Training Exercise:

Onslaught knelt on the floor of the Combaticons' temporary headquarters. He struggled against the wrist restraints that were holding his arms behind his back, nearly toppling himself over in the process. Around him, his fellow Combaticons were similarly bound and, like him, kneeling before Skywarp and Thundercracker. Like Onslaught, none of them were happy about the situation.

It wasn't so much being captured as it was who they'd been captured by. If it had been anybody but Skywarp and Thundercracker, this whole undignified process would have been a lot easier to take. Bad enough to be captured at all, but being caught by Seekers -- and the two Seekers who were also Starscream's wingmates, no less -- was humiliating beyond belief.

The only plus side was that Starscream himself wasn't here to rub their defeat in their faces. Instead, the Air Commander was off with the rest of the Decepticon High Command evaluating the rest of the training exercise.

Beside Onslaught, Brawl rumbled his engines, the sound combining with the revving of his tank treads into a low, continuous growl. Blast Off, by contrast, was impassive as he knelt beside Brawl -- his posture simply radiated his disgust like a star would radiate heat.

Like Blast Off, Vortex was quiet -- except for the shudders racking his frame. Onslaught felt a momentary stab of pity; while they'd all been cuffed and shackled, Vortex had also had his rotors immobilized. As such, he was being forced to hold still.

And then there was Swindle, who alone of all of them seemed to be the least affected. He'd been talking to Skywarp and Thundercracker almost non-stop since they'd been taken prisoner. Then again, Onslaught mused, considering how often Swindle ended up in shackles, perhaps it wasn't too surprising.

"You guys are slaggers, y'know that?" Swindle was saying to Thundercracker and Skywarp. "Total slaggers. I mean, I've known some real slaggers in my time, but you guys are the slaggingest slaggers who ever slagged slag."

Skywarp snickered. "Aww, what's the matter? Your tailpipe in a knot 'cause you got beat?"

"You guys got lucky!" Swindle snorted, shaking his head dismissively. "There's no way you could have actually taken us in a fair fight."

"Since when do Decepticons fight fair? We were supposed to take your position." Thundercracker shrugged. "We took it. Whining about it now, just makes you guys look bad."

"Yeah. It makes you sound like your daddy, Starscream." Skywarp sniggered.

"Excuse me?" Swindle's face went from half-joking to a blank mask. A hush fell over the room as Brawl's engines stopped growling and even Vortex ceased shaking. Onslaught stiffened, as did the rest of the Combaticons. As one, they glared at Skywarp.

"Starscream did not create us." Onslaught struggled to keep his voice level. "He rebuilt us. There is a significant difference."

"Yeah, right." Skywarp's optics sparkled. "Whatever you say." He grinned. "Starscream spawn."

Thundercracker sighed. "Warpo, shut your fuel hole," he said as he leaned back against a wall. "It's not their fault Screamer chose them out of that detention center."

Skywarp paused, thinking for a moment. "You're right, TC, you're right," he said. "Clear case of being in the wrong box at the wrong time."

"Primus! Get out of here, Skywarp," Thundercracker said. "Soundwave will be here soon for the final review, go set up the landing lights for him."

"Fine." Skywarp turned and stomped out. "You know, TC, you used to have a sense of humor."

"Yeah, and you used to be funny," Thundercracker said before turning toward Onslaught. "Sorry. Warpo's a real grind sometimes. Mostly on days when the sun rises."

Onslaught nodded. "Thank you for what you said," he said. "There aren't many who seem to remember that we existed long before our unfortunate association with Starscream."

"Way I look at it, you did your time and you paid for your crimes," Thundercracker shook his head. "Though how you stood being on that asteroid with him, is beyond me."

The room's mood lightened as the Combaticons snickered. "It wasn't easy," Swindle said. "No matter what you've heard, in space you can hear Starscream."

Thundercracker laughed. "Tell me about it," he said. "Death might shut him up, but I wouldn't bet on it." He chuckled again. "You guys are okay."

"As are you," Onslaught said. "Which is what makes this harder."

"Huh? Makes what harder?" Thundercracker asked as Blast Off stood, his shackles dropping to the ground. "What? Hey!"

"Nothing personal," Blast Off said as he pulled a small ionic disruptor from a hidden hatch and fired, dropping Thundercracker to the ground. "We just don't take losing well. Never have."

"How?" Thundercracker lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling. Swindle's head came into his field of vision; the smaller Combaticon was smiling broadly as he began tying Thundercracker with the cuffs he'd been wearing moments before.

"Would you believe it? Blasty's actually better with lockpicks than I am!" Swindle said. "That and we figured you guys would be watching me. You really should have searched us more closely. I mean, I know this was a training exercise and all but, really, TC."

Thundercracker glared up at Swindle's smiling face. "Slag you. Soundwave's not that far off, why escape now?"

"First duty of a prisoner is to escape by any means necessary," Onslaught said as he freed Vortex's rotors. He took a quick step back to avoid being caught in the sudden whirl. "Besides, this gives us the optimal chance to make you Seekers look bad in front of high command."

Onslaught paused. "No offense. Now, if you'll excuse us, we feel it's extremely necessary to our escape that we grab Skywarp by the wings and, as the humans would say, make a wish."