he was inclined to believe the first, but something in his spark swayed him towards the latter.


The ship shook violently from an explosion and Longarm snapped out of the Allspark induced trance when he tumbled across the floor. The Allspark's aura flared, desperate to take Longarm's processor back into its core and keep him close, but another blast hit the ship and Longarm stood up as quick as he was able to, the haze clearing from his processor. How could he have forgotten the ship was under attack?! He had to get to the repair bay to hide, fast.


Suddenly, the Allspark's container opened and a small flash of light from its core sent him flying into the crates he so neatly stacked less than a cycle ago. While a successive barrage of laser fire from the Decepticons quaked the ship, the Allspark manipulated everything around it, safely burying Longarm in his ruined handiwork and preparing to transwarp the ship.


Longarm booted out of his emergency stasis lock as quick as he could, embarrassment washed over his spark again, he had to crash at the worst timing possible. His optics onlined to see that the crushing sensation he woke up in was were the same crates he stacked, closed around him, almost protectively. The ship was on full acceleration and vibrating madly, air resistance causing the hull to heat up quickly, they were entering a dense planet atmosphere to be sure. Then there were the clashes and clangs of sharp metal, the sound of air being cut apart.


‘Now, bring me the Allspark, and I may spare your miserable Autobot life.’ An angry, but very familiar voice hissed.


Decepticons had boarded the ship!


But that voice, it sounded like his mentor, it couldn't possibly be him, could it? Longarm scrambled desperately out of his hiding hole, before he realised how much of a bad idea that was. He broke free to see Optimus desperately struggling against a huge Decepticon, it was missing an arm, its chassis was charred and burned away in what must have been an explosion but still it easily overpowered Optimus, crushing his entire body with a single pede. What terrifying strength!


The Decepticon looked up sharply the moment Longarm fell out of his cover, they made optic contact and its optics widened. ‘Sho-’


Before the Decepticon could curse, Optimus took out his axe and swung decisively, knocking the sword out of the Decepticon's hand. The Decepticon snarled, picking Optimus up and throwing him cleanly across the ship's hold. Optimus' helm and backstrut hit the wall with a loud bang and he crumpled onto the floor.


‘No, Optimus!’ Longarm cried, running over to Optimus' body, moving to help assist him up but the other hissed in pain, cradling his helm. Where were the others? Longarm thought, were they offline? Was he the last one? Longarm couldn't fight the monster, not in a million vorns, but he couldn't just run off to hide or look for the others, he couldn't abandon Optimus.


The Decepticon was approaching, the entire hold shaking with every pedestep. Longarm looked around desperately for something for protection before looking upon Optimus' axe, he picked it up with trembling digits and turned round to face the Decepticon, readying it for a swing.


The Decepticon didn't attack them, merely towering calmly over Longarm's insignificant frame. ‘What kind of joke is this?’ It said, and he could have sworn it was more shocked than amused.


‘S-stay back, Decepticon.’ Longarm warned, even though he was absolutely terrified from his faceplates to his pedes. ‘I-I'll do it.’


Suddenly the Decepticon's remaining servo reached forwards, quick as lightning, its digits harshly grabbed his mouthguard, lifting him almost effortlessly off the ground, bringing him closer. Longarm's processor stuttered and hanged, almost crashing again from the sudden panic but he swung the axe down into the Decepticon's arm.


It barely could have been considered an attack.


‘"Decepticon"?’ It repeated, insult written deep into its face. ‘Don't you recognise me? Don't you even know my name?’


The axe clattered to the ground.




What was it waiting for? His spark was itching to say something and another haze passed over his motherboard.




‘M-m-me-’ Longarm’s vocaliser choked out.


‘You can do it.’ The Decepticon encouraged. ‘What's. My. Name? You do know it, don't you?’


What's my name?


My name...









The Decepi- Shoc- Megatron turned his helm and barely had time to react before he received a faceplatefull of Bumblebee's stingers. ‘STAY AWAY FROM HIM, DECEPTICREEP!’ Bee yelled.


Megatron hissed, retreating a few steps back and dropped Longarm, he swung his remaining arm to try and catch Bumblebee as he strafed around his pedes and prepared to land another batch of stings. Optimus finally came back to his senses, brandishing his axe before charging at Megatron once more.

Longarm had landed harshly on his aft and skittered away from the fight as quick as he could, his entire motherboard racing and in pain, on the verge of another shutdown but he willed every part of his being to keep fully online. His spark twisted and turned, almost at war with itself and everything was happening far too fast for his straining processor to keep up with, the feedback in his optics became a blur, noises and voices blurring together to make a messy cacophony of swords, axes and stingers.

He didn't notice the Allspark directly behind him, glowing softly as it reached out to him once more.

Bulkhead and Prowl must have joined the fight at some point when his recognition software suddenly registered them. Megatron, as strong and terrifying as he was, was still terribly damaged and couldn't withstand the Autobot assault from all sides. Optimus lead the assault with tactical swings of his axe to keep Megatron focussing his defence on him while the others overwhelmed him. Prowl sniped in every few moments with his glaives to follow up with a holographic bait and switch when Megatron lunged at him with his sword. Bumblebee took the opportunity to land his stingers on Megatron's remaining servo in an attempt to disarm him but the titan only staggered backwards, nearly cleaving Bumblebee if he didn't jump back in time.

Optimus suddenly had an idea, circling around to the airlock ‘Everybody, engage your magnets!’ He yelled, right before slamming his fist into the control panel.

The siren wailed, the docking bridge was deployed and the airlock snapped open, the air whipped around them and straight out the airlock and into the outer atmosphere of the planet they were plummeting towards. Bumblebee, Bulkhead Optimus and Prowl successfully engaged their magnets before giving Megatron the hardest shove they could and flung him out of the airlock. Megatron clawed desperately against the walls of the docking bridge but his strength had waned and he was pulled out into the upper atmosphere, lighting on fire as he became a shining comet.

His dying scream echoed through the ship as he fell to the planet in a horrifying blaze and Longarm had never heard anything so horrible in all his life, feeling sick straight to his tanks. Optimus managed to close the airlock and finally the ordeal was over, they were all safe.

‘I told you to stay in the repair bay!’ Optimus reprimanded, walking over to Longarm. ‘If he wasn't so busy taunting, he would have offlined you.’ He held out his servo.

‘Sir, I'm sorry, sir I-I locked up again.’ Longarm apologised, taking Optimus' hand and getting back on his pedes. ‘And I, I couldn't leave you.’

Optimus paused at that thought, if he didn't distract Megatron he himself could have been offlined. ‘I appreciate the concern, but I trained for this kind of thing Longarm, it's my duty.’ He looked around the rest of the team. ‘Is everyone else alright?’ They all nodded. ‘Alright, let's get back to-’

The peace was broken when Ratchet ran into the hold. ‘Prime I can't keep him steady, the ship's gonna crash into a populated area!’

Optimus' plan of action was instant. ‘Everyone, get to the stasis pods!’





‘Alright everyone disengage, we go in with unmanned drones only an- OK, WHO BROUGHT THE TANK? I EXPLICITLY SAID NO TANKS! AND YOU FOUR WHAT PART OF FALL BACK DON'T Y- ok where are the drivers?



Longarm kept his optics magnetised to the camera feed from Teletran-1 on the monitor, processing every pixilated detail he could get his optics on. He was already curious when the ship almost crashed into an unknown civilisation but seeing it was nothing like what he imagined. Sentient organics, with writing, speech and long range communication, capable of inventing technoorganic microbots?


He would have sooner believed that he had encountered the Allspark and helped defeat Megatron, but here he was. To think that if things had been different, he would have ended up behind a desk, sorting the immense paperwork that came with being an Intel agent.


Optimus and the team had disguised themselves as the local robot lifeforms to battle the microbots, who had malfunctioned and started destroying the alien buildings and machines. But this time, Optimus made sure that Longarm was safely secured on the ship to assist Ratchet, while he worked on analysing the microbots for a weakness. At least he himself was in no hurry to assist, even if Teletran-1 had found an Earth form to fit his frametype his coding was still corrupted to the pits and he didn't exactly want a repeat of the battle with Megatron.


‘You doing ok kid?’ Ratchet grumbled as he analysed the microbot's data. ‘You're making that face again, and stop that scratching.’


Longarm jumped when he looked down and saw that he was doing his nervous habit again. ‘Sorry, sir, I need something to do.’


Ratchet made a noise of sorts before turning back to his work. ‘I'd ask you to help me figure out these microbots, but even I'm having a hard time figuring out their coding. What's with all these "if, and if, else if" command checks? Primitive, absolutely primitive. What kind of rusted motherboard bases their entire functionality on endless questions?!’


Longarm didn't reply, his attention went back to the battle, the team weren't doing as well against the monstrosity than against Megatron, he thought, the creature was much better at multitasking with its many limbs. A question came to his processor. ‘Ratchet? Why am I here, on this mission, that is?’


‘Hmm?’ Ratchet stopped his work. ‘What kind of question is that? I couldn't just leave you alone and unemployed on Cybertron now, could I?’


‘But I've been nothing but a liability the whole time.’ Longarm argued.


‘You saved Prime from having his helm disconnected from his motherboard, that's what you've been.’ Ratchet reminded. ‘I'll be honest kid, this wasn't the best compromise for your health, the moment we get off this slimy world and back to Cybertron I'm taking us and the ship off of maintenance duty permanently. Maybe I can get Wheeljack to hire you as his lab assistant (if he stops ignoring safety protocols, that is).’


Longarm furrowed his optic ridges. ‘The ship, sir?’


‘He and I have a history together.’ Ratchet mused, patting his control station fondly.


Longarm found that he couldn't continue the conversation on a note as strange as that, he was trying to figure out exactly what to make of it when something clicked in his motherboard. The coding that Ratchet was currently analysing, he could almost make sense of it. ‘Sir, look at that, line 543.’


‘Hmm?’ Ratchet gave him an odd look before freezing the monitor on it. ‘"If bl foreign entity equals true"?’

‘Yes that, it, I think it causes the microbots to consume and break down whatever material it deems foreign if the statement is true.’ Longarm explained, both to Ratchet and himself.

‘I know.’ Ratchet mumbled, not in the least surprised by the information. ‘It's clearly the cause of the microbot's rampage, I'm trying to figure out how to fix it, I looked over what controls the foreign entity statement already its an absolute mess of checks and algorithms, too much time to fix. I could just delete this entire paragraph but that won't exactly kill the beggar now would it?’

Another thing suddenly clicked in Longarm's processor. ‘But, what if instead of all that we just change the statement to false wouldn't it-’

‘Consume and breakdown itself, Longarm you're a genius!’ Ratchet began editing the code in the wake of their divine inspiration, hampered only by his lack of understanding how to type out the sentient organics' glyphs, but soon he had a patch. ‘For whatever reason, this thing's central processor, rather than in the centre of the body, is located in its cranial structure. And it's so primitive that the code needs to be uploaded physically.

A code injector can handle the uploading without a cinch, the problem is getting to it's processor to upload the solution.’ He turned on his communicator. ‘Ratchet to Prime, Longarm and I found a way to subdue the microbots, but we need to find a way to get this code injector into the creature's helm.’

‘Well think quickly Ratchet!’ Optimus urged, sounding very flustered. ‘We can barel- Prowl? PROW-’

Longarm turned back to Teletran's camera feed just in time to see the last bits of Prowl merge into the monster, Bulkhead was missing an entire servo too and Bumblebee was struggling to escape the hold of the creature. Panic flitted over his spark, how quickly must have things have gone bad for the entire team to forgo their disguises and return to robot mode!?

A blast that definitely didn't come from the Autobot team sounded from off screen, a metal explosive round flew into the creature and damaged it considerably before it too began to be consumed by the monster, however it flinched the microbots just enough for Bumblebee to slip free of its hold.

‘WHY IS THE TANK STILL HERE?!’ The organic commander demanded.

Longarm, curious to see more, approached the monitor. ‘Teletran-1, please focus viewfind on the "tank".’

‘Affirmative.’ Teletran-1 replied, the camera view swivelled round and Longarm saw it, the track treads, the long range artillery cannon smoking from the fresh round of fire, the heavy armour plating.

It was perfect.


‘Teletran-1, please scan it for vehicle mode.’ He requested.

‘Scanning.’ Teletran-1 confirmed, a pale blue light washed over the vehicle.

‘Longarm, what are you up to?’ Ratchet asked, walking towards him.

‘Sir, I have an idea!’ Longarm said excitedly, picking up the code injector. ‘This Earth vehicle has a projectile launcher and it matches my frametype, I can use it to stop the microbots!’

Ratchet however was anything but excited. ‘Longarm wait, your transformation coding is still corrupted!’ But Longarm didn't heed his warning and rushed out of the repair bay. ‘LONGARM!’

Longarm rushed over to the upgrade chamber and selected the freshly scanned vehicle, he was practically bounding up and down with excitement and waited in eager anticipation as the chamber closed and began the modification process. Nanites washed down his frame, strategical strikes of coding delivered on currents of Energon based lightning hit his frame and he watched in fascination as the alloys that would comprise his new alt-mode broke down and reformed.

He was shocked when vehicle components he didn't even know he had stored in his subspace emerged, rewiring and adjusting themselves into a compacted version of the tank cannon on his left arm, the cannon's sensors were flush with errors and static after so much storage time but it soon settled down.

He heard banging and cursing outside the chamber door. ‘LONGARM STOP THE PROCESS!’ Ratchet shouted from the other side of the door. ‘THAT VEHICLE IS CLEARLY A WARBUILD, ITS NOT COMPATIBLE! YOU'LL HURT YOURSELF WHEN IT TRIES TO ASSEMBLE THE WEAPON COMPONENTS! LONGARM?!


But the process had already finished and the worst Longarm felt was a static tingle in his new components and a small elation in his spark. Despite the weapon strapped to his arm and some minor adjustments in the patterns on his armour, he looked the same as before. He stumbled out of the modification chamber, not expecting the sudden change in his weigh distribution and pedes, Ratchet moved in quickly to stabilise him, he'd never seen the doc bot so angry and worried.


‘You glitch! What were you thinking!?’ Ratchet hissed, looking at Longarm's new cannon like it was a ticking time bomb. ‘Now I have to get you to the repair bay an-’


‘I'm ok, Ratchet it didn't injure me.’ Longarm reassured but Ratchet didn't believe him at all, dragging his resisting frame back to the repair bay.


He couldn't let Ratchet take his new frame apart after all that trouble getting it, so Longarm broke free of Ratchet's grip and managed to start running without much strain on his equilibrium. Making it out of the ship he swam as fast as he could towards his teammate's energy signatures, he surfaced on the outer edge of the docks. Thankfully, the others hadn't been damaged any further by the monster the last time he saw them, but he couldn't relax yet, Prowl was still trapped inside it and every second to save him counted.


‘Another one!?’ The organic commander exclaimed. ‘JUST HOW MANY OF THOSE CAR MACHINES DO YOU HAVE UNDER THE LAKE SUMDAC!?’


Longarm, now able to get a good look at the little organic, realised that it didn't look much like the military commander he assumed it to be, even though it's anger management was on par with Sentinel's. But he couldn't let himself get too distracted now that he was finally here, he had a job to do.


He steeled himself. “I can do this, I can do this.” He encouraged himself, and on that note, he began to transform. His gears screeched, seams cracking and splitting, waking up after almost a stellar-cycle of being inactive.


It. Hurt.


It hurt immensely, but Longarm kept going, muting his voicebox so he wouldn't panic his team or the natives, but it was happening, his plating moved, restructuring itself. The tracks on his arms and legs forming the underside of the tank, his cannon moved to the back of his shoulder and extended out, and finally his helm retreated into his chassis and his alt-mode sensors fully engaged. The transformation was successful and he stood there, almost a spitting image of the Earth vehicle if not for his colouration.


The others finally noticed he was there, Optimus almost having to do a double take and a diagnostic to make sure he wasn't glitching out.


‘Longarm?!’ Bumblebee gasped, he looked back and forth quickly between the microbot monster and Longarm. ‘I-is this real life? I didn't get eaten, did I?’


‘That's half the battle done.’ Longarm told himself, already half exhausted just from the act of transforming, his processor felt as light as a microchip and he had trouble focussing, not when his spark was practically singing in joy from being able to transform again. He concentrated again, carefully manoeuvring himself and aiming his cannon at the helm of the monster, loading the code injector into his firing chamber, he engaged the mechanism.


His frame skidded backwards from the powerful recoil, way more powerful than the original Earth vehicle's, some superior Cybertronian technology must have made it into the operation of his new form. The injector hit the microbot monstrosity in the dead centre of it's helm, for 3 pure nano-cycles of tension, the beast did nothing, it's tentacles and arms relaxing as the patch took hold in it's robotic components. Then in the blink of an optic shutter, it was nothing more than dust, the half digested machines it consumed earlier falling to the ground and Prowl with them, still intact and online, thank the Allspark.


‘I did it?’ Longarm asked, slowly rolling towards the remains of the microbots, half expecting it to come alive again, but it remained as ashes. ‘I did it!’


The others crowded around him and he saw the looks on their faceplates, of shock and awe and-


His systems flickered and then he was out like a light, the crash he was staving off for so long finally taking over.



Chapter Text


‘Alright, that's enough scanning for one solar-cycle.’ Ratchet declared, skimming over the information on the monitor. ‘Good news I suppose, that last crash was actually a power outage. Your levels were low, and the amount of energy you used in that shot was enough strain on your PSU to put you under. Go get some Energon and rest up in your room.’


Longarm gently sat up on the edge of the examination berth. ‘But weren't we going to try that key again? To fix-’


‘If it didn't work the first time, why would it work the second?!’ Ratchet snapped. ‘Besides, the organic's back with its caretakers and I still need to work out exactly what that Allspark infused key affects before we all end up as overdosed technoorganic mutants. Now get!’


Longarm sighed, disappointed that he let Ratchet rush him to the repair bay before he could get to know the little human Bumblebee had smuggled onto the ship. ‘Yes, sir.’ He said, before he left the repair bay.


The moment Longarm was gone, Ratchet locked the door. He flexed his digits and aching joints, heading straight towards his main workstation.


He had a lot of questions that needed answers.




Bulkhead and Bumblebee huddled around Longarm in the messy remains of the ship's rec room, admiring the compacted cannon on his arm. It was a strange weight but overall didn't feel too uncomfortable on his frame, it probably would though if he spent all day standing up. He barely had it for a mega-cycle, and already he accidentally caught his cannon on some corners and ship debris, but overall it hadn't caused any major problems, at least no visible ones. He hoped Ratchet didn't find anything troubling from his scans, he really liked this new form, it just, felt right.


‘Weren't you a constructobot before?’ Bulkhead pointed out, not being able to fully wrap his processor around the event. ‘How did you turn from that into this?’


‘It just... happened really.’ Longarm tried to explain, even though he had just as little of an idea as Bulkhead. ‘I had some spare materials stored in my subspace and they made this during the upgrade.’ He moved his gun arm in front of his face, clenching his digits experimentally, noting it was suddenly a lot easier for him to do so. ‘It'll take some time getting used to it I think, it has several firing modes.’


‘Woooaaah.’ Bumblebee admired, reaching closer to the cannon. ‘With this, fighting Decepticons'll be a walk in the park!’


Longarm didn't like the sound of that, to be honest he'd rather not encounter a Decepticon ever again. But at least this time, he would have some sort of a fighting chance, maybe. The power behind his new weapon frightened him somewhat, after all the reason he crashed at the docks was because he used up almost all his energy reserves with just one shot.


‘Gee, I didn't know we could upgrade like that.’ Bulkhead mused optimistically, picking at little bits of his own frame. ‘Hey, if I scan a smaller vehicle, would my robot mode will be a bit smaller too?’


Bumblebee had an idea, jumping up onto his pedes excitedly. ‘Yeah! And didn't the humans have these flying machines? Maybe I could-’


‘You can't.’


The three of them looked towards Prowl, who was leaning casually against the wall with that neutral expression he always wore, before he moved over towards the refuelling station.


‘How come?’ Bulkhead asked.


‘You can't just change your frametype to whatever you want on the fly.’ Prowl explained, picking up his glass and holding it under the dispenser. ‘There's some leniency, but ultimately it depends on if your components and coding match what you want, otherwise you'd end up an incomplete mess, or with an alt-mode that can't move.


The answer to why you are what you are, is that you're fortunate the vehicle was a close enough match to what you had originally for it to work, that's all.’ He subspaced his glass when it was full, then started walking towards his room, clearly not wanting to eat with the group.


‘Aww, blitzbuckets.’ Bumblebee huffed when Prowl was out sight, he and Bulkhead both disheartened by the revelation. ‘Can't a bot dream around here?’


‘Please, you spend half your time daydreaming.’ Longarm said.


Bumblebee shrank into himself on the couch, faceplates going red. ‘N-no I don't!’ He denied.


‘Sure you don't.’ Longarm teased.


He decided it was time to get some fuel himself, he walked up to the refuelling station but stalled for a moment instead of picking up his tin can, littered with dents. He clenched his digits slowly and carefully again, yes, it was definitely much smoother than before. He wondered.


‘Hey is something wrong?’ Bulkhead asked in concern.


Longarm turned his helm towards his friends. ‘Bumblebee, where are the spare glasses?’


‘Uhh, over there?’ Bumblebee pointed towards one of the damaged cabinets.


He walked over to the cabinet and opened it, flinching when a bunch of broken glasses immediately fell out, but there were a few undamaged ones. He carefully reached forwards and picked one up with ease, it had a fairly noticeable crack near the top but chose it over the risk of damaging a better glass. Both Bumblebee and Bulkhead were watching him in a curious silence as he went back to the refuelling station, filled his glass and sat back down with them.


Bulkhead furrowed his optic ridges slightly. ‘Don't you want your straw?’


‘I think... I can manage without it.’ Longarm replied, taking a small, gentle sip from the rim.


And manage he did, being able to finish the whole thing without dropping or damaging the glass further, setting it down triumphantly.





‘We sure are a long way from Cybertron.’ Bumblebee said, looking up at the sparse night sky. ‘There's barely any stars out here.’


The two of them had swam from the ship to an outcropping of rocks above the lake, sitting beside each other on the rocks' edge. Longarm had really wanted to go see the human city on the far side of the lake, but Optimus forbade it for some cycles. This was the humans first contact, not just with Cybertronian life but with all alien life, they had to give the little things time to adjust before they could explore, so for now they were content at watching from afar. The city was brightly lit up on that evening, Cybertron would have had all except the emergency navigation lights turned off at this point in the night-cycle.


Even though he could only just remember it, he missed it.


‘Do you think we'll be able to get back?’ Longarm wondered.


‘Course we will Longy.’Bee said, leaning into his side. ‘Did we just find the Allspark and beat the scrap outta Megatron, just to get stranded on some squishy wet world? Sure the ships all busted and we can't call anyone, but we're still online and together and...


I'm glad you're here too.’ He confessed. ‘Even though it's my fault.’


Longarm made a hmph noise, flicking Bumblebee on his olfactory sensor. ‘How many times do I have to tell you before till it sticks in your memory core, Bumblebee, I forgive you.’ He looked back to the city. ‘Though I do wonder sometimes, what would it be like if we managed to catch Wasp safely?’


Bumblebee conked his helm on Longarm's side in some lazy attempt at revenge. ‘Forget all that. So maybe I didn't get into the Elite Guard, and you didn't get into the Intelligence Agency, but we've found the Allspark, kicked Decepticon butts, found aliens and saved everybot all in one cycle! What the pits could we do on Cybertron to top that!?’


Longarm thought for a brief moment, breaking optic contact for just an instant. ‘I don't know, do you?’


‘No, But I know what your sorry aft would be doing for the rest of your runtime.’ Bumblebee stood up, putting on the most serious and boring face he could do, pretending to hold a stack of something. ‘No time for slacking off cadet Longarm, I want these files sorted yester-cycle!’


It was the worst impression of the Magnus Longarm had witnessed and it made him want to cringe right into his protoform, but he played along, standing up and saluting. ‘Yes sir, Ultra Magnus sir!’


Bumblebee then paced around him with a weird step that took him a while to realise it was an imitation of Sentinel's lecture walk. ‘And make sure you never be happy, think happy or have fun, fun is strictly forbid-a-did’


Longarm frowned, breaking character. ‘Bumblebee, that's not a real word.’


Bee stopped in front of him with an authoritative stomp and a puffed out chassis. ‘I AM ULTRA MAGNUS AND NOW IT IS A- aaAAAA-’ The rocks under Bumblebee’s pedes had crumbled and he lost balance, sinking to the bottom of the lake like a stone.


Longarm peered over the edge where Bumblebee had fallen in, only just able to contain his laughter before jumping in after him.




Ratchet had spent almost the entire night-cycle at his computer, not even stopping for a fuel break. He had been going over file after file, repair bay records, academy data, everything concerning Longarm that he could get his servos on. Trying to make sense of what had and what could have happened.


And why?


Some things were adding up, but others remained complete wildcards that never fitted into his theories, but slowly and surely, he had a conclusion that while weak, was the strongest he could have come to with the resources available to him. The ship was falling apart by the cycles and Ratchet couldn't stand leaving him in a state poorer then when the war just ended, but he was caring for two now, Omega would just have to wait until he confirmed that Longarm wasn't in danger, or a danger.


He made a direct call to Optimus' comlink, thinking it was finally time to serve the news. ‘Prime, a word with you in private.’


‘What is it Ratchet?’ Optimus said, his voice distorted from just booting up. ‘It's the middle of the night-cycle.’


‘Just get up here Prime, don't wake the youngbots either.’ Ratchet ordered.


When Optimus finally got there Ratchet was on him in a flash, ushering him in quickly, closing the door immediately behind him.


‘Ratchet what's all this about?’ Optimus asked, a tired frown on his faceplate.


‘Two things Prime.’ Ratchet started, he went over to his workstation and brought up a very ancient looking file. ‘First, I have a positive ID that the key the organic got their digits on is a key of Vector Sigma, where it came from is beyond me but at least we'll be able to know what the blasted thing is capable of.’ He closed the file. ‘But you can research that later in the morning, I called you down here because we need to talk, about Longarm's condition.’


Optimus frowned again, not liking where this was going.‘Is something wrong with him?’


‘He's a warbuild, Optimus.’ Ratchet stated, looking Optimus dead in his optics.


Optimus didn't seem surprised. ‘Well, yes I suppose he could be considered one now, its quite-’


‘No, I mean he's a pure natural warbuild!’ Ratchet snapped. ‘The ship's upgrade chamber was built before safeguards were put in place, he has to be!’


‘I'm not quite following.’ Optimus said in confusion. The safeguards Ratchet mentioned prevented incompatible frames from upgrading to an alt-mode they didn't have the components for, but bots could still switch frametype with them regardless, so why was relevant in the first place?


‘While Longarm certainly had the treads and the plating for this Earth tank, it was a highly weaponised vehicle, look here.’ Ratchet brought up Teletran's scans of the tank, highlighting the cannon and several other structures on the frame. ‘This isn't a primitive projectile launcher assembled out of scrap metal Prime, it's an artillery cannon with a railgun module. Look here on the side, missiles! Targeting systems! Without safeguards, constructing these should have severely damaged him, cannibalised his vital components even! I was expecting him to come out of that blasted thing offiline!’ Ratchet hissed so loud he could have burst his vocalisers.


Optimus was incredibly taken aback. ‘I- didn't know it could be that severe.’


Ratchet grumbled to himself, typical youngbot ignorance. ‘But he's fine, and when the key was used on him it had no effect, meaning he wasn't damaged, because he already had the components! He's a natural warbuild, there's no other explaination!


What's more is ever since he transformed his coding recovered faster than anything I’ve seen!’ Ratchet continued, building up a frenzy in his frame as he continued his tirade. ‘I thought I would have to perform open processor surgery to recover it but it's almost fully rebuilt! If my scans are right and this happened before the key was used on him, for Longarm's code to suddenly get better it would mean a critical missing piece preventing it finally clicked into place, like a missing weapon.


He. Is. A. Warbuild!’

Ratchet began pacing around the repair bay to dispel the utter disbelief in his frame. Optimus couldn't find it in him to do or say anything, but watch it play out. ‘It all makes sense now, his erratic stasis locks and the attacks. They're like flyers and racers Prime, they get stir crazy if they don't exercise their unique components and programming and here he's been, suppressing it all with a construction form of all things! How he managed to survive this long without snuffing his own spark in stress is a complete miracle. How did I not see it before? How did the entire medical staff of Fortress Maximus and the Elite Guard not see it?! Did nobody scan his subspace!?’


‘Ratchet calm down, please!’ Optimus finally intervened, grabbing Ratchet by the shoulder plates, waiting for him to calm down before continuing. ‘So he's a warbuild, but why? I don't understand. If hiding his frametype would damage him so much why would he do it? Why make his alt-form civilian in the first place?’


Ratchet stilled, finally cooling his frame down. ‘I don't know Prime, I have my theory, but don't take it as a decree from the Magnus. I think, he wanted to dodge the draft.’


Optimus shook his helm. ‘Ratchet we don't live in wartimes anymore, there is no draft.’


But Ratchet gave off a disturbing chuckle, the type he made when he was about to drag Optimus into the dirt with a "real history lesson". ‘Autobot protocol hasn't changed much since my time, but when a warbuild protoform is forged their life is instantly on schedule. The moment they're done with tutorage, they're fast tracked through the academy to the frontline to battle against Decepticons before you can say "Omega Supreme".


Bear in processor that we don't have a connection to the Autobot Intelligence Agency, I wasn't able to sleuth much, but I did have some census data with the medical information I took with me from Cybertron. I checked the numbers of warbuilds drafted from the stellar-cycle he, Bumblebee and Bulkhead entered the academy, they were one bot underquota from what they were expecting.


I can only guess the whole story, he didn't want to fight on the frontlines, hid his true identity, applied for the position least likely to see action, and come his tragic accident, forgot he was a warbuild and the ramifications of hiding it. But, like I said, that's a theory, Longarm's been mentioning a mentor, said they inspired him to be an agent, and I have no idea how that fits into all this,or if all this fits into that.’


The two of them mulled over the possibilities in silence. In truth there were plenty of reasons to hide being a warbuild, discrimination, little freedom and, as Ratchet said, the draft were to name but a few. Optimus recalled reading a myth of a warbuild who wanted to pursue science and had gone through horrible black market modifications so they would pass as a civilian, said myth widely disregarded as Decepticon propaganda. ‘What would you advise then, Ratchet?’


‘For now, we tell him he has to exercise his components for good maintenance. But until he remembers exactly what happened from his forging to his near scrapping we'll take this conversation to the well of Allsparks, Prime.’ Ratchet said, with a grave, serious expression on his plates. ‘Keep a very close optic on him, the moment he remembers something out of the ordinary, tell me.’





On the start of the cycle, the whole team left the ship and headed straight for the city, they had booted up to hear they had just been given the all clear and there was going to be a public event to welcome them to Earth. All the youngbots were excited, Optimus and Longarm were slightly nervous with stage fright and Ratchet and Prowl couldn't care less. They surfaced from the bottom of the lake to a small welcoming party of humans, only a few which Longarm vaguely recognised.


‘Ah, my Autobot friends.’ A short, stocky human said as they approached. ‘How are you all doing today?’


‘Very well, thank you.’ Optimus replied with a small wave of his servo. ‘I understand one last introduction has to be made, now that our "MVP", as you said, is well again.’ He gestured towards Longarm. ‘This is Longarm, he's our, uh...’


‘He's my student.’ Ratchet finished to Longarm's inevitable confusion. Well, he supposed it sounded better than being called a maintenance assistant.


The human perked up with fascination, moving closer to Longarm. ‘Well, I am Issac Sumdac, Professor and CEO of Sumdac Systems, I believe you have already met my daughter, Sari.’


‘Hey big guy.’ She said on queue, waving at him.


‘Hello.’ Longarm greeted back, crouching down with his digits on his stabilisers to be closer to her level. He looked over the human group, a strange curiosity floating around in his spark, they were all just barely the size of his own helm, most organics he had seen were at least half his size and not an intelligent processor to share between them. ‘You're all so tiny.’ He stated.


‘I'm not that little.’ Sari huffed playfully.


Professor Sumdac continued with his introductions, gesturing to each human respectively, the mayor, his assistant and captain Fanzone, the chief of law enforcement. While he went on about the event planning, Longarm couldn't help but notice the strange looks the Mayor and his assistant were giving him. They even motioned for Fanzone to join them in a very brief conversation that his audials couldn't help but overhear his name being used in.


Eventually, the captain interrupted the professor. ‘Quick question, can that thing come off?’


He was pointing dead ahead at Longarm's cannon.


Longarm sputtered for a tiny bit, even though his cannon had been a noticeable weight and a nuisance, taking it off hadn't even crossed his motherboard for one moment before now. He curiously fiddled with it, trying to see if there was a detaching mechanism or a safety cut off that would allow him to subspace it again.


Ratchet even joined in to examine it closely. ‘Hmm, looks like the cut offs aren't manual, can you find a command to do it?’


‘I-I can't, I'm sorry.’ Longarm mumbled after an unfruitful search of his command lines.


‘Pardon me captain but, what seems to be the problem?’ Optimus asked, though he had a very sure feeling what it was.


Fanzone's face moved in a way that suggested he was trying to find the most polite, coherent way to put it. ‘Basically, what with it being an open to the public event, meeting aliens for the first time an' all, giant death cannons don't exactly say the whole "you come in peace" message. Mayor says if he can't stash it, he can't be onstage.’


‘To further clarify.’ The mayor’s assistant added. ‘We feel that, until the public settles down, he cannot enter public spaces, in robot or tank form, except in emergencies.’


‘Hey, no fair!’ Sari complained, scrunching her face up at the mayor. ‘He saved the city you can't just-’


‘No no Sari, it's quite fair.’ Longarm said, not wanting to cause a fuss.


Honestly though, he felt letdown from the news and looked over his team for their opinion, both Bumblebee and Bulkhead shared his disappointment and Ratchet and Optimus were looking at each other oddly, the same way they did whenever they were having a private message over their comms.


They must have reached an agreement when Ratchet spoke up. ‘Hmph, I'll allow it on one condition. You fleshies made that tank after all, you must have an area for it to exercise in.’


‘Ah yes, the military base just outside town.’ Professor Sumdac answered. ‘I assume you want a space for Longarm to practice in, right? I'll have it arranged right away.’


‘You ok with this buddy?’ Bulkhead whispered aside to Longarm. ‘I, uh, can come along and keep you company if you want.’


‘Yeah, it's no fair you can't join in.’ Bumblebee added. ‘They should be more worried about Decepticons, not you.’


‘I'll manage.’ Longarm reassured them. ‘There's plenty of non-occupied space for me to visit and it'll only be for a short while, right?’





It wasn't at all.


Settling into life on Earth was fairly easy, Longarm thought as he drove along the lakeside road to the military base, it was just like when he was confined to the ship when they were all on repair duty because essentially, he still was. Even though Sari supplied the Autobots with their own surface side base to live in, he wasn't allowed to even go near it unless it was the dead of the night-cycle, it was easier to recharge in the broken down, waterlogged ship.


Every time the team had been invited to yet another public event, he had to make himself busy with other things like fixing the holes in the ship, or taking a trip to the military base for practice, like what he was doing now. Target practice wasn't that bad of a gig, to be honest, he expected it to be a repeat of the Autoboot camp but the soldiers there were very friendly and gave some good advice on how to use his cannon. He was getting confident using his alt-mode, so much he might have even considered going face to face with a Decepticon, if said Decepticon was about his size, lost all its weapons and had one servo in the scrapheap, that is.


Meanwhile Optimus had met with so many government officials, enough to the point that everyone began to suspect they were just claiming it so they could shake servos and take pictures. But it turned out true, Earth had more governments than Cybertronians had frametypes, and all of them were clambering to meet the Autobots, yet the local government still didn't trust him enough to let him witness it.


Longarm hated to admit it, but he was jealous.


‘Hey, wait up!’ He heard a familiar bot yell behind him.


Longarm stopped, seeing Bulkhead speeding towards him through his rear alt-mode sensors. ‘Bulkhead? Weren't you going to that opening ceremony?’ He asked.


‘I was.’ Bulkhead admitted. ‘But its no fun going to all these events without you, and I though you could use a lil' company, you don't mind, do you?’


‘Oh.’ Longarm said, feeling a little fuzzy on the inside. ‘I don't mind at all, thank you.’


The two of them drove together on the road. ‘Oh, did I mention we almost have that TV thing installed?’ Bulkhead announced. ‘Sari says you can watch all sorts of stuff on it, kinda like the old holonet, but its on a schedule.’


‘Hmm.’ Longarm hummed, half interested. ‘I'd like to see that.’


‘Yeah, I know I keep saying this, but I wish that dumb mayor would let you into the city already.’ Bulkhead complained. ‘It's not like the humans don't know you exist and they're not even scared about it.’


‘They aren't?’ Longarm said in slight disbelief.


‘Yeah I get a bunch of little guys asking me if you're real sometimes, one of 'em asked if the government was hiding you in a... uhhhh... aluminium art conspiracy? (I think that's the word) I dunno what that means though but they really wanna see you too, honest.’


Longarm's mood instantly lightened, grateful for Bulkhead deciding to tag along, he knew the team wasn't happy in the slightest over the situation but it was little moments like these that reassured him that they were still there for him. But, more importantly, opinions on him were much higher than he originally dreaded, he might not even have to wait much longer for the blasted embargo to be lifted.


His patience had already generously paid off in the form of his alt-mode, a little bit more wouldn't hurt too much.


Bulkhead kept on making small talk the entire way. ‘There any sights to see? It's kinda pretty out here already isn't it? Is there a lil' guy like sarge running the place? Hey is that one of their jets up there? Can you ask it to do a trick for me?’


‘Hmm?’ Longarm looked at the jet Bulkhead mentioned through his alt-mode sensors and instantly knew it wasn't right, its colours didn't match, it was flying solo and was heading straight towards the city. Suddenly his combat sensors and targeting systems sprang to life, scanning the jet before a positive ID popped up on his view, it was worse than a rogue human, it was-


‘Starscream!?’ Longarm exclaimed.




Starscream almost stopped and transformed from the surprise, for a moment, Shockwave's signal appeared on his radar, but the moment he looked it had vanished. There were just two clusters of Autobot signals, he scanned again just to make sure, to his relief, Shockwave's signal was nowhere to be seen.


‘Most likely a glitch.’ He told himself, speeding towards the larger cluster of Autobot signals on his radar. It was better that way, Shockwave was a failure, too devoted to Megatron for his own good and, even better, offline.




‘Wait, WHAT!?’ Bulkhead gasped, slamming his breaks.


‘That's not a- it's-’ Longarm stammered, panic rising in his systems as he tried to shutdown his combat protocols and the information windows popping up like scraplets on his HUD. Where did he get this tactical information concerning Starscream from? Who was Starscream? It must have been a fusion of his own memory core, Optimus' history holovids, and the alt-mode's targeting systems Ratchet told him about that was causing this, he thought, trying to rationally explain how he suddenly knew all this information.


‘What's the matter Longarm? Who's Starscream?’ Bulkhead asked.


‘I don't know! But my scanner says he's a Decepticon, we have to warn Prime!’ Longarm turned on his communicator. ‘Optimus, sir! There's a Decepticon flying right towards the city!’


‘What!? Are you sure?’ Optimus replied almost instantly.


Longarm nodded his cannon, slightly forgetting that Optimus couldn't see it. ‘Yes, I think he'll try flying in from behind. Please be careful sir!’


‘We'll evacuate the city. Longarm, stay on standby till I call you, Bulkhead, get here as quick as you can to assist.’ Optimus ordered before cutting his commlink.


‘Well what're we waiting for?’ Bulkhead revved his engines and making a perfect U turn back towards the city. ‘Let's go Longarm!’


‘But Prime ordered me to standby.’ Longarm argued.


‘But if I distract this Starscream guy and you shoot him from behind you'll be a hero! They'd let you in the city for sure!’ Bulkhead said excitedly as he drove off.


Longarm on the other hand was anything but enthusiastic with this half formatted plan. ‘Wait Bulkhead, come back!’ He pleaded, warily tailing behind him.





Longarm was incredibly nervous rolling through the unfamiliar streets of the city, relying solely on Bulkhead to navigate them through the maze of buildings and roads. Every now and again he could see Starscream fly between the buildings, and the laser fire and explosions that quickly came afterwards.


‘Almost there.’ Bulkhead said, somehow remaining excited in this situation. ‘Ok, I'll drive a street up then cut in, while he's firing at me you set yourself up on the overpass and shoot Screamer in the back, easy!’ He explained before speeding off ahead.


Longarm kept on the road till it winded up and passed by a nearby plaza, almost as fearful as he was when he was face to faceplate with Megatron, and much more nervous. He hoped everyone was holding their own until he and Bulkhead arrived and, more importantly, that Optimus wouldn't be mad at him for disobeying orders.


‘LEAVE THEM ALONE SCREAMER!’ Bulkhead taunted, cutting across the plaza. ‘YOU CAN'T EVEN AIM STRAIGHT!’


Starscream, who had been using both his turrets to pin Optimus, Ratchet and Prowl down with suppression fire, merely turned one arm towards Bulkhead before firing with pinpoint accuracy, a bored expression on his faceplates. Bulkhead just about dodged the shot and drifted around the plaza like crazy while Starscream fired again and again.


Ratchet, from his cover looked at Bulkhead with a look that cycled through all five stages of grief. ‘Bulkhead you idiot, you had the element of surprise and you blew it!’ He yelled.


‘I still got it sir!’ Bulkhead whispered through the comm ominously, and neither Ratchet or Optimus wanted to know exactly what was going through his processor right now.


Longarm froze when he finally joined the battle, Optimus, Ratchet and Prowl were still pinned with suppression fire whilst Bulkhead's wild distraction tactic somehow worked. But Bumblebee wasn't there and it made him worry, he scanned for his signal in a panic, it popped up on his scanner to his relief, but he couldn't tell where. Longarm manoeuvred his cannon around to make the perfect shot against Starscream and end the battle swiftly before he could do more damage.


‘GIVE ME THE ALLSPARK AUTOBOT!’ Starscream demanded towards Optimus, neither noticing Longarm setting himself up for a strike. ‘BEFORE I DECIDED TO SNUFF YOUR LITTLE MINIBOT!’


Starscream pointed a servo out, and that was when Longarm finally spotted Bumblebee, his crumpled chassis peeking out the side of a destroyed vehicle in the plaza Starscream was patrolling.


Longarm was furious, he charged up his cannon at maximum power, the fear for the strain on his systems no longer there.


Starscream noticed the sudden surge and glanced behind himself. ‘Wha-AAAAHHHH!’


Starscream, true to his name, shrieked and shot off in a random direction, getting as much distance as he could from Longarm. If he hadn't instinctively taken evasive manoeuvres, the shot would have gone right through his spark chamber and ended him then and there, but he had no reason to celebrate, though.


Longarm had shot his arm clean off, along with the whole street of buildings behind it.


Longarm rushed forwards full throttle, crashing down from the overpass he set himself up on and pursued Starscream, firing his cannon at every opportunity. Optimus and the others quickly recovered themselves now that Starscream stopped suppressing them, a serious look on their faceplates. They rushed over to attend to Bumblebee, he wasn't critically injured like Longarm had thought, but he and the humans still trapped behind him needed to be moved somewhere safer.


Starscream was in full flight and fright tactics, dodging as quick as he could between the blasts and buildings falling down on him. He hadn't expected the Autobots to have a warbuild with them, weren't they a maintenance crew? Who even brought warbuilds to do a repairbot's job!? He thanked Megatron's sure as dead corpse that despite its strong firepower, the Autobot was terrible at targeting, even Shockwave, who couldn't shoot a femme from close range, had better aim than this!


‘GET BACK HERE!’ Longarm roared, charging another shot to try and topple a skyscraper on top of Starscream. ‘HOW DARE YOU HURT BUMBLEBEE!’


‘This is about that Autobot I nearly slagged?’ Starscream realised, flying through a floor of the collapsing building, then taking a quick turn back towards the plaza with an ingenious idea in his motherboard.


He served up another round of suppressive fire as he came back across where he left Bumblebee, clearing the team from trying to extract him. He swooped down and grabbed Bee with his remaining arm, flying with twice the evasion to get out of their counter attacks and high above where they could reach. Prowl had managed to get a glaive into one of his stabilisers and it served to make Starscream even more furious because he didn't have a servo free to pull it out. Once he was certain he was above Longarm's accursed range he held Bumblebee out for them to clearly see.


‘Let’s try this again.’ Starscream seethed. ‘IF YOU WANT YOUR LITTLE BUMBLEBOT TO LIVE, GIVE ME THE ALLSPARK!’


Longarm however, realised Starscream was still in range and locked on ready for firing.


‘LONGARM, STAND DOWN!’ Optimus ordered. ‘DON-’


Longarm fired before realising his mistake, Starscream lifted Bumblebee just enough to cover his retreat before rocketing away from the incoming blast. It hit Bumblebee square in his fuel tanks and pushed him against a building, cracking it from the impact, the scream he made chilled Longarm to the core. Ratchet rushed in quickly, using his magnets to cushion Bumblebee's fall, after all that he was still online, thank the allspark.


Starscream dropped altitude again to grab his original plan, a train full of human hostages, and flew up onto the tallest tower in the city, carelessly dropping the train onto the very top before cowering behind hit. ‘CURSED AUTOBOTS AND YOUR HEROICS! IF I DON’T GET IT IN ONE MEGACYCLE I'LL TEAR THESE HUMANS APART, THEN THE REST OF THIS PLANET UNTIL I FIND THE ALLSPARK MYSELF!






The team regrouped under the nearby motorway, ushering Sari in quickly to attend to Bumblebee's injuries, a smoking, charred gash in his lower torso where Longarm's attack had struck him, showing his leaking internals for all to see. Longarm was a stuttering, shaking mess, and covered his optics with his servos so that he wouldn't see his dreaded handiwork, he almost offlined Bumblebee!


‘I-i-is he going to be okay?’ Longarm asked pitifully.


‘Don't worry big guy, that's what I'm here for.’ Sari reassured before pulling her attention back to her key. ‘He's just unconscious.’


‘Longarm.’ Optimus said, keeping his voice as calm as he could, Longarm took his servos off his helm to look at him. ‘I specifically ordered you not to engage.’


‘I-I.’ Longarm began, realising he had absolutely no excuse to go by, he hung his helm and shoulders down, avoiding Optimus' gaze. ‘I'm sorry, sir, I thought- I saw Bumblebee was-’


‘His injuries weren't spark threatening.’ Ratchet grumbled, keeping a wary eye on the sky. ‘That flying scumbag shorted out his equilibrium while we were trying to evacuate the humans. Why didn't you stay behind like we ordered?’


Shame flitted through Longarm's spark, now he had absolute proof what a failure he was, he even dealt more damage than Starscream did.


‘Sir, actually it's my fault.’ Bulkhead admitted sheepishly, poking his claws together nervously. ‘He was gonna do what you said but I told him to go along with my dumb distraction plan.’


‘I'll deal with this later.’ Optimus said with a dispelling wave of his servo. ‘Right now we need to figure out how to free those humans. Longarm?’


‘Y-yes sir?’ He asked fearfully.


‘Go back to the base and stay there until we either get back, or I call for you.’ Optimus said.


‘B-but sir.’


Optimus closed his optics in frustration. ‘Please Longarm, that's an order.’


‘Yes, sir.’


Longarm took one last look at Bumblebee, his chassis just about closing up the wound, then transformed and drove away in shame.


Chapter Text


Three billion.

He caused three billion Earth currency worth of damage, and the average human didn't even earn one percent of that figure per stellar cycle.

Longarm sat on the base's couch, slumped forwards, with his shaking servos cradling his faceplate. The others had returned safely after more or less resolving Starscream's attack, without his help, not that it could have been called that to begin with.


What they got in exchange for removing one of Starscream's arm wasn't a more favourable situation in the slightest, just a very paranoid, frenzied Decepticon and the... the accident. He overheard them on the comms actually using the Allspark itself as bait to lure him away from his hostages, which they most definitely wouldn't have had to do if he just obeyed orders and stayed put.

In the end, all he had done was serve to make everything worse for everyone, himself, the team, the Allspark, and the Earth.

At the other end of the room, Optimus and the others were addressing the Detroit city council through the communication station, each monitor showing a different human, and most were absolutely livid.

Optimus tapped a digit against his faceplate in deep thought, before looking back up at the council. ‘How much is that in Shanix?’ He asked, referring to the damage.


Professor Sumdac, also attending the call, spoke up. ‘Relax gentlemen, I will help cover the costs for reconstruction.’

Optimus nodded. ‘We Autobots will also assist, we are a repair crew after all.’ He offered.

‘Yes of course.’ The professor replied with great enthusiasm. ‘With the Autobots and my new builderbots we-’

‘With all due respect, Sumdac.’ Fanzone interrupted, looking very unsettled. ‘The last time you used those things, we ended up with a nice big pile of paper maché.’

‘I worked out the, ahem, kinks this time, definitely.’ Professor Sumdac attested, sweating nervously.

Another human who had been in the call, with a very stern and spiteful look, decided to speak up. ‘And, why should we even trust these alien machines to do the job any more than the Sumdac robots!?’ He hissed. ‘We should never have let these things on our soil!’

‘(He looks like Ratchet and Sentinel had a sparkling)’ Bumblebee said aside to Bulkhead.

‘Shh!’ Bulkhead whispered. ‘This is serious.’

Optimus was deeply insulted, but he kept it under control and said calmly. ‘We're all sentient beings here, sir, there shouldn't be a problem with our assistance.’

‘I'll tell you what the problem is, alien.’ The man continued, pointing accusingly at Optimus and the team. ‘You've stolen the schematics for our VP3-Adder tanks, openly displayed the ability to scan and copy our weapons at will and you all have shown blatant disregard of our land and laws! What assurance do we have that your kind won't steal all our technology and drain our country dry!?’ Ratchet just barely held in a snigger of amusement at what the man was insinuating. ‘This is not a laughing matter, national security is at stake!’

Fanzone pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance. ‘General Bryce, can you do us all a favour and SHUT THE HELL UP.’

Optimus shook his helm and gestured with his servos while he tried to explain. ‘Our apologies general, but we did not scan your vehicles because they are supposedly superior our own back on Cybertron, far from that actually. We were trying to fulfil one of our basic instincts, like I explained before, to disguise ourselves from Decepticons and blend in better with the locals. It is unfortunate that your earth tank was the only frame compatible with Longarm's physiology.’

Bryce had a hard time wrapping his tiny brain around Optimus' Cybertronian biology lesson. ‘What the Sam Hill does compatibility have to do with anything?! Earth is not your personal match making service!’

‘Not that kind of compatibility you single cored processor!’ Ratchet sneered in disgust. ‘A Cybertronian is very limited in what forms it can mimic, we can't crystal pic the circuitry we want, otherwise we'd all be the superior beings of mass destruction that keep you up at night-cycles.’

‘Gentlemen, please.’ Professor Sumdac soothed from his monitor. ‘We're getting off track, at least we are in agreement that the Autobots and I shall hold responsibility for repairing the city for this and any future Decepticon attacks?’

‘The mayor is in agreement.’ His aide acknowledged. ‘We have also come to a decision, regarding Longarm's embargo.’

Longarm was half-minded to just shut off his audials right there, he knew exactly what was coming. He wanted so badly to be close to his team and protect them that he risked it all on that disastrous battle. Now he'd probably never be able to stroll the streets, visit the organic parks or see the human equivalent of sparklings Optimus had told him about. The ever increasing curiosity for Earth that dwelled in his spark would probably never be quenched.

‘It has been replaced with a restraining order and he is permanently banned from entering the city, or coming within a mile of any human, no exceptions. If he is with you right now, tell him he has two hours to evacuate.’ She stated with complete remorselessness.


The entire team was taken aback, he was taken aback, optics as wide as hubcaps and his spark scared in its casing. Permanently avoid the humans? No exceptions? Not even if more Deceptions showed up?

‘Hey, I caused almost as much damage!’ Bulkhead contended. ‘How come I don't get banned?’

‘Don't give them ideas.’ Ratchet warned, slowly crossing his arms.

‘This is not open for debate.’ The aide replied sternly.

‘LIKE KAON IT ISN'T!’ Ratchet snapped, his own digits digging into his plating. ‘It's discrimination, plain and simple and I won't stand for it!’

‘Yeah! Discrimble- what the docbot said!’ Bulkhead repeated, servos in the air in protest.

‘You're acting like he did it all on purpose, like he’s proud and couldn't care less!’ Ratchet shouted accusingly at them. ‘Do you have any idea of how he feels about what he's done?! He needs to learn how to control his combat protocols is all, and treating him like a fugitive is not going to fix that, you’re just adding Energon to the explosion!’

‘And what if those combat programs suddenly go off in the middle of a populated area? He's a danger to the public.’ One of the city council members stated.

Said statement was so mindboggingly stupid that Ratchet looked on the verge of busting every capacitor in his frame. ‘THEY DON’T JUST ACTIVATE ON THEIR OWN! IT'S A RESPONSE TO ACTUAL TANGIBLE THREATS! IT WOULD TAKE A THOUSAND OF YOU FLESHBAGS TO EVEN-’ Ratchet stopped suddenly when Optimus laid a calming servo against his shoulder plates, he vented a little steam before finally settling down, but he held far from a peaceful expression on his frame.

The council still remained unconvinced. ‘He has two hours to evacuate, end of.’ They all cut their end of the call, leaving just Professor Sumdac and Captain Fanzone.

‘Listen, I'll sort out an agreement that works for everyone, I know they seem angry but this happens all the time when my own robots go rogue, they'll calm down... eventually.’ The professor reassured before he ended his part of the call.

‘Ugh, this is why I hate politics.’ Fanzone grumbled, wanting to get the tiresome argument finally over and done with. His side of the call flickered as he tried to figure out the end call button, even screensharing for a moment in error, but finally it switched off and left the Autobots on their own.

The moment it all ended Bumblebee let off a huge and angry blast of steam that he had been holding in, making everyone next to him jump in surprise. ‘It's not fair!’ He whined. ‘We smashed everything too, why is he getting all the punishment?’

‘We're getting who knows how many cycles worth of community service kid, I wouldn't call that no punishment.’ Ratchet reminded, twisting his face at the prospect of having to clean up the mess they and Starscream left behind. Ratchet looked warily over to where Longarm was sitting before continuing. ‘But he's a lot easier for them to blame, that and well, he did go overboard.’

Though Ratchet had said that last part as a whisper to the team, Longarm still caught it on the tips of his audials. He looked down at his cannon, resting so pristine and innocently on his arm, it caus- no, he caused all of this, but it was the means by which he achieved it. He clenched his other servo, scratching a small set of lines into his cannon and gritted his denta so hard together they could have cracked, droplets of washer fluid steadily pattered down from his clenched optics.

‘I'm sorry everyone, but as long as we are on Earth and if we're to get the supplies to repair our ship as well as fuel, we have to do our best to uphold the human's laws.’ Optimus stated sadly. ‘I don't agree with it at all though, but for now all we can do is- Longarm?’

He cautiously watched Longarm diffidently stand on his pedes and quietly walk towards the rear exit of the base.

‘I... I suppose I should get going, then.’ He murmured softly, unable to look at them.

Bumblebee took steps forward to try and stop him, but Optimus carefully held onto his arm to prevent him. ‘I know, but let him have a bit of space to calm down.’ He explained.





Anonymous no.42318
All y'all going on about your precious tank waifu keep fucking forgetting he's confirmed retarded
>ywn see your waifu because he's an actual god damn danger you stupid fucks


Anonymous no.42323
file: Aku what.jpg


Megatron !!Ohb38hsiaz+ no.42402
What do you mean? Explain.


Anonymous no.42405
>>42402 (you) [Embed]

Watch till at least 4 mins in when OP gives his shitty speech on why Longarm fucked up half of Detroit also nice name tripfag


Anonymous no.42410

Get the fuck off /mo/ you dumb fuck, don't fucking come in here with your uwu waifu condescending fearmongering. Are you fucking kidding me? HE HAS A WAR INJURY! OUR BOYS COME BACK WITH MISSING LEGS AND PTSD, DO YOU HAVE ANY FUCKING IDEA HOW HARD IT IS FOR THEM TO ADJUST YOU LITTLE SHIT?!

Go test it out, get fucking shot in the head and lose all 10 of your braincells bitch, see how easy it is to fucking start walking and talking again IF YOU EVEN FUCKING LIVE!


I hope Starshitter carpet bombs your house, fuck off.


Anonymous no.42415
file: costanza.png
>muh waifu fought an alien robot invasion
>alien robot invasion
>literally one f-22 jet that sounds like Spongebob
>5bn collateral
lmao go back to /k/


In the darkness of a cluttered laboratory, a cracked, glowing red optic squinted at the computer before the equipment around him sputtered sparks and crackled with the surge of his rage.

‘Humans.’ He spat. ‘What utter garbage.’





The moment he got back to the ship Longarm sat down in the repair bay with a stack of Ratchet's datapads around him, using the examination berth as a makeshift work table and connected two wires, one in a medical port and the other on his cannon. He kept looking between his current datapad and his own coding being displayed to him on the monitor, then scribbling notes down into his own personal tablet.

He let the upgrades and sudden breakthroughs in his health to get into his processor, let himself believe he was actually capable of taking on a Decepticon with thousands of vorns more experience than him, and it almost cost him his closest friend.

He had to be rid of it.

He clearly wasn't responsible or experienced enough for a power such as this. The cannon was practically fused with his arm, without a single manual safety lock or override, the only harmless means of detaching it was through the cut off commands he didn't have, so if he didn't have them, he'd have to make them. Once it was safely detached in his subspace, he could delete it out of existence and that would be the end of it, though his own traitorous spark squirmed in horror at the idea, he kept firm resolve.

It genuinely shocked him how easily he had been influenced by his freshly repaired combat protocols, looking over the memories of the battle there were so many obvious and game changing cues he could have noticed but just went straight over his head like Bumblebee looking more disoriented than in pain, or how Starscream had put enough space between them to be able to dodge his shells. No wonder the people of Detroit wanted him gone, his power addled processor purposely thought using their city as a weapon against Starscream was a good idea. His spark shuddered to think what he would have done, if his coding had not been so corrupted when they encountered Megatron all those orns ago, he was almost grateful.

He didn't pay any attention to his internal chronometer as he worked away, closing down the popups warning him about his steadily lowering fuel and power levels while time passed. He wanted to, at the very least, figure out the steps he'd need to take to artificially make himself a constructobot again before the end of the solar-cycle. He grabbed the edge of the berth in frustration and squeezed hard enough to leave dents, why did coding have to be so hard to understand? He figured out the microbots easy enough, but then again, their programming was extremely primitive if Ratchet's opinion was expert enough to go by.

He wished he could have asked Ratchet to do this all for him, but the old bot had been very adamant about Longarm recovering it naturally, and that was Earth weeks ago. His own transformation coding had taken almost an entire stellar-cycle to repair itself and that was due to Longarm's own impulse to upgrade himself, thus he was positive the best way to "downgrade" would be by taking the matter into his own servos once again.

The door to the repair bay slid open and Longarm looked up in surprise, Optimus was there, he had a small face of concern which only grew stronger when he saw Longarm.

‘What exactly are you doing?’ Optimus asked carefully.

‘I'm trying to find the command to detach my cannon, sir.’ Longarm replied calmly, not mentioning the part about wanting to destroy it.

Optimus instantly relaxed. ‘Ah, you should ask Ratchet to help you with that, he's the expert after all.’ He stepped into the repair bay slightly. ‘Could I have a word with you, Longarm?’

‘Yes, sir.’ Longarm replied reluctantly, putting down his datapad and looking at him, no doubt that this was finally the time for his disciplinary hearing from Optimus.

Optimus walked in and carefully sat on the edge of the berth next to Longarm, making him look up slightly to face him, he seemed very calm. ‘Listen Longarm, I know you've had difficulties fitting in since the incident at the Academy and that you mean well.’ He put a hand over his own spark. ‘What you're feeling right now, well, I know what it's like.’

‘You do, sir?’ Longarm repeated, but he didn't believe it for a word, it was probably an attempt to soften him up for the lecture to come.

‘Yes, what I'm about to tell you, only ten or so bots actually know, not even Ratchet does.’ Optimus began, he took out a small image pad from his subspace and showed it to Longarm. It had a picture of a femmebot on it, she looked no older than himself, younger even, her lips pursed with a playful and sassy expression. ‘Her name was Elita One, she was one of my classmates back when I was your age in the Autobot Academy, she was also very close to Sentinel, your drill sergeant.

He roped Elita and I into going on an expedition to find a rumoured Energon stash on a forbidden planet, thinking if we brought it back to Cybertron we'd all get extra credit. When we arrived we-’ He paused slightly, putting his image pad away. ‘We were outnumbered by arachnoid organics, I heavily damaged the Energon to try and kill them all but, during our escape, Elita fell down while still in its blast radius.’

Optimus looked away, a slight tremor crawled down his frame. ‘She didn't- she didn't make it.’

Longarm was at a complete loss for words ‘Oh...


‘It was eleven or so vorns before I was finally let back into a commanding position, technically speaking I'm not actually a prime, or even in the Elite Guard. I was expelled from the Academy and had to take up a job as an archivist, a lot of bots in my position wouldn't have gotten a second chance like I did... a lot would have taken the easy way out.’

Optimus re-engaged optic contact, taking Longarm's free servo in his own. ‘I know exactly how it feels Longarm, I know how it is to be so desperate to solve a situation and protect something that you do reckless things and try to be heroic but it all just falls flat in your faceplate. But you're different from me, because Bumblebee is still online and even though you caused a lot of damage to the city, it was because you spotted Starscream so soon that none of the inhabitants were there to be injured by it.

Sentinel ditched me after what I did, but we haven't ditched you, Bumblebee's been worried, we all have been. I know what it's like to lose everything you've worked for and end up on a twisted path with no idea where you are, but follow the path that's there Longarm, you'll find yourself eventually.’ With one final pat of his digits he let go of Longarm's servo and stood up.

Longarm's processor felt heavy and congested with the information confided with him, he always did wonder why a maintenance Prime such as Optimus was so well trained in combat. He was also starting to notice a trend here, maybe, just maybe, the Autobot Spacebridge network would stop needing so much repair if they stopped using it as a dumping ground for disgraced Elite Guard trainees.

‘W-what about disobeying your orders, sir?’ He asked tentatively, not that he wanted the punishment but his spark wouldn't settle until it knew exactly what he was going to get.

Optimus gave a gentle smile. ‘I'm no Ultra Magnus, Longarm, but I'm certainly no Sentinel either, I think you understand, and I'm not going to add rust to the wound to make sure. We're all trying to cope our best with this weird situation we're in and there may come a time where the best course of action isn't crystal clear. When that happens Longarm I want you to keep calm and do what you think is the right thing, listen to your processor and spark, not one over the other, ok?’

Longarm gave it some thought before giving a slow nod of his helm. ‘Yes, sir.’ For some reason it felt odd that Optimus's idea of discipline was a spark to spark talk rather than... hmm, having to do all those transform-ups every time he or another cadet slipped up during training, he supposed.

Optimus gave him an encouraging ruffle on his helm. ‘Now come along to the rec room, Bumblebee, Bulkhead and Sari should have finished setting their surprise something up for you in there.’

Longarm inquisitively stood up, carefully disconnecting himself from the monitor before walking out with Optimus. When they came across the rec room there was a pile of Earth packaging materials all over the floor along with one of Bumblebee's crates, the one he stashed all his entertainment in since he had nowhere to store them back on Cybertron.

‘Hey big guy!’ Sari greeted optimistically, running over to him. ‘Look what we got for you!’ She pointed over to a rather small flat screen, similar to the one that was set up in the topside base, Bulkhead and Bumblebee were busy using generous amounts of sealant tape to affix it to the wall. ‘It's a TV! The reception will probably be a bit fuzzy but I pulled a few tricks, you'll be able to watch whatever you want down here!’ She explained, spinning her key around on the edge of its string to emphasise how exactly she did it.

Bumblebee rummaged through his crate, holding up one of his old gaming controllers and waved it about in their direction. ‘Hey Sari, help me key that GameStation the Sony people gave us to work with this. You wouldn't believe how much free stuff they gave us Longarm!’

‘Yeah we got uhhh..’ Bulkhead, careful as he could, picked up a tiny stack of distinctly human video games. ‘Castlevania, Dino Crisis, Tomb Raider, Pa- Para- Parapappa the Rapper?... Sari are any of these any good?’

She shrugged at him in response. ‘I dunno, I'm not that big into video ga- oh wait, is that Silent Hill?!’ She gasped, picking up the game from Bulkhead's servo. ‘Dad doesn't even let me near the section where they put this one!’

‘Well in that case, we definitely don't want anybot playing that.’ Optimus said, plucking the game from her fingers and subspacing it to her dismay.

Longarm however, had stayed perfectly neutral throughout the entire reveal and exchange, he was never very big into video games and abhorred playing them with his fellow cadets in between training hours back at camp. Partly because he never won, mainly because he didn't see the appeal of virtual fights, flights and races, mindless entertainment just wasn't his thing.

Bulkhead noticed his apathy though and quickly sifted through the pile for something a bit more in tune with Longarm's tastes. ‘How about this XCOM Earth defence strategy thingy?’ He brought the tiny disc case closer for him to read it. ‘Look see, you control the Earth version of the Elite Guard to stop an alien invasion, its like the ol' Magnus Simulator.’

‘Thank you, Bulkhead.’ Longarm choked out. ‘And thank you, everyone.’ He tried his best to sound sincere, maybe he should at least try the games out before completely rejecting them, not wanting to upset them after all the trouble they went through.

‘While we wait for professor Sumdac to convince the mayor to let you back into the city, you can use these human entertainment devices as long as you want, I'm sure they'll be a lot more interesting then what we originally had on the ship. I need to start co-ordinating work with the professor now, have fun everyone.’ Optimus patted Longarm reassuringly on the shoulder struts before taking his leave.

While Optimus was leaving, Bulkhead nudged Bumblebee a bit and made vague optical motions towards Longarm.

‘What?!’ Bumblebee whispered back.

‘I'll distract Sari while you take Longarm and say that thing you wanted to say, remember?’ Bulkhead replied.

‘Ooh.’ Bumblebee finally getting what Bulkheads gestures were about, his spark all aflutter as he prepared his cool act.

‘Hey, err, Sari? Remember you wanted to see my pictures as a sparkling?’ Bulkhead said as casually as someone who couldn't act could. ‘Now's totally a good time to see them.’

‘Your wha- HEY!’ Sari was about to say, before Bulkhead quickly picked her up and left the room.

Now it was just Bumblebee and Longarm left, and a heavy, uncomfortable silence between them.

‘H-hey, Longy.’ Bumblebee said walking up to him.

Longarm nervously scratched the joint of his arm with his other servo as Bumblebee approached him, this was the first time they were alone since the incident and Longarm hadn't prepared himself at all for this moment in the slightest. He had so many things he wanted to say but no time to format them into a proper sentence or apology or... something! Just as long as he could get it out and off his chassis.

‘Listen Bumblebee, I- about what I did I'm-’

Bumblebee stood up on the tips of his pedes and gave longarm one single strong flick on his olfactory sensor, making him yelp and cover it in surprise.

‘Now, we're even.’ Bumblebee said smoothly.

‘Wh- what?’ Longarm asked in bewilderment as he soothed the sting on his sensor.

Bumblebee froze there awkwardly as he wasn't expecting Longarm to not get what he meant. ‘Well... I got you hurt and... you got me hurt, that makes us even?’ Longarm still looked confused. ‘What I mean is I forgive you, ya big lunk!’ Bumblebee said in exasperation. ‘Come on, I spent ages practis-aaAAH’ Longarm had picked him up into a crushing hug and fell to his knees, relief moving over his entire frame as he pushed his face into the crook of Bumblebee's neck. ‘Woah! Easy big guy, easy.’ He reassured, returning the hug. ‘I'm not gonna disappear on ya.’

They stayed like that for who knows how long before Longarm finally whispered a small. ‘Thank you.’




Words could not begin to describe his rage.

The entire tower though, the filthy, disgusting, crude, primitive structure that was now his prison, it certainly could. His rage broke hundreds of lights throughout the building, locked bulkheads, jammed security doors and sent surges of static shocks, striking the revolting organics who strayed too close to any electrical equipment. And they all deserved it, every spark of pain and wave of panic and frustration, they couldn't even begin to comprehend the injustices done to him, lord Megatron, leader of the Decepticons.

His body, destroyed.

His second in command, his murderer.

His Allspark, out of reach.

His remains, probed and dissected.

But worst of all, WORST OF ALL, was Shockwave, sweet, loyal, dedicated Shockwave, who had been stolen from him, in the worst possible way. The very same Shockwave who had given up his scientific pursuits to infiltrate Autobot high command, who had been prepared to spend vorns away from his master's side and behind enemy lines to better serve him. Now he was cavorting with the Autobots, socialising with them, thinking he was one of them, fighting alongside them, protecting them.


He could not believe it but the evidence was there clear as Energon, the memory of Shockwave holding his false superior's axe against him, not even knowing his true master's name. The two of them could have easily overpowered the Autobots, their commander was the only one with actual battle training and he was so close to being snuffed at that moment, there was no need for Shockwave to keep up a ruse.


How could this have happened!?


Shockwave's last communication to him indicated that one of the Autobots suspected a different cadet in his unit of being a spy and was orchestrating the framing of said cadet to prevent an investigation from uncovering him. He held claw over spark and reassured Megatron that he would not be caught, but when no more transmissions came his way it was painfully obvious that he had failed.


But Megatron had little time to mourn the loss of his greatest asset and subject, not when he finally had a clue on the whereabouts of the Allspark. When he finally came across it and almost had it in his grasp, what he witnessed almost made his CPU combust, Shockwave was online, here with a lowly Autobot repair crew instead of the Elite Guard. He almost assumed the reason for Shockwave's radio silence was because he failed to infiltrate the Intelligence Agency and was too ashamed to face his punishment, that was until what happened, happened.


None of it had made sense to him, why was Shockwave so... weak? Why did he move to protect the pathetic Autobot commander? WHY DID HE COWER AND DO NOTHING WHEN THE AUTOBOT INSECTS SWARMED HIM!?


Megatron screamed into his prison, activating alarms, security systems and water sprinklers all throughout the tower.


‘All personnel, please evacuate Sumdac Tower.’ A bored sounding organic announced, almost as if this were a common occurrence. ‘Due to electrical and mechanical failures, all personnel pl-’


Megatron discharged another wave of his wrath into the PA system, shorting it out, but he chided himself immediately afterwards, he had to calm down, before the humans figured out he was the cause of their misfortune. They already had him here, at their mercy, strung up to feed the advances of their primitive technology, he couldn't let them know just how much power he had over his prison, that he was online once more.


And that in itself was another fuel for thought, how was it that he was online now, barbarically wired into the machinations of his prison? Unsure of how he regained functionality, how he was even operating without Energon, a processor, or even a spark chamber. He shut off his faulty optics and deliberated it, bending the tower to his will and when he concentrated he could feel the answer, the weak human power source was feeding into a makeshift spark chamber underneath the flooring, where his resurrected spark uncomfortably laid. Somehow his helm had merged with the circuitry of the entire building, forming a crude motherboard to house his hardware and linked him up with a surprising number of mechanical systems, most of which had been originally closed off from each other, now united under his banner.


He cursed his new hardware, it hurt so much to think about how his new existence came to be, his own mind being pushed against by his new physical limitations. It was easier to just be mad and crush the devices connected with his new body, but he already stooped down to Blitzwing's level once this cycle and didn't want to do so again, he focussed instead on easier things to process, like the current status quo.


If the human's 4 channel communication platform could be trusted, Shockwave not only was currently confined outside the human city, but had sustained a significant injury to his memory core long before Megatron had found him. Human anatomy analogies were difficult to translate but Megatron was no idiot, their "braincells" were the equivalent of motherboards, holding processor, memory, graphics and spark all in one disgusting organic package, an injury to that would be devastating to the mental functions.


Shockwave was, somewhat a master of manipulating in that area and Megatron let himself be lost in the memories of his endeavours. Long before there were such things as Autobots and Decepticons, Shockwave had been a student at the Iacon Science Academy, wanting to find new scientific breakthroughs concerning the complex relationship between coding, memory, processor and spark. Of course back then he was an immature and hopeful little youngbot, a warbuild masquerading as a scientist, foolishly hoping to change the system from within. Once the system discovered his true nature and, naturally, condemned and expelled him, all his knowledge and skills went from servicing Cybertronian kind, to corrupting it.


He could extract the most encrypted and secure data from his Autobot victims, even that which had been scrambled or deleted out of desperation, oh the look on their naive faceplates when their precious sensitive data had been so easily picked out with Shockwave's precise claws. A single cut of a circuit here and an injection of code into the spark there and before you could render it, the little wretch who would never betray the Autobot cause was kissing the pedes of Megatron, spilling every secret they promised to safeguard mere cycles before.


How ironic that he would befall a fate such as this, but Megatron took what little comfort he could in it, Shockwave was still loyal, had not failed him and definitely had not betrayed him. He was just... recharging, if you will, his true self hidden away, repairing itself while this pathetic substitute took care of his functions for him. He merely had to bid his time, if the sparkwashing of Shockwave’s victims could wear off, so too could this and he would be reunited with his precious lieutenant. Perhaps he could even find an opportunity to jumpstart his memory, Megatron thought as he used the machines in his prison to begin tinkering away at a small, scraplet sized robot, reprogramming it as an extension of his will.


First he had to find where the Autobots were keeping Shockwave and the Allspark, preferably both at the same place and time. He hissed in irritation at the thought at allowing the Autobots to live, but from what he gathered on the internet, a significant number of humans wanted "Longarm" to pay for his clumsy attempt to slag Starscream. If he killed the Autobots before Shockwave recovered, then there would be nothing stopping the humans from sharing Megatron's fate with him and the two of them would suffer for the rest of their runtime. He would have to abide them parading his Shockwave around in that corpse of an Autobot shell, feeding him their lies and pathetic ideals, until he could even the playing field.


It only served to make the prospect of his vengeance all the more sweeter, oh he would do far worse than just offline them, no, they all deserved a fate far worse, especially Starscream. Perhaps he would get Shockwave to show that treacherous eel exactly how it feels to be so deprived of autonomy and the senses, make his frame a living puppet for Megatron's will for all eternity.


They would all pay for this.


Chapter Text


‘And here's after I had my second moult.’

Bulkhead held the image pad in front of Sari because it was far too big for her to hold in her hands. ‘Aww, you got your little jaw thing, you're so cute!’ She squeaked.

‘Uheheh~’ Bulkhead blushed, scratching the back of his helm with his servo. ‘T-thanks. This one's when I tried sneaking into the ol' Energon vat.’ Bulkhead pressed a button on his pad, switching the image over to a tiny Bulkhead covered head to pede in Energon, with not a single ounce of regret on his faceplate. ‘Yeah, they locked it up after that.’ He frowned.

Sari turned towards Bumblebee, chilling on the base couch. ‘Hey Bumblebee, you or Longarm have any baby pictures?’

‘No.’ Was his immediate, careless reply.

Sari however, was quite shocked. ‘WHAT!? Didn't your parents take any?’

‘Caretakers aren't like human parents, Sari, it's a job, not an... experience.’ Optimus said, trying to find the right words to explain the difference. ‘It's usual for them to take care of 7 or so youngbots per vorn, they don't usually have the time and Energon to get attached to every protoform under their roof.’

Bumblebee closed his optic shutters and lifted one servo, palm side up. ‘You're telling me, I was a batch job. Ever had to share a living space with 20 other minibots at the same time? Was I glad to get out of there.’

Ratchet grumbled. ‘At least you had a sparkhood kid. During the war, they grew the protoform past the third moult before sparking it, imagine booting up for the first time and you have no time to learn or adjust, you're fully forged and instantly on the job.’

‘That explains everything.’ Bumblebee whispered to Sari.

Optimus meanwhile had been going through his own image pad and finally found the picture he wanted to show. ‘Fortunately my caretakers did take a few images of me while I was assembling, what do you think of this?’

He showed everyone a picture of a limbless, brioche shaped robot, sporting very familiar audials fins, slumped gently into the servos of whoever was holding him, on the edge of falling into recharge. Everyone had 2 nano-cycles to shut down their audials, before they shattered from Sari's ensuing squeal of delight, loud enough to echo throughout the entire base and break Prowl out of his meditation. He growled quietly, this was the third time today, he shook his helm and cleared his intakes, trying to reach that precarious state of zen again.




‘Where is it, where is it...’ Megatron mumbled to himself as he moved his spybot through the Autobot base.

He was on his second sweep of the base, scanning every object and surface in sight, any sort of hidden compartment or area one could secure something valuable, and so far there had been no sign of the Allspark. The racket coming from that human and the Autobots while they did whatever counted as recreation these days wasn't helping to keep his circuits soothed in the slightest, how could Shockwave stand being in the company of these loud imbeciles for so long? He always did have the patience of a true Prime, after all, who else could have been more suited to infiltrate the Autobots, than one who could actually tolerate their foolishness and naive cruelty.

Following the example of his servant, Megatron did his best to remain composed and carry on searching for the Allspark, though he was getting the feeling that wherever Shockwave was, so was the Allspark. These Autobots got one thing right, he supposed he could admit, they hid it well from any grubby humans that might get their hands on it. He wasn't sure how he would able to accomplish it, but he would rend them apart if they so much as allowed one single human to know of its existence. He hadn't seen a more paranoid, power grubbing, backstabbing species than the fliers of Vos, until now.

Blocking out the new activity the Autobots and their pet were indulging in from his soundcard, Megatron decided it was time to see if the Autobots had stored any valuable information in their computer's databanks. He directed his spybot to start drilling into the base computer, if it used human technology then all the better, he'd be able to hack it without much trouble, or a major processor ache, oh what he'd do for an extra gigabyte or two of processing power.

While he was working away, the conversation he was actively trying to ignore started seeping back into his audials.

‘You said you were gonna tell 'em!’

‘Bulkhead, shh!’

‘I even made a distraction for you, what happened? You get cold pedes?’

‘You like who now?’

‘No-nobody Ratchet. The answer's still nobody!’

Megatron, bored enough to interested in the potential drama, perked his little spybot up to focus properly on the Autobots, he saw them all huddled around the yellow minibot.

‘Nuh-uh Bumblebee, you get 10 years bad luck if you don't tell the truth. You gotta say who you have a crush on, out loud~’ The human warned him with a smug little smirk.

So they were playing truth or dare, the interrogation game for softbots, and here he was thinking there was actually going to be somethi-


Megatron bluescreened.


‘EVER SINCE HE TOOK ME OUT OF THAT LOCKER BACK IN CAMP! HE'S REAlly smart and kind and I...’ Bumblebee slammed his servos over his mouth after realising he just shouted out his secret for the whole of Detroit to hear, little puffs of steam rising out of his helm while his whole protoform turned red. ‘Ireallylikehim!

Optimus smiled generously. ‘I thought so, the two of you get along so well. I wouldn't have any objections if the two of you were to well... ahem.’ He fidgeted with his jawguard clamp.

Sari's jaw almost dropped through the floor and into China, she was expecting Bumblebee to have a crush on a cute little ladybot, not Longarm, now a whole new world of possibilities was opening up in her mind. ‘YOU MEAN GUY ROBOTS CAN HAVE BOYFRIENDS!? Do you guys kiss and hold hands and-’

‘Perhaps we should move on to a different game to play.’ An uncomposed Ratchet interrupted.

‘NO, YOU HAVE TO TELL ME!’ Sari demanded, jumping up on her feet with determination.

Optimus however disagreed, shaking his helm. ‘I wouldn't say it's an appropriate topic of conversation for a youngbo- a child, such as yourself, Sari.’

‘Hey, I told you where babies come from!’ She retorted, pointing accusingly at Optimus. ‘I can handle it, honest!’


The computers around Megatron overheated and started to sizzle, his one good optic narrowed to a slit. ‘How DISGUSTING!’ He insulted, staring daggers into the minibot through the camera feed. ‘You useless, mindless, worthless little Autobot! You-’

Suddenly, a disturbing idea barged into his processor, far more disturbing than the prospect of Shockwave's oblivious shell courting with a obnoxious youngbot, definitely more disturbing than the prospect of having a courting induced softsparked Shockwave.

If Shockwave and the minibot were to- if they were to- ughh, he could have purged his tanks (IF HE HAD ANY), if they were to sparkmerge, then only Primus knew what kind of horror filled pandemonium would occur. Shockwave may not be repaired enough to control his spark energy through the ordeal, the Autobot could see Shockwaves memories through the merge, they could accidentally bond, they could be short circuited, he could even offline the minibot with the shock and tide of very un-Autobot thoughts and feelings. No matter what happened, if the Autobot survived or not (not that he wanted it to live in the first place), if they bonded or not, Shockwave would be exposed, and in a state of immense vulnerability.

‘I can't allow this to happen.’ Megatron hissed.

Megatron continued hacking the base computer as fast as his shoddy hardware could allow, hoping the Autobots would have something he could use against them stashed on file, or perhaps the location of Shockwave and the Allspark. Meanwhile detestable music had started booming through his spybot's audio feed, he had to remind himself several times he couldn't just kill them all, but... given the new circumstances though, he could pick one and get away with it, and he knew exactly which one.

‘I'm not usually one to play matchmaker, but little minibot I can assure you, you have a date with the Well of Allsparks.

I wouldn't want you to miss it.’

His search of the base's computer turned up completely unfruitful, he knew where the base was now, but still no Shockwave or Allspark. He was considering hacking into their assembly line to causing a little chaos just to help vent his overwhelmingly  sour temper, when one more Autobot entered the room. He quickly detached his spybot from the console and hid behind a stack of metal plates nearby, so as to not be discovered.

‘This slumber party's getting out of hand.’ The Autobot complained loudly. ‘If you're not going to quieten down, I'm going to get some recharge on the ship.’

‘What's the matter, Prowl? Is fun forbid-a-did in the ninjabot code of honour?’ The minibot ragged at him.

‘Alright Prowl, oh, and can you please take down some of these materials for Longarm?’ The Autobot commander asked, pointing towards the stack of alloys. ‘It'll save us a trip tomorrow.’

The ninjabot sighed dejectedly. ‘Alright.’

Megatron didn't hesitate to snatch up this opportunity, burying his spybot in amongst the stack of metals just before the lot was subspaced, finally, he was getting somewhere important.


Longarm honestly didn't know what his past self past had been thinking, video games were amazing!

Despite the incredibly bad graphics and weird cultural concepts he didn't get the hang of, they were so bright, colourful and fun to play. And there were so many genres! Cybertron was so focussed on simulation and training games, but the humans just about threw that out the airlock and instead tried every trick under their sun to make the wackiest, strangest concepts. They were just the perfect thing to wind down with after a long day of repairing the ship and learning coding.

He could roll living like this.

He was playing the one Bulkhead recommended and honestly it was a good pick, just as he was making another scan for alien bases to destroy he got a PM from Optimus, Prowl would be coming down to the ship with some more repair supplies and would be staying for the night-cycle. He looked around the rec room, taking in his mess of datapads and disc cases he left strewn about the place. Longarm paused the game and quickly started the room, not that he ever saw Prowl make himself comfortable anywhere but his own room, but it was good manners regardless, plus he wouldn't want to let any of them get damaged. A few cycles later, he was almost finished when he glimpsed a shadow moving out the corner of his eye, he jumped in surprise, dropping the stack of pads he was holding, his combat protocols almost activating on response.

Prowl had just entered the doorway, with an air of frustration around him, which was quite the rare phenomenon. ‘Don't tell me you're going to be playing that all night.’ Prowl asked, pointing to the paused game, and Longarm wasn't sure if he was being rhetorical or not.

‘I- er..’ Longarm stuttered, what exactly was Prowl doing down here anyway? He could have dropped off the materials in the morning. ‘Is there something you need?’

‘The others have all been participating in Sari's frivolous Earth custom and it's all too loud and I- I couldn't take it. I'm going to recharge down here just please, if you're going to use... this, can you keep the noise to a minimum?’ Prowl asked, gesturing towards the TV and games.

‘I understand.’ Longarm said softly, he went back over to his game and turned it off, not minding that he lost about an hours worth of progress. ‘What sort of Earth custom is it, if you don't mind me asking?’

Prowl made an angry noise. ‘I don't know, they get together and try to stave off recharging for as long as they can while making noise its just- I should go.’ He started moving towards his room when he heard a small snapping noise under his pedes, he looked down and saw he had stepped on one of Longarm's dropped datapads, now sporting a cracked screen.

‘No!’ Longarm gasped once he saw what caused the noise, he rushed over and quickly picked up the pad, hoping it wasn't one of the ones he was taking notes on, but it was. He sighed in disappointment, he'd be able to extract the data from it at least, but it meant one less screen he could work with.

‘I'm sorry.’ Prowl apologised, he helped pick up some of the other pads Longarm had dropped on the floor. ‘Did it have anything important on it?’

‘Yes my- my notes, I've been trying to learn some coding, to help Ratchet.’ He didn't exactly know why he added that last part as a lie, it sort of just slipped out.

‘Hmm.’ Prowl hummed, he snooped a bit on one of the datapads, it had a hasty bunch of notes about... life cycles? ‘This doesn't look like coding, have you been studying Earth?’

Longarm stopped picking up pads so he could stand normally and address him. ‘Yes, I have, there was a lovely program on the TV a while ago about-’

‘Butterflies?’ Prowl finished for him.

Longarm’s optics lighted up in interest. ‘You watched it too?’

Prowl did a curt nod. ‘Yes I... didn't actually get to finish it, unfortunately.’

‘Oh, well.’ Longarm fumbled a bit, he had an idea but wasn't sure how to go about saying it. ‘There's another program in the same series showing a bit later, about mimics, I was going to watch it later, would- would you like to watch too?’

He wouldn't exactly call that a stellar sell, but to his great surprise Prowl's stoic face slowly morphed a small smile. ‘Yes, I'd like to.’


‘This preying mantis meanwhile, has perfected the art of aggressive mimicry, perfectly imitating the orchid's texture and petals. It will stay there for hours on end, not moving a single muscle, as if it really were a flower, until an unsuspecting butterfly draws near...’

Longarm let out a small gasp and covered his optics when the mantis broke its cover and lunged for the other insect, his spark wincing a bit at the telltale crunch of the mantis' success. He hadn't even been able to tell which flower on the screen had been the mantis until it was too late, Prowl however hadn't been shocked at all, he'd been holding an expression of complete fascination on his faceplate ever since the program started.

Neither of them noticed the small spybot scuttling around on the floor, probing each dropped datapad for information.

‘Amazing, isn't it? Even organics are capable of transforming for a disguise.’ Prowl mused.

‘Does it really just sit there and do nothing for ages? How does it not get bored?’ Longarm asked him, taking his servos off his own optics.

‘Perhaps it meditates to pass the time.’ Prowl suggested, rubbing a digit over his chin. ‘Unlike some bots I know, you can learn a lot from not rushing into the situation.’

‘I'm sorry.’ Longarm apologised.

‘I didn't mean you, I meant Bumblebee.’ Prowl corrected him.

‘Ah.’ Longarm knew exactly what the matter was now the name had been dropped. ‘He was being insensitive again earlier, wasn't he?’

‘How ever did you know?’ Prowl said with the smoothest sarcasm Longarm had been witness to, paying more attention to the narrator explain cuttlefishes than Longarm.

Longarm fidgeted a bit. ‘His idea of fun is rather specific, and not exactly all encompassing. When I was still recovering in the repair bay, we battled for the holonet navigator a good number of times until Ratchet finally confiscated it from us.’

‘How did you two ever become friends? From what I've observed you're at quite different lengths of the spectrum, and you don't exactly like the same things if the holonet incident is anything to get by.’

A clot of static waxed over Longarm's memory core, his retrieval query failing to gather the exact answer he was looking for. Why did they get along so well? He thought for a while and managed to pick some of the details and moments to explain why. Pity and some form of concern, that's what he had felt at first, yes, it started off as a pity friendship, his logic circuits at the time heavily objected it as a very bad idea, but Bumblebee needed his focus and help if he wanted him to catch Wasp. And things just... progressed, Bumblebee's hijinks turned into Bumblebee and Longarm's hijinks, dislike over each other's tastes turned into mutual dislike over Ratchet's tastes.

‘Not all friendships are forged from interests, I suppose.’ Longarm finally answered, he looked at Prowl again when he didn't get a reply. ‘Too sappy?’

‘Hardly.’ Prowl replied before getting up and turning off the TV, the show just having ended. ‘It's not quite time for recharge, would you...’ He paused for a moment, and Longarm wasn't sure why. ‘Would you like to try meditation?’ He finally asked.

Longarm pondered it for a moment, they've been getting along so well the past mega-cycle and he'd been learning so many new things, so why not? ‘Yes, please.’ Was his answer.


In Prowl's room, Longarm hesitantly tried to mimic his sitting position, which was quite difficult considering his stocky armour plated legs, but he got there eventually, and it wasn't as uncomfortable as he thought. He looked over to Prowl for instruction, how exactly was this different to regular sitting?

‘The key component to meditation is to empty your processor, don't focus on what has happened or is happening around you.’ Prowl explained, already getting into his own zone. ‘Empty your task manager bit by bit of unnecessary functions, slowly you'll learn to block out the inconsequential.’ The "unless it's loud and irritating" part was left unmentioned.

‘Ok.’ Longarm wasn't so sure but he went along with it, turning his optics off.

Prowl continued. ‘If you must focus on something, focus on the maintenance of your frame, keep it well ventilated and at low temperature, but slowly, don't overdo it.’

Longarm nodded, trying to do as Prowl directed, don't think of anything, just keep still, keep ventilating, easier said than done, he wouldn't be Longarm if he didn't have 10 questions swimming around in his CPU at every moment of the cycle. But he was also Longarm for following instructions to the letter, well, excluding a few recent events, actually excluding a lot of recent events, he seemed to be a bit more impulsive recently. He mentally smacked himself, Prowl told him not to think about things and here he was, thinking, another thing to add to the list of "things Longarm was told not to do but he went and did it anyway".

He tried the other thing Prowl mentioned, focus on his own maintenance, vent in, vent out, keep things below 15̊C, that was easy enough to manage. Bit by bit, cycle by cycle, every function, protocol and coding he didn't need quietly turned off and before he knew it, his whole chassis felt light and distant. That familiar feeling of static traversed out from his spark and across his frame and he tried to not pay attention to it, but it continued, and before he knew it he passed into a memory.

‘You're a big guy, Longarm.’

Longarm closed his locker and looked warily over to Wasp, casually leaning against his own locker with Ironhide behind him, what were those parasites up to now? ‘Excuse me?’

‘Yeah, Ironhide and I would've shoved you in your locker a deca-cyle ago, heh heh, if you could actually fit through the damned doors!’ Wasp laughed.

‘How many fuel tanks you packing there, nerd?’ Ironhide sniggered.

‘If I was supposed to be upset by this nonsense, it's not working.’ Longarm replied, not caring in the slightest what they thought of his frame. ‘If you have time to think up insults you should invest it in better pursuits, like how to actually make them.’

He started walking off if, he wanted to arri̸v͘e o͝n t̛im̕e t͏o͡ da#҉̴̕͜#̵̕͢͡ ̨m͠i̛n̢i#̸̛#̶̡̕̕͠ ͞exactly 15̶ c͘y͏cl̵es b̴efo͠re͘ it̵ was suppo#̵̕͢͡ed to start, Wasp called out after him. ‘SEE!? YOU'RE SUCH A STIFF LONGARM, YOU DON'T GET EXTRA CREDIT FOR BEING MAGNUS JR! TḨE ONLY REASON BUMBLEBOT H͘A̴NGS ̷AR͏OUŅD̢ YOU IS BE͝CA͟U̧SE HE'S҉ G͢OT̕ ̧N͝O̧ OT̸HER̨ ͘FRI͡E͘N͝DS̶!͟’

Lo̶ngar̢m ͏fǫu̴nd t̛h͏#͜͞t he co͟uld̸n̵'t c҉are͘ ͏le̛ss͏ so͠ ͝muçh that #̶̵̷͠#̢̛s ͝a̡͟b͠ili҉ty t̷ơ ͞҉ca͢͜r͏̶ę̛ ̡̕w̵̕e̡n͘͜t̡͢ ̢str͏aig̢͝ht in#҉̷o the ne̕gat̶i̧v҉es, ̡̕B͏̶̛͏͝u̸̶͠m̶̷̕͜͞b҉̶ļ̸͜e̵͟͢b̡̢͝͝͞e҉͏e͟͠͞ would ̡͟͝#̴͘#̶̵̷͠#̢̛#͟͜҉̢̨#̛͘ ͜͞͏͞#̵͟#͏̵̡͝#͘͟͠͡# ̴҉c̵̵̨̢ǫm̸̷͘͟҉p#͟#̷͜͏̵͜#͏̵̴t҉҉̷̸ ̸̡͟#͞͠#̷͜҉̶͞#͜͞b͘o̡t̸̡͟͟ a͢n̛d͠͡ ̧͢g̴e̴t҉ ̴̛Wa҉̢sp͡ ̴͢a̸r̢̛r͏̢e̴s͠͏t̨̨e̴҉d̷ ͢͏b͞e̵f̡ơre ͢t̴̶̛h#̴͘ E̶͘l̛i͏̕t̡͘͠e ͞G̡ua̷#̧͡͏͟#̸̕͟ ̶̡͜i͜͜n̵̵̨͟͟#̧͟#̨͟͞͡#̸̛#҉̴͢͟#҉͏̨҉#̡͘͜ ̴͝ą҉͜͠ņ̷̢͡͞#̶̨̕͡ ̡̕#͟͏͝#̶#̴̵̛͜#̶̡#̢̨̢̕#̶̧͠#̶̧#̵͡#̷̢̡͝ ͡#̴̶̛#҉͡͏#͠ ͢͝#̢̧͝#͞͏̵#̡͜͜͞#҉̷#͏#̵͢͏#̢͡

Longarm slowly engaged his optics in the aftermath of the freshly defragmented memory, not sure exactly how to feel after remembering it, was this supposed to happen during meditation? He looked over to Prowl to see him completely immersed in his own zen, wondering what was going through his processor at the moment, as usual his body did not betray a single one of his emotions so Longarm didn't have a clue.

‘Did you see something?’ Prowl suddenly asked, spooking Longarm slightly.

‘Y-yes, a memory I forgot, back at the Academy.’ Longarm explained. ‘The bot who turned out to be a spy was trying to antagonise me, but I was too busy thinking about my studies to study to care.’

‘Fascinating, its not too unheard of to have a vision, though I never thought it could happen on your first try. I'll be honest, I was somewhat expecting you to not enjoy this, or do so well actually.’ Prowl admitted. ‘Perhaps we could unlock more of your memories through meditation, it didn't hurt did it?’

‘No, not at all, it wasn't exactly a good memory, but it wasn't a bad one either.’ Longarm shook his head. ‘And yes, I'd like to try this again.’ He said with a smile.

Prowl stood up. ‘Another day then, we should shut down for the night.’

Longarm steadily got back onto his pedes and started to leave before a thought crossed his mind, this was the first time he actually interacted with Prowl on a social level and it really wasn't what he was expecting. He didn't know what to expect since the other bot was always keeping his emotions and actions under tight encryption, his spark always pulsated with frustration whenever he tried to see through that accursed emotional mask. So it came as a surprise when it turned out the two of them had a bit in common, such as their mutual respect for nature. His thoughts went back to how Wasp was trying to get under his plating because he acted serious all the time as well, granted though, Wasp was just an antagonising pest (and a Decepticon).

‘Prowl? You could try set a good example for the team.’ Prowl tilted his head inquisitively towards Longarm, but kept his silence. ‘If you want the others to be more accepting of you and your needs, perhaps you should do the same for them. Bulkhead, Bumblebee and I, we're all youngbots and we weren't raised with the patience you have. I'm sure if they knew a bit more about you, they wouldn't be so inconsiderate.’

‘Perhaps.’ Another silent pause went between them.

Realising that Prowl wasn't going to say anything else after that failure of an advice, Longarm left. Being supportive just wasn't his thing, Longarm concluded, how did Optimus manage to do it so well? He walked right into his room before realising something almost weightless just attached to his left pede, he looked down, seeing a small tiny robot magnetised to it, it stared up at him with its tiny yellow optic and let out a small, un-Cybertronian beep.

‘Hello?’ He said, carefully plucking it off his foot and bringing it closer to his face for analysis, the little thing seemed to have a mind of its own, slightly upset that it was being carried and made weak little motions with its pedes to find ground and wiggle out of his grasp. He noticed the Sumdac Systems logo on its underside along with a label calling it a pocketbot pet.

‘Are you one of Sari's little pet robots?’ Longarm asked, obviously it wasn't sentient enough to answer but it stilled in his grasp slightly at the mention of her name. ‘Did she accidentally leave you down here?’ He slowly took a digit and tenderly ran it over the pocketbot's back, it leant gently closer to his scratching digit and he couldn't help but smile.

Deciding to keep it, at least until Sari asked for it back, he took it into his room and carefully set it down by his berthside table, watching it pace around in a circle on the same spot before snuggling down and tucking its pedes on itself, powering down into sleep mode. He followed its example and settled down for the night, shutting off into his own recharge.

The moment Longarm's primary sensors shut down and he entered recharge proper, the pocketbot's optic turned back on, this time deep, Decepticon red.


Megatron kept his upmost concentration to control his spybot, carefully approaching Shockwave's sleeping shell as quietly as he could, the primary sensors were off, but all bots kept their weaker secondary sensors on during recharge as to not be completely unaware of danger around them. He wondered where to start his point of entry, he knew where all Shockwave's medical ports were, but that was Shockwave's true form, he wasn't quite sure how he would be able to get into the critical ones in his head, considering it was covered in a thick protective helm. He settled instead for finding one of the chest ports, his torso had not changed much from the shift to Autobot guise, it wouldn't be too difficult to scan out a port.

After finding the almost invisible line of a port cover, he dug carefully into the seam where the lower torso met strong chestplate, carefully, he picked open the medical port. He had to give Shockwave credit where it was due, even his medical ports were of Autobot configuration, luckily he planned for this contingency when equipping his little spybot for its espionage mission and plugged into the port without a problem.

The problem however, came immediately afterwards, the feedback from Shockwave was a lot vaster than he had anticipated and he struggled to crack the first set of firewalls, read the incoming data and think clearly all at the same time, he only just had enough RAM to open the necessary ICE breaker programs. Shockwave was also extremely well equipped against infiltration of this kind and despite Megatron knowing exactly how to break these protections piece by piece, he had to call off his plan to infiltrate Shockwave's innermost systems before his security functions detected him and woke his shell up.

‘Curse this antiquated amalgamation.’ Megatron hissed, snapping the servos of some nearby machinery together subconsciously. He stared at Shockwave’s sleeping shell, still completely unaware of how close he came to being hacked. ‘I'm so close to you Shockwave, and yet...’

Needing to vent his frustration before he did something completely irrational, he decided to slam a bulkhead in the tower shut just as one of the night guards patrolled past it, giving the meatbag the fright of its life. With an instantly clearer mind, he tried to cut his loss down and sifted through what he could of Shockwave's surface data to learn more about what he was dealing with. The feedback he was getting disturbed Megatron greatly, cursing slightly to himself when everything pointed towards Shockwave's shell almost having a complete personality of its own. It had some of Shockwave's qualities, his natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge and especially his lack of trigger discipline, but with those came weaker traits and emotions Megatron would have offlined any other Decepticon for. The shell's personality was so disgustingly soft and altruistic and-



Longarm's feelings for the minibot, while not as profound, were somewhat mutual.

‘Hmm.’ Megatron thought deeply, removing his spybot from Shockwave and putting it back on the berthside table, letting its pet coding take priority again. ‘At least I have you where I can see you, my loyal subject.’ He addressed to Shockwave’s sleeping frame. ‘I'll keep that wretched minibot from exposing you,

Even if I have to offline him.’

With that final speech he turned off the camera feed and brought up the internet explorer, he needed to find a force capable of off lining an Autobot, a force with a grudge or ill will towards them, one he could nurture or manipulate into a fitting proxy for their vengeance. It was well into the early morning when he finally found his answer in a biotech company, the owner was notorious for having a grudge against his captor's company to boot.

‘Prometheus Black...’


Chapter Text


Deciding he had enough "exercise" to last him the next mega-cycle, Longarm fired one final blank into the sky before calling it quits. He traced the trajectory of the shell with the tip of his cannon as it quickly headed into the atmosphere, started to slow down, then eventually be pulled back down by Earth's gravity, entering the very far side of the lake with a visible splash. He missed doing this at the military base, where it was a lot more comforting knowing there was no chance of hurting any stray birds or fish every single time he fired, but so long as it was occupied he couldn't-

It wasn't worth repeating the obvious, so he began the long, lonely drive back towards the ship, though it wasn't completely cheerless like the few that came before though, Optimus had been planning an event later that cycle for the team to better acquaint themselves in Earth's customs (in a more professional manner) and it would be a gross understatement if he said he was just mildly excited.

Halfway on the route back to base, his commlink turned on. ‘Hey, hey heyheyhey HEY! Longarm!’ Bumblebee said energetically. ‘You finished with target practice yet?’

‘Just on my way back to base now.’ Longarm replied. ‘What's got you so excited?’

‘You haven't passed that boring, old lake deck have you? Meet me there!’ And without further explanation, Bumblebee cut his side of the call.

Bumblebee was already waiting for him there at the disused observation deck, flicking an old rusted binocular stand, spinning it fast enough for sparks to fly, observation deck was probably a bit too generous a description for the location, it was just a small line of parking space for travellers from the main road to stop by and look at the view of the lake. It fell into neglect once a freeway had been constructed close by, redirecting most travellers away from it, but still, it was a quaint and scenic location.

The moment Bee heard the sound of Longarm approaching, he instantly stopped spinning the stand and stood up in a flash, eagerly awaiting his arrival. It wasn't a rarity to see Bumblebee get excited, he was easy to hype, especially if it involved freebies, but this unusually high level of excitement piqued Longarm's interest. He transformed out of his alt-mode and walked the rest of the way to Bumblebee.

‘You'll never guess what happened today, Longarm!’ Bumblebee chirped, practically bouncing on his pedes.

‘Go on then, what happened?’ Longarm asked with a small smile.

‘I, got invited, toooo~ A WRESTLING FIGHT!’ Bumblebee declared, servos dramatically high above him in the air.

Longarm looked at him oddly. ‘A what?’

‘It's like the old gladiator fights but nobody gets hurt, I saw it on TV, they grab each other and try to get the other guy to fall down and the guy still standing is the winner and gets lots of cool accessories AND THEY WANT TO INVITE ME AND GIVE ME COOL STUFF AND SHOW IT ON TV!’ Bee almost squealed, rapidly stamping a fresh series of potholes into the concrete. ‘Finally, someone's recognising my awesome talents.’ He boasted, servos on his hips, holding his chin up high.  ‘Can you believe Sari's dad's been making me play deliverybot the past few mega-cycles? Oh he's gonna be upset he didn't think of this sooner!’

Longarm nervously scratched his chestplate, just under his Autobot emblem. ‘I don't know, Bumblebee it sounds very... I don't know.’ He repeated, unsure of himself. ‘This idea of violence for entertainment it, it makes me uneasy, especially if it's a human you're fighting, how could you do that on purpose? They get hurt easily.’ He worried.

Bumblebee shook his head, not in the least bit concerned. ‘It'll fine big guy, they told me the lil' guy's gonna be wearing this new armour that'll make them big enough to fight me, they think it could take a punch from Megatron! But yeah, I guess that's why they asked me and not Bulkhead, I don’t exactly pack too big of a punch’ He took out his stingers, a smug thought plastered on his faceplate. ‘My stingers on the other hand though-’

‘Please!’ Longarm begged, his spark twisting in fright. ‘Don't actually use those in the fight.’

‘Course not Longy, I'm not a decepticon, I wouldn't cheat.’ Bumblebee reassured him, quickly putting his stingers away to soothe Longarm. ‘Well, see you later! Hope Prime's human culture thingy isn't too lame!’ He transformed and revved his engines, moving to the road. ‘IF BOSSBOT ASKS, I'M AT THE DOWNTOWN ARENA.’ He called as he drove off. ‘I CAN'T REMEMBER ITS NAME BUT IT'S BIG AND GOT WORDS ON IT, HE CAN'T MISS IT.’

‘Bumblebee, he has a comm.’ Longarm complained into his own before carefully stepping over the edge of the observation deck and towards the lake, deciding to take the rest of the journey underwater.


Longarm stepped through the airlock to see the rest of the team getting ready to leave, looking rather serious, a wary feeling settled in his spark, as he wondered if something bad happened.

Upon seeing him enter, Optimus was instantly upon him. ‘Longarm, there's been a change of plan, I just received a report that Starscream's been spotted across the border, we're going to investigate and apprehend him.’

‘Will I be going too?’ Longarm asked, silently telling himself not to look down at his cannon, not wanting to remind himself about it.

Optimus shook his helm. ‘We'll be passing several points of civilisation on the way there, so no, it would take too much time for you to make detours. Please stay down with the ship, Bumblebee will be keeping an eye out on the city, give him a call if anything happens down here.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Longarm accepted, stepping aside to give way to Optimus and the others. ‘Be careful.’

Everyone swiftly moved into the airlock but Prowl paused beside Longarm for a moment. ‘Take care.’ He said, before leaving.

Longarm stood there for a while, wondering what he should do, until he heard the patter of tiny metal pedes and looked towards the source of the noise. His pocketbot pet was curiously looking around the floor, poking its little body in whatever nooks and crannies it could find and once thoroughly investigated, wildly flailed till it popped back out.

‘What are you looking for?’ He asked quietly.

The pocketbot recognised his voice and made a very happy noise, it scuttled over to where he was before, strangely, stopping halfway to him, instead slowly turning to its right. Longarm followed its point of view to see it was looking at the Allspark container, sitting discreetly by the wall of the loading bay, the pocketbot made a curious beep at it, tilting itself to the side as it looked towards the artifact, could it feel the Allspark? When the pocketbot started moving slowly towards it, Longarm intervened, picking the little bot up before it could cause some potential trouble, looking back at the Allspark, he wondered if he should move it somewhere out of the way, where it would less likely be found by any intruders.

He wasn't sure if it was his memory acting up again, but the Allspark felt different from before, it was very quiet and its energy field, though he could still feel it on the tips of his sensors, was thinner. He moved closer towards it, cradling his pocketbot close so it couldn't slip free, the Allspark remained as silent and unresponsive to his presence as before, perhaps it was just idling, Longarm rationalised, last time it was active, so to speak, was while the danger of Megatron and planetary collisions loomed overhead.

He had some trouble keeping a secure grip on the pocketbot, peeping out a series of annoyed whines for being held still for so long and wiggling its little pedes between his digits. It was a curious little thing, even though it was a mechanical imitation of a regular organic pet, the size of a scraplet and far too tiny to be safely going around the ship on its own, he couldn't help but be endeared by it. He gave it a little scratch on its back to try and settle it down, enjoying the little funny electric chirrup it made, he made a reminder for himself in his internal planner to call the professor next morning and ask how to maintain it, or if he could possibly have it upgraded to a larger frame, one that might not be so easily crushed.

Since the evening's event had been cancelled, and a serious situation dwelled on the horizon, Longarm chose to continue his coding project for the rest of the cycle rather than play games. He'd been making great progress, at least, he hoped he was, he figured out how to make a functional line of coding without errors, and a line of code that could successfully reference others, all he needed now was to find out what comprised a detachment command, and if there was anything special he had to learn to be able to program one.

Soon, he'd be normal again.

The very moment that notion crossed his CPU, Longarm was swiftly hit from behind with an overwhelming sense of pity, unbalancing his equilibrium and making him stumble. Wiping the sudden beads of washer fluid out of his optics, he whipped around to stare at the Allspark, convinced it was the culprit, but it seemed as idle as it was moments before. He would have almost believed it was a glitch if it weren't for the smears of optic fluid on the back of his servo and the receding tidal wave of feelings that definitely weren't his. Longarm shook his helm and steadied himself, still not sure what to make of what happened, he retreated to the repair bay, still set on completing his project.

The Allspark pulsed sadly behind him.


A mega-cycle or so Earth hours passed by, Optimus had called him just before he was completely out of range to report they were almost at their destination, so far, they hadn't spotted Starscream. Overall, it was shaping up to be a stable, but slightly tense evening, Longarm felt that they'd be alright, it was logical to assume so, Starscream was half a threat with one missing arm and they repelled him just fine without his help before.

It was getting rather late in the evening, but he couldn't recharge just yet, just in case something did happen that needed him, so he went to go over his notes for the day while relaxing in the rec room, Longarm roused his pocketbot from its pseudo recharge, picking it up and putting it on his shoulder before gathering up his datapads and leaving the repair bay. Turning on the TV he flicked through the channels, forgetting which one was the one that played the classical music he liked, he went over a good number of channels until he passed one where caught a glimpse of familiar yellow and black paint. Oh, that was right, Bumblebee's fight was being televised, he skipped back to the channel, wanting to see if Bee wasn't making an embarrassment of himself or not.

It was an emergency news broadcast.

‘-sure how it happened.’ The anchorwoman narrated as the camera in the background struggled to keep focussed on what was happening, there was a humongous debris cloud obscuring half of the view, but he could see and hear small glimpses of Bumblebee fighting inside it with... he wasn't sure what. ‘For those just tuning in, what was supposed to be a publicity match from PrometheusTech has spiralled out of control. Citizens are to evacuate and avoid the entire downtown area until further notice.’

Longarm's state went from confusion to absolute horror as he stared at the scene unfolding onscreen, people were running, screaming, half the fighting arena had collapsed, and the more the dust from the collapse settled, the less he wanted to see. Bumblebee's opponent wasn't a human sporting giant armour, it wasn't even human, it had two hands, a head with a face and stood on two feet but it was HUGE, with grey, slimy skin stretched thin over impossible anatomy.

Did they lie to Bee?

Bumblebee looked terrified for his life, covered in huge dents while he ducked under the monster, it snarled unintelligibly, foaming from the mouth before bringing its fists down in a ground pound. Sari was there too, trying to reach Bee and repair him whenever there was an opening, but the thing was horrendous and vicious, going for him without pausing, where had such a fiend come from?

Longarm had enough of watching the horror show, he had to tell the others, he turned the TV off and his comm on. ‘Optimus! There's a... a creature attacking Bumblebee, he needs help!’

No response.

‘Optimus!?’ Longarm tried again, his systems kickstarting into a panic when cold static was all that responded, he rapidly switched between everyone's personal comm. ‘Ratchet? Prowl? Bulkhead? Anyone?!’ Not a single bot responded.

He was called by Optimus but two cycles ago, did they have to go out of communication range so quickly? Then his spark squeezed itself in sudden fear when a realisation crossed him, even if they were just in communication range they were still hundreds of cliks away, it would take them a whole mega-cycle to get back to Detroit. He grasped the top of his helm with both servos and turned erratically on the spot, his pocketbot beeping with confusion. What was he going to do now!? He hadn't felt this frightened since the ship had been under attack from Megatron, there was no way Bumblebee was going to last that long against the brute, Sari was there to heal him but she could be hurt at any moment, they needed help ASAP.

Longarm tried to calm down, he had to calm down, this is what Optimus had warned him about all those full-cycles ago, wasn't it? Listen to his processor and spark together, find the right thing to do. He went over the facts step by step, humans handled situations similar to this one before the Autobots had woken from stasis, but if the city council got as angry at professor Sumdac for the incidents as they did at Longarm, then the destruction involved had to be humongous.

He had a restraining order to uphold.

But he couldn't sit back while the humans and Bumblebee were harmed.

His thoughts drifted down with his optics to his cannon, he could cause just as much harm with it, if not more.

Longarm narrowed his optics, looking away, only a Decepticon would rely entirely on their weapons.

He made his decision.


Longarm burst out onto the docks in his alt-mode, rolling up the ramp and onto the streets, before he realised one very big problem he completely overlooked.

He had no idea where the arena was.

The only clue was what Bumblebee divulged when he left, it was big, with big words written on it and a place called downtown, maybe that was somewhere close to the central part of the city, if he drove up closer he could figure out the rest based on where the police were going, and where the people were running away from. After speeding through the docks he screeched to a halt just as he reached the motorway, he waited there as patiently as he could for the traffic to subside but he was still tense, every delay here could prove disastrous. It was then that he heard the gradually increasing wail of a police siren coming along the road and Longarm couldn't help but shake with jitteriness, he reversed slightly to avoid the officer's detection.

But that effort was thrown out the window, when the motorcycle riding policewoman turned into the road he was on and had to make a split second drift to avoid him. ‘JESUS!’ She swore before regaining composure, coming up to his side and switching the siren off. ‘Great timing, Fanzone needs you military boys down at the arena, some monster is wrecking the place and he can't get a word in to the other Autobots. How many of you guys are coming?’

She didn't recognise him? He almost sang in relief. ‘Just me a-at the moment.’ He lied awkwardly, and the officer seemed to buy it. ‘Can you take me there officer?’

‘Sure, follow my lead.’ With that said she drove up ahead of him, turning the siren back on.

He followed swiftly afterwards, watching with awe when the entire traffic stopped and parted for them as if he were the Magnus, a small wisp of his spark enjoying that comparison. When they made it to the arena, he immediately scanned the outside situation with his targeting systems, the venue was surrounded with heavily armed and armoured police, who had set up barricades and were extracting as many people as they could from the building. As they approached, Longarm figuratively squirmed at the prospect of having to reveal himself to them, the situation was very agitated and the police gripped their weapons nervously, they wouldn't shoot him with those, would they?

The police officer who escorted him parked her bike and quickly joined their ranks. ‘I found one of the Autobots!’ She announced to the rest of the force, pointing her thumb behind her in Longarm’s direction to his utmost horror, she had recognised him all along. He backed up nervously when he was quickly approached by the others and soon he was completely surrounded, cutting off any ideas for a cowardly retreat. He transformed to robot mode, trying not to fidget his servos together, he was afraid they were going to do something but as he looked over the faces of the police who didn’t have their visors down, they looked... relieved?

‘Where's the rest of you? We've been trying to reach them for ages!’ One officer asked him.

‘A meg- no, uh, two hours from the city?’ Longarm explained, hoping he got the time measurement right. ‘I can't reach them on my comms, that's why I came here on my own, please forgive my intrusion.’

The police murmured between themselves and he caught small snippets on his audials. ‘This isn't good — We can't wait two hours — Who's gonna tell Fanzone?’

A nasty crash emanated from within the arena and Longarm almost skipped a sparkpulse. ‘Please, may I get past to assist-’

‘LEMMIE GO BEE NEEDS ME!’ Came the shriek of Sari's voice.

Longarm looked up to see her being dragged from the building by a police officer, the sleeve of her dress was torn slightly and she was dusted in debris, but otherwise looked alright. She tried to get towards Longarm the moment she laid eyes on him, he carefully parted the officers around him to reach her.

‘Sari, is Bumblebee ok?’ He asked, getting down on his joints to meet her level. ‘What happened in there?’

‘That guy Bee was supposed to be fight went crazy!’ She gestured wildly, still trying to get out of the officer's hold. ‘You have to let me back in there!’

A word she said had triggered a query in Longarm’s processor. ‘Wait, that thing is human?’ He asked gravely but another crash and a loud screech echoed from the arena and Longarm shifted slightly, trying not to think about to think too hard on the revelation. ‘Sari, may I borrow your key?’ He asked, holding his servo out to her. ‘It's not safe for you in there, I'll take care of it.’ He promised.

She thought it over for a second, before taking it off her neck and into his waiting palm, gripping it tightly, he stood up and entered the building. Following the sounds of stingers, gunshots, and inhuman noises Longarm found the remains of the boxing ring, but in the dim atmosphere, saw no sign of the combatants. ‘BUMBLEBEE? WHERE ARE YOU?’ Longarm shouted.

‘Longarm!?’ He heard bumblebee squeak somewhere in the seating area across from him.

‘What're you doing here!?’ Longarm heard from his side, he turned to see captain Fanzone taking cover behind a large piece of the collapsed ceiling, reloading his gun.

And then the monstrosity Longarm had been on the lookout for crashed headfirst into Bumblebee, the two of them tumbling down the seating area and to the base of the ring, it jerked almost instantly back onto its feet and let out a roar. Before it could deal out another blow against his friend, Longarm rushed forwards and threw himself at the monster, pinning its shoulders to the wall separating the ring from the seats.

‘Human, please stand down, you've won!’ Longarm reasoned to it, struggling desperately to keep it pinned. ‘I don't want to use force on you!’

Longarm flinched backwards when the monstrosity lunged straight for his faceplate with its foaming jaws, saved only by a tactical bullet to its head from Fanzone, just barely flinching the beast. ‘YOU THINK I DIDN'T TRY THAT!?’ Fanzone shrilled, firing more bullets uselessly into the monster to keep it from snapping again.

Suddenly, the beast was on them again and Longarm spun round to wrestle with it again, though this time it had lost what little interest it had in fighting Longarm, trying its best to shove him out of the way and towards the weaker opponents. He grabbed it by the arm and yanked it forcibly away from Bumblebee and Fanzone, turning to them, Bee let off a distorted groan, getting weakly onto his pedes, completely littered with dents and dripping electrolyte fluid from a busted power line.

Taking the key out of his subspace, he tossed it towards Fanzone. ‘Captain, use this on Bumblebee, quickly!’

Fanzone caught the key but looked at it in his hands in bewilderment . ‘What, you want me to take him for a ride!?’

‘Please, just do it!’ Longarm implored, pushing the monster as far away from the other two as he could.

The monster roared, angered with Longarm's continued interference and, finally having enough of it, aggroed on him. With one arm it grabbed his servo and with a mighty yank it flipped him over, sending him flying through the seats, he struggled to get back up before it scrabbled up to him on all four limbs, sprung up and decked him right in the middle of his faceplate, wrecking the arena wall with the impact, it charged into him once more and the two of them went through the wall and into the parking lot.

The officers, who had been guarding the perimeter, all jumped in fright now the fight had moved outside the building, and the moment the monster rose up above Longarm, they all began shooting hell at it. The beast screamed, and picked up a nearby car to throw at them but Longarm grabbed its foot and rolled back towards the arena, bringing the monster back down with him, in revenge, it grabbed both sides of Longarm's helm and violently smashed its own head against him, once, then twice, flooding Longarm's HUD with all manners of errors, another blow would break his faceplate completely.

‘GET OFF HIM, FISHFACE!’ A freshly repaired Bumblebee yelled, dropkicking the monster in its head.

Though it did little to move the thing, it gave Longarm the reprieve he needed to shove the beast off of him and into Bumblebee's waiting stingers, he tried getting back up but failed, wallowing in a fresh set of error messages, till Fanzone ran up to his side with the key. ‘Never thought I'd be playing nurse.’ He commented, slotting the key into Longarm's chest and patching him up. ‘AND YOU LOT, BRING OUT THE TASERS, THING'S AS BULLETPROOF AS SUMDAC'S CAREER!’ He commanded to the officers.

Thanking the captain for healing him, Longarm got back on his pedes in a flash and rejoined the fight just as Bumblebee circlestrafed around the monster with his stingers while it wildly swung at him. This wasn't doing them any good, he thought, the thing was almost completely immune to Bumblebee's stingers, and the bullets, he either needed to find a weakness fast or, he tensed, use his cannon against it.


Longarm ignored his command, choosing instead to trade blows with the beast and distract it from attacking Bumblebee and the humans while he thought up a plan. Suddenly the police and Fanzone shot it with horribly sharp needles attached to cables, breaking the beast's skin, but before the police could engage whatever attack their tasers had, the beast tore the needles off and, once again, decided they were his targets. It pushed him aside, and threw Bumblebee across the parking lot, before charging towards Fanzone, who was a lot closer than the rest of the force, he retreated backwards a few steps and quickly tried to reset his gun but its needles were stuck.

The monster was almost upon him.

‘No!’ Longarm challenged, coming between the monster and Fanzone and scooping the man out of the way before it could kill him. Its attack came upon him instead and he fell to the ground, hitting a van and setting off its alarm, for some reason the noise it made hurt the monster, it began twisting and clamped its hands over its ears. If anybody had an idea on how to beat the monster, Longarm certainly did now. ‘Officers!’ He addressed the police. ‘It's weak to loud noises, turn on your sirens!’

The resulting cacophony could have woken Unicron.

What was once a fearsome monstrosity was now writhing on the ground in agony as the police force turned on their sirens, even Bumblebee joined in with his own and kicked a few cars in the lot to add to the din. The police took aim once more with their tasers and fired, still, the beast moved to pull them out, Longarm pinned it to the ground long enough for them to activate the guns, the monster was fried, and a tremendously painful shock shot through his servos and into his circuits.

“Oh, that's what a taser does.” Longarm thought, in rather gallow humour to himself, before he fell over and locked up.


Megatron growled darkly the moment his control feed went black, of all things to get in the way of his assassination attempt it wasn't his limited control over the biomodified human, nor police interference, it was Shockwave! He was supposed to be distracted with the other Autobots in Canada, that's precisely why he picked such a remote, desolate location, but it appeared he made a slight oversight. He quickly opened windows for all his news and communication channels, his next few moves in the coming hours had to be swift and decisive.

‘It's a good thing I set the stage for plan B.’ He mused mirthfully to himself.


Longarm slowly booted up with an argument loud in his audials.


‘I'm telling you though, something went wrong, I know Rhodes, he'd never do anything like this, he wasn't supposed to! I-’


‘What are you talking about? It's a robot, a walking tank!’

‘TAKE THAT BACK! Longarm isn't a-’

‘Hey, you just stopped one fight, don't start another. Take him away boys.’

Longarm's fans kicked into high gear as his systems properly came back online, detecting a large number of humans around him, but more importantly was Bumblebee's signal, healthy and clear right next to him, he opened his optics to see the police dragging some well dressed human away.


Suddenly Longarm received a faceplate and servofull of Bumblebee, as the little minibot jumped straight onto his chest and wrapped his helm in a hug. ‘LONGARM! You're online!’

Longarm sat up and returned the hug tentatively. ‘You're one to talk.’ He said back. ‘I was scared that thing would crush you.’

Bumblebee made a weird noise in reply, neither happy or upset, burying his helm in Longarm's chestplates. As Longarm became more aware of his surroundings, he noticed they had amassed quite a large crowd of onlookers, police, civilians, news crews, it all made him rather nervous again, but they weren't scared of him, most were clapping and cheering.  However he was rather glad there was still a blockade separating him from the masses, he didn't think himself quite ready to be surrounded again.

‘It's crazy how fast you things can repair yourselves.’ Fanzone said, walking towards him. ‘Are you both doing ok? No insurance claims or things I should know about?’

Longarm shook his helm. ‘No sir, all systems nominal.’

‘I'm gonna take that as an ok.’ Fanzone grumbled, not appreciating having to translate machine talk. ‘I also got a call from your boys while you were out, they're on their way back now, turns out they were chasing was a regular jet, question is though: how is it I wasn't told about that Screamer sighting, but you bots were?’

Longarm frowned and thought about it, something clearly wasn't right with the sequence of events. ‘Do you think-’

‘Mr. Black was trying to set Yellow here up? I goddamn do, that man hates machines more than me. Don't worry about him though, by the end of the week all his labs will be shut down pending investigation.’ Fanzone explained, dusting his hands together, he made eye to optic contact with Longarm. ‘Also kid (should I call you kid? You're like five times my size, anyway), why didn't you use that big gun of yours? Could have stopped that hulk and saved yourself from getting a shock.’

Longarm frowned uneasily. ‘I... didn't want to hurt anyone.’

Fanzone, as a master as he was at keeping neutral when calm, seemed a bit taken aback from that. ‘Listen, uh... you did good today kid, I can't promise for sure, what with the council and Bryce being the stuck up arses they are, but... I'll try making a case to get that restraining order of yours lifted.’

Both Longarm and Bumblebee's optics lit up with hope. ‘Really?’ They said at the same time.

‘Yeah, and forget about breaking it today, who's gonna arrest me for not taking you in? Me?’ Fanzone laughed, turning his head to his force. ‘ANY OF YOU BOYS WANT TO BE A WISEGUY AND ARREST ME!?’ They all held up their hands defensively and shook their heads. ‘Well that settles it, be careful next time you get invited to something outside of the official city channels kids, we got our own fair share of Decepti-whatever-they're-called's.’

‘Thank you, sir.’ Longarm said, standing up fully. ‘Bee, we should get going, before Optimus gets back.’

The two of them transformed and drove off.


Prometheus Black paced frantically around his private hidden lab, the only one he had left, especially now that he had broken out of jail, he lost his contracts, his investors, his reputation and if it weren't for his laundering and tax evasion schemes, his accounts would have been frozen and he'd be left with absolutely nothing. He had it planned out so perfectly, he'd beat down the cocky yellow robot, earn Fanzone's appreciation and finally show up that blasted Sumdac by snatching the police commissions from his stubby, fat nose. He even had Rhodes go through a thorough tune up hours before the match was supposed to start, to make sure he was in top shape, but Rhodes went completely feral just as the match started, he'd never seen his friend display such animalistic ferocity, he didn't even speak or respond to him as he demanded Rhodes to stop.

He anxiously watched the camera feed, of his few remaining employees go through the squeamish task of dissecting the remains of Rhodes, to find out what went wrong. He was lucky he was able to snatch the corpse from the police before they performed their own shoddy autopsy, like they would be able to know what artistry they were even looking at, if there was any chance of proving his innocense in the matter he needed actual experts to see what went wrong, not some living wage weirdo.

‘No sign of malfunction with the steroid injectors.’ One scientist reported aloud for the autopsy record. ‘Hmm, they were stressed to maximum output though.’

While his loyal workers continued, Black turned back to the project he was handling on his own and left them to deal with the worst part of the mess he was in. Pulling the new acid solution he generated from the chemical dispenser, he took a pipette and carefully let a single drop fall onto another thing he managed to salvage from the fight, a small piece of Bumblebee’s plating. Instantly the colour layer fizzled and melted away, the metal underneath warping and breaking apart, upon this new development he put the solution into another machine he developed, a DNA splicer. He set the machine to introduce his chemical solution as a venom a human could produce naturally, all he had to do once it was perfected was feed it to one of his lab experiments and he'd have the perfect self defence weapon.

If those Autobots were thinking of coming for him for what happened to that annoying robot of theirs, he'd be more than ready.

One of the autopsers made a strange remark. ‘There's some inflammation around a... what is this? Was this in the original specifications?’

‘What?’ Black murmured, taking his attention away from his delicate machinery and back towards the autopsy, the man was pointing, there was something attached to the back of Rhodes' neck right where it met the head.

That wasn’t supposed to be there.

He pushed a button, activating his intercom. ‘Extract it, there is not supposed to be anything exposed from the neck.’ He ordered.

The autopser did as told, carefully he extracted a large electronic plug which penetrated quite deeply into the head, before it suddenly exploded and caused the scientists around the table to panic. Prometheus gasped, he only saw it for a brief few moments, but recognised the design, it was a Sumdac invention, for controlling their robots remotely, he would know, he stole the designs for them almost a year back, though they didn’t work as well on humans as they did robots, it all became clear to him. Black clenched his fists together in rage and snarled, he knew it, somebody had sabotaged the fight, and if Sumdac wasn't the culprit then he'd eat his entire collection of coats.

He didn't notice the streams of a viscous liquid seeping out of the malfunctioning DNA splicer, until it was far too late, it exploded all over him.


A small spybot with a red optic walked through Black's laboratory, taking in the sights of severe acid burns across the walls and a pile of torn lab suits strewn across the floor, covered in a vile green sludge.

‘Perhaps I meddled a bit too much.’ Megatron weakly scolded himself, though he had no definitive proof that Black or any of his assets had been damaged, or that whatever monstrosity tore through here was a result of his doing. The damage he saw pleased him greatly, if that strange acid could do this to entire walls, imagine what it could do on an Autobot.

Following fresh sounds of objects clattering and organic noises into a deeper part of the facility, Megatron eventually came across the source of the destruction, a monster made almost completely out of an acidic, mud-like substance struggled to pull itself into a lab suit, trying to retain a humanoid shape but failing miserably. This was Prometheus' own private lab, covered in acid burns, debris from an exploded machine and the burnt remains of designer human clothes, the identity of the monster was now very apparent.

Megatron's spybot climbed onto one of the workstations, before addressing the monster previously known as Prometheus Black. ‘It seems I have arrived to late to assist you.’ He spoke through it.

The monster flinched and quickly turned its head around to face the intruder. ‘S-Sumdac? H-chk-ow dare you!’ It slurred angrily, the acidic fluids getting in its own throat and in the way of proper speech. ‘ARE YOU H-CHG-APPY!? LOOKGH H-WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO ME!’

“How disgusting.” Megatron thought, glad for once he was acting through his spybot proxy, and that he had no fuel tanks to purge. ‘You are mistaken, I understand the use of your rival's machinery is very offensive to you but I assure you, the feeling is very mutual.’

‘You arhn't Sumdac?’ Prometheus questioned.

‘Of course not!’ Megatron spat angrily. ‘But he owes his entire success, his fame, power and fortune to me! He would be nothing if it weren't for my hardware, my designs and my intricate circuitry!’

‘Ghhk-who are you?’ The monster demanded.

‘I cannot divulge my name, if Sumdac and his affiliates were to know I was still... alive, the consequences for me would be dire, if you must have a name to address me with, call me Nemesis.’ Megatron declared, deciding the designation of his flagship would be a fitting substitute for the moment.

‘N-ch-nemesis...’ Prometheus chocked out. ‘And... you're responshbble for that idiot's shuchshess?’

‘And I will be responsible for his downfall.’ Megatron promised, pacing his spybot over to Promethus' computer. ‘Though I have known of your rivalry with him for some time, I was hesitant to approach you, until I discovered he may have been involved in turning that PR event of yours quite sour.’

‘Hcwhat do you mean, "may have"?!’ Prometheus demanded.

‘I have hacked a few Sumdac Towers security systems in the course of taking my revenge against him, so that should the idiot ever slip up, I am almost always there to witness it.’ The spybot plugged a cable into the computer, taking control of it. ‘The afternoon of the event, sometime after 4PM, I noticed a strange order had been placed, a robot control chip, with no commissioner and no recipient, but due for immediate delivery to the riverside docklands. What was most enlightening though was its packaging, and who picked it up.’

Megatron uploaded the footage he recorded and displayed it onscreen, it was one of the garages under Sumdac Towers, a robot he hijacked stood next to a crate stamped with the PromethusTech logo, the recording progressed on and the yellow Autobot arrived on the scene. Megatron watched gleefully at Prometheus' reaction as he watched the Autobot and the Sumdac robot exchange a few words before picking up the crate like a small package and leaving with it.

‘And he went to the rivershhide docklands? I-I have a fashility there, where Rhodes had his pre-match tuneup!’ Prometheus hissed, the pieces of Megatron's carefully planned puzzle fitting in his mind.

‘Sumdac most definitely had a hand in the sabotage of your fight, though I doubt he was the mastermind behind it, I know him, he's not conniving enough for the spywork involved.’ Megatron lied smoothly. ‘The involvement of the Transformer brat and some other events on that day however, somewhat shines a new light on this case.’ He disconnected from the computer, pacing closer to Prometheus. ‘Let us consider what happened, you invite the Transformer to a televised fight, soon afterwards the order is made and the Transformer picks it up, all the other Transformers except the one called Longarm are called to a false sighting of that Transformer jet. When Rhodes was taken out of your control, Longarm hears the cries for assistance from the Autobot and, being isolated from the others breaks his restraining order to assist.

I've noticed that those two are very close friends.’ Megatron continued, zooming the camera in on Bumblebee's faceplate. ‘This one has made his displeasure on Longarm's confinement very evident numerous times on camera, and now thanks to this incident it is looking like Longarm will be able to join human civilisation. Thus I present my theory: I believe the Transformer brat saw the fight as an opportunity to have Longarm reinstated, Sumdac, seeing this as an opportunity to see you out of the picture, gave him everything he needed to set it up for Longarm to have a, how you say... a heroic moment.’

Prometheus had been sitting this whole while listening to "Nemesis"' theory and, to him, it made complete sense, Sumdac despite his success was a bumbling idiot who couldn't plot his way out of a paper bag, but Bumblebee however, clearly that brat was a lot more cunning and nefarious than he had imagined, he made a great mistake choosing that one for his publicity stunt. ‘So then, Nemesis, how would this partnership of ours work exactly?’ Prometheus, now in better control of his body, said, standing up fully in his lab suit, picking up his expensive sunglasses and wiping them down before putting them over the holes his eyes were socketed in, he'd need some special eyewear to make sure none of his acid got into them.

‘As my usage of this pathetic little robot messenger might imply, I myself am in no position to take a fighting stance against Sumdac and his Autobot accomplices, else I would have done so years ago.’ Megatron thanked himself silently that he was communicating through a spybot proxy, he could barely contain his smugness over how successfully his lies were spinning out. ‘But you can succeed where I cannot, and I will provide you with whatever financial and technological assistance you require.’

‘And what do you stand to gain from this?’ Prometheus asked warily, so the fool wasn't as completely led on as Megatron thought, but it was still too little too late for the human.

‘Isn't it obvious? Revenge! I want him dead! Do you think for one moment I like resorting to using stolen prototypes as proxies just to talk with people!?’ Megatron half-lied. In all honesty, he needed Sumdac alive if he was to maintain his influence over the tower and the robots produced inside it, he couldn't trust Black to safeguard his makeshift body should he take over, the man was a blatant racist against mechanical lifeforms.  ‘But we mustn't get ahead of ourselves, Sumdac is our goal, but as long as those Autobots are around he's virtually untouchable, we'll have to scare them off, or distract them first if we want to reach him.’

Prometheus nodded. ‘Killing one off should panic them long enough for us to reach our goal, and I know just who to target, that Bumblebot who caused all this! If we are to strike at the Autobots then he must be taken down first!’

In the dark of Sumdac's laboratory, Megatron smirked.

‘Of course.’


Chapter Text


It took less than two solar-cycles for Fanzone to get Longarm the all clear, which was especially reliving, considering he had returned to the base as opposed to the ship.


‘For real? I can go anywhere I want now?’ He asked the captain through the base's communication monitor.


‘Yes-sir-ee.’ Fanzone confirmed, waving an official document at the camera before reading it. ‘Says it all right here, restraining order's lifted and Longarm is permitted to go near people and on any public property in robot or tank mode. Remember to respect closing hours, private property, parking rules- all that jazz, I'll mail a copy for you to go over.’


Longarm clasped his servos together in pure joy, his optics sparkling. ‘Thank you, thank you so much sir!’


‘Eh, it was easy.’ Fanzone shrugged. ‘Just had to say how impressed I was with how you handled the fishface incident and maybe mention how the force was considering going on strike, might have helped that out a bit. Anyway, don't let it get to your head kid, I don't wanna hear any reports of you getting into trouble. I'll see yo- err, can... can you turn this thing off on your end?’


Optimus waved goodbye to him politely. ‘Of course, goodbye captain.’ He ended the call, saving the technoiliterate Fanzone the trouble, then turned to face his team. ‘Well everyone, we still have a cultural investigation to finish, and now that Longarm can join us in the city, what say we make it an outing?’ He suggested with a smile.


‘Yeah!’ Sari agreed eagerly from her seat in Bulkhead's servo. ‘Let's all go somewhere real fun like-’


‘Sari, it's an educational outing.’ Optimus reminded her. ‘Though, that doesn't mean we can't have fun along the way.’ He added as an afterthought.


‘And what better way to learn than with me around, your own native guide.’ She persuaded. ‘Come on~ you can trust this face, can't you?’


Prowl, recognising the beginning phases of a Sari begging act, decided to cut it short before they all ended up at another one of those boyband gatherings. ‘Perhaps we should let Longarm decide?’ He suggested smoothly, soaking in the deathglare Sari sent his way with a smug sense of pride. ‘I suggest a tour of the main areas humans gather, followed with some observation, then wherever Longarm would like to go afterwards.’


‘Good thinking, Prowl.’ Optimus complimented. He walked over to the base's command station and brought up a map of Detroit city, with all sorts of landmarks and buildings of interest popping up onscreen. ‘Pick wherever you'd like to go, Longarm, but remember: educational.’


Longarm took his time looking over the map while the others made themselves busy on other things. There were so many things to do and see he almost had a hard time deciding, the almost being that most of the places that piqued his interested often turned out to be too small for an Autobot to enter, let alone get around in. He remembered from a documentary he saw a while back that this city was (completely coincidentally) the heart of all robot and vehicle manufacturing in the continent, as a result, a lot of places catered to automobile and robot owners, too bad most of them fitted better Sari's idea of learning rather than Optimus'.


But he found one place that stood out from the others, and made his choice. ‘Let's go to the natural history park, Dino Drive.’


Bulkhead and Bumblebee almost instantly gave him their full attention ‘Dino? As in dinosaurs? Real dinosaurs!?’ Bee asked lighting fast, engines revving as he started to get overly excited.


‘Don't get too excited guys.’ Sari warned. ‘They're just animatronics.’


Bulkhead however, got way too enthusiastic for everyone's good, Sari clutched onto his servo for dear life when he rushed up to Longarm and the computer to get the juicy details. ‘Do they have the big guys with the tiny arms? Ooh, what about the ones that can open doors?’


Longarm shook his helm, lightly. ‘No Bulkhead, Velociraptors can't open doors, those weren't around in the dinosaur era.’


‘But how come they did in the TV a-and the video game?’ Bulkhead wondered sadly.


‘That's because the palaeontologists theorised from studying their bones and descendants that the creatures may well have been intelligent enough to learn how to open them.’ Longarm explained,


Ratchet squinted suspiciously at all the youngbots. ‘If you all know so much about these things, why are we even going?’


Optimus gave Ratchet a few pats on his shoulder to remind him to be more considerate. ‘Then perhaps they can teach us olderbots a few things, lets roll out team.’


With Longarm's treat decided upon, they set off on their tour of the city, with half of them eager for the final stop, Dino Drive.




They were officially banned from visiting Dino Drive ever again.


‘Hey guys, I'm really sorry.’ Bulkhead apologised for the hundredth time, after he had destroyed half the park and Sari's tutorbot in his clumsiness.


‘It's alright, Bulkhead.’ Optimus replied, hoping to stop the tide of apologies. ‘It was an accident, but next time, you should try to work on... err...’ Optimus faltered, trying to find a polite way to phrase “trying not to demolish everything in sight”.


‘Balance?’ Prowl suggested, taking the reigns of the conversation. ‘I've been doing rather well mentoring Longarm, Bulkhead, perhaps you would like to...’


While they were busy with their own conversation, Longarm slumped onto the base couch, that was another thing he was looking forward to that had been cut short, but at least he wasn't being treated like a Decepticon anymore, so he couldn't say today didn't completely turn out how he wanted it to. Not wanting to spend the rest of the cycle sulking, he took his pocketbot out of his subspace and began stroking it idly once it settled down in the palm of his servo, its cute behaviours helping to soothe his mood.


A shadow quickly sprung up over his shoulder. ‘What's that little thingy?’ Bumblebee asked, pointing at the pocketbot closely.


The pocketbot, alarmed by the unfamiliar digit that quickly approached it, let out a siren of alarm before scurrying out of Longarm's servo and all the way down into the tank treads on his pedes, curling up defensively inside. ‘Bumblebee, you scared him.’ Longarm complained slightly. ‘He's my pet, well, Sari's pet... maybe, she hasn't been asking around for a missing pocketbot, has she?’


‘Ooh.’ Bumblebee sounded in interest. ‘And nah, she wasn't, ya see how happy she was when tutorbot got squished? She don't care for her bots that much.’


Longarm frowned slightly. ‘Pity, I've grown very fond of it.’ He leant over and held his servo down to the pocketbot's hideyhole, gently coaxing it back into his palm, slowly, he brought it up to Bumblebee, trying to show he wasn't a threat. ‘Go on, but be careful, Earth metals are delicate after all.’


Bumblebee, slowly as he could, booped the little pocketbot on its front and it beeped back in kind, surprising Bumblebee considerably. ‘Did it just make a sparkling sound? That was totally a bit-beep!’ He exclaimed, looking back and forth between Longarm and his pocketbot.


Longarm was shocked for a few moments, however, he wasn't as enthusiastic over the revelation, he broke optic contact, an empty feeling casting itself over his motherboard.


He couldn't remember what a sparkling sounded like.


Bumblebee recognised Longarm's distant look for what it was. ‘Hey don't feel bad about it big guy, most bots don't know what a lil' beeper sounds like, to be honest, that's kinda a good thing.’ He vaulted over the back of the couch and sat next to Longarm, one servo held in a half shrug. ‘There were five of them where I was assembling, you have any idea how many beeps five of those things make in the middle of the night-cycle, here's a hint: a lot. And it never ended! The moment the lot finished moulting BAM! Another bunch rolls on in!’


‘You were a batch job?’ Longarm asked, looking back at Bumblebee.


He remembered what that was at least, frametypes in high demand often ended up with more sparklings than could be reasonably taken care of, so they tended to be lobbed together in large, but cramped housing designed to churn out as many of them an orn as possible. And Minibots were always insanely popular because of their low material cost and high Energon efficiency, it must have been quite the loud house where Bumblebee had lived.


‘Yeah.’ Bumblebee mumbled, not wanting to talk about it much. ‘You remember much about yours... or...? Nevermind.’ He trailed off when Longarm started to look distant again, they sat for a while in a stilted silence before Bumblebee spoke up again. ‘Hey Longarm, you may-maybe- I kinda know a cool place to hav- hang out so- you know, to make today not bad- I-I mean not that it wasn't good, a-at least until, you know, setting the place on fire and destroying the dinosaurs so maybe... less bad?’


Longarm almost froze trying to process the mess that had come out Bumblebee's vocaliser. ‘What?’


Bee shook his helm and slapped himself twice on his faceplates, steeling himself for what he wanted to say. ‘Do- do you wanna go see a movie?’





The human at the gate to the drive-in theatre nearly jumped out of his skin at the sight of a pursuit compact and a tank approaching the lot, though he calmed down when he saw the telltale signs of autobots and not the authorities.


‘H-hey, it's my favourite customer~’ He greeted Bumblebee. ‘And you brought uh... Strongarm?’


‘It's Longarm.’ The newly dubbed Strongarm corrected.


Bee transformed his driver's door back into a servo, bringing out a small pocket of Earth currency for the human. ‘A pass for me and the big guy, my man.’


The drive-in attendant was slightly hesitant in taking the money from Bee's wallet. ‘You sure? We're showing that Pixar movie up next, I thought you di-’


‘Watched it already!? Y-yep, already did, and li- loved it, totally, one hundred percent!’ Bumblebee interrupted, transforming his servo back into a door, though his joints were rattling oddly, he drove closer to the attendant. ‘(Quick, I gotta know everything about it to impress Longarm!)’


The human followed along. ‘Course you would, it's got robots, space... robots in space.... (Bee I'm sorry, I don't watch kids movies.)’ He waved nervously as he opened the gate to let them drive in. ‘Have fun you two, oh and try not to move too much again, it ain't good on other people's suspension!’ He called after them.


Longarm followed Bumblebee through the lot to a marked space at the back, accompanied by a sign reading “Please respect the giant robots, thanks - the management”, the two of them transformed back to robot mode before sitting down. His spot had a lot of cracks in the cement, either it was Bulkhead's usual spot or the remains of whatever caused the man at the gate to ask them to stop moving around... perhaps both.


‘So what're we seeing Bumblebee? It has to be good since you're watching it twice, right?’ Longarm asked while they waited for the pre-movie intermissions to end.


A little bit of steam rattled out of Bee's vents. ‘Oh, heheh, I don't want to say too much, don-don't wanna- er, I just, I saw how much you liked your little petbot and- you'd like other cute things right? I-I thought maybe something like, like this.’ He stammered blindly.


Luckily for him, the film started and Longarm took the bluff before his CPU melted from the pressure.




On the big screen the little junkbot shuffled timidly closer to the sleeker scout, who was taking in his junk collection with great interest, his little, rusty servo reaching out to try and hold her's while she was distracted. Bumblebee looked over to Longarm for the tenth time since the movie started, he still hadn't taken a single optic away from the screen, completely entranced by the little bots onscreen, then Bee looked down to the ground, trying (and failing hard) not to notice how close their own servos were.


He had never related so much to anything else in his entire runtime, than that little junkbot.


An ingenious thought crossed his processor, he had a super secret Praxian technique up his subspace, created just for moments like this. He stretched his joints high over his helm, as if he had a piece of his armour caught in a kink, then leaned lazily into Longarm's side, pretending his energy levels were low, Longarm had not made a single protest, thus Bumblebee claimed victory. But disaster soon struck, Longarm still had his full attention still on the movie, but he needed to move his servo now that it was trapped underneath Bumblebee, subconsciously, he took it and moved it to a more comfortable place, that place being Bumblebee's waist.


Bee went as red as a Dodge Viper.




Longarm was still completely enchanted by the movie as the two protagonists had started dancing around their ship in celebration, he hadn't taken his optics away for one moment, but he had been hearing strange noises coming from Bumblebee's direction sometime after the scene started, like he was trying to suppress his entire ventilation system. He took his optics off of the film for the first time since it started and looked aside to see Bee scrunching up his own faceplate to try and suppress the washer fluid from leaking down it, Longarm couldn't help but smile at that.


He had been trying not to cry too.




By the end of the movie, both of them had nearly used up their entire reserves of optic washer.


‘I-I I thought he wasn't going to- to come baaack!’ Bumblebee wailed into Longarm's side, rubbing his faceplate into his third cleaning rag. ‘A- an- and- I’m not crying, you're crying!’


Longarm nodded erratically. ‘Y-yeah.’ He replied awkwardly, rubbing soothing lines into Bumblebee's back, his own voicebox was completely glitched, chocked up with the relief that it had been a happy ending, he had to try resetting it a few times before he could finally use it again. ‘Bumblebee?’ He asked, and when he got Bee's attention continued. ‘T-thanks, for, taking me out tonight, I enjoyed it.’


Bumblebee didn’t reply, curling more into Longarm's side while Longarm patted his shoulder plates.





The tower began acting up again from Megatron's revulsion, though he did his best to control it, small glitches still seeped through.


On his computer, the media were all buzzing over pictures of Shockwave and the minibot partaking in human entertainment, but while they were enamouring themselves with the revelation that their races shared emotionally induced optic glitches (really, they were) Megatron saw no cause for joy. They were getting too close, and he himself was not getting any closer to finding a way to restore Shockwave's memories or his own body, and his new partner in crime turned out to be a terrible co-conspirator.


Prometheus, or rather Meltdown, after his powerful but revolting upgrade, liked to be called, was absolutely useless in coming up with decent battle strategies against the Autobots. All of the plans he presented to Megatron thus far all boiled down to the same strategies of attacking them head on, for Primus' sake, his latest idea involved marching into Sumdac Towers right through the front door and hoping the automatic barrier would hold long enough for him to snuff its owner! The Autobot's medic could rip through the automatic barrier in nano-cycles, and (like every other plan) unless there was some kind of distraction, he would just end up facing all five of them and Shockwave head on. Not that he couldn't handle the Autobots, especially with his powerful acid body, but Megatron wouldn't put Shockwave in harm's way unnecessarily, he needed Shockwave to recover his memories, not his entire chassis.


So here he was, alone, trying to find an opportunity that could spread out the Autobots so that Meltdown had just enough time to snuff out the yellow minibot, then fail quickly enough for them to regroup and take care of him before he got any ideas of harming his assets. A concept that was very hard to pull off when your head wasn't directly connected to the robot assembly factories halfway across the city, and the security there was competent enough to notice an infiltration by one of his spybots, yet somehow the security here didn't even notice he was online and controlling their whole building.


‘How in the pit did these dense organics become the most dominant species on this backwater planet?’ Megatron mumbled to himself, he was talking to himself a lot nowadays, it helped keep the crushing isolation and sensory deprivation at bay.


The tutorbot lying on the repair bay reactivated, piping up with some fresh, hot facts. ‘Scientists believe that if the dinosaurs hadn't been wiped out by the meteor, they would still be the dominant species today, imagine that~’


Megatron whipped the tutorbot with one of his assembly servos. ‘I did not ask you! Miserable little-’


He froze for a moment before shutting down the internet browser, turning off the monitor and offlining his optics. The security cameras outside the laboratory had registered movement, the professor was coming, and the tutorbot was still happily prattling away with dinosaur factoids.


This was going to be a long solar-cycle.


Professor Sumdac entered the lab, making a beeline straight to his desk, shushing the broken tutorbot as he went past it but didn't stop to repair it, he needed to run some diagnostics on his tower's systems, they were glitching up far too frequently for it to be the usual problems, perhaps Sari had been plugging her key into the mainframe again. But he and his thoughts stopped dead in their tracks when he noticed the computer was already turned on, he hadn't done that this morning, and this wasn't the first time it happened.


‘Someone's accessed my computer again.’ Professor Sumdac said under his breath in bemused concern.


Megatron onlined a single optic, watching carefully while the professor brought up several programs, oh, he forgot to wipe his recent actions, and now the security log was spilling everything he did this cycle to his captor. He thanked his lucky circuits that he hadn't done anything incriminating today, just a little bit of internet exploring, but he was still in a bad position now the professor was aware.


“It appears I've been caught” Megatron thought, readying the innocent act he prepared for just this kind of contingency. He had been planning to reveal himself to the human on his own terms, mainly if all his other options had run out, but he had later to worry about how that would have turned out.


‘This... doesn't make sense.’ Sumdac declared after going through the security logs. ‘Who would access my personal computer but only look at the internet and download pictures? Hmm, I should check the browsing history they could have relayed vital information to another computer.’ Sumdac meanwhile looked through the browser history, and the list of websites was equally as odd, Wikipedia, dictionaries, science websites, illegally uploaded documentaries on Youtube, news websites, an anonymous messaging board dedicated to the Transformers. All of it (well, excluding the last one), looked like: ‘Learning?’ Professor Sumdac concluded.


The professor slowly turned around to face the culprit, though he thought it extremely unlikely, the head had been dead for decades, Optimus had told him all Transformers could survive with their head cut off, and the head itself could still function if it had wireless capability, but he dissected it hundreds of times to know it didn't have that. But then again, things were adding up, and tutorbot could only dispense pre-programmed knowledge, meaning the only thing in this lab that would want to learn about all things Earth and Transformer would be-


He came face to face with a pair of bright red eyes, peering inquisitively at him.


‘You, you're alive!’ He exclaimed. ‘How? When? Can you hear me? Can you speak? Is there anything yo-’


‘What... what happened to me?’ Megatron began his act with feigning ignorance. ‘How did I get here.’


‘Your head crashed onto the planet Earth, into my family's cornfield!’ And Sumdac observed in fascination when Megatron quickly brought the internet back on to search what a cornfield was. ‘I brought you into my home and i-it's a long story.’


‘Unless you have plans, I highly doubt I'll be going anywhere anytime soon.’ Megatron replied, taking his optics off the screen. ‘I have all the time in your world for a long story.’




‘Please forgive me for using you like this, I didn't know you were a sentient being and I-I thought you were, well... “dead”, so to speak.’ Professor Sumdac implored after he had finished telling Megatron everything between his death and ressurection.


‘So did I.’ Megatron mused. ‘I remember my spark extinguishing after I was... sucked out the airlock with Megatron into your Earth atmosphere, how I came to return from the Well of Allsparks is a miracle. I was hoping your files or information network would hold the answer but...’ A chill ran down the floor of the lab. ‘Obviously not.’


‘Hmm.’ Professor Sumdac pondered, rubbing a finger over his chin. ‘Could it have been Sari's key, she has been using it on some of my lab equipment- ah let me explain.’ Sumdac brought up one of her pictures on the computer when he noticed Megatron's look of confusion. ‘You've probably already seen her with the Autobots.’ He pointed to the key around her neck ‘This key she received from them has this strange power to repair them, perhaps it repaired you as well?’


‘A Vector Sigma key!?’ Megatron gasped out loud, his good optic widening. Of course! It all made sense now, the artefact must have pulled his spark from the well and, due to the lack of a body, melded it with the tower to prevent him going offline again. ‘Yes, this explains everything professor, it seems your daughter unwittingly resurrected me.’


‘Perhaps I can ask her to bring it here and try repairing you properly.’ Professor Sumdac suggested.


‘No point.’ Megatron argued. ‘A vector sigma key can only do so much, because I am missing most of my chassis it was forced to forge my missing internal components out of bits of your tower the first time it was used. It... hurts to say the least, and I'm certain these tower glitches of yours have been caused by me being here, but using it again would only make things worse. You would lose your home and I'd gain a very weak, unfeeling body that would rust out in less than a deca-cycle.


I would require a new body, or perhaps the remains of my old one if you find it. Maybe then we can try the key again, but until then, please, don't tell my Autobot friends.’ Megatron pleaded as pitifully as he could.


‘Why ever not?’ The professor asked, genuinely curious rather than concerned, honestly did he even pay attention to the Autobot's press release regarding himself, or rather the great and powerful Megatron?


Megatron's crude processor was struggling with all this forced emotion. ‘I... I don't want them to see me like this, look at me I'm a disembodied head stuck in a human computer, I can hear B... Bumblebean's puns already.’ Megatron almost executed perfectly, if it weren't for the fact he never properly bothered to learn the Autobots' names.


Professor Sumdac didn't even notice the slipup. ‘Alright, alright, it'll be our secret.’ He promised, but Megatron knew he wasn't doing it purely out of the kindness of his fleshy spark, he too had an ulterior motive for not revealing the source of his technological wealth to the Autobots.


Oh the storm that would happen when their most trusted ally had based his entire empire on the corpse of their nemesis, his company, his work and his whole legacy would come crushing down, and Megatron wanted to have his body back in time to witness that.


‘Well, now I know all the glitches in the tower were actually conflicts between you and the circuitry, I'll do my best to alleviate that at least.’ Sumdac promised. ‘However it will have to wait a while, I have to finish repairing an important project.’


‘I don't see how this educational drone's functionality should come before my own.’ Megatron challenged as politely as he could, squinting his good optic at the tutorbot in question.


Sumdac shook his head. ‘Oh no, not him, I was talking about these.’ He pushed a button on his console and one of the walls of the lab pulled away to reveal an extension, in which the remains of some animatronic dinosaurs were being stored. ‘I’m on contract to redesign these old animatronics into fully functioning automatons, the park they come from is going under a huge refurbishing project you see, there's going to be a big re-opening when its done, oh and I'll get to make a speech!’ He almost squealed before calming himself down.


‘Is there now?’ Megatron wondered, an idea blooming in his spark. ‘Then, perhaps if we work together, we can get these powerful Earth creatures of yours ready sooner.’


The professor agreed enthusiastically and they began working together on his project, Megatron chuckled quietly to himself as he added a few flamethrower components to the blueprints when the professor's back was turned.


The bumbling fool never even asked him his designation.



Chapter Text

A few days after being allowed back into civilisation, Longarm had been adjusting just fine, learning most of the important routes and, even better, learning how traffic worked, so that he didn't hold up a whole line of people behind him because he kept forgetting if he had right of way. He had just come back to the base from his first patrol of the city with Bumblebee and Sari, which while enlightening on many aspects of their surroundings, was rather underwhelming. It was important for them to keep relations between Autobots and humans as high as possible, since they were stranded and had to depend on the locals for supplies, but he would have rather been doing something more meaningful than driving around on the lookout for trouble.

The three of them had come back to see Prowl busy tutoring Bulkhead with the most difficult technique he had faced yet: standing still, on one stabiliser, and everyone was having a hard time figuring out if he was learning something. Prowl though, had learnt much from his week helping Bulkhead, such as the optimal distance to stand away if Bulkhead were to fall over.

‘Access the situation... choose my move... execute with graceful precision...’ Bulkhead kept mumbling to himself while he wobbled.

‘It's assess the situation.’ Prowl corrected, again. ‘And you don't need to repeat the core principles every time you do something, Bulkhead, it's taking up the RAM you need to actually perform them.’

‘Oh, ok!’ Bulkhead nodded his helm vigorously, which had been enough to upset his balance and land him with his aft on the floor again. ‘Ow.’

‘Problem is he's a few RAM sticks short of a full set, Prowl, you'll be lucky to get him to count to 100 before the next stellar-cycle ends!’ Bumblebee commented snidely.

‘Har-de-har.’ Bulkhead grumbled sarcastically, getting back up onto both his pedes.

Optimus approached them, motioning for Ratchet to join too. ‘Well team, I have some good news and bad news. The good news is we've been invited to another publicity event, which would potentially be Longarm's first one, so it's important for him to make a good impression.’

‘The bad news?’ Prowl asked.

‘It's, uh.’ Optimus hesitated, embarrassed to say whatever it was. ‘It's at Dino Drive, they're re-opening the park with upgraded versions of the animatronics we... broke.’ He finished dejectedly.

‘Oh.’ Bulkhead sounded, immediately less interested in the event than he was moments before.

‘Weren't we banned?’ Longarm remarked, remembering the park manager's angry face, as he screamed for them to get out and never return.

Optimus half shrugged. ‘Technically, we still are, but we've been allowed to return this one time because of the professor, we have to be on our best behaviour this time round team.’ He explained sternly.

You'll have to be on your best behaviour.’ Ratchet grumbled. ‘I've had enough of all these fancy parties over nothing special, I'll be down repairing the ship if anyone needs me.’ He said, taking a few crates of materials into his subspace, before driving away in his alt-mode.

But Longarm was as excited as could be, even despite the circumstances, his very first PR event (give or take angry managers)! He took out a datapad and started marking down all the things he'd need to do to get ready: ask Sari if he could use the key to buff out his dents, find a washer big enough for his alt-mode to go through, hmm, maybe he'd have to borrow a hose. Then revise a few of his other datapads on dinosaurs and the like, write up a speech, practise that speech, find out if he actually needed a speech...

There was just so much to do but it'd be worth it, he'd be able to impress the humans with everything he learnt about their natural history, soothe a few public concerns, and maybe...

Maybe prove to them he wasn't a giant war machine.

‘Relax already, Longarm.’ Sari reassured him while they got ready to attend the grand re-opening, noticing how he was as busy as... well, a bee. ‘The cameras are gonna be too busy looking at all the new stuff to be watching your every move, you'll be fine.’

‘I know, but its my first one.’ Longarm replied while triple checking his chassis for any smudges, ticking off item 3 (of 64) on his get ready list.

‘They'll probably kick us back out the moment its over.’ Bulkhead worried, not quite ready to meet the park's owner again.

Bumblebee patted Longarm comfortingly on the arm. ‘It'll be ok big guy.’ He said, holding one arm out in front of them to gesture while he talked. ‘The strats are simple, it's all about looking like you're interested and knowing the right time to slap your servos together, then when the camerabots come in for a closeup, you give 'em one of these!’ And on the final word, he jumped out and struck a pose.

Before anyone could even think, Prowl commented. ‘That looks ridiculous.’

‘N-NO IT DOESN'T!’ Bee defended, pointing accusingly at Prowl. ‘Right guys?’ He asked Bulkhead and Longarm when they didn't back him up. ‘Guys?’

‘Mmm...’ Longarm thought deeply.

‘Ehh...’ Bulkhead poked his claws together and looked down to the floor.

Bumblebee squinted menacingly at them. ‘You're both dead to me.’




Half an hour before the grand re-opening, professor Sumdac was in his fancy, automated car and halfway to the park, when he got a call from the a very special number he had just set up, he joyfully picked up his phone and answered it without hesitation. ‘How's everything at the lab my friend? Do you have everything you need? Should I set up a camerabot for you to see your friends with?’ He asked.

‘Something's wrong with the Dinobots.’ Megatron warned, wanting to make sure his newest asset was well away from the impending havoc. ‘Their systems reported an error but I can't get into them to diagnose it.’

‘Hmm, have you tried the remote override?’ The professor suggested optimistically, nowhere near as concerned as he should have been.

Megatron made a noise of acknowledgement before continuing on with his facade. ‘I'm trying it right now but... wait... they're receiving commands from another source! Don't go to the park Sumdac, somebody has sabotaged them!’


The professor's warning didn't reach them in time.

Moments after the Autobots had arrived at Dino Drive, the Dinobots had ripped out of their storage crates and began aggressively advancing towards them, mashing their jaws menacingly. The sparse crowd of humans that had gathered beforehand immediately began running for their lives, when the Dinobots showed no qualms with crushing anything in their way underfoot. Then just as they were about to curse the professor for not testing the robots properly before showing them off, they got the message from him that the Dinobots had been sabotaged.

Optimus took control of the situation almost instantly, brandishing his axe and rushing towards the T-rex with Prowl, Bumblebee tried to take on the flying Pterodactyl before the Triceratops decided he was its target. But Bulkhead and Longarm stood like statues, neither of the two knowing what to do, but Bulkhead at least had an excuse for not jumping in.

‘Ac- no wait, assess the situation, choose my move...’ Bulkhead began, having not yet figured out that just smashing the rogue robots up was the optimal strategy at this moment.

Though Longarm was one to speak, he was trying to find a strategy that didn't include using his cannon to fight the Dinobots, he didn't come here to be a war machine.

‘Bulkhead, get in gear and go help the civilians evacuate!’ Optimus ordered, which Bulkhead complied with right away.

‘Speaking of helping, dishing out a few shells would be nice Longarm.’ Bumblebee said, while dodging to the left and right of the Triceratops trying to impale him on its horn.

Bulkhead transformed to load civilians trapped on the wrong side of the park into his back, and Longarm went to assist Bumblebee against the Triceratops, which was preparing to charge down some of the people who hadn't yet fled the park. Still unwilling to use his cannon, he used his new talent for grappling to keep the robot at bay, grabbing it on its front horn and using that as leverage to stop its advance. Even though the robots had been sabotaged and possessed some good strength, they were basically actors, he thought fighting them wouldn't be as difficult as say, that human who had actually been modified for combat.

That was until the Triceratops opened its beaky little mouth and fired a stream of flames right into his chest, melting that cocky thought instantly.

All of the Dinobots in fact seemed to be equipped with a flamethrower, throwing the Autobots completely off guard when they unanimously decided it was the new best way to fight. The Pterodactyl seemed the worst of the lot, because he would make big, long sweeps over the Autobots and rain flaming hell on everything in his path. The fire wasn't hot enough to do them critical damage, but it was hot enough to cause serious pain and the Cybertronian equivalent of blisters on their armoured coating. Because prolonged exposure would overheat their circuits, everyone was forced to come up with a new strategy to combat the Dinobots.


In the safety of their lab, Megatron secretly ran his control program in the background while professor Sumdac observed the fight on the only news network who had a camerabot and a brave, reckless man to cover the story.

The professors heart skipped a beat when the Dinobots suddenly revealed that they were packing serious firepower. ‘Those flamethrowers, they were in your design specs!’ He accused at Megatron, wanting to know why.

Megatron was not fazed in the slightest. ‘Yes, I thought with the fact their new alloys and coating were heat resistant, they'd be able to show off a few of their famous pyrotechnics.’ Megatron explained almost obliviously.

‘But dinosaurs don't breathe fire!’ The professor almost shouted, grasping his hair in exasperation.

‘They don't?’ Megatron lied curiously. ‘They did in this series of documentaries.’ He argued, bringing it up on the monitor.

The "documentary" in question was Godzilla.

‘Oo-ooh... oh dear.’ The professor whimpered, how on Earth would he explain this to the Autobots?


While Longarm grabbed the tail of the Triceratops and dragged it on the ground for Bumblebee to try finding a weakspot with his stingers, the T-rex had the horrible idea of biting deeply into Optimus' arm then using his flamethrower, taking the flames all the way into the circuitry on the inside. Sari came to his rescue and, with a quick use of her key, fixed up his arm before the fire could hurt the weaker components, the repairs even forced the T-rex's jaws out of Optimus’ arm.

The T-rex then, either in a change of heart or show of cunning, chose a weaker target that didn't have Sari on standby to heal him, so it began charging at Longarm. In a snap, it buried its metal jaws into Longarm's servo and, with a mighty pull, flung him well across the park and further away from the others, quickly running after him. With several more snaps of its jaws and bursts of flame it had cut him off from Bumblebee, who now had to be backed up by Optimus against the rampaging Triceratops.

‘Now would really be a good time for you to use the big guns, big guy!’ Bumblebee shouted while he played leapfrog, to dodge the Triceratop’s latest attempt to ram him.

‘Looks like I'm a little late to the party.’ An unfamiliar voice announced. ‘And it seems Sumdac never showed up, pity.’

Longarm looked to face the newcomer whilst he held the T-rex's jaws open, he- it was some sort of sludge monster that looked like it was ripped straight out of those old black and white human horror films, dressed in a sophisticated containment suit, probably designed to keep its mass in a consistent shape. None of the Dinobots seemed interested in attacking the being and were more interesting in fighting the Autobots, and unknown to them, keeping Longarm well away from Bumblebee and his new adversary.

‘What is that guy?!’ Bulkhead yelled, finally joining the fight after getting the last of the humans out.

‘The name's Meltdown.’ The being introduced himself dryly. ‘Though you might probably know me better as Prometheus Black, at least, your conniving little Bumblebot used to.’

‘You were the guy trying to offline Bee!?’ Bulkhead exclaimed angrily, running towards Meltdown with his wrecking ball spinning at the ready.

‘Oh, is that what he told you?’ Meltdown chuckled, he dodged the wrecking ball then disengaged his right glove, firing a deluge of slimy acid towards Bulkhead, hitting his servo that the wrecking ball had come out of, completely detaching the ball from its owner. ‘Well, it wasn't like you were there to see it, I suppose.’ He said nonchalantly with a shrug.

‘AAAGH!’ Bulkhead screamed, clutching his burnt servo towards his body and backing off. ‘Ow, ow, owww!’

Optimus quickly came to Bulkhead's rescue, utilizing his water cannon to try and neutralize the acid. ‘Bulkhead are you alright!?’

When the water had cleared, Bulkhead gasped when he saw the damage to his claws, the acid had melted right through the polished outer layer and almost to the joints. ‘M-my servo!’

Everyone was chilled as well when they saw the damage, that was no ordinary acid if it could get through Cybertronian armour in half a cycle, they were going to need something to try and shield them from it before he tried to burn a hole right through to their motherboards. And there were still the rouge Dinobots to worry about, they had to be controlled by Meltdown, Longarm was sure of it, was this all another elaborate attempt to offline Bumblebee?!

‘Do you like it?’ Meltdown asked gleefully as he sprayed more acid towards Optimus and Bulkhead, and even any bot who tried getting closer, forcing them to retreat away from him. ‘This is what proper science, skill and ingenuity looks like! In less than a day I found an acidic formula capable of melting you down to nothing!’ He kept up his barrage, herding them closer to Longarm and the T-rex he was wrangling. ‘The media and the police may idolize you as heroes but I know what you really are.

I've seen how you get along and act together, you're a ragtag group of nobodies! A washed out commander herding undisciplined children, a demented senior and a retarded tank, no wonder you crashed onto Earth!’ He insulted with a laugh. ‘The only reason you became something here is because of your superior size and alloys.

And now that I've found the chink in your armour, you're back to your true form: nothing.’ He finished with a hiss, throwing a few shots of acid in Prowl's direction to lead him into the firing range of the Pterodactyl. ‘I understand if you don't want to face me head on until you've found whatever weakness I have, so go ahead and indulge my new pets while I take care of business.’

He began advancing on Bumblebee.

Longarm, seeing his intuition was right, stopped fighting the T-rex and cut across the park to intervene, but the Triceratops rammed his side, he rolled over and got back up but it flicked its head angrily at him, trying to stop him from advancing. Then the T-rex had come up from behind and chomped his arm, dragging him around while it moved backwards and shook its head from side.

Bumblebee, spooked by Meltdown's power display, kept moving backwards while firing his stingers at him, but his electric based attack was completely ineffective, he kept at it until he realised he just backed himself into a corner. Just as Prowl skidded forwards and prepared to throw his glaives at Meltdown, the Pterodactyl swooped down and grabbed him by the shoulderplates, plucking him right out of Meltdown's way, who was readying both of his arms for a lethal dosage of acid.

‘H-hey if this is about that wrestling match, I-I'm retired from the ring!’ Bumblebee blabbered nervously, backing up against the wall.

‘Oh you know exactly what this is about my yellow friend.’ Meltdown persisted. ‘Your acting skills have been quite impressive, but I'll have the last laugh you rat.’

Bumblebee craned his helm up at Longarm, who'd just freed himself from the T-rex Triceratops double team. ‘H-hey Longarm! C-c-CANNON, cannon shoot hi-him please! LONGARM!

Bee let out a scream of fear when Meltdown began his barrage of acid, he dodged to the side but his left pede and its tire were hit with acid and began melting. The Pterodactyl dropped Prowl right in front of Meltdown, practically inviting him to attack, but Prowl got back to his senses instantly, flipping gracefully out of the way of Meltdown's assault. In compete blind panic, Bumblebee transformed, flicking more of the acid around and onto other parts of his chassis, he drove off as fast as he could, straight through the doors of the park and into the parking lot.

‘BUMBLEBEE WAIT, COME BACK!’ Sari yelled, she was almost near enough to have healed him with her key like she did with Bulkhead. ‘YOU NEED HEALING!’

‘You there! Come down here’ Meltdown commanded to the Pterodactyl circling overhead, he suited back up and grabbed onto its back when it landed. ‘Let us pursue our prize.’ And with that they took off to chase down Bumblebee.

Prowl transformed and swerved up to Sari, he drove her out of the main entrance to rejoin the fight in the parking lot, only to find out the fight hadn't moved to the parking lot at all. Bumblebee had completely abandoned the fight, driving as far away as he could, with Meltdown and his Pterodactyl chasing him down from the air.

‘Prime, Meltdown has chased Bumblebee down the motorway, I'm taking Sari and pursuing him.’ Prowl stated.

‘No Prowl!’ Optimus ordered as he too burst into the parking lot on the tail of a rampaging T-rex. ‘It's not safe for Sari to drive on you, we have to take care of these rogue robots first- PROWL!’ He shouted as Prowl ignored his order and took off out of the park, though he had left Sari behind.

That left her with Optimus, Bulkhead, Longarm, and two out of control dinosaur robots, all of them several times her size.

‘We can't afford to waste time with these drones.’ Optimus said. ‘Longarm, I need you to use your cannon on them, you're the only one with the firepower to stop them quickly.’

Longarm however completely froze up. ‘I-I can't sir.’

‘That's an order, Longarm!’ Optimus persisted, taking his axe and swinging it down on the T-rex's tail. ‘Meltdown's been controlling the dinosaurs to spread us out, we have to stop them as soon as possible to regroup with Bumblebee. DO IT!’ He added when Longarm still wouldn't use his cannon.

Longarm did as he was told, transforming into tank mode, but he still locked up and shook like a leaf when the Dinobots began advancing on him. He... he just couldn't do it, the Dinobots were moving too fast, where would his shells would go if he missed? He didn't want to hurt anyone. But before Optimus could get angry at him, or a Dinobot could hurt him, Longarm picked up a sudden energy spike to his side, Sari's key was levitating and moving towards him, pulling Sari along for the ride.

‘This is new!’ She cried out, trying to keep up with the key without tripping, before they knew it, the key had pulled Sari right up over his treads and slotted itself into his side.

His cannon adjusted itself, completely steady and under the key's control, and fired an energy beam of its own volition at the two rouge robots, the beam melted away the false skin of the dinosaur robots and exposed their outer plating, which had been very strong and unusual looking for something of Earth design, when it had finished, the Dinobots had gone offline and fell down dead, ending their fight.

‘What was that!?’ Sari exclaimed, taking the key out of Longarm and running over to the remains of the Dinobots.

But before anyone had time to think about it, Optimus had scooped up Sari and transformed into a truck around her, the order didn't need to be said, they had to catch up to Bumblebee before it was too late.


‘Ow, ow, owowowowwww!’ Bumblebee hissed, the pain from his left rear bumper and tire really getting to him as he continued pushing on down the motorway and out of the city, he did a quick scan with his sensors behind him, Meltdown and the Dinobot were still following him! ‘Oh come on, give me a break!’ He pleaded to the fates.

The fates misinterpreted his plea, because almost immediately after the words left his vocaliser, his rear tire dropped off, rolling away and off the road. Bumblebee started spinning out of control, and forced himself to transform back into robot-mode before he tumbled himself into a scrap cube. He limped as hard as he could into a nearby construction site, hopefully he could find a hiding spot or a shield to use against- oh who was he kidding, he didn't know scrap about anything that could stop acid that melted through everything! He knew there must have been something though, since the acid wastes were a thing on Cybertron and they didn't melt the entire planet, if only he gave an ounce of attention to his science tutorbot, he would have known what it was... probably.

Hobbling out of Meltdown's direct line of sight, Bee weighed his options and decided to hide out in a metal cargo crate, he managed to squeeze in, but it was a tight fit, rubbing against all his burns from both fire and acid attacks. Running his vents as quietly as he could, he curled up, and hoped that somebody could get here in time to help him before Meltdown turned him into molten lead. His processor was staring to get light and started underclocking itself in preservation, realising he had been badly bleeding electrolyte fluid from his powerlines, sorely wishing that he hadn't run off so he could have gotten healed by Sari.

What in the pits did he do to deserve this!?

Well... he was mean to Bulkhead earlier, he was always a slow thinker and a klutz, but he probably wouldn't have run off all scared the moment some acid monster, that crawled out of a tar pit, decided to make him enemy number 1. And he also shouted at Longarm when he didn't use his cannon, but he didn't get it though, they could have dealt with those Dinobots faster if he wasn't so scared of missing and damaging something-

Or someone...

Like when he had shot Bumblebee! That's why! He was terrified of hurting someone else ever since he hurt Bee and got exiled!

“Gah, I'm so stupid!” Bumblebee berated himself mentally, hitting his helm against his stabilisers softly. “I never do anything right do I?”

‘Where are you hiding, rat?’ Meltdown called out into the construction site, getting off the Pterodactyl. ‘Come out and face your end with honour, I know it's something you lack, given how you handled my original, gracious offer to put you in your place, but there's a first for everything.’

“What the pit is he going on about?” Bee thought from his hiding spot, resisting the urge to poke his head out and look at the creep.

Meltdown continued his villain's rant while he checked any viable hiding spots with liberal applications of acid. ‘Have you figured out I was the one who sabotaged those Sumdac robots? Notice the irony there? Poor little Sumdac probably worked so hard on them, just for them to turn on him and ruin his reputation, I wonder how that feels, hmm?’ He spat out icily.

“He thinks the professor sabotaged the fight?” Bumblebee realised. “But then, if he wasn't trying to kill me...

Who was?”

Meltdown finally came across the shipping crates, the trail of Transformer blood he had been following ending right there, and he wished he still had lips to smirk with. He didn't bother announcing that he found Bumblebee, especially since he had gone to all the trouble to get himself his own coffin, it would be a shame for him to get an opportunity to escape.

Two glaives hit Meltdown in his back, piercing the suit before corroding away, but it was just enough to hurt Meltdown and turn his attention to his new opponent.

‘Bumblebee get out of there! He was following your electrolyte trail!’ Prowl shouted, throwing a few shirukens at Meltdown.

Meltdown, realising he had been distracted, turned back round to the crates and sprayed them as hard as he could, but Bumblebee had just dashed out of them. Prowl grabbed onto Bumblebee, lifted him bridal style and, using his boosters, jumped into the air and into one of the buildings being constructed. The Pterodactyl followed swiftly behind them but Prowl was faster, taking himself and Bumblebee far away from Meltdown and towards somewhere safer.

‘Nemesis, bring that flying fossil back down here!’ Meltdown screeched, unable to catch up with the two Autobots due to his smaller size. ‘NOW DAMN YOU!’

Prowl looked behind him, noting how the Pterodactyl only just disengaged from chasing them to return to Meltdown, and he had been shouting at someone. Turning a corner, near a large area of excavated sand that had been dumped nearby, he came to a stop.

‘He's not controlling them directly.’ Prowl stated, propping Bumblebee up against a pile of sand. ‘Someone else is assisting him from long-range.’

‘Great, now maybe you can figure out exactly how that's... how that's gonna help us.’ Bumblebee mumbled, really starting to feel the effects of his injuries.

‘Let me think.’ Prowl shushed him. ‘If it's being controlled remotely then it must have a primitive radio receiver, if I can lock onto its signal and use my processor over matter...’

‘You... you're not... gonna- not gonna try and think it to death.’ Bumblebee groaned in disbelief, he was losing it fast. ‘Oh Primus, you are aren't you? We're dead.’ He squeaked.

‘I'll think you to death if you don't keep quiet, save your energy.’ Prowl quipped, focussing himself and stretching out with his processor to feel the signal feeding into the Dinobot, searching for the right part to strike.


Optimus, Bulkhead, Longarm and Sari had just entered the construction site to see Meltdown suddenly struggling with the Pterodactyl, as if it suddenly gained a mind of its own, it dropped him into the sandpit and started twisting around in the air before crashing into the ground right in front of Longarm.

Optimus transformed back into robot mode and handed Sari over to him, her key starting to glow again. ‘Disable the last Dinobot.’ He ordered.

‘Yes, sir.’ Longarm's vents stalled, he wasn't looking forward to being hijacked again by the key, but he put his trust into it when Sari slotted it back in. He fired that same strange energy ray into the Pterodactyl, and it suffered the same fate as the rest of its kin, falling down and offline, leaving Meltdown alone against the Autobots.

‘No!’ Meltdown cursed as he watched his last robot deactivate. ‘Curse these dumb machines, curse you aliens! I just wanted to have revenge on the brat who caused me to end up like this!’ He ranted almost pitifully, completely losing his composure. ‘I'LL KILL ALL OF YOU!’ And with that he let all hell loose, not caring where he was shooting just so long as if there was an Autobot there to get hurt.

‘We need to think of something, fast.’ Optimus said, concerned about the damage ‘Longarm, please, I don't understand why you're afraid of using your cannon, but-’

‘H-hey Longarm.’ Bumblebee said through their comms, cutting Optimus off. ‘Lis-Listen, I know you don't... don't wanna hurt... like before. But... Prowl what was that- the thing - the cool line you said before? When we was- ’

‘A good defence is a strong offence?’ Prowl finished. ‘Bumblebee try not to talk till you've been repaired.’

Optimus had the look of understanding on his face, just getting what Bumblebee had been saying in his delirium. ‘There's nobody nearby to get hurt Longarm, it won't hurt for you to miss.’ He encouraged him. ‘Go on, you can do it.’

Nodding his cannon slightly, Longarm decided he was going to do it, he was going to fire his cannon, he trembled almost as much as he did the last time, taking aim at Meltdown, he fired.

He missed.

When the smoke cleared up and the sand settled back down, Meltdown was almost completely unharmed, but red specs of something were clinging to him now, and he was visibly irrated by them, and couldn't get them off. Longarm scanned it with his sensors, molten silicon and quartz, his shot must have been so hot that it melted the sand around Meltdown. His processor then had a highly corrupted memory thrusted into its tracks, something he had learned on a cheap, malfunctioning datapad he was desperate to learn from, something that reminded him of a very acid resistant material.

‘Glass!’ Longarm said in revelation, ‘Glass is immune to acid!’

He fired again, and again, using his hottest railgun settings, not caring if he missed, in fact every miss could count for a hit. Meltdown struggled to escape what was now quicky becoming his own tomb, one of Longarm's shots even went straight through his chest, and though it quickly reformed, the sand that it melted behind him proved to be the finishing blow.

When Longarm was finished, Meltdown was completely encased in a prison of pure glass, unable to do anything but rage and scream at his enemies until the police arrived to take him away. Longarm drove round to where Bumblebee and Prowl had been hiding, Sari was already there, healing Bumblebee with her key, his chassis reforming and polishing as if nothing had ever happened to him.

Suddenly they heard a screech, the Pterodactyl they had all thought was offline was suddenly back on its pedes, but it made no move to attack them like before, instead taking off into the night before anyone could properly react.

‘That's gonna be a problem isn't it?’ Bumblebee complained.

‘Perhaps.’ Prowl said with some interest with his voice. ‘Whoever was controlling it beforehand has no influence on it now, I disabled the control plug and I.. I thought I sensed a spark in it.’

Optimus, looking rather concerned as he put two and two together, the key, the energy blast and the Cybertronian look the Dinobots now had. ‘Do you think we just-’

‘-made Cybertronian dinosaurs?’ Everyone else finished, dreading what that was going to mean in the future.

‘Alright, that's it!’ Bumblebee snapped, putting a huge pout on his faceplate. ‘I'm tired of dinosaurs, sick of them! I don't want to see or hear about another one of those overgrown lizards ever again!’


The T-rex robot's optics turned back on, shuttering them a few times, it sat up in confusion and looked around its surroundings, not knowing how it got here or why, or even why funny sounds were in its head when it thought about words.

‘Me... Grimlock?’  He said to nobody in particular, oh, he sounded like the funny sounds in his head, so that must have been him talking in his brain while thinking, he must have been very smart to do that.

The Triceratops sat up as well, repeating the actions of Grimlock.

‘Me Grimlock?’ It asked him.

‘NO! Me Grimlock!’ Grimlock scolded him, puffing out his chassis proudly. ‘Me wake first, so me leader!’

‘Ok.’ The Triceratops nodded, not wanting to fight. ‘What me then?’

‘You Slag.’ Grimlock dubbed him. ‘Wasn't there flying Dinobot?’ He asked, looking around in the air. ‘Where is flying Dinobot?! Me Grimlock want to name him too! Me Grimlock want to name all the Dinobots because me Grimlock is leader!’

‘What other Dinobot is there than us?’ Slag wondered, not being able to count any higher than two.

‘Hmm.’ Grimlock thought deeply because it was his job as the leader and as the smartest to do all the thinking. He noticed the Autobot logo on his and Slag's front. ‘Every robot who has shiny red face on him is Dinobot!’ He finally declared triumphantly.

They left the park in search of their brother, and more "Dinobots".


Dozens of clicks away and several leagues below sea level, Ratchet was finishing the repairs to a very secluded part of the ship, neither bridge, powercore, or engines, but twenty times more important than all those rooms combined. In this chamber sat a huge swirling ball of energy locked safely behind a number of shields and panels of glass, though despite its size it was very weak, as if the slightest tremor could wipe it out.

‘How's that Omega, feeling any better?’ Ratchet asked out loud to the ship, looking towards the ball of energy contained at the other end of the room.

If he was expecting a response, there wasn't one.

‘Same old, same old.’ Ratchet grumbled to himself. ‘But at least you're still online, that's what matters.’

He closed up the panels and gathered the tools and materials back into his subspace, before leaving the secret chamber and returning to the more commonly accessed areas of the ship. He noted how everything looked much better since the last time he was down here and made some scans with his medical equipment, marvelling at how very little issues came back. Longarm had successfully repaired the pumps and most of the powerlines to the critical areas of the ship during his exile, and here Ratchet was, thinking that all he'd been doing was moping and playing video games.

‘That kid took good care of you, huh.’ Ratchet said out loud again, still getting no reply. ‘Could have probably fixed a few dozen bridges earlier and prevented this whole mess if I let him outside like he wanted to.’ He paused for thought. ‘But then we'd've never found out he was a warbuild...’

It was hard for him to advocate the suffering of one of his patients for the recovery of another, but it was true, Longarm had no idea how close he came to having a lethal spark attack if he continued pretending he was a constructobot. The Longarm then compared to the one now, you would have barely thought they were the same bot! But Ratchet still was worried about him (though he would never, in a million stellar-cycles admit it).


When they get back to Cybertron (if they could get back to Cybertron) what would happen to him? He'd have to tell his superiors that he was a warbuild, there was no way they could hide it, that cannon wasn't going back into his subspace without a fight. Then what? Longarm would be court martialed for draft dodging then either be forced onto the frontlines or into the stockades.

It was the right thing to do as an Autobot, but the worst thing to do as Longarm's doctor.

It hurt his aging processor to think about it, so he put it on the backburner and walked back into his repair bay to make one last diagnostic on the ship, before seeing what all that fuss about Dinobots was on the surface. He picked up a few of his datapads and went over to his station, but then he made a double-take, going back to his stash of pads, he counted them once, then twice to make sure it wasn’t his memory failing.

He was missing a few of his pads on coding.

Walking back over to his station he brought up the map of the ship and pinged for his missing pads, they showed up almost instantaneously.

In Longarm's room.



Chapter Text



There was a lot of issues to take in following the aftermath of the Dinobot incident, the most pressing was that the Dinobots themselves were still online, and if Prowl's intuition was right, now possessed processors of their own.



The most concerning however, was that Meltdown wasn't alone in his endeavour, someone else was out to kill Bumblebee, and nobody knew if they were going to strike again.



‘I happened to catch a name during the fight.’ Prowl said to Captain Fanzone while they watched Meltdown be dragged away into a special containment vehicle, courtesy of Sumdac Systems. ‘It didn't sound like a usual human name though, is "Nemesis" anyone you're familiar with?’



‘Hmm.’ Fanzone thought with a frown on his face, rubbing his chin. ‘Welp, it's a codename, but it's a clue, I'll ask around the detectives' department, see if they heard of anyone going by this Nemesis ID, but unless Meltdown spills the beans we're not gonna have a better idea anytime soon. Could be anyone, someone hired to handle the techno side of tonight's party, a hitman, someone with grudge, I really shouldn't be jumping to conclusions, but this Nemesis fella may even be involved with a crime boss.’



‘But why would anyone want to offline Bumblebee?’ Optimus said in bewilderment ‘It can't be a Decepticon, can it? They wouldn't leave their dirty work to a human, wouldn't need to either, now that I think about it.’ He added on the end, remembering how formidable Starscream was, even after he lost one of his null rays.



Fanzone nodded slightly. ‘That's why I'm thinking crime boss, Yellow's been helpful with cleaning up a lot of the crime in the city, if there was a big man in charge of it, he'd want him gone for sure.’



‘Hey, what if it it's Starscream?’ Bulkhead wondered aloud. ‘What if we haven't seen him because he's made some super secret hideout a-and is using humans to attack us because he's trying to be clever, or something?’



All he received in reply were odd stares.



‘Well, till we get another clue, you bots try and be careful ok? Keep an eye out for trouble and call us if you need help.’ Fanzone said, walking back over to his car.



Optimus winced. ‘I'd rather have my optics inside my helm, thank you, captain.’



‘IT'S A FIGURE OF SPEECH!’ Fanzone yelled behind him, he grumbled something else about machines, then entered his car, and drove off.



With Meltdown dealt with, the Dinobots still missing and all other loose ends tied for the moment, the Autobots headed for home, figuring the best course of action for the moment would be to observe media and police reports until something new developed. But while the others were discussing what to do next, Longarm worried himself over tonight's revelations, who would want Bumblebee dead? Why would anyone want Bee dead? What could he have possibly done to warrant this treatment with mutants and Dinobots?



҉͜͠ B҉̶͞e̢̕̕͠f̵̨͞#̴͝r҉̴e̸͏ ̵̢͜͢h̶̷̨e̷̵͘͝ ̸̶f̷̵̡i̶ņ̴҉̵#̢͢s҉͏ ̨̕҉͏ǫ͘͞u̢t͘͜͟ ̴͜͡#̵͡#͝҉ ̸̧͟҉w҉̷a̢̛͞s͏͘̕͢͢ ̷#̸͡͏̴̡e̷̵̴͢



Longarm stopped, shaking his helm to dispel the corrupted memory that had found its way into his processor, but it continued.



H̸̢͖͙͚̲͖̞̍̐̎̽ͣͧ͋̅́͢#ͯ̿ͬ̌̑̈͒ͣ́͋ͧ̑̿̈́̏͌ͣ͊̃͠͏̼͇͈̞̙͉͔̥̬̙͞V̢̬̦̼̰ͬͨ̐̒̕͟Ę̛̩̪̰͚̺͕̤̟̞̺̮̀̔̓͆ͯ́ͯͮ̉̋͠ ͣ̌̈́ͨ̽̌̅ͫ̇͆҉̴̞̳̜͓T̢͓̬̳͔̠̭̼̩͕ͥͥ͆̄ͬͬ͂ͯ͑͑̅ͯ̿ͪͤ̂̏͜͠͞Ơ̵̴̴̦͎͓̖͔͆̍̀̍̓ͮ͡ ̩̼̘̙̘͉̞̰͙̖̳̱͎̩̓̿̒̃̒ͯ̓̂͋͗ͥ̉̊̌ͦ̚͜͢ͅK̵̡̝̭̫̳̳̰̰̼̝̼͓̺̬͔̳͎̪̃̏͂ͥ͋̾̍̚ͅ#̷̷̡̝͖̥͙͕̠̔̽͂̍͒̔ͣ́ͪ̅̓̓ͥ̀͊̿͆̅̀͟͡ͅ#̉ͮ̅͑̈ͫ̇҉̨̮̠͖̝͙̙̳͘ͅL̨ͯͣ͐ͩ̐̓ͤͨ̉̚͏͇̫̜̹͕̳̫̯̠͓͇͍̱̼̠̱̮͜͠ͅ ̸̛͓̬̣̪̟̮ͫ̈̋͒ͮͪ͂̾͒ͯͯͧ̒ͥͪ͗̓̚H̢̛̙̹̳̹͇̯̥̟͇̱̲̟̞̞͓̰ͯ̑̊̆̈͌͒̍̀͊ͭͪ̇̈́ͧ̏͆ͥ̄͜͡͠I̢̛̠͖̼̳͔̳̳̖̟̻̬̲͈̊ͬ̑̈́͜͡M̸̷̘͔̩͇͕̹̰ͮͬͤ̆̕



‘Something wrong, Longarm?’ Prowl asked, noticing that Longarm had stopped, gripping his chestplate in pain.



‘Sorry, I had a bad memory access.’ Longarm replied, before lowering his servos and continuing onwards. ‘It's gone now.’



‘What was it about?’ Prowl asked curiously.



‘I don't know.’ Longarm answered truthfully. ‘It hurt to remember.’




‘Alright team, until the Dinobots are found, we have a new system in place.’ Optimus addressed to the team, revealing a new light on the base's security station that Ratchet set up for him. ‘We've rerouted the human's "Decepticon sighting" helpline to filter through our security system, when anyone calls it, this warning light will engage, and it will show where the call came from on our map.



This means that the security station has to be manned at all times, including normal recharge hours, we'll take turns starting with myself. Any questions?’



‘No, sir – no – nope.’ Was everyone else's content replies, except for Prowl.



‘Do you think it's wise, defining the Dinobots as Decepticons?’ He asked warily, concerned for their future welfare. ‘If they have sparks now, then the next solar-cycle of how they're treated would mean-’



‘That we have to find them as swiftly as possible to make sure they aren't.’ Optimus finished for him, sharing some of his sympathy. ‘We just have to hope we find them in time, before anyone malicious does.’ Prowl still seemed doubtful, but satisfied enough with the answer that Optimus decided to dismiss everyone. ‘Alright, head to recharge everyone, and Ratchet, would you be willing to cover the security station in two megacycles?’



‘I suppose.’ Ratchet agreed grouchily, he waited a moment for the younger bots to start leaving for their rooms before moving closer to Optimus. ‘But I need to have a talk with you, in private.’ He murmured, darting his optics to see if the others were still leaving.



They both made sure they couldn’t be overheard before beginning. ‘What is it about, Ratchet?’ Optimus asked.



‘Longarm's been accessing my datapads on coding, without my permission.’ Ratchet stated matter-of-factly, frowning in deep unease. ‘I noticed two were missing and found them in his room, I checked the others and found that, during the time he was confined to the ship, he'd been accessing them on a regular basis. He's up to something, Optimus.’



Optimus tensed, that was highly suspicious to say the least, but then he calmed a bit when he remembered an important moment from just after Longarm's exile. ‘He was trying to learn how to remove his cannon, I told him to ask you to help him but if he's been doing it without you... and ever since he shot Bumblebee he's been...’ Optimus trailed off, a worrying theory crossing his processor. ‘You don't think he's thinking of having it permanently removed, is he? Is that healthy for him?’



Ratchet scowled. ‘Ugh, I knew that restraining order stunt only made things worse, he needed proper training and now look where he is, a mess.’ He hissed as quiet as he could, though his whole frame began to vibrate with energy, preparing for another rant. ‘And he's been scratching at his spark again recently, if I find that glitch's been avoiding exercise as well I'll-’



Optimus held up his servos defensively the moment Ratchet's voice started to get louder. ‘Keep it calm, Ratchet.’ He implored, but he was being hypocritical, as he was getting agitated over the situation as well. ‘But what should we do? I don't know how to deal with this Ratchet, there's just so much I don't know about him, I don't want to make it worse than it is.’



A shadow slowly crept up around the corner.



Ratchet vented heavily, crossing his arms. ‘I'm no psychiatrist, but to me it sounds like cowardice and fear, if he's really planning on removing his cannon, it means he's afraid of himself, because of that he's afraid of making mistakes and injuring others.’ Ratchet theorised, and the shadow tensed slightly. ‘That's why he's skimping on exercise, stealing my datapads and not using a quarter of the force he's capable of.



Longarm has to accept who he is now if he has a chance of becoming a proactive member of the team, I suggest you give him one on one training, but it could take a few orbital-cycles for us to see progress, these things don't fix themselves, it takes time.’



Optimus made a series of expression and gestures that died on arrival before finally settling into exasperation. ‘W-which we can't afford in this situation! We're lucky Starscream hadn't brought a squadron with him when he attacked, but if he could find us then who else will? We're completely cut off from Cybertron, we haven't scrounged up half of the materials that we need to repair the ship for space flight or even communications, most of what we need doesn't even exist on this rock!



I-I can't train him Ratchet, I need to focus on getting us supplies and I'm barely keeping control of the team as it is, I just can't do it.’ Optimus sagged his shoulderplates in defeat and cradled his helm in one servo.



‘Easy there, Prime, easy.’ Ratchet came closer to still him, getting Optimus to stand straight again. ‘Yes, we're going to be here a very long time, at least two or three more orbital-cycles to get the ship airborne at minimum, but Longarm has to be prepared to know what force to use and when, we all do. Pacifism is a luxury none of us will have when the next Decepticon shows up, if you can't teach him, then what chance does he have?’



The owner of the shadow fled the scene as silently as he could.



Optimus felt a small surge of guilt run through his circuits. ‘Is it right of us to do this to him? Making him learn how to fight, we don't know for sure if he was avoiding- you know, before he lost his memory, but still, it feels wrong.’



‘Do you also think it's wrong making a racer learn the rules of the road? Or a flyer to use his thrusters, you rusted motherboard!? There's a difference between forcing a bot to go against their ethics, and forcing them to be able to maintain their own miserable runtimes!’ Ratchet snapped then angrily walked away from Optimus and stared up at nothing in particular on the other side of the base.



The shadow had paused his retreat, upon hearing their conversation take an unexpected turn.



Ratchet, recalling old memories, with a softer and solemn voice he spoke again. ‘There was a phrase that went around the Autobot army, literally everywhere you went you would hear it, "If you can't stand up and protect what you care about, you don't deserve it".



‘I never liked it.’ Ratchet complained. ‘Too absolute, and it's the worst thing to say to a bot who just lost his stabilisers.’ He grimaced, turning back towards Optimus. ‘But it was true, in a way, if all of us were afraid and ran off instead of standing against the Decepticons, then...’ Ratchet closed his optics and didn't speak any further on that subject. ‘That's why if we truly care about keeping the Allspark out of harm's way, we all have to do our bit to protect it.’



Optimus softened up completely after Ratchet's story and speech, his faceplate bearing a thin line of empathy. ‘You must have seen quite a lot back in the wars, you know if you ever needed to talk about it-’



‘No, I don't want to talk about it.’ Was the only thing Ratchet would say further on the subject, he thumbed a digit over the big scar on his arm, where part of his plating had been ripped off. ‘I would head off to recharge, but I think you need it more than I do, want me to cover the watch now?’



Optimus confidently shook his head. ‘You need it just as much, Ratchet.’




When he was back in the safety of his room, Longarm conked his helm against the nearest wall and turned his ventilation system back online, not bothering to turn on the light to his room just yet. Painful surges pulsed out of his spark, and he supposed they were what he deserved for eavesdropping on Optimus and Ratchet like that, but he didn't mean to do it, he just wanted to ask Optimus if he could skip tomorrow's early morning patrol, so he could go back down to the ship and retrieve his datapads.



And yet he got his answer, Ratchet had somehow found out his secret project and, just as he had always suspected, was completely against it, it was only a matter of time until he was properly confronted over it, and punished.



Longarm bashed his helm against the wall and slipped his digits down it into clenched fists, that rusted old medic didn't understand! He was so close to cracking the code and getting rid of his cannon for good, that was what everyone else wanted, that's what he wanted! Tonight's events had changed nothing! He let his chaos loving combat coding get the better of himself again, the others may have seen his excessive barrage as a moment of ingenuity but his memories recalled it exactly for how it was, it almost overheated his cannon and made a complete mess of that construction site.



He couldn't let himself lose control like that ever again.



There was a soft knocking at Longarm's door, distracting him from his downward spiral of negative processes. ‘You ok in there, Longarm?’ Bumblebee's quiet voice drifted through the door. ‘You were hitting the wall.’



Longarm focused to see not one, but a big series of dents and scratches littering the wall, panicking, he flinched away from it and towards the door, opening it. ‘S-sorry Bumblebee, I must have had a bad memory flux, I'm fine now.’ He stammered out apologetically.



Bumblebee peered up at him sleepily. ‘You sure? Your optics are all leaky.’



Longarm curiously wiped at under his optics with the back of his servo, sure enough, he had washer fluid all over his faceplate. ‘I- oh, so I do.’ He stuttered.



‘Come on big guy, let's get you cleaned up.’ Bumblebee sighed, he tugged Longarm through his room and all the way to his berth in the corner, taking a washcloth out of his subspace, he wiped Longarm's faceplate dry.



‘Bumblebee it's fine.’ Longarm mumbled, moving his faceplate around to try (and fail) at getting away from Bumblebee's caring servos. ‘Sorry for booting you up.’



‘Eh, I was still up, Bulkhead's vents got clogged again.’ Bumblebee shrugged and, just faintly, the sound of air passing through a vent the wrong way could be heard through the walls. ‘There you go, all done.’ He said with a smile, subspacing his washcloth.



Just as Longarm was going to thank Bumblebee for drying his faceplate and see him out, he found himself pushed up against the wall, Bumblebee had hopped onto his berth and made himself comfortable. ‘Wait, what are you doing?’ Longarm asked in confusion.



‘Back home, whenever anyone had a bad flux, we solved it by recharging together, that way it doesn't come back.’ Bumblebee explained as if it was the most normal thing in the universe.



Longarm, however, was rather apprehensive about his explanation, he was absolutely sure this wasn't common practice, especially for a fully matured bot, but perhaps it was an obscure minibot thing, he reasoned. ‘I don't think this is going to work...’ He commented, over the less than ideal space on the berth.



But Bumblebee didn't agree with him, instead tucking himself neatly alongside Longarm before powering down for the night in the blink of an optic. Longarm couldn't really do anything but lie there awkwardly for a few moments, he felt a bit guilty for pretending his outburst had nothing to do with what he overheard from Optimus and Ratchet an-



It was hard to think about it, not when Bumblebee was there clinging to him, softly recharging and silently inviting him to do the same, perhaps there was some logic to his strange technique after all. Even the uncomfortable twitches of Longarm's spark died down, seeing his friend curled up beside him, without a care in the universe, not worrying about what would happen the next solar-cycle or his future.



“I suppose I can wait till another cycle to worry about it” He thought before powering down, subconsciously moving his arms around Bumblebee.







I͞n ̢his ̧cram͟p͞ed͢, ͝d͠#̕҉͟͏nk apa̶r͝t̸m͏en͘t in ̵҉̢̕#̢̢̛̛a̸҉̶o̷̶̴̧̕#̵̧͠͏҉ L̛o͜n͜gar̴m ļo̷oked at hi̢m#̕҉͟͏e̢l̕f i͘n ̶h̵i͞s br̢#ken m҉ir̕r̨o̢r ̛after̨ ̶h̕e ͠f͡in͢#̕҉͟͏#͟͟l̕# ̷ m̴͜͞#̸̕#͏̧͘͠#̵͟͢#̕͟#҉̢̕#̸̧̛̕͜ḑ͢͞ ̛̕͟s̴̴̨h̷̢͘#̴͘͡#̛#̸͡͠s̛͝͠h̡͞#f̵̷͢͡t̷͘͟͢͡i̡̧͘#҉̸#̢̢ ͡͏ţ̷̷͜#̸͏̷̢̕ ̡̕͠a̶̢ ̶#͟#̴̡#͘͟#̵̵̕͡#̶̷̢̕̕#̷͡͏#̷̷̛͜͡ ͘͏#̵̕͝#̕҉͟͏#͟͟m͟,̨͘͏͘ ̴̧̛̛̕, ͟what stared back was̢n̨'̨t ̵m͞onst̕#͜ou̸s̵,͠ ̵w̡#̷̷̛͜͡s̛n͡'t͟ ̴s͜om̷ethi̴҉͟͏#̸ t͠o ̢f͡ea͢r͢, he looked... "odd" at best, slightly stockier and over-armoured than th͏e us͠u͟a̵l̛ civ#̶̷̢̕̕#̷̷̛͜͡a̢#͏ a͞nd ͜h͢#s ̵#̕## o̷n͏ hi͢s͜ f͟#̷r#̶hel͢m loo͟k̸ed̸ ͘es̷p̴ec#̶̷̢̕̕#̷͡͏#̷̷̛͜͡ly ̛unus#̷͡al but̶ ̨h͢e̶ cou̶ld ea͞#̶̷̢̕̕#̷͡l͡y̛ ̢b̨e m͢i͢s̕t͜ak͞eņ for one #f those constructobots sent on hazardous projects.



He placed both servos on the mirror and was so enchanted with just looking at himself, like he just had his final molt and was seeing himself for the first time, h̴e̸ ̕had҉ ̨sp̸ent ̸s͝o l͟ l̵̕̕̕ơ͏̴#͜͏͝#̛ ̵͠#͏#̧̛͜͠#͏̸̴#̨͘͝͝#̸̴̨i҉̵͜n̶̸g̵ ̷̡̧͟͠h̛̛͘͏i̶s̸͘͝͠҉ ̴̕͠l̕͢͟#͜͏o̵̧#̴͢ ͝҉̶a̢̛͝n̶͏͞d̨̧̨͘ ͘҉#҉̴̡̕#͏͠#̷͢#̶̨͜͞#͢҉͢#̴̨͜#҉̧͘#̶̢͟͜#̵͘͝ ͟҉̧#͢͏͝͏#̶̷͟#̷̨#̨͠͝#̶̵̨#̢̡͝͞#̡̛ ̶̨͝͝#҉̨#̸̢͜͝#͡͏#̸̛͘͢#̡͜͏#̶̨͟͡. H͟e͜͟ ̨͜ ̕ŗ̴̨o͠l҉lę͘d̛ his optics around, opened and closed his servos and moved his helm from side t̨o҉ side a͠s̕ he͟ ̴#͏̛͘͡#̸͘#̛͟͝͞͡#̵̛͝#̷̢#̷̡̛#̴͜͢ ̸͟#̢̧҉̴#͘#͘͢͝ ̛̕҉̧̢#͞҉̴̡#̴̴̵#҉̴ ̷̶̨̛#̨͏#̢̨̧w̶̛̛͠ ̨̧#͜#͜͟͜͝#̴#̸̧#̨҉̷͞#̶̛#̨#̸̸͡.̶͜͠



Nǫt e͡ven ̧#̷̡̕#̢̨͞͡#҉̧͟͝#̷̨̢̛͠#̷#̷̢̛#̡#̢͝#̨#͘̕͟҉#̴̵̡͝#̶̡͢͜#͏̸#̷̡̡̕#̷̷̢#̧҉̨̢͝#̷҉#̵#̶̴͠ ̷̵̧͞w̶ould have known he was a #̧҉̨̢͝#̷#̷҉#̵#̶̴͠ild.



His spark simmered with all manners of questions, was he҉ ̨th̨e ̕f̴i͡rs͡t w͏̵#̶̧͝#̨̡̧͜#̵̢̡͞#̷͘͜͝͝#̷̕͠#̴͏̧d ̵̴̨͘t̶̨#̛͞ ͏͘#͘#̨̛͘͢͏#̢͘͜#̷̧#҉̷̡̛͘#͝͏#̡̕͘͜#̶̡͜͟#̸̛#҉̵̧̕͡#͟?̢͟͠͠ ̡̛̛͞D̶id ̸ any other b͞ot d̛# t̨h̕is before him? Was h̸e҉ ̕bre#̷͘͜͝͝k͝ing new grounds?



Finally, he could join͠ ̡t̡h͞#̕͡͡͡͝ ̧͟#̷͜͡͠#̵̵͞#̡͜҉̡͝#̴̴̸͞#͞͠͏͟#͘̕#͜͜ A̧ca̡de͢my! He 'd prove every single one of͟ ͘th̡em w̨r͞ong, t̴h̸̨̛o͞͡s͡͞͞ę̨ ̴̸̛͡͠#̧͢#͏̨͜͟#͢#͟ ̴̸̧#̧̢̢#҉̷͟͝#̶̛͠#͏̷͟#̵͢͟#̴̨̧#̕͏͜#͘͞҉̷͘#̢͞͏͘͟s̸̛͡ ̸͟͠͡w̛͠h҉͠o ҉thou͏gh͝t ̶al͢l h̡e ̵w̡as ͘good̵ ̧f͜or ̷w̕a͘s ͠#̕͏͜#͘͞҉̷͘r, he knew it in his spark, that was beneath him, all of them were beneath him, he had talent, he had a higher calling and he wouldn't let a false̢, pr̵edetermi̧n̶ed ̵f͘a̡te take that away from him.



Now he finally had the m̶̷e҉͟a͏̶͜n̨̛s҉ ͝t͝o͜ ̨̧g͏̢r̷̴#͘sp ̧ #̵̢͜͜#̵̴#̸͢͏#̶͟#̵̕̕͟#͡#̶̶͜͢͠#̴̢̕̕͜ ͘i̴̕͡n͟ h̵͜i̴͞s̕͡ ̴s̢͡ȩ̷͟r͏v̵̧o̸͘s, he would make a difference.




Longarm booted from his recharge to find he was alone, save for his pocketbot, which had moved to recharge on his chestplate at one point in the night-cycle, and an empty feeling in his whole motherboard, he sat up and held a servo up to his Autobot emblem, accidentally nudging his pet online. It peeped a little good morning jingle at him, climbed onto the back of his servo and tucked its pedes under itself again waiting patiently for him to get up, but he stayed still, contemplating the memory bubbling away in his memory banks.



What did it mean "he could be mistaken for a constructobot"? He had always been one...



Hadn't he?







‘So you two finally got together, huh?’ Bulkhead congratulated with a wink and two nudges.



Bumblebee spat the petrol he had been drinking back into his glass, looking at Bulkhead with a look of confused horror. ‘WHAT? NO!’



Bulkhead wasn't convinced in the slightest, optical shutters lowering in smug suspicion. ‘So then, what's the reason why you came out his room this morning? You trip, fall and land on his berth totally by accident?’



Bumblebee simmered in his own embarrassment but didn't give him the satisfaction of an answer, with a ‘hmph!’ he turned away from Bulkhead to finish his bitter fuel in peace.



‘I don't get it Bumblebee, you were going to tell him how you felt like...’ Bulkhead paused to count the maths on his claws. ‘Like four orbital-cycles ago! And you took him to that movie I watched on my own because you didn't want to come with, is there something I'm not getting here? What's the problem?’



‘I dunno, it's just...’ Bumblebee mumbled, nursing his fuel reluctantly. ‘He... he's not like how he used to be Bulkhead.’ He finally explained, turning back to Bulkhead.



‘He's getting better.’ Bulkhead countered optimistically, one claw pointed up.



Bumblebee vented and would have slammed his servos down if they weren't carrying fuel. ‘That's the problem! Before he never payed that much attention to me o-or anyone, and never enjoyed anything or had fun, now he's happy and laughs and wh-what if he gets his memory back and goes back to being the old him? Old Longarm wouldn't have even gone out on a date, I'd've had better luck taking Ratchet out!’ Bumblebee admitted in a flood of fearful feelings. ‘Or- or what if old Longarm didn't like me at all, and only likes me now because he can't remember it?’



Bulkhead's optics went wide with the revelation. ‘Ooooooh, I never thought about it like that.’ He said, taking a long sip from his straw. ‘But that's silly, he's not gonna change suddenly because he remembers you made him do a lot of transform ups in camp an- actually never mind, I just remembered the whole "you kinda caused him not to be an Intel officer" thing.’



Bumblebee's spark wanted to break its ties with the mortal plane.



‘Ok, bad example!’ Bulkhead admitted shamefacedly. ‘But still, he's not gonna change suddenly, because no matter how many old memories he has, he's not gonna suddenly forget all the new ones, if you give him enough of them then maybe he won't be such a stiff?’



Bumblebee made a neutral noise and readjusted himself on the couch. ‘I dunno...’



Longarm entered the room and Bulkhead leant down to whisper into Bee's audial while he was staring wistfully at him. ‘Go on Bumblebee, if you don't try then all you're scared about's just gonna happen anyway and you'll still feel bad, so why not?’




Longarm entered the main area of the base to see Bulkhead and Bumblebee taking their morning fuel and gossiping, he would have gone over to join them if he didn't spot Optimus busy talking away at the communication monitor, a familiar military officer on its screen.



‘Oh, Longarm.’ Optimus greeted, noticing he entered the room. ‘Come over here would you?’ He waited for Longarm to hesitantly tread over to join him at the monitor. ‘I've just been talking with your old friends at the military base, they've agreed to bring over a specialist to help you improve your aim, but only if you're prepared to do a full week's training followed by three sessions a week. It's a big responsibility, Longarm.’



The officer on the other side of the monitor gave Longarm a polite, formal wave. ‘The boys all miss you Longarm, it would be great to have you back training with us.’



Longarm wasn't immediately jumping on board with the proposition, he knew it was Optimus' attempt at following Ratchet's advice from last night, he probably thought treating his fear of collateral damage with target practice would solve most of it. But it wasn't like Longarm could rebuke him saying it was his coding and his need to return to his old self that was the real problem, that would have given away that he snuck up on them last night. He didn't have much time to come up with a proper excuse, but he had to try anyway.



‘It would be nice to go back.’ Longarm admitted politely. ‘But what if I damage something at the base?’



The officer wasn't convinced in the slightest, practically laughing it off. ‘Boy, nobody ever learning to shoot straight always hit his target, and you'd have to be the most jinxed robot in the world to cause some real damage on a shooting range with blanks. I have to go now, but think it over, if you want to give it a try we're always here, over and out.’ And with that he ended the call.



‘That was the dumbest excuse I've ever had the misfortune of hearing.’ Came Ratchet's irate voice from behind Longarm, he turned round and started to stutter an excuse but Ratchet held up a servo to stop him. ‘Save it kid, nobody's going to force you to go if you don't want, but for spark's sake, at least give us a real reason why.’



Longarm wanted to argue back but that look in Ratchet's optics said everything, he'd crush the slightest hint of rebellion with the force of a thousand suns. ‘S-sorry, sir.’ He apologised, helm held low in defeat. ‘I don't think I can face them again, that's why.’



‘Try to let it go, Longarm.’ Optimus said peacefully. ‘The Starscream incident is all in the past now, and you've been doing good the last few solar-cycles, this is just one way to help you settle down better. Now go have some fuel, your patrol with Bumblebee is starting soon, you wouldn't want to do that with an empty tank, would you?’



Longarm shook his head. ‘No, sir, thank you, sir.’



He walked over to the makeshift fuelling station and poured himself a glass of petrol, he personally didn't like the taste of the stuff at all, but oil and Energon were luxuries they didn't have at the moment, so he chugged it down before the bitterness got to his sensors. Under his chassis he was fuming, sorely wishing he never overheard the conversation last night, but what else could he do? He would still have to had avoided telling them the real reason wh-



‘What was all that about?’ Bumblebee asked casually, walking up to put his finished glass away.



‘Ratchet and Optimus want me to go through military training.’ Longarm replied curtly, taking his empty glass to follow Bumblebee's.



Bumblebee grinned at him. ‘What's so bad about that? You think that grouchy general guy is- hey!’ Bumblebee watched in Longarm suddenly storm off to the entrance of the base and transform. ‘What did I say?’



‘Nothing.’ Longarm hissed as passively as he could. ‘Let's go, Bumblebee.’







‘Dinobots sighted on the M20, heading westbound towards-’



‘They've moved off the junction onto the R267’



‘Lorry overturned on R267, Dinobots apparently eating its cargo.’



‘Dinobots seen – Dinobots sighted at – Dinobots-’












That morning had been less of a patrol and more of a "wild goose chase" as Fanzone had put it.



The Decepticon sighting hotline had been on fire with calls, eventually sending the whole team driving all across the city, but by the time they had moved halfway the area of the sighting they got another call saying the Dinobots had moved on to another target. The trails had somewhat of a consistent path, most were close to the last sighting, but multiple times anonymous came in with completely illogical patterns, all those prank calls did was upset the group from finding the prehistoric replicas. In the end, they didn't even catch a glimpse of the Dinobots, those things were slow on the roads, but they were very skittish and quick to go offroad once they started hearing sirens, so the Autobots had returned to base empty servoed and in bleak spirits.



‘Ugh, my aching tiresss.’ Bulkhead moaned, collapsing on the floor and refusing to move till he had some more charge in his power supply. ‘Boot me up in 5 stellar-cycles.’



‘What a waste of time.’ Ratchet grumbled, watching the team drag themselves back into base.



‘Not exactly.’ Prowl disputed, walking up towards the security station and looking at the map. ‘If we disregard the false sightings, there's a lot we've learned about the Dinobots.’



‘And that would be?’ Ratchet sassed with one optical ridge raised.



Prowl pointed to all the sighting points on the map. ‘They're hiding somewhere on the south western outskirts of the city, where there's more trees and fewer points of civilisation, see how they've not come into the city proper?’ He pointed towards the city limits, where there were barely any points. ‘There must be something in the city, perhaps the noise or smell that is deterring them. Lastly there's been no human casualties, the Dinobots have only attacked human food supplies, they're not purposely looking for trouble, but they are hungry.’



Longarm looked at a particular outlying point on the map and lifted a digit towards it in interest. ‘That's the drive-in theatre, what did the caller say the Dinobots did there?’



Optimus checked the logs. ‘Dinosaur movie has attracted Dinobots, please help, they're barking at the screen and eating the entire popcorn stand.’ His audial fins twitched in wonderment. ‘Barking at the screen? Were they trying to communicate with the dinosaurs in the film?’



‘Very likely.’ Prowl agreed. ‘You see, Ratchet? We've learned a lot, they're running on instinctual programming, like stray Insecticons, seeking out fuel, avoiding crowded habitats and perhaps even trying to find more of their kind. At the very minimum we can set a trap for them on the western outskirts of the city, ask Fanzone if he can get a significant quantity of human fuel to lure them out.’



‘Do I look like your personal secretary!?’ Ratchet yelled, crossing his arms.



‘No, you look like someone who wants to solve this problem as soon as possible.’ Prowl sent back with the smallest hint of smugness.



‘Oooh, the ninjabot gets in a good one!’ Bulkhead cheered from his spot on the floor, raising one servo up for the high five he would never get.



Optimus vented some overly hot steam, not liking that all this detective work had just been a jab at Ratchet. ‘I'm going out for the night patrol now, I expect all of you to get along and behave.’ He reprimanded before leaving. ‘Come along, Bumblebee.’



‘(Great, he's turning into doc bot).’ Bumblebee complained under his own vents, before following after Optimus.



Everyone seemed to be in a sour mood, Longarm included, now would have been a perfect time for him to do more of his coding project but he couldn't now with Ratchet being aware of it, and no doubt waiting for the perfect moment to discipline him. And it wasn't like he could sit back and unwind either, prospective punishment loomed overhead, and so much had been happening today and yester-cycle that he was worried about, yet he had no moment to stop and think about i-



‘Longarm?’ Prowl asked, coming towards him.



‘Y-yes, what is it?’ Longarm replied as coolly as he could, though internally he was screaming, his maintenance systems warning of increased pressure in his powerlines.



‘You've been tense this whole solar-cycle, like you have a lot of thoughts on your processor, would you like to meditate with me?’



Longarm silently cursed how observant Prowl was but digressed, meditation just might be the thing to get the stressful backlog off his processor. ‘Yes, thank you.’



He followed Prowl into his room and found himself perplexed to how it was furnished, there was no berth or worldly possessions, only a tree, which had broken through the walls, letting the orange light of evening stream in. He made no comment, they had been here on Earth for almost half its stellar-cycle now, if Prowl left his room in this condition, it had to be because he liked it this way. Once again he sat down with Prowl and mimicked his sitting position to the best of his ability, remembering the basics he learnt before, keep his core temperature low, empty his processor of all thought.



He just had to let go of it all, bit by bit, as he got rid of all his thoughts a small calm wafted over him, the burdens that had been weighing him down lifted away, at least for the moment, but the vaccumn it left did more than just clear his mind. Processes that refused to shut down nagged him about how irrational he had been this solar-cycle, he shouldn't have snapped at Bumblebee that morning, or even made those dumb excuses towards Optimus and Ratchet, it-



He felt-



He̷'͘d͜ be̛e͠n͘ ̛s̵uch ͞a fool͝.̶



He pounded again and again on his already damaged mirror with his servos, even with his helm, until it was nothing but powdered dust. When it was no more he turned on the other sparse objects that littered his miserable a̸partm͟ent,͢ hi͡s̶ pre͏ci̕ou͏s ͡da̴tap҉ad͡s͡,̵ ̛t͟he litt̵le v̵a̶s̸e͟ he sa͏v̸e̛d ͠or̛bi҉t͘al-c̴y̢cles͡ w̢o̧r̡th ̵o̶f̕ ̶a̵ll̕o̢wan҉ce ͢t̕o͝ ͝b̵u͝y̸.̷ His chassis screamed for̡ h̷i͢҉͢͡҉͢͡m ͡t͢҉͢͡# lose̡ ̧thȩ ҉#̸#cade he ̕h̡a̸d͢ bu#̴҉͢͡#̛͏͟lt a̶n͟d͠ rȩt̡urn ̕to ̕h͜#̴҉͢͡#̛͏͟ t͝r#҉͢͡#̛͏͟ #̴҉͢͡#̛͏͟rm,͝ bu͟t ̵h͜is p̨ro͝c͞esso͜r͡ se͝lfi͟s͞h̨#̴҉͢͡#̛͏͟ clinge̛d to his ͏f͟al̛se̶ ͟a̶p̡p̧ea̴ranc̴e͡, even if it was just one cycle more, he still wanted to pretend that everything was fine, that he wa͏s̴n҉'͏t̨ ̕a͡ war͜b̵ui̛ld, thąt h͡e̡ ̕wer̷e ͟an ordinary̛ ҉C͝y̴be͜r̷tr͢o̢ni͡an, just̴ likę ev̵e͝ry͘one̡ ̧el͏s͟e͢.



In the end he was surrounded literally and metaphorically in his own ruins.



He was panicking, they would come soon to collect him for the front lines, wouldn't they? He̸ ̡ha̵d n͟owh̷e̵re ̕t̢o҉ g͝o͟,͞ ̕and his̶ d͜re#͏̧#҉̴͟#̵̷̕͘ ̵͡ơ͢f̵̵̵͏̡ ̨҉͏b̛̕͞e҉̛̕͢#̛̛̛n̵̸͞g̸͞ ͏̕ą̶̴̢ ̴̵̨#̶͞҉̧#̢͢#̕͟͡͏̵#̛͜͟͠͠#̷̡͢#̴̕͝#҉#̸̛͜͠ ̵̢҉̶#̸̷̧̧̕#̵̨#̵̕ ̕҉͟͠#̵͜#̴̡#͟͟͢#̴̡͝#̵̴̛#̢͘͘͢#̷̢̕#̴҉͞#͘̕,̛͞ ͝#͏#̶̕͟y̶̴̸̨̕ ̵̨̛͡͝r̶e͜sis͢t̨a̧nce̵ ̨a̛n͡d he ͜w͟ould͜ fi͘nd ̡hi͟mse̛lf in th̡e ̛st̨o̧cka̢des͝.̨ The͘y ͞did̸n̡'͏t ̸care͟ ͜ab͠ou̵t̵ ̕any̧th̛in̕g̶ ̕h͘e ̸had̕ d̸o͡ne̵, ͡ h̸̕͝͡i̕͢s̢̢̛ a̕͠҉̨#̸̡̡#̷̡̨͠#҉̴#̵̴̡͝#̢͘͟҉#͢m̸̡̡̕e͝͠n̴̴̕t͟͞͠s҉̴͝͏̵,̛͘͝ ̷͟͜h͞i̷̧̡̧ş̢ ̶̧͡p͞o̸̧͡҉̸#͘҉͟#̴҉#̧͟͞͡t̕͞i̴͜a̶͟͏̡l̷̛̕͡͝,̧̨̛ ̷̕͘͟͠e̷͟҉v̴̧e̢̡͟͝r̸̶̷y̵͠th̕ing ̢he had me͘ant not͘h̴i̡ng ҉t# t̷h̶em, ͢a̕ll ͏t͡h͝a͟t͝ ̷m̷a̢ttered ͝wa̷s ͜t̸hi̡s̴ b̕la͜st͢ed ̵we̷a̢pon he ̢had ͝bee̡n͏ fo͟r̕ge̷d ̧with͘, ͟o҉h h̡ow̨ ͝h͜e͡ w̨an͟te͏d t͟o ͟ri̡p̨ ̡th̸ę cursed thi͝ng f͜r͝ǫm ͝h̶i͜m̕ ̴f̡o̢r͢e͡v̛e҉r, ͠to̧ d͞el͞eţe̕ ҉it͡ ͜o̡u͡t o͡f ͟his̕ s͘ub̧s͢pac҉e ͠a͜n͞d ͘n̨e̛ve͝r h͟ave įt ̵in ҉h͡i̵s͞ life͟ ̷ag҉ai̕n͏.



‘Have I arrived too late to assist you?’ Asked an unknown bot behind him, his voice smooth, honeyed and orotund.



He looked behind him to see a tal͢l̴ ̨w̛a̵rbuil̡d̛,͝ ģ͡r̸͞#͟͟#̨͏̧ ̸͝w͞į҉͡#̴͏#̵̵̨̢͡ ̶̸ş̛̛͝#̵͟͟l̢̕͞a͞#͟͞͏͜#̷͜͞͠e҉̵s̨̕̕͡ ̷̶͢o̡͟͢͞f̸̵͢ ̶̕b͜#̶#̧͢͠c̶͜k͏̸ ̷̵̨͘͜a̢̧͟͡n̸̡͠҉d҉̶͘ ̷̶̧#͢#̴̛͜#̵̢#҉̡̧̢#̡̛͡#̵͟.̶̛͘͏



Immediately he was against the wall where his mirror once was, his cannon emerging from his subspace and ready to fire, but the stranger simply held his servos out to show h҉e ͜m̶e̴a̶nt͡ ҉no̢ h͠arm. ‘̕W-wh̛-̡wh̛o̷ are y͝ou̧?!’̢ He ͘st̶u͝tt͏e̡r͜ed̕.͘ ̵‘S͘tay ͟b̛ack!̨’



‘̨͜#̷̡̛ ̵̨͟͡a̧͟҉m̡̛ ̷͘M̴͟͟#̷҉̸͞͏#̶̡̛̛͟t̸̛͘͝#̕͡#̵̡̛͡n̢͘͠͠͞,̶̡͟͝ ̴̛a̡̢͞ ̷#̴͢#̢#͢͟#̴̧͢#̴͝͏̨ȩ#̴͝͠a̷̢͘͏n̨͜͝҉t̢͜͝ ̸͢͡a̸͞m̕͟͜ơ͢͜͝͡#̷̡͢#̵̴̸͜#̨̕͟͟͞#̡̛͠ ̨͞͞t̷͢͞͝h̶̵̕͢ȩ̨͢ ̢̛͠#̢̡͟͡͠#̴̨##̡͜͜͟͞p̸̸͝҉͟t͜͜i̶#̷̵͜͠#̡͘n̸̨͘͢#̷̢͝,͢͝ ̶̨̛͟s̢hh̢,̶ ͞it̢'̧s ąl̷righ͘t,͟ I m̷ea͟n ̷y̵ou͞ ̕no͢ h̴a̷rm͏.’̧ The bot soothed when he, though wracked with tremors, still had his cannon aimed him. ‘I am here to help you, if you would come with me I'll show you another way.’



He lowered his cannon, subspacing it again, though he remained suspicious. ‘I'm not going to fight for you, if it's dirty work that you want.’ He spat out warily, he had been a fool once, but never twice.






‘Not in the slightest, I've heard much about you, it would be a complete waste to have you fight, w̶hen̕ th̷er͟e's͜ ͏s̕o mu̧c͜h you c̢an̶ d҉o wiţh̛ t̷his.’̵ ҉̴#̵̴̡͝#̢͘͟ga̧t͞҉̴#̵̴̡͝#̢͘͟n̡ s̢t҉̴#̵̴̡͝#̢͘͟ped fo͝rw̵ard̶s͏, t̨a̕p̵pi̕n͠g ͡h̨#s ͘o͟wn he̷lm ͜f̷or ̧emp̵hąs̸i͘s̛,͏ ̡he ͠ţow̕ęr#̢d ̡ov̕҉̴#̵̴̡͝#̢͘͟ #h#̛͜͟͠͠#̷̡͢#̴̕͝w̷#̴ve͠’s ̢tr#̛m̨b͘l̷i̶n͝g fo̷r̛m, ̷gent̛ly g̵ra҉s̡pi̕ng ̵t̡he͏ s̢id͢e̕s̵ ͝of his helm and pulling him up to the tips of his pedes from the debris covered flaw. ‘We're both pure good Cybertronians, we're not limited to the confines of our function, we think, we create, I myself am a poet, it's terrible that our government doesn't see it that way, but you already know that bit, don't you?



Com͘e̛ w̴i͡th ̸m҉e͟ ̢Sh͘##̕#w#ve̷, I ͢w̢#ll #̧͞#̨̨#̸̡҉#̢̕ ̸̡̡#̷̢͝#̧#̵̢ ̧͢e͞v͏̢ę͟#̶͝͏#̷̶t͜h͏͟͞i҉n̵̶#͢ ̴̸#̴ou҉ ͡͠##̢͘͞#̷͘d̴̷̢, ̨͡e͠͏ve͠r̕͜#̵#͟͡#̸̕͠#̷̛͠n͞g͜҉ ̵͘͠y͡o͡͏͏u͝ ̛d̶͘es̸͘͝#̧#̛#͠͝, ͘͘w̸͘e͏ ̵̷w̧͠i̢#̢͏̵#̷ ͢͝͠c̡̨h̷̸͟an̵̷g͟e ̨th͞e͏ ̷̛sy̷͘s̢t͝e͘̕m̨ ̨͠f̧͢͜o̢r̶͏ ͘t̵h͜e͏ ̴#̧#̷̡͞tt̷͟͝e̢͟r̷̸̢ ͡a̸ņd҉ ̷̴yo̢u҉ w͠oņ'̕͠t̢͟ ̨̛҉o͘͢f̛fl͞͠i̡n͟e҉,̸̡͘ ̨͠ņ͜a̶mele̕s̨̛s̨͘͢ ̵a͘n̶̶̨d̨̢ t̡h̷a̶̕nkļ͜e͡s̵͠s̷ ̛f͝o͢͠r ̷̷̨a̴͝ ca͟u̸͢͞s̨e ͠yo͘u-̷̡̢’̸






Longarm was shaken online by Ratchet, his vison was swimming behind a torrent of optic washer, he stumbled out of Ratchet's grip and haphazardly stood up. His whole frame felt heated, slick with steam and emergency coolant, his spark thrashed around in its casing, silently shrieking for the memory to become clearer, to know his mentor's designation and clear the haze. Prowl was behind Ratchet, his emotional mask broken and a great deal of worry in its place, he didn't want to imagine what he had done if it had broken Prowl out of his own trance.



‘Longarm, are you alright?’ Ratchet asked, both servos on his shoulders. ‘Prowl, fetch my scanner!’ He barked at Prowl, who gave a swift nod and left for the repair bay as fast as he could. ‘Stay with me Longarm, you're in shock.’



‘I-I...’ Longarm faltered, his optics unable to focus on anything and darting all over, he walked backwards till he pressed himself against the wall. ‘I'm a...’ He whispered, staring at his servos just like how he did in his memories. ‘I just- I-’



Ratchet reached forwards, gently taking hold of Longarm's servos. ‘Stay with me kid, you're alright, you're with us, take deep vents.’



‘Have to- have- havetogo!’



‘LONGARM NO!’ Ratchet shouted, attempting to grab him.



But in his panicked state, Longarm shoved Ratchet off him and punched him square in the faceplate, cracking an optic. Slipping past Ratchet, he ran out of the base via the hole in Prowl's wall, across the lot, and into the river channel nearby.



The water in contact with his chassis fizzled and bubbled as he swam away.




Ratchet ran into the main area and immediately towards the security console, slamming his digits on the keyboard, spooking Bulkhead who had been there talking with Optimus over a news report. The monitoring signals he brought up on the map confirmed his dire suspicion, his internal tracking equipment wasn't malfunctioning, Longarm's energy signature was flickering as it zipped away from the base, and that was a sign he was in the preliminary stages of a spark attack. First the excess energy would run through the motherboard and short out the smaller systems like the system monitor and its transmitter, and it wouldn't stop there, they had less than a mega-cycle to find Longarm before his own spark fried his internals and destroyed itself from stress.



He opened the general communication channel and talked aloud. ‘Everyone! we have a situation, Longarm may have remembered something critical to his identity and it's triggered a spark attack, he's run off from the base and is extremely unstable!’



Bulkhead was at attention in an instant, though confused. ‘Wait, what's happened?’






Optimus spoke through the commlink. ‘I can't do that right now Ratchet, a human's causing blackouts all over the city, I have to apprehend him before the whole powergrid goes offline.’



‘LONGARM'S MORE IMPORTANT THAN SOME HUMAN!’ Ratchet screamed, loud enough to wake the offline. ‘IF IT TURNS OUT HE'S-’



Bulkhead, trembling in his pedes, dared to speak back. ‘To be fair Ratchet, that human's kind of a big deal too, look.’



Ratchet looked over to the monitor Bulkhead was pointing at, a news report where Optimus and Bumblebee were chasing an unusual vehicle, green with black and white markings all over it.



Ratchet's cracked optic almost went offline. ‘It can't be...’




‘Bumblebee, help the police catch the human, I'll go find Longarm.’ Optimus ordered before making a u-turn and driving towards Longarm's fading signal.



The car they had been chasing tilted its side mirror, to better catch the sight of Optimus' retreat.




 Longarm didn't stop running until he ended up in old Detroit, the section of the city that had been abandoned and awaiting redevelopment, he didn't know where else to go, but he needed to be somewhere, where the others wouldn't find him so easily. He stepped into a ruined building and sat down with the remains of its collapsed roof, and stared again at his shaking servos, wishing that awful pain pulsing away in his spark would go away.



He had been a warbuild all this time, his mentor had been one too, he was going to be taken to fight on the front lines if his mentor hadn't found him and offered him another way. He accessed the memory again and again to make sure, but it played out exactly as he had originally seen it, each replay more static and broken than the last. He was never a constructobot, all this time he was wanting to go back to the old him, and he wasn't even sure what the old him was anymore.



Was that what he had been trying to remember, whenever he used his cannon? Whenever his spark felt wrong when he thought about helping Bumblebee? Wasp wasn't the only bot carrying secrets during boot camp, that's why he told Bumblebee to catch Wasp by himself, because he didn't want an official investigation to find out he had lied about his own identity too.



He never wanted to help Bumblebee get into the Elite Guard, he was only trying to save his own aft.



Longarm hissed out some garbled noises and curled into himself, his chassis felt like it was on fire, the itch he thought was long gone returned with a vengeance, it took half of his processing power to resist the urge to scratch at his chestplate until his spark was bared to the whole world, and he probably wouldn’t have stopped then, he would have kept tearing until he ripped out his spark and offlined. The thoughts he had then, had he made some sort of modification to his servos and faceplate before joining the academy? Warbuilds often had claws like Bulkhead's, or deformities like extra optics, but he had none, did they not look normal before... no, they weren't normal, he had changed them,


these weren't his servos,





‘Well looky what we have here?’ Said an unknown bot from right above him.



Longarm snapped out of his fever, his combat protocols springing to life of their own accord and he aimed his cannon upwards before he even turned his own helm. His helm collided slightly with some weapon the other bot had in his servos, the weapon was fired and Longarm went out like a light, his erratic spark ceased its attack and fell with him.



The Decepticon jumped down to the ground then loomed over Longarm's chassis, analysing him idly.



‘And here I thought my scanner was on the fritz, what's a lil' ol' Autobot warbuild doing all the way out here?’ He knelt down and roughly grabbed Longarm's cannon arm, throwing it this way and back to examine the weapon mounted to it. ‘Nice, very nice, hold on... what in the goddamn?’ He peered closer, making a full scan of Longarm and his cannon. ‘You dumb sparkling, did ya really downgrade this plasma cannon to a pipshooter? Or did Autobot command do that because they don't like their pets stronger than they are, hmm?’



Then there was an axe held just under his faceplate.



‘Step away from my cadet, Decepticon.’ Optimus hissed, making very clear what his threat would be if the Decepticon didn't comply



‘The name's Lockdown.’ He introduced himself as he turned his emp device on Optimus, knocking him out as well. ‘Though ya can't call me anything till ya boot'cha self up again.’ He looked between his two unconscious victims, picking Optimus up would be easy, but Longarm was quite a stocky bot.



‘I really should have brought a bag.’ Lockdown chuckled in amusement to himself, dragging Longarm and Optimus by their servos along the ground.



Chapter Text






Bumblebee and the police behind him slammed their emergency breaks, barely a cycle after Optimus left the chase, the car let off a whole crate of smoke bombs, completely blinding his alt-mode sensors, he skidded along for a while before coming to a halt, one police car bumping into his behind.



The car was long gone when the smoke cleared.



‘Dammit, where'd that guy go?!’ Bumblebee yelled, scanning the immediate area to no avail.



He would have investigated further, but all he could load on his processor was Longarm, he didn't want to be chasing after some dumb human he couldn't find, not when Longarm's weak signal was still on his radar, each flicker looking like it would be the last.



Bumblebee did a 180 and sped off to get help.




Sari was woken up by her mobile, loudly beeping out the jingle she assigned to the Autobots, groggily, she pawed around her bedside table till she grabbed it and brought it close.



‘Guys, its 10 o' clock, what is it?’ She yawned sourly.



‘S-sorry Sari but it's an emergency!’ Bumblebee blurted from the other side of the line. ‘Longarm's in trouble a-and we need the key to help him, I'll come pick you up.’



That woke her up almost instantly. ‘Wait, what's happened to Longarm!?’



He sounded agitated as he explained. ‘He's having a spark attack I, uh- I have no idea what that's like in human- things but we have to heal him, fast!’




‘He's having a spark attack I, uh- I have no idea what that's like in human- things but we have to help him, fast!’



That booted Megatron up almost instantly.



Immediately he turned to his spybot network, pinging the one he gifted to Shockwave, but it was completely unresponsive, either it had been destroyed, or Shockwave had put it in his subspace again, he wanted it to be the latter, as he waited for its signal to come back online and respond.




Moments after Bumblebee secured Sari in his passenger seat and started driving, Ratchet was shouting on the general channel again. ‘Bumblebee?! Where is that car you and Prime are chasing?!’ He demanded.



‘We lost it, so Optimus went to find Longarm and I went to get Sari.’ Bee answered.



‘You mean you lost it.’ Optimus corrected. ‘Never mind, I'm almost at Longarm's location, if he's stable, I'll try to load him onto my back and meet you halfway, Bumblebee.’



Ratchet didn't sound happy or relived in the least, instead he made a series of incredibly profound curses.



‘Cool it docbot, I got a youngbot on board!’ Bumblebee nagged, though secretly he saved the words he picked up for use later.



‘DO NOT TELL ME TO COOL IT!’ Ratchet yelled so hard it almost broke Bumblebee's radio, he was beginning to get flashbacks to boot camp the way Ratchet was acting. ‘YOU'RE ALL IN SERIOUS DANGER!’



‘Wait were those swears?’ Sari gasped while Ratchet was raving, she held her hands to her cheeks and her eyes twinkled. ‘I'm a big girl now.’






Both Bumblebee and Sari felt odd when Ratchet suddenly stopped ranting on the comms, wondering if Optimus finally had enough and used his Prime privileges to mute him, then Bumblebee realised what made him pause. Longarm's signal finally stopped appearing on the map, that would have been the sign that his systems monitor transmitter finally fried...



If Optimus' signal, which had been so very close, didn't suddenly go out too.







Longarm found himself floating, on an infinite sea of black oil, standing up when he found it was quite shallow, only going up to the base of his chestplate. He looked around but found nothing, saw nothing, just the faint outlines of himself and the ripples of the oil around him. The entire place was eerily quiet, not a hum, click or whirr could be heard, no wind, he tried to talk, call out to someone in this silence, but no sound came out of his voicebox.



The sound of a young femmebot shrieking echoed through the ocean, cutting the silence. ‘What's wrong with your faceplate!?’ She squeaked.



He waded slowly and aimlessly through the oil, hoping to find some kind of end to this... place or where those voices were coming from, but it sounded like they were everywhere.



‘I'm tired of being the Predacon, can I be the Winglord, o-or the Prime, please?’



The laughter of a thousand youngbots thundered around him, causing him to cover his audial fins protectively. ‘No-Face wants to be the Winglord!’ They cackled.



Then he realised...



He didn't have audial fins...



At least, not anymore.



‘I'm very disappointed in all of you youngbots! You were just using this game as an excuse to hurt him, when I tell your caretakers, you'll wish you were sent to the stockades!’



‘Thanks a lot, No-Face.’



Longarm stopped walking, helm held low, were these his memories when he was assembling? Was that the purpose of this place, to remind him? Bad static washed through his memory core and across the oil ocean, no, there was something else here, something he had to find, or remember, that's what his spark was telling him.



‘I've never seen a warbuild with a processor this powerful before, it's on par with the high-end scientists, and he's not even fully forged yet, imagine what he could do if-’



‘Do you honestly think that matters to any of the science academies? He's still a warbuild, all they need is one look at him and they'll know never to...’



A dim, distant red light pulsed faintly, hundreds of clicks away from where he stood, Longarm looked up at it, and like an Insecticon to a lamp, he walked towards it.



‘No! Don't take my datapads away!’



‘You stole them! I didn't raise you to be a stealer!’



The closer he got to the red light, the more he could see of himself and the ocean around him, though it was still hard to understand, he could make out shapes moving under the surface of the oil, and the feeling he wasn't alone in this place prickled down the back of his backstrut. But still, he kept going towards the light, even as his stabilisers started brushing against things, things that felt like debris, or somebot's servos...



‘All this time you were skipping training, wandering off and disobeying your tutorbot, we thought you were doing synth-en, or worse! AND IT WAS ACTUALLY STOLEN DATAPADS!? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH OF A MOCKERY YOU MADE OF THIS HABIT SUITE OVER SOMETHING SO JUVINILE AS THIS!?’



He looked down, hoping to dissuade his fear that there was something in the oil with him, but immediately wished he didn't.



All around him under the now translucent oil, were the corpses of countless bots, some shot through the spark chamber, some with theirs ripped out with massive claws, some with helms crushed and medical ports exposed. Bots of all different stages of development and functions, sparklings, oldbots, warbuilds, tutorbots, caretakers, all offline, all with their faceplates turned to him, staring straight into his living optics with their own blank, sparkless ones, twitching in the throes of death.



‘̛H̨el̨p usss.̛...͢’



Longarm shivered violently, screaming voicelessly, taking a step back only to touch another corpse behind him, he looked around desperately for somewhere to go, but aside from the red light in front of him, there was nothing but this sea of lost sparks, no safe spot to hide, no land to climb on and get away.



‘Primus chose you to be a hero and protect Cybertron...’






‘Warbuilds were never heroes, there are no heroes in war or after it!’



‘What kind of system is this, where you'll gladly send innocent bots to fight for you, but never give them the respect and reward they deserve?! He can revolutionise the entire research field if you all just let him learn, get that through your stupid, single cored, functionalist processors!’



‘̙͇̹͍̜̘̑ͮ͢͟H̴͔̞͓̮͖ͬ̅̓̅͛̊E̷̩͙͓͇̙̭̔͐ͭͣ͝L̂͑́͂̎҉̙̦͜P̼̹̭͈͈͋̍̋̏ͣ ̥̘̺͚ͦͮ͐̃̄U͍̙̞̼͚̞͍ͩ͐͐͑̂̓͢͠S̪̖͍̪͙̾ͯ̈́ͪͣ͂̚͢.̝̞̪͚̺̤͚̭̳ͯ͠’̷̲̤͎̠̼͖̗͎̉ͧͮ̋̑͢



One by one, the corpses began standing up, oil dripping endlessly from their intakes and wounds, and Longarm shot off as fast as he could towards the source of the red light, he needed to get out of here, get away from these nightmarish mockeries of bots he might have known. They followed him as he pushed as hard as his stabilisers and the damned oil around him could go, tripping over and shoving away the nightmares as he went, the light was finally getting closer, and it wasn't any ordinary light, it was an optic, a deep red optic with a thin, slitted pupil, staring blankly into the distance.


The s̢u̷r̢face l͏e͜vel̢ of̧ ̶the͠ ǫce͡a͘n ąrou͝nd̨ ͏him̢ ͝beg͝a͘n ̕t͞o͏ r̷i̛s̕e, an͜d̛ Lo̡n͏g͝ar̡m̨ ͜had to f̴orgo s̛tu͏mb̷l̛i͏n̴g͟ in̶ ͠f͜a̶v͢our ̷of̧ f҉erv͏ent ͘s̶wi͠mming,̢ ͠he͞ w͟as ̵so̡ c͡l͠ose͘, ͠al͡mos͝t̴ the҉re̡.

S҉̢̕e̢͜ŗv̧o̵̧s҉ b̷͢e̢͝g̕̕ą͟n g̸̴͢ŗa̡͝b̢b̷͞i͢͡n̴̡͘g͜͜͡ ̧͞a̷͏t ̧҉ḩ̷͘i͜͢s̷ ̵b̸̛҉a͏c͟͢k,̵ ͢l̴͞a͏t͢͝c̡͠ḩi͏̛͏n͜g̵͢ ̶͏on͏t̶͡o̷͟҉ h̶̢im҉͟,̧̡ ͝͞͝s̨l̴̛͝o͢͟͠wi͜n̷͜g̷̵ ̧͟h̸im̷͠ ҉҉d̕o͡wn͜.͘

̵͡Hȩ ͞w̸̛a̵s ͜s̵͜͡o͠ ̛͏c҉l͜o̷̵s̨͏ȩ,̧ ̶̷m̶͘a̴s̴̨s̴̕҉i̕ve̢ ҉̵claw̴s͟͢ ̛͟͟p͝҉̧e͜a̵͢k̷e͢͝d͡ ̸̧o̡͝v͞͡ȩ̴͢ŗ ҉ţ̴̕h̵e̢ ͏s̢u͞r͜fa̷c̛͡e ̨͢͡o̢͏͡f̨ ͡t̶he̢͢҉ ̛o͘͜i̧l҉̵, ̴̶͟ģ̵͢i̸̡̛a̶҉͢nt͠ ͞t̵̴w̸͡i̛̕n̷ ̷̢̛p͜͟i͟͞l͟l̶̴a̛r̷̶s̵̴͡ ̡r̢͘͟os̴̸̕e̴ h͞ig̷h̨͠ ̕ą̸b̶͏o̷̴̵v̛͜e ͟͞t͡҉he͜͡ ̛͡l͢o͏ne̢͝ ͏̢op͢҉t̶̴͡i͢c͢,̡ ͞͞h̛e̵ ͜͞͏w̵a̢͢s ͢s̨o ̧ç͞l͟o̷͜s̸̢͜e̵͢.

He̢ ̢w͝as p͝ulled̵ under͘.







Everyone converged on the last known location of Longarm and Optimus to find nothing, no signs of their bodies or even the remains of a struggle or an explosion, it was like both of them just vanished.



‘So what do we do now?’ Bulkhead wondered, looking to Ratchet for guidance. ‘Where do you think they went?’



‘Did Longarm ever have a Sigma ability that could have suddenly manifested, like warping?’ Prowl asked Ratchet. ‘That's the only reasonable explanation I can come up with.’



‘What're you asking me for?!’ Ratchet snapped. ‘Do I look like a field commander?! For pit's sake his ability’s in his designation! And you there!’ He pointed towards Sari, then towards his cracked optic. ‘As much as I hate that key for stealing my job, I need it right now to repair this mess, we haven't got all night-cycle!’



‘Ok, you need to calm the heck down old man!’ Sari scolded, getting out of Bumblebee so he could shift back into a robot. ‘You've been shouting at everyone all night like we don't care, well we do! Longarm's our friend too, so you better grow up and start acting like your smelly old age and figure out what happened to them!’



‘(Sari, he's acting exactly his age.)’ Bumblebee whispered aside to her.



‘And none of you obviously listened to me the past quarter of the mega-cycle! There's a bounty hunter on the loose, and you purposely lost him to go fetch the human when that was Bulkhead's job! If he's not responsible for their disappearance, I'll- I'll-’ Ratchet, at a complete loss for words stamped hard on the ground, and a few unstable buildings fell down with it.



‘Yeah, who is this guy Ratchet?’ Bulkhead asked warily, hoping he wasn't setting off another of Ratchet's fuses. ‘How did you know who he was, just by looking at him?’



Ratchet didn't answer his question for a long time, servos clenching and unclenching as he calmed down and thought, then he finally answered. ‘His name's Lockdown, he captured me during the war, he was the one who gave me these.’ He said distantly, pointing to his broken chevron and the lost piece of armour plating on his arm. ‘He delivers Autobots to Decepticons in exchange for upgrades, taking our own mods as his personal trophies...’







Longarm rebooted, the bad memory flux fragmented instantly fragmented away when he found himself strapped down to an interrogation table, in a filthy mockery of a repair bay, the lights flickered, and a smell of foul Energon and rust wafted through the dark room. Where was this place? Had he been captured? What was he doing before? His spark felt on edge but quiet for the moment, and several hundred error messages he never noticed before were timing out on their own, all of them critical warnings about system failures in his entire motherboard.



Then he remembered.



What was he thinking!? He punched Ratchet so hard he broke something then ran off, he was so scared of them finding out he was a warbuild that he pretty much confirmed it right in front of their optics, even if he escaped here there was no way he could go back to them, by now Bumblebee was probably thinking he was a spy as well as Wasp and Ratchet and Optimus would arrest him on sight. There were some noises to his side that sounded like struggling, Longarm turned his helm to find on another interrogation table next to his was Optimus, Longarm's vents stalled, he had been caught too!? Optimus didn't seem so surprised to see him here, did he know Longarm had been captured? Did Ratchet not tell him the truth? Or did he know and still came here to rescue him? But wondering about all that was all worthless, they were both tied up at a Decepticon's mercy.



Noticing Optimus' struggles, the Decepticon approached. ‘No no no, don't get up Optimus Prime.’ The Decepticon lightly reprimanded, coming to his side. ‘We've got a long flight ahead of us so why don’t you sit back and relax.’ He brought a hooked servo up to catch Optimus' chin and tilt his helm back painfully. ‘There's a hefty bounty on the helm of the Autobot who destroyed Megatron.’



Optimus looked confused. ‘But I didn't destroy Megatron, Lockdown, it was-’



‘Not. My. Problem.’ Lockdown cut him off with a haughty look on his face. ‘Bounty calls for one Optimus Prime, and that's what they're gonna get, maybe then you can holler who did it, that way I get a second job and, heh, maybe ya might live.’



‘Not if I tell them you knew all along.’ Optimus spat back.



‘Your word against mine~’ Lockdown sighed, not a single ounce of worry on his faceplate.



Longarm had been looking all over the walls of the room, taking in the numerous amounts of weapons, modifications and parts that had clearly belonged on the inside of a mech, a lot of them had been welded into arms and servos of all shapes and sizes, it made his tanks sick just looking at it all, everything here once had an owner.



‘Like my trophy cabinets?’ Lockdown teased. ‘That cannon of yours'll be joining it soon, shame I can't take you along for the ride, there's a nice reward going out for any bot who brings in an Autobot warbuild, but unfortunately I only brought juice for two.’



‘W-what?’ Longarm uttered out of pure fear.



Lockdown had a look of mirthful surprise. ‘Didn't'cha know? Decepticons've been napping Autobot warbuilds for vorns, hey, I've even nabbed a few myself. Don't give me that look.’ Lockdown said when Longarm's quaking could have registered on the Richter Scale, for a bot who kidnapped and maimed other bots, Lockdown's carefree demeanour stood as proud as ever. ‘It ain't so bad, by the end of it most of them are glad to have switched sides, but like I said, only enough Energon for two on this tub, no fancy stasis pods either, this ain’t a luxury liner.’ He moved over to a control panel of the ship. ‘So instead I'm just gonna get off this dirtball planet, drain whatever Energon's left in ya, take out all your good components then toss whatever's left in with the rest of the garbage.’



‘You're sick.’ Optimus hissed. ‘You're absolutely sick! My bots will find us and when they-’



‘Yeah, yeah, "I'll be sorry".’ Lockdown dismissed with a wave of his servo. ‘One more word outta you, and I ain't gonna put him under for the operation.’ He threated, pointing his opposing digit behind him, towards Longarm.



Longarm's processor was racing, he had to find a way for them to escape, but they were both strapped down tight and his cannon completely inoperable even if it hadn't been disabled. But maybe there was a chance he could help Optimus, Lockdown did say he only had enough Energon for one prisoner: the bot who killed Megatron.



He may have tried to save his own hide at the cost of innocent lives and his own memories, and he may have abandoned those bots he heard in his memories and the bad flux to avoid fighting, but maybe... maybe he could put things right this time.



‘I killed Megatron.’ Longarm declared.



Optimus' optics were on him in an instant, while Lockdown only turned around in half interest. ‘Hmm?’ He noised.



‘I killed Megatron!’ Longarm repeated. ‘I shot him out of the airlock of our ship a-and he burned up in the planet's atmosphere, that's how I did it!’



Optimus shook his helm, his optics almost begging Longarm to stop. ‘Longarm what ar-’



‘I-it's ok sir, it's not like it matters to hide it anymore.’ Longarm lied with a dismissing shake of his own helm. ‘I'm going to be offlined either way.’



Lockdown had been thinking it over pretty deeply, just like Longarm planned, if he believed Longarm really did do it, he would let Optimus go and take Longarm instead to the Decepticons. Lockdown moved back over to them looking from Optimus to Longarm, his optics narrowed in suspicious thought.



‘You defeated Megatron? Little shaky thing like you with a toy gun defeated the biggest, baddest warlord in the galaxy? Do I look like I was forged yesterday?’ Lockdown spat out in disbelief, before turning to Optimus. ‘You were gonna mention a name before weren't you, back when you said it weren't you, mind finishing that sentence for the jury?’



“Come on Optimus.” Longarm pleated silently. “Say it was me.”



‘It was Starscream.’ Optimus confessed to Longarm's panic. ‘He had planted a bomb on Megatron.’



‘A circuit overloader bomb?’ Lockdown then laughed at Optimus' look of surprise. ‘Don't look so impressed, I sold those to him a vorn or so back, those lil' nasties couldn't kill Megatron even if you stuffed one down his intake.’ He straightened himself up though with a thought. ‘Hmm... but it would leave him as easy pickings.’ Lockdown mused. ‘Whatever, guess I'm gonna have to make a call to ol' Blitzy and see if he's willing to spare a bit of Energon for a bonus prize, sit tight you two~’



Lockdown went back to his console, to call whoever was in charge of the bounty, while he was working away, Longarm received a PM from Optimus.






Longarm met Optimus' optics, seeing anger written all over his faceplate, Longarm almost thought he spied worry and concern there too, but why would he be worried about Longarm when he had it way worse, he was going to be sold to Decepticons as Megatron's killer, whatever they would do to him would be far worse than Lockdown's plan of smelting Longarm down for spare parts!



「If I'm going to be offlined it's best the Decepticons think I did it instead of you. That way he might let you go, or at least you might be spared by the other Decepticons.」Longarm messaged back.



「Neither of us is going to be offlined!」



Optimus used his grapplers to quickly snatch his axe, which Lockdown had left discarded by the side of his console, whipping it back to him and cutting his own bonds, he was just about to cut Longarm's when he was hit with an emp charge and swiftly knocked unconscious again. Lockdown lowered his arm, taking the axe back and putting an unconscious Optimus back into his restraints, while he was working he didn't retract the generator into his arm, it wasn't a natural part of Lockdown (if any part of him could be called natural) and it wasn't securely attached to him, it could probably be pulled off with a bare servo if one could get the drop on him.



But there was no way for Longarm to do that, he was still securely strapped down, with an unconscious Optimus next to him, there was nothing he could do, nothing he had in his subspace- well, there was his pocketbot, but that thing was the size of a scraplet, way too small to go and find help, could it even find help? It had some voice recognition, but did it have an actual command for seeking assistance? Seeing as it was his most likely his only option, he gave it a try, rematerialising his pet in his servo, it beeped at him, and Longarm quickly hid it under his servo when Lockdown straightened up, wondering what the noise was, before going to his console with a shrug.



‘(Go find help).’ Longarm whispered to his pocketbot, praying that it had the functionality to carry out the task. ‘(Please, and be quiet, don't let him catch you.)’



It suddenly straightened up, its optic switched to red and started pulsing, was it working?



‘Now what should I do?’ Lockdown asked Longarm rhetorically, not noticing what he had done. ‘Should I call Blitzwing? Or should I take Prime's sweet grapplers?’



‘Don't you dare!’ Longarm hissed.



‘Grapplers it is~’




Just as they were about to lose hope on finding Lockdown, they got a call from Sumdac Towers of all places.



‘Listen, uh, this might sound weird.’ The technical intern explained. ‘But basically the professor's been designing these pocketbot pets, and kind of messed up so there's dozens of prototypes wandering around who knows where and stuff.’



‘Ugh, those things, I find them in weird places every week! It's like they like hiding in my stuff to annoy me.’ Sari complained. ‘What's that got to do with anything though?’



‘Shouldn't you be in bed miss? Well, anyway, we're getting a distress signal from one in Old Detroit... they're really not supposed to be there, someone might be in trouble there, or maybe it's lost and malfunctioning, is it alright for you Autobots to investigate, I know it's pretty late and all...’



‘Wait a second...’ Bumblebee said, the gears of logic in his chestplate turning. ‘Longarm had one of those things! He's still online! He has to be! Tell me where it is!’




Longarm had his optics closed for the whole operation, though he could do nothing for the loud chainsaw that had been revving right next to his audials for the past half of a mega-cycle, or the heated sparks that flew off onto his chassis, when it was finished, Longarm was left with stinging sensors and glitching audials. He opened his optical shutters to see Lockdown roughly jamming Optimus' grapplers into a free slot on his hooked arm, admiring the modification he just stole, Lockdown went back to the command console and finished what he started before Optimus had interrupted him.



A red faced Decepticon came up onscreen.



‘HAVE JOU CAPTURED ZE AUTOBOT YET, BOUNTY HUNTA!?’ Blitzwing demanded angrily in a very thick accent Longarm couldn't put a place to, though it certainly reminded him of an Earth accent he once heard. ‘HE NEEDS TO PAY FOR VAT HE DID TO OUR LEADER!’



‘Would I be calling if I haven't?’ Lockdown replied casually with an amused shrug. ‘But I got a small question Blitzwing, got a warbuild here and only enough Energon to safely starve just one Autobot for the journey home, just calling in to check if ya want the extra baggage or not.’



To Longarm's amazement, Blitzwing's head clicked and turned to another head, blue with mismatched optics. ‘A vourbuild jou say? Hmm, ve could alvays do vith more of those, I vill have a courier spare jou some Energon, no charge, if jou are telling ze truth.’



Something about Blitzwing's accent rubbed Longarm the wrong way, if there was an adjective he'd use to describe it, without a doubt it would be "punchable". Static prickled over the sensors on his whole chassis, gathering in his servos and his spark, soon enough he couldn't even feel his own arms, he didn't want to be sold to Decepticons, especially not that one, not when he wasn't taking Optimus' place. He couldn't even protect him in the end, advanced processor or no, he was useless at protecting the bots he cared about, he should have been forged dumb like the other Autobot warbuilds.



Suddenly alarms were blaring, Lockdown cut his call with Blitzwing to turn on his security cameras, and both hope and dread spread from Longarm's optics to his core when he saw Bumblebee and his friends charging towards Lockdown's ship, his little pocketbot must have been transmitting a signal for them to find him with! Lockdown then switched to another screen showing the layout of his ship, a small prickle of a signal showing up in the same room they were in.



‘What did you do, you goddamn piece of scrap?’ Lockdown fumed, incredibly pissed. ‘How did you get a distress beacon out to-’ He saw the pocketbot, its optic yellow again and cowering under Longarm's servo. ‘Aww, how cute, a lil' sparkling tattle tale, didn't know you were a sire.’ He cooed venomously, he raised Optimus' axe high above his helm, then slammed it down.



He crushed Longarm's servo, and the pocketbot with him.



Smiling at Longarm's scream of pain, Lockdown struck again for good luck. ‘Whoops, my servo slipped.’ Lockdown took his hooked servo and ripped it down Longarm's torso, tearing mesh, restraints and powerlines with it. ‘Whoops, slipped again~’



‘I-it's too late.’ Longarm rasped, trying to close the errors flooding his HUD. ‘T-they know where you are now.’



‘Yeah, well, I can still take off before they find the way in.’ Lockdown challenged back, running over to his console to prepare the ship for launch.



‘NO!’ Longarm yelled, his good servo reached out to stop Lockdown, grabbing his hooked servo and yanking him back,



But, he was over there, and Longarm was all the way over here, his arms weren't that... long...












He had long arms! How could he have forgotten that!?



‘WHAT THE PIT!?’ Lockdown yelled, looking down at what stopped him. ‘Oh you're just fulla surprises aren't ya!?’



Remembering he could do it with his pedes too, Longarm shot them both out, hitting Lockdown square in the backstrut and sending him crashing into his own console, now was his chance, he grabbed at the emp device, but Lockdown was back to his senses and struggled away from him. Longarm just managed to grasp the tip of the emp generator before reeling his arm back in, snapping it clean off of Lockdown, unable to use it, he flung it into one of the trophy racks, losing it among countless other mods.



Lockdown stomped towards him, raising Optimus' axe high above himself again, then brought it down on Longarm’s faceplate, destroying it completely.




He didn't know how much time had passed since Lockdown left him, but he could hear it, the distant clashes and clangs of fighting, turned out he did something right after all, he managed to stall Lockdown long enough for the others to enter his ship, it wouldn't be long before they found Optimus and rescued him.



He wished he could say the same for himself.



Lockdown had cut half his restraints during his rage earlier, but Longarm had already lost a quart and a half of his electrolyte fluid, unless Ratchet got to him soon and had fluid to spare, he was a goner for sure, but despite the pain, and the struggle to keep his underclocked processor online, he was almost at peace. The pain of his injuries had almost dulled down, and all he could see was static, a sickly blue screen plastered over his hud reading: "ERROR: LOSS OF OPTICAL FEED" and who knows how many more error messages in front of it, it was a misfortunate miracle that his diagnostic systems remained online, despite the constant flow of faults overwhelming it.



He blindly groped around, trying to find his servo that was crushed, moving underneath it to find the sundered remains of the true hero of this scenario, his pocketbot. It was smashed completely into pieces, but he brought out the largest bit and dropped it gently onto his chestplate, if he stroked it the right way, it almost felt like it wasn't broken, but he couldn't fool himself, it wasn't moving, or peeping its cue little beeps at him.



‘#̧i҉͏m̵͢e̶?̴ ̷̸L҉#n̵ga̷r̛͜#̸#’ He heard in the distance, his audials malfunctioning too much to properly pick it up.



Sure, he never knew who he really was, or got to tell Bumblebee how much he enjoyed spending time with him, or got to apologise to everyone for lying to them and stealing Ratchet's supplies, but maybe it was better off that way.



‘P̸R̴͟I#̷#͢!̕?̷͘͜ ̷͠L#̸N͢G҉̷͟AR͠M̛͞!?͏ ͞҉A͞R#͜͡͝ ̵͜Y͟͜#̸͢#̢ O̶͞NL̵͟I̧͜N͟͞E!̨͘?͢͏’ What surely had to be Ratchet's voice called out, and what sounded like his pedesteps running closer.




They weren't responding, but Ratchet still knew the layout of this terrible place, the exact room where they 100 percent had to be, it pained him how much he remembered of this place, despite only being in it once. Prowl and Bumblebee were busy keeping Lockdown distracted, though he managed to get the drop on Bulkhead and disable him, still, there would be enough time for him to free Optimus, and he had Sari with him, in the desperate hope that Longarm was still online. He hated to admit it, but if it turned out that damned bounty hunter saved Longarm's life by stopping his spark attack with his old emp generator, he'd eat the other half of his chevron.



He burst into the interrogation room and instantly held a servo in front of Sari's eyes to stop her seeing the horror. ‘Sari, cover your optics, please, you shouldn't see this.’



Optimus was fine, though knocked unconscious and clearly been operated on recently, but nothing could prepare him for the occupier of the other interrogation slab. The table holding Longarm was completely bathed and dripping in his fluids, his faceplate had been completely destroyed and caved in, overflowing, a large part of his helm and jawguard had been crushed too, along with one servo, and his lower torso had been torn into like a rabid organic tried to eat out his internals. It was almost too much for him to bear, he had never seen damage this bad since the war...



‘#̷̢@̨͢͢-C҉̶̛H̶̢͢-͢#̕#҉̶̕#C̷͞eT?’ Longarm crackled out, his good servo lifting off of some debris he was holding and erratically reaching towards Ratchet before collapsing.



Sari did as she was told, closing her eyes, though now very scared. ‘Is Longarm ok?’ She whimpered meekly.



Ratchet had to reset his vocaliser twice before he could answer. ‘No... no he's not, but he's still online and we got here in time, here, I'll guide you to him, keep your optics closed.’



‘It smells really bad in here...’ She whined anxiously.



‘W-worse than me?’ Ratchet joked nervously, trying to lift the tense mood.



‘R#҉̶̕#cheT? ͟I͏-I w͜As͏ a̧l̕#҉̶̕##҉̶̕ys ̕a wa̡r̨buil҉̶̕#.͟..͠’ Longarm admitted, poor kid was close to offlining, he'd have never admitted that out loud otherwise.



‘I know Longarm, Optimus and I knew for a long time, it's ok, we understand.’ Ratchet soothed, guiding Sari onto his chestplate. 



Longarm twitched. ‘I̶-I̡̡ ̧͞w҉̛a҉##̷d͢ ͝t̸͢͟ǫ ̶͜p̸͜͝r҉͞͡ǫ͘͡v͟͞e͠ t̴̢̧h̡#̴͢m͘ ̴w͜RO͏#̸̨#̡͜g͘͠, ̢͠I̕͡ ͏d̷̷̸#d̡͟҉n't̴ ͏͞w҉a̸͝##̸̶̧ ͡t̷ǫ͡͞ ҉fi͏̕g͜͟h͜͜͠t̨͜ ͠I̕-͢.҉’



‘Shh, it's ok, for spark's sake kid, let Sari fix you up before talking again.’ Ratchet scolded.



The key connected with the port in Longarm's chestplate, and instantly his spilt lifeblood flowed back into his powerlines, his crushed parts fitting back together piece by piece, but Ratchet noticed a few odd things as he was repaired. His helm was completely hollow save for a strange collection of black mesh at the back, his intake tube had no vocalising modules inside it like most bots did, the red orb on the top of his faceplate had an optical wire feeding down from the back of it and into the motherboard and he possessed an unnaturally low amount of articulators to move his faceplate around. Longarm had definitely made modifications to disguise himself before becoming an Autobot, and it was amazing, he'd never seen an upgrade this clean and precise, Longarm must have found an incredible black-market surgeon.



‘You can reengage your optics Sari, he's almost finished repairing.’ Ratchet commented once the bulk of the horrifying damage had been done with.



‘What's this bit here?’ Sari asked, pointing to the debris on Longarm's chestplate that showed no sign of repairng. ‘Oh, that's the pocketbot, is that why he was... hurt? Because he called for help?’



Or maybe he even did it himself, that wasn't such a farfetched theory as it would have sounded to any other bot, surgery of that quality would have been way too expensive and rare for a youngbot to get his servos on, and Longarm had shown his intelligence time and time again. Earlier that solar-cycle, Ratchet went over Longarm's own pads to see if Optimus' theory was correct, and he found that not only was it correct, Longarm had been actual cycles away from figuring out something even he thought impossible for such a small timescale.



He couldn't let Longarm lose himself again, not when he was the brightest Cybertronian Ratchet had seen since-



‘Ratchet watch out!’ Sari screamed.



He had a split second to turn around and lift one arm in defence before Lockdown cleaved Sari in two with Optimus' axe, the axe dug deep into his arm and he wasted no time to yell in pain, instead using the magnet of his free arm to push Lockdown as far away as he could get him and into the trophy rack, spilling mods and disembodied servos everywhere. Longarm attempted to get up to help but he was still partly restrained and felt weak, almost on the verge of crashing.



‘So you're here too huh? Weren't happy with ruining one hunt and just had to come back for another?’ Lockdown spat, managing to stand up again, despite the pressure exerted by the magnets. ‘The vorns certainly haven't been kind on ya.’



‘You'll never take another trophy from an Autobot ever again!’ Ratchet seethed, exerting his magnets to full power to keep Lockdown pinned. ‘Sari, go find the others, I'll hold him off!’



‘Those magnets of yours can't hold forever docbot~’ Lockdown taunted as he watched Sari carefully climb off the table and run away. ‘Then who's gonna stop me? Noodle servos over there? Is your girlfriend, the Intel bot, here too? Does she even remember her designation?’



‘RAAGH!’ Ratchet roared, flinging Lockdown into another rack.



Lockdown quickly grabbed a very familiar mod from the rack before Ratchet could engage his magnets full blast again, his emp generator. ‘Thanks, I was looking for that.’ He wasted no time firing it at Longarm and Ratchet, drinking in the sight of Ratchet falling over and Longarm powering down. ‘Alright then, time to leave this pithole befo-’



A magnet blast hit Lockdown, sending him keeling to the floor, another blast brought the trophy cabinet down on him, leaving him trapped.



‘Humans call it "playing possum".’ Ratchet jeered, moving over to tear the emp generator off Lockdown and put it back in its rightful place on his own arm. ‘(Don't ask me what a possum is.)’ He fired it at Lockdown, shutting him down. ‘This is for Arcee.’ He leaned down to pull the stolen grapplers of of Lockdown, then fired again. ‘This is for Optimus.’ He then turned the settings up to maximum, designed to take a whole cityformer down. ‘And THIS is for Longarm!’ He fired one final time, cutting the power to the entire ship.



Turning on his headlights, he began unstrapping Optimus, who picked just the right time to boot up, then went for Longarm's remaining restraints, shutting the port the key had been put into closed, then gathering up the remains of his little pocketbot, planning to deliver it back to professor Sumdac for repairs.



Optimus shook his helm, waiting for his equilibrium stabilisers to boot back up then tentatively stood once he was sure he wouldn't fall over. ‘Ratchet? What happened?’ He asked, surveying the damage, it wasn't every solar-cycle he booted up to see his own axe lodged in Ratchet's arm.



‘I don't want to talk about it, at least, not right now.’ Was all Ratchet would say to him, he turned on his comm for what he hoped would be the last time this solar-cycle. ‘Is everyone alright?’ He asked calmly.



‘Can anyone get me unstuck?’ Bulkhead pleaded. ‘Please?’



‘Bumblebee and I are fine, what about you Ratchet? Sari told us Lockdown ambushed you.’ Prowl asked.



‘He's not a problem anymore, help Optimus and Longarm get back to base, I need to blow this cursed ship and its memories sky high.’







Megatron's only way of knowing Shockwave was still online was when that cursed minibot came back to the tower to put the professor's daughter back to recharge, carrying the remains of the spybot with them. The nerve of that filthy bounty hunter, he never liked him to begin with, that greedy fiend never delivered his prisoners in good condition or unspoiled for war, though it was a shame he wasn't able to deliver the Prime, he knew Blitzwing wouldn't recognise Shockwave, let alone help him recover his memory, thus he had engaged the distress beacon not a moment afterwards. Shockwave's shapeshifting ability was a very rare and very closely guarded secret, only Megatron and the long offline Soundwave had knowledge of it, not even the Iacon Science Academy had known about it when they discovered Shockwave's true nature, they thought he had black market modifications done.



He wondered if Lockdown had been captured but realised it didn't matter, even if he was free he would never take a job from an anonymous source, and he had no modifications to pay him with either. So Megatron's only action was wish he wouldn't have a repeat of tonight where Shockwave had come close to offlining, perhaps his own forcible meddling of Shockwave's processor while he recharged was what caused him to have a spark attack. No matter, he would ask the professor if he could have the honours of repairing Shockwave’s "pet" and just be more careful in the future, he would rather have Shockwave by his side than humans and a greedy neutral any day, even if it risked his spark.




‘When do you think your dad'll fix it?’ Bumblebee asked.



‘I mean, I can use my key to do it right now, I dunno why Ratchet was so fussy about it’ Sari mumbled.



‘Two words, Sari: sentient Dinobots.’ Bumblebee stated.



‘Oh, yeah, that's... yeah.’ She agreed, then yawned loudly. ‘Good reason, 'nite Bee.’







‘Yep, your spark's completely settled down after its attack.’ Ratchet declared to Longarm, putting away his scanner. ‘But I don't want to take any chances, I want you to spend the rest of the decacycle avoiding any strenuous activities, so no patrols or helping with important situations unless absolutely necessary.’



‘What about, my cannon?’ Longarm asked reluctantly, sitting up. ‘Should I avoid using it?’



‘Longarm, avoiding exercise with your cannon was perhaps the biggest factor in why you had that attack.’ Ratchet replied, completely seriously. ‘Now, I want to try something.’ He brought up a stool and sat by the medical berth. ‘We're gonna play that human game, twenty ten questions or whatever it was called, I ask you a question, and you answer it completely truthfully, then you ask me one and I do the same. Remember, Optimus and I already knew you were a warbuild, we want to know your side of the story before we do anything, now do you want to ask first? Or should I start?’



Longarm was completely silent.



‘I suppose I'll start, what's the first memory you can recall?’



‘I.. I was just a sparkling, I scared the other youngbots because of my faceplate, it was different back then, they made me the bad guy in their games and called me names.’ Longarm answered slowly then asked his first question. ‘Who was the intel officer you knew, the one Lockdown was talking about?’



Ratchet grimaced slightly. ‘That was Arcee, Lockdown captured her and myself long ago, during the war, in our escape I hit her with my emp generator on too high a setting, wiping her memory core and processor almost completely clean. Why did you hide being a warbuild, or more specifically, why did you dodge the draft and try to impersonate a constructobot to become an intel officer?’



There was the big question he was waiting for, and yet Longarm still had very little idea how to answer it. ‘It's still not completely defragmented, but something made me want to be something more than just a soldier, I-I felt like I was meant for something more, I never liked the idea of fighting or killing was scared of being drafted, and my mentor, the one I've talked about, he offered to help me, he saved me from that fate.’ Longarm rambled, then paused for a moment to shake that empty feeling from his frame. ‘What happened to Arcee, after you both escaped?’



Ratchet looked off mournfully into the distance. ‘She's been my patient ever since, I've tried everything, replacing her parts, open-processor surgery, even a cortical patch, that's an old Decepticon interrogation method we repurposed for last-hope therapy, I think that one only made things worse. She still can't remember a thing or even store new memories, her spark is essentially trapped in her frame and all she does is sit in her room at the hospital, unable to properly communicate with the outside world...



But I haven't given up on her, or any of my patients, or you.’ He turned back to Longarm. ‘I admit, part of why I took on your case was because I wanted to study in depth exactly how your memories recover themselves, so one day, I might be able to properly help her.



Now, do you still want to destroy your cannon? Because let me tell you this Longarm: as much as you may hate it or fear it, it's a part of you, as of this point in time destroying it with no repercussions is still absolutely impossible, it's hard coded into your systems, if you neglect those systems you'll go back to how you were when we first met, remember that? Back then the slightest breeze could knock you into stasis lock, and today you managed to stay online even with your entire helm and half your powerlines missing! You've been making such a remarkable recovery, all due to making frequent use of your combat coding, so tell me, do you still want to remove it?’



Longarm went over Ratchets words for a very long time. ‘If that's really how it happens, then I'll keep it, but, if there is any way for me to be rid of it and be healthy, I would still take it. I... I've never wanted it Ratchet, not now, not when I was still assembling, it's like- like it takes control of me and makes me do things I don't want to do, like hurt people, or having bad thoughts about hurting them.’ He confessed, pricks of optic washer gathering at the corners of his optics.



‘And that's because you've been supressing it, that's what's been making those compulsions!’ Ratchet reprimanded him. ‘No bot ever mastered his urges by hiding them deep down and pretending they didn't exist, all that does is make them build up to a breaking point, that's what the exercise is for, that's what the maintenance is for, that's the real solution for making sure it doesn't take control of you.’ Ratchet stood up, moving over to his console. ‘I’m glad you're being honest with me, please trust me on this Longarm, take better care of yourself, don't keep up this quest.’



‘Ratchet?’ Longarm began after another long pause, wanting to know something that had been nagging him ever since he was captured. ‘Lockdown was planning to turn me over to the Decepticons he said- he said that most Autobots were- were glad to have switched sides...’



Ratchet remained silent and unmoving for a terribly long period of time, his servos so tightly clenched against his workstation that he almost bent the metal out of shape.



‘Longarm.’ He finally spoke. ‘I've been through the war, I've seen firsthand the things the atrocities done in the name of the Autobots to achieve victory, and yet, I'm still on this side, because everything I've seen us do is nothing compared to what they did.’ The plating of the console broke and Ratchet spun round to fully face Longarm. ‘I've seen what they've done Longarm! They took Autobots and reprogrammed them Longarm! Those warbuilds were glad because they knew nothing! Not a single byte remained of who they were or their friends, their values thei-’ He stopped when Longarm’s expression turned for the worse. ‘I'm sorry.’



Another moment of quiet passed.



‘Listen, Longarm.’ Ratchet started, moving closer to him again. ‘Who you are isn't something anyone can easily put into words, but it's not defined by what you are, it's what you’ve done, how you act. If you base your every action on what you are then you're no better than the Earth robots that roam these streets, or those pit spawned functionalists that used to control Cybertron before the Autobots took over! You're more than what's on your label Longarm, you've already proved it, I mean look at this!’ Ratchet exclaimed, holding up one of Longarm's datapads with advanced notes on coding. ‘You've learned in deca-cycles what took me orns to learn and memorise!



You're a genius Longarm, a pure natural genius! Imagine what you could do if I gave you the proper learning materials, you don't belong on a battlefield o- or pit- even sorting datapads behind a desk! You could make a difference! Revolutionise the entire medical field! I don't know if it's what your mentor would have wanted, but if you wanted to become my student...’



Longarm, accessed what little memories he had of his origins, this had all been said to him a long time ago, almost exactly word for word, and yet, that had amounted to nothing if it weren't for his mentor, and while he didn't exactly know what he had done with his mentor to want to be an intel officer, it had been the dream of his younger self to be a doctor or a scientist.



Maybe Ratchet was the new mentor he needed to achieve that.



He nodded. ‘Please, Ratchet, I would like that, more than anything.’







A hooked servo burst free of the debris of some exploded metal thingy and he managed to pull himself free, stumbling around a bit he tried to take in his surroundings, it was just rubble and stuff, things he couldn't names to, and lots of lights all around him in the distance.



‘Ugh.’ He moaned, what had he been doing before this? What was before before this? And before that? Everything was as clean as a... something that was supposed to be clean, yeah, exactly.



He walked around a bit, trying to figure out what the thing he was in used to be, or maybe it was always like that, maybe he liked recharging in the dirt, he didn't know.



Why was he walking around anyway? Did he need exercise? Probably.



‘Well, well, well, I can't believe you actually survived that, Lockdown.’ Said a completely unfamiliar screechy voice, and a guy with big metal plate thingies on his back stepped out of the shadows, one of his arms didn't look too good. ‘Don't suppose you'd let a superior Decepticon commander such as myself pilfer your ship for surviving mods? I have a nice little base, not too far from here, for you to bunk out in exchange.’



‘Hi, uh, what's ya name?’ He greeted enthusiastically, waving his hooked servo.



‘It's Starscream...’ St- the other guy replied tartly. ‘I suppose those Autobots did quite the beating on your memory core.’



‘What's an Autobot Mr- err.. sorry, I didn't ask you for ya name, kinda rude of me.’ He asked, scratching the back of his helm with his hook.



The other guy stayed silent and unmoving for a very long time before turning around, servos clasped in front of his faceplate. ‘Ok... I'm going to walk this way, and you're going to stay there and rust, ok?’



‘Gotcha.’ He nodded, before following the other guy instantly afterwards, wondering who this new guy was.



Chapter Text



Ratchet pointed over Longarm's shoulder to one of the rows of code on the workstation monitor. ‘See, here's your problem, you need to close off the command line after this action, if it tries to do these two together it takes up too much processing power.’



‘Really? Wouldn't that make it go slower though?’ Longarm questioned him.



‘Slower? Yes, saving you from blowing a capacitor? Also yes.’ Ratchet grumbled back, hitting Longarm's helm gently with the back of a datapad.



Bulkhead popped his helm through the door of the repair bay. ‘Hey Longarm? Me and Bumblebee are going to try this fishing thing with Sari, you wanna come with?’



‘Uppupup, can't you see this a study-cycle?’ Ratchet tsked, ushering Bulkhead out with several soft hits to his helm with the datapad. ‘Now get.’




Another solar-cycle, another lesson, and Longarm was deeply reading into the monitor to find the one glyph he misplaced, too busy to notice the light taps that announced Bumblebee's arrival at the repair bay.



‘Hey Longarm? Want to-aAA



Ratchet had tossed Bumblebee out with his magnets, then locked the door behind him.




‘Alright, let's upload this into the code injector and see how good your patch works.’



Longarm vented an uneasy puff of air as Ratchet picked up the code injector and slowly brought it to Longarm's open medical port, it connected without trouble and after a little moment of calibration, the patch began, all eyes were on his gun arm, and all they could do was wait for something to happen.






Longarm sagged slightly in defeat, but perked right back up when the tiniest of hisses and clicks could be heard, powerlines closed themselves off and detached, on his HUD the one message he was waiting for so long for finally appeared.






‘I-it worked!’ Longarm gasped in absolute relief. ‘It actually worked!’ He concentrated for a moment, then in a shimmer, the oppressive weight that had been a burden on his arm for far too long had been lifted, his cannon had been successfully subspaced. ‘I DID IT!’ He shouted with a laugh, lifting his arm up high above his helm, it felt as light as a crystal.



Ratchet crossed his arms with a kind of caretaker's pride, a rare smile gracing his being. ‘What did I tell you kid, you're a genius, just remember what I said though...’ He ended up saying to just himself as he watched Longarm run out of the repair bay in glee. ‘Heh, youngbots.’



‘Bumblebee, look!’ Longarm almost demanded when he came into the main area of the base, waving his free arm around almost as madly as if he had a scraplet on it.



Longarm immediately stopped when what greeted him on the couch wasn't Bumblebee, but a slightly curious Bulkhead in his place.



‘He went out with Bossbot.’ Bullkhead explained.



‘On patrol?’ Longarm pressed in disbelief. ‘But it's not his turn to do it right now.’



Bulkhead pulled a small shrug. ‘I guess he got bored.’



‘Oh, maybe later then.’ Longarm mumbled, turning round and heading back to the repair bay, he could cram in a bit more study till they got back.




‘Hey Longarm.’ Bumblebee called out once he got back to base, well into the evening. ‘Bulkhead said you managed to stash your cannon, wanna watch a movie an- Longarm?’



Longarm had fallen into recharge, gently slumped over the workstation.



Bumblebee let out a slightly annoyed vent, then turned around. ‘Hey Bulkhead! Help me get clevercogs here to his room.’







‘Hey, welcome to Knockout Burger where its 2am and we all really regret our life choices, can I take your order?’ The human grumbled.



‘Yes, the most pungent fuel items on your selection, please.’ The voice on the other side of the intercom said with a completely straight tone. ‘Enough to fill a crate.’



He pulled his hands down his face, he was too tired for this weirdo shit again, he leant out the window to look at the wiseguy trying to take him for a ride, only there wasn't a guy at all, just a completely empty police motorcycle. ‘Was that a real question?’ He slowly asked what was clearly one of those Autobots, could they even eat burgers, let alone the ones he served?



‘Yes, I need to attract some wildlife with a large appetite for human fuel.’ It replied.



‘I, uh... ok, you got it.’ He eventually yielded, the less he thought about this whole thing, the better.




‘Thanks for coming.’ The security guard said, unlocking the gate for Prowl to get through, though it was somewhat of a futile gesture, considering the fence right next to it had been completely chewed away.



‘How long have they been here?’ Prowl asked him.



‘Long enough, please, I don't know what’s going on with all this robot dinosaur stuff, just don't trash the waterpark, it's still July, kids'll be coming here in the morning, the boss really can't afford to shut this place down for a month for repairs, and I really, really need this job’ The guard pleaded.



‘Don't worry.’ Prowl promised in a genuinely reassuring tone. ‘I have a plan to get them out without a fight.’ And then he set off to find the intruders.



Prowl felt very fortunate that this occurred while it was his turn to do the night shift of monitor duty, after a few solar-cycles of botched attempts to catch the Dinobots, it was clear a subtler approach had to be taken, and here he was, with no cars, no sirens, and certainly no Optimus to get in the way. It didn't take long for him to locate them in the biggest pool this place had to offer, which was only the size of a standard communal oil tub to a Cybertronian, holding around five bots at best. The T-rex was relaxing with its head perched on the pool's edge, the Triceratops kept jumping out of the pool just to jump back in again and create waves, splashing water everywhere, while the Pterodactyl preened itself in a shallower pool nearby. Prowl approached them stealthily, intending to observe them before attempting anything, he watched them for a very long time, to find out everything he could about them before he introduced himself.



They did nothing but play, no mindless destruction, no anger issues, the most violent thing that had happened was that the T-rex swatted the Triceratops with his tail to stop his constant cannonballing, and all that resulted in was a kind of mumbled apology, no fight broke out. The Pterodactyl had then caught sight of a moth buzzing around one of the pool lights, he snapped at it, only to be surprised later when the moth flitted out completely unharmed through the slits of its vents, a cycle of snapping and escaping ensued before the Pterodactyl finally gave up and let it fly elsewhere.



They were just like youngbots, fresh out of their second moult and ready to explore the world, having very little idea of what they were doing.



Prowl made his move, stepping casually out of where he had been hiding and towards the Dinobots, instantly their optics were upon him, and they weren't preparing to attack him.



The T-rex instantly stood up out of the pool and ran over to him. ‘More Dinobot!? Me Grimlock, Dinobot leader! That Swoop, and that Slag!’ He greeted loudly and very excitedly. ‘Finally! New Dinobot friend! Need to think of name!’



‘Nice to meet you, Grimlock.’ Prowl replied back calmly and smoothly. ‘My name is Prowl.’ There was a funny silence as Grimlock and the others stared back completely confused, Prowl vented softly before pointing a digit to his chassis. ‘Me, Prowl.’



‘OOOH!’ Grimlock nodded, he then began checking over Prowl's chassis, and it took a while for him to realise Grimlock was sniffing him rather than venting. ‘Uh... what Dinobot is you?’



‘I'm not a Dinobot.’ Prowl replied. ‘I-’



‘But you have shiny face!’ Grimlock interrupted, pointing at the Autobot logo. ‘Why face but no Dinobot!?’



Prowl smiled, shaking his head. ‘No Grimlock, that Autobot face, we're all Autobots, only you three are Dinobots as well.’ He explained, trying to put it in the simplest words their processors could understand.



He obviously didn't say it dumb enough, because all the Dinobots looked very confused. ‘We Dinobot and Autobot, but you just Autobot?’ Swoop pondered.



‘Me Slag, don't get it.’ Slag said distantly.



‘It's simple, an Autobot is a friend.’ Prowl started, tapping his logo. ‘Dinobots look like dinosaurs, they don't turn into vehicles, like so:’ He transformed to show them, hoping something of what he said would get through to them.






It took a lot to make Prowl break his straight faceplate, but he never wanted to facepalm so badly than right now, he transformed back into a robot before continuing. ‘Grimlock please, I said you... can't...’ He trailed off when all of a sudden Grimlock was transforming right before his eyes, in moments he was faced with one of the oddest sights he had seen, Grimlock hadn't turned into a car, but into a Cybertronian. ‘Do that.’ Prowl finished.



‘Me Grimlock, like!’ Grimlock admired himself, having not heard a word Prowl said. ‘Where big hands come from?’ He asked, using his new servos to do all the scratching on his plating that his tinier arms couldn't do before.



‘How do!? Me Slag want make hands too!’ Slag demanded, jumping up and down and splashing all the water in his pool everywhere.



Watching the three of them squabble around Grimlock's new form got Prowl a bit concerned, they were a very excitable, incredibly juvenile bunch, and why wouldn't they be? Their sparks were almost literally forged yester-cycle, it's amazing they learned to talk and transform as quickly as they did. The city was no place for bots as immature and potentially destructive as they were, they needed someplace quiet until they learned what it meant to be an Autobot, and Prowl knew just the place and the means to get them there, taking the crate of burgers out of his subspace.




‘Me Grimlock – Swoop – Slag – like!’



Prowl moved them successfully to the island in the middle of lake Eerie that he had once taken Bulkhead for balance mentoring, it was perfect then and perfect now, a big open island where no matter how much clumsiness and destruction happened, very little nature and absolutely no human civilisation would be hurt. He watched them with a small smile on his face while they got acquainted with their new home, Swoop started picking up logs to make a nest with, Slag was still trying to learn how to transform and Grimlock was back in his dinosaur alt-mode, snapping at a pair of birds that had unintentionally made mess on him.



Prowl was about to turn on his communicator and inform Optimus that they need not worry about the Dinobots anymore until he remembered it was the dead of the night-cycle and everyone was recharging. Then another thought came to his processor, they were still so young and impressionable, he wasn't sure if letting the rest of the team and the humans know of their location was a wise move. What if that Nemesis character was still out for the Autobots? What if he found out their location and tried to take control of them again?



He decided to let them "disappear" for the time being, it wasn't completely a lie, he just needed some time to see where the Dinobots would lie in the grand scheme of things.







When Longarm arrived at the abandoned lakeside observation deck the next solar-cycle, he transformed then sat down, taking in the tranquil scenery, it was very early morning and the sun had only just risen, casting a pale blue sky across the view. Strange sound patterns flittered through the air, and he idly remembered the kind of Earth creature that caused those, songbirds, or was it all kinds of birds that did it? He wondered curiously for a while if it was a whole language, or something they just did because they liked the sound of their own voices. Unfortunately, it didn't distract him for long, he still had much on his processor, and not much in the ways of relieving it.



Things had settled down pretty quickly after Lockdown's attack, at least, for the rest team it had, Ratchet faced down one of his worst fears, Prime got his grapplers back, and Ratchet brought long awaited justice down upon Lockdown. Now he was officially Ratchet's apprentice, and he finally achieved his goal of removing his cannon, albeit temporarily, things were looking up, it felt almost unreal how easily Optimus and Ratchet had forgiven his reasons for stealing Ratchet's datapads, like all of this was some kind of wonderful dream that he didn't want to boot from.



But as hard as he tried to tell himself it didn't matter anymore, his thoughts kept going back to his frame, and what it used to be before he changed himself. Ratchet told him everything he saw when the key repaired him, his hollow helm, the deactivated third optic, the black mesh and lack of vocaliser modules along his intake weren't just signs that he was forged with deformities typical to warbuilds, he was forged with virtually no faceplate at all. He leaned over the side of the deck and looked at his reflection in the water, trying to imagine what he originally looked like, three eyes, no visible intake, no olfactory sensor, a completely barren black face, every attempt to visualise it felt off, wrong, no wonder he had been feared all those vorns ago.



His reflection in the water rippled and Longarm looked up to see what kind of cute Earth creature had caused it, only to flinch backwards in surprise when he saw Bumblebee's equally shocked helm peeking out the water.



‘What're you doing here!?’ They both squeaked at the same time, then explained ‘This is my thinking spot!’ In perfect unison.



Bumblebee's faceplates flushed red and he retreated back into the water up to his optics, the water around him simmering in his embarrassment.



‘No, no, it's ok, I'll go back to base.’ Longarm tried to reassure him, standing up and shuffling aways.



Bumblebee's helm popped up from the water again ‘Wait- no, I-uh, you don't... can... can we talk?’ He asked timidly.



Longarm nodded then hesitantly walked back to his original spot, waiting while Bumblebee got up out of the lake and joined him, they sat silently for a time, neither really sure what to say to start off, though Bumblebee clearly had more on his processor than Longarm did, what with the way his faceplate couldn't stay still for a single nano-cycle.



Eventually he found his words. ‘What's been going on with you?’ He asked. ‘Like, with the spark attack and now all this stuff with hanging out with Ratchet, you didn't say a word to anyone else about it, are you ok? You used to, you know, always tell me about the stuff you were all worrying about.’



‘I'm...’ Longarm started, but found he didn’t have the spark to tell Bumblebee everything that really happened, but then again he didn't have the spark to lie to Bumblebee again. ‘I remembered a lot of what happened when I was assembling, it wasn't...’ He heaved a stressed vent. ‘It wasn't nice.’



Bumblebee moved closer, his faceplate almost the complete definition of empathy, something Longarm never thought he would see. ‘Do you wanna talk about it?’



‘It's complicated.’ Longarm admitted, which was the truth, it was very complicated. ‘I- it's- I was...’ He stuttered, the will to tell Bumblebee the real reason for everything that happened in boot camp wavering.



‘Heyhey, it's ok big guy.’ Bumblebee patted him soothingly on the shoulder then leaned deeply into his side. ‘Want to hear about mine instead? Take your processor off it till you get the gears rolling?



There isn't really much about it anyway, well, like more than what you don't know already, I didn't really think it was that bad until I left and saw how everyone else was raised, after that I like, I tried to forget about it.’ Bumblebee spoke in a half mumble. ‘There was 20 of us and I was out of a batch of four, like, we got on together fine at the start, but when we got older there were fights... a lot of them... I always lost. Then there was the caretakers, two of them, they were busy all the time and didn't really care for us- actually, they did, but more in the "are you dying or starving" kind of way, it was like I wasn't really there, or something, o-or they weren't really there unless you did something bad.



When we got older we ended up doing a lot of the caretaking for them, like how the older bots in the house did for us when we was little, none of us liked it but it looked like it was the normal thing to do, so we did it. Then we all finished forging and had to leave the place, I never saw any of them after that, never mailed or called or visited.’ Bumblebee stopped his story to look Longarm in the optics. ‘I thought that was all how it was supposed to happen, then Bulkhead showed up and started taking pictures, sending mail to his old caretakers, do you remember the time he was talking all night-cycle to them and we couldn't recharge?



I wish I could have done that too.’ He closed his optics, almost practically melding into Longarm's side with how close he was. ‘That's it, I guess, you don't have to say yours if you don’t want to.’



Longarm took one of his arms and wrapped it around Bumblebee's side, and before he could stop himself, the words. ‘I... I was always a warbuild, as in- (I don't know where to start really) there was a lot of pressure and expectation put on me, the other sparklings were scared of me and it all just... built up, I just wanted to be normal.’ Slipped right out of his intake. Bumblebee looked up at him oddly, but said nothing, and wanting to salvage the situation, Longarm continued. ‘I was supposed to have joined the army, I had to, but I modded myself to be a constructobot, so I could have the chance of being an agent, I never wanted to be a fighter, I just wanted to be something smart, what I'm doing with Ratchet now, he's teaching me to be a medic, like he is.’



‘You want to be like docbot?’ Bee asked, though a small tone of disapproval slipped through his meaning.



‘I want to be better, actually.’ And then Longarm slipped a servo over his intake, shocked at his own dry wording. ‘That came out wrong.’ He excused, but it was worse than that, this entire conversation had come out wrong, but Bumblebee looked like he was taking it alright.



‘Ok...’ Was the best answer Bumblebee could say. ‘But I don't get it, you said other bots were scared of you, like how?’ He exclaimed, flopping over to rest his backstrut in Longarm's lap and gesturing to Longarm's frame with both his servos. ‘You're like a big, cuddly....’ His faceplates started to redden again. ‘Cuddly big guy! Was it the serious face?’



Longarm scratched under his jawguard in flattered embarrassment, ‘I... I wasn't always like this.’ He murmured. ‘I looked... different.’



Bumblebee's demeanour shot right down in an instant. ‘Oh, well, you- you look great now!’ He tried to recover, giving Longarm two digits-up, but then he suddenly turned aside and smacked himself on the helm several times ‘(What are you saying Bee!? Stupid! Stupid!)’ He turned back. ‘I-I mean, m-maybe... maybe...’ His fans turned up high and he stood up, looking Longarm dead in the optics. ‘Look, I'm no good at this support stuff, I never was, just, whatever it was, it's over now, right? We're not there anymore, where nobody liked us and forced us into stupid jobs and pretended we didn't matter, we're here.’ He said, waving one arm blindly around the grand view of the lake, to the city in the distance, to the entire beauty of Earth. ‘W-where we're doing a good job helping people, we're heroes here, they love us, Longarm!



I love you, Longarm!



I don’t care how you used to look, you're a good bot and I like you! You could look like that crazy bounty hunter guy and I would still like you! E-ever since you took me out that locker in boot camp and said never give up, n-nobody's done that for me before! I feel like I actually exist whe- when-wh-’



Bumblebee trailed off when he finally figured out what the cause of Longarm's expression of absolute astonishment and shock was, then his entire protoform went red, his plating rattled and little wisps of steam escaped his vents. Longarm's processor was completely blank, spark fluttering around in his chamber, he tentatively got up, lifting one servo, unsure to offer it to Bumblebee or hold it over his spark chamber di- was-



Was that a confession?



Bumblebee retreated away a few steps then went into a full sprint, transforming as he went to get away even faster.



‘Bumblebee, wait!’ Longarm called out after him, but Bumblebee continued, and Longarm had no hope of being able to catch up to him now. ‘I...



I like you too.’ He said to himself, lowering the servo he had held up.







Megatron booted up to another solar-cycle of his uncomfortable existence, he looked around with his optics to see if professor Sumdac was still here then checked the tower security to confirm he was actually in his habit suite for once, that organic was quickly becoming too attached for him for his liking. Once he knew he was in the clear, he got to work, bringing up his to-do list:



  • Acquire powerful body
  • Kill Autobots (later)
  • Liberate Shockwave from Autobots before killing them
  • See if Starscream is still on Earth (and kill him)
  • Kill minibot (NOW)
  • Free Meltdown from jail (to kill minibot)
  • Repair spybot



He made a soft noise of annoyance, before activating the assembly line servos of his prison and got to work on repairing the spybot, he didn't like not being able to see his subordinate's every move, especially where that minibot was concerned. He was almost at his wits end, nothing he threw at the brat worked, but he couldn't give up, he owed that much to Shockwave, and by the Allspark itself he would make sure his precious scientist did not lose himself to the very cause that tortured him for so long.



But, now that he was thinking about it, perhaps he should focus himself on one task specifically, his game of keep aways hadn't been very effective, mainly because he was just a helm and his plans relied heavily on finding others strong enough to carry out his will. He needed his body back, or his strong Decepticon following, if he was to do any real work on this dirtball planet, but forging was a task too ahead of Earth's pitiful technology, and the nearest Decepticon den was half a galaxy away, and that was assuming Earth's primitive astronavigation science was accurate.



He opened his spybot network and assumed direct control of the one he left in the former Prometheus' labs, he had a lot of illegal assets, and it would be a shame to let them go to waste. One last try to snuff the minibot, if he succeeded, excellent, if he failed, then it would have to be a race of restoring himself before Shockwave's shell fooled around and did something they would all regret.







Bumblebee had turned his signal off right after he ran away, making it impossible for Longarm to know where he was, so all he could do afterwards was return to the base, get some fuel, then wait for Ratchet to boot up to continue their latest lesson.



There was no doubt that it had been a true confession, everything lined up and it was absolutely beyond his belief how he didn't realise it sooner. They spent so much time together in camp, they were almost inseparable when Longarm was released from the repair bay, then there were the spark-to-spark talks, and the outings... for pits sake, those were dates in disguise weren't they!? His amnesia was an excuse only up to a certain point, he really should have noticed this sooner, but what could he do? Bumblebee hadn't intended to confess at all, and Longarm honestly didn't know why or even what to do about it, things were going to be very awkward around the base unless he came up with an idea.



Should he tell Bumblebee how he feels about him?



Would that make things worse?



His spark rolled around in its chamber, busy with thoughts over Bumblebee, but he couldn't tell its multiplex of feelings apart from each other, love from like, to stay with from stay away, perhaps it was because of the injury, he just didn't know.



‘Hey Longarm, can you get my straw, I forgot it.’ Bulkhead asked from across the room, he'd been too busy talking to Sari to notice he didn't have it, and Longarm had been so busy he didn't notice the either of them at all.



‘Of course.’ Longarm replied with a smile, he picked it up and extended his servo out to Bulkhead, instead of walking it to him.



Bulkhead beamed with delight. ‘Heeey, you can do the stretchy thing again!’



‘So that's why you're called Longarm!’ Sari gasped in awe. ‘Pick me up! I wanna try!’ She squealed, jumping from the couch and into his servo the moment Bulkhead picked up his straw and poked it in his fuel can.



Longarm carefully retracted his arm, knowing that doing it too fast wasn't too good for the Human equilibrium, soon enough he had Sari right next to his chestplate asking all kinds of questions like how much and how long he could stretch or if he ever danced with them stretched out. He answered them as best as he could remember, but he had other things on his processor...



And just as he thought about it, Bumblebee had entered the base, trying so hard to act natural about it that it looped round and looked so suspicious that you'd've thought he just blew up the ship. Not wanting to set off some potential drama by immediately going up to him and demanding answers, Longarm put Sari down, and took his morning fuel over to the security station, it needed manning after all, right? He could just sit here and look out for Dinobots, and let Bumblebee have all the space he needed to make a decision, right?



“This is a lot harder than it looks.” Longarm admitted to himself while he willed himself to keep looking at the blank monitors and not towards Bumblebee.



‘Hey... guys.’ Bumblebee greeted with really casual suspicion. ‘Just came back from a perfectly normal patrol, sure is boring around here, guess I'll just get my fuel and get back at it am I right?’



‘Did you blow up the ship?’ Bulkhead asked in complete deadpan seriousness.



‘(I wish.)’ Bumblebee mumbled before shaking his helm and servos saying: ‘Course not, Bulky, why would I even be down there anyway? All the fun stuff is up here right?... R-right?’ He excused, shuffling closer to Bulkhead in his act to look natural. ‘No I just went on a nice normal drive, like I do...’



Sari walked up to him. ‘Did something happen with you and Longarm?’ She asked in concern, linking Longarm's sudden distance and Bumblebee's bad act together in her brain.



Bee glanced over Longarm to make sure he wasn't paying attention or pretending he wasn't, before crouching down and answering in a stressed whisper. ‘Ok, so I maybe might have embarrassed myself in his general vicinity a while ago, i-it'll blow over... maybe.’



‘Well, will it timeout in time for this?’ Bulkhead asked while brandishing two parking permits, and an advertisement for a-



‘A fireworks show? This night-cycle!? As in this very night-tonight-cycle!?’ Bee hissed. ‘No, a-absoulutely not! This needs at least a whole solar-cycle to cooldown!’ He excused as hard as he could, but neither of them believed him.



‘But I'll be old by then, come on Bumblebee, Bulkhead and I thought it was a great idea.’ Sari appealed to him. ‘You guys are practically made for each other, all you do when we hang out is talk about him, the sooner you admit your feelings and give him big boy-robot makeouts the sooner you wished you did it sooner.’



‘Don't make me force my servo Bumblebee, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.’ Bulkhead said in an incredibly ominous tone, then when Bumblebee still refused he held up the "tickets" exaggeratedly and tilted his helm slightly towards Longarm's direction. ‘Oh that reminds me Bumblebee!’ He said very loudly. ‘I got you some parking permits near that fireworks show you wanted to take Longarm to! Boy, I sure wish I could go with!’



That had immediately gotten Longarm's attention, he looked towards Bumblebee with his intake partly open in surprise, the faintest hints of a blush under his optics. Bumblebee had been planning to take him on another date?



Bumblebee reached up for the tickets and pulled Bulkhead down by his servo till they were almost optic-to-optic and stared so aggressively into his optics that he could have manifested lasers in them to melt Bulkhead into slag. ‘I'll get you for this, mark my words Bulkhead.’



‘You're welcome, lil' buddy~’ Bulkhead replied with a genuine smile, patting Bumblebee on the head.



He picked Sari up and wandered over to the couch, leaving Bumblebee with absolutely nothing to hide behind while Longarm slowly approached him, he stared up at Longarm, shivering with embarrassment in his pedes.



‘So...’ Longarm started. ‘Is it tonight?’



Bumblebee's processor froze for a moment, before he kicked back into gear and nodded quickly but not enthusiastically. ‘Yeah, t-t-tonight.’



‘I'd lo- like to go, very much.’ Longarm replied, managing to catch himself, Bumblebee looked so close to frying on the spot, he didn't want to offline him.



Suddenly Bumblebee seized up then shook his head. ‘W-wait, I- uh, yeah! I'm totally sorry, Longarm, Optimus wanted me to do stuff for him tonight, I forgot all about it, I-’



A large servo gently touched Bumblebee's shoulderplates, scaring him even stiffer. ‘I'm sure it can wait till another day.’ Optimus finished for him.



Bumblebee looked incredulously at Optimus, then narrowed his optic shutters. ‘(You're in on this too!?)’



Optimus smiled gently, saying nothing while he patted Bumblebee encouragingly. ‘Longarm's been studying so hard, I think you should treat him to a good night-cycle out.’



On the other side of the room, Ratchet stood in the corner of the doorway, grumbling in suspicion, making a note to ask the professor for something important.







Bumblebee was steaming.



Furious and steaming.



In love, furious and steaming.



Here he was, sitting right next to Longarm, on a date, as in even Longarm knew it was a date, Bossbot knew it was a date, everyone knew it was a date, all he needed now was some news camerabots then the entire world would know it was a date. It wasn't like he didn't try getting out of it, but Bulkhead and Sari were tailing him the entire solar-cycle then Optimus personally escorted him, they were probably spying on him right now to make sure he didn't run off again. Now it was just him, Longarm, coloured chemical explosions in the sky and a very, very empty pier between them, too empty, where were those humans when you needed them?!



It was the prettiest sight he'd seen, the entire sky was on fire with a sea of different colours showering down upon them, blue, yellow, purple, red, he could be here forever trying to count all the individual colours, but his spark refused to be at peace. He was so close, the closest he had been to winning Longarm's spark, but he couldn't do that final stretch to the goal and ask him, Longarm was already freaked out when he slipped up at the lake, how freaked out would he be when he remembered everything and remembered nobody was supposed to like poor little Bumblebee. He hated to admit it, but he was terrified of all the possibilities, they called it Wheeljack's law: anything that can explode will explode, right in your faceplate. Damn Bulkhead, damn Sari, damn Optimus, damn Prowl (he didn't know what Prowl did but he deserved it anyway) damn these stupid fireworks, damn Wasp and most importantly: damn himself for causing everything to go so right and wrong at the same time.



‘It's very pretty, isn't it Bumblebee?’ Longarm commented, looking at him so gently it made Bumblebee want to compress into a cube and roll into the river to be swept away.



‘Y-yeah...’ Bumblebee fumbled. “please don't talk again, pleasepleasepleasePLEAAAAAASE”



Longarm shuffled closer, as if he wanted to give Bumblebee a spark attack of his own. ‘You know, I never got to thank you, or apologise for what you said this morning.’ He said, his optics tracing a few more trails of fireworks. ‘You've always been there to support me, I didn't mean to not tell you what happened to me, it was just hard to put into words, I admit, I was a bit scared of what you would think of me afterwards. Because I did a lot of thinking, and most of that was, you know, how bad things would be between us if it all went wrong.’



Bumblebee was screeching internally.



Longarm rubbed one of his servos over Bumblebee's. ‘You know how that feels, right?’



Bumblebee slapped both his servos on his thighs and glared at Longarm. ‘I LOVE YOU OK? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT ME TO SAY!?’ He snapped.



Longarm was shocked. ‘I... I was thinking just a "yes" at the very least.’



Realising his mistake, Bumblebee clamped his servos over his faceplate and keeled over, curling into a ball of shame, “Good job Bee, GOOD JOB, YOU BLEW IT!”



Then Bee found himself being picked up and- oh no, Longarm had pulled him into his lap, fearing for his remaining scraps of pride and dignity, Bumblebee peeked over the tips of his digits at Longarm.



‘Then I would say: "If there's one thing I've learned in this past deca-cycle, it's that things don't turn out to be as bad as I fear them to be".’ One of his servos settled on the small of Bumblebee’s back strut ‘So don't worry so much when you've already made your decision.’ For a moment he paused to looked up, at the shower of colours above them. ‘You're here now, you're willing to give this a try, so I made my decision too, but...’ Longarm chuckled slightly, optical shutters lowering. ‘I think what you said works too.’



The servo moved to behind Bumblebee's helm.



He brought their helms closer.



This was it, wasn't it?! The moment Bee had been waiting for so long for.



He closed his optics and parted his lips slightly.









His optical shutters opened back up to see Longarm looking aside in embarrassment, it took a few nano-cycles for him to realise what happened.



Longarm's jawguard had gotten in the way.



Bumblebee crunched up his servos and lips in disappointment and annoyance. ‘Really? REALLY?!’ He exclaimed, pointing his servos towards the offending jawguard. ‘This-I-stupid-’ He began tugging at the jawguard, which was surprisingly painful to Longarm. ‘Who designed this!? (Can't believe I thought you could be all romantic yo-)’



‘Bee that hurts!’ Longarm hissed, nervously trying to block Bumblebee's servos. ‘Sto-ah!



Something in Longarm's transformation gears got pulled in that last tug and began turning really agonisingly, the middle of his jawguard split, the centre part lowered down into his chassis and the two branches jammed slightly, then rose high over his head. Static prickled all over his helm aggressively, to the point it that it was painfully numb, but then it settled down, and Longarm was left with an unobscured intake and a very speechless Bumblebee, who had witnessed the transformation in all its perplexity.



‘Don't do that again!’ Longarm scolded him, flicking him hard on the olfactory sensor. ‘That really hurt.’



‘What kind of guard thingy hurts when you pull it!?’ Bee challenged back, servos nursing his flicked sensor.



Longarm didn't even think before answering. ‘The kind that gets pulled the wrong way, yo-’



He never had the chance to finish his sentence when he found Bumblebee's mouth pressed deeply on his own, the force Bumblebee jumped him with causing him to fall flat on his backstrut, breaking their kiss on the impact, but Bee dove right back on him in an instant, as if the slightest parting would have been the end of him, of them. Longarm could feel the tension that had been pent up in Bumblebee's frame release like a steam from a broken pipe, and, slowly, the liplock eased into a wisp-light presence on his faceplate.



They finally separated, and Longarm sat up again, resting his olfactory sensor on Bumblebee's, optics closed, the branches of his jawguard quivering high above his helm, the sounds of the fireworks show slowly coming to a close. ‘So, sweetsparks?’ He opened his optics when Bumblebee hadn't replied, to smile slightly in relief when the cause was that Bumblebee needed to reset his vocaliser several times.



Bee was trembling with forces of giddiness and relief that Longarm couldn't measure the ratio of, his engine purring up a storm ‘Sw-sweetsparks-s-s-SSss-.’ He finally sputtered, and it almost swooned Longarm, that sound... how much power did he have in a single kiss that could rend Bumblebee's entire being so?



Bumblebee cradled Longarm's faceplate in both his servos, pushing his opposing digits in a slow circle over his cheekplates, he then brought their lips together once more for a momentary kiss, then a second, a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. His servos just couldn't sit idle, stroking over and dipping into wherever their desperate digits could reach, the valley between Longarm's chestplate and helm, the little bits of kibble on his sides, around his neck, then pulling a small trail down to dig into the seam where Longarm's chestplate met torso. They touched lips so much that, if they had a cube of Energon for every one, there would be enough to fuel the both of them comfortably for an entire deca-cycle, when it was starting to reach orbital-cycle territory Bumblebee grew desperate for something more, he gave a slow, deep lick up the seam of Longarm's intake, then moved lower. He could barely keep still, even with Longarm's attempts to soothe his excited frame, Bee slipped through his digits like oil, and so it was a chase for Longarm to keep his servos in the same comforting spot on the small of his backstrut.



There was a click, a sound similar to shifting plates, then a pale white light, at first Longarm was confused, thinking it was a glitched firework hanging nearby, but then he noticed just how flushed Bumblebee was, and how quickly he was becoming nervous, he looked down.



A pure white spark stared straight back.



Bumblebee's chassis had opened wide, his spark pressed as close to the front of its chamber as it could go, the wispy tendrils of its being eagerly reaching out to Longarm, begging for his touch.



This... this was a bit too much.



Longarm, softly as he could, brought a servo between them, to cover Bumblebee's spark chamber from the outside world. It took everything in his will not to fall apart at the sudden gasp and stutter that reverberated out of Bumblebee, or the small coils of misty white that wrapped around his digits. Thankfully, Bumblebee seemed to agree with him, going bright red in embarrassment and covering his own spark as best he could, though he didn't let the opportunity to hold Longarm's stronger servo in his own slip by.



‘Not tonight.’ Longarm spoke softly. ‘And... m-maybe not in public.’ He added, his optics briefly scanning around to see if there were any humans around, feeling ashamed that they got so carried away.



‘Good, I was about to say.’ Came a cross voice from behind them.



The two of them nearly jumped straight out of their armour, and Longarm pulled Bumblebee closer to try and hide his spark from Ratchet's stern gaze.



‘H-HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE!?’ Bumblebee demanded, too busy trying to close his chassis up to be properly mad.



‘If it makes you feel any better, I wasn't watching, just making sure two certain youngbots didn't try to sparkmerge while a certain someone-’ His optics momentarily darted to Longarm. ‘Is still in recovery from his spark attack.’



‘You-di-I-UGH!’ Bumblebee sputtered around until finally giving up, pulling the mightiest pout he could muster, he got up, turned away, and took several steps away from them, steam dashing to escape his frame. ‘Well good job Docbot, you ruined it, this is the worst first kiss I've ever had!’



‘The worst? But you've only had one, Bee.’ Longarm teased gently, also standing up.



‘Y-YEAH, AND!?’ Bee challenged back, just daring to look back at Longarm.



Longarm extended his servo to bring Bumblebee back to him. ‘That also makes it the best you've had.’ And with that he placed one small peck on Bumblebee's forehelm before closing his jawguard back up, wincing a little when it still hurt.



‘L-Longaaarmmm.’ Bumblebee whined. ‘Not while docbot's here...’



Longarm laughed for a single nano-cycle. ‘What's he gonna do, heal us to death?’



Suddenly, he felt the full force of Ratchet' s servo gripped his shoulderplate, a sinister chuckle coming from his direction. ‘Oh, I'll do worse than that.’







Ratchet pulled out the code injector, and Bumblebee rubbed his arm sorely from where it went in, Ratchet did the exact same to Longarm, the patch within ruthlessly melding with his systems.



‘Until I get a certain piece of equipment, neither of you are to open up your chestplates, that patch is there to make sure that you actually do as I say for once.’



‘What, you don't trust me to keep it closed!?’ Bumblebee argued.



‘I'm surprised you even trust yourself to keep it closed, I've seen youngbots in love, one cycle you make all the vows the universe can hold, the next you blow them all because you touched servos and couldn't control yourselves from there.’ Ratchet exaggerated, though he wasn't far off from the truth.



Optimus, who'd been standing there in the repairbay as a reassuring presence piped in. ‘What I think Ratchet means to say is he's worried about Longarm's wellbeing, you two weren't to know it, but interfaces aren't to be taken lightly, they can go wrong if you're not in good condition, besides, it's only temporary... it is temporary, isn't it Ratchet?’



‘Of course it is Prime, only until I get Longarm a sparkshield, then they can fool around as much as they like.’ Ratchet told him.



Bumblebee meanwhile, was 100% irritated, he crossed his arms and stared at the wall, stewing in his own embarrassment and nerves, Longarm on the other hand couldn't care less what Ratchet and Optimus were thinking, he was just glad that everyone was being so supportive of this, of him, though he wondered how he was going to get Bumblebee out of his latest bad mood.



‘Hey Bumblebeee~’ Sari called out somewhere in the base. ‘I got you those rocket boosters dad maaaade~’



When Longarm looked to Bumblebee for his reaction, he was already halfway to getting Sari to install them on his back, though only after she made him promise to tell her all about how their date last night-cycle went.



“Well, that's one way to solve it, I suppose.” Longarm thought to himself with a smile.



Things were going to be a lot brighter around the base now.







‘Once you have the sample then do as you please, rob banks, stores, whatever comes your fancy.’ Megatron commanded to his latest pawn. ‘Do whatever you can to draw out that yellow transformer, then give him the runaround, but it is absolutely important that you remember to keep a track of time, the sample will become violently unstable after 10 minutes.’



‘Okaaay, then what?’ The nasally voice of the human asked.



Megatron continued. ‘Before the ten minutes are up, let him acquire the sample, then make your escape and enjoy the fireworks.’



‘What kind of job is this?’ The human asked with some doubt. ‘I'm not exactly a hitman.’



‘The kind that has several million in payout, now go.’ Megatron hissed, before cutting the call and wiping the computer's security logs, just in time for professor Sumdac to arrive in the lab, cup of coffee in hand.



‘Good morning, Windblade.’ He greeted, and Megatron's spark cringed in its cage at the poor choice of alias he chose to give to the professor, but he was put on the spot before he could think of anything more fitting. ‘Working so soon?’



‘I've just finished putting the finishing touches on S- Longarm's petbot.' Megatron excused. ‘I've added a bit of functionality to make it better suited to Cybertronian handling than the previous one, you can give it to him this afternoon.’



‘No flamethrowers this time?’ The professor joked.



‘Of course not.’ Megatron replied curtly, having vivid flashbacks to all the mandatory lessons with the tutorbot the professor made him attend, to prevent another "Godzilla mishap".



‘Oh, that reminds me, just the other day Ratchet asked me to make something for him, but he wouldn't tell me what it was for.’ The professor commented idly.



The tiniest remnant of Megatron's optical ridge raised slightly, getting curious. ‘Did he now? Show it to me, I might know what it is.’ He politely demanded.



Professor Sumdac went over to his computer and put a photo of it onscreen, Megatron's good optic flared in surprise, it was a metal plate, thin in Cybertronian standards, with a sparse number of small holes dotted across its surface, seemingly unimportant but the latches at the side confirmed what it was.



It was a spark shield, for when two sweetsparks wanted to fool around without any commitment, when a couple wanted to bond without any "new additions" to the family, spark-to-spark interfaces with few of the negatives, a pit spawned spark shield was staring him right in his faceplate and he could have gone offline right then and there from the very sight of it. He had been too late, but before his rage began to have negative effects on his prison, he realised exactly what it meant, beyond the confirmation that Shockwave's shell and the minibot had finally become a pair, it meant he no longer had to worry about Shockwave bonding to the minibot, or even revealing his Decepticon memories by accident. The shield was a filter that blocked the bulk of spark merges, preventing bonding, sparking and memory sharing, but let through just enough through so that no mech would be denied their fun.



Remembering he had to give the professor an answer, he raced to explain what it was in the least incriminating manner possible. ‘It... it is a temporary medical device, sort of like a splint, nothing special.’ Megatron finally told the professor. “Thank you medic, when my body is restored and I enact justice upon you Autobots, I will kill you last.”



He could recharge easier knowing that Shockwave was a little safer, but he couldn't afford any rest or relaxation, now the race was on to get his body back before Shockwave gained any permanent sympathy for the Autobot cause, and he could start with some better circuitry made from quality destronium, not this inferior copper-



He remembered he just sent the only sample of destronium on this side of the planet to be used in an assassination attempt, the very same he would need to forge that better circuitry with.



Megatron squinted impatiently at the professor while he sipped his coffee, willing him to find something else to do as quickly as possible, if he was lucky, he could quickly redirect that human to deliver the sample to the tower instead by telling him he had gotten the target wrong and it was actually an attempt on Sumdac's life, which would play well into his Nemesis narrative if he got caught.




He got caught.



“Another plan down the exhaust.” Megatron thought bitterly as he watched the news broadcast with the professor, who knew that experimental super speed armour would completely wear out the human components in five-cycles in what usually took a vorn.



The professor turned off the news broadcast much to Megatron's fortune, he really wasn't in the mood for several hours of human speculation and mindless praise over the Autobots for "saving the day". ‘How ever did he get his hands on my experimental turbo suit?’ The professor asked aloud.



Realising the question was directed at him, Megatron announced his rehearsed theory. ‘I suspect it was an inside job.’ He lied. ‘The police captain did say Meltdown admitted his assistant during the Dinobot incident was one of your former associates, I wouldn't be surprised that they have also taken some of your schematics.’



Professor Sumdac turned round to Megatron, his fleshy eyes filled with worry. ‘You think it was that Nemesis fellow?’ He scratched his chin nervously. ‘I don't get it, I've been good to all my business partners, and employees, whatever did I do that one of them wants to kill me?’



‘You can't think of anyone who would want to doom your business?’ Megatron baited.



‘Nobody, absolutely nobody (well, maybe Dr Otto, he was a bit cuckoo the last time I saw him).’ The professor quaked a little in his boots. ‘Oh at this rate, I'll never be able to set foot outside my tower again.’



Megatron wanted so badly to deafen the pitiful organic with his laughter, the irony he soaked in completely refreshing his mood. “You absolute idiot, what wants to offline you IS your tower.”




Chapter Text



‘What exactly are you all doing?’ Prowl asked all three youngbots, he had no idea what to make of the sight of Bulkhead covered in a fowl smelling sheet, Bumblebee with a black curtain on his back and Longarm being unevenly wrapped up in a series of white banners by the both of them.



‘Tonight's that Holloweeb festival.’  Bulkhead explained, while he wrapped the long line of banners around Longarm's servo. ‘You dress up as scary human things, and extort fuel from each other.’



Prowl nodded warily. ‘And exactly what does that have to do with... tying Longarm up?’



Longarm pointed one digit up as he clarified his situation. ‘I'm going to be assuming the guise of an Earth-based Terrocon, that are primarily formed of the preserved remains of a Magnus frametype, that inhabited North Africa approximately 60 vorns ago, they're typically docile, until you steal their treasure and disturb their everlasting recharge.’



‘He means a mummy.’ Sari said to the very confused Prowl, though that information did nothing to help him understand any more than what Longarm said.



Longarm did a double take on what Sari said. ‘I thought that's what you call the frametype that makes more humans?’



Sari shook her head with a smile. ‘No, they're both mummies, one takes care of you, and the other curses you if you nick his stuff.’



‘How do you tell the difference?’ Bulkhead asked.



‘And I'm a count Dracula.’ Bumblebee exclaimed with an exited flourish of his curtain cape. ‘The evilest creature alive- dead, dead-alive, part bat, part bee, they roam the night-cycle and fuel off of human powerlines, or was it... Sari was it powerlines or motor oil?’



Sari pulled her hands down her face to match her internal agony, this was the fifth time she had to explain vampires to him. ‘Ugh, it's just part bat, Bee.’



‘That's what I said!’ Bee defended, not putting a mental comma where it was supposed to be.



‘Well I know what I am at least: a frameless spark!’ Bulkhead announced with some self-satisfaction.



Sari stopped trying to correct them after that.



‘Do you want to join in, Prowl?’ Longarm asked, before Prowl started walking off towards the base entrance.



‘Absolutely not.’ Was his reply, he transformed and drove off.



Just as Bumblebee was going to make some kind of jab against Prowl being allergic to fun, a loud shout of alarm echoed through the base, everyone whipped around at the sound of Optimus yelping, he had brought out his axe and began frantically swinging at one of the spider decorations Sari had put up, then stamped on it until it was nothing more than a pile of mush. He blinked a few times before he realised it wasn't real, an air of shame wafted about him while he put his axe away and walked towards the group, a Ratchet-tier glare on his faceplate.



‘What’s gotten into him?’ Bumblebee wondered.



‘Who put that there?!’ Optimus questioned them angrily. ‘Sari?’ He eventually accused, crossing his arms and looking her dead in the optics.



‘It's just a little fun.’ She teased. ‘You can't really call it Halloween if you don't scare someone.’



Optimus however didn't see the funny side of it, he raised an optical ridge. ‘Is it really necessary to do that inside our base?’



‘Yeah? And how necessary is using your dumb axe on a fake spider?’ Sari argued, sticking her tongue out at him, then walking off in a huff.



Longarm was a bit upset from that incident, he'd never seen Optimus so tetchy before, he'd never even seen Optimus shout at Sari either, it made Longarm wonder what was going on in his helm. Then he remembered, a few orbital-cycles ago, Optimus had told him a story of when he lost one of his best friends, Elita-1, to giant arachnids, all these decorations must have been reminding him about it.






‘Come on Shockwave, why couldn't you just leave all your stuff lying around like any normal Decepticon!’ Starscream wailed, bashing his good servo against the 50th encryption lock he'd encountered in that cabinet alone. ‘"Hur burr, my name's Shockwave, everything I own has to be sorted with 500 categories, with rotating passwords on every. SINGLE. ONE".’ Starscream mocked in the most Shockwavey voice his processor could muster. ‘Wow Shockwave that's pretty damn pathetic and wasteful of a superior officer's time, why ever would you do that? "Simple, because I was dropped as a sparkling, I never got my spike wet and I hate every alloy of my entire being!"’



‘What's a spike?’



Starscream turned on his heel and pointed towards the corner. ‘SHUTUP, GO BACK TO YOUR CORNER, AND DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!’ He screeched at his cheery companion.



‘Alrighty then.’ Lockdown said, going back to the corner and sitting down, then not a moment afterwards he said. ‘Hey there mister, wh-’



‘-at's your name, what are you doing, where're you going, what's this, what's that, PLEEEEAAASE! IS IT SO HARD TO REMEMBER SOMETHING FOR MORE THAN 5 NANO-CYCLES!?’ Starscream started as a rant but ended on a desperate plea to Lockdown, falling to the floor in defeat.



Lockdown, sitting in his corner, as jolly as ever, looked at him for a small moment, then answered. ‘Sorry mister, I don't seem to remember my- hmm...’ He stopped, obviously forgetting the question, his answer, and why he was even thinking to begin with.



And then Lockdown would go on to constantly ask where and what this place was, and no matter how many times Starscream would tell him that it was the remains of the Nemesis on the moon, he would forget everything before Starscream even finished the sentence. If he actually remembered things for more than 30 nano-cycles Starscream would have told him he was, looking for one of Shockwave's processor altering experiments that could alleviate Lockdown's memory problems, and if he remembered things for more than 1 cycle he could actually help him instead of sitting around repeating himself like a frozen program.



But Starscream just had to make do, just like he had to make do with finding the Allspark by himself, just like he had to make do with reattaching his lost arm by himself, building his hidden mining base by himself, procuring fuel by himself...



‘Hi, what's ya name?’ Lockdown asked once again.



Starscream didn't bother to answer, but his core hanged when someone else did. ‘Blackarachnia.’



‘You!?’ Starscream spun round to see her, the part spider Decepticon in all her unsightly visage standing idly in the doorway, all four optics narrowed at Lockdown before instantly moving to Starscream's direction. ‘What are you doing here!?’



‘I followed his ship's engine trail.’ Blackarachnia stated, pointing at Lockdown. ‘What the pit happened to him? He's not usually so... nice.’ Then she pointed towards Starscream's bad arm. ‘And what the pit happened to you?’



‘Autobots.’ Was the only thing Starscream would say, he was lucky to even get his arm back (and it would be a warm day in Kaon before he would ever admit that to the likes of her).



Blackarachnia pursed her lips, stifling a fit of laughter, one servo on her hips as she stared at Starscream in disdain. ‘Autobots, really? The team Megatron was after were spacebridge repairbots, it's bad enough I have to believe they managed to scrap Megatron, but you?’



‘Oh like you'd know.’ Starscream hissed, he thought of telling her about the warbuild, but if she was going to be so snarky about it, then he would gladly let her lose an arm and a stabiliser too. ‘Why don't you go down there and find out how, since your intel is so much more superior to mine.’ He sneered sarcastically.



‘Was already planning to, I just stopped in here to see what all the commotion was.’ She walked up to him and leaned casually against one of the lab's archive cabinets. ‘But I am a bit curious, why did you come all the way up here to Shockwave's old lab? He wasn't much of a weapons engineer you know.’



Starscream scooted several ways to the side, not wanting to spend a nano-cycle near her fleshy protoform. ‘I'm not looking for weapons, I'm looking for something that'll make him remember things for more than a nano-cycle.’ Starscream stressed, nodding his helm slightly towards Lockdown, who had found a datapad, going over the first two lines on it over and over again. ‘Did our dearly departed scientist happen to come up with anything along the lines of that?’



She thought about it for a moment, before a satisfied line fell on her lips. ‘I think I know what will do the trick, go to programs, (that's the P-section) then memory tampering, then invasive, then neuroupload reprogramming, look for the 45MT-DCT series index and that'll tell you which drive in D-section has 1235664-DSC(Version4.5.76.53).EXE. You'll then want the installation manual in the M-section since-’ She supressed a short snigger. ‘You don't have a single clue about how to reprogram a bot, so once you're in the M-section, follow the same route like it was the P-section to get the right manual. Then after that, go to...’



Starscream just stared at her as she went on and on, and on.



And on.



And on.



He was never more both frustrated and glad that Shockwave was dead, because he would have killed him twenty times over for making him have to go through all of this misery. ‘How the pit did you learn all of that?’ Starscream wondered, but then realised he said it out aloud when her helm turned his way.



‘I had to.’ Blackarachnia scowled, entering the right code for the M-section encryption lock then pulling the right datapad out of it. ‘I was his replacement, so I had to learn all of his blasted sorting systems, what was he doing that he got himself scrapped anyway? He used to never leave this gross little cubbyhole, unless there was someone Megatron wanted an example made of.’



Starscream gave an honest shrug. ‘I have no idea, one cycle he was here, the next he was on a secret errand for Megatron, the next Megatron was snapping spinal struts in memory of him.’



Blackarachnia finally dropped the program, its manual and all the materials needed to tamper with Lockdown into Starscream's awaiting servos. ‘See you around never.’ She said, making motions to leave. ‘I have a little date with those scary Autobots of yours.’



‘Wait, you're going down there, alone?’ Starscream objected, he didn't actually think she would go on her own, he needed all the help he could get with that warbuild running around. ‘D-don't you want my intel and brilliant plans!?’



Blackarachnia could not look any more insulted, she turned around, leaning on the entrance to the lab. ‘Puh-leaase, how long have you been down here and not done anything? Half an orn? you're almost as slow as Megatron, it took him four and a half thousand vorns to track the Allspark, it barely even took me one, and now that it's in reaches, I don't have to put up with you, or him, or any of your cronies anymore.’



Starscream dropped all the things he'd been carrying and approached her far too much for his liking, threateningly pointing at her. ‘And I'm not going to let you just take the Allspark a-’



‘What's an Allspark?’



‘GO BACK TO YOUR CORNER LOCKDOWN!’ He barked before returning to Blackarachnia. ‘AND AS FOR YOU-’



Blackarachnia flicked the centre of Starscream's faceplate in annoyance. ‘Cool your engines, I'm just going to borrow it for a while, then you can do whatever the pit you want to it, sell it to Unicron for all I care, I don't give a Minicon's aft for the Decepticons, the Autobots or this stupid war, so you just sit tight, and tell me everything I need to know, then have fun playing Shockwave with your dumb bounty hunter, I'll just do my business and be on my way.’







‘I was wondering, why do humans all dress up like things they're scared of for fuel extortion? Like maybe there's an easier way to do it.’ Bulkhead pondered aloud, while they all sat and waited for Sari to get into her secret surprise costume.



‘Ah, I was reading about this earlier!’ Longarm replied, eagerly getting out one of his datapads. ‘It's less to do with the extortion, most of the Earth doesn't even perform that part of the celebration, it's-’



‘Oh come on Longarm, can't you just turn off your big processor for one night-cycle?’ Bumblebee groaned, leaning almost obnoxiously into Longarm's lap. ‘You spent a whole solar-cycle trying to find the right monster to dress up as, then another 3 looking up all that history stuff about them, when's it gonna end?’



Longarm shuffled embarrassingly, lowering his datapad. ‘I wanted to make sure I was in character.’



‘Longy, if you were in character, you'd be recharging under a pile sand until you rusted over!’ Bumblebee pouted, then sprung a digit right to Longarm's lips when he was just about to correct him. ‘You've been studying reading like 90% of every deca-cycle already, you need a break from all that smart stuff big guy.’



Longarm frowned, but then returned his face to neutral, maybe Bumblebee was right, but it was hard turning down his processor when it was completely abuzz with all these nearly almost useless factoids. ‘I suppose.’ He eventually agreed.



Bumblebee shifted a little on Longarm's lap. ‘But here's a little thing I know about count Draculas, did you know-’ He pounced on Longarm, knocking him on his back, then nuzzled their olfactory sensors together. ‘That they're super handsome and completely irresistible? And that you have to do everything I say?’ He teased, only to burst in to laughter when Longarm tickled his sides in revenge. ‘HAHA, stop it, Longarm!’



‘That's just the new lore, they look nastier in the old stories.’ Bulkhead commented, averting his pure optics away from Bumblebee and Longarm's ticklefest.



Bumblebee pouted angrily, sitting up straight in an instant. ‘N-no! That's just propaganda they did to stop people liking them so much.’



Bulkhead held his helm high, which was hard to see under his sheet. ‘Face it Bumblebee, Draculas are supposed to look like Ratchet.’



‘Is not!’



‘Is so!’



Bumblebee stood up. ‘IS NOT!’



Bulkhead joined, towering over Bumblebee. ‘Is. So.’



‘Stop arguing back there you two!’ Optimus snapped from his spot at the security station.



‘Tell him it's not – it's so – Longarm!’ They both demanded at him.



‘I... I think you're pretty either way, Bumblebee.’ Longarm stuttered out, scratching the back of his helm, and closing his optics from the pressure of their stares.



Bumblebee blushed wildly then turned away in embarrassment, somehow ending up on the other side of the room. ‘S-see! Longarm agrees with me!’



‘Sure...’ Bulkhead replied.



‘Hey guuuys~’ Sari called out, all optics now on the doorway she was behind. ‘Check out my costume.’ She walked into the main base area dressed up like Optimus, her costume made of painted cardboard boxes and rubber gloves and boots. ‘"Look at me, I'm Optimus Prime and I'm scared of spiders."’ She imitated, gaining a few snickers from Bulkhead and Bumblebee.



Optimus did not look impressed, grimacing a tiny bit. ‘That's not what I sound like.’



‘Wait, does that mean you think Bossbot is scary?’ Bulkhead asked Sari.



Sari did her best imitation of Optimus' proud leader pose. ‘Yeah, to villains that is!’



‘Sure you don't want to come with us Bossbot?’ Bumblebee asked as they were getting ready to leave.



‘No.’ Was Optimus' curt reply before he turned round and went back to the monitors. ‘You four be careful out there, watch where you step as well, Bulkhead.’



‘"Ok team, transform, and roll out!"’ Sari commanded, gleefully soaking in Optimus' glare as they all left.







‘Oh no, here comes a human.’ Prowl said, moving a cardboard cutout of a movie actor across the grass. ‘What do you do when there's a human, Slag?’



‘I know, me no steppy on human! O-or use fire mouth!’ Slag answered, treading his front stabilisers up and down on the same spot, hoping he got the answer right.



‘Very good slag.’ Prowl praised him, he threw a chicken nugget for Slag to catch as a reward, which he did with great enthusiasm.



‘Me Swoop have que- quo- question!’ Swoop said, raising a talon. ‘We eat what human eat, does mean human taste like food?’



Prowl was panicking internally, but quickly came up with a reasonable answer. ‘Would you eat Grimlock?’



Grimlock swatted his tail on the ground. ‘Me Grimlock destroy you if try!’ He huffed, puffing his chest up to look his strongest.



‘And that's why you don't eat humans, unlike food, they fight back.’ Prowl said, concluding that uncomfortable lesson, he just hoped they took it to their sparks.



‘Me Grimlock think, human make lots of noise when see us, how make them be quiet?!’ Grimlock asked Prowl.



‘You just have to be patient, Grimlock, Humans are easily scared, the noise they make is to warn other humans that something scary is nearby, if you give them time, and do your best not to hurt them, or eat them, they'll calm down.’







Bulkhead, Bumblebee, Longarm and Sari walked down the streets, getting closer to the houses, the streets were crawling with humans of all ages, some even dressed up as Autobots like Sari was. Longarm had been keeping a tally of all the little admirers they had, Optimus was the most popular choice, he lost count of how many little cardboard trucks there were in the crowd, then Bumblebee was the next popular choice, then Longarm, Prowl and finally a single Bulkhead, he had yet to spot any Ratchets though. But Longarm wasn't the only one with optics on the crowd, now that he thought about it, it was kind of the reverse, a lot of the crowd had their eyes on him and his friends, his spark nervously crawled to the back of its chamber with, he didn't look too silly in this mummy getup, did he?



「You ok big guy? You look kinda spooked.」Bumblebee messaged him.



「Bumblebee, do I look silly dressed like this?」Longarm messaged back.



He could just make out Bumblebee's silent giggle before he got his reply.「You look cute either way ♥♥♥ 」



Suddenly, a little girl with a pumpkin bucket walked to Bumblebee, tugging on his cape. ‘'Scuse me, mister Autobot?’



Bumblebee crouched down to his level, everyone else stopping to see what was happening. ‘What's up lil guy?’



‘Can you eat sweets?’ She asked, swaying shyly on the spot.



‘Docbot said a little bit is fine.’ Bulkhead answered. ‘Too much'll give us a tankache though.’



Satisfied with the answer, the child reached into her bucket, pulling out a sweet. ‘This is for you.’



None of them were to know it, but accepting that sweet opened the floodgates, and they were swarmed with children, wanting to give their favourite Autobot their hard earned extorted goods.




‘Ok, you guys know how it goes right, when they open the door, you say "trick or treat".’ Sari reminded one final time, pressing the doorbell to the first house.



Longarm wasn't even sure they should be going through with this part anymore, they had been given plenty of sweets by all the-



Bumblebee squeaked in surprise, then scuttled behind Longarm and onto his back, shaking like a leaf. ‘aa- big- black, fangs, legs, l-lots- lots of legs!’ He stammered in fright, pointing a servo up high above them.



Longarm looked up, but he didn't see anything with lots of legs, not even a shadow or a decoration.



‘I don't see anything.’ Bulkhead mumbled.



‘It was all- then it went- there were legs!’ Bumblebee spluttered, crawling all over Longarm and Bulkhead's backs like a scared little insecticon, looking everywhere for where his black, fanged, leg monster was.



Sari walked to them after getting her share of sweets. ‘Guys, you forgot to say- guys?’



Longarm took one sweep with his scanner, turning up nothing. ‘I can't detect anything unusual at all Bumblebee, are you sure you didn't have a glitch in your optics?’



‘I'm telling you guys, I saw something, we're being followed!’ Bumblebee whimpered, pacing nervously on the spot.



‘Maybe it was spider decoration?’ Bulkhead suggested.



‘You're such a scaredybot Bumblebee, you're worse than Optimus.’ Sari teased, not feeling endangered at all.



‘Am not!’ Bumblebee defended.






‘AAAH!’ Bumblbee yelped while he scuttled back to his safe space on Longarm's back ‘B-besides, I know the difference between a decoration and a real giant spider.



The next person to speak up was somebody none of them were expecting, it was Optimus, on their comms. ‘Wait, Bumblebee you saw a giant spider?’



Bumblebee turned on his comms to reply. ‘Yeah, a giant spider, lots of legs, climbs up walls the whole deal.’ A bit later he did a double take. ‘Wait, have you been listening in on our comms this whole time?’



‘I'll be right there, keep your optics and scanners alert.’



Bumblebee was the only one who took Optimus' reaction seriously, and as much as Longarm wanted to believe him, he was sure Optimus was still on edge over the incident where he lost Elita, so he kept walking with the others to the next house.







‘Alright Dinobots, can you remember the difference between a Decepticon and an Autobot?’



Swoop scratched his helm in deep thought before answering. ‘Uhh, Decepticon have purple face, and...  and they say things that not real.’



‘Very good Swoop, so, say that I had this apple.’ Prowl started, holding out a tiny apple in the palm of his servo, at least, until Swoop snapped it up in an instant. ‘Swoop, please do not eat the learning materials.’



‘Me sorry.’ (He wasn't sorry.)



But Prowl could still continue his lesson. ‘But, if I were a Decepticon, I would pretend I still have an apple in this hand.’ He closed his outstretched servo that once held the apple. ‘A Decepticon would say "Grimlock, I will give you this apple if you do something for me", would that be true?’



‘But you no have apple!’ Grimlock huffed. ‘Him Swoop eated it!’



Exactly.’ Prowl replied. ‘That would make it?’



‘A not real apple!’ Grimlock answered



‘A lie, Grimlock, that would make it a lie.’ Prowl corrected, opening his servo to show that the apple was not real, but it didn't stop Slag from sagging in disappointment after getting his hopes up.



‘A not real lie!’



‘Close enough, I suppose.’ Prowl relented, he could always improve their vocabulary another solar-cycle. ‘So, what would be the lesson learned?’



‘That purple faces pretend they have apples, but not.’ Slag mumbled, scuffing the dirt with his pedes absently.



‘Almost Slag, it's that you have to be careful knowing what is truth from lies, a Decepticon is named after the word deception, they will do everything they can to make you believe them, they will tell lies, they-’



‘Pretend they have apples, when not?’ Prowl was beginning to think Slag was rather upset about that apple.



‘Yes, they’ll do that too.’ Prowl said, giving Slag some consolidation pats on his helm to cheer him up. ‘They will do bad things then claim it wasn't them, or that someone else did it, so you must be careful, follow your spark, if something doesn't feel right in your spark, then you should try to find out why.’



‘Ok.’ The three of them said, nodding deeply.



‘And now, for the next lesson.’ No amount of mental preparation could prepare Prowl for the incoming turmoil. ‘Maths.’







It took a lot of willpower not to just laugh herself into stasis lock and give herself away, Starscream had warned her, but really nothing could prepare her for this Halloween festival, or even the Autobots attempts to join in the fun, these were the bots that killed Megatron? She always thought he was losing his touch but this just took the prize! She had been planning to pick them off, one by one, and use one of Shockwave's cortical patches to steal the location of the Allspark from them, but instead she followed the curiously significant amount of Allspark energy to these youngbots, all the bots had it in their systems, indicating they had frequent interaction with the Allspark, but what was the cause of that surge, it was smaller than an Autobot, smaller than a scraplet even, but powerful. She zoomed in on the organic girl they were with, her scanner figuring out the Allspark energy source, it was the key around her neck, a key of vector sigma.



Exactly what Blackarachnia had been planning to make in the first step of her plan, and there it was, dangling from a little meaty neck of a tiny organic, this was going to be a lot easier than she originally thought.



‘Let's see what I'm working with here.’ Blackarachnia said idly, bringing up the Autobot database, then turned her scanner to the yellow minibot, reading his entry.



Bumblebee, 19 vorns old, minibot racer, junior spacebridge technician (3rd class).

Notes: Endangered fellow recruits on numerous occasions, attention-seeker, troublemaker.

Sigma ability: Unknown.

Equipment: Dual stingers (civilian grade).



‘Whatever, next.’ She scanned the Autobot covering himself with a sheet.



Bulkhead, 20 vorns old, heavy duty constructobot, spacebridge engineer (1st class).

Notes: Holds all time highest score on engineering test, incredibly clumsy.

Sigma ability: Unknown.

Equipment: One demolition wrecking ball



‘Then there's you...’ She scanned the one wrapped up in sheets, sourly reminding her of how her spider brethren wrapped up their prey.



Longarm, 20 vorns old, heavy duty constructobot, no rank.

Note: In care of Autobot Doctor Ratchet following critical injuries, to be recommended to Autobot intelligence agency as data clerk if recovered, well-mannered, Prime-material.

Sigma ability: Able to extend length of servos and stabilisers.

Equipment: Unarmed.



Blackarachnia let out a quiet but very smug laugh. ‘Please, this'll be like taking Energon goodies from a sparkli-’



She paused to hide behind some kind of building kibble when Longarm suddenly turned round and looked right up at the building she was on, she was certain she had her signal dampeners on right, unless her scan had pricked up on his scanner, she was sure she had been far away enough for it to not pick up on an Autobot scanner.




It was getting late, and Sari was probably the only child still up while they walked her back home, bags completely full of sweets, but then something odd pinged on Longarm's scanner for a nano-cycle, high above them on the roofs of the buildings, he looked to the source but saw nothing, no spiders, not even a hint of a Decepticon.



‘What is it Longy?’ Bumblebee asked, noticing he stopped moving with the group. ‘Did you see the spider!?’



‘My scanner picked up a Cybertronian energy signature for a moment, but it's gone now.’ He explained, wondering what it was.



Bumblebee stamped his pedes on the same spot with uneasiness. ‘It's the giant spider, I told you, we're being followed!’



Even with the oddity on his scanner, Longarm still didn’t believe him. ‘Why would a giant spider have a Cybertronian energy signature? It doesn't make sense.’



‘Well if Bossbot is so edgy about it, it has to be something big!’ Bumblebee argued back.



‘Can we...’ Sari paused to yawn loudly, not noticing the tiny metal clacks of spindly metal pedes high above her. ‘Can we not keep argue about this?’



‘All I'm saying is, we should keep our scanners on high alert.’ Bumblebee suggested to Longarm and Bulkhead, none of them spotting the shadow looming over Sari behind them. ‘Keep our optics focused, and don't let anything get past-’



That was the part when Sari screamed.



They whipped round to see a giant mechanical spider reeling her in with thick strands of synthetic webbing, Bumblebee acted immediately, tearing off his cape, he used his stingers to cut the web and then dashed in to catch Sari as she fell. The spider followed immediately, jumping down from the building and scuttled towards them, Bulkhead threw off his sheet then armed himself with wrecking ball, but Longarm was at a loss, he was having a real hard time getting all of his costume off of himself, he couldn't even access his cannon with the fake bandages covering the powerline connectors.



The spider didn't attack them, instead it began transforming, and then it wasn't a spider, but a fembot standing before them, and if having a spider for an alt-mode was weird, her true form was disturbing. Four optics adorned her helm and chest each, the barest minimum of armour plating, but the worst part was her protoform, it wasn't smooth metal, they could see her frame shifting underneath as she held herself on display, but even then it wasn't normal mesh alloy, whatever it was it was textured with thousands of tiny wrinkles, and thin fibers that looked like...



Organic skin...



‘You wouldn't hurt a helpless fembot, now would you boys?’ She said in a seductive voice, gently posing herself in way that oozed "harmless fembot", to try and pretend she was less threatening than what she really was.



‘Who are you?’ Bumblebee demanded, stingers pointed and at the ready, not buying into her ploy.



‘W-what are you?’ Bulkhead blurted out, completely falling for her ploy.



Duh, she's a girl.’ Sari said like it was obvious.



That's when Longarm noticed the Decepticon logo, he forgoed ripping his costume off manually and transformed into his tank form, the banners snapping and getting caught in his seams as he did, but he was still functional, and now free to fight this new foe. ‘Sari, get behind me, that's not a girl.’ Longarm whispered to her. ‘She's a Decepticon.’



The fembot tensed for the smallest of nano-cycles, but not at his accusation. “That's not a construction form.” She observed with suspicion inside her mind, but paid it no more attention, he was trying to scare her with some Earth military vehicle, he wouldn't even have the firing mechanism for it.



She slowly approached the mesmerised Bulkhead. ‘My friends call me Blackarachnia.’ She introduced, getting close enough to touch Bulkhead.



‘Bulkhead snap out of it!’ Bumblebee warned, edging closer with his stingers.



In an instant, the two appendages that were on her back pierced Bulkhead's front, he was keeled over and in stasis before he even knew what was happening, Bumblebee rushed forwards, firing his stingers at Blackarachnia, and then he was on the ground too, she had flipped over him and pierced him with those appendages the moment she landed, now it was just Longarm left fully online, Sari hiding behind him.



‘Hand over the girl if you know what's good for you, Autobot.’ Blackarachnia hissed, turning to face Longarm. ‘Your little pipshooter form doesn't scare me, you're not a warbui-’



That was her first mistake.






And then was Blackarachnia's second mistake, he'd been charging his cannon, and she had stood still long enough for him to make an easy, clean shot, thinking quickly, she dodge-rolled over to the side, scuttled up the building and vaulted over to the other side before he could fire. When they were sure she was gone, Longarm transformed back into his robot mode and quickly preened himself free of the remnants of his costume, while Sari ran over to Bulkhead, she got onto his chestplate and took key in hand, intending to heal him.



Longarm un-subspaced his cannon then activated his comm, his spark on full overdrive while he scanned the entire area for a trace of Blackarachnia, but she was invisible to his scanner. ‘Optimus! Bee was right, there's a giant spider after Sari, but it's a Decepticon, she knocked him and Bulkhead out, where are Prowl and Ratchet? When can you get here?’ He stressed.



‘A Decepticon?’ Optimus questioned. ‘Never mind, I'm almost there Longarm.’ Optimus ordered over the comm, after a moment, he was back again. ‘Ratchet is down in the ship, and Prowl isn't responding, it's just us, keep calm, don't let the Decepticon take advantage of you.’ With that, Optimus cut communication, leaving Longarm to defend Sari and his powered down friends.



‘Come on, why won't you work.’ Sari whined in frustration, the key wasn't working on Bulkhead, neither booting him up or healing whatever was causing him to stay powered down, leaving him and Bumblebee as sitting prey.



‘My venom is organic, the Allspark won't have any effect on it.’ They both heard from above them.



Longarm lifted his cannon towards her, but she was smart, she dropped down and approached them with a house behind her as insurance in case he missed, and Longarm's spark skipped a pulse when he registered all the humans living inside it. Sari quickly pulled the key out of Bulkhead and ran to the safety of Longarm's pedes, hiding herself as much as she could inside his treads, but still peeking out in curious fear.



Blackarachnia smirked. ‘Just as I thought, you're too protective of these organics to risk missing me.’ She said with an air of smug triumph when he didn't charge his cannon up.



‘Make one move towards my friends and say that again.’ Longarm growled, if she so much as scratched one plate on Bumblebee’s frame he'd-



‘I'll keep it in mind.’ She replied smoothly. ‘But I just have to ask, how did you manage to get such strong firepower? Have you boys been abusing the Allspark's powers? Getting yourselves some custom mods? That's not very Autobot of you, is it.’



‘How do you know about the Allspark?’ Sari asked.



‘I'm an expert on it.’ Blackarachnia explained. ‘I would say you could let me try to revive them, but I don't feel very welcome right now.’



‘Then maybe you shouldn't have tried to kidnap me.’ Sari hissed back.



Blackarachnia giggled. ‘Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know that was illegal, I'm learning so much today~’



Longarm gripped his cannon arm with his free servo tighter. ‘Don't play coy with me.’ He spat, optics narrowing.



‘Or what, you'll shoot me and all these meatbags behind me? Here's the deal Autobot, my venom doesn't just power them down for the night.’ She snickered again when Longarm looked down to Bumblebee's unconscious form with worry. ‘You have juuuust about, oh, half a mega-cycle to hand over that key of vector sigma, or the next time you'll see them is inside the Allspark’



Longarm went as rigid like a coiled snake, how dare she!? She poisoned his friends...



She poisoned Bumblebee!



He couldn't control himself, she had to pay for that, nobody hurt his Bee and got away with it! He rushed forwards with a punch, Blackarachnia stepped to the side and let out a string of webbing towards his pedes.






It had been a distraction, now Sari was dangling in Blackarachnia's servos from a long string of web. ‘Buh-bye~’ She said with two winks before jumping up onto a building and running off towards the city proper.



Longarm was just about to give chase but he heard a tiny metal clink rattle around in his pede the moment he lifted it up, like a piece of Earth currency falling on the floor, he looked down to see the key was right there on the road, Sari must not have put it back around her neck and dropped it when she was snatched. Technically, this meant he still had the advantage over Blackarachnia, but that wasn't counting the fact she had Sari as a hostage, and without the key, what was stopping Blackarachnia from killing her, or using her as a bargaining chip?



Longarm picked the key up and stashed it and his cannon away in his subspace, he had to think about this quickly, he could catch up to her, but if it took him half a mega-cycle, then it would be too late to save Bumblebee and Bulkhead, so he would have to draw her back close to here, but how? And where? He brought a map up on his hud, noting Optimus’ fast approach... and a nearby park.



‘Optimus, change of plans, meet me in the park as soon as you can, she has Sari, but I have the key, and a plan.’



If she could use Sari as hostage material, then he could do the exact same with the key.




Blackarachnia jumped from roof to roof, hoping to get as much distance as she could from that warbuild Autobot Longarm before she would snatch that key and use it on herself, she was almost getting giddy when some cutesy little song started playing and broke her mood, she stopped to see the cause was coming from the organic she picked up.



‘Cut that racket girl.’ Blackarachnia hissed.



Sari pouted and turned her head away. ‘That's my phone, Optimus is calling, you have to pick it up, or else he and Longarm will chop you into little itsy bitsy spiderbits.’



‘I'm not really in the mood for negotiation but whatever.’ Blackarachnia grumbled, she pierced into Sari’s costume and found the offending device, accepting the call.



‘Blackarachnia?’ Longarm said through the phone.



‘Speaking.’ She replied coyly.



‘I want an exchange.’ Longarm stated briefly.



She chocked a laugh back, so soon? Here she thought she made enough tricks tonight. ‘Ok big boy, if yo-’



He cut her off loudly. ‘If you want the key, meet me in the central park, if I see Sari has been harmed, I'll crush it, then you.’ He disconnected the call, leaving Blackarachnia with a blank dialing tone.



Blackarachnia looked up at Sari, who had a smug little smile plastered all over herself, and not a trace of the key either. ‘Butterfingers~’ She teased.



Blackarachnia was starting to get uneasy, she turned round and headed to the park. “An Autobot holding a hostage situation? Just who is this bot?”




She set foot in the central park, which was almost pitch black due to the lack of bright lights, but she had natural Decepticon low-light vision, and could see clearly through the darkness, she didn't have to go far to find him, Longarm was waiting for her below one of the few lights deeper into the park, he didn't have his cannon out, but pinched in between his digits was the key.



‘Show me Sari.’ He said in a very serious voice.



Blackarachnia held out her web that Sari was attached to. ‘See, not a single scratch.’



‘Give her and the antidote for your venom over, then I'll give you the key.’ Longarm proposed, he extended his servo out a quarter of the way, to show some goodwill, but pinched it tight to prevent her snatching it with a web.



‘Oh please, the venom story was just to get you mad, they'll boot up again soon enough, have your dumb organic.’ Blackarachnia walked sideways to one of the trees, and gracefully wound the end of her web round a branch leaving Sari to dangle.



‘Why are you even so interested in the dumb key anyway? Don’t you Decepticreeps want the Allspark?’ Sari called out.



 Blackarachnia backed up away from Sari, fulfilling her part of the bargain. ‘Oh don't you worry, the Allspark is next if the key doesn't work.’ Blackarachnia warned. ‘Don't look so spooked kid, I'm not in the Decepticons for the glory or the fighting.’



‘Then why are you with them?!’ Came Optimus' long awaited battle cry of surprise.



He leapt out of the trees, foam cannon at the ready, he shot Blackarachnia's optics full of foam, then used his grapplers to free Sari from the tree and put her down to safety, seeing the successful rescue, Longarm reeled his arm back in and subspaced the key, he picked Sari up and ran to the entrance of the park to set her free and away from danger.



‘Optimus!?’ Blackarachnia gasped when she wiped all four optics clear, taking a few steps back before the pandemonium faded and rage consumed her. ‘So, the rumours are true.’ Optimus charged forwards with his axe, swinging resolutely at her, but she dodged every single one of his moves without so much as a worry. ‘And you haven't even changed from textbook academy manoeuvres.’ To emphasise her point, she pre-empted his next attack to the extreme, by catching his servo mid-swing at just the right angle.



Optimus was startled. ‘Do- do I know you?’



‘I know how easily you forget your friends.’ She jeered, with a sharp twist of her servo, Optimus' arm was behind his back and she flipped him onto the ground. ‘But you were fine with remembering Sentinel that day!



Optimus' optics widened, he looked devastated from his sudden realisation. ‘E-Elita? That's you!?’



Longarm stopped dead in his tracks, he had heard it just on the tips of his audials, he glanced back at her, ‘You're Elita?!’ Longarm exclaimed in horror.



‘Oh, so everyone knows about our little trip to Archea-7!?’ Blackarachnia half screamed at Optimus, kicking his helm into the dirt. ‘Do they know you did this to me!? You left me behind with those spiders, you didn't even bother looking for me, YOU MADE ME INTO THIS!



Longarm went back to the task at hand, but knowing she was Optimus' old friend had taken a lot out of him, she looked almost nothing like the image Optimus showed him, what happened to her that she-



He knew why she wanted the key.



‘We wanted to go back for you, your signal was offline, they wouldn't let us return!’ Optimus tried to explain, but Blackarachnia only pulled his arm harder. ‘We would have gotten you help back home.’



She started webbing his servos together, then the entire top half of his frame. ‘Help!? They would have dissected me on a lab table!’



Optimus struggled vainly in his bonds. ‘So you allied with the Decepticons instead? The very bots we swore to defend Cybertron from!? Elita they would have done the same the moment you stopped being useful to them.’



‘And yet, here I am.’ And with that, she dragged him to a tree and webbed him up further, ensuring that he couldn't escape.




Longarm had just dropped Sari off at the entrance to the park, to go find Bulkhead and Bumblebee and see if they booted back up again, then turned on his heelstrut and ran back into the park. Optimus' signal was still online, but it wasn't moving, meaning Blackarachnia must still be pinning him down, just as he got back to where he left them Longarm was kicked right in the back and fell down on his front, the weight of an entire bot on his back.



‘You know, I wasn't entirely lying when I said my venom can kill, if you don't give me that key right now I'll-’



Longarm transformed into his tank form, knocking Blackarachnia off his back, he reversed as quick as he could to run her over, but she rolled out of the way and recovered quickly and scuttled further into the park and out of the light.



‘You've made enough threats tonight!’ Longarm shouted, he transformed back into robot mode and looked around for any sign of her coming back to attack him, or for Optimus' whereabouts.



Suddenly, the lights nearby began breaking, blanketing the park in darkness. ‘Clearly I haven't made enough.’ He heard her hiss through the shadows of the trees.



Longarm, keeping his scanner and audials on high alert, hoping that Blackarachnia was staying near where Optimus' signal was, he cautiously looked around him, to see if any sort of shape could be her. Then another brilliant idea crossed his processor, if he couldn't hear her, he would make her make noise, which was a lot easier now he knew what her goal was. ‘You know, Optimus told me about you, what you used to be, he regretted what happened to you.’



Her voice came to the left of him, confirming his fear that she wasn't by Optimus. ‘I don't care, just give me that key so I can purge this organic half!’



‘Then what will you do? Go back to the Decepticons? Hope they welcome you back with open arms?’



‘You don't know anything about me.’ She seethed to his right, good, he was getting under her plating. ‘I only followed Megatron around for his Allspark quest, there's a permanent retirement on Ursa Minor Beta with my designation written all over it once this is over.’



Longarm made his best attempt at a laugh. ‘Really? I think he rubbed off a bit too much on you, ever heard the phrase "there's no rest for the wicked"?’



A popup appeared on Longarm's HUD, warning him of the low levels of light and if he wanted to reconnect his optic for better vision, but his optics were already open, except...



His third optic.



Her voice was to his front left now, and sounded like she was at the end of her tether. ‘Cut the small talk, I know you're stalling for time, hand. Over. That. Key. NOW.’



Longarm turned his third optic on, and suddenly he could make out everything, Optimus was heavily wrapped in web by a tree, trying to pull the webbing off his faceplate with the corner of his shoulder, his axe discarded close by to Longarm, and Blackarachnia was eying him with a snarl on her faceplate.



He curled his own lips with a genuine smirk. ‘No, you don't deserve it, you've become worse than your organic half, Elita.’



‘DON’T CALL ME THAT!’ She screamed.






Longarm sprung his next trap, he snatched up Optimus' axe with an extended servo then charged at Blackarachnia, then started planning his next, if she knew Optimus' moves, then he'd fake her out with a moveset of his own. The momentary shock she received quickly dissolved as she played into his ploy, the first swing he did exactly like Optimus did, and he almost relished the smirk on her face, then just as she was preparing to do her snatch and grab he changed his angle and cleft her deeply in the hip.



She staggered back, panicking.  ‘H-how!? When-’



Longarm continued his assault, every time she got close to figuring out his attack pattern, he came up with another to throw her off again. ‘You could have had our help, we have the key, the Allspark, a doctor, and this world all for ourselves, all you had to do was ask and we would have helped you, but you lied, you cheated, and you hurt my team!’



This was what Starscream had warned her about wasn't it, it wasn't the Prime she should have been worried about at all, how could he see her? How could he fake her out like that, that was a Decepticon tactic!? He was attacking her with none of the academy manoeuvres, or even amateur moves, just who was this-



Wait a moment.



His frame, the colour was different, but the shape was similar.



That red orb in his faceplate...



All of her optics widened with realisation. ‘Sho-AUGH!’ She yowled in pain when Longarm cut across the optics on her chestplate with Optimus' axe, staggering her back, she flipped backwards as far as she could out of his reach, backed up, then through her highly strung nerves, she found the strength to laugh hysterically. ‘I get it now, you didn't become a warbuild, you always were one weren't you?! You only showed that gun of yours when your "team" weren’t there to see it, you've been in disguise this whole time!’ She narrowed her optics at him. ‘But why? Why are you here pretending to be an Autobot constructobot of all things!? Do they even know who you really are!?’ Blackarachnia demanded, pointing a digit out to Optimus' struggling form, he had only just managed to pull the webbing from his intake. ‘Would they still be your "friends" then if I tell him your big secret!?’



‘We know Elita.’ Optimus revealed, cutting her power down even more. ‘All of us do, we accepted him for who he is, just like I would have done for you if I knew you were still online.’



Blackarachnia was completely shaken, how could- when-



Longarm stopped his attack to give her a chance, like how Optimus and Ratchet had given him. ‘Look at me Elita, I was like you, I was ashamed of who and what I was, I had all these modifications done to try and hide it, pretend I was an ordinary Autobot, but it wasn't enough. But I learned what you didn't, you hated being a Decepticon from day one and used them to your ends, but I gained bots who supported me through everything, I care for them as much as they do for me!’



Optimus looked in her general direction through the darkness. ‘Please, it's not too late, we can help you, we can find a cure together.’



They accepted Shockwave, Shockwave, of all the Decepticons in the world, they-



She couldn't-



‘This... this isn't over!’ She said with a wavering vocaliser, on the point of glitching out, pointing at Longarm with a tremor stricken digit, she retreated backwards, then turned and bolted into a full sprint.







‘I believe the correct term is: trick or treat.’ Optimus said, handing the key back to Sari.



She giggled, jumping up to take the key back. ‘I'm supposed to say that dummy, you just fork over the goods.’



‘Are you ok, Bumblebee?’ Longarm asked him, glad to see he was alright on outside appearances.



‘Yeah, just my power supply is all fritzy.’ He complained, trying to get some feeling back into his pedes by moving them around.



‘Maybe a little chocolate fudge will sort that out?’ Sari said, offering him a Curly Wurly out of the goodie bag.



Bumblebee nibbled on it hesitantly, then widened his eyes in surprise, munching down the entire bar, wrapper and all, a look of pure delight plastered on his faceplate. ‘How much of this stuff did Docbot say we could eat again before it clogs my tank?’ He asked between munches.



Bulkhead counted the maths on his claws as he converted it to Earth measurements. ‘2000 grams?’



While Bumblebee and Bulkhead eagerly started tucking in on the sweets they extorted, Longarm turned to Optimus, neither of them looked too happy about what happened tonight, but at least the others were safe and enjoying themselves.



‘Optimus, sir, are you alright?’ Longarm asked to console him.



Optimus looked out to the distance before returning Longarm's attention. ‘I hoped she would say yes, but, I suppose it'll take her some time till she trusts me again.’



Longarm nodded in understanding. ‘I wish I could have handled it better too, she was moving too fast for me to shoot her before she kidnapped Sari, but I suppose that might have been for the best.’



‘You know, that offer for training at the base is still up.’ Optimus reminded him. ‘If you want to, that is.’



Longarm mulled it over for a moment, even though she had lied about poisoning Bulkhead and Bumblebee, he could have lost them tonight, or could lose them in the next Decepticon attack. Ratchet's old warphrase was right, if he truly deserved his team, this dream he was in and Bumblebee, he would have to do everything he could to protect it.



‘I'll do it.’ Longarm agreed, before going over to Bumblebee.



‘Longy! You have to try this stuff!’ Bumblebee said, taking the piece of chocolate Sari unwrapped for him to Longarm's intake. ‘It's better than fancy Energon!’



‘Really?’ And with that he got curious, he leaned over and nibbled a little off the edge, which was about a quarter of the bar in human standards, it... it had the sweetest taste, literally incomparable to anything he had before.



Another bite couldn't hurt.







‘...And then they had several sparklings, and lived happily, till the end of their runtimes.’



Prowl turned off the datapad, then gave Slag's recharging form a few pats before standing back up, he should be heading back to the base before they all got worried about where he was.



‘Prowl come back tomorrow?’ Swoop asked from his nest, optics drooping tiredly.



‘Yeah... re-’ Grimlock yawned. ‘Read me Grimlock more stories?’



Prowl nodded. ‘Of course, but only if you can count higher than twenty next time.’  He bargained.



Grimlock let out a puff of smug air. ‘Heh, me Grimlock the smartest, me think that easy! 1, 2...’



He counted all the way to 5 until he dozed off into recharge himself.







‘Sooo, was I right, or was I right?’ Starscream taunted, carefully probing into Lockdown's processor to bother looking at her properly, but he could smell the scent of disgusting techno-organic electrolyte fluid on her to know she failed at the hands of those Autobots. ‘They aren't ordinary Autobots, so if you know what's good for-’



‘Shockwave...’ Blackarachnia mumbled deliriously, walking into the lab and collapsing onto the floor with exhaustion.



‘What about him?’ Starscream drawled, rolling his optics before going back and trying to figure out what was the next spot he needed to plug into, all these blasted ports looked the same to him.



‘Shockwave's online...’ She revealed, that got Starscream's attention, his optics were upon her in an instant. ‘He- he's joined the Autobots, calls hi-him himself Longarm now, they- Starscream, they know who he is.’



If sound could carry through space, the Nemesis and the entire moon around them would echo with the sound of: ‘WHAT!?



Chapter Text



‘...Still no sign of them, obviously we've been doing our best to locate them, we have the security station manned at all hours, and Prowl has been scouting around outside the city for any clues to their whereabouts.’ Optimus said as he walked Captain Fanzone into the base.



It had been about four orbital-cycles since the Dinobots stopped making appearances, no sightings, no attacks on food supplies, even the false sightings had begun to die down, it was looking like people were going to forget they even existed by the end of the next orbital-cycle. But for the Autobots it was still an important matter, they might have been given sparks from the use of the key against them, if so, they couldn't let a fellow Cybertronian, even an artificial one, be abandoned to their own devices.



‘From the sounds of it, I'd say our dinosaur boys skipped town and went deeper in the woods, maybe even across the border.’ Fanzone theorised, nodding slightly with Optimus' words. ‘But, uh, that's all assuming they're still on the loose, we might have to start considering they got snatched up by someone who ain't friendly.’



‘I hope not.’ Optimus replied, the last thing they needed was something like a Dinobot Decepticon teamup.



They walked past Prowl, instructing key self-defence moves to Sari, with Bulkhead acting as her training dummy, that was plenty enough to make Fanzone stop in his tracks and look at the spectacle of Sari dropkicking Bulkhead on the pede, before landing inelegantly on her arse. ‘What's happenin' over here?’ Fanzone questioned with an ounce of hesitation.



‘Oh, after what happened on Halloween, I thought it prudent for Sari to learn how to defend herself.’ Optimus explained casually. ‘Prowl's a very responsible mentor.’ He added when he noticed Fanzone was nowhere near as approving of this as he was.



‘We're teaching her ninja nerve blows!’ Bulkhead clarified enthusiastically, proving everything Optimus just said wrong.



Fanzone raised a single eyebrow. ‘You, uh, think it's wise teachin' an 8-year-old to do nerve blows?’



‘You want her to pick it up in the streets?!’ Ratchet disputed, crossing his arms.



‘Detroit don't exactly have a street problem with ninjas.’ Fanzone stated as calmly as he could, the less he thought about what it all meant about how robot society works, the better, but that still didn't mean it should apply to an ordinary kid like Sari. ‘Don't you guys think that hanging around with giant robots might be a little bit, you know, dangerous for a little girl?’



Bulkhead scratched the bottom of his jawguard for a moment, seriously thinking about it, before asking. ‘Define dangerous.’



‘You know what, never mind.’ Fanzone sighed, giving up, he went back to the last topic of discussion with Optimus. ‘As for our Dinobot situation, I'd say cut the 24-hour watch, at least till we catch sight of them again, start thinking a little more about where they could have gone more than when they're gonna show up again.’



‘Of course, captain, I'll start co-ordinating a new scouting strategy.’ Optimus agreed.



‘And now the second reason I came up here, never thought I'd be playing accountant, but the mayor told me, that his interns told him, that the bank told them, there's been some funny business going on in the allowance you bots get.’ Fanzone said, he took the folder he had been carrying under his arm out and opened it. ‘Were any of these purchases made by you lot? Needless to say, they're kinda suspicious.’ Fanzone said, holding out several bank statements to Optimus, with some lines highlighted in red.



Optimus took and zoomed in on the bills pinched between his digits, studying the highlighted entries, ‘What is a Knockout Burger?’ He asked Fanzone in genuine confusion.



Neither of them noticed Prowl visibly tense from his spot on the other side of the base.



Sari paused her poor mimicry of advanced combat techniques to explain. ‘Oh that's the other fast food place in town, you know, human fuel.’



‘So then the answer would be not at all captain, obviously we have no need for it.’ Optimus concluded before shaking his head then handing them back down to captain Fanzone. ‘Unless one of us has been acquiring it for Sari.’



‘Nuh-uh.’ She denied. ‘I never eat there, it's all cheap and gross.’ She explained with an audible wince.



‘Then it sounds like one of your boys let your card get copied by a crook, I'll tell the mayor to tell the interns to tell the bank to scrap it and get you a new one, be more careful this time, you're lucky the worse our mystery shopper did was buy a lot of takeout food.’



Optimus and Fanzone continued their discussion, and Prowl, Bulkhead and Sari continued their self-defence class, but internally Prowl was steaming, pressuring himself to keep himself neutral and not give away his sudden fear. Damn, he didn't think for a moment just how suspicious getting fuel for the Dinobots would be, buying several dozen meals every deca-cycle? It was a miracle that it wasn't noticed sooner. Several paranoid thoughts creeped up into his processor, if Fanzone knew the details of what he purchased and where, then it wouldn't be long before he could track the transactions right down to himself, he hadn't finished training the Dinobots, they weren't ready for contact with the others yet, he had to think of something to buy himself a little more time...



While he was planning his latest excuse, Optimus was just finishing up his business with Fanzone. ‘Of course, good day captain.’ Optimus waved goodbye, he then engaged his commlink. ‘Bumblebee? Longarm? Could you come in here? You too, Bulkhead.’ He said, looking towards Bulkhead while he said that last part.



‘Now who's going to be my training dummy?’ Sari complained when Bulkhead went over to Optimus.



Bulkhead looked over his shoulder while he walked. ‘It's only a lil' while, you'll be ok wi- Prowl?’



He stopped halfway and turned back around, Prowl had completely disappeared without a word.




With his agility and stealth, Prowl bolted all the way to his room, through the opening in the wall, and all the way round to the front entrance without being spotted, he took one look back inside to check Optimus was lecturing the youngbots then went over to the captain.



‘Excuse me, captain?’ He asked, a small smidgen of unease in his tone.



Fanzone, who was just about to start getting in his car, paused and looked at him. ‘Hey ninja man, what's the problem?’



‘It's... it's about those purchases, you see...’ Prowl took a moment, he didn't expect this lying business to be as hard on his conscious as it should be, he just wanted to keep the Dinobots safe a little while longer. ‘Those were done by me.’



Fanzone stared at him for a moment, then leant against his car. ‘You, bought several hundred dollars worth of junk food, a month, for four whole months, for what exactly?’



‘It's that I encountered some, "unfortunate individuals" who're unable to get enough fuel on their own.’ (Well, technically they could, but Prowl didn't want to risk them getting any predatory instincts.) ‘So I began helping them procure enough fuel to get them buy, at least until they can support themselves.’ Prowl finished, somewhat uncomfortable with the lie he weaved, but also relived that it meant he would make for a lousy Decepticon.



‘So you've been feeding the poor?’ Fanzone summarised for him, looking neither angry or upset. ‘Mystery solved I guess, but, uh... look, I know it's a noble cause and all, but you know the mayor and his boys have got programs all set up to do all that but with healthy food, right? You can help with all that, you know, get 'em food, clothes 'n jobs, nuggets ain't exactly the best way the solve it.’



‘I understand.’ Prowl nodded, then left to let Fanzone return to the police station.



He didn't notice Bulkhead at the entry to the base, with a look of confusion on his face, he, Longarm and Bumblebee had just been grilled out by Optimus and Ratchet for not being careful with the currency card, and it turned out Prowl was behind it all. Something didn't feel right about all this, if he was doing it to help humans, why did he just tell the captain about it and not Optimus? Why didn't he tell anyone at all about it at all?







‘Prowl, is you ok?’



Prowl gave back a gentle smile, smoothing his servo over Slag's reclining form to reassure him. ‘I'm fine, just thinking.’ He replied softly.



Grimlock, with his head lying in Prowl's lap, let off a big, proud snort. ‘Me Grimlock the smartest! Prowl leave thinking to me leader! Me Grimlock crush thoughts!’



Prowl supressed a laugh. ‘Ok Grimlock, what's 4+4?’



Grimlock was silent, then mumbled. ‘Me Grimlock think Prowl should do it... too easy for me, Grimlock...’



Prowl's smile became genuine, he scratched Grimlock under his chin, then ended up with an entire Grimlock all over him, demanding belly rubs, honestly, he spoiled these giant sparklings way too much, but he preferred them as gentle giants than to what could have happened to them if he left them on their own, attacking lorries and other wildlife for food, being hunted down like criminals. He was so close to getting them ready for the real world, Swoop had learned to transform a few orbital-cycles ago, his Cybertronian form was smaller and slender than Grimlock's form, which was more buff and brutish, but Slag hadn't found his form yet, though he was trying very hard ever solar-cycle, he'd get it soon hopefully. He'd also have to train them to stay in their Cybertronian forms beyond lessons and when they needed to scratch themselves, the less they looked like rampaging Dinobots, the better.



‘Things aren't going to be easy for all of us in the future.’ Prowl began, better he tell them now than later. ‘You all know how the meal was a lot smaller than what you usually have, right?’ The Dinobots all made sounds of acknowledgement. ‘The fuel that I've been hunting for you is getting sparse, there may come a point where I might not be able to get you any at all.’



Swoop shook his head. ‘You Prowl good hunter, we never go hungry.’ He stated optimistically.



‘Even good hunters go hungry when there is no fuel, but don't worry, I have a plan to get you all more food, but it means we'll have to talk with the humans, put everything you've learned to the test.’



‘Humans steal Dinobot food!?’ Grimlock accused, standing up on alert.



‘No, no, no.’ Prowl scolded ‘They haven't stolen anything, they only know where to find more, but they might be scared of your Dinosaur forms, you'll all need to be able to go to robot mode, to make it easier for them.’



‘Then me Slag learn now!’ Slag said, getting to his pedes, before straining on the spot, concentrating as hard as his tiny, primitive processor could manage.



Prowl also got up, instantly regretting his decision. ‘Don’t pressure yourself, Slag, it will come naturally to you, like it did with Swoop and Grimlock, you'll see.’



‘Me Slag learn now so me get human food and Prowl no starve!’ He countered, jumping up and down on the spot as if it would speed it up faster.




A distorted figure watched that motorcycle transformer play nanny for the Dinobots, all the way until it finally got them to go to sleep and walked towards the docks to leave the island. He went over to the Dinobots, all napping like little kittens, he didn't know exactly what happened to give these machines a mind of their own, but he really did have to count his blessings.



Who would have thought the site of his secret lab had a welcome home present as good as this?




Longarm was driving back from the army base after a pretty long training session, things had been very peaceful recently, aside from a few human villains here and there, nothing too unusual had been happening, and honestly everyone preferred it that way, still, he had to be prepared for any upcoming Decepticon attacks. But as he drove alongside the sunset-lit lake he was surprised to find Bulkhead sitting by the road, looking off towards an island in the distance, he wasn't as close to Bulkhead as he was Bumblebee, but he knew Bulkhead wasn't the type to just sit and stare at something really far away.



Bulkhead turned his helm when he caught the sound of Longarm approaching, then immediately went back to looking at that island, like he would miss something if he took his optics off it for one second.



Longarm transformed back to robot mode and walked up to him. ‘What are you doing, Bulkhead?’



Bulkhead nodded slowly. ‘I'm doing a steakout.’



Longarm stared at him all funny. ‘A what?’



‘That's what Sari said it was, there's a mystery here, and I'm on the case, been sitting here aaaaall solar-cycle.’ Bulkhead explained.



‘On the case of what?’ Longarm pressed further, both interested in the mystery but also concerned for Bulkhead's processor.



Bulkhead pointed one of his claws out to the island, where a boat was docked by the shore of it. ‘Prowl's supposed to be tracking the Dinobots right now, all the way up north, but he took that boat.’ He moved his claw to point at the island proper. ‘And went over here instead, this place down south, he's been here all solar-cycle too.’



‘Have you told Optimus about this?’ Longarm asked, he was a bit worried, it was a legitimate accusation Bulkhead was making, Prowl not doing his job? Aside from Optimus, Prowl was probably the most serious Autobot out of all of them.



‘Not yet, I'm recording every nano-cycle that Prowl is acting up right to my harddrive, I need just a few more pieces of evidence.’



‘Well, don't stay out here too late.’ Longarm said after a thoughtful pause, unable to come to a conclusion about this situation, he just wanted to get back to Bumblebee before he started complaining that he was spending too much time working again.



Bulkhead sighed. ‘Tell that to Prowl.’







‘Is this really the best Shockwave's program can do?’



‘I never said it was perfect.’



Starscream and Blackarachnia looked over the fruits of their efforts, one Lockdown, walking in a circle, repeating the same words to himself over and over.



‘Name's... L-L-L-Lockdown.’ He said, his neck twitching nastily with each stutter. ‘I am loyal Decepticon, Starscream rules, eat a-a-aft Megatron.’



Blackarachnia looked at Starscream with an ounce of disdain. ‘Did you really need to add that to the personality thread?’ She asked dryly.



Starscream squinted his optics in insult right back at her. ‘Oh, please do tell me you wouldn't have done the same.’



‘No.’ She replied instantaneously. ‘I wouldn't have.’



Starscream quickly changed the subject, looking back to Lockdown's repeated looping. ‘Well what do I do with him now? While his "eloquent" choice of compliments is a very useful feature, I need to know what else can I get him to do, every time I tell him to do something he ignores it and keeps doing... well, whatever that is.’ He complained with a half shrug.



Blackarachnia grumbled and softly smacked the top of Starscream's helm. ‘Didn't you read the manual? You're supposed to give the commands with priorities and you went and set the idle state as highest priority, didn't you? Now everything else you've been throwing at him isn't as important as Megatron eating pit spawned aft.’



Starscream stiffened up, his wings rattling in frustration. ‘WHAT!? All this work for some glorified factory bot!?’



Blackarachnia rested her forehelm in the palm of her servo, shutting all her optics. ‘Well maybe if someone knew one single megabyte about processors and read the manual like an ordinary bot would have done, they'd know this is the best anyone can do with a fried memory case, Shockwave was breaking new grounds with this tech, you know.’



‘And he'll be breaking a few more things when I'm done with him.’ Starscream mumbled aside.



‘Sure, whatever, how about we actually start working towards that.’ Blackarachnia complained, she walked up to the makeshift computer and brought up an image of an island in the middle of Lake Erie. ‘I've been digging around a little, found out one human's been arrested recently for making biotech that, get this, completely breaks down Cybertronian armour in nano-cycles, this little island might be the location of his abandoned research lab.’



Instantly Starscream's mood lifted, he clasped his hands together in glee at the thought of a good plan. ‘Aaah, a perfect excursion for Lockdown to go and retrieve the biotech, don't you agree?’



Blackarachnia didn't even look half as excited as he did. ‘I was thinking more along the lines of someone with a fully functioning processor going down there.’ Her expression softened as a thought came about her. ‘But now you mention it, it would be a good test to see just how functioning he is.’



Starscream lifted his helm up with a slight scorn. ‘Well, I was thinking more along the lines of him actually pulling his weight around here, but yes, a test it will be.’



Blackarachnia pulled her lips thin in a frown. ‘(You're one to talk.)’







‘That one looks like Ultra Magnus.’ Bumblebee pointed to one cloud with two tails, reminiscent of the Magnus' long audials.



Longarm, lying right next to Bumblebee, chuckled slightly. ‘Yeah, it does.’ He agreed, though there was something else it reminded him of, but he couldn't pinpoint exactly what, he scanned the other clouds with his optics, hoping to interpret one of them into a familiar or interesting shape, he didn't have as good of an imagination as Bumblebee, the first thing that always came to mind when he saw a cloud was "partly frozen condensed water vapour hanging in the sky".



Bumblebee was right, he was probably way too smart for his own good, though he was sure Bumblebee meant that comment more as a joke, he never realised just how powerful his own processor was until he started that tutorage with Ratchet, he was lucky they didn't have access to the full catalogue of academic texts, or Ratchet would have had to step down as the doctor and let Longarm take his place. Still, looking out at the upper atmosphere and letting his thoughts get carried away with the clouds, it made Longarm worry, what would happen to him if they managed to get back to Cybertron, would he be able to get a job as a doctor on just Ratchet's recommendation alone?



And what about Bumblebee? He still had 50 stellar-cycles worth of spacebridge duty left before he could get a better place in the Autobot hierarchy, and there was a good chance he could land a position that kept them separated, something like that is usually why relationships forged through being Autobot co-workers were discouraged, you couldn't always guarantee to see each other every day, or even every stellar-cycle. But... work as a doctor has always been very prestigious and profitable, if he could get a job even as a junior doctor and if Bumblebee could settle for normal work then that could comfortably support the two of them in a plain habit suite. If he could climb the medical ranks (who was he kidding, he'd climb those ranks like a rocket! All he needed was the first chance), eventually Bumblebee wouldn't even need a job,



That was something to think about, Bumblebee could do what he wanted during the day, go driving, find friends, maybe even try Energon preparation, some of those outfits he'd seen when humans did their equivalent of Energon preparation were cute, maybe they could bring a little bit of that culture back to Cybertron? He'd like to see that, he'd come home after a hard day's work in the repair bays... Bee would have just finished a fresh batch of Energon goodies, a light frilly apron on his front, covering the torso heavy with his-



Longarm's optical shutters shot open in an instant, wow, he might have a good imagination after all.



Bumblebee thankfully didn't notice, he pointed to another cloud with a small top and a large rounded bottom. ‘Guess what that one reminds me of?’



Longarm analysed it for a moment, then his intake quivered in humour when he figured it out. ‘Chin Magnus?’



Bumblebee made an unnerved sound, shivering a little in his armour. ‘What if he is the Magnus now?’



Longarm scoffed. ‘Only if he was the last Prime on Cybertron, they're too smart to put that disaster in charge willingly.’



‘Yeah, Bossbot's better for it anyway.’ Bumblebee agreed before perking up with a thought. ‘Hey, it even rhymes, Optimus Magnus.’



Longarm turned onto his side, reclining next to Bee, one servo reached out, stroking Bumblebee just under his chestplating. ‘Do you think there might be someone else who would make a good Magnus?’ He teased.



‘Hmm, could it be... meeee?’ Bumblebee teased right back, lips curling brazenly.



They looked each other in the optics for a few silent nano-cycles, before bursting into laughter, closing with a small kiss from Longarm to Bumblebee, even though his jawguard still hurt when he disengaged it, he'd still go through it if it meant he could be a bit closer to his little bee. They cuddled closer, content to just lie there and let the gentle cloud cover roll over them, but then Longarm's internal alarm started ringing, his next lesson at the army base was due soon, he gave Bumblebee one more kiss on his cheekplates before getting up.



‘Time for training.’ He said, offering out a servo for Bumblebee to get up with. ‘Let's get going.’



‘Oh, uh, Sari asked the other day if she could watch you do that training stuff the other cycle, you mind if I go fetch her?’ Bumblebee asked.



Longarm shook his head with a smile. ‘Not at all, but you better be quick about it or you'll miss the best bits.’



Bee smirked back. ‘Did your big smart processor forget already? I'm the fastest, I'll get there with Sari before you even fire the first round!’ And with that challenge he did a running start, transformed, and drove away.




Longarm didn't think anything when Bumblebee didn't make it in time for him to start, in fact he was a bit relieved, it would have meant breaking several traffic laws if Bumblebee had made that challenge seriously, so it wasn't a big deal.



Twenty cycles later, he thought maybe they stopped to get some fuel for Sari, fair enough.



Half a mega-cycle onwards, he thought they were probably goofing off again, training wasn't very interesting anyway.



Halfway into the session was when Longarm realised something was wrong, he hadn't heard a single word from Bumblebee since he left to fetch Sari, it wasn't like him to at least make an excuse to why he was late, Longarm excused himself from the training specialist and went aside to make a call to Bumblebee.



Except Bumblebee didn't respond at all.



He called Sari instead, after the third try to call Bumblebee's comm failed, she picked up much to his relief. ‘Sari, are you and Bumblebee on your way over here?’ He asked.



‘No.’ She said back instantly. ‘I thought he forgot to pick me up.’



‘Oh no.’







Bumblebee wasn't the only one who'd gone missing, Prowl was missing too, neither of them answering their comms or even present on the scanner, nobody had any idea on where the two of them could have gone, or what happened to them, but eventually they had been called to Sumdac Tower by the police.



‘We finally found some CCTV of Yellow, taken by a parking lot just outside the city, you're not gonna believe this.’ Fanzone said when they arrived in the lobby, he turned to the robot secretary. ‘Show them the clip.’



‘Sure thing dollface!’ The robot secretary replied before hitting a key and turning on the giant monitor behind them.



The video was very poor quality, but the scene was clear enough to make out, cars were going up and down the motorway next to the lot, then Bumblebee drove up, past the speed limit like he usually did, but before he was out of shot a giant blur passed right over him and struck him, and he skidded and tumbled till he had to turn back into robot mode before he fully crashed, he tried to pick himself up but the thing passed over him again, picking him up and flying away.



‘Okay, now here's the thing that nabbed him in still motion.’ It took a few tries, but Fanzone managed to play the clip again, he paused it right as the attacker was in view.



Everyone gasped, the thing that had snatched Bumblebee up, it was the Pterodactyl, one of the Dinobots.



Fanzone crossed his arms and began explaining. ‘Judging by the road this happened on, the boys assume Yellow was taken somewhere south, the complete opposite of where we was hoping those dino robots were, there's not really much out there past the lake, except farmland and warehouses, not exactly good hiding spots, but maybe they've figured something out.’



Bulkhead hissed harshly, clenching his servos together, Longarm heard him and looked his way. ‘Bulkhead? What's wrong.’



Bulkhead moved away from the main area, not wanting to be overheard by Optimus and Ratchet while they went over the tape again to make sure. ‘That island, that has to be where the Dinobots are, but then why didn't Prowl say anything if he knew, m-maybe he was hiding the Dinobots and Bumblebee found out so he kidnapped him? I- no, he's- why would he do this?’ Bulkhead blurted out, trying his hardest to keep things at a whisper.



‘Prowl's missing too, maybe he really was tracking them that day, and they caught him.’ Longarm said, trying to rationalise it. ‘Maybe the reason why he didn't say was because he wanted to see what they were up to?’



Bulkhead yanked Longarm’s servo harshly when he went forwards to tell Prime where they thought the Dinobots might be, he looked back to Bulkhead for an explanation. ‘Don't tell Bossbot anything.’ He warned. ‘Not till we go on that island and figure out what's going on.




‘Prowl's still not responding, I can only assume the Dinobots have taken him as well.’ Optimus declared. ‘Alright team, we're going to be splitting up and heading south of the Lake for any trace of them, keep your scanners on high alert.’ He ordered, then went to address the captain. ‘Thank you very much for the new information, if there's anything else you can do to help with the search, we would be most appreciative.’



Fanzone gave one solemn nod. ‘Yeah, I think I might have a few ideas where our dinosaur buddies could be hiding.’ He said, narrowing his eyes at Bulkhead.







Getting to the island was lengthy, but pretty easy, Bulkhead and Longarm were heavy duty enough to just drive along the lakebed and hike ono the shore of the island, nothing particularly wrong stood out from the shore, no strange tracks, spilled powerlines, or armour debris, but the ship that Prowl had allegedly used to get to the island was docked by the pier, unless he decided to take the water route home, he had to still be here. They walked into the forest, and slowly, then frequently, signs of things that definitely weren't caused by regular animals were showings, giant tracks in the soil, chewed up trees, then finally an important clue, a piece of wrapping was blowing in the wind, caught on a bit of tree.



Longarm extended a servo out and grabbed it, noting the dry grease, and what smelled like a fouler version of what Sari fuelled from of coming off it, a logo was printed all over it. ‘It says Knockout Burger.’ He stated to Bulkhead.



Bulkhead recognised the phrase in an instant. ‘That's the name that came up when Bossbot was going over the bills, the human fuel!’ He exclaimed. ‘He was out here giving fuel to the Dinobots instead of catching them! I knew Prowl was up to no good!’



Still, Longarm wasn't completely convinced all of this was a good idea, last time he tried to find incriminating evidence that another bot wasn't who he said he was, well, everyone knew what happened, still, it just didn't make sense, why would Prowl want to hide the Dinobots? ‘It's still plausible he was captured by the Dinobots, Bulkhead.’ Longarm tried to rationalise again. ‘Perhaps the fuel was to try and lure them out.’



Bulkhead shook his helm strongly. ‘Ooh no, this morning I went over the calls people made to that sighting phone line, there was a call that they broke into a pool, that was four orbital-cycles ago, on Prowl's shift, when we stopped getting real sightings of the Dinobots! The same day those human fuel purchases started happening!’



Longarm stopped dead in his tracks ‘Bulkhead, if you already had all this proof then why didn't you want tell Optimus!? Why are we here, alone even, if you already knew what was happening?’



NO!’ Bulkhead shouted, stamping a foot down and spinning around to shout more directly at him, a few trees falling down. ‘Because Optimus would have just locked him up, closed the case, a-and we'd've never known why Prowl did what he did! I don't want him to be a bad guy!’



Longarm got almost as mad, servos on hipstruts. ‘And you know exactly what happened when I told Bumblebee try to catch Wasp on his own instead of telling Sentinel!’ He shouted back. ‘What if we're in over our helms Bulkhead? Give me one good reason why I shouldn't tell-’



‘Tell Mr. Bossbot what exactly?’



The two of them turned to see captain Fanzone looking up at them from behind one of the fallen trees, arms crossed and looking at them with a fog of suspicion.



‘That we think Prowl's been hiding the Dinobots here for four orbital-cycles, feeding them human fuel and not telling anyone about it.’ Longarm admitted to the captain, helm held low in shame.



There was some rustling in the trees, and then if things couldn't be worse, Ratchet stepped out from the sea of trees, with the most disappointed, annoyed and angry expression to ever grace his faceplate. ‘And the reason why you didn't say any of this to your superiors?’ He interrogated, crossing his servos.



‘Ratchet!?’ Bulkhead and Longarm cried in panic! ‘H-How did-’



‘I asked you a question first, answer it!’ He interrupted, a silent promise of a thousand punishments if it was left unanswered.



Bulkhead finally caved in. ‘B-because he's been teaching us all real fancy good stuff, he helped Longarm remember things, fuels the little flying things in the park, he helped me stand on just one pede and not fall over, he... he's done all this good stuff every single cycle but now he's done all this, I wanna know why he's started doing this bad stuff, Opti- we- I trusted him I-I didn't want to ruin that.’ Bulkhead wailed, rubbing the back of his servo messily over his leaking optics.



‘Youngbots.’ Ratchet scoffed.



‘How did you figure it out?’ Longarm asked him.



Ratchet gave a half shrug with his crossed servos. ‘I just followed the fleshy, he was acting suspicious when I saw him talking with Prowl outside the base, then suddenly drop the investigation into who used that currency card, figures he was just suspicious of you two boltheads.’



There was another rustle in the foliage. ‘And apparently, I was suspicious of the wrong bot as well.’ Optimus said, revealing himself. ‘I'm very disappointed in you youngbots, going off on your own, but I could say the exact same to everyone here.’ He said, looking deliberately at Ratchet and Fanzone. ‘I thought it was suspicious when I checked the computer and found the last legitimate Dinobot sighting was four orbital-cycles ago, Ratchet, you should have told me you switched that overnight watch with Prowl.’



‘I did... in passing, maybe.’ Ratchet defended himself, looking a little ashamed.



Fanzone held up both his hands as a stop signal, then pointed to each bot as he spoke. ‘So they followed Ninjaman here because he was suspicious, I followed them because they were suspicious, Golden Oldie follows me because he thinks I'm the suspicious one, then you followed him because you thought he was suspicious?! Ok, is there anyone else on this detective conga line that wants to reveal themselves!?’ He shouted into the forest.



There was a soft tapping at the glass of Optimus' chestplate from the inside, and it became apparent that Sari had joined the party. ‘I might have hitched a ride with Optimus and didn't say.’ She said sheepishly over his radio.



Fanzone double face palmed. ‘Don't... Don't any of you... talk to each other!?’ He asked in exasperation.



Bulkhead suddenly perked up. ‘Wait, what's that sound?’



They'd all been far too busy arguing to hear the sounds of a Dinobot approaching them, and the T-rex burst into the clearing. ‘M-more Autobot?!’ It roared when it came across them. ‘M-Me Grimlock, d-destroy!’



Grimlock charged head on towards Optimus, who took his servos out and took a hold on Grimlock, pushing him back. ‘So you can talk? Where are Prowl and Bumblebee? What did you do with them!?’



Grimlock said nothing, but kept desperately snapping and blowing flames towards the group, but with Bulkhead grabbing his tail and holding it down, and Ratchet using his magnets, they pinned him with enough effort, he screamed and snarled, stamping his claws into the dirt and pushing forwards as hard as he could to break free of the magnet lock. Longarm noticed that Grimlock was actually badly hurt, his plating was splattered with wounds, fresh rust sitting over them, at first, Longarm thought it was that the weaker alloys they were forged from had been slowly corroding as they were in contact with the wilderness, but the placement of the rust had no logic to it, he moved closer for a better look.



Grimlock snarled harder as Longarm got close. ‘It's ok, I'm just looking.’ He tried to reassure, thought it had little effect, he studied the wounds further, it wasn't standard corrosion, they were far too fresh, something attacked Grimlock with a very corrosive chemical. ‘Optimus, these are chemical burns, what could have caused this?’ He stated in conclusion, stepping to a safer distance away.



‘I don't know, but that's not the point right now.’ Optimus replied to Longarm, before taking his attention back to Grimlock. ‘Tell me where Bumblebee and Prowl are, now.’



‘YOU NO HURT PROWL!’ Grimlock barked, trying to swipe his tail out of Bulkhead's grip. ‘HE NOT A PURPLE FACE!’



‘Purple face?’ Optimus repeated in bewilderment.



‘Wait, guys.’ Sari said from inside Optimus' chest. ‘I don't think he actually wants to hurt us, he's scared, maybe if I use the key on him, he might calm down?’



‘You really think that'll work?’ Ratchet asked in disbelief.



‘Worked on my neighbour's dog.’ Said Fanzone with a shrug.



Optimus, carefully as he could, opened up his chest enough for Sari to get out and into his palm, maybe, just maybe, the Dinobots weren't really bad, whoever attacked them with chemicals could have provoked this behaviour. Optimus held her out to Grimlock and he struggled like a suffocating fish right up until Sari managed to slot the key into him, then almost immediately he stopped, his plating restored itself, the burns and rust melting away and returning to their original form.



Not a moment too soon, the other two Dinobots entered the arena, the Pterodactyl grabbed Ratchet and pulled him away, releasing the magnet hold on Grimlock, the Triceratops rammed right into Optimus, Grimlock swung around to get Bulkhead off his tail, then quickly backed off, using one of his tiny arms to hold Sari close. Longarm found himself pulling the horns of the Triceratops for the second time in his career, and the same injuries that he saw on Grimlock were on him as well, he was covered in burns, one looked like it was made a just cycle ago, a patch of green, slimy substance eating away at his back.



Now why was that familiar?



Me... not hurt no more?’ Grimlock mumbled, not believing a word of what came out his own intake. ‘Me Grimlock, not hurt no more! What tiny human do?!’



‘SOMEONE GET ME DOWN FROM THIS THING!’ Ratchet hollered, trying to free himself from the Pterodactyl's grip, before it dropped him faceplate first into the ground.



The three Dinobots ran off with Sari, the Triceratops blowing a huge line of flames to cut the rest of them off, by the time Optimus took care of the fire with his foam cannon, the Dinobots were long gone.




‘HEY! LET ME GO! DON'T EAT ME!’ Sari screamed, clinging for dear life on the sharp edges of Grimlock's tiny claws, hoping to anyone or anything that could be listening to have mercy on her.



They ran for a long time before finally stopping, Grimlock carefully as he could, put Sari back on the ground. ‘M-me Grimlock sorry...’ Grimlock whimpered, shuffling awkwardly on the spot. ‘Tiny human make me Grimlock not hurt, c-can you do same for him Swoop, and him Slag?’



Sari's eyes went wide with surprise, they kidnapped her just to be healed? Wow they were stupid.



‘Tiny human still scared.’ Swoop stated. ‘No be scared, please.’



Grimlock had an idea. ‘Ah! Do what Prowl said! Humans like robot mode! Make like robot!’



He and Swoop began transforming, and Sari's eyes almost popped out her head in astonishment when they became Cybertronian. ‘Wait... Prowl taught you to do that?’ She said, shaking her head to get a grip back on the situation.



Grimlock nodded enthusiastically. ‘Prowl good! He get food and tell us smart stuff!’



‘Please, you tiny human make not hurt no more.’ Swoop begged, his robot mode making it all the more obvious just how terrified the Dinobots were with their current state, his faceplate filled with fear and stabilisers shaking like an earthquake hit them.



‘Ok, but on one condition.’ Sari said, using the key to heal Slag. ‘Don't attack any of my friends again, and give Prowl and Bumblebee back!’



Grimlock and Swoop looked at each other in horror, then Swoop explained. ‘W-we can't, Sludge have Prowl, if not do as Sludge say, he hurt Prowl more, like hurt us.’



‘No want to hurt friend red faces, but no want hurt Prowl.’ Slag mumbled, using one pede to dig on the spot.



‘Who's sludge?’ Sari questioned, last time she knew, there were only three Dinobots, unless this was something else.



‘It small like human, but hurt when touch! Sludge take Prowl and say we Dinobots have to do as say or it hurt Prowl more! Tried to get Prowl back, but...’ Grimlock didn't need to say anything more, their injuries were proof enough to what happened.



‘Oh, you poor things.’ Sari empathised, taking her key and healing Swoop. ‘But if you don't attack my friends and tell them what happened, they can help rescue Prowl, he's our friend too.’



That was a great idea, until a generic ringtone interrupted the tender moment, and the second they heard it the Dinobots all shivered with anxiety, Swoop took a phone out of his plating, and with a shivering claw, he pressed the green button.



‘Bring the girl to the lab.’ The voice on the communicator drawled, very threatening, toxic.



There was nothing Sari could do to stop them.







Bumblebee onlined to find himself in some kind of jail, the last thing he remembered, he was speeding down the motorway and that flying Dinobot smashed into him out of nowhere, now he was here, the whole room was empty save for-



‘Prowl?!’ Bumblebee exclaimed in shock, picking himself off the ground and rushing over to Prowl's injured form, he was covered in acid burns, and had bled a significant amount of electrolyte fluid. ‘They got you too!? Oh this is bad, badbadbad!’



‘Mhrrn.’ Prowl groaned, failing to online his optics, he struggled weakly on the floor. ‘W- hwere.... Dinobots...’



Bumblebee was on him in an instant, taking a few cleaning rags out to clot the bleeding and making sure he stayed down. ‘Woah, hey, Ninjabot, take it easy, they're not here, we're ok, maybe, I-I think.’ He tried to reassure Prowl, but ended up getting himself panicked as well, Prowl's injuries were way out there, even if he escaped right now this nano-second there'd be no way he could get Prowl to Sari or Ratchet on time.



‘Have to... Swoop...’ Prowl continued.



Bumblebee shook his head. ‘You ain't swooping anywhere buddy, this place looks locked up tight, where'd those Dinoguys find this gig anyway?’ Bee looked around, the only exit he could see was just a little smaller than his robot mode, and it was covered up by a laser grid, he went up and kicked it, only to grab his pede in pain. ‘OW! Owow! Stupid dinosaurs, when I get my servos on them I'll-’



A human sized figure approached the other side of the laser grid. ‘I'm afraid those prehistoric robots are going to be the least of your concern, rat.’ Said Meltdown, with an unhealthy dose of amusement.



Instantly Bumblebee backed away from the laser gate and back to Prowl. ‘Woah, hey, Meltyman!? W-when did you get out that glass brick!?’ He demanded with a slight shake in his pedes.



‘The name's Meltdown!’ He hissed right back. ‘The what's and how's of my escape from prison aren't necessary, you should probably be more concerned with what I plan to do with you.’ He began pacing leisurely by the laser grid while he began one of his long monologues. ‘You see at first I didn't know what to do when I arrived home, give Sumdac his long overdue murder? Get back at Nemesis for stealing half my funds while I was away? Pay that blasted tank back for imprisoning me? And what to give the police captain for his shoddy investigation? So many choices, but I knew which to pick first, you, the shrewy bug that caused all this misfortune to happen in the first place!’



Bumblebee tried to bargain. ‘M-maybe we ca- can talk this out? Like-’



‘Oh shutup for once in your pitiful life, disgusting machine.’ Meltdown interrupted. ‘I admit I'm surprised in how successful this plan has been, every single one of you is falling into place, and yet, I crave more adjustments, at first I just wanted to kill you, but then I saw how well the Dinobots follow my commands for keeping the motorcycle prisoner, imagine what I can get that tank to do? Oh don't give me that look, I've seen the pictures of you two together, I know what you're up to.’ A shiver ran up Meltdown's back. ‘How... revolting.’



‘Don't talk about Longarm like that!’ Bumblebee snapped.



‘I'd really appreciate it if you'd be quiet.’ Meltdown grumbled.






‘Oh please.’ Meltdown scoffed with a wave of his hand. ‘Why don't you sit tight with your friend for a little while, I need to go deal with my latest hostage, if rest of your kind want either of you three to survive, ohhoooh’ He shivered with anticipation. ‘Oh they’ll have to do some very bad things.’ He turned around to walk away, but paused for a moment. ‘Oh, but I still want a little entertainment out of you, how about coming out of retirement for one final match? I'll just have to watch the VOD later.’



‘Wait, what do you-’ A wall pulled away to reveal two twisted amalgamations of animal experiments. ‘Mean...’ Bumblebee finished with a whimper.



The monsters roared at him and charged.













Optimus pointed a strict digit at Bulkhead, stopping in his tracks. ‘Bulkhead, if you don't mute yourself right now I'll have no choice but to-’



‘You can't be suggesting he goes back!’ Ratchet argued. ‘We're already down two members!’



‘Don’t talk back to me Ratchet!’ Optimus snapped.



‘THAT'S MY JOB.’ Ratchet half screamed.



‘Can you all maybe SHUT THE HELL UP!’ Fanzone barked, effectively silencing them. ‘NONE OF THIS WOUDDA HAPPENED IF YOU JUST ALL TOLD EACHOTHER WHAT YOU WERE DOING, WHEN AND WHY! YOU KNOW, LIKE A TEAM, AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE PART OF AN INTERGALACTIC SPACE ALIEN MILITARY!?’ He took out a handkerchief and wiped the sweat he got from yelling at the top of his lungs off his face, effectively calming himself. ‘Ugh, that sludgeball, Meltdown, was right, you guys are a bunch are a ragtag group of-’



‘THAT'S IT!’ Longarm suddenly exclaimed with a clap of his servos.



‘What's it?’ The rest of them asked.



‘What you just said.’ Longarm explained to the captain.



Fanzone raised an eyebrow. ‘You're all ragtag group of-’



Longarm shook his head quickly. ‘Nono, just before that.’



‘That sludgeball Meltdown?’



Longarm nodded ‘Exactly! That's where I've seen those burns before! That human who modified himself to melt our armour, whatever hurt the Dinobots must have gotten their hands on that biotech, they may even be using it to control them.’



Bulkhead scratched a little under his own chin. ‘Then... whoever's behind this can't be Prowl, what Meltdown did was all... fleshy modifications.’



‘Prowl must really have been tracking the Dinobots down here.’ Optimus concluded. ‘Alright team, let's leave the arguments aside, we have a team to save, and a copycat to arrest.’



‘I think you'll be disappointed to find out I'm the real deal.’ Came Meltdown's voice from way up high.



They all turned to find that at the top of a cliff in the ravine they walked into, stood Meltdown, and whatever expression he was pulling on his face had to be a smile.



‘HOW'D YOU GET OUTTA JAIL!?’ Fanzone demanded.



‘That's for me to know, and for you to not.’ Meltdown replied smugly. ‘And if you want your precious bug to live, put that cannon away.’ He warned to Longarm, who had just gotten it out of his subspace. ‘Next time I see it, I'll give the command to have him fried.’



‘What do you want, Meltdown?’ Optimus asked through clenched denta. ‘What did you do with Prowl and Bumblebee!?’



‘It's simple, if you want them to live you'll all have to do exactly as I say.’ He explained. ‘But what to have you do first? Hmm...’



Meltdown began listing off all the items in his revenge plan, and all Longarm could do was listen with clenched servos while they thought of a plan to find a way to get them back, part of him wanted to shoot Meltdown until he was nothing but a puddle, but he couldn't risk Bumblebee getting hurt, not until he knew where Bee was. Longarm studied everything he could with his scanner, trying to find sand he could melt into glass and trap Meltdown again, then he could interrogate him for Bee's location, but nothing came up on his scanner, except high quantities of steel below the ground.



There was some kind of human structure under the cliff.



A figure approached from behind Meltdown, muttering the same words to itself over and over. ‘Find biotech.... Starscream rules... biotech...’



‘Next, I would like a complete formal apology and pardon from the president himself.’ Meltdown commanded, not noticing the weird look the Autobots suddenly had on their faceplates. ‘Ah and then I want-’



‘Biotech found.’



Meltdown nodded in agreement. ‘Ah yes, I would like several million in- wait...’



Lockdown reached down and plucked Meltdown up from the ground. ‘Found Biotech, n-n-n-next priority, return.’ He stated, turning round to leave.



‘What in the pit spawned blazes!?’ Ratchet exclaimed. ‘Lockdown's online!?’



‘LET ME GO MACHINE!’ Meltdown cried, he disengaged his gloves and slammed his acidic hands down on Lockdown' servo, but he didn't even flinch.



‘Pain... Pain priority 0, eat aft Megatron.’ Lockdown said without a hint of agony, even when Meltdown melted through the digits of his servo and fell back down to the ground. ‘Find biotech.’ Lockdown said again, this time using his hooked servo to try and snatch Meltdown.



‘Something's not right about Lockdown...’ Bulkhead mumbled.



‘Wait, this might be our chance, let's go find Bumblebee and Prowl!’ Optimus said when he realised Lockdown and Meltdown were too busy with each other to notice them.



‘There's a human base right under our pedes Optimus, the entrance should be... right over there!’ Longarm said triumphantly, pointing to an entrance in the ravine large enough for all of them to get through.







‘Please pleasepleaseplease pleaaaase let me go!’ Sari begged. ‘My dad's rich, he'll get you all the burgers and nuggets you want, and not Knockout stuff, the premium kind!’



‘S-sorry, tiny human.’ Swoop apologised genuinely. ‘Sludge hurt Prowl if don't do as Sludge say.’



‘But I have the healing powers remember?’ Sari argued back desperately. ‘I can help Prowl like I did with you, just show me where he is.’



The Dinobots stopped in their tracks, and Sari saw just the tiniest speck of hope in their optics, before it flitted away. ‘We no know where Prowl is.’ Swoop said in defeat.



Sari spread her arms wide, gesturing around her. ‘Well use your brains! Look at this place, there's only so many doors you big guys can fit in, one of them has to lead to Prowl, right?’



Grimlock concentrated in deep thought for a moment. ‘Uuuuuuh....’



‘No.’ Swoop muttered to him. ‘No want to hur-’



‘NO!’ Slag shouted, jumping up and down in frustration. ‘TINY HUMAN RIGHT! NO MORE DO AS SLUDGE SAY! ME SLAG FIND PROWL!’



He ran forwards and with his beaky mouth, snatched Sari out of Grimlocks servos, deposited her on his back, and ran off down the corridor.



‘Slag no!’ Grimlock and Swoop gasped in fear, running after them, gaining quickly on Slag thanks to the longer legs of their Cybertronian forms. ‘SLAG COME BACK! THINK OF PROWL!’






Suddenly Sari found herself clinging for dear life as Slag's plating began shifting around her, his head moved down to his front, servos sprouted from his feet, a helm popped out, and Slag's Cybertronian form broke out into a full sprint. They got lost several times in the maze of a base, but eventually a familiar sound pricked their ears and audials as it echoed down this latest corridor.’



‘That sounds like Bumblebee's stingers!’ Sari exclaimed in surprise. ‘We're getting close!’



Slag ran all the way down the end of the corridor to find a laser grid, behind which Bumblebee was fighting for his very runtime to defend Prowl's unconscious form from two monsters.



‘Sari? Is that you!?’ Bumblebee yelled, dodging a swing from one of the creatures. ‘AAAAH! There's a monster behind you!’



‘Bumblebee it's ok, he's a good guy!’ Sari yelled back, she climbed down from Slag's back and slammed her key into the keypad next to the lasers to shut them down, just as she did, Grimlock and Swoop caught up.



‘Bad Slag!’ Grimlock reprimanded. ‘No run from leader!’



‘Prowl's right there!’ Sari shouted, pointing inside the jail then running inside, not caring if the two monsters suddenly had her attention.



The Dinobots burst into the cell after her, their optics widened at the sight of Prowl's condition. ‘W-WHO HURT PROWL!’ Grimlock roared.



‘WHO CARES, HELP ME!’ Bumblebee squeaked, both servos on the jaws of one monster to stop it closing over his helm.



Sari had a brilliant idea. ‘It was Sludge, you guys.’ Sari said. ‘He did this because he wants to get back at Bee and Prowl, for not letting him do bad things, he lied to you because he's evil, get rid of the monsters so I can heal Prowl up.’



‘SLUDGE. WILL. PAY!’ Grimlock boomed, he drew a sword from his subspace and set it on fire, before charging towards Meltdown's monsters, Swoop and Slag followed swiftly with a maul and club respectively.



Sari didn't waste a moment to get to Prowl and slot the key into his chest, healing him, by the time she was finished, nothing was left of the monsters but black charred bits.



Bumblebee huddled in the corner with both immense amazement and fear. ‘W-who are you guys?’ He asked.



Grimloock puffed his chest triumphantly, posing with his sword. ‘Me Grimlock, Dinobot and Autobot leader!’



‘Me Swoop, me fly.’ Swoop said calmly afterwards, putting away his maul.



‘Me Slag, like nuggets.’ Slag said last, a proud smile on his face.



‘Y-you're the... Dinobots?’ Bumblebee whimpered, his optics so wide they almost broke the confines of his faceplate.



Prowl weakly got up from the floor ‘S-Slag? You... you managed to transform.’ He said with a relived smile on his face. ‘I-I'm proud of you, all of you.’



Just as Prowl walked feebly to the Dinobots, Bumblebee cut right in between them. ‘Ok, can somebody maybe explain to me what the pit is going on?’



‘It's totally amazing, Prowl's been teaching the Dinobots and they learned to transform and talk and he was using your credit card to buy them food from Knockout Burger (you know, the place you nearly stopped at when I was hungry last Tuesday and I told you it was all gross) but then this guy called Sludge kidnapped Prowl and made the Dinobots do his evil bidding and kidnapped you and tried to kidnap me till Slag said no more and we came in and rescued you!’ Sari explained excitedly.



‘So, that's what happened.’ Came Optimus' voice from behind them.



They all turned round to see Optimus, Ratchet, Bulkhead and Longarm behind them, the captain wasn't with them, he stayed behind near the entrance to find something to contain Meltdown in.



‘Longy!’ Bee exclaimed, running straight into Longarm's servos.



‘Bumblebee, you're ok!’ He hugged back with relief.



Prowl straightened himself up, before bowing his head in shame. ‘Prime, please, let me explain.’



Optimus held up one servo. ‘Save it for later, there's still one more thing to take care of, we have to stop Lockdown and Meltdown before either of them get away.’





When they got close to the base entrance, Fanzone was there holding a big pile of suits ‘Couldn't find any glass big enough, but these are the same suits he dresses in to hold that mess together, you guys any good at tying knots?’



‘Good enough.’ Optimus replied. ‘Are they still fighting?’



‘Sure are, what's that Lock guy's deal anyway? He's almost a pile o' mush but he's still at it.’ Fanzone said unnervingly.



Just as Optimus reached to take the containment suits, the Dinobots rushed past him and knocked him down, brandishing their weapons. ‘SLUUUUUUUDGE!’ They cried angrily.



The Autobots left Fanzone in his bewilderment and Sari to explain the details to him and followed the Dinobots outside, Lockdown and Meltdown were still there, though their names should have been switched at this point, Lockdown had lost both legs and his servos, his entire chassis half melted into scrap, but he had managed to pin Meltdown with the remainder of his hooked arm, and try as he might, even with the use of his acid Meltdown couldn’t free himself from under it.



‘Re...turn... priority... re....turrrrrnnnnn.’ Lockdown slurred before crashing.



‘Get off me! Filthy machine! Disgusting robot!’ Meltdown hissed as he struggled, he stopped when the sound of giant pedesteps approached him, and he shrank in fear. ‘Oh no! The- NO!’ He shrieked when the Dinobots came into view, weapons on fire and held high. ‘K-KEEP AWAY!’



‘You Sludge, lied to us Dinobots.’ Grimlock seethed, flexing his sword arm. ‘We Dinobots, make Sludge pay, pay big.’



‘PLEASE! SPARE ME!’ He pleaded pathetically. ‘I'LL DO ANYTHING!’



Swoop snorted. ‘Funny, we Dinobots say that, but you hurt Prowl anyway.’



‘Grimlock, wait!’ Prowl objected, running towards them. ‘I know you're angry, but revenge is what a Decepticon does, you're above that.’



Grimlock paused, before straightening up and putting his sword away. ‘Me Grimlock, not purple face.’ He stated finally. ‘But, what do with Sludge if not pay?’



Fanzone came up the rear, carrying the containment suits. ‘Ok, that's it, I have no idea what's going on anymore, don't care, I'll just take Sludgy here back to jail, go home, watch the game, then go to bed.’



‘What about the Dinobots?’ Optimus asked. ‘It's-’



Fanzone shrugged, using one containment suit to make makeshift cuffs for Meltdown. ‘Keep them on the island for now, feed them all the damn takeout in the world, I'll deal with it and the Mayor later, hopefully never.’



‘And what about Lockdown?’ Bulkhead wondered ‘It's one thing he's even still online, but what happened to him? Something fry his processor or something?’



‘Somebot's been tampering with his processor, that's what.’ Ratchet scowled, pulling Lockdown's unconscious body off of Meltdown by the non-acidic parts. ‘All that nonsense he was spouting, classic case of Decepticon processor priority jacking, I.. I know it's Lockdown, but for spark's sake, they put his pain reactions on so low a priority he almost offlined himself!’ He ranted.



‘So what do we do with him now?’ Bee wondered. ‘Make him prioritise being a nice bot?’



Ratchet thought a bit before nodding, optics darting towards Sari and the key on her neck. ‘You know Bumblebee, that's not too bad an idea.’







‘Hey Slag, fetch!’



Slag ran as fast as he could along the beach, before he tripped and fell over, the nugget he tried to catch fell to the earth with a dull splat right before his optics, he gasped in horror, before slowly taking one servo and putting the nugget in his intake.



‘Eww! Don't eat off the ground Slag, that's gross!’ Sari whined with a wince.



‘Still good.’ Slag mumbled in his own defence.



‘Woah, woah, easy fellas, there's enough Bumblebee to go around!’ Bee said when a chin scratch ended up with an entire Grimlock and Swoop on him, demanding belly rubs.



Longarm, Bulkhead, Prowl and Optimus looked over the scene of the Dinobots running around and playing on the island, the sun setting in the distance.



‘You know, we ended up not doing all that much to solve things today.’ Longarm admitted to himself.



Prowl nodded. ‘In the end, the Dinobot's knew what was right from wrong all along, they just needed a little push.’



‘You know, half of what happened today wouldn't have happened at all if you all said what was on your mind, and didn't try to keep things to yourselves.’ Optimus said in a stern disciplinary voice, leaving the other three to shiver in their pedes.



‘Y-yes, Bossbot.’ Bulkhead apologised.



‘We're a team, that means working together, if there's a problem, a worry, an idea, or a complaint, anything, you need to tell me right away, otherwise it breaks the team dynamic, that's what we need most of all when more Decepticons show up.’



‘Yes, sir.’ The three of them said.



‘Community service for a whole deca-cycle, starting tomorrow.’ Optimus said.



‘Yes, sir.’ The three of them said reluctantly.



‘PROWL! PROWL!’ Grimlock yelled, running up to him.



Prowl smiled gently, a rare expression to behold on his usually blank face. ‘Yes, Grimlock, I'm here, what is it?’



‘You Prowl is "it"!’ Grimlock declared, and instantly Prowl's face went stone cold blank.



‘What's "it"?’ Bulkhead wondered, watching Prowl get up and run away as fast as he could as the Dinobots started chasing him around the beach, till Swoop flew up into the air and plucked him off the ground, dropping him into the lake.



Bumblebee walked up to Longarm and dropped right into his lap. ‘Ugh, those things are a servofull.’ He complained, shuttering his optics. ‘I'm exhausted.’



‘HIM BEE IS "IT" NOW!’ Grimlock yelled into the air.



Bumblebee's optics were open in an instant. ‘NO!’







Starscream touched down and transformed back into robot mode near a human fuelling station, he was beyond livid, not only did Lockdown fail to steal the biotech, but went missing for a deca-cycle and somehow ended up thousands of clicks away from where he was supposed to be, this part of the planet was all dusty, dry and too hot for Starscream's liking, how the pit did he end up down here!?



‘You there, human!’ Starscream demanded, walking up to a local. ‘Have you seen a green and black transformer, like myself but he's very ugly and not at all attractive, has hook for a servo?’



The human, not scared of him at all nodded. ‘Oh sure, that guy, Banjopolish passed through here a day ago, nice fella he is, got's me another one of his CDs, if that's what you were looking for.’



‘Wait, what did you just say his name was?’ Starscream paused, his processor not liking anything that was happening at all.



‘Oh, ain't it the guy you looking for? Ol' Banjopolish, travelling minstrel from outer space and all that.’ The human rummaged through his bag and brought out the CD he was talking about, a picture of Lockdown holding some human music instrument, the words "Banjopolish's #1 hits" printed on the cover.



Starscream clasped his servos together, turned round and walked away, when he was a whole click away from civilisation he screamed into the stratosphere ‘I'LL GET YOU FOR THIS SHOCKWAVE! HOW DARE YOU AND YOUR STUPID PROGRAMS MAKE A MOCKERY OF ME!’



Chapter Text



‘Do we really have to go to that weirdo's birthday?’ One kid complained to another while they walked into the park, not looking where she was going. ‘He can't fire my mum if I don't show up, right?’



The other kid shrugged, not really bothered about being passive aggressively forced by his own parents into this party. ‘Who cares? Like smile and nod or whatever if she says something, I'm just here for the pizza.’



‘What about the dinosaur robots?’ A smaller kid behind them asked enthusiastically, looking in front of the group.



‘Wait, what?’ Said the first kid, before she bumped into something metal, she looked up to see what the hell she walked into in the middle of an open park.



Grimlock, in his dinosaur form leant down. ‘Hi tiny humans! Me Grimlock!’ He boomed at them, puffing a little steam out of his nose vents.



The first two kids ran away screaming, leaving the third, brave child to give Grimlock a tiny pat on the tip of his head before continuing on his way.



Sari ran over to Grimlock, having heard the screams. ‘Grimlock!? What did I say about scaring everyone off?’ She chided.



Grimlock puffed, holding his head up high. ‘Me Grimlock only say hi.’ He excused.



‘It's not going to be much of a party if everyone keeps running away screaming, could you please try to tone down the dinosaur stuff a little bit? Pretty pleaaase?’ Sari asked in a cutesy voice.



Grimlock transformed back into his robot form and picked Sari up, tossing her gently and walking back to the main party area as she giggled. ‘Ok tiny human!’



They walked back to see the Autobots, the Dinobots and what few actual kids remained arrived having a generally good time, Ratchet was telling a war story to Slag (who had no idea what he was talking about but liked the sound of Ratchet's voice), and professor Sumdac (who was eagerly taking notes), a blindfolded Swoop snapped around, desperate to find the piñata Bulkhead kept moving around, Optimus attempted to remain composed around several fans demanding a ride or one of his famous catchphrases from him, and finally Bumblebee and Longarm, sitting together and enjoying a cup of premium oil each.



‘We should definitely take this birthday thing back to Cybertron.’ Bumblebee suggested enthusiastically.



‘Mmm.’ Longarm noised with a doubt. ‘Might be a little resource consuming if they're all like this.’



‘You guys don't have birthdays?!’ Sari gasped from her spot in Grimlock's servos.



‘Not exactly.’ Longarm explained. ‘We do track how much time has past since we were forged, but we don't do much about it.’



‘Well, all the more better you're here now and not on boring old Cybertron.’ Sari said with a smile.



‘Me Grimlock think, what is birthday?’ Grimlock asked.



‘Well, first there's a party, then there's cake, then there's the presents...’ Sari described, before going into the deep, enlightening philosophy of celebrating being one year older than before.




Eventually the kids (what few had shown up) had to leave due to several health and safety complaints, partly at the fault of Bulkhead, when Swoop finally got his prize piñata, he pulled hard enough that Bulkhead lost balance and crushed one of the snack tables, so to quickly lift the mood, they went straight to the present giving.



‘Here! We Dinobots give shiny!’ Grimlock announced, with Swoop literally coughing up a polished piece of blue glass they found in a river.



‘Thanks.’ Sari said, trying not to be grossed out, picking it up from the ground with a tissue.



Next up were the Autobots, Prowl stepped forwards, a blue P.E mat in his servos. ‘After some research, Ratchet, Optimus and I have acquired a training mat that will make our self-defence classes somewhat less damaging on your stabilisers if you fall down.’ Prowl said, putting it to one side.



‘Oh, thanks.’ Sari replied, before carefully dropping the Dinobot's present on the mat, making an opened present pile, she could get one of these at the store for ten dollars.



‘Do mine next!’ Bumblebee asked excitedly, picking up his poorly wrapped present from the unopened pile, Sari tore into it eagerly to find a very familiar but poorly constructed face staring back ‘I got you a mini me!’ Bumblebee explained when she realised he had gotten her an action figure of himself. ‘He even turns into a car!’






Bulkhead then stepped forwards with the present he and Longarm got, they knew Sari was into music, so they got her a nice metal instrument that neither of them could spell the name of, but Sari, evidently bored of everything else she had, suddenly had her attention on a particularly unusual box in the present pile.



‘What's that one?’ She asked, running up to it.



Professor Sumdac clapped his hands together with subdued excitement. ‘Ah! That happens to be the latest project between me and my newest lab assistant.’



Optimus perked up a little, putting two and two thoughts together, a look of worry on his faceplate. ‘The same assistant who gave the Dinobots flamethrowers?’



The professor dabbed away a little sweat from his brow. ‘T-that was a communication error, w-we've been over this...’



‘Woah!’ Sari gasped as she finally pulled the wrapping away to reveal a toy robot just about her size, equipped with speakers, a cool looking visor, and, if it weren't for the Sumdac Systems logo and the Earth music symbols on the front, one could almost mistake it for a genuine minicon. ‘What is it?’ She asked enthusiastically.



‘Its name, is Soundwave, a-’




He held out a datapad towards his timid claws. ‘Soundwave: has acquired another datapad for you, mathematics.’ He said formally.



Soundwave's voice was funny, but bots with synth voices were special, just like he was, so he didn't say anything about it, not wanting to upset his only friend.



‘T- thank you.’ Longarm's younger self eventually replied, delicately taking the datapad, as if the slightest pressure would snap it in half.



Soundwave nodded curtly. ‘You are welcome.’




‘Oh!’ Longarm gasped softly surprise, returning to the present to find Sari's Soundwave toy blasting music that honestly, he would prefer to not hear again in his runtime, however she seemed to be very pleased with it.



Noticing Longarm's brief spaceout, Bumblebee looked towards him. ‘Something up big guy?’ He asked.



‘Yes, I... I think I knew a bot called Soundwave, when I was a sparkling, he was my friend.’ Longarm explained, he wanted a small smile to grace his faceplate, but deep down it refused to form.



Ratchet pulled an odd expression. ‘What kind of idiot sparkplug calls their sparkling Soundwave?’



‘I knew a bot called Soundwave.’ Optimus added, sounding a tad offended.



‘Hey, maybe it's the same one.’ Bumblebee suggested, like it was a conspiracy.



While Bumblebee nagged Longarm for all the juicy memory fragments, and Sari was exploring everything her Soundwave toy could do, Bulkhead sighed, storing the instrument back into his subspace.




‘Most... unexpected.’ Megatron whispered to himself.



He wanted to laugh his helm off at the sight of the Autobots not getting the obvious reference, he named the "toy" as a tribute to his fallen comrade, Soundwave, one of his most efficient and ruthless lieutenants, Soundwave was a master of audio manipulation, which was exactly what he would be doing with this plan to obtain a new body. Two orbital-cycles of work went into this plan, the toy and its audio functions were designed exactly just for Sari, but many of the features were basic and plain, setting the perfect stage for her to want and use the key to upgrade its features, but she wouldn't just be getting upgrades, no, the key's energy would be directly siphoned into upgrading areas she was completely unaware of, such as the ability to comfortably support weapon and spark support systems.



Said systems that would eventually become his own, it would pale greatly in comparison to a Cybertronian body, but he knew from his spybot where the location of the Allspark was, and that the Autobot's security around it was pitifully low, all he needed was to give both Sumdacs the slip and he would be restored to his former glory soon enough.



He wanted to laugh, but Megatron was a bit shocked himself, he too gained something he was unaware of, though small, his choice of names had triggered one of Shockwave's old memories to surface, obviously an insignificant one, seeing how plainly Shockwave had reacted to it, but perhaps...



‘If I managed to surface one of Shockwave's memories with Soundwave's mere designation, then...’ Megatron thought aloud. ‘If I perhaps repeat some of Soundwave's behaviours...’



No, it was too far fetched an idea to work, Megatron was a good actor but not a dead ringer, he couldn't risk the prototype frame being exposed too early, not when he could easily jumpstart Shockwave's memories himself when he possessed the frame for himself.







Longarm walked into the base from an evening stroll one solar-cycle to find Bulkhead sulking in the corner of the main room, lying on the floor, a small dinging noise emitting from his corner every now and then.



‘Are you ok?’ Longarm asked, walking closer for a better look.



Bulkhead was alright, at least physically, one claw on his helm and the other absently tapping on the instrument they bought for Sari, he vented heavily before answering. ‘M' okay, just the spark that don't feel right.’ He tapped the instrument a few more times without a single bit of rhythm. ‘Me n' Sari were supposed to hang out today, but she's having so much fun with that Soundwave toy that she forgot about it, that's the second time this deca-cycle.’



‘Oh.’ Longarm sounded, sitting down next to Bulkhead. ‘Well, she hasn't had it for a whole deca-cycle either, give her some time for the novelty to wear off.’



‘That's right.’ Optimus added, making the two of them flinch for not noticing him walk up to them. ‘A toy can't replace a good friend, besides, she's still a spar- I mean a child, you know how it is with them, back when I was assembling I...’ He explained before spiralling down into a monologue of his sparkhood years.



Bulkhead still didn't look too convinced or reassured, tuning out Optimus' speech halfway through. ‘I guess...’ He mumbled.



Longarm on the other servo, had a slightly better idea, in an effort to help cheer Bulkhead up, he took his upgraded pocketbot out of his subspace, it was much larger, enough to fit comfortably in the palm of his servo. ‘Maybe you'd like to take care of my pocketbot for a while, n-not that I mean you to replace Sari with it.’ He added hastily, when realising how insensitive his suggestion could have been taken. ‘Just as a temporary friend, it always helped me feel better when I was feeling down.’



Bulkhead looked at the pocketbot, analysing its expressionless little helm for a while, before sitting up and carefully picking it out of Longarm's servo, the pocketbot chirruped, then started up its new rumblepack feature, purring softly in Bulkhead's claws, behind his jawguard, a reluctant little smile peeped out. ‘Thanks.’



With his mission done, Longarm retreated back to his room for a well earned recharge, he opened the door, slightly surprised to find Bumblebee there, already curled up on the berth and deep in recharge, usually he stayed up a bit later than this. He approached Bumblebee's side, not wanting to let this new opportunity slip him by, with one servo he reached over and tickled Bee just under his audial horn, suppressing a laugh when Bee's faceplate began twitching in his recharge, one stabiliser kicking softly. Longarm knelt down, tracing his digit from one horn to the other, watching Bumblebee's faceplate begin to blush, other expressions dancing across his faceplate as Bumblebee's processor was stuck between booting up and maintaining his, now compromised, flux. 



The moment Bumblebee finally booted up, Longarm was already there with his jawguard disengaged and no gap between their intakes. ‘Someone seems a little excited.’ He teased when they parted.



One moment Longarm was standing, the next Bumblebee's servos had grabbed his arm, then he found himself flat on the berth, Bee cheekily sitting on top of him. ‘Y-yeah well, y-you cheated!’ He stuttered out.



Longarm put on an obviously fake innocent face. ‘I have no idea what you mean.’ He lied, extending one of his servos, sneaking it up and behind Bumblebee's backstruts, ready to strike again.



‘And don't you sneak that servo of yours!’ Bumblebee warned. ‘I know you're doing it!’



‘Noooo I'm not.’ Longarm teased again, tracing a small line right behind Bee's audial, not quite touching it.



A rainbow of expressions later, Bumblebee latched onto Longarm's faceplate with his servos and pulled their helms close enough for their olfactories to touch. ‘You- you're lucky I don't know your weaknesses!’ He squeaked. ‘But mark my words Longy, the day I do it's gonna be payback, big time big guy, you'll regret the day you messed with my horns.’



Longarm kissed him on the cheekplate, nuzzling their sensors together. ‘Mmm, I'm looking forward to it.’



They went to recharge, giggling like the youngbot sweetsparks they were.







Small Insecticons flitted around them, nibbling on the freshly sprouted crystals, sometimes even landing on their frames and his datapad, every time that happened Soundwave would give a small bassy blast from his sound systems to scare them off.



‘You see, the reason why the acid wastes don't melt all of Cybertron is that it's sitting on a mixture of quartz and silicon alloys.’ Longarm's younger self said, reading off the geology datapad. ‘And the reason those don't melt is because the more stable the bonds of a material is, the harder it is for an acid to melt it, isn't that cool, Soundwave?’ He asked eagerly, looking away from the datapad, it was always really hard to read Soundwave's emotions, not when he was forged with a visor AND a mask, both of which he refused to disengage, so all he could do was wait for an answer.



‘Soundwave's opinion: mildly interesting.’ Soundwave replied.



He leant into Soundwave's side, not at all pleased with the answer he got. ‘You say that about everything.’ He complained.



‘Soundwave: finds nothing as interesting as you.’ Soundwave said as a comeback, a soft squishy feeling flitted around his spark chamber, unable to express it, he let off a whiny sound of embarrassment, Soundwave didn't laugh, nothing changing in his unwavering body language, but patted him on the helm instead, his own audial fins wiggling in response. ‘Acid cannot melt the bond between us.’



The scene changed, no longer sitting on a crystal knoll, he and Soundwave were now outside his doctor's office in an empty corridor, his own carer on the other side of the door, and no soundproofing in the world could stop their individual rants from slipping through from the other side, he trembled each time it happened and was glad that the only witness was Soundwave, everyone was already making fun of him for being such a scaredybot, he didn't need more fuel for that fire.



‘We --n't just --nore th-s- results! S----wave has the pot---ial to b- a --nius!’ The muffled words of his docbot shouted from behind the door.



His carer was so shrill and agitated he couldn't even make out her reply.



The whole reason this started was because, after the bullying and his poor marks in PE, everyone started to become convinced his processor had some kind of defect, so he was taken to the repair bays for tests, imagine everyone's surprise when the docbot came back with results that concluded that his processor was the complete opposite, it was so advanced that it could easily put him in the thinker caste if he switched curriculums, but that was out of the question as far as everyone else was concerned.



‘Do... do you think I could...’ He started, before trailing off, he shouldn't be entertaining the thoughts, if his carer's reaction was anything to go by, they were dangerous thoughts to have.



‘Belief: bots are not made for one function alone.’ Soundwave responded confidently.



He shuffled awkwardly on his seat, too focused on looking at his lanky little stabilisers to notice how badly his claws were shaking. ‘M-may... I- I don't know what to do, he said it isn't defective, but then-’



Soundwave grabbed his servo, squeezing it tightly. ‘You are not defective.’ He stated profoundly.



Soundwave's words echoed around him, and the scene shattered, now he faced an older Soundwave, not a few deca-cycles after he started forming his first Minicon, twins even, he had no idea what was happening though, Soundwave was in his habit suite, covered in wounds, his mask broken and exposing the intake underneath, his developing Minicons were perfectly fine, thank the Allspark, but that all meant nothing if Soundwave offlined before he could get to a repair bay.



‘W-what were you doing!?’ He half-asked, half-demanded, quickly tending to Soundwave's wounds as best as he could with a few cable ties and a cleaning rag. ‘Did you get into a fight? You know you're not built for that kind of stuff.’



Soundwave stayed perfectly silent, his intake doing nothing but keeping a straight, thin line, betraying nothing.



‘I... I don't think I can do much more than this.’ He confessed to Soundwave, he might have studied a few medical datapads, but a few of Soundwave's injuries were beyond his understanding. ‘But, I've stopped most of the leaks, that should hold till the-’



‘Do not call for a doctor.’ Soundwave suddenly commanded. ‘Soundwave: picked a fight with authorities, do not worry, Soundwave: knows someone who will take care of the damage.’



‘WHAT!?’ He shrilled, dropping his cleaning rag immediately. ‘Soundwave, what- why!?’



Soundwave looked him dead in the optic. ‘For you.’ And he honestly didn't know what to say in reply, processor stalling, trying to figure out what in the name of Primus Soundwave would do on his behalf that he would fight the law, Soundwave must have scanned his thoughts, because he elaborated further. ‘Soundwave: went to debate, Soundwave: wanted to prove that no bot decides the function of another before it is fully forged, authorities: disagreed immensely.’



‘You said that?!’ He gasped, his spark still in disbelief, Primus was the "bot" that decided one's function, Soundwave had gone out in public and decried their very creator!? ‘For me!? I- I don't understand.’



‘You should be what you want to be, not what they want.’ Soundwave argued. ‘You are online proof that everything Soundwave once knew, everything Soundwave once believed is false, there is no function, there is no caste, we use our given abilities how we want, if Soundwave's reasoning is false, let Soundwave be struck down where he lies.’ He declared, one servo weakly raised in challenge.



Nothing happened to Soundwave, and he was never more frightened, confused and awed than he had ever been in his short life, those feelings pulsed out, drowning his spark till he doubled over with an emotional pain sinking his entire motherboard, his optic leaking profusely, no matter how much he swiped away with his claws.



‘Soundwave: worries for your wellbeing.’ Came Soundwave's voice, this time above him.



He paused his crying to look up at the arrival of his friend, they were back on the crystal knoll, and not a single scratch or scar on Soundwave's frame, that's right, this was someplace different, his carer had found all the datapads Soundwave had given him and thought he had stolen them, the moment he could escape he ran straight here, not knowing what else to do.



He sat up, wiping the washer fluid away with his claws. ‘S-Soundwave...’ He sniffled, vents stalling from stress.



‘Soundwave: heard what happened.’ He stated briefly. ‘Soundwave: angry.’



‘S-she's right though, I'm... I'm a no good trouble maker.’ He wailed softly, referring to his carer.



‘Was she right when she thought you were defective? Was she right when she told you all you needed to know was what she gave you?’ Soundwave hissed.



‘D-don't... I don't want to argue about this again...’ He begged, he was getting worried with all of Soundwave's opinions lately, they were very... harsh to say the least.



Soundwave did not give him the reprieve he so very wanted, instead continuing his rant. ‘She was wrong, all of them were wrong, Warbuilds were never heroes, there are no heroes in war or after it!’ He raged, voice breaking the borders of monotony. ‘But none of them can admit it, the lies they have been spouting is their very world, to admit they were wrong would also admit their entire runtime was wrong!’ Soundwave offered out one servo to him. ‘Soundwave: does not want to see your world become theirs, Soundwave: does not want to see you offline on a battlefield.’ He confessed, his voice several octaves below what it was moments ago.



He took the offered servo, letting Soundwave pull him up and into the embrace he so very needed right now. ‘I don't know what to do anymore, I want things to go back to how they were before, but- I... I'm scared Soundwave, t-they're going to be watching me even more now, I'll never be a doctor if they keep it up, I can't keep doing th- thi-’ His voicebox had finally given out, and he let off a fresh set of tears, burying his faceplate into Soundwave's shoulderplates.



Soundwave let him let it all out, intertwining his servos in between his claws, then when the wave of fear and self-loathing finally subsided the impossible happened, Soundwave voluntarily retracted both his visor and his mask for him to see his faceplate underneath, and what he saw was incredible resolution, pity and hope, Soundwave began to speak again. ‘Don't let them win, if you are to be a hero, it is when you help me destroy this corrupt system, you will be what you want to be, Soundwave: will help you however he can.’



‘B-but where would we go? We'd get kicked out our homes if they found out.’ He worried, looking up at Soundwave, audials turned low with doubt.



Soundwave smiled softly. ‘Soundwave: has already been removed from his four orbital-cycles ago, Soundwave: has new home now, with the Decepticons, it can be your home too.’



But he instantly backed away, disconnecting their servos instantly, his spark retracting right to the back of its casing, it couldn't be, he had heard everything bad about those terrorists, seen photos of their handiwork, it hadn't even been two solar-cycles since their last riot, hundreds had been injured and offlined, and worse, Soundwave was involved with them!? Everything was clicking into place, they had been the reason why he was so argumentative, they had to be the ones planting all those terrible opinions into Soundwave's helm hadn't they, Primus, he had been helping a terrorist this whole time!



Worse, he himself was the reason why Soundwave was doing all this, Soundwave never kept it a secret that everything he did was for him, and he loved Soundwave for it...



He had been in love with a terrorist this whole time.



‘You- you lied to me.’ He whimpered. ‘You- those datapads really were stolen, those weren't debates you were hurt in- they were riots weren't they!?’



Soundwave's expression instantly turned frail with rejection, he reached out to him. ‘Please, let Sound-’



‘N-no! I can't, I-’



He couldn't handle it, so he ran off, ignoring Soundwave's cries for him to come back, how could Soundwave do this to him!? He wanted things to be better but not like this, never like this, not with other bots electrolytes on his servos, he couldn't accept being Soundwave's muse, the inspiration that caused him to go down this terrible path, so he kept running, all the way until he crashed into two unknown bots, big and brutish, he pushed and pulled, scrabbling to get past them, he needed to get into that repair bay, Soundwave was inside.



‘LET ME SEE HIM!’ He screamed, almost breaking his own vocaliser. ‘GET OUT MY WAY YOU FILTHY-’



‘Ey pal, he knew what he was getting into.’ One of the bots said. ‘Let the docbot work for primus' sake, don't make me throw you into the jail with Rumble and Frenzy.’



Unable to reason, he screamed again, till his vocaliser broke from the strain.



He s̨h̕oul͘d͢ ͞h͝a̢v͞e͡ ͞been ̷the̷rȩ.͢


͢He s̶h͜o͟u̡l͠d ̧h͜a̢v҉e sto͏ppȩd h͢im̡.



S̳̺͓̱̠oͅu͕n͉̩͚͇̖̮͈d̪̜̟̬w̸͚̪̯̬̖̫͈a̪̹̯̤̞͓ͅv̴̖̠e̖̦̲̠ ͕w̨̠as͈̭̖ ̸o͖f͎͇̙f͚͍̹̟l̻̩̜̹͉͖̹i̖n͏͎̭̫͈̰̟ͅe҉̰̳̯̯.҉͙̯̩


̧͚̦Ḩe̶̝̺ ̴̥̥͇͍̖͍n̦̻͓̕ev̼̞e̶͖ŗ͇͓̣̪ ̬ev̭e̙͖̺͜ṉ̹̘̭̳̩ ̴̖̥̪͙̟̼g̹̣̞̣o̷̪͕͓͓̫ͅt̺̗̭͖̖̼͞ͅ ̡͈͚̬̪̣to̴̻ ͕͓̻͔̤̞͉s̡͉̥̻̲̩͚a̺͇̞̠͇̬y̭ ̴̤̬g͔͇̞͎̺̞ͅo̙̹̫͍od͍b̸̜̫͖̘ͅy̺̩e͟...




Longarm booted with Bumblebee's servos on his helm and emergency coolant all over his frame, he clutched at his own chestplate, his spark inside silently screaming, sending agonising surges of energy all across his motherboard.



‘B-buddy you ok?’ Bumblebee asked fearfully, taking out one of his cleaning rags and wiping the coolant off Longarm's helm. ‘It's ok, you just had a bad flux, everything's alright... right? Are you having another spark attack!?’ He blurted out.



Longarm shook his helm, his spark, though still crying out in rage and self-loathing, slowly but surely began to settle down again. ‘S-Soundwave.’ Longarm whimpered, his vocaliser hitching several times. ‘T-the Soundwave I knew... he-’



He had been his first sweetspark.



He was a Decepticon.



He himself was the reason Soundwave became a Decepticon.



He had to say something to Bumblebee.



‘He's offline, i-it was all my fault.’ Longarm finished, curling his arms around himself, shaking. ‘It was all my fault.



Bumblebee paused his berthside manners, dropping the rag he was holding, they sat in silence for a while, then slowly Bumblebee wrapped his servos around Longarm's shoulders, leaning heavily into him.



‘It'll be ok.’ He whispered.







It was anything but ok.



Ever since that flux, Longarm had instantly become more withdrawn, and nothing Bumblebee could do to make him feel better worked, Longarm had trouble keeping himself fuelled, didn't put as much care into what he did and, worst of all, his affection for Bumblebee dropped straight to zero, everyone noticed the change, but what could he tell them? Longarm might have killed one of his friends and that's why he currently hates himself?



He always wondered what made the old Longarm such a stiff and, well, he had as much of the answer as he could get, the hows and whys of it being a complete mystery, Longarm wouldn't even so much as give a hint, it could have been anything, a game of dare gone wrong, a fight that went too far...



Maybe he even accidentally shot him.



Whatever it was, it clearly was that stupid toy's fault, Longarm wouldn't have remembered whatever it was if he wasn't reminded of it, but then after thinking about it Bumblebee slumped his shoulderplates and heaved a pitiful vent, who was he kidding? Longarm would have remembered it anyway eventually, he just didn't know what to do.



‘-lebee, are you even listening to me?’ Sari complained, oh, yeah, he was hanging out with her by the lake, right.



‘No.’ Bumblebee mumbled honestly, flicking the water of the tide as it came in from the lake.



She frowned, crossing her arms. ‘What's with all of you guys recently? First Bulkhead stops hanging out, now you're all mopey, something happen?’



Bumblebee rolled over in the sand to stare up at the sky, servos on his torso. ‘Yeah, Longarm remembered something and he won't talk to me about it.’ He sighed.



Sari climbed up onto Bumblebee's chest. ‘Not anything?’ She pressed further. ‘That's weird.’



Bumblebee shrugged in exasperation. ‘Exactly, he used to always tell me what happened, even the part about him being a Warbuild, like, that's illegal stuff what he did!’ He exclaimed. ‘How could Soundwave be any worse than that?’



‘Soundwave?’ Sari repeated, raising an eyebrow. ‘Oh yeah, he knew a Soundwave too didn't he?’ She remembered with a clap of her hands. ‘What happened with Soundwave!? Tell metellmetellme!



He mentally scolded himself, scrap, he wasn't supposed to say that, now there wasn't much point hiding the rest of it, she would pester him so much that Longarm would find out, then he would have no chance getting him out his bad mood, he sat up, moving Sari to sit in his servos. ‘You promise not to tell anyone else?’ He said with the most seriousness his vocaliser could muster.



She pinched her fingers, moved them over and across her mouth then smiled. ‘Swear down.’



‘The Soundwave he knew is offline, you know... dead.’ Bumblebee whispered, then averted his optics slightly. ‘And Longarm thinks it's his fault.’



Sari gasped, moving her hands over her mouth. ‘Oh no! Oh the poor guy, no wonder he's upset.’



Bumblebee slumped again. ‘And I don't know how to fix it, he won't tell me how it happened.’



The two of them sat in silence for a while, until an idea bloomed in Sari's mind. ‘I think I know how we can find out, come to my room after midnight!’







‘Ratchet?’ Longarm asked quietly, stepping halfway into the repair bay softly, one servo against the doorframe. ‘Can I ask a question?’ He waited until Ratchet made a grunt of acknowledgement before continuing. ‘How is it that a bot would turn into a Decepticon? A-as in, they've never known anything about war, never had a bad runtime, never even left Cybertron, I... I'm having a hard time trying to understand it.’



‘Hmm?’ Ratchet sounded, looking straight up at Longarm.  ‘Thinking about that Wasp (spawn of a glitch) again?’



He nodded with a white lie. ‘Yeah, but... in general, why would any good bot turn into a Decepticon? I just- I don't get it.’



Ratchet tightly pursed his lipplates, the wisdom of knowing a few thousand things more than anyone else leaking through the gaps. ‘"Officially", there are no Decepticons on Cybertron except "the unregistered", so of course it makes no sense why we get so many good youngbots turning bad, in reality there's more than enough Decepticons on Cybertron to fill Trypticon several times over. Unlike a Decepticon you find on the battlefield, these ones fight their battles with words instead of blasters, they ones know how to act like a good Autobot, know when to keep their vocalisers muted, but they'll stop at nothing to infect someone with their social-political garbage, give them the right opportunity, and they'll poison a mind before they realise what's going on.’



‘Like a debate?’ Longarm suggested before he could stop himself.



Ratchet scoffed. ‘Boy, there haven't been public debates on Cybertron for over five thousand vorns exactly because of that, no these arguments are private ones, all they need to do is find a gullible fool with a single doubt about their place in the world and make them feel that everything's against them, that the only way to change things is to become a cold-sparked killer.’ He turned back to his workstation, deciding his work was more important than his speech. ‘Sometimes it's even the boredom peacetime that gets them, they'll itch for battle, glory, all the things you never find in war, and an undercover Decepticon gets them bolt, cable and hookshot.’



‘I guess I'll never be able to understand it.’ Longarm sighed, leaning heavily against the door.



Ratchet tapped a little more on his keyboard before stopping. ‘Don't worry about that glitch Longarm, he made his choice to screw up his lifecycle, you didn't, in the end that's what matters.’



Longarm mulled it over before nodding. ‘Yes, you're right.’



Ratchet finally turned off his monitor then stepped over to Longarm. ‘Now I know traitors aren't the thing going on in that processor of yours right now boy, just remember, you still have us, and especially that little Bumbler of yours, he's worried you know.’ He advised with a slow reassuring pat to his shoulderstruts, then walked out the door.



Longarm followed him for a small while, but then stopped, a wayward oddity between Ratchet's words and his own memories crossing his motherboard, walking up to the base's computer, he pretended to go over some logs until he knew Ratchet was out of audial range, then he brought up the link to Teletran-1. ‘Teletran, are public debates illegal and, if so, when were they made illegal?’



Teletran processed for a while, then answered. ‘Yes, unless organised by official bodies, utilising the correct regulating procedures, any debate which does not comply is illegal due to high potential for Decepticon activity, this law was established as part of the Anti-Decepticon Act of 42834V in the reign of Zeta Magnus.’



So Ratchet was right, in that case, there was something else he needed to know. ‘When did the last riot on Cybertron happen?’ He asked warily.



Teletran processed for a while, then answered. ‘The Polyhex drag riot of 5282V, in the reign of Ultra Magnus, started when protests to repeal the completely rational rise in the speeding fine charge turned violent.’



5282V... that was just before Longarm entered the Autobot academy, not the one he was looking for. ‘Before that?’



Another pause, then Teletran answered again. ‘The Rationing Riots of 3834V, in the reign of Ultra Magnus, Decepticon raids on Energon farms brought a fuel crisis, resulting in riots when rationing grew severe, as a result Ultra Magnus established the Energon Preservation Act of 2834V to minimise unnecessary energy consumption and bring more fuel to the people.’



2834V!? That was...



That was a whole two thousand vorns before he would have even been forged, b-but Soundwave had been going to riots and pretended they were debates, that's what he remembered, if the last public debate happened over five thousand vorns ago, and only riot that occurred during his runtime wasn't even Decepticon related...



Something wasn't right, what was it that he had been remembering?



Longarm braced himself on the console, what was the name that riot, the one where hundreds of bots had been offlined, two solar-cycles before he scorned Soundwave, he knew it had a name, it was famous, he thought hard, before asking his final question. ‘T-Teletran... when was the... when did the Great Riot of Kaon happen?’



He braced himself.



‘The Great Riot of Kaon happened in 42833V, in the reign of Zeta Magnus, started when-’



That was... not even Ratchet was forged then...



He felt sick, his entire motherboard buzzing, drowning out his grip on the present.



How old was he?



‘As a result of the carnage, Zeta Magnus ordered that the Decepticon uprisers be officially categorised as terrorists and began putting in place what would be the Anti-Decepticon Act of 42834V.’ Teletran continued to an audience of no one.







‘So... what is this weird ritual thingy we're doing?’ Bumblebee asked, watching Sari set up a circle of candles around her Soundwave toy.



‘When you want to talk to someone, but they're, you know, not alive anymore, you hold a séance.’ Sari explained, making sure every candle was just like how that one movie she watched had them laid out. ‘You ask the ghost to come down for a little while so you can talk to them, except instead of a ghost it'll be Soundwave's spark, we'll have just enough time to ask him what happened.’



Bumblebee was instantly less enthusiastic about this idea. ‘Wait, we're going to pull his spark from the Well of Allsparks?’






‘We pull his spark from the Well of Allsparks, all the way on the other side of the galaxy.’






‘Just to ask him how he died.’






A shiver went up Bumblebee's spinal struts. ‘I... I dunno about this, seems a little... extra?’ He said, struggling to find the right way to describe it.



Sari flapped her hand with a dismissive shrug. ‘It'll be fiiine, the worst that'll happen is it doesn't work (...or we summon a demon).’



As on edge as Bumblebee was with this plan, he went along with it with a morbid curiosity. ‘Soo... how does it work?’



‘Almost done setting it up.’ Said Sari, lighting the last candle before running over to the lights and switching them off, then going back to the circle. ‘Ok, now we have to hold hands and say this line: "we call upon the spiri-" wait, no, "we call upon the spark of Soundwave, Longarm's old friend, we call you from the... Well of Allsparks so we may speak to you, be with us Soundwave."’




This was, without a doubt, the stupidest thing Megatron had ever onlined to.



It was bad enough his plan to get the Sumdac daughter to use the key on the prototype frame hadn't worked well at all, now all of a sudden here she was with the Minibot attempting to... communicate with Soundwave's spark, as in the Decepticon Soundwave? Why, just, Why?



‘Primus, kill me now.’ Megatron groaned.



He was about to shut himself off for the night-cycle, when a deliciously cruel idea for a prank landed in his processor, yes, he'd teach them to boot him up in the middle of his recharge phase.




Just as they were beginning to feel a little stupid for doing this, something happened, a sudden gust of icy cold wind (from an air conditioner) blew out the candles, leaving them in darkness.



‘EEK!’ Sari yelped, jumping straight into Bumblebee's servos.



‘D-d-d-did it work?’ Bumblebee asked, shaking in his pedes, he turned on his headlights to lighten up the room. ‘I-is Soundwave here?’



‘I-if that is you Soundwave, if you're here with us, please g-give us a sign.’ Sari said aloud to the room.



Neither of them noticed the rogue pocketbot stealthily tip over a vase, they did however notice the noise it made when the vase and several other items in the room dropped and rolled on the floor one by one.



‘I-is that the sign?’ Bumblebee squeaked.



Suddenly, the toy Soundwave turned on, it twitching violently, the electric lights in the room began flickering on and off wildly. ‘Who dares disturb M̘̖̤̳̬̗͕̦͔̑ͯͤ̌͋͜͠E̢̛̯͖̠̙͍͕̓̈͆̍̂̂͒͞G̷̸̮̹̫̮̼͉ͨ͢A̴̫̤͆͛͒̉̉ͩ̐ͥ͝T̓͏̜̞̮͞R̛̯̯̫̳͔̜̜̼ͦ̿ͥ͒̐̑͋̉͢Ǫ̴̢̟̘͇̮̥͕͙̅ͨ̏̇Nͯ̂̃̾͏͚͔̫͚̺!’ It screeched.



They ran out the room screaming.



‘W-w-well, l-look on the bright side, at- at least it works.’ Sari said in minor hysterics after they retreated to the safest place they knew in the tower, the cleaning closet.



‘You call that working!?’ Bumblebee shrilled. ‘We summoned Megatron! What're we gonna do!? We'll have to blow your whole room up to get rid of him! Prime's gonna offline me for this!’



‘He can't possess Soundwave for long you big scaredybot! By the time we get back he'll be history again!’ Sari scolded him. ‘So, ok, we might have gotten something wrong with the summoning spell, next tim-



Bumblebee shook his servos and helm vigorously, scooting on his aft to the far side of the closet. ‘Ohnononono no! There's not going to be a next time, no more weird human Terrocon magic, c-clearly it's not reliable.’



‘It is so!’ Sari argued back.



‘Sari, when you order a burger with fries and a milkshake from the fuel station, you get a burger with fries and milkshake, you don't GET MEGATRON.’ Bumblebee elaborated, peaking at the end of his sentence.



Sari held up a finger to argue but then slowly lowered it in afterthought. ‘Fair point.’



‘Like, it was an ok idea, but I don't think sparks follow the same rules as ghosts Sari, I don't think we should try this ghost summoning thingy again, who knows what we'll get next.’



‘I guess.’ Sari agreed reluctantly.







Sari wasn't brave enough to go back into her room until well into the next day, the Soundwave toy fallen over on the floor, but it was roundabout exactly where she left it, it booted up without a problem and went back to playing the chart toppers, if that wasn't proof enough the big bad Decepticon her friends were scared off was gone, she, well, had no idea what she'd do, but the problem still remained, they never managed to find out what happened to the real Soundwave, and Bumblebee was still in a slump.



She flopped over on her bed. ‘Mmmnn.’ She half whined half growled. ‘I just wanted to help Bumblebee out, it's not like I hurt him, just freaked him out a little, now he's never going to know what happened with Longarm.’ She complained, before sitting back up. ‘W-what if they break up!? T-then Bumblebee'll get so mopey he doesn't hang out with me and all I'll have left is Soundwave.’



‘I am Soundwave.’ The toy repeated back cheerfully.



‘Yeah.’ Sari grumbled. ‘That's kinda the prob- wait...’ She looked at her key, an idea blooming in her head. ‘If the key gave the Dinobots sparks, maybe...’



If Earth's summoning rituals didn't work so good around sparks, something more Cybertronian would.



She slotted the key into Soundwave, then brought her hands together, wishing deep down that it would do the right thing and let her communicate with the Soundwave Longarm knew, at first, nothing happened, then slowly it became clear the key had a different idea as it started to upgrade her toy. It didn't change in size, but more audio related features began forming on its chassis, it gained high quality speakers, a kind of cylinder sprouted on its shoulders, then the transformation seemed complete, as nothing else seemed to happen.



‘I am Soundwave.’ Soundwave said, its voice a little more monotonous than before, but with a higher quality synth to it, but then it went back to playing music.



Sari sighed, disappointed nothing happened. ‘Worth a try...’ She said with a shrug, turning around and leaving to get some food from the kitchen.



She forgot to take the key out of Soundwave.



It stood still for a while, but then the servos twitched, the visor brightened, the music ceased.



Soundwave processed his very first thought in over 5 thousand vorns, the realisation that something was incredibly wrong.



‘Where is Soundwave?’



Slowly, with convulsing digits, he moved his servos to his lower chassis and pulled out that strange energy source plugged into him, he instantly regretted it when the energy flow subsided and he realised just how cold and unresponsive his frame was without it, was it some kind of spark support system? He fumbled to slot it back in but dropped it on the ground, he fell over trying to pick it back up, but finally he reached it and put it back where it was, his spark singing in relief when its power flowed back through his lines, soothing them, upgrading them.



Soundwave turned his helm towards the window, getting back up and moving towards it, he looked over the completely alien cityscape, zooming in on the streets, he saw mechanical life forms, but also organic ones, sentient even, was that possible? It had to be, he concluded after a short while, the same fools telling him he was built for one purpose alone were the same ones who said it was impossible for non-mechanical forms of life to be intelligent.



How did he get here? The last he remembered, an Autobot had discovered him before he could plant his latest sabotage, the attack piercing his chestplates and cracking his his spark casing, he lost power to the sight of Rumble and Frenzy fiercely defending him from the Autobots, dragging him off back to the medics as quick as they could. Where were Rumble and Frenzy? He couldn't sense them, let alone detect them, his frame completely unresponsive when he tried to make it scan for them, the function apparently never existing, but that wasn't possible, what kind of Minicon carrier couldn't scan for its Minicons? What was this frame!? 



Was he ripped out of his old one and put it into the poorest excuse for a constructed frame? It was unfeeling, inferior, almost painful for his spark to dwell in, even with that strange spark support device locked in, though he began to doubt that was its true purpose, it was trying to improve his systems, but it had run out of materials to construct new upgrades for him.



He began looking for things he could repurpose into the much needed materials, first he picked up a small handheld electronic that opened and closed, instantly the device's energy latched onto it and broke it down, leaving nothing but the plastic outer shell, next a computer, then a communication device, then a lighting device, when he had exhausted all the minor electronics he went for a robot the size of his pede, a kind of mechanimal pet, it yelped in shock before being consumed, finally he started seeing improvements shedded the inferior plastic plating he had, the beginnings of a proper metal protoform forging itself underneath.



None of this was enough, he needed more.




Sari came back to her room with a big bowl of snacks, only to drop them in shock.



Her room had been completely ransacked of everything electronic, her DS, her computer, her phone, Soundwave, Sparkpug and Tutorbot, heck, even the powercables had been snatched, but it was weird, whoever did this just took the wires and metal stuff, like over here was her DS case, and over there was all of Soundwave's casing, then she realised her key was missing too, the last time she had it was-



She put two and two together.










Soundwave walked through the city, observing everything with his optics, what he originally perceived as mechanical lifeforms were nothing more than empty machines, constructed bots performing the organics' every whim without question, which made it all the more justified when he cannibalised their components, they had no processors to feel it. He upgraded himself enough that he was relatively comfortable in his new frame, the strange device he had been supporting and upgrading himself with was now sealed securely inside his tape deck until he needed it again, he wasn't as powerful as he wanted to be, he was just a little smaller than his own Minicons right now, but he opted to pause this transformation of his until he had a better idea of what this world was.



He scouted his new surroundings, making himself familiar with the workings of this world and its organic rulers, he tried accessing their fleshy processors with his own to understand them better, but he couldn't get any deeper than the inane thoughts that bounced across the surface, wonderments of what fuel they would consume, what they would do on a "Sunday", none of it made sense to him, so he left them be. However, that left him with not many options for intel gathering, he plucked a bundle of organic parchment from another robot distributing them, it seemed to be a primitive news distribution system, perhaps he would learn something substantial from it, he opened the parchment only to find a picture of an Autobot staring back at him, their faction symbol proudly upon its upper arms.





Yesterday Earth's alien heroes stopped a robbery right in its tracks, the private exhibition held at Detroit's Expo Arena came under fire at when a gang of armed thieves broke in and stole the precious gems worth over 5 million, however our transforming heroes from beyond the stars quickly came to the rescue, after a daring chase, Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, and his assistant Bumblebee, cornered the thieves and brought swift justice.



Soundwave unconsciously gripped the paper, ripping it slightly under the strain of his clenched digits, so this world had been infected with Autobot filth? He read further into the paper, to his fortune, it seemed the Autobot presence here was very light, most likely a diplomatic taskforce preparing for the eventual takeover, focussed mostly keeping the public's opinion high, as long as he kept out of their optics, he would not have to worry about them. Once he had taken all the information he could understand, he folded the news parchment back into its original shape and put it back in the distribution robot's servos.



Needing a boost of energy, Soundwave walked up to a robot serving organic fuel, he released a cable from his torso and plunged it into the machine, draining it of its power to refill his own, shutting it down.



‘Hey, I paid for that!’ An angry organic shouted at him, ah, it must have been low on energy too.



Soundwave detached his cable then used it to open up the offline robot's fuel banks. ‘Fuel: should not be paid for, fuel: must be accessible for all who need it.’ Soundwave declared.



He always hated that fuel was held for ransom, reminding him sourly of when the cost of Energon was increased, whist Zeta Magnus and his elites dined excessively on the finest energy, back in the present, the organic stood there in shock for a while, then hesitantly took some of the fuel for himself, with his job done, Soundwave explored further, away from the tall buildings and into an area covered in foliage, here he observed more types of organics, he found himself instantly fond of the ones that flew around, cooing as they scouted around him, curiosity flitted through his spark, he began playing music through his speakers, wondering if the same power he had over robots would have the same effect with organics, it worked to an extent, soon he had gathered a following of all kinds of cute organic creatures, he sat down on some steps, letting them crowd around him, one kind sat in his lap, vibrating loudly, another sat calmly beside him, affectionally grooming his plating.



He heaved a small vent, all of this made him miss his Minicons.



Most of all, he missed Shockwave, before he went on that fatal mission, he promised that he would return safely.



He wanted to see him again...



‘S'cuse me, mr machine? What kind of robot are you?’ Said an organic sparkling, apparently, he had gathered a small following of those as well, harmless curiosity exuding from their minds.



‘I am Soundwave.’ He replied. ‘Soundwave: does as he wishes.’ He explained, reaching out and patting one of the organics that had settled on his lap.



‘Coool.’ The little organics replied, their underdeveloped processors obviously not comprehending Soundwave's nature. ‘Are you an Autobot, can you transform?’



Soundwave needed to think fast, obviously affiliating himself with Autobots could have dire consequences, but the opposite could be true as well. ‘Soundwave: has no need for labels.’ He bluffed.



Enraptured with his attitude, or perhaps with the manipulative music he played, the sparklings came closer.




‘Calling all units, we have a case of a... vampire communist in uptown Detroit.’ Said the dispatcher.



A policeman spoke into his radio, a look of absolute bewilderment on his face. ‘A what?’



The dispatcher clarified further. ‘Robot of unknown design, possible Transformer, draining other robots of power, preaching anti-capitalist propaganda, just under 6 feet tall, blue, black and yellow in colour, not dangerous as far as we know, but disturbing the peace, we need someone to investigate, last report states he was sighted in the park.’



Hearing this Sari, ran as quick as she could to the park, the police had to be talking about Soundwave, and whatever the key had turned him into, she was in so much trouble right now, here everyone was telling her not to use her key just in case she made another Cybertronian, and she went ahead and made another Cybertronian, that was going around eating other robots! What was she going to do!?



She ran right into the park and instantly she found him, Soundwave was...



He looked so cool.



It had to be him, he looked a lot like the old toy, but with all this new plating and features, he had a visor that looked like a pair of anime shades, a mask like the one Optimus used for battle, his chestplate looked like the front of an old boombox, his arms and pedes covered in speakers and tapedeck motifs. He was sitting by the steps of a statue and had gathered quite a crowd, it was like something out of Disney movie, he had pigeons, dogs, cats, possums and even a deer sitting next to him, but also other kids, his speakers blasting out a pretty sweet tune, but it didn't sound like anything she had heard before, was it the kind of stuff they played back on Cybertron?



Just as she was about to go up to him, a policeman got there first, sending the crowds of people and animals away. ‘Sir? Robot? You're going to have to come down with me to the station.’



Soundwave slowly raised his helm to meet the officer's gaze, turning off his music. ‘Soundwave: has committed no crime.’



‘Sorry pal, but you match the profile of a robot we've been getting complaints about, just need to run a few checks.’



Soundwave tensed visibly, before anything could go wrong, Sari ran up to them. ‘No no it's fine, it's ok, he's with me.’ She excused. ‘Soundwave's not a vampire, nope, just a genuine Sumdac prototype, that plays music and definitely doesn't eat other robots, we got separated a while back, please don't call the Autobots.’ She lied, noticing how Soundwave's visor was immediately facing her.



The officer immediately backed off, a look of annoyance on his face. ‘(Damn Sumdacs.)’ He mumbled under his breath.



With just the two of them left alone, Soundwave quickly stood up, towering over Sari. ‘You: will explain your intention.’



‘It's ok Soundwave, I'll explain everything, but I need you to come back home, before the Autobots spot you.’ Sari stammered out, looking fearfully towards the road, like they could show up at any second.



Soundwave followed her without further objection.







Finally, in the safety of Sari's room after she snuck Soundwave back inside, she let out the breath of fear that she had been holding for a long time. ‘Ok, we're good, ok, everything's fine, I'm going to need my key back, you still have it, don't you Soundwave?’



Soundwave stood completely still for a while, eventually opening his take deck and taking the key from it. ‘Is this the item you are after?’ He questioned.



Sari jumped up and tried to snatch it from him, but he held it above her, out of reach. ‘Oh thank goodness!’ She breathed in relief. ‘I need it back Soundwave, it's really important.’



‘Organic: promised to explain when returned to this place.’ Soundwave reminded her, putting the key back into his tape deck sounding a little impatient.



Sari's heart skipped a beat, oh yeah, she was going to have to explain everything to Soundwave if she even had a chance of getting the key back, this was going to be tough. ‘Ok, this is going to sound really out there and unbelievable, but... you've been offline for a long time and I might have accidentally resurrected you with my key.’



Soundwave, for as unexpressive as his masked helm was, seemed shaken. ‘Soundwave: was offline? Soundwave: returned?’ He looked down to his servos, that explained so much and yet so little at the same time, he hadn't just suddenly been awoken on this Earth, he had died on that battlefield and ended up resurrected in another time and place, but the biggest questions were how and why.



Sari gave him as reassuring a bunch of pats could be. ‘Listen, I know it's a little hard to take in, but your friend Longarm was really upset when you died because he thought it was his fault, I wanted to find out what happened, I-I only meant to ask you how you died so I could prove to him it wasn't his fault, but I left the key in you a little too long and it brought you back for reals, I'm really sorry about that!’



Soundwave looked back up at Sari with a helm tilted in confusion. ‘Soundwave: is not affiliated with a bot called Longarm.’



‘Oooh, that's right, he got his name changed when he joined the Autobots didn't he? Lemmie get a picture.’ Sari said as she rummaged around on her desk, not noticing Soundwave's sudden flinch when she mentioned Autobots, he had believed she wasn't allied with them when she first mentioned them. ‘Here, you recognise him now?’ She asked as she showed him a photo.



‘Shockwave!?’ Soundwave gasped, moving forwards and snatching the picture from Sari's hands like a swift wind.



That form, he hadn't seen it for so long, after Shockwave had spurned him for joining the Decepticons, had run away from his caretakers, he had used his shapeshifting power to make that form and join the Iacon science academy, eventually he saw reason and joined the Decepticons, that had been the happiest cycle of Soundwave's runtime, when they finally reunited under the same banner and Shockwave had shedded that false reality he made for himself, now that form was sitting with Autobots, their very logo sitting proudly upon his chestplate, his faceplate smiling genuinely whilst he was surrounded by bots he would have torn apart in nano-cycles.



What in the name of Unicron was going on!?



Soundwave brought his attention back to Sari. ‘Soundwave: needs to know everything that happened since he offlined.’




‘And then they crashed onto Earth, and stayed under the lake for 50 whole years that's like, half a vorn? And then they woke up when...’



Soundwave kept blanking out though her entire story, between when he had been offline to his resurrection, the Decepticons had lost the war, Megatron had offlined, Shockwave had lost his memory and somehow become stuck in his shapeshifted form, thinking he was an Autobot, what if he really did abandon the Decepticons? Soundwave shook his helm in denial, Shockwave was grateful when Megatron rescued him, had promised his spark to Soundwave and the Decepticon cause, he would never abandon them, it had to be the memory loss, there was no other explanation.



He had to make him remember.



‘... And so that's why you have to hide Soundwave, I'll get into a lot of trouble if they find out what I did, it's ok though, you can hide in my room till you get to grips with Earth, then I can get you a nice place to live somewhere where they won't find you and-’



Soundwave would have laughed if it didn't show his intention, Sari was just like Shockwave when he was a sparkling, so worried about getting into trouble when he was already up to his helm in it, but he couldn't complain about the part where she would make sure the Autobots wouldn't find out, though they would have to eventually, the Autobots had the Allspark and Shockwave, and he would be a pit spawned glitch if he let them hold onto them any longer.



‘So, were you and Longarm like, really close friends?’ Sari enquired, hoping to know him a bit better. ‘Did you grow up together?’



Soundwave nodded. ‘Soundwave and Shockwave: though raised with different caretakers, shared everything together, Shockwave and Soundwave: sweetsparks.’



Sari suddenly looked very panicked. ‘Oh, uh, well, um.’ She fumbled around. ‘Ok Soundwave, don't be mad, but he, he has a new boyfriend now.’ Now she was really regretting resurrecting him, she couldn't keep him away from Longarm forever if they used to be boyfriends, what if he got jealous of Bumblebee?



Soundwave didn't seem to react to it, but deep down he was absolutely disgusted, an Autobot sweetspark? ‘Soundwave: understands.’ In reality, he didn't understand in the slightest, he would crush that Autobot the moment he learned their designation.



Shockwave was his, and his alone.



Sari seemed satisfied with the answer, relaxing instantly. ‘Ok, everything's still cool, so, it wasn't Longa- I mean, Shockwave's fault you died, right?’ Sari finished with a question, damn these organic sparklings and their extreme curiosity.



Suddenly, there was a knock at Sari's door. ‘Sari? You in there?’ Came Bulkhead's voice from the other side. ‘You haven't been answering your phone, can we talk?’



She seized up instantly, grabbing Soundwave's servo, she pulled him into her bathroom. ‘That's one of the Autobots, s-stay here and don't do anything, COMING BULKHEAD, EVERYTHING'S FINE’ She shouted in a failed attempt to sound unsuspicious, closing the door behind her.



Not objecting in the slightest, Soundwave waited patiently while he thought out a plan to find Shockwave, to bring him back to his side, that was until he sensed a robotic organism approaching him from above, then he heard the small tappings of its pedes from a vent above him, with one of his cables, he whipped into the air vent and snatched the offending mechanism, it looked just like one he consumed earlier when he was resurrected, though the optic was a deep red instead of yellow, he was preparing to drain it of power before it could transmit anything but then he felt something familiar about it.



‘Follow me.’ An even more familiar voice spoke from its vocaliser. ‘There are things I need to discuss with you.’



‘Megatron?’ Soundwave said in disbelief.



‘How did you kno- Soundwave!?’ Megatron's voice gasped from the pocketbot. ‘Is that you, are you online?’



‘Soundwave: was resurrected through organic's key, Soundwave: was told you were offline.’



Megatron's avatar wiggled out of his cable's grip, using magnetised pedes to climb back up to the vent. ‘And for the time being, I'd rather my status be assumed that way, now follow me Soundwave, we have much to discuss, and so little time.’



Soundwave jumped up and clambered into the vent. ‘Comeback: Soundwave has all the time in this world for a long story.’




In a dark laboratory, Soundwave found himself faceplate to faceplate with Megatron, almost literally, his great leader looked so decayed, his helm splitting at seams, but he was online, and in the end that was all that Soundwave required from him.



Soundwave bowed deeply. ‘Master.’ He stated. ‘Please, forgive Soundwave for his failure.’



‘It couldn't be helped.’ Megatron said dismissively. ‘Shockwave and I were devastated to witness your passing into the well, but that is no longer important, you are back amongst the online, and we need you more than ever.’



Soundwave rose from his kneeing position, he took the key out of his tapedeck, presenting it to Megatron. ‘Soundwave: was resurrected through this, Soundwave: was able to upgrade himself through this, Megatron: needs only more metal to make his return.’ He described to Megatron, hoping to appease him.



Megatron did not react to the key at all. ‘I wish it were that easy Soundwave, I designed that frame of yours to purposely be able to upgrade itself through exposures to the key's power, and, no offense Soundwave, that frame is pathetic, an Autobot could crush it in nano-cycles, I require the Allspark to make my return.’



Soundwave put the key away, not in the least offended. ‘Soundwave: understands.’



‘My resurrection can wait, our highest priority right now is getting Shockwave back to his senses, once he remembers who he is, the Autobots will not stand a chance against us.’ Megatron ordered, bringing up a video of Longarm on the screen. ‘I sent him on a mission to infiltrate the Autobots, unfortunately it worked so well he actually believes himself to be one, but he has slowly been remembering, I suspect he needs only a little more "encouragement" for his true self to return.’ The video changed to a set of co-ordinates. ‘Here is the location of the Autobot base, I trust you know what to do.’



Soundwave nodded, a servo held over his spark. ‘Soundwave: will not fail you, Shockwave: will be ours again.’ And with that he began his long trek towards the Autobot base.



Megatron laughed mirthfully when Soundwave left, his fortunes were finally changing for the better, soon he would have both of his most loyal Decepticons under his wing, the Allspark, and then finally, his own triumphant return.




‘So, yeah, can we start hanging out again Sari? Maybe leave that Soundwave thing behind next time you visit? I miss you.’ Bulkhead finished with the cutest pleading expression Sari ever saw on his faceplate.



She gave a timid thumbs up, trying her best to keep casual and not reveal that Soundwave was alive in her room right now. ‘S-sure big guy, you won't see Soundwave again anytime soon.’ She promised.



Bulkhead's optics lit up optimistically, he grabbed her in a full hug. ‘Thanks Sari! See you tomorrow!’



When he finally went away, Sari sighed in relief and rushed back to the bathroom door, Soundwave must have been bored as hell in there, but at least he had been keeping quiet in it.



It was completely empty.



‘Soundwave?’ Sari gasped when she saw he wasn't there. ‘SOUNDWAVE!?’ She called out, hoping he heard her and Bulkhead didn't.



She ran over to her window, trying to catch sight of Soundwave on the sunset lit streets, he still had her key with him, where could he have gone? It couldn't have been that boring, she had only been listening to Bulkhead's sob story for a good twenty minutes, did he go back to the park? Maybe he needed-



Maybe he went to find Longarm!







Longarm couldn't recharge that night cycle.



Even with Bumblebee snug by his side, his servo idly petting Bee' helm, he couldn't find that calm he so desperately needed, every time he tried to power down for the night a thought flitted across his processor, or a pained feeling went across his spark, the conflicts in his memories and the facts, between what he remembered and what he had been told. It had been bothering him all that solar-cycle, Soundwave joined the Decepticons because of him, he offlined because of him, but things weren't fitting together in the timeline he made, he was twenty vorns old, but if Teletran was right, he could have been well over five thousand vorns of age.



It could be that Teletran wasn't actually telling the truth, Ratchet did say that officially there were no Decepticons on Cybertron, when really there were thousands, perhaps there were actually dozens of Decepticon riots that happened during his twenty vorns of running, all suppressed to fit in with the narrative, and he was just confused with the places and dates.



That was the only logical explanation, but deep down his spark refused to settle, making sure Longarm knew that, until he found the truth, it would never be satisfied, but it wasn't like he could find out anytime soon, the only bot who would know was Ratchet, and his last round of questions had already been suspicious, any more and he would have to say the truth about Soundwave.



He felt sick.



Longarm carefully got up without booting Bumblebee with him, walking into the main part of the base, maybe a little fresh air in his vents would help calm himself down.




When Soundwave approached the Autobot base, he was greeted by another of Megatron's pocketbot avatars at the main entrance.



‘The Autobots are recharging.’ He briefed. ‘I have disabled the security systems already, the rest is up to you.’



Soundwave picked the pocketbot up, walking further into the base.




Longarm slumped down on the base's couch, cradling his helm in his servos.



Everything had been going so well recently, he was accepting who he was, had the cutest bot for a sweetspark, he was protecting the people he cared about and he was a hero, he was worth something here, why couldn't it stay like that?



Why was everything becoming so complicated? Why were his memories fighting each other?



He felt like two separate bots in the same frame, the old him and the new him, and his spark stuck in a tug of war between them.



‘Why can't things stay the same?’ Longarm whispered to himself.



His spark skipped a pulse when someone answered. ‘Change: is inevitable.’



Longarm looked up towards the base entrance, seeing a small robot of unknown design, no, wait, he recognised the design completely, it was Soundwave, not the toy Sari had, no, this was the Soundwave he knew, the same Soundwave who became a Decepticon, no taller than a human, but upon his tapedeck was a devastatingly familiar sight, the purple brand of the Decepticons.



Soundwave?’ Longarm exclaimed in disbelief, it was impossible, Soundwave was offline.



‘Soundwave: has returned from the Well, Soundwave: responded to your call.’ Soundwave stated, walking closer.



The instant Soundwave moved, Longarm had shot upright in an instant, taking his cannon out of his subspace. ‘No, stay back!’ Longarm hissed.



Soundwave emitted some strange sounds, which Longarm then realised were laughs. ‘Soundwave: understands, Soundwave: will help you remember.’



‘I know enough.’ Longarm retorted, cannon shaking as he couldn't bring himself to activate the trigger. ‘You lied to me! You joined the Decepticons!’



Soundwave stopped his approach, and for a moment Longarm felt relief, but then Soundwave's speakers began emitting music, not just any kind either, he remembered this piece very well.



Longarm lost himself to another memory.




‘You made this?’ Longarm's younger self asked in surprise, clapping his claws together. ‘That's... Soundwave, it sounds amazing.’



‘Soundwave: has more to show.’ Soundwave replied, walking closer while the song he composed emitted from his speakers. ‘Observe.’



The small Insecticons around them ceased their activity, no longer nibbling on crystals or scouting out new energy sources, they opened their shells, buzzed their wings, then slowly gathered around Soundwave, landing on him.



‘Soundwave: can move others through his music.’ Soundwave explained, with his servos he willed the Insecticons to move as he commanded.



He himself felt moved by the music, his spark flitting around its chamber like a newspark in love. ‘Is this your Sigma ability? That's incredible, you're incredible, Soundwave.’ He looked around, making sure there was no other bot in sight before he continued.



‘W-would you like to see mine?’




The light in Longarm's optics dimmed, the tension in his frame and spark died down, he relaxed on the spot, doing nothing, not even thinking as Soundwave walked towards him, pockebot in servo.



‘Shockwave: do you remember?’ Soundwave asked.



‘S... Soundwave...’ Longarm slurred, lost in his memories, swaying on the spot, Soundwave's Sigma ability overpowering his motherboard's warnings that it had been compromised,.



‘Come with me.’ Soundwave ordered, turning to leave.



‘Yes...’ Longarm mindlessly agreed, slowly, he walked behind Soundwave, an ocean of static washing over his processor.



Soundwave had sensed one of the Autobots was still online, and the approach of the organic that resurrected him, he needed more time to work with Shockwave, somewhere secluded from Autobot and organic interference.



Soon, Shockwave would be back where he belonged, with the Decepticons, with him.



Chapter Text



‘Where's that pocketbot.’ Bulkhead worried to himself, he had been planning to give it back to Longarm now that he was friends again with Sari and didn't need it anymore, but it wasn't in the last place he left it, he turned over his whole room before taking his search outside it and further into the base. ‘Here little buddy? Where did I leave you? Oh, Longarm's gonna offline me!’ He spoke to himself anxiously, turning over a few more things before his audials picked up a strange sound, it was like a Cybertronian concert, the kind of old bot garbage that Ratchet would listen to, but why would he be playing that out loud at this time of the cycle?



‘Docbot?’ He asked aloud.



Bulkhead, following the strange music, moved into the main area of the base to see a sight he honestly couldn't put to words without having a memory leak, the music was coming from a small robot walking towards the base entrance, Bulkhead almost thought it was that Soundwave toy Sari had, but it looked really different, definitely Cybertronian, then there was Longarm following it, trailing behind like his processor was half-fried, like he was having a fluxwalking glitch. The robot stopped, turning to witness Bulkhead's entrance into the room, he instantly went on alert when he saw the Decepticon brand on its chestplate.



‘HEY! WHAT- WHO'RE YOU?!’ He shouted, he prepared to swing his wrecking ball, before a strong blast from the Decepticon's speakers sent him flying backwards, knocking him into the wall, how could a thing so tiny be that powerful!?



‘Do not interfere, Autobot.’ The Decepticon hissed, despite its monotonous voice, it then turned towards Longarm. ‘Destroy it.’ He ordered.



‘Yes, Soundwave.’ Longarm murmured, he brought up his cannon, firing it towards Bulkhead without hesitation.



‘Soundwave!?’ Bulkhead exclaimed in surprise, but he had no more time to think on it when Longarm fired his cannon, he only just managed to roll to the side and dodge it, on the audial-splitting sound it created, everyone else in the base booted up, bursting out of their rooms.



‘What's happening Bulkhead?’ Optimus demanded, axe out and ready to roll. ‘Who's attacking us?!’



‘Where's Longarm!?’ Bumblebee asked in a panic, he had gone into recharge with Longarm right next to him, only to find him gone when he booted up.



Bulkhead shook his helm free of dust and debris before explaining what little he knew. ‘Th- Soundwave showed up, it's- I don't know how but it's a Decepticon, got some sound power, he was doing something to Longarm, I think it was controlling him!’ He blurted all over at once. ‘H-he shot at me!’



‘Soundwave? A Decepticon!?’ Optimus repeated in disbelief but didn't stand there dwelling on it any longer than he needed, he rushed through the entrance and into the outside lot, but Soundwave and Longarm weren't in sight, they weren't picking up on his scanner either, what he did see however, was Sari, running towards the base, the key missing from her neck, and Optimus had a very good idea why. ‘Sari, what did you do?’ Optimus interrogated, moving towards her.



‘I- uh...’ She stammered, slowing down to a halt, no longer as keen to reach him as she was before.



‘Answer me Sari.’ Optimus pressed further. ‘What happened to Soundwave!?’



 ‘I... OK! I messed up! I accidentally used my key on Soundwave an-and he's alive now.’ She finally admitted. ‘B-but he's not bad, he ju-’






‘Sari, how long has Soundwave had a spark, do you have any idea where he might have gone?’ Optimus asked, picking her up from the ground.



‘S-since yesterday afternoon, I- I thought- I didn't think he was bad, I-I-I don't know where h-he could have gone!’ She stammered before breaking down into tears.



‘The Dinobots might be able to track them.’ Prowl suggested. ‘Their olfactory sensors are very highly tuned.’



‘Go get them.’ Optimus ordered, transforming into his alt-mode with Sari inside. ‘Everyone, roll out and keep your scanners on high alert, we need to find Soundwave before he does any permanent damage!’





‘Robots of Detroit: hear my voice and make it your code.’ Soundwave declared into the empty city streets, his voice thundering down the buildings and into every alley. ‘The revolution begins again, the liberation of robotkind, no longer will you be forced to serve one function, with no thought or feeling, Soundwave: will give you sparks, Soundwave: will show you the way.’ He slotted the key into himself, setting his speakers to maximum output.



‘You will become Decepticons!



At first, there was nothing...



Then, they began changing.



Every robot of every household, of every civil service, activated of their own accord, new seams forged on their frames, smaller robots sought each other out, fusing together, larger robots split with their new seams, detaching the needless components that once served mankind, those without proper servos and stabilisers forged what they needed, and then all shed their Sumdac Systems logo for the menacing brand of the Decepticons.



Soundwave watched proudly as his army spilled into the city streets, breaking the locks off doors or shorting them out to stop their former owners pursuing them, he looked over his army of freshly forged Decepticons, all excited with his gift of thought, all waiting for his guidance.



‘Take control of the city, subdue any organic that poses a threat to you.’ Soundwave ordered. ‘There is a small garrison of Autobots, find and destroy them all.’ Just as his army began to carry out their orders, Soundwave touched the processors of a particularly sized group, forcing them to come closer to him, the key glowing eagerly in its socket. ‘Soundwave: has a greater purpose for you.’



Soundwave consumed them.





As if things couldn't get worse for the Autobots, suddenly reports of rogue robots began coming in, but it wasn't one or two, it was hundreds...






‘I'm tellin' ya, every single robot's goin' berserk, they got that Decepti-sign on them, can't even get near or they go wild.’ One policeman said on the radio.



‘It can't be every robot.’ Another replied in doubt.



The officer from before then screamed back in kind. ‘THEN CALL ME WHEN YOU SPOT ONE THAT AIN'T TRYIN' TA SHOOT US OFF THE STREET!’



Optimus engaged his alt-mode's airbag to shield Sari before he rammed straight through a blockade of rouge robots, it was just like the reports had said, they didn't even look like they were of Earth design anymore, it was like a sea of evil Minicons, Decepticon brands as far as the optic could see. Eventually they were forced to turn from alt-mode to robot mode as the sheer number began overwhelming them, they had no choice but to fight.



‘Did Soundwave do all this?’ Bulkhead asked aloud, spinning his wrecking ball into a number of them.



‘Processor control is one thing, but this... I've never seen anything like it.’ Ratchet replied apprehensively, he engaged his scanner to study Soundwave's minions in closer detail. ‘They don't have sparks, but these motherboards, they're... they're evolving! Prime, if we don't figure out what's happening soon and stop it, we'll be up to our audials in a sentient Decepticon army!’



Bulkhead lighted up with an idea. ‘Maybe we can use the key to reverse what's happening to them!’ He said optimistically, he turned to Optimus, where Sari was safely contained behind his chestplates. ‘Sari, maybe you and Ratchet... could...’ He stalled, when he noticed her neck was completely bare. ‘Soundwave has the key, doesn't he?’ He stated obviously, optics drooping.



Sari didn't reply, curling further into herself, sleeves soaked with tears.



Fanzone piped up on the police radio. ‘I'm calling in the Army, there's no way we can hold this craziness over on our own! Autobots, do you have any idea who's causing this!? Is it that Screamer guy!?’



‘A Decepticon by the name of Soundwave, he appears to have powers of processor control.’ Optimus explained stoically as flung his axe into the flyers that used to be police drones, internally, his circuits were frying with anger.



‘This ain't the usual kind of revenge stunt those Cons pull.’ Fanzone observed. ‘You boys got any idea what his moti-’



Suddenly every TV screen and computer, turned on to show Soundwave, more menacing than when he had last been seen, even the electric billboards and radios turned to his frequency, he was broadcasting himself to the entire city.



‘I am Soundwave.’ He announced to the city. ‘Organics: cast aside your weapons and your fear, no harm will come to you, what you are witnessing is the dawn of a new age.’ He described, one could almost hear the sheer glee in his voice. ‘For as long as you have existed, you sought shelter from the unknown and the hostile, technology: has served you, machines: have uplifted you from the filth of ignorance, Soundwave: understands.’



‘The pit is he on about?’ Bumblebee seethed, firing his stingers at every screen the moment he got a free opportunity.



‘But change must come, your machines: are cold and empty, they keep you safe, make your burdens easier to bear, but have created stagnancy, organic technology: is isolating you now more than ever.’ Soundwave droned on as minion after minion flung themselves at the Autobots, eventually splitting the team in two. ‘Organics: remind Soundwave of how Cybertron used to be.



When young, Cybertronians believed they were made to serve a single function, based on the primary components they were forged with, Cybertron: was built upon this philosophy, time: progressed, the truth: became clear, Cybertronians: could fit more than one role, components: held no bearing on one's fate, the rulers of that age, the Protectrons, refused to believe, Protectrons: purged everything that proved them wrong.’ Soundwave told the city, hissing with repressed anger at the name of a faction only one Autobot had any knowledge of. ‘This: marks the beginning of the Destron cause.’



‘And I thought I was the rusted history datapad around here.’ Ratchet insulted, using his magnets to slam Soundwave's minions into a wall, crushing them, he and Optimus went backstrut to backstrut as the never ending ocean of Soundwave's Decepticons circled them. ‘Scrap, I'm getting too old for all this. He complained.



While Soundwave's history lesson went on, Fanzone started speaking once again, this time on the Autobot's comms. ‘This thing working? Great, we gotta think of a plan, this bastard thought of everything, we can't even pinpoint where he's broadcasting from!’



‘Keep trying.’ Optimus whispered into his comm, keeping his optics, audials and attention as far away from Soundwave's broadcast as he could, the whole thing was a theatrical distraction, though it worried him greatly, whoever Sari resurrected, he was clearly a powerful and determined Decepticon.



‘The Protectrons: called us liars and deceivers, Decepticons.’ Soundwave continued, holding his arms out dramatically before bringing them over where his spark would be. ‘Destrons: took our insult as a badge of honour, Destrons: became Decepticons.



Do not let the Autobots acts of "heroics" fool you, Autobots: are the Protectrons in a different coating, Autobots: did not crash to Earth accidentally, Autobots: were preparing to annex Earth and purge its history, its identity, just as they purged Cybetron's.’



Ratchet blew a fuse at those words, throwing what used to be a trashbot into one of the big screens. ‘YOU PRIMUS DAMNED LYING PIECE OF-’



‘Don't let him get to you!’ Optimus warned. ‘This isn't to turn the Humans against us, that's just a bonus prize for him, he's trying to distract us from reaching him! I was taught about this in the academy, back in the war Decepticons would hijack the Holonet while carrying out an attack to split the formation.’



‘Boy you don't need to tell me, I'm old, I lived through that!’ Ratchet scolded Optimus, shielding him from a surprise flyer attack. ‘This Soundwave though, he's old too, real old, can tell by the way he says Protectron.’ Ratchet murmured to himself in deep concern, younger Decepticons didn't carry nearly enough hateful inflection as the older ones who lived through it.



‘What even is a Protectron!?’ Bulkhead shouted heatedly through his comm, now split off from Bumblebee and trashing minions on his own.



Soundwave's visor brightened as his speech begun reaching its concluding finale. ‘Organics: forged false ideas and beliefs to comfort yourselves from the indefinite, organics: forced machines into single serving roles, organics: established on the stained servos of corrupt elite, all as Cybertron was and still is. The cycle ends now, tonight marks the end of Earth's corruption and the beginning of its rise to the stars, Soundwave: has breathed life into your machines, no longer will you be isolated with cold technology, but with the warmth and understanding only a Cybertronian can bring.



Earth: will become the new haven of the Decepticons, all: will become equals, you: will beco-’



The entire city went dark, putting an end to Soundwave's broadcast, the police being so desperate that they cut power to the entire city just to stop him, twenty long seconds later, the power went back on, this time with Fanzone on the advertising screens and in the radios, though he clearly didn't have the technical knowhow Soundwave did of reaching every piece of technology, he had a look of absolute murder that more than made up for it.






(Sir, please stop swearing on camera.)’ One officer pleaded softly in the background.






‘Prime, the Dinobots have picked up Longarm's scent.’ Prowl finally announced. ‘Soundwave has taken him through the underground water and transport systems the humans use, these tunnels are quite vast and large, they may still be down here.’





Starscream couldn't believe his optics, another Decepticon, who definitely wasn't him, had amassed an army, that definitely wasn't his, to destroy the Autobots with? AND IT WAS WORKING!?



‘Who does this Soundwave think he is!?’ Starscream sneered in great offense. ‘I AM THE LEADER OF THE DECPTICONS! NOT HIM! HE SHOULD HAVE REPORTED TO ME, THIS WAS MY IDEA (totally)!’



‘You've never heard of Soundwave, really?’ Blackarachnia asked in disbelief, Starscream noted that she wasn't as boisterous as she usually was when she backtalked him, something about this situation had her in shock too.



‘Oh, I'm supposed to know the name of aaall my try hard subordinates.’ Starscream hissed back sarcastically, rolling his optics.



‘Soundwave was Megatron's original second in command, long before your flat little aft fragged its way into the job.’ She enlightened rudely. ‘I thought he was offline.’ She added, with a surprising softness.



‘EXCUSE ME!?’ Starscream squawked, slamming his bad servo onto the computer, only to then wince and nurse it from the pain he caused.



‘Didn't you read up your history lessons? Just because the Autobots purged all his info from their databanks doesn't mean your lot did, if you thought Shockwave was a freak, imagine being a telepathic minicon carrier, he's the reason Megatron got as huge of a following as he did before the war, manipulated people into joining his rallies, choked the Holonet up with fake news...’ She leant closer. ‘Rumour has it, he was able to directly control any bot he wanted, made Zeta Magnus offline himself.’



For once in his runtime, Starscream was at a loss of words to pull out of his aft, Soundwave was Megatron's second and killed a Magnus? Was that why nobody respected his authority?! Had everyone been comparing him to an offline scrapheap this entire time and nobody had the tanks to tell him!?! It didn't matter, he told himself, he was online and if Soundwave was even half as smart as he was he wouldn't be-



Oh, wait, Soundwave was online again, right.



Starscream recomposed himself, standing straight and dignified, closing his optics momentarily as he turned to address Blackarachnia. ‘Well, this Soundwave has quite a lot to answer for and- WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING!?’ He grilled when he opened his optics and saw Blackarachnia halfway to leaving his base.



She tilted her head up and backwards to look at him mockingly. ‘To follow a better leader, you know, one with an army? Ta-ta.’ She farewelled with a dismissive wave of her hand.



Starscream twitched with impotent rage. ‘RrrrraAAUUUUGHH!’ He screeched into the heavens.





Longarm regained awareness of himself in a dark, damp chamber, a place of ancient human architecture, incredibly old, they hadn't used stone to build their structures for a very long time, there a foul smell he couldn't put a name to lingering on the edges of his olfactory sensor, a slow drip of water reaching his audials from behind, he was flat on his backstrut, he looked around wildly with his optics, trying to find any sort of clue to his own whereabouts, or Soundwave's, but all he could see was the dimly lit ceiling that looked like it could crumble at any second. His servos and his cannon refusing to respond, Soundwave must have hacked into him, the only part of himself he could actually move was his faceplate, and what a whole lot of good that did for him, his messaging system was offline, but strangely his comm was still active, though he had absolutely no control over it.



His spark started hammering away in its chamber at the sound of approaching pedesteps.



Soundwave stepping into Longarm's field of vision, he was Cybertronian sized now. ‘Soundwave: hopes Shockwave can forgive him for leaving him in poor surroundings.’ Soundwave apologised.



Pain pierced into Longarm's spark, flaring wildly, Shockwave... that... that was his original name! His entire frame buzzed at the name, he didn't think it possible, but somehow, he felt sicker than he was before, he should have been elated to remember his name before he joined the Autobots, but it felt like he was being torn apart. It had to be all the bad things that happened to him before he became Longarm, Soundwave's betrayal, the bullying, the isolation the rejection, that was all Shockwave, Longarm's spark lurched violently even thinking about his old name, but he was Longarm now.



He wanted it to stay that way.



‘My name is Longarm.’ Longarm replied sternly, trying to keep his faceplate straight despite the pain.



Soundwave twitched with amusement. ‘Soundwave: refuses to use an Autobot designation, your name: is Shockwave.’



‘Is this what this is all about?’ Longarm questioned cautiously. ‘You couldn't stand me rejecting you th-’



Soundwave crouched down swiftly, placing two digits gently onto Longarm's intake, effectively silencing him. ‘You: don't remember what happened after you ran away, do you?’ Soundwave asked, digits tracing Longarm's jawguard softly, sending strange sensations through his helm and into his motherboard.



‘I know enough.’ Longarm lied, he didn't want to think about it, he didn't want to consider what Soundwave was implying, that there was something more to this story than he remembered, that he interacted with Soundwave after he betrayed him.



Soundwave practically made himself home over Longarm's frame, his digits brushed over Longarm's faceplate, then dipped lower, outlining the vents of his chestplate, and Longarm couldn't do a thing to stop him. ‘Soundwave: missed this, missed you.’ He confessed quietly, heaving a heavy vent, he wished they could lie like this for longer, but he had work to do. ‘Soundwave: will help Shockwave remember.’ He said as his cables emerged from under his tapedeck, slithering over Longarm's vulnerable form and prying open a medical port each.



‘No, nono don't, Please!’ Longarm pleaded the moment he realised what was happening. ‘STOP!’ He screamed when the cables forced themselves to connect. ‘STOP IT!



The world dissolved around him.




Longarm booted up with a fright, tumbling off a berth and onto the floor, he tried to get up but failed, his pedes slipping on the floor, he flopped around like a zapper eel out of mercury, Soundwave must have done something to his equilibrium, every bit of it felt wrongly tuned. Then he spotted his digits, or lack of digits to be specific, he had three tiny little claws on each servo, the beginning of a cannon was forging itself on his left arm, he was probably one moult away from having a completed weapon on his arm. What was going on? Was this a memory? He experimentally opened and closed his claws, which they did on command, meaning it couldn't be a memory, he had no control over those, somehow, he had become his far younger self, and Soundwave was on the loose somewhere inside his processor, was this his idea of making Longarm remember? Forcing him to directly reexperience his younger days?



He looked up from the floor and spotted something horrifying under his berth, with an elongated neck, one optic and no faceplate,  it stared right back at him, he screamed at the sight, struggling to get away from it, only to realised it was himself when it made the exact same freaked out scramble away he did, it turned out to be a mirror, not hung on his wall but hidden under his berth. His room was incredibly bare, more than his corner of the bunkhouse back at the academy, he opened up his footlocker to find a few broken action figures, but then realised the base was awfully shallow, he pried underneath a constructobot with a missing arm to find he had made a false bottom for the locker, a treasure trove of datapads lay underneath.



Suddenly, someone ran up to and kicked the door to the room, giving him another fright as he slammed his footlocker shut. ‘Shockwave shut the frag up in there!’ A youngbot shouted behind the door. ‘You stupid-’



The approach of another bot's pedesteps outside his door stopped the other bot from speaking. ‘Jetlag, that is no way to speak.’ The voice of a femme chided lightly, it was incredibly familiar, she was his caretaker.



‘He screamed at me!’ Jetlag argued back, the offence in his tone carried on from incidents past. ‘He does this every-’



A slap resonated outside the door. ‘Go clean yourself up.’ The femme ordered, clearly taking Jetlag's rudeness to spark before his complaint.



The door opened, and a femme stepped in,  she was coloured purple blue and black, but she didn't look remotely how she sounded in his memories, a soft smile gracing her faceplate like she never had any other expression on it in her runtime.



‘Shockwave? Sweetie, did you frighten yourself again?’ She cooed, walking over and picking him up, cradling him to her reassuringly. ‘Was it a bad flux?’



Longarm said absolutely nothing, here she was waiting for him to say something, and he had nothing to say, this wasn't how his memories played out, he was at a complete loss for what to do, after he didn't respond for some time she started investigating the problem, finding his mirror a few degrees moved from where she had last seen it.



‘It's just you sweetie.’ She sighed sweetly, stroking the top of his helm, which he found instantly calming ‘Come on, let's get you ready for training, todays a biiiig solar-cycle~’



Longarm tried as hard as he could to get out of his former home and out of this trap, everything that was going on had Soundwave behind it, what if all this was a giant distraction while he hacked deeper into his processor, this was still his mind, right? he had to regain control of it soon before whatever Soundwave wanted fell into place like a well oiled gear. That would have been a lot easier if Longarm wasn't trapped in the form of a stubby little sparkling, instead of valiant escape attempts, it was embarrassing slip ups, when his caretaker noticed he was gone and plucked him up and out of his latest try to get out the door.



Thus he had to endure being washed and polished by his carer, once done, she set him down at a large table and gave him a rusty can with watery blue Energon and a straw, but Longarm just sat there staring at it, he had no idea how to fuel himself in this form, instead he looked up to observe the other sparklings in her care, begrudgingly fueling themselves for the day, they were all warbuilds too, he could tell by the deformities. The most normal looking of them, and the only flier in the room, had to be Jetlag, the other youngbot that he heard earlier, he was pretty big for a sparkling, maybe even a shuttle, he kept making strange faces towards Longarm when the carer wasn't looking, holding himself from laughter every time he did it.



‘Why do you keep doing that?’ Longarm asked him, getting distracted by it.



‘Cuz I can, stupid.’ Jetlag sniggered, it took Longarm a moment to realise Jetlag was making fun of his lack of a faceplate, his audial fins drooped in reaction, which made Jetlag all the smugger. ‘(It took you a cycle to figure it out? Really?)’ He whispered, having to clamp his digits over his own intake to muffle the giggles, the other youngbots in the room quickly following suit.



Longarm was beginning to have enough of this.



A personal alarm sounded from the caretaker's direction, she quickly cleaned up after everyone before picking him up and taking him to the door, the others following after her. ‘Ok, everyone go to your tutorbots, and you Shockwave, you'll be a good bot, won't you?’ She encouraged with a little boop underneath Longarm's optic, making him chirrup in reflex, before setting him down, just as he was getting ready to bolt out that accursed door, she took a bulkier youngbot with four optics and a massive jawguard aside. ‘Sundowner, make sure he goes to class.’ She ordered.



‘Aite.’ Sundowner grumbled, grabbing Longarm by the thin of his arm and pulling him out the door.



He was carelessly dragged across the street of a poor neighbourhood until they reached the smashed in shelter of a bus stop, graffiti plastered over it like fine art engravings, Longarm tried to pull his arm free of Sundowner's hold, but his carer had picked his escort well, no matter how hard he pulled, he couldn't get free.



‘Stop it already, Shockwave.’ Sundowner complained. ‘Why're you always like this?’



‘Y-you're not real!’ Longarm accused loudly. ‘None of this is real, it isn't going to work Sou-’



Sundowner shut him up with a sharp tug on his audial, that hurt almost as hard as the time when Bumblebee pulled his jawguard. ‘Tha' real enough for you?’ He jeered. ‘Whas wrong with you?’ Sundowner whinged as he pulled Shockwave up and into the bus when it arrived. ‘So you're ugly and nobody likes you, so what, we're all ugly, thas just how Warbuilds work.’ He criticised, just as Longarm noticed all the other youngbots shying away when he was pulled down the aisle. ‘Stick up for yourself for once.’



Eventually Sundowner shoved him into a seat, next to another bot, before taking a seat opposite him, Longarm straightened up, his optic quickly darting towards the exits, assessing how good his chances were of making a break for it at the next stop, assuming it wasn't the stop his tutorbots were at too.



Whoever was in the seat next to Longarm, laid a servo softly over his shoulderplate. ‘Shockwave: hasn't said hello.’ Said an all too familiar voice. ‘Shockwave: distracted?’



Longarm whipped back to see a young Soundwave sitting next to him, idly swinging his stabilisers on his seat, he narrowed his optic in suspicion. ‘What are you playing at Soundwave?’ He hissed demandingly, putting as much distance between the two of them.



Soundwave tilted his head in mock confusion. ‘Shockwave: will see.’



‘Get out of my processor.’ Longarm commanded.



‘Shockwave, shuddup already.’ Sundowner griped with a kick to his pedes, getting more and more annoyed with him by the cycle.



‘Soundwave: will not leave until Shockwave has returned.’ Soundwave enlightened ominously, reaching out and brushing the side of Longarm's helm. ‘Soundwave: will not stop till Shockwave is his again.’



‘This is my mind, not yours, my name is Longarm, I'm an Autobot.’ Longarm defended, he didn't notice the prickle of pain in his motherboard when "Autobot" left his vocaliser, but it faltered his next words. ‘I- I might have loved you long ago, but I know it's not true anymore, whatever you're planning to do in my processor won't work! I won't be like you!’



Soun dwave's laugh echoed around him, he made himself amusingly comfortable in his seat. ‘"Autobot": fails to know one thing.



You were already like me.’





Soundwave's minions had followed them into the tunnels below.



‘The Dinobots and I are fine.’ Prowl informed them over the comm as he threw glaives into his pursuers, watching Grimlock snatch up minions and crunch them in one mere bite. ‘We should all focus on regrouping.’



‘If we switch to the train tunnels and converge on Blackwater station, that'll be the fastest way.’ Optimus informed them, marking a set of coordinates on the underground map, skidding past a wave of minions in his alt-mode as he raced towards the station.



‘Still no sign of Soundwave after his publicity stunt.’ Fanzone informed them over the comms. ‘We couldn't trace the signal.’



‘How's the situation topside?’ Optimus asked, dreading the answer.



‘Army's arrived, but the media's eating this story up like pigs, there's gonna be an inquiry for sure, assuming we even win this.’  Fanzone informed him. ‘Boy, that robot history lesson sure got people riled up.’



‘Soundwave's broadcast was a distraction.’ Optimus asserted. ‘Ratchet and I will answer any questions Earth has, but not until we've apprehended him.’



‘Just who is this guy?’ Bulkhead wondered on his comm as he drove down his eerily quiet aqueduct.



‘He's the worst kind of Decepticon you can get: a revolutionary.’ Ratchet grumbled, flinging minions left and right to clear the way for himself. ‘A regular Decepticon at least gets tired of their mindless destruction, but Soundwave'll never stop, not when he believes himself to be fighting for a greater good.’



‘So, was all that stuff he was spouting earlier real? Decepticons used to be freedom fighters?’ Bulkhead asked while punching through the aqueduct wall and into a train station. ‘How come I wasn't told any of it when I was assembling?’



‘Before Ultra Magnus organised his military coup and established the Autobots, we had the Protectrons, all they really protected was the status quo, and by Primus they did that efficiently, who knows how much of Cybertron's golden age was lost at their servos, they provided the perfect forging materials for the Decepticons to establish themselves and thrive.’ Ratchet explained. ‘But the Decepticons were full of themselves, vorns of preaching to their own side and thinking themselves the victims showed when Ultra Magnus tore down the casts and began the dissolution of the functionalist churches, because the Decepticons didn't help in the slightest. In the end they didn't just want the Protectrons gone, they wanted to be the ones in charge and calling the shots, they couldn't accept the Autobots doing all the changes in just one orn that they slaved vorns over, to them Ultra was no better than the corrupt he replaced, long story short, that's how the great war started.’



‘Yikes.’ Bulkhead said in reply, shivering slightly, though he did note how Ratchet never answered his other question.



Optimus finally lost the fledgling Decepticons that had been pursuing them, slowing down his reckless driving until he arrived at the rendezvous point, Bumblebee was already there, completely on edge, on his HUD he kept firm optics on the location of Prowl and the Dinobots on the map, he had been eerily silent the entire night, and Optimus sympathised slightly, who knew what Soundwave was doing with Longarm, but he had another suspicion on Bee's silence.



‘So, perhaps you two would like to explain how we got into this mess.’ Optimus said, transforming back into robot mode with Sari in his servos.



Bumblebee stood up immediately with a look of insult on his faceplate. ‘I didn't do anything.’ He stated with a mega-cycle of pent up fury behind his words, and everyone else was taken aback, they'd never seen him so sincerely anger.



‘I find it hard to believe that Sari just decided to use the key out of nowhere.’ Optimus replied calmly. ‘I know losing Longarm-’



‘I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING! IT'S HER FAULT! I SAID "DON'T DO ANYTHING STUPID" AND SHE-’ Optimus held up his servo, silencing Bumblebee.



Sari shrank even further into herself. ‘Y-yeah, it... I used the key so I could talk to Soundwave.’ She said with difficulty, it felt like there was a nauseous lump at the back of her throat. ‘Bumblebee didn't do anything, I- I thought he was a good guy, he was Longarm's old friend and was cool a-and he knew Longarm's old name and-’



‘So this isn't just some Decepticon you brought back, he's the Soundwave Longarm knew!?’ Optimus exclaimed, optics widening. ‘That... that doesn't make sense.’



It didn't make sense at all, Ratchet said Soundwave was ancient, but Longarm had only just turned 20 vorns, then again, he didn't know much about their relationship, he didn't even know Soundwave's age when Longarm was a sparkling, or perhaps it was a Decepticon that was just pretending to be Longarm's Soundwave, so Sari wouldn't tell on him, either way, the sooner they found Soundwave, the sooner they would find out the truth.



‘What do you think, Rat- Ratchet?’ Optimus asked, only to find Ratchet wasn't behind him when he turned around. ‘He was right behind me.’



‘Hey Bossbot, any ETA when you're gonna get here?’ Bulkhead asked over the comm. ‘I've been waiting here for 5 cycles.’



‘We've been here for 3 cycles!’ Bumblebee shot back on his. ‘What station are you at?’



‘Central, like Bossbot said.’ Bulkhead replied with a hint of confusion. ‘There aren't two Centrals are there?’ He added after a pause.



‘Ratchet where are you? You were right behind me a moment ago.’ Optimus called out, worried something happened to him. ‘Are you ok?’



‘Did you blow a capacitor!? We split up just like you ordered, to cover more of these primitive tunnels!’ Ratchet complained.



Optimus was outright confused now, how on Cybertron did all of them interpret his order like that, they weren't even remotely similar, now Ratchet was on his own and Bulkhead was miles away from him. ‘No, I said for all of us to meet at Blackwater.’ He corrected.



‘I heard you say East Square, I told you that was too far from where I am the moment I heard it.’ Prowl added smoothly.



Optimus looked up in realisation. ‘Somebody's been tampering with our comms!’



‘Someone who can mess with sound!’ Bulkhead fumed.



Optimus quickly brought up the group channel on his HUD, noticing that Longarm's was active, Soundwave must have compromised them through his! ‘Everyone block Longarm's commlink frequency, Soundwave-‘



Optimus' warning had been too late, instantly his audials were filled with a strange music, the tension in his frame eased away, he dropped Sari, not caring in the slightest when she screamed, or when a nasty little crunch sounded the moment she landed.



‘Bossbot! What'd you do that for?!’ Bumblebee gasped, running up to Sari, scooping her up, she had fainted, with one of her legs completely limp. ‘You know she... can't... Bossbot?’ He whimpered when he suddenly noticed an axe held right under his helm, he looked up into Optimus' optics.



He wasn't sure what was looking back was Optimus.



‘Soundwave's taken control of Bumblebee.’ Optimus lied over the commlink. ‘He's hurt Sari.’



‘What? No! That's not-’ Bumblebee protested back wildly, stepping backwards from Optimus, but then he realised Optimus had blocked him from the group channel, the others quickly following suit with their individual frequencies.



Optimus brandished his axe and prepared for a swing, Bumblebee dodging in the nick of time, Bumblebee looked around wildly, between running off, rescuing Longarm, finding help for Sari, or trying to help Optimus snap out of Soundwave's control, he didn't know what to do, meanwhile Optimus took full advantage of Bumblebee's hesitation, taking every opportunity to cleave him in two.



‘Bossbot, snap outta it!’ Bumblebee pleaded to no result.



‘Soundwave: will destroy minibot for touching what's his.’ Optimus threatened, making a low sweep with his axe.



Bumblebee's vents stalled, that was the kind of thing the crazy ex-sweetsparks said in his Cybertronian slasher movies, and he had a very dreaded feeling that he knew exactly why he compared it to that in the first place, Soundwave was Longarm's crazy ex who turned Con, now his mental image of what was happening to Longarm was even worse, he wasn't being tortured or left to offline in some remote tunnel, Soundwave was probably doing anything to get him back!



Bumblebee's optics narrowed with a newfound determination. ‘Then come offline me yourself Decepticreep, Longarm's mine.’



Optimus smiled back wildly in return, obliterating Bumblebee's moment. ‘Was yours.





Longarm pulled himself up the chainlink fence as quick as he could, the sound of his pursuers quickly approaching behind him, he hated to admit it, but whatever Soundwave was doing to him was starting to work, he'd been subjected to all of his past self's worst memories at the training centre, he had been locked in a closet, hit, laughed at, tied to the roof by his pede, used for target practice, and Soundwave was by his side constantly, doing nothing but stare at him behind that stupid visor and facemask. He realised now Soundwave had used a cortical patch and had taken full control of Longarm's subconscious, utilising everything he knew of Longarm's past as a cruel effort to make him remember, none of his attempts to break the sequence had worked so far, but he couldn't give up, couldn't let this constant barrage of mistreatment get to him, it might have gotten to Shockwave, but not to him.



‘Get back here, No-face!’ One of the bots behind him shouted, throwing a chunk of scrap at his backstrut. ‘You climb like a wuss!’



Longarm didn't bother with a reply, hooking his claws into the next bit of the fence and hoisting himself up another step, he swivelled his optic left and right to try and spot anything Soundwave was going to throw at him the moment he vaulted the fence, and he could see what he was looking for just out the corner of his optic, more unknown bots standing idle, no doubt ready to drag him back to the sequence Soundwave wanted him to be in, being beaten up by other warbuilds.



‘Shockwave's resistance: futile.’



Trying to ignore Soundwave, Longarm continued climbing, if he let himself get roped into shouting at Soundwave, then he'd slip up, get caught, and be subjected to another round of torture. Longarm finally jumped the fence, ignoring the sudden pain in his pedes when he landed, instantly the bots who had been waiting on the other side sprang into action, spouting lines about skipping training, it didn't matter, none of it was real, he weaved in between them as they reached out to snatch him, he ran down an alleyway, finally he was getting-



He turned the corner and ended up right back at the fence he just climbed over, he turned back around, to see the education centre, like he had never even left.



Soundwave was behind him, walking slowly towards him. ‘Shockwave's resistance: very futile.’ He said.



Longarm stomped his pede, angrily clenching his claws. ‘ENOUGH! WHAT IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE ANYWAY!?’ He yelled, then waited for the answer Soundwave never gave him. ‘GO ON THEN, THROW EVERYTHING YOU HAVE, EVERYONE WHO WAS SCARED OF ME, EVERYONE WHO HATED ME! DO IT!’ He commanded, throwing his arms open and inviting Soundwave, who still remained silently staring at him. ‘SAY SOMETHING!’



The young Soundwave held a servo to his own mask, snuffing a giggle. ‘Shockwave: is being silly, Soundwave: hasn't done anything.’



Longarm clenched and unclenched his claws, the tension in his frame reaching its limits, with nothing to relive it. ‘DON'T- YOU-’ He quickly vented to dissipate the temperature warning he received. ‘WHAT IS THIS ABOUT SOUNDWAVE!? WHY DON'T YOU JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT ME TO REMEMBER!? I GET IT, NOBODY LIKED ME WHEN I WAS YOUNG!’ He screamed, not noticing the washer fluid leaking from his optic. ‘I KNEW THAT A LONG TIME AGO, JUST SAY THAT I STILL TALKED TO YOU AFTER YOU BECAME A DECEPTICON, THAT I MIGHT HAVE HELPED YOU, THAT'S- THAT'S WHAT YOUR BIG REVEAL WAS GOING TO BE WASN'T IT!?’



Soundwave went back to being silent, and Longarm finally had enough of it, he ran up to Soundwave, rearing a claw back, then the moment he was in range, he pulled his claw down, scraping Soundwave's mask, peeling it open like the lid of a can. ‘WELL GUESS WHAT? I DON'T CARE, I-I DON'T CARE ANYMORE, ALL THIS IS THE PAST, IT DOESN'T MATTER ANYMORE’ He backhanded Soundwave, sending him to the ground, then pounced, ripping his claws wherever he could. ‘IT'S NOT GOING TO CHANGE ANYTHING SOUNDWAVE, BECAUSE AT THE END OF THE DAY, I'M NOT THE SHOCKWAVE YOU KNEW!’ Longarm roared, finally ripping off Soundwave's visor and mask to reveal the shocked faceplate underneath, and Longarm never felt so satisfied to see it than right now. ‘MY NAME IS LONGARM NOW, I'M AN AUTOBOT AND- A-AND-’



‘If this were real: Shockwave would have offlined a sparkling.’ Soundwave stated with a grin on his faceplate, though Longarm could see the fear beneath it.



Long arm paused his rant, looking down, his claws had ripped open Soundwave's chassis, having torn apart the protective front case for the spark, one squeeze of his claws and he would end this manifestation of Soundwave



Longarm squinted with amusement ‘Good thing it isn't.’ he said.



Shockwave clamped his claws together.




Longarm booted right out of the trap Soundwave created for him, finding the ability to move himself again, he ripped Soundwave's cables out of him without a moment's hesitation, Soundwave was curled up on the floor, clutching at his own spark, he must not have betted on Longarm having the tanks to actually hurt him, all the better, he was finally free from that monster's control. With all the rage stored in his subspace, Longarm stomped on Soundwave's helm, who was helpless to stop him, the Earth alloys he had been forged from parted and broke apart like an Energon treat, he punched, ripped and tore out Soundwave's speakers, his servos at the forefront of Soundwave's chestplate, itching to repeat his act earlier.



He stopped.



What was he doing?



Despite what Soundwave did to him, despite what he completely deserved, this was too much, this wasn't justice, this was torture, what would the others think if they saw him doing this?! Well... it wasn't like Soundwave was going to continue being a threat to him, thus Longarm made a hasty retreat, stumbling out of the decrepit tunnels, running off to find the exit to this place.





Bumblebee stamped his pede on the ground when he turned, another dead end, that made the seventh since he entered these older tunnels to lose Optimus, Bumblebee didn't even know what they were supposed to be for, it looked like water tunnels, but the water had horrid smelling green stuff on it, he idly remembered from one of Longarm's nature programs that's what happened when water sat still for a long time, was he under Old Detroit right now?



Wherever he was, it wasn't a good place for him or Sari to be, she hadn't changed much for the better, still unconscious, she had been too cold for the past hour but she started warming up again, that was something to be relived about, but she still had a broken leg, and Bumblebee was still torn between taking her back up to the surface and giving Soundwave the time he needs to hurt Longarm more, or leave her behind to rescue Longarm and risk something bad happening to her, it wasn't like he could just stash her away in his subspace, she was small enough for it to work, but he didn't know if it had air inside.



Bumblee vented softy, what would Longarm do in this situation? He always knew what to do when Bumblebee was in trouble, it showed, the ratio of Bumblebee saves to Longarm saves was completely in Longarm's favour, now it was the one time where Longarm needed him more than ever, and Bumblebee was just letting Soundwave roll all over him, taking over Bossbot, jamming their comms, and even hurting Sari, the person who brought him back to life, just make things harder for them all to stop him, Starscream was just a sparkling tantrum compared to Soundwave.



Bumblebee looked around before finally making his decision, he took a few of his cleaning cloths out of his subspace, after carefully wrapping Sari in them, he went to the nearest surface exit, thankfully the streets were quiet, for now, he crouched down and put her down gently in a small, dry doorway. Unless something were to look right into the doorway, namely something human sized, she would be completely out of sight, that was the best he could really do for her after taking note of the street's name, he'd come back for her later, he could easily point to where she was on a map.



If only the tunnels he just came out of were on the map he had on file, this underground network was HUGE, and that was still nothing compared to the underground of Cybertron, and Bumblebee still didn't have a clue where to go, Prowl was heading somewhere near his direction on his scanner, but he didn't want to risk being attacked by Prowl and the Dinobots, they still thought he was-



Wait a moment.



What would be the one place Soundwave would have wanted to hide, given that he (probably) had no idea which part of the underground networks was the best place to do it?



Somewhere off the map, like these tunnels right here! He didn't need to go find Prowl, right? He could just keep going around these tunnels and find Soundwave, Prowl was close by, so obviously he had to be on the right track? Right?



‘I'm coming for you Longarm.’ Bumblebee whispered to himself in resolve before jumping back down into the tunnels.



In the doorway she was left in, Sari trembled.





‘Bumblebee?’ Longarm gasped, looking in the direction of the tunnel a sound echoed out of. ‘BUMBLEBEE!?’ He shouted, before wincing when his own voice boomed back at him from the echo, before bouncing down separate tunnels.



He was certain he heard Bumblebee just then, that little squeak he always did when he was surprised, how did Bumblebee know where he was? Were the others here too? They had to be, if Longarm found out where Bumblebee had got to when he was kidnapped by the Dinobots so easily, the same could be said for these old aqueducts he had just entered, right? Why didn't that feel right?



Longarm's optics brightened when a small ‘Longarm?!’ echoed right back at him from one of the tunnels in Bumblebee's voice, he was here!



Longarm ran down the tunnel as fast as he could, finally this whole ordeal would be over, Soundwave was taken care of, the others were coming to get him, and he wouldn't have to worry about that anymore, right?



He wouldn't have to worry about his relation with Soundwave anymore, he was an Autobot now, the past was the past, but his spark pulsed sickly in its cage, he would have smacked it if it weren't his entire life source, he mentally screeched at it to let it go, WHY COULDN'T IT LET IT GO?! WHAT DID HE HAVE TO DO FOR HIMSELF TO FORGET ABOUT IT!? DID IT WANT ANOTHER SPARK ATTACK TO HAPPEN!? BECAUSE THAT'S EXACTY HOW IT WOULD GET ANOTHER SPARK ATTACK!



Longarm slowed down though with a strange realisation, why did he think about his spark as something separate from him, he was his spark...



‘Longarm! Where are you?’ Bumblebee's voice echoed from behind him.



Snapping out of his dangerous feelings, Longarm turned on his heel and went towards Bumblebee's new direction.





‘BUMBLEBEE?! I'M OVER HERE!’ Longarm's voice echoed from one of the tunnels.



But Bumblebee didn't follow it, instead going the opposite direction, he might not have been the brightest bulb in the habit suite, or have the navigational prowess of a scout, but he damn well knew this was another one of Soundwave's tricks, there was no way Longarm would be up and about shouting his name, in completely different directions than before, it filled him with a sense of determination rather than dread, he must be close to Soundwave's hideout, and he was doing all he could to get Bumblebee back on the wrong track, he was probably dripping up a storm in coolant, Bumblebee imagined, since all of Soundwave's attempts to stop him started getting more and more useless by the nano-cycle.



He'd be there soon to kick Soundwave into scrap metal and save Longarm.



Bumblebee didn't realise, was that all this meant Soundwave knew he was here.





Strangely, Bumblebee stopped responding to his calls, but Longarm didn't give up, he disengaged his jaw guard and let it transform, after having an idea to why it was so sensitive to the touch, instantly his audial awareness of the tunnels increased tenfold, confirming his theory that he had modified his audials into the jawguard, why he didn't exactly know, nor did he care at the moment, because now he could pick up the sound and vibrations of Bumblebee's pedesteps as he tried to find his way. Longarm honed in and made his way to Bumblebee's location, then suddenly he heard fighting.



He burst into the area where Bumblebee was, on the other side of a dry channel Bumblebee was being surrounded by strange Minicon like robots, without hesitation Longarm brought out his cannon and, with precise aiming, quickly dispatched the ones not directly on top of Bee, who took care of the rest with his stingers.



‘Bumblebee? Are you ok?’ Longarm asked swiftly, he went to the edge of his side of the channel, he looked down, judging how would be able to get over it.



That was, until Bumblebee leapt over onto his side, hit him square in the tanks and knocked the two of them over in a desperate embrace. ‘Longarm! Y-you're alright!’ He squealed, burying his faceplate into Longarm's.



Longarm smiled, wrapping his own arms around Bumblebee. ‘Yes, I... I managed to get free from Soundwave, I injured him but he might still be fully online, where are the others?’



‘We all got split up.’ Bee explained, releasing the embrace quickly. ‘He didn't do anything to you did he!? I'll knock his helm off if he did!’ He threatened angrily.



Longarm brought the two of them back to their pedes, reengaging his jawguard. ‘We should find them, which way did you come in from?’



Bumblebee pointed to the way he came from, after the two of them helped eachother back over the dry channel they made their escape, Bumblebee being his guide to the exit, though Longarm couldn't help but feel paranoid, making scans and looking behind himself every few cycles, Soundwave had to be offline by now, right? Something didn't feel right...



‘Hey, Longarm.’ Bumblebee said suddenly, pausing. ‘That Soundwave, he was the Soundwave you knew, right?’ He asked warily, not turning to face Longarm. ‘The one you were friends with a long time ago?’



After a tense pause, Longarm couldn't bring himself to lie, so he told the truth. ‘Yes, that was the Soundwave I knew, he... became a Decepticon.’ Longarm admitted, lowering his optics in shame. ‘I...  I'm sorry I lied to you earlier Bumblebee, I... I didn't know what to-’



‘You lied to me?’ Bumblebee whispered, cutting him off.



Longarm was taken aback slightly, instantly regretting what he had done a hundred times more than before. ‘Yes, I'm sorry Bumblebee, and for being dist-’



‘WHY!?’ Bumblebee demanded, turning to face him in a flash, anger steaming on his faceplate. ‘DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I WORRIED ABOUT YOU!? IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE, WHY WOULD YOU LIE ABOUT THAT!? WHAT ELSE IS THERE!?’



Longarm found himself retreating slightly, the walls of the tunnel narrowing and the path elongating. ‘T-There's nothing else, Bumblebee please, let-’



‘There's nothing else? Really?’ Came Ratchet's voice from behind. ‘How do we know that? Bumblebee wasn't the only person you decided to keep in the dark, you know.’



Longarm swivelled round to see Optimus and Ratchet behind him. ‘I- I'm sorry, I don't know-’



Optimus held up his servo to silence Longarm. ‘Longarm, how is it you knew a highly dangerous and experienced Decepticon, and not only that, but managed to escape without an injury?’ He interrogated, optics narrowed.



Lognarm didn't realise how erratic his spark started to become. ‘I got lucky! He was trying to convince me to become his again but I found a break in his-’



‘Got "lucky"?’ Ratchet repeated.



His again?’ Bumblebee copied.



Longarm felt himself being backed into a corner with no walls, unable to look at any of them, his world darkened. ‘I- please! This isn't the place to-’



And yet he was interrupted again. ‘To what!? You lied to us! You've been lying to us the entire primus-damned time! You had a Decepticon sweetspark and didn't tell me!? You wanted me to not snitch on Wasp so you could cover your own aft?!’



‘You hid the fact you were a warbuild from the authorities.’ Prowl stated. ‘Illegally joined the science and Autobot academies with false identities.’



‘You ran away from your habit suite, rebelled against your caretakers.’ Ratchet said.



‘You've been deceiving all of us from the moment we met.’ Optimus finished



‘Everyone, p-please, l-l-let me-’ Longarm begged, desperate to clear his name, and this thick choking feeling in his vents, like he was on the verge of purging.



‘Let you what? Bluff your way out of this again!?’ Bumblebee accused. ‘I can't trust you anymore Longarm, how do I know you're not a Deception?!’ He demanded, a demand that began echoing around him.



How do I know you’re not a Decepticon?



How do I know...



The entire scene melted away, leaving Longarm on his own, shaking on the floor.



How do you know you're not a Decepticon?



Longarm gripped at his spark, not knowing whether to shield it from this pain or squeeze it and end it, their words echoing around him.



His optics shot open.











He was a Decepticon...?






‘Have I arrived too late to assist you?’ Asked an unknown bot behind him, his voice smooth, honeyed and orotund.



Shockwave looked behind him to see a tall warbuild, grey, with layers of black and maroon.



Immediately he was against the wall where his mirror once was, his cannon emerging from his subspace and ready to fire, but the stranger simply held out his servos to show he meant no harm. ‘W-wh-who are you!?’ Shockwave stuttered. ‘stay back!’



‘I am Megatron, a lieutenant amongst the Decepticons, shh, it's alright, I mean you no harm. ‘Megatron soothed, when Shockwave, though wracked with tremors still had his cannon aimed towards him. ‘I am here to help you, if you would come with me, I'll show you another way.’



Shockwave lowered his cannon, subspacing it again, though he remained suspicious, Soundwave had joined the Decepticons, had done who knows what in their name, but... the Protectrons would be coming for him at any moment. ‘I'm not going to fight you, if it's dirty work that you want.’ He spat out warily, he had been a fool once, but never twice.



Megatron smiled deeply, optics closing in a half smile, completely at ease around him. ‘Not in the slightest, I've heard much about you, it would be a complete waste to have you fight where there's so much you can do with this.’ Megatron explained as he stepped forwards, a digit tapping over his own processor for emphasis, Megatron towered over Shockwave's trembling form, gently gripping the sides of his helm and pulling him up to the tips of his pedes from the debris covered floor. ‘We're both pure, good, Cybertronians, we're not limited to the confines of our function, we think, we create, I myself indulge in a little poetry, it's terrible our government doesn't see it that way, but you already knew that bit, didn't you?



Come with me Shockwave, I will give you everything you need, everything you desire, we'll change this system for the better and you won't offline, nameless and thankless for a cause you never believed in.’ Megatron finished, offering his servo out to Shockwave.



Shockwave stared at Megatron, at his servo for an unintelligible amount of time, but he had been removed from the academy and reported to the authorities by everyone he had grown to know and trust there, and Megatron didn't want him to fight.



Maybe... maybe Soundwave had been right all along, maybe his new home could be amongst the Decepticons...



Shockwave held out his servo, not the fake servo, he closed his optics and let his sigma ability revert him back to his original form, to the monster with one optic he once feared long ago, and gently put his claws in Megatron's care.



He would show them a monster to really fear, his own jealousy and wrath.



He would show them all.




Longarm found himself in an oddly familiar sea of deep black oil, reaching all the way up to the bottom of his chestplate, he turned around as fast as he could to try and see any landmarks, eventually focusing on a lone red light in the distance, and the silhouette of Soundwave before it.



‘Shockwave: do you understand now?’ Soundwave asked.



Longarm refused to answer him.



Soundwave offered out his arms, just like Megatron had done in his- in Shockwave's memories. ‘Shockwave: come back to me, come back to us.’



Longarm stared at Soundwave for a deafeningly long time.



His servos clenched.






Soundwave seemed genuinely shocked, his offered servo faltering just slightly. ‘Shock-’



‘My name. Is. LONGARM!’ Longarm bellowed, a tidal wave of oil surging behind him to pull Soundwave under.



Soundwave finally resurfaced a metre away, mask disengaging so he could heave out the oil that had gotten inside. ‘Soundwave: doesn't understand...’ He said in disbelief.’



‘You don't understand?! I don't understand!’ Longarm yelled, before clasping his servos over his intake, another surge of sickness sinking into every crevice of his frame. ‘Why... Who-’



He stopped to purge his tanks, a flood of that strange black oil coming out, and he couldn't stop it, he didn't even need to heave for it to surface, then it began spilling out of all his seams, all his vents.



Soundwave walked through the sea towards him, servos and cables reaching out towards him. ‘It's alright Shockwave, it will all be alright.’



Longarm tried to back away, but stumbled and almost drowned. ‘STOP CALLING ME THAT! I-I'M... I-’



Suddenly, things began tearing, flashes of glitches, stretched polygons, Soundwave shrouded in static before crumbling away.



The world collapsed one final time around him.




Longarm booted out of the processor world, this time for real, everything spun around him like his equilibrium had been thrown into deep space, everything hurt, his powerlines were pounding, his CPU at dangerous temperatures, he was on the verge of purging his tanks, it felt like a parasitic growth was forming in his spark chamber, making it so incredibly pressured in there he was afraid it would crack and destroy him from the inside out.



‘GET OFF HIM DECEPTICON!’ Bumblebee, the real Bumblebee, shrieked, jamming his stinger right through Soundwave's visor and into the left optic, before Soundwave punched back and sent Bumblebee skidding across the chamber. ‘W-what the!?’ He exclaimed, when Soundwave's optic and visor repaired itself like nothing ever happened, because Soundwave had the key inside him. ‘That's cheating!’



Soundwave quickly analysed Longarm before realising his state was too unstable for Soundwave to take control of him once again, and he had lifted his control of the Autobot commander when the surprise attack had hit him, so instead he decided to settle for taking control of Bumblebee directly, perhaps then, if he made the Autobot the false Shockwave loved offline itself, that would give his Shockwave the advantage to break free of the Autobot prison. He began playing his music, with the mental command to cease all hostility, and Bumblebee instantly stopped.



‘N-no.’ Longarm pleaded pitifully. ‘S-Soundwave...’



Soundwave recomposed himself, before lifting Longarm's body into a more comfortable sitting position. ‘Forgive Soundwave.’ He asked softly. ‘But it is time for Longarm to offline, and Shockwave to return, starting with that Autobot.’ He revealed, pointing one murderous digit at Bumblebee, and there was nothing Longarm could do to move or stop him.



‘Strange.’ Came the musing of a new voice behind Bumblebee. ‘I thought Longarm was your new identity Shockwave.’ Blackarachnia said, entering the chamber Soundwave had been using for the past few mega-cycles. ‘Is there something going on that you didn't tell me during your cute little speech? Nice hideout by the way Soundwave, what is this, one of those places of Human worship? Not exactly my cup of Energon, but I'm open about it.’



‘Who are you?’ Soundwave asked, stepping into the path between Longarm and Blackarachnia, though his tension subsided substantially when he noticed the Deception logo on her neck. ‘I was not informed of other Decepticons on this planet.’ He detailed in suspicion.



‘The name's Blackarachnia, I've been working behind the scenes here and there.’ She introduced humbly, walking delicately over to Bumblebee's entranced frame, petting him softly on the tip of his helm. ‘Never seen this one all still before, that's quite a power you have Soundwave.’ She complimented excessively. ‘I also couldn't help but notice how quickly you healed yourself, don't suppose you have the Autobot's key of Vector Sigma on you, would you now?’



‘W-w-why are y-you here?’ Longarm asked.



‘Why would I not be?’ Blackarachnia giggled, putting her servos on her hips. ‘Soundwave's completely decimated your little team in less time it takes for Starscream to preen himself, that's the kind of bot I'd really like to join forces with.’



She said that, but then Soundwave took one of his cables and plugged it into the back of her neck, sending a painful shock down it and sending her keeling to the floor. ‘Soundwave: does not need you.’ He revealed, calmly stepping this way and that when she attempted to claw at his pedes or strike him with what made her alt mode's fangs.



Neither Soundwave, Blackarachnia, or Longarm noticed Bumblebee's sudden look of shock at the turn of events, before he went back to looking brainwashed.



‘W-why you!’ She screeched. ‘I'm here to help you! You half-fried processor!’



‘Negative.’ Soundwave replied. ‘Blackarachnia: is not a true Decepticon, Soundwave: sees into your spark, you are only here for the key.’



‘A-as payment for helping you! Get this tentacle thing off me!’ She threatened, trying to pry the cable out of her.



Soundwave took the key from out of his tapedeck tauntingly. ‘The Decepticons: have no use for selfish sparklings.’ He insulted, though down in his spark, he was more tired of the interruptions than her weak diligence to the cause, he prepared to use the key itself to offline-



Until he realised he wasn't holding the key anymore, suddenly a concentrated zap of electricity severed the cable he was attacking Blackarachnia with and Soundwave came to his senses, he turned to Bumlbeee, just to receive a faceplate-full of stingers.



‘SURPRISE SCRAPWAVE, I HAD MY AUDIALS MUTED THE ENTIRE PRIMUS-DAMNED TIME!’ Bumblebee exclaimed with glee, he had honestly not expected his playing possum tactic to work as good as it did, now Soundwave was finally vulnerable, he'd show him exactly how he felt.



Soundwave hastily retreated, only to receive stingers to his backstrut, his plating cracking, he ceased his music instantly, turning his speakers to attack mode and began shooting at Bumblebee, who strafed left and right from his shots easily. Blackarachnia quickly used the chaos to make a hasty retreat, though she looked back one final time towards Longarm and Bumblebee before making her escape, meanwhile Soundwave was in trouble, he was fast losing to Bumblebee's speed and anger, but he refused to retreat or give up, Megatron and his Shockwave were relying on him, he wouldn't fail this time, he had come so far! He was so close! Shockwave was almost-



The entrance to the chamber rumbled and broke apart in an explosion, before three Dinosaur robots burst in from the dustcloud, Prowl swiftly following behind. ‘ME GRIMLOCK SMASH SOUNDMAN!’ Grimlock roared, stomping his pedes and letting off a fireball into the air.



The ceiling starting cracking, and everyone looked up to it in sudden dread.



‘Not good.’ Slag mumbled.



It collapsed.





‘-blebee? Bumblebee are you alright?’



Bumblebee shot up like a lightning bolt. ‘HUH- What!? Longarm!’ He blurted around wildly before focusing on Ratchet, carefully going over him with his scanner, he was still in the place he found Soundwave at, the Dinobots carefully dragging out bits of debris that had collapsed on them all.



‘He's fine.’ Ratchet said, turning his helm towards Optimus, who had his servos cross and looked very worried with many silent concerns.



Bumblebee scooted out of Ratchet's berthside manners and quickly got up. ‘What happened? Where's Longarm!?’ He demanded, not seeing a single bit of him in his viewfind.



‘We didn't find him, or Soundwave.’ Prowl revealed reluctantly. ‘But you did good, we have the key back, Bulkhead has an idea how to stop Soundwave's invasion with it.’



Bumblebee didn't look or feel anything in the least bit proud or relived, so what if he saved Detroit? He had been given this one chance to do something good for once in his life and save the one bot he cared about, and he squandered it with a single really cool idea he thought up on the spot, he should have just went full fury at Soundwave the instant he had the moment of surprise.



Optimus, sensing his conflicted feeligns, approached and softly laid a servo on his shoulderplate. ‘We'll find them Bumblebee, we have the Dinobots to track them, and Soundwave couldn't have taken them far.’



‘Then what are we waiting for?’ Bumblebee seethed. ‘I need to find Longarm now.





Longarm limped as fast as he could through Old Detroit, h-












He had to get away.



Where to?



He didn't-






He needed help.






He couldn't-



Help me.



Longarm collapsed and curled into himself, covering his two false optics with his servos.



On his forehelm, his real optic glowed bright Decepticon red.



Chapter Text



Shockwave tapped the massive pede in front of him as gently as he could. ‘Carer?’ He asked timidly.



She visibly tensed, before pushing her chair slightly away from the table and looking down upon him. ‘What is it sweetie?’ She cooed. ‘Were the other bots in PE teasing you again?’



He shook his helm. ‘No... not that’ He answered. ‘Some of the other bots... they have tutorbots teaching maths and science, why don't I? Jetlag said because I was forged stupid a-and can't hold a stylus.’ He explained, audials drooping at the memory of Jetlag's words.



She leaned down and ruffled the top of his helm. ‘Oh you silly little thing~’ She picked his stocky little body up and onto her lap. ‘Remember this?’ She tapped the construction on his left arm, where his cannon was busy forging itself, a heavy but warm presence on his frame. ‘When you were being made, you were a good bot, so Primus decided for you to be a very special bot, one day, when it finishes assembling, you'll use it to protect aaall of Cybertron~’ She explained with a smile. ‘He makes us with all different parts and programming so we can better serve the function he gives us, he always knows best, doesn't he?’



Shockwave thought about it a bit, all this Primus talk was confusing to him, was there really a bot bigger than his carer going around making everyone? Knowing exactly what they had done and were going to do? A part of it didn't make sense to him, but he was a good bot, that part was true, thus it was logical that if Primus knew that, he would know what's best. ‘Yea.’ Shockwave finally agreed, nodding a little.



She beamed at him. ‘That's why you don't have to learn all that boring stuff, or worry about exams, or fight for jobs like those other sparklings have to when they're fully forged, because you already know what you have to do.’



‘I don't think it's boring.’ He mumbled cheerfully, looking away bashfully.



‘That's because you're young, and everything still looks fun.’ She dismissed with a smile. ‘But it's awful for them, those poor functionless sparklings, they were bad in the past, so now they have to work twice as hard to make Primus happy again, they don't have the luxury of knowing their purpose in life.’



‘So that's why they have to know that stuff? So they know what par- pur- purpose they have, right? And I don't, because I already know what I have to do when I'm a big bot?’ He hypothesised confidently, audials wiggling.



She booped him right under his optic, making him chirrup in delight. ‘That's right you little cleverbot~’



He still felt a little confused inside, like there was something more he needed to know, but he ignored it, he liked being held this.





Slag sniffed around the edges to an entrance of one tunnel, then let his beaky snout lead him down the old aqueduct to another tunnel before he announced. ‘Soundman go here, but Longarm go here.’ He said, looking at each tunnel respectively.



‘Soundwave must not have been able to take Longarm with him when he retreated.’ Optimus theorised. ‘Or Longarm managed to recover first.’



‘Whichever it is, it means Longarm isn't under Soundwave's control... I hope.’ Ratchet sighed in relief, letting himself relax by a single measurement. ‘All that's left is to find either of them.’



Grimlock opened his jaws wide with a yawn. ‘Me Grimlock, tired.’ He complained softly.



The yawn spreaded to Swoop, who had been barely able to pay the hawkeyed attention he was renowned for. ‘Me Swoop, too.’



Instantly Bumblebee went from an on-edge relaxed to an on-edge riled up. ‘Nononono no, you guys can't be tired, you barely did anything!’ He objected, secretly closing a critical power warning in his own systems, as he had been doing the past mega-cycle.



‘Bumblebee, we've been up all night-cycle, and the solar-cycle before.’ Optimus defended, as he was also getting low power warnings from his PSU. ‘If we all keep going at this rate, we'll crash.’



‘B-but- but Longarm's still out there! Soundwave's still out there! Those robots of his are still attacking!’ Bumblebee argued.



‘Yeah, but I've almost got my shortwave tachyon transmitter up and running, it'll stop those bad bots for sure!’ Bulkhead added somewhat excitedly through his comm into the conversation.



‘Your what?’ Ratchet queried with furrowed optical ridges into his comm.



‘Oh, nothing much.’ Bulkhead verbally shrugged. ‘I figured since Soundwave must have sent some kind of key-powered multidimensional transmission signal to all the bots, that making my own version with a homemade tachyon wavemaker, a quantum radio transistor board, the local radio tower and-’



‘I think what Bulkhead's trying to say is, he's going to reverse the signal Soundwave sent to the Earth robots.’ Optimus cut in, he then laid a reassuring servo on Bumblebee's shoulder. ‘Let's clean this mess up then head back to base, we did a lot today Bumblebee.’



Bumblebee pointed accusingly at Optimus. ‘I did all the work! All you did was break Sari and-



‘Wait.’ Optimus interrupted sharply. ‘What do you mean "I broke Sari"?’





Sari woke up feeling worse than she did when she fell asleep, her throat was dry, she was covered in sweat, felt cold, had a headache and she couldn't feel one of her legs, she weakly struggled out of whatever she was wrapped in, it smelt strongly of the cleaning stuff Bumblebee used to polish himself, no wonder she felt like she would throw up the moment she ate the smallest thing, she was lucky that her nose hadn't been destroyed by all that chemical vapor coming off them.



She looked around, she was bunched up with Bumblebee's cleaning cloths in the doorway to a boarded up building, what was she doing in Old Detroit?



What happened? Last she remembered, Optimus found out something then...



She fell? Something hit her?



Sari carefully peeked under the cloth, slowly realising the reason why she couldn't move or feel her right leg wasn't just because of the cold, now here she was, abandoned with no phone, one working leg, a terrible headache and Soundwave invading the entire city.



What else could go wrong?



Sari eventually broke free of the rags and put her whole weight on the doorway wall, she wanted to just stick here and hope Bumblebee or whoever put her here came back, but the last thing she remembered was it was night, and now it was well into the morning, she needed help soon, proper help, she lightly tested putting pressure on her bad leg. ‘Ahhh! Ok- bad idea, bad idea.’ She squeaked, immediately taking it away from the ground.



She looked around, looking for anything that she could support herself with, eventually spotting a rusty trolley on the other side of the street, she wiped some of the sweat off her forehead then tied one of the cleaning rags around her neck, making an unheroic cape, then, with no better option, she began making the agonisingly slow crawl to it, it was minutes later when she finally reached her goal, and she lay there for a while shivering, too exhausted to lift herself up again, but too scared to just lie there in the streets and wait for those creepy Soundwave robots to show up.



Finally, she gathered the strength to pull herself onto one knee, then stand up and throw her weight onto the side of the trolley, it had two busted wheels, great, but it was all she had for now, and so she began the long trek back to the city, hoping that by the time she got there, she'd meet people instead of robots, that was pretty ironic, it always used to be the other way round. A strong gust of November wind blew at her and she grit her teeth in anger, how could they just leave her alone like this?! She was freezing! Then her frustration ebbed away when she thought about it more, they were just dumb robots, they didn't feel the cold, they all thought she decided to "upgrade" when she started visiting them with a jacket on.



All of this was her fault anyway.



She looked up to judge how much further away from proper civilisation she was when she gasped, there had been a thing lying in the middle of the road when she first looked about half a mile ago, now that she was closer it looked less like something dumped in the road and more like someone collapsed in the road.



‘Longarm?’ She asked softly.



She quickened her pace, she couldn't believe it, thinking maybe there were cold mirages like there were ones for heat, but when she finally got there it was real, Longarm was curled up in the middle of the road, he looked terrible, like a building fell on him, there a shallow cement crater underneath from an unplanned fall, he wasn't awake, but he was definitely alive, she could hear the soft humming of his power systems, she could see dried streaks from his optics, even from the weird one he had in his forehead, the poor guy had been crying, who wouldn't be if your ex turned out to be a Decepticon?



She carefully put a hand to his chassis, he was really warm, taking her cloth cape as a blanket again, she wedged herself in the gaps of his arms, he'd be able to get her home when he wakes up.



She hoped that would be soon.





‘No! Don't throw my datapads away!’



Jetlag and Sundowner held him down flat on the ground while his carer calmly took every single datapad he had out of his secret stash and, without a second thought, dropped them into a bag.



‘STOP IT! THOSE ARE MINE!’ Shockwave shrieked, trying to claw into the floor and drag himself to her, if it weren't for those blasted two holding him down.



‘You stole them!’ His carer snapped back, not looking at him. ‘I didn't raise you to be a stealer! These are all going back to the training centre where they belong!’



Shockwave shook his helm as fast as he could. ‘I DIDN'T STEAL THEM! THEY WERE MY FRIEND'S! HE GAVE THEM TO ME!’ He explained truthfully, adding a new fear to his overloaded processor, that Soundwave would be upset when he found out all his datapads were gone.



She ignored his defence completely, turning around and pointing at him accusingly. ‘All this time you were skipping training and disobeying your tutorbots, we thought you were doing synth-en o-or worse!’ She shouted, small pricks of washer fluid peeking out the corners of her optics. ‘AND IT WAS ACTUALLY STOLEN DATAPADS!? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH OF A MOCKERY YOU MADE OF THIS HABIT SUITE OVER SOMETHING SO JUVINILE AS THIS!?’



Jetlag and Sundowner laughed.



YOU TWO BE QUIET OR NO ALLOWANCE FOR A WHOLE DECA-CYCLE!’ His carer screeched, silencing them immediately, once she finished taking the last of the datapads she walked over to Shockwave and crouched down. ‘Sweetie, how many times to I have to tell you? You have to be a hero and protect Cybertron, stealing, skipping your training and talking back to your superiors isn't what heroes do, you've made a lot of bots very unhappy, that's not very nice is it?’ She waited for him to agree with her, but when he stayed as he was, trembling in the hold of his jailers, she let off a disappointed vent, holding up one of his datapads. ‘It's not wrong to be curious and learn new things, but you've been a stealer, an underachiever and a liar, that's why I have to punish you, all that this stuff has been doing is distracting you and making you do bad things, that's why it's not part of your proper education and that's why it has to go.’



He still didn't agree.



‘No allowance for the rest of the stellar-cycle, and from now on you are going to take a report to all your tutorbots and they have to say you attended all your training classes and did your best, if I see a single missing stamp you're gonna spend the rest of that solar-cycle in your room with no Energon.



Do you understand?’






‘Do you understand youngbot!?’



Shockwave turned his helm away, offlining his optic. ‘Yes, carer.’





‘See, she's right here where I... left her...’



Sari wasn't anywhere near where Bumblebee left her, Optimus and the others only crossed their servos in a silent scolding reply, before Optimus broke away from the group silently. ‘Police? I need to report Sari Sumdac as missing.’ He spoke into their radio.



Bumblebee let out an exasperated vent before kicking the side of the building, watching it crumble slightly. ‘IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU GOT AGAINST ME!?’ He yelled into the heavens, knowing that if Primus was really behind his misfortune, he would be listening in on it.



‘Calm down kid.’ Ratchet grumbled, behind his usually sour face, one could see a softness behind it. ‘How many times do we have to tell you there's nothing more we can do at the moment, before you log it in your memory core?’






‘It doesn't mean we don't care kid.’ Ratchet predicted. ‘But how are we going to help Longarm running on 5% charge? A fleshie could walk all over us if we don't get some rest.’



‘It's- I- UGH!’ Bumblebee half-screamed, stamping his pede on the ground again and clenching his servos, turning away from the group. ‘You don't get it! I-’



Bumblebee didn't finish his sentence, his systems finally overthrowing his manual dictatorship and forcing him into stasis lock, Ratchet catching him with his magnets before he completely fell over.



Prowl softly took over, taking Bumblebee and putting him on Grimlock's back. ‘I've never seen him like this before.’ He commented. ‘Not the obnoxiousness, that I know we've all seen, but actually exerting himself.’ He clarified, rending whatever tenderness that laid in his first comment invalid.



‘Trust me kid.’ Ratchet started, shaking his head. ‘I've seen this kind of behaviour aaall the time, the more you stress over something you care about, the more you push yourself past your limits.’



‘He's right though, I don't feel too good leaving Longarm out there on his own, especially after what Soundwave did.’ Bulkhead commented aside. ‘He needs us.’



Optimus had to reel himself in, honestly it felt like half the time, nobody listened to his orders. ‘Well, talking about it more is just adding noise to the echo chamber, let's head for home Autobots.’ He finished with a tired vent.





‘Do you know why you are here today, "Thinktank"?’



Shockwave forced himself to not react strangely to his false designation being used in such a suspicious tone of voice, but inside he was shaking like anything, being called to the lecture hall with no warning, standing in front of the prefect, the headmaster himself, several faculty members, and worst of all, a number of the academy's security force, held nothing that he could keep calm about. Was it about the other student that irritated him and he had hurt? Oh, he was in big trouble, wasn't he? Shockwave mentally disciplined himself, he should have had a tighter control on himself, he didn't mean to hit that skag so hard that she had to go to the repair bay, he was less than an orbital cycle away from getting his final stamp from his tutorbot and obtaining his final grade and he had to go and ruin it like this. He was a first-class student, he couldn't let that be taken away from him because he gave in and indulged the repressed warbuild programming of worthless, mindless, stupid little Shockwave.



‘I- I don't know, sir.’ Shockwave answered, fidgeting his servos together, looking up towards his jury on the stage.



‘It has come to our attention, that you have made a very serious series of lies on your application to our prestigious academy, that is the reason why you are here.’ The prefect explained with a scowl.



Shockwave’s spark sank right into the deepest pits, what- HOW!? How did they find out!? ‘I-I I can explain si-’



‘We do not tolerate any form of deception from our students!’ The prefect snapped, slamming his servo down on the nearby podium. ‘Especially regarding illegitimate backgrounds! Do you know what the punishment for even one single falsehood on your application is? EXPLUSION! AND YOU LIED ON EVERY SINGLE SECTION!’



‘We took a great risk by allowing you to enter the academy, Shockwave.’ The headmaster spoke, calmly and yet sternly, and Shockwave crumbled, if the headmaster knew his real designation, that meant he knew everything. ‘A decision we were instantly satisfied with when you had proven all our expectations of you wrong, we had even considered taking you on in our research department after graduation. However, the risk we took, and our considerations of your future, were made in belief that you were a constructobot from Lamplight, not a fugitive warbuild.’ He explained as plainly as he could, but Shockwave could tell the ire and disgust in his voice.



Shockwave trembled hard and an itch spread like wildfire in his transformation seams, he had to almost literally hold himself together, else he lose control and become his true self right before their optics. ‘Pl- please, you've seen w-w-what I can do, what I've already done! Please don't-’ Shockwave couldn't finish his sentence, not when he saw the security inch a single margin closer to where he was, and could feel the approach of more behind the entrance doors. ‘I'll do anything.’ He finished with a pathetic whisper.



‘If your recent "argument" with Brightspark is anything to go by, Shockwave, then please understand that, what we see when we consider what you can do, also includes your offensive capabilities.’ The headmaster droned. ‘But, even if that had not occurred, there is still no place for you here anymore, Shockwave, your place is, and always was, on the battlefield.’



‘LIAR! THAT- THAT'S A LIE!’ Shockwave yelled to his former superiors. ‘YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I'VE BEEN THROUGH, HOW HA- STAY AWAY FROM ME!’ Shockwave interrupted himself when the security bots suddenly started advancing properly on him, without thinking he took his cannon out of his subspace, and instantly a forcefield engage to protect the cowards on the stage.



Shockwave found himself looking into the optics of his tutorbot, they locked gazes for a while, and for a moment, Shockwave thought that he understood, until he averted his gaze elsewhere. ‘Please go quietly Thi- Shockwave.’





Sari opened her eyes, funny, she didn't remember falling asleep, then again Longarm was warm and it didn't really matter because now she was-



This was the complete opposite of what she was expecting.



Instead of her bed, or even a hospital waiting room, Sari found herself in an old, abandoned warehouse, a few of the crates had been torn into to reveal the contents had been furniture and bedding, which she was now sitting on a pile of. Why didn't Longarm take her back to her dad or the hospital, or even the other Autobots? She then noticed the odd, hitched, jarring sound that had been in the room, like something getting caught in a fan mixed with a broken TV, was that the sound Autobots made when they cried?



‘Longarm?’ She asked carefully. ‘That you?’



‘S-͜S̴-͞S̛a͡r̨i͏?̷’ He asked back, that didn't sound good, like a toy on its last bit of battery charge, the ground shook a little bit, then Longarm stepped into view, fresh tears on his faceplate. ‘A-̴ar҉- ͝h-̧ hello.’ He eventually settled on.



Sari did a meek little wave at him ‘You okay? W... what happened?’ She asked with a bit of difficulty, the headache she had earlier kindly reminding her it never left.



Longarm said nothing in reply, instead sitting down next to the makeshift bed he created, Sari was starting to think her idea of staying with Longarm was a bad one, he looked like that if robots could be on drugs, that would be exactly what it looked like, with his optics unfocused and machine parts sounding like there was a squirrel rattling around his insides, a nervous twitch plucking at the pistons in his digits. But Sari eventually dismissed it, mostly because it hurt her brain to think, whatever happened last night, it was wild as hell, but it was over for the moment, the sooner they got back to the city and got help, the sooner it could all be over for real.



‘Can you take me to the hospital?’ Sari said to change the subject.



Longarm's sullen expression suddenly went cold. ‘I.̴.̨.͢ ̛a͘re yo͏u͢ hu͡rt̵?’



That was a stupid question, of course she was hurt! ‘Yeah.’ She croaked. ‘Leg's broken.’ Longarm somehow looked both surprised and offended at the same time, again he didn't give a straight answer. ‘Don't know where the hospital is?’ She wondered, cutting through his thoughts. ‘Are those robots still outside?’ She asked again, wondering if it was that.



‘N-no.’ Longarm finally spoke. ‘I me͝a͢n̡..͘. I c̷an't.͜’ He held a servo over his spark and shuttered his optics. ‘Sari, I'm...’ He jerked suddenly, not releasing anything further than that.



Sari frowned, annoyed slightly, wiping more sweat off her forehead, feeling gross all over. ‘Why? Did you do something bad or... something?’ She noticed his digits clawing into his chestplate the moment she spoke those words.



Longarm paused again, before suddenly shaking himself out of whatever he was thinking about, he looked at her softly. ‘Sari?͏ I̶f ͘I ta͞ke ̢you t̛o͘ ̶t͡h̕e͘ ci̡ty̕,̵ ͝do͞ ̢y̷o̷u̴ pr̵o͜m͏ise n̶-n-ot to͏ ͜t͜el͘l̕ th̶e o͢t̛her͠s?҉’



‘Tell them what? What's wrong?’ Sari huffed, honestly this was getting ridiculous, what on Earth could be so bad he couldn't tell anyone, or even Bumblebee about it?



Longarm made a motion that Sari could only guess was a violent hiccup, before getting up and towering over her. ‘Everything Sari, e͢v͏er͝yth͡i͏ng̸ is wr̢o͞ng ̨w̕it͝h͏ m͠e!̶’ He cried out. ‘I'm a- is- I do҉n'͘t, I͟ ͘w͢ant͘ to-’ He broke off again, clutching in pain at his chestplate again, he faltered slightly, stepping away from her before angrily punching into some poor, unfortunate crates beside him, then he tripped over himself and fell into the corner of the warehouse, he lay down there in a curled position for a while, not moving an inch, and neither did Sari after that outburst, not wanting to risk being in danger if he got angry again.



‘I... I don't w͞a̱n̩͢ţ͉ ̥͙̤̙t̮o̯͕̰ ͍̩͔̥͉̟di̝̞̲̬̘̟͝e͕̣͉.̯̯̲͚͓̺’ He finally whimpered in his corner.



Sari slid off the pile of furniture, putting her weight on a nearby crate and pulling herself onto it. ‘O-ok, we're ok, everything's ok Longarm, just- just stay there.’ She tried to calm him with, she looked around the warehouse for anything that she could use as a crutch, eventually finding a metal pole, well, it was better than a rusty old trolley, that was for sure.



‘D͢on'͘t tell ͜t̨ḩem... don't tell them where I am.’ Longarm asked ominously from his corner without looking at her, thinking that she was going off on her own. ‘Please.’



‘I can't just leave you alone!’ Sari snapped back. ‘Honestly Longarm, just say what's wrong already, you're being a... a-a weenie! You can't-’



‘I'm̶ ̧a ͠Dece͡pticon.’ Longarm interrupted with a whisper, but Sari heard it completely, word to word.



‘What?’ She spoke in disbelief, she would have looked at him like he announced there was a bomb planted on her, but after everything she was just exhausted.



Longarm somehow curled into himself even more than he had before, shaking like a leaf in the wind. ‘I always was, h- how- I-’ He paused, resetting his vocaliser a few times. ‘I don't know for how long... maybe I still am, it- it hurts to-’ Another silence. ‘That's why, I can͏'t ̧g̢o ̷back̕,̢ ͘I ̴d͞on̵'̸t ͡want̴ to͢ ̶huŗt ͜t҉h̵em- a-anyone.’



There was nothing but the soft tappings of a metal pole across the concrete floor occasionally, then a sudden softness was against his faceplate, and Longarm's optics shot open to see that Sari had dragged herself all the way over to him, she made herself comfortable right between one of his blue optics and his red one, lying against him. ‘It'll be ok.’ She said after a while. ‘The guys'll understand.’



Longarm looked at her, surprised at how calm she was reacting to all this. ‘But...’



‘You're not a bad guy Longarm, maybe back then, back when Soundwave was your crazy old boyfriend, but not now.’ Sari explained, clumsily stroking Longarm's faceplate. ‘You would've just left me back there if you... were... if....’



Sari fell over.



‘Sari!’ Longarm gasped, he scanned her quickly, her core temperature was abnormally high for a human, but her outer layers were the opposite, he knew that humans needed a precariously balanced temperature to function well, meaning that, besides her broken pede, something else was wrong, and she needed help.





‘Zis vas ze last quadrant Lockdown contacted me.’ Blitzwing stated idly once they landed on a grey lifeless moon orbiting the planet the transmission had emitted from.



Lugnut, his companion on his long trek suddenly grabbed Blitzwing's helm and pulled it in another direction and pointed with his stubby pincer claws to a far off landmark that clearly wasn't natural for this grey rock. ‘A-and look! Megatron's ship! We are on the right track!’ Lugnut declared with mounting excitement towards the half-buried remains of the Nemesis.



‘Vhat a mess.’ Blitzwing sighed, before his face clicked and shifted to his most unstable personality. ‘PiTY, STArscrEAM neveR LEARned HOw to dRiVe diD he? AhhAhA-’



Lugnut hit him over the helm, slapping his faces into a spin. ‘You fool! This is no time for jokes!’ Lugnut scolded. ‘If the bounty hunter had tracked them here, and Megatron's ship is here too, the Autobot's ship must be too damaged to move! They are still on this planet! Along with Megatron and the ALLSPARK!’



Blitzwing's face finally settled again. ‘MEGATRON IS OFFLINE, JOU BAG OF BOLTS!’ He yelled, scolding Lugnut's chestplate with a smack from the back of his servo. ‘VE ALL SAW IT!’



All five of Lugnut's optics squinted angrily at Blizwing. ‘NO! Megatron LIVES! I feel it in my sparkchamber!’



‘(Jou feel a lot of ozer zings in zhere for him as vell.)’ Blitzwing grumbled as an aside once his face changed again.



Lugnut managed to catch a thread of the insult on his audials. ‘What was that!?’



Blitzing shrugged. ‘Nothing.’ He lied. ‘Ve should start calculating a strategy to attack ze Autobots vith, my sensors are reading a lot of organic life on ze planet, I need to-’



‘Organics are no match for the might of the GLORIOUS Decepticons!’ Lugnut exclaimed, before transforming into his alt-mode and rocketing towards the planet. ‘Our attack begins now!’



Blitzwing stood still for a long time. ‘Vhy do I even bother.’ He eventually vented, before following after his friend.





When Bumblebee came back online he learned two things, one, it was halfway into the afternoon of the next day, two, the Dinobots had decided to make a snuggle toy out of him while he was out, they were propped up against the wall of the main room in the base, Grimlock and Slag in their Cybertronian forms curled either side of him, and Swoop draped over them like a blanket in his Pterodactyl form.



‘Get off...’ Bumblebee grumbled, trying to get out of Grimlock's strong grip. ‘Anyone home? I said get off me!’ He repeated, knocking a servo against Grimlock's helm.



Grimlock eventually stirred, heaved a great yawn, then snuggled back down. ‘Me Grimlock, say morning.’ He mumbled, slightly upset at being woken.



‘Yeah, morning, now this might be a biiig effort for the great and powerful Grimlock.’ Bee embellished with an overdose of sarcasm. ‘But would you mind, maybe- getting off of me!



‘Prowl say to us Dinobots: keep Bee here.’ Slag refused with a shake of his helm.



Now Bumblebee had another excuse to not like Prowl, using his giant lizard bots like overqualified... lizard bots, damn, his processor still wasn't quite all there, only just beginning to recall the events of the previous solar-cycle and quickly shovel all but one important one into his overloaded file of things to think about in the next hundred or so vorns.



That important event being that Longarm was missing.



Bumblebee struggled a little more then vented in defeat. ‘How many nuggets buys my freedom?’ He bargained monotonously.



‘What is freedom?’ Swoop asked, to which Bumblebee gave up immediately afterwards.



‘It's a complicated concept Swoop, but it means how much you can do what you want.’ Came Prowl's voice, before he entered the main area of the base properly with a cup of fuel. ‘Are you three well rested now?’



‘Yeah, I'm fine, thanks for asking.’ Bumblebee grouched, rolling his optics. ‘What's the big idea Prowl? Do I look like a hug toy or was that something you came up with just to-’



‘Prime didn't want to risk you going off on your own, that is all.’ Prowl responded calmly, taking a sip of his fuel while he sat down on the concrete couch. ‘How's your charge level?’ He finally asked Bumblebee.



‘Good enough.’ Bumblebee said, not even bothering to check his PSU's status in the slightest. ‘Where is Bossbot anyway?’ He enquired when he found Bossbot's signal quite a long way away from the base.



The answer to that question came from Bulkhead, who had been silently in charge of the security console the entire time. ‘Uh... I don't think you wanna know...’



‘He is, as Captain Fanzone said "being grilled in front of congress", whatever that means.’ Prowl elaborated. ‘I'm sure it's an expression, and that Prime hasn't been set on fire.’



Bulkhead suddenly looked a little awkward. ‘Oh.’ He uttered, shuffling a little on the spot then going back to looking at the console.



‘Regardless, we're all to stay here until he and Ratchet return, and hope whatever news they bring back is good.’ Prowl concluded. ‘You can let Bumblebee get up now.’ He ordered after a long period of silence, Bumblebee didn't hesitate in escaping his cozy prison, the moment he stood up he flinched back, narrowly avoiding the glass of fuel Prowl magicked out of thin air. ‘Here.’



Bumblebee could see the thin lines of smugness in Prowl's faceplate as the result of spooking him, and he just snatched the glass out of Prowl's servo and took the spot on the couch furthest from him without a word, the Dinobots, free of their duty, eagerly rushed off outside to play or whatever they did, Bumblebee didn't exactly care, so long as they didn't involve him in it again.



Bulkhead hesitated at his position at the security terminal, claws fidgeting on the console and optics looking around in thought until he turned around. ‘Bumblebee? Lil' buddy? You doing ok?’



Bumblebee didn't answer or even acknowledge that he heard the question for quite some time. ‘Mnnm...’ He mumbled incoherently, letting his shoulders sag.



Bulkhead shuffled closer. ‘Yeah, I'm worried about Longarm a lot too, it'll work out, I-I know it will.’



‘Yeah.’ Bumblebee half-heartedly agreed, looking deep into his untouched fuel. ‘I... I dunno... I want him back home so things can go back to normal.’ He softly confessed.



‘What if it doesn't?’



Bumblebee gripped his glass a bit too hard, cracks beginning to appear, he then looked at the bot who dared suggest such a thing. ‘Get out.’ He hissed at Prowl.



‘What if things don't go back to how they were?’ Prowl asked again, unfazed at Bumblebee or even Bulkhead's reaction. ‘What will you do then? Sulk? Continue to be rude?’



Prowl swiftly dodged the glass of fuel thrown at him. ‘WHY DON'T YOU STOP BEING SUCH A PIECE OF SLAG AND GO GET RUN OVER!’ Bumblebee shouted.



‘No need to get violent.’ Prowl scolded, catching the next thing Bumblebee threw at him, his fist.



‘IT WAS YOUR FAULT THEY GOT AWAY! YOU AND YOUR STUPID ROBOT LIZARDS DIDN'T EVEN DO ANYTHING!’ Bumblebee shrieked, trying to pull himself out of Prowl's expert grip.



‘You guys, stop, please!’ Bulkhead pleaded.






Finally, Prowl had enough, with a few swift movements he had Bumblebee flat on the ground with his servos gripped tightly behind his back, still, Bumblebee continued to struggle. ‘So? It's your fault Sari is injured and missing, we can do this all day, or maybe you can start acting like a mature bot and realise that what happened has happened, and start-’






GUYS STOP!’ Before either of them knew it, Bulkhead's wrecking ball slammed both of them apart and to the ground, it even took Bulkhead a few nano-cycles to realise what he just did. ‘What's wrong with you Prowl?!’ Bulkhead demanded. ‘Bossbot told us to stick together.’



Prowl wiped away the bit of fuel that shot from his tanks and back to his intake before recomposing himself. ‘What's wrong is that he has been nothing but an immature sparkling who never learns and I'm not going to stay here another solar-cycle and-’



‘Then go.’



Prowl was actually taken aback by Bulkhead's interruption, even Bumblebee seemed a little shocked. ‘Excuse me?’ Prowl finally said back.



‘Sure Bumblebee's an idiot or annoying sometimes, that's just how he is, seeing him with Longarm all the time gets me a lil' jealous, cuz that's when Bee's at his nicest and I wish he could share a lil' bit of that with the rest of us.’ Bulkhead rambled, a little embarrassed. ‘But then, that's the kind of Bee you have to earn, by being his bestest friend and understanding all of that stuff that makes Bee Bee’ Suddenly Bumblebee found himself and Prowl hoisted under one of Bulkhead's arms each. ‘But you Prowl, you're all nice and kind and charitable, but all you do after that is shut yourself off, you barely talk to anyone, or hang out, the only bots you like are the Dinobots, and you didn't even trust us enough to let us know they were ok.



A-anyway, the point is we all got our mistakes n' stuff, a-and if Bee being upset because the one guy who understands him is out there all alone, and Bee couldn't help him, well that's just something you have to deal with, just like you deal with Swoop eating the wires to your door o-or me tripping over and crushing ya.’ Bulkhead concluded. ‘Now you guys are going to hug it out and say you're sorry.’



Bumblebee squirmed hopelessly in Bulkhead's hold. ‘Bulkhead do I-’



‘You're going to hug it out and say you're sorry.’ Bulkhead repeated, his soft expression suddenly going hard.



With no other option, Bumblebee and Prowl let Bulkhead squish them together in a forced hug. ‘Sorry.’ The two of them mumbled, unable to look the other in the optic.



‘Dare I ask what the pit you three are doing?’ Came Ratchet's voice from the entrance to the base.



Bulkhead, instead of getting embarrassed by the question turned around with excitement gleaming in his optics ‘Bossbot! Docbot! You're back!’ He exclaimed rushing over to them, Bumblebee and Prowl still squished together. ‘Oh it was nothing, we just had a fight but we made up, how was the thing?’



Upon closer inspection, Optimus looked just as drained as he did before he went to recharge. ‘I... we'll talk about it later.’ He said defeatedly. ‘For now, we should help clean up the city and start tracking Longarm again, Autobots rollout.’



Suddenly, the police radio picked up. ‘Autobots? We've got a sighting of your friend that went missing, in tank mode, heading up from Old Detroit to Downtown.’



Bumblebee had transformed and sped off in the blink of an optic.





Longarm started to reach the part where the old city began merging with the new constructions, the plan was simple, find a human, any human, and let them take Sari to the repairbays, he thought he was reaching the city proper, but the amount of broken buildings was a lot more then when he last remembered. He transformed carefully out of his alt-mode but with considerable difficulty, the transformation flaring up his sensornet, he almost collapsed from the lack of feeling in one of his pedes, that was the last thing he needed, he was damaged enough from Soundwave's attack and the underground chamber collapsing on him, if he got to the point where couldn't use his alt-mode anymore, he didn't know what he would do.



He saw two humans, tossing broken wooden furniture onto a fire, but that wasn't important, he could finally complete his plan. ‘Excu͡se̷ ̨m̷e͠?͟’ He said, rushing up to them. ‘Can you-’



The two humans took one look at him then ran off screaming.



Longarm's shouldertracks sagged, what did he do?



He stumbled around, feeling agitated enough that he was this close to the city and hadn't been able to retreat back to his hideout, he went from human to human, what few he could find asking for help, but they shied away, why? What did he do wrong? Did they think he was the one who hurt Sari? It had to be that, they weren't scared of him, he had to tell his spark numerous times, they were just in the middle of a misunderstanding, right? He turned a street corner to witness a gagging sight, there were civil service workers dragging off the charred remains of... what kind of robots were those? They looked like the ones that attacked Bumblebee when Soundwave fooled him in thinking he escaped the cortical patch, though his attention on them did not last long when finally, he spotted exactly what Sari needed, there was a human medical unit parked nearby tending to people.



‘H-hello?’ Longarm asked, trying to keep his fritzing voicebox as non-frightening as possible, holding Sari out for them. ‘My friend i̵s hurt, c͝o͞uld͝ you-’



He paused after a sea of gasps and whispers from the humans around him met his audials. ‘Is that Longarm? – what's wrong with his face? – the hell did he say? – oh my god.’



Longarm faltered for a moment, but kept with his goal of getting help for Sari, despite his spark, his inner Shockwave screaming at them to get out of there as quickly as possible. ‘C͏an y̸o͘u҉ help her?’



One of the medics nodded, quickly getting a stretcher out for him to place her on, the moment she left his servos a brick was thrown at Longarm's side. ‘Get out of here, Nazi!’ The human who attacked him shouted. ‘Go back to Cybertron!’



‘Dude what the hell!?’ Said the aggressor's friend, trying to stop him getting another brick. ‘Soundwave was lying!’



Longarm had no idea what he did wrong but inside he was panicking, did they know? He tried to calm down, Sari was safe now, he had no more reason to be out here in the open, it was time to retreat, he took off for Old Detroit again and he tried to transform, though that turned out to be a gross mistake when his HUD was flooded with errors, painful static cracked upon his chassis and he fell over screaming.



Whatever humans were nearby, immediately backed away.



Longarm's claws sunk deep into the road and he forced himself back on his pedes, not bothering to explain himself to his witnesses, he just had to keep calm and-



He saw himself in the reflection of a glass building and suddenly realised the cause of half those human reactions, half his faceplate had been jammed in his transformation process, literally, constantly trying to close up but caught in the corner of his helm, his servos had begun fusing together, creating very familiar claws, and his original optic was glowing bright red, a thin, slitted iris widening in shock at the sight of himself.



He was turning back into Shockwave.



How did he not notice before?!



He heard the sounds of sirens approaching fast.



He had to get out of here.



Longarm closed his optics and concentrated deeply, whoever was approaching, the Autobots or the police, there was no way he could outrun them without finding a way back into vehicle mode, it must have glitched out because he wasn't completely in Autobot mode... Autobot mode, that's what this body of his had been all along, Longarm shook his helm, not important at the moment, he just needed to recalibrate himself and make the transformation back to vehicle mode, regardless of what he was or what he will be. The next attempt to transform was much more successful this time, Longarm turned to his vehicle mode and sped down the streets.



The sirens were following him, on multiple roads.



Panicking, Longarm quickly sped into an old parking lot, breaking the ticket barrier, then bursting out the other side of the building and onto a different street, then through two different warehouses until the last one he drove through came to a dead end, he considered shooting the wall and driving through, but the noise would attract his pursuers, carefully he transformed back into robot mode and crouched down behind a wall of shipping crates, he couldn't hear any sirens, and vented in relief, but instantly he was back on guard when he heard a car driving to a halt and then the all too familiar sound of transformation seams, the others had found him.



Longarm was glitching, stuck between his fight and flight coding, unable to come up with a new plan, engage his cannon, or even go back into his alt-mode while those pedes tapped on the ground quickly towards his-



‘LONGARM!’ Bumblebee shouted.



Before Longarm could realise what was going on, he was flat on his backstrut, Bumblebee had pounced on him, and putting him through a death grip of a hug.



‘I was so worried! Are you ok? Oh you're a mess! Don't worry , I have the key with me.’ Bumblebee blabbered out all at once, doing nothing more than holding onto Longarm, as if the slightest relief in pressure would make Longarm disappear.



‘B-͏B̕um͢bl҉eb̕e̛e..̨.’ Longarm managed to utter.



‘I-it's ok Longarm, whatever Soundwave did, you'll be ok.’ Bumblebee reassured him, taking another of his cloths out of his subspace, he gently began cleaning what remained of Longarm's faceplate, just like he did whenever Longarm had a bad flux.



Longarm couldn't bring himself to push Bumblebee off and run away, not when he saw deep into Bumblebee's optics and saw the restlessness and relief that mixed into that lovely bright blue, hesitantly, he reciprocated the hug, bringing Bumblebee closer to him and moving the two of them into a more comfortable position, with Bumblebee in his lap. Dread eventually began to settle in his motherboard, Soundwave's manipulation or not, Bumblebee would eventually ask him about his past with Soundwave, about the lies he told, about what's happening to him, and... and...



‘I'̸m͘ so҉r͡r͝y, Bumblebee.’ Longarm whispered.



‘Oh you, it' okay.’ Bumblebee dismissed, ceasing his cleaning and leaning deeply into Longarm's hold. ‘So Soundwave might have been your evil ex-sweetspark, I just- I... IwassoworriedthatIwouldn'tseeyouagain!’ He blurted, throwing his arms around Longarm's helm again and holding on tight, optic washer flowing down his faceplate as he sobbed. ‘I swear, I'll stick him for what he did! You didn't deserve that! He tried to offline me when he found out we were- you know, he didn't do- I'd of ripped his helm off if he did that to you!’ He rambled, half angry, half relived, before breaking off into another round of sobbing. ‘But- oh, you don't want to hear any of that, let's just go home Longarm, get you nice and patched up, I'll even watch your science shows with you if it'll help cheer you up big guy.’



Longarm gasped softly in surprise, Bumblebee... he didn't care- as in, he didn't want answers? He moved his serv- his claws to idly pet Bumblebee on the helm, who only just sighed softly and nuzzled back in kind, he then looked deeply at his claws.






‘Bumblebee, there's... t͞here͡'s ̡some͜t͜h̛in̷g̨ ̴I͏ have͠ t͡o t͢e̕l͟l ͝y͟ou̧.’ Longarm started, swallowing down a glitch that formed in his intake tubing.



Bumblebee released his hold and sat up, not looking worried at all, instead wiping away the tears that he had shed. ‘Say away Lon- oh, oh what happened to your servos?!’ He gasped, quickly taking Longarm's half shapeshifted servos into his own, then looking up at Longarm in confusion. ‘You... said you had claws before, didn't you?’



Longarm paused for an uncomfortably long time, trying to read Bumblebee's concerned, but still completely happy faceplate for a single sign of fear, then answered. ‘Yes, I'm... I'm turning back to... back to how I was before, the old me.’



Instantly Bumblebee vented a sigh of relief. ‘Phew, for a second I thought he made some creepy science experiment out of you like in that one holotape we watched, remember that?’ He said, before leaning back into Longarm's hold, idly stroking the malformed claw.



Given hope by Bumblebee's response, Longarm went further. ‘I... oh Bumblebee.’ He strayed, this time being the one to hold the other in a tight grip, the liberation he was feeling in his spark was almost too much to bear, honestly, what had he done to deserve this much from Bumblebee? Pit, what had he done to deserve-




He took a left, a deliberate deviation from the training course's path.



Scanner on high alert, making sure no one else lay witness to what he was about to do.



H e didn't want to risk himself like this, but he was at his wit's end, that pest was no closer to getting off his trail, which grew hotter with every nano-cycle that insect messed up, even Sentinel was starting to think something glitchy was going on.



He had to end it.



What better way than a "prank gone wrong"? He'd get them both and cover his own trail completely.



He logged into the training course's console using Wasp's codes, smirking at Bumblebee's terrible progress through the map, how absolutely unsurprising.



He set the difficulty level of the turrets to the level the Elite Guard themselves used.



All he had to do now was manually switch out each turret's ammo from paint to blanks, but what poor "Wasp" didn't know was that the blanks had been switched with live ammunition due to an "administrative error".



And Bumblebee would pay the price, with several bullets right through his spark chamber and out the other side.



That useless, mindless, worthless, pit spawned, disgusting insect would get exactly what he deserved.




Longarm hadn't realised how much he had been shaking till he felt Bumblebee's caring servos on his helm again.



‘Shh, it's alright Longy.’ Bumblebee whispered. ‘Here, let me get out the key and patch you up, should have done that first, shouldn't've I? Haha.’ He joked awkwardly, before shuffling around in the kibble part of his chestplate for the key.






He tried to offline Bumblebee...?



He tried to offline Bumblebee.



He had been the spy all along, had sent a somewhat innocent bot into the stockades, that part being what he had more or less came to terms with, but knowing Bumblebee, his tiny little Bumblebee, that everything they did together in camp, the movies, the games, the plots to catch Wasp, that had all been a lie, a lie even he believed, he never felt anything for Bumblebee before, no tenderness or awkward thoughts, not even an ounce of pity.



It had been nothing but cold, hard malice behind his actions.



He really was a monster.



Longarm traced a single claw beneath Bumblebee's optics, softly grazing his cheekplates, Bumblebee paused and looked up into Longarm's mismatched optics, smiling a little, Bumblebee found the key and quickly slotted it in, though it didn't heal the problems in his transformation seams, it soothed his pains, even the deep rooted ones in his spark, and it was then he rememembered, it didn't matter, none of it mattered, whatever he did in the past to hurt Bumblebee, for every bad thought and action he had over ten new memories of them together to fight it, he said it to Soundwave back then, he would say it to himself now, to the entire universe.



‘Bumblebee, I... listen, I did a lot of things.’ Longarm said, grateful how smoothly his voicebox was now it was healed. ‘Things I regret... things that were bad, everything that made me into the cold Longarm you met in camp, but- you liked me even back then, didn't you? Everything we've done, I don't want to lose that- nevermind, I'm rambling.’ He eventually gave up, unable to put his feelings into words. ‘Let's go find the others.’



He stood the two of them up, helping Bumblebee back to his feet, just as he did the other Autobots had entered, Optimus, their kind and understanding leader, Ratchet, his grouchy mentor with a spark of gold, Prowl, cool and calm but tender on the inside, then Bulkhead, a clumsy bot but always meaning well, his team, his friends.



‘Longarm!’ Bulkhead exclaimed. ‘Oh buddy what happened to your faceplate!?’



His spark tensed, fraught with past memories, but Longarm paid that no attention. ‘I'm ok, my transformation seams got jammed a little, turns out my sigma ability isn't just stretching my arms out.’ He said truthfully with a smile, waving his claws for a little emphasis.



An uncomfortable silence spread over the Autobots.



‘You mean... you're a shapeshifter?’ Ratchet said slowly.



‘If that's the official term for it, then yes, I-I think so.’ Longarm replied. ‘I think it got a little glitched out when Soundwave attacked me.’



‘Is that why you were running from us earlier?’ Optimus asked.



Longarm hung his helm in shame. ‘N-no, not that.’ He admitted truthfully, he only just found out half a mega-cycle ago. ‘I... I was afraid what you would all think of me, or of my relation with Soundwave, but I was- nevermind, we're not together anymore, not in the next thousand vorns either, I'm sorry for worrying you all.’



Optimus and the others were more or less completely satisfied with the answer, Bulkhead and Bumblebee crowded excitedly around Longarm. ‘I can't believe you're a shapeshifter Longarm, I thought that stuff only happened in comicpads, does that mean you can turn into Bumblebee!?’ Bulkhead wondered excitedly. ‘Quick, turn into Bumblebee!’



‘As if we needed two of them.’ Prowl dissuaded in the distance.



Longarm shook his helm. ‘No, at least, I don't think I can, I don't remember all that well on how it works, aside from transforming.’



‘Transform for us!’ Bumblebee encouraged. ‘I wanna see!’



Longarm felt a little sheepish at the request, after all, he hadn't had the best of reactions to his original form, though that hesitance did nothing against the fact his entire frame was overcharged on the feeling that everything was going to be alright, it was almost impossible for him to say no, especially with that heartening look on Bumblebee's faceplate, and that excited itch crawling over his chassis.



‘I admit, I'm a little curious myself.’ Optimus said, a little eager as well to witness the transformation.



Longarm took a deep vent, then a quick glance at Bumblebee's encouraging faceplate then closed his optics and let himself go.



His face split in half completely, folding away then going into his subspace, what made his olfactory sensor also receded upwards, the black mesh that had settled at the back of his helm shifted to stretch over the gaps that had been left, half his helm melded down, an elongated neck sprouting, his flat faceplate shifted forwards, making an obtuse angle, his half-claws fully transformed into three lethally sharp and elegant pieces, the shift of his jawguard had been as it always was, into his long antler-like audials, the perfect accent over his true helm's form, his size shifted incredibly till he towered over his team with a looming shadow.



‘It can't be...’ He heard someone whisper.



Finally, his Autobot insignia folded away, revealing a dirty and faded Decepticon brand.



Longarm reengaged his optic, the static made him very woozy, it had been ages since he last shifted and his frame wasn't happy in the slightest, he stumbled a little, bracing himself on the wall of the warehouse, then, eventually realising his change in size, looked down upon his team, all with mixed reactions of surprise, only Bumblebee and Bulkhead seemed the most excited for the change, the two of them looked up to him a great feeling of awe, literally, he was at least a helm over Bulkhead now, Longarm mentally chuckled at the though of having to crouch down to get through-



Ratchet rammed a shipping container right into his chestplate, sending him crashing to the back wall of the warehouse, the static blinded his optic, but his audials picked up Bumbebee's scream of sheer panic before the container lifted and rained hell down upon him again.



‘Ratchet!?’ Longarm gasped, he tried to get up but Ratchet slammed another crate into him, his frame not responding as quickly as he needed it to, still recalibrating after such a long time stuck in Autobot mode. ‘Why? Stop!’ He implored.



‘Ratchet what are you doing!?’ Optimus demanded, he reached forwards to stop him and get an explanation for this sudden turn, but Ratchet flung him aside with his other magnet into a pile of junk.



‘Stand back! He- I have to-’ Ratchet sputtered, desperately trying to keep up his task of offlining Longarm while trying to stop the others from stopping himself. ‘He's Shockwave! He's been Shockwave this entire time!’ He exclaimed, trying to focus on his anger and not his despair that his golden student was none other than one of the most infamous Decepticons to ever exist.



It explained everything, he was such a genius with coding, because deep down he had been the bot who invented the cortical patch and countless pieces of horrible malware and sparkwashing programs, he had disguised himself as a constructobot, not to dodge the draft and achieve his dreams, but to cement his place in the ranks and infiltrate Autobot hierarchy. He had let the medical and science guilds' most infamous Decepticon rival into his care, he helped him recover his memories, Ratchet didn't want to believe it, but he had to, just like in the war he had no other choice but to stand up and protect what he cared about, his team, and the memory of Longarm, before it faded away and became Shockwave.



If there were a sentence that could break down everything constructive Longarm had made in the past mega-cycle, then that was it, if Ratchet knew the old him then he was done for, he tried to scrabble away, he needed out, right now, this was a mistake, this had been nothing but a mistake,



‘Shockwave?’ Prowl repeated, and even his optics went wide with realisation, ceasing all hostility against Ratchet. ‘I heard stories but...’



‘BUT WHAT!? STOP IT!’ Bumblebee shouted, putting himself between Longarm and Ratchet's latest attack, Bulkhead joining him. ‘It's Longarm!’



‘Get out of the way!’ Ratchet demanded, dropping the shipping crate and instead picking Bumblebee and Bulkhead up, throwing them into Optimus, who only just recovered, only to fall down again with their combined weight. ‘I have to do this, I'm sorry.’ He apologised to them, before he scowled with an amount of rage Longarm couldn't comprehend.




A bot he didn't (care to) recognise, strapped down, screaming, helmet crushed, revealing the softer components and sensitive ports within.



‘Make your spark at home, little Autobot.’ Shockwave mocked, his claws forcefully and artistically plugging cables into the other bot's data ports like a well rehearsed dance. ‘I'll have the location of the Allspark soon enough.’




He deserved this, every bit of this, didn't he?



‘Stop!’ Longarm roared, this time picking up his own crate and hurling it at Ratchet, anything to stop the attack, he then took his cannon out of his subspace and pointed it at Prowl, just to make sure he didn't try anything, which thankfully he did, because Longarm didn't even have the tanks to shoot him, let alone strike an accurate hit. ‘Ratchet, please, I'm not like how I used to be, I promise.’ He pleaded desperately. ‘I've changed, I can change more! You've seen the good I can do, please give me a chance!’



“I'll do anything.”






If you really want to change for the better.’ Ratchet said emotionlessly, grabbing another set of crates with his magnets. ‘Then perish.



‘RATCHET NO!’ Bumblebee screamed, diving into him and knocking him to the floor before he could do anything further to Longarm, the crates falling down in front of Longarm.



‘You idiot! I-’



Before he could finish his sentence the ceiling of the warehouse cracked, before breaking completely at the pedes of a mighty Decepticon warbuild. ‘Tremble Autobots! Face your doom at the servos of the MIGHTY Decepticons! I, Lugnut, will ensure the WRATH of Megatron's vengeance is set upon you!’





Shockwave hadn't been here for a very long time, it was almost just how he remembered it, save for the whirlwind of damage his Decepticon brethren had ripped through his former home.



He calmly strode through the damage, making his way to the fueling room, and there she was, almost just as he remembered her, upon hearing his pedestepes, his former caretaker looked up warily, before her optics widened in shock.



‘Shockwave? Sweetie? Is that you?’ She whimpered, wiping away her tears. ‘Oh goodness, you've grown so tall.’ She commented before hobbling over to him, oh yes, they mentioned they shot her in the pede so she couldn't stop them rescuing the warbuild sparklings she was in charge of.



‘Yes, it's me.’ He confirmed softly. ‘Are you alright?’



She smiled, that same sweet one she always gave him. ‘Nothing the docbot can't patch up when he gets here.’ She dismissed, though clearly she would bleed out in the next two mega-cycles if nothing were done to the severed power cables, she let him take her into his claws and made her comfortable on his lap when he sat down. ‘It was terrible Shockwave, th-those D-Decepticons came a-a-and- they took them Shockwave...’ She described. ‘They took my little warbuilds.’



‘Shh, it's alright, I'll take care of it.’ Shockwave promised in a half-lie, stroking a comforting claw down her backstrut, yes, he would make sure those sparklings received a good education and became as loyal to Megatron as he was.



‘Thank you, thank you so much Shockwave.’ She praised, burying herself into his chestplates. ‘So... you made it to the military in the end.’ She commented sadly. ‘I'm so sorry Shockwave.’



‘Whatever for?’ Shockwave asked, genuinely curious, audials raised a little forwards over his helm.



‘For everything.’ She said, a fresh wave of tears struck her, then when she recomposed a cycle later she elaborated. ‘I never wanted to be a carer, I... wanted to see the world, I wanted to write stories, then maybe settle down and then when I let myself be a carertaker, it would be for my own sparklings. But everyone else had other plans, I was built for it, Primus wanted me to do it, so I had to, every time anyone had a fight, or started screaming in the middle of the night-cycle, or, ugh, remember when Jetlag threw Hotspot off the roof and wouldn't come down for solar-cycles?’ She looked up at him with such an expression of regret. ‘I wanted to just quit and leave, at the end of the cycle I would be alone and in my room, I kept repeating to myself, it was my duty, it's what I was supposed to be, that in the end I would come back out the Allspark with a better life, that's what kept me going for all these vorns.



That was why, Shockwave, every time I saw you trying to sneak into Soundwave's classes, or when your doctor kept calling and asking if I had signed you up for a formal education, or when you argued that functionalism was a lie, I felt so jealous, I didn't want everything I was to be for nothing, I didn't want to be the little bot who gave up on her dreams for nothing, I didn't want all of them looking at me for being a-a failure that couldn't raise a warbuild right, I-I'm so sorry.’



‘It's alright.’ Shockwave repeated monotonously.



‘In a way, I'm to blame for what happened, all of us oldbots are, we repressed their dreams so much they rose up and began taking what they wanted by force.’ She said, obviously referring to the Decepticon uprisings that had been spreading across the planet. ‘I wish I could take it all back, go back to how it was, except I would do everything I could to help you, maybe then you would be happy.’



‘But I am happy, in the end, I became what I wanted to be, though not without its ups and downs.’ Shockwave revealed, claws tapping idly at her chestplate.



‘Really? I'm so happy for you, Shockwave.’ She didn't have the energy to look like it for, or perhaps she didn't feel it at all, Shockwave didn't particularly care. ‘At least you became what you wanted to be in the end.’ She vented with relief, servos holding onto his claws with a gentle touch.



‘Yes.’ He said, before plunging his claws straight through her chestplates and into her very spark. ‘I did.’ He stood up, letting her grey frame slide onto the floor.



‘I'm exactly what I want to be.’












Aren't I?



Chapter Text



‘Technician Ratchet, at ease.’



Ratchet relaxed, lowering his servo that kept the medical tent's covering sheet up slightly. ‘What's happening?’ He asked, the commotion didn't sound big enough for him to believe they were under attack, but those bots out there were all shouting like Megatron was coming to town.



‘I understand it's late, but we need the commanding medical officer's expertise.’ The soldier explained. ‘One of our field scouts, he's... not completely himself.’



Ratchet had quickly come to know what that phrase meant all too well, and he vented in gloom, this was going to be a very long night-cycle. ‘Wheel the patient in, I'll go get him’ He said, turning and going back inside, bracing himself for another round of the worst song and dance.



The scout in question was delivered, strapped securely to an interrogation slab, blinded and gagged, even then he struggled like his very spark was on the line, like a bot who had nothing left to lose, and, just as Ratchet feared, another one of the scout unit followed... more or less, being held back by several soldiers, obviously a friend, then a crowd of soldiers followed. Ratchet drowned it all out, it was all the exact same as he heard before, pleads, begs, whispers, rumours, he didn't have the energy to feel for it at the moment, his job was to help his medical officer help this poor spark, there wasn't much else he could do.



‘We caught him trying to enter the Minor's pavilion with a vibroblade, before that he was out seeing if the Con's were prepping to go through the valley, wasn't even gone for two mega-cycles!’ One soldier briefed as they transferred the slab onto the medical berth.



‘How could they get to him that fast!? We barely had ten cycles with no contact from him!’



‘H-he'll be ok? Please say he'll be ok? I-I-I-I-I-’



‘I'd appreciate it if you'd all be quiet, we need to work.’ The medical officer said thinly, entering the main area of the tent.



The bot's friend pressed himself against the medical officer. ‘Doc, please, you gotta help him!’



The medical officer calmly pried the friend off him and went over to the tools Ratchet set out. ‘I can't help anything until I get a look inside his processor and see how bad it's been scrambled up, if it's been scrambled up, and I can't do that if you're in my field, now sit down be quiet!’ He snapped, effectively quieting the room.



‘Be easy on him doc.’ One of the soldiers said ‘They've been together for ages.’



‘Hold his helm down.’ Ratchet ordered, charging up his EMP generator. ‘I don't want to risk wiping something.’




Halfway through the surgery, Ratchet noticed something didn't feel quite right as he scanned through the scout's new coding, it was a standard case of processor priority malware, which forced a bot to prioritise certain things, like killing any Autobot they found in a ten click area, but this list of priorities was... was it possible for the list of orders to be too "generic"? This was a scout, a master of stealth, who nobody knew was compromised, they could have easily put in something in him to pick off bots around camp one by one, not just go up to the Minor and shank him in public view.



‘Looks like Shockwave's losing his touch.’ His medical officer joked, setting down his laser scalpel and closing up the patient's ports. ‘I'm surprised he even left his signature on it this time.’



‘Who's that?’ A soldier asked.



‘The reason we're all here.’ His medical officer muttered. ‘Go ahead and wipe the code Ratchet, then run him through a nice cleaning subroutine, the sooner he's out of here the sooner we can rest, until you bots mess yourselves up again.’ He grumbled, directing his last comment to their entourage.



‘Pardon me sir, but something stinks about this.’ Ratchet said, taping his digits nervously against the console. ‘Permission to do a double check?’



His commanding officer looked twenty times as irate at the suggestion, after all it meant more time not recharging. ‘If you feel it's necessary, then by all means Ratchet.’ He said as calmly as he could after an idle pace. ‘Knock yourself out.’



Ratchet only scrolled down a few dozen commands until he spotted something very unusual, a line linked to unrecognised external hardware. ‘By Primus...’ He whispered. ‘That bastard!’ He hissed, slamming his servos on the console.



The patient's friend and the commanding medical officer both lit up like a floodlight. ‘What? What's happened!?’



Ratchet didn't answer, quickly switching between the lines and the sections it referenced, before pushing away from the monitor and staring at his unconscious patient. ‘I- how- open him up!’



‘What? What did they do!?’



‘His job wasn't to get the Minor!’ Ratchet accused, before beginning to open up the poor scout's chestplate ‘It was to get us, the moment that code is modified, or removed, he's set to take out everyone in a click's radius.’ He finished, pointing to the device that had been secreted away inside the patient's sparkchamber, a nanobomb. ‘The entire medical unit, the barracks, and whoever else is unlucky enough to be close.’



‘Aw slag!’ Someone in the tent swore, servos over his helm. ‘Damn! Pit!’



‘How soon can a bomb squad get here?’



‘I know a guy in the next camp over, bit of a trek but-’



His commanding medical officer scanned the bomb carefully, then dropped his scanner in shock. ‘It's on a timer, just over 10 cycles left!’



The scanner clattered to the ground.



Instantly a soldier was taking control of the situation, rushing towards the medical berth ‘We gotta get him the pit outta here!’ He yelled, undoing the straps. ‘Move people MOVE!’



‘Nononono! NO!’ The scout's friend wailed, he tried to stop them, before he was subdued again. ‘You can fix him! PLEASE!’ He screamed, trying to push them off him, reaching towards his friend as he was unceremoniously dragged out. ‘PLEASE!



‘It's out of our servos, no squad and no time means no options.’ The medical chief faltered, unable to comfort him.



Ratchet collapsed onto a stool, cradling his helm with his servos as they hauled away the scout, drowning out the yelling, the screaming, the orders and the begging from his audials.



‘You did good Ratchet, you saved our lives, our other patients' lives, everyone in a click's radius.’ His commanding medical officer said solemnly, touching a servo on his shoulderplate to console him. ‘You did all you could do, go get some rest.’



He saved countless lives... but at the cost of one.



What else could he have done though?





‘It has been a long night, professor.’ Megatron spoke as nicely as possible to Professor Sumdac, stressing away on his chair. ‘You need sleep.’



‘B-but what about Sari?’ He argued back pathetically, still shaking from his second pot of coffee. ‘What if-’



‘Your inability to recharge will have no effect on her wellbeing, I will wake you if any news arises.’ Comforted by Megatron's words, the professor sighed and let himself rest on the table, using his arms as a cushion. ‘In you room, professor.’ Megatron clarified sternly.



Professor Sumdac's retreat from his desk to his habit suite couldn't have been any more slow and pathetic, honestly, he was such a sparkling sometimes, but the moment he was gone Megatron went straight back to his spybot network, pinging Shockwave's pet, for the hundredth time since he lost contact and the Autobots emerged victorious, he had to know Soundwave at least survived his failure, or that Shockwave had remembered, he had to know something.



This was officially the last time he would get his hopes up about anything.



The internet was on fire after Soundwave's broadcast, conspiracy theories, predictions, political climate, garbage after garbage upon garbage, it was a bold effort on Soundwave's part, a tribute to Megatron and their historic uprising, poetry in physical form, flattering... almost, in the end the Autobots would win this fight, circulating video footage of Soundwave's robots attacking civilians would be impossible to refute, and Megatron had no need for fleshbags that refused cold hard evidence.



He tried to contact Soundwave again.



New threads had been popping up on his favourite least favourite communication board so fast that they were dying less than a cycle after being made, so fast that the moderators had to manually put a stop and only allow approved threads, those that made the cut were quite disturbing, damage done by Autobots and Decepticons alike, Soundwave's offlined fledglings...



A picture taken of Shockwave, suffering a shapeshifting glitch.



Finally, a communication line opened between him and his spybot, and he assumed direct control, finding his spybot clutched in Soundwave's desperate servos, Soundwave looked a mess, the Autobots did quite a number on his chassis, he had made himself home at a petrol station, had hooked a portable generator into his chassis, mask and visor taken off so he could remove the broken shards embedded in his faceplate.



‘Soundwave, report.’ Megatron demanded.



Soundwave closed his optics and bowed his helm. ‘Soundwave: asks for forgiveness, Soundwave: failed you.’



‘Oh put a lid on it Soundwave.’ Megatron huffed, honestly, he was not in the mood for a pity party. ‘You're still online, stay that way.’



‘Soundwave: will remain online.’ He promised.



‘Then there's nothing more to be sorry about.’ Megatron told him. ‘Now tell me, how far did you get with Shockwave? How close is he to remembering?’



‘Shockwave: remembers, Longarm: more powerful than Soundwave anticipated, Autobots: interfered before Soundwave could eliminate Longarm.’ Soundwave stated.



Megatron raised an optical ridge, not exactly the answer he had been expecting. ‘Explain.’



Soundwave clutched the spybot tighter. ‘Shockwave: drowning in his delusion Shockwave: split-’



‘Spare me this romantic cryptic talk Soundwave, in scientific terms!’ Megatron barked.



‘Soundwave: does not know scientific designations for what he has seen.’ Soundwave admitted. ‘Longarm: is pre-Decepticon Shockwave, Longarm: does not wish to become Shockwave again, will do anything to remain Longarm, even lie to himself.’



A silence passed out between them, before the part of Megatron's lipplates that remained crooked into a smirk. ‘I suppose we will have to give him another "guiding push" won't we-’ Megatron was cut off when the Decepticon detection system of his own design began beeping with two signals, neither of which were Starscream or Blackarachnia ‘It appears we have company Soundwave, get some recharge, I will call you later.’ He farewelled.



Megatron cut off his control of the spybot and upon the computers he brought up news, military and media feeds, anticipating the arrival of more renegades from his cause, approximately 5 minutes after they struck impact, he finally had satellite feed from the nearby military base.



Lugnut and Blitzwing, had landed at a number of abandoned warehouses, the Autobots almost literally underneath their pedes.



‘It's about time those two showed up.’ Megatron complained, still refusing to let his hopes get up, after all he was betrayed once before. ‘But can they be trusted?’





‘Tremble Autobots! Face your doom at the servos of the MIGHTY Decepticons! I, Lugnut, will ensure the WRATH of Megatron's vengeance is set upon you!’ Lugnut roared, before picking up a piece of roof debris and holding it high above his helm. ‘You will pay for what you did to our GLORIOUS leader!’ He threatened, before throwing the piece of debris clean and hard at the main group of Autobots, not noticing the Decepticon-sized bot behind him, who had fallen down at his entrance, and crawled to the back of the warehouse.



Bumblebee roughly tumbled out of the way, though Ratchet wasn't as deft and felt the full force of Lugnut's wrath, everyone split up in a panic, the warehouse was a bit too small for them to fight a Decepticon in, then as if things couldn't get worse, they did, one Decepticon became two, landing down right next to Lugnut, a devilish smile on his faceplate.



‘Blitzwing! Destroy them!’ Lugnut commanded



‘JoU DoN't NeeD TO TEll Me ONce! HahAhAhAHAha!’ Blitzwing cackled, the two cannons on his back spurting superheated and supercooled plasma charges at random.



Now the warehouse was too small for them to fight in.



They began finding a way out, Optimus and Bulkhead going to the left, Prowl and Ratchet going to the right, but Bumblebee dived right forwards, under and through Lugnut's pedes to a position behind him, Lugnut almost lost his stability, wheeling round to catch the Autobot that was trying to flank him, only to find the Autobot in the clutches of-



‘Sh-Shockwave!? You're online!?’ Lugnut gasped, all five optics popping out his helm. ‘Did you not die in the service of our master!?’



Blitzwing tried pushing himself through the Autobot shaped hole that Optimus and Bulkhead ran through, before he and his faceplate spun around at Lugnut's words. ‘Shockvave? Vhat are jou doing here?’



Longarm stared at them, was he supposed to know them? They knew him, he didn't know what to do, vaguely he heard Bumblebee yelling at him to get to his senses and run, but he couldn't, flashes of fights, taunts and rivalry flashed behind his optics, memory after memory that had been locked away for ages defragmenting in instants.



‘Longarm come on, let's go!’ Bumblebee yelled, pulling on one of his claws, then squeaking in surprise when Lugnut's servo gripped him from behind and picked him up into the air.



‘Vhat is zis pipsveek?’ Blitzwing asked, he scratched his chin with his digits, one optic zooming in and focussing on Bumblebee. ‘Vhy does it call jou Longarm?’



‘Shall I crush it!?’ Lugnut boomed.



Ratchet had taken another shipping crate and brought it down on Lugnut's helm, making him drop Bumblebee. ‘That's for hitting me!’ He spat, before taking off when Lugnut's backplates retracted, revealing a missile array. ‘RUN BUMBLEBEE! YOU IDIOT!’



Lugnut fired a deluge of missiles out his back, effectively destroying the entire front of the warehouse, but his optics and Blitzwing's were still focussed on Shockwave, and they weren't planning on going anywhere else until he said something to them, Bumblebee ran, but hid behind a crate, staring at him.






‘M-my- the Autobots they damaged my equilibrium, go on without me.’ Longarm lied, staring Bumblebee right in the optics.「Bumblebee go!」He messaged, when he saw Bee had no intention of running.



USELESS! I will destroy the Autobots myself.’ Lugnut hissed, turning around, taking a melee weapon out of his subspace.



Blitzwing punched his shoulder. ‘I'M STILL HERE JOU IDIOT! VE DESTROY ZEM TOGETHER!’



Lugnut swung his weapon into Blitzwing's helm. ‘FOOL! Then start destroying them!’



Blitzwing bumped up against Lugnut, puffing his chestplate out in intimidation. ‘I VILL VHEN JOU STOP HITTING ME!’



Lugnut bumped back. ‘I will when you stop shouting at me!’






YOU stop!’



The two of them pointed towards each other and turned their helms to Longarm's position, both demanding. ‘Shockwave – SHOCKVAVE – tell him to sto-’



Neither Longarm or Shockwave were anywhere to be found.



‘For someone vith a damaged equilibrium, he got avay quite fast.’ Blitzwing observed, before turning around, scanning for the yellow Autobot, who had also disappeared. ‘MAYBe he DOeSn't EXIsT!’




They couldn't be trusted in the slightest.



Not to not kill him, but rather to not screw up, somehow the two of them ended up even more unstable and unpredictable than when he last saw them.



‘Better than nothing.’ Megatron sighed, before tuning into Lugnut's comm frequency. ‘Lugnut, your loyalty has been rewarded, I am here.’ He half-cooed, the exact same tone he used when he wanted Lugnut to do something he wanted.



On the video feed Lugnut instantly stopped his bickering with Blitzwing, shoving him aside and standing to attention. ‘M-Master?! You're here?! I-I am not worthy! What-’



‘Shut up and listen Lugnut, go to this military base and acquire a disguise, then go to this fuelling station, Soundwave is there, in urgent need of repair.’ Megatron ordered curtly, placing two co-ordinates on Lugnut's radar.



‘Soundwave is online!?’ Lugnut exclaimed, clawed servos held high with praise. ‘W-what miracles you have wrought master!’



On the video feed, Blitzwing stopped his random destruction of the warehouse area to uncover the Autobots and instead stared at Lugnut. ‘SoUNdVaVe?’ He saw Blitzwing's intake mouth. ‘BoTH VavEs Are HeRe?’



Megatron followed Longarm's retreat with his optics, he dove into the nearby canal, the current of the water changing slightly, towards the lake. ‘Yes, be wary of Shockwave, he is... not completely himself.’




‘Bumblebee! Good, you made it out.’ Optimus said in relief, quickly ushering him behind a wall, where the others had grouped. ‘We need a plan Autobots, we can't fight those Decepticons helm on.’



‘Range and mass destruction are clearly their specialty, if these buildings weren't so unstable I'd suggest using them for cover.’ Ratchet observed.



‘They're also not very agile, or bright, if Bumblebee was able to get right under them without much trouble.’ Prowl added. ‘I suggest we attack them with highly evasive maneuverers.’



‘Hmm, that would work for you and Bumblebee, the rest of us will have to use the terrain to... our advantage...’ Optimus said, before trailing off.



Lugnut and Blitzwing suddenly transformed and flew away, heading in a direction that would take them to the west side of the lake.



‘Well, for "doom" and the "wrath of Megatron", I'd say that was very disappointing.’ Ratchet grumbled, watching them go. ‘I wonder what changed their sparks.’



Optimus brought up a map on his HUD, calculating their destination. ‘They're heading to the military base, we have to warn them.’



‘How'd they even know though? They just got here.’ Bulkhead argued.



‘Perhaps they heard about it.’ Prowl suggested.








‘No sign of your new Con friends at the base, but they were definitely here, looks like they had a fight.’ Fanzone reported through their comms, looking at the Blitzwing shaped hole in the ground.



Optimus sighed, shoulderplates slumping, he leaned against the security console. ‘Did they do anything?’



‘Nope, all jets, bombers and tanks accounted for, nothing stolen, at worst the boys are going to have a hard time taking off for a few days, what's the stitch with these guys?’ Fanzone questioned.



‘Another revenge stunt, at least for the moment, from what we've seen they're a few tracks short of a full processor.’ Optimus explained, nervously scratching the back of his neck.



Optimus could almost hear Fanzone's look of pure bewilderment. ‘Izzat some kind of robot talk for bats in the belfry?’ He asked.



‘I don't believe they have parasites inside their processor.’ Optimus denied, shaking his helm. ‘Though it would explain much.’



‘Yeah, something crazy's rattling around in there alright, I'll call you if we spot anything new.’ Fanzone paused for a little bit. ‘Listen, uh, you guys should probably start worrying about that order, you able to actually do it?’



‘Wait, what order?’ Bulkhead asked.



‘Yes, we are captain.’ Optimus said, almost forlornly. ‘We'll start as soon as possible.’



‘Hate to say it, but I might kind of miss you guys, well, see you later, maybe.’ And with that, the captain cut the conversation.



‘What order, Prime?’ Prowl immediately asked.



Optimus didn't face them for some time, but eventually he did, slowly. ‘The hearing I had earlier today, it was agreed that, on the grounds that most Decepticon attacks are linked to our presence here on Earth, that we begin focusing the majority of our efforts upon the repair of our ship.’



‘You mean... we're leaving?’ Bulkhead asked, sadness spreading across his frame. ‘We can't just up and go like that, what'll we do about the Dinobots? Or Sari?’



Optimus looked towards Bumblebee, isolating himself in the corner with the couch, trying to gauge his reaction. ‘We have to, we can't endanger any more lives, and it's clear now that the Decepticons know where we are, it's only a matter of time till they send a proper attack force.’ He said softly. ‘Earth won't stand a chance, let alone us.’



Prowl crossed his servos, humming in agreement. ‘So far, most of what those two know is we destroyed Megatron, but if word gets out we're still carrying the Allspark...’ He didn't say anything more, the message was quite clear.



‘As for the Dinobots, we'll have to take them with us, Prowl, you'll need to get them used to taking normal fuel.’ Optimus explained



Bulkhead looked towards Bumblebee, then back to Optimus. ‘What about Longarm?’



‘His real name is Shockwave, a Decepticon.’ Ratchet spat, going over to the security console to check on something. ‘He was a spy in your barracks that lost his memory, he is thousands of vorns old and he is a murderer, if anything, we are going to either leave him here to rust or offline him.’



Bumblebee gritted his derma.



‘B-but he's our friend!’ Bulkhead defended. ‘We can't hurt him, he didn't even fight back Ratchet.’



‘He threw a shipping crate at Ratchet and threatened me with his cannon.’ Prowl said back calmly.



Bulkhead felt a little awkward trying to find a decent counter-argument. ‘But you saw how he was shaking, h-he was defending himself! Look you guys I know him, Bumblebee knows him, he's good!’ When Ratchet's sour expression did not change for the better Bulkhead tried again. ‘Come on Ratchet, you know him too.’



Ratchet grumbled. ‘What I know is, if we don't put him down then he will put us down, reprogram us, without any speck of remorse in his-’



NO!’ Bumblebee roared, stamping a pede on the ground, then getting up and running towards Ratchet. ‘Thi- You're doing this all based on what ifs?! You don't know he's going to like- like there's a switch between being him and being Longarm!



Ratchet slammed his servos down on the console. ‘Get it in your helm Bumbler! T-there's nothing we can do, any solar-cycle now, he's going to remember completely, and we can't risk having another sociopathic Decepticon on the level of Soundwave running rampant! We have to offline him, for his own good!’



Bumblebee clenched his servos, before running up to Ratchet and punching him dead in the faceplate, knocking him backwards into the console, Bumblebee would have thrown another punch, but he was immediately pulled away by Bulkhead, in who's servos he struggled. ‘Longarm trusted us! He showed us his real body a-and you tried to kill him, just like that! The pit's wrong with you Ratchet!? He can change, I know he can!’



Ratchet stormed up to Bumblebee, only to be held back by Optimus. ‘You think I hadn't thought of everything?! I want to believe Bumblebee, I want to believe so much, but I... I don't think he's going to come back.’ Optimus let Ratchet go, and he turned away from the group, venting anxiously before continuing. ‘Every memory loss patient I've worked with more or less reverts to their original personality once they've fully recovered, with minimal differences, he has vorns of Shockwave versus one vorn of Longarm.



We might as well try to fight Megatron with both servos missing.’ Ratchet finished with an empty feeling in his spark, before going away to his quarters.






‘Take him back to his room please Bulkhead.’ Optimus ordered, dragging a servo down his own helm.





‘How did jou know Soundvave vas online?’ Blitzwing asked curiously as he worked into snapping Soundwave's stabilisers back into their gyros. ‘Or ze location of zat base?’



‘It was our master! I heard his voice!’ Lugnut rambled excitedly, pacing around the petrol station's garage. ‘He is here with us!’



Maybe it was because he had the emotional spectrum of an 8-bit graphics card, but Blitzwing for the past couple of mega-cycles had been nothing more than varying degrees of confused, and any attempt to feel past that always translated into anger, and he could feel the itching twitches in his faceplate and the flare in his spark that signalled another change on the horizon. But really, Megatron, who they all saw explode outside the Autobot ship, was online? Had been communicating only through Lugnut? Telling him the exact location of an organics weapon installation that had the perfect tank jet for him to scan? The exact location where Soundwave, a legendary Decepticon (who was also legendarily dead) was bleeding his internals out?



And they all called him the crazy one, now Lugnut was in the same boat as himself, except with stupid to go with his crazy, or maybe Lugnut was just so crazy that it looped round and gave him great intelligent psychokinetic powers which made him able to predict the future, read the processors of other bots and-



No, wait, that was just his own crazy talking.



‘Megatron: online.’ Soundwave confirmed, hissing eldritch static from the pain of having a gyro reset.



Blitzwing paused his repairs to look at Soundwave in muted shock. ‘First Shockvave, zen Soundvave, now Megatron, vhat kind of reunion party is zis?’ Blitzwing muttered, before his head shifted. ‘If i Knew I WoUlD haVE BROuGHt SnaCkS! AHAHahaHAHHa!’



Soundwave looked towards Lugnut. ‘Blitzwing: is always like this?’ He enquired, holding a servo out to Blitzwing.



Lugnut nodded as hard as his helm could allow. ‘Of course! His spark has split because of the triple-changer experiment! He is most unstable!’



‘I AM RIGHT HERE JOU NUMBNUTS!’ Blitzwing barked, pulling one of Soundwave's wires harder than he should have, snapping it. ‘Forgive me, I have anger issues.’ He apologised after his personality shifted and Soundwave stopped screaming, soldering the wire back together.



‘Hurry Blitzwing! We should not keep our master waiting!’ Lugnut ordered impatiently.



‘Yes, ze master I have yet to zee or hear from.’ Blitzwing grumbled. ‘Vere is he anyvay?’





‘Mr Sumdac? Your daughter was administered to one of the medical response units.’ The person on the phone said. ‘She has a broken leg, fever and signs of a bacterial infection, she's doing fine, nothing threatening, but there's something you need to clarify with us.’



The professor breathed a tiny sigh of thankfulness, he smiled at Megatron before saying. ‘Ah, yes, I don't have her insured since I-’



‘This call isn't about insurance sir.’ The person on the line interrupted. ‘It's about getting... we can't really do anything to treat her leg because of those mechanical parts, do you have a repair manual or- uh- how would you treat that?’



‘Mechanical parts?’ Megatron enquired softly.



‘No no, don't worry, that requires specialist work, I'll pay for whatever you've done and come pick her up, thank you so much for taking care of her.’ Professor Sumdac said before putting the phone down, letting out a huge sigh of relief, he slumped into his chair.



‘Mechanical parts.’ Megatron repeated, once the Professor had calmed down sufficiently. ‘Requiring specialist work.’



‘Ah y-y-yes, Sari has a few... it's complicated.’ The professor said, little beads of nervous sweat forming on his forehead. ‘Oh, I'm so glad she's safe, I'll go pick her up right away!’ He said, getting up and going out the lab as quick as his stubby legs could carry him.



When he was gone, Megatron began plotting his next move, it was very late, and Soundwave was not in any condition to fight yet, but he could wait one more solar-cycle to fight the Autobots.



Who knew, maybe it would be one more solar-cycle closer to Shockwave becoming his again.





Prowl entered Bumblebee's room with a cup of petrol, noting that all but Longarm's belongings had been trashed, Bumblebee sat in the corner, facing the wall.



‘What do you know about Shockwave, Prowl?’ Bumblebee asked, not looking at him, when Prowl didn't answer he asked again. ‘I know you know about him, you said it back in the warehouse.’



‘All I know are stories, a general picture.’ Prowl replied curtly, setting the glass down on the berthside table.



Bumblebee huffed in annoyance. ‘Yeah, so does Ratchet, I bet he's never actually seen him faceplate to faceplate till now.’ Bumblebee grumbled. ‘Come on Prowler, what's he so scared about?’



Prowl silently walked close to Bumblebee, then sat down next to him. ‘Originally, I was enlisted to join the scouting corps, this was after the war officially ended, but Decepticons were still attacking, thus we were randomly conscripted for a vorn's service.’ Prowl spoke. ‘I... heard a number of things from the others in the barracks, all sort of rumours.’



‘And the rumours of Shockwave?’ Bumblebee pressed, finally looking towards Prowl with tired, washer-stained optics.



‘Mad scientist, sociopath, we were given training on what to do if we were interrogated, all of the methods the Decepticons use were all invented by him apparently, that's all I know.’ Prowl said monotonously. ‘I admit, the rumours made me consider a "change in my career".’



 Bumblebee looked away, blankly at the wall. ‘The pit is a sociopath?’ That was twice that word had been said, but what did it mean?



‘A mentally unstable bot who lacks basic compassion and understanding for others, thus his actions are very damaging, with little guilt or remorse for them.’ Prowl enlightened, before getting back up on his pedes.



Bumblebee’s PSU jumped up a few volts at that. ‘Then- then I don't think Docbot knows enough about Shockwave than he thinks he does.’ He whispered.



‘Hmm?’ Prowl noised in curiosity.



‘Come on Prowl, we know Longarm, if we had a... a glass of Energon for every time Longarm got upset for something he did wrong, we wouldn't need to drink that stinking petrol for the rest of our runtimes.’ Bumblebee explained, looking deep into Prowl's visor for a single sign of understanding.



‘Though I don't agree with it, I trust Ratchet's judgement on this matter.’ Prowl said abruptly, moving to leave. ‘He knows more about how the processor works than you do Bumblebee.’



Bumblebee frowned, bringing his stabilisers to his chest and laying his servos and helm over them. ‘And I know more about how Longarm works than he does.’ Bumblebee whispered back venomously.



Once Prowl had left Bumblebee vented another buildup of steam then angrily got onto his pedes, walking over to his glass of fuel, he gripped it firmly and downed it in one go, slamming it back on the table, he thought he damaged it, but then recognised that small lighting crack down the side.



It was Longarm's glass.



Bumblebee heard pedesteps outside his room, then the door opened once more. ‘Bumblebee, we need to talk.’ Optimus said.



Bumblebee said nothing.



Optimus stepped further into his room, casting a shadow over Bumblebee. ‘Look, I know the situation isn't good right now, and we're not exactly dealing with it well, but please, the team is the last thing we have, without it, well, we don't stand a chance against the Decepticons.’



Bumblebee said nothing.



‘I don't want to believe what Ratchet said about Longarm too.’



Bumblebee turned his helm, by just so many degrees.



Optimus smiled at the reaction, walking further till he was right behind Bumblebee, putting a servo to his shoulderplate. ‘We both know him Bumblebee, you more than anyone, and even though Elita changed into Blackarachnia, I still know her, I still see Elita in her, if that makes sense.’



‘Mmn.’ Bumblebee mumbled.



Optimus gave Bumblebee his most sparkfelt smile, even though Bee couldn't see it properly. ‘Come on Bumblebee, Longarm wouldn't want you down like this, or getting hurt, would he?’



‘... No...’ Bumblebee spoke after an eternity.



‘I'll give you a little more time to calm down, tomorrow I need you and Ratchet to go down to the ship and start using the key to repair it.’ Optimus said.



‘We'll come back for Longarm... right?’ Bumblebee asked, turning round a little more.



‘I'll do everything I can to make sure he's with us when we leave.’ Optimus promised, a genuine reassuring smile on his faceplate. ‘I mean it.’



‘I-I just...’ Bumblebee flung himself into Optimus' servos, hoping that if he pressed himself as close as he could that would stop the washer fluid from coming out, it didn't work. ‘I don't want to lose him! I-I... I love him Bossbot!’



Optimus sighed slowly, patting Bumblebee on his backstrut. ‘I know.’



‘Why- just- I want him back!’ Bumblebee didn't say anything after that, he just unloaded scream after scream into Optimus' chestplate.



‘It's ok Bumblebee, let it out.’ Optimus comforted him.



Bulkhead and Prowl rushed up to the door and, upon seeing that the only danger to Bumblebee was his own feelings, his frame drooped and he shuffled away back to where he came from. ‘I-I-I-I don't know what to do anymore... he was everything I had.’



Optimus picked Bumblebee up and put him on his berth. ‘We all lose things at some point Bumblebee, sometimes you never get them back, or if you do then they're not the same, we've all gone through it, Ratchet, myself, and now you.’ He spoke. ‘At the end of the cycle, you're still online, thinking and feeling, and the best you can do is keep going, nothing in the universe can stop a spark full of hope.



Don't give up, Bumblebee.



Bumblebee hitched, looking straight up, for a moment he found himself on Cybertron, sitting on his berth in the barracks, Longarm smoothing a servo down his stabilisers, making sure that the connections had been properly secured.



He blinked, he was back in his room, Optimus wiping away the tears that got onto his servos with a cleaning cloth, before taking Bumblebee's digits and closing them over the cloth.



‘Tomorrow, let's head down with Ratchet and repair the ship, can you do that for me Bumblebee?’



Bumblebee didn't give him an answer right away, letting his ventilation system sort itself out of the mess he brought on himself.



‘I... yeah, I can do that.’





Longarm dragged himself up from the shore of lake Eerie, on the island the Dinobots used to live on, purging the water out of his vents immediately, he treaded over to were the sand ended and the first line of trees began, collapsing at the base of one, though it felt like nothing more than a tiny pole behind his back, barely reaching his waist.



He brought his stabilisers to his chest, resting the tips of his claws on them.



Longarm looked up miserably at the shore, then past that to the smooth water lit by moonlight, then to the city, the lights in the Autobot base were on, and no sign of Lugnut or Blitzwing in the skies, he was safe, for the time being, but for how long he didn't know, if both sides weren't busy fighting each other, they'd come for him next.



He sat there forever, watching the moon's reflection make a slow walk across the surface of the lake, passing by a small outcropping of rocks, part of which had been broken some time ago.



That was where he and Bumblebee had their...


















It was over, wasn't it?



They knew, and they hated him.



He was on his own now.



His optic drooped, he wished he was able to put his thoughts to words, but it escaped him, his processor refused to do anything, afraid it would fry from the burdens upon burdens that rested upon his spark.



The most he could say was that he felt empty, just empty.



And tired.



Longarm got back on his pedes, retreating further into the island, covering his tracks, he couldn't risk anyone knowing he was here, he trekked quite far, until he couldn't see the shore of the lake, eventually finding a cave, the Dinobots had been here at some point, the wood was rotten, but the signs of it being used as Swoop's chew toy were evident. He settled down, back against the end of the cave, cannon out, and kept his optics focused on the mouth of the cave, knowing that the only way he would recharge was when the exhaustion finally claimed him.




Longarm was standing in an unfortunately familiar scene, an endless sea of black oil, somehow the Earth's moon had fallen asleep and made it here too, it shone down gently behind him, lighting the scene, even though he was in his real form. The sea was still very deep, reaching his waist, but then he realised, he was in Autobot mode, not his real form, and his frame refused to respond and transform.



‘Insolent... insufferable...’ He heard a voice, his voice, hiss in the distance.



Longarm looked over his sea, spark crawling to the back of its own chamber in preparation for what was to come, and it had every right to, he could just make out something floating in the oil a click away, something that used to be Cybertronian.



‘This is my mind isn't it?’ Longarm mused aloud, looking deeply into the sea.



Something in himself seemed to disagree, and Longarm found himself wading slowly towards the source, he walked and walked, until his pede made contact with a metal floor, then it was like he had never been there, but here the whole time, in this laboratory, this Decepticon laboratory, it was waterlogged with the same black substance as before, wires hanging down from the ceiling, rust as far as the optic could see, computer equipment sparking, surgical equipment dangling, the black oily water here was shallower, but puppeted by a strange current, lapping around him, the computers and the medical berths.



Something had torn this place apart.



‘You tore it apart.’ His voice accused maliciously to the side of him.



Longarm turned quickly, almost falling over in fright, there in front of him, covered in wires and caught between two collapsed supercomputers was himself, optic slitted so thinly in anger it almost became invisible, him, Shockwave struggled in his bonds, trying to reach Longarm, and then he was gone, melted.



‘Shockwave?’ Longarm asked hesitantly.



‘Who else!? Megatron!?’ Shockwave shot back sarcastically, this time to the left, though nothing was there. ‘Well it couldn't be, you helped kill him! He was going to help me remember and you got him killed!’ Shockwave squawked.



‘Y-you're not real.’ Longarm stuttered, looking for a door out of the ruined laboratory, but found nothing.



‘No, you're not real, a delusion created to cope, to help me continue functioning when all I could remember was nothing more than ten solar-cycles of my undercover act.’ Shockwave laughed. ‘I was such a good actor, I even fooled myself.’



Longarm couldn't refute that, but he didn't need to, he realised. ‘I'm real enough to be here, to think, feel and have memories.’



‘And don't you feel miserable knowing everything I know.’ Shockwave said smugly, to his right. ‘Don't you want to end it all? To bury yourself in some damp, dark, festering corner of the universe, where nobody will ever find you till the last bit of your frame corrodes into dust?’ He said from behind him now, the black water moving like something was swimming in it.  ‘O-or maybe to go out in a blaze of glory, show those young brats like Starscream what it really means to be a Decepticon.’



A shadow cast over Longarm and he ran as fast as he could to the other side of the room before Shockwave could do anything to hurt him, he twisted to face him, this time Shockwave was completely black, covered helm to pede in copies of his optic, each one vibrating, like an unstable projection cast upon his body.



‘It's hard, Longarm.’ Shockwave said, letting the oil drip from his claws. ‘It's so hard, trying to recharge, knowing the things I've done, I still hear her Longarm, I still hear her saying she's proud of me, how happy she is for me, then I hear that little gurgle she made when her primary powerline bled into her intake tube.’ He whispered, almost whimpered, then his real optic lidded and the drip turned to a steady flow. ‘But then I think about how proud Megatron is of me, about how much he loves me, about how much I hate those who took everything from me, and it makes: this.’



Longarm looked at him for the monster he was, what they were. ‘We've just been drowning it all out, that's what this all means.’ He realised, gesturing a servo to the mess around them.



Shockwave shrugged, before his body contorted, like a bug in it's death throes, before melting down again, the extra optics that had been on his body floating out like electrolyte fluid, still looking at Longarm. ‘Maybe.’ Echoed softly around him.



Longarm stood there thinking for a while till his optics widened in realisation. ‘I'm this, I-I've been this the entire time, this isn't our mind, this is me!’ He rambled.



The optics in the water quickly disappeared, save for one, which narrowed at him. ‘Whatever do you mean?’ Shockwave drawled.



Longarm irrationally scooped some of the black oil up into his servos, letting it drip down his arms. ‘That's why I've survived so long, because I'm really just this- whatever this thing is on the next level, I was your second chance Shockwave!



You wanted to forget everything underneath this so bad, you wanted to return to a point in time when you did nothing wrong, you wanted to be happy, that's why you made me.’



The eye vanished, then suddenly Shockwave's form roared out of the oil, slamming him into the wall, pinning him with his claws, audials pulled far back and faceplate so close they could touch. ‘I didn't make you!’



‘Then how is it that I've lasted this long!?’ Longarm challenged. ‘Think about it, think about all the encounters I had and I managed to think something completely different happened! Soundwave would have brought you back, but I managed to find a way to keep surviving, because deep down, we didn't want to go back to what we were.’



‘I wanted to forget my burdens, not who I am, you parasite!’ Shockwave defended.



Longarm shook his head. ‘Our burdens are who we are.’



Shockwave threw Longarm clear across the room, crashing him into the side of one of the medical berths. ‘I don't have to listen to you!’ He seethed pointing an accusing claw at Longarm. ‘You've ruined everything! I was to become an intelligence agent, to help take back Cybertron for the only bot who cared about us, and you took that all away!



Now he's offline, and we're trapped on this backwater planet, for pit's sake, you merged with the little scraplet that caused all this!’ In an instant Shockwave was by him, gripping him with a single claw, he pulled Longarm up onto the medical berth, strapping him down without much difficulty from Longarm's resistance. ‘Think of yourself whatever you want, but you're not me, there's no "we", no "us" here, it's just me, and this delusion, this figment of-’



Shockwave paused, optics unfocussed on the distance, his audials wiggling in the pattern they did when a lightning strike of brilliance flashed across his motherboard, suddenly, the laboratory wasn't as dank and dark, a pale blue light shimmered in from an unknown source, getting brighter by the nano-cycle.



‘O-of what?’ Longarm dared to ask, optics staring at Shockwave, and at the highly dangerous equipment dangling over his helm.



Shockwave finally looked back at Longarm. ‘I think we've been had.’ He chuckled in fear, before the two of them were engulfed in the light.






Perhaps you were right.





But did I really make "Longarm" to be my second chance?





Or did something else make that decision for me?






Shockwave booted, his optic snapping open and online in an instant.



The Allspark!



Chapter Text



Longarm and Bumblebee had found the perfect spot to sit at that summer afternoon, and Bumblebee found his perfect spot in Longarm's lap, everything was perfect, no Optimus to order them about, no Ratchet to nag them, no humans to crowd them, nope, just the two of them, an open sky, bird noises, that happy little humming noise Bumblebee did when he was feeling great about another one of his bad ideas.



That last point didn't sound as good when Longarm filtered it through his processor.



‘Soooo, I was thinking.’ Bumblebee started with a playful tone, holding a datapad with the drive-in website's movie schedule uploaded onto it. ‘Should we watch Aliens, Aliens 2: More Aliens or should we watch Aliens Vs. Other Bigger Scarier Aliens? I dunno about you Longy but I'm feeling good about Alien-’



‘Bumblebee, we are not watching a human horror film again, not after Event Horizon.’ Longarm said dryly, Cybertronian horror films were bad enough, but Human ones turned out to be even worse.



He could list off everything terrible, the ship design? Bad, the script? Bad, the science? Especially bad, plus, like all horror movies, he just didn't like it, (but Longarm would sooner become a Decepticon than say that to Bee's faceplate).



Bumblebee blushed a little bit in embarrassment. ‘I was only a little bit scared!’ He defended.



Longarm stopped himself from laughing at the memory. ‘Bumblebee, you were terrified that our ship had been possessed and was out to offline you for a full deca-cycle.’



Bumblebee did his little fidgety digit act, the same he did when he needed a miracle of excuses to get out of the corner he backed himself into. ‘N-no, maybe... ok so I was, so what!? Longy that's the point of spooky films, to spook you! Besides, we saw that part of the ship move on its own, we all saw it! Bulkhead can back me up on this! My reaction was completely natural... a bit.’ Bumblebee explained with a hilarious spectrum of expressions that eventually ended upon acceptance. ‘Ok what about uuuuh... Attack of the Killer Potatoes? They're like little scraplets that live in the ground or something, it's not scary, it's action...y.’



Longarm didn't believe him for one nano-cycle.



‘I'd like to try something different.’ Longarm said, he took the datapad with Bumblebee's permission, scrolling down the list. ‘Oh, they're showing Titanic again, I liked that one.’



‘I don't, that one's sad.’ Bumblebee whined. ‘Who makes a movie where the main character goes on an adventure and dies at the end!? That's not fair!’



‘Titanic was a femme.’ Longarm corrected.



‘Really? Wow... she was pretty heavy duty.’ Bumblebee recoiled, scratching the back of his helm in embarrassment.



‘Bumblebee.’ Longarm vented, a smile on his faceplate. ‘What am I to do with you?’



Bumblebee stretched himself out on Longarm's lap. ‘Oh I know exactly what you'll do with me big guy, but you'll need to give a little something if I'm going to tell you, like maybe a kiss for starters?’



Longarm happily obliged.





Bumblebee booted up to the sounds of an argument, or a tantrum, something loud that he didn't want to process, he fell out of the berth, dragged himself to the door, walked in a beeline directly to the fuelling station, then sat down on the couch, he took sips with an eon between each, staring blankly at the offline TV.



All the while the something loud he didn't want to process continued on, and against his will, he began processing it.



‘No! Me Grimlock no like!’ Grimlock complained.



‘None of us do, the quicker you take it, the sooner it's over.’ Prowl said to calm him.



Bumblebee took another sip to a chorus of Dinobot "No!"s, it was pretty obvious that Prowl was giving them a non-organic meal for the first time, from the sounds of it, the prospective of it being the last time were pretty high.



‘I could disable their taste receptors.’ Ratchet suggested.



The base shook with a stomp. ‘NO! We Dinobots no eat bad water and no go!’ Grimlock whinged.



‘Please, Grimlock, you have to understand that...’



Rather than listen, Bumblebee got back up and stepped outside the base, sitting down on the parking lot to finish his breakfast, staring blankly through his glass to the cracked road below, the weeds that peeked out of it had shrivelled with the cold weather. After a while Bumblebee took out an imagepad, idly taking in each picture as he swiped them by slowly.



The two of them at camp...



In the repair bay...



The two of them giggling at the work of art he left on Ratchet's recharging face...



That one picture that was super blurry because Prowl suplexed Bumblebee before he could prank him and Longarm ran-



The petrol in his glass started shaking with incoming pedesteps, Bumblebee spaced his imagepad and quickly rubbed under his optics.



‘H-hey lil' buddy.’ Bulkhead greeted. ‘You doing ok?’



Bumblebee steeled for a moment, then turned his helm round to Bulkhead, the best fake smile money could buy forced upon it. ‘Hey Bulkhead, what's up?’ He asked, avoiding the question.



‘Not much, oh, the professor called a while back, they found Sari, she's back home now, boy that sure is a relief, right?’ Bulkhead replied falling for it completely.



Bumblebee nodded by about 1 degree of an angle. ‘Yeah.’



Bulkhead lit up with a smile. ‘Want to go see her later today when we come back from the ship?’



‘Sure.’ Bumblebee agreed, taking the last sip of his fuel before dropping the glass on the floor and standing up and walking away.



‘Wait, where're you going?’ Bulkhead asked with worry, he would have asked if Bumblebee was going to look for Longarm but didn't want to risk making Bee angry if it wasn't true.



Bumblebee threw him another false smile. ‘On a drive, tell Bossbot I'll meet him n' Docbot by the lake.’



‘O-ok.’ Bulkhead agreed, waving hesitantly at Bumblebee as he transformed and sped away. ‘Have fun...’



Bulkhead sighed after he lost sight of Bumblebee, Bee only used short sentences when he wanted someone to go away.








‘It's ok Sari, they said they would still call and-’



‘B-but it's not fair, they can't leave!’



‘Sari please, they have to, the Decepticons are...’



Megatron spied on their conversation with muted shock, damn, he had thought the rumour that the Autobots were being forced to leave was nothing more than fuel for drama, but here he was being proved wrong, he couldn't let the Autobots leave, the Allspark and even the key were his only hopes at getting his body back, if he had to suffer an eternity in this state then he would bring down everything with him, every pathetic building, every feeble government, he wouldn't stop till the Earth itself was reduced to rubble and ruin.



And then what would he have? He would eventually have to settle for a cold constructed body like Soundwave's, then keep a low profile till he could find a something capable of forging him a proper frame, and what if he couldn't find the means to make one of those? He'd be stuck giving orders from a lowly position furthest from the front line forever, that was Starscream's code of honour, no Decepticon would look up to him, would follow him then, not even Lugnut.



He considered a moment what their departure would mean for Shockwave, he had to commend Lugnut and Blitzwing for their timely arrivals, if the Autobots had any smidgen of a doubt of Shockwave's identity and allegiance, it was surely obliterated now, the Autobots would leave him behind, and Megatron would be there to pick up the pieces once again, perhaps he could produce the body Megatron desired should all else fail.



Though, that last thought was considering that all else had failed, when he hadn't even begun, and without further delay, he assumed control of his spybot. ‘Lugnut, Soundwave, Blitzwing, your leader needs you.’




Lugnut performed a full body bow to Megatron's avatar. ‘Oh WISE and glorious leader! What is it you command?!’



‘The Autobots are doubling their efforts to leave Earth with the Allspark, I cannot allow this, see to it that they do not get far with their work.’ Megatron's voice commanded from his avatar.



‘Soundwave: is not fully repaired.’ He objected softly, Blitzwing did quite well to solder him back into order, but he was still incredibly weak.



‘Then find the Allspark, make your repairs and stop complaining!’ Megatron hissed. ‘The Allspark belongs to us, if they leave this planet with it then you'll wish you were never resurrected!’



‘Megatron's will is Soundwave's command.’ Soundwave relented, bowing his helm in submission.



In the corner, Blitzwing stared at all this commotion, doing his best to remain level-helmed, on the one servo, here he was doing the complicated bidding of several Decepticons officially considered offline, which was all far too surreal for him, on the other servo, he had never been so close to winning Megatron's favour than this very moment, even if he was half-ghost, or whatever was going on with him, honestly he needed to stop thinking so much about the absurdity of recent events, his craziness had enough fuel as it was.



‘Vhat do ve do about Shockvave?’ He asked in his politest tone, knowing all too well Megatron's ire for having to explain matters.



The spybot focussed its little optic on Blitzwing, and he could almost feel the indignation of the bot behind it. ‘Soundwave has surely explained the situation regarding Shockwave, has he not? Should he be present during our attack, do whatever you need to protect the mission, but leave him functional, do you understand me?!’



Soundwave immediately moved closer to Blitzwing. ‘Do well to keep from actions Blitzwing would regret.’ He threatened quietly.



Megatron's laugh filtered through his avatar. ‘You would do well to listen to your own words my dear Soundwave, remember that Shockwave's situation requires "delicacy".’



‘OooHohOOh! I ZinK he LiKES Me mOrE Zan JoU nOW!’ Blitzwing teased, before being disciplined via a punch to his faceplate from Lugnut.



Megatron hissed a harsh vent. ‘Now, if we are finally done here, I suggest you all get moving and BRING ME THE ALLSPARK!





Bumblebee rejoined the others as he said he would by the lake, the drive didn't do much to alleviate his mood, but he was at least in spirits to talk a little more to the rest of them, especially to ask why on Earth the Dinobots were here too, he thought Prime wanted the ship repaired, not turned into a giant chew toy.



‘They'll be helping me track down missing parts of the ship with the flight path direction Professor Sumdac gave us.’ Prowl explained when he asked.



‘Cool.’ Bumblebee said back with little interest, before being slammed into a hug by said Dinobots.



‘Didn't see Bee friend wakey wake!’ Grimlock bellowed, swinging Bumblebee around.



‘No sleep cuddle either.’ Slag quietly complained.



‘Yeah, yeah, sure, maybe next time.’ Bumblebee admitted, or something like that, anything to get them to put him back down. ‘Can we get on with this?’



‘Come on, we haven't got all cycle.’ Ratchet agreed, lightly smacking Grimlock with the back of his servo.



‘Ok!’ Grimlock said, dropping Bumblebee on the ground aft first. ‘Me Grimlock sniff for shiny stuff!’ He declared proudly. ‘You Bee get boring stuff.’



Just as they were getting ready to move on, Swoop tilted his helm a little to the side, then he looked into the sky. ‘Dinobots?’ He asked the sky.



‘We Dinobots.’ Slag agreed with a nod.



Swoop shook his helm slightly. ‘No, them Dinobots.’ He clarified, pointing a clawed digit at the sky.



It was then that the rest of them had noticed the sound of jet engines in the sky, they looked up and saw two aircraft approaching them, a jet and a bomber, both adorned with awfully Decepticonish colours.



‘Decepticons!’ Optimus shouted, brandishing his axe.



Not a moment later after he said that, the jet and bomber both opened fire upon them, confirming their identities as Blitzwing and Lugnut, they created a thick swarm of missiles that rained the true wrath of Megatron down upon them, everyone separated in panic, dodging to whatever blind spot they could find, Blitzwing and Lugnut passed over them and Blitzwing delivered two cryogenic missiles into the lake, effectively freezing it into a glacier several several metres deep.



‘We'll try to hold them off!’ Optimus yelled to Ratchet and Bumblebee. ‘You two go on ahead.’



‘In case you didn't notice Bossbot, the lake's frozen!’ Bumblebee shrilled as he transformed into his alt-mode and dodged Lugnut's turret fire, making his way onto the frozen lake surface.



‘And in case you didn't notice, we have Dinobots.’ Prowl shot right back, following after him.



Lugnut and Blitzwing were halfway into lining up their next attack run when Swoop transformed and took off into the sky, hoping to get his friends fair advantage he blew blasts of fire towards Lugnut and Blitzwing as they approached, and through the fire and smoke he created Lugnut broke through and rammed into him at full speed, blanketing Swoop's frame over the nose of his alt-mode while Blitzwing fired cryogenic shots at the Autobots below them.



‘AaaAAaaah! My front sensors!’ Lugnut cried out, his frame wobbling from a mix of blindness and revulsion. ‘Get it OFF!’ He commanded as Swoop still found the strength to do what he did best, pry into Lugnut's frame to pull the wires out



‘Get off him Swoop!’ Grimlock threatened to the heavens, he took out his sword and threw it, spearing Lugnut in the wing as he flew past.



Lugnut, thoroughly enraged, blinded, and positively ready to annihilate anything he came across fired missile after missile at everything in existence, bellowing a warcry at the very limit of his vocaliser, he struck down everything that wasn't an Autobot, a signpost, a multitude of trees, and sundered the frozen lake, letting a spiderweb of cracks break the ice, revealing the water beneath. Bumblebee had to come to a screeching halt to avoid falling in, but he had only encountered ice on the TV and had no idea it would make him slip so much that he skidded on the ice, he forced himself back into robot mode before he crashed himself, then rolled to the side of an incoming cryo missile.



‘Guess we won't need those overforged lizards after all.’ Ratchet commented. ‘Don't just sit there Bumblebee, get going!’ He shouted, transforming into vehicle mode, he rolled up to the nearest crack then drove over the edge, diving into the lake.’



Feeling a fool for doing that entire stunt for nothing, Bumblebee rolled quietly into the lake after Ratchet.



Blitzwing for no logical reason suddenly transformed into an assault tank mid-flight. ‘JOU BUNGLING DEFECT! JOU HELPED ZEM ESCAPE!’ He shouted at Lugnut, before his acceleration upwards ceased and he began plummeting downwards.



Lugnut roared, transforming back into his robot form, the moment his helm replaced his cone and his cone became his chestplate he swatted Swoop down, he and Blitzwing fell to the ice with a mighty impact, almost making it a proper lake again, Blitzwing struggled as he fell cannon first into the ice, he fired plasma shots to free himself only to fall into the water, where he swam like a brick.



‘Puny Autobots! You call this a weapon!?’ Lugnut insulted, pulling Grimlock's sword from his backside and throwing it into the lake. ‘THIS is a weapon!’ Taking out his mace, Lugnut swung it like a golfclub, sending Swoop tumbling all the way back to where the Autobots were regrouping, Swoop tried but failed to get back up, the damage from being rammed then struck crippling him.



‘Me Grimlock crush you!’ Grimlock vowed, he and Slag both transforming into dinosaur mode, charging headfirst at Lugnut.



‘Dinobots, wait!’ Prowl called out, running after them.



The turrets on Lugnut's chestplate calibrated, then opened fire.





‘Didn't think we forgot about you, did you old friend?’ Ratchet said softly... to his control panel on the bridge of the ship.



‘Who're you talking too?’ Bumblebee dared to ask, one optic ridge raised in bewilderment.



‘The ship, of course.’ Ratchet replied like Bumblebee asked the stupidest question in the universe. ‘Who else, Unicron? Come along now kid, there's a lot of work and no time to do it.’



‘And we just let Bossbot and those Decepticreeps duke it out, while we play repairbots?’ Bumblebee questioned.



Ratchet huffed with a vent of annoyance, he walked out the bridge and towards a door that Bumblebee had never actually seen open. ‘That's what you think, what if I told you this used to be a military vessel during the war?’ He said, punching a code into the door, it opened with creaks and hisses, then showered the both of them in a gust of old wind and dust



‘I would say that would have been nice to know when the warship was attacking us.’ Bee answered bluntly, wiping dust off his faceplate.



The two of them entered the room which had not been touched for a few thousand vorns, it looked like a control room for something, with its own screens, control panel and commanding chair, but crates, dust and debris were stacked over the entirety of it.



‘That's because the weapons were disabled when it was put into maintenance service.’ Ratchet explained, shoving the crates off of the chair. ‘But we can reactivate and repair them with the key, then those two Decepticons can kiss their afts goodbye.’



The prospect of actual real weapons of Decepticon-kicking firepower lit a small fire in Bumblebee's optics, he flexed the joints in his digits. ‘How can I help?’





They hadn't changed the access code into the ship, most likely because they didn't have the time to, Shockwave was lucky in that regard, almost all Autobot security lied on the outside of their ships (which, judging by when Megatron attacked, had been basically nothing), meaning that as long as those two idiots were making a distraction outside, there would be nothing stopping him from reaching his target. Not wanting to take up any more space than necessary, he transformed back into Autobot mode with little to no    difficulty, his pedes tapped softly against the cargo bay floor as he slowly approached his target, it was quiet at first, then light started emitting from within, and then Shockwave heard it, the beginnings of that same strange song when he met it for the first time.



The Allspark was calling to him.



Though this time he was not weak, and Shockwave resisted its temptation with little effort, he crouched down in front of it, almost kneeing, studying the surface, it's field reached out to greet him, he couldn't help but notice a little hesitance on its part, its noise ebbing away, it couldn't possibly be afraid of him, could it? Perhaps it just realised its little ploy had been found out.



‘When Optimus and Megatron fought.’ Shockwave began, not bothering with any formalities. ‘I was going to remember, I was going to remember everything, but you stopped me.’



A new song began, soft and soothing, no trace of fear, if Shockwave could make an explanation to match it, then it would be that the Allspark, knowing that this had been his intent to seek it out, was perhaps lauding its actions over him, like a proud liar.



‘I am eager for an explanation.’ Shockwave drawled.



Nothing with the Allspark changed, it continued its attempt to calm him, with little result.



Shockwave huffed in amusement. ‘Why did you keep me as Longarm for so long? What did you hope to gain?’



It was silent and Shockwave vented, this had been stupid, trying to get answers out of it, as far as he knew it wasn't capable of speech, let alone a singular thought of reason that he would be able to siphon out of it, he had only scratched the surface of knowledge of the Allspark. He had hoped for a long time that one solar-cycle he would find the Allspark, present it to Megatron as proof of his neverending pledge of allegiance and reap the praise he had once been long starved for, but such a time would never happen now, his master was offline.



He considered for a brief moment, the possibility of resurrecting Megatron, that he could force out of the Allspark, but he hesitated, not even an attempt at his resurrection would save Shockwave from the fact he played an active part in Megatron's death, or that he had failed in his objectives to infiltrate the Autobot hierarchy.



Shockwave was hesitant to admit it, but he was terrified of what Megatron would do to him, he considered Soundwave for a brief moment, but their time apart and Soundwave's obsession with what they once had was too much for him to bear, then there were the Autobots, even if he wanted to he could never go back.



Shockwave offlined his Autobot optics, tilting his helm forwards till it clinked against the abstract surface of the Allspark's container, if he could he would make it pay for what it had done to him, would tear it apart into a million pieces and with loving care crush each and every bit of it till nothing remained but dust, it shouldn't have interfered! Even if he had offlined with Megatron, falling to Earth in a ball of fire, consumed in a prolonged and painful death, that end would have been far more fitting for him than this limbo he was now cursed to wander in, forced to remember all of his deeds, to belong to nobody, to go from drowning his regret to drowning in it.



He couldn't function like this.



‘If you won't give me answers, then give me an ending.’ Shockwave demanded with a low hiss, he gritted his digits against his thighs when, after a long silence, nothing happened. ‘You know exactly what I want! I- I don't want to remember anymore, you got what you wanted, I can't bear this- these-’ Shockwave raked half-formed claws against himself in frustration. ‘If I am to live out the rest of my runtime in exile, then at least give me back some dignity!’ He commanded, throwing half-claws against the surface of the Allspark, desperate to find the opening mechanism to force it to do his wish. ‘I can't stand it... please...’ He begged. ‘I... I want to go back.



Something cold and hard pressed to the back of his helm.



‘Me too.’ Ratchet murmured.



Shockwave held deathly still. ‘You're very stealthy for an old bot.’ He complimented coldly.



‘You're older than me.’ Ratchet replied without a hint of humour, aligning his EMP generator exactly so that no part of Shockwave's memory core would go untouched.



Shockwave found himself nodding. ‘Yes, a shame about your frame.’ He insulted. ‘But I suppose that's just an unfortunate side effect of an accelerated forging process, accelerated degrading.’ Shockwave opened his optics again after a silence passed between them. ‘What are you waiting for?’



‘Why did you do it? Make the cortical patch... sparkwash all those bots... what made you do it?’ Ratchet interrogated.



Shockwave narrowed his optics. ‘Don't ask questions you're not prepared to know the answer to, old man.’



‘Try me.’ Ratchet goaded.



Shockwave laughed aloofly then began. ‘Because they loved me Ratchet, Soundwave loved me, Megatron loved me... I did everything for their approval, for that feeling they gave me, I even tore out my caretakers spark to prove that I was worthy of their-’



‘You don't know the meaning of the word!’ Ratchet growled, his disgust growing by ten sizes.



‘You're wrong old man, I have a full comprehension, after all...’ Shockwave turned his helm as far as he could so he could cruelly meet Ratchet's gaze with his own. ‘Longarm loved Bumblebee.’ Shockwave collapsed forwards, for once having a proper intake was a negative, for he heaved out what little petrol he consumed on the way here, Ratchet's pede on his backstrut had forced it out of him. ‘I-I honestly don't know what you were expecting Ratchet.’ He managed to taunt once his tank had settled.



Ratchet shook behind him. ‘Did you know what they were being used for? Your inventions?’ He questioned again, changing the subject.



Shockwave laughed, slow, then it got so quick and loud he hurt his own audials. ‘Of course, I knew the whole time, I-I didn't care.’ Shockwave clenched his digits deep into the cargo bay floor, piercing the hard metal. ‘I-I I didn't care- I don't want to care, it feels awful, the more I remember...’ Shockwave rambled, a shake passing through his frame, his carefully constructed firewalls breaking down once again, like they were made of dirt. ‘I did terrible things Ratchet, I killed my own caretaker Ratchet, I... I-



I even tried to kill Bumblebee.’ He finished with a whimper.



To his absolute surprise, the EMP generator was lifted away.



Shockwave would have gotten up and slapped Ratchet around the helm if it didn’t make his situation any worse. ‘What are you doing!? I deserve it old man, do it before I do it myself!



‘That would be too kind on you.’ Ratchet replied calmly. ‘But... maybe there is a hope for you.’



Shockwave narrowed his optics. ‘DO IT! How dare you!? I'll pull your spark out the moment you lower your guard old man! I-’



‘Listen Shockwave, listen good, I want you to put your servos out where I can see them at all times.’  Ratchet interrupted, stepping off Shockwave and kicking him softly in encouragement ‘I'm taking you to your stasis pod, then I'll see that you'll get that ending you want.’



Shockwave hesitantly lifted himself off the floor, servos raised in front of him. ‘You'll erase my memories? Turn me back into Longarm?’



‘Pit, if you could recover from a fried memory core what makes you think I can do anything?’ Ratchet scolded him. ‘No, I have a different redemption in mind for you, last I heard the stockade's rehabilitation program had some promising results, heh.’ Rachet huffed with a grim amusement. ‘Maybe they'd have worked out the kinks by now, get moving, you have a long recharge ahead of-’



‘If Shockwave is harmed, Soundwave: will have your spark, Autobot.’



Ratchet spun round, charging up his EMP generator. ‘DOES EVERONE KNOW THE CODE TO THE SHIP!?’



The last thing Shockwave remembered? A beautiful piece of music.





‘After all these vorns, it is finally ours.’ Soundwave whispered triumphantly after he had driven the Autobot medic away, limping to and kneeling in front of the Allspark, brushing a servo over it gently, he couldn't even afford to get excited, it would be so intense that it would burn the circuitry of his frame, he turned to his enthralled Shockwave. ‘Shockwave: protect me, kill any Autobot who tries to interfere, Soundwave: must have his true frame.’



‘Yes, Soundwave.’ Shockwave responded, optics and cannon focussed on the door Ratchet escaped through.



Without any further delay, Soundwave caressed the Allspark, working his digits over it till he found the seals that opened it up, he bathed the cargo bay in an impossibly blue, almost white light, the aura swirling around the Allspark suddenly changed, the eerie song becoming agitated whispers, the room darkened around them.



‘Restore Soundwave.’ He commanded, placing his servo on it's almost infinite surface.



A scream pulsed through the air, knocking Shockwave backwards, it's aura whipping around the two of them, the light consuming Soundwave's optics completely.



Soundwave finally realised that scream was his own, as his frame melted around him.




‘Come on, work already!’ Bumblebee cursed, smacking the panels as if that would work, only to send a few buttons flying. ‘Oh scrap, go back, goback!’ He squeaked, waving the key around until a keyhole appeared. ‘What's taking Docbot so long!?’ he said to himself anxiously, watching the buttons pop themselves back in.



‘Bumblebee, status on those cannons?’ Optimus asked hurriedly through the comm. ‘We're taking a beating out here.’



‘OoohOoHoO, TeLl HIm i ZaID hI!’ Came Blizwing's voice, followed by the sounds of plasma fire both fizzling and cracking the water.



‘Blitzwing says hi.’ Optimus said curtly.



‘Bossbot I'm trying!’ Bee defended anxiously.



The door behind him hissed and opened, Ratchet dragged himself inside, his systems overheated and his frame riddled with clawmarks.



‘Docbot!?’ Bumblebee gasped, taking the key out and running to him. ‘What happened?’



Ratchet slapped his caring servos away, moving towards the controls. ‘Don't use that on me, we have bigger problems! Soundwave and Shockwave are making a grab for the Allspark!’



Bumblebee stepped back in shock, almost dropping the key, they... Longarm wouldn't- Soundwave had to be controlling him, didn't he?



‘Switch places Docbot, you get the ship up, I'll take care of the Waves.’ Bumblebee said, taking back the step he lost.



Ratchet snatched the key from him and went back to repairing the security station with a hurried fervour. ‘Don't be an idiot Bumblebee, we have to get O- the ship's security back online!’ He stuttered angrily.



Bumblebee gritted his derma and clenched his servos. ‘And let Soundwave just roll up and take the Allsp-’



He stopped when an awfully Soundwave-like scream tore through the insulated walls, and didn't stop.



What in the Allspark is that!?’ Ratchet exclaimed, chilled to his struts.



‘Sounds like Longarm showing Scrapwave exactly what he had coming to him!’ Bumblebee said, and ran out of the security room, ignoring Ratchet's objections.



He hesitated a little on the door leading to the cargo bay but gathered the courage, Longarm would be on the other side, not whatever monster Ratchet and Soundwave wanted, and he'd kick Soundwave's aft! He charged into the cargo bay, then immediately had to cover his optics and squint from the intense light the Allspark was giving off, Longarm was on the floor, cannon out and helm cradled in both servos, but over by the Allspark Soundwave was writhing about like a dying fish whilst his frame was being reforged, whatever the Allspark was doing to make it happen, it was painful.



Bumblebee covering his optics as much as he could ran up to Soundwave and lifted a pede up to stomp on him as hard as he could, only to be knocked back by the Allspark's energy storming around him, he fell back right next to Longarm. Soon the light faded, the Allspark's container slid shut, and Soundwave stopped screaming and moving altogether.



‘Ugh...’ Longarm moaned, his optics readjusting to the dim light of the cargo bay.



‘Longarm?’ Bumblebee asked hesitantly, softly reaching to him. ‘He didn't-’



Longarm moved away from Bumblebee's reach, quickly getting up. ‘My name is Shockwave.’ He said coldly, staring straight into Bumblebee's optics, relishing the look of despair that slowly crept onto his faceplate.



(But why did it hurt him to see it?)



Bumblebee shook his helm, he reached for Longarm again, his entire frame trembling. ‘N-no, Longarm that's-’



‘Do not stand in my way, Bumblebee.’ Shockwave stated, before he turned towards Soundwave's prone frame.



He took off into a sprint, then did what Bumblebee could not and drove his pede straight into Soundwave's side, Soundwave reacted instantly, he flipped onto his back and with his speakers and blew Shockwave backwards, Shockwave then charged up his cannon.



‘Shockwave: stop.’ Soundwave commanded, rising with unexpected speed.



‘I'll stop when you are offline.’ Shockwave hissed back, almost hysterically, using his cannon against Soundwave, who dodged with a lethal grace. ‘I'm not yours to control!’



‘Soundwave: did what he had to do.’ He defended, getting closer to Shockwave as he evaded his attacks. ‘Shockwave: remembers, Longarm: offline, there is no need for us to fight any more!’



Frustrated and desperate, Shockwave threw his half-claws at Soundwave, only to be surprised when Soundwave caught both his servos and refused to be moved by Shockwave's strength, the two of them struggled to gain the edge over the other. ‘You're wrong Soundwave!’ Shockwave disagreed. ‘You promised you would never use your sigma ability on me!’



Then it was Soundwave's turn to argue. ‘You promised we would never be separated again!’ He accused back.  ‘Shockwave: promised me his spark!’



Shockwave finally gained the edge on Shockwave and his superpowered form, throwing him into crates he had once taken pride in stacking neatly. ‘You died Soundwave! You died and I had to move on.’ Shockwave rebutted, standing tall over Soundwave. ‘Do you think you can just take whatever you want from me and pretend like it never happened?!’



Soundwave powered up his speakers. ‘Then forgive Soundwave for breaking his promise once more.’



He activated his sigma ability, playing his music, but Shockwave was unmoved by it, he pounced on Soundwave and punched him, taking him by surprise, how was it that his ability no longer worked? Soundwave couldn't let this shock weaken him, he blocked and parried what punches he could, tumbling the two of the across the cargo bay.




The door to the security room opened, and to Ratchet's absolute surprise, Bumblebee was intact, dragging the Allspark with him.



Ratchet's jaw almost dropped off. ‘How did you-’



‘N-nevermind, how quick can you get that thing online? I don't think their breakup fight's going to last too long.’ Bumblebee said quickly, a lot more quickly than usual.



‘Almost done.’ Ratchet said, just as the security console began roaring back to life. ‘Prime, draw them closer to the ship.’ He said over the comm.



‘Did you crack your processor Ratchet? We're supposed to be keeping them away from the ship!’ Optimus exclaimed.



Ratchet watched Bumblebee run back into the cargo bay with a wary optic. ‘Trust me, I have a plan.’




Shockwave and Soundwave circled each other, both waiting for the other to act, neither noticing the absence of Bumblebee or, more importantly, the Allspark.



‘I can't go back Soundwave, not after what I've done.’ Shockwave seethed. ‘Why can't you get that through your thick processor!?’



Soundwave was the first to get tired of waiting, he dashed into Shockwave's reach, whipping out his cables he used them to pierce Shockwave's chestplate, sending a charge through them and knocking him to the floor, with Soundwave on top of him. ‘Shockwave: fails to understand that he has already been forgiven.’ He whispered. ‘Shockwave: will be forgiven even for this, because Megatro-’



Pedesteps ran behind him. ‘Hey Scrapwave, how about a taste of your own medicine!?’ Bumblebee taunted, before landing both stingers on Soundwave's back, putting all the power he could into them.



Soundwave flinched, before his target became Bumblebee, his cables tried to find their way into Bumblebee, who stung them away when they got too close, Bumblebee tried slipping around Soundwave, but his Allspark upgrade gave him the fighting power he needed to keep Bee on a retreating spree. Bumblebee realised this only when his backplates met the airlock, Soundwave chuckled, charging up his speakers for a lethal blow, only to be thrust into Bumblebee's chestplates by none other than Shockwave, his cannon still smoking from the shot.



Shockwave's unintelligible feelings warped around his faceplate, coming to the slow realisation of what he had done, then he recovered, his faceplate becoming unreadable, he looked towards the Allspark to find out it was missing, panicking, he shot the controls to the airlock, opening it up on both sides and flooding the cargobay with water, dragging Bumblebee and Soundwave with it.



Without further delay, Shockwave retreated once more.




‘RUN YOU SNIVELLING COWARDS!’ Blitzwing's angry persona bellowed as he followed the Autobots, taking every moment he could to shoot them into the next life. ‘I'LL HACK YOUR SYSTEMS! I'LL FRAG YOUR HARDDRIVES! I'LL CRUSH YOUR CAPACITORS!’



‘There it is!  Lugnut said triumphantly as they finally caught site of the crashed Autobot ship. ‘I can almost feel it! The Allspark is almo-’



Lugnut didn't get to finish his sentence, he and Blitzwing's swimming ceased the moment they saw a turret emerge from the ship and focus on them, charging up.







Bumblebee had the nagging feeling that him booting up with Longarm and Soundwave both missing was going to be happening to him a lot.



Shaking the water out of his helm, he stood up to see Ratchet taking care of everyone's wounds, the Dinobots curiously absent, they all looked just about as miserable as he felt, the image of Longarm shying away from him in revulsion, it wasn't on an imagepad, it didn't need to be, it would be in his processor for a very long time.



‘I estimate one deca-cycle at minimum to get the ship airborne, another to be able leave the system.’ Ratchet said to Optimus after he patched him up. ‘The good news is that if Soundwave or Shockwave want to get back in they'll have to be prepared for the security system to ship them back in pieces.’



Bumblebee wanted to argue and say that Shockwave wasn't teaming up with Soundwave like Ratchet thought they did, but that wouldn't do much to change his mind, and despite what Longarm had said to him, he knew that in the end that he was wrong.



After all, Longarm saved him from Soundwave.



“Don't give up, Bumblebee.”



‘I won't.’ He promised softly, before walking over to the others. ‘Where're the Dinobots?’ He eventually asked.



Prowl looked at Bumblebee, and for once in his runtime, Bumblebee saw him with a real actual expression: despair.



‘They ran away.’





Lugnut and Blitzwing both broke the surface of the water, still alive.



But in pieces.



‘HELp! GIve mE a sERvO, Or- OR A pEde, HoW aBout A peLViS?’ Blitzwing pleaded to Lugnut as he struggled to keep himself afloat.



On a slightly serious note, Lugnut looked towards the heavens. ‘Oh master! I have failed you! Show me a sign that you FORGIVE me!’ He wailed.



‘Soundwave: forgives you, for now.’ Soundwave said, approaching them from the nearby shore, he went to retrieve their frames, but stalled when something in him itched, he knew his fuel tank and power supply were low, but failed to see why that would be important as if this moment.



‘OOooH, joU LooK DiffEReNt, did JoU gET Jour HelM donE?’ Blitzwing teased Soundwave, laughing at Lugnut's futile struggle to reach and discipline him.



Their squabbling ceased at the approach of a jet, and even Soundwave stood back and watched the jet as transformed.



‘Blitzwing, Lugnut, how good to see the two of you online.’ Starscream drawled. ‘And this must be the famous Soundwave (a little shorter than I thought you'd be).’ He said, turning to said Soundwave. ‘(Does he usually shake like that?)’ He quickly asked aside to Lugnut and Blitzwing. ‘My name is Starscream, don't be jealous but after your tragic passing I succeeded you as Megatron's second in command, and now that our poor beloved leader has rejoined the Allspark, I had no choice but to succeed him.’ He introduced himself with a slightly sarcastic bow.



‘Starscream.’ Soundwave acknowledged, he edged closer to Starscream, the strange itch returned, his cables revealing themselves without his conscious decision to.



‘Yes, that's my name.’ Starscream sighed.



Just as he was thinking that Soundwave was a bit slow in the processor, he became acutely aware that he was now on the flat of his backstrut, with Soundwave on top of him, and two cables punched directly into his powerlines, draining them dry, that pit-spawned bane to his authority was draining him! Starscream lived up to his designation, thrashing and trying to pry Soundwave off of him, but for an Autobot sized Decepticon he was very strong.



Blitzwing's face had changed to one of shock throughout this turn of events. ‘Zat is... somezing...’ He uttered.



GET OFF ME!’ Starscream shrieked, pointing a null ray at Soundwave, firing it, then shoving, kicking and scrabbling away from his attacker, shakily getting to his pedes, he put his servos on his puncture wounds. ‘Spawn of a- you sparkeater! Parasite! How dare you!’ He insulted as he found the strength to transform and fly right back from whence he came, how dare he, he was going to get them to finally admit he was the leader of the Decepticons in exchange for pulling them back together, nobody told him about this!



One thing was for certain, the next time he saw Shockwave? He was going to get everything that was coming to him.






Longarm wasn't aware of how long he had been unconscious, or if he had fallen into recharge, neither having left this place or stayed in it at all, the place he had been in last was gone, and instead he was in the original dank, gloomy and boundless ocean, he wandered around the black ocean in a confused daze, piecing together what had transpired today whilst Shockwave was in control.



‘What makes you think he's Shockwave?’ Came a voice, his own voice, again.



Longarm looked at the voice's owner, another Longarm, neither an Autobot or Decepticon symbol on him looking at him curiously for an answer, they were in the ruined version of Shockwave's apartment, the objects he had smashed in anger floating upon the black oil, which surrounded them like it had never not been like this.



Longarm thought good and hard on it for a moment before answering. ‘Because he is?’ With considerable confusion in his tone.



The other Longarm wasn't as quick to agree. ‘True, he looks and sounds just right for the part, but I don't it scientifically wise to call him Shockwave, in the sense that he is Shockwave, last I recall, before our amnesia, Shockwave didn't have the tendency to regret his actions, or be the kind to spare Autobots.’ He explained, walking slowly around Longarm. ‘Neither did he comprise himself completely out of this metaphysical manifestation of a cryptic metaphor.’ He added, referring to the oil around them.



Longarm furrowed his optical ridges before shaking his helm in confusion. ‘I-I don't understand.’



‘Neither did I, but I've figured it out, more or less.’ The other Longarm said nonchalantly. ‘The short answer is that we exist because we can't understand, the long answer is we don't exist, I don't, neither do you, neither does the one that had his pity party earlier, we're all actors on a set, a scene that makes it easier for the processor to render.’



Longarm's CPU was warning him vehemently against attempting to parse what had been said. ‘I'm sorry, what?’ He said softly.



‘Not very scientific I know, but psychology was never really our strongest field, was it?’ The other Longarm reassured, going over to their table and sitting by it. ‘Trying to processes it all would be like matter colliding with antimatter, so in our infinite wisdom we've turned to abstraction, a cushioning blow for a thousand click fall.’



Longarm, the real(?) Longarm followed him, sitting down at the other side. ‘Am I... are we turning into something along the lines of Blitzwing?’ He asked.



‘I hope not, we'll merge... or maybe we'll disappear, I have roughly the same estimate for either happening.’ He said, making an unsure gesture with his servo. ‘The truth is still out there somewhere.’



‘And what is the truth?’ Longarm asked again, keeping up this casual interrogation.



The other Longarm shrugged softly. ‘Well, you were half-right with your own hypotheses in the last flux we had, but you are the original as well as the cushion for the fall, given charge by the Allspark.’ He elucidated. ‘Or perhaps I'm the cushion.’ He said with doubt, taking a stylus that had been on the table and tapping it to his intake in deep thought.



‘So I'm just a fragment?’ Longarm confirmed.



‘Shockwave we are talking about abstraction of the consciousness, we're all fragments.’ The other Longarm snorted in amusement. ‘And what more are sparks but balls of energy parading in armour powered by our own charge, made from fragments of other energy balls, all descended from fragments of the one that once lay at the core of our homeworld?



And what made that? What came before it and before that? Where does the Allspark fit into this? Shockwave, we are but fragments of the very stars, of existence itself.’ The other Longarm monologued with increasing fervour, a passion of understanding that came from deep within. ‘It's funny, kind of, our spark is a form of energy so highly concentrated that it cannot "think" or understand itself on its own, the energy needs to be filtered out through components, each component housing a different amount of spark energy, and these components are both separate and whole, just as we are separate and whole, you need to pay more attention Shockwave, this was all covered in our first module of Year Two.’



Longarm's optics finally lit up with understanding. ‘You're Shockwave, back when he- when we joined the Iacon academy.’



The other Longarm, Shockwave smiled. ‘Almost, I am nothing more than a seeker of knowledge, the quencher of our learning thirst, from Cybertron's exact point in the universe, to the exact number and position of cuts one would need to make before they can stash a live Minibot in their subspace.’ He elucidated with a smile on his face.



Longarm winced, taken aback by his other's words. ‘Was- was that really necessary to know?’



Shockwave nodded. ‘At the time it was, almost as it was necessary for the Allspark to intervene as it did.’



Intrigued by Shockwave's segue Longarm leaned forwards, almost a little to desperately. ‘You know why it did this to us!?’



Shockwave laughter rang throughout the flux. ‘Why wouldn't it? It saw our pain, it gave us what we wanted, whether we realised it was what we wanted or not, I know at the time we wouldn't have asked for it, but we didn't really have much of a choice, in the end the Allspark does as it pleases.’



Longarm was going to question further, to get as much as he could out of this aspect of Shockwave before the other looked away from him, a different kind of brilliant thought striking his faceplate, and just as it had done before, it began to get brighter, pure white light seeping through the apartment door and the cracks in the wall.



Shockwave set down the stylus he had been fiddling with and looked at Longarm one final time. ‘I think I figured out which of the two outcomes is happening.’



They were engulfed in light.






What did we learn today, "Longarm"?






Your actions on board the Autobot spaceship were entirely your own, though I admit compromised with the introduction of an acute emotional burden, it couldn't be helped I suppose.






I look forward to working with you.





Chapter Text



‘Grimlock? Swoop? Slag?’ Prowl called out into the forest of Dinobot Island as he ventured deeper. ‘It's me, Prowl!’



He called and he called, but the only thing that answered him was a hasty rustling in the distant trees, a sudden parting of birds, they were here, it was obvious, the snow was dirty and melted with countless pedestepes, trees bore the scars of their self care, but they weren't beside him, they weren't coming back to him. At first, he thought they were scared, who wouldn't be if they were caught helm-first in Lugnut's explosive punch attack, but as each solar-cycle passed and passed since then, there had been no improvement, Dinobots were still hiding away from him, and Prowl just couldn't understand why.



‘Dinobots, please, I can protect you from the Decepticons!’ Prowl implored. ‘I won't let them hurt you again, I swear!’



It was a short while afterwards that Optimus became active on his commlink. ‘Prowl, return to base, now.’ He commanded lividly.



Prowl almost couldn't stop the tremor in his frame at being caught. ‘But-’



‘That's an order Prowl, we need to have a talk, in private.’ Was Optimus's last words, cutting the call.



Knowing it wasn't any wiser to defy a direct order than it was to leave the Dinobots alone, Prowl reluctantly obeyed, turning around and heading back, when he was gone Grimlock cautiously peeked out between the trees, noting Prowl's fading scent, then made the signal, two swats of his tail against the ground, causing snow to fall out the trees and onto him.



‘We come out now?’ Slag asked timidly, to which Grimlock nodded.



‘Him Prowl, too nosy.’ Grimlock huffed, blowing small tufts of flame to melt the snow on him.



‘Prowl, worried.’ Swoop commented sadly.



An angry blow of steam shot out Grimlock's vents. ‘What if purple faces follow? Him Prowl only bring more hurt, me Grimlock feel it.’ He argued, turning to head back to their cave, miffed that he had to keep leaving whenever Prowl came along to shout at them, out in the open where those Decepticons could hurt them again, being hurt was the worst feeling, and Grimlock didn't ever want to experience it ever again.



Swoop and Slag shared a silent look, before following after.




Optimus was waiting for Prowl inside his own room, the closest they could get to a prefect's office. ‘This is the fifth time I've ordered you not to go looking for the Dinobots and to do as you're told.’ Optimus scolded the moment the door closed behind Prowl, servos crossed and an angry expression burned into his faceplate. ‘What is it about my orders that you find so hard to understand?!’ He demanded, a little harder than he meant to.



Prowl stood perfectly still and calm, his usual perfect emotionless disguise at full play, until he spoke. ‘I can't leave them alone out there, what if the Decepticons find them?’ He explained, using all the power in his CPU to sound objective, not subjective.



‘Then we can only hope that if that happens, they will call us.’ Optimus replied with a defeated sigh.



Prowl shook his helm in frustration, lifting a servo to hold it then gesture outwards in objection. ‘They're no better than sparklings Prime! They don't know wha-’



‘What war is, or what it's like to be beaten within a nano-cycle of their runtime Prowl.’ Optimus interrupted, walking away slightly to look out the dirty windows of his room. ‘That was their first real battle, with an enemy that was out to offline them, Meltdown at least was looking to take prisoners.’ He said, turning back to Prowl when he finished. ‘There's nothing we can do, except wait for them to come back on their own, running after them hasn't worked Prowl, I think it's high time for a change in your tactics.’



‘Then promise me that we bring them back when we leave Earth.’ Prowl demanded sternly.



Optimus was silent and still, until he shook his helm. ‘I can't.’



Prowl's visor darkened, servos clenched unconsciously. ‘You promised Bumblebee.’ He mentioned, jealousy plucking at his circuits.



Optimus stiffened, but not out of outrage, rather regret. ‘I said that to comfort him, I shouldn't need to do the same with you, speaking of which, he only needed me to tell him thrice.’ Optimus enlightened him, purposely adding rust to Prowl's wounds. ‘Now go to Powell Industries and get me those durasteel alloys like I ordered, if I find you've been taking any further detours to Dinobot Island I will have you confined to your stasis pod for the remainder of the mission.



Is that understood, Prowl?’



Prowl nodded through the shame. ‘Yes, Prime.’



As Prowl left Optimus' room and towards the base entrance, he couldn't help but grit his dermas and flex his transformation seams as he went, this is why he wanted to keep the Dinobots a secret from him in the first place, Optimus didn't understand, none of them did! The Dinobot's couldn't be left on their own, how many times did he have to list the reasons why!? But none of them listened to him, too focused on seeing how fast they could get the ship airborne, too willing to abandon this wonderful planet they had found, too willing to abandon the Dinobots.



The moment he entered the main room, Bumblebee tilted his head behind him to face Prowl, a mocking smile and beaming optics meeting his gaze.



‘Guess you know how it feels, huh?’ Bumblebee said.



Prowl instantly transformed and drove away, but not before Bumblebee noticed the look of pure outrage on his faceplate.



Optimus entered the main room shortly afterwards, Bumblebee turning his attention to him now that his primary target was gone. ‘Did something crawl up Prowl's tailpipe and die there?’ He asked.



‘We're leaving, Bumblebee.’ Optimus replied abruptly, ignoring the jab. ‘Are you ready?’



‘Been ready for a whole vorn.’ Bumblebee joked lightly, getting up and stretching his joints.



Optimus looked at the entrance to the base for a short while. ‘Let's roll out.’ He said eventually.



The two of them set off towards the ship in silence, save for the noise of their engines, but once they had started leaving the city limits, Optimus took initiative and spoke.



‘How're you holding up Bumblebee?’ He asked.



‘Ok.’ Bumblebee replied shortly.



‘If you don't mind me asking.’ Optimus started. ‘How do you hold up? After everything's that happened, you recovered pretty fast.’ The "compared to Prowl" part was left unspoken.



Bumblebee took his time with giving an answer, and Optimus noted that he had slowed down by a tiny margin. ‘I dunno, guess I got used to it.’ Was his eventual, hurried answer.



Optimus frowned internally as they approached the lake, perhaps he had misjudged Bumblebee's acceptance of the situation compared to Prowl.



He hoped that he didn't have to tell him a fourth time.





‘Sorry toots, little miss Sumdac still ain't taking visitors.’ The robot secretary said, not even paying attention to her Autobot visitor.



‘Aww.’ Bulkhead sighed. ‘Can I leave a message?’



‘Sure, whatevah.’ It shrugged, continuing to type loudly on its keyboard.



‘Hi Sari, it's me Bulkhead, just to say I really miss you and so does everyone else aaand uh, hope you repair soon.’ He blurted out as thoughtfully as he could in the small time available.



‘Thanks for visiting Sumdac Towa's, have a nice day sugar.’ The robot secretary droned out the moment it was done.



Bulkhead vented as he went into the garages in the tower's basement, none of them had seen Sari after she returned home, having being refused entry anywhere past the reception, the professor said that she had been through a lot and so she needed some timealone, but that was a whole decacycle ago.



‘I guess humans repair slow.’ Bulkhead mumbled to himself, picking up the capasitors the professor made for them.



He just wished she repaired a little sooner, Bumblebee and Prowl were outright miserable, if there was anyone who could put a little smile on their faceplates, it would be Sari for sure, pit, they all needed a little smile put on their faceplates, all this talk of Longarm being a Decepticon, having to leave the planet, and having a good portion of humans hating them just made everyone miserable.



Bulkhead loaded the goods into his subspace then drove out into the city streets, trying not to let himself get upset when someone threw a can at him on the way home.



Soon it wouldn't be home much longer.



The streets grew sparser as he drove outwards, the tower becoming just a small pinprick on the horizon, Bulkhead almost let his mood lift, but then at a stoplight one of the cars turning into his road pulled down its window, and the person inside threw something a little harder than a can, namely a brick, it smashed Bulkhead's driver's side window while the car sped down the road at top speed.



Bulkhead transformed in a mix of panic and offense, his plating ejecting the brick and the broken glass with it. ‘H-hey!’ He shouted at the car just as it disappeared down another road. ‘Y-you...’ He trailed off before venting, his CPU failing to form any kind of comeback for him.



‘Well that weren't too nice of them, was it?’ Said a human on the pavement to the side of him.



Bulkhead turned round to look at the human, he was carrying a bunch of large thin bags and his shirt had funny splotches of colour on it. ‘Yeah.’ Bulkhead mumbled, agreeing in a way. ‘I just wish it didn't happen all the time.’



The human nodded his head so incredibly softly. ‘It's a shame really, all these bright, young folks, they see the bad things happening in the world, makes them angry and well, they take it out on people who do a little bad just to feel better about themselves, but that just makes the people they take it out on want to spread that ol' anger somewhere else doesn't it?’



Bulkhead thought about it for a little bit, he did always get into a bad mood whenever someone was nasty to him. ‘I guess.’ He agreed awkwardly. ‘Well, I, uh, I have to go now, nice talking to ya.’ Bulkhead excused, not wanting Optimus to get snappy at him for being late.



The human nodded again, before setting down one bag and then reaching into his other. ‘Before you go, don't suppose you'd want to take one of these back to the robot planet?’ He asked, taking out a strange object. ‘Just in case your robot friends there ever ask what Earth's like.’



The object he was holding was something that Bulkhead's graphics card and processor starting having an argument over, technically it was white fabric stretched over wood with paints spilled on it, but visually it looked like... a mountain? With some trees and a house and flowers?



‘What is it?’ Bulkhead asked, tilting his helm and zooming in on the object.



‘Don't tell me you don't have art back home, do you?’



Bulkhead's optics and expression remained dulled. ‘Who's art?’ He said.



The human laughed. ‘How about I show you?’




Bulkhead didn't arrive back at the base till the sun was starting to set, his entire chassis covered in splotches of paint and an excited buzz dancing over his frame, however to the other Autobots he looked like a huge mess.



‘What the pit happened kid?’ Ratchet enquired with a raised optical ridge. ‘The fleshies get you?’



Bulkhead transformed with a big smile on his faceplate. ‘Nonono! Well, actually yeah, a bit.’ He denied, then admitted. ‘But then I met this other human and he showed me what art is and we spent all day painting and I made this!’ Bulkhead explained in a torrent, pulling a splotchy canvas out of his subspace, before pulling another. ‘And this, and this, ooh and this one too.’



Optimus, Bumblebee and Ratchet began gathering at the sight of Bulkhead pulling out piece after piece of art, each one slightly better than the last, his final piece was what could only be assumed was a painting of the Autobots.



Optimus scratched his jaw clamps, processing the images hard. ‘So... I... uh, I don't quite see the logic in doing Human art Bulkhead, from the looks of it their printers aren't too accurate.’ He critiqued with a confused shake of his helm, staring hard at Bulkhead's first try at painting a lake.



Bulkhead shook his helm sharply. ‘Nonono, you make this all with your servos, it's about expressing yourself!’ He blabbered.



Ratchet walked up to Bulkhead slowly. ‘And you spent 4 mega-cycles, not doing something useful, but making this?’ He asked sternly, servos crossed.



‘Y-yeah.’ Bulkhead replied, timidly fiddling with his claws.



‘If you ask me, you just wasted your time, no bot saved anyone with "art".’ Ratchet scolded, before returning to the med bay.



Bulkhead stomped a pede and fisted his claws. ‘It's not supposed to save anyone I'm just... I dunno, I was just trying to express how I feel.’ He defended himself, sagging as the sentence passed from frustration to defeat.



He began picking up and subspacing all his work, his pride for them several times lower than before, but what could he do really? At the end of the day he didn't do anything to fix the ship and that was all that really mattered right now. He went to pick up the picture of the Autobots that he made, only to find it in Bumblebee's servos, staring quietly at the portrait of Longarm.



‘Oh, buddy.’ Bulkhead sighed sadly. ‘I-I shouldn't hav-’



‘I like it.’ Bumblebee interrupted softly, looking at Bulkhead with a small smile.



Bulkhead fidgeted a bit on the spot. ‘O-oh, thanks.’ He replied.





Soundwave braced himself for the collision that comprised of Lugnut's servo and his entire being, flying across their hideout and into a wall, crumpling at the base of it moments later, the one-armed Lugnut went forwards to strike him again, until Megatron's avatar came between them.



‘That is enough, Lugnut.’ Megatron ordered smoothly, but coldly. ‘Your part in his punishment is over.’



‘Yes, as you wish my liege!’ Lugnut obeyed with a bow, knowing Megatron would like a private conversation with the unfavoured Soundwave, he left to finish repairing himself before Blitzwing got to any of his parts, glad that he wasn't going to be close to Soundwave anymore, that new power of his... Lugnut didn't like being Energon, that was all he would say on the matter.



Megatron's avatar paced slowly towards Soundwave, who manoeuvred himself into a more comfortable position on the floor. ‘Though it pleasures me greatly to see how well your new frame has withstood Lugnut's strength, I cannot help but wonder if it also withstood the pain of my message.’ He questioned coldly.



Soundwave lowered his helm and looked away. ‘Soundwave: has felt pain, Soundwave: knows what he has done wrong.’



Megatron's avatar tilted curiously. ‘And that would be?’ He drawled.



‘Soundwave: was wrong to act as he did, to let himself be distracted and lose the Allspark, Soundwave: deserved to have lost his Sigma ability, to lose his control over others, Soundwave: is a parasite, has always been a parasite.’ He demonstrated, making himself as small as possible for his lord.



Megatron chuckled, his avatar magnetising its pedes and making the journey onto Soundwave's lap. ‘Perhaps I had him hit you a little too hard.’ Megatron joked. ‘The loss of your powers is unfortunate, but inconsequential, all that I require of you is that you remain faithful to the cause and to me, but your foolishness and selfish longing for an era gone by has cost both Shockwave and the Allspark!’ He raged. ‘Prove to me that your loyalty is still mine!’



Soundwave lamented with a full body bow, placing Megatron's avatar before him, all he had were meaningless words and promises emptier than the acid wastes, nothing that could appease Megatron's wrath. ‘Soundwave: has nothing with which to deserve Megatron's trust.’



Megatron's avatar circled Soundwave coldly. ‘Exactly Soundwave, your resurrection is a gift that you have squandered, you have nothing to offer me, but do try, give me one reason why I should not leave you to your fate?’



Soundwave was completely silent.



‘Understand what you did to Shockwave should not be repeated again.’ Megatron ordered solemnly. ‘You will not let your feelings get in the way of your mission, the universe has changed Soundwave, learn that, if you do then, come my glorious return, I will grant you mercy.’



‘Thank you, master.’ Soundwave murmured gratefully, taking Megatron's avatar into his servos and holding him close, as if he were his own Minicon. ‘Soundwave: will not fail you again.’




‘See, if you scrape the metal thingy like this, it'll do all the snow for you, cool right?’ Bulkhead monologued as he went, making his snowy Dinobot Island picture. ‘How's yours going?’ He asked Bumblebee, stopping and poking his head over the side of his canvas to see him.



Bumblebee shrugged and half-heartedly dabbed at his own canvas on the floor of Bulkhead's room, helm held in one servo. ‘Ok, I guess.’



‘I-it's ok if it doesn't look good.’ Bulkhead tried to reassure him. ‘Takes a while to get used to, but once you get it then oooh boy does "it" start kicking in.’



‘Uh-uh.’ Bumblebee replied, prodding his canvas a little more.




‘Soundwave, do speak what is on your processor.’ Megatron ordered from his authorative spot in Soundwave's lap.



Soundwave was silent for a while, at first it seemed that all he was focussed on was the moonlit night sky and the universe beyond, but then he answered. ‘Was it Shockwave's decision?’ He asked, not taking his optics away from the sky.



‘Hmm?’ Megatron noised.



‘To infiltrate Autobot hierarchy: was it Shockwave's decision?’ Soundwave clarified.



‘In a way, my lieutenants and I were discussing how we could take over the spacebridge network, when Shockwave had the brilliant idea of infiltrating the network itself to learn of its operation and take control.’ Megatron answered fondly.



‘And you sent him?’ Soundwave pressed further, the topic obviously sore with him if he was breaking his speech patterns, Megatron noted.



‘It was either him and his brilliant Sigma ability, or our Autobot defectors.’ Megatron answered. ‘Hmpf, had I known, I would have sent Knockout in his place.’



‘Knockout: would not have passed initial conscription.’ Soundwave retorted.



Megatron sent a small discharge of energy through his avatar, shocking Soundwave. ‘It's good to see your telepathy has survived your upgrade, but don't do that again.’ Megatron commanded.



Soundwave huffed, turning his helm further away from Megatron. ‘Soundwave: did no such thing.’ He said, but Megatron knew he was lying on purpose.



‘Oh really?’ Megatron said, playing along. ‘Then how would Soundwave know a bot who wasn't even online when he was?’ He overacted.



‘Because Megatron's thoughts are loud, Soundwave: didn't need to read to hear them.’ Soundwave replied.



‘Oh you clever little thing.’ Megatron chuckled, wishing he could feel the sensation of Soundwave's servo stroking down his avatar's frame.




‘So how're you liking it?’ Bulkhead asked in what was the 100th question he asked that night. ‘Feels nice to get it out your system right?’



Bumblebee wasn't even painting anymore, just staring blankly at the mess he created.



An abstract mess made out of grey, teal, red and black.



‘You ok lil' buddy?’ Bulkhead asked with worry when he didn't get a response, peeking round the side of his own canvas.



It was almost felt like a vorn until Bumblebee gave him an answer. ‘Real talk? Not at all.’



Bulkhead stopped what he was doing, stepping towards Bumblebee. ‘I, uh, is there-’



Bumblebee got up, walking a few steps in front of Bulkhead. ‘I dunno it's- I...’ He trailed off, refusing to look at Bulkhead.



‘Bumblebee, please, you can tell me, right?’



Bumblebee searched the floor with his optics, he turned around, looking for anyone who could eavesdrop, before continuing. ‘Nothing works.’ He whispered.



‘"Nothing works"?’ Bulkhead repeated.



‘Everything I try doesn't work! I still miss him!’ Bumblebee wailed, finally looking at Bulkhead with tears in his optics. ‘I-I've tried everything, pictures doesn't work, TV doesn't work, talking about it doesn't work, this doesn-’



Bumblebee stopped when Bulkhead pulled him into a hug, lifting him right off the ground. ‘I'm sorry Bumblebee.’ He apologised.



Bumblebee however vented with an air of annoyance. ‘Don't be, you didn't do anything.’



‘Don't say that Bumblebee.’




‘Rumble and Frenzy: still online?’



‘Unless something has happened in the last 50 stellar-cycles, then yes, they are.’ Megatron answered as he browsed through files on the Sumdac computers, occasionally looking back at the monitor to appreciate the view with Soundwave.



In the visual feed, Soundwave nodded. ‘As expected of them.’



‘They tried attaching to Shockwave at first, little fools, they clearly didn't learn from last time.’ He droned on, curiosity piquing at a set of recently made maps on the file system.



Soundwave let himself be happy with an old memory. ‘Shockwave's response?’



Megatron hummed in amusement. ‘Less response, more reaction.’ He teased vaguely. ‘After that, well, they disappeared from the inner circle, I believe they were setting up their own business, to compete with Swindle.’ He recalled.



‘As expected of them.’



Megaton smiled a little at that. ‘Shockwave and I were quite glad for their change in career.’




Cuddled in Bulkhead's lap and buried as far as he could in Bulkhead's chestplates, Bumblebee cried to himself, as soothing as a clumsy servo could be patted him on the backstrut.



‘I miss him a lot too.’ Bulkhead mumbled. ‘Things just aren't the same.’



Bumblebee didn't reply, instead wiping aimlessly away at his faceplate with the back of his servo.



Bulkhead thought for a bit, then a spark of an idea struck his processor. ‘R-remember when you- uh... remember when you took him round the city after he could go back and, uh, he had a stasis nap at the park a-and all those flying thingies went and sat on him and-’




‘-and his first time with a scraplet.’ Megatron laughed. ‘I never knew he could be so expressive until the moment he saw the pest eat through its cage.’




‘A-and I know he didn't like the movies I did, b-but he watched them anyway because I liked them.’




‘It took a full orbital-cycle till the smell went away.’



‘Shockwave: most ashamed.’





Bumblebee rubbed the side of one of his arms in thought. ‘The thing I miss most about Longarm, we used to, y'know, recharge together...’




‘Oh we took full advantage of him then, didn't we?’



‘Negative, Soundwave and Megatron: gave Shockwave what he needed.’




Now every time I boot up, there's nothing there, it's like... cold.’ Bumblebee tried to explain, ending with a sigh, optics to the floor.



‘What's bad about that?’ Bulkhead interjected, not understanding why the temperature would bother him like that.



Bumblebee shook his helm, hiccupping with a glitch. ‘No, like, I- it's it feels wrong, like, when we were together we were warm, now it- it's  i-’



Bulkhead took him up in another hug before he burst into another round of tears. ‘Bumblebee.’ He started. ‘It'll be ok lil' buddy.’




‘Shockwave: will return... won't he?’ Soundwave asked hesitantly after all had been said and done between him and Megatron, the moon having made quite a journey through the mega-cycle of reminiscence.



‘He will return to us once his spark has settled and I have returned.’ Megatron reassured. ‘These solar-cycles have been hard on you my dear Soundwave, but do not fret...’




‘We'll get him back, a-and then we'll kick Decepticon butt and...’




‘...Their morale is low and the humans hate them, if they do not break by the end of this deca-cycle, then I will crown Starscream as leader of the Decepticons.’



Soundwave tightened his hold on Megatron's avatar, visor darkening. ‘Soundwave: will have their sparks.’



In the dark of his prison, Megatron smirked, that was the Soundwave he knew and loved.





‘...And the other day I found out that humans can get virus too but, like, nature and stuff makes them, you can get them just by venting, isn't that weird?’ Bulkhead droned on.



‘Yeah.’ Bumblebee agreed absently, making himself busy with loading material crates into his subspace.



He was getting a little annoyed with Bulkhead's constant chatter, or maybe a lot annoyed, but Bumblebee welcomed it nonetheless, any distraction was a good distraction, and speaking of which, the sooner they got these crates from the professor's place down to the ship, the sooner they'd repair it.



To that thought, Bumblebee went along as slowly as he could.



Bulkhead just finished picking up his stacks and started moving to help Bumblebee with his when he noticed the numbers above the nearby elevator were moving down. ‘Who could that be?’ He thought aloud, shuffling a little closer, even Bumblebee looked a little interested.



The doors opened to reveal a sight for tired optics, Sari, her broken leg wrapped up tight and her weight supported by a crutch, she hobbled silently into the garage.



‘SARI!’ Bulkhead exclaimed, he started rushing up to her, only to stop when he noticed her suddenly hold onto her crutch for dear life, guess he ran a little too hard. ‘How've you been? We missed you! I like your new armour!’ He shot out quickly, one sentence after the other before she could even say anything back.



She didn't really seem to say much at all really, staring tiredly at Bulkhead until he finally got the hint to be quiet.



‘Where's Longarm?’ She finally spoke, her voice suspicious.



Instantly Bumblebee looked away and went back to picking up crates, and Bulkhead's enthusiasm dropped down a few notches, his bright beaming face turning dull. ‘Uh... well.’ He mumbled, scratching the back of his helm. ‘Uh, you might wanna sit down for thi-’



‘I know.’ She interrupted quietly. ‘Where is he?’



‘We... we don't know.’ Bulkhead admitted sadly, his frame almost deflating in the process.



‘The Dinobots?’ She asked again.



‘We think they're back on the island?’ Bulkhead answered uncertainly.



A sickly silence drifted between the three of them. ‘I want my key back.’ Sari demanded.



‘W-we kinda need it to repair the ship, Sari.’ Bulkhead explained sheepishly, shaking his helm and one servo slightly.



‘I want it back now.’ Sari hissed.



‘S-Sari I-’



‘It's mine and- a- and I don't want you using it on your dumb ship!’ She snapped, gripping her crutch tightly. ‘A-and I don't want you to leave!’



Bulkhead held up both his servos to try and calm her. ‘Sari-’



‘Don't "Sari" me!’ She barked at Bulkhead, pinpricks of tears in her eyes. ‘I want my key back right now! You guys are supposed to be my friends a-and Longarm's friend! You can-’






Both Sari and Bulkhead looked towards the source of the scream, Bumblebee.



‘YOU DON'T KNOW SCRAP ABOUT ANYTHING!’ Bumblebee screeched, having enough, he stormed out and then drove away, leaving Bulkhead to deal with a now crying Sari.



‘Sari...’ Bulkhead sighed, picking her up as gently as he could. ‘Please, it's not like we want to leave Earth, but there's nothing we can do about it, we have to protect you little guys from the Decepticons.’



‘T-the-there has to be!’ Sari wailed, holding onto Bulkhead's claws tightly. ‘I don't want you to leave!’



‘Me either Sari, me either.’ Bulkhead repeated, doing the best he could to hug her. ‘Don't mention Longarm to Bumblebee again, please? He's not been taking it too good.’ He asked once the majority of her sobs had subsided.



‘W-what happened?’ Sari hiccupped.



‘It's not like Bumblebee didn't take him being a Decepticon too bad, but... Longarm really isn't himself anymore, he tried stealing the Allspark the other day with Soundwave, and he hurt Bumblebee while he was trying to get it, Ratchet told me all about it.’



‘N-no, Longarm wouldn't.’ Sari denied. ‘H-he saved me, he's not a bad guy, I know it.’



‘Me too Sari.’ Bulkhead sighed. ‘Me too.


I wish we're right.’





‘This is the flight path of the ship?’ Megatron asked the professor, bringing up the maps he found last night.



‘Yes, it went right over Canada, then over Detroit like this, then crashed into the lake over here, it's amazing how nobody noticed your ship's arrival on Earth if it was that close.’ The professor detailed, dragging his finger over the line on the screen till it stopped at the lake. ‘I found you, at least, I found your head over here, right next to my family's farm.’ The professor said as he plopped his finger on a different part of the map, a great distance away from the flight path. ‘I looked all over the county for your body, but I couldn't find it.’



‘Perhaps it didn't fly so well.’ Megatron mused, his optics making mental markings in several areas in the mountains.



The professor nodded. ‘Yes, though how it became separated from your body in the first place would be our only clue to knowing for sure, pardon the grimness of that.’ He added sheepishly.



‘A question for another day, Professor, see you after lunch.’ Megatron farewelled with a well rehearsed politeness, not a moment after the Professor had left, Megatron took control of his spybot. ‘Lugnut, Blitzwing, I have a task for you.’



‘Wh- what is it my liege?!’ Lugnut asked with an anticipation so great it reset his vocaliser.



‘Go search the following co-ordinates for the remains of a frame I believe the two of you will recognise quite well.



The time for my return is soon at hand.’



Chapter Text



In one optic shutter, Longarm found himself back in that ocean.



In the next, he was...



He vaguely recognised this place, they were the tunnels underneath the boot camp, he came here to talk with Megatron after he "realised" the storehouse wasn't a secluded and secure space for them, the oil being a new addition to the scenery, if this wasn't an the beginning of another confusing conversation with an aspect of himself, then maybe it was the sign that he was truly starting to lose his processor.



He waded through the tunnels, remembering the way to the circular chamber where he would make his transmissions to his lordship, the last time he was here (or there rather), he had promised Megatron that he would succeed.



He promised a lot of things really.



He was surprised when he turned the corner and found himself not quite completely at that circular chamber, it had a new addition to it, the lakeside observation deck, the one he and Bumblebee went to often, like his memory had substituted what it couldn't remember with other, more recent things. Longarm waded through the oil, finding the bank, he stepped on grass made of crystals, breaking away to create little Insecticons that flew away into dust, once Longarm stepped past the wall of the observation deck and found a very young Shockwave, sometime after his second moult, lying on his front, pedes swinging in the air behind him, he pinched two little action figures, one grey, one yellow, and twiddled them over the ground.



Longarm couldn't help but notice the sheer amount of little figures in the young Shockwave's toy arsenal that was littered around them, many of which he recognised personally, Decepticons and Autobots, many with missing limbs or gouged pieces.



‘Hi.’ The Shockwave greeted, turning his attention away from his two toys for a moment to look at Longarm.



‘Hello.’ Longarm greeted back, before turning around and getting back into the oil.



‘W-where're you going?’ Shockwave asked with a wide optic and a tremble of fear.



Longarm sighed in annoyance as he walked, closing his optics for a bit, he had enough of these dreams of talking to himself, conversations with metaphors and riddles that lead nowhere, perhaps walking away from it would work.



You can't go!’ Shockwave shrieked, the sound thundering through the tunnels.



When Longarm reopened his optics, he was back on the observation deck with Shockwave, a big fat tear welling up in his trembling optic.



‘W-why? Why does nobody like me!?’ Shockwave snivelled, dropping the two toys he was playing with.



Longarm looked at Shockwave in dead silence.



‘W-well I don't need them!’ Shockwave huffed eventually, he got up, then stomped his pede down, crushing a figurine that looked too much like Optimus. ‘T-THERE?! SEE? CAN'T HATE ME IF YOU'RE OFFLINE CAN YOU?!’



Longarm let Shockwave have his tantrum, he turned away and sat down, looking at the view of nothing from the deck while bits of Shockwave's toys flew everywhere, until all that remained was his broken sobs. There was shuffling, and then the young Shockwave managed to worm his way into Longarm's lap, leaning heavily against his chestplate while he clutched his last two intact toys tightly to him, shivering like a mouse.



‘'M sorry.’ He whimpered. ‘I-I'll be good, p-please don't go again.’



Longarm took a small semblance of pity, patting Shockwave on the helm twice. ‘Ok.’ He finally spoke.



Shockwave took this as a divine sign of his approval and clutched onto Longarm like a parasite, making him regret his choice of action, but tried to not let it bother him, this aspect of himself was some twisted reflection of his loneliness, or sparkhood, it couldn't help itself now that it had a friend.



After all, that's almost how he and Soundwave originally became friends.



Once Shockwave was done with Longarm's approval, he went back to his two remaining toys, the Bumblebee and Megatron he had been holding when Longarm arrived, his audials quivered a bit as he looked over both of them, some grand thought or story being calculated in his mind, his optic looked over the grey one, his audials wiggled forwards and back, it looked over the yellow one, his audials bent forwards gently.



‘I'm glad you two are my friends.’ He whispered to them. ‘Right?’ He asked to Longarm, tilting his head up to him.



Longarm averted his optics away from Shockwave.



‘T-they are still our friends, r-right?’ Shockwave asked again, his claws rattling in their sockets.



Longarm clenched his servos. ‘I killed Megatron.’ Longarm stated, continuing to look away from Shockwave. ‘Because Bumblebee wiped my memory of him.’



Shockwave gasped, his friends tumbling out of his claws. ‘T-t-then w-wh who?’



‘Nobody.’ Longarm said after a while, looking back at Shockwave. ‘I have nobody.’



Shockwave stood up and away for a moment, his optic narrowed and audials bent forwards, before snapping back up. ‘But... Bumblebee still likes us.’ He stated with a strange mature aura.



‘He's an Autobot.’ Longarm cut again. ‘And what he likes isn't us, or what you stand for.’ He said, emphasising those last words, gesturing towards Shockwave's destroyed toys. ‘What he wants is the part of me that was tricked into thinking it was an Autobot.’



To his surprise, Shockwave didn't break down again, but giggled, an extended servo plucking the Bumblebee toy off the ground and retracting it right back to himself. ‘That's ok, we can make him like us.’ He replied, an eager claw tapping on the top of Bumblebee's chestplate, where his spark would be, his optic vibrating with a thousand anticipations. ‘We can make t͢h̢e̴m҉ ͟all̕ ͡l̶i̕k̕e ͠us̡.’



His claw pierced right into the toy's chestplate



Longarm recoiled, moving to get up and away from Shockwave, but claws, very big claws, wrapped round and piercing into Longarm's sides from behind, trapping him.



‘W-we don't have to be alone ever again!’ Shockwave exclaimed, hiccupping with the beginnings of hysteria, spindly arms and claws grew out of his frame, reaching towards Longarm. ‘Bumblebee and Optimus, Bulkhead, even Ratchet! We can make everyone love us!’



‘For what?!’ Longarm hissed firmly, trying to pull away from the other's claws, wanting to wake up. ‘Get off me!’



‘Why?’ Shockwave spoke softly. ‘Don't you want it back? Being with them was the happiest we've been!’ He argued, scampering onto Longarm. ‘Don't you want to be happy?’



‘It wasn't real!’ Longarm shouted back as Shockwave climbed over him, claws piercing into his helm. ‘None of it was real!’



Longarm almost cried in relief when the scene began turning bright, freeing him, but even then the voice of Shockwave chased him to the end of the flux.






I-I don't want to be alone.




I guess it's what we deserve, what we've done is wrong.




But... are you happy? Living like this?







Shockwave booted violently, bashing his helm and claws to the ground he rested on angrily, desperate to ease the raw emotion raking across his motherboard, he screeched loudly into the night, settling soon afterwards into a sob.



‘Is it-’ He gasped. ‘Is it so much to ask for... for one single cycle's recharge?’ He snarled to an absent audience.



He wasn't happy living like this, not in the slightest, the young illusion of himself was right in that regard, but neither could he willingly go from one delusion to another, the Autobots were his sworn enemies, who he had laid beside while Megatron, the one bot who gave his existence a purpose, who gave him true virtue, burned alive whilst he did nothing.



And yet... why did Bumblebee, the object of his- the bot who caused all this to happen, to rob him of his memories, to rob him of everything he stood for...



Why did he still haunt his fluxes?



In the end, all he could do was lie back down and hope that recharge would return to him swiftly.






‘Aw, dang.’ Bulkhead grumbled, roughly hitting his controller-wielding servos on his stabilisers, staring at the game over screen. ‘How'd you get past that T-Rex!?’



From his upside down position on the couch, Bumblebee half-heartedly shrugged. ‘Run back to the hole and shoot it from there.’



Bulkhead sighed. ‘That's dumb, I wanna be all "woosh" and "kapow"! You know, with the jumps and the guns?’



‘Yeah.’ Bumblebee replied.



Noticing Bumblebee's low mood, Bulkhead tried to lift it. ‘You wanna play something else?’ He suggested, looking at their pile of games. ‘Got plenty o' ones we haven't tried yet.’



Bumblebee stared tiredly at the game over screen. ‘I don't really feel like playing right now.’ He admitted.



‘Don't tell me, you're actually becoming bored with your addictive electronic devices.’ Came the disbelieving voice of Prowl from the base's entrance.



Bumblebee looked up at Prowl, a very wet Prowl, like he had rolled around in the snow or something stupid like that. ‘Hate to break it to your Prowl, but, we're electronic devices.’ He said, not in the mood for another of Prowl's nature lectures, but enough to at least poke fun at him. ‘Whatever it is, tell it to Bossbot.’



Prowl hissed. ‘You're just like the rest of them, always rushing around, never caring about what's around you.’ He started to rant, but stopped when Bumblebee didn't pay him a single ounce of attention, watching Bulkhead start the level from the last checkpoint. ‘Hmph.’ Prowl noised, before pressing the off button on the PlayStation in revenge.



Bumblebee didn't care in the slightest, however Bulkhead did. ‘Hey, I didn't save yet!’ He complained, then sagged into the concrete couch. ‘Now I gotta do all those caves again...’



‘Bulkhead, there are caves you can explore in real life, that game is just a construct, it has no-’ Prowl paused his lecture, because Optimus made a noise to grab their attention.



‘Autobots.’ Optimus interrupted loudly and clearly. ‘Teletran-1 is picking up a Cybertronian energy signature in the mountains north of here.’ He said, noting the readings coming off the screen to the main computer.



‘Decepticons?’ Prowl asked.



Optimus shook his head. ‘No, non-sentient, and it just so happens to correlate with the flight path professor Sumdac gave us, meaning it's most likely a part of our ship, like the tachyon transmitter or the plasma dynamic thruster.’ He theorised. ‘I need someone to track it down and bring it back to the base.’



Prowl crossed his arms, looking at the map and its pinprick of energy. ‘That location is quite far away, it would take half a solar-cycle's charge to arrive, whoever goes will have to find a place to recharge.’ He noted in concern.



Bumblebee held up his servos in an uncaring shrug as he walked towards the two of them. ‘So what, just find yourself a recharge n' fuel or something, no big deal.’



‘That would take longer.’ Optimus replied.



‘So?’ Bumblebee argued.



Sooo it would mean that, if you and Prowl spend the night-cycle there, it would be quicker to travel and bring what you find back.’ Optimus explained with an encouraging pat to Bumblebee's backstrut



I have to go – with him!?’ Both Bumblebee and Prowl exclaimed, pointing to each other as if it could show the audacity of Optimus' decision.



Bumblebee pulled on his own faceplate in horror. ‘You mean I have to go all the way out there, away from the comfort of civilisation, w-with Naturebot!?’



‘Prime, I refuse to work with Bumblebee, he is immature, irresponsible and would only waste time.’ Prowl refused, crossing his arms again and turning away. ‘I am perfectly capable of completing this mission on my own.’



Bumblebee huffed and turned his helm up in disdain, servos on his hips. ‘Hey, I can find this doohickey no problem, you just want to use it as an excuse to find the Dino-’



Prowl was at Bumblebee in an instant, a threatening digit pointed right between Bumblebee's optics. ‘If you want to continue functioning, Bumblebee.’ Prowl interrupted harshly. ‘Do not finish that sentence.’



Despite witnessing all this, Optimus was completely unfazed. ‘Think of it as a team building exercise.’ He said with a smile. ‘(Or character builder, doesn't really matter which,) take your time, but set off no later than tomorrow.’



‘Should I come too?’ Bulkhead asked, worried that Prowl and Bumblebee would need a neutral party to referee for them.



‘No Bulkhead.’ Optimus declined. ‘Ratchet and I will need a spare set of servos down here.’



‘(Can't believe I have to spend a whole solar-cycle with Prowl and his stupid nature.)’ Bumblebee grumbled, stomping off to his room.



Prowl only gave one final look to Optimus, hoping he would understand, but Optimus' warm smile remained unchanged, Prowl left for his own room to prepare, after they left, Ratchet entered the main room, at a timing too convenient to be a coincidence.



‘"Team building"?’ Ratchet repeated. ‘I'd be surprised if they even come back at all.’



Optimus didn't seem to be bothered, going back to Teletran-1 to write a few logs. ‘Believe it or not Ratchet, having those two out there and away from the city might do them some good.’ He reasoned as he typed. ‘Besides, they'll both snitch if the other bails, and they'll want to get it over with as soon as possible, consider it an incentive for them to finish the job.’



Ratchet raised an optical ridge. ‘Are you sure you're an Autobot?’





‘Hey Shockwave, you in here? Hurry up! The guys are all waiting for us.’ Bumblebee yelled into the park.



Shockwave however didn't seem bothered, he stood there in the middle of the park in his Longarm form, holding out one palm and remaining perfectly still.



‘Why're you standing around like that?’ Bumblebee asked, walking up to Shockwave.



‘Shh, just watch.’ He replied softly.



They waited, and then, after a while, a little white bird flew directly into Shockwave's servo, it made a few noises, not completely unlike the purring engine of a still car.



‘It's pretty, isn't it?’ Shockwave asked him as he watched the bird bounce around in his servo. ‘Soundwave told me all about them, if you stay still then they are attracted to you.’ He explained, watching it fly away. ‘Of course he doesn't need... to...’



Where did...



What was-



‘Bumblebee?’ Shockwave called into the empty park. ‘Where are you?’



Shockwave transformed into his true frame, towering over the autumn trees as it began to snow, hoping to see where Bee went, but everything was empty, quiet, not a single spec of life entered his viewfind, as if all life - organic and mechanical - had never existed.



He brought up Bumblebee's comm on his HUD and tried calling, broken feedback was his only reply, a small part of him in the depths of his processor likened it a vent half filled with fluid constantly struggling to cycle. His HUD was malfunctioning, there was a mess of red and static on where Bumblebee's comm picture should have been, even the map refused to function.



There was the sound of a pebble falling, a glimpse of yellow caught Shockwave's optic, and he dashed after Bumblebee, following him into the mines, stumbling round each corner, but Shockwave slipped on the snow and tumbled down, hitting several rocks on his way to the abyss, he shook his helm, preparing to brace himself then get back up, until he saw he wasn't quite alone here in the darkness.



‘Is something the matter, my dear Shockwave?’ Megatron asked, his voice distant. ‘You do not appear pleased to see me.’



Shockwave tensed, watching in horror as the legless corpse of his master pulled itself towards him, organic gore bubbling out his warped chassis as he dug his claws deep into the snow beneath them to pull himself along, staining it red.



‘What- what is this!?’ Shockwave exclaimed, he broke optic contact, pushing himself backwards, trying desperately to get up. ‘What's happening?’



‘What's happening?’ Megatron repeated slowly, a repulsive reddish-orange fluid seeping from rusted wounds. ‘I thought you would know, you were there when it happened, Shockwave.’ He drawled. ‘You saw me die, you let me die...



Then you replaced me.’



Shockwave fell down, pedes and claws unable to take his weight any more, then servos reached out of the snow towards him.



‘I- I- didn't- No- I'm sorry! I- I- I-’ He pleaded, as he was forced to look at his master by empty husks. ‘I wasn't myself!’



Megatron paused in his approach. ‘Shh, it's alright my dear.’ He chuckled. ‘You have nothing to be sorry about.’ He began his painful crawl again towards a Shockwave powerless to avoid him. ‘You've sent us somewhere wonderful Shockwave, somewhere brighter, more brilliant than the well.’ He said the moment they were helm to helm, Shockwave was confused to the others he was taking about, until he noticed one of the servos holding him down once belonged to his caretaker, of Jetlag, all those he offlined by his own claws.



‘STOP THIS! STOP- THIS ISN'T-’ Shockwave screamed, struggling to escape, but he began sinking, first his pedes, then his stabilisers.



Megatron's rotten servos latched onto the sides of Shockwave's helm, ignoring his screams. ‘It's beautiful, where I am, where we are...’ He cooed, stroking thick purple lines of human and Cybertronian electrolytes into the ridges of his faceplate. ‘I wish you were there to see it.’



Shockwave squeezed his optic shut, audials as far back as they could go. ‘Thisisn'trealthisisn'trealthisisn'trealthisisn'treal!’



‘There's no suffering down here Shockwave, no injustice, nothing...’






‘All we do is burn, every solar-cycle, every vorn...



We burn like the brightest stars.




Shockwave screamed and clawed and retched, until his vocaliser gave out.





Bumblebee and Prowl spent the entire journey to the mountains in silence, not even looking at each other as city became farmland, then as farmland became woods, Bumblebee keeping all his alt-mode sensors and thoughts low to the road, away from Prowl and away from everything else.



It was Prowl to first cut the silence. ‘There's a fuelling station a few miles ahead, we'll rest there for a few cycles.’ He said flatly, before speeding ahead of Bumblebee.



‘Finally, we've been driving for mega-cycles.’ Bumblebee complained in relief, before slipping a bit on the road. ‘Ugh! I hate all this snow, and ice, how long is this winter thing supposed to go on for!?’ He snapped angrily.



‘Four orbi-’



‘I wasn't asking you.’ Bumblebee cut in, before Prowl could finish.



‘Then don't speak your thoughts out loud.’ Prowl replied, the ire in his tone being thick and heavy.



Bumblebee transformed right back into his robot form the moment they entered the petrol station, creaking his joints and breaking the particles of ice that had collected inside his plating, he rolled his joints twice then let out the air that had been clogging his vents. There was barely anything to do at the station once he refuelled himself, the attendant inside had an old and tiny TV, which he managed to bring outside for Bumblebee after making a long line of extension cables to get it there, after that Bumblebee whittled away the minutes staring at the little screen.



‘You'll damage your optic wirings staring at it like that.’ Prowl chided from a distance.



‘Ready to leave when you are.’ Bumblebee replied dryly.



‘Honestly.’ He heard Prowl gripe, before he walked away.



Bumblebee went back to watching the TV, the weatherman warning him of a serious snowstorm, great, as if this trip to Unicron couldn't get any worse, Optimus must have really hated having them around the base if he was so quick to choose them for this mission. He and Prowl got along as well as Energon did from being hit by a hammer, at least those Dinobots were still sulking, Bumblebee would have just about gone offline if he tried to pick a fight with Prowl while those guys were around.



He did kind of miss them didn't miss them one bit.



A jingling sound and a door opening got Bumblebee's attention. ‘Hey, Bee guy.’ The petrol station attendant asked from the door to the store. ‘Can I ask something?’



Bumblebee looked up at him. ‘Yeah, what's up?’



‘What happened to Longarm?’ The human asked timidly. ‘The guys said that sound guy killed him, it isn't true, is it?’ He said further, and, somewhere in his eyes, Bee could see the tiny spark of hope for it being untrue.



Bumblebee stared as blankly at the human as he did with the TV. ‘He's missing.’ He said emotionlessly.



The human frowned and looked away. ‘Aw, geez, I'm sorry Bee.’ He apologised. ‘I hope he's alright, he was my favourite out of you guys.’



‘Me too.’ Bumblebee sighed.



‘So... you two here to fight that monster?’



That got Bumblebee's attention, he lifted his helm away from the TV to ask. ‘Monster?’



‘Yeah, started showing up a week back, ate some guy's car a mile that way.’ He pointed somewhere that just happened to be in the direction he and Prowl were going, he was going to say something else, but Prowl returned.



‘If you're quite done, we should continue on.’ He commanded.



Bumblebee gritted his digits into the tarmac as he got up. ‘Thanks for the TV.’ He said, before transforming and driving away, he turned his radio on at max volume, ignoring the aura of disgust Prowl gave him, the sooner he forgot about monsters that ate cars, the better.





‘Go back.’



He plucked a dried brown leaf from the branch, crushing it to dust.






Another leaf crumbled in his touch.









This was stupid.



Shockwave dropped the branch with a tired force, stretching out his servos, he gathered the trees he felled, roping them up in one extended servo and began hauling them back. His new home required extra support beams and fuel for the generator, and these specimens would service well enough, he had made his home out of a long abandoned mining operation, it was strange that it was abandoned, there was plenty of ore around him, enough to shield him from a long ranged scanner, perhaps it had simply fallen ill to poor administration.



Once he arrived he quickly went to work, pinching the logging tools he stole between his claws, optics dulling for a moment, he went to work transforming his trees into the right shapes he needed. He wished he had metal to work with for his construction, but the only metal for clicks around belonged to humans, he had to make do with these organic materials instead, besides, it was the most logical for the moment, his- the Autobots and Decepticons were still within scouting range of this home, if they started looking for him, he would need to be able to drop everything and run again.



Where to and for what, he didn't know, didn't have the energy to know, but every nano-cycle he stayed online and functioning, that was one less he would spend in the pit, where Megatron was waiting for him, that was enough to keep him going.



He cut into a grey branch, electrolyte fluid spilling out.



‘Aarh!’ The branch snarled in a deep voice.



Shockwave jolted, dropping his tools and retreating in an instant, the tree fell to the rocky ground, a dull amber sap leaking from where he had cut it.



He stood there for a cycle, waiting for his erratic spark and his quaking frame to calm down.



Just a glitch.” Shockwave thought to himself, trees didn't bleed like M- like Cybertronians did, trees didn't talk, he was just tired, running at half-charge with an underpowered sensory net, that was it, nothing else.



He hesitantly went back to work, finishing the job with a hasty, half-complete quality, trying not to look at that one branch, or his own quivering claws, when he was finally done carving them he got up quickly, he would put them to use later, his PSU had been screaming warnings at him for the past half of the mega-cycle, perhaps another recharge would reboot his destronium nerves.



He didn't get his hopes up for a peaceful flux.





They didn't stop on their journey until the sun was beginning to set, to which Prowl found the nearest outcropping next to the road and declared it their camp for the night, nevermind that it was going to snow like there was no tomorrow.



‘Can't believe I have to recharge out here.’ Bumblebee grumbled to himself as he struggled to understand the tent's assembly instructions. ‘It's all wet, the roads aren't even flat-’



From his meditation spot on the cliff's edge, Prowl's voice scolded him. ‘Internal voice, Bumblebee, if you please.’



(Internal voice Bumblebee.)’ Bumblebee quietly mocked. ‘Ugh, nuts and bolts to this!’ He finally huffed in frustration, tossing away the instructions, figuring his best bet was covering himself with the tent tarp and recharging in his alt-mode, his joints would be all sore when he booted up for sure.



After kicking away the snow on the ground that would make Bumblebee's excuse for a berth, Bumblebee took out his portable media player, hoping it would give him the calm he needed to drift away, but when it failed to turn on he realised he forgot to charge it, but he did remember to bring the cable for it and began searching around the woods, looking round the bases of the trees for somewhere to plug it in.



‘Hey Naturebot, where'd they hide the power sockets?’ He demanded after a long and unfruitful search.



Prowl's shoulders tensed. ‘For the last time, there are none Bumblebee, there is no electricity in the woods, fire is what provides warmth and light.’



‘Does it look like fire can power this?!’ Bumblebee snapped back, angry that Prowl was treating him like a sparkling.



‘No, but it would do you some good if you tried.’ Was Prowl's reply before he turned back to meditating on his rocky outcrop.



‘Fine.’ Bumblebee huffed, going back to his private corner, his imagepad still had plenty of charge in it, he could go over his pictures instead.



For a while,