It was the perfect night for a hunt.
Scarlet optics glinted in the shadows, sweeping the room for any sign of movement. The predator was in luck - none of the room's occupants so much as twitched a servo in their recharge, the constant cycle of fans and the thrum of idling systems the only indication they were even alive. All was still, and the whooshing and hummming both mechanisms made in their sleep only served to mask whatever small noises a stalking hunter happened to make.
Despite all efforts at control, a smile tugged at her lip plates. Circumstances couldn't have been more perfect.
One of the recharging mechs chose that moment to shift in his sleep, grunting and snorting as he arranged himself into a more comfortable position. She froze, ready to bolt should the mech awaken and turn in her direction, but he only settled himself and sank deeper into recharge. Stifling a sigh of relief, she slunk forward, each footstep taken with deliberate care, every servo tensed to spring as soon as the moment presented itself.
Her chosen prey lay on his back - not surprising, given that Seekers had limited choices in sleeping positions. One arm lay draped across his chest, hand still holding a datapad, while the other hung off the edge of the berth. His face was turned away from her, so that even if he happened to awaken, she would have a precious moment's grace before he could turn and spot her. His wings twitched, a good sign - she knew this mech well enough to know that his wings moved like that only when he was deeply in recharge.
There was the faintest creak of joints as she gathered herself... a moment's silence as she leaped to attack...
"OW! What the frag?"
"Gotcha!" And she went in for the "kill," clamping her dental plates on his arm. Her jaw servos weren't powerful enough to do much more than scratch his paint, but she gamely hung on anyhow.
"Glory, do you have any idea what time it is?" Thundercracker demanded, trying to pry her off his arm. "You should be in recharge."
"I'm not Glory!" she insisted, pulling her mouth away just long enough to correct him. "I'm a cyberdragon! And cyberdragons hunt by night!"
"For the love of..." began Thundercracker, but the room's other occupant chose that moment to awaken, slanted red optics snapping online and head swiveling to take in the scene. With an enraged shriek the mech launched himself from Glory's berth, landing on the floor in a scramble of hooves as he tried rushing to the femme's rescue even before he'd fully landed from his jump.
"Primus," Thundercracker groaned, and he raised his free arm in a gesture of surrender. "Wildfire, down! She's not hurt! She's playing!"
Wildfire skidded to a halt, cycling air in furious snorts as he glowered up at the blue Seeker. His gaze moved to Glory, obviously not believing the mech for a second.
"It's okay, boy," Glory assured him. "I'm okay. We're just playing."
The equine beastformer gave Thundercracker one last hostile glower before giving a gusty snort and turning back to the berth. His ears drooped in disappointment - it had been weeks since Glory had last been allowed out on a battlefield, and Wildfire had been badly itching for a fight of some kind.
Thundercracker sighed and pulled his arm free of Glory's grip. "Glory, it's late. You should be recharging, not playing cyberdragon, okay?"
"You're up late playing a lot," she pointed out, folding her arms and glaring up at him. "Why can't I be up late and play too?"
"You're young," he replied. "Your spark hasn't fully matured yet. You need your nightly defrags to keep your spark and processor healthy. Besides, cyberdragons don't live in this quadrant of Cybertron. Why not pretend to be something local, like a glitchmouse or an electro-cat..."
"Those are boring," she protested. "Dragons are cool!"
"I concede that point," he admitted with a slight smile. "Still... there's nothing wrong with pretending to be a dragon during the day. Just not at 0230 anymore, all right? You need your rest."
"Okay," she sighed. "What about 0300?"
"No earlier than 0600, all right?"
She nodded reluctantly. She wasn't usually up by that time, though... but maybe she could manage it some morning. Besides, Uncle T had to be up by then to report for duty, and that meant that if he slept in for whatever reason she could pounce on him and be his alarm clock. He couldn't complain then, could he?
"Now c'mon, off to the berth with you." Thundercracker scooped her up and swung his legs over the side of the berth, getting to his feet. "Tomorrow's another big day."
"Lessons with the Stunticons!" she shouted, kicking excitedly.
"Oh, fun," he replied, not sounding the least bit enthusiastic, and set her down on her berth. "Now good night. Recharge well."
"Night, Uncle T."
It took mere moments for both Thundercracker and Wilfire to settle back down and drop into recharge, but Glory remained online awhile longer, folding her arms behind her head and staring at the silvery-violet ceiling. She couldn't suppress a shiver of excitement - tomorrow was a big day. Motormaster had promised her that during her next lesson with his team he'd begin teaching her Metallikato! The Cybertronian martial art was said to be difficult to master completely, but most mechs with any skill in hand-to-hand combat knew at least a few basic moves. And after watching the Stunticons practice it during their sparring sessions and seeing it in action in holovids, she was eager to try it out for herself.
Of course, neither she nor Motormaster had told Thundercracker about that part of the upcoming lesson. If he knew what they were up to, he'd probably rupture a fuel line. Funny, he never complained about any of Glory's more boring lessons, but everything halfway interesting like fighting or swordplay or target practice seemed to upset him. The only exception to that was flying - he seemed nothing but happy that Glory loved to fly as much as he did.
She shuttered her optics, letting her CPU processes drift. It had been a year since they'd returned to Cybertron, Megatron's presence serving to bring new hope to the Decepticon forces and fully liberating the planet from the clutches of the Autobots. It was strange - despite having been created on Cybertron and spending most of her life here, it had taken her a long time to adjust to calling it home again. Earth had been weird, true, with the underwater base and funny organic life forms, but she'd come to think of it as home. In a way, she missed looking out the window and seeing the ocean floor in all directions, missed sneaking out of the base to chase sharks and dolphins, missed tuning in to the humans' information networks and giggling over their television shows and movies. And while it had given her a sense of irrational pleasure to be able to give her uncle a tour of Cybertron, one that had changed quite a bit in the four million years he'd been away, part of her still wished she could return to Earth.
The one down side of Earth was that the Autobots were there, and they still scared her to some degree. Still, she wasn't helpless anymore - it had been a year and a half since she'd been held captive by Optimus Prime's forces, and in that time she'd learned quite a bit about how to defend herself. She had no delusions about being able to defeat the Prime or a Dinobot or anything, but she was pretty confident she'd be able to hold her own long enough to escape should they corner her.
She idly toyed with the fantasy of chasing down that funny yellow Minibot and dragging him back to the base as a captive... until Thundercracker's comm beeped, shattering the daydream.
"What the..." the blue Seeker grumbled, sitting up. "Thundercracker reporting. Yes, Lord Megatron... yes... at this hour? No, I'm not questioning your orders, sir. On my way, my Lord, ETA two kliks. Out." He gave a deep sigh and stood. "So much for a good night's recharge..."
"What was that?" Glory asked, sitting up in her own berth. Wildfire shifted and mumbled in his recharge beside her, but didn't wake up.
"A mission," Thundercracker replied. "Megatron wants the Seekers to report for duty. I don't know anything beyond that." He picked up his armguns from the desk and clipped them on. "Go back to sleep, all right?"
"I wanna come with you," she insisted, sliding down off the berth. "I wanna know where you guys are going! And maybe Megatron'll let me come too!"
"I hope not," he murmured, frowning. "I don't want a repeat of the battle at the power station..."
"That only happened once!" she protested. "And I got Wildfire now, that won't happen again! Pleeeeeeease?"
Thundercracker groaned and pinched the bridge of his olfactory sensor. "All right... you can come with me to the briefing. But you'll leave without complaint if Megatron sends you away, and you won't make a fuss if he says you can't come along. Promise?"
"Promise," she vowed.
"Good. Now let's go, Starscream's probably already griping about us holding up the briefing."
Glory nodded and trotted after her uncle, having to take three steps for every one of his strides. Whatever was going on sounded important... hopefully important enough for her to watch and learn. It had been a long time since she'd gotten to visit a battlefield, and finally getting to see one today would be an even bigger treat than learning Metallikato.
"So we're both going!" Skywarp exclaimed, clapping Thundercracker on the back. "Awesome! It's been too fraggin' long since we got to team up on a mission..."
"You know full well why that's the case," Thundercracker replied as the two Seekers left the briefing room. "One of us has to stay at the base to keep an optic on Glory."
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean I have to like it," Skywarp grumped. "We fight better as a team, after all. Someone's gotta watch your big blue aft..."
"Who's the one who had to rescue you during the last firefight?" demanded Thundercracker. "Because someone was too busy taunting the Autobots to pay attention to where he was going and flew smack into a window."
"Oh... right." Skywarp grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, I'm still finding glass in weird places... but that was only once, all right?"
Thundercracker said nothing else as the two of them headed for the barracks, Glory hurrying along beside them. To be honest, Thundercracker would have felt a lot more comfortable with this whole mission had Megatron permitted one of the two Seekers to stay behind and watch over Glory. The last time he'd left her alone in the care of Swindle had ended in disaster, and he didn't want a repeat of that entire fiasco. And while she considered the Stunticons her best friends, there was no way in the Pit he'd consider enlisting them to watch over her.
Though he supposed leaving her here was far safer than bringing her along. This mission sounded extremely dangerous, with the Decepticons' best warriors trailing and hijacking an Autobot transport. Given the nature of the whole venture, there wouldn't exactly be a safe place for Glory to hole up and watch the battle from afar. Plus, he wasn't sure if letting her see all this violence and carnage up close was good for her, Decepticon-in-training or not, even though she seemed nothing but enthusiastic about it.
"I'm not gonna be able to go, am I?" she asked at that moment, as if reading his thoughts. "It's not fair..."
"This isn't a mission for sparklings," Thundercracker replied. "Megatron has to be very picky about who comes on this mission, since there won't be room on the transport for all of us. And he wants only his most experienced soldiers."
"Chin up, kid," Skywarp added. "I'm sure you'll get to come along next time."
Glory shrugged a bit. "I guess... but I'm gonna be bored while you guys are gone. Even Rumble and Frenzy are going!"
"Hey, you still got Swindle and the Stunticons to play with," Skywarp told her. "Don't tell me those guys are boring!"
"No... but I'm still gonna get bored." Abruptly she hugged Thundercracker around the legs. "Be careful, Uncle T."
"Of course I'll be careful," he assured her, reaching down to pat her helm gently. "I'll be back before you even miss me. Just promise me you'll mind Swindle while I'm gone, okay?"
"Okay." She squeezed him tightly, then released him and dashed off down the hallway.
Skywarp chuckled. "She'll be fine, TC. Don't worry so much, okay?"
Thundercracker watched Glory duck into their quarters, pondering. Then, decision made, he turned to Skywarp. "I have a favor to ask."
"If I don't make it back for some reason... I want you to look after her, okay?"
The black jet's optics flared in surprise. "Are you serious?"
"Perfectly serious," Thundercracker replied. "She knows you, she trusts you, and I trust you a LOT more than I trust Swindle or the Stunticons to take care of her. If, Primus forbid, anything were to happen to me, you'd be the closest thing she had to family to look after her."
Skywarp looked down at the floor, scuffing the violet-silver alloy with one foot. "That's a lot of responsibility to dump on a mech, TC," he pointed out.
"I know," Thundercracker acknowledged, "but I wouldn't ask this of you if I didn't think you could do it."
Skywarp sighed. "All right... I'll do it. But I doubt it's gonna happen anyhow. We're gonna go to Earth, kick Autobot aft, and come back and celebrate with high grade and Top Gun. You'll see."
"For all our sakes, I hope you're right."
"Oh, cheer up, you grump," Skywarp laughed, and he kept a hand on Thundercracker's shoulder as they headed for the main hangar to await the rest of their team... and to prepare for their upcoming strike on Autobot City.