Screaming Blue Murder - Epilogue
Disclaimer: As ever, author neither claims nor intentionally implies ownership of the 'Transformers' brand, or any character or concept herein, who are copyright 1984-present Hasbro/etc and used with much love and respect to their creators. (...Except where they're obviously OCs, which Hasbro would be silly to want to claim.)
A/N:I should probably apologise for this last bit, as it's only got my OCs in it, and stuff, but you know what? I'm not gonna. :) It's all shamelessly self-indulgent and horrible and I had great fun being blatant and fangirly with it. So…
It was another peaceful evening, and Forceps had (once again) drifted into a sort of reminiscing recharge in front of the news. It was a good hundred orns down the line, and the strange post-Blue peace had continued to reign in the district.
The three Decepticons had had a strangely invigorating effect on the area, and – although she recognised it was quite possibly as far from Cali's plans as possible – Blue had brought the citizens together. There was even a small program of urban renewal going on, right now. Empties were managing to get work as builders, and the grotty abandoned old tower block in front of the District General had been restored to health – not quite to its former shining glory, but it was certainly clean and inhabited again, and covered in solar panels and wind generators to relieve the already-stretched city area grid.
The police had remained invigorated and refreshed, as well, and even managing to recruit enough new officers to separate into two new branches. Celerity (and her twin, Vector) had taken the ranks of Chief Inspector and moved out to take charge of the new branch; they'd both had refits, and gone from small sleek hovercars to large armoured trucks that could probably have given Superintendent Hardline a run for his money. District Commissioner Boxer was quite happy to let them do their own thing; they ruled their side of town with a velvet glove, and trouble was happily kept to a minimum.
Being shot down and mauled by Deuce had left Nightsun strangely leery of flying, but after a little surgery (and more than a little therapy), the gallant sergeant was back on duty, and at long last finally daring to get back into the air. Constable Whitesides had managed – with a little grovelling and a lot of work – to keep his post, and vindicate his name, although he had become rather more wary, rather less arrogant.
Pulsar had surprised everyone by keeping her Autobot badges intact. Her affair was hardly a secret, any more, and everyone had guessed she'd at very least drop her allegiance, if not outright defect to the other side, but that apparently wasn't on the cards. She made it a point of pride that she'd dallied with a Decepticon and kept her principles mostly intact. She'd thrown herself at the rulebook and actually knuckled down for a promotion – passed her exams with excellent grades and accepted the rank of sergeant at the small, subsidiary station that had opened on the quayside, in a renovated old warehouse…
The one thing she'd still not quite succeeded at convincing everyone was that she didn't miss the teleport. She would happily elaborate about how he'd just been a passing interest, just a blip on her radar, and she was contentedly over him, but every now and then she'd sabotage herself. There'd be the distant sound of engines from a passing shuttle, and she'd have turned her face expectantly in the direction of the sound before she could catch herself. The expression that usually followed was one of wistful disappointment, and there'd be another raft of assertions that it didn't mean anything, it would just have been nice to see him again. She knew no-one believed her, but it didn't hurt to maintain face.
Spotweld had taken the unprecedented step of joining the Police – he still worked just as hard as ever, and still had his duty shift in Accident and Emergency, but since the station medic had accompanied Celerity's team to the new base on the docks, a new post had opened up. It was odd, seeing him in the silver, blue and yellow livery of the police force, rather than his old orange, but he was surer of himself and less prone to that odd questioning influence to his speech, and seemed to like the respect he got from it.
And as for Hardline… well, they'd not taken that final step of actually moving in together, but they were seeing a lot more eye-to-eye, at last. She herself was finding it far, far easier to just… switch off after work, again, and not spend all evening with her brain still full of worries. He spent several evenings in every ten orn period with her, his new rank affording him more time for himself (even if it did come with more paperwork), and he often camped out in the lounge overnight instead of traipse all the way back to his quarters at the station. He wasn't due to finish his shift for another cycle or two, and Forceps was quite happy to just doze while she waited for him to return 'home'.
The doorbell disturbed her from her daydreams – it was ringing fairly incessantly, as if someone were determined to get through the wall via the little keypad.
"All right, all right! I'm on my way, calm down!" she boomed, from the opposite side of the room, levering herself irascibly out of her chair. The bell paused, for all of an astro-second or two, but soon resumed its urgent jangling. "Ringing the bell more won't get me there any quicker, for goodness sake...!"
Out on her doorstep, Pulsar was clinging to the rail around the outside of the porch, almost on her knees, sucking big frantic draughts of cold night-time air through her vents and struggling vainly to cool her insides, but the heat still shimmered up off her. Judging by the contortions her face was going through, she was in no small amount of pain.
"Pulse? What in Primus' name has got you so worked up?" Forceps sank to one knee beside her, put out her hands; Pulsar latched onto her, like a drowning sailor clinging for a lifeline. "I was going to congratulate you on the promotion, next time I saw you, but I imagine that can wait!" she observed, dryly, gathering her friend up off the front porch and helping her inside. "What's got you in such a state, eh?"
Pulsar clutched for her and shook her head, temporarily voiceless, deep, grinding semi-sobs of static keeping her from speaking. Her bandy legs would barely support her weight.
"All right, all right, easy now," the big surgeon soothed, settling her friend onto a chair and trying to get down to the kernel of good sense that she knew was in there, somewhere. There should be an old coolant mantle around here in one of the cupboards, if only she could find it… "Just take a second or two to calm down-"
"What's hap-happening to me?" Pulsar gasped the words out between great wracking whoops of pain. It felt like someone was taking an angle-grinder to her spark casing. "Sepp, am I-… am I dying? Primus, it hurts so much-…!" She watched through blurring optics as Forceps extracted a heavy folded lump of polymer out of a cupboard and shook it open, revealing a broad poncho-like device and a series of tubes.
"Dying? Primus, no, quite the opposite," Forceps reassured, carefully setting the refrigerant mantle down so that it nestled around her friend's shoulders, and tweaking the coolant supply on. The high, thin stink of volatile liquids filled the air, and a roiling mist of twinkling, icy fog gushed out of the margins of the polymer. "I'm no specialist in the discipline, but it sounds to me like you've got some fission going on in there. I hope your new post is going to be flexible enough to allow you plenty of time at home!"
"What? What does that mm-… auuugh, Sepp-!" It was hard to think that anything could possibly be happening other than her spark casing shattering. Nothing could hurt this much if it wasn't doing damage… She arched her back against the chair, keening thinly. "-…make it stop!"
"Steady, Pulse," Forceps prodded, sternly, and got no response. "Come on, stay with me. Pulsar? Sergeant!"
That finally got her attention. "Wh-what?" She squirmed helplessly and tried to resist the urge to kick out, clawing her fingers into the chair, not quite succeeding in straightening out the dramatic curve in her back.
"Sit calm, and let the refrigerant start to get to work. You've given yourself a high resistance because you've got hot and flustered, and that's giving you feedback. The pressure in your spark chamber will begin to ease once you start to cool down. All right?"
Pulsar gave a single convulsive nod, clutching with both hands at her friend's arms and pedalling her feet, feebly. The urge to curl up around the pain and let it force her offline altogether was growing more and more tempting.
"Now, have you been getting any other symptoms?"
"Aside from feeling like someone's taking a screwdriver to my spark casaaAH, Sepp, give me something-!" She jerked her knees up, trying to curl up.
Forceps sighed and altered the fans, lowered the temperature again. Frost had already begun to form on her friend's arms, she'd have to be careful not to freeze up her peripheral energon lines altogether. Snapping frozen fuel lines would only complicate things! "You've probably got some components close to being red hot in your core, you can't expect instant relief. You're already getting all you need, just give it a little time to start to cool you down," she instructed. "Now. Other symptoms? Twinges, minor faults, loss of balance…?"
"Well, yes-… twinges, yes!" Pulsar squirmed and tried to do as she'd been told, concentrated on drawing the refrigerant through her vents. The chill was taking the edge off it… "But only little ones, nothing like this! Nothing that makes me feel like I'm tearing to pieces-…"
"And you didn't think to question why you were getting them?" Forceps held her down, gently, ensuring she didn't worm her way out from under the refrigerant.
"I thought I was just working too hard," the Policebot groaned, miserably. "Over-exerting myself since my promotion…"
"Well, that's probably an understandable mistake," Forceps admitted, tiredly, and added, teasingly, "You've probably not worked so hard in your life, have you?"
"Oh, ha ha." The deep whooping sobs had at least begun to ease – the cold was obviously having the desired effect – and she'd stopped struggling quite so violently.
"There we go, see? Getting better?" Forceps prompted, gently, finally releasing her friend's arms.
Pulsar nodded, just once. "Getting better," she admitted, reluctantly. "So what-… what have I broken, Sepp? Will you be able to fix it?"
"What have you broken?" The surgeon frowned. "What do you mean?"
"You said something about fission. That means dividing, right?" Pulsar gave her a pleading look. "So what have I broken? Please, if it's irreparable-… I just want to know!"
Forceps just stared at her for a second, lips slightly parted in dismay. "…you've not heard the terminology before?" she asked, finally finding her vocaliser.
Pulsar shook her head. "Apparently not the way you know it," she confirmed, feebly.
"Well, uh, let me think how best to word it. It's not damage, it doesn't mean you broke anything, but, ah… Well, how close did you actually get to Skywarp?"
Something like realisation was dawning in the pale azure optics. "I never took you for someone interested in gossip, Forceps," the small femme scolded, trying to avoid the question.
"From a medical point of view, Pulse. Just to confirm what I'm already pretty certain of."
Pulsar let her gaze drop, hunched her shoulders and fidgeted her feet. "We only did it once," she defended herself. "…euhm, or-… or maybe… twice, or something. That doesn't mean anything!"
"But you did share sparks?"
Pulsar felt her optics glowing a much brighter embarrassed shade of pale blue, and nodded, very very slightly.
"…and all through this, you never stopped to consider exactly what it was you were doing?" Forceps rolled her optics, exaggeratedly, and gave her an gentle, affectionate whack around the audio, before glancing up at a worried, drowsy Spotweld framed in the doorway. He looked like he'd been disturbed out of recharge by the ruckus. "Spots, I think we better get that old spark monitor out. I want to see exactly what we're looking at. After that, we're going to have to get the appropriate measures in place at the District General. New casings, in particular-"
"Are you telling me," Pulsar interrupted, very slowly, very carefully, "that I'm… that I… have…"
"Yes. Once Spotweld's brought the monitor I can confirm it, but I'm almost certain you two careless idiots have generated the essential harmonic for a sparkling."
Pulsar just stared, opening and closing her mouth, no words emerging. Sparkling? she mouthed, as Spotweld hunkered down at her side with a clunky old monitor clutched in his long fingers.
"Arm up?" Spotweld suggested, gently, and once her limb was out of the way he carefully set the monitor close to the slightly thinner armour on the side of her chest. "Okay, that's good – hold your position a moment? Little tingling sensation… and… good, good, I'm getting a good read off you… Oh my, that's-… Sepp?" He crooked a spidery finger, and then pointed delicately at the screen. "Does that look like… you know… to you?"
She peered over his shoulder, then arched a brow. "Oh, yes, that's very clear," she said, surprised. "It's not even the excess heat interfering with the reading."
"What? What is it, what's wrong?" Pulsar leaned closer, trying to see over the top of the little viewer.
"Wrong? Nothing's wrong, as such, just… unusual!" Forceps dabbed at a couple of buttons, then turned the screen so it faced the anxious policewoman. "Here we go, Pulse. Might explain why it was quite so painful."
Pulsar gazed down at the screen for several barely-comprehending moments. "I don't understand it," she lied, hoping that the surgeon would correct what she frantically hoped was a misinterpretation. There were three computer animations on the small viewer, twisting like fiery electronic sprites; one was a large, strong, vivid blue that she recognised instantly as her own harmonic. On either side, however, were two much smaller signatures – one a very slightly greenish blue, the other distinctly violet.
"You are carrying three resonances," Forceps explained, delicately, relinquishing her hold to the anxious fingers that clutched at the reader to get a better view. "One is your own. The other two belong to your twins."
Twins. Twins. Primus! TWO of them! It must have been tempting fate to think it couldn't get any worse, because now it had…!
"But I didn't want-… it wasn't supposed-…" She struggled over the words. Now the shock had faded, the panic had begun to creep back in. "How did this… it's not supposed to happen like this!" She pulled deeply on the refrigerated air rolling over her shoulders, trying to stave off another attack. "Supposed to be done in a controlled environment-… consenting partners who know the risks! Who know what to do…!" The last word tailed off in another of those gulping wails. "Primus! Sepp, I can't be-… I don't know the first thing about-"
"Cold, remember?" Forceps interrupted, sternly. "Don't overheat yourself again."
"Easy for you to say-!" She could feel the pressure increasing – a dull throbbing beat inside her spark. "I'm not ready for sparklings! I can't-… I can't… Oh Sepp you've got to help me get rid of them-!"
Forceps gave her a stern, surprised look. "Get rid of them?" she echoed, disbelievingly. "You know we've not seen healthy sparklings in this district for far too long… I can't help you just kill them-"
"Well if you want them that much, you have them!" Pulsar groaned, feeling her stressed core temperature going back up. "I can't have them! I can't! Sepp, you know I'm going to be no good as a mother-" She squirmed her shoulders against the chair, trying hard to be good and follow her doctor's instructions but the thudding pressure in her spark chamber was starting to hurt again, even with the cold air. "I don't have the time or the space or-or anything! Can't you help me get them adopted? There's plenty of pairs out there who'd take them in, I know it…!"
"Now now, let's not get ahead of ourselves, here-"
"But I've never thought about sparklings! Not even once!" the smaller female pleaded. "I never wanted offspring before, and I don't want them now! I don't know what they should look like, I don't know what attributes they should have, I don't even know what gender they should be-! A-and it's all things I should know! Things I should have decided before-… before… oh, Primus, Sepp, I can't look after sparklings! I don't know any of it-…"
"Well, why should you know?" Forceps settled on the chair beside her, facing her shaken friend. "Pulse, the era in which we grew up, the era you're thinking of, is long gone. Back then, pairs had the luxury of time. It was safe to spend vorns designing their offspring down to the very last degree, all the way down to the last speck of enamel, the processing power of their cortex, the length of their fingers…!" she sighed, tersely. "Those days are gone, and they're not going to come back any time soon, not while our world remains so close to the edge of outright war again."
"See, see?" Pulsar seized upon the observation. "I shouldn't be bringing such tiny, defenceless individuals into the world when it's not safe! I can't look after them, Sepp, I can't-…! I'm single, I can't look after one, let alone twins…" She clutched her hands over her head. "I live in a freaking dormitory, I have a single bunk to myself and that's about it…!"
"All right. Look. Pulsar," Forceps gave her the sternest look she could manage. "Ignore the logistics. Ignore the hows and the whats. You only have two options in this. One is to carry on like this, deny everything, pretend it didn't happen and doesn't exist, and end up killing them and probably yourself in the process. The other is to shake yourself down, take control of your own destiny, and make the best of a bad situation. You didn't want them, fair enough, I get the picture. But accidents happen, and you won't turn the clock back by wishing."
Pulsar shrank back, anxious. "But I don't know if I can do this," she said, faintly. "The logistics of it alone sound like dabbling in the Pit. I don't know what to do, how to care for them, how to teach them, where I'll even keep them-… And I can hardly ask for help from their sire! He's a Decepticon-"
"That didn't seem to matter to you when you were sharing your sparks," Forceps scolded, amusedly, watching as Spotweld guided a flask of filtered energon into his friend's pale hands. "Perhaps you should have thought about that back then."
"That wasn't – thank you, Spots – that wasn't what I meant," Pulsar looked away, reluctantly. "I mean-… I can hardly take them to visit him, let alone share responsibility for looking after them! And what am I going to tell them? When they ask who he is? Where he is?"
"Tell them the truth," Forceps smiled, sympathetically. "When they're old enough to ask, and to understand."
"But what if they want to see him…?"
"Just… stop tormenting yourself with ifs and buts. When the time comes to decide, then decide. Until then, stop agonising over it! The way things are going, at the moment, circumstances will probably have changed by the time you have to make these sorts of drastic decisions. And until then, you know we'll help you, if you want it. No-one's going to expect you to go it completely alone." She covered her friend's small hand with her own large one, and felt her trembling very slightly. "All right?"
Pulsar managed to meet her gaze, and took a mouthful of her energon. "All right," she agreed, faintly, and drew another long, stabilising gust of icy air through her system. Forceps was right, as usual; the shock had driven every sane thought from her silly head, and it took the surgeon's occasionally-sledgehammer style to knock a bit of sense back in. "Just… tell me. Is it safe?" she wondered, quietly, touching her fingertips to her chest, just above her spark chamber. "To keep them in here, for now?"
"Safest place for them!" Forceps agreed. "Especially while blank protoforms are in such short supply. But not forever. Not for more than a hundred orns, or so. They'll continue to develop inside you, and you'll start to get disharmonies as your resonances tangle – maybe even feelings that aren't your own as they get stronger, because one spark casing is as good as another, even if it's already occupied." She gave the smaller femme a hard look. "I know what you're thinking, and no. You can't put it off and defer the decision to someone else forever. If you leave it too long, the pressure will either force the three sparks back into a single entity – and no, that won't be you, but someone completely different, and probably a little psychotic – or else all three will destabilise and lose internal cohesion."
Pulsar winced, imagining it. The initial fission had hurt bad enough…! Dying because one's pressure was too high would be an excruciating way to go. "I don't want to have to choose," she husked, quietly, and nursed her flask, studying the small layer of bright fuel inside. "I don't even want to think about it. But if they've got to come out…"
Forceps patted the white knee. "I'll see about sourcing some casings for you. I'm sure we'll have some suitable ones at the hospital," she promised. "You might have to end up going for spare parts, to build the rest of the protoform from the ground up for them, but you've got plenty of time to decide how you want to do it, once they're safely in their own housings."
A look of dismay flashed across the dark face. "…me? But-… I'm no doctor, Sepp! I'm nowhere near clever enough, I-I can't build whole protoforms, I wouldn't know where to start-"
"I never said you had to do it by yourself," Forceps interrupted. "Just that you'll need to tell me how you want me to proceed."
"How will I know when is the best time to get them out…?" Golden fingertips ran over the image on the monitor, contemplatively, as if caressing the actual sparks and not just the illustrations, and Pulsar imagined feeling a responding flicker from somewhere deep in her crowded laser core. Her chest still felt tight, and constricted, but it was a different kind of heaviness, now. Almost… comforting. A comparative calm had descended upon her, now the pain had eased and the fear had begun to dissolve away. Maybe this wasn't such a terrible thing, after all.
"Oh, don't you worry. They'll let you know."
Spotweld's cunning little bit of sedative-laced energon didn't take long to coax the gravity-cycle back into recharge, and she didn't respond when Forceps carefully removed the coolant mantle, replacing it with a fine temperature-regulating blanket and setting a charging hookup into the appropriate place at the back of her neck. The surgeon was still lost in her own tired thoughts when two strong white arms snaked around her waist, and a deep, thunderous voice purred its good-evenings into her audio.
"Hello, Hack. I was beginning to think you'd got sucked into a black hole," Forceps replied, tiredly, dabbing her fingers down on his broad nose.
Hardline purred wordlessly for a moment, just happy to be 'home', then quirked his head to one side, curiously, finding one of his juniors curled up on the couch. "Let me guess," he quipped, gently. "You're trying to turn the place into a commune."
Forceps leaned her head back, and sighed, feeling him rest his chin on her shoulder. "If only it were that simple…!"