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Epilogue - The Healing Begins

Earth Date August 9, 1986

Officers' Quarters  - Valckasta - Cybertron
This passageway leads to the private chambers of Valckasta's leadership, the upper echelons of society. The corridor widens and becomes highlighted with imposing archways and richly decorated tapestries. The largest door at the very end of the passage clearly leads to the private sanctuary of the most important individual - the ruler of Valckasta himself.
Ravenwing seems to have risen earlier than her Lord. Then again, he probably stayed up late the previous cycle playing with his new toy instead of resting, as he should have.
The door to Thunderwing's quarters slide open, revealing the twilight realm beyond - a dusky haze which now seems somewhat lit by a soft blue glow. The lord leaves the room and allows the door to close again, before tapping a panel in the door frame to lock it and implement a few other precautions which have been put in place in the last few hours, some of which the Director of Security might be aware of, most of which are intended to do rather unpleasant and permanent things to anyone foolish enough to enter the place beyond the door unbidden. Turning to walk down the corridor, Thunderwing shows none of the exhaustion of last cycle. Some people recover quickly, it seems.
Ravenwing peers rather closely at her lord, but seems content with what she sees. "Greetings, Lord High Commander." She gestures gracefully towards his door with a clawed hand and inquires, "Would you like guards assigned as well? And place the... object... somewhere else entirely, to throw off any would-be infiltrators?" She realizes that Optimus Prime will want the bauble back, and might send the Autobot Femmes to fetch it. A fleeting frown crosses her face at the thought, and she adds, "Anything more than that will be inconvenient. I shouldn't like to divert workers desperately needed for reconstruction to keeping Elita One and her group out of Valckasta."
Thunderwing is -not- letting the matrix out of his sight any more than he absolutely has to, so moving it would mean moving him as well and that would be...impractical, all things considered. He shakes his head calmly, "This will suffice. The Autobots will have more immediate concerns for now." Not that there isn't any doubt in his mind that he'll have to deal with the 'bot angle at some point in the proceedings. His expression becomes thoughtful as he mentally skims such reports as have filtered in since the fall of Unicron, "Was the offworld power generator project ever initiated?"
Ravenwing shakes her head, her optics flickering in annoyance. That still bothers her even after so many months. "No, my lord. We never had the time to implement it after the negotiations. I will have to do a more thorough check to see if the special equipment is undamaged, but it wasn't a priority last cycle." Her expression is noticeably stormy. Those plants should have already have been producing energy.
Thunderwing either doesn't notice Raven's mood, or has simply learned to mostly ignore such things. Either way, he nods and frowns slightly, "If the equipment is mostly undamaged, we could begin construction, but the main concern would be whether we could actually see any profit, as we can hardly afford to construct the full array of plants at this time." His optics become distant for a moment, before returning to the here and now, "What of the shipyard? Can any of the equipment and machinery there be refitted to become useful in the reconstruction efforts?"
Ravenwing shrugs. "The smelters for recycling, plus the ships themselves. Megatron was asking for transportation for his mines' output, which is an impressive idea compared to the usual 'let us take all we need from Earth, though we'll have to fight the Autobots every centimeter of the way because that's the Decepticon way'."
Thunderwing nods and frowns as the glimmering of an idea begins to take form in his mind...if it would only coalesce into something he can put a finger on, like a good little idea. Well, an engineer he ain't, but... "Both of those ideas are workable, yes. Though one ship needs to be available to at least explore the possibility of the plants on Venus. What I meant was, however, that Cybertronian buildings and the frames of ships are built with basically the same principle in mind, so it could be possible that such machinery as is not actually bolted down to the ground, might be put to use in reconstructing buildings after having been somewhat modified." Hey...they do it on Earth all the time...
Ravenwing sighs and ponders the alternatives. "Temporarily donate the Ark Wannabe to the Emperor's mining project, keep the Harbinger here for emergencies, and use the Venture for transporting our equipment to and from Venus? As for the building capabilities, yes... I believe that would work well, especially as the Ark Wannabe was the last ship built, and the shipbuilding machinery is presently adjusted for large-scale manufacturing. That still leaves the problem of other requirements, as in rare metals, chemicals, and plastics, but it's a start. I wish I had a better idea of what the Emperor was providing, so there's no duplication of effort."
Thunderwing smirks, "And getting Megatron to actually ever tell the full truth of anything is a daunting task, if at all possible." And hello to you too, Mr Kettle... "We do have a solar system of planets and moons rich in all manner of resources, but the problem will be actually getting to them, considering our current status." He smirks, "And to think the extraction of chemicals from the Jovian atmosphere actually seemed possible at one point... Ah, well, I shall look into these matters as well, and see what will come of it." With that, he turns and returns to his quarters, going through the now rather intricate procedure of making sure his door will not attempt to kill him, before entering. There is a series of rather ominous clicks and hums as the door slides shut again.

****
Valckasta Command Center
Here is Thunderwing's command center - a dark room where giant screens ring the walls showing moving patterns of light and various tracks of data. Thunderwing has a swivel-throne in the room's centre, so that he can survey each screen in turn. The very heartbeat of Valckasta flows from this room. There is a small depression near the entrance where Thunderwing's advisors stand. A private exit leads downward to the personal quarters of the Valckasta leadership.
Armada is at one of the command consoles, looking over a list of damages and sighing occasionally.
Ravenwing steps into the Command Center, all the exhaustion from the last ten-cycle erased by a rest cycle. That, and the relief that the nightmare is finally over. Armada immediately catches her optic, and she gives the mech a speculative look. Yes, there was something she was meaning to ask him, wasn't there? "Greetings, Armada," she purrs.
Armada has slept little, to tell the truth, though the destruction of Unicron has done more for his peace of mind than any amount of rest could. As a result, he's still somewhat tired, but ready to go. As he hears the greeting, a sense of irrational dread washes over him. He turns and, upon seeing Ravenwing, has an urge to transform and blast into orbit. Instead he gives a quick nod and slight smile, "Milady."
Ravenwing gives the Unispawn a lazy, almost flirtatious inspection. Yes, beware, beware! She's at her worst now. There's only a skeleton crew on duty here at the time, and they quail at that tone of voice. It's usually followed by a verbal flaying. Ravenwing, though, isn't in the habit of dressing down subordinates in public, so she simply says, "Come with me to the Shipyards, please." Despite the polite phrasing, this is a command, not a request.
Armada glances at the command console for a moment, silently wishing that he could slip away to help on a salvage crew, but replies evenly and courteously, "As you wish, Lady."
****
Valckasta Shipyards
New construction has revitalized this area of Valckasta, the first in millions of years. Rising proudly above the tarnished domes is a new control tower, and surrounding it are the beginnings of a spaceport. Factories-cum-hangars line the north and south sides of the landing area, expanded by Valckasta's scientists and engineers from a single-ship capacity to a mass-production facility.
The shipyards are busy as crews clean the remaining rubble and feed it into the redly-glowing smelters. Ravenwing doesn't get in their way, just finds an unoccupied hangar and motions Armada to enter. Her movements are definitely stealthy now, but more from the aspect of a stalking predator than one who is trying to hide. "Now... you refused a rather reasonable and very important request last cycle. Do expand upon your rationale, if you please."
Armada follows Ravenwing as ordered, and stands stiffly in a military attention as she makes it clear what she wants. His optics look at something over her head and to the side slightly, though they dim because of his conflicting emotions. "Please accept my apologies, my lady. I had previous explicit orders from Lord Thunderwing himself that contradicted yours." Though he doesn't divulge what those might be.
Ravenwing's optics narrow and swirl, though her face is a study in serenity. "I... see. And what were those orders?" She has a *very* good notion of what they were, but would like confirmation. That stubborn, infuriating, supercilious bastard stole her idea and pulled rank... Well yes, he *is* the Lord High Commander of Valckasta, but he's still a... a... whatever!
Armada's face pinches into a worried frown. "I... am not sure I am at liberty to say, Lady. Lord Thunderwing was very... adamant about the orders. However," he pauses a moment, optics flicking down to meet hers. Not very subordinate-commander like, for one usually so military. But his optics show a certain amount of residual anguish. "They were in Valckasta's and your best interests, I assure you. I cannot fault Lord Thunderwing for wishing to save you from could have been a most excruciating demise."
That tells Ravenwing everything she wanted to know, and she abruptly backs off. No need to blame Armada for obeying the orders of a superior officer, and 'tis extremely uncomfortable to be caught between Thunderwing and his creation. Nasty creatures, both of them, and proud of it! Her voice loses that dangerous purr and becomes more even. "Yes... I'm sure you did what you thought best, Armada." There goes her last chance to take it out on anyone, since she certainly can't rant to her illustrious sire; he'd be amused in that particularly annoying way of his.
Armada is somewhat relieved, but he's worried that he revealed more than Thunderwing would consider proper for him to do so. He lowers his head slightly, "Once again, I apologize, Lady Ravenwing. I also should have done something more during the struggle with Unicron. I, of all those here, knew more about him but could do nothing to help destroy him. I failed both Valckasta and Cybertron."
Ravenwing leans back against the hangar wall and crosses her arms, but a clawed forefinger relentlessly taptaptaps against her arm. "You need not apologize for obeying orders. However... I am somewhat disappointed that you should feel so... inadequate against a would-be god seeing as 99% of our combined forces should feel like failures as well, including myself. As long as you did the best you could, there is no censure of your activities or apparent lack thereof."
Armada nods reluctantly, knowing rationally that this is true. But it irks him nonetheless. "It is rather foolish to dwell on such things. This should be a day of rejoicing, having escaped the very jaws of death." He straightens, optics glowing back to normal. "I should rejoin our fellows in beginning to rebuild the city, unless you require me further, my lady."
Ravenwing waves a graceful hand in dismissal. "As you wish."
Armada hesitates a moment, unsure if Ravenwing is still mad at him, but bows gracefully and says before leaving, "As always, I am at your disposal at any time, my lady." He turns and walks out.

****

Medical Corner - Trypticon

Ghost steals into Medical, wing spars shifting to lie flat against her back. She moves with the furtive air of a fugitive, optics narrowed, movements jerky.
Motormaster is a laser core on a little table thing, a variety of monitors and interfaces hooked up to him to provide some modicum of access to the outside world. However, he doesn't notice Ghost.
Ghost sidesteps the tables of the critically wounded, expression set in onyx as flat and unreadable as a statues. She settles on one table herself, drawing her knees to her chest as she curls in on herself, arms around knees, chin on knees, spars ticking in like spines.
Motormaster finally senses the new arrival as she settles a bit closer on one of the tables, a little scanner swiveling to face her as a tinny, small voice that is basically unidentifiable scrapes out, "Come to gloat?"
Skyjack looks up to see Ghost enter. An expression of annoyance and anger flashes over his face, but he quickly looks away, not ready to deal with that femme and all the implications of her actions just yet
Ghost blinks, remaining utterly still for a moment before she turns her head to peer at the compilation of equipment that is keeping Motormaster on-line. A brow arches upwards, a slightly puzzled expression before she draws that mask of ice back over, replying, "What is there to gloat about?" she says very softly.
The voice emerges from that pile of machinery again, stripped of whatever emotion it might have begun with, "Much of this is your handiwork. Do you have some other reason to be here?'
Ghost settles her chin on her knees, optics shuttering closed as she goes utterly motionless. Her voice, when she speaks, is flat and devoid of inflection, "I am here for repairs as per Soundwave. However. If my presence is unpleasant, I can depart." An optic cracks open as she regards those staring at her with suspicion and in some cases, hate. "Or.. If you would prefer, have someone put me in a brig someplace. It matters not."
"Soundwave's protection. How wonderful for you. It's amazin' to me that he can forgive you for killing Ghost and thousands of others so quickly." A trace of bitterness in that one, just maybe.
Skyjack pays no attention to Ghost. He is too worried about his youngest team member to care about anything else. Softly he whispers to her, "Don't give up ,Hots. You were incredibly brave up there. And that cannon you helped built made a big hole in that monster too."
Ghost seems to somehow shrink even more into herself, wing-spars flinching. With a soft shake of her head, she manages a reply, voice flat. "I am Ghost. The other is.." she trails off, "...a memory."
Harshly. "You are not Ghost. You are a monstrosity built from the dead fragments of a friend. And for that, you will never be forgiven. Others may be willing to believe your little show of contrition, but I am not."
Ghost intakes air with a soft sigh, not showing much reaction to the harsh words other than a solitary flinch. "If that is what you believe, I am not going to argue." Emotion filters in, a bitter resignation.
"Of course you won't. Because you have nothing to argue with. You have no proof, nothing but the blood on your ha-" About now, a medic walks over and rests a hand on the machine, "Easy, Motormaster. Don't overtax yourself. You could damage some of the crystalline matrices permanently. Shh for a while."
Ghost shudders, optics opening as she peers at her hands, fingertalons glinting with that violet-green refraction. "I should not have survived." Soft as she slides off of the table, drawing tattered pride around her and those spars like a lacy cloak, "Better if I had not. There is.. nothing I can do to erase the damage caused. Nothing I can say..." Her head bows and she pads quietly out, "I lived for the Empire. I died for it. And now.. It hates me." That spoken softly, flatly, the femme leaves as quietly as a leaf falling in the wind.
Skyjack mutters, to nobody in particular, "That was cruel," while pretending to focus his attention on Scorcher.
****
Ravenwing transmits to Ghost: "Ghost? Please respond."
Ghost transmits to Ravenwing: "Yes, Lady? *voice is flat*"
Ravenwing transmits to Ghost: "I believe the events of last cycle have ended your assignment to find the Matrix, so if you have the time available, I would appreciate transportation to Lutha to retrieve our records and personnel."
Ghost transmits to Ravenwing: "*voice remains flat* If you have some need of me, my lady. I can be available."
Ravenwing transmits to Ghost: "Indeed. If you are not aware of the coordinates, I can provide them."
Ghost transmits to Ravenwing: "That would be appreciated, my lady."
Ravenwing transmits to Ghost: "Your help, also, is appreciated. I await you at Valckasta's Shipyard."
Ghost transmits to Ravenwing: "I will be there shortly, my lady. Gho...*a pause then she doesn’t finish the word*"
****
Valckasta Shipyards
Ghost glides in from the upper atmosphere, wing spars trailing behind her. Her movements are cautious and furtive as she slows to hover, peering downwards before descending the rest of the way.
Ravenwing is waiting patiently, grateful for the break from the hectic rebuilding efforts in Valckasta. The shipyard has smelters for forging ship parts, and these are operating at full capacity, glowing red-hot from continuous use.
Ghost descends, targeting the form that gave her call. Landing, she drops to a knee, sketching a deeply formal bow, spars fanning out behind her to brush the ground. "My lady, you called?"
Ravenwing catches the movement more than an identification of the approaching figure and steps forward as Ghost lands, coming to a stop when the other femme... kneels to her. She arches an elegant brow, then extends a hand to her. "Please rise, Ghost. We tend to be overly formal in Valckasta, but 'tisn't necessary under these circumstances." There's almost a hint of amusement in her voice, but it's not unkind.
Ghost stands, not taking the hand as she does, expression distant and flat. "You deserve the formality, my lady. After all you and yours have done for the continuation of your own."
Ravenwing visually examines the young femme, recalling an earlier conversation with one Armada. Ghost is showing the same tendencies... "It was a joint effort, Ghost. Many contributed to yesterday's victory, not just my lord and his pretty bauble. Yes, there are some who were more prominent, but once again, they could not have done it alone." She falls silent for a moment, taking a guess at some of the issues facing Ghost. "You and Divefire... will have issues, methinks, for what you did under Unicron's control, but I did not forget the service you did Armada and I on our return from Lutha, and that I relayed to your brother."
Ghost stiffens, gaze dropping to the ground as she waves her hand, "Many did their best and beyond even that yesterday, my lady." She drops her hand back to her side, going as motionless as a statue, voice soft and inflectionless, "I only did what little I could under the circumstances."
Ravenwing nods agreeably. "Yes, we all did what we could. Some of it was effective, some of it was not. The most I did was knock Prime down. Another was bemoaning that he accomplished little himself. Do you truly think what you and Divefire did against Unicron was so trivial?" Yes, this femme has a bad case...
Ghost's spars shift as she looks up, "Did we not have a mission to undergo?" she asks softly, not replying to the question.
"We do," Ravenwing answers, recognizing the deliberate change of subject. "The assigned pilot met with an accident while exploring on Lutha, so I must needs go there to bring our ship back."
Ghost nods once, "I will transform then, my lady. Then we can make the journey so that you can reclaim what you require."
Ghost transforms into her Stealth Interceptor mode and slides her hatch open so that the lady of Valkasta can enter. Then, with engines humming, she takes off, heading upwards.
Ravenwing ponders using the current situation to lecture Ghost, but... she's not sure it would help. Besides, if she's ejected into space, it will take a very long time to get back to Cybertron.
Ghost wouldn't eject the lady, would ignore her perhaps.. politely of course.... her engines vibrate the entire craft as she angles upwards, fighting the pull of gravity. "I do hope that the distance is not too great, my lady. I am.. ill-equipped for lengthy space journeys."
Ravenwing asks, that hint of not-quite amusement in her voice again, "It need only be one way. While the Ark Wannabe is extremely crowded, it is still a very large ship and can carry you back." A pause, then she ventures, "I take it that you do not wish to discuss the matter of your guilt or lack thereof any further?"
Ghost continues to fly upwards, engines rumbling before silencing as they chance over to space operations. "There is no need for such a discussion, my lady."
Ravenwing hmmmmms. "If I should disagree with that, who would you be more likely to believe?"
Ghost continues to focus mostly on the flight. "You are, as is everyone, entitled to agree or disagree as per your own beliefs, my lady."
Ravenwing nods calmly. "Of course... but that didn't answer the question. Whose judgment do you respect? I am not speaking just of you and I, but the others as well. Your comrades, your brother."
Ghost's engines rumble, vibrating the craft as she simply grows silent.
Ravenwing continues, ignoring the silence, "And what happens when the judgment of those you respect... conflicts, either with your own, or others'? How do you tell who is right and who is wrong?"
Ghost replies flatly, "Directions, my lady?"
Ravenwing peers at the instrumentation, then instructs, "Metaxis Quadrant... Actually, that is the realization that every child faces when he or she finds out that one's parents aren't necessarily always right. A maturation process, of sorts. The reverse holds true as well. One *can* be completely, utterly mistaken, regardless of maturation, simply because one doesn't hold all the facts of the matter. Either about one's capabilities, or... one's actions."
Ghost's wings shift position as she seems to slow, reorienting herself before they all brighten with plumes of plasma. "Metaxis it is then, my lady."
Ravenwing leans back, as much as she can in the cramped quarters, and abruptly changes the subject back to the original topic. "And then there's compulsion... I wonder if I would have done as well, if I'd been captured by Unicron. Or your brother. Or my lord. Part of me states defiantly that I could *never* be broken. Not *me*. I'm strong, and no one can control me. Then another part of me remembers the horror that chilled me when I first laid optics on the creature that had been haunting my dreams for so many months. I... don't know. Outer Rim next."
Ghost simply flies onwards, interior systems shifting subtly. "Outer Rim." she repeats, voice flat still.
Ravenwing says, "Do you think it's weak to be afraid of such a thing, Ghost? Is it weakness or... common sense?"
Ghost replies smoothly, "It is not weak to show fear, my lady. It is weak to ignore your own."
Ravenwing inclines her head, though obviously unseen. "Good answer, though I'd modify it. It is not weak to *feel* fear, only to let fear control you." She smirks, also unseen, and adds, "On behalf of we arrogant Valckastans, I'd also expand that to letting it be seen, especially by the enemy."
Ghost wingovers, although the maneuver in space does not apply the same effects of local gravity, it does cause the starscape to twist, "You are entitled to your viewpoints, My lady. And I feel blessed that you share them with me."
Ravenwing actually laughs at that. "I rather doubt that, Ghost, but well said, however untruthfully. I am taking unfair advantage of this situation, aren't I? Deep space from here."
Ghost alters her vector, "It is not my place to make a comment on that statement, my lady."
Ravenwing shrugs. "So much for the subtle approach, something I note that doesn't work with your brother, either. I'll comment for you. Yes, I'm taking unfair advantage, but I would not bother if I didn't feel you were worth the trouble. I cannot even fathom how I would feel in your situation, but I know that you cannot handle it alone. If you cannot speak to your brother about it, then I am here. I am certainly not the right kind of person for such things, but I am willing to try. “
Ghost simply flies on, quiet as she mulls over some proper, polite response to the inquisition. "My lady, I have to handle this alone simply because you are correct, you do not know how I feel. No one does. The stigmata of the Chaos Bringer’s touch will be something I bear quietly until the end of my days. I lived to serve the Empire. I died in doing so. Now.. it hates me. And that is my burden to bear alone. If you would please simply focus on the mission, it would be appreciated."
Ravenwing siiiighs. "Fair enough. You are supposedly an adult and capable of learning from your mistakes. It is your choice to disregard the lessons learned from others' mistakes and to blind yourself to the truth. However... you disappoint me, Ghost. I had thought better of you. Lutha System should be in range."
Ghost's engines rumbles subtly shift as she makes her way systemward, not answering or denying the accusations of being blinded. "We should be there in moments, my lady. Should you inform them that you are incoming?"
Ravenwing says, "That was done before we departed Valckasta. Pray proceed; they are expecting us. One last thing... you have expressed doubts as to your ability to sustain an extended voyage. Thus, I trust you will ride home aboard the Ark Wannabe rather than make a dramatic attempt to return to Cybertron alone or die trying."
Ghost chuckles softly, the only showing of emotion on this trip, a velvet sound, "You do know our lineage rather well, my lady." The craft veers, slicing through the atmosphere.
Ravenwing murmurs, "I am *sorry* that something so obvious needed to be stated, regardless of lineage."
Ghost lets the lady out, waiting a moment for her to clear before transforming back up.  She lets the amused smile linger on her face for a brief moment before she turns taciturn once more.
Ravenwing visually examines the huge ship, though it's hard to tell if there's any damage; it's covered with a thick layer of ash and soot. Camouflage, but still messy. There's a ragged cheer from the people outside as Ghost and Ravenwing arrive, and they enthusiastically pile into the Ark without waiting for orders. Ravenwing arches a brow indulgently and states wryly to a waiting officer, "They seem rather eager to return home. Imagine that." She glances around the charred planet and continues in a more businesslike manner, "Any trouble with the drones? I should like to go back underground someday, but... other matters have priority. Board, lieutenant. We shall be with your shortly." With that, she turns back to Ghost and gestures gracefully towards the ship.
Ghost moves to stand just behind Ravenwing, like a shadow, motionless and observant of those who survived. Her optics narrow slightly as she studies the ship, distancing herself so as not to appear to be blatantly listening in but at such a close proximity, she would have to be deaf to not. AS the Lady of Valkasta turns, she steps back, letting her lead with a faint bow before following on her heels.
Ravenwing makes sure that Ghost hasn't wandered off, poor child, and steps up to the forward airlock. Smaller than the huge cargo airlock towards the aft, it's a lot closer to the cockpit. Even so, it's a tight squeeze to get through the chattering people crammed inside. Standing room only in here. Ravenwing fields excited questions, telling them that it would be easiest to hear this back in Valckasta, and finally escapes to the cockpit itself.
Ghost moves with a tense air through the chattering crowds, twisting and sidestepping to avoid as much contact as possible, even if it is accidental.
Ravenwing straps herself in, standard pilot procedure, and starts running the preflight checks. The Ark Wannabe is a brand new ship, but she takes no chances. Almost everything is in order, with the exception of a missile bay door that's not responding properly, then again the Ark isn't a warship and she hopes to make it back home without running into any Great Devourers. "Brace for takeoff," she announces quietly over the ship's comm.
Ghost slides into a seat, strapping herself in before curling up, knees to chest, compacting herself with a flexible ease.
Ravenwing has to repeat herself more loudly, to be heard over the talking, but that's what volume controls are for. She gives them a few more minutes, then runs an almost caressing hand over the controls and takes the ship up.
Ghost's optics flicker, then shutter as she seems to take the time offered to rest, head bowing down so forehead rests on knees.
Ravenwing is in no hurry; the trip should take several hours for such a huge ship, especially as she's trying to conserve precious fuel. Rationing has already been instituted in Valckasta, but reserves are low.
Ghost's spars curl around, settling into her back as she seems to have fallen into a rest. Only the idle flexing of fingertips belies that mistruth.
Ravenwing can't exactly have a conversation with anyone at this point, so simply keeps her mind on her piloting.  There's a great deal of equipment aboard as well as people, and that will help in the rebuilding process. She frowns, recalling that her lord hasn't yet responded to her suggest to offer Valckasta's shipyard smelters for the recycling of materials... Still studying his new toy, she suspects.
Ghost's fingertips tap softly on her shoulders, idly keeping a counterpoint to the faint rumble of the starcrafts engines. Her thoughts dance and whirl, fading in and out, looking for some pattern to settle into.
Ravenwing finds flying the ship ponderous in comparison to her sweet Harbinger, but she makes the trip with nary a bump, wishing she could get into space more often. Yes, she spent nearly two million fragging years lost in space, but she still misses it.
Ghost seems perfectly inclined to make the entire trip back with nary a word or movement aside from fingertips tapping. The shadowy femme keeps her attention focused on keeping her thoughts in order, neat little sections of propriety and logic...
Ravenwing is more attentive as they approach the Sol system. All considerations of Unicron aside, those pesky Autobots are still about. She siiiighs as her scanners show clear of any extra planetary contacts that shouldn't be there, and takes them down.
Ghost's fingertips start to slow in the tapping even as they near home. Then, they stop moving as she does, in fact, give in to a moments rest.
Ravenwing sets down as gently as she took off, listening to the muffled cheers reaching even through the locked door. They weren't sure they would have a home planet to return to. She releases all airlocks from her console and waits for the crowds to leave before making her own way out.
Ghost's head snaps up as the ship alters its sounds of travel. A moment of confused blinking ensures before she unstraps herself, unfolding and standing, popping her joints with a faint grimace before she adopts her distant expression once more.
Ravenwing reminds herself to attend to that missile bay door as she steps out of the cockpit. Ghost is noted, and she courteously gestures for the femme to precede her.
Ghost peers at Ravenwing for a moment before bowing deeply, "Wisdom before fading youth, my lady."
Ravenwing arches a brow, then explains, "I was about to check a mechanical failure, so I'll be delayed a few moments."
Ghost ahhs softly, optics brightening, "Then I will depart, my lady."
Ravenwing nods and says evenly, "Good cycle to you, Ghost." She continues towards the aft section and the waiting missile bay, already making a radio transmission to the senior mechanic.

****

War Room - Trypticon

        Dominating this room is a huge holographic display table, with chairs surrounding it. The display is suitable for projecting any number of video images or giant high resolution holographic maps. There are auxiliary display stations and computer consoles lining the walls, making this an ideal place to plan strategy and review intelligence.

CatsCradle peers into the War Room, as if looking for someone.

Megatron is busy, coordinating the repairs, organizing the transport of materials and energy.

CatsCradle taps on the frame of the doorway and steps in. Her movements are hesitant, wary, as if ready to jump at the next unexpected sound. She has had basic repairs, although the old armor is still scorched, and most of her paint peeled off in the heat of the ion blast. "Sir?" she asks in a soft voice. "If I am not disturbing...?"

Megatron looks up. "Oh, CatsCradle. No, you are not disturbing me."

CatsCradle comes the rest of the way in to stand in front of him, glancing over what he is working on. "You will need more energon." It is not a question, just a state of fact.

Megatron nods. "It is apparent to me. I am working on that problem. The 'Red Eclipse' offered to help with the transport of energy and materials.

CatsCradle nods, hesitates a moment, then, "I would like to take Divefire back to Earth, as soon as he feels recovered enough to fly the distance. We can begin to set up energon production, to ship back to here. And..." Her fingers twine around each other, tugging at her claw tips. "He... needs to be away from here. He blames himself, and I see him slipping..." Her optics fade for a moment, then she looks down at her fingers. "You must know what I mean, from Ghost. He needs to be where he isn't reminded every second by the wreckage, the people who lost friends..." She looks at him again. "He needs to be on Earth. And so do I. And Cybertron needs energy."

Megatron rubs his forehead. "At the moment, we do not have the energy to power the spacebridge... not to mention it seems to be damaged." He looks over to the Computer.

CatsCradle says softly, "Diver can fly us both. We've done it before, many times." She smiles a little, but it doesn't reach her optics. "It's a kinda tight fit, but with his speed, it isn't for long anyway."

Megatron looks at her for a while. "I will not make an exception for you two, CatsCradle. Cybertron is shattered and must be rebuilt; that is what all forces a needed for. If Divefire want to do something against his feeling of guilt, then he has to help rebuilt our homeworld.”

CatsCradle holds her gaze steady. "You cannot rebuild Cybertron without Earth's energy."

Megatron smirks. "You still think that the main part of energy we receive comes from Earth, don't you?"

CatsCradle shakes her head sharply. "No. It can't be, not by now. But our resources here are at a serious low. I know. I brought in a large part of the energon used in the last week. But energon produced here is not as rich as what comes from Earth. Diver and I can be there and have a full shipment ready by the time the relay ships get there. We can shorten the production time by days, maybe weeks, and we can keep that pace. Up here," she jerks her chin at the monitor, meaning Cybertron outside. "Up here, we're just two more people lifting metal. On Earth, we'd be helping to rebuild Cybertron's lifeblood."

Megatron says, "You misunderstand. Earth is just a minor source of materials. The important mines are in other parts of this system - and there is where I need the transport ships."

CatsCradle is quiet for another moment, then takes another breath. "I'll send energon back with Diver then. He can relay it. Like he did when you sent that first load of energon back here. We won't need the transport ships, and you'd still be getting more from us, than if we were here."

Megatron smirks. "You are as stubborn as members of my family."

CatsCradle leans forward over the console, hands planted palms down on it. "When I helped you rescue Nightbird," she says in a low voice, barely steady, "I did not do it as a Decepticon. When I crawled through sewers all week, digging out the remains of a frightened femme's security net, I did not do that as a Decepticon. The times I pulled Diver out of that ... that creature, to stop his attacks, I did not do that as a Decepticon either. So I do not ask this as a Decepticon, although they will benefit from it. I ask as someone who has always stood beside you, as a friend... as... as..." she falters. "As perhaps the father I don't remember." Her voice is shaking now. "But I do ask this. Let us return to Earth."

Megatron narrows his optics. "I will forget what you said about not doing something as Decepticon, CatsCradle. Because no matter what you do, you /are/ a Decepticon." He comes closer. "But... I appreciate your friendship." He folds his arms in front of his chest, studying the femme for a while. "Good, you and Divefire have my allowance to return to Earth. But you have to find the energy to get there yourself.”  He pauses. "It is a pity that you aren't /really/ my daughter." A smirk. "At least not as far as I know..."

CatsCradle closes her optics, letting out a small sound of relief. Weakly she sinks into a nearby chair. "If I were your daughter," she says faintly, "I wouldn't have asked. I'd have just gone."

Megatron places his hand on her shoulder. "Maybe... maybe you were just educated in better manners," he jokes. Then he turns serious again. "Take care that Divefire recovers quickly. I need a warrior like him."

CatsCradle looks up at him, optics wide, showing the fear that has wrapped itself around her like a steel cloak, unrelenting, binding. "If he does not go to Earth... I don't think he will recover. He keeps slipping... like I did when I saw him die. I'm scared, just as much as I was when he was the Herald."

Megatron smiles soothingly. "I just gave you the allowance to go, CatsCradle," he reminds her.

CatsCradle takes a deep steadying breath. "Thank you," she says simply, but with the same deep sincerity as that she used when thanking Vector Sigma.

Megatron says, "By the way - good work. You showed Prime what a real Decepticon lady is."

CatsCradle looks at him for a long moment, then smiles faintly. "I did do that, didn't I? I wasn't sure I was remembering right. Things are... rather blurry." She laughs softly. "Diver won't let me live it down. After all the times I lectured him about taking Prime on by himself... oh, dear."

Megatron says, "Maybe you should go now and tell Divefire that you just twisted the Decepticon leader around your finger..."

CatsCradle smiles again briefly, then asks, "Ghost? How is she?"

Megatron shrugs. "I don't know." Yesterday, his systems suddenly shut down due to the energy lack. And today, he has not spoken with her.

CatsCradle's fingers start their twining again. "Perhaps..." she ventures, "Perhaps the same might be best for her? Working... but not here, not with the constant reminder... and..." she hesitates, choosing each word carefully. "And not to be alone... when your soul has been... damaged so badly, and you are alone... your thoughts circle around and around, wrapping around you, lying to you that you are safer within... until you no longer want to come out again." It is clear that she speaks from her own experiences.

Megatron says, "You know too well that neither I nor... Soundwave can accompany my sister anywhere at the moment. And can you guarantee that you can watch her all the time?"

CatsCradle shakes her head. "No... not anymore than anyone could watch me. But they tried anyway, and even when I couldn't let it help... it did." She stands up quickly. "I'm sorry... you're busy, and I... I don't want Diver to wake up without me being there."

Megatron says, "Take care of him. I'll see what I can do for my sister."

CatsCradle gives a quick nod, almost a duck of her head. She stops at the door and turns back. "Thank you," she says again, softly, and slips out of the room as quietly as she had slipped in.

****

Divefire's lab

Divefire works with his back to the door, leaned over one of the benches and muttering as he pulls various items out of the junk pile and drops them into a near by create.

CatsCradle silently eases the outer door open and eases in. When she sees him, she lets the door close with normal sound. "I'm sorry," she says, her face dismayed. "I meant to be here when you woke."

Divefire pauses in his determined work to sort this chaos to glance over his shoulder at Cats. "Don't worry about it, I needed a little time to myself anyway. Where did you go?"

CatsCradle hikes herself up to sit on the nearest work bench. "I went to talk to Megatron." She looks at his face, trying to judge. "When do you think you might feel up to flying us back to Earth?"

Divefire follows her around as she sits and then he does a clean double take, shaking his head slightly. "I need some more work done on my motivators and, er, weapon systems..." His optics narrow slightly in just a flash of suspicion before he asks in a lower tone. "What did you talk to Megatron about?"

CatsCradle tucks her legs under her, trying to hide her sudden nervousness, and not even sure why she should be nervous. "I asked Megatron to let us return to Earth. To start energon production and relay cubes to Cybertron."

Divefire’s shocked expression doesn't get any less so. "And...what... but..." He pauses and bows his head, shaking it slowly. "I don't think any one is going to trust me with anything more then cleaning energon pipes for the next few million years."

CatsCradle leans over, taking his chin in her hand and raising his head to look at him. "Megatron told me to take care of you," she says in a firm voice. "To make sure you recover, and quickly. Because he needs warriors like you. Those were his exact words: ‘Take care that Divefire recovers quickly. I need a warrior like him.’ And you /know/," she stresses the word, "that Megatron does not say those things lightly."

Divefire has a hint of a smirk tug at his lips at the sound of his mate switching her voice into the cadence of their leader, but then another sigh escapes his frame. "Right... So you both think getting me to Earth as soon as physically possible is a good idea?"

CatsCradle nods quickly. "Um... yeah." She hesitates a moment. "It's not going to be easy, love. We'll be the only ones there, and we're not getting a relay ship. That means you'll have to run the cubes  back here yourself. But you'll have plenty of fuel for yourself, and a couple of days leeway, since we already have some cubes at the cave. And look." She hops off the bench, grunting a little as the repairs have made her a little stiffer than usual, and goes to the nearest console, punching up a file. "Here is a map of our mountains. Now there are heavy rivers running through here, here, and here..." her clawtip traces the waterlines. "They're real pounders in several places. You could put something together like the hydropower generator at the lake in those places. They'll gather energy without robbing it from Earth's resources, and without us getting shot at."

Divefire shifts from where he was working and takes a few steps over to the monitor, glancing over it and nodding slightly in agreement. "It would be easy enough to set those up and the shuttle runs wouldn't be a strain... Certainly not now, anyway..." Mentally he kicks himself for switching back into a depressed state and forces his mind back on track. "The... The thermal energy generator on the underwater base can probably be salvaged as well. I was planning on doing something with Iceland as well, but... That'll have to wait." He gives a quick glance to his mate and places a hand lightly on her shoulder, squeezing softly. "You've been putting a lot of thought into this, haven't you."

CatsCradle says in a small voice, "I want to go home. Both of us."

Divefire nods slightly, unconsciously slipping one of his wings around her. "All right then... If Megatron is all right with it, I'm... I'm not going to argue."

CatsCradle leans back against her mate. "Well... first he said no, and then he said no again, and then he said no the third time, and then he said I was as stubborn as if I was one of his family, and then he said it was a pity I wasn't his daughter, and then he said yes."

Divefire’s expression darkens. Quickly. "Why did he say no and how did you convince him?" he asks in a very controlled tone.

CatsCradle looks up at him, her optics fearful again. "He... he doesn't hold Earth as a high priority anymore. He has other energon sources, and he wanted everyone to stay on Cybertron to help rebuild. I convinced him that we'd be more productive on Earth, than we would be carrying metal and doing construction work."  She adds in a weak voice, "and then he said something about telling you that I had the leader of the Decepticons wrapped around my little finger..."

Divefire’s optics roll up into his head and his face falls forward as he lets out a growl. "Oh that's going to improve my reputation among the ranks no end..."

CatsCradle says uncertainly, "Only if he tells someone. I think he was happier about me ripping into Prime than much else..."

Divefire’s expression tightens again as he considers that fact. "You keep mentioning this whole Prime ripping thing..."

CatsCradle turns back to the monitor. "Look, the first of those fast water thingies is just upstream a mile or so from our lake," she says quickly.

Divefire’s fingers drum slowly across the top of her shoulder in slight annoyance as he reverberates out. "Cats..."

CatsCradle leans back to rest her head against his chest and looks up at him. "Shouldn't we get your repairs done, so we can leave before something happens to change Megatron's mind?"

Divefire sighs again, slipping both his arms slowly around her waist. "I suppose... But we're coming back to this topic."

CatsCradle looks at him for a long moment, and gives him a very soft smile. "When we're home," she promises, "I'll tell you anything you want to know."

Divefire returns the smile as best he can at the moment, which is at least more passable then he was managing last night. "Fine... I guess I should go and see Megatron personally as well..."

CatsCradle curls one of his hands around her waist around her fingers and gives his fingers a kiss. "That might be a good idea. I... I don't think he knows about Tempest yet. Perhaps you could tell him."

Divefire nods slightly, thoughts running to Tempest for a moment as his optics go absent for a long moment. "Yeah... I think she'd like him to know."

CatsCradle tugs at his fingers to make him look at her again. "Remember what I told you that was? A miracle in the darkness. It would be very good for him to know that."

Divefire snaps back a bit, shaking his head to clear it. "Right... well... not sure about that... Either way though, he should know."

CatsCradle says in a finalized voice, "Well, I'm sure." She stands up, still managing to stay in the curl of his arms. "Shall we go, then?"

Divefire nods slightly, a little reluctant in letting her out his grip. "Yeah, no time like the present."

CatsCradle slips her arm around his waist, nestling against him and falling in step with him, so that he doesn't have to let her go.

****

Medical Corner - Trypticon

CatsCradle walks into the repair bay with Divefire. When she sees Megatron, she gives her mate's hand a quick squeeze and slips away to perch on the nearest surface.

Megatron is here to visit the wounded.

Divefire walks in a little hesitantly into the repair bay, still rather unsure of his ratings with every one and most likely if it wasn't for Cats he'd just be holed up in his lab. "Er... Megatron... You got minute or two?" His voice is somewhat shaky, resembling his mood rather too well it seems.

Megatron says, "Hmm... Yes, Divefire."

CatsCradle gives Diver a quick nod and encouraging smile. *You go on... but I'm right here* the smile says.

Shortly several medic droids walk in carrying a stretcher and on it lies a battered and dusty Thrust. He’s off-line and seems to have taken a good hit from something. As dusty as he is and since he’s been missing since the battle, it might be assumed he was buried somewhere. They set him up on a repair table and get a few basic support devices going for him and then go about their business.

Divefire steels himself carefully, looking more across to Megatron then up... something that will definitely take getting used to. "Well, two things really. First I, ah... Just wanted to say thanks for letting Cats and me go back to Earth for you... Especially me... I er... I don't know I deserve it..." The slightly hung head from his shoulders, and the fact he can't quite bring his optics to meet his leader, would seem to hint at everything else he can't quiet bring himself to say.

Megatron watches Divefire. "And second?”

Divefire’s wings stretch out from his back and to the side in a nervous gesture, his hands doing much the same as he glances over to where the intact laser cores are being kept. "And second, well... Over with the laser cores is Tempest's. Somehow I managed to pick it up before Unicron noticed, don't even remember how really... Anyway far as I know she's fine, apart from not having a body. Figured you'd want to know..."

Megatron stares at Divefire, his optics wide. "Tempest?" he gasps, unbelieving. "You don't dare to make fun of me, do you? You know for sure it is hers?"

CatsCradle says softly, "I was with him when he gave the core to Soundwave last night."

Divefire blinks slightly at the idea of actually making fun of the guy that anti-matter-cannoned his body a few nights previously and a little of the fire pricks inside of him, letting him stand his ground for now. "It's her... Trust me on that..." What ever else he knows he's not quiet ready to part with it seems.

Megatron rubs his face with one hand. So many emotions boiling inside his soul, difficult to be kept under control. "Tempest," he whispers. "Does... Motormaster know... or Harrier?"

Divefire shakes his head slightly, not really wanting to think back the to battle but still... "I... I don't think so... I think the Stunticons are in there with her... Harrier's probably in Valkasta..."

Megatron suddenly smiles. "Thank you, Divefire," he says. "This is the best message I had for days."

Divefire nods slightly to Megatron, keeping his head bowed for just a moment more. "Well, glad I could do something right..." He pauses for just a moment to look across to Cats, then glances back to Megatron, his expression relaxed maybe just a notch. "Cats didn't tell me but... Did you give her any standing orders for her to give me while we're on Earth?"

Megatron says, "No, I gave her the order to take care you recover fully because I need warriors like you."

A grumbling voice from Cats' general direction says something that might have been "Toldja", but it's a little hard to tell.

Divefire’s expression shifts in a slight smirk as he glances across to Cats, then he nods very slightly to Megatron, his expression dower again. "She did mention that... I'm not sure I believe either of you... But I'm not in much of a position to argue."

Megatron smirks. "Recover. That is an order." Tempest can probably be saved!

Another grumble, "Told 'im that, too."

Divefire nods once again to Megatron before he finally twists on his heel and looks to Cats, features just ever so slightly annoyed. "Look, I'm sorry if I have to hear it from Megatron himself as well as you.  It's all pretty unbelievable considering... I'm not complaining at all it's just..." He pauses for a second, looking around the room and shaking his head. "After everything I did to you all... I don't know I can ever heal that wound but... I'm gonna try."

CatsCradle says in a soft, but tight voice, "The thing that did all that... that wasn't you, Divefire. You did not do it."

Megatron says, "She is right. You fought bravely against the powerful enemy that tried to control you."

CatsCradle stands up and goes to her mate's side, placing her hand on his arm. "If it wasn't for you, I would have died on the Rodger Young. Tempest would have died. You brought Ghost back to us. You helped destroy Unicron. /That/ is what you are responsible for."

Ruse watches from the shadows... "No. Do not lie to him. He disobeyed an order.. as I am prone to do, which is why he became what he was."

Megatron glares at his daughter. "Stop that, Ruse! You are not your..." He breaks off, setting his jaws. 'You are not your brother." Yes, that is what he was about to say.

CatsCradle turns towards Ruse's voice. "There is a difference, Ruse," she says gently. "You break orders out of injured pride. He broke an order to save two lives."

Ruse says, ".... Maybe. Still do not lie to him. It was his fault. What he did in the end however negates this. That is what I am trying to say... don't sugarcoat it for him."

Divefire listens to their voices and their arguments and desperately wants to believe them but the memories of what his body was made to do are as strong for now and he just shakes his head slowly, then glances up as he hears Ruse's voice. "No... No she's right... I didn't listen. I really thought I could do it, save Ghost and Soundwave... Take on the legendary Unicron all by myself..." He pauses, looking up and blatantly hurting. "I screwed up and nearly killed every one..."

The repair drones ignore all the chit chat and steadily see to the repairs of the dark red Seeker lying on a corner table.

CatsCradle is quiet for a short moment, then says just as gently, "Ruse, you are a spoiled brat looking for attention. Look for it elsewhere. You will not get it from us."

Megatron narrows his optics, fixing his daughter. "Young lady, you have no idea. Without the information Soundwave gathered, we all might be just memories by now - you included. So stop mocking Divefire.”

Ruse glances to CatsCradle somewhat surprised. First time anyone called her spoiled... and she can only scoff, "I am NOT looking for attention! I just want you to tell Dive the truth. He did save everyone.. but he screwed up too. Lying to him won’t help." She then looks to Megatron again surprised.. and trails off as he glares at her, falling silent.

Divefire listens again and his gaze shifts to the floor again, really rather wishing his new form wasn't so much bigger then his old. "I think if no one minds, I'd like to go home now..."

CatsCradle gives Megatron a bow. "If you'll excuse us, sir... I think we'll go to Polyhex for repairs. The medics here seem too busy, and we should leave for Earth as soon as we can."

Megatron says, "You're dismissed."  He glances at Ruse again. "And we will talk later, young lady!" If he doesn't forget in all the actual mess...

Divefire silently shifts on his heel and walks out the door with out looking back.

***
Medical Corner - Trypticon

Ruse is somewhat sulking in a corner of the repairbay.. in the shadows where no one can hopefully see her at the moment.
Ghost pads into medical, stopping in the doorway to peer about with a wary air about her.
Ruse doesn't notice to busy muttering, oO(I am not an attention hog... )
Thrust s is laying on a repair table as repair drones work on him.
Ghost blinks once or twice before stealing in, keeping to the edges of the room only to pause at a small energon dispenser, dialing herself a small amount of energon.  She turns to slide back out as quietly as she came, wing spars shifting behind her
Soon the drones are done and putting their tools up they leave the room. Thrust lays there quietly for a little while then slowly his optics light and he looks around
Ghost pauses at the doorway, looking around at the damaged and the recovering, optics lingering on the collection of cores on various support systems. She almost frowns, but her expression rapidly reverts back to that mask of aloof indifference, tempered with a furtive wariness.
Thrust wonders what’s up and tries to get his bearings. He sits up slowly and looks for anyone. He notices the lasercores and wonders if any of them are ’Cons he knows. Then he thinks he notices something in the doorway and he takes a closer look. "Hello?" he asks hoarsley.
Ghost freezes, going as motionless as a statue. A moment passes and she speaks softly in a voice devoid of inflection or emotion, "Hello."
Thrust asks quietly, "So what happened? To the Chaos Bringer? Did we....win?"
Ghost flinches, seeming to shrink into herself, "He has been destroyed." comes the quiet reply.
Thrust hmms, " I missed that....I have been dishonered...." he looks away. He cant face anyone now as a warrior. He was shot down and lay hidden through the whole battle, " I should not be alive...."  He looks down at his hands. How can he face his leader with anything short of shame now...
Ghost remains frozen, peering at Thrust. Those spars on her back shift around as she winces at his words, feeling them perhaps far more harshly than he understands, "You are alive, Thrust. Be glad in that and let nothing else concern you. Many.. fell during that final battle." She steps out of the faint shadow, optics dimming as she flexes talons, "And a great many by my own hand. You have little to feel dishonored about." A brow lifts as the former she-herald stands there in the faint lights in medical.
Thrust looks at her slowly. "You have an excuse, a reason... I have none... I am nothing....less then nothing..." His voice almost cracks on that as he stares at her numbly.
Ghost shakes her head, "You fell, that is not dishonorable. We all fall from grace one time or another through no fault of our own. But now you live, with nothing more than a faint memory of having been unable to fight another battle. Take consolation in the joy that despite it all, we continue on."
Thrust shakes his head, "No...." The normally deep tone of voice is tense and hollow now. This proud seeker seems like a shadow of what he was. "No...I was scared of him....I was....scared....but I tried....and I was....lucky....and others who weren’t scared died... I know they did....and I was....and I was spared....." He suddenly takes his ‘Con brand off and looks at it. "What good am I?"
Ghost shivers once, wingspars shifting behind her as her talons flex and curl, sinking into her palms as she fights that rising sensation of loss, agony and panic. Flickerflashes of seekers streaking upwards only to fall at the power she wielded remain forever burned into her memory. Her 'breathe' catches and she peers at Thrust, optics darkening to the same black shade the rest of her is, a single tear streaking down her cheek, "I'm... I'm so sorry.." she breaks, voice cracking as she starts to cry, "I didn't want to. I didn't want to scare anyone. I couldn't stop it. They're all dead.. I'm dead.. It’s my fault..." She reaches up to claw at the air as she has a flashback, frame momentarily shining with a thin violet haze before she turns to run, "I should have never survived. Look at what damage I wrought in my pride!"
Thrust takes her fists and looks at her. "Than that makes two of us. But with you, you were not in control. I tried to rescue you. we all tried....I failed you and then I failed the empire...do not blame yourself..." He stares at her as he holds her hands, trying to calm her down.
Ghost shivers as her wrists are grabbed, optics shiving a wild hue of violet and emerald, the colors whirling together chaotically. Those wingspars curl out behind her as she twists to try and get free, but evidently, she has not been completely repaired yet. "You did not fail. You tried and were not powerful enough. I failed. I didn't die. I did die. I should still be dead!" Her voice is ragged.
Thrust watches her optics swirl in color and continues his hold on her wrists. He watches her speak and hears her words. He is a simple mech and he will give a simple answer,. “How can you fail that which is more powerful then you? And regardless of your state of essence you are alive and in that you did not fail. " He stares at her, looking for her reaction to what he has said and still he holds her wrists.
Ghost jerks back at the grip on her wrists, loosing to the emotions she has kept walled off since the end. "Listen to your own words..." she gets out, finding the strength to fight from another source, "They apply.. to you as well, Seeker.." She jerks again, "Let me go.."
Thrust stares at her but does not let go. "Only if you listen to what I say."
Ghost jerks again, shivering violently, frame rattling. "Let.. me go.. I don't want to hurt anyone else.. But you're.. Just let me go.. please.."
Thrust suddenly releases her. " But I’m what?"
Ghost withdraws, wingspars folding around her like a tattered cloak, rubbing at her wrists with a wounded animal expression, "...Hurting me."
Thrust’s optics widen slightly, "I did not mean to! I am sorry, Ghost? " He doesn’t really know her and he is not sure that is her name so he says it rather tentatively.
Ghost steps back with that jerky movement usually found in skittish animals, optics wide and whirling rapidly, "You did not.. fail.. " she whispers.. "You did your best and are alive because of it.. Stop.. just stop thinking that because you cannot be at all battles, you have become something less than yourself because it is not true. We all do what we can.. what.. " She trails off, loosing the ability to speak as she lets out a sob.
Thrust starts to reach for her again more gently but stops because he is not sure she would appreciate it. "Then listen to your own words. Nothing you did was your fault, ok? So if I have to rethink my part in this, so do you. Fair enough?"
Ghost's optics flicker then dim, "I could have fought him until he did kill me. Then.. then I wouldn’t remember betraying friends. Being trapped and pulled like a puppet on strings.." She shakes her head, "My burden is far.. far.. different than yours, Thrust. You can be forgiven. I.. cannot."
Thrust says, "Well I forgive you....don’t I count?"
Ghost blinks.. blinks again.. "How.. can you?" she asks brokenly, tears falling in streams now. "I can't forgive myself.."
Thrust shrugs. “Well I can forgive and I did, so maybe you should think about forgiving yourself too. " He looks at her and wants to comfort her but dares not touch her.
Ghost looks lost as she crumples to the floor, crying brokenly, face in hands, wing-spars trailing behind her. "I can't."
Thrust realizes he should have held her. He gets off the table and picks her up.  "Hey, hey it’s ok....why persecute yourself?" He seems uncomfortable holding her but more from shyness then anything else. "Don’t cry....had I known it would have done this maybe I shouldn’t have forgiven you....come on, remember you couldn’t help what you did and you should stop blaming yourself ,ok? I don’t blame you, and I bet others feel the same way too. So relax...please?" He leans against his table still holding her. He’s still not fully 100 percent yet but he won’t let her go.
Soundwave checks into the med bay again to see how his patients are doing.
Ghost is picked up, but tries to squirm loose again, "Don't touch me.. " she gets out, over another choked sob, "Please, just let me go.. I've heard what others think.. Just let me go.. I have to go.. It’s over.. I shouldn't have come back here.."
Looking up, Thrust sees Soundwave and, for a moment, looks like a deer caught in headlights. He says nothing and just tries to get Ghost to stop crying.  He keeps his hold on her. "I don’t care what the rest say. And why shouldn’t you have come back? You helped me, so why won’t you let me help you?"
Soundwave stops in the door to see Thrust and Ghost. For a moment he waits to see how things go, but will intervene if Ghost gets even more upset by Thrust's attempt to help her.
Ghost twists in the arms, optics narrowing and flashing as she rasps out, "Just let me go. I don't want to be touched.."
Thrust says, "Fine.”  He lets her go. Folding his arms, he continues to lean against his repair table. He stares at her, more confused now then he was to begin with. He looks up to Soundwave and just shrugs.
Soundwave says, "Thrust. You must respect Ghost's personal space." He steps forward into the room, to look Ghost over. "But Ghost, do not be so hasty to decline your team-mate's concerns for you. They are only understandable."
Ghost drops, landing on a knee, peering up.. "I don't belong here." she whispers, flinching at the sound of another’s voice. She slowly gets to her feet, anger on her face for a brief moment before being stifled, "One voice among many does not turn the tide, Soundwave. I don't belong here."
Soundwave says, "Who has told you this?"
Ghost shakes her head, "No one told me that directly. And I am not one to point fingers at those that say what they feel. I understand and I'm willing to leave so as not to cause those that suffered any further reminders of what happened."
Thrust looks to her and huffs, " You don’t bother me. Not that I matter, but still....I am one of Megatron’s elite Seekers... I would think that counts for something at least...."
Soundwave's optic band shades darker and his tone takes on a sterner harmonic. "Ghost. If you require your solitude, that is entirely reasonable. But to make assumptions when you are not thinking clearly, will lead to a false conclusion. My own observations stand in opposition to yours. None of us can personally relate to what you have experienced, I realize - but there is one other who can."
Ghost shakes her head. "No. I will not interrupt his reunion with his... other. "
Soundwave says, "Her support is important to his stability. But she cannot relate to what he has experienced either. The two of you can assist one another."
Thrust tilts his head and realizes he should not be hearing this....
Ghost gives another shake of her head, "I can't. He reminds me too much of what happened. And I would do the same. It is far better that I stay away until..." she trails off and finishes, "That I just stay away."
Soundwave says, "Away where? Among whom? And to do what?"
Ghost tilts her head, "On-planet, with no one and to organize my thoughts and memories in a fashion so that I can be functional."
Thrust is confused. He doesn’t know what to do. He knows he’s dirty and has one hell of a report to give Megatron. And then the thought of facing Megatron fills him with apprehension. For a moment he thinks as he did originally, then he remembers what Ghost said to him and then wonders why she won’t listen to the same advice.
Soundwave nods. "However - you said as much yesterday. Yet you have returned to this very room. Which leads me to believe you do not wish to be as distant from your friends and family as you claim."
Ghost's optics flicker. "I came here to make a last check on.. old.. friends and to get some energon before I left."
Soundwave inclines his head. "Of course. Those who have survived, will be rebuilt. And you can of course take the time you need. But realize that we may yet face additional threats, and your absence at such a time would only compound the existing damage."
Ghost's optics narrow. "You have overcome dangers without me in the past. I have utmost faith that the empire will continue on without me for a short time. If it becomes an emergency, my radio will be open."
Something in Soundwave's stance relaxes imperceptibly. "Understood. If you require anything, you know how to contact me."
Ghost glances off, wingspars fanning for a moment, voice odd and distant, "I don't believe that I will have any need of you, sir. I do not plan on getting any more damaged unless provoked."
Thrust looks to Ghost, "If you had not been here to help me .... the empire would have lost one of its elite." he says that flatly and says that with a sense of finality. As if he knows something he would have done she may not have considered. "I would think the Empire does need you...."
Soundwave says, "I have confidence you will conduct yourself with wisdom, Ghost." He steps aside from the door as he comes in, clearing the way for her if she wants it. He knows trying to talk her into staying at this time, will only drive her off more quickly. He too is familiar with needing one's silence to sort out events.
Ghost blinks.. then ever so slowly turns to stare at Thrust.. She blinks again then raises a hand to poke a finger at the Seeker, "Death is not an option. To even consider something like that is to betray all that you have ever striven to accomplish!" Her optics shade a deep violet as her voice raises finally in some emotion other than despair, "You are an Elite! One to whom cadets look up to, one whose every action is recorded in the annals of history for others to learn from, to seek as guidance in their own yearnings for perfection. " she pokes that talon at the seeker, "You see failure in something only you see the black side of. You did your best, gave everything that you could and you should not be ashamed to wake up in medical. You live. And in doing so have already beaten those that would seek to bring you to your knees!"
Soundwave tilts his head a bit and regards Ghost.
Thrust remains leaning against his table with his arms folded and stares at the talon poking at his chest. He listens to her words and stares at her neutrally, "Then when will you stand up yourself?"
Resyke's optics slowly light up as he regains consciousness.
Ghost glares at Thrust, talon pausing in the poking. She seems to be struggling to find words, optics still violet, then she speaks, low, raspy and peeved, "My sins are far worse than having fallen to a firefight, Thrust. Do not even dream of comparing the two."
Soundwave says quietly, "None the less, your words apply to yourself as much as to anyone."
Thrust’s optics narrow as he holds her gaze. " I never tried to compare.....”  He looks to Soundwave.  "Listen to him, femme.”
Soundwave says, "You cannot see it at this moment, perhaps. But keep in mind what you have said. At some point, it will begin to make sense."
Resyke blinks as he hovers in that state between sleep and wakefulness, trying to make sense of the conversation that intruded on his dreams.  He mumbles, "Elite?"
Ghost shakes her head, jerking her hand away as if burned by the touch. "I have a name, Thrust. It's Ghost. Not femme, not anything else. It's Ghost. No matter who might think differently I am *still* myself. I'm not a copy, I'm not a pretender, I am me." She seems visibly trying to restrain her temper, "It makes sense, Soundwave. And only time will soothe the pain. I choose willingly to depart in order so that others may heal without me as a reminder of all that they have suffered. I too feel pain. I too wish to be consoled and comforted, but I cannot. The good of the many verses a selfish good of the one."
Soundwave nods slightly to himself as Ghost asserts herself. He considers this a good sign, despite the fact that she still feels the need to withdraw in the face of her own pain.
Thrust says, "Very well Ghost...but think of how you helped me......as you sit and think if you are of any value."
Ghost's spars flick angrily, "My value has yet to be determined." she snaps.
Thrust replies softly, "Not to me it doesn’t."
Ghost blinks and stares at Thrust again.. She blinks.. again... then shakes her head, "Alright..."
Resyke sits up, finally reactivating fully. "Um.. hello." he says, looking at the inhabitants of the med-bay.
Thrust smiles slightly.  "Please.”
Soundwave goes over to check on Resyke, satisfied that the little Insecticon has made a nice recovery. He himself has some "paperwork" to attend to, and so takes a place at the med corner's single computer console, from which he can still get a good overview of the room.
Ghost tries to smile, but she's still irked.. "Fine." She steps back, hands falling to her sides. A brow lifts and she peers sideways at Thrust, for a moment looking like a kid stuck in an adult’s suit, "What is my value to you?" she asks curiously.

Thrust smirks, "Your value to me is great, Ghost. Understand that." He looks to her steadily, waiting for her reaction.

Ghost's optics flicker as she looks puzzled, "Ahh. Read records then, I see."

Resyke looks down at his newly repaired frame, grinning and murmuring to himself, "I dunno ... that shoulder-pad of Frenzy's kinda suited me."

Resyke slips quietly off the repair bed, careful not to interrupt the stilted conversation between Thrust and Ghost.

Thrust continues as he gazes at her, "Why should I bother with that?
 I already know what I want to know."

Ghost blinks again, looking slightly confused. "How else would you be able to make a judgment call on another's value that you have hardly seen at work, if by not reading their file?"

Thrust replies, "I value them by how they are with me. How can reading a file help me in that?"

Ghost peers for a moment before nodding once. "Very well."  She lifts a brow and with a movement that blurs, she pokes the seeker with a fingertalon again, "Keep in mind that I value you as well. You are one of the Elite."

Resyke hesitantly begins to clean something, returning to old habits while he eavesdrops.

Thrust ows to himself as she thumps him, but does not let that show. He looks at her and smirks. "That I am Ghost ... that I am," he says quietly as he gazes at her, still wearing that smirk.

Ghost nods once, a hint of her old self surfacing in a slightly crooked wry smile. Turning, she pads to a table and climbs up, curling in on herself to take a well needed rest ... something that no longer makes her seem like a fugitive.

A quiet voice emits from the little mass of machinery that is currently all that is Motormaster, saying only a short phrase and that quietly, coldly, "I'm sure Unicron valued her as well."

Thrust watches her go to the table and get on it, and realizes he's still beat himself. He slides back up on his table and gets comfortable. Glancing over to her, he is glad she did not leave. Then he notices Resyke busy cleaning and wonders when he ever isn't cleaning.  He frowns as he hears the other voice and comment, and looks to where it may have come from. "And perhaps someday you will wish you could value her as well..." he mutters coldly.

Resyke gives Thrust a cheerful grin as he wipes down the side of an empty repair-table. "'ullo."

Ghost shifts as she looks up and over, peering at the machinery with a startled expression. A frown creases her face, and without a sound, she phases out.

Thrust watches her vanish and looks to Soundwave. "Is that normal for her?"

Resyke's gaze travels to the dust that Thrust has tracked all the way through medbay ... and sighs.

Soundwave has indeed been listening to the goings-on and storing it all away for future reference, even as he types at his console. He looks up to see Ghost shimmer out of existence. For a moment he's silent, then casts a glance toward where Motormaster's laser core is connected, and finally replies to Thrust, "It is within her abilities."

Thrust sighs, "But I gather not 'normal.'" He stares at the machinery. "Just wait ... you gotta get repaired sometime...."  

Soundwave says, "She will return, Thrust. When she is ready."

Thrust looks to Soundwave, "Good."  He slowly drifts off line soon after that, as the repairs and recent events catch up with him

The voice responds without inflection ... but that's mostly due to the machinery, "She killed thousands without blinking. Perhaps you should reconsider your priorities. However, if you wish to try something when I've a body again, feel free."

Ghost phases back in with that resigned expression of utter exhaustion, having come in here to get energy. A shake of her head and she simply returns to being curled up, shutting everything else out as she simply passes out.

Thrust looks back to the machinery, "You know where I am...."  He sees Ghost phase back in and smiles slightly.

Resyke sidles up to the disembodied laser core and stands on tip-toes to peer at it. "That you, Motormaster? Um ... how you feeling?"

Thrust watches the bug and listens to him as he slowly drifts off to sleep

A little scanner shifts to face Resyke, "Like a talking head ... or maybe a little bit less." There might be a note of warmth in what follows ... but it, too, is mostly stripped out, "You did real good, Resyke. You're a hero."

Resyke blinks. "Huh? Me? Nah ... from what I heard, you and your crew flew right up to Unicron and shot him in the face!" he exclaims, as if that were the coolest thing that he'd ever heard, ever.

The voice is silent for several long moments, and then responds emptily, "We did nothing. We might as well've not even been there. You actually hurt him. Congratulations."

Resyke grins nervously. "Nah, that was the clones. Course, they almost ate Scorcher..."

Soundwave speaks from his place over at the computer console, "All who participated in the battle had an effect. If it was only moments of delay or distraction, so that our combined firepower and the weapon unleashed by Thunderwing's artifact could destroy the creature."

The scanner turns to look Soundwave over, though it takes a moment to identify him ... it obviously is a poor substitute for real senses. "I should've died out there, Soundwave. I have nothing left. My friends are dead, my partner is dead, my body is destroyed ... and all I have left is bitterness and hatred. Why am I alive?" It seems ... strange to hear those words said with what seems like no emotion. But several monitors do begin to bleep warningly of stress in the crystalline insides of the core.

Soundwave gets up from his place and walks over to the core and its connections. "Motormaster," he speaks calmly, "numerous fallen Decepticons have been recovered in the same form as the one you find yourself in currently. I can assure you I will do all in my power to revive them. I have not begun on the construction of a new body for you, because there are those with bodies still intact who required our resources first. You are, strange as it may sound, in a more resistant state at this time. Furthermore, I will wait for a supply of high-grade materials before I begin. You and your team are too valuable to be put together in haste."

Resyke wishes there was something he could say to Motormaster that would make the disembodied Stunticon feel better - but everything he's said is pretty much true. "Um ... at least you /are/ alive, Motormaster. If you were dead, things would have got really bad, then ended. At least this way things are really bad ... but can get better. Um."

Silence falls from the machine, with only mutterings for several moments, before he says softly, "It's not the lack of a body. It's everything. I haven't affected anything, and everything is gone. I've done my duty to the Empire! What more is asked of me? What do I have left to give, that I should live for it to be taken away?"

Resyke replies, "Maybe it's now time for you to start taking things back?"

Soundwave says, "We have survived. Those of us who stand here now, who speak to one another. We have survived, and will rebuild."

The voice is quiet again, the only response being, "Believe as you will, Soundwave. I have nothing left to lose."

Soundwave says, "In which case, you can only regain what has been lost. A piece at a time."

Resyke nods. "Yeah, what he said."

Laserbeak slowly stirs from his bed, groaning softly.

The voice gains that faded note of coldness that is all it can muster. "All that I lost is dead and gone, at the hands of those you have welcomed into the faction and repaired, and their creator."

Resyke's antennae twitch at the sound of Laserbeak stirring, but he ignores it for the moment. "And so ... you just want to give up?" he says to Motormaster.

Silence is the only answer. It seems Moto doesn't like the question one bit.

Soundwave says, , "We have a world to rebuild, Motormaster. Your team-mates can be restored. Some of your other friends can be restored as well. Is this not something to live for?"

Resyke continues in the face of the silence, pausing to let Soundwave say his part. "Because you could, I guess. Just give up. I suppose Soundwave could find another laser core to fit the design of your old frame, though I don't know if the other Stunticons would follow someone else."

Resyke may be trying to make a point. It's hard to be sure.

Laserbeak looks around. "Have I been drinking again? Who in Primus' name are you talking to?"

The quiet stretches again, until it may seem as if once more he won't respond. Finally, however, he asks softly, to Resyke and Soundwave both, though to Resyke's words, "And if that is truly what I want?"

Soundwave reaches over and picks up Laserbeak, pointing out the source of the unfamiliar voice, the laser core hooked up to its sensory equipment and voice synthesizer.

Laserbeak stutters, "Stunticons? Leader? Ummmm ... umm ... that who I think it is?" He looks around in disbelief.

Resyke pauses. "Um. Well. I dunno. I'll be really sad, I guess. So will a lot of people."

Soundwave says,  "Affirmative, Laserbeak." He again addresses the disembodied core. "What shall I tell your team when they are rebuilt? What shall I tell..." an imperceptible pause, as Soundwave weighs the options ... "Tempest?"

Laserbeak looks around and remarks, "All I know is my buddy Motormaster does not give up."

Bleak quiet seems to permeate the air as the various computers beep softly and go about their work of keeping Motormaster from a comatose void. Finally, he says softly, "Cruelty, Soundwave? I'd not have thought it of you." Despair doesn't have to be emotionally expressed ... it's obviously there. "Her memory... am I to forever live burdened by holding myself to what would've made her proud? I am not a hero, not some brave leader or proud champion or implacable warrior. I will only fail in the end anyways. Is continuing until I finally fold and fail the 'honorable' way?"

Soundwave says, "You misunderstand, Motormaster. In your eagerness to draw blame upon yourself for that which you could not change, you are not hearing my words."

Laserbeak painfully grabs one of those enerbeers that's been laying around, and begins to drink it. Now's as good a time as any. "What my father is trying to say in his own eloquent way, is Her laser core has been retrieved."

Lights all over the board flicker for a moment, a few warning ones light up dangerous red ... and still the voice just sounds dead, passionless. "Lies... I am honest with you, and this is my repayment? Fine. If that is your only means, then feel triumphant. I will not give up. I don't know that I could have made myself anyhow. You needn't have... have..." A few more lights flicker alarmingly, then stabilize. "I still serve. Leave me be. Go away."

Laserbeak growls. "Ohh hell. I never lied to you about anything. I wouldn't lie about that. I saw Divefire hand my father her core personally." Cue more beer drinking by the charred bird.

Soundwave's voice is calm and not at all offended or hurt, though the optic band flickers momentarily and then stabilizes again. "You know better than to think I would lie to you, Motormaster. In time you will realize it again."

"She is dead! We all saw her die! How could she live? How could she..." Silence falls ... no doubt, it'd be sobbing if he had a body. The young soldier has been through a lot, and the strain is finally bleeding away in the only way it can: expression. "If she lives... she lives... Tempest, forgive me..." He gets quieter with each word, until the last is barely audible. It seems he did believe them ... just that accepting it was ... difficult.

Soundwave says, "We saw Menasor destroyed as well. And yet, you live. Divefire, for all that he was used as a tool of the Chaos Bringer, saved Tempest's core and returned it to us."

Laserbeak shakes his head, and tilts back his beer. "Everything's going to return to normal.  Slowly but surely. Time heals all wounds and such." The Philosophical Pigeon opens a second beer.

Soundwave turns around and smoothly scoops up the enerbeer. "Enough," he says simply.

Resyke seems already to be back to normal - his armor is no longer made of second-hand cassetticon cast-offs, his grin has returned, and he's wiping up the dust that Thrust tracked in - and giving Motormaster some time to himself.

Laserbeak whines in typical kidlet fashion. "It's just a celebratory drink, Father ... back me up here, Resyke."

Soundwave says, "You have had your celebratory drink."

Resyke grins. "Oh no, I'm not covering your aft this time."

Motormaster is silent. And then, finally... "You both have my apology. I've disgraced myself, but it's guilt I can bear. Already all of it seems ... wrong. I've never been in so deep." A pause. "Thank you. Soundwave ... I do trust you. Believe that. And Laserbeak ... I will not give up. Maybe you were right about me." He pauses, "And I'd wager you've had a lot more than one."

Laserbeak exclaims, "Well what's to stop me from just walking into the bar..." As he hops off the table, he collapses upon the painful realization that his limbs are still not fully back to normal. "...Oww. Bad idea."

Resyke scurries over to help Beak up. "Whoa, hey! Be careful!" he says, his own limbs also not at 100 percent.

Laserbeak looks up apologetically with a painful grimace on his face. "Just joking of course, Father ... I wouldn't defy you like that."

Soundwave patiently reaches down and picks up the bird, after having placed the opened beer on a high shelf. He sets Laserbeak back on the repair table. "We all have some recovery to do yet." He looks back at the disembodied core. "I know you will not give up, Motormaster. That is not in your nature. That is why our kind has survived all this time, even past the threat of our world's destruction."

Laserbeak looks to the beer and then to himself, then the beer, then himself. He throws a slight temper tantrum like thrashing, only putting himself in further discomfort. He then waves to Resyke and wingpoints to the beer, giving the cleaner a begging look.

Resyke looks from Laserbeak to Soundwave, weighing up the chances of him reaching the beer without the big blue noticing him. Pshyeah, right.

Soundwave goes back to the single computer console in the med corner. He doesn't *seem* to be paying particular attention to Resyke....

Motormaster notes calmly, not that he can be much else at the moment ... he's got Soundwave's self-control for a little while! "I'm all about having fun from time to time, Laserbeak. But when you start to /need/ the excess..."

Laserbeak frowns as he notes his buddy's reaction. "At least remove it from my sight. Staring at it is killing me."

Resyke sidles behind a miscellaneous piece of equipment and transforms, quietly climbing the wall towards the beer! Hurrah!

Soundwave says while tapping at his keyboard, without looking up, "Resyke. I hope you are following Laserbeak's request and planning to remove that from the room."

Resyke almost falls off the wall. "Y..Yeah! That's what I was going to do!"

Soundwave says,  "Of course."

Resyke quickly scurries up to the beer and grabs it in his mandibles.

Laserbeak leans back and closes his optics. "I'm going to take another nap before I hurt myself again."

****

Valley.  Earth.  Home.

Dropping into this small valley from the surrounding mountains, the first thing that is noticeable is the lake in the deeper-most part of the valley basin, framed by huge pine trees. The lake is fed by a stream cascading down the mountainside in a waterfall and spills out through an underground cavern at the base of the valley. There is a small beach not far from where the stream splashes down into the lake, framed by a mixture of grass and pine needles before the first fringes of trees begin. The mountainside is formed by huge rocky crevasses, out-juttings, and overhangs. Hawks soar overhead, fish jump in the lake, birds sing merrily, and there are often the tracks of deer and other wildlife at the waters edge. The water is blue and crystal clear, and the air is clean and fresh. It looks like no one has ever touched this forgotten pocket of the world. Steps have been carved into the mountainside leading up to a cave. There is the splash of water from the waterfall and the whisper of wind through the pine and maple trees, which gives the area a very peaceful feel of home.

Divefire flies low across the valley, skimming over the surface of the lake and sending up a plum of spray as he spies their home, banking up into the sky to transform in the air, spreading his cape like wings out for a controlled decent with Cats in his arms.

CatsCradle laughs, pressing her face against his chest to avoid the spray. Then she looks down over the lake and lets out a long breath. "It's so beautiful from here," she murmurs in a choked voice. "I had almost forgotten how much."

Divefire touches down with a light step, setting Cats on her feet as well.  He nods as he looks around. "Yeah, me too... Almost."

CatsCradle slips her arms around him, resting against him to just watch the lake. She closes her optics and just listens to the sound of the water, the breeze, the sounds of insects and birds, and her arms tighten around him.

Divefire looks around him and smiles just slightly and also genuinely. In turn his arms tighten back around her frame and he nods his agreement to her silent words. Yes, it is a very good thing to be home.

CatsCradle leans back in his arms, looking up at his face... and more up, yeah, that's really going to take getting used to. She searches his optics, then steps back, taking his hand. "C'mon," she says, tugging gently and starts down towards the lake.

Divefire nods slightly, following behind Cats and letting her lead him to the water’s edge.

CatsCradle glances back, torn between speaking to him and watching her footing. "The humans have a belief," she says, "that water purifies. Washes away the taints of evil and rebirths." She steps into the water to her ankles, then looks back again. "Well... we're on their planet... should we give it a try?"

Divefire’s features narrow somewhat as he glances down at the water’s edge. "I've been reborn enough times, I think..." he utters in a low voice, but still steps forward into the water, looking down at Cats.

CatsCradle doesn't know how to answer that, and therefore decides not to. Instead, she walks deeper into the water, guiding him before her. With him on lower ground, they become almost back to their previous height scale. Without another word, she takes his hand, scoops water up in her other hand and slowly spills it out over his hand and wrist. The next handfuls fall over his arm. For a odd second, the moment startles her; the strangeness of the new armor, the different feel to it. She looks for the latches, cannot find them right away and gives him a panicked look.

Divefire tries his best to give her a reassuring smile, before he focuses his mind on his armor, just the heavy, curved metallic crimson guards. With a thunk of a magnetic seal shutting off the armor splits along one side, allowing it to be slid off easily.

CatsCradle gives him a quick smile, then scoops up a double handful of water, gently sluicing it down his shoulder, then more along his chest, concentrating on the differences along with the sameness, frowning slightly at the disorientation of the combination of the two.

Divefire watches as well as feels her wash his frame, feeling strangely calmed by the simple gesture. "I still haven't gotten used to it myself..." he replies to the expression on her face.

CatsCradle glances at him, glad that the ground levels off his extra height. "It's so strange," she confesses in a soft rush, her words barely above a whisper. "I mean, it's you. I feel you. But at the same time... it's different, like it's someone else, and I didn't expect..." She frowns again. "There's something in me that can't tell if it's a betrayal or not." She runs a finger along his jawline, down along his throat to his shoulder.

Divefire expression shifts to one of puzzlement at her words. "What do you mean by betrayal...?" The words drift off as her hand runs down his jaw and it dawns on him what she means. "Oh... Well I..." Realization, surprise and a hint of embarrassment cross his features, not quite knowing what to say.

CatsCradle continues on to pouring water off his other shoulder. "It shouldn't," she continues, still the soft rush of nervous words, although her movements seem certain and calm. "I mean... if you had just had your design altered, it would be the same thing, wouldn't it?

Divefire nods slightly, listening to her words intently. "I guess it would... But it's how it got changed... I guess you've come to associate this body with a different person, different actions..." He looks down at her carefully, trying to judge how she's feeling. "Which is good... You should do, in a sense..."

CatsCradle looks at him then, his hand held open in hers, her other hand paused and filled with water. "But... it's still you. It's still you in here," and she touches his chest, the water forgotten and spilling through her fingers. "It's that I feel you in here... and in here," she touches her own chest. "But my fingers feel someone else."

Divefire looks to her for a second, understanding what she's going through all to well. Then he tilts his head and considers, blinking slightly as something pricks at the back of his mind, though he tries to shake it off. "I'm not entirely different... Maybe it would help to see me as I was?"

CatsCradle touches his face. "I never stopped seeing you that way."

Divefire curves his face into her hand, smiling slightly. "I know hun, not what I meant though... Maybe..." He takes a step back and concentrates for a moment, trying to find that mental prod to transform into a form he's hardly used since assuming this body... Nothing happens for long moments, then with the grinding of gears his body folds and shrinks down, turning the color of night in the process as he transforms into his Mk III Trans-Am mode.

CatsCradle looks at him for a very long moment.... then suddenly her lips twitch and a muffled giggle comes out. She manages to stop, then with hands on her hips, she says in a laughing voice, "I knew it... get me alone just so I'd wash the car."

Divefire’s sensor swishes back and forth slowly, his attention far away for a second again before he's back in the here and now. "Well in some of the films I've seen the humans make that's usually pretty erotic... But not what I had in mind... Just wanted you to see I wasn't all that different in this new body."

CatsCradle gives him a playful splash, then her face turns thoughtful. "Yes... I see what you mean. There's less difference and more sameness."

Divefire’s sensor swishes back again, a little quicker this time as if in a nod, or agreement. "Yeah, that's what I'm hanging on to at least..." And after another pauses he bursts up out of the water, transforming again.

CatsCradle says faintly, "Yes... me, too." Then she turns her attention towards her own armor. The new shoulder slips off easily. The other however seems determined not to cooperate, the latch jammed by either dirt or molten metal, and one hastily- and mis-placed patch on her upper arm overlapping it. She grumbles, scraping at the latch with a claw tip.

Divefire reaches a hand out for hers, gently pushing it away from the latch as he lets out in a soft tone. "Let me..." Holding the flat of his palm just away from the latch, he slowly splays his fingers and tightens his optics in concentration. A low glow starts to exude from his hand, a thrum of fusion energy with the intention of producing enough heat to loosen the catch off for her.

CatsCradle lets out a soft sigh of relief when the latch gives way, and she pushes off the armor, along with a slight shower of dirt, into the water. "Might as well stay there," she mutters. "The soaking will only do it good." She scoops water up over her arms and shoulder, but instead of using the same soothing strokes that she had on her mate, she scrubs frantically, trying to get at the embedded grime and paint flakes.

Divefire flexes his hand a few times after the latch gives way, shunting away the excess energy. With a concerned expression he reaches out and pulls her hand away from her shoulder and then leans into her, placing his lips softly against her skin and ignorant to any grime or paint flakes.

CatsCradle goes suddenly very still at the touch of his lips, then just as suddenly leans against him, her arms slipping around his neck to cradle the back of his head against her. She rubs the side of her face against his, her breathing fast and shaky.

Divefire’s arms softly wrap around her waist again, fingers drawing light patterns in her back as his lips move softly and slowly up her shoulder, kissing with a light tenderness, perhaps afraid to kiss too hard to break the dream.  

CatsCradle murmurs a soft sound under her breath, the sound trembling. Carefully, her fingers trace down the back of his neck, an echo of the patterns forming on her back, tentatively, as if equally afraid to touch, and to not touch, then suddenly trying to pull him closer at the same time, wanting every part of her to be touching him.

Divefire doesn't even contemplate trying to resist as he pulls her against him. His lips breath against her audios, not quit being able to form words as he gasps in hardly controlled attempts for air, optics looking for hers and searching them desperately for something...

CatsCradle's hands come up his sides, over his arms, curving over his shoulders, tipping his head back to look at him. "It is you," she whispers, "It /is/ you." And then, she brings his face to hers, kissing him the same way she had at the training grounds... softly, lovingly, every emotion in her.

Divefire pauses a little, halted by the kiss it seem as his hands drop a little from her. It takes a few moments for him to register that she's kissing him so deeply, so tenderly, and slowly his arms come up to cup around her frame, one around her body the other on her helm as he kisses her back finally, letting her have everything that he can.

CatsCradle lets out a soft sob. "It is you," she whispers again against his lips, afraid to let the kiss end, suddenly so afraid that something will reverse itself, as if that final battle never happened, and she would wake up alone again, if she let go. She is barely aware of her wetness on her face, not realize that it is from tears again, and not scatterdroplets from the lake.

Divefire brushes his forehead against hers, whispering back to her in soft tones. "Yeah, it's me. It's me..." Maybe as much for her to hear him say it as for him to hear it himself. His hands brush down her back lightly again, softly caressing her as he looks down at her with hardly-open optics. "You think we should go inside?"

CatsCradle nods. "Home," she whispers.

Divefire replies by gathering her up in his arms and carrying her towards the steps.


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