AN: [bow] Hello.

I will be brutally honest-I've been holding down three jobs and struggling to find a 4th for the past several months. I've been sick repeatedly, my car broke down again, and I had major computer problems. Only recently have I found the time to get back into the fandom, but that's only due to because I got fired from one job without any reason given [and it did not help it was the one that paid my rent]

I have been feeling truely awful and like a major heel for promising an update which never came. You guys have supported me though Sparks, and I still feel as if I am a major letdown to you all. But thankfully, there has now been a light at the end of my tunnel, in the form of me being offered a better [in this case, less stressful and less bad to my health] job. I am hoping I'll only have to work 2 jobs instead of 3 if things work out, and with the job, more writing time has opened up for me.

For those fellow writers that I read and review, I'll be catching up this weekend-and to my fellow readers, all I can ask is for your forgiveness.

I do not own Transformers. Barricade and Flamewar, along with Siren, Nightshade, and Starburst belong to Violetlight. Sunshadow belongs to Litahatchee. Thanks to her, Hearts of Eternity, and Violet for betaing this chapter for me. Patchwork is also property of Hearts. I also owe Violet another set of thanks for letting me take a few of her ideas portrayed in Vapour Trails and letting me put my own spin on them.

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Vacation

Prowl grinned crookedly as he kept pressing the door buzzer. Despite the arrival of Artemis and the others, there was still work that had to be done.

"I know you're online in there." He called out, pressing the buzzer button again. "So get your hands off her and let's go!" This statement was punctuated with several more buzzes. Then the doors were flung open and Prowl found himself having to bite back a smile as one very angry femme glared at him.

"Go. Away."

"Sorry Flamewar, but I need your mate today." Prowl answered, sliding past the Decepticon femme and into the quarters she and Barricade shared. "I promise, he'll be back in time for you to jump all over him again and repeat what happened the last time you two had an evening together." Then the Autobot 2IC raised an optic ridge as a pair of gyro-blades slammed into the wall on his left side.

"Barricade."

"You like jokes too much, Autobot." Barricade snarled. "In face, I owe you for-" Before he could finish the sentence, the sound of clicks and squeaks filled the air.

"You idiot, you woke them up!" Flamewar snarled, pushing past Prowl and her mate to go into a little room on the side.

"I woke them up?! Talk to the fragger here, he woke them up!" Barricade retorted. Flamewar emerged from the room, two little sparklings eagerly wiggling about in her arms. Like their creators, both had black and white paintjobs. One of them however, had a yellow blanket tucked about her. Seeing their father, both sparklings started to squeak excitedly.

"Put away your weapon Barricade, you don't want your little femmes turning into Nightfire or Sunshadow, now do you?" Prowl asked, a smug smile appearing on his faceplates. Barricade shot his fellow black-and-white the dirtiest of all possible looks, raising one clawed hand.

"I am going to-oomph!" For the yellow-blanketed sparkling was suddenly in his arms. "Flamewar!"

"Feed your daughter." The femme snapped. Barricade looked down at the yellow blanket, and felt his right optic twitch.

"Flamewar…she has…this…thing on." He said.

"Don't you dare try to take away Armitage's blanket again." Was the answering growl. To this Barricade bit back a snarl, fixing Prowl with a nasty glare.

"One day Autobot, you will regret all the trouble you've caused with me." He rumbled.

"Stop grumping. A situation's come up that requires your particular skills." Prowl countered. Barricade paused in trying to pull the yellow blanket off his sparkling.

"Situation?"


Ratchet considered the scene in front of him. It was still early (very early!) in the morning, and it appeared that two little younglings had made an attempt to report for medical duty. 'Made' being the operative word, as both of them were currently sprawled out on recharge berths, dead to the world.

Little fragger's gotten sneakier, or I must be old-I didn't hear him leave our quarters last night. He thought, coming over and gently putting a hand on Lifeline's head. The youngling mumbled at the touch, turning over. The Autobot CMO smiled, and then turned his attentions to the second youngling-Siren.

Running low on energy-well, that's no surprise. He could remember his own days of training. However, I never got the chance to take a nap-every time you tried; you set yourself up for trouble. Ratchet suppressed a shudder, remembering Patchwork. Oh yes, all the younglings today-First Aid included-had it light and easy compared to what he'd had to go though.

Patchwork would have eaten every single one of them alive. The bastard used to fragging kick me off the berth whenever I was trying to get a few breems' worth of recharge! Grinning wryly, Ratchet decided to leisurely wander off, get a nice warm cube of Energon. His appointments for the day were joors away, and it wouldn't hurt to give his little apprentices some more recharge time before he woke them up.

"I remember those orns." First Aid commented, coming up. "Little recharge, no Energon…"

"Shut up. You had it easy." To this, the Protectorbot opened his mouthplates as if to counter, and then closed them, judging that what he was about to say wasn't worth losing his head.

"Hnn."

"Bring me my Energon." Ratchet ordered, taking a seat at a nearby desk.

"Sir, I'm not your apprentice any-Aaahhhh!!!!"

CLANG.

"ENERGON! NOW!"

"Yessir!!"


Optimus leaned back in his chair, thoughtfully eying a screen in front of him. At the sound of the door opening and closing, his optics flicked over to the entrance, and then back to the report.

"Nightshade." He said without preamble.

"I thought you'd be with your family." The Decepticon leader said, moving over to the desk.

"I would be, but then this report from one of Jazz's agents sent this in late last night." Optimus answered, pressing a button for a screen to pop up in front of Nightshade. The femme read it, her optics narrowing.

"Is this good?"

"It seems to be legitimate so far." The red and blue mech answered. Nightshade frowned, reading over the report.

"You know, we could bring a nice and tidy end to this whole situation by just sending somebody in to cap the bastard." She said. "No muss, no fuss, his little idiots will fall apart and be easy pickings for our forces respectively."

"You know I'd say yes to that Nightshade, but I don't feel comfortable with doing that at this point." Optimus answered. "Not with this." He gestured to the screen.

The current Autobot/Decepticon alliance-while stronger than it's initial vorns, had run into heavy opposition on both sides. The worst of it at the start had come from the Deceptions- Nightshade was Megatron's mate. Leader of a group of Decepticon femmes that had escaped from Cybertron during Floatila's destruction, she had just stepped into the void left behind by her mate's death and assumed overall command.

The first problem was that with Megatron's death, Starscream had technically been second in command. However at the time, Starscream had been…indisposed, his spark held in stasis in the Decepticon base on Mars. With that incapacitation, Soundwave was then the next in line-and the Autobots had assumed he had taken over Megatron's duties.

They were wrong. Soundwave had become Nightshade's mate during the previous vorns, keeping his position as Communications Officer and serving as Nightshade's personal advisor. Instead of issuing an invitation for Nightshade to challenge him for the Decepticon leader position, he had simply allowed the femme to take over. And adding to the matter was their sparkling…a little femme named Siren. A little…odd, Optimus mused, but at the time he'd been grateful to not deal with Soundwave and that Starscream was out of the picture. Things had gotten off to a bumpy start, but with the addition of the Styxia colonists, things had started to work out…

Until Starscream had made a comeback. Possessed of a new frame and fully recovered, Megatron's Air Commander was quick to place himself in a position where he could easily challenge and beat Nightshade for Decepticon leadership. Nightshade was quick to counter this threat…in a very…again, odd was the only word Optimus could think of to describe it- way. Once he had learned the details, the Autobot leader had decided that it was best that he keep his mouthplates shut and out of the matter entirely, considering that he highly disapproved of what had happened next.

The end result was Starscream settling down-sharing joint second-in-command with Soundwave, and another sparkling for Nightshade, another little femme that was named Starburst. Optimus was certain that it had taken all of Elita's personal willpower and then some to not object to the relationship that was now ongoing-something that completely bogged the Autobots' minds-bonded pairs and unbounded 'bots alike. However silence was golden, they had bigger problems, and so it was unofficially decreed that all vocalizers be kept mute on the matter. And it had been a very good thing they had decided to leave it alone, Optimus thought.

With the Autobots and Decepticons deciding to stop hostitlies and try to live together in peace, it had only seemed natural that 'bots in both factions wouldn't agree with the new way things were going, and even more natural for them to leave. What nobody had anticipated though, was the creation of another faction-the Malignus faction. Lead by a mech named Straxus, it was mostly made up out of the absolute worst of the Decepticon forces-mechs that Megatron himself had deemed too dangerous for Decepticon society. Autobots that Optimus Prime had also deemed too violent also joined. With his troops assembled, Straxus had gone about his mission-destroying the fragile truce that was between the Autobots and Decepticons. When that had failed, he then deemed the leaders of the respective factions traitors, announcing his intent to conquer what remained of the population and become the sole ruler of Cybertron.

So the fighting continued…but thankfully for the war-weary population, not as violent as it had once been. Early counters by both Optimus and Nightshade had ensured that Straxus and his minions were isolated from the bulk of the population and precious energy supplies. It was hoped that the…rebellion, so to speak, would be crushed then and there.

Nobody had anticipated though, the fighting to last this long.


Prowl watched as Barricade stalked silently about the abandoned warehouse, stopping occasionally to bend over and examine an item.

"Well?" He asked. Barricade grunted, rising.

"Looks like they were defiantly up to something alright." His red optics cast over the interior of the building. "What, I can't tell. There's not enough left for me to theorize on."

"A weapon you think?"

"Knowing that lot? I'd say yes." Barricade carefully inspected a fragment of metal. "But I thought they were trying to be more quiet about it-didn't your Special Ops report that a senator or two is probably helping Straxus with funding and Energon?" This elicited a dark scowl from Prowl, who crossed his arms.

"If that's proven, it'll destabilize everything. Nightshade's been after Optimus for vorns to have rule just be between him and her."

"Something you know would be the best for all of us." Barricade smoothly countered, looking up. "Having a Senate was what made us start fighting in the first place!" Prowl held up a hand.

"We're not going there." He said. "We're not going there, we're not starting that discussion again. Right now, we've got a job to do."

"You know this is a discussion that's going to be had at some point." Barricade challenged. Prowl shook his head.

"Not now. Focus on the matter at hand here." He ordered, though internally, his gears were churning. Even though Malignus had been isolated, it had only been fuel for the same argument he had just avoided with Barricade.

Nightshade didn't want a Senate in place-her and the other Decepticons. It was only because there were so many civilians that she had to relent. He thought to himself. Barricade looked about the room, scanning it again-and then stopped.

"I think I found something." He said, moving over to a pile of debris. Deftly he started to push it to the sides with his claw-like hands, until- "Ah-hah."

"What is it?" Prowl asked, coming up behind him. Barricade held up a small cube, intently scanning it.

"Some sort of blueprints. And…" The black and white mech frowned. "…Allspark runes."

"Allspark runes?" Prowl repeated. Barricade nodded.

"This looks like…they were constructing some sort of cube…" He trailed off as an idea hit him. "You don't think that…" The other black-and-white had reached the same conclusion, optics widening.

"…No. He's crazy…but not that…"

"If what your 'bots found out about his funding is true, then it would explain a great number of things." Barricade said gravely.

"But that was made forbidden! Simply because…" Prowl trailed off. "Primus. We need to report to this to Optimus and Nightshade immediately!"

"You're telling me."

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AN: Next chapter, more about the younglings is revealed.