Eying the large concrete couch, Skyler wondered where to sit. Bumblebee and Sari had claimed the actual seat, leaving no room for Bulkhead, who was resting nearby on his L-shaped shoulder protrusions. I don't want to sit by those two, or somewhere that I can get squished. The back of the sofa looked promising. She glanced at Sari and jumped up onto the sofa, and from there to the arm. The girl and the mini-bot were absolutely addicted to a racing game and were currently trash-talking each other over the noise of the television.
The large screen left running to detect any form of Cybertronian signals beeped and a window appeared, playing a recorded transmission. A stern blueish faceplate framed by an even darker blue helm spoke. "Optimus Prime, we have finally tracked your signal and shall arrive at your location within the solar cycle. Prepare for a full debriefing and have the AllSpark ready for collection." Every head in the room whipped around to stare as the display faded to gray.
Absolute fury radiated from Starscream. Claws twitching, he snarled, "So, you invited the Elite Guard?" His wings hiked up, flicking in agitation.
"How could we?" Optimus gestured to the monitors; the slight fear on his faceplate was nothing compared to the panicked throb of his Spark. "We have no tachyon transmitter to send anything off-planet."
The Seeker prodded Skyler's mind, warning her that she needed to be ready to leave now. He'd planned for an escape, in case he needed to sever his ties to the Autobots, but not on such short notice. Without knowing where the AllSpark fragments were, he only needed to make sure his pet was ready to flee, bringing that intriguing possession of hers.
Skyler's eyes flickered. ::I have it, but what is going on?::
"You fools," Starscream hissed, "if they find out you've made any kind of deal with a Decepticon, your skidplates will be on the line."
"That's not our only problem." The Prime narrowed his optics, crossing his arms and trying to look authoritative. "The AllSpark is shattered and both femmes are at risk here."
Optics dimming just a fraction, Starscream smiled coldly. "You would lie to your own superiors?"
"Only when it's for the best."
The Decepticon rested on servo on his hip, rubbing at his neck column with the other. "I can vacate your little hideout easily enough, but what will you do about the humans?"
Sari and Skyler glanced from Optimus to Starscream.
"Perhaps they could stay at Sumdac Tower." The crew's leader turned his helm to look at the girls. "Neither will be permitted any contact with us until Magnus and his Guard are gone."
A faint smile touched Skyler's face. I look forward to it.
Starscream flicked her mind again reproachfully, glancing to Optimus Prime. "I will do what I can to thwart Megatron's raids for the shards, but if any of you Autobots attempt to stop me, I will not hold back." With that, he turned and left the base, flying away.
"I'm sure my dad will understand," Sari said, trying not to think too hard about being away from Bumblebee.
The Prime nodded, shifting into vehicle mode and popping his door open. "I will explain the situation to him."
Skyler smiled weakly as Sari clung to her father's hand, babbling frantically about grouchy old 'bots and how unfair this whole thing was. Professor Sumdac patted her head fondly, trying to reassure her that it was all temporary. Glancing at the woman, he craned his head towards the stairwell, slipping his hand down to Sari's back and guiding her forward.
She could barely keep from gawking, staring around at every little thing. Unless her parents had ever brought her here, Skyler'd never seen the inside of the Tower. When they stopped in front of a door that opened to a small bedroom suite, the brunette glanced at Sumdac, nervously tapping her fingers together. "I really can't thank you enough for this, sir. I want to help repay you somehow."
The short man looked up with a smile. "Sari tells me that you've been one of the those repairing my automatons."
Her eyes brightened and her face turned pink. "We started with cars, but then someone brought their domestic in with them, and we worked on it as well. There's been a lot of those recently." Skyler waved her hands quickly. "I'm not saying anything about your products, since most of the jobs are because the owner did something stupid with their 'bot."
Professor Sumdac nodded. "People have always tried to get the automatons to do things they are not meant to do."
The woman chuckled. If she had a dollar for every time a customer insisted 'I didn't do anything, it just quit working on its own!', she'd be rich.
Sari hung back as her father walked off, looking Skyler to the room and back to Skyler. She put her hands on her hips. "Guess you gotta get used to a bed again, since you've been sleeping with Starscream."
God, that makes it sound so wrong. Shoulders hunched inward, her face turned even more crimson than it already was. "It's not...you don't...stop judging me! Have you ever tried to argue with him?" Skyler's lips thinned. "Didn't think so. It's not like I have a choice when he can tell where I am all the time." Her lips twitched upward into a small cruel smile. "You should be thankful he could; it's how your father escaped. Do tell Professor Sumdac I'm grateful for the room." Then she shut the door in Sari's face. Skyler's eyes darkened, and she leaned forward against the door. Where did that come from? I'm not usually this snappy. She frowned; it wasn't the first time she'd been so snappy with a person. More so than was usual for her. Hopefully only stress.
Even with all the advanced programming of the robots, humans still had to diagnose and repair each malfunctioning one. Skyler was shown to a small room, with a few automatons piled in a corner. She grinned, loving the chance to get back to work. But first...
Pulling out her PDA, Skyler typed a message to her brother.
Hey, Spike. Just giving you a heads up about what's been going on. Some intolerant visitors arrived, so me and the kid had to relocate. The one I don't want to talk about also left. I'd tell you where I am, but in case this message gets intercepted, I'll be vague.
Lots of hugs,
She turned at the sound of the door opening. A small wheeled automaton rolled in, holding out a stack of envelopes in its pincers. "From Professor Sumdac," it beeped.
Cocking an eyebrow, she took the papers. "What are these?" But it had already left. The papers were addressed to her. Skyler flicked through the letters, seeing each one labeled with a date. The first one was when she was barely a year old.
You haven't started talking quite yet, but since you're walking well enough to get into trouble, I decided to start these letters. Your father says it's ridiculous, but my mother did the same thing for me. Someday, when you're older, I'll get them out and we can read them together. I remember laughing at some of the things she said I did as a child.
It was in the purple gel pen Sparkplug said her mother had loved so much. Her fists clenched and she set the paper down to keep from crumpling it. Picking another out at random, she read,
Most mothers worry about their child going to kindergarten for the first time, but I don't mind it overmuch since it means I don't have to leave you with the children of the other researchers. Some of our experiments can be dangerous, and I'm always worried something will happen to you. These early-generation automatons aren't fully tested and I think using them as minders is jumping the gun a little.
We've started a new project today! Who knows, maybe when you grow up, this technology will be so common-place that no one gives it a second thought. I know that when Isaac Sumdac first started producing his robots, everyone was fascinated. Just a few short years before that, everyone had thought such advanced automatons were decades off. But I'm getting off track. The Professor showed us a strange type of radiation, like nothing we've ever seen before. It behaves so oddly, in large enough quantities, it excites any matter that it comes in contact with, blurring the item and making it slightly insubstantial. Shut off the energy and the object comes right back. We're so excited; this could mean amazing things, possibly even have portents for space travel!
All my love,
Skyler checked the date at the top of the paper. June 16, 2037, the day before the explosion. She pushed the stack of letters away, crossing her arms on the table and resting her forehead on them. I'm not going to cry. I'm not. But her chest heaved, croaking out a sob.
The woman's heart felt heavy as she placed the papers in her backpack, where no one could ever get to them, and turned to the gutted automaton on the workbench. Now I know what killed them. She checked her mental shields. Intact. Good. I don't want that psychopath to have any more ammunition to harass me with.
When she wheeled the repaired machine out for Sumdac to examine, the woman forced a grateful smile. "Thank you for showing me those letters. I never really knew them at all."
He nodded. "I was very sorry to lose them. Your parents were kind people, and two of my best workers." The short man patted her on the shoulder and pushed his machine away to run a final check on it.
Skyler was quite surprised that she hadn't heard anything from Starscream in the week and a half since she'd been staying at the Tower. When the Autobots said 'no contact', she thought he would only physically stay away. Whatever the Seeker was up to, she hadn't felt so much as the slightest hint of his emotions. After nearly a month of spending her nights curled up on his plating, it was incredibly difficult to sleep in the double bed. The pillow was nice, though. She'd been using her backpack for that purpose at the base. But the peace and quiet didn't last.
The woman jerked awake, glanring at the clock next to her bed. Just before three in the morning. Grumbling, she rolled over, hiking the covers up to her chin.
::It's been awhile, fleshling.::
::Starscream, it's the middle of the night. The frag do you want?::
::No. M' comfortable right here, thankyouverymuch.:: A quiet rumble of the jet's engines made her open her eyes blearily. ::Scream, you know what Optimus said,:: the woman groaned, pulling the pillow over her head.
::And since when have I ever followed an Autobot's orders?:: he replied smugly, giving a gentle tug to her mind, reminding her that she'd give in eventually.
Skyler groaned and practically rolled out of the bed, tugging her shoes on. ::This better be a short flight; they'll have a total fit if I'm not back soon.:: On that topic, she should probably leave a short note, just in case. She pulled out a piece of paper and held the pen over it. On second thought, why bother? Shaking her head quickly, she shot a glare out the window. ::I said I'm coming, so stop that.::
::Then hurry up.::
The woman scrawled a quick message, pulled on her shoes, and opened the balcony door. She sighed, looking at the jet hovering next to the tower. ::Aren't you worried someone will see you? You know what, nevermind.:: Hopping over the handrail, she landed in the cockpit and reached for the harness with the intent of fastening herself in. The straps twisted out of her hand, clicking together over her body. She could only sigh and lean back, one foot prodding the control array. "Guess I can add 'control freak' to the reasons I hate you."
He let out a dry chuckle, tilting the seat back to a thirty-degree angle and sending her falling with a loud squawk. "In case you still need to recharge," Starscream replied to her curious look.
The woman's brow furrowed. "Then what was the point of waking me up?" The harness loosened so she could turn onto her side, pulling out a blanket and curling around her a few minutes of silence, Skyler grumbled, "All right, I'll admit was bored without you as well." Soon she was fast asleep, breathing quietly.
Starscream blamed the Autobots for his suffering. As time dragged on without his Bonded, the ache in his Spark grew. It was infuriating, a weakness he had to tolerate. As painful as it was, he refused to break the Bond with his pet. Unable to handle it anymore, the mech decided one little flight couldn't hurt. Earth was so flat, but during the night, when the stars we visible, was the best time to be out, the most soothing type of flight. Although blurred by the planet's thick atmosphere, there were many more stars than could be seen from Cybertron. It was strange how beautiful such a primitive organic planet could be. Starscream was loath to admit it, but Earth wasn't one of worst places he'd ever been.
All the lights on his monitors blinked once before shutting off, the Seeker's thrusters spluttering out. "The frag?" he shouted, beginning to fall out of the sky. His engines wouldn't start back up; he was crashing! The indignity absolutely enraged him, tilting his wings to try and slow down the freefall. It wasn't quite enough; his t-cog was still functional, so he transformed to avoid a crash that would be fatal to his Partner. Groaning, he shook the dirt out from the seams in his forearms. How had that happened? He checked Skyler's mind; knocked into stasis, but otherwise unharmed. He growled and stood up, glancing around for the source of the sudden malfunction. A pede smashed into his back, shoving the Seeker faceplate-down into the soil thrown up by his landing. Snarling, he forced himself back up, howling when a surge of energy shot through his systems, forcing him into stasis lock. "Lockdown," Starscream snarled, claws twitching as he tried to reach the cuffs around his wrists.
"You've got quite the bounty on your helm, Screamer," the bounty hunter said in his gravelly voice.
The Seeker hissed at the spiked mech, earning himself a mouth clamp for his trouble.