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13 May 2014 @ 12:36 pm
Chapter: When You Can't Go Home - 2: Homecoming (Mirror Universe G1) PG13  
Title: When You Can't Go Home
Chapter: Homecoming
Warnings: Psychological trauma
Rating: PG13
Universe: Mirror Universe G1
Summary: Five million years ago, a crack Decepticon unit specializing in prisoner rescue and recovery was captured and imprisoned by the Autobots. Now, the Decepticons are trapped on Earth deadlocked in an endless war against Optimus Prime - until Starscream disobeys orders and breaks the Combaticons out of the Autobot mind prison.

Previous:
Prologue
1: Rescue
Interlude: Swindle


Megatron was waiting in the docking tower when Starscream landed.
 
“Well, frag...” Starscream had been hoping to avoid his commander for a day or so, ideally until the Constructicons had revived the prisoners and proven Starscream right.
 
No such luck, he groused to himself, touching down and pasting a smirk on his face. He may be fragged, but he'd rather be melted down for scrap than give anyone, especially Megatron, the pleasure of seeing him acknowledge it.

Megatron folded his arms, his expression stormy. He knew exactly where his disobedient second had been. He had been pacing the docking tower since returning. He'd realized that Starscream wasn't with them moments after calling the retreat, and had sent Skywarp back to look for the crash. When the seeker caught back up to the group empty-handed, Megatron had at first been surprised, then angry.
 
His idiot of a second never knew when to just shut up and obey... That's why he's your second, Megatron reminded himself ruefully. But he kept his expression grim as Starscream sauntered over.
 
He still wasn't sure whether he should be furious with the seeker or congratulating him. He certainly wasn't going to tell Starscream, but the flier's ingenuity and tenacity had saved them time and again, and keeping up with Starscream's devious mind kept Megatron sharp and alert. But on the other hand, the same devious ingenuity had almost gotten them all killed on more than one occasion. He wasn't sure yet which catagory this little escapade was going to fall under.
 
The unrepentant smirk on Starscream's face decided the matter for him.
 
“Waiting up for me? Did you miss me that much, mighty Megatron?” Starscream asked, smirk widening. “You really shouldn't have worried-”
 
Megatron's hand snapped out, seizing the startled seeker by an intake. “Where were you, Starscream?” he demanded, already knowing the answer but wanting to hear Starscream say it.
 
Starscream winced at the crushing grip on his shoulder. “I was getting us reinforcements,” he said, managing to keep his voice almost even.
 
“I ordered you to stay away from the Ark,” Megatron rumbled dangerously.
 
“And I told you that I could handle it! And obviously, I was right!”
 
Suddenly he found himself yanked around by his intake and slammed back against the hanger wall.
 
“You're a slagging idiot, Starscream! I ordered you to stay away from there for a reason! If anything had gone wrong you would have been killed on the spot or locked away with them.” He nodded to the armful of personality components Starscream still clutched. Slowly, he let go of the Air commander. “I can't afford to lose you now, Starscream,” he growled quietly.
 
Rattled by the impact and even more by the admission, Starscream could only shrug. “...It worked?” he ventured.
 
“Hmph. Take them to the repair bay and then you and I are going to discuss this further.” With that ominous order, Megatron turned sharply and walked out, leaving Starscream to grumble at his back.
 
Starscream stalked into the repair bay moments later to find it packed. Mechs in various states of injury and repair lay on berths or waited against the back wall, the Constructicons scrambling to keep up with the damage. Scavenger barely spared him a glance as he dodged around the seeker with an armload of parts. The other Constructicons didn't even give him that.
 
“Hook!” Starscream raised his voice to be heard over the shriek of a heavy saw.
 
“If you aren't bleeding all over the floor, it's not an emergency,” Hook snapped, not lifting his optics from the twisted mess of metal in front of him.
 
Starscream made out a charred stabilizer and what was left of a section of tread, and realized with a sickened feeling that the mess was Blitzwing.
 
“What happened?” Starscream asked, stepping closer.
 
“Get the frag out of the way,” Hook snapped instead of answering, shouldering past him to grab a welding torch.
 
“If you'd been there, you'd know,” Bonecrusher growled from another berth, his entire left leg missing, ending in a sparking stump just below the junction.
 
Starscream looked over at him and frowned.
 
“Omega Supreme got him,” Scavenger spoke up before Starscream could say anything, hastily getting between his volatile gestalt-mate and the hot-tempered Air Commander. “Him and Thundercracker are the only serious injuries. Thundercracker should be alright,” he added helpfully before Starscream could demand the update.
 
“If he gets that converter you're playing with,” Hook snapped from the other side of Blitzwing.
 
Scavenger started, looking down at the converter in embarrassment before handing it to Scrapper. The Constructicon leader took it, going back to work on the downed seeker without comment.
 
“While you lot were chasing rainbows with the Autobots,” Starscream said loftily, “I was on a very important rescue mission-”
 
“No one's been captured,” Bonecrusher interrupted with a snort. “Who were you rescuing, your imaginary friends?”
 
Starscream glared at him. “Not recently, maybe, but that just makes it that much more impressive that I was able to rescue them, doesn't it?” He held up his prizes. “Behold, the residents of the Ark's mind-prison!”
 
Even Hook looked up at that, hands stilling for a split second.
 
“So? What the frag are you waiting for, a pat on the back?” He grumbled, turning back to his work. “Put them on the table and get the frag out of my repair bay. I'll see to them when we're done.”
 
Single-handedly infiltrate an Autobot stronghold an liberate the prisoners they've been keeping for millennia, and what do I get? Slammed into a wall and told to get out of the way. Disgruntled, Starscream dumped the components on a table and stalked for the door, what was left of his good mood evaporating. “Comm me when you've checked them out,” he ordered, trying to salvage some dignity and sense of authority.
 
“Yeah, yeah,” Hook muttered, turning his attention back to his work.
 
x-x-x

 
Red Alert came back to consciousness to find familiar deck plating in front of his face and the ominous rumbling of an angry truck engine above him. Wincing, he raised his head.
 
Optimus Prime glared down at his security director. “One Decepticon. You let one Decepticon walk in here destroy most of the control room, and waltz back out with my prisoners?”
 
“I-” Red Alert tried. He cringed as Optimus Prime's fist clenched, bracing himself for pain.
 
Prime spun suddenly, fist smashing into the mech standing behind him, sending Inferno to the ground with a crash. “And you were supposed to be with him, not taking potshots at cassettes!”
 
Someone snickered, but it was hard to tell who in the small crowd gathered outside the control room to watch the entertainment.
 
Prime heard the laughter, too, and surveyed the gathering. “I want my control room fixed, and I want it fixed now,” he snarled. Then he turned and walked away, cold fury plain in his optics.
 
Mechs scrambled to work, or to look like they were working, utterly ignoring the two on the floor except for the occasional smug sneer.
 
Red Alert sat up, head still ringing form the null-ray. “I told you to stay” he muttered sullenly at his companion.
 
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Inferno grumbled, rubbing his face. “I'm not a fragging security drone,” he growled, heaving himself to his feet.
 
“No, security drones are generally more effective than you two,” a voice broke in.
 
They looked over to see Jazz leaning comfortably in the doorway.
 
“Maybe you should try billin' yourselves as a comedy act,” Jazz continued, grin wide and mocking.
 
“Why don't you go suck slag?” Inferno growled.
 
“Careful,” Jazz said, waggling a finger. “That ain't no way to talk to a superior officer.”
 
Red Alert grabbed Inferno's arm as he opened his mouth to respond. “Come on,” he muttered, tugging the fire truck away. “Not a fight we can win,” he added flatly over the radio.
 
Inferno muttered something uncomplimentary about officers that Red Alert pretended not to hear, and let himself be dragged down the hallway.
 
x-x-x

 
“Starscream!” Spike hopped off his perch on Skywarp's foot when the Air Commander exited the repair bay.
 
Starscream fixed the young human with an irritated look. “What?”
 
“How are they?” Spike didn't seem put off by Starscream's sour response – the seeker made no secret of his lack of patience with the native species. He'd argued with Megatron to allow the human pair to stay, insisting that they needed to have a local who understood the human society to consult, but that didn't mean he had to socialize with the little squishies.

“Busy,” Starscream grunted. “And so am I.”
 
“No, Thundercracker and  Blitzwing,” Spike clarified, jogging to keep up. Behind him, Skywarp climbed to his feet to follow.
 
Starscream stopped suddenly, glaring down at Spike. “The Constructicons are working on them, and if you ask me one more time,” he added as Spike opened his mouth. “I'm going to step on you.”
 
Spike gave him an unimpressed look, but didn't ask again. He'd long ago gotten used to the Decepticons' gruff manners and almost-threats. He let Skywarp pick him back up – he'd also gotten used to being manhandled like some sort of small dog, being scooped up and carried around. Mostly by Skywarp, who sometimes seemed to think of him as a pet, something that in less dire circumstances made Spike roll his eyes and grumble.
 
On the bright side, since the Decepticon base was built on a singularly massive scale, he was perfectly happy not having to walk. Besides, the door controls were a stretch for the cassettes, who were quite a bit taller than him.
 
That in mind, Spike didn't complain as Skywarp carried him back to the repair bay doors and settled back down to wait.
 
x-x-x

 
Starscream stalked into the control room, wing flaps twitching in irritation. “Fine. I'm here,” he snarled.
 
“Sit down,” Megatron said coolly. “I want to know what possessed you to disobey my orders and  abandon your post during a battle.”
 
Starscream pulled a chair over, sitting warily. “I saw an opportunity and took it. And I was right.”
 
“You left your comrades in the middle of a battle,” Megatron growled. “Did it occur to you that the Air Commander might be needed?”
 
“We lost that battle before we even got on the field,” Starscream snapped back. “My plan at least had a chance of succeeding!”
 
“Watch yourself,” Megatron growled. “You can be replaced.”
 
“Ha! With who? Thundercracker's the only one who can match me in the air, and he's about as suited as that squishy Skywarp carries around. Skywarp's an idiot, and none of the others would dare to tell you when you're being a fool.” Starscream snorted. “You're the one who preaches about independence and speaking out against the oppression and idiocy of those in power.”
 
“There is a time and place, Starscream, something you continually fail to grasp!” But he'd lost the argument, and he knew it.
 
Starscream smirked, sensing that he'd won the point. “Of course, Megatron,” Starscream allowed, deciding to be gracious in victory.
 
“Hn.” Megatron eyed him. “Report.”
 
Leaning back and steepling his fingers, Starscream looked smug. “I went in, I rescued the prisoners, I came out.”
 
“Besides that!”
 
“The Autobots are going to be spending the next few weeks trying to replace most of their computer systems.”
 
Megatron nodded. “And the prisoners?”
 
“Well, it would have been nice if I'd had an exact location.” Starscream sniffed. “But no, someone decided it was a bad idea-”
 
“Starscream...” Megatron warned.
 
“I found them,” Starscream said hurriedly. “Hook will comm when he's ready to go over them.” He paused, and when he spoke again, he sounded almost subdued.  “...What happened out there? Blitzwing looks like someone dropped a smelter on him. Scavenger said something about Omega Supreme-”
 
Megatron nodded tiredly. “Omega Supreme decided that a paralyzed triple-changer was an easier target than the Stunticons,” he growled, anger flashing in his optics. “He shot him, then stepped on what was left.” He sneered. “Autobot coward.”
 
“Are you surprised? After all these vorns?” Starscream waved a hand. “They're Autobots. They've never cared about honor or dignity.” Starscream rubbed at the intake Megatron had grabbed earlier.
 
“Surprised, no. Angry, yes” Megatron sat back, frowning in thought.
 
Scrapper chose that moment to comm. “Blitzwing and Thundercracker are stable and Hook deems the rest of the injuries to be minor enough to wait a little while. He says to, quote, 'Get your afts down here,' if you want to be here when he goes over the Autobots' prisoners.”
 
“We'll be right down,” Megatron responded, giving Starscream a quelling look before the seeker could open his mouth.
 
Hook looked up as they entered, carefully detaching a CPU from the scanner. He didn't bother to greet either of the Decpticon commanders.
 
Megatron ignored the lack of friendly attitude. He was used to Hook's apparent disregard for petty things such as rank or decorum. Never one to stand on ceremony, Hook tended to treat everyone with the same barely-veiled impatience.
 
But Megatron didn't keep him around for his social skills. Hook was perhaps the most skilled surgeon to set foot on Cybertron in millennia, something that gained him a great deal of leeway and respect despite his arrogance and temper. Especially in times like this, when the injuries outstripped his time and resources.
 
All of the Constructicons were trained in basic field repair, and as an engineer, Scrapper had more than a little experience in putting mechs back together, but all of the delicate work fell on the already-overworked Hook.
 
“Your timing leaves much to be desired,” Hook growled at Starscream. “Last week, I might have had the time to deal with this. We might have even had the resources to handle one of these!”
 
Starscream crossed his arms and glared. “We didn't have them last week, we have them now. So deal with it.”
 
“I don't have the resources to 'deal with it'!” Hook snapped. “You can't just hand me this many minds and expect us to just conjure bodies for them! It takes time to build a working mech!” He stopped himself, then continued, voice calmer. “And anyway, I can't do anything for some of them – they're already too far gone.”

“What? Why?” Starscream demanded. “They're in stasis!”
 
Hook glared at him again, not liking his authority in the repair bay being questioned. “They're awake. If they were just in stasis, they'd be fine, and what fun would that be?” His tone turned bitter. “The Autobots took out the safety protocols that would keep them from being aware. A few million years in total sensory deprivation drove them insane to the point that their entire personality protocols have been completely corrupted.” He shook his head. “The only thing I can do no is end the pain.”
 
Silence filed the room at the grim pronouncement, broken only by the sound of machinery running in the background.
 
“How many?” Megatron asked finally.
 
“Five,” Hook said shortly.
 
“Less than half lost,” Starscream muttered. “I suppose it could be worse.”
 
“I can save five,” Hook corrected him. “They're showing signs of corruption, but we won't be able to tell how badly damaged they are until we get them in bodies and wake them up.”
 
“The others-” Megatron started, voice heavy.
 
“Already done,” Hook told him with a hint of defiance, daring him to reprimand him for acting without orders. Megatron merely nodded.
 
“What's so different about these five?” Starscream mused, stepping closer scientific curiosity getting the best of him.
 
“They're a gestalt,” Hook answered, looking down at the scanner readouts. “I don't know if thats what made the difference or if they just hadn't been in there as long...” He huffed. “I'm a surgical engineer, not a psychologist.”
 
“Speaking of which,” Scrapper spoke up for the first time. “If anyone was ever in need of...” he trailed off.
 
“Counseling,” Hook supplied without looking up.
 
Scrapper nodded. “Thank you. If anyone was ever in need of counseling, these unfortunates would be it.”
 
Megatron gave a short nod. “I'll recall Bombshell.”
 
“With Blitzwing and Thundercracker as injured as they are, our supplies are already taxed,” Scrapper said. “I've sent Scavenger and Long Haul out to scrounge up whatever raw materials for Mixmaster that they can find, but it's going to take a while.”
 
“You'd leave them trapped like that?” Starscream pretended shock.
 
“Save it,” Hook snapped, unimpressed. “They're in stasis. Real stasis,” he added. “When my actual patients are dealt with, then I'll see about your new friends, and not before.”
 
Megatron nodded. “Keep me updated.”
 
Hook nodded, impatient to get back to work.
 
x-x-x

 
“I heard the most interesting thing today,” Jazz drawled, leaning in the doorway and watching Mirage clean his weaponry.
 
“Do come in, Jazz,” Mirage said blandly. “And did you now?” he asked without much interest. Jazz's gossip was rarely the sort of thing Mirage found entertaining.
 
“Well, not so much heard,”Jazz said, sitting down and flinging one leg over the chair arm. “Inferno wasn't in the Ark during the fight.”
 
“This surprises you?” Mirage asked sardonically.
 
“That doesn't... But the fact that Red was shot outside the control room does.” Jazz answered with a smirk. “Let's say you're a paranoid nut case of a security bot, left all alone in the base... where are you going to be holed up?”
 
“The security center,” Mirage glanced up. “Ah.”
 
Jazz nodded. “Ah, indeed.” He settled back. “I'd kill to know what he was up to.”
 
“You would kill for a lot less, I'm sure,” Mirage commented.
 
Jazz slid out of the chair, leaning over Mirage. “I'd kill for you to put that down,” he purred, trailing his fingers down Mirage's arm.
 
Mirage gave him a considering look.
 
Then he set the weapon down.
 
x-x-x

 
Skywarp jumped to his feet as Megatron and Starscream walked out of the medbay, nearly dislodging the human perching on his shoulder. Spike clung to the side of his intake to keep from falling to the floor
 
“How is he?” Skywarp demanded, “Can I go in yet?”
 
“Do I look like a medic? He's out cold, so what the frag will you do in there?” Starscream snapped.
 
Skywarp looked stubborn. “I don't care. I want to see him.”
 
“That's because you're an idiot. Why don't you go do something constructive and stop hovering?”Starscream said snidely.
 
“Go ahead,” Megatron told him, mostly to spite Starscream.
 
Skywarp didn't even stop to snarl back at Starscream, diving through the medbay doors, Spike hanging on for the ride.
 
“What the frag do you want?” Hook demanded as Skywarp slid in.
 
“Megatron said-” Spike started to answer for him.
 
“Does everyone think they can run my medbay for me?” Hook interrupted. “Fine! Get over there and stay out of the way.”
 
Skywarp set Spike down on Thundercracker's berth and pulled up a stool to wait.
 
x-x-x

 
“What the frag are you playin' at?” Sunstreaker snarled, trying to jerk out of Ratchet's grip.
 
Ratchet shoved him back down on the berth. “Shove it out your actuator, Sunstreaker, and stop squirming. You were the idiot who tried to blow himself up.” He reached for the welder. “Hold still, and this will be over quicker.”
 
“Blow myself up” Sunstreaker tried to sit up again. “It was Wheeljack's fragging weapon!” His voice raised. “This is all your fragging fault!” He pointed at the inventor.
 
Wheeljack ignored him, calmly replacing a panel damaged in his fall.
 
“You're the idiot who picked up an experimental weapon that had just fallen a few hundred feet and tried to fire it!” Ratchet shoved him down again. “Move again, and I'm gonna cut your motor functions.”
 
“Get his vocalizer while you're at it, Ratch,” Wheeljack said, sliding the new panel in place.
 
“Don't tempt me,” Ratchet growled.
 
Sunstreaker subsided into sullen silence, allowing Ratchet to work on him with only the occasional jerk of pain and snarl.
 
x-x-x

 
A flash of light and a painful jolt ran through his underbelly, radiating up his fuselage and out his wing struts. With a sense of horror, Thundercracker realized he couldn't move his wings.
 
The pain reached his thrusters, and his engines cut out suddenly, sending him plummeting toward the ground.
 
Dirt and sky spun crazily as he tumbled, unable to move or transform. He couldn't even cry out – the burning pain had reached his vocalizer and choked his voice.
 
He could hear someone shouting over the comm, but he couldn't answer, couldn't even make out what they were saying; he was going to die and there wasn't anything he could do to stop it-

 
Slowly, Thundercracker became aware of the soft buzz of machinery. He onlined his optics, staring up at a familiar ceiling.
 
There was a dull ache in his side and wing, but the pain was mostly gone.
 
I'm alive, he thought in surprise.
 
Turning his head, he found a black wing blocking his vision. “'Warp,” he whispered, his voice raspier than normal.
 
“TC?” Skywarp spun around on the stool, nearly falling off. “TC!”
 
Thundercracker managed a wan smile. “Last time I checked.”
 
“You've been out since yesterday,” Skywarp told him, leaning on the berth. “Spike was here, but Sparkplug dragged him off to training or whatever it is.”
 
“You mean school,” Thundercracker said wryly.
 
Skywarp flapped a hand. “Yeah, that. You've missed all the fun while you were napping.''
 
Thundercracker snorted. “Napping,” he repeated dryly.
 
“I told you to come get me when he woke up,” Hook growled, making Skywarp jump. “If you're going to take up space in my medbay, the least you can do is make yourself useful!” He brushed past the black jet, checking the scanners before turning back to Thundercracker. “Any tingling? Numbness?”
 
Thundercracker shook his head. “Just sore. My wing aches.”
 
“Hn. Be glad you have a wing at all,” Hook told him, bending over him to check the weld lines.  “We had to fabricate a new one from the struts out.”
 
“What happened after I got hit?” Thundercracker winced as Hook moved his arm to get better access to the wing.
 
“Blitzwing got himself hit by whatever nailed you and then stepped on, and that Autobot... What's his name? The yellow one?” Skywarp frowned.
 
“Big one or little one?” Thundercracker asked tiredly.
 
“Uh... The bigger one? They're both kinda little. Anyway, after Screamer took out the lunatic, the yellow 'Bot grabbed the gun he was waving around, and the whole thing just went up.” Skywarp mimed an explosion. “Boom! Anyway, that got the Autotrash all turned around, and we made tracks.” He propped his elbows on the berth. “We start back, and Screamer's no where to be seen. Didn't show up again until after we got back.” Skywarp shrugged. “No clue what's up with that.” He eyed Hook. “Or what's up with this,” he added, pointing at the next berth.
 
Thundercracker glanced over, frowning at what looked like a half-built body.
 
“They won't tell me anything,” Skywarp whined.
 
“That would be because you're an annoying pain in the aft,” Hook growled, walking away.
 
“He's got a point,” Thundercracker commented dryly.
 
“Hey!” Skywarp gave him a wounded look. “Not nice!”
 
Thundercracker grinned. “But true.”
 
Folding his arms, Skywarp leaned  back and sulked.