Dead Air

Feb. 20th, 2011 02:33 pm
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Title: Dead Air
Continuity: G1 AU, follows canon up until the end of season two.
Author: [personal profile] anon_decepticon
Rating: PG-13
Pairing or Character(s): The Recordicons
Disclaimer: I don’t own Transformers.
Warning(s): Character death, oodles of angst. This is not a happy fic.
Summary: Soundwave is killed in battle, leaving his cassettes behind to pick up the pieces.
Author's Note: This fic is set during the time gap between the end of season two and TF:TM, prior to Blaster’s acquisition of Rewind, Eject, Steeljaw and Ramhorn. Ratbat, Overkill and Slugfest likewise do not exist in this ‘verse. Inspiration credit goes to [personal profile] peacewish and her ongoing kink meme fic “These Games We Play.” There will be additional chapters, but I don’t know how quickly I’ll end up cranking them out in-between “Crash Course” and “Strictly Business” – it all depends which bunnies bite the hardest. Alas, mine is a fickle muse.


Dead Air

It started out as an ordinary day. Another energon raid, another round of kicking Autobot skidplates. Nothing to comm Cybertron about.

It was the worst day of his life.

The battle had been chaotic, but that was nothing new. Thanks to the bond he shared with his fellow Recordicons and Soundwave, Rumble always had a general sense of where they were and what they were doing. Sometimes in the midst of slamming his piledrivers into an Autobot’s faceplate, he’d get a flash of Laserbeak swooping down on a foe, or Ravage pouncing. Sometimes the piledrivers he felt smashing home weren’t his own.

But he was used to that. They all were.

Had Megatron called a retreat? He couldn’t remember. All he could remember was the explosion of agony that came crashing down on him like an atomic bomb, and then…silence.

Dead air.

He onlined in the Autobot brig, greeted by the sight of lurid orange walls and humming energon bars. Frenzy was in the cell across from him, huddled into a ball with his arms around his knees. Laserbeak was in the cell to his right, perched listlessly on the narrow berth. Ravage paced in endless circles in the cell opposite her. All three turned to look at him as he sat up, but none spoke.

Rumble stared back at them, meeting each of their optics in turn. A dozen questions leapt into his processor, but he couldn’t bring himself to break the oppressive silence. It seemed wrong to speak. Speaking aloud would make it all real.

This isn’t happening. He could dimly sense the presence of the others through the bond, but he didn’t dare tap into it directly. He didn’t want to face what he would find there.

Or rather, what he wouldn’t find.

Ravage resumed his pacing, his presence a red snarl of anger through the bond. Frenzy’s presence felt sharp and muddled; a black, spiky ball of terror and despair. Laserbeak was a mute grey blob of sorrow.

Someone’s missing. Rumble sat up a little straighter and cast his optics about the room, a feeling of cold dread seizing his spark. There was a gap in the bond, one he’d nearly overlooked in his effort to avoid confronting the vast emptiness that lay at its core.

“Where’s Buzzsaw?”

He winced as his words echoed within the confines of his cell, louder than they should have been. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then Laserbeak emitted a low, keening whine. Ravage snarled, glaring at him through narrowed optics. *Idiot,* he commed succinctly.

“Sorry,” he whispered. He hadn’t meant to say that out loud. It was a stupid question. They all knew Buzzsaw had been inside S-

The door to the brig clanged open, making them jump. A large, boxy silhouette filled the opening, and Rumble’s spark pulsed in recognition. A burst of sudden, desperate hope surged through the bond.

Then the figure stepped into the light, and it all came crashing down.

The Autobot Blaster paused just beyond the threshold, regarding them with a faintly bewildered expression, as if he’d made a wrong turn somewhere and come out someplace he hadn’t intended. The Recordicons eyed him warily, waiting for him to move or speak, but the Autobot just stood there, his fists clenching and unclenching.

Slagging say something, Rumble thought, discomfited by his stare.

Blaster shifted his weight from foot to foot, his optics flicking over each of them in turn. He opened his mouth and then closed it again, resetting his vocalizer.

Rumble couldn’t take it anymore. “What’s the matter, Auto-dope? Too scared to gloat?”

Blaster’s optics narrowed, his expression growing hard. Turning on his heel, he exited the brig without a word, slamming the door behind him.

The clank of his departing footsteps faded, and silence descended on them once more, thick and stifling. This time Frenzy was the one who broke it.

“What do you think they’re gonna do to us?”

Tearing his optics away from the door, Rumble turned to find his spark-twin looking at him expectantly. Laserbeak and Ravage were looking at him too, waiting for his response. “Nothing,” he said with a dismissive shrug. “They’re not gonna torture us. They know we’d never tell ‘em anything anyway. We just have to cool our thrusters here until Megatron cuts a deal to get us back.”

“...what if he doesn’t want us back?” Frenzy asked quietly.

Rumble opened his mouth to respond, but then realized he had no idea what he was going to say. “I dunno,” he replied after a moment. “I guess I’ll think of something.” He slouched back on the berth, propping his backstrut against the wall, and started weighing their options.

Escaping on their own was a long shot, and with Soundwave gone, the odds of a rescue were slim. It was true that Megatron sometimes bartered for the freedom of POWs who’d been captured in battle, but only if the captive warriors were ones he considered unexpendable. Rumble wasn’t sure they qualified.

Of course he’ll want us back. We’re still Decepticons. But then he remembered the time Ravage had been captured by the Autobots shortly after they’d come to Earth. Soundwave had wanted to go back for him, but Megatron had denied his request. If Ravage hadn’t escaped on his own and Megatron’s plan had succeeded, Ravage would have been left behind.

Even if he does take us back, we’re as good as slagged without the Boss. They didn’t have any friends among the ‘Cons. They’d never needed any; Soundwave had always looked out for them. With him gone, who would protect them? Not Megatron, that's for sure.

Stumped for a solution, Rumble decided to voice the question that had been plaguing his processor ever since he’d onlined in this cell. “D-did any of you see what happened?”

Frenzy shook his head. “All I remember is fighting, and then…” He trailed off.

“And then what?” Rumble sat up, leaning forward to peer through the glowing bars at his twin.

“Screaming,” Frenzy whispered. “I couldn’t stop screaming.”

Rumble slumped back again, his backstrut striking the wall with a soft clank. He looked over at Ravage, who was staring at Frenzy with an odd mixture of pity and contempt. *What about you?*

*Nothing,* Ravage commed back. *There was an explosion, but I didn’t see.*

They all turned to look at Laserbeak, who responded by hunching closer to the berth, her wings drawing up defensively. She shook her head rapidly, no.

One of the pitfalls of being a bonded symbiote was the inability to lie to those who shared in that bond. Not that they could read each other’s minds – only Soundwave could do that – but contradictory emotions came through loud and clear.

But that wasn’t all that came through. Laserbeak’s agony was acute. When Rumble spoke again, his voice was uncharacteristically gentle. “Did you see it, Beaky?”

She shook her head again, desperately.

*Leave her alone,* Ravage commed with a growl. *She didn’t see it.*

But Buzzsaw did, Rumble realized, and then wanted to kick himself for not figuring it out sooner. Buzzsaw was – or had been – Laserbeak’s spark-twin, just as Frenzy was his. Whatever Buzzsaw had seen, Laserbeak had gotten a glimpse of it – but only a glimpse.

The fading echoes of a dying spark.

“Never mind,” he said. Suddenly he didn’t want to know. “Doesn’t matter now anyway.”




Rumble wasn’t sure how much time passed before the ‘Bots came to check on them. It could have been hours, or even days. He hadn’t thought to check his chronometer.

The first one through the door was Ironhide, followed by the big white Autobot Rumble recognized as their medic. Prowl came in next, and then Optimus Prime himself, much to Rumble’s surprise.

Well what do you know, he thought bitterly. The gang’s all here.

The medic – Ratchet, he recalled belatedly – immediately headed for the nearest cell, which just happened to be Ravage’s. Ravage snarled at his approach, lashing out at him through the bars when the Autobot ventured too close. Ironhide was at his side in an instant, his gun drawn.

“Easy now,” Ratchet said, holding up his hands to show they were empty. “No one’s going to hurt you.”

*Eat slag, Autobot,* Ravage replied, lunging at him again. Rumble smirked.

“Ratchet, wait,” Optimus Prime said. He turned to address them as a group, his optics grave. “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you all. Soundwave and Buzzsaw have been deactivated.”

“No slag,” Rumble said. “Tell us something we don’t know.”

The Autobots exchanged glances. Prowl’s expression was unreadable. Ironhide looked annoyed. Ratchet looked sympathetic, which fragged Rumble off most of all. The medic shared a long look with his commander, and Rumble just knew they were talking about them over their comms. He’d have staked a cube of high grade on it.

Go ahead and talk, you slaggers, he thought with a scowl. We’re not telling you anything.

After a moment Optimus Prime turned back to them, his gaze resting on each of them in turn. “I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“Sure you are,” Rumble said. “So when’s the party?”

Prime hesitated, but pressed on. “I’ve asked Teletraan-1 to transmit a message to Megatron informing him of your status. So far there’s been no response. It’s possible he hasn’t received it yet.”

“Or he doesn’t care,” Frenzy said.

Rumble leapt to his feet. “Shut up, Frenzy. And you,” he said, glaring at Ratchet, who had started towards Frenzy’s cell. “Stay away from him.”

Ratchet stopped, but didn’t back away. “I just want to run a few scans on him,” he said. “On all of you. Just to make sure you’re all right.”

“Yeah, sure,” he said. “You’ve been trying to kill us for vorns. A couple joors ago you were all shooting at us, now you expect us to trust you?” A faint buzz of static had crept into his vocalizer, but Rumble ignored it. “Frag that. You’re not touchin’ any of us.”

“The Cybertronian Accords dictate that prisoners of war are entitled to repairs, if needed,” Prowl said. “No one will violate that edict as long as I remain second in command.”

“Well, we don’t need any repairs,” he said, and Ravage’s snarl echoed his sentiment. “Frenzy’s fine – aren’t ya, Frenzy?” he added, shooting his twin a look.

Frenzy nodded. “Yeah.”

“See? We’re all fine, so slag off.”

“Why you little punk,” Ironhide said. “I oughta –”

“You oughta what?” Rumble retorted, summoning his piledrivers. “C’mon in here and say that, you old rust-heap. Or are you too scared?”

“Ironhide, stand down,” Optimus Prime’s voice cut in, silencing the old warrior’s reply. He looked at Rumble. “Ratchet is concerned because we found Buzzsaw’s remains inside Soundwave’s chest compartment, but were unable to determine the cause of death. He wants to make certain you four are not also in danger of deactivating.”

For the first time in his life, Rumble didn’t have a ready retort. He didn’t think they were likely to keel over just because Soundwave had, but that didn’t mean they hadn’t depended on him. Spending time “in the box” allowed Soundwave’s systems to take over for theirs, regulating and repairing any damage they incurred.

Out of all of them, Rumble had spent the most time “outside,” and knew all too well how much stress even normal, everyday activities placed on their smaller, more delicate systems, how prone their internal components were to burning out from the strain. Cassettes weren’t built to last without a carrier. Without Soundwave, they’d be in almost constant need of repairs.

The silence stretched out, and Rumble wanted desperately to fill it with the usual jibes and insults, but his vocalizer refused to function. He realized now that Megatron would never sign on for the amount of maintenance it would take to keep them operational; he’d consider it a waste of resources. Soundwave had always performed all of their repairs, anyway. Hook wouldn’t even know how.

Some of his anxiety must have carried over the bond, because Frenzy spoke up again. “What’s gonna happen to us?”

“Shut up, Frenzy,” he said, but the words came out more shaken than commanding. He couldn’t really blame his twin for being scared. Frenzy had always been fragile. He’d spent more time in the box than the rest of them combined. Rumble had asked Soundwave why once, and Soundwave had explained that something must have gone wrong when their sparks split, causing them to separate unevenly. Frenzy had gotten the weaker half.

Rumble: Strong. Frenzy: Weak. Conclusion: Rumble must protect Frenzy.

No way was he going to let some Autobot touch his spark-twin. No fragging way.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to you,” Optimus Prime said, glancing between them. “But I do know that as long as you remain in Autobot custody, no harm will come to you. I give you my word.”

“And mine as well,” Prowl chimed in. “If you wish, I will remain here while Ratchet examines you to ensure your safety.”

Rumble stared at them in disbelief. “What part of we’re not damaged do you glitches not understand?” he said. “I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid.

“He can look at me,” Frenzy said quietly. “I’m…not feelin’ so good right now, Rumble.”

“Like frag he can!” Rumble said, but his reply was drowned out by Ravage’s scream of rage. Ravage flung himself at the energon bars fronting his cell, heedless of the energy crackling over his frame, swiping at Frenzy with his claws. Laserbeak took to the air as Frenzy scrambled to get out of reach, crying out in distress and battering herself against the walls of her cell.

*Traitor!*

*Master!*

*They killed our Master!*

Rumble could hear the Autobots shouting, but their voices were nothing but white noise compared to the clamor of emotions flooding the bond. He heard a high, keening whine over the cacophony of clashing metal and distorted feedback, and realized with a start that it was coming from his own vocalizer. “STOP IT!” he screamed.

To his amazement, they stopped. Ravage fell back and began to pace again, growling softly. Laserbeak settled onto the berth, ducking her head and scooting backward until she fetched up against the rear wall. Frenzy remained where he was, wedged in the farthest corner of his cell, his face hidden in his arms, his vocalizer spitting static.

“Thank you,” Optimus Prime said.

Rumble looked up, and was alarmed to discover that Autobot leader was addressing him. It made him feel vaguely ashamed, as if he’d done something wrong. “What for? I didn’t do nothing.”

“You convinced them to stand down,” Optimus Prime said. “Do you think you might also persuade them to allow Ratchet's scans?”

*Only if he doesn’t mind losing an arm,* Ravage commed darkly.

What is he asking me for? Rumble thought. A queasy feeling rippled through his fuel tank. “Persuade ‘em yourself,” he muttered. “I’m not the Boss.”

Prime looked at Ratchet, who nodded and started toward Frenzy’s cell. Trust an Autobot to pick on the easy target, Rumble thought. “Not him,” he said. “You leave him alone.”

Ratchet paused and looked at Ravage, who hissed and growled, his servos whining as he gathered himself to spring. *Just try it, Autobot. I’ll rip you to shreds.*

“Him either,” Rumble said. “He’ll kill you.”

Ironhide made a disgusted noise, but Ratchet gamely moved on to Laserbeak’s cell. When Rumble didn’t immediately object, the medic looked back at him inquiringly.

Rumble hesitated, not sure what to say. Laserbeak wasn’t like Frenzy; he knew she could take care of herself. But she wasn’t acting like herself right now. Maybe it was a side effect of losing her spark-twin – Rumble couldn’t begin to imagine how that felt, not even with the bond to clue him in – but could Laserbeak actually have been damaged by it? The Autobots seemed to think so.

*You okay, Beaky?* he commed her privately. *You want him to scan you?*

Laserbeak cocked her head, her golden optics gleaming as they shifted from him to Ravage and back again. She gave a minute shake of her head.

Rumble frowned, a faint twinge of worry shooting through his spark. He hadn’t realized until that moment how much he’d been hoping she would speak. He turned back to the medic, shaking his head. “She says no.”

“What about you?” Ratchet asked.

For some reason the question surprised him. “Me?”

“Yeah, you,” Ratchet said, looking amused. “Would you be willing to let me examine you?”

Rumble opened his mouth to say no, of course he wasn’t going to let some stupid Autobot poke around in his chassis, and what did he look like, a moron? But the words didn’t come. He glanced at Frenzy, still tucked tightly into the corner of his cell.

He knew what Soundwave would say. Autobots: Not to be trusted. But Soundwave was gone.

Maybe Megatron would take them back. Maybe he wouldn’t. Either way, sooner or later they were going to need repairs. A lot of repairs.

I’m…not feelin’ so good right now, Rumble.

Rumble must protect Frenzy.

The medic was still looking at him, patiently awaiting his response.

What do I do? Panic gripped his spark. I don’t know what to do!

“Yeah, okay,” he whispered.

Ravage snarled, but Rumble quickly opened a comm to him. *I gotta do it, Ravage. I have to let him! What if he’s right? What if Megatron doesn’t take us back? Who’s gonna repair us?*

*They are Autobots. They are the enemy!*

*I know that! That’s why it’s gotta be me!* He looked at Ravage, his optics pleading. *I’m not the Boss. I’m not smart like he was. I’m only good at breakin’ stuff! What else can I do?*

Ravage growled, pacing back and forth in agitation.

*If they slag me up, you’ve gotta get ‘em away. Don’t let any of them touch you. Just run.*

There was no change in Ravage’s outward demeanor, but Rumble sensed his grudging acceptance through the bond. Good thing, too, because the Autobots were already gathering outside his cell.

“Back,” Ironhide ordered. “Aft on the berth, hands where I can see ‘em.”

Rumble obeyed, retracting his piledrivers and taking a seat on the berth. Ironhide kept his gun trained on him while Prowl punched in a code to neutralize the bars. Then Ratchet and Ironhide stepped inside, and Prowl reactivated the barrier.

Rumble regarded them warily. In the close quarters of his cell, the two Autobots seemed even larger than usual. And there was nowhere for him to run - Ironhide's gun was pointed right at his spark.

“Turn off your audials, Ironhide,” Ratchet said.

“What? Are you glitched?”

“No, I’m a medic,” Ratchet replied. He looked at Rumble. “So, any damage I should know about?”

Rumble scoffed. “Nah, I just wanted to see what you think you’re gonna do to me. I could use a laugh.”

Ironhide bristled. “Why you little –”

“Audials, off,” Ratchet interrupted crisply. “Don’t make me do it for you, Ironhide – I might slip and deactivate your vocalizer, too.” He looked back at Rumble. “I’m going to start with a basic low-intensity scan. It may tingle a bit.”

Rumble smirked. “I knew you Autobots were dolts; I didn’t know you were pervs, too.”

“Only during off hours,” Ratchet replied. He glanced over his shoulder at Ironhide, who hadn’t reacted to either statement. “Good. Now I won’t have to reformat him into a toaster.” He turned back to Rumble. “Initiating the scan now.”

Rumble tensed, bracing himself, but didn’t object. This is it, Rumble. Don’t frag it up.

The scan did tingle a little, but it didn’t hurt. Mostly it just felt weird. Rumble did his best to hold still and not fidget.

“Raise your right arm,” Ratchet said, and Rumble complied. The tingling briefly intensified, tickling along his right side.

“Good, now the left,” Ratchet said. “Any weakness, dizziness, or loss of motor control?”

Rumble switched arms, shrugging as he did so. “No, no, and I don’t have a motor. I’m a cassette.”

Ratchet chuckled. “Good, good. You can put your arm down now – wait. Stop right there.”

Rumble froze with his arm half-lowered. “What?”

“Don’t move,” Ratchet said. He reached out and grabbed Rumble’s elbow. Rumble flinched and tried to pull away, a wave of terror engulfing his spark.

“Got it,” Ratchet said, straightening. “That’s a nasty little souvenir.” The medic let go of his arm and held up a small chunk of shrapnel.

Rumble huffed dismissively, trying to get a grip on his pulsing spark. “Big deal,” he said. “That’s probably been in there for ages.”

Ratchet grinned. “You want me to put it back?”

“No,” Rumble replied sullenly. Now the stupid fragger was making fun of him. “Are we done yet?”

“Yep,” Ratchet said. “I officially declare you fully operational.”

“Yippee,” he said. He lowered his helm as the medic turned away, avoiding his optics. “So, uh…how did it happen?”

Evidently his tone was enough to clue the Autobot in to what he meant, because Ratchet’s expression sobered immediately. “The energon cache exploded,” he said. “Took out most of the building it was in, threw up a lot of debris. As near as we can tell, Soundwave was impaled by a part of a flying girder. It went straight through his spark chamber.”

“Oh,” he said. That would explain the pain. “So it was quick.”

Ratchet nodded. “Very quick. His spark would have been extinguished almost instantly. He probably didn’t even feel it.”

“He felt it,” Rumble said. “We all felt it.”

Ratchet reached out to lay a hand on Rumble’s shoulder-strut, but let it drop back to his side when Rumble recoiled. “Ironhide,” he said, giving the other Autobot a jab with his elbow. “Turn on your audials. It’s time to go.”

He turned back to the glowing barrier and nodded to Prowl, who began to enter the locking code. Ironhide watched Rumble narrowly as Ratchet exited the cell, then slowly backed out himself, keeping Rumble firmly within his sights. The barrier went back up.

“You should probably check on Frenzy too,” Rumble said without looking up.

“I plan to,” Ratchet replied. True to his word, the Autobot medic was already headed that way. Ravage snarled as he drew closer, pacing rapidly back and forth.

Rumble watched as they repeated the same set of actions to enter Frenzy’s cell, and heard Ratchet once again tell Ironhide to switch off his audials. His spark started pulsing faster. He wasn’t sure if the anxiety was his, or Frenzy’s. Maybe it belonged to both of them.

“I need you to stand up so I can perform the scan,” Ratchet said. “Can you do that, Frenzy?”

“Yeah…I think so,” Frenzy replied, speaking so softly Rumble had to turn up the gain on his audials just to hear him. He slid down off the berth and edged closer to the bars, trying to get a better view of what was happening in Frenzy’s cell. At the moment all he could see was the backs of the two Autobots, one red, one white.

He heard a soft clank. “Whoa, easy there,” he heard Ratchet say. The medic was bending over now, reaching for something Rumble couldn’t see. A flicker of embarrassment shivered over the bond.

“’m okay,” Frenzy protested. “I can do it, just gimme a –”

There was a strange grinding noise, followed by the splash of something wet hitting the deck plating. Ironhide cursed. Rumble craned his neck cables, trying to catch a glimpse of his twin, and spied a small glowing pool of energon on the floor, some of it splattered across Ratchet’s feet. The embarrassment within the bond abruptly intensified.

“Sorry,” Frenzy muttered.

“No harm done,” Ratchet said. “Any more where that came from?”

“No,” Frenzy replied sheepishly. “I think that’s it.”

“Do you feel dizzy?” Ratchet asked. “Weaker than usual?”

“Kind of,” Frenzy admitted.

Ratchet nodded, as if that was what he was expecting to hear. “I need you to open up your chestplate for me.”

What? Rumble thought, his spark clenching in panic. Frenzy, no! He was about to open a comm link to his twin when heard Frenzy ask suspiciously, “What for?”

“I think you’ve got a hairline crack in your fuel tank,” Ratchet replied, raising his voice to be heard over Ravage’s increasingly louder growls. Laserbeak trilled uneasily, shifting on her makeshift perch.

“Is that bad?” Frenzy asked.

“Yes,” Ratchet replied simply.

“How do I know you’re not lying to me?” Frenzy said.

“You don’t,” Ratchet said. “But if you look there, you’ll notice that’s not just energon on the floor. See the swirls? That’s either oil or lubricant. Neither is a good sign.”

There was a pause. “How do you fix it?” Frenzy asked.

“First I'll scan your internals to pinpoint the breach. Then I’ll apply a patch weld to seal it. Your regenerative systems can take over from there.”

“And if I say no?”

“It’ll probably get worse,” Ratchet said. “The crack could get larger, and any energon you put in your tank could become corrupted and damage your internal systems. Or it could leak out and explode.”

“You’re puttin’ me on,” Frenzy said.

“No, I’m not,” Ratchet said. “But it’s up to you. There’s a chance your regenerative systems might fix it on their own, given enough time. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible.”

Another pause. “You’d better not try anything funny in there,” Frenzy said.

Rumble’s optics widened as he realized Frenzy intended to do what the Autobot said – but by then Ratchet was already performing the scan. Ravage crouched down low in his cell, his abdominal plating almost scraping the floor. His growls dropped into subsonic range, vibrating the deckplating beneath him.

“There it is,” Ratchet said after a moment. His right hand shifted into a welding torch, and a bright light flared up between them, briefly illuminating Frenzy’s darker frame. Frenzy was standing stiffly upright, his hands clenched into fists at his sides, a defiant expression on his faceplate.

“Frenzy?” Rumble said.

“I’m okay,” Frenzy called back.

Ratchet straightened, his hand replacing the welding torch once more. “That should do it. You can close up now.” He reached into his subspace, extracting a small cube of energon. “Here,” he said, offering it to Frenzy. “You’ll need to replace that fuel you lost.”

Frenzy closed his chestplate and accepted the cube, still eyeing the medic suspiciously. He didn’t drink the energon.

“Don’t gulp it down all at once,” Ratchet said. “That patch will need some time to set, and the last thing I need is you getting overcharged. Just take a few sips every breem or so, got it?”

“Yeah, I got it,” Frenzy said, still not touching the energon.

Ratchet nodded, then prodded Ironhide again, signaling to Prowl. They exited Frenzy’s cell much as they had Rumble’s, and within a few astroseconds the barrier was back in place.

“Anyone else change their minds about getting a scan?” Ratchet asked, looking around at the remaining Recordicons.

Ravage snarled again, making his answer so obvious Rumble didn’t even bother to translate. Laserbeak inched forward on the berth, her posture tense and wary, and vocalized a soft crooning noise.

Ratchet arched a brow plate, glancing at Rumble. “Was that a yes?”

“Yeah,” Rumble said. Once they were out of Frenzy’s cell, he’d almost relaxed, but now his worry returned in force. He watched as the Autobots repeated the process to enter Laserbeak’s cell.

“Anything in particular you’d like me to look at?” Ratchet asked her.

Laserbeak tilted her head to meet his optics, and hesitantly raised her left wing. From the awkward vantage point of his cell, Rumble could see that the paint on the tip was scuffed, but the wing itself didn’t appear to be damaged.

“Oh, I see,” Ratchet said. He reached down to carefully run his fingertips over the proffered wing, checking for damage. Laserbeak held very still, but couldn’t conceal the slight tremor that ran through her frame.

“I don’t think that’s anything to worry about,” Ratchet said finally. “Does it hurt anywhere else?”

Laserbeak looked up at him and keened softly.

“I know,” Ratchet said. “I’m sorry.”

Laserbeak hunched down again, scooting back on the berth.

Ratchet nodded to Ironhide, who hadn’t been ordered to switch off his audials this time – Rumble guessed Ratchet had figured out that Laserbeak couldn’t talk without using her comm – and together they departed the cell, rejoining Prowl and Optimus Prime in the passageway outside.

Ratchet glanced at Ravage again, but one look made it clear that Ravage had no intention of letting an Autobot anywhere near him. “I guess that’s all I can do for now,” he said, meeting his commander’s optics. “They’ll need energon within the next few joors if Megatron hasn’t commed by then.”

“Understood, thank you Ratchet,” Optimus Prime said. He looked over Rumble. “I’ll see that you’re notified the moment we have news.”

“Yeah,” Rumble said. He had a feeling they were going to be waiting a long time. If the look Optimus Prime was giving him was anything to go by, the Autobot leader thought so, too. What’s going to happen to us?

Dead air.

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August 2012

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