Rating: PG-13 for mentions/implications of unsavory activities
Summary: A captive Starscream contemplates his fate as an unwilling sparkbearer; Barricade contemplates the folly of all this nonsense.
Word Count: 1,477
Notes: A selection from a larger AU-'verse fic I am currently working on~ Not set in any specific canon, but closer to Primaxian than anything else.
He was carrying. They were coming. He had to protect the sparks.
The thoughts circled ruthlessly in his processor, starting up redundant feedback loops that he couldn't be bothered to get under control. He was carrying; well, he'd been carrying almost constantly since this whole nightmare started. There was no point in dwelling on it because there was nothing he could do to change it. Not until he could find a way to get himself out of here, which wasn't likely to happen until they thought him broken beyond rebellion. He was guarded too heavily still; they were watching for him to repeat the desperate escape attempts of the first days of his captivity. The only other chance was if Thundercracker came for him. There was no way to know if Thundercracker was even still alive, though, much less whether or not he was in any condition to organize a rescue.
For now, he was stuck, and as long as he was stuck he was going to be carrying.
They were coming. This too had become constant. After all, what was the point of carrying? To produce sparklings. New sparks were no good to anyone if they remained in his chest; there would be no point to this cruel little exercise if the sparks he produced weren’t taken from him. As Megatron had made so abundantly clear to him, his only function now was as an incubator for the next generation of Decepticon soldiers. So of course they would come. As soon as they had decided the new sparks were ready to be separated from his own, they would come to take them.
He had to protect the sparks. This was a new thought, but just as fruitless as the other two. The sparks were taken too early, put into bodies with the minimal programming and training, and he had felt them die. Not all of the sparklings he'd produced so far had perished, of course, but the agonies of the three who had had been enough. Three. No Seeker should ever lose three, especially not three protoforms so young, still connected to the spark that had incubated them. He'd been forced to give them up before they were ready, and because of that he'd felt them die.
Not again. Not if he could help it. He was carrying two concurrently now, and they were not ready, and his captors were coming, and he had to fight. He had to.
He couldn't. What was he supposed to do? They kept him half-starved, so he couldn't fight the louts shoved in here to breed with him, and Megatron had crippled him besides. Severed his wings and torn out his thrusters and what was he supposed to do? He could barely stand to walk upright without support. He was chronically underfueled. He was carrying new sparks, he couldn't fight.
He had to fight. He had to protect them. He couldn't give up two more little ones, two more sparks of his own spark, only to have them die out there away from him. He worried that his own spark would crack in half if he had to suffer that again.
Could that be Megatron's plan? Was this his ultimate punishment for the fractious second-in-command who had so consistently challenged and stymied him? Sometimes it seemed that he'd forced this grueling trial on Starscream to make sure he died in the most protracted, painful way possible...
While he was well aware that such cruelties weren’t beyond Megatron’s capability, Starscream knew better. He wasn't meant to die doing this; the old warlord was just an ignorant fool. He honestly thought this was a legitimate way to increase the numbers of his troops, and the anguish it caused his most treasured captive was only a perk.
Not for the first time, he contemplated the possibility of just…letting go. Any lesser Seeker would have perished by now, feeling three of his own young offspring die. If Starscream could only let himself go, it would take but one more to kill him...
No. He couldn't. Just as he had every other time he contemplated this possibility of ultimate escape, he pushed the thought away. He couldn't do that to the little ones who still survived. He couldn't let Megatron win like that. He couldn't betray Thundercracker and Skywarp that way. He would hold on.
But they were still coming for the sparks. They were going to hold him down and tear them out of him, and they were going to do their best to break him while they did it. He had to protect the sparks. He couldn’t let them be taken. If it meant that he had to burn through the rest of his reserves, if it meant that he only aggravated his injuries further, he would do it.
He had to let them know that he would never stop fighting.
Primus, but they'd done a number on Starscream this time. Barricade tried to counsel them against this, but the slaggers never listened. Megatron wasn’t the only mech the Air Commander had torqued off in his time, and his various handlers weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to get a little of their own back. Not while Megatron himself had sanctioned the violence, as long as the Seeker’s life was never terminated. This time around, they'd left Starscream in a heap on the floor, with uncountable new dents and rents in his plating. He had at least six active leaks, indicating punctured fluid lines too damaged to self-seal. Starscream had been in bad shape before this, but now the poor slagger looked like he was on the verge of offlining.
Come to that, he probably was. Barricade only had to pause for a moment to discern the troubled coughing and stuttering of the engine in Starscream’s chassis. Well, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about Megatron raising an objection this time to what he was about to do. After all, precious Starscream couldn’t be allowed to die.
Pivoting, Barricade cooed softly to the huddled shapes in the doorway behind him. "Come on, little ones," he called to them in the gentlest tones he could coax from his vocalizer. "I know he looks like slag, but he won't hurt you."
They obviously weren't very sure about that. The two protoforms huddled smaller, exchanging nervous glances and emitting wordless, uncertain noises. One of them even took a shaky step back, though his grip on the other didn’t permit him to go far.
Barricade hunkered down smaller, extending a taloned hand to them. "C'mon. You c'n trust me."
His patterned, cadenced words, the first they’d heard after coming online and already familiar, seemed to convince them. They exchanged another glance, and in that instant seemed to strengthen, both standing a little taller. Simultaneously, they reached out and put their little hands into his larger one. Pleased, he cooed again and led them into the room.
Together, the three of them crossed the dingy space to the corner the battered Seeker was crumpled in. He was utterly unresponsive; he must have slipped into stasis lock. Barricade wasn’t surprised, given his condition. Even the pained expression on his face wasn’t surprising, although it was worrying. He shouldn’t still be feeling that much hurt in stasis lock.
Automatically, Barricade’s optics roamed, checking Starscream over as he knelt beside him. The leaks were a problem, but they weren't immediately life-threatening. He had a little time yet to work with. Sitting back, he urged his two little companions forward. "Here, kids," he whispered. "See? Not so scary, is he? Don't he feel all right?"
The two of them were staring intently at the broken form. Barricade was able to pinpoint the precise moment they felt it by the way their optics went wide. Moving in tandem, the twin sparklings swarmed onto the fallen Seeker. They burrowed against either side of his cockpit, blunt fingers grasping at torn edges of plating as they tried to get as close as they could to the spark that still burned in Starscream’s chassis. As familiar as Barricade’s voice was becoming, there was an immediate and deeper recognition of the resonance of Starscream’s spark. After all, though they didn’t remember it, it was only until recently that their own sparks had been nestled against it.
There could be no question that Starscream felt it too. He was still unconscious, but the pained expression on his face relaxed, their presence calming the erratic throb of his engine into a quieter, more regular idle.
Barricade couldn't smile about the victory, because there was nothing to smile about right now, but he felt a little better nonetheless. He made sure the Seeker and his most recent offspring were settled comfortably, and then he got to work. Someone had to patch the poor slagger up, after all.
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