Prowl needed a break.
Which was how he found himself talking to Ultra Magnus shortly after Megatron had been apprehended and thrown in a cell.
“You wish to join the crew of the Lost Light?” Magnus asked with a vaguely puzzled look on his face. “I am not convinced that would be the best course of action for your safety. Some of the bots on board are fond of talking about how much they hate you.”
“Yeah, well they can join the club,” Prowl muttered. “Look, I would rather avoid bots that hate me with a burning passion over spending another second on this planet. I need a sabbatical or something vaguely like it. I want a break from all the politics and high drama here, and that’s why I want to join.” At least I will know where I stand, he thought bitterly.
“If you are confident that this is the course that you wish to take. Although I warn you now, the Lost Light has found itself in some rather dangerous situations, it is not exactly a journey that I imagine many would label as ‘safe.’”
“Unless I get brainwashed and forcibly bonded to another gestalt, I think I can handle it.”
“Is that a joke of some sort?”
“It would be nice if it was.” Ultra Magnus gave Prowl an odd look before turning back to the datapads he was reviewing.
“I will forward the paperwork and disclaimers to you within a cycle. Have a good day, Prowl.”
Prowl had reviewed, filled out, signed, and returned all the paperwork before he even went to recharge that night. Ultra Magnus had looked particularly pleased with his promptness.
Although signing himself to the Lost Light might not have turned out to be the best decision he had ever made, in hindsight, watching a month later as Optimus declared that Megatron would now be Co-Captain of the vessel. If Prowl didn’t know any better, he probably would’ve said that the Prime was being petty.
“Did ya talk to him?”
“Is it true about Megatron?
“Are we goin’ with him?”
“Yeah, do we get to join the Lost Light crew?”
He told them that while he was joining the Lost Light, the Constructicons themselves were staying on Cybertron right where he would never see them.
“As your gestalt, the Constructicons have also signed themselves on board as under your oversight. I believe they said that you were their foreman, and ensured Rodimus and… Megatron that they would behave,” Ultra Magnus told Prowl, having comm’d him as he shoved what little he had in the way of possessions into his subspace, preparing to board the Lost Light later that day. He paused.
To say that Prowl was displeased with this turn of events would be somewhat of an understatement.
To say that he threw a table at the Constructicons when they tried to approach him in Swerve’s bar would be a bit more accurate.
And then Ultra Magnus came along and started prattling about ‘anger management’, and ‘I expected this out of Whirl, not you’, and how his behavior was ‘unbecoming of the former Second In Command of the Autobot forces.’
Ultra Magnus was lucky he didn’t get a table to the face.
So now, until Rung decided he could be trusted to control himself, he had weekly sessions with the therapist. Joy to the world.
“Let me phrase it a bit differently this time: Why did you throw a table at your gestalt?”
“They were annoying me.”
“How were they annoying you?”
“In what way do they annoy you by existing?”
“Because I hate them.”
“Why do you hate them so much?”
“Because they’re annoying.” The conversation had just gone full circle. Rung let out a barely audible sigh before pushing his glasses further up his nose before glancing at his chronometer.
“I’m afraid that’s all the time we have this week. If you-” Rung glanced up from his datapad, and Prowl was gone. He looked at the ceiling for a long moment. This would take a while.
Prowl laid on his berth in his quarters. Alone. Nobody had wanted to room with him - except the Constructicons, who were (annoyingly) also spread out over the two quarters on either side of his own. He had nothing to do on his off-shift, and he’ll be damned if he goes to spend time with his gestalt, who had been settling into the Lost Light rather well, despite still wearing the Decepticon badge.
Unlike Megatron and Prowl himself, they were never far enough up the food chain for all the other mechs on board to blame them for literally every that ever went wrong in the war. So they were significantly more capable of making nice with everyone than Prowl himself was.
Hook, with his medical training, was assigned to the medbay with Ratchet. Apparently, the CMO was supposed to have another assistant, but he was currently undergoing therapy for trauma. The trauma of what exactly, Prowl wasn’t sure. Either people didn’t know or didn’t want to talk about it. Hook was restricted to minor repairs until Ratchet could confirm that his training was sufficient to cover much larger injuries, despite Hook’s disgruntled rumblings about the matter.
Mixmaster had struck up a partnership with Swerve and had taken to helping out in the bar. Apparently, he was helping Swerve find a way to give engex a strong kick while simultaneously diluting it. Prowl himself wasn’t exactly a welcome customer at Swerve’s establishment after his whole table-flipping event there, so he simply decided that this information didn’t particularly matter to him.
Long Haul and Scavenger had also found themselves cozy little places in the bar, having found an odd sort of kinsmanship with the doorman, called ‘Ten’. Prowl didn’t ask what was up with a bot named Ten.
And then there was Bonecrusher who had… something going on with Whirl, but Prowl had immediately decided he wasn’t touching that with a fifty-foot pole.
Prowl only knew this much about their lives because they kept talking to him, despite the fact that he believed that he had made it extremely clear that he wanted nothing to do with them.
As for Prowl, he had found himself recruited into being Ultra Magnus’ assistant which… wasn’t horrible, but it certainly wasn’t the best either. It was something to keep his processor occupied and away from the gestalt bond that kept tugging on his spark.
It certainly didn’t help that working with the SIC of the Lost Light meant he was almost constantly coming into contact with Megatron. To avoid further trouble with Ultra Magnus and even more necessary sessions of ‘therapy’, he gritted his denta and kept his mouth shut, his optics glaring a hole through whatever datapad he might have happened to be holding at that point in time.
“Prowl, could you please elaborate on your answer?”
“Is there any particular reason you dislike them to such a degree, besides,” Rung glanced at his datapad at his notes from their previous session, “their existence and their habit of being annoying?”
Prowl neglected to answer him.
Rung sighed and sat back in his chair.
“Prowl, if we are to get anywhere with this, you need to cooperate at least on some level with me.” Prowl snorted derisively and cast his optics off to the side.
“We don’t need to get anywhere with this, because there isn’t a problem.”
“Prowl,” Rung started before cutting himself off and looking at the ceiling for a brief moment. He removed his glasses and rubbed tiredly at his olfactory ridge before replacing the spectacles. “Prowl, even if there isn’t a problem, you will need to continue returning to these sessions until I am able to convince Ultra Magnus that you do not need them anymore, and I am unable to do that with the way you are currently acting.”
“There is nothing wrong with the way I conduct myself.”
“Until we can convince the command staff of that, I am afraid that you will be continuing to see me every single week.”
“What’s to stop me from simply sitting here and not responding to your questions every week until Rodimus and Megatron find their Knights of Cybertron?” Prowl sniped, glaring at Rung petulantly.
“Absolutely nothing. But I imagine that you will begin to find that incredibly boring very soon, and it won’t help you with matters at all. You can get out of this much quicker if you give me your full cooperation so I can clear you with Ultra Magnus if this turns out to be nothing, or I can help you if you need it. The choice is up to you.”
Prowl paused. He thought about it. He didn’t want to be here until they found the Knights (if they even existed) or returned to Cybertron - and he didn’t know when either of those events would be.
“I don’t have any problems, but if I find you talk about what I say here to anyone, they will never find your frame,” he threatened. He would talk, but he didn’t people thinking he had emotional vulnerabilities. Rung just had a tiny, stupid soft smile on his face. Prowl didn’t know if he felt reassured or vaguely patronized.
“Of course they won’t. I wouldn’t expect anything less.” Rung was clearly used to this type of behavior and talk, and mentally going through a list of patients he knew of, Prowl was pretty sure he knew why.
Whirl being on the Lost Light wasn’t doing him any favors - his mere existence raised the standards for death threats.
Prowl was snapped out of his thoughts when an alarm klaxon started blaring loudly.
Prowl was curiously leaving his habsuite to see what all the fuss was about when Megatron came on over the PA system.
“Attention crew of the Lost Light, this is not a drill. I repeat: this is not a drill. The Lost Light is disintegrating.” Now if that didn’t encourage Prowl to run for it, he didn’t know what would. “Procede in an orderly fashion to Shuttle Bay 1 and await further orders.”
Prowl skidded to a halt before landing his pede on a section of the floor that was no longer a floor. He was pretty sure he got the whole ‘disintegrating’ thing now.
“En route to the shuttle bay you may discover that portions of the ship are missing.” The warning was a little late, in Prowl’s humble opinion as he shuffled into Shuttle Bay 1. Just a smidge belated. “You may even encounter open space.” Prowl felt as if he should’ve asked more questions of what Ultra Magnus had meant by ‘not safe’ when he signed up.
“It seems any protection from the vacuum outside is only temporary, as if- KZZK!”
Well, that made Prowl feel better.
“Pick a shuttle and move it, people! We’ve practiced this.” Prowl decided to not question what was going on, in pursuit of self-preservation, and boarded a brightly colored shuttle not too far from where he was.
He came to regret his choice, as they were fleeing the disappearing Lost Light, as he recognized two very distinct paint-jobs: one was gun-metal grey, and the other green and purple that adorned several mechs whom he did not want to be on board with.
Prowl looked forlornly out the window where the Lost Light had been only minutes ago.
He was stuck on an escape shuttle with Megatron and the Constructicons.
So much for his vacation.
thanks for listening to me bypass the problem of why prowl would even want to join the lost light by saying he just DOES OKAY.
I have a four-page (and counting) outline of this story (all the way up to the end of MTMTE) so let's see where this takes us
This story will be part 'the lost light but prowl's there too', part deviating storyline, and part prowl going off and having his own adventure at one point.
Nightbeat ruminates over the mystery of the disappearing Lost Light, Prowl avoids his gestalt, and in a therapy session, Prowl talks with Rung about Tyrest's killswitch.
This is... significantly longer than I had intended it to be. It's more than three times the length of the last chapter, and it only takes us through issue 31!
On that note, the issue this chapter is based on (Twenty Plus One) was released five years ago yesterday!
A quick warning before y'all call me out on this: Prowl will refer to Nautica as 'he' throughout this chapter, as he doesn't yet know that Nautica's a 'she'.
Also, be prepared for copious amounts of italics and dashes.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Prowl shrewdly maneuvered himself around the crowd in the shuttle to avoid both and Constructicons and Megatron, eventually finding himself next to Riptide, Nautical (one of the new arrivals from Caminus, he was fairly sure that’s what his name was) and… Chromedome. He quickly sat himself down next to Nautical (or whatever his name was), and stubbornly refused to even look in Chromedome’s direction, instead paying attention to whatever Riptide and Nautia were talking about.
“-so you got the Lost Light recently then?”
“Yeah, no, this was about - this would’ve been about two years ago,” Riptide responded. “Most of the NAILs had flown home to Cybertron, and New Iacon, if that’s what we’re calling it, was filling up. Rodimus was about to announce his galactic road trip and Drift was shopping around for some wheels. The two of us - and Pipes, bless him - had ended up in New Iacon’s new religious quarter.” On some level, Prowl was intrigued that they had found a ship like the Lost Light in a religious quarter, but at the same time wasn’t surprised that that was where Drift would go to find one.
“So Drift had noticed this cool quantum ship with fuel quills, and we went searching for the owners, and it turned out that it belonged to these two sketchy looking mechs in the corner. So these two NAILs - turned out they were chirolingual: they preferred to communicate by-”
“By stimulating the nervecircuits in the fingers, wrist, and palm. I know. I speak a little hand,” Nautina responded, cutting off Riptide.
“Me too, Nautica,” Nautica, that was it, “me too - and it cost me.” Prowl took a moment to consider why everybody on the Lost Light was so dramatic. “Drift, of course, was fluent. So he was talking with them, and from what I could see, they called the Lost Light a hop ship - apparently it could do, like, 20 jumps on the clock, from something ‘Pulsar’ back to Cybertron. Drift dropped a billion shanix on this ship.” That caught Prowl’s attention. Something clicked in Prowl’s mind
Drift bought the Lost Light and assuming he didn’t gift it to Rodimus, it was still his own privately owned neutral ship. It definitely didn’t belong to the Autobot faction or the Provisional Cybertronian government (Prowl knew, he had looked through the ship manifest at one point - nobody really owned much of anything back then), which meant that Megatron had been illegally installed as captain.
Prowl could understand making Megatron a prisoner or crew member on the Lost Light, but putting a warlord who had committed countless murders and war crimes in a position of authority struck Prowl as… odd (by which he meant that Sideswipe and Ironhide had to physically restrain him before he could throw a table at someone [Optimus]).
He’d have to remember to bring it up with Rodimus sometime, Primus knew with the way he had been acting he didn’t want Megatron on the ship any more than Prowl did.
He felt a curious poke against his spark.
:: What’s got you so wound up? ::
Prowl didn’t know which Constructicon had asked the question, and he didn’t care. He pulsed a violent jab back before clamping down on the gestalt bond.
“-and Drift told us that we could be waiting for a sign, and he stared all mystical-y at the lanterns that read ‘Welcome to the Festival of Lost Light’. And that’s how the Lost Light became the Lost Light.”
“Riptide, please.” Great, Megatron was here too. It was at times like these that Prowl remembered why he preferred to eliminate his problems before they got out of hand in such a way. “I think our time would be more profitably spent is rather than reminiscing we focused on the here and now,” the former (‘former’ Prowl thought mockingly) tyrant said. “You Autobots are obsessed with the past.” Prowl decided analyzing that statement wasn’t even worth the bother.
“And we all know why you’re not…” Riptide muttered under his breath. Prowl snorted. Nautica raised his hand.
“That was my fault, Megatron - I asked Riptide where the Lost Light came from. It’s such an abnormal - sorry, it was such an abnormal ship.”
Prowl turned to look at him in question just as Chromedome asked: “Abnormal how?”
They made optic contact.
Both turned away from each other in disgust as Nautica answered Chromedome’s almost forgotten query.
“The quantum engines. Advanced isn’t the word…! I mean, there’s no way that Perceptor, as brilliant as he is - and don’t get me wrong, I think he’s Brainstorm-level brilliant-” Prowl had worked with both scientists in the past, and just didn’t bother to even think about the difference between the two (Perceptor was conventionally brilliant, perhaps the smartest mech out there… Brainstorm was smart in a way that often openly defied the laws of the universe in every capacity and often drove Prowl to his wits end, though he still didn’t quite understand why Wheeljack had insisted upon using Brainstorm of all mechs as a measuring scale for disaster), “-there’s no way he could’ve used a regular set of quantum engines to get us from Cybertron to the Galactic Rim in one go.”
“You played no small part in that, I gather,” some other mech added. His name was on the edge of Prowl’s mind. Must not have been very important, Prowl tended to remember the names of key players.
“Well, I- thanks Hoist.” Hoist, that’s his name! “That’s - yes,” Nautica stumbled over his words. “I appreciated that.” He paused. “I’ve lost my thread now. And my wrench,” he muttered. “Compliments make me clumsy.” That much was obvious.
“Go on, Nautica - Educationalize us. I haven’t learned anything new since the Ten Step,” some other mech said, leaning forward in an intrigued manner.
Prowl hid his wince at the mention of the program underneath a muttered, “That’s not how you use ‘educationalize’. The correct word was 'educate'.” The mech shot Prowl a sharp look.
“It’s called a joke, Prowl. You can make and understand one if you have something most of us like to call a sense of humor. Get one.”
Nautica, oblivious to the sharp jabs passed back and forth, seemingly had his missing wrench rematerialize in his hand while agreeing to the mechs prompt, “I’m used to doing this in a classroom setting, but yeah, why not? Convention be damned!”
And that was how, an hour and a half later, Prowl found himself knowing far more about quantum engines and quantum mechanics than he had ever wanted to know in his life.
“In essence, quantum engines work both for and against themselves. Being able to travel faster than light is highly improbable, and it’s that improbability - that tension between what should and shouldn’t be possible which - which generates the huge amount of power needed to relocate the engines’ mass and conceptual heft.”
Prowl had genuinely never been more thankful that he had been constructed a police bot and not a lab assistant because that genuinely made absolutely no sense.
“Define ‘conceptual heft,’” Getaway asked, raising his hand. Prowl had forgotten that Getaway was even on the Lost Light - he should probably try to talk to him at some point, especially after he had gone missing after that mission to take out Tyrest.
“The heaviness of the idea,” Nightbeat responded (Prowl could remember some names at least).
“What? You just said exactly the same thing with different words.” Prowl was fairly sure that ‘ideas’ couldn’t have mass or weight or ‘heft’, but after listening to Nautica ramble he wasn’t sure what was scientifically possible or not.
“And you’ve just defined a definition,” Nightbeat said, a slag-eating grin on his face.
“If I sit next to you too long, am I going to die of smartass poisoning?” He found himself wondering the likelihood of a fight breaking out. Nautica just seemed oblivious to everything around him, off talking in his own little world.
“Now steady, because this is merely a sketch of an outline of a germ of an idea…” Dear Primus, was Prowl thankful that he had never gotten involved in the sciences. “But what is, the more advanced the quantum engines, the more unlikely they are to exist… until one day, they don’t.” Crazy must be infectious on the Lost Light because Prowl found himself simultaneously finding that to make sense and the stupidest thing he had ever heard. “That’s what I think happened to the Lost Light: I think it proved itself impossible.” Prowl more fully understood why some ‘bots had quit the Lost Light and entered therapy after they returned to Cybertron.
“We may not have established the cause of the Lost Light’s disappearance, but the effect is obvious,” Megatron said sullenly from where he observed the other shuttles from the Lost Light. “We’re spread across a dozen short-range shuttles, of which this vanity project of a ship is undoubtedly the most ridiculous, and we’re floundering. We need to regroup, refuel, and work out how we can find Thunderclash without the benefit of faster-than-light-travel.” Well, someone was eager to expedite their execution.
“Hold that thought,” Blaster, holding a hand to his comm and pointing out the window at the Leading Light. “Incoming message from Rodimus. He’s saying there’s an A Level planet nearby… Ofsted XVII, edge of Sector 113. We’re to rendezvous there. He’s asking who’s on board. ‘If Megaton was half the co-captain he thinks he is he’d get his act together and-’ sorry, lost him mid-insult.”
“Everyone stand still while I carry out a headcount. I hope this puts paid to the notion that I ignore everything my ‘co-captain’ says on the grounds that he’s lazy, petulant, and pathologically ill-suited to command…” Megatron vented as his finger moved across the crowd, taking count of all the mechs on board. He paused at one point and turned to Prowl. “Where’s Hook?”
One of the Constructicons (Scavenger maybe?) piped up from the back. “He’s on one of the other shuttles - the Medicia with First Aid.” Megatron nodded his assent and continued counting, muttering quietly under his breath as he went.
“And Highbrow makes twenty five,” he announced.
He began to move away as Chromedome and Highbrow began talking about Lectureworlds and Curricula, but next thing Prowl knew the lights flickered and the Constructicons grabbed him and pulled him away from where… Primus, he had to start learning names soon. The little waste disposal minibot was aiming a gun at Megatron.
“Hands in the air!” Prowl personally found it vaguely difficult to take the whole situation seriously when the minibot’s voice was so high-pitched. “C’mon! I wanna see armpits!” Primus, this mech had to realize how un-intimidating he was, right?
“It’s Tailgate, isn't it?” Megatron asked in a slightly condescending manner.
“You know who I am. Everybody knows.” Prowl didn’t actually, but he felt as if he was about to get a reminder. He sent an angry pulse through the gestalt bond to get those brutes to stop petting him and asking if he was okay because he was fine.
“I’m the waste disposal expert who saved the world - in fact, there’s a 50% chance you’re still alive because of me.” It wasn’t ringing any immediate bells, but this wasn’t a fight Prowl wanted to get involved in as he slowly advanced towards the - ahem - situation.
“Hm,” Megatron said, and Prowl didn’t know it was possible to put so much condescending and patronizing power into a single noise. “I’ll have to take your tiny word for it.”
“Tailgate!” exclaimed Cyclonus - at this point Prowl had a 50/50 rate going with actually remembering who people were. “What in the name of sanity are you doing?” Good question. What did a tiny minibot hope to accomplish by holding a blaster to Megatron, who - much as Prowl despised to admit it - hadn’t actually done anything wrong. Yet. It was a matter of time.
“What am I doing? What’s everyone else doing?” Tailgate paused to take a shaky breath. “I’m out of action for six months and - and - and this!” Ah, yes, Megatron in charge of your ship would be a rather nasty thing to wake up to. “Him! How come he’s even allowed to be here?! Did you throw the world’s most successful forgive and forget party?” Prowl was finding that he rather liked Tailgate. Ratchet himself had hurried over to join Cyclonus in attempting to de-escalate the situation.
“Trust me, no one will ever forget what Megatron did - but what exactly do you think he’s just done? Why point a gun at him now?”
“Because an Autobot just died and he’s got form.”
“No, an Autobot just disappeared-”
“I suggest we lock him in the engine room - I’m assuming we have an engine room - until we’ve worked out what just happened to Crosscut.” Reluctantly (Prowl wanted it on the record that he did this to avoid drawing attention to himself), he opened the gestalt bond and inquisitively pinged about the situation.
Instead of words or thoughts, one of them (Long Haul?) pressed a memory through the bond.
“The commodification of knowledge. I find that offensive.” Long Haul had taken a moment from his gestalt’s chattering to survey the room. He spotted Prowl moving across the room - he stopped to admire the way the mech moved, the way the light dulled reflected off his matte polish, the way his doorwings gently swayed from side to side with each step he took, the professional and cool air he carried about him-
“I’m actually working on a new play about how we know what we know. Working title: Info Creep.” Long Haul cut off his… observation of Prowl to glance over to where Cyclonus was talking with Crosscut. “Single act, single set, small cast - it’s slightly more experimental than My Shovel, Your Face. You’ll have to see it twice to make sense of what’s-” The lights blinked before turning themselves back on and-
Long Haul stopped. He shuttered his optics. He restarted his optics.
Crosscut was just… gone.
“Crosscut?” Cyclonus asked, looking over at where the playwright had just been standing, looking and sounding as confused as Long Haul felt.
“Where did he go? The lights went out and-” Hoist rushed over, looking panicked.
“And he went with them! He’s gone!”
“No one panic.” Long Haul whipped around with the rest of the Constructicons to see Tailgate pointing a gun at Megatron.
And then suddenly the memory ended, and Long Haul - Prowl was watching Megatron pull a gun on Tailgate. A ringing noise was loud in his audials.
Wow, was that disorientating.
“No one’s locking me up. Not again. Not without reason.” And oh my, didn’t this remind Prowl of his days chasing down criminals back in his old precinct.
“Aw, Megs…” Riptide said, sounding falsely disappointed. “The room was on your side and you went and did that.” Prowl had apparently missed the memo to grab his blaster on his way out of his habsuite. “Can’t say I was beginning to trust you - fact I pretty much hate you - but I bet twenty shanix you’d pretend to be good for at least another month.” Cyclonus quickly forced himself between the standoff between Tailgate, Riptide, and Megatron.
“A moment of pause - please - before this escalates.” Prowl quickly joined Cyclonus in the center of the gun show - not particularly eager for someone to be an idiot, fire, and hit something important.
“Alright, Megatron, Riptide, Tailgate - let’s just sit down and talk this out like mature, rational mechs, instead of running around and pointing guns at each other. Let’s just all lower our weapons before somebody gets hurt.”
“There’s a surprise! The pseudo-Decepticons protect the ex-Decepticon.” Prowl had to blink and think for a moment about that. He didn’t think he had ever been outright called a Decepticon before.
“I say we lock ‘em all up in the engine room.” Prowl spotted the Constructicons approaching out of the corner of his optic. That would only make the entire situation worse, so with a harsh glare and prod through the bond, he got them to back off - a bit. They still hovered nearby. “Do we have an engine room?” Prowl vaguely wanted to whack his head against the wall - was everyone on board the Lost Light this stupid?
“Lower your guns you fools. I’m unarmed,” Cyclonus shot back at the mechs who were accusing him, and suddenly he was standing back-to-back with Cyclonus, of all mechs.
“What’s that on your back then - a tin-opener with a hilt?”
“Cool it, guys!” Tailgate said, jumping to their defense. “Cyclonus isn’t the enemy!” Prowl was really feeling the love on this shuttle, truly.
“He’s not? Oh, I’m sorry, it must’ve been the other Cyclonus who murdered all those Autobots at Kimia - because if not, that makes you a MONUMENTAL FRIKKIN’ HYPOCRITE!” Despite the high tension situation, Prowl, in his aftport Prowl way, took a moment to consider why they were bothering to keep their PG rating.
And then suddenly, in all of this confusion, Megatron was shooting, people were screaming, and Megatron had an unconscious Ravage in his hands.
Prowl offhandedly wondered if he should even continue questioning what was happening anymore.
“At ease everyone. I’ve got him. He’s unconscious.” Megatron announced. Prowl, personally, didn’t see how that solved the problem at all, but what was the point of questioning anything at this point?
“What’s Ravage doing here?” Hound asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Has he been here the whole time? Was he on the Lost Light?” Prowl felt that was an obvious yes unless Ravage or Soundwave had suddenly developed the ability to teleport - and wasn’t that a frightening prospect?
“I don’t know,” Megatron replied more forcefully. “I know you think I do, but I don’t.” He almost sounded as if there wasn’t a perfectly reasonable thought process to think that he would know.
Meanwhile, Tailgate and Cyclonus were having their own little lovers spat.
“I know you think I should’ve played that differently, but-” Cyclonus angrily snatched the gun out of Tailgate’s hand. “Ouch! Hey!” he complained. “Careful! That finger saved the world!” Prowl was ready to give up on anything making sense.
“Don’t ever do that to me again. You made a fool of yourself. You could’ve got yourself killed.” And with that, Cyclonus stormed off, firearm clutched tightly enough within his grasp that Prowl could see it beginning to buckle from the pressure. Getaway smoothly slid in to fill the void that Cyclonus had left with his frustrated exit.
“Chin up, scout. He’s just worried about you.” Prowl raised an optic ridge. He remembered Getaway, the mech had always been rather charismatic, though he had to admit that he had never seen someone like Getaway hanging out with Tailgate… though he supposed he couldn’t really see Cyclonus jumping to Tailgate’s defense either, so just decided to leave that whole situation well alone.
“Pulling a gun on Megatron? I reckon you’ve got more backbone than the rest of us put together.” That felt like a blatant lie, everybody had been more than happy to aim their blasters at Megatron, but Prowl could really care less at that point. Getaway spotted Prowl at that point. He gave him a quick nod and a “Hey, Boss.”
Prowl nodded back before wandering off. He could see the Constructicons hovering around him on the periphery of his vision, but this day had already been so exhausting that he couldn’t really care to do more than give them an annoyed ping over the gestalt bond.
“Megatron?” he turned to look at Nautica crouched on the floor, looking tense. “Look at the room.” He, Prowl, and many others began to check out the room, trying to see whatever it was that Nautica saw.
“What about it?”
“Does it look emptier to you?” Megatron paused to do a quick headcount.
“We’ve lost six more!” Prowl looked around to clarify this for himself - there were definitely fewer mechs than there had been before… Chromedome himself had disappeared, and he wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved that that was one less person to avoid, or concerned.
Aaaand now the Constructicons were plastered to his side. Wonderful.
“You’re not gonna disappear are you Prowl?”
“Yeah, you’re Prowl, you can’t be defeated by a stupid magic trick!”
“What if we start disappearing?”
“Has Hook disappeared?”
And then suddenly there was a rush of distressed pings running across the gestalt bond that was making Prowl panic - so he cut off the gestalt bond, causing the hefty frames around him to flinch and look at him like kicked turbofoxes.
“Question for the room!” Nightbeat suddenly declared, capturing Prowl’s attention, shifting his mind from the tugging he could feel on his spark. “Who here was forged, and who was constructed cold?”
“You’re from Petrex, aren’t you?” Rung asked inquisitively when his youth was brought up.
“Constructed and worked,” Prowl responded dryly.
“Forgive me if this comes off a bit forward, but… Petrex was governed by Functionists, was it not?” Prowl felt the snap against his protoform as his plating quickly clamped down defensively.
“It was,” he responded stiffly. Rung sighed, sensing his defensiveness before Prowl could even snark back at him.
“Did you ever get in trouble with the functionalist government?”
Prowl made a non-committal noise, refusing to look in Rung’s direction.
“Prowl, could you give me a yes or no answer, at the very least?” Prowl sighed, crossing his arms and glowering at the ceiling above the stupid therapy couch he was awkwardly reclined upon.
“Yes. Several times.”
“Is there any particular offenses or complaints that the Functionists filed against you that you would feel comfortable sharing?”
“No.” Rung sighed. Prowl wasn’t cooperating much, but at least he was getting more definitive answers out of him.
“Alright then. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were also the only cold constructed mech within Autobot high command, were you not?” Prowl’s armored fluffed out a smidge, and his EM field gave a brief, prideful brush against Rung’s loose and friendly one.
“I was.” Prowl didn’t offer anything more. Rung began wondering if he was going to have to start asking more pointed questions to see if Prowl would offer a few slightly more substantial answers.
“Has being cold constructed ever affected you in any way?” Rung asked, wondering if he would give a simple one or two-word answer, or if perhaps a few details would be shared? Prowl offered extra information so rarely, and Rung was hesitant to push him too much, knowing the mech would easily become defensive.
“You know what?” Prowl said instead of giving the typical negative or affirmative. “There are a few instances I could refer to, but let me talk about one that you should know about. You want a deep answer, you can get a deep answer. You were there when former Chief Justice Tyrest activated his killswitch, correct?”
Oh. That was a bit more forward than Rung was used to Prowl being with his answers.
“I remember the feeling of my spark burning out - I couldn’t control anything I did, I collapsed, writhing on the ground, and my whole world was reduced to the agony that I felt within my core. I wasn’t able to keep the gestalt bond closed - so it was that, plus the echoes I could feel from a couple of the Constructicons. It hurt like nothing I had ever felt before - it was probably what I would describe as hell - how else can you explain feeling your spark burning out, yet being fully conscious and painfully aware of you spark slowly burning, slowing giving in to a crushing force that you can’t identify?” Prowl took a deep breath and recollected himself, “It’s just - that was terrifying.”
Rung sat there, silently making notes as Prowl talked, afraid of saying anything and snapping Prowl out of whatever honest reverie he had found himself in.
“And you know what the worst part is? It’s all my fault that any of that happened to me anyways. Mesothulas, Aequitas, the trials, the killswitch - all of it is ultimately my fault. I’m the one who had gone to Mesothulas for help, it was our partnership that eventually led to him building Aequitas - I could’ve stopped him, I wanted to stop him, but I didn’t. I knew the ethics of the project were questionable - all of Autobot high command knew they were.” Prowl gave a dry, hollow laugh. “Mesothulas built the computer, the Aequitas trials were held, and they only found cold constructed sparks guilty. Rodimus was more than happy to brag about how his crew had stopped the evil Chief Justice Tyrest - I was simply able to connect the dots.” He paused, looking at the ceiling. Rung waited to see if Prowl had anything more to add.
“What does that say about me? I-” he stopped, and his face twisted as he considered his next words. “I don’t believe that all cold constructed sparks are inherently guilty, but I can’t help but feel as if I-” Prowl shook his head as if abandoning the thought. “Nevermind. My point is, in essence, I’ve targeted myself for being cold constructed.” He turned his head and glared Rung in the optics. “Is that the deep, in-depth, bare my stuttering, failing spark answer you were looking for?”
Rung decided not to answer that trap of a question, instead trying to see if he could detangle Prowl’s… guilt complex. Out of all the things Rung had expected to come up in their sessions, guilt was not very high up on the list, but as a therapist, he was rather good at going with the flow.
“Did you or Mesothulas come up with Aequitas?” he asked instead. Prowl stared at the ceiling, seemingly having to think about the answer for a few seconds.
“I remember Mesothulas being rather… excited by the prospect of trying to build something as impossible as a machine that could detect guilt.” Rung nodded and made a note to see if Prowl would be willing to talk more about this Mesothulas character later - his voice gained an odd tone every time he said his name.
“Have you considered that, since the idea and function were so very out there in the first place, Mesothulas might have made a mistake, and therefore it would only declare a cold constructed ‘bot guilty?”
“He didn’t make mistakes often - he was very good at what he did, it’s why we worked together so often.”
“But could he have?” Prowl hesitated in his answer, continuing to stare at the ceiling as if it held the answers to life.
“It’s not impossible, do you truly believe that every single forged mech they brought to stand trial was innocent? You used to work in mechaforensics if I’m not mistaken. How often was the criminal a forged mech?” His face scrunched up, glaring as if he didn’t want to admit anything to himself.
“45.78 percent of the time.”
“Using that statistic, out of the thousands of Aequitas trials held, what exactly are the chances that every single forged that Aequitas judged were innocent, and every single crime was committed by a cold constructed mech?”
“Extremely low.” Prowl’s voice sounded much smaller and quieter than it had before.
“What are the chances that Mesothulas made a mistake - higher or lower?”
It was quiet for a long moment - an uncomfortably extended time of silence.
“Higher.” Rung had to lean forward to hear Prowl’s whispered answer.
“Then what are you blaming yourself for?”
There was no answer this time.
They sat in silence for the remaining 45 minutes of their hour-long session.
“Oof! Personal!” Riptide said, putting a hand on his cocked hip. “Where’d that come from?” Night beat smiled exuberantly as he gestured at the board that Nautica had been used earlier to explain the quantum engines of the Lost Light, now evenly divided in two, with one side labeled ‘F’ and the other ‘CC’.
“I’m trying to categorize us. It may be that the… whatever we want to call it - ‘The Phenomenon’ - is targeting one of the two creation types.” Prowl could have said that there was technically more than two, but that would’ve taken so much backstory and personal details that he decided that it just wasn’t worth the effort - plus it obviously didn’t apply to the situation. “I was constructed cold. The first of the First Wave, actually - back before they had issues with sparks being placed in prefab bodies.”
“I’m the same as you,” Getaway offered from his place next to Skids (Prowl had heard enough about the Lost Light’s previous adventures to know that Skids had been forced to use his Nudge Gun on himself - which meant he most likely didn’t remember most of their interactions), “constructed cold - but I’m Second Wave. I was created after the Silver Harvest - after they rediscovered the Spark Reserves.”
“You’re an M.T.O., aren’t you?” Skids asked inquisitively. Getaway straightened and put in his hands on his hips in a proud manner.
“Yep! My full name is Getaway of the Corcapsia Incursion.”
Prowl stood back, listening to everyone talk about all the weird and odd M.T.O. names they had heard before, but paying more attention to Nightbeat and Megatron as they talked.
“What about you, Megatron? Forged or constructed cold?” Nightbeat asked, looking ready to bounce on pedes in excitement, as he always did when there was a mystery to solve.
“No one has a right to know how a fellow Cybertronian was created.” Megatron had clearly never heard of medical and personnel files, but Prowl decided the bigger thing was to focus on figuring out whether or not his audials were glitching or if he had just heard Megatron say ‘fellow Cybertronian’. How progressive of him. “There’s a thin line between categorization and segregation, and I never want to see it crossed again.” Prowl decided to just leave that statement alone, and to analyze it some other time, because wow.
“I know - and I happen to agree with you. But this is important.” Everything pertaining to a potential mystery was classified as ‘important’ to Nightbeat. “It seems the only people being taken are those were forged - who grew out of Cybertron itself.”
Oh, now on that Prowl could call it.
“Hate to burst your bubble, Nightbeat, but here’s one thing I do know - Chromedome was First Wave, not forged.” Nightbeat looked stricken at Prowl’s words.
“Gotta back Prowl up, here,” Ratchet said, making his way over. “Sorry to torpedo your theory, Nightbeat, but I was forged - even my replacement hands were forged - and I’ve not yet been taken.” He threw up his arms dramatically to help emphasize his point. “I’ve also read everyone’s Med-Specs and personal files, and with a couple of exceptions… I know exactly who was born and who was built.”
Prowl vaguely wondered why Ratchet hadn’t bothered to bring this fact up earlier but decided that it wasn’t the moment to press the issue as Nightbeat leaned against one of the pilots chairs, a hand pressed to head.
“Okay, so if not creation types, what is it? What am I missing? Think, think, think, think,” he muttered under his breath, deep in thought.
“Hey, Riptide - remember the Ten Step Program?”
“Ten? It was down to eight by the time I came online.” Oh, that was a conversation Prowl did not want to get involved in. He turned around to see if there were other opportunities only to see the Constructicons still hovering nearby. Prowl sighed, picking his poison and turning around to join the M.T.O. conversation before one of the Constructicons hesitantly asked a question.
“Do we know what’s happenin’ Prowl?” Mixmaster asked, wringing his servos together as he glanced around the increasingly empty looking cabin. Prowl sighed and looked to ceiling to ask Primus, why me?
“No. If you want to know what’s going on, go have a conversation with Nightbeat, not me,” he responded glaring at them as they huddled together in front of him. They shuffled their pedes, looking at each other as if daring one another to be the next one to ask him a question.
“Are we gonna disappear?” Bonecrusher asked, looking uncharacteristically worried.
“Probably.” He didn’t want to, but never let it be said that Prowl let an opportunity pass by to be an insensitive prick.
Suddenly there was a distressed ping coming through the gestalt bond, and all the Constructicons became even more concerned, their plating clamping down on their frames and EM fields sizzling with agitated charge.
:: The Medicia’s disappeared, :: Hook grouched through the bond.
:: It’s taking shuttles now too? :: Scavenger asked, panicking, ignoring the flicker of the lights.
:: It took the Lost Light, why wouldn’t it be able to take the shuttles? :: Prowl snapped. Everything paused, and all the Constructicons looked at him in surprise, while a shocked pull washed through the bond. Prowl suddenly realized that it was the first time he had actually bothered to talk through the bond, rather than send agitated or demanding pings. He clamped his armor to his protoform before clamping the gestalt bond as well and walking away from the Constructicons in a huff. He walked over to Nightbeat, ignoring the longing tug that strained his spark.
“It’s not just taking ‘bots, it’s taking shuttles as well,” he informed the detective, who was crouched over Cyclonus’ sword - which meant that the aforementioned mech had disappeared, great. Nightbeat perked up and glanced at him.
“Really?” he asked excitedly before he began to look around the room questioningly. “Why do I get the feeling I’m being stared at?”
“Why do you all look so tiny?” Prowl jerked and whipped around, only to see a huge brown human eye staring at all of them. “Oh, bear with me. I think I need to rescale,” What Prowl now recognized as a holomatter avatar began to shrink down, eventually stopping at just under Megatron’s height - it was at the very least a ‘bot who had been on Earth, as he could recognize the avatar as Verity Carlo.
“I know you…” Megatron said, looking at the avatar consideringly.
“Of course you do - I’m Ultra Magnus.” Ah, that made sense. “Unless you’re referring to my holomatter avatar.”
“You’re a hologram?” Prowl had no idea why Megatron sounded so confused about the whole matter.
“Solid light. My shuttle’s nearby - close enough, finally, for me to reach you by remote projection.” Megatron began talking to Magnus in low tones, but he responded at a normal level.
“All I know is that I’m the only one left on the Leading Light. Everyone else has disappeared.”
“It’s happening here, too.”
“But it’s not just people - the shuttles are disappearing too. The Leading Light and the RodPod are the only two left.” Well, at least Prowl knew what the shuttle he was on was called.
“Er…” Everybody tuned to where Tailgate was on the tips of his pedes on a crate, peaking out one of the viewports. “Are you sure, Magnus? I can’t see your shuttle anywhere.”
“That’s odd, I -” Magnus cocked a hip and looked down at himself, a hand on his chin. “I can’t sense my body. My proper body. I think… I think I’ve just disappeared. But if I’ve disappeared, how come I’m still-” the holomatter avatar fizzled out of existence, “-here?”
“Okay, that’s the final straw,” Nightbeat said, walking over to where Ratchet stood with a determined gait. “Ratchet!” He thrust the marker for the board in his hand. “You’ve seen everyone’s files. Take everything you about the Autobots who boarded this ship and write it down.” Prowl could feel a vague urge to channel his inner Ultra Magnus and say something about patient privacy, but it really wasn’t the time to be complaining. “Everything, doc: spark type, religion, past affiliations, conjunx endurae, health scares, whatever.” Wow, this situation was getting personal fast. “Somewhere in there is a pattern that connects the ones who have been taken.”
“But - what makes you think the rest of us aren’t going to disappear too, in the end?” Ah, Ratchet. Always there with the quality questions.
“Now you listen to me - I’m not going anywhere until I’ve worked out what’s happening!” Nightbeat shouted, using angry gestures to drill his point in. Prowl had almost forgotten how obsessive the ‘bot could get over mysteries.
“Alright, alright,” Ratchet muttered, quickly writing on the board the spark types and notable health conditions of each of the bots that were on board, past and present.
“That’s a lot of information…” Skids piped up a few minutes later, before turning away to look at Megatron, “... but what’s it actually telling us?” Prowl could see Skids’ point. It was quite a bit of information, but none of it held any detectable pattern that he could observe - and going by the frustrated look on Nightbeat’s face, neither could he.
“It’s telling us that Ratchet was right: there’s no pattern,” Megatron responded. “We’re all going to disappear in the end, and to think otherwise is utterly-” the lights cut out once more, “-delusional.” The lights flickered back on, and the room was a bit more empty.
“So long, Swerve. You too, Tailgate,” Skids said, kneeling next to where the two minibots had stood just a few seconds prior, running his fingers lightly over Cyclonus’ sword that had plummeted to the ground once more. “Everyone else accounted for?” he asked, glancing at Nightbeat.
“Not entirely,” he responded, picking up Ratchet’s hand via the marker they had been holding just before Ratchet disappeared which was - Prowl found it a bit weird that that’s what was left behind. “Ratchet left his hands behind - and they seemed to have changed color…”
“Technically, those are Pharma’s hands,” Skids offered, looking a bit disturbed at the way the now blue hands were frozen, hanging onto the marker. Prowl ignored another tug on his spark.
“Oh jeez, the whole Pharma/Delphi thing…!” Riptide said excitedly, moving his arms in an ecstatic manner, seeming to forget the upcoming doom of all of them. “Swerve told me all about it during the Crewditions.” And wasn’t Prowl glad he had missed those. Just the name set off alarm bells in his mind. “You lot got up to some crazy stuff when you were away.”
“Wait,” Nightbeat said, quickly gesturing for Riptide to stop. “What did you just say?”
“I… said you lot got up to some crazy stuff while you were away,” Riptide said, looking confounded about the whole situation.
“But you were there too - right from the start. You were there when Drift bought the Lost Light…” Prowl had no idea what Nightbeat was attempting to get at with the new thread he was following, but lacking any better ideas, let him interrogate Riptide, who quickly picked up where Nightbeat had trailed off.
“I was, yes - and then I offered to go back to get a receipt. Some about the two NAILs made me twitchy. I saw them talking hand from a distance and yep, sure enough, they were dodgy as hell - not only were they Mortilus worshippers, they were hiding from the crew of the Alchemy Seven. They’d been caught trying to steal a brace of turbofoxes. None of my business, I thought - until they started talking about how the ship they’d just sold had a sparkeater in the basement…” perhaps it was a good thing the Lost Light had disappeared after all, “... and how they had to get off-planet before Drift found out. I decided to say something. And in keeping with the preferred method of communication, I let my fists do the talking.” Prowl was beginning to wonder how much of Riptide’s brain module was constructed of witty one-liners. “Unfortunately, they had a lot more to say than I did. They beat me up and left me for dead, and by the time I regained consciousness two days later, the Lost Light had left.” As Riptide talked, a jubilant smile had slowly started growing across Nightbeat’s face. “Why are you smiling?” Riptide asked him indignantly. “I was left behind!”
“You certainly were! Left behind then, and left behind now! HA!” ah, it was beginning to sound as if Riptide’s little anecdote had somehow given Nightbeat the key to solving ‘The Phenomenon’.
“Er - and the joke is…?” Getaway asked, tilting his head in confusion at Nightbeat’s unadulterated glee.
“Skids!” Nightbeat cried instead of answering. “You joined the crew of the Lost Light a few hours after they set off, when they set down for repairs. Am I right?” He didn’t even pause for Skids to answer before moving on. “And Getaway - Rodimus found you on Luna 1. Nautica - you met the crew on Hydrophena, hours before they jumped back to Cybertron…” Something clicked in Prowl’s mind, much in the same way it had clicked for Nightbeat. Oh. “... And it was on Cybertron that the rest of us - Me, Megatron, Riptide, Prowl, the Constructicons, even Ravage - found our way on board. Don’t you see?” he asked excitedly to a group of faces that were slowly beginning to grasp what he was trying to tell them. “Everyone who disappeared today - everyone we know about - They were part of the original Lost Light crew!” Megatron appeared over Nightbeat’s shoulder, looking relatively unimpressed with his show of logic and reason. “And I bet you - I bet you anything - that none of us are at risk. No more disappearances!” Despite keeping the bond closed, Prowl could feel the relief rolling off of them in waves - that might just be their EM fields, since they seem to have no concept of personal space.
Nightbeat turned dramatically to face Megatron, gigantic grin still plastered onto his face. “Mystery solved!”
“Well done,” Megatron said sarcastically, looking down at Nightbeat with a condescending look on his face.
“Thank you,” Nightbeat said, taking a theatrical bow. “Want to say it again and mean it?” he remarked cheekily. Instead of doing such a thing, he stepped up right against Nightbeat and loomed menacingly over the blue and yellow ‘bot.
“You failed,” he told him simply.
“What?” Nightbeat asked, looking insulted.
“You failed,” Megatron reiterated, voice taking on an agitated growl. “You solved the mystery, but only after everyone was taken. You were too slow to save them.”
“Yes, but - at least I worked out what was happening. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?” Nightbeat looked down at his hand questioningly as Megatron moved away. “Doesn’t it?” he asked himself in a much lower and insecure tone.
“Megatron? We’re here,” Nautica called over his shoulder. “Ofsted XVII. We’re approaching orbit.”
“And yet you sound troubled,” Megatron replied, approaching the console. Prowl followed to see what the fuss was about. “What is it, Nautica? What’s the matter?”
The temperature in the shuttle felt as if it had dropped as they all crowded around the main viewport only to see the Lost Light, already there and absolutely wrecked and in pieces.
“We’re not the first to arrive.”
Wow, that was a struggle to get through - this issue is entirely in one setting, with no switches between different groups in different places - so I had to write through the whole thing, which was a bit of a struggle lemme tell you.
I started rushing towards the end and I think it shows.
Anyway, this chapter we got to look a bit into Prowl's head, progressed the plot a bit, and set a baseline for his interactions with the Constructicons! Let's see where this story takes us!
The Constructicons are horny on main for their sixth, Overlord is found in the basement, Rung discusses trust and friendship with Prowl, and Prowl gets shook(TM).
A little shorter than the last chapter, but plenty still happens!
Please enjoy these barely proofread five thousand words I bequeath upon you.
Quick note: The Constructicons use she/her for Nautica because they're caught up with the times, but Prowl refers to her as he/him because he doesn't go outside and talk to people.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“It’s us,” Nautica breathed in shock. “It’s the Lost Light, I’m telling you!” She paused to look at the wreckage for a second longer, considering her words. “Okay so it’s been ripped apart, but-” she paused again, “-that’s our ship!” Getaway looked from the ship to Nautica and back to the ship again.
“Er- the ship we just saw disappear…” he trailed off confusedly.
“Do you know of any other ship with fuel quills that shade of red?” Prowl asked, gesturing to the aforementioned part of the vessel. “And look that way-” heads turned to see what Prowl was pointing at, “you can see the quantum engines over there.” The Constructricons leaned on the tips of their pedes to view what Prowl was referencing, and, sure enough, in the distance, one could see the quantum engines - the source of all the red stuff that the RodPod was slowly navigating through.
“Alright, so it’s the Lost Light,” Getaway conceded, nodding his head. “But how?”
“Two words: paradox,” answered Riptide, a clever smile on his face. The entire shuttle paused for a second, waiting to hear whatever the second word was, before shortly realizing there wasn’t one. Skids quickly moved on, turning to face Megatron.
“Riptide’s right, even if his spelling isn’t.”
“Banking it,” Riptide said, a huge grin on his face. Prowl sent him a disgusted look. Bonecrusher swooned before Mixmaster smacked him out of it.
“You think that’s the Lost Light from the future?” Megatron asked skeptically, raising an optic ridge. Hook was having a right laugh as they broadcasted the situation to him over the gestalt bond. Prowl was still ignoring them.
“I think future Rodimus - coffin Rodimus - must’ve hailed from a future Lost Light…” Skids responded, “...and this is it.” gestured at the destroyed ship.
“What are those threads?” Nightbeat asked. “Over there - like a web. The red stuff.” Nautica perked up, a concerned look on her face saying she knew the answer and that it wasn’t good news.
“That’s quantum foam… and it’s not supposed to be exposed to naked space. I think it’s mutated.” Nautica paused for a second as she considered the few options they had. “Best not fly too close. I suspect the merest graze would-” The shuttle suddenly jerked and went awful close to the web that Nautica had literally just told them to avoid. Everybody turned to stare accusingly at Riptide, who was piloting the ship. Getaway huffed agitatedly.
“Did you do that on purpose?” he griped
“No!” Riptide snapped back defensively. “What would I do that on purpose?”
“Because you strike me as one of those ‘don’t push the button’ types. ‘Don’t push the button.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Presses button.’ ‘Boom!’” Getaway said, pointing accusingly.
“...ridiculous,” Riptide muttered, as he sulkily turned back to face where Megatron was gaining his attention.
“You’re all idiots,” Prowl mumbled.
“Up ahead-” Megatron pointed, ignoring Prowl’s comment, “the front section of the ship is exposed, but the vacuum shields appear to be holding. They’ll reseal if we break through.
“So?” Riptide asked confusedly.
“So land,” Megatron hissed.
“I don’t care,” he said. “Just pick a large enough room and set us down for repairs.”
“Hey, this is Swerve’s,” Getaway said as they looked around the destroyed room they had landed in. The Constructicons filed off the RodPod, milling around Prowl (but not getting too close, in fear that he would yell at them again).
“Are you sure?” Nautica asked, looking around skeptically. The Constructicons languidly poked at Prowl through the bond, only to get a sharp jab and harsh glare in return.
“It’s been trashed,” Nightbeat commented, staring up at a melted hole in the ceiling.
“Must’ve been a good night,” Riptide responded.
“When isn’t it a good night?” Mixmaster asked rhetorically, thinking back to how Swerve’s would always end up filled with rowdy, drunk mechs looking to party each night. Long Haul, Scavenger, and Bonecrusher hummed their assent while Hook simply scoffed over the gestalt bond.
“Hard to tell with all the debris,” Nautica said, moving over to where Nightbeat was investigating. “But… is it even a bar? It looks more like a performance space.” She peered closer at the rubble, tipping her visor up to get a less obstructed view.
“Did you ever-” Nightbeat began to ask before Nautica interrupted him. Prowl wandered over to get a better look at the ruins as well, and the Constructicons didn’t dare to follow him over, scared that he would notice them crowding him (and getting scolded by Prowl was not a fun experience).
“Goodness no. Actually go on stage and-?” Nautica said, shaking her head. “Nooo, no, no, no.”
“Any idea of what might’ve been performed?” Prowl asked inquisitively, surveying chunks of the rubble with a critical eye. Riptide whistled to catch their attention, over where he stood by a release poster.
“I don’t remember this being here…” he said, gesturing to the poster, dramatically titled ‘How Long Can You Go Without Answers: Information Creep’. Getaway, who was closest, hummed his interest. Long Haul simply widened his eyes comically, relaying his realization to the rest of his gestalt through the bond.
“It’s the play Crosscut said he was working on,” he mused. “But how come it’s written? We just saw him disappear…”
“We decided that this Lost Light was a future Lost Light, remember?” Prowl said, coming over to look at the poster, joined by Nightbeat.
“At some point we’re going to find a way to bring everyone back, which is good,” Nightbeat said, eager to look at the silver lining. Skids glanced at him, looking unimpressed.
“Except we bring them back in time for the ship to be torn apart. Which is-”
“-bad. Yes, point taken.” Riptide looked past where the two of them were bantering, a displeased look crossing his face.
“Speaking of bad things…” he muttered sullenly, gesturing to direct their attention to where Megatron was exiting the RodPod with Ravage at his heels, “...here’s the worst.”
Unlike the rest of the crew there, the Constructicons were relatively used to the presence of both Megatron and Ravage, so while they didn’t shy away in disgust like the rest of the Lost Light crew present, they weren’t exactly comfortable. Neither mech nor feline was known for having much patience. Hook snickered at their dilemma.
“I’ve not carried out a formal consultation, Megatron,” Riptide started, a disgruntled look on his face, “but I’m pretty sure everyone here hates your new best friend.”
“By all legal means, Ravage should be locked up,” Prowl scowled.
“Scowly Prowly,” Scavenger muttered to the other Constructicons, causing them to giggle and chuckle, and earning a withering glare in retaliation from Prowl.
“Yeah, what’s with the team up?” Skids asked. “Ravage attacked us.” Nautica scoffed and strolled forward fearlessly, deaf to the mutual cringes of the collected Autobots and Decepticons as she knelt down to coo at Ravage, patting his head.
“Maybe she was just scared.” Nobody felt inclined to interrupt the vaguely tense moment to correct Nautica’s pronoun. “It that right, poppet? Were you scared? Did the noise and the lights scare you?” Prowl wheezed as Nautica continued talking, everybody minus Megatron looking a similarly vague look of disturbed and amused. “Aww, you’d make a lovely pet.” Bonecrusher choked, and Hook was full-on cackling, as his lack of presence meant that he could say whatever, consequences be damned. “Those big bright eyes and-”
All amusement of the situation was quickly lost when Ravage swiped sharply at her face, Nautica only just barely flinching back in time. “Hey!” she exclaimed.
“Hah!” Megatron exclaimed, a slag-eating look on his face. “Ravage isn’t anyone’s pet.”
“Correct,” Skids hissed in a displeased voice. “He’s the enemy.”
“Yes, and he’ll have to account for his actions later - after he’s helped sniff out the crew,” Megatron replied.
“I would like it on the record,” Prowl seethed, “that none of us are happy with this.”
“Noted,” Megatron said simply. Prowl shot him an indignant, offended look as if he couldn’t believe that Megatron had just ‘noted’ him. The Constructicons found themselves feeling notably less comfortable as the seconds went by, not really confident enough to take a particular side, instead choosing to stay out of it.
“We should split up,” Nautica said, not really noticing the tension in the room. “Two teams.”
:: She really did miss the war, :: Long Haul commented through the bond, wondering how it was so easy for someone to ignore obvious faction tensions like that.
:: She’s from a colony world, remember? Camila or something like that, :: Scavenger responded, chipping in his own two cents.
:: Caminus, :: Hook corrected primly.
:: Yeah, that place. They never got involved in the War, remember? ::
:: Hard not too, :: Mixmaster said. :: She’s always talking about things back on Caminus. ::
:: ‘Caminus this, Caminus that,’ :: Bonecrusher mocked.
:: Oh, shut up, Bonecrusher, :: Hook admonished. :: You say that as if there’s never anything you talk about all the time. ::
:: Oh, yeah? And what would that be? :: Bonecrusher challenged, his engine growling low.
:: ‘Ooh, have you guys ever heard of that time Prowl did this? Have you ever seen Prowl do that? Have you ever seen Prowl’s sweet aft?’ :: Scavenger mocked, his voice taking on a pitch several octaves above than his own, which was already higher than Bonecrusher’s. Bonecrusher whacked him over the head, causing the smaller Conestructicon to whine lowly at him.
:: Like you’ve never done literally the exact same thing, :: Long Haul accused.
:: Long Haul, I hate to remind you, but you talk about Prowl a lot as well, :: Mixmaster pointed out, a smug grin on his face.
:: Do not! ::
:: Sorry to disappoint you guys, but you all talk about Prowl a lot, :: Hook said simply.
:: And you don’t? :: Mixmaster grouched in response.
:: Of course not, :: Hook responded primly. :: I have standards for my conduct. ::
:: Oh, so I didn’t catch you totally checking out his backside yesterday? Because I definitely saw that, :: Scavenger said.
:: Shut up. ::
:: I could share the memory through the gestalt bond, and then who knows? Maybe Prowl could see your undying love for him~ ::
:: Don’t you dare, you little slagger. ::
:: Admit that we’re all glitches for Prowl - including you - and I’ll consider your request. ::
:: I’m not saying that. ::
Scavenger, in a rare show of true courage, tentatively poked at Prowl through the gestalt bond, getting harshly snapped at in return before the bond was clamped off from his side again. He was too quick to notice the brief flare of panic that washed through, originating from Hook. He hissed one more time before conceding to Scavenger’s demands.
:: We’re… :: Scavenger prodded him along happily, trying to get him to complete the sentence.
:: Yes? :: he implored. :: Come on, you can say it. ::
:: We’re all glitches for Prowl, :: Hook rushed out quickly, sounding eager to get it over with. :: There. Happy? ::
:: Very, :: Scavenger purred.
“Constructicons!” a loud call snapped them out of their trance. They hadn’t even noticed that they had fallen so deeply into the bond. They immediately refocused their attention to notice Megatron and Ravage begin herded into a storage closet, while Getaway impatiently held another open for them.
“For safety reasons, we need you to get into the storage closet and stay there until we come to get you,” Skids said, probably the most neutral one there - Riptide didn’t look too happy staring at them either. It was Mixmaster who noticed something was off.
The Other Half Of The Ship
“The last twenty-four hours have been exceptionally odd,” Nightbeat remarked as they wandered walked down the hallway towards the elevator.
“More so than usual, that’s for sure,” Prowl said, staring inquisitively at the many holes in the walls around them.
“Tell me about it,” Nautica prompted. Nightbeat looked thrilled for somebody to take an interest in his day so far.
“Disappearing people, disappearing ships, data ghosts, dead doppelgängers…” he trailed off.
“I’m pretty sure data ghosts don’t exist, Nightbeat,” Prowl remarked dryly. Nautica whacked him over the head for his comment. “Hey!”
“Lots of d’s. And when did you see a data ghost?”
“This morning, in Chromedome’s hab suite.” Prowl frowned. Of course, it came back to Chromedome. “Rewind - his conjunx endura -” he elaborated for Nautica’s benefit, “- was standing there in the doorway.” Nautica looked at him and made a confused noise. “Rewind’s dead.”
“Oh!” Nautica exclaimed in surprise. Prowl pointedly looked forward at the approaching elevator.
“Sorry, yes, he got killed.”
“Oh,” He said in shock. “That’s really sad.” They walked in silence for a few seconds longer before Nightbeat decided to change the subject.
“Do you have a conjunx endura? Or any amica endurae? Do they practice any form of elective kinship on Caminus?” he rattled one question off after another, a slow, amused smile appearing on Nautica’s face. “Why are you smiling?”
“Because you!” Nautica giggled. “Your questions! Anyone else would sidle up to a subject like that…”
“Not Nightbeat,” Prowl remarked.
“Gah, who’s got the time to tiptoe?” the aforementioned mech scoffed.
“Well,” Nautica started to respond, a grin still on his face, “the answers are no, yes, and yes. What about you? Ever had a sparkmate?”
“Nah,” Nightbeat responded flippantly. “But then I am pretty insufferable.”
The moment passed as they arrived at the end of the hall in silence, and Nautica crouched down to begin working on the elevator.
“Silent howls of protest,” Nightbeat muttered sullenly.
“I hope you stop and listen to yourself sometimes,” Prowl said.
“What about you Prowl? The Constructicons? They your sparkmates?” Nautica asked curiously. “They certainly talk as if they are.”
“They’re not my sparkmates, they’re my gestalt,” he answered moodily, a frown on his face and plating clamping closer to his protoform defensively.
“How did you of all people end up with the Constructicons?” Nightbeat asked inquisitively. “Didn’t think Autobot Decepticon pairings would’ve become a thing so fast.”
“They’re not,” Prowl hissed. “I was implanted with a cerebro shell by Bombshell, forcibly reformatted into a combiner, and surgically bonded into the Constructicon gestalt on Megatron’s orders. There. That’s the short version.” Nautica and Nightbeat had both paused to stare at him as he talked.
“... surgically bonded? Forcibly reformatted?” Nautica asked incredulously.
“Yikes,” Nightbeat responded simply.
“But the Constructicons seem so sweet,” Nautica muttered, sounding vaguely heartbroken.
“They’re a pain in my aft, that’s what they are,” Prowl retorted, crossing his arms as Nautica resumed her work on the elevator.
“Well, they’d certainly like in be in your aft in a different way, that’s for sure,” Nightbeat joked, causing Prowl to stare at him incredulously.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Prowl asked venomously, doorwings hiking up in a sharp, aggressive ‘v’ shape.
“They want to frag you, obviously,” he responded shortly. The elevator doors suddenly whooshed open, allowing Nightbeat to change topics as Prowl sputtered and Nautica giggled. “Did you just open the lift door with your wrench?” he asked.
“Yup,” Nautica chirped. Prowl glared at Nightbeat as they filed into the elevator.
“This isn’t over,” Prowl hissed.
“Okay then!” Nightbeat said, excited to steer the conversation away as he pressed the button for the bottom level of the Lost Light. “So we go to the engine rooms on level one, try to stop the foam leak, then look for the crew.” Nightbeat’s companions were stopped from responding by a loud Ping! coming from Nautica’s wrench.
“Oh, yes!” he exclaimed, beaming happily. “The results of the sector sweep!” His wrench peeped as a small screen slid up from the handle, and Nightbeat and Prowl peered over his shoulders curiously. “I love my wrench.”
“Is it technically a wrench?” Nightbeat asked, looking skeptical.
“It’s a wrench-slash-scanner-slash- everything. Brainstorm added a billion extras.” A small light blipped on the wrench, causing Nautica’s grin to get even wider. “See?” There’s even a light that goes on when I’m exaggerating.”
“That’s a bit extra,” Prowl commented, raising an optical ridge at the tool.
“Perhaps,” Nautica shrugged. “But I like it. According to the wrench, this entire region of space has been worn down. There are signs of warp jumps, subspace incursions… Lots of recent activity.” He sounded confused, and started to shuffle his feet and began to pace as best he could in the cramped lift. “The whole environments unstable, we should watch our-”
“Ow!” Nautica exclaimed, glaring at the floor. “Careful, guys. There’s something on the floor. Something hard.” Nightbeat swooped down and picked the object off the ground, and smiled wide as Prowl and Nautica circled around to see what he was looking at.
“Hard and hard-to-believe…”
“Brainstorm’s briefcase!” Nautica breathed in shock.
“He’s never let go of his briefcase any of the times I’ve ever interacted with him,” Prowl mused. Nautica nodded his agreement.
“I don’t like this. Stormy never lets that out of his sight. We should find him, see if he’s okay,” he said worriedly.
“Stormy?” Prowl teased.
“Is that seriously what you took away from what I said?” Nautica asked indignantly, though there was a touch of humor to his voice that let Prowl know that it had been taken as the banter it had been intended. Prowl shrugged with a smirk on his face.
“The locks are damaged,” Nightbeat commented from where he was examining the briefcase. Nautica frowned in disapproval.
“I know what you’re thinking, and don’t. Whatever’s inside, I doubt it’s soft and cuddly. Soft and lethal, maybe…”
“Aren’t you intrigued?” Nightbeat asked excitedly, holding the case up higher.
“No!” Nautica exclaimed from where he was turning away stubbornly and crossing his arms, nose in the air. “Maybe!” He hunched over a bit as an uncertain expression crossed his face. “I don’t know!” He whirled around to bring his hands up by his face, as if he wanted to watch but was also scared to watch the results. Prowl shrugged.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.”
“Majority rules!” Nightbeat whooped. “I’m going to open it. On the count of three…” Nautica put a hand over his face and turned away as if he couldn’t bear to watch, yet kept an eye open and on the proceedings anyways. “Three… two… one aaaand…” Nightbeat dramatically flipped the lid, “... Open!” The moment ended anticlimactically when they peered over Nightbeat’s shoulder only to see that the case was empty.
“Um…” Nautica started.
“That’s pretty obvious, Nightbeat,” Prowl said simply, ruthlessly repressing the crushing disappointment the moment had generated.
“But - what?” Nightbeat asked, an outraged look crossing his face. “That’s ridiculous! That’s absolutely-” Nautica swiped the case out of his hands, holding his glowing wrench up to it curiously, “-ridiculous!”
“Give it here,” Nautica said, causing Nightbeat to hold his hands up disarmingly. “Are you sure it’s empty? Maybe there was some kind of gas inside.” He paused dramatically. “Killer gas and it’s escaped.” Nightbeat and Prowl both gave her disbelieving looks.
“Escaped killer gas? Are you serious?” Nightbeat asked in disbelief.
“Okay, maybe there is something inside but it’s invisible,” Nautica said defensively. Nightbeat attained an intrigued look on his face.
“What do you mean invisible? You mean cloaked?”
“Cloaked, invisible, same thing.”
“Not really, but okay,” Prowl muttered as peered at the briefcase as Nightbeat swiped it back from Nautica.
“Whatever Prowl, I don’t know, I’m spitballing.”
“If you’re going to cloak the contents, why not cloak the briefcase itself?”
“I don’t know!” Nautica exclaimed in frustration.
“Unless what was inside was-” the elevator pinged open as they all came to the same realization “-stolen.” A look of understanding dawned on all their faces at the same time.
“That would actually… yeah,” Nautica said, a hand thoughtfully placed on his chin. “That would actually make sense.” Prowl shrugged in his doorwings in answer as he stepped around the other two to exit the elevator, only to be met by the sight of an offline frame pinned to the far wall of the engine room.
“Wouldn’t it? An unlocked case, accessible to all…” Nightbeat trailed off mysteriously. Prowl stepped forward and flared his doorwings, trying to get a feel for the scene as he examined the body from a few feet away, not terribly eager to get too close… it was really a throwback to his days in mechaforensics.
“In which case I say close it and move on,” Nautica said, a tone of finality in his voice, and footsteps began to approach Prowl’s position before they stuttered in shock. Nautica had spotted the body then.
“And the moral of the story is life’s full of disappointments,” Nightbeat concluded. Prowl rolled his optics as he realized that Nightbeat was still on that mystery instead of realizing the one right in front of them.
“Nightbeat…” Nautica trailed off as he came to a stop besides Prowl, his optics blown wide in shock.
“Don’t expect too much,” Nightbeat elaborated.
“Nightbeat!” Nautica snapped. “Forget the stupid briefcase and open your eyes…” his tapered off, vocalizer crackling a bit. Nightbeat’s face gained a frown as he looked up to see the small waste-disposal minibot pinned to the wall by an I-beam shoved violently through his chest. “It’s… Tailgate, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Nightbeat responded solemnly, “poor kid.” Nautica shakily stepped forward to take Tailgate’s offline hand in her own as Nightbeat turned away to look around the room. Prowl shifted uncomfortably at the broken look on Nautica’s face.
“First time you’ve ever seen someone you’re close to offlined?” he asked awkwardly. Nautica sniffed and slightly nodded. Though Nautica wasn’t a NAIL, he still felt vaguely odd trying to comfort someone who wasn’t acclimatized to death as those who had fought in the war. He settled for stiffly patting him on the shoulder.
“Hang on,” Nightbeat called back. Prowl turned to face him while Nautica continued to stare at Tailgate’s offline frame, ignoring the slightly congealed innermost energon that slowly dripped off the beam right in front of his face. ”We’re in the engine rooms, right?”
“Yes,” Nautica called back before Prowl could. At least he wasn’t in shock, to look at the silver lining.
“At the bottom of the ship…” Nightbeat trailed off.
“Nothing, it’s just…” Nightbeat tapered off as if he was considering the section of the floor he was staring at, prompting Prowl and Nautica to walk over. “If we’re in the engine rooms at the bottom of the ship… Where do these stairs go?” Prowl peered down the hatch, and immediately knew where it led.
“Do you want me to ruin this for you or do you want to find out for yourself?” Prowl asked with a smirk on his face. Nightbeat gave him an unimpressed glare in response.
“Let me have this,” he muttered, before brightening and turning to Nautica. “Can I borrow your wrench? I want to use the flashlight.”
“Sure…?” he muttered, handing the aforementioned tool over to Nightbeat uncertainly.
“And off we go!” Nightbeat cheered as he led the small group down the staircase, only for all of them to pause at the bottom in shock.
“Is that…” Nautica trailed off in horror.
“Overlord with his head blown off? Looks like it,” Prowl said with an odd look on his face. “But how is he here? Rodimus told me that he was ejected from the ship and blown up.”
“Now, that’s a mystery to be solved, isn’t it?” Nightbeat asked enthusiastically, cut off by a ringtone emanating from the wrench he was waving around. He pressed a few buttons before answering the call. “Y'ello? Who’s this?”
“Its Skids,” answered a static-y voice. “You guys need to come back now. We’re leaving.”
“Don’t you want to know what we’ve found?” Nightbeat said a vaguely whiny tone in his voice as his grin fell off his face. Nautica stood slightly to the side, still looking vaguely horrified at Overlord’s decapitated form.
“Wait,” Skids answered impatiently. “Now Megatron’s trying to get through…” The line buzzed as Skid’s switched his call, leaving them on hold.
“What’s that all about?” Prowl asked after a few moments. The commlink in the wrench suddenly crackled back to life
“Get back here now. The Lost Light was attacked by the DJD.”
“You’re always very defensive of your actions,” Rung said as an opener to their session after they had exchanged canned pleasantries. Prowl scowled in response as he settled himself on the couch. “Why do you not trust anybody else to trust that you have the right motives for what you do?” Prowl ‘tch’d.
“Why would I? They never do.”
“Why do you think people don’t trust you?”
“Because they never understand that I try to do what’s better for all of us rather than what’s best for them right then at that moment. None of them look at the bigger picture or at the long-term, so idiots always assume that my actions are self-serving,” Prowl said bitterly, a sour look on his face. Rung hummed as he made a note on the datapad he held in front of himself.
“Has anyone ever defended your actions for you?” Prowl shot him a dry look that told Rung volumes over his opinion of the question.
“Unless whatever I was advocating for also served their own ends, no.” Rung frowned as Prowl answered.
“No one has ever done so without ulterior motives?”
“If they have, I’m certainly not aware of it.” Rung sighed as he made another note before moving on.
“Is that why you seem reluctant to trust others?”
“Is there anything more to it than that?”
“No.” Rung sighed, before deciding to switch topics, as Prowl was visibly clamming up again. Not the best beginning to their session.
“You mentioned that you prefer to look at the bigger picture - disregarding the immediate to focus on the long term. Is that correct?”
“More or less.”
“Do you believe this even if it means that it could be damaging to your interpersonal relations?”
“Friends only mean something if we’re not all dead.”
“Do you suppose that some of the reason others do not prefer to support you is that you disregard personal relations to such a degree?”
“I only disregard them as much as they disregard me.” Rung paused as Prowl said that. That… did not indicate a wealth of healthy relationships. He made a note in the margins as something to explore more in-depth as he continued asking questions.
“Could you elaborate on that?”
“I was mind-controlled by Bombshell, forcibly reformatted, and surgically bonded to a gestalt and nobody I had considered friends even noticed that anything had even changed, or if they did, they didn’t care to check that I was alright. So yes, I disregard them. If I am unable to be important to them, they can continue to be unimportant to me.” Rung paused to look at Prowl for a long moment as he glared at the ceiling as if it had personally offended him. He made a few more notes for subjects to bring up at a later date.
“Have you tried talking to anybody aboard the Lost Light? Make new friends who would care more for you?” Prowl gave him an incredulous look as he talked.
“You realize that I used to be everybody’s superior officer, right? Literally, everyone here can blame me for the death of at least one of their own friends, and to my understanding, that’s not a good start.”
“Well, maybe you could try acclimating them to you? Whenever we end up on another one of Rodimus’ missions and we get split into groups, try to make conversation with the others. Don’t force yourself in, just try to be… natural about it.” Prowl scoffed at Rung’s advice.
“You say that as if I need friends. I’ve made it this far without any, I certainly don’t need any now.” Rung sighed as he made another note on his datapad.
“You can’t be lonely forever, Prowl.”
Five Minutes Later
“No one panic!” Nautica exclaimed as they burst into back into the room they started in. The Constructicons flocked to surround Prowl worriedly, ignoring the agitated flick of his EM and the stern order to back off. “We’re here, we’re here! Though I’m still not quite sure why we had to regroup in such a hurry-”
“It’s a game, Nautica-” Getaway said in a lighthearted voice, though there were the beginnings of stress in the slight static of his vocalizer, “-an old wartime favorite. When someone shouts DJD you have to find your friends and run like hell.”
“So come on then,” Nautica prompted the worried inhabitants of the room, “this ‘DJD’.”
“A free-roaming kill squad: five professional sadists who like nothing more than to hack, stab, and shoot Decepticons who step out of line,” Riptide answered solemnly. Nautica opened his mouth as if to ask what they were worried about when Riptide continued in a similar tone to Getaway. “But hey, don’t worry, because they just love killing Autobots, too.”
“Professional sadists?” Nautica asked confusedly.
“Torturers extraordinaire,” Riptide responded in a false grandiose voice. “Helex forces his victims to eat their own brain. And as for Tarn…” he trailed off in disgust, allowed Skids to pick up where he left off.
“He models himself on Megatron - heck, he’s even got his own fusion cannon - but unlike his idol he’s got a morphing addiction to feed.” He stepped closer to Nautica as if to emphasize the point he was making. “That’s why he makes his victims change shape before they die: it’s easier to remove a transformation cog if it’s still warm.” He shuddered in horror as he continued talking, and Prowl sympathized as he found his own plating clamping around protoform defensively. “Can you imagine, Nautica? Seriously… can you imagine what is was like when these guys arrived on board?” The majority of the group shuddered. Nautica stood there with a vaguely nauseated look on his face.
“I knew this would happen,” Megatron declared after a pause. “The DJD aren’t loyal to me; they’re loyal to the Decepticon cause.”
“Did you literally just miss the part where we discussed that Tarn modeled himself off of you?” Prowl muttered sullenly, glaring at Megatron as he talked.
“You can’t expect me to publicly denounce that cause and for there not to be consequences.”
“Are you saying that you asked to be placed on the Lost Light knowing they would come after you?” Prowl hissed dangerously. “You might want to watch what you say, Megatron, because if that’s true, you endangered the crew, and your position is shaky as it is.” Megatron ‘tch’d at him in response, while the Constructicons shuffled awkwardly around him, not eager to get involved.
“Except…” Nightbeat interrupted, a servo on his chin as he contemplated the paradox that Megatron had just presented him with. “No. You’re suggesting that the DJD are acting in response to your defection-” he paused to consider ford a moment as Prowl realized what Nightbeat was trying to get at, “-but Nautica, Prowl and I just found Overlord - dead - in a cell underneath the ship.” Nautica rubbed the back of his head in confusion.
“I don’t understand the significance.”
“Remember Rewind?” Nightbeat asked.
“The data ghost…”
“He died because Overlord escaped from his cell. So how come he was there for the DJD to find?” Prowl coughed slightly and kicked a pede as he looked away. Nightbeat hummed as he thought. “I don’t know, it’s like established events are playing out differently. Like they’re being re-edited.”
Suddenly, the Lost Light began to tremble and bright blue bolts of electricity began to shoot up from the floor, and everybody stumbled as they hurriedly attempted to regain their balance.
“What now?!” Ravage cried as whatever perched he had been on collapsed.
“The ship’s reacting to the quantum foam,” Nautica replied.
“Time to go,” Riptide declared as the shakes ended as quickly as they had begun. “I’ve fixed the RodPod.”
“But we haven’t finished looking for survivors…” Nautica said lowly. Megatron made a derisive sound before he responded.
“There are no survivors.”
“How do you know that?” Nautica asked.
“There are no survivors,” he repeated more insistently.
“But how do you know?”
“Because I trained the DJD to be thorough,” Megatron said with a note of finality in his voice.
“Hold on,” Ravage said, sniffing the empty Ultra Magnus armor. “Something’s different. I can smell someone…” Megatron lumbered over and knelt down, shifting the empty husk until they could all see a small, single red light emitting from its depths.
“I can see someone…” Megatron said, resting the armor against his knee as he reached into the hole in the side with both hands. “Well, well, well…” Megatron mused as he lifted a small body from the Magnus armor. “It looks like Tarn is getting sloppy.”
Prowl felt his vents catch as he realized who Megatron and Ravage had found.
Did I totally cop out on re-writing that scene between Megatron and Ravage by stuffing the Constructicons in a different storage closet? Yes.
Prowl and Rewind get in a bit of a tiff, Nautica ships Prowl and the Constructicons, and in therapy, Rung talks with Prowl some about his relationship with Chromedome.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Rewind?!” Getaway cried in shock, rushing up to Megatron’s side in concern. “Is he alive? Is he okay? Is he conscious? Happy with any of the above.”
“This is incredible,” Nightbeat stated. Prowl failed to see what was so incredible about the internal crisis he was attempting to stave off, but whatever. “First Overlord, now Rewind… and this poster suggests that-”
“Nightbeat!” Skids snapped, grabbing Prowl’s arm and dragging him along as he approached where Megatron was laying Rewind down. “Take it from a theoretician: now is not the time to start theorizing!”
“Why am I getting taken along?” Prowl asked dryly, making an internal executive decision to deal with everything emotionally later - a breakdown was not conducive to their current situation.
“You used to be an enforcer - you’re probably the only one here who’s had any formal training in dealing with shock victims, and if Rewind’s seen what I think he might have seen, I’ll need your help talking to him.” Prowl snorted in response as they came to stop next to the slab Rewind laid on.
“I can give you several reasons why I’m probably the last person Rewind wants to see right now.”
“You underestimate the healing power of seeing somebody you want to punch, Prowl.”
“Thanks, Skids. Nice to know you care,” Prowl muttered sullenly as they crouched next to an awakening Rewind.
“What’s going on?” he said, static lacing his voice as he slowly sat up and rubbed his head.
“You woke up,” Skids began gently. “You pulled through. Everything else is detail.” Rewind glanced at him dizzily, before his visor dimmed for a second, indicating he was running facial recognition across Skids’ face.
“It’s Skids, isn’t it? We all thought you were dead…” Rewind trailed off as he looked around a bit, before catching sight of Prowl on his other side.
“You can talk,” Skids teased, not noticing the way Rewind glared at Prowl before continuing on as if he didn’t exist. The silent treatment, then. Rewind suddenly regained his confused look as he continued scanning the room.
“And is that - is that Nightbeat? I know he was dead…”
“Yeah, there’s a story behind that-” Skids started, “-just don’t expect it to make much sense.”
“The Lost Light has a habit of finding mechs thought to be dead, that’s for certain,” Prowl said. Rewind glared at him, and Prowl simply smirked in response. Let him try to ignore his presence. Megatron, who had been observing the proceedings from a distance, lumbered over with a frown on his face.
“We have to go,” he rumbled. “I shouldn’t have to remind you that this entire structure is unstable.”
“Just-” Skids paused and flashing two digits at Megatron, “-two seconds. We just wanna make sure he’s okay.” Rewind stared after Megatron for a second before he turned back to Skids and Prowl, making a strangled sounding confused noise. “Oh yeah, him,” Skids started awkwardly. “That’s something else that happened.”
“But he’s an Autobot!”
“Yes, well, in name at least.”
“There’s a long story behind that as well, someone can explain it to you later,” Prowl remarked. “Just be aware that very few are actually happy with the decision.” Skids hummed his agreement as Rewind stayed silent.
“Apart from Nightbeat not being dead and Megatron not being a Decepticon, it’s business as usual,” Skids summarized with a grin on his face.
“And the ‘bot with Nightbeat, who’s he?”
“That’s Nautica and…” Skids paused, “she’s a she.” Prowl blinked at the reveal of the information. Interesting, good to know. “Apart from Nightbeat not being dead and Megatron not being a Decepticon and Nautica not being a he, it’s business as usual.”
“Skids, I feel like the world could be imploding and if I asked what was happening you would just tell me ‘other than that giant black hole sucking everyone into an endless abyss, it’s business as usual’,” Prowl said blandly. Nightbeat hustled over and burst into the conversation before Skids had a chance to retort.
“Rewind!” he exclaimed. “What happened to you? And the others, what happened to them? What happened to the ship?”
“Oh Primus,” Prowl mumbled as Nightbeat rattled off his questions one after another. There was no point attempting to treat someone for shock when Nightbeat came along. Why did he even bother trying? Rewind whimpered lowly, covering his face with his hands.
“Oh, hey,” Nightbeat said soothingly, “I know this is tough… but it’s important too.” Skids sharply elbowed him as Prowl groaned.
“Important but not urgent, he’s in no fit state to handle an interrogation,” Skids hissed. Rewind, still hiding away behind one hand, lifted his other one and his wrist flipped, ejecting an object for Nightbeat to take.
“A data slug…?” he asked, taking the aforementioned item, seeming to not notice the small camera bot whimpering. Primus, if Rewind hadn’t been in shock before, he definitely was now.
“Megatron! Captain! Everybody!” Nautica suddenly exclaimed, whipping around from where she had just been talking to Riptide. “I’ve worked it out! All of it! Why our ship disappeared, where this ship came from - everything!” Everybody immediately turned around to look at Nautica’s excited expression.
“The floor is yours,” Megatron said an intrigued look on his face.
“Impress us,” Nightbeat told her. And now everybody was focussed on Nautica. Which made the in shock Rewind Prowl’s problem. Fantastic.
Prowl gave a dismissive flick of his doorwings to the Constructicons as he sat down in front of Rewind, giving them a sharp jab through the bond, ordering them to pay attention to Nautica, not him. It was almost cute how they thought he wouldn’t notice them slowly sneaking up around him. They responded with a sad prod before leaving him alone.
“Rewind?” he began, attempting to gain the smaller mech’s attention. “Rewind, I need you to look at me.” It took a few seconds, but Rewind eventually parted his fingers enough to give Prowl a bitter glare. Not ideal, but he was processing outside events at least.
“Describe what you can see,” Prowl prompted, deciding to at least attempt to be nice about it.
“An aft,” Rewind snarked. Alright, well if that’s how it was going to be.
“Can you feel your frame?” he continued through gritted teeth.
“I can feel my frame getting ready to punch a glitch if doesn’t stop talking to me.”
Prowl ‘tch’d before holding his hands up disarmingly. If Rewind didn’t want the help he had so generously offered, then he wasn’t going to get it. He flicked his doorwings agitatedly, standing up and moving away from the smaller mech, deciding the trouble wasn’t worth the effort.
“You’re friends with Chromedome, correct?” Rung asked. Prowl scoffed, cushioning his head with his arms.
“He’s made it extremely clear that that’s no longer the case in any regard.”
“How so?” Rung inquired, crossing his legs as he settled back in his chair, stylus at the ready.
“He threw me off a cliff,” Prowl responded shortly, making a shrugging gesture with his doorwings.
“Threw me off a cliff, yes. Is that so hard to understand?” Prowl snapped at him.
“Why did he… throw you off a cliff?”
“I implied that him nonconsensually erasing a memory of mine was equivalent to his recent loss of Rewind.” Rung paused for a second to consider Prowl’s blunt statement. There was… quite a bit to unpack from that.
“He performed mnemosurgey on you?”
“To erase a memory?”
“And then you referenced his recent loss of Rewind.”
“Is what I said, yes.” Rung sighed and ran a hand down his face. Some days, talking to Prowl was almost as frustrating as talking to Whirl.
“And then he threw you off a cliff.” Prowl gave him a dry look as if to tell him to stop repeating everything he said. Rung simply wrote the entire statement down on his datapad, as there was really no way to condense what Prowl had just stated.
“When do you believe that Chromedome performed mnemosurgery on you?”
“Just before the Lost Light left the first time.”
“And do you know the reason he erased this memory?”
“I was attempting to use it to convince him to perform mnemosurgy on Overlord.”
“Were you attempting to convince him or were you attempting to blackmail him?” Rung asked skeptically. Prowl chuckled darkly in response.
“I see my reputation precedes me. Blackmail, probably. It’s quicker and more effective in most cases.”
“Why were you attempting to get him to perform mnemosurgery on Overlord?” he continued, having forgotten for a brief moment that most of the Lost Light’s problems over the last two years could be traced back in some way to Prowl.
“Wanted to find out what made Phase-Sixers work, how to make them. I needed to know how we could make our own, and Overlord was the only Phase-Sixer we had.” Rung removed his glasses for a second and rubbed the ridge between his optics tiredly before replacing them.
“Moving on from that,” Rung began, deciding that was a topic for a whole other session, “why did you decide the best thing you could have done in that moment was reference Rewind?”
“Because I wanted a comparison to show Chromedome, by use of comparison, how much his actions cost me.”
“In what way did they affect you?” Prowl shrugged, a vaguely uncomfortable look crossing his face.
“He had to perform the alterations quickly, so he didn’t have enough time to do it right. Left a weakness in my brain module. Bombshell exploited that to easily take over my mind and here I am,” Prowl said bitterly, gesturing down at his body. “Reformatted against my will and bonded into a gestalt that I don’t want. Nobody trusted me back on Cybertron anymore, even when it was shown that I was under mind-control. Cost me everything I had, and now I’m in therapy sessions with you.” Prowl gave him a self-deprecating smirk. “Quite a nosedive, isn’t it?” Rung made a noncommittal noise in response.
“You’re saying this Lost Light is a duplicate?” Getaway asked Nautica, sounding disbelieving as he crossed his arms. Prowl would’ve pinged the Constructicons for the explanation again, but after the disorientation that came with it that last time he did that, he decided otherwise.
“No, it’s the original,” Nautica answered.
“So ours was the duplicate?”
“No, ours was the original as well.” Prowl decided that not asking what happened was the correct decision to have made - he already felt like he was getting flashbacks to Nautica’s confusing lessons on quantum mechanics she had hosted in the RodPod earlier.
“Fine, I’ll pretend I get it,” Getaway said snippily.
“I do get it,” Nightbeat countered, ejecting the data slug from the info port in his helm. “I’ve just watched it - in a manner of speaking. Rewind made a travelogue - and it backs up everything Nautica just said. From our perspective, the Lost Light’s first quantum jump took it to a random planet - and that’s when Skids showed up,” he said, throwing an arm around the aforementioned bot’s shoulders.
“I remember it well. Kind of,” Skids remarked blandly.
“But from Rewind’s perspective, the Lost Light jumped to an entirely different region of space… the right region, going by the Matrix map. In both cases - on both Lost Lights - the explosion released a sparkeater - but that’s where the commonalities end.” Prowl shifted his weight on his pedes, settling down to hear what sounded like a long story. Nightbeat started walking as he talked.
“On Rewind’s Lost Light, Rung is lost in the explosion and it’s Animus who lures the sparkeater to the engine rooms. Rodimus traps the creature in the engine casing, but his timing’s off and part of his own head ends up in there too. Drift insists on a Spectralist funeral. Rodimus is placed in a coffin made from the engine casing and interred. The coffin must’ve fallen out the ship when it started to break up,” Nightbeat added under his breath, looking excited that all the pieces of the mystery were coming together.
“Ultra Magnus takes charge and puts a stop to Rewind’s travelogue - but not before Drift, who says he no longer feels beholden to Rodimus, comes clean about Overlord being locked up below decks. Magnus tells the crew…” Nightbeat trailed off, coming to a stop in his pacing right behind where Rewind was staring blankly at the floor. “...And that’s as far as the story goes. I don’t know what happened next.”
“I’ll give you three guesses-” Rewind offered dryly, “-one for each letter.”
“The DJD,” Nightbeat muttered darkly. Rewind silently nodded, before pushing himself off the slab he had been resting on. He brought a hand up to the recorder/projector on the side of his head as he began to talk.
“Someone on board led them to our front door - on purpose. We never had time to find out who, or why, but yeah - seems someone shut down the slow cell and uncloaked Overlord’s spark signature.” Rewind’s projector booted up at last, with a soft klik noise. Horrific scenes of the DJD torturing the crew of the Lost Light suddenly appeared. Hardened as Prowl was after millennia of war, he still felt his tanks churn as the clips played out.
“Tarn took great pleasure in telling us this before he attacked. They killed Overlord, of course - but they didn’t stop there, why would they? They were enjoying themselves.” Silence reigned for a few seconds before Nightbeat interrupted it.
“So…” he started awkwardly. “Everyone died except you?”
“If you’re suggesting I’m the one who betrayed the crew…” Rewind began darkly as he shut down his projector with another klik. Nightbeat held up his hands to wave away the accusation as he frantically denied it.
“No! God, no. Not at all.” Rewind looked down, shadows crossing his face as his visor dimmed depressingly.
“They wanted a souvenir…” he whispered.
“I don’t know how they knew - maybe I cried out his name - but they said they’d let Chromedome live if I filmed everything they did. But then, when they’d finished killing the rest of the crew, they had a better idea…” Rewind’s vents stuttered as he continued talking. Prowl had a horrifying feeling he knew where the story was going - the DJD were not known for making deals for survival.
“They knew Chromedome was mnemosurgeon. They told him they’d only spare him if he erased me from his memory. He refused. I begged him. But he refused so Vos snapped off his finger needles and…” Rewind made few empty movements while he tried to get the words out, vocalizer clicking as he reset it a few times in an attempt to force the information out, before making a vague gesture to the side. Their optics all directed to where Chromedome lay broken on the ground, battered, beaten, and scratched - needles sticking out of his shattered visor.
Prowl felt sick.
“I ran the second he stopped screaming. I ran and-” Rewind paused to reset his vocalizer again, vents hitching and making a stuttered noise, “-and I hid in the Magnus armor. I must’ve passed out.”
“Sorry to interrupt, but… Nautica?” Everyone turned to look at Riptide, wondering what must be so important to disturb the moment. Prowl, on the flip side, was happy for the distraction. “Your silly string…” he began, pointing out the destroyed wall.
“You mean the highly explosive quantum foam?” she corrected as she walked over to whatever it was that Riptide was pointing at.
“Yeah, the webby stuff… It’s spreading everywhere.”
“Ooh, that's not a good thing,” Nautica muttered, clenching her hands together worriedly as she turned around to face the others. “This whole sector’s been thinned out by excessive hyperspatial activity. If the foam reaches a major weak spot, the chain reaction could rip that planet to shreds.” Riptide’s face grew more and more alarmed the more Nautica kept talking, though Prowl was fairly certain that he had no idea what she was saying.
“That’s an A-level planet - which means it might be populated,” Skids said worriedly. Prowl shook his head before he interrupted.
“It’s a former Lectureworld,” he added, looking out the viewport/place where a wall used to be at the planet below them. “Even if attendance has declined since it’s annexation by Curricula, there’s at the very least enough staff down there to run the whole planet. There are definitely people down there,” Prowl corrected. Skids clenched his fists determinedly as he finished speaking.
“Which means we have to act.”
“The quantum drums are remote linked to the quantum engines,” Nautica mused, holding her hands to her face as she thought. “Deactivating the drums should shut down the engines, which should get rid of the foam.”
“Can we turn those ‘should’ into ‘wills’?” Skids asked. Nautica thought for a moment before she answered.
“If my two ships theory is sound, then the other Lost Light is being held in a kind of cosmic abeyance - like the universe has yet to fully commit to its non-existence. We can exploit that. If we shut down the engines completely for the first time since takeoff, anything linked to or produced by the engines should get canceled out.”
“Except the drums are already surrounded by killer foam,” Ravage piped up, startling some of the assembled mechs. The beastformer had been rather quiet, allowing them to forget he was even there. He held up a single, sharpened claw as if to prove his point rather than remind them all of the knives that made up his paws. “We’d have to fly the RodPod through a web of death. If we leave now and head away from this mess we can outrun any explosion - even a planetary one.”
“No. We fix this,” Skids asserted, crossing his arms. “Lives are at risk.”
Prowl was almost getting nostalgic for many similar arguments he had with Optimus once upon a time.
“If that planet was teeming with Cybertronians, then yes, there’d be an argument for going back into the breach, but I doubt that’s the case,” Megatron said, straightening his back, looking ready for an argument - or a fight, Prowl wouldn’t put it past him.
“Ah, your true colors,” Skids remarked sarcastically. “I’d forgotten how purple they were.”
“You’ve forgotten something else: I am your prisoner.” Prowl snorted, but no one paid attention to him. “I’ve been granted conditional bail while we look for the Knights of Cybertron. Where in my bail terms does it say - where precisely does it say - that I have to risk my life to save a handful of strangers. Where does it say that?”
Skids plating flared out aggressively as he sharply jabbed Megatron’s chest, right over the softly glowing Autobot badge that adorned it.
“Right. There.” Skids lifted his hand to point accusingly at Megatron as he continued. “What does that badge even mean to you? How has wearing it forced you to modify your behavior? I’m serious!” Skids cried. “How had being an Autobot in any way prevented you from doing exactly what you want?” He paused to vent for a second before he continued on his tirade. “Because if the answer is ‘it hasn't’ - then nothing you’ve said or done in the last six months counts for anything.”
Prowl probably would’ve attempted to start a round of applause for Skids if Nautica hadn’t suddenly reminded them of the oncoming disaster.
“I spoke too soon,” she interrupted, holding her wrench up to her optics as a sort of - binoculars? Brainstorm had really gone all the way for her. “The foam around the drums is too tightly meshed. Not even the RodPod could squeeze through.” Rewind tapped her on the arm to gain her attention.
“Maybe not… But I could,” he paused for emphasis. “I’m tiny.”
“Oh, Rewind, that’s-” Nautica sounded surprised and touched for a second before kneeling down to place a gentle hand on his shoulder. “I admire that, but - it’s a job for two. The drums need to be deactivated simultaneously.” She laid her other on hand on Ravage’s head, patting him - seemingly not remembering his reaction to her earlier. “And before you volunteer, Ravage, I’m sorry, but you lack the manual dexterity to perform the task.”
“Touch me again and I’ll kill you,” the felinoid responded, an agitated look on his face.
“In that case,” Getaway said, breaking back into the conversation, “unless anyone here is gonna do a Minimus Ambus, it looks like-”
“That’s it!” Skids proclaimed, interrupting Getaway with an excited look on his face. “Getaway, you’re a genius!”
“Thank you!” he chirped in response. “Why am I a genius?”
“Just follow me…” Skids said, running off down a corridor, and everybody hurried to follow him.
Prowl started to follow as well, until Nautica blocked him off, stopping him. He felt a tap against his doorwing as somebody else behind him stopped, and turned his head slightly to see that the Constructicons had once again crowded around him.
“Here,” Nautica said brightly, shoving her wrench into Prowl’s startled hands, causing him to fumble with it for a second. “Why don’t you and the Constructicons stay here and keep an eye on the quantum foam for us? Thanks!” she called over her shoulder as she hurried after the others.
“Wha- Nautica! Nautica!” Prowl shouted after her, looking slightly lost and stunned at the turn of events.
“You’ll thank me eventually!” she cried back as she turned a corner.
Prowl stood there in silence for a few seconds, listening to the Constructicons shuffle their pedes awkwardly behind him as he processed what had just happened.
He slowly turned around, almost denting the wrench in his crushing grip as he glared at the Constructicons.
“What is it?” he snapped at the Constructicons, who had been bothering him in such a fashion for the better part of the last ten minutes. Bonecrusher and Mixmaster smirked as he finally acknowledged them, while Long Haul and Scavenger flinched back from the harsh tone.
After a second, they looked at each other for a second, as if they had forgotten why they were trying to talk to him in the first place. Scavenger suddenly brightened as he remembered whatever it was they wanted to ask him.
“Why don’t you talk to us?”
With all the tact of Nightbeat, as well. Charming.
“Why are you so insistent on talking to me?” he countered, still refusing to look directly at them, preferring to observe them from the corners of his vision.
“You’re gestalt,” Mixmaster said as if explained everything - which for their simpleton minds, it might, but it was nowhere near enough for Prowl.
“That means nothing to me,” he responded shortly, flicking his doorwings in an annoyed gesture to get them to back off. They didn’t. Seemed that some people were getting a bit too bold, he thought agitatedly.
“We’re one. We need you, Prowl,” Long Haul whined, pawing at his arm. Prowl shifted to the right, forcing Long Haul off his person.
“Well,” Prowl started tersely, “I don’t so stop it.” Long Haul poked the thinner plating on his abdomen, causing him to jerk sharply. “I said stop,” he hissed.
“C’mon, Prowl,” Bonecrusher complained, draping himself across the cop bots back, forcing Prowl to abandon his stiff and stern position in favor of trying to not get crushed by the larger mech. “We’ve been in your head, you’ve been in ours. We gotta be together, it’s what gestalts do.”
“And when did I ever ask for this gestalt full of idiots?”
“You didn’t-” Mixmaster started.
“-but you’re stuck with us now,” Scavenger amended before Mixmaster could say anything too stupid. “We just gotta try and make it work.”
“I still don’t get why you’re all so happy about it,” Prowl snapped, turning to glare at them.
“Like Bonecrusher said,” Long Haul told him from where he had started tracing patterns on Prowl’s clamped plating (the gesture was far too intimate for him to be comfortable), “we’ve been inside your head-” yes, people seemed to be doing that quite a bit, whether Prowl liked it or not, “-and we like the way you think. You make sense.”
“Oh, and it’s not for my, what was it?” Prowl started ominously, pulling his EM field even tighter around himself defensively as he pretended to think. “Oh, yes, it’s not just because you're after my ‘sweet aft’ and ‘pretty wings’, is it?”
“I- we- um-” Scavenger stammered, sharing a panicked glance with the other Constructicons, who looked similarly thrown. Prowl gave them all an extremely unamused stare.
“You heard that?” Long Haul asked weakly.
“Just because I hate you all, doesn’t mean I’m deaf,” Prowl stated blandly, before shoving Bonecrusher off his back and whacking Long Haul’s arm, turning around to face them as he took a few steps away.
“Well, you’re pretty fraggin’ hot, that’s definitely part of it,” Bonecrusher interjected, giving him a thumbs up and a wink (well, whatever counted as a wink with a visor). Prowl’s EM field gave a disgusted flare that barely brushed theirs before he quickly pulled it back.
“So you want a frag buddy out of me then?” Prowl asked lowly. “Is that what you want out of this gestalt? Because I can guarantee that it’s never going to-”
“Prowl-” Mixmaster started before he was silenced by a sharp look from Prowl that screamed do NOT interrupt me.
“-happen,” he finished flatly, having sounded less and less impressed with them as the minutes ticked by. The Constructicons looked at each other, and if the panicked waves that washed across Prowl’s spark were any indication, were frantically trying to figure out how to pull themselves out of the hole they had dug themselves into.
“I didn't mean it like that,” Bonecrusher said. Prowl gave him a disbelieving look, as it was quite a stretch to interpret it any other way.
“Then how did you mean it?” Prowl asked, looking annoyed as they hesitated in answering him.
“Prowl, could you please give us a chance to prove-” Mixmaster was cut off as the rest of the group suddenly burst into the room, with conflicting looks on each of their faces.
“Everyone onto the shuttle,” Megatron called, effectively cutting off the conversation.
“Mind telling me what that was about?” Prowl asked grumpily as he fell into step with Nautica, eager to remove himself from the Constructicons. She shrugged.
“I just thought that you guys could use a chance to talk things out. Although,” she said, looking behind them at the dejected posture of the rest of the gestalt, “it doesn’t look like it helped much.”
“You have no place to interfere,” Prowl hissed, glaring at her.
“Well, I noticed that looked upset whenever you ignore them, so I thought I could give them an opportunity to talk to you,” she said defensively. “Excuse me for trying.” Prowl sighed, his plating loosening from its protective clamp around his frame as he felt his agitation drain away, leaving behind nothing but a powerful sense of exhaustion.
“It’s not like it could get any worse,” he grumbled as Nautica settled herself at the communications station, Riptide slowly guiding the RodPod back out of Swerve’s/their make-shift landing bay. She gave him an odd look and opened her mouth to ask him what meant by it, but he silenced her with a tired gesture as Skids stopped on Nautica’s other side.
“So what happened and why are we leaving in such a hurry? The abridged version, please,” Prowl asked, moving the conversation along from the awkward topic.
“Went down to Braintstorm’s lab looking for a shrink ray, couldn’t find it, turns out he’s a Decepticon, Megatron revealed he has mass shift technology still installed, so he’s going with Rewind to shut down the quantum drums.” Prowl blinked at Skids’ rapid-fire explanation. He decided to take it one question at a time.
“Why did you think Brainstorm would have a shrink ray?” Skids shrugged nonchalantly.
“Long story - ‘s pretty funny, remind me to tell you later,” he answered as they watched Rewind and Megatron depart the shuttle.
“I mean, we found his face mask and it turns out that it had a Decepticon badge painted on the back. Might’ve been a plant, but the DJD doesn't really have reason to do something like that, so we made some assumptions.” Prowl groaned tiredly, massaging the ridge between his optics.
“And Megatron just suddenly remembered that he was modified for mass displacement technology?”
“No, he said that since we were all lining up to make sacrifices, he decided to wait until we were out of other options before offering himself up.”
Prowl hummed. “Sensible, but inconvenient.” Skids made no response as they watched Rewind and Megatron slip through the quantum foam from a distance. The comm in front of Nautica crackled to life as they floated in front of the quantum drums.
“Nautica?” Rewind’s voice filtered through. Prowl fought to not frown. “We made it through.”
“We saw,” Nautica answered simply.
“She means ‘well done,’” Skids interjected, leaning over her to speak into the microphone instead.
“Yes!” she amended quickly. “Yes, I meant to say: good work. Really… really top-notch.” Prowl snorted at her awkward praise.
“So… what now?” A holographic magnifying HUD appeared in front of Nautica’s face, in place of where her visor had been earlier.
“At the center of each drum is a removable disc,” she began to answer, already moving her hands as she began to demonstrate what they’d need to do, despite the fact that they couldn’t see her. “Underneath you’ll find a series of switches, work left to right, but don’t touch the last one yet. You both need to press that one at exactly the same time.” There was a pause as Rewind and Megatron began working on each of their respective drums.
“Nautica? You said if we do this, the foam will be canceled out…”
“Correct!” she cheered. “No drums, no engines, no foam.”
“Right,” he answered quietly. “So won’t the Lost Light - My Lost Light - won’t that be canceled out too? The Lost Light and everyone on it - including me?” There was a stiff moment of silence as the three of them looked at each other, not having thought of that fact. “Nautica? Have I got that wrong?” She took a stuttered vent before she answered quietly.
“No, I think-” Nautica paused as the situation processed. “I think you’re right. And what’s more… I think our Lost Light might be reinstated. Crew and all.” Her vents hitched as she continued. “I’m sorry. There’s no way the two ships can co-exist. Even if one crew were dead and the other were alive…” she trailed off slowly. Megatron’s voice crackled to life over the comms to fill the void the silence had created.
“Rewind - do you want to turn back?”
“No,” he responded simply. “No, I’m actually kinda happy to be canceled out. What’s left for me here? Chromedome’s dead - which is just another way of saying I am.” Prowl wanted to curl in on himself as he listened to Rewind talk - it was easy to forget how happy those two had made each other when Prowl was so busy being caught up in how Chromedome had left him all those millennia ago.
“In fact I wanted to ask earlier but…” Rewind paused as he considered his question. “On your Lost Light, me and Domey… Are we still going strong?” There was a beat of silence as all the mechs on the shuttle looked at each other frantically, unsure of the best way to answer the question. “Megatron?” Rewind prompted, deciding to ask the person with the least reason to lie to him about it. There was another pause, all those aboard the RodPod holding their breath to hear Megatron’s answer.
“Come on, then,” Rewind chirped after a moment, voice sounding slightly choked. “Let’s not drag out the goodbyes. On the count of three… two… one…”
Everything whited out.
“Just as Nautica predicted, everything’s changing back to the way it was…” Nightbeat trailed off in the middle of his explanation of Nautica’s explanation, talking to a mildly confused Ratchet. “... Well, the way it was a few hours ago.”
“Mind telling me what happened?” Ratchet asked tiredly, tone suggesting that Nightbeat give him the simpler story.
“Short version?” Nightbeat asked. “You disappeared and then came back - all in one piece,” he said, gesturing to Ratchet’s hands - which had reattached themselves to his reappeared body.
“What about the others? Hound, Highbrow…” Ratchet asked, rubbing the back of his neck as he rolled his head to get rid of the cricks that had formed in the… what had Nautica called it? Cosmic abeyance, that was it.
“Incoming people are returning in reverse order: the last to go are the first to come back,” Night told him.
“Don’t question it too much,” Prowl advised.
A scant few feet away, Chromedome suddenly started rematerializing.
“Ah,” Skids remarked. “There’s Chromedome now…"
“What do we tell him?” Nightbeat asked.
“Prowl.” Prowl jerked as Skids addressed him, throwing him a confused glance as a pair of magna clamps were shoved into his hands. “You two were buddies before the war, right? Why don’t you tell him?
“I-” was Prowl was able to get out before he was pushed into Chromedome’s direction, stumbling into the taller ‘bot. Chromedome quickly steadied him, though the distasteful feel of his EM field suggested it was more out of habit than any actual desire to help him.
“Hi,” Chromedome said dryly, not looking like he wanted to talk to Prowl anymore than Prowl wanted to talk to Chromedome.
“Hi,” Prowl repeated awkwardly, internally scrambling as he tried to figure out what Skids wanted Prowl to do. He held the magna clamps in Chromedome’s direction, deciding to be as direct as possible about it. “Take these and go outside.”
“What, no explanation as to what just happened? Prowl, you wound me,” Chromedome responded, stiffly taking the magna clamps from him. “If this is a plan to finally murder me, you’re not carrying it out very well.”
“If I was going to kill you, I’d make somebody else do it for me,” Prowl said before he could stop himself. “There are far too many witnesses right now.” Chromedome let out a harsh bark of laughter in answer, rudely using Prowl to steady himself as he attached the magna clamps to his pedes.
“I’m not saying I’d complain if you did try to kill me - not much to live for at this point.”
“No. No, I’m actually kinda happy to be canceled out. What’s left for me here? Chromedome’s dead - which is just another way of saying I am.”
Prowl winced as Rewind’s words flashed through his head.
“Just go outside,” he said roughly, pulling down the ladder to the ceiling hatch. “There’s somebody out there who you’ll probably be much happier to see than me.” Chromedome threw him one last confused look before he ascended the ladder, pushing the door open.
Prowl turned away and melded back into the crowd before he could stop and stare at Chromedome’s reaction.
They made each other happy - happier than he and Chromedome had been when they were together.
The Next Day
“I’ll go drop these off with Rodimus, then,” Prowl said, standing up with an armful of datapads. Ultra Magnus nodded absently, already working on the next load of work.
Prowl had almost reached the door when the gestalt bond - that he had ignored as much as possible since his confrontation with the Constructicons the day before - went dead.
Prowl hadn’t noticed how much he still felt from the Constructicons until he noticed the absolute lack of anything washing over his spark. The change was so sudden that he stumbled, tripping over his own pedes, dropping the datapads he had been carrying as he caught himself dazedly on the ground.
“Prowl?” Ultra Magnus’ voice asked concernedly from behind him.
Prowl almost didn’t register it - he was too busy trying to figure out why the Constructicons had just passed out simultaneously.
did i make nautica the whirl of this ship? yes.
But anyway, that's the end of the Lost Light 2 arc! I hope you're all enjoying this so far!
A quick note - Rewind probably came off as more than a little aggressive towards Prowl in this chapter, but I'm really basing it off the fact that he just went through a (highly) traumatic event, and that he probably doesn't want to see Prowl in the first place.
As for the overall tension between CDRW and Prowl, this is probably as upfront as it's ever going to get. I'm trying to decide if I want to attempt to resolve it - I have an idea as to how to do it, except it's a bit of a cop-out so I'm not sure if I just want to leave the tension between them there forever or not.
Rung and Prowl play chess, Brainstorm chases his crush through time, while in the present Hook follows his crush across the Lost Light.
I meant to have this out yesterday but I procrastinated on this chapter, because I just wasn't really feeling it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Why did you let me join?” Prowl asked, bluntly breaking the silence that normally settled in Ultra Magnus’ office. Magnus startled, looking up sharply to stare at Prowl.
“Can you clarify your question?” Prowl sighed and set down the datapad he had been working on, turning in his seat to look more directly at the SIC.
“Why did you let me join the Lost Light? You had strongly implied that you didn’t like me beforehand, and it was probably in your best interests to not let me board. So why?” Prowl elaborated. Magnus paused as he considered his answer.
“Because I decided to give you a second chance. Rodimus told me that I should attempt to place more faith in people, so I allowed you to board.” Prowl hummed as he turned back to the files he was reviewing.
“There are probably mechs much easier to work with than me that you could’ve given your faith to.”
“Perhaps.” They continued to work in silence for a moment before Prowl decided to move on from stiff and awkward exchange.
“I’ll go drop these off with Rodimus, then,” Prowl said, standing up with an armful of datapads. Ultra Magnus nodded absently, already working on the next load of work.
Prowl had almost reached the door when the gestalt bond - that he had ignored as much as possible since his confrontation with the Constructicons the day before - went dead.
Prowl hadn’t noticed how much he still felt from the Constructicons until he noticed the absolute lack of anything washing over his spark. The change was so sudden that he stumbled, tripping over his own pedes, dropping the datapads he had been carrying as he caught himself dazedly on the ground.
“Prowl?” Ultra Magnus’ voice asked concernedly from behind him.
Prowl almost didn’t register it - he was too busy trying to figure out why the Constructicons had just passed out simultaneously.
“Prowl?” Ultra Magnus repeated, much closer. A large hand was suddenly on his shoulder, jolting Prowl out of his head and back into reality.
“Gestalt - Constructicons - some - something happened,” he answered breathlessly, spark pulsing rapidly as it attempted to recover from the shock of the sudden lack of stimulation. Where had the Constructicons been? “Swerve’s,” Prowl said as he shakily clambered to his feet. “Something happened at Swerve’s. All of them - passed out.”
“Are you confident that they didn’t simply become overcharged?” Magnus asked although he was already opening the door to his office, ready to arrest a ne’er-do-gooder.
“With all due respect, mechs don’t pass out simultaneously when overcharged,” he sniped in response, clamping down on his plating to hide the small tremors running through his struts as he trailed one step behind Ultra Magnus dutifully. Magnus hummed.
“Those at Swerve’s have probably broken a few regulations by this point anyhow - check the security, tell me what’s happening down there,” he commanded. Prowl nodded, despite knowing that Ultra Magnus wouldn’t see it, and began to remotely access the security feed after fetching another datapad from his subspace - he had been trusted with a few of the command codes in becoming Magnus’ assistant - probably part of the whole ‘faith’ thing he had been talking about.
His clipped pace stuttered as the feed came up.
“You might want to see this for yourself,” Prowl told him, lightly jogging for a second to catch up with Magnus’ broad strides. “Look,” he said, holding the datapad out for him.
“Brainstorm,” Magnus hissed ominously. He promptly transformed into his alt mode and roared down the hallway, pouring on the speed to get to Swerve’s before the aforementioned mech could escape.
“Ultra Magnus!” Prowl cried after him, promptly folding into his own alt. Despite being a police cruiser, he was still unable to catch up with the SIC - the large mech was surprisingly nimble and quick in his alt for such a lumbering bot.
“BRAINSTORM!” Ultra Magnus roared as he barrelled into Swerve’s - but the scientist seemed to have been prepared for the eventuality of Ultra Magnus bursting in.
Some sort of red, crackling beam hit Magnus - and he shattered.
Prowl’s tires screeched, and he almost flipped onto his roof as he ground to a halt to avoid being bombarded by the remains of the Magnus armor fell to the floor.
“Magnus?” he called worriedly as Brainstorm threw the gun aside and flipped to his jet form, blasting off down the hallway.
“Go!” Magnus - Minimus? - shouted from underneath the heavy pieces of the Magnus armor.
Prowl gunned his engine - Magnus would probably scold him over the skid marks he left on the floor later, but it wasn’t the important thing right at that moment.
His engine screamed and his wheels burned as he turned tightly around the corridors of the Lost Light. Brainstorm was a flyer, and as such, was much faster than Prowl, but had to slow down significantly each time he had to turn to ensure he didn’t crash into any of the walls - giving Prowl a chance to catch up, but it was never enough.
Brainstorm reverted back, landing nimbly on his pedes, racing the last few steps into his workshop. Prowl transformed after him - but it was too late.
Brainstorm leapt athletically into a circle of - briefcases? - and tapped a button on the case still attached to his wrist and, in a flash of white light was - gone?
Prowl shuttered his optics, burning as they were from the unexpected brightness. He rebooted them - yep, still gone. Processing what had just happened for a few moments, listening to his plating ping and cooling fans roar as his fuel pump stopped beating so rapidly with the thrill of the chase - he slowly held a hand up, activating his comm.
“Magnus? Brainstorm’s gone.”
After comming Rodimus and Perceptor, and helping Minimus back into the Magnus armor, Prowl was left at Swerve’s to see if anybody was still online - someone who could give them an account of what happened.
Looking out at the sea of unconscious mechs, mentally estimating how much time it would take to check each frame, he decided to go about the task the easier and quicker way.
“Anybody up?!” Prowl shouted, cupping his hands around his mouth to help his voice carry. There was a pause, and then -
“Er - help?” emanated from deep within the bar. Prowl scanned the room, spotting a small orange hand peeking out from beneath the bodies of several other ‘bots, waving helplessly. Rung was still online, then.
Picking his way across the room, he quickly reached the slight psychiatrist and grabbed the servo sticking out of the pile of mechs and yanked. Rung flew free from his temporary prison with a yelp, the ‘bots in the pile not even twitching as their bodies were ruthlessly shoved out of the way.
“I don’t think my joints are meant to be pulled on like this,” Rung groaned as he stumbled to a stop after the sudden acceleration. Prowl hummed in response.
“Did you see what happened here?” he asked. Rung shook his head.
“I wasn’t looking when everybody went down. One moment everything was fine, and the next-” he gestured at the frames littering the room, “-everybody passed out.”
“That means we don’t know what Brainstorm did,” Prowl muttered, “or how to reverse it, and with all of our medics passed out we can’t-”
“Hook should still be up, though,” Rung said confusedly. Prowl’s head snapped to him.
“But the bond’s dead, and unless his emotions just got Shockwave’d, he’s out like the rest of them.” Rung shook his head.
“No, I mean he should be in the medbay - Ratchet mentioned that he was having Hook finish up some inventory before he came down for the party.” Prowl paused at that.
After a moment’s consideration, he shut his optics and focused on the gestalt bond - tenderly prodding it, trying to figure out which of the sparks connected to his was Hook’s. After a few seconds, he simply pulsed a demand of WAKE UP through the bond. A startled pulse resonated back, one of the sparks stuttering awake.
:: Whaizzit? Whazzgoinon? ::
:: Where are you? :: Prowl snapped impatiently.
:: Medbay - why? What’s happening? :: Hook asked, quickly regaining his senses.
:: Get to Swerve’s. Make sure you bring diagnostic equipment - ensure you bring something to check for contaminants in energon. :: Prowl tightened the bond back down before Hook could respond, opening his optics.
“He’s still there, should be on his way now,” he said. He looked down at Rung, only to notice the smaller mech looking at him intently with an odd smile on his face. “What?”
“Nothing,” he responded, shaking his head before looking away.
They began picking their way back across the room, though after the third time Rung tripped on a larger frame, Prowl simply picked the orange ‘bot up and carried him under his arm the rest of the way to the exit of Swerve’s.
“Magnus,” Prowl started when the SIC answered his ping, “Rung was awake but did not see what happened - Hook is in the medbay, but he should be en route to Swerve’s now.”
“Status on those still unconscious?”
“Alive - I’m having Hook run diagnostics when he gets here.”
“See that he does. Report when a diagnosis is given. Ultra Magnus out,” and with that, the comm line went dead.
Right on cue, a purple and green crane came careening into Swerve’s and would’ve flattened Prowl had he not jumped out of the way in time.
“Oh, wow,” the Constructicon commented after the skidding of his tires went down as he stopped. “Definitely see the problem now.”
“Can you figure out what’s keeping them under?” Prowl asked, deciding to cut straight to the point. Hook shrugged as he unloaded various pieces of medical equipment from his subspace.
“Dunno,” he said, beginning to scan the frame closest to him. “Could be anything - I’ve been trained for field repairs, not entirely sure how to treat energon poisoning besides flushing ‘em.” The scanner beeped its completion. “‘S a remotely activated sedative - some sorta weird nanites. Probably woulda killed ‘em if they had more. Self-repair should work it out within a few hours, though we could probably knock ‘em out with an electric shock - should short circuit whatever little nanites were there.” Prowl hummed in response.
“Do you think it entered their systems through the engex?” Hook shrugged again.
“Probably,” he said succinctly. “Best to let ‘em sleep it off.”
With the given information, Prowl nodded and quickly relayed what Hook had told him to Ultra Magnus - ignoring the inquisitive prod against his spark and the crushed look on Hook’s face when he shoved it away.
“Have Hook wake up Ratchet, I need to talk to him - the situation had escalated,” Magnus ordered. Prowl dutifully passed along the command before returning to his comm.
“How so?” he inquired, watching Hook carefully traverse across the room to where Rung had said he had last seen Ratchet - the therapist himself had taken a seat on one of the nearby and out of the way benches to observe the proceedings. “Was Perceptor unable to trace where Brainstorm’s equipment teleported him to?”
“He was - it’s the when that has become problematic.”
“About thirty minutes ago?” Prowl hazarded, not really sure what Ultra Magnus was getting at. “That’s about when I chased him down, wasn’t it?”
“I’m telling you that Brainstorm traveled through time.” That gave him pause. Prowl was silent for a moment as he fully registered what he had just been told.
“Could you please repeat that so that I know my audials aren’t glitching?” Prowl heard a slight exvent - if it were any other mech, he would’ve called it a laugh, but with Magnus, it was significantly more likely to be a sigh of exasperation than anything.
“Brainstorm traveled through time.”
Prowl took a moment to vent deeply.
He really should have asked Ultra Magnus more questions before he signed up. It had seemed like a good idea at the time - join Rodimus’ weird space adventure to avoid Cybertron and all his frie- colleagues there. What could go wrong?
Examples of things that could go wrong:
Example A, the Constructicons. Example B, Megatron. Example C, the quantum engines. Example D, Rewind. Example E, the Constructicons, again. Example F, the-
“Prowl?” Magnus asked. He snapped out of his thoughts and pinched the ridge between his optics tiredly. Hook had gotten Ratchet up, he noted by the familiar agitated grumblings that he could hear.
“Yeah, yeah, I heard you,” he sighed. “It’s just-” he cut himself off. “This whole trip is ridiculous,” he said quietly, ignoring the slight static in his vocalizer. Magnus gave him a few more moments to collect himself before Prowl continued.
“Ratchet’s up - you can contact him now.” Magnus acknowledged the information and cut the connection.
Prowl stood there for a few moments more before walking over and sitting on the bench next to Rung in a daze. The quiet therapist looked at him in concern.
“Something wrong?” he asked, laying a comforting hand on Prowl’s shoulder. Prowl just sighed and cradled his aching helm in his hands. Rung let him have his silence as he sorted through the events of the past thirty-six hours in his mind.
“Prowl?” Ultra Magnus pinged his comm a few minutes later. He took a deep, calming vent before answering.
“I’m having Ratchet and Hook wake up certain mechs - escort them and Rung down to Brainstorm’s workshop.” Prowl nodded in agreement despite the fact that Ultra Magnus couldn’t even see him.
“May I ask as to what the purpose of this is?”
“We’re sending a team after Brainstorm.”
Rung hummed thoughtfully before moving his rook two spaces to the left. Prowl stared intently as he let go of the piece before quickly moving a pawn and -
“Checkmate,” he said smugly. Rung studied the board for a second before looking back up at Prowl with a small smile on his face.
“So it seems.” He watched for a few seconds as Prowl began to reset the board before asking his next question. “You were Second In Command to Optimus.” The hand around a pawn tightened for a second before Prowl answered, looking weary of where the conversation was headed.
“How do you feel about Bumblebee being promoted to leader instead of you?” Prowl set down the pawn in his hand harder than was strictly necessary.
“He was a scout,” Prowl said simply. After a pause he picked up the pawn he had just set down, gesturing to it as he continued speaking. “A pawn, if you will.” He picked up the king and queen of his side with his other hand. “Optimus is Prime. In chess, he would be the king - he certainly has his tricks and is undoubtedly important, but limited.” He set the king down in the center of the board, demonstrating the limited range of the piece. “I was his Second In Command, the queen.” He set down the aforementioned piece. “I have range, I can do the things the leader can’t - the things the mighty king cannot be seen doing. I can’t personally jump behind the enemy lines, like a knight or Special Operations. But I’m powerful.”
“But what happens when a pawn gets to the other side of the board, an insignificant scout?” Prowl plucked the queen from Rung’s side of the board, using it to knock over the pawn he had set down. “They become another queen. There are now two queens on the board - but the second one, the new one, is in an advantageous position - deep behind enemy lines.” He set down the queen back in its previous space on Rung’s side of the board.
“So of what use is the old queen? It had been limited before, you didn’t want to lose such a piece, but now that there is a second? Go wild. And if you lose it?” Prowl knocked over the queen from his side of the board. “Well, you always have the other, so why mourn?”
Rung stared at the board for a second, before his spindly orange hand reached out to pick up Prowl’s queen.
“But what,” he asked, setting the queen off to the side on the table they were using, “if the old queen was released, to where it cannot be limited by squares and borders, to a world that hasn’t had it before - a chance to carve out a new place for itself?” Prowl smiled, before slowly directing Rung’s hand and the piece back to the board.
“That’s not how chess works though, is it?” Rung looked at Prowl for a long moment, before recalling something the mech had said to him in one of his earlier sessions.
“If the pieces believe it can be replaced so easily, if the game disregards the queen so, why does the queen not disregard the game?”
Rodimus sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose - Prowl felt a vague twinge of sympathy. “One more time - and please try to keep up. Brainstorm’s traveled back in time to first cycle five-oh-two so he can kill Optimus Prime - Orion Pax, as he was then - and help the Decepticons win the war.” Megatron pointedly coughed. Rodimus waved his hand dismissively to the side as he continued.
“Megatron would like me to stress that he has nothing to do with this. And, given that he was the one who told me about Brainstorm’s treachery, I almost believe him.” Rodimus paused, seeming to mull over his words. “I mean I do believe him. I do.” He onlined his optics and shot Megatron a significant look, not even bothering to hide it from the rest of them gathered there - Prowl sighed, he wasn’t even attempting to be subtle. “Almost.”
There was an almost awkward moment of silence as Roidmus stared at Megatron before he continued. Prowl shifted his weight to his other pede, leaning against a nearby counter. “Using the briefcase Nightbeat found on the other Lost Light, those of us with compatible spark types can go after Brainstorm and punch some sense into him.”
“Oi - Rodders-” Whirl interrupted, redirecting the co-captain’s (Rodimus was very adamant about that point) attention to the team he was briefing, “-we get all that. What we don’t get is all this chuff about replacement timelines.”
“If Brainstorm kills Orion he’ll create a new timeline that will replace this one,” Perceptor interjected, returning from where he had been recalibrating the… time travel setup, or whatever it was, to send the new group after Brainstorm. “His briefcase connects him to this ship, and to the present day. If he spends an hour in the past, an hour passes here. Because we’re still here, still reacting to what he’s done, we think we’ve got a chance of stopping him.” Vaguely reassuring. “But it might be that he’s already changed history and the new timeline is only gradually superseding this one.” Fantastic.
Rodimus leaned out of his seat towards Perceptor, annoying smile having returned to his face. “It’s time. It’s confusing.”
“Brainstorm has thus far made two time-jumps,” Perceptor continued his explanation without any acknowledgment that Rodimus had even said anything. “The first - apparently some kind of calibration exercise - took him to Messatine; he left almost immediately.”
“Where is he now?” Cyclonus asked. “Do we know?”
“Once I’ve familiarized myself with the time machine’s geopositioning system I can be more precise, but right now it’s a case of ‘somewhere on Cybertron.’”
“He’ll be looking for Pax,” Rodimus said, pushing himself out of his seat, turning to look at the ragtag group they had thrown together. “Rewind, you were Pax’s biographer. First cycle five-oh-two - where’s he most likely to be?” Rewind put a hand to his chin as he thought.
“He’s always been pretty vague about this period of his life, but I know for a fact that he was in the Alyon Region for most of the first cycle. For the last few sub cycles he’s been on the run from Sentinel, who wants him dead for preventing the destruction of the Primal Basilica.” Prowl pointedly avoided looking in Chromedome’s direction as Rewind said that. “On the advice of his newest mentor, Zeta of Sistex - later Zeta Prime - he’s gathered up some of Senator Shockwave’s outliers and fled underground, from where-”
“Stop!” Riptide interrupted, pressing a hand to his head with a pained expression on his face. “You sound like an exam question. I’m getting flashbacks.”
“I love it when he talks history,” Chromedome countered. Prowl averted his optics awkwardly.
“Alyon, first cycle five-oh-two - can you send us there?” Rodimus asked Perceptor, moving forward from Riptide’s complaint.
“In two minutes’ time, once the quantum engines are primed, yes,” Perceptor answered, glancing over readings from a few of the monitors on the wall. “Alyon’s largely unpopulated. If I aim for the largest concentration of life signs, you’ve got a better chance of finding Pas.”
“Okay people,” Rodimus called out, catching the group’s attention, “two minutes. Brainstorm’s armory is over there. Tool up.”
“Hold on,” Whirl said, saddling up to Rodimus, clicking his claws together hopefully with his optic blown wide. “Let’s be absolutely clear about this. You’ve just given me permission to take whatever I like from Brainstorm’s forbidden toy box?” Oh, Prowl could see where this was going. “Even the experimental stuff - the stuff that unsettles people?”
“No,” Rodimus started, reeling back, “I-” He was quickly silenced by Whirl pressing a claw into his mouth.
“Shhh. On second thoughts, let’s keep it ambiguous.”
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to take Whirl?” Ultra Magnus asked skeptically, walking over to talk to Rodimus.
“Desperate times, Magnus,” Rodimus replied. “I’m not exactly traveling with the Wreckers. When Brainstorm’s about to fire a brain bullet at Pax’s head, I need people like Whirl…” he tapered off as they watched the aforementioned mech dive into Brainstorm’s armory with relish. “... People who are happy to get in the way.”
Huh. Looked like the little Prime had some semblance of processing power after all.
Magnus frowned, making a non-committal noise, gesturing Prowl over as Rodimus split to start listing all the ‘golden rules’ for the rest of the group.
“I need you to go down to the medbay and get Ratchet to begin working on a medical report for this incident, then go to the bridge and ensure that the Lost Light is on a clear path for at least the rest of the day.”
Primus, Prowl felt like a secretary sometimes.
“Anything new?” Prowl asked as he strode into the medbay. Ratchet was typing something on a terminal, while Hook checked on a few of the bots lying on the floor of the overcrowded room. Ratchet paused in whatever it was that he was doing just to look over and glare at Prowl.
“Tell Magnus he’ll get his report when he gets it,” the CMO grouched, turning back to the monitor.
Prowl raised his hands placatingly, backing out of the medbay and turning to go and do… whatever it was Prowl did in a situation like this. Hook watched him leave before he was rudely interrupted by a snort from Ratchet.
At his inquiring glance, Ratchet simply muttered, “Younglings,” before making a shooing gesture at him. “Go chase your boyfriend,” he grouched at Hook as if there wasn’t a small smirk on his face. Hook began to open his mouth to (weakly) argue, pointing at the patients he was still checking up on when Ratchet waved him off before he could make a sound. “The medbay’s crowded and I’ll call you back if there’s an emergency, but right now I don’t need a medic who’s distracted by a pretty frame. Now get.”
Hook didn’t say anything, but that didn’t strictly mean that Prowl couldn’t summon a reason to find his presence annoying. Quite the opposite in fact - Prowl could always easily find reasons to be annoyed by anybody’s presence.
Prowl wished Hook didn’t feel the need to be right there. The Constructicon stood close enough behind him that even with his own EM field pulled all the way in, he could feel Hook’s brushing against his own and it was - incredibly annoying. It was when Hook actually learned in over his shoulder to look at the flight maps that Prowl had pulled up that he made an internal executive decision.
Manually dialing the sensors in his doorwings down as low as they would go, he waited for a few seconds for Hook to move and-
Oh yes, that was satisfying - if one were to ignore the sharp flare of pain and following ache that permeated his right panel. Hook spluttered as he reeled back.
“Did - did you just hit me with your doorwing?” the medic asked incredulously. Prowl simply turned his head to stare blankly at the other, taking quiet pleasure at the shocked look on the others face. They stared at each other for a few moments longer, before Hook looked away sheepishly, taking a few steps back.
Prowl fluttered his doorwings to dismiss the dull ache that radiated up his struts before turning back to the console.
“Ultra Magnus?” he pinged the SIC’s comm. After a moment he received an affirmative reply, allowing him to continue. “We’re headed on a path for Alsad III, ETA three hours. We don’t have enough crew awake and present to begin landing procedures. Should I adjust course to orbit?”
“Allow me to check with Megatron,” and Prowl was put on hold before he could say anything else. He sighed before leaning forward to prop himself up against the console, resting his head in his hands. He heard a set of vents stutter.
Turning his head to look at Hook once more, he saw the Constructicon whip his gaze to the side as if he hadn’t just clearly been staring at… hmm.
“Well, you’re pretty fraggin’ hot, that’s definitely part of it.”
Well, while he was waiting for Ultra Magnus to get back to him, he might as well test out a theory.
Turning back to stare out the viewport of the bridge, Prowl shifted all his weight to a single pede, cocked his hip and - there was a choked sounding hack from behind him.
Intriguing, but not definitive.
Waiting a few more minutes for Hook to recover from the nasty coughing fit he had sent himself into, and since Ultra Magnus seemed to be taking his sweet old time checking in with Megatron, Prowl tried something a little more provocative (disregarding the disapproving voice in his head that he was acting a bit like Jazz).
Bracing his hands against the edge of the console, Prowl pushed back into his hips, arching his back downwards in a stretch. A short, satisfied keen escaped his vocalizer and his doorwings fluttered as he felt a few spinal struts pop back into place.
Looking back over his shoulder at the noise, Prowl snorted as he noticed that Hook had apparently tripped over his own pedes, and was scrambling to stand back up. The Constructicon looked over at Prowl and, upon noticing the raised optic ridge thrown in his direction, stubbornly looked away, an odd expression on his face.
“Prowl?” Ultra Magnus’ voice sounded over his comm. That had taken longer than Prowl had anticipated - but either way, it appeared that the time for fun was over, but Prowl still noted the reactions for another time. Straightening back up, Prowl answered the comm.
“Adjust the course for orbit, and then return to the labs - we anticipate bringing in Brainstorm within the hour.”
“Affirmative,” Prowl responded before switching his comm back off and proceeding to make the necessary adjustments to the navigational computer.
Entering in a few last commands and receiving confirmation from the Lost Light’s computer, Prowl pushed himself away from the terminal with a flourish, whipping around only to almost crash into Hook.
“Primus,” he hissed, “do you really need to stand that close to me?” Hook stumbled out of Prowl’s way as the smaller mech brushed past him. It was a few moments before Prowl heard a heavier set of pedes follow closely behind his own stride.
They managed to make it until about a minute away from Brainstorm’s workshop before Hook decided to finally speak up.
“So why’re you mad at the rest?” Prowl sent him a confused glance over his shoulder, before deciding to indulge the crane, not wanting to test if this one would also bother him endlessly until he answered.
“The rest?” Hook nodded, and Prowl faced forwards again to hide the exaggerated cycling of his optics.
“The rest of the gestalt, y’know?” Hook continued when Prowl didn’t answer after a few moments. “None of ‘em would tell me what happened that got you so wired.” Prowl tsk’d disparagingly before answering.
“Apart from implying that you glitches only want me for my frame? Not much.” Hook choked before making a despairing whine.
“It was Bonecrusher, wasn’t it?” he asked quietly. Prowl didn’t deign him with an answer. “Look, Prowl, we like you for a lot more than just your frame could you just-” Hook reached out to put a hand on his shoulder, getting cut off when Prowl harshly whacked the appendage away.
“Don’t touch me,” he snapped, stopping to enter the code to the workshop, entering briskly before Hook could get another word in.
“Three…” Perceptor stated slowly from the monitor, hands flying over the controls faster than a frightened turbofox. Ultra Magnus waved Prowl over to where he was standing, a pair of stasis cuffs in his servos. There was an odd absence of Megatron from the room, but Prowl decided to worry about it some other time.
“Prowl…” Hook said helplessly. Prowl looked over at the Constructicon, if only for the purpose of glaring at the green and purple mech.
“Two…” Perceptor announced, a familiar bright glow beginning to emanate from the briefcase set up in the center of the lab.
“Just give us a chance,” Hook called over the increasingly loud hum of equipment in the labs.
“One!” Perceptor shouted, pressing one final button, and the bright light intensified before suddenly cutting out.
After a second to recalibrate the sensors in his optics, Prowl saw the group of mechs that he had just seen off a scant few hours ago, plus one. Ultra Magnus sternly stepped forward.
“Brainstorm, you’re under arrest.”
The Next Day
Prowl swirled his glass of engex contemplatively as he watched the movie.
“So…” Riptide started. “How did future Biff get back to twenty fifteen?”
“Don’t ask - I am so lost,” Tailgate responded. Prowl snorted into his glass.
“Bold words for a ‘bot who just traveled through time,” he muttered. Tailgate huffed at him.
“Just because I did it doesn’t mean I get how it works!” Prowl chuckled in response. Tailgate turned back to the screen. “Loved the flying pink sled - but that bit when he watches himself playing guitar? I mean what?”
“It’s from the first one!” Riptide chirped. Tailgate startled.
“There’s a first one?”
“‘Don’t need money,’” Cyclonus’ rich voice began from a few feet away, “‘don’t need fame -’ ALTOGETHER!” he called, raising his glass. ‘Bots around the table laughed before throwing their glasses up to join him.
“Don’t need money, don’t need fame…!” Prowl sang along under his breath, a smirk on his face as he watched Whirl kick a leg up onto the table dramatically.
He looked down at the engex in his hand consideringly before placing the near-empty glass on a nearby waiter drone in exchange for a full one.
A chance, huh?
Did I just technically skip the whole Elegant Chaos arc? yes.
Like I love the arc, but I couldn't really figure a way to shove Prowl into it and still tell the story that I wanted to tell, so I kinda cheated a bit. Plus I wasn't ready to write chapters quite in the style of the last three yet - chapters probably aren't going to be quite as consistently long as these last few for a while.
Anyways, these next few chapters are ones that I've been looking forward to writing: we get some good times(tm) before I wreck the happiness.
Fun Fact: when I was revisiting Twenty Plus One to figure out what the spark type needed for Brainstorm's briefcase was, I found that Chromedome had a different spark type than Cyclonus and Tailgate, all of whom were in the time travel gang. So what I'm saying is continuity errors are fun.
Nautica gives Prowl some questionably forward advice over questionably strong alcohol, Rung talks with Prowl about his gestalt, Prowl gives Nautica some sketchy tips, and the Constructicons get lucky.
This was supposed to also feature an argument with Rodimus but that got cut so enjoy this crack-ish chapter that tapers off into something sorta serious that I'm oddly proud of.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Prowl? What’re you doing here?”
Prowl startled, choking on the engex sliding down his intake. “Primus, Nautica,” he hissed between coughs. “Ever heard of knocking?”
“Scrap, sorry,” she apologized, though Prowl could hear the bemusement in her voice as she sat down next to him, legs dangling over the edge of the Lost Light. “Not like there’s any doorway to knock on, though.”
“It’s the principle of the matter,” he responded shortly, before extending the bottle in his hand out to her by the neck. “Want some?”
“Is it triple-filtered?” she asked, glancing at the label with a scrutinizing optic, even though Prowl could already hear the tell-tale clicks of her filters deactivating, signaling that she had offlined her FIM chip. “Quadruple? Nice,” Nautica commented as she took the bottle, easily throwing back a mouthful. “While you’re being so generous, mind passing those bismuth flakes?”
“Don’t eat all of them at once,” Prowl chastised after she stuffed a handful into her mouth. She shrugged at him, not a hint of regret on her face.
“So,” she began after swallowing her mouthful, “what brings Mr. Lonely up to the roof of the Lost Light? Didn’t think anybody would be up here.”
“Went into Fortuna, threw my money at undiluted engex and junk food, came back, decided to hide out here.” Prowl sighed, gesturing at the horizon. “Not the worst view. Magnus gave me the day off so he could oversee Brainstorm’s trial.” He swiped back the engex bottle from Nautica and took a gulp before he continued. “Speaking of, weren’t you supposed to be there? Jury duty or something, wasn’t it?” Nautica huffed, her plating fluffed up agitatedly as she wrenched the bottle back from Prowl before dutifully draining the rest of the engex.
“Got angry, stormed out,” her words began to slur a bit as she talked. “Din’ want to look at his lyin’ face.” Prowl hummed in response. A moment passed in silence before Prowl un-subspaced another bottle of engex, easily popping the cork and taking a long swig, swallowing the acidic liquid with a slight grimace. After another second of thought, he brought the bottle back up to his lips to chug at least half of the bottle before shakily setting it down next to the bowl of bismuth flakes. He’d be damned if he’d have this conversation sober.
“So why tell me?” he asked slowly. “‘Cause if it’s relationship advice you’re lookin’ for, then I’m prob’ly ‘bout as far from a reli - relia - rel,” Prowl frowned as the word caught on his heavy glossa. “‘Bout as far from a good source as you can get,” he amended. Primus, quadruple-filtered engex hit hard when you went at it faster than a small sip every few minutes.
“‘S fraggin’ obvious,” Nautica snarked back at him, snatching the bottle up to knock back another few mouthfuls.
“Tha’d hurt if I din’ know i’ was true,” Prowl responded. Nautica snorted into the bottle.
“‘S good stuff,” she muttered before taking another mouthful. “How much ya’ drop on it?”
“Ffffu,” Prowl huffed as he thought, leaning back on his arms. “Coupla’ hundred each? I dunno.” Nautica choked on the next mouthful she took, looking at Prowl incredulously.
“Well, if I’d known that I was gon’ end up drinkin’ the good stuff today, mighta waxed ‘r polished ‘r somethin’. Look classy.” She held the bottle up to her face, squinting her optics at the dwindling level. “Not complainin’,” she murmured before finishing off the rest of the bottle, swallowing the last gulp with a satisfied sigh. “I mean, student loans got me broke as, so, if your rich aft wishes to supply…?” She wiggled the empty bottle in front of Prowl’s face teasingly. He snorted in response before pulling two more bottles out of his subspace, handing one to Nautica.
“‘F Ratchet has ta’ pump our tanks, Ah’m blamin’ you,” Prowl decreed. They simultaneously popped the cork and clinked their drinks together, taking a long swig.
“What’re we talkin’ ‘bout?” she asked. He shrugged, tossing a few flakes into his mouth as she thought. She took another mouthful of engex, shuddering as the concentrated energy hit her systems. “Primus, this ‘s strong.” Prowl hummed in response.
They sat in silence for a few minutes longer, when Nautica’s face suddenly brightened.
“Wha?” he asked her.
“You ‘n yer slagged relationships. Tha’s what we were talkin’ ‘bout.” He frowned.
“Don’ remember that,” he muttered.
“Don’ worry ‘bout it. Jus’ lemme give you some good, frien’ly advice,” she whispered, patting his cheek patronizingly. She paused dramatically. “Jus’ invite the ‘structies over and frag their brain modules ou’,” Nautica slurred. “Simple.”
Had Prowl been in a more sober state of mind, he would have been disgusted with the conversation and left right there and then. But, he wasn’t - he and Nautica had each downed at least an entire bottle of quadruple-filtered engex each - and quadruple-filtered hit hard, and it hit fast.
“Bu’” Prowl started after a moment of consideration. “Bu’ there’s five of ‘em.” Nautica shrugged in response. “‘M too sober to be considerin’ this,” he said mostly to himself, taking another long drink of engex. Nautica laughed in response, draining more of her bottle.
“Think abou’ i’ though,” she told him. “Five big, strong mechs who wan’ do nothin’ bu’ ma’e you happy. Yu’d never leave th’ berth unsa’isfied,” she sing-songed at him, a slag-eating grin on her face as his doorwings fluttered oddly. He flicked a bismuth flake at her in retaliation and took another long drink before answering.
“Five a’ once, Nau’ica,” he whispered solemnly. “Frag i’, Ah o’ly have one valve.”
“Well,” she told him conspiratorially, “y’ a’so go’ two ‘ands, a mou’, an’ a was’ por’, don’ ya’? Tha’ a’s up ta,” she paused, looking down to count on the fingers of her free hand, a perplexed look on her face. “Fou’? Fi’e? Fi’e! Tha’s fi’ve! See? Y’ c’n do i’!” She smiled, looking awfully proud of herself.
“Tha’s disgus’in,” Prowl told her, a frown on his face.
“‘M jus’ sayin’, five a’ once ain’ th’ worse berth play y’ cou’ ge’ inta,” she responded nonchalantly, throwing a few more bismuth flakes in her mouth and washing them down with more engex.
“Nau’ica, ‘m pre’y sure jus’ one’d spli’ me in half,” he deadpanned as best he could with slurred words.
“Kinky,” she said, waggling her optic ridges at him. They looked at each other for a long moment before bursting out in giggles, an undignified state Prowl normally wouldn’t have let himself get caught dead in, falling to lay on their backs.
“Primus, we’re cra’ered,” Prowl chuckled. Nautica laughed in response.
They laid there in relatively companionable silence (a novel experience, as far as plastered-Prowl was concerned) for a few more minutes before Nautica’s comm pinged, causing her to curse loudly in surprise.
“‘S Ra’chet,” she told him at his inquiring glance. Prowl grunted in response, bringing the bottle of engex to his mouth, completely forgetting that he was laying down and that gravity didn’t work that way. Nautica cackled while he spluttered, wiping the spilled engex off his face sullenly.
“‘Llo?” she answered, still giggling as Prowl glared at her. She stuck her tongue out at him. “Eh? No, no, ‘m perf’ctly sober. Mm-hm. Yeah. Why?” Nautica propped herself up on an arm, swirling the bottle of engex contemplatively. “Scraplets?” she choked, suddenly looking significantly more alert and alarmed. “Slag - um - shou’ I bring Prow’? Bin si’in nexta’ him for th’ las’ lil’ bit. Yup. Uh-huh, gotcha. Be there ‘n a bit.”
“Whassa’ abou’?” Prowl asked.
“Me n’ you,” she began to respond, going to poke him in demonstration but ending up slapping him in the face more than anything, “go’ go see Ra’chet. Migh’ ‘ave scraplets.” Prowl made a high whining noise in answer, slowly sitting up nonetheless. “Go’a sober up now.”
Identically pained groans escaped both their vocalizers as they reactivated their FIM chips.
Primus, Prowl was never going to drink again (deep down, he knew he definitely would, but it was a conviction that generally held until Prowl was fed up with the world again.)
“Can we…” he trailed off awkwardly, not meeting Nautica’s optics as they helped each other up. “Can we just pretend this conversation never happened?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she answered, looking embarrassed as she processed the memory files. “Yeah, but, um…? Before this moment ceases to have ever existed, can I say something?”
“I feel like I’m going to regret this, but it’s not like I can stop you,” Prowl huffed, tossing empty bottles into his subspace to dispose of later. He looked at the bottle in his hand that still had some engex in it and offered it to Nautica after a second of consideration. “Want it? Primus knows I’m a mouthy drunk.”
“Thanks,” she chirped, glancing at the bottle before tossing it and the other she held into her subspace. “But yeah, what I was gonna say was…” She paused, seeming to consider her words. A long moment passed before she continued. “I mean, you don’t have to frag the Constructicons, that’s a little much for them - I think they’d crash if you so much as blew a kiss at them,” she laughed at her joke, but coughed and continued when she realized that Prowl didn’t find it anywhere near as funny as she did.
“What I’m saying is to give them a chance? Don’t jump their struts, just spend some time with them?” She shrugged. “I mean, get to know them a bit before you decide to hate them forever.”
“Apart from our first few sessions, we’ve never talked much about your relationship with the Constructicons,” Rung said in lieu of an actual question.
“Because there is no relationship to talk about,” Prowl snapped.
“Have you at least tried talking to them?” Rung asked tiredly, already sensing that the discussion would be like pulling dentae.
“Why would I?” Prowl responded blithely. “I never wanted them as a gestalt, I still don’t want them as a gestalt, they annoy me to no end, and their obsession with me is frankly concerning.”
“Have you at least tried to talk out your boundaries with them? Being connected at the spark must be quite intense and uncomfortable for you.”
“Keep the bond closed - problem solved.” Prowl shrugged as he talked. “As long as I don’t think about it, it’s like they’re not even there.” Rung frowned at that.
“Cutting off a bond like that isn’t healthy - mentally or physically.”
“Well, I haven’t had a mental breakdown nor am I dying, so I think it’s working out fine.”
“Prowl, please,” Rung asked. “Think about this in the long term - your spark can’t sustain that kind of strain forever, neither can you avoid them forever.”
“Why are you so averse to talking to them?” Prowl gave him a long, blank look.
“You’ve seen my track record of personal relationships, right? I don’t do them for a reason - never ends well in any capacity.” Rung sighed, making another note on his datapad.
“Why don’t you talk to them and see what they have to say about everything?” Rung continued even as Prowl began to open his mouth to argue. “One time, see what they want from you, and the gestalt - and I mean talk - no arguments, no assumptions, no interruptions. Just let everybody have their piece. See how you feel, and decide where to go from there. Just talk to the Constructicons - one time is all I’m asking. Give them one chance, and if you still hate them, I won’t bring it up again.”
Prowl kept his scowl firmly fixed upon his face as Hook awkwardly finished checking him over for Scraplets, the search having been performed in dead, uncomfortable silence.
“Well,” Hook coughed, not quite meeting Prowl’s piercing optics, “you don’t have any scraplets.” Prowl hummed in response.
Take a chance.
“Hook.” The Constructicon startled at the acknowledgment, rattling the tools in the tray he held. He whipped around to look at Prowl, looking rather like a deer caught in the headlights. “Bring the gestalt to my quarters tonight.”
And then he promptly left before he could regret his decision, or to wait for Hook to say something after he inevitably snapped out of his shock.
Leaving the medbay with all due haste, he almost ran into Nautica, who had apparently been waiting for him, a troubled expression on her face.
“Wanna go into town and do something mindless or stupid?” she asked him tiredly.
“So,” Prowl began sarcastically as they weaved through the marketplace of Fortuna, “what’s got you so happy?” They had already been in the town for a good few hours, not much said between them apart from a few, awkwardly stilted attempts at small talk from each of them.
“Ever been told that the reason nobody likes you is because you’re such an aft?” Nautica asked him sullenly.
“Primus, just yesterday!” he told her in mock surprise. “However did you know?” She snorted in spite of the bad mood she seemed determined to uphold. “Now, we’ve had a far too in-depth conversation about me, so why don’t we turn the tables and talk about whatever the hell’s been going on with you?” Nautica sighed, scuffing her pedes on the road. A few smaller species scattered to avoid the impromptu hazard zone.
“Can I ask for your advice?”
“Most people would tell you to do literally anything but what I say.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I wanna live excitingly,” she told him. “So: somebody close to you keeps a really big secret, and when you find out about it, they end up hurting you and a lot of people in the process, but they did it for really unselfish reasons. How do you react to that?”
“Blackmail or guilt-trip them into doing my bidding. Depends on if they’re practical or emotional,” he responded without missing a beat. “Analyze how the events affect my ambitions and whether it can be turned to my advantage.” Nautica looked at him incredulously for a long moment, not even noticing as he steered them into a high-end electronics shop.
“Primus, no wonder people say you’re sparkless,” she muttered. Prowl shrugged in response, crouching in front of a shelf of connectors.
“It’s not like I’m not forcing you to spend time with me. You read about the war right?” He continued, not even waiting for a response from his companion. “You should already know that I’m the most hated person in Autobot high command. By popular vote, of course. Been winning in a landslide majority for quite a few years at this point.”
Nautica simply studied him in contemplative silence as he plucked a six-way connector from the shelf, walking to the counter and paying for the item and exiting the store with naught a word spoken.
“So what’s that for?” she asked inquisitively, gesturing to the non-descript box as he shoved it into his subspace.
“Everybody's telling me to take a chance, so I want to see if they actually deserve it,” he answered simply. “Now - stop trying to change the subject.” Nautica sighed in defeat.
“It’s just - I want to be mad at Brainstorm, I want to think he did his whole time traveling stunt for selfish reasons, I want to think he’s a stupid aft but he’s so - so - ugh!” she groaned, running her hands over her face slowly and dramatically. “But he’s an MTO, so if he’d succeeded, it meant that he would’ve disappeared, so he was actually trying to stop the war from ever happening at the cost of himself, so he was actually being really selfless and would’ve saved so many lives if he’d succeeded and Primus I don’t know how to feel about this.” Prowl hummed a low note, twisting his neck to look at the stalls set up around the marketplace.
“Well, if you’re going to throttle him, make sure you don’t kill him - Ultra Magnus will throw a fit if there’s a murder on the ship, and I’ll get to deal with it. Or at least make sure it looks like an accident, or maybe only a permanent coma. I’m not that picky,” he responded dryly.
“Primus, you’re useless,” Nautica told him blankly.
“I would say sic Whirl on him, but Whirl likes the weapons Brainstorm makes a bit too much for that. I can refer you to a few good bounty hunters - you could probably get them to off Brainstorm next shore leave.”
“Okay, okay,” she said, waving a hand disbelievingly at him, the other cradling her face in a semi-facepalm. “Even if I would do that, which I can tell you right now I wouldn’t, I can’t afford a bounty hunter! Student loans, remember?” Prowl shrugged.
“Get Brainstorm to annoy me a bit more, I’ll foot the bill.”
“We’re not killing Brainstorm!”
“Fine, fine - eternal coma?”
“We are not incapacitating or injuring Brainstorm in any fashion!”
“Fine, have it your way - you draw him out of the ship, make sure he’s distracted, and we leave him here. Simple - nobody gets hurt and you never have to deal with your conflicted feelings about him again.”
“I’d still feel really bad about leaving him out here,” she groaned.
“Primus, plebeians and their morals,” Prowl said, cycling his optics dramatically. Nautica huffed at him in response. She opened her mouth, probably to say something snappy and witty to him, before shutting her mouth an audible click, face scrunching up in a conflicted look.
“Brainstorm’s messaged me - he wants to meet up at Swerve’s and talk.”
“Poison his engex.”
“Stop it. I’m gonna go, see what he wants, what he has to say to me.”
“Yeah,” Prowl sighed as they performed a loop, headed back to the outer edges of the city to drive back to the Lost Light. “Meeting up with the Constructicons soon anyhow.”
“Ooh,” Nautica cooed in interest, throwing an arm around his shoulders to poke at his face cheekily. “Somebody’s got a hot date tonight.”
“That ‘somebody’ wants you to not call it that.”
“Don’t let those boys keep you out past eleven - my little mechling’s growing up so fast!”
“I’m at least six times your age.”
“Semantics,” she said, waving it off. “But really, just don’t be too…” she tapered off, gesturing meaninglessly as she searched for words. “You?”
“Hate to disappoint, but being me is my defining character trait.” Nautica laughed at that, while Prowl simply cracked a small smile.
They continued through the city in comfortable silence, before Prowl snapped his fingers, having just come up with something else.
“Talk to Ratchet - he might reformat Brainstorm into a toaster for you if you ask nice enough.”
Nautica whacked Prowl that time, even though he was fairly sure that she didn’t even know what a toaster was.
“Circle. Sit,” Prowl snapped once the Constructicons had filed into his quarters. There was a beat before the mechs started tripping over themselves to comply, clearly not willing to tick him off by saying anything. Prowl took a moment to appreciate the fact that he had taken the time to fold the recharge slabs in his room back into the wall - it was cramped enough with five heavy-duty frames plus himself as it was.
He took a seat in the circle once the Constructicons had settled themselves - between Mixmaster and Long Haul, the closest he could be to the door - and retrieved the connector he had bought in Fortuna earlier that day with Nautica, placing it in the center of the circle. He took a few deep vents to calm himself, even as the Constructicons looked from the connector to him in confusion.
Before they could ask him anything, the small, low sound of a panel on Prowl’s arm transforming away broke the silence. They froze as they watched him draw a thin, smooth cable from his arm, plugging into the connector with a soft, deafening click.
“One shot,” Prowl said to their shocked looks. “You get one shot to prove to me that you deserve a chance.”
A moment passed before the Constructicons snapped out of their stupor, hastening to draw out their cables, borderline shoving each other in the process as they moved to hook up - Prowl was surprised that he didn’t have to waste time waiting for them to untangle the lines with how disorganized they were being about it.
The last one jacked in, and Prowl could see everything.
They had disabled all of their firewalls - and Prowl didn’t know what to make of it.
So he searched - ruthlessly digging up every single memory that even remotely referenced him (which was a lot, considering how much he had to do with the war effort, as Second In Command of the Autobots) - trying to find something - an ulterior motive, signs of betrayal, a reason to explain their behavior, anything.
People always wanted something out of him and he couldn’t find what they wanted out of him, he couldn’t find it - he couldn’t find a way to account for the absence of trickery or the lack of forceful action.
And the Constructicons - they just let him search, let him root through their minds, digging up their darkest secrets and scrutinizing every memory, dicing them finer and slicing them into smaller sections as he analyzed everything - they just let him run circles in their processors, searching desperately for any explanation, and did nothing to protect themselves from him and that wasn’t right.
Prowl sidelined input from his frame as he dug deeper, refining his searches and redoing almost all of them - there had to be something, there was always something people wanted from him. He ignored the throb of his helm and protest of his processors as he ran multiple searches at once, over-analyzing every moment of the Constructicons lives since they became a gestalt, pouring over the way they all perceived him and it wasn’t there.
It wasn’t there - no motive, no anger, no hate, no lies - nothing. It wasn’t there and it should be there and Prowl hated that he couldn’t find it and the absolute lack of anything against him and it was terrifying.
Prowl stalled, floated meaninglessly in the sea of information he had gathered and he just - didn’t know.
Prowl hated not knowing. He hated this. What did they want?
He felt a wave of warmth wash over his spark (when had he opened the gestalt bond?)
:: Nothin’ but you Prowl. :: And he was so lost and disoriented that he couldn’t even tell who had spoken. Brushes of reassurance and caring and kindness and affection and lo - no - it just all rocked gently against his spark, and Prowl had never felt them use the gestalt bond this way, and it all just felt so teasingly intimate.
And then the Constructicons seemed to take that as their cue to start pulsing information at Prowl over the hardline, ratcheting his charge higher (when had he started to build a charge?)
Scenes and memories washed by him, images and sounds of him.
:: We got you, Prowl. ::
The shock and respect at the depths of Prowl’s thoughts and plans, the way he used his assets and manipulated and worked those around him into compliance -
:: We know all of you. ::
The forceful and resonating echoes of him breaking free from Bombshell -
:: All of it: frame, mind, spark - ::
The feeling of awe as he wrenched together control of Devastator with his mangled yet powerful mind and tore himself free -
:: - ‘s all wonderful. ::
The overwhelming and intoxicating feeling of oneness when he willingly combined with them to fight the Necrotitan -
:: Never leavin’ you. ::
A choked sob escaped his vocalizer (was this what they saw?)
A time he tried to suppress his mirth at something ridiculous Rodimus had declared, a bemused look he thought no one had seen -
:: Nobody else, Prowl - ::
The reverberating sound of his voice from outside the makeshift Autobot headquarters, passionately arguing with Optimus Prime -
:: - never anybody else - ::
Him dutifully walking at a clipped stride, precisely one step behind Ultra Magnus, a concentrated look upon his face -
:: - only you - ::
A muffled grin on his face, hand hiding his mouth as Nautica and Tailgate tried to make him smile, laughter in his optics -
:: - never judge you - ::
His face set in hard lines as he ordered them about, not a hint of hesitation at their burly frames -
:: - ‘s okay. I’s all okay. ::
Somehow, that sentiment meant more to him than... well, a lot of other things he had ever been told.
A long, high keen escaped his vocalizer, overwhelmed by everything the Constructicons showed him, charge peaking and bursting and racing through his circuits as he overloaded. His vision pixelated and his audials seemed to detect nothing but white noise, vents stuttering as his awareness returned fully to his frame.
Hands caught him gently as he fell backward, limp doorwings barely brushing the ground as his frame gave out. Time seemed to blur as he was laid on his recharge slab (when did they have the chance to pull that out?) almost reverently, his cable being quickly yet delicately spooled back into its place in his arm.
Prowl laid there, not moving or speaking or doing a thing as his senses and control came back to himself, staring blankly at the ceiling. He would have thought the Constructicons had left, had he not heard them occasionally shuffling their feet, awaiting his verdict.
It was a few more minutes before he had brought himself back under enough control to trust himself to speak or move.
Slowly moving his hands to cover his face (taking nowhere near as much pleasure from the frightened/startled squeak of Scavenger as he normally would have), Prowl made his decision.
“One,” he told them, hating the static that laced his voice. “One chance. That’s it.”
A few more moments passed as the Constructicons waited to see if he had anything else to say before they started shuffling themselves out.
“C’mon,” one of them said (Long Haul, he knew instinctively), “let ‘im rest.”
And then they left.
Prowl lowered his hands from his face, turning onto his side a few minutes later, pillowing his head on his arms after properly hooking himself up to his recharge slab.
He focused on the tide of the gestalt bond, the gentle push and pull of emotions resonating from the Constructicons, the warmth of his spark, lulling him into a sense of complacency.
It… wasn’t horrible, he decided, sinking into the feeling.
His last thought before he fell offline was that perhaps, maybe, something just might go his way for once.
thAT'S RIGHT FOLKS
*bangs gong, dramatically pulls rope to unravel banner hanging from the ceiling*
WE'VE ACHIEVED SOMETHING.
Everyone - turn to your left, shakes hands with the person standing next to you, and say, "well done."
Okay, so it's not gonna work if everyone turns to their left.
Nautica & Prowl bad-advice-based solidarity wasn't something I knew I needed in my life until I wrote this chapter.
Jokes aside, this was a really fun chapter to write (There was something viscerally satisfying about writing a section that basically amounts to 'Nautica: *chugs four bottles of rubbing alcohol* juST FUCK ALREADY'), and I'm super hyped at the progress that's been made!
Now here's the fun killer - the next chapter is going to skip forward quite a few months in time, to just around Thunderclash's pre-wake. I'm trying to run this fic along the lines of the comic and keep it tied in with events that happen there, and I just don't want to try and pack in the Constructicons trying to court Prowl in between the really plot-heavy parts that are coming up soon - it just feels way too dense to me, so I just decided not to. But the next chapter will be mostly focused on the changing dynamic between Prowl and the Constructicons, though do not doubt that there is still progress to be made in there - it's a relationship update/check-in if you will.
I have, however, outlined a fun little miniseries that will take place in between this chapter and the next one. Constructicon-centric, full of shenanigans and bad ideas (Whirl: give him a knife that's also a gun, that's romantic / Bonecrusher: sounds legit / Nautica: waIT NO-). I'll get around to writing it, but I'm still deciding whether to upload it in segments alongside this fic when I have a good portion of it written or wait until this is finished so I don't have too much going on at once.
I really hope this doesn't disappoint anybody too much, but it's just a decision I've made and I'm sticking with it.
Bear with me and I hope that you enjoy the rest of this fic nonetheless!
Time passes, Nautica and Prowl dance, Rung discusses the gestalt and blooming comradery, the Constructicons get even luckier, Megatron calls at the worst possible moment, and Nautica gives Prowl some of that Good Friendship (TM)
hi here's that time skip I warned y'all about.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ten Months Later
“Charisma parasites?” Prowl asked skeptically as Nautica led him across the make-shift dance floor at Swerve’s.
“Yep,” she chirped happily. “Charisma parasites, personality ticks, whatever you want to call them.”
“Well,” he started dryly, “I’m glad I opted out of going then.”
“Nah,” she told him flippantly, “even if you hadn’t stayed back to ‘catch up on work’ or whatever you were doing, you’d have been completely safe. Not a drop of charisma to drain out of you.”
“No problem-” Nautica cut off with wince, looking down at where he had just stepped on her foot. “Primus, you’re a slag dancer.” Prowl shrugged unrepentantly. “Though you should have come, the Constructicons were having a blast from what I saw.” He snorted in response.
“You were lucky enough to get me to come to this party - I definitely wasn’t going to shuttle over with everyone else to the Vis Vitalis for one.”
“Why not? Might’ve been the closest thing to a date night you and the ‘Structies would have ever gotten a chance to go on.”
“Prowl,” Nautica cut him off exasperatedly. “Extremely one-sided Scrabble on the observation deck doesn’t count.” Prowl opened his mouth to argue. “Even if you brought the nicest engex Swerve was willing to let you buy.” His mouth snapped shut with a click.
“I suppose,” he sighed after a moment. “I’m planning on doing something with the Constructicons later tonight if that helps restore my trashed image any in your eyes.”
“Ooh,” she cooed interestedly as she twirled him, awkwardly arching her body to avoid getting whacked by his doorwings. “Do tell - last time you were vague about meeting up with the Constructicons, you went in as the definition of angry and came out with five boyfriends.” Prowl groaned as Nautica’s EM field poked curiously at his.
“Magnus cleared me to begin my shift late tomorrow, and the rest of the Constructicons don’t really have jobs, they just help out when people ask them too, so they can start later as well, so…” Prowl shrugged, averting his gaze.
“What, you’re gonna have a sleepover?” Nautica asked, sounding both disappointed and unimpressed. Prowl cleared his vents awkwardly and continued refusing to look at her.
“That’s certainly one way to look at it, if juvenile,” he muttered quietly in response. Nautica looked at him blankly for a long moment.
“What’s that supposed to me- oh. Oh.” Nautica smirked slyly at him, and Prowl felt a horrified shiver crawl down his struts, vaguely wondering why he bothered to tell her anything. “Nice. I’m surprised, but good for you.”
“What’s there to be surprised about?” he asked defensively. “It’s a logical progression in a relationship and-”
“No, no, that’s not quite what I meant,” Nautica laughed. “You barely let any of them hold your hand in public, so it’s just a bit of a shock is all I’m saying.”
“Would you rather I make out with them in a corner booth? I’m sure they’d be thrilled to participate.” She let out a bark of laughter in response.
“Keep it to the lower decks or something - don’t want to scandalize the masses, do you?”
“You fully underestimate how much your bad decision making has influenced me.” Nautica simply gave him a dry look in response. “Can we pause the dancing for a bit?”
“Yeah, sure,” she responded, leading him back off the dance floor, plucking two full glasses of engex off a passing waiter drone and handing one to Prowl. “So, what, you’re just going to invite them to your quarters and frag their brain modules out? No preamble?” she asked as they leaned against a wall, observing the partying crew of the Lost Light.
“Is there a problem with that?”
“Kind of? I mean, generally, people would go do something together, then go back to their quarters and frag. You might give the Constructicons spark failure or something if you just spring that on them without leading it up to them in some way.” Prowl huffed.
“Bit late to change plans now - I could just sleep in or something, but that’s a waste of the time I put into getting Magnus to agree without telling him what I was doing.” Nautica chuckled at that before replying.
“I’m not saying don’t, I’m just saying you probably could approach it better? Or just jump their struts, I guess - surprise or no, they’d definitely be down for it, the way they look at you.”
“Shhh!” Nautica suddenly hushed him, slapping her hand over his mouth as she squinted at something across the room. “Put a pin in it - your targets have just made it to the party!” she declared happily, manually turning Prowl’s head to look at where five green and purple mechs had just entered Swerve’s. “Alright, go talk to them and do whatever it is you’re gonna do. We can meet up for rations or engex or something tomorrow, I wanna know everything.” Prowl shot her a disgusted look as she leaned all her weight into trying to push him in the Constructicon’s direction.
(Ineffective, as he was significantly more dense than average after the combiner reformat)
“That’s disgusting, and I’m not going to be telling you anything.” Nautica pouted at him.
“Aw, I thought we had moved past you being a complete prude? I’m hurt, Prowl. Truly. I thought we were besties. Besides, you should’ve known that I would interrogate you about it the second you told me anything at all.”
“Not going to say anything, Nautica.”
“You will,” she assured sinisterly. Prowl cycled his optics as he acquiesced to her pushing and began to move towards the Constructicons. “Now, go get laid!” she exclaimed before disappearing back into the crowd.
“When I suggested you talk to the Constructicons, I didn’t really mean to hardline with them,” Rung stated simply after Prowl’s explanation of what he had done.
“It got me results,” he responded shortly. “You said talk to them, but I wanted to know for sure that they wouldn’t lie - so I hardlined with them. It was a simple solution, and it got the job done, didn’t it?”
“I suppose,” Rung answered. After a moment, he continued. “So what did you gain from the experience? I must admit, it’s rather surprising that you aren’t that upset at then anymore - this is quite the turnaround from your opinion of them last week.” Prowl shrugged.
“I was mostly looking for ulterior motivations - anything that says why they want me, what they could possibly gain from a relationship with me, etcetera, etcetera.”
“And am I allowed to presume, from the results, that you didn’t find any?”
“No,” Prowl said after a moment. “It was odd - people generally have something to gain from me. They’d dropped all their firewalls, so I can tell you with a quite a bit of certainty that they didn’t have anything to gain - at least anything they actively wanted.”
“They got you, didn’t they?” Rung asked with a small smile. Prowl simply hummed in response. The look on his face told Rung that he didn’t want to say much more on it - Prowl was incredibly easy to read once one found the small tells he had. Satisfied in the knowledge that the Constructicons were at least a slightly less taboo subject than they had been before, Rung was decided to switch topics and return to the gestalt again at a later date. “Now, might I ask you about Nautica?”
“What about her?” Prowl asked skeptically, though the slightly more relaxed cant of his doorwings signified that he was more than happy to move on from whatever had gone down with the Constructicons.
“From what I know, at least, you seem to be forming a friendship with her - how is that going for you?”
“We’re not friends, we’re acquaintances at best,” Prowl answered moodily. Rung quirked an eyebrow disbelievingly.
“Getting overcharged together on Scarvix is very friend-like behavior for just acquaintances.”
“How,” Prowl started exasperatedly, “could you possibly know about that?”
“Ratchet told me just before he left,” Rung told him amusedly. “He comm’d Nautica for the scraplet check and she apparently sounded quite overcharged, and was with you.”
“Still doesn’t mean we’re friends,” Prowl answered persistently. Rung sighed.
“Nautica has actively sought out your companionship since the… duplicate Lost Light incident, and she’s definitely one of the few who don’t seem to mind you, and you don’t seem to have a problem with.”
“I don’t do friends very well - I end up thinking we’re pals or something, and then something like the whole…” Prowl made articulated but meaningless movements as he searched for words. “Like the whole thing with the cerebro shell and reformat and the bonding happen, and none of them notice anything different.” He sighed heavily, and Rung made several notes on his datapads as Prowl talked. “I knew all of them for a lot longer than I’ve known Nautica - millennia more, and she’s been talking to me for what, a month?”
“Prowl, as a colonist, she’s probably the most unbiased person against you on this ship,” Rung told him. “Being on board the Lost Light has become a second chance for many people - Cyclonus, Megatron, Whirl - and those are just the most obvious. Everybody here is getting a second chance in some way shape or form. You’re not excluded from that. This is your chance to redo things, but also to do things your way, without the political pressures and machinations on Cybertron. Talk to the Constructicons, talk to Nautica, talk to other people - you don’t have to trust them with everything, you don’t need to trust them with your entire being, or anything extravagant like that. Just talk to people, so you’ll have somebody who can be there for you when you need it.”
Prowl slowly drifted out of recharge, systems purring contentedly as hands gently rubbed the edges of his doorwings. He hummed happily as he was shifted to lean against one of the Constructicons’ chest (Bonecrusher, he could tell by the kibble), doorwings held at a relaxed angle between his frame and the one he rested on.
The slight pampering continued for a moment more before a pair of lips softly laid a kiss against his own. Prowl onlined his optics sluggishly to see Mixmaster pulling away to sit back on his pedes, the rest of the Constructicons tucked closely in a tight circle around him.
“Morning,” he croaked tiredly, allowing a small grin to cross his face at the answering beaming smiles from the Constructicons. Prowl took account of his frame as the rest of them claimed their own kiss from him - his hip joints were sore, his valve felt tender, and his struts ached in an almost pleasant fashion.
Prowl tilted his head back as Bonecrusher hunched forward to give him an awkwardly upside-down kiss, large hands sliding down his waist and over his hips to rest on the inside of his thighs, drumming his fingers. He allowed his engine to give an interested rev, pulling back from Bonecrusher to splay his legs indulgently. He smirked at the responding growls from each of the Constructicons, laying back as Scavenger leaned forward to mouth at his valve panel.
Not to be outdone, Long Haul began to massage his doorwings, Hook dipped his servos in and out of transformation seams, tweaking wires, and Mixmaster began to -
“Prowl, respond,” Megatron’s voice filtered through his comm.
Prowl startled, jerking upright as what lazy charge he had been building dissipated faster than he thought possible as the reality outside of his quarters came crashing back down on him. His doorwings shot up at attention, narrowly missing Long Haul’s face. The rest of the Constructicons drew back at the sudden change in his body language, looking at him concernedly. He held up a hand to stop their questions as he vented before answering the comm.
“Prowl. What’s the situation?” he responded shortly, pulling himself together, doorwings settling into a stiff, neutral position.
“We have a bit of an emergency - better to explain in person. Report to the bridge.”
Prowl suddenly became extremely aware of the tacky transfluid staining the inside of his thighs, paint transfers in… various places, small dents here and there, and could feel his frame heat in embarrassment at the state he found himself in.
“I can be there in half an hour,” he responded shortly, cutting the line before Megatron could ask any questions or demand him to be there sooner. He cleared his vents awkwardly, determinedly not making optic contact with any of the Constructicons as he slowly stood up, ignoring the disappointed teek of their EM fields. “I’m just… gonna go shower and get to the bridge,” he told them. “You guys can just hang out here for a bit longer if you want to.” After another moment of silence, he promptly turned and exited his quarters, almost running to the wash racks across the hall from where his quarters were.
He could almost pretend he hadn’t heard one of the Constructicons call a ‘love you’ to his back.
Prowl leaned heavily against the wall after turning on the solvent, the sponge in his hand not breaking from his crushing grip by merit of being a sponge. After a few moments of controlling his deep ventilations, he began to scrub at the sticky fluids drying on his legs, ignoring the way his spark twisted in its casing. Its pulsing churned his tanks, half from his conflicted feelings, and half from the excess energy of a spark merge (oh, Primus, they had spark merged).
“I repeat: will Swerve please report to the bridge?” Megatron’s voice filtered over the PA. "That was your first and last 'please'."
He moved to scrub the paint transfers along his frame in an effort to ignore the gymnastics of his spark.
“Constructicons. Prowl. All of you…”
Prowl scrubbed harder at the transfers as the deep growling voice resounded in his head.
“... Become one.”
He became worried that he was going to strip off his own paint before a particularly stubborn streak of purple washed away. He ignored the concerned pulses of the Constructicons through the gestalt bond.
His spark pulsed frantically and dizzily as he scrubbed at the last, faint and barely there traces of foreign paint on his frame. He felt nauseous.
Prowl purged on the floor of the washracks.
Nautica and Prowl sat in an air of reserved quiet in a corner booth of Swerve’s, which was being make-shift managed by Mixmaster and Bluestreak.
“Is he gonna be alright?” Nautica asked quietly, breaking the silence. “Swerve, I mean.”
Prowl hummed, taking a sip of his engex. “Full recovery last I heard. Velocity looked incredibly proud of herself.” Nautica chuckled.
“She would be - just passed her exams, so this would be the first life she’s saved.”
“Ah.” They lapsed into silence once more, neither really sure what to say.
“So…” Nautica drawled, glancing up at Prowl. “What’s up with you?” He snorted derisively.
“What makes you think anything’s happened to me?” he asked.
“That defensive response, for one,” she responded, pointing a finger at him. “You’ve also been off all day, you freeze up each time I mention the Constructicons-” Prowl’s plating snapped against his protoform, “-exactly like that, you flinched whenever Megatron spoke, when usually you’d just glare at him, and you’ve been even testier than usual, if that’s even possible.”
“That doesn’t mean anything happened, I’m just having an off day,” Prowl muttered moodily.
“Prowl, please, I know what an ‘off day’ looks like, and this isn’t it,” she told him blankly.
“There is nothing wrong with me -”
“Dammit Prowl!” Nautica snapped, slamming her fist on the table, effectively shutting him up. “Whirl told me he saw you purging in the wash racks this morning, that’s not normal behavior!”
“Okay,” Prowl growled in response, “two things: one, why would Whirl tell you anything, and two, what makes you believe him?”
“He said something about helping out a fellow suffering wingmech and Whirl doesn’t exactly lie that much, he omits information much more often, plus he doesn’t have much to gain from lying about this. But that isn’t the point, what I want to know is why you were purging in the wash racks?” Prowl glared at his engex, absently tracing a finger around the rim of the glass. “Did something go wrong with the Constructicons last night?”
“Last night was fine.”
“Then what’s the problem?” she asked, sounding exasperated. Prowl fisted his hands uselessly. Nautica reached out, gently tipping his head up, forcing him to look at her. “Prowl, please, I’m worried. This quietness isn’t like you.” He laughed bitterly, a sour smile flashing across his face.
“At least I know you’d notice if I got mind-controlled,” he chuckled dryly.
“Just let me know what’s wrong, what the problem is, and I’ll try and help you.” Prowl sighed, leaning back and tilting his head up to stare at the ceiling.
“I can’t explain it,” he said at last.
“Can you try, at least?” Nautica attempted. He huffed, looking back down to take another sip of his engex. After a moment, he continued.
“I mean that I can’t, Nautica it’s-” he gestured meaninglessly, “- I can’t explain it with words. Not well. Not enough to make you understand - here,” he said, leaning forward and placing his arm across the table, slipping back the panel that covered his hardline array. Nautica choked on her drink, looking from the offered port to him and back several times skeptically.
“Are you sure? I mean, that’s a lot to offer Prowl, I’m not sure -”
“I’ll keep it one way - you don’t have to show me anything,” he offered quietly, wondering if it was a good point to begin regretting his decision. Nautica nodded slowly, laying her own arm across the table and drawing a cable from her arm.
“You sure about this?” she asked lowly as she held the connector just above his port. There was a beat of silence before Prowl jerkily nodded his head, clenching his jaw. “Alright then,” Nautica sighed, steeling herself before she quickly plugged in.
Prowl could feel Nautica’s presence wash over his mind, pausing for a second as he allowed his systems to scan her mind before sent her a tiny data packet - a simple paragraph of what had happened up to what he would show her. After allowing Nautica a moment to process, he pushed forth his explanation.
Prowl could hear Bumblebee, he could see Bumblebee, he could feel the wash of the EM fields around him… “Hello, Bee…” But he couldn’t move. “Welcome to the Black Room.” He held both Starscream and Wheeljack at gunpoint, the two of them kneeling submissively in front of him. He couldn't talk, but he was, but he didn’t want to say that, but he did and he couldn’t control it and-
“Bumblebee-” Wheeljack exclaimed, and Prowl was panicking because he (but not him) had told Wheeljack to stay quiet and he knew what would happen, “- remember what’s most important -” he could feel his finger tightening around the trigger and he knew what would happen and he tried to stop it but he couldn’t and he couldn’t do anything and - “- it’s -” CHOOD!
Wheeljack’s head was gone and his frame fell to the floor and Prowl couldn’t do anything but he tried and but could and he was out of control and Prowl hated being out of control and as Wheeljack’s energon leaked onto the dull metal floor he wanted to purge but he couldn’t because he couldn’t do anything.
“You never listened, Wheeljack,” he said indifferently but he wasn’t but he was and Prowl didn’t know how to feel. “I told you I’d do that.” But that was wrong because he hadn’t told Wheeljack that - he had, but he hadn’t wanted to, it was Bombshell who told him that but it was also him -
“NO!” Bumblebee cried desperately, straining towards Wheeljack much like Prowl except even though Bee was physically restrained he could move and Prowl tried and he could and he couldn’t do anything and he couldn’t vent except he could but he felt like he should but he was and - “Prowl - how could you?!”
How could he?
Prowl accelerated the memory to get to his point, ignoring the nauseous waves washing over his mind from Nautica and the unsteady swirl of his spark until -
“But Prowl - why?” Bee asked desperately, a sense of deep betrayal on his face and Prowl felt insulted because he and Bee were friends, so why hadn’t Bee been able to see -
”You really are as stupid as Prowl thinks you are,” he said smugly in response (except it wasn’t him and everything felt wrong).
“What?” Bee asked quietly.
“I’m not Prowl,” he said. And Prowl felt sick, because he knew it was true, Bombshell wasn’t him, but it felt like he was saying that and he was Prowl but he was saying he wasn’t but it was Bombshell who was making him say that except it felt wrong and - “I haven’t been Prowl since...” Bombshell cut over him, except he was cutting over himself, except it felt like he was cutting over Prowl (and he was well and fully panicking by this point) and continued.
“...I confronted him.”
“You found his cerebro shells - big, clumsy…” It felt right for him to be referring to Bombshell as another, but it was wrong because it wasn’t what he wanted to say.
Prowl became unable to focus on the words coming out of his - Bombshell’s? - his? - Bombshell’s mouth as he studied the look on Bee’s face - the sudden realization dawning as Bombshell explained what he had done to him and Prowl hated that it took it being explained to him for Bee to notice that anything was even off with him to begin with and -
“Unnnhhh…” he groaned as he swayed on his feet - except it was him, it was actually him - he could still feel Bombshell in the back of his mind but that didn’t matter because it was him.
“Prowl - I -” Bumblebee cried, rushing over as he collapsed to the ground, the hunger of his fuel-deprived frame gnawing at his tanks as he felt strutless without the control of Bombshell, free for the first time in months.
“Bee…” he groaned, lolling his head slightly to look at the smaller ‘bot. “It wasn’t… wasn’t me… how could you not… see that…?”
“I…” Bumblebee choked, looking as if he wanted to say something in response before Megatron had apparently decided that they had wasted enough time and cut over him.
“Constructicons. Prowl. All of you…” he trailed off ominously. “... Become one.”
Prowl screamed long and loud at the sudden, foreign pull of his spark, the force and bend of his frame transforming in a way it never had before, in a way it wasn’t supposed to and it hurt and Prowl couldn’t reject it because Bombshell was back and he couldn’t stop it and he hated it and then there were five more minds crushing the ruins of his own as Bombshell retreated, allowing the pressure of the others to control him as they invaded his mind and saw everything he had ever known and they were there and Prowl didn’t want them there and they shouldn’t be there and he wanted nothing more than to curl up and stop existing but he couldn’t because he - was - Devastator - and - and - he - could - couldn’t -
“Now -” Megatron commanded, and Prowl could feel his mind being smothered and squashed and he was having a difficult time concentrating and - “- Devastate.”
He couldn’t do anything.
Nautica reared back as Prowl sharply cut off her access. He noticed the slightly haunted look in her eyes as she spooled her cable back in, not saying anything. After a moment Prowl chugged the rest of his engex before talking.
“When I woke up with the Constructicons this morning, I -” he cleared his vents awkwardly, drumming his fingers on the table. “Megatron comm’d and commanded me to the bridge and -” Prowl shrugged helplessly, falling into silence.
“You panicked,” Nautica filled in quietly after a few moments, swirling her own engex aimlessly. “You thought you were back there, panicked, and the memories made you purge.”
“It wasn’t that bad at first, I just left and went to the wash racks and then Megatron called for Swerve over the PA and…” Prowl trailed off again, staring a hole into the table.
“It made it worse?” He nodded noiselessly.
“I’ve never had this problem with Megatron before,” he muttered, flagging down a passing waiter drone and depositing his empty glass. “It’s been over a year - I’ve dealt with him just fine until now.” A hand strayed up to rub and pick at his chevron, the sensations providing a distraction.
“Okay,” Nautica said, resting her head in her palm. “Okay, this might just be me speculating but - up until now, all of your interactions with Megatron have been pretty regulated by Ultra Magnus, and he generally sends you to do something else whenever he meets with Megatron if he can. So, this wouldn’t really have had a reason to come up, nor an opportunity. But today, you’d filed for time off, and should’ve been fairly relaxed if last night was as ‘fine’ as I think it was,” she said with a playful wink, “so you hadn’t been prepared to talk to him.”
“So what I think,” she continued, “is that you weren’t mentally prepared for him to talk to you, especially for him to command you to do anything, not in the way you would be normally - so instead of being ready to brush any memories off, your mind immediately flashed back to when that happened, and as much as I like them, I don’t think being surrounded by the Constructicons helped much in any way.”
“Could be,” Prowl murmured in response, snatching his refilled drink off the waiter drone, confusion teeking in his field as he noticed the small datapad clumsily tied to the glass.
“What’s that?” Nautica asked as Prowl turned it on, persistently leaning forward to catch a glimpse even as he tried to swat her away.
Scrabble on the observation deck later? I’m bringing engex and Bonecrusher promises to not use only curses as his words this time.
“Oh, that’s sweet of them,” Nautica cooed, Prowl having given up on trying to push her away. “Primus knows that game’s not going to end any differently than usual.”
“What,” Prowl asked, cycling his optics, “do you want me to play Chinese Checkers with them or something? At least that game was originally designed to have six players. Scrabble wasn’t.”
“I don’t know what that is, but if it’s anything like that time you tried to teach me to play chess, don’t,” she chirped as he began to type his answer. “When are you going? You’re going, right? If you say no I’ll make you go.”
“I’m going, I’m going,” he grumbled, dropping his response on the platter of a passing drone. “Mixmaster should be helping with the bar for the next little bit, so at the very least I have another two hours.” Nautica hummed in response, flopping back to slouch in her seat.
“That’s good,” she said simply. “But, uh, Prowl?”
“Yes?” he answered, quirking an optic ridge at her hesitant nature - she hadn’t exactly been shy talking to him since the conversation-that-never-happened-and-never-existed.
“You can’t pretend that this didn’t happen, or that it’s okay, because, um,” she stuttered, fidgeting in her seat, “it really clearly isn’t, at least to me, so, uh.” She leaned forward, pausing for a considering moment before gently laying her hand on top of his. “Talk about it to Rung, at least? He’s good at this stuff, and he believes in patient confidentiality too much to tell anybody anything, so at least try and tell him what you told me? I like to think that I’m your friend, and I do care about you, but I’m really not the best person to help you through any of this, so…”
“Yeah,” he muttered in response. After a slight moment, he twisted his hand to lace his fingers with Nautica’s. “Yeah, okay.” She beamed brightly in response, squeezing his hand tightly.
“Okay. No problems with the Constructicons, though? Everything’s good on that front?”
“No, it wasn’t them they -” Prowl cut himself off awkwardly. After a moment, he squeezed Nautica’s hand back and continued. “They didn’t do anything wrong. It’s all good.”
“Great,” Nautica answered with a bright smile. “Now, tell me all about what happened last night.” She leaned in interestedly, even as Prowl groaned exhaustedly and slumped back. “How are you even sitting, I mean, I thought you’d be totally - wait, hang on,” she paused, a slight frown on her face. “Mind if I take this?” she asked sheepishly, gesturing to her comm.
“Sure, go for it,” he answered, not able to fully keep the relief out of his voice.
“Lotty? What’s up?” In the pause that followed, a confused look crossed her face. “I can ask, but what’s the emergency?” Nautica sighed as she got her answered, cycling her optics before muting her comm and looking back at Prowl. “Velocity wants to know if I can give her your comm number - something really important, won’t tell me what.”
“I - yeah? Alright,” he answered confusedly, not sure what could be bigger than the disaster that had already happened that day. No sooner had he let Nautica ping Velocity his comm frequency that he got an urgent ping from the aforementioned medic - and if the affronted look on Nautica’s face was anything to go by, it was after an abrupt hang up. “What’s the situation, Velocity?” Prowl asked, voice taking on the standard clipped tone he used on shift.
“Um, one of your agents - Agent 113? Yeah, it turns out that Swerve’s old war wound wasn’t just a regular injury, it was a report from one of your agents and I need you to come down here and look at it? I’ve already comm’d Rodimus and Ultra Magnus and Magnus told me to get you.”
And wow, wasn’t that something to unpack.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes, hold tight,” he answered shortly, cutting the comm. “Sorry, Nautica, I’ve got to go - if the Constructicons ask, tell them that I have to put a raincheck on that Scrabble game.” Nautica nodded, though she looked disappointed.
“Don’t worry, I got it,” she assured. “Remember, talk to Rung next time you go see him?”
“Yeah, yeah, I will,” Prowl said, sliding the rest of his mostly full engex glass to Nautica, who easily caught it and poured what little remained of her own drink into his before taking a sip.
“And you may have gotten off talking about it now, but I’m going to wrangle the details of your mind-blowing interface out of you one of these days and don’t you doubt it for a second,” she warned menacingly.
“Ah,” he countered smugly, taking a step backward from the table. “But that day is not today, so I claim my victory for now.” Nautica laughed even as he turned around to leave.
“See you later,” she called, chuckling. Prowl waved in response, throwing her a slight smile over his shoulder as he continued his stride out of Swerve’s and down towards the medbay. The smile slipped off his face as he walked.
He hadn’t heard from Agent 113 in a long time - in fact, he was almost completely certain that he was dead, or at the very least extremely off the grid, considering that the DJD had acquired a new Vos.
Agent 113 - Dominus Ambus.
He sighed tiredly as he approached the medbay - he boarded the Lost Light to escape the war and politics, but war and politics followed him there anyway.
This was honestly meant to be a fun and happy chapter, real lovey-dovey and all that, like in my outline there was never a hint of sadness. When I started, I was gonna be surprised if this chapter even got above 2k words and then suddenly I was hit by the a n g s t t r a i n and seven hours of frantic typing later we're here.
Also, if you're confused by what Prowl was saying while he was showing Nautica his memories, it was mainly a confused, energy-deprived conflict of not wanting to do something but being able to feel yourself doing it, and (for lack of a better way to put it) what an absolute trip it must have felt like. Like he doesn't feel trapped but he d o e s ? It's a paradox, ignore me.
But anyway, Nautica-Prowl friendship continues to give me life, the Constructicons have made a lot of progress with Prowl (even if Megatron is a massive trigger and cockblock), and I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Like, as much as you can enjoy something that's 60% unexpected angst. Next chapter is looking to be a short one, but I could be wrong because boy was I wrong about this one.