For TF-Speedwriting. Prompt – "Challenge: defection. Choose a character. They've defected, explore why." I'm . . . not 100% happy with this, at least not yet. It feels like it wanders, it's a LOT of telling instead of showing, and it can't decide if it's an introspective piece or an action story of sorts. Or...summat. I hope one of these days to rewrite this idea as a longer fic, exploring things a lot more and giving things proper time/space to be developed and expanded on. But for now . . . hopefully people will enjoy this as-is.

Disclaimer – "Transformers" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Hasbro, Takara, and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

by DragonDancer5150

Some would call him a defector. Or just defective.

He supposed both would be right.

Thundercracker stood on a mountain slope overlooking the volcano that was home to the Autobots' Ark. It was the last place he wanted to go . . . and the one place he needed to.

He wondered if the Autobots had recovered yet from the recent battle. They had a top medical officer in their ranks and other skilled paramedics besides. He didn't know how badly the other faction had been hit by the blast that had ended the fight and caused their retreat. Had they lost any mechs?

Pain shot through the Seeker's spark, a piercing, nearly palpable javelin of ache that far overshadowed the pain of his myriad injuries. He looked down at the body of his remaining trinemate, limp in his arms, and tried desperately to keep the memories from playing across his processor . . . to no avail.

It had been yet another of Megatron's grand schemes to generate massive amounts of power from one of the natural phenomena of this ugly planet. The plan had originally been Starscream's, but the former scientist had realized an element in the scheme that made the whole thing unfeasible after all. Megatron had overheard him telling his trinemates about it – without hearing the downside – and had decided that it was the perfect plan. Disregarding Starscream's protests, sure that he could make it work, Megatron had ordered the plan be put into action, and the Decepticons had set off for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, a human power plant on the coast only miles from their underwater base. Predictably, the Autobots had shown up shortly after to stop them. Ironically, they needn't have bothered.

Starscream had refused to attach the acceleration device to the side of the target pressurized water reactor, even faced with Megatron's fusion canon. Instead, blindly-loyal Soundwave finally did it just as the Autobots arrived on the scene. It was a wonder to Thundercracker that the device was never hit during the fighting. That fact alone was probably what had saved all of them.

As it was – just as Starscream had realized it would – the device overloaded with the output from the reactor. Electricity like chain lightning shot through the entire company, Autobots and Decepticons alike, frying circuits and fusing microservos, with an accompanying EMP that nearly knocked everyone into forced stasis. The reactor itself would have been the next thing to go. Thundercracker knew it was fortunate that the Autobots' engineer, Wheeljack, had been on-hand and still on his feet – no doubt he had extra shielding due to the nature of his own work – and had been able to prevent a radiation meltdown. The engineer was just accomplishing as much when Megatron regained his own feet and called for retreat.

The company had regrouped in an expanse of flat, arid land somewhere south of the plant. Megatron had been furious and started on one of his tirades at the group in general. Starscream was having none of it, snapping back that if "the great Megatron" had just listened to him to begin with...

It was far from unusual for the Decepticon overlord and his Air Commander to fight. It wasn't unusual for them to threaten each other, or for Starscream to declare himself the better leader. This was one of the times that Thundercracker actually had to agree with his trinemate, that if he'd been in charge instead of Megatron, this wouldn't have happened, that Starscream had known better. That was an unusual point. But the most unusual had been yet to come. Unable to successfully argue any more, Megatron had declared the discussion over and turned away to lead the company home. Starscream had shot at him with his null ray in a fit of frustration and anger. Megatron growled and spun around to return the favor.

Had Megatron forgotten – or just not bothered – to dial down the strength of his fusion cannon like he normally did when punishing one of his own mechs with a hammer shot from the weapon? Had he done so but the power still combined with the effects of the assault from San Onofre? Thundercracker didn't know, nor did it matter. Air Commander Starscream had collapsed with a shriek, his trinemates staggering at the echoes of agony that slammed them both . . . and turned dead-grey, a sudden hole left gaping in the trinebond that matched the one in Starscream's chest.

The blue Seeker retained only impressions of what had happened next. He remembered stunned silence, then a keening that might have been from Skywarp. He remembered harsh and hurt words tumbling of their own accord from his vocalizer, spitting sharp epithets about a loss of honor, about Megatron caring for nothing but his own ambitions, blind to anyone's reasoning but his own, about how far the Decepticons had fallen. He remembered Megatron's roars of rage at his motives and actions being questioned. He remembered staring down the barrel of the raised fusion cannon, and something – someone, Skywarp – slamming into him from the side, knocking him out of the path of the weapon's shot. The shot hit Skywarp instead, and the force of it spun both Seekers halfway around before Skywarp managed to teleport both of them away . . . and collapsed, his energy spent.

Thundercracker had done what he could, but his wingmate's injuries – and his own, for that matter – were beyond his basic-field-repair abilities. They needed help.

The blue Seeker stared at the Ark across the canyon from him, though for a moment he didn't really see it. His mind was far away, on a world he suddenly wondered if he'd ever see again. Eons ago, he had joined the Decepticon faction because he had believed in the cause. They were going to overthrow the corrupt government and take over. It was the right of the strong to rule the weak, those without the backstruts to stand up for themselves, who still clung to outdated ideals instead reaching out to grasp and make concrete their goals and dreams with their own hands. The Decepticons were going to make Cybertron a better world. Thundercracker had believed that with all his spark.

Until he swore his allegiance and joined the cause . . . and saw what the missions entailed, and what the Decepticons had really been doing in the name of their cause.

For countless vorns, he turned a blind optic to the suffering of others, rationalizing it away. Most Decepticons were little more than brute thugs devoid of honor. Autobots represented everything that had been wrong with Cybertron to begin with. Neutrals especially deserved what they got, not even having the spinal struts to choose a side, instead merely trying to save their own plating. Still . . . the last time he participated in the bombing of a Neutral town, massacring thousands of mechs who didn't even have the means of defending themselves, had sat just as poorly with him as the first time.

But none of that could have prepared him for the turn things would take – for the faction and for himself – when they found themselves on Earth. Humans were even less able to defend themselves than the Neutrals had been, even though they displayed the willingness of Autobots to try anyway, fighting back with everything they had. The imbalance of power was downright disgraceful, and Thundercracker couldn't abide by it. There was no attempt to better the world, this one or even Cybertron. Thundercracker couldn't remember when Megatron's speeches had turned from improving their homeworld to merely conquering it, and the rest of the universe for that matter. Only fear of Megatron and the cajoling of his trinemates kept Thundercracker from trying to just disappear into the background to escape the dishonor and disgust he felt at what the Decepticons were doing.

And now, there wasn't even that.

Thundercracker couldn't go back. He'd lost faith in his faction too long ago and had only been holding on for his trinemates' sakes. Now, one lay dead and the other straddled Death's threshold . . . and neither could even claim to have fallen in combat. They were dead or dying at their own leader's hand!

The Seeker growled, seething at the injustice to his trine, and kicked in his heel thrusters. Perhaps he was defective for his views and his sense of honor, but he didn't care. Come what may, he'd approach the Autobots. Either they would take in the two Seekers at least enough to help them with repairs . . . or they'd shoot the two down as intruders as soon as they crossed the perimeter.

Thundercracker would welcome either one.