It was, technically, nothingness with a few clumps and clusters of matter in between the voids. Although it was hard to feel the nothingness as the stars- however far away-circled around you no matter where you found yourself. You could be floating in a stretch of nothingness and not be able to tell because of the white, yellow and even red and blue dots filling your vision.
It was in one of these stretches of nothingness that an explosion ruptured through The Nemesis, soundlessly throwing metal panels, and unfortunate mechs, through the void.
It was here that the ship hung, halfway blown apart as an invisible signal was automatically shot out in waves into deep space, searching desperately for anyone- or anything to receive it.
And it was here, in this lonely corner of nothingness that a ship, marked with enemy symbols, answered that call.
At first everyone had been hesitant. Who wouldn't be? It's not every day that one intercepts a distress call from an enemy.
A meeting had been improvised and a curious probe sent out shortly after the message was received.
The Autobots crowded around the feed from the probe as the damaged ship came into view. Slowly, the image grew clearer and someone let out a surprised gasp.
It was true; half of the ship was gone, blown away. The metal left behind was bent, twisted and covered in black scorch marks. Lights flickered rapidly through the windows at the head of the ship. Mangled panels were suspended around the area, some; as a couple observant Autobots regrettably noticed, could be identified as once living 'Cons.
A collective shiver ran through the sparks of the 'Bots as they watched the probe close in.
A silence of horror or even sympathetic remembrance hung in the air until Optimus spoke.
"It appears the message was correct, The Nemesis has suffered severe damage." He stated in a neutral tone, hiding unease behind his mouthplate.
"Shall we send out a scout team?" Prowl asked, his tone quiet and calculating.
Prime nodded slowly, optics never leaving the screen. "We protect life. If any of them were alive it would be against everything we stand for to leave them there."
"Wait a moment there Prime," Ironhide spoke up. "Ya want ta pick up a whole ship full of 'Cons and bring them aboard? Not only do we not got the space for them in the brig but I'd reckon we don't have the mechpower to keep an eye on the lot of 'em."
Prime turned to Ironhide, holding the weapon specialist's gaze as he spoke firmly.
"To leave them would go against our planet's rules of warfare. By sending out this distress signal they are turning themselves over as prisoners of war; which requires us to give them any repairs that they need to survive."
Ironhide crossed his arms and huffed. "It don't seem right to me."
"Also," Prime continued, looking back to the screen as his voice taking on grave tone. "I don't think many of them could have survived an explosion of that magnitude."
The rest of the troops remained silent in agreement, unable to turn away from the screen.
Prowl was the one the break the silence. "Hound, Cliffjumper, Skyfire and Brawn, come with me. We're going to see if there are any survivors." He then turned without giving the screen another look and walked out of the room. All but Skyfire quickly followed, passing through the doors before they closed behind the second-in-command.
For a moment he lingered there, staring at the screen with an unreadable expression. Perceptor, who was standing close to the shuttle, noticed that his optics were darting, searching the screen.
"Skyfire?" Perceptor called softly to him, one hand touching the shuttle's arm.
Skyfire looked down to him, glanced back at the screen one last time and followed the rest of the scouting group, pausing only for the door to open again.
Perceptor's brow ridge furrowed as he looked back to the screen.
Skyfire drifted through the wreckage cautiously, worried about being attacked by a survivor, but he soon realized that there were none.
His spark instantly clenched at that thought.
Still he wandered carefully, inspecting anything and everything that had promise.
Maybe this is…no….maybe that might be…no.
His optics scanned desperately as his comm. link opened.
-Skyfire, this is Prowl. Have you found anything?-
Skyfire swiveled, taking in more of the wreck.
-No- He messaged solemnly.
-Comm. me as soon as you do. Prowl out.-
Skyfire fired the thrusters on his jet-pack lightly, moving farther away from the site of the explosion. He glided through the skeleton of the ship, the frame bent and crumbled with the occasional panel clinging on desperately.
If there were survivors they would be farther away from the explosion's origin.
The shuttle soon ran out of ship to search and found himself floating at the edge of the frame. Ahead of him was a cloud of bent and scorched metal.
He felt utterly hopeless.
Skyfire decided to give the area one quick look…
He would later be glad that he did.
As he drifted through the thick jumble of debris something caught his optic.
Skyfire quickly shoved a panel blocking his view out of the way. It went spiraling into space.
If he hadn't been in a vacuum, the shuttle certainly would have gasped.
There, floating in the wreckage, was the familiar build of a seeker. Skyfire moved closer to get a better look.
The frame was melted, burnt and damaged. Mech fluids hung like purple bubbles in the space.
The paintjob was almost completely burnt away but some streaks of color still clung to the burnt paneling.
Skyfire's fingers moved on their own, they gently brushed the soot off to reveal the paint.
His spark fluttered when he saw red beneath the smudges and burns.
Without another thought Skyfire gathered the broken seeker up in his arms, floating there in space he scanned the beaten frame for any signs of life.
The pulse was weak, but his spark was still there.
Relief flooded through him, his optics offlining for a happy moment.
He commed Prowl, informing the SIC of his find. Prowl simply told him to return to the ship and deliver the survivor to the med bay.
This time Skyfire did not drift languidly but flew with speed full of purpose, gripping the little seeker tightly to his chassis. There was no time to lose; each ticking astrosecond could be the difference between life and death.
With ease Skyfire glided to a stop at the bay doors at the back of The Ark. He pinged the station there.
-Requesting entrance for Skyfire and…- He looked down at the mech in draped pitifully in his arms.
The bay door slowly opened.
Days had passed. The shuttle stood alone in the waiting area, his soft blue optics focused through the glass and into the medbay. Skyfire's unease gave him a bristled aura. His arms crossed over his chest and he ignored all of his surroundings. Prowl- who was not one to be intimidated- felt a small amount of apprehension as he approached the towering mech.
Only a small amount.
"Skyfire," He said the designation pointedly and completely business like.
There was a moment's hesitation before the white mech turned his head.
Prowl waited a moment for Skyfire to speak, an awkward few astroseconds passed before the Datsun spoke again.
"Prime wants to speak to you in his office." He said coolly.
Skyfire's optics passed over the SIC before he turned back to the window. "What for?" he asked. The shuttle's tone was collected, but Prowl sensed some frustration leaking through.
Prowl's optics widened a bit in surprise. It was so unlike Skyfire to be so curt, but he reminded himself about the shuttle's situation. "It's about Starscream."
Skyfire's wings lifted, optics brightening. He glimpsed back at Prowl before giving the window one last look. With a nod to Prowl, he briskly walked out of the room and back into the hall.
Prowl watched him leave, studying the minute differences that had appeared over the last few days. Skyfire had become distant- the shuttle had never been one to socialize but now he wouldn't even sit down in the rec room to drink his cube- his wings were drooping and strangely, the most disturbing change of all was how hard his optics had become. Prowl had never realized until then that Skyfire's optics had always been kind and warm.
Prowl turned his attention back to the window, through it he could see the med-bay where the half-repaired bodies of Decepticons laid on every berth available. Ratchet was bent over working away on one, sparks flying into the air as he welded a new joint. It was hard to tell just who it was but Prowl was sure it might be one of the Reflectors.
With a sigh the Datsun turned away, walking back to his office to the pile of work waiting there for him.
Skyfire stood outside the Prime's office. He had stopped for a moment to compose himself. Optics offline and wings almost at a ninety-degree angle he took in five long and deep intakes. He rolled his shoulders and shook his head before bringing his optics back online and pressing the buzzer on the door panel.
The door almost instantly opened. Skyfire stood there with his arm still raised from pushing the button.
Prime sat at his desk, facing the shuttle. "Come in Skyfire," he motioned with one hand.
Skyfire stepped in right away but his body language appeared reluctant.
"Have a seat," Optimus gestured to the lone seat at his desk.
Skyfire gave it one look before crossing his arms behind his back. "I'd rather stand, sir."
Optimus stopped himself from sighing as his shoulders fell. "Please Skyfire, we need to talk."
At that Skyfire's optics dimmed and he took the seat.
"I'm well aware what this is about." He told his commander.
Prime's optics lit up. He knew Skyfire was blunt but he wasn't expecting this talk to be that blunt. "So you understand my concern with having the Decepticons here on the ship."
"Yes, you have a good reason to,"
Prime nodded. "But I understand that you have been spending a great deal of time in the med-bay,"
Skyfire's face appeared ashamed at that comment. "There is an explanation for that…"
Prime leaned forward on his desk, knowing that now wasn't a time to speak.
Skyfire scanned over Prime one more time before nervously shifting in his seat. "Well obviously I'm concerned about Starscream,"
"Which I know is strange, he's our enemy and…I shouldn't care about him-"
"Just because we fight against them doesn't mean that we shouldn't feel concern for them." Prime told him.
At that, Skyfire's wings perked up and he visibly opened up more.
"Well, Prime, I'm sorry but I haven't been completely honest with all of you,"
Optimus' optics widened but his body didn't move. He'd suspected that the shuttle was keeping certain details about his relationship with Starscream for a while.
Skyfire looked down at his hands before speaking again.
"You see, the truth is…well…I did work with Starscream, and we did go on a long expedition together but…you have to understand, I wasn't sure what you would do if you found out! I wasn't sure if you'd be upset, understanding or Primus, try to kill me! I just-"
Prime raised his hand to stop Skyfire. "I assure you Skyfire I am a very understanding mech,"
Skyfire sighed; one hand came up to his forehead. "I know that now, but before I wasn't sure…what with Megatron and all…I wasn't as if I could keep your trust."
"Skyfire, just tell me what it is, what's been making you act so strangely these last few days?"
The shuttle eyed him more a moment, as if he had just realized the changes in his recent behavior.
"We weren't friends. Starscream and I…at first we were but…things changed…"
"What do you mean?"
A sigh. "It grew; our relationship grew into something far more. By the time we were leaving for the expedition we were considering bonding," A small smile appeared on the shuttle's lips. "The expedition was going to be our last 'test', so to speak, to see how we got along alone with each other under tremendous stress. We did great, we really did."
That wasn't what Optimus was expecting.
"I love him…I still love him," Skyfire looked down at his lap.
Prime tried hard to hide his shock, the shuttle was already ashamed, but…Starscream? Had Starscream been a better person before the war? Or was Skyfire's notorious optimism able to see past the obnoxious personality?
"I'm sorry," Skyfire whispered. "I just can't let him go."
"I-it's alright Skyfire," Prime cleared the shocked static out of his vocalizer.
"I think I can help," Skyfire looked up, searching the Prime's optics for his thoughts. "If could just spend some time with him, when he's awake, if I could just talk to him-"
"What do you mean?" Prime asked, trying to keep up with Skyfire's thought process.
Skyfire stared at him for a moment, his brow furrowing. "I believe I can persuade him to leave them…the Decepticons, I mean."
Now that was interesting. "How do you think you can do that?" Prime asked.
Skyfire's wings perked up, the same way they did whenever he was presenting a new idea, "Starscream is an extremely paranoid mech. I was one of the only mechs that he trusted. I know now that he's upset with me but…if I can reason with him, make him understand that I didn't leave the Decepticons to leave him; he might want to stay with me.
He's a genius! Think of the amazing things we could invent. I believe that we can end this war with science and Starscream is the best scientist I know. "
"I see," Prime looked thoughtful as he mulled over something. Skyfire sat there patiently.
Finally Prime looked back up. "What would you like to do, exactly?"
Skyfire was surprised, "Well if I can just spend time with him in the med-bay, that's fine, maybe if he proves to be trustworthy enough I could take him flying…he needs that or he'll go stir crazy."
Prime seriously had trouble believing that Starscream could be trustworthy. "How well do you think you can keep him under control?"
Skyfire looked confused at the question. "Very well, I mean if needed be I could easily….hold him back…but I doubt I'd ever have to…why do you ask?"
"Ratchet tells me that the med-bay is past full, we were going to begin sending mechs to the brig-"
"You can't! He'll go crazy if you do!" Skyfire almost jumped out of his seat.
Prime found himself gapping at the shuttle. This was a completely different Skyfire then the one he thought he knew. This one was nervous, hurried and…protective. Words that the Prime would never thought he'd find himself using to describe the normally calm, patient and easy mech.
"I was going to ask if you wanted to place him under confinement in your quarters."
Skyfire halted for a second before relaxing back into his seat. "Oh,"
"He must agree to it first," Prime followed carefully.
Skyfire nodded. "He's probably still mad at me. I honestly don't know if he will want to stay with me, let alone talk to me…"
If he does then you would have to have someone check in on both of you and Red Alert would install extra security," Prime continued.
"Of course," Skyfire's optics unfocused as he thought, absorbing Optimus' words.
"Your quarters would be automatically locked at all times and would only be opened with clearance. Starscream would have a tracker put on him as well. If you think you can keep him under control, I'll allow it."
Skyfire continued thinking before his wings slowly perked up to their normal height. With bright optics he smiled at Optimus and nodded. "I understand. I'll do everything I can to help."
Seeing the shuttle's good mood come back made the Prime smile. "Once he's stable we'll move him. I'll have Red Alert and Wheeljack work on the tracker."
"Thank you Prime." Skyfire spoke in his normal calm tone.
"Let's hope this works," Prime opened the door for the shuttle, showing that he was free to go. Skyfire walked out of the door with a spring in his step but halted in front of the doorway.
"Oh and Prime," He turned back.
"I'm sorry- about how I've been these last few days- I've just…I'm worried."
"It's understandable Skyfire." Prime said before bending back down to his work.
Skyfire walked back to the waiting room with a small smile on his face. He sat down at the bench, visibly calmer. He hadn't noticed that his mind had wandered off until knocking on the glass sucked him back to reality.
A grumpy Ratchet nodded to the door. Skyfire must have looked confused because the medic huffed and motioned a frustrated "come here". Skyfire quickly got up and waited for the door to open to him.
"He's been askin' for you." Ratchet grumbled before moving to a berth on the other side of the room. A whirring started up as the medic resumed his work.
Skyfire moved slowly to the one berth he had been watching for days. Quietly he stood next to it, one hand in the air as it debated moving closer or dropping back to his side. It dropped back down.
For a moment he thought it was a mistake; the mech on this berth wasn't talking, let alone awake but then he saw an optic flicker.
Slowly and groggily, the battered mech on the berth came back online. His body was covered in shiny new patches of metal that contrasted sharply with the old, burnt panels with scratched paint. One wing was stripped down to its frame while the other rested on the floor, mangled almost beyond recognition.
The only part of his body that was completely repaired and re-painted was his helm and face. Skyfire wondered why Ratchet had spent time on that.
There was a groan as Starscream shifted, slowly waking up. His face contorted in pain as his head struggled to lift up.
Skyfire was instantly there with his hand cupping the back of the seeker's helm.
Starscream's optics lazily met Skyfire's.
Expecting some retort or snip Skyfire stayed quiet, but Starscream didn't say a word.
Trying to fill the silence, Skyfire spoke. "You were asking for me?"
They continued staring at each other for a breem. Starscream's optics dimmed and his head relaxed to the side. Skyfire slowly rested the seeker's head back on the berth and crouched down so they were at level with each other. This time he let his hand cup a dark cheek, thumb stroking the seeker's jaw line.
Starscream regarded him lazily with one optic before slipping back into recharge.
Unable to find something to do, Skyfire pulled up a chair and sat next to the berth, quietly watching.