literature

Remember Me, chapter 9

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By keaalu

Literature Text

OK, so. I probably could have planned this a little better, Skywarp accepted, reeling backwards from another blow and feeling the wall impact his battered wings.

To be fair, he’d always anticipated this might involve a slagging, somewhere along the line. Just… perhaps not quite so soon? With his ego swollen on his opinion of his own self-importance, he’d stupidly assumed that he’d be quietly locked up in the brig and that would be the end of it.

Megatron’s fists rapidly brought that ego crashing back down to dig a trench in the dirt.

Joking about having to scrape their wingleader up off the walls and ship him off to Hook, after the latest one-sided spat with the warlord left the scarlet jet noisily spewing obscenities and vowing revenge, suddenly didn't seem so funny, any more.

Broken, bleeding all over the floor, and feeling a whole lot more like he was in his wingleader’s former position as official punching bag than he’d have liked, Skywarp cowered away in a futile attempt to look suitably punished. He wasn’t sure he could have done much to protect himself, even if his hands had been free – attempting to fight back would have either made it worse, or much worse. Assuming he survived it, getting smashed into non-functional bits wouldn’t have helped anyone.

Taking a beating from his former leader was a necessary evil, he tried to reassure himself, supporting his weight against his wall and trying vainly to get his struggling fans to quieten down just a little.

A painful, damaging, humiliating, necessary evil.

Primus. I hope it’s only a beating.

Why did everyone need to stand around watching, anyway.

Skywarp struggled to keep track of the big warmech’s continued pacing around him. Alarm bubbled through every circuit – where was he, was another blow coming, where was he going to hit him next? No blows had landed for a good few seconds, did that mean worse was on the way? But the familiar pain of a broken nose throbbed through his helm, destabilising his already-overloaded senses. A non-crystallising sludge of energon and coolant dripped slowly from his chin, irritating the exposed components beneath his smashed canopy glass. A broken line in his cheek somewhere had totally fogged the back of one optic.

Megatron was saying something to him, Skywarp realised; the hard tones of a demand, almost impossible to pick out of the chaos of static, background noise, and jeering of his former allies. He struggled to retune his hearing, scrambling to offline or reroute some of the flood of unwanted data that left him almost blind.

Approaching footsteps made the decking tremble.

Slag. He’s coming over. Alarmed, Skywarp scrambled to push himself a little more upright, look a little more alert-

Focus began to return just in time for him to hear the familiar mosquito whine of a heating fusion cannon, coming very very close to his audios.

The stink of burning air filled his vents. Heat radiated onto his face.

Megatron’s tone was maddeningly reasonable. “Is your mind adequately refreshed?”

Frag.

This is it.

Catastrophic misjudgement.

Totally blindly misjudged it and Megatron was going to kill him, right there and then, and probably film it and send the footage back to Cybertron with whatever was left of his wings as a sample of what was coming their way.

For an instant – longer than an instant, actually – fear curled long, barbed tendrils around Skywarp’s spark and almost choked his voice off altogether. For a decent few seconds, he couldn’t quite remember how to work his vocaliser.

The radiant heat against the side of his helm felt like it might actually melt something.

He finally managed to squeak a feeble Yessir.

The mouth of the fusion cannon gave him an unfriendly shove of encouragement on the side of his helm, leaving behind a bright little spot of hot pain.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Would you like to repeat yourself, a little louder and more respectfully, so everyone can hear you?”

Skywarp swallowed his pride. “Yes, M-Mighty Megatron, sir!” From somewhere deep, he found the energy to shout the words. “I’m sorry. I-I was a fool to think I could challenge you-”

The jeers from the other assembled Decepticons increased in volume, but frag – that was all. It was just noise. He could deal with that.

“Well. No surprise there. You seem to have modelled yourself on your pathetic wingleader, of late, for reasons that completely elude me.”

Miraculously, with one final push that made Skywarp stagger down to one knee, the cannon drew back. The low thumps of Megatron’s departing feet made the decking tremble.

Staring at the filthy floor in a mixture of amazement and relief that he could actually still see it, Skywarp allowed himself the luxury of circulating cool air again. Even the sting of energon crackling across his shuddery fans didn’t feel so bad.

Megatron picked up a rag, ran it over his knuckles, and curled his lip at the dramatic strike of purple paint that clearly wasn’t going to just wipe away. “The precious dear has an appointment with the doctor. Don’t let him be late,” he instructed, turning towards the door, presumably in search of some proper cleaning instruments.

Skywarp watched him go, and sneered feebly at the disappearing back.

Primus. You really skated through this one by the shine on your skidplate.

Still puffed up from his earlier success, Dirge took the floor, voting himself in charge. “Yes, mighty Megatron! Your commands are safe with us.”

Skywarp clawed back the insult he could feel brewing, instead staying quietly down on one knee. The Conehead could grandstand as much as he liked; every fraction of an astrosecond he took to boast gave the teleport time to wrangle his flagging strength and emotions, scraping himself back into a vaguely Seeker-shaped mess.

The plan – such as it was – had gone to the smelter faster than he’d anticipated, but at least he wasn’t mortally wounded. Getting wing-deep in the slag these days usually just involved a serious I-expected-more-from-you,-Skywarp dressing-down from TC, so perhaps he had gone into this with his expectations unrealistically high.

He could feel Starscream’s I-told-you-so approaching from a million miles away, and winced.

“I can understand being too scared to fight back when you’re taking a slagging from the boss, but let’s see if he remembers how to fight his equals, after all these vorns.” Dirge mimed cracking his knuckles. “Someone go drag him out of that corner before he rusts into it.”

Taking a beating from Megatron might be a necessary evil… but taking one from Dirge definitely wasn’t. If they all thought they were going to ride along in Megatron’s wake, take advantage of the way the warlord had left him shocked and shaky, and that he’d just sit here and take it…?

Sure, he was scared – rightly so, he reassured himself – of Megatron. These overblown fragheads just made him angry.

Nursing the bright little pinpoint of rage forming a hotspot in his chassis, Skywarp quietly submitted to the manhandling, allowing Dirge’s wingmates to haul him back up onto his thrusters. The floor was slick with his own essential fluids; last thing he wanted was to skid over on it.

In the background, Blitzwing chuckled. “Aw, look how nice he’s behaving. Autobots clipped his claws very prettily for us.”

Dirge circled carefully back and forth, just past the shiny patch. “Well I figure he’s not had to fight more than a few librarians, lately. Right guys?”

A ripple of agreement followed him. The circle closed a little.

Skywarp kept his gaze low, as though suitably intimidated by the hostile crowd, and allowed his mass to slump backwards into the hands holding him, unexpectedly; softening his knees, allowing himself a little give in his back.

Thrust swore softly at being asked to suddenly support more mass. “Primus. Didja have to make the delicate little sparkling faint, dude? This stupid plastic look is still heavy-!” He shifted his grip, trying to find a better point to hang onto him.

The instant Skywarp felt his captors’ hands weaken, he took advantage of the flex he’d given himself, and swung his centre of mass forwards, then straightened his legs, propelling himself forwards like a rocket. A flurry of alarmed little exclamations came from his captors as he skipped free of their restraint-

Like a self-aware piledriver, he slammed the top of his helm into Dirge’s nose.

He felt rather than heard the crunch as components disintegrated in the force of the impact. Dirge flailed backwards and they both ended up sprawling on the deck.

A second of stunned silence passed.

Then the pain apparently kicked in.

The blue jet’s screaming obscenities were almost drowned out by the howls of laughter from his comrades. Dirge thrashed his way out from under his attacker and somehow lurched back to his feet without skidding straight back over on his aft, hands clamped over his face. Ugly pinkish grey oozed between his fingers and dripped onto his chassis.

Skywarp found the energy for a smirk, wrinkling his own battered nose for effect. “Hey, look, Duuh-rge. Now we match.”

Dirge made a little incoherent noise of rage, but couldn’t do much more than impotently stagger back and forth, clutching the injury. “You are going to get it, oh I swear. You. Are. Going. To. Get. It!” He looked like he was desperate to pile in with a kicking, but didn’t trust his balance. All the high-efficiency lubricant scattering down from his nose onto the deck around him didn’t help.

Skywarp made no effort to help either of the two mechs struggling to peel him back up off the deck. “Then how about you quit exercising your vocaliser and actually fight me, you enormous heat sink?”

“Slagging-… pitfragged-… slagmunch-!” Dirge swung a thruster in a kick, but skidded precariously before it could land and had to work on saving his dignity instead.

Ramjet sighed. “Nice. Make yourself look like even more of an idiot than normal, right, Dirge?”

“Well maybe if you deigned to actually help out?!” Dirge shrieked, spraying energon over the closest bystanders. “Useless babysitter-!”

Ramjet’s glare deepened, but instead of retort he steered them all towards the doorway. “Come on. Let’s get him down to Hook before he bleeds out entirely. You never know; the prissy glitch might even glue some of those dents up so there’s less slag coming out of him for us to slip over on.”

Spoke too soon. Blitzwing stepped in a puddle, and went down with an almighty crunch.

The echo – and the swearing – followed them down the corridor. Skywarp swallowed a smile.

Dirge took the lead, although it looked more out of a desire to get to the Infirmary and a decent supply of painkillers than a desire to actually follow Megatron’s orders, any more. Temporarily content at the chaos he’d wrought, Skywarp allowed himself to be marched along without argument, and quietly took in the route, cross-referencing his old maps. On the one hand, it was really helpful of these unsuspecting glitches to be giving him the grand tour.

On the other hand… he didn’t know precisely what Megatron meant by ‘appointment’ and didn’t really want to find out? Because the idea it was just for a few repairs didn’t really feel like it was the correct answer.

When they arrived, Dirge ignored everyone and went straight to the chiller for a pack to try and crystallise the lines under his smashed nose. Hook didn’t look particularly impressed at having a dripping Conehead sitting on his clean workbench, but the fight-me manner to the jet’s bearing dissuaded him from pushing the point.

Instead, Hook gestured to his table. “Let’s just get on, shall we?” He made no effort to hide the selection of tools on the tray alongside it.

…they didn’t look specifically threatening in and of themselves, but Skywarp felt a flush of fear draw icy fingers up the back of his helm. It felt rather like he was about to be vivisected, without the benefit of painkillers – or unconsciousness.

Alarmed, and not quite able to hold back the reflex that yelled at him to escape, Skywarp threw his weight upwards and backwards, relying on his two restraints as unwilling props to hold him up. It gave him just enough support and momentum to flash out both legs in a kick, using the sharp rim of his thrusters as a weapon.

The blow caught Hook in the face, hard enough to crack his optic crystal right the way across. He stumbled backwards into the trolley, sending tools cascading across the deck in a riotous cacophony.

While Hook cursed, momentum carried Skywarp backwards more heavily than he’d intended. Being unexpectedly asked to support the mass of a whole extra body toppled all three of them. The teleport landed on top of the heap, sending an electric jolt of pain through his damaged wings again, but unable to completely swallow the satisfied smirk at the groans from underneath.  

Dirge peered out from under his pack. “Really, guys? Again? Now who’s the incompetent fragstick making us look bad?”

Hook’s limited supply of patience had apparently run out. “Any time you’re ready, you cretins. Get him on the table!”

It took the combined weight of all three Coneheads to finally pin Skywarp down on the table to Hook’s satisfaction. Solid metal staples slammed home around his limbs, then ratcheted tight enough to leave dents.

Skywarp clenched his fists and tightened his jaw in an effort to disguise a wince. His confidence that sure, he was gonna get out of this, intact and functional, was seriously starting to wane.

Hook looked down on him; nose slightly elevated, as though there were a source of noxious vapours hanging somewhere at chest level. “Even when I’m not tasked with putting them back together, they arrive on my table in pieces.” He picked a shard of broken crystal out of Skywarp’s chassis. “I suppose I’ll have to find something to repair this with, as well.”

“Can’t you just glue it?” Thrust wondered. “Maybe glue his mouth shut, while you’re at it.”

“I’ll glue yours if you don’t keep your thoughts to yourself. Why are you even still here?”

Thrust looked at his wingmates; Dirge had at least finally stopped bleeding, and was fussing quietly while Ramjet tried to work out if he could straighten his nose for him. “Boss’s orders, I guess?”

“Fine.” The crane didn’t look particularly satisfied, but let it slide. “Let’s see what Seekers are made of, these days.”

He dipped briefly out of Skywarp’s line of sight, but quickly reappeared as a spot of pain; the insect-bite scratch of a laser scalpel working its way carefully around the margins of one of his plates, on the midpoint of one wing. Skywarp grimaced in pain and flexed his fingers. Not the most easily accessible piece of the jet’s anatomy, if all Hook wanted was a sample, but it did at least feel like he wasn’t intentionally being cruel for the sake of it. He wielded his scalpel with precision, and in comparison with the slagging Skywarp had taken from Megatron? This was nothing.

Hook teased the section of plating away from its fascia, and carefully snipped through the web of connectors beneath. After a little noise of satisfaction, he turned away with it.

Skywarp listened to the receding steps, wary. Was that it? Couldn’t be it. If only he could see what the fragger was doing. A flurry of vaguely-familiar chirps and clicks reminded him of one of the big machines in Starscream’s huge lab back at work, so presumably Hook was doing some kind of scientific analysis.

Well, that wasn’t super helpful. Skywarp turned his attention to his pinions, wondering if he could wiggle any loose. It might be absolutely no use whatsoever, but having to lay here and wait was grating against his nerves.

Perhaps that was the point.

His mind's eye was already working overtime. Why did they need to know what he was made of? He didn’t even know what he was made of. What were they going to do to him once they figured it out? Design something to dissolve him? Ugh. Having something to do, something to focus on that wasn’t his own overactive imagination, was helping him retain that tiny kernel of calm.

Eventually Hook turned away from his analysis. “I have to give the Traitor a little credit,” he said, grudgingly. “This is a good composite. Tough. Light. Probably reduces the fuel-weight burden significantly.” His lip curled in a sneer. “A shame he chose to waste it on a motley flock of ignorant thugs. I suppose he didn’t have many options, given who chose to follow him.”

Skywarp matched stares with him. “So are you gonna let me up now?”

Hook acted like he hadn’t spoken. “I think we’re done keeping him conscious.” He flicked a hand at Thrust.

“Primus. About fraggin’ time.” Thrust bounced over, and grinned down at their prisoner, brandishing a weapon – palm-sized, with two sharp parallel tines emerging from the business end. “Night night, dude.”

Skywarp steeled himself for the unknown; the manacles gave him absolutely no give and no way to defend himself as Thrust dropped the weapon into the soft surface of his throat, punching the needles down through the polymer surface and cables and assorted skeletal structures.

After an instant where Skywarp was convinced Thrust was going to take his helm clean off… the barbs finally hit his main transmission column. A shock of electricity lit up every single circuit in his brain. After an instant where absolutely everything was blinding white, screaming high-pitched torment into his audio centre-

The world fell apart into pixels and he was out.

----------

Deixar General Hospital had a quiet, heavy atmosphere, Pulsar noticed, using her police access to slip in through the emergency department. As if a storm was brewing somewhere just over the horizon, and everyone was quietly waiting for it to break over them? She knew from personal experience that anything in the police gossip chain generally spread in short order to related services, but this was a whole different level. It was foolish to think the arrival of the Coneheads could have gone unnoticed by anyone in the small district.

When Pulsar finally got up onto the ward, it was to find Longbeam had already picked up her signal and was expectantly watching the doorway. Her sister immediately brightened at seeing her, finding a small smile and wiggling the fingers of her good hand in a little wave.

Pulsar crossed the ward to her sister’s corner. Of the three other berths, the one opposite was empty, and the machines occupying the other two were offline, recharging; awaiting parts, she imagined. Longbeam had a halfway decent view out over the city – and wasn’t close enough to the window to spoil it by seeing how far away from the ground they were, either. The sky was an innocuous, cloudless blue.

Longbeam leaned up towards her as she approached, stretching out her good hand for reassurance. “Vecks told me the little sparks are okay? Do-do you actually know? She’s not just saying it so I don’t overheat?”

“Hey,” Pulsar greeted, bumping cheeks and for a several seconds just holding her. “Vecks isn’t just saying it. Seem is a bit bashed around, but they’re both alive; we’ve seen them.”

Longbeam sagged against her with a little sound of relief. “Mercy.”

Pulsar stroked her antennae, gently, then stepped back. “How are you doing?”

“Well.” Longbeam vented a shaky sigh, then offered a lopsided, disgruntled frown, and spread her arms. “I’m still here, I guess? It was touch and go for a while when they took all that plastic off and I wouldn’t stop bleeding, but obviously they sorted that out. Now I’m just… here.”

Pulsar tried not to look too hard at the supportive shell her sibling sat in – not really a berth but a big opaque enclosure covered in blinking lights and monitors, designed to replace all the bodily functions her damaged frame couldn’t do for itself any more. It closed around her torso, just below her armpits, leaving her arms free. It… didn’t look particularly comfortable.

A flash of guilt drummed fingers over Pulsar’s antennae at the relief that she wouldn’t need to look at her sister’s catastrophic injuries. She swallowed the unease, and instead settled on the closest chair (which was far too big and mostly in the way, probably dragged in specifically for Vector). “Does it hurt?”

“No. They pumped me so full of virals, I can’t feel anything right now. Or move, really. Nothing under here works for itself, any more.” Longbeam patted her enclosure with her stump. “I’m not sure which is just me being broken, and which is the medics switching slag off? That flying pitglitch missed my magbottle by this much;” she held up her hand, thumb and forefinger so close Pulsar couldn’t even see the gap between them without zooming in, “so it probably makes sense? Survive getting shot by a ‘Con; kill yourself by moving funny.”

“Did they say how long they think you’ll be stuck in here?”

Longbeam blew out a long rattly sigh of stale exhaust and refused to meet her gaze. “Waiting for a new frame from the production facility. They say it’ll be a few more orns yet.”

Pulsar straightened, just a little. “A new frame?”

Longbeam muttered something poisonous and glared up at the ceiling. “They say I’ll need so many spare parts, it’s safer and easier just to rebottle my spark in a new body. I guess it makes sense. I’ll be in here for like, vorns, if they don’t, and when you think of all the time it’ll take, and… I’m a bike, anyway, right?” She snorted a sour laugh. “Not exactly an exotic frame. Almost an off-the-shelf model.”

“That’s a good thing, though, right? If it means you’re out of here quicker?”

Longbeam made a spirited effort to cover her face with both hands. “I’m gonna end up short, Pulse.”

Pulsar caught her good hand and held it for an instant. “I’m sure Vector will still love you even if you’re not all tall and bendy.”

“Yeah but I was, it was-… I liked being a bit different? Mighta been a factory fault, but I liked being tall-…” Longbeam swallowed the rest of the complaint, pursing her lips in an attempt to look a little less petulant. “So, uh. H-how’s Thundercracker…?”

“Aside from a migraine? Recharging while he gets a medical patch to take, I think. He and Celerity have been holed up in their room for a while, and I didn’t want to disturb them. I don’t think they really know how to deal with this, right now.”

“I figured. Vector’s a bit… spacey, as well.” Longbeam closed her fingers over the cleaned stump of her injured arm. “I don’t think she wants to talk about it. Maybe it’s a twins thing, I don’t know.” She finally met Pulsar’s gaze, and after a second of effort managed to get the words out in a whisper; “Thanks for coming.”

“I’m sorry it took so long.” Pulsar found her sister’s hand and interlaced their fingers. “Took me a while to stop running in circles. We’re still firefighting, mostly.”

“Ah, it’s no problem. I-I know you had things to deal with. And, and… Well, I’m here and I’m alive, right? So. Uh.”

It wasn’t just the injury – Longbeam just looked… drawn. Dusty and gaunt and very small. Pulsar didn’t remember seeing her like it before. She squeezed her fingers, gently. “Hey. You don’t have to tiptoe around what’s bothering you.”

Longbeam squeezed out a little noise that sounded like it was trying to be a laugh but came out more like a choke of pain. “Thought you guys weren’t gonna forgive me. A-and that’s why you hadn’t come yet. For-for… not being fast enough. Not spotting them before they were on top of us. Shoulda been paying more attention. It’s meant to be my job and I was too busy chatting to keep my attention on anything other than candy-”

“Hey, Beemer-! Stop that.”

Longbeam swallowed the rest of the sentence. She slipped her fingers free of her sibling’s hand and covered her face, and Pulsar realised her sister was shaking. “Primus. What a family to frag it up for.”

“You don’t think they’re gonna take it out on you-”

Longbeam gave a staticky laugh, but she didn’t sound amused. “Thought had crossed my mind, yeah. I-I mean.” She let her head bonk down against the wall behind her. “What if I’m what triggers this all to fall down again? Wars have started over less, and-and Primus, the little sparks are trapped with Megatron and I’m more scared about what might happen to me-”

Pulsar mostly fell out of the big chair, and gathered her sister against her in a hug. “Hey. You’re allowed to feel scared, all right? I mean, slag; I’m overthinking this all too. But someone not being able to stop a whole trine she didn’t see until they were right on top of her isn’t going to be what breaks us. Please stop punishing yourself over it.”

Longbeam shakily brought her arms up around her. “S-sorry. You get plenty of time alone with your thoughts in a place like this. ‘Specially since Vecks hasn’t really wanted to talk about it. Those guys aren’t so talkative either, haha.” She nodded to the dormant bodies on the other berths. “Guess I have been kinda chewing myself up over it all.”

“Look, I’m gonna have a word with Vecks, and the medics. All right? If all they’re going to do is give you a new frame, maybe you don’t need to be stuck up here with no company the whole time.” Pulsar glanced around the ward. “Where is Vector, anyway?”

“Nightsun dragged her away to refuel. She was down to vapours already. Be kinda embarrassing to have to get a surgeon in here just to carry her out if she ran dry, ‘cause there’s no way Nightsun woulda been able to pick her up.”

“Ehh. Probably not a good time to say I brought you some candies, then.” Pulsar set a clear box full of sparkly cellophane-wrapped pink crystals on the table. “The idea was to cheer you up, buuut.” She shrugged, sheepishly. “I can get you something else if you’d rather.”

Longbeam snorted a more genuine laugh – the same brand of confectionery she’d stolen off Pulsar’s desk to share with Whitesides, before the Coneheads rocked up in their patch. “Thanks. Guess I’ll save them for when I actually have tanks again.” She nudged it with the back of her knuckles, thoughtfully. “You managed to keep Warp from eating them. Colour me impressed.”

Pulsar sighed and covered her face in both hands.

Longbeam’s optics tightened, fractionally. “What’s he done now?”

Pulsar groaned and let her helm bonk down on her sister’s berth. “Only flown off to singlehandedly take on Megatron to get the little sparks back.”

Longbeam hesitantly brushed a hand over Pulsar’s antennae. “…do I wanna ask how he is?”

“Still functioning. We think. Megatron sent us a video, which was… kind of him, I guess. I’m not really going to commit to much more than that, just yet…”
Been a bit of a while coming, as always, and again I apologise for it.

Now I've done with my diploma, and only have "normal" work-based deadlines to worry about, I may be more productive?

May.

Hmm.
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