As Long As It Takes
To: Nix, for supporting fanfiction.
Author notes: a prelude to Night Sympathy.
Half of the Decepticon storage rooms were flooded before the hole that had started it was found and corked up. It was more of a missing building than a hole, bits of wall lying in the surrounding area, blown outward from a central spot that had once been inside of the Energon storage building. The culprits, however, were not so easy to locate. Every Decepticon was gathered in the largest room that existed in the undersea base for questioning; Megatron hoped the anger of the others would drive the deviants out. Even the grumbling medic, Nightshade, was dragged to the meeting, dripping salt water and fuming.
"Decepticons," Megatron's voice commanded attention, aided by his posture, as he strutted before them, "Who ever has blown up the storage building and flooded the entire area, step forward now and be judged."
All optics turned to the usual suspect, Skywarp. The seeker held up his hands, hoping to wave away the accusations. Shaking his head, he said, "Even I'm not that stupid."
"I'm not so sure sometimes," Starscream stated, folding his arms, remembering the last time he had been on the receiving end of one of Skywarp's 'joke'. The black jet had glued thousands of little plastic gems all over the Air Commander's body and left a banner that said 'Rhinestone Cowboy.' How he had managed to do it, and not be caught in the act, was still a mystery.
"There's no proof I was there. Don't try to push this on me," the other defended, knowing he was losing the battle for his honor.
"Skywarp is correct. He is not at fault," Soundwave confirmed, drawing all optics to him as he stepped forward.
"Who is then?" Scrapper questioned, having been ready to assist in the mutilation of the seeker. The communications officer remained silent, refusing to answer to the subordinate officer.
"Yes, Soundwave, tell us who these cretins are so they may be punished," Onslaught shouted from a corner. It was a tense moment, punctuated by an overall anxious situation that permeated through the base. The Combaticons headquarters had recently been destroyed by the Autobots, the annihilators taking the utmost care to obliterate their equipment beyond repair; thus making the main headquarters their temporary shelter. The Constructicons, housed in the base semi-permanently, bitterly disliked the militant sect and made the fact abundantly clear. The Stunticons were still recovering from their last run in with Superion, and while they mainly kept to the outer buildings, they occasionally terrorized the others. To put it simply, all the Decepticons were confined to their undersea headquarters for one reason or another.
The tape player remained silent, not afraid of the mob mentality that ruled the wits of the others. Quickly sensing that Soundwave wasn't saying for a reason and he was going to lose control of the situation, Megatron stepped forward to take command.
"Decepticons," he began, "I'm personally taking this matter over. You're all dismissed."
A few grumbled, but the rest were content to leave the matter. The group left to their interrupted, unfinished assignments, each of them thinking of the wasted time and unpunished crime. Once they were alone, the commander turned to his advisor, waiting for an explanation.
"Rumble, Frenzy, and Laserbeak are the guilty party," not stopping to let Megatron protest, he continued, "They are not in the base, and they refuse to return from where ever they ran to. I know they are guilty."
"Bring them back," he ordered with his voice lined with concern. Both were well aware that the Autobots were in a vengeful mood, especially after the last clash of the two forces. It had been an extraordinary Energon raid. One hundred cubes filled and taken before the Autobots had shown up to stop them. The conflict ended abruptly when the building they had confiscated from the flesh creatures had collapsed. Five humans died and twenty more were injured in the incident. Not that the Decepticons had noticed or cared, but now that the storage bay with the twenty-five cubes they had not sent to Cybertron was destroyed, another raid would have to be risked soon, with the Autobots more than willing to stop them.
Soundwave left the base without further comment, anxious to begin the search and find the runaways.
It wasn't a normal way of searching. Instead of frantically flying in every which way, Soundwave found the nearest radio tower and commandeered it. Once he amplified its power, he broadcast his message to a narrow frequency used by only the Decepticons, only by the tapes in emergencies. He waited motionless, almost blending in with the surrounding trees and landscape, persistently hoping for a response. For five hours he waited, no second ever dimming his concern for their safety; although the desire never showed any outward sign.
When the reply finally came, there was no hesitation in his reaction. He didn't even take the time to detach himself from the tower, but immediately took off, flying to save his charges with Rumble's scream still echoing through his mind. Small wires dangling in the wind as he soared over the drab city and endless fields, Rumble's response playing over and over in his mind: the tapes desperation as the Autobots closed in on their position, the helplessness Soundwave felt to save them from the hands of the avenging bots, and the frustration he suffered as the scenery crept by slower than grass growing in the desert.
He touched down again in a warehouse, not bothering with a door, but going through the rusting, brown roof. Parts of the tapes lay scattered about, with the main bodies remaining intact. Laserbeak weakly lifted his head, optics fixing on the towering figure. Relief and joy immediately poured through the link they shared when he recognized the shape as a friend. His remaining wing wobbled with excitement, any punishment they Decepticons could give would be much preferred over the Autobots returning to finish them off.
Soundwave's sorrow and anger he kept inside, not allowing the conscious tapes to feel it or to know he felt anything at all. They had dealt with enough already. As he gathered their pieces, the rage inside began to boil with no outward signs. As he picked their parts from the walls and floor he began to wish for an Autobot to mangle, to let one of them feel the pain they had caused for his creations. It would be revenge, pure, simple and painful.
He had a difficult time finding the last missing bit, Frenzy's left hand, which had been blown into a rafter and sat cooling in a forgotten corner. Once the pieces were collected, Soundwave flew as a quickly as he could back to the Decepticon base, never noticing the stars special shine or how the waning moon seemed to have two halos that night. His entire attention was consumed by the needs of his tapes, their survival. Each moment the bond he shared with them weakened, adding to the anxiety he had to keep bottled inside; more stress he would have to work out later.
Who ever was in control of the tower was awaiting Soundwave's arrival and raised the reception tower without any explanation or notification needed. Within two minutes he was in the medical bay, setting to work on the most damaged, Rumble. Nightshade stood a moment in the doorway to the main working area, shocked by the condition of the tapes before she set up two more stations for Frenzy and Laserbeak. Once they were stabilized she retreated to her living area, knowing the communications officer would wish to work alone. Alone with the pain.
All that was left was the waiting, Ravage taking his position next to the giant. They stared at the forms of their closest comrades, hardly stirring from their spots. Megatron had visited once, but withdrew after he confirmed their status was stable. The panther stretched, folded his front legs and lay down, never taking his optics off his brothers.
"How long will we have to wait," the smaller Decepticon asked through their mental link, knowing he would be there when they awoke and began to recover.
"As long as needed," he responded, already beginning to plot.