dracoqueen22: (ratchet)
[personal profile] dracoqueen22
a/n: Another chapter for your reading enjoyment. It should be safe for work.

Special thanks to lululara12 for the beta-work.

Title: Critical Mass
Universe: Transformers: Prime Season Two AU, Event Horizon 'verse
Characters: Autobot and Decepticon Ensemble with focuses on Ratchet, Sunstreaker, Knock Out, Megatron, Optimus/Orion Pax
Rating: M
Warnings: canon-typical violence, character death, elements of dubious consent, some may consider this mpreg, tactile/spark smut
Description: Sequel to Event Horizon. New allies have come to assist, but Optimus is still missing, and other matters have complicated the fight against the Decepticons. Time draws ever short as the war races toward an inevitable conclusion.

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Chapter Two

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Bluestreak fights to keep from nodding off. There's nothing more monotonous than standing in front of the console, watching the screens for signs of the Decepticons.

Monitor duty. No matter where they are, what planet, what solar system, or if they're on a spacecraft or tucked up in a base back on Cybertron, monitor duty will forever be the most tedious and processor-numbing task.

They all have to take a turn at it.

Doorwings slumping, Bluestreak idly taps the control to cycle through to the next sector scan. No signs of Decepticons. No signs of dark energon. Not a blip of communications.

Nothing.

No one here to break up the monotony either. The humans are off at school. And Bluestreak actually likes the humans. They're funny.

He doesn't even have Jazz here to entertain him. Nope. Because Jazz is off patrolling with Sideswipe, which sounds like a heap of fun to Bluestreak.

He doesn't know where Sunstreaker is but he can hazard a guess because Ratchet's missing, too. Perceptor's appropriated one of the smaller empty rooms bit by bit, and has been turning it into a laboratory. He's tackling the mystery of dark energon and trying to figure out how they're going to both find and fix Prime.

He guesses that Bulkhead, Arcee, and Bumblebee are running patrol routes, too. Oh, wait. No. Bumblebee's in recharge.

Scrap.

Bluestreak is bored.

Bored, bored, bored--

The system beeps an obnoxious trio of notes at him. Bluestreak's gaze whips toward the screen, fingers flying over the keys as he latches onto the alert and drags it over to the main monitor.

It's a message, a transmission from beyond the planet but still within the solar system. There's an Autobot ID tag attached to it, too.

Bluestreak recognizes it, doorwings giving a happy jiggle. He knows that ID ping. It's Prowl! He hits the button to accept the transmission. He also knows to play it safe. Just in case.

“Unknown vessel, this is Autobot Outpost Omega One. Identify yourself.”

Static crackles from the speakers before he receives a response. “Is this line secure?”

Bluestreak's grin widens. “The Cons haven't found us yet.”

“Bluestreak?”

“Got it in one, sir.” His fingers fly across the keyboard, setting up a relay so that he can send this conversation on to Jazz as well. “It's good to hear your voice.”

He hasn't seen or heard from his mentor in vorns. He can't stop the happy skipping in his spark, even if Jazz is sending him questioning pings through their bond.

--Should I be jealous?-- Jazz teases across a private comm.

Bluestreak rolls his optics. --You knew him first, sweetspark.--

“Likewise,” Prowl responds, warmth seeping through his official tones. “Is Jazz with you?”

“Yes, sir,” Bluestreak replies, and shifts his tone into something more sly. “And is Mirage with you?”

He can't see his mentor's expression, but he can imagine it. A mixture of reproach, amusement, and fondness. “Yes. Along with First Aid.”

“Sideswipe will be happy to know that.”

“What's the situation?”

Bluestreak turns at the sound of pedesteps, seeing Perceptor stepping into the main room, looking as though he's just stirred from recharge.

“Complicated,” Bluestreak responds, unable to hide his wince. “The Cons are here. Optimus was, too. It's... complicated. We could really use you. Jazz is more than willing to hand over command.”

--Tell him to get his aft down here ASAP,-- Jazz says into the comm, with no shortage of amusement, but also a hefty dose of sincerity. He's third in command, but he's never been too fond of the position, treating it as a matter of necessity.

--Gotcha.--

“Landing coordinates?”

Bluestreak sets the computer to calculating trajectories and arrival times, contemplating where best to meet Prowl and his team. Obviously, landing directly on base is not an option. Soundwave will track them the moment they break atmosphere.

There is also the matter of concealing their entry from the humans. Bluestreak really doesn't want to hear Agent Fowler gripe and moan about unannounced bots again.

“I suggest here,” Perceptor says, standing at Bluestreak's right shoulder and gesturing at the screen. “It's isolated and a fair distance from the last known location of the Nemesis.”

Bluestreak nods. “Did you get that, sir?”

“Affirmative.” Somewhere in the background, Bluestreak can hear quiet conversation, probably between First Aid and Mirage. “Projected arrival time is three orns.”

Bluestreak does some quick calculations in his helm. Six days as the Earth rotates. That's doable.

“Yes sir. We'll see you then. Bluestreak out.”

The transmission ends and Bluestreak can't resist a cheer. The war's been crazy, mech after mech getting lost to the stars, offlining left right and center. But some have survived and being able to see them again is the only reason they have to celebrate of late.

Perceptor smiles and pats him on the shoulder. “It will be nice to see familiar faces.”

The sound of a high-performance engine makes both Perceptor and Bluestreak turn toward the main entrance as Jazz and Sideswipe come roaring inside, followed closely by Arcee and Bulkhead.

“What's the deal, Jazz?” Arcee asks with an acrobatic flip from alt-mode to root-mode. Sometimes, Bluestreak envies her agility.

Jazz takes a slower approach to transforming this time. Stretching, as Miko would call it. “Good news. Thought I'd share it with everyone.”

Bulkhead slams one fist into his palm with anticipation. “Uhh. 'Cept not everyone's here.”

Sideswipe winces, tapping his chestplate. “Right now, I think we'd best leave the lovebots alone. I don't know that there's anybot brave enough to get between those two right now.”

“I'll go get Bumblebee,” Arcee says, and zips from the room.

Knowing she'll be back soon enough, Bluestreak concentrates on bundling up all the data Prowl sent along the comm so that Jazz can have a copy of it. Oh, and Ratchet, too. He's the one who knows the most about Earth and all that.

“What's up with the doc?” Jazz asks, hopping up onto one of the platforms the humans usually use and dangling his pedes over the edge.

Sideswipe leans against the wall, waving a dismissive hand. “I don't know and with the flurry of mismatched sensations I'm getting, I'm not sure I want to know.”

“Are they fightin' again?” Bulkhead asks, shaking his helm. “This place ain't big enough for all of that.”

“It isn't big enough for a lot of things,” Jazz replies, propping his chin on the knuckles of one hand. “I really gotta talk to Fowler about gettin' us a bigger place.”

“Good luck with that,” Sideswipe makes a derisive noise. “Don't you remember the fit he threw last time?”

“Fowler may seem a bit high strung,” Arcee says as she comes back into the room, Bumblebee on her heels, “but he's stuck with us so far.”

“Right.” Jazz nods firmly. “Enough chatting about the locals. I've got some good news. Or should I say my mate does. Wanna share, sweetspark?”

Bluestreak grins, doorwings fluttering with excitement. “We've got some new arrivals,” he says, and jerks a thumb over his shoulder at the screen. “Prowl's coming with a couple of other mechs. One's Mirage.” He glances at Sideswipe, shuttering an optic in semblance of a wink. “The other's First Aid.”

Sideswipe's jaw literally drops. “Serious?”

Jazz pats him on the back. “Yep. Your love muffin's on his way here.”

“Love muffin?” Sideswipe gives their current commanding officer a pained look.

Arcee sighs, crossing her arms. “I should've guessed you'd pick up human culture first.”

Bumblebee's proto-dialect cuts into the conversation, hands waving in a vague gesture as he broadcasts to them all at once. “Won't the Decepticons notice another ship landing?”

Jazz inclines his helm. “Yeah. Prowl's gonna land elsewhere and we're gonna bridge them in. But ya can bet Buckethead's gonna investigate.”

Perceptor makes a noise of contemplation. “We could use this to our advantage, Jazz.”

“How so?” Arcee asks.

“We still do not have the current location of the Nemesis or Optimus, though we all assume that one is with the other,” Perceptor answers and starts to pace across the floor, fingers rubbing his chin in thought. “A skilled infiltrator could take this opportunity to invite his or herself onto the Nemesis.”

Jazz inclines his helm. “He might not bring the Nemesis to investigate. He'll probably send some lackeys and groundbridge 'em.”

“Unless he takes the shuttle,” Sideswipe says, rolling his shoulders in a shrug. “I mean, waste not, want not. Right?”

“That is assuming Megatron behaves in a logical manner. He could choose instead to destroy it,” Perceptor points out.

The thought of such makes Bluestreak shudder. He knows who will volunteer for this mission and the last thing he wants is to watch his mate get blown to bits.

“Then we just have to make sure that it's more valuable in one piece,” Jazz says with a grin that spells trouble.

Bluestreak knows that look. He's seen it on Jazz's faceplate too many times over the past few eons. It means Jazz is going to attempt something foolish or dangerous. Possibly both.

“Or,” Arcee interrupts, raising an orbital ridge. “We could not go the dangerous route and just find some way to affix a tracker to one of the Decepticons.”

Bulkhead gives his companion a disbelieving look. “Like that's gonna help. The whole ship's cloaked!”

“Ah.” Perceptor stops in the middle of pacing, spinning to face them all. “But the tracker will at least give us an approximate location. We can extrapolate from there.”

“It's a ship,” Bulkhead insists, hands splayed out in front of him, moving from side to side. “It moves.”

Bumblebee's hands wiggle through the air. “And none of us can fly.”

“Well who's to say Percy can't whip us up a different kind of tracker?” Jazz suggests, visor shifting toward their resident scientist. “Think you and Ratch can work together and get us somethin' special?”

“If you can manage to detach him from Sunstreaker,” Arcee mutters, but not quiet enough to not be heard. Bluestreak catches it just fine and he knows Jazz heard her, too.

And, apparently, they're not the only ones to hear her either.

“I think I detached myself just fine.”

Ratchet's voice cuts through the conversation and he steps into the main room with a pointed gaze Arcee's direction. Sunstreaker is just behind him, looming like a golden cloud of discontent, a frown on his lipplates. Then again, Bluestreak can probably count on one hand the number of times he's ever seen Sunstreaker smile.

Ratchet, though, he looks tired. Optics a little dimmer than usual, movements slower.

Bluestreak frowns. Maybe he and Sunstreaker have been arguing again.

Bluestreak looks at his mate but Jazz isn't paying him attention. His visor is locked on Ratchet and Sunstreaker, a contemplative frown pulling at his lipplates.

“You called a meeting and didn't invite us?” Sunstreaker asks, shooting an accusing look at his brother.

Sideswipe grins. “You were busy.”

Bluestreak expects some teasing laughter, maybe some good-natured ribbing. Instead, he watches as Sunstreaker and Ratchet exchange dark glances, their energy fields buzzing with anxiety and disquiet.

“We've got some news,” Jazz says, his vocals lacking the cheerful edge they had earlier. “A little bit of bad, mostly good. And maybe a plan.”

Ratchet draws himself up straight, Sunstreaker still looming behind him like some kind of guard, as though they both suddenly fear attack. “You share your news then we'll share ours.”

Bulkhead laughs, but it sounds force. “Seriously, Ratch. We already know you bonded. No need to keep pretending we don't.”

“Bulkhead,” Jazz says quietly. “I don't think that's it.”

No, Bluestreak doesn't either.

What the frag has happened?

o0o0o


“Dinner is served,” Knock Out announces as he steps into the tiny room where Lord Megatron has been keeping Orion Pax.

The Nemesis console takes up almost all of the space, and Orion Pax is not a small mech. He looks as out of place in this room as he does walking the halls of the Nemesis itself. Though there's a certain aesthetic improvement when he's standing side by side with Lord Megatron.

Orion turns away from the console, confusion writ into his faceplates. “...dinner?” He's so much more expressive without that battlemask.

Knock Out hands over the energon cube. “Human expression,” he says with a dismissive wave of his hand. “They have a strange manner of speaking.”

“I see.” Orion peers into the cube as though contemplating the exact shade of the newly processed energon. “Why would an alien planet have such an abundance of energon?”

Knock Out shrugs. “It is a mystery.”

Orion takes a long sip of the energon, giving Knock Out a long, measuring look. “Were you on a mission for Lord Megatron?”

“...what?”

“You were gone for a week.”

Knock Out cycles his optics. “You noticed?”

Orion finishes off his energon, dispersing the field of the cube with a practiced flick of his fingers. “A different mech brought my energon. They weren't as interested in conversation.”

He honestly hadn't thought Orion would pay attention. Or notice. It's not as if Knock Out spends a lot of his time engaging in conversation with Megatron's pet Autobot. It's exhausting to watch his words, make sure he doesn't reveal anything untoward.

Like the Pit he's going to tell the truth though.

“Yeah. I had a mission. A failed one.” Knock Out scowls at the memory. Time spent in his genitors' tender care. Ugh.

“Lord Megatron must have been disappointed.”

Knock Out snorts, approaching Orion's console and glancing over the Autobot's work. Not that he can make helms or afts of it. “He can blame the Autobots for that one. Had any luck with the Iacon database?”

“Some.” Orion steps up beside him, blunt fingers tapping a quick pattern over the keyboard. “I'm having difficulty accessing some items. Why is the Nemesis mainframe so heavily encrypted?”

Someone's been doing some off-topic research. Lord Megatron won't be happy to hear about this. Still, what does he expect? Orion Pax is not Optimus Prime, but he's not stupid. Sooner or later, he's going to realize that all the little lies don't add up, and Lord Megatron is not the same as Megatronus.

Also, this is Knock Out's cue to make himself scarce.

“Standard procedure,” he says and backs toward the door. “The Autobots are sneaky fraggers that sometimes try to hack the mainframe.”

“I see.” Orion doesn't sound convinced.

“I'll let you get back to work,” Knock Out adds and hits the door panel, causing it to slide open. “After all, Lord Megatron's anxiously waiting for some results.”

He doesn't wait for Orion's response, ducking back into the main hallway. Orion seems focused on his work again anyway.

Crisis averted.

Knock Out brushes imaginary grime off his chestplate and turns, only to nearly collide with his partner.

“So you gonna tell me what happened?” Breakdown demands, looming over Knock Out like that's going to intimidate him into talking.

The back of Knock Out's hand smacks against Breakdown's massive chestplate as he pushes past his assistant. “I'm busy.”

His finish, after all, is still atrocious. Ratchet had repaired him but hadn't bothered to so much as buff away a scratch or two.

“Too busy to tell me why the Autobots let you go?”

Knock Out's spark stutters but he restrains himself. “I escaped.”

Breakdown makes a noise of derision. “Right. Tell me another one.” He puts on a burst of speed, cutting in front of Knock Out, making him stop in his tracks. “For someone who escaped from captivity, you don't look very banged up.”

“Unlike a certain someone, I used my processor over my fists,” Knock Out replies, annoyed. He tilts his helm. “And you're one to talk. We both know you didn't free yourself from those humans.”

Breakdown jerks back, optic spiraling down. “So that's how it's gonna be?”

“You started this,” Knock Out retorts.

Breakdown stares at him for a long moment, energy field wavering, before he stalks past Knock Out, leaving him alone in the hall.

Maybe not the smartest thing to drive off his back up. But Breakdown's asking too many questions. And he's never been good at keeping his mouth shut. Knock Out doesn't owe him any answers either.

Knock Out ex-vents slowly, easing the tenseness of his motion cables.

Things are getting too complicated.

o0o0o


Sunstreaker whips the mop across the floor, muttering a low curse when the dirty water flecks back onto his pede. He's glad he's shut off his olfactory sensors because the smell of the cleaner is not at all pleasant. Frag Jazz and his idea of punishment.

Scrubbing at the stone floor is not Sunstreaker's idea of a good time. Earth is not Cybertron. This is never more apparent than in the layers of dust that coat everything. It gets on his armor, beneath his plating, on their equipment, over the floor. They track it in on their tires.

Dirt. Sunstreaker despises dirt.

And now Jazz is making him mop it up. With human-sized tools at that. This is taking fragging forever.

Sunstreaker would bet twenty credits – if they even bothered with currency anymore – that Jazz is laughing his aft off somewhere.

Why hasn't Ratchet gotten punished, too? He's not the only one who decided to bond out of nowhere without telling their CO.

Sunstreaker exvents loudly. This just isn't fair.

He can't believe he's starting to miss monitor duty.

A shadow appears in the doorway. Sunstreaker doesn’t even have to look up to identify his visitor.

“Track mud over this clean floor and you will find my pede stuffed somewhere unpleasant,” Sunstreaker warns.

Sideswipe doesn't chuckle, though he usually would laugh such a threat off. In fact, their brother-bond is completely closed right now, without so much as a flicker of emotion gleaming through. And Sideswipe's reeled in his energy field, too.

Primus. Sideswipe is in a serious mood.

Sunstreaker plops the mop in the bucket, swirls it around and drags it back out again, dribbling brownish water over the floor.

He waits.

“So,” Sideswipe finally says, careful as though he's tasting the word. “You really think this is a good idea.”

It isn't a question.

Sunstreaker grits his denta. So this is how it's going to be. “Frag off, Sideswipe.”

“Mmm. Nope.” Sideswipe crosses his arms, tilting his helm. “Don't think I will.”

Sunstreaker says nothing. What he wants, right now, is for his twin to support him. He doesn't want to hear Sideswipe's know-it-all ranting. Mech thinks that cause he got a frame a whole breem sooner that he has to be the mature, responsible one.

“You're impulsive enough to do this, I know,” Sideswipe continues, without so much as an invitation, shifting on the door frame. “But how on Earth did you convince Ratchet?”

Sunstreaker slams the mop against the floor, sending frothy water splashing out. “Do you honestly think I bullied him into it?”

Sideswipe scoffs. “Sunny, no one can make Ratchet do anything he doesn't want to.”

“Then why don't you be a good brother and support us?” Sunstreaker demands, jerking up his helm and finally meeting his twin's gaze.

“Because I think this is the dumbest idea you've had yet. And you've had some real award-winners.”

Sunstreaker glares.

If anyone's had a bundle of bad ideas, it's his annoying brother and Sideswipe's tendency to play pranks when he's bored. Or just because he thinks it's his duty to be some kind of morale officer.

Perceptor still hasn't forgiven Sideswipe for that explosion in his lab.

Sideswipe comes fully into the room, the door sliding shut behind him. “You can't replace Knock Out.”

Sunstreaker feels a lot like he's been struck in the chestplate. “This isn't about that!”

“Isn't it?” Sideswipe's optics spiral down, focusing. “Cause let me tell you, making a sparkling here and now is fragging stupid. Did you forget about the Decepticons? The war? The pile of junk that we call a living space?”

The mop clatters from Sunstreaker's fingers, lying in a pool of dirty water. “Reminds you a bit of home, doesn't it?” he asks, slumping against the rock wall, as uncomfortable and full of protrusions it may be.

Sideswipe jerks as if physically struck, and backpedals a pace. “Is that what this is about?” He exvents noisily. “Primus, Sunny. We can't go back. Uraya's gone. The Clinic's gone. Cybertron's dead.”

“I know that!” Sunstreaker hisses, fingers curling into fists, spark an anxious whirl within his chassis. “I just...”

He can't put it into words. So he sends a flurry of emotions at his twin through their bond, hammering at the blocks Sideswipe's put up until his brother lets him in.

Words. Sunstreaker's never been good with them.

He doesn't know how to say what this is to him.

He wants a family again. His family. He's tired of war, fighting and killing. He's good at it, but that doesn't mean he wants to keep doing it. He's more comfortable wielding a blaster than a stylus these orns.

His own bond feels like a stranger to him. His youngling became a Decepticon and there's no chance of getting Knock Out back.

Sunstreaker still feels like he has nothing left to cling to. Earth isn't home. It's a poor substitute and he certainly can't relax or feel comfortable here.

And he knows fostering another sparkling isn't going to make everything right. Or change the way he feels about Earth or fix his and Ratchet's relationship.

But Sunstreaker wants to try again anyway. He can't explain why. He just does.

Sideswipe winces when Sunstreaker's battering finally takes effect and he's assaulted with a deluge of emotions. His shoulders slump.

“You know,” Sideswipe says, stepping fully into the room and around the puddle of brownish water. “I was going to support you anyway, right? I just wanted to know you were sure.” He lays a hand on Sunstreaker's shoulder, pulsing affection and fond exasperation across their bond.

Relief ripples through Sunstreaker's energy field. No one else has seemed happy about this so he's glad to have Sideswipe's support.

Perceptor's enthusiasm to witness a true fostering with his own optics notwithstanding.

“I'm not, however, going to help you mop this floor,” Sideswipe says, gesturing with his other hand to the tiny mop and dirty water. “That's your punishment detail. Not mine.”

Sunstreaker shakes his helm and bends down to pluck the mop off the stone. “You just wait until your first prank. Then you'll be right here with me.”

Sideswipe laughs.

***

a/n: Dunno when I'll update this again since I'm working so hard on War Without End, but I do promise it will be finished. It's my next focus once I finish up WWE. 

I hope you enjoyed! Feedback is welcome and appreciated.

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