Fall From Grace
Pairing/Characters: Sideswipe/OC, Sunstreaker, Jazz, Prowl, Sentinel Prime
Warnings: Twin angst. Seriously. Angst. By the Constructicon-load. Also, twin OOC.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: The end!
- Chapter VIII : Forgot to Remember to Forget -
Jazz almost turned back when he saw the building the twins were on collapse, watching the gold and red forms go down with the rubble. Then Megatron, who had hovered above it, laughing cruelly, had landed, and Jazz knew there was something still there. Still, he expected to find the Decepticon leader and Shockwave and/or Razorblast getting ready to execute half-buried twins. It would be difficult for him if it was all three, but as long as the twins were conscious and easy to free, he could manage. He was already making plans for how to do so by the time he rounded the last corner.
What he had not expected was to find Megatron grappling with a battered and dented golden form that was screaming at him about his damaged paint job, while a red and black mech literally ran circles around Shockwave, chucking pieces of rubble at him, and taunting the Decepticon for being too slow. In the midst of all the chaos, another form, recognizable as Razorblast, lay gray and lifeless, a hole torn in his chest where his spark had been.
"Primus, they're really good." Jazz said appreciatively - clearly the twins had been restraining themselves in the arena, if they could do this much damage. Jazz winced slightly as Sunstreaker managed to get a hand latched around Megatron's head and put his thumb through the Decepticon leader's optic. Definitely restraining themselves. The Decepticon leader roared in pain as his optic was smashed, shoving the golden mech away from him as he staggered away. That was when he caught sight of Jazz, and apparently noticed for the first time that Razorblast was down, as well. The mighty leader of the Decepticons then decided that this all meant it was time for a strategic retreat, taking off running, back towards the main fortress.
"Hey, get back here you son of a petro-rat!" Sunstreaker roared after the Decepticon leader, who was yelling for Shockwave to cover 'their' retreat. The canon fired a few obligatory shots at Sunstreaker, keeping him from following Megatron, before transforming and taking off after his leader. Sideswipe tried to follow, but Jazz, jogging out into the field of rubble, grabbed his arm. Sideswipe turned with a snarl.
"They're getting away!" he snapped.
"Yeah, an' if we're gonna get out of here, we gotta let them go." Jazz said. "Now come on." Sideswipe snarled again, but obligingly followed, Sunstreaker joining him. Though the 'rescue' had gone faster than he'd anticipated, Jazz still urged the two brothers to run as they headed towards the extraction point, knowing that the sooner they got back there, the sooner they could leave.
"Hey Jazz, didja see Inertia on your way to us?" Sideswipe called from behind Jazz as they ran.
"Nah, should I'ave?" Jazz asked.
"Not really. There's a lot of routes back to the extraction point from there, I'm sure." Sideswipe said uneasily.
"She was with ya?" Jazz demanded.
"Yeah, she set the charges to blow the building, but she ran out once they were set." Sideswipe tossed back.
"Then she should be waitin' back at th' transports." Jazz replied reassuringly, and Sideswipe nodded as they continued to run. It wasn't long until they were back at the transports, Prowl looking relieved as they rounded a corner.
"How we doin' Prowl?" Jazz asked as the twins almost literally threw themselves into helping with the defence.
"Good, though we can't hold for much longer. All we're really waiting for now is stragglers, and they've been getting fewer." Prowl said grimly.
"Speaking of stragglers, y'seen Inertia come by?" Jazz asked, not immediately seeing her among those helping with the defence, but knowing he could just be overlooking her, or she could be inside the transport, injured or helping move wounded inside.
"The red femme?" Prowl asked as he took a shot at a Seeker, barely missing, but causing the flier to spin out of control for a few moments anyways.
"Yeah. Sideswipe an' Sunstreaker said she set off aheada 'em." Jazz replied.
"I haven't seen her. I've been focused on the sky, however. We have precious few good marksmen." Prowl said.
"Yeah, sure, I'll check around then." Jazz said. He didn't get the chance, though, as Megatron had apparently rallied the rest of the Decepticons, and they launched their attack. It was a fast and dirty retreat for the Autobots, and many of them cringed as they had to leave their dead comrades behind, but there was nothing they could do - if they tried to get them out, they'd die next to them. As it was, it was only due to the exceptional skills of their transport - Jazz reminded himself to put in a commendation for the mech - that they managed to get out without being shot down.
And then, once they were out of Decepticon territory and on their way back to Polyhex, the nearest Autobot-controlled city, the twins found him.
"She's not here." Sideswipe said flatly, looming over Jazz. "You said she would be."
"I said she should be." Jazz corrected softly. "Have y'checked the wounded?"
"We've checked everywhere, she's not here." Sunstreaker answered for his brother, and though his voice was hard, it wasn't as unforgiving as his brother's. Jazz suspected from the glances that the golden twin was giving his brother, in fact, than Sunstreaker was actually calming Sideswipe. It didn't seem to be working too well, though, as Jazz found himself hauled up by the front of his armour and slammed against the bulkhead by the red twin for the second time that day.
"Where the frag is she!" Sideswiped snarled.
"I don't know, yer the ones that saw her last." Jazz replied, trying to keep calm as they began drawing attention.
"Yeah, and you said she'd be back before us. So where is she?!" Sideswipe's voice was rising, and Jazz glanced to his brother, but Sunstreaker merely watched, clearly unwilling to intercede.
"She may not'a gotten out." Jazz said after a moment, looking back at Sideswipe. The red twin snarled, and for an instant, Jazz felt the tiniest trickle of fear as he experienced firsthand the last sight of so many mechs that had died in the gladiator pits. A golden hand grabbed Sideswipe's arm before he could ram it through Jazz's spark, though, and Jazz felt the fear melt away.
"He's not at fault, Sideswipe." Sunstreaker said calmly.
"No? Then who the frag is? Me, for leaving her behind?" Sideswipe spat.
"No." Sunstreaker said flatly. "No, the Decepticon that shot her down is to blame, and they're back in Kaon."
"'Shot her down'? She may not even be fragging dead! We may have left her back there, still trapped in that pit-forsaken slagheap of a city!" Sideswipe snapped.
"And that's still not Jazz's fault." Sunstreaker replied insistently. Sideswipe snarled one last time, but let Jazz go. The special ops mech landed lightly on his feet, watching warily as Sideswipe shoved his way through the crowded bay of the transport, pushing aside mechs and femmes alike, his brother following behind, not bothering to make apologies. Around Jazz, and following the twins as they went, came the mutterings of the other refugees, none of them very polite and most focusing around the still-prominent Decepticon symbols on the twins' chassis.
Movement to his left dragged Jazz's attention from the mutterings, and he turned in time to see Prowl subspacing his blaster, a thoughtful look on his face. Jazz gave the tactician an ironic smile, and Prowl arched an optic ridge back, then turned and made his way back to the front of the transport.
When the transport landed at Polyhex, Sideswipe was prepared to track down whoever was in charge and demand that they return. The base they'd landed at was a mass of confusion, however, and when the only response Sideswipe got to multiple enquiries for the base's commander was that no one knew where he was at the moment, he reluctantly gave up for the time being.
"Good, my knee is killing me, my side feels like it's about to split open, I have a leak somewhere, and I'm running ridiculously low on energon." Sunstreaker declared when Sideswipe finally gave up, and the red twin glanced at his brother in surprise. For the first time, he took in his brother's injuries, and grimaced guiltily as he saw just how banged up the other mech was. He himself wasn't in much better shape, but with Sunstreaker's propensity for complaining over the smallest scratch, Sideswipe knew his brother had been exceptionally patient with him and his quest to go back and find Inertia.
"I'm...not too good myself." Sideswipe admitted, sending a mental apology over their bond, which Sunstreaker just waved off.
"I think you're actually worse than me, Sides." Sunstreaker said, giving his brother a withering look. "Which is only fair, since you were the one that was supposed to get us off the roof of that building. And you didn't."
"Oh frag you. I was more concerned with getting back up there to help you than I was with checking the fuel on my jetpack." Sideswipe replied with a frown.
"And? It's still your fault we went down with the building." Sunstreaker growled, glaring now.
"If you'll recall, it was your idea -" Sideswipe snapped, but was suddenly cut off in the middle as a white mech with medic's insignias shoved the twins apart, glaring at both equally.
"What the frag are you two doing all the way over here? Did no one tell you that all the injured, walking or not, are to report to the med bay immediately?!" the mech demanded.
"We had -"
"No, mute it, I don't want excuses or reasons or whatever garbage you were going to spout. Get your afts to the med bay now, or so help me Primus, I will haul you there myself!" the strange mech snapped, not letting Sideswipe speak.
"I'd love to see you try." Sunstreaker snarled, more because he didn't like being threatened and ordered around than because he didn't want to go. The mech stared back impassively, not saying a word. After a few moments, Sunstreaker turned away uncomfortably. "We were just about to head there, anyways." he muttered sulkily.
"Good. Then you can come with me." the medic stated, and promptly set off towards the busiest part of the base. Sunstreaker snarled at his back, but followed when a strangely amused Sideswipe grabbed his arm and tugged him after the white medic.
The med bay was swarming with mechs and femmes, most injured, and all of them, medics and injured, looking exhausted. Sideswipe wondered why the medics would be so tired, until he remembered that they had been one of the last transports out - the medics would have been working for almost a joor before they'd arrived, and then Sideswipe had spent another quarter joor trying to find the mech in charge of the base. Now that he looked, in fact, Sideswipe saw that their guide looked exhausted himself. That didn't make him any less intimidating, however, and he virtually glared the two brothers onto a berth.
"What hurts?" the medic stated flatly, and Sunstreaker proceeded to give him a list that consisted of pretty much every part he had. The medic listened without interrupting, and when Sunstreaker finished, he proceeded to pull out a scanner and do his own checking. The medic frowned at what he saw, then ran the machine over Sideswipe without bothering to ask where he was injured.
"Hunh." the medic said thoughtfully, then glanced between Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. "Twins?" he asked unexpectedly. Sideswipe stared. Sunstreaker gaped. "I'll take that as a yes. Could you possibly close off, or at least restrict, the emotional end of your bond? You're echoing each other's pain and, while it's kept you from collapsing so far, it's also putting extra stress on your systems." Sideswipe and Sunstreaker continued to stare, until the medic's look turned into a glare. The two of them quickly did as asked, blocking out each other's emotional responses, and the medic nodded in satisfaction.
"Much better." he said, and Sideswipe groaned as the pain of his own injuries hit him full force.
"If you say so." he gritted out. The medic looked amused, then began gathering tools before setting to work. Neither Sideswipe nor Sunstreaker had been quite sure what to expect from the medic - his rough demeanour seemed to indicate he wouldn't be too gentle, and their experiences with Triage over the past orns had been...well, efficient, but not very pleasant. They were pleasantly surprised by this mech, however - he was conscientious about turning off pain receptors when he set to work on an area, and not only efficient, but talented at what he did, repairing them swiftly and correctly, even without appropriate schematics for their altered frames. Sunstreaker was less than impressed that the medic's response to his inquiry for where to get a repaint was laughter, but Sideswipe was happy enough with having the Decepticon symbol buffed out of their chassis as the medic's final touch.
"Alright, you're done, now get out." the medic declared when the last trace of purple was gone from Sideswipe's chassis.
"That's it?" Sunstreaker asked, surprised at the abruptness.
"Unless there's some other injury that you've somehow managed to hide from me, yes. So get out and make room for someone else." the medic said crankily.
"Uh -" Sunstreaker glanced at Sideswipe, and a question floated over the bond - ::Where the frag are we supposed to go?::
"Where exactly should we be going to?" Sideswipe decided to ask the medic, since he didn't have any more of a clue than his brother did.
"Oh for -" the medic glared at them both. "Didn't you listen when you got off the transport?!"
"No." Sideswipe replied truthfully - he'd taken off to find the mech in charge as soon as they'd landed. The medic growled, then turned to glance around the med bay. "Cliffjumper! Come show these idiots to the temporary quarters!" the medic hollered, apparently finding who he was looking for. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker watched with fascinated amusement as a red minibot that was helping some of the injured move about, started, staring over his shoulder at the white medic with a 'who, me?' expression. The medic glared, and the red mech - Cliffjumper, presumably - hurried over.
"Uh - follow me then?" he said, hastily turning his attention to the twins, and they hopped off the berth obligingly as their guide all but fled from the med bay, clearly not eager to be the center of the medic's attention. The twins had to hurry to catch up, but fortunately once Cliffjumper was out of the med bay, he slowed down and waited for them. Which turned out to be a good thing, at least in Sideswipe's opinion.
"I'm guessing, since you don't know where the temporary quarters are, that you're the twins Jazz was looking for earlier." Cliffjumper commented as they walked.
"He was looking for us?" Sideswipe asked curiously.
"Yeah, seems he knew you'd taken off before the welcome-to-our-base speech and wanted to make sure you at least knew where to get your energon. Which would be in this building." Cliffjumper said, pointing to a building they were passing.
"That's...good to know." Sideswipe said.
"Gotta say I'm impressed that Jazz himself came looking for you, though." Cliffjumper commented. "Especially right after a mission."
"Impressed?" Sideswipe arched an optic ridge curiously.
"Yeah, I mean, as second in command around here, he's kept pretty busy, and it's even worse when he comes back from missions, cuz he has everything all piled up. We usually don't see him for a couple'a cycles as he tries to catch up on things. Course, he doesn't have as much work to do since Prowl got here, but this was a long mission." Cliffjumper explained readily, seeming completely oblivious to Sideswipes growing interest as he spoke.
"So...Prowl would be the commander of this base?" Sideswipe tried to sound non-chalant, and either he succeeded, or Cliffjumper didn't care that he was overly interested in who was commanding the base.
"Well, for now. He's technically part of the Prime's command staff, but was sent out here to take over from Jazz when things started getting rough in Kaon. Turned out to be a good thing, since Jazz literally had to disappear in the middle of the night when we realized Kaon was being taken over." Cliffjumper said with a chuckle.
"I see. I suppose you're right, then, it was impressive that Jazz took the time to come look for us. We should probably thank him. Do you know where he would be?" Sideswipe asked with all innocence, ignoring Sunstreaker's sharp look.
"Probably 'charging - Ratchet man-handled Prowl to his quarters not long ago, and Jazz would've followed to his own." Cliffjumper said, chuckling at some sort of private joke in that statement, then pointed off to his left. "But that building over there is administration, you should be able to find him there tomorrow - though he probably won't have a lot of time for you. As I said, he's gonna be pretty busy."
"Well, we won't take up much of his time." Sideswipe said mildly. Cliffjumper just nodded, then abruptly stopped.
"Here we are, temporary quarters. Two berths to a room, empty ones will have open doors. Pick whichever empty one you like." Cliffjumper said, motioning to the building they'd stopped in front of. "Anything else you two need?"
"No, I think we're good." Sideswipe said with a bright smile, and Cliffjumper nodded.
"Good. Better get back to med bay then." he said, then turned and trotted off. As soon as he was out of audio range, Sideswipe turned to Sunstreaker, a determined look in his optics.
"No." Sunstreaker said firmly. "It can wait until tomorrow - I'm running on fragging empty here, and I know you are too. Even if we convinced Prowl to let us go back, we'd be no good to Inertia when we collapsed from exhaustion."
"NO!" Sunstreaker snapped, then stalked into the temporary quarters, heading for the nearest open door, which he promptly closed in his brother's face and locked. By the time Sideswipe had over-ridden the lock and gotten inside, Sunstreaker was deep in recharge on one of the two berths, effectively ending the discussion for the night. Sideswipe scowled for a few moments, but he knew Sunstreaker was right, so he reluctantly lay down on the other berth and settled into an uneasy recharge.
Though he'd looked for the twins after their arrival at the Polyhex base, Jazz didn't find them again until the day after his return, when he'd finally managed to get rid of his Decepticon disguise and was being debriefed. Well, to be more correct, he didn't find them so much as they found Prowl, and Jazz just happened to be in the room. The twins obviously didn't recognize him, or the other mech in the office, but focused their attention on Prowl specifically, having apparently found out that he was in charge of the Polyhex base.
"We want to go back." Sideswipe stated flatly after storming in. Sunstreaker was leaning by the door, scowling at everyone, obviously not pleased to be there - though for what reason in specific, Jazz was unsure - but Sideswipe was right up by Prowl's desk, hands planted on its top and doing his best to loom over the tactician.
"To Kaon?" Prowl asked, arching an optic ridge.
"No, to Iacon." Sideswipe said sarcastically, then growled. "Of course to Kaon!"
"Returning to Kaon is impossible." Prowl replied reasonably.
"I don't care. I will not leave Inertia in that pit-forsaken city. I want to go back and find her." Sideswipe snarled.
"I understand your desire to save the femme, however returning to Kaon in any sort of military endeavour at this point in time would be nothing short of suicide." Prowl stated firmly, finally standing from his chair so he was level with Sideswipe in an attempt to get the red twin to listen to him. "The Decepticons have doubled their guards and armed them to the teeth, keeping the heavy artillery primed and ready at all times."
"I will not leave her there!" Sideswipe insisted.
"Chances are she's already dead." Prowl stated flatly. "The Decepticons have demolished the Gladiator Pits, and are reportedly executing anyone even thought to have Autobot sympathies. We have lost several undercover operatives in the past several joors, and the only one that managed to get out is currently dying in med bay from his wounds. You would be going back for nothing but her body."
"Frag you! You don't know that! Inertia hid out in Kaon for the orns it took you slagtards to get your afts in gear and come rescue the rest of us, she could very well be doing the same now!" Sideswipe snapped.
"And if she was uninjured enough to get to one of those hiding places, she would have also been able to get to the extraction point. I'm sorry, but there is very little chance she is alive." Prowl stated firmly. "Even if she were, there is no plausible way to return."
"It was supposed to be impossible to get in and out the first time." Sideswipe stated angrily.
"It was difficult, not impossible." Prowl corrected.
"You are not the only ones who want to return." the third mech that had been at the briefing the twins had interrupted said, speaking up and startling the twins with his presence. "Our latest reports indicate that the transport that was shot down during the escape was not only alive, but stable, as were many of her passengers, when we pulled out. Several good officers and soldiers were on that transport, not to mention innocent neutrals rescued from the Gladiator Pits along with you and the others. We dislike leaving them there to die as much as you dislike leaving your friend behind, but there is no way for us to return without sacrificing our own lives. The best we can do is carry on fighting in their name, and make sure that the Decepticons who have by now surely killed them face justice." Sideswipe snarled in response.
"I don't fragging care about justice, or this stupid fragging war you're all carrying on, I just want Inertia back, and I will go back and get her, by any means necessary, no matter how many pretty speeches you make to try and convince me otherwise!" he snapped, then turned and stormed out of the room. Sunstreaker muttered something impolite about his brother quietly and then followed him out, glaring around indiscriminately. Silence fell in the office as the two brothers left.
"He has no idea who I am, does he?" the other mech said thoughtfully as he watched them go.
"Nope, not a clue, Prime." Jazz said with a grin. Prowl shook his head and sighed.
After the unhelpful meeting with Prowl Sideswipe tried to head for the transport hangers, but Sunstreaker pulled him away, reminding his brother that all the Autobot transports on base were intelligent, which meant they wouldn't be too keen on returning, either.
"Well what else are we supposed to do?!" Sideswipe snapped.
"Be resourceful." Sunstreaker stated flatly, more than a little fed up with his brother's obsession. Sure, he didn't like the thought that they'd left Inertia in Kaon to die, but he wasn't as blind as Sideswipe - between the rumours he'd been hearing around the base, and what Prowl had told them, he knew that is was highly unlikely that the red femme was still alive.
"Resourceful - how?" Sideswipe asked with a frown.
"You're the merchant, make some deals. You had some good business contacts here in Polyhex, look them up, see if one of them has a way to get us back to Kaon." Sunstreaker suggested with irritation. It was a measure of how upset Sideswipe was that Sunstreaker had to point this out - usually, Sideswipe had been the first to think of making a deal, negotiating his way out of things.
"Right. Business contacts." Sideswipe said, and after a long pause, Sunstreaker gave him an incredulous look.
"Don't tell me -"
"Inertia had all their contact frequencies." Sideswipe said flatly. Sunstreaker started snickering, and Sideswipe glared at him. "Oh just shut up - I'm sure there's a directory around somewhere, I can look up their names." Finding a directory was easy, however actually getting to use it proved to be more difficult than Sideswipe had thought - the base was overflowing with the rescued mechs and femmes, all of whom were trying to find their friends and family. There were line-ups half a joor long to get access to the directories, and neither twin felt like waiting that long. Especially since the line for using a communications channel was even longer.
"You have to know the location of some of your contacts." Sunstreaker said, now apparently vastly amused as Sideswipe tried to find some way, any way, to get in contact with some of his old contacts in Polyhex.
"You know fragging well I flew. Premiere building materials exporter and all that." Sideswipe said irritably. "You know this isn't funny, the longer this takes us the more chance that Inertia will be killed by the Cons."
"I know, I'm just appreciating the irony of you needing Inertia to get the resources to go find Inertia." Sunstreaker said with a grin. Whatever biting remark Sideswipe had in reply to that was cut off by a commotion in the direction of the communications center. Curious, the twins turned in the building's direction, only to see all the refugees being escorted out of the building, Autobot soldiers setting up a perimeter, grim faces on all of them.
"Huh. Wonder what's..." Sideswipe trailed off as he and Sunstreaker watched Prowl and the two mechs he'd been meeting with earlier make their way through the crowd, their expressions just as grim as the soldiers'. "Come on." Sideswipe said, grabbing Sunstreaker's arm and hauling him forwards.
"What? Why?" Sunstreaker yelped in surprise.
"Because something big is going down and I want to know what it is." Sideswipe replied.
"And just what makes you think you're going to be able to get to the doors, let alone inside?" Sunstreaker asked with a frown.
"Because, my dear brother, we're the two most feared gladiators of Kaon, and the mechs and femmes who know that best are the ones between us and the building." Sideswipe said, then put on his best scowl and started shouldering his way through the crowd, though he was as gentle as he could be about it. Soon enough the crowd split for him and Sunstreaker, anyways, nobody wanting to get in their way. Then, suddenly, there was a soldier in front of them, and miraculously, it was one they knew - Cliffjumper.
"Cliffjumper, buddy." Sideswipe said brightly, turning on the charm, while Sunstreaker sighed and shook his head. "What's happening?"
"Can't say." Cliffjumper said grimly.
"Aww, c'mon, you know us. You can tell us." Sideswipe wheedled. Cliffjumper frowned, his optics skipping over to the mechs and femmes of the crowd within hearing distance, many of whom were being entirely obvious about the fact that they were listening in. "A little hint?" Cliffjumper hesitated, but shook his head.
"Sorry guys." he said. Sideswipe didn't let that discourage him, and Sunstreaker sighed as his brother settled into full information-wheedling mode. Cliffjumper either didn't know much or was good at keeping his mouth shut, though, as Sideswipe got nothing. Eventually, of course, the people inside had to tell the refugees something, and it was Jazz who did the honours. Not that the twins knew it was Jazz until the soldiers guarding the building greeted him by name - the twins had to stare for a moment, the mech looked almost entirely different. The only things that had stayed the same on him were his helm design and visor. He had an entirely new paintjob and build, looking rather oddly like a reverse of Prowl now.
"A'right, sorry 'bout this gentlemechs an' femmes, an emergency has come up an' the communications center is gonna be closed until we deal with it." Jazz said. "In the mean time, you can still use the directories and get yourselves patched up. If the situation continues, we'll see 'bout findin' alternate channels for ya t'use." The crowd muttered slightly.
"What kind of emergency?" someone called out.
"Th'kind that needs our attention." Jazz replied unhelpfully, grinning unrepentedly. "It's nothin' you need t'worry 'bout." Jazz turned and disappeared back inside as the crowd, taking its cue from the first question, shouted out more. The crowd muttered unhappily after Jazz disappeared, but began dispersing. Sideswipe stuck around for awhile longer, trying to get Cliffjumper to tell him something, but was ultimately unsuccessful, letting Sunstreaker drag him away eventually to get energon.
"Feels almost like we went from one prison to another." Sideswipe muttered uncharitably as he twirled his empty energon cube, having downed it in one gulp. Sunstreaker snorted, still sipping his own cube. "Ok, the analogy is somewhat lacking, but still! We don't have anything to do, we can't go the one place we really want to, and nobody in charge will talk to us. Doesn't seem to be a lot of difference to me."
"You'll be seeing shortly just how much of a difference there is." Prowl's unexpected comment made Sideswipe jump, jerking his head around to see the mech standing behind him solemnly. "Follow me." he said, turning to leave again, and Sideswipe scrambled to do just that, while Sunstreaker downed the remained of his cube, then casually rose and strode out, pretending not to know his stumbling brother as all the rest of the occupants in the energon dispensary watched them go. They were silent as Prowl led them out and across the compound to the communications building, entering the main door unchallenged.
Inside, they found organized chaos. The communications center was comprised of one large room with view screens and communications consoles on all sides, with two hallways sprouting off from either side, hosting private communications rooms and offices. All the doors to those offices and private rooms were currently open, with mechs and femmes scurrying in and out, and around the main room. Occasionally someone called out to someone else, but mostly all they heard was the eerie hum of hushed, worried conversations. Wrapped up in their own doings, no one paid any attention to Prowl and the twins as they threaded their way through the main room - not to the hallways, but to the raised platform on the far side, above which the main viewer hung, currently displaying a tactical map of Iacon. A large mech, who Sideswipe recognized as the one to make the pretty speech earlier that morning in Prowl's office, was standing in front of the view screen, Jazz standing morosely at his side, flipping through images on a different, smaller viewer.
"Jazz." Prowl said simply as he climbed the steps to the platform, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker following. Jazz looked up, frowning, then smiled tiredly as he saw the twins.
"Sides, Sunstreaker, come tell me I'm seein' things." Jazz said in greeting.
"What?" Sideswipe asked curiously, but Sunstreaker just frowned, stepping up beside Jazz and peering down at the console.
"Isn't that..." Sunstreaker trailed off, but Jazz finished for him.
"Shatterspark." the other mech said with a grimace. "One of your fellow gladiators that was forced to sign on with the Cons." Sideswipe stepped up, frowning, as Jazz pressed another button and the image zoomed out, showing that the recognizable face was only connected to a torso - Shatterspark's arms and legs had been ripped off, leaving wires and hoses open and dangling. As there were no visible wounds on the torso or head, it was entirely likely that the mech had bled out from his missing limbs.
"Iacon." the large mech, the only other one on the platform, rumbled sadly. "The Decepticons began buzzing the city earlier today."
"We thought they were just trying to show off their aerial superiority, but then they started dropping...bodies." Prowl said with a grimace from the other side of the large mech.
"They what?" Sideswipe asked in shock.
"They've been dropping the bodies of the dead from Kaon on Iacon. And not just recent bodies - Jazz has recognized several from Arena matches over the last orn." the large mech answered solemnly, nodding to Jazz.
"An' do I ever wish I hadn't." Jazz said almost too softly to be heard.
"To scare the Autobots." Sunstreaker supplied in a flat tone, ignoring Jazz's comment, and the large mech nodded.
"To demoralize us." he elaborated. "Unfortunately, judging from the reports in Iacon, and from the atmosphere in here, they're succeeding. I'm worried about what releasing this information to the refugees here will do."
"So? Not to be callous or anything, but how is this our problem? We're not even Autobots. Just get the Prime to make some nice speech to charge up the troops." Sunstreaker said. Sideswipe frowned at his brother, but the golden twin ignored him, focussing on the large mech in front of him.
"Under these circumstances, I'm not sure how much a speech would help. Actions are needed." the large mech said, then paused, seemingly choosing his next words carefully. "However, actions from those such as us, who are mostly uninvolved, would be as meaningless as a speech. We need those that are involved, those whom this insult directly affects, to stand up and take action, to show the others who might get discouraged that we will not let the Decepticons get away with this. That we will bring them to justice." Sideswipe stared at the large mech in confusion, not understanding where he was going with this, but apparently Sunstreaker did.
"Show us." the golden mech said impassively, turning to Jazz.
"Are you sure -"
"Show us!" Sunstreaker demanded, and with a sigh, Jazz reached down and hit another button on his console, and the image switched. Sideswipe studied the new face that had appeared on the monitor, but as still as it was, with all the color washed out, it took him several moments to realize what - who - he was looking at. When in sunk in, he stumbled backwards, flipping off his optics in an attempt to block the image from his CPU. Steady hands caught him, prevented him from moving, and then the bond opened, letting Sunstreaker's own grief and comfort flow through wordlessly. Sideswipe unrepentedly took everything his brother could give him, needing Sunstreaker's emotions to drown his own, to block out the image of...of Inertia's lifeless body.
Emotions whirled within him, washing through his consciousness one after the other, unable to catch hold and stay for long before they were swept away by another. He didn't know what to feel, what to think. There was barely anything more than a working friendship between him and Inertia, and yet in the short time he'd been reunited with her, there had been so much more building up. And now...there was nothing. Nothing at all.
Sideswipe flipped his optics back on to three worried faces, and his brother's harsh assurances that they were fine, they didn't need a medic. Pushing away from Sunstreaker, Sideswipe forced himself to look at the monitor again, but it was dark. He wasn't sure if he was glad or not that the image of Inertia's corpse was no longer being displayed, but it did make it easier for him to focus. He understood, now, what the large mech had been getting at, what had clued Sunstreaker in to the fact that Inertia was dead.
"We'll do it." he growled. "Whatever you need us to do - we'll do it. They need to pay."
"They need to be brought to justice." the large mech stressed with slight disapproval.
"A death for a death. Sounds like justice to me." Sideswipe stated flatly.
"And would Inertia want you to kill in revenge for her death?" Jazz asked softly. Sideswipe scowled, ready to punch the other mech for questioning him on what Inertia would want, but memories flitted into his mind - "Not all of us are fighters, and part of being an Autobot is understanding that and protecting those that aren't. What you've done helps, and that's all I or any other Autobot will ever ask." - "What happened to him?" "What happened to both of us. Half these corpses are mine, Inertia."
Sideswipe frowned as Inertia's horrified face lingered in his CPU, and he looked over at Sunstreaker, who looked back solemnly.
::Justice, Sideswipe. It's what she would want. Not a rampage on her behalf.:: Sunstreaker said over the bond, and Sideswipe grimaced.
"Justice." he echoed. "We will bring them to justice."
"I'm glad." the large mech said solemnly. "Though you may not have suffered the most, thanks to Jazz, you are the ones whose story I know, and it would...reassure me, to see you recover, to be able to move on."
"Recover? Move on?" Sideswipe considered. "I doubt it. But we can bring those responsible to justice."
"Them and more." Sunstreaker said, surprising Sideswipe as he stepped up next to his brother, giving the large mech a steely look. "We may not have liked how it happened, or wanted it to happen, but we have been trained to fight, and there is no reason to let that training go to waste. We will bring those responsible for this -" Sunstreaker motioned to the monitor displaying Iacon, "To justice, and then we will continue to fight, to prevent such wrongs from being committed again. As Autobots."
::Autobots?:: Sideswipe questioned his brother.
::Autobots.:: Sunstreaker replied firmly. ::You can't go back to being a merchant anymore than I can go back to painting. We have changed, our lives have changed, and this is where it's all led us.::
"You will be welcome among our ranks." the large mech said. "Both for your abilities, and for your desire to see justice done, and not revenge and slaughter." Sunstreaker nodded in response, and then Jazz stepped forwards.
"Come on, I'll take you two t'the med bay for your insignias. We can do th'big announcement later, once things have settled down a bit an' Prowler's written up a 'nice speech'." the mech said, grinning slightly at the last part. Prowl scowled at Jazz, but the other mech's grin didn't dim as he hustled Sideswipe and Sunstreaker out of the Communications building.
"Wait, that's it?" Sideswipe asked when they were out of the building, surprised. "Don't we need to take an oath or something? I thought you Autobots liked to have your recruits swear an oath to the Prime."
"You just did." Jazz said, his small grin widening to a full-fledged one. "Or close enough to an oath."
"Close enou...wait." Sideswipe skidded to a halt, refusing to go further as Sunstreaker and Jazz turned to look at him. "You mean, that was -"
"Sentinel Prime." Jazz filled in with a grin.
"Glitch." Sunstreaker added with a shake of his head, then resumed walking towards the med bay, a chuckling Jazz quickly catching up. Sideswipe stared after them in confusion for a few more moments before hurriedly catching up.
::How did I not recognize him?!:: he asked his brother over the bond.
::You're glitched?:: Sunstreaker suggested.
::I am not. That medic the other day said I was fine.:: Sideswipe retorted.
::'Fine' is a relative term.:: Sunstreaker retorted. Sideswipe glared at his brother, but the glare quickly dropped as his looked up thoughtfully.
::So...that means we're actually Autobots now.:: he said.
::Yes. For better or for worse.:: Sunstreaker said with a sigh.
::This was your idea, you know. I want to point that out now, so that if it is for worse, I have it on record that I warned you that I'll be blaming you if it all goes to the Pits.:: Sideswipe pointed out.
::Fine, Sideswipe. If it all goes to the Pits, you have my permission to blame away.:: Sunstreaker said irritably.
::Somehow I have a feeling it won't, though.:: Sideswipe said, thoughtfully. ::I think this is where we were meant to be.::
- THE END -