The Autobot Chief Medic stared up at the exterior of the large, imposing building that housed the remains of Autobots who had long since departed this physical plane. Situated near the Archives, it was not a place he liked to visit too often; the memories it triggered of the Great War and all those who had valiantly, though tragically, lost their lives were sometimes more than he could handle.
However, this particular day was different. Ratchet focused his thoughts upon a single purpose, and slowly walked up the steps that led into the entrance hall of the Autobot Mausoleum. The entire foyer, with its high ceiling, basked in a soft, golden incandescence, illuminating the flat metallic displays adorning the walls, which were meticulously lined up along each side. The images depicted various highlights of the past Ages; the Autobot Matrix of Leadership being passed to Optimus, the monumental confrontation at Kaon that had led to the end of the Great War, the rebuilding of Iacon after the Great Devastation. All iconic moments in Cybertron’s history – moments that Ratchet would rather forget.
He input his access code and the large double doors slid open, allowing him to enter the final resting place of comrades who had passed. The chamber was eerily quiet, enveloped in semi-darkness, and Ratchet activated the lights. Immediately, a harsh brightness flooded the interior space and the repair specialist imagined that he sensed the sparks of the deceased Autobots stirring suddenly at his intrusion, waking them from their eternal slumber. Of course, he did not believe in stories of ghosts, regardless of rumours the younger cadets liked to spread around, and he quickly banished the thought.
He slowly walked down one side of the chamber, along a row of crypts, and read the name on each plaque as he passed by them. Many of these Autobots had been close to him, and his spark pulsed in regret as he remembered their time amongst the living. He had almost reached the other end of the mausoleum, when he finally stopped.
He stood in front of a large statue; it stood out amongst the rest, as it had no crypt behind it, unlike all the others.
“Wheeljack, old friend…” he spoke, audibly to himself, albeit softly. Feelings of sadness flooded through his circuitry, and he was unable to stop the sudden onslaught of emotions which threatened to engulf him. But then, after a few moments they passed and were replaced by memories of the Great War.
He was taken back to a moment in time that remained ever vivid in his mind; a memory that he had often replayed over and over.
He had been working alongside Wheeljack in his workshop, analysing the nano-sized particles of a foreign agent extracted from one of the many victims that had succumbed to what had been dubbed the Dark Plague. The sample was encased in a high security containment unit, and had been placed under a microscope. Wheeljack had shaken his head in disbelief. “The advanced technology in this… I’ve never seen anything like it,” he had said, leaning over the sample. “It’s intelligent, like a virus that’s evolving and adapting at a rate faster than anything I’ve ever seen before.” He had continued to study the sample with intense focus, the particles attempting to escape their prison whilst he observed them. Finally, he had stepped away, a sudden thought entering his head. “Ratch, would you make me a promise?”
“Hm?” The medic had replied, somewhat sceptical. He had known Wheeljack since the beginning of the Golden Age, and well enough to know that his promises usually turned out to be nothing more than requests to help him test out some newly constructed device he had recently designed.
“If this virus takes me, promise me that you’ll safeguard my research data, and that you’ll continue looking until you’ve found some answers?”
Ratchet had been taken aback by his friend’s sombre request, had rebuked him for his pessimism. “It’s not going to take you, and I won’t make any such promise.”
Wheeljack had ignored his refusal to accept the possibility that Wheeljack, or even he, might yet become victims of the Plague. “We’re the only chance the Autobots have to find a cure, Ratch. If I’m gone, you’ll be their only hope. Promise me you’ll do that one thing for me, please?” He had said, a solemn conviction and determination in his voice, and Ratchet, begrudgingly, had finally agreed.
Ratchet looked up at the monument, recalling that promise, and the cure which had eventually been found – although under very suspect circumstances; Wheeljack had suddenly, and quite inexplicably, disappeared, but had left behind a Decepticon code buried within his research data. The Autobot engineer had managed, somehow, to discover this code and decipher it, but his research notes had also contained the name of the Decepticon responsible for engineering the virus and, thanks to Wheeljack’s discovery, the named criminal had been arrested soon afterwards and charged with not only genocide, but also with the alleged murder of the Autobot engineer.
But alas, the body of his best friend was never recovered.
Wheeljack’s statue looked soulfully down at Ratchet, and the chief medic thought that he could hear his voice, a soft echo haunting his audio receptors. He wondered whether he might be glitching, and then he remembered why he had come here in the first place.
Despite all that had happened, some part of him was compelling him, driving him ever onwards to find the closure that he so desperately needed.
He would attempt to discover, once and for all, what had happened to his best friend so that he could, finally, lay him to rest.
About an hour after the successful rescue of Scavenger from the Alliance, Jazz had headed back to Iacon Central, keeping a low profile and avoiding other mechs as much as possible; he had needed that time to himself to re-evaluate his position and decide what he was going to do next.
If he returned to the Autobots, he would have to find a way to explain to them why he had helped a Decepticon escape, especially one who was, to their optics at least, responsible for a serious crime, and one who had been officially marked for deactivation by the Cybertronian High Council – which meant that, whilst Scavenger was safe for the time being, there was a high likelihood that the Alliance would eventually catch up with him and his comrades – and if not sooner, then later.
But what other options were available to him? He could leave Iacon for a little while, or possibly request a transfer to Altihex. But that wouldn’t help matters and, besides, he wanted to find out what had happened to Groove, and discover what the Decepticons’ intentions were. The way he saw it, he would either have to come up with some kind of cover story for his role in Scavenger’s escape and hope that the other Autobots would believe him… or, he could consider an entirely different strategy; one that had been playing on his mind ever since Optimus had called him into his private quarters to talk, several weeks ago. That option, however unlikely or impossible it had seemed at the time to carry out, was now starting to make the most sense to him, as if providence had played a part and now it was all starting to fall into place.
Jazz approached the Maintenance and Repair Bay, and the double doors opened automatically. A few Autobots were on duty inside, attending to routine maintenance tasks. Red Alert was showing Arcee how to realign a sensory array on one of the off-lined mechs laid out on a table, but he stopped and looked over as the head of Special Operations waited patiently to see him.
“Hold that thought, I’ll be right back,” he told Arcee, and she nodded, smiled uncertainly at Jazz.
As Red made his way to the double doors, Jazz stepped through into the large med bay. “Hey, Jazz…” He greeted, in a lowered voice. “Didn’t think we’d be seeing you here so soon,” he said.
“Is everything all right?” Jazz asked him, though he already had a strong suspicion that the senior Autobots were not too happy with him.
The Acting Chief Medic gave him a doubtful expression. “Well… Prowl was asking if I knew where you were. I think he wants to speak to you.”
“Heh. I bet he does,” Jazz replied simply, then changed the focus away from himself. “Mind if I take a look at the patient?” He said, indicating with one hand to a berth over in the corner. Groove was lying there, looking so still and lifeless that it made Jazz feel instantly uneasy.
Red looked towards the patient, considering the request. “It’s just that… I’m supposed to let them know if you’re here. I’m – sorry, Jazz. I really don’t want to get involved or anything, but…”
“Direct orders?” Jazz finished for him. Red nodded. “Well, you do what you gotta do. I won’t be more than a few kliks,” Jazz told him, and then walked over to Groove. Red hesitated for a moment, and then shrugged, headed back over to Arcee; he supposed there wouldn’t be any harm in allowing him to see the patient.
Jazz stood over the berth, carefully taking in the sight before him. He scanned the patient, recording every detail to memory, but that wasn’t the reason he had come here. He was looking for something – anything – that was not apparent, not immediately obvious to the untrained optic. He tried to imagine the Protectobot’s last few moments, the terrifying ordeal he must have gone through before being brutally off-lined. Something about the expression. There was fear, horror in the mech’s face… yes; that was obvious enough. But there was also something else, another emotion there. Something that he had seen before in the faces of terminated victims. The Mining Station at XR-5 on his last mission, he recalled with regret.
Yes, that was it. Realization. As if Groove had learned of something before he had lost consciousness… something that he had not expected at all.
Jazz had seen all he needed to see, and quietly turned to leave the med bay, but was startled to see Prowl waiting for him at the bay’s entrance. He appeared as patient and aloof as he always did, arms crossed in front of him.
“Jazz, a word please?” He said, as the First Lieutenant approached him. Prowl did not wait for his response, but signalled for Jazz to follow him out of the med bay and into the hall outside. He made sure no other mech was in audio range, and then got straight to the point, his voice low, yet terse. “I’ve received various reports claiming that you were seen helping the Decepticons escape. Is this true?”
Jazz held his gaze, not giving away any of his thoughts or intentions. “And if it was? You going to have me terminated as well, without waiting to hear what I’ve got to say?”
Prowl grimaced, his frustration now surfacing. “Jazz, this isn’t a joke! What the Pits were you thinking, providing deliberately misleading information to our search teams?” He was angry, and for an all too fleeting few seconds did not hold back. “Do you have any idea what that looks like, Jazz? What you’ve done?” The Special Operative remained quiet, his full attention upon Prowl, his own anger kept well under control. Prowl inhaled deeply, thought about how he was going to say what he needed to say next. “Jazz, you leave me with no choice…” His voice was calm once again. “I’m going to have to take you into custody, at least until I’ve spoken to Prime,” he hesitated, waited for the other mech to respond.
“On what grounds?” Jazz challenged him.
“Please don’t make this any more difficult than it needs to be –”
“I asked you a question,” Jazz said stubbornly. “On… what… grounds? I want to hear you say it.”
Prowl sighed in frustration. All right, if that’s the way he was going to be, fine. He spoke slowly, deliberately. “Jazz, as First Lieutenant of Cybertron Command, you are forthwith charged with assisting the Decepticons – war criminals – by aiding their escape; providing false information in a deliberate effort to mislead our search teams; and assaulting fellow Autobots and Neutrals, in direct violation of the Autobot-Neutral Alliance Code of Honour, and of the Cybertronian High Council’s directives. Is that clear enough?”
“Yeah, it’s clear enough.” Jazz said, and then added, “Let me speak to Prime first.”
Prowl hesitated, and then nodded. “He’s on his way here now.” He glanced back towards the med bay doors, imagining Groove on the table inside, and recalled the day they had found him, helpless and torn, possibly beyond salvation. “Was it really worth it, Jazz?” He asked the black and white mech, regret in his voice, as he tried to fathom the motivations behind his fellow officer’s recent actions, but coming up short.
Jazz did not reply, and they both stood in the hall, each observing the other, each wondering how things had ever been allowed to come to this. Several minutes passed by in silence, until heavy footfalls could be heard coming from the other end of the hall, getting louder with each step. Jazz did not turn around to acknowledge the Autobot leader’s approach, but waited until Prowl had stepped aside, and the large mech faced him directly. He was obviously disappointed.
“I’d like a word, Prime,” Jazz said, not waiting for the other to speak first.
Optimus nodded once. “Not here,” he said, and indicated for them both to follow him, as he silently made his way back down the hall. Jazz gave Prowl a look of dissatisfaction, and then caught up with the Autobot Commander as he led the way to the private Conference Room.
Ratchet had headed to Maccadam’s Old Oil House in an effort to take his mind off his current thoughts. Seated at a table within a small nook, away from the distractions of the larger crowds, he observed the busy bar with a watchful optic, scanning every bot who entered and exited, unconsciously searching for someone. He wasn’t sure who he was looking for, but it didn’t really matter all that much; the main thing was that he needed time alone to think, away from the Autobot’s central hub of operations, at least just for a little while.
With the recent developments involving the Alliance, including their increased efforts to put an end to the Decepticon regime, Ratchet had begun to feel more and more uneasy, and anxious. This feeling had turned into an ever-disturbing presence in the back of his mind as reports had gradually started coming in from different parts of the Gamma Sector, reports of Autobots who had been brutally attacked and left for dead, or who had gone missing. He should have realized what was occurring much sooner, but he had been too caught up with his own internal struggle. He had made every effort to suppress the anger and frustration which had plagued him – and the sorrow, too – emotions that, for too long, had remained buried deep within an inaccessible part of his mind. But then they had begun to emerge to the fore, growing ever stronger, until they threatened to take control of him unless he could find the courage to confront them.
It had almost reached the point where he could no longer function without the fragmented memories of his chequered past constantly interfering with his mental processes and his work.
Even now, as he watched mechs walk by his table, acknowledging him respectfully in recognition of his senior rank, any slight trigger could send him back to that place within his troubled mind; that void of emptiness which had never truly ceased to haunt him.
He could suddenly hear the shouts from across the hall, the darkened med bay as the power momentarily went offline, Autobots being dragged onto operating tables as they cried out for someone to help them, their outer plating losing integrity at a terrifying rate as the Dark Plague took hold of them – insidious and cunning as a heartless beast of prey from Ceti Alpha Seven, yet many times more terrifying. Autobots he would never see again, or ever be able to help.
A pair of Neutrals walked past and smiled at him, as he was shaken from his memories, and he gave them a respectful nod in acknowledgment. They resumed talking between themselves, the taller mech laughing loudly at something the femme had said.
Ratchet shook his head in an effort to return to the here and now, and he thought of Red Alert taking charge of the Repair Bay in his absence. He hadn’t doubted for one second that his willing student would do a fine job ensuring that all remained under control over there, or that he could handle any repairs that needed to be done, no matter how large or how small the task. He was glad for it, too, because it meant that he would be able to focus upon other things – take a little time out to sort things out in his head before his assigned team of Autobots departed for Polyhex.
Prime had selected a team of five who had volunteered for a mission to secure the former Decepticon-controlled province. The group would have the support of several backup teams, and would be headed by an Autobot who was stationed at Altihex.
Deep in thought, Ratchet did not notice the three mini-bots who had entered the bar. They spotted him in the far corner and, after a few moments of hesitation, casually ambled towards him.
“Hi, Ratchet,” one of them said in greeting, and Ratchet looked up at the uninvited guests. Bumblebee, Cliffjumper and Brawn stood beside him, and Ratchet acknowledged them all with a frown before he looked away again. Bumblebee remained unperturbed by the medic’s apparent disinterest in their company. “Mind if we join you?” He said, and then took an empty seat across from Ratchet. Brawn sat next to the repair specialist, while Cliffjumper slipped into the seat beside Brawn, not waiting to be invited.
Bumblebee appeared to be in good spirits, and Ratchet decided against just getting up and walking away. Instead, he sighed, looked down at his unfinished canister of pink fuel. “Something I can help you with?” He said.
“Oh, no, not really,” the yellow mini-bot said simply.
Ratchet looked at the three of them with a wary optic. “What are you three doing here? Don’t you have work to do?”
Cliffjumper, the red colored mini-bot seated next to him, answered. “Nah, my duty cycle doesn’t commence for another hour. I’ll just be on watch, besides,” he said.
“Well, I’m busy, too,” the repair expert told them.
“We haven’t seen you around much, lately,” Bumblebee commented, wanting to make conversation.
“That’s because I haven’t been around,” the red and white Chief Medic told them.
“Oh!” Bumblebee started, suddenly remembering something. “Did you hear about Groove?”
Ratchet shrugged. “Yeah, I heard.” The mini-bot waiting expectantly for him to say something more, but the medic remained silent.
This time, Brawn had something to say about it. “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you care that he’s this close to dying?” He indicated with his two index fingers, bringing them almost together.
Ratchet looked back at the mini-bot, unafraid of his accusatory remark. “Of course I care,” he rebuked him in irritation. “More than you know.” A few moments passed in silence, and then he sighed, releasing the tension that had formed between them. “Red can handle things over there. I won’t be able to help Groove any more than he can.”
Brawn appeared to back off, satisfied with his response. He felt just as much anger and helplessness as any of the other Autobots, after they had all learned what had happened to the Protectobot. Brawn only wished that he had been there the night of the attack, been given the opportunity to offline the Decepticon responsible with his own bare hands. “I suppose you know about the Decepticon, too?” He asked. “How he escaped?”
Ratchet nodded, the frown returning to his face. “It’s no surprise, really.” He paused, and the three of them gave him a look of uneasy disapproval. “We’ve grown too complacent,” he explained, indicating around the large bar at the Autobot majority. “Too reliant on others. Too afraid to do what needs to be done.”
“What others?” Bumblebee asked, curious. “What needs to be done?”
“Shut up, Bumblebee,” Cliffjumper reproached him, and the yellow mini-bot looked at him with uncertainty. “Don’t ask stupid questions,” he clarified.
Ratchet continued, expressing his pessimism and disappointment with the current goings on. “Stop the Decepticons. Take back our Primus-forsaken planet, for starters. If we’re not careful, the past is just going to repeat itself.” The three of them watched Ratchet in silence; they had no ready responses for him. He shrugged. “But we sure as hell don’t need the Neutrals and their over-inflated sense of self-importance telling us how we should run things.” The three Autobots returned blank expressions; and it was apparent that they did not possess the same depth of knowledge about the Alliance hierarchy that he did. “Look, never mind that,” Ratchet continued, changing the topic. Then, something caught the corner of his optic, and he stood up to leave. “If you’ll excuse me, there’s someone I need to talk to,” he said, and left the three to their own devices.
Ratchet approached the front of the bar where an Autobot stood facing away from him. He was predominantly blue and red, and was leaning casually against a wall, watching one of the femmes across the room as she chatted happily with a large-framed Autobot.
The medic placed a light hand on his shoulder, and the mech turned around in surprise. “Well, well; if it isn’t our favourite medic,” the Autobot greeted him cheekily. “Thought you were off chasing Decepticons?”
“We’re making final preparations before we leave,” the medic replied. Not a huge fan of small talk, he got straight to the point. “Listen, I want to talk to you,” he said.
“Yeah,” Smokescreen shrugged. “What about?”
Ratchet glanced around them, and then indicated towards the exit of the bar with a nod of his head. “Come on, let’s go for a drive.”
The Autobot nodded. “Whatever you say, Ratch,” he replied, and followed the chief medic out of the Oil House.
* * *
“I got a small favour to ask,” Ratchet told the red and blue Autobot car as he led them through the streets of east Iacon, taking in the sights and sounds of the busy district while they talked. Smokescreen did not reply, only waited for him to continue. “You remember back during the Plague, when the cure to the virus was found encrypted within Wheeljack’s research? Well, something just didn’t add up back then, and it’s been bothering me of late.”
The two of them remained quiet as they both reminisced on the events of the past. “You want me to find someone for you?” Smokescreen guessed.
“Talk to him, more like,” Ratchet corrected him. “I can locate him easily enough – he’s in Iacon – but he’s not too interested in fighting our battles anymore, least not since we last spoke, anyway.”
“Ah…” Smokescreen replied, knowingly. “Sideswipe.” He mentioned the Autobot’s name as though it had a stigma attached to it – as if it were best left unspoken.
“Well, I’d appreciate it if you could pass on a message for me. He might not listen to me, but he might listen to you. Besides, I’ll be leaving for Polyhex within a few mega cycles.”
“Sure; I can try, but I can’t promise you anything, Ratchet,” Smokescreen advised the repair specialist.
“I understand.” Ratchet slowed to a stop in front of Wheeljack’s old workshop. “Come on, I want to show you something.” Ratchet transformed into his robot mode, and opened the door to his former friend’s work space.
Smokescreen transformed as well, and followed the Autobot medic inside. The door sealed closed behind them, and Ratchet activated the overhead lights.
“Whoa…” Smokescreen said, looking around the workshop. It seemed as if Wheeljack had suddenly up and left in the middle of one of his projects, various pieces of equipment and half-completed constructions absent-mindedly left behind. “I didn’t know this place still existed. It’s almost as if…” Smokescreen began, walking up to the main work bench and hovering a hand gently over it, as if he expected the table and its contents to suddenly disintegrate with the slightest touch.”Well… as if he had never left.” He looked up at Ratchet, who was studying him intently.
“When he went missing… I couldn’t clear this place out. I just couldn’t,” Ratchet tried to explain.
The blue and red theoretician nodded in understanding, as he carefully picked up a laser cutter, turned it over in his hands. On the end of the bench, a data pad rested atop a tool box, still connected to a main terminal, as if someone had carelessly put it aside in the middle of a data transfer but then had later forgotten about it. Smokescreen placed the cutter down carefully and walked over to the data pad, picking it up. He held it up, examined it. “He must have been a real genius… discovering that cure in time,” he commented.
Ratchet walked over, took the data pad from his hand. “He was one of the best.” Ratchet said, putting the data pad back down. “But did he find the cure?” He shook his head slowly, lowered his voice. “I’m not so sure anymore.”
Smokescreen’s expression changed to one of puzzlement. “What do you mean?” He looked around the room, searching for an explanation. “Wait a second – so, if… if Wheeljack didn’t find the cure… and you didn’t find it… then…” Ratchet just looked at him and grimaced, as Smokescreen voiced the obvious question. “…Who did?”
“That’s something that I’ve been asking myself for a long time,” the medic finally said. “But… the more I try to come up with an answer, the more it evades me.”
“So, then… what does Sideswipe have to do with this?” Smokescreen asked, increasingly curious.
Ratchet shrugged, inhaled deeply. “He was the last one to see Wheeljack… before he disappeared. I figure he might know something that could help.” He paused, and considered the possibility of that scenario. “Maybe there’s some… small detail, or… I don’t know – about what happened that he forgot to mention. It’s worth a try.” Ratchet walked across to a desk in the corner of the workshop, and the top drawer slid open. He reached in gently, and retrieved a small object from inside the compartment before the drawer closed again. Staring down at it, he seemed to become lost in a time that had long since passed, but before Smokescreen could say anything, he returned to the present moment with a start. He handed the object to Smokescreen. “Here… give him this. Tell him… tell him it’s from me, and to come find me.”
“What’s on it?” the other Autobot asked quizzically, as he held up the data chip.
“It’s a recorded message,” Ratchet said simply. Smokescreen waited for him to continue, but he did not elaborate any further.
“Sure thing, Ratch,” Smokescreen finally said, as he flipped the small object up in the air and caught it before he put it safely away into a small compartment in his forearm.
“Thanks,” the medic said. “I owe you one.”
The door to the Conference Room slid open and Optimus stepped inside, waiting for his two officers to follow him. But Jazz stopped short outside the door, looked back at Prowl. “Alone,” he stated obstinately. Prowl glanced at their leader, who finally nodded, and Prowl left them to talk in private as the door slid closed.
“All right, Jazz… I’m listening,” Optimus said, taking a seat.
Jazz remained standing. He wanted this to be as brief as possible, but he took a moment to collect his thoughts before speaking. “Prime… I know this will be difficult for you to understand right now, but… I was just trying to do my job.” Prime remained silent, unsure what Jazz was getting at. “Remember your request?” He prompted, as he watched the Commander’s reaction intently.
Optimus looked up at him, and a new realization seemed to enter into his awareness. He had asked Jazz to infiltrate the Decepticon army by making it appear as though he had defected. “Yes… but not like this, Jazz.” He looked disappointed, almost sorrowful.
“Why not?” It was an honest enough question, and one that Jazz felt deserved an answer. Optimus gestured with one hand, looking for the right words. He couldn’t find any. “The way I see it,” Jazz continued, “What I did makes it believable. Anything less and it just wouldn’t work.” He paused, sighed. “You still want me to do this, right? ‘Cause if you’ve changed your mind...” Jazz said, trailing off.
“No,” Optimus finally said, shaking his head. “It’s just that, I thought… you wanted to help them...”
Jazz took a long, slow breath. He was not about to lie to his Commander, or misplace his trust in him, and so he had to be honest, whether Prime would understand or not. “I do want to help them,” he confessed softly.
“Jazz–” the Commander started, but his First Lieutenant cut him off before he could say anything more.
“Just… just hear me out, okay?” Optimus sighed, nodded, waited for him to continue. “You asked me to find out why the war ended… and gain the Decepticons’ trust, right?” Optimus nodded in the affirmative. “Well, I can’t do that without also allowing a part of me to become involved… to see things from their perspective, and as they really are – and not just as we think they are. Otherwise, the whole mission’s a lost cause… and you will never find the answers to your questions. Now, I gotta ask you, what is it that you truly want?” He paused, watching Optimus’ reaction.
“I’m not sure what you’re asking me, Jazz,” he said.
“Do you want me to tell you what you already know, and what everyone else already knows? ‘Cause I could probably do that for you, no problem. Or… do you want to know the truth? Even if it means having to put aside our differences… even if only for a minute? Because if you’re not prepared to face things as they are without your blinders on, then I suggest you withdraw your request, and I’ll forget you ever brought it up in the first place.”
Optimus was taken aback by Jazz’s candid words, and they seemed to hit him hard, though he did not allow his emotions to show. “Of course… the truth is all that matters,” Optimus said after a while.
“Good. Then, let me do what I need to do, the only way I know how to do it. And, if nothing else, I’ll promise you one thing; you’re going to get what you need to know, and not just what you want to hear – whether you’ll accept it, or not.”
Optimus leaned back in his chair, his First Lieutenant’s words impactful and unanticipated, and he withdrew, becoming introverted. Neither of them spoke for a long time. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing, Jazz?” He finally asked.
Jazz shrugged. “No, not really. But, like I said, it’s up to you.”
Optimus sighed in resignation. If he couldn’t trust Jazz at least, then who could he trust? “Very well. I hope to hell I’m making the right decision.” He paused, taking his time. He was uncertain, hesitant. “I’ll let the others know you won’t be returning to Iacon.” Jazz nodded in understanding, listening carefully to the Autobot Commander. “And… Jazz?”
“Yeah?” The black and white Autobot asked quietly.
“Don’t come back until you’ve found what you’re looking for. Is that understood?”
“Understood,” Jazz replied, and then turned and exited the Conference Room in silence.
A short while later Jazz left Iacon behind, and was not to return again for a long, long time.
“You owe me five credits, aft-face,” said a burly mech, his arms crossed, as he stood behind a red and yellow Cybertronian jet leaning against a counter at the front of a currency exchange terminal, somewhere in an eastern suburb of Binaltech. Two other mechs accompanied him.
“I don’t owe you anything, so frag off,” the jet-former replied, without turning around to acknowledge the three of them.
“Oh, yeah?” But the jet continued to ignore him. “Hey, look at me when I’m talking to you, bit-for-brains!” He stepped closer towards the jet, ready to teach him a lesson.
The Cybertronian did not turn around to face him. He appeared to be totally unafraid of the three mechs behind him, even though he was notably smaller in size than the largest of the three. “Why would I want to look at your ugly head?” He said simply, and began to walk away from the counter, having collected his credits.
He was stopped in his tracks by a large hand upon his shoulder, and immediately he extended his left arm in a sudden block, throwing the hand off him. The jet immediately went to throw a right hook into the large mech, but was held back by his two companions, as they grabbed hold of his arms. The jet struggled to get free of them, but it was no use; he was no match for the two of them. “Let go of me!” He demanded, but the large bot only laughed at him in smug satisfaction.
“When will you learn, Comet?” The bully said to him, sneering. Other mechs in the room looked on in alarm, but then started to back away, too afraid to get involved lest they were drawn into the confrontation.
“Slag off!” Comet replied rudely, and one second later he was rewarded with a large fist making direct contact with his jaw. His head jerked backwards with the force of the impact, and then was doubled over as a second blow was driven into his chest. He struggled to recover from the assault, kicking out, but the mech stepped back in safety.
“Aww, you hurt my feelings,” the mech said in mock regret. “What do you say, fellas? Has he learned his lesson yet?” His two lackeys laughed in derision, focusing their attention away from their victim for a split second, but that was all Comet needed. He kicked back at one of them, who faltered enough for the jet to pry his arm free of his grip, and then rammed his elbow into his face. The second lackey tried to secure his hold on him, but he was thrown backwards into the counter behind them. Free of their grip, Comet managed to dive out of the way just in time before the large mech fired a laser blast in his direction.
It missed Comet by a good margin, and he scrambled to take cover behind the counter. Security alarms were activated amidst shouts of surprise by the onlookers, and he fired his own weapon back at the bully before he bolted for the exit and then out into the busy street outside. The three mechs attempted to run after him in pursuit, but he had disappeared from their sight by the time they had stepped out into the middle of the street in search of him.
Comet did not stop running until he had passed two major intersections and then, once he was fairly certain he had lost them, he stopped and leaned against a building, glancing back in the direction he had come.
He took a minute to recompose himself after the close encounter, and leaned his head back against the wall, optics dimmed. As he looked up, he noticed the sign on the building’s exterior; Roundup’s Exotic Entertainment, and shook his head at the thought of what he might find inside. He really wasn’t in the mood for any sort of entertainment, exotic or not, and was about to walk away when a figure suddenly appeared beside him. He turned towards it, moving his arm suddenly to force the mech up against the wall, before he realized, with regret, who it was. “Oh, it’s you,” he said flatly, stepping back.
She brushed herself off in annoyance. “Well, who did you expect, gorgeous?” It was a Cybertronian femme, her robot mode predominately purple and yellow. What looked like wings stuck out from her back; the split hull from her speed-boat alternate mode. She grabbed his arm and started to lead him towards the entertainment building, but he refused, pulled away from her.
“Leave me alone,” he told her, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“Come on… I’ll buy you a drink,” she coaxed him. “You’re too wound up. You need to enjoy yourself more, Comet.” She noticed the minor cut he had sustained from the skirmish, and went to run her fingers down his cheek, but he pushed her hand away.
“I said, leave me alone,” he insisted.
She crossed her arms, and frowned. “Fine. Then, I guess you don’t want to hear the latest news from Cybertron?” she said, trying to entice him.
“I don’t give a slag about Cybertron,” Comet retorted, anger in his voice. “And I don’t give a slag about you, either.”
“My, my, aren’t we touchy today,” she said, seemingly offended, but then her expression softened again.
“Look, I told you not to follow me,” he said bluntly, and began to turn away.
“I saw the other seekers,” she called out suddenly. He stopped in his tracks, and then slowly turned around to face her.
“What other seekers?” He demanded.
She shrugged, gave him a sly smile; she had gotten his attention. “Cybertronian,” she teased. “I don’t know – they looked a lot like you, actually.”
Comet carefully considered this new information. “What… were they doing here?”
“How should I know? I’m just telling you what I saw.” Then, she grabbed his arm again, pulled him towards the building’s entrance. “Come on… just for a few minutes, I promise,” she said sweetly. “Please?”
Finally, he relented. “Fine,” he said, as she led him inside the building.
In a suburb north of Binaltech, four femmes drove down a side alley in their alternate modes, staying relatively close together. Inside their vehicle compartments, they carried what they had been able to salvage from the recent attack upon their ship.
Elita One slowed to a stop in her car mode, and scanned the adjacent building. It looked abandoned from the outside, and her scan confirmed this; the building appeared to be unused, and was empty. She transformed into robot mode, and aimed her pistol at its sealed door. One blast was all that was needed to break the seal, and she kicked open the door, indicated for the other three femmes to follow her inside.
After they transformed into their robot modes and took a brief look around the place, Elita addressed her crew. “Welcome home,” she said dryly. “We can stay here for a while. At least until I can make some alternative arrangements.” Chromia nodded silently, and the four of them placed all their belongings to one side. “We can set up a temporary base and monitoring station. I’ll go and find some energy sources first thing tomorrow.”
“Ohh, can I go with you?” Moonracer pleaded. She had since recovered from the crash landing and was eager to explore Binaltech with the other femmes.
“No,” Elita told her sternly. “There’ll be plenty of time for that later. I need you to stay here.”
Chromia began sifting through her tool box, looking for a molecular welder and laser cutter. “I’m going to need more materials than what we’ve got. I’ll go with you tomorrow,” she informed Elita without looking up.
The femme commander hesitated, considering her request. “All right. Firestar? You stay here with ‘Racer. Chromia and I will leave early; probably be gone before your recharge cycles end.
Firestar nodded in the affirmative. “I can set up things here, secure the building and…” She looked over at the green femme. “Moonracer can help me rebuild the long range scanners that we salvaged from the ship.”
The sharpshooter looked back at her and nodded. She was not particularly looking forward to that particular task, but she was happy to be able to help out, nonetheless.
“Good,” Elita said, as Chromia began to put together a makeshift recharge unit. “Then it’s decided.”
Comet did not trust Thunderblast as far as he could throw her. She had a notorious reputation for taking advantage of mechs in power for her own gain, regardless of their allegiance or where their loyalties lay. Still, Comet was well aware of her modus operandi, and was one of the few who did not fall for her guile. Nevertheless, his natural ability to resist her manipulations made her useful to him as a source of news from around the Sector.
He looked down at his cubed container of fuel; its form was quaint, and it reminded him of days gone by on Cybertron, when he and his comrades had seen better days, had held onto hope for the future. He pushed the drink aside bitterly, not wanting to be reminded of things which he had tried so hard to forget all these years.
“So, what’s up your afterburner, anyway?” The purple and yellow femme prodded, sipping at her own cube.
Comet sighed. “What’s it to you?” He said. He looked around the entertainment suite, saw several alien mechs and cybernetic humanoids mingling and listening to what must have been music to them, though he found it grating.
“I care about you,” she said coyly, watching him intently. “There’s something about you, though… I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
Comet smirked. “You don’t give a scrap about anyone, least of all me,” he told her.
She smiled playfully. “And who do you care about?” She threw back at him, but she knew what his answer would be before he said it.
“No one.” He leaned back in his seat, gave her a defiant expression. Comet’s yellow air intakes atop his shoulders and the wings that projected from his back were carried with an unconscious pride and an air of stateliness that Thunderblast found so alluring, despite the mech’s dull and marked outer plating caused by many years of adversity and neglect. He was a mech who had fought countless battles, and had endured through many tough times on the streets of Alternity City, yet he had survived where other mechs would have met their demise long ago.
“I don’t believe that for a minute,” she said.
“You think you know me?” He challenged, his impatience now evident.
Thunderblast thought about this for a moment before answering, taking her time. “I didn’t say that. But what I do know is that you’re not even sure you know yourself anymore.” Comet looked at her sceptically, but let her continue. “I think… that you care about your friends on Cybertron far more than you’ve ever let on.”
He shook his head sardonically. “My so-called friends don’t care about me, so why should I care about them? To the Pits with them all,” he replied, and Thunderblast sat back, watching him with interest.
Yes, there was something about Comet that she couldn’t quite figure out, and it drove her absolutely insane. She didn’t know much about his past, and he only ever offered little tidbits every now and again, when she was lucky enough to find him in a relatively good mood – which wasn’t very often.
She tried a different approach, and changed the subject. “The Autobots are making their move; they’re taking complete control of Cybertron, even as we speak… I’ve heard they’ve almost wiped out the Decepticons, too.”
Comet stiffened visibly. “That’s not possible,” he retorted. She couldn’t tell whether he was upset, or simply sceptical about the news.
“Why not?” She asked, curious.
“Because!” He started. A waiter-bot suddenly interrupted them, offering them more drinks, but he brushed him aside in annoyance. “The Autobots are not that powerful on their own. They couldn’t possibly hold such a position without...” He trailed off, as realization slowly dawned on him. “The Alliance,” he stated, quietly to himself. How long had it been since the Neutrals had started cooperating with the Autobots in an official capacity? Since the end of the Great War, he recalled.
Thunderblast was nodding, smiling. She was rather enjoying his reaction, probably for her own selfish reasons. “It’s probably already too late, anyway,” she taunted, leaning forwards as she held his gaze. “All your former Decepticon comrades… probably all extinguished by now, wouldn’t you think?”
“I… I don’t give a slag about any of them – not any more!” His anger had been roused as he stood up from his seat, knocking the cube full of liquid to the floor.
But his little outburst did not seem to deter her in the slightest. “Don’t you? That’s too bad; they could do with all the help they can get, right about now.”
Comet was visibly trembling, as he tried his best to control his anger, but it was not working. “I can’t help them!” The words burst forth, as he raised his voice at her. “Even if I wanted to, I can’t help them!” He turned around and swiftly headed for the exit.
“Comet!” Thunderblast called after him, standing up from her seat. “Comet!”
But it was too late; he was gone.
Thunderblast sat back down slowly, sipped at the rest of her drink. Then, she started chuckling softly to herself, and plotted her next move.
Astro navigated his way through Axel’s interplanetary space port, located just beyond Binaltech’s outer edge to the south, as Rook followed closely behind. Jhiaxus’ former second-in-command had not spoken much after they had abandoned Jhiaxus’ cruiser, and appeared to be a little nervous.
Astro stopped beside an information terminal and scanned the area, searching for a Cybertronian signature.
“So, what now?” Rook asked, glancing warily around the space port. It was busy, as travellers hurried past on their way to their destinations. Near one of the departure terminals, a small group of security guards stood watching the passengers as they scrambled to board their designated transport ships. The common transport system was often slow, and only offered limited destinations. It was also expensive, and the security scans were often overbearing.
“Now… we head north,” Astro said, and began to lead the way through the crowd. “Stay close.”
Their way north was slow on foot, as the unruly crowd proved to be a constant obstacle in their path; it took them almost half an hour to finally arrive at the space port’s north exit. Nevertheless, it helped to provide a good cover for them as they determined to keep out of the way, and out of sight.
The last thing they needed was the unwanted attention of powerful mechs, especially those from the Subterranean Base; Astro was certain that the High Commander had been alerted to their absence by now, and had probably sent out a search party after them.
Heading out into a main street, they were just about to turn a corner when Astro placed a hand on Rook’s shoulder, stopping him in his tracks. Then he stepped back, indicating for Rook to do the same, and to remain quiet. Not more than a nanosecond later, a large mech walked passed them, accompanied by a group of four others. Rook caught a glimpse of him; he was a Pretender - a powerful robot warrior disguised with an outer shell which gave him a quasi-organic look.
“Bludgeon…” Astro whispered, recognising the warrior instantly.
The warrior had gone no further than a few steps, when he stopped suddenly, suspicious. He slowly looked around him, sniffing at the air as if endowed with a keen sense of smell that could hone in on any prey. Astro instinctively charged up his laser blaster, held it up to his side, and then waited quietly, fully alert. Rook took the cue and did the same, and then waited for Astro to give the signal.
Bludgeon let out a low growl, sensing them close by. He was often hired by the High Commander to hunt down and assassinate mechs who had, for one reason or another, ended up on his bad side – Astro and Rook included. The warrior slowly retraced his steps in the direction he had come, approaching the two of them ever closer, until, finally, he was upon them, trying to corner them, but Astro was too fast for the large warrior. Laser blasts erupted in a sudden, frantic conflict. The mech was temporarily blinded, but he was difficult to knock out; he stood his ground, roaring at them, lunging forward with his sword drawn in a terrifying show of might. The sword slashed through the air, narrowly avoiding Astro’s arm as he kept the samurai at bay with his laser weapon. Rook stood behind him, but the team of mechs that accompanied Bludgeon were fast closing in around them.
“Run for it! I’m right behind you,” Astro shouted back at Rook, indicating towards the opposite end of the main street. Rook hesitated, still firing his weapon at the group of mechs, and Astro pressed him again. “Go!” Finally, Rook bolted, pushing his way through the pedestrians on the busy sidewalk. Astro followed him a moment later, and the two of them sped down the street as their assailants attempted to follow them through the crowd.
On Alternity City, it was easy to disappear amid the throng, and Astro used this fact to their advantage. Within a few minutes, they had lost Bludgeon and his minions. He stopped running and rested his head against a pylon, retracting his blaster. Rook stood next to him, still a little disorientated from the sudden encounter and near miss.
“That was close,” Astro said, after they had both had time to recover.
“Yes, too close,” Rook added. “I hope that whoever you are searching for is well worth all of this.”
Astro glanced across at him, pushing his weight against the pylon and starting down the street once more, heading north towards Binaltech. “Oh, he’s worth it,” he replied, as Rook followed after him.
After their narrow escape from the Subterranean Base, Dirge and his team were able to force an entry into a refining plant, where they had been able to spend several days restoring their systems after the damage they had sustained during the battle. With the help of Bitstream, Thrust was able to restore full power to his systems; Dirge and Bitstream had also recovered without too many problems.
“Where are we, exactly?” Ramjet asked the others, as he walked over to some long transportation tubes that ran down the length of the access corridor beneath the plant’s main factory floor, leaning against them. They had managed to stay out of the way and undetected from the workers, who rarely ventured down here. Every now and again, activity could be heard from one of the transportation tubes, as freight was sent along from the plant out to a nearby pick up bay.
“I think we’re still in Hitec…” Dirge shrugged. He was referring to Alternity City’s capital, and where the Subterranean Base was located. He sat on the floor of the corridor, leaning against the wall.
For a while, no one spoke, until Ramjet asked another question, changing the subject. “What the scrap happened back there?”
Their team leader answered him again, taking his time. “Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is that we successfully carried out our mission, just like Megatron asked us.”
“Yeah, but we had some unexpected help,” Ramjet reasoned, stating the obvious. “Otherwise, we would have all been scrapped for sure.”
Silence fell between them once more, as they each tried to come to terms with the reality of just how close they had all come to being confronted with their own termination.
“What was the transmission all about, anyway?” Thrust asked, curious, though he knew what the answer would be before he asked it. “Eh, don’t tell me; it’s on a need-to-know basis.” Dirge didn’t respond, which indicated that he was right. “So, where to next?” He inquired, turning to Dirge.
“Binaltech,” the blue and black team leader said flatly. “We should be on our way back to Cybertron within the next day or two. At least, that’s the plan.”
Bitstream, listening quietly to their conversation, spoke up. “I can’t wait to get back to Cybertron. This whole place gives me the creeps.” The other four jets indicated their agreement.
“Too bad we can’t get off this slaggin’ cesspit sooner,” Acid Storm commented. He was not particularly fond of Alternity City, a sentiment which they all shared.
“Well, we’ve got to stay invisible until we can meet up with Astrotrain,” Dirge reminded him. “Until then… we’re sticking to the schedule.”
Silence fell about them again until, after several minutes had passed, Dirge finally stood up and started making his way down the darkened corridor, not looking back. “Come on, let’s move.”
Optimus Prime was fully preoccupied with the mission ahead of him. Ultra Magnus, a highly regarded Autobot, had originally been scheduled to lead his small team into Polyhex, but the Autobot leader had decided to replace him at the last minute.
Elita One’s words interrupted his thoughts, as her recent recorded message kept repeating in his mind over and over again. He had since learned that she, and the rest of her crew, had departed Cybertron, and by doing so had gone against not only standard Alliance protocol, but also his own wishes. That, along with Jazz’s recent departure, had made him question his effectiveness as Commander, but also his effectiveness on an inter-personal level. In addition, he was none too happy with the recent Decepticon show, when Devastator had made his escape into Polyhex, and part of him believed that he might be able to rectify that situation, somehow, by taking some immediate and direct action; needless to say, he did not want to return to Iacon or the High Council empty-handed.
His thoughts settled on the memory of his last conversation with Jazz. He trusted his First Lieutenant with his life, that much he was sure; however, Jazz’s willingness to want to see things from the Decepticons’ perspective had left him feeling anxious. He knew how stubborn Jazz could be about his feelings, and the last thing he wanted was for him to suffer the scrutiny of his fellow Autobots, particularly after what he had done. In the end, he thought that it was best for Jazz to leave Iacon indefinitely, rather than have him undergo a long and tedious trial process. He knew that the special operative could look after himself, but what bothered him most was the impact that the truth might have on Jazz, when he finally discovered it for himself.
Optimus stood outside of Iacon Central, each of his team members present and accounted for. Every officer had been selected to take part in this mission for various reasons; Ratchet had been restless of late and had volunteered, surprising everyone; Hot Rod was an obvious choice, as was Bluestreak – they were both skilled warriors, and always eager for some action. Trailbreaker was a remarkable defence strategist and a valuable addition to the team.
“Alright, Autobots,” he said to them, as they stood in an ordered line in front of him. “Let’s get this show on the road.” Transforming into his large semi-trailer truck mode, he pulled out onto the runway that led west out of Iacon, the others transforming and following closely behind.
The convoy of five proceeded through the streets at a steady pace, with several backup teams accompanying them, keeping a good distance behind the leading team. Despite their best intentions they drew unwanted attention to themselves, as pedestrians and onlookers stopped what they were doing to look on in admiration, offering the teams their support and encouragement. The Autobot leader had a reputation in Iacon which preceded him; though it did, at times, get in the way of his objectives and slowed him down.
Just over an hour later, they arrived at the site of Superion’s recent confrontation with Devastator. Alliance construction crews had already been despatched to begin repairs and rebuild the collapsed bridge. Optimus led them through the underpass and a short while later they reached the Iacon border, Polyhex now clearly in their sights.
The Autobot Commander slowed to a stop, as he surveyed the landscape before them. The fortress at Darkmount, deep in the heart of Polyhex, could be seen as a small speck in the distance.
“Where do we begin, Optimus?” Trailbreaker asked from behind him.
“Let’s head for their most likely stronghold,” he replied. “If we can secure Darkmount, they will have nowhere else to go.”
“If that’s their hideout,” Trailbreaker agreed. “We should be able to draw them out easily enough.”
“They won’t stand a chance,” Hot Rod added, thrilled by the prospect.
“We’ve got the advantage; it’ll be an easy mission, I’d say,” said Bluestreak, one of the Autobots’ top gunners.
“Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves,” Optimus corrected them. “We may have the strategic advantage, but remember; they’re still Decepticons, and will use every trick in the Archives to try and evade our efforts. Just be on the alert.”
As they headed off once more, in the direction of Darkmount, they were not aware that they were being tracked by an unobtrusive and virtually undetectable miniature Decepticon spy; a spy whose sole purpose was to relay all gathered information back to his protector.
Comet turned westward towards Binaltech and began to cover distance on foot. His form as a Cybertronian tetrajet enabled him superior flight capability, allowing him to arrive at a destination in the shortest amount of time, but this mode would have attracted too much attention and, besides, he had no particular place to go; all he wanted to do in this moment was get as far away from Thunderblast, or any other mech, as possible.
Most mechs never recognized him, though despite this he still felt as though he was constantly being pursued by those who would be more than happy to exact their long-held resentments upon him. If caught he would be handed over to the highest paying war lord on Alternity City, or elsewhere in the Sector. Comet, as he was known around Binaltech, would fetch the ultimate price for any bounty hunter who knew of his existence.
Fortunately, he had not yet been discovered. Not even Thunderblast, who thought herself quite clever and manipulative, had any idea who he truly was. Either way, he didn’t owe her anything.
His recent conversation with her, however, had left him in a state of agitation, and he now sought to be left alone. Despite his charisma and his natural ability to charm the afterburners off any mech, too many years spent on Alternity City had taken its toll on him, and he rarely sought the company of other mechs; when he did, it was often to his disadvantage.
Then, suddenly, that’s what he felt like right now; a little bit of disadvantage. He veered left into a small alley, where several tall unit blocks stood stacked up against one another. They were the most affordable blocks in this part of town, and were mainly occupied by low level workers, or junk bots, which was the derogatory term for them.
Comet found the small unit he was looking for, and beat his fist against the metal door. “Detritus!” He called, and then waited before trying again. “Detritus, open the door, you piece of scrap!”
A few seconds passed in silence until, finally, the door opened with a swoosh sound. “Comet? What the frag do you want? I told you I’m not offering my services,” he said in an irritated voice. Detritus was a heavy built Cybertronian mercenary who had left his home planet long ago to reside on Junkion; he was currently on business visiting Alternity City for a brief stay, or at least that’s what he had told the seeker.
“I don’t want your services. Just let me in for a cycle,” Comet demanded, and pushed past the Junkion into his small quarters.
“Comet, what the frag–” He began, and then watched as Comet began searching the small space, opening compartments and looking under the various contraptions and data pads that littered the shelving unit and table. Detritus leaned across and placed his left hand over the seeker’s shoulder, pushed him backwards. Comet was thrown against the wall, and he landed heavily on the floor, a mobile holo-imager crashing on top of him. “Don’t you know it’s rude to look through some one else’s stuff without asking?” Detritus told him angrily. “You know, I have a good mind to just send your aft to Hitec on the first transport out.”
Comet picked himself up, leaving the imager on the floor. “Where is it?” He demanded, ignoring the mercenary’s threats.
“That transceiver you took from me!” Comet explained, his voice rising in anger.
Detritus’ expression turned to one of surprise. “Oh, no, you don’t; you left it here, so now it’s mine.”
“It’s not yours, and I want it back,” Comet insisted. “Hand it over,” he demanded, holding out his hand in expectation.
“Slag off,” he said bluntly.
“Hand it over!” Comet said, pointing his left arm-mounted blaster at the other mech.
Detritus stared at the black muzzle, but then gave the seeker a disapproving look. “You can’t be serious?”
“Oh, I’m absolutely serious,” Comet replied, holding his gaze steady. “You want to try me, go ahead.” He raised the weapon up higher, levelled it at Detritus’ face.
Detritus gave him a smug expression, and then slowly reached across to a table compartment and opened it. He slowly retrieved a small device, and held it up. It was imprinted with the Decepticon faction symbol. “You want this?” He asked.
“Give it to me,” Comet replied, holding out his other hand.
Detritus slowly smiled. “All right… you want it so bad, I’ll tell you what. I’ll trade you for it,” he said, negotiating.
Comet considered his proposal. Sure, he could just blast a hole right through the mech’s armour plating, take back the device and run, but he didn’t really feel like making another enemy today; he already had plenty of those in Binaltech as it was. “What do you want for it?”
“Oh… how does… fifty credits sound?” Detritus said, teasing him.
“It’s not worth anywhere near that much,” Comet lied. “No deal.” He was about to charge up his blaster, but then the mercenary stopped him, holding up his hands.
“Okay, okay! I was only teasing,” he said quickly. “What the hell do you need that communication device for, anyway?” He asked, in an attempt to stall the seeker. “I thought you’d given up on them.”
But Comet wouldn’t buy into his game. “That’s none of your business, Detritus. You get one last chance.”
The mech contemplated the situation, and what might be a reasonable trade for the device he held in his hand. It was of little use to him, but he was quite certain that he could easily sell it to one of his contacts for a good price. “All right, how about fifteen credits?” He proposed.
Comet considered his offer, and then made him a counter-offer. “Seven. And you also get to live,” he finally replied.
“You drive a hard bargain, Comet,” Detritus commented, before accepting his terms. “I guess you leave me with no choice.” He flipped the device into the air so that it landed neatly into Comet’s open hand. The seeker retracted it into his arm compartment, lowered his weapon arm, and handed over the promised credits.
Feeling somewhat better, Comet left the Junkion’s quarters without saying another word.