Thank you for the reviews! I'm glad people are liking these little stories!

Just as a warning, there's mentions of slash in this chapter. You know, just in case...


Underwater
Part 3

"What are you? Are you a Decepticon too? Who's your creator? Do you live in this base?" Rainburn skipped closer to the desk, suddenly excited about discovering a potential partner in crime. Though he failed to see how the further he pressed, the more the little green bot tried to hide.

Dualer was now fully under the desk and he quickly pulled the legs of the chair closer in an attempt to keep the other out of his favorite hiding place (and to keep him from getting too close...).

"Hey, can I come in?" Rainburn asked without bothering to wait for an answer, trying to squeeze himself past the legs of the chair.

Dualer squeaked. "N-No! Don't!"

Rainburn paused, managing to hear enough of a panic in the other's voice to process that he was afraid of him. Barely. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna beat you up or anything. I just wanna see what's under here."

Dualer's optics widened at the words 'beat you up'. "Are you sure?" he croaked out, hastily scooting away from the blue intruder.

"Yeah," Rainburn answered off-hand. "Hey this is neat! Who works here anyway?"

"Creator does..." Dualer muttered.

"Who's your creator?" Rainburn asked, genuinely interested.

"Hook..."

"The medic? I didn't know that," Rainburn tilted his head to one side, pondering that information. "He fixed up my creator once."

"He fixes everyone!" Dualer stated matter-of-factly. Then he turned curious. "What are you doing here? Are you hurt? You're not supposed to be in here. Only if you need fixing, that's what Creator says."

"No, I'm not hurt. I just went exploring."

Dualer's optics widened. "Y-You were walking around out there all by yourself?"

"Yes." Rainburn stared at him quizically for a moment. Dualer looked genuinely amazed. "Haven't you been outside?"

Dualer shrank back and lowered his head. "No. Creators say I'm not supposed to go anywhere alone."

Rainburn tilted his head again, thinking. Dualer stared at him. Suddenly, Rainburn's optics lit up. "I know! If you go exploring with me, you won't be alone," Rainburn exclaimed, hopeful. "I bet you know your way around since you live here all the time."

Dualer looked at him, unsure about his proposition. "Well...I know where our room is, and this place where everyone gets fixed, and where to eat...we could go there..."

"But I've already been to those places!" Rainburn whined. "Hmm, I want to see something interesting."

The little Constructicon turned his optics downward, thinking. After a moment he looked up at Rainburn curiously. "Umm, have you seen the fish yet?"

"Fish?"

Dualer nodded. "There's a big window where you can see the fish outside."

"I wanna see that!" the blue sparkling jumped up, excited.

"Ok...I'll show you." Dualer got on all fours and pushed the chair away from the desk so they could get out. Rainburn dashed out into the open, but he stopped to wait for the green and black sparkling. Dualer followed him, the smallest hint of smile on his face.

---

Out of the strategic review meeting, Hook tiredly made his way back from the medbay. Well, first he would stop for some energon. He hadn't had a chance to get his daily ration yet, and with it already being past midday, his systems were starving for energy. After listening to two hours worth of boring reports and strategic plans (which were completely flawed and would never work anyway), he needed something to lighten his mood. He could also check up on Dualer. He'd left him playing in his office while Scavenger and Long Haul worked on a new project and also kept an optic on the sparkling.

Hook let out a hiss of warm air that had recently bottled up in his body. During the meeting, he had not liked how Onslaught kept glancing in his direction. He even caught the Combaticon leader giving him what he suspected was a heated glare. Though why Onslaught would be angry with him, he didn't know. Ungrateful scrap pile... As far as Hook was concerned, the Combaticon should have been grovelling at his pedes for all the care he'd provided him while he was carrying that little mutant spark of his. Well, at least next time when Bruticus gets slagged on the battlefield, he'll just make him and the rest of the worthless renegades beg for repairs.

There was a sound like giggling coming from further down Hook's path. Speaking of the little menace... Hook had heard enough stories from the others to know the blue sparkling had a radar for trouble. Serves Onslaught right to let the kid run around unattended. Hmph. He's bound to get stepped on eventually.

A flash of dark blue caught Hook's attention down the corridor. Maybe he could sneak up on the youngling and spook him a bit. A smirk tugged at his mouth - and then Hook deadpanned. Mixed in with the blue was a bright green. Dualer!? The two sparklings didn't notice him and bounded down the hall away from him as Hook stood there in shock.

A flash of anger flared across Hook's visor as he watched Dualer trotting off with the Combaticon child. He stomped in the direction of the two sparklings, taking care to make sure that wherever they were, both Scavenger and Long Haul felt his unbridled wrath through the gestalt link. Do you care to explain to me WHY Dualer is running around the base with Onslaught's offspring!?

---

Vortex walked up behind Onslaught, falling into step with him. "Guess what?" he chatted happily, which was enough to set Onslaught on edge, "Ramjet's adopted Rainburn."

The Combaticon leader stopped, processing that information quietly before turning to Vortex. "Are you certain?"

"Yep. In fact, I felt like I almost had my rotors speared through my optics."

Onslaught raised an optic ridge at his younger brother, but then decided that he didn't want to know. "I see." He turned and started walking again. "I suppose it's for the best."

Vortex continued to follow. "But, you don't think we should find him a...more elite trine? Like Star - I mean, like Thundercracker's?"

"Once the bond has been formed, we cannot come between it. Besides, I've heard both Ramjet and Dirge have cared for many younglings in the past. I suppose they took in Rainburn to train Thrust."

"Is that a good thing?"

Onslaught stopped and turned to Vortex once more as they reached their common room. He set a hand on the copter's shoulder. "I trust they know what they're doing, but remember, the seekers are not the only ones watching over Rainburn."

Onslaught walked into the room. Vortex followed after and almost bumped into his back when Onslaught suddenly halted.

"Where is Rainburn?"

---

Hook had followed the sparklings to the large viewing window, where the two stopped to gaze at the sea creatures outside. Instead of marching up to them and grabbing both by the scruff of their necks, he forced himself to hold back, enough that they still didn't know he was there. Even though he was absolutely furious about the whole thing, he was also amazed that Dualer actually had the nerve to go out on his own with a stranger. Which also made him wonder if he should be relieved or afraid. Dualer had never, never in his short life spoken to anyone other than the Constructicons, and his seeker guardian Thundercracker (sort of). He and Scrapper had soon found out that the rule of thumb with Dualer was if someone was not green and purple, or the seeker, Dualer would NOT talk to them, much less even acknowledge them.

But now, here he was, having a somewhat conversation with the Combaticon sparkling whom he had never met until very recently. Perhaps it was just the way sparklings functioned. Maybe the impulse to interact with one another was the result of some kind of survival mechanism. Whatever the case, Hook found himself feeling just a little bit better about the future of his offspring.

---

"Wow! These fish are a lot cooler than the ones at home!"

Dualer turned his head to Rainburn, confused. "You mean you don't live here?"

"No," the other replied, optics glued to the creatures outside. "We live out in the desert. The fish there are small and gray and only live in the streams. Sometimes I can't even find them. There's way more fish down here!"

Dualer was still watching him, confused. "What's the desert?"

"It's a big open space with lots of dirt and sand and animals and cactus and it's really hot. I like it." Rainburn tapped on the glass when a few fish swam by, attracted by the light from inside the base.

Rainburn's description of the desert didn't sound like something anyone should like. Dualer couldn't understand why the blue bot spoke so highly of it. Still, he was amazed that Rainburn had come from the land his creators sometimes talked about. He had never been outside the base and he knew he was safe here. But if Rainburn was able to live out there, it couldn't be so bad?

Dualer felt a tug at his spark, one that wanted to pull him away from his safe haven and go explore what was on top of the water. With Rainburn of course, to show him. He wouldn't go on his own. Or maybe Brother could take me? "Brother brings back lots of rocks from out there..." he muttered out loud, thinking to himself.

Rainburn's attention was finally drawn away from the fish. "What? You have a brother?"

Dualer nodded. "He's bigger than me. He's always going outside. He brings shiny rocks back for me."

The blue sparkling nodded. "Oh. I don't have any brothers. Just uncles. And my creator."

"Just creator?" Dualer asked, confused. "Don't you have two creators, because I do."

"No," Rainburn replied, and Dualer thought he looked a little embarrassed. He muttered, "Blast Off said Father created me all on his own, so I should respect him and behave for him...Hey look at that one!"

Rainburn's optics were locked back on the glass as a large, colorful fish swam by. Though Dualer still stared at his friend. The little Constructicon realized that Rainburn was a very strange person. Exploring on his own, living outside in a hot place, being happy about it, and having only one creator? And who was Blast Off and what was cactus anyway?

This was all very new, confusing, and interesting to Dualer. He found he liked Rainburn, though. And Rainburn liked the fish.

A thumping sound rumbled through the hall towards the two sparklings, and they both turned their heads when they recognized the sound as footfalls. Rainburn's optics lit up. "Hi Father!"

Onslaught stopped in front of the two, staring down at Rainburn and the green and black Constructicon sparkling, who shrank back and tried to hide behind the other. So this was the latest addition to Devastator? Onslaught was hardly impressed.

"Come Rainburn."

The tone of his father's voice told Rainburn he was in trouble. He had forgotten he wasn't supposed to be wandering around. "Yes, Father." His head dropped and he trudged next to Onslaught, away from the window.

The Combaticon watched him step next to his side and wait. Then he turned to the green one. "Now what to do with you?"

"You will do nothing."

Hook hastily made his way to stand in front of Dualer, a dangerous flash going across his visor. He bent down to pick up Dualer, who was already clinging to his leg. Without a word, he turned his back on the Combaticon and headed back to the medbay.

"Let's go, Rain." Onslaught strode back to their quarters, Rainburn quickly following him, wishing he had at least told Dualer goodbye.

---

Once back in the safety of the medbay, Hook set Dualer in his office again, made sure he was unharmed, and then turned menacingly on Scavenger and Long Haul, who had come running back in a panic from their quick trip to get energon.

"You two were supposed to be watching him! I've already had to pound a dent out of Blitzwing because he tried to fight the Combaticon pest! What if something had happened to Dualer!?"

Both the excavator and truck tried their best to shrink away from Hook and look small and pitiful, but it didn't stop the enraged medic. "I don't care if you're starving to death, if this happens again I will weld both of you to the roof of the Stunticons' common room!"

From the doorway of the office, Dualer watched the whole exchange. Uh oh, Brother's in trouble. Maybe I should have stayed in here... A shadow cast over him. He looked up into the optic band of his other creator. He didn't protest when Scrapper gathered him in his arms.

"You made a friend today, didn't you?" Scrapper asked, but Dualer was relieved when he didn't sound angry as well.

The little mech nodded, and said, "His name was Rainburn."

"So I've heard." Scrapper glanced towards Hook and the corner he had backed the other two into. He chuckled to himself. "You weren't scared?"

"No," Dualer answered softly.

"That's good," Scrapper murmured, mostly to himself. "But you know not to do that again?"

"Yes." Dualer lowered his head, a little ashamed that he had caused so much trouble.

Scrapper looked to Hook again. He's going to be blowing off steam for a while, he thought, amused. "Come," he said to Dualer. "You can keep me company while I work on some drawings."

He carried the little mech out of the medbay.

---

A few days later...

A small skirmish with the Autobots had left several Decepticons in need of repairs. Hook had cleared most of them out already, the wounds only being small and non-life threatening.

Now on his last patient, Hook hurried to finish the final welds in the torn armor of the Combaticon leader. The medic tried not to glare too much at the truck. Ever since Dualer had encountered Rainburn, Hook felt somewhat uncomfortable around Onslaught. He thought he now knew the reason why Onslaught seemed to be angry with him ever since coming back to the Nemesis. Apparently, no one ever told the Combaticons that the Constructicons were now saddled with a sparkling as well.

At least Onslaught never looked his way or spoke to him while he worked.

With the last touches done, Hook set his tools down and waved the Combaticon off. Onslaught stood, but did not leave. Hook felt the optics piercing into his back as he set his tools away. He was not in the mood for a confrontation.

"Why did you and Scrapper create Dualer?"

Though Onslaught's voice was calm and even, Hook knew the question wasn't just for conversation's sake.

A sigh escaped his vents. Onslaught was not going to leave without an answer. This whole issue had to be put to rest if Hook ever wanted to continue without looking over his shoulder whenever the Combaticon was near. He slowly ground out his reply.

"I'm only going to tell you this once, so pay attention." Hook turned to Onslaught, who towered over him. He made his tone dangerous. "You think Dualer was made to be used as some kind of threat to you. But, he is my sparkling and I would never intentionally put him in a situation that could compromise his existence. He is here because I wanted him to be."

"You said yourself how taxing carrying would be," Onslaught interrupted. "Why would you go through this when you have a whole team to look after? You already have Scavenger. Why risk the resources?"

"Do not talk to me about taking care of my team when you carry the same concerns!" Hook growled.

Onslaught interjected again. "I'm just saying you had more of a choice than I did."

Hook forced himself to relax. This was entirely too personal, but if Onslaught wasn't educated, he doubted the younger warrior would ever understand, and leave them alone. "No, I did not have a choice," Hook said to him softly. "Your spark has budded on its own. This has not happened since before the war, and even then, it would only happen every few generations, like I explained to you before." Hook fixed him with a look. "You do not realize how lucky you are," he muttered solemnly.

"Lucky?" Onslaught growled out.

"Yes!" Hook almost shouted at him before the Combaticon could argue. "You are young! You have millennia ahead of you. You already have a large family, so it's easy to guess that if the lot of you somehow survive this slagging war, you'll have no problems spreading your legacy throughout the ages. And Rainburn is just the start of it!

"This war has gone on too long. In fact, it's become so engrossed in our lives it hardly matters as a war anymore. I'm old, Onslaught. This was going to be the last time my spark would be receptive. I've waited too long, almost to the point where it would be too late." Hook stared down at the floor, but he had a light smirk. "Scavenger always wanted a sibling..."

He looked at Onslaught again. "I doubt anyone has told you how the birthrate for new sparks has dropped almost catastrophically since this war began? We've all but wiped ourselves out of existence. Whether we win this war or the Autobots do, this was my last chance to try to secure a spot in an uncertain future."

Hook turned back to his workbench, finished with his explanation. "Now, if you'll please..."

Onslaught knew that meant this conversation was over. He let his gaze linger on Hook's back for a few seconds, then he turned to leave.

On his way back to meet with the others, he pondered what Hook had told. It was a logical answer to his query, he supposed. Before Dualer, Hook had only Scavenger, who was already part of the gestalt. If anything disastrous had happened to Devastator, Hook's line would most likely have been wiped out. Having another spark not linked to the gestalt was the family's insurance policy. The more he thought, the more he realized Hook was right to say that he was lucky. Already once, had he almost lost everything. Primus seemed to grant him a second chance when Starscream freed them. And now with Rainburn in the picture... Suddenly Hook's reason for creating Dualer made Onslaught realize that he should be wanting and worrying about the same thing.

At least one plus side to all of this was that Rainburn and Dualer seemed to like each other.


If you're wondering what 'budding' is, type it in the TF wiki. I just kind of twisted it around...