Chapter 9: Weakness

Prowl's chassis was puffed up, as usual. At least that was always what it looked like to Kup as he observed the younger mech on the ship's deck, the ocean slamming against the military vessel's hull. He was a curious character, to say the least. Most would say he was a stoic, cold mech with no emotional attachments, but Kup knew better. He had raised a youngling with a persona much like Prowl's.. Sadly, the youngling in question was a mournfully old memory. Recalling it now, he remembered finding the youngling in the rubble, a few upgrades from being an adult much like Bluestreak. The youth was scavenging, bitter and angry. He would steal from any mech not wise enough to guard his back… be them Decepticon or an Autobot Officer.

That was how it had started off. Autobots would come into the base missing things. Energon, parts, maps … a toy or two. It had been a bit of luck, at least for Kup, that they had even caught the young thief at all. A scrimmage had taken place near some old ruins by the base, and there was a scream as the rubble came down. Not that most mechs noticed, dodging gunshots and all, but as a caretaker he knew a young mech's cry when he heard it.

So, after the battle, in the energon and steaming metal they looked for an extra body. Sometime later they dug up a youngling, half-starved and full of spitfire.

Yet strangely stoic at times.

It took nearly a third of a vorn before the youngling started speaking and interacting in a proper manner with his saviors. The young mech, when asked, said that he remembered his name, but when his caretaker's abandoned him… they took his name with them. At least that was what the youth had proclaimed far too bitingly. Apparently, names carried power and he never wanted anyone to have that power over him again. The youngling had gone so far to even scrape his creators' names off of his helm.

It was a sad proclamation for a youngling and looking at Prowl he saw the youngling for a moment. Runner was what the youth had named himself. Prowl was so much like Runner that it was haunting. Runner even twitched his door wings like Prowl was doing right now. In fact, Prowl's entire form was held so much like Runner's in was uncanny. Frag, Prowl even frowned like Runner. If he didn't know that Prowl was far too old, Kup might have thought Runner and Prowl were one in the same.

Unfortunately, Runner, the poor thing, was already deactivated. Kup was sure. They had gotten separated in one of the mech's first battles and … Kup's spark still hurt thinking about it.

He was sure he would lose all of his younglings before this pit-forsaken war ended. It really wanted to take all of his younglings before taking him. How many bonds were ripped to shreds in his chassis? How many younglings would never snuggle with him again even if they were adults and no longer needed such attentions? How many would never be alive to ask him about bond-mates, sparkling creation and fraggen everything else a caretaker was expected to do in a youngling's long life?

His spark ached at the thought.

He didn't want to count how many he had lost.

"What are you staring at, Kup?"

Kup, who had unknowingly been staring at the higher officer the whole time, perked up and widened his optics. He quickly onlining and offlining his optics to try and reset his thoughts. It was a very Hot Rod like thing to do, but what could he say … all his youngling's rubbed off on him. So he merely answered in Cybertronian, "What?"

Prowl, who had taken a few steps closer, twitched his wings in irritation. He again asked in a nearly emotionless tone, "Why are you staring at me? Does my form unsettle you or have I upset you unknowingly?"

Frowning, silent for a moment, Kup said softly, "No, you just remind me of a younglin' I knew." And misswhy do I keep losing younglings?

Straightening his shoulders, Prowl tried to look unconcerned. Kup knew better though from his time with Runner. To read Praxians, you at to look at their door wings. Kup could tell by the slight twitches of the enforcer's wings that he was frustrated.

"I understand though I would request that you stop," said Prowl evenly in Cybertronian, though Kup continued to stare.

Prowl, ever patient, allowed him to stare even as the ship slowed. They were coming close to their destination, the military humans running around deck like so many little insects. Some of the men were probably the ones that had dropped the metallic bodies' months ago as well as the newer NEST agents. Thankfully, none of them stared too much. Prowl, feeling slightly unnerved at the thought of pulling up corpses, transformed into vehicle mode and sat there. Some humans even jumping back at the sound of twisting gears.

Kup had scavenged the dead more times than he would like to admit, and he didn't even twitch as the first submarines were dropped into the ocean's cold embrace. He just stood there watching the humans run back and forth to their assigned stations like a finely tuned machine. Interesting creatures, easily frightened by fast movements and large sizes, yet they would overcome those twitches and beating little hearts to get the job done. They were brave little soldiers, ready to die for a war that wasn't theirs yet they were barely the age of a sparkling.

Kup silently respected them, but he was not going to make friends with any of them. He was not going to end up like Ironhide after that Annabelle incident.

So … many … animal … crackers.

Ratchet would still find one from time to time getting crunched by Ironhide's twisting gears.

Kup twitched at the thought of human food getting in his gears and turned his attention to the enforcer. He almost laughed at the sight. Frag, he was so much like Runner that he swore they could have been brothers. Runner would do this all the time to pout, transforming into his alt mode so no one would see the twitching of his wings or the emote of his facial features. His tires told the tale though … and Kup could only shake his helm as he chuckled.

Prowl was just a younglin' compared to him anyway.

"What's bothering you, Prowl? You can talk about it instead of brooding you know?" said Kup, reaching into a subspace. He needed a cy-gar because this was going to be one of those conversations. Getting Runner to open up made him want to beat his helm against a wall so why would Prowl be any different? Maybe it was a Praxian thing?

Prowl, sinking lower on his tires, replied, "I am not brooding."

Laughing as he brought the cy-gar to his mouth, Kup continued, "I took care of a kid just like your Prowl. You're brooding and we ain't going anywhere. In fact, it might be long enough that you might find yourself swimming back if you keep this up."

"Are you threatening me?" said Prowl, his EM field sizzling in a threatening manner before it was pulled back towards his frame.

"No, I'm just making a statement," said Kup as he took a puff of his cy-gar, noting that a few humans would slow down to stare before heading back to their posts. "Now, what's your problem with me?"

Prowl, probably glaring in alt mode, twitched on his tires before he huffed, "My only problem with you is your disrespect for authority."

"I'm older than you. I've earned the right to pick at you younglings," said Kup, smiling coyly like he knew a joke no one else did.

Transforming quicker than a flash, his door wings twitching and his face actually showing an expression of irritation, the officer barked, "I'm not a youngling!

Chuckling, loving that he had actually riled up the officer, he grumbled, "Compared to me you are."

Hands becoming tight fists, optics glowing almost a harsh whit, Prowl tried to keep his cool. "You will stop with this behavior immediately. It is unprofessional, and I am your superior."

Giving the younger mech almost a bored look, not the least bit threatened, Kup took another puff. "Well, you lock your emotions up, I had to get them out of you somehow. So, like a youngling I had in the past, I picked at you until you looked me in the optic and exposed yourself … I can see you now Prowl. I can see you. Now tell me what I'm seeing."

Prowl, wings dropping as his optics dimmed, shook his helm as if confused. "Of course you can see me. I am standing right in front of you."

Glaring, lip twitching, the elder mech all but barked, "I see that you have feelings, Prowl! That's what I'm saying! I see your silent glares and how your wings dip when you think yourself alone, and how you go out of your way to watch Bluestreak. Is this about my request to Optimus to be Blue's caretaker?! I'm sick of your brooding! If you wanted him you should have asked for him!"

Door wings going high, the first show of rage that Kup had truly seen from the enforcer, Prowl whispered darkly, a tone that even some of the humans froze over even though they were speaking Cybertronian, "I did want him! I wanted to take care of him so badly … but I couldn't."

Prowl seemed to wilt, seemed tired and old for a moment. It was the look of an old broken spark, sunken and forgotten like dead leaves at the bottom of a lake.

Sighing, features becoming softer, Kup asked in almost a whisper, "Then why not? Why didn't you take him? He's been alone for so long. You must have had enough spark to see that he was in pain."

Optics soft, old memories rising up like flood waters from the ground, Prowl's words were supple like memories shifting through a mirror. "I did… I knew. I saw it every time I walked past him. But I couldn't … he looked so much like him out of the corner of my optics and I couldn't fail Bluestreak like I had failed him… He deactivated because of my foolishness."

Silent for a moment, Prowl continued, pain dripping through his EM field even though he was trying to keep it tucked against his form. "I can't fail him the way I failed my brother."

Puzzle pieces finally coming together, a sad picture was made complete for the old timer. Prowl was a lonely heartbroken spark full of shame and pain, scarred like so many sparks in this war.

Kup had to look away, his lips tight. It wasn't his place to dig open old graves, but it would be cruel to not at least offer flowers in the form of kind words.

Shifting nearer to the officer, voice accepting, Kup replied, "I understand, and I didn't mean to pry …"

Silent for a klick more, the green mech decided on a course of action.

"Prowl? Do you want to recharge with me on the trip back? You are still a younglin' to me no matter your status, and there's no shame in admitting you need a little comfort while you recharge," said Kup, staring at Prowl though the enforcer was making a real show of watching the moving cranes, the bodies having been located in the depths.

Blinking his optics, words soft, Prowl replied, "Stop calling me a youngling. It would be unprofessional not to mention confusing for the humans on board if they found us snuggled together in root mode as we fell in recharge. I am not so weak sparked that I need comfort like that anymore."

Finally giving in, feeling like the whole conversation had been for naught, Kup added, "There is nothing wrong with having emotions and wanting comfort. It is a characteristic of Autobots to want to give and take comfort from each other's sparks. As an Autobot, you should already know that."

Then turning, walking over to the commotion with the moving cranes, he almost didn't hear Prowl whisper, "It is an Autobot thing to do, Kup. You are correct. I have not shared a berth with anyone for any purpose in a long time … though … I wouldn't mind recharging in alt mode next to you this evening. Not at all."

Looking at Prowl, feeling a little happier then when he had started the conversation, Kup merely nodded in reply. Prowl really did need more bonds because Kup was quite sure the enforcer didn't have any. And a quiet mech like that … he needed more.

Bluestreak shifted on his knees. This position was uncomfortable and he was starting to feel a little wheezy. Scorponok was taking a lot out of him. He wasn't used to being drained of energy this quickly and his systems were starting to feel exhausted… or maybe it was these new programs.

Personally, part of him didn't want to know, but that didn't stop him from groaning and leaning forward, placing his helm on the cool concrete.

Would this ever end?

Barricade, who had raided Blue's energon stash of his own accord while telling Bluestreak not to move, roused slightly from his soft recharge. Yawning, or the equivalent of it as he sucked air into his vents to jump start his systems, Barricade onlined his optics and stared at the moaning youngling for a moment. Grumbling, he then sent a quick command to Frenzy and the little bot popped out of his compartment in a heartbeat though the little drone took the time to flip his partner the bird. Frenzy didn't like being awaken early, but he still made his way over the dizzy Autobot regardless.

Chatting to himself, the drone climbed up the youngling's still form and up to the Autobot's helm. With thin fingers he placed a hand on Blue's helm and patted it for a moment to get the bot to react. When he got nothing substantial, he crawled down to Scorponok and placed his helm on top of the Scorpion-bot as if looking for a heartbeat. A few moments later, tisking at the ravenous drone, he clicked back to Barricade whom could barely keep his own red optics online.

Groaning, not surprised with Frenzy's diagnosis at all, he slowly got to his peds and circled the youngling before he stopped at Blue's back, asking, "Auto-brat, you feeling light headed or do you're limbs feel tingly?"

Moaning into the concrete, helm so fuzzy that he was starting to feel faint, he admitted, "Yes."

"Greedy little parasite," grumbled Barricade as he knelt by the drone, trying to decide if he was just going to rip the tail out or see if he could wake the drone. Well, he had been roused from his sleep, why should the drone get a gentle wake-up at all? Besides, he didn't want that stinger in his face if the drone woke in battle mode. He was feeding properly for the first time so his systems might be on guard for his new host.

Reaching for some wires at the base of the tail and spinal column, Barricade started pinching the tubing there. It would be painful, no doubt, drones were always very protective of the limb that allowed them to feed. It was of little surprise that the reaction was instantaneous. The tail was ripped from the youngling's back port causing the youth to scream in pain and collapse on the cement while the scorpion-bot came fully online, legs spread and tail ready to strike as processed energon dripped from the tip.

For a moment there was silence, stillness before a storm as Scorponok's system assessed the threat and his current location as well as … his energon levels.

Was that a cry from his master?

Battle mode still on high guard he pressed into the bond and found Bluestreak panicking. He immediately turned his many optics to see what was wrong. Bluestreak had energon leaking down his back, staining his grey armor an unsightly color. From the looks of it, it was near the port so it was probably a rough release though pulling it out would have been more destructive. Not that Blue probably knew or cared about the latter fact. He was in agony, if the bond was any indication as well as the blubbering, but such pain should be expected from new wiring.

The scorpion-bot, wanting to tell his host to remain calm, pressed into the bond, especially with the way the young mech was choking in the dirty cement. Slowly backing up towards the young bot, he turned his optics to the only threat in the room: Barricade.

Slagger. He didn't trust him, but he knew that Barricade spoiled Frenzy. That still didn't answer why he was in this strange building with Barricade and Frenzy, his master's drone-port damaged. Finally getting to his youngling, he started clicking, pressing into the bond to try and get some answers. Bluestreak merely shivered, fingers digging into the cement.

Watching Scorponok for a moment, knowing all too well that there was a lot of bond communication going on and failing from Scorponok's ever growing agitation, Barricade came closer. Not close enough to be impaled, he knew better, but he got close enough to get his tone across and to try and see that wound a little better. "Don't give me that accusing look, bug. I didn't do that to him. I didn't bring you here. Your young master came to me for help… and you gave him that wound."

Part of him wanted to scold the young master for his stupidity, but Scorponok resisted. If it wasn't for Barricade … he would probably be dead. Getting lower on his legs, Scorponok could only hiss and click away his distaste.

Chuckling darkly to himself, loving how vulnerable these two were, Scorponok never having to play the role of partial caretaker with a youngling, Barricade replied, "You overfed. That's why he's not answering. The port wound looks minor if it doesn't get infected. I had to force you to let go because you might have seriously hurt him if I had allowed this to continue. A young drone carrier can't take that kind of stress... Though this could have been ignored if you had just taken what you wanted and fed before you started starving. Then again … younglings can be very flighty, can't they?"

Loving how Scorponok seemed to shift uneasily from side to side, nervous and frightened for his forming bond, Barricade shook his head. It was pathetic for a Decepticon to be so sensitive.

Sneering, Barricade allowed his distaste to be known. "You are pathetic, bug. A true drone would have allowed himself to starve then attach himself to an Autobot. It's softened your spark."

The scorpion drone whined in irritation, but did not back down from his youngling as Barricade took another step forward.

"You're too soft," continued the enforcer. "Now let's wake up the brat. Hopefully, he has some spare energon in his sub space otherwise I don't know if he will be able to wake up for that matter get back to his base. We might have to call the Autobots if not. And if we have to do that … I have no idea what kind of lie he will come up with. But that's his problem, isn't it?"

Chuckling, he added, "The absurdity of it... an Autobot practicing deception. He must be catching it from you, Scorpy."

Scorponok glared, clearly not amused.


Paw07: Eh, a short chapter but we get some plot movement. Sorry, not much of a cliffhanger this chapter. I'll try harder next time. X3

(Revisions April 2016)