Fire in the Blue
by HorseTechie 06/2004 (Transformers are a registered trademark of Hasbro. I don't own rights to these characters! )
Disgruntled by yet another mission foiled by the Autobots, the band of six Decepticons took flight from the Inca ruins in Peru to head back to their underwater base. What had been a brilliant plan to tap into the earth's pure energy within the ruins again had been thwarted.
Unlike many other instances, Starscream had managed to come out on top of this one too. That just infuriated Thundercracker more than the obvious loss to the Autobots. Megatron pretty much gave everyone present on this mission the impression that Thundercracker botched it from square one. If he and Starscream had not brought back the shoddy steel for Megatron's energy weapon, it would have been fully operational for them to shoot Skyfire and the Autobots out of the sky. There would be no fingers of blame pointed at him
But Starscream had lied. Starscream had not listened to him, when Thundercracker thought the steel was not suitable. The Air Commander took the beams in haste, and gave them to Megatron in person. How Starscream twisted the truth to make him the scapegoat caught the blue seeker off guard. A new sense of fear and humiliation seized him when the enraged Decepticon leader knocked Thundercracker off his feet. Megatron was fully aware of Thundercracker's wavering faith for the Decepticon cause, even though it was rarely addressed in front of the others. The leader didn't even bother to question the validity in Starscream's claims as proof of this. All the more reason for the blue F-15 to quietly delight about how the fragging Autobots made a clean sweep this time.
"What's the matter, Fearless Leader? You and Starscream look real geeky now. Maybe the Autobots aren't such wimps after all," he sneered to Megatron, rather boldly, before surging ahead with a deafening boom.
He did not want to hang around and hear their replies. In fact, Thundercracker did not even feel like returning to base with them. Apprehension flooded his processor again, fearing of what would be waiting for him if and when he did return. It was a weakness that he dealt with often. In most cases, his respectful fear of Megatron had kept his meddlesome doubts in check. He felt ashamed again of what the underlying reason was. He didn't want Megatron to destroy that ancient civilization and its inhabitants for a practically useless weapon. Otherwise, he would have made sure Starscream brought back good steel. Thundercracker's circuits relayed this answer till it haunted him. The blue jet decided to fly higher into the blue atmosphere, in attempt to replace that feeling with one of revived yearning to be able to do whatever he wanted. Why did he have to comply to such confines of this planet and his rank?
Prior to beginning this mission, he and Starscream had an argument about the whole purpose of the new energy weapon. What would Megatron be doing with it after it was made? Even though it sounded like the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the device could not be moved from that source of energy. The Autobots were stationed up in the United States, and there weren't any highly developed human civilizations in that area to destroy. The ruins there were also quite old and possessed great mythical power. Thundercracker thought it made more sense to obtain energon stores from this location to send back to Cybertron. Starscream told him he was thinking too much again, and should do just what he was told.
Starscream was probably onto his hesitation from the start. Thundercracker felt put off most by Starscream's renewed sense of duty for Megatron's wishes. Either Megatron's last abusive threat was actually still burning in his processor, or the Air Commander was planning something more mischievous by appearing as if he was obedient. In short, Starscream's unpredictability like this drove Thundercracker nuts, as it often just confused his understanding of just what it was he fought for.
He noticed again the broad colors of the sunrise on the horizon before him. It served as another welcoming distraction from his misgivings. The variety of increasing color in the sky never ceased to amaze him though. Especially how blue it would look during the day's light, blocking all view of the dark star-filled expanse of outer space. The air of this planet also felt thicker as it swept over his fuselage and wings. Such an unusual sky like this was at least one thing he would miss upon returning to Cybertron.
The blue jet had circled the lower southern hemisphere near Antarctica a couple times before a familiar dark jet had begun to shadow him. He particularly wasn't in the mood to be heckled about the past events now, if at all. Skywarp seemed to have taken it upon himself to bring Thundercracker back whenever he flew off in funks like this. He again wished Skywarp would just let him be. This only made him feel all the more untrustworthy.
"I'm surprised your mad treks around the globe hadn't attracted the squishie squad yet," Skywarp's voice came in over Thundercracker's com link.
"You know the protocol for that: Lead them to the Bermuda Triangle area, and then incinerate them. They'll just blame the sudden disappearance on their own crazy superstitions," Thundercracker sounded irritated as he distanced himself from Skywarp. The human military was a different force to be reckoned with, unlike the innocent civilian humans, and he wasted no time dispensing of them.
The black jet took bait and teleported ahead so that he was now flying toward Thundercracker. This risky maneuver gave Thundercracker a start, and the blue F-15 banked up and to the left to avoid a collision.
"Get lost, Warp!"
"And listen to Megatron rant about how we got slagged by a bunch of Minibots some more? Pass… This sounds like more fun," Skywarp caught up again, flying directly under his friend now. The undersides of their jet forms faced each other, with only a meter width between them.
"Just leave me alone…" Thundercracker grumbled loudly. He rolled off to the right, hoping that Skywarp got the point, but the dark F-15 gracefully mirrored his motion so their wings did not collide.
"Make me!" he fell back from Thundercracker just enough to instead surge back over him, canopy to canopy. "Or are you still trying to figure out Screamer's half-baked equation for making the perfect high-grade energon from ocean water?"
A deep, resonating snarl of disgust erupted from within Thundercracker. If he wasn't agitated enough already, Skywarp's flippant antics had ensured that he was now. Taking on Skywarp's challenge, his afterburners flared brighter and he rumbled away.
Skywarp's ability to teleport made this improvised game of keep-away harder to play, however. No matter how many slick high G maneuvers Thundercracker used, he could not successfully lose his wing-mate. Skywarp didn't seem to show any signs of distress from the blue F-15's thunderous sonic booms either. As a last resort, Thundercracker looped back on the sporadic black one with his incendiary guns a-blazing.
Skywarp did not hesitate and teleported out before the hot flames from the bomb shells could inflict damage. "Ooo... now the heat is on!" echoed the taunting voice over Thundercracker's com link.
Thundercracker continued to fly in a horizontal circle, his sensors fully alert for any sudden movement now. Despite his anger, he also felt some guilt now for shooting at his friend. Skywarp never was one to play by the rules much anyway. But to make matters worse, his fuel levels were chirping at him again about reaching unsafe levels. This game had been a terrible drain on his waning energy.
"Actually, this is what you should do to lose me…"
Thundercracker did not reply, as he had detected a heat-seeking missile heading straight for his afterburners. Silently cursing about Skywarp's bad sense of humor, he took off at top speed while banking right, to get ahead of the missile. Then he suddenly lifted straight up to loop over the missile so he could lock onto it as a target, and fired. The blue jet flew through the explosion of shrapnel without breaking pace.
"Hold still for an astrosecond, you dirt-crawling... aft-kisser!" Thundercracker opened fire on Skywarp's jet form as soon as he appeared speeding straight at him head on.
Skywarp quickly nosed upward to climb high over Thundercracker as the blasts exploded near his tail wings. "Hah… you do need to work on your aim more, Thunder-bum."
Despite what he still thought was an unfair advantage, another realization formed inside Thundercracker's processor. It had baffled him before, just how Starscream and had 'lost' his ex-friend, Skyfire, in the ice up north. Perhaps they too were having a dispute much like this one, that went one step too far. Starscream refused to say anything more about that.
Thundercracker groaned, then transformed to robot mode to call off the aerial combat games. He still hovered several kilometers above the dark ocean waters near Antarctica.
Skywarp did the same. "Giving up so soon?" he crossed his arms in disappointment.
"No… I'm getting low on energy," Thundercracker glared at him. He hadn't been to base to recharge since leaving the battle in South America. That excuse also sounded better than admitting his dubious concerns about their general safety. "Unless you wanted to literally drag my skidplate back to base."
"Mhh, great… now we have to go back," Skywarp's optics glowed brighter for a moment, as if suddenly realizing the new dilemma. He also tended to lack the common sense about some things many of the other Decepticon warriors had. Maybe that was why he had such a loyal disposition. He had no sense to disagree.
Thundercracker parted his lips in disbelief when he noticed flecks of silver-white paint on the joints and edges of Skywarp's knuckles. He quickly assumed that Skywarp had beaten the slag out of Starscream back at base. Especially since they hadn't really the chance to get their hands on Skyfire or any of the other light colored Autobots earlier. How could he return to base now, if the both of them were going to be scrapped for their actions?
While it was acceptable for a mech to use force to move up in the Decepticon ranks, unnecessary aggressive threats was not welcome. Skywarp was just getting even, and Thundercracker knew it. As much as Skywarp respected Megatron, he doubted his friend could take on the enormous responsibilities of being Air Commander and second in command. Megatron most likely would demote the dark jet and look for someone else, if Starscream was no longer able. There was always an exception to his rules, exceptions that rarely made sense to Thundercracker.
"Thundercracker?" Skywarp sounded more concerned about his friend's long silence, and dropped his arms from their crossed position as he leaned in closer to look at him. "Hey, you still with me?"
Thundercracker's optics grew bright and stayed that way as he focused on Skywarp again. "Why to you have to do things like that?"
Skywarp looked very confused now, "…do things like what?"
"Beat the slag out of Starscream!" Thundercracker held his hands out in exasperation
Skywarp just laughed, more or less proud of himself now. "Well, he had it coming for him, the slag-sucker."
"I could have taken care of the geek myself… it was my problem," he grumbled, crossing his arms.
"Right, you were handling the situation very well back there, Thunder," Skywarp placed a hand on his hip..
"I would have..." Thundercracker muttered, looking elsewhere as shame set in again. While he was grateful to have a wingmate as steadfast as Skywarp, the Decepticon in him felt weak he had to be so dependent upon others. He felt bitter again for the plan that failed, which could have set things right.
"But if you'd stop jumping to conclusions for once, I could explain,"
Thundercracker looked sideways over his shoulder to Skywarp, now curious.
"Really... what you said made Megatron get mad at us. All of us... especially Screamer. He ordered him to raise our training standards, and to restrict our rec time. Which, of course, gets Screamer in a fritz, cause he's been pressured to make sure we're not going to slack off anymore. I really get tired of him fragging me about this and that, and wondering where you were... so..." Skywarp did his best to suppress a smile as he finished. "He got a fist in the mouth."
The blue Seeker shook his head with some disbelief. But the story did sound infallible, and he realized that he could no longer deny his wingmate's word. He had turned his external com-link off so he couldn't get any calls from base.
"You have been gone for a long time…" Skywarp stated, more solemnly. He looked upon the burning horizon to muse about a sun that hadn't set yet.
The blue seeker turned to face Skywarp, their optics silently reading each other's expressions. Thundercracker still hovered with his arms still crossed, faintly aware of the roar from their afterburners as they held their position in mid air. While it had become his trademark, per say, to be the seeker to question everyone's actions and moral, it wasn't common for Thundercracker to actually follow through with his reservations and leave the group. He realized then, that despite the usual show of banter, Skywarp actually was worried about him. His processor spun, he debated whether or not to admit what else he had been thinking. Or if Skywarp would just mock him for being so mixed up again, and later use this information as blackmail.
Often it was Decepticon nature to turn on one's friend after a time. Long-lasting loyalty between their kind was rare, as the desires for power and stature often changed their outlook. Thundercracker had seen it happen to many times already, and he admitted silently he feared that day it would happen between them. Very likely that one of Skywarp's practical jokes could go too far, as the dark jet really did find humor from the suffering he inflicted on others. Except for him. Skywarp tended to go easy on him. If anything, he was like Skywarp's accomplice. Thundercracker was not as inclined to go to Skywarp if he had a problem or a question though. He had been burned too many times before getting stuck on this mudball.
"I really don't know..."
Skywarp narrowed his optics as he focused back on him.
"Why do I keep thinking I can actually trust anyone here?" Thundercracker asked, still avoiding his real burden. He never really told anyone though, what it was that made him hesitant at times. The last thing he wanted was to be compared to a land-lumbering Autobot. A mech who despaired at seeing innocent humans getting killed, even if those humans were the very things he had sworn to hate since they infuriated Megatron.
Skywarp shrugged, it was not something he really thought of. Being deeply profound and feeling certainly wasn't one of his better traits. "It was probably my fault..." he appeared distracted, as if recalling all the times he fooled someone into one of his traps.
"No, really... you know what I really was trying to do back there? I was hoping that Skyfire would want revenge on Starscream too. So I was going let him destroy what was left of that new weapon, before I took him out. Then Megatron would blame Starscream for not guarding it. But he ends up shooting him instead of me… 'cause I ducked."
Skywarp laughed at that. "All the more reason why I wouldn't trust Screamer for an astrosecond. I still can't believe he said he and Skyfire were friends once. Makes my logic circuits hurt."
"Thinking makes your processor overheat," Thundercracker looked put off by Skywarp's behavior. He set his jaw, optics dimming as he tried to keep focus. He had only known Skywarp a short while before the Nemesis had launched for Earth. While the other seekers were allowed to go back, he and Skywarp were ordered to stay. They were the best of their kind, next to the Coneheads. Starscream was a seeker not to be trifled with long before they had left Cybertron. Skywarp was right about that. All of the seeker designs were made and programmed for war. Starscream must have been an earlier creation, when they thought that science and the exploration of other worlds was just as important as conquest. Perhaps it was to find energy, first and for most. Thundercracker decided Skyfire was a neutral, baited from the start to think what he was doing was for a good cause. But Skyfire was actually helping the Decepticons look for other sources of energy, since the wars had depleted so much more than imagined.
"No... Starscream was tricking him from the start..." Thundercracker's optics blazed to life again. "He might have become friends for a short time, but he still had to keep to his agenda. Blasted Skyfire and left him here after discovering that the Earth was a good source to mine energy!"
Skywarp slapped a hand on Thundercracker's shoulder, a mocked grin on his face. "Hey... I'm glad you figured that out, Thunder. Does this mean we can move on?"
Thundercracker was starting to feel delirious, and hovering in mid air was only adding more to his drained state. His thoughts wandered too easily when he was like this. How it was that he was easily swayed by Starscream's treachery, and that Skywarp seemed immune to it. He and Skywarp were practically opposites, and it sometimes made him wonder him why he even befriended Skywarp. Maybe it was because the dark seeker's simple and direct approach to life just helped him understand. That, and he had felt so alone and homesick. Being stuck on this simple ball of mud for Primus knows how long.
"What?" Skywarp questioned him again, visibility concerned again about his wingmate's frequent bouts of silence. The idea of finding a near-by source of energy for them to raid was sounding more and more enticing, if this kept up.
"Warp... I could still trust you, right?"
Skywarp's optics flickered, feeling challenged. "Yeah, of course. I don't have to be 'geeky' to impress Megatron."
"Seriously," Skywarp gripped Thundercracker's shoulders and looked him square in the optic. "Look at it this way... we are Megatron's elite seeker triad. Well, we were until the Dirge had to make a big deal about his triad being part of the Most Deadliest. But it's just us here, and Megatron hasn't made any effort to bring anyone else in to replace us. They are too hung up on their pyramid fins to even want to come over to this pathetic little mudball, and be Starscream's wingmates."
Thundercracker let the front of his helm rest on the front of Skywarp's with a soft clank. He off-lined his optics as he hooked his hands on Skywarp's elbows. This silence lasted for a few seconds until Skywarp shifted uncomfortably, realizing his lame attempt to conserve his energy. At least Skywarp was nice enough to not teleport out from under him.
"Hey Teece... leggo. I'm not Astrotrain," Skywarp clapped him on the shoulders to get his focus back on the here and now. It was something of an embarrassment for a Decepticon to go empty while away from base. "Let's go raid one of the military's fuel planes."
"I guess that's better than crude oil," he muttered, not feeling motivated at all about having to hunt for his food at the moment. Having it served on a platter, already converted into palatable energon cubes would be better. Getting tanked with some high-grade energon sounded really good.
"Anything to keep you from kissing dirt,"
Thundercracker grumbled. He hated the thought of that, or anything pertaining to being grounded. It was enough to muster some of his reserves to appear more alert as he followed after Skywarp.
"I have to ask: Was all this about the fact you didn't want Megatron to blow up the Andes? Cause you like humans?" Skywarp asked across his personal com-link to Thundercracker.
Thundercracker did not reply. His relays were too busy trying to make reason of this, and wondering if he heard that right... or if he had said something to him earlier and forgotten that he had. Or had Skywarp been nosing around in his datapads, or talking to Soundwave, or... "How... I never-- I don't like humans! I just... don't like... killing innocent civilians."
Skywarp laughed, only because he couldn't help it. Thundercracker's stunned reaction was so not expected. "But you don't like Autobots or the non-flying Cybertronians."
"Yeah, cause they are involved with the war. Who told you this?" He was still on the defense.
"You did. Some time ago, when we were overcharged with Energon. You get really talkative when you're tanked. Thank Primus it doesn't take much before you off-line. Some of your ideas get really weird."
"Slag... what else have I said? Were Starscream and Megatron around when I said something really bad?"
"Eh, nothing that proved you wanted to be the next Decepticon leader. Just weird stuff... like how you like sunsets, whales, or how stupid it is that penguins are birds that can't fly."
"You still trust me?"
"No!" Thundercracker was feeling anything but drained now. He never felt so mortified, and at the same time, on fire with anger at himself for being so loose of voice. This would not store well in his processor if they ever got captured for interrogation. The blue seeker transformed into jet mode and locked his guns on Skywarp's afterburners.
"Aww... c'mon, I never told anyone about how you like humans! Honest!" Skywarp laughed nervously after his radar picked up on his wingmate's lock. "You only told me that one night when you were hanging out at my room, and I started to play some human music I found on their Internet."
Thundercracker still tailed him, but didn't shoot. He rather just think of himself as a seeker with a conscience. "Let me get this clear, I never liked humans. I just don't want to waste my energy killing the harmless ones."
"Now you're changing your story."
"No, I'm not!"
"And you were this close from shut-down not too long ago too," Skywarp continued to tease him, regardless.
Thundercracker rumbled, deciding to go for a change of topic then. "So, have you picked anything we can raid for fuel?"
"No, not yet…" Skywarp had a hint of mock pity in his voice. It was like he was milking every bit of amusement from this as much as possible, since the dark jet more or less promised Thundercracker he wasn't going to tell anyone else. "At least you don't befriend them like the Autobots do."
Thundercracker shuddered at the thought, and continued to hope they found something to raid soon, and then soon, quickly back to the base, so he could escape this. Hopefully until Skywarp got bored with his quirky programming, and found someone else to pester.