Den of Chaos Fiction
Transformers

In Between
by Taselby

Rated Adult for violence
~4300 words
Summary: In Bluestreak's head, the lines had always been clear.
Warnings: This story contains language -- mostly English. For anything else, I don't warn. That's as good as it gets here.

Movieverse, from a slightly different angle.

Not mine. No money, no harm, no foul. No additives or preservatives. Please close cover before striking. If symptoms persist after seven days, discontinue use and apply DVD. If symptoms continue, consult a fangirl near you. Not for use if you are underage or thinking of becoming underage.

Thank you to JiMPage and Ashlyn Donnchaid for handholding, encouragement, and the occasional, well-deserved thwap upside the head.

~*~*~*~*~

Once or twice, Bluestreak had seen organics awaken, slowly stretching limbs and rubbing at their wet little optics, sucking in great gasps of air and generally taking a long time to come fully online. His own kind had no equivalent of such a transition state – one was either offline or on. There was no in between.

So it was that he came online with a staticky surge through his processors, coughing coarse yellow sand out of his intakes. The harsh white glare of the barren landscape was overlaid with red warning lights in his HUD, a stark visual representation of the pain in every joint, junction and servo right down to the tiny rotors in his optics. He ran a fast-and-dirty diagnostic before dismissing several internal alerts, and pushed up with his mercifully uninjured right arm, shrugging off the small dune that had collected against his side. Energon and cydraulic fluids smeared the front of his armor, soaking the ground beneath him. He noted it automatically and ran another fast subroutine comparing time offline to remaining fuel volume and concluded that his fuel status would have to be seen to, sooner rather than later. Moving would only aggravate the situation, but there was nothing he could do about that now.

His knee had stiffened, clogged with sand and leakage, deprived of circulation. Carefully, he rolled over and examined the damage, hissing as he probed the wound with gentle fingers. The armor exoplate was ruined, blackened edges flaking away under his hands as he peeled it back. The endoplating and insulation beneath wasn't much better, buckled and split along half the length of his thigh. Whatever he'd been hit with, it had packed a serious punch. He sighed and pried off the warped endoplate, tossing it aside and clamping off the ruptured lines, each one a little jolt of fresh pain reminding him not to be so careless as to get shot like that. The broken energon line in his left shoulder still dripped slowly, but it was too deep for him to access easily, and there wasn't time for those kind of repairs now. If internal repair systems couldn't heal the damage on their own, well. It would just have to be dealt with later.

The knee was probably a loss already. Wheeljack was going to kill him.

A dark plume on the horizon captured his attention. Transforming was out of the question, even if his alt was suited for the terrain. So he levered himself up awkwardly, regretting the loss of his rifle, which even spent might have made a serviceable crutch, and forced the wasted knee into a semblance of operation. He clenched his jaw as the abrasive sand tore at the lining of delicate servos, firmly ignoring the new indicators rolling over red.

The sky was white and clear, the binary star hot enough to make him pull precious coolant from his extremities to keep his central cortex from overheating. Just barely, he thought he could see the edge of a small impact crater, a faint rim of darker yellow against the shimmering skyline. Mood brightening, he started limping toward distant smudge. Maybe the day wasn't a total loss after all.

A quarter turn of the planet later and the dwarf star had set, the blue giant still 30 degrees off the vertical, dominating the sky. But the crater he'd seen lay before him, a long scar of torn earth and metal scrap terminating in a rough, semicircular bowl, the air hazy with dust and smoke from smoldering debris. He picked up a shard and ran a thumb over it thoughtfully. Light endoplate. It was possible that the Decepticon hadn't survived planetfall, and part of him was tempted to believe so. The fact remained, though, that if he had survived, the Decepticon – better armed and better armored – had probably done so as well.

The onboard guns he carried weren't nearly as effective at range as the lost rifle, but they were serviceable enough at close quarters. His knee joint had frozen into place some distance back, and he'd finally given up and just disengaged his entire leg from the neural network, disabling the related alarms and warning indicators. The lack of pain was a relief, but there would also be no more warnings of further injury, and he'd be unable to bring the leg back onto the network by himself.

"Hey, you down there?" His voice echoed off the scattered rock formations. The blowing grit obscured any tracks, though the easiest way out of the crater – presuming the 'Con couldn't simply fly out – was the trailing edge of the gouge. "You missed me!"

Between the echo and the hiss of sliding sand, audio was almost useless. He wouldn't be able to hear the 'Con until he was almost on top of him, unless he took the bait and called out. He scanned the shadows on the far side for movement. "I'd ask if it was just you who's such a lousy shot, but now that I think of it, none of the Decepticons I've met could shoot. What's the point of all the big, fancy guns when you can't hit your own aft with both hands and a laser scope?" He tossed a rock into a cluster of shadows at the bottom of the crater. "Just like the rest of you stupid, Pit-spawned, recycled glitches, you're all weapons and bad attitude, trying to substitute brute force for skill. Here's one for free -- it's not working!! Might as well change your name to 'Bad-Shot-icons.' No wonder you're losing the war!"

The energon leak in his shoulder dripped faster. He was dangerously overheated, achy and stiff from fluid loss, and slagged if he was going to die on this wasted rock in the middle of fragging nowhere without completing his mission. Without even knowing if this lunatic stunt throwing them down the gravity well of this planet had worked, and he'd sent this slagging 'Con to the Pit. His intakes cycled hard against the oppressive heat as he scooped up more rocks and flung them, heedless of the sticky, spreading wetness down his arm. "None of you" fling "worthless, cold-soldered" fling "defective scrap heaps," he pulled back his arm to throw another rock, "can shoot!"

A power surge and a slight movement in the corner of his optics were his only warnings. Bluestreak dropped to the ground hard as the blast from a plasma cannon scorched the air where his head had been.

"Brainless, chittering Autobot!" The Decepticon stepped out from behind a wind-sculpted rock formation, optics blazing, plasma cannon thrumming as it powered up for another volley. One arm was missing, loose wires sparking, and he slumped over a wound in his abdomen, crusted with sand and dark fluids. "You should have escaped while you could."

Primus in the Pit but the thing was huge. Bluestreak scrambled backwards on aft and elbows, dragging the numb weight of his leg. "Hey, I'm sure we can work this out since you look like a... reasonable... mech and all. All I need is your memory core to take back to my CO for data mining..."

The 'Con stared at him for a moment, his optics narrowing. Bluestreak grinned. "I mean, it's not like you're really using your processor or anything. You'd probably never even notice, and I'd bet even energon that no one else could tell the difference either..."

"Shut up and die!" The 'Con roared and swung his cannon back up just as Bluestreak kicked himself backwards over the rim of the crater, covering his head as he tumbled down the slope, dirt and rock exploding overhead as the 'Con vented his fury with another blast.

"Hey Ugly!" he coughed to clear his clogged intakes again and readied his onboard weapon, unfolding it smoothly out of his forearm and waiting as the 'Con came closer to the drop off. "You missed me again!"

And with that, Bluestreak raised the weapon and sighted along his arm. The onboard gun, a lightweight concussion blaster that he'd never bothered to upgrade because he so seldom used it, wasn't nearly powerful enough to penetrate reinforced exoplate at this range.

The Decepticon knew it, too, and started to laugh, his whole posture relaxing. "That's the best you got, that puny little thing? You came after me with that?" His plasma cannon started to thrum again, the low vibration of it cutting under the droning wind. "Slag, I knew you Autobots were stupid, but I never knew you were funny!" The cannon's inner bore glowed garishly blue against sand and sky.

Bluestreak shrugged in acknowledgement and laughed with him. "That's me -- more brass than brains, Springer says." He grinned again, tight and humorless. Even his uninjured shoulder was feeling the strain of fluid loss, now, and the weapon was growing heavy, which was stupid since it was part of him. He clenched his hand against the burn in overtaxed rotors. "But you know what?"

The 'Con flexed his hand, and the cannon throbbed. Sparks fell from the ragged stump on his opposite shoulder. He stepped closer to the edge. "What?"

"Even on my worst day," he said, still grinning as he adjusted his aim minutely, "I'm still better than you."

The Decepticon kept laughing. And why not? They both knew the light gun wouldn't do more than scratch his armor.

Unfortunately for the 'Con, Bluestreak wasn't targeting the armor.

He squeezed off two bursts into the rim of the crater, already weakened by the 'Con's plasma-powered outburst, and another two into the rock formation above, allowing himself a moment of satisfaction at the stupid look of surprise on the 'Con's face as he was engulfed in the rockslide and washed down the slope. "...and I can shoot, aft-head."

He dragged himself over to where he could see the 'Con's purple hand sticking out of the rockpile. Why did so many of them paint themselves purple? Maybe it some kind of weird Decepticon initiation ritual – welcome to the club, yank out your logic circuits, grab an oversize weapon and pick an ugly color. Working quickly, he cleared Ugly's upper torso of debris and fumbled under the edge of his chestplate to open the manual catches. Shoving the heavy plate aside – Primus, how did they even walk in this stuff? – he pulled himself across the wide chest and disabled the main motor relays just before Ugly came back online.

"Wh--*skkt* what are you doing?" One of Ugly's optics was smashed, the recess filled with dirt and shards of dark metal. "Get off me!"

"Shut up or I'll deactivate your mouth." He stowed his gun, wincing at the stiff transformation as it folded away into his arm. Exposed chest circuitry glistened in the white light. High, just under the neck junction, was the panel he sought. "I told you," he said as he removed the cover plate, "I need your memory core. Specifically, I need the data core from your sensor relay and the reconnaissance images of the last few systems you surveyed. As much as the thought of taking back your disconnected cranial unit amuses me, I don't really need it, and well... you're not exactly decorative."

Ugly rumbled deep in his throat, but didn't argue. Bluestreak kept working at the delicate wires linking the sensor module's core to Ugly's neural net and peripheral energon lines. If he cracked the housing, the data would be useless and all his effort wasted. "You got a name, or does everyone just call you 'Ugly'?" He paused and looked up from the sensor module. "After this they might just call you 'One-Eye.'"

"I'm gonna t--*szzrk*--tear you into so many pieces you'll be recycled as nanobots."

"Best of luck with that, once Shockwave finds out that not only did you lose the data he sent you to gather three vorns ago, but that you got your sorry aft handed to you by an Autobot half your size." He double-checked the disconnect of the motor relays – if Ugly's self-repair systems managed to reinstate sub-cervical motor function he was well and truly scrapped – and cut primary weapons control just to be sure before he went back to work removing the data core he needed.

"Blowback."

"What?"

"My name." His vents cycled heavily, the exhaust stinking of ozone and energon. "Blowback. Remember it, 'cause I'm coming for you."

Bluestreak didn't bother to respond the threat. Energon from his shoulder was pooling in his wrist cables, and he was about to lose fine motor control in that arm. This wasn't going to work. The heat baked into his dorsal armor, solar radiation useless as an energy source since he'd fried his collectors and the wing-like panels that housed them in planetfall. His internal temperature continued to climb, threatening involuntary stasis-lock if he didn't do something soon. Hands resting against the exposed circuits, he thought hard, and reached for a cydraulic line.

"HEY!! Filthy sl--*rrrt* little scrapheap reject! What the frag?" Blowback's remaining optic was wide with fear.

Bluestreak didn't try to justify it, just roughly patched the cydraulic line into his own system. He grunted as the nearly-dry lines flooded, streaking pain up his arm, the sensation blossoming through his chest and onward. Sweet relief followed close behind as his joints loosened, the feeling almost one of pleasure as it flowed down his limbs. He sagged forward, his face shaded almost intimately against Blowback's chest, the tips of his chevron bump bump bumping against the naked circuits. The off-network leg was numb and unsalvageable at this point, at least not by such a simple trick, but he held to the hope that maybe Wheeljack could still save it if he got back in time.

Wheeljack could fix anything, provided he didn't blow it up first.

"Don't do this. You can have the data, j--*srrt*-- not--no--" He wheezed, helpless, an inert slab of metal until his pathways were reconnected. "Get out of my systems..."

"I haven't slagged you yet, have I? Look, I'm not a medic, so distracting me isn't a good idea." Time passed as cydraulic system status indicators slowly cycled down from alert, rolling over yellow and finally green, vanishing from his immediate attention as he patched in coolant lines and energon. He clenched against the unexpected pleasure of it, deep and dark, touching his spark. It was wrong, it wasn't he shouldn't-- no-- He seemed to dilate deep inside, flooded with warmth that owed nothing to the radiation battering his armor. Wheeljack! This was interfacing gone wrong, nothing like being with Wheeljack, nothing l -- pain and power and deep, twisted pleasure and his circuits ike ang with it--

"I-I've got primary and secondary leakages in two systems, and--" He vented hard, trembling as one by one, more warnings downgraded themselves in his HUD.

Blowback glared at him, one optic blazing in impotent fury, an involuntary tremor running through his frame. "Slagging heap of reject parts! Get the frag OFF ME!"

He braced both hands against Blowback's chest, pressing hard to stop their shaking. The wires were smooth and fine under his fingers, the spark casing just beneath, vulnerable. He could hurt the 'Con if he wanted to, just twist his fingers, pull an exposed conduit... No effort at all and he could make this an exercise in agony. He shuttered his optics and pushed the image away. His head hung, pulling heavily on his neck cables. "I can't do this if you're scrap, but there's no reason you have to be online."

"F--*fzzt*--fragging coward, too weak to stand and fight, just like all Au-au-autobots. Your Prime is fled, sparkless weakling he is, and you are a-abandoned, alone--"

Bluestreak struck him hard across the face with his untethered arm, impact rocking through him with a sweet, dark pulse along his neural net, every wire alive and throbbing with power. He gagged on the sensation. "He's your Prime too, and you'd do well to remember that."

Blowback laughed, a slide from hesitant and manic into deep and grating. "He is no one's Prime. He was a figurehead before the war and a deserter since." His intakes wheezed, his remaining optic, deep and red, rolling hard in its housing to capture Bluestreak's gaze. "What's it been, 100 vorns? More? You Autobots have lost because you are weak, you –"

Bluestreak slammed him across the face, again and again until his arm pulsed with pain, structural integrity alerts chirping in the back of his awareness. The exoplate of his forearm was dented in the shape of the Decepticon's jaw. "We haven't lost, and will never lose so long as one Autobot subroutine functions." He leaned in close and whispered, a bare hiss of his vocalizer, "You forget, deceiver, the Prime went in pursuit of Megatron, who fled first."

"In pursuit of the All Spark, that your Prime jettisoned like so much scrap. I was there, sparkling."

"I am no sparkling. You are little more than scrap, and of less use." Enough distraction, enough listening to the poison the Decepticon poured out. That was what they did, that was who they were. His hands now steady enough, he went back to work, disengaging the remaining feeds to the sensor module, moving carefully to avoid ripping out the tubing connecting him to Blowback.

Primus, he missed his rifle. It was better that way, simple, clean – just him and the weapon and the target, the precision of a clean kill, a comforting distance.

He didn't bother to correct the lay of Blowback's head from where he'd pounded it. Let him struggle to glare, rolling his one optic. By the time he teased free the last connection on the data core housing, the large blue star was a bare 20 degrees off the horizon, washing the sky green as they approached the terminator to night. The last of the fluid-level indicators had long since been downgraded from their emergency status and vanished from his HUD.

Moving slowly, he stowed the module and carefully disconnected the fluid lines, sparking pain from the inexpert patch job. Simple clamp-and-run repairs were all he was really qualified for, not even basic field medic stuff. Maybe later he'd make time for more training, though the thought of ever doing something like this again was beyond repugnant. It was as though he could feel the Decepticon's taint laid over his synapses like a scrim of dirty oil...

"What now, Autobot?" The Decepticon's optic was dim, flickering on the edge of stasis-lock. "You h--*hzzt*--have what you want."

"Now?" He was spattered with energon, aching and dizzy and slightly sick from the transfer. The leak in his shoulder perversely dripped faster with more pressure behind it, and his leg was still a numb, dead weight pulling on him. His arms and torso were streaked with purple paint.

He had what he came for, yes, but nothing that he really wanted.

He slid off of Blowback's chest and propped himself tiredly against the wall of the crater, activating the secure transponder beacon that would transmit his coordinates to the ship. "Now we wait for retrieval."

"What, so you *czzkt*-can leave the dirty work of scrapping me to your buddies? Didn't seem to have a problem with getting ugly before." The shattered optic was a dark pit in his face, seeping lubricants.

"Shut up."

"Or what? You'll leave me to die? G-*grrk*-give me to your friends? Scrap me yourself, coward? Haven't got the brass." His smile was sly, knowing, and Bluestreak cursed himself for not offlining him completely, for dreading the silence more than Decepticon filth. " Or maybe you wanna keep me around for a little more fun before you do it? I've had rougher, but not lately. You want me to beg some more? Is that what lights your spark?"

Bluestreak was back across the short distance before he knew it, one hand buried in Blowback's neck cables, the other pressing the barrel of his weapon hard under the Decepticon's chin. "Shut up, you murdering reject or I'll do it now!"

"Kill me while I'm helpless, wounded? Autobot honor," he spat.

"How many have you killed, butcher? How many innocents, neutrals-- how many mechs just going about their duties have you slaughtered for nothing more than refusing to kneel?" The weapon's struts creaked, the barrel digging in hard enough to cut delicate circuitry.

Blowback made a tight noise. "Not... enough. Power belongs to those who can take it. You're no different--you just comfort yourself with lies. All your Autobot talk of freedom... You'd make the us all just like you--" his vents labored, choked with dust. "Weak."

A bright bead of energon slid down the barrel of the weapon, luminous in the shadows. "You hate me, hate Decepticons, want to kill us all? Stupid, slagging little runt, you're just like me!"

His whole frame shook, arm straining where the muzzle of the blaster dug into the unarmored cables of the 'Con's throat. Decepticon -- pitiless, merciless, liar, thief, murderer -- and didn't Bluestreak hate them? Didn't he want vengeance for his people? Didn't the dirty pleasure of his theft -- can't even call it what it is, coward -– didn't that coil in his circuits even now? "I'm not--I'm nothing like--"

"You're a better Decepticon than I am!"

The small cannon was impossibly loud in the enclosed space, deafening him as his audials offlined in momentary compensation. Shrapnel rained down in the brief silence, shards of metal and circuitry, energon and assorted fluids exploding in a rough circle about the wound.

~*~*~*~*~

Wheeljack slid quietly into the opposite seat, more quietly than a big mech like him should be able to. Bluestreak looked up, swirled his cup of mid-grade and drained it, extinguishing the pale rosy glow of the energon. The rec room was deserted except for the two of them, lights dimmed to conserve power, dark enough that the light from 'Jack's optics reflected blue on the tops of his cheeks. Most never got to see him like this, quiet, in the dark, and never noticed the extreme kindness of his face.

Bluestreak wasn't sure he could handle 'Jack's kindness right now. No one was talking to him, at least not like they usually did, all rough jokes and slaps on the back, rounds of energon –- the crazy extra-refined stuff he'd stolen from Sideswipe that earned them both an orn of extra duty from Prowl –-

The silence was better than their caution.

Bluestreak twisted the cup in one hand, grinding it against the table. He could break it if he wanted to -– destruction was easy. Putting things back together, that was the hard part. "It doesn't hurt," he said at last, sounding bitter even to his own audials.

He wanted enough high-grade to blow a capacitor, enough to fry the memory right out of his chips.

'Jack nodded and gestured at the injured leg, still bent and locked into place, off-network. The vocal indicator lights on the side of his head flashed blue as he spoke, a gentle strobe. "I'm gonna have to take care of it eventually."

He nodded. He'd spent a full joor in the wash racks, scrubbing himself down to the undercoat in places, desperate to be rid of every trace of purple. Primus, even Prowl had been understanding, accepting the data core with a nod and a too-gentle touch on his shoulder, suggesting that he might want to clean up before heading to the repair bay. "Springer clamped the leaks for me."

"He does good work." The gentle thrum of the ship's engines permeated the dark.

"He said that he spends enough time taking mechs apart that he should be able to hold one together for a little while."

'Jack's voice lamps glowed pink with amusement. "He trained as a field medic back in Praxus, before."

Bluestreak nodded and looked down. "I didn't know that."

"Yeah, well, he doesn't really talk about it. Claims it's not good for 'scaring the slag out of the new guys' if they know he's actually trained for more than just carving mechs up. Don't ruin his image." 'Jack stood and reached to take Bluestreak's empty cup. "How about I get us each another cup, and afterward we'll go have a look at that leg?"

There was a long pause. Bluestreak vented heavily, the onboard air clean and cool. Orders aside, all 'Jack wanted right now was to take care of him. They did that for one another, all of them. It was something worth thinking about.

"Hey, Blue?" 'Jack sat the filled cup on the table, taking Bluestreak's hand before he could reach for it. "There's nothing wrong with surviving."

And maybe the kindness, the care –- well, it was amazing what you could bear when you needed to. Something else to think about. He sat up straighter and pressed Wheeljack's hand, offering a smile. The tension in 'Jack's optics eased a bit.

Bluestreak swirled the cup of energon and took a long drink. "Hey, 'Jack? Did I ever tell you about that time that Sideswipe and I were on leave together on this little colony moon full of organics over by – where was it? – over in Tau Zaris, and he gets tanked up on high-grade and goes chasing the local livestock. Middle of the night! The animals were making this noise and breaking down the fence to get away and Sideswipe – I have never seen him that overcharged – was slogging through this field, ripping up the turf and getting himself stuck knee-deep trying to catch one of these things to bring back to sneak into Prowl's quarters although how he was going to get in back onboard the ship I have no idea. Like I said, he was really overcharged. So come sunrise he's stuck in the mud and the animals are attacking and the locals are shouting and I'm laughing so hard I can't stand up..."

~*~*~*~*~

End

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