The lights of Helix strobed with the percussion of the city. The buildings seemed to thrum with rhythm, with music. A renowned center for arts and music, the unique melody of Helix drew a certain type of bot. They could hear its song; they lived for its song, for the night life and the parties. For the dance and the lights and the beat of the clubs.
In the heart of that town of beauty and rhythm, she waited upon a tall balcony that fateful night: a petite, mid-sized femme of magenta and turquoise. The lights glittered beautifully below her, the vibrations of the dance party at her back as she watched the stars and waited. Despite the happy crowd and familiar faces, there was only one face she wished to see that night. The bot had promised he would be there to meet her. Even though he often broke his promises, she hoped beyond hope that he would be true this time. She had expressed to him this was important; how could the bot forget her request? He was late, but he would come.
Beatback watched the femme out on the balcony, her back to him. He knew who she waited for; he knew her wait was futile. That pit-spawned Blaster was never going to show. He always let her down, time and time again. Every time, she forgave him his carelessness, pretending it was no big deal. Beatback hated him for it.
He was about to approach the femme and try to convince her to give up waiting, when he saw the missiles jetting through the sky. They swirled around in beautiful patterns, aiming right for the balcony. He surged forward to warn her, to protect her somehow, screaming the femme's name.
Wait, wasn't he Beatback? He couldn't imagine being anyone else, so was he her? Yes, she was Beatback, so she couldn't be him. If he was her, then why was he watching all of this from behind her? Nothing made sense as the missiles destroyed the balcony, swallowing her screams, shattering his world.
Beatback came to consciousness violently, his optics snapping on, his spark in turmoil. Fear, pain, hate all swirled together. Nothing fit; everything was wrong. He could think of only one place to go to find answers. The thought of the one familiar face through all the uncertainty jerked his damaged body to its feet.
Chapter 27: Other Half Part One
The secondary base was the last resort for what remained of Spectre's small band, and it stank of desperation and hopelessness. Energon dripped on the floors; wails of pain flooded the walls. So many were damaged from the seeker attack. So very, very few had survived at all. Between that and the attack on Darkmount, their numbers had been cut down to a third of what they once were. Spectre looked upon what once had been a small, but scrappy, army. Now, everything was just scrap.
Spectre sequestered herself in a corner of the area, overwhelmed by the losses and clutching her damaged hand. She rocked back and forth as she mumbled to herself. Every so often the names of Darkstar or Megatron would reach her lips, but the other femmes left her alone. She was still too dangerous to be around when she was unstable like this. Plus, there were far too many femmes in dire need of medical attention.
The few remaining femmes that knew any sort of first aid were triaged by Catscratch as she surveyed all the wounded. Currently, her energon-caked fingers were deep in Domino's chest, frantically attempting to stop all the internal bleeding before the spark went into shock. Dice hovered around, but wisely kept her distance so the other femme could work.
Catscratch had yet to shoo the other sister away. They were spark twins, siblings created when one spark splits in half. It meant the two were one of a whole and each was not complete without the other. As such, if one died, the other had a ninety-percent chance of following soon after. Domino's life meant her sister's life as well.
But Dice had no need to worry. Soon, Catscratch had welded all the leaks shut and Domino's spark instantly stabilized.
"She should be fine," Catscratch said, wiping her hands in preparation for the next patient. "Keep an eye on her, but let her rest. Make sure she gets some energon as soon as she wakes up."
Domino nodded. "Got it. Thank you."
"Beatback is next," Ransack insisted. "I need you to look at him."
Catscratch looked her superior up and down, taking in the gaping hole in the red femme's side and missing arm. "You sure about that? You look like you could use a medic yourself."
"I'm fine for now. Nothing important was damaged. Beatback took a stab to the chest. I think his spark casing has been compromised. He's not bleeding much, but he's been completely unresponsive. I think his system is shutting down."
"Fine. I'll look at him. But if it's not as serious as you think, he'll have to wait while I take care of more severe injuries."
Ransack nodded; it was all she could ask for. She turned, leading Catscratch to the patient. The tunnels in the secondary base were even leaner than those of their main stronghold. Beatback's body was too big to drag inside.
As they stepped out into the larger tunnels, Ransack gasped in horror. The spot where she had left the mech's body was deserted. Only a small smattering of energon served as evidence he had been there at all.
"He was just right here!" Ransack insisted. She frantically searched for him, calling the mech's name. "Beatback? Beatback!"
Catscratch, who had never been a fan of anyone male, comrade or no, just turned to go back inside. "I guess he wasn't as damaged as you thought."
Normally, they would have descended on their newest target without caution, hungry for death and destruction. But Darkmount was considerably larger and far more densely populated than the tiny stronghold of the Decepti-femmes. For Unicron's herald, it was like staring at a large puzzle.
"Decisions, decisions," Sunstorm mused to himself as they wandered around the base's walls. "Where even to begin with this? I'd like our first strike to be a good one."
"Hey! You three!"
The trio paused as a large Decepticon called to them.
"Are you addressing us?" Sunstorm asked.
"Yeah, you get lost or something? It's this way. Get your cans over here."
Sunstorm and Slipstream just stared at him while Acid Storm reflexively raised the blaster attached to his arm to shoot.
"Hold on," Sunstorm ordered before his brother could fire. "Now I'm curious. Let's see where this goes."
He followed after the Decepticon. Slipstream and Acid Storm looked at each other and decided to trail him. The Decepticon led them around the next bend, exposing them to a wall that had seen far better days. It was riddled with charred holes and beyond it, the main tower could be clearly seen. It, too, was in a state of disrepair: black and broken, the top sat at a damaged angle where a massive chunk had been blown right out of it.
"Seems we got to this party a little too late," Slipstream commented.
"Drats. Looks like it would have been a blast," Sunstorm lamented. "I guess we're not the only beings on this planet with a taste for wanton destruction. Interesting."
"What are you doing, sightseeing?" The Decepticon cut in again. "Get to work. We need the last of this rubble cleared out today so repairs can begin. Megatron's orders. Get to it. Now!" Turning around, he grumbled to himself. "Stupid seeker drones," he mumbled. "Always so slow to react. Shockwave needs to give them all a good upgrade before they drive me nuts."
Slipstream snarled, unsheathing her blade. Sunstorm put an arm in front of her and she growled anew. "Sunstorm, if you stop us from killing one more bot, I swear to Unicron, I'll-"
Sunstorm pointed within the courtyard among the rubble. The sight caused Slipstream to immediately forget her words, the blade sliding back into her arm. The trio stared dumbfounded at the multitudes of seekers toiling around them, working to clean up the previous battle zone.
"They look... they look just like us," Slipstream said in awe. "They're everywhere."
"Indeed," Sunstorm agreed. "Most curious. I suggest we play along for now. I'd like to find out more before we level this place. We've got the time."
Slipstream huffed as she watched the seekers work. "I don't do manual labor."
He patted her on the shoulder. "Be a good sport. This could be fun."
Prowl tucked his data pads neatly under one arm and stepped into the elevator to commence his usual rounds. His office was located near the top of the tower. It was a long way down to begin his routine, but Prowl liked it. The glass elevator provided an excellent view of every level as he descended. A cursory glance at the tower's internal operations was a great way to start his shift.
His quick processor could pick up every face at a glance and identify who they were in microseconds. On his way down, Prowl noticed Blitzangel on one floor. She was with Bluestreak and the twins, talking with them in an upbeat and animated fashion. She looked happy at the moment. Prowl liked that. It seemed like it had been a long time since he had seen her truly smile. The sight of it pleased him.
He caught sight of Sunstreaker placing a friendly arm on her shoulder before Prowl dropped too far to observe further. That action pleased him less, but it didn't bother him as much as he thought it would. Not as badly, he realized, as such an action would have bothered him in the past. Having verbally informed the femme of his intentions, and having her agree with them as well, gave Prowl a calmer peace of mind than he would have expected. It was like releasing a muscle he had been clenching for far too long.
The thought randomly came to him that he should have done this earlier and saved himself a whole lot of grief.
That thought was abruptly interrupted as Prowl stepped out at the bottom floor, only to come toe to toe with Nightshade.
"Hey there, Prowl. Ah've been lookin' for you." She leaned in close, a finger tracing over his flat, new chest plate. "Any update on gettin' those new quarters for lil 'ol me?"
For Prowl, time seemed to slow. The seconds turned to minutes as realization hit him. Time had finally caught up with him, old ways washed away by the here and now. He wasn't the same bot anymore. The years and the war had changed him. He was different now.
But Nightshade, had she always had that annoying twang in her voice? Surely it could get annoying if one had to listen to it all day. And her mouth, she always opened it a little too wide when she spoke or smiled. It felt forced and phony. Why did he ever dream of such a smile?
Time revved back up to its normal pace and Prowl spoke. "I'm sorry, Nightshade. After researching the possibilities, I don't believe the Autobots will be able to grant your request."
"The Autobots?" she argued. "I thought this was an arrangement between us." She flickered her optics at him, rubbing a shoulder against his chest. "With what we've meant to each other all these years, surely there's something you can do." She pressed in, chest plate flush against his. "Perhaps if you find me a new berth, I could do a little something to brighten yours, hansom."
While Prowl stayed mostly stoic on the outside, inside he was appalled. Had Nightshade always been this... oily? Suddenly, the prospect of having this femme in his berth did not appeal to him at all.
"I'm sorry, there's nothing else I can do. The femme bunkers are brand new and very nice. They're the best we have to offer right now."
Nightshade's too-wide smile disappeared as she pulled away. "I see. You're not willing to lift a finger for your old friend, but I'm sure that little Decepticon is still up there in that nice suite. And you see nothing wrong with that?"
"I see that you are incorrect with your assumptions. Blitzangel was never really a Decepticon; she was their prisoner. And not that she has anything to do with you, but she actually works. She, in fact, puts in more hours than are required of her, while I have yet to see you attempt to chip in as you take advantage of the Autobots' generosity and use their resources."
Nightshade was so taken off guard by the response, she could do little else but stand there and gape like a fish.
Prowl deftly slipped past her down the hall. "Please excuse me, I have duties to attend."
Up at the top of Iacon tower, Jazz was the commanding officer on duty in the surveillance room. He sat in his chair, legs propped up, energon stick hanging from his mouth. He had brought it with him when he appeared for his shift and seemed more intent on letting it hang there than actually eating it.
"Yo! I got something!" Blaster announced through the stillness. He heard Jazz's energon stick clatter to the ground and then soft cursing.
"And just what do you got?" Jazz responded, daring him to come up with something good enough to be worth his lost treat.
Blaster squinted at the screen, making sure he read his instruments correctly. "There's just some... bot wandering outside the city. He's moving slow, obviously not in a vehicle mode. But he should be within reach of the cameras soon."
Jazz now stood behind the orange Autobot. "Bring it up on the screen."
The bot was still too far in the distance to zoom in for a clear view, but they could make out a single figure stumbling down the road, clearly wounded and headed toward Iacon. The computer program picked up a Decepticon insignia on the unidentified bot before any of the Autobots could see it with their own optics.
"What's a D-con doing clear out here by himself?" Jazz wondered aloud.
Blaster jumped from his seat, nearly catching Jazz in the jaw with his helm. "That's Beatback! Shockwave's lieutenant." A unique fear rippled in his spark. He had hoped never to see that Decepticon again. Not after the last time they had met. The encounter almost cost Blaster his life and it dredged up some hard memories he'd rather not revisit.
"Looks like he's damaged," Jazz said. "Send out a welcome party. And tell them to be careful. This might be a trick."
The form of the dark blue mech trudged ever closer to the Autobot military city. One hand remained pressed to the hole in his chest, though it did little to stop the weak fluid leakage with every step he took. He was in pain, but Beatback couldn't stop. Something pulled him forward, toward him. It was all he could concentrate on. There was no room in his muddled processor for anything else.
Far ahead, Iacon's gates opened and a convoy of vehicles drove out toward him. The Autobots stopped at a safe distance and transformed, weapons at the ready. Beatback continued to drag himself forward as if they weren't there.
Kup, as leader of the dispatched team, stepped forward, his energy rifle aimed at Beatback's head. "Now, that's far enough, lad. You're in Autobot territory. You care to tell me what a Decepticon like you thinks he's doing here?"
Air rasped through Beatback's shredded intakes, his system no longer able to cool his overheating body. "Not... Decepticon..." he hissed out, still refusing to stop. The only reason he had not been shot so far was that he clearly was in no condition to hurt anyone.
Kup clearly saw the blank look on the mech's face. It was as if he saw no one in front of him, only Iacon's tower in the distance.
"Must... find him..." Beatback stretched a hand toward the city and stumbled, landing face down on the ground.
Kup put his weapon away. There were no other bots in the vicinity. It appeared as though this one had been left out in the wilderness to die for some reason. He knelt down to the damaged bot who crawled forth still with single-minded determination.
"Alright then, take it easy. Just who are you looking for?"
His optics flickered as his failing systems finally entered stasis lock, a single word upon his lips.
After a few fake attempts at moving rubble, the seeker trio wandered into the main tower of Darkmount while the supervising bots weren't looking. Sunstorm took the lead as they wound through the different corridors. Having this seeker design seemed to give them a free pass into anywhere as long as they moved with enough purpose and importance. Other bots hardly spared them a glance as they passed.
The further they went in, the more bots they encountered, and Sunstorm was silently glad they hadn't haphazardly started another fight without thinking first. This stronghold wouldn't be as easy to take as the one they'd torched underground. Whereas that one had been all femmes, few in number, this place was run by much larger mechs, and not just a small group, but an entire army.
Unicron may have blessed his chosen with certain strengths and abilities, but the three of them would not be able to win against a force of this size. This military group would eventually overrun them and put them out of commission.
Not that it mattered either way. Unicron was coming to destroy the entire planet no matter who would win in a fight. But Sunstorm certainly preferred to be alive to see it.
For the moment, it seemed fun to just skulk around the base unnoticed and see what they could find. Sunstorm at least wanted to catch a look at this Megatron who seemed to run things. Just removing the leader of this group would cause enough chaos to make his master proud.
Behind the orange seeker, Slipstream followed, head down. She was getting a few odd looks from some of the more observant bots and she didn't want to blow their cover. She, too, wanted to see just how far they could get without being discovered and what there was to find in this place.
Trailing behind was Acid Storm, barely keeping up as he trudged through the halls. He never much expressed what he thought or how he felt about any situation. His place in the trio was to follow silently and do as he was told. He seemed content with his place, never having voiced otherwise.
As they continued through the base, Acid Storm trailed farther and farther behind as he took in all the unfamiliar sights and sounds of Darkmount. His siblings were several lengths ahead when a small, four-legged creature trotted across his path, heading down the hallway that crossed his own. Acid Storm had never seen such a being and paused to observe the black, feline-shaped creature.
Ravage, feeling optics upon him, paused in the middle of the hall. He glanced over his shoulder, tail swaying, eying the green seeker watching him. Then he turned and continued to trot down the hall.
Up ahead, the long hallway led Sunstorm into a large, open room decorated with wall-to-wall screens and computer stations.
"Looks like we found some sort of central command room," Sunstorm said lowly to his sister. "We could really do some damage if we-" He paused, glancing over Slipstream's shoulder. "Where's Acid Storm? How did you lose him?"
"I didn't lose him! He was right behind me," Slipstream protested. She turned to look down the long hallway. It was completely empty.
"By the gaping maw of Unicron!" Sunstorm blurted out. "Where did he go?"
The lights of Helix strobed, the city thrumming with rhythm as usual. She stood on the balcony, looking down at the multicolored lights and the bots below. She had been waiting so long, but refused to give up, even though she knew down in her spark that Blaster wasn't coming.
The screaming missiles lit up the air before she turned, seeing them come right for her. It was too late to react. She felt their impact as the explosions rocked the building, burning her outer armor, causing the balcony to crumble beneath her feet. A sickening feeling took over as she fell along with thousands of pounds of steel and concrete. She hit the ground, feeling the weight of the rubble falling on top of her.
This is it, she thought, this is how I'm going to die.
Beatback's optics flickered to life as he regained consciousness. An immediate damage report appeared in his vision, stating that he was only slightly better off than he had been when he slipped into stasis. The only difference being that his fluid levels were steady. He also immediately noticed that all his motor relays had been cut. He could not move.
"There we go," Ratchet announced, moving back. "He's back online, free to question."
The impressive hulk that was Ultra Magnus moved to hover over him, eating up all the space in the room. "Beatback, you are currently in a medical bay in the city of Iacon as a prisoner of the Autobots. You were found wandering outside the city, badly damaged and appearing to have every intent of reaching our doors. Care to explain that?"
Wide, red optics glanced around the room, settled on Ultra Magnus, and then skittered about the surroundings again, trying to take it all in. When the bot took too long to answer, Magnus tried again.
"The responding team said you were asking for Blaster. Care to tell me why?"
Beatback's gaze settled on Ultra Magnus again at the sound of the familiar name. "Blaster's here? Can I- can I see him?"
"Just what is your business with him?"
The startled face suddenly twisted into a growl. "I've got some personal business with that mech: my bare hands, his spark."
"And you expect me to let Blaster in here when you mean to do him harm?" Ultra Magnus asked.
Beatback's optics went wide again. "What? I would never hurt him. I just... I just need to see him." Then the mech's face grew angry again, his voice deeper. "I would hurt him. I would tear him apart piece by piece. It's the least that he deserves."
"No! I wouldn't hurt Blaster!" the softer voice insisted.
"I'm very confused," Ultra Magnus admitted.
"Shut up. I'm sick of you."
Ultra Magnus frowned. "Now, that behavior certainly won't-"
"I wasn't talking to you," Beatback cut him off.
"No," Blitzangel confirmed as she watched a short video clip of Ultra Magnus' interrogation of Beatback, "that's not normal behavior for him at all. Not that I had an actual conversation with him, but he seemed quite mentally sound to me." She paused to observe the clip again. "It's almost like he suddenly developed some sort of... multiple personality disorder."
"It is very curious behavior," Prowl agreed as he turned off the vid pad and tucked it under his arm. "I will let the medical team know that this is a recent change in behavior, possibly caused by his injuries."
"You going to tell Blaster you've got this guy looking for him?"
"He already knows. At the present time, he wants no part in the interrogation of our prisoner and he claims to have no idea as to why he's being asked for by name."
"Interesting," the femme said. She had a sneaking suspicion that Blaster may have some idea. According to Prowl's expression, so did he. But Blitzangel was sure this was as far into this mystery as she would be allowed to go. The rest was above her clearance station.
"Well, good luck with that," she said as she turned to exit the office. "Let me know if I can be of any more help."
After a thoughtful pause, Prowl hurried after her, catching up in the hall. "Actually," he said, touching her elbow to gain her attention, "there's something I wanted to talk to you about, on a personal note."
"In light of our previous arrangement, I just wanted to inform you that I am willing to cut all ties with Nighshade since we are now involved in this relationship."
"Really?" Blitzangel asked with a bit of incredulity. "You think the reason I agreed to date you was because I didn't want you talking to Nightshade?"
Prowl paused before opening his mouth. "Well, I'm sure it's not the only reason..."
She put a hand on his arm. "Prowl, I don't mind you being friends with her or any other femme. What I did mind was her trying to take advantage of your position and that you weren't willing even to consider what I had to say. Nightshade had you thinking that I was protesting out of some sort of selfish jealousy when I was just trying to look out for you."
"I see," was all Prowl said. Internally, so many things were starting to make sense now.
"In the future, I hope you'll give my opinion at least proper consideration before making a decision." She paused and added, "You know, if I were your actual girlfriend, you'd be obligated to agree with me, whether I was right or not."
"And you're not- we're not?" Prowl wondered, confused. "But we discussed this."
"You said we should see if this works out between us," Blitzangel responded pragmatically. "Which I'm totally fine with. But this- you and I right now- isn't exactly at the point where we're ready to move in together and pick out curtains, right?"
Prowl said nothing, but silently he found himself extremely amenable to Blitzangel moving into his quarters.
She, however, took his silence to mean that he agreed with her. "We're missing a few steps here. I mean, you haven't taken me out on a single date yet. Unless you count making out in your office."
Prowl quickly shushed her at the last sentence, glancing around for witnesses. The hallway was, luckily, deserted.
"What?" Blitzangel protested. "Now you don't want anyone to know about us?"
"It's not that," Prowl said, still glancing around for witnesses. "We were in my office while I was on duty. And where exactly am I supposed to take you on a date? We live in a militarized city. It's not exactly a place to go for dinner and a movie."
Blitzangel gave a little shrug. "I don't know, Prowl. Maybe this whole thing was poorly thought out and poorly timed. I mean, I like you, I like kissing you, and I care about you very, very much. But we're in the middle of a base- in the middle of a war- and I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know enough about your people to understand what you would want from me; what I should expect from you..." She trailed off, unable to find further words to express her frustration about how little she knew at this point.
Prowl was ready to take her aside, to discuss anything she needed to hear from him, but an insistent ping hit his radio, demanding his attention. Prowl was still on duty this time, too, and knew the call couldn't be ignored.
"Angel, I want to continue this conversation with you, but I can't right now. Please, can we put it on pause and pick this up again soon?"
Blitzangel shrugged again. An action far too dismissive for Prowl's liking. "Sure, whatever."
The odd four-legged creature continued down the different hallways, Acid Storm following curiously behind. Ravage, seeing that he was still being tailed, picked up his pace. After a few more turns, Acid Storm lost sight of the mechanical feline and soon realized he was now lost in the honeycomb of Darkmount's multiple hallways. Sunstorm was going to be so mad at him if he didn't find his way back soon.
Acid Storm glanced around him, a small amount of panic setting in. Nothing looked familiar. He had no idea how to get back to where he had lost the rest of his team.
"Hey. Hey, you," a voice called to him and Acid Storm froze. He slowly turned his head to see a mech with his exact design approach with purpose. It wasn't one of his siblings; this one was painted in an unfamiliar scheme of black and purple.
"What are you doing?" Skywarp demanded as he approached. "You glitching or something? You look lost."
"I... am lost," Acid Storm admitted carefully.
Skywarp instantly balked at the response. Seeker clones didn't get lost and they certainly didn't talk like that- like they were normal, feeling beings.
"Identify yourself, seeker. What's your serial number?"
Acid Storm flickered his optics at the unfamiliar question. "I do not have one. My designation is Acid Storm."
Skywarp stared at him. "You- you're like me, then." He broke into a broad grin. "When were you built? Ol' Shockwave convert you recently or have you been around a while? Maybe felt your consciousness come back to you over time?"
"Doesn't matter, doesn't matter. We'll figure it out. The important thing is you're one of us now." He slapped the new seeker on the back and immediately pulled his hand away. "What the?!" Skywarp's fingers came back slightly eroded from the contact.
"Sorry," was all the green seeker offered. He had never apologized for anything. It was an odd experience.
"Acid Storm, huh?" Skywarp said, inspecting his fingers. "You gotta be new. I haven't met a seeker or any Decepticon who could do that. One of Shockwave's new projects, I bet."
Acid Storm stayed silent. Decepticon. That was a word he was unfamiliar with.
"Doesn't matter," Skywarp repeated again. "I'm Skywarp and you don't have to listen to anyone else, right? Especially not that glitch Shockwave. You stick with me. You're part of our team now and we take care of our own. Come on."
The black and purple seeker started down the hall, then turned expectantly when he wasn't being followed. "Come on, this way."
After a few more moments of hesitation, Acid Storm trailed after him. He was too used to taking orders, not thinking for himself. He had no other instinct but to follow the first voice that urged him forward. Skywarp continued to lead him down the hall, through a few more corridors, to a small break room where another seeker sat, long legs propped up on a table. He was painted in a blue and white color scheme, a data pad in his hands where he seemed to be playing some sort of game.
"'Cracker!" Skywarp announced as he stepped inside. "Look what I found."
Thundercracker glanced up from his handheld game to see Skywarp gesture grandly at a green seeker clone as it entered the room. No, not maybe quite a clone. This one was identical to them in design, but he was a bit bigger. Most seeker clones were all exactly the same size. Thundercracker couldn't see what the fuss was about just because Skywarp found one that was bigger than normal.
"Nice," he said without interest and went back to his game.
Skywarp frowned at the lack of reaction to his find and snatched the game away. "He's one of us, you idiot. He thinks for himself."
Any anger Thundercracker held toward Skywarp for touching his things disappeared as he looked at the seeker again. The green clone stared back at him blankly.
"No way. You're just yanking my chain."
"Go ahead, tell him your name," Skywarp said to the larger seeker.
Thundercracker looked unconvinced.
"Show him that thing you do," Skywarp urged Acid Storm, nodding toward the table.
Acid Storm stepped forward, touching the table with one finger. The metal bubbled and melted away upon contact, leaving a nice little hole in the once-smooth surface.
Thundercracker jumped to his feet. "Dear, sweet Primus."
Acid Storm's optics flickered. "Primus has nothing to do with it," he said sternly.
Thundercracker stared at him, never having expecting a full sentence to come out of the green seeker's mouth. Then he looked to Skywarp. "Does Starscream know about this?"
Skywarp just huffed. "I could write a whole novel about all the things Starscream doesn't know."
An Autobot stepped into the room: lean, unassuming and goggle-eyed, painted in a scheme of orange and white. He entered with a data pad and a small, tight smile. Beatback, shackled by the wrists to his chair, said nothing, but eyed the Autobot with suspicion.
"Good evening, Beatback. My name is Rung," said the Autobot as he sat in a thin chair. One leg crossed over the other as he perused his data pad. "I am here to perform an evaluation. I hope to expect your full cooperation."
"You're going to interrogate me," Beatback accused him with a frown. "I don't know anything. No matter what you do, you won't get anything out of me."
The Autobot looked up, undaunted. "I believe you have me confused with a different department. I was assigned to your case because, even though our medical team has repaired your physical damage, you are still displaying rather bizarre behavior. I was asked to give you a psychiatric evaluation in hopes we may find the root of your problem."
Beatback instantly clammed up, jaw set. He seemed angry and stubborn, but a quick glance around the room gave away a bit of anxiety as well. Not everything was as it seemed with this patient.
"When the medical staff scanned your spark, do you know what they found?" Rung asked. "It was something very unique. A type of spark they had never run across before. You see, Beatback, every spark signature falls within a certain spectrum and it's the place on that spectrum that dictates that spark's gender... one side male, the other side female. Some signatures are near the middle and some are far at the ends. Yours, however, falls smack dab in the center. According to our findings, your spark has no gender. Do you know why that is?"
Silence came from Beatback.
"When we scanned your spark," Rung continued as he referred to his notes, "we found a network of scarring. Closer inspection revealed that it's not a neutral spark at all, but that this scarring is from a patchwork of two different sparks. Each one gives off a signature on the exact opposite side of the spectrum. So exact that they cancel each other out, making the spark appear to give off a neutral signal.
"Despite your spark being in perfect harmony, you clearly have identified yourself as male and demonstrate a very masculine personality. However, it seems the damage you recently incurred to your spark chamber has awakened your feminine side and it is now interfering with your dominant personality."
Beatback continued with his silence. But Rung, for his part, did not speak again. Instead, he sat there for several moments watching his new patient expectantly. The Autobot seemed intent to wait until he finally received a response.
"Can you fix it?" Beatback finally spoke.
"We are certainly going to try. But first, we need to know how this came about in the first place. What happened to you?"
That stubborn look of silence fell over Beatback's face once more.
Rung was unfazed. He had dealt with these kind of patients before. The trick was to keep covering topics until he found something the subject couldn't help but express an opinion about. Sometimes it would take a great deal of time and more than one session, but Rung had the patience and this particular patient certainly had nowhere else to be.
"Beatback, this thing that happened to you, it was not right. No one should play Primus with another's spark like this."
"It saved my life," Beatback answered in a quiet tone.
"And what about the life of the bot who shares your spark? What kind of life is that for them? For her?"
Beatback gave a mirthless grin. "So that's it, huh? You want to take me out of the driver's seat and put her in charge. Because she's never been a Decepticon, is that right?"
"We had no way of knowing she wasn't a Decepticon," Rung gently reminded him, "and I'm not here to decide which one of you is more worthy of life. We want to help you both. None of this is your fault. What was done to you was very wrong and very illegal. These experiments should have never taken place. They have been outlawed for several millennia on Cybertron."
Beatback only chuckled. "Well, that's lovely to know. Unfortunately, I wasn't on Cybertron. Its laws certainly don't apply where I've been."
"And that is?" Rung asked.
Beatback opened his mouth, but he wasn't able to get a single word out before his vision was peppered with several warnings that all his systems were shutting down. Among them, one report blinked far more urgently than all the rest: SPARK FAILURE IMMINENT.
Rung was immediately on alert when his patient's optics began to flicker. When the mech's muscle cables began to spasm, Rung jumped to his feet and turned on his emergency radio frequency. "I need a medical team in here, now!"
Only a few moments later, a group of medics rushed in, taking Rung's place as they tried to hold down the flailing bot and ascertain what was wrong.
Above all the chaos, a panel of wall was actually a one-way window, allowing anyone to observe the session without being detected by the patient. There, Blaster stood silently and watched.
Slipstream poked at a seeker clone, frowning when she got very little response. "This is just creepy. I sense they have sparks but... it's like no one is home."
"So just drain them," Sunstorm suggested. "Free spark power."
Slipstream huffed and moved on. "It's no fun if they don't care."
They were currently wandering a large common room and seeker clones were milling about everywhere. Acid Storm had yet to be found and, quite frankly, the two had no idea what exactly their goals would be in such a place, even if they did locate their wayward brother.
"What do you suppose this thing means?" Sunstorm then asked, finally noticing the Decepticon insignia on one of the seekers.
"Beats me," Slipstream retorted, still nosing around.
Sunstorm idly copied the symbol by burning it into the wall with his finger. "Interesting."
Things quickly became even more interesting when two new bots entered from an adjoining hallway. One was a massive mech, gray and black in color. The far more intriguing of the two was a red and white seeker. Only this one, unlike all his other counterparts, was bitching up a storm as he stayed right on the gray mech's heels.
"I demand action, Megatron! Those femmes have to pay for what they did to us! We should be sending soldiers down there, ripping up the tunnels, tearing those cowards out of their burrows. If we don't take our revenge, and soon, then what sort of message are we sending to our enemies? Please, anyone attack Darkmount, come right on in. Megatron won't mind at all."
"Therein, as always, Starscream, lies your weakness," Megatron retorted. "You let your wounded pride get the best of you. You have no patience."
"Yes, I'm sure I'm the only one with this problem," the seeker muttered back.
"What was that?" Megatron demanded, halting in his tracks.
Starscream almost ran into him before managing to put on the brakes. His mouth opened to come up with an excuse as to why his leader shouldn't punish him for having a smart mouth, but another voice interrupted.
"If you're talking about those femmes living in the middle of the planet, we already torched that whole place."
Both Megatron and Starscream paused, glancing at the orange seeker that interrupted their conversation.
"Killed a lot of them, too," Sunstorm added conversationally.
"You," Starscream said, "I do not recognize you. What is your serial number?"
"Don't have one."
"Faulty junk," Megatron growled. "Who built you?"
"Your unmaker did."
Megatron glanced toward his second. "Is this your idea of a joke, Starscream? It has your annoying wit."
"I assure you that I have no recollection of seeing this one. Ever," Starscream insisted with suspicion.
"Well, clearly it is glitching. Seeker, go to the med bay for an examination and then report outside for cleanup duty. That's an order."
"Nuh uh, I don't do cleanup. And I don't report to you," Sunstorm informed him. "That purple insignia you love to wear- do you see me wearing it?"
Megatron inspected the seeker more closely. Come to think of it, he had no recollection of ever running into this particular seeker before, either. And he did, indeed, not bear the Decepticon symbol.
"You say you are not Decepticon?"
"Nope," Sunstorm said. "But that doesn't mean I'm not necessarily interested in becoming one."
Megatron paused thoughtfully. "You say you attacked a group of femmes living deep under Cybertron?"
"Oh yeah, a whole nest of them. Torched that place to the ground. Lots of screaming, pain and death. I'm interested in more of that if you can offer it."
The gray mech looked intrigued. "I might be able to. But tell me, how did a bot of your size make it all the way down into those small tunnels?"
Sunstorm pressed his hand to the wall and it immediately began to melt. "I make my own tunnels."
By then, Megatron was grinning. He cared not where this bot had come from, only that it was hungry for destruction and would turn that wonderful power on the Decepticons' enemies.
Starscream, however, was not so convinced. His mind was already running out of ways this seeker's power was even scientifically feasible.
"By the name of Primus," he muttered.
Sunstorm smirked. "Not exactly."
Blitzangel found herself within a room she had never been in before. It shouldn't have been a big deal, but she found that she had no idea what to do with herself.
"I've never been in your room before," she admitted. "Any of your rooms. It feels kinda weird."
"I didn't feel it was appropriate before," Prowl responded.
"But you went into my rooms. Several times," she countered.
"That was in a professional capacity. I needed to make sure you had proper accommodations."
Blitzangel smirked. "You didn't always come in just for that."
Prowl gave her a light smile. "And I enjoyed your company. But as a superior officer, it would not be appropriate of me to suggest I enjoy your company in my own private quarters."
"But now it is."
"If you and I are in an official, consensual relationship then yes, it is."
Blitzangel sat on the couch adorning the large main area. The place was nearly identical to hers, but had a more sterile feel to it, as if no one lived there and it merely existed as a display model only.
"So, what exactly does that mean? Tell me how you define official."
Prowl walked over to her, handing her a glass of energon. "Mostly, it means the relationship is exclusive. You wouldn't be accepting the advances of any other mech."
Blitzangel inspected the energon in her glass. It was clearer than what they had on Earth, the pink glow brighter. She snorted out a laugh, nearly spilling her drink, at the end of Prowl's statement.
"Me?" she snorted. "Yes, there's a whole gang of guys just fighting to ask me out."
Prowl gave a minute frown, not finding the same humor. "You may have not noticed, but you do gain your fare share of male attention when you walk around."
"Of course I do. I'm not that dense. Every female around here gets stared at. Me more than most because I used to be Decepticon and because there's a whole lot of rumors floating around. It doesn't mean any of them are interested in a romantic sense. And even if they were, I wouldn't be."
Prowl raised an optic ridge. "Oh? Why is that?"
"Because I'd have to lie to them and I can't be in a relationship like that. Sooner or later they'd figure out there's something wrong with me and I couldn't do that to someone. That just leaves those who already know the truth and those are unlikely, too. You should have seen Drift when he found out who I used to be. He wouldn't even let me touch him. To tell the truth, I'm not sure why you're even interested. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that."
Prowl continued to lay back in his seat, watching her thoughtfully. Finally he said, "Take your energon, let's go out on the balcony."
Blitzangel sat bolt upright, glancing at the large window behind her. "You have a balcony?" She hadn't noticed it when she came in. That was certainly something different from her own quarters. Her windows didn't even open.
Prowl's balcony was modest in size, but still seemed perfect to the femme. It was open air and that was nearly magical to her. Blitzangel rushed out, gazing down at the Autobots coming and going below. It was a wonderful feeling just to have open air around her instead of a thick pane of glass. She fought the urge to let her air mode take over. She was already fantasizing about hopping up on the rail and taking off into open skies.
"Try your energon," Prowl urged her, cutting off her daydreams. "I had to pay extra for this kind."
Intrigued, Blitzangel took a sip. It tasted clean and clear and bubbly. The sudden wash of pure energy made her feel a little giddy as she took a larger gulp. "Mmm, that's good."
The mech gave her a satisfied look. "I thought you would like it since you enjoy fiddling with energon chemistry. The manufacturing and brewing of different types of energon used to be a very lucrative business before the war. Now, most energon is processed in military grade rations. Anything better than that is hard to come by and expensive."
"But you spent that money on me," Blitzangel said. She paused when she realized her situation. Fancy drinks, together alone under the permanently starry Cybertronian sky. "Prowl, is this a date?"
He leaned on the rail next to her. "It is if you want it to be. I'm afraid I cannot offer much more than evenings like this. There are very few safe and secluded places I can take you, but I'll try to be as creative as I can if it means we can spend more time together."
"Time together doing what exactly?"
He shrugged. "Whatever you want, as long as it's you and me."
"Well, what are you and I supposed to be doing?"
Prowl watched her curiously for a moment. "I don't believe I understand the question."
"If I were a normal femme, what would we be doing on a date?"
"But, you're not a normal femme."
"I know that!" she hissed, frustrated.
"So why would I expect anything typical from you?"
"But... don't you want a normal relationship?" Blitzangel floundered. "Don't you want us to do things typical Cybertronian couples do?"
"I just want you to be happy," Prowl said pragmatically. "When you're happy, I'm happy. I will gladly do whatever it is that will bring you peace, joy. Whatever those things are, that is what I will do when we're together like this."
Blitzangel smirked at him behind her glass. "That's very self-sacrificing of you."
He countered with a playful look. "It's my hopes that your happiness will then result in you allowing me to touch you whenever and however I want."
The femme choked on her energon, then pulled away, laughing.
"What's so funny?" Prowl protested, even though he was smiling. It was nice to hear her laugh, even if it was at his expense.
"You are," she insisted. "You're funny." Though, Blitzangel had to admit, most of it came from the energon she consumed. Everything felt light and airy; it was a lovely sensation. "How can men from different parts of the galaxy still be so much alike?"
A shrug from Prowl. "We're all the same deep down, I suppose."
It didn't escape Blitzangel's notice that he was constantly inching closer to her. She took a step back, just to make him come farther to reach her.
"The problem is that I don't know what to do with you if I let you touch me however you want."
He closed the small gap between them much faster than Blitzangel expected. Suddenly, he was in her space, swallowing her up, breathing her in somehow, even though breath was foreign to him.
"I'll be happy to teach you," he murmured in her audial.
Those words caused her to shiver all the way down. Since when did Prowl's voice make her shiver like that? Since when did he say things that were so... sexy? Blitzangel was very aware that her fuel pump had picked up speed as the heat of his body reached hers. He hadn't even touched her yet and she was melting.
"O...okay..." she found herself saying in a shaky voice.
She had barely finished speaking when he moved in, his mouth on hers. Again, she felt the spark of energy from his kiss, making her sensors dance. That, combined with the high grade she had consumed, made her feel as if she were standing on a cloud and the only thing firm in her world was the hard, male body pressed against her. She kissed him back, her optic band flickering off as he tightened his embrace. This kiss was the best one of all, for it was the first time she had truly been in his arms.
Author's Note: Thanks for your patience everyone, and for those who offered encouragement while I wrote this. I had not put the story aside, I just really had a hard time writing this chapter. Hopefully, the next one will behave more and be easier to write. Thanks for reading!