Author's Note: Huge thanks to Jaka Tingkir for being the fifth reviewer after I had to wait far too many days, pulling my hair out in frustration of being one review short! Gah! But alas, here it is, and I am so overjoyed! The ending of this one is something I'm particularly happy with, so I really hope you all like it. Oh...and I apologize if this seems a bit repetitive at times, I tried to fix that but the fic was being stubborn... I'd blame Rumble, but he's a little depressed right now... sorryyy...
So without further ado (aside from the disclaimer) I give you the third and final part of Flyaway.
Disclaimer: All Transformers are belong to Hasbro.
Soundwave was breaking. It was invisible to anyone who didn't know the monotonous mech as well as the Cassettes did, but he was. Rumble saw it the moment he set foot inside his father's quarters. Ravage slunk in after him and Buzzsaw glided in overhead; both condor and jaguar kept their heads low and settled themselves upon Soundwave's recharge berth. They felt the stress that was silently building up inside their Creator, but could think of nothing to say to him. Even Ratbat, who'd been in a deep slumber for a better part of the cycle, was wide-awake and somber—something quite unusual for the otherwise energetic youngling.
The massive blue mech did not linger in his quarters; the moment he saw that Rumble was safe and calmed, he left. Not even bothering to offer his usual business-like excuse. Rumble sighed heavily and slumped to the floor, leaning against the cold metal wall and hugging his knees to his chassis. He bowed his head, hiding his face from his brothers, and feebly hoping that somehow he would become invisible.
What was happening to their world? Cybertron was little better than dead, so why were they still here? What was the point? What was the use of it? Their leader had disappeared vorns ago, others had gone after him, and even more still had perished in an attempt to follow. Their numbers were dwindling and now that Thundercracker had lost it…how many others would follow him? How many more would lose their minds to the ferocity and hopelessness of this war? Rumble knew full well that Skywarp wasn't faring well; with both his brothers gone, he had no one to turn to. There was no one that understood him like his brothers had, no one that could make sense of his banter and obscure jokes. Most saw him as a pest, an annoyance, but Starscream and Thundercracker had seen more. And now, no one saw Skywarp at all. Just an empty shell. Primus, everyone was actually starting to miss the old Skywarp. The poor Seeker wasn't acting normal, he wasn't teleporting for every little thing and he kept his mouth shut. It was unnatural.
A sense of dread suddenly consumed Rumble. Things were changing, changing for the worse it seemed. Thundercracker had betrayed them, two Cassettes had fallen, a team of top warriors were off on some far-off planet with no contact possible, Megatron's status was unknown, and the Allspark was—as far as Rumble knew—lost. Was there no hope at all? Soundwave was crumbling; he could take no more of this. Between taking on extra duties when Megatron disappeared to pursue the Allspark and then taking on an unwanted leadership when Starscream, too, went gallivanting off to Earth, plus the deaths of two if his children, it seemed like things could hardly get any better for the mech.
Rumble was sure that they were losing. The Decepticons were falling, being picked off one by one either at the hands of an Autobot or the questionable sanity of their own minds.
'Rumble…?' Ravage took a tentative step in the blue Cassette's direction.
"I thought Soundwave wanted to talk to me," Rumble replied bitterly, his voice muffled as his face was still hidden.
'I thought he did, too,' said Ravage calmly, a trace of bewilderment in his voice due to Rumble's unexplained bitterness and his father's unexplained absence.
"Guess he has nothing worth saying to me."
'Don't be like that,' the jaguar scolded, glowering. 'Soundwave has enough to worry about without you turning on him like this!'
Rumble froze. "I'd never turn on Dad," he mumbled.
'I'm sure you wouldn't,' said Ravage, icily. 'But you sure as Pit aren't acting like it! You, yourself, admitted to being afraid; you admitted to worrying about how much more Father could take. Now you are contradicting yourself in the worst possible way.'
Rumble hated to admit, but Ravage was right—just like always. He had to stay strong, he couldn't let the mental stress of war break him down, not now and not ever; for Soundwave, he had to be strong. He just had to be. So Rumble sucked in a long breath through his vents and raised his head from his hands, his visor-obstructed stare met Ravage's catlike optics and they held firm. Ravage, despite his feline features, seemed to be smirking as if he knew something—which Rumble didn't doubt was true, that cat had a knack for knowing—and he fluidly stepped aside to provide Rumble with a clear view of the door. The blue Cassette pushed himself swiftly, albeit unsteadily, to his feet and brushed invisible dust from his metallic form; and then Ravage bowed his head.
'Do what you must, little brother,' the jaguar spoke smoothly, voice low and deadly as always, but strangely affectionate. Rumble blinked at the metal cat in bewilderment…then with gratitude…and then with a deep appreciation; he'd never understand Ravage and he probably never would, the cat had an agenda entirely of his own, but Rumble found that he didn't mind in the slightest. The little blue Cassette nodded to his brother, almost tempted to pat him on the head as he'd seen humans do to their organic pets, as he walked quickly to the door.
He left Ravage to the questions of Buzzsaw and Ratbat, he was more focused now on the mission at hand and it was an extremely important one.
Rumble wandered the halls of the base arbitrarily; turning here because that smudge on the wall looked kind of like Megatron's face…if you squinted and looked at it sideways, or turning there because it was at this very corner that Soundwave had once been crashed into by Starscream as the seeker stormed the base in one of his infamous fits. He had no method to his meandering, no real reasons for stepping left or jogging right, nothing other than the faints tugs on his spark that quietly willed him this way or that. He only hoped his spark knew what it was doing, because he didn't; he only knew where he wanted to be, not specifically how to get there.
Fortuitously, he found himself wandering into the communications room: Soundwave's domain, shared only with the reclusive Shockwave. However, the cyclopic giant was currently absent, his hulking presence nowhere to be found in the vast chamber of blinking lights and thrumming monitors and computers with complex messages unintelligible to Rumble, but were to Soundwave a well of information. The towering navy mech, himself, was standing blandly in front of one of these monitors, expressionless face directed at the swiftly scrolling transmission in what seemed to be rapt attention. But there was an air of detachment about Soundwave, like he was slowly but surely cutting all ties with the real world as to become utterly exclusive.
So this was how the mighty Soundwave dealt with stress—something no Cybertronian, Decepticon or Autobot, ever imagined they might one day witness. He shut himself down, deleted the only speck of emotion he possessed and gave in to the absolute monotone of a mindless machine—the very thing his voice suggested him to be.
Rumble stood in the doorway, unsure of whether to enter or leave his father to his work. In his hesitation, he observed Soundwave as the mech abruptly reached up and ended the scroll of transmission even though it seemed the message was nowhere near complete. Soundwave continued to stand there, arms hung at his sides and his gaze remained exactly as it had been previously—he seemed an immobile, non-sentient statue. At this, Rumble mustered up all his courage and entered the room, approaching his father purposefully.
"Hey, Soundwave!" he called, trying to temper is naturally obnoxious sounding voice. The giant blue mech showed no reaction—as usual—other than to turn and avert his blanks stare downwards to the little Cassette.
Hastily, he scrambled onto Soundwave's foot and used it as a stool to boost himself onto the control panel so that he could speak more to the communications officer's face rather than his knee. On an instinct, Soundwave reached out to lift the Cassette, his son, the rest of the way up and Rumble grinned appreciatively.
"What was that super long message?" Rumble asked suddenly, trying to buy a little time to think of how to best approach his mission without causing any unnecessary awkwardness. "Who was it from?"
"Transmission from Starscream," the mech responded, his hesitation almost indeterminable. "Sixty-five of data: inconclusive. AllSpark has been destroyed."
Rumble bowed his head, he nearly regretted asking, but the depressing response was not without its meager rewards. The little Cassette tactfully let the silence remain; while his display of grief was honest, it was also far more thoughtful than it appeared. He looked up at Soundwave, who had not shifted in the slightest the entire time, and said with quiet sincerity,
"Do…do want some help, Dad?"
Soundwave seemed to turn this simple question over and over in his mind, considering its every possible meaning and applying it to the current situation and the means of its inquiry. Then he looked a little deeper, unseen optics flickering from their bland stare into nothingness to refocus on the face of his little Cassette—a face that was quite similar to his and reminiscent of his long gone past. The familiar little face was frowning with worry, the corners of his lips pinched in anxiety, but at the same time there was an abundance of…something in those masked optics. Soundwave couldn't quite place it, but it was an open feeling…a willingness to give and support…and he realized. No matter what angle he took upon Rumble's simple, sincere question, there was only one possible—one logical—answer: