A/N: Well here is the inspection and naming I promised in the last one. I'm almost sad to see 'Red' and 'Yellow' go… After the inspection, I will be jumping around a bit as far as time goes before settling in on the ages I want them to be for a while… eh, you'll see. I'll try to keep it simple for ya'll, but I have a few million years to get through and a lot of ground to cover! As always, if you have any questions, let me know so I can clear it up.
Part Five: Because We Can't
Red shifted impatiently, waiting for the government bot to be finished already. This was the grand inspection he and his brother had been so excited about? It was slagging boring! Just some crusty little mech poking and prodding and asking questions he didn't understand. He would much rather be at the Arena, terrible as it was. At least there he could let loose some of the energy he always found himself with.
Skidfast walked around the yellow child again, typing notes into his datapad. "They are both fully functional you say?" He'd been at this for a few megacycles already, yet he couldn't just pass them. There was something about them… something he didn't like. Perhaps it was the tight shift in their bodies and slight flashing of their optics whenever he drew too near. Or the strange marks on their chassis that looked like they'd been in a few too many fights recently. They were an odd pair, and weren't even a full ten days old!
Pinch crossed his arms, scowling. His patience, like his red sparkling's, had just about run itself dry. Wasn't the little government toady done yet? "Of course they are. Why don't you ask them yourself?"
"You said they were commissions?"
"Yes. The brass at the top gave me a list of what they wanted and I made it."
"I have seen this list," the little silver mech nodded. "And I must admit I am concerned at the combination of the traits asked for." Aggressiveness, territorial, strong in mind and body, swift reflexes, plus the ability to rend a creature limb from limb… Just what were the Primes at the top thinking when they created this commission? These weren't sparklings, they were living, thinking weapons!
"Which is why I need to be left alone to train them properly. They'll be obedient just fine. My record should speak for itself. I have two creations already, one a successful Intelligence agent in the military and one in the best medical school Cybertron has." A sigh. Hadn't they been through this ten times already? They were supposed to meet Flattop at the Arena already.
"This one…" Skidfast stopped in front of the tall yellow mech who looked nervous at the sudden attention. "I don't like the looks of him." His blue optics stared into the child's, scrutinizing every aspect of him. These two infants did not sit well with him, this one especially. So beautiful… could looks really be that deceiving?
The red child shifted uneasily beside them, unsure of what to do. He didn't want to get into trouble, but he wouldn't let this newcomer become a threat to his twin. The past few days had taught him much in appreciating his brother. And why was the silver mech getting so close? Bad things happened when anyone other than he entered Yellow's personal space. Just as bad things happened to Red when anyone entered his. This was a simple truth he'd come to learn over the past few days.
Yet he didn't want to lash out at someone who meant no harm either.
The moment the silver mech reached out to touch Yellow, the decision no longer needed making up. That was quite close enough and then some; the line of 'acceptable distance' had been crossed. Red sprang forward between the two, shoving Skidfast across the room before the new mech had even made contact. He crouched, ready to defend his startled brother further. However the government clerk had no wish to get any closer. As it was, he'd have a lovely dent or two that needed looking after. For such a young thing, the much larger mech threw one slag of a punch when he wanted to.
Triggerpinch uncrossed his arms, navy optics widening in horror at the scene that unfolded before him. What did that miserable infant think he was doing?! He was going to ruin everything! After all the hard work and detail and planning… Red was going to destroy all of that! He would have gone to intervene, but natural curiosity overrode his motion circuits for the moment. No other moves had been made; perhaps it wouldn't end so terribly…
Yellow quickly grabbed his brother's shoulders which appeared to have an immediate calming effect. "Don't," he hissed, grip tightening slightly before relaxing. Red only lowered his head to glare at Skidfast who had recovered and stared at the two in fury. With his face hidden in the shadow of his helm and only his burning optics visible, the red twin looked every inch the feral killer Triggerpinch had hoped to create. With awe, the engineer watched the young one carefully. There was no sign of clumsiness here; it was like he was a different sparkling entirely. Triggerpinch grinned despite himself. Perfect.
"I could have those two deactivated for that!" Skidfast railed at Triggerpinch who didn't seem too responsive to the fact that he'd just been assaulted. By mere fledglings no less! In fact, he looked downright pleased at the pair. "This is an outrage! They aren't fit to walk the streets!"
Taking the not so thinly veiled threat for what it was, Yellow stepped from behind his twin to stand beside him. While it was appreciated, and very nearly expected, he did not need anyone to fight his battles. He was starting to learn, slowly but surely, that if he wanted to survive in this universe he had to be strong. For both himself and his twin.
Triggerpinch noticed this and couldn't have approved more. The matching set of glares on their young faces was exactly what he had been looking for these past few days. So far he'd been unable to find it, yet when put to the test, his creations acted just as designed. "They weren't created to 'walk the streets,' they were created to attack. You can't deactivate them for being what they are. You made yourself a threat by getting too close to Yellow and Red eliminated that threat," he reasoned logically. "The Primes will not allow you to fail their inspection. I am only doing this because your department won't let me rest until I do."
The clerk knew he was beaten, but refused to let his pride be damaged. "Then live with what you build, Triggerpinch. But they are a menace and should never have been created."
"I won't argue either fact. But they were created and they will serve their purpose. Now you can leave of your own accord, or I can have them show you the door."
Choosing the wiser of the choices, Skidfast made a quick exit, muttering insults as he went. Snorting at the stupid silver mech, Pinch approached his children who were still recovering from the encounter. At least Red had calmed down. Pinch wasn't a threat to his him and his brother. Well, not one he could eliminate anyway.
Red shook his head a little as though to shake away his dark expression. When he looked at Triggerpinch again, it was with the same clear optics he had always had. "You…" the young one said quietly to his creator, a hurt expression on his face. "You agreed with him."
"I did not create you out of the goodness of my spark. And he's right: you and your brother are dangerous and the Primes had no idea what they were asking when they asked for you. But that doesn't matter anymore, you live." He looked at Yellow then back at Red. "That idiot's opinion is slag. The Primes' opinions are slag. My opinion is slag. Prove to me that you deserve life. Earn it. If you two can do that, you just may survive long enough to serve your purpose."
"We aren't just tools," Yellow proclaimed brazenly. While he respected his creator, he would not be intimidated by him. "We're mechs with our own minds." He remembered Pinch's reaction to his wall drawings.
"You are just tools and that's all you'll ever be to me." He saw the sudden pain in his children's optics, but didn't care and nor did he budge. "Here is your first lesson repeated: do not count on me to defend you to others, because I won't. Don't depend on others to come back for you or protect you, because they won't be there. You have each other and you'd better damn well hold onto that, or you'll have nothing. You'll be nothing."
It was the same lesson he'd drilled into their processors since their first cycle of existence, and now more than ever, they believed it.
"Well," the engineer backed up a bit to give his fledglings a good once-over. "Now that that drone idiot is gone, onto the next step. You've lasted ten days without blowing up, so you won't be ordered deactivated."
"We get names?" Red asked, face brightening. It seemed his mood really did come and go as it pleased. It was a characteristic that his creator hadn't expected, but that was alright; he could work with it.
Pinch nodded to his question. "You get names. Yellow…" he stared hard at the bold, beautiful twin. Strong and bright as any sun who would not allow himself to fall into the shadows. Nor would he allow himself to be dominated by anyone, not his twin and not his creator. His was a strong unbreakable spirit that any Commander will have trouble with in the future. Even being protected by Red from the harmless clerk, he would not allow it for long. Instead he stepped up boldly, not hiding behind anything or anyone. "Your name is Sunstreaker."
"Sunstreaker…" the newly dubbed mech rolled it around in his mouth, liking the sound of it. The beauty and strength of it.
"And you, Red." This one was harder. The child had so many angles to him, deceiving yet genuine. Innocent and guilty and soft and hard all at once. He'd roll with the punches and deal back twice the amount. That one would be real trouble for whatever sorry sap got command over him. Pinch had to smile as he thought back to the display of a few cycles ago. How he'd taken the offending clerk completely off-guard just as he might a true enemy. "Sideswipe."
He allowed them a few moments to become used to their new identities. They sounded the names out, tested them. He'd done well; they were good names for his sparklings. Yet they had time enough later to muse on the reasoning behind his choices. Flattop was waiting and they had much to do and not much time to do it in. Triggerpinch mentally went over the lessons he had planned. Well, he had one problem solved. He had found his children's drive. Their control and their will.
"Sideswipe, Sunstreaker," he called. As one the pair looked up, large innocent grins on their faces that replaced the sad frowns of the past few days.
Part of him was almost sorry to know that he would be the destruction of those smiles.
"Come with me. We have work to do."
OoOoOo Three years later… OoOoOo
"Look, I'm sorry, buddy, but unless I have proper papers I can't just give them to you. I have no idea how old they are and if the government finds out I…"
"The government is the least of your worries right now, you die-cast walking disaster. I'm offering you twice its worth, and…"
Sideswipe wandered away from his creator and the mech he was arguing with. "What's going on?" his brother asked, looking around the interesting shop.
"The other mech says Pinch doesn't have the right papers with him," the red twin answered, poking at a coil curiously.
"Did you find out what this is all about?"
Sunstreaker nodded looking back around the grounds. He'd never seen such a place before in his three years of life; it looked like a graveyard. A graveyard for machines. Now that he thought about it, there were many such places around the city, each advertising different specialties. Some bragged the cheapest prices. Others, the newest and hottest models. This one boasted high performance and quality.
Whatever it was, their creator seemed willing to pay top credit for it.
"Alright, you two, let's go," Triggerpinch barked from the back door that led to the strange graveyard of a lot.
The small orange shopkeeper looked substantially displeased with the way his argument with Pinch had gone, but all the fight in him had been shouted out. "Over here," he told the brothers, not bothering to look at the blue and black.
He led them down one of the rows of lifeless machines. Some huge and overbearing, some small and shaped like darts. Each one a disgusting green gray color and marked with a price higher than either sparkling had ever seen. What could Triggerpinch, with all of his money-hawking ways, want with hunks of metal like these?
"So what are you three looking for?" the orange asked, still not looking at Pinch. "A new line came out just a few weeks ago. Triple-changing they call it; word is they're working on more forms than that too. I can get you a good deal for…"
"No," Triggerpinch snapped, turning his head to stare down the orange. His dark navy optics glittered in the early first dawn light. "Stop wasting our time with that slag and show us what we came for."
Orange sighed and nodded, obviously wondering what he was doing working in this place. Here was a mech who was used to taking abuse. "Surface hovers are right over here."
The twins fell in step behind Triggerpinch as they were led halfway across this strange yard. They weren't quite sure what 'triple-changing' was or why they needed to be shown surface hovers. If they ever had to go a distance too long to walk, they either rode on Pinch or used public transportation.
They passed rows upon rows of these strange vehicles before the shopkeep finally stopped. "These are our most popular line of…"
"Fine. Leave us." Without another thought to the simmering mech, Triggerpinch turned to Sunstreaker. "You. Pick out what you want."
Too confused to be surprised at his creator's odd show of generosity, Sunstreaker quirked an optic ridge. "What I want for what?" He heard the orange shopkeeper snicker quietly to himself, which he chose to ignore.
"Alternate form," the black and blue explained impatiently. "Don't tell me you're so thick you don't even know what that is."
"No, I know," the yellow replied insolently. "But you didn't tell us we were getting them."
"I'm telling you now, aren't I? Now stop wasting my time and pick something."
Sunstreaker looked over the long row of vehicles. Would he like to be a dart-like speedster? A powerful ram-like machine? So many choices. As always when he was in doubt, he turned to his twin who seemed to know better about these sorts of things. "Which one, Sideswipe?"
"No," Pinch snapped. "I asked you, not him. Now move it."
Sideswipe gave him an apologetic shrug, eyeing the various forms himself. His brother took careful notice of which ones kept a lingering gaze. "That one," he pointed to a medium-sized one, not so big as to make it hard to move, but not so small as to seem weak. In so short a time, he was beginning to think like a warrior already. This form would serve them both the best and would hopefully please their creator.
The shopkeep looked uninterested as he scanned the choice into a datapad and wrote down some of the information. Pinch, however, looked approvingly at the choice, just as the yellow fledgling had hoped.
It was a shame the color was so ugly though. He rather liked his yellow plating. It made him stand out, seem special.
The orange mech looked up from his datapad and laughed outright at the woeful look the young one gave his plating. "Don't worry, kid. You'll be able to keep your pretty mech colors. This is just for the lot designs."
The red twin frowned in confusion. "Why? It's ugly."
A snort. "Of course it is. No one in their right mind would want to be this color besides the fact that you're not allowed to be. Exactly why all alt. shops have to use it. It would be too easy for someone to hide here, donchathink?"
Sunstreaker didn't know why anyone would want to hide in an alt. shop's lot, but he stayed quiet. Triggerpinch probably wouldn't want him to keep asking stupid questions like that. Because even if he was a dolt, he didn't have to open his mouth and let everyone else know.
"How long will this take?" Triggerpinch asked as they made their way back to the shop.
"For the pair? Two megacycles each."
"That's too long!" he sent a dark look to the younger mech. "For the amount this is costing me…"
"For the amount this is costing you, you'd think you'd want this done right," the mech retorted, finally reaching his breaking point of how much abuse he'd allow.
Pinch snorted in disdain but did not answer. For the time being, the orange had won. He led the three back to the shop and into a backroom. It was circular in design with large oval capsules that had what resembled an upright recharge berth inside.
"Alright," the orange steered Sunstreaker toward one of the capsules without any pretense. "In you go."
At the first touch to the yellow mech's chassis, Sideswipe moved right towards them. "In where?" he demanded, voice devoid of its previous innocence and curiosity.
The shopkeep looked suddenly nervous of this new Sideswipe and released the other, realizing that was what had set him off. "Into the capsules. It's how you get your alt."
Sunstreaker looked as though he would argue, but Triggerpinch managed to intervene. "Do as you're told, I don't have all slagging day."
Every instinct he had warned against going into such a small, foreign place. They were far smaller than the closets, and the shopkeep hadn't said how long they'd be in there. Surely not two megacycles! A quick glance to Sideswipe proved the red one was no more eager than he at the prospect. Sunstreaker also knew, though, that if they disobeyed, there would be time spent in the closets after this was all over. They'd dealt with them just that morning and were not eager for another visit.
Sharing another glance, the brothers moved into their respective chambers. If there was no choice, there was no choice. As they went into repair stasis, they could hear their creator barking directions to the poor shopkeeper. "When they are done, you are to show them how to control it and send them home."
"You're not coming back?"
"No, I have to…"
Then all went black.
When he was next aware of his surroundings, Sunstreaker could feel that something was very different with himself. First of all, he was heavier… or so it felt. Limbs were harder to lift, and it wasn't just lethargy from being offline for so long. The reflection in the inside of the capsule reflected a Sunstreaker he wasn't used to seeing. He was larger than he had been, with additions and alterations to the comparatively slim body he'd had as a younger sparkling.
Wait, he was still in the capsule. Why wasn't it opening? Why was it so small? Wasn't he done? How long would it be like this?
With a small sound of alarm, he shrank back in his restraints, optics switching off so he wouldn't have to see the opposite wall so close to his face. Please, he prayed quietly. He'd be good…. please let him out…
In his mind's vision, the young mech remembered the power he'd seen in the reflection. How weak Triggerpinch would say. How weak must Sunstreaker be when he was so strong and let a little capsule frighten him so. Yet activating his optics to look at the reflection, he didn't feel any stronger. This powerful creature in front of him was no Sunstreaker. He was no better than the smaller, thinner mech he'd been before. His spark was not the spark of this strong being he saw.
Primus but he wished his brother was here. Surely Sideswipe could make sense of this new paradox. Or was the red twin in his own capsule now, thinking the same thing?
Oh, he wanted to get out of here! It was feeling much too small again. Where was his brother? Why wasn't he here? And what would he look like when he too had his alterations? The yellow mech stared hare the reflection, dimly lit by the capsule and his own bright optics, and tried to imagine his brother's face and features on top of his own. Hesitantly he reached out to touch that smile, the one just a little off-center and lopsided.
Snapback rushed back to the workroom as the yells and pounding grew louder. Primus below it sounded like someone was getting murdered in there! The capsule on the far left was dente with fresh punches and whoever was inside wanted out and they wanted out now!
"Hold on, Primus friggit, I'm coming!" The orange mech growled, releasing the clips and opening the capsule, just barely avoiding a series of fists and feet that heralded the red mech's escape from that shiny silver coffin.
Sideswipe looked around wildly, optics shining a frantic blue-white. Hands bleeding energon from his desperate pounding were clenched tightly, ready to continue fighting. "Where is he?" he demanded once he saw the shocked orange mech. Now those furious blue optics were focused on Jumpstart.
"Who?" he sputtered, though he knew right away who 'he' was. "You mean the yellow one? He's fine, he's right here. Look…" He edged to the other capsule that was still and silent. At least, he hoped the yellow one was fine. Something in him doubted that one would be so violent and the other so quiet.
To both of the mechs' relief, Sunstreaker was just fine. The red mech had lost all patience waiting for Jumpstart to open the lid properly and simply tore it off its hinges, eager to get to his brother. As the capsule was torn open Sunstreaker looked up, a slightly glazed stir-crazy glint in his optics, but relatively unharmed. "Sideswipe?" the yellow three-year-old asked in a quiet subdued voice.
His brother was by his side in moments, pushing the shopkeeper out of the way. "You ok?" Sideswipe asked, helping him step out of the capsule. Sunstreaker nodded and their slightly crazed expressions both dissolved into something much more tranquil. Seeing them now one wouldn't believe the twins weren't always so tame. Jumpstart knew different, however, and he was eager to have those two back where they came from. Before he could do that, there was still one more task to perform. Primus he hoped that crabby blue and black was true to his word. Dealing with this was hardly worth the amount of credits he was promised as it was.
As though reading his mind, that red devil mech turned back to face the orange. "So how do these things work anyway?"
These things…? "The capsules?"
"No," Sunstreaker snorted. "You said we'd be able to become that speeder right?"
Nodding dumbly, Jumpstart stepped a little closer, though not too much so. "Your creator said I should show you how to do it and then send you back home."
The two sparklings looked a little ill at the thought of returning to that terrible mech, and Jumpstart could hardly blame them, but nodded in acquiescence. If Pinch said that was how it must be done, then that was how it would be done. As they went through the difficulty of learning this new, seemingly alien aspect of their bodies, the twins' vast differences seemed to come out once more. Whereas the red one wanted to jump right in and do it halfway through the instructions, it was the yellow mech that actually managed the task first. He was able to grasp the more abstract concepts of transformation while his brother figured out how to actually work the new form faster.
Huh… what a strange pair they made indeed.
"I think you have it figured out," the shopkeeper said when they had suitably transformed enough times to make his head spin.
"I think so too," Sunstreaker nodded, glad that the task of transforming hadn't been so hard after all.
"We should get back then," his twin said, a frown on his face. The reminder of what life waited for them in that old apartment was enough to sour Sunstreaker's good mood as well.
And as scary and strange as these two were, Jumpstart couldn't help feeling sorry for them. His own creator could hardly be called cuddly, but at least his sparkling hadn't feared him. Hadn't dreaded being with him. Poor kids.
"Hey look," he said finally. "I have a friend downtown. He has a spare parts shop and he's been looking for some bots to help him out. I can call him up and he can make sure you have a place to stay. The pay's not great, but…"
"What are you talking about?" asked Sideswipe, completely bewildered. "We have a place to stay already."
"Yeah, with that old creep," Jumpstart snorted. "Don't you want to get away from him though?"
The yellow one shrugged. "Sure. But we can't."
"Why not? I can help you disappear. He won't find you if…"
"But we're still his," the red shook his head stubbornly. "Why would we leave?"
These two were unbelievable! "Because you're obviously miserable with him," the shopkeeper tried again. "Why wouldn't you?"
"'Cause we can't," the yellow said as though speaking with a newly fledged child.
Jumpstart just stared at the pair, not quite understanding what was wrong with them.
"C'mon, Sunstreaker," Sideswipe said when he got bored with the clearly dumb shopkeeper. "We need to get back. Long night at the Arena tonight, remember?"
Nodding reluctantly his twin followed him out the door. "Yeah, let's go. Don't wanna be late."
The pair transformed and tore off down the road with a whoop, moving as though freed from some awful fate. Those two were strange ones, no doubt about it.
Jumpstart shook his head and went back inside to clean the mess they'd made. Primus, even two half-decimated capsules at that! Kid must've been stronger than he looked to do that. His boss was going to kill him when he found out…
He picked up an end of the lid and struggled to lift it. He cursed himself for not having one of those monstrosities do it for him. A sudden catch in the light made him pause and look inside. There were strange markings in there… Upon closer inspection Jumpstart could see the marks were actually the scratch of fingers against the lid's metal. There was a form there…
Well look at that. It was the reformatted red twin. Before the yellow had even seen him to know what to draw.
Yeah… those two were strange alright. Still… it wasn't a half-bad likeness.
End Part Five
A/N: Sorry for this chapter to take so long. I had finished the inspection scene when I ran into a brick wall. Like I said before, there's a lot of ground to cover before the end and I don't want this story to take forever. I had to pick which scenes I wanted in there and which could be left out. Once I figured out the other half for this chapter, I had to decide what I wanted to come after that, and that took forever. So now that I know how to continue the next chapter, I can post this with confidence : D For those who are missing the other minor characters I've put in here, they'll have a larger part next chapter.