The crowd was larger than Blurr expected, but many had probably come out of curiosity rather than support. Starscream had become something of entertainment for them. And given the current state of their living conditions, any entertainment was good entertainment.
Blurr ignored the tension in his legs and tried not to shift. He was used to standing before a crowd, that wasn’t what made him tense. It was the fact that he stood on stage next to Starscream and was about to announce their alliance. He was putting himself out there, probably risking his spark.
He wasn’t just having second thoughts. He was having third and fourth thoughts. What the frag was he doing? How had he let Starscream convince him this far? What did he think he was going to accomplish?
Blurr flexed his fingers. Too late to turn back now. If he did, Starscream would brand him a coward. Blurr was many things, but he hadn’t run from a fight in millennia. He was a Wrecker. He wasn’t afraid of Starscream.
His optics searched the crowd, trying to match names to faces. One of the mechs in Starscream’s entourage was the one purporting to be Fasttrack. None of them resembled the racer Blurr had known. Fasttrack was dead and someone was stealing his name.
And then Starscream stepped forward and Blurr had to concentrate. He had to at least look like he was interested.
“My fellow Cybertronians,” Starscream began with a little smirk, and then he tilted his helm, “for that is what we all are, yes? Cybertronians. Not Autobots or Decepticons because we are above those brands. We are one, a united people with the same interests, the same goal – restoration of our home.”
He paused and if he was waiting for applause, he waited in vain. The gathered mechs watched with guarded interest. Only those in the front row – Starscream’s fervent supporters – had anything resembling support in their optics.
“And to that end I have reached out to those that we trust most. I have reached out to those that will make our future flourish. I have gathered a group of mechs dedicated to rebuilding Cybertron and dedicated to our unification.”
Starscream stepped back and gestured to his left, where Blurr stood beside him. “One such mech is very familiar to you,” Starscream continued, his hand falling behind Blurr and resting on the base of his backstrut, leaving behind a heavy warmth that had more weight than the physical. “Blurr has kindly offered his bar as a gathering place, an open forum for discussion of all grievances.”
And there it was. Out there for all and sundry to hear and acknowledge. An open statement of their alliance.
The crowd shifted, began whispering to each other, but nothing Blurr could pick out. Their expressions were still guarded.
Tonight would show the true ramifications of his actions. He hoped that his regulars would understand. He hoped that his friends and allies would see the logic.
He hoped that Bumbleebee and the Autobots, and Soundwave and the Decepticons, did not return to frag it all. He hoped Megatron stayed in chains where he belonged.
The lights went out.
Well. That was unfortunate.
Starscream went still next to him, his field going flat. The murmurs in the crowd grew louder. Blurr could see, by looking out, that all of New Iacon was dark. He waited, as they all did, for the power to return. The flickers had come lately, but they were brief.
Several seconds dragged toward a minute. The crowd grew restless and started to murmur. Energy fields spiked. All that could be seen was the various shades of biolighting. More than a few mechs with vehicle modes flicked on their headlights.
Starscream’s impatience flattened into annoyance. “Everyone, please stay calm,” he said as he strode to the edge of the stage, holding up his hands. “I will get to the bottom of this. I promise. New Iacon will see power restored as soon as possible.”
The murmurs got louder, not that Starscream gave them the opportunity to voice their opinions. He whirled away from the stage and stalked toward Blurr, his optics flat and narrowed.
“The timing of this is rather convenient, don’t you think?” he hissed.
Blurr crossed his arms, but was careful to keep his vocals low. “You think I had something to do with it?”
“I was only making an observation.” Starscream grabbed his elbow, but his grip was light as he guided Blurr away from the stage and down the stairs in the back. “Rattrap!”
Starscream’s smelly lackey melted out of the shadows. “I didn’t do it.”
Starscream huffed. “Of course you didn’t. What happened and why?”
“Best guess is the relays blew. Scoop’s on it.”
“Scoop,” Starscream repeated, tilting his helm, sounding contemplative.
“Yeah. Since Wheeljack ain’t around ‘n all that.”
Starscream went still. His grip tightened. Curious. Blurr looked at the Seeker, but Starscream’s optics had narrowed and he was still staring at Starscream.
“Tell this Scoop I want to talk to him when he’s done,” Starscream said. No doubt he hated that someone else would come out the hero but then, what did Starscream know about engineering?
“Sure thing, boss,” Rattrap drawled, his gaze flicking to Blurr before it focused on Starscream again. “Now?”
“Yes, now, you miserable little–”
“Wow, if you treat all your friends like this, I can see what I’m in for,” Blurr interrupted, raising both orbital ridges. Starscream still had a grip on Blurr’s arm and he was interested in knowing why. Did he think Blurr was going to run off, shouting to all who would listen about how much he’d changed his mind?
Rattrap took the opportunity to scamper away.
“Rattrap is a tool,” Starscream corrected and finally, loosed his hold.
Blurr took his arm back, resisting the urge to rub his elbow. “And what am I?”
Some of the irritation melted away from Starscream’s face. He stepped closer, his field reaching out to tap against Blurr’s in a distinctly intimate manner. “My partner,” he purred. In the dim, his biolights were almost menacing.
Blurr shifted his weight and grasped for professionalism. “Well, this was obviously a bust. How long before we get the power back on?”
“I wish I knew. I don’t know this Scoop.” Starscream pulled back, a frown on his lips. “But I intend to meet him.”
Blurr inclined his helm. “Wish it were Wheeljack instead,” he muttered. He hadn’t been particularly close to the engineer, but he’d been a force to be reckoned with. Not to mention a friend to everyone.
He was missed, and not just by the Autobots.
“What?” Starscream demanded.
Blurr cycled his optics. That had sounded a touch sharp. He tilted his helm, giving Starscream a sidelong look. “Wheeljack,” he repeated. “He would have been better than whoever this Scoop is. Probably more trustworthy, too.”
“Indeed.” Starscream was staring at him as though he’d never seen him before. “You truly don’t know what caused it?”
“Do I look like an engineer?” He paused and reconsidered, anger flushing his features. “And it wasn’t Jazz either.”
Starscream made a noncommittal noise. “I didn’t say it was.” He turned his helm, gaze focused on the far distance, the flat plains beyond New Iacon, the direction the Decepticons had gone.
“What didn’t I do?”
To his credit, Blurr wasn’t the only who jumped. Especially when Jazz melted out the shadows, a Cheshire grin on his face and his visor gradually lighting up. He must have shielded all of his biolighting because neither Blurr nor Starscream had seen him coming.
“What are you doing here?” Starscream demanded, his wings sweeping up and back, his words nearly a shriek.
Jazz sidled up to Blurr’s side and leaned an arm on Blurr’s shoulder. “Investigatin’. City went dark. Thought I’d find out why.”
Starscream’s optics flicked between them. “Curiosity,” he said.
“That’s what I said.” Jazz smiled his most winning smile.
Blurr had the feeling that there was something under the surface here that he wasn’t getting. Did it have to do with the reason why Jazz had turned down Starscream’s offer the first time around?
Starscream’s optics narrowed. “Right. I’ll leave you to it then.” His attention shifted to Blurr with a nod of his helm. “Blurr, I’ll comm you later as to our next move. We’ll have to reschedule the announcement.”
“Pretty sure everybody knows.”
“Even so.” Starscream looked at them again and then whirled on a heel, kicking on his thrusters and taking off into the sky.
Blurr was quite certain he had missed something. But he waited until Starscream was out of sight before he shrugged Jazz off his shoulder.
“All right,” he said, turning toward the closest thing he had to a friend right now. “What in Primus’ rusty undergarments was that about?”
“Don’t know what you mean, mech.” Jazz grinned at him but there was a dark flash in his visor.
Blurr ground his gears and held up a hand. “Whatever. I’m going back to my bar.” He turned his back on Jazz and hopped down from the stage.
He glanced back toward the crowd but the majority of it had dispersed. A few mechs lingered, likely Starscream’s entourage.
Jazz hopped down beside him, matching his stride. “I saw the blackout. Knew it started in this direction. Was worried.”
“I appreciate your concern, but you do know I can take care of myself.”
“Against that mech? Wantin’ some backup ain’t a bad thing, Blurr. It’s why we’re doing this together, right?”
Blurr sighed. “Right.”