The Ascension of Nova Black

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Fierceawakening, Jun 12, 2011.

?

How often should I post chapters of this fic? (The fic itself is finished.)

  1. Post them all now!

    2 vote(s)
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  2. Daily

    2 vote(s)
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  3. Every couple of days

    2 vote(s)
    25.0%
  4. Weekly

    2 vote(s)
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  5. Something else (explain in comments)

    0 vote(s)
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  1. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Okay, so since a few people seem to want more fanfic from me, I decided to start posting this bruiser.

    It's long (17 chapters), and yes, it's finished. It's also centered around original characters, which might put some people off. But I'm hoping folks will like it, and would love to know what people think. G1-based alternate universe, with a bunch of random details nicked from a bunch of different continuities.

    I've included a poll (assuming I can figure out how!) asking how often readers would like the chapters to be posted. I can either post 'em all now in this thread, or I can post on some sort of regular schedule.

    This thing's my magnum opus, and I'm most proud of it, though I know OCs aren't everyone's thing. I hope you all enjoy.
    ====
    Part One

    Nova Black walked into the shop, kicking at the debris littering the ground.

    If it even was a shop. It looked like a cross between a dwelling and a scrapheap. If she hadn't seen a few shelves with recognizable parts littering them, she would have thought it was just another hovel.

    Then again, that was probably the intention. Whoever was here, if anyone, didn't want to be found.

    Well, Nova sighed as a figure emerged, he and I have that in common.

    Not that she'd be hard to find right now.

    She could tell from the flash in the stranger's optics that he was having the same thought. And well he might; he looked ancient. His body was so battered and full of dents she couldn't tell just what he was supposed to be anyway. Whatever colors he'd been painted with when built had turned to a scattered brown that might have been half rust. Even his optics, bright yellow once, had dimmed to a dull amber. The old bot could probably hardly see.

    And this is where I'm buying parts? She could hardly believe she'd come here. Then again, where else did she have to go?

    "Easy," Nova said, holding up her hands. "Relax. I'm not here on patrol."

    His features shifted into something Nova guessed was supposed to be a scowl. "That supposed to impress me, Decepticon? If you were, you'd never have found this place anyway."

    He squinted. "And you wouldn't look like that, either. Who blasted you half to hell? That doesn't look like Autobot lasers did it."

    Nova laughed. Maybe this old thing was smarter than he looked.

    Then she winced. "No, they didn't. And I already told you. I'm - not with them right now."

    "Ahh." The other bot's head tilted with a grinding sound that rang in Nova's auditory sensors. The sooner she could get this over with, the better. "Hiding?"

    Nova grimaced. "No. Running. Or flying, as the case may be."

    "Hah." He laughed, a grating wheeze. "So whose bad side did you get on?"

    The old bucket of bolts was far too amused for Nova's taste. "Let's just say I could use a new paint job, my friend. These markings on my wings are obvious. I need them... not to be."

    "I might just be able to help you with that. Long as your former friends don't come looking. If you tracked them in -"

    "Already handled." Nova fluttered a sore wing, immediately regretting it as pain lanced through her circuitry.

    "I nicked a signal dampener when I left." She grinned, holding it up. "Whatever happens, I was never here."

    The dealer whistled, reaching for the disc in the other bot's hand. "Signal dampener? That's fancy stuff. If it's real."

    She quickly tucked it away. "If it weren't real, I'd be slag by now."

    "Good point." He turned to a wall of junk behind him, rummaging through piles that looked indistinguishable to Nova. "I don't suppose you want to tell me exactly how you got yourself in that much trouble?"

    "No."

    He shrugged, turning around, a part in his pitted hands. "Electronic paint job. Cover those things right over, and immediately too. No mess."

    It didn't look all that high-quality to Nova, but at least it was something. Relieved to be done with the smalltalk and getting on to the bargaining, she drew out a few small cubes of energon she'd stolen, laying them on the shelf. "Excellent."

    He looked her over. "'Course, it won't do anything about your shape. Oh, it'll fool most bots at a distance and a few close up. But you're pretty common 'Con construction, and anyone who looks close enough will figure it out. You'd need a hologram to really look like something else."

    Oh, slag, Nova thought. She'd been afraid he'd say something like that. Just when things are finally going well... "And how much is a hologram generator?"

    "Judging by what you've just offered and what that probably means you're keeping back for yourself, more than you stole from your old cronies."

    This was getting irritating. She raised a laser. "Really now?"

    The old bot held up an arm, revealing a huge, if rusted, cannon. "Really."

    Nova winced. The old bot barely functioned, but she didn't care to find out how much of his auxiliary systems he'd devoted to that cannon.

    He nodded, pleased with her reaction. "I don't have time for Decepticon games. You'll have to make do with this."

    "I already told you," Nova snarled, "I'm not a Decepticon any more."

    "And here I thought you were just lying low." He whistled again. "Do you really mean to tell me you're actually leaving?"

    Nova chuckled again. Yes, this one was definitely smarter than he looked. "Leaving those idiot malfunctions I served under, at least."

    "And the grand and glorious Decepticon empire?"

    "Can go rust, for all I care." Her fist clenched. "If it hasn't already. I'm surprised the enforcers for this area even had as much energon as I was able to nick."

    The shopkeeper shook his ancient head. "Well, I see you're set to make yourself all kinds of new friends."

    "Which reminds me." He turned back to his shelves, then laid two small yellow objects on the counter.

    Nova picked one up and examined it. "Optic sensors?"

    "An electronic paint job will change your paint," the old bot said, slowly, as if explaining to someone newly constructed. "It won't do a thing about those pretty red optics."

    Nova stared. "You're telling me to rip out my own optics and put these in for them?"

    "You're the one who says she wants to go Neutral." The old bot grinned, his gears creaking.

    Looking at his rusted, scratched face, Nova could see even more wear around his optic sockets. He did this himself, she realized. He was one of us too.

    Her jaw tightened. Or an Autobot. He hadn't seemed to care much for Decepticons, after all.

    Now there was an interesting possibility, if a slightly disgusting one.

    The Autobots all had the same idealistic glitch in their programming, the same willingness to believe in something so strongly they'd risk their spark rather than abandon their principles. What, Nova wondered, could shake up someone like that enough that stellar cycles later he'd be here, selling parts on the black market to someone with red eyes and purple insignia on her wings?

    A grating whine brought Nova out of her ruminations. She shuddered to think exactly what parts of the old bot scraping together backwards had made such a horrible noise.

    His optics - yellow like the ones he held in his rusted hand - shone as he laughed again. "I'd advise you to remove the old ones and install the new ones one at a time. It's not easy to install new hardware blind."
     
  2. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    A/N: Okay, since the results of the poll so far asked me to post updates weekly, here's the next installment. I'll try to post each chapter on Saturdays. As always, I hope you enjoy and I'd love to know what you think. :) 
    ======
    Part Two

    Nova Black strolled through Settlement Four. She wasn't sure why she bothered with these walks any more. Things never changed, not around here. Still, her walks at least made her feel busy.

    That was something she missed. It was quiet around here, too quiet for Nova's taste. Back home, something had always been happening. When they weren't patrolling the territories they controlled, there was always something to squabble over. Often, one bot taking issue with another getting more than his fair share of the energon. Sometimes, though, brawls broke out just for fun.

    And of course, there was the war, though Nova's squad hadn't seen much of it. Some bots had to do the much more boring job of overseeing the territories under Decepticon control, after all.

    Not that her old Subcommander had done much of a good job of that. She was sure she had his laziness to thank for the relatively uneventful life she and the others led now. As long as they paid Bane and the others off with enough energon, he usually left them alone.

    Lazy worthless piece of scrap. He should've just blasted the place a few times and made sure to get everyone's attention. Not that it would be particularly good for me these days if he did.


    Nova had to admit that leaving that life behind had its perks. As much as she hated contributing to a communal energon pool, it did mean never having the embarrassing problem of nearly breaking down when everyone else had it in for you. And while bots here did do their fair share of resolving disputes with fists and lasers, it happened much less often. It was nice to need fewer repairs.

    She scowled, passing by an old videoscreen, its surface scored with huge cracks. At first glance it looked dead, but like anything else here, it didn't give up so easily. Every now and then an image flickered across its surface.

    Nova recognized it as a standard propaganda poster, the lines it struggled to speak the usual platitudes about the glory of the Decepticon empire and the importance of contributing energon to the cause. It had long since been defaced, lines, crude drawings, and even cruder words painted over the flickering image. Nova grinned and kicked it for good measure.

    Her kick widened a crack in the wall. Beyond it she could see words painted. A secret compartment? She bent down, pulling it open.

    She staggered back, startled. She'd long since gotten used to the anti-Decepticon graffiti anywhere Bane and his goons wouldn't find it. Hell, once or twice she'd been in a black enough mood to contribute.

    She'd never, however, expected to see any walls painted with "Until all are one" in bright red, much less the symbol painted alongside them. Even with overseers as lazy as Bane, painting Autobot slogans on a wall - hidden or not - would be suicide.

    She stood back, blasting her way into the alcove. If rebels were keeping a stash here, it would likely have something useful in it. And be worthwhile to clean out for other reasons as well. With the help of Nova's signal dampener and the crude amplifier she and the others had cobbled together, Settlement Four survived by keeping quiet. The last thing any of them needed was for someone to be loudly defiant here.

    Besides which, not liking the Decepticons was one thing. Actually promoting the Autobot cause was something else entirely.

    Nova surveyed the cranny. While it might once have held supplies, now it was empty of anything save the markings.

    That did nothing to reassure Nova. Whatever the rebels had kept stashed here, someone had been around to pick it up. And although the alcove had been hidden, Nova would bet half the energon in Settlement Four that the graffiti was recent.

    Which meant that the laxer that idiot Bane got about enforcement, the bolder these Autobots, whoever they were, would eventually get.

    Unless, of course, someone from Settlement Four found them and drove them off.

    Or lasered them into slag, though that came with its own problems for someone who was trying to lie low. And was likely impossible, considering she'd be outnumbered anyway. While the others might agree that keeping Autobots around was risky, Nova doubted highly they'd be willing to attack them.

    Great. This was just what Settlement Four needed. Frowning, Nova pressed a panel on the side of her head, recording an image of the graffiti. Then she raised her laser and fired, scorching the letters from the face of the far wall.

    Satisfied that at least now Bane and his cronies wouldn't stumble on treasonous messages the next time they showed up to collect the energon tax, she transformed and flew off. Walks could wait until she'd done something about this.

    ###

    "Hey, Eclipse! What's so urgent?"

    Nova finished transforming just in time to wince. As wise as it was to go by another name, she still hated it. She'd figured on having plenty of time to think up something clever, but as luck would have it, the bots of Settlement Four had stumbled on her sooner than she'd planned. She'd said the first thing that had popped into her processor, and found herself irritated by it ever since.

    Shaking her head, she forced herself to calm down. Now that she'd returned home, she had a problem. She'd blasted the graffiti away, which meant that sooner or later whoever had made it would notice that it had been removed. And violently at that.

    Not that she regretted vaporizing Autobot slogans. Still, it meant she couldn't pretend nothing had happened and hope to gather information quietly. She'd have to use a different tactic.

    Very well, then. "You want to know what's urgent? Come here. I'll tell you." She looked around and upped the volume of her audio synthesizer. "And I mean all of you."

    Heads turned. Several bots transformed and gathered. Everyone knew that Eclipse had helped build the few defenses they'd had. If she'd noticed something was amiss, it probably paid to listen.

    "Or better yet," Nova continued, "I'll show you." She tapped a mechanism on the side of her head, projecting the images she'd recorded on a nearby wall.

    "That's the problem," she said, pointing. "We've hidden here forever - under my signal dampener, I might add. But we can't keep hiding for long if an Autobot outpost springs up right in the middle of the Settlement."

    The gathered bots were silent for long moments. Several shook their heads.

    "What do we do?" one finally said, her long arms twitching in worry.

    Nova's hand clenched into a tight fist. "We make sure they know they're not welcome."

    "And how do you propose we do that?" someone else said, sidling up to Nova and jabbing a finger at her chest. "Hunt 'em down like we're Decepticons?"

    Nova shook her head. Brightbolt. If any bot was going to make trouble over this, it would be him.

    Once, he'd probably lived up to his name. Parts of him still gleamed; he polished himself when he could. And she had to admit his vehicle mode was sleek and fast. But stellar cycles of living out here had pitted him with scratches and dents even he couldn't bang out.

    Not to mention the damage that looked a good deal older. Like most of the bots in the Settlement, he'd probably been in the war.

    Nova pushed his hand away, snarling. As far as she was concerned, now he was nothing more than a particularly shiny irritant. "Might be fun, but we don't have the weapons. Or the energon to bother trying anyway."

    He glowered back at her, his head clicking as it moved right up to her face. "Might be fun? Are you malfunctioning?"

    "Easy," she hissed back. "I only meant we should send a message. Let them know that if they want a revolution, they can't do it here. That's easy enough. I started it myself - by lasering the graffiti right off the wall."

    "She's right," someone else said. "I say we get rid of anything else they left and hope they go away."

    Twitch shook her head. "We shouldn't get involved. Everyone in the Settlements has a right to believe as they will. We've never cared before. If we start now -"

    "Oh, they can believe whatever slagging nonsense they want," Nova snarled. "It's recruiting I'm worried about."

    Brightbolt's visor flashed an angry yellow. "Listen, Eclipse. If we interfere, we're doing the Decepticons' work for them. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not wasting good fuel doing anything that would help those bastards." He turned, indicating the gathered bots around him. "Just look at us. We're running on close to empty already."

    Yes, but you'll waste energon and time shining yourself up, Nova thought. Damn fool.

    "Help them?" Her wings twitched. "Trust me, if I wanted to help the Decepticons, I'd be doing more than removing unsightly graffiti."

    He turned to face her. "Yeah. I'll bet you would."

    "Exactly what is that supposed to mean?"

    "Oh, nothing that anyone with functioning optics can't already see for themselves. Do you think no one here knows where you -"

    The sound of a revving engine interrupted them. Brightbolt and Nova quickly stepped back to avoid being flattened as the newcomer zoomed between them.

    "Break it up, you two," he said, transforming. "Twitch is right. Not fighting between ourselves is how we survive out here."

    He rounded on Brightbolt. "We never ask where anyone comes from. You know that. And if we know - or think we know - we sure as slag don't volunteer the information."

    Nova stared. Now this made things interesting. But was he covering for her because he knew where she'd come from, or was he doing it because he didn't?

    Either way, it was useful. She didn't need the rest of the Settlement deciding she was wrong about this because they didn't like where she came from.

    And if anyone could deflect that unwanted attention, it was Grandeur. He'd been here longer than anyone.

    She'd have to thank him later. She'd need the help again. If she couldn't make Brightbolt mute his audio output.

    "And you." He turned to Nova, his jaw clicking faintly as he frowned. "Breaking things isn't going to convince whoever scrawled that on the wall to leave. More likely it'll just convince them we're their enemy. Or attract Decepticon attention anyway."

    Nova scowled back. "We're not their enemies? Not liking Bane's goons is one thing - Primus knows I don't - but treason is another."

    "That's not your call to make, Eclipse. That's the whole Settlement's decision, not yours alone."

    Right,
    Nova thought. Consensus. Sure. Never mind that by the time we decide, even a dimwitted scrapheap like Bane will have figured out what's going on and vaporized the lot of us.

    At the moment, she half wished she were still one of them. At least back home no one hesitated to pummel some sense into complete idiots.

    Brightbolt spoke again, snapping Nova out of her reverie.

    "You may be right, big guy," the gleaming bot was saying, "but I still don't have to like it." He turned away. "We all went Neutral because we don't want open war. Most of us just don't have the spark for it. At least not any more..."

    He stared into the distance for a long moment. "But we've all still got our sympathies. In the end, everybody's on one side or the other. And wherever she came from, I'm afraid we're lending our audio receptors to somebody on the wrong one."

    He stomped off, his polished feet clanking against the cracked and rusted ground.
     
  3. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    A/N: So my poll got another vote; apparently someone wants to see the chapters every few days as opposed to every week. Since 50/50 is a tie, I decided to post this tonight. Next chapter will be posted over the weekend, most likely Saturday. If the poll gets more votes I'll post with whatever frequency most people vote for.

    Hope you're all enjoying the adventures in OC-land. Would love to hear any comments y'all have. :) 

    ====
    Part 3
    Nova Black sighed with relief as the door clanged shut behind her. No one else would hear, unless of course they'd bugged the room. But Neutrals didn't do that kind of thing. Besides, she doubted anyone could get bugs past the bot this space belonged to, even if they wanted to.

    "You wanted to see me, Eclipse?" Grandeur asked. His golden face stared at her over one broad, maroon shoulder. The paint on his shoulder and arm was pitted and flaking, exposing the metal beneath.

    How long has he been here? It wasn't the first time Nova had wondered. She'd never met anyone who talked about the Settlement without him. He'd always been here, as far as anyone knew.

    Still, he was in better shape than the bot she'd bought her new paint job from. And he'd revved straight into her argument with Brightbolt and made them both back off. However old he might be, he functioned as well as anyone else around here.

    "You defended me back there. I wanted to thank you." She walked over to him. "And I wanted to know why."

    He turned. "Are you always this suspicious when you're thanking someone?"

    "My apologies." She shrugged, and then glared. "Then again, it has kept me online."

    To her surprise, he nodded gravely. "I imagine it has."

    He was silent a long moment. "You're not the only one, you know."

    So he does know Brightbolt's right about me, Nova thought.

    If he did know, that meant she had a choice to make. She could try to deny her origins, hoping it would make him doubt. Or she could simply avoid the issue and say nothing openly.

    Or she could be honest. Sometimes it did pay to tell the truth. Especially when the damage was already done. And not having another lie to tend would let her relax.

    "Of course I'm not. Very few robots on Cybertron were built Neutral."

    She stared intently at his frowning face. "You knew another bot who left the Decepticons."

    "I did. I lived in another Settlement then. I think he did more for it than anyone else ever had."

    "You're not there now?"

    "It's not there now."

    Nova winced. "Let me guess. That's one of the ones the 'Cons blew up a while ago."

    "They came after him." He shook his weathered head, looking down at the floor. "He told us all to pack up the energon and go. We didn't want to leave him to them. But in the end, we wanted safety more."

    Nova tapped her audio receptors. Had she heard that right? "He stayed behind? He didn't even try to get away?"

    "No, he didn't. I - I went back myself, a couple of days later."

    "Gone back? But you'd run headlong into -"

    He shook his head. "The Decepticons had already left. We'd all gone, and there was no energon left because we'd taken it all with us. After they slagged my friend, they had no reason to leave anything standing."

    Nova nodded, remembering. It had been a long time since she'd gotten to smash something for the hell of it. The closest she'd come to doing that recently was blowing up that empty cache.

    Which was nothing like heading out with Colossus to wreck everything in their way. Especially since Colossus' fists were almost half as big as Nova was wide. She smiled. She could only best him in a fight because she was faster -

    Focus, dammit, she reminded herself. The last thing she needed right now was to let her processor wander and start grinning like an idiot while her rescuer moped about his dead buddy.

    Fortunately, her red and gold benefactor had looked away from her faceplates, lost in his own memories. "They leveled every structure in the settlement. I came back to craters. And what little was left of my friend."

    "I don't suppose you'll tell me who he was."

    The big bot bared his dental plates. "Soundwave himself couldn't pry it out of my processor."

    "Understood," she answered. Inwardly, she snickered. Soundwave? Like any bot out here had ever met anyone that important. Much less knew what anyone that important was or wasn't capable of doing.

    "I saw his body where they'd left it. They'd stripped it of weapons and armor, torn out everything else they could use, and left the empty shell."

    "That sounds about right." She grimaced. She was lucky Bane wasn't the type. Still, if some other group of 'Cons had hunted and caught a renegade nearby, her luck might run out sooner than she'd expected.

    "But I still don't understand. Only Autobots are stupid enough to be martyrs." She shook her head.

    "We tried -" He hesitated, his optic strip flashing - "I tried to tell him to come with us. Or to drive off somewhere else once we'd all gone and disappear. He insisted on staying. I - I really think he wanted them to deactivate him."

    Grandeur buried his face in his broad, red hands, remembering.

    "I never understood it myself. Everyone knew by then, and no one cared. Surely there was some other way, some better way, to protect us, than dying like that.

    "I thought about it for a long time, afterward. All I could come up with was that he was ashamed of what he'd been, and thought he deserved it."

    Ashamed? Nova wasn't sure what kind of lie to tell in response to that. She could understand being ashamed to serve with 'Cons like her former comrades, after what they did to her. But ashamed of himself? That she couldn't understand. What was there to be ashamed of in being built a war machine? And what could make anyone so ashamed he'd give up his spark over it?

    She lowered her head, hoping the expression looked solemn.

    After a long moment, she looked up. "So why are you telling me this? I'm nothing like your friend."

    "You're not? You could have kept the signal dampener to yourself. Or sold it to us, if you didn't need it. Instead, it's covering all of us." He laughed. "I'm not calling you a hero, but I think this place is rubbing off on you."

    Nova's optics flashed. True, she had done that. But she hadn't come to Settlement Four to save anyone but herself. "You don't know anything about me. If you did -"

    "Have it your way." Grandeur shrugged, his wide red shoulders creaking. Nova glowered.

    "Well, if this is how you're going to be, I hope that story scares some hesitation into you, at least."

    "Hesitation?"

    His joints squeaked in irritation. "Yes, hesitation. Are you trying to annoy Brightbolt into an open fight with you? He's right, you know. If you go around lasering everything, the Decepticons will eventually notice that as surely as they'll notice the things you're trying to cover up."

    "Brightbolt?" Nova stood up, hands on her hip plates. "You mean to tell me - after a story like that - that you think me coming to blows with Brightbolt would be a problem?"

    He nodded again, that same grave slowness in his movement. "Yes, I do. I know you don't like the bot, but that's no reason to misjudge him." His optics gleamed again. "Getting Brightbolt angry enough to actually fight you would be just as bad as your former comrades finding you."

    Nova snarled, the plates inside her mouth grinding against one another so hard it hurt. "What? Brightbolt is a barely functioning, vain glitch who deserves to be taught a good, old fashioned -"

    Grandeur loomed over her, his wide, red hands reaching out to shove her back down. "I saved your circuits back there, and damn if I'm just going to stand here while you act like some punk of a Seeker who just came off the assembly line in Kaon. Decepticon-built or not, right now you're going to sit down and listen to me."

    Nova cocked her head. "All right, you have my attention."

    "Brightbolt was a scout in the war, many stellar cycles ago. He was tracking a group of Decepticons, fearing a potential ambush. He never found them. While he was out looking for them, they found the rest of his team."

    Nova lowered her head again. She wasn't sure she could keep from smirking. "I take it that didn't go too well for them."

    "No. By the time Brightbolt realized he'd missed them and drove back to help, they were all dead."

    "So that's his problem. He's angry that he failed them." She chuckled.

    "Let me finish," he answered, shaking his head again. "They'd managed to inflict some casualties on their attackers, and the surviving Decepticons were injured. When Brightbolt returned -"

    Her optics irised wider. "He defeated them?"

    "No. Not defeated. Slaughtered."

    "Brightbolt?" Now Nova felt sure her audio receptors were malfunctioning. "Our Brightbolt?"

    "He went berserk, furious with himself for failing his team. He tore the living sparks out of two of the 'Cons, and wasn't much more merciful to the third. He left them in pieces, Eclipse."

    "And you know this how?" She snorted. "I don't suppose he told you about it himself."

    "He did, but others verified it."

    Nova's wings twitched. She'd liked the first story better. That one was at least mildly realistic. "Oh really? An Autobot acting like that? Wouldn't that offend his vaunted sense of honor?"

    "Oh, for the love of Primus." He buried his face in his hands, shaking his head. "I don't know why I even try -"

    "Finish your story," Nova snapped. She didn't believe it, but pretending to might keep the big bot happy. If he wanted to fill her audio receptors with stories, she'd let him. He might just pay her back for letting him do it by helping her out of worse jams.

    And as preposterous as it sounded, it might just be the truth. If it were true, knowing the whole story might come in handy sometime, too.

    "I - apologize," she amended as smoothly as she could. "It's just that I - I can't imagine that kind of thing from an Autobot."

    "Neither could the one who did it."

    Nova stroked her chin. That, at least, was believable. Maybe there was something to the big bot's story after all.

    "Brightbolt was horrified when the fight was over. To his processor, he'd acted just the same as the Decepticons his friends had died fighting. Fighting like a war machine, he'd acted like a war machine. That disgusted him."

    Nova snorted, cycling an angry puff of air. Mercifully, the big bot ignored it and kept talking. "Brightbolt still believed in the Autobot cause, but he never wanted that kind of rage to fuel him again. He decided the only way to make sure it never did would be to stop fighting. So he turned his back on the war. If he never saw another battle, he'd never again become what he despised."

    "So he came here."

    "So he came here."

    "And you're telling me I should be frightened of an avowed pacifist?"

    The golden-faced bot shook his head. "Pacifist, yes. But he turned his back on the war, not the cause. He has no love for Decepticons."

    He leaned down to stare into Nova's optics. "And I don't think he'd make much of a distinction between current and former ones, either."

    "No, probably not." The bright yellow light from his optic strip hurt to stare into, but Nova held the bigger bot's gaze. "Your point?"

    "Nothing much. Just that if I were you, I wouldn't tempt him." He tilted his head. "If you can help it."
     
  4. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Part 4

    Nova Black leaned against the wall, putting one hand to her head. She'd been trailing Brightbolt for days now, and gotten nothing out of it but a splitting processor ache. Despite his pro-Autobot sympathies, she hadn't seen him do so much as test out an old comm link.

    Her other attempts to find out more about the Autobots who'd left the graffiti had gone just as badly. Apparently they'd seen what she'd done to their little stash and were lying low for the moment. That was probably a good thing. It meant they'd gotten the message. Still, it made finding more information difficult.

    Bored, she'd left for one of her favorite hiding places, hoping to relax and think. If thinking was even possible with her head pounding like this.

    "Eclipse," said a voice.

    Nova turned. "Who is it?" she hissed.

    A large vehicle lumbered over to her. Seeing it, she knew immediately who it was. But for a moment, the newcomer reminded her so intensely of Colossus that she stepped back, startled.

    "Easy there, Eclipse. I'm not here to get in your way," the newcomer said, transforming into a lumbering, squat black robot. "I came to find you because I heard you talking at the meeting. I wanted to tell you I think you're right."

    "Thank you, Quake." Nova smiled. "I'm glad to hear that someone does. Especially after Brightbolt's lovely comments about me." She scowled.

    The other bot chuckled. "Heh. I'm not sure what Shiny thought that speech would do for him. Where does he think we are? The frontlines of the war?" He shook his dark head. "I have to admit I'm curious about you now, though. I'd love to know if what he said about you means anything."

    Nova clenched her fists. "It means Brightbolt's gotten his polish in his processor." Her mouth parts squeaked slightly as they shifted into a sneer. "If I had as much sympathy for the Decepticons as he thinks I do, this place would be a crater."

    "Sometimes I'm surprised it's not," Quake rumbled, looking at the hastily constructed buildings, then down at the cracked ground. "If they ever come here for more than taxes -"

    "If they ever do that, we're all dead." Nova didn't doubt she could fight off at least one of them. She'd done it enough times before. But if they came in numbers, she'd tried that once as well, and failed. And back then, she'd been at her best. Stellar cycles here, with little fuel, bad repairs, and no practice had taken their toll.

    "We're all dead if we defy them, you mean." He turned to face her, his round optics staring. "If we don't, maybe we're not."

    "If we don't? If they come here looking for 'Bots, they won't just leave us alone. Believe me." Her wings fluttered. "We're lucky they haven't already decided the Settlement makes good target practice."

    "They won't leave us alone if we're in their way." Quake frowned, his curling lip making the metal of his face look cracked. "But we don't have to be. Let's just say that if the war makes it over here, I'd rather not be on the losing side."

    Nova shook her head in surprise. "You would betray the Settlement?"

    The bigger bot's chest parts vibrated with laughter. "I don't like the Autobots any more than you do, Eclipse. There's only one other side. You telling me you're not on it?"

    Nova growled. This was the last thing she needed. "I already told you, I'm not a Decepticon."

    "So what does that mean? The Decepticons and the Autobots show up and have a giant battle in our front yard, you help the 'Cons kick the slag out of the rebels, and then you go right back to life as usual out here?" He snorted, puffs of hot air emerging from the vents on the sides of his head.

    "No. I make sure it doesn't come to that. I drive them off, or I go after them. I make sure the Decepticons never notice."

    "And if they do?" the other pressed.

    "I leave," she spat, snarling the words. "I - hide."

    "You, hide? All of Settlement Four knows you're looking for a fight." He chuckled. "Built for one, too, apparently. There's no way in hell you'd fly away from the chance to -"

    He stopped. "You already got into trouble with them, didn't you?"

    Nova sighed, trying to think of some way to deny it. Slaggit, we're supposed to be clever! But the pain in her head made it difficult to think. If he'd reasoned out this much, no lie she came up with now would convince him he was wrong.

    "Maybe."

    "So what did you do?" he asked, his round optics widening. "I can't imagine anything that would bother those bots."

    "Nothing." Nova's dental plates clenched. "A brawl got out of hand. That's all."

    Quake cocked his head, his neck mechanisms creaking as he moved. "Then you must have been brawling with someone important. I've never known Decepticons to care how rough a brawl gets. Unless it's to hope it gets worse."

    "True enough." It really was too quiet around here. She chuckled, looking at the bigger bot and once again thinking of Colossus. She'd always enjoyed sparring with that behemoth.

    Mainly because she always won. There was something to be said for speed and maneuverability.

    "So what happened?" the other grunted. "You gonna tell me or just sit there thinking until we both rust?"

    "Why should I tell you?" Nova's wings fluttered in irritation. This conversation was far less fun than those memories.

    "Because I already know something happened. What do the details matter? If I wanted to tell 'em you're out here, I already could."

    Then maybe I should just blast the slag out of you, Nova thought. Then again, she'd never be able to stay after killing someone. Brightbolt had already made half the Settlement suspicious anyway. If she killed him, Shiny's friends would decide she must really be a 'Con for doing it.

    Besides, she'd never have another chance to tell anyone what those bastards had tried to do and why. Grandeur knew something had happened, but the less that bot knew about what it was, the better. If he knew what had really happened, he'd know she'd meant it when she said she was nothing like his little hero.

    "I knew better than to pick a fight with Bane, so I picked one with his pet conehead instead. No one liked him much, and it's not like he did anything but hover around Bane sucking up anyway. But it sent a message when he crashed to the ground, and I stood over him and -" One hand twitched with the memory, but she said nothing.

    "You killed him, didn't you?"

    Nova studied the big bot. She didn't see fear in the flat, dented face regarding her. Besides, if he meant what he said about siding with the Decepticons, he'd long since made his peace with the world he lived in and the other bots in it.

    "I didn't intend to slag him. I just meant to knock him around. But I never liked Bane, and I liked Cinder even less." Her lips curled into a snarl. "Slagging little suckup. Someone should have got him long before I did."

    She growled. "I didn't think it would matter. Primus knows it wasn't the first time Decepticons argued and someone ended up dead."

    "But Bane liked him, apparently. Is he the one that went after you?"

    "Nah. He'd never bother. But a few of the 'Cons were uneasy about it." Then there was the one who liked the idea of me getting in trouble, she thought, her lip curling in renewed rage. "And if you know Decepticons, you know that 'Cons who get themselves into trouble get themselves out of it."

    She looked down, remembering. She'd stared right at Colossus. The big bot had stared back, holding her gaze for a long moment, and then looked away.

    She'd known what that was about. Anyone who needed help was weak; anyone who was weak deserved his fate.

    One by one, they'd joined the gathering mob, their optics brightening at the thought of more violence, or turned away as Colossus had.

    "Wait, a whole mob of 'em came after you and you actually got away?" Quake whistled, a grating, metallic sound. "You're either very smart, Eclipse - or very, very lucky."

    "Lucky, probably," she answered, wincing in remembered pain. She'd damaged the hell out of one of her wings squeezing through a narrow gap, betting her pursuers wouldn't follow. They hadn't, but it had certainly hurt. And getting shot by her buddies' lasers hadn't felt too good either. "I only survived thanks to the signal dampener currently installed in Tower Three."
    "That was yours?"

    "Once I stole it, yes." She smirked. "They blew up the building where I'd found it, thinking I was still inside. I activated the dampener as it exploded. When my signal vanished -"

    The other nodded. "They figured you died in the blast." His face wrinkled into another smile. "That's not lucky, Eclipse. That's clever."

    "Thank you." She nodded, then gritted her dental plates. "But if you want to make friends with Decepticons, I won't be helping you. I'm only alive right now because the oth - because the Decepticons think I'm already dead."

    "Understood. But now you've got valuable information about a possible rebellion."

    Nova tilted her head. "And? What is it you expect me to do, go -"

    She stopped, her mouth falling open with a faint metallic squeak. "- crawling back?"

    Quake regarded her without speaking, the only sound the faint rasp of air emerging from the vents on the sides of his head.

    She, too, was silent for long moments. Slowly, her lip curled into a snarl. "Get out of here," she snapped, yellow optics flashing. "Just go. Now."
     
  5. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Well, I missed Thursday, but the poll now says weekly anyway. :)  So I guess I'm good.
    ====
    Part Five

    Nova Black's luck changed when she least expected it. She had gone back to the old bot's store, a trip she made fairly often these days. Keeping the signal dampener powered-up enough to cover the whole settlement was a tricky business. It wasn't built to hide more than one signal, and the magnifier they'd built threatened to overheat whenever some bot looked at it sideways. Since Nova cared more about making sure it stayed on than anyone else did, she usually made the trip.

    It was always the same. She'd turn into the usual alley, head inside, endure the usual taunts about her past, and eventually emerge with the supplies she was looking for. It had become a ritual by now. She didn't mind it in the least. Anything was better than the way the others looked at her, nodding or shaking their heads, whispering when she passed.

    Hell, repetitive as it was, heading there for supplies was probably the only chore she came back from smiling.

    This time, she arrived just in time to see someone else heading in ahead of her.

    It wasn't the first time she'd caught sight of one of his other customers. Most tried their best to avoid being seen going in. Still, as Nova herself knew well, anyone could end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    She wasn't particularly curious. So far, no one had noticed her. Noticing someone else might mean them taking the same interest in her. So she'd ignore this bot, unless -

    She reset her optics, not trusting them. But the bright blue glow of the stranger's optics was unmistakable. She slipped into the shadows as quietly as she could, watching.

    So the Autobot rebels are out here. She clenched her fist as the stranger slipped inside the old bot's shop. As he passed, she could see an unmistakable red symbol branded onto his chest.

    She shook her head. Who would be foolish enough to fly those colors so blatantly? At least the alcove she'd found had been hidden. Well, she'd just have to go in there and -!

    Hissing, she relaxed her hand, forcing herself to calm down. Barging in and picking a fight would only irritate the old bot, and then she'd have to find another source of supplies. And however satisfying it would be to finally catch up with one of the little slaggers and knock him senseless, doing anything would spook the rest.

    And while spooking them might get them out of Settlement Four, it would also kill any chance she had to find out who they were, or what they were really doing here. Better to wait for the Autobot to come back out, follow him, and see if she could discover any of the rebels' plans.

    Waiting a moment to be sure the noise wouldn't attract unwanted attention, she transformed and took off, circling the area. She'd see better in the air than on the ground, as long as she was careful to keep from being noticed herself.

    And as long as circling the alley near the shop entrance over and over didn't bore her until she couldn't take it any more. She sighed. If only Leech were here. He'd be good at this lurking in wait thing.

    She hesitated. She never would have thought she'd want that bot around. Leech and the conehead she'd killed had been built in the same batch, and Seekers were sometimes close with those who'd been built alongside them.

    Sometimes. Those of lower rank, like Nova and her comrades, were built in such large batches that it was often impossible for any of them to know for sure who his kin were.

    Nova herself had never wondered. How exactly was someone supposed to stay loyal to ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred others? Besides, the only other Seekers on her old team had been coneheads, so they must have come from a different batch. She'd decided she liked it that way.

    She wasn't sure how large a batch Cinder and Leech had come from, though. And even Leech hadn't liked the bright red fool, but Nova had killed him. If he did care about kinship - or wanted to use it as an excuse - the fact that she'd killed his fellow conehead would give Leech the license he needed to hate her.

    On top of that, Leech's voice gave Nova the creeps. No one knew quite what he'd done to himself, how he'd rendered his vocalizer so quiet and bleached his paint job to its garish white. Most didn't want to know, either.

    Whatever he'd done had upgraded his weapons systems considerably. His firepower was second only to Bane's, and Bane had long ago filled every available space on his frame with the most exotic and powerful guns he could scavenge or trade for.

    Not that she'd ever seen Bane use them. Deadly as they surely were, the Subcommander hoarded them like he hoarded energon. She'd never seen him do anything more than wave them at potential enemies.

    Nova smirked. If a nimble enough enemy ever did call his bluff, he'd probably never even hit. Not with all that extra metal weighing him down.

    Leech didn't use his weaponry much either. He'd been frail ever since the experiment, needing a ridiculous amount of fuel to run the most basic of his systems. His frame had grown pale and brittle, and he'd had to invent something else to protect himself during brawls or battle. Most suspected that he'd reverse engineered an Autobot force field generator. Whatever the device he'd invented was, needing to keep it charged only made Leech that much more fuel-hungry.

    All of which made him much more inclined to conserve his energy and plot than to fly headlong into a fight.

    Which would make him better than Nova was at this. Slag, by now he'd probably have invented some device to record what was going on inside from this distance. He wouldn't have to fly around in circles like -

    Finally. There you are, you little bastard, she thought, watching the other leave. He had transformed, and carried a large pile of parts she couldn't recognize. She switched on her cameras and swooped down for a better view, hoping he wouldn't hear the sound of her engines or look above him at the wrong moment.

    He gave no sign of having seen her. Thanking Primus for her luck, she followed him, activating her recording devices. He'd probably try to contact his headquarters soon. With any luck, her decoder still worked, even after all this time.

    "Burden to Base One. I've got the supplies and I'm headed home."

    Excited, Nova sped up. The bot's next words, however, dashed her hopes.

    "But I think I'm being followed."

    Cursing quietly, Nova ducked behind a building.

    "This is Base One. Don't head back here until you shake whatever's chasing you."

    "Wasn't planning on heading back with someone following me." He chuckled. "Don't worry, Base One. I've got nothing else to do today. I'll lead the little slagger in circles all day if I have to."

    Damn it. If she spent all day chasing this fool, the others would start to get suspicious. Especially Brightbolt, and she really wasn't in the mood to deal with him.

    "Is the bot on your tail on the ground or in the air?" came the voice over the comm, gravelly and deep.

    "In the air."

    "Oh scrap. You never could keep a low profile, could you? Is it still following you?"

    The front of the vehicle turned, looking for her. She stayed where she was.

    "Don't see anything, but that doesn't mean slag."

    The other growled. "In the air, huh? Odds are high whoever that is wasn't built one of us. Spy for the Decepticons?"

    "I don't think so. If that thing was a 'Con, there'd be five of 'em shooting at me by now. I'm gonna say Neutral but unfriendly."

    "We hope you're right. The last thing we need is Decepticons noticing us."

    "Right. I'm gonna handle this and then head back. 'Til all are one."

    "'Til all are one."

    They actually say that when they cut off their comm links? Out here? You'd think they're asking to get caught.


    The thought chilled her. Maybe they were, at that. Whatever they'd bought, they were building something out of it. This wasn't just about stirring up a few fed-up Neutrals to their cause.

    She looked back down at her quarry. He'd already started his engine again. She'd have to decide: leave him since he knew she was on his tail, or follow anyway? If she didn't give chase soon, she'd lose him.

    She took off - in the opposite direction. She'd been hiding long enough that maybe he'd see her going the other way and think she'd given up.

    "Come on, jet, whoever you are," he taunted. "I know you're still looking for me. I wasn't built yesterday."

    She chuckled. He must not know she'd decoded his communication.

    Fine, Nova thought. Maybe coming after you won't help me find your base. But if you want to play, I'll play with you.

    As the other accelerated, she matched his speed. It felt good, twisting between buildings, racing to keep up with him. How long had it been since she'd sped through the air for the hell of it, electricity racing through her circuits?

    And whoever this Autobot was, she had him worried. She couldn't see his expression since he was currently in his vehicle mode, but she didn't doubt that if he had transformed, he'd be frowning and glancing over his shoulder, hoping he'd lost her. She hadn't honestly made anyone nervous in stellar cycles. She chuckled, flying lower and closer to her quarry.

    He turned, as sharply as the large bed behind him would allow, and she swerved to match it, fighting not to laugh with relief as she spun.

    And always, he remained below her. After stellar cycles without fighting, without sparring, without even racing like this, she still hadn't lost him. It sent a thrill through her spark, knowing that after so long, she could keep up with an enemy. A slow-moving one, maybe, but that beat a drill or a test or an exercise.

    And he was carrying something. Whatever it was, it was probably bad news. She could always destroy it now, before they had a chance to build whatever they were making. Better to stop them now than have a bigger problem later.

    Energy crackled through her. She could feel its steady hum through every system, including the weapon system she fought to keep inactivated. Warmth roiled just behind her lasers, tantalizing her. Her frame quivered, wanting to set that energy free in a burst of heat and light, to watch the other char and blacken under it.

    No, she told herself firmly. Even in the old days, with the rest of her team backing her up and Bane trolling the skies just below them, slow-moving but no less deadly for it, his mismatched weaponry striking fear into anyone on the ground, attacking would still have been foolish.

    Muting her audio output to keep her adversary from hearing her curse, she spun around and flew back toward the Settlement, her frustration lending her speed.
     
  6. Starwave

    Starwave Herald of Unicron

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    Awesomesauce.
     
  7. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Thanks, Starwave! I'm so glad you like it.

    I'm editing Part Six as we speak (the fic's done, as I said, but each time I post it I edit a little of it) and about to post it up. :) 

    I may also post another oneshot today, too.
     
  8. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Part Six

    "What is it now, Eclipse?" Brightbolt's visor gleamed with irritation as he looked up from polishing his chest plate. "Let me guess, more about the Autobots. Weren't you supposed to be buying new parts to amplify the signal dampener?"

    Nova Black's lip curled into a frown. She hated her alias, and she hated hearing it from this shiny fool's vocalizer even more. "Yes, I discovered something. Something I think you all should know about."

    She turned to the others. "I'm late because when I went in to buy parts, I found an Autobot buying some when I got there. And by 'some' I mean he was big. I mean he was built to carry cargo. And he was full."

    Brightbolt frowned. The others said nothing, listening quietly until Twitch trembled and chirped her distress.

    Hearing her cry, the others muttered to themselves, yellow optics flashing. Even those who had sided with Brightbolt in the earlier meeting glanced at one another uneasily. Satisfied, Nova spoke again.

    "They're building something. Something big enough that they sent someone with enough storage space to carry the supplies back to their base. Whatever this is, this is real. Something's going to happen. And it's going to happen here."

    Brightbolt waved the cloth he'd used to polish himself, snorting.

    "And what do we care if it does? They have the right to do whatever they want, same as us. So they're making something. They're Autobots. Why jump to the conclusion it's a weapon?" His polished mouth twisted into a snarl. "The 'Cons are the ones who want to blow half the planet away."

    "The Decepticons own the planet, in case you haven't noticed," Nova sneered, her fists clenching. "And what do you think these bots you're so eager to defend are building out there? The Autobots are rebels. Sure, they claim they don't like violence." She shook her head, wings twitching. "But you can't start a revolution without a fight."

    "She's right," came Quake's low, resounding voice. Nova tilted her head in surprise. Had he forgiven her for rebuffing him earlier, or was he still hoping she might come to agree with him? "You're a fool, Shiny. A damned sentimental -"

    "She goes flying off after some Autobot like it's her business and Brightbolt's the fool?" An engine revved in disgust as a young bot in vehicle mode zoomed toward the discussion and then transformed, frowning at Nova and crossing his arms. "Wasn't she supposed to be buying parts, anyway?"

    "Got them," Nova snapped, pulling a small device from one of her storage compartments, tossing it into the air, and catching it again.

    "I don't like it," Brightbolt said, his visor gleaming. "She says she's going out to get the parts, and she comes back this late? You'd think she wanted the signal dampener to fail."

    Nova hissed through clenched dental plates. "I'm the one who installed it in the first place. Why the slag would I let the amplifier break?" Besides, if it ever fails, I'm dead. Idiots.

    Brightbolt's head tilted. "You tell us." He stepped forward, jabbing a gleaming finger at Nova. "You tell us why you flew off after someone you're telling us was an Autobot, instead of getting the part and flying back here. The only one looking for a fight... is you."

    "Oh, is that right?" Nova peered around the assembly quickly. Seeing no sign of Grandeur, she smiled. "You telling me I've found one?"

    Her fist flew up to meet his jaw before she could think better of it. It connected with a satisfying crunch as the metal of the other's faceplate crumpled from the impact.

    He froze, and then grunted with pain. She pulled her fist back to hit him again, and with a bright flash of metal, he pivoted out of her reach. Nova spun after him. She was built to fly. That kind of construction made her light and fast. Clearly she would -

    A sudden shock of pain flared through her chestplate and the circuitry beneath. A moment later she hit the ground hard, her back and wings aching. The device had rolled out of her hand, and lay on the ground beside her.

    He drew back his foot to kick her. Seeing it almost made her laugh. Maybe Grandeur had been right about this bot.

    Quickly she raised her arm, its weapon trained on the silver bot above her. He glowered down at her, his injured jaw twitching.

    She tensed, ready to defend herself, but his yellow visor merely stared.

    "You gonna shoot me now?" His mouth twisted into a smirk, but then he hissed in pain. "I thought you wanted to prove that I was wrong about you. Looks like you're more interested in proving me right."

    Nova snorted. "Funny, Brightbolt. I'd been told you could fight. Now you're gonna let this go?"

    As much as she hated to admit it, he was right about one thing. If she shot at him, the others would see the color of her laser fire. The distinctive purple would mark her as undeniably Decepticon-built.

    His leg twitched, eager to kick. Then, with a low growl, he stilled it. "I could fight. Before. Then I gave it up." His visor gleamed. "And no damn fool Decepticon is gonna taunt me back into it."

    The others exchanged horrified glances. Ignoring them, he nudged Nova with his foot. "Get up. If you were going to shoot me, you would have done it already."

    Growling, Nova lowered her weapon. Grabbing for the device on the ground, she stood, her yellow optics flaring with suspicion as she looked first at Brightbolt, then at the assembled bots.

    Gingerly, she tested her wings. They ached, but she could live with the pain.

    "I'm going now," she announced, twirling the device in her hand again. "This needs installing. Unless you want angry machines who'd kill you sooner than look at you poking around to investigate just how many bots we're sheltering here, and just how much more energon we have than we claim."

    She glared at Brightbolt. "Angry machines who aren't me."

    "Then I'm going after you," he hissed, massaging his crumpled jaw with his hand and wincing. "You took your sweet time getting back here, and now you tell me you're just going to fly off and install something? Don't think you not shooting at me makes me trust you."

    Nova twitched her wings again, cursing as pain lanced through them. If she could just fly up there and leave this damn fool behind, maybe she could be finished before he came after her. But if it hurt this much to move her wings, she'd have to wait to fly.

    "Good idea," said a voice behind her. She scowled again, recognizing it. Nearby she could see a flash of yellow from Brightbolt's visor. Evidently, the shiny bot wasn't pleased either. "As long as someone else follows them up and makes sure they don't take each other apart."

    "Grandeur?" she scowled. "I thought you were -"

    "I arrived just now," he said, the golden face peering at each of the two in turn. "I didn't see all of your little altercation, but I saw enough."

    "I vouched for you myself," he said, shaking his head at Nova, a rumble of discontent welling from somewhere deep in his frame. "Seeing this, I pray Primus I wasn't wrong to do so."

    Nova scowled. She'd been hoping for more of his help. But if it meant giving the polished fool across from her a pass to say whatever the slag he wanted, maybe it wasn't worth it in the end.

    And Brightbolt looked better with his face smashed up, anyway. What was he thinking, polishing himself like he came from the Golden Age of Cybertron while living in a slagheap like this one? Maybe it wasn't wise to finish what she'd started, but at least he'd look like what he was for a while. And hate it.

    Grandeur turned to Brightbolt, his red hands on his hip plates. Nova snickered, feeling better. At least he was spreading the blame.

    "As I said, I have no problem with you going along. But unless she's damned good at lying, she is holding the part we need. The odds that she won't install it are low. Remember that."

    "Are they? I don't know what she's playing at, but I -"

    Disgusted, Nova turned, beginning the long walk to the tower and the signal dampener. She'd spent enough time chasing after that big Autobot. She had about as much time left for this nonsense as she had patience for it.

    ###

    Nova gnashed her dental plates as the data output flickered in front of her. Twelve percent? That was all? Primus. She'd done her best to set this up as a redundant system, yes, but even just taking out the faulty part could make it hiccup enough to fail. And even a second of it going down could be disastrous, if the Decepticons happened to be monitoring this area when it did.

    If Leech discovered a Decepticon energy signal out here, even a fleeting one, he'd know full well what it was. He would never let them ignore it.

    And even if Colossus missed her, she was living with Neutrals now. That made her nothing. Keeping a Settlement intact could be useful for the resources paid in taxes. Or stolen in raids, if a unit's Subcommander was less lazy or more thrill-seeking than Bane. But an individual Neutral deserved only to be run down for the pleasure of chasing it - and of watching it die.

    And Colossus was a fighter, not a commander or a strategist. He wouldn't hesitate, seeing his old friend with yellow optics, a hideous new paint job, and blank spots on her wings. He'd see it as doing his old friend a favor by sparing her such a wretched existence.

    Sometimes, she thought she might just agree with him.

    "That's going to short out any moment now," said a familiar voice behind her. "Stop staring into space and fix it. If you're really going to."

    "Shut up and let me work," she snarled over her shoulder. Her fingers itched to hit him again. Hell, up here she might just be able to transform her hand and stab him before anyone caught on. But she didn't have time. Not now.

    She stared at the panel a moment longer, as if thinking would do anything but waste more time. Then, snarling at her own hesitation, she yanked the old part free.

    Rust flaked off into her hand. She tossed the old amplifier aside and ignored it, not wanting to see how sorry a state the old part was in, instead keeping her optics on the output readings.

    They dropped, as she expected. Ten percent. Nine. Seven.

    Come on, just don't gutter out before I'm done with this, she thought, inserting the new one, her fingers flying as she connected wires, cursing.

    Unfazed, the datascreen continued its steady countdown. Five. Four. Three.

    Three. What the slag? Three? It should never even get that low, not with the backups there...


    A bright green light flashed as the new module flickered on. Heaving a sigh of relief, Nova watched as the numbers climbed. She murmured, watching them. Fifteen. Twenty. Thirty-two. Forty. Fifty. Sixty... seven.

    Another blink, and a purple gleam from the signal dampener atop the tower. Maximum capacity, apparently.

    "Not the best," Nova muttered, "but it'll do." It was better than they'd been for far too long. And fairly impressive, really, for something cobbled together out of secondhand parts.

    She felt a puff of hot air hit her neck as the other snorted. "Well, how about that?" he said, his head faintly clicking as he tilted it. "You're actually afraid."

    "Told you already," she said, whirling around to face him. "I'm not a Decepticon any more."

    His visor flared bright with astonishment. "You're running from them."

    "I'm saving all our frames is what I'm doing." Her wings twitched, the dull ache beginning to fade. She moved them again for good measure.

    He snorted again. "Saving us? I don't need saving. Especially not by Decepticon technology."

    "Not by -!" she sputtered, her dental plates clenching so hard she might just dent them. "Why you vain, ungrateful little malfunction!"

    Purple light flashed as her hand transformed into an energon dagger, its surface crackling with energy.

    Seeing it, Brightbolt drew back in surprise. He stared at the purple lightning dancing over Nova's blade as if mesmerized. Then, his gleaming faceplates twisted into a mask of rage and hatred.

    He snarled, a low growl that shook his whole frame, and lowered himself into a fighting stance. Nova mirrored it, her blade slicing at air.

    The warning sound of Grandeur's revving engine brought them, shuddering, back to their senses.

    Snarling, Nova transformed her hand, but did not lower it. "Like I told you, I'm saving all our frames. What the slag are you doing, Shiny? Keeping your visor on me for your old friends' sakes?"

    "And I told you, and every other bot in the Settlement: I'm not an Autobot any more." The bright head lowered, shaking with another metallic hiss. "I don't deserve to be."

    Nova had to smirk. "Don't deserve to be an Autobot? You don't esteem yourself highly at all, do you?"

    "Don't try that slag with me," the other rumbled. "You have no idea."

    "Neither do you," Nova answered, her own optics flaring in their scarred sockets. "Neither do you."
     
  9. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Not 100% sure I'll get to posting on the weekend, so here's one chapter. If I can get to it on the weekend I will post another then, too.
    ======
    Part Seven

    Nova Black soared over Settlement Four, circling again and again. Since her little altercation with Brightbolt, even those who agreed with her had avoided her.

    Others glowered at her, muttering things they thought she couldn't hear. A handful said them to her face. She didn't much care what they thought, but after so long, it was starting to get irritating. She'd just as soon not be around.

    And on top of it all, Grandeur was looking for her.

    Slaggit, she thought. The trouble with flying away from grounders you didn't feel like dealing with was that they were usually waiting for you when you landed.

    She'd have to land eventually. Avoiding everyone only wasted fuel, and she did have somewhere to go. She swerved, looking for a good place to touch down, away from the prying optics of most of the Settlement.

    Seeing an empty alley, she swerved and headed toward it. Once she was close enough to the ground, she transformed and hit the ground running, the shock running up her legs.

    No sooner had she done so then she heard voices behind her. Apparently, she wasn't alone after all.

    "Hey, Decepticon," someone sneered, stepping out of a nearby shadow.

    "Where do you think you're going?" said someone else, closing in from the other side, his voice so similar to the other's that she wondered for a moment whether her audio receptors were malfunctioning.

    As he stepped into the light, Nova could see that he was identical to the other, even down to his paint job. Eerily in sync, their fists clenched as they stared at her, hatred blazing in their yellow optics.

    Fortunately for Nova, the two were small and light. "I don't have time for this," she snarled, reaching out both hands to shove the two away.

    One lost his balance, falling to the ground with a metallic crunch. The other kept coming, grabbing at Nova's arm and side.

    Nova growled, her optics flashing an angry yellow. "You're in my way. Get out of it."

    The hands scrabbled over Nova's plating, still seeking purchase.

    Nova's engines roared. She'd tried the whole not fighting thing already, and it hadn't worked. Guess I'll just have to give them what they want, she smirked, enjoying the eager hum in her weapons systems.

    Oh, she wouldn't shoot anyone. Not yet, anyway. But she might as well have some fun.

    "Get. Off. Of. Me," she hissed, twisting around to slam the bot holding her against the side of a building. The metal of his plating screeched as it met the wall. He howled in pain, falling to the ground.

    Nova kicked at the prone form, grinning as her foot connected and she felt metal crumple with the impact. "Heh. That ought to teach you to leave me alone."

    "Barbarian," the other snarled behind her, launching himself at her back. "You'll pay for that."

    He latched on to her wings, pulling them down. Nova gritted her dental plates against the pain and bucked, hoping to throw him off, but the little bot hung on, pulling with all of his strength.

    She spun around again, hoping to repeat the maneuver and get the smaller bot off of her back before he damaged her wing joints. If he managed that, she had no guarantee the Settlement's medics would be on her side. Not any more.

    She slammed hard into the wall. The bot on her back keened, an electrical whine of distress, but still clung to her, his tiny, brightly-painted fingers now moving from her wings (thank Primus!) to her head, struggling to wrap themselves around her optics. She shook her head violently, grunting in satisfaction as one of the hands retreated, and then cursing as it found purchase, half-blinding her.

    She raised her hands to pull it off, too slowly, and the other reached to cover her other optic. She cursed again, her hands wrapping around the smaller hands and tugging.

    "You hurt my brother, Decepticon scum," her attacker wheezed, his voice distorted by static, skipping and squealing from the pain. "Trust me, I ain't letting go."

    "Didn't hurt your 'brother' until you two came after me, you slagging idiot," Nova growled back, still struggling to pry those digging fingers off her optics.

    Her attacker yelped in surprise and anger. Nova wondered for a brief moment whether he was crying out in pain again, and then let go of the grabbing hands as someone yanked her attacker off of her with a rumble of disapproval.

    "Go," a deep voice said as Nova whirled around, fists clenched, not taking any chances by trusting the newcomer.

    "But - my broth -!"

    Quake growled another warning, shoving the smaller bot aside. With a last glance at his companion's crumpled form, the small one transformed and sped off, his engine screeching indignantly.

    Nova glowered at Quake. "I could have handled that myself."

    He looked over at the crumpled form of the bot she'd slammed against the wall. Its optics flickered and it twitched, but otherwise did not move. "Yeah, I'm sure you could have," he murmured with a shudder. "That's not why I interfered."

    He snorted, a puff of air escaping the vents on his head. "Let's go inside. Unless I miss my guess, you were looking for me when those two jumped you."

    Nova stretched, her back aching, and followed the other, passing by shapeless buildings in even poorer repair than most of the Settlement. "Yeah, I was looking for you. But why'd that get you involved in my business? You fighting might not look as bad as me fighting. But helping me fight will."

    Quake grunted as his fingers skipped over a lock. With a creaking sound, a pair of rusty doors slid open. Nova followed him inside.

    "Don't be any stupider than you can help, Eclipse," the other grunted. "You were alone out there. You're Decepticon built. Nobody's bothering to deny it any more, not now that you've gotten into two fights in two days. You left one of the bots you just fought half-conscious, not to mention kicked him when he was down. Do you really think anybody would believe you if you said those little guys came after you?"

    She growled. He was right, of course, but that didn't mean she had to like it. "What's that got to do with you?"

    "You were looking for me. And if I helped you fight 'em off, that means it's not just your word against theirs. If I was part of the fight, it means I must have seen them start it."

    "Heh. Yours. The one who wants to sell us all out to the Decepticons."

    The great head snapped up with a metallic, grating sound. "If you've got such a problem with that, what were you doing looking for me in the first place?"

    "I want to know what those Autobots are up to. The bots who say I don't know what they're building are right. I'm not sure yet what the slag they need those parts for. But I'm not about to show what I recorded to someone I don't know agrees with me."

    Quake scratched his broad chin. "Well, you did tell me off. And if you don't know what that Autobot was carrying, there's no guarantee I will either. But I'm curious." He snorted, puffs of air leaving his vents. "And worried. Go ahead, show me what you've got."

    Nova nodded. She didn't trust him any more than before, but he was the closest thing she'd have for an ally once Grandeur heard about that fight. She tapped the side of her head, projecting the video she'd captured of Burden's cargo.

    Quake's round optics narrowed as he studied the projection. "Those long pieces are energy collectors, I'm sure of it."

    "Yeah, that's what I figured. But what's it storing energy for? It's too small to be any kind of repository." She raised her head to look at Quake. "Which makes me think those must be storing charge for a weapon."

    Her wings twitched, stinging faintly where her attacker had pulled at them. "But of course, if I say that's a weapon, the others will think I'm glitched. Only thinking about war and fighting, because that's how I'm built." Her fists clenched again. "Even when I'm right about it. Damn fools."

    "I don't think 'glitched' is the word they'd be thinking of, Eclipse. 'Dangerous,' maybe."

    Nova's lip twisted into a bitter smile. "Dangerous? Me? To a pack of rusting Neutrals, maybe. To warriors? Nope. Been a long time since I could be dangerous to anybody back home."

    "Back home?" He laughed, his frame vibrating with the deep sound. "I thought you told me you weren't a 'Con any more."

    "Nobody believes that. Just look at those idiots who tried to jump me."

    "No, nobody does." The round, wide optics stared intently at her. "Do you?"

    She raised her head to stare back at him, her yellow optics meeting his. It surprised her how easy it was to stare at him directly.

    But staring at him and answering him were two different things.

    "I don't know," she said finally, hissing the words.

    He chuckled, pleased to hear the confession he'd wanted from the beginning. She scowled. Fine. There it is. Whatever good it does either of us.

    She sighed. If only it were that easy. Even if Leech and Colossus and the others wanted her back - and there was no guarantee even they'd like her after she'd been Neutral for stellar cycles - there was Bane.

    And Winder. Her dental plates clenched in spite of herself, remembering. Even Bane might have forgiven her, if not for that skinny little slagger poking his servos into her business.

    Even if the others could forgive this, these blank wings and dull secondhand optics, shining the wrong color entirely, he'd still be there, whispering into their audio receptors.

    She killed Cinder. Do you really think she's safe to have around?

    Look at this hovel she lived in for stellar cycles. Look at her face, scarred from ripping out her own optics to look like them. She's not one of us now. She never will be again.

    Quake's voice broke into her thoughts. "Let's see you, then."

    "See me? What do you want me to do, prance around for you?" The electronic paint job was embarrassing enough without him wanting to stare at it. Besides, it wasn't like he hadn't seen it already.

    The flat face twisted into something approximating a leer. "Could be fun. But I'm not talking about this ugly thing you're walking around under. I'm talking about you."

    Nova froze. "I couldn't show you that even if I wanted to, Quake. It's all been painted over."

    "Like hell it has. You flew for your life and you expect me to believe you painted yourself up afterward? Nobody paints herself these days. Least of all some random 'Con enforcer who probably came from a batch of two hundred. You wouldn't even know how."

    Nova rounded on him, her fists clenched. He watched her, smirking.

    "Fine," she snarled finally, yanking the device that hid her true paint free from its mounting in her side.

    She looked down at herself as the colors shifted, her wings darkening to black, her body and the wide stripes on her wings shifting to a deep gray, thin yellow pinstripes appearing at their top edge.

    She twisted her head to look more closely at her wings. In the center of each lay the Decepticon insignias she'd bought the electronic paint job to cover up. They were cracked and chipped and dirtied now, dulled by dirt and grime, their regal purple dimmed to a dirty, bluish brown. But they were there, as obvious as they'd ever been, marking her as something she could no longer be.

    Quake pulled a shard of reflective metal - a piece of an old mirror, Nova supposed - from a shelf behind him and tossed it to her, quietly. She caught it and held it up to her face.

    She gasped at the familiarity of the face looking back at her: the gray helm, the black plates of metal that formed her features. The features of a warrior, angular and severe.

    And then the one thing left over from Eclipse's blue face, a stranger's face, a face she'd gotten used to because she had to: optic ridges pitted with scars, the sensors embedded in those pockmarked sockets shining a faint, cloudy yellow.

    Roaring, she threw the shard down.

    Quake ignored her, his broad faceplates twisting into another smile. "Well, Eclipse... who knew you were so good looking?"

    "That's not my name."

    She raised her head, hissing. "My name is Nova Black."
     
  10. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Part Eight

    "You wanted to see me?" Nova Black glowered.

    A long silence answered her, and she found herself staring at her wings. Ever since she'd re-installed the component that hid their true coloring, she'd found herself gawking at them in disgust.

    It wouldn't have been so bad if not for Quake complimenting her real paint job. She knew full well that he was saying it to manipulate her. But until he'd mentioned it, she'd been careful not to think too hard about the way she used to look.

    Hell, sometimes she'd even managed to be proud of her ugliness. The clashing blues and grays, the dirt constantly dulling them, even the blank empty spaces on her wings meant she'd survived.

    The golden head nodded once, optic strip flaring with light. "Eclipse, I can't protect you if you insist on picking fights."

    Nova's wings twitched. Grandeur's protection was probably the only reason half the Settlement hadn't been right behind those stupid little twins. Losing it would not be a good thing.

    Some bots still agreed with her that Autobots lurking around in their front yard would only lead to disaster. One or two of them were even loud about it. But even those who did were disturbingly quiet about her history these days. Very few cited Grandeur's little "we never ask about anyone's past" speech. Even those who did frowned through it like they knew they weren't fooling anyone.

    But what could she say? She'd defended herself against those who intended to attack her. If that was too Decepticon a thing to do, what did that say about anyone who wasn't? These idiots and their endless tests made no sense at all. Unless the whole point was to try her patience in the first place and laugh when she did what she wanted to do anyway.

    "Hasn't Quake told you?" she finally spat. "Those squeaky little busybodies came after me."

    "He did say that. But that's beside the point. You kicked one of them while he was down. The other one needed extensive repairs." The maroon chest rumbled, a thunderous sound. "What exactly do you think you're doing?"

    Nova stood tall, refusing to give ground. "They wanted a fight. I gave it to them."

    Metal creaked as Grandeur's hands moved swiftly to his hips. "Is that all you have to say, after stellar cycles of living here with us? The moment anyone wants to fight with you, all you can do is -"

    "Are you saying I should have let them do it?"

    "No, Eclipse, I'm not. But there are plenty of ways to deal with angry bots that don't involve half-scrapping them. You could have just flown away."

    "Flown - flown away?" Nova choked. "Grandeur, I've spent the past two days in the sky! Do you have any idea how much fuel I've been wasting staying out of these losers' way?"

    Her lip plates curled back in a snarl. "Only thing left to do was teach them not to cross me. Besides, I could have done worse. If you actually know Decepticons and aren't just talking out your exhaust, you know that."

    The big bot froze. "I do. I know what they're like when they're hunting you... and I know what they're like when they're willing to give everything up to save you."

    "Is that who you think I am?" Nova's wings clicked as they twitched in indignation. "Your little hero? Someone who was ashamed of where he came from?

    "You don't know me," she snarled, warming to her topic. "You don't know me at all."

    The larger bot walked over to Nova. His red and gold frame, dented from his many stellar cycles of life here, loomed over her, filling her vision. He grabbed her shoulders and shook.

    Nova squirmed, struggling to free herself. But fliers were built from far lighter metal than large grounders like the old bot gripping her. And if she fought him, half the Settlement would be here to dismantle her or run her out within half a cycle. Glowering, she gave up.

    "That bot saved my life! My life, and the lives of many others. And do you know why? Because he was ashamed!"

    He panted, his hands stilling on Nova's shoulders, as if he'd just realized what he'd been doing. "Because he hated himself for what he'd done. Because he thought that saving us might put it right again."

    "I'm not him," Nova said, her dental plates grinding together hard enough to hurt. "Do you understand me? I'm not him." She pressed her hand to the other's chest, pushing him away. "And I'm tired of pretending I'm ashamed of what I am."

    Grandeur turned away in disgust. "Then why come here at all, Eclipse? You gave up the Decepticon way and the Decepticon war. Now you seem dead set on bringing it to the Settlement. And willing to beat the slag out of anyone who disagrees with it."

    "Gave it up?" Nova snarled. "You think I came here because I wanted to? You think I came here because I like this life better than the life I was built for?"

    She grabbed him. "Look at me, damn you."

    He did, his golden mouth creased into a deep frown.

    "I didn't. I don't. I came here because they drove me off. I came here because they would have killed me if I hadn't flown away."

    "Then all this time I've been protecting you -"

    "Me?" Nova's wings twitched again. "You haven't been protecting me. You've been protecting a memory."

    Grandeur nodded, the great head creaking on its joint. "Then if you want me to start protecting you, Eclipse, you'll have to start acting a little more like someone I remember."

    ###

    Nova's optics scanned the small, empty room. She'd told Quake to leave her alone here to think. Primus was apparently still in the mood to grant her a few small mercies, as he'd grunted once and gone.

    But she wasn't here to think. She'd made up her mind already. And she'd spent the past day coming up with the best plan she could think of. If it didn't work, nothing she could come up with would.

    And if it didn't work, she'd not only get herself slagged, but most of Settlement Four as well. She told Quake she was hesitating because she needed more time, but it wasn't true. She hesitated because she was afraid.

    She wasn't sure what she was afraid of. She'd been sure, even as she blew a hole in the ceiling of the bar back at base and took off, engines screaming, that she was already dead. She'd been convinced, frantically threading the cables of the signal dampener into a device slot in her side, that she'd never get it working in time to fool them. That they'd never believe she was really dead, once the dust of the explosion cleared and they found her signal missing. That they'd search the wreckage and be suspicious when they didn't find any blasted Seeker parts. That something would go wrong with the installation in the tower and the dampener would die and they'd show up before she knew it, their frames in the sky blotting out the stars.

    She'd survived all that. She shouldn't have been frightened now. If something went wrong now and her luck finally ran out, it just meant she had no more borrowed time to live on. She didn't want to die, of course, but going on like this might just kill her anyway.

    And the others in the Settlement... it wasn't worth it to concern herself with them. As an enforcer, she'd been prepared to terminate any one of them at any time. If they'd ceased to be useful, they would have been dead.

    Admittedly, Bane cared more about collecting energon taxes - and the bribes that came with them - than raids for fun. But it was remarkable that they'd lived this long in Settlement Four at all.

    Besides which, even if her plan worked, there was no guarantee she'd manage to keep the Decepticons from having a field day with the Settlement anyway. She gave her plan fair chances of deflecting their attention away from the bots who'd left Nova alone, and better chances of keeping them off someone like Quake, who'd helped her. But fair chances still meant that even if everything went right, some of the bots she wasn't going after might end up scrapped anyway.

    She shivered, and then willed herself to stop. What did she care anyway? Been living here so long I'm glitched, she thought, snarling at herself. No one else would even bother to keep Neutrals out of the line of fire, and I'm worried about the little slaggers?

    Her fingers hovered over the button to open her old comm link. Shuttering her optics and cycling another sigh through her vents, she pressed her fingers to the mechanism and spoke.

    "Nova Black to Base Six. Base Six, do you read me?"

    Silence answered her. She opened her optics again, scanning the table, the drained energon cube still sitting on it, the sliver of reflective metal Quake had offered her to use as a mirror, just a day ago.

    Her wings twitched. The noise of it was deafening in the little room. Why was no one receiving? Yes, they'd left her for dead. But Leech had always been a careful mech, studying any situation, checking and re-checking to be sure he hadn't missed any detail. Hell, she doubted he would have stopped searching for her after her signal died unless he'd been directly ordered to fly home. He'd be the sort to keep her old comm link active. Maybe even check it when Bane wasn't glowering at him to stop scanning for ghosts.

    She stood up. Nothing. The comm link was as dead as they assumed Nova herself was. Unsure whether to thank Primus or punch her fist through the nearest wall, she lifted her fingers to close the link again.

    "Nova? Nova Black?" The voice was so surprised it had apparently forgotten protocol completely.

    Unfortunately, the high, singsong voice was neither the voice of Leech, nor that of Colossus, nor even that of Bane.

    "Winder," she muttered, lowering her hand. Apparently her luck had just run out. The one to answer her comm just had to be the one who'd convinced everyone to attack her and force her into hiding in the first place.

    Her fist clenched again. Punching the wall was looking better and better.

    "I always thought you might be out there somewhere, Blackie," the voice marveled. Nova glowered. If he was anything like she remembered, he was already busy figuring out how she'd survived - and what to do now that he knew it.

    "Put me through to Bane," she snarled, hoping that sounding commanding would throw him off. He'd always been a schemer, but he'd usually slink away from direct conflict. Extensible limbs made that kind of thing easy.

    "You should be dead," he finally said.

    "Sorry to disappoint you."

    "You have some spark, showing yourself out here," he snarled, the surprise gone from his voice now. You know we'll kill you." He hesitated. "As soon as we figure out where you are."

    "You won't kill me just yet. Not when you don't know where I am." She chuckled. Nicking that signal dampener was probably the best idea she'd ever had. "Besides. I have something you want."

    "Something we want? What could we possibly want from someone who deserted? You might have died with honor, as one of us."

    "That's funny, Winder." She snickered. "You were never overly concerned about honor when I was up there.

    "I have information. Information that our -" she bit her lip hard enough to send a flare of pain through her sensors - "that your illustrious Subcommander needs to see. Kill me later. Put me through now."

    There was a choked metallic squeal from the other end of the comm link. "I always knew you were reckless, Nova Black. I never thought you were crazy. You managed to evade us for stellar cycles. Why show yourself now?"

    Because I'm sick of this slag? Nova thought. Because I'd rather somebody like Leech or Colossus blast me than die to some mob of half broken-down Neutrals?

    Because I'd rather do something crazy and hope it might work than stay here?


    "Because it's important," she said, cursing herself for not coming up with something better to say. Still, if she told him what was going on, the Decepticons would already know and she'd have nothing to bargain with. Shaking her head, she tried again.

    "Because I know you. Because I know you'd rather take the chance of letting me come back there so you can kill me yourself than hope you find me and get the lucky shot off in a raid.

    "Besides, Bane is the Subcommander, not you. He should hear me out and decide what -"

    Another squeaking sound - this time high, grating laughter. Nova would have wondered what was wrong with Winder's vocalizer if she hadn't heard it many times before. It still hurt her audio receptors, and she winced, glad he wasn't there to see it. "You hate him. Now you're hoping he'll give you a fair hearing?"

    "A fair hearing? Do you think I'm dumb as a pile of scrap? Nobody over there will give me that. But he is the Subcommander. Don't you want to find out what could possibly make me do this, Winder? You said yourself I'm reckless. But you know very well I'm not stupid. Or suicidal."

    "Transferring," the other voice said finally. "But only because this is so bizarre I have to know what it's about."

    "Good enough," Nova grunted to no one in particular as she waited for the transfer to go through.

    ###

    "Nova Black," a deep voice purred, rich with amusement.

    "Subcommander," she answered without hesitation.

    "I must say this is a surprise," the voice continued. She could hear it vibrate through the other's frame. Well, that made sense. For a flier, Bane was enormous. Which, she supposed, half-explained the overgrown glutton's endless thirst for more energon.

    Because you were dumb enough to think I was dead?

    Before she could turn that thought into something acceptable, or even flattering, to say, the voice came through again. "Winder tells me you have information."

    "Yes. I do. And a plan to use it. Here. It's better that you see it for yourself."

    She tapped the buttons on the side of her head in the proper sequence. The data flashed through her own processor as she sent it: the message scrawled in the alcove, her encounter with Burden, the meeting with Quake analyzing his cargo.

    "They're out there," she hissed after a long moment. "They're out there, and they're planning something, and their base of operations is somewhere in this Settlement."

    A low growl from the other. "That does not bode well for us. Still, they haven't come out into the open yet. And unless you have more information you haven't yet shared, we don't know where their base is."

    "No," Nova hissed, "we don't. But if they are building a weapon, we don't have time. We need to strike before they're finished. And I know how to draw them out." She chuckled. "And how to get you a nice lump of energon into the bargain. I live here. Do you have any idea how much more w - they - have than they let on?"

    Another rumble as the Subcommander considered. "Interesting. And you say you have a plan?"

    "I do." I just hope it's as good as I think it is.

    "And what exactly do you want in return for this information and this strategy, assuming it is good enough to use? A pardon? Assurances that -" was it her imagination, or had she just heard him chuckle? - "we'll punish the others and leave you alone?"

    She smiled grimly. Here it was. All or nothing.

    Winder had called her reckless. He had no idea.

    "Reinstatement." She smirked, looking down at herself. "And an upgrade. I'm useless to you if I'm falling apart."
     
  11. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Part Nine
    =====
    "Nova? Nova Black?" A head whipped around on a flexible metal stalk, resting nearly close enough to touch the Seeker's face. Beady red optics widened as they stared at her.

    She scowled. What exactly had the little slagger expected? For her to waltz in looking just like she had when she'd left?

    Looking around, she saw that the bar was full. Although most were ignoring her, she could see a few peering with interest at her.

    That was lucky. Even with Bane's protection, coming in here with the wrong color optics made her a target for anyone particularly belligerent or anyone too overcharged to think straight. Fortunately, even those deep in their energon seemed to be waiting to see how her old team would handle her.

    "Yes, it's me." Stellar cycles ago, she would have pushed the offending head away, if not snapped the thin metal neck to make her point. Primus knew she'd done so before. And watching his head squawk feebly as it rolled around on the floor was always good for a laugh.

    These days, though, doing that was hardly wise. She settled for grunting, "Now get out of my face, Winder," and pointedly ignoring him.

    A revving sound interrupted their conversation, and Nova looked away, grateful for the newcomer's timing.

    "Blackie? If that is you, you're uglier than scrap these days."

    "Hey, grounder." She kept her tone carefully lukewarm as she turned to face the source of the familiar, deep voice. He had abandoned her, after all. "I could say the same."

    Still, seeing the dark shape of his bulk, the red optics staring as warmly as they dared out of the midnight-blue face, she couldn't keep her wings from twitching.

    But yes, nowadays she was ugly. And yes, she'd need to do something about that.

    Snarling, she reached over to her side and yanked out the device altering her appearance. As before, the port stung from her roughness. As before, she welcomed the discomfort. It wouldn't have been right to unmask herself here without some small ritual of pain.

    She watched her wings blacken, the stripes on them shifting to gray and yellow. Finally, the symbols she'd changed her appearance to hide appeared on her wings, battered and faded from the long stellar cycles in Settlement Four.

    She looked down at the small part in her hand. Then, she hissed again in disgust and threw the device down. It skittered along the floor of the bar with a scraping sound.

    A white hand reached down to pick it up.

    "That was unwise, Nova Black," a soft voice rasped, gears creaking as the cracked vocalizer moved.

    She looked up to see the voice's owner sitting at a table, a half-empty cube of energon clutched tightly in his other hand.

    He held the device up to look at it. His face was almost identical to Nova's, though where her faceplates were black, his were a dull white. Where her helm was a deep gray, his was washed-out and pale. And unlike her helm, his was topped with the conical point that formed his nose when he transformed.

    "This thing helped keep you hidden from us for stellar cycles." His optics gleamed as he turned it over and over in his hand, touching the intricate cabling almost reverently. "It's quite a remarkable device. Surely, you ought not discard it."

    "Fine." She stalked over to the speaker and grabbed his hand. She could feel the ruined metal give almost immediately. Good. Just as she'd expected. He let go, quickly, and she snatched up the device and tucked it away. "Whatever you say, Leech."

    Something chittered near her leg. She looked down to find a green mechanoid staring up at her out of five round, red optics arrayed in a dark, chevron-shaped groove dug into its head.

    With a metallic squeal, Nova's head snapped back up to stare at Leech again. "What is this? You modified a repair drone and made it your pet?"

    One of the thing's appendages flicked out, stabbing the seam in her knee. Pain flared through the joint and the connected circuitry, spreading rapidly outward. Nova howled as her knee gave, a burning sensation spreading through it. Alarmed, she looked down, half-expecting to see the metal of her joint melting.

    "It prefers to be called 'medic,'" Leech wheezed, frowning in distaste as he watched Nova fall.

    That thing's... sentient? Nova marveled through the pain. That's impossible. Even for you, conehead. Still, whatever the thing had injected was rapidly spreading through her leg now. She didn't have much choice but to play along.

    "Fine," Nova snarled. "Medic, then."

    Another of the thing's appendages shot out, driving into her knee with a new blossom of pain. Something cold flooded into the wound, soothing the fiery agonies of a moment before. As the frozen feeling faded, she could feel the appendage exploring her joint, poking and twisting.

    Then it flicked toward her other knee. Without the antidote to numb it, its twist as it tightened something made her hiss in pain. She rose to her feet, snarling at it.

    Then it dawned on her. Her knee hadn't moved that fluidly in stellar cycles. Apparently something in her joints had come loose after so many stellar cycles in the Settlement, and the thing had tightened them for her.

    She nodded to it. Its optics flashed at her, and it moved back to its place at Leech's side, chirring triumphantly.

    Nova stared at Leech. "You created life? You?"

    He shook his pointed head, his neck servos screeching as they moved.

    "Then how - ?"

    "I said I gave it life. I did not say that I created it. I merely gave it a spark."

    Nova recoiled. "You took someone's spark and jammed it into a drone? Aren't you worried it's going to kill you for that someday?"

    Leech laughed, a dry hissing noise. "It has no reason to seek revenge on me. The spark I gave it -" he waved a hand toward his chest "- was a fragment of my own."

    "Holy slag," Nova gasped. She wasn't sure she could believe it. How in hell could you split your own spark without it killing you?

    She shook her head, deciding it didn't matter whether he was telling the truth or making it up to brag. Either way, it was disturbing. "I knew you were strange, conehead. I never knew you were crazy."

    His thin face cracked into a grin. "It was a risky procedure, yes. And a... highly unpleasant one." He shuddered, his wings quivering.

    Then he patted his creation's head. It chirred with pleasure, leaning into his hand.

    "But it was entirely worth it in the end," he finished, turning back to the energon cube in front of him and taking a long pull.

    Nova turned to find Winder's head once again far too close to her face, clicking as it swerved slightly on its prehensile neck. He'd slid closer to her, his thin, tall body close to hers.

    "Now that you're done insulting all of us," he squawked, "maybe you could tell us just what you think you're doing here, Neutral."

    Nova clenched her dental plates, spitting sparks. "I'm - not - Neutral."

    "No? You've got huge gouges in your face and yellow optics that say different. Say you were desperate to get away from here." A flash of metal as his head whipped around, moving as he laughed. "Where did you get those things, anyway? They're so dim they might just flicker out."

    "Winder," a voice rumbled behind the thin Decepticon, who squawked as the big blue one squeezed him in one hand and lifted him off the ground.

    "Colossus," he squealed, his limbs extending and flailing futilely, "don't -"

    His thick lip curled. "Don't like seeing those yellow things any more than you do, but if Bane let her in here, he must have a reason."

    Winder seethed, sibilant noises coming from his vocalizer, but he said nothing.

    What's the matter, Twisty? Nova thought. Can't admit you think Bane is wrong, can you? If you do, it means I'm right about him. But if Bane is right, that means I deserve to be here. And you're the one who wanted me dead. She snickered as Colossus tossed him away. Still squirming, he landed heavily against the far wall.

    Nova chuckled. "Thanks, big guy."

    "Don't thank me yet, Blackie," he rumbled, his great fist twitching. "Winder's got a point. Bane wants you for something. We know that. But... you think you can just fly back here looking like that?"

    She met his gaze, glowering up at him. "I wanted to live," she answered. "Look at my wings, for spark's sake. I never betrayed you."

    He stared back at her, his optics narrowing.

    "Oh, come on, big guy!" Her wings clicked in frustration. "Would you have stayed here? Would you have died to prove a point? That's something an Autobot would do. Not one of us."

    Leech, still clutching his half-empty energon cube, laughed, air whistling through his shattered vocalizer. "Indeed. But saying so is not likely to win our trust, Nova Black."

    "I'm not asking you to trust me," Nova snapped. "I'm not that stupid."

    Colossus laughed, the air vibrating with his rumbling. "Better answer than I expected, Blackie." His head turned as he watched Winder slither back toward Leech's table. "Still not sure it's a good one, but better than I thought you'd do."

    He lumbered toward her. Knowing what was coming, she planted her feet.

    The great hand shot toward her, clapping her hard on the back. She grunted with the impact, rocking forward and nearly losing her balance.

    Winder's head slithered toward her, swiveling on the long neck. "You've grown weak over all this time, haven't you?" He cackled, pleased.

    You'd be falling over too if Colossus ever hit your back straight on, you slagger, Nova thought,
    glowering at him. You're even lighter and smaller than I am.

    Colossus' optics had narrowed again, glittering red at her in the dim light of the bar. Others were looking too, staring at the grounder's big fist, still extended in front of her.

    Slaggit, big guy. Nova's wings twitched as she fought to keep calm. Don't turn on me now. Not after defending me.

    "Weak enough you don't belong here," Winder crowed, happy to have the upper hand again.

    Nova stood tall, clicking her wings in derision. After stellar cycles in a Neutral settlement, she just might be. But she was dead if the Decepticons believed it.

    "Not weak," she scowled. "I used to spar with Colossus all the time. And never lose. Any of you slaggers remember that?"

    "Heh." This from Colossus, whose mouth creaked as it turned up in a smile. "You think you can still beat me? Loudmouthed little heap of scrap."

    She crouched into a fighting stance. No, she wasn't at all sure she could. Not after all this time. Still, challenging her gave him a way to save face without turning away from her entirely. Sparring happened. If she lost, he could say he'd beaten an enemy. If she won, he could welcome her back into the fold.

    And it gave her a way to redeem herself. They couldn't wonder if she was Decepticon enough to belong if she'd just kicked the aft of one of their best fighters, after all.

    The others hastily shifted tables as Colossus lumbered toward her. Good. That would give the two of them plenty of room. And the bar ceiling was high enough to give fliers some space above, as well.

    Colossus jabbed at her experimentally. She dodged the blows easily. He was playing with her, for now.

    That was perfectly fine with Nova, who transformed one of her hands into an energon dagger and took quickly to the air, swerving past him and gouging a long scrape in one of his upper arms. It didn't do much but hurt and flare prettily as the bright purple blade dug into the metal.

    She heard a few cheers from some Decepticons at a far table. They were probably overenergized anyway and not all that clear on what was going on. Still, that was good. The sooner one of them was impressed with her, the less the room would hate her. She hoped.

    She wove around the broad body of her opponent, diving back toward him every time she thought she might get a punch or a slash in. She didn't manage much, the thick fists rising to swat at her any time she got close. Still, it felt good, her engines revving for a reason, finally, because if they didn't she'd actually get hurt, actually lose something, her place and her pride, and she spun out of the way of the great fist and laughed, louder than she had in stellar cycles, just because she could.

    She heard the other's rumble of disapproval and felt her weapons systems kicking on in response, her lasers humming with energy, warming her arms with their hidden heat.

    Not that she could use them here, as much as part of her wanted to. If she fired on Colossus, even to wound rather than to kill, that would give him every right to shoot back.

    Besides, she was an outcast now. Actually shooting at a Decepticon - even one willingly sparring with her - would be a disaster. The others would be all over her for that, worse than they ever had after the Cinder incident. Plenty of them had been happy to see Cinder offlined. None of them would be happy to see Colossus shot up by a Neutral.

    So much for guns. She cursed. If the damn fools at High Command actually equipped more than a handful of their Seekers with null rays, that would be something. But no. She'd have to do this the hard way.

    She heard a telltale click behind her and swerved again, just in time to avoid the other's fist zooming toward her, impossibly quickly. Speeding out of the way, she transformed and flew toward the domed ceiling of the bar, where her opponent wouldn't be able to reach her.

    The great fist collided with a table too near to the fight, sending debris everywhere. One of its former occupants clicked in displeasure. Nova looked down, relieved to see the affronted one snarl at Colossus rather than at her.

    The great fists tilted slowly up to aim at her, her opponent rumbling in distaste. She knew why. As long as she stayed up here, even firing those fists at her wouldn't reach, but she wouldn't be able to do anything either. That was fine for a moment of respite - Seekers did that sort of thing all the time - but she'd flown away from danger once, and these 'Cons doubtless already thought of her as a coward.

    Besides, they wanted a show, not a standoff.

    Not having any weapon in her current form besides her lasers, she transformed again and swooped down, snarling, speeding toward the other's bulk, aiming for his face. As his fist swung up to defend himself, her dagger slashed at an uncovered spot in his side, her weapon connecting and biting deep into the exposed cabling.

    He roared, bucking to shake her. She pulled her weapon free and kicked at the wound, hoping to throw him off balance. She heard the others around cheer and felt a surge of heat from her weapons systems again. Though she was sparring now, her instincts screamed at her to shoot, now, to take advantage of the weak spot she'd discovered once and for all and obliterate her enemy.

    Relax, she told herself, gritting her dental plates against the surging in her circuitry. This is how you nearly got yourself slagged last time. And that's Colossus, dammit.

    Besides, if she managed to survive all this and convince Bane, there'd be plenty of fighting to do later.

    She settled for kicking again. This time she missed - he'd twisted, however slowly, to protect the vulnerable spot. But she could hear him grunt in pain, and knew she'd done enough. She just needed to get away, come in for another good hit, hard enough to pitch even a big grounder like him off balance.

    She heard the clicking sound as he prepared to launch his fist at her again and spun away, chuckling, the battle-heat lending her speed. It didn't matter that she needed to get another hit in. She'd always been smaller and faster, and it meant she'd never lost.

    She chuckled. All she'd have to do was veer off, right n -

    Crushing pain burst through her chest. White, staticky fuzz flashed before her optics and she tossed her head, struggling to focus them.

    She lay on the floor, dirt and dust grinding into her back and her wings, old, spilled energon sticky against her frame. Someone was looking down at her.

    Angrily. She fought to think through a haze of pain, to correlate the data coming in through her still-flickering optics with memories.

    Then she remembered everything, her vision clearing, her now-functional optics going wide as she saw the fist that had laid her low clench again and saw its owner sneer.

    She'd lost.

    After all that, she'd lost. And she knew that look in the victor's optics. A look that had, just moments ago, shone in her own. He'd won, and that was all that mattered, and he could do anything he wanted.

    And what he wanted was surely nothing friendly. Not when she'd flown in looking just like a Neutral, tossed out a challenge, and wasted the time it took for him to lay her low.

    Somewhere nearby she could hear Winder's high cackle. She snarled. If she had to die here, she'd die here. Better to die at the hands of Decepticons than to spend stellar cycles starving in the Settlement, hiding and hunted.

    But she refused to die with that ugly piece of scrap laughing in her face.

    "Old friend -" she began, staring resolutely at Colossus, fighting not to shiver at the look he was giving her.

    "Don't," he snarled, the deep voice thick with rage. "Bad enough you came back here at all, Neutral. Don't you dare try to tell me Bane wants you online. Don't you dare beg for your life."

    Nova's jaw clicked as it widened. Her hands scrambled for purchase on the grimy floor as she fought to sit up. "What? I gave up everything I had to come here. I sold out the bots who took me in just to get back. Slaggit, I risked my life just to get in the damned door."

    She glanced at Winder, then back at the face looming over her, hissing. "You really think I'm gonna snivel for it now?

    "You won. I lost. Kill me, if that's what you want." Her dental plates ground together so hard they sparked, a new spike of pain in the haze of it already radiating through her systems.

    "Throw everything I came here for away, if you want to. That's your right. But don't you dare insult me, Colossus. Don't you dare tell me I don't belong."

    He stood a long moment, hovering over her, the twitching of his fingers reverberating in her audio receptors.

    "Do it," Winder hissed. "That thing isn't the Nova you remember. That thing is a weakling. That thing is worthless scrap."

    The great fist lowered. "That thing sounds almost like the Nova I remember, though."

    He turned back to look at her. The hope building under Nova's shattered chestplate died as soon as she saw his expression, the thick lip curled in disgust.

    "Get up," he rumbled, turning away.

    She did.
     
  12. Raptarrin

    Raptarrin Proud Decepticon

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    Great story

    I am thoroughly enjoying this story. I like how it deals with 'lower level' characters who we have not met before. And it's nice to finally meet a female decepticon, and a seeker at that.
     
  13. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Thank you so much, Raptarrin! I was just wondering if people were reading, and it's so nice to have confirmation that the answer is yes.

    I'm posting the next chapter now. Nova gets her upgrade! W00t!
     
  14. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Part Ten
    =====

    Nova Black nodded for what felt like the thousandth time. "Yes, Subcommander," she repeated automatically, half wishing she'd recorded herself saying it earlier and could simply play it back for him.

    Still, if she did that, he'd notice her mouthplates staying still. Better to just keep telling the big flier what he wanted to hear.

    Her optics darted around the room. It was big, big and empty, the walls' color dimmed by dirt and streaked with rust. Still, compared to anything in Settlement Four, it was palatial, and the Decepticon symbols painted on the walls glared defiantly through the decay.

    Bane sat in a broad, featureless seat. It didn't look terribly comfortable to Nova, but the big flier lounged in it as if it were a throne. He held a large cube of energon in his hands. Several other cubes lay in luminous pink piles around the base of his seat.

    Bane turned the one he held, inspecting it. His red visor gleamed, reminding Nova for a moment of Brightbolt. Her fist clenched reflexively.

    The Subcommander nodded once, lifted the cube he held, and took a long sip. His broad, tan wings twitched slowly as he drank.

    Nova was glad to see he liked her gifts so much. Without a decent bribe, he wouldn't have listened to her at all.

    If he was actually listening. He'd paid attention enough in the beginning, asking questions about her plan, about the Settlement, about what she'd recommend if it went wrong. Now she suspected he was going over the details again simply because he liked wearing her down.

    The only clue that he was looking at her at all were the guns mounted on his shoulders. They'd stayed trained on her the whole time she'd been here. They twitched minutely when she moved, reminding her that if she said anything he didn't want to hear, he could shoot at any moment.

    And while she knew very well that the glutton had weaknesses, they weren't ones she could easily take advantage of with his shoulder guns fully charged and aimed already.

    "And you're confident this plan will work?" he asked, his head tilting to stare idly at the cube of energon in his hands.

    I can't think of anything else, if that's what you're asking. And I already answered you before. "Yes, Subcommander."

    He tilted the half-empty cube, watching the glowing liquid slosh around inside it. "Still, it seems risky. You've run into one of these rebels before. Why not wait and gather more information?"

    Nova's hands, clenched tight at her sides, twitched. How many times would they go over this? "Because one of them caught me spying already. Because half the Settlement doesn't trust me. Because if I don't miss my guess, they're building weaponry.

    "With all due respect, Subcommander, we can't just sit here and do nothing. If we don't hurry up, we're handing them time -"

    He held up a hand. "Enough. You are the one who uncovered this, so I will certainly consider -"

    "Consider?" She snarled the word before she could stop herself, her wings clicking far too loudly as she spoke. "What is there to consider?"

    Good
    , she thought, relishing the heat crackling through her exhausted systems. If she was going to lose control anyway, she might as well enjoy it.

    She glared at him, no longer caring what he thought of her attitude. "These are Autobot rebels, building a weapon right in front of us. And you're going to let them?"

    His wings moved again, the same slow twitching as before. "Nova, I understand your concern. But the Autobots are disorganized, broken, scattered. If they did build a weapon and did choose to attack us, half the sector would be on them before they could hit one of us."

    He took another sip of energon. "They're nothing but vermin, crawling over the surface of the planet just long enough to annoy us and then diving back into their holes. For spark's sake, most of them are grounders."

    He leaned forward, his visor flashing brightly in the darkness of the room. "And then there is us. In the grand scheme of things, Nova, we mean very little. The factories turn out Seekers by the tens of thousands, and almost as many like me. We're not here to scour the planet."

    Nova's optics widened. Was he really saying he'd ignore hostile enemies on his doorstep? Even he couldn't possibly be that stupid. Or that lazy.

    Which meant he had his own ideas about what to do, and was still testing her to see if hers were better. Even though she was the one who'd lived in the Settlement.

    She no longer belonged. She'd fought for her place and had nothing to show for it but a broken chestplate. She'd had to give over a quarter of the energon she'd brought for Bane to Leech and his little green friend for repairs. Hell, looking down at herself she could still see the cracks in it.

    Between that and paying Bane to let her fly here in the first place, she barely had any of the energon left for herself. She'd soon have to settle for standard rations, the kind that tasted like slag.

    If they deigned to give her any. Which depended on whether they accepted her.

    Which depended, in turn, on this tedious little interview.

    Which should have been over twice by now.

    "Maybe we're not, Subcommander, but how is that a reason to ignore vermin crawling through our sector?" She snorted. "Yes, this place is hell - you know it and I know it. And yes, I'm sure no one three ranks above you remembers your name." Because of things like this, you lazy heap of scrap. "But this sector belongs to the Empire. We belong to the Empire. That means it's our job to scour it clean. And like it."

    She grinned. "And if you won't like it, I will. You know me well enough to know that, Subcommander."

    The corner of his lip quirked. "Yes, Nova Black," he said. "I do know that."

    ###

    Nova stepped into the blue-lit room, her wings clicking as she looked around. It was big, bigger even than the other, and clean and polished as only a medbay would be. The walls were lined with small berths, all of them empty now, the monitors near them dull and lifeless as they waited for occupants.

    Nova paid them no attention. She was too busy staring at the chamber on the far wall.

    Most of the blue light came from it, its glow stinging her optics. She could see bars and clamps inside, dark against the bright light, and wide spaces at the top and sides.

    She walked toward it, trying to ignore the nervous energy crackling through her circuits and making her wings twitch over and over.

    She didn't look behind her. That would look weak. Besides, she knew perfectly well what she'd see: bright pinpricks of light from crimson optics and red visors, staring at her, waiting.

    Leech stood to one side of the chamber, his pale plating shining in the bright light. His green medic friend was even now scrambling up the other side, settling near a panel, his thin appendages dangling just by the controls.

    Nova stared at him for a long moment. Then she turned, walking the last few steps into the glowing chamber backwards.

    She saw the gleam of the others' optics, but barely had time to focus on their faces before she heard a click and felt the restraints lock around her. She shuddered violently once, instinct urging her to break free, to avenge herself upon those who'd trapped her.

    Calm down, she told herself firmly, catching sight of Bane. You're the one who asked for an upgrade in the first place.

    Besides, any moment now the thing holding her head would send a jolt through it and offline her while they worked. She'd online again changed, repaired, rebuilt, if a little sore and tired.

    Something clicked, swinging down from the space high above her, a gleaming lens irising open, then shutting again as it passed over her.

    Optics wide, she gaped at it as it clicked and whirred, passing a beam of light over her.

    She tried to turn her head toward Leech or his little friend, but her head barely moved, held where it was by something behind her.

    She stared at Bane instead. "Why am I still online?"

    He chuckled. "You trust us enough to go offline in front of us?"

    Nova grunted. Held as she was by the clamps gripping her wings, her limbs, and even her head, she was at Bane's mercy now whether she trusted him or not. He had no reason to do this but malice. Or revenge for Cinder's death.

    Still, staring at the three sets of optics glittering in front of her - Winder on one side, his head twisting this way and that as he looked her over; Bane in the center, his visor bright as he smirked at her; Colossus on the other, his broad mouth twisted into a scowl - she realized he might just be offering her something.

    Painful as it would be to go through this awake, it gave her another chance to prove herself. They'd never seen anyone take that kind of pain, because no one had ever had to before.

    If she did, they couldn't doubt she deserved her place.

    Mistrust her, yes. Doubt her, no.

    And it was an upgrade, after all. By definition, it wouldn't kill her.

    She nodded as best she could with the clamp holding her head. "All right. Go ahead."

    The medic chirred a response. She heard the click of his movements and kept her optics fixed ahead, not daring to look at the things dropping down from the high space above her.

    Something grabbed her cracked chestplate. In one swift motion it tore the broken plate away, sliding back the way it came. Nova howled, tipping her head as far as she could.

    As if from a great distance, she heard Leech's rattling sigh. The mechanism behind her head tightened, forcing her to stare ahead again.

    She muttered something in thanks. She didn't want to know what the things around her were doing.

    But she could still feel them, even if she couldn't see them. They ground into the surface of her chest and limbs, filing out dents and scratches, the abrasives biting deep into her plating. Every part of her burned, and even the smoothing afterward stung. With no way to move, she simply clenched her dental plates. That hurt too, a new spark of pain she barely noticed as her frame screamed with it. She willed herself to focus on it, the only pain she could control.

    The medic clawed its way over to the edge of the chamber and peeked in, its red optics shining as it inspected her. Leech said something - she should have understood what, but her audios were full of the hum of the chamber and the echoes of screams she hadn't remembered making.

    Two long metallic arms descended, one holding a new chest plate, lowering it into place. The other attached it, grabbing roughly at her cables as it connected them. She cursed it, then suddenly remembered it would neither hear nor care.

    She struggled to look down. The new chestplate shone, bright and whole, against metal that gleamed brighter than she ever remembered. She smiled through her pain. Then she grunted again, determined to reveal only endurance to the others, whose optics she could still see glowing red in front of her.

    Something clicked as it slid close to her feet and sides. Nova winced as it loosened tight bolts, then roared again as it ripped whole sections of plating free.

    They're replacing - ? She didn't need to finish the thought. The arms slid back into their sockets, returning with bright tiles of metal, screwing them into place with forceful twists that made Nova glad for the clamps holding her still.

    Her optics flickered. She shook her head, willing her systems not to give out. Leech's sibilant voice reported a reading. The medic chirped in alarm, and she could hear his limbs skitter over the controls.

    Something jutted out from the wall beside her, sliding itself toward a port in her chest. She felt it plunge in, and a jolt of current, impassive and pitiless, fed her the energy she needed to keep herself from shutting down.

    She twitched, too much energy crackling through her systems. Bane frowned.

    "I'm fine," she spat, her voice laced with static.

    He nodded. The ever-present arms reached for her guns. Nova hissed as they twisted free. The energy in her weapons systems roiled in protest, and she clamped her lips shut on a whimper. She felt worse without them mounted on her arms than she had with half her chest uncovered.

    They'll be replaced, she told herself as the energy the medic pulsed through her soured to twittering panic. Calm down. Focus on the future. Slaggit, focus on the pain if you have to.

    Then they re-emerged with the replacement weapons, and Nova's frown of horror twisted itself into a smile. Her weapons systems hummed with stored energy, waiting as the mechanisms lowered the lasers - still not null rays, but I'm not complaining - into the sockets in her arms, locking them into place.

    They thrummed with heat, eager to be tested, seething with potential. Nova, her programming taking over, struggled to move her arms, to aim, to discharge the energy pooling in them and watch something, anything, redden and blacken and burn.

    But she could not move. And now the greatest of the arms were descending down toward her, black hands that twitched as they locked onto her wings and held.

    Leech wheezed something and pressed his fingers to the console. Nova's head clanged against the mechanism holding it as she twisted too fast too hard, desperate to see what was happening.

    No, she thought. Not my wings. Not while I'm awake. They aren't possibly going to replace my - Primus, no -!

    Then everything became white-hot agony as the claws tore away part of her very being, uncaring, unknowing, not even seeing that she was still online to feel it -

    She shrieked, her head twitching so violently it slammed against something behind her, and went on shrieking, the sound echoing through her own audio receptors, alien and horrible, as the hands bore away the twin, triangular shadows that had been part of her.

    Then something invaded the space where her wing had fit and she flailed, not wanting anything to touch her, not there, not after what had happened. Even the weight of something new, something dark and sleek and polished, meant nothing to her. She wailed again, trying to shake off the things attaching something foreign to her wing joints.

    The world went white, or maybe blue - she couldn't tell, light filling her vision, agony overloading her sensor net. She gritted her dental plates, instinct and pride driving her to fight the emergency shutdown she knew was coming anyway.

    Then she heard Leech, his soft voice crying something urgent as loudly as it was capable.

    Another jolt shocked her upright as the medic sent wave after wave of energy through her systems, forcing her to stay online. She quivered, out of her own control, awake only because she had to be.

    And then there was something there, something attached through the burn she still felt, something that her systems controlled. She felt a clamp retract and moved the new things on her back. They twitched feebly, and the pain sent static racing through her vision again.

    But they were there, moving, hers. They were light, and new, and a part of her. Torn between vertigo and triumph, she cycled air through her vents, panting.

    Two small, thin arms extended toward her face. She grunted. Of course. Her optics. She'd waited long enough to get rid of these hideous yellow things. More pain wouldn't matter.

    She felt something twist loose, and then twin flares of pain burst through her head. Then everything flickered and went black.

    Her spark swirled with sudden fear. She was blind now, blind and immobilized, and the others stood gathered around her - Bane, Winder, Leech and his medic. Even Colossus, who she'd fought and had bested her and had only barely spared her. She felt new heat surge through her weapons systems, as she frantically calculated how she might fight like this, unseeing and barely able to move.

    Then the new optics lowered into their sockets, and the world flickered to new life around her, her systems feeding her information as her vision shifted from Winder to Bane to Colossus and back to the red visor of the leader again. She grinned fiercely as her targeting systems fed her data. Just wait until I get out of here, you slaggers. And hurt less, she thought as her sensor net sent a new wave of discomfort through her frame.

    The medic chattered. Leech hissed something about success. She twitched her new wings again, but she found she could not move anything more.

    "Come on," she panted, cycling air heavily through her vents. "It's done now. I made it. Now let me test this new stuff out."

    Bane gestured. The medic clicked an answer, and then ran a long appendage over the controls again. The clamp holding Nova's head released, and it pitched forward, unused to freedom. She twisted her neck to get comfortable, and then looked at herself.

    She'd never seen anything so shiny. Not even Brightbolt back at the Settlement had gleamed like her new parts did now. She smiled again, her spark whirling with sudden vanity. She wouldn't look like this for long, but not many got to look like this at all, not since first emerging off the assembly line in some fancy city like Kaon, some important place they'd never see again.

    She studied the new wings, their contours, their smoothness, the design painted on them, like her old design and yet unlike, the wide gray stripe and then the yellow, thin line accenting it -

    Her optics widened in shock. She wondered, for a moment, if her new sensors were defective.

    The black expanses of her wings were blank.

    "What the hell -!" she stammered, optics narrowing as she stared directly at the bright light of Bane's visor. "You give me an upgrade and take away my insignia? What the hell are you doing?"

    "You're not one of us," Colossus said quietly. "Look more like it now, sure." The corner of his broad mouth quirked into a smile. "But you're not. Not yet."

    Winder nodded, cackling. "He's right. You came to us as a Neutral."

    Bane, for his part, remained silent.

    Nova snarled. "Subcommander, this is insane."

    He tilted his head. "Is it? You came to us hiding your badges and wearing new optics. You told me you wanted reinstatement."

    His wings clicked lazily. Primus, she was beginning to hate that. Again.

    He smiled. "You'll have to swear your loyalty, like any other convert."

    "Convert! I'm not - I never - it -!" She looked up. This chamber had torn her apart already. It could easily do so again.

    "Fine," she grunted, not at all sure it was. "But I'm tired. If you expect me to get through the whole Oath of Loyalty when you've just taken me apart, you're malfunctioning."

    She looked around again. Damn it, couldn't they have installed some sort of filter between her processor and her vocalizer while they were doing all that? "Subcommander."

    Rich, rolling laughter answered her. "I'm not. Takes too long. Just expecting a vow, and the ritual."

    For once, Nova found herself stunned into silence. After all they'd put her through, now they were going to -!

    But apparently they were. At a twirl of Leech's pale fingers, she felt herself pulled forward, familiar restraints locking around her wings.

    And now that she could turn her head, she could see what was emerging in front of and just behind her wings: bright metal gleaming purple in the shape of the symbol adorning the walls, Bane's wings, Colossus' chest, the middle of Winder's forehead...

    They're going to brand the Decepticon symbol on me after all this?

    Bane nodded again, watching her stare.

    "Do you swear loyalty to the Decepticon Empire, and to Megatron as its head?"

    She tore her optics away from the gleaming purple. "I do." Of course I do, you worthless heap of scrap. Why do you think I came back?

    "And to me, as your direct superior?"

    Wish I didn't have to.
    "I do."

    He didn't bother to pronounce her inducted. He simply nodded.

    "Then it is done," Leech wheezed, apparently wanting to sound official. He pressed a pale finger to the console.

    Nova watched the brands move toward her, the glowing symbol filling her vision.

    Then agony tore through her wings, new as they were, torments singing through them so perfectly she knew they belonged to her.

    She screeched again, surprised her vocalizer could still emit anything, and her vision burst white and purple and blue.

    Someone said something. Bane, maybe. She couldn't tell. She felt restraints loosening, clamps freeing her.

    "Yes, it is done," she said, her mouthplates twisting into another fierce grin. "Finally."

    Determined to ignore the pain in her wings, she took a step forward, unable even to see clearly where she was -

    - and promptly collapsed, her vision fading to white, the smile still frozen on her faceplates.
     
  15. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Part Eleven
    =====

    Static flickered across Nova Black's field of vision. She sat up, struggling to focus her optics. Something green twitched in front of her, chittering.

    "How do you feel now?" whispered a voice behind the green thing waving at her. It sounded more curious than concerned.

    She sat up. How did she feel? Off-balance, for one. And for another, she ached. Terribly, now that she was thinking about it. Especially her wings. The joints burned, and the surfaces of her wings throbbed almost as painfully.

    Her vision flickered. The small thing - she recognized it now as the drone Leech had introduced as the team's medic - held out a cube of energon, chirping faster now.

    "All right, all right, I hear you," she muttered, grabbing for the fuel. It glowed a sickly pale pink, barely illuminated, and it sloshed thickly within the cube that held it.

    She didn't need to see the Decepticon symbol or the batch number embossed on the side of the cube to know what it was. Standard ration. She frowned. It had been long stellar cycles since she'd been used to that.

    She raised it to her lips anyway, fighting not to wince as she drank as much of it as she could.

    The medic leaned even closer, tilting its head from side to side as it examined her. It stared first into her face, then at the guns mounted on her arms, then down at her new chestplate, and finally at her wings, chirring as it scanned their surface and analyzed its readings.

    She glowered back at it until it nodded and crept off to hide behind Leech, still clicking softly to itself.

    "He asked you how you're feeling, Blackie," rumbled another voice, as a broad shape lumbered over to her and transformed. "You should answer him."

    "Colossus?" Her wings twitched as she laughed. Then she froze, cringing at the pain the movement sent through them.

    She raised her head, scanning to see if Bane was around. He wasn't. The Subcommander had apparently left her recovery to her teammates.

    Turning back to the big grounder, she couldn't say she minded. "You're talking to me again already, Colossus? Careful there, old friend. Someone might think you're going soft."

    His only answer was a growl.

    Shrugging - gingerly - Nova turned back to Leech. The white Decepticon watched her intently, his own wings clicking once as he studied her.

    "How do I feel? Like hell. What exactly were you expecting?"

    "You are not appreciably damaged," the ruined voice answered. "You are in pain, yes, and that must be adjusted for. And you could probably use more fuel. Aside from that, however, you probably function better now than you ever have."

    Nova snorted, the air noisily escaping her vents. Thanks for that, conehead. Couldn't have figured that one out on my own.

    Still, he was right. Even now, she could feel the pain beginning to fade as her systems recalibrated themselves. She set down the empty cube of energon and rose to her feet, fighting down a wave of vertigo as her stabilizers struggled to reset.

    She flicked her wings experimentally. The joints itched, even that small movement burning, and the brands hurt almost as badly. Still, that was already bearable. Her sensor net was even now catching up to the things that Leech and her own system readouts were telling her.

    She walked over to a small mirror near the cot where she'd been lying. For a long moment she shuttered her optics, cycling air slowly through her vents. Then she opened them.

    The dark gray helm she saw gleamed, its angles impossibly sharp and clean. Her faceplates were far less impressive. They hadn't been replaced or even altered. The machines upgrading her had polished them, but the metal remained pitted with tiny scratches, abrasions, and chips. And such things were terribly easy to see against black.

    Although she had new optics, she still had scars around their sockets. Those scars had been there since she'd torn out her original optics and replaced them with dull yellow spares. If Bane hadn't replaced her faceplates, it would make sense that she'd still have marks.

    Bane had probably neglected to replace her faceplates on purpose. The twisted, silvery dents would remind anyone who knew her history that she'd deserted once, whatever color her optics were now.

    Nova's lip curled with a slight creak as she looked, but she knew that an upgrade like this was rare. It was already impressive that Bane would give it to her at all. If he wanted to use her faceplates to make a point, she wouldn't argue. The rest of her frame already looked half like someone else. Even if she'd woken up with shiny faceplates, they wouldn't look like they were hers.

    And her new optics were what really mattered. They were red, redder than the ones she'd been built with ever had been. Bright and undimmed, blazing with newness. She grinned.

    Then she twitched her new wings. They were broader than her old set, yet lighter. That thought sent a thrill through her circuitry: she was made of something new now, something better, something stronger.

    The deep gray stripes adorning them had once been nearly invisible against black wings soiled with dirt, oil, and Primus knew what else. Now they were plain to see, boldly following the contours of her wings, the yellow pinstripe along their top edge gleaming against the dark paint.

    And in the center of her wings were her new brands, shimmering as she twitched them again. That luster made them different from the painted-on Decepticon symbols all of the others bore. The others had had theirs from the time of their construction, and somewhere in the salvage pile laid Nova's old wings, bearing similar markings.

    She scowled, thinking of it. Anyone who saw the telltale shimmer as she moved would take her for a convert, perhaps even for the sort of miserable, mewling machine that would trade freedom for security.

    Then again, you had to vow loyalty to the Decepticon Empire to earn real brands.

    Ignorant fools could call her a convert all they wanted. It didn't matter. She knew what her brands really meant. And no one who'd seen her remaking, not even Bane himself, could deny that she had earned them.

    She raised an arm, grinning at the new laser mounted on it. It wasn't much larger than her old ones, but as she moved she could feel it hum to life, impatient to be tested and used.

    It was a good feeling, energy crackling through her systems. She tightened her fists, her wings quivering, the pain shooting through them making her feel suddenly alive.

    "I'm heading to the practice range," she smirked over her shoulder. Her legs still felt stiff, and she wanted to fly. But her wings still ached, and she would need to save her wing strength if she wanted to try them out. "You can head over there and watch me. Or not."

    ###

    She felt the touch on her shoulder and turned, clicking a wing in annoyance despite the pain lancing through it as it moved.

    "What is it?" she snarled, turning to see Leech staring intently at her. The medic, scurrying along at his heels, clicked his appendages.

    She snorted, blowing air noisily out of her vents. "If that repair bot thinks I need something, it can wait. I've got something to do."

    Leech leaned close, the cracked voice low in her audio receptors. "For the pain," he said as the medic waved toward her again.

    She turned her head, looking for the others. If they could hear what Leech was saying, the conehead would have hell to pay. Fortunately for both of them, the other members of her team had apparently decided to leave her alone.

    "Don't need it," she hissed. "You said yourself that I'm not damaged."

    The ruined face configured itself into a scowl, gears creaking. "Half of your systems have been replaced. That is a shock, regardless of anything else. Besides, it's not what you're doing now that matters. Bane is aiming to start a full-blown battle in the near future. You don't need burning in your wings."

    "Fine," Nova spat, too eager to get going to argue.

    The medic stared up at her, its bright array of red optics glinting. Then it drove a thin appendage into the side of her chest. The Seeker clamped her mouth shut tight, determined to show no reaction.

    The stuff it had injected into her knee earlier had burned. This felt cool, spreading chilling numbness through her sensor net. She cursed, shoving the small green medic away. She'd agreed to take something to dull the pain, not to feel nothing at all.

    Frantic to feel anything, she clicked her wings several times in rapid succession, hoping it would hurt. The pain felt dull now, dull and distant, its crackling burn countering the worst of the cold spreading through her.

    Without a word, she turned, shoving Leech aside, hearing the medic shrill a complaint behind her.

    ###

    When she got there, the others had already gathered around, waiting for her to arrive.

    She did not spare a look for them. Instead, she spared a moment to flex her joints, studying the feeling of the lighter new plating. Her weapons systems vibrated with anticipation, their heat warming her numbed circuits.

    She shuttered her optics for a moment and then opened them again.

    "Simulation ten, level nine."

    "Level nine?" Winder squealed, his thin limbs flailing. "I understand that you're upgraded, Blackie, but level nine? Are you insane?"

    "Maybe I am," she snarled back, not looking at him. Now that she had her modifications, she had no reason to play nicely with him. "Mute it or I tear your head off and then run the sim."

    "But it -"

    "- takes you forever to get the damn thing back on. Yeah." She smirked. "Think I don't know you any more?"

    He squawked something in reply. She ignored it.

    "Besides, we've got a medic right over there." She frowned, thinking of the last injection it had given her. "Or so Leech says, anyway. If his experiments over the last few stellar cycles haven't made him as glitched as you."

    She caught a silvery shimmer in the corner of her optic. Either Winder was slithering away, or his appendages were twisting around themselves in irritation. She didn't much care which one.

    "Begin," she told the computer.

    ###

    The simulation always started easy. The holograms appeared, usually standing on tall hills, since most of them represented grounders. The one running the simulation shot them. Simple.

    Sometimes you hid if you had to - the simulation provided tall spires of metal, hills, and even smaller obstacles like crates to take cover behind - but in the very beginning, it wasn't always necessary.

    Fun, too, Nova reflected, warmth thrilling through her circuitry as her weapons powered up. Her newly installed optics enabled her to see even the holograms that lurked far away, and her targeting computer fed her data more rapidly than it ever had.

    Grinning, she raised her arms, aiming her lasers at one of the most faraway targets. She let loose a blast, the bright purple energy lancing toward the illusory enemy.

    It felt so good that she almost cried out. Using that much energy would've taken effort before her upgrade. Now, it shot from the guns on her arms effortlessly, a burst of purple light speeding toward the hologram. It flared bright orange and winked out. She stared at the spot where it disappeared for longer than she should have, elation thrilling through her systems.

    Then she realized her mistake, as the closer holograms sent a barrage of orange light her way. Damn it, she thought, taking cover behind one of the spires. So much for trying to show off.

    One of the holograms ran after her, light flaring as it fired, hitting the spire she hid behind. She waited, then peeked her head and arm out and fired.

    Unlike the other, this hologram didn't vanish right away. It almost managed to fire back at her before she ducked again, emerging to finish it off with another, harder blast.

    She could see the light of the other holograms as they converged on her position. She'd have to get out of here.

    She could run, she realized. But why run but she could take to the sky? Willing herself to ignore both the stinging and the numbness in her wings, she took off, swooping down to strafe at the knot of holograms shooting up at her. Two winked out quickly, glowing as her fire hit them. The others fell back, taking cover behind spires or running up their hills to chase her.

    Despite the lingering soreness in her wings, flying felt exhilarating. She flipped and spun, wheeling over the hills and between the spires, barely remembering the holographic enemies below. They can't touch me, she thought, exultant, swooping down over them again and raining purple fire over their flickering forms.

    Some winked out immediately, disappearing as soon as her laser fire hit them. The bigger ones took more, even from her upgraded weaponry. It felt good to bear down on them, to envelop them in the blazing light from her weaponry, watching them flail for a long moment, just as a real enemy would, and then flicker out.

    Unfortunately for Nova, they also had the real enemy's tendency to congregate, the orange imitation of real Autobots' laser fire lancing up at her from all directions.

    Cursing, she tried to transform. Pain lanced through her wings again. It burned so intensely that she lost her concentration. Only halfway through her transformation, she swerved wildly to avoid the latest barrage of orange light.

    Ugly little bastard, she thought, snarling. That had come too close for comfort. This was the first time she'd run a simulation since an upgrade hardly any Decepticon ever got. If she'd taken a hit that soon, she never would have lived it down. Even if she had set the sim

    Growling in discomfort, she forced her protesting frame to finish the transformation. Pain was nothing. Pain fueled the lust for battle, for triumph, for annihilation of the enemy who'd brought it on you.

    Besides, transforming the first time after some trauma was always more difficult than usual. Once she got it over with, she'd be fine. Or so she hoped.

    And this form was more aerodynamic than her old one. Which made her faster, more agile, more graceful in the air.

    And better able to rain doom on the little orange slivers of programming that had nearly made her look like a fool in front of her old team.

    With a shriek, she whirled between two spires. She'd tried this move once before, swooping through a narrow gap between buildings back when the others had chased her off. That stunt had scraped a wing, a wing that had been smaller before her upgrade.

    This time, though, she was sleeker and faster. She ignored the nervous electricity crackling through her circuitry and dove into the thin space, willing herself to remain steady as orange light burst against the spires behind her.

    She turned, sharply, and was waiting when they emerged, loosing another volley of purple fire as they emerged. Caught, one after the other flared a defiant copper and then disappeared.

    Was that all of them? She cycled a heavy pant through her intakes, allowing herself a moment's breather, then accelerated again, dancing between spires, rising high into the air and then swooping down again, half to ferret out any more hidden holographic enemies and half because she could.

    Should have done this stellar cycles ago, she thought, elation racing like current through her circuits.

    Then she saw it. Apparently, yes, there was one more simulated enemy to shoot down.

    And this one had wings.

    She'd seen holograms like it before. There were, after all, some fliers in the Autobots' ranks, and it was never a bad idea to be prepared for them.

    Still, most were ungainly, the result of awkward copying of Decepticon technology. They flew about as well as the force-field technology Leech had reverse-engineered worked for him. Which meant this hologram should be slow and ungainly, and easily bested. Nova banked hard, hoping to lose it behind one of the spires.

    It came on, its holographic body flaring with light.

    Is that thing... patterned on one of us?

    Slag.

    Upgrade or no, it had been forever since she'd sparred with another Seeker. She hadn't fought a flier since the ill-fated brawl that had gotten her into all this in the first place. And that had happened stellar cycles ago.

    And getting too cocky about leading this thing on a nice little chase meant it was on her tail now.

    Dammit, Blackie, quit showing off. Didn't work before, isn't working now.

    She twisted to one side just in time to avoid an orange blast behind her. Weaving between a few of the spires bought her a few moments to think, but not much else. She could see the orange of its fire lighting her vision from behind. Too close for comfort, again.

    And again, and again, and again...

    She needed to find some way to lose it, or at least to turn and face it.

    Taken with a sudden idea, she dove sharply, trusting in her new parts to let her pull up when she'd need to. If that thing - "hologram of a mockery of a real flier,"she hissed, fuming at the thought of a Seeker-style craft with Autobot markings - was patterned on what she'd been before, it might not be able to pull out of the dive.

    She didn't have dental plates to grit in this form, but she stared down at the ground, rising too fast to meet her, counting, waiting, fighting the warnings flashing through her systems, shrieking through her processor to pull up, pull up, now -

    It was still there. How long did she have? She didn't know, couldn't be sure, not with the simulation set this high, not with the numbing agent that damned green half-drone had injected still not doing enough to kill this pain, real pain, and that ground rising up to meet her wasn't a simulation, not like the rest of this, and how close was she, she didn't know, couldn't tell, didn't have time now to calculate it, would have to -

    - pull up, which she did, electricity crackling through her circuits again as she barely missed the ground and found herself soaring, free, a bright flash of orange below her where the hologram had collided with the ground.

    She transformed again. Even if that hologram was going to attack, the collision had bought her some time. She felt less pain as her components shifted into their other configuration. Like she'd thought, it was easier now.

    She swooped down, still seeing the orange outline of the holographic enemy below her. Well, if it wasn't finished with her yet, she wasn't finished with it either.

    With a wild yell of satisfaction and triumph, she fired, all of the energy the simulation had stored in her weapons systems bursting free at once, the light from her new lasers almost blinding her.

    With a flare of light, the final enemy burst, as if it really were exploding.

    Nova waited a moment for her optics to reset and landed, grinning as she looked over to see a small crater that her lasers had blown into the floor.

    She raised her head. The others stood just outside of the simulation area. They watched her, their red optics bright. Leech nodded quietly, his wings twitching. The medic stood next to him, its head under one of his pale hands, trilling as it moved.

    Winder squirmed. "Did you have to damage the floor?" he shrilled as she walked by him. She swung a punch at his face, growling. Taking the hint, he slithered out of the way, still hissing some complaint.

    Colossus didn't look at her. His optics fixed instead on the hole in the floor, his expression unreadable.

    "Hey, old friend," she chuckled, her wings twitching, finally free of pain. "Care for a re-match?"

    He raised his head to return her stare. "Not just now, Blackie." A smile spread across the broad, dark faceplates. "Maybe later. After we've kicked the skidplates of those rebels you keep yelling about."

    He chuckled, looking her over. "Gotta have priorities, ya know."
     
  16. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Part Twelve
    ======
    Nova Black tapped her shoulder, grinning. Things were about to get interesting. "Nova to Quake. Are you receiving?"

    "This is Quake," chuckled the voice on the other end of the comm link. "How's it going, Eclipse?"

    "Just reminded you. My name is Nova Black," she snarled back.

    "Fine, Blackie." He paused, and then added, softly, "So they haven't slagged you after all."

    "I didn't come all this way to get myself killed." Her wings twitched as she looked around the sparse room, her optics fixing on the faded Decepticon logos adorning the wall in front of her. "Besides, you wouldn't have encouraged me to fly back here if you expected my old team to kill me. If you wanted me dead, you've got weapons of your own." Her lip plates twisted into a fierce grin.

    "Hey, I remember what you did to those poor bots who crossed you a while back. I do have guns, but I would have been a damn fool to point them at you. Even before you headed back to the Decepticons."

    Nova chuckled. "And now?"

    "Now... I'm just glad we're on the same side."

    "For the moment."

    "Easy there, Decepticon. We're betraying the same bots. For the same reasons."

    Her new optics flashed, though the big bot wasn't there to see them. "No, you're betraying the bots you chose to live with because you think it'll work out best for you."

    She turned her head, looking from the symbol on the wall to the same symbol gleaming on one of her wings, shining and new. Staring at it, she felt a dull ache, a last, faint reminder of what she'd endured to earn it. "I just went home."

    "A Decepticon who thinks she's got the moral high ground?" She heard a grating, metallic whistle. "Now I've heard it all."

    "That's not what I said."

    "Isn't it? Making this all about 'going home.'" He huffed, his vents expelling air in a great burst of noise. "Just remember who convinced you to do that in the first place."

    "Don't flatter yourself, big guy," Nova shot back, her optics flaring again. "You didn't make me want to come back here. You just convinced me that if I did come back, I'd have a chance."

    "Heh." Quake chuckled again, metal creaking as his faceplates shifted. "Don't tell me you commed me just to debate."

    Nova's hands tightened into fists. "No, I commed you because we have something to do. Just tell me whether you have a shift in the tower."

    "Of course I do. Tomorrow. First shift."

    Nova grinned again. "Excellent. I'll be there."

    ###

    Nova circled high above the Settlement. The problem with the Tower, she reflected, was that heading there meant she'd be easy to spot. There weren't many places to hide when you were heading for the most obvious place in the Settlement.

    She had reinstalled the device altering her paint job, as much as she hated hiding her new brands. She'd also transformed, so no one would see her new red optics either. But she'd been gone for days, and anyone who saw her would be suspicious. She could do her best to lie, but she'd already burned those bridges.

    And she couldn't lurk up here forever. She dove, trying to keep behind as much cover as she could find. She sped toward the Tower, hoping speed would make up for visibility, and hit the ground transforming as she rushed inside.

    She hurried into a dark corner and dimmed her optics. Quake had told her that he would be alone here, and she had no particular reason not to believe him. Still, it paid not to take any chances.

    "Ecli - Nova," said a familiar voice. Nova heard the creaking of the big bot's joints shifting as he turned away from the dimly lit console.

    She spared him a tight little smile. "Yes, it's me."

    "You don't look any different," he answered, the beady yellow optics shifting in their sockets as he looked her over. "At least not from here."

    "I will later. Besides -" She stepped forward, brightening her optics.

    He whistled, a grating, metallic shriek. "So you really mean to do this."

    "Yes." She smirked and walked over to the console.

    Quake's servos groaned as he hastened to get out of Nova's way, the round optics wide.

    "Scared of me now?" Nova chuckled, opening her comm link and turning her attention away from Quake. "Nova to Base Six."

    A familiar, raspy voice answered. "Base Six here. Receiving you clearly."

    She smirked, seeing Quake shudder beside her. "Excellent. And my signal?"

    "Masked by the signal dampener at the moment."

    Nova's wings twitched in spite of themselves. The damned thing was an impediment at the moment, but if it still worked, that meant all she'd done to keep it operational had worked after all.

    "It won't be for long," she grunted, taking her place at the signal dampener. It stood mounted in a bright field of energy, surrounded by the half-broken hodgepodge of devices that Nova herself had installed to amplify it and keep it running.

    She briefly considered shutting it down properly, deactivating each of the systems that provided power amplification one by one. But none of that mattered. Not now. She reached out and grabbed it, the energy stinging her hand as she ripped it free. She'd hidden her identity to get here, but there was no need for subtlety now.

    Quake stared at her, his wide mouth curling in admiration, disgust, or both as alarms blared through the control room. "That's one way to do it, 'Con."

    She ignored him, quickly moving to install the device in a port in her side. It had been hers before she'd given it to the Settlement, after all.

    It was poetic in its way. She'd stolen it once so she could leave Base Six. Now she was stealing it so she could leave Settlement Four behind. She chuckled, running a hand along it idly.

    "We're picking your signal up loud and clear," rumbled a familiar, hated voice.

    Not for long, Subcommander, she thought, turning it back on again.

    "And now you're gone," Winder yowled over the comm, as if her signal's disappearance were some sort of affront.

    "But everyone else isn't," she snapped back, though even he couldn't possibly be stupid enough not to know it. "Just making use of a resource, since I've got it."

    Bane rumbled again, this time in a clear warning.

    "Relax, Subcommander," she hissed back. "I've got no reason to fly off now. Where the slag do you think I'd go, exactly? I'm on my way to the rendezvous point now."

    She cut the comm, her hand moving to another device and hovering over it. The electronic paint job had served her well over the stellar cycles, but she'd only come to loathe it more with each passing day. Even seeing it there in her port made her lip curl in disgust.

    She didn't need it. She wouldn't need it. Her weapons systems hummed as she imagined tearing it from her port and blasting it into oblivion.

    But however obvious she'd just made her signal for a moment, a pretty lightshow of lavender laser fire in the tower would be a bit much, she knew.

    And someone, whether back at Base Six or somewhere else in the sector, could use it. Hell, even Winder was more of a spy than a fighter. If she blew it up, she'd have to hear him screeching about how impossible she'd made intelligence-gathering for the next ten stellar cycles. No, she couldn't just incinerate the thing.

    But she didn't have to leave it on. Not now. Not when the tower's alarms were blaring so loud they echoed through her new audios. Not when the entire Settlement was surely wondering why they suddenly could sense one another's signals again after stellar cycles of invisibility.

    Not when every last pair of yellow optics in Settlement Four was surely staring up at the sky, looking for something shaped like the Seeker they finally knew for sure had returned, and brought betrayal with her.

    She pressed her fingers to the device, wings clicking in satisfaction as she watched the dull blues and grays of her disguise deepening to black and darker gray, the yellow pinstripe on her wings gleaming bright defiance.

    Quake stared, his already round optics growing impossibly wide as he beheld the bright metal of her new frame, the new weapons on her arms, the sleek shape of her new chestplate... the span of her new wings.

    The brands adorning them, lustrous purple even in the dim light of the tower.

    His mouthplates ground against one another, but no words came from his broad mouth.

    Nova didn't wait for him to think of them. She had no time for that.

    "I'm leaving now, like I told them. I'll be flying. You know where I'm going already." She smirked. "The only question is whether you've got the ball bearings to come with me, or whether you're going to roll off somewhere and hide while everything burns."

    He looked back at her, his yellow optics still wide. "In the beginning," he said, his mouthplates clicking as they moved, "I thought you'd be too scared to go through with any of this, Seeker. You said you'd left your old life behind and I believed you. And didn't like you much, because I thought you had no spark."

    He blew air noisily through his vents. "Now you're calling me terrified, and you might just be right. This scares the slag out of me, now that it's happening for real. But everything I might have reconsidered is already happening. I'm with you. I'll be there, if they don't catch me on my way down and stop me."

    He chuckled with a sudden thought. "Or shoot you out of the damn sky."

    She didn't pause to answer him, or even to acknowledge him. She was taking off and transforming already, his words trailing behind her as she rocketed into the air.
     
  17. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Apologies for being a bit late with this one.

    Part Thirteen
    ======
    Nova Black slid into her place beside the other Decepticons, her engines revving with excitement. Leech flew beside her, Bane looming above them, the air crackling around him as his many weapons hummed with energy.

    Colossus stood just below them on the ground, Leech's medic behind him, Winder slithering nearby. Just beyond their group, Nova could see the broad shape of Quake's vehicle mode lumbering toward them.

    So he did decide to show up,
    she thought. Good.

    The inhabitants of Settlement Four stood or hovered warily in front of them. Both groups waited, silence lengthening between them, until Grandeur finally zoomed out of the crowd, transforming in a blur of maroon and gold.

    "Bane. Why are you here?" he asked, his optic strip flaring as he stared at the assembled Decepticons. "We've paid you." His head tilted slightly. Nova would bet her next week's rations that he was looking at her.

    "That doesn't matter," Bane rumbled. "We came for the fuel. It's ours by right, and we're taking it."

    Beside Grandeur, Twitch flailed in dismay. "You can't do that! You'll take everything we have! What will you do when you've used it up? We can't gather any more for you if we're in stasis because we have none!"

    I hope this works,
    Nova thought, her engine murmuring. If her plan didn't work, all they'd have to show for this was some energon. When that ran out - quickly, if she knew Bane - they'd be right back where they started.

    And if that happened, it would be because Nova's plan had failed.

    "Twitch is right," Grandeur answered, staring unflinchingly at Bane. "We're no threat to you. Or to the Empire. Yes, you have a right to come here and intimidate us, if you really want. But you don't have a reason."

    "Don't have a reason? When you're harboring enemies?" Winder howled.

    "He's right," Bane thundered, his array of guns glowing purple, ready to rain doom on the Neutral defying him. "Nova here reports evidence of Autobot activity in the Settlement. If we have no reason to be here, why was she the one to report this? Why not any of you?"

    Nova would have scowled, if her current mode had a face to do it with. Bane was stalling now. Why is this taking so long? What they were doing now was cruel and capricious even for Decepticons.

    Come on, Autobots, she thought. I know you're out here. I saw one of you myself.

    "The real question is why you trust her, Decepticon." Nova immediately recognized the bright silver vehicle zooming in front of Grandeur.

    Hello there, Brightbolt. I'm looking forward to kicking your aft. Whether this plan works or not.

    His visor flashed a searing yellow. "She betrayed you. Then she betrayed us. I know 'Cons lie to everyone, including each other, but why listen to someone you know is a traitor twice over?"

    Nova's engines roared in indignation as Bane's guns swiveled to point at Brightbolt. "Are you telling me there are no Autobots here? That no one is coming to save you?"

    Come on, come on, Nova thought. She knew how quickly the Subcommander could get bored. And if this came down to taking that fuel, gorging himself on it, and then turning on her for giving him bad advice... she'd last only as long as she could outrun him.

    "How would I know whether they're coming or not, Decepticon?" Brightbolt snarled, light glinting off his arms as he waved them angrily. "I'm not convinced they're even here."

    They have to be coming.
    Nova switched her scanners on, looking for signals. She promptly found them, the area dotted with enemy energy signatures. But where exactly were they hiding?

    We all know you're watching us now, you slaggers. You're Autobots. You can't possibly want to call our bluff when the future of the Settlement is hanging in the balance.

    If they didn't show up, the Decepticons would have no choice but to do the very thing she'd hoped to avoid. Raze the Settlement to the ground, kill the Neutrals in their way to get it, and steal the fuel any survivors would need to live on. Sure, they could chase them down later. But they couldn't pull a stunt like this, pretending to threaten the Neutrals, and not follow up on that too. None of them would ever live it down if they just let Grandeur and the others go now.

    That wasn't what Nova wanted. She'd lived here long enough herself that she had no interest in killing her old comrades, unless they were in league with the enemy. Anyone else, she didn't give a damn about.

    "Not coming, Brightbolt?" she snarled, unable to keep her vocalizer muted any longer. If they wanted to call the Decepticons' bluff, well, two could play at that game. "If they don't want to save you, tell me, what exactly are they up to? Got their sights on something bigger than us? Or maybe we scared them off coming here. You tell me. After all, you'd know better than I d -"

    Then she heard it: a great rumbling, as though the ground itself were splitting and her enemies had poured forth from the breach.

    In the end, there were not many. And their coming was nothing terrifying, however loud its noise. They simply drove out from their hiding places behind the fuel reservoir, their partners emerging from the nearby alleys. Still, there were far more of them than there were Decepticons.

    Her wings twitched, seeing their numbers. Autobots did that sort of thing, forming large groups to defend themselves against their enemies. Unlike the Decepticons, most Autobots hadn't been built as fighters. Strength in numbers was their best hope against better armed foes, especially when those foes could usually fly as well.

    "Oh, we were coming, all right," one of them taunted, transforming and pointing a blaster at her.

    Of course you were, Nova thought, staring at the gun. By Decepticon standards, a weapon like that was an overglorified toy. You idiots can't resist trying to be heroes. That would be why you lost the war.

    Bane roared a command and fired, shocks of purple energy lancing toward the enemy ranks. The Autobots dove out of the way. One was too slow. He screeched thinly and then fell still, his blackened and smoking frame falling to the ground.

    Nova wasted no time being impressed. She had her own enemies to destroy. Her engines roared to new life as she sped toward them, leaving the others in her dust.

    The energy she'd carried for so long crackled through her weapons systems. With a cry, she sent it pouring free, speeding toward the enemies below her. They scattered, and she dodged a hail of retaliatory orange laser fire.

    One shot clipped her in the wing. It wasn't bad enough to do any serious damage, but she spun, knocked momentarily out of control. Her engines thundered as she flew toward the one who'd scored the hit, determined to pay the little fool back.

    Then, a brighter orange flash behind the Autobots caught her attention. She cursed, recognizing the energy cells she'd seen Burden carry. They glowed, set in long, tower-like structures. Pairs of Autobots hoisted them up, locking them into place on the ground.

    So they were building weapons.

    Weapons intended to bring down fliers, if her guess was right. Damn it. After all she'd done, they'd still gotten here too late to stop the Autobots from building their weapon.

    And using it, she realized, hearing the high whine of its gathering charge.

    The one who'd shot her forgotten, she swerved sharply. If she didn't miss her guess, they were aiming for Bane. If they timed their shot right, he'd never be able to dodge it in time.

    And as much as she hated her Subcommander, incapacitating or killing him would mean that the Decepticons would lose half their firepower.

    Hoping her idea would work, she weaved toward the enemy weapon. Come on. Come on.

    Get me before you get him.


    A great streak of orange answered her, speeding toward her. Spinning out of its way, she found innumerable other rays of orange laser fire converging around her.

    Oh slag, she thought, careening wildly out of the way. Maybe that wasn't the best plan after all...
     
  18. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Part Fourteen
    =====
    Nova Black wheeled and spun, swerving to avoid the barrage of orange laser fire coming at her from all directions. She'd managed to get away from the weapon's deadly blast, but that had merely given the rest of her enemies a chance to shoot at her themselves.

    Searching frantically for an opening, she dove, transforming and hitting the ground running, purple fire blazing from the lasers on her arms as entirely too many blasts of laser fire grazed the edges of her wings. She hissed in pain but came on, encouraged as one and then another of the Autobots fell.

    She leapt over one of the bodies, her systems singing with charge as she ran toward the weapon. The way there dotted with alleys and dead ends, perfect for enemies to rush out of. But if the Decepticons didn't get to the weapon, they'd have to win this battle without taking to the air at all.

    Nearby, she could see Colossus, his dark blue frame covered with small mechs struggling to halt his steady advance toward the weapon. She grinned fiercely as his arm punched suddenly forward, the strike knocking one of his assailants off of him and sending the other one sprawling. That one handed in a twisted heap in front of him, the plating protecting its spark chamber crumpled and bent, the bright light of the spark within flaring through the cracks.

    Nova's wings twitched in envy, sending a cascade of pain signals through her sensornet. Her light, lean form made her graceful, even on the ground, and her recent upgrade made her faster than the other Seekers. But she belonged in the air. Not down here with a pack of dirtkissing scum trying to swarm her and a hastily constructed surface-to-air weapon keeping her from taking off.

    It was Colossus who belonged here, Colossus who'd been built to fight on the ground. She watched his advance, ponderous and unstoppable, his enemies falling as the great fists launched from their sockets, the impacts sending the small frames of the Autobots flying and falling in dented heaps around him.

    Cursing, she rushed toward the weapon and the enemies manning it. One of the Neutrals hurried to intercept her, his yellow optics flickering with fear.

    "Traitor," he called, his voice quavering.

    "Whatever," Nova snarled, throwing a punch and kicking him hard as he moved to parry it. He crumpled, bent over. Instead of falling, he struggto stand.

    I don't have time for this, Nova thought. More Autobots were rushing in from the surrounding alleys, their blue optics widening as they converged on her.

    She could guess what they were thinking. This is a Decepticon. She betrayed them all. Why doesn't she just shoot?

    Snarling in irritation, she kicked the Neutral again. This time he went down, his internal mechanisms clicking in protest as he fell.

    Above her, she could see the orange of the weapon as it fired again. She wondered briefly who hadn't yet managed to land, until the bright purple flare of a defensive force field, glowing as the ray hit it, answered her question.

    She hissed, pleased, as a ray of purple streaked from the bright shape in the center of the force field. Screams answered it.

    "A Decepticon with a force field?" a young, small Autobot stammered, staring into the sky.

    Nova wasted no time. While the startled enemy stared at Leech, she transformed one of her hands into a dagger. It glowed, purple energon lighting its surface and crackling around it. She grabbed the Autobot with one arm, pushing her down onto the gleaming blade. The Autobot gave a high cry of dismay as the blade bit through her outer plating.

    Nova gritted her dental plates, driving the blade into her enemy's spark. It pulsed for a moment, defiant, swirling hot enough to heat the metal of Nova's wrist. Nova held on until it finally burst, its light flaring and then dying.

    Elation sang through Nova's circuits as she pulled the blade free. Even the pain in her wrist meant nothing to her, its heat no different from the heat crackling through her dagger as the purple lightning danced over it.

    Her moment of triumph was short-lived. She rocked heavily as something leapt at her from behind. She caught a flash of bright color in the corner of her optics. She groaned, remembering the pair of Neutrals who had attacked her before she'd left the Settlement. No doubt vowing revenge for what she'd done to his twin, he grabbed at her wings and pulled, just as he had then.

    Her joints burned with pain as she stumbled, desperate to get the small bot off her back. Her wings became a liability when fighting on the ground, wide expanses of thin metal any enemy could grab and twist.

    Which wasn't so bad when those enemies were a pair of small Neutrals who'd never fought Decepticons before. The two brothers alone, she could easily have handled, especially now. But in this battle, rebels surrounded her, swarming to take advantage of her predicament. She narrowed her optics as one of them advanced.

    "I knew you were bad news," Burden rumbled, towering over her as he leveled his blaster and fired unerringly at her too-exposed chestplate.

    She tossed her head, wailing as the ray of energy seared her. Still, she had been right about the Autobots' weapons. Her new chestplate, though blazing with excruciating heat, neither melted nor cracked.

    But the pain came with its own problems. Seeing the uselessness of his blaster, Burden dropped it and rushed at her, his heavy fists slamming into the glass over and over again. It cracked, flying from the point of impact with loud, tinkling sounds.

    The metal of Nova's spark chamber, heavier and more reinforced than the rest of her frame, also held. Still, she was stuck between her two enemies, both driving her backward, and rapidly losing her balance.

    She hissed, still thrashing, hoping that her uncontrolled movements might at least shake one of them off. Pain flared through her sensornet as the bigger, stronger robot continued to pummel her chest. Then the small one's fingers curled hard around her new brands, sending a white-hot jolt of pain through Nova's circuitry. Dazed, she felt her legs buckle beneath her and waited for the blow that would drive her fully to her knees.

    It never came. She shook her head, her optics widening as she struggled to clear the static from her vision. Through the glitching, she could make out a broad, dark shape struggling against her larger opponent.

    I thought Colossus was further up, she thought, staring at the blurry figures and willing her vision to clear faster, slaggit, faster, I'm supposed to be upgraded now! She twisted to one side, trying to avoid an incoming bolt of orange flame and to dislodge her unwelcome visitor.

    This time, her purposeful flailing worked. The laser fire hit the small bot clinging to her wing joints. With a cry and a dull clang, he fell.

    The Seeker panted, doubled over, struggling back to her feet. Then, seeing Burden's back turned toward her, she raised her arms and fired, again and again, the heat flowing through her weapons systems reminding her of who she was.

    "Knew I was bad news?" she smirked, glaring at his fallen, graying form. "You called me 'Neutral but unfriendly.' There's your 'Neutral but unfriendly.'"

    She looked up, into beady yellow optics that stared intently back at her.

    "How many times do I have to save your worthless plating, Decepticon?" Quake asked, smirking himself.

    "You sure I didn't save yours?" Nova shot back as she turned away from her rescuer, rushing toward a nearby alley. She'd need some time to recover before she rejoined the fighting. She fired into it to make sure it was clear, and then hurried into it, twitching her wings to try and will away the pain.

    She heard a faint sound, high and trilling, but saw nothing. Keeping her sensors on alert and her weapons systems fully energized, she walked to the other end of the alley.

    The body of an Autobot enemy lay sprawled near the wall, its blue optics shattered as though something sharp had poked through them. She could also see a hole in one of the body's neck cables, as though something had pierced them, too.

    But what would a small puncture in one neck cable do? Offline optics would be trouble, but by themselves wouldn't cause death. And one tiny neck wound didn't explain it.

    Even more importantly, who had inflicted this damage? Even a fight with Winder would end in a less clean kill than this one.

    Warily, she opened her comm link. "Nova to Leech."

    "I am here," replied the ruined voice, calm and measured as ever.

    "That was some fancy fighting back there. How are you doing?"

    "Poorly, I am afraid. My force field absorbed quite a lot of energy and is holding at approximately 12.2 percent. Add to that the fuel my laser barrage required, and -" he paused with a metallic wheeze as air cycled through his blasted vents - "if I do not make it to the fuel reserves soon, I fear I may shut down."

    Slag. Nova clenched a fist. "Expected you to say that. Doesn't make me like it."

    "We must get -"

    "- back into the air. Yes, I know. Slagging bastards."

    Another long pause. Nova hesitated, unsure how best to break the silence, and then said. "That's up to the grounders, I think. Colossus and Quake. If they can clear the way for us, everything will be fine. If they can't, I don't know how well we're going to do it ourselves, even with Winder and Bane helping.

    "Speaking of the Subcommander, where is he, anyway?" As she spoke, the entrance to the alleyway flared a bright, searing purple that stung her optics, her audios filling with booming sounds as missiles rained down on their enemies.

    "Never mind," she corrected, watching the sky flare lavender. "Where's Winder?"

    "The last time I saw him, he was wrapped around that silver bot who snapped at you," the soft voice answered.

    Nova snarled. "Winder's fighting Brightbolt? I swear, if that worthless, squirming piece of scrap gets to Shiny before I do, I'll tear him apart."

    A dry laugh answered her, the gears of Leech's mouth creaking as if they'd fall apart entirely. "We can't have that. Some of us know what happens when you're sufficiently angry."

    She grunted. "Don't care much what you think."

    "I think nothing." He laughed again, grating and harsh. "As long as you don't interfere with my own work, or reduce everyone's likelihood of survival, I couldn't care less what you do to him. I believe they are in the western alleyway closest to the silo."

    Nova grinned.

    "Now, for my part, I have a question of my own. Where is my medic? We were separated early in the battle."

    "I don't -" She stopped as the trilling grew louder and turned, looking for its source. "Wait, yes I do. The little drone's right here."

    It glared up at her, one of its optics shattered and dark, and gave a weak chirr of indignation.

    "That optic's not the only place you're damaged, is it?" she murmured, bending down to examine it.

    "I'm cutting the comm," she told Leech. "I think it needs repairs. Better to do that than talk to you."

    She closed the comm link. If that bothered the conehead, he could take it up with her later. Besides, it shouldn't. Not when she was offering to fix his little pet.

    It shambled weakly toward her, listing heavily to one side. Watching it, Nova could see that one of its appendages was missing entirely. Two more twitched feebly, twisted and smashed.

    She looked from it to the body of the fallen Autobot. "You did that?"

    It tilted its head, the four functional optics flickering in reproach.

    She stared at the shattered optics and the hole in the Autobot's neck, remembering the horrible stuff the medic had injected into her knee when she'd annoyed it. "Yeah. Of course you did." She shook her head, then grinned down at her ally. "Nasty way to go. Nice work."

    It trilled at her impatiently.

    She stared down, examining the damage. Its appendages were tiny, and some were twisted almost beyond recognition. She frowned.

    "I don't suppose you can make some noises that explain how I fix you? After all," she smirked, "I'm just an enforcer. You're the medic."
     
  19. Raptarrin

    Raptarrin Proud Decepticon

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    Such a great story. Love the upgrade chapter and the battle with the Autobots. I really felt bad for the poor little medic thing.
     
  20. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Thank you very much! I'm so glad you're enjoying it. It was really fun to write.

    Three chapters left to post ;-)
     

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