[Crown the Empire] Reign 02

Starscream was this close to hating his new lord and master.

He gasped and clawed at the table as Grimlock’s fingers worked magic on his wings, stroking the thin panels and tracing the long seams. Grimlock’s knee applied a steady, but infuriating pressure against his interface panel. He leaked through his seams, Starscream was sure of it. His valve clenched, and his spike throbbed, and Grimlock was absolutely merciless.

“Frag me already!” Starscream demanded for the second time this afternoon. He threw his helm back, wings flicking against Grimlock’s hands.

The Dinobot’s dark chuckle slithered down Starscream’s spinal strut and pooled in his valve. He clenched down on nothing. But he’d be damned if he opened his panels and leaked all over Grimlock’s armor and rutted on the Dinobot’s thigh like some kind of mindless beast. He would have a spike in his valve or nothing at all!

Grimlock curled a large hand around Starscream’s waist, and pressed his chestplate against Starscream’s back. His powerful engine rumbled and sent a steady vibration across the broad planes of Starscream’s wings. He was unrelenting heat, a wash of it against Starscream’s frame.

Starscream moaned. His shoulders hunched as pleasure streaked like lightning through his lines. His array rippled again, demanding stimulation. It wasn’t fair, Starscream bemoaned. It wasn’t fair at all.

“No,” Grimlock finally said. His hand slid down Starscream’s ventrum to his groin. Two fingers rubbed a firm pressure on his panel. “Open up.”

Starscream gritted his denta and clawed a dent into the table. “Not until you agree to frag me!”

“I thought that’s what we were doing.” Grimlock’s mild tone had been designed to infuriate, Starscream was sure of this.

“No. You’re teasing me!” Starscream hissed. He had half a mind to kick the Dinobot leader away from him and take what he wanted. This was fragging ridiculous.

Grimlock rolled his frame against Starscream. Their armor dragged together, sending a susurrous of sensation through Starscream’s frame. He gnawed on his bottom lip.

“I’ve been told Seekers need lots of foreplay,” Grimlock said and yes, his tone was definitely ripe with amusement.

Grimlock rocked his hips again and rubbed his fingers over Starscream’s panel, just enough pressure that Starscream could feel a brush against his swollen external node. Another lightning strike of pleasure made him arch, jerking in Grimlock’s hold.

Primus help him.

His panel snapped aside, leaving room for Grimlock’s fingers to nudge against his nub. Starscream gasped, helm tossing as Grimlock circled his anterior node over and over again. The slick glide of his finger encouraged Starscream’s hips to follow the route. His valve clenched, more lubricant trickling free. His spike pressurized in a snap, leaking transfluid.

His entire frame trembled, overload clawing for attention, demanding to tip him over.

“You and your damn datapads!” Starscream snarled just as Grimlock flicked over his anterior node again.

Starscream tossed his helm back and overloaded, valve clenching down on nothing and raining a sticky splatter of lubricant down. His calipers rippled, his vents roared, and his hands clawed at the table. Grimlock purred against his back, gentling his touch to extend Starscream’s overload without hurting him.

When and how he’d learned to do that, Starscream didn’t know. But he enjoyed every second of his overload until he sagged against the table, vents whirring and pleasure thrumming through his circuits. Little snaps of static crept out from beneath his armor.

“That’s one,” Grimlock said, sounding unbearably smug.

His finger dipped down, passing Starscream’s nub to slide into Starscream’s valve, now wet and open and willing. Starscream shivered as Grimlock’s admittedly large finger slid into his valve, delicately stroking the still buzzed sensor nodes. It curled just right, brushing over the little cluster of sensors behind the anterior curve of Starscream’s rim.

“Are you going to count them all?” Starscream demanded.

“I might.” Grimlock nuzzled against his helm from behind and gripped Starscream’s hip, rolling his pelvis against Starscream’s aft.

A second finger slipped in to join the first, and Starscream bit back a moan. His cooling fans whirred, vibrating his entire frame. He ground down, working Grimlock’s fingers deeperand cycled up to another overload. One? Pah. That was the start of clearing out his charge.

Grimlock’s frame thrummed with heat. It oozed from his vents, from his seams, buffeting Starscream from behind. Why wouldn’t the blasted Dinobot just open his panel already?

“Are you going to frag me or not?” Starscream demanded.

“Facing is not just spike in valve, you know,” Grimlock said, again with that annoyingly smart tone. His fingers stroked a stirring pleasure in Starscream’s valve.

That was it!

Starscream growled and shoved back, hard enough to push both himself and Grimlock away from the table. Or maybe it was the table that moved. Whichever. Either way, it gave him room to flip himself on Grimlock’s lap until he faced the smug Dinobot and could wrap his legs around Grimlock’s waist.

“Open,” he demanded, shoving his hand between Grimlock’s legs and groping at his panel.

Grimlock’s hands settled on his hips. His visor was bright, his field thick with arousal. He didn’t have a mouth, but there was a certain gleam to his visor that suggested he was smirking.

“If you insist,” Grimlock said.

His panel snicked aside, spike pressurizing into Starscream’s hand, his valve winking into view below it. Starscream blinked and stared down at the rather impressive girth. He knew Grimlock mass-shifted to a certain extent, between his root-mode and his Dino-mode, but hadn’t quite realized how much. His spike also had a unique shape, a little ridge near the base that swelled outward, sure to provide a nice stretch to Starscream’s valve rim.

He shivered with anticipation.

“Impressive,” Starscream purred as he arched an orbital ridge. “Maybe this’ll actually do the job properly.”

Grimlock barked a laugh and rolled up into Starscream’s hand, his spike throbbing with pent-up arousal. Pre-fluid dribbled from the tip, dampening Starscream’s fingers. “Do you insult all your partners?” he asked.

Starscream smirked. “Just the ones I think can meet the challenge.” His wings fluttered.

He stroked Grimlock’s spike again, fingers toying with the rounded head of it. Grimlock was thick enough that he’d feel fantastic sliding into Starscream’s valve. His spike would probably hit all the sensors just right.

Grimlock’s hands adjusted their grip, curling around Starscream’s hip to get a nice handful of his aft. “I guess all that’s left is to see,” he said, rocking his hips upward. The crisp scent of arousal filled the air between them.

Starscream bit down on another moan. He let go of Grimlock’s spike and threw his arms over Grimlock’s shoulders, rising up so that the thick head of Grimlock’s spike brushed over the swollen rim of his valve. Lubricant trickled free, dripping into Grimlock’s spike. Anticipation tightened every hydraulic and cable. His field thickened with lust.

His personal comm chirped.

Starscream froze. He wanted to ignore it but damn it. He was supposed to be responsible. He had duties. He was, technically, on shift. No matter how much his valve quivered and Grimlock’s spike was right there and their fields finally started to sync with shared arousal.

“You stopped,” Grimlock said, his tone mild but hinting of disappointment.

Starscream gritted his denta. His thighs trembled. “Someone’s pinging me.”

Grimlock’s fingers flexed on his hips. “And?”

“And we’re the Decepticon lord and commander,” Starscream forced out. “I have to make sure it’s not important.”The head of Grimlock’s spike caught against the swollen fold of his valve and brushed over his bright node.

A whine escaped Starscream before he could stop it.

His comm chirped again.

“This had better be important!” Starscream snarled before he could remind himself to be polite. His entire frame was tense with delayed gratification.

He hated to wait on his gratification.

Grimlock rolled his hips upward as though to taunt him. His spike head brushed against Starscream’s rim, rubbing over the exterior sensors. His fingers continued to flex on Starscream’s hips.

“Oh, was I interrupting something?” Cyclonus’ vocals came through, mild and unbothered. Nothing seemed to shake him.

Starscream ground his denta so hard the metal skreeled together. “What is it, Cyclonus?”

Grimlock pumped his hips again, spike rubbing over and over Starscream’s valve rim. It was a maddening kind of torture. Starscream almost hissed at him to stop, but it felt good, and he was less inclined to do so with every passing moment.

“I’ve received word that the space bridge repairs are complete on our end,” Cyclonus said. He didn’t sound annoyed.

Starscream honestly wondered what, if anything, would make him react.

“And?” Starscream prompted, and yes, his tone might have been a touch impatient. He dropped a hand to his spike, squeezing himself with a low purr of his engine.

Grimlock’s engine rumbled in appreciation. His fingers massaged Starscream’s aft. His hips rolled up, spikehead nudging just within the entrance of Starscream’s valve before popping free again. The rounded tip of his spike was enough to excite all of the pressure sensors around his rim.

A shudder rippled down Starscream’s backstrut. He arched toward Grimlock, panting heavily through his mouth, and almost missed Cyclonus’ reply.

“–shortly. Which means Optimus will be returning. Unfortunately, Metalhawk has been made aware of the repairs as well,” Cylonus said.

“Good for him,” Starscream drawled and reached the edge of his patience. “I’m sure he’ll want a meeting. I’ll set it up later.” Much later. After he’d gotten this spike into him.

“If you insist. Shall I pass the message on to Lord Grimlock?”

Starscream smirked and arched his frame against Grimlock’s with a burr of metal on metal that sent a wave of heat through his frame. “No, I’ll handle our lord and master,” he said with a wink.

Grimlock’s frame vibrated with muffled laughter. He gripped Starscream’s aft all the firmer and nudged his spike against Starscream’s valve. The head of his spike caught the rim and slipped in by the first wonderful inch.

Starscream tossed his helm back and moaned, rolling his hips down to take another inch, his calipers stretching wide to accommodate Grimlock’s girth. It was the good kind of stretch, and it sent a ripple of heat up his backstrut.

Cyclonus’ silence on the other end of the line was a little telling. “As you say,” Cyclonus finally said and then the comm clicked off.

Starscream would have laughed, but Grimlock growled and pushed up into him, bottoming out in a single thrust that stole Starscream’s focus and set his vents out of sync. He gasped, all of his sensors lighting up at once, his thighs trembling against Grimlock’s sides.

“Out of patience, Dinobot?” Starscream panted a ventilation.

“You are rather enticing,” Grimlock retorted. He rolled his hips upward, the rounded flare of his spikehead grinding up against Starscream’s ceiling node.

He moaned as a wave of charge swept through his valve. His calipers rippled, and his sensor nodes sparked to life. Starscream shivered.

“I know I am,” he purred. His fingers tightened around his spike, thumb stroking over the head. “Prove to me you’re worth it.”

Grimlock’s visor darkened, his field slamming against Starscream’s with a thick pouring of lust. He suddenly pushed to his pedes, and Starscream flailed for a grip, not that he needed one. Grimlock lifted him as though he weighed nothing and lay him down on the table, freeing up his hands to roam as he pleased.

Starscream’s wings scraped against the table’s surface, not painfully, but with just enough stimulation that it sent a wave of pleasure throughout his frame. His thighs tightened around Grimlock’s waist as the Dinobot bent over him and thrust into his valve, hard enough to shove him across the table if not for one firm grip on Starscream’s hip.

Starscream made a sound that was a cross between a yelp and a moan. Grimlock was relentless, pushing in and out of his valve in a steady motion. Each forward thrust was followed by a slow grind against his ceiling node that made him see stars. His vents blasted heat, pleasure building inside of him toward another overload. Especially when Grimlock notched them together and ground against his panel, applying a steady pressure to Starscream’s anterior node.

“Do I… meet your approval?” Grimlock panted, vocals better a growl as he slammed into Starscream again and again.

“Shut up and frag me!” Starscream snarled. He snagged Grimlock by the chestplate, pulling the heavier Dinobot down on top of him. His spike bumped against Grimlock’s ventrum, hot metal teasing the sensitive head.

Grimlock blanketed him with his frame, his scorching ex-vents wafting down on Starscream. One hand gripped Starscream’s hip, but the other palmed his wing, a source of endless fascination for him.

Starscream didn’t care where he touched so long as he kept it up. He tossed his helm back and moaned, rocking his hips upward and clenching down on Grimlock’s spike. Another sharp thrust pressed him down against the table as Grimlock held him in place and steadily ground down. Starscream’s node pulsed with pleasure.

And then Grimlock stopped. His vents cycled heat. His spike throbbed in Starscream’s valve. But all he did was hold himself there and let out a frustrated huff.

“What are you doing?” Starscream demanded with a squeeze of his thighs and a clench of his valve.

“Hold on,” Grimlock snapped and rolled his helm, rebooting his vocalizer. “Grimlock, here. Go ahead.”

What? Was he serious? What was with the timing!

Starscream growled, his pedes bouncing against the back of Grimlock’s thighs. He curled his fingers into Grimlock’s transformation seams, stroking the heated cables beneath. Grimlock’s gaze turned toward him, dark with heat. He rolled his hips, spike grinding against Starscream’s ceiling node.

He shuddered and held on, pleasure spiking through his lines.

“Is it important?” Grimlock asked aloud. He tilted his gaze toward Starscream, visor glinting with a mischievous light.

“It had better be,” Starscream snapped.

Something like laughter rumbled in the Dinobot’s chassis. “If you must. Come on up. We have the time now.”

“We most certainly do not!” Starscream hissed, his heel snapping against Grimlock’s aft. The clang echoed in the conference room, though Grimlock didn’t budge.

He half-lit one end of his visor in a wink and snapped his hips forward, a grinding thrust on Starscream’s ceiling node. Starscream’s frustration bled into a moan. His valve rippled with impending overload.

“I guess that means we have to make this quick,” Grimlock said, finally giving Starscream his full attention. He stopped petting Starscream’s wing and wrapped his massive fingers around Starscream’s spike, giving him a squeeze.

Starscream groaned. “This is unfair.”

Grimlock chuckled. “The price of being a leader,” he said, and gave Starscream’s spike another squeeze.

Starscream trembled. He clenched his valve down on Grimlock’s spike and was rewarded with the sight of Grimlock’s armor flaring. His field rippled with arousal, tangling with Starscream’s own. He ground into Starscream, circled his hips, and then picked up his rhythm again.

It was no holds barred this time, the pace fast and brutal. Starscream loved every second of it, holding on as Grimlock pounded into him, his thick spike raking against all of Starscream’s internal sensors. His nodes crackled with electric fire. His spike pulsed in Grimlock’s grip. His vents blasted out heat.

He overloaded with a shout, one probably heard two corridors away, clamping down on Grimlock’s spike as he jetted transfluid all over Grimlock’s ventrum. His fans roared to compensate for the heat flooding his frame. Ecstasy sent a wave of blue fire over his armor, and Starscream’s optics fritzed. His sensory nodes sang with pleasure, especially as Grimlock carried him through every tremor of his release.

Grimlock’s vents sounded haggard and rough. One of his cooling fans clanked as it spun.

“Was it… good for you?” he asked, vocals stripped with static.

Starscream dredged up something like a smirk. “Enough for a repeat encounter,” he said, vocals bouncing with every harder and harder thrust, Grimlock curled over him in a furious race to his overload.

“Good.” Grimlock’s visor blazed with need. “I’m going to– Do you mind if I–” He cut off twice, his vocals taking on a strained edge.

Starscream’s thighs clamped Grimlock all the tighter. “Please,” he purred as he rolled his hips upward. “I insist.”

All that emerged from Grimlock’s vocals was static as his engine roared, and he slammed into Starscream, once, twice, and then a third time before a flood of heat blossomed in Starscream’s valve. He moaned as the wash of transfluid crackled over his nodes, drawing a few, small jolts of pleasure. Like mini-overloads.

Grimlock’s hands slammed onto the table on either side of Starscream’s helm. His hips pinned Starscream’s to the table as he leaned over Starscream, all bulk and mass and heat. His vents roared on maximum. The scent of interfacing was so thick in the air it was all Starscream’s atmospheric sensors could detect.

But there was no denying the satisfaction in Grimlock’s field. Or the little shivers his armor kept giving off as his plating shuffled and reshuffled.

That, Starscream decided, was definitely worth a repeat performance. Except perhaps on a berth, he corrected, thinking of his aching backstrut and what was probably a few scratches in his paint job.

Grimlock stayed nestled within his valve as Starscream’s calipers twitched around him, restlessly clicking.

“We should probably move,” Starscream said.

“I don’t know,” Grimlock replied with a controlled roll of his hips that stirred his spike through all of the accumulated fluids in Starscream’s valve. “I’m comfortable.”

Someone chimed the door.

Thank Primus they’d had the foresight to lock it.

They both froze. Starscream’s armor clamped down tight. He wasn’t opposed to putting on a show if it was arranged beforehand, but the last thing he needed was rumors getting started. No, frag it, he was not interfacing his way to the top!

“That,” Grimlock said, “would be Vortex.”

Slag it all to the Pit!

Starscream pushed at Grimlock’s chest. “Get off! We have work to do.”

“I thought I just did.”

“You’re not funny!” Starscream snapped with a roll of his optics.

He pushed again, not that it was needed as Grimlock was already loosening his hold on Starscream and sliding back. His spike eased from Starscream’s valve, though a mix of lubricant and transfluid trickled free in his wake. No time to clean himself out now. Starscream snapped his panel shut and sat up on the table, pulling a couple metal-mesh cloths from his subspace.

He tossed one to Grimlock and swiped the rest over himself as quickly as possible. He didn’t need to be spotless, just presentable.

“Seems like a waste,” Grimlock said as he dutifully wiped himself clean.

The door pinged again. Not because Vortex was impatient, but because he liked to be irritating.

Starscream gritted his denta and glared in the door’s general direction. Though Grimlock was partially to blame for agreeing to let Vortex have a say. For whatever reason. Vortex wasn’t even a Decepticon anymore!

Starscream looked down at the floor. Nothing much to be done about the puddles of fluid there. So he hooked a chair, dragged it over, and decided that would have to do for a cover. He tucked the metalmesh back into his subspace for cleaning later.

“Let him in,” Starscream said with a flick of his hand.

Grimlock’s visor flickered as amusement danced in his field. He dipped his helm in a bow. “As you wish, my Air Commander,” he said.

Starscream hopped off the table and narrowed his optics at Grimlock. Half the time, he couldn’t tell if the Dinobot was sincere or not. Or was it that Megatron’s idea of social interaction had been so disastrously skewed that Starscream didn’t know how to recognize genuine behavior anymore.

He didn’t know. It left him deeply suspicious.

He’d rather have Grimlock as leader of the Decepticons, this much was true. But he still wasn’t sure how far he could actually trust the part-Autobot, all-Dinobot.

Grimlock keyed his code into the pad, unlocking it, and giving leave for Vortex to enter. The door slid open immediately afterward, and Vortex strolled inside as though he owned the place. Curiously, he was alone. Where on Cybertron was his handler? Was he allowed to walk around unsupervised?

“Busy?” Vortex asked, a glint in his visor spelling mischief.

Starscream’s optics darkened to narrow slits. “Whatever you came to discuss, speak quickly. I don’t have time to waste on you.”

Vortex’s rotors twitched. He swung his helm left and right and then tilted it. “You might want to get your atmospheric circulators checked. I don’t think they’re working properly. I could almost swear that it smells like ‘facing in here.”

“Get to the point,” Starscream gritted out.

“Yes,” Grimlock agreed, folding his arms over his chestplate. He glowered at Vortex. “You said this was important. So talk.”

Starscream cast his leader a curious look. Grimlock’s flawless alternating between the more dumbed-down vocal patterns and his obvious intelligence never ceased to amaze. Sometimes it was hard to believe that such a keen mind existed behind that oafish exterior.

Vortex side-eyed Grimlock and approached the table, hopping up onto it and taking a seat. “Fine,” he said and his rotors quivered again.

If Starscream didn’t know better, he’d guess that Vortex was nervous.

“I need answers, and I’m not going to Optimus Prime,” Vortex continued, his field finally easing into the room, but it gave away very little. “Ons might be fully in his court, but I’m not willing to wave either banner.”

“So you’ve said.” Starscream inclined his helm and gestured to Vortex. “Continue. I presume this is about a job?”

Vortex shook his helm, and his visor dimmed by a degree. A twitch of his rotor mount and a shift in the direction of his gaze and Starscream was certain now. Vortex was uncertain about something.

“No,” he said. “It’s about… courtship.”

Starscream cycled his optics.

Grimlock rebooted his entire sensory suite with an audible click.

They both stared at the Combaticon and resident interrogator with nothing short of confusion.

“Come again?” Starscream said.

Vortex sighed and scrubbed a hand down his mask and visor. “Look, it’s like this. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. He’s just my type, and Ons knew that, and he did it anyway. Now I can’t get the kid out of my helm, and I just want to know what the rules are.”

Starscream frowned and tapped into his databanks. The Combaticons had taken a slave, if Starscream recalled. It had been a reward for their obedience and good behavior. Megatron had allowed them to take one of the more docile Autobots. The Praxian who wasn’t Prowl or Jazz’s pet pretend interrogator.

“You want Bluestreak?” Grimlock asked right before Starscream finished putting two and two together.

Vortex didn’t look at either of them. “I didn’t say it made sense.”

Starscream stared at Vortex. “Why?”

“Am I supposed to tell you all the reasons why before I’m allowed to find out if I can pursue him or not?” Vortex demanded. His arms folded across his chassis, closing himself out. “I’m not going to hurt him! I just want to know if I can court him.”

Starscream’s jaw dropped. It was the first time he could ever recall such surprise to flicker through his spark.

Vortex was serious.

Grimlock, too, stared, though there was something of amusement in his field. “There is no law against interfactional relationships, no matter if you are Autobot, Decepticon, or Neutral,” he said. “They are, in fact, encouraged.”

Starscream nodded, though the surprise still left him struggling to form the proper words. “If he’ll accept your comm, you can court him all you want. I take it Onslaught approves?”

“Don’t matter if he does or not. He’s my commander, not my owner.” Vortex rolled his shoulders in an indignant shrug, though something of his earlier hesitation continued to linger. “All I care about is making sure I don’t step on any pedes and no one throws me in a brig for breaking some rule.”

Grimlock leaned back in his chair, propping his pedes up on the table. “You have a reputation,” he said. “Rules or not, you’re going to have to be careful.”

“I know that.” Vortex cycled a sharp ventilation and scraped a hand over his helm. “Do I need to ask the Prime for permission first?”

Starscream exchanged a glance with Grimlock, but a tilt of his leader’s helm put the answer firmly on Starscream’s shoulders. His wing fluttered. It was kind of nice to be trusted like that. It was even nicer that they had already established this rapport.

“No,” Starscream said. “But it would be a nice show of courtesy. Any brownie points we can win with the Autobots, the better.”

Vortex scoffed and flicked his solid gray shoulder. “I’m not a Decepticon anymore.”

“But you were one. And you used to own Bluestreak, for lack of a better word. If you don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression, you’ll do whatever you can to start with the right one,” Starscream said.

“Bluestreak has many friends,” Grimlock added with a low rumble of his power plant. “Dinobots included.”

Vortex lifted a hand, performing a sloppy salute. “So I better be genuine. Gotcha. Good thing I am.” He dipped his helm in a parody of a bow. “Thank you for your time. I’ll see myself out. And you can two get back to your work.”

Starscream’s optics narrowed. “You do that.”

He watched Vortex leave, the door sliding shut and automatically locking behind him. Starscream gnawed on his bottom lip as he considered. Vortex had seemed sincere, and he’d always thought it odd the Combaticons would have chosen someone like the garrulous sniper.

Still, it was peculiar.

“Work,” Grimlock repeated. and he tossed his helm back, laughing long and loud. “The puddle of fluid beneath my chair suggests otherwise.”

“Shut up,” Starscream snapped. “And we do have work, you know. Cyclonus was right. If the space bridge is fixed, Metalhawk is going to start whining about wanting to use it.”

“We have to discuss that now?” Grimlock asked. His field flickered back into the room, teasingly brushing against Starscream’s own.

Starscream’s wings shivered. They had, after all, been interrupted multiple times. “Better now than get interrupted later,” he said with a slow grin.

“You may have a point.” Grimlock cycled a ventilation. “What boring topic is next on the agenda?”

Starscream chuckled.

0o0o0

The space bridge had been repaired.

It was very good news. Then again, after inspecting it for himself, Cyclonus wasn’t surprised. There was a reason Jazz was Optimus’ Special Ops Commander. He knew exactly how to disable the space bridge without destroying it completely.

He’d opted to damage the control console and the energy connectors, all of which could be replaced as soon as the appropriate parts were duplicated. It was simply a matter of swapping out the damaged pieces for new ones.

Cyclonus had always respected Jazz, and this was one of the reasons why.

His other targeted attacks around Cybertron were carried in the same manner. Those on the depots were arranged to limit Decepticon access and facilitate an escape with some of the stock, not destroy the entirety depot. Sure, it took them time to dig out the storage containers and restore access to the locked warehouses, but in the end, all of the relevant supplies were left intact.

How Jazz had coordinated this with limited means to communicate, limited supplies, and limited staff, Cyclonus did not know.

Especially after he’d come to learn that Jazz and a small team had infiltrated the Decepticons as Ricochet and his associates. He’d only had three Autobots left to run wild on Cybertron and of those, Trailbreaker was not a mech anyone could consider stealthy. But Cyclonus supposed there was a reason the large defensive mechanism was an auxiliary member of Jazz’s special teams.

All in all, it was well done. It was cold and calculated. It was many things that Autobot tactics had never been which proved one thing, Optimus had found some means to rein in his third. Either that or Jazz had willingly hobbled himself out of a sense of deference or respect for his commander.

Cyclonus supposed that made the Decepticons lucky. If Optimus had been less of a mech, he could have relied on the same tactics Megatron employed, and the Autobots would have won the war.

Sometimes, seeing the ruin Cybertron had become and the pain Megatron’s victory had caused the defeated party, Cyclonus wondered if that might not have been the better outcome.

Cyclonus did not consider himself one who was prone to moping. But when he flew over what remained of Cybertron and saw the destruction that the war had wrought, the urge to brood struck him. It hurt to see Cybertron in such a state. It hurt to return, trusting that Megatron’s leadership had brought them a worthwhile victory. It hurt to return to the main Decepticon fold and see that much had changed in the millennia since Cyclonus had last served under Lord Megatron.

Cyclonus did not like the changes Megatron had wrought. But it was too late to turn back, and he’d heard enough stories about what happened to those who disagreed with Megatron. He couldn’t afford to be branded an Autobot, nor did he want that distinction. If anything, he would have preferred Neutrality.

Such was not an option. Especially if Metalhawk was any example of what the Neutrals had become. They were self-congratulating mechs who considered themselves better than the Autobots and Decepticons who had given their sparks to fight for what was right. Metalhawk was everything Cyclonus had hated about the old regime. He was a coward.

Cyclonus had chosen to keep his silence. He stayed in the background, kept his own soldiers close, and made himself rid of anyone who thought Megatron was in the right. They had begun the war for a righteous purpose, not to make the Autobots into slaves for the amusement of the Decepticons. And not to ignore the state of their homeworld in favor of expanding to alien planets.

Cybertron, their home, was what was important. Not conquering.

Cylonus had heard the murmurings of Starscream’s planned coup. He’d overheard Starscream and Soundwave in conversation one day. He’d chosen to keep his silence. He’d picked a side on his own after considering the options. And when the day came, he ordered his soldiers to make their own choice.

None stuck with Megatron.

There were times he did wonder if overhearing Soundwave and Starscream had been part of their plan. Starscream was devious, and Soundwave too good at his job for either of them to be so careless. Soundwave’s army of little spies meant he was never caught unaware. So perhaps they were taking the opportunity to gauge his reaction without directly approaching him.

Cyclonus didn’t know. But he was glad to have gotten the opportunity to choose for himself.

Cyclonus offered his fealty not to Starscream – he would never trust the Seeker – but to Grimlock. Because he had witnessed the Dinobot leader’s strength, and he had seen the way Grimlock treated his subordinates. Grimlock was a leader who could be trusted, who Cyclonus believed had a better future in mind for the Decepticons. And it was far better than becoming an Autobot.

Cyclonus would rather leave Cybertron than bow to another Prime. No matter who that Prime was.

Cyclonus banked to the left, tilting toward the horizon. He found one of his favorite observation decks and landed. This one gave him a broad view of Iacon, the rebuilding in process, and to the east, the distant crumbles of what remained of Polyhex’s towers where the Autobots were making their home. If he looked to the west, he could see what the Neutrals were making of their own territory in the flattened ruins of Nova Cronum. Cyclonus did not envy them that task. There were other locations better suited for rebuilding, but Metalhawk insisted on remaining in proximity to the space bridge.

It remained a painful sight. He could remember so clearly the beauty and glory that was Cybertron in the Golden Age. As much as he despised the structures Megatron had risen to destroy, Cybertron had always been Cyclonus’ home. He grieved for what it had become, what horrors they had inflicted upon it.

He grieved for the fact they might never repopulate their planet. With Vector Sigma dark and the key destroyed, there would be no newsparks. They might have stopped themselves from killing each other, but they had no hopes of continuing their species. Cybertronians lived a long time, but even so, they had no future.

Cyclonus heard the scuffling of pedesteps against the debris-laden platform long before the owner spoke up, but Cyclonus hadn’t registered ill-intent so he kept it to himself. Now, however, his visitor purposefully made his presence known.

“It’s not beautiful anymore, is it?” a voice ventured, somewhat tentative. Clearly, he was neither Autobot nor Decepticon, because Cyclonus could not imagine any living soldier so uncertain of himself.

Cyclonus inclined his helm. “We can make it so again. We only have to work hard.” He tilted his helm, looking to the right, more than a little surprised to see that it was a minibot.

The little mech wore both visor and battlemask, the latter permanent by Cyclonus’ guess. His white and blue paint was nearly immaculate. But the more interesting observation was his lack of a badge.

“You are a Neutral,” Cyclonus observed.

The Neutral looked up at him. “And you’re a Decepticon,” he said with a little laugh. “See? I can state the obvious, too.”

“What are you doing in Iacon?” Cyclonus asked. He hadn’t known that they were allowing Neutrals in, other than the medical staff that was so desperately needed, and the engineers for the space bridge.

He should have known this. He was third-in-command. Had he missed some communique?

The Neutral tapped his arm and the words printed across his plating that read ‘Waste Disposal.’ “I’m evaluating. All the transmission pipes under the city are in bad shape. Sadly, I’m the closest thing to an expert that’s left.”

A Waste Disposal mech was the closest thing to a structural engineer? Clearly, they had fallen. So many Cybertronians killed.

This was no victory.

Cyclonus cycled a ventilation. “You were invited?”

The Neutral bristled, his armor plating fluffing up. “Do you want to see the request Starscream sent? Metalhawk signed off on it, too.”

Cyclonus shook his helm and held up a hand. “I apologize. I did not mean to cast aspersions on your honesty. It is simply that you appear ill-equipped to wander around Iacon on your own.”

Not only because he was a minibot, but also because he didn’t appear to be armed and the way he carried himself suggested he didn’t have much combat training.

“Because I’m not a warrior, you mean.” He thumped his chestplate with a palm, causing a dull thunk. “I can take care of myself.”

Cyclonus doubted it. “Can you?”

The Neutral’s gaze flicked away. He shrank into himself. “I’m good at hiding,” he admitted.

“This is not hiding.” Despite himself, Cyclonus felt a little amused.

The visor shifted to him briefly before the Neutral shuffled his pedes. “You looked nice enough to approach. I’ve, um, seen you up here before.” He looked away again, tapping his fingers together.

“I see.” Cyclonus had made it a habit to come here in his free time. He was unaware that it was often enough to be noticed. “I will not harm you. But I would suggest that you use caution in the future. There are many Decepticons who are not so kind.” He winced. Kind was not a word Cyclonus was accustomed to attributing to himself.

The Neutral’s fingers tapped together again. “I kind of already knew who you were. Metalhawk made sure we knew who the important Decepticons were, Commander Cyclonus.”

“You are not a Decepticon,” he said gently. “You may call me Cyclonus alone. Might I have your designation?”

“Oh.” The Neutral ducked his helm. “I’m Tailgate.”

Cyclonus dipped his helm in a traditional bow of greeting to the minibot. “It is is a pleasure to meet you, Tailgate. But the cycle is growing late. Is there somewhere I can escort you to ensure you get there safely?”

“Um. Could I stay here?” Tailgate asked, and then rushed to add, “Just for a little bit longer, I mean. I know my way back. You don’t have to stay. I just… I like the view here. But if it’s against the rules or something, I can leave.”

“You may stay as long as you like,” Cyclonus said, but he was reluctant to leave the minibot here alone. Not only because of the danger of angry Decepticons, but also the vermin which had made Cybertron their home.

They didn’t often come close to inhabited areas, too many mecha to be comfortable. But here on the outskirts? Any mech wandering by his lonesome was ripe for the taking.

Tailgate had to have some kind of self-defense training to have survived the war, unless the Neutrals truly had found some place so far removed from the violence that it wasn’t needed. But Tailgate was small, and it would only take one large Decepticons still bitter about Megatron’s defeat to decide he needed a consolation prize.

Cyclonus would not see Cybertron return to war. They had lost too much already.

“In fact,” Cyclonus continued, firmly turning his attention back to the view, as painful as it was. “I think I shall stay, too.”

A comfortable silence settled between them until Tailgate ventured, “You really think we can fix it?”

“If we work together,” Cyclonus said. Cooperation, he suspected, would be the hardest part. “We have to fix what we have broken.”

Tailgate’s visor glimmered at him. “Yeah,” he said. “I think so, too.”

Cyclonus felt a smile pull at his lips. Perhaps the Neutrals weren’t so bad after all.

***

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