Ironhide didn't know that male humans could scream in that pitch.
He managed to drag the stalled vehicle back just as the overpass gave way. Multi-ton slabs of concrete and shattered rebar came crashing down on the pavement below, sending up a cloud of grey dust. Through the dust Ironhide could see the Insecticon clones of Kickback fly over to the next bridge, already gnawing away the steel I-beams supporting the roadway. Gritting his dentals, he quickly pulled his hands from where they'd gotten tangled in the station wagon's back bumper and rounded over to the driver's side door. He wiped the dust off the window to reveal the terrified face of a human man, still gripping the steering wheel in white-knuckled panic.
"Don' worry fella," Ironhide rumbled as he dug his fingers into the door panel. "Ah'll get ya outta there."
The man merely pointed in terror through the windshield, his cracked lips open in an expression of stupid amazement. Ironhide looked just in time to see a clone of Shrapnel begin peeling the hood off of the olive green wagon, taking huge bites out of the metal as it started pulling the car back toward the ruined overpass and nearer to the main swarm of Insecticons.
Ironhide charged the clone. With one hand he gave it a vicious punch that left knuckle-sized dents and sent the robotic insect flying. Ironhide's other hand shot out a stream of molten lead over the stunned Decepticon. It screetched and writhed as the hot metal fused it to the pavement, unable to escape. When Ironhide finally shut off the stream there was only a lump of red hot slag where the clone had been.
He smirked as he turned back to the car, but the man had managed to crawl out the hatchback and escape. This was fortunate, since before Ironhide could turn around he felt several sets of pinchers clamp onto his legs, dragging him down struggling beneath a swarm of clones.
Ironhide swung wildly at his attackers, hoping that some back-up wasn't too far behind. Damn Decepticons, he thought. This day can't get much worse.
Five grueling hours later, circumstances had proven to Ironhide that the day certainly could, and indeed had, gotten worse. Inwardly he punched his processor for tempting fate. Outwardly he glowered at the conference table in front of him, wishing that there was someone in the room to back him up, or that he'd been given more than five minutes between getting back and getting his 'even-worse' news.
"I can't believe that we are actually considering going through with this. Tonight of all nights." Red Alert was standing because he couldn't force himself to sit. For once Ironhide couldn't blame him. The security director paced around the circumference of the conference table, and the two other mechs in the room stiffened as he passed behind them. The very air around Red was charged with his anxiety.
Prowl put off answering Red, and turned to Ironhide. "Have you gotten the chance to talk to him?"
"Hell no." Ironhide tightened a bolt on the metal brace welded around his right elbow, gritting his dentals as another stab of burning pain from the joint overwhelmed his sensor net. "I jus' got back. The 'Cons weren't foolin' around today. Hotspot an' tha other Protectobots are still diggin' survivors outta the rubble." Ironhide leaned his good elbow on the table, and rested his head wearily in his hands. "Kid still in the brig?"
Prowl nodded, glancing at Red Alert. "He's been pretty quiet since it happened."
"Also in the brig, a few cells down."
"Ratch still in Med Bay? He was patchin' up Skyfire when I left."
"Yes." Prowl slid a datapad across the table. "And so is Hoist. The injured are still trickling in from the city." He gestured to the datapad. "My report on the incident. I questioned Frenzy, Sideswipe, Brawn and the others; but Prime said to wait until you got back to do anything further."
Ironhide picked up the datapad, thumbing through it listlessly. "What's tha point'a even havin' a council meeting now if half the council is MIA?"
"My thoughts exactly." Red Alert cut in.
Prowl drummed his fingers on the tabletop thoughtfully. "We'll get the opinions of the others later. And I already know your opinion, Red Alert." He said pointedly. Red Alert huffed, but kept clamped. "To be honest, it was Prime who suggested that we consider going ahead with our plans for tonight. If Ironhide agrees, that is."
Ironhide sighed, rubbing at the aching struts in his neck with a hand that still felt numb and bent from swatting at Insecticon clones all afternoon. "What the Pit happened today?" He asked.
Prowl smiled humorlessly. "Was that a rhetorical question, Ironhide?"
Ironhide stood up, datapad in his good hand, "Ta you? Yeah." The boxy red mech headed for the door, cutting off the protests of Red Alert with a hard stare.
"I'll give ya my opinion in an hour." Ironhide declared, and the door shut behind him.
Red Alert's entire body tensed as he prepared to jump into an impassioned diatribe. Prowl quietly gathered his things, and without looking at the Lamborghini raised a hand to silence him at his first word.
"My opinion goes with Ironhide's. Whatever he decides." Prowl informed, firm and calm. He smiled benignly and left the conference room.
Red Alert sighed, and slumped back in his chair. "Of course it does." He muttered to himself. "Valid concerns. I have valid concerns. " Remotely he pinged the security systems on the Med Bay. It had become habit for him, making sure the room where Frenzy's sparking slept was secure.
Sparklings had always made Red Alert nervous, and the few he remembered from Cybertron had been equally uncomfortable in his presence. A few days ago, when he was installing extra security cameras in Med Bay again, Red's operating system had nearly locked up when Ratchet has suggested on a whim that Red hold Crasher. He'd declined, firmly, sensor horns flashing much to Ratchet's amusement. Sparklings, and especially this sparkling, were for watchfully guarding. Preferably from across the room. Which Red Alert did as often as his duties would let him.
Because despite any discomfort, he would protect this sparkling no matter what it took, from anyone, Lazerbeak, Ratbat, Megatron, Frenzy.
And especially from Frenzy. Especially if no one else was willing to see the danger. After all, it was Red Alert's job.
He half expected to panic at any minute and work up a literal frenzy in anticipation. But all Frenzy felt as he sat slumped in the cell was resignation. And shame. He realized that he'd been expecting something like this, sooner or later. After all, he was still a Decepticon at spark.
His fate too horrible to imagine, he distracted himself with dusty memories. It was a strange memory Frenzy had playing in his processor while he sat in the brig and waited for judgment. A strange memory, but hardly the most unpleasant he'd had to endure over the last few weeks, as his memory core had tried to sort itself out. The memory made him feel painfully out of place. But that was better than the very in place feeling of dreading the inevitable punishment. He didn't know why the brig affected him so. Maybe being in the small room, with the dents still on one wall, reminded him of how things had stood when he'd been here last.
When he'd left this room hardly more than a month ago, not returning to the Decepticons hadn't occurred to him, he hadn't confessed the parentage of his sparkling to the Autobots, and he hadn't let himself entertain for more than a few moments even having his sparkling. He'd been fully a Decepticon, in and out, when he'd been here last. He'd still had high hopes that Soundwave would come charging in to rescue him.
It was Soundwave Frenzy was thinking of. Tall silent Soundwave, who'd never spoken except to issue orders, and yet always managed to communicate so much. Frenzy understood now how much he missed him. Not like Rumble who he missed constantly and consciously, but in a deeper more instinctual way; like a frightened animal misses a hidey-hole.
Frenzy was compulsively transforming his piledrivers in and out of his arms, just to feel the rushing tickling sensation of dozens of servos and hydraulics coming to life, making his arms into weapons, and making him powerful. Those pile-drivers- they'd been his go-to tool; more than a weapon of choice, an integral part of who he was. Blasters and pistols were fine, but to actually feel a part of your body become a deadly weapon. To go from powerless to dangerous with a flick of the wrist. That was more than empowering. It was intoxicating.
He remembered getting his pile-drivers installed. It was a memory that had never been walled away, forgotten or hidden. Instead it had been treasured. A single, clear, moment of joy.
How long it had been since Darkmount? Frenzy was not sure. He was nearly at physical maturity since he'd scanned his first altmode: a data-cartridge. And he couldn't forget how Rumble had beat him to it by more than a few cycles. Soundwave had been training them hard, when he had the time, taking special care of Frenzy's training because he was slower learning.
During combat, even simulations, the battle-fury in Frenzy made it hard enough to think let alone listen to instructions. Soundwave's cool, grim reprimands were drilled indelibly in Frenzy's processor, but it seemed he made a mistake during every simulation, every assignment. So it had been a moment of pride for Frenzy when both he and Rumble were given their pile-drivers at the same time, the same day.
Soundwave was standing above the surgical berth as Frenzy came back online. The tall mech was calm as always; a large, dark outline in the brightly lit upgrade facility. Instantly Frenzy could feel the difference in his forearms; the powerful pistons, the added plates, giving his scrawny arms heft even while they were 'normal'. Soundwave put a hand on Frenzy's back as he sat up, and then took one limp black arm into his massive blue hand, scanning it while the young Decepticon twitched his fingers experimentally.
"Can I do it now, boss?" Frenzy had asked, practically falling over in anticipation when his guardian had nodded.
"Try Frenzy. Focus." Soundwave had prompted. "Listen within."
Frenzy had screwed up his face in concentration, accessing new programming, and felt the rush of triumph when his hands had slipped away, replaced with dangerous, deadly bludgeons.
"Good." Soundwave had droned, then pointed to the empty berth next to them. "Use them."
Grinning, Frenzy had paced over to the tall medical bed and raised the pile driver. But he could only bat at the table ineffectually, no harder than he could hit before.
"Frenzy." Soundwave's voice was hard. "Listen within."
Frenzy tried his best to concentrate again, and at once the programming came to him, powerful pistons in his forearms waking. The pile drivers sang out as he slammed into the Med Berth which crumpled and screeched beneath his pounding arms. Soon it was nothing but a hunk of dented, sparking slag.
"Good." Soundwave had intoned, and Frenzy had heard that he meant it. Frenzy turned to look up at the taciturn blue mech, and Soundwave had nodded to Frenzy and then gave him exactly one pat on the head as he passed, gesturing for Frenzy to follow him.
That had been a great day. Later, the training range in the Decepticon fortress had echoed with Rumble and Frenzy's gleeful cries as they'd pounded target after target into scrap. When they'd learned how to create the ground-shaking earthquakes that went on to become their signature move Frenzy could have sworn he saw Soundwave perk up with pride. They'd spent cycles, hours out of the box that day, and when Soundwave beckoned them back into his cartridge deck for once the exhausted young Decepticons hadn't resented him for it.
That had been the first day that Frenzy had known that he could be useful, and so could earn at least a little respect. And Soundwave had been proud of them.
The cell's wall whirred and hissed, pulling Frenzy out of his reverie. To his surprise the energy bars on the cell hadn't been activated, so the entire wall lifted away revealing Ironhide and nothing more. Frenzy sat frozen, waiting for the hammer to fall. They're gonna take Crasher away from me and they're gonna send her somewhere else just like that slaggin' autofragger said.
Ironhide scrutinized the petrified former 'Con from helm to foot before waving Frenzy out of the cell with his good arm. "Come on." He called; his voice gruff and tired. The boxy red Autobot started walking down the hall and after a moment's hesitation Frenzy jogged to catch up with him, not wanting to be out of the brig without Ironhide a couple feet away. By now all rest of the Autobots had to know what he had done. Ironhide measured his stride, so Frenzy only had to take a couple steps for each of Ironhide's. Reaching over the old mech adjusted the support struts bracing his elbow again.
"Where are we going?" Frenzy peeped.
"I got work ta do, an yer gonna help. Energon needs processed from tha power station an' Gears is tied up in the city, so we're gonna do it."
They walked along in silence, the hallways blessedly empty this deep in the base. Finally they rounded the corner on Hanger Deck C. Ironhide keyed the door open and waved Frenzy inside.
The large hanger was stuffed with massive, equipment, and buzzing with electrical noises. The air was overpowering with the smell of sulfur, an unfortunate side-effect of the cable lines running electricity from the generators deep in the volcano's caverns. A small stack of energon sat in the corner, and against another wall was an electrical switchboard and massive batteries. The other walls were lined with huge energon generators.
Frenzy stood idly by while Ironhide fumbled at the switchboard, struggling to do the necessary hookups one-handed. Looming in the sulfurous air were the day's unfortunate events, but Frenzy didn't feel it was his place to bring them up. Just like a demolitions expert would not feel it was his place to step on his own explosive.
"Are—are you okay?" Frenzy asked meekly. "That looks like it hurts."
Ironhide grunted. "Blew out the U-joint. Didn' know it 'till I got back. From tha grit I got grindin' in it I musta chewed up some servos."
Looking down at Frenzy, Ironhide shrugged. "Yeah, musta been." He nodded over to the first generator as it started spitting out iridescent pink cubes of energon, "Bad enough that I kept swingin' even after I felt the elbow go. But they're backed-up in the Med Bay right now. No Transformer fatalities yet, either side, but those Insecticons know how ta make a mess."
Frenzy nodded, scooping up a cube of energon and carrying it over to the pile. He looked up at Ironhide. The red mech set up the hook-ups to the next generator; then he turned to the younger mech. "Yeah, stack 'em up there. Then we gotta load up the tanks that go tah the Re-Fuels."
They worked in silence for a while, stacking cubes neatly in the corner as soon as the energon generators pushed them out. Soon, some of the tension had eased from the air. Frenzy relaxed as he did something useful and quiet; and it wasn't until Frenzy's mind was completely absorbed in his task that Ironhide spoke. His voice was tired but easy.
"Tell me what happened today." he asked. He kept on carrying cubes in his good arm to the pile as he spoke, and made no signs of stopping.
Frenzy froze, but Ironhide motioned for him to continue. Frenzy carried over another energy-filled cube tingling against his arms and chest, stacking it carefully. "I got in a fight." He mumbled.
"I knew that." Ironhide's voice was still even, betraying no judgment. "I read half a dozen reports on it already. But I want you ta tell me."
Frenzy nodded, forlorn, walking back to the generator for the next cube. "Sure," he sighed, "Whatever you want."
It hadn't been a very good day from the very beginning.
Early that morning, Frenzy awoke to the clarion calls of a base-wide alarm issuing from his computer terminal. He was over at the keyboard before his processor was completely online, pressing the alarm with trembling servos, positive that the news was some kind of attack on the base, specifically the Med Bay. His tanks were turning as he groggily read the emergency bulletin that scrolled across his screen.
It wasn't Med Bay. It was some kind of Insecticon Swarm attack on some stupid squishies' city. The bulletin listed the Autobots called out for the attack team and the Autobots who were reassigned on base for the day. And there at the bottom of the bulletin the message, 'Autobots not otherwise assigned are to carry on their regularly scheduled duties. Work crews are on for today. Official Bingo night is cancelled. The Unmentionable is closed until further notice.'
There was also a private message on his terminal: "Frenzy. Got called out to fight. Do what you would normally do. Try not to get into trouble. Ironhide."
So Frenzy tried to carry on his normal routine. The halls were empty except for Trailbreaker suddenly charging past Frenzy in vehicle mode, engine roaring as the huge, black truck struggled to accelerate. Sunstreaker and Tracks were chugging their energon standing at the door to Fill-up. They dropped their empty cubes on the ground when they were finished, transforming and zooming away without even a good-bye. Frenzy refueled alone and quickly. The few other mechs in the room, a tense bunch that included Grapple and Red Alert, kept giving him sideways glances with expressions Frenzy couldn't puzzle out.
Med Bay had been equally quiet. Perceptor was the only 'bot around, and he was too preoccupied getting things ready for the inevitable repairs to pay Frenzy and Crasher much mind. He'd already fed Crasher before Frenzy had gotten there; wanting to get that bit of essential business out of the way so he could focus on preparing for casualties.
Frenzy half-heartedly oiled a few of Crasher's joints; but eventually left off and just sat with his sparkling dozing against his chest, wondering how the battle was going, and if it would affect whether or not he would get to take Crasher home that night. He tried not to think of who might be participating in the battle. He tried not to think how much fun it would have been to pound into some Insecticon clones himself. Even when he was a Decepticon he'd always hated those damn Insecticons.
That whole day walking through the base was like walking underwater. The air was heavy, and got heavier every time Frenzy passed another Autobot. They weren't just tense anymore, something else had gone wrong. It wasn't until he'd gotten to the volcanic cavern that was his worksite that he heard that the battle was not going in the Autobots' favor.
Huffer was extra dour, Brawn was more than extra gruff, and Beachcomber wandered around the cavern with his scanner, moping like a lost bumble-puppy. Only Sideswipe seemed animated, putting every ounce of energy into being twice as surly and obnoxious as usual. He was keeping in constant radio contact with his brother, and as they worked he would stop and call out a blow by blow account of the battle from Sunstreaker's perspective. Frenzy kept his head down, trying to find places to work that were out of the way, but still in audio range.
"Okay, now he says they've got him stabilized; and now Ratchet's rushing Skyfire back to base." Sideswipe called out as he hauled half a chunk of stalagmite over to the caldera and tossed it in. "He says that as far as he can tell Skyfire's gonna be okay."
"Oh my, and what about the building?" Beachcomber was limp with horror, oblivious to his scanner taking readings of the floor. "The humans got away in time?"
Sideswipe was too busy listening to his radio to answer. He lifted up a huge boulder and tossed it over to the lake of lava, grunting in frustration. "Blast it! I should be out there! They need brawlers, and all they called out was heavy artillery."
Frenzy had found a job low to the ground, and thus not likely to stolen from him by taller Autobots. He set on leveling the floor, chipping away at the jagged lumps where stalagmites had been removed. When his pile of gravel sized rubble got big enough Huffer hauled it out in with a dump truck, always sighing dejectedly as he transformed, not out of spite but to communicate his depression in general.
Frenzy was too preoccupied to care, hanging onto Sideswipe's every word. Three hours into the shift though and the only names mentioned were of Autobots or Insecticons. Frenzy was slamming away at the rock with a thoughtful frown, getting sloppy as his focus slipped away. Brawn regarded him skeptically, but didn't say anything.
The former Cassetticon was still clumsily pounding away deep in thought when he heard a gentle voice at his shoulder. "Easy now," Beachcomber cautioned in a half whisper, "Listen to the rocks, man. Can you feel the fault line loosening up to your right?"
Nodding Frenzy gestured over to the invisible weak spot in the rock. "If there was a fight in here, that would be a sweet spot to open some chasms, I could feel it the second I started poundin' over here."
Beachcomber smiled, "Geo-seismic sensors, yeah. They're a wonder."
"Well, they help you find where the ground's gonna crack open just right for an ambush anyway."
"Hey, you've got a gift with rocks." Beachcomber insisted. "I think if you just let yourself get quiet enough you'd hear them singing to you."
"Okay." Frenzy was more than a little skeptical. "But I'd rather slam into something more animated, if you know what I mean." Beachcomber was taken aback. "Like some Insecticons!" Frenzy added quickly, but Beachcomber shook his head.
"Like, don't take any offense, but I've never understood how some mechs could have so much fun fighting."
From across the cavern Sideswipe laughed. "That's 'cause you're terrible at it, Beachcomber!" The red warrior took a couple practice jabs in the air, grinning, "Still, can't you at least feel the art of sinking your knuckles into a Decepticon faceplate, or lining up a perfect kneecap."
Brawn stopped hauling rocks. "Don't you mean headshot, Sideswipe?"
"Did I say headshot?" The Lamborghini smirked.
"I accept that sometimes the violence in necessary," Beachcomber mournfully admitted. "But I don't know if enjoying it is healthy for the spark."
Sideswipe waved Beachcomber off, "Pshhh. I just take satisfaction in a job well done. And I'm sure that I could be doing a better job out there in the city today than cooped up in this stupid cavern again."
Impulsively Frenzy decided to try to take advantage of Sideswipe's current good humor. "Did-have you heard if any of the other Decepticons are in the city?"
Sideswipe's grin fell, but he glanced at Frenzy knowingly. "You mean has my brother seen your brother in the fight today?"
Frenzy nodded nonchalantly and turned back to work. Avoiding the stares he'd earned himself. "Just curious. It doesn't really matter." He lied.
"Well, I'll ask." Sideswipe sniffed.
"I said it doesn't matter." Frenzy protested, but Sideswipe had already turned his radio on.
"Hey, bro! You seen any little purple pests out there today?" There was a pause. "No I don't mean Skywarp..." Another pause, "Or Blitzwing..." Pause. "No not him either. Slag, bro I just wanna know if you've seen Rumble? Our little Defecticon is dying to know."
Frenzy growled and started working again, as loudly as he could.
Sideswipe shrugged, movements exaggerated. "Nope, sorry F, your big bro isn't causing us any trouble today."
"Thanks." Frenzy bit back sarcastically.
"Your guardian got a little chewed up though."
"What?" Frenzy whirled around.
Sideswipe was taken aback. "Uhh, he's okay though. Ironhide's too tough for a few stupid Decepticlones to take outta action." He paused. "Unless you meant Soundwave?"
Frenzy didn't answer except to turn back to his work.
"Soundwave wasn't in the fight yet, as far as Sunny knows." Sideswipe added, voice flat and optics narrowed.
"I don't care." Frenzy barked over his shoulder.
"Sure you don't." Sideswipe muttered, dismissively. And that was the final straw.
"You got something to say?" Frenzy turned around glaring at Sideswipe. "You got something to say, you can say it to my faceplates." He smiled humorlessly. "After all, we're all on the same team here." Sarcasm dripped from his words echoing in the cavern as a challenge.
"Same team. Right." Sideswipe muttered, fists clenching. He turned to face Frenzy. "You think I'm stupid? You're only here because you've got nowhere else to go. You don't give a rusted wingnut about the Autobots. After everything we've done for you."
"You haven't done a damn thing for me except grind my crankcase. I don't owe you anything." Frenzy snapped. The other 'Bots in the room had gotten very still, and very quiet, Huffer and Beachcomber nervously glanced at each other.
Sideswipe wrestled with himself, but finally pointed a finger at Frenzy. "I was gonna keep it clamped, but Primus someone has got to say it! You don't even know what you owe us. You don't know and you don't care. And you know what. I can deal with that. But you know what I can't deal with? What you owe to justice."
Frenzy's mind tripped over Sideswipe's words as he tried to process them. "What the frag do you mean, 'owe to justice'?"
"What he means, Frenzy, is what you owe the humans." Brawn, solid and somber, glared at Frenzy from where he'd been leaning against the rock wall, watching. "How many lives? Huh, Decepticon? That's what I really want to know? How many human lives are we glossing over giving you a clean slate, and do you even know? Do you even care?"
"W-what?" Frenzy stammered.
Beachcomber seemed to shrink from the scene, hands raised helplessly. "Now, wait a minute, why argue over things gone past recalling?" Beachcomber pled, getting agitated.
"Because it's not gone past recalling. Not for me." Brawn growled. "Did you know I was there? In Tokyo, watching you snuff out one human life after another with a smile on your faceplates? And after the battle, Huffer and I cleaned up your mess. Isn't that right Huffer?" Huffer avoided Brawn's gaze. "Lifting rubble so the medical team could get to the victims with body bags. Do you know there's a memorial there now? Seventy-eight names on a steel plaque. That I installed." He jammed a thumb to his chest. "Can you give me a single name?"
Frenzy was dumbfounded. "It wasn't my fault."
"Now don't give me that 'I was just following orders' slag!" Brawn bellowed.
"Well what the fuck do you want me to say? Huh?" Frenzy threw his arms into the air, "You want me to lie and say that I'm sorry?"
"No." Brawn had grown cold and sad again. "I want you to be sorry. I want you to look at those names and realize it was a stupid waste. Because until you do, it doesn't matter where you are. You could destroy Megatron with your bare servos, but you'll still be a Decepticon in my book."
Huffer was the last mech Frenzy would expect to come to his defense, but the dour little engineer raised his barrel shaped arms. "Now wait, I don't think you're being very fair." he whined "No one's gonna be able to change that fast. I think you're forgetting some importan-"
"Oh no, not this argument again." Sideswipe sighed. "Look, there's programming versus encoding, but then there's plain right and wrong and I don't care how screwed up a mech's life is—"
"Would you slaggers just shut the Pit up? Huh?" Frenzy glared at all of them. "You don't know shit about me, or the Decepticons, or anything to do with me, so just shu—"
"You think we're that stupid?" Sideswipe smiled; almost sneered, "You think we can't figure it out? But none of that matters one micron if inside you're still planning on being a Decepticon. If you're still planning on being stupid and selfish, then I don't care how fragged up you were or how sick your sparkling is or how many times Megatron tweaked your cables, you shouldn't be here and we shouldn't let you near that sparkling."
Frenzy snarled, "Know what? None of this is any of your fuckin' business. Why the Pit do you think I'm gonna let a fleshy loving, cable-tugging, Autobot shaft-sucker like you tell me what it's all about? Huh. So why don't you just stick it up your exhaust before I ram it up there with my fist."
"Oh. Real mature." Sideswipe shook his head. "Yeah. That come from one of the parenting manuals? You kiss your little mistake with that mouth?"
Brawn stiffened, glaring at Sideswipe. "Hey now!"
Sideswipe took a step back, conceding the point. "You know, Brawn, you're right. I shouldn't have said that. The sparkling's innocent. It's the only good thing to come out of this. And she deserves a heck of a lot better than this little glitch. And if he knew what was good for her, or cared, he would send her some place where she wouldn't have to put up with it."
"Put up with what?" Frenzy growled, "Smug bumper-wipers like you with your head so far up your aft you can lick your own engine block? Or all the self-righteous pity, fake smiles, and cold shoulders the rest of you slaggers drum out?"
"Exactly." Sideswipe hissed, and Frenzy froze. "You know, wouldn't it be better if she was someplace away from all that? I'm thinking if you really cared about her like you say you do that you should send her someplace where 'Bots who know what they're doing can raise her as if she was normal? Somewhere where every 'Bot around her didn't know she came from something so twisted that you have to pity it, or be sick to your servos. Do you want her to know that? Where she really came from? That the only reason she exists is because her dad was too damn stupid to say no?"
For one frozen astrosecond Frenzy felt his spark sink into a pinprick of light.
Then he exploded.
Sideswipe's startled expression was the last thing he remembered, the next few minutes dissolving into an energon-tinged blur of berserker rage.
Sideswipe had half expected some kind of physical outburst, and his battle systems had been humming for a fight nearly all day anyway. He managed to sidestep Frenzy's charge easily. But as he grabbed onto the raging Cassetticon's arm, he felt Frenzy's foot on his thigh, not kicking but climbing. The smaller mech took advantage of the Autobot's grip on his arm and used it to propel himself upwards, his other piledriver making a solid connection with the Lamborghini's chin. Sideswipe's dental plates cracked and his faceplates buckled, then he felt the ache of a blocky foot stomping into his side strut. Unbalanced the Autobot warrior fell backward and Frenzy fell on top of him. Frenzy raised his piledriver for a death blow, but Brawn and Huffer managed to wrestle Frenzy off the prone Autobot. When the Mini-Cassette refused to be calmed or restrained Brawn shook him roughly.
"Listen you glitchhead! You cut that out now!" He roared. Frenzy stopped, then went limp in Brawn's grip and allowed himself to be led away. A quick glance over his shoulder showed Beachcomber stooping over a motionless energon-stained Sideswipe.
"You didn' really hurt him," Ironhide reassured. He motioned Frenzy to carry some of the cubes over to the refuel tanks. "Jus' a cracked dental, an ya rattled his processor. He's spendin' some time in the brig too."
"Because it wasn' his place ta say that stuff. 'Cus he was pickin' a fight, even if he didn' take the first swing." Ironhide loaded up the last of the cubes into the tank, and shut the lid. Then he looked down at the short mech standing beside him, shuffling guiltily and avoiding his gaze.
"Don' mistake me kid, you screwed up, an there's gonna be a penalty for it."
Frenzy hung his head, defeated. "You're gonna take her away."
"No, of course not," Ironhide sighed. "Jus' some extra work, probably somethin' pretty unpleasant. But we're not takin' her away because you got inta a scrape with a stupid mech that pushed it too far." He wagged a finger at Frenzy. "You go poundin' into another Autobot again, an' maybe we'll have ta reconsider."
"Fine." Frenzy mumbled, sulking to his feet.
Ironhide shut down the last of the generators, then hunkered down on the floor as well as he could with his arm tied down. He gestured for Frenzy to do the same, and was half-surprised when the young mech reluctantly complied. "Now, what I wanna know kid is what it was he said that really made you snap?"
Frenzy tapped on his knee-joints, thinking it over. When he looked up to Ironhide, the older mech could feel Frenzy scrutinizing him. "Do you think Sideswipe was right?"
"Of course not, it's not any of his business."
"But do you think he was right?" Ironhide could hear earnest fear that had peeled a layer of defensiveness away. "Is it gonna screw up Crash, havin me for—for a dad? And the other slag—all the other..." Frenzy couldn't finish for a shudder. "I never even told them, any of them, they just saw her and fraggin' knew."
"And you could send her to the edge of the galaxy, and 'Bots would still figure it out, and she'd still find out eventually. What'll be best for her is if she hears it from you, when she's ready."
"What? What the frag will I tell her?" It struck Frenzy for the first time that someday Crasher would be a conscious individual, someone that he'd have to explain a whole slew of uncomfortable things to.
"You'll tell her the truth. And then you'll tell her that it's not who she is. Her Primary Function is not being pitied because her creator was an aft. And it's not who you are either."
Frenzy's red visor light shone right into Ironhide's spark. "Who do you think I am?"
Ironhide rubbed his faceplates, thoughtful. "That's a question you should be askin' yerself, Frenzy." He said, at last. "I know ya don't know. And I know it's something that's gonna be hard to figure. But everybot, includin' me, is gonna have an opinion on who you are, and everybot is gonna be at least part wrong part'a the time. There's only one bein' out there that really knows who yer supposed ta be, an' how far it is from who ya are."
Frenzy looked sullen again, and Ironhide patted him on the back. "Don' worry, kid. When ya find it you'll know. It'll be solid, deep inside, gravity for yer life. Somethin' that's the best part'a yer spark workin' itself on out. But you can't mope around waiting fer it ta happen."
"Yeah?" Frenzy sounded far from convinced.
"Trust me." Ironhide gestured to the door. "Now, about Crasher: Ya wanna take 'er home tonight or not?
"You'll let me?" Frenzy gaped. Ironhide nodded. "I-I don't know. What do you think?"
Ironhide rolled his optics to the ceiling. "I think that it might take yer mind offa things. And I think that it's about time you started takin' her on for real. Don't you?"
"Yeah, okay. I guess she can't be too hard."
Shaking his head helplessly, Ironhide shrugged. "Yer guess is good as mine, kid." The older mech struggled to his feet and offered Frenzy a hand up. "Now let's get down to that Med Bay. See if we can even get in the door."
Frenzy frowned at the list he'd bolted right above Crasher's berth in his quarters. Crasher wiggled in his arms, and he shifted her from one shoulder to another. When Crasher whined Frenzy put her down in the berth and began mouthing the list to himself.
"Yer okay here? Got it all under control?" Ironhide asked from the door. He leaned against the frame, watching.
"Sure as strut shine." Frenzy gave a half-smile beneath his terrified visor. "Yup. Got it all under control. Easy as oilcake."
"Right." Ironhide, thumbed down the hall. "I'll be in my quarters, give me a ping if ya need to."
Crasher whined again and Frenzy whirled back around, "Sure, sure, whatever the frag you want." He waved the Autobot out.
Ironhide shook his head with a small smile and let the door close. Frenzy stared at the closed door in abject terror.
"Uhhh...slag." he mumbled, and stuck his hand in the berth, rubbing Crasher on the helm while he tried to read the list First Aid had given him and figure out exactly where on the list they were. "'Fourth Feeding, Follow with Oil Filter Check, and Routine Maintenance. She should Recharge soon After Every Feeding'."
Crasher was too busy investigating her new surroundings to be interested in the feeding siphon Frenzy offered. She spit the hose out a couple times, before squinching her tiny face up into indignant rage, and howling her protest. Frenzy winced. When Crasher cried it was like an energon blade slicing atoms off his spark.
"Fine." Frenzy hissed, and slammed the container of energon onto his workstation. Crasher kept up her howling. "Well?" he said. "You didn't want to refuel." The sparkling reached out with her unsteady arms, grasping the air with her servos. Frenzy sighed and scooped her up. She quieted instantly. Frenzy sat in the chair, unsure of what to do, and Crasher whined again.
"Now what?" Frenzy stood with Crasher in arms, and wandered to the toys on the shelf. "Want to see one of these?" He grabbed a couple of the toys and walked over to his berth with them. Frenzy laid Crasher gently on the berth, and then dropped the toys next to her. She lolled her head over to them, staring with her flickering optic band.
"You got yellow optics. Ya know that?" Frenzy mumbled, nudging some kind of magnetic ball closer to her, "I mean, it's not too special, I guess, Laserbeak's got em, and so does Thrust. But I don' have 'em." She looked up at him seriously. "You even know who I am? Huh? I haven't really read the slaggin' manuals on that part yet. So, how much do you know?" As if on cue, Crasher started rocking back and forth and reaching up for Frenzy whimpering. He sighed and gathered her up again.
"Fuck." He muttered, staring down at the little red and grey creature. She curled into his chestplates, sickeningly helpless. "What do you think Rumble would think'a you? He'd slaggin' laugh if he could see me." Though, Frenzy knew it wouldn't have been the good kind of laugh. "Ya think any of 'em have seen you? Does he know what you look like? And that you're still online?" They sat while he thought about Rumble when he could; and Megatron when he couldn't stop himself, until Crasher started to whine again.
"Now what do you want?" He glanced nervously around the room until he saw the still full energon container. "You finally gonna take your damn fuel? Ya little fragger?" He lay her down in the sparkberth, and she finally sucked down the energon. She was drowsy and fitful when she finished, and she protested as Frenzy tried to check her filters, so he decided to leave off routine maintenance. He simply plugged in her battery pack, adjusted the heat on the sparkberth, and wandered over to his berth.
They both shut down into a troubled recharge for a couple hours. Crasher's primitive processor and mostly blank datafiles made her sleep blessedly dreamless. Frenzy's fractured Memory Core was a different story.
Megatron's voice was shrill in the smoke filled air. "Retreat! Decepticons retreat!"
Frenzy's first real battle hadn't gone very well at all. His fritzed audios could hardly make out the Decepticon Leader's words from where he lay, pinned beneath the still dripping corpse of what had been an Elite Decepticon Seeker. Frenzy didn't know the lavender-colored Tetra-Jet's name. He only knew that the stupid heavy slagger had picked the worst possible time to offline, and the worst possible place to come crashing out of the sky. Frenzy struggled against the pressing weight again, and strangled a scream when he felt something in his leg creak and then give. His whole battered body felt like it was on fire, but it seemed like for his legs it was literally true, and one of them didn't feel quite so attached anymore. The dead Seeker was burning. The energon dripping out of the torn lines in the corpse had found some spark in the battle to ignite the fluids.
"Frag!" He screamed. "Frag! Frag! Frag!" He'd not yet become acquainted with human obscenities. He reached frantically with his one free hand, grasping at the gritty metal ground. Above him, in the smoky dark sky, the retreating Decepticons were disappearing into the far distance against the stars, pursued by the Autobots' laser fire.
The heat from the burning Seeker was working its way up to Frenzy's torso. Desperately he started trying to drag himself out, even if it meant leaving half his leg behind. Then he felt the huge, hot weight lifted off his back. He rolled over to see Soundwave tossing the dead Decepticon aside, oblivious to the laser fire splashing across his armor. Then Soundwave bent over and scooped him up and flew away.
They were above the rooftops of the burning buildings before Frenzy could croak out a word. "Boss."
"Frenzy." Soundwave's voice was flat, emotionless. Frenzy coughed, then whimpered. "Silence." Soundwave commanded.
"Rumble?" Frenzy rasped.
"Silence." Soundwave's empty metal voice was a hint stern. Then. "Rumble: undamaged."
"Oh." The buildings became pinpricks of flame, and the ghostly landscape of Cybertron passed beneath them silently. Frenzy spent the rest of the flight in delirious, pain-filled euphoria, clutched securely in Soundwave's arms. His burning circuits and shame did little to dent the joy of having been undeservedly rescued.
Frenzy was safe, in large, encircling, protecting metal arms, held close, so he wouldn't fall; and he was burning all over.
And remembering that burning and those arms was all took for Frenzy's processor to solder a link from one of the good memories to the isolated databanks where he tried to quarantine the bad ones.
Dreams of murder and mayhem, of physical pain and battles and forgotten conversations with Soundwave or Rumble or even those vague, hazy dreams of gentler voices and smaller arms cradling him, he could have lived with any of them. Some of them were rather unpleasant. But they were nothing compared to these helpless nightmares. These were the perfectly preserved, excruciatingly detailed memory files that kept Frenzy sitting up late into the night, consumed with a dread of reliving them that almost equaled the visceral dread he remembered. But his Memory Core pulled the files up again, and forced the memory on him as if this would be the time he would find a way to process it.
His recharge ended with the sound of whimpering. He sat up, then rolled out of bed almost before he could stand. His engine was revving and he felt sick all over. Across the room, Crasher was crying.
Frenzy rubbed his face, trying to purge his processor of the audio-visual files. Some ghostly sensations lingered, but Crasher was crying. He shook out his arms, to remind himself he was real, and went to her.
"What the frag do you want?" He groggily asked, glancing at her, then up at her toys. He gritted his dentals and pulled one off the shelf. "Here," he barked, "A nice, sappy chamois of friendship. Chew on that for a while." He tossed the chamois at her, and she twisted her little fingers around it, still screaming. Frenzy knew she wanted to be picked up.
"Shush it Crash." He begged. "Just shush it. I can't do it right now, okay?" Of course, she didn't stop. He picked her up under her arms, holding her away from himself because he thought that if he held her right up next to his chest he would purge. He stared at her critically, then frowned. "Why do they make you so fraggin' stupid to start with, huh? You think they could program a damn sparkling with a mute button."
He grimaced at her and put her back down. He turned the heat up in the berth a couple degrees. He turned on the mobile, and tried tucking the chamois around her. But she wanted to be picked up. So she kept right on whining, until her entire tiny chassis was consumed with the effort of it. Tiny grey and red arms were swinging tight circles in the air, mouth open wide so her vocalizer had a nice big bullhorn to scream with.
"Stop, please." Frenzy begged, sliding to the floor next to the sparkberth. He could feel the sickening ghosts creeping back, a memory file clamoring to be relived. Freezing horror overtook Frenzy when he realized exactly which memory file it was. "No, no fraggit. No!" he growled lashing out at the floor. "Not that one. Not tonight." He grabbed onto the finials on the sides of his helm, "She's right there." He moaned, "I don't gotta go through it again, she's right fuckin' there!" But he couldn't fight the memory overwhelming him.
He stood up swiftly, and turned to force himself to pick up his crying sparkling. His crying sparkling. That had come from his body. But he couldn't touch her, and he couldn't take his optics off it, that tiny whimpering ball of him and Megatron fused together, demanding affection from him.
"You gotta stop." he pleaded, "You gotta." Her screaming was worming into his spark, which was aching, twisting and recoiling from phantom sensations that crept across his plating, flaring up into memories of waiting dread, then the forced blank numbing everything like a dream. But the worst was after, when he was all closed up and alone in the dark, walling away the sick, robbed feeling in his spark that couldn't even be called shame because it was so close to feeling nothing at all.
Frenzy glared at Crasher without a hint of love, because all he felt was Megatron. "Stop it!" He screamed at her, and she screamed back. "Stop it! Damn you! You stupid, useless, little fuck! You don' even slaggin know all the slag you got ta cry about! Quiet! Dammit! Shut up!"
Something snapped inside, and a vast wave of repressed hate welled up in Frenzy. Hate for the Autobots, for letting them live like this. Hate for the Decepticons for using him, and abandoning him, controlling him and making it easy to do it. Hate for Megatron, and Soundwave, and Ironhide, and Optimus, and Rumble, and more than a fair share of hate for himself. There were waves of raw hate for his life. His stupid, useless, damaged life.
And there was hate for Crasher, for being a part of it.
Under the screaming from the sparkling was the sound of whirring servos and sliding plating. Frenzy's face had become hard and expressionless as stone.
"Damn you!" He growled, and his pile-driver was almost in the sparkberth. "I shoulda just let Hook do it!" He snarled.
Then it was as if the universe itself reached out to stop him. Frenzy looked at his pile-driver, and looked at his crying helpless sparkling. Time took a breath, and Frenzy took a step back. His pile-driver transformed back to a hand, and Frenzy staggered away from the sparkberth, shock and horror playing on his faceplates.
He ran over to his workstation, and hastily sent a ping to Ironhide's quarters. Before Ironhide could even reply Frenzy was out the door and gone.