A/N: Hideously…hideously overdue I know. For some reason this chapter was hard to think of and write. But at long last I have found the spark to finish this story. I hope it's ok for a closure.
A Human Friend
"Chapter 23: Spark-Broke with Optics Open"
Outside the city many hours later…
Thundercracker's steps were so heavy, so slow. He didn't even notice the panic he instilled by trudging through the city streets; even when local authorities pelted his metal hide with bullets. The stinging sensations did nothing to penetrate the cloud of despair hanging over the Seeker's helmet. He launched from the ground, feeling the pained protest of his new wings. Like an astronaut bouncing on the moon, Thundercracker used his thrusters to jump from building to building until at last he was out of the city and he arrived at the place he now sought.
The sun was warm, shining its friendly light upon the waving grass field. A slight breeze caressed the long green strands sending it swaying in rhythmic waves. It was hypnotic, almost beautiful in its unity; as if ground and sky were dancing yet never touching. But it was all lost to the blue Seeker whom sat as a solid unmoving mountain amid the dance.
Thundercracker had returned to the special field he and Lana had met in so many times after they had parted ways as pet and master. He wasn't even sure why he had done so, but upon his arrival he merely sat down. Though his red optics were open, they did not see anything; only the thoughts in his head. How many times had he sat in this exact spot waiting for Lana's car to pull up during the wee hours of the morning? And when she arrived they would just talk about nothing really. As rare as the meetings were, Thundercracker always looked forward to them. It was even in this place that Lana showed him her dancing and where he would launch into the sky to allow her the privilege of flight. He looked up slightly the ghostly memory of her dance almost playing out in the grass. The Seeker lowered his head again, not wishing to even replay such memories.
They were only those now, memories. And he would never make more with her. She was gone; slain because of his presence. He gripped the top of his helmet with guilt. Had he only chosen to get his wings repaired elsewhere, someplace so far from Lana's home that there was no chance of her being harmed, she might be in the field with him now. But his selfish refusal to remain grounded had blinded him to those considerations. Flight, the sky, his wings…they had been everything to him; the only things that brought him solace in an otherwise contradicted existence. How many times had he taken to the skies after a particularly messy, inglorious battle if only to escape the roiling guilt in his processor? How many times had he abandoned those he and the Decepticons had slain on the ground for the clean, untainted sky above? Did he ever really forget his sins in its blue depths? No…he never really forgot…but he pretended flight was the almighty cleanser.
Now, he couldn't even try to pretend a flight would erase away his guilt. It held him to the ground like a stone, crushing him within. How could it even come to this point? How had his mind been changed so drastically? For most of his life Thundercracker had scorned the flightless; humans being no exception. He was a ruthless, battle-hardened, Decepticon Seeker—at least that's what he had always convinced himself he was. That is until the reality of his station began to gnaw away at him; the reality that no one would care if this ruthless, battle-hardened Seeker ever returned from battle. All the "good" he had done for the Decepticon cause would be forgotten, lost. He would be nothing but a data file stored in some historical analog. He thought perhaps a pet would ease the burden of that reality—perhaps give him a brief sense of what he sought. And for a time, Lana brought him solace in that role—that is until she became more than just a pet. Somehow she had slipped past his prejudice and nestled into that weak, doubting crevice he'd always had in the back of his Spark; the part he hid and hated so much. He denied the emotional infiltration of course, dismissing it as weakness for his pet. Even when the obvious had stared him in the face for so long he denied its presence, casting it aside as he had cast so many other feelings. But now with her gone even his brick wall pride could no longer keep out what he already knew.
A month later on the edge of a city…
It was a quiet evening at first; only the sound of crickets and the occasional car. But a crescendo of an approaching jet engine silenced the crickets and soon became an ominous roar. Skywarp landed heavily after transforming as if wanting his already obvious presence to be felt as well as heard. He stood fully, glancing about at the suburb that lay before him; quiet and sleeping.
"Not for long." He thought maliciously as he sub-spaced his latest weapon.
Ever since the majority of Decepticons had retreated from Earth, Skywarp had made it his personal duty to recover the weapons technology the humans had stolen from his race. After all…it was precisely that which nearly terminated Megatron. But his leader was not dead—no. Megatron would return and when he did he would reward him handsomely for his work. He'd even managed, in his seemingly limitless spare time, to modify the weapons to an even more deadly functioning. But what good was improving a weapon if one could not put it to practical use? True he could test it out in an unpopulated area, blow up a mountainside or annihilate some forest—but what fun was that?
Skywarp stroked the intricate rifle-like Mod as he mounted it over his current arm cannon. It made his cannon look twice as big as before. He was no scientist, but weapons were second nature to Skywarp. If he was right the Mod would enhance the destructive force of his arm cannon three times its normal capacity. Of course a field test was the only way to prove it. When the Mod connected to his weapons system, Skywarp leveled the weapon at the darkened houses.
"Testing…testing…" He fired twice blowing up half of a block, "ONE! TWO!"
Wood shrapnel, shingles, and all manners of burning material rocketed skyward instantly startling the quiet neighborhood out of its slumber. Car alarms wailed, dogs barked wildly, lights began to switch on as the humans awakened to see what had happened. Skywarp smirked beholding the destruction. His malicious mind working quickly he formulated a new test…or rather a very morbid game of "Shoot the Lights". His weapon began targeting any house that turned its lights on.
"Testing…testing! ONE! TWO! THREE!" he hummed blowing up three houses unfortunate enough to fit his targeting criterion.
Much to his delight with each house he destroyed the others surrounding it would instantly switch on their lights as well. More targets, more testing. He leveled his cannon, optics flashing with glee as they settled on a little bare patch surrounded by trees and houses, lights glowing.
"This is only a test…this is only a test…" he mockingly stated as his cannon revved up.
But instead of the blast of an arm mounted cannon, the tense, thick air was shattered with a concussive sonic boom. Skywarp had been too distracted by his pleasure to hear the hissing approach of his once wingman and he was hit full in the chest by the ear splitting sound. He stumbled back, cockpit cracking, and audio sensors disoriented. He stumbled, sensors spinning like a merry-go-round as they tried to reorient. Just as he was about to stabilize, the sound of a second pass made his head snap up. A second sonic boom split the air, hitting the black and purple jet again but this time in the back. He fell forward on his knees, sensors sent spinning again.
"ARRG!" he snarled, "Why you slaggin' piece of…SHOW YOURSELF!"
"That's enough Warp." Thundercracker's deep voice said somewhere close by.
Skywarp tried to find him, tried to aim a cannon toward the sound of his wingman's voice but he ended up shooting randomly in the air.
"Hold still Traitor!" he shouted.
Suddenly, Thundercracker shoved Skywarp to the ground on his cockpit, bracing his body weight against the mid-panels of Warp's wings and digging fingers into the seams of his flaps. The black and purple Seeker growled with discomfort, trying to wiggle free. But the hold was designed to keep a Seeker pinned—at least until Warp's senses cleared and he could teleport away.
"Let go of me you pit-slaggin' Traitor!"
"I SAID that's enough Warp!" Thundercracker growled, tightening his hold. "Now listen up and listen good, I'm not going to repeat myself. You are going to leave this place and take your sorry afterburners as far as you can from here."
"Or what?" the black Seeker spat.
"I'll do no more than what you've done to me," was the cold reply.
Skywarp laughed mockingly, "You got what you deserved Traitor! When Megatron returns he'll have you executed like an Autobot!"
"I'm no traitor." Thundercracker growled, "And what makes you THINK Megatron will come back?"
"The Decepticons were destined to conquer this planet. Megatron said it himself." Warp said with certainty. "This planet is too valuable to just abandon…and when Megatron returns I'll be the one in his favor. And YOU will be destined for the scrapheap with the rest of the Autobots."
Thundercracker forced his wingman into the dirt as his temper rose, "I am NO Autobot! I will NEVER be an Autobot!"
"Deserter…Autobot…doesn't matter." Skywarp spat. "Your fate is still the same." he tilted his head toward the devastated neighborhood, "Just like those humans…" his head slightly turned to TC a vicious glow in his optics, "…just like YOUR human."
A tender wire struck, Thundercracker snarled and slammed Skywarp's head against the ground brutally, "So you did know!"
Skywarp shook his helmet and then laughed dryly, "Oh, not at first…not until the news feeds were buzzing about a blue jet robot dropping off a young woman at the hospital. Then I knew." The Seeker hissed, "Funny how you say you're not an Autobot…because only an Autobot would do something that pathetic."
Just as TC was about to retort, Warp's wings dematerialized from beneath his hands as he teleported. Apparently his sensors had cleared. Thundercracker whirled to the left, Warp's favorite angle of attack and sure enough the purple and black Seeker appeared, cannon aimed. With a deft swat, Thundercracker hit Skywarp's cannon sideways away from his head as it fired. He swung in and delivered a powerful punch into Skywarp's middle. The black Seeker flew back but suddenly teleported again. Thundercracker realized Warp would not attack the same way twice and tried to prepare himself. Suddenly a fist impacted his face, throwing him back. He looked up only to see the blur of a thruster foot connecting with the underside of his chin. TC fell on his back, sensors desperately spinning to reorient. Skywarp slammed a foot down on TC's neck, kinking off hydraulic and energon lines that fed his processor. Thundercracker choked as he gripped the foot to help alleviate the deadly pressure.
From the haze he could hear Warp, "Just admit it TC. No TRUE Decepticon would do that."
TC flashed his optics balefully and hissed, "She was…my friend."
"Friend?" Skywarp snorted with a short laugh. "I was your friend!"
Thundercracker suddenly gripped Skywarp's thruster and bent it back at an angle it was not accustomed which made the black Seeker snarl and withdraw briefly.
"You never were a real friend Warp..." TC growled, rising up into a kneeling position.
Skywarp narrowed his optics with a ready arm cannon, "I was your ONLY friend!"
TC shook his head, "Until you shot me down. If you were half the friend Lana was to me, we wouldn't be in this situation."
"That miserable human!" Skywarp shouted with rage. "We've known each other for millions of stellar cycles, fought and shed Energon on battle fields together and you have the ball bearings to put a disgusting flesh wad before ALL THAT!"
"And after ALL that you turned on me in a second." TC spat back.
"YOU were the traitor! You betrayed me and your faction for a human!" Skywarp snarled.
"I'll tell you this much Warp…even after all the wrong I did against her, Lana STILL treated me like a friend…more than YOU ever did."
Skywarp's optics were thin slits, his raised cannon arms shaking with fury. With a roar he shot at Thundercracker who was already launching from the ground with flaming thrusters.
He gave chase shouting, "Then DIE like your 'friend' TRAITOR!"
Both mechs were milliseconds from tearing into each other when suddenly a foreign laser bolt tore up the dirt between them, causing them both to whirl around to see the attacker. Three sets of blue optics glowed out of the dark neighborhood.
"Hold it right thar Decepticons!" Ironhide's coarse voice drawled out from the dark.
Skywarp sneered at them and then at TC, "Looks like your 'friends' have arrived."
The three Autobots steadily came into view: Ironhide, Prowl, and Drift.
Prowl sternly barked in his authoritarian tone, "Surrender now! Disconnect your weapons and raise your hands"
The two Seekers didn't move.
"I will not repeat myself." Prowl warned, all three Autobots readying their weapons.
Skywarp scowled at them and then at TC. The murderous look said it all and TC side-stepped just in time to avoid a blast to his cockpit. Instead it impacted his arm and lower shoulder, causing him to turn sharply and kneel. Milliseconds before the Autobots opened fire, Skywarp teleported and when he reappeared overhead he flew away with a roar of engines. He was shot at repeatedly but his Seeker's speed put him out of danger.
Thundercracker growled, holding his opened arm metal, leaking Energon. In any other time he would've used the distraction to jet away but…he couldn't. There was something he had to do. He backed away slowly but Ironhide had already drawn a bead on him.
"Hold it Thundercracker. Don't you move another step."
The other two aimed laser rifles at him as well. Thundercracker gripped his wounded arm but held still.
"Relinquish your weapons." Prowl ordered.
The blue Seeker shook his helmet, "Not going to happen, Bot. Just leave me be."
Ironhide inclined his head a bit, "I thought Skywarp was your wingman. Why would he shoot ya?"
Thundercracker gave the weapons specialist a quick glance, "You outta know…you were there."
Drift, the former Decepticon, pieced it together quickly, "He stopped the bomb over New York. For the other Cons like Skywarp that was an act of treason." he then asked. "What became of you after New York?"
Thundercracker shook his helmet again, "It doesn't matter. Point is, I'm an outcast now and don't want any trouble. So just let me be."
"How do we know this isn't your doing?" Prowl demanded, gesturing toward the devastated neighborhood behind him.
The blue Decepticon frowned, "That was Warp's handiwork. I stopped him."
"And why should we believe that scrap? Why would you come here if not to destroy something?" Ironhide asked with great suspicion.
"It's none of your business. My purpose here is my own…and it's not to destroy anything."
"It is our business when humans are involved. Tell us your purpose here." Prowl insisted sternly.
Thundercracker darkened his optics and then turned his back to them, "My purpose is my own. When it is done I will leave."
"Don't move!" Prowl shouted.
The Seeker glanced over his shoulder, "If you feel the need to shoot a mech who's on a peaceful mission then by all means, shoot me in the back."
The three Autobots hesitated and that was just enough to allow Thundercracker to shoot off the ground. They all aimed at him but just as soon as he arced upward he was descending about a mile away amid a stand of trees.
"What is he doin?" Ironhide puzzled.
At once Drift transformed and drove in that direction. Ironhide and Prowl followed suit.
Thundercracker knew he wouldn't have much time but he only needed a few moments. It wasn't chance that had brought him to this neighborhood that Skywarp was attacking. Any other neighborhood wouldn't have mattered to the blue Seeker but this one…this one was different. Thundercracker landed outside the little iron gate and easily stepped over it. Two steps forward and a half step to the side brought him to the place he sought. He knelt down amid the polished, engraved stones and rested his hand atop the grassy spot where Lana had been buried. (A strange custom this burial of the deceased) The blue Seeker stroked the grass gently. He said nothing, for there was no one to say his words to and he was never one to speak of his feelings aloud. But had he spoken what was on his processor, it would've gone something like:
"Hey, Lana. Don't worry; I didn't let him desecrate your place. He probably won't come back here anymore…I know it's too late but…I'm sorry. I'm sorry I never treated you the way you deserved. You were…the only real friend I ever had…and I never appreciated it until now. I hope in whatever Matrix humans go to when they die, I hope you are there and you are happy…I'm going to stay a little while longer, Lana. Stupid, I know. There's nothing here for me now…but there's nothing out there either. One day I'll come up with a plan and find a new life elsewhere. I…I wish you could've gone with me…but even if you were alive I think you would've said no. I'm sorry…"
But being a mech of few words, that little monologue never reached hearing audios or ears. There was only a silent mech kneeling before the grave of his only true friend in silent repose. That was the scene the three Autobots beheld when they arrived. None said a word, not understanding nor believing the strange behavior of the dangerous Seeker. After several moments, Thundercracker gave the grave site a final pat and stood up, completely ignoring the Autobots watching him from a distance. They didn't try to stop him and they didn't fire upon him when he launched from the ground again and took off into the dark sky. He soared through night and cloud, wishing fondly for something he had never wished for before: a passenger.