TITLE: Bombs Away
CHAPTER: One | Different
RATING: PG-13 for now.
SUMMARY: The Scavengers raid a dead ship. The Lost Light crew stop them. Fulcrum and Tailgate figure out exactly how lonely they are in the universe.
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters are owned by the author, simply written for amusement and the fact that the Scavengers don't receive nearly enough attention as they ought to and it seemed like a good idea to pair up a bomb disposal unit with a bomb, especially when the words "snuggling with a bomb" was used by said bomb disposal unit.
The Marching Riot had been an impressive Autobot warship, something that many ship enthusiasts and war historians could tell you. Many battles spent in that warship as it tore through enemy lines. It was a terror to be sure, a name that could give several Decepticons nightmares still. It was a powerhouse and it was intensely difficult to put down during the war.
While working on docking off to the port of the leftover warship, Fulcrum had found himself between two very excitable scavengers eager to blab about the terror of the Braxian Sector. Inconveniently, it'd been while Fulcrum was in stasis lock on Clemency, otherwise he wouldn't have to sit through how enthusiastic Krok was about telling the gruesome tales of the warship, and what a victory it'd been to bring her down just shortly before the war ended. Not that he'd been there, but Krok valued knowledge and reports; he had been, apparently, very satisfied to know it was taken out. Crankcase went on to mention how the Marching Riot was one of a kind, no other ship was quite like her, and its defenses were insanely impressive and did you know it took gallons and gallons to fuel the ship.
So naturally, seeing the giant death ship of doom (as Crankcase eloquently put it), it was prime time for scavenging.
"I'm honestly surprised it's as whole as it is," Fulcrum admits as they step into the ship. "I mean, save for a few blasts here and there."
"Had to be precise shots. Otherwise the damn thing wouldn't have gone down," Crankcase points out. "Anything else would have been a waste of ammo."
"Why hasn't anyone taken this ship apart before, anyway?" Fulcrum asks. "War's over and all that."
"At the time, the Marching Riot was at the head of the lines. When it was taken out, we had other things on our mind apart from taking resources." Krok lifts his head. "If I'm guessing right, there's plenty of energon still stored in some back up fuel tanks. Maybe some other bits here and there. The plating alone would be useful, frankly. And not a single spark out there to lay claim to it."
The Marching Riot had been an impressive Autobot warship, something that many ship enthusiasts and war historians could tell you. Many battles spent in that warship as it tore through enemy lines. It had been once a name that brought cheering and clapping Autobots together, a shout for celebration, and a smug look as it blasted its way into Decepticons relentlessly. It was a powerhouse, and it had been a damn shame when it was put down during the war.
Not that Tailgate could really have any pride in any of that. He tried very hard to sound interested when Ultra Magnus explained what the ship was and its specs and it was a fortitude of justice. Rewind explained its history, right down who designed it (Tailgate already forgot the name) and how many floors it had (was it three or four) and how many Decepticon ships it brought down exactly. The pair got into an almost passionate discussion about the vessel, or at least as passionate as Ultra Magnus could get about anything besides regulations.
He really hopes that no one is planning on testing him on the facts later. Moreover, the way just about everyone looked prideful about the ship makes him feel strangely left out. He doesn't feel proud about a ship he had nothing to do with, but he's an Autobot now. So that means... what, exactly?
"The ship had several records of data. There's no point to look for survivors; the fight happened sometime ago. What we're looking for is primarily any information that could be provided about the Knights of Cybertron." Ultra Magnus pauses, then glances at Drift. "Or perhaps even the Circle of Light. We aren't expecting any trouble, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't go prepared."
"I know you just said that we aren't expecting any trouble, but I got a reading on the Marching Riot," Blaster announces. "Not Autobot, though."
Ultra Magnus's optics narrow. "Decepticon, I take it."
"You got it."
"Then we definitely go in armed."
"Autobots," Krok grumbles at the annoyed report given by Crankcase. "Damn. At this rate, we can't even get the paneling. Misfire, how's the siphoning from the tanks?"
"Not gonna be done by the time that ship gets here, tell you that, but what I can tell you is that we've got a decent amount I guess I mean I hope no one minds the tang of engine in their cube tonight-"
"It's fine," Krok carefully cuts in. "Don't drain it all, we don't have the time."
"Man, if they board the W.A.P. and see Grimlock, this is either going to look great or get really awkward," Misfire muses as he works.
Fulcrum rubs his helm. "More like bad." They haven't mistreated the Dynobot or anything, but Grimlock's a bargaining ship and... well, it's not like any of them have had a problem with Grimlock's presence. Hell, Fulcrum sort of found himself a bit attached to the big lug, which is weird, but no doubt the Autobots finding them with one of their soldiers in a questionable mental state?
Yeah. Not so good.
The war might be over, but between Grimlock on their ship and the fact that they're probably breaking a few laws here and there probably makes this... really very bad. Escaping is sound pretty good right now.
"All right, line's been cut, W.A.P. is fueled up best we can! We're good," Misfire stands up from his work.
Krok nods and opens his commlink. "Spinister, you and Crankcase need to leave the medbay. Take what you've got, go back to the ship. Right now." He glances at the rest of his crew of misfits. "Let's go, double-time. I'm really not interested in getting caught in another crossfire so soon."
None of them are in disagreement from that. Just recently they'd recovered from the damage the D.J.D. had done, for the most part. None of them are eager to get caught up in battle once more. Not only would they lack the firepower, but there was no way that they could survive many hits.
The three of them take off down the hallway, making a turn.
"Hate to alarm everyone, but the Autobot ship is definitely docked. It won't take them long if they feel like boarding our ship," Crankcase warns with a low growl.
"Noted," Krok acknowledges. "Are you on our ship?"
"Spinister and I just got back-"
"Start the engines. If they start knocking, you leave," Krok orders sternly.
"...Fine, whatever. Just get back here."
"You know, I really wish we had more plans like this!" Misfire laughs, a slight bit of nervousness seeping into his tone. "Running away. We could do that more often!"
Another turn down the hallway and the trio catch a glimpse of it: several Autobots heading down their opposite way. Their path isn't blocked, but they're about to be cornered in some undoubtedly awful firepower. Definitely more than six Autobots, to boot.
Krok glances over his shoulder, then scowls before he addresses Misfire, "You know how you're not allowed to transform in the ship?"
"Do it now and get out," Krok snaps at him. "Right now, Misfire!"
There's a brief pause as if Misfire is having a hard time deciding before he finally transforms into his jet mode, taking off down the hallway.
"Have I mentioned how much it sucks that I don't have a vehicle mode?" Fulcrum mutters, trying hard to not look over his shoulder.
Krok jerks his head down as the shots start. "At least once a day."
They're getting closer. Whether the give away is the weapons firing overhead or the sounds of engines getting closer or whatever, they're getting closer. Krok, still ridiculously protective of his misfit of a crew, is making sure everyone else makes it back at least. Figures.
But it's one of those factors that's admirable about him. Hell of a way to make a guy loyal.
Fulcrum glances ahead, narrowing his optics. He sees it; a panel access for shutters to come down.
"You said the plating in this ship is pretty defensible, right?" the K-Con asks.
"Now really isn't a time for a history-" Krok grates out, scowling. But he knows Fulcrum wouldn't ask a pointless question like that. "Yes, yes they are."
It takes timing, and he knows it. He slows down, just a bit, making sure that Krok makes it just far enough down the hallway. The tactician stops once he realizes Fulcrum isn't following him, turning his head to stare down Fulcrum.
There's a scowl in return as Fulcrum starts punching in commands to the panel. "Just. Just go!"
"Fulcrum-" Krok starts, both scathing and worried, not that it matters since the shutters close on him, sealing him away from Fulcrum and the Autobots.
Quickly, fear starts to rise in the K-Con; he's going to be stuck at the mercy of Autobots, after all, which means he's probably going to die in a few seconds. But he knows he couldn't force Krok to be stuck with him. No one else is going to die on his account, because he definitely hasn't forgotten about Flywheels.
"You idiot," Krok growls into the commlink, sounding more frantic than angry.
"Krok, you gotta go with the others," Fulcrum tells him, his voice getting tinier as he sees the Autobots approaching.
"I'm coming back for you. When I can."
"L-look, Krok," Fulcrum tries to not let his voice crack as he watches a tall, monocular opticked Autobot approach with a very big gun. "Just go home."
He knows that Krok tries to get in a few more words, but he cuts off the line, and he knows the only reason why he isn't whimpering in fear is because he's sincerely too afraid to make a sound.
"Well, this just boring real fast." Despite his thin frame, Whirl is able to swiftly kicking down the only remaining Decepticon in sight, peering down at him. "Just one of you? Hey, your head better explode real nice!"
"I'm surrendering- I didn't even shoot you!" the Decepticon shouts, both defensively and very clearly afraid.
Tailgate glances between Whirl and the Decepticon. What he just saw was kind of interesting, odd. Different than he expected of Decepticons. This one just shut off the hallway to save his crew. He should probably not care that Whirl's kicking a downed Decepticon. They're the enemy, but...
"Maybe we should wait for the others?" Tailgate tries to suggest.
Whirl peers down at Tailgate. "Hey, look. If there's a bomb that, you know, needs disposing? Great! You can make all the suggestions you want- actually, don't, because it's not like I care. But anyway." There's a yelp from the Decepticon as Whirl slams his foot over his back. "This is what I do, see? Killing Decepticons."
Tailgate nervously looks down. There's just something incredibly discomforting about it, the way the seemingly unarmed Decepticon is just being beaten for... what reason, he really isn't sure.
Really, he isn't too confident he knows what these Decepticons were up to in this ship, anyway.
He tries to not wince when Whirl shoves the Decepticon against the shutter doors, pointing his gun at the smaller mech's head. "Two for one special. Let's see if I can shoot a hole in the door here while I blow your head off. I'll even do a countdown for ya. Five, four, three- KABLAM!" Whirl doesn't actually shoot, but the Decepticon flinches, definitely letting out a panicked whimper. "Ha, just kidding! Let's start over. Five, four-"
Tailgate feels his struts relax a little in relief when he hears Ultra Magnus arrive and speak.
"That one is K-Class. You shoot him, you'll take out all of us," Magnus states sternly. "So drop him."
Whirl looks over his shoulder, single optic narrowing slightly before he tosses the Decepticon at Ultra Magnus's feet. "Eh, it would have been cool if he went off."
The enforcer peers at Whirl before addressing the K-Class. "Stand."
For a moment, the Decepticon seems to have a hard time standing. Eventually, Tailgate gets close enough to give him a hand up. The K-Class glances at him, wide and dimly lit yellow optics looking confused before dipping his head in some sort of submissive inclination. "Um, thanks."
"This is gonna sound like a dumb question I bet, but," Tailgate starts, looking up at Ultra Magnus, "what's K-Class?"
"Turn," Ultra Magnus instructs the Decepticon, taking his wrists and snapping cuffs over them, which earns a noise of discomfort from the bronze-colored mech. "The K-Class are a line of Decepticons, reformatted to turn into bombs."
That only earns a startled, confused look from Tailgate. Why would anyone willingly turn into a bomb? But he can understand why Ultra Magnus had been quick to tell Whirl to stop.
"Tailgate, I need you to disarm him," Ultra Magnus instructs. "Do you require help?"
"Hm." Tailgate looks down at the K-Class. "No, I think I can handle this."
"When you're done, take him to the brig." Ultra Magnus watches Tailgate begin to take the K-Class down the hallway.
"Drift, what's the status of the Decepticon ship?" Fulcrum hears the enormous blue Autobot speak into his commlink as he's guided down the hall.
"The fight was brief. They managed to get free and escape. I have the name of their ship. Small tick, but I'll take it."
There's some relief as Fulcrum exhales from his vents. No casualties and the others managed to get away. Not that he's real proud about being separated from Krok and the rest, but he's glad they got away.
They pass by several Autobots. Too many for Fulcrum to even want to count. He's surrounded and in cuffs again. He hasn't decided yet if this is better or worse than Decepticon prison, but that tall Autobot - Whirl, he thinks - acted a lot like Decepticons he's met in the past.
"Tailgate, right?" Fulcrum tries.
"Hm? Yeah, that's me." Tailgate gives him a friendly pat on the arm before he's back to guiding him down the hall, apparently back to the Autobot ship.
"You're, uh. You're not gonna kill me, are you?" Fulcrum asks, smiling nervously. "I mean, the war's over and all."
"No, no! Nothing like that." Tailgate pats his back. "Watch your step inside."
Awfully polite for an Autobot. Fulcrum looks down and watches his footing as he steps into the Autobot ship. "Thanks."
It's stifling to see so many Autobots at work. The few interactions, admittedly, that Fulcrum's had in the past has either been duck and hope you don't get shot and Grimlock, so everything else has been word of mouth, rumors, videos, and images. Still, the war's over, so it's not like they're going to do anything to him. He hopes.
Really, it was kind of hard to tell for a moment there with that Whirl guy.
He recognizes medbays well enough to know when they arrive to it. There are a few mechs he can see from here laid out on berths, recovering from whatever battle they had from how long ago, he's not sure, but it definitely hadn't been due to Krok and the others. Regardless, there's one of the medics approaching - one with a crap paint job to boot, too. Not that Fulcrum is probably one to comment, but with the way the paint is flaking off, it's a bit distracting.
"What's all this?" the medic asks, frowning in disapproval.
"Just need to disarm him," Tailgate responds, in a way that's almost too cheerful. "Do you have somewhere I can put him, Ambulon?"
The medic keeps his scowl, then nods towards one of the berths in the corner. "There are straps. I suggest using them."
"Straps?" Fulcrum jerks a little in Tailgate's hold. "Uh, you know, I should have mentioned this sooner, but I really didn't want to just in case one of you decided to shoot me, but-" Impatiently, Ambulon is grabbing him by the elbow and yanking him over. "I'm not armed! My payload's been removed already! I mean it, you really don't have to tie me down."
"Sorry." Tailgate rubs the back of his head, as if he isn't certain of how else to approach the matter. "It's just to keep you still. I'll try to not hurt you."
"Gee, thanks!" Fulcrum tries really hard to not cower in fear as he's forced down onto the berth. The cuffs are removed, but he's strapped down anyway.
It just. It reminds him a lot of Styx and when he was reformatted. He tries to keep his vents cycling air, to not hypervent at the idea of being reconfigured again.
"Go ahead and open up." Tailgate pats his shoulder. "I don't wanna force anything that I don't have to and, uh. This is probably the first time I've had to do this on someone that turned into a bomb."
Fulcrum doesn't say anything. He just bites down and reluctantly commands paneling to shift back. The glow of Tailgate's optics intensify and he's reaching in. It's not that the Autobot - is it an Autobot, he actually can't remember seeing a symbol - is gentle, but he's not rough either. There's a sense of confidence as he works his fingers in and explores his insides.
"He was damaged not too long ago," Ambulon notes, not quite curiously. "Someone's put you back together with scraps. Who'd repair a K-Con?"
Fulcrum isn't brave enough to answer him or even peep a word. He's afraid that if he opens his mouth, it's just going to either be noiseless pleas or wordless babble of nonsense that'd almost put Misfire to shame.
He tries to not squeak in something like ... dismay or embarrassment or both as Tailgate explores. It's a bit flustering, not much at all like a medic looking at him strictly from a health perspective. He jerks a bit under him, which earns a wordless murmur of apology from the white mech.
"Huh, this is..." Tailgate sounds puzzled. "Yeah, no. He was being honest. There's no explosive charge. The trigger's still there, but there's no payload. Um. Sorry, I suppose, for not believing you."
"S'fine," he squeaks out as plating goes back to its original positioning.
If anything, he's just glad to have the straps of the berth come off. He's not any happier being in cuffs, but it's better than being tied down.
There's a bit on his mind. It's weird to think, but he felt like it was probably necessary to apologize for the bit of invasion. The Decepticon didn't seem that bad, from what little he'd interacted with him and seen of him. He just looked kind of disappointed as he was taken away to the brig.
At the moment, Tailgate found himself in a bit of a huddle with Ultra Magnus, Rodimus, and Drift, probably only for the fact that he had to report what happened: the lack of explosives in the guy that turned into a bomb. That seemed to give Magnus pause, as his initial theory had been that likely the K-Class stayed behind to detonate himself while the rest of the Decepticons got away, but that doesn't seem true now with the facts. No, if anything, the K-Con stayed so he could buy them time to escape. This isn't the fearsome Decepticons that Tailgate had been educated on; no, this one was fearful and probably pointlessly beaten by Whirl, but sadly that's not really anything new and the fact that it's a Decepticon is a factor that seems to be overlooked. He was trying to help his crew. Maybe his friends.
He wasn't even armed with any weapons. Was he even a soldier?
And when Tailgate got down to it, he realized something that bothered him: he didn't even learn the Decepticon's name.
"He's a Decepticon, he can stay in the brig until we drop him off wherever," Rodimus says with a shrug. "I don't get what the big deal is."
"I don't see fit to release him from the ship," Ultra Magnus says a bit vaguely, his optics dim in consideration.
Drift frowns. "So what did these Decepticons do, exactly?"
"They're Decepticons. Do we really need a-" Rodimus starts.
"At worst, there was theft," Ultra Magnus states sternly. "Though we don't know what else his crew would have been up to."
"Don't cut me off, Magnus."
Tailgate taps his fingers on his knees, feeling very forgotten about. "Um."
Three pairs of optics peer down at the bomb disposal unit.
"If you'd like, I could try asking him?" Tailgate offers.
"An interrogation might not be a bad idea," Rodimus mutters to himself.
"No no! No interrogations." Tailgate holds up his hands. "I mean, I think he'd be very easy to talk to."
"Tailgate, I don't think you understand the K-Class." Ultra Magnus tilts his head faintly. "They're fearless. If he doesn't feel like sharing anything, he won't. He'd withstand interrogation for quite sometime."
"Fearless?" Tailgate widens his visor slightly. "All I saw of him was him being afraid. I really don't think he was pretending, either. The worst he could do is lie to me, anyway."
"We should probably focus more on what we're getting from the Marching Riot, anyway, and if the Decepticons took anything useful," Drift points out. "If we need to interrogate him, he's not going anywhere."
"That, I can already confirm. The medical supplies were ransacked and some of the energon left in the ship was siphoned. The data was left untouched, though," Ultra Magnus reports. "We're still sorting through the data ourselves."
"Then I don't think we have much of a problem yet."
Rodimus folds his arms.
Despite how it looked, though, eventually it was conceded. Tailgate waited in the same room as Magnus reluctantly found himself going to fetch the K-Con from the brig for the bomb disposal unit to question. He thinks back to the battle, Autobot against Decepticon, and how Chromedome almost lost Rewind. He thinks of that, and the cheers of how they killed 'Cons.
He thinks of that, and he finds himself staring into the tired but still fearful face of this K-Class unit that decided to stay behind and protect his crew in the only way he could.
"I, um." Tailgate leans forward in his chair. "I'm sorry about before. I don't think I got to say that."
"What, feeling me up from the inside?" the Decepticon remarks wryly which earns a choked sound from Tailgate. "That didn't bother me so much as being strapped down, but. Um. I guess I understand why. It's not like you have any reason to trust me."
That's an awfully reasonable response. Tailgate rubs the side of his helm. "What's your name?"
"Fulcrum." An awkward smile is awarded from the Decepticon. "You're a bomb disposal?"
"Guess it'd be more of a surprise if it wasn't written on my arm," Tailgate muses. "So... do you mind if I ask a few more questions?"
"Depends on the question, I guess." Fulcrum looks around the room a bit warily.
"Mostly, we're just wondering what you guys were doing on the ship, I suppose."
The K-Con shakes his head. "Just looking for supplies, honestly. The crew's been like that before I even joined; they scrape up what they can so we can keep moving. I swear."
Well, that sounds pretty self-explanatory to Tailgate. "But technically it was stealing, right?"
"It was Autobot property," Fulcrum admits with a sigh. "We didn't really have a whole lot of a choice, Tailgate. I don't know if you and the others will understand that, but we're kind of perpetually on the border of making the ship work, having enough fuel to go around, and just trying to find our way back. Yeah, it was stealing, but it wasn't for kicks."
Tailgate finds he has a lot more questions, though not really on the subject of whatever crime Fulcrum may or may not have committed so not really on topic of whatever it is that the command trio are looking for. Honestly, in his opinion, there's not much beyond theft, which is a technicality because it was Autobot property. It isn't like, say, kidnapping and draining organics for fuel.
So he looks up at Ultra Magnus with a shrug.
The enforcer, having stood as still as an imposing statue, finally moves to address Fulcrum. "Where are the rest of your crew going?"
"Just..." The K-Classer is not successful in hiding the frightened squeak in his voice. "Just back to Cybertron."
"Do you know where they are now?"
"No?" At the way Magnus's optics narrow, Fulcrum lets out a quiet meep before stating, "I really have no idea! I'm not the pilot!"
"U-uh, Ultra Magnus? Sir?" Tailgate pipes up. "You agreed that I could ask him the questions. I think you're scaring him."
There's a pause, then Ultra Magnus turns his head to face Tailgate. Not in anger or in annoyance, but in a nod of confirmation. "See what else you can ask of him, then. When you are done, I will escort him back to the brig."
What shocks him is knowing that big blue mech was actually Ultra Magnus. He remembers far back, Torque always yammering in excitement at the opportunity to take out one of the Autobot commanders. For the most part, Fulcrum had tuned him out, but it was impossible to ignore his eerie cheer and showing off the name on his plating. He's relieved that Tailgate decided to step in gently and take over. Not that Fulcrum had much more to add; it seemed like the Autobots were desperate to see if he'd actually committed any other crimes.
He was really tempted to snarkily respond about his conviction from the Decepticon justice system, but it seemed unnecessary to bring it up. That and Tailgate had been very polite.
At the moment, Fulcrum finds himself back in his cell, sighing and sitting on the humbly sized bench and staring at his cuffed wrists. He tries hard to ignore the others in the brig. The intense glare from the big Autobot with treads on his back makes him want to shrink away more, as if that was physically possible. Any other Decepticons present are, thankfully, disinterested in any kind of conversation.
For now, it's waiting.
Briefly, he wonders about Krok and the others. Frankly, it'd be suicide if they came looking for them. Begrudgingly, Fulcrum admits to himself that he wouldn't blame them for not trying to stage a rescue. They're a crew down to five - if one felt generous enough to include Grimlock - and there'd be no way they could face off against a crew of 200. All just to get back a coward who got one of their own killed anyway because he was too scared to tell Krok the truth.
Yeah. That's still kind of hanging over his head.
He sighs and leans against the side of his cell. At the very least, he can tell himself that he'd done some good. They're away, maybe far away and getting back to Cybertron.
Some hours trail by and Fulcrum fully does not expect to be addressed for sometime. Maybe a few days.
To his surprise, the cell is approached by Ultra Magnus again. Fulcrum grits his teeth and tries to not flinch immediately.
Magnus gives pause and peers down at him before opening the cell. "Stand in front of me. When the door closes, you'll walk in front. I'll tell you where to go."
Huh. All right.
The K-Con stands and obeys the instructions without fuss, keeping his head down, instinctive from his time in Styx. As ordered, he goes where he's told. Up, take a right, now a left.
And eventually, he finds himself in the captain's office. What's his name? Rockimus? Something like that, sure. Him and the white mech that really, really looked familiar but Fulcrum really just couldn't place it.
"After a thorough investigation of the Marching Riot, I was not able to determine anything more than theft," Ultra Magnus states, his tone firm as he addresses the captain.
"We really didn't get anything useful out of him?" The captain shrugs and glances at the white mech. "Looks like another dead end," is spoken with a hint of apology, though for what is lost on Fulcrum.
"We'll keep looking," the swordsmech responds.
The captain folds his arms and taps his fingers impatiently. "Well... what do you guys think?"
"He's still a criminal, technically." Ultra Magnus lifts his chin to glance at the other two Autobots. "A crime is still a crime, despite the motive. He can serve his sentence in the brig."
"Well, I was talking to Tailgate since he's interacted with him the most." The swordsmech rubs his chin. "And believe me, I know about the K-Class, but without his explosive charge, he's really not a threat to us. I think we can trust Tailgate's impression of him and I think there's some energetic potential in this one! I say instead of cramming him into the brig, maybe he could do something else. A community service of some kind."
"Rodimus-" Ultra Magnus starts, frowning.
"It's a legitimate suggestion. If this little guy isn't going to explode, what can he do to hurt us?" Rodimus shrugs.
Little guy? C'mon, he's not that short. Fulcrum tries to not grumble.
"How's this? Community service on the ship with a curfew. So by a specific time, he'll have to be escorted back to the brig. A little bit of both suggestions. Let it never be said that I'm not merciful to a 'Con or two."
Fulcrum raises an optic ridge. He really isn't sure what to make of that statement; it has this strange egotistical implication, but then again it sounds better than being in the brig for who knows how long. "So, um. If you don't mind my asking, what kind of community service should I be doing?"
"Guess that depends on you. What's your skill set?"
"Before I was reformatted, I was a technician," Fulcrum offers. "So I guess if you need something fixed on the ship or maintained, I could do that. I'm, uh, not really built for combat or even that much labor."
Rodimus considers for a moment, then states, "With supervision, I think that'd be plausible. You'll get rations like everyone else."
"Um. Thank you," Fulcrum responds warily. He supposes it might be too much to ask to get the dents made by Whirl hammered out or something right off, but maybe later.
Not that he had hoped for much, truthfully; this is better than anticipated, especially considering he admittedly knows nothing about how the justice system functions for the Autobots. Though Ultra Magnus doesn't look very impressed - though something about that perpetually grim look suggests he usually isn't - Fulcrum feels relieved. This isn't what he wanted, to be stuck on an Autobot ship and separated from Krok and the others, but it's better than dead.
It's a rotating roster that's been set up. True, Tailgate is already on friendly terms with the Decepticon, in order to make sure that his naivete isn't exploited or something - not Tailgate's own words - he isn't consistently keeping an optic on Fulcrum. He supposes it makes some sort of sense; he doesn't feel very threatened by Fulcrum's presence and it'd be best if others had a fresher perspective on him. For the first shift, he finds himself with the K-Con, looking up at the slightly taller mech.
"Looks like things kind of worked out," Tailgate offers to him, trying to keep his tone optimistic.
"Yeah, I suppose," Fulcrum responds. "I think I probably owe you a bit of thanks for helping me out during all this."
"It's all right. Uh, to be honest, you're not really what I expected out of a Decepticon."
There's a wry grin, more relaxed than the nervous expressions the K-Con had before. "I get that a lot, honestly."
Briefly, it goes silent as Tailgate just watches him get to work on one of the consoles. As far as Tailgate can tell, it's very dry work, probably something that any of the others in the ship can do: running diagnostics, clearing up cluster data, and moving on to make sure the consoles run cleanly. Still, it's community service; it's going to be basic work, he supposes.
"Hey, if you don't mind my asking, Tailgate," Fulcrum starts, glancing at him curiously, "I don't see an Autobot symbol on you at all. Are you a neutral or-?"
"Oh, no. I'm an Autobot." Tailgate rubs the back of his helm. "During my ceremony, I never really got the symbol properly carved in is all."
"Ceremony?" Fulcrum asks, confused.
"Oh! Right, you wouldn't know." Great. Tailgate sighs. "I've been, uh, kind of... out of it for six million years."
At first, Fulcrum snorts before letting out a short laugh. "Yeah, nice try." A pause, then the K-Con looks down at him. "What, really?"
"Yeah, really." Honestly, Tailgate just tries to not sigh; it's not really a topic he generally wishes to focus on right now.
There's something like a sheepish look from Fulcrum. "Sheesh, and I thought I was out of it for awhile..."
"You too?" Tailgate perks up slightly.
"I don't know how long," Fulcrum admits, "but on Clemency, I was in stasis for a few years. So, I kind of missed some things here and there myself. Anyway, so basically, you just joined the Autobots?"
"Yeah. The code was painful."
Eventually, Fulcrum pulls his hands away from the console and stares at Tailgate for a moment before he just ends up blurting out, "Why?"
That's probably a fair question, Tailgate supposes, considering they're technically on opposite sides. Right? Sort of? "Well, I mean- After some of the history I saw of the war, it... seemed to make the most sense."
"Did you join before or after the war was over?"
Fulcrum goes silent. For a moment, Tailgate almost feels like... fretting? Worrying. Something like that. There's a bit of anxiety in his chassis building, his spark wrenching. At first, he felt that the description of the Decepticons made the most sense, but after the history Rewind gave him, wasn't the Autobots the most natural choice? Then again, he supposes maybe Fulcrum didn't see it that way. Was he proud of the Decepticons? How much of a patriot was he?
"I guess..." Fulcrum folds his arms. "I guess I don't understand the point of it. The war's over, Tailgate. Why would you have to pick a side?"
"There are reasons." Plenty of them that Tailgate dwells on. "Though I guess it doesn't make much sense when you put it that way, but I really do have them."
"I don't regret what I am. Though I guess it helps I was forged a Decepticon." Fulcrum looks back to the console. "Uh. Sorry, I guess it's none of my business."
It's not a topic Tailgate's entirely excited to discuss. It's not what he'd been hoping to talk to Fulcrum about, anyway, but it does force him to stop and just. Think about it. The reasons why he decided to be an Autobot instead of a Decepticon. The reasons why he wanted to pick a side in the first place when the war wasn't even happening but people still treated it as if it was when it was convenient. And to some degree, he wants to know what Fulcrum thinks of both sides, because he doesn't seem to have a malicious streak like he assumed Decepticons would have.
Why would he have to pick a side? Tailgate knows, and it's a petty reason. It's not something he feels comfortable addressing out loud yet.
"It's all right," Tailgate assures quietly. "Why don't you tell me a bit about your stasis lock?"
At the end of his shift, Fulcrum sits in his cell. No cuffs, and he's grateful.
He finds himself staring at the floor and tries to not dwell on factions, the situation he's stuck in, and what the hell he's going to do in the future because he isn't even sure yet how long his damned community service is.
He'd told Tailgate about why he ended up in stasis lock, or at least the bare minimum. He didn't explain the entire background of the K-Class, his own conviction, or anything detailed; some part of him felt like he couldn't bear the further judgment and he needs to clutch this tiny bond he has with the barely Autobot who slept six million years right through war. Fulcrum couldn't say that he didn't turn into a bomb due to fear, just that it was a malfunction, which isn't too far from the truth he supposes. He spoke a bit about Krok and the others, but not enough to explain the Decepticon Justice Division and what a coward he'd been then, too.
There are few things in life that Fulcrum is proud of, and he'd rather not give Tailgate a bad impression. He doesn't have many friends in the universe, and right now in this ship he only sort of has one.
At the end of his shift to keep an eye on the K-Con, Tailgate sits in his room. Cyclonus is elsewhere and it's a tad lonely, but that's not a new sensation.
He sits in the Lost Light, a ship that was originally flown by neutrals who refused the war, which now holds different kinds of soldiers and grunts and nobody that really belongs at all. Tailgate considers, and he knows why he couldn't really admit why he wanted to be anything besides what he was, and it was a silent need to fit in. He sincerely likes the crew that he's with, but nothing can replace what he once knew. Tailgate's original friends are all most likely dead and gone, lost to time and war that he had nothing to do with.
And he picked a side so he could belong again somewhere.
There are many achievements in his life and it doesn't seem to matter now, because it all belongs in memory. Tailgate remembers everything he's ever done, and no one remembers it at all. He couldn't work the courage up to admit his weak reason to want to be anywhere because he has no where to be. There are few friends for him in the universe, and the first Decepticon forged he'd met didn't match at all what he'd been educated on and he couldn't swallow the idea of his judgment either.
Tailgate shuts off his optics and lays on the berth, thinking about the millions of years he'd missed and the few that Fulcrum had and how much time they probably both had to make up for it.