Summary: (February 2029) After the Quintessons swoop down upon the energon-rich system of K'tor and ravage it and its defenders, an Autobot Air Guardian running on empty and a badly damaged Decepticon bomber find themselves in bind that requires cooperation.
Oddly, space here is not the sable dimness that usually remains unbroken. Instead it's more like a deep purple, and streaks of dark blue and an occasional red stain the distant starfields. It is truly beautiful. The only planetoid of any significant interest is Cambria.
With opportunists crawling in every corner, Fusillade had deliberately turned off her distress beacon when the Decepticons first arrived to the energy-rich sector of space. After the fateful collision with the Quintesson barracuda, her crippled airframe has floundered in space, spinning mostly tail over nose, although there's a twist in all three axes -- pitch, yaw, and roll. As such, her inertia hasn't carried her as far out of the system as some other battle-damaged folk might have soared. With so much energy up for grabs, the derelict has remained relatively unmolested.
The emergency protocols hardwired into Jetfire's systems did not deem the current situation sufficiently dangerous to engage his protocol's for self-preservation. His energon levels have been creeping up since the emergency collectors had gone into effect, converting what little free energy was available - something that worked out well given the sector of space they're in. It's not long before a soft glow returns to his cockpit and his engines start to show life, "NNnnnnghh..." he emits, though the sound doesn't travel. Soon he's running through calculations to figure out his trajectory and location based on the complex algorithms programmed into his astrogation unit. Making corrections he turns back towards the distant system and starts to move, though he's still in conservationist mode.
Periodically, Fusillade's navigation systems will pop on, assessing disposition of any craft that might be nearby, as well as relating the arrangement of the stars with current celestial spheres that she actually schmoozled from Reeddan's gorgeous starmaps of the region. Everything checks out, parallax only shifting the most distant of stars -- and just enough to be able to calculate and anticipate the next position based on her current trajectory. Energy reserves are good for this periodic checkup, and if no major events occur for a full vorn, the timer on the distress beacon will finally pop. A faint incoming presence tickles on the edge of her sensor periphery, but systems do not yet alert the Decepticon to attempt a full reboot.
The Guardian's return to functionality is slow as he analyzes his energon reserves, determining the most efficient method of being able to return to (more or less) full functionality. His engines come up fully off of standby as he shunts all non-critical equipment into standby, rerouting energy flow to his primary guidance systems, his sensor network, and other critical functions. The rerouting done, the energon is set to flow freely and it becomes as one emerging from sensory deprivation as the universe pours in upon him once more - along with a distant blip of activity that immediately draws his attention. Moving gingerly and with the slightest of boosts to maneuver, he turns his trajectory onto an intercept course with the foreign object, uncertain of who it is, but feeling quite confident that they are in the same boat as he. Decepticon or Autobot hardly matters, he's been lost in space before, it's not something he'd wish on anyone.
Quite some time passes, and Jetfire is likely able to approach close enough to identify the silhouette, sleek as ever, if it a bit rounder in the bottom with the extra boosters tacked on. Everything seems intact... but as the aircraft rolls, the extent of damage becomes apparent. With space tiles shattered and peeled away from the cockpit in ugly strips down the front fuselage of the two-toned grey bomber, and in their center, a sickening cavern framed with metal infrastructure hooked inward like gnarled, crooked fingers. All of the golden-toned canopy glass is gone, including the frame between panes.
As the approaching Guardian draws near, the EMUX relays situated inbetween the wingroots of the aircraft pop back online to scan the area. The presence of 'powered, larger bogey getting closer' registers, and the automated systems -- what, you thought Fusillade could keep track of all this stuff consciously? -- fire a few bursts of microrockets and compressed air to steady her. A faint EM sizzle fills the vacuum around her as the generators associated with the engines kick over, trying to jolt her primary systems online to retreat.
In what could most be considered a mercy move, Jetfire almost unconsciously routes a dose of energon to his primary particle beam array, sending a burst of phased particles towards the steadied Decepticon, intending to overload her systems long enough for him to latch his tow cables in place. Such a delicate operation works best when the person being towed doesn't resist after all. His control jets gradually match his trajectory and speed as he works, silently bailing out the very femme he's made a habit of trying to kill. Of course, if she's gonna go, he'd rather it be sporting, not drifting into a random sun or being picked off by scavengers - she deserves better. The sound is lost as four magnetic grappling lines are fired from different points on his chassis, intending to catch her with a precisely calculated spread before pulling her in.
There's a half-second glimmer of a few internal systems blinking to life, green diodes visible through the gaping void, before they flicker off again at the disruption caused by the emitter pulse. The craft goes completely dark, and the grappling hooks find purchase easily enough, rocking the craft. Several minutes into her form being reeled in, there's a wicked vermilion flash of two pinpoints of light, followed by a silvery glimmer of /something/ slithering about in the cockpit. A few seconds later, nursing an accordian-compacted plasteel skull and jaw knocked off its hinges, the Quintesson barracuda presumably responsible for Fusillade's sad state of affairs claws on the top of her fuselage, braced by slime-covered struts that had torn themselves from its side as make shift legs. With an impassive stare, it activates the remaining, massive torpedo stapped to its side, sending it Jetfire's way.
Well that certainly puts a crimp in his plans. He doesn't have much time to react either... he cuts loose the restraints on the grapples - not releasing Fusillade, but instead the cinchers that keep the cables tight. At the same time he fires a vector thrust, rolling him to the side and off a ways, the grapples spinning free and leaving the bomber unaffected. His particle beam array reconfigures briefly, this time lancing a full powered blast across the blackness, intent on stabbing through the things brain casing and silencing it once and for all.
The shot tears through the mechanical fish, lifting it physically from her form. There's a spasmodic wave of its tail as it tries to correct its course, wriggling futilely like a salmon against a strong upstream current. The feedback through systems as its thrown free of Fusillade activates the space torpedo, detonating in a brief flash of fire that quickly dies from the lack of oxygen. Fusillade is none the wiser, and recovery operations can proceed as normal.
The Guardian Starfighter steadies his movement and commences reeling Fusillade in once more. He must be careful as the momentum of being tugged could alter her attitude considerably in the zero gravity scenario. However, it's not too long before he's nestled her right up against the underside of his fuselage, grapplers pulling tight to ensure minimal movement. Once he's done this, he surveys his energon situation while simultaneously scanning her for a full damage report even as his engines rumble to life, starting to move both craft back towards the binary star system.
As the obligatory high tech green grid sweeps over Fusillade's form, Jetfire gets a ton of information. From the diagnostic side of things, her energon levels are great, the ruptured lines having sealed themselves by the supercooling powers of open space plugging them. There's minor cosmetic damage all over her form from the biting and small caliber ballistics damage that ANYONE in that system would have taken once the Quintessons arrived. Her forward sensors, and energon lines to her core appear to have been severed from the massive physical damage to the front, but the hardened case itself appears intact. Secondary systems further back are still fine, as well as propulsion. The normally scheduled scan from the EMUX doesn't trigger this time, all systems still in the grip of the 'sedative'.
The Guardian Starfighter considers for a time how to proceed... he could just carry her back, however unlike her - his energon levels are still dangerously low despite harvesting measures. Indeed, their -best- chance is if she's wakened and can help with the heavy lifting, so his next trick is going to be difficult indeed. Now that he's got himself situated properly, he releases the reels once more, transforming as he does. The structure of his transformation is such that the pivot points for the cables remain intact - something he was not at all certain would work - and he sets about doing patch repairs, trying to reconnect her energon lines to bring her core up and wake the sleeping beauty.
Oh, to be awake for all of this! The cables remain intact as the mech winches himself into position. Such as it is, Jetfire's wrist deep in her alt mode's cranium. The shredded lines are going to have to be cleared of the energon clots, and then spliced together in the absence of any actual repairs. That allows the systems to reintegrate, and a series of amber lights -- booting up in standby mode for her while diagnostics run -- reward his efforts. The first two tick over to green, while the next in the series flashes as it awaits the results of disk scans. Enough information begins to flow from primary to reintegrate the secondary systems, overriding the timer to perform the proximity sensor sweep. What it returns is 'same large bogey in even closer proximity. Autobot. Armed.' -- which forces a disorienting flicker of red down the awaiting line of amber, before going live with all greens across the board. Local radio sizzles with an automated hail respose that still manages to be scathing, despite its monotone: <<Cybertronian tightband ID 84-0057. You are in violation of regulations regarding use of Decepticon Empire property. Withdraw and identify yourself.>> A bit more recognizable is the <<Eyuuuuuuugh! Scrapper, warm those sutures before you... Ur? Still in space? Autoboooot...>> Although she has no good way of knowing, she can pretty much guess which one. Almost immediately, she activates maneuvering rockets, and shouts, <<AUGH! Get offa me!!! DCI'S gonna interrogate me again, if I don't BLOW UP by the time I get back!!>>
It's a damned good thing he's still winched down, because she bucks like a mule as soon as the energon flow is restored. Still, the initial movement is disorienting and he loses hold of a scalpel which spins off into the cosmos as he barks << Settle down if you hope to see anything other than deep space again. >> his tone is sharp, << In case you hadn't noticed, I could wipe your core with a single shot at the moment. >> he tucks his remaining tools away as he speaks, << Look, we've drifted a very long ways from the system, and we're going to need to cooperate to get back, if we wish to be of any use to them. Your guidance systems are pretty badly mangled, and my energon reserves are dangerously low. >> he transforms while he's speaking, winching Fusillade right up snug against him as he does, << We're going to have to link up, I can feed course data, but you need to drive. >>
<<Oh so you're going to wait until we get back to Metroplex and Trypticon before you do the shooting part, RIGHT?>> Fusillade decides to be a horse's ass about all of this, as she continues to squirm and buck uncooperatively. Of course, the mass between the two has more than doubled, and so any changes in trajectory are pretty leisurely. Maybe 'wobble' would be a better descriptor than buck. Such as it is, she finally slows, and murmurs, <<Maybe it wouldn't be so bad, at least now. We need to go thatta way.>> She orients back toward the dumbbell shaped bubble of the K'tor Binary System. Despite her near-intuitive knowledge, that doesn't cover the details about what dust clouds and other cosmic events and opportunist ambushes to avoid.
<< You have good instincts, so what are they -really- telling you about my intentions? >> he replies as he starts to run a link to the EMUX, figuring that's the best way to share guidance information, << How many opportunities have I had, Fusillade? You know as well as I that I'm not going to kill you. Decepticon or not, I do not kill without purpose... >> he offers an extra boost with his own maneuvering jets, << Alright, I'm uploading my sensor data and a plotted course that will lead to the most efficient path while avoiding the worst threats. I can divert energon from my main engine system to my weapons to act as a defensive emplacement... remember, our combined mass will change your vector calculations.>>
<<That you're a p -- NNNGH.>> The bomber doesn't even bother putting any more energy into the facade. There's a shudder between the two airframes, as Fusillade activates her main space thrusters. Jetfire's admonition about trajectories takes on a life of its own a the uneven distribution of mass causes the nosecones of the pair to tilt upward, before Fusillade corrects with a burst of retrorockets and obscenities. <<Smeltin' slaggin' PRIMUS, you're fat>> she huffs out, as the sublight engines chug along, as she tries her best to NOT think about the information streaming along between the two. <<That wide of an angle? Huh. Must be from gravity lensing!>> She chirps out as she puzzles out the first deviation in the path. <<Hey um... are you okay enough for us to you know, stop before we actually get to the bases? You could probably get energon off one of the asteroids to go the rest of the way.>>
<< Assuming no-one jumps us? Yes... I can assure you, I have no more interest in being seen in this predicament than you do. >> Jetfire replies tersely as he works on the calculation, defensive turrets swiveling as their auto-scan routines cycle, << Yes, the gravity fields in this area of space facilitate a more efficient path, if you're smart, you'll get better equipment installed to read these sorts of things, giving you a better chance for prolonged operations in space. >> the course corrections continue to flow, and before long they're accounting for the mass offsets - he does think of everything, << And for your information, I am -not- fat. I am in fact incredibly streamlined, however my design is also very large. >>
The detailed scans from earlier would reveal nothing too unusual -- Fusillade's frame had been overhauled to be operational in space. There seems to be some additional tweaks to her proximity sensors, and how her wingblades are integrated into that system, but the exact implications aren't immediately apparent -- it may warrant some additional thought. <<Just big-framed, SUUUUUUUUUUURE. What're you gonna do now that I said it? LEAVE?>> This predicament, moritifying for both as it was, was ripe for unprecedented levels of schoolyard level taunts, or decent conversation to while away the time, if they chose not to squander the moment. For someone used to faster than light travel, the progress was excruciating. She doesn't comment on the reading advice. <<So yeah. All kinds of ripples around this nova. The pulsar's really frickin' annoying when you're trying to tune radio though,>> the faceless aircraft remarks by way of awkward conversation, trying to draw her own attention away from the throbbing diagnostic agony of missing airframe and fresh repairs. The warmth -- or rather, lack of 3 degrees Kelvin blistering cold -- along her dorsal surface was a relief, the bomber daring not ascribe more imagination to the sensation. <<Hey. Remember that guy you were radioing me about? Mister ray of frickin' sunshine? He does this whole flying around attached to another plane thing, too. On purpose.>>
Jetfire continues to focus his attention on running calculations as she talks. He'd always wondered why there were certain folk that felt the need to converse, but he'd humor her... after all, he was busy being towed along by her, << Indeed, further, the fabric of the sector has been changed by the nova, I am actually in the process of remapping to account for the unexpected changes. There is a fascinating ripple effect developing... I look forward to passing through here in a vorn or so to see how it's developed. >> he sends another course correction through, flattening the arc to account for new gravitational data, << Indeed... I suppose he is another like Grand Slam and Raindance whom can merge into a larger form then... I had not realized there were so many variations of Cybertronian... the Six Changers are another oddity. >>
As it would turn out, her passion for fathoming the space lanes has been good for Fusillade. There's still so so much to learn, though. <<Well it's between Cybertron and Earth, figure that anyone using FTL instead of the space bridges could easily monitor it. It's not that much of a detour. And... oddity? Oh Jetfire, that's a pretty quaint term.>> She lapses into silence, as they slide down the slope of a gravity well, before sliding back out to punch through the ragged magnetic field of the constantly fluctuating heliopause. Debris, first in small chunks, begins to make Fusillade's flight path to weave a bit more, although she simply just handles the hurtles as they come up, instead of yelling or passing blame to Jetfire for not anticipating the small objects. A few stray Quintesson barracuda drones, left over from the invasion force lie dormant in the distance, and the ion trails of multiple mining ships from all over the quadrant flare briefly as the pair pass through them. A large, irregularly pockmarked planetoid looms, and Fusillade begins to veer for the side least heavily colonized by profiteers. <<We're gonna have to transform soon.>>
<< Indeed, I'm going to need you to do one last thing for me - unless you prefer I syphon your energon. A 10 second full burn towards Metroplex will provide the necessary velocity for my remaining reserves to hold out. Acceleration is the most costly maneuver in space flight. >> Jetfire replies, his turrets going dormant as he begins rerouting the power flow, << I will sever the tethers at the appropriate time... I am feeding the last course corrections in to get you back to Trypticon, adjustments you'll have to handle by feel. >>
<<Oh, ewww gross. I was gonna let you get some energon from that rock down there,>> Fusillade remarks. <<There's pockets just under the surface, you know. And would give me enough of a headstart to get back to Trypticon before you tell the city bot to...>> She pauses. <<Awright, awright. Just lemme transform real quick, we could do it here in the umbra, that'll keep them from seeing us. And it'll let me switch over to my cranial optic suite, this blackness is for the petro-birds.>>
You send a radio message to Jetfire: Do you actually have a toolkit still on hand?
The Guardian Starfighter releases the locks on the grapple lines, drifting away as he does. << There are pockets of unrefined energon... I don't suppose you've ever experienced what unrefined energon does to a cybertronian... >> he transforms as he drifts, the cables hanging slack as he produces the tool kit in question, << I always have tool kits on hand, usually several different types. >> he adds as he hangs there, looking completely neutral despite the situation.
Jetfire shifts and contorts as he transforms, compacting noticably as he unfolds into his towering robot mode.
Jetfire phases his scramjet boosters in from subspace, equipping himself for faster movement in robot mode.
Jetfire's data-mask slides into place, the three pieces joining into a single whole, hiding his face behind a plate with only a red band to mark his optics.
The sleek bomber rears up, wings collapsing onto hips even as the rear fuselage splits to form arms. The horizontal stabilizer slides up, the forward fuselage folds up accordian style, and Fusillade hops up on thrustered feet.
<<Why don't you ask the six-changer oddity, then? I saw him chugging it down during the fight with the Quintessons. Not up close mind you, but if he wasn't damaged before...>> Fusillade looks relieved as her head slides up into place, a brilliant amber flare to her be-goggled optics. <<Ahhh, much better.>> She glances down at her midriff, and looks a bit unsettled as she claps palms over the residual damage. As Jetfire confirms the presence of his tools, she finally deigns to look at him, and gives a sharp nod. <<Okay. Something for the transfer then? I suppose I could slice open a line with a wingblade segment and let you sup from my lines, otherwise...>> There's a wry twist to her facial features.
<< What do you take me for, a barbarian? >> Jetfire replies perhaps a touch snippily, << Indeed, Quickswitch's physiology is highly unique however, as is my own. We are polar opposites in many ways... the delicate balance that I must maintain to keep myself at the peak of my functional abilities is easily disrupted, as would yours be. >> he opens a hatch in his left abdomen, a fueling line being drawn out, << Your assistance in this... predicament won't be forgotten. >> he mutters as he extends the connector over to her, uncertain on where the fuel port is located. He glances away, towards the distant rock where Metroplex resides, and finds it very far indeed at this precise moment.
<<It's actually kind of satisf...>> Fusillade trails off, cognizant of the fact that Jetfire likely isn't aware of the ritualized etching pow-wows that blurred the line between beauty and mutilation that she's had with Constructicons. With a distinct lack of radio chatter in the local space, Fusillade ahems internally, and plucks up the lead, mentally reversing the pump direction for the still-intact mid-air refuelling port on the aircraft's nosecone. Sort of navel-ish in its location. This requires close quarters, and so, with nose nearly pressed against the side of his uppar arm, Fusillade meters out a decent supply of energon, waiting for the pressure gauge to tick over. <<Don't be a turbo-hog, though, okay?>> She radios peevishly, bristling defenses returning.
<< Indeed... efficiency is the rule of the day. It was an abandonment of that philosophy in the face of the Quintesson threat that put me in this predicament to begin with. >> Jetfire replies, not at all peevish, but rather sheepish. The flood of new energon sizzles through his circuits, the warning trigger finally falling dormant as he adds << Mind the course adjustments, without proper navigation systems, you must be precise with what the EMUX system feeds you. >> he tucks the fueling siphon back into place, the hatch sliding shut and drifts away, grabbing space, << Course calculations indicate I will not require a sling shot, after all... >> there's a *CHUNK* felt more than heard as the grapples release, winding into their ports before they close. The Guardian pauses awkwardly for a moment, gazing steadfastly towards Metroplex, << Thank you. >> he states before transforming, maneuvering thrusters starting to adjust his attitude and direction.
At his instructions, Fusillade nods. Finally, she admits, << I really shouldn't have. But I guess you really shouldn't have either. And that would have just left both of us dead in the water, just to satisfy pride. I... yeah. You're welcome. >> Fusillade transmits quietly as she watches the withdrawal of the grappling hooks, glaring fiercely after the Guardian and his refusal to look her way. She curls slightly as mild disorientation grips in wake of the reduced volume of energon, and begins the long wait before she attempts to make her slow return to Trypticon, mulling over how to explain the repairs, once the questions begin.
It's not Jetfire's problem to answer those questions, and in fact he has nothing more to say as his thrusters ignite, pushing him away from the position - after he gains enough distance the main drives kick over and after a short burst the Spacefighter is rapidly receding into the inky blackness, only a blue corona indicating his position.