Mutter, grumble, snarl. After all the hassle I went through to get this chapter up, I hope it's worth it. Blah. Stupid, stupid old clanky laptop...gah.

Soryu: Weeeell... I was trying to get up as much as I could before I was dragged away from my keyboard kicking and screaming ;) Yep, Skywarp pushes his luck, but it IS fun. Not so much for Starscream, but still... And Spike might not get killed off here (mutter, grumble) but I will be snide at him later on. Yay!

Alirion: Ditto. Huge Billy fan here. It was fun to take the wind out of Starscream's sails and, sadly, it was true - but he'll get his good mood back later. He's like a rubber ball - can't keep him down. I quite like Cosmos actually, as he's rather cute and perky, but I can and will be horrible to Spike at any given opportunity. Unless it twists the fic, but it's still dooable and very, very satisfying. Mwahahaha.

Anyway, here we go. And I promise Skywarp isn't singing in this one.


Chapter three: Silver in the clouds.

Starscream sat alone atop the space station and settled in for a thorough, industrial-strength sulk. What was I supposed to do, he grumbled, sit meekly in the command room like a good little drone and let that irritating Autobot goody-goody snoop around as much as his spark desires? And Blitzwing! Replacing ME! Megatron's lost what he had left of his cranial capacity if he thinks that jumped-up sports announcer can handle equipment this delicate, even if he knew what it was.

A mirthless snicker from the motionless seeker.

Probably think it was some new type of gun, the moron. I'm surrounded by ingrates.

Starscream sat and stared unseeingly out to the vast canopy surrounding him, the stars shining a lonely call through the dark, as snatches of laughter and flashes of brilliant white flickered before his optics.

I miss that. The way you could throw ideas around and everyone would know what you were aiming for, finding new places, the feeling that you could pack up your kit and be in an entirely different place tomorrow. I miss the conversations we had.

The seeker sighed unconsciously; getting to his feet, stepping off the side of the station and shifting to jet form, he dropped in a lazy arc around the ship's hull. Now I can't even fly as far as I'd like.

He swung gracefully under the station's belly and picked up the cameras locking onto his signal. Despite his gloomy mood he smirked; this station was his, no matter who built it, and he knew it inside out - despite it only being built to support another of Megatron's master plans, it was his and no-one else's. Not even the Constructicons knew what some of the equipment did, despite them putting it together, and the thought cheered him every time.

The design and tech-specs had some from a vague idea he'd come up with in his spare time, such as it was, and it had taken much toying and daydreaming before the final bolt of inspiration had struck - the spark that had lead to the creation of the Spinnaker.

The prototype Spinnaker, at least - he had only had the materials and the time to come up with a small-scale version. He'd had a very tidy supply of energon quietly accumulating in his quarters from that, right up until Megatron had burst in on him and discovered it whirring away - after that the Decepticon leader had fallen in lust with the idea.

Starscream would have pulled a face at the memory of Megatron monopolising his creation and metaphorically drooling over it had his face not been tucked into his chest in jet mode.

And then, of course, the project had to be used for "the good of Cybertron" and the usual crushing of the Autobots spiel followed, while Starscream had stood off to the side out of the limelight as Megatron gloated, bristling as his work was pawed about by the Constructicons. If the seeker had been in a less cantankerous mood, he would have been smug about that it was his idea, his designs, his specifications being used and have crowed about it for weeks.

As it was, he had - to some extent - but he'd ignored the backhanded compliments from Megatron, and the huge piles of energon stacking up at the staging grounds they had set up, in favour of chewing over the fact that Megatron had turned the neat, efficient little model into a dramatic, looming construct that floated silently over the planet below. Starscream wasn't bothered too much about his sideline being discovered - it had been an interesting pastime with a useful output, and he still had a respectable pile of energon hidden away that Megatron hadn't seen - but he did resent his leader turning an operation that could have been used on a small scale all over the planet, with some minor alterations, into a grandiose plan to thumb his nose at the Autobots without them knowing. Whenever Megatron thought big, Starscream suddenly saw the value of small-scale schemes, and his mood changed accordingly.

The memory soured the blink of good humour he had momentarily regained, and the seeker was scowling internally as he rounded the side of the station. But then - then he saw his creation in all its shining, webworked glory, sparkling in the sunlight with a glowing radiance the Autobots would never see and no-one but its creator would fully understand, and - though he would never admit it - he admired Megatron's taste in irony.

Dazzled by the glittering motes of sunlight trickling along the mesh, Starscream was grinning with an intense, almost paternal pride as he paused by the airlock for one final look back.

The scarlet optics glowed with a wicked glee. So, Megatron thinks they'll come? Let them. We'll see what the Autobots make of this...

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

The few Autobots in the control room looked as the radio crackled into life. When Spike's voice came through, panicked and shrill, for a brief moment most of those present lowered their optics to Primus and wondered idly just what sort of trouble the little human had got himself and his babysitter into this time.

When no-one got up right away to answer the call, Tracks harrumphed and pulled himself to his feet. Slingshot glanced over, an amused look spreading across his face.

"You're not botherin' with the little squealer, are you? He's probably finally driven Bumblebee crazy and been dumped at the side o' the road!"

Tracks looked down his nose at the Aerialbot, the disdainful stare not even denting the younger bot's grinning impudence. It didn't help that some of the others were sniggering behind their hands, either.

"If you actually bothered to take any notice of what was going on around you, you would have noticed that Bumblebee is right over there..." he pointed elegantly at the yellow minibot, who was thankfully too far away to hear the conversation. He did like the human, after all. "...And Spike was with Cosmos."

Audios tuned in almost audibly all over the room; Tracks noticed and immediately played to the audience. "That's right. You're interested now there's a chance of it being serious, hmmm? You weren't before."

To his satisfaction the others looked a smidge abashed, and he strode gracefully over to the console with a hint of smug satisfaction at a job well done. After meeting Raoul and his friends some time ago, the corvette had started taking an interest in the Autobots' resident young human, and was on speaking terms with him even if they weren't best pals. Now he made the connection at the main console and answered Spike's call with a debonair "Greetings, Spike - what can I do for you?"

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Bobbing somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, Spike had never been so glad to hear Tracks' lazy drawl in his life.

"Tracks! Am I glad to hear you!"

"What's wrong?"

"The Decepticons have got a space station up in orbit - Cosmos went closer to take a look and they shot him down! We're floating in the sea somewhere..."

The audios of the Autobots around the room were practically standing on end. As if by magic, a genie summoned at the first hint of disaster, Optimus Prime strode into the room and headed over to Tracks - the corvette tried not to sigh out loud and moved aside as the Autobot leader monopolised the console.

"Spike, do you know where you are, what ocean you're in?"

The human looked uselessly round as if he expected to see a sign bobbing somewhere.

"Sorry Prime, I don't know - I couldn't see anything when we went down."

Optimus' blue optics dimmed in noble concern. "What about Cosmos?"

"He's out cold - half his systems are down."

Optics rolled to the floor again. What was it with humans and using the basic names they'd heard on TV for stuff they couldn't identify?

"Keep calm, Spike. We'll lock onto your signal and send a team out to bring you both in." Optimus cut the signal without listening to the relieved reply - turning to face the few Autobots in the room, as well as the ones trickling in with expressions of mild curiosity, he straightened and said, in his best speech-giving tone "Autobots! Gear up for a salvage rescue - let's bring them home." He transformed and roared towards the exit, the Autobots looking at each other with varying degrees of resignation at the human and excitement at a new mission.

Tracks groaned half-heartedly as he shifted. Those ridiculous water-ski contraptions clashed with his paintjob - not to mention that salt water always played havoc with his finish.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Spike flopped down onto the floor of Cosmos' cockpit, eyes stinging from the dazzle of sunlight on water. He'd stood staring out across the sea for a while, looking for any sign of the Autobots, before the harsh reflected glare started to make his head spin and he ducked back into the shade the unconscious Cosmos lent him. The smell of smoke and burnt-out wires mingled with the taint of heated metal, sticking to the back of his throat and turning his stomach.

He really hoped the Autobots would get here soon.

Cosmos lay silent and offline in the water, cracks and rents in his exostructure trailing down from the blast in his upper hull to trickle delicately below the waterline, fine drops of water bleeding through the hairline tears and forming a slick sheen of water with the threat of becoming a puddle.

Spike stared dully at the oozing water, knowing with a gloomy certainty that there was nothing he could do to stop it - and that if the Autobots didn't come soon the spy would sink, and he would tread water for a while before getting into real trouble. But that wouldn't happen, that wasn't going to be a worry, because the Autobots would be coming soon.

It's worth pointing out here that Spike wasn't very good at facing up to things. While in some cases this is good, and cynics would say that this is why people don't panic in times of crisis and keep going no matter what, in Spike this was coupled with a dependence on the Autobots getting him out of trouble and a subconscious belief in his own invulnerability. Whilst anyone over the age of thirty-five maintains that this is a characteristic of youth - no matter the evidence to the contrary and usually when they don't really know anyone even vaguely young - Spike persisted in getting himself into the most stupid situations that could have been easily avoided had he not, subconsciously, been thinking he could survive whatever happened and have the Autobots charge in at the last minute to pull his irons out of the fire right when things looked the most desperate. It never occurred to him that there would come a time when he'd have to survive on his own merits without any backup security blanket within reach - and when it came, as one day it would, there would be no doubt that the moment would make or break him. Or result in a nasty puddle of Spike-bits on the floor somewhere.

For now, though, Spike had no doubt that he'd get out of this one. Prime had said they were coming, hadn't he? So he sat, trying not to watch the water trickling slowly but insistently into the hull of the unconscious Cosmos, listening out for the approaching convoy. Waiting to be rescued.


Spike-bashing is fun. It should be a sport. Okay, next chapter I'll fill you in a bit about the Spinnaker, what it is and what the thing with the laser is all about, and demonstrate once again why a bored Skywarp is a Very Bad Thing. If it works out that way.

Starscream, Tracks, Spike and the rest are all © Hasbro or someone. Not me. The story, however, as well as the Spinnaker (and much thanks to the Prof for inventing and naming the thing) are © me.