dracoqueen22: (doctorisin)
[personal profile] dracoqueen22
a/n: What's this? An update to Critical Mass? Why yes it is. In honor of the fact I leapt over my writer's block and started work on this again, I'm updating with a chapter I forgot I had was ready. Heh. Enjoy!

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 Three

-----------------------

“Ratchet!”

Jazz nearly leaps three feet off the floor in his surprise. A human suddenly appearing on the view screen and hollering at him is not exactly something he's used to.

He stares warily at the screen. “Doc's busy. What's up, Agent Fowler?” He tries a disarming, friendly grin.

It is promptly ignored.

“You know, he's been busy for the past three days,” Agent Fowler says, peering suspiciously at the screen. “Something you bots aren't telling me?”

“If you recall, the chain of command has been rearranged,” Jazz retorts, still pleasantly, but with a bit of an edge now. “I'm in charge so you should be talkin' to me.” Though Primus knows he doesn't like being in command at all. “And I'm guessin' there's an emergency or somethin'.”

Agent Fowler barely blinks at the minor chastisement, his lips thinning in a gesture of annoyance. “Cons are in New York. Smashing up the subways. I've got the whole system shut down due to a quote-unquote gas leak, but there are a lot of angry commuters out there and I've got my boss breathing down my neck.”

“Gotcha. We'll put a stop to it,” Jazz promises, already considering just who to send on this mission.

It could be nothing more than the 'Cons wanting to draw them out. Or they could be after something in particular. He doubts they'll have a huge force waiting though. There's not a lot of space in the subway tunnels, according to Jazz's quick internet search.

Thank Primus for Google.

Agent Fowler stares into the screen. “Without collateral damage?”

Jazz exvents and resists the urge to add sarcasm to his tone. Collateral damage when fighting Decepticons is kind of a given. Seriously.

“We'll do the best we can,” Jazz says instead, perfectly polite, with another fake smile and a cheerful flash of his visor.

All of a sudden, Agent Fowler's hard stare softens, as though he's been struck with a revelation. He shifts, uneasy, and scratches at his ear. “I know. You always do. Fowler, out.”

The screen goes blank before Jazz can so much as process the man's sudden change of spark – err, heart.

“You must be growing on him.”

He doesn't so much as startle this time, having sensed Arcee's arrival about mid-way through the conversation.

Jazz grins, fingers tapping over the control panel to display a schematic of New York's subway system, only awaiting Fowler to send over the exact coordinates of the Decepticon's location. “My charm is undefeatable.”

“So you say.” Arcee arches an orbital ridge at him, unimpressed. “Where is Ratchet anyway?”

“Resting.” The console beeps; information delivered. “He's still got a few weeks before his spark'll be overenergized enough to split.”

Arcee shifts her weight with a hiss of hydraulics. “I still say this is a bad idea.”

Yes, Jazz remembers. She had been particularly vocal about it a few solar cycles ago. Sunstreaker had looked positively homicidal.

Jazz has made it a priority to keep those two separated and on opposite shifts whenever possible.

He glances over his shoulder at the femme. “You wanna be the one to tell Sunstreaker or the Hatchet that they can't?”

“Optimus could.”

“Optimus isn't here right now,” Jazz retorts curtly, shifting back toward the console. “I'm all you got. And I can't bear ta tell them no.”

He understands, probably more than anyone else who's not direct family, what this might mean to Ratchet and Sunstreaker. And yeah, now's not a good time. Frankly, their timing sucks. But he can't tell them no.

He doesn't think it would do any good anyway.

“Fine,” Arcee says. “But I'm not babysitting.”

Jazz chuckles, bringing up the subway schematic on a smaller monitor to keep the main one free. “Naw. I've got other plans for you. Like this mission that just popped up.”

“In the subway system?” Arcee shudders, plating giving an audible rattle. “Fine. But I'm taking Bumblebee.”

“And Bluestreak, too. He's eager to see more of Earth.”

“Playing favorites?”

Jazz pauses in his typing. “Not really. He hates confined spaces.”

“Mm. Any news on Prime?”

Slightly more comfortable topic, but not by much. “Not so much as an echo.”

He must have truly forgotten. Jazz knows Prime, knew Orion. The boss bot would have been smart enough to figure out how to send a signal by now, if he thought himself in trouble. But if he's truly reverted far enough in the past, back to when he and Megatronus had shared a vision, amongst other things, than it's a small wonder that there's been no sign of their missing leader.

Arcee's faceplates twist with grief and anger and she turns sharply away from Jazz. He detects the transmission of a comm, assumes she's contacting Bumblebee, and sets the groundbridge to bring the scout back.

--Got a job for ya, sweetspark.--

Bluestreak responds with an amused tone. --Will I enjoy it?--

--Maybe. Come to the command center and I'll tell ya all about it.--

--Yes sir.--

Warmth floods their bond, the one stable thing in Jazz's life since Cybertron went to the Pit and his whole universe turned upside down.

“Jazz.”

He shifts his attention back to Arcee. “Yeah?”

“Bee's got Jack and Raf. He says Jack wants to come. Miko, too.”

Confusion filters through, though Jazz has heard numerous stories about the female human's tendency to leap head-first into trouble. “Why?”

Arcee's shoulders lift in a shrug. “Something about a face. We might run into humans down there.”

And Prime's standing order that they conceal themselves remains.

Jazz exvents and returns his attention to the screen. “It's going to be dangerous,” he warns, but he suspects such a warning is superfluous.

“That's never stopped Miko before,” Arcee retorts, her vocals carrying the tones of a femme irritated but resigned.

Bringing the humans along might be a necessity. From the records, Jazz has seen that most encounters between the two factions have been in areas free of human populations. But the subway tunnels in New York? Even if Fowler claims to have cleared them out, there's a higher chance of being spotted.

Still...

“Fine,” Jazz grudgingly concedes. “Take them. But I'll be monitorin' you closely. At the first sign of trouble, I'm bridgin' them out.”

Arcee throws out a sketchy salute. “Yes, sir.”

Pedesteps across the floor announce Bluestreak's arrival as Jazz fires up the groundbridge, bringing Bumblebee back to base as well. Jazz leaves Arcee to explain the mission while he resets the coordinates for somewhere in New York that hopefully is near the Decepticon incursion but out of human sight.

Things just keep getting interesting.

Primus but Prowl can't get here soon enough. Jazz is ready to be done with command.

0o0o0

The console beeps a cheerful tone of success at him.

Orion cycles his optics, slipping out of a state of concentration to focus on the decoded data. Another set of coordinates? How strange that the Iacon database should contain information on Cybertronian artifacts on this planet. Why are they here? And why is there so much energon for that matter?

It makes no logical sense.

Orion frowns, but bundles up the newly decoded coordinates and bursts them to Soundwave, his main point of contact for such things. The communications specialist sends him a confirming chirp through the comms but nothing else. So strange what war can do a mech, Orion wonders.

He remembers a Soundwave who, while not particularly garrulous, still spoke, though his tones were rigid and unyielding. Not much humor to be found in the bulky gladiator either. But this slim and silent mech is nothing like the Soundwave of Orion's memory. What had invoked the change? And where are the rest of his minicons? Orion has only seen Laserbeak for certain. What of Rumble and Frenzy and Ravage?

So many questions.

Orion has reasoned that the answers are likely in the Nemesis' database, but they have been encrypted. As a side project, while working on the Iacon database, Orion has been trying to break through those locks. But he cannot focus on them as much as he would like and he's more familiar with Iacon's encoding anyway.

Part of him fears the answers he might find.

The Lord Megatron he sees now is not the Megatronus that Orion remembers either. Megatron is even more ruthless, though his vocals are as charismatic as ever. And he still looks upon Orion with degrees of affection, but there is a darkness behind his optics, an occasional glimpse of fiery other that makes Orion uneasy.

This war that Megatron speaks of, Orion supposes that can cause so many changes. And if he and Megatron have been at odds for as long as the Decepticon leader claims, that might explain some things.

But there are yet more mysteries that hammer at Orion's logic processors. There also remains the matter of his spark, which yearns for mechs he doesn't remember. The terrible Autobots. What had they done to him?

He doesn't know. And for a data mech such as himself, it is the not knowing which is the worse sensation of all.

A tired exvent escapes Orion as he slumps, hydraulics hissing in this unfamiliar frame. There is nothing to do but return to work. At least the steady patter of decoding makes sense to him. It is all that is familiar.

Behind him, the door slides open as someone enters. Orion can tell, by sound alone, that it is Megatron come to visit. As often as this has occurred, he's grown to recognize the Decepticon leader's tread.

“Orion,” Megatron greets as Orion turns to face him, taking in the sight of the former gladiator, mouth stretched in a pleased grin. “Soundwave informs me that you've decoded a second piece of the Iacon database. Coordinates, I believe?”

Orion inclines his helm. “Yes. Located on this planet.” He hesitates before deciding that to ask is better than to wonder. “I still don't understand why there is Cybertronian tech here in the first place.”

“It is a mystery that we are working to solve, rest assured,” Megatron says and strides further into the room, reaching out and resting one clawed servo on Orion's shoulder. “And you are an important piece of solving that puzzle.”

A swell of pride rises within Orion, battling against the unpleasant edges of uneasiness that being in Megatron's presence provokes in him though he doesn't know why. It's a spark deep disquiet, as though his spark knows something that his processor does not. The contrast between that and the yearning also present in his spark, often leaves Orion reeling. How can he both desire Megatron and yet, want to put distance between them?

“There is still a lot of data left to decode,” Orion says, shifting with intent to turn back to the console. If this is something Megatron needs done, then Orion will do his best to ensure he does not disappoint. He is not a warrior, after all, and this is the only way he can contribute to the cause. He does not wish to be a drain on their strained resources.

Megatron's grip on his shoulder spar, however, keeps Orion from turning. “Have you energized this orn?” the leader asks, his vocals taking on a softer tone, his opposable talon stroking a soft path across the length of Orion's shoulder panel. That it leaves a streak of pleasure in its wake is no coincidence.

Orion pauses. “Knock Out has yet to bring me my ration.” His gaze searches Megatron's faceplate, seeking some inkling of familiarity, some ghost of the past.

There is nothing to be found in those red, red optics. “How fortunate.” Megatron's energy field flares out, not quite tentative, but not quite bold either. “You need to refuel. And it just so happens that I've several cubes of mid-grade in my quarters. You're welcome to them.”

The rest of the invitation remains unspoken but Orion is hardly an idiot. He doesn't know why Megatron bothers with these thinly disguised overtures. Orion would have come without the allure of energon. He had never needed anything from Megatron before but the promise of Megatron's company and attention.

“I should probably finish my work on the database,” Orion says, but his pedes are already moving to follow Megatron out of his tiny cubicle and into the main corridor.

“It can wait. We have time to spare.” Megatron tosses him a crooked grin, a flash of sharpened denta. “The Autobots, after all, have no idea of our efforts.”

The confidence Megatron bears is familiar at least. Orion cannot remember a time he has ever seen Megatronus uncertain over anything and this Megatron is no different.

“If you insist,” Orion replies, watching the Decepticon leader's back, the way his thick armor shifts and glints in the lights of the Nemesis. He's even more powerful now than he had been as a gladiator, though the pitted scars give testament to many vorns spent in battle.

“I do,” Megatron says, and there's promise in his optics.

Orion knows, without having to ask, that he won't be returning to his cubicle before the orn is through.

o0o0o

“You two stay with Bluestreak,” Arcee says at the first echoing noise of drilling in the long, twisting tunnels beneath Manhattan. Though why the Decepticons are drilling remains a mystery to them. Are they attempting to conceal another space bridge?

Jack nods, completely understanding.

Miko whines and stomps her feet. “Why?” she demands with long, exaggerated syllables, her arms crossed firmly over her chest. “We can't help you if you leave us behind!”

Bluestreak, too, slumps a little, his doorwings losing their jaunty edge. “I really don't like being underground,” he mutters, giving Arcee hopeful, big-opticked looks that he's perfected over the vorn and make him really difficult to deny. “You might need more backup. We don't know who the Decepticons sent. It could be Megatron even!”

“I sincerely doubt Megatron would stoop to this level,” Arcee replies dryly, not budging an inch. “And this is as close as I'm letting you two get,” she adds, redirecting her response to the two children.

Another chorus of disappointment arose from both Bluestreak and Miko, but Jack only nodded his agreement more vigorously.

Bumblebee makes a suggestion of contacting Jazz and that shuts Bluestreak right up. Miko still looks belligerent but Arcee's not having any of it. They've already lost Cliffjumper and Optimus. She's not adding one of the humans to her list.

She and Bumblebee leave Bluestreak around the corner with the two children, and creep through the tunnels, following the sound of drilling. Arcee goes over the likely suspects. A team of vehicons, Knock Out and Breakdown. She highly doubts Soundwave is going to be skulking about down here and Starscream hasn't been seen since that incident with Airachnid.

Though she doesn't discount the possibility that Megatron has somehow acquired reinforcements in the same manner that the Autobots have.

--You take the drones,-- Arcee says, pulling out her blasters in preparation. --I'll take care of whoever Megatron put in charge of them.--

Bumblebee gives her a look. --Why do you get to have all the fun?--

A grim smile pulls at Arcee's lipplates. --Because I said so.--

They pause at a bend in the tunnels. Arcee peers around the corner, confirming her earlier suspicions. Breakdown and Knock Out plus a team of Decepticon miners. Too bad Bulkhead isn't here. He would have enjoyed another clash with his nemesis.

There's a hole in the wall of the tunnels and Knock Out is stepping out of it, cradling something in his servos. A container of some sort with Cybertronian glyphs on the side that Arcee can't read from this distance. Whatever it is, Arcee's pretty sure that they don't want the Decepticons to have it.

--Change of plans. You get that thing. I'll take care of the enemy.--

--You sure?--

Breakdown's large, but he's clumsy. Besides, all Arcee needs to do is distract them. And Bluestreak's just around the bend if they need back up.

--Positive.-- Arcee's optics swivel down, focusing as Knock Out takes the lid off the container and reaches inside, pulling out something that she can't identify. Possibly a weapon.

--Remember we can't afford to hesitate,-- she says to her current partner. --Even if he is Ratchet's.--

The scout inclines his helm, plating clamped tight to his frame. --I know.-- There's a mournful edge to his transmission, the disappointment they all seem to share on Ratchet's behalf.

Arcee doesn't like Sunstreaker, and she's fond of Knock Out even less, but she loathes above it all the pain she catches in Ratchet's optics at mere mention of their errant youngling.

Cycling air through her vents, Arcee returns her attention to the Decepticons a mere thirty feet away. The sound of blasters charging up echoes in her audials, serving as Bumblebee's reply.

They share another glance and then charge, blaster fire lighting up the passageway. One of Arcee's shots knocks out a miner and it's pure luck that they happen to attack from Breakdown's blind side.

The battle is on.

o0o0o

It's like the synthetic energon all over again, though Ratchet swears he has even less control over himself this time.

He arches and makes noises he didn't know his vocalizer was capable of, dragging Sunstreaker against him, ruining the usually pristine finish. The heat that races through his lines feels molten and the scent of scorched wires sits in a heavy haze about their shared quarters. But it's not enough, he swears it isn't, and Ratchet is the first to crack his chestplates, the light of spark spilling into the bare distance between them.

Sunstreaker looks at him, optics more white than blue, his hands in a deathly grip on Ratchet's hips as his own chestplates part. He looks half-drugged, too, a moan escaping as he pushes his spark energy against Ratchet's.

Pleasure, thick and overwhelming, blasts through Ratchet's systems. His HUD screams warnings at him as electricity crawls across his frame. He in-vents and ex-vents so frantically it's merely a motion that does little to cool him down.

Ratchet's spark swells, reaching out, enveloping Sunstreaker's own. He groans, helm knocking back, frame pressing toward Sunstreaker. Fingers dip between Ratchet's plating, stroking bundles of cables, not that the stimulation is necessary. Overload is within reach and it won't take much to push Ratchet over. It never does anymore.

His spark is hungry for the extra energy, for the taste of Sunstreaker and their mingled energies. Sunstreaker says nothing, but his words are a rush of nonsense in Ratchet's audials. The dim lights of the medbay ceiling are a blur of flickering color. His sensors are overly sensitive, responding to the slightest stroke with blinding bursts of pleasure.

Ratchet moans, half-pain and half-pleasure, clinging to Sunstreaker as his spark pulses out and the pleasure crests over him in a bursting wave. He overloads loudly, St. Elmo's fire lighting up the room, hydraulics stiffening.

Sunstreaker makes a helpless noise, pulled into Ratchet's overload with one of his own, defenseless to the demanding pull of Ratchet's fostering protocols.

Pain bleeds into the pleasure as Ratchet twitches, gasping for an in-vent, his system straining under the influx of another's spark energy. He can feel as it wraps around his spark, filters through the fostering system, and tries to contain itself within the meager confines of his spark chamber.

Ratchet heaves, pushing Sunstreaker off and away as he lurches to his side just as his chestplate slams closed, trapping the extra energies behind it. His tanks lurch, optics offlining as his entire frame trembles.

The closer to splitting he gets, the more it's going to hurt. Part of him doesn't want to go endure that agony again. But he knows it's too late. Whether he terminates or sees this through to the end, Ratchet's going to be in pain. It's inevitable by this point.

He feels Sunstreaker's hand on his shoulder, gripping, comforting. The frontliner's engine rumbles a soothing vibration against Ratchet's backplate. It eases the ache, if only the little.

“Ratchet?”

“Fine.”

Sunstreaker snorts. “No, you're not.”

Ratchet doesn't bother to retort. The last of the tremors are working their way through his plating now. His spark starts to settle within his chassis, though he still feels swollen, like someone's set his wiring on fire and won't let him put it out.

There's a creak as Sunstreaker shifts on the berth, settling behind Ratchet while he continues his lazy, soft stroking and the comforting purr of his engine. “It's only four and a half more orns.”

“Easy for you to say,” Ratchet grumbles and works his intakes a few times before his tanks settle. At least this time he didn't purge. It was humiliating enough this morning.

“Need a cube?”

“Primus, no!” Just the idea of ingesting anything right now threatens to start the churning all over again.

Sunstreaker huffs. “I'm trying to help here.”

“I know.” Ratchet in-vents and ex-vents, attempting to find calm and having a hard time locating it around the intense sensation of being overenergized. “But Primus, I don't remember it being this awful the first time around.”

He feels more than sees Sunstreaker go utterly still behind him. “You changing your mind?”

Ratchet clenches one hand into a low fist. “Not even remotely what I said.” He onlines his optics, though the dim light is far too bright to be soothing. “You do realize we're going to need a protoform?”

Sunstreaker's energy field tentatively brushes against his own, ripe with apology. “Yes. How soon?”

“Within the next four and a half orns,” Ratchet retorts dryly and some of the tension in his hydraulics eases as the throbbing pain slacks off a fraction. “Once the bitlet splits, we have an orn, maybe two, before the spark'll start to degrade without a protoform of its own.”

“That doesn't give us much time.”

“You're slagging right it doesn't.” Ratchet winces but forces himself to shift, turning to face Sunstreaker. “I can't build a protoform from scrap. Not with the resources we have here.”

Sunstreaker's helm dips. “What are you saying?”

“That if we want our bitlet to have a protoform, we're going to have to acquire a frame.” Ratchet hisses a ventilation. “And the only spare parts lying around are Decepticon drones.”

Disgust radiates from Sunstreaker's energy field with such virulence that it crashes against Ratchet's like a slap to the faceplate. “My youngling is not going to be housed in a drone frame made of mass-produced parts!” Apparently the fact that they are Decepticon parts is what bothers him the least.

Ratchet frowns. “We don't have a choice. Unless Prowl arrives with a protoform conveniently on board, we have to work with what we have.” Like Ratchet's been doing for the past three years in fact as he struggles to keep the Autobots together on scraped together machinery and glitched human tech.

Sunstreaker throws himself from the berth, jarring Ratchet's tender frame and provoking a hiss of discomfort. “There has to be another way.”

“There isn't.” Ratchet forces himself upright, leaning heavily against the wall next to the berth as he regards his short-tempered bondmate. He can guess what Sunstreaker is thinking. “Even if I did have access to top of the line parts, I'd still need two or three mechs to help me put one together this quickly. Last time we were lucky.”

Lucky that they knew Jazz and he pulled a lot of strings and made a lot of shady dealings and procured them a high-end protoform that impressed even the highly selective Sunstreaker.

A flurry of emotions flicker across Sunstreaker's faceplate. “I don't like this,” he says, energy field a whirl of discontent. “How can we do better if we fail him from the start?”

Ratchet winces, hand rising to his chestplate, where the metal positively thrums from the extra energy swirling in his chamber. “It's not a fail--”

“It is!” Sunstreaker cuts him off with a snarl, one hand slicing through the air. “Primus, I'm a glitch. I'm repeating the same mistakes as my fragging genitors.” He presses a hand to his forehelm, optics darkening from distress. “I should have known better. I should have... Argh. Sideswipe was fragging right!”

One fist slams into the wall, denting the cheap metal straight through to the rock wall behind it. Ratchet wants to say something comforting, but a stab of pain hits him just then and the words get buried.

Not that it matters, he supposes, because Sunstreaker chooses that moment to whirl toward the door, storming out of the medbay without so much as a by-your-leave. Considering the unrest in his energy field, and the conflicting emotions Ratchet's sensing through their bond, perhaps it is for the best.

Ratchet sighs and tries to get comfortable on the berth. --Ratchet to Jazz.--

--What's up, doc-bot?-- Jazz is far too cheerful for Ratchet's comfort.

--Sunstreaker's on a rampage. Just thought I'd warn you.--

Jazz's concern is clear as day across the comm line. --Am I gonna need some heavy-hittin' back up or should I let the cranky cornflower drive it out?--

--Let him drive. If Sideswipe's free, send him after. Or Bluestreak.--

The worry mellows into faint amusement. --Swipe's on his way. Blue's on a mission.--

Ratchet's been pretty much attached to this berth since he and Sunstreaker committed themselves to fostering another youngling. Clearly, this has put him out of the loop. --Mission?--

--Cons in Manhattan. We got it handled.-- Jazz's tone is flippant but Ratchet's worked with the saboteur too long to know when he's faking. --What crawled up Sunny's aft?--

--Reality.-- Ratchet offlines his optics, contemplating a brief affair with recharge. Only he'll need a cube when he wakes and he doesn't fancy the torturous walk to the cabinet. --I'm going to need a frame, Jazz. Megatron tends to leave them lying around.--

Jazz hums in understanding. --Gotcha. I'll do what I can. You in need of anythin'?--

--I'm fine.--

--I'm sendin' Percy to check on ya anyway.--

Ratchet rolls his optics but doesn't fight the inevitable. –If you must. Ratchet, out.-- He doesn't give Jazz the opportunity to retort, cutting off the comm.

He doesn't need to hear the saboteur to know that Jazz is smug from helm to pede anyway. Thank Primus Prowl will be arriving soon.

Resigned, Ratchet gets comfortable on the berth and waits for Perceptor. At least then he can have the scientist bring him a cube so he can recharge.

****

a/n: Whew. Angst! Drama! Action! Sometimes, I feel like I've written a soap opera. lol. Still, I hope it was enjoyable. Feedback is always welcome. It keeps the muses fed and excited.

I can't say for certain how soon the next update will be. I am working on this fic, finally, but I like to get a few chapters done before I post another, in case I need to adjust or tweak some details or move some scenes around. With Real Life severely limiting my writing time, it's an exercise in frustration. Heh. But I promise I am working on it.



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