Okay, I ied. Here's another commentary. playswithworms asked me about it <3
Streetwise had never heard Hot Spot snap or shout, not even when flood barriers were cracking, or supply shipments were being re-routed somewhere completely useless again, or even when they were finding more bodies than people in the rubble. The thing about Hot Spot was that he never sounded like he was standing waist deep in disaster. He never sounded like he couldn't handle it.
That's probably why most Autobots - and even humans - assumed the Protectobot commander possessed a bottomless well of patience and good-natured optimism. That he didn't have a temper, wouldn't hurt a fly, didn't have an overreacting bone in his body, yadda yadda yadda. Streetwise supposed he couldn't blame them. It wasn't as though they had ever heard the thread of measured tension in Hot Spot's voice, after all; the one that said he was five different shades of pissed.
When I still thought this was going to be a very different fic. As in: Hot Spot actually loses his temper instead of standing around like a great hovering chaperone of five-year-olds. That fic involved much less Backstreet-flail, however, and never made it very far. But rest assured that it was dramatic.
//Protectobots, rendezvous riverside. Now.//
Streetwise himself had only heard it maybe three times before, but those three times were enough to have his wheels locking as he abruptly pulled a 180 on an abandoned stretch of road. Part of his processor dashed off an explanation to the PD he'd been helping out with patrols so they could get an officer out to cover his abandoned route, while the rest calculated the quickest path to Hot Spot's position and sent out an urgent, flat-voiced question.
I like the idea that the Protectobots spend more time hanging with humans than with the Autobots. And by "hanging" I mean "working".
His query was echoed in three different voices, and abruptly Streetwise wasn't entirely sure what part of the dread, anticipation, and protective anger was his, the link thrown open wide in their one-minded focus.
If there was one thing guaranteed to bring out a Protectobot's aggressive side it was threatening humans, and Hot Spot didn't start biting off the ends of his words like he wished it was some unlucky mech's throat for any other reason.
I like that idea too, that the Protectobots may be true Autobots, but they're real loyalty and focus lies with insuring the wellbeing of Earth and its inhabitants (they get the same way about any other worlds - particularly organic ones - but they have a soft spot for Earth) above all else. It just so happens that Autobot interests currently fit nicely with that.
Streetwise's private curse was lost beneath Blades's snarl. //Which ones?// he asked, already anticipating the request. Hot Spot's reply was immediate.
//I need to know what you know about Dogfight. New arrival, one of-//
//Silverbolt's,// Streetwise cut in, //yeah, yeah, I know. Jet. Similar to Powerglide ability-wise, I think - you know, acrobatics. I only talked with him once, but he was okay. Pushy and quick to jump to conclusions, but not that bad. Still, his first meeting with Slingshot went...interesting, but you heard about that through Silverbolt. I'd put him down as having a pretty nasty temper, aggressive, probably touchy. I don't think he'd go out of his way to antagonize anyone, though. You're dealing with him?//
Streetwise got all that out of a single conversation that mostly consisted of, "Hi, nice planet, right?" "Sure, I guess." Because, for the unprepared, saying words to Streetwise is as revealing as a thirteen-year-old's Facebook page when that thirteen-year-old knows not the first thing about internet safety or common sense. And he checks the rumor mill regularly on all new 'bots. And yes, I like playing with that far too much.
//And Afterburner.// Streetwise felt Hot Spot's attention sway for a second and wondered what was going on over there even as he hissed in dread and sympathy. Blades's answering beacon-flare disgust shot through all of them like they were on fire.
A jet and one of the more frustrating Technobots. Two of Blades's favorite things.
The Protectobots are built to manage disasters. The Technobots are a walking disaster. This basically defines their relationship.
Groove and Nosecone get along great, though. No one really knows what's up with that.
//Is anyone hurt?// First Aid asked. He probably had more reasons to be concerned than any of them, considering how often he ended up with one Technobot or another in his bay for dubious reasons. Hot Spot's responding negative was more a feeling than the word, and it took more affinity for dishonesty than any of them had to hide anything through that, and so they all felt something loosen.
//I'm in California.// Blades said, sounding irritated and grim. //You aren't gonna get anywhere with Afterburner without knocking him around a little bit - think you can hold out for about twenty minutes?//
//I'll be there in ten,// Streetwise offered over the resigned upset stemming from both First Aid and Groove, feeling both guilty for it and equally resigned, though for different reasons.
First Aid and Groove: WHY ALL THE VIOLENCE, GUYS? )8
Streetwise: Slaaaaaag, I'm gonna get trampled.
Dogfight was small for a jet, but when compared to most ground-based mechs - even a gestalt torso - he was still huge, and what Afterburner lacked in size he made up for with sheer, hard-headed fury. Should it come to blows, Hot Spot and maybe Blades were the only members of the team with the stopping power to prevent them from tumbling into the city and crushing the fragile buildings (and limbs) in their way without needing to shoot them. Which usually wasn't an option.
//Just hurry,// Hot Spot said, sounding like he wasn't sure which he'd prefer.
Hot Spot has had it up to here with these motherfucking giant robots in his motherfucking human cities. They didn't have these problems before they started bringing all these new kids around.
Again, when I still thought I was writing a totally different fic. One where someone actually was gonna get shot. I also thought it was going to be from a Protectobot's point of view. Silly me.
Backstreet didn't know what to do. On one hand, Dogfight was getting himself in trouble already; on the other, anything he tried to do to interfere was either going to be ignored or used as fuel to further the conflict with the-
OH HI THERE PLACE WHERE THE ACTION ACTUALLY STARTS, WHAT A FINE- Wait. You're not a Protectobot 8|
He didn't actually know the other Autobot's designation, but he looked like he was even more slagged off than Dogfight, and that was honestly something Backstreet had ever considered before - that someone could be angrier than Dogfight. It was a terrifying idea. Besides, Hot Spot - whose designation he knew because it was stupid to go to a new base and not be able to recognize the commanders at least - had already waded out into the river and seemed to be trying to figure out how to deal with it. Which was good, because Backstreet didn't know, and he would probably only mess it up anyway. And it wasn't like Hot Spot wasn't used to dealing with arguments, right? He was a sub-group commander, he had to have some practice. So Backstreet hovered back near the city, shifting his weight uneasily from foot to foot. There were humans around him and he was too afraid to try and step anywhere for fear of crushing them.
Obviously, Afterburner and Dogfight together is too much RAEG for one measly river to contain. IT'S OVER 9000- What, too overdone?
He'd tried to make himself useful by chasing them off, getting them to go to somewhere it might be safer should Dogfight escalate things, but they had ignored him. Well, no- A few had listened, but the rest of them seemed strangely unconcerned. Backstreet wondered if that should be taken as some sign that he didn't need to worry, that this happened all the time and it would be dealt with without any major collateral damage. Then again, Hot Spot hadn't seemed that happy when he'd clapped Backstreet on the shoulder from behind (that had hurt), told him to watch his feet, and gone trudging out into the water to confront the two other Autobots.
Silly n00b. Humans are suicidal!
Not that Hot Spot's attempt at getting attention had worked very well - the exact words were the kind of thing Backstreet was sure would earn Dogfight a couple orns in the brig, speaking to an officer like that - but Hot Spot hadn't seemed discouraged. He'd only nodded, settled his weight, and watched quietly from then on out. Maybe he was waiting to see where it went, or maybe he wanted the two to get into a fight so that he could-
Or maybe he'd called in back-up. One of Hot Spot's subordinates - Streetwise, Backstreet remembered meeting him when they'd first arrived - pulled up on the opposite side of the crowd, coming from the opposite direction of the Ark. He transformed and seemed to focus on the scene out in the river for a moment before turning to the humans. Before Backstreet would figure out whether he should try and say hello (figure out, maybe, if Streetwise might know what to do), Streetwise was already talking. Just not to him - maybe he hadn't noticed Backstreet was there? "What the hell're you all doing?" he demanded of the crowd, all of whom had treated Streetwise's arrival with the same concern they'd shown Backstreet. Streetwise seemed as discouraged as Hot Spot had been though - that is, not at all - shooing at the crowd of humans with careful flicks. "Stop gaping and go take your pictures somewhere else. This isn't a show. C'mon, you know the rules- hey, I know you. Honestly, do we have to do this every time? It's like you're everyw- whoops, wrong way, kids." Backstreet watched uneasily as Streetwise even went so far as to prod two particularly short humans with his fingers a little to get them moving. He didn't seem to have any problems figuring out where to set his feet either as he stepped carefully forward to drive them back and position himself between them and the water at the same time.
This is like watching someone handle an extremely delicate - well, anything. You're over here cringing and gasping and waiting for the inevitable and the other guy's flipping it all about in his hands looking two seconds away from revealing he's an amateur juggler.
Backstreet shifted a little, opened his mouth in a false start, and then tried again. "I- uh, I don't think they want to move?"
Streetwise glanced up, not even seeming surprised to find Backstreet there. "Probably not," he agreed, but didn't move his hand from where he'd rested it as a barrier while he talked. "You'll learn. They're like this all the time- like. Well, like they wanna be crushed." He directed this last bit accusingly the humans still milling around his feet. None had dared to try and slip past him yet, but they didn't seem to have any problems staying at the exact point he'd drawn the line. Short of sounding irritated though, Streetwise sounded almost fond. Exasperated, but fond. Backstreet felt a little uncomfortable, still having difficulty wrapping his mind around the face that these creatures were sentient and mechs actually touched them, much less had attachments to them of a complex nature.
Backstreet's never been around any sentient non-robotic lifeform before. This is as weird to him as going to an alien world and finding that some of the plant life there is sentient and that humans are good friends/partners with them in the same vein as they would be with another human might be for us.
Then Streetwise shrugged, once again working on backing the crowd of humans up.
"Then again, they're humans. They probably do, just for the experience." One of the humans shouted something rude back up at Streetwise for that and Streetwise grinned lopsided in reply. "Anyway, you're Backstreet, aren't ya?"
Backstreet startled a bit at the abrupt change in topic, glancing nervously at Dogfight, who had stopped his shouting match with the other Autobot and now seemed to be in some sort of stare down, and nodded. "Uh. Yeah. I am."
He wondered if he should be admitting to that.
Streetwise nodded, twisting around again in a way that looked really, really uncomfortable to look back out over the water. He frowned, and Backstreet realized Streetwise probably wasn't as okay with this as his laid back demeanor had originally made him seem. Feeling sick, with the horrible thought that maybe Streetwise was mad at him too, Backstreet quickly launched into his standard apologies, "I'm really sorry about this. Dogfight, he's, uh, he's not a bad guy. He's just - angry? You know...all the time. And he's been working on it. He was learning some meditation techniques and - well, they're not really working yet. But it's not a quick-fix-"
"You and Bluestreak would get along great."
Backstreet stuttered to a halt, looking up from where his optics had slowly wandered to the ground and the humans to find Streetwise watching him with an easy grin. Which would be more believable if it weren't that Backstreet's sensors were a little more fine-tuned than most and Backstreet would have to be scrambled to not notice how nearly all of his scanners were focused on the river. He was worried, and tense, and maybe-
Backstreet has really good sensors. Streetwise, meet you if you were neurotic.
"What he means is you need to chill out, friend."
The new voice made Backstreet jump and he twisted around to find an unfamiliar motorcycle cutting through the buildings. His hand had nearly gone for his gun, but both Streetwise and the new mech pinged him with the motorcycle's IFF code at the exact same time. He had a moment to wonder how Streetwise had this guy's code in his subroutines before the motorcycle transformed. "See?" he said, hands up in a gesture Backstreet recognized as a local pacification. "Exactly what I'm talking about. Everyone's too high-strung - one of these days, there's gonna be an accident, mark my words. You should just relax."
Groove may make the connection between his popping out of nowhere like a ninja around jumpy new soldiers and these accidents he speaks of. He may not. He may also be a giant troll.
"Backstreet, this is Groove. My teammate," Streetwise said. "Ignore pretty much anything he says that isn't an instruction to haul as- aft. So you finally decided to show up, huh?"
Streetwise loves his brother dearly but for slag's sake, Groove. Stay in one place for more than five minutes. This is also probably the only time Streetwise makes an effort to avoid using Earth terms in his speech. Then he just gives up.
The last was directed at Groove, who had been smiling vaguely at Streetwise's introduction - a smile that turned a little strained as the conversation was directed at him. Backstreet was okay with this, since he was busy coming down off his battle-routines and trying to figure out who the new guy was. Hadn't all the Protectobots been at the landing of his wave's ship?
Groove and his team have had this conversation about wandering off for weeks at a time without telling anyone many, many times. They will be having it again tonight. And again, a month from now.
As though reading his mind, Streetwise clarified. "Groove's been gone for two weeks. You wouldn't have met him. Groove, Hot Spot's-"
As though on some unseen command both of them suddenly went quiet and snapped their heads in the direction of the river, prompting Backstreet to mimic them, albeit slower. A slowness that suddenly became much faster as he heard the sharp, whirring-whistling sound of a Cybertronian DESIST command.
Hot Spot had paced forward a step and had his hands out as though ready to haul both Afterburner and Dogfight off each other by their neck cabling if necessary. An argument was surely taking place on a frequency and channel not open to Backstreet's audios, because though both Dogfight and the other Autobot both looked ready to do damage, he hadn't heard a thing. That was strangely unsettling. Then again, private patches always were unsettling from the outside, because you could see mechs moving their mouths and the gears turning in their vocalizers but you couldn't hear a thing they said, though to them they were talking normally. Made you feel like you'd been built without audios.
I basically made this up on the fly when I realized that the way it was originally writen it made it seem like the river crew were just hanging out there in frozen time waiting for someone on land to stop contemplating their navel long enough to pay attention to them. This way they can shout at each other all they want and the shore crew can happily chit-chat about mold and such interesting conversational topics until Hot Spot tells them to shut up and pay attention.
Or at least Backstreet can. Streetwise can hear everything being said since his audios are good enough to pick up things said on that frequency (it's like their version of whispering, only instead of actually whispering they just jump frequencies. And like actual whispering you have the risk of someone with freakishly good hearing picking up what you're saying (Streetwise, who can hear things on a much broader spectrum than most people without even trying), or an eavesdropper (also Streetwise)), and Groove's connected to both him and Hot Spot so he can't exactly avoid it. Same with First Aid and Lightspeed. So really Backstreet's the only one who can't hear what's going on out there. Poor Backstreet.
Without taking his optics from the water, Groove waved a hand, "I know, I know. I got ya." Backstreet couldn't tell if he was answering Streetwise or if he was hearing something no one else could at the moment, and that upset him even more. "Hope to be seeing you again once this is over, Backstreet, but if you don't mind..." Groove stepped carefully out toward the water, hauling himself delicately over the raised wooden fencing and lowering himself in. Whatever looseness Backstreet might have noticed in his limbs before that, it was gone, and Backstreet was suddenly on edge again.
...An edge that his basic tactical algorithms used to churn out a sudden, graphic vision of what might happen if someone as small and delicate-looking as Groove ended up caught in between the three out in the water, and Backstreet took a step after him with an anxious look Streetwise's way. "Uh- Wait, shouldn't-"
"Streets? What channel?" Groove called back once he was in the water, as though Backstreet hadn't spoken, and he stuttered to a halt.
Streetwise whirled and clicked something that might have been an answer but Backstreet couldn't make sense of it if it was. Groove lifted a hand like he was thanking him though, so he seemed to, and-
And Backstreet was really confused.
"Don't worry about Groove," Streetwise said, suddenly seeming to remember Backstreet's presence. Backstreet had the uncomfortable feeling he'd been - maybe not quite forgotten, but definitely not exactly noticed since Groove's arrival.
Aww, Backstreet. It's not your fault you're not gestalt or a human.
Then again, Streetwise hadn't seemed to see him at all since he'd shown up, so maybe that was just an interceptor thing. Or a Protectobot thing. Except they hadn't acted like that when he'd first met them-
Backstreet came to the conclusion he shouldn't be thinking about this, and Streetwise seemed to pick up on his helpless expression. He grinned, though there was still that distracted air, his sensors trained on the water and somewhere farther away. Like Groove. "Come on. Help me with crowd control. Those two'll either talk them down or figure something else out. My job here seems to be keeping the bystanders from sticking their necks in someone's foot."
The offer was a kind one, since Backstreet standing around useless wasn't exactly doing anyone - even himself - any favors, but Backstreet was suddenly reluctant to- Wait. "What?"
Streetwise seemed amused at Backstreet's horrified look, bordering on disgusted but not quite managing to get through the sheer horror to get there. "Wait - no. Do they do that?" Oh, Sigma, the thought. His feet had been right there, what if-
"No, no," Streetwise laughed, reaching out to take Backstreet's arm and - wow, was it possible to feel like you were being dragged like you had a choice? - herding him back toward the humans (who had crept forward again) as sure as he'd herded the humans back earlier. "There actually hasn't been a crushing-by-Autobot death - 'least, not for as long as we've been around anyway. If there were any before us, then. Well, no one's saying anything." That smile there was a little less than friendly, but it didn't seem to be aimed at Backstreet so he let himself relax just a little.
He couldn't keep himself from twisting in Streetwise's hold to watch the spectacle on the river now, though. He'd been relying on his audios to let him know if it escalated, but now that they'd changed to a locked channel on him-
It's not that he doesn't trust Dogfight. He does.
He trusts him to definitely screw up.
"Don't worry about them either," Streetwise said, having stopped walking and caught where Backstreet's attention had turned. "They're just bitching at Hot Spot right now. I'll let you know if it escalates, but Hot Spot's good at managing arguments, and Groove's a programmed mediator, so..." he shrugged. "It shouldn't happen." He said it like a statement, but he actually looked kind of like he really hoped it wouldn't happen, but Streetwise seemed good at passing along confidence even when anyone could tell he wasn't exactly feeling it, and Backstreet slowly nodded. It took him longer to let Dogfight and Afterburner slip out of his visual range, but Streetwise was patient at his side.
"How can you hear them? Did Hot Spot give you the channel? And, um...what's bitching?"
Streetwise barked a laugh, once again ushering Backstreet down the street now that he seemed to have relaxed. "Nah, I just have really good ears. He didn't need to- Oh, hey, 'Aid. Groove got here before you did."
Streetwise, don't laugh. Backstreet's handling it much better than you would if your audios weren't working properly.
He said this at the same time a voice Backstreet didn't recognize - it had to be Afterburner - suddenly shouted from the river, sounding torqued nine ways from the planet Eros. "Go the slag away, Lightspeed!"
Also notice how not only Afterburner, but also Streetwise (the one who's supposed to have social skills) completely forget that they were talking to someone before their respective teammates showed up.
At first Backstreet didn't know who either of them were talking to, but then an ambulance trundled into scanner range and- What was it with these guys? He'd recognize their acting CMO anywhere - it would be bad to accidentally shoot him during a battle - but there was a sleek red car behind him too, one Backstreet didn't recognize. Streetwise made an interested sound at his right, almost like a laugh but not quite. "Got yourself an entourage? Hey, Lightspeed."
Both First Aid and Lightspeed transformed at the same time. Lightspeed offered a weary smile while First Aid got down to business, looking from Streetwise to the crew out in the river to the humans under his feet, like he wasn't sure which mess needed tending, a few good berth-straps, and an energon goodie first. "Is anyone injured? They haven't started-"
"Everyone's fine," Streetwise interrupted. He moved away from Backstreet and closer to First Aid. The two seemed to switch over to a private feed, because while they were still acting like they were talking Backstreet once again could hear nothing. Lightspeed waved briefly at him, looking faintly curious, but his attention had almost immediately been arrested by the scene out on the water and that curiosity had been lost to a resigned sort of tiredness Backstreet could relate to.
He'd be feeling friendly, if he wasn't also feeling forgotten again.
"Lightspeed, you sure you should be here?" Streetwise asked suddenly, back on a range everyone could hear finally, as First Aid bent over to talk to one of the humans - this one was in one of the uniforms Backstreet had been taught to recognize as their police force. So they were finally showing up? That might end badly- "If it upsets him, I mean..."
Lightspeed waved it off with a laugh. "He's no more angry than he was before I arrived. As long as I don't try and talk him down, my presence shouldn't be a concern. It's just- well."
Backstreet looked at him expectantly as he trailed off, but Streetwise only nodded and Lightspeed didn't seem interested in going on any longer. Backstreet bit back a frustrated groan. So, did they just normally not finish their statements here? Was that what this was? Did they just not communicate here?
The first Earth 'bot he runs across that actually manages an entire conversation without getting distracted or speaking in broken sentences is going to shock him so bad...
"All right," Streetwise said, waving it off and glancing around, seeming a little apologetic as he continued, "just try and keep any one of you guys away who might set him off, all right? Once this is done, we don't care - though it's gettin' a little crowded in this city already - but we don't want to spark anything."
Lightspeed smiled tolerantly. "Already done. Nosecone's distracting Strafe and Scattershot's waiting to see if he's needed for damage control, but he isn't going to confront Afterburner over anything in the middle of Portland - he isn't glitched. You don't need to tell us." Streetwise shrugged sheepishly but had a "sorry-but-that's-my-job" face on. Lightspeed seemed amused, which quickly faded into something uncomfortable.
Streetwise feels the need to spell things out exactly as they should be done. Luckily, Lightspeed's a pretty understanding guy.
"Actually, I have a message for Hot Spot. From Scattershot. I'd rather not say it out loud though, if Afterburner's listening..."
First Aid looked up. "I can patch us a temporary channel. It won't be much, and we couldn't say anything sensitive under it, but it would let you pass the message along to one of us. We can get it to Hot Spot. Easy."
Backstreet, once again feeling out of the loop, turned away to watch the river. At least this way he could feel somewhat involved. Sure, he couldn't hear them, but he didn't need to hear them to watch Dogfight's body language for the perfect moment to shoot him in his big, ugly, temperamental-
"Backstreet, can you hear me?" Backstreet jumped at Streetwise's sudden - and strangely pointless - question.
"Who...?" That was First Aid. "-oh, he can hear us fine. I made sure to patch him in - wouldn't want to leave anyone out of the loop. So you're Backstreet? You haven't had a check-up yet. Once this is over, go straight to the medical bay. Someone should be there to check you over for anything that might leave you vulnerable to Earth's flora and fauna. You shouldn't be out here without it- are you feeling all right? That might be what's wrong with Dogfight, if he ended up with some of the wrong mold in his processor-"
"I'm sure it isn't mold, 'Aid. Dogfight's just antsy."
"It's not just Dogfight. The mold wouldn't be too happy, either- it's not near moist enough in there-"
The mold's complete fanon that I'm not going to touch again. First Aid was just suddenly concerned about mold and I basically went, sure, why not, so there isn't much by way of rationalization here. There was, about why none of the Autobots beforehand had to worry about it, but I've forgotten it.
"What?" was swiftly becoming Backstreet's new favorite word as he twisted around to stare at the others. "Of course I can hear you - there's nothing wrong with my audios - or your vocalizer - and. Unless you mean I'm actually in the patch, which. Yeah. I can, and thanks, I guess. But- Mold. What?"
Also, it was a really good reason to freak Backstreet out some more.
Lightspeed seemed to agree with at least part of Backstreet's bluster, because he made a low sound that somehow fit perfectly with his quietly bereaved expression. Backstreet was sure he just looked horrified. "I-I mean, not to be rude or anything, but- What?"
"Mold's a common concern if you don't have the sealants to protect against them," First Aid clarified promptly, not seeming bothered by Backstreet's broken sentences. Then again, the guy worked in the 'bay, so Backstreet was probably a step up from patients who were doing well if they had the capacity to groan at different volumes. "You don't know how many times I've had to clean mold out of the first wave's 'bots, it was really-"
"Okay, 'Aid," Streetwise interrupted. "Lightspeed. Message?"
"Hm? Oh, right. Scattershot wanted Hot Spot to know that if Afterburner is going to be stupid enough to get into it in a human city, then Hot Spot has his blessing to - er - well, it gets graphic. You know what I mean. Whatever you're thinking is probably close enough, actually. First Aid, what sort of mold did you find in-"
"That's right, you guys didn't get to study it, did you? Well, there was this on-"
The Technobots, in my fanon, are kind of the forgotten scientists of the Earth Autobots. I ignore bios in favor of them all being fairly intelligent, just the majority of them aren't inclined to exercise it. They're all interested in science, however, and actually have a lot of the programming if not the training. They just keep getting the destructive jobs, and so when something interesting like mold pops up they occasionally are forgotten and don't get the chance to ooooooh and awwww over it.
"You are not having that discussion in front of the newbie," Streetwise interrupted, glancing at Backstreet as Backstreet grew steadily more horrified. "Or me, who has nightmares about that kind of thing. Okay? Okay. Lightspeed, first, your team is messed up. Second, Hot Spot's got your message and he says-"
There was suddenly a thunderous roar, and even though the IFF code told his programming ally, too many years of warfare to count still had Backstreet on one knee with the guns on his shoulders out and ready the moment he registered jet.
Another fandom theory I picked up and stick everywhere I can stick it: the idea of the Autobots having a hard time remembering that not all jets are the enemy. Even though Backstreet has a jet has a teammate, he's still jumpy enough to jump to the wrong conclusion.
"Why are Aerialbots buzzing the city?" Streetwise was shouting, ducked over with his hands clamped down over his audios, and now that Backstreet knew to listen for it he could hear the subtle difference in his voice as he disconnected himself from First Aid's channel. "Air Raid!"
First Aid and Lightspeed had knelt down over the humans, shoulders hunched against the winds picked up by the jet's passing which - and Backstreet felt somewhat sure in this, considering he'd had experience with jets before, like Dogfight, but that force hadn't been near as bad as it should have been, for so close a pass. The humans seemed barely touched, even the ones not entirely protected by Lightspeed and First Aid.
This is Air Raid's equivalent of grabbing the Protectobots in a collective chokehold and noogying them all to the pit and back. Annoying? Yes. Harmless? Also yes. He's not going to hurt the humans.
Who didn't seem all that bothered by the jets appearance, actually, though First Aid was now checking everyone over, making concerned noises.
Streetwise was the only one who seemed incensed, though that was more out of irritation than any genuine anger, Backstreet thought, and-
He looked over at the river and noted that both Dogfight and Afterburner had actually backed off of each other. Thankfully Dogfight had kept his gun tucked away, but then - Aerialbots, right? Those were the jets Dogfight had been talking about. The Autobot team - so maybe he'd had some warning. He was a jet himself, anyway, who knew what sort of information he got.
Checking up and making sure Dogfight wasn't actually causing problems for the Protectobots or the humans, and to intervene if he was, might also have had some part in it. Maybe. Air Raid will deny everything.
Hot Spot had stabilized Groove, who was staring off in the direction the jet had gone - the guy was a broad speck now, though he seemed to be banking. Hot Spot was keeping an eye on Afterburner and Dogfight, but Backstreet wouldn't have been shocked if that movement right then had been an exasperated shake of the head and-
Streetwise had stopped shouting and retreated back into a hostile rumble. "Blades is going to strip you for parts, Raider," he was saying, a threatening growl in his voice but the sort of threatening you didn't take seriously. Something about the cadence, and the one hand he was pressing to the side of his audio now that he'd straightened up, made Backstreet think he was on a private line.
The answer, of course, because the 'bots couldn't make sense, came over the general Autobot channel.
The Earth 'bots are like a small town. Nothing stays secret for long, and everyone is on the same phone line.
//What?// Oh, great, the guy even sounded like a troublemaker. It was that snicker at the beginning, Backstreet knew it. //C'mon, I heard from Silverbolt that our new bestest buddy Dogfight was torquing off our favorite crew of scrap box rejects - not you, Streets, we're talking about Blades, mostly, the rest of you just kinda get lumped in with him, sorry about that - and I thought I'd check. You know, make sure he's not staining our flawless record. Pure concerned citizen stuff.//
Air Raid takes great delight in being the archtypical, "annoying big brother". This also means that, yes, he would have kicked Dogfight's tailfins if he'd made a move like he was going to involve the Protectobots in a fight. The Protectobots aren't weak or frail, and at least three of them (if you include First Aid) are strong enough to manhandle Dogfight with varying degrees of ease, but it's the principle of the matter.
He'd still deny it, by the way.
//You aren't a citizen-// Streetwise started, rolling his head back in that standard Why me? position, but he was overridden with a priority alert.
//I told you to stay out of it,// a commander - it had to be a commander - Silverbolt, possibly? //You're supposed to be on patrol, Air Raid.//
//I am on patrol! This is within my patrol route! You can check. I made Skydive bring it up so I could see, and it's not like you can say Skydive's wrong, 'Bolt. He helped you draw it.//
That'll do it, Air Raid. Drag Skydive down with you. That can't possibly end badly.
//I didn't know he'd be using it for the purpose of instigating discord,// was the immediate reply from someone soft-spoken. Presumably Skydive. //Sorry, Streetwise, Hot Spot, Silverbolt.//
//Poor sod. The only crime you could be accused of was daring to trust your own brother. What were you thinking?// Streetwise contributed dryly, sounding almost like he honestly did not know what Skydive had been thinking.
//Why are we on the general channel?// Lightspeed cut in curiously, though he seemed less actually curious than he did pointed and overly-patient, but that was if anyone bothered to ask Backstreet. Which no one seemed to want to.
//Because no one knows proper procedure for anything.// Silverbolt again, and this time he sounded almost mournful. Resigned, but mournful, like a sigh that never ended.
//You love us, 'Bolt.//
//Someone's torquing off the Protectobots?// The interruption came from no one Backstreet could recognize, which was a running theme, but one he hoped would become less "running" in due time.
//Is everyone tuned in to this?,// Streetwise demanded at the same time the subjects of discussion decided to speak up.
Yes, Streetwise. Yes they are. All except High Command who have collectively thrown their hands in the air and are very pointedly ignoring everything going on right now. Call them when someone dies.
//We are not!// Dogfight snapped, and there was a growl that seemed to be transmitted just for the sole purpose of sounding threatening, which was probably Afterburner's doing considering how Lightspeed suddenly tilted sideways to eye the river suspiciously. Backstreet winced.
//No one's torquing off anyone,// and that was Hot Spot. Finally. Backstreet snuck a glance at the river. He didn't sound too happy. //Leave it be.//
//Yep,// Streetwise agreed immediately, casting a nearly nervous glance at his commander. //Nothing to see here. We'll all be on our way back soon.//
//...Nah, I'm pretty sure you both sound slagged off.// That was- Cliffjumper. Backstreet was pretty sure about that one.
//Yeah. So you mean after damage control, right?// the same voice from before added. //C'mooon, I wanna see you guys go nuts on someone. There are bets hinging on this, you know.//
First Aid cut in immediately. //You are not getting off that berth, Sideswipe.//
//Oh, ouch. Caught. Hey there, 'Aid.//
//It's too crowded,// Streetwise vetoed crossly.
Groove hummed softly across the network and somehow seemed to give the verbal equivalent to nodding - or maybe that was just because Backstreet could see him doing it from Hot Spot's side. //There's hardly enough room for even me. We're a bit too heavy for this river-bottom, anyway. We can't stay here much longer without getting stuck, I think.//
Maybe they will listen to reason?
//We can send one of the cassettes? Record it, I mean.// someone else offered.
Of course not! 8D
That set off an avalanche of more voices, and Backstreet winced as his message alert system went haywire. Somewhere in there he thought he might have heard Silverbolt murmur a quiet apology to Hot Spot, but it was lost beneath the sudden, laughing shouts back and forth, and Air Raid cheerfully driving it onward while familiar voices like First Aid and Lightspeed and even Groove (Groove, who seemed to be having to best luck, honestly, though they all were all trying to calm everyone down) pleaded in the background. He was almost surprised he could hear them at all, but when the rest of the mess was a tangle of unfamiliar voices it probably wasn't all that important. What was impressive was how he could still pick them out even as Afterburner decided to join the fun, trying to shout everyone down and only getting himself more and more riled in the process.
Afterburner is not having fun.
It was actually kind of worrying. Backstreet had kept out of the debate all together, but that left him free to watch the chaos in the river. He thought he could see Afterburner literally trembling even from where he was. The only other one who seemed to notice were Groove and Hot Spot in the water - Dogfight had actually backed up a step, seeming to realize it wasn't worth it - and Hot Spot was moving forward as though to grab Afterburner's arm while Groove beckoned Dogfight back. Streetwise was watching too, suddenly tense, and Lightspeed had abandoned his promised "supervisor-only" position to make for the river in sudden alarm. At the same time a mech literally fell from the sky - it seemed the chaos of voices had managed to cover up the approaching helicopter blades because the mech - whoa, his optics were huge - landed in the river with a splash and looked ready to start tearing heads off. "Stop talking about me like I can't hear you, you sorry lug nuts!" he shouted to either no one or everyone in general. Backstreet thought he heard Groove mutter something like - "good timing, Blades." but that might have been Streetwise.
Blades. Finally making an entrance. And what an entrance it was. (I admit, I nearly forgot he was in route, and yes it has been twenty minutes.)
Then a voice Backstreet would hear in his nightmares nearly blew out his audios.
//SHUT THE FRAG UP!//
Scattershot is used to outshouting Afterburner and Strafe. The rest of the Autobots, however, aren't used to having to hear him outshout Afterburner and Strafe
Backstreet doubled over as sudden silence rang over the network. "Rang", because his audios actually hurt. Streetwise seemed to have literally locked up, because he seemed to have difficulty moving his arm, and when he did, it was only to slowly raise one hand up to his audio and, just a slowly, grimace. Lightspeed had cringed his head sideways and managed to meet Backstreet's shock-bright optics with something like embarrassed apology.
That actually was loud enough to lock Streetwise up. He's straining his audios as it is to listen in on Hot Spot and Dogfight and Afterburner so Scattershot was extra loud.
//I don't give a flying limp-node what the slag you guys do, but if you go torquing off Afterburner until he does something stupid - and trust me that's a frag easy thing to do - I getta deal with it! I don't want to deal with it! So if you lot could keep your bit-brained ideas somewhere private, THAT WOULD BE HELPFUL. For Sigma's rust-bitten fuel tank slag.//
The silence lasted for a beat, then two, then, //frag, Scattershot,// someone muttered.
//Did you really have to be that loud? I think you may have damaged Streetwise,// Lightspeed murmured, sounding strained. First Aid looked up at that and then to Streetwise, who shook his head, but that didn't stop First Aid from standing and bustling over to check him out anyway. Streetwise grimaced at Lightspeed, who seemed too distracted to offer more than a shrug.
//...That probably wasn't entirely necessary,// someone else agreed, somehow managing to sound perfectly calm. But that might have been the way he seemed to form the words in slow motion without actually drawing them out.
//Can't keep your nose to yourself for more'n five seconds, can you?// Afterburner snapped, volume back to something nearly reasonable. Still angry, but he was standing with his arms crossed sullenly instead of at the ready to attack. //Can't you mind your own business? Or is life too boring for you?//
All four of those were the other Technobots, by the way. They recover faster.
//Yeah. Definitely. My life would be nothing without you there to make it miserable 24/7,// Scattershot groused back. //I just don't like having my audios screamed out by 'bots too excited by your tantrums. Whoop-de-doo.//
//Scattershot,// both Hot Spot and Silverbolt said at the same time. There was a pause, and Hot Spot continued. //It's under control, Scattershot. Thanks for your...assistance, but-//
Silverbolt and Hot Spot are like Scattershot's aggrieved parents. They try and give him guidance and such, but Scattershot doesn't want any of that and generally let's them know so in as clear a way he can manage, which for Scattershot is usually colored with sharp remarks and insults. At this point Silverbolt's shaking his head in exasperation and going, "no, let him touch the hot stove. He won't do it again, will he?" while Hot Spot in the background flailing. Because Hot Spot is stubborn as heck and he is determined to be to Scattershot what Silverbolt was to him. Also, he's just really, really bad at the laissez-faire approach. FINGERS IN EVERYTHING is Hot Spot's way.
//Shut up and keep Afterburner from killing anyone and I don't give a frag. Lightspeed? Thanks for nothing.//
There was an abrupt sound that signified Scattershot cutting himself off from any and all communications for the foreseeable future. Lightspeed sighed and, far from seeming upset, he actually smiled. Mostly it was seemed to be because everyone seemed to be looking at him for some reason like this was his fault, but it was a smile all the same.
Scattershot, meanwhile, is perfectly okay with letting his teammates sort out their own messes. Especially Afterburner.
Hot Spot shook his head and traded an exasperated glance with Groove, then Streetwise. First Aid nodded as though he'd been included too, and Blades shrugged irritably, snarling indiscriminately at both Dogfight and Afterburner. Backstreet could hear his systems running from where he stood and wondered suddenly how fast and far he'd flown to get here. Hot Spot let out an approximation of a sigh. "All right. So. Afterburner, would-"
//I still say cassettes.//
The reaction was immediate. Just as Backstreet had started fully climbing to his feet, thinking the worst of it might suddenly be over, Afterburner exploded. Again.
"That is it!"
Hot Spot lurched forward, but Afterburner danced past him, pointing a finger at Dogfight's chest and looking nearly manic and mostly just pissed off. "You.We are finishing this somewhere nosy-aft slaggers like Blue and Shorty here can't go sticking their discharge-stained noses into anything that's happening. Now. Yeah? Yeah."
Stay classy, Afterburner. Actually, for Afterburner, he was being pretty patient.
Blades had started forward, but Hot Spot, situated hastily between Dogfight and Afterburner though mostly ignored, held out a hand to stop him.
"What if I don't want to?" Dogfight snapped, back getting up probably just for the sake of getting it up. Backstreet winced, but he didn't fault Dogfight for this one. Wrong reasons or not, he still hovered on the edge of concern since he wasn't entirely sure how a fight between Afterburner and Dogfight would go down.
Afterburner was pretty slagging angry, after all.
"You don't have a slagging choice," Afterburner snapped right back, slow, like he was talking to an idiot and his patience had left the room an hour ago.
Dogfight bristled, and Hot Spot lifted his hands. Blades tensed. "Can we not do this here?" Hot Spot said simply, not sounding strained as much as just really, really sick of everything. "There's a field a kilometer from the city limits. You can yell at each other there all you want so long as someone's still well enough by the end to haul the other back to First Aid, okay? Sorry, 'Aid," he added a second later, about the same time First Aid seemed to register what he'd just said.
First Aid's doing the mental equivalent of starting in abject horror and betrayal. He's doing that in real life too, but Hot Spot's back is to him so he can't see it, only feel it burn into his soul. Obviously this is not good enough.
"Fine with me," Afterburner said, and Lightspeed actually looked surprised at his agreeableness. For a given value of the term.
IT ALMOST RESEMBLES MATURITY?
After that, it was mostly just a matter of getting Dogfight to decide whether he wanted to go or head back to the Ark without starting a brawl in the river (and Backstreet had never seen anyone wield words quite like Hot Spot and Groove. It was kind of terrifying, but by then even the team Backstreet had been learning was supposed to be synonymous with "love, good will, and sunshine, and all that fluffy slag like that" seemed to be reaching the end of their collective patience.
In the end, Blades simply grabbed Dogfight by the wing, thrust him at Afterburner, and told them to get the slag away from the humans and get it out of their systems before one or both of them spontaneously combusted. Possibly with assistance if they didn't start moving right now.
Blades. He gets things done.
Then the bets started up.
//Sorry, bud. Fellow winged-freak-solidarity here. Mine's on Dogfight.//
//Awe, you're going with the newbie? No, Afterburner. Guy's insane.//
//So we are going with the cassettes?//
Backstreet, realizing that there was going to be a crowd, suddenly felt a little sick. Worst-case-scenarios flashed across his vision and where he'd originally been wanting to head back to the road in an attempt to reach the Ark before nightfall, as the sun was now setting, wavered on his feet toward the direction Dogfight had flown.
Abruptly there was an arm around his shoulder and Streetwise was dragging him along. First Aid had already headed back, mumbling upset things to himself on a low frequency, and Lightspeed had followed after Afterburner (to his loud dissatisfaction). Hot Spot and Groove were idling further along the road and seemed to have been waiting for Streetwise to finish answering the humans' questions. Blades had gone after Dogfight to make sure the two of them actually managed to get outside city limits before they broke and tried to kill each other.
"C'mon, 'Street - heh, I've never been able to use that nickname on anyone. Neat. Anyway, you don't want to go that way."
Backstreet stumbled, once again feeling himself being herded along. "But- I mean. Dogfight." He couldn't bring himself to say anymore. By now, Streetwise would surely grasp the point.
Backstreet! They've infected you with their not-explaining-what-you-mean disease! LE GASP.
"Can take care of himself," Streetwise said, suddenly shoving Backstreet with both hands as they neared Hot Spot. "Besides, we don't need bystanders caught in the middle. First Aid's fragged off at us enough, thank you very much."
Backstreet hesitated, looking back the way he'd come. "You're not worried?" he asked slowly.
Streetwise snorted, giving Backstreet a long, amused look that was mostly just tired. "So long as they're away from humans and human settlements? It's been too long a day for me to bother. Now c'mon, transform. I want to get back to the shed before nightfall."
"The shed?" Backstreet asked, as he slowly complied; transforming after a hesitant pause.
Streetwise hummed in agreement, transforming along with him and nosing him to get him driving. Hot Spot flicked his lights in a weary greeting as Backstreet nervously started moving alongside him. Groove was ahead, zipping in and out of sight as Streetwise rode Backstreet's bumper.
He felt strangely trapped.
That's because you are, and by tired, testy Protectobots at that. But don't worry. It's a trap of ~*~LOVE~*~
"Yeah. You can stay with us this recharge cycle, if you want. You've got shift about noon tomorrow, don't you? If you head back to the Ark now, First Aid'll get you. Good side? He'll probably find something to freak out about and you won't have shift tomorrow. Bad side? He'll find something to freak out about and you'll be confined to berth that whole time undergoing tune-ups and sealant application."
Oh, Aid. Your bothers love you, but it's true. You are such a worrywart.
"It tickles," Hot Spot added, sounding amused. His voice was little more than a low rumble though, and Backstreet wondered how tired he really was.
"It tickles all over," Streetwise corrected, aggrieved. He nudged Backstreet again, and Backstreet came to the abrupt conclusion that Streetwise was probably the most tactile mech he'd ever met. "Anyway, so staying with us is your best bet. And Blades can give you a lift back tomorrow. Groove's staying-" he sounded like he was daring Groove to protest. In response, Groove flashed his right turn signal. Whatever it mean, Streetwise huffed a laugh- "Yeah, Groove's staying, and First Aid's gonna be at the 'bay all night and he's mad at us anyway - it won't last, but still - so you can have his spot. No big deal."
Streetwise has people skills! He talks too fast for them to realize what he's saying until it's too late and they're trapped in a recharging pile of rescue vehicles.
Backstreet wondered when he'd get a word in edgewise. "I- uh. Sure?"
What could be the harm, right? Besides, he shared his quarters with Override and Dogfight, and he didn't want to hear that discussion whenever Dogfight got back.
Besides, it was just a night. And four mechs he already kind of knew couldn't be more traumatizing than the whole Ark full of ones he didn't, right?
This is the longest fic I've ever written and most of it just popped up on the fly. There may or may not be more to say, but I can't think of it right now.