I've picked up my story again and decided that since it's been over a year since the last story was posted, I would start over.

Thing's've been tweaked here 'n there, some stuff that wasn't working has been removed- had an idea that turns out I wasn't following and it sorta sat like a speed bump in the story. :/

Title: Kite Strings and Sealing Compound
Author: Lurkerlynne
Characters: Starscream and many, many others
Rating: R
Summary: 'I do not snuggle, Prime!"
Disclaimer: Still not mine. Except for Optronix, which means I have Starscream. Woo-hoo!
Notes: rezuri beta'd but I still lay claim to any and all mistakes. Mwahahaha! :}
Author Notes: I did some alterations, tweaking things here 'n there, and combined all six chapters into one.

Part 1

Starscream watched the sparkling sitting on his berth and scowled; this was one of Megatron's more absurd plans. He was completely fragged in the processors if he thought it would succeed.

"Up!" the sparkling demanded, hands reaching for him.

"I do not snuggle, Prime," he coldly informed the miniature Autobot. Primus on a pogo stick, this was going to be a disaster.

"Up!" Prime nearly whined, optics starting to gleam with cleaning fluid.


Prime's mouthplates trembled and the fluid gathering in his optics started to drip down his faceplates. Starscream vented air sharply, then gave in and picked up the undersized Autobot.

Who promptly snuggled against his cockpit with a contented chirp, his optics shuttered partway.

"Primus!" Starscream sat down heavily on his berth, watching as the sparkling stuck a digit in his mouth.

'Turn Prime into a sparkling, raise him as a Decepticon.' Starscream snorted- Optimus Prime would be as successful a Decepticon as Megatron would a humanitarian. The science behind it all was still too new; the programming for the picotrons' acceleration of growth wasn't ready. Primus, he hadn't been entirely certain Prime would survive the regression!

Too bad Prime hadn't been carrying the Matrix. It would have almost been worth everything to have that in Decepticon hands.

Fussing interrupted his musings and Starscream reached for the cup of energon on the berthside table, which was designed similarly to a human 'sippy cup.' Capturing Prime's hands long enough to keep the sparkling from spilling the energon, Starscream settled in for the fueling.

It had taken careful planning to get Prime alone, to take him alive, and more careful planning to keep him captive long enough to get the mech into the reversion device.

Prime's scream of pain as the device activated still rang in his audios, as did Megatron's chuckle when he retrieved the reformatted Autobot. He had grinned at the small, trembling form in his grasp before handing it over to Starscream with a malicious grin and the order: "Take care of that."

The miss-clocked bot-slagger.

It had taken nearly a joor to settle the terrified sparkling. He'd retreated to his quarters, not wanting to deal with the teasing and comments from the other Decepticons. Soundwave had stopped by a few breems in to drop off bedding and sparkling-appropriate energon, all without saying a word but still managing to convey his distaste for the plans. Starscream agreed; sparklings had no place in an army. They were to be raised outside the war, and especially not within a hemisphere of Megatron.

Letting go of Prime's hands, Starscream watched him grip the energon cup and try to hold it. It had a taken a bit of guesswork but he had finally figured out how to retract Prime's stupid battlemask into his helm, which solved the initial problem of how to fuel the little bootleg.

Predictably, after fueling, Prime fell into recharge. Starscream settled him into the small nest of blankets he'd created on the berth next to the wall; he'd online if the sparkling tried to crawl off somewhere. He'd have to come up with something else soon though. A barriered recharge berth or something like it.

A quick inspection revealed that the sparkling had the connectors he'd need to carry Prime on his back. In light of his new position as sparkling-sitter, Megatron had relieved him of his regular duties and he intended to spend his time in the lab. Carrying Prime on his back would free his hands for labwork and allow him to keep track of the sparkling, as well as help protect him from the other Decepticons.

Realizing he was petting the small helm, Starscream snarled and snatched his hand away. He refused to acknowledge how good it felt to hold a sparkling again, or how part of him softened at the small vocalizations. His sparkling had died vorns ago, along with his sparkmate, and then he'd lost Skyfire a few short stellar cycles later, leaving him alone in the universe.

Megatron knew all this and still assigned him this duty! Unicron take him to the deepest levels of the Pit.

Settling at his desk, trying to ignore the soft sounds of a recharging sparkling, Starscream checked long-dormant data connectors on his back. The growth process required special educational programs to be downloaded as markers were reached, but those could wait until he was certain things were proceeding as planned. He had the regular education downloads already in his memory banks; he'd thought about deleting them after...

After. But he couldn't; they had chosen those programs together, had even written a few. Those lines of code were the only thing he had left of his love, his creation and his best friend. So he had just shoved the files as deep into his memory as he could and and tried to forget.

The backing system included filters and a converter for fueling a sparkling. He'd need to increase his consumption of energon, but this way he could be certain of the purity of it, since he wouldn't put it past his 'comrades' to contaminate energon and laugh at him as he dealt with a sick sparkling. Prime wasn't getting anything he himself hadn't checked first. And he needed to come up with a different designation. Letting the diagnosis run in the back of his processors, Starscream found himself watching the sparkling, considering. The little frame bore only a slight resemblance to the Autobot leader; still blue, red and silver, but his antennae were shorter- the longest barely reached the top of his helm, the broad chest and shoulders slimmer, voice high-modulated instead of a smooth rumble. The speed and grace of the adult was only hinted at in the sparkling.

This was not Optimus Prime. It was... Optronix. Yes, that would do.

Part 2

It wasn't working. Slaggit, the picotrons weren't working! Starscream buzzed in frustration, shoving his chair away from the desk.

"Stasceam? Can get up now?"

Starscream rose, sending one last scowl to the monitor, and moved to the examination table. Optronix lay on it, lost under a snarl of leads connecting him to various diagnostics, holding 'Thing', a lime-green, three-eyed stuffed cloth monster nearly half his size. There was plenty of room for the toy and Optronix withstood the examinations better if he could hold onto something; Starscream needed to have both hands free and couldn't accommodate.

"Yes, you may get up." Starscream laid a restraining hand on the sparkling. "But after I disconnect you."

"Kay." Optronix lay back down, twiddling with one of Thing's floppy ears while he waited.

A corner of Starscream's lip components twitched in amusement- Frenzy had been the one to find the mutant monster; where, he hadn't said and Starscream hadn't asked. Optronix loved it. He had brightened and beeped in delight when Frenzy had presented the obnoxiously-colored toy to him. It held up well to the abuses of a sparkling, as well as the tests Starscream subjected it to whenever it got misplaced and returned.

"I okay?" Large optics peered up at him, brightness dimmed a bit with worry.

"You're fine," Starscream assured him, amused at the sudden brightening of those optics and the accompanying grin. "Are you hungry?"

"Yes! Can have cube?" Optronix always wanted to fuel himself with a cube, like Starscream did, despite the fact that his motor processes weren't quite up to the task.

"No, you can have the cup." He frowned at the pout. "Stop that."

Optronix vented a sigh, tucking Thing closer as Starscream lifted him and clicking at it in a disappointed tone the entire distance to his playpen. Optronix sat down, hands reaching up as Starscream handed down the cup. The Seeker watched for a bit until satisfied Optronix was fueling, then returned to the computer. Keeping half an audio and several sensors on that corner of the lab, Starscream combed through the data, which said Optronix was a healthy sparkling just past his first quarter-vorn of onlining.

After two months, it should say that he was in his second vorn and indicate increased mass. The plan was to reformat Prime into a sparkling, shunting the excess mass into a specialized subspace pocket that would allow the picotrons to add that mass back to the frame, simulating organic growth, with downloads stimulating the development of his neural architecture. That wasn't happening. Optronix was growing but at a much slower pace, and development was showing signs of lagging.

It was a fascinating theory, one that skipped the upgrading of the frame that was part of Seibertronian maturation. Given enough time, Starscream would have perfected the science and Megatron would have his Decepticon Prime. But nooo, he had to have his results now, not later.

Megatron never did grasp the fact that science moved at its own pace, sometimes matching or outpacing desires and sometimes not.

Paging through the data, examining the lines of code from the picotrons, Starscream nearly jumped when the lab door opened. Cursing silently, Starscream shifted to meet Megatron standing, only partially aware of Optronix's small noises stopping.

"Well, Starscream? When will he be ready?"

Oh, Primus, Megatron was holding himself in the manner Starscream had learned to dread...

"It's too early to tell for certain. The results-" A backhand cut him off and threw him back against his computer desk. Thankfully the trembling of his hand wasn't visible as he raised it to wipe away the fluid trickling from the split in his lower lip component.

"Results!" Megatron snarled. "I need him on the battlefield!"

Starscream couldn't help himself, he never could. "You'll have to wait! The science is too new, I need more time!"

Megatron crowded him against the desk, hand tight against his chin. "You have 12 orns to show me results – good results." The shove against his chassis nearly cracked his cockpit. "Don't fail me again."

Megatron kicked at the pen as he left.

Optronix was vocalizing static by the time Starscream reached the playpen, curled into the farthest corner with his optics tightly shuttered and Thing crushed to his chassis.

"Optronix. Shh." He picked up the trembling sparkling, humming a subsonic harmony at the flinch. "He's gone. It's safe."

Optronix curled into his cockpit and Starscream could feel a small hand grip tight.

"Ba-ad Me-egton," Optronix whispered, voice staticky and broken with fear.

Cupping a hand around the small helm, Starscream murmured, "Very bad."

Resuming the humming, Starscream walked the lab until the stuttering of Optronix's cooling system ceased.

"Do you have a good hold on Thing?" he spoke softly, lip components almost touching a small antenna.

"Uh-huh." Optronix pulled Thing closer and released his grip on Starscream. "I ready."


The flip onto his back was easy, even with Optronix upset. The connectors clicked quietly into place and Starscream felt Optronix' simple systems become his peripherals. He felt the sparkling's lingering distress and sent reassurance through their connection, along with commands to stabilize his systems. A flashing alert told him Optronix hadn't sufficiently refueled and a glance at the pen showed the cover off the cup and a pool of energon, most likely spilled when Megatron kicked the pen. Initiating fueling routines, he felt Optronix shift and then settle as the tubing connected before falling into a light recharge.

Deciding the playpen would keep, dried energon was easier to deal with anyway, Starscream resumed his subsonic humming and went back to his work.

He had joined the Decepticons to return Seibertron to its former glory, to rid it of the wealthy and powerful squandering it's resources for their own pleasure, to topple the decadent government and corrupt officials. Megatron had been inspiring at the beginning of the war, a shining beacon calling many to the Decepticons' side.

Now he was nothing more than a tyrant, power-hungry, wanting to dominate all. To destroy. Seibertron had been lost to Megatron's ambition.

Starscream wasn't sure why he'd stayed, habit possibly. Or his own stubborn nature, insisting that Seibertron still could be saved if Megatron was deposed. His pride insisted he was the best choice for leadership.

It might be time to concede defeat, to accept that the Decepticons were a lost cause.

That he wasn't the one to end Megatron's rule.

Part 3

Starscream onlined staring at a ceiling, albeit a different one than he'd offlined under. One that, coincidentally enough, belonged to the base's small repair bay. The display along the sides of his vision, as well as various dull aches, indicated recent repairs.

"Starscream: Operational." Ah, that explained his change in location.

"If you say so." He tried to sit up but subsided when a large, dark blue hand came down on his cockpit.

"Orders: Berth rest: Two orns."

Starscream pushed at Soundwave's hand. "Slag that. Where's-"

"Optronix: Safe and unharmed." The visorband and mouthguard gave little indication of what Soundwave was thinking but a tilt of his head indicated something on Starscream's other side.

Starscream turned his head, suppressing a hiss of pain at the stretch of cables, to see Frenzy sitting with Optronix on the other repair berth. The sparkling was nestled against the Cassetticon, optics gleaming with excess cleaner, digit in mouth, and Thing held tight. Frenzy had wrapped both arms around the sparkling as best he could and was leaning into the sparkling as much as Optronix was leaning against him.

Ravage was curled around them both, muzzle resting on her paws next to Optronix, her tail curled around Frenzy's far leg. At any other time he would've snickered at the sight, since Optronix was two-thirds Frenzy's size, but he couldn't muster the wherewithal. A glance down the berth revealed Rumble perched on the end, close enough to assist if Optronix fell.

In good hands, then. Starscream closed his optics, running a diagnostic to ensure he was as repaired as he thought and to ascertain if his own systems were finishing that work. He heard a soft bip of static from Optronix at his actions and waved a hand tiredly.

Diagnostics complete; he was as repaired as he was going to get and his systems were taking over. Slag, he'd been down for over an orn. Fragging Megatron.

"Let me up." Soundwave lent a considerate arm and he was soon standing, with a slight sway as his gyros adjusted. Ignoring that, he strode over to the other berth.

"Look like slag, Star," Frenzy commented, moving out of the way to let Starscream sit next to Optronix.

"And yet I'm still prettier than you," he replied, not liking the way Optronix was just staring at him. Frenzy snorted, settling to sit on Ravage, who crackled her tape at him but didn't move. Starscream stroked a hand down Optronix's cheek. "I'm fine."

A gentle tug and Optronix was scrambling into his lap, static crackled in his vocalizations.

"Sta-arsceEEam hu-urt!" he wailed.

Starscream let him curl close, curving a hand around the small helm. "I was, now I'm not."

Optronix cycled his vents, gripping Thing and the armor over Starscream's flank, keening softly. Starscream hummed softly, stroking the small back soothingly.

"Starscream: return to quarters." At Soundwave's gesture, Frenzy got off his sibling and Ravage leapt to the floor. The twins followed to stand next to her. "Ravage: Carry."

Starscream hissed as he tried to bend over, the residual pain not letting him hold Optronix. Dark blue hands curved under his, taking Optronix's weight and placing the sparkling on Ravage's back. A strong arm slid under his and boosted him off the berth.

"C'mon, little guy, let's get you home." Frenzy gripped Optronix' shoulder, keeping it there to help him balance. On the other side, Rumble did the same.

"Home?" There was no static in the hopeful tone.

"Yeah, home," Rumble replied. "Hands down, kid."

Optronix complied, dropping Thing to grip Ravage's back. Ravage caught the toy before it hit the ground, holding it in her mouth as she trotted to Starscream's quarters. Beside her, the twins chattered at the sparkling.

Starscream couldn't help it - the sight was too much. He snickered, softly enough that only Soundwave walking next to him heard. He exchanged glances with the blue mech, snickering louder at the flicker in the optic band that indicated visual recording. His own recording devices were offline until repairs were completed, slaggitall. He formed a mental image of getting a copy and thought hard enough Soundwave couldn't help but pick it up. A soft hum was his reply. Well, what the Pit did that mean? Slagging, inscrutable telepath.

A short eternity later and Starscream was tapping his entry code with a shaking hand, cursing when he hit the wrong buttons. A light touch at his shoulder and Soundwave was reaching past him to input the code. Starscream thought loudly of his opinion of that.

"Positions: Impossible."

"That's what you think." Starscream stepped aside to let the Casseticons precede him. He made himself comfortable on his berth. "Give him to me."

Soundwave settled Optronix on his lap and leaned over to adjust the upper portion of the berth to an angle that supported his upper body. Ravage jumped up to nudge Optronix with her head before dropping Thing next to him.

"Thank you, Avage." Optronix gathered Thing up and cuddled close to Starscream.

Starscream watched the Casseticons leave, chattering and shoving at each other. Soundwave also watched, affection softening his stance, before nodding at Starscream. He paused at the threshold, hand at the control. Not looking back, he murmured. "Optronix and Starscream: Unsafe. Leaving: Imperative." The door swished closed softly behind him.

Optronix shifted on his chassis, clicking softly. Starscream stroked his back as he pondered Soundwave's words.

It had been over a stellar-cycle since Optronix had been created, and well past time he should have showed significant development. Starscream had fudged his results, convincing Megatron that the plan was working, albeit at a somewhat slower rate than intended. That task had resulted in a trip to the repair bay but Megatron had believed the results given him.

For a time.

Megatron was becoming increasingly more abusive and he was starting to turn that aggression on Optronix. Starscream had so far managed to deflect Megatron's more violent outbursts but that was becoming ever more difficult.

Soon, Starscream would slip up and Megatron would get his hands on Optronix, and that was unacceptable.

"'Leaving: Imperative,'" Starscream repeated. "Indeed."

Part 4

Skywarp was still cursing when they took off from base. Starscream ignored him, reveling in the feel of wind over his nosecone. He hadn't been able to get outside since they'd captured Optimus Prime 1.41 stellar cycles ago and he'd been ready to glitch out. A soft sound refocused his attention to his cockpit. Optronix was strapped into pilot's seat, Thing forgotten in his arms as he gazed out the canopy in wonder; Optronix had never been outside the base and was completely fascinated. Starscream dove through a cloud just to hear him shriek in delight.


Starscream obliged with a barrel roll and Optronix shrieked again, clapping his hands.

Soundwave had been 'out on a mission' and had been 'unavailable' for sparkling-sitting at the time of Starscream's requested break and no one else had wanted to. Optronix was small enough to fit in his seats so Starscream had requested permission to take him along. Megatron allowed it, on the condition that he would have an escort. His wingmates had apparently lost the toss.

Starscream didn't care; he was just happy Megatron had let him fly.

"How much longer, Screamer?" Skywarp was in a fine mood, not that Starscream cared and he banked northeast in response. "Slag!"

Thundercracker was silent, following behind his wingmate.

Denali National Park was beautiful, green in the short summer, and Starscream dipped into the canyons for the challenge. Optronix chirred in fascination, optics wide as he watched the canyon walls fly past.

And beeped in surprise when the Aerialbots zoomed past, their wakes rocking Starscream's altmode as they flew past him to engage Skywarp and Thundercracker. Skyfire's bulk rose next to him, pacing him as he turned towards the Autobot base.

He ignored the commcalls from his former compatriots as they called for assistance, for explanations. They cursed him as a traitor when he neither answered nor attacked the Autobots and they discovered they could not call the base for reinforcements or an orbital jump. All due to a small device a certain communications officer taught him to make when the war started; he'd planted the jammers on his fellow seekers right before takeoff. A small databurst and they'd activated flawlessly, blocking any broadcast from traveling more than a half-mile as well as keeping Skywarp from teleporting.

It would be some time before Megatron learned of his defection.

The Aerialbots joined him and Skyfire, taking up an escort formation to ensure he couldn't change his mind. He'd contacted Skyfire using other tricks that Soundwave had taught him, taking advantage of equipment leftover from their past as explorers.

No, he would not change his mind, not now; he had made his decision and would live with the consequences as always.

Including the consequences of informing the Autobots their beloved Optimus Prime had not been deactivated as they thought but instead had been subjected to an experimental regression device.

"Stasceam?" Optronix sounded worried and a little frightened. "Where we go?"

"We are..." Starscream thought for a nano-klik; he hadn't given Optronix's reaction much consideration. Thoughtless of him. "We are going to the Autobots."


"Because Megatron can't get to you there."

"Oh." Optronix held Thing close as he nervously watched the Aerialbots. "Megton not get you there, too?"

Starscream hesitated for only a klik, then said, "I'll be safe there, too."

From the Decepticons, anyway; he was already getting slag from the Autobots. It was just as easy to ignore Aerialbots as it was Seekers.

"Starscream," Skyfire's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Are you-"

"I'm fine," he interrupted. He was always fine. And as long as Optronix stayed safe, he would stay perfectly fine.


The Aerialbots had potential; they stayed in formation the entire flight and only fell a little out when they transformed to land with him. Give them to him for a few deca-cycles, Starscream thought, and the Aerialbots would be a wing any Air Commander would be proud to command.

After landing, they were escorted to the repair bay. Optronix clung to his back, his fear only kept at bay by Starscream's reassurances; whose own fear was kept at bay by the knowledge that the Autobots wouldn't do anything to him with a sparkling in attendance. The new Prime, Rodimus, led the way with Prowl, Ironhide, Skyfire, Jazz and several other Autobots escorting them down cleared corridors. That the escort was to the repair bay had been expected; he wasn't entirely certain his systems were clean himself.

He'd been allowed to stay close to Optronix for his examination. The sparkling had been understandably upset as he'd had his scheduled full exam the day before and didn't understand why he had to have another one. The Autobots' reaction to his presence frightened Optronix, as did Ironhide's poorly concealed hostility.

"That's Optimus?" someone whispered.

"His designation," Starscream stiffly informed the room, "is Optronix."

Starscream handed over the data he'd compiled on what the regression device had done and the aftermath for comparison, including his protests against using the device. He had several more disks with other information of value and handed them over to Rodimus Prime as well; no sense in waiting. Acquiescence at this point might help his case and convince the Autobots he was serious about his defection.

Ratchet made a few pointed remarks, threw several tools with impressive accuracy and the peanut gallery fled. Or some of them did; Ironhide set himself next to the door and glowered at him the entire time. Skyfire loomed quietly in a nearby corner, keeping silent watch. Prime, Jazz and Prowl settled next to a nearby repair berth.

Starscream managed to keep the sarcasm to a minimum, even when his armaments were removed and his transformation cog disabled.

Not unexpected but galling nonetheless. He hated being defenseless.

Optronix was treated with gentleness, especially after Ratchet discovered that he remembered nothing of his adult life. Optronix, for his part, was wary. He watched Ratchet with large, untrusting optics and the babble Starscream had grown used to was absent; Optronix spoke only when asked a direct question.

Which changed when Jazz tried to take him away; Optronix stiffened, then started wailing for Starscream when the saboteur started walking toward the door.

"Optronix!" Starscream moved to intercept, but Ironhide stepped past him, blocking his way. Sneering at the Autobot, he pushed past. Or tried to; Ironhide grabbed his arm and pulled him back. "What am I going to do, you underclocked bot-fragger, fly with him through the ceiling?"

Ironhide glared at him and started to reply but was cut off by the new Prime. "Let him go."

Optronix reached for him as he neared, whimpering static. Starscream placed the forgotten Thing in his arms and curved a hand around his helm.

"I am going to be busy for a while. Jazz is going to take care of you for the near future." The look he gave Jazz informed the Autobot that he better take damned good care of him, or else Starscream was going to bring the UnMaker down on his head.

"Don't wan' to." Optronix muttered, voice small and warbling with his distress. "Want stay with you."

"You can't right now." He stroked the small helm, and Optronix gazed up at him with an anxious expression. "There's nothing to be scared of. It's just like staying with Soundwave."

"Kay." Not happy but not going to fight.

Starscream stepped back. Optronix gazed sadly at him over Jazz's shoulder as they exited the room

Immediately, Starscream felt hands grab him and he struggled on instinct. He was wrestled to the floor, and the last thing he heard was Ratchet's voice yelling at someone to be careful before something was inserted into an access port.

The world lost focus and everything doubled into darkness.

Part 5

"Sounwafv!" Optronix banged his hands on the solid walls of the playpen. "Avage! Fenzy!"

No answer. He dropped to his bottom with a hard cycle of his vents. Stupid Ottobauts! If Starscream couldn't take him, he was supposed to go with Soundwave! Or Frenzy and Ravage if Soundwave was busy.

Pulling Thing closer, he picked up the energon cup and drank, sulking. After Starscream had landed, they had been taken to the repair bay for tests. He'd just had his tests! Nobody had made sure Thing had made it onto the berth with him and he'd been afraid to ask for it, and afterward a mech had taken him to his quarters. Starscream had told him that he was going to be busy and that the mech holding him was going to be his caretaker.

Jazz, that as his designination. And Prowl was his bondmate, whatever that was. They were nice but he wanted Starscream and no one would tell him where he was. Scowling at the wall of his pen, he called for Soundwave in his mind; Soundwave could hear people thinking and had come when Optronix had called him that way before.

But not this time.

Putting the empty cup down, Optronix got to his pedes. If he could get out, he could go looking for Starscream. He knew he wasn't supposed to leave quarters but he wasn't with the people he was supposed to be with! He wanted the people he knew, not these strangers.

Stretching as tall as he could, Optronix reached for the top of the wall; his fingertip barely touched the tip. He tried to make himself taller and lost his balance, falling on his bottom. "Uff!"

Levering himself upright, Optronix rubbed his bottom. Lip trembling, he considered the wall again. If he couldn't make himself taller, he had to stand on something, which was not allowed either. Starscream was going to be mad at him when he found out but this was important!

He needed something hard to stand on and he looked around to see what was in the playpen with him. Thing was too soft, so was the blanket, and his energon cup would break; he'd stepped on one before, back when he was staying in the Dicepcon base.

That left only the blocks that Jazz had provided for him to play with. He banged two together, pleased when they thunked. Pushing all the blocks to the same side of the playpen, he carefully placed them together, making a surface big enough for both his pedes. He stood on that but it didn't make him tall enough.

He had to add more blocks and just as he was pulling himself up, he remembered Thing; Thing had to come with! He dropped back down, scattering the blocks. Huffing in annoyance, he arranged the blocks again. Leaning against the wall, he threw Thing over the top before pulling himself up.

It was hard and made his arm servos whine softly, but he got a leg over the top and used that to help pull himself up. He beeped in surprise as he fell off the other side and landed mostly on Thing.

"Oof! Ow!" It hurt a little, but the ow went away fast. "Thing okay?" He inspected Thing, but Thing was okay.

Picking himself up, Optronix looked around, not seeing his keepers or the door. Walking around the playpen, he chirped in delight. There it was! Running to the door, oomfing as he bumped into the wall, Optronix stared up at the button that opened it. It was way over his helm and he couldn't reach it no matter how tall he stretched.

Cycling his vents his frustration, Optronix looked around - he needed something to stand on. The blocks were in the playpen and it had taken all of them to reach the top of the wall, and the door controls were up much higher anyway. There was a chair by the desk. He had to put Thing on top so he could use both hands to push, and it rolled easily to the door. Until it stopped.

"What are you doing?"

Optronix jerked around to see Prowl with a hand on the back of the chair to stop it from rolling.

"Ah, um..." He couldn't form words. Prowl raised an optic ridge and tilted his helm.

"Where were you going?"

"Find Stasceam," he managed. "S'posed to be with Stasceam or Sounwafv."

"Optimus- "

"Optoniks!" All the Ottobauts called him Optimus, his designination was Optronix!

"- you can't be with Starscream. He's in the repair bay."

Optronix's systems stuttered. "Nooo!" he wailed. "No paebay!" He hit Prowl's shinplates. "You pomised! No hu't Stasceam!"

Hands caught his. "Cease that."

"No! Let Stasceam out!" He struggled when Prowl picked him up, kicking.

Other hands pulled him away. "Shh, little guy." Jazz. "We're not hurting Starscream."

"Lie!" Optronix tried to twist free. "In paebay!"

Prowl caught his chin, making him look at his face. "We are not hurting Starscream."

Optronix stopped struggling, searching Prowl's optics for any sign of a lie. He didn't look like the others did, the ones that liked Megtron, when they lied.

"Powl no lie? No hu't?"

"No hurt," Jazz replied from behind his helm. "He's fine."

"Can see?" he asked hopefully. Prowl's optics looked behind him and he twisted to look at Jazz. "Can see Stasceam? Jasz take?"

"Yeah. You can." Jazz shook his head, but not at Optronix. He turned Optronix around to carry him on his hip and leaned down to grab Thing. Optronix took Thing, hugging him hard and wriggling at the thought of seeing Starscream.

Starscream would tell the Ottobauts that he was supposed to be with him and everything would be okay again.


It was strange, being carried on Jazz's hip instead of his back. Apparently, not all Sibetonon's had the equipment for that so he had to be carried this way but it made it was easier to see everything. The Ottobauts they passed gave him strange looks, some stopping to stare until Jazz made them move away. At the doors to the repair bay, Jazz stopped. He put a hand on Optronix's chin, turned his face to look him in the optics, and solemnly told him that Starscream was offline.

"It's gonna look like we're hurting him but we're not. Okay? Ratchet took him offline so he could check his systems."

Optronix thought for a moment. "To see if Megton did bad things to Stasceam?"

"Yeah. Was Megatron bad to Starscream a lot?"

"Uh-huh. Made him go to paebay lots."

"Well, he's not hurt. It might look bad but it's not."

Optronix looked closely but Jazz wasn't lying. "Kay."

The repair bay was empty and larger than the one he was used to. Jazz took him to the back of the bay, to a door near a large window; a look inside showed him an office. Jazz knocked on the door, opening it as he called a hello. Ratchet was inside, next to a see-are chamber; Starscream was floating inside, optics dark and cables attached all over him.

"Prowl comm'd me," Ratchet snapped. "You should have cleared it with me first."

"Yeah, sorry." Jazz grinned at Ratchet. "Little guy thought we were hurting Starscream, so I brought him over to see for himself."

Ratchet scowled and Optronix pressed closer to Jazz, hoping he wasn't too mad. Hook didn't like being interrupted and had tried to hurt him the one time he had; he'd been too afraid to try again.

"You should have checked first." Ratchet turned to poke at one of the monitors. Optronix sighed, glad he wasn't mad.

Jazz stepped closer and he got a good look at Starscream; his optics widened when he noticed all the cables all over Starscream's frame. They disappeared into different parts of him, including the one that was the same color as energon. Ratchet was still poking at the monitor in front of him, not looking up.

"So far, he's fine. Signs of recent repairs; many of them. The CR chamber is taking care of most of it and I'm going to keep him offline until the repairs are finished. His power levels were low as well and his energon was mildly contaminated."

"What?" Jazz yelled, sounding surprised. Optronix wondered why; Dicepcons were always doing things to their energon.

"That why Stasceam feed me only, not s'posed to take en'gon from an'body else." He looked at Ratchet. "Stasceam say Ottobauts safe, not hu't us."

Ratchet's optics flickered but Optronix didn't feel a scan. "We won't. Starscream must have been very careful to keep you safe."

"Hard to imagine that." Jazz snorted.

Optronix frowned at him. That was a mean thing to say. He leaned forward to place his hands on the chamber wall. It felt very cold and buzzy against his palms. Jazz shifted a little, supporting his bottom better and keeping him from falling. He pressed his faceplates against the wall to get a better look at Starscream.

"He needs to stay in there for a while longer," Ratchet told him gently. "Three more days at least, then you can talk to him."

"Stasceam still hu't," he said mournfully, patting the chamber wall. "Achet fix."

Part 6

Starscream onlined feeling better than he had in... longer than he wanted to remember. He reveled in that feeling as his systems booted and no alerts came up. His power systems showed full and there was no ache or itch from his energon or cydraulic lines. He could feel clean energon streaming throughout his frame, sweet and light. The diagnostic informed him his transformation cog was still disabled and all his weapons were removed. Additionally, his comm systems had been altered and he would bet the finest high-grade those reprobate twins had that he couldn't reach outside the Autobot base.

All expected.

What wasn't expected was the state of his firewalls; they had been broken down and then partially rebuilt using the rudimentary walls of the kind given to sparklings as foundations to build on. His viral defenses had been updated as well and his data banks felt as if they had been rifled through, and likely had, then defragged.

The sentimental, soft fools had left him in better shape than he had arrived in.

His internal chronometer informed him he'd been offline for five orns roughly the same time soft sounds alerted him that he had company; Optronix from the high vocalizer and another. Ratchet was the most likely suspect.

He unshuttered his optics to that stupid orange color Autobots favored. The sounds came from his left and he turned his helm to see Optronix on a repair berth, safe behind the barred sides, playing with Thing. Jazz was perched on a stool, playing with him.

Optronix turned his helm and saw him online. He beeped in delight and got to his pedes, hands gripping the rails. "Stasceam wake!"

Jazz turned around and grinned. "Lazarus rises!"


After Ratchet performed an examination and declared him repairing, Jazz escorted them both to their new home. To his surprise, it was private quarters; he'd expected the brig. Jazz informed Starscream that he had the next orn to settle in, then Rodimus Prime wanted to speak with him. Wishing them a good day, Jazz left; the sounds as the door closed indicated it had locked; there was no interior doorpad.

Not that there was anywhere for him to go should he get out; they were deep inside the Autobot base and would have to go past the rec room to escape. He wouldn't get more than a few corridors before being spotted; that would undoubtedly land him in the brig and Optronix in someone else's care. To be quite frank, he had been stunned that Optronix had been returned to him. He had been certain that Optronix would be given to an Autobot; Optimus Prime had had a close relationship with Ironhide and he had expected Optronix to go to him and his bondmate.

Ignoring the secured door, Starscream set about inspecting the quarters. The first room, with a ceiling high enough to accommodate Skyfire with little problem, had been furnished with a desk with chair and computer as well as a couch and lounging chair, situated across from a vidscreen and a private fueling station. An archway at the back of the larger room led to a smaller one, which held a berth sized for him and another, smaller one close to the floor suitable for Optronix; it was padded with a thick, soft mattress and lined with heat dispersing blankets and pillows.

Fully mature Seibertronians used a bare berth while they recharged and their systems performed maintenance; sparklings needed assistance in keeping cool as those routines ran. There was also a small computer attached to the berth that would assist Optronix in ordering his memory and data banks, as well as ensure his maintenance systems were working properly. Optronix would only need that assistance for his nightly recharges, but only until he had passed his first vorn when his cranial architecture and software would no longer need monitoring.

The diagnosis of the recharge computer took little time and reassured him greatly. The computer was clean of any contaminants and was the height of technology, as well as expertly programmed. It was a relief not to have to monitor Optronix himself; his own components were intended as backup for the berth only and, despite his best efforts, Optronix had developed a few small problems. Nothing life-threatening and Ratchet had easily taken care of all of it while he had been offline.

The small washrack tucked into the corner of the smaller room was a pleasant surprise; he had always hated using the communal washracks. He was certain that strange shape along one wall would turn out to a fold-down basin for bathing Optronix.

At his pedes, Optronix peered at everything, chirring in interest. He had one arm wrapped around Starscream's lower leg and had Thing tucked under the other. "This ous?"

"It would seem so."

A few moments work informed him the desk computer had no access to the mainframe and he couldn't access the wireless since his data interfaces were disabled, including the cables in his forearms. Jazz had informed him that the base's comms had been altered so that he could communicate only with persons physically present on the base, and with his own comm all but disabled, he'd need the base to radio anyone he wasn't practically standing next to.

And if he used the base to call someone, the entire base would hear. Sensible precautions all.

Absently registering that Optronix felt safe enough to leave him and investigate on his own, Starscream picked up a datapad. It was loaded with reading material; Skyfire's doing, he thought as he noted several favorite titles. Another pad was of sturdier construction and had large buttons and input area, the material it held was suitable for a sparkling of Optronix development. More book chips were stored in two containers on the desk, the larger chips indicating which one's were for Optronix. Beside the computer was a pad filled with lined paper and laminated displays imprinted with the English alphabet and the Seibertronian. All in simple shapes, suitable for creating with a sparkling's uncoordinated digits. The writing implements, also designed for sparklings, were tucked into a small container near the pads.

He had despaired of Optronix learning handwriting, since the supplies for such hadn't been available at the Decepticon base. Handwriting was becoming a lost art, discarded in favor of electronic input. His own was not the finest calligraphy but was considerably better than the majority of the Decepticons. Primus, he wasn't entirely certain some of the Decepticon were literate.

A soft squeak of hinges drew his attention to the corner of the room; Optronix had found a large box and had lifted the lid to investigate. He chirped in surprise and Starscream moved next to him to do see what had prompted that sound. He lifted the lid further to look inside, and felt like chirping in surprise himself. The box held toys, and what he assumed were toys simply by the company they kept. A smaller box held blocks, their sides shimmering with color in the shapes of Seibertronian glyphs and the English alphabet as well as animals native to Seibertron and Earth. Another box held colored pieces of wood in different shapes; cylinders of various lengths, squares and rectangles in different sizes, triangles, also in different sizes. Some of the rectangles had half-circles cut out from one long side.

"What are these?"

Optronix picked up the box, servos revving softly at the effort. "Fo' build!"

Starscream picked up a few of the pieces, holding them in the palm of his hand as he scanned them; they were exactly as they appeared; pieces of hardwood, colored with botanical dyes. "Building what, exactly?"

"Build things!" Placing the box on the floor, Optronix demonstrated, constructing a crenelated wall with a door opening. Arching an optic ridge, Starscream left him to his building, turning to investigate what else was in the box.

Which included several small versions of human vehicles and aircraft; he was amused to see an F-15 with his paint scheme as well as a cab-over-engine tractor-trailer in Optimus Prime's colors. None of the vehicles had Autobot or Decepticon symbols, he noted, and none of the vehicles or aircraft was operational, instead merely mimicked the form. The vehicles all had wheels that would allow it to be pushed along a flat surface. Also inside were small, articulated mechforms, vaguely resembling certain Autobots and Decepticons; he sneered at the one that reminded him of Megatron and tossed it into a waste receptacle by the wall before Optronix could notice it.

Tucked along one side of the box was a large pad of paper, blank, as well as a pack of colored sticks. For drawing, he assumed. The containers of cleaner-soluble paint were more of a puzzle, as they were not accompanied by brushes. A few tests reassured Starscream the paints were harmless and would not contaminate Optronix' fuel systems if he ingested them. The sensors on the glossa developed first and most sparklings would use it to explore whatever piqued their curiosity and sometimes the smaller objects would slide down their intakes.

The sound of Optronix' systems fluctuating drew his attention to the sparkling, who was gazing at the blue triangle in his hand, optics flickering slowly, and starting to list to his left.

"Come," he murmured. "Time to recharge."

Optronix mumbled, slumping into Starscream's hands as he was picked up. He was most of the way into recharge by the time Starscream placed him in his berth and attached the connectors to the recharge computer; they would pull free easily when Optronix onlined. Arranging the blankets and pillows for comfort, Starscream made sure Thing was within reach and tugged a cooling blanket higher up before he left.

The wooden shapes were easily removed to their container and put away inside the larger box. Retrieving an energon cube from the fueling station, Starscream settled into the desk chair. Sipping the energon, running a purity test out of habit, Starscream paged through the computer to see what files it contained and what its abilities were. Hopefully not too limited and hopefully not for long; he had projects he wanted to reconstruct, experiments to run. If he could not fly - doubtful the Autobots would let him until he had proved himself - he wanted to be in a lab.

Preferably working on why Optronix's picotrons weren't performing as intended. The Autobots had some decent scientists but he had created the regression process. Optronix was his concern.