A/N: Saddle up people! It's a long and wild ride in this chapter. It's the longest chapter we have ever co-written, so a massive round of applause for KATEA-NUI (it was her birthday at the time of completion, so do be dears and review for her). Granted, this chapter isn't so much Hound/Mirage, but a big tie in for all pairings and characters. But there are Hound/Mirage bits.

Warnings: There is violence and a bit of death/little bit of gore, but it's not explicit. Also swearing.

Feeling Forgiveness – Chapter 4

"You fragged up, glitch ridden, bit brained, mono-opticked ASSMONKEY!" Ratchet snarled, thrashing against his restraints as he spat the torrent of curses at the large Decepticon.

Shockwave looked thoroughly unimpressed. "I must inform you that your attempts to infuriate me are a useless endeavour, medic." His cool, flat voice drifted through the room like ice, chilling the medic's spark. Which only deepened his scowl. "I would consider yourself fortunate that I unfortunately need you. The brats would not keep themselves quiet otherwise." He motioned to the small energy cube that contained his sparklings, the three small figures huddled in the corner closest to their creator.

Ratchet stiffened in outrage as the large purple 'Con approached the grid, shoving his arm in through the top of it and seizing Jumpstart by the scruff bar and tearing him from his siblings with a terrified squeal. Ratchet cried out, lunging forward, despite the fact that his arms were bound behind him, only to have his shoulders and chassis shoved to the floor by a cackling Decepticon he didn't know. The black and silver 'Con was approximately Jazz's size, slimmer, and his size belied his strength. Shockwave regarded the glaring medic on the floor with a hard stare. If he had possessed a mouth or any other facial features aside from the one optic, Ratchet would have sworn the scientist was sneering.

He sent a wave of reassurance to the whimpering Jumpstart hanging in a tight ball so far from the floor. They were still so small, if he were to fall from the height, it could cause damage to him.

"Such interesting specimens..." Shockwave murmured, prodding the small sparkling ball. "And you, the first carrier to survive sparking triplets as well as surviving their separation." He paused to regard the wide opticked medic. "Why is it that I find myself unsurprised." Not a question.

Ratchet answered it anyway. "Because some glitch forgot to install normal emotions in your emotions centre! Can't you see he hates being held like that?" the captured mech yelled, feeling the fear that flooded his spark from Jumpstart, his poor, shy sparkling.

"His comfort is not a factor," said Shockwave, moving to a nearby table and depositing the little red and black mech with his tiny white chevron on it, using one hand to easily hold the quivering sparkling down.

"Like slag it isn't!"

"Not to my investigations," Shockwave replied calmly, grabbing a scanner and holding it over the sparkling's body, ignoring the sounds of the struggling mech not even five feet to his side. He watched with a critical optic as the sparkling under his hand keened and reached for his carrier, tears glistening in his optics, tear tracks already carved in the little faceplates. If anything, the purple mech found this display of emotion quite intriguing. He had never had a creator or carrier - having come from Vector Sigma as a mech - but had observed the clinging tendencies of sparklings. This was within normal parameters. The scanner beeped and he looked at the readings.

"Healthy. But then I would logically expect nothing less for a sparkling who has a medic as a carrier," the large mech observed, placing the scanner down and using two hands to spread the little sparkling body out so it looked vaguely star-shaped, paying no heed to the whimpers of distress.

"What are you doing to him!" yelled Ratchet, yelping as the black and silver mech forced his shoulders into the ground once more.

"First, I'm going to see if the triplet bond works like a twin bond." The tone was so conversational, so bland, that one wouldn't have thought that this mech was doing these atrocities.

"You...!" Ratchet stared on horrified as Shockwave brought a small laser scalpel up into view... and proceeded to make a very small cut in Jumpstart's elbow joint.

The sparkling jerked and cried out, the new tears spilling over in pain and fear and he just wanted his carrier, he wanted him RIGHT NOW!

The two sparklings still in the energy cube both began to sob, sensing their brother's fear and pain through their bond. They clutched at each other, begging for their carrier only a few feet away. Ratchet, blind with fury, bucked the 'Con on top of him off with an enraged howl, lunging again for Shockwave. He didn't get very far, the black and silver 'Con recovering quickly and slamming him into the floor, his claws poised to strike at the exposed energon line in the medic's neck...

"Shadetamer, that is quite enough," Shockwave intervened. He needed the medic alive. His gaze shot to the sparklings in the cube before returning to the now scowling 'Con. He had the first piece of information. He snatched Jumpstart back up and quickly stuffed him back into the cube, heedless of the small dripping wound he's left on Jumpstart's frame. He tapped at a pad near it, the door to his lab sliding open and another 'Con walking in. "Backtrack, take your brother and find a place to stow these pests," he gestured at the cube, "I have a long conversation that is overdue with our guest." He gave Ratchet a look that spoke of such ill intent that Ratchet's CPU was once again filling in expressions for him. This one would have been an evil smile.

"This sucks slag."

"I know."

"And we're just sitting here!"

"If you want to be more precise, we are laying here, Hound, but the sentiment is felt, I assure you."

Hound mentally hit himself over the head and rolled over to hug Mirage, both of them laying on their berth in wait for orders. The kidnapping of Ratchet and the twins had hit the whole base hard, tension thick in the air as mechs clamped at the bit to save their medic and the three little gifts that had entered their lives. Realising he had been transmitting his anger over the disappearance into their bond, the green mech murmured, "Sorry, sweetspark."

"I understand," the spy murmured back. He too, was frustrated. As much as he liked the efficiency of Prowl and Jazz's plans, they were working seemingly too slowly on this one.

"Can't we just help out though?" Hound asked. Inaction seemed so stupid at this point.

"You know how Prowl and Jazz get. They work better on their own," answered Mirage, turning into his lover's embrace and wrapping his own arms around the larger frame.

"What about Red Alert?" Hound thought aloud suddenly, and before Mirage could say anything to dissuade him, he commed Inferno and asked if he needed assistance. He received an acceptance ping back. The look on Mirage's face told him he knew what had happened.

"Let's go then...maybe we can see how these fraggers got past one of the best security mechs in the universe," Mirage said determinedly, rising with his bondmate and walking out, although a thread of amusement crept through the bond. Looking at his bondmate with a querying optic, the noble muttered, "What?"

"You must be real angry to swear like that," commented Hound. "Actually, it would be a turn on if not for the fact that...well, the sparklings are missing and Primus knows what are happening to them."

"Please, Hound," Mirage murmured, his hand tightening around his bondmate's, "I've been trying hard not to think about it."

Hound squeezed back reassuringly. "Sorry."

Mirage sighed, shaking his helm. "I swear when I get my servos on that Cyclops bastard..."

"Oooh... Human swears now."


Hound chuckled, although not really feeling it as he was dragged along behind Mirage, headed for the security rooms where an irate Lamborghini sat dejectedly. Red Alert had taken the security bypass hard, blaming himself for Ratchet and the sparklings abductions. Inferno was doing his best to bring Red Alert from his shell of self deprecation when they arrived.

"So, how did it happen?" was the first thing that was out of Mirage's mouth before he could stop himself. Red Alert flinched and seemed to draw further inwards. Inferno shot the noble a withering look, prompting Hound to draw Mirage into a quick hug before taking over the vocalizing.

"We know there isn't a single mech that doesn't have trouble getting past Red. Not easily, if ever," he attempted to explain. "And all of the defences that were around the Twins quarters were top notch. We know he did his best. We just want to know what went wrong."

Inferno set a heavy hand on the Security Director's shoulder. "See, Red. No one's blaming yah." He sighed when all Red Alert did was stare sullenly at the monitors. He turned to Hound. "From what Jazz and Prowl found on tha' screens, and from what we know of the last few days, Red spent so much tahm making the Twins' quarters secure, none of us considered them striking here first... So defences weren't up to what they normally are... That and Soundwave's little runts are gettin' sneakier."

"Let me guess, Rumble and Frenzy?" Mirage asked, knowing that those two could be unstoppable when they focussed. The fire-truck's answering nod answered his question, and he asked Red Alert sympathetically, "A sedative?"

"Yeah," mumbled the red mech, staring at the screens listlessly.

"Hacked 'im so that they got tha codes to take down all of the defences 'round Ratchet's quarters," Inferno added, and therein lay the root of the problem. Red Alert had been hacked while unconscious, the perfect time to do it in all tactical senses. In all essentiality, he had been violated. Hound and Mirage realised it for what it was, and new anger settled in their sparks.

"Dear Primus," the tracker whispered, patting the bigger red mech on the forearm in comfort. He would have done it to Red Alert, but the poor mech looked like he would glitch out if he did. He was best left to Inferno.

"I only hope," Red Alert said to the room, although his gaze never wavered from the screens, "that the Twins will see fit to find me as blameless as you two do."

First Aid looked to his commander worriedly. "I can't sedate them any longer. Their auto-repair is beginning to recognise it and will block it if I dose them again. I have to let them wake, sir."

Optimus nodded gravely. "So be it. We will weather the storm one way or another, sooner or later. It best be now while I am here to restrain them if need be. And Ironhide as well." He nodded to his loyal bodyguard, leaning on a wall and polishing a cannon. First Aid was frowning behind his visor, but nevertheless, he went around and carefully disconnected the systems and scanners moderating both Twins, who were now both fully repaired and pristine, thanks to his toil and handiwork.

The three mechs waited, Optimus and Ironhide calm, First Aid nervous, displayed by the way he pottered around the medbay, placing objects away and nervously twiddling his thumbs.

One moment, it was calm.

And the next, it was like the world exploded.

Sunstreaker was the first to wake, sitting up and yelling out ferally. The words were incomprehensible, but the tone was pure fury. Sideswipe followed seconds later, looking around wildly, snarling.

"Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, calm down!" ordered Optimus.

He grunted as a yellow blur belted him across the face and a furious voice yelled, "THAT BASTARD IS TORTURING MY BONDMATE AND SPARKLINGS! AND YOU TELL ME TO CALM DOWN?"

The Autobot leader thought that, if he had not been Prime, he would have quaked at the expression on the younger twin's face. His optics were a deep, blood red from the fury, his denta seeming like ghoulish fangs, hard lines everywhere, not an ounce of softness in him. Sideswipe was no different, optics the same colour as his paintjob, armour puffed out like a cat with its fur sticking up, snarling and growling.

Considering that the force of Sunstreaker's left hook had dented his battle mask in, he was thankful he had the mask in the first place. After all, he had to withstand Megatron's left and right hooks on a regular basis. "You misunderstand me when I say calm down," Optimus replied solemnly, catching Sunstreaker's next punch and twisting so that the warrior was forced to twist away from his body, the blow from his free hand never connecting. "I merely want to point out that raging at your comrades, those who wish to help you, will do you no good." He held Sunstreaker in place until the mech was simply glaring at him with all the fear and rage and pain Prime had ever seen in a soldier. "I am worried too."

"What would you know!" Sideswipe hissed, tensing when Ironhide moved closer, preparing for an attack.

The semi turned to regard Sideswipe with an empathetic glint in his optics. "Might I remind you, Sideswipe, that Ratchet was my friend long before you even knew him, loved him. He is my family. And thus your children are as well. But blindly attacking anything that moves, merely to prove that you are angry, will do nothing more than waste your energy."

"Try slag sucking furious," Sunstreaker growled.

Optimus noted that Sunstreaker had definitely learned that phrase from Ratchet, before going on, "We can understand. But keep your energy in. Save it for rescuing your sparklings and bondmate. Do whatever you can for them through the bond, but please, rein yourselves in."

Both twins huffed, anger still present, simmering deep within their body language, but they forced themselves to calm, optics turning back to their usual blue and returning to themselves.

With a growl, Sunstreaker shook off his Prime's arm and demanded, "When it's time to attack, I'm not holding back. Slag plans. Slag protocol. Slag being 'civilised.' No one is going to stop me from my bondmate and sparklings. Not even you, Prime."

"Just thought we'd give you the heads up," Sideswipe interjected, inspecting his healed injuries critically, before turning and giving Ratchet's young apprentice a brief smile of thanks.

Optimus could have sworn that First Aid was fighting fainting in relief from the Twins calmed states.

"I'll put it in a memo," Optimus replied sarcastically, crossing his arms. "But now, I want you to tell me everything you remember from last night. Every detail is crucial. We have discovered that Shockwave and his minions are not in the Nemesis. It seems like he, Megatron, and select few other mechs are holed up somewhere else. It seems that the Nemesis is in Starscream's charge, and that most of the Decepticon's have no true idea of what is to happen."

Sideswipe and Sunstreaker exchanged a look, before Sideswipe said, "We thought the mech who attacked us smelt different."

"Different how?" inquired the larger mech.

"Not like the sea. Con's usually smell a bit salty because they come out of the ocean, but this one smelt of fresh pine for some reason."

"The space bridge," Ironhide grunted. "S'located in the North American Pines National Park. Makes sense if these mechs are working fer ol' one optic. They had ta come through the space bridge."

The CO nodded in agreement, "Then Cybertron is our goal." He turned back to the Twins. "What else do you remember? Every little piece of information helps."

Both Twins quieted as they thought.

"There were two..." Sunstreaker began hesitantly, "At least, I'm pretty sure there were two. Kinda came at us fast."

"No, there were two," Optimus confirmed. "Aside from the cassettes that were sent to incapacitate Red Alert."

"Okay. So there were two. A little guy... maybe Jazz's size," Sideswipe continued.

"Fragger fell from the roof when we rushed to see why Brightspark had..." Sunstreaker trailed off, a hitch in his recount. "When she screamed..."

"Big guy too," Sideswipe frowned, trying to move past that part as fast as possible. "Actually he looked...vaguely familiar."

"Think," encouraged the Autobot leader. "We need everything we can to save your family."

Sunstreaker looked at his twin oddly. "I've never seen the mech before."

"No...but I have," muttered Sideswipe, raking through his memory files until the realisation came to him and he blurted, "The gladiator pits!" As everyone looked at him, he explained, "He was one of my opponents. Man, that black and blue paintjob was always distinctive because the paint was never good quality. Big mech, a little bigger than me and Sunny, and a grudge streak from here to Cybertron. Never could beat me, and it slagged him off that I was that good."

"Oh. That mech," Sunstreaker muttered. He knew. He had watched each fight.

"Go to Prowl. Tell him everything so he can factor it into his battle computer. Tell him that the sparklings are now on Cybertron, or will be there soon. I'm hoping they are not. I hope they are on a base next to the space bridge, for it will be far easier to attack," Optimus ordered, regal tone no nonsense and strong, indicating that no matter the cost, they would get back what was taken from them.

"Brothers?" Mirage echoed the red twin's word. "What do you mean?"

"Look, we may not have known them well, but Shadetamer and Backtrack were - are - brothers. Shadetamer's older. Sunny had more issues with that one, his mouth up in the stands and all," Sideswipe clarified. "But they were registered in the Pits as brothers."

"And you?"

Sideswipe gave the noble a significant look. "Kinda had my hands full with Backtrack. You know, as in NOT getting my helm ripped off..."

Jazz felt as if things were falling into place a little bit. "Ah know what I need to about Shadetamer already. Backtrack was the unknown factor. Although now it's clear why Shaders never tore this mech apart. Anything else you can tell us, Sides?"

"Other than Backtrack is more brawn than CPU. If he had actually thought when we fought than I may not be here today. Mech's strong. Like he could belt MOTORMASTER a hard one strong."

"So don't let him get his servos on you," Hound clarified. "Sounds fun."

"Until you're missing an arm..." Sideswipe muttered, rubbing at his chestplates at the same time Sunstreaker did. He didn't like this inaction and he knew it was killing his twin.

"Very well..." Prowl spoke up for the first time, voice quiet. "Then we will start planning along the lines of the worst. That they have gone back to Cybertron is a distinct possibility, but we will have a contingency plan if they have not. Prime and I will -"


The SIC glanced up at his mate. "I'm sorry?"

"No, Prowl. YOU will only be planning. Ah ain't sending you out there in your condition."


"What condition?" Sideswipe demanded, looking at both black and white's suspiciously.

"It's nothing," said Prowl, voice firm and neutral, but his expression was thunderous as he looked at his bondmate.

Jazz met the glare and he threatened, "If Ah tell 'em, maybe it'll stop ya."

"You wouldn't dare use this against me Jazz. Don't you dare. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker need my plan to work to its fullest, and the only way that will happen is if I'm there. Or else the probability of getting Ratchet and all three sparklings back alivedecreases to only 61% from its previous 89%," the doorwinged mech growled, surprising all in the room with the strength of it.

The saboteur threw his hands up in the air and argued, "Ah ain't lettin ya endanger our sparkling and that's final!"

Hound and Mirage looked at each other in shock, while the twins looked dumbfounded.

Prowl gave a smirk that was as cold and bitter as a windy winter's day. "Thank you, Jazz. You have only strengthened my resolve. I am going out there. I am helping Sideswipe and Sunstreaker to reclaim what's rightfully supposed to be here and safe."

"You mean..." Hound broke in uncertainly, "You already came up with a plan with this information we gave you just now?"

Prowl turned his calm, steady gaze on the tracker and replied, "Indeed. And as far as I can see, if all goes our way it will be 89% successful. With the limited time we have, that is the percentage I will be happy with. All will be revealed, but all four of you must go and rally the troops. Go."

They left, and the Praxian turned to his mate, who was staring stubbornly over to a wall. Approaching, he whispered, "I will be fine. Please. We need to help this family, before ours get's started. I can't bear the thought that one of their sparklings, or Primus forbid, Ratchet, dies, that it will be our fault because we got a little too protective."

Jazz turned his gaze back to his sparkmate, who cupped his cheek and kissed him tenderly. He responded, before pulling back and sighing in defeat. "Ah know. Ah don't like it though."

"You never had to. Now, let's go kick some can, hmm?"

Shadetamer snickered as he dragged the limp form of the Autobot CMO into his very own cell. The former bounty hunter would have preferred to have kept the little brats on the opposite end of the room, but Shockwave was insistent that they be near their carrier. It wouldn't do to have completely stressed specimens. Psha, fragger always had to ruin his fun.

"You done in there?"

The slim mech turned back to stare at the large frame in the cell archway. "Yeah, yeah... no need to be pissy."


"Humans have interesting swears. Plus, I like seeing Shockwave blow a fuse or two trying to decide if I'm insultin' him or just going through a bout of insanity." His smile was gleeful.


"Oh don't sound so enthusiastic, why doncha!"

"Cause I ain't."

"Whatever... " Shadetamer walked out of the cell, the energy wall activating behind him. He and Backtrack walked out of the makeshift brig, passing the guards on the way. Well, at least they weren't stuck on sentry duty.

"Frag..." Shadetamer sighed, suddenly realizing he had nothing to do. He glanced at his brother. "Think we can convince Shocky to let us go to the Nemesis?"

Backtrack grunted. Not one for much words was his dear little brother.

"You know... Seekers. Starscream's waist, Thundercracker's aft... Skywarp's hips." The last one made him purr.

Backtrack just rolled his optics and hurried on ahead, already wishing that some Autobug would show up. If only to give his brother something to do. At least, before things went to extremes. Preferably, he would ask for Sideswipe. He felt his own grin curving his face.

'Just you wait, Autofreak...' He thought. 'Only a matter of time.'

Optimus stood in front of all his soldiers, and he was quite proud to say that he had never seen them so united or so determined. Victory was theirs, for sure, just by the willpower of his mechs. Clearing his vocaliser, he spoke. "You've all been given the orders. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are the only ones to deviate from the plan, and that is only to save their bondmate and offspring. Don't get in their way." There were a few mirthless chuckles at this. "But follow Prowl's plan, it will bring Ratchet and his sparklings safely home. To their family. And to our family - our Ark family."

Silence followed, filled with anticipation.

Praying to Primus with all his spark for all his brave mechs to be brought home safely, Optimus called out his famous line. "Transform and roll out!"

Shockwave looked over the scans he had got from the sparklings. They seemed very healthy and well functioning, even if the red and black one seemed too clingy. He was pleased to find his hypothesis proved correct: triplet bonds were observed to act a lot like twin bonds. But it piqued his curiosity.

If one part of the bond was severed, would the other two die or carry on? Would they feel the need, as twins did, to interface and bond? The last question could not, of course, be answered now. Their interface systems were not developed. But once he took them to Cybertron, he knew it wouldn't take too much effort to rapidly age them. It was easy. Put the spark into a new frame and make sure it was an adult frame. All he needed to do after that was to send enough data to their processor so they would understand interfacing and whatnot.

Footsteps came from behind him, and he knew instantly who it was.

"Greetings, my Lord Megatron."

"Shockwave," Megatron replied smoothly, his deep voice rolling through the room. "I trust that you have what you required."

Shockwave turned to face his leader, standing straight and respectful. "Of course, My Lord. The Autobot Chief Medical Officer, Ratchet, and his offspring are down in the brig as we speak."

A wicked smirk curved Megatron's face, his crimson optics flaring. "Excellent, Shockwave. Have you had any contact with Soundwave on the Nemesis?"

"No, My Lord. His only instructions were to lend us Frenzy and Rumble. And their only instructions were to remove the threat of the Autobot Security Director."

"I see." Megatron felt uncomfortable leaving his most trusted officer out of the loop even in the best of times. However, being a carrier himself, Megatron knew that Soundwave's opinion would have been compromised in this situation. "Starscream has been sufficiently distracted as well. No Seeker can know what is being done here."

"Of course, Lord Megatron," Shockwave intoned, returning to the results on his screen. "The data I have collected is not yet sufficient enough to further our goals. The subjects subconscious's are all tied to their carrier's. Breaking that bond this early in the stage will not go well for us, I'm afraid."

Megatron scowled, "So there is no way to get this done any quicker?"

"No, My Lord, but I will work on a solution. I am examining the carrier's spark signature as we speak."

"Very well, Shockwave. I trust you will not fail me."

"I shall endeavour to please you, Lord Megatron."

Starscream growled at the monitor screens. Not so much what was on them, but at his situation. One day, Shockwave comes down from Cybertron and before anyone knows it, he and Megatron are off plotting and leaving the Nemesis in his charge. Not that he didn't mind being in charge. Primus knew he was enjoying having free run of this place. Even Soundwave had merely and neatly taken his orders. It surprised Starscream how well the base was running.

But besides these achievements, he was frustrated and madder at his leader than he had ever been.

How dare the old fool leave him out of something that concerned Shockwave! The cycloptic fool was dangerous when not monitored.

Not to mention instinct told him something was truly wrong. His trine, thankfully, felt it too.

Leaving the room abruptly, Starscream left Soundwave to monitor duty and marched to his leader's office.

Maybe the answers would be found there.

It was far too quiet for his liking. In fact, it was eerily quiet and through the trine bond he could feel Skywarp teasing him about being paranoid. So let him tease! As long as he was able to figure something out.

He reached his leader's office door far too late for his liking. And of course the code had been changed. Starscream snarled and slapped at the control panel after the second and third attempts to enter, his annoyance only growing when it only beeped a 'negative code' alert at him.

He spun on his heel thruster and stomped down the hall back towards the command center again.

He would have made it there, only an open door caught his attention not too far down the hallway. It wasn't open by much, just a crack. But it was pitch black inside, save for a very faint whitish blue light somewhere around the middle. Curiosity piqued and frustration with having no answers, the Seeker roughly pushed the door open, making it slam back.

Starscream huffed, casting his optics about the room. It was obviously a guest room.

Must have been Shockwave's - for the few days he was on the Nemesis.

It was bare, void of any personal effects. The berth was perfectly made up, not a speck of dust anywhere. The only thing out of place was the monitor on the desk in the corner. It was on, a file up and running, glyphs easily visible.

Striding closer, Starscream bent down to read the file, frowning when one word caught his optic.

"What would Shockwave want with sparkling information?" Starscream asked himself aloud. The file was just a general information page on sparklings, but it didn't give any indication as to what his leader and the guardian of Cybertron were planning. His instincts rose up sharply, but he tramped them down, if only for now. He had to discuss with his trine what this meant. For if it had to do with sparklings, Starscream knew his programming would not see them be hurt.

Especially by a cold, logical son of a glitch like Shockwave.

He was suddenly distracted by a blinking light on his HUD. An incoming message from Soundwave on the bridge. He reluctantly answered it. "Starscream."

:-Observation.-: Came the monotone tenor he associated with the TIC. :-Autobots: On the move.-:

:-Really?-: That was interesting. :-Any idea where they're headed?-:

:-Laserbeak: Reports they are headed in the direction of the Space Bridge.-:

Well now that was really interesting. :-Very well. Stay on monitors, my trine and the Coneheads will head them off.-:

There was a distinct pause. Obviously Soundwave wasn't very happy with that plan, but Megatron had specifically placed the Seeker in charge. After a few moments in which Starscream had time to relish this victory over Soundwave, the telepath spoke reluctantly. :-Acknowledged.-:

Backtrack was the first to know the enemy was coming.

He and his brother were standing outside the base, intending to sneak off to the Nemesis so that Shadetamer could have his daily fill of perving on Skywarp's hips, when they saw and heard engines come from the horizon, on the one road in between the trees. The larger mech was taller than his brother, and had a second's advantage on sight.

"Look, it's Autobugs!" he crowed excitedly. He couldn't wait to get his hands on that red slagger.

Shadetamer scowled and said, "We have to tell Shockwave. If we don't he'll probably lock us up in the brig after for skipping off to go perve."

They opened up their comm. lines, informing their superiors of the coming strike force.

"Look at them Autobots! Comin' straight for us and not even tryin' to hide it. Come to think of it...there are only like...ten," Shadetamer observed, optics narrowing suspiciously.

Backtrack didn't care and grinned gleefully. "Can't wait to smash Autobugs!"

Shadetamer felt himself tensing, his entire body singing for violence. But insanity wasn't stupidity. He didn't like the lack in numbers. "Don't rush in yet, Backs. There may be an ambush."

He didn't need to look at his brother to see him sending a scowl his way. He just knew. He waited for his brother to answer.

"Fine." Yup, he was scowling.

"Good. Retreat into the trees. I want cover when they get closer. Besides," he felt his lips twitch into a wicked smile. "Where's the fun in letting them be the hunters?"

The echoing grin he received from Backtrack would have curdled energon.

:- This is Silverbolt to Optimus Prime.-:

:- Go ahead Silverbolt.-:

:- We have Seekers closing in. Our approach attracted them from their hidey hole, just like Prowl predicted. -:

:- Very good. Make sure they have no way of engaging should Megatron call on them. As long as we can keep them accounted for, we have a fighting chance. -:

:- Affirmative. Silverbolt out. -:

Silverbolt led his brothers forward, heading gallantly towards the six Seeker's flying their way, both the Command and Conehead trines streaking toward them. They were ready for this, both physically and mentally. They had to ensure they stayed that way.

"Aerialbots, engage!" he called out, he himself heading straight for Thundercracker, strafing him with plasma rounds. He cursed as the blue Seeker executed a barrel roll and then a loop to miss the run, before swooping around to try to line Thundercracker in his sights again.

"Keep trying, youngling, you'll never beat the best!" Skywarp jeered loudly, making all the Aerialbots bristle at the insult.

:-Just keep them distracted. Whatever you do, don't let them near the base!-: Silverbolt encouraged when he felt his gestalt mates hiss in agitation over their bond. They had to do it. Optimus and Prowl were counting on them.

Prowl smirked as he and Bluestreak set up their sniper rifles on a hill overlooking the spacebridge and base, watching as Optimus Prime led the small convoy of ten mechs - including Jazz. The goal was to tempt out Shockwave, Megatron, and all other mechs in the base. Then, Hound and Mirage would enter the base to rescue Ratchet and the triplets. The twins were hiding in some trees. They were to fight through any coming mechs or drones and get their family and head straight back to base. Only when they were back at base would the rest of the Autobots retreat from battle. Other Autobots were currently hiding in the pine forest surrounds, Prowl's own location concealed by a natural rock formation and two pines.

This was looking good so far. He and Bluestreak would snipe off any mechs that looked to be in danger.

Bluestreak looked to him for assurance one more time. "They're going to be okay, right Prowl?" he asked.

The tactician knew that the concern wasn't just for the Twins and their bondmate and offspring. It was for his lover Wheeljack, too. The engineer was in the Prime's convoy, ready and waiting with some new paralyser invention.

"We all will, Blue. You just wait and see," Prowl replied, letting a slight smile curve his lips. In his spark, he fervently hoped his words were true. He was sure that his spark would break if any Autobots got injured today.

Bluestreak nodded, his gaze returning to the soon to be battlefield as he scoped carefully, watching for any movement... when something caught his eye.

"Prowl, we have a problem," the gunner said urgently. "I have an unknown mech that just exited the trees from the northeast. He circling behind Sunny and Sides."

Prowl swung his own rifle that way, scoping until his sights were on the mech. 'Backtrack.' He thought bitterly. :- Sideswipe, you and your brother are going to have company soon. -:

:- Yeah. I picked up an energy signal that wasn't one of our on our way in. -:

Prowl nodded. :- Be on the lookout. It's Backtrack. -:

There was a soft curse on the other side. :- Which means that freak Shadetamer isn't far behind. Or he's already here. We'll take- -:

:- No.-: Prowl said sternly. :- Keep focused. Trailbreaker, Cliffjumper and Streetwise will be alerted. Prowl out. -:

The order and instructions given, Prowl returned to his lookout, sending a brief prayer to Primus that all would be okay.

Optimus grunted as he sparred with Megatron, hearing a satisfying crunch as his fist impacted into the other mech's face.

The battle was going well so far, Prowl's plan executing itself perfectly. All of the drones that Shockwave released, no matter how many they were, had been stopped by he and his team of mechs, other Autobots slowly joining in on the fight with each cue from Prowl. There had been no terrible injuries as of yet for his mechs, and that he was glad for. The only worrying thing was that the two Decepticon kidnappers, Shadetamer and Backtrack, were nowhere to be seen, and neither were Sideswipe and Sunstreaker.

Regardless, they were making headway towards the base.

"You will regret this day, Prime!" Megatron yelled, backhanding the Autobot leader across the face.

Optimus retaliated with a switch kick and punch combo to the gunformer's abdomen and growled, "No, you are the one that will regret taking my CMO and his sparklings! How dare you try and interfere with the life of the innocents!"

"Pah, they are needed for the evolution of our kind," Megatron spat, taking the punches.

Optimus snarled, optics glowing with battle fury behind his mask, tackling his enemy.

Meanwhile, up on the hill, Prowl and Bluestreak searched through their scopes for the Twins and the two rogue Decepticons. Prowl, at least, was thankful that the Aerialbots had downed the Conehead trine, and were now settled with the task of keeping Starscream and his trine away. If they managed to break away, their strafing runs could help turn the tide of the battle.

The SIC hoped it wouldn't come to that.

"Prowl! Con reinforcements on the horizon!" Bluestreak gabbled, pointing over the battle field.

Prowl cursed as he saw the Stunticons. They would prove to need a bit more mech power.

"I hope the Twins are in the base and getting Ratchet, because this battle could be turned," warned Prowl, lining up his scope and taking the first shots at the new Cons.

Up in the air, things were not going as well as Prowl was hoping for. It was true that the Aerialbots outnumbered the remaining Seekers five to three, but it was also true that said Seekers were by far the more skilled combatants.

"Frag it all!" Slingshot heard Air Raid curse. "I can't get a lock on 'Screamer! Skywarp keeps warping outta fraggin nowhere!"

"Kinda what he does anyways, Raid..." Slingshot called as he chased Thundercracker with Silverbolt trying to head them off. "Keep at it!"

"Too late!"

Starscream had managed to use Skywarp's last distraction as an opening, now flying low among the fighters. It was odd... he had fully expected to be Jet Judoed at least once by now, but no Twins in sight. Come to think of it... he didn't see that annoying medic either. Pushing it out of his mind (who was he to question luck?) Starscream put on a burst of speed, transforming into his root mode and landing just as Megatron was thrown back.

"Need some HELP, Mighty Leader?" he sneered.

Megatron scowled. "Shut up fool!"

The sound of a transformation sequence was heard over the din of battle and then Starscream was smoothly catching his Leader-turned-gun. He pointed it at Prime with an smile promising a lot of pain... possibly death. "Any last words, Prime?"

"You will go straight to the depths of the Pit for endangering the sparklings lives," growled the Prime.

Starscream looked totally and utterly confused. "What sparklings are you talking about, Prime? I see none here." Starscream felt a jerk in his hands, noticing that the gun was starting to transform, and let it go, scowling.

Megatron stood and ordered, "Get into the air! Go find that blasted tactician while I deal with Prime."

"WHAT sparklings, Megatron?" demanded Starscream, crossing his arms and hiking his wings up threateningly. In the pit of his tank, he had a bad feeling as the dots slowly connected in his processor, and the knowledge that the Autobot medic had triplets which they had found out about a month and a half ago...

Sudden, alarming pain burst through his sensor net as his leader back-handed him. "Get!" the thunderous voice boomed, and there was a clash of metal as the grey mech turned to engage in battle with Optimus once more.

Starscream glared through the haze of pain.

He would get back into the air...but he would not follow any such order.

Shockwave waited for his two lieutenants to join him, and when they did, he gave them direct and clear orders. "Do not complain that I have diverted you from your quarry. They will make their way here soon. I am about to enter the battle. Make sure that the medic and his offspring are not moved, and are not removed by their zealous comrades. If they happen to slip through your grasp..." His yellow optic burned into those of Backtrack and Shadetamer, "well, I'm sure your imagination will supply sufficiently."

They watched as Shockwave marched away, followed by as many drones as he could spare. Backtrack was scowling, his fist clenching and unclenching, but Shadetamer was the worst off. The black and silver mech's entire chassis vibrated with the effort to not follow after the purple 'Con. He could hear it, smell it... the battle that was spilling energon like a finely refined high grade. Denying him the thrill of his hunt was making him... edgy.

Backtrack may have been on the slower side of things, but Shockwave had used this tactic enough for the big mech to know that he did it on purpose. 'Cause an edgy Shadetamer was a deadly Shadetamer.

Well, he pitied the Autobot to cross his path next.

:: Thundercracker! Skywarp! Disengage! There's been a change of plans...::Starscream sent over the trine link.

He felt a wave of disappointment from Skywarp and a thread of curiosity from Thundercracker as they manoeuvred to disengage the Aerials and make for their Trine Leader.

Thundercracker almost yelped in indignation and surprise when he heard the sound of a transformation sequence above him and his purple bondmate suddenly latching onto his back. There was a brief moment of vertigo that he recognized accompanied a warp and then he suddenly found himself flying next to his trine mate, Skywarp leaping off to change back into his alt mode.

:: What's up, Scree?::Skywarp asked, ignoring the annoyance colouring Thundercracker's end of the bond.

:: We're heading for Shockwave's little hideaway. Megatron's hiding something... and I'm almost afraid to think that I may be right as to what.::

:- Prowl! We've lost all three of the remaining Seekers! -: Silverbolt's frantic comm. broke through the cacophony of laser fire.

:-What!-: the Praxian yelled through the comm.

:-Skywarp is up to his tricks,-: the Aerialbot leader explained apologetically.

Prowl sighed. At least it had not happened early on the battle. He was about to reply when a flash of purple through his rifle scope caught his optic. Focussing, he felt dread settle in his tanks as he viewed Shockwave, using his laser cannon arm to blast Cliffjumper back to a grove of trees. :-Never mind it now, Silverbolt. Shockwave is on the battlefield, as well as the Stunticons. I need you and your gestalt here.-:

:-You got it sir-: came the reply.

Prowl noted with satisfaction that Bluestreak was sniping quite well, picking off Dead End from where he was about to attack Wheeljack. He lined up his own scope, setting his sights on Shockwave and his drones, who were tearing through the battlefield.


He hit a drone on the mono-opticked mech's direct right.

Re-aiming, Prowl smirked as the purple mech looked around in surprise at where the shot came from. Seeing the chestplate in the crosshairs of the scope, he aimed, waiting for just the right moment to hit the trigger...

...but missed his mark and hit Shockwave's laser cannon wrist instead, thanks to an earth-shaking BOOM that filed the battlefield. Vaguely, he heard the younger Praxian beside him mutter, "Must be another Wheeljack special." He had bigger worries. Like; where had Shockwave gone? In the three seconds it had taken to realise why he missed the purple mech, he disappeared from the line of sight. Lifting his optics from his rifle, Prowl scanned the ground, surprised when he saw Shockwave standing a little closer to their position, raising something.

Just as he looked over the rock outcropping to see what it was, his vision was suddenly filled with static and pure, blinding pain hit him with the force of a comet.

The last thing he heard was a high, fearful scream.

A scream, that screamed his name, as pain faded into nothingness, and he fell unconscious.

Ratchet grunted in pain, forcing himself to sit up against the wall in his cell a little straighter. All but Speedlight had fallen into an exhausted recharge in the cube beside him, the little mini Sideswipe shaking in fear, but obviously far more afraid to fall into recharge. The yellow sparkling was curled up against the side of the cube, staring at his carrier pleadingly.

"I'm right here little one." Ratchet spoke softly, his hand stroking the side of cube, wanting so badly to be able to physically touch his son.

The pain still throbbing from his spark made him breathe deeply and rub at his chestplates. Bastard 'Con. Taking spark energy from any Cybertronian was a dangerous process to begin with, but Shockwave had taken a lot. Far more than he should have, but not enough to kill him. Ratchet scowled. To top it off, the fragger had also added other injuries to his frame. He scowled again.

And then sat a little straighter when the sound of gunfire sounded. It was distant, but there. At the same time he felt two familiar presences in his spark.


"...Did he now?" Shadetamer smirked, staring at the tri-coloured jet in front of him.

"Yes, Shockwave needs you to scan the forest for any Autobots unaccounted for," Starscream sighed as if annoyed.

"And what of you?"

"We..." Starscream sneered. He didn't even need to act for the expression. Not when one considered the topic of conversation. "Are to take over guard duty. On our Glorious Leader'sorders..."

Shadetamer's grin widened. He slapped his brother's chassis. "Looks like we get our fun after all."

Backtrack's optics lit up, the deep crimson flaring in anticipation. Without waiting to hear anymore, he pushed passed the Seekers and ambled to the forest. Shadetamer went at a much more sedate pace, pinching Skywarp's aft as he passed by.

The teleporter yelped and then shot a glare at the 'Cons back as he walked away. "Fragging Groundpounder!"

Once the two groundpounders were out of earshot, Thundercracker murmured, "You know, that was almost too easy. Starscream, do you want one of us to be on watch?"

The trine leader shook his helm. "No. Come with me...maybe you'll help to justify my actions and affirm my instincts."

Skywarp rubbed his aft where Shadetamer pinched it, and muttered, "Oh please, like we can't tell that you think that Megtatron and Shockwave kidnapped the Autobot sparklings. I find it highly unlikely that-"

"Skywarp, shut it. It makes perfect sense," interrupted Starscream, walking down a small flight of steps that led to the brig. He paused and mused out loud, "It all fits. The sparkling information on Shockwave's console, Megatron's reluctance to let Seekers or Soundwave come with him. Think, Skywarp. Why else would all those Autobots out there be fighting so gallantly? I haven't seen them try so hard in a long time. They are doing this for a reason - and this would be a reason they'd likely fight for. I also haven't seen the Autobot medic."

"Well..." started his blue trinemate, but the sounds of footsteps behind them made them turn.

There was nothing there. Nothing visible at least. Which in itself was all too telling.

Starscream turned back around, motioning for Skywarp to watch their backs. The last thing they needed was the Towers brat pulling a fast one on them.

Mirage tensed, his bondmate hovering just at the edge of his field's limit. Hound had stopped too when the Seekers had turned.

::Why don't we get them now?::Hound asked.

::Because... We need them to lead us to the brig...::

:: And then they regret thinking of ever laying their servos on one of ours!::

Mirage glanced at his lover in surprise. Hound wasn't normally so violent, but he supposed that the way things had been going were taking its toll on the scout. ::Yes.:: he agreed vehemently.

::What are you doing, Starscream?:: Thundercracker hissed over the trine bond.

::Letting them be heroes:: the tricoloured mech snapped back, opening the door to the brig once they reached it, and sprinting inside, knowing that Shockwave would place them in the end cell. He resisted the urge to scoff. What a cliché. As he stopped, he looked inside the cell and his jaw promptly fell open slightly at the sight.

"Holy slag...you were right, Starscream," Skywarp whispered, he and TC coming up behind their trine leader, their sparks pulling towards the three sparklings, awake, shivering and crying silently in the cage. Their Seeker instincts demanded that they free and protect the little ones and their carrier. Starscream typed in his override code, sighing in satisfaction as the energy bars slid away, and walked to the cage. "Attend to the medic," he ordered his trinemates.

They nodded and kneeled down next to the Autobot medic, the mechs arm stretched in the direction of his sparklings, his other over his spark. His arms and legs looked whipped with energon whips, his abdomen had gouges from some sort of circular tool, and there were odd looking scratches on the windshield and chest plating.

Thundercracker said, "It looks like Shockwave did something-"

"Most likely a spark energy siphon," Starscream said, before cooing at the terrified sparklings in the cage.

"You'll be alright, little ones," he crooned, undoing the top of the cage and picking up the little red and black one who had the same helm shape as the medic, holding him close to his cockpit for warmth.

Immediately, the trembling Jumpstart calmed, immersed in the stranger, but comforting EM field that was surrounding the mech holding him. It wasn't his carrier, but it spoke of protection and was calm. Once that sparkling was calmed, Starscream reached for the other two, pulling their small bodies to his chassis. They both reached for their brother, cooing encouragement at each other and Starscream felt a genuine smile spread across his face.

"S-sparklings...?" The weak voice attracted the Seeker's attention and he turned to where his Trinemates were now supporting the weak CMO between them. "Wh-where...?"

"They're here," Starscream spoke softly, moving closer so that the medic could feel their fields.

Ratchet didn't have the strength to be suspicious, and he weakly tried to reach for them, but was stopped by his own injuries he had been managing to ignore all this time. Starscream understood what he wanted, and leaned down to gently deposit the triplets on their carrier's chest. They cooed and squeaked in relief, as well as asking their carrier if he was alright as they curled up to him. Ratchet locked his optics with the Decepticon SIC, conveying his thanks. He didn't need an explanation as to why the Seekers helped. He knew the Seeker programming that drove them.

"Back away slowly, Seekers," came a voice from behind the group.

"Mech! You couldn't beat me then, you won't beat me now!" Sideswipe crowed, rolling under another heavy punch.

Backtrack ignored the taunt and swung around, trying to slam his fist into the bastard's faceplates. "You WILL fall at my hands you sorry excuse for a warrior!"

"Oooh... Big sentences coming from such a little processor! Does your brother give you lessons?"

A roar escaped from the black and blue mech, and Sideswipe laughed as he merely sidestepped the charge. He didn't laugh long as the larger mech used his momentum to swing around and land a heavy punch on the red warrior's abdomen. Sideswipe grunted as he stumbled back a few paces from the punch, scowling at the mech. "Okay, I was going to have fun, but now I'm not good looking for my bondmate - you're going down!" he called out, releasing his pile drivers and bashing one into the shoulder joint of his opponent. He fuelled it with his frustration that he and Sunny were delayed from rescuing their family.

Sunstreaker was off to his right, doing well, for all things considered. He had managed to take most of Shadetamers guns and break them so they couldn't be used against him, but was having a little bit of trouble fending off the quick, darting attacks with the energon dagger.

Shadetamer taunted him with an evil cackle. "Lookit there, pretty boy, I've put such wonderful scratches on your paint."

The yellow twin growled. This mech was so very dense if he couldn't realise he didn't give a flying frag about his paintjob right now. "Fight like a real mech, you pathetic excuse for a bounty hunter. All you have is your words," Sunstreaker taunted back, doing a combat roll as the mech lunged at him with the knife, popping up and slamming a fist into the helm.

"Oof!" the small mech grunted as he fell. "You get that one, daffodil."

Sunstreaker yelled as the dagger was embedded in his pede, anger hazing his optics now. Reaching into subspace, he grabbed a rarely used battle axe and swung it hard at the Decepticon's helm.

It scraped off the top layer of paint and an antenna, causing the smaller mech to bellow, "You bastard!"

Plucking the dagger out of his pede, Sunstreaker growled, "You'll be swearing more than that just before I kill you." He leaped on the mech, axe swinging.

Sideswipe, meanwhile, was having fun inflicting one dent after another as Backtrack kept attacking in the same way again and again, merely charging him, not diverting to any other tactic. He sneered at how easy it could be to finally paralyse the mech and punch out his spark.

But then the unexpected happened. Apparently, Backtrack had grown some processors in the vorns between now and the Gladiator Pits. With a snarl of absolute rage, the big mech whirled as if to charge again, but at the moment that Sideswipe would have ducked out of the way, he shoved his large arm out to the side and effectively 'clothes lined' the red warrior as the humans would say.

With a shout of surprise, Sideswipe's face hit the black forearm and dropped to his back. He barely had time to pull his thoughts together and roll before a large pede came crashing down where his helm had been.

'Yikes...' He thought, rolling into a crouch and rubbing at his dented nasal plating. 'Frag punching Motormaster, I think he's been taking lessons from him!'

He met the mechs next charge head-on, bracing his pedes apart and leaning into the impact, bringing the Decepticon to a jarring stop. Then, their fingers intertwined as they wrestled for dominance, Sideswipe pulled his entire weight back, Backtrack going with him, and rolled, kicking his feet out to impact with the larger mech's abdomen. The momentum sent Backtrack over his head... and right down into the ravine they had been fighting beside. The sound of a painful collision was music to his audios.

Breathing a sigh of relief he turned to help his brother only to find that Sunstreaker was cursing at the tree tops.


"Taking lessons from Hatchet, Sunny?"

The younger twin paused to give the red hellion a look that plainly said 'of course' before looking back up into the tree, where Shadetamer looked...very much worse for wear. He was scratched up, dents everywhere - Sideswipe was proud to say that one dent looked like a perfect mould of Sunstreaker's hand - and energon was leaking all over his body from where the battle axe had nicked his energon lines.

"You're brother's dead, why bother fighting?" Sideswipe called up.

The bounty hunter sneered. "You will both avenge for my brother's death!" he called.

Sideswipe smirked mirthlessly. "You won't be able to do that from up there, you glitch, or did you drink a cube of 'stupid' instead of energon this morning?"

An angry bellow met that statement, and then a rustle of branches as the smaller mech swung down from the tree, blades from his arm protruding out as he took the ready position. Sunstreaker snarled, while Sideswipe smirked, twitching his hand as if to say 'bring it on.' This would be too easy.

Shadetamer ran towards them as they started forward in his direction. They met head on, fists and bodies moving in the deadly art of combat. Shadetamer was quick. But it was inevitable that he was no match for twins whose bondmate and sparklings were in severe danger. With a yell, Sunstreaker grabbed the mechs wrists, forced them inward, and plunged the blades deep into the spark area.

The black mech gasped and choked, pulling the blades out, clinging to life, until a black hand punched through the chestplates and ripped out his weakly pulsing red and silver spark.

Shadetamer fell to the ground, grey.

Sunstreaker panted heavily, feeling the victory of the dead spark in his hand.

His twin carefully placed a hand on his shoulder and murmured, "C'mon bro. Let's go get our babies back, yeah?"

"Yeah," muttered Sunstreaker, throwing the remains of the spark housing on the ground and following his twin onto the base.

"So let me get this straight..." Hound said carefully, all six mechs standing outside the now blackened base after the Seekers had completely demolished it. "You're just gonna...TURN... on Megatron because he kidnapped sparklings and their carrier."

Starscream scowled. "I would prefer not to repeat myself to a groundpounder. But in essence, yes."

"That's very... abrupt."

"Hey!" Skywarp crooned from where he was tickling a giggling Brightspark and her brothers from where they were hanging from Thundercracker's shoulder vents, clearly enjoying themselves. Hound decided that if there was anything scarier than Hatchet on a bad day, it was the goofily grinning Skywarp playing with sparklings. "Seeker code and all. It's better not to question it."

"Oh, just drop it Hound," Ratchet said tiredly, still directing Mirage on how to fix several cut lines and patch the ruined clamps on his chest plating. "They're not a threat to me or my sparklings. At this point, they're not a threat to any Autobot."

All three Seeker did not seem to appreciate being called non-threats. They were still very much dangerous. Their priorities had just... rearranged themselves. "Now that the explanations is out of the way, we have matters to attend to. You have the medic and his sparklings. WE are going to make certain fools see the error of their ways." A grin promising much pain curved its way across Starscream's face. "If they live long enough to see them."

After waiting for his trinemates to (reluctantly) hand the sparklings over to the green scout, they launched into the air and headed back to battle.

"That was... odd," Hound muttered.

"Jazz always did say you found allies in the strangest of places," his mate commented. "And I think this is all I can do. Where in the pit are Sunstreaker and Sideswipe?"

"Right here!"

The group turned to find Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, looking rather proud and relieved, but covered in all the signs of battle. Ratchet breathed a heavy sigh and looked towards them as they rushed forward to him.

"Easy...my chestplates hurt," murmured the medic, Mirage backing away to allow the twins to get through.

More careful than Hound and Mirage had ever seen, both mechs knelt and surrounded the injured mech, embracing him, holding him close. It touched the newly bonded mechs at the sweetness of the actions. Hound had to struggle to keep the triplets in his arms, as they clicked and reached out for their creators, babbling 'papa', 'daddy,' or 'father.'

"We know," murmured Sideswipe, gently nuzzling Ratchet's neck. "We felt what the bastard did to you as we came out of stasis. We wish we could have made it here sooner."

"Thanks," Sunstreaker directed to the spy and the tracker, reluctantly letting go of his mates to get his happily squeaking sparklings.

"Don't thank us, it was the Seekers," said Hound, taking the opportunity to sling an arm around his bondmate's waist.

"Seekers?" the red twin asked incredulously.

"Yes...Seeker programming dictates the preservation of carriers and their sparklings," Ratchet informed, curled up in the warrior's arms, his optics dim with pain and exhaustion. Sunstreaker frowned at the explanation, but knelt down with his mates again, their sparklings cooing and clicking excitedly. Jumpstart immediately reached for Ratchet, and Speedlight for Sideswipe. Not being able to deny, both mechs took their offspring while Brightspark curled up happily in her father's arms.

"Aw, that's so cute," the noble said, grinning at the family.

"Shut it," muttered Sunstreaker, but without any malice.

"We go home?" Speedlight asked curiously.

"Yeah Speedy, we're gonna go home now," the red twin murmured to his sparkling, rubbing over the little yellow mechs audial horns to coax him into recharge as they stood, supporting Ratchet between them.

Hound left with the family.

Mirage stayed. He had a battle to join.

The battle was, for intent and purposes, going neither way. The Decepticons had called in reinforcements, as had the Autobots, and now it was at somewhat of a stalemate. Prime, however, felt his spark sink when he heard jet engines in the distance steadily growing louder. Megatron, on the other servo, was grinning widely. Both were very aware the only reason they were so evenly matched this time around was because of the distinct lack of the Seekers after the Coneheads had been brought down.

But luck, or Primus, was on their side this day when the shrill voice of the Decepticon Second in Command shrieked over the din... "MEGATROOOOOOON!"

Many paused in their fights, glancing curiously at the three speeding jets, even as the one that was Starscream pulled ahead, transformed mid-flight... and slammed into the Decepticon tyrant with the full force of a semi-truck hitting a car seven times smaller than itself.

Luckily for Megatron, Cybertronians were built far sturdier than any Earth vehicle.

It still didn't stop the impact that bowled him over, he and his second tumbling across the ground with the force. He snarled, trying to reach for a wing, an arm, something that would give him a grip, but the Seeker was off him, screeching curses and threats, kicking at his body and shooting him with his null ray while both sides of the battle stopped to watch the spectacle.

"Bastard! HOW DARE YOU SUBJECT SPARKLINGS TO THAT!" the tricoloured jet shrieked, deafening the audials of those surrounding for s few moments from the sheer pitch to his voice.

Finally, the warlord found a gap and grabbed his SIC by the throat and hissed, "Fool. Sacrifices must be made for furthering the Decepticon cause. Why did you think I kept you at base?"

Starscream's optics burned with a hateful fire and he kicked out, a sharp ringing of metal hitting metal as the pede contacted with Megatron's interface panel. Megatron yelled and let go as pain bloomed from that point. Damn it, the Seeker knew he could get riled and aroused in battles – which is why it hurt to be kicked there.

Being let free, Starscream shot both his nulls rays at his leader, but screamed as a laser cannon shot pierced his wing.

Shockwave's optic glowed victoriously as he let his smoking canon arm fall to his side.

"You are not worthy of life in the Decepticon army Starscream. You don't have the hard spark that has goals for necessities. You are no longer an asset."

Many were now staring in absolute surprise and interest. Starscream snarled through the pain in his wing and let loose two shrill whistles in Seeker Cant. Almost immediately his Trinemates were at his side, wings flared, expressions murderous and nullrays warm and ready to fire.

"Not worthy to be a Decepticon?" Starscream hissed quietly and the nearest combatants minus Prime and Megatron backed up several steps. They had all seen Starscream angry. They had seen him furious. But this... this was pure, cold rage. Starscream's voice was almost pleasant to listen to when it was set that low. "You, Shockwave, are not worthy to be living."

Shockwave said nothing, merely taking aim again. But before he could fire off another shot, a loud voice cried out in shock and pain. Optics flew to where Jazz was standing, face twisted in pain and clutching at his chest plates. "P-Prowl's..." His visor flashed, his gaze finding the large purple Decepticon and then he howled, "YOU! YOU KILLED MY SPARKLING!"

Stunned silence followed, so many unsure as to what to do. Prime shot a wary glance to where the Seekers had frozen in place, and then glanced among the fighters to see that the Coneheads had rejoined them, their own expressions turning very dark.

Prime had time to think the one thought: 'Primus, save us all...'

And then all Pit broke loose.

"How are they doing First Aid?"

Said mech turned to see his mentor sitting up in his berth and he frowned behind his mask.


The CMO held up his servos. "I just want to know how Starscream and his trinemate are doing..." Ratchet said, "and then I'll lay back down."

First Aid shot a quick glance to where Starscream and Skywarp were in medical stasis, Skywarp having the least damage, while Starscream still had several dents, tears and the large hole in his wing.

"They're stable..." the young medic said carefully. "Wheeljack says that Skywarp at least should be up and on his pedes again by tomorrow."

"Well...that's the least of my worries," the elder medic admitted. He wanted the stats on everyone.

As soon as Jazz had made his proclamation, it had been a 7-on-1 battle between all the Seekers and Jazz versus Shockwave. The purple mech had escaped with his life, but only barely. Ratchet was sure that Shockwave wasn't going to come back down to Earth ever again after what the Seekers did to him. Starscreams trine had needed medical attention, but the Coneheads decided to go back to the Nemesis. He had heard that First Aid had to spend over an hour of cleaning all of the energon and parts of the purple mechs body our of each Seeker's frame.

Ratchet sighed heavily as he thought of Prowl and Jazz. It had happened so fast, according to Bluestreak, who hadn't stopped babbling ever since he had watched the older Praxian get shot through the chestplates. The sparklet died instantly, according to Wheeljack's and First Aid's scan.

But the knowledge, he knew, would not console his SIC and TIC, who had locked themselves in their quarters from the grief.

First Aid nodded wearily, knowing Ratchet would get his way eventually, and supplied, "Your bondmates have recovered nicely from their fights and are happily entertaining your sparklings in the rec room at the moment. Prowl...I sealed up his chestplates and fixed everything, but his sparkling is still lost. He went with Jazz as soon as he was up. Last I heard, Bluestreak is the only one they'll talk to right now. Everyone else is fine."

The white mech sighed, leaning back into his berth. The information sustained him...for now.

"Could you ever forgive?"

Hound faced his bondmate and frowned, asking, "What do you mean?"

The noble cleared his intakes and went on, "If you were Prowl, or Jazz, or even the Seekers who found it such an affront to hurt the sparklings...do you think that you would ever, even if it's in a million years time, find it in your spark to forgive the actions?"

Hound stared at the noble wrapped in his arms for a long moment. "I think, it would depend on the one I am forgiving," he said at length. "If the one who I were to forgive were to really feel remorse over what they had done... then perhaps one day. If we're talking about Megatron and Shockwave however..."

Mirage nodded, thinking. "I suppose it would be quite impossible..."

There was a stretch of silence, bot wrapped in their own thoughts. Eventually Hound broke it again.

"Pretty big shock though."


"The Seekers. Never knew they had programming like that..."

"I did."

"How..." Hound trailed off before laughing softly. "Towers."

Mirage smiled softly.

"So why the question about forgiveness?"

Mirage was quiet. Hound almost believed he wouldn't answer and then Mirage answered in a small voice. "I don't think I could be like you Hound... I don't think I could find it in me to forgive."

Tightening his hold around the noble mech in assurance, the green mech murmured, "It's okay, you know. Some mechs can't find it in themselves to forgive. It's understandable, because some, especially you, have been burned by forgiving others before, which is why I think that you'd have a bit of a stigma with it."

"It worries me," the slimmer mech admitted.


"Because...what if...it makes me bitter? What if it makes Prowl or Jazz bitter? I don't want anything worse to happen, and usually a bitterness over something can cause catastrophic change. After all, that's how this war started..." He trailed off, biting his lower lip in thought.

"Raj," Hound murmured reprovingly, "Don't think like that. We can only try to forgive, and if we can't do that, we try to move on. We try to make the next day a brighter one."

Sighing, Mirage whispered, "You're right, honey...do you mind if I call you honey? I've been thinking of 'Honey' whenever I see you."

The tracker chuckled, looking adoringly into the molten gold optics shining with love and replied, "Of course, sweetspark. Now...before I make you forget everything by making you scream my name in pleasure...is there anything else you'd like to discuss?"

Smirking, Mirage replied, "Oh nothing...other than I think I've got my 'happily ever after' as good as it'll get."

As lips descended onto another, their sparks flowed and pulsed with love and care. They knew that Hound was right. They had to try to make the next day, the next hour, the next moment, into a brighter one, filled with all the love they could bring.

A/N: Oh…my…god…that was huge.