Note:Well, here it is: the last chapter. I call it the Super Chapter because it is considerably longer than most of the other chapters. Originally, this was supposed to be two chapters, but because I hit a writing streak and wrote about 2000 words on Friday, I just decided to post them together. Enjoy.
What the slag is she doing? Blackout reset his optics twice and ran a brief diagnostic on his sensors. There wasn't any error, and the femme was still digging around inside of Starscream's control panel. What was she thinking? Was she thinking? Maybe her processor had gone on the fritz from lack of oxygen. Or maybe she was just insane. 'Like I have room to talk,' he thought sourly. The fact that Starscream hadn't muttered a word of complaint was slightly disconcerting. Had she managed to cut the power to his sensor nodes without his noticing? Probably not. Perhaps he was already damaged from the battle with the Prime. Maybe from even before that.
Not that it mattered. Starscream was sure to figure it out eventually. The femme must be dead set on getting herself killed. And it was still his job to keep her alive. Lucky, lucky him.
:Blackout: Starscream rasped. :Conceal yourself in that ravine. Stay there until the Autobots arrive and attack them from behind:
And he still had to contend with the Master of Bad Ideas as well.
:Don't you think they'll notice that I'm not with you?: he asked, trying to keep his condescending thoughts out of his tone. :We are too far outnumbered to be playing these games, Starscream. We cannot win a battle, not even an ambush, with so few people:
:Watch yourself Blackout: Starscream hissed. :I've let you get away with questioning my decisions, but you get above yourself. I have given you an order, and you will follow it or I will shoot you out of the sky:
Blackout paused. This was what he feared: a Starscream who felt that his power was threatened. Blackout was careful to weigh each word carefully before he spoke.
:My apologies, Leader: he said quietly. :But I would advise that you not take such risks when the life of your brother hangs in the balance. There will be times to slaughter the Autobots, but now we must strengthen our own position or risk utter destruction:
Blackout waited uneasily. Starscream would either take it very well or very badly.
:Your impudence is forgiven: said Starscream arrogantly. Blackout sighed softly. :You will not attack the Autobots. Stand in plain sight and don't do anything to endanger Skywarp. If you do, I will kill you:
Leave it to Starscream to make the ambush sound like Blackout's idea. Starscream slowed as they neared the meeting place and transformed midair. Blackout's rotor blades stuttered slightly, and he ran a quick scan over Starscream to make sure the femme hadn't been crushed. But she was fine, having been pushed forward into the small glass cocoon in Starscream's chest. Thundercracker landed before transforming. The act was slow and pained, taking far longer than was normal. Blackout landed beside them and transformed as well.
Starscream popped open the compartment and caught the femme in his hand.
"Alright, squishy," he hissed. "Time to earn your life...and continued good health."
"I...if you th...think that I'm going to help you with anything, then you're processor is overdue for a tune up, buddy!" the femme's small voice steadily rose in volume until she was nearly shouting at the end, but the underlying quiver belied her fear.
Starscream's optics narrowed.
"Watch your vocalizer, squishy," he growled, tightening his grip. Blackout took a small step forward before realizing what he was doing. "You will do as I say, of I'll grind you into mush."
The femme opened her mouth, and Blackout doubted it was to be cowed or humble.
"Be careful, Starscream," Blackout warned. "Dead hostages don't earn much with our enemies."
The femme turned to him. She opened her mouth as though to say something but closed it again, turning away in disgust.
"Fine," Starscream hissed. "You, Squishy, will do as I say or..." He caught her small foot between his fingers. "I will twist your limbs, break them, crush them, until you will wish for death. I don't have to kill you to make you suffer."
"I suggest that you do as he says," said Blackout. "If you do, you will go home alive. If you do not, you will go home in pieces."
The femme didn't even look at him. He saw her small jaw clench and her eyes turn away from them both.
"...What...do you want me to do?" she asked quietly.
"I thought you might feel that way about it," he said. "I have a little job for you..."
Blackout watched the femme carefully as she began her work on Thundercracker. Starscream had taken his time while threatening her, taking a sadistic joy in commanding his hostage, occasionally squeezing her if he wanted to make a point. She made soft squeaks of pain when Starscream forgot his strength, and Blackout knew that she had suffered some minor damages from her ginger movements as she went over to examine the damaged seeker. He had little doubt that she would repair him, but he wouldn't put it beyond her to do some sort of undetectable damage as well. After all, she hadn't been digging around inside of Starscream because she was curious. Whatever she had done, Blackout hoped it would be effective. He would need all the help he could get against these two.
Starscream wasn't ignoring the squishy either. He might not have any medical programming, but he was nothing if not an extremely skilled fighter. He could always tell when severe damage had been done. 'Don't do anything stupid,' Blackout thought. 'Not yet, or not anything that he can see.'
But the femme was either being extremely complacent or cleverly subtle about what she was doing, because when Thundercracker finally stood up almost three hours later, he seemed to be in fairly good condition. The femme sat down and slumped forward, the movement conveying her exhaustion. Blackout moved to stand behind her, shading her from the sun. This place was filled with ravines and hills but had sparse organic life for the femme to take shelter under. She turned to look at him briefly, seeming to notice the gesture. Her brow furrowed downward in an expression Blackout recognized as confusion.
"They're here," Starscream hissed.
Blackout's scanners noted the six shapes moving in their direction, identifying each one. Optimus Prime, Prowl, Bumblebee, Ratchet, Ironhide, and an off-line Skywarp. Bumblebee and Ironhide carried humans with them. Blackout grunted. Never underestimate an organic's desire to self-destruct.
Starscream strode over and scooped up the femme. Blackout knew that this negotiation was going to go to the Pit. No matter what he told Starscream, he knew that the seeker could not see an Autobot without trying to shoot it. Likewise, Prowl and Ironhide would be quick to fire if a Decepticon so much as twitched in a way they didn't like. Things were too tense, too charged for this to go smoothly. Blackout just had to ensure that he was there to keep the femme out of the line of fire. Speaking of which...
"Starscream," said Blackout. "Will you check on Skywarp to make certain he is still functioning?"
"Then perhaps I should hold the femme while you check on your brother," he said reasonably.
Starscream grunted and dumped the femme into his hands. Blackout cupped her gently, being careful not to squeeze but also not letting her fall. She glared up at him and shook slightly, though whether it was with fear or anger, he didn't know. The Autobots rolled up and transformed after letting their human passengers out. They settled into a tight formation, Optimus Prime and Ratchet standing nearest the captive and clearly unarmed while Prowl, Ironhide, and Bumblebee stood to either side with their weapons drawn and aimed. The humans stood back. There were only four of them: three soldiers and a the boy who killed Megatron. Blackout readied his canons. When Starscream botched this trade, he wasn't sure who he would be shooting at. Maybe the Autobots, maybe Starscream, maybe everyone.
"Mikaela, are you unharmed?" Optimus asked.
"I'm just peachy," she said, turning to look at him.
"Bring Skywarp online," Starscream hissed, stepping forward.
Optimus nodded to Ratchet, who bent over Skywarp. He came online with a jolt, twisting his head. His limbs twitched, but he didn't stand.
"What have you done to me, Autobots?" Skywarp snarled. His arm twitched again.
"We'll remove the restraints on Skywarp when you return Mikaela to us," Optimus said to Starscream.
Starscream seemed to suffer a brief spasm in his arm as he tried to control his temper. Blackout tensed slightly. 'Not yet, Starscream,' he thought. 'Not yet.' Instead of shooting, Starscream nodded for Blackout to hand over the femme.
Blackout stepped forward. Once she was safe, he could find a way to deal with the seekers. Once she was safe...
Blackout's scanners warned him before he saw the light. He turned away as the space between the Autobots and Decepticons exploded. Blackout held the femme against his chest where she would be safe from the blast. Before the debris had finished falling, there was gunfire. Blackout was already moving, diving out of the fray, still keeping his back to the battle. Two energy blasts ripped into his rotor blades, but they were mere glancing blows. Apparently, the Autobots didn't want to risk the femme and Starscream wasn't concerned with his actions.
There were shouts and screams, and then the sound of three jet engines revving. Blackout looked down at the femme. She was huddled in his hand, her arms wrapped around her head for some sort of meager protection. His scanners told him when the seekers fled. And then they showed him something else: Soundwave approaching fast from the north. Blackout recognized the explosion now. It was one of Soundwave's signature attacks.
Well it looked like the mech had finally finished his investigation.
Blackout snarled. Why, why couldn't it have taken only a few minutes longer? He couldn't leave the femme here. The seekers might attack from the air. He couldn't stay either. The Autobots would blow him to pieces. Well, that left only one alternative. It looked like Scorpinok would be having some company for a while. Blackout transformed and leaped into the air, making sure the femme was safe inside him before taking off and flying to the south.
With his damages, Blackout couldn't fly as fast as he would have liked. As it was, he was straining his ability to move. If the Autobots had fired on him while he fled, he would have been shot down. Well, now he knew why Starscream had taken her in the first place when his battle had turned sour. The femme could be useful.
When he was certain that they were out of reach of the Autobots, he landed.
"Alright, Squishy," he growled. "Time for you to get out."
The femme hesitated before obeying. She got out and stepped back a few yards.
"What do you want with me?" she asked. "What do the Autobots have that you want?"
"Nothing," grunted Blackout, transforming. "You're not my hostage, Squishy."
"What, you thought I wanted to come along to enjoy your charming conversations?" she scoffed. "Why am I here?"
"You're here because..." Blackout paused. Somehow, 'because Scorpinok made me' didn't sound dignified enough. "You're here because I chose to save your life."
The femme snorted.
"I seem to recall you taking me away from my friends a little while ago," she told him. "If you wanted to help me, why didn't you leave me there?"
That was a good question. He could have said that it was because the seekers might have attacked from the air and killed her. He could have said it was because Soundwave might have set off another bomb. He could even have said that the Autobots might have accidentally shot her in the midst of the battle and that it was better just to remove her entirely. But even as these reasons occurred to him, Blackout realized that this was not really the case. He had taken her because he knew that the Autobots couldn't protect her as well as he could, and as long as that was his mission, he would do it to the best of his abilities.
Blackout's prolonged silence earned him a frown from the femme.
"The Autobots are incompetent fools and could not possibly have protected you," he grunted finally.
"And why are you suddenly so concerned with protecting me?"
Blackout really didn't like the direction this conversation was taking, so instead of answering her question, he ignored it entirely.
"What were you doing to Starscream?" he asked.
"I was—don't change the subject!" she snapped. "Answer my question."
"No. Now answer mine," Blackout growled.
The femme opened and closed her mouth several times before sighing. She pulled her bag from where it hung around her shoulder and dug inside for a moment before pulling out a small scanner and flicking it on. Blackout knelt down beside her to examine it more closely. It looked like a normal scanner, but about one tenth the size.
"I hotwired Starscream's and Thundercracker's main electrical circuits to respond to the specific frequency of this scanner," she explained with a hint of smugness creeping under her tone. "The push of a button, and I can fry their circuits temporarily."
Whatever Blackout had been expecting, it wasn't that.
"How long can you take them out for?" he asked. "And why didn't you use it before?"
"It only lasts about thirty seconds," she said, sounding slightly displeased. "I couldn't program it for more without risking doing obvious damage, and with Starscream breathing down my neck with a gun barrel pointed at me, I didn't want to risk it. And this scanner is only a short-range scanner, so I have to be within about ten feet of both of them when I use it, which is why I couldn't use it before. They were too far away."
"When you use it?" Blackout asked. "What makes you think you will be using it? Give it to me, Squishy."
If this thing did what she said it did, then Blackout had a way to take out Starscream and Thundercracker. It would give him the surprise advantage he would need against Skywarp, and hopefully the other two would still be off-line when he turned on them.
"No," the femme interrupted his train of thought.
"No?" he asked.
"It's not like you can use it anyway," she said. "It's too small."
This was true. The scanning device might have been of cybertronian design, but it was smaller than the palm of her hand. Ratchet had the tools to make something as small and complex as this, but only because he was built with medical appendages. Blackout took the device from the femme, pinching it carefully between two fingers and pointedly ignoring the femme's warning not to break it. He transformed his free hand several times, but couldn't find a tip fine enough to operate the buttons. With a grunt, he handed it back to her.
"How do you intend to get within ten feet of those two?" he asked.
"Well...I probably couldn't do it on my own without getting squished, but with your help..." she trailed off, looking at him expectantly.
"Suicidal tendencies must be a prerequisite for squishies to hang around the Autobots," said Blackout. "How the slag have you managed to survive this long?"
"I've always had really, really good backup," she said, "and a lot of luck."
"I could use some of that," Blackout muttered.
"Look," said the femme. "I don't really know why, but I can tell that you hate Starscream. You want him out of power, and I want him off my planet. You need my help to take them down; we both know that much. If you can stop being grouchy long enough to work with me, we can both get what we want."
Blackout hated getting backed into corners, but the femme had this annoying habit of being right.
"Fine," he said. "Just try not to get yourself killed."
:Decepticon Blackout. Respond:
Blackout was flying over a small ocean when Soundwave's voice emerged over the communications link. The femme was tucked inside of him, cuddling an ecstatic Scorpinok, whose tail was waving so hard it nearly scraped some of Blackout's armor.
:Not going to try and blow me up again, are you?: he asked.
:No such objective exists: said Soundwave. :Current objective: inquiry. To whom do you owe allegiance?:
:Without Megatron, no one: said Blackout. :Least of all, Starscream:
:Requesting assistance while dealing with Starscream's treason: said Soundwave. :Objective: capture and deportation of seekers Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker to Cybertron:
Blackout grinned. Well, the squishy could give him luck, and Soundwave was definitely the kind of backup he could use.
:Request granted: he said. :And there's something you should know about how I intend to deal with the seekers...:
Finding Starscream wasn't difficult. He had found an abandoned military base in the organic-infested south to exploit as a hiding place and impromptu medbay for Skywarp. The purple seeker was in bad shape. Unlike with Blackout, the medic had only sustained Skywarp's life and had not repaired him at all. Skywarp had managed to limp away with the aid of Thudercracker, but he couldn't fly on his own and had some serious damage to his left arm. When Blackout landed, Thundercracker barely spared him a glance before turning back to his downed brother and trying to piece him back together. Blackout grunted a greeting to Starscream, telling him that he had brought the femme.
"Good," Starscream grinned. "Bring the squishy here." Then he added in Cybertronian. "Be nice to her while she's working, Skywarp. You can squish her after she's done."
Blackout quietly told the femme to get out before transforming. He ejected Scorpinok, who happily burrowed into the soft soil.
"Where is the drone going?" asked Starscream suspiciously.
"Probably to find some squishies to play with or just to explore the ground," said Blackout nonchalantly. "I haven't let him loose for days. He's started whining."
Starscream grunted, apparently satisfied. Blackout took the femme to where Skywarp lay. Thundercracker was still kneeling next to him, but had stopped his uncertain movements and put down the crude, makeshift tools. Blackout placed her gently on the ground, and she adjusted the pack on her shoulder warily. Starscream strode up, guns whirring. He crouched low, close to the femme, his red eyes glaring at her darkly. Blackout quietly prepared his own canon and watched Soundwave's approach on his sensors. The mech's dampening fields were perfectly calibrated, and Blackout could only sense him because of their private link. The seekers would never see him coming.
"This is my brother, Skywarp," Starscream was saying. "You'll take out that little bag of tools you've got, and you'll start working on him. If you scream or run or do anything that I don't tell you to do, you'll get to see what your internal components look like. And then I'll burn your body away with my energy gun, so your Autobot pals won't ever know what happened to you." Starscream gestured with the weapon he was holding. "So you'll fix him or you'll be--"
"Fried?" she asked sweetly. Blackout watched her take out the 'scanner' and press two buttons. If Blackout had been expecting a grand explosion, he was sorely disappointed. Starscream and Thundercracker just stared at her for a moment before falling flat on their faces like they'd both swallowed too much high-grade energon.
"What the slag was that?" Skywarp demanded. Then, apparently managing to put two and two together, Skywarp snarled and tried to catch the femme with his good hand. Blackout caught it just as Soundwave emerged from the trees. He aimed his canon at Skywarp's chest and fired once, off-lining the already injured mech. He still wasn't dead, but he wouldn't be waking up anytime soon either.
"Traitor!" was the first indication Blackout had that Starscream was back online. His chronometer told him he still had fifteen seconds left. Blackout grunted as Starscream's gun caught him in the knee, bringing him crashing to the ground. He tried to aim his weapon at Starscream, but the larger mech slammed his clawed hand into Blackout's upper arm, pinning it down. Soundwave's canon ripped into Starscream's back, making him turn with a snarl. Blackout pulled his arm free and knock the seeker off balance. He climbed to his feet just in time to face the barrel of Thundercracker's gun.
Thundercracker's arm exploded in a shower of sparks, smoke, and shrapnel. Blackout raised an arm to shield his optics and aimed his canon at Starscream.
"You can't do this!" he was shouting. The seeker lunged at him, arms spread and fingers curled inward to rip at Blackout's armor.
Blackout didn't even respond as he shoved his canon into Starscream's chest and fired. The seeker's face was twisted in fury even as his optics flickered and went dark. Thundercracker dived for the relative safety of a large rock formation. Blackout ducked low, and scanned the area for the femme. She was flat on her stomach at least twenty yards away, far from cover and apparently trying very hard to avoid calling attention to herself. Blackout could see the red organic plasma dripping from a gash in her arm. But the femme's wounds would have to wait. Blackout couldn't get a clean shot at Thundercracker from where he was, and apparently neither could Soundwave.
"Ravage, eject," Soundwave said suddenly.
Soundwave's chest folded in on itself and a mass of twisted metal sprang out, forming into a shape like a large organic jungle cat.
"Ravage, attack," Soundwave commanded.
The drone leaped forward, snarling as Thundercracker aimed his weapons on the much smaller 'Con. Two blasts tore into his leg as he darted into the trees. Blackout caught a brief glimpse of the black metal sinking under the cover of the organic matter and circling behind Thundercracker.
Another drone popped out, large piston-like arms slamming into the ground. Thundercracker stumbled, sending a spray of bullets dangerously close to where the femme lay. Blackout needed to get her out of danger. But when he stood, it was only to have an energy blast tear into his shoulder, sending showers of sparks and a plume of smoke into the air. Blackout growled and sank back down, shutting off the sensor nodes in the damaged area. Slagging glitch was covering his position too well...but only against the enemies he could see. There was another glimpse of black metal through the trees. Blackout's optics narrowed. He raised his gun and fired, drawing Thundercracker's attention.
Right on cue, Scorpinok exploded from the ground, his tail curved in a graceful arc and the dirt billowing around him in a wave. Thundercracker barely had a chance to turn before he was impaled by a three-foot spike which sliced cleanly into his neck. Ravage appeared a moment later, latching onto Thundercracker's leg and dragging him down. Thundercracker flailed his arms, trying to keep his balance and exposing his chest beautifully to Blackout's position. He fired once, and Thundercracker's red eyes went black.
Soundwave emerged from the smoke looking as blasé as ever.
"Objective reached," he said. "Captives prepared for transport to Cybertron."
"You can handle them from here then?" Blackout asked.
"Affirmative," said Soundwave. "Requesting information about future objectives."
"Mine?" Blackout asked.
He watched as Scorpinok carefully pulled his tail from the seeker and sank back into the ground. The drone came up near where the femme still crouched uncertainly, holding her wounded arm firmly against her chest. Scorpinok chirruped softly, the sound almost soothing.
"Nothing yet," said Blackout. "But I'll figure it out eventually."
Soundwave nodded, pulling out three small circuit interrupters to paralyze the seekers. Blackout approached the femme and found that she was shaking slightly. Instead of scooping her up, he held out his hand beside her, cupped slightly to form a cradle. After a moment, the femme scooted into his palm. Scorpinok chirped, sounding concerned now. The femme reached out and stroked Scorpinok's metal plates. He responded with a loud purring which made the femme smile slightly.
"I will return you to the Autobots," said Blackout. He glanced over at where Soundwave was binding the three seekers together for transport. "They won't be on your world for much longer."
The femme nodded.
When she climbed inside him, she was followed closely by Scorpinok who still rumbled and purred loudly. The noises seemed to soothe the femme. Blackout wasn't opposed to them either. It was nice to listen to Scorpinok as he flew north. The flight was uneventful aside from the occasional bird, but Blackout couldn't fly high enough to avoid them while he was injured, and somehow he didn't think the femme would offer to fix him. Even after an hour of flight, she still trembled against his metal skin. It was only as he landed ten miles to the north of the base and transformed that she finally spoke.
"You know, I thought for a moment that it hadn't worked at all," she admitted. Her voice wavered. "My devise, I mean. I thought that it hadn't worked. That moment when they were staring at me felt like an eternity. I thought, 'I've done something wrong, and now I'm going to die.'" The femme laughed nervously. "For a second there, I thought that my luck had run out."
"Well, it didn't, and you're still alive," he grunted. "You...did good, Squishy."
He turned away.
"I'm pretty sure the Autobots wouldn't mind it if you stayed," she said suddenly. "I mean, once they find out what you've done..."
"I'm not staying, Squishy," Blackout growled. "And, just so we're clear, I don't owe you anything anymore."
"You never owed me anything in the first place."
To this, he only grunted. He didn't want to prolong their conversation anyway. There were three Autobots approaching them from the base. They would no doubt have the femme on their scanners by now, but they might not hesitate to shoot him once he was in the air. He wanted to be gone before they came within shooting range. Blackout transformed and took off, leaving the femme where she stood on the sandy hill. The dust rose up and swirled around her. She raised a hand to shield her eyes and watch him as he flew away. Her mouth moved and Blackout's auditory receptors caught a brief fare-well. Scorpinok responded with his own parting noise, a brief oddly melodic call that sounded like the earth.
Blackout rose up and up and up, though the atmosphere and into the dark void of space. Scorpinok nestled contentedly in his place, now certain that the femme was safe. He purred as Blackout transformed for space-travel and shot from the solar system at the speed of light. It was all behind him now. Finally, all of the complications had been removed.
He was free.
Note Part 2: I'm not sure if I'm going to write a sequel for this. It all depends on whether or not I can come up with a plot worth dragging Blackout's aft back to Earth. I didn't make him stay because, even though I changed his attitude a little, I really can't see Blackout giving up his Decepticon allegiance entirely and joining the Autobots or even coexisting peacefully with them. Perhaps in time, he will change, but just under one and a half months isn't enough to erase millions of years worth of hate and conflict. I'm sorry, but no.