"Vortex," Onslaught growled, his voice a low dangerous rumble.

"Yessssss, oh fearless leader?" Vortex drew the first word out, watching how it made Onslaught's hands twitch.

"Sit down and turn off your vocalizer," Onslaught ordered. "Before I shut it off for you."

Vortex leaned back against the wall of the briefing room, casually pretending to examine his fingertips. "What if I don't want to?"

Onslaught's hands twitched again.

Even Brawl was leaning away from Vortex. Swindle and Blast Off exchanged looks and surreptitiously tried to scoot farther back, neither wanting to get caught between Vortex and an enraged Onslaught.

"Vortex!" Swindle radioed quietly. "Knock it off! This stopped being funny an hour ago."

"Don't push me, Vortex," Onslaught warned.

"But I like pushing!" Vortex twitched his rotors, a malicious smirk in his voice. "Somethin' wrong, Ons? I'm sorry, did I say somethin' that hurt your feelings? It's not my fault the entire plan is so dumb even Screamer wouldn't fall for-"

Onslaught lunged for him, his temper finally snapping. Vortex tried to twisted out of the way, but Onslaught expected the move, and countered it easily, slamming a fist into his midsection.

"Ooo, looks like I hit a nerve," Vortex said, laughing as he staggered back against the wall.

"I told you to shut up," Onslaught snarled. He grabbed Vortex by the battlemask and slammed his head back into the wall, hard enough to leave a dent in the metal.

Vortex yelped and flailed, trying to shove Onslaught off. "Ow! Hey!"

Onslaught blocked him, slamming him back against the wall.

None of the others made any attempt to help. Brawl seemed to be enjoying the show, and neither Swindle or Blast Off had any intention of getting caught in the middle.

Vortex cried out as Onslaught hit him again. "Ow! Get off!"

"Shut up, Vortex!"

Vortex lifted his hands, but not to punch or to surrender, powering up his arm-mounted lasers.

Not fast enough. Onslaught knocked the weapons out of line, then took the expedient of planting his knee in Vortex's midsection and ripping the lasers off his forearms.

Vortex yowled in pain and anger.

Swindle squirmed. He really didn't want Onslaught turning on him, and really, Vortex had brought it on himself, but... "Hey, Ons, you wanna lighten up a bit there? You're gonna kill him if you keep that up."

Onslaught paused as the words penetrated the fog of rage clouding his processor. He didn't answer for a long moment, straightening and deliberately unclenching his fists, regaining control of himself.

Immediate danger passed, Vortex giggled to himself. "That was fun. Hey Ons-"

Swindle groaned, covering his face with a hand. "'Tex..."

"Shut up, Vortex." Onslaught's voice was calm again.

"Or what, you'll hit me again?" Battered from the beating, Vortex was slumped against the wall, but apparently undaunted.

Onslaught looked at him coldly. "No. I forgot how little good attempting to beat a lesson into you was." Then he reached out and grabbed the helicopter by one arm, hauling Vortex away from the wall.

"Ooo, big words," Vortex drawled mockingly. "Come on, hit me. You know you wanna."

"You'd enjoy that too much," Onslaught said flatly, stalking for the door, dragging Vortex along.

Vortex stumbled, only to be dragged back upright. "Hey! Where are we goin'?"

Onslaught didn't answer, hauling Vortex towards the lifts.

"Sheesh, Ons, can't you take a joke?" Vortex tried to squirm out of Onslaughts grip, only to be dragged none too gently into the lift. "Where're we goin'?" he demanded again.

"I warned you," Onslaught growled instead of answering. "But you didn't listen."

"Wait, the brig?" Vortex said in confusion a moment later as the lift doors opened. "What, gonna throw me in a cell with the big bad Autobot prisoners?"

Onslaught didn't answer, shoving Vortex out. Breakdown and Dragstrip were guarding the two Autobots currently in the cells, and looked up in surprise at the interruption. Breakdown's optics widened at the sight of Vortex. Dragstrip scoffed.

"Oh, la, a prison cell." Vortex flicked his rotors. "Yeah, never been in one of those before, Ons. Oh, please, don't, no," he said, deadpan.

"You're not going in the cells," Onslaught growled, seizing his arm again and hauling him partway down the corridor. "I didn't ring you here for the brig." He calmly palmed open the door to a small storage room, and finding it empty, grunted in satisfaction.

"You've gotta be kiddin' me," Vortex said, looking at the tiny space, sounding serious for the first time. "Not happenin', Ons."

Onslaught nodded agreeably. Then he grabbed Vortex by the back of his head, and before the helicopter could react, slammed him face-first into the wall.

Vortex staggered, dazed, unable to do more than squawk in protest as Onslaught shoved him into the storage room.

Breakdown and Dragstrip watched him, optics wide, as he calmly closed the door and overrode the lock. "You are under no circumstances to open this door," Onslaught told them.

They exchanged looks, then nodded, eying Onslaught and taking in the streaks of grey paint and fluids on his hands.

Satisfied, Onslaught started for the lift. "Comm me when he stops screaming."

"But he ain't," Dragstrip protested, frowning.

"He will," Onslaught said grimly.

x-x-x

Vortex glared at the door.

"Stupid Onslaught." He gave the door a kick.

It didn't budge.

"I mean, really, Ons, a closet?" He paused, waiting to see if Onslaught would respond.

Nothing. He frowned, and switched over to his radio. So Onslaught thought he could just dump him in here and leave?

"Hey, Ons! Your plans suck!" He waited.

Nothing.

Scowling now, he switched to the Combaticon's frequency. "Yoo hoo! Ons!"

Still nothing. Well, fine. Onslaught might be able to ignore him, but Brawl had a temper like a bomb in the middle of an energon storage facility.

"Hey guys, Brawl has the hots for minibots!"

Static.

Vortex gave the door a sullen kick. What did they do, turn off their comms?

He switched over to the main Decepticon frequency. "Hey! Someone!"

"Vortex: clear the channel," came the immediate answer from Soundwave.

"I'll clear it when someone lets me the frag out." He folded his arms smugly, ignoring the twinge as he bumped the broken laser mount . Ha, bet Ons didn't think of this-

"Negative. Your predicament is not my concern. Clear the channel."

"Let me out!" Was everyone against him today?

"Initializing localized jamming procedures," Soundwave intoned.

Then his radio went dead. He cycled through the frequencies, but could hear nothing but static.

"ONSLAUGHT! YOU SLAGGER!" Vortex yelled, giving the door another kick.

He turned away from the door, taking a short step only to be brought up short by the empty shelving secured to the back wall.

This room is slagging tiny, Vortex thought uneasily, rotors flexing, only to scrape against the walls.

He stared straight ahead, feeling the walls pressing on his rotors... His fuel pump stuttered, and he jerked back, twisting to face the doorway, slamming a rotor into the wall in his haste.

He slammed a fist into the door. "Frag it, LET ME OUT!" His fist impacted the door again. "BREAKDOWN!"

He forced himself to hold still, listening for any sound of movement outside. They hadn't left, had they? They wouldn't dare just leave him here...

Would they?

"Come on, guys, please?" he tried. "Let me out?"

He dialed his audios up as high as they would go, straining to hear anything over the sound of his own fuel pump and rattle and scritch of his rotors against the walls.

He leaned against the door, trying to control the shudders running through his frame.

He could just barely make out muffled voices in the hallway. His rotors lifted. So they hadn't left entirely!

"Breakdown..." Vortex tried to modulate his voice to sound friendly. It wasn't easy. He didn't really have much practice being friendly. "Let me out? Come on, please?"

The voices stopped.

He strained his audios, listening for footsteps.

After a moment, the muffled voices started up again, sounding just as far away.

"...Dragstrip?" he tried hopefully.

No answer. He slammed his fist into the door in frustration.

Focus on the anger, he told himself. Ignore the walls. They're in the exact same place as they were when Onslaught dumped me in here. He punched the door again. Frag Onslaught! It's all his fault!

He started to turn, to take a step, to pace – only to be brought up short by the wall. He huffed, blowing air out his exhaust ports.

Come on, Vortex! That's Breakdown and Dragstrip out there! If you can't handle Stunticons, you don't deserve to be an interrogator!

It was quiet outside again.

"Hey! Dragstrip! Is it true what Breakdown said about you having to brake on every corner?" He waited for the explosive denial.

There was a scrape, and footsteps approached. "Dragstrip left," Breakdown said from the otherside of the door. "A while ago."

"Oh." It was hard to think with the walls pressing in on him. "So, uh, wanna let me out?"

"No, not really," Breakdown said. The footsteps retreated.

"Breakdown? Breakdown!"

Breakdown didn't even pause.

"BREAKDOWN!" Vortex slammed his fist against the door again. "LET ME OUT!"

x-x-x

Breakdown twitched when Onslaught looked at him, hitching his wheels up.

Onslaught strode past him without a word. It was near the end of the shift, and the storage room was quiet as he approached and keyed in the override code.

He looked down at Vortex, sitting in the very back of the tiny storage room, arms wrapped around his legs. He didn't look up when the door opened.

"Are you finished acting like an idiot?" Onslaught asked grimly.

Vortex nodded, optics fixed on the floor.

Onslaught watched him grimly for a long moment, then gave a short nod. "Come on," he said, extending a hand.

Vortex hesitated, then reached up and took his hand, letting Onslaught pull him to his feet.

Onslaught didn't let go, pulling him out of the storage closet. He chose to ignore the way Vortex leaned against him, tremors running through his frame. He waited for the helicopter to get his feet under him before turning back toward the lifts, coolly ignoring Breakdown's optics following them the entire way.