A/N: After a certain amount of browsing, I've come to the conclusion that Shockwave is a bitch to find a consistent character profile for. Hence why I'm writing him as G1 with a dose of IDW, and a sprinkling of TransAni.
Disclaimer: Nightraider, Dreadnought and Crossfire are mine. No touchy-touchy. Everything else; Marvel, TakaraTomy and Hasbro. Touchy away.
Warning: Nothing much for this chapter, but there are references to miscarriage and abortion, along with Shockwave's rather twisted ideas about science.
Look, it's now M-rated for a reason, people.
Italics denote telepathy/recorded speech.
Crossfire: Part 3
Cybertron, City State of Polyhex, Darkmount Fortress...
Perhaps an eighth of the lifetime of an average Cybertronian.
And still there was no sign of the Nemesis, or of her erstwhile crew.
Although it was still early in the orn, Nightraider had long since drunk herself into an energon-induced stupor, and was currently dozing in the medbay under the unimpressed optic band of Dreadnought. Glit was out treating the wounded at one of the many torus bases around Kolkular, and would likely be absent for the next three orns.
Glancing up at the main viewscreen, Shockwave calmly noted that the starscape had dramatically changed. Where there was once the cold dark blue-black of deep space, punctuated only by the pinpricks of light that were distant stars, there were now numerous great clouds of violet-tinted dust particles, streaked with shimmers of red and blue. To the right of the screen, darker patches swirled where the dust had blocked out areas of light sent out by a small cluster of young stars.
Idly, he thought of Starscream and Jetfire, and what their probable reactions would be. The missing SIC would no doubt be regarding the nebula with an apparently jaded optic, dismissive of the sight before him but secretly desperate to escape and soar amid the dust clouds, enjoying the brief gusts of solar winds. Jetfire perhaps would be more analytical, scrupulously scanning the clouds for any pockets of helium or hydrogen that could be converted into energy surplus, but equally as desperate to play in the cold of space as his cynical companion.
The solder hissed as it melted, a shimmering drop falling from the tip of the iron and landing perfectly on the circuit board. Working quickly, Shockwave welded the microchip into the board, his hands steady as a tiny plume of smoke rose before his optic.
A terabyte of hard drive space would be adequate for the sparkling's first few stellar cycles of existence. Upgrades every vorn would then take care of the rest, perhaps with Dreadnought's assistance. The battlecruiser had a way with younglings that Shockwave had never possessed, and until now, had never required, and he was only too aware that he was hardly the most likeable Decepticon in the army.
No matter. The parenting aspect could easily fall to Nightraider and Dreadnought, if the former sobered up for longer than a joor and the latter stopped disapproving of everything the gun-former ever did. He would then be free to concentrate on the binary-bond aspect of the experiment.
The creation and conception processes both seemed straightforward enough. From the percentage of Nightraider's notes he had decoded, apparently using two separate sets of spark energy as would normally occur within a spark-bond to create offspring was out of the question; the jet, when preparing Soundwave for the parthenogenetic process, had injected his spark with a preliminary dose of spark-split reagent, then removed a tiny portion of his spark and modified the CNA to a suitable extent so that while the Cassettes would bear significant elements of their creator's personality and intelligence, the CNA between parent and sparkling would be suitably separate in order to sustain the gestational bonds during the carrying process. If not, the sparkling would either be reabsorbed into the parent due to the similarities, or terminated if there was too great a disparity between the two sparks' CNA.
While he had obviously not witnessed the CNA harvesting or the implantations, he was only too aware of how much trial and error would have gone into perfecting the process. Witnessing both Nightraider's guilt and Soundwave's nearly imperceptible grief during the first half-dozen times spark-split had been initiated and then failed, the treatments and multiple injections of reagent, and the constant observation Soundwave had subjected himself to during each carrying process had been...educational.
Modifying his own CNA enough to retain his own unique imprint and match it to that of the sparkling would be something of a challenge, but if a mouthy half-drunk femme jet could manage it, then surely it would be a minor task to a being of his intelligence.
But how to obtain said CNA...
Shockwave delicately slid the back panel of the sparkling's cranial unit closed and covered the tiny frame. His single optic focussed on his terminal and raced over his fellow scientist's angular writing until he reached the notes on the spark-split reagent.
It was critical that the compound was prepared well before the removal process. In order for the sparkling to form the correct bonds with the parent, the primary dose of reagent to the spark was required three orns before the spark energy removal, then another dose within 12 joors of implantation.
The mixture itself was simple enough. All he would need to do would be to take advantage of Nightraider's less-than-stellar guard over the medical storerooms and remove a few ingredients from his own stores. And when that was ready...
There were few things inside of his frame that could not be reached by disabling the neural relays in the necessary area. A dose of local anaesthesia, his own steady hands, a reprogrammed medical drone, and a good laser scalpel would take care of the rest.
For once, the medbay was empty of either shell-shocked troopers or half-Empty corpses waiting to have their vital circuitry and fluids removed.
Nightraider was sprawled out on the berth closest to her office, small snoring noises emerging from her vocaliser, and her fingers twitching around the neck of a bottle of Maccadam's oil-grog. Dreadnought, not happy at the idea of leaving the femme jet to her own devices, had installed himself at one of the workbenches and was making a few tweaks to his latest engineering blueprints.
Dreadnought glanced up from his datapad at the incoherent mumble from across the medbay.
"Are you alive?"
Not moving her face from where it was pressed against the oh-so-wonderfully cold berth mattress, Nightraider groaned, dropped the grog bottle and wrapped her hands around her head, pulling her legs up to her torso as she did. "Murrrrgh..."
"Okay, somewhat optimistic, but it didn't hurt to ask."
The tetra-jet felt her tanks churn and settle as she managed to sit up. "...Ohhhhhh Primus...what was I drinking last night?"
"Judging by what's come out of your exhaust in the past few joors, I'm guessing plutonium coladas."
Nightraider hiccupped and her faceplates turned a distinct shade of green. "And why didn't someone stop me?"
Dreadnought looked askance. "Stop you drinking yourself into oblivion? I'm good but I'm not that good."
"Well at least tell me you made a brew."
The battlecruiser pointed towards the back of the bay where an outsized beaker was sitting atop an industrial hot plate, the purple contents merrily bubbling away and returned to reading his datapad. "Help yourself. Oh, and you'll wanna look sober fast, Strika's on her way down."
"Oh fan-fragging-tastic. You couldn't've woken me earlier?"
Dreadnought, without looking up, simply gestured towards a medium sized, fist-shaped indentation on his upper left arm, a few flecks of black paint still embedded in the metal.
Nightraider glanced down at her knuckles and winced. "Ah. Sorry."
Silence fell over the bay, broken only by the black and red jet stumbling towards the tiny refectory area and chugging down half the contents of the beaker in one gulp. Her primary tanks made a noise crossed between a backfire and a gurgle as the stimulants in the brew hit her system, but fortunately the contents decided to stay put.
Breathing out a sigh of relief, Nightraider leaned against the cabinets and surveyed the room, quickly noting both Glit's absence and the appearance of a giant containment chamber on the bench next to Dreadnought. Almost the same size as the battlecruiser, the front hatch hung wide open, wiring and circuit boards spread across the surface like mechanical vines. Dreadnought, secure in the knowledge that his companion was now mostly in the land of the sober, was now dividing his attention between his datapad and a side panel which he was poking at with a screwdriver.
Nightraider's optics narrowed. "Please explain why my medbay now appears to be a spare parts repository."
The battlecruiser flashed the tetra-jet a quick grin. "Spark chamber for the new super-Transformer. Thought you'd want to see it."
"Part of Shockwave's pet project? Not so much."
"Aww, c'mon 'Raider. This is easily the biggest project I've had to work on in vorns. Can't you at least pretend to be happy about it?"
The tetra-jet frowned and suppressed a belch as the energon began to fill her secondary tanks. "There is a large part of this scheme which involves Shockwave either trying to create a spark, or trying to gain access to Vector Sigma long enough for it to cough one up. Neither option really fills me with the warm fuzzies. And the possibility of Shockwave getting within a light-year of a spark or sparkling is something I've worked for a good portion of my professional life on to prevent."
Dreadnought matched his frown with hers. "You still let him help you with Ratbat's onlining."
As always, the mention of either the missing Communications officer or any of his offspring made Nightraider's spark clench. "Only because I had no other options. It was either get Shockwave to assist me, or lose all of the Cassettes and Soundwave in one go. And even then I wasn't happy about it."
She fixed him with a Look, her mouthplates pulled downwards. 'You know as well as I do that Shockwave is the last mech in the universe who should be let anywhere near a spark. He regards most of us as disposable commodities; a sparkling to him would just be a liability, at worst, an experiment.'
Dreadnought sighed and stood up, his red optic band meeting his friend's still-bleary amber optics.
"...Okay, you know I like this whole idea about as much as you do. But if there's a way of getting an adult spark, one that he couldn't manipulate-"
A deep femme voice interrupted the battlecruiser's words. "To ask Shockwave not to manipulate a being for his own purposes would be antithetical to his processors."
The bulky dark red, pink and cream frame (1) of Femme Commander General Strika strode into the medbay, scarlet optics immediately settling on the slouching form of her CMO. Nightraider flipped off a quick salute and pushed herself away from the cabinets.
"It doesn't hurt to think about it, General."
The elder femme took a seat on one of the unoccupied berths, her usually stoic expression now one of rare suspicion. "The only absolute with Shockwave, as you well know, is that you never trust him. Only then will you be safe. Even Lord Megatron did not place full belief in his loyalty."
Nightraider huffed. "With respect Strika, are you here to lecture me, or here for a physical?"
"The latter, and do not think your tone will go unnoticed, Femme CMO."
"Yeah yeah yeah, I've already got a datapad of reprimands as long as my arm. You're stuck with me, deal with it. Dreadnought, frag off out."
Dreadnought looked up with a mock-hurt look in his optics. "Awww."
Nightraider jerked her thumb in the general direction of the door. "Femme stuff. Out."
The battlecruiser pouted under his face mask, but did as he was told and shuffled out of the medbay with his datapad and a couple of circuit boards.
Silently noting the appearance of Strika and the departure of Dreadnought, Shockwave managed to slip into the chemical storage rooms unnoticed and quickly called up his list of ingredients.
Iron ore, magnesium sulphate, sorbitol, ammonium nitrate, somatotrophin, placental lactogen, lutropin...it intrigued him as to how Soundwave hadn't suffered more while he had carried his creations. The list of hormones alone would be enough to make any being feel nauseous.
The gun-former calmly tucked the assorted vials into his carry-case and subspaced it before casting his optic around the shelves.
He would need to synthesise a few doses of anabolic steroids before he could start creating the reagent, but that would take four joors as he most.
With his mission complete, he activated his boosters and left as quickly as stealth would allow. If his current predictions were accurate, he would be able to begin the extraction procedure within the next four orns.
Settled atop the berth with her spark chamber open, Strika ignored the sensations of discomfort and focussed on the magnifying screen the red and black jet was currently squinting at.
Nightraider's professional facade was in full force as she zoomed in on the southern hemisphere of the general's spark. "So, is the shield still working for you?"
"As much as it can, considering the parts shortage."
The tetra-jet suppressed a wince as she studied the reddish scars marring the spark in front of her. "You do know you'll have to come off it for a few cycles. It's going to interfere with your mechanical and electrical components, not to mention your spark energy if you don't."
Strika's optics narrowed. "Obsidian will not be pleased with the delay in starting a new treatment cycle."
"With respect, your bonded can suck my exhaust. Either you come off the shield and give your system a rest before you start another cycle, or you can leave it and take a risk during a spark bonding and pray to Primus you don't end up carrying again. Your system can't take another termination, so frankly, the pair of you need to keep your chambers shut and be patient."
"And that's your professional medical opinion?"
Nightraider deactivated the magnifying screen and gestured for the general to close her chest plates. "Pretty much. Except with more swearing."
Strika sat up, slid off the berth and brushed a few of the more obvious dirt spots off of her torso plating. "Then so be it. I believe Obsidian will accept the uncensored version and a minor delay if it safeguards our shared health."
The tetra-jet raised her hands as if to fend off an attack. "I'll take your word for it. My knowledge of sparkbonds is purely academic."
Strika nodded abruptly, indicating the subject was no longer up for discussion. "So. Am I clear to remain on active duty?"
"Affirmative, though I would recommend a parts replacement on some of your gun turrets within the next orbital cycle. Dreadnought'll contact you once we get the parts."
The femme assault tank nodded again and marched towards the medbay doors, pausing briefly to glance back at the Femme CMO.
"I...take it you still cannot find a cure for this condition?"
Nightraider shrugged. "Super-fecundity was rare even before the war. Now it's almost unheard of. I could give you something to reduce your fertility, but I can't predict what the long-term damage would be. And when the war ends, we'll need all the sparks we can get to rebuild."
"What of reactivating the Well of All Sparks?"
"To reactivate the Well, we'd need to reactivate Vector Sigma. To reactivate Vector Sigma, we'd need either a Pit of a generator, the Key to Vector Sigma, or we'd need Alpha Trion. The first we don't have the energy for, the second went missing long ago, and to get hold of Alpha Trion would require something of a miracle considering he's just a legend."
Strika turned away. "I fear faith in the Thirteen is getting harder to come by."
The femme jet wrapped her arms around her torso, leaned against a nearby berth and stared out of the med bay window. "Hey. If they are real, all the potential followers they've got to choose from are a bunch of half-psychotic aerial troops and a decimated science core, and I'm not naive enough to think that Trion's Revelation is coming any time soon."
Strika's arrival had been pretty well timed, in Dreadnought's opinion. Now that Nightraider was up and about, it meant he could get back to his workshop and start tinkering with the manipulator digits on the new super-Transformer.
The battlecruiser let out a satisfied sigh as he entered his lab, placing the circuit boards and datapad on his workbench and turning his attention to the massive frame in the centre of the room. Pincer-like purple digits poked somewhat randomly out of black and silver cybertonium, the entire hand was over two, perhaps even three times the size of a normal Transformer – certainly large enough to adequately rival the hands of an Omega Sentinel.
But, like more than a few of the designs that had emerged from Shockwave's processor, this Transformer would be so much more than a simple guardian. The technology behind the creation of the triple-changers would be vital in both the offensive and defensive properties of this being. While it would obviously have a primary mode as a mobile battle station, Shockwave had envisioned this creature as being large enough to house a small city, or rather its secondary alt-mode, but as a triple-changer, it would be able to support a tertiary mode.
After the purple gun-former had revealed the concept designs for a beast mode, Dreadnought had actually skipped around his lab in delight.
Obviously he was limited by the raw material available like everyone was, but a combination of salvage, pillaging and melting down a few Empties when no-one was looking was yielding some pleasing results.
Dreadnought activated the portable generator and watched as electricity crackled through the various wrist motor cables. The giant hand hummed with power as he picked up his remote control board and positioned his fingers over the main switch.
"Okay, big guy, gimme five!"
He made a swipe at the oversized hand and grinned widely at the contact of metal upon metal.
"I said, gimme five!"
The oversized digits twitched briefly.
"Alright, fine, gimme three?"
The fingers twitched once more before the giant hand made a return swipe in Dreadnought's general direction. Sliding backwards out of harm's way, the battlecruiser smirked and made a quick note on his datapad.
"Servos and ligament connections running at 75 percent. Now..."
He fiddled quickly with a few smaller switches. The fingers closed into a fist and relaxed a few times before returning to their original position.
"Ligament memory programming active."
Dreadnought hummed and set the control system on the bench, turning his attention to his datapad.
"Three alt-modes, three programming set-ups; Pit, three fingers. There's gotta be a three or a tri somewhere in your name, huh? Don't move if you agree."
The hand remained still.
"Sweet. So...any thoughts on names? No pressure or anything, but I can't keep calling you super-Transformer or city-former since those just suck."
Dreadnought titled his head as if listening to something.
"Nah, Trio stinks."
A few more beats...
"Okay, whoa, I am so not calling you Triumvirate."
"Triptych? Like the paintings?"
"That's a little pretentious, don'cha think?"
"We'll stick a 'con' on the end, how about that? Triptych-con?"
He thought for a moment, squinting at the giant hand.
"Cool, so Trypticon works as a place-holder name. We think of anything better, we can change it. Let's face it, 'snot like you're going anywhere in a hurry."
The doors to the main control room were now encrypted with a Level 5 security code and a great deal of soundproofing material. While Nightraider, Obsidian and Strika all held the relevant clearance codes to bypass the encryptions, he would at least get a few breems of warning before they could enter.
It would be enough time to hide the portable lab equipment and the sparkling frame adequately. Anything left over could easily be passed off as parts for one of his, as the chief engineer and the Femme CMO had termed them, pet projects.
A freshly synthesised vial of anabolic steroids stood on the work surface next to one of Nightraider's spare sedative guns. On the tripod stand, an ominous green concoction bubbled slowly above the heat of a portable gas burner.
Shockwave calmly slid the drone's access hatch shut and turned to the service terminal, calling up the drone's input/output stats and reaction processes.
The drones only had limited intelligence, but all of them had been programmed with basic emotional recognition software and safety features. Any action which could potentially kill or cause damage to a Transformer, they were forbidden to perform; likewise, they could not allow a Transformer to come to harm through any inaction. It was also programmed to obey any orders given to it by a Transformer, except where the order would come into conflict with the former instructions. (2)
Disabling the safety features would take a few moments. Increasing the drone's neural relay sensitivity and fine manipulation servos enough for it to safely remove a portion of his spark would take longer.
Prepping the drone's core system for a defrag and programming cycle, the purple gun-former connected the necessary leads into the assorted access ports.
The screen flickered before reeling off the various stats and program lists in a derivative of Old Cybertronian – a paranoid measure, some would say, but Shockwave maintained that he had not survived the end of the Golden Age and the civil wars without a healthy dose of mistrust.
His optic flashed. The reagent was ready.
Two physicals, a minor leg servo replacement, one case of energon poisoning and half a dozen suicidal troops.
All in all, a quiet orn.
Nightraider engaged the back-up generator and watched as the lights in the med bay dimmed to the low level emergency power setting. A few of the lesser computer terminals blipped and powered down, the main life support systems remaining on full power.
Idly, she pressed her fingers to her temples and rubbed hard, trying to dispel the ache in her CPU. A plutonium colada powered hangover was one of the fouler self-inflicted ailments to try and recover from, and there wasn't much she could do other than medicate with chilled low-grade and painkillers.
She spared a glance at the chronometer. Glit wouldn't be back from Kolkular for at least another two joors, Dreadnought was holed up in his workshop, Obsidian and Strika were both on duty, and the less she knew about Shockwave's activities, the better.
Since she couldn't get drunk, she had to find another way of passing the time.
Returning to her desk, she activated her node in the Data-Net and settled back in her chair as reams of notes and AV recordings flashed up on screen. This data wasn't strictly part of her original research, but she hadn't had the spark to remove the recordings; after the Nemesis had disappeared, the recordings had been one of the few things keeping her sane.
She called up the first recording and felt her spark twist.
Her office in the Science Academy building had been far less functional and geared more towards comfort than her current surroundings. On screen, her younger self was in that office, squinting into the camera lens and twiddling with an unseen switch. Standing behind her and to her left was Soundwave, with Ravage's black fledgling frame cuddled safely in his arms. Both mechs were watching her with amusement, Soundwave's gaze mixed with what could almost be called fondness, while the feline Cassette tilted his head curiously at the camera.
The navy scientist gently stroked his creation's head. "Ravage; telepathy."
Ravage frowned in concentration and tried again. What is she doing?
"Camera; necessary apparatus. Event to record; your first unassisted steps."
"Recording event; posterity."
"Nightraider; responsible for your onlining. Desire; for her to share in this event."
Nightraider fought back a laugh at the young feline's questioning, straightened up and moved to tickle the sparkling under his chin. "So he's learned 'why' then?"
Soundwave let out a brief sigh. "Affirmative."
"Just wait until he learns 'shan't'."
"Tempting fate; unwise."
The navy mech knelt down and carefully set his creation on the floor next to his feet, watching closely as Ravage settled into a crouch.
Ravage pushed up with his front legs until his head and chest were raised. His aft and back legs remained firmly on the floor.
Soundwave rested a hand against the felinoid's side in a gesture of support. "Ravage; stand?"
With a grunt of effort, Ravage forced his aft to rise and his back legs to straighten until he was standing on all fours, his creator's hand still resting against his side.
Nightraider watched her younger self kneel down and watched expectantly as the little mech wobbled for a moment, and then placed a tentative black and silver paw in front of him. He tested the weight, and, remembering what Soundwave had taught him, slowly brought the back paw on the same side forward one step.
That seemed to work quite well, so he tried the other side, moving the opposite front paw forward and then the back paw, just as he had done before.
A tiny frown of determination settled on his faceplates as he alternated his paws, moving slowly but steadily forward with each step. Until his back paws became tangled about halfway through and he collapsed with a yowl of shock.
Soundwave had been edging alongside his creation until the tumble. Now he reached out a hand in an attempt to comfort the little mech. "Ravage; uninjured?"
Ravage gently batted the proffered hand away with a wave of his claws and studied the area of floor between him and Nightraider's lap, where he knew from long experience a cuddle and an energon goodie would be waiting for him. If he could just make his feet move correctly...
The femme CMO ignored the wetness on her faceplates as she watched the felinoid regain his balance on screen with scarcely a wobble, and restart his trek towards his goal.
"Less than a mechanometer to go, Ravage." Nightraider held out her arms as the black and silver Cassette began to pick up speed, his movements becoming less jerky and more graceful.
Soundwave moved quickly to kneel next to the femme jet, his optics not leaving his creation's frame for even a nanosecond.
With a triumphant meow, Ravage surged forward and landed in Nightraider's lap, a loud and contented purr emerging from his vocaliser as he was picked up and cuddled thoroughly by the femme jet, his creator leaning over his companion's shoulder and resting a proud hand on his head.
"Unassisted walking; success. Feedback; excellent."
The felinoid closed his optics and purred, revelling in the pride and delight radiating from the two adult sparks just inches from his own, and the simple happiness of the smaller, younger spark nestled safely within his creator's chamber.
45,000 vorns and two city states away from her old office, Nightraider shut down the recording and rested her head atop her arms on the desk, finally letting her tears fall freely.
Since there was no colour guidance he could discern from the femme jet's notes, Shockwave was uncertain of whether or not the reagent was the correct shade of...whatever colour it was meant to be.
The luminous green mixture sat in the beaker, slowly bubbling away with the consistency of organic mud. Every so often, a puff of steam would be released from one of the bubbles, the combination of water and heat being released strong enough to leave condensate dripping off his armour.
Not for the first time, the purple gun-former wondered if he was doing the right thing. If the experiment played out correctly, he would found a new form of warfare, perhaps powerful enough to lead the Decepticons to total victory over the Autobots.
If it failed...he could terminate his own spark; he could miscarry the sparkling; he could carry it to term and then die during onlining; they could avert all of those pitfalls and the sparkling could be onlined with serious defects.
Shockwave shook his blocky cranium to clear his thoughts.
He had come too far to turn back now.
He owed it to Megatron, to the Decepticon cause.
He owed it to himself, and to science.
Before he could allow any further doubts to surface, he inserted the vial of steroids into the main chamber of the sedative gun, allowing the contents to drain safely out of the tube before carefully removing the beaker of reagent and topping up the remainder of the chamber with the green fluid.
Briskly shaking the gun to mix the chemicals, Shockwave deactivated the seals on his spark chamber, and watched as the scarred purple plating twisted and retracted, allowing his purple-white spark to float freely.
He exhaled briefly, and tapped the gun chamber to remove any air bubbles.
His fingers tightened on the hand grip of the gun and aimed the instrument at his spark, the tip of the needle just brushing the surface.
Shockwave directed his gaze to the ceiling of the control room and offlined his optic in silent, ironic acknowledgement to his old mentor, now far away and long since gone.
"To Jhiaxus...I do this in your name."
He pulled the trigger.
No-one heard him scream.
(1) See the Transformers Wiki, 'Five Faces of Darkness Part 4'. The red, pink and cream femme in the flashback to the Quintesson-controlled Cybertron was retroactively named as Strika. Interesting that she's the colour twin of Elita One...
(2) I've tweaked the Three Laws of Robotics a bit here, but Asimov himself believed that the Three Laws helped to foster the rise of stories about lovable robots, so I'm taking that as my carte blanche.