Chapter 18: Epilogue
Stinger hobbled out of the hospital on two crutches, his left leg in a cast clear up to his waist. The doctors had said his femur had been shattered, broken in four different places by the weight of the wooden beam. His ribs would heal soon enough and at this point the pain had become more of nuisance than any severe discomfort. His biggest worry was whether or not he'd be able to fly again; he knew his leg would heal, but whether the military would ever allow him back in a cockpit was still up for debate.
For once England was pleasantly sunny and the weather was fair; perfect for the return trip home to the States. After all, he had been in England for almost two weeks now and he was just itching to get back onto his home turf. Colonel Garrison had him formally debriefed while still in Germany and Starscream's and Skywarp's data chips had provided concrete evidence against Dr. Doom and his diabolical plans for the world. It was hardly believable, especially where the US military stood, but without a doubt the Decepticon Seekers had stepped up and saved humanity from a hidden threat that no one saw coming, even if it was in their own interest.
Under the terms of the subsequent agreement, the US government agreed to keep the "Latverian Fiasco", as it became called, under the strictest security measures. Starscream and his trine would receive full repairs and transport to Lakenheath and Lieutenant Kesinger's role in the Fiasco would not go unrewarded either. Stinger was secretly promoted and was well-rewarded for his acts of bravery and courage while in the line of duty. Naturally, only the higher-ups would ever be privy to his accomplishments; anyone else would see just a normal pilot who happened to beat the odds and survived enemy capture. And just to sweeten the shaky treaty between everyone, Starscream and the trine would receive three full loads of energy to take back to Decepticon Headquarters, the story being that when the Air Commander and Thundercracker left to retrieve Skywarp, they raided a secret government installation in the process, thus giving them an adequate cover story for their absence. The US government would falsify a few media reports just to add to its believability; with any luck the Decepticon Leader would just be happy with his Air Commander's successful raid and the subject would be dropped.
Stinger and company had stayed at Ramstein for another whole day, technicians working around the clock to stabilize Skywarp's systems enough to complete the trip to England. When the black Seeker was safely out of the danger zone, they loaded him up on a C-17 Globemaster and flew straight to England, Starscream and Thundercracker flying escort. Stinger remained in the cargo hold to keep Skywarp company and to try and take the Seeker's mind off of his claustrophobia.
Their arrival in England had been less than warm, but nowhere near as harsh as in Ramstein now that all who needed to know had been apprised on the situation. Over the course of the two weeks, Skywarp's body had slowly been rebuilt with a little guidance from Starscream. But the day had finally come for the four unlikely allies to split their separate ways, the threat neutralized and everyone back to health.
Heavy footfalls drew Stinger's attention. He glanced over his shoulder and gave a wide smile. Skywarp knelt before him, fully repaired and absolutely shining under a fresh coat of new glossy, black paint. It was the first time the wily pilot had ever seen the Decepticon fully repaired with nary a mark marring his armor.
"Well, I guess this is it, old son," Stinger said, hobbling around to face the Seeker.
"I guess so," Skywarp replied, his smirk falling just a little at the thought of finally leaving this rather interesting and intriguing human. He turned his head away and watched as Thundercracker and Starscream were quietly conversing across the parade ground, Thundercracker leaning casually against one of the buildings and Starscream standing with his arms folded across his cockpit as usual. Finally, Skywarp found his vocalizer once more. "I never would have thought that one day a squishy would save my spark."
"And I never thought I'd actually be saved by the Decepticon Second in Command. Crazy world, ain't it?"
"You got that right," Skywarp agreed. A brief silence ensued.
"If I ever get in a cockpit again, I don't think I'll be able to look at you guys in quite the same light," Stinger said, breaking the awkward silence.
"You better!" Skywarp shot back. He poked a violet finger into Stinger's chest. "I ain't gonna take it easy on you like last time!"
"Last time!? Hell, you let that manic Doom character do all your dirty work for you and got yourself shot down in the process. You call that taking it easy? If you ask me, I'd call it slippin' just a little."
"Slippin' hey? You know I seem to recall owing you a chance to fly in a 'real' jet, squish, now that I have my wings back on straight."
"Yeah, I reckon you do, but as you can see I'm not really in any condition to fly right now," Stinger motioned with his crutch at his decrepit form.
"Humans and their pathetic organic weaknesses! You saw how bad off I was and now look at me!" Skywarp palmed a hand down his immaculate frame.
"Yeah, yeah rub it in, lughead," Stinger groused, as his countenance fell.
"What's rustin' your circuits?" Skywarp asked, a suspicious tone creeping up in his vocalizer.
Stinger sighed heavily. "Well, Warp, it's like this: The doctors told me I'd be lucky if I healed enough to walk without a limp and at this point they pretty much told me I'd probably be flying a desk from here on out."
"'Flying a desk?' That'd be pretty hard don't you think? Those things aren't even aerodynamically designed."
Stinger laughed half-heartedly. "No Warp. It's an expression. What I meant was they don't think I'll ever be medically fit to fly in combat again so they're going to sit me behind a desk doing paperwork for the rest of my career. Not exactly the way I wanted to finish up, you know. It'd be like your Commander Screamer over there, making you stay ground-bound for the rest of your life."
Skywarp flinched at the thought now that Stinger had clarified it. "Slag! That sounds like a fate worse than deactivation; I'd lose my processor if Screamer ever did that to me."
"You mean you actually have one of those?" Stinger sniped. Skywarp swatted playfully at Stinger, his palm landing just a few feet from the pilot.
"Very funny," Skywarp deadpanned, but his optics dimmed slightly and his faceplates grew serious. "But I'll tell ya what," he reached into one of his compartments and withdrew a tiny metal-looking chip. It was shaped into the Decepticon's shield, but there appeared to be a double-chevron of some sort in the background. It was so small that it could have fit quite nicely on a small chain necklace. Skywarp motioned for Stinger to open his hand and the Seeker dropped the item into his palm. Stinger looked at it curiously and then back up to Skywarp.
"It's a homing chip, my friend," Skywarp grinned mischievously. "Anywhere you go, anywhere you are, I'll be able to find you. You get the itch to fly, just press this small button." Skywarp motioned for him to do so; Stinger complied and watched as the eyes within the shield lit to a glimmering ruby glow. At the same time, Skywarp opened a small panel on his right forearm and showed the pilot a blinking red dot on a miniature radar screen. "I may not be able to come immediately, but…I'll show up eventually," he smirked, but then grew serious once more. "But that's not all this chip is good for. What I'm giving you, no other being besides a fellow Seeker owns. As you can see it's a variant of the Decepticons' shield. This is the Seeker's…" he paused trying to find the right set of words, "uh, Coat of Arms, if you will. If you ever run into trouble, or if you ever get tangled up with other Decepticons, just show 'em this shield. Got it?"
Stinger stared at the tiny trinket and then nodded his head. "Yeah, I got it. You know, this thing would make a kick-ass tattoo," Stinger commented as he turned the piece over and over in his hand.
Skywarp shrugged. "Hey, as long as other Decepticons see that you're one of us, you shouldn't have any problems. But I probably wouldn't let anyone else know about this. As you human's say, no sense in showing all your cards at once."
"Does Screechy know of this?" Stinger asked. He didn't like the thought of Skywarp getting into trouble in his stead.
"Yeah, he knows. In fact, I wouldn't be giving this to you if all three of us weren't in agreement about it. You should feel privileged, human."
"I do. You have no idea, Skywarp. And I've got something for you." Stinger reached into his pocket and withdrew a coin. He placed it within Skywarp's massive palm, the tiny coin looking no larger than a corn kernel in his violet hand. "This is my squadron's coin. It's kind of like what you just gave me. It's not a homing beacon, but it's just a little reminder of what we went through."
"Uh, well thanks, squish," Skywarp replied warmly. He placed the coin in one of his storage compartments. "Anytime I'll look at it, I'll remember you."
"Thanks man," Stinger replied with a small grin.
"Skywarp! It's time to go!" a reedy, metallic voice called across the grounds.
"Take care of yourself, Skywarp."
"You too, Stinger. I'll drop in for a visit every now and then. Let me know if you ever score as many femmes as I have!" the purple Seeker called over his shoulder as he rejoined his wingmates.
"You bet!" Stinger hollered back. With a loud, thunderous roar the three Seekers leaped into the air as one, thrusters igniting in a flurry of multi-colored flames. As a single entity they rose into the sky, transformed in unison and jetted into the azure depths. The lieutenant watched as the three Eagles quickly became three dots and then faded from sight. They were going home and now it was his turn. As he turned to head toward the tarmac where a C-130 sat patiently waiting, he looked one last time in the direction the Seekers had disappeared. He opened his palm and studied the tiny device that Skywarp had given him. He grinned to himself. Officially, he was a Seeker now too, and the rank and privilege bestowed upon him by Skywarp and his trine outshone anything his fellow humans had given him or ever would give him. It would be his most prized possession. He looked up into the sky once more before walking to his waiting transport. He barely even noticed the solitary tear that made a mournful track down his scarred cheek.
~ FIN ~
A/N: Well guys, thanks for everything and all your awesome reviews! But don't fret too badly; I've already began working on the sequel. So keep your optics peeled for "The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend." And go see the new movie if you haven't already!