Transformers: The Art of Death

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Fairlady_Z, May 30, 2007.

  1. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    The Art of Death

    A Transformers fanfic
    By Fairlady Z

    Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers. Hasbro does.

    Author's note: Yea! My second fanfic is finally done! It's set in G1 and takes place between the season 2 episodes The Master Bulider and Auto Berserk. I don't want to reveal too much about who the main characters are for the sake of the mystery I set up, but fans of Grapple, Sunstreaker & Sideswipe, and a certain Decepticon combiner group should really like this one, plus a lot of cameos and even some OCs. This is a long one (12 chapters). I'm going to space out my postings over a few days on the advice of one of my Beta readers, for more bite size readings. But the fic is finished so you won't have to wait long for the ending. Thanks again to my Beta readers Chris, Motor Master, Poho and to everyone who read my last fic. If you like this story please comment and spread the word to others who might like it too.

    Chapter 1

    There are few things more comforting in the life of Autobot medic than an empty repair bay. Such lulls were like peacetime itself on Cybertron. They were always short, but they were nice while they lasted. The last batch of repairs had been particularly nasty, but with Ratchet, Hoist, and Wheeljack working around the clock the final patient was declared fit for duty late that evening.

    An exhausted Ratchet had retired straight to recharge and, Primus willing, a few much deserved days off. Wheeljack had retired to his lab to work on whatever project he’d been in the middle of before his repair services had been required. That left Hoist to attend to medical – filing some random paperwork, checking the supplies in inventory so that the team would be prepared when the next battle crisis struck, and general clean-up.

    Hoist currently checked his way around the berths, on the lookout for any leftover fuel spills or misplaced tools. Each of the berths could magnetize to the wall allowing stability during surgery and space travel (back when the Ark still possessed flight capabilities). The berths could also be demagnetized for quick transport of wounded. It also made them easier to clean around, something Hoist was grateful for as he pushed one of the berths away from the wall. As the berth shifted, a clink and a light thud sounded on the floor. Hoist peered back at the object that had fallen out of the newly created gap.

    It wasn’t uncommon to find the occasional laser scalpel or arc welder misplaced during clean-up, but the item on the ground was no medical tool. Hoist picked up the flat object and examined it. It was some kind of notebook. Strange. The metal binding rings of the pad must have gotten magnetized and helped hold it in its hiding place. How long had it been there and who did it belong to? With sudden curiosity, Hoist opened it.

    Inside, on the first page was a drawing. Done in simple charcoal sketch, the picture displayed a stunning rendition of the nearby landscape from the p.o.v. of someone looking down at the Ark from a nearby mountain. Turning the pages Hoist found more sketches, mostly landscapes, some cityscapes, some of humans, while a few focused on single objects – a flower Hoist didn’t know the name of, a cat. All of them rendered in the hand of an expert artist.

    The last page Hoist scanned showed something different, a quiet scene set right in the repair bay. Recovering Autobots rested peacefully while Ratchet checked up on a recharging Sideswipe. The artist had apparently found a pleasant way to pass the time during his own recuperation. A few of the charcoal lines on Ratchet looked hastily drawn as if the CMO had turned suddenly and the artist/patient had felt the need to quickly stash the notebook. There was no way to tell for sure though, just supposition.

    Hoist closed the notebook and considered what to do with it next. He felt a little guilty looking at someone’s private notebook. Yet, the sketches were so beautiful, inviting his gaze. It almost felt like more of a crime for them not to be looked at. He needed to find the notebook’s owner. But there was no way of knowing if the bed’s most recent occupant was the artist or not. The notebook could have been hidden for weeks or months almost as easily as yesterday.

    Still, the number of artistically talented Autobots couldn’t be that high. Hoist knew of engineering not about art, but his good friend Grapple did. Grapple was a skilled architect of immeasurable caliber. Some of the drawing in the notebook had been of buildings. Perhaps the notebook was his. As soon as Hoist finished his shift he would visit Grapple and share his find.

    * * *

    “It’s not mine,” Grapple confirmed as he studied the strange notebook that now lay on his drafting table with an artistic optic. “Where did you say you found it again?”

    “Sandwiched between a berth and the wall. If it’s not yours I wonder whose it could be?” Hoist peered at the drawing again over Grapple’s shoulder as the architect turned the pages.

    “The most curious question is why would they bother hiding it? This work is exquisite! Even the rougher sketches are amazing.” Grapple currently examined the picture of the flowers. “Just look at these daffodils!”

    “So that’s what they’re called.”

    “They’re yellow I believe. Although the smaller ones are a different color. White. And their name is nar…nar – something. I can’t remember.”

    “Since when do you know so much about this planet’s plants?” Hoist asked. He and Grapple were still very new at adjusting to life on Earth. Unlike those who had arrived four million years ago when the Ark crashed and recently awoken, Hoist and Grapple had been part of a group sent from Cybertron five months ago. This organic world with so much green was a vast change from the metallic sheen of home.

    “Hound has been teaching me a thing or two. He really enjoys this planet.” Optics lingering on the flowers, Grapple moved on to a picture of a gallant orange bridge structure arching over a bay before the water stretched out into the ocean that covered so much of this strange, new planet. But it was the lines of the bridge that held both Grapple and Hoist transfixed. “Magnificent! I wonder if it would be possible to see the real thing?”

    “It’s called the Golden Gate Bridge and it’s not too far away in a place called San Francisco,” said Hoist.

    “How did you know that?”

    “It played a big part in the climax of a spy movie the twins were showing in the lounge a month ago.”

    “Hmm.” Grapple tore himself away from the picture to turn around and look squarely at his friend. “You know Hoist, the two of us should organize a trip to see that bridge and all of this planet’s best architectural structures. There’s one in a place called Paris that I’ve been dying to…of course it will have to wait until after we’re done with ‘house arrest.’ ”

    Grapple smile faded as he remembered the two of them still were forbidden to leave the Ark for another month as additional punishment for building Grapple’s solar energy tower without permission. Prime may trust that his officers had learned their lesson, but there were other Autobots in the Ark who weren’t so convinced. It was hard enough integrating into a new crew on a new planet without the accusatory stares and comments from their own teammates. The sensitive Grapple wasn’t sure he could endure another full month of it, particularly from the twins who Grapple was reminded of as his optics came to rest on the bridge sketch again.

    “Don’t worry Grapple,” Hoist said, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Another month will just give us more time to plan our trip and study up on Earth’s geography so we know where we’re going.”

    “I suppose…” Grapple tried to lift his spirits. Hoist’s optimism was always catching that way. “It’s just this picture…”

    “It makes you feel like you’re already there?”

    “Yes. I wonder who could have such hidden talent to draw something so lifelike.”

    “Don’t look at me,” said Hoist. “I thought it was yours. Does anyone else come to mind?”

    After a moment of thought Grapple shook his head. “I have some ideas, but no one definite.”

    “Perhaps I’ll ask around the lounge tomorrow morning. I’m sure whoever it belongs to will be glad to have it back.” Hoist reached for the notebook. A hand from Grapple stopped him.

    “Let me do it Hoist. I want to look at it a while longer.”

    “The artist may have wanted to keep his work private.”

    “It’s a little late for that now, isn’t it? Please, Hoist. Creations of beauty are so rare in times of war. And our last one was destroyed… The owner need never know of his secret fan club.”

    Hoist considered. Even though both of them had learned their lesson, he knew Grapple was still lamenting the loss of his solar tower. Grapple was always putting new ideas to paper. That’s why Hoist has originally thought the notebook was his. But since the solar tower, Hoist suddenly remembered he had yet to see his friend drafting again. The mystery notebook though seemed to have sparked something within them both. Maybe Grapple just needed some inspiration and this was it.

    “All right,” Hoist gave in as their optics met. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.”
     
  2. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Chapter 2


    The next morning, Grapple surveyed the Ark’s lounge seeking the possible artist in question from the short list of suspects in his head. At least three candidates sat about with their morning energon, talking to other bots who were currently off duty. Hoist stood by Grapple and followed his friend gaze to the nearest couch realizing they had their first mechs to question.

    Hound seemed a logical choice in Grapple’s estimation. The scout was a sparked nature lover and an invaluable source of knowledge about this new planet. He often took long morning patrols that allowed him to engage in his favorite hobby of sight seeing. Many of the notebook’s scenes were of outdoor subjects. Grapple could easily picture Hound pausing to sketch on his journeys, soaking in the beauty around him before returning to the Ark to share his adventures with his friends. Since his confinement to the Ark, Grapple found Hound’s stories even more enjoyable, a link to the outside world he was currently missing.

    So it was no surprise to Hound when Grapple and Hoist joined the small group of Bumblebee, Spike, Beachcomber, and Gears. Hound currently described that morning’s sunrise and the spotting of a small, furry animal he’d examined for several astrominutes trying to determine whether the creature really did have the weather predicting powers humans claimed it did, before he lost sight of the creature as it had scurried into the nearby underbrush.

    Spike laughed and the group of Autobots wondered what was so funny.

    “The creature is called a groundhog Hound. And I wouldn’t put too much stock in superstition.”

    “Predicting the weather sure would be handy though,” Bumblebee mused. “My snow tires are no match for Oregon winters.”

    “I hate snow,” Gears agreed. “I especially hate it when it piles up on my hood and then it melts down into my engine. And then there’s the cold. My pipes always freeze up and -”

    “It’s a shame your solar tower didn’t work out, Grapple. We could use all use a bit more warm when winter comes again,” Bumblebee addressed the architect with a smile as much to shut up Gears as to include the two new arrivals in the conversation.

    “Thank you for the vote of confidence, but my idea was a premature one at best,” Grapple said shyly.

    “Even if you and Hoist hadn’t been stupid enough to build that thing with the Decepticons it probably never would have worked anyway so it’s no great loss.”

    Grapple stiffened at Gears’s words, but Hoist interjected before his friend could make any retort.

    “Maybe we should try making a weather controller for a next project. Not too ambitious, eh?”

    Grapple relaxed at Hoist’s joke. “Sounds more like Wheeljack’s department.”

    Still, Hoist knew that some part of Grapple’s gears were turning, wondering just what would go into the design of a proper weather control station. Gears then mumbled something about not encouraging any mad scientists.

    “Like, hey. The vibes in this room are starting to chill my energon,” said Beachcomber as he picked up his mug and held it between his hands. “Remember the joy that can be found in a winter wonderland.”

    “Well, I think every season is beautiful,” Hound put in. “The view I get every morning from the mountains is spectacular. You guys really should come with me sometime to see it first thing at dawn.”

    “Speaking of which…” Grapple looked to Hoist before retrieving the art notebook from subspace. Hoist gave a nod of encouragement. “Is this an accurate representation of what you see on your drive?”

    Grapple folded the cover of the notebook back to reveal the first page and handed it to Hound. Hound gazed at the stunning display of the Ark against a backdrop of volcano and sunrise. Grapple and Hoist looked from the picture to Hound searching for any sign of recognition from Hound.

    “Yes, this is what I see,” Hound said in surprise. But whether it was surprise over the drawing’s accuracy or the notebook’s recovery, it was impossible to tell.

    “Wow, man,” Beachcomber had a full view of the picture from sitting next to Hound. “Did you do this Grapple?”

    “I wish I could take the credit, but sadly, no,” Grapple admitted. Beachcomber had also been on his shortlist of artist suspects. The dune buggy had the same nature appreciation and time to spend alone sketching like Hound would have, but it was obviously not him now.

    “Let me see!” Spike said, trying to peek his head around and get a good glimpse at the huge sheet of paper.

    Hound looked at the drawing again savoring it, and then passed it to Bumblebee who sat on the floor. The mini-bot held it up where both he and Spike could examine it. The paper was so big Spike’s eyes kept darting around trying to take in the whole scene. He backed up several paces like one might view an impressionist painting until the whole picture came into full view.

    “Pretty fantastic eh, Spike?” Bumblebee helped adjust the picture for his friend to see.

    “I’ll say!” After a few minutes the human came back up close again.

    “What do you think Gears?” Bumblebee asked.

    Gears glanced at the drawing ready to turn away. His optics lingered and he found himself engaged just like everyone else. When he felt the optics of the others on him for staring too long he admitted, “Not bad. But it’s missing the groundhog.” That was just an excuse though. It was clear Gears liked it.

    “Maybe you could add a groundhog to the picture Hound,” Grapple suggested, hoping the tracker would take the bait.

    “Who me? I can’t draw.”

    Bumblebee caught the fallen expressions of Grapple and Hoist. “What’s wrong guys?”

    “Oh it’s nothing…”

    “We were just hoping…”

    “What?” Hound turned to the two of them. “That this is mine?” He took the picture back from Bumblebee and examined it again.

    “Well, you were our top candidate,” Grapple admitted.

    “I’m flattered, guys. But I can’t do much better than a block bot.”

    “But what about all those holograms you make?” the architect protested.

    “Still images. I’m good at photography and animating them, but when it comes to putting lines on paper…”

    “It’s all right Hound,” said Hoist. “We were just curious.”

    “What’s a block bot?” Spike asked.

    “Well, it’s…what you draw when you don’t know how to draw,” Hound explained.

    “You mean like a stick figure?”

    “Yes, kind of.”

    “And the artist extraordinaire who did this is, like, way beyond block bots,” Beachcomber said. “I’d love to see more, man. What’s the next one?”

    Hound hesitated. He poised his finger, ready to slide under the paper and flip the page. He looked back at Hoist and Grapple. “I’m not sure we should see anymore until we know who’s it is.”

    “I know, but still…” Beachcomber lamented.

    “Still they are gorgeous drawings, aren’t they?” Grapple agreed as Hound decided and passed the notebook back to the architect. “Is there anyone you can think of who might be hiding such talent?”

    “Wheeljack maybe? I don’t know if he draws as well as he invents,” Hound suggested after a thoughtful moment.

    “I doubt it,” said Gears. “He spends all his time locked up in his lab. I doubt if he even know what a sunrise looks like.”

    “Then who do you think the artist is?”

    “Probably one of those snooty ‘my finish is better than yours types’ like Tracks.”

    “Tracks isn’t ‘snooty’ Gears,” Bumblebee protested. “A little vain maybe, but he’s a nice guy.”

    “But vanity means he has an artistic eye for detail,” said Hoist. As a medic he knew many of the idiosyncrasies of his patients – who complained the most, the least, and about what. It wasn’t hard for Hoist to picture Tracks amusing himself sketching while recuperating in the repair bay. “It could be him.”

    “I though I saw him around here somewhere.” Bumblebee looked around. His sharp sight spotted the blue Corvette, shiny as ever, over by one of the energon dispensers, in conversation with Blaster. Or rather listening while Blaster talked. “There!”

    “Thanks!” said Hoist. “C’mon Grapple.”

    “Hey, let us know if, like, he’s the one. I’d love to see more pictures,” Beachcomber called after them. Grapple turned back to answer, but Hoist politely pulled Grapple along knowing that such a decision to share would be up to the artist himself.

    * * *

    “All I’m saying is they sound much too young to be a musical group,” Tracks said to Blaster before spotting and waving to Hoist and Grapple.

    “Hey, dudes. What’s shakin’?” Blaster asked at a decibel louder than was comfortable for one’s audio receptors.

    “Um…that is, uh…” Grapple began never certain he could decipher the exact meaning of Blaster’s slang. The word “shaking” had the architect’s optics briefly checking structural integrity of the walls of the Ark which did sit on top of an active volcano.

    “Hello. What Grapple is trying to say is that we…or rather I…found a missing notebook in medical yesterday.” Hoist turned to Tracks. “We were wondering if it might be yours.”

    “Let me take a look at it.”

    Hoist motioned to Grapple, who, confident that the Ark was indeed structurally sound, handed over the notebook with a slight reluctance to let it out of his possession.

    Tracks turned the notebook over in his hands. “I think I’d remember losing something like this.”

    “Do you draw?” Grapple asked.

    “I dabble.”

    “There’s no need to be modest.”

    Tracks raised an optic ridge at Grapple’s curious smile, but he understood once he opened the notebook and saw the drawing inside. He immediately flipped through a few more sketches until he stopped at one of a desert scene. Special attention had been given to the unique rock formations and their odd geometric angles that gave them an exotic but very earthly beauty. Shaded to perfection, every concave and jutting edge gave a deep focus effect to the 2-D paper.

    “I don’t have the patience to do something like this,” Tracks remarked. “Whoever did this is a real master.” As he passed the notebook to give Blaster a look he noticed the twin looks of disappointment from Grapple and Hoist. “What is it, guys?”

    “Oh it’s nothing…” Grapple began realizing he was losing the words again.

    “It just looks like we struck out again is all,” Hoist finished.

    “I’m sure you’ll find -”

    A whistle from Blaster interrupted as three heads turned at the sound. A few other Autobots in the room looked up curiously in the communication officer’s direction.

    “I may not know art, but I know what I like. And this I like.” Blaster paged his way through the drawings, determined to see every last one.

    “I’m sure you’ll find out who it belongs too,” Tracks said encouragingly.

    “We’re running out of people,” Grapple confided, thought it was a statement of his growing frustration rather than fact. “And we don’t know the Ark crew well enough yet to know -”

    “No problem!” Blaster interjected. “All you’ve gotta do is ask.”

    Before Hoist or Grapple could anticipate Blaster’s next words, the comm officer’s booming voice had announced the lost and found to the entire lounge.

    “So much for artistic privacy,” Hoist whispered to Grapple.

    Grapple just shrugged. He couldn’t help but admire Blaster’s directness as he hoped this would finally put an end to this guessing game.

    * * *

    But while half a dozen more Autobots passed, examined, admired, and awed at the notebook in question, no one confessed to ownership. Every time a name would come up, it would be discounted almost as quickly. What had started out as a simple attempt to return some property was turning into a full-blown mystery.

    A crowd was gathered around Cliffjumper, the current holder of the notebook. Half the crowd eagerly requested to see a favorite picture again while the other half wanted to view the pictures they had yet to see. The situation was long out of Grapple and Hoist’s hands. The others either ignored the pair since they had already had their turn with the notebook or asked the same questions of the medic and architect again, hoping to find some clue of their own to the artist’s identity. By the time two more Autobots entered the lounge, Grapple despaired he would ever get any answers.

    The two new arrivals – one red, one yellow, strode into the room from a long patrol shift. Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, or the Lamborghini twins as they were also known – brightly colored, a head taller than most, and rarely out of each other’s company were hard to miss and even harder to ignore. But not today. Aside from a couple of bots moving safely out of the sour-faced Sunstreaker’s way as he made a beeline for the energon dispenser no one really acknowledged their presence until a curious Sideswipe asked, “What’s going on?”

    “Grapple has a notebook -”

    “More hair-brained ideas?” Sideswipe teased in Grapple’s direction.

    “Maybe he needs his Decepticon friends to help him again,” Sunstreaker added.

    Grapple balled a fist and as his optics shifted to very cold shade of blue. He would not be bullied by these two again. He explained that the notebook wasn’t his and finished with, “And if you have any appreciation at all for art -”

    “Let’s see it then.” Sideswipe pushed his way through the crowd and grabbed the object in question out of Cliffjumper’s hands. The mini-bot tried to grab it back, but one arm of Sideswipe’s held him back easily keeping the much shorter bot at bay. Cliffjumper gave up grabbing and switched to swearing instead. Sideswipe turned the pages of the notebook his expressions confirming that he was just as impressed as everyone else had been. Grapple folded his arms in a smug gesture. But Sideswipe then surprised everybody by casually calling over to his twin, “Hey, Sunny. Isn’t this yours?”

    A sea of heads got quiet and promptly turned to the yellow Lambo who just wanted to sip his energon in peace.

    “What?” Sunstreaker asked with a combination of ignorance and annoyance.

    Grapple studied Sunstreaker for a moment. Despite some of the road dust from his earlier patrol, Sunstreaker always presented himself as one who’s very body was a work of art, and now was no exception. Unlike Tracks however, Sunstreaker wore his good looks as a badge of total conceit and not just pride. He carried himself with a grace and precise bearing somewhere between royalty (if Cybertron had had any) and a ninja assassin. A mech built to perfection, or Sunstreaker would have been if not for the alienating scowl that he so often wore that marred the otherwise striking Autobot. Was there an artist lurking beneath that cold expression? Grapple wasn’t sure if he wanted to find out. But whether that was because of Sunstreaker’s ego or his own that was hard to say.

    With another ugly expression, Sunstreaker set down his mug and strode over to Sideswipe’s side with bots parting like the Red Sea to get out of his way. Taking the notebook from his brother, Sunstreaker flipped back to its cover, studying it carefully. A hand brushed the surface. Then he opened the notebook again holding it at a closer angle that partially blocked anyone from seeing the pictures. Tracks and Mirage gazed a little too close for comfort over his shoulders. Sunstreaker paused for an astrosecond, only to have Sideswipe muscle Tracks out of the way so he could see what his twin was looking at. Sunstreaker ignored the red Lambo and turned the page seemingly not caring anymore if anyone saw anything or not.

    “Where did you find this?” Sunstreaker asked Grapple. There was no accusation or curiosity as his voice remained completely level. Still, Hoist felt it best to take up the story sensing Grapple’s understandable prickliness towards the twins and explained the odd find in medical.

    Grapple continued to watch Sunstreaker. The yellow Lambo handled the notebook delicately, turning the pages at a steady rate. But his expression remained unreadable and neither twin said a word. Grapple was getting impatient.

    “If it’s not yours, I really must ask that you give it back -” Grapple ventured. A glare from Sideswipe silenced the architect.

    “Of course it’s his!” But Sideswipe looked back to Sunstreaker for confirmation. “Why didn’t you ever show me these before?” Sunstreaker’s optics narrowed. Sideswipe raised an optic ridge in response.

    “If it is yours Sunstreaker, from what we’ve all seen, you’re quite talented,” Hoist dared to say. Mean as Sunstreaker could be he was willing to pay a compliment where it was deserved. “Right Grapple?”
    “Yes, um, right.” Grapple agreed, but with a delayed reaction. A few bots murmured Hoist’s sentiments.

    “Of course he is,” Sideswipe smiled at his brother and clapped an arm around his back. Sunstreaker stiffed at his touch. “Whaaaat?” Sideswipe asked in annoyance making it a two-syllable word. “You finally have an adoring crowd of admirers. That should make you happy.”

    Sunstreaker felt the optics of every bot in the room on him. He raised a fist that looked ready to knock his twin’s block off, but instead rapt his knuckles against Sideswipe’s helmet as a reprimand.

    “Get your optics adjusted Sides!” Sunstreaker hand slapped the page of daffodils and narcissus. “Flowers!? I don’t draw slagin’ flowers!”

    “Sunny -”

    “Do you honestly think I’m responsible for this amateur smelt!” Sunstreaker scowled, and looked directly at Grapple though he addressed his brother. He tossed the notebook on the floor and stormed out of the lounge leaving behind a silent room and his puzzled twin.

    Sideswipe and Grapple both stared at the fallen notebook.

    “Sunny! Sunny wait!” Sideswipe hurried after his twin as Grapple kneeled down and lovingly picked up the notebook. It had landed face down with the last page folded over. Grapple tried to smooth out the large creases across the scene in the medical bay.

    “Amateur my aft! That – that scraplet! He wouldn’t know art if he were standing in the Prism Square of Crystal City!”

    “Don’t take it too hard Grapple. I’m beginning to learn Sunstreaker’s always like that.” Hoist offered his friend a hand up.

    “You’re only just figuring that out,” Gears said sarcastically.

    “Like, the best thing to do is just stay out of the twins’ way,” Beachcomber advised.

    “As if that will work when slaggin’ Sunflower and Sidewinder feel like playin’ one of their pranks. I’m not afraid of them,” said Cliffjumper.

    “Not unless you have a death wish ‘Jumper,” Bumblebee put in as he slid Spike down from sitting on his shoulder. “And who wants to face both the terrible twosome and Ratchet’s wrath for provoking them. Beachcomber’s right.”

    “Actually, I’m surprised Sunstreaker reacted so harshly,” Mirage’s quiet voice captured the room’s attention.

    “The dude’s just jealous,” boomed Blaster and there was a murmur of agreement.

    “I’m not so sure. Sunstreaker really is a talented artist. Or at least he was back on Cybertron.”

    “So you think he lied?” asked Tracks.

    “No,” Mirage admitted after a pause. “He’s right that flowers and such would never be his style.”

    “Sideswipe seemed to think so,” Tracks put in.

    “Sideswipe was guessing,” said Hound. “He’d never seen the notebook before, remember.”

    There was more muttering and mumbling among the Autobots.

    “It’s not theirs. Who cares about those two scraplets anymore?” said Cliffjumper.

    “The notebook didn’t get damaged too badly did it Grapple?” asked Hoist.

    “Luckily, no,” Grapple still smoothed the creased page absently. Too bad none of the Autobots in the picture had known they were being drawn. He and Hoist were back to square one. Fortunately, there were still half the HQ personnel to ask, despite all those who’d already been questioned, and Grapple said so.

    “Correction,” Hoist told his friend. “You can ask. I need to get back to medical.”

    “But it’s empty,” Grapple protested.

    “Yes, but I still have some tidying up and reports to finish.”

    “I’ll let you know the astrosecond I find anything.”

    “Please do.”

    “And us,” Blaster spoke for the rest of the room. “Do tell and give us a yell.”

    “I will.”

    Suddenly, being stuck in the Ark for another month was not going to be as boring as Grapple originally thought. It was time to play detective.
     
  3. Nerroth

    Nerroth Alea iacta est.

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    Nice!


    Still up to your high standard, I see...


    For some reason, I'm guessing it's not any of the Autobots at all - maybe Ravage or Lazerbeak have a secret that only Soundwave knows about?


    Gary
     
  4. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Chapter 3


    “Sunny!” Sideswipe caught up with his yellow half in the hall. Sunstreaker kept a pace that didn’t slow down for his brother. “I know it’s yours!”

    “Drop it, Sides,” Sunstreaker said in a tired tone without looking back.

    “What is with you?”

    “I said,” Sunstreaker spun and braced a hand against the wall facing his brother, “drop it!”

    Sideswipe took an automatic step back to avoid walking into Sunstreaker who now blocked the hall. If one twin moved, the other always compensated somehow, an instinct from knowing the other’s body language since the time they were sparked together. Sunstreaker’s current language was a step away from confrontational, yet laced with none of the malice that served as a warning to anyone who wasn’t Sideswipe to leave him the hell alone or risk a one-way trip to medical with his next action. No, Sideswipe was too curious and too stubborn to leave Sunstreaker alone, despite Sunstreaker’s wish that his twin had more common sense. His red and black reflection stood just as adamant, arms folded, optics staring and waiting for answers.

    “Why?” Sideswipe demanded.

    “Because I said so!” Sunstreaker hoped Sideswipe would take the hint. He was asking nicely. Anyone else wouldn’t be able to decipher that though. Sideswipe looked at his brother, searchingly.

    “But it’s good!” he protested, obviously proud of his brother’s artistic work, hurt that Sunny hadn’t shared earlier, and confused as to why his attention-seeking brother would deliberately hide his talent.

    Sunstreaker broke away from Sideswipe gaze to look at the floor, not wanting to admit…something. “Doesn’t matter,” he almost mumbled.

    “Then what does?” But Sunstreaker didn’t answer only fueling Sideswipe’s frustration. “Smelt your frame if this is some slaggin’ image thing! No one cares if you draw flowers or laser riffles. If your vanity is -”

    “NO!” Sunstreaker tensed. His head snapped back to stare hard at Sideswipe until his brother believed him. Then Sunstreaker’s gaze softened. A hint of a smile graced his countenance. He continued to study a face so like his own in that way he did whenever he wanted to draw Sides. His twin, Sideswipe, so near perfection. If anything were even to happen to that perfection…to Sides… “They don’t matter.” There was a memory and a touch of sadness behind Sunstreaker’s optics that turned a watery blue. Sideswipe knew it as Sunny’s smile momentarily faded.

    Then feeling the anger again at his work being exposed in the lounge he balled a fist. “And I don’t draw flowers, or cats, or humans, or whatever else is in that notebook! Understand that, Sides!” Sunstreaker again stared at his twin, determined to do so until he got his point across, hardheaded as Sideswipe could be.

    “I thought you said this wasn’t about -”

    “It’s about privacy, slag it! I told you to shut up about it! And that glitch Grapple had better do the same!”

    “You going to make him?” Sideswipe’s concern wasn’t for Grapple as much as it was from Sunny landing himself in the brig yet again for fighting. Primus knew he was tired of it.

    “I don’t want anything to do with that traitorous scraplet! He can keep the smeltin’ notebook for all I care!”

    Sideswipe cocked his head, not sure he believed that last sentence.

    “Just keep the slagger out of my way!” Sunstreaker snapped, then sighed. “…’kay, Sides?” It was almost a plea. He wanted his twin back on his side. He knew Sideswipe was puzzled and angry. Not that it was any of his brother’s slaggin’ business what he did and didn’t keep private!

    It was usual for the red Lambo to run interference for the yellow one to try and avoid trouble. Sunny was notoriously hard for most bots to live with. But while the twins teased, Sunstreaker would really rather avoid than confront bots he didn’t like. Most didn’t realize that it was only when provoked that Sunstreaker got violent in return. Though, Sunstreaker thought that those smeltin’ mini-bots would learn that after the first million years or so. But they didn’t, so Sides would intervene to keep the peace, not as referee or middleman, but like that guy in that gangster movie they liked who if necessary left a horse’s head in your bed as a warning that you would be next if you didn’t close your vocalizer. Yes, Sides was good at that kind of thing, actually able to talk himself out of trouble because of his natural charm…most of the time anyway. And hopefully this Grapple “new guy” would be a smart one for a change and keep his partner-in-crime medic from having to patch him up. Sideswipe just nodded. Grapple would be taken care of.

    “Fine. The notebook’s not yours,” Sideswipe finally said. They would share the lie. It was what twins did. Sunstreaker felt a surprise of relief, despite Sideswipe’s scowl that let Sunstreaker know the red Lambo would really like nothing better than to pound his yellow brother against the wall a few times for “keeping secret” about what was really bothering him. Just let him try it. But there was nothing to tell. It was just a slaggin’ notebook, for Primus’s sake! Sides could be so wearisome. Of course, the other thing about being a twin was that nothing stayed private for long.
     
  5. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Chapter 4


    Grapple’s search remained easier said than done. The notebook, in succession also didn’t belong to Wheeljack, Powergilde, Bluestreak, Inferno, Smokescreen, Brawn, Warpath, Windcharger, Trailbreaker, or Red Alert. Jazz had started off promising. As Grapple learned, the special ops officer was a good artist, but his taste ran to the more impressionistic, a paper equivalent to go with the music he loved to listen to and even composed some of his own. The realistic style of the notebook wasn’t his. In fact, along one whole wall of Jazz’s quarters ran an abstract mural.
    As an engineer, Grapple had trouble seeing the beauty in something so unplanned. But the closer he studied, he detected a method to the madness in the careful placement of colors and shapes and the way they drew one’s optics around the wall until the entire mural could be taken in as a pleasing aesthetic whole.

    “It’s very…unusual.”

    “If you don’t like it just say so. Won’t hurt my feelings. Not everyone gets modern art,” said Jazz.

    “No really. I’ve heard of this art style and it’s true I never thought much of it, but upon examining it I find it does involve a certain logic and planning behind - ”

    “It involved throwing a lot of paint at the wall,” Jazz informed him with brutal honesty. “But that’s also where the beauty lies. Improvisation. Taking the flow and surprisin’ yourself with what you come up with next. Just like a music solo, ya dig?”

    Grapple didn’t and Jazz knew it, but Grapple nodded politely anyway.

    “So you did all this yourself?” Grapple was still impressed by Jazz’s artistic passion even if he didn’t understand why anyone would cover an entire wall of their quarters in bold randomness.

    “The twins helped. Got the idea from their room. Sunstreaker insisted on a certain composition between the light and dark as a representation of height and depth to bring the Sonic Canyons to mind and channel the whole music vibe. But mostly, we just had fun. In fact, we threw so much paint around it was a miracle that wall was the only one that stayed painted.”

    Jazz chuckled at the memory of himself and the twins so multicolored that the mini-bots joked for a week about camouflage gone bad, until camoed mini-bots started showing up without warning upon waking up from recharge. The whole thing had come to a head when Ironhide had woken up one morning a bright Decepticon purple and complained to Prime. Prime finally put an end to it, but not before one last big paintball battle a la training exercise that allowed everybody to let out some overdrive. Grapple, unaware of any of Jazz’s musings, was struck with a memory of his own from mega-cycles before.

    “Mirage mentioned something about Sunstreaker being a talented artist back on Cybertron.”

    “He still is. Maybe he’s the one you’re looking for.”

    Grapple shook his head. “He already vehemently denied possession, saying both the quality and the subject matter were beneath him.”

    “Sunstreaker is vain, yet…” Jazz looked thoughtful. “It’s hard to imagine much better than what’s already in that notebook.”

    “Perhaps it’s jealously. You said he was vain.”

    “Notorious. Still, Sunny’s the best artist I’ve seen.”

    “What else has he done, aside from your wall?”

    “Not much since the war. We all have different lives now. He does the occasional portrait if ya ask. Most bots won’t though ‘cause they know Sunstreaker’s art through his reputation. We had an old saying around Iacon that if ol’ Sunshine drew you, it meant you were as good as dead.”

    Grapple’s head drew back a little and his optics faded in and out for a clik, what a human might call blinking. “What do you mean?”

    “Well, it could mean that Sunny hates critics,” Jazz smiled. Grapple didn’t share the joke. “But it really dates back to an incident on Cybertron. Shockwave had been tooling around in his lab again. The result was like nothing we’d ever seen before. A breed of Decepticon who’s armor was of a strange, new alloy infusion. They were impenetrable. Anything we threw at them seemed to bounce right off. If they had a weakness, we sure couldn’t find it. And in the meantime our troops were being slaughtered.

    “By some miracle, we managed to capture one. For the longest time, it didn’t do us any good. The ‘Con wasn’t talking. Our best scientists were coming up with zip and our medics couldn’t get past the armor to see what made him tick. We were desperate or I wouldn’t have authorized what I did, especially behind the backs of the rest of the senior staff. I let Sunstreaker interrogate the prisoner.

    “I know it’s against the Autobot code to condone torture, but bein’ in special ops, some of that stuff...I guess I figured a Wrecker’s tactics were worth a shot. Sideswipe also must have sweet talked me something good to allow his brother to try. He promised Sunny could take the ‘Con apart without layin’ a hand on him, not that I believed their exaggerations at the time. We had simply exhausted all other options though no one else was goin’ to admit it.”

    Grapple shifted uncomfortably. To hear about such things and to see Jazz talk of them so casually even if it was millennia ago…it wasn’t right. “Please, I don’t like where this is going. I don’t want to hear anymore.”

    Jazz just smiled again. But instead of seeming cold, the smile was comforting. How did he do that?

    “That’s just it. Like Sides promised, Sunny never laid a finger on the ‘Con. He didn’t even go in the cell. He just sat there for breems staring at the prisoner. I think the ‘Con was just as confused as I was. Then Sunstreaker unsubspaced a tablet and drew. He must have spent four or five megacycles doin’ that. The Decepticon laughed himself silly when Sunstreaker started, called Sunny crazy. At the time I wondered too. The longer it went on though, I watched the change. The ‘Con grew silent, then worried. When Sunstreaker finished and stood, that ‘Con saw a smile that only Pit-spawns see in their nightmares. ‘I know how to kill you now.’ Sunny told him. The ‘Con was terrified. Sunny really was crazy, but the good kind. He handed me a tablet full of drawings all of them detailing the prisoner with notes – outward parts, inward parts, overall structure, and – his weak points!”

    Grapple shifted again, this time in interest, his own engineering skills figuring it out. “Sunstreaker gave the Autobots a projected anatomy blueprint of how to defeat the enemy’s new advantage?”

    “Got it in one.”

    “Ingenious…assuming it worked.”

    “It worked all right! The next time the Decepticons struck, we finally turned the tables. Prime was so impressed with Sunstreaker’s efforts and the twins’ battlefield performance that he offered them a permanent place in his unit. I was saved from answering some potentially ugly questions. And I figure it was back to the old drawing board for Shockwave.”

    Both Autobots shared a laugh.

    “I never imagined…” Grapple began.

    “Most don’t. We’re all full of surprises. The twins don’t have a monopoly on that. It’s just the way of things.”

    Grapple understood. Or at least he thought he did. Jazz had always been helpful to the new arrivals from Cybertron and their adjustment. Grapple still had a lot to learn about his new teammates, even those he didn’t always like because you never knew in war who might end up saving your life. It was important never to underestimate anyone. It made one feel proud and humbled at the same time.

    “Well, thanks for your time Jazz.”

    “Anytime, m’man. And good luck with your search.”
     
  6. Motor_Master

    Motor_Master Lets the balls touch TFW2005 Supporter

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    Me think it be him Grimlock's notebook ;)  I kid, I kid. Good story, I always like reading the backstory on our G1 favorites. Keep up the good work :thumb 
     
  7. Vangelus

    Vangelus Long Live the New Flesh Moderator Content Contributor

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    Loving this, partly because I'm a big fan of homicidal-vanity renditions of Sunstreaker. ;) 

    Can't wait to see how the whole mystery turns out!
     
  8. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Chapter 5


    Grapple’s path back to his quarters took him past the combat gym. Inside he heard the heavy grunts from someone’s exhaust port and the clank of metal on metal. As he passed the door, Grapple spied a red mech inside pounding fists and other body parts into a combat drone. Sideswipe. Grapple paused, watched, and considered, the notebook still in his hand. After what he’d heard from Jazz he almost wanted to question Sunstreaker again. But perhaps approaching the “less volatile” twin was a better strategy. A whooshing sound passed by and Grapple saw the combat drone sail past, smash into the wall, and deactivate, wounds from Sideswipe’s pile drivers gaping in it’s chestplate. What was that about less volatile? But Grapple’s startled exhalation upon seeing the drone shatter alerted the red twin to his presence.

    Sideswipe turned to spot his audience of one. “What’cha what?”

    Grapple looked from Sideswipe back to the smashed-up drone. “Perhaps you’d like me to alert maintenance that you need another combat drone?” the architect suggested.

    Sideswipe smiled at the joke. “Maybe. But I don’t think that’s why you’re here.”

    Grapple stared at the pile drivers that could so easily tear him apart, but they retracted and Sideswipe’s hands slid out. Grapple summoned his courage and held up the notebook.

    “I wanted to ask you some more questions about this. You said you thought it was your brother’s.”

    “You heard him.”

    “Yes, but I thought that -”

    “You calling my brother a liar?” Sideswipe cocked his head at a curious angle and folded his arms in a challenging manner. Sideswipe was an easy-going mech from what he’d heard, but he could be a bit of a bully from the insults Grapple had experienced after the solar tower incident. And if anyone insulted his brother, he could get downright dangerous. If Grapple gave the wrong answer, he wondered if the pile drivers would click back into place.

    “NO! I – no!”

    “Good.” Satisfied, Sideswipe started walking away towards the totaled drone, hoping his conversation with Grapple over. Grapple wasn’t finished.

    “I just find it strange,” the architect called after the red twin, “That an artist of Sunstreaker’s supposed caliber would have such a hostile reaction to something so beautiful.”

    Sideswipe stopped and shook his head. His tone was low. “You don’t know Sunny.”

    “Is he jealous?”

    Sideswipe laughed short and loud. But Grapple didn’t know if that was a yes or a no.

    “I just want to know why,” Grapple insisted, raising his voice. Sideswipe turned and faced Grapple with his own sense of exasperation. Grapple wondered if he had finally crossed the invisible line of Sideswipe’s tolerance.

    “When I find out why my brother does anything, I’ll let the universe know,” Sideswipe said, but the grinding in his voice didn’t feel directed at Grapple.

    “Then I won’t trouble you.”

    Sideswipe shifted to look suddenly more at ease.

    “Before I go though, one final question. Could you please just look through the notebook again and tell me if there isn’t anyone in the Ark who could have done this?”

    Sideswipe stared down Grapple curiously. “Why do you care so much about that notebook? It’s not really any of your business who’s it is, is it?”

    “Just look at it again. You’ll know why.”

    * * *

    Sideswipe hesitated. Then, against his better judgment took the notebook from Grapple’s hand. What in the Pit was Sunny trying to hide from in here?

    He saw the Ark scene where he and Sunny liked to watch the sunrise. He saw the Golden Gate Bridge where they had taken leave time last year and driven down to California with Jazz, Mirage, Wheeljack, Bluestreak, and Trailbreaker. He saw the desert canyon where the Autobots loved to race around free to go as fast as they liked. What he hadn’t seen, at any point, was Sunny drawing any of it.

    Sideswipe turned the page and saw the first of the sketches he hadn’t see before, this one of humans. Sunstreaker didn’t hold the life forms in very high regard, but here was a skillfully rendered scene of children on a playground. The young humans looked so innocent and carefree. A female stood at the top of the slide while a young male savored his trip down. But it was the two boys on the swings that caught Sideswipe’s attention. The swings were off-set on the page, with the jungle gym in the middle. But anyone who knew Sunny knew that those two boys were the real center of the piece. In fact it looked like the same boy twice – identical twins!

    One swung high, the other swung low, but only in competition with each other. Human twins were a fascination for the Lambos. On Cybertron they were the only know ones of their kind. On Earth, twins were considered just as special, but not as rare. And never on Cybertron would twins look exactly the same. Frames were built towards creator’s specifications. Brothers shared a likeness, but no one could predict the splitting and sharing of a spark. It was just as well since Sunny would blow a gasket if anyone looked as good as him. Despite their fraternal frames though, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker were identical in spirit. The twins in the picture were drawn as a mirror of them.

    Sideswipe smiled, too lost in the picture to know if Grapple noticed or not. Then his anger turned on Sunny again. Was he never going to show me any of this? He thought he’d taken all his feeling out on the combat drone. So much for that. Sideswipe kept looking, determined to see them all.

    He found the “offensive” flowers picture again. Even the soft lines and placid subject couldn’t hide his brother’s personality behind it. Daffodils and narcissus. One his brother’s favorite color. The other from a story about a boy so vain he stared at his reflection in a pond so long he was turned into the flower so that he could gaze forever at himself. How could anyone see these pages at not know they were Sunny’s work?

    And yet…no one knew that his brother was capable of something this beautiful. They didn’t know that underneath all the brag and bluster that Sunny truly was the best at something. And if his twin was good at something, he let the world know…but not about this, not even Sideswipe.

    Privacy. Sunny had sworn that was what this was about. All these images showed a carefree, fun side to his brother. Almost gentle. They were not representative of the cold-hearted war machine Sunny presented to the world. But Sideswipe knew Sunny wasn’t gentle. He was a war machine who laughed like a ray of sunshine, burned enemies like a supernova, and could create as easily as he could destroy. There was no paradox. It was who Sunstreaker was. But the other Autobots didn’t see that. Sideswipe wished they could. And this notebook could give the others a glimpse of the brother only he knew…or the brother he thought he knew. Why? Why would he keep this from me!?

    Sideswipe bit back curses as he remembered Grapple still watched him. Finished with the last page, wrinkled from Sunstreaker’s impulsive actions, Sideswipe returned the notebook to the architect. He wanted to tell the architect everything. It would serve Sunny right. But he was promise bound.

    “Sorry I can’t help you.” And Sideswipe was, seeing Grapple’s disappointment. But not as sorry as Sunny was going to be as he envisioned his brother as his next practice drone.

    “Thank you. But you see now why I had to ask.”

    Sideswipe slowly nodded. He tried, but he couldn’t begrudge Grapple his curiosity, not when he had so many questions of his own. Grapple turned to go.

    “Grapple, if you do find out who the notebook belongs to -”

    “Don’t worry. I’ll let you know just like everybody else.”

    Sideswipe’s face became unreadable. “Everybody else?”

    “Yes I promised to tell the others when I find out who our mystery artist is. He’s becoming quite the celebrity whoever he is.”

    “But what if the artist -”

    “SIDESWIPE!” an angry voice drawled on the red Lambo’s radio. “Get your lazy aft down here for monitor duty ‘fore I -”

    “Slag!” Not now! He’d forgotten all about it. Leave it to Ironhide to remind him too. “Cool your engine old man. I’m comin’!”

    “What’id you jus’ call me?”

    But Sideswipe was already transforming as he rushed past a bewildered Grapple hoping no one was foolish enough to be walking in his way.
     
  9. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Chapter 6


    Someone was following him. Either that or the Ark was experiencing small earthquakes one corridor at a time. Grapple had yet to see his stalker, who kept his distance, but it was a big someone whoever it was. Grapple stopped in front of his quarters waiting for the stalker to approach. The entire corridor echoed and vibrated with every footfall. There were few Autobots who could make such racket, still the follower surprised Grapple when he turned out to be none other than a Dinobot. Fear crept through Grapple’s circuits reminiscent of the memory of seeing Sideswipe’s pile drivers. Dinobots didn’t roam the crew quarters without a very good reason and the Dinobot in front of him appeared apprehensive about something, looking back over his shoulder as if expecting someone else.

    “Can I help you…Sludge?” Grapple asked as he struggled to remember the exact name of his fellow Autobot. The last thing he wanted to do was insult him.

    “You, Grapple, look for art test?”

    “Hmm?” Grappled wondered if his audios heard that right.

    “Sludge no art-ist.”

    “I didn’t say it was you.” Wait a minute! That last word made sense. It was the Dinobot’s slow speech patterns that made the words hard to decipher.

    “No can help!”

    “Well, thank you for telling me, but you didn’t have to come all the way – Oh!” Not "No can help." but "No! Can help!" That’s what he said! I think. “You can help?”

    “Sludge know artist,” the Dinobot repeated with a smile. Grapple was certain of the words this time. And I thought he was the slow one. The architect returned the grin.

    “Who is it?” Grapple felt almost giddy at the mystery solved.

    Sludge looked around apprehensive again. “We go.”

    Is he going to take me to the bot in question? The Grapple saw Sludge pointing to the door of his quarters. “In here?”

    Sludge nodded.

    Whoever the artist was, Sludge wanted to reveal it in private. So that explained his apprehension earlier. But who could cause that reaction in a Dinobot? Grapple keyed in his door code and Sludge followed, hunching down in the slightly smaller that brontosaurus sized room.

    “All right. We’re alone now. Can you tell me who the artist is?”

    “Yes.” The Dinobot bent down even more, ready to whisper his secret. Grapple leaned in closer. “Me Sludge artist.”

    Grapple drew back. The disappointment and confusion clearly showed on his face because Sludge quickly unsubpaced a drawing of his own and handed it to the architect. “Me do this.”

    The drawing was not anywhere near the caliber of the notebook in question. Sludge’s picture looked like something done by a 4-year-old human child. Grapple could make out five…yes there were five messy but distinct blobs - four red and gray with tails, horns, and spikes where appropriate, and a blue and red flying blob in the sky. Sludge had drawn himself and his dino-brothers relaxing in what appeared to be a lake somewhere in a very green forest. Sludge stared at Grapple waiting for a reaction to his work.

    “It’s very, um,…promising, Sludge. Lots of, ah, color. But I’m afraid you’re not the artist I’m looking for.” Grapple then showed Sludge the notebook. This time he turned the pages himself for fear of the Dinobot’s larger hands damaging it.

    “Hooooh,” the Dinobot exhaled thoughtfully. “Pretty.” Then he frowned deep and his expression was replaced by one of utter defeat. “Me never draw that good.”

    “You mustn’t say that Sludge.” Grapple set down the offending notebook.

    “No! Grimlock right! Sludge stupid! Drawing sissy! Dinobots make fun of me, Sludge!” The brontosaurus raised a hand to lash out in frustration. Grapple waved his arms protectively to prevent Sludge from hitting anything in his quarters.

    “They’re wrong Sludge! You have lots of talent!” And it wasn’t until Grapple said it that he realized he truly believed it. Suddenly, he felt guilty at his own belittling reaction to Sludge’s art moments before with his skeptical expressions and hedgy words. “You can’t give up just because of what they said.”

    “Grapple like Sludge’s picture?” The Dinobot lowered his arms looking unsure.

    “Yes! Yes I do!” The architect answered with decided honesty. He picked up Sludge’s drawing again and pointed. “There’s a lot to like about it. For example, you’ve chosen a setting that says you’re having fun.”

    “Dinobots like lake. Lake cool. Room to move and splash! But Sludge like green trees too. Trees calm and quiet when Sludge alone.”

    “That’s good! It’s essential for an artist to select a subject that ignites deep passions within.”

    Sludge stared blankly. Grapple realized it was Sludge’s turn to be confused by his speech patterns. He tried again in words of less syllables.

    “I mean, it’s important that an artist draw what he likes – people and places, thing that make us happy, sometimes even things that make us sad. Drawing is a great way to express our feelings and your picture shows how much you like that lake…and your fellow Dinobots, even thought they made fun of you.”

    Sludge slowly nodded.

    “And the more you practice, the better you’ll get!”

    “Maybe get more better and Dinobots not make fun?”

    “Maybe not if they see how hard you try and how much you want to include them in your pictures.”

    “Hooooh,” Sludge exhaled. The bronto’s optic ridge creased and Grapple could almost see the gears turning in Sludge’s big head. “Me need lots more practice. Me like to draw so me try more, but…Grapple keep Sludge’s secret for now?”

    “If you wish.” Grapple made to hand Sludge back his picture, Sludge stopped him.

    “You, friend, keep. Me do more.”

    “Thank you, Sludge. Thank you very much.” As the Dinobot departed, Grapple stared at the picture again, touched. His optics rested on the biggest dino-blob meant to be Sludge himself. Who cared if it wasn’t like the notebook? It was just as good in its own way because it “came from the spark” much like the drawings in the notebook did. Perhaps it wasn’t the quality of the art that made the notebook so special, thought it was impeccable work, but the intent and passion behind it that made everyone Grapple talked to in awe of it. They wanted more of those images that depicted the beauty and innocence of their adopted home, Earth. Perhaps Sludge and the mystery artist did have some sort of intangible creative bond that they shared, a bond Grapple felt he too was a part of. It was his duty to play a part in that connection. Suddenly he knew how. He couldn’t wait to tell Hoist his idea.

    * * *

    “Are you serious?” Hoist asked after hearing his best friend’s latest brainstorm.

    “Why not? You don’t like my idea?”

    “What about permission?”

    “We’ll ask Optimus Prime of course?”

    “That’s not what I meant and you know it, Grapple.”

    “Everyone’s had their chance to speak up. No one’s told us not to. We wouldn’t be doing anything wrong. Not this time.”

    “But if we’re going to do what you suggest, why do we even need the notebook anymore?”

    “Inspiration. Everyone wants to see more.”

    Hoist sighed. “I’m not going to be able to talk you out of this am I?”

    “Do you want to come with me to see Prime?’

    “I’ll help you make your case.”

    “I knew you liked my idea.”

    “Of course I do. But I sometimes wonder where you come up with these things.”

    “It’s all just part of being an ‘artiste.’ ”
     
  10. Nerroth

    Nerroth Alea iacta est.

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    Him Sludge good art-ist!


    I love seeing stories that show this side of TF life - not always throwign them into yet another firefight.

    I can't wait to see the end!


    Gary
     
  11. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Thanks Nerroth, MM, & Vangelus.

    I like "downtime" or "between the eps" fics as well which is why I write them.:)  But you may just see a battle scene coming up in this fic, also a long flashback to Cybertron. Sunstreaker is one of those characters who I've really found fascinating to write lately. He's bad aft as you can get, but he has hidden depth as well. I wanted to ask why someone like Sunny fights the war and on the side of the good guys no less if he's so egotistical and "psycho." I hope I do him justice.

    Halfway down, halfway to go!
     
  12. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Chapter 7


    “Nice goin’ Sides!” The sarcasm dripped off Sunstreaker’s words as the red Lambo entered their shared quarters. “I thought you were going to take care of our problem.”

    “What the slag are you talking about?” Sensing the tension coming off his brother Sideswipe was already in defensive mode.

    “Grapple, scrap-for-brains! What did you say to him and where in the Pit have you been?” The insults were common, but Sunstreaker’s posture was rigid, fists balled in barely controlled fury. “And tell me you had nothing to do with this!” In one fluid move, Sunstreaker whisked a flyer off his desk and slammed it into Sideswipe’s chestplate. The red Lambo staggered back a step in surprise at the force of the impact.

    Sideswipe read the flyer. The edge had torn away from where Sunny had no doubt ripped it off the wall. The flyer, in Grapple’s handwriting, advertised an art show to be held in the lounge starting tomorrow. Entries would be accepted in all categories – not just drawings but sculpture, photography, music, anything as long as it stuck to the general theme: Earth – Life and Beauty of Our New Home.

    “No I didn’t! How could I know? I’ve been on monitor duty for the past six hours!” Sideswipe snapped emphasizing the last two words. And I spent half that time thinkin’ of ways to pound some truth out of you, bro.

    Sunstreaker’s optics narrowed suspiciously. “Nothing you said to that scraplet inspired him to do this?”

    “I lied for you just like I promised.” Sideswipe reminded his brother, staring him down. Okay, so he hadn’t actually lied to Grapple, but he hadn’t been forthcoming with the truth either. Sins of omissions and all that, not that he wouldn’t lie for Sunny. His chestplate still stung. It was time to start turning the tables. “Not that Grapple needed any words from me.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “Only that your work is wonderful, awe-inspiring, and everybody loves it, but you don’t care about that.” Sideswipe kept it light but Sunstreaker’s blue optics lighted to a frozen cold. “If you don’t want to enter, I might try doin’ something myself. Not that I can draw,” he said, reading his twin’s mind before Sunstreaker could snort. “But I could mangle and rearrange some Decepticon parts. Make a nice sculpture don’t’cha think? A real work of art.”

    Sideswipe gave his widest grin, hoping to cajole Sunstreaker and push the right buttons. He was also hoping for the hint of a smile. If anything, his brother’s face darkened like a lunar eclipse. Sunstreaker operated like a solar battery when it came to his anger. He would just keep storing up energy and insults until he finally exploded, sometimes with answers, sometimes, well more commonly, he just exploded – vehemently and violently. But Sideswipe was perhaps the only person who knew how to work the former. Still, Sunny wasn’t smiling, not even a little bit. That worried him.

    “You know, forget your notebook. I think you could make a really nice centerpiece out of Rumble if you wanted to - ”

    “MORON!”

    Gotcha! Sideswipe wasn’t fazed by the insult. He just waited for his brother to start explaining what was on his mind.

    “Grapple is going to use my drawings whether I want him to or not!”

    Sideswipe cocked his head in an “explain” gesture. He doubted Optimus would have approved what Sunny was accusing. But if no one else had claimed the notebook as his own, that made it a “finders keepers” situation.

    “I heard some others talking about how they expect to see the whole thing and since it ‘doesn’t belong to anyone’ Grapple thinks it’s fair game. Some even think they’ve found out who it belongs to…not that they really know.”

    “You’d let someone else take credit for your work?”

    Sunstreaker scowled and his shifted uncomfortably. He folded his arms and looked away from his brother. But his lack of response suggested a disturbing “yes.”

    “Just because Grapple could display your drawings doesn’t mean that he will. It’s all just rumors right?”

    Sunstreaker didn’t move, continuing to stare elsewhere. Sunshine’s solar battery of anger was still charging.

    Couldn’t Sunny see what was happening? His art was taking on a life of its own. He had inspired others to this contest. Privacy was one thing, but when so many people loved his work...this is what his brother had dreamed of back on Cybertron – the adulation and praise of his art even if it was now from a rag-tag bunch of a few dozen soldiers more or less stranded on an alien world. Sunstreaker’s life was about beauty – being it and preserving it. He was beautiful. His drawings were beautiful. And now that he had a chance to show that beauty to his crewmates through his optics why didn’t he want it to happen? How could something like this “not matter” to Sunny? What did matter?

    “There’s an easy way to stop this you know. Just tell Grapple you want your notebook back. Problem solved.”

    Sunstreaker glared back at his twin. Defiant. Adamant. Silent. And…sad?

    Sideswipe waited for an answer. His twin was hurting. It was time to end this. “Then I will.”

    Sideswipe turned to leave. That’s when the solar battery burst and Sunstreaker went boom! Then twins crashed to the ground in a tackle of gold on scarlet. They wrestled around their room in a tangle of red and yellow limbs –scraping, scuffing, kicking. If Sideswipe won the fight he would win his answers too. Everything he had put into the combat drone he now focused on him brother, minus the pile drivers. But Sunstreaker had the upper hand as he twisted on top. Sideswipe’s head cracked hard against the bedpost. He cried out.

    “Sides!” Sunstreaker leaned forward in alarm only to be punched square in the face with the red twin’s fist. Sideswipe was not going to lose this fight, but his head ached and he couldn’t focus. The next thing he knew, Sunny had knelt down next to him with one hand over his nose and the other hand under his brother’s helmet gingerly feeling a decent sized dent and trying to gage the extent of the damage.

    “Moron! I was trying to help you,” Sunstreaker’s damaged nose made the yellow Lambo sound even more nasal than when he whined. “You okay Sides?”

    “Unnhh…” Sideswipe moved his head from side to side. No pain. Beyond the ache from the initial collision he felt fine. But Sunny looked worried, more worried than he should be over something like this. And it had nothing to do with the fact that he didn’t even seem to care that his perfect face had just been smashed. “Fine.”

    “Don’t scare me like that!”

    Huh? “I have a dent, not a concussion.”

    “I know, but…”

    That sad smile again. Then Sideswipe realized. Me! I’m what “matters.” But what do I have to do with a notebook I’d never even seen before? We share everything. I’m his favorite subject to draw, maybe because I’m as close as Sunny can get to a self portrait without looking in the mirror. But there was more to it than that. Sunny was among his happiest when drawing and Sidswipe enjoyed “modeling” for his own little ego boost, but especially to see his twin smile. ‘Cause when Sunny did smile that’s when he truly was all he claimed to be – the most beautiful sight in the universe. At least it was to Sideswipe. He had to know the reason for the sadness behind that smile.

    Sideswipe tried to stand. His equilibrium was a bit off. Maybe he had done a little more damage to his head than he thought. Sunstreaker steadied him as they both sat down on the yellow Lambo’s lower bunk. “So who won?”

    “A draw, I think.”

    “You haven’t seen you nose yet,” said Sideswipe. Sunstreaker glared at him accusingly as if he finally remembered it had even happened and began feeling the damage. “It isn’t pretty.”

    Sunstreaker rushed to the mirror to look and slowly took his hand away. The metal of his nose was smashed in a little and dented as well are angled slightly off-center thanks to Sideswipe’s punch. Had he been human, Sunstreaker’s nose would have been considered broken. Sunstreaker’s optics widened in horror to comical proportions. It took everything Sideswipe had not to laugh.

    “You slagging piece of -” Suntreaker rounded on his brother only to be met with his twin’s very serious expression. If Sunstreaker was the exploding supernova, Sideswipe was the raging tempest. Most of the time, everyone was caught up in his friendly eye of calm. But forget and take a step outside that eye and Sideswipe became every bit the force of nature his twin was. Sunstreaker knew when to respect the storm. Sideswipe would punch him in the face again if it would do any good. He wanted his answers now. Sunstreaker reluctantly drained his anger and just listened.

    “Sunny..slagit! What’s that notebook all about and why hide it from everybody, but especially me?”

    Sunstreaker signed with a look of disappointment. Disappointment that I haven’t figured it out yet? Sideswipe wondered. The yellow Lambo paced away from his brother to the end of their quarters and stared at the wall mural of silver, grays, and blues he’d painted as a representation of Cybertron as if seen in the blackness of space from one of the moons, or a ship like the Ark heading away from home.

    “The gallery opening,” Suntreaker’s voice said low. His posture sagged – old and tired. The sadness returned in his words.

    “Oh, Sunny.” In moments, Sideswipe stood at his brother’s side lending his silent strength. “But that was so long ago.”

    “Doesn’t matter. Everything changed.”

    It was the night the war had entered their lives. Sideswipe brushed his arm against his brother’s arm lightly touching, a private gesture of understanding that his twin welcomed.

    “But you still paint and draw.” Sideswipe motioned to the Cybertron mural and the other two walls of their room covered in abstract burst of color because Sunny said he’d go hexagonal nuts if he had to stare at those same yucky orange walls all the time.

    Likewise, a few of Sunny’s notebooks lay piled on his desk full of drawing of Sideswipe, the Ark crew, even Decepticons. The latter detailed the anatomy structures of all their enemies and even the Autobots “just in case” Bombshell or some other influence might cause them to need some emergency shutdown. It was extremely creepy and Sides, Jazz, and maybe Prime were the only ones who knew about it, but Sunny wanted to be prepared. Sunny still drew, but not like he used to, not for the reasons he used to. Not that often. Not anymore.

    Sunstreaker shook his head. It wasn’t the same and Sideswipe knew it. Sideswipe didn’t know exactly how, but this new notebook wasn’t like the rest. The subjects in it weren’t the morbid dissections, or the occasional portraits of everyday Autobot life, or even the goofy poses of himself that they both loved. These new drawing weren’t even of Cybertron, but of Earth. All of them representing the innocence of this new world harkening back to…a time before. Life without war. Sideswipe’s optics widened, finally understanding. He turned to his brother for confirmation.

    Sunstreaker nodded. Then his face contorted, disgusted with himself. “That notebook is only a reminder of everything we can’t have anymore, of everything such thinking almost cost me that night!”

    Sideswipe opened his mouth to respond. Sunstreaker silenced his brother by cupping his twin’s face in his hands. “I almost lost you,” he whispered. Sunny’s silent vow to protect his brother steeled behind his watery blue optics.

    Sideswipe bent his helmet forward until their foreheads touched in a familiar signal absolving Sunny of any guilt if he wished to accept it. The twins drew comfort from each other as their sparks pulsed in unison, shared from the moment of their creation. Sides hadn’t died that night and he wasn’t going anywhere into oblivion without Sunny.

    But just because he understood, didn’t mean Sideswipe approved of his brother’s actions. He fixed his brother with a gentle but firm gaze. “You can’t let that one night define your actions forever.”

    “It already has.” Any intimacy of the previous moments then broke as Sunstreaker stalked over to his desk. In anger, he flung the tablets piled there onto the floor. “A slagin’ indulgence is all that notebook is Sides! ‘Cause I’m not going to let it stop me from preserving what’s really important!”

    “Yeah, the future and not just ours! There’s nothing wrong with dreaming about something better Sunny.”

    “Then you’d better hope enough for both of us Sides. ‘Cause being realistic is all I can afford to do anymore if I want to survive and preserve what’s left.” There was no sarcasm or anger in his brother’s voice, just the hollow facts as Sunny saw them, but they somehow ripped across Sideswipe’s spark realizing how haunted his twin was by what he’s given up that night so long ago for him and ultimately the Autobot cause. “It’s a lesson a certain architect need to learn before more lives are lost - ”

    Sunstreaker’s gaze took him back to the mirror making faces in disgust at his appearance. “After I fix this. You should probably get your head looked at too,” he called over his shoulder to his brother. “Besides who needs a notebook when you’re looking at a walking masterpiece.” Sunstreaker tried to be light, but Sideswipe deliberately looked away. Sunstreaker shrugged and Sideswipe could only wonder what type of lesson Sunstreaker had in mind to teach Grapple as he followed his brother to medical.
     
  13. Autobot Spike

    Autobot Spike Original Gangstabot

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    Gah!!!!

    zomg! i'm dying to know what happens...
    hehe nice work. even better than the Rodimus tale ( and i did so like that ) your style is celarer now, and the delivery is spot-on. i'm truly glad to see this piece, and even more pleased to watch your growth as an artist. you've got a knack for storytelling which i predict will continue to get better and better.

    your fan,

    A.S.

    p.s. i'd love to be a beta reader for you if you would like. i'm damned good at proofing (modest too!), and i love getting an inside peek at an author's fresh work.
    think it over, k?
     
  14. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Author's note: The model for the OC in this chapter (Backfire) when it comes to looks is Pretender Waverider (head design) meets Alt Camshaft (body) for those who are curious. The geography and history for these flashback chapters borrows some elements from Marvel and Dreamwave.


    Chapter 8


    Sunstreaker hated feeling ugly, and that’s exactly how he looked. A bandage plate sat firmly across his nose and would stay there for the next few days until his internal repair systems could fix the damage Sideswipe’s punch had caused. Short of rebuilding his entire faceplate, which the doctor had refused to do, this was the quickest way to heal. And then his face would require severe buffing to get rid of any leftover scratches. But he had to be careful not to overbuff or buff too soon and risk causing healing cracks to reopen and widen.

    Upon seeing the “twin terrors” show up in medical yet again, Ratchet had quickly assessed the damage to the Lamborghinis. Upon learning that the wounds were the result of a sibling fight and not battle damage, the weary CMO had immediately washed his hands of the duo and unceremoniously delegated the entire matter of twin treatment to Hoist before retreating to his office, despite Sunstreaker’s protests. The yellow Lambo didn’t want anyone but the best working on him and his brother, not when it could mean the difference between smooth steel and scaring or even life and death. But Ratchet hadn’t given them a choice this time.

    Sideswipe’s dent had been easily popped, but Hoist had wanted to keep Sideswipe for some tests just to check his equilibrium and motor control. All Sunstreaker got was a resetting of his nose and the stupid patch. Slag Sides! I’m gonna kill him for this! But any true thought of violence against his brother made him fell sick. Visions of the past flooded the yellow Lambo’s core processor and threatened to blot out his current view of the Ark down below.

    He needed to be out here among the stars. So beautiful - those stars – like chunks of raw energon pulsing in the black void. Stars formed shapes in the sky, figures about which stories were told. The figures were so different than what Transformers saw, but the stories spoke to a common ground, tales of gods and war and immortality. Sunstreaker saw the alien constellations and marveled. He couldn’t help seeing the beauty and ugliness in everything. It was the way he was wired.

    Sunstreaker cursed himself. He wasn’t up here on the mountain to stargaze. He was up here on guard duty. He’d informed Sides and Hoist to tell whoever had duty that he’d taken the nightshift. While everyone else had their little art contest he alone would watch out for the enemy. Sunstreaker didn’t need to face anyone with his shattered countenance. This war had made him ugly enough as it was.

    * * *
    Cybertron, several million years ago, City-State of Nova Cronum

    “YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHH!” Sunstreaker’s piercing noise sounded from inside the twins’ loft apartment.

    “Sunny!?” The yellow twin heard Sideswipe hastening in the door code upon hearing his brother’s cry. “Are you -”

    The door swished open and Sideswipe was glomped into a hug by his yellow half. Sideswipe disentangled himself to hold his brother at arms length.

    “You’re scaring me.”

    Sunstreaker laughed. “I DID IT!” he beamed, his grin as bright and as wide as Alpha Centauri. “The Nova Cronum Collection just called. They want to display my work in their next gallery show!”

    Sideswipe laughed happily and hugged his brother back. “Stellar Sunny! So this insanity wasn’t caused by that blow from our last arena match. I knew you could do it!”

    “No, you didn’t! You said not to get my hopes up over those greasy rich mechs sponsoring me. You were WRONG!”

    “I’m glad I’m wrong. I just said it was a long shot to go from backstreet murals to gallery frontliner so quickly.”

    “Not when you’re the best!” the yellow twin replied with confidence.

    Sideswipe chuckled and clasped his brother on the back as they stepped down the entry stairs to the couches. Sunstreaker crashed on one but Sideswipe stepped over to a computer terminal to check his messages while he’d been out. “You know I’m proud of you, bro.”

    “As you should be. Let’s celebrate! Starting tomorrow I have a lot of work ahead of me.” Sunstreaker glanced over to his studio at the far end of the loft. “I was thinking we could go into Iacon over to Maccadam’s and -”

    “Sorry, bro. Can’t.”

    “WHAT!?” Sunstreaker’s head snapped away from his studio and lucid thoughts of creativity to glare at his brother in disbelief.

    “Got a meeting scheduled with Backfire about a weapons shipment tonight.” Sideswipe looked back with an apologetic shrug, before turning back to his messages.

    “Cancel it! Backfire’s an oozing slick of smelt! You are not blowin’ me off tonight for one of your slagin’ cut n’ run deals!” Sunstreaker vaulted over the back of the couch to confront his brother.

    “This isn’t a ‘cut n’ run.’ I’m just the middle man this time. Backfire’s the supplier. It’s the buyer he wants to discuss. Besides, if he tries to turboweasel his way out of it I know you have ways of making him change his mind.”

    “I’m telling you, cancel it!” Sunstreaker hissed in his brother’s audio. As soon as Sideswipe turned around, a golden finger poked into his chestplate. “I just got my commission today scrap-for-brains! Haven’t you been listening? We don’t need your smuggling and racketeering anymore!”

    “It’s not that easy rust stain! I’m really happy you got it, but one commission, even a gallery, does set us on automatic to the high life. While you’re dreamin’, someone’s gotta keep us in energon.”

    “Get some culture Sides! It’s not just a gallery, it’s Nova Cronum’s Emerald Gallery! There isn’t a higher profile place on the whole planet. And now they’re gettin’ me. We are going to be flowing in it!”

    Sideswipe folded his arms over his chestplate. “So great and glorious artiste, when does your commission pay for the four lunar cycles of back rent we owe on this place?” Sunstreaker could offer no response, but he knew that the rent problem wasn’t his fault. “Yeah, until it does, I’m going to have to continue to be the responsible one around here, little bro.”

    “You are not older than me!”

    “Not according to our creator. I was first. And that’s the one thing I’ll always have you beat at.”
    Sideswipe flashed an infuriating smile.

    Sunstreaker ground his gears for a few astroseconds until he remembered how that habit could wear down his jaw servos and affect his perfect teeth. One nanoclik! Just one fraction of a nanoclik older, and Sides lorded it over him every chance he got.

    “No!” said Sunstreaker. “It just proves that you’re an impulsive hot-head who never looks before he leaps since the nanoclik you came online. And I’m the one who’s gotta always watch your back. Or are you forgetting the reason we moved into this place was because your last soured deal ended with those goons being sent to trash our old pad. So don’t tell me who’s irresponsible!”

    Sideswipe shrugged with a sheepish, lopsided grin that was as close as he ever got to admitting anything was his fault. “How was I supposed to know they’d take it so bad. It was a simple game of cards. Besides you said it was the best workout you’d had all week.”

    “You’re just lucky none of my paintings were there to get trashed too or I would slagged you as badly as I did them.”

    The brothers looked at each other realizing that the anger of their conversation had dissipated over the course of their arguing.

    “Call it off tonight Sides,” Sunstreaker urged. And this time Sideswipe gave in.

    “Tell you what. I’ll have Backfire meet us at Maccadam’s. Business’ll take half a megacycle, megacycle tops. Then we’ll celebrate however you want.”

    “One astrominute over and -”

    “Backfire’s smelt, like you said. He’s a good supplier, but I don’t want to spend an astrosecond around him any longer than I have to. Tonight’s your night bro! I promise.”

    * * *

    Cybertron, City-State of Iacon, Macadam’s – two megacycles and three breems later

    Sunstreaker draped his forearms lazily across the bar counter and drained the last of his premium grade energon. Enough was enough! Slamming the empty mug down, he strode to where his brother sat at the far end of the bar, back leaning against the wall, still talking to Backfire. The mech was such a dull black, he appeared almost gray. He said it was to keep a low profile, an unnoticeable color to blend into the crowds which was important for his line of work. But Sunstreaker knew the truth was much less flattering. Backfire’s name was badly appropriate. The mech had had lifelong problems of belching black smoke from his exhausts that permeated the air with a sickening stench everywhere he went. The black smoke had stained his frame so badly over the years that Backfire had tried striping his paint and bleaching himself lighter, but the smoke continued to stain resulting in his current drab in-between color. Between ugly and smelly, Sunstreaker couldn’t stand being within a driving mile of Backfire. Sunstreaker usually left the business deals to Sides anyway, unless a little extra persuasion was needed to close one. But tonight the disgusting grease stain of a mech was monopolizing his brother’s attention on what was supposed to be one of the most important nights of Sunny’s life.

    “I still don’t see why our buyer needs so many,” Sidswipe told Backfire.

    “He’s probably gonna do something with ‘em down south. Lots of bad stuff brewin’ down there. Some of the stories I here comin’ from around Kaon these days…not that any of it’s my business. Anyway you can ask him yourself when he gets here,” said Backfire.

    “Wait! He’s comin’ here? You didn’t tell me about that.”

    “Thought I’d save you the trouble of -”

    “TIME’S UP!” Sunstreaker demanded standing directly behind the two.

    “Not now, Sunny!” Sideswipe waved a hand in Sunstreaker’s direction, his finger count a silent signal of how long he estimated he’s still be.

    “That’s what you said three breems ago!” Sunstreaker wasn’t buying any of it.

    “I just need a little more time.”

    “Hey, Sunshine, your bro and I are still gonna be a while. I heard about the commission. Congrats! Why don’t you get yourself another drink, though you might want to go easy on the high grade. It’s starting to affect your manners. Maybe get something a little more appropriate for your artistically sensitive palate.”

    With a quick hand, Sunstreaker threw Backfire off his barstool and sent him tumbling to the ground. The violent action caused a round of gasps and stares from the surrounding patrons. No one started a fight at Maccadam’s.

    “I said you’re done!”

    A hand clamped down on Sunstreaker’s shoulder, but it wasn’t Sideswipe. The long arm of Maccadam himself held Sunstreaker in check. The bartender hadn’t even been here a astrosecond before. Old and mysterious, Maccadam’s Oil House and its owner dated back to a time few could even remember. But there were whispers that it dated back to the time of the Great Revolution. Revolution against what or whom no one really knew. Cybertron had seen it’s share of wars over the eons. But the rules of Macadam’s always remained he same – neutrality.

    “No, you’re done,” Maccadam said. “You know the rules. Take it outside or it ends now.”

    Sunstreaker could feel the optics of the other mechs in the place on him, all probably thinking he’d gotten himself too drunk. Backfire was probably thinking the same, finding no other explanation for such “insane” behavior. Even Sideswipe seemed surprised at Sunstreaker’s audacity considering where they were. Maccadam waited with a reproving look, optics so unfathomably deep they gave even Sunstreaker pause.

    “Fine,” Sunstreaker relented after a long moment. Maccadam released his hold and slipped back into the invisible obscurity of behind the bar work he’d emerged from an astrominute before. But Sunstreaker knew that he was still somehow watching.

    “No hard feelings, eh?” Backfire picked himself up off the floor. If the mech was unsure of how little Sunstreaker though of him already the next look confirmed it. Backfire shakily slid back onto his barstool. Sunstreaker’s only concern was his brother’s broken promise and Sideswipe sensed it.

    The red twin smiled encouragingly. “I’ll be finished soon Sunny. I pro -”

    “Did you forget so soon?” said Backfire. “I told you our buyer’s coming here any astrominute. You’re gonna wanna stick around another megacycle.”

    With a sigh, Sideswipe looked torn between his brother and Backfire.

    “Sunny, I’m s -”

    “Forget it! I’m out of here!” Sunstreaker didn’t look back, but he could already hear his brother and Backfire resuming their conversation as soon as he reached the door.

    * * *

    Suntreaker expected to do more barhopping, but instead found himself taking a late night tour of the Stellar Galleries. They remained constantly open as Cybertronians had no real concept of day or night. Somehow Cybertron had broken loose from its orbit around Alpha Centauri eons ago and now drifted aimlessly through space.

    A certain wing of the gallery was accessible only to scientists and scholars who spent their days pondering, studying, and debating for the further advancement of all Transformer society. But Sunstreaker was contented with a view from the public area.

    He’d tried to avoid sheer boredom at Maccadam’s, while his brother yakked away ignoring him, by trying to decide on some ideal subjects to paint for his gallery debut. Inspiration had not been forthcoming. But here at the Stellar Galleries, it was a completely different matter. Sunstreaker never failed to find beauty here.

    It was the type of beauty that required a patience his twin could never fully understand. Sure, Sideswipe marveled at the jewels and sights that lighted up the black void with the same awe as anyone. But Sideswipe was a mech constantly in motion. He could never stay still long enough to appreciate the true depth of anything. As soon as he was done with one thing, he was eager to rush into another. At least Sides usually had the conviction to finish what he started, including that slaggin’ deal he wouldn’t let go of! Sunstreaker continued gazing into the void of space long enough and hard enough to forget all of it.

    Megacycles passed unaware as he watched the stars far and near - determining color and brightness, counting them for a while, recounting the stories behind the shapes they made. He followed the path of a comet across the many plated windows of the gallery and realized as his optics were drawn across the room that he wasn’t alone anymore.

    The stranger was striking but subdued in color of rich purple and what Sunny considered drab green. He was sleek like a jet, but with no discernable wings. Some other flight mode. But what? Something about the mech’s bearing also suggested a hint of nobility.

    Sunstreaker straightened his frame hoping that Backfire’s stench hadn’t caused his luster to dull too much. It would be just his luck to encounter a noble while looking in less than pristine condition. I’m not only just as good as a highborn, I’m better! I’ll prove it too, as soon as my art is seen at Nova Cromum’s Emerald Gallery everybody will -

    The noble was looking at him now, studying him. Sunstreaker could now see his red optics ran together as a visor and a mask covered the lower half of his faceplate. Obviously, being a noble didn’t guarantee good looks. Sunstreaker could only thank Primus he’d been blessed with the latter. The perks and riches of nobility could be earned, but body overhauls were expensive and if they went wrong…again Backfire sprung to mind. Sunstreaker deleted such thoughts and met the noble with a disarming look that exuded charm. At least it always worked for Sideswipe.

    “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” the purple and green robot asked.

    “Depends. Perhaps we travel in the same elite circles. I’m an artist.”

    The noble’s optics slightly widened with interest. “Really? It’s almost a relief to hear that. I’m a patron of the arts. I find so few mechs appreciate culture these days, wouldn’t you agree?’

    Sunstreaker could only nod remembering his earlier conversation with Sideswipe. “Tell me about it. I have a hard time convincing my own brother of its merits sometimes. But I think good art also speaks for itself even to the, uh, (what did nobles call them) most common people.”

    “Perhaps,” the other mech replied politely unconvinced. “But they could never understand the nuances and it would be pointless even to try.”

    Sunstreaker just shrugged. “Common people” liked his murals well enough. They knew good work when they saw it. Above the gallery dome a group of shooting stars showered across the heavens. Sunstreaker’s intake valves cycled deep as he gasped in awe. The noble stood impassive but also transfixed.

    “I love coming here,” Sunstreaker confessed with a happiness he didn’t often share with anyone but his twin. “I find it inspiring!”

    “Space can be, provided one can forget the blackness of the void up close,” the noble said with a certain hollowness.

    “You’ve been out there?” Sunstreaker gestured beyond the clear dome and windows, certain that the noble’s alternate mode must now be a shuttle. “What’s it like?”

    If the noble found Sunstreaker’s enthusiasm grating, the yellow robot was oblivious in his sudden fascination.

    “Dark. Cold. Unforgiving. And more exciting when viewed from places like this.”

    Sunstreaker tried to allow his disappointment to be fleeting. He wouldn’t trade his fast, stylish, alt mode for anything spacebound, but one of these centuries he desperately wanted to see those stars up closer.

    “It’s most annoying not being able to recall you from my memory bank,” the noble said. “Are you a native of Iacon?”

    “Originally. I live in Nova Cronum now, but I’ve traveled a bit.”

    “I myself have traveled extensively, especially in the south. This is my first visit to Iacon. I’m here with some…associates on business. But I do plan to soak up the culture of Nova Cronum as well this trip. I must know you by reputation then. Tell me artist, what works have you done?”

    “I’m still mostly regional. My ‘Studies in Light of the Tower of Pion’ is my best known work. Perhaps you downloaded the article about it off the Cybernet.”

    “Can’t say that I have. An ‘up-and-comer’ are you?”

    “And soon to be known planet wide. The Nova Cronum Collection will be hosting my work next lunar cycle and their Emerald Gallery. You won’t want to miss it!”

    “I’ve been a sponsor of the Emerald Gallery for vorns, but this will be my first chance to see it in person. It’s a pity I’ve waited so long to see it. I shall look forward to viewing your work, artist.”

    “The name’s Sunstreaker. You’ll be hearing it a lot soon.”

    “I’m Blast Off from Altihex. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m meeting with an associate at Maccadam’s.”

    “So was my brother.”

    “Though knowing my associate he’s probably so engrossed in negotiations he won’t even notice me.”

    “Sounds just like my brother.”

    “Would you care to join me then?”

    Sunstreaker considered for a moment but then remembered his spoiled evening. “No thanks. I’d rather stay here a while longer.”

    As Blast Off left, Sunstreaker turned back to the stars musing at the time that maybe the evening hadn’t turned out so bad after all and that he’d met a kindred spirit. Maybe if he’d stayed at Maccadam’s with Sides, the clues to destruction would have been easier to spot. Maybe if Sides had kept his promise to Sunny and the business deal hadn’t been struck… But “maybe” didn’t change anything. And “if only” means nothing at all. Some things are inevitable in the larger picture. And war destroys beauty, one dream at a time.
     
  15. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Chapter 9


    Nova Cronum, Twins’ apartment, one lunar cycle later

    “Primus, Sunny!” Sideswipe swore.

    Sunstreaker turned from the canvas he was working on only to see his brother steady himself from crashing into one of his latest masterpieces. “Hey, watch it!”

    He rose quickly to inspect the damage only to discover the luminescent paint at the bottom smeared and a big glob resting on his brother’s foot. “Look what you did, slagheap!”

    “Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m fine,” Sideswipe mumbled.

    “Thank Primus! It just needs some touching up. If your foot had dented that canvas -”

    “Like this?” Sideswipe asked innocently and made as if to kick the canvas in jest. Sunstreaker protectively grabbed his brother’s foot in a wrestling hold that threatened to crush it if he applied the right pressure and gave Sideswipe a murderous glare. “Owww! With one less painting in here I might be able to walk again in my own apartment!” Sideswipe gestured to what must have been half a dozen such paintings for Sunny’s gallery show littering every spare surface available. “Honestly Sunny! If they don’t go I’m gonna end up doing something I regret!”

    Sunstreaker rose to what he saw as a challenge and increased the pressure on his brother’s foot causing him to wince. “You do and I’ll rearrange you into a gallery piece!”

    “Can’t even do that, bro. There’s no room to brawl!”

    Sides was annoyingly right. To continue this would only risk damage to his artwork. Sunstreaker growled in compliance. “Consider yourself lucky then!”

    “I’ll consider myself lucky the megacycle all this is out of here.” Sideswipe massaged his foot only to spread the paint on it to his hand. “When are those gallery movers coming again?”

    “The middle of this quantum cycle.”

    “What day?”

    “Dunno exactly.”

    “What do you mean you don’t know? All I’ve heard from you for the past two quantum cycles is gallery this and gallery that! And you don’t even know the exact day and time they’re coming to take your masterpieces off for their public exhibition?”

    “Sarcasm becomes you less than paint-stained feet, Sides. They said the middle of this quantum cycle and that’s all they said. If you knew anything about the aristocracy you’d know that things always happen according to their chronometer not yours.”

    “Translation: in all their snobbery you’ll be the last to know anything important.”

    Sunstreaker hefted the smeared painting back over to his easel, picked up a paintbrush, and tossed his brother a rag to wipe his foot. Despite his messy work, Sunstreaker didn’t seem to have a dab of paint on him. “Why is the date so important to you anyway?”

    “Aside from the obvious? I’m just sayin’ that if you want me to be here to help move your stuff I need to know.”

    “First of all, they’re not ‘stuff’ they are high precious irreplaceable works of art by your truly. Second, you know my show opens on the crescent view of the second moon, only three solar cycles away. Third, you promised you’d help!”

    “I said I’d try.”

    “No, you said you would. What could possibly be more important than my -” Sunstreaker stopped as anger gripped him in dawning realization. “It’s that slagging weapons deal isn’t it!”

    One look at Sideswipe’s face confirmed it. The paintbrush snapped in half under barely controlled fury.

    “Sunny, this is important -”

    “And I’M not!?!”

    Sideswipe signed, giving him a look that almost made Sunstreaker fell like the guilty one for questioning his twin’s loyalty...almost!

    “The deal will take place in two solar cycles. It will all be over and we’ll be 40 thousand creds richer by the time your show opens. I pro -”

    “DON”T! Just – don’t! Okay!” Sunstreaker turned back to the painting he had to fix. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do – alone!”

    “Sunny,…you do know I’m doing this for us...”

    But Sunstreaker didn’t respond. He knew better. This was his brother’s one last hurrah on the black market. All Sideswipe really cared about these days was himself.

    * * *

    The movers from the gallery came two solar cycles later and as to be expected Sideswipe wasn’t around. But that seemed to be the norm when Sunstreaker really needed him these days. Not that Sunny even wanted his help anymore. He could oversee the moving of his masterpieces himself. So Sunstreaker was surprised to see a familiar face show up along with the gallery staff.

    “Blast Off? What are you doing here?”

    “What does it look like? I’m lending a hand. Or rather I brought someone who I thought would be useful.”

    Blast Off then introduced a gray robot who despite his nondescript color wore the shade well. Black highlights helped balance for at least a decent aesthetic. He was another flyer, but smaller and more compact than a standard military plane.

    “Sunstreaker, this is Vortex.”

    “Pleased to meet’cha,” the gray robot extended a hand which Sunstreaker accepted.

    “Vortex is capable of transporting cargo with a delicate capacity that the plebian gallery work staff usually lack.”

    The two mini-bot movers, who had arrived with a larger transport mech, scowled at Blast Off who didn’t see any need to keep his voice down and spoke as he pleased.

    “Just load me up and I’ll be ready to go,” said Vortex.

    As it turned out, there was plenty of Sunstreaker’s work to be loaded in both Vortex and the transport mech. While the mini-bots got to work, Blast Off got a tour of Sunstreaker’s loft apartment.

    “It’s very…”

    “Crowded?” Sunstreaker suggested.

    “Cozy,” Blast Off finished. But Sunstreaker knew that word was nobility code for trying to be polite. “But I suppose luxury isn’t a primary concern for an arena fighter.”

    When Sunstreaker looked surprised, the noble looked amused. “Yes, thanks to Vortex, I finally remembered where I know you from. You participated in the games at Polyhex last stellar cycle and did quite well.”

    “Won our division, my bro and I!” Sunstreaker proudly gestured to the trophy on the nightstand positioned between two recharge berths. “I didn’t figure you for the type that enjoys arena sports though.”

    “Because of my station? Quite the contrary. I find them one of the few stimulations in what was leading to a dreary existence.”

    “Have you participated in the arena?”

    “I tend to leave the direct approach to my associates. I crave a different kind of excitement. You know you could make good use of your fighting skills in…other way if you wanted to.”

    Isn’t that part of the burden of being multi-talented? Sunstreaker mused. He enjoyed the thrill and fame of the arena. Fights held a certain beauty with his brother at his side, the two of them executing moves in unison like some instinctual dance to take down opponents and relish victory. Still, Sunstreaker expressed no desire to sell his services to warring provinces half a world away in the south. Why should he when everything he wanted was right here – his art, his future. Everything important. And he said as much.

    “It almost seems a pity that such skills should go to waste. Perhaps you will find opportunities closer than you think.”

    Sunstreaker shrugged, missing any subtlety of Blast Off’s for simple encouragement. While the mini-bots had been moving painting, Blast Off had admired each of them.

    “You do impressive work. I looked your work up on the Cybernet once I knew who you were. I must say I wasn’t expecting much from a mural artist, but you have true talent, despite your …humble upbringing.”

    Sunstreaker frowned at the last comment. The nobility could be such snobs. But he’d won over yet another doubter. “It’s not worth doing if I can’t deliver. And I always deliver,” he smirked.

    Blast Off didn’t see Sunny’s expressions though. He was too busy admiring the painting Sideswipe had scuffed a few solar cycles earlier. “This one is my favorite.”

    The painting displayed the breathtaking skyline view of Nova Cronum. Nova Cronum was even more of a thinker’s paradise than Iacon. Sure, Iacon was where the greats presented and discussed their wonderful findings, but Nova Cronum was where they studied and lived. The architecture alone was an artisan’s haven. Rich in mineral wealth, Nova Cronum flaunted it’s sparkling excess in what were called the rainbow sectors. Sapphire for the philosophers and scientists; emerald for the painters, sculptors and writers; amethyst for dramatics and music; and ruby for residential areas all culminated in the center at Diamond Spire Park. Only Crystal City could match it for sheer brilliance. But only Nova Cronum contained the wealth of intelligence possibly for this level of hedonistic glory. Sunstreaker’s painting perfectly captured the Gem of the North in all its decadent promise.

    “I’d like to buy it. One million credits sounds fair, don’t you think?” Blast Off turned to face the young artist.

    The noble might have been smiling at catching Sunstreaker so off guard. It was hard to tell with that face mask. Sunstreaker quickly recovered with a brilliant smile of his own. First his commission for the gallery and now this! Primus! He knew he was good, but this…well, it only proved it even more, didn’t it? Had Sunstreaker been Sideswipe he might have felt the need to negotiate and haggle an even better price, but Sunstreaker wasn’t his brother and accepted the offer on the spot – with the dignity of a master artist of course.

    “You have good taste. Sold!” It was only then he remembered what his brother would tell him to say. “Can I interested you in any more?”

    “Your best piece shall suffice. I’ll have the credits transferred immediately. Vortex can make a special trip to deliver this painting back to my private residence in Altihex once we are done here. Blast Off stepped over to the apartment’s computer terminal to arrange the credit transaction. Sunstreaker was momentarily puzzled.

    “Your private residence? Don’t you want the painting to be seen in the gallery show first?”

    Blast Off halted his transaction. “I do not. This is for my private collection which I share only with those of my choosing. And that is my one buying condition. Is that a problem for you?”

    “NO!”

    “Good,” Blast Off resumed his transaction. “I admit that my main reason for supporting the Emerald Gallery and others like it is really for the all the selfish perks to my own collecting habits. If I can make a bid on a new piece early enough…it’s one of the reasons I enjoy discovering new talent. I have pieces that the Emerald Gallery would trade their entire second story collections to own. And now you can consider your work among their unique number. You should feel honored. Perhaps I’ll even give you a tour of my private collection someday. I think you’d be one of the few to truly appreciate it in its entirety.” He pressed one final keystroke on the terminal. “It’s done. The credits are now yours. Oh, I should ask, does this piece have a name?”

    Sunstreaker thought for a moment. He had been planning to call it the obvious – “Nova Cronum” or “Skyline of Nova Cronum” but considering the new significance in his life as an artist this piece represented, it deserved a worthier title. He still wasn’t sure he liked the idea such a beautiful piece being locked away from public viewing, but he wasn’t about to argue given the price tag. That type of compromise of artistic integrity he could live with. Hmm? A title. Sunstreaker’s optics drifted to his golden signature in the corner that marked the work proudly as his. Maybe he could make a play off that. Sun. Sky. Promise. Skyline. Sun in sky. Golden tomorrow…He had it! “I call it ‘Sunny Days Ahead.’ ”

    * * *

    “That slaggin’ turboweasel! You were right! You were absolutely slaggin’ right about Backfire!”

    “And when am I not?” Sunstreaker countered his brother absently.

    Sunstreaker was giving one final check of his Emerald Gallery display. Tomorrow, he would make his official debut and be indoctrinated into Cybertron’s artistic elite. Sunstreaker and Blast Off had overseen the complete safe transfer of Sunny’s painting along with the tired mini-bots who, if they were expecting a tip given Sunstreaker bit of newfound wealth, didn’t get one. Vortex had left to carry away the purchased piece to its new home presumably, as the rest of Sunny’s paintings were carefully arranged on display along with a few movable mural pieces of his the museum had already acquired. It had taken the better part of the day and many megacycles of work, but now it was almost complete. And of course it was only then that Sunstreaker’s lousy, lazy twin had dared to arrive. Sunny’s guess that Sides even bothering to show up should be considered a minor miracle, a miracle that could be attributed to that scraplet, Backfire, of all people.

    “I can’t believe he called off the slaggin’ deal!” Sides was sayin’ for the umpteenth time. “This close and then he just call it off!”

    “Well, that’s what you get for dealing with a buyer named, what was it again?”

    “Swindle.”

    “Yeah, like that wasn’t an obvious clue.”

    “You’re not listening Sunny. Swindle is never even going to get to see the merchandise. Backfire was supposed to show me the weapons today so we could set up the trade for early tomorrow. But I never even got to see them. I can’t believe he just called off -”

    “Wait,” Sunstreaker faced his twin for a second. “If Backfire was the supplier and Swindle was the buyer, what did the two of them even need you for?”

    “Charm and negotiation.”

    Sunstreaker raised an optic ridge.

    “It’s true. You know Backfire has all the social skills of a waste pit. He promised to cut me in 40% if I just did the talking. Like I said at the start of this whole thing, easy money. Plus I know a few ways to get things in and out of the city that he doesn’t no questions asked. But like I said he hadn’t even shown me where they were yet. That’s cutting it real close to our deadline. And then at the last astrominute he decides to-”

    “Maybe he just wanted to cut you out and take all the creds for himself,” Sunstreaker suggested not caring anymore.

    “No way! He knows he couldn’t pull off the deal without me. He may be soiled on the outside but his fuel pump isn’t contaminated yet. We were so close! It’s weird, y’know. It was almost like he was scared of something.”

    “With all the dirty mechs he deals with I’m not surprised. You’re not going to convince me someone like him has suddenly installed a conscience, Sides.”

    “Primus knows there are a lot of reasons to hate Backfire, Sunny, but I’m telling you something’s wrong. It’s the only explanation now. Backfire doesn’t cut and run without a very good reason. We had a deal and he’s never broken a promise before.”

    “Which is more than can be said for you,” Sunstreaker muttered just loud enough to purposely catch his brother’s audios. He glanced over to see his twin’s expression hoping to further rub it in when…uh oh, he knew that expression. Not good enough Sideswipe! Not this time! How dare his brother consider his commitments to someone like Backfire more important than his own twin!

    “I got here as soon as I could!”

    “Not good enough! You broke your promise to me Sides! To ME! My show is tomorrow night in case you’ve forgotten! Or were you planning on missing that too?!”

    “You selfish slag pit! You could show some appreciation for what I’m trying to do!”

    “You mean risking arrest for illegal arms dealing?”

    “Now who’s the one with the surprise conscience? It’s never bothered you before!”

    “It does now!”

    “Oh yeah, cause now you’re ‘Mr. Big Name Artist!’ And you’re too good now for that kind of stuff anymore riiiiight?”

    “Yeah, I am!” Sunstreaker looked his brother dead in the optics. It was a good thing they were the only two mechs in the back exhibition hall with all their angry words echoing off the walls. Sunstreaker unsubspaced a copy of the Blast Off’s transaction payment and held it under his brother’s nose. He saw his twin’s optics widen. That would prove the worth of his dream to his credit counting brother. “I’m this good!”

    Sunstreaker then waited for his brother’s apology for all his broken promises, all his doubting. He waited for his twin’s praise and acknowledgement on a job well done. He waited for Sideswipe’s brilliant smile so he could share the joy of his dream coming true with the person who mattered to him most. And it wasn’t the reaction his brother gave at all.

    “Congratulations, Sunny,” his twin hissed with a contempt only reserved for their ugliest arena opponents. “It really is – All! About! You!” And as Sunstreaker reacted like a mech frozen in stasis unsure how to respond, his twin added, “Tell me bro, where am I in your picture of your glorious future these days or have you painted me out of it, just like everything else in your old life?”

    “SUNSTREAKER!”

    The shout echoed from the far end of the room before Sunstreaker could begin to take in the lethal words of his red half. Both brothers turned their heads to see Blast Off run into the large exhibition hall. The nobleman stopped short of the puzzled brothers, his quickening intakes indicating he’d run a long way. He paused only long enough to take in Sideswipe’s presence. “The most terrible thing has happened in Diamond Spire Park!” He pointed the direction he had come.

    The twins exchanged a knowing glance and followed Blast Off. They passed out of the main exhibition hall at the back of the Emerald Gallery where Sunny’s work was, down the maze of corridors until they came to the gallery’s front entrance that opened onto the park where a crowd was already gathered on the scene near the base of the spire.

    “What happened?” Sunstreaker asked.

    “I was up by the second story windows of the gallery when I saw something falling out off the sky from presumably off the spire, or rather someone. I called for a medic and the authorities, but the line was already busy. I hope they arrive soon.”

    Sunstreaker looked up at the Diamond Spire at least four guardian robots high. It was one of the city’s greatest tourist attractions, with a balcony that offered a dizzying view of Nova Cronum for anyone who wasn’t a flyer. Anyone who fell from that height was almost certainly offline already. “Was it an accident? Some drunk maybe?”

    “Or a suicide?” Blast Off mused.

    The twins knew the type he meant. Some artisan comes to the big city with big dreams but little talent. No credits. No hope. No future. It wasn’t uncommon for depression to set in and lead to drastic action, just not such public action. The crowd was starting to thin a little, obviously repulsed by what they saw. The sound of a medic-bot grew in the distance. The twins ventured forward for a look of their own. A collective gasp escaped their lip components upon their view of the body. Badly shaken, they held hands in subconscious need, feud momentarily forgotten. They stepped back in unison and were met by a firm, comforting hand on each of their shoulders from Blast Off.

    “A truly gruesome sight.” The noble admitted with disgust and surprisingly little remorse. “A tragic warning of what can happen in this city. What a waste!”

    Blast Off’s words held an eerie message for the twins as they tried to process the meaning behind the broken, twisted, shattered body of the mech that stared back up at them – Backfire’s!

    The Cybernet news report that came out that night would state that the authorities indeed ruled the death as an unfortunate suicide. But a few witnesses would later report possibly seeing something in the darkened sky just before the drop – small, flying, and gray.
     
  16. ChrisW

    ChrisW Well-Known Member

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    This is a very well-written story whose conclusion I am eagerly anticipating. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of your work.

    Well done!
     
  17. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Thanks ChrisW. Ask and ye shall receive...the next chapter.

    Author's note: Character Models for more OCs. Mosaic has no model, but her helmet would be like one of those somewhat conical medieval/roman style ones. And her Earth alt mode if she had one would be a James Bond style Astin Martin. Skybrush is a sky blue repaint of Air Raid. Rocky is a brown repaint of Armada Scavenger with maybe a hint of Rhinox thrown in.


    Chapter 10


    The twins quit watching the news reports early into the night. They didn’t need to hear speculations and wild theories when they alone knew the truth about Backfire’s death. And that’s where the twins’ arguing only got worse.

    Sunstreaker didn’t care if Backfire was dead. He only cared that Sides was finally out of that slaggin’ deal. No deal meant no more danger to his brother. It ended here before his brother had gotten in too deep. Tonight Sunstreaker’s first gallery show opened and Sideswipe was finally free to focus on what was truly important. Backfire’s death was Sideswipe’s release, or it would have been if Sideswipe would only do what he was supposed to – be free and let go! But Sideswipe wouldn’t! Not even now! Now even with the gallery show less than a solar cycle away! The both knew Backfire had been murdered and Sides said they owed it to themselves to find out who did it, before it happened again.

    Sunstreaker laughed at that. So that was Sides’ excuse? “To ourselves? Don’t you really want to say we owe it to Backfire!?” he spat.

    “That could have been one of us Sunny!”

    “But it wasn’t!”

    “It could have been me!”

    “It wasn’t!”

    “It could still happen!”

    “It won’t!”

    “It might!”

    “NO!” Not to Sideswipe! Not his twin!

    “YES!”

    But if it did…if it did… “And who’s fault would that be!?”

    “What?”

    “If you go and get yourself killed, it will be your own slaggin’ fault!”

    “I’m not gonna get killed!” Sideswipe snapped, but out of reassurance or wounded pride it was hard to tell. Sides’s own vanity, causing him to do stupid stunts, pursuing such foolishness would be the death of him someday, Sunstreaker knew.

    “If you pursue this, you are gonna - ”

    “If I don’t we’re gonna - ”

    And on it went until silence was all they had left to say. Each twin remained too consumed by his own obsessions to listen anymore. Both too stubborn to see they’d only been trying to protect each other like always. But when Sunstreaker awoke from recharge the next morning to find Sideswipe had already left on his investigation with only a note saying, "See you tonight" he didn’t believe a word of it…not really. After curing his brother to the Pit for all eternity for leaving him so alone, he though maybe…just maybe…he was better off without his brother anyway.

    * * *

    Polished. Waxed. Buffed. And freshly dried from a new coat of gold paint. Sunstreaker felt beyond pristine condition. He treated himself like this whenever possible or affordable, but this time he’d gone all out. The sale of his painting to Blast Off had made it possible to turn himself into a living work of art for his gallery debut. Sunstreaker glowed like his namesake, inside and out. He shined so bright that he even missed the shadows – the red one always at his side (or was that didn’t miss?)…and the purple one now only megacycles away from enveloping the city. But he wasn’t the only one. The elite of Nova Cronum who flocked to the Emerlad Gallery that night were just as oblivious in their evening activities, as was the majority of the city-state’s population.

    Sunstreaker received more compliments and stares that evening that he could recall in a long time, not even since the arena tournament last stellar cycle...and that had been for his fighting abilities, an accomplishment he’d had to share with his brother. But tonight was all about his first love of art and he didn’t have to share the adulation with anyone. It really was all about him! Sideswipe’s angry words flashed through his memory banks for an astrosecond. Sunstreaker just as quickly deleted them from his mind. He didn’t need his brother here, not when he had the praise of everyone else in the room. Tonight he’d win Nova Cronum and soon his art would conquer the rest of the planet.

    Before the gallery opened to the public there was a party for the rich and sponsors who’d paid the extra credits for their own preview show. Sunstreaker was actually one of three artists the gallery was sponsoring that night. In addition to Sunny, there was - Mosaic, a promising young femme who’s work reflected her namesake. Sunny had to admit she was good. It took great patience to master that type of work. As he looked closer at one of her mosaic portraits, Sunstreaker realized that the individual tiles were tiny pictures themselves all laid out according to color to form the bigger mosaic. Mosaic’s own body was a work of art too. Wispy swirls of yellow, aqua, and pink, decorated her light gray base from head to foot. Sections of her shoulders and legs were covered is small mosaic tiled tattoos of the same three swirled colors. Had she been a mech, her frame decoration would have been gaudy, but being a femme, it only made her more attractive.

    Sunstreaker thought he was getting somewhere with her as they shared a mug of high grade and she said she’d be interested in doing a mosaic of him. His hoped were just as soon wrecked when he learned that the mech in one of her portraits on display that evening was her bondmate, Skybrush. Sunstreaker saw him in the crowd as the femme called Skybrush over for introductions. He was a flyer of light sky blue, with a squared off head and similar swirl patterns as Mosaic, but less frequent. What kind of mech puts pink swirls on his frame, even to appease his mate? Sunstreaker though. Those two deserved each other a little too much.

    Then there was Rockbottom. Brown, brutal, big enough to crush you in half, and ugly. An obvious construction vehicle, Rocky, as he preferred to be called, had worked his life in the nearby mines that fed the wealth of Nova Cronum. Even cleaned up, he didn’t look like he belonged among the rich and noble. His face hurt to look at, it was so asymmetrical. The right side stood out bright, while the other recessed into shadow, dented, scarred, and concaved. The right side also possessed a radio antenna that the left side lacked. Whether it had always been that way or he’d lost the other one in a mining accident was hard to say. Rocky received just as many stares that night as Sunstreaker, but for the opposite reason. But Rocky didn’t care. He carried himself with a pride that said his work spoke for itself and justified his presence here. And it did. Rocky’s work showed the most impressive display of fine gem carving and jewelry most bots attending had ever seen. And Rocky didn’t bother to hide the thrill he felt every time someone was forced to match up the connection of such exquisite work to one who looked like him. The more uncomfortable the elite, the happier Rocky was, Sunstreaker suspected.

    After the appearance of Skybrush, Rocky tired to strike up a conversation of sympathy with Sunstreaker mentioning his own failed advanced towards Mosaic and how he seemed to be unlucky and love. Sunstreaker made a rude reply about his appearance being the answer. Rocky only laughed it off, used to such comments all his life and tried a new line of conversation.

    Rocky was a big fan of arena sports and watched them all the time. Like Blast Off, he recognized Sunstreaker from last stellar cycle’s tournament at Polyhex. Rocky wished he could have gone in person or participate someday, but his mining work kept him bound. His jewelry art was his only hope of making a better life for himself. Sunstreaker listened politely for as long as he could stand it. Sides would have liked Rocky. But Sides wasn’t here! Sunstreaker again deleted annoying thoughts of his brother from his mind.

    Sunstreaker considered Rocky to be only one step up from Backfire when it came to undesirable company. He loathed the idea that the person he seemed to have the most in common with in the entire room when it came to interest, talent, and economic background could be someone like him… NO! I am nothing like this wretched, filthy mineworker! So he has a talent for gem work. It doesn’t change the fact that he will never be accepted by the others in this room…unlike me! That’s what Sides doesn’t understand. I wasn’t sparked into this high life, but I was created to live it! You either have it all or you don’t! And I have it all!

    At first, any time he tried to give Rocky that hint, the mech would just laugh off his own shortcomings, but eventually he left as Sunstreaker wished with a disappointed look and shaking his head. But later, when a nervous Skybrush prompted by an impatient Mosaic bought an emerald necklace from the imposing-looking Rocky, Sunstreaker watched. Triumph at yet another satisfied customer won over, brought a smile to Rocky’s face, a smile he tossed is Sunstreaker’s direction. It was a smile Sunstreaker almost found himself sharing in, before quickly turning away and heading elsewhere to look for his sponsor (well, of all three artists really) who had made Sunstreaker’s own dream possible this evening by recognizing his phenomenal talent. He was tired of hearing the whispers of Mosaic and Rocky’s work and wandered to the back of the gallery where others were admiring his. But while the patrons cheerfully clamored over his art, his sponsor was nowhere to be found.

    Sunny had yet to meet him in person even speak with him. His sponsor wasn’t from Nova Cronum or nearby Iacon, but someplace out near Crystal City, owning an estate somewhere in the surrounding country. But somehow he’d heard of Sunny’s small body of work and was impressed enough to give him this opportunity. Sunstreaker wanted a chance to thank the mech named Mirage for all he had done for him tonight. Perhaps a portrait of his sponsor would be a suitable gift. While Sunstreaker was looking for Mirage, a curator delivered him a message. Mirage regretted that he was unable to attend the gallery opening. His hunting trip had been overextended another solar cycle and he wouldn’t be able to make transport to Nova Cronum until later in the quantum cycle. But he would be attending the show and looked forward to meeting his sponsored artists in person. In retrospect, it was a delay that probably saved Mirage’s life and was only the first disappointment of a night Sunstreaker wound never forget…for all the wrong reasons.

    When the preview party finally ended, the Emerald gallery officially opened its doors to the public as even more people piled it. And still no Sideswipe! The internal battle began to play in Sunstreaker’s mind, refusing to be quiet.

    He said he’d be here!

    He’s not coming.

    He’ll be here!

    Who cares!

    He’s my brother!

    You don’t need him.

    He knows how important this is to me!

    Like he’s known for the past lunar cycle? And look how he’s acted so far.

    My brother wouldn’t break a promise to me!

    Too late! His recent actions speak for themselves. He simply doesn’t care!

    Shut up! I know my own brother! He isn’t like that!

    Wanna bet?


    “Sunny!” his twin’s voice sounded over his internal radio.

    “Sides!” Sunstreaker couldn’t keep the smile out of his voice. Then remembering how angry he was added, “Where in the name of Primus are you!?”

    “Home. I’m on my way to - ”

    The radio went into sudden static.

    “Sideswipe? Sideswipe! Slag!”

    And had Sunny just heard their apartment chime before things cut out? Was Sideswipe finally coming or was he going deeper into his investigation, getting himself into more trouble? Sunstreaker was left to wonder as Mosaic appeared to tell him that a Cybernet reporter had arrived to film video and conduct interviews. The reporter’s videos took Sunstreaker’s mind off Sideswipe yet again and put Sunstreaker back in his element. As the reporter broke for a breem to give everyone a break before the interviews started, Sunstreaker caught sight of a familiar friend. Like Sideswipe, Blast Off had remained curiously absent so far. Sunstreaker had expected to see him at the earlier party, yet there had been no sign of him. But he was here now.


    Sunstreaker waved to Blast Off who nodded in reply. That was when Sunny noticed an alteration in Blast Off’s appearance. He saw some sort of brand in purple in the center of the noble’s chestplate. Hadn’t he seen that symbol somewhere before? Yes! Some of the combatants had worn them at the arena games. A connection to the war movements down south, wasn’t it? Not that it was Sunstreaker’s concern. Strange though, that Blast Off would sport one, especially when the brightness of it clashed with the Blast Off’s more subdued violet hues. A few optics eyed Blast Off warily upon seeing the symbol, includeing the Cybernet reporter who has started his interview with Mosaic as Blast Off crossed to Sunstreaker at the refreshment table.

    “How does it feel to have made it to your opening night?” Blast Off inquired.

    “How do you think?” The two of them chuckled. It felt good to have someone to laugh with. “Tonight will be a night no one will forget.”

    “Oh, I agree,” the noble said mysteriously.

    “I though you’d be here sooner.”

    “You mean the preview party? Listen to a bunch of overfueled nobles gossip and show off how rich they are just so they can honk their own horns? Please! I doubt half of them care about the art. I have more ambition than any of them as I suspect you do too. While they’ve all been partying, I’ve been attending to business.”

    “Business that included getting a tattoo?” Sunstreaker raised an optic ridge curiously.

    “The answer for which you will know soon, as well as everyone here.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Where’s your brother?” Blast Off changed the subject with all the subtly of a twisting knife. “It’s such a shame he couldn’t be here again.”

    Sunstreaker’s face hardened as the embarrassment cut through him. He was sick of making excuses for his brother’s absence. “He’s coming!”

    “I don’t think so. He’s been…delayed.”

    Sunstreaker frowned, puzzled then he worried as the sudden static and Sides’s cut off transmission flashed though his memory banks.

    “Swindle is my associate. I know all abut your business deal and if all goes well, it’s taking place right now.”

    Sunstreaker frame went rigid, baling his fists. The door chime he though he’d heard. Swindle? No, Sides had to be on his way here! It couldn’t be true! But was Sides seizing at one last change to swing his deal? And where did Blast Off and that tattoo fit in? Something wasn’t right. But the anger burning towards his brother’s “true whereabouts” blinded him. He was sick of lies and secret deals all around!

    “I don’t suppose he told you where the weapons were?” Blast Off asked.

    “He didn’t tell me anything.”

    “You wouldn’t be lying for your brother would you?”

    “Why would I lie? It was Sides’s stupid deal and he didn’t know anything either.”

    “I find that very hard to believe.”

    “The only one how knew was Backfire and…” Sunstreaker realized he was looking at one of the murderers. “…you killed him.”

    “Vortex actually. A necessary warning.”

    “For what? You botched your own slaggin’ deal!” Sunstreaker laughed at the dark irony. If felt like some odd victory in spite of what he’d just learned his new “friend” was capable of.

    Blast Off’s face became hard and stony. It was difficult to tell if he believed Sunstreaker behind that mask. “Your friend’s death doesn’t bother you?”

    “All I care about is right here, tonight! Slag your weapons and factions and little wars! What I want to know is if that deal was the only reason you befriended me!?” the golden artist demanded.

    Blast Off regarded Sunstreaker as if bemused at the hostility. Before he could reply, he cocked his head and received a personal radio signal. When it was finished he said ominously, “The weapons are of no matter anymore. Just a loose end. I’m sorry, Sunstreaker. The war is already here. Time to choose. I hope you have enough sense to side with the winners.”

    Sunstreaker watched as Blast Off was then joined by Vortex and another big, bulky mech, obviously a tank. They were followed by six combat drones that suddenly entered. They all closed in at the entrance of the back gallery sealing off escape. Blast Off pulled a gun from subspace and fired a shot at the ceiling catching the attention of all in the room.

    “We are the Decepticons!” he announced. “Nova Cronum and all it’s mineral wealth will soon be ours. Cybertronians have grown lazy, decadent to the point where Primus wouldn’t recognize his own creations! And a city such as this festers the worst! It shall be made an example to all who would defy us! A new age of conquest begins!”

    A murmur of confusion rose from the patrons as questions echoed and someone shouted, “Look!” Outside, an armada of planes flew overhead while an army of tank drones closed in on the ground entering Diamond Spire Park. Terror reigned down as both land and air vehicles opened fire on the citizens and building ahead and below. Secretly and without waning, the forces of an enemy the city didn’t even know it had had gathered and now the siege of Nova Crunum had begun!

    As confusion in the gallery threatened to turn to panic, Sunstreaker saw the tank mech fire at one of Mosaic’s works, exploding tile and megacycles of her painstaking labor. Mosaic cried out in despair at one of her lovely mosaics destroyed before her very optics.

    “Why you!” Skybrush rushed at the tank who fired pointblank. The lucky mech swerved just enough to take the hit on his side just missing his fuel pump as volts from an electron gun shot through his body.

    “Skybrush!” Mosaic hurried to cradle her wounded bondmate convulsing on the floor. Vortex’s and the tank’s guns clicked on her.

    “Let me exterminate these two!” said the tank.

    “Please, Brawl!” Blast Off reprimanded. “Have you no respect for culture? I though we agreed to try and keep the gallery in one piece.” He shook his head reprovingly and kicked at one of the broken tile chunks sending it skittering back across the metal floor.

    “I – I’m not afraid to die,” Skybrush stated.

    “What do you want from us?” Mosaic huddled protectively over Skybrush.

    “You’re our prisoners,” said Vortex.

    “Then you won’t kill us?”

    Brawl looked at the pair in disgust. It was clear what he wanted to do.

    “You are witnesses,” Blast Off told the museum patrons. He looked specifically in the direction of the Cybernet reporter who was still nervously taping. “Go ahead and record what happens here, that all may know the futility of opposing us!”

    While the following exchange transpired, Sunstreaker saw Rocky edging his was towards the nearest Decepticon that happened to be Blast Off himself. The big, ugly miner wanted to make a stand and from the looks he passed to Sunstreaker wanted the golden arena fighter to join him. But Sunstreaker remained impassive, trying to process all that was overwhelmingly unfolding before him, as the battle sounds outside grew even louder in his audios.

    “I would hate to see more anymore precious works destroyed,” Blast Off noticed Rocky edging towards him. “Of course in war, sacrifices have to be made, especially those of inferior make and quality.”

    Blast off fired his ionic blaster straight into Rocky’s display of jewelry work. Gems demolecularized and shattered in cacophonous crashes. Rocky watched his livelihood and once chance to move beyond his humble origins broken.

    “The choice you face is simple,” Blast Off addressed the room, but focused his gaze on Sunstreaker, letting him know who’s work would be next if he dared to try anything. “Join us in glory or be obliterated!”

    In that astrosecond, Sunstreaker knew the meaning of betrayal as he met the optics of the ‘friend’ who now considered him a potential enemy. Sunstreaker’s optics narrow to meet the challenge. And as he looked into those optics of red, red was what he felt – burning, hatred, red like a namesake sun blazing deep inside of him and bubbling over like a smelter pit. Part of him heard Mosaic pleading for a medic for Skybrush, and Blast Off giving the order to put the pair out of their misery, and the drones aiming to retaliate against the patrons if need be, and Rocky howling that he would take on the Decepticons by himself if that’s what it took. But Sunstreaker didn’t care. This was supposed to be his night! His chance! His future, that now slipped away like oil through his fingers, just like it gushed out of Skybrush’s side. And that’s when the ceiling caved in – literally!

    Innumerable tons of guardian robot brought the ceiling of the gallery down as Nova Cronum’s so-called protector toppled backward from enemy aerial fire and smashed through the roof. Patrons ran, though many couldn’t avoid getting crushed. Others were wounded or cut down by the flying glass and metal and falling rubble. All around chaos reigned. Sunstreaker emerged from behind one of his studier murals before it too, half crumbled from the stain of deflecting debris. Sunstreaker saw the broken, flattened, and ruined remains of his art, his labor, his created beauty all beyond repair. This gallery that had held his dreams for the future was now a smeltering war zone.

    But the battle had only just begun. Vortex, Brawl, and three still active combat drones were already climbing to their feet. There was no sign of Blast Off. Maybe he’d gotten lucky and the collapse had finished him off before Suntreaker could. Sunny saw Rocky rising from the debris, pain in his every movement for he’d used his own body the shelter Mosaic and Skybrush when the roof fell. Sunstreaker followed Rocky’s gaze upward to the newly created hole in the roof, a perfect escape route for any who could reach it.

    “Can you transform?” Rocky asked Skybrush.

    “I –I think so.”

    “You shouldn’t - ” Mosaic began.

    ‘I’ll make it,” her mate assured her, even though fuel continued to dribble out of his side as he shifted to his alternate mode.

    “But - ”

    “Take Mosaic and go!” Rocky told the couple.

    “But what about you?” Mosaic argued as she climbed onto Skybrush.

    “Too heavy, besides…” Rocky looked to Sunstreaker who finally gave him a nod. “We’ll hold them off for you.”

    Skybrush took off with Mosaic as fast as he could manage. Just as he cleared the hole in the roof, a recovered Vortex took to the air after them. Despite his focused rage, Sunstreaker took an astrosecond to pray the couple would make it. And he knew from the future that they did survive, as two of the most interviewed witnessed in the aftermath of the siege of Nova Cronum.

    Not all were so lucky. The three drones opened fire on the room cutting down more who had just come out of hiding or freed themselves from the rubble. Vortex laid down suppression fire drugging up a whirlwind blowing back the patrons and slamming them against walls and debris to prevent escapees like Mosaic and Skybrush before pursuing them which unknowingly bought the couple precious astroseconds. But the guardian had also partway collapsed a gallery wall, as Sunstreaker and Rocky discovered when they took shelter behind the guardian, allowing a few to find one more way out.

    Blast fire seared Rocky in at least three places as he charged his way to Brawl and the two titans clashed. Sunstreaker narrowly avoided similar blasts from the drones and took on all three of them with the practiced skill of an arena combatant. Sunstreaker ripped out an exposed fuel line of the first drone already partially damaged from the guardian crash. He dug his hand deep into its circuitry mangling as much as he could, then he used the drone as a shield as the second one fired deactivating the first drone permanently. Sunstreaker continued to use the deactivated drone as a shield as he charged into the second drone ramming it with what remained of the first.

    Rocky traded blows with Brawl. His strategy was to stay close, matching strength for strength and preventing Brawl from using his gun. The tough miner was holding his own, but the stress and strain of each blow received were mounting on him from his earlier wounds.

    The charged drone staggered back from the force of Sunstreaker’s blow only to impale itself on a piece of sharp roof debris that jutted out through its chestplate. The third drone fired at Sunstreaker who was forced to drop his heavy “shield” in order to dodge fast enough. The blasts struck a pile of debris instead. Sunstreaker turned to see purple and green unearthed in the spot where Blast Off had been buried. The Decepticon now struggled to free himself. Sunstreaker had to get over there somehow.

    He spied a broken, jagged jewel statute of Rocky’s nearby. Snatching it up, Sunstreaker rolled as the last drone fired again. But instead of rolling to the side, he rolled forward, closing the distance between him and the suddenly confused drone. Rising quickly, Sunstreaker jammed the knife-like gem statue through the drone’s optic port and central processor, immediately off-lining it.

    Sunstreaker then snatched up the drone’s gun and hurried over to the spot where Blast Off had nearly freed himself from the trapping rubble. The killer instinct fueled him as he fixed his blaster pointblank on the Decepticon.

    “And I actually hoped you’d join the winning side,” the enemy stated almost disappointed.

    Sunstreaker’s only answer was to cock the gun.

    “Go ahead. It won’t save your brother.”

    Sideswipe! What could Blast Off mean by – Sideswipe’s cut off transmission replayed again in Sunny’s mind. How could he have forgotten!?

    “TALK!”

    “I can’t do that if you shoot me.”

    The gun held steady but didn’t fire.

    “We hoped Sideswipe would prove more cooperative than Backfire, but if what you said is true and he doesn’t even have the information we were looking for and if he’s as much a fool as you are…well, Onslaught so hates it when his careful plans go awry,” Blast Off’s approximate smile was malicious.

    Sunstreaker tightened on the trigger, but Blast Off fired a now free foot canon that blasted the gun out of Sunstreaker’s hands, having taken advantage of the distraction Sunny’s mounting anger provided.

    Blast Off prepared to fire again, but Rocky now lunged in the noble’s direction.

    “GO!” the miner shouted.

    Sunstreaker’s battlelust wanted to stay and slag Blast Off for everything he and the Decepticons had ruined that evening. But now they may have ruined the most precious thing of all – Sideswipe! He wanted to reek selfish vengeance on them all for his brother. How could he possibly run?

    “GO!”

    But if Sideswipe was still alive... If there was a any chance… Sunstreaker needed to find him, and soon before…. Rocky was giving him that chance and it wouldn’t last long. The miner fought to his very limits, but he was no military hardware. Fending off Blast Off in his weakening state finally allowed Brawl to transform and lock his turret on Rocky.

    Sunstreaker ran for the opening in the crumbled wall. He didn’t look back, but he heard a last defiant laugh from Rocky as Brawl’s shot terminated the brave miner in an explosion that seared Sunstreaker’s paint even as he made his narrow escape. But Sunstreaker would remember Rocky as one he’d misjudged, the only other one in a room full of cowardly patrons who’d been wiling to fight and even die on the hope that Sideswipe might live.

    * * *

    The dangerous trek home would only be the first of too many similar trips Sunstreaker would see over the following millennia. He avoided drone patrols, sped his frame beyond endurance, and dodged stray strafing blasts from jets overhead that toppled more buildings and terrified more citizens. He passed wounded and dying in the streets. But he could stop to help or fight. Only one though drove him on. Sideswipe! Sweet Primus let me be in time! How could I have been so blind to everything? Sideswipe! Brother! I’m coming!

    Outside the apartment, things appeared relatively normal. The fights hadn’t reached the ruby sector yet. But as Sunstreaker transformed and looked up at the building, he could see the hairline fractures in the supports on their floor.

    Inside, Sunstreaker nearly stumbled over the body of the landlord in his rush. The mech was probably questioned about which apartment belonged to the twins. No time to tell the landlord’s conditions though. Sunstreaker hurried on, his brother his only concern. Thank Primus, Sides had told him he was even still home or he wouldn’t have even known where to look for his brother.

    The door to their apartment was jammed wide open. Sunstreaker could see the mess and blasted furniture. But where was Sides…there! In the center of Sunstreaker’s studio amid strewn, broken art supplies lay his broken brother. Dear Primus, please let his still be alive! Please!

    Sunstreaker threw aside paints and easel and cradled his twin as best he could, checking for any sign of life. Paint scarred, windshields shattered, Sideswipe’s frame was riddled with rounds of explosive pellets. His frame was also fractured in several places as if caused by heavy vibration. Sonic damage? The fractured supports of the room itself that he’d seen even from outside supported that hypothesis. Low and faint, Sunstreaker could still hear the hum of Sideswipe’s engine. Praise Primus! Sideswipe was still alive! Sunstreaker couldn’t stop the optical lubricant from falling just as he felt a weak stirring beneath him. Sunny saw his twin’s optics fade on as if Sides knew from the tears that fell on his face that his brother was there.

    “S..Sun…sorr…I missssssed…”

    “Shut up, I’m the one who’s -”

    “B…but…”

    “It doesn’t matter. Only you do,” Sunstreaker brushed away the tears he’d sloshed on his twin’s face. Sideswipe tried to give his lopsided smile in response.

    “Ssunn…don thnk…’m gonna…lasssst.”

    “Don’t you DARE die on me Sides! Don’t you dare! I’m not going to let you die! I’m not! I promise!”

    And this time it was a promise well kept. Dreams shattered. But they were worth nothing if there was no one to share them with. He’d be forever incomplete if half of him, his other half died here tonight. But every astrosecond he could feel his brother slipping away. Sunstreaker felt a strange, sudden tug inside his spark too. Was death trying to drag him down with his brother? He had to get Sideswipe out of here and find a medic! But Sideswipe had just gone into stasis lock. Was there even time for a medic to get here? Could he move his brother to a medic or were the fractures to his frame too extensive to risk moving him? What could he do to save Sideswipe?

    But that’s when Primus answered his prayers again.

    Someone was coming down the corridor to their apartment…and they weren’t alone. Sunstreaker prepared to defend Sideswipe. They would not die today, Sunstreaker vowed. But if the odds did overwhelm them, the twins would at least go together, as it should be. Sunstreaker’s optics blazed as he grabbed a nearby object to use as a weapon. It happened to be their arena trophy.

    Sunstreaker swung at the first invader to enter the apartment. The trophy collided hard with the head of –

    “ROADBUSTER?!?”

    “Ow! That’s no way to greet a friend. Sunstreaker!?” the big orange and brown mech with green highlights rubbed his helmet, surprised to see the yellow twin, let alone getting clobbered by him.

    “What the slag are you doing here?”

    “Do you mean before or after the city started being turned into a slagheap? I could ask you the same.” Roadbuster gestured to the blue flyer with one optic that came in behind him. “Whirl and I just drove into the city. We were on our way to met Sideswipe here before we all went over to the gallery for your big night when - ”

    “We have to get him to a medic!”

    “Who?” Whirl asked.

    “Sideswipe!” Sunstreaker gestured feeling the panic rise in him again while at the same time realizing that his brother had never abandoned him on his big night. He’d been planning a surprise party with some of their arena friends. I’m a stupid, selfish, slaging –

    “Primus!” Roadbuster swore, breaking Sunstreaker out of his self-berating. “What happened here!?”

    Sunstreaker looked at his twin’s condition and swore vengeance on all those who would hurt his brother, destroy his perfect beauty, all who wore a certain purple badge with his next growled word –

    “Decepticons.” It was the only explanation needed and the only one anyone would ever get.

    * * *

    Sunstreaker remembered that night as the longest of his life. But thanks to help from Whirl, Roadbuster, and the one million credits from Sunny’s sold painting to pay the finest medic available, Sideswipe had lived. And Sunstreaker silently renounced his old life for a life as a warrior.

    The Autobots from Iacon under the command of Optimus Prime had arrived at Nova Cronum a few megacycles later to fight the Decepticons and provide whatever aid they could. But Nova Cronum had been raised to the ground and made an example of. Even the Diamond Spire no longer stood, toppled along with most everything else in the Decepticons final push. There simply weren’t enough Autobots to overcome the Decepticons. The best they could do was evacuate the survivors. It was a chilling prospect for Iacon to know that an enemy base now lay so near.

    Roadbuster and Whirl soon introduced Sunstreaker and Sideswipe to an mech named Impactor, who invited the twins to be part of a resistance group he founded made up of mostly old arena fighters. They called themselves the Wreckers. The twins spent vorns with the team until they eventually joined Optimus Prime and the future crew of the Ark.

    As for the Combaticons, before the twins could deliver proper payback, the unit betrayed Megatron resulting in some punishment fitting traitors to their own kind. It was unknown to this day, even on Earth, if the Combaticons were dead or alive.

    But Blast Off had been right about one thing. There was no place in war for lazy, decadent dreamers. Sunstreaker’s one, surviving work of the skyline of Nova Cronum had captured the last naïve moments of a Cybertron that didn’t yet know war. Perhaps Blast Off had bought Sunny’s painting as some kind of trophy, knowing what was to come. But if people had opened their optics, maybe a painting wouldn’t be all that was left of Nova Cronum. The only way to preserve Earth from meeting the same fate was with a warrior’s eternal vigilance, not to capture what could very well be wiped out tomorrow in the pages of some notebook. If Sunstreaker was going to be fighting along side mechs like Grapple, maybe even dependant on him for his and his brother’s very lives, Grapple would be taught what it was to be at war.

    As the first purple of dawn peeked out over the mountains of Oregon, but before the golden sun of morning was yet to shine, Sunstreaker ended his long night watch and headed back to the Ark, knowing what he still had to do.
     
  18. VAwitch

    VAwitch G1 GeekGirl

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    Wheeeee! Can't wait for the rest! Just re-read your Roddi fic - hope to see more of that thread soon!

    As an aside, where/when was it mentioned (officially, if possible), what Sunny & Sides' alter-egos (artist & merchant) were?
     
  19. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Thanks VAwitch.

    The Ultimate Guide by Simon Furman makes mention of their former lives as trader and artist in their bios. It also mentions the Siege of Nova Cronum, but I changed the timeline of when it happens to suit my own needs. In my version of the Siege, Optimus is already Prime and not Sentinel. The MTMTE comic bios by Dreamwave also mention Sideswipe was once a trader I think. I aslo pulled some of Grapple's past from his MTMTE bio (which I mention in the next chapter) as well as Blast Off's bio mentioning him as a noblemen.

    Also for anyone who is interested, I have a fic entered in the Soundwave contest.
     
  20. Fairlady_Z

    Fairlady_Z Official Voice of Flareup

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    Chapter 11


    Soon the art contest would begin, Grapple thought. He’d spent the last night setting it up with Hoist in the lounge. Grapple would have been content to work through the night, but Hoist persuaded him to turn in for recharge at last. Recharge had been restless however. Now Grapple wanted to get to the lounge early for some last minute preparation. He figured he still had an hour or two, if he had his Earth time units right, before anyone else filed in for their morning energon and the start of the contest.

    Optimus Prime had thought the contest a good idea. The Decepticons had been quiet lately and any new experience that further exposed the Autobots to Earth culture in such times was always appreciated. Contest though was perhaps too strong a word. There would be no judging. Grapple wanted to encourage rather than discourage participation. He remembered Sludge’s reluctance to show off his work, not to mention the mystery artist. Perhaps both would overcome their shyness. The art show would last all week to allow everyone time to complete their entries.

    No one in the Ark had admitted to owning the notebook, but Grapple felt that all the artist needed was some gentle persuasion since no one had asked for it back either. Hoist had checked the security cameras in medical to see if he could catch anything since that’s where the notebook had originated, but the cameras must have recycled their tape for the month and recorded over the incident already because he’d found nothing. With Hoist’s help, Grapple had then convinced Optimus Prime to allow the display of the notebook at the show, on the condition that if the artist requested the removal, Grapple and Hoist would immediately comply, which seemed perfectly fair. But Grapple doubted the mystery artist would refuse once he saw how Grapple had displayed his work and saw the admiration of his peers.

    He’d carefully removed the pages from the notebook and framed each one, setting them up on easels or hanging them on the walls in the lounge. Well, all except the last picture, too wrinkled from Sunstreaker’s actions to display. Grapple hoped that the shy artist would realize the worth and splendor of his art as an inspiration to everyone and for this very contest.

    As Grapple approached the lounge, he heard someone inside. Was Hoist already in there moving some pictures around? Grapple heard the crash of glass, followed by the clatter of a collapsing easel and the ripping of paper.

    Oh no!

    Grapple ran to help only to freeze in the doorway at the sight of horror he now witnessed. Not just one, but all of the pictures – destroyed! Glass covered the floor, all the easels lay toppled, and the drawings themselves were torn and strewn across the room in deliberate abandon as if the lounge had been turned into a battlefield. And at the center of the chaos stood the guilty party – Sunstreaker!

    “HOW DARE YOU!” Grapple felt hate flare up within him as he recklessly charged the yellow warrior.

    Grapple had never liked Sunstreaker. His egotism was enough to drive most away in itself. His very aura was one of superiority and anything that dared to challenge that notion Grapple had learned didn’t last long in his presence. But for someone who had once called himself an artist on Cybertron to allow such jealousy to…to…Grapple could not allow this…desecration to go unchallenged.

    A picture frame hurled by Sunstreaker collided with Grapple’s midsection with such force that the architect dropped to one knee. His charge impeded, he raised his arms to block the shards of glass from flying into his face. Grapple faced his attacker as contempt blazed in Sunstreaker’s optics.

    "You had no right…" Sunstreaker hissed, “…to display my work like this!”

    HIS work?!? But that would mean that – The clues were all there.

    Sideswipe: Hey, Sunny isn’t this yours?

    The way Sunstreaker had handled the notebook with a gentle familiarity.

    Blaster: The dude’s just jealous. Mirage: I’m not so sure. Sunstreaker really is a talented artist. Or at least he was back on Cybertron.

    Jazz’s wall mural.

    Jazz: Sunstreaker’s vain, yet…it’s hard to imagine much better than what’s already in that notebook…Sunny’s the best artist I’ve seen.

    The mystery artist was Sunstreaker!


    Grapple had suspected for a little while, but he’d been deliberately lied to by the twins. It didn’t make any sense! And it only made Grapple’s anger fester. Why would Sunstreaker be such a “Liar!”

    The last word slipped out and golden wrath stared him down. Grapple had seen first hand Sunstreaker’s delicately deliberate mutilation of those who had ended up in the repair bay after getting on Sunstreaker’s bad side. He remembered Jazz’s story of interrogation and the rumor’s he’d heard of Sunstreaker being able to take a bot apart based on a calculated look. Anger turned to panic as he now saw himself as the yellow Lamborghini’s next victim.

    “Why would you…be one I mean?” Grapple stammered.

    Instead of advancing on him, Sunstreaker’s expression turned to one of disgust as if the architect wasn’t even worth turning into something worthy of the junk heap.

    “None of your slaggin’ business,” he snarled.

    “I – I think it is,” Grapple found his courage again. “You lied to everyone! Your brother lied to me! You could have just asked for your slagging notebook back you know! I wouldn’t have said another word…”

    Grapple could see Sunstreaker grinding the gears of his jaw servos, then stop as if consciously remembering a bad habit.

    “And how was I supposed to quietly do that after the three ring circus of hot potato I walked in on?”

    Three rings of hot what? Grapple wondered, obviously some Earth term he didn’t know, but the jist and mocking quality of Sunstreaker’s voice was unmistakably. But Grapple did feel a degree of guilt. Hadn’t Hoist warned him about this? How quickly it had gotten out of hand.

    “I’m sorry.”

    “What?” It was a surprise to see Sunstreaker draw his head back in confusion.

    “I’m sorry. You wanted privacy. I did have no right.” Grapple looked down at the glass picture frame he’d impacted with a few feet away from where he still kneeled, his ego just as broken. “But it still doesn’t excuse your lies.”

    “Then why all this!?” Sunstreaker gestured at the former display of his work, not ready to accept any apology.

    Grapple’s head snapped up to face Sunstreaker. “That’s what I’d like to know!” he shot back. He tried to keep the strain out of his voice, but the loss of such beauty made him want to cry out in despair. Everything he’d created or seen created lately ended up destroyed – his solar tower, now the notebook. During the latter’s abandonment, he’d come to see himself as its guardian and keeper. But how could he fail as keeper of something that was never his to begin with? To destroy one’s own work was inconceivable! “Why do this!?” he gestured in kind to the scene surrounding them. “Was it for spite?”

    Sunstreaker’s disgust returned.

    “Was it not good enough?”

    “Of course it was!” Sunstreaker sneered, his ego still very much in tact.

    “THEN WHY!?” Grapple demanded with a force even he surprised himself that he had. Then he sagged, weary and tried of it all.

    “Get up!” Sunstreaker again looked at Grapple with as much displeasure as he would a grease stain on his finish. “You’re pathetic!”

    “I’m what?” Grapple rose to his feet.

    “You think because you’re an artist, because you create things, that you’re anything like me? You’re NOT! I don’t create anymore, I DESTROY! That is my function now! That is what a warrior does! My ‘art’ is now the art of death! WE ARE AT WAR! Soldiers who build solar towers with the enemy are naïve dreamers. They are traitors whose idle actions will get their teammates KILLED! Understand that!?”

    Grapple felt the blows of each word but stood his ground. He was no traitor! He may not be a warrior, but he was every bit as worthy a soldier in the Autobot army for his own function was – that was it! He wasn’t angry anymore and he knew why. He wasn’t afraid of Sunstreaker anymore either…well, okay potential mangling was still very scary, but he now knew that – “You’re scared of dreaming. That’s why you did this!”

    Sunstreaker glared and this time took a menacing step forward.

    “You think who you were doesn’t matter anymore. But you’re a liar!”

    Another menacing step.

    “Otherwise why carry yourself like a living work of art.”

    Several more steps. Grapple backed into the wall close to the doorway.

    “You’re right. I’m nothing like you. What others destroy, I rebuild. Who others damage, I fix. That is MY function!”

    No where to run now. Grapple was trembling but confident as a hand reached for his throat.

    “I can’t stop being what I am, even in war.” Grapple stared at his attacker optic to optic. He felt the grip loosen on his throat as another panicked voice entered the lounge.

    “Sunny you didn’t!” Then Sideswipe saw the scene him, both room and rampaging brother and whispered, “Primus, no!”

    Sunstreaker glanced to his brother and Grapple felt himself released without further incident. Sunstreaker stalked out of the lounge without a word heading for who knew where. Grapple was certain the red twin would follow, not unlike before. So he was surprised to see Sideswipe stay and start picking up broken picture frames to help clean up the mess.

    They continued working in silence for a long while until most of the debris was cleared and Grapple said, “It didn’t have to come to this.”

    He didn’t expect to hear Sideswipe reply, “I know.”

    Grapple remembered the hedgy brush off Sideswipe had given him before when he’d first suspected Sunstreaker of being the mystery artist. He wondered how much Sideswipe really meant that statement. But as Grapple replayed their conversation he realized Sideswipe hadn’t lied to him so much as misled him. He’d been protecting his brother. Could Grapple really blame him for that? Wouldn’t he do the very same for Hoist? Grapple also remembered Sideswipe had been nearly as horrified at his brother’s desecration act. Just because he was loyal didn’t mean he approved. The architect repeated his apology, this time hoping for better results.

    “I can keep a secret Sideswipe.”

    Grapple felt the red twin probing him for reassurances of that truth. He briefly regretted that meant Hoist would never know who’s notebook he’d found, but Hoist would understand. His friend had tried to convince him of the need for privacy all along. Finally, Sideswipe seemed satisfied at Grapple’s words and gave a nod of acceptance.

    “Is Sunstreaker really so ashamed?’ Grapple asked.

    Sideswipe raised an optical ridge quizzically, “Ashamed?”

    “Of what he was before the war? What changes someone so much, even in war, that they could do something like this?” Grapple’s thumb and forefinger pressed into the scraps of drawings he’d collected off the floor. “Did it happen over the course of one battle or over the vorns of many?”

    Sideswipe remained impassive for a long moment as if wondering how much to say. “Ever heard of the siege of Nova Cronum?”

    The question was rhetorical. Every Autobot knew about one of the worst massacres in Cybertronian history. Sideswipe’s words were delivered with a combined hint of sarcasm and sadness. “Sunny had a very promising art career when…”

    “Primus!”

    From the way Sideswipe trailed off and looked away, Grapple knew there were details the twins preferred to keep private. But the red Lambo didn’t need to say anymore. Grapple knew what it was the see his works, his buildings and constructions destroyed in war. He hadn’t been there at the destruction of Crystal City by an unknown party, but he’d seen some of the aftermath, felt the rage and despair Sunstreaker also must have felt at Nova Cronum. He found himself telling of it to Sideswipe who nodded with a certain understanding.

    There were times when Grapple wondered if he would ever draft again. But somehow he always found a way to keep going. For the true loss of places like Crystal City or Nova Cronum wasn’t the loss of art and beauty, though it hurt down to his spark core, it was the loss of life. It had taken lots of destruction and a stern talking to by Hoist, but he’d finally learned that lesson.

    Cities, buildings, bridges, they could all be rebuilt in time but people always couldn’t, Grapple mused as he absently tried to match the pieces of a torn up picture back together before abandoning his effort. Still, he could never stop trying as a medic or an architect to fix and repair. Decepticons destroyed. Autobot rebuilt. If they forgot that, if they lost that hope, what made them any better than the enemy?

    Sunstreaker had abandoned that hope. And the very little he had left he hid, denied, destroyed. It was a dangerous combination. No wonder both friend and foe feared Sunstreaker.

    “Still, for Sunstreaker to give up what mattered to him most…” Grapple mused.

    “Who says he did?” Sideswipe replied with a sad, mysterious, lopsided grin. And again Grapple knew that there was still so much he could never fathom about the twins. But before he could guess what Sideswipe might mean, the red Lambo added, “I hope my brother’s little rampage doesn’t mean that the art show isn’t still on.”

    Grapple thought for a moment. Someone could come in at any moment. He scoped up the last of the picture fragments off the floor and hastened them to the waste disposal unit. The strewn mess was gone, fixed by him and Sideswipe, the room good as new.

    “It’s still on!” Grapple assured him with sudden confidence.

    “Good,” Sideswipe’s lopsided grin broke into a full face-splitting smile. “Wait ‘til you see my entry!”

    “You draw too?” Grapple asked, now curious. It was the first time he’d contemplated if such art talent “ran in the family” so to speak.

    Sideswipe laid a finger aside his nose in a confidential gesture Grapple didn’t understand but it did remind him to ask something else.

    “How did Sunstreaker’s nose…?”

    “He deserved it.”

    Yes, there were some things about the twins Grapple would never understand, but he found himself smiling all the same. He was glad Sideswipe had stayed. That’s when Grapple remembered something else. The architect unsubspaced a folded piece of paper.

    “I do believe it’s past time this was returned.”

    Sideswipe unfolded the paper and brushed a hand over the wrinkled drawing inside. The last surviving picture of the “mystery” notebook would soon be back with its artist again…where it belonged.
     

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