literature

Remember Me, chapter 8

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By keaalu

Literature Text

In Nemesis’ monitoring room, it had been quiet for a while. Ramjet wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. He wondered for an instant if the brat had actually died? Or vanished somehow – wouldn’t be the first sparkling with the annoying ability to walk through walls, after all.

Not sure he’d like what he’d find, it took a few moments to summon the desire to lift the databoard.

In the bottom of the bucket, Skydash was cuddled down into a ball, hugging her knees. Still alive, fortunately.

Ramjet waited an astro-second or two for a response before prompting: “Are you gonna behave if I let you out?”

Threads of frightened static emerged from the depths of the pail, but she didn’t respond otherwise.

The big jet vented a terse sigh, optics tightening, and glared down at her. “Fine. Stay in there then.”

Alarmed, the sparkling suddenly came to life – scrambling out and tipping the container over in her haste. “No bucket-!”

“Does this mean you’re gonna be good, now?” Ramjet hefted the pail in one hand, meaningfully.

“No bucket,” Skydash blurted out, scuttling backwards until her back impacted the side of the terminal. “No bucket!”

“I’m assuming that’s a yes.”

She disappeared into a small gap at floor level, still repeating the words like a mantra. “No bucket. No bucket.”

“...frag sake.” Ramjet covered his face with one hand and counted inwardly to ten thousand, before giving the slot a cursory examination. It was too low and awkwardly-angled for him to get much more than a hand into it, let alone grab for the runaway. Getting the sparkling back out would require a plasma cutter, unless she decided to emerge of her own volition.

Although by now she’d picked up a new noise that seemed to make every single last armour plate vibrate against its neighbour, and he didn’t want to get that much closer to it to be able to experiment.

Almost as bad as Dirge. “Am I being too complicated for you?” At least that horrendous siren-scream was still offline. “Come on, Tiny. Please. If you don’t quit making all that fragging noise, Megatron will come down here and silence the pair of us, permanently.”

“No bucket.”

Fine.” He flipped the can over and propped his thruster against it. “No bucket. Are you gonna finally come out of there now?”

Little blue optics peeked out from the crevice into which their owner had wriggled. She gave a single questioning chirp.

Ramjet wondered briefly if he should attempt a grab, or if that’d just trigger more noise. Instead, carefully, slowly, trying not to spook her, he put out a hand.

Skydash inched closer to it, and stared at it for a very long time before finally climbing into his palm. He could feel her vibrating very subtly as he lifted her back up to the top of the terminal.

When he opened his fingers, she slithered limply off his hand like a rag doll, flopped out across the top of the terminal, and just lay there, unmoving.

Ramjet watched her, and pinched the bridge of his nose. A mixture of relief (because damn did the silence feel good) and concern (what new horror was the tiny brat cooking up?) washed over him in equal measures. “Yeah. That looks like a good plan.”

No new horror was forthcoming, though. Perhaps those tiny batteries were finally depleted? Her dim blue gaze slipped briefly sideways. “Sorry bite.”

Ramjet shrugged. “Eh, no big deal. Had lots worse than bites before.”

“Day say bite bad.”

“Figures that the master slaghead would be the one to teach his sparklings what’s good and bad.” Ramjet snorted. “He's probably right.”

She was silent for a few astroseconds, before adding, in a watery voice; “No bucket.”

“Sure. Whatever. No bucket.”

Peace reigned for a few breems. The sound that finally broke through the quiet was one of subtle movement – a little scuffly noise, as of someone trying not to draw attention to himself. Ramjet glanced behind to find Thrust lurking in the hallway, trying not to make it too obvious that he’d positioned himself within lunging distance of a strategic doorframe.

“So, Dirge said you smashed a mop over his helm and kicked him out,” Thrust said, warily, by way of greeting. “Is it safe for me to come in there?”

Ramjet’s expression flattened into a tired glare. “Well that all depends on why you’re here. If it’s just to heckle and make my life difficult? Then no, probably not.”

“Well, I’m meant to be on duty now, so I guess I’m here to relieve you? Buuut I can just go back to the galley if you’d rather, the Triples broke out some high grade and y’know.” Thrust jerked a thumb in a backwards point over his shoulder. “Ain’t gonna say no to that.”

Ramjet snorted, and stood up. “If anyone deserves the high-grade, it’s me. No way am I gonna stay here and let you scurry off to have fun while I do all the work.” He offered Skydash his palm and she climbed uneasily onto it.

Thrust slipped into the unoccupied chair. “You’re taking Tinybot with you?”

“Yeah. I’m gonna go stash her with her bro, assuming Hook managed to get the kid to finally stop bleeding.” Ramjet let Skydash perch on his arm; she clung to it unsettlingly tightly, turning her face away from Thrust. “Why; you wanna look after her?”

Thrust actually leaned away, subtly. “No-ot especially?”

“Then there’s your answer. Good job.” He gave his wingmate a condescending pat on the helm; Thrust swung a half-sparked return fist at him but missed by several miles. “Besides, you’d only end up scaring her into running off. There’s plenty of derelict bits on this tin can and I’m not keen to go hunting through all of ‘em.”

“That’d make being on sparkling duty pretty easy, though.”

“For you, maybe. Personally? I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life tearing the ship apart looking for a friggin’ sparkling that you couldn’t even keep one optic on.”

“Yeah yeah, fine, whatever. Don’t go blow a fuse, Captain Overwound.” Thrust put his hands up in surrender. “Anyone would think you were worried about it.”

Why was he being so careful with it, anyway? Ramjet shooed the niggles away before speaking; “Just taking a sensible precaution. Don’t wanna think about what might happen to us if we go and break it.”

“Dude, seriously – why would it matter if we did?” Thrust turned to scowl up at his wingleader. “You’re not actually scared of that bunch of cowards back on Cybertron?”

“I… didn’t say that?”

“Megatron’s not gonna care, ’specially if it gets the Screamer over here quicker.” Thrust blew out a loud sigh and let his arms flop down. “Can’t believe you, sometimes. We’ve got the upper hand for a change and you’re assuming we’re gonna lose already.

“Hate to remind you that losing is kind of a habit, for us? Even when we do have the advantage, someone will take time out to gloat, or work on their own little scheme in the background, and oh, will you look at that, it’s all gone to slag again.”

“Right, except the usual reason it all goes to slag is sat there on Cybertron, smirking at us from a distance.” Thrust’s voice descended briefly into unintelligible mutterings. “I just wanna see the traitor get a decent punch in his ugly face, all right?”

“And when we screw up because you’re too busy trying to punch him, then what? You think Megatron’s gonna pat you on the head and say ‘never mind, at least you tried your hardest’? Or d’you think he’s gonna maybe kick you into the closest smelter?”

Thrust sulkily pursed his lips and didn’t reply.

“If we have to go plead our case with those guys, I don’t wanna be shot on sight for breaking Tiny.” Ramjet tried to swallow the words but they mostly blurted out anyway: “I don’t know about you but I’m not feeling like the most happy, fulfilled little Seeker right now, having seen how nice home looks right now.”

“Well I’m sure happier than I would be playing beast of burden under Acid Trip’s command.” Thrust’s sneer chased him across the room. “When did you get so scared of a couple of ex-Cons, anyway?”

Ramjet paused in the doorway, and looked back to meet his wingmate’s glare. “They’re ex-Cons, right. Ex-Decepticons. Traitorous slaggers, granted, but we fought alongside ‘em long enough to know they’re not that woolly in the struts. Do you seriously trust them not to run you through a mill a few times when they get their claws in you?” He shrugged, one-handedly. “Three fit, healthy, well-built mechs with a whole army behind them. How long do you reckon we’d last?”

Thrust made a psssh sound. “An army of dirt-crawling non-warriors, sure, and even they’re not scared of that blowhard slaghead. Who, by the way, hasn’t had to fight anything ’cept his own spreading aft in vorns. So y’know. Whatever. Forgive me for not immediately lubricating myself in fear.”

The white jet sighed and covered his face with his hand. “You’re worse than Dirge. Do you seriously think that’s it? There’s a reason they let the Screamer keep his helm bolted to his wings, and it wasn’t ’cause they liked his voice when he asked nicely not to be executed.”

Thrust gave him the world’s most condescending long-suffering look, and it was only the idea it’d get the kid squalling all over again that squashed Ramjet’s urge to punch him in the faceplates.

“When all you have are your wingmates, and one’s dense as slag while the other couldn’t make a decision to save his spark? The Strutless Wonder was outnumbered,” Thrust explained, sounding like a teacher with the world’s dimmest pupil. “What other option did he have except squeal and beg for mercy, like he did every time with Megatron?” He directed his glare back onto the monitors. “…Sucks to find out my wingleader’s scared of a glitching slagmunch that even a bunch of dirtbots aren’t even afraid of any more.”

Thrust.” Ramjet leaned his head against the doorframe, letting his free arm dangle. “Primus. I just wanna be able to go home, some day. My life right now revolves around mud, and you guys, and there’s only so much of either a mech can take without going completely barking. Right now I’ve had it about up to here with you guys, today.” He waved his hand in the air as far above his helm as he could reach. “So if you’ll excuse me…” He bowed, steeply. “There’s some high-grade with my name on it, and I think I actually deserve it.”

Thrust grunted a dismissive goodbye, and sat and stared at the monitors for all of ten astroseconds, before blowing a tired raspberry and letting his arms flop down at his sides. “This is such a fragging waste of time.” He rocked his chair back onto its rear legs and propped his thrusters on the bank of terminals in front. “What are we even meant to be monitoring for these days anyway.”

He directed his attention up at the ceiling and tried counting tiles to encourage his brain to cycle into a dormant state, to take away thoughts of the high-grade his wingleader had made him miss out on. But there were only a half dozen really big tiles up there and it didn’t take very long.

“You really suck sometimes, RJ.”

The chirping alarm became the unwanted topping on Thrust’s personal slag-pile. He covered his face with both hands and tried to ignore it, for a few seconds, but it felt particularly shrill. “Agh!” He used the rim of one thruster to deliver a sour-tempered stomp to the terminal’s speakers. “What’s a mech gotta do to get a few fragging breem’s peace and quiet around here, anyway!”

The kick jogged the terminal out of sleep mode, and a fast-moving blip showed up on one of the screens. Thrust eyed it uninterestedly for a second or two, then frowned and rocked his chair back onto all four legs, leaning closer for a better look. “Oh, hey. What are you?”

The blip didn’t seem to just be passing; it drew a series of wide, flat loops through the air above the sunken Nemesis.

Thrust toggled the display to a live satellite feed for a better look.

Skimming low over the ocean like a giant black alien albatross, drawing big circles and throwing up spray from his wingtips, broadcasting an array of threatening insults on as wide a frequency range as he could access, was a former comrade.

Thrust promptly lost all desire to nap. His lips widened in a smirk.

“Mighty Megatron, sir? We’ve got company…”

---------------

Starscream looked nowhere near ready to back down, doubly infuriated by the chastisement by Skyfire, of all people, so when the communications terminal in the corner of the room chimed, it was only having Thundercracker sitting in the way that stopped him outright shooting it. He let loose a volley of inventive curses instead, stomping across the room and punching the accept call dialogue hard enough to break it in half. “What?

The screen came online to reveal a single Autobot, sitting primly at his desk; Prowl. Nobody seemed willing to commit to a decision on whether the fact it was just Prowl was a good sign, or a very, very bad one.

Unfortunately, the Bot’s politely inscrutable half-smile made everyone fairly confident that Prowl himself wasn’t entirely sure that this conversation was going to be a good thing, either.

Starscream threw up his hands, and resumed pacing. “What do you want, Autobot.”

Almost anyone else would probably have stammered their way into an apology, but Prowl was far too habituated to the red Seeker’s histrionics, and didn’t so much as flicker. “Would you like to explain why Skywarp just came through the spacebridge?”

“No.” Starscream folded his arms and lifted his chin, just a little. “Was that everything? Because we’re quite busy here.”

“Allow me to rephrase, as you seem to think I’m giving you an option. Why did Skywarp just come through the spacebridge?”

“Changing the way you ask the question doesn’t change my answer.”

One brow came up. “Am I to assume he’s flying solo for some reason?”

“Assume what you like. I have far better things to be doing right now than stand here talking to the likes of you-”

To what end, Starscream?” Seeing the blue palm descending onto one of the buttons, Prowl hastily added; “Do I have to come and confront you in person so you can’t switch me off?”

A microsecond away from ending the call, Starscream caught himself with his fingers hovering just above the broken control panel. “It’s none of your concern! We have precious little time as it is without you wasting it all for us-”

Then explain why your wingmate has just flown back to your former base! Reassure me you aren’t about to follow him!”

Just tell him, mech. Primus!” Thundercracker snarled, feebly, from underneath his icepack. “They’re meant to be our allies, now. And we need all the damn help we can get.”

Starscream gestured grandly at the terminal with a swoop of one arm. “There’s a difference between being an ally, and expecting to be privy to all our private trauma-!”

“It’s hardly private if they’ve already spotted him, is it. And I’m pretty sure we can trust Prowl not to let the entire Autobot army get themselves involved until we invite them to be.”

A flicker of blue and white in the periphery of his vision caught Starscream’s attention. He turned just in time to focus on Celerity as she stepped up close enough for their static fields to mesh uncomfortably together. Before he could react, the giant lifted a hand and firmly pressed a big finger to his lips; so startled by the unexpected invasion of his space, Starscream actually just complied.

“Please,” she said, faintly. “Keep them in the loop. Just this once. Just until we have our family back.”

Starscream backed out of range, visibly puffing up, wings flaring. “We don’t need-”

“We do need. Please. Even if it’s just for them to keep us informed. They’ve already proved they can see what’s going on better than we can.” Celerity drew in a long draught of cold air and folded her hands together, straining to keep her self-control squeezed between them. “If you let our tiny ones get hurt because you’re too proud to accept Autobot help…”

They were all looking at him, now.

“Fine! Fine.” Starscream jerked his arms folded across his chassis, huffily. “So long as Prowl gets to the point sometime this Vorn.”

Prowl’s expression flattened into an unimpressed glare. “I see why Thundercracker handles most of the calls to Earth, now,” he drawled. “Fine. Let me use short words. When an ex-Con arrives unannounced through the spacebridge, fails to respond to greeting hails or transmit his own, and flies directly towards the site of his former base, concerns are immediately raised. Even you should understand the rationale behind that.”

“You don’t seriously think he’s defected.”

“It’s a reasonable assumption to make. He always was the most loyal of the three of you.”

Starscream’s optics tightened. “It’s funny that you notice Skywarp come through, within mere breems of him slipping away from our attention, but don’t notice three fully armed Coneheads making a return trip, with hostages.”

Prowl just stared, for an instant, before his gaze slipped to one side to check a display screen just out of view. He remained silent for several very long seconds. When he spoke again, it was with an anxious, measured quiet; “I’d not been made aware of that.”

“Well, consider it a favour. Perhaps Red should spend less time spying on us, and more time upholding your end of our agreement. Now perhaps you understand our urgency to figure out what to do?” Starscream resumed pacing.

Prowl let the professional mask slip, just a little, swallowing a sigh and resting his chin on his laced fingers. “What can we do to help?”

“Stay out of our way. We’ve already been pushed off-balance. I don’t need the added stress of wondering what a bunch of overzealous Autobots are going to leap in and do.”

“Slipstream is one of us, remember? He has plenty of friends here who’d be willing to help you if they knew he was in danger.”

That’s the whole point.” Starscream ground the words out from between gritted teeth. “Warp may be renowned for his lack of brains but you’re not short on idiots either, over there. It’s halfway to the Pit already. It’ll turn into outright war if Prime’s Merry band of Morons decide to try and leap to the rescue.”

One eyebrow crept up, ever so slightly. “Well. I’ll do my best, but I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep our ‘merry morons’ from taking it upon themselves to defy you if they find out.”

“Fine. Whatever.” Starscream flapped his hands, exasperated. “Just… give me a heads-up when Warp starts back. If he starts back. I don’t know.”

“Of course. We’ll keep you informed if anything else meaningful happens.”

The instant the call ended, Starscream plonked down next to Pulsar on the couch, smarting, features compressed in a glare, almost bouncing her into him. The bike hastily scooted herself back into the furthest corner, leaning away but unwilling to relinquish her spot.

Starscream gave Thundercracker a loaded glance. “That icepack looks really good, right now.”

Thundercracker found a tiny smile from somewhere. “You can have my icepack when you prise it from my dead grey fingers.”

After much gentle cajoling from Celerity, the blue Seeker finally acquiesced and allowed himself to be led away to his room, to defragment and let the medical patch finally take.

...leaving just Starscream and Pulsar in the lounge. For almost a whole breem, they studiously ignored each other. The sour feeling of stressed electric fields saturated the entire building; even the potted maple had pulled in on itself, folding its leaves into staticky needles.

Finally – unexpectedly – Starscream broke the silence. “Sorry.”

Pulsar glanced up at him. “…what?”

The bigger mech rearranged his folded arms and glared off into a corner. “I don’t have a lot of people I consider friends, so it matters when they seem intent on inadvertently killing themselves. Taking it out on you was probably counterproductive.”

“Uhm, apology accepted.” She felt a little lost for words and for an instant nothing would come. She rebooted her vocaliser. “For the record, I don’t particularly like Skywarp’s idea.”

He snorted a curt laugh. “That wasn’t difficult to work out for myself. You didn’t even try to call it a plan, this time.” He finally glanced down at her. A little of the overt sneer had gone from his expression. “When we eventually get him back, you can punch him first,” he offered.

“That’s… rather generous of you.”

Starscream curled his lip. “There might not be much left worth punching if I get to him before you do.”

She smiled back, although her denta showed through a fraction and it looked somewhat like a snarl. “You’re assuming there’s going to be much left when I’m done with him. I’m pretty persistent, for a small bot.”

“Touché,” he accepted. “Let’s just hope we get him back in one piece, then. It’ll be very unsatisfying to find someone walloped him first.”

The silence drew out between them.

“I have to kill him,” Starscream said, quietly. “Megatron. And I’m not sure how.” He studied his fingers. “You’d think all those millions of vorns of failure would have given me a few ideas on what might not be a total disaster.” When Pulsar didn’t reply, he found a sour smile. “Still surprises me a little when I’m seriously discussing killing someone, and even a committed pacifist Autobot doesn’t argue about it.”

Pulsar looked back, unflinching. “Surprises me a little that we’re discussing the only way to stop the greatest threat our world has ever seen, and you think I’ll argue against it.”

---------------

Megatron heard them approaching long before the origin of the infernal noise appeared in his throne room. He settled more comfortably in his seat to watch as his loyalists half-marched half-carried their new prisoner through the doorway.

The teleport was definitely making them work for their prize – fractionally smaller than the warlord remembered, with lighter armour and a sleeker build, but no less spirited, and definitely no less violent. It took four mechs to control him; everyone was equally covered in black and purple scuffs of paint already.

For almost half a breem, Megatron just studied their new prisoner, chin propped on one hand.

Skywarp glared back, optics blazing, no hint of fear in his bearing. He glowed with the faint purple nimbus of personal shields, making him difficult to keep a good grip on – almost slippery. His cuffed wrists kept his arms pinned at his sides, but he leaned forwards in the restraining hands, like a prizewinning terrier waiting to be released into a dogfight.

A few vorns of being allowed to fly solo had filled the mech with undeserved confidence. It was obviously going to be necessary to remind him why anyone with half a brain still feared him.

Of course, Megatron noted, not everyone in the room actually possessed half a brain.

Finally the old warmech straightened, drawing himself up to loom more effectively over the small assembly. “Skywarp. Good to finally see you again,” he drawled. “Rumours of your untimely death were obviously somewhat exaggerated.”

Skywarp wasn’t interested in pleasantries. “Where are they?”

Megatron shrugged one shoulder. “Somewhere safe. While I decide what to do with them. What value they may provide. Although I won’t make the same mistake of allowing them to live, seeing what a noble little Autobot you allowed your offspring to turn into.”

Skywarp made a strangled little noise of fury and struggled briefly in the retraining hands, almost succeeding at jerking himself free.

Thrust kicked him in the back of one leg and took him heavily down to his knees. A little ripple of jeers followed him down.

“And where is your pathetic excuse for a wingleader, I wonder. Trying to sneak up on us with force, no doubt. With his, ah.” Megatron chuckled. “Army.

Skywarp glowered up at him, darkly. “I punched him in the head and locked him in a box because I didn’t trust him not to come after you, Megatron. He’s a liability.”

The warlord actually laughed out loud at that. “I would be more inclined to say you coming here on your own was the liability. Now I only have to wait for two more idiots to come and join the party.”

“You better hope they don’t come here. I came alone to give you the opportunity to end this peacefully, Megatron.” Skywarp used his best ‘official’ voice. “You know who we are. You know what we can do. Release my family, and it won’t go any further.”

“I remember a bunch of cowardly, poorly-organised thugs who couldn’t have co-ordinated their way out of a wet paper sack if you gave them directions.” The warlord smirked. “Yes, Skywarp, I know you very well. And I don’t think I’ll be running from you in terror just yet.” He leaned down, just close enough for the trapped Seeker to hear the low throb of the big generators in his broad chassis. “Perhaps I need to remind you why you all followed me so loyally for all those vorns…”
A/N: if/when her family get her back, Skydash is going to have a very interesting vocabulary.


Yes, I am still working on this! Slowly slowly slowly. Job and study eat away at my energy quite a bit these days...
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