Future Tense - Chapter One
Disclaimer: As ever, author neither claims nor intentionally implies ownership of the 'Transformers' brand, or any canon character or concept herein, who are copyright 1984-present Hasbro/etc and used with much love and respect to their creators.
A/N: Yes, I have resumed work on this! As I have a better idea of the plot.
Just pulling a couple of the chapters up a little to match my current standard, and chapter 10 will (hopefully!) be along soon enough.
In the 'kitchen' area of a large residential unit in one of Deixar's suburbs, desk sergeant Pulsar sat humming unmusically to herself and sorting through a heap of brightly-coloured squares of fabric, distractedly watching the news with one portion of her attention and listening to Footloose chattering mindlessly with the other, wondering where a certain teleport had got to.
Only running some errands, Squeaks, he'd said. I'll be back to take Lucy off your hands so quick, you won't even know I was gone.
Sure. 'Errands'. That was a whole half an orn ago. More likely, he was trying to convince Nightsun of the reasons why he shouldn't book him for yet another breach of the peace. Pulsar smiled to herself anyway. Skywarp; poster child for the ASBO generation.
Even now, almost four solar orbits after her disastrous one and only unwanted trip to Earth, she still couldn't quite believe how good it felt just to be home, doing all the boring mundane things she used to hate with so much passion. Her grungy, half-derelict home district was hardly prime real-estate, but in a way, that had saved it. With nothing attractive to try and lay claim to, the fighting had passed around it on all sides, and Deixar had emerged relatively unscathed from a war that was definitely dwindling into its terminal stages. Sparked at the start of the war and knowing little else, Pulsar couldn't help wondering what this new age of peace was going to bring.
The police-bike hadn't yet quite regained the strength – physically or psychologically – to properly return to work; light desk duty was still about all she was capable of, in spite of her efforts to get her life back on track and back to normal. She was at least back to her usual crisp, tidy self, resplendent in her renewed blue and white colour scheme, and usually wearing a shawl at a jaunty angle across her shoulders to make her remaining injuries – her still-absent right arm – less obvious.
Thinking about her missing arm – or rather the cause of it – always upset her gyroscopes. She took a moment to cycle cool air and think stabilising thoughts, unclenching her left fist finger by finger. Siphon's not here, Pulse. He's buried under a desert somewhere.
A little noisein the background attracted her attention out of those bleak thoughts, and she glanced towards the living area. That sounded like the door to Forceps' study. They were back already? It was a quiet little click, not the resounding crash of anger that usually meant one of the twins (or more likely, their sire) had annoyed the burly surgeon, so she guessed all must have gone well at the hospital. She slipped out from behind the table, leaving Footloose glued to the flight videos playing on her computer terminal, and went to see what was going on.
As she'd guessed, there was no Forceps in sight, the big female having retired to the (comparative) sanctity of her study. Instead, an unfamiliar little blue bike stood in the main doorway, a couple of footsteps into the lounge, his arms spread, apparently waiting for her to appear. "Well?" he prompted, and gave a little twirl. "How do I look?"
Pulsar couldn't help the broad, pleased grin that lit up her dark features, and gave the stranger a hug, feeling a very familiar static envelope harmonise with hers. "Very dapper, Slipstream. How does it feel?"
Her sparkling hugged her back, and rubbed cheeks. "I don't know yet," he admitted. "I think I'm still too excited about it to think properly. Still feels like my fuel lines are full of bubbles!"
The protoform had departed for the district hospital early the previous orn with his aunt, so excited about the impending upgrade that he was barely able to sit still. His family had gathered together enough credits to be able to afford to get both the twins an upgrade, now their harmonics were mature enough to cope with the transition, and Slipstream was first on the list. (Footloose, determined that she must at all costs have a set of wings, had been told in no uncertain terms that if she didn't want to ground-pound for a while, she'd have to wait until she was bigger.)
"Have you tried it out yet?" Pulsar wondered, holding Slipstream at arms' length and giving him a thorough visual once-over – not that Forceps would have let even the smallest physical flaw slip past her attention, she wanted to get a good look for herself.
He shook his head. "I wanted to, but Sepp said I had to wait until I had someone to look after me, just in case anything went wrong." He gave one of his nervous, excited little laughs, still quivering all over in anticipation, and squeezed her hand. "We bumped into Whites on his beat earlier, he said he'd come over later for me."
"That's good. I wouldn't want to keep you waiting." She tightened her own fingers in response. "You'll probably vibrate yourself to pieces, the way you're going at the moment."
Slipstream giggled excitedly, still quivering, and didn't argue the fact.
"Well, come on then, bitlet." Irrespective of the fact that he was a fraction of an inch taller than her, now, both her sparklings had reconciled themselves to the fact they would probably remain 'bitlet' from the rest of eternity. "Let's get your tanks topped up, eh? Be a bit embarrassing if you fell over in the middle of your first run."
By the time they reached the kitchen, Footloose had woken up to the fact that he was back. She squeaked excitedly and launched herself at her twin, literally vaulting clean over the table. "Seeee-meeee," she crooned, latching her arms around him and rubbing their cheeks together. "You look all grown up and official, like Ama."
"Careful, I don't want paint-transfers already," he chuckled, nevertheless hugging her back. "Not from you, anyway."
"Yeah, 'cause everyone will just be falling over themselves to get to know you, now you look like every other bike in this friggin' neighbourhood," she snorted, tugging playfully on his new aerials; her brother ow!-ed in alarm and tried to shake her off.
"Play nice, Lucy," Pulsar warned, gently. "If you have to maul your brother, can you at least wait until he's topped up his tanks?"
"It's okay, ama." Slipstream carefully nudged his bent antennae back into shape, giving Footloose a sneaky smile and settling opposite her at the table. "She just doesn't like the fact she's the runt of the family, now."
"Oh I see, it's like that is it?" Footloose lifted her nose, aggressively. "Tell you what, Seemy, soon as I get my wings-... I'll race you. I'll show you what 'runt' really means."
Slipstream cocked his head and waved a hand, airily. "Yeah, well, I won't put my life on hold waiting for you-"
She gave an outraged squeak. "Glitching fragger! You know it's not my fault they say I'm too small!" She threw the empty flask at him.
Slipstream ducked, but not quickly enough; it clattered noisily off his shoulders and skated off across the floor to somewhere inaccessible.
"Aw, you two ain't causing a ruction already, are you?" a new, brash voice wondered, from the doorway; everyone glanced over to find a large black and purple flier silhouetted in the doorway, his impressive wingspan almost forcing him to turn sideways to get through the door.
"Day's back!" Footloose squeaked, and the two (former) sparklings immediately attached themselves to him, clicking excitedly, quarrel forgotten.
"Hey, bitlet. And heeey, Seemy..." Skywarp approximated a little wolf-whistle noise, and snerked when the youngster's optics flushed a vivid lilac-white, embarrassed. "Nice job they did, there. Just a shame about the colour. Why couldn't you have picked something nice, like purple?" He winked. "Seriously. You're wearing the look well, kiddo."
"I feel like I'm all legs," Slipstream argued, quietly, with a sheepish smile. "Still doesn't feel right, yet."
"Ah, give it time." Skywarp gave him a cuff around the audios, with a grin. "You've not even been in it a whole orn, yet. At least you're not walking into walls." The big teleport hesitated and gave him a exaggeratedly suspicious look, as though checking for scratches. "Or are you?"
Slipstream knew the abstract joke was referring to Celerity, whose systems had rejected all the dimensional primers that came with her refit and led to her being clumsy for a good hundred orns or so. "Not yet," he confirmed, with a sort of wary confidence.
Noticing Pulsar glanced over his shoulder for the third time in almost as many seconds, at last Skywarp caught her optic. "If you're waiting for TC, he's not coming over just yet."
Her gaze latched with his, worried. "Has something happened?"
The teleport grinned. "Nah, he's caught up in paperwork. Panacea finally agreed to sign him off." He impulsively scooped her off the floor and span her around with a laugh.
Pulsar gave an involuntary yipe! and reflexively kicked her feet, alarmed. "Put me down, Skywarp-!"
The bigger machine gave her a decisive squeeze and a long, serious kiss on the lips before plonking her roughly back down on her feet. "No more visits to the psychiatrist," he explained, grinning all the way from audio vent to audio vent. "Pan says he's as 'fixed' as she'll ever get him."
Well, that explained the scintillating mood he'd brought home with him, she acknowledged, wobbling to regain her balance. "That's great news. I bet he's relieved!"
"Last I saw, he was, ah, 'celebrating' with Pan." Skywarp winked, meaningfully. "You know what that means."
"They're not fragging, Skywarp." Pulsar shook her head, despairingly, and swatted his arm. "So that was what you meant by errands? You could have been less cryptic. I was worried you'd got arrested again."
"Ah, you know how Pan's place gives me the creeps. I just didn't want you to think you needed to come hold my hand."
In the first few orns after their return to Cybertron, Starscream had got his wingmates signed up with a psychiatrist – and not just any psychiatrist, but the head of the entire psychiatry department, Consultant Panacea. I need my trine back at full health, so I don't care about cost, just getting them all better. Although he groused bitterly about it and how they never appreciated it, everyone knew he'd have done the exact same thing if given the chance to re-do it. (Besides, how does a former air commander plot righteous vengeance against his former leader with his trine in pieces?)
Skywarp was – predictably – first back on his feet. For almost half a solar orbit, he danced a very fine line between recovery and total emotional crash-landing; it was all my fault, I started this, I couldn't find them fast enough, I let Siphon escape, I'm slow and stupid and I deserved everything that has happened. Gentle logic and reassurance convinced him that it wasn't all his fault, and that none of what happened was unfixable, and everyone was on the road to recovery, and eventually he pulled up out of his nosedive.
Plus he'd very rapidly come to the conclusion that actually? Being a stay-at-home parent? Wasn't so bad as he'd thought. Kinda okay, actually. The sparklings hung off his every word like it were some gospel truth, and happily joined in with his causing mischief. Even bathing the reluctant little fraggers had its moments of hilarity. Starscream very quickly got exasperated with their antics and summarily banned Skywarp and his "little minions" from his makeshift laboratory.
"So," the teleport wondered, loudly, helping himself to the unattended flask of fuel balanced precariously next to the sink, "have you two troublemakers managed to bully Ama into having her arm reattached yet?"
Pulsar glared at him, good-naturedly. "Just because I only have one arm doesn't mean I can't give you a good punch in the faceplates."
He smiled sweetly and closed his fingers delicately around her wrist. "Care to review that statement, oh squeaking one?"
She growled and made a mock lunge at him, snapping her denta at the air close to his nose.
The snap took him completely by surprise and made him jerk backwards, then laugh rudely. "Feisty today, huh?" He cupped a hand around her 'blinker' sidelight, and used his fingers to strum lightly across her sensitive little array of antennae. "Soo, how about…" He leaned down close and murmured near her audio. "We dump the bits on Screamer, and go for a little 'fly'? I even made sure I'd got a baffle, just in case."
The feel of his rough fingers on her antennae was… nice… but it flared up a mess of other feelings in her chassis and after a tense little smile, she pushed him gently back anyway. "S-sorry, Warp. Not right now."
He huffed a sigh, dramatically, and obediently took his hand back. "Even if I promise not to accidentally make any more sparklings with you?"
"Even if." She gave him a terse, uneasy smile, backing out of arm's reach. "I'm sorry, Warp. I just-… not yet. Maybe soon."
They both knew that 'soon' was rather over-optimistic, but Skywarp didn't argue the point. He rolled his optics, shrugged and nodded, a disappointed smile on his lips, and took refuge in his stolen flask. "Well, don't make me go plead my case to Beemer. You know what a lack of interfacing does to a mech? I'm wearing my hand out."
Pulsar blinked at him, not sure she understood the "squishy-ism" and not really wanting him to ping her any explanatory images. "Listen, you lazy fragger." She gave him a stern swat on the wing, just hard enough to make the plating vibrate. "You need to remove our squabbling offspring from beneath my feet before I take more drastic measures to get them to behave."
Slipstream was already up on his feet and gazing hopefully out of the window into the narrow alley behind the property. "Whites is due off shift any minute. He said he'd come with me for a spin around the district, remember?" He glanced back at his parents, and smiled, shyly. "To help me get used to my new alt?"
Footloose muttered something disgusted, and folded her arms against the table with a meaningful thump.
Skywarp grinned. "Job done, then. No more squabbling. That was easy!"
"All right, Smart-aft, let me rephrase." Pulsar huffed a sigh. "You need to take Lucy out for a while, firstly so she stops feeling hard-done-by, and secondly stops getting in my way, so I can do my laundry."
"Tch." Skywarp flicked the tassels on the swirly blue shawl tied at a jaunty angle across Pulsar's shoulders. "You don't have to tell Prime's Autodorks you're not wearing the tat they keep sending any more. It's not like anybody's forcing you to."
"Perhaps I like wearing them," she retorted, semi-defensively. "They make me feel less… broken."
Skywarp pursed his lips in a half-apologetic smile. "…I'm sure Sepp would be gentle, if you asked her to get you fixed up."
"I know. I-… it's not about being gentle. I know it'd just… put me straight back under the desert, with Siphon's fingers down my intakes."
"Even if I was there, to protect you?"
"I'm sorry, Warp." The ex-Con didn't often let his gentle side out, and she felt wretched for turning him away. "Soon as I think I can cope with it, I'll let you know."
"Whitesides!" Footloose's gleeful squeak broke through the awkward atmosphere.
Being a significantly smaller mech than Skywarp, the Policebot stood up to the obligatory Greeting Maul a lot less easily – his legs almost gave way beneath the weight suddenly attached to him. "All right all right! Steady on, you two, you're going to knock me flying," he laughed, trying to stay upright. "It's good to see you two troublemakers too. Still running poor Ama ragged, I see?"
Pulsar made a face. "You have no idea how glad I am that you're here. Seem needs some practice with the new alt; if you wear him out a little, he and Footloose might stop butting heads."
Whitesides gave his former room-mate/adopted-sibling an affectionate smile and bumped cheeks in greeting. "Oh, I'll tire him out, no worries there," he promised, with a wicked grin. "We'll give that new alt of his such a workout, he won't know what hit him. He'll get in after we're done, and be far too busy recharging to want to fight with Lucy."
"Tire him out how?" Skywarp challenged, catching Whitesides' arm as he passed.
The smaller mech already had something of a reputation around the station, and only now realised the possible implications of his wording. His optics flushed a vivid cyan, alarmed. "N-nothing like that!" he blurted, hastily. "I-I just mean take him for a run round the block! Uh, that is-"
Skywarp planted a hand over the smaller mech's lips, which managed to convince him to shut up. "You might wanna quit digging," he suggested, amusedly, leaning closer.
"Da-ayy," Slipstream groaned, embarrassed, and pushed past him.
Whitesides looked a lot like he wanted the ground to open up and swallow him, mumbled something apologetic, and hastily scuttled out after his 'nephew'.
The instant the door closed behind them, Pulsar turned to glance at Skywarp, and arched a brow, amused.
"What?" the teleport challenged.
She just smiled, vaguely, and shook her head. "Just… take the bitlet out for a fly, will you? She's getting fidgety."
Footloose gave her a resentful look, but didn't argue.
Seeing Slipstream racing excitedly away down the main street didn't improve Footloose's frame of mind – in fact, it made it positively sour. Proper little green-eyed monster, Skywarp considered, privately, but didn't say so out loud. He'd almost – but only almost – suggested that well, maybe they ought to hold off on Seem's alt, too, just for a little while, so the two troublemakers could whine about how unfair it was together? But then he reasoned that wasn't especially fair, either, especially since Seem had no ambition any higher than ground-pounding his way around the planet's surface for the rest of his days-
"Day?" Footloose leaned closer to Skywarp's audios, sprawled out over his back with her arms around his throat. "When am I going to get my wings?"
Skywarp vented air in a sigh, watching as the ground dwindled below. "Please don't start this all again, Lucy. You already know what I'm gonna say, 'cause we're telling you the same thing at least three or four times an orn."
"I know." She huffed and bumped her helm against his. "I just-... It's not fair. Now Goodie-Straight-Struts has got an alt, he's gonna keep teasing me with it. Please, Day."
"Oh, so you changed your mind and don't mind ground-pounding for a while, eh?" He glanced backwards and met her muted green optics.
"I… didn't precisely say that…" She couldn't quite decide if she wanted to glare at him, or just look melodramatic and dispirited.
"Well, I pretty strongly remember us telling you it was bike or patience, and there was gonna be no wibbling from that until you're bigger."
"But he's leaving me behind! He's gonna get a job, and a partner, and move out, and I'll still be stuck at home, getting under you and Ama's pedes and getting yelled at by Screamer." Footloose muttered something quiet, vented a melodramatic sigh, and let her chin come down with a bump to rest on her parent's shoulder, as though to emphasise how traumatised she was.
Skywarp caught his sparkling's mutter, and had to offline his vocaliser before he could snap at her for it. You just like him better than me.
"Sepp explained it for you, and even I get it and I'm the stupid one," he said, diverting his irritation down an alternative channel. "Your protoform is too small, right now. You need two upgrades in size, and a new power handling system, then the time to stabilise your harmonic to each upgrade. That's aside from needing to be big enough that you won't just… blow your thrusters clean off."
"So I can be bigger! You can ask Aunnie Sepp to make me bigger!" She rubbed cheeks with him, as if that'd somehow sway his opinion. "It's not that big a deal is it? Seem's bigger! He didn't need time to stabilise-"
"Damnit, Button. Just accept a no, for once in your life." He glared at her, at last, and he felt her arms tighten around his neck as she cringed away. "Sepp told you why we can't upgrade you to a flight-capable model yet, and she told you what'll happen if we try putting a big old thruster complex onto those teeny tiny stick-legs of yours. I'm not gonna have you screwing up your harmonic for the next Primus-only-knows-how-many Vorns just because you couldn't be patient. Besides." His voice softened. "I'm looking forwards to teaching you to fly, so I kinda want you bigger, too. We're gonna have to be patient together, huh?"
Footloose made an uninterpretable little noise that could have meant anything from suspicion to satisfaction with the answer, but she at least seemed mollified, for now.
Down by Deixar's seismic rift, Starscream was off-duty, but that didn't stop him working. He stood at the edge of the rift, poking at a seismograph; there had been a fair bit of suspicious activity, of late, and he wanted to check out exactly what was going on. The last thing anyone wanted was for the rift to become active again, after the district had skated through the entire war pretty much unscathed.
"Go set these up over there where I put the yellow radio beacon," he instructed, dumping a case of tools into Skywarp's arms the instant the dark Seeker had landed and dropped his passenger off. "I need to take some topological measurements."
"Well hello to you too, Screamer." Skywarp held the case at arm's length, as though it contained something poisonous. "I don't even know what these are, and you'll probably tell me I did it wrong."
"Well, you don't need to know what they are to go put them over there. I coded them all with the right co-ordinates, and they go flat side down. And that wasn't a challenge!"
Skywarp snorted and kicked off, deliberately scattering gravel at his wingmate. "I dunno what your last servant died of, but it sure wasn't boredom, huh?"
"What's that supposed to mean?!" Starscream yelled at his departing thrusters, and got a rude noise in response. "And what's wrong with you?" He directed his attention down at Footloose. "You better not be the reason Skywarp's in a funny mood, or you can go back home now."
Footloose settled on the broken edge of the Rift and dangled her feet over the precipitous drop. "S'nothing."
The red jet gave a dismissive grunt. "So long as you sulk over there, and don't get in my way."
"I'm not sulking," Footloose retorted, arms folded, kicking her heels and watching as Thundercracker glided in. "I only said how I want to fly. You guys get torqued pretty quick if you're grounded, so why are you acting like it's outrageous for me to just ask?"
Starscream nodded an abbreviated greeting at his blue wingmate. "As we all tell you, at least four times a day, each and every day, you'll have to be patient," he growled, jaw tensed. "Now is not a good time to go testing my mood-"
"But everyone always says that, but Seem doesn't have to be patient, does he-"
"Look, you ungrateful little brat, if all you're going to do is whine about how fragging hard done by you are, you can clear off right now." Starscream stabbed an arm towards the busier streets in front of the Rift, voice deepening into a ugly snarl. Footloose actually flinched back, alarmed. "Bad enough that I'm forced to wallow in such sheer ignominy here, some-some… reject little Empty with wings, scraping to get by in a reject district on Cybertron, defeated and stupid, last thing I need is to have to listen to your slag as well! One more breem of this and frig, I might just go crawling back to Megatron and ask for my old job back!"
His words ended with a snap, and Footloose just gazed up at him, startled into a wide-eyed, frightened silence.
"Get her out from under my feet, TC. Next time I might do more than just yell," he snapped, irritably.
"Hi to you both, too, I guess?" Thundercracker cast his gaze skywards, but obediently picked the small femme up; she immediately snuggled up against his chassis, vibrating softly. "C'mon, Button. Let's go for a wander."
"Didn't mean to upset him," she explained, barely coherent through the fizz of static distortions.
"Well, we have told you 'no' quite a lot of times already, huh?" Thundercracker used a fingertip to scratch at her aerials, and she calmed at the little affection. "Maybe it's a good idea to let us tell you when we think you're big enough, from now on, eh? It's not like we're going to forget."
He felt her nod, where her head rested against his shoulder. "I jus' don't like it when he yells at me like that," she explained, feebly. "And I don't want him going back there 'cuz of me."
Funny what things got under their plating, Thundercracker mused, ascending gracefully back to the cool crosswinds that played across the district. She'd take a scolding without so much as a flinch, but the concept of loss, again, so close on the heels of almost losing everyone the first time? "He's not going to go back," he reassured. "He's just being a fractious old grump because he's working too hard."
"…he doesn't really think it was a mistake, coming here, does he?"
"Nah." Thundercracker lied through an offhand grin – truth be told, he wasn't entirely sure about that, himself. "Skywarp and me just need to find something good to keep his ambition occupied."
"So where's Lucy gone?"
"Off with TC, seeing as she seemed to have lubricated her vocaliser again." Starscream didn't even look up from his controls, as Skywarp reappeared from his task. "Whining about her favourite topic."
Skywarp wrinkled his nose and just managed to resist the urge to tweak the seismograph's controls while he waited. "Couldn't you just-… you know." He gave his wingmate a little look. "Maybe just make her a couple of little antigravs, or something? Just enough to get off the ground? Get us a bit of peace and quiet, and all that."
Starscream gave his wingmate a stern jab with his stylus and made him jump back. "I'm not bowing to your little brat's whining because she thinks she's hard done by," he snapped. "You useless saps have seen to it that she hasn't gone without anything since we got home, the least she can do in return is learn a little patience."
"Whoa, hey, ease up, yeah?" Skywarp groused, backing off with his hands up. "It was just a suggestion, seeing as her whining is clearly so offensive to your delicate audios." He curled his lip and added; " I guess since it's not servicing your ambitions, you don't wanna know about it."
"...you wouldn't know ambition if it got up and shot you in the aft," Starscream sniped. "Never aiming any higher than your next energon break."
"Well maybe that's good, because look where 'ambition' got you!" Skywarp drew little air speechmarks for emphasis. "Hook's infirmary, mostly. Shame he couldn't loosen that over-wound purge-retentive aft in the process!"
One of the delicate sensors rocketed out of nowhere and spanged off Skywarp's helm, sending him reeling in a cascade of broken sensory components. "Make that, second in command of the entire damn army, just in case you forgot. Which I gave up because I stupidly thought you two useless walking scrapheaps were worth it!"
"And career prospects were awesome, huh." Skywarp rubbed the little dent in his black paint, and curled a lip in a sneer. "Second in command to a leader who ignored the few good ideas you had in favour of doing things his own way and fragging things to the Pit without fail every time. Awesome job prospects there, oh gracious leader!"
"Because crawling at his feet and agreeing with whatever he said in the hope that he didn't slag me was so much better option, you cowardly purple blob of tin!"
"Well what do you want me to say?" Skywarp demanded, at last, throwing up his hands. "Well golly, Screamer, I sure am sorry me and TC didn't say something before you pissed most of your life away, chasing after ambitions that anyone with even half a functioning cortical relay would know were completely out of your reach!" He hastily teleported a few metres out of reach of Starscream's arms-outstretched lunge for his throat, and watched with a thinly veiled glee as the scarlet jet got an intake full of dirt for the trouble.
Starscream replied with a shot at the teleport's thrusters. "The only reason you didn't say anything is because you don't have half a functioning cortical relay!"
Skywarp danced inelegantly out of the way. "At least I used to know when to shut the frag up! So I didn't spend most of my life in sick-bay, slagged by the leader I kept trying to stab in the back! Even the fragging Autobots knew you weren't so much brave as just fragging unable to find a good enough leash for your vocaliser!"
"Well why don't you go sign up if you suddenly respect them so much?" Starscream stabbed an arm in the vague direction of the space-bridge. "Prime can't wait to get us all on board, why don't you go earn a few sympathy points by getting you name on the list first?!"
"...They're yelling again," Footloose commented, quietly, noticing the flailing arms and gestures below.
"Yeah, I know, Button," Thundercracker agreed, softly. "Neither of them knows when to back down, as usual."
"I didn't mean to upset him."
"Aw, don't be like that, Lou." He lifted a hand and felt her fingers brush against it. "It's not your fault Screamer's got a spanner jammed up his thrusters."
"He wasn't yelling until we got there."
"Your uncle's just tired," he soothed, gently. "He works too hard, destabilises his systems, and feels like slag until he can get everything running smoothly again. And Day's never really been known for his tact, huh? They're just... rubbing each other up the wrong way, as usual."
He listened as she sighed, and felt her nod again.
"Come on. Let's see if we can track Seemy down, see how he's getting on. We can laugh at him falling over for a while. Yeah?"
She managed a tired snerk and bumped heads. "That's mean," she pointed out, then; "ok! Let's."