The Autobot’s brig, Thundercracker mused, was a little different than he remembered it. Oh sure, it had been orns since he had last been captured and held prisoner aboard the Ark, but he was sure that he would have remembered a light and airy double-width cell.
Especially one that had been painted the color of the sky, complete with a rather happy looking sun and little puffy clouds. It looked as if Prime’s Aerialbots had been causing a bit of trouble since they’d left. And that Fireflight had gotten a hold of some paint.
Another horrified snort huffed from the mech beside him and Thundercracker chuckled. It wasn’t that bad.
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" came the accusation. Thundercracker merely shrugged his shoulders and picked at the drying energon on his fingers.
"I shouldn't be?"
"They threw us in their dammed brig!"
Thundercracker looked at his irate wingmate and smiled. "I would have done the same thing. Besides, they have no warrant to keep us. We've not been hostile towards them. They're probably just freaking out on Prime up there."
"....You're sounding more like a cop every orn, TC."
Snort. Shove. "Thanks, Screamer."
"That wasn't a compliment!"
The officer's conference room was silent as the footage from Skyspy played over Teletraan 1. The last battle had not been one of their best: since the desertion of the Command Trine, Megatron had been in a rather savage mood during his raids. Casualties, while nothing Ratchet couldn't handle, were more than they were used to dealing with since crashing on Earth.
This raid had been no exception to start with. Megaton fiercely ripped through the ranks of Autobots, injuring several minibots on his way to assult Prime. Soundwave had effectively blocked communications, Bruticus was locked in a nasty fight with Superion, and the triplechangers had Jazz's group of mechs cut off from the fight, giving the Constructicons time to finish gathering energon.
"Teletraan 1: Please isolate and zoom in on Autobots Jazz, Mirage, Hound and Bumblebee."
"Acknowledged. Zooming now."
The view screen shifted and blurred, focusing once again on the smaller group. Blitzwing landed a lucky hit on Jazz, slamming the Third-in-Command into the ground. The porsche winced and shifted in his seat, flexing his newly repaired shoulder. Back on the screen, Hound and Mirage returned fire, driving back the triplechanger towards his comrade.
Suddenly, laser fire rained down upon the two mechs from above. Two blurrs then dropped from the sky with such speed Blitzwing and Astrotrain were both driven from their pedes.
"Pause it here, Teletraan 1," instructed Red Alert. "Go back 3.673 seconds and freeze the frame."
The screen blurred and then froze. Starscream and Thundercracker hung frozen in a headlong dive for the triplechangers, optics blazing and lip components twisted in nearly identical snarls.
"Wow," Jazz quipped, "they look really pissed.”
"Before this moment," Red Alert stated, addressing the table of gathered officers, "they weren't even on the radar. I've been through this footage four times, from all angles recorded by Skyspy."
"So it was a surprise attack. We've seen it before from them!"
"That does not necessarily mean that they were part of the raid," remarked the Praxian seated at the table.
"It doesn't NOT mean-"
"No, I believe that Prowl is right, Ironhide. The look on Megatron's face was telling enough to see that. He most definitely did not expect their arrival. Teletraan, please play the file through the end of the battle."
The two Seekers once again drove Blitzwing and Astrotrain to the ground. What followed next could only be considered a massacre. The triplechangers tried to fight off their attackers, but the Seekers had the advantage of surprise and the strength of non-battle-fatigued systems. Starscream and Thundercracker tore through them with an angry vengeance, shredding plating and breaking joints. Sounds of the battle around them died as Autobots and Decepticons alike stopped and stood rooted to the spot as they watched the gruesome sight unfold.
Megatron was the first to recover, firing his fusion canon at the attacking fliers to back them off his soldiers. The warlord then barked the retreat and fired again at the Seekers, pushing them back and allowing a few Decepticons to edge in and collect the two piles of broken and bleeding plating.
Starscream and Thundercracker let them retreat, glaring after the retreating forms and not even acknowledging the mass of Autobots weaponry pointed warily at them.
"Thank you, Teletran," Prowl said. "That will be enough." He turned back to the officers as the screen went dark, all of whom looked a little uneasy at having watched the savage display again. "As you can see, the attack was localized. Starscream and Thundercracker submitted to arrest quietly and without incident." He glanced back at the screen. "They were hunting; Blitzwing and Astrotrain in particular."
"Yeah, but WHY? We haven't heard from them in months. Not since the kid came over from Cybertron."
"That I'm afraid I don't know. They still refuse to speak on the matter-"
"Ah, I may have the answer to that," Jazz admitted, gaze settling on Prowl; there was no helping it now. All optics turned to the saboteur as he switched on the data pad in front of him. "I contacted Deixar,” he started. Seems our big triple-changing buddies have been stirring things up. Sargeant Nightsun reported that they attacked Thundercracker during a training exercise he was conducting with some new recruits. Definite intent to kill. Starscream came to Thundercracker's aid and was also incapacitated. TC barely managed to get up and fend them off. Both Seekers were hospitalized with rather serious injuries."
There were various whistles and shakes of the helm from around the table.
"So this was a revenge thing," Red Alert concluded, his optics narrowing suspiciously.
"Yes," Jazz admitted, returning a cool look at the Security Director. He glanced at Prime, and then continued. "The buzz is that Skywarp is gone. There was some kind of accident and he's MIA, feared offline. Couple that with the attack. Then, while they were hospitalized, the triplechangers returned. This time they went after Pulsar. Femme's still in ICU."
Swears sounded from nearly every mech in the room, a couple even bolting out of their seats.
"Primus!" Ratchet swore. "No wonder they snapped!"
"Snapped? They took matters into their own hands and we could have been injured as a result! This was a HUGE breach of safety and-"
“Calm down, Red,” Optimus held his hand up in a placating gesture. “I’m sure that had they not been provoked first, there would have been no incident to speak of. Although this makes Slipstream’s sudden appearance a little more understandable.” The big mech stood.
Jazz paused, “There is one more thing.” He made a little motion to Optimus and the leader nodded.
”Thank you for your time. I will alert you when I have reached a decision regarding the Seekers.” There followed a moment of shuffling and broken bits of conversation as the rest of the mechs filed out of the room and the door slid shut.
“And the Seekers?”
“Red, I’d like you to comb over our perimeter data and speak with Wheeljack. That’s been three breaches through the space bridge that we know of. Maybe we can get some advanced warning next time, if there is one.”
“…Yes, Prime.” The Security Director looked like he wanted to say more, but he wisely turned on his pede and strode from the room.
Optimus turned to give his third-in-command his full attention.
”What else was there, Jazz?”
The saboteur regarded his leader and Prowl for a moment as if weighing something before scrolling through the datapad in his hands.
”Sargeant Nightsun passed along the following information, reluctantly. Seems like our Seeker friends didn’t want anyone else to know,” he said, passing the instrument over to Optimus. “He himself signed as a witness.”
”A document of will upon deactivation?” Prowl flickered his optics in surprise as Optimus passed over the datapad after scanning it.
Jazz nodded. “It seems that they were preparing for anything. It states that any and all funds and possessions are to transfer in ownership to Pulsar and the twins.”
“So it was less a spontaneous act of revenge and more a premeditated attack on Blitzwing and Astrotrain only.”
“Looks that way, Prime. I don’t think they’re dangerous, to us at least. And th’ ‘Con’s made the first move to warrant the type of response they got.” Jazz waved behind his shoulder towards the view screen. “They went straight for the throat. And y’noticed that ol’ Screamer didn’t even get snarky with Megs.’
“I had noticed that, yes,” Optimus chimed in. The Autobot leader sighed and rubbed his nasal ridge, his optics dimming. Yet another front to this war was opening up, and it made Optimus feel ill that such an attack had happened in the quiet city district and they’d only heard about it after the fight had come plummeting down on their heads. Something needed to change, and soon. They could not afford to be trapped in the tunnel vision that had captured their attention for so long.
“Release the seekers. This was--as public the display was--an isolated incident. We do not have a reason to keep them here in our brig.” He waited for Prowl to nod in acknowledgement before turning to this Third-in-Command.
The Porsche cocked his helm to the side, eyeing his leader curiously as the bigger mech took Prowl’s seat next to him as the Datsun excused himself to follow orders. “Optimus?”
“Starscream and Thundercracker meant to send a message to both factions with the example they made of their attackers. I think we should listen.”
“What do you want?”
Skyfire winced and flinched visibly backwards a step at the angry tone from the cell. “I...was just-”
“Well don’t,” Starscream snapped. “It’s enough that we’re cooped up in this idiotic cell, and now we have to put up with you? Primus, I’d rather have just been shot-”
“Hello, Skyfire,” Thundercracker interrupted, earning him a furious glare from his wing leader.
“Hello, Thundercracker. Y-you’re looking much better.”
The edges of Thundercracker’s lip components twitched subtly in a smile. The big shuttle was shifting nervously from pede to pede, trying not to look at the angry Seeker to his left. “I’m doing well, thank you.” Starscream snorted, and Thundercracker ignored him. “Has there been any word of when Prime is going to release us?”
“Well,” the scientist gripped shaking hands, looking down, “they were meeting about it when I snuck down here. I’d heard that-”
“What did you really come down here for, Skyfire? I know it’s not to tell us what happened behind closed doors in an officer’s meeting that you weren’t privy to.” Starscream was, apparently, finished with beating around the bush.
Thundercracker rolled his optics to the ceiling.
Skyfire cycled air though his vents in a sigh and let his optics dim to a color that matched a twilit sky. He paused. His frame settled and his nervousness vanished, replaced with something much more somber. He opened his mouth to speak again. “I’ve been speaking to Slipstream. I’m…sorry to hear about Skywarp.”
Starscream’s optics widened slightly and he looked away before Skyfire could see the hurt there. Thundercracker was quiet, his optics dimming to a quiet, desperate maroon. He slowly slid a hand over Starscreams’s arm, sadness and the presence of the gaping wound they both felt flitting across non-verbal communication.
Thundercracker was the first to find his vocalizer. "Thank you," came the quiet admission. Skyfire nodded at the blue flier. Starscream simply glared at the luridly happy blue wall.
There was really nothing else to say.
Prowl waited, listening to Skyfire’s thrustered footsteps ascending the stairs before stepping out from the side hall into the main entry way that led to the brig. The crew had been ordered to keep clear of the brig and its two occupants until Prime had made his decision, but the Datsun knew that the shuttle would most likely make a move to speak with them in private.
He honestly did not blame him, after how badly their last discussion had ended. Prowl would do him the service of pretending he didn’t know.
He moved down the hall, putting a little more force into his stride so that his usually quiet footsteps would be heard and the Seekers would have time to prepare for another visitor.
Two equally unemotional and guarded looks met him as he peered through the softly buzzing energon bars and into the cell. He nodded to Starscream and Thundercracker before turning and keying in the release code.
The purple bars fizzled and died as the door released and opened. Starscream turned suspicious optics towards the Autobot. Thundercracker nodded with a look that belied that he expected nothing less and pushed to his pedes. He waited for his wingmate to exit the cell before falling into his usual step behind him.
Prowl offered the two ex-Decepticons a cursory glance, checking for injuries, before speaking. “Optimus has decided to let you go, provided you don’t attempt to antagonize Megatron’s lot anymore and head back to Cybertron. It’s as much for your safety as for theirs, I think.”
“Besides,” Prowl continued when Starscream’s face darkened and he opened his mouth to argue. “Nightsun reports that Pulsar has woken up.”
That elicited a reaction. Starscream blinked and Thundercracker’s wings twitched up in surprise and delight.
“We’d better get back then,” the blue Seeker murmured to his wingmate. His lip curved upward a bit. “I wonder how much trouble we’re in.”
“Who cares?” came the reply.
Prowl couldn’t quite hide the small smirk that broke through his usual unimpressed facade. “Then follow me. There is one more thing we need to discuss before you leave.” The Autobot turned on his heel and headed for the stairs, trailed by the two Seekers.
He led them up through the halls of the Ark, towards the command deck. They passed few mechs, and those they did gave them a wide berth. Before reaching the command center, Prowl turned and opened a door to the right, ushering the Seekers into a large conference room.
Jazz sat at the end of the room with his pedes propped up on the edge of the table. A soft snippet of music played from external speakers. The Third-in-Command grinned at the bots entering the room and stood.
“Alright mechs. Time to get down to business. Let’s make sure that this,” he waved his hands motioning to both the Seekers and the monitor behind him, “never happens again.”
The sun was beginning to set over the mountains as the pair of seekers exited the Ark, escorted by Prowl and Jazz (and trailed by whatever peanut gallery walking through the halls had gathered). The scarlet seeker’s plating seemed to relax a bit once out of the confines of the ship and Earth’s endless expanse of sky loomed above him.
Skyfire—and all of his massive bulk—were conspicuously absent.
“Well, while I’m sure you’d love to get more information out of us, I’ve had enough of your ridiculous brig cell. Come on, Thundercracker.
Thundercracker smirked as his audios picked up one of the black and whites muttering something that sounded suspiciously like “That was no picnic for us either,” and offered his hand to Jazz. “We’ll get working on our side of the communication grid. We’ve got no one on our side of the space bridge, but the advanced warning system’s a good idea.”
The visored mech shook the offered hand and was, not for the first time, struck at how…actually likeable the mech in front of him was. Maybe this truce thing wasn’t such a bad deal afterall.
The sound of a redlining engine caught the little group’s attention and all four turned to watch as a small motorcycle skidded to a stop and transformed. Slipstream was covered in dust from driving and if the engines revving in the distance meant anything, he’d broken a few traffic laws to get here. Thundercracker broke into a fond smile. Starscream’s wings twitched up at the sight of the youngling even if his facial features were still set on ‘scowl’ in front of the Autobots.
“They said Ama was awake!”
The blue seeker nodded. “We were just leaving to get back and go to the hospital.” The smile widened. “You’re looking good, Seem.”
“Left the Twins in the dust, did ya?” Jazz chuckled.
The smaller mech gave a little awkward shrug and shuffled his foot before turning to look up at the Seekers. “…will you tell her I said ‘hi’?”
Starscream frowned. “You’re not coming back with us.”
Slipstream bit his lip component and paused, his optics dimming a shade before he shook his helm. “’ve gotta finish here before I go home…face her.”
The younger mech shook his helm again. “Just-…explain to her for me? Let me know how she’s doing?”
Thundercracker looked at his wingmate and then back at the young mech in front of them. He circled a sigh though his vents and nodded. “Alright, Seem. But I want you home at some point to see her.” He barely finished his sentence before he had and arm full of dusty, very subtly vibrating plating. He sighed again and hugged the youngling as he felt arms hug around his neck.
“It’ll be alright, Seem.”
Screamer shifted his frame a bit, blocking out both wingmate and family from view of the peanut gallery before reaching up to straighten a bent ariel on the other mech’s helm.
“Thanks, uncle. I’m sorry…”
“Just make sure you’re giving them Pit.”
Seem chuckled weakly, “I will.”
“And watch your Six,” Thundercracker murmured. “We’ve worked out some things with Jazz and Prowl, but I still want you to be careful. Call us if you need us.”
“Good mech.” The blue seeker gently lowered the other mech to his pedes and he stepped back as the tell-tale rumbling of thrusters started. Both seekers threw a look at the two officers standing to the side that clearly stated “watch him or else,” and then they blasted off, and were gone.