AN: This fanfiction right here is and was my mighty transition back into the realm of writing. It began as a drabble that turned into a monster. I just needed to work out some kinks from my long hiatus, and I felt like writing something kind of silly that I would never ever post or show to a soul. Wouldn't you know it… it ended up growing a conscience of its own, thumbs, and plans for world domination. Such a monster could not go unposted, so voila.

For future reference, unposted is not a word. Do as I say, not as I do.

Disclaimer: I never claimed to own them. I just like to borrow them once in a while for destructive purposes. :)


Title: Nortan Antivirus
Characters: Predominantly Skywarp and Thundercracker. Nonslash.
Genre: Humor
Summary: The Constructicons deem it 'system-upgrade time', but unfortunately, the ever elusive Skywarp is scared of needles and is prepared to torment Thundercracker to the grave in order to ensure his own safety.


It was quiet.

Quiet was a novel concept within the Decepticon base. A rarity. An apocalyptic phenomenon.

A fragging miracle.

Thundercracker assumed that it had something to do with the victory of their last energy raid. In fact, he was sure of it. Drunk mechs were happy mechs, though initially violent and loud. Happy mechs were never loud for long, however, as they often turned to quiet, unconscious mech as the high-grade flooded their systems to the point of forcing them into involuntary stasis. This, coupled with stupid drunken antics and brawls meant that the only conscious Decepticons would be the ones who knew to stay quiet and scarce.

The raid had been quite the victory to result in so much quiet.

The Decepticons had managed to gather 98% of their desired energy goal, plus the Autobot Jazz's left arm. The results consisted of a very pleased Decepticon leader, plenty of energon to go around, a new trophy for the rec room wall, and an abundance of free time to plan for the next energon raid. In addition, various secondary schemes were being set into motion, meaning that boredom was not an issue.

Thundercracker, having recently emerged from the medbay after a three day stay, was thoroughly enjoying his R&R. The last battle had been an outstanding success, but he had still sustained mortifyingly serious injuries after stopping an airborne minibot with his face. Of course, Thundercracker had made sure to throw it back despite his missing fingers and chassis-plating looking like it had just been mauled by the Jaws of Life.

As it was, he had no regrets. He got to miss the loud share of the celebration. Starscream was in a strategy meeting, probably vehemently forcing his opinions on the vast majority with all of the vigor of a malfunctioning blender. This would ultimately result in a very dented, very irritable, very loud Starscream that he would be expected to placate when the time came. Skywarp's location was… in the base. Probably. He did not know where, but what he did know was that there were no sounds of distant explosions, no cries of fury, no limbs flying through his wall, no injured Decepticons stumbling around looking for the warper in question, so for the time being, he did not care.

Thundercracker instead reveled in the rare tranquility, having long since forgotten what the sound of nothing sounded like. His life was, on average, a hectic mess of 'boom', explosions, and questionable fluids. When he was not in battle, fulfilling orders from his air commander, baby-sitting Skywarp, recharging, or refueling, he was on duty. Repetitive shifts with mechs that he did not like at all. The only time it was relatively entertaining was when infighting occurred, but the consequences were rarely worth it. Megatron was vehement about his opinion on infighting. Still, revenge was often dealt out quietly when Megatron was not looking.

Though he did not enjoy being idle, his schedule left very little time for himself, which is why he felt absolutely no guilt for simply lying in his room and partaking in one of his greatest pleasures—reading. It was tranquil, therapeutic, and temporarily made him forget. He forgot the war, his duties and responsibilities, and even the splendid memory of having to watch Hook dig a mangled flock of geese out of his intakes a few days back. He had an appreciation for most writings, even extending his tastes to Earth literature. No one knew and he expected to keep it that way.

How he spent his free time was different from most mechs in the base, though despite common belief, free time within the Nemesis was not simply limited to drinking oneself into a coma. Starscream, for example, spent an incredible amount of time perfecting battle strategies, Megatron-overthrowing strategies, and security systems to keep the masses from the privacy of his room strategies. Starscream was complex in the fact that he was paranoid, but also conceited enough to believe that he was infallible—a major downfall that Thundercracker knew would ultimately get him slagged.

Skywarp was the type who spent a good portion of his time trying to get IN to Starscream's room just to prove that he could. Skywarp did not believe in strategies. He did not often think about things like that. In fact, Thundercracker often wondered if the dark Seeker really thought much of anything at all. Skywarp lived in the moment, which was obvious in everything that he did. It was instant gratification that drove his actions, not logic.

That reasoning was exactly why Thundercracker was hardly surprised when there was a flash of purple near his berth, followed by the sounds of hyperventilation.

He sighed wearily and glanced up from his datapad, spotting Skywarp in the middle of his room. The dark seeker wore the same expression as the time he first googled 'rectum'. Thundercracker raised an optic ridge.

"… Yes?"

"You've gotta hide me, TC." Said Skywarp, sounding uncharacteristically panicked. "They tried to ambush me, those hose-suckers… I escaped by a hair's breadth!"

Thundercracker felt the slightest twinge of concern as he sat up straight and swung his legs over the side of his berth, his shoulder stiff from sitting in one place for too long.

"Ambush? What are you talking about?" he asked, watching as Skywarp circled his tidy quarters with flickering optics, obviously in a state of panic as he looked for somewhere to hide. Thundercracker, who was well acquainted with Skywarp's special outlook on life, had not concluded whether or not he should have genuinely been worried.

"The Constructicons!" Skywarp all but shouted as he stopped pacing, giving the small area between Thundercracker's computer panel and the wall a look-over. "They started early, and guess who their target is? That's right—this guy right here."

It took less than a moment for logic to kick in, and Thundercracker's optics lit up in understanding.

All of his previous concern vanished instantaneously.

"Ah. Is it that time already?"

"No!" Skywarp cried with vigor, attempting to shove himself between the computer panel and the wall. "That's just it!" He grunted as he shifted his position. "There are three more weeks before our annual upgrades. I know—I keep track. I thought that I had three weeks to prepare, but nope!" His engines gave an anxious rumble as he dislodged himself from the small crevice, evidently unable to fit. His panicked gaze turned into one of resentment as he turned to face Thundercracker, throwing out his arms to emphasize his feelings of injustice. "They jumped me. Can you believe it? Those underhanded slaggers! It was three against one!"

Thundercracker set his datapad to the side, watching his wingmate's slightly pathetic attempt to defy the simple laws of physics in ways that, even as a teleporter, he was not capable of manipulating.

"Well, you have never made it easy for them to give you upgrades in the past you know." Thundercracker pointed out, looking lost in though. "I'm surprised they haven't created a Skywarp-locating device to install into your processor. Maybe I should pitch the idea—they might build me a mute button to install on Starscream in return…"

"Naw, they tried that. Remember? I convinced Rumble to pick it out with tweezers. The clumsy midgetbot ended up impaling my processor with them and put me into stasis lock for a while. I was thoroughly convinced your name was 'ThunderSnacker' for three weeks and every time I tried to target something it automatically locked on to their crotch."

"That's what that was about? Huh."

"Mmmmhmm." Skywarp vocalized as he shifted, grunting in his attempt to enter the crevice at a new angle.

"Regardless, the Structies' hate you more than probably anyone on base. They'll probably jump you again. All of them. They have a whole year to stew over this."

"Then I'll warp away from them. Again. All of them." Skywarp's voice was muffled as he tried forcing himself head-first into the gap.

"You can't teleport away from every conflict you encounter, Warp." Thundercracker said, aggravated. "

"Well it's sure worked for me so far, hasn't it? Besides, they can only spend so much time looking for me in a shift. I only have to make sure I stay out of sight when I'm too low on energy to warp." Came Skywarp's stifled reply.

"Yes, but don't you think that my quarters is the first place that they'll look after they realize that you aren't in yours? In fact, I think that they are intelligent enough to realize that you'd skip your quarters entirely and come here first."

"Yep, but I'll be behind your computer console, so they won't see me. My logic is flawless."

"They WILL see you because you are not getting behind that console." Thundercracker concluded wryly, watching his friend fail in his attempt to shove himself into the small space.

"Don't tell me what I can and can't do…" Skywarp mumbled, backing out of the gap as he glared at it cynically. "My wings are just in the way…" he trailed off. He looked as if he was contemplating the situation before he turned towards Thundercracker and drew himself up with his hands on his hips and an air of newfound confidence. "Okay, new plan. If they come looking, it will be two against six instead of just me against six. You can be the bait while I warp to safety." Skywarp grinned lopsidedly, looking quite proud of himself. Thundercracker stared at him sardonically. Skywarp did not seem to notice.

"You're out of your processor if you think I am going to touch this fraggin' half-wit attempt to evade the inevitable. You are not hiding in my quarters, I am not going to be your bait, and I am not going to paint myself in your tacky colors to try to fool the surgeon that knows your innards better than your own creator!" Thundercracker emphasized each point by thrusting his index finger towards the purple and black menace.

Skywarp looked crestfallen. "My colors aren't tacky…"

"I'm not apologizing."

Skywarp brooded, arms absently at his side. "You're the only one I trust to help, TC…"

Thundercracker saw through Skywarp's ploy, and felt absolutely no sympathy. "Well then you are in deep slag. I don't want anything to do with this."

"I won't paint you my colors while you're in recharge this time. I'll just need you to help me keep tabs on the Structies so I can run for cover."

"I hate to break it to you, but you're going to have to get your upgrade eventually." Thundercracker pointed out, arms crossing as he watched Skywarp bend down and rest his arms on his bent knees, calculating the space beneath Thundercracker's desk. "Everyone goes to the medbay eventually. Everyone. You moreso than others."

Skywarp shot him a bitter stare at the comment, quickly straightening up with his arms crossing defiantly. "They're past even wanting to give me my upgrade at this point. They want me to suffer for every foul and unholy thing that I have ever done to them. TC, I have done a lot of foul and unholy things to them. A lot."

Thundercracker sighed, realizing that a day of boring, uneventful peace was now a distant memory. He had enjoyed it while it had lasted…

"Well stop it then."

"Easier said than done."

It was the same thing every four-hundred-eighty solar cycles. With Earth's technological evolution came new viruses, new spyware, new trojans, hackers, and other malicious attacks. Fortunately, the Decepticons were generally devoted to keeping track of the upgrades necessary to remain unscathed by such attacks. Earth's technology was primitive at best, but even Thundercracker had to admit that every once in a while, something clever and equally disastrous was distributed in such a way that only the Decepticons were meant to obtain it. The threat only grew with Autobot scientists assisting the meatbags.

Naturally, this meant that with every upgrade, each Decepticon was scheduled to report to the medbay for a relatively painless and only mildly invasive procedure that took no more than a couple of Earth minutes. For some reason, Skywarp had it ingrained into his processor that the upgrade was some form of horrible torture unfit for even the most lowly of creatures (except the Lamborghini twins, who deserved to be beaten senselessly with their own limbs.) He was under the delusion that it was invasive, painful, and potentially the worst experience of his life. He swore to Primus that getting his wings ripped off was like a tickle compared to what he experienced under the hands of the Structies'. Yet, he always came back unscathed and admitting that it wasn't so bad. When the next upgrade rolled around, however, it was the exact same thing all over again despite Thundercracker's reminders of how insignificant the procedure is.

"So what, then? You want to die a horrible death because you are infected with a virus that every other Decepticon will be immune to except yourself because you are scared of needles?" Thundercracker summarized.

"I'm not scared!" Skywarp responded almost too quickly before stopping to consider Thundercracker's presumption. "I mean…" He shifted awkwardly. "… Yeah, pretty much."

Thundercracker plod back down onto his berth, his interest in the situation instantly vanishing. Shoulders propped slightly against the back wall, he picked up his discarded data pad, bent one of his knees, and fixed his discreetly amused stare on Skywarp. He would let his friend do whatever he wanted, but he would not allow himself to get sucked into the escapade. Not again.

No slagging way.

Not ever.

"Well then, you have fun evading them. Alone. You, by yourself, against all of them. Six of them. Perhaps all at once." He began, bending an arm behind his head as a makeshift cushion. "Heh. That would be unfortunate. I can only imagine what they would do in addition to installing your upgrade when they do manage to catch you. Probably reattach your face upside down, stick a wrench in your afterburner, and install a microchip that forces you to insult everyone you talk to. They have free reign of you frame, really."

"So glad to know you're such a sympathetic, considerate mech, otherwise I might think that you're trying to scare me."

"Can you imagine talking to Megatron?"

"Really, I thought you wanted me to get my upgrade." Skywarp scowled.

"That would be fun to watch. 'Oh yes, Mighty Megatron, you sodding idiot! By the way, did you know that your helmet is stupid? It is not intimidating in the least, and it makes you look like an ugly femme with a unibrow.'"

"Well good job, because now I want to get it even less."

"He would be so furious…" Thundercracker continued, appearing either to have not heard or not cared about Skywarp's dismay. "First he would probably turn you inside out, then smack you repeatedly with his fusion cannon. He would be so blinded by rage and overwhelmed with the desire to inflict pain that he would not even be able to aim it properly—hence the smacking you with it rather than disintegrating your head with it. He would probably then get the same helmet twice its normal size in an act of defiance and put a picture of it on your crypt—granted you have a crypt. He might smelt you. I wonder how much I could sell spare pieces of you that roll under tables and chairs. Probably not much, but every little bit helps in this economy…" Thundercracker pondered, completely ignoring Skywarp as he thoughtfully tapped his lip components with his index finger.

"You are dead to me."

"You are going to be dead anyway and turned into a nice pool of melted smelt, which I am okay with at this very moment in time. You will make a lovely pool of liquid metal."

"So nice to know you care."

"Well what kind of ally would I be if I didn't?"

"You reeking pile of toaster parts, you aren't even taking this seriously!" Skywarp cried, anxiously putting his hands on his helm and gripping the vents. "They jumped me, TC! With the intention of maiming me! Doesn't this bother you? Because it bothers me!"

"Why would they maim you if it is their job to fix you?"

"Because they hate me and probably want to replace my engine with a typewriter."

"They did not injure you, though. Or tranquilize you. Or put sugar into your energon lines. Or strap you to a chair and perform surgery without putting you into stasis lock."

"They don't put me into stasis lock when they perform surgery! In fact, I think they purposely wake me up when I show up in stasis." Skywarp wailed, bending his head in aggravation. "They collect my tears and offer them to Primus as a blood offering. Either way, TC, I promise you that they will do all of those things as painfully as possible if they catch me! THEN they'd insert the upgrade. Then they'd weld my foot to my forehead and make Reflector take pictures."

Thundercracker sighed long-sufferingly. "Okay, little miss drama-struts. Just be cooperative, do not insult their intelligence because you have no room to talk, strike up a pleasant conversation about hauling dirt and building stuff, and then, once you are in their semi-good graces, get the upgrade. Maybe they won't maim you if you just sit still like a good boy and cater your conversation to their forte."

"No, I've tried that. They'll still try to replace my spark with a potato battery."

"Well at least after they maim you and install your upgrade, you're done until the next upgrade. They'll probably keep you awake for the procedure, too." Thundercracker said, turning his attention back to his datapad. Despite believing Skywarp's claims of the Constructicons purposely harming him, it did not really concern him to the point of doing anything about it. After all, he often wanted to hurt Skywarp as well. Very often. More often than not, when he truly thought about it.

The Constructicons would not do any permanent damage, even though Skywarp had long since earned a one-way trip to their bad side. It was a talent of his to make anti-friends. More specifically, he had gotten on Hook's bad side. It was really unfortinate to be on one's surgeon's bad side. Fortunately for Skywarp, however, was that his ability to manipulate time and space was very valuable to Megatron, meaning that the warper had to be in optimal shape at all times. Skywarp knew this, yet he still went through great lengths to avoid the Constructicons, which Thundercracker found more than a little ridiculous.

Skywarp looked visibly disturbed, going quiet as he shifted from foot to foot. "… Think if I pacify them with promises I have no intention of fulfilling, they'll hurt me less?"

"Probably not."

Skywarp looked as if he came to a sudden realization.

"But I can warp through time and space."

"Glad you figured that out. However, smart one, you do know that they know where you sleep, right?"

Skywarp did not miss a beat, suddenly slipping on his charm like a tight-fitting garment. "Well it is a good thing that I have such a caring trinemate who will take me in during my time of need." Skywarp's smile was positively dashing.

Thundercracker wanted to punch him.

"I'd rather get trampled by a Dinobot. Now go find somewhere else to cower."

"Come on TC, you can't abandon me while the Structies are after my aft! They've probably put up posters with a reward on them! 'Wanted: Skywarp's aft. REWARD: 10,000 credits and a violence-free repair session'. The whole base will be after my aft—and not because it looks shiny and well-kept!"

"Not the whole base." Thundercracker said thoughtfully. "I know I don't care either way, as long as you keep your aft away from me and leave me the slag out of this."

"You're sparkless."

"And you're an idiot. Now shoo. Andale'."

Skywarp looked like he was about to retort before the sound of Thundercracker's door-buzzer reverberated through the room. Any comments that he had any intention of making were duly abandoned as he turned his terrified gawk towards Thundercracker's slightly surprised one.

"The Constructicons…" Skywarp whispered. "They're here for me…"

There was a long moment of silence before Thundercracker got off of his berth with yet another sigh. He was slightly taken aback. He was not often disturbed in his quarters at all. The rare times that he was disturbed, it was either Skywarp who did not seem to acknowledge the existence of doors, let alone a doorbell, or Starscream, who liked to display his authority by using the override code and storming in whenever he pleased.

He had almost forgotten that he had a buzzer.

He started making his way to the door, deciding that IF it was one of the Contructicons (which he doubted.), he wanted to acknowledge their beckon and stay on their good side (as it was always wise to stay on one's surgeon's good side). As a bonus, it would force Skywarp out of his room. He was always up for forcing Skywarp from his presence.

As he predicted, Skywarp was suddenly in his path, blocking the door, and halting his advancement with a hand to his chestplate.

"Hold on a minute. You can't open that door." the purple jet whispered harshly. "This is my safehouse, not a fraggin' teaparty! No girls allowed!"

Thundercracker irately brushed Skywarp's hand off of his chest as the buzzer sounded again. "Correction. This is my personal quarter that is, as of now, an upgradeless-Skywarp free zone. Better fire up your wormhole, because I can have a teaparty with girls if a fracking want to." He said, walking to the panel on his wall.

Skywarp made an exaggerated, strangled noise of exasperation, warping out of the room just as Thundercracker pressed the panel on his wall to open the door.

"Oh, Thrust. To what do I owe this pleasure?"


Thundercracker was immediately suspicious when he woke up from recharge the next solar cycle without the help of Skywarp, or to the sounds of volatile destruction, or the sight of a Cassetticon lodged in his ceiling.

Even though he refused to help his fellow Seeker the previous night, Thundercracker was, whether he liked it or not, Skywarp's companion and knew better than anyone that more than three hours without his wingmate harassing him meant that something was amiss. He did not particularly enjoy it, but throughout the millenniums he had become accustomed to and very tolerant of Skywarp. He took more slag from him than he would ever tolerate from anyone else.

He pinned his tolerance on loyalty to his trine and his sense of honor. No one believed him.

Regardless of his patience, he enjoyed getting dragged into Skywarp's schemes as much as he enjoyed bathing in acid. He avoided them like cosmic rust. In spite of his efforts to keep his dignity and face intact, he was more often than not forced to intervene in whichever scheme anyway, which resulted in both a broken face and broken dignity. After so many long years of trying to convince himself that he was not that pan-twat of a Seeker's keeper, he one day came to the degrading realization that in all reality… he was. He was not happy about the realization, either. He was livid at the sudden understanding that Skywarp had unknowingly crossed the boundary of simply 'wingmate'. He had wormed his way into the 'companion' and 'friend' category that Thundercracker guarded so diligently.

He was so upset by the realization at the time that he then proceeded to tackle Skywarp to the ground and beat his putrid cog-sucking face in until it resembled his aft.

After several long minutes filled with metallic fists against metallic victim, loud complaints from Skywarp, and the sound of Thundercracker's engines whirring in pure rage, the punches stopped as fast as they had started and the anger vanished as quickly as it had come. Thundercracker's rationale had kicked back in.

Thundercracker grudgingly helped him up while Skywarp called him a psycho, mumbled an apology, walked away without an explanation, and resigned to his fate henceforth.

Nothing outwardly changed after that besides Skywarp calling him a nutter for several weeks and forcing the Cassetticons test his energon for tampering. During that time, Thundercracker came to peace with breaking his self-established taboo. He spent every waking moment with the other Seeker anyway, so why not?

Besides, he had to dedicate his life to making sure that his not-so-bright friend did not cross the line that would ultimately get him slagged, and for some reason, Skywarp trusted him indefinitely with that task.

That did not change the fact that his partially benevolent but firm standing hatred for the pest was resolute.

So, keeping in mind that he had given himself the task of rescuing his wingmate from his own stupidity, or cushioning the impact at the very least, he could not help but be suspicious since he had heard nothing since Skywarp had bothered him the night before. His curiosity was more out of habit than actual concern.

With a tired, contemplative noise leaving his vocalizer, he groggily made his way from his recharge berth to the panel on his door, lost in his recharge-laden suspicion as he hit it. He walked slowly through his open door, off balancing somewhat and hitting his shoulder against the edge of his doorway as he attempted to fully awaken. He paused as he stepped out into the hallway, sending a contemplative glance towards Skywarp's door located next to his.

He paused, staring with half-open optics at the door.

It took him four seconds to fully remember that he had vowed that he would not go out of his way to actively partake in Skywarp's scheme.

He turned on his heels and made his way blearily yet purposely towards the rec room for his morning energon, pushing all thoughts of Skywarp and his evasive game from his processor. He had better things to worry about.

His shift did not start for roughly six Earth hours, but that did not mean that he could not make himself useful. Staying idle simply meant that he would have more time to contemplate how long he had been locked in the base, which was a detail that he did not care to linger on. He, along with most of the other Decepticons, had been locked in the Nemesis for several days due to a suspicious shortage of orders from the higher-ups. Even Starscream had been strangely quiet, which was a miracle in itself. For Thundercracker, being locked in the base with nothing to do meant that he had more time to focus more on the feelings of claustrophobia beginning to set in, making him feel sullen and agitated.

More sullen and agitated than usual.

He chose not to acknowledge the mechs that he passed in the purple hallways. He especially did not acknowledge what appeared to be Dragstrip and Wildrider attempting to forcefully stuff something slimy and gelatinous in consistency into Breakdown's mouth as he flailed in a desperate attempt to escape.

He walked into the rec room, noticing with contentment that it was relatively empty. It was an odd time in the late morning and most of the other Decepticons were either sleeping, drinking, or on duty. The few mechs littered around the room did not acknowledge him, and he returned the favor as he weaved his way through tables to the energon dispenser on the far side of the room.

He noted the presence of three of the Constructicons sitting at a table near the main doors, concluding that he would probably not be seeing Skywarp while he reenergized. He was okay with that. Skywarp was an energon-thief anyway, always consuming Thundercracker's portion whenever he looked away. The pig-slagging glutton. It was absolutely ridiculous, considering that Skywarp was allowed more energon than three mechs his size put together due to the massive amount of energy it took to power his warps through time and space.

Regardless of that detail, it apparently did not change the fact that the pipe-sucker still felt the need to steal his ration as well.

Thundercracker relished the thought of being able to drink his entire ration in peace for once. Filling a cube to the brim at the energon dispenser, he sat down at a remote table on the far side of the room. He was not in the mood to socialize—not then, not ever.

With a contented sigh, he lifted the energon to his lip components and took a sip, feeling immediate rejuvenation as the liquid left a tingling trail down his throat. He idly sloshed the energon in his cube as he leaned back in his chair, contemplating the possibility of a solo flight before his shift started. He was not nearly as restless as his trinemates, but he did occasionally get the urge to harass the members of his faction until he got permission to stretch his wings. It was immature, yes, but there was no denying that his triune was not the most… dignified of groups.

Dignity… ha.

Thundercracker shook his head. He was an Aerial Elite— Starscream, Skywarp, and he all were. They were good at what they did. They were the most valuable resource that Megatron had and they knew it. They were loyal to a fault, deadly, fast, and intelligent… Well, mostly intelligent.

Maturity was a different story.

His slightly bitter reflection first drifted to Skywarp, who had a certain childishness that the war had not managed to destroy… though the childishness more often than not included explosions, hydrochloric acid, and mindless destruction. It was a trait that Thundercracker both appreciated and oftentimes resented. Sometimes it forced him into a state that made him want to beat the warper's face in with a floor panel, and sometimes he just enjoyed laughing. Other times, it was just too much.

Not to mention that it reflected overall poorly on their status as 'elite', unless they were trying out for the title of 'the elite flying idiots'. Megatron had told them so.

The blame did not fully rest on Skywarp's antics, however. Starscream was also notorious for 'marring' their 'good name'. The only thing about Starscream was that he was thoroughly convinced that when he was spieling on about how he was superior to everyone and everything, he was doing so because he resolutely believed every last thing that he said. He had it engraved into his processor. He was so absolutely sure of himself that he did not believe that he was making himself and their trine look like a joke to every single Decepticon within their ranks. Thundercracker could keep Skywarp in line to an extent, but there was no reasoning with Starscream. Thundercracker had long since learned to simply let it be.

The consequences were that they were perceived as a great, flying, funny joke with guns.

Thundercracker made a face, setting his partially-empty energon cube on the table. Sometimes, he really hated everyone. Especially Skywarp and Starscream.

His thoughts were immediately cut short due to the sudden sounds of shuffling, chairs overbalancing, and shouts of dismay.

"Nobody move!" sounded the voice of the very last person that Thundercracker wanted to share air with at the moment. He reflexively ran a hand down his face, sliding down in his chair as a feeling of dread coursed through him. "I have got your leader as a hostage and I WILL hurt him if any of you take a single step towards me!"

Primus, it was too early for this.

He peeked between two of his fingers at the scene. Skywarp had a still-seated Scrapper pinned from behind, effectively disabling any movement from the Gestalt Leader. An energon knife was held to the Constructicon's neck, pressed close to several important fuel lines linking processed energon to the CPU. Skywarp's severe expression peeked out from behind Scrapper's shoulder at LongHaul and Bonecrusher, both standing next to overturned chairs. Scrapper seemed completely calm from his ill-fated position, whereas LongHaul and Bonecrusher made no move to step any closer.

All eyes in the room were locked on the scene. Thundercracker took advantage of the distraction, using the opportunity to sink further down in his seat, praying to Primus that Skywarp would not call upon him for help.

Fortunately, Skywarp seemed to notice no one but the three Constructicons.

Skywarp did not move, but his voice was deathly calm. "Now you listen, Constructicons, and you listen close. Yesterday's attempt to catch me by surprise failed miserably, which I am sure is not the last attempt you guys would make to force me to get your Primus-slagging upgrade. I will remind you right now that I DID NOT SIGN A CONSENT FORM FOR THIS!" His voice rang through the otherwise silent room, his expression fixed in a glower.

"A… consent form?" Long Haul's stature went from hostile to confused in less than a klik. Bonecrucher still looked murderous, although that would probably not change until his leader was safe. Thundercracker contemplated sneaking out while everyone was distracted, but decided that the potential to be noticed was unfavorable.

Skywarp sneered. "Yes. A consent form. I do not want your upgrade! I swear that if you guys make a single move against me from this point forward, I will slice your leader's oily neck right now!"

"Um…" LongHaul seemed to be trying to work things out in his processor as he scratched the back of his neck in a human-influenced gesture of confusion. "How would you know to slice his neck now if we told you we wouldn't hunt you down, but did anyway?"

Skywarp smirked darkly. "An excellent question. I saw this coming, so I decided to pitch a fool-proof proposition." The energon knife poked deeper into Scrapper's neck as Skywarp slightly loosened his hold on his hostage in order to pull a datapad from his subspace.

Thundercracker wondered where he learned such big words.

Bonecrusher's fists clenched. "The slag is that?"

"This, my brutish sphincterbot, is a contract." He softly tapped his silent hostage in the forehead with the pad in a taunting manner. "With your signatures, all those in favor shall consent to an extended non-mauling, non-upgrade, cooperative period, till death do us part. I also won't decapitate your leader." Skywarp finished with a lazy, half-opticted smile, chin resting on Scrapper's shoulder.

LongHaul and Bonecrusher shared a look before turning back to the warper.

"And if we refuse?"

"I use your leader's arm as a bat and weld his head to the center of your commons room."

Scrapper seemed to darken considerably at the threat, despite his visor and mask.

"So." Skywarp regained some cheer as he held out the datapad. "If you would just sign by the 'X'…"

But none of them were ever going to get the chance to sign by the 'X', because at that moment the room sounded with the high pitched squeal of a single laser being shot, drowning out Skywarp's undignified cry of "HEY" as the datapad all but disintegrated in his hand. The heat of the laser and the surprise of the attack stunned Skywarp just long enough for Scrapper to ram the side of his helm hard enough against the Seeker's to disorient him, following up with a powerful elbow to his faceplates. As Skywarp was forced to fully let go, he fell onto his skid plate with a grunt of pain.

Mixmaster stood at the entrance of the room, his gun smoking with the evidence of a recent shot.

Thundercracker watched as Scrapper pulled his gun from subspace, stepping over Skywarp's downed form as he pointed the barrel at his cranium. LongHaul, Bonecrusher, and Mixmaster flanked him. The blue Seeker almost considered stepping in. Almost.

Then he remembered that Skywarp probably deserved this.

Thundercracker had a change of heart, almost enjoying himself as the scene unfolded.

"You boltless cogsucker, I was up all night working on that…" Skywarp muttered indignantly, referencing his contract as he laid a hand on his dented faceplate.

"We don't take orders from lowly, imperfect life forms, and you are in no position to bargain. Pull a stunt such as that again and I am afraid that an upgrade will be the least of your worries." Scrapper said darkly.

"Imperfect?" Skywarp sounded offended as he pushed himself up onto his elbows, but blinked as he was suddenly face-to-face with the barrel of the Gestalt leader's gun. "Oh…"

"Just remember… your livelihood depends on us. We have very pointy, very painful tools and we know how to use them. We know every cog, every wire, every button in your frame—and we know what each one of them does. If we wanted to, we could turn your existence into the equivalent of an intelligent drooling rubix cube."

Skywarp's expression darkened, fuming as he thrust a finger towards the Constructicons from his position on the floor. "I don't know what a rubix cube is, but I do know that you have not seen the last of me! I refuse to be subject to your oppression!" And, as predicted, the Seeker was gone in a flash of purple.

Silence ensued as a wide range of glances were exchanged among the occupants of the room. Thundercracker did not dare move.

He watched as Scrapper dropped his arm to his side, relaxing as he subspaced his gun once more and turned to face his team members. Bonecrusher and LongHaul turned their overturned chairs upright and sat as Scrapper grabbed his own cube from the table.

There was another flash of purple as Skywarp was suddenly inside of Scrapper's personal bubble. Thundercracker was not sure, but he thought that there was murderous intent in the Constructicon leader's optics at the reappearance of the jet.

"This is mine now." Was all Skywarp said as he snatched the energon cube from Scrapper's hand and warped away once more.

All gazes seemed to shift from the Constructicons to Thundercracker. As if he had been in on the joke of a negaotiation.

"The slag are you all looking at?" Thundercracker snapped, sunk so far down in his seat that his eyes were level with the table top. "I'm just trying to enjoy my energon!"

He sunk down just a little further as his arm snaked onto the table and grabbed hold of his own energon cube. Wordlessly, he pulled it under the table with him as the noise level of the rec room went back to normal.

Despite the whole unfortunate ordeal, Thundercracker had to admit that it left him somewhat relieved to see Skywarp steal someone else's energon for once.

It was nice to not be hungry for a change.


Thundercracker leaned back in his seat, legs stretched out in front of him. He admitted that surveillance duty was not the worst thing that he could have been doing, but its repetitive nature made him uncharacteristically fidgety.

Speaking of fidget…

He sent a discreet glance over his shoulder.

He figured that the only reason Skywarp showed up for duty at all was because monitor duty gave him the freedom to pinpoint the exact location of each of the Constructicons. Regardless of this fact, he was sunken so far down into his seat that his upper back was where his aft should have been sitting. He hid under the table as far as he could manage, though when all was said and done, he just looked ridiculous. Thundercracker was not sure if his wingmate's posture was from exhaustion or simply a subconscious desire to curl up and disappear until the mech-hunt was called off and forgotten. After three days of watching his wingmate sneak around corners, stick to shadows, climb through vents, curl up under chairs, and speak in nothing above a whisper, he was surprised that he had not been forced to intervene just yet. The Constructicons had been suspiciously silent.

Normally he would not have given their scarceness a single thought, though he did have to wonder what it was that they were planning. There was no way that they would have forgotten the 'hostage event' from three solar cycles back, and such a thing was not something that would easily be forgotten. Or forgiven.

So now Skywarp would not only have to worry about an upgrade, but he would have to worry about the Constructicons getting some sick form of revenge. The unfortunate thing was that since they ruled the medbay, Skywarp would have to go to them eventually. Thundercracker almost felt sorry for him, but reminded himself quickly that Skywarp had brought it upon himself. In addition, the Constructicons weren't exactly an unfeeling, intentionally cruel bunch of mechs, persay. They were rough around the edges, Mixmaster had some issues, Bonecrusher was a bit of a brute, but overall they were decent and kept to themselves.

He could safely say they would not utterly eradicate Skywarp, which is what truly mattered.

He leaned back in his chair, glancing at the pathetic form of his friend once more. He noted that he did not move so much as an astro-meter, his blank stare fixated solely on the monitors that displayed the medbay. Every once in a while he would switch his stare towards the screen that displayed the Contructicon's commons area, but for the majority of time, he did not even glance at the other monitors. Thundercracker doubted that he would have even noticed if the Autobots stormed in wearing 'I heart Megatron' decals, presenting various forms of plant life, car parts, and soap sculptures in crude shapes of Megatron's head as peace offerings while groveling in surrender.

Thundercracker mentally shrugged, crossing one ankle over the other as he made himself comfortable in his seat. If Skywarp wanted to spend every moment of his online cycle fretting over what was rapidly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, then that was his prerogative. His only concern was his teammate's performance during their next raid, which he knew was not far off. Starscream was no pushover when it came to sloppiness and Megatron even less so.

Skywarp got spastic when he was tired.

Again, it was not his problem… But Starscream would treat it as such.

Maybe if he talked to Skywarp calmly and used his paranoia against him, he could convince him to give himself up to whatever upgrade the Structies had waiting for him. Just as he made up his mind and was about to open his mouth to speak, he found himself brusquely falling out of his seat in shock due to an enormous, terrified gasp of alarm from Skywarp's direction. Scrambling to his feet with the help of the computer panel, cannons at the ready, he turned, ready to face whatever threat awaited him.

There was no threat though.

No movements on the monitors, no Autobots, no explosions or shark attacks...

Only Skywarp. The purple Seeker sat straight up in his chair, wings visibly shuddering and his hands gripping both sides of the seat. Thundercracker was sure that the metal had distorted under the vice-like grip. Skywarp only had eyes for the monitor, as if seeing his soul-mate for the first time… if his soul-mate had been an eighty-foot kraken with pincers, pliers, and a blow torch instead of tentacles.

"Scavenger's missing! Where is he! Oh slag me, slag meeeee!" The purple Seeker moaned, optics hysterically scanning over the many monitors before him, gripping the seat tighter as if prepared to use it as a weapon.

Thundercracker lowered his cannon, irritation rolling off of him in steady, almost physical waves. He plopped into his chair with a growl, arms crossed tightly over his front.

"Slag it, Warp! Don't DO that!"

Skywarp paid him no mind, only continuing to scan the screens with visible panic. After a moment, though, he let out a huge sigh of relief and sank back into his seat.

"False alarm… he's just in the rec room…"

"Yes, thank Primus the Constructicons have not disappeared from the Nemesis. We may all rest safely knowing that they're close at hand. Especially Hook, who by the looks of it, is right outside the door."

Skywarp's optics got unnaturally wide for a split second while he let out an undignified cry, instantaneously gone in a flash of purple.

Thundercracker glanced at the monitor by Skywarp's previous station, seeing that Hook had not left the medbay at all. In fact, he was calmly taking inventory and had not moved from that spot for three breems. Thundercracker suddenly felt pleased with himself as he once more made himself comfortable.


"TC…"

Thundercracker's optics snapped open.

"TC, can you scoot over…?"

Thundercracker gasped instinctively as he scrambled to sit up on his recharge berth, leaning back on his hands as his look of genuine surprise was quickly replaced with one of anger. His optics focused on the single silhouette of a figure looming over him in his dark quarters.

"Warp! What are you doing here!" He shouted more out of shock than anger, pressing his back against the wall as he struggled to regain his composure.

"The closets are really uncomfortable… I have a horrible knot in my wingjoint from sleeping on a broom. Can you share your berth?"

"No!" Thundercracker cried.

Skywarp screwed up his face in distaste. "You sure have been saying that a lot lately."

"Because I don't want to put up with your idiocy! Primus, Warp! Go to your own quarters!" Thundercracker shouted, miffed at being woken, miffed that he was being dragged into a stupid situation, and miffed that Skywarp had not knocked!

"You know I can't do that!" Skywarp sounded genuinely distressed. "They know where I sleep."

"Yeah, and you have an access code! No one knows it but you!" Thundercracker uttered in exasperation.

"They'll find a way to get in. They'll tap my lock. Or shoot it. I'm not safe there. I have to keep moving."

"Well then you are just going to have to find another broom to cuddle with, because you are not staying in here." Thundercracker deadpanned, still obviously seething.

"What if I recharge in the corner?"

"No."

"I can take the floor!"

"No."

"I will give you my collection of highway speedlimit signs."

"Wait, why do you have-…? Never mind. No."

"What if we just switched rooms for a-"

"No! Go away and find a closet to curl up in! Better yet, go get your fraggin' upgrade so you can stop sneaking around like you're a renegade!"

Skywarp's mouth closed as his posture shifted to that of a mech with a dark secret. Clasping his hands together, he beckoned Thundercracker closer and was not deterred when the blue jet made no move to comply.

"I know you watch Oprah… Skywarp whispered.

Thundercracker looked stunned for a beat, though quickly regained his composure. "You can't prove that."

"Oh, but I can." A smile could be heard in his voice, making Thundercracker growl. "I have photographic evidence."

Thundercracker's engine snarled. "You are going to blackmail me into sharing my room with you?"

"Yes."

"Well fine then."

Skywarp lost his smile. "Can you imagine the abuse, TC? They will laugh at you. Everyone will laugh at you."

"Or they'll come to me for helpful advice, such as how to shrink the waistline and the top ten ways to recover from a breakup."

"Oh come on! This isn't fair!" Skywarp wailed, kicking the leg of Thundercracker's berth. "You get to recharge soundly without the immediate threat of being mauled and tortured while I have to stake out in closets, sneak around like a fugitive, and pay off Rumble to get my energon for me!"

"Unfortunately, I do not get the pleasure of a sound existence thanks to the regrettable presence of a certain trinemate of mine." He mumbled darkly. "Now leave before I am forced to shoot you."

"I'll polish your wings."

Thundercracker opened his mouth to retort, but paused.

Now, he was not nearly as vain as his trinemates, but he did take pride in his physical appearance and its conservation. It was rare that his wings were ever polished because of their unfortunate position on his back…

It also helped that it felt really good…

"I'll use the good stuff." Skywarp grinned charmingly, using Thundercracker's sudden pause to his advantage.

Thundercracker frowned. "… Fine. Okay. But only for one night though. ONE. Uno. And you are warping out, not walking. Also, if you ever kick my berth again, you will have more than the Constructicon's questionable surgical methods to worry about, because I know where you sleep as well."

Skywarp smirked, all but jumping onto the slightly-springy material of the berth, specially designed for the comfort of those with wings. His glee vanished when Thundercracker's hand covered his face, stalling his progress.

"Uh-uh." Thundercracker said, pointing with his free hand. Skywarp followed his friend's free hand from between the gaps of the fingers, looking horror-struck.

"The corner?"

"May I remind you that you offered to sleep there first?"

"I didn't actually mean it!"

"Well then you should not have offered it."

"TC, you are the sparkless spawn of the inferno!"

"I'm glad you think so. Now get to your corner. If you'd like, I could go fetch a broom."


"Again!" Starscream chided as he got to his feet, looking supremely peeved as he glared at Thundercracker. The blue seeker looked less than pleased in return.

"Let's give it a rest, Screamer." Skywarp called from his seat on the floor against the wall, looking tired (and very dented). "We've been at this for hours and we're not getting any better—in fact, I think we're getting worse."

Starscream screwed up his face, wincing slightly as he placed a hand on his wounded side. "We will not stop until I say we stop! Our hand-to-hand has become sloppy, Skywarp. As your Aerospace Commander, I will not tolerate poor performance in any of our defensive or offensive strategies. We have become complacent and lazy! We will not stop until there is sign of improvement."

"Well we're doomed." Skywarp mumbled to himself, before addressing Starscream once more. "Don't get yer' afterburners in a knot. You're just peeved that Thundercracker dented your precious nose and handed you your aft on a platter." Skywarp smirked, leaning forward.

Starscream bristled as Thundercracker sent Skywarp a flat glance that clearly said, 'Please don't ruffle his feathers. You are not the one who is about to spar him.'

The three of them had spent the better part of the day practicing their hand-to-hand combat in one of the forgotten training rooms within the unfrequented depths of the base. The opportunity to get back onto the surface and into the sky had not emerged, allowing them a considerable amount of free time- a detail that Starscream did not like. Their commander had caught them in the midst of their luxury time (Thundercracker was lounging, anyway. Skywarp was lodged behind a computer console trying to keep himself scarce around the base) and forcibly dragged them to the vacant room to 'improve upon their weaknesses'.

They had been punching each other to slag ever since.

They were the pride of the aerospace quadrant of the Decepticon army, meaning that the majority of their fighting was done while airborne. When they experienced one of their rare stationary moments at ground level, they had various weapons to make things go 'boom' from a distance. Due to these simple particulars, their hand-to-hand combat… had much to be desired. This was a detail that Starscream also did not like (though Starscream really did not like much to begin with). What was unfortunate for their commander's ego was that, while clearly out of practice, Thundercracker held the advantage of superior strength and extra close range combat training during his military career. Though they were all obviously out of practice, he had handled the day of training considerably better than his trinemates.

Starscream's ego took personal offense.

After many blows to the cranial unit and probably his logic circuits, he had made it his personal goal to challenge Thundercracker until he managed to semi-permanently impair his blue subordinate. Skywarp did not even mind sitting out while Starscream and Thundercracker maimed each other. It seemed that in Starscream's new desire to prove his superiority over his wingmate, the warper had been forgotten. They had, however, noticed him just long enough to banish him to the corner with nothing but a datapad to keep score on.

He did not really care what happened, simply content with the plain logic that the probability of being found by the Constructicons in the unoccupied area of the base was slim.

So as he sat and tried to pay attention, he quickly remembered that he was not particularly good at paying attention at all. Instead of keeping score of who pinned who, he doodled a picture of Megatron throttling Starscream in Starscream's 'win' category on the datapad. He drew a grumpy-faced seeker head that resembled Thundercracker in the blue jet's section, making sure to capture his friend's superior brooding skills through his art. He examined his handy work with a critical eye, frowning in dissatisfaction.

With two flicks of his wrist, the grumpy-faced seeker had a brand new moustache.

Skywarp smiled.

After a moment of admiring how good Thundercracker looked with facial hair, he glanced up just in time to witness Starscream pinning Thundercracker to the featureless gray floor. A short ringing sound reverberated through the room as Thundercracker managed to roll out from under Starscream's frame, aiming a kick at him for good measure.

He heard Starscream protest rather loudly about the size of the dent.

He drew himself with new hat.

Sounds of battle followed for several long minutes as he entertained himself. He was not really sure who was winning, but what he did know was that they were taking forever and he was out of room to draw on the datapad. He did manage to fit in a picture of Hook waist-deep in acid, but it looked more like he was just getting a rather painful cramp in the middle of a swimming pool.

Skywarp jumped to his feet as Starscream crashed into the wall next to him, letting out a groan of pain as he slid to the ground. Thundercracker took one step towards them from the center of the room, though the peeved look on his face suggested that it was not out of concern for his air commander.

"That will be one tally for me, Warp." Thundercracker said lowly, glaring at Starscream who was now on one knee with a hand on his head.

"Sorry TC." Skywarp said with another glance down at the datapad. "No more room."

Thundercracker arched an optic ridge. "No more r-... well, right then." He shook his head, obviously opposed to the idea of asking questions. He instead turned his attention to Starscream. "Are we done here?"

Starscream huffed, one hand on the bland wall for support as he stood upright, albeit unsteadily. "Done? You insolent fool, of course we are not done here! We will not rest until we get this right!"

"Looks like you're the one who needs to get it right, Screamer." Skywarp cackled.

"Silence! We will do this again!"

"I'm not doing this again, Starscream. I am done here. Spar Skywarp." Thundercracker said ill-temperedly.

"I am your leader, Thundercracker, you shall do as I command!"

Thundercracker's wings went rigid, an inner battle between exhaustion and obedience raging inside of him. Exhaustion won.

"Frag you, Screamer." He said irritably, crossing his arms over his chest. "You are being completely unreasonable right now."

Skywarp thought that Starscream might start having convulsions from the way he was twitching.

"Unreasonable for trying to make our triune the best it can be? With an insubordinate minion such as yourself, it is no wonder our unit is quickly losing its respect!"

Thundercracker uncrossed his arms. "Minion? Primus, Screamer, don't strip a screw. At least allow us to get some energon before we continue to beat each other into stasis."

"I could go for some energon." Skywarp said simply, realizing for the first time that he was running on empty. "Would you mind bringing it back to me? A trip to the recroom is a no go. Like… life or death situation and whatnot. I'll take high-grade, by the way."

"No one will be re-energizing until I say!"

"Are you seriously that offended over the fact that I pinned you first?" Thundercracker rolled his optics.

Skywarp bit his bottom lip-component to stop a smile that threatened to break loose. Starscream always got this way when others defied his will—especially his trinemates who were the only ones who truly listened to his authority because of his position at the Air Commander. At least, they listened sometimes. Like on holidays. Starscream demanded respect. Loudly, too. Any disrespect towards him had him frothing like a broken washing machine.

Starscream drew himself up with narrowed optics. "You pathetic excuse of a rust heap, I accepted my defeat as one with dignity should. I am simply unsatisfied with the sad shape that our team has been reduced to and will not tolerate indolence. If you do not get back in that ring and continue our sparring exercise, you will be severely punished."

"Way to blow hot air out of your mouth." Thundercracker jeered, plainly irritated. "This is unlawful! I am all for long days of training, Screamer, but this is ridiculous! You haven't even asked Skywarp to join in for the past two hours-"

"I'm okay with that. I drew you with a moustache, by the way."

"—which simply tells me that you are butt-hurt about me getting the best of you! Your attempts of hiding behind a 'façade' of leadership are not working and I am going to go get some fragging energon and sit for the first time in 9 hours. Dignity. Pffft."

"Butthurt… pfthaha…" Skywarp sniggered.

"Y-You impudent-"

"-slagball? Fool? Monkey wrench?" Thundercracker snapped, turning his back towards the red Seeker. "I'll be in my quarters if you need me."

Starscream looked livid as his optics followed Thundercracker's retreating form.

Skywarp almost made to follow, but paused as he watched Starscream raise his nullray towards Thundercracker's back and fire. Thundercracker's frame immediately crumpled to the ground in a slightly-smoking heap.

"You should know by now, Thundercracker, not to turn your back to me!" Starscream sneered.

Skywarp made a face. "Bad form, Screamer. You cheated."

"I did not cheat!" Starscream said in his defense. "I punished an act of impudence!"

Skywarp shook his head. "Naw. You definitely cheated. You've been cheating since we got here. You've been cheating since you were sparked. In fact, your score is in the negatives."

Starscream scoffed, waving his hand dismissively. "I do not cheat. I do what I must to win."

"Even cheat?"

"Do you really wish to join Thundercracker on the floor so badly?"

Skywarp looked from Thundercracker's fallen frame to Starscream. "Are you going to cheat to do it?"

Starscream raised his nullray threateningly. Skywarp backed away one step.

"… That would be a yes, I assume."

"Do not push me, Skywarp." Starscream put his free hand on his hip. "Now, do as I command and take Thundercracker to the medbay. We are done here." Without another word, he began to stride purposely towards the door.

"Woah woah woah!" Skywarp exclaimed loudly, deliberately placing himself between Starscream and the door. "Wait a second here, Screamer. Aren't you the one who just slagged him?"

Starscream paused, disgruntled by the sudden roadblock. "Yes. Yes I am."

"Then I have a wonderful idea. Since it's your fault, why don't yout ake him to the medbay?"

"Because, Skywarp, this is what subordinates are for. Why would I waste any more of my time dragging his sorry aft to the medbay when I have you to do that for me?"

Skywarp frowned, looking uncomfortable. "No way. I am not going near the medbay. You would be sentencing me to death."

"Yes you are. And you are taking Thundercracker with you."

Skywarp leaned slightly to look around his commander, furrowing his brows as he once again looked at his fallen (and slightly smoking) friend. He opened his mouth and shuttered his optics, inhaling deeply.

"Nuh uh." He sounded, "I'd rather make out with Astrotrain."

"Skywarp, I do not care if you are if you insist on running away from your upgrade like a sparkling, but you know that I will not tolerate disobedience. You take him to the medbay or I will make sure that you are hand-delivered to Hook."

"But taking him to the medbay IS like being hand-delivered to Hook—like a big metal pizza with a death wish! And I would be my own delivery boy! It's like kamikaze! I don't know if you've heard, Screamer, but I am trying very hard to avoid that. So I vote that you take him to the medbay and I will go stake out in Thundercracker's room with my Xbox, because my self-preservation skills are on full blast right now."

"You will defy the command of your leader?" Starscream's face darkened.

Skywarp seemed to contemplate the question for a moment.

"Yes."

Starscream thrust his nullray against the side of Skywarp's cranial unit. The purple jet smiled sheepishly, seeming to reconsider his answer.

"The again, maybe he does deserve to just lay here and rust. I mean, he DID try to leave our training session without your permission… That's just sinful. Plus he watches reality TV. Did you know that?"

"Do not make me shoot you as well, because I am more than willing at this point."

Skywarp looked thoughtful. "Suppose I just leave him in a hallway for someone to find…"

Starscream's face darkened further. "GO."

Skywarp stepped to the side as Starscream swept by.

"Fine!" He cried, clenching his fists at his side. "But I'm going to do this because I WANT to, not because you told me to!"

"Go." Was all Starscream's said as the door slid shut behind him.

Skywarp scowled, staring resentfully at Thundercracker, who had not moved so much as a centimeter since being shot with the nullray. On a normal day he would have simply teleported Thundercracker to the medbay door, dropped him, and left. As it were, he was so low on energy that even an attempt to warp himself would have been risky. The potential for something to go wrong during a cosmic jump was considerably higher when he was not at his peak performance.

Similarly, even being on the same floor as the medbay meant that the chance of being ambushed by the Structies' was higher as well. His options were to either risk getting permanently crushed in his own self-made wormhole, or to risk getting caught by the Constructicons in the process of bodily dragging his friend up three decks and wishing that he had crushed himself in his own self-made wormhole. His other option was to leave Thundercracker laying there and suffer Starscream's unholy and impressively screechy wrath. It was a similar experience to being yelled at by an angry dolphin.

Then again, the nullray would eventually wear off… Thundercracker would wake up on his own and make his own way to the medbay.

But if he was too damaged to get somewhere populated-…

He was a tough mech, though. He had good survival skills.

But he did offer up his room as a shelter after some major harassment.

His internal battle began to rage. 'He almost made me sleep in the corner. He deserves this. He's going to be okay if I leave him, but I won't be okay if I'm ambushed.'

As he tried to feel justified in leaving his friend's fallen form, he found that he could not quite come to peace with the concept. So as any mech with a strong sense of survival would do, he began to force a sense of justification by thinking of all of horrible things that his friend had done to him in the past.

Such as… There was the time Thundercracker did not surrender his energon when Skywarp was hungry.

Skywarp felt vengeance flowing within his circuits, though not enough vengence to actually leave with a clear conscience. He thought harder, his face twisting with effort.

There was also that time Thundercracker stopped him from using the squishes for batting practice with a stop sign.

Oh yes, there was the righteous fury he was looking for! …

Yet he still could not bring himself to leave.

After a moment of his inner-struggle, he decided it would be better for everyone present to let fate decide.

He began to mentally weigh his options, moving his hands as each thought crossed his processor as if they were the weights on a scale. Loyalty… self-preservation… loyalty… self-preservation… save Thundercracker… save Skywarp… save Thundercracker… save Skywa-

"Well!" Skywarp clapped his hands together, looking pleased. "Looks like I'm saving Skywarp! See ya, TC's unconscious structure!" He casually raised his hand in a gesture of parting as he began to walk away with a bounce in his step. He suddenly felt quite justified in his actions. After all, self-preservation had never failed him before. But then there was the guilt that he was usually good at ignoring…

He paused, glancing over his shoulder.

Technically f I leave him here, I am no better than Screamer… And I do not want to be like Screamer… And TC did give me his berth eventually… after he shot at me. But he's boring… and the Constructicons have a bounty on my head. But he does make a good shield… Vector Sigma….

Skywarp turned around, his optics narrowed. "Okay, fine. Since my conscience has suddenly decided it wants me to be decent for once, I'll drag your sorry aft to the fraggin' medbay!" Skywarp huffed, thrusting a finger at Thundercracker's unconscious form. "But I'll have you know right now, so there are no misunderstandings, that I will drop you and run if I even hear whisperings of a Constructicon's presence! In addition, this is going to cost you a week's worth of energon. Got it? No energon for you for a week, because it will be in my satisfied tanks." There was no reply. "Good enough for me."


Screeeeech…. Screeeech… Screeech.

Thundercracker blearily acknowledged the very irritating sound of metal dragging across metal.

Screeech… "Phew…" … Screech.

He tried his hardest to ignore it, blaming it on the questionable structural integrity of the Nemesis. He tried not to slip too far into the realm of consciousness, lest he become unable to slip back into recharge.

Screeeeeeeeeech! CLANG!

Thundercracker jolted awake as he both heard and felt himself impact the ground. His optics onlined quickly as he pushed himself up onto his arms in alarm, although he immediately crashed to the ground again as his joints gave out beneath him. The sensation of pain very quickly made itself known through his haze, making him circulate air heavily through his vents to keep silent. He recognized the ceiling of the Nemesis, meaning that he was not being held officially captive, but he did not quite understand why he was-.

And suddenly it all came back to him.

He heard the soft whirr of mechanical joints and felt a familiar presence next to him. "Hey, easy TC…"

"Warp…?" Thundercracker sounded disoriented, even to his own audio receptors. He fought to organize his thoughts as Skywarp's face appeared in his line of vision.

"Oh good. Now you can walk yourself. You're kinda really heavy, you know? I couldn't even lift you… I had to drag you three floors up so Starscream could go preen himself. You think you need to go to the med-"

"Skywarp. Shut up."

Skywarp frowned. "Well that's no way to treat the one who just assisted you get to safety. I was willing to drop you in front of the medbay, you know. Feel grateful."

"Yeah. You're a real pal." Thundercracker mumbled sarcastically as he slowly sat upright, feeling less than grateful for the purple jet's definition of 'helping'. "Also, thanks for leaving a trail of my aft-paint throughout the base. Now everyone can find me. I'm sure my backside is absolutely unsightly, just the way I like it."

"Hey, I did what I could alright? Besides, Screamer's the one who shot you. Why are you upset at me?"

"Well he's almost as good of a friend as you."

"He's a cheater." Skywarp nodded.

"No slag…" Thundercracker muttered, rubbing his helm. "It feels like Devestator just used me as a pogo-stick."

"I have one of those." Skywarp said brightly, thoughts lingering on his ever-growing collection of 'interesting-Earth-things'.

"Good for you. Now help me up."

Thundercracker unsteadily got to his feet with the help of Skywarp, bracing himself against the wall as his equilibrium chip readjusted to his upright position. He felt tired due to an alarming lack of energon in his systems and also felt like the equivalent of a giant walking dent. It was nothing his internal repair system would not repair, though he heavily considered a trip to the medbay to abbreviate his suffering.

"You don't look so good." Skywarp pointed out.

"Perceptive, aren't you?"

"Okay, cranky-nuts. If you don't have anything nice to say-"

"Shoot the offender instead."

"Look. You are obviously feeling well enough to threaten me, so I'll just leave you to continue on your solo way. I am in dangerous territory."

"Yes, because being three hallways away from the only mechs within our ranks who can safely remove you from a window, should you decide to get your head stuck in one again, is 'dangerous'."

"To think I was just going to offer to get you some energon."

"It would be gone long before it reached me anyway, you glutton."

Skywarp shot him a winning smile. "In a time of famine, one must do what they can to get their daily ration."

"And apparently his friend's ration as well." Thundercracker replied with a trace of amusement as he took his weight off of the wall to stand for himself. He swayed slightly, immediately steadied by Skywarp's hand.

"You never fail to deliver your fair share of crabbiness when you wake up, TC."

"I am going to dropkick Starscream out of the window." Thundercracker stated. "The same one you got your head stuck in. I don't care if the base floods. It will be worth it." Thundercracker growled, turning his head in an attempt to scrutinize the damage that being dragged through the base had done to his backside. He lamented.

"Plus it would be really funny to wat-."

He felt Skywarp stiffen next to him and slowly looked away from his ruined paintjob to see his trinemate staring at the opposite end of the hallway with an expression resembling a deer illuminated in the glow of oncoming traffic. The sound of distant voices reached his audios and he followed the purple Seeker's gaze to see the leisurely strolling forms of Bonecrusher and Scrapper rounding the corner. Their conversation and velocity skidded to a halt.

Time seemed to stand still as the Seekers locked optics with the Constructicons. A light flickered in the hallway. Neither side moved, as if afraid that any movement might frighten the other side into action.

Thundercracker debated holding Skywarp down until the two gestalt members could cross the hallway and force the upgrade into him, if only to end the ridiculousness. He knew that is what they wanted… to simply capture the warper and complete the simple procedure. On the other hand, they also probably wanted to hurt him at this point. He may have been tired of his friend's antics, but he wasn't about to stand by and let him get pummeled either… At least, not right in front of him.

The first move was made before Thundercracker had come to a final decision.

Bonecrusher drew his hand into a fist before pounding it into his open palm in a gesture that communicated promise of pain and potentially missing limbs. The simple gesture set everything into motion. Skywarp let out a loud, undignified cry as Scrapper and Bonecrusher began a breakneck sprint down the hallway, deceitfully fast for their size. The Seekers instinctively backpedaled.

"I may die in the process, but I'm going to warp now. If I end up trapped in space and time, you can have my pogostick but don't you dare taint my television with the Martha Stewart Show." Skywarp mumbled quickly, disappearing in a flash of purple. Unfortunately, Scrapper and Bonecrusher did not look like they had any intention of stopping, despite Skywarp's escape.

Thundercracker cursed Primus, Skywarp, and his very existence as he was trampled by 80 tons of green metal.


Several more days passed, and as it so happened, Thundercracker's room officially no longer belonged to him. Not only was it no longer his own, but he had not had a decent night's recharge since Skywarp had taken over his room (and somehow, his berth). Skywarp was more on edge than ever, nothing more than a paranoid, fritzing hazard that killed everything he touched.

Plus, during the rare instances where he felt safe enough to recharge, he kicked during his cycle. Thundercracker's dented shin guard was clear evidence of that.

As a result of Skywarp's leaking misery, Thundercracker was also officially in a constant state of brooding. His backside was also still scratched and unsightly. He tried not to let it bother him, but he secretly felt self-conscious about the imperfection. Skywarp had taken to calling him 'Scuffy' until Thundercracker silenced him by reprogramming his television to only view everything educational and devoid of fun.

Fortunately, it was not all bad. Thundercracker did not see much of Skywarp during daily hours, which was good, because he swore to Primus that he would infect his wingmate with Windows Vista the next time he saw him. The elusive Seeker never stayed in the same place for too long, had taken to disappearing for long periods of time, often missed his duty (or tried to be sneaky and swapped unknowingly with other willing Decepticons), and stuck to the shadows when he did happen to go out.

Any time away from the absurdity was welcome, even if it meant having to pick up Skywarp's slack.

After one particularly uncomfortable recharge-cycle in which proper recharge eluded him once again, the morning welcomed Thundercracker with a decently sized Frenzy-shaped leak on the main deck. He was not on duty, but a repair and cleaning crew were necessary, as the main floor had been filling with sea water at a rather alarming rate. Configuring the cleaning and repair crew was a highly sophisticated system that had been engraved into the Decepticon base long before: grabbing the first pathetic beings they found and holding them at gunpoint until they agreed to be a laborer. He had, unfortunately, been one of the pathetic beings walking by as they started taking captives. He had been assigned the title of 'grunt', hand chosen by Soundwave himself. His voice had been utterly sarcastic as he thanked Soundwave for the 'great honor of selecting him since he had nothing better to do with his time' before suggesting that they 'plug the hole up with Ramjet's unnaturally large head.' Ramjet, who predictably took offence, started a quarrel. The quarrel turned into a violent fit of striking limbs, and violence turned into the addition of another hole in the wall.

While Ramjet was mollified, Thundercracker was hastily sent on a solo mission to gather the materials necessary to permanently plug the holes that were filling the room with salty enamel-eroding sea water at an alarming rate.

So he walked slowly towards the elevator that would take him to the F deck, lovingly named the storage-deck, not in any hurry to retrieve the items that he was assigned to retrieve.

He sighed, his bitterness towards life diminishing slowly as he walked. He was usually very compliant. On average, he did not put up any fight when given direct orders. He was a faithful troop who followed commands without personal input, except when it came to Starscream. He would have never dreamed of defying Megatron or Soundwave, however. He saw the consequences of treacherous confrontation through Starscream's habit of tempting fate, which was more than enough to convince him that, generally speaking, life would just be a lot more pleasant if he faithfully followed orders.

Despite his logic, he found himself uncharacteristically disagreeable towards even the higher-ups thanks to Skywarp's recent idiocy.

He could have put a stop to Skywarp's antics in an instant if he so desired. He could have turned him in to Hook and end his own suffering.

But he didn't, and he hated himself for it.

He had somewhat helped the Constructicons in previous years, certainly, but he had never outright betrayed Skywarp… He was specifically loyal to him, though he could not fathom why.

The situation was a double-edged sword. If he turned Skywarp in to the Constructicons, he would be labeled a traitor to his wingmate. If he helped Skywarp evade the Constructions, he would be knowingly allowing the warper to remain vulnerable to new technological threats. To ignore the situation altogether was no better, and only resulted in despair.

He pushed the button to call the elevator and rubbed at his optics with the heel of his hands as he waited. Why did it all have to be so fragging complicated? The situation would not have bothered anyone else on the base. Anyone else either would not have cared, would beat Skywarp into a pulp, or would beat him to a pulp and THEN turn him in to the Constructicons. But not him. He cursed his moral programming and how complicated it made his life.

He stepped into the elevator, pressing the button that would ultimately lead him to the F deck.

In the end, it was not Skywarp making him miserable. It was his own inability to say 'Frag it!' and act like every other Decepticon in the base that made him miserable. If he could only find it within his spark to only care about himself and his own comforts, he would not have been belly-flopped on by Bonecrusher, he would still have his room to himself, he would not have the theme song to Pokemon stuck in his head, and he would not be deprived of his cherished recharge. He would also not be stuck in some sort of pathetic moral dilemma.

He stepped out of the elevator, dragging himself towards the nearest utility closet.

It should not have been a hard dilemma to solve. He cared about Skywarp's wellbeing, but Skywarp had obviously shown more interest in saving his own aft while Thundercracker became the scapegoat. He was used to Skywarp's harassment and self-centeredness—it was just who he was. Since the situation was just a small, insignificant one blown up to epic proportions, and Skywarp was being a self-centered nuisance, he truly thought that he would have an easier time ignoring the situation until it went away,

"Frag it!" Thundercracker said out loud, turning moodily towards the nearest window. He locked gazes with a large, lazy fish drifting outside of the round porthole. "This isn't the heat of battle—It's insignificant! I am under no obligation to lift a finger to help him! He's a full-grown mech, he can take care of himself." He put his hands on his hips, chin lifting slightly. "That's it. I am officially no longer going to be a part of this."

The fish lazily began to drift onto its side.

Thundercracker opened his mouth halfway, looking incredulous.

"I'm talking to a fish…"

He shook his head and continued down the hallway, not feeling much better regardless of his attempt to convince himself that he had no responsibility for Skywarp. Still, he would stick with his decision.

He did not have to wait long to put his decision to the test. Thundercracker jumped as the familiar cry resounded from the depths of the base.

"HEEELLLPP!"

His first instinct was to run towards the source, though he paused before he could take a single step, repeating his denouncement to Skywarp's dilemma.

"Not my business."

Turning on his heels, he began to walk the way he came.

The leak could wait.


"TC…" Came a whispered and slightly timid voice from behind him.

Thundercracker paused in the corridor, tense and unconsciously on high alert as he glanced over his shoulder.

Skywarp's head peered around the corner, the rest of his body hidden except for his hand, which signaled rapidly in a 'come here' motion.

I should have known… Thundercracker thought absently.

"I'm not helping you, Warp." Thundercracker called flatly, turning his attention back to the hallway as he made to keep walking forward. "I herby denounce you. Don't talk to me until you can ward off the newest generation of spyware."

"TC, wait!"

Thundercracker grimaced, but turned halfway towards his friend's location despite himself.

"I said no."

"TC!" Skywarp sounded frustrated. "You don't understand!"

"Understand what? That you're out of your fraggin' processor?"

"Out of my-…?" Skywarp trailed off. He shook it off, suddenly looking too troubled to be offended. "No! I…" He sighed exasperatedly. "Look, just come here!"

Thundercracker did not move.

"… Please?"

"Vector Sigma…" Thundercracker mumbled bitterly to himself, detesting his softness as he made his way grudgingly towards his wingmate. The wingmate in question seemed to be checking to make sure that the hallways were still empty before reaching out to grab Thundercracker's arm when he was within reach, yanking him until they were face to face.

Skywarp did not miss a beat.

"My arm fell off."

Thundercracker did not process the short statement as he braced a hand on the wall for support, struggling to stay upright from being unceremoniously jerked the short distance between them.

"What?" He asked absently as he regained his balance, diverting his attention from his own frame to Skywarp's. His face went blank as he took it in. Groaning in frustration, he adopted the Earthly gesture of shuttering his optics and pinching the bridge of his nose-plate in an attempt to display his discontent.

"Yeah…" Came the awkward reply as Thundercracker heard him shift uncomfortably.

"… How?" Thundercracker asked carefully. "How?"

"I don't really wanna talk about it…"

Thundercracker looked him up and down through scrutinizing optics. His trinemate's frame was, besides several weeks of negligent upkeep, completely unscathed. His arm, however, was dangling from a single thick cable protruding from the shoulder, allowing the arm to remain just attached enough to remain mostly off of the ground. Energon and coolant dripped at a steady pace from the many severed wires and circuits, although the flow seemed to have been primarily blocked.

"I tried to stop the flow as much as I could… but… heh." Skywarp looked from his shoulder, to his arm, to Thundercracker, shrugging his good shoulder with a short, uncomfortable laugh.

"Skywarp, you should report to the medbay."

Skywarp recoiled, looking aghast. Thundercracker couldn't help but notice that the hand on his dangling arm scraped the ground as he moved.

"Have you gone mad! They're the ones who did this to me!"

Thundercracker was not quite expecting that… "Wait, what?"

"They have malicious intent!" Skywarp's voice lowered to a harsh whisper as he glanced left and right cautiously, before jamming the finger of his attached hand at Thundercracker's cockpit, forcing him back one stride. "This is a conspiracy! They're getting smarter… anticipating my moves… Now they think that I have to report to the medbay to fix this!" he motioned excessively to his hanging limb, as if Thundercracker had not noticed it. He did notice it though—and had become entranced by the way it seemed to flop around according to Skywarp's movements.

"You do have to report to the medbay to fix it."

"That's what they think! But actually…" Skywarp's good arm fell limply to his side. He tilted his head slightly. "I was kinda hoping you could fix it… I tried to on my own, but somehow I only managed to set my chronometer to roman numerals…"

Thundercracker took a long look at Skywarp's dangling limb before meeting his optics. He inhaled deeply through his vents, before pinning him a simple flat "No."

"Oh come ON!" Skywarp exclaimed, looking skyward.

"I can't fix this, Warp! Your arm is almost completely unattached! Maybe if it were half-attached I could attempt a temporary repair, but-" he cut off his sentence, stooping to pick up the dangling limb. He held it at optic-height, giving it a firm shake and forcing it to flop uselessly as he gestured to it harshly.

Skywarp's optics narrowed, eyes fixated on the arm.

"What's your point?"

Thundercracker growled, once again emphasizing his point by giving the lifeless arm another solid shake. There were a few moments of silence.

"Fine." Skywarp said defiantly, snatching his limp arm from Thundercracker's hand as he glowered. "See if I ever share my high-grade with you again. Or wash your wings in the washracks. Or let you see my awesome new fuel injecting-thingie."

"It's called a high-grade fuel injector valve. And we all got one! BEFORE the crash!" he called after Skywarp as he watched him walk away, arm floppily trailing behind him with the tip of the limp hand giving a high-pitched keen as it dragged on the ground.


He tried to sneak by unnoticed.

Tried.

Thundercracker and Starscream both looked up from their somewhat heated conversation as the sound of shuffling was heard from the back of the Seeker's lounge. The shuffling stopped at once and silence seemed to resound through the area, optics dimming at the sight before them.

"Warp?" Thundercracker asked tentatively.

Skywarp paused halfway to his quarters, not daring to look back.

"Mmhmmm…?"

"Did you know that your arm is on backwards?"

There were a few moments of silence.

"… Mmmhmm."

"… Can I ask why…?"

"None of your business, that's why!" Skywarp snapped, turning around to meet his friend's gawk. "Oh. Hi Screamer."

Thundercracker shrugged. Starscream's face twisted into a confused look that bordered on revolted.

"Relax. I was just asking." Thundercracker said, turning his full attention towards him.

"What form of idiocy is this?" Starscream's voice cut through the room, looking less than impressed. "Skywarp, you useless fried motherboard, explain yourself!"

"Is this some cruel form of revenge from the Structies'?" Thundercracker asked.

"Yeah right." Skywarp muttered. "It was one of Swindle's guys. Did it on the cheap. Obviously 'cheap' was translated as 'backwards'." Skywarp motioned towards his new arm, though it was unnecessary. His arm was repaired and fully functioning, however, the entire limb was indeed attached backwards at the shoulder joint.

"You truly are an idiot, aren't you Skywarp?" Starscream scoffed. "You know better than to trust that two-faced crowbar! You look ridiculous!"

Skywarp seemed to shrink back from the air commander slightly, giving a painful smile absent of its usual luster. "I didn't really have a choice, Screamer. My arm fell off."

"As far as I am concerned, you DID have a choice, chose the stupid option, and deserve this!"

Thundercracker brought one hand to his helm, looking to be in an internal battle whether or not he should jump in and defend the warper. Either way, he concluded that he would lose. Either Skywarp's faith would be renewed in him, he'd take it as an unspoken, 'Sure, you can take over my quarters again! I'd be honored to house you and protect you from the mechs who simply want to save your life! Primus forbid that they poke you with something sharp and cause you to bleed, even though we're in the middle of war and used to being blown half-to-slag.'

"Relax, Starscream." Thundercracker heaved a sigh. "He's not stupid. He just functions on a different wavelength than the average mech."

He received two contemptuous looks. One unconvinced, the other offended. He sent back a look that dared them to prove him wrong.

Skywarp, not one to take insults sitting down, drew himself to his full height.

"Well you two certainly weren't quick to jump in and help me, you shriveled dillberries!"

Starscream and Thundercracker shared a look.

"Dillberries?" Starscream mouthed. Thundercracker shrugged.

"Maybe if you two hadn't abandoned me in my time of need, this wouldn't have happened! I was being resourceful!" Skywarp gestured accusingly. "Some allies you are! Now, unlike you two, I can do this now." Skywarp turned slightly and demonstrated his newfound ability to scratch his own wing struts.

"Impressive." Thundercracker said dryly. "Too bad you look stupid."

"Yet I till manage to look better than you." He scoffed.

"No. You look like an idiot. Finally the frame matches the processor." Starscream sneered.

"Go frag a cassetticon!" Skywarp retaliated, looked flustered. He turned darkened optics to Thundercracker. "I'll be in your quarters if you need me."

"Oh, you most certainly will not!"

"I'm not going anywhere like this!" Skywarp cried, his vanity making itself very pronounced. "And I'm NOT going to live in a closet, I'm not going to MY quarters, and I'm not going to your room, Screamer, because you have Skywarp- injuring devices. So TC, your room is my refuge."

"No it's not—I think that I must remind you that it was MY refuge until you decided to drag your slagging television set in and started welding things to my wall."

Skywarp looked insulted. "I get bored. Your room was boring. Thankfully you have me to add a spark of life to your existence TC, or else you would be growing mushrooms. And I will have you know that, that television-" he sneered "-is apparently my only friend. At least it was, until you defiled it with the History channel!"

"It is only your friend because it doesn't have a functioning processor. If it did, it would not like you either."

"Ouch, TC. My arm is as broken as my spark."

Thundercracker rolled his optics. "Hey Screamer, I don't suppose you have any spare 'Skywarp-injuring devices', do you?"

"Fresh out, I'm afraid." Starscream said sarcastically, suddenly looking somewhat amused.

"Go show off your new trick to the other Decepticons, or something. Just keep your grimy mitts off my walls, out of my desk, and away from my terminal! Also, stop being a coward and go get your upgrade."

Skywarp, to his credit, took a moment to at least pretend he was contemplating Thundercracker's words.

"No."

"For all that is good and holy…" Thundercracker covered his optics with his hand. "You are positively… impractical."

"I try."

"Allow me to handle this situation, Thundercracker." Starscream stepped forward, never letting an opportunity to express his authority pass him by "Skywarp, I command that you go to the medbay and get your arm repaired properly."

Skywarp shook his head vigorously. "Nuh uh. Can't make me."

Starscream clenched a fist, raising it threateningly. "Do you want to bet?"

Skywarp looked defiant. "I'm not going. You can fix my arm if it bugs you so bad."

"As your leader, I command that you get your senseless afterburners to the medbay before I drag you there myself!"

"No. I like myself this way."

"You liar!" Starscream shrieked.

Thundercracker wisely decided to stay out of the situation. Starscream had much less patience with dealing with Skywarp than he had, and Skywarp tended to abuse it. Skywarp defied Starscream's petty demands, Starscream got offended and further tried to force his authority, Skywarp laughed, violence broke out, and Skywarp made his grand escape.

"Why would I lie about that?" Skywarp replied, suddenly looking to be enjoying himself

The air commander raised his null-ray, the barrel aimed at Skywarp's chassis.

"Because you are a headache manifest."

Skywarp did not seem bothered by the null ray. "Fix my arm and I promise to become less of a headache and more like a dull throb."

"Do not be such a sparkling, you dolt! Your inability to follow orders, especially SIMPLE orders, is sincerely wearing on my patience! Go to the medbay, get your arm fixed, and get your upgrade! If you do not have your upgrade when I see you next, I will infect you and laugh as your CPU crashes!"

"I'll go to the medbay after you fix my arm."

"A little pointless, don't you think…?" Thundercracker said, though it was duly ignored.

"I am not going to fix your arm! You must be ready for combat at any given moment, Skywarp, so if you do not report to Hook immediately, I will throttle you!"

"How could I possibly report to Hook if you throttle me?"

Starscream's vents started to hum in ill-suppressed irritation.

"Did you know that your optics twitch when you're upset?" Skywarp looked curious and oddly comfortable for a mech at gunpoint. "Have they always done that?"

Starscream's systems snarled. "Fine! Walk around looking like a twisted piece of aluminum! I do not care! But know this—if your stupidity compromises our next raid, it will not be overlooked!" Starscream said, straightening himself up with utmost importance.

"He could always join the circus." Thundercracker pitched, receiving two withering stares. He shrugged a shoulder in reply.

"Get out of my sight, Skywarp, before I give Hook your coordinates." Starscream huffed, hands on his hips.

Skywarp sent Thundercracker and Starscream a mock-salute (or at least tried, as his backwards arm so happened to be his saluting arm) before turning on his heels and walking towards the hallways towards their residences.

"AND STAY AWAY FROM MY ROOM!" Thundercracker hollered, standing still for a long moment before turning towards Starscream with his optic ridge arched expectantly.

"What, Thundercracker?" Starscream snapped.

"You sure showed him."


By the ninth day of the chase, Thundercracker was absolutely done with Skywarp's game. He would have let it be had he not been dragged into the nonsense, but as it so happened, he was stuck in the middle of the misbehavior despite his effort to disassociate himself from it. His role was the brick wall that his wingmate hid behind and the Constructicons ran over. Frankly, he had stopped feeling flattered by Skywarp's ultimate trust in him long ago, currently finding it more of a painful nuisance. His mood surrounding the situation had quickly shifted from one of general irritation to downright sulkiness.

He was not surprised when Long Haul came to him for help on behalf of all of the Constructicons. They often did during upgrade time, though Skywarp seemed ignorant to the fact that half of the Constructicon's previous successes had indirectly been Thundercracker's doing.

It was not that Thundercracker did not have Skywarp's back. On the contrary- He had guarded his friend's left wing for many millions of cycles, defended him, pulled him out of many irksome and dangerous situations, and continued to put up with his special brand of stupid. The loyalty he had to the other jet had not changed. He justified his previous betrayals with the thought that he was ultimately saving Skywarp's life. If he was not loyal, he would not bother. Or so he told himself.

Thundercracker regrettably denied the opportunity to aid them in their quest for Skywarp's cranial unit, which ironically, would also end his suffering. When he said that he did not want to get wrapped up in the situation, he meant it. Fortunately for the Constructicons, they did not have to wait long for their opportunity to be alone with Skywarp.

Thundercracker's mood was instantaneously lifted as Starscream reported the contents of their next mission, granting them the opportunity to take to the skies once more. Thundercracker was sure that it was assigned to them for the sole reason that Megatron was, like the rest of the base, ready for the Seekers to stop wreaking havoc on the base to distract themselves from their confinement-induced anxiety (and overall twitchiness).

Starscream's report was contentedly given despite the fact that he had been harassed into fixing Skywarp's arm not long before. Thundercracker recognized his commander's well-hidden desire to get out of the base as well. Skywarp's smile was also one of anticipation until it was reported that their mission ironically required the cooperation of the Constructicons.

Skywarp's jaw dropped, wasting no time telling Starscream that his arm still felt stiff, therefore, required to stay at the base for the mission. Starscream ignored him.

Thundercracker ducked his head, unable to stop a smug leer from forming on his face.

Even though Skywarp refused, stomped his foot, tried to convince Starscream that he was deathly allergic to cactuses and air pollution, he found himself flying (albeit glumly) in a flanking position to Starscream towards the Sahara Desert where the Constructicons were scheduled to meet them.

The trip was nearly silent, which suited Thundercracker just fine. Even the fact that Skywarp was hovering uncomfortably close during their flight did not ruin the journey for him. It was refreshing to simply enjoy the wind on his fuselage without the sound of Skywarp's usual chatter through the comm. link. He could feel his wingmate's anxiety, though, making him feel uneasy by association. He knew that he would regret it, but he decided that it would be beneficial to send reassurance to Skywarp.

'Calm down, Warp.' He sent through their private comm. link as Skywarp grazed his wing with his own.

'Calm…? TC, I am being forced to cooperate with six deadly mechs who have a bounty on my head. Not only that, but these six mechs are now in an ideal environment to turn into one really, really big mec. Devastator can use my wing as a napkin. Devastator can squish my head between two fingers and reanimate the rest of my frame to be some sort of talking, flailing punching bag. Devastator can make it so that there is nothing left to GIVE an upgrade.' Skywarp replied, a shudder wracking his frame. 'Have you ever noticed how big Devastator is? He's an ogre…..'

'Don't be melodramatic. They have bigger things to worry about than your fragging upgrade. And there is no bounty on your head. In fact, I don't think they are even actively looking for you, Warp. You're just making yourself miserable.'

'He's going to disembowel me!' Skywarp cried, wings drooping.

'You need bowels to be disemboweled.'

'They could install them.'

'Only to remove them?'

'It's what I would do.'

'Sounds like a lot of work. It would be easier to just step on you. That's what I'd do.'

'At least that would be relatively painless…'

Thundercracker sighed. 'Okay, fine. Be miserable. Just do not frag up the mission with your paranoia or I will use your wing as a toothpick.'

'You're not big enough. Devastator could use my wing as a toothpick though…'

'Stop thinking about Devastator doing things to you. It's unhealthy and you're going to give me radiation poisoning.'

'What if I try to placate them with a sculpture of their likeness made exclusively of cactuses and desperation, complete with a rattlesnake tiara? Think that will work?'

'Yes.'

'Really?'

'No.'

Their conversation was subsequently cut short by Starscream's voice in their comm. Link, commanding them to immediately begin their descent. Thundercracker inwardly groaned as he looked at the terrain below them. He knew it was coming, but he was not looking forward to it.

Sand. Sand. A cactus. More sand. A rock.

Irritating sand that got everywhere he did not want it to go. It got into every crevice and in his thrusters and in his optics. It would crunch in his joints and scratch his paint. He hated sand, but he would tolerate it, because it was better than being trapped in the base. He kind of expected Starscream to do enough complaining for all of them, after all.

As they landed, he noticed that the Constructicons had already arrived with their equipment, beginning the initial phases of their energy extraction and conversion process. Their mission was simple enough—dig into the desert until they reached fuel, convert it, and transport it back to base. The simplicity was coupled with the mere knowledge that the Autobots would not make an appearance for quite a while. They were not infiltrating and stealing from a populated settlement. They were well away from anywhere populated, they were not creating chaos, nor were they holding any sort of hostage. They were not drawing attention to themselves whatsoever. They were collecting energy from a source untouched by human claim deep under the Earth. The Constructicons were in charge of the extraction and conversion process. The Seeker's roles were aerial support, surveillance, and transport.

While Starscream walked off to speak with Scrapper, Skywarp offered to circle the perimeter forever to watch for any Autobot activity (though Thundercracker knew that his wingmate was well aware that there would not be Autobot activity for at least several more terrestrial hours.) As Thundercracker spent his time doing whatever odd grunt work the Constructicons needed to be done, Starscream took pleasure in the fact that he was in charge of the mission and took full advantage of it. After half an hour of Starscream's unnecessary orders and chastising, Thundercracker was on the verge of snapping.

After Starscream ordered Skywarp back to their location, the purple Seeker spent the majority of the time using Thundercracker, Starscream, and the occasional rock as a shield. He had even resorted to burying himself at one point.

Thundercracker noticed that the Stucties sent Skywarp dirty looks quite often, though they seemed to have temporarily lost interest in tackling Skywarp down and performing inhumane procedures on him. Instead, they appeared perfectly content to simply show up and coexist peacefully at whichever location Skywarp was positioned in at any given time. The result was the dark jet being driven to the brink of his sanity, which Thundercracker suspected was the point. The Constructicons knew they were driving him crazy and they liked it.

It was after several such incidences that Skywarp had taken up permanent residence in Thundercracker's shadow. To his credit, Thundercracker's patience held up for a total of eight terrestrial minutes before coming to a sudden halt on the dusty terrain. Skywarp collided into his back with a grunt, but remained standing.

"Why are you walking with your head practically lodged into my aft?" Thundercracker questioned, glancing over his shoulder.

Skywarp tilted his head. "Isn't it obvious?"

"Yes… you need a shield and your concern for my wellbeing is nonexistent." Thundercracker said with a sarcastic undertone. "I am also under the impression that you don't care much that I have been to the medbay enough times for the both of us because of my new designation as your personal defense. Completely unwillingly, I might add."

Skywarp shrugged. "You can't be completely unwilling, or else you would have turned me in already."

"Believe me, I have contemplated it."

"You're just really easy to hide behind."

"Actually, unless you are the size of a Cassetticon or just completely deluded, I am exceedingly difficult to hide behind. All you are succeeding in is looking stupid."

"Slag off." Skywarp huffed. "You just happen to be bigger than me, therefore, you get to be my first line of defense."

"Yippee." Thundercracker deadpanned with a flat stare. "I hate to break it to you, Warp, but you are the exact same frame size as me."

Skywarp looked genuinely confused. "No… you are definitely bigger than me. I don't know how you did it, because we were modified to be the same size, but you're at least this much wider than me now." Skywarp measured a generous distance with his hands. "Do you eat rocks or something to bulk up?"

Thundercracker blinked, lips parted slightly in partial disbelief.

"Beg pardon?"

"Face it TC, you're fat."

"Fat." Thundercracker voiced within his state of disbelief. "You think I'm… fat." It was not a question.

"Well, yeah."

"You have got to be kidding me."

There were a lot of vain mechs. On Cybertron and on Earth, there were always going to be those who took more pride in their frames than others. It depended very much on the individual mech, not the frame style. Skywarp and Starscream—they were vain. Thundercracker did not know if it was from millions of vorns of his narcissistic wingmate's companionship, or truly a deep-rooted part of his personality, but he was actually very vain as well. He just made it a point to be more discreet about it. He did not appreciate his sleek and immaculate frame being called, for all intents and purposes, 'hefty'. Especially when it was unquestionably untrue.

"Hey, don't be upset." Skywarp said placidly, oblivious of the effect that his words had actually had. "It's not a bad thing or anything. In fact, like I said, it's a perfect place to duck behind. Plus if you get shot… well… you don't feel it as much."

There was a short moment of silence, Thundercracker turning to face him with a smooth expression.

"Say, Skywarp? Out of morbid curiosity, I do not suppose that you are particularly full on energy, are you?"

Skywarp was immediately suspicious as he took a step backwards. "… Why?"

"Like I said. Just curious. I saw you warping around earlier, so I don't suppose you have much energy left."

"… I'm not telling."

Thundercracker nodded curtly before pressing an exposed button on his wrist.

"Thundercracker to Scrapper."

"W-What are you doing!" Skywarp reached out in an attempt to cut off Thundercracker's communication line. "Turn it off! Stop!"

'Scrapper here. What is the situation?' The Constructicon leader's voice resounded through the comm.

Thundercracker turned his frame away from Skywarp in an evasive maneuver.

"I want to inform you of a minor situation on the outskirts of the camp so that you may prepare accordingly."

'Do you require backup?'

Thundercracker smiled wickedly, making sure that Skywarp saw. Skywarp got the hint.

"Okay, Okay, TC! I can't warp again until I refuel! Okay? Shut it off!" Skywarp whispered harshly.

Thundercracker smirked, raising the comm. on his wrist closer to his faceplate. "Negative. Situation less dangerous than previously assumed. Backup is not required. It should not affect your team's work. I will update you when it is dealt with"

'… Acknowledged. Scrapper out.'

Thundercracker flicked off his comm. looking extremely pleased with himself.

"You are evil." Skywarp glared.

"And you are like a wrench lodged in my optic."

"Id be happy to lodge a wrench into your optic…"

Thundercracker shrugged a shoulder.

"Well, I suppose we are done here. Now go cower behind a tree or something." Thundercracker assumed that the situation would get the point across that he did not appreciate his new designation as a 'fat barrier' made for the sole purpose of protecting Skywarp from very painful, very fatal bullets and lasers. Deciding that Skywarp might take a hint, he began to walk away without a word. He felt Skywarp's presence behind him again and heaved a sigh.

He was wrong. Skywarp did not take hints.

"You're still going to follow me?"

"Just because you almost sold me out doesn't mean that you're not still large enough to hide behind. You can't just turn off fat."

Thundercracker's step faltered, engine giving a warning growl.

He contemplated for a long moment how easy it would be to hide a body in the middle of the desert. Even a big, metal one. He could simply knock his wingmate unconscious and 1: drop him into the nearest river to rust, or 2: stuff a clusterbomb up his exhaust, or 3: …

He smiled and checked his radar, redirecting his course accordingly. Skywarp paused.

"Where are you going?"

"This way." Thundercracker stated simply.

"What's that way?"

"Freedom."

"Freedom? What do you-..?" Skywarp obviously caught on, checking his radar to be sure. "Oh…no… TC! No no no, you are my protection in a situation in which I am vulnerable, outnumbered, and confined to one area! You are taking me straight to my certain death and I must strongly suggest we walk the opposite direction! It is your duty as my wingmate!"

"Nah." Thundercracker said, sounding very uninterested. "I like walking this way."

"The other way is better."

"No, this way is perfect. Northeast is a good direction. The sun on my wingjoints, a gentle breeze in my face, lots of delicious rocks to munch on…"

"And Constructicons!"

"That doesn't bother me."

"But it bothers me! They keep looking at me like they want to eat me!"

"Nonsense. The Stucties' have better taste than that."

"I appreciate your high opinion of me, TC. It means a lot." Skywarp said disdainfully.

"You know, you do have legs. And wings."

"Yes, and I am prepared to use them if you don't stop."

"That's the point."

"So is that an indication that you want me to leave?"

"What? No, of course not. Why would you think that?"

Despite the statement dripping in sarcasm, Thundercracker's derision fell on deaf audios.

Skywarp peered around Thundercracker's wing, spotting the Constructicons in the relatively near distance. He considered his choices. He was running on low energy, meaning that warping was not an option. He could have run before he was spotted, or could have even flied away… but that would have left him alone and low on energy, which was an unfortunate combination. Being alone at that particular point in time was not a good choice. The potential to be ambushed was high and he could only handle being outnumbered for a short period of time… Plus, leaving would defy direct orders. He decided that staying behind Thundercracker was his best course of action.

He saw Scrapper look in their direction.

Slaaaggggg,

"Look!" Skywarp grabbed his companion's arm, effectively pulling him to a sudden halt. "I'm sorry I called you fat. You're right—we're the same size. You're just a little bit robust… No, No! Stop! Fine! We're the same size! Let's just go somewhere else. That way. Better yet, let's fly. Patrol the area… start a forest fire. Build a dirt-castle. Put a snake in Starscream's energon. Something."

"No no, don't be sorry Warp. I am the one who is sorry." The blue jet said with infuriating tranquility, seeming quite at peace with life. "I'm afraid that I am just too fat to turn around. If I do, I might off-balance, fall over, and start to roll. I will just keep rolling until I fall in a hole, run into a large building, or get hit by a stray meteorite."

"Oh come on! I said I was sorry!" Skywarp rolled his optics, seeming unable to understand his friend's resentment. "You're blowing it waayy out of proportion."

"Just because you're sorry for saying it does not make me less fat. If I am 'blowing it out of proportion', it is simply as verbal manifestation of my own physical imbalance- The proportion of my generous girth compared to yours. So it is thanks to you that I am suddenly plagued with the fear of being mistaken for a small mountain range on legs. In addition, if I fly, Primus knows if I can even get into the air!" Thundercracker spat.

Skywarp put a hand to his helm. "I take it back, alright? I just feel safer in numbers and you have never abandoned me before- don't make this the first!"

"Well I hope you like the number one, because I, who count as at least three mechs thanks to my generous physique, am going this way. Towards intelligent conversation."

"What are you talking about? You hate those guys!" Skywarp threw out his arms, clearly frustrated.

"Yes, but they are the lesser of two evils."

"Now you are just being mean."

Thundercracker sighed, stopping on his own accord. "Look, Warp. You're my wingmate and friend… well, you're my wingmate, anyway… and keeping you alive is a sort of priority because you seem to have a death wish. However…" he thrust a finger at the purple Seeker's cockpit. "LEAVE. ME. ALONE. Stop being a coward, stop using me as a potential bullet-collector, and go get your upgrade! Also, stop feeling so self-important! Your upgrade is the LAST thing on their processor right now. You are SAFE. You can dislodge your face from my aft anytime! You can even get within fifty feet of them if you feel so bold!"

Skywarp's mouth turned downwards, locking optics with Thundercracker.

The blue jet ran a hand down his face. "I'll even go with you to go get the slaggin' upgrade, you candy-aft. On my honor I will sit there the whole time and make sure they don't defile you or something. I will hold your hand, give you an energon goodie, talk to you… Just… buy a spinal-plate and do it!"

They stared at each other for a long moment, both faces set in determination. Skywarp broke the silence.

"I'll get my upgrade when you stop being fat."

He transformed as he saw Thundercracker's fists clench and took to the skies just as the blue seeker pounced for the kill. Skywarp waggled his wings in a taunting manner and shot away, apparently abandoning any hope of gaining favor with his friend.

Thundercracker glared at the retreating form.

The Constructicons did not even look up from their busywork.


The rest of the mission was nothing less than successful, despite Skywarp's presence making Thundercracker's life miserable. Megatron was well pleased with the overall haul, having nothing but praise for the Constructions and nothing but a vicious smack to the head for Starscream and his inflated ego. Two successful raids in a row was enough to raise the morale of the entire base, meaning that once again, infighting was scarce, drunkenness was high, and egos were larger than normal.

Skywarp, however, was still on the run.

Thundercracker needed a full day to calm down from the events of the mission before he could even look at Skywarp without contemplating the many ways he could inflict bodily and psychological harm on him. Thankfully, Skywarp had allowed him time alone, which meant that he had been permitted to stay in his room alone for the first night since the whole fiasco had started. He had also been allowed time to catch up on his missed recharge. The full night of recharge, above all else, was the only thing that allowed him to even stand within twenty feet of Skywarp without defacing him.

So they walked down the hallway together in relative silence, counting down with growing pessimism the minutes until their shift started.

Just because Thundercracker could stand to be in his presence again did not mean that he wanted to speak with him.

"So I heard Starscream got a dent in the shape of a giraffe." Skywarp said, obviously uncomfortable with the silence.

Thundercracker 'hmph'ed.

"I've just been shedding sand like some sort of wildebeest. I could probably make a sandcastle in my kneejoint if I really wanted."

Thundercracker kept his eyes fixed ahead.

"We could combine our knee-sand and shoot it to make glass. I'll shape it like a giraffe and give it to Screamer."

Again, Skywarp got no reply.

"… I found a dead scorpion. I kept it."

Skywarp's face fell, sighing softly.

"… Hey, you know TC, being mad at me isn't going to make you feel any better. Especially when I'm offering to use the sand that has wriggled its way into your questionable crevices for non-destructive purposes. If you want, I could shape it into a flower and give it to you. I know you like flowers, so don't even try to deny it."

"Shut your vocalizer, you tit." Thundercracker growled.

"Ah, he speaks!" Skywarp grinned, suddenly rejuvenated. "I thought you had sand in your throat or something."

"Well obviously rocks weren't readily available to eat, so sand was the next best thing."

Skywarp blinked, his grin disappearing. "Are you… still upset over that?"

Thundercracker's face twisted into a sneer.

"Oh for the-!" Skywarp grabbed Thundercracker's arm, yanking him around until they faced each other. "You misinterpreted me! It wasn't meant to be an insult, you sodding twat! It was supposed to be flattering!"

"Oh yeah" Thundercracker snarled, ripping himself out of Skywarp's grip "Real flattering to be compared to a blimp!"

"I never said that!"

"You may as well have!"

"You get offended by the weirdest things, TC." Skywarp tilted his mouth downwards, looking somewhat perplexed. "Anyone else would have taken it as a compliment."

"Well your aft is huge, Skywarp. It is a lot larger than mine- perhaps that where your extra tankard is stored?

Skywarp's jaw dropped. "W…wh… It is not!"

"The chunkier it is, the more protected it is." Thundercracker said, imitating Skywarp's voice to the best of his abilities. Skywarp bristled.

"I am both sleek and very protected, thank-you." Skywarp said indignantly, hands clenched at his side.

"If the general dimensions of a fully-armed combat tank is sleek, I suppose."

"It's sleeker than yours!"

"At least I'm not a slagging coward!"

"At least I have excellent self-preservation skills! I'd like to see you last two DAYS running from the Constructicons!"

"They. Are. Not. CHASING YOU!"

"They ripped my arm off!"

"Yeah, well I would have done the same if some annoying slagger had taken MY leader hostage!"

"Really? Screamer?"

Thundercracker paused.

"No, scratch that. Anyone who wants Starscream can have him. Come to think, I would probably pay someone to take him."

Skywarp nodded his agreement. Thundercracker shook his head from side to side, shuttering his optics while he collected his thoughts.

"Okay..." He held up a placating hand. "Here's the thing… I just think that you-" Thundercracker did not continue, though, as the echoing sound of metallic footsteps began to draw near. He recognized the cool voice of Hook and the slightly louder voice of Longhaul amongst the noise.

Skywarp stared towards the end of the hallway, optics wide and mouth half-open in dismay. His gaze went from the hallway to Thundercracker's face, horror-struck and pleading.

Thundercracker's fingers twitched as an internal debate raged within him.

For the first time since the ordeal began, he made a firm decision.

"Oh slag me…" Thundercracker growled, grabbing Skywarp's wrist with an unyielding grip. "Come on!"

Skywarp's face shifted from one of puzzlement, to a genuine smile as he was tugged quickly behind Thundercracker down the hallway. He struggled to regain his balance, running side by side with Thundercracker as he smiled wider.

"Where are we going?"

Thundercracker glanced around at the featureless hallway, looking for a sufficient area to hide. "Somewhere my 'fat aft' will fit next to your petite, sleek one."

"A small crater oughta do…"

"Don't push it."

"I'm kidding, I'm kidding…"

Thundercracker came to a complete halt in front of a featureless, unsuspecting door, Skywarp coming to a stop next to him as he checked and double checked that it was indeed an unoccupied closet.

"Yeah. A closet. Because the Structies' will never think to look in he-"

Thundercracker opened the door and yanked Skywarp in before he could finish his sarcastic comment, the door grazing the purple jet's heel as it closed.

"I always knew you were a genius."

"There is nothing stopping me from shoving you back out there."

"It's dark in here."

"We're in a closet, Warp. It's gonna be dark."

"No need to be a smartaft." Skywarp said, stepping away from the door and reaching out to put a hand against the wall. "Way to hustle, by the way. I knew you weren't completely unfeeling. At least, not unfeeling enough to leave me to die."

There was no reply.

"… Look, if you're upset about the crater comment, it really was just a joke. Starscream's fatter than you, you know. You're like a half-eaten corpse compared to his hearty girth. I should just start calling him 'Fatscream'."

Skywarp jumped at the sound of a loud clatter nearby. "… TC? Did you hear me? Fatscream. It's funny."

As Skywarp flipped on his night vision, he suddenly got the very strange feeling that something was amiss. He narrowed his optics and took a good look around the small space. There was enough room to walk roughly five paces until meeting the opposite wall, although a large portion of the space was occupied by various cleaning supplies and some crates. He noted some fallen brooms and mops lying on the ground.

Thundercracker was not within the space, which meant that he had either stolen his own ability to warp, was behind him, or turned into a bucket.

Suddenly it clicked and he contemplated the irony.

Et tu, Brute…? Was his last coherent thought before the reverberating sound of a metallic CLANG filled the closet.

He was in stasis lock before he hit the ground.


The air within the recroom was jovial. It was the busiest time of the solar cycle, having been unofficially dubbed 'Happy Hour' by an unknown member of their ranks. Most were just happy to be off of duty, using it as an excuse to overenergize until they forgot which way was up, the difference between the head and an aft, and generally just how to sound like anything other than a dribbling clod.

Thundercracker saw that Skywarp had decided not to partake in the festivities; however, a single glance at his friend's location in the farthest forgotten corner of the room looking for all of the world like he had just eaten bad shrimp, Thundercracker thought that Skywarp probably needed it. Instead, he decided to saunter over to his wingmate with two regular cubes of energon, occasionally ducking out of the way of flying chairs, cubes, or every once in a while, a full sized mech.

"Hey, new King of the Antivirus, welcome to the new world of firewalls and advanced scans. I brought you energon." Thundercracker said, setting a cube down in front of the darker Seeker. The air immediately surrounding the purple jet seemed to give off a stench that Thundercracker could only described as crushed dreams and bitter defeat.

"No one whose name starts with 'T' is allowed to sit here. Especially if they enjoy hitting people over the head with buckets and betraying them for 30 pieces of silver." came the acidic reply.

"Oh come off of it, Warp. You're done, you're alive, you won't die a humiliating death via spyware, and you have energon. You can't hate me for that."

"Your attempt to reacquire my favor by bribing me with a mediocre cube of energon and telling me I will no longer die from a malicious form of malware that makes me froth at the mouth and choke on my own Blue-Screen-Of-Death is a total failure. It's going to take a whole lot more than that to make me like you again, you barbarian."

"Okay… then give me back my energon."

"No, that's mine."

"Well alright then." Thundercracker said, taking a seat. "Then I'm sitting here."

"Fine. But don't expect me to just sit here and not throw anything at you."

"So how did it go?"

Slumping with his helm bent low, Skywarp looked like he was either going to be sick or fall over. In reply to Thundercracker's question, however, he slowly turned his gaze to shoot him a cold glare. Thundercracker met it with raised optic-ridges. The whole scenario was very much unlike his friend, but he was certain it would not last. Skywarp lowered his gaze back to his lap.

"I. Feel. Like. Slag…"

Thundercracker leaned back in his chair, energon in hand. "You look like slag."

"Not the normal kind of slag either. The radioactive slag."

"Maybe you'll grow tentacles."

"Hook is the devil."

Thundercracker mentally tried to place the word 'devil', searching rapidly through his databanks. "Ah. Yeah. Sounds accurate."

"And I hate him."

"Well he hates you."

"I am going to shove my thruster into his afterburner and ignite it."

"He has pointy tools and knows where you sleep."

There was silence between them for a long moment as Thundercracker sloshed the contents of his energon cube in his hand before taking a long drink of it. Skywarp's remained untouched on the table in front of him.

"I think they gave me an STD."

Once again, Thundercracker looked confused. "A what?"

"A disease. I see them on commercials and stuff. Something to do with Trojans." Skywarp said with a half-hearted shrug, still looking ill-tempered.

"That makes no sense."

Skywarp 'hmm'ed, grumpily resting his forehead on the table. Thundercracker set down his empty cube.

"I hate you, by the way."

Thundercracker blinked his optics at the warper's simple statement.

"Yeah. You. I'm excreting hatred from my every cranny and fissure. Hate hate and double hate. I am so full of hatred that I am the perfect candidate for becoming a Sith Lord. Darth Warpius. It will inflict fear into every ear that hears it."

"It will inflict fear into the ears? How is that for a reputation? 'Darth Warpius—oh, I'm sorry, did I scare your ears?' Besides the point, don't abandon ship to become a Sith just yet. You'll forget what you're angry about pretty soon."

"I am never talking to you again. Never."

"You're talking to me now."

"Only because I have to emphasize my undying burning hatred for you. I wish I had beaten you with my arm after it fell off. Better yet, I wish I had ripped off your arm and beaten you with it. Best of all, I wish your arm got caught in a trash compactor."

"Imaginative."

"I've been thinking about nothing else since I woke up."

"Well, doesn't matter." Thundercracker waved his hand dismissively, sounding unconcerned. "Besides, they didn't even end up installing your upgrade anyway."

Skywarp lifted his head slowly from the table, expression unreadable.

"… What?"

"Yeah. Turns out the past week and a half of miserable existence was completely pointless. They gave you your upgrade weeks ago when you went in for a tune-up. They tackled you down last week to be complete and utter bastards."

Skywarp's expression did not change, though his wings were rigid and vibrating slightly with suppressed emotion.

"Yep." Thundercracker placed his elbow on the table, resting his face in his hand. "This has probably been going for vorns. It's psychological torture. They just like to see you squirm—and Primus, do you squirm."

Skywarp's optics dulled as he stared blankly ahead. Thundercracker wondered if he had broken him.

"But on the bright side, you're alive enough to mope. Also, they probably didn't do much more than kick you around a little bit while you were in stasis lock. In fact, that's most likely all they have been doing every time you go in for your 'upgrade'. Based on this logic, they probably did not install a time-activated program that would cause you to speak nothing but broken Spanish, nor would they install a custom virus that would make you feel like slag for every moment they have been forced to chase you down throughout the past million vorns. And you probably don't have worms. Probably." Thundercracker finished. Despite the fact that he had been pulled into the whole façade and should have felt wronged as well, he felt some sick form of justice as for once, Skywarp was miserable, and he was actually pretty okay. "Also, did you know that the whole ripping-your-arm-off thing was an accident? Scavenger just grabbed your arm to scare the slag out of you. You're the one who freaked out and ripped it from the joint."

"TC, do me a favor." Skywarp sounded surprisingly calm as he continued to stare blankly ahead. Thundercracker raised an optic ridge.

"Hm?"

"Just…" Skywarp grabbed Thundercracker's arm from across the table, twisting it so that his shoulder-mounted cannon was pressed against the side of his head. "Shoot me, would you? Please. Don't miss. Don't be merciful. Just… shoot." Skywarp sighed. "And tell Starscream… that he is the biggest prat I have ever met in my life. Ever. And that I'm the one who keeps putting cat poop on his berth. Tell him that." He finished, patting Thundercracker affectionately on the arm that was pointing at his head.

"As much as I would love to end my misery, sorry. It's not my job." Thundercracker yanked his arm away. "Stop being dramatic."

"I feel so wronged!" Skywarp wailed, flinging his arms in front of him. "Vorns? They have been doing this for vorns! Giving me my upgrade while I am blessedly unaware, then pretending like they are prepared to blow up the base in order to get me to the medbay to get my upgrade! Then they knock me unconscious and do… do… things to me instead of giving me the upgrade I already have!"

Thundercracker stifled a laugh. "Yep. Things. Many unnatural, naughty things."

"It's not funny! Primus, this is… they are… Things. TC, am I dying? My head feels like I'm dying. My HUD is popping up. TC, I can't see!" Skywarp cried in alarm, pressing his hands to his optics while sinking back down into his seat.

"Calm down, Warp. It's not like they had their way with you. All they did was kick your aft."

"I see Primus descending from the third moon of Cybertron!"

"Cybertron has two moons."

"He's glowing and welcoming me with open arms! 'Come, proud son of Cybertron, for I have a feast prepared for you of the finest extra-high-grade and tacos, because I know that you have always wanted to try those. I also am making you head of My femme harem because I know you like femmes too.'"

"Extra-high-grade…?"

"Now he's calling me a hero and giving me your portion of femmes as well. Also all of your extra high-grade, because you're a treacherous twat who turns his friends into crazy oily-toed Gestalts with sick fetishes after knocking him out with a bucket! That's bad form, TC!"

"You are sad and deluded."

"My life is flashing before my eyes, but I'm purposely leaving you out of it."

Thundercracker sighed, running an absent hand over his helm. A small weary smile graced his lips as his friend's forehead once again met the table with a 'clang'.

Thundercracker looked from the pathetic form of Skywarp to the untouched energon cube, reveling in the fact that at least he would not have to put up with this for at least another four-hundred-eighty solar cycles...

"Hey, 'favored son of Primus'- You gonna finish that?"


A/N: So the formatting may be a little wonky in some places, but in time I will go through and pick through all of the little glitches.

In addition, there is kind of a... second-ish part to this story. More like a mini-side-story type thing. I'll post it before long, but until then, thanks for reading this monster. :) If you made it this far, you just read a short novel. Congratulations.