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12 May 2014 @ 11:21 pm
Fic: When You Can't Go Home (G1 Mirror Universe) PG13  
Title: When You Can't Go Home
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.

“He's fretting again,” Vortex murmured, settling next to Swindle.

Swindle turned his gyro-gun over, carefully checking over the mechanism. “When isn't Onslaught fretting? I swear, the guy's trying to wear himself into the scrapheap early,” Swindle grumbled.

Across the hold, Onslaught was speaking quietly to Brawl, ignoring the sideways look Swindle gave him. Probably going over the plan. Again.

Brawl nodded as Onslaught spoke too quietly for Swindle to hear- not that Swindle needed to hear. It'd become something of a routine; Onslaught  would spend days plotting the mission, go over it with the entire team, and again with each member of the team until Blast Off locked himself in his quarters and Swindle started finding any excuse to get off base just to avoid him.

“No escaping him once we've launched,” Vortex murmured, showing off his uncanny ability to mirror Swindle's thoughts. He jerked his head when Swindle looked up, questioning. “Don't look now.”

Swindle looked. Onslaught was standing over him, arms folded. Pasting on a bright smile, Swindle patted the ground next to him. “Ons!”

Onslaught snorted, settling on a crate across from them. “I want you two to be careful, alright?”

“We're always careful, Ons,” Swindle told him, trying to keep the exasperation from his face. The only thing worse than being lectured on how to do something he'd done a thousand times was being lectured on how he wasn't taking that something seriously. “You and Brawl are the suicidal ones.”
Beside him, Vortex just nodded, carefully checking and loading glue capsules.

Onslaught gave the a measuring look, like he thought they weren't actually listening. “Keep it simple,” he said finally. “In and out. You get to the prisoners, get them out, no distractions. If something even looks like it's going wrong, I want you two to drop everything and get out fast.”

Swindle sighed. “We know, Ons. We have done this a few times, y'know,” he reminded his commander.

“Don't get complacent,” Onslaught growled. To Swindle's relief, he left it at that, standing and walking away.

Undoubtedly to badger Blast Off.

“He's only doing it 'cause he cares.” Vortex smacked Swindle lightly with a rotor.

“Hey, watch it!” Swindle shoved him back. “And does he have to be so slagging insistent  with his caring?”

“Yes,” Vortex told him primly.

“Wish he'd go care elsewhere, then,” Swindle grumbled without any real heat. If he was being honest – which was rarely – Swindle had to admit that Onslaught was better than most commanders he'd served under. For starters, one didn't have to worry about being reprimanded for Onslaught's mistakes  - Onslaught believed that even the best plan was worthless if it didn't take into the weakness, not just the strengths, of a team.

Not that Onslaught tolerated slackers or incompetents. His team was hand-picked from the Decepticon elite forces, each experts in their fields.

Onslaught, perhaps the best small-group tactician Megatron had. He was known for being both strict and fair, and excelled in leading small groups on dangerous missions behind Autobot lines.

Blast Off, an expert flier with an alt-mode large enough to serve as a transport. An arrogant mech, but one whose skill matched his ego.

Brawl, a tank with a reputation for being a vicious fighter, and easy to bait. His violent temper was the main reason he'd be shuffled from one command to another, despite his prowess on the field.  He wasn't the brightest of mechs, but he was loyal to a fault, following Onslaught without question.

And Vortex, as brilliant as Brawl was dim. He wasn't on the team for his fighting abilities, which were adequate but not stunning, but for his mind. In a team designed to liberate hostages and Autobot prisoners, some held for vorns before rescue, having a team member with psychiatric training such as Vortex's was an asset.  And Vortex in particular had devoted his career to studying and treating the victims of Autobot 'hospitality.'

Swindle was as much an asset as any of his team mates, but in a far less obvious way. He didn't have their mass or skill at combat, nor had he ever been trained in tactics, astronavigation, or psychology. But he knew how to move in seedy underbelly of backwater planets, how to 'acquire' items they would otherwise have to go without, and most of all, he could find them information.
If Swindle didn't know something, he knew someone  who did, or he knew someone who knew someone who did. He could, as Vortex liked to claim teasingly, sell someone their own gun and have them thank him for it. He could talk anyone into anything, given enough time.

As a team, they'd been given the name the Combaticons, something that never failed to get a snort out of Swindle. They were one of the most successful of Megatron's gestalt teams, and a massive thorn in the Autobot's side. They'd become experts at infiltrating Autobot facilities, and retrieving prisoners kept inside, usually far from their own supply lines.

“Check your gear,” Onslaught called, “We're about to touch down.”

“What does he think we've been doing?” Swindle growled, giving his weaponry one more check over. Vortex just patted him on the head, getting an elbow to the side for his troubles.

Onslaught watched the ensuing horseplay with a fond sort of exasperation He'd initially been worried about including Swindle on the team; Swindle hadn't had the best of reputations, and his attitude was less than stellar. His file consisted mostly of the longest rap sheet Onslaught had seen on a mech not serving a prison sentence.

But Onslaught had needed a mech who knew how to operate outside the boundaries of normal society. Neither Onslaught nor Blast Off could blend into the sort of areas they had to go, and Brawl didn't have the charisma or frankly the intelligence to get the supplies and information they needed. As for Vortex, the psychiatrist was intelligent and charismatic, but utterly unsuited for the viciousness of the back alleys.

He'd put in a request, listing parameters that had his commander calling him back to confirm that it hadn't been garbled in transmission. And what command had finally sent him was Swindle. He was a con artist and a black market dealer, and he a grudge against any sort of authority figure.

Vortex, being Vortex, had immediately 'befriended' the sullen mech, despite Onslaught's warnings.
Swindle had warmed to the chopper after a few weeks of Vortex's dogged friendliness, and had become nearly inseparable, much to Onslaughts surprise and continued amusement. After that, integrating with the rest of the team became much easier.

The team worked together with a smooth efficiency that earned them a place in the gestalt experiment, and after that, a permanent assignment retrieving prisoners of war.

“Onslaught, we're starting the descent,” Blast Off radioed breaking into Onslaught's thoughts.

“Very well,” Onslaught acknowledged.

Swindle looked up from jabbing Vortex in the side when Onslaught stood. “We there?”

“Strap in,” Onslaught told them. “We're landing.”


“So far, so good,” Swindle murmured, as the door hissed open. No alarms blared, no guards shouted. Swindle slipped into the room, looking around carefully before motioning Vortex in behind him. “This way.” Swindle flattened against the wall, reaching for the door controls. Vortex nodded, covering him.
Tapping the door controls, Swindle stepped back quickly, bringing up his gyro-gun.

“Clear,” Vortex whispered.

Swindle slipped into the hall, Vortex on his heels. “I don't like this,” he muttered. “Something's not right.”

“What?” Vortex asked curiously.

“If I  knew, I wouldn't be sayin' 'something,' would I?” Swindle growled. “Something's just off.” He paused. “It's too quiet, y'know?”

Vortex looked at him for a long moment. “...No, not really. What were you expectin', a welcome party with balloons and banners?”

“That's not what I meant!” Swindle hissed, checking the numbers inscribed above the doors. “Brig.” He started dismantling the door-lock casing. “It's... Ah, never mind. It's stupid.”

Vortex patted him on the shoulder. “We'll just have to be that much more careful, won't we?”

“Yeah,” Swindle sighted. “I guess.” His fingers rapidly rewired the panel as he spoke. “There should be one guard on duty at this hour, and if the others did their part, they won't see us coming. As long as we can neutralize this guy before he can raise the alarm, we should be clear.”

“I know, I was at the briefing too,” Vortex said with a snort, lifting his glue gun.

“I wish you'd get a real weapon,” Swindle muttered, pointing his own gun at the door.

“Stop acting like Onslaught and open the door.”

Swindle spared him a grimace and tapped the control. Vortex tensed, ready to fire at the guard.

The room was empty.

“Now I really don't like this,” Swindle muttered, making a quick circuit of the guard station.

Following him in, Vortex moved over to the computer. “Cameras show nothing. Looks like Ons and the others have their side under control.”

“Maybe,” Swindle muttered pessimistically. “C'mon, let's just get our people and get out of here before the guards come back.” He turned for the cells.

“It's a little late or that,” a voice broke in. Swindle spun as the air behind Vortex shimmered and solidified into a haughty-looking mech, his rifle trained on the back of Vortex's head. “Move, Decepticon, and I'll turn his CPU into a pile of molten circuitry.”

“Tex, on my mark, hit the deck,” Swindle sent over a short-range encrypted link. “Hey, now, no need to be hasty,” Swindle said, pasting on his best easy grin. “We can talk this through-” His smile never wavered as he switched to the radio. “Now, Tex!”

Vortex dropped to the ground, but Mirage had been expecting the maneuver, and was already moving when Swindle opened fire.

“Frag it!” Swindle yelled as Mirage faded from view. “Ons!” he radioed. “We've been had! It's a trap!” Vortex scrambled for the door, Swindle hot on his heels.

The door opened before they reached it.

“Goin' somewhere?” drawled Ironhide, smirking cruelly, cannon powered up and trained on them. Behind him, Inferno grinned viciously, his own rifle at the ready.

“Frag!” Swindle swore, just before something cracked down on the back of his head, sending him crashing to the floor, out cold.

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