Optimus dodged the chain strike, arching his back into a deep bend. He twisted his body, neatly avoiding the twin swords coming at him from the side. The young mech touched down only to push off again, narrowly avoiding the chains as his instructors attempted to pin him down. Pulling out his grapplers, he tried to tangle Oil Slick in them, wanting to keep him distracted so that he could focus on taking out Cyclonus first.

His Decepticon instructors had gotten him up early, long before the rest of the crew, as they had done every cycle of the fifteen vorns he had been stationed on board the Titan. It had surprised him at first to find out his cabin mates were Decepticon spies; Shockwave must have pulled some strings to get him this assignment. He didn't know how, as the mech was posing as a cadet who had minimal pull with the Autobot Council, but he had learned not to underestimate his lover.

The early orns were the only time they had to train in combat. Other lessons, such as Decepticon etiquette, could be done subtly, even with others present, but physical combat was harder to hide. Still, they managed, and Optimus had improved drastically. He was still far behind his instructors, but the younger mech loved it all the same. He could see the difference in skill when he compared himself to where he used to be, and it filled him with pride. He still had his aft handed to him every session, but he had fewer dents every time and it took longer to take him down. On top of that, Oil Slick was a master of Metalleko, so he was able to continue his training in that as well. Shockwave would be proud. He was not yet equal to his partner, but he would be.

Oil Slick escaped his grapplers with a twisting sweep just as Cyclonus slammed the butt of one blade into the side of Optimus's helm. Dazed, the red and blue mech stumbled back; he tried to regain his equilibrium, but Oil Slick's chain whip wrapped around his legs and jerked him off his pedes. Before he could regain his footing the twin blades were placed across his throat. Optimus went still, admitting defeat. After a moment Cyclonus stepped back and sheathed his blades.

"Better." But not good enough. "You are excused from your duties. Oil Slick and I will cover for you." Optimus blinked in surprise. He had never been given a break before. Oil Slick leered at him.

"You'll be too busy to deal with Autoscum, Opy." Optimus didn't flinch. It had bothered him at first; the casual, derogatory way they spoke about his people. As time went on, he had come to accept it, and occasionally even caught himself thinking the same things about his crewmates. He had been ashamed of himself at first, but really, these mechs were awful! They were a broken mess, but still they felt so entitled. Frag, all they did was complain about how they were above their menial assignments. And then there was the moaning about the unfairness of life, when mechs like the Decepticons had been forced from their homes on Cybertron because they fought to gain a better standard of life! Yes, Optimus was aware his instructors were feeding him propaganda. The difference was they didn't hide it behind pretty lies. Optimus himself had experienced Autobot cruelty first hand, and was finding it easier every cycle to relate to his trainers.

"Busy doing what?" The Oil Slick smirked. Optimus often thought that the cyberninja had only two expressions: smirking and leering.

"You'll see. Go back to our room and get cleaned up." The former cadet nodded.

"Yes sir." Knowing they were still watching - judging - the young mech did his best to blend into the shadows as he had been taught. If he was caught out of his quarters before curfew ended they wouldn't bail him out. Luckily, he made it to the room with no problems. Slipping into the cleanser, he began to wash away the joor's grime. He didn't want to face whatever was making the Decepticons so smug covered in filth. Optimus cleaned himself quickly and efficiently, not wanting to stand under the freezing spray any longer than he had to. Warm cleanser was a luxury he sorely missed.

Stepping out of the washracks, the truckformer noticed a small padd sitting on top of his berth. It hadn't been there before he'd gotten into the cleanser, but he wasn't worried; there were only two other mechs capable of disabling the traps on the door. Picking it up, he couldn't help but gasp softly. It was a communication padd. He would be able to see whoever was going to contact him. Optimus knew who he wanted it to be.

A small eternity later the screen lit up, indicating that he had a call. He tapped the screen, and Long Arm's visage appeared. Optimus froze. It had been so long since the last time he had spoke to his lover.

"Hi," he said, almost shyly.

"Optimus," Shockwave's voice was warm. "It is good to see you."

"And you. I... I've missed you." he dreamed about him sometimes. Of lazy days lounging together on the berth, of training together, of meaningless chatter and debates on the meaning of life.

"And I you. But you are doing very well. I am proud of you." A soft, warm feeling flared in the younger mech's spark, and a faint blush stained his cheekplates.

"How have you been?" He asked.

"Quite well. I have been promoted to second-in-command of Autobot Intelligence. I work under Warhawk." No one else would have been able to pick up the distaste in the Decepticon's voice.

"Congratulations! So you are one step closer to your goal." To anyone listening it would sound as though Long Arm wanted to be Head of Intelligence. It was true, partially.

"Yes. How are you faring? I know your sentence has not been easy." In more ways than one.

"It could have been worse. I seem to have made some friends." I can't wait to get out of here. They continued chatting amicably, every word sounding like idle chatter to an outsider, but every sentence had a double meaning. It was fun to spar with Shockwave like this. It would be better if they could do so in person.

"Oh! I have news! The Autobot Council has reviewed you case and deemed your original sentence too harsh. You are to be released from duty effective at the completion of your current assignment." Blue optics flared in surprise. He had expected to be stuck with this crew for at least another twenty vorns.

"That's... that's great!"

"Unfortunately I cannot send you the details right now as they are still being encrypted. I will personally ensure that they reach you, however." Plans have changed. Stay near Oil Slick and Cyclonus.

"I'll be ready." I will.

Thank you so much to my awesome beta, Kittona!