AUTHOR'S NOTE: This chapter of "Lost and Found" is a crossover with another of my fanfics, "Thundercracker's Glory." My apologies, but I just thought it would be adorable for Metronix to meet Glory...
The moment Starscream heard the fateful words come out of Thundercracker's mouth, he braced himself for something awful. Because nothing good ever seemed to follow that sentence whenever he heard it.
"Starscream, we need to talk."
He tensed, winglets hitching higher, then set down the pieces to the building set he'd been playing with and turned to face the older Seeker. Thundercracker knelt beside him to put himself closer to the sparkling's level. With a bit of relief Starscream noted that the blue Seeker looked serious but not angry or grim, so whatever he needed to talk about couldn't be too bad. Still, he didn't dare let his guard down.
"I didn't do it," he said instantly.
"Didn't do what?" asked Skywarp, going to sit down on Starscream's other side.
"I dunno… whatever it is, I didn't do it."
Skywarp laughed. "It's nothing like that…"
"I already said sorry for the glue in Tracks' wax," he went on, determined to defend himself from whatever they came up with. "Soundwave spilled the paint in the repair bay, not me. And I didn't steal Huffer's spare tire – he's always blaming me for that but I didn't take it!"
Skywarp chuckled again and patted his shoulder. "Aw, Screamer, you're not in trouble."
Thundercracker shook his head, still serious but with a kindly light in his optics. "This isn't about anything you did. I'm sorry I wasn't clearer. But it's still important, and we need you to be prepared for it, all right?"
That sounded ominous, even if a punishment wasn't forthcoming. "What's happening?"
Thundercracker hesitated, as if wondering how to proceed, then steeled himself and spoke again. "How would you feel about another sparkling coming to the Ark? One that was related to you?"
He stared up at the blue Seeker. "I'm gonna have a brother?"
"Not exactly," Skywarp replied. "More like a cousin. A couple new mechs who are related to TC are coming to the Ark to stay, and they're bringing their sparkling. We wanted you to know before they got here, so you could be ready."
Starscream grinned widely. "Another sparkling!" He could barely keep himself from wriggling with excitement. Sure, there were already eight other sparklings in the base, but another one coming to the base was always good news in his CPU. And if he was a relative of Starscream's, that kind of meant he was already automatically friends with the newcomer, and had exclusive access to him that the others didn't.
Of course, he'd let the others play with his cousin – he wasn't that selfish. But in his CPU he was already planning all the adventures they'd have together, the games played and secrets shared…
"When's he gonna get here?" asked Starscream, jumping up into Thundercracker's lap. "Can he stay in our room? What's his name?"
"Whoa, slow down," Thundercracker urged, patting his back gently. "They're not going to get here for a few days, Starscream. And your cousin's not a he, by the way. She's a femme."
Starscream stared up at him, a sense of horror creeping over him. "A femme?"
"You make it sound like she's got Cosmic Rust," Skywarp noted, sounding rather amused. "And don't sound so grossed out. Glory's a great kid. So what if her base programming's different? She still likes a lot of the same games you and your friends do."
"Yeah, but… she's a femme! They're weird!"
"Femmes are not weird," Thundercracker corrected sternly. "And if I hear you calling Glory weird or any other names, we're going to have a problem. She's your cousin, and I expect you to play nicely with her and help her get settled in here. Do you understand?"
"I guess," Starscream muttered. Inwardly, though, he felt all his excitement and grand plans crumbling to dust. He didn't care what his parents said, femmes were weird. At least, all the ones on the Ark were weird – Elita, Chromia, Moonracer, Firestar, and Arcee. They didn't even look like they could transform, and their voices sounded funny, all high and annoying…
"Do I have to share my room with her?" he asked, making a face.
Skywarp cracked up at that. "Just a second ago you wanted to share a room with your cousin! But no, she's going to stay with her parents. Still, you'll have a chance to get to know her. You'll help her settle in, won't you?"
"Do I have to?"
"We'd appreciate it if you did," Thundercracker replied. "Remember how scared you were when you first got here? She's going to be feeling the same way. So she's going to need all our help to get used to this place."
Starscream nodded, feeling a little better about the situation. Maybe having a femme sparkling here would be a little weird at first. But somehow knowing he was going to help her settle in improved things in his optics. He could do this… he could show Glory around, be her guide, and maybe even protect her if anyone thought to make fun of her for being new or a girl or anything else. He could prove to his parents that he could be responsible, that he was capable of anything they asked of him.
And who knew? Maybe she'd turn out to be cool after all. If she liked to fly, that would be even cooler… but he wouldn't get his hopes up too much.
Thundercracker didn't get a chance to vent his worries and frustrations to the Prime until the day of his family's arrival… and needless to say, Prime was a bit startled to suddenly get an audial-full from the normally quiet Seeker.
"It's just maddening," Thundercracker sighed. "Here I thought we were making great progress with him, getting him to empathize with others… and he's refusing to interact with his cousin just because she's a femme!"
Prime couldn't suppress a chuckle at that. "If it's any consolation, it sounds like none of the sparklings here are too thrilled about interacting with a femme. I had to spend a few minutes explaining to Metronix what the difference was between a mech and a femme, and I'm still not sure he's entirely gotten it."
The two mechs stood near the entrance to the Ark, accompanied by Skywarp, Elita-1, and their respective sparklings as they awaited the arrival of Thundercracker's sister and brother-in-law. Metronix and Starscream were chasing each other in circles on the landing pad, completely oblivious to the adults, while Skywarp and Elita kept a careful optic on them to ensure they didn't go bolting over the edge. Red Alert hung back, his gaze sweeping the sky periodically, ready to start his security scan of the newcomers the moment they landed.
Decepticons seeking to change their allegiances was nothing new – Prime had seen his share of defectors over the course of the war. And with the war now over, many Decepticons were opting to switch sides over continuing to fight or abandoning Cybertron. Several Autobot bases and outposts reported a sudden influx in former Decepticons seeking asylum, and the Ark itself played host to a few of these turncoats.
Two of Shockwave's top scientists contacting the Ark and asking for safe refuge in exchange for as much military research as they could get their hands on was rather unexpected, however… especially given that one of them, Windblade, also happened to be the co-creation to Thundercracker, one of Megatron's elite soldiers.
"Think Shockwave will remember her?" asked Thundercracker suddenly.
"I'm not sure," Prime replied. "Shockwave has shown no sign of remembering his former self. It's possible he'll see her as just another stranger."
"Ah." Thundercracker gazed skyward, then abruptly began to chuckle. "She's going to have a field day with this. Her former boss suddenly being a sparkling. And it's gonna be ironic to see her daughter playing with him. If he lets her, that is…"
"Give them a little time to adjust," Prime advised. "Remember, Metronix wasn't at all sure about sharing his home with new sparklings at first. But he gets along with the others just fine now. Give Starscream time, and he'll accept Glory as just another friend."
"I sure hope you're right," Thundercracker murmured as an emerald-green jet soared overhead. He raised his hand, signaling the craft, and the jet waggled its wings in acknowledgement before veering around and diving to land just before them. With a few deft flips and twists of her chassis, the Seeker transformed and touched down lightly before Optimus Prime, saluting crisply.
"Sir!" she barked. "Decepticon scientist and Seeker Windblade reporting."
"At ease," Prime told her. "We don't stand on formality here."
"Oh good," she noted, a broad grin crossing her faceplate. "Shockwave always insisted on running a tight ship. Nice to know this place'll be a little more laid-back." She turned to Thundercracker and smiled even wider, opening her arms. "Heya scraplet! It's been ages! Where've you been?"
"Trying to stay out of trouble," Thundercracker replied, wearing a rare grin as he stepped forward to embrace her. "It just has a talent for finding me instead, though."
"Because your life would be boring if trouble didn't seek you out every so often." She hugged him tightly, then broke away. "Piston's on his way. He had to take the ground route – would have looked weird to the natives if a flying tank carrying a sparkling had passed overhead, I'm sure."
"The humans in this area have seen far stranger, I can assure you," Prime told her. "Welcome to the Ark, Windblade. If you have any questions, you're free to ask myself or any of my officers. We'll all do our best to help you settle in."
She nodded. "We brought that intel you wanted. The deal is we get sanctuary among you, no questions asked, in return."
"Of course," Prime replied. "We're not in the habit of turning mechanisms away who just want to find a peaceful escape from the war."
She relaxed at that. "We just want a safe place to raise our daughter. And since the Ark already plays host to sparklings, it seemed the safest bet." Her smile took on a playful tilt. "Even if said sparklings used to be our commanding officers."
"Speaking of which," Thundercracker murmured, reaching out to snag Starscream by the shoulder as he pelted by. "Starscream, this is your aunt Windblade. Say hello."
Starscream craned his neck to look up at her, mumbled a quick "Hi," then squirmed free and bolted after Metronix again.
"Wow, you weren't kidding," she laughed. "He's cute. And the other little guy's Megatron?"
"He hates being called that," Prime replied. "He prefers Metronix."
"Metronix… right." She nodded before turning her attention to the tankformer who had just climbed onto the landing pad, a much smaller mechanism clinging to him piggyback-style. The teal-and-gray mech carefully detached the sparkling from his back and set her down, then took her hand and led her forward to meet the others.
"My bondmate, Piston," Windblade introduced. "And our daughter, Glory."
Piston smiled a little and saluted with his free hand. "My pleasure, Prime sir."
"The pleasure is all ours, Piston," Prime replied.
Glory stared up at Prime, optics wide and bright with an awe bordering on fear. She bore the same chunky, soft-edged look that the other sparklings did, but she seemed to be a touch more slender and a bit lankier in the leg. Her armor was royal purple and silver, with a domed helm similar to Mirage's and curious slits built into her forearms and shins. She lacked a sigil, but that wasn't uncommon among sparklings.
Any further examination of her was cut off as she squeaked and ducked behind Piston's leg.
"Come on out, sweetspark," Piston urged, reaching back to pat her helm. "The Autobots are on our side now, remember? He's not gonna bite."
"H-he's scary!" she protested, clinging to her paternal creator's leg. "He's the Prime!"
"Easy, little one," Prime said soothingly, and he knelt down and extended a hand toward the young femme. "You're safe here. No one is going to hurt you." Should he bring up Metronix? Perhaps it would help matters. "And I'm a father too, you know. Perhaps you and my son will get along?"
Glory peeked out from behind Piston's leg, studying him as if trying to decide if he was being truthful or not. Perhaps if she met Metronix face to face…
"Metronix?" Prime called out. "Can you come over here?"
On the other side of the landing platform Starscream had finally caught up to Metronix and tackled him, and the two were rolling around play-wrestling. Upon hearing Prime's voice, however, Metronix squirmed free and hurried over. "Yeah?"
"Metronix, this is Glory," he introduced, pointing. "She's the sparkling we talked about last night. She's going to be staying here from now on."
"Oh." Metronix eyed her speculatively, as if trying to decide how to react to her presence. Glory stared at him a moment before tucking her face into her father's leg again, though more out of shyness than anything else.
"Hi," Metronix said at last. "I'm Metronix."
"I'm Glory." She peeked out from behind Piston's leg, but didn't emerge. "Uh… hi."
Metronix fidgeted, not sure what to say next. Then he pulled his battered plush leopard from its usual place under his arm. "This is Spotty."
Glory smiled a little, not at all put off by the sudden odd introduction. "Hi Spotty." And she held out her arm, showing off a bright green toy cyberdragon. "This is Dragon."
"Hi Dragon." Metronix reached out with Spotty, making the two plush toys bump noses. "Maybe they can be friends."
"I'd like that," Glory replied, and her smile widened a bit. Prime couldn't help a smile of his own behind his mask. This was one of the most adorable scenes he'd seen in awhile, and given that the Ark was pretty well overrun with sparklings at the moment, giving countless opportunities for cute scenes, that was saying something.
"That's your dad?" Glory asked, looking up at Prime apprehensively.
"Yeah." He grinned. "He's awesome. And that's my mom." He pointed over at Elita, who smiled and waved. "And I've got lots of uncles here, they're all awesome! Like Grimlock and Sideswipe and Sunstreaker and Jazz…"
Glory giggled. "You got a big family!" She looked over at Thundercracker. "I just got one uncle. But he's cool. He's a flier!"
Starscream had approached while the other two sparklings had been engrossed in the conversation, and at that last statement of Glory's his optics lit up in delight. "You like to fly?"
"Uh-huh!" Glory replied, nodding. "I can't do it myself yet, but Mom takes me sometimes. It's fun!"
"Awesome!" Starscream exclaimed, beaming. "My dads take me flying too! I'm gonna be the best flier when I'm upgraded!"
"Not better than Uncle T," Glory giggled. "He's the best!"
Thundercracker looked away, an embarrassed expression on his faceplate. "I dunno about the BEST…" he murmured.
Metronix held his hand out to Glory. "Wanna go meet the Dinobots?"
"Dinobots? Aren't they scary?"
"Nuh-uh! They're awesome! And Swoop'll take us on rides if we ask! He flies, like your uncle!"
"Ooh!" Glory looked up at Piston, her optics bright and pleading. "Daddy, can I?"
"I don't see why not," Piston replied. "Just be careful, and come when we comm you, all right?"
Metronix whooped and grabbed Glory's hand, pulling her to the base's entrance. Glory hurried to catch up, squealing with laughter. Starscream ran after them, waving his arms and calling for them to wait up for him.
"Stop those sparklings!" Red Alert shouted, making a grab for Starscream but just barely missing him. "The purple one hasn't been cleared through security yet!"
"It's a sparkling, not an intruder," Elita told him, though she wore a broad grin. "Ease up a little, Red. They're just children."
"I don't care how cute she is, she's not getting a free pass," Red Alert insisted, and he took off after the sparklings. "Stop those kids!"
Windblade muffled a chuckle behind her hand. "I think they're going to get along just fine."
Prime chuckled softly. Amazing, how quickly the little ones just seemed to accept newcomers without a second thought. Would that all former Decepticons were so easily accepted among their numbers.
Soundwave was in the medical bay with his cassettes, helping Ratchet get them fed and settled down for a nap, when a voice made him freeze in place.
"Whatcha got there?"
Instinct kicked in, and he wrapped his arms protectively around Ratbat. The purple cassette-ling chirped and wriggled, surprised at the sudden hug but not exactly complaining. Common sense told the blue sparkling that the Ark was a safe place, and no one was going to hurt his cassettes, especially with Ratchet around. Still, he couldn't help but be nervous… these were HIS cassettes, after all, and he felt responsible for them. And if anything happened to them on his watch…
He turned around slowly to find an unfamiliar sparkling staring at him, her head cocked to one side as she waited for his reply. For a moment his CPU scrambled to figure out what she was doing here. Jazz had told him there was a new sparkling coming to the Ark today – part of the reason he was hiding here in the medbay with his cassettes, since meeting new people was always a daunting prospect for him. Was this her, then?
"Hi," she greeted, waving. "Whatcha go there? Is that a pet?"
He bristled a little at that. "He's not a pet. He's a cassette." He hugged Ratbat tighter, making him squeak in dismay. "He's mine."
"I just wanna look," she insisted, looking put out. Then she brightened. "My name's Glory. What's yours?"
Soundwave shuffled his feet and looked down at the floor. Maybe if he didn't answer, she'd go away. He'd rather not have to deal with anyone new, even if they were sparklings. He still wasn't used to the Stunticons, especially since the first time they'd met him they'd immediately tried to get him to play-wrestle with them. Sideswipe had apologized for that, but Soundwave still avoided them whenever they crossed paths.
"What's the matter?" Glory asked. "I know you can talk. Do you not have a name?"
He chanced a glance up at her, then lowered his gaze again, mumbling his name.
"Soundwave," he repeated a little louder. ""'m Soundwave."
"Ooooh… you have a cool name! Cooler than Glory…" She made a bit of a face at that, then smiled again. "Can I see your cassette?"
Ratbat flapped his wings, squeaking in protest, and Soundwave quickly relaxed his grip on him, looking him over to be sure he wasn't hurt. "Just don't touch. He's a baby."
"I'll be super careful," Glory promised, and stepped a little closer. "Hi, Ratbat."
The young cassette gazed up at Glory, twitching his audials curiously. Soundwave watched him intently, ready to yank him out of the other sparkling's reach if she reached out to touch him or Ratbat showed any sign of distress. Maybe Ratbat wouldn't like her, and that could be his excuse for not having to socialize…
Ratbat chirped, and to Soundwave's astonishment he pushed himself out of the blue sparkling's arms and flapped clumsily over to Glory. She gasped and held her arms out, catching him before he could hit the floor.
Soundwave blinked, astonished. "He flew!"
"Sorry!" Glory quickly held Ratbat back out to Soundwave. "I didn't mean to touch him, but I didn't want him to fall on the floor and get hurt! I'm sorry!"
"He flew!" Soundwave repeated, ignoring her apology for the moment. "He's never flown before!" He grinned, feeling a rush of pride at seeing one of his cassettes make such a big leap in progress. Sure, it had only been for a few wingbeats, but Ratbat had still flown! That was enough to make him forget about being nervous around the newcomer for a moment.
He held his hands out to Ratbat, wanting to give him a victory cuddle, but the cassette shied away from him, squirming closer to Glory.
"Go on," Glory told him. "Go to your daddy…"
Ratbat squeaked and tucked his head against Glory's shoulder.
"I guess he wants to stay with you," Soundwave noted, a little disappointed.
"I'm sorry," Glory replied, hugging Ratbat gently.
"It's okay," Soundwave told her, and to his surprise he realized he meant it. "He likes you. I… guess that means you're okay."
She giggled. "He's cute." She looked over at Ratchet, who was currently feeding Ravage, then at the nearby incubator where Rumble and Frenzy were rolling around, squealing and giggling. "Are those all your cassettes?"
Soundwave nodded. "That one's Ravage, the one Ratchet's got… then there's Rumble and Frenzy and Buzzsaw and Laserbeak…"
"Wow, you got a LOT of them!" She grinned. "Can I come visit them sometimes? I promise I won't touch… except Ratbat, I guess…"
"If they like you, you can hold them." He pointed at the incubator. "Wanna see the rest of them?"
Soundwave put a hand on her arm and led her to the incubator. If the cassettes liked Glory, then she couldn't be too bad. And she seemed nice enough. Maybe she would make a decent friend after all.
"I've just got to say," Piston noted, "it's rather weird seeing my old boss like this."
Wheeljack laughed, headfins blinking an amused amber. "Least he's easier to get along with like this, right?"
While Glory met the other sparklings aboard the Ark and Windblade got acquainted with the Autobots' aerial fighters, Piston had found his way to the science officers' quarters. To be honest, he'd expected to be rebuffed immediately, or at least greeted with suspicion. But Wheeljack had been nothing but friendly and welcoming, greeting him warmly and letting him in no questions asked. And Piston had been astonished to find Perceptor and Mixmaster working side by side on some chemical concoction, a young Shockwave looking on in fascination.
It had been an odd sight… but it was a good odd, at least. And Wheeljack had told him that one came to expect the bizarre to happen with regularity aboard this ship, so he supposed he should get used to it.
"Shockwave, I'm going to need the sodium bicarbonate next," said Perceptor, not looking up from the steaming beaker. "It should be on my workbench, in the container with the green lid."
"Yes, Father." Shockwave nodded eagerly and scurried off to fetch it.
"Are you sure it's safe letting the sparkling help with an experiment like this?" asked Piston, raising an optic ridge. Even back among the Decepticons, it was considered a serious breach of the rules to even allow a sparkling inside the labs, let alone taking one on as an assistant. Though he suspected that rule had less to do with sparkling safety and more to do with the head scientists often being so paranoid of their research and secrets being stolen that they didn't even trust sparklings…
"This formula we're attempting to recreate is perfectly harmless," Perceptor assured him, taking the bottle Shockwave handed him. "If we thought there was a chance this substance were toxic, volatile, or otherwise unstable, the youngling would not be allowed inside the laboratories. But seeing as its safe, I thought it would be beneficial for him to have some firsthand education."
"I dunno, if this is one of Mixy's blends, I'd be a little nervous," Wheeljack noted, though he laughed as he spoke, so Piston supposed he could have been teasing the Constructicon chemist.
"What's the matter, don't you trust me, trust me?" asked Mixmaster, giving his best look of wide-opticked innocence.
"No offense, Mixmaster," Piston admitted, "but when it comes to you and your concoctions I trust you about as far as I can throw-"
When Piston regained his senses, he found himself lying on his back in a far corner of the lab, surrounded by shattered test tubes and twisted recording instruments. Somewhere off to the side Mixmaster was coughing noisily as he tried to clear noxious fumes from his vents, and a short distance away Inferno was hosing the entire lab with flame retardant foam. Funny, he didn't remember Inferno coming in… the fire truck must have heard the explosion and come running in while Piston was unconscious.
"…all right?" The words finally reached his audials as they rebooted after the blast. "Hey Piston, can you hear me?"
"I'm fine, Wheeljack." Piston reached up and grabbed the Autobot engineer's hand, letting him haul him to his feet. "What in the Pit just happened?"
"Just a minor miscalculation," Perceptor replied as calmly as if half his lab hadn't just exploded on him, brushing spattered chemicals off his chestplate. "It appears Cybertronian compounds and that particular blend of Earth components don't react well… perhaps a contamination of trace minerals." He frowned, as if realizing he'd forgotten something important but not sure what, then looked around the lab. "Are you all right, Shockwave?"
"Shockwave!" Perceptor's calm evaporated, and he began to frantically wade through the foam that now carpeted the lab. "Shockwave, if you can hear me, respond!"
"Oh fraggit," Piston groaned. "Search the lab! He could be hurt, maybe knocked offline!" He immediately began scanning the lab, hoping to uncover the young mech. Never mind that this wasn't even his creation – he knew if it were Glory in his situation, he'd want every able-bodied mech scouring the facility for her.
"Someone needs to tattoo a sign to yer aft, 'Jack," Inferno grumbled, going to the mangled workbench and flipping it over to check underneath. "Somethin' like 'keep at least fifty feet from sparklin's an' anythin' else breakable…'"
"It wasn't me!" Wheeljack insisted. "Why is it that everyone always assumes the worst of me?"
Before anyone could fire off a reply, Piston plunged his hand through a mound of foam and immediately felt something hard, his fingers brushing across what could only be a small hand. With a quick yell of "Found him!" he pulled the little mech free of the mess, wiping him off as best he could with his bare servos. Shockwave lay limply in his arms, dented and so covered in foam and chemical spatter that barely any violet showed. A quick scan at least confirmed he was alive and not seriously injured, but it was still a worrisome sight.
"Shockwave!" Perceptor rushed to Piston's side and scooped the sparkling out of his arms. "Shockwave, I apologize from the bottom of my spark…" His expression was so stricken that Piston felt his own spark lurch in response.
The violet sparkling groaned, and his amber optics flickered online.
"Shockwave… are you all right?" Perceptor asked worriedly. "Are you hurt anywhere?"
Shockwave looked dazedly up at his father, headfins twitching slightly as he regained his bearings. Then a delighted grin split his faceplate, and he flung both his arms in the air.
"That was brilliant!" he declared. "Do it again!"
Perceptor burst into relieved laughter. "Another time, and in more controlled conditions for the next attempt." He shifted Shockwave to sit more comfortably in his arms. "For now you require a trip to the washracks, and a medic needs to examine you."
"Awww," Shockwave whined, but he didn't protest as Perceptor bustled him out of the lab, the red scientist leaving a trail of dripped chemicals as he went.
"Oh sure, leave us to clean up your mess," Mixmaster grumped.
"Let him go," Piston advised, chuckling. "Parenthood comes first in cases like this."
Evening energon break had finally rolled around, and many Autobots were perfectly willing to call it a day and take the chance to relax. For several of them, it had been a very eventful day, and they were just glad that it had gone without any major upsets. New arrivals had been settled in with minimal fuss (save Red Alert still fretting that a sparkling could have gotten into the base without proper security clearance), the explosion in the labs had been cleaned up, and the sparklings seemed perfectly content to accept the newcomer among their numbers.
It should have been a fairly successful day… so why one particular recent arrival was scowling unhappily at the proceedings was anyone's guess.
Kup stared into his energon cube, then back up at the table where most of the mechs with adopted sparklings were refueling. Metronix and Glory were talking animatedly as they drank, with Prime keeping a watchful optic on the two. Thundercracker and Windblade were engaged in conversation as well, probably catching up on what the other sibling had been up to in their time apart, while Skywarp played a board game with Starscream, Soundwave, and Jazz. Piston and Perceptor were looking over a datapad together, no doubt trying to puzzle out what had gone wrong with the day's experiment. And the Stunticons were chasing each other around the room, with Sideswipe and Sunstreaker trying in vain to get them all rounded up and seated so they could finish their fuel.
The green veteran just shook his head and took a long draught from his cube. Fraggit, this whole business of turning their most dangerous enemies into sparklings just plain creeped him out. Maybe other mechs, even officers, considered these age-regressed versions of Megatron and his top officers adorable, but no one seemed to stop and think just how disturbing all this really was. It was one thing to rehabilitate a criminal – he'd seen plenty of former scumbags, even war criminals, make a successful turnaround in their lives – but to do it in a manner that practically rewrote their lives for them just seemed unnatural.
That, and he was of the opinion that in a lot of these mechs' cases, said rehabilitation wouldn't do much good. Sparklings or not, their original Decepticon programming remained, and no amount of education or coddling was going to train that out of them. Sure, they might be a touch less ruthless from here on out… but who was to say that Metronix wouldn't grow up to have the same temperament and personality of his former self, and go on to repeat history and reignite this whole blasted war?
He'd tried to voice his concerns, but found himself in the vast minority. Everyone else had been charmed by the little mechs, and wrote off his opinion as simple paranoia. Kup had a sickening feeling in his tanks that if the worst happened, and Metronix, Starscream, and all the others grew up to simply be their old selves all over again, everyone else would be too blind to see it until it was too late.
Something tapped against his side, and he looked down to see a violet mech peering up at him with wide amber optics. It took him a moment to process the sight and put a designation to that faceplate, but when he realized he was looking down at Shockwave he did his best to not scowl down at him. If he ended up making the sparkling run crying back to his adopted parent, he'd never hear the end of it.
"Don't poke me," he grumbled. "It ain't polite."
Shockwave jerked his hands back and hid them behind his back. "Sorry."
Kup took another draw from his cube, not breaking optic contact. What did he want? Did the little mech recognize him from before? His last encounter with the sadistic scientist hadn't been pleasant for either of them, and if Shockwave remembered it and wanted payback…
"What's that?" Shockwave asked, reaching out to tap a set of weld marks in Kup's armguard.
"Don't poke me," Kup repeated, pulling his arm out of reach. "And those're old war wounds, kid. Got 'em in the disaster in the Clemency star system."
"Do they hurt?"
"Not anymore." It hadn't been pleasant at the time, of course, but then, trying to pry a sparkeater off of you before it could suck your life force out was never exactly pleasant.
"Why don't you get it fixed?"
"Because I'm fraggin' proud of my battle scars," he replied, a bit more shortly than he intended. "They're reminders of what I've been through, and getting them fixed would be an insult to my history. Not to mention the memories of those who weren't as lucky as I was."
Shockwave's headfins pricked up like the ears of a curious turbohound. "What happened at Clemency?"
Kup raised an optic ridge. Wasn't this little mech full of questions. Though truth be told, he wasn't exactly bothered by it. Indeed, it was a refreshing change of pace to have a young mech around who was actually interested in hearing about his past, instead of rolling his optics and groaning in boredom as some young punks he could mention were fond of doing.
"Siddown," Kup told him, patting the bench beside him. "It's a long story."
Shockwave's optics lit up in delight. "I love stories!" And he pulled himself up onto the bench and gazed up at the old truck with an expression of rapture.
"It all started back before you were even sparked… slag, before even Optimus Prime was sparked," Kup began. "Our crew was headin' out to the Clemency star cluster to investigate some weird energy readings… thought it might be 'Cons, but turned out to be something far more dangerous…"
Shockwave continued to stare up at him, totally enthralled by the story. Kup did his best to gloss over the scarier aspects of it and to keep the swearing down, but somehow he doubted the sparkling would have minded if he'd told the completely uncensored version. He listened attentively as the old mech described their journey to the star cluster, their encounter with a derelict freighter infested with sparkeaters, and the epic battle that had left their crew decimated but every last sparkeater destroyed – save one, which had made off with one of Kup's hands.
"Got it replaced, of course," he concluded, holding up his right hand and flexing the digits. "But somewhere in that star cluster a lone sparkeater lurks, waiting for my return… he's tasted my alloy and found it delicious, and I've got a feelin' in my tanks that he awaits the day he can devour the rest of me too."
Cheers and applause met the end of his story, and he glanced up to find his table occupied by every other sparkling in the base. Somehow, while he'd been lost in the recounting of the tale, the other sparklings had noticed what was going on and crowded around to listen in.
"That was awesome!" Starscream crowed, pumping a fist in the air.
"That must have been scary!" Soundwave added, though he wore a delighted grin.
"Tell us another one!" Metronix pleaded. "Pleeeeeaaaase?"
"Well, I…" Kup couldn't help a brief flush of pleasure, his faceplates heating up. He wasn't used to mechs actually wanting to hear his stories - his audiences were usually all too unwilling. "Shouldn't you be getting back to your parents?"
"Aw, please?" Glory begged. "Just one more?"
"Not one more, lots more!" Motormaster insisted. "Got one about racing?"
Kup glanced up at Prime, who was watching the entire situation with an amused glint in his optics. Upon making optic contact with the old warhorse, Prime nodded slightly, as if giving his approval. Kup nodded back and turned back to Motormaster.
"Have I got a racing story for you!" he told the young Stunticon. "It was vorns ago, when I was still a turbo-revvin' young punk myself, and I found myself marooned on the planet Velocitron…"
The Stunticons whooped excitedly and crowded closer to listen. Kup grinned as he went on with the story, pleased to have an eager audience at last. Perhaps these young mechs weren't so bad… and if they were willing to listen to a more experienced mech's misadventures, and learn from them, they'd turn out all right after all.