Obligatory disclaimer: Hasbro owns the lot.

"This isn't so bad, you know. Getting away from the Ark for awhile. Outside, in the fresh air. Even though it is hot and dusty. And the sun is really bright..." Bluestreak rambled, watching the readout on the scanner in his hand as he swung it back and forth over the ground.

Sideswipe shrugged and grunted absently, not really listening to the silver Autobot.

"Even if we don't find anything out here," Bluestreak continued. "It is out in the middle of nowhere, isn't it? I always wondered what Sparkplug meant by that. I think I understand now." He looked up from the scanner, his optics taking in the barren cliffs looming over him. Cliffs pocked with hundreds of small caves.

"Gah! Is this thing even working?" He shook the scanner and then rapped it smartly with his hand. "It's not registering a thing. Just a lot of empty space under our feet. That doesn't make sense, does it? No energy signatures, no organic life. Nothing." He glanced over at his partner who was studiously ignoring him.

Sideswipe was squatting on the dusty ground doodling in the dirt with his finger. Bluestreak turned the scanner on the big red and black warrior. The device beeped and Bluestreak laughed. "Heh, it says you exist." He watched Sideswipe ignore him. "Hmmmm," he muttered worriedly and turned away.

Sideswipe looked up sharply alarmed by Bluestreak's tone. He glared at the silver mech's back and slightly twitching doors. "What? What'd it say?" he demanded.

"Hmmm? Oh, nothing," Bluestreak said continuing his scan of the ground and cliffs.

Sideswipe picked up a rock and launched it at the other robot. It bounced off of Bluestreak's head with a loud ping.

"Hey." Bluestreak turned around to glare at Sideswipe, rubbing the back of his head where the rock had hit. "What did you do that for?"

Sideswipe nodded at the scanner in Bluestreak's hand. "What'd it say?"

Bluestreak looked puzzled and then laughed. "Nothing. You're fine. Maybe a little dust in your joints. You may want to check that out when we get back. If we ever do. Personally, I think Cosmos flipped a gear or something. I don't know what he thought he saw down here that could be taken for Decepticon activity. Just a lot of sand, dust and a big, empty hole under the ground. I don't even think a lizard would care about this place, let alone a 'Con." The gunner studied the pocked cliff, his back to the expanse of flat desert that stretched away to the horizon.

Sideswipe shook his head disgustedly at Bluestreak's ramblings but had to agree with his evaluation of the situation. No 'Con in their right mind, if such a creature existed, could possibly have any use for this place.

He picked up another rock and hefted it in his hand ready to heave it out into the desert when a distant sound put his sensors on alert. He listened attentively peering towards the horizon. Yes, he thought. A jet heading this way. And not just any jet but a Seeker. Coming in low and fast. He dropped the rock and drew his gun.

"Heads up, Blue," he shouted at his partner. "Incoming!

Bluestreak dropped the scanner in favor of his own rifle and automatically brought his targeting computer on line. The sound of the jet was clearly audible to him now, but, he noted, it was still out of range of his weapons.

"Who?" the silver gunner asked with uncharacteristic brevity.

"Not sure yet," Sideswipe responded. "Should know soon enough. Just coming into visual..."

A sonic boom shook the desert, rattling the glass in their windshields and sending a torrent of rocks and debris raining down on them from the cliff above.

"Sounds like Thundercracker," Sideswipe quipped.

"I see him. Yup, Thundercracker," Bluestreak said. "And he's alone." The gunner evaluated the stream of information from his computer. "Why?" he pondered .

"I would think he'd at least be with Skywarp." He glanced over at Sideswipe. "I wonder if he's detected us yet. What do you think, sideswipe?"

"I don't know and I really don't care," Sideswipe replied focusing on the approaching jet. "Just pay attention." He peered through his photon rifle's sight and, just as the jet came into range, fired.

A searing beam of light cnnected briefly with the Seeker's nosecone. "Ha, one photon-roasted turkey coming up. Make that coming dow..." he trailed off when the jet shrugged off the blast, circled around, and headed directly for the Autobots. He shielded

"Oh, that was great," Bluestreak chided Sideswipe. "You could've at least waited until he was in range. All you did was make him mad. Why'd you shoot at him anyway? Maybe he wasn't even coming here."

The red warrior glanced disgustedly at Bluestreak before returning his attention to the approaching jet and readied his gun for another shot. The whine of the charging weapon was drowned out by the roaring jet.

Bluestreak watched the jet approach through his gun scope. He steadied himself trying to remain calm. The sight of the large Decepticon heading straight down his throat was a little unnerving. He could see Sideswipe out of the corner of his optic, aiming carefully.

Suddenly, Thundercracker veered from his heading and fired off a missile at Sideswipe. Bluestreak fired immediately while Sideswipe dove for scant cover. The missile struck the spot where Sideswipe had been. The ground and cliff exploded. Chunks of cliff and shards of broken rock pounded Bluestreak.

He shielded his head but saw that he'd scored a hit. The Seeker trailed smoke from his right wing as he positioned himself for another pass.

Bluestreak didn't have time to check on Sideswipe. Thundercracker never wavered from his course straight towards the silver Autobot. Bluestreak held steady, the Decepticon was in his sights now and would be in range again in seconds. Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes, he thought. Or the red of their optics, he amended. He pulled his thoughts back to the task at hand.

Wait, wait, not too soon. Now! he fired his rifle and for good measure launched his shoulder rockets. Thundercracker fired another missile and then tried to pull out of his dive. Too late he realized that his damaged wing couldn't sustain the force of the maneuver. Thundercracker instantly transformed to robot mode as his aerodynamics went to hell. Bluestreak heard the jet's cry of pain and in the instant before Thundercracker's missile struck, he saw one of his rockets score a hit on the Decepticon's chest.

Thundercracker's missile impacted in front of Bluestreak, throwing him back. He flung his arms up to protect his face. The last thing he saw was an off-line, out-of-control Thundercracker tumbling straight for him.

OoOoO

Silence, interrupted by the0 tic tic tic of cooling metal, total darkness, and a terrible weight pressing on his chest greeted Bluestreak when he finally came back online. Confused and lost, he twisted his head around in hopes of seeing something, anything, that could tell him what had happened.

An explosion, he remembered. Something hit him hard and the ground crumbled under him.

Did I fall? Feels like the whole cliff came down on top of me. Oh, Primus, I'm buried, he realized. Not good, not good. I don't like this. Too much like Cybertron. But I'm not on Cybertron. I'm on Earth. Gotta remember that. Doesn't matter. I'm still buried. I've got to get out of here.

He struggled to free his arms but his doors were wedged into the ground and with whatever was on top of him he seemed hopelessly stuck. He wiggled frantically. He kicked his legs out frantically ignoring the stabbing pains in his legs and feet. He was only aware of a desperate need to free himself. Something dug deeply and painfully into his chest gouging metal and he froze.

Peering fearfully into the dark he tried to make out what was pinning him to the ground. Not even the glow of his optics could illuminate more than a mound. "I need light," he whispered. "Maybe..."

He switched on his headlights. The one unbroken light cast odd shadows over the object on his chest creating a fright mask from the face that hung inches from his head. Thundercracker's darkened optics stared down into his face. Bluestreak's optics flashed bright in fear and disgust at the thought of a Decepticon so close to him. Touching him.

"Ahhhhh!" he yelled. "Get off me, get OFF me!" He twisted and turned furiously trying to knock the Seeker away. "GET OFF, you slaggin' Decepticon!" he shouted into Thundercracker's audio sensor.

Thundercracker's optics brightened slightly. He groaned. An odd coughing noise in his chest echoed oddly in the dark. He lifted his head slowly and painfully. Their optics met and Thundercracker's surprise quickly turned to anger. He glared at Bluestreak.

"Stop yelling, you stupid 'Bot," he whispered. "And stop squirming," he sanpped, his voice gaining strength.

The Autobot glared back. "Then get off me,": he hissed. "Do you know how much you weigh? You're crushing me flat..."

Thundercracker's optics brightened angrily. "I'm not enjoying this anymore than you are. And I'm the one with the hole blasted in his chest. Give me a chance to move." He slowly pulled his arms to his sides. Bracing his hands on the ground, he pushed up weakly.

"You fired missiles at us." Bluestreak argued.

Thundercracker froze, his anger growing. "You shot at me first," he growled and then coughed again.

Bluestreak shut his mouth with a click and turned his head away from the Seeker's red optics. He was right. Sideswipe had fired first. I wonder what happened to Sideswipe. He can take care of himself. I have my own problems right now.

When Bluestreak didn't respond, Thundercracker resumed his struggle to disengage his shattered cockpit canopy from the other robot's chest. He tried not to wince when he left a good chunk of it buried in the Autobot's grill.

"Ow, hey," Bluestreak complained. "Be careful."

"So sorry if I'm inconveniencing you." Thundercracker sneered. His arms gave out and he rolled off the Autobot falling to the ground with an echoing crash. He sprawled motionless at the edge of the circle of dim light cast by the Autobot's headlight waiting for the pain and dizziness to pass. His head cleared slightly but the pain remained.

Bluestreak, with relief, pulled his arms out from under himself and shook them to loosen stiff joints. He pushed himself into a sitting position. He tried to ignore the Decepticon laying next to him and the darkness pressing in on all sides and examined the chunk of Plexiglas embedded in his chest. He touched it gingerly with his finger, grimaced when it scraped painfully inside him and then decided to leave it alone.

He glanced sidelong at the injured mech. He was a bit stunned at the amount of damage his missile had done to Thundercracker. His right wing was shredded and his cockpit was basically gone leaving a gaping hole in the robot's chest. Bluestreak could see most of Thundercracker's inner workings and it made him a little sick. He wasn't used to seeing evidence of his sharp-shooting so close up.

He looked away guiltily but was still painfully aware of the rasping and coughing coming from the Decepticon as he pulled air fitfully through his intakes.

I need to get my head together, he thought. I can't think about the tons of rock over my head. I have to figure out how to get out of here. Let's see, I need to call for help and run a self-diagnostic. I'm getting way too many error messages. I can't imagine what Thundercracker is getting...No, don't think about him, get your aft taken care of. He's a 'Con after all. They deserve what they get. I should just put him out of his misery .

He glanced back at Thundercracker. His optics had dimmed again.

"Well," he said loudly hoping to settle his nerves with sound. "I guess either my radio is shot or there's too much rock up there. I'm not getting through."

Thundercracker stirred, optics brightening slightly.

"What about you?" Bluestreak continued. "I don't suppose you have a working radio? I guess, that would be too much to hope for. Considering you're just a Decepticon. You wouldn't help. Only do what Megatron tells you to do. Killing people. Destroying whole cities..."

His voice trailed off when he saw the injured mech's fleeting expression caught briefly in the weak glow of his headlight. Did he actually see guilt and embarrassment there before it was replaced with anger and pride? It couldn't have been. Decepticons didn't have those emotions, Bluestreak told himself. They were killing machines, nothing more. They were all alike. Right?

Thundercracker suddenly coughed hard, a raspy painful sound, that made Bluestreak wince in sympathy. The Seeker's optics flashed in surprise then he turned his head and spat fluid onto the dirt floor. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and stared at the smear of fuel, his expression bewildered.

"Um, that doesn't sound real good," Bluestreak remarked.

Thundercracker turned his head and glared at him. "No," he rasped. "It doesn't feel so good, either. No thanks to you and your crazy friend."

"Uh, sorry..." Bluestreak muttered. "But you didn't exactly help me any. It feels like you blew my feet off."

"I wish it had been your head," The Decepticon answered. He turned his head away and covered his optics with his arm.

"Well, I wish I'd aimed a couple of meters higher myself," Bluestreak retorted.

Thundercracker grimaced. "It would've been quicker than this." Another wracking cough shook him and he wrapped his arms around his chest to support his ruined body.

"It's getting worse," Bluestreak observed. "What do your self-diagnostics show?"

Thundercracker didn't turn his head back to look at Bluestreak as he answered. "That it's getting worse. And there are several little red lights that really should be green." Finally he turned his head to look at the silver Autobot. "To be honest, I don't want to die in a hole in the ground. I wish you had been able to finish the job while I was in the air," he concluded quietly.

Bluestreak nodded slightly, more sympathetic to Thundercracker's sentiment than he cared to admit. "I hate being in holes, too. Especially small, dark ones that press down on your head. When you can't get enough air through your intakes and what you do get smells like dead things..."

"Shut up," Thundercracker snapped, interrupting Bluestreak's morbid dialogue. "Don't make it worse than it is."

Bluestreak shook his head trying to banish the memories. "Sorry," he whispered. They both fell silent for a few minutes lost in their own thoughts.

"What in the name of Primus were you two doing out here?" Thundercracker asked, finally breaking the silence.

Bluestreak shook his head slowly. "Cosmos...You know Cosmos?"

Thundercracker nodded slightly.

"Cosmos detected possible Decepticon activity out here on one of his reconnaissance passes. Prowl, I think, thought we were getting restless or something and decided to send someone to check it out. Apparently, my name was at the top of his hit list. Right above Sideswipe. I think Prowl will take any opportunity to get Sideswipe and Sunstreaker out of the Ark except that Sunstreaker was in trouble for something and Prime wouldn't let him leave. I bet you're glad both of them didn't come. They don't like you guys very much. They're always talking about how they're going to..." He trailed off in an embarrassed silence. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker weren't the ones who'd damaged the Decepticon lying on the ground next to him.

Quickly, he leaned forward desperate to change the subject. His optics brightened as he realized something. "You were the Decepticon activity, weren't you? What were you doing out here? By yourself."

Thundercracker didn't answer right away. He stared up into the darkness, watching more and more telltales on his heads-up-display turn red. An imitation of his voice whispered, warning of imminent stasis lock if repairs weren't performed immediately. It seemed likely now that he wasn't going to get out of this alive. Nobody knew he was here and he wouldn't be missed for a while yet.

He turned to look at the Autobot gunner who was studying him curiously. He hadn't pictured his death this way, face to face with the Autobot who'd killed him. He wondered if Bluestreak had imagined anything like this. He'd heard that Bluestreak was a little crazy but looking at him now, his face a mixture of sympathy and revulsion, he realized Bluestreak was just young and scared. He couldn't really hold the Autobot responsible for shooting him. Like himself, Bluestreak was just doing his job. He would've done the same thing, only he wouldn't have taken the time to talk to his victim. He would've finished him off without a second thought.

"Yes, it was me," he finally spoke, his voice almost a whisper. "I sometimes come out here to get away from Headquarters. To be alone. I like it out here. It's quiet. The sky seems to go on forever out in the desert." He stared up into the darkness and tried to not think about the tons of rock hanging over his head.

"Ah." Bluestreak nodded solemnly. "Well, that explains that. Next time I see Cosmos, I'm going to smack him across the head for not saying just how much Decepticon activity he was detecting." When Thundercracker didn't react to his jest he studied the injured mech. "You know," he hesitated, not sure how Thundercracker would take his next suggestion. Not sure himself why he was even thinking it. "I'm not a medic or anything but, well, maybe I could take a look..."

"No!" Thundercracker interrupted him abruptly, panicking at the mere suggestion of an Autobot touching him. "Keep your hands off of me."

Bluestreak winced, a little hurt by Thundercracker's tone. "Well, ok. If you're sure. I mean, it wouldn't hurt to just take a look. But, I guess I can see your point. I'm sure I wouldn't want a Decepticon pawing around inside of me. So, all right, I won't touch you. But, I'm not sure I can just sit here and watch you die."

"Then don't watch," Thundercracker said quietly.

"Oh, fine." Bluestreak threw his hands up in frustration. "I'll just get up and take a stroll. Come back when it's all over." He let them drop back into his lap with a soft clang of metal on metal. "I just need to do something, you know?" he continued in a softer voice. "I hate feeling helpless. I feel that way just about everyday and I don't like it. And I feel bad for shooting you. You didn't deserve it. Not this time, anyway," he added with a slight grin.

"Don't worry about it," the blue Seeker replied. "You did what you had to do. I'm not going to hold it against you." His voice stuttered, the last words nearly lost.

Bluestreak cocked his head slightly, his blue optics gleaming softly in the dim light. Then he looked down at his hands resting in his lap. "Thank you," he whispered amazed that the Decepticon had forgiven him. He didn't think he would ever be able to do the same.

When he looked up again, Thundercracker's optics were dark. He sighed. "I wish you would've let me help. It was the least I could've done."

He pulled his legs painfully to his chest and rested his forehead on his knees. Even with his optics off he found it hard to ignore the deactivated Decepticon at his side. He'd killed the dreaded Thundercracker. And that bothered him more than he cared to admit.

The pain in his shattered legs reminded him that Thundercracker might ultimately get his revenge if he wasn't rescued soon. He ran another self-diagnostic with less than reassuring results. The Decepticon has said he didn't want to die buried in a hole and Bluestreak knew exactly what he meant. He didn't want to die that way, either. To conserve the energy he had left he switched off his one working headlight. The suffocating darkness enveloped him and he shuddered involuntarily his doors rattling loudly in the silence. Sitting in the dark wasn't an appealing notion to him and was wasteful of what little energy he had left, so he powered down with the hope of lasting long enough for rescue to arrive.

OoOoO

A large rock bounced off of Bluestreak's head, jarring him unexpectedly out of a comforting shutdown. Bright light filled the cavern and in the glare of the sunlight he could make out the silhouettes of several robots peering down at him.

"Hey, Ratchet," he heard Brawn holler. "We found 'im." There was a long pause. "And he's got company."

"That explains the other energy signature," Hoist's voice added.

There was a great deal of scuffling above him and then Ratchet yelling.

"Sideswipe, you get your slagging aft back here. I'm not done with you yet. Brawn and Hoist can handle Bluestreak. And whatever else is down there."

There was a bit more cursing before Brawn interrupted. "Hey, Sides, we've got it covered. I don't think Blue's roommate is going anywhere right now anyway," he chuckled. "Head's up, Blue. I'm comin' down." With that he dropped through the hole and landed with a solid thump next to Bluestreak.

Bluestreak winced and grumbled weakly, "Watch where you're landing."

"Ha, you're grumpy today." Brawn looked the injured mech over and then shouted back up at the waiting Autobots, "I think we're gonna need Ratchet down here." He spared a glance at Thundercracker. "Did you do that?" He nodded his head at the unresponsive Decepticon.

"Yes," Bluestreak answered.

"Wow, impressive. Remind me not to get on your bad side," he teased with a chuckle. Bluestreak looked away. "Hey, what's the matter? You should be proud."

"Shut up, Brawn," Ratchet interrupted from above and jumped down to join them. "Why don't you find something else to do?"

The minibot slouched away muttering unhappily. "Just tryin' to help."

Ratchet took in the situation quickly before calling up to Hoist. "Give headquarters a call, Hoist, and get Inferno out here on the double. I'm going to need you down here and we'll need help getting him out of here." Returning his attention to Bluestreak he frowned. "You're getting as bad as those fraggin' twins. What were you thinking?"

Bluestreak ignored the question. "What did you mean two energy signatures? You mean he's not permanently..."

"Deactivated? No. Not yet, anyway."

"You're sure?"

Ratchet eyed Bluestreak oddly before pulling out his scanner and running it over Thundercracker. "Sure as I can be. He's in a real bad way but he's not out yet." Ratchet returned his attention to the gunner. "I'll get to him after I've taken care of you."

Another loud thump signaled the arrival of Hoist. "Inferno's on his way," the engineer told Ratchet.

Bluestreak tried to pull his legs away from Ratchet. "No. Thundercracker first. Please."

"Hoist will look at him," Ratchet snapped. Hoist nodded agreeably. He started to turn to Thundercracker but Bluestreak grabbed his arm.

"Please, Ratchet. You take care of him. You're the best."

"Appealing to my vanity?" The red and white Autobot snorted through his intakes and shook his head in resignation. Hoist laughed softly. "I don't know what happened here," Ratchet continued and held up his hand when Bluestreak opened his mouth to speak. "And I don't want to know. Not yet, anyway. But if you, of all people, want me to patch up a Decepticon then I can't say no. But I want you," he waggled his finger in Bluestreak's face. "To lay down and be quiet."

The medic watched the gunner lower himself carefully to the ground and, after giving Bluestreak one last puzzled glance, he nodded at Hoist to attend to the Autobot while he turned to the unconscious seeker.

Bluestreak listened to Ratchet fuss and fume about crazy Autobots and Decepticons with holes in them. He tried to ignore Hoist's rather painful poking and prodding and was surprised when Hoist handed him the chunk of Plexiglas from his grill. He quietly turned the orangish piece of plastic over in his hands and, lulled by the quiet voices drifting down from above, finally let himself slip into a light recharge.

OoOo

The loud roar of a jet landing on top of him startled him awake. "Easy there," Hoist gently pushed him back down. "It's just Skyfire. Which means Inferno is here. We'll have you out of this hole and back at the Ark in no time at all."

As if to confirm Hoist's words, Inferno's cheerful voice called down. "Someone send for a ladder?" Hoist's optics flashed in amusement and he got up to assist Inferno.

Bluestreak looked over at Ratchet, who'd just settled back on his heels and was rubbing his optics tiredly. "How's it going?" he asked the medic.

Ratchet glanced around at the gunner. "He'll live to shoot another day. You blew a blasted big hole in him, though. All I could do was stop the fuel hemorrhage and repair his emergency beacon." He looked over the Decepticon, thoughtfully. "He might wake up with an Energon transfusion." Bluestreak leaned forward eagerly. "No, absolutely not," Ratchet glared at the other mech. "I will not allow your massive stupidity to go any further."

Bluestreak avoided Ratchet's optics. "Then I don't suppose you'd want to take him back to the Ark? You know, just to fix him up a bit more. I could explain to Prime and everything..." Ratchet's sputtering interrupted him. "Well, I could," he finished lamely.

Ratchet shook his head in dispair. "What did I do to deserve this? Blue, I'm sorry. There is no way we're going to haul this sorry excuse for a Decepticon back to the Ark. I'm sure Prime could come up with some tactical advantage but I'm in charge here." The look on Bluestreak's face cut Ratchet's rant short. "Oh, now, c'mon, Blue. You can't be bringing home every stray puppy and wounded 'Con. We just don't have the spare resources. You know that." He patted Bluestreak on the shoulder. "He stays in stasis lock until we're out of here. His Decepticon buddies can take care of him." The medic gathered up his equipment, ready to leave.

"OK," Bluestreak agreed reluctantly. "But if there's anything I can do..."

"You've done enough," Ratchet replied, exasperated. "Just relax and enjoy the ride back."

Things moved quickly after that. Within minutes, Bluestreak was lifted out of the cavern and placed inside Skyfire with Sideswipe, who was nearly as beaten and battered as Bluestreak. As the rest of the rescue crew headed away in a dusty convoy, Ratchet joined the injured Autobots aboard Skyfire. He spared a glare for Sideswipe and a thumbs up for Bluestreak before settling back and shutting his optics off.

Sideswipe grinned at Bluestreak. "Glad to see you in one piece."

Bluestreak eyed Sideswipe's scratched and dented armor. "Same here. What happened to you?"

"Thundercracker's missile brought the entire cliff down on top of me. By the time I'd dug myself out you were gone. I thought that slaggin' 'Con had blown you to bits. I called for help and started digging." He shrugged and winced and rubbed his shoulder. He nodded his head at the Plexiglas Bluestreak was holding. "I hear you got some payback, though."

Bluestreak studied the chunk of Thundercracker's canopy in his hands. "Payback?" He looked back at Sideswipe. "Heh, I'd like to think I did my part."